community engagement

5 Keys To Engaging and Driving Online Community Engagement

Online strategies aren’t just about setting up accounts on the right platforms – your strategy needs to involve true engagement.

Driving online community engagement requires planning, risk management, and a cohesive objective that is clearly stated to all of your key staff members.

1. Word-Of-Mouth Only Goes So Far

You need a plan. Simply signing up for an account on any given social platform does not mean your organization has fulfilled its obligation. Social connections via your chosen networks are not obligations but opportunities to engage directly with your members, prospects, fans, or clients.

As your message spreads and your community grows, how will you feed the appetite for more? Will you be equipped as an organization to create and disseminate your message?

This direct connection requires a clear plan with regard to infrastructure, integration, and, most importantly, a set of rules and policies for disseminating your message. There is nothing more important than a planned and coordinated process for responding to inquiries, comments, and requests.

2. Identify Your Advocates and Feed Them

The key to any community is the full engagement of its members. Early on in your campaign you will discover those advocates who are willing to share your message and push that message to their respective networks. With every Facebook post, tweet, or blog post, your advocates wait to share what your campaign is providing.

Gaining the trust of your online advocates and providing them with a continued stream of shareable content provides ever expanding reach; in turn pulling in more campaign advocates from their respective networks.

Reward their efforts. Recognize and identify your advocates publicly. Thank them whenever, wherever, and however you can. These individuals are the backbone of your campaign’s success.

3. Trust Your Community

Astute observers of successful online campaigns understand the nuances of online communication. Well planned, effectively executed online campaigns have assessed the risks at hand and understand how to mitigate those risks when required.

Just as your community trusts and advocates your campaign, you in turn must trust your community when negative comments or posts arise. Well-fed advocates who have been provided with the right tools will assist in regulating your community – most times without direct intervention.

Ask yourself before you begin: Do you understand how to mitigate risk? Can you identify those in your community who are your advocates? Can you identify those in your community that are Influencers?

4. Rules Of Engagement – Rules / Fears / Clarity Over Control

The rule of online engagement has shifted, placing the power of the message in the hands of the viewer, consumer, or visitor. The intention of a Rules Of Engagement policy is not to handcuff those posting and engaging online.

The intention is to provide a set of guidelines for disseminating content, insuring all messaging is on brand, on target, and true to the core message. Direct brand connections create deep inherent value and keep visitors and advocates coming back.

Community engagement using social media requires a shift in the way organizations view themselves and their relationship with the public. The shift is happening on a cultural, organizational, and individual level. Before committing resources to a social media program, organizations need to know how to mitigate the risks while maximizing the rewards.

The first step is to create a safe space for staff, volunteers, and other stakeholders through clear, effective social media policies. Clarity over control.

When everyone involved knows the purpose of the organization’s social media initiatives—if each individual is clear about his or her role in achieving that purpose and the parameters in which they can participate—those social media initiatives will be that much more successful from the start.

Do you understand the nuances of your community? Have you provided your key internal staff and your community manager with a clear community engagement objective?

5. Tools Don’t Build Communities – People Do

Many times online community engagement continues to fall back on the tools an organization commandeers to share their brand message. However, those tools don’t drive themselves. It’s the people that organize and implement the campaign who are the key to a successful campaign.

Your community manager, the advocates, and the influencers will make or break the success of your online initiatives.

Can you identify those in your community who are your advocates? Can you identify those in your community that are Influencers? Have you empowered your key internal staff with the tools they require to create a successful online campaign?

Why B2B Marketers Love To Hate Google

The Key to Understanding Google’s Robots

It’s virtually impossible to avoid using Google as part of any marketing strategy.

But as every business that uses Google knows, the rewards to be reaped from its services are huge yet dealing with the technology behemoth can be absolutely infuriating. This frustration with Google often reaches its crescendo when it comes to dealing with Google Reviews.

There are a lot of things for the marketing pro to explain. Some helpful tips might even help understand how Google works, but they may not totally remove that feeling of frustration.

Things to know about Google and the online/tech industry in general:

  • Tech giants are not like traditional industries. They never release a finished product. Everything is a big test. They launch broken services (beta) and fix things along the way. New products and services almost never provide a seamless working experience. For example, Google Places, Google Maps, Google+, and Google Reviews were conceived as separate services and when Google decided to merge them the result was complete chaos. Google tries to prioritize and fix problems according to what brings them the most revenue, not what is the best for the users of the service. Frustrating, but understandable.
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  • Google (the company with employees) is different than the Google we all use every day. The Google we use to search or post a review is really made up of a bunch of computers that work using algorithms that are so complex they would confound us mere mortals. To the average human being, the logic seems completely random and without sense. But there is logic to it. Thousands upon thousands of people at Google work on those algorithms and nothing else. But once the algorithm is instituted, as it were, the robots make decisions about content posted by humans (posts, reviews, etc.) and those decisions are made without any human intervention.
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  • Let’s just scratch the surface on the review algorithm, for example. The Google computers do a deep background search on the person posting the review. They look for information such as:
     

    • Is the person posting related to the business in one way or another?
    • Where is the location of the computer used to post the review?
    • How many reviews has that person posted before?
    • Is that person actively using other google products (like YouTube or Gmail)?
    • Does the review contain a specific sequence of words or turns of phrases that have been deemed of low value by Google?

There are literally millions of questions like these that the algorithm is trained to consider when analyzing a review.

The previous paragraph may help to explain why it takes so darned long for Google to post reviews and also why there isn’t really an ETA on when reviews might be posted. All the reviews written about all the businesses on the planet are put on a giant queue. It is impossible to know how long it takes for the Google robot to analyze a review as it depends on all of the above factors, and no human eyes, to know how many reviews are waiting to be posted ahead of the one submitted for your business (could be three thousand or five million).

Then there’s the robot factor. If the review contains something that the robot has been programmed to recognize as spam (not what we think of as spam as the Google definition is a very broad and generic term), it will be dismissed without any notification and without a way to appeal. The algorithm is literally judge, jury, and executioner.

Is the Google system perfect? Absolutely not.

Is Google broken? It sure seems like it sometimes, but let’s not go that far.

Is someone working on it? Yes the humans working at Google understand the value of reviews and their impact on businesses. Furthermore, as the whole, Google Places and Google Reviews represent a HUGE vector of growth for THEIR business and they are working hard on refining the process and making it more efficient for everyone. It might not be relevant to your business in particular, but as an example the Google Places batch verification process is something that didn’t exist not so long ago.

The whole notion of Google is hard thing to wrap one’s head around. Imagine driving a car that is morphing as you hurtle down the freeway. It’s a sedan then it’s a convertible. The size of the wheels is randomly changing. You have no control on the accelerator or the brakes. You’re just a pair of hands on the wheel, doing the best to maintain keep it between the ditches and moving forward. You’re not really the driver.

Frustration with this opaque process is completely understandable.

But there are concrete things you can do to best position your business for success in a Google world. It begins with a basic understanding that the internet is a great equalizer – which puts the start-up, the independent, and the big guys equal footing. There us a huge opportunity for all businesses to reconnect with their customers in a whole new way that inspires engagement and sharing, organically, naturally, and in a way that earns attention of the robot.

In the meantime, talking with experts who live and breathe this connected environment can often make this process smoother and be that missing human link you’re looking for while figuring out how to deal with that faceless monolith.

We speak robot. Let’s talk!

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What is Organic SEO?

Last year, our Director of Interactive, James Wallace, garnered lot of attention for his blog post entitled Does SEO Really Matter Anymore? Over the past year, the answer to this question has proven time and again to be: “Yes…but not as we know it!”

Search engine optimization has changed. In short, this is because Google has eschewed the antics and tricks engineered by SEO companies to thwart search engines and has instead altered its algorithms to reward the virtues of bona fide content and expertise. It’s not magic. It doesn’t involve smoke and mirrors. But it is strategic and highly measurable. It’s Organic SEO – a potent way to showcase the expertise of your business and facilitate discovery for your brand like never before.

Given that 81% of consumers start with a web search when they begin to look for content, it’s critical for your business to be found when and where consumers expect you to be found.

Here’s how to get started with Organic SEO:

  1. Facilitate Discovery – Work with inbound marketing experts to develop a plan to ensure discovery at the moment of interest. Conduct competitive research and develop a keyword strategy for organic search (which is very different from paid search)
  2. Optimize Your Content – Once you have identified which keyword phrases you should be targeting it becomes much easier to develop SEO-written website content, blog posts, and other textual content that attracts and engages your specific audience and meets their needs. Chances are you already have a wealth of content (text, audio, and video) that can be optimized organically.
  3. Generate and Nurture Leads – Marketing agency software such as MomentumOptify can give you real-time intelligence on visitors and their browsing activity, facilitate data-capture with landing pages, and allow sales nurturing campaigns that drive conversion. This is especially helpful if your company is involved in B2B activities or depends on creating direct sales relationships.
  4. Measure and Repeat – It is critical to understand, identify, and track a core set of metrics to guide your online strategy. The quality of the data that you collect is as important as its volume. To determine whether inbound marketing efforts are ultimately successful you need to measure all traffic, not just visits. Above all, you must analyze the data. Content may be king, but if you don’t understand what content and campaigns are driving traffic, the true potential of those efforts will never be realized. Your marketing team can help you interpret data and make sound business decisions based on it.

At the end of the day, Organic SEO presents a stellar opportunity for business owners and managers to set their offerings apart from their competitors by presenting high quality, educational, and helpful content to their customers. Additionally, by utilizing inbound marketing software and implementing well-conceived content strategies, you will facilitate discovery of your products and services at a much higher rate than using previous tactics.

It’s not unusual for our clients to experience an exponential increase in search placement vis-à-vis competitors. That translates into an increased number of phone calls, in-person and website visits, pre-qualified sales inquiries… and inevitably more revenue to the bottom line.

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What Is Inbound Marketing?

For more than a century, marketing and advertising have been defined by interruptive marketing techniques such as print, radio, and television commercials, cold-calling, sales flyers, and telemarketing.

However, a new era is upon us where the populace is consuming media on their own terms, eschewing commercials, initiating their own search, and embracing social discovery of the products and services they need and want.

It’s no surprise then that marketers are left wondering why it’s getting harder to sell!

Inbound marketing is based on the concept of earning the attention of prospects, making yourself easy to be found, and drawing customers to your website by producing content customers value. These blogs, audio, video, eBooks, eNewsletters, white papers, SEO articles, social media marketing, and other forms of content marketing are considered inbound marketing.

Therefore, the process of Inbound Marketing facilitates and hastens client discovery of your offerings, increases web traffic, generates leads, facilitates sales conversations, and builds loyalty with consumers.

1. Generate more traffic
2. Turn visitors into leads
3. Convert leads to sales
4. Turn customers into repeat higher margin customers
5. Analyze, refine, and repeat

Inbound marketing is especially effective for those businesses with long research cycles and knowledge-based products. In these areas prospects are more likely to get informed and hire those who demonstrate expertise.

In the words of an accomplished marketing professional and new client who found Momentum as a result of our own inbound marketing techniques…
“I need to know enough to know who to hire to get the job done.”

Inbound Marketing will allow you to out maneuver your competition, and be regarded as the expert in your field at the moment of interest.

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What is a Digital Strategy?

A well-conceived and properly developed digital strategy is absolutely critical to most every successful marketing plan. When executed, it will leverage all your internet, social, and content marketing initiatives in a way that will generate leads and result in new revenue incredibly fast.

Every business is different. The only common denominator is that all business –regardless of industry – is evolving at an exponential rate. For this reason, it is critical that marketers access the best expertise available to design and create an effective ecosystem that is optimized to deliver the desired results.

The digital ecosystem schematic will illustrate how internet traffic (demand) will be generated and how it is commandeered and routed between web site, blog, audio, video, ebooks, eNewsletters, as well as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social sharing platforms.

All internet marketing, social media, and content initiatives must facilitate discovery and inspire social sharing across all appropriate platforms. All content should be shaped specifically for the venue in which it is deployed. And above all, clear rules of engagement must be implemented to avoid public relations disasters.

When working with a good digital agency, it’s not necessary that you have all the answers. Your digital experts will guide you through the process and begin delivering results your business needs and deserves.

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How Associations Can Harness The Power Of Social

Associations, whether national, regional, or local, are essentially communities. They are comprised of groups of tribes or individuals who are united by shared goals, interests, or preferences. Associations are, by their very nature, social.

This presents a unique and especially prescient opportunity for associations to leverage the power of new social communication, marketing, and media techniques to achieve their goals like never before. Whether they are professional, charitable, trade, political, cultural, or otherwise, associations may need to fulfill multiple mandates: advocacy, awareness, fund raising, education, communicating, lobbying, among others.

Chances are your association’s key initiatives include:

• Communicating with members
• Demonstrating value to the membership
• Advocating on behalf of consumers at large

What Social Can Do

Utilizing social marketing can open a community of engaged advocates, both members and non-members, who are willing to share your message across their respective social networks, generate awareness, and solidify your associations mandate with the public at large. However your association will have to engage with those advocates and leverage the power of social channels effectively. Here’s how.

Three Key Factors In Harnessing Social Channels

1. Be In The Community

Your association needs to be an active participant on all of the obvious networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. This means you need to go where your members are, and they are everywhere.

2. You Need A Plan

Simply signing up for an account on any given social platform does not mean your association has fulfilled its obligation. Social connections via your chosen networks are not obligations but opportunities to engage directly with your members. This direct connection requires a clear plan with regard to infrastructure, integration, and most importantly a set rules of engagement policy. There is nothing more important than a planned and coordinated process for responding to negative comments.

3. Content

Well-crafted and professionally produced text, audio, and video that clearly communicate your organization’s message are core to a great content marketing strategy. Content is the essential asset that will drive readers to your association via online and mobile. Since many associations are in the enviable position of having a business model based on providing information to their members, the raw materials for stellar content is often at their fingertips. Niche by definition, associations that create well crafted, shareable, and SEO friendly content can effectively push their message online.

Harness The Power Of Social Channels

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Creating Direct Communication With Potential Investors

The New Rules For Reaching Retail And Institutional Investors

The key factor behind the bottom-line of any investor relations professional is valuation. The art of effective communication to achieve the highest possible valuation for your company or client is the driving force behind successful, profitable investor relations campaigns.

The internet has fundamentally changed the way in which investor communication is disseminated to investors and potential investors. Early on, the IR section of your company website was a “nice to have” but not a necessary feature. However, in today’s market not only is it expected that your organization maintain an in-depth IR section on your website, governing regulatory bodies now provide guidelines on requirements for those web pages. Communication with investors via your website and the industry standard email subscription newsletter may feel like an effective means for getting out your message but are you effectively harnessing all available channels?

The exponential growth and relatively fast adoption of various social platforms on today’s internet provides IR professionals with an even deeper set of tools to tell their story. You only need to take a look at IR Web Report’s current social media section (click here >) to understand the importance these tools now play in the marketplace. Publicly traded companies are harnessing social channels to communicate with potential investors and shape their brand message. The key to utilizing these essential social channels is a cohesive brand message across all platforms with the understanding that this is a direct connection to your audience; a connection that well exceeds the usual email newsletter approach.

With this direct connection comes a new set of considerations:

1. Cohesion Across Platforms

Across all social platforms, your investors, both retail and institutional need to be viewed as one audience. Retail or institutional, both require the same information. Just as social cannot be the only means for disseminating timely investor information no longer can your website and newsletter be relied upon as the sole means of communication.

2. The Benefits Of Immediacy

Social content pushed through the appropriate channels now places higher than the most meticulously crafted SEO optimized content when searching on Google. Why? Many searches are now based on relevancy and how timely the indexed information is that is being searched for.

3. Shaping Your Message

Monitoring and tracking what is being said about your brand online provides your organization with the ability to engage in conversations that previously occurred beyond your reach. The effective shaping of your corporate message and the governance of a cohesive rules of engagement plan assists in mitigating the inherent risks.

Social media, on all platforms, is no longer a tool solely intended for consumer communication. B2B, HR and now some of the most innovative IR professionals are beginning to appreciate the value in social. We are seeing the emergence of fully socialized businesses in all sectors including those that are publicly traded.

Want to Harness Social For IR?

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Does SEO Matter Anymore?

The push is on to put SEO to the bottom of the pile and for good reason. The web has become a sea of discoverability, no longer dictated by outdated SEO placement tactics and replaced with what can only be described as a true content push.

Your users or customers are less and less fooled by the SEO tactics of the past and are now drawn into content that has personal value. Strong content pushed to social circles by friends, followers and business peers is now drawing as much, if not more, audience than any well placed search term.

Large scale online properties, such as The Atlantic, are now pushing traffic through social channels much more effectively than through SEO based placement.

[info]“Sixteen months ago we received the same number of monthly referrals from search as social. Now 40% of traffic comes from social media,”
Scott Havens, Senior Vice President of finance and digital operations at The Atlantic Media Company.
[/info]

The creation and dissemination of content may be what binds your marketing message together, however, that content now needs to be offered with in the right context. Pushing that content within the right context requires deep, cohesive strategy that goes well beyond key words and a strong headline. Contextual content that your readers are compelled to share to their respective networks is the key to a successful strategy.

There is a deep shift occurring in how people find what they are looking for online. This shift is not solely based on algorithms and programming but also takes into account – location, browsing habits, relevancy and social connections. Users are now provided with web search, particularly Google, that is predictive in nature.

With the advent of Google Now users are beginning to see the shift in how they will search for online content. By combining predictive search technology with real time visualization we can see Google’s continual shift from a simply a search engine to a predictive, personal assistant that will understand what you are searching for within context. Google Now achieves this by accessing your email, calendar, contacts, text messages, location, shopping habits, payment history, music choices, books read and movies you have watched. For some this may seem to be a deep breach of privacy and those privacy parameters are yet to be fully established. For others, like myself, this appears to be the natural progression of technology to become the personal assistant we have only seen in science fiction until now.

The key motivator for this shift in contextual search results is, without a doubt, the deep market penetration of mobile devices. Predictive in its results, this type of search technology is pushing information to you based on what information the device already knows about your likes, habits and social connections.

So how will effective marketing campaigns have to reshape themselves within a world driven by predictive, location aware search results?

Effective marketing campaigns will now have to adopt an active listening approach to fully incorporate customers in the feedback loop. The consumer voice has never been so strong and those businesses that pay attention to active consumer voices will see the rewards. Your companies reputation online has never been as important as is it now. Products and services spoken of favorably online will, without a doubt, see themselves pushed to the top of predictive search results.

In addition to active listening, inbound marketing becomes an important factor in an effective marketing strategy. Focusing on being found by your customers by providing high value content that is relevant to their wants and draws them into contacting you is now the strongest tool in attracting potential clients. As your content takes shape and becomes distributed across networks your offering obtains authenticity. For many marketers this is a drastic shift from the traditional outbound model, however, brands that do not shift a portion of their marketing budget to an inbound marketing model will have more and more difficulty conveying their message.

So does this mean that SEO is still a relevant means to garner traffic for your online properties? Probably yes. However, predictive search technology does create some division in how content will be optimized depending on the platform you are focusing your efforts on. With mobile access now exceeding desktop access for many online services, a deeper focus will be weighed on relevance and reputation in regards to predictive search results.

It’s all about location, location, location.

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