Monday, October 23, 2017

10 Influencer Marketing Campaigns to Inspire and Get You Started With Your Own

You can't go anywhere these days without hearing about the elusive, purportedly mystical powers of influencer marketing.

But is this buzzword-laden tactic actually worth your time and energy?

According to a recent study comprised of marketers from a variety of industries, 94% said influencer marketing was an effective campaign strategy. That's great news for marketers -- right?

Not so fast. Even though a majority of marketers believe influencer marketing is a viable tactic, it's still incredibly challenging to report accurately on influencer campaign ROI. In fact, 78% of marketers said that determining the success of influencer marketing campaigns would be a top challenge this year.Click here to learn how to grow your network and become an influencer in your industry.

So even though the tangible benefits of influencer marketing -- follower engagement, driving traffic, and creating more authentic content -- seem clear-cut, there's still a lot of progress to be made in making this form of campaign measurable for agencies and marketers.

What Is Influencer Marketing?

Let's back up for a minute. What exactly is influencer marketing, and how does it differ from the traditional celebrity spokesperson advertising model?

Influencer marketing is designed to tap into an existing community of engaged followers. Influencers -- or influential people -- are specialists in their particular niches, and have established a high level of trust and two-way communication with their follower bases. As a result, these individuals have influence over an audience you might be trying to reach, and can be helpful marketing to those buyers.

There is some overlap between celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing campaigns, but fans of influencers trust that their endorsement of a product or brand comes from a well-researched, more holistic place, rather than something as simple as a signed contract. And while there is often a formal agreement in place between brands and influencers, influencers tend to be more selective about their affiliations, choosing to partner with brands that reflect their unique personal brands and won't alienate their followers.

Celebrity product endorsements are less about engagement and more about attaching a person's fame and name recognition to a particular brand. For brands, celebrity-driven campaigns are much more about grabbing the attention of a wide audience than tapping into a very specific niche.

10 Influencer Marketing Examples

To give you an idea of how brands -- both big and small -- are leveraging the power of influencers in their marketing efforts, we've put together a list of ten influencer-driven campaigns. Check them out below, and decide for yourself: Is influencer marketing worth the hype?

1) Old Navy

The affordable clothing chain tapped social media influencer Meghan Rienks to appear in a series of promotional posts on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. In the videos, Rienks shows fans how to style outfits for different occasions (e.g., a holiday party, and big date night) using pieces from Old Navy.

Rienks, known for her comedy sketches and lifestyle content, has a formidable following on social media, with over 1.3 million Instagram followers and 2 million subscribers on her YouTube channel.

2) Naked Juice

This bottled smoothie brand is edging its way into the beauty, fashion, and health scene on Instagram with help from key influencers in the space. Lifestyle bloggers like Kate La Vie (below) share sponsored posts featuring snapshots of their daily outfits and beauty essentials -- including a strategically placed Naked Juice in the mix.

3) Glossier

This Manhattan-based beauty startup (which was recently named one of Fast Company's Most Innovative Companies of 2017) owes much of their seemingly overnight cult status to their ever-expanding network of super fans and micro-influencers.

Instead of paying a few big names to promote their minimal skincare and cosmetics, the brand relies on "regular women" to spread the word.

"What's very motivating to us is this idea of every single woman being an influencer," Glossier CEO Emily Weiss told Quartz. Glossier recently introduced a referral program to enable its more influential followers to offer product discounts and other incentives to their unique networks.

4) Sperry

Towards the end of 2016, the boat shoe brand began working with over 100 micro-influencers on Instagram to create engaging content for its followers. Sperry identified fans of the brand on Instagram who were already sharing high-quality photos of its products, and started inviting these users to develop visual content for its official Instagram account.

5) My Tales of Whisky

Diageo, the parent company of Scottish whiskey brands Lagavulin and Oban, was awarded a Shorty Award for Best Influencer Marketing Campaign for this yule log video starring Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman.

The 44-minute minute video shows Offerman sitting by a crackling fireplace, staring broodingly into the camera, and occasionally savoring a sip of his drink. Thanks to the simple seasonal premise and Offerman's unique brand, the video was a viral hit.

6) GAP

GAP's successful Styld.by campaign featured a number of influential social media personalities showing how they incorporate GAP clothing into their personal wardrobes. Users viewing the influencers' posts on social media were given options to "Shop this Look" conveniently in the caption of photos.

Thanks to the involvement of multiple influencers from different niches, GAP's campaign had enormous reach.

7) Stride Gum

If anyone has figured out how to gain a loyal following on Snapchat, it's hip-hop artist and producer DJ Khaled. Once a minor figure in the music world, Khaled has enjoyed an unprecedented level of success on the ephemeral photo-sharing app, with each of his snaps garnering over 3 million views on average.

"DJ Khaled has completely cracked the platform," said Emmanuel Seuge, senior vice president for content at Coca-Cola, one of Snapchat’s major advertisers. "He’s the king of Snapchat."

His "King of Snapchat" status means Khaled is in high-demand for influencer campaigns with brands. He regularly takes part in "Snapchat takeovers," where a brand hands over the reigns of their corporate Snapchat to Khaled for a brief period of largely unfiltered antics.

Working with W+K London, Stride Gum launched a Snapchat takeover campaign with Khaled last year to promote its "Mad Intense Gum" campaign. The brand called the takeover "an unpredictable, fun day for all his followers."

Source: W+K London

8) Skype

One promising way to work with influencers is to create a competition for them -- one that invites them to create content on behalf of your brand for an opportunity to win something, like exclusive features on your social media channels or be named on a "best of" list, for example.

Skype executed influencer marketing in this way with its “Your City, Your Passion” competition. Influencers from every corner of the globe were invited to create content explaining why they're proud of their home cities, for a chance to win a one-on-one Skype session with a famed expert within their given field, including Epic Mealtime creator Darren Morenstein.

9) Hallmark

To promote its 2016 holiday collection of keepsake ornaments, Hallmark partnered with a number of family-friendly Instagram influencers to share personal, tender moments from their families' holiday season.

Using the hashtag #KeepsakeIt, the influencers offered their followers candid glimpses into their family holiday traditions, along with a link for users to purchase one of their own keepsake ornaments.

10) Loeffler Randall

High-end accessory and footwear brand Loeffler Randall has become a favorite among artists, bloggers, and fashion insiders, thanks in big part to the company's commitment to involving social media influencers in its marketing campaigns.

The brand's "LR Ambassadors" include a diverse group of writers, painters, florists and other creative businesswomen "leading dynamic lives." In the brand's own words, their LR Ambassadors are "cool girls doing cool things."

In addition to profiling its LR Ambassadors on the company blog, Loeffler Randall shares pictures of its ambassadors wearing LR shoes and accessories on Instagram, using the hashtag #LRambassador.

Free Guide Influencer in Industry

Content Calendar Template: 12 Must-Have Fields

Open laptop on the desk, planner calendar on the screen

Three quarters of companies experienced an increase in lead quality & quantity as a result of content marketing in the past year, according to Curata’s recent Content Marketing Staffing & Tactics Study. 38 percent of B2B marketers rate the effectiveness of their organization’s use of content marketing as “effective” or “very effective,” according to a previous study. What does this have to do with a content calendar template?

Don’t worry, this isn’t another blog post about the need for content strategy. Although yes, this is a key factor in a successful content marketing practice. However, it is one of at least four areas the best content marketers dedicate their time to: strategy, production, distribution, and analytics.

Looking for an effective content marketing editorial calendar template? Download Curata’s free editorial calendar template.

We’re going to deep dive into one specific area for this post: editorial calendars as part of content marketing production. A consistent best practice of leading content marketers is using an editorial calendar as part of the production process (pictured below).

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 2.01.07 PM

Curata research shows over 90% of companies are now using a content marketing editorial calendar. More importantly, the “best of the best” marketers view their editorial calendar as more than a simple spreadsheet. It serves as a living, breathing, planning tool and timeline to:

  1. Align team members around a common content strategy, cadence and workflow.
  2. Track operational tasks and metrics needed to streamline content creation.
  3. Attribute an explicit set of labels or meta tags to individual pieces of content to provide a foundation for subsequent analysis of content performance and ROI.
  4. Provide a “parking lot” for great content creation ideas.
  5. Facilitate better reuse and repurposing of existing content.
  6. Manage the contribution of internal and external contributors, reviewers, and writers; including the ability to crowdsource content across your organization.

Let’s Get Some Things Straight

Let’s clarify several things before detailing the core elements of an editorial calendar template for content marketing.

1. What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is the process of developing, executing, and delivering the content and related assets needed to create, nurture, and grow a company’s customer base. Note that content marketing should impact all areas of the buyer creation processfrom awareness building to lead generation to sales enablement.

2. Who’s Responsible for Content Marketing?
All the tools, processes, and technologies in the world cannot, alone, make a great content marketing strategy. Someone must be accountable for its development and execution, even if they and their team aren’t responsible for all content creation. 42 percent of companies have an executive responsible for content marketing, with this number increasing to 51% by 2017.

3. Can I Simply Use a Spreadsheet for My Editorial Calendar?
Yesbut Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets are time-consuming to use and offer limited functionality compared to dedicated calendar software. The editorial calendar template we provide below offers significant advantages compared to normal spreadsheets, thanks to being designed specifically for content marketing.

  • Incorporate data into your content marketing process: Metadata collected as part of calendar management in your content marketing platform is the secret sauce for uncovering valuable operations and performance insights. These include the ability to measure content impact on your pipeline, measure by type of content, content pyramid/program, etc; and enabling content asset tracking/audits.
  • Increased process adoption: Easy to use for increased adoption and a better content management process. Calendar software advantages include:
    • drop-down field options for more rapid and accurate data entry.
    • auto-fill data cells for efficient meta-tagging.
    • a clean interface for more productive content marketing management meetings (e.g., filtered views; customized views by time period).
    • simple drag-and-drop and auto reschedule capability to accommodate schedule changes and adding new content on-the-fly.
  • Better workflow management: Keep your team on schedule through outbound communications and enable visibility into your teams’ work.
  • Real-time synchronization for collaboration: No version control issues.
  • Data security: Assuming your solution is software as a service (SaaS), your data remains in the cloud for data protection, so someone can’t delete a master file such as with Google Spreadsheet.
  • Enables governance: For example, assuring in-process content is aligned with content strategy, and enabling content audits to identify content creation gaps.

If you are not already using an editorial calendar template as part of a more comprehensive content marketing platform, review your options for this type of software to boost your content marketing impact. Check out the Curata CMP content marketing platform or other companies’ software as presented in Ultimate List of Content Marketing Tools.

Core Attributes of a High Impact Editorial Calendar Template for Content Marketing

At Curata we publish hundreds of pieces of content every year for an audience of over 80,000 content marketers per month. This process includes tapping into multiple data sources and leveraging many writersboth internal and external. We identified 12 core attributes in our editorial calendar template used for every piece of content we produce, including eBooks, PowerPoint presentations, infographics, blog posts, and SlideShares.

1. Title

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Be bold, be relevant, and stay on target with your content strategy and SEO goals.

2. Publish Date

Have an estimated publish date, then update if required once content goes live.

3. Content Type

This field describes which type of content is being produced. It not only helps with the production process, but enables you to analyze the impact of different types of content on engagement and your pipeline. Here are examples of the “Content Type” fields we use at Curata.

Types of content:

  • Blog post: infographic
  • Blog post: long-form
  • Blog post: short-form
  • Blog post: curated
  • eBook
  • SlideShare
  • Webinar (PowerPoint presentation)

A significant part of any content marketing strategy is your blog. Don’t have one or need help boosting its impact on your pipeline? Check out what the blogging 10K club are up to in this survey of 428 marketers: Business Blogging Secrets Revealed.

4. Status

Track the progress of a content item through the content marketing supply chain. The “pitching,” “submitted,” and “accepted” descriptors are useful for when your team is creating syndicated content for another company’s editor to publish on their blog.

Status levels:

  • Not started
  • Work in progress/process (WIP)
  • Pitching
  • Submitted
  • Accepted
  • Scheduled
  • Posted/Published

5. Media Type

shutterstock_175066568 (1)

Your digital content may live in many locations across the Internet. Therefore the best multi-channel content marketing strategies include content publication across three different media types: Owned, Earned, and Paid. Build your owned media as the foundational element of your content marketing strategy, and tap into the power of earned and paid media as on-ramps into your owned media.

Types of media:

  • Owned = your corporate blog, corporate website, corporate microsite.
  • Earned = press pick-up, guest posts on other companies’ blogs.
  • Paid = Taboola, Outbrain, Vocus, Shareaholic, media properties.

6. Media Entity

Put simply, the publishing destination of your content. Examples include:

  • [your company] blog
  • [your company] web site
  • [your company] microsite (including name of microsite)
  • [your company] LinkedIn Page
  • [profile name] LinkedIn post
  • other companies’ blogs
  • media entities: Boston.com; Content Marketing Institute; MarketingProfs.com

7. Writer

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The person responsible for writing the content, such as an internal writer, freelancer, or agency.

8. Author

The person whose name is formally attributed to the content. The writer may be different to the author when a ghostwriter is used and/or when a writer is basing content on thought leadership or content assets originated by the author, such as a company executive or product marketer.

9. Owner

The person with ultimate accountability for completion and publishing of the content. In some situations, the owner may also be the author and writer of a specific piece of content, e.g., a content marketing editor.

10. Pyramid

Content-Marketing-Pyramid

Curata uses the Content Marketing Pyramid framework pictured above to address two of content marketers’ greatest challenges:

  1. Facilitating the execution of a well planned content strategy.
  2. Optimizing the reuse and repurposing of content into multiple formats and through multiple distribution channels. Only 22% of companies have a specific process in place to ensure optimal content reuse and repurposing.

The top part of each Pyramid represents primary research, secondary research and/or thought leadership for a gated content asset such as an eBook. The remaining parts of the Pyramid are derivatives of this core content asset, consisting of reused and repurposed core content for different formats and channels.

Examples of Pyramids executed by Curata’s content marketing team include:

The high level bullets above are what Curata enters into the field “Pyramid” within its editorial calendar in Curata CMP. Attributing an individual piece of content to a specific pyramid enables you to analyze the pipeline impact of all pieces of content within that pyramid. For example, the marketing leads generated per pyramid. (To see these analytics for Curata’s content marketing process in action, feel free to schedule a demo with our content marketing experts.)

11. Persona

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Content strategy should identify and develop personas that represent audience segments to give you a better understanding of who you’re talking to when crafting communications. Key parts of each persona include:

  • Persona Name: This name is entered into the editorial calendar under the “Persona” field for each piece of content.  Examples of what Curata includes in this field include: Digital Marketing Darla; Editor Elaine; and Marketing Operations Michael.
  • Title: Typical title of this individual.
  • Background: A description of the individual, such as their role, field, or study, and other personal and/or professional background about the persona.
  • Goals: What motivates people for this persona? How is their success measured in an organization? What are their objectives?
  • Frustration and Pain Points
  • Organizational Structure: Where their role typically sits within an organization, i.e., the reporting structure.
  • Narrative: Informal descriptions or stories of the individual’s professional life. These narratives are a great way to help your content marketing team truly understand the persona, enabling them to create more relevant content.
  • Sample individuals: It’s always great to include pictures, names, and titles of real people.

Similar to a pyramid, attributing an individual piece of content to a specific persona enables you to analyze the pipeline impact of all pieces of content within that persona. You can even use this attribute to complete an audit of which content you have (or don’t have) for specific personas. Such insights are great for your regular content strategy development and content gap analysis.

12. Buying Stage

Another important part of content strategy is identifying audience buying stages. In fact, 50% of the best content marketing teams create content according to stages in the buying cycle. Work with your demand generation team to identify and understand these stages.

Creating content for a specific buyer stage helps ensure content is relevant to its intended audience and increases the conversion rate of buyers in your pipeline. Attributing an individual piece of content to a specific buying stage also enables you to complete an audit of which content you have (or lack) for specific buying stages. Such insights are extremely useful for your regular content strategy development and content gap analysis.

Buying stage examples include:

  • TOFU: Top of Funnel
  • MOFU: Middle of Funnel
  • BOFU: Bottom of Funnel

OR

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Retention
  • Advocacy

Not only do these editorial calendar fields help streamline your content production process, they enable better analysis of your content to determine what is and isn’t working. Finally, please do add any additional fields you may be using in the comments section below.

Looking for a calendar template already loaded with the above attributes? Download Curata’s free editorial calendar template below.

content calendar template download

A Beginner's Guide to SSL: What It Is & Why It Makes Your Website More Secure (es-la)

Have you ever noticed that some URLs start with "http://" while others start with "https://"? Perhaps you noticed that extra "s" when you were browsing websites that require giving over sensitive information, like when you were paying bills online.

But where'd that extra "s" come from, and what does it mean?

To put it simply, the extra "s" means your connection to that website is secure and encrypted any data you enter is safely shared with that website. The technology that powers that little "s" is called SSL, which stands for Secure Sockets Layer.

Is your website secure? Enter a URL here to test. 

In this post, I'm going to break down what SSL is, an updated version of Google Chrome that will soon flag websites which are not secure, and how you can evaluate and get SSL.

What is SSL?

First, let's start with a definition from SSL.com:

SSL is the standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a web server and a browser. This link ensures that all data passed between the web server and browser remain private."

Let's break that down.

When you land on a website page that has a form, after that form is filled-in and you hit 'submit', the information you just entered can be intercepted by a hacker on an unsecure website. 

This information could be anything from details on a bank transaction, to high-level information you enter to register for an offer. In hacker lingo, this "interception" is often referred to as a "man-in-the-middle attack." The actual attack can happen in a number of ways, but one of the most common is this: A hacker places a small, undetected listening program on the server hosting a website. That program waits in the background until a visitor starts typing information on the website, and it will activate to start capturing the information and then send it back to the hacker. Scary stuff that is no longer just is sci-fi movies.

But when you visit a website that's encrypted with SSL, your browser will form a connection with the webserver, look at the SSL certificate, and then bind together your browser and the server. This binding connection is secure so that no one besides you and the website you're submitting the information to can see or access what you type into your browser.

This connection happens instantly, and in fact many suggest is now faster than connecting to an unsecure website. You simply have to visit a website with SSL, and voila: Your connection will automatically be secured.

Everything You Need to Know About Chrome 62 and SSL

Google is getting ready to release a new version of their popular Chrome browser, version 62, which will begin to indicate that a page is not secure if it contains a form, but does not have SSL-enabled. Chrome has approximately 47% browser market share, so when this update is rolled-out a significant number of websites will be affected almost immediately.

According to recent HubSpot Research, up to 85% of people will not continue browsing if a site is not secure. In January 2017, Google rolled out a similar update that only applied to sites collecting sensitive information such as passwords or credit card numbers. With that in mind, users are now familiar with seeing this "not secure" warning, and per the research below will often leave a site because of it.

SSL-Research-Not-Secure (1).png

If you utilize incognito mode in your browser, Chrome will always indicate a page is not secure if it does not have a valid-SSL certificate installed. If you use Chrome outside of incognito mode then this "not secure" warning will only display when starting to enter information into a form.

Image credit: 9to5Google

This means that wherever you host content that contains a form, even if it's just asking for an email address, you should enable SSL. Keep in mind that if you have content hosted in different platforms, it will be important to talk to each of them and ensure SSL is setup before this Google Chrome update is live. In reality, if it's not cost prohibitive for you, it's best to enable SSL across your entire website regardless if a form exists on the page because it can have SEO benefits that we'll cover in the next section.

Is SSL good for SEO?

Yes. While the primary purpose of SSL is securing information between the visitor and your website, there are benefits for SEO as well. According to Google Webmaster Trends Analysts Zineb Ait Bahajji, SSL is now part of Google's search ranking algorithm:

Over the past few months we’ve been running tests taking into account whether sites use secure, encrypted connections as a signal in our search ranking algorithms. We've seen positive results, so we're starting to use HTTPS as a ranking signal."

In addition, Google has publicly stated that two websites which are otherwise equal in search results, if one has SSL enabled it may receive a slightly rank boost to outweigh the other. As a result, there is a clear SEO benefit to enabling-SSL on your website, and across all your content.

How can I tell if my website has SSL?

When you visit a website with SSL, there are a few distinct differences that display within the browser.

Check your site for SSL with our free tool.

1) The URL says "https://" and not "http://". 

It looks like this:


2) You'll see a little padlock icon in the URL bar.

It'll show up either on the left- or right-hand side of the URL bar, depending on your browser. You can click on the padlock to read more information about the website and the company that provided the certificate.

3) The certificate is valid.

Even if a website has the "https://" and a padlock, the certificate could still be expired -- meaning your connection wouldn't be secure. In most cases, a site that displays as https will be secure, but if you encounter a site that asks for a lot of personal information it may be worth double-checking to be sure the certificate is valid.

To find out whether the certificate is valid in Chrome, go to view > Developer Tools. From there you will need to navigate to the security tab and you can see if the SSL certificate is valid, or expired. If you click the "View certificate" button you will be able to see more information about the SSL certificate and the specific date it's valid through.

How can I get an SSL certificate for my website?

The first step is to determine what type of certificate you need. For example, if host content in multiple platforms (on separate domains/subdomains) it may mean that you need different SSL certificates.

For most, a standard SSL certificate will cover your content, but for companies in a regulated industry -- such as finance, and insurance -- it may be worth talking with I.T. because there are specific requirements within your industry that specify the type of SSL certificate you need.

The cost of SSL certificates vary, but you can get a free certificate or pay a few hundred dollars per month to obtain a custom certificate. On the free side -- Let's Encrypt offers certificates at no cost but I would strongly recommend that you have someone knowledgable about the DNS and technical setup of your website to help with this. These certificates will also expire every 90-days, so you'll need to make sure they stay up to date. 

Many other domain providers will sell SSL certificates that generally range from $50 to obtain a certificate for one domain, up to a few hundred dollars for multiple-domains. This process will be easier than using Let's Encrypt, but does have a cost associated with the certificate.

(HubSpot customers: If you're hosting content on HubSpot, SSL is available for free within this promotion. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our SSL page.)

One of the other key considerations is the validity period of a certification. Most standard SSL certificates that you purchase are available for one to two years by default, but if you're looking for longer-term options, then look into more advanced certificates that offer longer time periods.

WordPress Plugins To Help Install SSL

If you utilize WordPress to host your content and website, depending on your domain provider, you may need to obtain an SSL certificate and then install it. Here are a few plugins that can help you:

  1. Really Simple SSL. Purchasing your SSL certificate is just the first step. This plugin helps you install it across your all your Wordpress content. There are premium versions available to help you install it across sites, and verify there are no warnings on your website. Premium versions run from $20 up to $145 for a full-service configuration and optimization of SSL.
  2. Insecure Content Fixer. Once you have an SSL certificate and it's installed, your not quite done yet. If your website is built with any hard-coded references to "http", such as an image file, then it will show a warning when trying to load that securely. This plugin can help you find and fix anything coded that way so your site displays properly, and securely for visitors.
  3. WP Force SSL. Ok, now that you're done obtaining SSL, installing it, and fixing any errors, it's time to make sure all your traffic sees the secure version of your site. This plugin will force all traffic to HTTPS so it only loads securely. I strongly recommend that you check for insecure content (also known as mixed content) before enabling this. Without checking for mixed content first your site may appear with warnings because of those insecure files. 

(HubSpot customers: All files hosted within HubSpot File Manager are automatically encrypted with SSL, and in one-checkbox you can force all visitors to utilize the secure version of your site, no plugins required. To find out more, contact your Customer Success Manager, or visit our SSL page.)

 

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Don't Freak Out, but Facebook Added a New Kind of Feed

When Facebook makes any change to its algorithm or News Feed, the standard response is that it's cause for panic.

For example, you may have recently heard some speculation around the channel's recent "Explore Feed" rollout: an alternative News Feed designed to help users discover content outside of their existing networks, like friends and Pages they already follow. Hence, the name -- it allows users to "explore" new content, without leaving Facebook.

That, of course, is likely Facebook's main motivator here, and aligns with its growing efforts and modifications that encourage marketers to create content exclusively for this particular channel, rather than linking to content that requires users to navigate elsewhere. 

But here's our take on the matter: It's definitely not cause for panic. In fact, it could actually help your brand.

Let's start with the fact that this alternative feed has actually been available to mobile users for quite some time now, under the "More" menu that you find in the navigation options toward the bottom of the app.

Now, it's been rolled out to desktop users on the navigational sidebar, which Facebook confirmed in a statement to TechCrunch:

“We are beginning to roll out a complementary feed of popular articles, videos, and photos, automatically customized for each person based on content that might be interesting to them. ... We’ve heard from people that they want an easy way to explore relevant content from Pages they haven’t connected with yet.”

But what does this mean for the marketers and brand managers who rely on Facebook to maintain a presence and grow awareness?

At this point, it appears that the Explore Feed is not replacing the News Feed, which will still be the main landing navigation for Facebook users. And that makes sense -- there would likely be quite an uproar from users who were suddenly flooded with content from brands they haven't actively followed, rather than their existing networks of friends, family, and followed brands.

So fear not: Users who have already Liked your page will still see your content, with the caveat that in 2015, it was reported that organic reach fell to 2.6% (you can read more about why that happened and how to work with it here). 

Users have to voluntarily navigate themselves to the Explore Feed, which means that they have to actively choose to discover new content there. How that will ultimately perform, we can't be sure. But, according to my own scrolling experiment, it doesn't contain any paid ads or sponsored content -- yet.

Which indicates that, like so much else in the realm of a social media feed, the Explore Feed is based on an algorithm that curates content based on what you've liked and shared in the past. Admittedly, I don't use Facebook for personal purposes much, so the algorithm seems to be trying to figure out what I might like -- though, judging from the number of food- and dog-related posts appearing there, it could be well on its way.

But furry friends and food porn aside, the Explore Feed provides an opportunity for users to discover your brand if they've liked or shared similar content in the past. That presents an opportunity: If you're inspired or motivated by a certain brand or its audience, for example, you can use that to guide the content you create for Facebook with the goal of growing and attracting a similar audience. Be original, though -- you want your own content to offer something helpful and unique that users won't find elsewhere.

"Take the opportunity to be present and engage more personally with your followers," advises HubSpot Academy Social Media Professor Crystal King. "Spend more time developing quality content that your followers will be excited to share."

The desktop rollout is in its earlier stages, so it's likely to evolve and undergo modifications as users adapt to it. As always, we'll be keeping an eye on it.

Featured image credit: Facebook

Sunday, October 22, 2017

25 Last-Minute DIY Halloween Costume Ideas for Tech Geeks & Marketers

Halloween is a fun holiday, and it doesn't get the attention it deserves. It doesn't have recognizable songs or vacation days associated with it, and it falls on a busy time of year for most people in the workforce.

But that doesn't mean you should skip the festivities at your office Halloween celebration. How many days of the year are you encouraged to dress up and goof around at work? Probably zero.

We want you to have fun this Halloween, so we're taking the work out if it for you. We've compiled a list of DIY Halloween costume ideas that are easy to put together, inexpensive, and work appropriate. As a bonus, many are marketing and technology-themed, so even if your family and friends don't get your costume, your colleagues definitely will.

25 Last-Minute Office Halloween Costumes for Marketers & Tech Geeks

Evergreen Office Costumes

1) Alt Text

This was HubSpot Director of Offsite Content Corey Wainwright's office Halloween costume a couple of years ago. It's great because you don't even look dressed up if you have a casual office dress code, so you can just blend in.

All you need is to dress in 90s alternative garb -- she went with black jeans, combat boots, and a flannel -- and tape a piece of paper to yourself that says something like img2017.jpg. Or if you want to follow best practice for good alt text, you can put something more descriptive, like "alt_text." Your choice, you SEO rebel, you.

2) SEO Ninja

Speaking of dorking out on SEO, you could be everyone's favorite LinkedIn title -- the SEO ninja. Dress in all black, put on a black ski mask (kinda creepy if you already have one, but we don't judge here), and tape keywords all over yourself.

3) Mobile App

Wander around holding an appetizer -- candy, cheese and crackers, chips and dip ... whatever you have on hand. Boom. You're a mobile "app."

This costume also doubles as a great way to introduce yourself and make friends at a party.

mobile-app-costume.png

Source: Opportunity Max

4) Instagram

Another way to turn handing out food into a costume: Dress up like a hipster and hand out graham crackers.

5) Ghostwriter

Grab a white sheet and cut a hole for your head and arms. Dob some black ink spots on the sheet, get a book and one of those feather quills (or just get a feather, I suppose), and you're a ghostwriter.

6) Whitespace

Dress in all white -- add white face paint and a white wig if you're ultra-committed. Then add a hint of color somewhere on the outfit, like a colored tie or scarf, or even a paint splotch. That color splotch will make the white space more prominent, transforming you into "whitespace."

7) Error 404 Page

You've most likely encountered a funny error 404 page before, and you can make it a funny costume, too. Grab a sheet of paper, write "Error 404: Costume Not Found," and tape it to your outfit.

 

A photo posted by RachAel Klopfenstein (@theklopf) on Sep 5, 2015 at 12:33pm PDT

8) (Monty) Python

If you're into programming code, British comedy, and low-effort costumes, being (Monty) Python is perfect. Dress up in anything remotely snakelike in your closet: olive green clothing, snakeskin accessories, and fake vampire teeth that can serve as your fangs.

Then, to amp up the dork factor on this costume, add two coconuts or a gold chalice to embody Monty Python on his quest for the Holy Grail.

9) Facebook

Grab face paint or eyeliner and write "book" across your cheeks. Just like that, you're the world's biggest social network for Halloween.

And for your sake, we hope your colleagues actually get it:

Halloween-Jim_Bookface-Jim.jpg

Source: AndPop

10) Unicorn

Here's another tech-friendly, double-entendre costume: Be your own version of a tech unicorn. Here at HubSpot, we love this tech icon, and you can easily make your own version of a unicorn horn with help from this article.

aid2617087-v4-900px-Make-a-Unicorn-Horn-Step-10-Version-3.jpg

Source: WikiHow

11) Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are nothing to joke about -- they can seriously threaten your technology and data security. But on Halloween, you can dress up as a play on phishing emails for an easy DIY costume. All you need are a stick, a piece of string, and an envelope. Bonus points if you own a bucket hat and vest to complete the ensemble.

12) Copycat

Here's a technology spin on a classic Halloween costume. All you'll need are cat ears, eyeliner-drawn whiskers, and a sheet of paper. Write "Control + C" on the paper, tape it to your outfit, and you're a copycat.

sub-buzz-22134-1476718504-4.jpg

Source: BuzzFeed

13) Fully Vested

If you work in a company where people would get the joke, put on a bunch of vests (at least three, but even more is encouraged), and that's about it. You're fully vested.

14) Nerd

What I love about the nerd costume is that it's effortless and always unique -- there are many ways to be a nerd in this day and age. Are you a tech nerd, a video game nerd, or a book nerd? The sky is the limit with this costume. Show up wearing glasses with your favorite accessories, such as a magic wand, book, or lightsaber, to complete the effect.

Topical Office Costumes

15) The 2017 Solar Eclipse

This summer, the solar eclipse took over the internet -- and the country. As millions of people flocked to the path of totality to (hopefully) catch a glimpse of this rare event without burning their corneas, millions more made jokes about it on social media.

For this costume, you'll need a work pal to dress up as the sun and the moon with you. One of you wears black, the other wears yellow, and you both wear dark sunglasses. Then, at the Halloween party, the one dressed in black spends the whole time standing in front of the one in yellow.

annular-solar-eclipse-promo.jpg

Source: CBS News

16) The 'Evil Kermit' Meme

If you haven't heard of this mega-popular meme this year, you've probably seen it somewhere: It features Kermit the Frog, face-to-face with his evil twin, Evil Kermit. Evil Kermit looks identical, except for the black cloak.

evil kermit halloween.png

For this costume, you and a coworker can keep it simple: You both wear green shirts, and one of you wears a black hoodie or jacket on top. If you really want to commit to the costume, you'll spring for some green face paint to complete the ensemble. Walk around the party together, facing one another, for maximum effect.

17) Eleven from Stranger Things

Eleven from Netflix's hit series Stranger Things is universally beloved, and it's a bonus that her signature look is a comfortable and easy-to-assemble costume. Rock your best Eleven with a dress, a denim jacket, and a box of Eggo Waffles.

the-stranger-things-actress-behind-eleven-doesnt-love-eating-tons-of-eggo-waffles.png

Source: Business Insider

18) Pokémon GO Trainer

Pokémon GO had roughly 45 million people walking around in cities glued to their phones last summer (and I was among them). To pay homage to the explosion of this tech trend, you'll need a t-shirt that's red, yellow, or blue. Using fabric paint or permanent marker, write Valor (for red), Instinct (for yellow), or Mystic (for blue) on your shirt. Spend Halloween walking around pointing your phone at objects, and you're the spitting image of a Pokémon GO trainer.

Gotta catch 'em all, right?

 

A photo posted by Odinia (@marshmallowsie) on Aug 9, 2016 at 4:44pm PDT

 

Group Office Costumes

19) Google Algorithm Update

Find a couple of office buddies for this one -- one panda, one penguin, and one pigeon. You might be thinking, "what the heck is the pigeon algorithm update?" 1) It's a thing, and 2) we checked Amazon for hummingbird costumes and there aren't any cheap ones available.

google-algorithm-update-halloween-costumes.jpg

Source: Opportunity Max

20) Black and White Hat SEO

This is another SEO-related costume, and I think you can figure this one out on your own. I recommend wearing a black hat for one, and a white hat for the other, and having "SEO" embroidered on each one -- which you can easily custom order.

21) Dancing Girls Emoji

If you're the owner of one of the nearly more than 1 billion Apple iPhones sold worldwide, you're probably familiar with the dancing girls emoji:

Screen Shot 2016-10-25 at 2.13.14 PM.png

Source: Brit + Co

The easiest version of this costume is to find a buddy and dress all in black together. If you're committed to emoji authenticity, buy black bunny ears to complete the look.

22) Series A Round of Funding

Get a bunch of people together, write the letter "A" on your shirt, and line up. (You could do subsequent funding rounds using the same principle, too.)

23) Snapchat Filters

Here's another group costume idea that pays tribute to Snapchat's filters feature.

There are numerous options that you and your team can choose from to embody this costume. You could dress up as vomiting rainbows, cat and dog ears, a flower crown, or a face swap, and this could be as DIY or store-bought as you're interested in pursuing. For example, here's some inspiration for a couple of the dog filters:

snapchatfilter.jpg
Source: PopSugar

24) Snapchat Ghosts

Put a marketing spin on a classic Halloween costume by arriving as a Snapchat ghost. You'll all need a white sheet and to pick which ghost you like the most.

maxresdefault-24.jpg

Source: YouTube

25) Instagram Filters

For this group costume, you'll need white t-shirts and fabric markers. Draw an Instagram photo frame on the front of your shirts, and each team member can write a different Instagram filter's name inside the photo frame. Or, create frame props with different filters on them like the group did below:

M-nahalloween-1.jpg

Source: Nails Magazine

Friday, October 20, 2017

Are Amazon 'Sponsored Products' Ads Worth It?

 

Say you're in the market for a new pair of headphones or a new guitar tuner. Where would you start your search? Google, right?

Not so fast. According to a 2016 survey of 2,000 consumers, 55% of people actually skip Google altogether and start their online shopping searches directly on Amazon. Google still remains the top search tool for B2B purchases and services, but Amazon is steadily overtaking them in the B2C market.

Need help getting started with inbound ads on Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, or Facebook? Book a free meeting with The Center for Inbound Advertising here.

So what does this mean for you, the advertiser?

When you’re thinking about your online advertising strategy, you want to meet your consumers where they are. And if you're a B2C company, that place is -- more likely than not -- Amazon.

Google and Facebook still command the biggest slice of the pie in the online ad market, generating respective revenues of $80 billion and $27 billion in 2016. But the two tech giants only control around 20% of the market, leaving plenty of room for a new player (say, Amazon) to emerge.

Experts estimated that Amazon earned around $1 billion from ads in 2016, but some say that number will surpass $2.5 billion in 2017. They're on the fast track for exponential growth in the coming years, but since they're still not officially a major player in the online ad business, there's an incredible opportunity for advertisers to get in early and score better ad positions at a lower cost than more established properties like Google AdWords.

Who can benefit the most?

If you are an e-commerce company, advertising on Amazon is something you should definitely explore. B2B companies, consulting firms, lawyers, others will still see better ad returns on more established properties like Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook at the moment.

Getting Started With Amazon Ads

Amazon has several advertising programs to chose from, but the best one to get started with is Amazon Sponsored Products. The Sponsored Product ads are really just image ads -- similar to display ads in Google Adwords -- but the cool thing is that they appear in search results on Amazon right next to the searched products. So when I do a search for “guitar tuners” in Amazon I get this: 

The only visible difference between the sponsored and the non-sponsored results is the gray “Sponsored” tag that appears above the product title. You'll also see sponsored products can appear in the sidebar.

The same search in Google yields this: 

 

The process for Amazon Sponsored Products is very similar to advertising on Google AdWords: you select keywords, and your ad will show up when someone searches for them. Like AdWords, you pay only for the clicks you receive on your ad.

And when someone clicks on your Sponsored Product Ad, they're sent to your landing page, which would typically be your Amazon product detail page. You could also send them outside to a page on your website if you choose.

You Might See Better Results on Amazon vs. Google AdWords

A major difference between Google AdWords and Amazon ads is where people current sit in the purchasing process when they search on each platform.

People searching on Google are more likely to be at the beginning of the buyer's journey, i.e., they just began their search and or are currently just browsing for solutions/products. But when someone begins their search on Amazon, that person is usually more prepared to make a purchasing descision.

Building Your Amazon Ad

Amazon provides a complete introduction to getting started you can see that here.

But just to highlight the process:

  • You will need to have an active seller account on Amazon.
  • You need to have active product listings in at least one of Amazon’s product categories.
  • You need to have Buy Box.

The Buy Box is the box on a Amazon product detail page where customers can begin the purchasing process by adding items to their shopping carts.

Some Nuts and Bolts: Keywords, Ad groups, and Bidding

Just like Google AdWords, Amazon sponsored products uses keywords to trigger your ads. You can choose automatic targeting -- letting Amazon choose your keywords for you (this is the right choice for new advertisers), or you can choose manual targeting -- where you choose your own keywords (a good choice after you have accumulated some data from a running campaign).

There are three types of keyword matching: broad, phrase, exact.

Ad groups are used to group SKUs together for automatic or manual targeting.

Reporting in Amazon Ads

Amazon will also provide advertisers with data about searches for particular keywords. Similar to Google AdWords, you have to be an advertiser to get access to this informative data. The data includes which search terms are working and performing the best, enabling you to add new keywords and refine the performance of your campaigns.

For each keyword, the search terms report will include data on:

  • Campaign
  • Ad group
  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click thru rate
  • Cost per click
  • Conversions/number of orders placed
  • SKU for the sale
  • And more

 

The Dollars Make Sense

While Google and Facebook (and even LinkedIn) dominate the marketplace in online advertising, that dominance comes with a corresponding higher cost-per-click. According to content26.com, “the average CPCs on Amazon Marketing Services was about 38% lower than Google Adwords”.

Why is this? Google AdWords has been around for over 15 years, and originally cost-per-click was not very high. But with increased visibility and popularity of the platform, CPC rates have continued to rise along with the number of advertisers. This means more and more advertisers are competing for the same amount of space.

Amazon is just getting into the game, having only been around advertising-wise for about five years. The number of advertisers seeking space on the platform is much lower than Google, which means less competition. In addition, the advertising on Amazon is only focused on products, which means less competition from related services like you see regularly on Google AdWords.

All of this implies a lower cost-per-click for advertisers of products on Amazon.

Plus, while Amazon uses past performance and sales on Amazon to determine positioning, sponsored content on Amazon can turbocharge newer and smaller companies and get them more consumer attention. You can use sponsored content to help push your listing to the top of the search results.

Get In Early

If you have a product to sell, now is the time to consider using Amazon sponsored products ads. You can get in relatively early, at a lower cost-per-click, and have a chance to promote new products at the top of an Amazon search. It’s still very early days for Amazon advertising -- this creates a big opportunity.

For more information about inbound advertising on Amazon or any of the other platforms - AdWords, LinkedIn, or Facebook you can arrange a meeting with me here -- there is no charge for these meetings.

Which Social Media Network Makes Us Feel the Worst? [New Data]

I cannot tell you the number of times I've deactivated Facebook, re-joined, and deactivated again, only to repeat the process. 

It began last fall, where much of social media was full of contention and -- as it was later revealed -- dripping with promoted political content with links to Russia.

Everyone was digitally screaming at each other, loathing and lamenting until, come November, I thought to myself, "Enough already. I'm outta here."

Sound familiar to anyone?Click here to learn about using social media in every stage of the funnel.

If so, you're not alone, and you certainly aren't limited to being joined by experience. After running a consumer survey in Australia, the UK, and the U.S., we discovered that out of six social networks -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube -- 43% percent of respondents said that Facebook makes them feel the worst.

So, why is this happening -- besides the personal reasons listed above? And for marketers who rely on Facebook to maintain and build an audience, what are you supposed to do with this information?

Hey. We've got you. Let's take a look at some of our additional data, and see what you can do from here.

Facebook Makes Us Feel the Worst: What That Means and What to Do About It

The Data

So, we hate to break it to you, but while Facebook might make us feel worse than other social media networks, it seems like these digital communities are making us generally unhappy.

On average, about a third of respondents say that they "feel awful," or close to it, after visiting social media sites -- remember, this is across the board, not just Facebook. While that may not seem like too much more than the average 12% who say they "feel great," it's still not exactly an encouraging number.

After all, our optimism dictates that these networks weren't created to divide, even if that's how some groups have leveraged them within the past two years. Rather, they were created to keep friends and family connected, and eventually evolved as platforms to promote shareable content. 

But as these networks have evolved, so has the content distributed on it -- 62% of U.S. adults consume news primarily through social media, 66% of whom do so via Facebook. So, is that what's making us miserable? If I'm being honest, it would appear that bad news has been taking the lead lately.

That could be why, when we asked respondents which type of content stands out most to them on Facebook, the primary response was "posts from friends and family." Whether that content makes them feel good or bad isn't clear -- but I imagine that, among the noise and ads (which an average of 45% of respondents say they "really dislike"), content from familiar faces might be welcome for consumption.

What to Do With This Information

I know -- this data is kind of a downer. After all, if people start to stray from Facebook because it makes them so unhappy, then it might not be of much use to your brand.

But it's not all bad news, if you'll excuse the pun. People are still using Facebook -- after all, just look at this user data:

In a way, our findings create an opportunity for marketers on Facebook. You can modify your brand's presence to stand out among the content that could be making users unhappy, and instead, draws them to your page and makes them want to share your content. And no, that doesn't mean you have to shift your Facebook strategy to dog videos and riddles -- although, if someone could get on that, I certainly wouldn't mind having a look.

However, it does mean that you can revisit the idea of what drew your audience to your brand in the first place. You can build upon the more positive elements of the answer to that question to provide content that stands out among the more negative noise.

But what does that content look like? Here are three key characteristics to start with.

1) Relevant

While it's tempting, you don't have to pretend that bad things don't happen and that unhappiness doesn't exist. However, you can address it on your Facebook Page in a way that emphasizes and encourages optimism.

Do you have employees who are volunteering to help with hurricane relief efforts? Are you donating a portion of your proceeds to an organization that does so? You can draw attention to those things without bragging about them by emphasizing a sense of solidarity. After all, there's a reason why these Pages and networks are sometimes called "communities": They're groups of users that share a common interest.

2) Helpful

That said, you still have to maintain relevance to your brand and the product or service it provides, as well as the world-at-large. One of the primary tenets of inbound marketing is to create content that is both aligned with your product or service, and answers the questions that your audience is likely to have. Don't abandon that. Rather, continue to establish yourself as an authentic, helpful Page that, despite all of the other less-than-awesome stuff that appears on Facebook, stands out as an oasis with resources that serve and assist.

3) Familiar

Remember those data points about content from friends and family standing out the most? In a way, that goes back to the idea of your Page serving as a community of people with a shared interest. Again, what drew this audience to your brand in the first place? How do they feel when they see your name or your other creative assets? You may need to ask these questions of your users to truly know how you're perceived, but in these troubled times, it can pay to maintain consistency and stability in the type of content you distribute, and the way you do so. Keep that in mind as you create the copy that you share with Facebook posts, like videos or images.

And, if all else fails, don't be afraid to check in with your audience. Try something like, "It's Friday! How's everyone doing?" It's neutral, friendly, and conveys that you care.

So, how does everyone feel now? Tinker around with these ideas and see how they go.

Oh, and about those dog videos ...

Social Media at Every Stage of the Funnel