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Totally Terrified of Public Speaking? 4 Tips to Cope

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 06:00

Flashback to third grade and you have to get up and give your first book report in front of the entire class (even that cute guy or gal in the front row). Your heart is beating so hard you can hear it in your ears. Your palms are sweaty and your knees are knocking.

If giving a presentation or public speaking makes you feel like this, join the club, you’re not alone. In fact, I think Jerry Seinfeld has one of the best quotes out there about this, “According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”

Dr. Michael Telch of the Laboratory for the Study of Anxiety Disorders in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin says that for most Americans, “The biggest fear is public speaking, with 15 percent of Americans experiencing a dramatic fear of it.” Humor and statistics aside, how can you face your fear head on and speak like a pro in public? I’ll share a few of my favorite tips:

Know Your Audience

If you’re asked to give a presentation, the most important information you should get ahead of time is about your audience. What’s their background, how technical are they, what industries or companies do they come from? By knowing who your audience is (or isn’t), you can tailor your content to them. By doing this, your presentation, regardless of any nerves you may be feeling has a better chance of resonating and adding value for your audience and they will appreciate you for it. As an attendee, there’s nothing worse than paying a lot of coin to attend a conference and have presenters that don’t know who they are speaking for, or to. One great trick? Get there early and talk to a few folks to get to know them a tiny bit then you’ll have someone to connect to in the audience.

You’re the Expert

Remember, people are attending your presentation to learn something. And, you know your stuff or you wouldn’t be up there. Avoid the rabbit-hole thinking that the audience is out to get you and make you look stupid. They are there to gain knowledge so give ‘em what they came for. By knowing your audience, and your stuff, you’re halfway there.

Be Properly Prepared

Remember the saying, “Being properly prepared prevents poor performance”? I’m a firm believer in this one and definitely advise investing the time to put together a solid presentation.

  • Create your own slides: It helps if you’re the one creating the slides and notes so you can use examples that you and your audience can relate to. When you have a connection to the examples you use, it makes telling the story (or the presentation) so much more natural and easy.
  • Use lots of visuals: Spend quality time creating an engaging deck (remember to include lots of great visual examples because no one likes to look at an all text preso these days.)
  • Rehearse! Spend an equal, if not greater amount of time practicing and rehearsing your presentation. Find a quiet place and do as many dry runs as you need to. Then find someone willing to listen and provide you constructive criticism and do your presentation for them.

By feeling prepared you can lessen the factors that will make your nerves feel frazzled come show time. You can also get coaching through a group like Toastmasters International which can really help you gain a sense of confidence and ease.

Have Fun

No matter how nervous you feel, you will get through it so it’s important to remember to let yourself have some fun and allow your personality to shine through. You don’t want to be some stiff suit up on a podium that alienates your audience.

You can come up with your own ways of coping, from the old school imagining the audience in their underwear, to a cool trick I saw Tyler Willis from Unified do at one of our VerticalResponse user conferences a few years ago; Tyler brings his smartphone up to the podium with him and before he begins speaking, he tells the audience he’s going to take a picture of them. He then explains that if, at the end of his speech, he gets three questions, he’ll reveal why he took the picture (Willis explains at the end it’s because his parents don’t quite get “social media” and that people pay to hear him speak so he sends them the pictures). He not only gives himself a few seconds to get comfortable and have a little fun, he also breaks the ice and draws his listeners in from the get-go.

What are some of your favorite techniques to add to my list?

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Totally Terrified of Public Speaking? 4 Tips to Cope appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Four Email Marketing Myths Debunked

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 06:00

Just like old wives’ tales, myths about what does and doesn’t work in email marketing can outlast unbelievers. We’ll let the medical establishment debate whether wet hair and cold weather gets you sick, but we think it’s time to set the record straight on some of the most common email marketing myths.

We sat down with Jerry Jao, the co-founder and chief executive of Retention Science, to clear the myth-filled air. His company helps small businesses keep customers around for the long haul by crunching marketing data. Jao says four myths seem to live on despite evidence that they’re not true and he’s more than happy to dispel them with numbers and facts.

Myth: Sending emails first thing in the morning is best

Many marketers insist that sending an email to a customer in the morning means they’ll open it as soon as they sit down at their computer. That has led to the general rule of thumb that the morning is the best time of day to send a marketing email. There may some logic behind the idea, says Jao, but it’s simply not true.

By combing though 100 million online transactions, 20 million user profiles and 100 email campaigns, Retention Science found that the afternoon is actually a better time to send an email. According to their research, most online shoppers are active later in the day but typically receive shopping-related promotional emails early in the morning. Other research supports this. At best, the rule of thumb about sending early is harmless. At worst, you’re killing your conversions.

Solve this conundrum by testing different times with similar or identical messages.

Myth: Emails sent on Mondays are the most successful

Sending emails on Monday is another rule of thumb that may have a logical underpinning but little in the way of convincing proof. Marketers assume that everyone has a case of the Monday blues. Since no one really wants to jump back into work, people are more likely to sift through their email on Monday, or so they think.

Retention Science’s data showed the opposite: Tuesday and Friday had the highest conversion rates. Test out different days to see if they make an impact on open rates and conversions.

Myth: More frequent email is better

If you send a bunch of emails to your customers they’re bound to open some of them, so why not send a dozen, right? Wrong. Jao says this is a common myth that needs debunking.

“It’s important to understand that less is more when it comes to email campaigns,” he says.

Of course, finding the right email frequency is tough. There isn’t a definitive number that works for every business, but Jao suggests testing your email frequency while watching unsubscribe rates to make sure you find the right balance.

Myth: Subject lines packed with info get opened

A subject line is important, no question about it. However, some people believe that packing a subject line full of information leads to high open rates. Untrue.

While you can squeeze about 70 characters into a subject line, that doesn’t mean you should. Rather than cramming the header full of words, focus on making the subject line conversational, Jao suggests.

“A subject line should sound like something a friend would say,” he says. “Don’t be wordy or pitchy, just be conversational.”

While there isn’t a plug-and-play formula to create a killer subject line, there are practices that you should avoid. Don’t use all capital letters, don’t be deceiving, ditch any symbols or emoticons, take it easy with punctuation and refuse to be boring. If you stay away from these no-nos, your open rates will improve.

When in doubt, A/B test your subject line to see what kind of wording works best for your customers. In fact, it’s a good takeaway message. Testing email content can give you statistics to back up your marketing moves, Jao says. It will not only give you an insight into the habits of your customers, but it will keep you from falling victim to marketing myths.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Four Email Marketing Myths Debunked appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Reel in These 5 Video Marketing Must-Dos

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 06:00

Statistics show a greater proportion of consumers are watching video online than on TV. According to a Nielsen survey, 84% of consumers watch video on their home computer, a figure that surpassed television viewing for the first time. This is one of many arguments for increasing video usage in your content marketing. In a recent survey of VerticalResponse customers, 35% of respondents indicated they are using YouTube as part of their marketing strategy.

Dan Dinsmore, chief executive of marketing agency OverIt, says creative videos can increase click-through rates, decrease unsubscribes and boost customer retention.

“On average, the clients that we create video for have 60 to 80 percent lower opt-out rates and about a 50 percent increase in click-throughs,” he says. “With these numbers, you can’t underestimate the power of video.”

There are a lot of tools out there that can help small businesses make and share videos including GoAnimate, WeVideo and Vine, but before you set up a camera, here are some video tips that helped OverIt become a powerhouse in video.

1. Do: Try to keep videos to two minutes or less

There are a lot of other sites, emails and videos competing for your audience’s attention. Be respectful of that and pack a punch with a shorter video that gets to the point.

“You need a short video that doesn’t sacrifice your message,” he says. “Lead the consumer to the user experience you want (like clicking on a landing page) sooner rather than later, or it won’t happen at all.”

2. Do: Spend time on the pre-production process

Working within such tight time constraints means it’s important to make a plan of attack, Dinsmore says. You can’t just put your iPhone on a tripod and start talking.

“The key to a short and engaging video is pre-production,” Dinsmore says. “You need to sit down, get some creative ideas flowing and really figure out how to make the most of every second.”

3. Do: Create niche pieces

If you want the most bang for your video buck, create niche pieces, Dinsmore says. Just like you create different content for different target audiences, you should do the same when creating videos.

For example, when the New York Council for Problem Gambling asked OverIt to create a video about addiction, the company responded with two different niche videos. One focused on tweens, the other on adults.

The gambling videos generated two million click-throughs in just four months.

4. Do: Use tools to jazz up not-so-visual content

Fast cars and delectable food lend themselves naturally to images, but what do you do if you’re trying to make a video about something not quite so ready for its close-up?

Think about using tools like music, graphics or effects. For example, OverIt used a little music and kinetic text to bring a fundraising video to life for Siena College.

5. Do: Be creative

It goes without saying that the more creative your video is, the better your return on investment, Dinsmore says. Get your creative juices flowing and think about out-of-the-box content like an animation or a cartoon. For example, when a holiday rolls around create an animated card like this.

Right now, Dinsmore considers video marketing an underutilized tool, but he expects big changes this year. And he’s not the only one. Marketing predictions for 2014 include video as a top marketing tool in the next 12 months.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Reel in These 5 Video Marketing Must-Dos appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

3 Ways to Avoid Burnout by Working Smarter, Not Harder

Mon, 02/10/2014 - 06:00

Think just because you run a business that it’s got to be all work and no play? Don’t remember the last time you took a vacation? Do you regularly put in 80-hour weeks? If you answered yes to any, or all of these questions you may be headed for burnout; an all too common side effect of the ultra busy work life we’ve programmed ourselves to believe is necessary to succeed. But is it? Here are a few tactics I use to work smarter, not harder that you can try for yourself.

Get Rid of Time-Wasters

Do you really need that meeting or can you just walk over to someone and get to the bottom of an issue?

Do you really need to “take it offline” in a meeting? To me that means another meeting.

Do you check your e-mail all day long? Cut the cord and start checking it only a few times a day. Trust me, you can do it. And if something is so urgent, it can’t wait a few hours for a reply, the sender will find another way to ask you such as in-person (fathom the thought!), via text, phone call or IM.

Are you trying to do everything yourself? You.must.stop.now. As the leader of a company, you’ve got to delegate and delegate well. Sure delegating means giving up control, but when you’ve got talented people, this is no big deal. And if you don’t delegate and allow others to be part of the decision and execution of projects, you’ll start losing people pretty quickly, resulting in more work for you to hire new ones.

Categorize Then Prioritize

For instance, if you’ve got to pay your vendors and return a few phone calls, paying your vendors might take priority. Put the phone down and give yourself a half-hour to write checks.

Block your calendar out for specific things, then check them off the list – If you’ve got a ton of e-mail to read, shut your door and pound through a day of e-mails.

Work at home (if you can) one day per week. Many times if you remove yourself from the day-to-day you’ll be surprised how you can be creative about your business, as well as plow through some things that have been on your to-do list. I’ve made Sunday a day of work, not rest, but that may not be the right fit for everyone. The point is, take some time that you can be away from distractions and get laser-focused on what needs to be done, or take a different look at your business. You’ll be amazed at what you might think of when you clear some time for it.

Use Evernote

I’m a huge fan of Evernote. It keeps me sane. Seriously, I keep all my notes, and follow up organized with Evernote. If I didn’t have it, I may have forgotten that I needed to contribute to Inc. twice a week. And clearly, I’m not the only one who’s a fan. Evernote says it has 50 million users around the world (a third in the U.S.) and is adding 100,000 a day.

What are some other ways you work smarter not harder and avoid burnout? Share away in the comments.

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on Inc.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Ways to Avoid Burnout by Working Smarter, Not Harder appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What’s New Weekly – Facebook Paper [VIDEO]

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “What’s New Weekly,” we share Facebook’s newest iOS application called Paper. Paper allows you to organize content and your Facebook news feed into a magazine type layout.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post What’s New Weekly – Facebook Paper [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Facebook or Twitter – Which is Better for Your Small Business?

Thu, 02/06/2014 - 06:00

Did you read the predictions about social media use for small businesses in 2014? One of the biggest predictions states that small businesses will get more selective about their use of social media and the sites they have a presence on. So what about the top social media networks, Facebook and Twitter? If you have limited time and resources and can only devote your time to one site, which is best for your biz?

Some businesses have already found their winning platform for success. In the Facebook camp, take a look at businesses such as Talking Finger, Earthegy and Chocolate for Breakfast for inspiration. In the world of Twitter, look no further than Tacolicious, Odell Brewing and Food in Jars.

For our purposes, let’s start by looking at a head-to-head comparison of these two social media network powerhouses:

Facebook


(Statistics via Statistic Brain at http://www.statisticbrain.com/facebook-statistics/)

Twitter


(Statistics via Statistic Brain at http://www.statisticbrain.com/twitter-statistics/)

Now that you see how they measure up,  let’s look at some key comparisons to see which of these top social networks might be the best fit for your business.

Size

Yes, Facebook has more than double the active users of Twitter, but their algorithm determines which content you see in your news feed, and how often in a given period of time. This can make it more challenging for your audience to see your content, especially with the algorithm changes they’ve been making recently, which impacts business content even more, unless you pay to promote your posts.

Twitter, however, is composed of one consistently streaming news feed of content/tweets, no restrictions applied. As people who follow your business Twitter account follow more people and businesses, their stream also becomes noisier. It can be easy for your content to get lost in the mix.

On the upside, the search function within Twitter is more robust and is utilized more often than Facebook. If you’re tweeting information people care about, the likelihood that it will be found is much greater via Twitter.

Choose Facebook if: You have a little budget that can be put towards promoting your posts.

Choose Twitter if: You have a lot of content to share and plan to be proactive in your interaction with other accounts.

Business vs. Personal
Another key difference between the two largest networks centers around business and personal accounts. Unlike Twitter that lets all the accounts commingle, Facebook makes a definite distinction between business and personal. This can be an issue because your business page cannot proactively connect with individuals with personal profiles. Individuals have to first like your page and you still can’t reach out to them directly unless they message you first. This is not the case with Twitter, as you can follow pretty much anyone as long as they haven’t blocked you or have a protected account.

Choose Facebook if: You have a large follower base on your personal profile that you can leverage for your business page.

Choose Twitter if: You have a niche product or service that people might be using Twitter search to investigate.

Staying Power
One of the key disadvantages of Twitter is the speed at which the information flows. Depending on how many people you follow, a tweet can literally stay in your feed for mere seconds. And there isn’t any way for the ‘good’ tweets to rise to the top, unless you pay to promote a tweet. With Facebook, if your content is really good and a lot of people interact with it via likes, comments and shares, it’s possible for your post to have a longer news feed shelf life. And if your community shares it, there’s a higher probability that it’ll be seen by people you aren’t connected with. This is true, however, with retweets on Twitter.

Choose Facebook if: You like to use a lot of photos for your products, as they tend to get a lot of interaction, which will then result in longer news feed staying power.

Choose Twitter if: You want to share great information that’s not directly tied to your company. Answering questions, retweeting, sparking up conversation, and being helpful on Twitter can lead to people investigating you more and following your account.

Overall
There are obviously some key differences between Facebook and Twitter that make them appealing to different people as well as businesses. If at all possible, you should try to leverage both networks in your marketing efforts. But time and resources often dictate the choices you have to make. If we were hard pressed to choose one of these social networks we would probably lean toward Facebook at this time. Let us tell you why:

First, with 1.3 billion active users, it’s probably a good bet that your current customers (and potential ones) are already on Facebook. Second, you probably have an active Facebook account, so you have an established network that you can utilize in your business efforts. Finally, at the current time, Facebook is still leading the pack on driving social traffic to most company’s blogs and websites.

Which social network is best for your business? Share in the comments.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Facebook or Twitter – Which is Better for Your Small Business? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Guidelines for Getting Awesome Guest Blog Posts

Wed, 02/05/2014 - 06:00

Bringing guest bloggers on board is a great way to diversify the content on your site and introduce your product or business to a new audience.

“Guest bloggers can boost profits by growing the exposure of your brand,” says link-building specialist Matt Zajechowski.

If you’re ready to add guest bloggers to your site, Zajechowski says you need to create some guidelines first to ensure the content fits your audience and that both you and the guest blogger get the most out of the partnership.

“I think guidelines are necessary to let potential writers and contributors know what you expect from them,” Zajechowski says. “With specific guidelines, you’ll get well-written, organic content that mimics the kind of quality articles you already have on your site.”

Here’s a list of features that Zajechowski says you should have in your guest blogging guidelines:

Spell out the topics you want

Don’t assume that guest bloggers will figure out what kind of content you want based on your company’s name or About Us page, Zajechowski says.

For example, an obvious topic for an office supply company might be an article on organizational tools but the blog may be chock full of them already and they may be looking for other content for their readers. Often you need to create content that fills voids so you have a variety of topics and information available.

“I think qualifying the content you are looking for is important,” Zajechowski says.

Copyblogger, a content marketing company, gives guest authors a list of recently approved topics in its guidelines.

Ask contributors to use Google Authorship

Google has a tool called Google Authorship. When a writer signs up for the service, a picture of the author is attached to the article in search results.

“I think this is the most important guideline to include for guest blogging in 2014,” Zajechowski says. “It’s a new tool that can make content stand out, which is a bonus for both the company and the blogger.”

Set a word count minimum

Word count is tricky to specify. In the digital world of short, 140-character messages we assume that concise content is best, but that’s not always the case.

QuickSprout, a company that helps businesses boost website traffic, says longer posts get higher Google rankings and they’ve got the stats to back it up.

“Longer is better,” Zajechowski says. “Longer content not only ranks better, but it tends to be more shareable.”

Make clear that you want original content

You assume that guest bloggers will create original content for you, but you should still list it as a requirement in your guidelines, Zajechowski says.

Your guidelines can let potential guest bloggers know their articles will be run through a plagiarism scanner, he says. “Duplicate content is a big no-no in Google’s eyes so the importance of this must be stressed.”

Moz, an SEO company that accepts guest blogs, spells this out in their guidelines.

Consider asking for a visual element

Visual content is more engaging, so ask the blogger to provide a photo or a graphic element to go with the post. If you pair a vibrant image with great content it will get more attention, Zajechowski says.

Require interaction

Once the post is live, require the author to check in from time to time and engage with readers, Zajechowski suggests. Ask the writer to monitor and respond to comments for a certain time period, maybe 72 hours after the post is published.

Set a rule about links within the post

Unfortunately, guest posting is often camouflage for seeding links around the web in an attempt to fool Google, Zajechowski says. To avoid a crazy amount of promotional links in guest content, set a link limit and require links to be engaging, not promotional.

Once you’ve got your guidelines established, Zajechowski says companies should update the information regularly depending on changing seasons, new business needs and industry trends.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Guidelines for Getting Awesome Guest Blog Posts appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Camera Shy & Short on Time? Try Screencasting to Create Video Content

Tue, 02/04/2014 - 09:48

Whether you’re already doing a lot of video marketing, or just figuring out how to make video a part of your mix, consider screencasting: capturing your computer screen output in a video, along with audio narration and sometimes video of the presenter. In contrast to a videoconference or webinar, screencasting lets you create a video from your desktop that can be viewed again and again. And it cuts down on setup and production time by using your screen as a visual asset.

“You can then peruse it at your leisure. You can stop and pause, rewind and watch it as many or as few times as you need to get the information conveyed to you,” explains Jason Valade, a product manager at TechSmith, a software company developing screen capture and screencasting tools such as Camtasia, Snagit and Jing. He shares some tips and tricks and best practices for more effective screencasting.

Before getting started, make sure screencasting is the best tool for your goals. In some instances, having a live conference is preferable to sharing a video—specifically, if you’d like to walk someone through a process and answer questions on the fly. In that case, tools such as Skype, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect and GoToMeeting might be preferable.

Why and when to screencast

Screencasts aren’t just for public presentations or product demos, though. You can drop in a link to your video in an email or on your blog, making sure you’re sharing something valuable with your audience that benefits from screencasting.

The whole point is to intersperse faces and screens, narration and demonstration, creating a more interactive experience but one that is recorded for later consumption. For example, take a look at TechSmith’s video on screencast recording best practices, which includes video of a narrator, screencast and visual examples of proper and improper lighting. Some instructional videos omit video of the narrator altogether, but include audio narration and various images.

Tailor your presentation to your audience

As with any video endeavor, technology can become a preoccupation: don’t get bogged down with editing and re-recording screencasts. Valade recommends tailoring your level of editing to your audience.

“If I’m sending something out to someone I don’t know who I’ve never interacted with, I’m going to make sure that thing is as polished as I can get it… good edits, nice music, all sorts of stuff,” he says. “But if I’m sending something out to a colleague, a co-worker, or someone I’ve had all sorts of interaction where I can do a down and dirty recording, then I can get away with the coughs or the umms or the ahhs or the subtle pauses while I’m thinking of information.”

In addition to the audience, the amount of time you have to get a video out is also a factor, as well as how often your audience will be viewing the video. If they’ll only have a chance to view it once, it’s a good idea to focus more attention on production quality.

In general, Valade recommends a balanced approach: some people are even intimidated by a video that’s exceptionally polished and most are turned off by one that looks as though it was produced with little attention paid to the viewer’s time and expectations.

Preparation is key

Not only should you know in advance what you’re going to be showing in your video, Valade recommends doing a run-through while paying attention to what is on your screen. “If you’re sharing your screen, you’re going to see everything that’s on there, such as notifications popping up or messages coming in.”

If you choose to be on camera for your screencast, make sure you’re dressed appropriately for your audience. And since you don’t take up the whole screen, pay attention to what’s going on behind you before you hit record. “If the desk behind me is messy, that may convey a bad message to whoever I’m sharing information with,” Valade explains.

Preparing, of course, also includes making sure your camera and microphone work well, and that you’ve got everything you want to share open and ready to go instead of fumbling around on your screen during the shoot.

Don’t obsess over what you look and sound like.

Paying attention to your presentation quality and making sure your clothing is appropriate for your audience doesn’t mean you need to go overboard.

“Some people get really hung up on how they sound or how they look,” says Valade, who sees this as a challenge people need to overcome. He points out that the audience’s expectations are usually realistic ones. “If someone’s watching a video that I created, they’re hopefully expecting me and not Steven Spielberg.”

Rehearse, sure, but don’t try to be the voice behind those movie trailers.

“Your voice is what it is. If you’re going to put on the fake radio voice and talk in a way that’s concise, you can do that, but then you have to carry it through the whole presentation.”

Have you tried screencasting? What was your experience like? Share with us in the comments.

 This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Camera Shy & Short on Time? Try Screencasting to Create Video Content appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Are You Making These 5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes?

Mon, 02/03/2014 - 06:00

There are over 27,000,000 pieces of content being shared every day, but did you know that 60-70 percent of content produced by B2B marketing goes unused? Why? Most often it’s due to common content marketing mistakes like not knowing who you’re producing content for, trying too hard to sell with your content, and other content mishaps.

If you’re creating any type of content for your business, find out if you’re making any of these 5 common content marketing mistakes and what you can do to clean up your content act.

Don’t Know Your Audience

One of our biggest challenges is to create and deliver content that people actually want to consume. With so much competing for their attention, if your content can’t break through the noise, it’ll never be seen.

To create content that’s valuable, you need to know what your prospects and customers care about. You can get started by creating a list of the traits your very best customers and ideal buyers have. Identify what their biggest pain points are, what their concerns are in relation to your product/services and what they hope to accomplish. Too often, we fall into the routine of creating content that’s all about the benefits of our product and services instead of helping a potential buyer. Once you identify the types (or buyer personas) you’re interested in targeting, you can better create content with the intention of helping these folks.

Trying too Hard to Sell, Sell, Sell

Around this time last year, we saw Jay Baer speak at New Media Expo. Baer blew the roof off by preaching a revolutionary thought to bloggers and marketers in attendance: Stop selling and start helping. Wait, what? You want us to stop selling? How’s that going to work?

Baer outlined it in his book, Youtility. He explained that “Youtility” is the concept of providing valuable content for your readers and customers, to the point where your company becomes valued, trusted, and synonymous with being useful. So when the time comes to make a purchase, your company is the obvious choice.

As an example, Baer shared a story about Marcus Sheridan from River Pools and Spas. Back when the economy began to go south, River Pools and Spas was hit hard, as not many people install pools during tough economic times. However, the folks at River Pools and Spas didn’t give up. They got smart and started answering questions via their blog that customers and potential buyers had. Then they turned those blog posts into a popular eBook. In just four years, River Pools and Spas grew their company from nearly going out of business to the largest pool seller in the US. Based on all the information they provide, 75% of their customers complete a purchase without ever talking to a real person!

Don’t Create Enough, or Create Too Much

Many of us struggle to have enough content to share on our social networks, in our emails and in our newsletters. Then there are those of us who blog 6 times or more a week and have content pouring out of every corner of our website, social networks and emails. So what’s the magic content frequency number? There isn’t one that’s right for everyone, but keep in mind that quality trumps quantity. You can and should create different types of content from short tweets, digestible blog posts, longer case studies/whitepapers/guides, infographics and videos and even eBooks if you’ve got the resources. By producing a variety of content types, you can also repurpose content into different formats, say by taking a data rich blog post and turning it into an infographic. Or take a few guides or whitepapers with a common theme and turn them into an eBook.

Trying to Do it All Alone

While you may be a sole proprietor, it doesn’t mean you have to create everything yourself. You can share content that others have created, as long as you provide proper source credit and attribution. By sharing other points of view, opinions and expertise, you can grow the quality and quantity of content you have to help your audience. You can also recruit guest writers or bloggers to help contribute to your efforts. Just ensure they create unique, high quality posts that add value for your customers and potential buyers. Another way to create content, while not having to be the expert, is by interviewing someone. You can interview a supplier, a new vendor, a customer or an employee. We’ve got 17 more ideas for creating content in this post.

Not Measuring Results  

If you’re not measuring your content marketing results, don’t stick your head in the sand and hide, you’re not alone. Stats indicate that only 15 percent measure results. It’s important to know what’s working (so you can do more of it), and what’s not so you can either ditch it, or tweak it to perform better the next time around. To measure your results, there are lots of performance metrics, but to start, you can focus on the big four:

  1. Consumption – Page views, video views, document views, downloads and social chatter
  2. Sharing – Like, shares, tweets, +1s and pins, forwards, number of inbound links
  3. Lead Generation – Form completions and downloads, email and blog subscriptions, blog comments
  4. Sales – Look at both online and offline sales that are influenced by content

Many of these results are available in free tools like Google AnalyticsFacebook, Twitter, YouTube, your email service provider, content management systems (like WordPress), as well as your own internal data from sources like your CRM system (if you’re using one).

If you’ve been making any of these common content marketing mistakes, you’re now armed with the knowledge to fix what’s broken.

Have any content mistakes to add to our list? Share in the comments.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Are You Making These 5 Common Content Marketing Mistakes? appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What’s New Weekly – Calendar Scheduling with Appointlet [VIDEO]

Sat, 02/01/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “What’s New Weekly” we share a Google calendar application called Appointlet. This application allows people to secure appointments through your Google calendar.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post What’s New Weekly – Calendar Scheduling with Appointlet [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Sharing Content From Your Facebook Page to Your Profile [VIDEO]

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 06:00

Gaining additional exposure for your Facebook Page post is as easy if you share it on your Personal Profile. We show you how in this latest episode of Facebook Friday.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Sharing Content From Your Facebook Page to Your Profile [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Teen Tycoons: Big Changes Fuel Growth

Thu, 01/30/2014 - 06:00

Back in 2012, we held a video contest to recognize and reward teen entrepreneurship, dubbed “America’s Next Teen Tycoon.” Jason Li, our grand-prize winner who nabbed $4,000 in cash, impressed voters and our judges the most with his electronics-recycling business, iReTron. Second-place winner Jack Uesugi, who earned $2,000 in startup capital from VerticalResponse, also captured tons of attention with his t-shirt design business, a1000x.

What are these teen tycoons up to now, almost two years after winning our entrepreneurship contest? We caught up with Jason and Jack to find out where they’re at and how business is going.

JASON LI, iRETRON

Jason, who’s now a senior at Saratoga High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, had a banner year after nabbing the official title of “America’s Next Teen Tycoon.” He was recently named one of the world’s 50 smartest teenagers and was selected to be a 2014 Global Teen Leader by Three Dot Dash, an organization that recognizes teens all over the world who are doing extraordinary work. He and his company also are currently slated to air on national television soon! (Details about his primetime debut are still under wraps as of press time.)

1. How is business so far?

Business has been great. We’re currently earning six figures of revenue, and we’re slowly expanding. Days now have just been taking care of operations, keeping up with organic search engine optimization (SEO) and speaking at local fairs.

2. What have been some of the biggest changes for you since last summer?

The biggest change since last summer, professionally, was that we recently received an investment offer from a major venture capital firm. Most of the information is non-disclosable, but it’s been a huge step for us. Personally, I attended a summer business institute at the Wharton School of Business, at UPenn. It’s the first form of business education I’ve ever received and it reinvigorated me with not only new ideas, but the other students there also inspired me to work even harder.

3. What big project(s) are you working on now for iReTron?

The biggest project I want to try, as a senior in high school, is to offer my business experience to other high school students. I’ve formed a team of young students to compete with me in a business competition and they will have the chance to learn about financials, marketing, public speaking, pitching, etc. I’m very excited to bring iReTron to other students, and I wish I could do so as well in college.

JACK UESUGI, A1000X

Hailing from Hawaii, Jack experienced some enormous changes – most notably, he started his freshman year at Boston College (and getting used to living in frigid weather, brrr). Despite the distance (not to mention a full load of classes), a1000x is still going strong and growing.

1. How is business so far?

Currently, business has slowed down a bit as a result of my first year of college. It was difficult to balance studying, working on campus and social life in my first semester. But now that I have a firmer grasp of the situation in my second semester, I plan on trying to get the company going in full swing again, from here in Boston.

2. What have been some of the biggest changes for you since last summer?

The biggest change by far is how busy my schedule has been in the past few months. Over last summer, I was working in my family’s construction business, which really left me little time to work on a1000x. Before I knew it, I found myself in Boston in my first semester, and I ended up with even less time. Another problem is that all the operations are still in Hawaii, and I am about 13 hours away by plane. The fact that I am such a long distance away physically actually makes things pretty difficult. My dad is helping keep production and marketing alive and I try to make design and business decisions via email or Skype.

3. What big project(s) are you working on now for a1000x?

Something that we are working on now is making our products available on Amazon.com. The company recently got approved to sell clothing on Amazon (which is a restricted category of selling), and we are just waiting for small technical things to be finalized before we get the complete go-ahead. This move could be a huge help because we would be able to send our entire inventory to the Amazon distribution centers, where they could handle our fulfillment process. Hopefully having our products on Amazon will help sell/market our brand, but really, we can cut the very high costs of fulfilling orders and shipping out of Hawaii. We should be able to offer Amazon shipping prices, including Amazon Prime shipping, even from our own website.

How have these Teen Tycoons inspired you? Share in the comments.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Teen Tycoons: Big Changes Fuel Growth appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

How to Keep Email Newsletter Clicks & Readers on the Rise – It Really Works!

Wed, 01/29/2014 - 06:00

Do you remember Ron Popeil, the inventor/marketing personality and founder of Ronco Inc? He was widely known for his late-night infomercials for Chop-O-Matics, pasta makers, food dehydrators and rotisserie grills. Ron also held the trademark for the well-known phrase, “set it, and forget it.” To set and forget about something is a desirable concept, however, while it may work for rotisserie chicken, if you’re setting and forgetting your email newsletter, your sign ups, readership, and open and click through rates may get chopped, Veg-O-Matic not included.

So how do keep your email newsletter fresh and your engagement results rising? Follow these tips (and I’ll throw in a bonus if you read now!)

Create a Persona:

Creating a persona for your target audience is like giving away a free set of knives with purchase; sounds silly, but it’s really successful! The more you target and hone in on your audience, the more you’ll understand what they want out of a newsletter. Take theSkimm, for example. It’s a new daily newsletter written by two female journalists, containing brief and informative news headlines written in a relatable tone, geared towards young, busy professionals, specifically women. Two housemates, friends and former news producers at NBC created the wildly successful newsletter, which quickly topped 100,000 readers and growing. In this article/interview with Mashable, the creators, Carly Zakin and Danielle Weisberg stated that they identified a need by a specific group. “We saw that our friends — primarily our girlfriends — would come to us and say they were too busy to find out what happened in the world today,” said Zakin. “Our marketing strategy will continue to hone in on our target audience — leading millennial women,” Weisberg said.

Monitor & Analyze:

There’s more to email newsletter analytics than the number of opens and clicks you receive. Taking time to dig deeper into your readers’ behavior will open your world to a plethora of knowledge about their reading habits and desires. The knowledge you obtain should consistently shape and evolve your newsletter into a successful machine. When Ron created the Chop-O-Matic, he didn’t stop there. Shortly after came the Veg-O-Matic and the Dial-O-Matic. Why? Because he consistently evolved his products to meet his customers’ needs.

So what should you look for, specifically, in your email newsletter?

  • Link Types – What types of links are your readers clicking? Are they clicking on call-to-action buttons, headlines, images, or text links more often? Take a little extra time to add tracking codes on each individual link so you can see in your reporting, what types of links are getting clicked on the most. It’s fairly easy; all you need to do is add a question mark and some text at the end of each URL.

Here’s an example:

http://www.verticalresponse.com/blog/busted-worst-email-subject-lines-ever/?Link_Type=Headline

When deciphering VR Buzz newsletter analytics (which has a readership of 500K+), I discovered that VR Buzz newsletter readers prefer to click on 1) Headline links 2) Text links 3) Call-to-action buttons 4) Banner ads. I never would’ve suspected text links would be popular since they’re not large, but time and time again, the results don’t lie!  I began to include more text links in the VR Buzz, and what do you know? The click through rate rose.

  •  Content Trends - What content is resonating with your readers and what topics are the most popular? Look for trends. Are readers clicking on tutorials, guides, videos, blog posts, promotions, updates, events, or recipes more often? Are posts about say, face wash products, more popular than hair care? Do people click on dos and don’ts posts more often than how-tos? If blog posts about dog grooming are booming, put them at the top of your email newsletter. If your upcoming events are stealing the click-through show, include them more often and near the top of your newsletter. Are people going click crazy on your social media icons/pages? Move ‘em up or make them more prominent. Use this information to guide the direction of your content for each newsletter going forward.
  • Location of Clicks  - Are your customers clicking on any of the content, buttons or links below the fold of their monitor screens, or not as often? If not, your newsletter may not be maximizing the user experience. Including a table of contents at the top of your newsletter may help guide customers all the way though from top to bottom. Use the pre-header as a secondary subject line and talk about the content down below. Are your readers only clicking on headlines? They may be strapped for time, or simply want to get to the source. Use this particular information to make it easier for them to get to the content they want.

Evolve Design:

Once you get a feel for your readers’ behaviors and trends, use this to your advantage and evolve your newsletter design. Is your logo at the top large and pushing valuable content down? Make it smaller. Remove unnecessary white space in your header, or nix your intro if it doesn’t include links. Do your customers click on text links? Include clickable headlines, make them big(ger) and/or more prominent. Are readers not clicking the content below? Include a short table of contents and anchor link them directly to each post. Are your article sections lengthy? Make them smaller and use a template with no more than two columns per design (to keep mobile in mind). Are text links not getting much love? Try including call to action buttons to each section instead, or in addition.

Here’s an example of how we updated the VR Buzz from 2011 to 2014. We removed the introduction and the side columns, brought content right up to the top, condensed the table of contents, added more visually pleasing images and more.

BONUS! Segment Your Lists: Because you’ve been such a great reader, I’m throwing in a bonus tip for free! Here goes: Segment your email newsletter lists and watch your most engaged readers’ content consumption closely. Create an “Engaged” list specifically of people who regularly open and click your newsletters (you can easily do this in your VerticalResponse account). People who actively read and click are like eager infomercial callers; they’re ready to shop …for your content, and now!

So while it’s tempting to take Ron Popeil’s advice, don’t “set it and forget it” when it comes to your email newsletter. “Act now!” so you can ensure readers they’re receiving the best Email-Newsletter-O-Matic out there.

Want more marketing tips and tactics? Sign up for the free VR Buzz.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post How to Keep Email Newsletter Clicks & Readers on the Rise – It Really Works! appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Tips to Creating an Engaging Internal Newsletter

Tue, 01/28/2014 - 06:00

Everyone has heard the saying, “A happy employee is a productive employee,” but it isn’t always easy to keep your employees focused and motivated. One simple way to inform and inspire your staff is to create an internal newsletter.

“An internal company newsletter can be an important tool to keep employees in the loop about company activities, policies, products, and services,” Mario Almonte, a partner at Manhattan-based Herman & Almonte Public Relations, says.

Among its many services, Almonte’s company handles internal public relations for businesses, which includes the creation of employee newsletters.

“Done right, it can be effective in strengthening the company messaging and creating a sense of family among employees,” he says.

Here are a few tips to create an internal newsletter that your employees will look forward to reading.

Aim the content at employees

First and foremost, all content in an internal newsletter should be about employees and things they care about.

“An internal newsletter is not a propaganda piece,” Almonte says. “A company should remember, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about them.’”

Company product launches and any kind of news that impacts employees should be included. Articles about new hires are also a great idea, Almonte says.

One popular feature is to mention an employee who has been promoted or recognized for their service or spotlight employees’ lives outside the workplace to foster personal connections. The city of Ozark, Missouri does this with an “employee spotlight” in each issue of its newsletter.

Newsletter content doesn’t have to be dry, either. For example, Riverside Healthcare in Kankakee, Ill. made a creative animated video for its “Riverside Connection” newsletter to highlight the year’s achievements.

Write to tell, not to preach

You want your employees to enjoy reading the newsletter, so keep the tone conversational and highlight the positives, Almonte suggests.

“Write the newsletter in plain English,” he says.  ”Leave the buzzwords for the sales literature and press releases.”

If done correctly, a newsletter can boost morale and motivate employees, he says. Consistently great articles will have the added benefit of reminding your employees of the quality products or services they produce and make them feel like they’re part of a thriving team.

“It’s not a place to lecture or threaten employees for underperforming or behaving badly,” Almonte says. “It’s just the opposite.”

Keep it short and simple

You don’t want your newsletter to distract your employees from being productive, nor do you want to bore them with lengthy essays, Almonte says.

“If you make the newsletter too long, no one is going to read it,” he says. “Since most people will read it at work, keep the articles short and succinct. Employees will probably be interrupted several times during the course of their reading, so they’ll have short attention spans.”

An internal newsletter from Hawaiian non-profit WorkLife Hawaii is a great example. The newsletter is short and concise with bite-sized articles.

Be consistent

From design to content, you want to be consistent with your newsletter.

“Just like a real newspaper, everyone should know where their favorite section is, so that the can immediately flip to it and read all about it,” Almonte says.

Your newsletter frequency should also be consistent. Almonte suggests a monthly newsletter, which keeps your employees engaged but not overwhelmed by company news.

In the end, an internal newsletter is a feel-good platform, Almonte says, which should educate and entertain your employees.

Do you have an internal newsletter at your company? Have any tips of your own to add?

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Tips to Creating an Engaging Internal Newsletter appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

7 SEO Myths Demystified

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 06:00

It’s very normal to feel intimidated by search engine optimization (SEO). Alongside that intimidation, there also tends to be some SEO myths that arise. Buying into these myths could lead you down the wrong path. So to help out, we demystify 7 popular SEO myths once and for all:

Myth #1:  SEO is too hard for a “regular Joe.”

Like we said, SEO can be intimidating, but the basics are actually pretty simple, (just don’t tell your boss). With an easy-to-use content management system like WordPress, you can install various SEO plugins, like Yoast, on your site that can help you get on top of some basic SEO.

Myth #2: If you’ve never done any SEO, you’re too far behind.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact that you’re reading this article, means you are taking the right steps to get informed. Like we’ve said before, in just a few hours you can get on board with local SEO. Here’s a list of some free local SEO tools to get off on the right foot.

Myth #3: SEO takes way too much time.

You can bust this myth in one Saturday afternoon. Sit down with your favorite beverage, laptop and some tunes and crank out the SEO basics in a few hours.  This article has the three SEO must-dos.

Myth #4: If your business is really small, SEO isn’t worth it.

This myth couldn’t be more busted! If you have a small business you need to get on top of your local SEO to stay competitive with your competitors and peers. Check out the free tool getlisted which will get you started in the right direction.

Myth #5: Any backlink is a good link.

This is the most dangerous myth on the list. Far too many times we’ve seen a small business buying into the scheme of getting 1,000 backlinks (links pointing from another site to yours) for X amount dollars, thinking it’ll get them a leg up on the competition. This is a sure fire way to get you a penalty from Google, which can decimate your online presence overnight. There isn’t a magic number of back links you need, but you can work on getting high quality links from a reputable source. Here’s a good blog post from Rand Fishkin from Moz to get started by seeing what back links your higher ranking competitors have.

Myth #6: Meta Tags are great for SEO.

This myth is easy to confuse with an actual SEO best practice. Titles and meta descriptions are good, keyword meta tags are a thing of the past that Google doesn’t use to rank your site. Keyword meta tags were an old way for bad SEO managers to over stuff keywords into their site thinking it’d help their site rank better for trophy or vanity keywords. So instead of worrying about keyword meta tags, focus your time on writing a great meta description that’ll entice a searcher to click through to your site. Remember keep it under 160 characters.

Myth #7: SEO is too expensive.

Hiring a full time employee or a company to do your SEO might cost you some bucks. Luckily, you can knock out your local SEO in just a few hours a month max, so no need to pay top dollar to have a consultant on hand to help. Here’s an awesome article to help you wrangle local SEO all by yourself.

For more SEO advice, tips and how-tos, grab our free Beginner’s Guide to SEO.

Although SEO can seem a little overwhelming at first, by demystifying these common myths, you can move forward to SEO success. Any SEO myths we missed that you want answered? Post them in the comments and we will help debunk them!

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 7 SEO Myths Demystified appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

What’s New Weekly – Jaybird Reign + Razer’s Modular Project Christine [VIDEO]

Sat, 01/25/2014 - 06:00

In this episode of “What’s New Weekly” we share the new fitness tracker from Jaybird called Reign. We also take a peek at a futuristic desktop tower from Razer called Christine.

 

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post What’s New Weekly – Jaybird Reign + Razer’s Modular Project Christine [VIDEO] appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

Enhance Customer Engagement with Online Hangouts

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 06:00

Advertising, keyword search tools and social media marketing are some of the ways you can attract new readers and prospects to your blog or website, but sometimes it’s best to find them where they hang out. Online hangouts—tools that let groups of people chat via text, audio and video—are making their way from the personal toolkit, to the marketing one. Take a look at some of the options below to determine which of the following online hangouts might benefit your specific product or service.

Tweet chats

A tweet chat is a pre-arranged discussion that takes place on Twitter at a specific time. Some businesses host tweet chats once a week, at the same time each week (usually an hour), asking participants to answer a series of questions with a specific hashtag. Others have one-off tweet chats centered around specific topics.

Tweet chats can create lively conversation, connect your followers with one another and help you develop a deeper understanding of your prospects and their viewpoints. You can also post links to relevant content from your website or blog.

“There’s still a lot of potential for some of the segments that have yet to really leverage online,” says Matt Hodkinson, CEO and founder of Influence Agents, which helps businesses in the professional services industry generate with social media and inbound marketing. Hodkinson has over 15 years of experience in digital marketing and the IT sector.

If you’re working in an industry that doesn’t have much of a social media presence (such as accounting or even a law practice), using tweet chats is a good way to build community and get out a message about your brand, says Hodkinson. Tweet chats can also bring together people from your industry who want to chat, creating networking opportunities.

Just be aware that tweet chats have their downside as well. If you don’t have enough participants, it can make for a very quiet event, but the opposite situation can be problematic, too. “You can become too prolific in too short an amount of time,” Hodkinson warns. “A lot of people don’t like that filling up their streams, and it also leaves you open to spammers, people who effectively take newsjacking a bit too far and try to piggyback off the popularity of a trending conversation.” Spammers have a bit more difficulty infiltrating gatherings where there’s a visual element and an attendance requirement.

Reddit

Reddit is a social news site where anonymous users submit content and vote it up or down. While gaining traction on the main page is difficult, there are very active “subreddits” in many industries, where smaller groups of users gather to discuss an area of interest.

A popular subreddit is called “IAmA,” which stands for “I Am A,” and is where users post “AMAs” (short for “Ask Me Anything,” allowing users to ask questions about any given topic. Many celebrities, public figures and entrepreneurs, such as Gary Vaynerchuk have participated, as AMAs are a great way to leverage popularity and answer questions from a wide variety of interested people all in one place. But AMAs can also be a way to give users insight into a specific industry that has received national exposure, answering questions and increasing their understanding on a topic.

“When it comes to Reddit as an online hangout, I think it really comes down to whatever’s trending at a time,” says Hodkinson, who sees the popular forum as an opportunity to bring people together on a large scale. “People who go to Reddit are really looking for trends, so they’re quite nomadic in the topics they discuss,” he adds.

Redditors, as contributor-editors are known, are opinionated and vocal, and because the platform is anonymous, the conversations can get a bit heated. “It lends itself to the most agile businesses. If you’re in software development, if you’re in apps, if you’re in something quite cutting-edge and forward-thinking then, I think, the Reddit community is going to be of most benefit to you because they tend to be up to speed on what’s going on,” Hodkinson says.

Streaming video options

With Google’s Hangouts on Air, you can schedule broadcasts which upload to Google+, YouTube and your own website. This option allows for live, interactive conversation and even lets participants see one anther, which can boost engagement dramatically.

“I talk to clients in all kinds of sectors, and there’s massive opportunity there to really push yourself as the credible thought leader, or at least someone that’s a trusted advisor,” says Hodkinson. Use Google Hangouts on Air (or other video streaming options, such as Ustream or Livestream) to field questions, interview experts in your industry, field questions from your readers, or simply build credibility by positioning yourself as an expert on your topic.

Getting the word out

Make sure to use various social media channels and your own email list to bring people together to an online hangout, even if you’re hoping to find new prospects there as well. Hodkinson points out that one of his clients, a B2B marketer in software, had a lot of traction by posting a link to a Google Hangout on Air on LinkedIn. Tweet chats, Reddit AMAs and live video streams can be promoted on whichever social media channels you think are appropriate for the audience.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post Enhance Customer Engagement with Online Hangouts appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

5 Search Engine Marketing Tips to Compete with the Big Guys

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 09:01

Many small businesses think running a paid search campaign is too expensive and don’t have a marketing budget to compete with bigger, more well known brands. We’ve gathered the 5 best search engine marketing tips to enable your small business to compete with the big guys.

1. Keyword Selection

More often than not, big brands have more marketing dollars which can enable them to outbid you in paid search auctions. An important aspect, and one of the most crucial tips, for being competitive with these brands is to be strategic about which keywords you go after. Try and focus on keywords that produce quality leads and conversions for you. Additionally, utilizing long tail keywords as part of your strategy will allow you to be more targeted and cheaper. Also keep in mind that it will be less competitive due to the fact that there will be less traffic coming from long tail keywords. After choosing a good keyword strategy, you can also save money by restricting certain keywords with matchtypes and negative keywords. This is an excellent way to reduce wasted spend.

2. Day/Geographic Parting

Another good way to stay competitive against big brands is through localization. If you’re a mom and pop shop or you’re focused in a specific area, it’s a good idea to restrict your geographic targeting. There’s no need to show up for keywords all around the country if you only serve your city or state. With the same reasoning of geographic parting, you want to also utilize day parting. With day parting, you can set your ads to only run during certain times of day. By limiting your ad to only run when you can make the most conversions, you can still be competitive.

3. Ad Extensions

Ad extensions are a great way to include additional information to your ads. If you’re only going to be able to run an ad on a limited basis, packing as much useful information about your business in your ad can make the difference. Google offers a variety of ad extensions that can be helpful, such as reviews, click-to-call links, location information, and sitelinks that bring people to additional pages of your website. By offering as much info as you can, users have more options to see something they’re interested in and therefore give you a greater chance of receiving an ad click and ultimately making a sale.

4. Engaging and Enticing Ad Copy

When outbidding your competitors for a top position is not an option, you must think of other ways to stand out. Writing alluring ad copy can be one of them. Standing out with your ad, either through a good positioning statement or an enticing promotion, can help you get the click. Do some competitive research and try to make your business seem like the logical choice.

5. Looking Outside of Google

New advertisers often forget that the paid search world exists outside of Google. Google is often times the most expensive search engine and rightly so because it gets the most traffic, but there our other more cost effective and less competitive search engines. For example, you may want to consider running on the Bing network. It can be just as effective and often times at a much lower cost. Additionally, there are lots of second tiered engines on the market like LookSmart, Admarketplace, etc. These tend to be really inexpensive but also lower quality in search traffic. They still merit consideration as part as your overall search strategy.

Running paid search campaigns for your business can be expensive depending on your industry. Following the tips above will help you get the most out of your budget and still be competitive with the big guys. Also check out our blog post on Maximizing Google Adwords and 5 AdWords Tips for a Small Budget for more ways to get the biggest bang for your buck.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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3 Emails Your Non-Profit Should Be Sending

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 06:00

The first thing most people do when they get up in the morning, or get to work, is check their email, right? That’s because there’s never a shortage of emails in your inbox; some you can’t wait to read, some you save for later, and others you just delete. How people interact with their emails isn’t something you can control, but making sure you’re sending the right emails to encourage engagement, is.

Every business sends (or should be sending) various types of information, from email newsletters to promotions, and non-profits are no different. Here are three types of email campaigns your non-profit organization should be sending to build rapport, educate, and hopefully gain donations:

Welcome email – If you’re not currently sending out a welcome email, you could be missing out on a stellar opportunity. A warm and friendly welcome email can make a positive first impression on new members, donors, volunteers, or your sponsors. A great time to send a welcome email is when someone subscribes to your email list. Keep the tone of your welcome email light, as you want it to be warm and approachable. Hitting someone up for a donation straight off the bat might be too much, too fast. You want your readers to feel like they’re part of your organization, your community, your world, so provide information, pictures or videos that makes them feel included and valued.

Newsletter  -  This is probably the most common type of email sent out by non-profits, but there’s a reason.: An email newsletter allows you to share what’s going on with your organization, events, volunteers, fundraising or other relevant information. It’s an easy and effective way to communicate, and you can include calls to action to donate or volunteer to help drive your fundraising efforts. Content for a newsletter is exactly what the name implies, newsworthy information. Anything that’s important to your organization and would be interesting to your readers can and should be included. Sending a newsletter does require some commitment from you and your staff, as you’ll need to mail at least once per month to be effective, stay top of mind and get good engagement. By mailing your newsletter at this frequency, you’ll have the ability to send other email types too, without annoying your readers. For more help creating a fantastic newsletter, check out our free webinar Creating a Significant Email Newsletter.

Thank you email – First and foremost, your thank you email should be sincere. Once you have a thank you email, you’ll find there are many opportunities to use it. Just be sure to update it for each situation. You can send a thank you email when someone makes a donation, registers or volunteers for an event, subscribes to your email, after an event or other interactions someone may have with your organization.

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention fundraising emails, but that could be a blog post on it’s own! Here is a recent post with some tips on creating certain types of fundraising emails.

These three types of emails should give your non-profit a great start to your email marketing efforts. What other types of emails is your organization sending? Let us know in the comments!

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The post 3 Emails Your Non-Profit Should Be Sending appeared first on VR Marketing Blog.

7 Key Steps to Facebook Growth

Tue, 01/21/2014 - 06:00

If your social media plan includes the goal of reaching more people with content marketing, maximizing your Facebook presence can be a good tactic. After all, your potential customers are likely already on Facebook, and those who ‘like’ your Facebook business page are more likely to see the content you post on there.

Lou Abramowski, CEO and founder of Unbenchable, has a knack for helping businesses and brands increase their Facebook presence: with his help Jack Link’s Beef Jerky went from 9,000 to 1.2 million ikes, and the Renaissance Festival performer Twig the Fairy, whose Facebook page was born in March 2009, has since hit 260,000 likes.

What’s the key to that kind of growth on Facebook? Here’s a primer on Abramowski’s approach, in seven steps that you can apply.

Step #1: Identify your audience.

Determining the audience you want to target on Facebook can be difficult, especially if your business is very broad. Spend some time thinking about your dream client, or two to three types of people you’d want to reach. Determining their type of work, hobbies, and even demographics (such as age and gender) will guide your plan.

Step #2: Use a lot of photos

Facebook is a visual medium even though it’s not a photo site like Pinterest: posts with images tend to do well with a broad swathe of users. You can post interesting photos on their own, or pair images with text and memes that are trending.

Step #3: Time your posts right

Facebook now lets you schedule your posts in advance—previously marketers had to rely on third-party apps to do that. For marketers who take Abramowski’s advice about images that’s a godsend, allowing them to hunt down a week’s worth of cool photos all at once. Abramowski blocks out an hour each week per page and gathers 20 to 30 images at a time.

Posting at the right time of day can be important, helping your content get seen on Facebook when people are active but competition for their eyeballs is lower.

“Make sure to post them when traffic is attentive and not competitive,” Abramowski says.

The best times to publish, says Abramowski, are early in the morning before regular users start to post to their feeds (“sometimes publishing at 6AM will get you traction all day”), right before lunch, early evening and just before bedtime.

Although Abramowski doesn’t manage Twig the Fairy’s Facebook page day-to-day, the page pages uses images extensively. Software startup Otterology, an inventory system that works with Square, also includes images relevant to small business owners on their Facebook page. Some examples from Lou’s own projects: I want to go to there, a destination page with close to 70,000 likes.

Step #4: Vary your content

Make sure to share more than images on your Facebook page. Consider including funny or inspiring quotes, and links to relevant articles in your industry. Freshbooks is an example of a business that keeps their feed current.

Step #5: Spend a little dough on advertising

Abramowski recommends spending a dollar a day on Facebook advertising campaigns for your page, letting the social network do the hard work of acquiring more fans. “Facebook is generally going to do a pretty good job of finding people that are interested in your page,” says Abramowski. Just go to the advertising page on Facebook, which will ask you what type of results you want for your ads. One option is “get page likes to grow your audience and build your brand.” The Facebook ads manager lets you easily target demographics such as gender or age. You’ll be charged for each person who sees your ad, and Abramowski believes a dollar a day is enough to get results. Just remember, you want people following you who are interested in your products or services, buying likes doesn’t guarantee engagement. You need to have quality content and an ongoing compelling value to keep them around.

Step #6: Promote only your best posts

If you’re trying to reach a specific audience that’s not easily targeted with Facebook advertising, Abramowski recommends paying to promote posts that appeal specifically to that crowd. Promoting also known as “boosting” a post begins at an affordable $5. The more you spend, the more people you reach.

Just make sure not to spend money promoting posts or images that don’t already have some traction. “If there’s no fire, don’t pour a gallon of gasoline on it because it’s not going to go anywhere,” Abramowski explains. Promoting posts that have already shown promise will yield better results.

Step #7: Find a way to monetize

If you’re not already drawing paying clients or customers to your business but accumulating Facebook likes, consider trying to pre-sell a product or service to your Facebook audience to see if it’s interesting to them or not. “With pre-selling, if you don’t hit the target number, you don’t have to do anything,” Abramowski says, rather than go back to the drawing board.

Have any Facebook growth tips of your own? Share away in the comments.

This post contributed by guest author, Yael Grauer. Grauer is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and editor. Find her online at Yaelwrites.com.

© 2014, VR Marketing Blog. All rights reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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