Online Marketing: Like Going Down a Rabbit Hole

If you’re looking to learn about social media and online marketing, you’ll find there are plenty of courses to choose from. Many focus on specific aspects of social media or online marketing so you can pick and choose the courses you want.

That’s great. But there’s one drawback….it’s all piece meal. You learn about landing pages from one source and Facebook marketing from another. You get tips on building your LinkedIn and Twitter profiles from another. You can even take courses about content marketing and get tips on blogging. It’s overwhelming.

How do you know what’s right for you and your circumstances?

Just because someone is having tremendous success with Facebook doesn’t mean you will….not if your ideal customers are spending the bulk of their time on another platform like LinkedIn or Google+.

So you have choices to make. You can try to figure it out on your own, enrolling in many of the excellent courses by the various online marketing gurus, or paying $30 a month on Lynda.com for thousands of different courses. Or you can try out my course at http://bit.ly/MktgSolopreneur.

I’ve utilized a systems thinking approach® to marketing that starts with where you want your business to be at some future date and why you chose to be in business, rather than just how to do various online marketing projects. I’ve also incorporated best practices from the online marketing gurus, and applied them to a specific focus – helping entrepreneurs, consultants and solopreneurs put together a marketing program that works for them. The focus is on using LinkedIn, Twitter, landing pages, email marketing, and content generation as the tools to attract your target audience, your ideal prospects, and eventually convert them into clients.

It’s comprehensive, targeted, and has step-by-step explanations of what you need to do to create and implement your social media marketing plan. I also provide resources that I’ve found very helpful that are either free or affordable to help you implement each phase of the marketing plan.

online marketing is like going down a rabit holeWith online marketing it’s easy to get drawn down a rabbit hole

But I’m the kind of person who needs to see the big picture first, to know what I want to accomplish, identify the steps to get there, and then set them in motion. In my years of doing online marketing, I’ve found how easy it is to get drawn down a rabbit hole and lose track of what you were trying to do in the first place.

Here’s an example:
Let’s say you need to create a landing page. So you set up an account on leadpages or Instapage and choose one of their templates. You start customizing it, and then you realize, “oh wait. I need to provide a lead magnet people can download.” (That’s the free item you offer in exchange for the visitor’s contact information). But guess what? You haven’t created it yet. Crap! You now need to get out of the program, and go record a video or write an article or an eBook, or find something else of value that’s relevant to your target audience.

So you get that done, and you get back into the program, and you realize, you don’t have any custom images. Crap again! You need to go find some images you can use (by paying for them or using a site like pixabay.com where you can download them free), or create your own. And you’ll need to resize them and make sure they’re the right resolution for online vs. print. Then you need to upload those images first before you get back into designing your landing page. “Why were you doing this you ask yourself? Oh, that’s right, it’s step one of my plan to attract a certain prospect and build my list. Hmmm….I need to make sure the images, video, ebook, article are the right ones for this target audience.”

Ok, so now you’ve got it all completed. You need to decide how you’re going to promote the page. Are you going to embed it on your website or use the landing page host? Darn. You need a custom domain, if you’re going to embed it or add it as a page on your website. Now you have to log into GoDaddy or some other platform to buy a custom domain. Of course you want to use key search terms that your ideal customer would use to search, but guess what, you haven’t done the keyword research yet. So first you need to do that. Then make a list of keywords you might use. Then check to see if they’re available as a custom domain (which they probably aren’t if they’re very popular). Wait. Why are you doing all this? Oh, right! You need this in order to put the landing page on your website!

See what I mean? It’s an endless rabbit hole, and sometimes, one thing leads to another, which leads to another, to the point where you just want to throw up your hands and say, “Get me outta here!”

That’s where online marketing consultants come in. I’ve tried to make this process simple in the course. No, I haven’t spelled out step-by-step examples like the one above because I don’t know what your business is, who your ideal client is, and what platforms you should use. I’ve had to generalize because there are so many options. If I tried to cover them all, the course would never be finished. What I’ve done is to create worksheets you fill out that cover the key questions you need to answer. Then give you the tools to focus on the primary platforms that make sense for consultants and solopreneurs. I’ve created my own videos that walk you through the process of filling out each worksheet. I’ve also demonstrated how to perfect and tweak your LinkedIn profile. And I’ve included videos by others who demonstrate how to do things like customize your Twitter profile.

Solopreneurs widgetSo now it’s up to you.

There is a huge amount of content built upon my years of learning and perfecting for our own practice. I hope you find it useful.  As a special promotion, I’m giving a 30% discount to the first 100 people who sign up for the course. There are still opportunities available, if you act quickly.  Just use the coupon code 30percent on the checkout page. There’s a link under the full price which says, “Have a coupon?”  Click that and enter the code 30percent, and you’ll get the discounted price.

Once you’ve completed the course, I’d love your feedback about its usefulness and ways it can be improved. Just fill out the survey at the end, or drop me a line at jeri at dennergroup dot com.

Agile Decision Making Framework is Flexible

The answer is Yes, you can! The question is, can you use the Agile Decision Making Framework for anything besides strategic planning?

Adapting the Agile Decision Making framework to social media planninggThe beauty of the Agile Decision Making Framework is that it can be applied to any type of project – even marketing and social media planning. The framework helps you focus your thinking by answering five strategic questions as you work your way around the template.

Many social media plans I’ve seen start with identifying your ideal customer and their specific needs. While this is important, it’s not the place to start.

Define your outcomes first

As with strategic planning, you need to start with your future outcomes. That way the actions you take are designed to help you achieve those outcomes. Otherwise, you’re just throwing spaghetti on the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework, start with Phase A, answering the question, Where do we want to be?  What do you want to accomplish through social media marketing? They should support the higher level outcomes of your organization’s overall strategic plan. Once you’ve determined which social media outcomes can help support those, you can begin to focus on your ideal customers and their needs. In the process, you’ll need to also identify which social media platforms they use the most so you focus your efforts there when you’re ready to take action.

Once you’ve completed Phase A, move on the Phase E. This will help you identify the future external factors that could have an impact on the actions you take today.  These become your future Opportunities and / or Threats that you need to consider so you’re prepared to respond should any of them occur. Why look at the external environment you ask? Because your business doesn’t operate in a vacuum. What happens locally and even globally can have profound effects on your customers, their needs, and their desires for your products and services.

With social media, you have to continually be tracking these future trends because new platforms emerge and popular ones lose favor. You don’t want to be stuck on an island by stuck on an islandyourself after your customers have moved over to another platform. If you don’t periodically focus on Phase E, you could be missing the boat!

Once you’ve reviewed Phases A and E, you can move on to Phase B. This is where you identify the specific targets you want to reach and track through social media, answering the question, How will we know when we get there?

These may include the number of click throughs on your links, or a specific increase in customer engagement on your Facebook page, or a percentage increase in website traffic and/or subscribers to your email list. The more specific, the better, so you can track your efforts and see what progress you’re making.

Phase C comes next, answering the question, Where are we today?  The first three phases were focused on your future outcomes, your ideal customer’s needs, external trends, and specific goals. This phase looks at your current situation. What are your Strengths and Weaknesses related to social media? Are you just starting? Do you have a strong team working in this area? Do you need to hire a consultant to help? How well do you know the various platforms – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc.? How well versed are you with Google Analytics and Google Adwords? Those are the kinds of skill sets you want to list under your Strengths and Weaknesses. You should also fill out the Opportunities and Threats areas, which came from the external scan you did in Phase E.

By now, you should begin to see some major themes evolving. These become your high level strategies which you list under Phase D, answering the question, How will we get there? These are the specific actions you need to implement to close the gap between your current situation and your future outcomes. Some high level strategies might be training, hiring external talent, creating a social media policy, and customer engagement. Under each strategy will be specific actions you need to take, such as finding online training webinars, advertising for talent, researching social media policies you might adapt to your organization, and creating a content calendar.

Using the Agile Decision Making Framework makes the process of creating your social media plan fairly simple and fast. The next step is to write it up and share it with your team. Then start to implement it!

Planning without action is just dreaming.

Why we have too few women leaders

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at why a smaller percentage of women than men reach the top of their professions — and offers 3 powerful pieces of advice to women aiming for the C-suite. Women Leaders systematically underestimate their own abilities.

She focuses on three things women must do in order to stay in the workforce and make it to the C-suite.

  1. Sit at the table
  2. Make your partner a real partner
  3. Don’t leave before you leave

Social Media Apps Make Sharing Easy

Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Many social media apps exist to make content sharing easy.  Choose the right ones for you to stay connected with your audience and enhance customer engagement with your brand.

Are you using any of the smart phone apps to post while on the go? There probably are hundreds but you don’t need them all – Just the ones that make it easy to post, share and engage with your audience when the inspiration strikes.

Social media apps make sharing easyObviously, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ have their own. So do Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare, which now switches you over to their new app, Swarm, for social location sharing.

Then there’s Instagram, which Facebook owns, to make it easy to snap photos and videos and share with your friends. And Twitter has Vine which makes it easy to record and share short videos. Snapchat and Whatsapp are two popular apps for instant messaging with friends.

Beyond these are others which make it easy to share from your smart phone across multiple social sites. These are some of my favorites:

Pulse – now owned by LinkedIn, the app on your phone makes it possible to customize just the news sources you want, browse current stories and trends, and share them across multiple sites.

Bitly – primarily a url shortener, it also lets you connect a variety of social profiles to share your shortened links. Set up your account from your desktop, connecting your social profiles. Then download the app to your smartphone so you can share those shortened links while on the go.

Buffer – This is an app which installs in your browser enabling you to share content as you’re visiting various sites online. You can either share instantly or use Buffer’s robust algorithms to choose the right time to share on the various social sites you’ve connected. Buffer lets you connect two sites for free.

Hootsuite – useful on desktop computers, this app connects up to five of your social profiles for free letting you schedule messages for times you choose. You can share, comment, message, and interact on all those sites just using the one app. No need to visit each social profile to see what’s trending. It all shows up within Hootsuite, and it uses its own ow.ly url shortener.

LinkedIn Connected – have you seen this app? It makes it easy to stay in touch with your connections, congratulate them on recent job anniversaries or new promotions, send them messages, etc.

What are some of your favorite apps for social sharing and customer engagement on the go?

5 Social Media Trends Affecting Business in 2015

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International

Takeaways: Social media is evolving rapidly. Organic Facebook posts are disappearing in order to reach wider target audiences. New tools are being developed to give marketers better insight and tracking of their social networking interactions. Social everything is the new normal – from ecommerce, to payment systems to improved customer service.

You may have seen this on LinkedIn. Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, published a post about The 5 social media business trends you need to know for 2015. The pace of social media impact is projected to expand even more this year than last. According to a Duke University study on social media, businesses are projected to triple their marketing budgets for social media this year, from 9 percent in 2014 to nearly 20% in 2015. Yet many businesses have difficulty showing the impact that social media has had on their business.  The five social media trends Holmes cites are:

Businesses must pay to play on Facebook

Facebook organic reach is droppingOrganic reach on Facebook is trending down. Historically its proprietary algorithm reached about 16% of fans, but lately it’s only about 6% according to Ogilvy PR researchers.

That means if you want your posts to be seen on Facebook by your target audience, you must invest in paid social ads and promoted posts and/or spread your messages to other platforms.

Better Social media measurement tools

New tools like uberVU, can now tell you exactly which social sites are generating the most clicks, shares and traffic. Like the Bufferapp, these tools can also autoschedule posts for the optimum time on each social platform you use. Hootsuite has integrated a social CRM app called Nimble, which lets you track and conduct conversations with customers directly from within the Nimble app.

Social ecommerce is here

We’ve seen and may even use mobile payment tools like Square and PayPal Here which let us pay for goods and services using our smart phones. Apple has launched its own payment app as well. 2015 brings the launch of SnapCash by the mobile message app SnapChat, which allows users to transfer money to one another via text message. And apparently Facebook has developed its own app to allow members to transfer funds to one another via its Messenger service. Look for that to launch later this year. Peer-to-peer payments like this are just the start, however. Look for retailers to dive into this technology by sending offers as Tweets or Facebook posts which you can activate or purchase with just a few taps on your mobile device.

Customer satisfaction increases with social media

Three McKinsey principals authored an article citing results of a 2012 ecare study of 2000 telecom customers in France. The survey showed that customer satisfaction improved when handled via social media because it was more personalized. Businesses that handle customer issues well get instant recognition on social media. The reverse is true, as well, as we’ve seen with many examples of poor customer service resulting in viral social media promotion across many networks. The authors of A World Gone Social list several examples of social media mismanagement in their book, including a music retailer’s massive layoff in 2012 which was broadcast via Twitter by affected employees using the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring.

A new option this year which Ryan mentions in his article is the development of personalized Tweet-to-call links. If a customer tweets about a specific problem or issue, the Tweet-to-call technology enables the company to Tweet back with a custom link for that customer alone. Clicking on that link takes the customer to a customer service rep who can handle the specific issue.

Social media innovations will come from your employees

The cloud has put technology control in the hands of your employees and customers. This trend will continue as people continue to find social apps which help them do their jobs more efficiently. Examples are Yammer, which facilitates internal social networking and communication, and Google Hangouts, which enables people to hold instant online video conferencing. To see which new apps are trending in your company, Ryan suggests checking out the laptops and mobile devices being used by your newbie just out of college staff or 20-something interns.

Social Networking High Among Internet Users

By Jeri Denniston, Denner Group International, November 11, 2013

Takeaways: Social networking is most popular among adult internet users. Those who use social networks are most likely to shop online. Facebook users have a high trust level. Social ties are stronger among social networking users than those who don’t use social networks.

A May 2013 research study by Pew Internet on Social Networking generated some interesting facts and implications for business. According to  the study, 72% of  all online adults use social networking and 18% use Twitter. This is split almost equally between men and women. While the large majority are between the ages of 18-29 (89%) and 30-49 (78%), 60% of internet users aged 50-64 also use social networking sites.

Most are college educated and earn more than $50,00 annually. 71% earn more than $75,000 a year.  Accessing social media sites via mobile phones is highest among the 18-49 age groups and also among Blacks and Hispanics. These individuals also tend to be college educated with annual household incomes of more than $50,000.

Most adults use social networking sites to keep up with close social ties. According to the study, they have more close ties and are half as likely to be socially isolated as the average American. So that debunks the idea that social media tends to isolate people. In reality, internet users, and social networking users in particular get more support from their social ties than non internet users, according to the study.This is especially true with those who use Facebook.

What does this mean for businesses?

The majority of online adults have the discretionary income to purchase products and services. Most do their shopping online….or at least their comparison shopping online. They also ask their friends on social networks for their input and check out online reviews on sites such as Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google+.

As a business owner or senior executive, you need to ensure all employees are trained in how to use social media for your company and what information is OK to share. Consumers want to talk to the people at the business who can answer their questions or solve their problems. So it’s more important that everyone in the organization be equipped to respond, rather than relegating social media to the IT or Marketing department. Customer service people need to be trained in how to respond to customer inquiries. Product managers should be responsive to customer suggestions and queries about products and services. CEOs and division heads need to be aware of what their staffs are saying on social networking sites. They also should be sharing with their peers about company innovations, promotions and successes to engage them and generate interest. Marketing and IT don’t have all the answers.

This means HR needs to include social media training as part of the new hire and ongoing employee training programs. Learning how to respond to consumer questions or complaints, understanding how consumers will interact with your brands and services, and creating effective marketing strategies that include social media promotions to engage the public are more important than ever.
And managers need to understand how social media can impact the bottom line – either positively or negatively.

Social media is evolving into a powerful tool that enables companies to get closer to their customer. The businesses that embrace social networking and create programs and policies to manage it smartly will be the winners in the new social networking age.

Facebook’s Graph Search rolls out today

By Jeri Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   July 8, 2013

Takeaways: The Facebook graph search tool is opened up to everyone today. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s Facebook’s entry into the search arena. Change your privacy settings before you use the tool.

Facebook opens up its new graph search tool to everyone today, and this could mean another level of encroachment to your online privacy – unless you change key settings before you use the tool. The new graph search allows users to search every piece of data on Facebook – that means everything you’ve entered about your photos, your posts, your interests, etc. – could be available to those you don’t know unless you carefully change your privacy settings.

This Business Insider article by Kevin Smith walks you through the steps you should take to change your privacy settings before you use graph search.

Why should you care?

One reason is that your entire timeline is visible to everyone if you leave it public. That may not matter depending on what you’re posting and your reasons for being on Facebook. On the other hand, I know of people who have been “found” by people from their past whom they preferred not to re-connect with. So if you’re one of those, then review your privacy settings carefully.

Also review the photos and posts in which you’re tagged. Are you comfortable with those images being shown online? If not, then follow the steps to have them removed. Facebook has made it easier to do than in the past.

As always, remember that what you post online is there forever, so think carefully about the content you post before you share. This is especially important for young people who have their careers ahead of them. Future employers check out your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles before they hire you. Your past posts could be a reason you don’t get that job you really wanted. It’s a judgement call the employer makes when they consider job candidates. So think about he future consequences before you share that photo or dis someone or something. It could come back to bite you in the derriere!

Pinterest: Like Virtual Window Shopping

By Jeri T Denniston, Chief Marketing Strategist, Denner Group International   4-28-2012

Takeaways: Pinterest is equivalent to virtual window shopping. It’s the fastest-growing social media site on the web, driving more traffic than Facebook and YouTube combined.

A quote by Industrial designer Paavani Bishnoi in the article, Why Women are Pinterested, Daily News & Analysis, caught my attention: “I no longer feel like logging in to Facebook when I am bored. I do not want to know what others are doing this minute. Twitter is all about giving an opinion. Pinterest, on the other hand, is relaxing. It’s just about sharing good stuff. It’s like window shopping on the laptop.”

One of My PinboardsFor those unfamiliar with Pinterest, it’s the hottest new social sharing site on the internet allowing you to create virtual boards of pictures and videos around a particular theme.

My pinboards are eclectic because I have many interests – from gluten free cooking to personal growth and development, to art and spirituality.

Pinterest Users are Mostly women

Studies show that 80% of Pinterest users in the US are women between the ages of 25 and 54 (30% are between 25 and 34 years of age). Perhaps that’s because women tend to be more visual than men and are accustomed to creating “vision boards” of pictures and magazine clippings around a theme. 

Hubspot’s April 13, 2012 blog puts Pinterest as the 3rd most popular social networking site in the US in terms of traffic. As of February this year, the site had accumulated more than 10.4 million unique users.

Personally, I think it depends on what one “pins” to their virtual boards. I see more and more men re-pinning my pins and following me – so it definitely depends on the contents you’re sharing. Women may have started the trend, but I see men and businesses catching on quickly to this new traffic-generating site.

The latest statistics I’ve seen say that Pinterest is driving more traffic to websites than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn combined. That’s huge!

There are no restrictions that prevent a business from putting up a corporate Pinterest site with pinboards of their products. The advantage is that you can not only display pictures of your products, you can create short how-to videos that demonstrate how to use them, put them together, etc., and a price. When you put a price in the caption, Pinterest slaps it diagonally across the upper left corner. It’s attention-getting. Add a link to your website or shopping cart, and you can generate sales right from Pinterest.

My prediction is that entrepreneurs have the rest of 2012 to take advantage of this before the big guns get on board. Afer that, we’ll see more and more corporate Pinterest sites using this to create revenue streams, advertise their products and drive traffic to their websites. And much of that will be driven by men, since men still occupy the bulk of the C-Suite offices.

So make rain while you can, ladies! Let’s have some fun with this and generate income, too!