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5 Brands That Used Influencer Marketing to Raise Their Profile

Influencer marketing is more than just a marketing buzzword these days. More companies are utilizing this marketing method to boost sales and grow their brands.

For those still confused about what influencer marketing is, it’s simply the act of promoting or selling products or services via influencers, or people who have the ability to affect a brand. Where the main influencers before were celebrities and industry leaders, today’s influencers are more varied. Nowadays, top brands are seeking out bloggers, food critics, makeup mavens and celebrities who rose to fame on platforms like YouTube and Instagram.

Brands that Benefited from Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing provides a lot of benefits. Brands can reach the relevant demographic and enjoy high levels of engagement. It’s also affordable and can help retain a brand’s authenticity. Numerous companies have already successfully leveraged these people to give their brand a boost.

Clinique for Men

Clinique is renowned for its hypoallergenic skincare for women. When the iconic cosmetic company launched a men’s line, they raised product awareness by partnering with a disparate group of male influencers from various professions. These influencers consisted of filmmakers, outdoorsmen, stylists, and lifestyle bloggers, each representing a group of men who would be interested in using Clinique for Men. Every post used in the campaign was unique and defined the influencer. For instance, surfer Mikey de Temple posted a photo of himself wearing his surf gear, with his surfboard in the background, along with a Clinique product.

Clinique’s campaign was golden for several reasons. One, the company’s choice of influencers were so diverse that it expanded the product’s reach. Also, the posts integrated the product smoothly into a setting that was so natural to the influencer. This helped create a more organic interest in Clinique’s men’s line.

Fashion Nova

One brand that has truly embraced influencer marketing is Fashion Nova. According to the company’s founder and CEO, Richard Saghian, Fashion Nova is a viral store that works with 3,000 to 5,000 influencers. Its aggressive marketing efforts rely on lots of model and celebrity influencers, like Kylie Jenner and beauty vlogger Blissful Brii. The former has 93.8 million followers on Instagram while the latter has 93 thousand subscribers on YouTube. These two influencers alone have garnered millions of engagements, likes, and comments for the company.

While other brands go for low-key but very relatable influencers, Fashion Nova went for the celebrities. While this will obviously net a company high-levels of engagement, it can also be costly. But as Fashion Nova has proven, it’s a worthwhile investment.

Lagavulin’s Whiskey Yule Log

This is a magnificent example of how an influencer marketing campaign made a product culturally relevant to a generation. Young people might not have a taste for single malt whiskey, but Lagavulin’s 2016 campaign featuring Nick Offerman changed that. Offerman’s iconic Parks and Rec character, Ron Swanson, is known for his love of whisky. Lagavulin’s 45-minute video took inspiration from YouTube’s yule log videos and simply showed Offerman quietly sipping and enjoying his whiskey next to a fireplace.

The campaign was a success because Lagavulin found the perfect influencer for its brand. Offerman’s character proved to be a critical match for the target audience. As a matter of fact, the campaign was so good that it won an award for Best Influencer & Celebrity Campaign.

Zafferano

Zafferano does not have the same name recall as Nobu or other famous restaurants. But this Singapore-based establishment is a prime example of how social media can be used to boost audience engagement. The company tapped 11 Instagram influencers who are popular in the lifestyle and food category. They invited them to the restaurant for a special meal and in turn, they shared photos of the dishes on Instagram. The influencers also described the dishes and their dining experience. Details like price and availability were also included.

Zafferano’s campaign is notable because of the experience it created for the influencers. This, in turn, helped them come up with authentic and sincere reviews. Since the campaign had such a genuine feel, it encouraged followers to interact and engage with the posts.

Zara

Clothing powerhouse Zara was one of the most profitable companies in 2015, and that’s partly because of its successful influencer marketing campaign. The company’s social media marketing campaign got some help from several top fashion-forward Instagrammers. The Instagram posts shared by these popular influencers showcased Zara’s clothing lines and their followers used these photos to get ideas on what’s currently trending as well as tips on how to work a particular style.

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Zara’s campaign was a success because the company handed the control over to the fashion influencers, the people that customers looked to for fashion advice. The content that was used in the campaign was subtle and useful, which made it even more valuable to the influencers’ thousands of followers.

[Featured image via YouTube]

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How Will Amazon’s New Social Media Platform Benefit Brands?

Online retailer giant Amazon just found another way to make it easier for people to part ways with their money. The company has ventured into the world of social media with Amazon Spark, which was launched last July.

Amazon Creates Social Media Platform

At first glance, Amazon Spark looks a lot like some other social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. The newcomer platform’s feed is also heavy on photos but a marked difference is that these are images of products available on Amazon.

Image result for amazon spark

Of course, encouraging people to post pictures of the products they love or make reviews on items they have tried is Amazon’s brilliant way to deepen consumer engagement on their platform. At the moment though, only Amazon Prime members can make posts or comment on them, but non-Prime members can still use the platform to view posts.

Just like your typical social media platform, Spark requires first-time users to register. Once a user has logged in, Spark requires the user to choose at least five interests that would later become the basis for what posts will be included in the feed. The platform actually allows more than five interests, which range from generic, broad categories like “Music” or “Books” to more narrowed-down options like “TV Bingewatching.”

Spark is also using its own version of a “Like” called “Smile” to indicate approval of a post.

Image result for amazon spark smile

The Advantages of Spark

While it shares a lot of similarities to older platforms, Amazon Spark has several advantages over its competitors. Unlike other social media platforms where people log on to see what’s the latest buzz on virtually everything, there is only one reason why Spark users would log on to the platform and that is to see what is worth buying.

Essentially, Spark is a social media network for consumers—people looking for the best products to buy. As such, you can expect the conversion from traffic to actual sale to be higher on this social media platform than most others. Before logging into the platform, users are already eager to buy something. They’re just looking for the right product to justify a purchase.

The higher conversion rate will offset Amazon Spark’s smaller user base compared to other platforms. At the moment, there are around 80 million Amazon Prime members who are allowed to post and comment on Spark. However, there’s a hidden number in there somewhere that brands should not ignore. Apparently, Prime members spend around $ 600 more per year than non-Prime members. Multiply that by 80 million and you’ll get a rough estimate of its gargantuan potential for brands.

Image result for amazon spark social comparison chart

Aside from tapping the purchasing power of the horde of Amazon shoppers, there is one thing that sets Amazon Spark apart from other platforms. Since Spark is inside the Amazon application, buyers can buy the item tagged in a particular post seamlessly and without the need to log into another app to make the purchase. Since the eCommerce component is already integrated into the platform, there is simply no time for consumers to hesitate and, in a way, Spark has made impulse buying even faster.

Current Limitations for Brands

At the moment, Amazon Spark does not allow brands to make posts to the platform. However, brands can work around this problem by reaching out to “enthusiasts,” which is Amazon’s term for influencers, to make posts for their products in the meantime.

Another limitation is that Spark is only available for iOS devices at the moment although Amazon previously promised that an Android version is on the way. In addition, there is no word yet if the company plans to expand Spark’s access via desktop.

[Featured Image by Amazon]

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How Pinterest has developed computer-vision technology to power visual search for users and brands

Pinterest has been developing computer vision technology since 2014 and is now applying it to visual search queries and ad targeting.

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The Uncomfortable Truth About Brands’ Customer Experience Strategies

The recent 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report from Dimension Data confirmed that CX is critical to executives. But, as bluntly described in the report as “the uncomfortable truth”, while 81% of companies recognize CX as a competitive differentiator, just 13% self-rate their CX delivery at 9 or above on a scale of 10. And to further the misery, a whopping 51% of the companies say they don’t have a digital strategy in place or are at best, in the process of developing one. The report cites disjointed strategies, disparate management and inconsistencies in approach as reasons for the failure to maximize customer experiences.

“The world has formed a digital skin, and business, service, technology and commercial models have changed forever. However, organizations are strategically challenged to keep pace with customer behavior.” said Joe Manuele, Group Executive – Customer Experience and Collaboration at Dimension Data.

Companies report that on average their brands have 9 different channels (online, mobile, app, phone, etc.) to interact and engage with their customers, but less than 10% have all of their channels fully connected. Manuele states that the absence of a connected digital strategy means that even when digital solutions are available, the customer is frequently not even aware of their existence. “The digital dilemma is deepening, and organizations need to choose a path between digital crisis or redemption.”

Based on bottom line results, executives are aware fully aware of CX’s importance. Over 84% of brands reported an uplift in revenue as a result of improved CX, while 79% report cost savings. With that, executives said connected customer journeys via omni-channel solutions is the top technology trend for 2017 while omni-channel solutions and customer analytics, were listed as the top factors to reshape CX capability in the next five years.

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Local Empathy: The New Tool in Your Brand’s Emergency Kit

Posted by MiriamEllis

Implement generosity.

If I could sum up all of the thoughts I’m about to share with local enterprises, it would be with those two words.

Image via Lewis Kelly

Disasters and emergencies are unavoidable challenges faced by all local communities. How businesses respond to these stressful and sometimes devastating events spotlight company policy for cities to see. Once flood waters reside or cyclones trail away, once the dust settles, which of these two brands would you wish to call yours?:

How two brands’ reaction to disaster became a reputation-defining moment

As Hurricane Matthew moved toward the southeastern United States this month (in October 2016), millions of citizens evacuated, many of them not knowing where to find safe shelter. Brand A (a franchise location of an international hotel chain) responded by allegedly quadrupling the prices of its rooms — a practice known as ‘price gouging,’ which is illegal during declared emergencies in 34 states. Brand B (the international accommodations entity Airbnb) responded by sourcing thousands of free local rooms from its hosts for victims of the hurricane.

And then professional and social media responded with news stories, social communications, and reviews, trying both brands in the court of public opinion, doling out blame and praise.

This is how reputations are broken and made in today’s connected world, and the extremity of this tragic emergency situation brought two factors into high relief for these two brands:

Culture and preparedness

“I don’t know about the prices. I just run the hotel. I don’t set the prices. Corporate sets the prices.”

This is how the manager of the Brand A hotel franchise location responded when questioned by a TV news reporter regarding alleged price gouging, set amid a backdrop of elders and families with small children unable to afford a room at 4x its normal rate.

“We are deeply troubled by these allegations as they in no way reflect our brand values. This hotel is franchised. We don’t manage inventory or rates.”

This is the official response from corporate issued to the news network, and while Brand A promised to investigate, the public impression was made that the buck was being passed back and forth between different entities while evacuees were in danger. Based on the significant response from social media, including non-guideline-compliant user reviews from people who had never even stayed at this hotel, corporate culture was being perceived as greedy rather than fair to an extreme degree. It’s important to note here that I didn’t encounter a single sentiment expressed by consumers expecting that the rooms at this hotel would be given away for free. It was the quadrupling of the price that brought public condemnation.

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Consumers are not privy to the creation of company policy. They aren’t able to puzzle out who made the decision to raise prices as this hotel, or at the many other hotels, gas stations, and stores in Florida which viewed an emergency as an opportunity for profit. Doubtless, the concept of supply and demand fuels this type of decision-making, but in an atmosphere lacking adequate transparency, the consumer is left with judging whether policy feels fair or unfair, and whether it aligns with their personal value system.

While we’ll likely never know the internal communications which led to this franchise location being cited by the public and investigated by the authorities for alleged price gouging, it is crystal clear that the corporate brand was not prepared in advance with a policy for times of emergency to be enacted by all franchisees. This, then, leaves the franchisee working within vague latitudes of allowable practices, which can result in long-lasting damage to the overall brand, coupled with damage to the local community being served. It’s a scenario of universal negativity and one that certainly can’t be made up for by a few days’ worth of increased profits.

You’ve likely noticed by now that I am specifically not naming this hotel. In the empathetic spirit of the carefully-crafted TAGFEE policy of Moz, my goal here is not to shame a particular business. Rather, it’s my hope that seeing the outcomes of policy will embolden companies to aim high in mirroring the value systems of consumers who reward fairness and generosity with genuine loyalty.

Ideally, I’d love to live in a world in which all businesses are motivated by concern for the common good, but barring this, I would at least like to demonstrate how generous policy is actually good policy and good business. Let’s turn our eyes to Brand B, which lit a beacon of hope in the midst of this recent disaster, as described in this excerpt from Wired:

“This was profound,” says Patrick Meier, a humanitarian technology expert who consults for the World Bank, the Australian Red Cross, and Facebook. “Airbnb changed its code order to allow people to rent out their place for zero dollars, because you could not do that otherwise.”

Innovation shines brightly in this account of Airbnb recognizing that communities around the world contain considerable resources of goodwill, which can then be amplified via technology.

The company has dedicated its own resources to developing an emergency response strategy, including the hire of a disaster response expert and an overhaul of the website’s code to enable free rentals. Thanks to the generosity of hosts who are willing open their doors to their fellow man in a time of trouble, Airbnb has been able to facilitate relief in more than twenty major global events since 2013. Of course, the best part of this is the lives that have been eased and even saved in times of trouble, but numerous industries should also pay attention to how Airbnb has benefitted from this exemplary outreach.

Here’s a quick sampling of the exceptionally favorable media coverage of the emergency response strategy:

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That is a set of national and local references any business would envy. And the comments on articles like this one show just how well the public has received Airbnb’s efforts:

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In utter marketing-ese, these consumers have not only been exposed or re-exposed to the Airbnb brand via the article, but have also just gained one new positive association with it. They are on the road to becoming potential brand advocates.

What I appreciate most about this scenario is that, in contrast to Brand A’s situation, this one features universal positivity in which all parties share in the goodwill, and that is literally priceless. And, by taking an organized approach to emergency preparedness and creating policy surrounding it, Airbnb can expect to receive ongoing appreciative notice for their efforts.

Room for hero brands, large and small

The EPA predicts a rise in extreme weather events in the United States due to climate change, including increases in the precipitation and wind of storms in some areas, and the spread of drought in others. Added to inevitable annual occurrences such as tornadoes, blizzards, and earthquakes, there are two questions every intelligent brand should be asking and answering internally right now: How can we help in the short term and how can we help in the long term?

Immediate relief

In the short term, your business can take a cue from Airbnb and discover available resources or develop new ones for providing help in a disaster. I noticed a Hurricane Matthew story in which a Papa John’s pizza deliverer helped a man in Nebraska get in touch with his grandmother in Florida whom he had been trying to reach for three anxious days. What if the pizza chain developed a new emergency preparedness policy from this human interest story, using their delivery fleet to reconnect loved ones… perhaps with a free pizza thrown into the bargain?

Or, there are restaurants with the ability to provide food or a percentage of profits to local food banks if they are lucky enough to still have electricity while their neighbors are less fortunate.

Maybe your company doesn’t have the resources of Everbridge, which has helped some 900+ counties and organizations communicate critical safety information in emergencies, but maybe your supermarket or the lobby of your legal practice can offer a free, warm, dry Wi-Fi hotspot to neighbors in an emergency.

In brief, if your business offers goods and services to your local community, create a plan for how, if you are fortunate enough to escape the worst effects of a disaster, you can share what you have with neighbors in need.

Long-term plans

According to Pew Research, 77% of Latin Americans, 60% of Europeans, 48% of the population of Asia and the Pacific, and 41% of the U.S. population are worried about the immediacy of the impacts of global warming. A global median of 51% indicates that climate change is affecting people right now.

From a business perspective, this means that the time for your brand to form and announce its plans for contributing to the climate solution is right now. Your efficient, green, and renewable energy practices, if made transparent, can do much to let the public know that not only will you be there for them in the short term in sudden emergencies, but that you are also doing your part to reduce future extreme weather events.

Whether your business model is green-based or you incorporate green practices into your existing brand, sharing what you are doing to be a good neighbor in both the short and long term can earn the genuine goodwill of the local communities you wish to serve.

Do something great

I often imagine the future unlived when I see brands making awkward or self-damaging decisions. I rub my forehead and squint my eyes, envisioning what they might have done differently.

Imagine if Brand A had implemented generosity. Imagine if, instead of raising its prices during that dreadful emergency, Brand A had offered a deep discount on its rooms to be sure that even the least fortunate community members had a secure place to stay during the hurricane. Imagine if they had opened up their lounges and lobbies and invited in homeless veterans for the night, granting them safety in exchange for their service. Imagine if they had warmly reached out to families, letting them know that cherished pets would be welcome during the storm, too.

Imagine the gratitude of those who had been helped.

Imagine the social media response, the links, the new stories, unstructured citations, reviews…

Yes, it might have been unprofitable monetarily. It might have even been mayhem. But it would have been great.

To me, firemen have always exemplified a species of greatness. In moments of extreme danger, they forget themselves and act for the good of others. Imagine putting a fireman’s heart at the heart of your brand, to be brought out during times of emergency. Why not bring it up at the next all-staff meeting? Brainstorm existing resources, develop new ones, write out a plan, make it a policy… Stand tall on the local business scene, stand up, be great!

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Pinterest Launches Promoted Video for Brands

Pinterest rolls out Promoted Video, available only on mobile devices, to make them an even better marketing platform for brands. The trend toward video advertising with social media platforms and the internet in general continues with this Pinterest announcement. According to business intelligence firm L2, Marketers are projected to spend $ 12.82 billion on internet video advertising by 2018, which is up from $ 7.7 billion spent in 2015. All of the other major social platforms, Facebook, YouTube, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter have already launched video ad platforms. It’s about time for Pinterest to jump in, especially considering its focus on ecommerce.

Pinterest, being a very visual medium and already brand focused seems to be a perfect match for video advertising. “Over 100 million people around the world come to Pinterest every month to discover ideas to try,” said Pinterest Product Manager Mike Bidgoli in a post. “One of the best tools for bringing those ideas to life is video, so it’s no surprise this format has been popular on Pinterest. In the last year alone, we’ve seen a 60% increase in videos on Pinterest featuring everything from workouts and home projects to hair & beauty tutorials. That’s why we’re excited to roll out Promoted Video.”

Bidgoli noted that of the 100 million monthly Pinterest visitors, 55% use the platform to find or shop for products, according to the 2016 Internet Trends Report. Only 12% of people view other social media platforms as places for ecommerce. Pinterest clearly sees its future revenue source coming from video advertising.

Pinterest has tied Promoted Video with its Featured Pins product in order to differentiate itself from other social platforms that are focused on just views. “While other platforms primarily offer video views, we’ve coupled Promoted Video with featured Pins below the video,” said Bidgoli. “Now the 67% of people who say videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action can experience your brand and then simply click below to do more with your products and services.”

Pinterest won’t auto-play their video ads in a users feed, it will first play a Cinematic Pin format that they already have to give users a silent teaser of the marketing video. Once people tap on the Pin the full video will open up and automatically start playing with sound. Businesses can run video ads as long as 5 minutes, infomercial style. It will be interesting to see if Pinterest is actually planning on the long-form video marketing concept because of its proven success on TV of driving actual sales. For instance, a person perusing cooking posts could be presented with the Copper Chef ad. Well it convert as good as it does on TV? If it does Pinterest will have discovered a marketing gold mine.

According to Bidgoli, Pinterest will charge marketers based on impressions of the preview Pin on a CPM basis and not just for after click video views. Advertisers will see both the impression numbers for their teaser gif video views, the number of clicks the teaser Pin received, the number of times their full video was viewed at least partially and breakdowns on how far people watched the video (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%) and how many clicks the Featured Pin under the video received.


A Millward Brown study commissioned by Pinterest found that Old El Paso Promoted Video ads were 4x more memorable than a non-video ad. At launch, Pinterest has partnered with bareMInerals, PURINA, kate spade, Lionsgate and BEHR to proved the value of Promoted Video. “We’ve run several campaigns with Pinterest and consider video a natural evolution on how we want to connect with our Pinterest audience,” said Meredith Schaffner, Marketing Manager, Old El Paso. “Our customers come to Pinterest with high intent and the ability to show a recipe and our products through video is a unique opportunity to drive higher performance.”

Video Advertising Trend Toward Social

At Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women International Summit in London, Nicola Mendelsohn, VP EMEA at Facebook, predicted that the Facebook newsfeed will be all video in 5 years. “It will definitely be mobile. It will probably be all video,” Mendelsohn said. “I just think if we look, we already are seeing a year on year decline in text. We’re seeing a massive increase as I’ve said on both pictures and video. So yeah, if I was having a bet, I would say video, video, video.”

During Facebook’s July 2016 earning call, Facebook executives predicted their future will be video, “We see a world that is video first, with video at the heart of all of our apps and services,” said Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerburg. “”Over the past six months we have been particularly focused on Live video. Live represents a new way to share what’s happening in more immediate and creative ways.”

2016 has been the year of not only more spending on video ads, but a movement of dollars from TV to internet video, following consumers wherever they are. In May for instance, Magna Global, which buys ads for Johnson & Johnson, Coca-Cola, Fiat and others announced at NewFront that they have agreed to buy $ 250 million in video ads from YouTube. But that’s not the story, it’s that Magna is shifting these ad dollars from its clients TV budgets.

Also at the NewFronts, YouTube announced a new way for marketers to take advantage of suddenly viral videos called Breakout Videos, which is part of Google Preferred allowing advertisers to reach the top 5% of videos created by YouTube stars. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki stated, “This will allow marketers to feature their brands alongside the next big thing”.

Video is also becoming big on Twitter where tweets have incredibly increased by over 50% since the start of 2016!

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Brands Beat Generics

When markets are new they are unproven, thus they often have limited investment targeting them.

That in turn means it can be easy to win in new markets just by virtue of existing.

It wouldn’t be hard to rank well creating a blog today about the evolution of the 3D printing industry, or a how to site focused on Arduino or Raspberry Pi devices.

Couple a bit of passion with significant effort & limited competition and winning is quite easy.

Likewise in a small niche geographic market one can easily win with a generic, because the location acts as a market filter which limits competition.

But as markets age and become more proven, capital rushes in, which pushes out most of the generic unbranded players.

Back in 2011 I wrote about how Google had effectively killed the concept of category killer domains through the combination of ad displacement, vertical search & the algorithmic ranking shift moving away from relevancy toward awareness. 2 months before I wrote that post Walgreen Co. acquired Drugstore.com for about $ 429 million. At the time Drugstore.com was one of the top 10 biggest ecommerce pure plays.

Thursday Walgreens Boots announced it would shut down Drugstore.com & Beauty.com:

The company is still trying to fine tune its e-commerce strategy but clearly wants to focus more of its resources on one main site. “They want to make sure they can invest more of the equity in Walgreens.com,” said Brian Owens, a director at the consultancy Kantar Retail. “Drugstore.com and Beauty.com are distractions.”

Big brands can sometimes get coverage of “meh” content by virtue of being associated with a big brand, but when they buy out pure-play secondary e-commerce sites those often fail to gain traction and get shuttered:

Other retailers have picked up pure-play e-commerce sites, only to shut them down shortly thereafter. Target Corp. last year shuttered ChefsCatalog.com and Cooking.com, less than three years after buying them.

The lack of publishing savvy among most large retailers mean there will be a water cycle of opportunity which keeps re-appearing, however as the web gets more saturated many of these opportunities are going to become increasingly niche options riding new market trends.

If you invest in zero-sum markets there needs to be some point of differentiation to drive switching. There might be opportunity for a cooking.com or a drugstore.com targeting emerging and frontier markets where brands are under-represented online (much like launching Drugstore.com in the US back in 1999), but it is unlikely pure-play ecommerce sites will be able to win in established markets if they use generically descriptive domains which make building brand awareness and perceived differentiation next to impossible.

Target not only shut down cooking.com, but they didn’t even bother redirecting the domain name to an associated part of their website.

It is now listed for sale.

Many short & generic domain names are guaranteed to remain in a purgatory status.

  • The price point is typically far too high for a passionate hobbyist to buy them & attempt to turn them into something differentiated.
  • The names are too generic for a bigger company to do much with them as a secondary option
    • the search relevancy & social discovery algorithms are moving away from generic toward brand
    • retailers have to save their best ideas for their main branded site
    • the rise of cross-device tracking + ad retargeting further incentivize them to focus exclusively on a single bigger site)
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How Local Content is Helping SMBs Keep Big Brands at Bay

Posted by ronell-smith

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Darren Shaw of Whitespark speaking at Mozcon Local

The gentleman sitting across the table from me at a crowded lunch spot has what he sees as a workable business idea for a local business, a sound plan to get it off the ground, enough funds to weather the ups and downs of the current business climate in his area, and the determination to stick around long enough to be successful.

However, what he doesn’t have are the answers to three questions pertaining to content marketing for his small business:

  • “What should I write about?”
  • “How do I [rank higher in local SERPs?]“
  • “Do I need to use social media? Will it help my brand?”

My heart breaks a little as he looks down to pick at his salad. Not because I don’t like questions, or because the questions are difficult to answer. They aren’t.

In fact, the answer I gave comes from a slogan i learned of in college and have used repeatedly when attempting to get small brands to see the shortest path to success: “Think globally, act locally.”

The SERPs won’t save you

Every brand wants to be No. 1 in the SERPs, or so they think.

What they really want, however, is to be the No. 1 most-chosen brand.

What ultimately matters in the earliest stages of your relationship with prospects is that they see you in the SERPs, recognize your brand for its quality of service and/or excellent products(s), and reward you with a click.

Far too often, however, local brands think too broadly (often as a result of poor keyword selection) and attempt to rank for terms and/or categories they’ll never be able to consistently rank for. All the while, they ignore low-hanging fruit, such as ensuring their Google My Places is up-to-date, their citations are accurate, and prioritizing reviews on third-party sites.

Worse still, even brands that do commit to these efforts too often ignore creating local-specific pages, which can be a tremendous asset for capturing traffic, leads, and driving conversions for local brands.

Individually, not capitalizing on these areas is bad for brand health; collectively, they amount to leaving the door open to the competition.

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Image source

And if you’re a small or midsize business (SMB) owner, your focus must be on closing doors to the competition. To do that you’ll need to use your size and the knowledge of your local service area to your advantage.

As I’m wont to say, it’s simple, but it won’t be easy.

Local SEO to the rescue

A few months, I had the distinct pleasure of getting to work with Local SEO expert Mary Bowling as she prepared for Mozcon Local. During a phone conversation, I shared with her my frustration at seeing local brands get pwned by big brands, in large part because the former has all but given up on the quest to be competitive, even when they have wood to throw on the fire.

She agreed that there some holes SMBs are refusing to expose.

“Big brands do have the resources to dominate in local search, but to a large degree they often won’t spent the money needed to be successful, specifically as it regards local-specific content,” says Bowling, owner of Ignitor Digital, which provides online marketing and Local Search marketing solutions to SMBs. “Often small brands don’t create good content because they don’t think they have the time. But it’s not as complicated as they believe. Also, being that they are the local experts, local-specific content is easier to create than they think and can provide the [perfect vehicle to ward off bigger brands].”

That conversation was the wellspring for discussions I’d later have at Mozcon Local with speakers Mike Ramsey of Nifty Marketing and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. I also had the privilege of interviewing each of them, in addition to Local SEO whiz Phil Rozek of Local Visibility Systems, after the event.

What follows is a post based on the entirety of those conversations, with the goal of answering one question: How can local SMBs better compete with big brands in their respective areas?

Local content is David’s slingshot to Goliath’s plate of armor

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One of the toughest parts of working with SMB owners is getting them to realize the vast world around them is actually much smaller than they assume, in at least two key ways:

  • Big brands with local or regional offices/locations are always a threat for stealing local customers.
  • Their reach is as limited as their resources, in that while their service area is small, so too is their ability to rank in the SERPs.

That is, unless SMBs use the biggest and best weapon available to them: Local-focused content that makes a priority of using people, personalization and events to help them stave off the typically much stronger competition.

Full disclosure: Nothing related to business pisses me off more than seeing big brands dominate local search queries, when I know smaller brands that provide better service are all around.

Equally frustrating is seeing these small brands try to compete outside their league by relying too heavily on paid search and ignore how effective content marketing can be for their business’s long-term success.

If this sounds like your brand, I implore you to own your local turf by following the three steps outlined below.

#1 — Think quality > quantity

As a business strategist, two questions comes up over and over from SMB owners:

  1. “What should I write about?”
  2. “How often should I post blogs?”

A better question is, “What topics are my prospects most interested in, and how can I write about those topics with the quality necessary to gain and retain their attention?”

The process begins with you thinking less about how often you write and more about how well you write on the topics your prospects and customers care most about.

“If you want to get local content, and get ranking but also customers, think quality over quantity,” says Phil Rozek. “Get your sea legs. Can you create a page that gets rankings but also customers?”

The last point, which I discussed extensively with Rozek via phone, is a very important one.

The key to success for any brand’s content goes well beyond the SERPs, and that applies doubly so for local SMBs, where butts in the door or phone calls are the lifeblood of the business.

The focus, he says, must be on producing content of sufficient quality and relevancy to move the needle, not simply attain eyeballs.

“The goal is to get the phone to ring,” adds Rozek. “You want it to rank and continue to get the phone to ring. But you also want it to be good enough that you get customers who become brand advocates. If you can’t do that, you need to go back to the drawing board.”

Ramsey says well-performing local content should hit at least one of the following points perfectly:

  • “It’s unifying. Think of sporting events — it’s one thing in a local place that brings everyone together across different walks of life and puts everyone on the same page. Good local content that gets shared and loved does the same.”
  • “It’s educational. Local is confusing. Whether explaining history, directions, or tips, people crave good information about places.”
  • “It’s insider. There is nothing worse than someone talking about a place that they don’t understand. It’s why content ‘only’ locals perform so well.”

As an example, Ramsey uses Movoto, a service provides tools and information for the real estate, as a great example. You can see from the example below that localized pages they create go way beyond what we typically see for city-specific pages, as the content is compelling visually and topically, creating a rich experience visitors are likely to read, share, and link to.

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Adds Ramsey, “SMBs should ask every customer where they spend their time online. When they know that, they can start to create content that will appeal to them. The problem that most SMBs have is they get ‘sold’ on products that will update feeds with garbage or create content that doesn’t really relate to their audience.

“Then they give up. I think they have to step back and realize that you can’t outsource strategy. They need to be a part of it. They know their customer and need to be involved in determining how best to reach them.”

  • What this tells us: Content quality goes beyond good grammar and solid images. Creating a content experience is the optimal goal.
  • How to make it for your brand: Focus on creating content that is uniquely better than anything you’ve seen or that could be easily created by the competition, no matter how large. Think of the elements that make your area unique and interesting, then work to create content that provides a sensory experience worthy of being talked about and shared.
  • Recommended reading/viewing: How to Create 10x Content – Whiteboard Friday

#2 — Relish the role of local expert

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Mary Bowling speaking at Mozcon Local

Each time I do a search for a local service provider and see a large national or regional brand show up, a little of the strategist in me dies insides. Yes, I get that larger brands have the deep pockets to spend on Google Adwords and the domain authority to wreak havoc in the organic search. But come on… A lot of small brands aren’t even trying to compete, and that’s a shame.

“Too often, with small brands, they think they’ll have to hire someone else to create it,” says Bowling. “They don’t realize they are the local authorities, and simply writing what they know can go a long way. Most sales are taken at the location level, but small brands often don’t do enough location-specific content to help their business. Often, with a simple phone call and a fifteen minute interview, we can create a post that’s able to move the needle for their brand.”

Bowling further added: “The goal for the content these small brands create is localized excellence.”

Rob Robillard, aka A Concord Carpenter, provides an excellent example of how local brands can use the expert mantle to own their space. A general contractor, carpenter, and woodworker, Robillard has parlayed his expert and local knowledge into a correspondence gig for the Boston Globe.

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Image courtesy of A Concord Carpenter

Says Rozek, “Robillard doesn’t write ‘local’ content as much as he’s a local business owner whose business has benefitted from his having become a noted local authority. Not only does he write for the Boston Globe, he also has a cable show” and a popular video series.

Also, stresses Rozek, different types of businesses will have different goals for their content.

A plumber, for example, is likely less concerned with having a piece of content that draws and engagement and get links; she needs the phone to ring. So having strong city-specific pages that have the ability to rank and get the phone to ring would likely be a more desirable option.

However, if a small brand can do both, they’re better positioned to enjoy success.

“If you have a small site that has good authority and some good links, they’re in the bully pulpit because any page they create is a little more likely to rank,” says Rozek. “The name of the game, then, is to use the other pages of the site to help the city pages rank, since even if they are done well doesn’t guarantee that they rank by themselves. But if you build links to other related pages on the site, those city pages are [likely to see a lift as well in organic reach], which is significant for building authority and engagement, even if the pages the links are pointing to don’t get the phone to ring.”

What this tells us: Don’t focus solely on creating content that gets the phone to ring. Devote some resources to attaining links on other parts of the site.

How to make it for your brand: Spend time building your reputation as an expert of note in your area, then create and share content on your site and other sites you’re able to partner with. Also, while city pages get people in the door, effective outreach can help you build links to other parts of the site that, in turn, provide a boost to the other pages on the site, including the city-specific pages.

Recommended reading: Top-3 Local SEO “Content” Wins for People Who Hate to Write

#3 — Get personal

One of the toughest sells to SMBs is getting them to see the value of making the content they share personal in nature. Makes zero sense when you consider that unique-to-only-you content is the one thing the competition cannot effectively copy.

“Small companies can create more unifying, educational, and insider content, but to do so they have to find the time and money to do it,” says Ramsey, adding, if they do, “Small businesses can blow away competition.”

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Mike Ramsey speaking at Mozcon Local

An impressive example of a small brand outpacing all comers is Danburry Barbershop in Provo, Utah. The site has a welcoming, old-school feel and contains images of customers before, during, and after they receive service.

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Danburry is getting right to the heart of personalized content by making local folks celebrities of sorts for, well, simply sitting in a chair and getting a trim or a wash. Let’s be honest: Who doesn’t want to show off their new ‘do? You know the customers are sharing the experience with friends and family members while providing the barber shop with ready-made personalized content.

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Also, the brand posts images to social media, including Facebook and Twitter, creating a web of personalized content even large brands must envy.

“The Danburry Barbershop is killing it with a subdomain on a .blogspot site simply because he uses his site to showcase his customers,” says Ramsey. “His Facebook feed is also filled with his customer stories and what they do. He is creating a loyal community of unified, educated, and insider Provo people.”

My question to small business owners is, “What’s stopping you from doing the same?” And for those who work with SMBs, either as strategists, SEOs, or content people, we mustn’t shy away from making recommendations of this sort, especially when a brand has the bandwidth and the clientele to make it work.

What this tells us: Look for ways to get personal with your clientele, particularly as it regards the sharing of information involving them.

How to make it for your brand: Think of the people who’ve talked or written about how much they enjoy your product or service. Why not reach out to them for a quick interview, which could take the form of a short video that could posted to Instagram or YouTube or hosted directly on your site?

All you’d need is a few questions to ask them — don’t make it about your brand. Make it about the audience: getting to know them, who they are, etc.

Recommended reading: The Power of the Personal: Personal Brands for Company Brands

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Pinterest Reportedly Pitching Brands on Digital Couponing

Pinterest continues to expand upon its ad offerings. The company is reportedly testing video ads, but its been pitching some other new concepts as well.

DigiDay is showing off some highlights from a Pinterest pitch deck it obtained, discussing a “full suite of ad offerings” including some exclusives for big spenders. DigiDay’s Garett Sloane writes:

The pitch shows that Pinterest is offering some exclusive services to top advertisers, including digital couponing, which it said it hadn’t done before. It also lays out its new targeting tactics and ability to measure the impact of ads on sales through partnerships with companies like Datalogix…Pinterest can incorporate a link to digital coupons, if the brand has a third-party couponing service like Ibotta. The coupon promotion could be served in one of Pinterest’s newest ad formats, Cinematic Pins, which are GIF-like pins that move as the user scrolls up and down, but stop when the user stops. “Drive trial and purchase by using these innovative units as a way to reveal coupons,” Pinterest says.

The deck also continues to play up Pinterest’s value as a search tool, which is something the company has been stressing for some time now. It also talks up improved targeting and claims 10x the reach for ads at 1/15th of the content creation compared to organic pins.

So in case you were wondering, Pinterest is a pay-to-play field not unlike Facebook and Instagram.

Image via Pinterest

The post Pinterest Reportedly Pitching Brands on Digital Couponing appeared first on WebProNews.


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Brands That Won (and Lost) Google in 2015

Posted by Dr-Pete

As part of the MozCast 10K (a 10,000-keyword daily Google tracker), we keep a close eye on the domains with the most page-one Google real-estate. As of December 1st, these were the “Big 10″:

“Share” represents the percentage of total results each domain has across the entire data set. Of course, absolute rankings can vary a lot depending on the data set, but what’s more interesting is how any given brand moves over time.

We watch day-to-day movements closely as search marketers, and often track winners and losers when Google announces a big update, but I thought it would be interesting to take the long-term view. Who are the brands who won and lost the most Google real estate in the past year? All of the data from this post is from the MozCast 10K and spans December 1, 2014–December 1, 2015.

Biggest winners in 2015

If we look at absolute gains in total page-one Google real estate, the winners are in the table below. The “Rank” columns shows their current position in the Top 100:

Online retail giant Amazon.com held tight to the #2 position in our data set, making the biggest overall gain. Etsy made impressive gains, jumping from the #81 spot at the end of 2014 to the #31 spot on December 1st, 2015. Even with its financial woes, Groupon performed solidly on Google, moving from the #87 spot to #40. Instagram jumped from outside of the Top 100 entirely (#141) to #57.

It’s interesting to note that two of the biggest gains in 2015 were for Google properties, YouTube and Google Play. YouTube moved from #5 to #4, and Google Play came in just shy of the Top 10 at #12. YouTube gains don’t count growth in Video Cards, large video links which dominate some Google results. Here’s an example Video Card from a search for “chandelier”:

The numbers in the chart above may seem small, but keep in mind that there’s only a 0.01% difference in total Google real-estate between #9 and #10 in the overall “Big 10.” A tenth-of-a-percent represents massive land holdings in the world of page-one results.

Most improved in 2015

Another way to slice-and-dice winners in 2015 is to look at sites with the biggest relative gains. In other words, who improved the most relative to their position in 2014? Here are the Top 10 Most Improved:

Six of these are repeats from the overall winners list, but looking at relative changes, Etsy’s and Instagram’s gains are even more impressive. Both sites more than doubled their page-one Google real estate in our data set, with Etsy seeing gains of over 150%.

Biggest losers in 2015

Google real estate is limited, and for every winner there ultimately has to be one or more losers. These are the sites that took the heaviest absolute losses in our data set:

Social media giant Twitter was the big loser in 2015, falling out of the Top 10, from #6 in 2014 to #15 at the end of 2015. This “loss” may be deceptive, however, as Google and Twitter struck a deal in August of this year to display Tweets directly in search results. Here’s an example, from a branded search for “Etsy”:

Tweets are now a true Google vertical result, occupying an organic position and appearing in almost 6% of the searches that we track. Fellow social media site, Pinterest, also lost ground in 2015, after nearly breaking into the Top 10 (they were #11 in 2014). Unfortunately for Pinterest, their losses weren’t offset by a sweetheart deal with Google.

Google-dominating Wikipedia showed a weak spot in their armor this year, losing twice the ground that #2 Amazon gained. Wikipedia took some losses early in 2015, and then ran into more trouble with their mid-year switch to a secure (https:) site.

Online auction site and aspiring retailer eBay added to their troubles in 2015, dropping out of the Top 10 from #9 to #17. eBay took heavy losses in May of 2014, but then partially recovered going into the beginning of 2015. As of December 1st, all of those short-term gains have disappeared in our data set.

Yelp gave up its #4 position in 2015 to YouTube, and seemed to suffer from some of Google’s local changes this year. Retailers Walmart and Overstock also saw year-over-year losses, as did online answer site wikiHow.

An oddly dominant site in 2014, the NIH’s National Library of Medicine site dropped from #17 to #20. Their presence may be the result of a high number of medical queries in our data set, and was probably impacted by a handful of niche Google updates, including the launch of the Medical Knowledge Panel, such as this one for “type 2 diabetes”:

On the bright side, it looks like the Tax Man took a hit in 2015, with the IRS dropping from #19 to #27. While it seems odd that two government (.gov) sites hit our list of losers, I suspect this was coincidental.

The envelope, please…

While Amazon’s continued dominance is impressive, and Wikipedia’s tumble from grace is certainly worth noting, I think the big story this year is Etsy. In addition to taking the #2 spot in total gains, they more than doubled their 2014 Google page-one real estate and rocketed from the #81 overall position in our data set to #31. Etsy and other niche online retailers will be the ones to watch in 2016.

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