Best practices when blogging for clients

Possible one of the most challenging aspects of being an out-sourced marketing solution for a company is being their social media and blog voice.

The challenge is to be a master of their voice when you may not be entirely masterful when it comes to your understanding of their product.

Here are some tips if you're looking for ways to excel in this space:

  1. Check out your competitors: How are they doing it? What's their format? Their voice? While you of course want your content to be unique to the brand you're representing, this can provide a good starting point.
     
  2. Ask questions: There's no harm in asking questions. You'd rather ask questions then get something wrong. With the support of a good team you should have no issue turning around strong content once your questions are answered.
     
  3. Go heavily visual when possible: If you go with a lot of pictures and less text you run less of a risk of getting something long. So if it's applicable to the brand you're representing try to go for posts that are photo heavy.

Those are just a few tips, but in the end nothing really replaces doing your homework and putting the work in.

If you want to represent the brand well you have to know as much as you can about the brand.

Technology or Politics: What’s standing in your way?

I recently sat through a meeting where a colleague of mine stated that ‘many institutions aren’t able to find a solution not because the technology isn’t there, but because the politics are standing in the way.’

That got me thinking that unfortunately too often a product or campaign lives and dies not by its merits but whether it’s able to survive politically.

While this may seem unfair, it’s the reality of any business or workplace.

So with that in mind how do you get something you’re passionate about out the door?

Here are a few tips that have helped me along the way:

  1. Be respectful of others - This should be part of everything you do. Not just in this instance.
     
  2. Be empathetic - Not everyone has the time you do to think about this. So if they don’t get it or are short with you consider where they’re coming from.
     
  3. Not everyone understand it as well as you do. You’re not insulting them by dumbing it down for them.
     
  4. Clearly define the KPIs and when you plan to report on their success.
     
  5. If presenting in a meeting quickly follow up that meeting by emailing the group with the input you received and how you plan to take that input into account.
     
  6. Be confident without being cocky  

Like I said, these few tips have helped me over the years.

Good luck!

Which Metrics Are Most Important?

About a year ago my friends over at Direct Online Marketing in Wheeling, W. Va., posted a great blog on "So Which Ppc Metrics Do You Really Need To Know?"

The blog is a great primer for those trying to figure out how to assess the success of their PPC campaign, though of course as it states, there are dozens more metrics you need to be considering if you're actually managing a campaign.

Still, the post came back to mind when I started thinking about metrics related to projects I've been working on.

Luckily, most of my recent work has been for groups that have a history of data and are willing to pivot based on the data as it rolls in. That's not always the case.

But there have been a few groups I've worked with that either don't have the data or don't know what metric is important to them. 

In the most important metric is the goal you're trying to achieve. There are of course metrics that build a case toward that ultimate goal, but in the end, if you don't have a SMART (Specific | Measurable | Attainable | Realistic | Timely) goal then you really having nothing.

You can't start a campaign with an goal of increasing awareness and then be upset when it's not generating leads.

Similarly, if your goal is to generate leads don't be upset when the campaign isn't generating social interactions.

So which metric is the most important? It's the one your campaign's success is judged against, so get that right and let the chips fall from there.

Marketing and the Great Firewall of China

This past Monday I returned from a quick, four-day business trip to China.

This was my second time to Asia, but my first time to mainland China. I previously had traveled to Hong Kong and had not been subject to the Great Firewall.

While in China, and while under the restraints of the aforementioned firewall I could not access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Google, and a number of other sites, including SLACK (which has become an essential part of my everyday work life) simply did not render properly.

After a day or two of simply being annoyed by my lack of access, I stopped and thought, more importantly, how as a US-based marketer am I to get my message in front of the country with the most Internet users.

According to internetlivestats.com, there were more than 641 million Internet users in China in 2014, nearly three times as many as the second-place country, which is the US.

The reality is that an overwhelming majority of US-based marketers are still learning how to use digital products to market domestically, forget about learning how to target China, where many of those products are banned.

The reality is that if brands and marketers want to make a dent in China, they have to become familiar with the channels native and allowed in that country.

They need to be on Renren (the Facebook of China) and need get established on a Weibo (sort of a Twitter-esque microblog). On the SEM side Google obviously won’t do, so you have to be on Baidu.

As not only American marketers but rather Americans in general we tend to think ‘it’s my way or the highway.’ We’re America, and if they don’t like their channels then forget them.

That simply can’t be the mentality when dealing with China, or really any country.

If you’re going to go international, then you have to familiarize yourself with the most popular channels in your target country. There’s no other option. 

The Morality of Social Media Channels

There are a number of ways to look at the tragedy that occurred in Virginia yesterday. (See Police: Bryce Williams fatally shoots self after killing journalists on air)

As a marketer who came up in social media, I'm wondering how we should respond and what moral responsibilities we have to curate (or potentially sensor) the content.

In essence, as social media managers but to a larger respect gatekeepers in charge of these channels like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube we need to determine what content stays up and what comes down. 

Last week I wrote about tweets being pulled directly into Google's SERPs. That means it's very likely that when the shooter tweeted about what he did his tweet, if only for a brief moment, appeared on a page like the one you see below. Is that acceptable? 

Facebook and Twitter immediately shut down the shooter's accounts on those channels after he began posting about the crime and posted a video of the shooting from his perspective.

However, now 24 hours later the video is still accessible via YouTube where people were able to post it after quickly ripping it off the web after the shooter posted it?

YouTube has chosen not to remove the video and the live video taken by the news camerman himself, though almost all other outlets are choosing not to show it.

Is this the right decision?

In the end, channels like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are being asked to make decisions usually reserved for news editors and general managers. I'm sure they're consulting with in-house counsel, but in the end these are decisions these 'social media' channels simply aren't always prepared to make.

Did they make the right decisions yesterday?

What does Twitter/Google Integration Mean for Marketers?

You may have heard that last week Google officially began integrating tweets into its desktop search results.

How would this work?

Essentially when you search a real-time event, if there are people tweeting about it those tweets will show up in the Google SERP.

Though Google remains particularly adept at finding the No. 1 site for a particular topic or search query, on today’s always-on, nonstop Internet, even pages that are a few hours old run the risk of being out-of-date. If there’s a breaking news story or a live sports event happening, then Twitter is the place to go — that’s why Google has been so keen to renew its relationship with the social media platform. (Nield, 2015)

So what does that mean for marketers?

In my opinion, I think more and more social media managers will try to get involved in the real-time marketing game (see how Oreo handled the Super Bowl blackout.)

Unfortunately, the landscape is littered with the train wrecks of social media managers who thought they were being witty in trying to piggyback on a real-time trend/hashtag but instead ended up without a job because their tweet ended up offending people. (See Delta's giraffe gaffe as an example of what not to do.)

While this integration with Google will have marketers and social media managers thinking they just MUST tweet in real time so that their tweets show up on Google's SERPS, it really become that much more important that social voices stay on brand and don't stray from their wheelhouse.

While this Google integration may mean more audience opportunity, it also opens the door to even more #EpicFails.

References:

Nield, D. (22, August 2015) GOOGLE-TWITTER INTEGRATION ARRIVES FOR DESKTOP SEARCH RESULTS
Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/google-twitter-integration-arrives-for-desktop-search-results/

Drive your marketing with today's skills, not yesterday's

When I interned at WAMC public radio in Albany, N.Y., many years ago I worked for a producer who taught me how to cut tape.

It was 2000, and all radio, even public radio, had already gone digital, but I was learning how to cut tape.

Now don't get me wrong, in a day of DSLRs and iPhones, I do believe there's still value to learning how to hone your craft by processing film, and radio is probably similar. Actually wait, no, it's really not.

Photography is artistry that the world of digital made it easier to replicate. Digital in the radio production world simply made life easier.

Which brings me to the screenshot below.

In working through some metrics training 'modules' put together by Virginia-based Management by the Numbers, I came across the following SAT-esque question.



The question that followed asked you how many unique visitors each website received, requiring you to divide the number pageviews by the by average number of pageviews per visitor.

Or you know, what Google Analytics might term 'users':

Further questions required you to process data while trying to figure out total campaign clicks with an answer that included decimal places. Last time I checked I haven't seen a campaign generate 249.65 clicks.

While I fully appreciate that good marketer needs to not only understand terms like CPC, CPM, CPA, impressions and users but also how to calculate them, I also think it's foolish to deal in hypotheticals that lead to illogical answers and to also not show that there are free tools out there that can provide you with this data. 

It's these sorts of hypotheticals and SAT-type questions that lead to CEOs questioning the validity of a marketer's data.

10 Things I've Learned During My Years in Recruitment Marketing (Part 1)

I recently transitioned from leading the digital side of recruitment marketing for a globally renowned art and design university to offering CMO-level services on a contract basis.

This transition has allowed me the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on what I've learned over the past five or so years, and I feel you may benefit from my own reflection of my hits and misses.

So here are the first five of 10 things I was fortunate enough to learn during my years in recruitment marketing:

  1. Transparency is key:
    Yes transparency is a buzz word throughout all marketing these days, but when trying to convince teens to attend University X you're dealing with a generation that's been sold to - particularly over digital channels - like never before. They know when they're being patronized and they know when they're being lied to. This transparency needs to trickle down through all of your campaigns, including email, display advertising and social media. Emails that say "Our records show you're just the type of student who would excel at University X" just won't fly anymore. 
     
  2. Email is still alive and well (if done correctly):
    Despite what we've been told, email is not dead. High school students still do respond positively to email: they will open and they will click. That being said this doesn't give you the green light to spam them, to send them 500-word essays or to ignore that they've opted out from hearing from you. Emails to paid lists still can convert at a decent rate, but they have to be done right. Which takes me to No. 3 ...
     
  3. Mobile, mobile, mobile (other than your website):
    Let's not even dive into your .edu or app, yet, let's just talk about your other channels like email, social media and chat. Prospective college students are digesting content via their mobile devices at the highest rate ever, and it's only going to increase. If your direct email campaigns are not responsive to tablet and phone, you're missing an opportunity. If you're not realizing that an overwhelming majority of your social media content is being digested via mobile, you're missing an opportunity. If your .edu 'chat' implementation isn't available on mobile, you're missing an opportunity. 
     
  4. Use videos, you know like moving pictures:
    We've all heard how quickly YouTube has grown and how teens are viewing a ridiculous amount of video content daily. So how do you leverage that as a university? With a five-minute piece about a program or a professor? With a 35-minute lecture? No! If you're able to keep someone tuned into a video for more than a minute you're lucky, and even that is probably optimistic. Get in and out and get your point across. If you want to go the content marketing route consider creative, value-add content (like a how-to tutorial) that is sponsored by your university but doesn't shout your institution's name in every frame.
     
  5. Trust the data:
    While you may be able to handle all of your marketing recruitment needs in-house, you'd be foolish to not let outside data and research influence your tactics. Much of what I've posted here and will post in the future is based not only on my own experiences but also on the research I've read over the years. Attend the Noel-Levitz webinars, download their white papers and explore conferences like eduWeb

Yesterday was for where I've been; today is for where I'm going

If you read my post here yesterday, you got a small glimpse into my past four years and the great people I had to say goodbye to yesterday.

But that was yesterday.

Today is about where I'm going.

I am excited to announce that Jacksonville-based Industry West and I have agreed on a contract that will see me be its CMO.

I will be offering my CMO services through IRL LLC (DBA CMO Solutions), which is my own company that is based out of Beaufort, S.C.

In addition my work with Industry West (which I can't wait to tell you more about and share its incredible story with you) I will be offering high-level, strategic planning as it relates to integrated marketing and communications, lead generation and customer acquisition, particularly in the digital space, including:

  • Website analysis, including SEO
  • Email marketing analysis and strategy
  • Social media analysis and strategy
  • Content marketing strategy
  • Campaign building
  • Marketing automation strategy and analysis

I'm also looking forward to staying connected to the higher education space and will be working with individual schools and recruitment marketing firms to use all of the bullets above to impact lead acquisition and yield for higher ed institutions.

All in all, this is a great opportunity for me and my family, and one that allows me the opportunity to be closer to and spend more time with my incredible wife and three beautiful children (more later on how husband and dad are more important than any other title I'll ever have.)

Thank you, all, for your support, and please reach out if you have any questions or believe my services may be of interest to you.

Best,
Ian