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Author:danni@blankpagestl.com

periodic-table-of-seo-2015-st-louis-seo

When SEO is everything & nothing at the same time

“SEO should never be the first course of action for those who are desperate for a quick sale.”

When SEO isn’t enough

Last year, we took on a client that was in desperate need of help. Their business was suddenly almost completely dependent upon website traffic converting to sales, after more than 30 years of person-to-person sales. When the client said, “I have my degree in ___, not marketing.” it really hit home for all of us how crucial marketing knowledge has become for every industry – and how difficult it must be for those being forced to make a change.

Setting SEO Expectations

When we initially started work with this client, the desperation for website traffic and sales seemed to cloud their expectations. The phrase, “SEO takes time,” became a mantra for each of us working to help them. We wrote that phrase in our plan. We said it aloud and every meeting and we even spelled it out in our contract, because we never want to make false promises.

With their budget and pacing, we estimated 6 to 12 months to see real change – possibly sooner, but we didn’t want to overpromise. Seven days into the project, their team called us into a meeting to get a status on traffic and to find out why this “voodoo” hadn’t driven a single sale that week. Again, we said, “SEO takes time.”

We traced a sales funny and created opportunities for clients to convert. We optimized over 100 products on their site, submitted their site to other reputable, relevant sites and directories, cleaned up loose code, developed a keyword strategy and helped them establish their very first social channels. With a very limited budget, we had to choose our efforts wisely, and any success was going to be very dependent on this client continuing the work that we started. To this end, we made a point to be very deliberate and explicit about this in our contract and in our planning, sharing that SEO may take 6 to 12 months if all of our recommendations are followed.

 

SEO Takes Time

Within 45 days, their traffic had more than doubled and the first sales began to roll in – but it wasn’t enough to make a difference. Within 60 days, they opted to discontinue this course of action, determining that SEO wasn’t an effective strategy. They stopped much of their social activity too. {Their traffic continues to climb even today from the work we did months ago.}

 

Setting expectations for search engine optimization

This entire scenario was so foreign to all of us here at Blank Page that we took a moment to pause and reflect.At Blank Page, we go above and beyond for every client – sometimes in the extreme – to ensure that small businesses and nonprofits see financial and business benefit as repayment for placing their faith in us. This was the first time in the history of our company that a client was disappointed in our work, and it was tremendously heartbreaking that we were prevented from seeing them to a successful endpoint.

So, to that end, we wanted to share wisdom from other SEO experts, resources & real-life studies to prevent unrealistic expectations from developing in the future. We gathered this to share with current and future clients to make sure their expectations are clear. We want them to understand some of the science behind the work that we do to drive traffic to their sites. This list was so powerful that we decided to take a risk and share our first professional “failure” so others can avoid this pitfall as well. Below are just a few of our favorite pieces & we hope you find them as useful as we did. Share them with your team, your clients, your staff. How long does SEO take?

“Many companies underestimate how much time and money it takes to be successful with SEO. Success by any standard rarely comes within the first 3 months, even with a healthy SEO budget.” – Josh Steimle, Forbes Magazine, February 5, 2015

Periodic Table of SEO

Search Engine Land developed and shared the Periodic Table of Search Engine Marketing earlier this year. As an office full of nerds, we fell in love with the way they broke down our “science” into this universally understood format. Take a moment and dive in to see all of the factors at play in a strong SEO strategy.

 

periodic-table-of-seo-2015-st-louis-seo Convert with Content: How long for SEO results?

“The results you get should grow your business, not just increase your rank.” – Jason Clegg

In this article, Jason Clegg digs into reasonable time frames and expectations for search engine optimization results. Click here to read on.

Episode 3: Wes Hoffman & Vernon Ross on Social School Podcast

FINALLY, we are launching episode 3 of the Social School Podcast.

Episode 3 is finally here! We had some tech trouble, but were able to clean it up with the help of Charles Purnell. Thank you, sir. So much great info here from Wesley Hoffman and Vernon Ross. Couldn’t bear the thought that it would be lost. Take a listen!

An informal conversation with Wes Hoffman & Vernon Ross.

Two amazing people - Alex Ray, running sound - and Wesley Hoffman @TreehouseNetwrkshopToday, we’re talking about how to overcome social awkwarded from social media/digital space to real world, and our personal experiences being a digital brand, and networking in the real world. Wes is the founder of Treehouse Networkshop, and a man of pure genius.

Get out to a Treehouse Event as soon as you can to pick his brain and see what makes him tick. www.TreehouseNetworkshop.com. Follow him on Twitter @Treehousenetwrk.

Recording at Blank Page - Wes, Ross and Danni.

Recording at Blank Page – Wes, Ross and Danni.

 

Vernon Ross is also known as @RossPR. He is fearless, brilliant and a great friend of mine from the board of Social Media Club. Check him out at www.vernonross.com to learn more about his work and to subscribe to his podcast.@TreehouseNetwrkshop

Google+Consumer+Barometer

Creating your marketing strategy with Google Consumer Barometer

MARKETING HACKS: Google Consumer Barometer Tool

By Danni Eickenhorst

It happened again today. A new client entered my office wanting one service – email marketing. Why? Because they’re supposed to. To what end? Because it’s expected. What would we communicate with said email?

*Crickets…*

We all struggle with effective communications – and we’ve all been guilty of putting something out just to say that we’d done it – whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, an email newsletter or less-than-stellar website.

The #1 piece of feedback we hear from small businesses is that they don’t know where to begin with a marketing strategy, but they know they need to begin somewhere. So, for this week’s Marketing Hack, we’re going to walk you through the steps to developing your effective marketing plan.

1. Develop your message map. In a previous blog post, we talked about how this message map will be your foundation for everything that you do. Take some time to ask yourself these ridiculously simple questions and to come up with your core messages. (What do we do? Why do we do it?…)

2. Determine your business goals – short-term and long-term. With this, you should be able to determine whether you’re in a position to invest in a long-term strategy or if you need to focus most of your efforts on short-term campaigns with a quick return (while also focusing SOME of your time on the long-game).

3. Create a portrait of your target audience. WHO needs your product or service? What do they look like in terms of demographics, personality type, location, spheres of influence? How can you reach them? How do they purchase your product or service?

If you’re struggling to answer this question – you’re not alone. For most products and industries (primarily non-service-based) you can start to pull together a picture of your customer using this week’s hack – Google Consumer Barometer. This tool allows you to quantify the role of your consumer from research to purchase. It logs nearly 40 countries in its data and allows you to pare down your research by industry, location and demographic information. Click here to see data pulled from these insights TODAY – real-time consumer data that you can use.

Watch this brilliant video by Google UK to learn more about the tool and check back with us for next week’s marketing hack to help you create content targeted for your ideal customer.

facebook marketing strategy st louis Blank Page Consulting donated service

If you haven’t found success with Facebook, you may have skipped these important steps

 By Danni Eickenhorst (@STLDanni)

Facebook has the potential to be a game-changing social platform for businesses of all types, but as it grows in popularity, it also grows in complexity. For that reason, many businesses making the leap from traditional marketing to digital marketing find themselves overwhelmed. As corporate trainers specializing in guiding individuals and companies through the digital and social marketing realm, we are always looking for ways to simplify social media and the best way we’ve found to do this is by making people take a step back and consider the guiding principles apart from the ever-changing technology.

The principles of marketing have not changed – the methods have. Your marketing plan should be less tied to technology and more centered on the value and messages you’re providing and the behavior and needs of your audiences.

Consider for a moment the position of someone viewing an ad to like your page. Chances are that they fall into one of these categories:

  • A friend is connected to your page and in their mind has endorsed your brand
  • They have already had a brand experience and just realized they hadn’t connected to your page and want to stay in touch
  • Your page was served up to them by Facebook based on interest-targeting
  • They’ve generally heard buzz about your brand and would like to know more

Each of the categories above represents a different degree of connection – a different level of warmth to that lead. Studies consistently show that former customers that opt in to stay connected are going to be your warmest lead. They’ve purchased before and are likely to purchase again. These people are also most likely to convert into a brand advocate – liking, sharing and pushing your content on a variety of platforms because they love what you do. A 2012 study by Hubspot showed that people are 71% more likely to purchase a product or service when they are connected to your brand through social media. Yet another study revealed that that number increases to 80% if a friend or acquaintance has endorsed or reviewed your product or services positively.

When you are logged into your own Facebook account and you choose to connect with a brand’s page, whether you know it or not, you are saying, “I am cool with being passively marketed to.” Maybe you believe their information will provide some sort of value to your life, professionally or personally, but on some level, you’ve taken the next step to learn more about what they are offering.

Developing the Most Effective Target Profile

We mentioned earlier that, separate from a technological platform, your marketing strategy should focus on the needs and behaviors of your audience. This can be done by developing detailed profiles of your audience. These should include psychographic, demographic and community details. Without undertaking this exercise, every step you take after will likely be flawed, or less effective than it should be. This is the foundation of your marketing strategy. People often report that they don’t always see the return on investment (ROI) that they’d hoped with their Facebook outreach and this is in part because they did not spend the time they needed at this level, considering and developing an understanding of their various audiences’ needs and what value they are perceived to have – how they would go about providing a solution for those audiences through their product or service. <itemprop=”articleSection”>Community snapshot

Psychographic profiles

By psychographic, we mean that you will spend some time thinking about your audience’s experience and emotionally putting yourself in their shoes. Better yet, if you can feel what they are feeling, you will have a better chance at communicating a message that evokes an emotional response. A deep psychographic profile of your audience focuses on feelings, rather than facts. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of an emotional exercise, another option is to attend an industry event where many of your targets are in attendance and then to LISTEN. Hear the problems they’re working to solve. Decode the underlying needs they hint at it in conversation. Investigate to find out what keeps them up at night. Ask questions – but most importantly, LISTEN.

Demographic profiles

A demographic profile will consider their age, race, gender, occupation, interests, connections and relationship with your company. This will be key in Facebook advertising, which we will go through in depth later on today. This profile will tell you where you are most likely to find these customers. This data can be gathered from your Google Analytics Tools (Audience > Demographics) if you have them configured to gather this data. (If you don’t have that feature enabled, go enable it now for a future check!) Facebook also provides this information in the “Insights” area at the top of your page. Google’s information will be your strongest source, because they do a deep-dive into interests, technologies preferred, and more, in a way that Facebook does not yet offer outside of their paid tools. Your website data will also be stronger, because it will be more likely to paint a picture of a more interested consumer who has searched for your information and taken the time to engage with your brand on a deeper, more focused level.

Community snapshot

Finally, one tool that will help you develop an idea of where your ideal consumer “lives,” in terms of community, interests, businesses frequented, etc is Facebook’s Graph Search. This is a free tool provided to all Facebook users – and it’s likely one that you didn’t even know you had access to. Graph Search allows you to search phrases such as “Favorite interests of people who like PAGE NAME,” “Restaurants visited by people who like PAGE NAME.” and more. This will give you a sense of the communities they hang out in, what events you’re most likely to find them at and likely other insights, such as their general political or social leanings. This information can be used in a number of ways, including ad targeting. For more on Facebook Graph Search, click here.

Once you have taken the time to develop a well-rounded picture of your various audiences, you are ready to engage in marketing. You may also have a better sense of whether Facebook is where you will find that audience.

Truly impactful Facebook content marketing can be difficult to achieve and sustain. Just as with any other type of marketing, it’s all about being in front of the right people with the right message at the right time – but unlike many other forms of marketing, today’s digital platforms and the level of engagement are at the mercy of the platform developers and their overarching philosophy for what their channel should be used for – such as Facebook and Google., which both seek to provide users with the content they are looking to  The principles you followed to develop these profile are foundational for any marketing strategy, but they will remain the same, regardless of what changes Facebook, Google and other platforms will make in the future.

Developing an effective marketing strategy is an emotionally exhausting exercise at its best – a constant guessing game of intentions and actions, which we now must blend with data and analytics. Chasing a constantly-changing algorithm doesn’t make it any easier, but it is crucial to keep in mind that regardless of the way you format a post or how often you post, the most important part of your Facebook engagement is the value you provide and the way that you target that message. Rather than grumbling about the changes that are coming your way, it would the most productive use of your team’s time to roll with the punches and take the challenge to continuously develop stronger content. At the end of the day, their cousin’s cute baby will always out rank your customers’ interest in your brand – ALWAYS –  but Facebook is still an amazing tool to demonstrate your expertise, grow a brand – and, maybe as important as those – have some fun.

So, how does Facebook’s strategy of content delivery to their users affect you and your marketing strategy? I mean, right place, right time – right? Right – BUT if you take this thinking to the next level, you’ll quickly realize that Facebook users are primarily on Facebook to engage with their friends and family and to memorialize their own life experiences. They engage with brands because it is part and parcel of the Facebook experience – but a picture of someone’s adorable baby is always going to beat out your brand’s latest thought leadership blog. ALWAYS.

 

4 Small Business Lessons Learned – Episode 2 Social School Podcast

4 Lessons Learned from One Year in Small Business: AUDIO TRANSCRIPTION

Please excuse any typos as this was completed with audio dictation.

Welcome to Social School.

My name is Danni Eickenhorst, and today we’re going to talk about the first year of a small business. I wanted to talk a little bit about Blank Page Marketing,  because last week we hit the one year mark for Blank Page and it was a really meaningful moment for our business and our team. Next week, we get to have a party and celebrate (because I’m big on celebrating milestones).

It really got me thinking about the sharable lessons that I’ve gotten from my first year as an entrepreneur and what would I share with others thinking about taking some of the same steps. A little bit of background: when I first decided to go out on my own it was 2007 and I had my own company, and the first time around it was mostly content focused. I’ve been given some freelancing copywriting and SEO writing things from people in my life, professors and friends, and I realized that you can make some money with it.

I tried my hand at writing content for a living and I found that it was really, really hard and one of the things that I did that certainly didn’t make my first year any easier was inviting friends and acquaintances to jump in on projects with me, thinking I could blend these great friendships with doing what I love professionally. Despite the number of gifted and talented people I folded in there to work with me, it was a matter of me realizing that I’m not a great supervisor; I have really high expectations of people and I don’t always communicate what I want very well. I’m much more of a big picture dreamer and much less of a tactical kind of manager. I’m happy to get in the zone and code out something on my own or execute a big project on my own, and I like working collaboratively in teams but for some reason supervising is not my thing.

I find that I don’t like being viewed as the Almighty Overlord of the project and I really didn’t know how to manage at that point in my life. So, I ultimately took a contract that turned into employment and left that behind. At that time, that was a really good choice then. A few years later, after having got a lot more supervision under my belt and learning how to empower people that work with me and how to support them in their own creative rights without feeling like a terrible supervisor, I thought, “You know, I’ve worked with some really creative people. I really do enjoy the freedom of working for myself and it’s time to approach this idea once again to see if I can make it work.”

I’ve had the good fortune at this point where I decided to make the jump working with some amazing amazing people in my career, who I knew would deliver quality work and to live up to my expectations and who I would also enjoy working with, who were incredibly professional and so far it’s been really great. I announced my big change through LinkedIn and social media and it was really well received. It was scary doing that because you don’t know what people are going to think; if they’re going to support you, if they’re going to ask you if you’re crazy because you’ve got kids and all these things, but it was a great response.

And most of my first year of business I can draw a line back to the moment that I announced on social media. A quick shout out to Janice Branham who was one of my first clients that took a chance on me and saw the work that I’d done up until that point and gave me a shot to work with the Oasis Institute nationally to help them with their strategy and various projects. I’ve been so grateful because this year so many people have supported the work that we’re doing and I certainly wouldn’t be talking here today on a Monday in the middle of the morning to you guys if it wasn’t for them. So, I would say the first thing that I learned this year was that being socially authentic can pay off.

Lesson #1: Being socially authentic can help grow your small business

I was worried; I guess I’ve always been a bit of an oversharer on social media. Most of you probably already know that I’m never going to run for political office any day soon because it’s already out there; everything I’ve ever thought I probably tweeted or blogged. So it never occurred to me not to share every step along the way of growing a small business, and at one point my friend Jen pointed out that that was kind of a gutsy move on my part sharing each and every client we got because people would be watching, and if we failed they’d see that too. But pretty much every contract we’ve gotten this year I’ve shared that on social media because I’m truly excited to jump into these products and I’m really thankful to the people that have chosen to put their faith in our work and so all along the way we kind of announced when we start with someone and people watch the work that we’re doing and luckily we don’t fail so far and we haven’t had that situation arise yet, and so we’re good to go.

I think that we’ve been really authentic and open this year about the highs and the lows and there’s nothing more emotionally draining, I’d suppose, than owning your own business, but at the end of the day I can’t imagine doing anything else. So, I’m a big believer in gratitude and celebrating every milestone along the way and so we have done that very publicly with everybody and in this beautiful way people have gotten behind us and really been a rallying team for us. People that I really respect and whose work I really admire have come out and offered to do work with us, people who I have long wanted to work with have also hired us for projects and so what a year it’s been. So I would say the first lesson right out the gate that we learned was just being open and honest and sharing our experience, not everything has to be sugar coated we certainly haven’t aired any dirty laundry. There are days where it’s a little more difficult than other days and you know we ask for help on those days and we throw out our questions and we seek support. We’re never afraid to ask questions, we’re growing a business like so many people before you, and people want to know what that’s like because so many of you are also considering something similar and if we can share some of our wisdom, our experiences along the way and help you avoid a stumbling block or get you in a stronger position when you’re a year into your small business, then that’s totally worth it because we ’ve had the benefit of learning from people like Seth Godin and some of the other thought leaders that have written it down or  developed their own book and everybody’s experience in launching a business is going to be uniquely different.

There are some common threads that you and I have that perhaps I can help you get a little farther, a little faster with fewer headaches.

Lesson #2: Learn to value your time

It was pretty quick out of the gate that I had my first request for a cup of coffee and pick my brain and all that I normally would get. And it was really difficult for me to say no because when somebody comes to you and they’ve got a non-profit campaign and they need some help or a small business and big dreams and to say no to that, it’s really hard, those are my people. And so I had to and I would blame it on my husband because that’s the way I was most comfortable doing it and it was the truth, and I promised my husband that when we went out on our own and I made a go at this business, I would point every minute of my time into this business, and so if I’m going to give you advice or strategy I am going to have to charge you for it and I’m sorry to do that. And so some of the people that came and asked me and I had to turn away were very very understanding; in fact I’d say all of them were. Some later told me that they totally respected my ability to say no and they knew that it was difficult for me and others ended up hiring me and those that couldn’t afford to I have since worked into one of our classes giving them a free seat when we’re pretty well booked up and maybe have a chair or two that I can give away.

I try not to just fully turn anybody away, I try to give back where we can or try to connect them with someone that maybe could help them. And so valuing my time was a huge lesson this first year.

Lesson #3: Do more of what works

The third lesson came from Travis, a friend of mine who’s brilliant, he worked at the Venture Café Foundation. He is a  brilliant business consultant. He is exactly who you  want to talk to if you’re starting a small business, or you want to look up Venture Café and see what support they can provide you. Luckily we’re friends and I was able to sit with him for a while and chat and the advice he gave me is funny, it’s the kind of advice I’d probably give a client but I couldn’t see it for myself. He said, “Okay, so here we are this far into your business. If you were to put the sources of your client onto a pie chart, what would that look like? How much comes from your website and SEO? How much comes from social media? How much comes from word-of-mouth?”

When he said that, I had this moment where I thought, “How did I not see that nearly all of our business comes from word-of-mouth or happy clients that either come back or referred someone?”

We don’t really get a ton of new business off of social media or our website. We keep those up because we want to share our journey and we definitely use those channels to showcase our knowledge and also to pass on knowledge that authentically help people who want to do for themselves. But it was near 100% of our business was just from happy customers or people that had worked with me previously in my career and that was a huge wake up moment.

The minute I stopped putting all of our focus elsewhere on blogs and webinars and all that, although we still do it just because we want to truly empower people and educate people, but when I just put that focus on the people that have referred business and the people that we do have business with currently and trying to cultivate those relationships further, then we got too much business which was a beautiful problem to have at the one year mark. So definitely take a minute as you get into your business, 6 months in, 12 months in, and as you’re considering your marketing mix and how you’re promoting your business that should definitely be the first question you ask, no matter what your business is you really need to know where your business is currently coming from and what is the path that they take to get there. It just happens that my path is a little bit shorter because it’s people that already know me and have come forward and wanted to work with me or people who have worked with me and are referring folks.  So that’s a pretty easy path to follow but truly that’s a no-brainer that took me a little while to get. There are so many things you’re considering your first year out that sometimes the obvious get missed.

Lesson #4: Rome wasn’t built in a day

The final bit of advice I would give to somebody starting out a business is don’t expect in the first week, month or few months that you’re going to have everything figured out; you’re not going to know what your business is going to be necessarily right out of the gate. Definitely make a plan and try and stay within the lanes, don’t get pulled off of focus, every entrepreneur out there seems to fall into the trap of getting distracted by the next shiny thing out there; so definitely make a plan and try to stick to it. But you’re really not going to have a sense of who you are until you have a chance to be something. And so we were nine months in when we started the business I said I want to start a company that empowers small businesses and non-profits, to get the kind of marketing help that they need, which is unique because they more than anybody else really struggled to have time, talent and resources to pull off most of their messaging and campaigns. And for a small business or non-profit the results of their marketing are absolutely critical to their survival, and so I just felt this urgency to try and find a way to serve them. And so we wanted to create marketing solutions that were scalable, that somebody could, say, come to us and say “Here are my business goals, here is my budget, how can we get from point A to point B with the resources that we have?” And we would find a way, whether that’s holding their hand and consulting with them, managing some of the pieces or giving them the education and tools they need to actually execute themselves. So that was the plan.

Nine months into it we took a moment and said “Is that what we’re doing? Are we doing what we set out to do, and if not what are we doing? And what problems are there that we’re seeing on a regular basis and how are we solving them for people?” And lucky for us we were, we largely found that we were delivering on what we hoped to deliver on all along and I think that was just because we were mindful, we sent out those channels and we tried to stay in your lane. And we could have gone a million different directions with our business, at end of the day we said no, we set out to do consulting and manage marketing and education and if it’s not in those lanes we’re not going to take it on right now, and that’s been great. By stopping and taking a look at where we’ve been and what we’ve done this year we’ve also seen that there our other areas of value that we provide to other layers, other problems that we fix all related to this work. But it gave us more of our marketing message, it gave us a  little bit of self-awareness of our work, a different perspective on what we do, and a moment to pause and look at what our real value is; but we didn’t get there overnight. My first few months I don’t know how much of my time I spent testing various project management softwares and trying to get our logo settled and getting our website just how I wanted it because I felt like people were watching and I needed to do this well. And I lost so much sleep and so much time over it and that’s fine, that’s my process, that’s how I do but if I could go back and tell me something a year ago it would be chill out, you’ll get there, just do your best. And we did and I’m really happy with where we are right now.

Our website is always a project in development, our social media ups and flows but we do the best we can and legitimately the best thing at the end of the day we really are helping small businesses.  We really are helping non-profits and there are people like 30 clients this year that have come back to us and said ‘thank you, I couldn’t have done this without you I really feel like the help you gave me went to my success,’ and that’s really what I care to measure at the end of the day, for me that’s success. It’s a book of business going forward and it’s that we set out a mission and we’re actually achieving it.

So that’s it, enough about me, you’ve had two whole episodes of just me. Next week we’re going to have Wesley Hoffman on the show, we’ve got Vernon Ross coming on; we want to talk about social skills in a digital age and how social media blends with real-life interactions and networking and kind of the pros and cons of that. And we’re also going to have Matthew Hibbert on in a couple of weeks, we want to talk about social and digital marketing for a public agency he works for, Metro, and so there’s a lot of good stuff coming up so I encourage you to keep listening, please share. And a real heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported our business this year, whether you sent us a referral or shared our podcast or retweeted something, God Bless you. I love every minute of what we’re doing and if you listen to this soon enough, the 15th we’re having a party at Plush here in St. Louis 5 PM till close and we’re going to celebrate our first year. That’s a huge milestone, it may not seem  like that to businesses that have been around for a long time, but it is, we’re so happy to have gotten to this point and it really is all thanks to you. So please send us your thoughts at @blankpagestl on twitter, blankpageconsultingstl on Facebook, blankpagestl is our website. We want to hear from you, what you want to hear. What questions do you have?  Thanks again see you next time.

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Blogs vs. Wikis: What’s the difference? Which is better?

By Danni Eickenhorst

If you’re foraying into the digital space for the first time as a business owner or marketing executive, you’ve undoubtedly heard a great deal of jargon and need some help cutting through the clutter. We are often asked “What is a blog?” “What is a wiki?” and “When do I use a blog vs a wiki?”

While blogs and wikis have some similarity, they are very different – and can both be utilized to promote your brand or project, as part of your overall content marketing strategy.

Blogs: Modern Day Diary Entries

A blog is a space for articles that typically lives within your website, or a website platform. A personal blog may resemble a very public diary – regular entries on a variety of topics and experiences – while a company blog may be used as a space to demonstrate expertise and thought leadership. This blog that you are reading, for example, while serving as a useful tool to small businesses, entrepreneurs and professional communicators, is also a space where we demonstrate our knowledge and expertise in multi-channel marketing. One characteristic of a blog that makes it so powerful is the ability for readers to comment on an entry or interact with the content and the writer. The original article remains unchanged, but generates a continuous conversation in an interactive comments section below the article.

Wikis: Encyclopedia Entries on Steroids

A wiki is a collaborative article or knowledge base. In a way, it can be compared to a living, breathing encyclopedia entry, which people can update and change. The collaborative nature of wikis makes them both potentially powerful – and potentially inaccurate. At the heart of the wiki approach to information presentation is the idea that a wiki is ultimately proofed, verified and approved by a consensus of individuals. In contrast to a blog post, the primary post is continuously updated by a multitude of users.

Blog or Wiki: Which serves your business goals?

A blog may serve as tool to generate and stimulate in-depth conversations and to explore topics that may be of interest to your clients, customers and colleagues. The principle behind content marketing is proving your expertise proactively so that when people are searching for a need, they see that you can help fulfill it. While most businesses can benefit from a blog – simply from the perspective of search engine presence, a wiki may or may not be a useful tool.

A wiki can be a great tool to generate a detailed record on your product or company, to answer frequently asked questions and to invite customers to contribute their experience/uses/history with your product or company. Anything collaborative related to your company runs the risk of sharing unfavorable information, therefore a wiki should only be considered if you are confident in the quality and utility of your product. The very act of setting up a wiki for your product or company helps to establish some level of credibility and authority – after all, if you are OK with collaborative input on the official record of your company, you must be confident in what you offer!

Treehouse Networkshop finds success with unique blend of social media + live promotions

meeting of the minds

By Danni Eickenhorst

I first met Wesley Hoffman in the flesh at the 2014 Donut Day celebration with Kuva Coffee and Strange Donuts. He recognized me from Twitter and greeted me with a big hug. Something about that introduction was disarming in the best way and we were fast friends.

At the time I met Hoffman at the event, I knew very little about Treehouse Networkshop. I knew it was a relatively recent phenomenon – and that it was clearly more than a networking group and more of a movement. The general tone and heart behind the social content coming out of Treehouse demonstrated an enthusiasm for life that I find myself seeking out on a daily basis.

Treehouse Networkshop started out as a monthly networking event series with the philosophy that we should make connections as people first, and then determine how we can help each other. At the very least, new connections mean new friends. Treehouse promotes making connections with people via the world wide web, but truly believes in the power of meeting in person. Treehouse provides motivational content via video, audio (#StrangeHousePodcast), and social media. In addition to monthly meetups, we also hold a quarterly panel series called “Meeting of the Minds.”

As an entrepreneur determined to find long-term success, and whose success has been squarely tied to collaboration, idea-sharing and positivity, I knew upon connecting with Wes that I surely needed to become more involved with Treehouse and the people tied to it.

wesleymoderateMonthly meetups are held at different venues and neighborhoods around St. Louis. The meetups are open to anyone looking to make professional or personal connections in a positive environment. People from all industries and walks of life meet together as people to find ways to help each other succeed. Meetups are held during the 3rd full week of every month on a Wednesday or Thursday.

October 22nd is the next Meeting of the Minds event, and I am honored to be one of the panelists for this event. Only 100 spots are available. Click here to reserve your ticket now.

Treehouse began with Wes grabbing coffee with anyone who would take the time after he was laid off, and quickly set Wes apart as a connector of people in the St. Louis region. He found himself able to help others find opportunities and to take advantage of opportunities coming his way as well.

Wes has blended real life and social media promotion to find incredibly impressive success very quickly – even leaving the world of full time employment earlier this year in order to focus his energy on Treehouse Networkshop. Read on to learn how he got started in social media, how he’s utilizing it for Treehouse and what’s next.

When did you first get into social media personally? What was your first platform? What made it stick for you?

I first got into social media in the late 90s. There was a website in St. Louis called STLPunk.com. It was for local bands, venues, and their fans. At first, only your band could have a page, and you could comment, but you were not able to have a profile. You could also post anonymously (which caused some trouble). I loved the fact you could connect with people you didn’t know then meet them in person at shows. In the early 2000’s I also took to Xanga, a blogging site. I loved how you could get to know people you had never met, but also share your thoughts.

tumblr_inline_n9h7hgdLO01s3u7o0When did you get into social media professionally? What were your experiences and platforms used for marketing?

Professionally, I started using LinkedIn in 2008. But really started using it in 2013 when I was self employed. I started using twitter and Facebook to stay connected and in the know with people I wanted to work with. I ended up using twitter to get a job as well as promote my personal brand.

Tell me about the events that led to Treehouse Networkshop and what inspired the name.

Treehouse events came from my passion for in-person and digital networking. I love bringing people together, and then seeing them collaborate. I was going to a lot of networking events myself, but after others had approached me, asking how to network, I decided to throw together my own events. The events are based on the philosophy that we should meet each other as people first and professionally second. I loved the name Treehouse because that was always the place you went to when you were a kid to make plans about how you were going to build something, or take over the world!

How did social media fold into what you were doing? What channels did you find the greatest success on initially? Are they still true?

Social media plays a huge part in Treehouse. We use twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to promote the events. We use hashtags on twitter, so people can find others who were at the event. Or, people who aren’t at the events can find people who went, and get a feel for what the events are like. We use Instagram to take pictures while the events are happening.
I’ve used tumblr to blog, then push the content from there to other social media channels (mainly Twitter, and Facebook).

What do you think is the single most important thing you’re doing on social to fuel your success? What would you do differently?

The single most important thing doesn’t have to necessarily do with social media, but more how it ties into meeting people in real life. I make sure to respond to every tweet, but also connect with those people in person. I do my best to bridge the gap between digital and in-real-life connections.

What are you trying to accomplish on social? What is your most important accomplishment so far with Treehouse in general?

I’m mainly trying to start conversations on social that lead to in-person interactions at Treehouse events or beyond. My most important accomplishment with Treehouse is growing it, and helping people. If people are able to further their careers or social lives through Treehouse, we’ve reached our goal.

If you’re trying to change something/create something – what problem are you working to solve and how do you hope that social media plays into that?

One thing I’m trying to change is how networking is view traditionally. How can we use social media to start conversations, or get to know something about a person to make in-person conversations happen more organically?

If you were to start over today, what would you do differently?

There’s only one thing I’d do differently – I would’ve started sooner. I would’ve kept up with twitter earlier, and started my business sooner than I did.

What’s next for Treehouse? What are your future plans/hopes for social and how it plays into that?

Treehouse will continue to find ways to use it’s platform to help to help other people. We’re looking forward to creating a new way to bridge the gap between physical and in-person interactions. Treehouse will find new ways for conversations and interactions to start through digital mediums. Those interactions will then strongly encourage people to take the next step to planning an in-person meeting.

SOCIAL SCHOOL: 3 things Taco Bell can teach us about social media marketing

By Erik Schwenke

Does the plate of food above look familiar? Thanks to social media marketing efforts by the fast food giant,  there’s a good chance that one or more of your friends has been talking about Taco Bell’s new breakfast items, and an even better chance that curiosity has piqued your interest enough to try one of them! It certainly worked on me (and I can vouch that they all taste pretty good, albeit quite greasy).

But, why is this fast food so popular all of a sudden? Plenty of other restaurants have launched campaigns recently to attract customers to their new breakfast trends, but none have been as wildly as successful as Taco Bell’s latest campaign. The secret to the waffle taco doesn’t lie in the syrup, but rather, the marketing. Specifically, how Taco Bell has established its brand voice and willingness to interact with fans. What can your business learn from them?

1.  Photos are everything in social media marketing.

It gets said time and again, but your best avenue for telling a great story and building customer engagement is by being creative with your camera or smart-phone. Taco Bell knows this, and is constantly finding unique ways to present their food to you, the consumer. Search through their Facebook and Twitter, and you’ll be hard pressed to find anything  stock-looking or seemingly “plain” about their posts. Nearly one third of their tweets are pictures, ones that evoke emotion, such as the sunrise imagery above.

Whether your business offers a product or service, there’s always an opportunity to showcase what you do in a way that will resonate with your audience as well. The key takeaway here is to be spontaneous—have an interesting interaction with a customer? Is there something going on in your area that your audience can relate to, such as the weather? Take a photo and tell a story!

2. Your best content comes from your fans.

Social media users are just like businesses—they love having their content shared and retweeted. In fact, they are often willing to create content just for your business, for the sole purpose of being recognized and responded to. If you view Taco Bell’s Twitter, you’ll notice they constantly retweet other users, and they aren’t picky when it comes to sharing someone with a large following versus someone with a not so large one.

Would you rather promote yourself, or have someone else do the talking for you? Keep this in mind when developing your content strategy, and don’t be afraid to ask your fans for photos and feedback that you can share.

3. Supporting your community will help build your community.

Over the years, Taco Bell has been no stranger to taking action in charitable events and giving back to their community. Their dedication has helped them to grow to the 10.4 million likes that they currently have today on their Facebook page!  One such campaign they’ve taken part in is their “Graduate Mas” program, which provides scholarships and partnerships for teens. Last summer, they encouraged users to upload photos of themselves on Instagram, and made a pledge to donate $100 to their charity program for each photo uploaded. Those who uploaded a photo also had a chance to see their photography displayed in Times Square.

You can employ a similar approach as well. In fact, many businesses already have programs in place to support charities, but rarely mention their efforts on social media! Take the time to develop a campaign, and showcase what you’re doing to help your community. Even if your budget is small or non-existent, you can find ways to make a difference. For example, poll your fans and make a pledge to volunteer for a day at a charity of their choice if you reach a certain social milestone. You’ll not only increase the amount of fans you have, but also their trust in the long run.

Want more ideas to jump start your small business on social media? Give us a call and set up a professional strategy session to help find your brand’s voice. Click here to schedule a time that’s convenient for you.

 

Some images courtesy of the Huffington Post.

 

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7-most-common-email-marketing-mistakes inbound marketing

The 7 Most Common Email Marketing Mistakes Businesses Make

The 7 Most Common Email Marketing Mistakes Businesses Make

By Katie Harbison

One of the cheapest and easiest ways for a company to stay up-to-date with current and potential customers is through email marketing. By finding a program that works well for your company (Mailchimp, ConstantContact, Campaigner, etc.), you can reach hundreds of people almost instantly. Email is still considered one of the most relevant platforms for reaching out to people. Think about how many times you check your email throughout the day—it’s probably just as often as checking social media, if not more.

The idea is simple enough, but making your campaign strong and impactful can seem difficult. Below I’ve listed 7 ways to make it easier for your company to maximize your email marketing campaign’s reach and keep readers subscribed.

1. Don’t Put a Name On It

Studies on email marketing have shown that subject lines that are personalized with a recipient’s name usually have a higher click through rate. It’s important to let readers feel like they are more than just a numbe r, and that the company knows who they are sending their emails to. If you have the ability and data, put a name in the subject line. This is especially important when an email is showing appreciation. Is the email thanking them for signing up? For purchasing something from your business? Let them feel your sincerity by adding their name to the message.

2. Not Building Lists

When compiling an email directory, businesses gather names from a variety of locations and interest areas. It is important to remember this when sending content. Not everything will be relevant to every contact. Some things may be location-relevant, others may be interest based, while others still may be relevant to a specific age group. Make sure to sort contacts into lists, and as you create an email, keep in mind the types of people who will gain the most from its content.

3. Useless “From” Lines

If someone doesn’t recognize the sender of an email, there is a good chance they won’t open it, as pointed out by Mark Schmulen, a general manager at Constant Contact. It is also good to make use your company’s domain, as addresses containing Gmail, Yahoo, etc. can make a business seem small-scale and unreliable.

4. No Testing and Analysis

To ensure your email marketing strategy is reaching its maximum potential, it is important to test frequently and analyze the numbers. See what types of emails trigger the most open rates and clicks, how often you should send them to make sure receivers don’t unsubscribe, and how to get responses and conversion. The best way to test these is one variable at a time. You may want to change up the frequency the emails are being sent, then change up the subject lines or “from” lines, then any other variables that can influence readers.

5. Lack of Purpose

Make sure the emails you send out have a goal or a purpose. Sending out content that is all over the place or that has no purpose for your business can cause numbers to dwindle, and can lead to a failed program. Think about what you want to accomplish when you start out, set a goal based on what your business is, whom you’re hoping to reach, and what you want readers to get from your marketing. Only once you have these set should you start reaching out to customers.

6. Weak Subject Lines

When readers open their email, the very first thing they see is the subject line. This brief statement is probably the most important determinant in whether or not your email will be opened. Try to catch their interest by provoking their curiosity. Make it brief, or let them know the content will be easy to process. If the receiver doesn’t think the content will be relevant, interesting, or non-time consuming, they likely won’t open it.

7. No Call to Action: Ask for What you Want

What is it you want your readers to do once they have read your emails? Buy something? Take a class? Inform others about your company? Whatever it is that you want from them, let them know. A call to action is the best way to get a reader to figure out the next step in your marketing strategy. They don’t have to be in-your-face; as Craig Klein, CEO of SalesNexus, points out, “[i]t can be anything from ‘click here for a free report’ to ‘share this story with friends’ or anything else you want them to do.”

Make your company stand out with the best email marketing campaign in your customers’ inboxes. If you’re struggling to keep readers and don’t know what else to do, Blank Page can help. Our All-Inclusive Marketing packages are great for helping your business improve its email campaign, as well as a variety of other areas you may struggle with. Check out our package options, and contact us with any questions you may have. You can also subscribe to our newsletter for more ideas on how to improve your company’s marketing strategies.

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