How to Succeed at B2B Content Marketing with More Credible Content

Creating Credible B2B Content

Ask any B2B marketer about their top digital marketing challenges and one of the first answers you’ll likely receive is: Getting in front of the right audience at the right time. In fact, Ytel’s 2018 State of B2B Marketing Communications survey revealed that 55% of respondents agreed that they have a hard time getting their message and content in front of their target audience.

Why is that? Well, there’s more content at buyers’ fingertips than ever before, search engines are getting in touch with their human sides, and organic visibility on social media is effectively extinct. But, let’s real talk for a minute, marketers—this is all old news. In today’s digital marketing landscape, creating meaningful connections with your audience on any channel really comes down to trust and credibility.

Consumers are increasingly numb to advertising and marketing messages—and they’re actively trying to avoid it all. Last year, PageFair reported that adblocking usage had grown by 30% globally. In addition, Facebook’s recent decision to de-emphasize brand content was in response to users saying that posts from businesses, brands and media were crowding their News Feeds.

However, buyers are increasingly looking to those they know and those they think they know for insights, answers and recommendations. Multiple reports have shown that somewhere around 90% of consumers trust influencers or individuals over straight branded content. In addition, according to a recent report from CMI and SmartBrief, 40% of B2B decision-makers say that credibility trumps the source of the information.

This means B2B brands and marketers need to double-down on creating quality, credible content to drive marketing objectives and wins. But how? By infusing credible voices, perspectives and insights from influential sources—namely industry experts and thought leaders—into the content marketing game plan.

#B2B brands & marketers need to double-down on creating quality, #crediblecontent to drive #marketing objectives & wins. Click To Tweet

To highlight how creating more credible content with influencers can help your B2B brand get in front of interested buyers, create an engaging experience, and inspire action, take a look at these three examples from the TopRank Marketing playbook of successful client influencer content marketing programs.

Case Study #1 – Introhive: Reaching, engaging and inspiring a niche audience.

Introhive is a leading customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider. Working across a variety of industries, Introhive aims to help their clients gain and effectively leverage customer intelligence in a way that can grow their business.

The Situation: The legal sector is one of Introhive’s focus industries. However, it’s an industry that’s been reluctant to adopt CRM technologies. Why? Oftentimes business development isn’t an established department within law practices, making it hard to justify investments in a “sales” technology. But law firms large and small have growth aspirations—and Introhive wanted to empower them to realize those opportunities.

Another challenge with attorneys and other legal professionals is that they often build their careers on evidence and witness testimony. Essentially, this industry is by nature hard to reach without offering credibility, authority and proof.

The Solution: With two unique challenges to overcome, our team knew that engaging other legal professionals to share their expertise and insights on business development, we could not only showcase the Introhive brand, but also needed to provide their audience with unique, relevant and trustworthy insights.

TopRank Marketing worked with the team at Introhive to develop an integrated influencer content program that began with a survey of legal community members. Conducting the survey helped facilitate building influencer relationships, while also collecting valuable data that could be used to further bolster campaign content. Other pieces of the integrated content marketing mix included an eBook—our anchor asset—blog posts, organic social amplification, paid social, and email.

Introhive Credible Content Case Study

The Results: For starters, we saw 15% more eBook downloads in the first month than the benchmark asset had in its lifetime. During the same time period, the accompanying blog content garnered over 600% more views compared to benchmarks for average blog content. Finally and without specifics available, the Introhive team reports that the program has delivered “medium to huge” marketing qualified leads (MQLs). Suffice it to say, this program leveraged credible content within influencers and research to generate substantial results. 

Read the full Introhive integrated influencer campaign case study.

Case Study #2 – Cherwell: Increasing brand visibility and thought leadership in a competitive space.

Cherwell Software is a leading IT service management (ITSM) company with a mission to help their customers leverage intuitive technology to enable better, faster and more affordable innovation.

The Situation: Since its inception a little over a decade ago, Cherwell has been rapidly gaining traction in the competitive ITSM space—but they’re still one of the newer kids on the block with other new competitors emerging rapidly. To continue their growth and fend off competition, Cherwell wanted to expand its marketing channels, increase brand awareness, engage industry thought leaders and—of course—eventually drive leads.

The Solution: Given Cherwell’s position in the competitive ITSM space, the team at TopRank Marketing worked to design an influencer content campaign that was highly-targeted to key the decision-makers they wanted to reach. How? We knew in order to stand out in news feeds and build near-instant credibility with our content, we needed to understand what influences the target audience the most.

To uncover the people, publications, and content topics and types that “moved” our audience the most, as well as where they spent time on social media, we designed a new research tool—the RITHM report. 

Using insights from the RITHM report to inform the content marketing approach, the resulting campaign included an eBook anchor asset, blog posts, an SEO-driven landing page, paid and organic social media.

Cherwell Credible Content Case Study

The Results: According to Alison Munn, Social Media and Digital Marketing Lead at Cherwell: “Not only did this program meet the defined goals and objectives, but the results and process exceeded my expectations!”

With this campaign responsible for 22% of new revenue for Cherwell in 2017, it was a recent winner of the B2B Marketing Exchange “Killer Content Award”.

You can learn more about this program in the case study video below:

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Case Study #3 – SAP SuccessFactors: Driving awareness and action by connecting to a specific audience pain point.

SAP SuccessFactors is a leading human capital management (HCM) suite that helps human resources (HR) professionals unleash the full potential of their workforce through transformation and engagement, and ultimately drive results across the business.

The Situation: For this niche human resources audience, employee wellness programs are part of the strategy to unleash the potential of their employees. However, the pain point for many organizations is finding a holistic solution in one place that also provides understanding of the true impact their efforts can have on the workplace. SAP wanted to drive awareness around their holistic solution, while also educating and engaging their audience.

The Solution: TopRank Marketing partnered with SAP SuccessFactors to craft an multi-pronged, influencer-driven content campaign that would not only raise awareness around their solution, but also provide their audience with credible, relevant, and actionable insights.

This campaign was anchored with an influencer eBook that featured insights from 10 top workplace culture, wellness, and technology experts, as well as internal experts from SAP SuccessFactors. In addition, other tactics such as a well-optimized landing page, social media promotion, and customized motion graphics were part of the mix.

SAP Credible Content Case Study Example

The Results: For downloads, we saw a  272% increase over SAP’s established benchmark. In addition, the accompanying landing page boasted a 68% conversion rate. Lastly, organic social promotion of the content—from the brand and influencers—drove 86% of overall views and 69% of overall conversions.

Read the full SAP SuccessFactors influencer-driven content campaign case study.

The Big B2B Takeaway for Credible Content

We’re in an era of a distrust and indifference to B2B marketing messages—which means if buyers don’t find your content credible and trustworthy, they’ll move on.

From skepticism to standing out in a crowded and more seasoned field, each of the aforementioned brands were living the trends and looking for a way to capture the attention of their audiences.

By cleverly leveraging influencers to create more credible and authoritative content and more trusted amplification, these brands were able to deliver their audiences with thoughtful opinions and diverse insights, bolster brand authority and make more meaningful connections with their audiences. But perhaps the most exciting campaign result was that building credibility led to audience activation—or conversions in other words.

To put it simply, with the right strategy, insights and influencer infusion, credible content can help brands win over your audience at every stage of the buyer journey.

With the right strategy, insights & influencer infusion, #crediblecontent can absolutely help brands win over your audience at every stage of the buyer journey. @CaitlinMBurgess Click To Tweet

Want to learn more creating more credible content? Check out our post on building credibility and authority with content marketing.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Google’s Walled Garden: Are We Being Pushed Out of Our Own Digital Backyards?

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Early search engines were built on an unspoken transaction — a pact between search engines and website owners — you give us your data, and we’ll send you traffic. While Google changed the game of how search engines rank content, they honored the same pact in the beginning. Publishers, who owned their own content and traditionally were fueled by subscription revenue, operated differently. Over time, they built walls around their gardens to keep visitors in and, hopefully, keep them paying.

Over the past six years, Google has crossed this divide, building walls around their content and no longer linking out to the sources that content was originally built on. Is this the inevitable evolution of search, or has Google forgotten their pact with the people’s whose backyards their garden was built on?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question, but the evolution itself is undeniable. I’m going to take you through an exhaustive (yes, you may need a sandwich) journey of the ways that Google is building in-search experiences, from answer boxes to custom portals, and rerouting paths back to their own garden.


I. The Knowledge Graph

In May of 2012, Google launched the Knowledge Graph. This was Google’s first large-scale attempt at providing direct answers in search results, using structured data from trusted sources. One incarnation of the Knowledge Graph is Knowledge Panels, which return rich information about known entities. Here’s part of one for actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (note: this image is truncated)…

The Knowledge Graph marked two very important shifts. First, Google created deep in-search experiences. As Knowledge Panels have evolved, searchers have access to rich information and answers without ever going to an external site. Second, Google started to aggressively link back to their own resources. It’s easy to overlook those faded blue links, but here’s the full Knowledge Panel with every link back to a Google property marked…

Including links to Google Images, that’s 33 different links back to Google. These two changes — self-contained in-search experiences and aggressive internal linking — represent a radical shift in the nature of search engines, and that shift has continued and expanded over the past six years.

More recently, Google added a sharing icon (on the right, directly below the top images). This provides a custom link that allows people to directly share rich Google search results as content on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and by email. Google no longer views these pages as a path to a destination. Search results are the destination.

The Knowledge Graph also spawned Knowledge Cards, more broadly known as “answer boxes.” Take any fact in the panel above and pose it as a question, and you’re likely to get a Knowledge Card. For example, “How old is Chiwetel Ejiofor?” returns the following…

For many searchers, this will be the end of their journey. Google has answered their question and created a self-contained experience. Note that this example also contains links to additional Google searches.

In 2015, Google launched Medical Knowledge Panels. These gradually evolved into fully customized content experiences created with partners in the medical field. Here’s one for “cardiac arrest” (truncated)…

Note the fully customized design (these images were created specifically for these panels), as well as the multi-tabbed experience. It is now possible to have a complete, customized content experience without ever leaving Google.


II. Live Results

In some specialized cases, Google uses private data partnerships to create customized answer boxes. Google calls these “Live Results.” You’ve probably seen them many times now on weather, sports and stock market searches. Here’s one for “Seattle weather”…

For the casual information seeker, these are self-contained information experiences with most or all of what we care about. Live Results are somewhat unique in that, unlike the general knowledge in the Knowledge Graph, each partnership represents a disruption to an industry.

These partnerships have branched out over time into even more specialized results. Consider, for example, “Snoqualmie ski conditions”…

Sports results are incredibly disruptive, and Google has expanded and enriched these results quite a bit over the past couple of years. Here’s one for “Super Bowl 2018″…

Note that clicking any portion of this Live Result leads to a customized portal on Google that can no longer be called a “search result” in any traditional sense (more on portals later). Special sporting events, such as the 2018 Winter Olympics, have even more rich features. Here are some custom carousels for “Olympic snowboarding results”…

Note that these are multi-column carousels that ultimately lead to dozens of smaller cards. All of these cards click to more Google search results. This design choice may look strange on desktop and marks another trend — Google’s shift to mobile-first design. Here’s the same set of results on a Google Pixel phone…

Here, the horizontal scrolling feels more intuitive, and the carousel is the full-width of the screen, instead of feeling like a free-floating design element. These features are not only rich experiences on mobile screens, but dominate mobile results much more than they do two-column desktop results.


III. Carousels

Speaking of carousels, Google has been experimenting with a variety of horizontal result formats, and many of them are built around driving traffic back to Google searches and properties. One of the older styles of carousels is the list format, which runs across the top of desktop searches (above other results). Here’s one for “Seattle Sounders roster”…

Each player links to a new search result with that player in a Knowledge Panel. This carousel expands to the width of the screen (which is unusual, since Google’s core desktop design is fixed-width). On my 1920×1080 screen, you can see 14 players, each linking to a new Google search, and the option to scroll for more…

This type of list carousel covers a wide range of topics, from “cat breeds” to “types of cheese.” Here’s an interesting one for “best movies of 1984.” The image is truncated, but the full result includes drop-downs to select movie genres and other years…

Once again, each result links to a new search with a Knowledge Panel dedicated to that movie. Another style of carousel is the multi-row horizontal scroller, like this one for “songs by Nirvana”…

In this case, not only does each entry click to a new search result, but many of them have prominent featured videos at the top of the left column (more on that later). My screen shows at least partial information for 24 songs, all representing in-Google links above the traditional search results…

A search for “laptops” (a very competitive, commercial term, unlike the informational searches above) has a number of interesting features. At the bottom of the search is this “Refine by brand” carousel…

Clicking on one of these results leads to a new search with the brand name prepended (e.g. “Apple laptops”). The same search shows this “Best of” carousel…

The smaller “Mentioned in:” links go to articles from the listed publishers. The main, product links go to a Google search result with a product panel. Here’s what I see when I click on “Dell XPS 13 9350” (image is truncated)…

This entity live in the right-hand column and looks like a Knowledge Panel, but is commercial in nature (notice the “Sponsored” label in the upper right). Here, Google is driving searchers directly into a paid/advertising channel.


IV. Answers & Questions

As Google realized that the Knowledge Graph would never scale at the pace of the wider web, they started to extract answers directly from their index (i.e. all of the content in the world, or at least most of it). This led to what they call “Featured Snippets”, a special kind of answer box. Here’s one for “Can hamsters eat cheese?” (yes, I have a lot of cheese-related questions)…

Featured Snippets are an interesting hybrid. On the one hand, they’re an in-search experience (in this case, my basic question has been answered before I’ve even left Google). On the other hand, they do link out to the source site and are a form of organic search result.

Featured Snippets also power answers on Google Assistant and Google Home. If I ask Google Home the same question about hamsters, I hear the following:

On the website TheHamsterHouse.com, they say “Yes, hamsters can eat cheese! Cheese should not be a significant part of your hamster’s diet and you should not feed cheese to your hamster too often. However, feeding cheese to your hamster as a treat, perhaps once per week in small quantities, should be fine.”

You’ll see the answer is identical to the Featured Snippet shown above. Note the attribution (which I’ve bolded) — a voice search can’t link back to the source, posing unique challenges. Google does attempt to provide attribution on Google Home, but as they use answers extracted from the web more broadly, we may see the way original sources are credited change depending on the use case and device.

This broader answer engine powers another type of result, called “Related Questions” or the “People Also Ask” box. Here’s one on that same search…

These questions are at least partially machine-generated, which is why the grammar can read a little oddly — that’s a fascinating topic for another time. If you click on “What can hamsters eat list?” you get what looks a lot like a Featured Snippet (and links to an outside source)…

Notice two other things that are going on here. First, Google has included a link to search results for the question you clicked on (see the purple arrow). Second, the list has expanded. The two questions at the end are new. Let’s click “What do hamsters like to do for fun?” (because how can I resist?)…

This opens up a second answer, a second link to a new Google search, and two more answers. You can continue this to your heart’s content. What’s especially interesting is that this isn’t just some static list that expands as you click on it. The new questions are generated based on your interactions, as Google tries to understand your intent and shape your journey around it.

My colleague, Britney Muller, has done some excellent research on the subject and has taken to calling these infinite PAAs. They’re probably not quite infinite — eventually, the sun will explode and consume the Earth. Until then, they do represent a massively recursive in-Google experience.


V. Videos & Movies

One particularly interesting type of Featured Snippet is the Featured Video result. Search for “umbrella” and you should see a panel like this in the top-left column (truncated):

This is a unique hybrid — it has Knowledge Panel features (that link back to Google results), but it also has an organic-style link and large video thumbnail. While it appears organic, all of the Featured Videos we’ve seen in the wild have come from YouTube (Vevo is a YouTube partner), which essentially means this is an in-Google experience. These Featured Videos consume a lot of screen real-estate and appear even on commercial terms, like Rihanna’s “umbrella” (shown here) or Kendrick Lamar’s “swimming pools”.

Movie searches yield a rich array of features, from Live Results for local showtimes to rich Knowledge Panels. Last year, Google completely redesigned their mobile experience for movie results, creating a deep in-search experience. Here’s a mobile panel for “Black Panther”…

Notice the tabs below the title. You can navigate within this panel to a wealth of information, including cast members and photos. Clicking on any cast member goes to a new search about that actor/actress.

Although the search results eventually continue below this panel, the experience is rich, self-contained, and incredibly disruptive to high-ranking powerhouses in this space, including IMDB. You can even view trailers from the panel…

On my phone, Google displayed 10 videos (at roughly two per screen), and nine of those were links to YouTube. Given YouTube’s dominance, it’s difficult to say if Google is purposely favoring their own properties, but the end result is the same — even seemingly “external” clicks are often still Google-owned clicks.


VI. Local Results

A similar evolution has been happening in local results. Take the local 3-pack — here’s one on a search for “Seattle movie theaters”…

Originally, the individual business links went directly to each of those business’s websites. As of the past year or two, these instead go to local panels on Google Maps, like this one…

On mobile, these local panels stand out even more, with prominent photos, tabbed navigation and easy access to click-to-call and directions.

In certain industries, local packs have additional options to run a search within a search. Here’s a pack for Chicago taco restaurants, where you can filter results (from the broader set of Google Maps results) by rating, price, or hours…

Once again, we have a fully embedded search experience. I don’t usually vouch for any of the businesses in my screenshots, but I just had the pork belly al pastor at Broken English Taco Pub and it was amazing (this is my personal opinion and in no way reflects the taco preferences of Moz, its employees, or its lawyers).

The hospitality industry has been similarly affected. Search for an individual hotel, like “Kimpton Alexis Seattle” (one of my usual haunts when visiting the home office), and you’ll get a local panel like the one below. Pardon the long image, but I wanted you to have the full effect…

This is an incredible blend of local business result, informational panel, and commercial result, allowing you direct access to booking information. It’s not just organic local results that have changed, though. Recently, Google started offering ads in local packs, primarily on mobile results. Here’s one for “tax attorneys”…

Unlike traditional AdWords ads, these results don’t go directly to the advertiser’s website. Instead, like standard pack results, they go to a Google local panel. Here’s what the mobile version looks like…

In addition, Google has launched specialized ads for local service providers, such as plumbers and electricians. These appear carousel-style on desktop, such as this one for “plumbers in Seattle”…

Unlike AdWords advertisers, local service providers buy into a specialized program and these local service ads click to a fully customized Google sub-site, which brings us to the next topic — portals.


VII. Custom Portals

Some Google experiences have become so customized that they operate as stand-alone portals. If you click on a local service ad, you get a Google-owned portal that allows you to view the provider, check to see if they can handle your particular problem in your zip code, and (if not) view other, relevant providers…

You’ve completely left the search result at this point, and can continue your experience fully within this Google property. These local service ads have now expanded to more than 30 US cities.

In 2016, Google launched their own travel guides. Run a search like “things to do in Seattle” and you’ll see a carousel-style result like this one…

Click on “Seattle travel guide” and you’ll be taken to a customized travel portal for the city of Seattle. The screen below is a desktop result — note the increasing similarity to rich mobile experiences.

Once again, you’ve been taken to a complete Google experience outside of search results.

Last year, Google jumped into the job-hunting game, launching a 3-pack of job listings covering all major players in this space, like this one for “marketing jobs in Seattle”…

Click on any job listing, and you’ll be taken to a separate Google jobs portal. Let’s try Facebook…

From here, you can view other listings, refine your search, and even save jobs and set up alerts. Once again, you’ve jumped from a specialized Google result to a completely Google-controlled experience.

Like hotels, Google has dabbled in flight data and search for years. If I search for “flights to Seattle,” Google will automatically note my current location and offer me a search interface and a few choices…

Click on one of these choices and you’re taken to a completely redesigned Google Flights portal…

Once again, you can continue your journey completely within this Google-owned portal, never returning back to your original search. This is a trend we can expect to continue for the foreseeable future.


VIII. Hard Questions

If I’ve bludgeoned you with examples, then I apologize, but I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not a case of one or two isolated incidents. Google is systematically driving more clicks from search to new searches, in-search experiences, and other Google owned properties. This leads to a few hard questions…

Why is Google doing this?

Right about now, you’re rushing to the comments section to type “For the money!” along with a bunch of other words that may include variations of my name, “sheeple,” and “dumb-ass.” Yes, Google is a for-profit company that is motivated in part by making money. Moz is a for-profit company that is motivated in part by making money. Stating the obvious isn’t insight.

In some cases, the revenue motivation is clear. Suggesting the best laptops to searchers and linking those to shopping opportunities drives direct dollars. In traditional walled gardens, publishers are trying to produce more page-views, driving more ad impressions. Is Google driving us to more searches, in-search experiences, and portals to drive more ad clicks?

The answer isn’t entirely clear. Knowledge Graph links, for example, usually go to informational searches with few or no ads. Rich experiences like Medical Knowledge Panels and movie results on mobile have no ads at all. Some portals have direct revenues (local service providers have to pay for inclusion), but others, like travel guides, have no apparent revenue model (at least for now).

Google is competing directly with Facebook for hours in our day — while Google has massive traffic and ad revenue, people on average spend much more time on Facebook. Could Google be trying to drive up their time-on-site metrics? Possibly, but it’s unclear what this accomplishes beyond being a vanity metric to make investors feel good.

Looking to the long game, keeping us on Google and within Google properties does open up the opportunity for additional advertising and new revenue streams. Maybe Google simply realizes that letting us go so easily off to other destinations is leaving future money on the table.

Is this good for users?

I think the most objective answer I can give is — it depends. As a daily search user, I’ve found many of these developments useful, especially on mobile. If I can get an answer at a glance or in an in-search entity, such as a Live Result for weather or sports, or the phone number and address of a local restaurant, it saves me time and the trouble of being familiar with the user interface of thousands of different websites. On the other hand, if I feel that I’m being run in circles through search after search or am being given fewer and fewer choices, that can feel manipulative and frustrating.

Is this fair to marketers?

Let’s be brutally honest — it doesn’t matter. Google has no obligation to us as marketers. Sites don’t deserve to rank and get traffic simply because we’ve spent time and effort or think we know all the tricks. I believe our relationship with Google can be symbiotic, but that’s a delicate balance and always in flux.

In some cases, I do think we have to take a deep breath and think about what’s good for our customers. As a marketer, local packs linking directly to in-Google properties is alarming — we measure our success based on traffic. However, these local panels are well-designed, consistent, and have easy access to vital information like business addresses, phone numbers, and hours. If these properties drive phone calls and foot traffic, should we discount their value simply because it’s harder to measure?

Is this fair to businesses?

This is a more interesting question. I believe that, like other search engines before it, Google made an unwritten pact with website owners — in exchange for our information and the privilege to monetize that information, Google would send us traffic. This is not altruism on Google’s part. The vast majority of Google’s $95B in 2017 advertising revenue came from search advertising, and that advertising would have no audience without organic search results. Those results come from the collective content of the web.

As Google replaces that content and sends more clicks back to themselves, I do believe that the fundamental pact that Google’s success was built on is gradually being broken. Google’s garden was built on our collective property, and it does feel like we’re slowly being herded out of our own backyards.

We also have to consider the deeper question of content ownership. If Google chooses to pursue private data partnerships — such as with Live Results or the original Knowledge Graph — then they own that data, or at least are leasing it fairly. It may seem unfair that they’re displacing us, but they have the right to do so.

Much of the Knowledge Graph is built on human-curated sources such as Wikidata (i.e. Wikipedia). While Google undoubtedly has an ironclad agreement with Wikipedia, what about the people who originally contributed and edited that content? Would they have done so knowing their content could ultimately displace other content creators (including possibly their own websites) in Google results? Are those contributors willing participants in this experiment? The question of ownership isn’t as easy as it seems.

If Google extracts the data we provide as part of the pact, such as with Featured Snippets and People Also Ask results, and begins to wall off those portions of the garden, then we have every right to protest. Even the concept of a partnership isn’t always black-and-white. Some job listing providers I’ve spoken with privately felt pressured to enter Google’s new jobs portal (out of fear of cutting off the paths to their own gardens), but they weren’t happy to see the new walls built.

Google is also trying to survive. Search has to evolve, and it has to answer questions and fit a rapidly changing world of device formats, from desktop to mobile to voice. I think the time has come, though, for Google to stop and think about the pact that built their nearly hundred-billion-dollar ad empire.

Categories: Uncategorized

50 Social Media Marketing Influencers to Learn From in 2018

Social Media Marketing Influencers 2018

It’s that time of year again for the conference extravaganza known as Social Media Marketing World.  Each year I pull together a list of influential voices that are engaging on social networks around the topic social media marketing. My goal? To help showcase speakers for people in the industry to learn from and follow.

Why are these people influential? That’s a great question. I would answer with, “Why is anyone influential?”. Because they have specific expertise that they share publicly, consistently and in a way that improves the knowledge, skills and perspectives of those who follow them.

Influence is not only popularity. Influence is the ability to affect action.

When I started out in my digital marketing career, it was thanks to connecting with some generous people that had a lot more experience than me that I was able to overcome introversion and reluctance to write and become an international keynote speaker, author and blogger with over 1.4 million words written so far. What I have learned about influence is that it is not self-assigned.

Influence is earned by being helpful, effective and relevant as well as having reach. Influence is also earned by mentoring those who are coming up in the industry. While working with influencers transfers influence by association, helping others become influential is when earned influence really skyrockets.

In this year’s list of Social Media Marketing Influencers there are many people who demonstrate this kind of helpfulness and I am encouraging those influencers as well as our community of readers to nominate up and coming social media marketing leaders. You can find more details on that at the end of the post.

About the Methodology for this List:

Specific Scope: Rather than scan the entire social web, the starting data set for this list is having been named as a speaker for the SMMW18 conference. Mike Stelzner and Phil Mershon of Social Media Examiner do an amazing job of hand picking speakers for this conference and this list is an extension of their research and expertise into finding, qualifying and recruiting over 180 social media marketing speakers.

IRM Platform Assisted: Ranking of the people in this list leverages data and algorithms from Traackr, an influencer relationship marketing platform. Unlike the vast majority of lists like this that are published online, this list considers many more data sources than just Twitter. To provide a better sample across the web, Traackr ranking can include citations and links from data sources such as blogs, publications, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

Ranking data sources and scoring: For the ranking, this list leverages a combination of data points including:

  • Relevance – A score that indicates how influential a person is to a specific topic based on the keywords you provide. Signals for relevance include keyword mentions, keyword diversity, content production rate, freshness of content and other contextual measures. In this case, it was “social media marketing” as well as 10+ derivative phrases.
  • Resonance – A score of how impactful the influencer is with their audience. Resonance measures engagement activity that occurs as a result of publishing (mostly social) content.
  • Reach – A score derived by the reach algorithm that takes into account followers, fans, subscribers, visitors and other audience metrics. Remember, this is more than just Twitter.
  • Audience – Overall social audience size

Each of these signal sources are factored into the algorithmic ranking for identified influencers with a focus on topical relevance, resonance of message with the audience and then audience reach. The result is a combination of broad based influencers as well as individuals with a very specific focus and very high resonance and relevance scores. What I like about pulling this list together is seeing a number of new faces as well as as a variety of disciplines and specialties represented.

This list of 50 industry experts speaking at Social Media Marketing World is worth checking out as you plan which presentations to see, who to follow online and who to meet.

Kim Garst @kimgarst
Live Streaming Strategist, Social Selling Pro, Keynote Speaker at Boom! Social
Presenting: How to Make Money With Live Video

Donna Moritz @sociallysorted
Digital Content Strategist, International Speaker, Visual Content Strategist at Socially Sorted
Presenting: Tips and Tools for Visual Storytelling on Instagram

Brian Fanzo @isocialfanz
Founder and CEO at iSocialFanz
Presenting: Facebook Strategy in Light of the Facebook Apocalypse

Koka Sexton @kokasexton
Advisor, SenderGen
Presenting: How to Turn LinkedIn Into a Funnel for New Leads

Madalyn Sklar @madalynsklar
Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Podcaster
Presenting: How to Up Your Twitter Game With Smart Tools

Dan Gingiss @dgingiss
Vice President, Strategic Group at Persado
Presenting: Why Social Media is Key to the Customer Experience

Ian Anderson Gray @iagdotme
Co-founder at Select Performers Internet Solutions
Presenting: How to Create Your Killer Live Video Show: Tools and Tips

Jeff Sieh @jeffsieh
Pinterest Manager at Social Media Examiner
Presenting: Visual Marketing for Non-Designers: Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Viveka Von Rosen @linkedinexpert
LinkedIn and Personal Branding Expert, Co-founder and Chief Visibility Officer at Vengreso
Presenting: How to Best Use LinkedIn Native Video in Your Marketing

Neal Schaffer @NealSchaffer
CEO at Maximize Your Social
Presenting: How Brands are Breaking Through to Generate Results on LinkedIn

Josh Elledge @joshelledge
Founder at upendPR
Presenting: How to Get Traditional Media Exposure Using Social Media

Robert Rose @robert_rose
Founder at The Content Advisory & Chief Strategy Advisor at Content Marketing Institute
Presenting: Becoming an Audience First Company: How to Understand and Measure the Most Valuable Asset in Your Business

Gini Dietrich @ginidietrich
Chief Executive Officer at Arment Dietrich
Presenting: Crisis Communications: Tips From the Trenches

Carlos Gil @CarlosGil83
Founder, Gil Media Co.
Presenting: Snapchat Ads: How-to Use Snapchat’s Full Service Ad Platform

Darren Rowse @problogger
Founder and Keynote Speaker at ProBlogger
Presenting: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known about Blogging That Will Shortcut the Growth of Your Blog

Mark Schaefer @markwschaefer
Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions
Presenting: 10 Mind-Bending New Ideas for Our Social Media Marketing Future

Tamara McCleary @tamaramccleary
CEO at Thulium.co
Presenting: Innovating Your Way to Strong Social Media ROI

Mark Mason @masonworld
Quality Manager, Interface Products at Texas Instruments
Presenting: How to Make Your Podcast Stand Out: Tips from the Trenches

Rebekah Radice @rebekahradice
Founder at RadiantLA
Presenting: How to Make Visual Content Your Social Media Secret Weapon

Brooke B. Sellas @madsmscientist
Founder & Chief Executive Officer at B Squared Media
Presenting: Organizing for Social Success: Insource? Outsource? No Source?

Tyler Anderson @tylerjanderson
CEO / Founder at Casual Fridays
Presenting: Winning With Influencer Marketing: What Top Brands are Doing Now

Samantha Kelly @tweetinggoddess
Owner of Women’s Inspire Network
Presenting: How to Convert Twitter Conversations Into Customers

Ian Cleary @iancleary
Founder at RazorSocial
Presenting: 9 Content Marketing Tools to Drive More Traffic to Your Website

Mari Smith @marismith
Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, Bestselling Author
Presenting: The Future of Facebook: What Marketers Need to Know for 2018 and Beyond

Mike Stelzner @mike_stelzner
CEO and Founder at Social Media Examiner
Presenting: Social Media Marketing in 2018: What the Newest Research Reveals

social media marketing speaker network connections

Andy Crestodina @crestodina
Strategic Director at Orbit Media Studios
Presenting: Building Better Mousetraps: A Content-Driven Approach to Conversion Optimization

Bernie Borges @bernieborges
Advisory Board Member at OneMob and Co-founder and CMO at Vengreso.
Presenting: The Secrets to Getting Employees to Engage on Behalf of Your Brand

Alex Khan @1alexkhan
CEO at Attractive Media GmbH
Presenting: Mass Seduction: Proven Techniques to Engage and Build Your Audience

Peg Fitzpatrick @PegFitzpatrick
Director of Social Media + Marketing at Kreussler
Presenting: How to Use Pinterest to Drive Long Term Traffic

Chris Penn @cspenn
Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications
Presenting: Seeing Into the Future: Predictive Analytics for Social Marketers

Michael O’Neal @inmikeswords
Host of The Solopreneur Hour Podcast
Presenting: Becoming an Interview Master and How it Can Massively Grow Your Podcast or Livestream

Brian Solis @briansolis
Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group
Presenting: The Past, Present and Future of Social Media

Park Howell @parkhowell
Founder and President at Business of Story
Presenting: How to Invest in Brand Storytelling to Earn the Greatest Return

Nicky Kriel @nickykriel
Social Media Consultant & Social Media Strategist at Nicky Kriel Social Media
Presenting: How to Use Twitter Data to Improve Your Content Marketing

Melanie Deziel @mdeziel
Brand Strategy Consultant and Speaker at Mdeziel Media
Presenting: 5 Branded Content Best Practices From the World of Journalism

Andrea Vahl @andreavahl
Social Media Consultant at Andrea Vahl
Presenting: Facebook Ads Strategy for Small Businesses

Jay Baer @jaybaer
Founder at Convince & Convert
Presenting: How to Prove Social Media Works to Skeptical Managers

Steve Dotto @dottotech
President at Galileo Consulting and Producer of Dotto Tech
Presenting: YouMake YouFortune on YouTube: Making Money on YouTube

Ann Handley @marketingprofs
Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
Presenting: Creating Better Content in Less Time: 5 Real-World Writer Secrets

Lee Odden @leeodden
CEO at TopRank Marketing
Presenting: How Content Plus Influence Equals Results: The Confluence Equation

Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki
Chief Evangelist at Canva
Presenting: Achieving Social Media Success by Defying Conventional Wisdom

Shaun McBride @Shonduras
Owner Esports/Shonduras Inc
Presenting: How to Influence Influencers: The Creative Process

John Jantsch @ducttape
President at Duct Tape Marketing
Presenting: How to Grow a Highly Profitable Consulting Practice Without Adding Overhead

Jessika Phillips @jessikaphillips
Relationship Marketing Evangelist, President at NOW Marketing Group
Presenting: Relationship ROI: How to Grow Your Business by Focusing on Repeat and Referral Relationships

John Lee Dumas @johnleedumas
Host of the EOFire Podcast
Presenting: How to Grow Your Podcast Audience and Fuel Your Business

Roberto Blake @robertoblake
Owner at Create Awesome Media
Presenting: Mastering and Measuring YouTube Analytics for Video Marketing

Shep Hyken @Hyken
Chief Amazement Officer and Owner, Customer Service Speaker and Expert at Shepard Presentations
Presenting: How to Turn Social Customer Service Into a Marketing Strategy

Jasmine Star @jasminestar
Owner at Jasmine Star Photography
Presenting: How to Create 30 Days of Instagram Content in a Single Day

Bryan Kramer @bryankramer
Keynote Speaker, Emcee and Event Host at PureMatter
Presenting: How to Humanize Your Social Brand for Better Conversions

Brian Peters @brian_g_peters
Digital Marketing Manager at Buffer
Presenting: How to Build and Maintain an Authentic Community on Instagram

If you want to follow all 50 of these fine folks, then check out the speaker list on the SMMW18 conference schedule page.

What about non-digital influence? 

I think this is a great question because not everyone that is influential (especially in the B2B world) spends as much time tweeting, blogging and posting Instagram photos as many of the influencers listed above do. And yet they are highly influential.

For example, here are several more speakers that are pretty influential to me, even though they are not on the list above: Amisha Gandhi (client), Beverly Jackson, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Konnie Alex (client), LaSandra Brill, Shannon Paul, Tim Washer, and Ursula Ringham to name a few.

Suffice it to say, I think when you are deciding on which influencers to work with, it’s important to get out of the digital bubble and consider offline-specific influencers as well – especially in B2B.

Big Questions About Influencer Lists & Influencer Marketing:

  • How do you find the right influencers?
  • What do you collaborate with them on?
  • How do you measure influencer marketing performance?
  • Are there processes and formulas for success?

These are some of the most common topics that come up through my agency’s influencer content marketing consulting with brands like Dell, SAP, LinkedIn, 3M and even mid-market companies like DivvyHQ or Cherwell Software.  I’ll be tackling these questions and more in my presentation at Social Media Marketing World 2018. Here are the details:

How Content Plus Influence Equals Results: The Confluence Equation
Thursday, March 1st at 4:10pm Room: 32AB
Content marketing and influencer marketing are hot topics for marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. But how do you find the right influencers? What kind of content should you collaborate on? How do you best measure influencer and content success? Join Lee Odden to learn from his experience working with brands big and small to develop efficient and effective formulas for influencer content success.

I hope to see you there!

NOMINATE YOUR PEERS!

I know some folks are feeling left out and others would have added other social media marketing speakers to this list. Lists are exclusive by nature, but I think it would be amazing for the experts on this list as well as our readers would nominate up and coming industry social media marketing pros that are consistently providing useful expertise, leadership and engaging with their communities.

Please leave full name, title, company and Twitter handle (or other social profile) of your nominee in the comments. I will follow this list up with a People’s Choice style list of Rising Social Media Stars after the conference.

MozCon 2018: Making the Case for the Conference (& All the Snacks!)

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You’ve got that conference looming on the horizon. You want to go — you’ve spent the past few years desperately following hashtags on Twitter, memorizing catchy quotes, zooming in on grainy snapshots of a deck, and furiously downloading anything and everything you can scour from Slideshare.

But there’s a problem: conferences cost money, and your boss won’t even approve a Keurig in the communal kitchen, much less a ticket to a three-day-long learning sesh complete with its own travel and lodging expenses.

What’s an education-hungry digital marketer to do?

How do you convince your boss to send you to the conference of your dreams?

First of all, you gather evidence to make your case.

There are a plethora of excellent reasons why attending conferences is good for your career (and your bottom line). In digital marketing, we exist in the ever-changing tech space, hurtling toward the future at breakneck speed and often missing the details of the scenery along the way.

A good SEO conference will keep you both on the edge of your seat and on the cutting-edge of what’s new and noteworthy in our industry, highlighting some of the most important and impactful things your work depends on.

A good SEO conference will flip a switch for you, will trigger that lightbulb moment that empowers you and levels you up as both a marketer and a critical thinker.

If that doesn’t paint a beautiful enough picture to convince the folks that hold the credit card, though, there are also some great statistics and resources available:

Specifically, we’re talking about MozCon

Yes, that MozCon!

Let’s just take a moment to address the elephant in the room here: you all know why we wrote this post. We want to see your smiling face in the audience at MozCon this July (the 9th–11th, if you were wondering). There are a few specific benefits worth mentioning:

  • Speakers and content: Our speakers bring their A-game each year. We work with them to bring the best content and latest trends to the stage to help set you up for a year of success.
  • Videos to share with your team: About a month or so after the conference, we’ll send you a link to professionally edited videos of every presentation at the conference. Your colleagues won’t get to partake in the morning Top Pot doughnuts or Starbucks coffee, but they will get a chance to learn everything you did, for free.
  • Great food onsite: We understand that conference food isn’t typically worth mentioning, but at MozCon you can expect snacks from local Seattle vendors – in the past this includes Trophy cupcakes, KuKuRuZa popcorn, Starbucks’ Seattle Reserve cold brew, and did we mention bacon at breakfast? Let’s not forget the bacon.
  • Swag: Expect to go home with a one-of-a-kind Roger Mozbot, a super-soft t-shirt from American Apparel, and swag worth keeping. We’ve given away Roger Legos, Moleskine notebooks, phone chargers, and have even had vending machines with additional swag in case you didn’t get enough.
  • Networking: You work hard taking notes, learning new insights, and digesting all of that knowledge — that’s why we think you deserve a little fun in the evenings to chat with fellow attendees. Each night after the conference, we’ll offer a different networking event that adds to the value you’ll get from your day of education.
  • A supportive network after the fact: Our MozCon Facebook group is incredibly active, and it’s grown to have a life of its own — marketers ask one another SEO questions, post jobs, look for and offer advice and empathy, and more. It’s a great place to find TAGFEE support and camaraderie long after the conference itself has ended.
  • Discounts for subscribers and groups: Moz Pro subscribers get a whopping $500 off their ticket cost (even if you’re on a free 30-day trial!) and there are discounts for groups as well, so make sure to take advantage of savings where you can!
  • Ticket cost: At MozCon our goal is to break even, which means we invest all of your ticket price back into you. Check out the full breakdown below:

Can you tell we’re serious about the snacks?

You can check out videos from years past to get a taste for the caliber of our speakers. We’ll also be putting out a call for community speaker pitches in April, so if you’ve been thinking about breaking into the speaking circuit, it could be an amazing opportunity — keep an eye on the blog for your chance to submit a pitch.

If you’ve ever seriously considered attending an SEO conference like MozCon, now’s the time to do it. You’ll save actual hundreds of dollars by grabbing subscriber or group pricing while you can (think of all the Keurigs you could get for that communal kitchen!), and you’ll be bound for an unforgettable experience that lives and grows with you beyond just the three days you spend in Seattle.

Grab your ticket to MozCon!

Categories: Uncategorized

Top Marketing News: Facebook Tests ‘Downvotes,’ Internet Rages at Google, Pandora Takes Aim

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Six Essential Email Marketing Tips [Infographic]
Looking for email marketing success? This six tips can help you — and your emails — reach the right target. MarketingProfs Google Brings the Popular Stories Format to AMP: Is It Worth Using?
Google announced a new story format for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) this week. Google describes the new shiny thing as “a visual driven format for evolving news consumption on mobile.” Econsultancy Internet Rages After Google Removes ‘View Image’ Button, Bowing to Getty
Google removed the “view image” button this week in response to a recent lawsuit from Getty. This move has enraged the internet, but was done with hopes to encourage clicks through to the image’s hosting website. Ars Technica 45% Of Marketers Cite Content & Experience Management As Top Priority In 2018
Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2018 report found that 45% of professionals surveyed cite content and experience management as their top priorities for this year, followed by the 32% that cited analytics. Econsultancy Top Digital Advertising Trends
MediaPost compiled a research brief to show top digital advertising trends, including evidence that Google and Facebook owned 63% US digital market in 2017. Microsoft made strides, but remains a distant third place with just 4%. MediaPost Google Announces Two Major Changes to Image Search
Google has announced two major changes to image search — including the previously reported removal of the “view image” button and the removal of the “search by image” button. Publishers are happy about these changes, Google search users aren’t so thrilled. Search Engine Journal Pandora Takes Aim At Spotify And IHeartRadio With Programmatic Audio Ads
AdAge reports: “Pandora said Tuesday that it will now offer its audio inventory programmatically through popular demand-side platforms such as MediaMath, The Trade Desk and AdsWizz.” AdAge Snapchat Gives Creators Access to Audience Analytics
Some select content creators on Snapchat are being given access to analytics and data about their audience, such as story views, engagement and demographics. This is only available to those who are part of Snapchat’s Official Stories program. Search Engine Journal B2B Demand Generation: Marketers’ Favorite Tactics
Recent research from Demand Gen Report shows that email remains a top demand generation channel for both top and bottom funnel prospects. MarketingProfs Facebook Is Testing A ‘Downvote’ Button
CNBC Reports: “Facebook is testing a ‘downvote’ button that lets users flag and hide comments they deem inappropriate. The social network clarified that it is not a ‘dislike’ button and the test is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only.” CNBC Google To Move More Sites To Mobile-First Index In Coming Weeks
Google plans on rolling more sites into the mobile-first index in the next several weeks. It’s time to make sure your site is optimized for mobile if you haven’t already — the time has finally come. Search Engine Land On the Lighter Side
Red Stripe Says That, Whatever the Cost, It Will Buy a New Bobsled for Jamaica – AdWeek TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News: Steve Slater – Your M-Commerce Deep Dive: Data, Trends and What’s Next in the Mobile Retail Revenue World – Big Commerce
Lee Odden – Better Than Bonuses: 4 Motivators That Matter More Than Money – Workfront We’ll be back next week with more top digital marketing news! If you need more in the meantime, follow @toprank on Twitter or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

The post Top Marketing News: Facebook Tests ‘Downvotes,’ Internet Rages at Google, Pandora Takes Aim appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Your Kids Want to Make Their Own Games

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My son and I are learning a bit about coding. I’m downright not-smart at it. It doesn’t come naturally to me. My son? Well, he started learning on Scratch when he was five. So when I saw that Unity had released a game making software (aff) called Swords & Shovels, I was intrigued.

Making a Game is a Great Way to Learn to Code

The old version of game making used to be silly. You could make VERY rudimentary games. They taught you something, but no one wanted to actually play it. I can’t imagine how many parents had to endure “playing” those games.

But this? Swords and Shovels? It’s actually FUN!

Check out this video:

Okay. So I have to be clear about something. It’s not like you make every single bit of this from scratch. There are all kinds of scripts built in. The art’s already made. I mean, if I had to make this from scratch, it might have stunk. But I didn’t.

The Best Part

It feels SO satisfying to play a game you made yourself. Even if you didn’t do every scrap of it, the experience of making something, testing it, making some mistakes, fixing them, and then playing. It’s so cool.

Oh. I think I’m supposed to point out that you can also do this with your kids. 🙂 But if you’re a big kid, it’s fun just for yourself, too.

Check out Swords and Shovels. You’ll dig it.

#swordsandshovels

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How (and Whether) to Invest in and Structure Online Communities – Whiteboard Friday

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Building an online community sounds like an attractive idea on paper. A group of enthusiastic, engaged users working on their own to boost your brand? What’s the hitch?

Well, building a thriving online community takes a great deal of effort, often with little return for a very long time. And there are other considerations: do you build your own platform, participate in an existing community, or a little of both? What are the benefits from a brand, SEO, and content marketing perspective? In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers all your questions about building yourself an online community, including whether it’s an investment worth your time.

How and whether to invest in and structure online communities

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about how and whether to invest in and structure online communities.

I want to say a thank you to @DaveCraige on Twitter. Dave, thank you very much for the question, an excellent one. I think this is something that a lot of content marketers, web marketers, community builders think about is, “Should I be making an investment in building my own community? Should I leverage someone’s existing community? How can I do that and benefit from an SEO perspective and a content marketing and a brand awareness perspective?” So we’ll try and tackle some of those questions today on Whiteboard Friday.

Strategy first!

First off, before you go and invest anywhere or build anything, I urge you to think strategy first, meaning your business has goals. You have things that you want to accomplish. Maybe those are revenue growth or conversions. Maybe they have to do with entering a new sphere of influence or pursuing a new topic. Maybe you’re trying to launch a new product. Maybe you’re trying to pivot the business or disrupt yourself, change with technology.

Whatever those business goals are, they should lead you to marketing goals, the things that marketing can help to accomplish in those business goals. From that should fall out a bunch of tactics and initiatives. It’s only down here, in your marketing goals and tactical initiatives, that if online communities match up with those and serve your broader business goals, that you should actually make the investment. If not or if they fall below the line of, “Well, we can do three things that we think this year and do them well and this is thing number 4 or number 5 or number 10,” it doesn’t make the cut.

Online communities fit here if…

1. A passionate group of investment-worthy size exists in your topic.

So if, for example, you are targeting a new niche. I think Dave himself is in cryptocurrency. There’s definitely a passionate group of people in that sphere, and it is probably of investment-worthy size. More recently, that investment has been a little rocky, but certainly a large size group, and if you are targeting that group, a community could be worthwhile. So we have passion. We have a group. They are of sizable investment.

2. You/your brand/your platform can provide unique value via a community that’s superior to what’s available elsewhere.

Second, you or your brand or your platform can provide not just value but unique value, unique value different from what other people are offering via a community superior to what’s available elsewhere. Dave might himself say, “Well, there’s a bunch of communities around crypto, but I believe that I can create X, which will be unique in ways Y and Z and will be preferable for these types of participants in this way.” Maybe that’s because it enables sharing in certain ways. Maybe it enables transparency of certain kinds. Maybe it’s because it has no vested interest or ties to particular currencies or particular companies, whatever the case may be.

3. You’re willing to invest for years with little return to build something of great long-term value.

And last but not least, you’re willing to invest potentially for years, literally years without return or with very little return to build something of great long-term value. I think this is the toughest one. But communities are most similar in attribute to content marketing, where you’re going to put in a ton of upfront effort and a lot of ongoing effort before you’re going to see that return. Most of the time, most communities fail because the people behind them were not willing to make the investments to build them up, or they made other types of mistakes. We’ll talk about that in a second.

Two options: Build your own platform, or participate in an existing community

You have two options here. First, you can build your own platform. Second, you can participate in an existing community. My advice on this is never do number one without first spending a bunch of time in number two.

So if you are unfamiliar with the community platforms that already exist in interior decorating or in furniture design or in cryptocurrency or in machining tools or in men’s fashion, first participate in the communities that already exist in the space you’re targeting so that you are very familiar with the players, the platforms, the options, and opportunities. Otherwise, you will never know whether it’s an investment-worthy size, a passionate group. You’ll never know how or whether you can provide unique value. It’s just going to be too tough to get those things down. So always invest in the existing communities before you do the other one.

1. Build your own platform

Potential structures

Let’s talk quickly about building your own platform, and then we’ll talk about investing in others. If you’re deciding that what matches your goals best and your strategy best is to build your own platform, there are numerous opportunities. You can do it sort of halfway, where you build on someone else’s existing platform, for example creating your own subreddit or your own Facebook or LinkedIn group, which essentially uses another community’s platform, but you’re the owner and administrator of that community.

Or you can actually build your own forum or discussion board, your own blog and comments section, your own Q&A board, your own content leaderboard, like Hacker News or like Dharmesh and I did with Inbound.org, where we essentially built a Reddit or Hacker News-like clone for marketers.

Those investments are going to be much more severe than a Facebook group or a Twitter hashtag, a Twitter chat or a LinkedIn group, or those kinds of things, but you want to compare the benefits and drawbacks. In each, there are some of each.

Benefits & drawbacks

So forums and discussions, those are going to have user-generated content, which is a beautiful thing because it scales non-linearly with your investment. So if you build up a community of people who are on an ongoing basis creating topics and answering those topics and talking about those things in either a Q&A board or a forum discussion or a content leaderboard, what’s great is you get that benefit, that SEO benefit of having a bunch of longtail, hopefully high-quality content and discussion you’re going to need to do.

Mostly, what you’re going to worry about is drawbacks like the graveyard effect, where the community appears empty and so no one participates and maybe it drags down Google’s perception of your site because you have a bunch of low quality or thin pages, or people leave a bunch of spam in there or they become communities filled with hate groups, and the internet can devolve very quickly, as you can see from a lot of online communities.

Whatever you’re doing, blog and comments, you get SEO benefits, you get thought leadership benefits, but it requires regular content investments. You don’t get the UGC benefit quite like you would with a forum or a discussion. With Facebook groups or LinkedIn groups, Twitter hashtags, it’s easy to build, but there’s no SEO benefit, usually very little to none.

With a Q&A board, you do get UGC and SEO. You still have those same moderation and graveyard risks.

With content leaderboards, they’re very difficult to maintain, Inbound.org being a good example, where Dharmesh and I figured, “Hey, we can get this thing up and rolling,” and then it turns out no, we need to hire people and maintain it and put in a bunch of effort and energy. But it can become a bookmarkable destination, which means you get repeat traffic over and over.

Whatever you’re choosing, make sure you list out these benefits and then align these with the strategy, the marketing goal, the tactics and initiatives that flow from those. That’s going to help determine how you should structure, whether you should structure your own community.

2. Participate in existing communities

Size/reach

The other option is participating in existing ones, places like Quora, subreddits, Twitter, LinkedIn groups, existing forums. Same thing, you’re going to take these. Well, we can participate on an existing forum, and we can see that the size and reach is on average about nine responses per thread, about three threads per day, three new threads per day.

Benefits & drawbacks

The benefit is that it can build up our thought leadership and our recognition among this group of influential people in our field. The drawback is it builds our competitor’s content, because this forum is going to be ranking for all those things. They own the platform. It’s not our owned platform. Then we align that with our goals and initiatives.

Four bits of advice

1. If you build, build for SEO + owned channels. Don’t create on someone else’s platform.

So I’m not going to dive through all of these, but I do want to end on some bits of advice. So I mentioned already make sure you invest in other people’s communities before you build your own. I would also add to that if you’re going to build something, if you’re going to build your own, I would generally rule these things out — LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, Twitter hashtag groups. Why? Because those other platforms control them, and then they can change them at any time and your reach can change on those platforms. I would urge you to build for SEO and for an owned media channel.

2. Start with a platform that doesn’t lose credibility when empty (e.g. blog > forum).

Second, I’d start with a platform that doesn’t lose credibility when it’s empty. That is to say if you know you want to build a forum or a content leaderboard or a Q&A board, make it something where you know that you and your existing team can do all the work to create a non-graveyard-like environment initially. That could mean limiting it to only a few sections in a forum, or all the Q&A goes in one place as opposed to there are many subforums that have zero threads and zero comments and zero replies, or every single thing that’s posted, we know that at least two of us internally will respond to them, that type of stuff.

3. Don’t use a subdomain or separate domain.

Third, if you can, avoid using a subdomain and definitely don’t use a separate domain. Subdomains inherit some of the ranking ability and benefits of the primary domain they’re on. Separate domains tend to inherit almost none.

4. Before you build, gather a willing, excited crew via an email group who will be your first active members.

Last, but not least, before you build, gather a willing, excited group of people, your crew, hopefully via an email group — this has served me extremely well — who will be those first active members.

So if you’re building something in the crypto space, as maybe Dave is considering, I might say to him, hey, find those 10 or 15 or 20 people who are in your world, who you talk to online already, create an email group, all be chatting with each other and contributing. Then start your Q&A board, or then start your blog and your comments section, or then start your forum, what have you. If you can seed it with that initial passionate group, you will get over a lot of the big hurdles around building or rolling your own community system.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we’ll see you again next week. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

Categories: Uncategorized

In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide

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Trusting Hands My first encounter with marketing data malpractice came at a young age. I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on at the time, but my dad loves to tell the story. As I’ve gotten older, the humor and timeless relevance of this anecdote have struck me more and more. It was the mid-90s. We received a piece of mail at our house addressed to Lucy Nelson. It was a credit card offer from one of the industry’s heavy hitters. Nothing out of the norm so far, right? Here’s the problem: Lucy was no longer alive. And the bigger problem: Lucy was not a human. She was our dog. As it turns out, my older brother had been cited by an officer at a nearby park many years earlier for walking Lucy without a leash. When asked to give a name, he stuttered out the Golden Retriever’s, along with our family surname. Somehow “Lucy Nelson” ended up in a city database and the credit card company had plucked it out to add to its mailing list. Ultimately, this resulted in our dearly departed dog being pitched a deluxe platinum card. Woof. Flash-forward 20-some years. It’s a different world now. The rudimentary practice of collecting names and addresses from public databases seems so quaint in the Age of Big Data. Businesses and institutions now have the ability to gather comprehensive insights about people, both in aggregate and at an individual level. For the general populace, this can feel unnerving. And unfortunately, almost everyone reading this has experienced some breach of trust when it comes to corporations or government and personal data. But for marketers, the sheer volume of information now readily available presents a significant opportunity to take our profession to all new heights. By getting it right, we can help stem the tide of rising consumer wariness.

A World of Distrust

In 2017, for the first time since being introduced almost two decades ago, the Edelman Trust Barometer found a decline in consumer trust toward business, media, government, and NGOs to “do what is right.” That’s bad. And even worse: the organization’s Trust Index didn’t rebound in the 2018 study, released in January. 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer “A World of Distrust,” Edelman has dubbed it in 2018. And who can blame folks for losing faith? These days it can feel like the only major news story that isn’t shrouded in doubt is when Equifax leaks the personal information of 150 million people. In such an environment, it’s hard to not to squirm when learning that your Amazon Alexa, and even your smartphone, is listening to you pretty much at all times. While apprehension is understandable, these aren’t people spying on us; they are robotic algorithms collecting data in efforts to understand us and better serve us. As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. Customers rightfully have high expectations of our ability to offer high-quality tailored experiences, and we need to follow through. It’s an historic opportunity. [bctt tweet=”As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. – @NickNelsonMN #CX #DataDrivenMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Connecting the Dots

Our CEO Lee Odden recently wrote this in a blog about data creating better customer experiences: “One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing,” he explained. “Is about the power of information specific to customers that are actively searching for solutions.” In that post, Lee wrote about his experience searching online for a portable battery charger and then being served ads for purple mattresses. That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy. As Lee notes: “The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences?” The consequences of missing the mark are very real. A few years ago LoyaltyOne conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian customers on the subjects of data collection and privacy. Among the findings: only 35% were accepting of retailers using cookies to track their online behavior and just 27% were cool with location-based offers. How much less widespread resistance might we be seeing against these tactics if they were being utilized more effectively?   [bctt tweet=”The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand & optimize customer experiences? – @leeodden #CX #DataDrivenMarketing” username=”toprank”]

The Data-Driven Marketer’s Imperative

The stakes are high. We need to piece the puzzle together correctly. If marketers and advertisers can start consistently delivering the sort of customized content and recommendations that data empower us to provide, it’ll go a long way toward restoring customer faith. We should be using this information to optimize, not traumatize! Among the biggest areas for improvement I can see, from the perspective of both a marketer and customer:

  • Cut down on data fragmentation and organizational silos. This issue is abundantly common and extremely damaging. The “garbage in, garbage out” adage will never cease to be true. Make the necessary investments to unify your data and enhance the customer journey from attract to engage to convert and every step in between.
  • Be more transparent. Location-based tracking and other oft-used practices would be much less irksome if they didn’t feel so sneaky. Inform customers when you’re gathering info and why. Commit to opt-in policies wherever possible.
  • Follow the principles of the “virtuous cycle.” LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson suggests that building trust is tantamount to developing face-to-face relationships. “In the beginning, we share a little. Then, once we show that we can be responsible with what the customer has shared, he or she will reveal a little more. And gradually the relationship deepens. This crawl-walk-run approach to sharing information is a sensible way for us to proceed in data collection and use. After all, as long as customer information is used to enhance the customer experience, taking small steps along the way can lead to big things.”

Data has come a long way since the days of sending credit card offers to dead dogs. Marketers, let’s make sure every campaign we create is reflecting this progress. [bctt tweet=”We should be using the data & information we have to optimize, not traumatize. – @NickNelsonMN #DataDrivenMarketing #CX” username=”toprank”] How can you build more trust with your audience? A more thoughtful approach to content marketing can help. Learn several ways to build credibility and trust with content.

The post In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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How to Deal with Fake Negative Reviews on Google

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Fake reviews are a growing problem for those of us that own small businesses. In the online world, it’s extremely easy to create a new account and leave either a positive or negative review for any business — regardless of whether you’ve ever tried to hire them.

Google has tons of policies for users that leave reviews. But in my experience they’re terrible at automatically catching violations of these policies. At my agency, my team spends time each month carefully monitoring reviews for our clients and their competitors. The good news is that if you’re diligent at tracking them and can make a good enough case for why the reviews are against the guidelines, you can get them removed by contacting Google on Twitter, Facebook, or reporting via the forum.

Recently, my company got hit with three negative reviews, all left in the span of 5 minutes:

Two of the three reviews were ratings without reviews. These are the hardest to get rid of because Google will normally tell you that they don’t violate the guidelines — since there’s no text on them. I instantly knew they weren’t customers because I’m really selective about who I work with and keep my client base small intentionally. I would know if someone that was paying me was unhappy.

The challenge with negative reviews on Google

The challenge is that Google doesn’t know who your customers are, and they won’t accept “this wasn’t a customer” as an acceptable reason to remove a review, since they allow people to use anonymous usernames. In most cases, it’s extremely difficult to prove the identity of someone online.

The other challenge is that a person doesn’t have to be a customer to be eligible to leave a review. They have to have a “customer experience,” which could be anything from trying to call you and getting your voicemail to dropping by your office and just browsing around.

How to respond

When you work hard to build a good, ethical business, it’s always infuriating when a random person has the power to destroy what took you years to build. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t the least bit upset when these reviews came in. Thankfully, I was able to follow the advice I’ve given many people in the last decade, which is to calm down and think about what your future prospects will see when they come across review and the way you respond to it.

Solution: Share your dilemma

I decided to post on Twitter and Facebook about my lovely three negative reviews, and the response I got was overwhelming. People had really great and amusing things to say about my dilemma.

Whoever was behind these three reviews was seeking to harm my business. The irony is that they actually helped me, because I ended up getting three new positive reviews as a result of sharing my experience with people that I knew would rally behind me.

For most businesses, your evangelists might not be on Twitter, but you could post about it on your personal Facebook profile. Any friends that have used your service or patronized your business would likely respond in the same manner. It’s important to note that I never asked anyone to review me when posting this — it was simply the natural response from people that were a fan of my company and what we stand for. If you’re a great company, you’ll have these types of customers and they should be the people you want to share this experience with!

But what about getting the negative reviews removed?

In this case, I was able to get the three reviews removed. However, there have also been several cases where I’ve seen Google refuse to remove them for others. My plan B was to post a response to the reviews offering these “customers” a 100% refund. After all, 100% of zero is still zero — I had nothing to lose. This would also ensure that future prospects see that I’m willing to address people that have a negative experience, since even the best businesses in the world aren’t perfect. As much as I love my 5-star rating average, studies have shown that 4.2–4.5 is actually the ideal average star rating for purchase probability.

Have you had an experience with fake negative reviews on Google? If so, I’d love to hear about it, so please leave a comment.

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