Social Media Automation Tools That Make Getting Down to Business Easy

 

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Marketing automation is essential to attracting and cultivating qualified leads.

As covered in our previous blog post, marketing automation is comprised of a variety of resources to more effectively market on multiple channels and automate repetitive tasks to  nurture prospects with personalized, useful content that helps convert prospects to customers and retain them. Now, as promised, we’re taking a look at tools that make managing your social media scheduling, postings, campaigns and analytics easier.

The Benefits

As succinctly stated by entrepreneur and writer John Rampton for Mashable, the advantages of social media management automation software and apps is that they all allow you to schedule social media posts for different social media platforms in advance and monitor your accounts when someone mentions your brand or leaves a comment.

“While having a social media marketing strategy is a necessity,” says Rampton, “it can become extremely time consuming. Between updating your profile, responding to customers, coming up with content and sharing content, managing your social media accounts can become a full-time job.” For business owners – as well as digital marketing agencies in behalf of clients – who are looking to connect with customers, influencers and even potential investors through social media, management tools are essential.

A big advantage for businesses that have more than one person writing social media posts is the collaborative capability of social media management solutions. Multiple users can schedule posts, allowing greater efficiency. Some solutions incorporate a publishing calendar to help you visualise or better plan a posting schedule.

However, knowing your target demographic is extremely important. Unless your content and information target the right people, you won’t receive the traffic to show for it. This comes back to a fact that bears repeating ‒  content marketing can not succeed without quality content and SEOThe best content is credible, relevant and will last longer than a week. Although regularly achieving such a high standard can be difficult, as long as you are reaching for it, you’re on the right track.

Getting the Big Picture and Extending Your Reach

 The cherry on top of social media automation is real-time analytics and performance data. You can measure engagement results to continually alter and improve your strategies. Progress requires constant evolving to stay ahead of trends and cater to the preferences and interests of your target demographic. Users can boost their relevance by utilizing automation software features to search for influencers and curate content. Some of the best content is that which is already written. Chances are if you find relevant content worth hunting down, so will a number of your viewers. It is for this same reason that social media influencers can lead to significant conversion rates.

Once your brand has reached the right audience and is proving to be well-received, social media automation can help you (or your client) retain customers through reinforcing brand loyalty. All of these actions can be completed in the software as well, reducing the time it takes to directly engage with traffic. This is accomplished by composing personal messages to make a brand more inviting. It also builds your credibility as a trustworthy and reliable business, hopefully providing you with impressive reviews. Automated content can be beneficial for highly trafficked sites, but unless it is quickly followed up with a personable response, it will not assist in building strong customer to business relationships.

Costs vary among social media automation solutions. As budget is usually a major factor, do your research, and be sure to compare features to avoid paying for bells and whistles you don’t need. For a comprehensive breakdown, take a look at the 11 Best Social Media Automation Tools to Use in 2018, by Pankaj Narang for Jeff Bullas.

The Tools to Succeed

Here are some of our favorite social media automation solutions that will make your goals easier to achieve.

Each brings a different specialty to the table that may best address the primary needs of your social media strategy and long-term goals.

 • HootSuite  - A household name for most marketing professionals, HootSuite encompases end-to-end social media automation. Beyond channel-agnosticism and live brand monitoring, HootSuite includes SEO and personalized lead management. While favored for being user-friendly, it also provides in-depth analytics for seasoned marketers.

 

 • Sprout Social - Featuring smooth collaboration and engagement capabilities, Sprout is ideal for CRM. The software is concise, such as single-steam messaging and a shared content calendar, and is accessible from any device, anywhere. Its well-renowned analytics also include an impressive reporting suite that is presentation-ready.

 

 • Agorapulse - Self-described as “simple and affordable,” Agorapulse is a triple threat. The software features include team collaboration, scheduling and performance tracking, to name but a few. Agorapulse also offers some tools for free, such as Facebook Barometer and Twitter Report Card.

 

 •  Buffer - Prominent for its “comprehensive analytics,” Buffer users can keep an eye on how their marketing strategy is performing to make the rapid changes necessary to succeed. Direct content is their forte, with seamless scheduling and browser extensions for work on-the-go.

Virtual Stacks Systems stays on the forefront of social media trends, employing the most advanced strategies and effective tools to set you ahead of the competition. We offer several social media management plans to ensure you only pay for the services that will benefit your business. Contact us with any questions, and learn how we can take your social media presence to the next level.

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Successful Marketing Automation – The Know-How You Need!

 

Successful Marketing Automation - The Know-How You Need!

Marketing is the driving force that makes business boom. As digital marketing strategies evolve, marketing automation has become integral to their successful execution. The right marketing automation software for your organization can streamline campaign management and help retain customers over the long term. Here is a look at how effective marketing automation helps the sales process to attract a greater number of qualified leads and close more sales – plus a rundown on the industry’s leading marketing automation solutions.

The Benefits of Marketing Automation

Not all marketing automation is equal. The right software for your business will perform the functions necessary to meet long-term goals. A common misconception by first-time users is that the software will churn out leads. This mistake can be costly. While marketing automation will effectively simplify and implement your tasks, it is not a solution to a failing campaign. After all, how can you further engage leads who have already lost interest? With a successful campaign and inbound leads to prove it, marketing automation can assist you by better catering to targeted leads’ interests. How exactly will it do this?

Marketing automation is like a well-stocked tool belt, increasing productivity and revenue. It keeps all of your preferred tools in an easy-to-navigate area for precise management.

Even with success, proper marketing automation constantly needs evolving to accurately respond to the behavioral data provided by leads. For example, when and where they are looking for and receiving their business recommendations, or the challenges they are facing. Solving these problems will make for personable and engaging content, in turn creating a better path for leads to convert to customers.

The worst habit marketing automation users can fall into is administering stale content – see our blog post, “What is Quality Content?” Maintaining quality content and appropriately responding to the data from leads is how you keep interest. How is this possible? By utilizing the key functions of marketing automation, you can use personalized, quality content to build prospective customer relationships, convert these leads into buyers, then retain them as satisfied customers over the long term.

The Key Functions

Marketing automation software provides a central marketing database for all marketing information and interactions. It is the belt that holds all of your tools in one convenient place, instead of several different toolboxes.

Here are the functions required to qualify as a marketing automation software, according to G2 Crowd:

Automate two or more of the following: email, social media, SMS and digital ads.

Provide advanced email marketing capabilities, including A/B testing, spam filter testing, scheduling, segmentation and detailed performance reporting.

Act as a central marketing database for marketing information and interactions.

Allow dynamic segmentation of marketing campaign targets.

Contact targets across multiple channels after specific actions, triggers or periods of time.

Perform lead management to include lead nurturing and lead scoring.

Generate forms and landing pages to collect prospect information.

Provide analytics and reports that track the entire lifecycle of a campaign, including ties to revenue and/or campaign ROI.

In unison, these functions not only simplify the execution of a marketing strategy, but assist in measuring campaign ROI and their impact on marketing KPIs, as well as company revenue.

Choosing the Best Tools

Selecting the right marketing automation solution for your business is critical. Making a well-informed decision can prevent the hassle of switching software and transferring campaigns down the line. Keeping the key functions in mind, here are some of the leading marketing automation tools:

 • HubSpot – The top-ranked inbound marketing software among marketers, HubSpot offers enough features and functions to suit most inbound marketing needs, and all of the resources to go with it. Regarded in the marketing industry as the “#1 inbound marketing platform,” it is a highly popular choice for small businesses. HubSpot also incorporates HubSpot Academy, which offers free online inbound marketing strategy courses and certification.

 

 • Marketo – As another inbound marketing software leader, Marketo ranks high for email campaigning and sales teams. Geared toward small-to-midsize businesses, Marketo’s  features include customer engagement, investment measurements and a collaborative workflow. Marketo boasts great integration with Pardot (Salesforce).

 

 • Pardot (Saleforce)  The Pardot CRM platform provides a full suite of tools designed to help marketers create connections, generate more leads and empower sales teams to close more deals. Pardot allows the creation of personalized campaigns and captures marketing ROI through tracking and reporting features.

As mentioned earlier in this post, even the best marketing automation software will be of limited success if your content is poor quality. Virtual Stacks Systems offers full-service digital marketing ‒ including website design and redesign, SEO, content creation (including video) and social media management. Contact us to learn how we can help you achieve your goals.

By the way, look for our blog post next week, where we’ll look at social media automation tools – what they do, how to use them and best-in-class solutions. See you then!

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What is Quality Content? We Answer the Question of the Ages!

 

What is Quality Content? We Answer the Question of the Ages!

Content is King” is the inescapable mantra of content marketers. A seemingly endless number of blog posts extoll the importance of providing “quality content,” but very few define it. As if the product of spontaneous generation – the archaic belief that living organisms arose from inanimate materials – quality content is expected to just appear and magically boost SEO rankings and move the needle for the client’s business. Today, this example of quality content is here to explain itself and the process. And understand that “content” includes video and graphics – not only the written word.

First, quality content is original.

Google favors original content, and will penalize sites containing articles appropriated from the posts of other websites. Google’s major 2011 Panda algorithm update effectively drove “content farm” e-zines off its top rankings (and out of existence). Many of these sites “spun” articles by paraphrasing the original and replacing large parts of the copy with synonyms, and tried to rank for keywords the original didn’t.

However, there’s a caveat: Even original content can be awful. Search Engine Land’s informative history of bad content provides the back story and context for Google’s wrath. Examples of such – including instructions for bathing a small rodent and “How to Play The Xylophone”– are unintentional works of comedy.

Which brings this quality blog post to the next point: quality content is well-informed.

The writer already has a strong command of the subject, or possesses strong research skills – preferably both. The writer knows how to find credible, authoritative online sources for the appropriate industry, such as websites for trade groups, professional accreditation groups, etc., and can write knowledgeably about the subject based upon such research.

Quality content does not come from clickbait sites offering articles with headlines like “The world was not ready for the dress she wore!”

What is quality content, How to write quality content

Closely related, quality content is accurate. Information is attributable to legitimate sources; statistics can be verified and linked to their source. Accuracy helps establish your organization as being reliable, trustworthy and committed to quality in every other area of business. Accuracy also includes fact-checking, as well as using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation – which necessitates careful, consistent proofreading.

Quality content is informative and actionable.

It is written to the wants and needs of the target audience, giving people answers to questions and/or useful information they can immediately or quickly incorporate into their life. Our blog post for client Adams and Son Plumbing – “It’s 4 ‘O Clog! Here Are the Top 4 Causes of Clogged Toilets” – provides practical advice on how to avoid this particularly expensive (and unhygienic) plumbing emergency. A major SEO benefit, of course, is that others will link to your content because it has information worth sharing.

Quality content connects with its audience.

This goes beyond merely providing information to making a connection based upon understanding and empathy – the sense that the author of the post “gets it” regarding the audience member’s experience with or feelings about the subject matter. A good deal of establishing this connection is writing in the right “tone of voice” for the topic. For example, our blog post for client Daniel’s Lawn Service – “Spring Flowers You Want In Your Central Florida Garden” – is written in an engaging, personable style to appeal to gardening enthusiasts. The invitation to step into a colorful backyard paradise to enjoy a neighborly cup of coffee is irresistible!

In contrast, our blog post for client DocuServe – “Blockchain 101: What You Need to Know About Blockchain” – covers a very technical topic. The post features insightful perspective from Blockchain pioneer Ian Kane, giving it extra appeal and credence to DocuServe’s target market of businesses in need of document security solutions.

Finally, quality content is created for people, but keeps SEO top-of-mind. After all, what good is quality content if no one reads or sees it because of poor search engine rankings? Search Engine Land’s Patrick Stox discussed the role of Google in determining what qualifies as quality content in his column, “What is Quality Content?” It may surprise some to learn that Google’s concept is basic golden rule principles:

• Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

• Don’t deceive your users.

• Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

Our quality blog post now concludes with the self-promotion you’ve been anticipating. Virtual Stacks Systems provides full-service digital marketing – including social media services – for a one-stop solution that can meet your company’s goals. We invite you to tell us what you want to achieve, and look forward to providing needle-moving quality content for you. If you happen to sell xylophones, we definitely will write a much better blog post than the one referenced in the third paragraph.

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Nine Tips for an Effective Email Marketing Campaign

 

Nine Tips for an Effective Email Marketing Campaign

If email had died when the self-proclaimed digital pundits said it did, we must be witnessing a zombie apocalypse.

According to statistics portal Statista, global email users worldwide in 2017 numbered  3.7 billion – with projected growth to 4.1 billion in 2021. The Radicati Group reports the total number of consumer and business email received and sent on a daily basis reached 269 billion, which is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.4% in the next four years, reaching 319.6 billion by the end of 2021. Then there are the statistics provided by DMA and Demand Metric, which place email with a median ROI of 122% – more than four times higher than other marketing formats (paid search, social media and direct mail).

However, even though email is very much alive as a marketing tool, it can only be as effective as your marketing strategy.

Here are nine tips for creating one that can help your organization thrive.

1. Have a clear-cut objective – Know what you want your email campaign to accomplish. Do you want qualified leads in your conversion funnel? Additional business from existing customers? Additional information from recipients so you can fine-tune future messages and offers? You’ll need to craft the message accordingly.

2. Create relevant, quality content – That is, relevant, compelling copy and visuals targeted to your demographic to motivate them to answer your call-to-action (CTA). Keep your message simple and direct. People are continuously bombarded with email, and don’t have time to read lengthy pitches or product/service descriptions.

Use the appropriate “tone of voice” in your copy. Sound businesslike but approachable for a professional, B2B audience; personable and conversational for B2C. Use high-resolution images and a clean, attractive layout – which is especially important for an e-commerce business. Please read the closely related Tip Number Six: Be sure to optimize for mobile.

3. Make relevant offers  Offering your target audience something they consider useful is a great way to boost response. Booklets, white papers and webinars should, of course, be part of every strategy that uses a marketing automation solution. Special discounts, giveaways or invitations to a real-world or online event also have great motivating power.

4. Have a strong CTA – This leads back to Tip Number One. If you know what you want the recipient of your email to do, your marketing message can build on features and benefits, culminating in what action needs to be taken to start the customer journey. If you’ve done the job right, the recipient will click on the “yes” button, considering it to be the next logical step. After all, if they miss out on your white paper, they won’t have the edge over their competitors!

5. Have a good subject line  It doesn’t matter how sharp and compelling your content is if the subject line gets your carefully crafted email sent directly into the spam folder. The second worst-case scenario is that the recipient will just decide it isn’t worth opening. Be upfront about the subject of your email (don’t make a sales pitch seem like the recipient has won a prize) and avoid words that are likely to trigger the spam filter (like “prize”).

6. Be sure to optimize for mobile  It’s a mobile-first world now, as you learned by reading our blog post of April 12, 2018, “Is Your Business Website Ready for Mobile-first Indexing?” An email with graphics and text that don’t display well on smartphones will quickly go in the Delete can.

7. Don’t skip testing and tracking  Make sure that whatever you send works properly before distribution. Test it in-house among your team members. Ensure that personalization shortcodes are working properly and that the links are opening accurately. Performing A/B testing with your subject lines, CTAs and the text of your message can help you learn what gets the best results. After your email is sent, keep a tab on analytics and check out your click-through rates, open rates, forwards and unsubscribes. This will help in fine-tuning future campaigns.

8. Keep adding to your subscriber list – Use every opportunity to grow your database. Include sign-up or subscribe fields on your website, as well encourage sign-ups at tradeshows and industry conferences.

9. Make it easy to unsubscribe – Sometimes, your B2B subscribers leave their company or change fields, while B2C customers no longer fit the demographic for your product or service. Give them a positive lasting impression of your organization, and they may recommend it to others who are still in the market.

As you can see, many elements go into implementing a successful email marketing strategy. Virtual Stacks Systems provides comprehensive digital marketing and email hosting solutions for organizations of all sizes. Contact us to learn how a highly targeted, robust email campaign can help meet your goals.

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Website Explainer Videos: What Not To Do

 

Website Explainer Videos: What Not To Do

By now, every business knows the value of video as a marketing tool. Or, we should say, every successful business knows. As noted by online marketing guru John Rampton in his article for Forbes, “User engagement with video material is higher than other forms of content, video is more accessible than ever before (thanks to mobile devices and faster internet), and it’s easier to produce than it has been in previous generations.”

Statistics provide the support. WordStream reports the following:

87% of online marketers use video content.
51% of marketing professionals worldwide name video as the type of content with the best ROI. For more on this, read our blog post of April 6, 2018, “Measuring the ROI of a Video Marketing Campaign – How to Capture the Unicorn.
• Marketers who use video grow revenue 49% faster than non-video users.

So how can you best use video for your brand? Rampton recommends starting with an explainer video, which is designed to give prospective customers and new users a run-down of what your products or services are and how they work. But while creating an explainer video may seem straightforward, there are pitfalls to avoid.

Here are 7 Common Explainer Video Mistakes to Avoid

1-Don’t forget your target audience – Every product, brand or service is made for a specific demographic. Your explainer video should represent your brand identity – be it young and hip, upscale, down-home, etc. – as well as that of your buyer persona. Whether your video is animated or live-action, be sure the script, manner of speech and appearance of characters/talent reflects (or appeals to) those of your target market. Keep the focus on your audience and their needs, rather than delivering a hard-sell about the greatness of your product or service.

2-Don’t make it too long – In this fast-paced world, people don’t have time to watch long videos. Experts recommend an average of 60 seconds, with a maximum of 90 seconds.

3-Don’t forget that you need a good script – Like any other effective marketing tool, an explainer video requires a clear, concise message with a strong call-to-action. Don’t try to convey your company’s entire history, philosophy, etc. in a single video. Introduce your product/service, describe the need it meets, describe its features/benefits, then conclude with a brief recap and the CTA. If possible, hire a professional scriptwriter.

4-Don’t talk too much about the features –People don’t want to hear details about what went into making the product during its initial development, or the difficulties you faced during the product testing stage. All they want to know is how your product will help them save time and add value to their life. Don’t speak only about the technical aspects of your product – emphasize how it will solve their issues. It is better to connect with your target audience on an emotional level than focus on specs.

5-Don’t sound too serious or boring – If appropriate, a little levity can be welcome. Just be cautious in using humor, as not everyone finds the same things funny – and, in the worst-case scenario, may even be offended. It’s easier to create an entertaining explainer video using animation than live action, as people tend to find animated characters and settings more engaging. Again, knowing your target audience will go a long way in conveying the right tone.

6-Don’t neglect the quality of your video – Constantly bombarded by videos all over the internet, audiences are more demanding than ever – and will immediately dismiss a poor-quality explainer (or any kind of) video. Invest in professional animation, voice-over talent, editing and sound mixing. If your video will be live action, hire an actor, or invest in a session with an acting or broadcasting coach to help you polish your on-camera delivery technique. Hiring professional talent should not be difficult or particularly expensive.

7-Don’t poorly distribute your video – Once your explainer video is ready, you need to upload it to all the right platforms. Many people think that uploading it to YouTube is all it takes to get an audience of prospective customers. Because your video distribution strategy is vital for getting the desired results, upload it to your website (home page, about us page, services page(s) and/or blog). Videos greatly improve website SEO, creating a win-win situation. Also post on your social media platforms, in advertising and on landing pages – which is proven to increase conversion rates and sales.

If you’ve noticed a theme running through this list, it’s summed up here: Making an effective explainer video is not a DIY project. Virtual Stacks Systems produces informative, entertaining explainer videos for a wide variety of businesses and industries. Contact us to discuss your digital video marketing needs.

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Eight Ways to Improve Your Website’s User Engagement

Eight Ways to Improve Your Website’s User Engagement

Website user engagement is one of the most vital factors that determine the ranking – and the success – of your site. There is a tremendous amount of competition on the internet, where every website is vying for the top spot on search engines, but not all of them achieve success. Even if the traffic on your website is high, it will not make much of a difference if visitors don’t take the desired actions.

User engagement is the crucial first step to start the conversion process. You need to first engage with your target audience, and only then can you convince them to buy your product or service. Also, visitors who fail to quickly find what they’re looking for – or simply don’t like the appearance of your website – leave after viewing just one page, resulting in a high bounce rate.

According to a study by Microsoft, the average human attention span is now eight seconds – four seconds less than what it was in the year 2000. If eight seconds is all you have to impress and attract customers, it is all the more essential that you pay a lot of attention to user engagement.

Why is user engagement so important?

It helps promote familiarity and increases loyalty – The more users engage with your material, the more they integrate with your brand community. The more you become familiar, the more are the chances that they would be loyal to your brand.

It increases visibility – Engagement increases your visibility, which means you get a wider audience.

It means your content is more effective – The more engagement your content generates, the more it is able to generate leads and sales.

Eight ways to increase your website’s user experience

There are various ways you can increase the user experience of your customers. Here are the eight most effective:

1. Increase the load speed of your website – Visitors have no patience with slow-loading web pages. According to a study by digital performance management company SOASTA, bounce rates increased by as much as 56% for pages that loaded just one second slower than pages that loaded in 2.4 seconds. As discussed in our February 28, 2018 blog post, Why Your Website Needs to be Up to Speed, website speed is vital to providing a good user experience – just as important as user-friendliness and site reliability. To owners of ecommerce websites, speed continues to increase as a factor in conversion rates.

2. Make sure you have a responsive design – As discussed in our blog post of March 26, 2018, Mobile-First Indexing is Coming: Is Your Website Ready, Google is now rolling out its transition of using the mobile version of web pages – instead of the desktop version – for indexing and ranking. According to Statista, mobile internet traffic accounted for 42.41% of all internet traffic in North America by August, 2017. Optimizing for mobile is no longer a nice extra – it’s essential to survival. Which segues into Number Three:

3. Make your website easy to navigate – It is a serious problem if your visitors leave your site because they’re unable to find what they want. Hard-to-navigate websites lead to high bounce rates. Organize your navigation menu clearly so that it is easy for users (especially mobile users) to reach their destination. Make your navigation bar readily accessible and organize categories in a clean, logical manner.

4. Improve your internal linking and display related content – It becomes easier for your users to navigate your website when you improve your internal linking structure. Proper internal linking can also improve your SEO rankings. An improved SEO ranking and easy to navigate website will increase your page views and reduce your bounce rates, which improves website user engagement. Make sure that the links have descriptive anchor texts, they are specific and relevant, and they reach a new destination.

5. Add video – Video is an excellent way to increase visitor engagement. As noted in our December 26, 2016 blog post, Add Video to Your Content Marketing Plan, video increases your SEO, as well as your chance of a front page Google result by 53 times. Google is paying more attention to video and placing it in prime real estate on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

6. Collect email addresses – Website user engagement is not just about making visitors come to your site once – you need to find ways to make them repeat visitors. Use inbound marketing principles to collect email addresses in order to supply prospective and existing customers with fresh, relevant content – such as white papers, case studies and survey results. Or put them on your mailing list for alerts to sales and/or special offers. Keep in mind, however, that many people have “email fatigue,” and may be less likely to opt in due to heavy bombardment with emails from other businesses they engage with. Take home-message: if you want someone’s email address, you need to offer something they consider worthwhile.

7. Know what your audience wants – Knowing the preferences and values of your audience is another way of increasing website user engagement, and you can do it by conducting a survey. You can use the survey to find out what your customers want from your business, their likes and dislikes, and suggestions. This will help you generate relevant, well-received website content.

8. Add a search box in a prominent place – The top left is ideal for the desktop version of your website, but since the emphasis is now on mobile-first design, top of the screen is the only logical location. Add a drop-down menu if it will improve the search experience for your website’s visitors. According to econsultancy, up to 30% of visitors on ecommerce sites will use the site search box, and each of these users is showing a possible intent to purchase by entering product names or codes.

Creating a website that provides seamless integration of elements that create optimum user engagement will achieve the best results. Virtual Stacks Systems offers comprehensive website design, website redesign, SEO, hosting and video production services. Contact us to learn more.

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