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If you’re searching for a scalable Instagram strategy for more followers, sales and long-term brand engagement, look no further than an Instagram giveaway campaign.

People can’t resist the power of “free,” can they? It’s one of the oldest tricks in the marketing playbook. Even so, the numbers don’t lie in regard to just how much Instagram users are obsessed with giveaways and contests.

According to a recent case study by Tailwind for Instagram, brands that regularly run giveaways and content boast insane metrics in terms of engagement.

The numbers don’t lie in regard to just how much momentum an Instagram giveaway provides. For starters, Tailwind noted the following striking stats:

  • Instagram accounts that run regular giveaways and contests grew 70% faster than those who don’t
  • 91% of Instagram posts with over 1,000 comments are related to a giveaway or contest
  • Contests and giveaways on Instagram receive 3.5 as many “likes” and 64 more comments than an average post.

Crazy, right?

But perhaps the most striking statistic of all?

Despite these staggering numbers, only 2% of Instagram accounts run contests or giveaways.

Two percent.

The takeaway here? If your direct competition isn’t running an Instagram giveaway at any given point in time, there’s probably chance for you to snatch the spotlight. Even if they are, what’s holding you back from doing a better giveaway yourself?

When to Run an Instagram Giveaway or Contest

Giveaways and contests come in all shapes and sizes. From all-inclusive vacations to free swag for your followers, just about anything is fair game if you can afford to give it away. This sort of freedom spells good news for brands in terms of the “what” and “when” of their giveaways.

For example, brands such as Birchbox run Instagram giveaways on a bi-monthly basis with prizes ranging from gift cards to free products. Most of the time such giveaways coincide with the release of a new collection or in celebration of Birchbox partnering up with another brand.

Again, there is no “right” time to run a contest or giveaway. Product launches are perhaps one of the most common catalysts for an Instagram giveaway, which makes perfect sense on paper. Think about it: you want to create a sense of hype around your launch and you want to fire up your followers at the same time. Conducting a giveaway alongside a new release makes perfect sense to build buzz around your product before it hits the public.

That’s not to say you can’t run giveaways for existing products “just because.” In fact, creating the expectations of regular giveaways is a great way to encourage and existing followers to keep an eye on your feed.

Giveaway posts like this one from CLUSE attract the attention of their current follower-base, but also encourages new followers to stick around after the giveaway is done (and hopefully long enough to catch another one).

How Often Should Brands Conduct an Instagram Giveaway?

Sure, one-off giveaways and contests can inject some new life into your Instagram presence. That said, giveaways and contests have a huge potential ROI when they’re run consistently as part of your overall content strategy.

Consider how such posts represent a sort of snowball effect. The more contests and giveaways you run, the more followers and traffic you can potentially land back on-site or into your sales funnel.

How Long Should an Instagram Giveaway Last?

Timing is an important yet overlooked factor for your Instagram giveaway. Events that only last a few days inevitably miss out on potential entrants and engagement. On the flip side, people might forget about or ignore a giveaway with an entry date that seems far too distant (think: a month-long event). Note how this giveaway alert from Beautycon has a clearly defined entry process and end-date:

Generally speaking, most contests and giveaways sport an entry/deadline period that lasts between one and two weeks. This allows some flexibility for brands looking to integrate an Instagram giveaway into their content calendar. For example, you could run a monthly giveaway that lasts two weeks or two weekly giveaways a month. Either way, you can promote your giveaways on a regular basis without serving as the sole focus of your content.

So, let’s say you’ve decided to take the leap and have a vague idea of what a giveaway requires. What do you need to get started in terms of setting up an Instagram giveaway from scratch?

The 3 Things You Must Do to Set Up Your Instagram Giveaway

Running a successful Instagram giveaway doesn’t have to be rocket science. Beyond sticking to Instagram’s promotional guidelines, brands need to know exactly what to look out for prior to crafting their campaign.

1. Set Your Goals

Giving something away for free simply for the sake of it isn’t exactly smart business, is it?

Even if you’re willing to part with a product for your giveaway, you should be getting something in return for your campaign, whether it be…

  • More long-term followers, comments or “likes” on future posts
  • Branding opportunities via user-generated content, using those photos to promote your brand
  • Driving traffic to your site and getting more eyeballs on your products or storefront

Any of these goals are totally fair game. All that matters is that you’re tracking something that’s measurable.

Site traffic. Email sign-ups. Followers. You name it.

Understanding what exactly you’re after will better help you track the KPIs for your next giveaway.

Here’s an example of a recent Instagram giveaway from Pinup Girl, the purpose of which was to drive traffic to the brand’s Facebook page:

An Instagram giveaway that sends traffic to Facebook. Hey, why not? If Facebook traffic is their goal, that’s all there is to it.

For most brands, sales and email sign-ups are the holy grail of a contest or giveaway campaign. Check out how this recent giveaway from Urban Decay required contestants to enter on-site which boasted this opt-in:

Once you have a goal in mind, you’ll not only know what to keep an eye on in terms of metrics but also how you’ll set up the entry to your giveaways.

2. Pick a Prize

What good is a giveaway without a prize?

The beauty of an Instagram giveaway is that any brand can get on board regardless of their niche or industry. Anything from physical products to free subscriptions is totally fine as long as there are no strings attached to your followers.

Check out this giveaway example from Plated which includes a variety of prizes including a gift certificate, Birchbox subscription and other goodies:

As long as your giveaway item isn’t going to break the bank, you’re golden. If you’re in an industry that doesn’t sell physical products or have a trial to give out, something such as an Amazon gift card can do the trick. Albeit not as sexy, gift cards giveaways are known to drive engagement on their own.

Remember, though: don’t offer up a giveaway if you can’t follow through with your prizes. Giveaways and contests are commitments, which leads directly to our last point…

3. Be Ready to Commit

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you can’t simply post about a giveaway and totally fail to deliver upon it when it’s over. Unlike your one-and-done posts on Instagram, giveaways require your attention to…

  • Track entries and respond to follower questions or concerns
  • Set specific deadlines for your giveaway and sticking to them
  • Choose a winner, post an announcement and follow up with their prize

Here’s how BoxyCharm thanks their giveaway contestants and provides them with clear-cut instructions on how to get in touch:

Although you don’t need to overthink your specifics of your Instagram giveaway, these three points should be clearly defined before you get started.

But once you have them down, you can finally figure out which type of giveaway to conduct.

4 Effective Types of Instagram Contests and Giveaways

Again, there is no “right” way to run your giveaway campaign. Below we’ve outlined four types of Instagram giveaways that are common and can easily align with any of the goals noted above.

1. User-Generated Content Giveaways

A good chunk of Instagram giveaways out there require user-generated content as a form of entry. Coupled with a branded hashtag, these giveaways are easy for marketers to track and allow followers to show off your products in action.

Here’s a solid example from Fender which requires entrants to tag a Fender guitar in their photo using the giveaway-specific #HereForTheMusic hashtag:

Beyond customer photos, other creative ideas for user-generated content giveaways include caption contests or video clips as means of entry.

2. Tag-a-Friend Giveaways

If you want to run a giveaway that’s specific to a single post, tag-a-friend giveaways are the way to go. Rather than rely on hashtags or curating user-generated content, the only requirement for entry is to, well tag a friend.

Short, sweet and to the point, these types of giveaways are ideal for those looking to provide a quick freebie to the followers without too much legwork involved.

Here’s an example from Sincerely Jules, promoting a giveaway on behalf of CLUSE:

3. Follow-to-Win Giveaways

Not unlike tag-a-friend giveaways, follow-to-win entries don’t require much work on behalf of your followers, either. That said, they are a simple way to encourage new followers and discussion in the comments section of any given post. Check out this giveaway from LoveStoriesTV which asks for follows and tagging simultaneously, to win up to five prizes:

As a side note, multiple prizes obviously means more chances to win. This spells good news for your followers who might otherwise think that they don’t stand a chance, especially if you’re managing a crowded feed. Granted you can keep up with the action, don’t be afraid to be generous.

4. Enter-to-Win Contests and Giveaways

Not inherently different from running a contest, these giveaways drive your followers back to your site via your bio link.

Whether you’re leading them to an email opt-in or entry form, keep in mind that you’re taking your followers beyond the realm of Instagram to enter. This extra step could potentially increase the likelihood that your contestants drop off, so make sure that you keep the opt-in process as short as possible.

This recent example from TOMS displays the power of a well-crafted Instagram caption to encourage entries on-site:

In terms of how often you should run giveaways, it’s totally up to you. If you aren’t spreading yourself too thin and have a dedicated social media manager to monitor your campaigns, you can continuously experiment with giveaways until you get into a groove.

Just like with any type of content on Instagram, planning in advance and having an idea of what your giveaway is going to look like is a better approach than just winging it.

How to Guarantee That Followers Trust Your Giveaway

Trust is a key component of any Instagram giveaway. This is especially true if you’re trying to attract attention from followers who’ve never engaged with your brand before. There’s no quicker way to sour your relationships with your followers and potential customer than by botching a giveaway or failing to follow through with your prize delivery. In fact, a failed giveaway could potentially backfire on you as disappointed fans take to social media with negative posts.

Define Your Terms and Conditions

The best way to establish trust within your giveaway from the word “go” is by clearly defining your terms and conditions. You might notice that many giveaways and contest posts include body copy that refers entrants to a set of rules and guidelines in their bio.

Here’s a good example from Lonely Planet for a recent contest:

Pointing your entrants to specific terms and conditions signals that you mean business about your giveaway. Putting your legalese on site doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, either. As displayed by Lonely Planet, a simple landing page or blog post detailing the specifics of your contest is more than enough.

You can also use a terms and conditions template such as this one from Wishpond to get started with sorting out the fine print of your giveaway.

Provide a Point of Contact Beyond Instagram

The more opportunities you have for your entrants to get in touch with you about your giveaway or contest, the better. Whether that means providing a contact form on-site or an email address specific to entry queues, accessibility signals that you’re not going to potentially go ghost on your entrants.

Be Specific with Your Copy

Your entrants shouldn’t have to second-guess the rules of entry format of your giveaway. There’s no reason to skimp on details or be vague in your contest copy: you’ll notice that contest and giveaway posts are more verbose than your typical Instagram caption.

Here’s an example from Crave Naturals which highlights when their giveaway is ending, how specifically to enter and what followers should do after being tagged as winners:

Don’t worry about being too wordy. If your followers are interested in your giveaway, they’ll read the fine print until the end. When you’re specific in terms of your post copy, followers are more likely to enter and engage rather than sit there asking questions.

The Keys to Promote Your Instagram Giveaway

Promotion is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle when it comes to your giveaway.

Don’t assume that all of your fans and followers will learn about your giveaway from a single post. In addition to other social channels such as Facebook or your email list, anything you can do to promote your giveaway beyond Instagram is a plus.

In fact, one of the best places to promote your giveaways is on-site. Check out how LinksofLondon took advantage of Photoslurp’s visual commerce platform to promote one of their contests:

Pretty cool, huh?

If you have a relatively small following, you may be able to monitor entries on your own. When dealing with a few dozen entries, it’s easy to eyeball and pick potential winners or see who shared your hashtag.

That said, those with tens of thousands of followers are likely going to need some extra help in promoting and tracking the performance of their giveaways.

Luckily, there are tools and platforms to help with that.

For example, Shortstack allows brands to create giveaway entries on-site based on pre-existing templates. Additionally, Shortstack’s solution monitors the analytics and performance of your giveaway, too.

To take your giveaways and contests a step further, platforms like Gleam allow for multiple entries to provide your campaign a sense of competition. Gleam can pick winners at random or based on their entry actions as noted below.

Either of these tools can help build awareness for your giveaway. Regardless of your promotion strategy, simply make sure you integrate Instagram into your website in some way, shape or form so that your on-site traffic stays in the loop.

What to Do After Your Giveaway is Over

Okay, so the deadline for your big giveaway has finally come. What now?

Choose a Winner

For starters,..

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Ever get the sneaking suspicion that you could be squeezing more out of your email marketing strategy?

You’re not alone.

Look: we love social media around here, but there’s no denying the sheer power of email. Arguably the last remaining relic of old-school Internet marketing, email has been the go-to solution for brands looking to capture leads, build their lists and monetize subscribers for decades.

And email marketing isn’t losing any steam, either.

According to a recent eMarketer report, , which is actually four times higher than the likes of social media or paid search.

Although modern brands are indeed laser-focused on turning their social followers into customers, there’s certainly a financial incentive to stick with email.

That said, email marketers shouldn’t ignore the best practices of social media when it comes to their marketing messages.

In fact, the average email marketing strategy could be fine-tuned into something truly special by including one not-so-secret ingredient.

User-generated content.

Why Your Email Marketing Strategy Needs User-Generated Content (UGC)

We’ve seen time and time again how user-generated content (UGC) helps brands on Instagram by increasing conversions, building trust and painting posts with a more personal touch.

Why not apply those same principles to your email marketing strategy?

Sure, email marketing already has so many moving pieces. From subject lines to calls-to-action and design, marketers are timid when it comes to switching up their strategies.

Why throw UGC into the mix when there’s already so much to think about?

The answer is simple. UGC has the potential to plug the holes in your marketing strategies when it comes to conversions and click-through rates. Consider some of the most common challenges of email marketers in 2017 according to Campaign Monitor:

  • Increasing email engagement rates and encouraging readers to take some sort of action
  • Converting subscribers into customers and keeping those subscribers opted-in
  • Creating a more personal connection with subscribers

Guess what? User-generated content can help with easing all of these pain points.

Combining UGC and Email Marketing

Listen: you don’t have to trash your current email marketing strategy or start from scratch. With some small tweaks and bit of creativity, you can integrate UGC into your existing and future email campaigns.

Below we’ve broken down some awesome examples of how modern brands are integrating UGC into their email marketing strategies.

Run an Email-Based Hashtag Campaign

Perhaps the easiest way to harness the power of UGC by email is through hashtags.

Here’s a straightforward example of an email-based hashtag campaign from oVertone. This message encourages email subscribers to show off their products through a branded hashtag on Instagram:

And given the tens of thousands of posts on the #OVERTONE tag, there’s no denying that subscribers are taking notice:

As a result, oVertone has plenty of content to choose from for their next regram. Take note that this example uses a company-specific tag (think case, #OVERTONE). If you’re already running a seasonal or time-sensitive campaign, that’s fair game as well.

Here’s some food for thought: just because someone’s bought from you before doesn’t necessarily mean they’re connected to your social feeds.

Don’t assume that your email list already knows about your hashtags. Promoting your hashtag via email can be done in a matter of seconds as displayed by these examples.

Besides, you can’t expect your hashtag to spread if nobody knows about it, right? In short, hashtags are an easy target for integrating UGC into your email marketing strategy.

Show Off Your Products and Customers

Okay, here’s where things get interesting.

Piggybacking on the popularity of hashtag campaigns, savvy brands are showing off their satisfied customers through email. This type of promotion effectively serves as an advertisement for your products and social feeds at the same time.

But in this case, your customers are your ads.

For example, Black Milk Clothing puts their products and customers on display in their marketing emails. They even sweeten the deal offering up a $50 voucher for customers who find themselves in their email lookbook:

This campaign is brilliant because it encourages the creation of UGC and keeps social followers glued to Black Milk’s emails. Again, marketers don’t necessarily need to totally separate their social feeds from their email-based content. This campaign encourages followers to interact with Instagram, email and Facebook accordingly.

The more channels you’re able to engage your customers with, the better.

MeUndies similarly puts their customer photos on display through a hashtag campaign. This humorous example is definitely a far-cry from a traditional marketing message or sales pitch:

These messages and calls-to-action represent a breath of fresh air versus the spam filling your subscribers’ inboxes. That’s the beauty of UGC, though. As long as you’re consistently curating it, you can use it in your advertising campaigns accordingly.

But sometimes if you want a customer photo, you have to ask for it.

For example, ThinkGeek features customer action shots in their weekly email newsletters as part of a contest. Winners are rewarded with $100 in swag and get a spot in the aptly-named Geek Hall of Fame:

This provides further incentive for subscribers to check and see if they’ve been featured. As noted in the giveaways rules, customers must post their photos to various social profiles as part of their entry. And as an added bonus, the winners are immortalized on-site:

Featuring customer and product photos like these might seem like little more than a novelty. However, bear in mind how these types of emails can help solve the most common problems plaguing email marketers:

  • Based on the previously noted Campaign Monitor report, social media integration is considered the most effective personalization tactic for email by 28% of marketers
  • Satisfied customers are social proof, and social proof is key to retaining customers either through email or social media
  • UGC increases conversions by 29% plain and simple: featuring photos from flesh-and-blood followers can help build trust and rapport with your email list

Even so, the benefits of UGC as part of your email marketing strategy don’t stop there.

Turn Social Followers into Loyal Subscribers

Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s shocking how many marketers squander their email list because they don’t promote it to their social followers.

Sure, your fans are more likely to buy via Instagram or Facebook than ever. Even so, there’s no reason why those same followers shouldn’t be part of your email list.

Let’s use TOMS as an example of how to effectively encourage social followers to transform into email subscribers. This post funnels followers directly to the brand’s bio:

…which looks something like this:

…and upon clicking through leads us to a product page with following email opt-in form

which results in sleek UGC messages like this one:

Just as you should be using UGC as part of your email marketing strategy, the converse is also true. Marketers must be willing to take their social followers off-site and into an email opt-in.

Learn More About Your Customers

Keep in mind that those willing to provide you with their email address are arguably your hottest leads. Learning from such opt-ins can be incredibly valuable in terms of the type of content they want to see or the products they’d be interested in buying.

Curating feedback from your list is as simple as asking a question.

“What types of products would you like to see in the future?”

“What can we do to create a better buying experience?”

But some brands are taking major steps to use email and UGC to learn more about their customer base.

Take Neutrogena, for example. They’re managing to build up their email list via user-submitted quizzes, a smart social shopping trend that’s becoming more common in the world of ecommerce:

Based on the responses as you progress, the quiz determines which products would be best for you:

This is a brilliant strategy for segmenting quiz-takers via email to eventually present them with product recommendations. In this particular case, Neutrogena provides the a choice in their quiz. Either enter their email for a discount or see the products by themselves:

And as predicted, those that take the quiz are provided with products as well as an email coupon:

Obviously what Neutrogena is doing here is rather advanced. This strategy still speaks to the need for brands to uncover creatives ways to encourage more opt-ins. Although we might not think of quizzes as traditional UGC, feedback and commentary from your potential customers is invaluable in its own right.

Email Marketing and UGC Go Hand in Hand

Many marketers make the mistake of treating social content and email as two totally different entities.

By integrating UGC into your email marketing strategy, you get the best of both worlds in terms of your marketing efforts. Not only do you get to double-dip your social content, but also encourage more eyes on your hashtag campaigns and products.

The key takeaway here? Email and social media shouldn’t be totally separated. This is especially true as experimenting with UGC through email is so simple. Again, consider strategies such as…

  • Showing off your products through customer photos rather than generic product pictures
  • Leveraging unique hashtag that takes your email subscribers and encourages them to become social followers
  • Running user-submitted photo contests and promotions exclusive to your email list

Any of these options are easy pickings for brands looking to drive more engagement with their email marketing strategy. Whether your goal is more sales via email or leading customers to your shoppable social feed, UGC and email combined are a powerful combination.

Will UGC Be Part of Your Next Email Campaign?

Just like email, the benefits of user-generated content marketing is well-documented. Expect to see more UGC popping up in your inbox as more and more brands understand the influence of user-generated content when it comes to their emails.

So, how might you integrate user-generated content into your email marketing strategy?

Which of these examples stand out the most to you? Let us know in the comments below.

Brent Barnhart is a freelance content marketer and writer for visual commerce and marketing platform Photoslurp. From tackling the latest buzzwords to teaching marketers how to craft more compelling content, he’s willing to take on just about anything involving the written word.

The post How to Improve Your Email Marketing Strategy With User-Generated Content appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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Top Dog Social Media by Melonie@topdogsocialmedia.com - 1y ago

Businesses, non-profits and media outlets ignore content marketing at their own peril. A recent experience I had working for a small non-profit client illustrates the point.

For 15 years, their success in attracting new donors and sustaining current subscribers came from the wealth of information on their website that educated and informed constituents about the pressing issues of the day and how those issues impact society. In other words: content.

What not to do…

Recently, they brought in a new Operations Manager who admittedly knew little about content marketing and production and who – as a result – drastically slashed the research and writing staff.

In addition, he cut the budget to the point that subscribers began leaving after bombarding the organization with questions about the sudden lack of substance.

Today, their website offers almost no new content and the organization continues to lose members. In addition, they have also lost most of their writers, a key graphic artist and their managing editor. All as a result of their ignorance or apathy about the importance of content marketing.

While this example is specifically about a non-profit organization, the parallels to business are obvious: without helpful, trusted and credible online content and information, the potential buyer or subscriber will go elsewhere to select a product or service.

Killer content rules

Dan Steiner, CEO of Elite Legal Marketing, puts it quite succinctly: “There’s simply nothing more important than killer content in the digital marketing space.”

While there’s certainly nothing new about the concept of content marketing, it remains a vital element that can reap big rewards if done properly.

Conversely, a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work for savvy consumers who have the Internet world at their fingertips.

Instead, businesses must create unique, high-quality and authentic content that informs, is useful, captures the interest of their audience and is entertaining. That content can take the form of text, video, images, surveys, graphics, webinars or podcasts but must capture the viewers’ attention and – most importantly – lead them to take action.

Great content marketing focuses on the customer

“Content is the backbone of any drive to interact with your readers or customers,” says Shai Aharony, CEO of Reboot Online. “It is the most important opportunity you have to impress the reader with your knowledge, expertise or ethos.”

The reason content has dominated the marketing industry in recent years is quite simple: it is still the best way to connect with your customers or potential customers, especially online, where they increasingly spend most of their time.

Great content marketing also “Centers around the customers rather than itself,” writes Steve Olenski in Forbes Magazine. “It attracts people rather than interrupts them, and it’s more about them than it is about you.”

Marketing Coordinator Rose Burberry-Martin contrasts content marketing with traditional advertising, saying: “Content marketing informs, entertains, educates, and offers utility. It’s also there when people decide they want it, rather than trying to thrust itself upon them.”

“Traditional marketing,” Olenski continues, “becomes a commodity and is lost in a sea of media buy options following the rise of mobile, digital, and social technologies. There was a time advertising was the king of marketing tactics and channels due to it costing the most. These days, brands are responding to new expectations from customers by providing relevant content through the entire buying decision process.”

7 keys to help your business succeed in content marketing

As you think about and plan your online marketing strategy, Steiner suggests making content the central core of that strategy, because it reaches customers in at least seven key ways:

1. Answer Questions – Consumers often go online searching for answers to questions in areas as mundane as fixing a bicycle tire to as exciting as planning a vacation. So, when your content answers their questions, your website may land at the top of their search results, putting you at the forefront of the very people you’re trying to reach. Along with answering their questions, you can also give them information about your business and the products or services you offer.

2. Establishing Yourself as the Expert (Thought Leadership) – Think about the companies whose products you use and trust. Why do they come to the forefront of your mind? Perhaps it is because you perceive them as leaders in their particular fields.

For example, although Google isn’t the only search engine available to Internet users, we often tell people “I’ll Google it” when they ask us for an answer to a question. Google has morphed from a company name to a verb in our culture simply because they are considered a “thought leader” in their industry.

Although such industry leaders often have a distinct advantage in that they have an easier time getting the word out about their brand, they are not infallible. Remember “New” Coke? A marketing disaster for a company that is an established leader in their industry.

As you become a thought leader in your respective industry through solid content marketing, your content will begin showing up more frequently in search results because of the subject matter expertise you’ve exhibited online.

Your high-quality content has a significant impact on SEO and search engine ranking for a couple of reasons. First, unique content published on a regular basis, containing internal links to other relevant content and strategically placed keywords helps a website rank organically for relevant search terms and keywords. Naturally, that higher ranking ultimately exposes your content to more consumers searching for content on that topic.

3. Speaking Directly to Customers As you create content your customers find helpful, you establish a connection with them and they feel as though they are having or can have a dialog with you. Blog posts, videos, webinars or personalized responses that directly answer their questions demonstrate that you care about them.

For example, if you own a flooring company you could put together a series of videos demonstrating how to replace a hardwood floor. By doing so, you build expertise and your potential customers will feel confident in contacting you to handle the job.

In a similar fashion, a financial planner can attract new clients who need help with managing their business finances by answering questions about thorny financial issues small business owners face.

4. Encourage Loyalty Not only does content have the power to engage your customers, it can also instill trust as they consider whether to buy a product from or hire you for the services you provide.

As potential customers regularly read, hear or watch the content you provide, they will more likely begin feeling a personal connection to your brand which over time builds loyalty. Your regular blog posts or podcast gives you the opportunity to connect with customers while building that loyalty as you engage them about business challenges, community involvement and even social issues.

5. Open a Dialogue Dovetailing off the previous point, your content can and should give you the opportunity to begin a conversation with your customers or potential clients as they comment on your blog or social media posts. You can gain valuable insight from their interaction as well as answer their questions and even complaints. As they see you taking their comments and feedback seriously, that builds loyalty and keeps the dialogue – and the business – flowing your way.

6. Keep Content Flowing and Accessible Research shows that nearly three out of four customers prefer getting information from articles or blogs rather than ads. As you regularly update your blog and other pertinent information, you are putting content online where customers can find it and you can share a greater amount of content than you could in an ad. Because customers are more likely to research online when they’re looking for a particular product or service they will also be more likely to buy from you rather than one of your competitors if you have great content along with a sound content marketing strategy.

7. Selling Through Content – Content can serve as your most effective sales tool, especially if you incorporate photos or short videos into your online posts.

For example, if yours is a product-related business, you can utilize content marketing by posting a “how-do” video or a five-step way to utilize the product. For businesses specializing in services, photos of your staff busy helping others, or – for a financial planner – a blog detailing a step-by-step plan to get out of debt can help customers see the value of what you bring to the table. The goal is to paint a picture of your business that compels clients or customers to learn more about you so you become their “go-to” person.

Content is King!

Content continues to reign as king when it comes to being an effective marketing tool in your business toolkit. That is true for your website, Facebook and even LinkedIn, which is primarily geared toward business-to-business interaction.

As a different form of content marketing, by building an effective LinkedIn profile highlighting the services you offer, you can attract other business professionals looking for that service. A compelling and client focused profile shines above the competition when users are looking for the services you offer. From there, as they visit your website, they’ll learn more about you and how your services can solve their particular problems.

As you utilize content marketing to communicate information that your ideal customers are interested in reading about, you’ll see better results in potential leads. Then, as you continue to monitor your efforts and tweak your content strategy, you’ll see more sales and higher profits.

Dave Ficere is the owner of Ficere Writing Solutions, a writing and editing service based in Phoenix, AZ.

The post 7 Keys to Succeed at Content Marketing appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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More than at any other time of the year, the holiday season is an integral part of many businesses’ plans at achieving maximum profit. Some entire industries revolve around lasting through the difficult year until holiday sales boost them from the red and into the black.

In order to take advantage of this rush in sales, many small businesses have turned to social media to ensure that every customer possible finds their way to their business. With the Christmas rush and other holiday festivities just around the corner, here are three ways to ensure that you’re maximizing your social media strategy just in time for the holidays.

1. Utilize Imagery as Effectively as Possible

As a Columbia University study shows, visual imagery is more effective with selling in advertising. As the old adage goes, seeing is believing. Consumers are more easily swayed by seeing the products they’re interested in across social media.

Utilizing websites like Instagram to your advantage can set you up for success when selling your products and services online. Many visitors already browse for products there, just to see what others are using, or to see if others have an interest in similar products.

Taking photos of your inventory is one idea. Also asking and recommending your customers share their stories and pictures on social media is another, user generated content is extremely effective. Imagery is one of the most powerful ways of storytelling in marketing, and social media is the greatest stage to get that story told.

2. Plan Special Promotions for Your Customers

One thing that every business small or large needs to do is create a list of buyers. You can do this by as simply as creating an email list with services such as Mailchimp, Aweber or Constant Contact. By offering early notification of discounts or exclusive offers you can entice your existing customers to join and become more avid spenders.

Those who join your list are your loyal customers, so it’s fitting to treat them right. You can offer them exclusive rewards that incentivize them to buy more or share your business with their friends and family. Research from the University of Michigan finds that some consumers are exceptionally thrifty at this time of year, so offering exclusive discounts and personalized emails can be very effective.

3. Study Trends From the Previous Year

By analyzing what products sold well last year or which underperformed you can get a better idea of what you should adjust this holiday season. You should also gain an understanding of which products give you the best return and work to promote them.

You may find a hidden gem in your inventory that your customers would readily buy more of if it was brought to their attention. Items on display have a lot more chance of moving than ones left in the back. By adjusting your plans based on existing data, you can be better prepared to maximize your holiday sales.

The holiday season is a time that many consumers look forward to all year long. By getting your business in a position to share in their excitement with your marketing, they’ll be more inclined to add you to their plans.

It’s important to make the most of the holiday season but also look at ways to continue to nurture your customer base to leverage repeat sales long after the holiday season is over.

Nick Rojas is a self-taught, serial entrepreneur who’s enjoyed success working with and consulting for startups. Using his journalism training, Nick writes for publications such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, and Yahoo. He concentrates on teaching small and medium-sized enterprises on how best to manage their social media marketing and define their branding objectives.

The post How to Prepare Your Holiday Social Media Strategy appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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If you are like a lot of business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs, you may have heard the term social proof thrown around and used like any of the latest trendy business terms.

But I can assure you, social proof is no synergy, paradigm-shift or growth hacking.

Social proof is a more inclusive and comprehensive name for a very old marketing concept. One that has been influencing customers since there were businesses to buy from. At its core, social proof is word of mouth advertising in today’s digital market place.

Why Social Proof Is So Important

Social proof is one of the key influencers that people use when making a decision who to do business with. People look to what others have done when making a decision and that’s why reviews, testimonials and endorsements have been so powerful for businesses.

The Social Proof Theory, which I explored in the psychology behind social media engagement, states that:

“A person who does not know what the proper behavior for a certain situation is, will look to other people to imitate what they are doing and to provide guidance for their actions.”

In simpler terms, social proof helps us make decisions when we are uncertain, based on the experiences and choices others are making or have made in the past.

Basically, people have a tendency to base their decisions from the reactions and decisions of their peers. Nobody wants to be the guinea pig. It’s nice to be able to gain wisdom through the second-hand experiences of those we trust.

For example, imagine you’re a marketing consultant and your prospective client is evaluating a marketing consultant with 4500 Facebook page followers against you with only 127 followers. Or they find you through your LinkedIn profile and see you have 112 connections and no recommendations, versus one of your competitors that has 500+ connections on LinkedIn plus a dozen recommendations.

Who do you think they’ll consider as the marketing consultant? Do you think that will have an impact on their decision?

According to the proven theory of social proof and human nature, this absolutely will.

People can only be expected to make the best decisions with the information that is readily available for them.

Here’s another example, one that everyone can relate to. If you walk into a restaurant with only two customers in the place, the common perception is that maybe the restaurant isn’t that great. Now contrast that to a restaurant where you have an hour wait to get in the door.

What’s your immediate perception of these two restaurants? Which one are you more likely to choose?

This is just human nature and that’s why social proof is so important.

The Six Types of Social Proof

Social proof comes in a number of forms – from the person raving about their favorite restaurant when you ask for a dining suggestion to that new piece of tech that everyone seems to now own. These are examples of social proof that you might encounter that can positively impact your decision to make a potential future purchase.

In each case, the positive outcome of a purchase made by others of something you yourself are considering, helps to remove the fear that you are taking a risk. Essentially it helps to build trust, which is vital in selecting a product or service.

While you might only need the recommendation of one friend you know well to help you decide if you want to eat at a new restaurant, often we require a little more social proof when the risk is higher. For example, this would include instances when the social proof is coming from people we don’t know well (such as online reviews), it is a large value item or it could potentially affect our job security or finances.

In these cases, prospects will often head online and look to find as much social proof – good or bad – that they can find to help them make their decision.

As a business owner, entrepreneur, professional or sales rep, you want to help facilitate your prospects choice. You do this by ensuring that you not only provide as much social proof as possible but that you also make it easy for them to find.

Here are the six most common types of social proof:

Customers – when prospects see positive testimonials, case studies, recommendations and reviews from your existing customers or users.

Friends – when prospects see that their “trusted” friends use or recommend you, your knowledge or product or service.

Crowds – when prospects see a large number of people endorse you, your knowledge or product or service.

Experts – when prospects see you are recommended by one or more experts in your industry.

Celebrities – when prospects see you are recommended by celebrities or other influencers they admire and follow.

Certifications – when prospects see you are certified by a credible 3rd party or authority.

8 Powerful Forms of Online Social Proof

Here are eight examples of social proof that you can build and share online, which will help your prospects to know like and trust you.

Testimonials from Satisfied Customers on Your Website

Perhaps the most important form of social proof is testimonials from your clients. Research done by Nielsen shows that 92% of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.

This includes both written and video testimonials. When sharing written testimonials, including more information about the writer is better and this is further enhanced if you include an image. While a written testimonial will always have value, where possible it has been shown to be increasingly powerful to include video testimonials. There is plenty of science to back up the power of video, which does a better job inspiring trust and capturing and keeping the attention of your prospects.

Case Studies Sharing the Success of Your Clients

A well written case study that succinctly shares the story of your customer’s success using your product or service is a fantastic form of social proof. The key is to ensure that the case study focuses on the story of the journey as well as including the final results.

According to psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, stories are persuasive and more trustworthy than statistics because individual examples stick in our minds, but statistics and averages do not. Essentially, the story of their journey allows customers with similar challenges to imagine your product or service creating the same kind of results for them.

The additional benefit of case studies is that while they are usually written in a longer, more formal style, they are based on the idea that customers view long, in-depth reviews as being more reputable than brief excerpts. They are considered to provide high authority, social proof.

LinkedIn Recommendations

As a business platform, LinkedIn is home to professionals, business owners, entrepreneurs, managers and CEOs. Recommendations (testimonials) given by clients, colleagues and coworkers on this platform often can have great weight with potential prospects, particularly when those recommendations include details of your expertise and how you were able to help your clients.

LinkedIn Publisher Likes, Comments, Shares

The very act of publishing quality content on LinkedIn Publisher can go a long way to establish trust and your authority on your topic, but when that content also gets likes, shares and comments, that is further social proof that you are knowledgeable and provide valuable content. You gain extra credibility by replying to all the engagement on your posts in a timely and helpful way.

Facebook Reviews, Likes, Comments, Shares

With over two billion Facebook users and counting, there is a very good chance your potential prospects are using Facebook – often to research products or services they are interested in. Needless to say, having a Facebook page is vital, but just as important, is to consistently use it and build its size and engagement.

Instagram Followers, Comments, Shares

Growing to over 800 million monthly and 500 million daily active users, Instagram is a powerful platform to build social proof on, particularly if you serve Millennials or a visually inspired audience. Share great content to grow your followers and get more comments and shares on your posts.

Twitter Followers, @Mentions & ReTweets

While Twitter does not have the same growth as Facebook and Instagram, it still has a very large and loyal following of over 300 million active users with over 500 million tweets shared in a day. If your prospects are on Twitter, then you need to be growing your following and working to get as many quality @Mentions and retweets as you can.

Comments & Shares of Your Blog Posts

Your website is the virtual home (and in some cases also the store) for your business. When people see engagement such as shares and comments on your blog posts, they can see the opinions of other’s regarding your knowledge and content.

These are just some of the forms of social proof that you can work to build online.

A word of caution, whatever forms of social proof that you choose to focus on, ensure that you are doing so in an honest and ethical way, essentially that you are using ethical marketing practices. There are ways to fake or falsely build most forms of social proof. While doing so may seem like a good idea in the moment, it completely undermines your social proof in the long run.

How to Increase Your Social Proof

Now that you understand why social proof is so important and what that looks like online, you need to begin to build your own social proof in the places that your prospects will expect to find it.

Ask Your Customers & Community

The first and most important way to build your social proof is by ASKING your satisfied customers, users and community for testimonials, LinkedIn recommendations, reviews and shares. Asking is often the most effective method to building your social proof arsenal.

Examples of places where you might want to ask your customers or community include asking for a testimonial or review after you have completed or delivered your product or service to a customer or after a speaking event or training session. You might also ask your community to comment on or share your latest blog or social media post.

Share Your Testimonials

Once you have started to collect video and written testimonials, you want to create a page dedicated for them on your website. This makes it easy for potential prospects to quickly review what others are saying about their experience using your products or services.

You also want to include testimonials on the services or product pages on your website. By adding testimonials, you help to add that little bit more trust right at the moment a prospect is considering purchasing or contacting you.

Another great place to include testimonials is in your proposals. Again, this is a great way to boost trust in your favor at a crucial moment when a potential prospect is considering purchasing your product or service. The key to success with this is to use testimonials that are the most relevant or similar to the client you are proposing your services to.

Turn Customer Successes into Powerful Stories

As I mentioned earlier, stories are a far more powerful persuader than statistics and numbers. These “stories” can take the form of short anecdotes in a wide variety of formats (graphic, text, video, etc.) that can be posted on social media or longer case studies that can be added or shared anywhere that you want to increase your authority including your website or LinkedIn profile.

Transform Testimonials into Graphics, Videos, or SlideShare Presentations

Make your testimonials more visually appealing and easily shared by turning multiple reviews or testimonials into a graphic, video or SlideShare presentation. You can then share this on your social media or embed it as rich media into your LinkedIn profile.

Embed Customer & Community Generated Social Posts

When someone posts about you, your knowledge or products or services on a social media platform, you can actually share this live post in places such as your website or LinkedIn Publisher posts.

The benefit of embedding a live post rather than sharing a screen shot is that as this post gets future engagement, the new engagement will be visible in the embedded post. This can be magnified because the more people see others engaging with the post, the more likely they are to engage with it themselves. Just further evidence of the power of crowd social proof.

Today, the internet and digital devices have increased both the reach and the power of social proof by making it easier for businesses to build and showcase their social proof to potential prospects.

With the larger trust gap that exists online between businesses and customers, social proof is the fastest and most effective means to bridge that gap and help your potential prospects to know, like and trust you – helping you get more customers and make more sales.

The post How to Increase Your Social Proof to Attract More Customers appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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Gone are the days where sales and marketing departments work in silos. In order to attract today’s modern buyer, there needs to be sales and marketing alignment. Today’s digital B2B landscape requires a strategic and collaborative approach to sales and marketing, to grow the sales pipeline.

In any kind of collaborative effort, there’s bound to be conflict, or at least some form of disagreement. But if both teams are unable to establish common ground and goals, then collaboration will be impossible.

Alignment between sales and marketing is necessary for the success of both initiatives. Neither team can create a significant impact on the buyer’s journey without first establishing how to combine their efforts.

Why sales and marketing alignment matters

The importance of sales and marketing alignment simply can’t be overstated. When these two work in concert, the results can be amazing. It boosts financial performance, improves the customer’s buying experience and can improve your company’s internal culture. But when these two areas of a business are not in alignment, and in some cases at odds working against each other, the results can be equally disastrous for a company’s bottom line.

From working together in composing an overall strategy, to setting objectives and targets, all the way through to applying the sales and marketing alignment best practices involved in the various stages of the process; both departments must see eye to eye.

Sales and marketing alignment is critical to the health of a company.

LinkedIn research showed significant alignment between sales and marketing with 79 percent of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing that there is a culture of collaboration between Sales and Marketing at their company.

However, only 21 percent said they “strongly” agreed, so there’s room for improvement.

What’s even more interesting is the alignment between sales and marketing is consistent no matter the size of the company.

The Sales and Marketing Alignment Framework we use when working with our clients is divided into six sections, based on the goals and activities at each stage of the buyers journey.

Understanding the Sales and Marketing Alignment Framework

Note, that at all of these stages, training is a must to ensure the success of both your sales and marketing strategy.

  1. Marketing messaging

i) For Leads: In the early stages of lead generation your marketing message must be centered around creating content that addresses your prospect’s problem. There should be NO sales related informtiaon at this stage.

ii) For prospects: Once a lead has arrived in your sales funnel, you’ll need to create content with the purpose of helping the prospect determine what he or she needs to do to solve their identified problem.

Clearly lay out each step that they will need to take to be able to produce the exact kind of solution their problem requires.

iii) For opportunities: When creating marketing messages for opportunities, your message focus should be on validating and/or reinforcing their choices. This will help you to move them closer towards the actual decision.

So for example, if your are selling an e-commerce solution and a buyer is interested in the social media integration of your system, send them case studies or client testimonials that reiterate the advantages of this part of your solution and the success they can also expereince.

iv) For clients: Here, you should be working to further build trust and confidence, while staying top of mind through semi regular messages that provide continued value with helpful content. This content can be content that you have created or curated, but must provide value and must NOT constantly bombard them with sales pitches. Occasional surveys or fact finding emails can help you gather information about what is working and what isn’t in your current client retention process.

  1. Sales activities

i) For leads: Take advantage of social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and apply your social selling skills. You can also gather some sales intelligence and compare the success of your sales activities to your past sales or even your competitors.

ii) For prospects: Your sales activities at this stage should be pretty straightforward. Your focus should be on prospecting, building your credibility and aligning the solution with the needs of the business.

iii) For opportunities: Your sales activities should be focused on this three-step process.

  • Qualifying: determining if the lead fits the profile of your ideal customer.
  • Proposing: pitching your services to your prospect.
  • Closing: the actual sale.

iv) For clients: Your sales activities at this stage should revolve around ensuring client satisfaction, as well as uncovering upsell and referral opportunities. You need to retain your customers through activities that will encourage them to buy again from you.

  1. Marketing goals

i) For leads: At this stage of the game, your primary goal should be brand awareness. You’ll want more people and specifically, more potential buyers to know about you and your brand. They’ll know that they can come to you, if they require the solution that you offer.

ii) For prospects: Your marketing target here is to turn these prospects into potential customers via lead generation.

iii) For opportunities: Your ultimate goal here is to nurture the leads that you obtained during the first stage. Filter them by qualifying which ones are most likely to purchase from you. You need to help lead them towards conversion with the right content.

iv) For clients: For your marketing goals here, there are only three keywords you need to remember when it comes to your clients.

  • Retention: keeping your clients satisfied enough to continue your relationship for an extended period of time.
  • Engagement: communicating with your clients, exchanging ideas, and making your presence felt.
  • Enrichment: providing value to your clients.
  1. Sales enablement

i) For leads: Digital advertising, social media/social selling, SEO, and speaking opportunities are some of the most significant and effective strategies for sales enablement and lead generation.

ii) For prospects: As for sales enablement activities, email nurturing and prospect events are best suited for this stage and phase.

iii) For opportunities: Your sales enablement strategy should include targeted content and email nurture campaigns. You must begin incorporating behavioral insights into your process, especially during the qualifying part of your sales activities.

iv) For clients: Engagement campaigns are also a great way to keep the lines of communication fresh and flowing between you and your client.

Referral programs can be very lucrative and shorten the sales cycle when third party credibility is part of the equation.

You need to be always present for your customers. Their satisfaction shouldn’t just be when you’ve made a sale. You need to always follow up through communications and keep providing value.

  1. Content marketing

i) For leads: Content marketing is so important in lead generation that the goal of marketing must be to equip the sales team with both content that educates and content that guides your readers towards a specific path or course of action.

ii) For prospects: The content you’ll be producing at this stage needs to focus more on evidence, facts, and comparisons. Here, you’re no longer telling them that a problem exists, because they already know that. Instead, you’ll show them what they can use to solve those problems, be it a product or service that you provide.

At this stage, people love to see your white papers, case studies, and industry reports.

iii) For opportunities: Sharing testimonials, product reviews, and sales presentations provide additional insight on the other ways you can assist them. This will help you build your credibility, so that they’ll perceive you as a trustworthy service provider.

iv) For clients: Here, you can use a variety of content types, but your primary objective is to establish that you are a competent and trustworthy business that deserves to be a long-term partner.

Focus your attention on developing user guides, product information, and thought leadership content to build your reputation while providing quality, useful content to your clients.

  1. Sales results

i) For leads: Nail all of the previous stages, and you’ll notice that your leads will be more likely to reach out to you and become your prospects. Mission accomplished.

ii) For prospects: By providing adequate time and focus on the best prospects for your business, you can expect your sales efficiency to increase by a considerable degree.

iii) For opportunities:  If you do all of above, you’ll enjoy shorter sales cycles and more “yes” answers from potential and exiting clients.

iv) For clients: Higher retention rates, account growth, and increased referrals are the primary benefits you can get from a well-executed, properly aligned marketing and sales strategy.

Wrapping up

To sum it up, collaboration between sales and marketing is necessary for the success of businesses of all sizes, and it requires proper planning and training. Any business that chooses to stick to an old, outdated “division” of departments will be at a distinct disadvantage when pitted against businesses with a strong collaborative culture.

At the end of the day, revenue is the best way to measure sales and marketing alignment.

If your company would like help in creating an effective culture of sales and marketing alignment, click here to learn how we can help you.

The post Six Stages to Sales and Marketing Alignment (Framework) appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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Top Dog Social Media by Melonie@topdogsocialmedia.com - 1y ago

If you are like many hard-working bloggers, you may not be sure how to convert your existing blog traffic in to sales, which is ultimately an unsustainable marketing strategy.

It is a big job to consistently create and publish quality content that your community and potential leads find of value. And while it can be greatly satisfying to know that they find your content helpful, most of us can not to afford to create content for content’s sake alone. That content needs to pay off in some form – ultimately increasing your sales and income.

According to the New York Times, blogs actually have a higher fail rate than restaurants. Many people assume that this is because of the absence of traffic, and while this may be the case in some instances, more often than not most blogs are doomed by their lack of effective integration into a sales funnel.

If you have a sales funnel or strategy in place, your B2B blog will help you drive significant revenue with even small amounts of traffic. This money can then be used to invest in creating more content, promoting existing content and further optimizing the blog for sales.

But without aligning your sales strategy with your content publishing strategy, your blog will wither, and your company will not be able to afford publishing quality content.

3 Strategies To Convert More Blog Traffic In To Sales #1 Make the most of leads:

One of the best ways to generate more revenue from your blog is to convert traffic to email subscribers. This is because when it comes to the acquisition of customers, email is nearly 40 times more effective that Twitter and Facebook combined.

Adding your community to your email list has an additional benefit – unlike social media platforms, you own and control your email list. In the world of fast changing social networks, this stability can greatly benefit your business as well as your peace of mind.

So rather than trying to convert traffic into social media followers, convert it into email subscribers by placing opt-in forms strategically on your website. Test out various options such as popup forms, sidebar forms and end of post forms to find out what works best for your website and community. You can further enhance your conversion success by using lead magnets and content upgrades. For a detailed overview on capturing leads check out these pieces of advice from 7 marketers.

Once you capture the leads, you can then start the process of lead nurturing. This is extremely important. As the below image from Digital Marketer shows, it’s useful to think of your site’s visitors as falling into three categories: cold, warm and hot.

Hot traffic comes from people who directly turn into customers by buying a product on your website. Cold traffic (people who aren’t necessarily eager to make a purchase) and warm traffic (people with some awareness of your brand, getting ready to make a buying decision) are visitors who won’t purchase from you right away, but with consistent value from you, can turn into leads in the future.

Cold and warm leads make up the lion’s share of your audience and are still “on the fence” with regards to doing business with you. To convince them that you are the right choice for them, you need to provide them with value and establish your credibility and authority on your topic.

This process begins by nurturing them with quality content. The best time to do this is in the first few emails after they sign up, as engagement will be at its highest. If you look at the provided by Neville Medhora, you will notice that the initial autoresponder sequences have a significantly higher open rate than broadcast emails.

For best success, create value based autoresponder sequences that are automatically sent out for 3 to 5 days when someone first signs up. Do NOT pitch your services and products until after you provided them with significant value. People will be more likely to buy from you after you established some credibility and trust.

Throughout the series, track your subscribers and segment them based on email opens, email call-to-action clicks and their onsite browsing patterns. This will help you filter the interests of your target audience and only send them relevant content and products. It will increase conversions and reduce unsubscribes, as people will only see information they want.

If you want the best success, use a tool or platform that has been specifically created for this purpose. Simple email marketing platforms in most cases will not have the features required to perform the tasks I have mentioned above. Great tools to try include Aweber and my personal preference Drip, which offers advanced features such as those shown in the image below.

The benefit of this is that once you segment your lists properly, you won’t need to send every blog update or product pitch to everyone on your list.

#2 Ungate your content

Another powerful strategy to convert more blog traffic to sales faster is by getting additional information from visitors on the landing page, at the beginning of your sales funnel.

Most opt-in forms ask for minimal information such as name and email address because opt-in forms with fewer fields convert better, but unfortunately the quality of those leads also goes down.

When people fill in more fields, it shows that they are ready to part with their information in exchange for your knowledge (your lead magnet). While fewer people might sign up, a higher percentage of those subscribers will turn to customers. Additionally, with the extra information they have provided, you can send more targeted messages.

There is a third options as well – no fields at all!

This where you ungate all your content by removing opt-in forms and landing pages. You place the content from the lead magnet (ebook, white paper, case study, etc.) on a separate web page or blog post and provide access to it directly. This may be counter-intuitive, but ungating your premium content assets is an effective strategy.

Companies like Drift have found success with this approach. Using this approach, their audience simply needed to click a button to download the document of their choice from the landing page or blog post they were promoted on. For example, in the first month one landing page got 2,338 views and the corresponding blog post got 4,046 views, with the ebook being downloaded a total of 3,116 times. That’s a conversion rate of around 50%, which is unheard of when your content is locked away behind a form.

Quite simply, more people will download your content because they can gain access to it without giving away any personal information. More downloads will lead to more reads and shares, and if you publish quality content with persuasive copy and calls-to-action, reads will convert to sales.

The main disadvantage of this method is that not everyone will convert. A distraction can easily lead them away and you will have no way to remind them that they should do business with you. But with content analytics intelligence tool such as Leadfeeder, you can still gain information on the people who are reading your content.

Leadfeeder integrates with Google Analytics to analyse website visitors and show you what companies they work for. It also displays the LinkedIn profiles of any connections you have who work at the company, to make it easy to connect with them and build a relationship.

One of the things I like most about Leadfeeder is that it allows you to create custom feeds that filter results based on information such as the pages people visited, time spent, location and company size. This helps you target the right prospects, helping you get the most out of your time.

#3 Use streamed digital content:

If you want to convert more traffic to leads you should create live digital content such as webinars. Not only do more people sign up for webinars, but attendees are more likely to convert to customers.

Adobe found that on average, approximately 51% of landing page visitors sign up for a webinar, and 19% of the webinar attendees sign up for a demo offered at the end of the webinar.

A great example, Neil Patel knows how to get the most out of the webinars on his website. If you visit his post on How to Start a Blog and click on the ads in the sidebar or at the end of the blog post, you are taken to a page where you can sign up to a webinar on how to generate more traffic.

If you click on an ad on another post not related to blogging, you are taken to a different lead magnet related to the content. This ensures that the webinar landing page has a higher conversion rate, as only interested people are referred there.

Neil can also pitch relevant products on blogging and driving traffic with this method, instead of sending every email to all of his subscribers.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to always do a live webinar. Once you have created a webinar that converts well, you can use the recording as an evergreen lead magnet and automate the process.

Turning Readers into Buyers

When integrated into your sales funnel, these 3 methods will help you convert blog traffic into sales. While this takes time, work and often money to get going, after the initial setup is complete, there is minimal work as the processes can be largely automated. You will then be able to focus your time and effort on creating more content, refining your funnel and nurturing prospective leads into clients – and sales.

How do you convert blog traffic to sales? Are there any other methods you would like to share with us? Please leave your comments below.

Mitt Ray is the founder of Social Marketing Writing, where you can download 100 free social media background images

The post 3 Ways to Convert Blog Traffic in to Sales appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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It’s no secret that social media has become an important part of any B2B marketing strategy. In fact, 93% of B2B marketers report using social media as part of their strategy (source).

However, as social media continues to grow and evolve, it’s become increasingly difficult for marketing teams to produce results with their social media efforts. The reason for this is simple; as more and more businesses jump onto the social media bandwagon, the social sphere becomes increasingly clogged and cluttered.

As a result, today’s social media users face content overload and it’s harder than ever to stand out. If your message doesn’t cut through the social media noise, you’re sure to miss your prospects. So, what’s the solution? Paid social advertising.

The Promise of Paid Ads

Social media advertising is not a new concept to the seasoned marketer. However, many in the B2B realm don’t fully grasp the promise of this tactic. After all, when your organic social strategy doesn’t produce results, it’s hard to justify spending even more time and money on it.

But, paid social can have a huge impact on your marketing efforts. Having a hard time believing? Consider these statistics:

  • 86% of marketers now combine paid and organic tactics as part of their social media strategies. It’s rare for social media marketers not to use organic and paid social media together (source).
  • 80% of enterprises say social media is the most important factor in digital marketing success (source).
  • 59% of marketers believe paid social is more effective than organic social (source).
  • Over 50% of B2B marketers rank social media as a “very” or “somewhat” low-cost ad option. (source)
  • 27% of B2B marketers identify social media as an “indispensable” tool for content distribution (source)
  • 25% lift in conversions for paid social media compared to organic social media (source)

The potential benefits of social advertising are obvious. However, to drive real, measurable success, you need a strategic plan.

The B2B Marketer’s Guide To Paid Social Advertising Define Your Buyer Personas

As with most marketing campaigns, the first step in your social strategy should be to determine your target audience. A simple and effective way to do this is to establish your buyer personas.

By definition, buyer personas are simply profiles of your best buyers. When executed effectively buyer personas can be used to determine nearly every aspect of a marketing campaign, from channels to content type to the language you use.

Buyer personas are created using extensive research, observation, and analysis of the data surrounding your existing customers. Take a look at who your best customers are and what traits they have in common. For example, do they share a job title, work in the same industry, or come from companies of a certain revenue?

In its simplest form, a buyer persona may look something like this: 25-35 year-old male, working in logistics at a company of 100 employees or less, who has ‘specialist’ in his job title.

It’s important to keep in mind that effective buyer personas are more than a list of common characteristics— you need to have a thorough understanding of each persona’s buying habits. This includes common concerns, shared viewpoints, and other factors that influence their purchase decisions.

For a more in depth guide to creating buyer personas, check out the following blog posts:

Establish Your Goals

As seasoned marketers know, no strategy will prove successful without the support of your executives – and that support will often waiver if you can’t prove your return on investment. To put it bluntly, if you want to see continued success and progress with your social media efforts, you’ll need to measure your results and report on your success.

Like most marketing initiatives, calculating ROI can’t be accomplished without first establishing some goals. To do this, consider the overall goals of your organization and primary marketing objectives. Have you been instructed to focus on brand awareness, lead generation, or sales/revenue?

Let these considerations inform your strategy. Goals will differ from organization to organization, but ultimately, should share two common characteristics; they’re unfalteringly clear, and easily measured.

Define KPIs

Enter KPIs. KPIs, or key performance indicators, are metrics used to measure the performance of a campaign. In short, these numeric values represent key campaign milestones. With the right KPIs in place, your marketing team can track your campaign in real-time, and if needed, make adjustments to optimize and scale success.

As with goals, every marketing department will focus on a different set of metrics. If you’re not sure where to start, consider these important metrics:

  • Reach: The number of people who see your campaign.
  • CTR (Click Through Rate): The number of people who clicked your advertisement compared to the total number of people who see it.
  • Engagement Rate: The number/percentage of individuals who engage with your advertisement in some way—likes, shares, and comments.
  • Conversion Rate: The number/percentage of people who click through to your site, then complete a specified action—filled out a form, clicked a button, downloaded content, etc.
  • Cost per Action: The cost of each action made with your ad, be it engagement, conversion, or click.

The metrics you decide to track should be closely tied to your goals. For example, if your goal is lead generation, you might focus on CTR, conversion rate, and cost per lead. If your goal is brand awareness, you might focus on reach and engagement.

Choose the Right Platform

The next thing you should consider is platform selection. While you may be tempted to throw your money into every social networking site, this isn’t always the smartest strategy. The truth is, not all social ad platforms will work for every organization – especially in the B2B world.

Instead of going in blindly, take the time to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons of each channel’s advertising capabilities. Does one offer more superior targeting capabilities than the rest? Is one significantly more cost effective than another? Be sure to ask questions like these during your analysis.

It’s also important keep your buyer personas in mind when selecting a platform. If your advertising on Twitter, but your audience is on Facebook, how can you expect to turn a profit? Use your buyer personas to locate your best buyers and ensure your efforts are well placed.

Again, platform selection will differ from organization to organization. But for many B2Bs, your platform selection will consist of the Big Three: LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook. As with any marketing strategy, start with an idea, test it, and then try again. The reality is, you may try a few platforms before landing on the option that works best for you.

Choose the Right Ad Type

The decision making process isn’t quite done. Next, you’ll need to determine which ad type will work best for your campaign.

Each social platform offers its own, unique set of ad types. These are each designed to drive a specific response from an audience (i.e. website clicks, engagement, follows, etc.) That being said, it’s imperative that your ad type correlate with your goals.

For example, if your goal is to boost website traffic, then a ‘site traffic’ ad type should be your go-to. Simple enough, right?

Here are a few of the most common ad types to consider:

  • Reach: This ad type promotes your content to social users who aren’t currently connected with your brands account/page. Platforms will typically charge you per thousand or million individuals reached.
  • Website clicks:This ad type is specifically tailored to encourage your prospects to click-through to your site. If a prospect clicks, you are charged.
  • Site conversions:Conversion ads not only promote your website link to your audience, but track their activity once on your site. You are only charged once a prospects completes a specific action on your site. (i.e. submitting a form, clicking for more info, etc.)
  • Followers/Page likes:These ads promote your account/page to an expanded audience that you may not reach otherwise. They are tailored to grab your audience’s attention, and encourage them to follow along.
  • Engagement:Engagement ads are delivered to the audience most likely to interact with your ad. Advertisers are only charged when a user completes actions with the social content, such as liking, commenting, sharing, or clicking.
  • Video views:These ads promote your videos to an expanded audience and encourage them to watch it. Typically, users are charged when a prospect views the video for a specified amount of time.
  • Lead capture:These ad types offer your audience a prize or special deal in exchange for their contact information. Users are charged once the prospect submits their info.
Create Your Content

One of the last steps in your social advertising strategy is, arguably, the most important: crafting your ad content. Content is ultimately what will get your audience’s attention and drive them to act. That being said, your content needs to be of value to your audience and professional looking! Here are a few suggestions to get you started in the right direction:

  • Be relevant: Effective ad content resonates with your audience; it speaks directly to them. Think of the common pain points of your buyer personas, and craft content that offers them a solution.
  • Communicate value: If you’re looking to capture a prospects contact information, you’ll need to offer some top-quality content in return. Be sure that your value proposition is apparent to your readers; serve them an offer that is impossible to refuse.
  • Correlate your social campaign with your other campaigns: Analyze your existing content strategy; what type of messaging has worked in the past? Is there an email campaign or perhaps a webinar that produced impressive results? Scale your past successes by incorporating your existing strategy into a social campaign.
  • A/B test: Social media is a whole new ball game. Realistically, your first attempts might not be great. Consider A/B testing to see what messaging, creative, ad type, platform etc. work best to drive the response you’re looking for.
Hyper Target Your Ads

Today’s social advertising platforms offer some of the greatest targeting capabilities available. Whether you’re trying to reach mid-level managers in the software industry, or simply Game of Thrones fans, these functionalities can ensure the right audience will receive your message.

If campaign efficiency and success is important to your team, you must take advantage of these features.  For best results, think back to your buyer personas; utilize the commonalities and shared characteristics of your best buyers to guide your targeting endeavors.

Analyze & Optimize for Success

Successful social advertising takes time; don’t expect your efforts to knock it out of the park your first time around. Instead, develop a strategic plan to consistently analyze your efforts. With your goals and KPIs in mind, track your campaigns wins and losses.

Determine which tactics work, and which could use a little adjustment. Then, tweak your strategy accordingly. When you find something that works, stick with it!

Contributed by Krysta Williams, Marketing Content Specialist at ZoomInfo. ZoomInfo offers the most accurate and actionable B2B data to help organizations accelerate growth and profitability. The continuously updated database enables sales and marketing teams to execute more effective marketing campaigns and improve sales prospecting efforts.

The post The B2B Marketer’s Guide to Social Advertising appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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