A new client’s website was nine years old and she wanted help showing up in search engines. I explained that search engines discriminate against those sites that haven’t been adapted for mobile devices. She was sabotaging herself with her current site. “Zoe” was talking about a little enhancement; I was talking about starting over. A nine-year old site is really not redeemable.
Who was her audience? “Everyone” is the wrong answer
Zoe had a fairly extensive collection of blogs on her site, and as I read through them I wasn’t getting a clear sense of who she was, which is a problem. But more importantly, I didn’t have any idea who her audience was. When I asked her about this, I knew what her answer was going to be: “Everyone is my audience; some of my readers are 16, I have grandmothers reading my blogs as well as industry professionals.” Wrong answer. This is marketing 101—everyone is not your audience. As a small business owner, you really can’t be successful without identifying the niche that really is your audience.
Time to create personas
I explained to her how we were going to create personas. I wanted her to think about whom she visualized when she closed her eyes and pictured a typical client. I wanted her to describe that person for me. I wanted her to be making an emotional connection with that person, to think about that client when she was writing a blog. The scope of our work together included keyword analysis, a new website, a newsletter and pay-per-click advertising (PPC). For PPC, especially, identifying a persona and keywords is critical to the success of a campaign, but it’s also important for her website’s landing pages.
Personas help define our audiences
By understanding demographics, we learn to communicate more effectively with our audiences. Facebook’s powerful advertising appeal lies is its ability to drill down to the details of people’s lives. Every Facebook field that we fill out provides data for someone to mine. For Zoe, as with most of us, we well may have more than one persona. And for each of these, we’re going to create a comprehensive persona based on the following information:
Age and gender.
Communication preferences. How do they get their information? Text, email? Do they hate telephone calls?
Technical experience and background. Do they love instructional videos or prefer to read directions?
Job title and major responsibilities.
Education, ethnicity and family status.
Pain points or frustrations. Important clues for how we can help them solve problems.
Industry and working environment. A quiet office or the emergency room.
Biggest challenges and how they deal with them.
Shopping preferences. Favorite stores or online?
Food and drink. Favorite area restaurants and bars.
Persona names and photos. Giving your personas names and uploading photos provide an identity.
Interview real clients to discover what they like about your product or service.
Creating personas is a valuable exercise that will help you market more effectively to your audience.
I encourage my clients to develop case studies and post them to their websites, social media and anywhere else where they have a forum. Real-life stories provide compelling insights into how we successfully help our clients solve problems. This is one of my own case studies.
“Oliver” found me on Yelp—the app we love to hate–but it can also be a legitimate source of new business. Oliver fled a boring corporate career and began designing and selling furniture made from reclaimed teak wood. Everything is sustainable—he’s created processes for sourcing old structures in Indonesia, disassembling them beam by beam to create the materials that will become his beautiful furniture. He has a Berkeley showroom and sells furniture online.
Here’s the problem . . .
Oliver had built a fairly steady stream of online sales from his e-commerce website. A year or so ago, he upgraded his WordPress site with enhanced visuals and navigation. Once he rolled out the new site, that online sales stream completely dried up. He gave this enough time to confirm that this wasn’t just seasonal or a little economic downturn.
Our goal: Restore online sales
Our goal was to restore online traffic and sales, so we began troubleshooting his site. We peeled back the layers and found that there were more than 20 WordPress plugins that hadn’t been updated, and these were creating conflicts. A vast array of plugins is one of the things that makes WordPress so powerful, but they’re not all compatible with each other, and they need to be upgraded. As we cleaned up the infrastructure, we kept finding anomalies and bugs, and a simple project grew more complex.
Keyword research, image labels and alt tags
Along the way, we did keyword research to identify those words and phrases that our audience might be keying into search fields to find us—this helped us know what words and phrases to be using in our content. We labeled every single image, created alt tags and descriptions for literally hundreds of product pictures. We finally rolled out the upgrades, and we’re all delighted that our client is starting to get online orders again.
We added a monthly newsletter to the marketing mix
We began doing a monthly newsletter in MailChimp. We keep this simple, highlighting three products and including a promo code so we can track responses. We’re getting an astonishing 45-55% open rate, a high click-through rate and conversions with our mailings. The newsletter is easy to turn around and looks great; the ROI on this makes it easy to include this in our marketing plan.
Up next: Pay-per click advertising
Our website blues aren’t completely over. We still find issues that befuddle us, but among us, we solve the problems as they arise. With the website stabilization, we’re planning to add Pay-per-Click (PPC)advertising to our marketing mix. We’ve identified a budget, and we’ll carefully monitor our campaign, adjusting as we go, to make this another component of our marketing program.
You don’t have to be a basketball fan to have heard of the Ball family. LaVar Ball and his sons regularly make headlines. There’s no coincidence here–LaVar is constantly working it. Oldest son Lonzo is an NBA rookie who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. His other two boys, LiAngelo and LaMelo are both future NBA prospects, though they’ve taken a detour and are currently playing in Lithuania. LiAngelo was on a trip to China with the UCLA basketball team, arrested for shoplifting and suspended for a year.
LaVar thought the suspension was too extreme
LaVar pulled his kid out of UCLA and sent the two younger boys to some kind of Lithuanian league—apparently there was little interest in sticking around a prestigious school like UCLA to get an education. Note that the shoplifting was in China—a communist country with a terrible human rights record. LiAngelo could have spent the next 20 years in isolation. A year away from college basketball was a gift.
If you talk to any sports fan, commentator or coach they’ll tell you that LaVar needs to shut up and let his kids play ball. LaVar Ball’s endless commentary has made him one of the most polarizing figures in sports today. Most of us find Ball’s constant boasting about himself and his sons offensive, especially those of us who were taught that if we’re really great, people will know that by our actions.
Big Baller Brand embraces endless self-promotion
You may/not be aware that Facebook has a video platform, and LaVar and his sons are one of the channel’s most popular reality programs. They also have their own sportswear label, Big Baller Brand, and they’re using Facebook to market themselves and their products.
Here’s what we can learn from the Big Ballers
The Ball family has created multiple Facebook and Instagram pages for all of the individual Ballers and the Big Baller Brand itself. They also leverage Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Facebook Groups linked to their Pages to further expand their brand reach, along with the Facebook Watch show. Facebook lays out a basic playbook for how Big Baller Brand has utilized Facebook ads. This is what we can learn from them.
They installed the Facebook Pixel to see how successful their ads were, and how close customers came to purchasing an item from the Big Baller Brand online store.
The Balls used Facebook Ads Managerto build and deploy ads on Facebook.
They created textbook-perfect ads—a clear call-to-action, crisp images showcasing specific apparel items and links to that featured item.
Built Engagement Custom Audiences in Ads Manager to target known fans, such as those who have interacted with one of the Ball Family Pages or have watched their videos.
Created lookalike audiences to expand the reach of the campaign to send new ads to people with similar qualities to those completing purchases on bigballerbrand.com.
Deployed remarketing techniques to retarget fans who visited the online store but didn’t complete a purchase.
If you’ve done Facebook advertising or are just beginning to experiment with it, you’ll see that this is a comprehensive effort to boost a Facebook campaign strategy.
Remarketing is key: You’re reaching a vulnerable consumer
Remarketing focuses on those who may have gone to the Big Baller store, put a product in their carts, but failed to complete the purchase. This segment is more than a warm lead; it’s red hot. It’s a potential customer who is vulnerable—he’s been to your store, is familiar with your merchandise and liked at least one item enough to add it to the cart. There’s a good chance that, with a little nudge, he might be convinced to go back and complete the purchase. One thing that would help him decide? Tell him that it’s almost sold out, that there’s limited inventory, or only 4 items left.
This formula has been very successful for the Big Ballers
Facebook advertising success is going to depend on how much time and money you are prepared to spend on this effort. But this process has driven results for the Balls. Their Facebook ads drove:
A 17.76% purchase lift during the campaign
A 16.9% conversion lift
140,000 outbound clicks to the BBB online store
Keep in mind that we’re dealing with celebrities here—a young athlete with a promising future and a father who never misses an opportunity to get in front of a camera—so the numbers are going to skew high. Nevertheless, this is a good Facebook marketing strategy that any business can replicate.
If you’ve been paying attention, you know that Facebook has rolled out a major algorithm change. They’re veiling this as an effort that will take us back to simpler times, to Facebook’s origins, before social exploded, when things were purer, warmer and fuzzier, when it was about connecting with friends and family. According to Zuckerberg:
“We’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”
The first place we’ll see these algorithm changes will be in our News Feeds. We can expect to see fewer posts from brands and businesses, a greater focus on our friends and family and groups. “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard — it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.”
So what does this mean?
It means that it just got a whole lot harder to grow your reach on your Facebook page. The classic Facebook engagement tips haven’t changed. If you expect to engage, these are the guidelines:
Create meaningful, high-quality content. So who decides what is quality content? It must be true. It can be funny or sad and makes us think.
Add value. I always think of value as providing information that will help someone do his/her job. It informs, educates.
Get consumers to genuinely interact with you. It’s really, really hard to elicit a response from our audiences, but it happens by building trust and familiarity.
Avoid clickbait. Clickbait is apparently dead, but I still see it all the time. I get news flashes from a range of news sites. They are all promising breaking news about the Trump administration and Russiagate. Tantalized, I click on this little clickbait morsel, knowing full well that the information I’m dealt likely will be a tired rehash old information.
How Facebook’s algorithms will affect your posts
In the near future, posts from brand and publishers will be scored differently from posts from friends. The score is based on your relationship with the poster, your interaction history, the type of content—all calculated by Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. Facebook is using your engagement history to determine which posts are most likely to keep you clicking. Sound like power tripping? Well, yes.
Time spent on FB and some degree of engagement will decline. The exact impacts of the change are not yet known, but what is clear is that Page post reach will decline. How significant an impact that will have on your content distribution and performance will come down to your approach.
Ad prices expected to rise
Here’s the rationale. If people are spending less time watching funny videos and consuming fake news on Facebook, people will be less likely to advertise. Brands and publishers will spend more on Facebook ads to revive their declining organic reach.
The bottom line
Facebook will prioritize posts based on the amount of meaningful discussion they generate. Long responses and replies will do well in the new FB environment.
One more thing: Why did Facebook make this algorithm change? Remember that thing where the Russians spent $300K on political advertising during the runup to the 2016 election? Zuckerberg and other tech titans were hauled before Congress for a come to Jesus. To talk about corporate social responsibility. This well may have been a response. Or not. Zuckerberg is insanely wealthy, but he also has a social conscience. He and his wife started a nonprofit, but rather than make this a 501(c)3, the created an LLC. In this way, they would be free of the constraints on reporting, lobbying and political campaign activity that are imposed by nonprofit status.
And the winner is . . . “Complicit”. Every year Dictionary.com identifies the one word that has impacted us the most. At Dictionary.com, the Word of the Year serves as a symbol of the year’s most meaningful events and lookup trends. Just as Time magazine names its person of the year–that individual who has most influenced the world’s news–the Word of the Year is that word that has popped up in the most conversations. Dictionary.com’s decision is data-based; they can track and review the number of searches over the course of the year.
Complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” Being, at some level, responsible for something . . . even if indirectly. Those who stay silent and do not speak out are also complicit; by not being against something, we are condoning it.
A year filled with political chaos
In a year that has been filled with an unprecedented level of political chaos, “complicit” is a word that has filled the headlines for a year. It began with the inauguration, and it steadily gained momentum. From Russian mafia to officials at the highest levels of government, the Trump administration seemed to be complicit with all of them.
Complicit experienced a huge spike on April 5
The largest increase in lookups for complicit–up more than 11,000%–was on April 5, when Ivanka Trump tried to redefine complicit. CBS’ Gayle King asked her about the accusations that she and her husband, Jared Kushner, were complicit in the actions of her father. Her response: “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit.”
It’s important to note that complicit is not one of those words that can have both positive and negative connotations, depending on your orientation. There’s nothing positive about this word. Being complicit is negative. It means that a person is involved with someone or something that’s wrong. Politics aside, whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, the meaning of complicit cannot be construed subjectively. Ivanka Trump went on to cap off her own personal definition of complicit with “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.”
Climate change and the Trump administration’s complicity
For years we’ve been learning about climate change and how we’ve damaged our environment. We all have worked to decrease our footprints, determined to become better stewards of the environment. Companies began rethinking their business models, communities incenting their citizens for embracing clean energy. Solar power and windmills became more affordable and the technology improved. Yet Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, and his EPA chief has been complicit in his refusal to acknowledge that humans play a primary role in climate change. Information on climate change was removed from the government’s website this year. If only it were that easy. Removing it from a website won’t make it go away.
During the past year we have seen the extreme weather conditions that have brought widespread destruction that climate change can wreak. Terms like climate change, global warming, and carbon dioxide all showed up trending searches this year.
Power and sexual assault
In 2017, allegations of sexual assault were made against a growing number of powerful men, resulting in the resignation and firing of people across multiple industries. Film executive Harvey Weinstein emerged as a longtime predator after numerous women stepped up to tell their stories of sexual assault that lasted for decades. Even worse—his complicit staff covered up for him, often arranging his sexual shenanigans. Weinstein’s downfall inspired other assault survivors to come forward with their own stories.
Dictionary.com has used its platform to make a data-driven political statement. But the bigger message may be something we’ve always known, that words have the power to shape dialog and the way we interpret events.
Having trouble harnessing the power of words for your business? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.
Looking back on 2017, I remember a year filled with gut-wrenching political turmoil and anguish, devastating natural disasters, protest marches and the rise of an aggressive right wing. It’s been a year filled with anxiety and dread. We have learned how important democracy, freedom of speech and the rule of law are as they are threatened and undermined on a daily basis.
Completely oblivious to the year’s upheaval, emoji are happily flourishing
Consider for a minute the outrage sparked across social when Google made a cheeseburger emoji with the cheese misplaced. Even the CEO got involved to make sure the cheese would be moved to its proper spot, above the patty where everyone knows it belongs.
Content that evokes an emotional response is more likely to be shared
With clickbait thankfully going extinct, there seems to be an emerging trend in the top content on social media: Content that provokes an emotional response is more likely to get shared.
Examining the top Facebook posts in September, the stats show that the posts with the most shares also had a higher percentage of reactions. And more publishers are using emoji in captions, perhaps to elicit that emotional response. It all goes back to the premise that good marketing tells a story. It reaches people on an emotional level. Clearly, emoji are helping to make that emotional connection.
Charting the growth of emoji
The use of emoji in the top 100 headlines jumped from a mere six in fall 2015 to 28 in fall 2016. At 52 emoji-sprinkled headlines in 2017, it’s clear that this trend isn’t slowing down. The big jump in emoji usage is happening among news publishers. In fall 2015, there wasn’t a single emoji in the top 100 news posts. One year later, in 2016, this number jumped to 10; by the fall of 2017, the number had more than doubled to 24. This stat helps explain their popularity: Four out of every ten millennials would rather engage with pictures than read.
News publishers are catching up to the trends that have been working for viral publishers
What types of stories use emoji from news publishers? Breaking news, hard news and tragedies are less likely to have emojis associated with them. So how do publishers strategically use emoji? Not really surprising—emoji are lighthearted and whimsical; they’re meant to delight and for the most part, they deliver. Emoji developers keep adding to the inventory, and they’re great fun! I like to think of emoji as the print version of adding a sticker to a letter or other document. A bit frivolous and totally unnecessary. Just as there are words and phrases that elicit the best response in your headlines—You need to, The greatest ever, That will rock your, etc.–are inappropriate for serious topics, so emoji are often a bad fit for hard news and serious topics.
Who uses emoji the most?
Soft news and human interest stories are most likely to have emoji in their headlines.
Brits may like emoji more than Americans. Daily Mail, The Independent, and BBC News all used emoji in headlines that appeared in the top 100 Facebook posts this November. As to be expected, happier emoji were generally the most used.
If we take a look at the Facebook graph of most-used emoji on Facebook, Fall 2017, clearly LOL has pulled into the lead, followed by the ubiquitous heart, clapping hands, etc. Hearts in some form made it on the list a total of five times. Yet clearly, if you’re writing an article that’s intended for a professional audience, there’s no place for a heart, a rainbow or any of the other emojis in Facebook’s top performers.
Emoji from brands
Brands have stepped up and are adopting emoji into their social posts.
Starbucks and Macy’s are using holiday-themed emoji in their messaging.
On the Fourth of the July, Bud Light tweeted an emoji American flag composed of fireworks in place of Old Glory’s stars and American flags and beers for the red and white stripes
Baskin-Robbins is using an emoji ice cream cone in their messaging.
On World Emoji Day, July 17, NASCAR Tweeted a photographic mosaic of some of the sport’s most famous drivers.
The Smithsonian, in a tweet about Louis Armstrong, used an emoji trumpet.
Using emoji comes down to a few considerations and knowing your audience. Ask yourself some questions:
What channels are you creating content for and do emoji make sense in that context?
What is your brand’s voice?
What’s your topic? If you’re writing something fun and light, this is the perfect landscape for emoji. If, on the other hand, you’re explaining a complex concept to a bunch of accountants, save the emoji for an audience who will appreciate them. This probably isn’t it.
What are you looking to achieve with emoji — is it to provide a more succinct message, encourage an emotional response in your audience, or cleverly punctuate your caption?
No one ever thinks about Santa as an experienced business owner, but he’s been running a wildly successful enterprise for well, forever. So before the holiday crunch, I invited Santa to sit down over cookies and cocoa. I wanted to pick his brain for the secrets to his long-running success. I’m a pig. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so I also asked for a red Tesla. I’ll let you know about the Tesla at a later date, but here are some thoughts from that great entrepreneur now.
Find a niche. Define your audience
“When we started out,” Santa explained, “I wanted to deliver a gift to every person on the planet. Mrs. Claus wisely advised that I was thinking too big. ‘Don’t try to be all things to all people,’ she said. ‘Focus on a smaller group.’ We settled on children who celebrate Christmas and were well-behaved.” Great advice. You have a much better chance of succeeding of you identify a specific market segment. Everybody is not the right answer.
Start lean. Identify your core product or service
“I had dreams of developing all kinds of toys, I was seriously undercapitalized,” said Santa. “Being cash-strapped actually worked in our favor. It forced me to focus on launching one core product first–just basic wooden blocks. But that established my reputation. Over time, we expanded, based on feedback from real customers. When you start out, get your product or service out the door and later make improvements. Those blocks are still a hit, especially with our youngest demographic.”
Develop a business plan. Make this a working document
Part of Santa’s wild success stems from his careful planning, ability to execute and remain nimble. “When kids started playing on digital devices,” said Santa, “I lost weight, I was so worried. How was my workshop going to survive?” Santa and Mrs. Claus sat down and came up with a plan. They hired a team of tech elves to develop electronic devices and apps. He’s been so successful that both Mattel and Hasbro gave Santa buyout offers. “I don’t want to sell out, and I’m already a spokesman for Coca-Cola.”
Watch your cash flow. Make realistic projections
“We do 100% of our business on one day, December 24th. But we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and months preparing for that day. We have a very detailed and aggressive production schedule. We purchase our materials in August, the elves start crafting toys in September, and despite my best efforts, I always end up getting killed with overtime in December. I also have fair amount of overhead. I have to board the reindeer year-round, Rudolph’s nose keeps shorting out, and vet bills are crazy.”
Santa’s tips for managing your cash-flow
Make cash projections of money coming in and going out.
Be careful with inventory; this can become a sinkhole.
Get a line of credit ASAP; it can be your lifeline and pay for expenses when income lags
Save during high-income periods and invest money back into your business.
Think green. Embrace renewable energy sources
“Up here in the North Pole, we’re already living with the dramatic effects of climate change,” lamented Santa. “It’s breaking our hearts to watch our magnificent polar bears dying because their food sources are no longer available, but my beloved reindeer are affected as well. Learn from me. In your startup, seek renewable energy sources, low-waste or no-waste production methodologies, ways to reduce shipping use and expenses. You always need to be thinking about saving money and the environment—it’s not only my future—it’s everyone’s.
Get help. Develop and cultivate a team who can grow with you
Most people don’t realize that Mrs. Claus is not only Santa’s wife but also his CTO (chief toy officer), a hardworking member of the organization. He relies heavily on her, his team of well-trained elves, and of course, his reindeer. In your startup’s early stages, you try to do everything yourself, but you need to scale if you are to grow. Hire the best people you can find and let them to do their jobs. You don’t have to completely let go of the reins—only Santa gets to fly the sleigh, after all, but at some point, you must learn to delegate if you are to grow and be successful.
Do you need help developing and managing a marketing plan that will help you prepare for growth? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and marketing experts.