Why is Formulating Social Media Strategy Important for Business?

“Social media” is an umbrella term that includes web-based software and services that bring users together online and allow them to exchange ideas, discuss issues, communicate with one another, and participate in many other forms of social interaction. With the proliferation of different forms of social media, such as blogs, forums, audio-visual sharing sites, personal networking sites, and professional networking sites, consumers are constantly bombarded with many marketing messages.

Social media refers to all channels where people and customers are able to interact with each other via digital media that are public or accessible to multiple users. There are a number of social media websites, each of which has created its own model for enabling people to communicate with each other. Social media sites use content in various forms to build digital communities in which ideas and content are shared and discussion and comments are encouraged.

It is important to keep in mind, when planning a Social Media Marketing Strategy, that consumers will not always react positively to a company’s updates and content on social platforms. Negative comments about a brand and its products are inevitable even on the company’s own social media platforms.

Some companies will choose to exert control over comments on their own platforms and delete those that they feel reflect poorly on the brand. Other companies may choose to allow the negative comments to remain and respond in an empathetic way by offering an apology and/or a solution to issues. Leaving negative comments online, along with the company’s responses shows that the company is open, honest, and transparent. This also provides an opportunity to turn disgruntled customers into a brand evangelist.

It is also important to understand the distinction between “earned” and “paid” opportunities for “sharing.” For example, building “followers” or “shares” through the development and posting of valuable content is “earned.” Alternatively, several social platforms provide “paid” opportunities for advertising and promoted posts in order to share information. Earned and paid strategies on social media are not mutually exclusive and often the most effective social media strategies employ a combination of both.

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[Original article can be found at https://www.smstudy.com/article/why-is-social-media-important-for-business]

What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does It Work?

Companies may wish to partner with entities—such as publishers that are individuals or other companies—that can be beneficial to the brand. This can be a productive way for a company to expand its reach and marketing efforts.

There are two ways affiliate marketing is approached: companies offer affiliate programs directly to other companies/individuals, or they can sign up to be an affiliate through another organization. The company that is offering or controlling the affiliate program will pay a commission for every lead or sale the affiliate delivers to the company’s website.

Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing where customers or partners are rewarded for designated actions that help market the brand. For example, a customer might mention in a Facebook post that he or she purchased a product and gain a certain number of reward points for their post.

The affiliate marketing program may be structured so that when more than ten friends like or comment on that post, the individual earns more points. The affiliate can then redeem these points against the company’s products or some partner brands.

Affiliate marketing helps widen a company’s reach exponentially using the most credible medium—existing customers. Websites offering price comparison services, coupons, shopping directories, and virtual currency platforms are the most popular affiliate marketing websites.

To look at affiliate marketing in a simple way, it is a cycle consisting of three key entities. These entities are the “merchant,” which is the brand whose product is being marketed, the “publisher” who is the affiliate, and finally the “customer.” In simple words, the advertiser pays a certain commission to the publisher for bringing new customers to the business.

Through affiliate marketing, merchants or companies gain a wider reach to sell their products or services, which is usually a key element to any marketing strategy. This approach can also allow the company to build a strong image or brand name.

One of the main advantages of affiliate marketing is that companies can gain more customers with limited dollars, since the approach is commission based or points based. However, there is the possibility that some merchants may incur high commission, maintenance, and initial setup costs, depending on the nature of the business.

Affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing in the way that it uses online marketing platforms—social media, search engine marketing, and more—to market the product while referral marketing is primarily based on word-of-mouth and relies heavily on trust and personal relationships between existing customers and prospects.

Affiliate marketing can be a powerful tool for a product brand because, in addition to helping grow the customer base, it can also aid brand presence in the market and create a buzz around the brand and its respective brand identities.

Attracting the right affiliates is very important for the affiliate program to be a success and in determining the volume that can be expected from the program. Updating content regularly and staying up-to-date with recent trends is equally important to help ensure that customers respond to the company’s offers.

A product or service does not have to cater to a niche market. Common-place brands, even fast moving consumer goods brands, can benefit greatly from affiliate marketing with the help of the right offers and efficient partners.

Getting products onto as many sites as possible is not necessarily the most important goal. Marketers must also consider the relevance, value, and traffic of the sites and platforms that one is able to reach.

There are some common mistakes affiliates tend to make, and businesses need to be aware of them. The job of the affiliate is to “market” the product, not “sell” the product. Selling is the job of the advertiser itself. Trying too hard to push customers to buy the product may only push prospective customers away.

Partnering with too many affiliates can be another mistake that brands need to carefully consider. Being everywhere can serve to dilute the customer perception about the brand and undermine its credibility. A crucial component to help ensure success with affiliate programs is to have robust analytics capabilities in place and to use them regularly. This will enable the company to understand which affiliates bring in more business, the value of that business, and where they should increase or decrease their efforts and investments in affiliate marketing.

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[Original article can be found at https://www.smstudy.com/article/what-is-affiliate-marketing-and-how-does-it-work]

Get found – optimize your website content for search engines

A key element of improving the performance of a website is Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO is the process of affecting the position of a website in a search engine’s organic (unpaid) search results. A website that is search engine optimized will appear higher in search results resulting in a greater number of customer visits to the site. A high organic rank also helps build trust in the minds of the consumers as they generally associate a higher ranked website with being a strong, more established brand with greater reliability. This perception in turn leads to greater conversions on the website and supports the fulfillment of the corporate objectives for the brand.

Search Engine Optimization is an Internet marketing tactic that takes into consideration how search engines operate and ‘rank’ websites, how people search for keywords, the keywords that are most frequently searched, and the kind of searches (text search, image search, video search) that consumers are likely to use to learn more about the products, services, and business as a whole.

Typically when a business adds a page to its site, the various search engines send a spider (or web crawler) that stores the page on the search engine’s server and then indexes the page (i.e., gathers relevant information on the contents of the web page and the links that it contains) for fast and accurate information retrieval when an online consumer registers a search query on the engine.

Optimizing a website for online searches involves editing the content of the site, tagging or coding the pages to increase the website’s relevance to specific keywords, and removing barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

Mobile SEO

Mobile devices and tablets are being used increasingly by consumers to access the Internet, therefore, it is important for organizations to ensure that their websites are optimized for mobile devices. Also, since many consumers use voice search features, websites and keywords must also be optimized to account for this changing trend among mobile users. When businesses optimize for mobile devices, they should ensure that the website is responsive to mobile devices and tablets; maintain a separate mobile site since mobile users prefer websites in which content can be consumed on a smaller screen and on the go, and provide only relevant content and maintain a light mobile site to ensure faster loading of the mobile site.

An Example of SEO Skills:

A website that sells kitchenware had issues with site structure and on-page targeting. Their category level pages were at subdomains (e.g. category.sitename.com) while each sub-category was back on the main subdomain (e.g. sitename.com/product2=url?xyz). Category and sub-category pages had a distinct lack of semantic HTML or term targeting. Steps such as getting H1 tags onto each page, improving title tag structure, clean & friendly URLs and adding internal links with appropriate anchor text were taken. The site saw ranking improvements across the board, which brought new traffic through head, mid and long tail terms.

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[Original article can be found at https://www.smstudy.com/article/get-found-optimize-your-website-content-for-search-engines]

Learn How to Structure Your Site for Optimal User Experiences

When building a website, one of the first things to be considered is its structure. This is fundamental to the success of a site and, if planned properly, can avoid many issues further down the line. Website architecture design involves planning the layout and design of the website, identifying the pages to be included, determining how consumers will navigate the site, and planning how these pages will link together. Based on the learning from market research and competitor website performance, the marketing team—along with subject matter experts, such as website developers—is responsible for ensuring the optimal website architecture design.
One of the factors that the marketing team must consider when planning the website architecture is click-depth. Click-depth or crawl-depth refers to the minimum number of links a website visitor must click in order to get from the “root” web page to a particular desired web page. The root web page is the page that displays when only the domain is in the URL (no path information). Businesses must ensure that the click-depth is kept as low as possible, so that users and search engines can reach any point on the site within a minimum number of clicks.
The marketing team analyzes how each page will be linked internally and externally, creating categories and subcategories within the site. While creating the website, search-friendly URLs should be used to increase the relevance of the links and help the organic ranking for the website. As well, duplicate meta tags, meta descriptions, and titles should be avoided to prevent confusing web crawlers.
In short, the website design architecture should assure visitors they are on the right page; ensure visitors can easily find what they are looking for by providing a clear navigation path and search feature; properly link together and by ensuring the various pages; and ensure that the website is easy to navigate not only for customers, but also for web crawlers, so that they can be detected by search engines.

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[Original article can be found at https://www.smstudy.com/article/learn-how-to-structure-your-site-for-optimal-user-experiences]

What are the technical skills required for developing a mobile app?

Generally, a company assigns a dedicated team to develop mobile applications for the organization. This team might be in-house, or the company may choose to assign the development work to an external firm. In either case, it is essential that the team has the necessary skills to develop mobile applications with the features that the company has determined are required.
A company may have fewer features in its first few apps, but it should ensure that the application development team has the requisite skills to create apps that have more advanced features as well, in case the company decides to add features at a later time. Given increasing mobile usage among customers across all industries, companies will, in all probability, need to constantly adapt to consumer needs and create more advanced mobile apps to keep up with mobile app trends and changing demands.
Also, several mobile application development platforms exist, and the team should ideally be able to develop applications across those platforms. However, if the team is able to identify and create apps for the most popular platform used by its target audience, then the company can test customer acceptance of its apps on the most frequently used platform before developing similar apps for other platforms.
The performance of mobile apps even on the same platform may differ based on the device type (tablet or phone) or the device model. Thus, the application development team must create apps that can perform equally well across device types and device models.
Some of the specific skill sets that a mobile app development team must have are as follows:
  • User Interface (UI) design—This skill refers to the ability to design an app that has an attractive, easy-to-navigate, and responsive design. It requires both creative skill and knowledge of best practices in UI design for mobile apps.
  • Database and hardware computing—This knowledge refers to the ability to create databases with an optimal data structure, specify interaction of the app with the device hardware, minimize power requirements, ensure security of the app against external threats like viruses and hacking, and allocate memory efficiently.
  • Programming—Programming languages translate business logic into a machine-readable language. It is important to write programming code efficiently and in modules so changes to the code can be implemented easily. The team should have knowledge of using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for various mobile application platforms. These APIs allow programmers to create apps without requiring access to the proprietary underlying code developed by the mobile application platform companies. Preferably, the team should also know how to use interfaces that allow one to create mobile apps that can be deployed across different mobile application platforms.
  • Business understanding—The app development team should have a basic understanding of the business’s overall Marketing Strategy and how the app fits into this strategy. This understanding will give the team a sense of the target customers, which may further enable them to create an optimal UI and ensure the final product supports the intended positioning of the app in the mobile app store.

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[Original article can be found at https://www.smstudy.com/article/what-are-the-technical-skills-required-for-developing-a-mobile-app]

Learn How an Effective Website Can Boost Your Business

An effective website is a critical component of a company’s overall online success. Company’s website serves as the central hub and foundation for its online activity. With a plethora of available website designs, the digital marketing team must determine the appropriate and optimal design and message.

Besides having a basic understanding of the technology on the website, the digital marketing team must also consider the following facets of creating a website.

Consumer Perspective

  • Relevancy—Age, cultural nuances, geography, and other demographic factors of the target audience will influence the type of content on the website.
  • Usability Design—The digital marketing team must take into consideration how technically savvy its target customer is. If the target customer does not generally have the appropriate comfort level with technology, the team should design a simple, text-based layout with easy navigation and basic features. If the target customer is comfortable and familiar with the Internet and computer use, a more intricate, interactive, and information-rich website can be implemented. The design of the site should depend on the expectations of both the users and the company. In some cases, the development might focus on consumer engagement, while in other cases, the design might be oriented toward supporting task-oriented behavior such as the ability to make changes to one’s account, purchase a product or service, and so on.

Site Development Perspective

  • Purpose—Companies maintain a web presence for a variety of reasons. While some companies use websites as their main method of selling their products, other companies have an online presence just to support their business, message, and brand position. There are companies that use websites as a public relations (PR) tool, to enhance brand value in the minds of their customers, or to evaluate product feedback from customers that may help in understanding customer needs, general communications, product updates, and sales. The digital marketing team is responsible for ensuring that the website is designed to meet the overall strategic objectives outlined in the Marketing Strategy.
  • Planning—The digital marketing team must work with the website development team to plan the execution of the website, beginning with creating a storyboard for the website; listing functional requirements; building the database structure; developing wireframes; and determining hypermedia linkages, search engine key words, graphical design components, user interface designs, audio/video sources, animation, and text requirements and formats.
  • Performance— The digital marketing team also must consider the logical design of a good website, compare the performance of competitor websites to identify best practices, check for effective performance across browsers and operating systems, and perform usability testing of the website to ensure that it is easy to use.
  • Maintenance—Websites create an online presence for a brand, so the marketing team must ensure that the website is maintained and tested regularly. Downtime on a website may adversely impact the direct online sales of products and may also taint brand reputation in the minds of consumers.

The brand messaging on the website has to be in-line with the overall brand message and must stay relevant to the target audience.

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[Original article can be found at https://www.smstudy.com/article/learn-how-an-effective-website-can-boost-your-business]

The New Wave in Digital Marketing

For roughly a decade technology has been facilitating the brushstrokes to paint an ever clearer picture of consumer behavior. Over time, analytics has helped solve the mysteries of the where, the when and the how often as it pertains to clicks, views or anything else online for that matter. In the process, the human behind the consumer data has been neglected.  The time has come to treat them like real people again.

The next new wave in marketing (there’ve been two so far according to reliable sources) will be marked by a return to the personal touch. There exists an emerging opinion that a continuation down the path of the science of analytics will not yield the desired results. And if anything, at some point it becomes a liability and deterrent to constructing strong enduring relationships with customers. The kind built on trust, respect and understanding. Or so believes Jahia, a leading User Experience Platform for Digital Transformation.

They state: “Building 1:1 customer relationships means relating in the most appropriate way for each customer. It is vital to find the right balance in communicating just enough – too much and they are annoyed, too little and they feel forgotten (or forget you).”

As I mentioned recently in the article “How Information Finds You: Hyper-relevant Content Marketing,” there is a refinement process occurring in digital marketing that emphasizes the use of high-quality content and a marketing strategy that employs the smartest possible implementation based on what is known about the viewer/consumer. This is the future of digital marketing due to several factors, including the phenomena of “peak content”. A more nuanced marketing approach that acknowledges the human being on the other side of the conversation is where everyone should be headed.

Again from Jahia: “The right relationship is not the same for every brand or every customer. It depends on both the product or service you offer and each customer’s individual preferences. The core of that relationship is giving the customer the feeling that they have as much control over the relationship as you do. That includes giving them transparency into what data you keep about them and how you use it — this is the beginning of trust.”

In addition, for the sake of a company’s longevity, to manage and use consumer data responsibly will set any marketer ahead of the curve; soon enough federal regulation will catch up and kinder practices will be required by law. By setting up a marketing system that respects privacy AND manages to market in an informed, logical manner is a vanguard move.

Jahia notes: “Very soon, this privacy and usage standard will not be simply the voluntary action of ethical companies. Emerging legal regulations will make it mandatory as it catches up with the digital revolution. This has already begun to be legislated in European courts. The courts determined that there is a ‘right to be forgotten’. This is just the beginning of the what is to come in the next few years. The courts are recognizing that individual’s privacy rights need to be respected, even on the internet. No enterprise can afford to be behind in this area.”

Creative ways to cultivate real relationships with customers will be the mandate for marketers and sales professionals in the coming months and years. Systematizing that cultivation with a hyper-relevant content strategy is only a portion of what the future will require; the rest will rely on the sales and marketing teams’ skill, intuition and ability to empathize with consumers.

In 2016, the big data boom will settle into the tasteful, refined use of the data to provide value and relevance to the public. Now that we have a clear picture, what marketers do with it matters.

For more interesting articles on sales and marketing, visit www.smstudy.com/articles

[Spring Eselgroth, VMEdu staff writer, contributed to this article.]

Sources: http://www.smstudy.com/Article/the-new-wave-in-digital-marketing

Discovering Third Wave, Jahia, Feb. 10, 2016. https://www.jahia.com/files/live/sites/jahiacom/files/Discovering%20Third%20Wave%20of%20DX.pdf