Parents everywhere are jumping for joy, a smile on their face and a cup of coffee the size of a small hot tub in hand. The reason for all the excitement? They’re happily seeing their kids off for the start of another school year. But just because our kids are heading back-to-school, doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something new, too. Today’s lesson plan: Social Media Strategy

Essentially, I’m laying the groundwork for your social media strategy with five key elements that you should keep in mind with every campaign you manage.

Social media is the driving force for businesses both small and large to reach their target market, own their niche and make a name for themselves.

Use the infographic below as a jumping-off point, and consider incorporating these tips into your next social media campaign.

Flying Cork social media strategy infographic.

Oh, and there will be a test—every single day when you create content and engage with your consumers, you’re being tested. Are they engaging with your content? Is it relevant to them?

If you need a tutor to help you ace your test, let us know.

 

Content marketing is more than just a term that’s thrown around in the industry; it’s the line of communication that can connect businesses both small and large to their target audience.

In a world where we’re inundated with content, it takes a smart and savvy marketer to break through the noise and get their content out there and in front of the consumers’ eyes.

How can content marketing help you and your business stand out?

Here are five tips to help you refocus your attention on content marketing so that you can create and execute a well thought-out strategy to bolster your business.

Tip #1: Stay Consumer Focused.

Perhaps the biggest problem that I’ve noticed is that brands are focusing more on the microgame than they are the macro. What do I mean? They’re putting all their chips behind advertising and pushing their product instead of focusing on what matters most: the consumer. The best piece of advice that I can offer you today is to focus more on the long run, the end game, rather than obsessing over your short-term goals. When you switch your focus from your business to the consumer, you’ll start to see a change in how your audience perceives your brand and interacts with the content that you’re creating.

When writing content, you want to take a “consumer first” approach and work to slowly build your audience. First, you’ll want to form relationships and nurture them. Once you’ve done this, you can then start to shift your content to a more sales-focused approach to monetize your work.

Your content cadence should be: give, give, give, give, get.

Give them content that’s valuable and that solves a problem. After you’ve provided them with relevant information time and time again, only then can you ask for and get what you want from your audience in return.

In short, you never want to lead off by asking your consumers for something when you haven’t even taken the time to build your voice, position your brand in the industry, gain their trust, and give your target audience some semblance of value.

Tip #2: Find Your Sweet Spot.

One way to make content marketing work for you and your business is to find your sweet spot – your niche. If you’re a little unsure as to where exactly you fit in your industry’s spectrum, it’s time to do a little digging. If you have a shovel but don’t know where to break ground, let me point you in the right direction.

  • Pinpoint your purpose – What exactly is the goal of your content? Have you taken note of what the community is talking about? Their pain points? Their frequently asked questions? Once you’re in tune with the current events in your industry, you can then reassess your messaging and determine exactly what you want to accomplish with your content marketing efforts.
  • Create remarkable content – Anyone can write content, but it takes a skilled marketer to create content that hooks the reader, reels them in and leaves them wanting more. When it comes to content marketing, you can’t simply go through the motions and expect to yield astounding results. Rather, creating remarkable content requires attention to detail and the ability to take your message to the next level.
  • Strengthen your credibility – Your authority and credibility are like a muscle. It takes constant work to strengthen that muscle and keep it in shape. This means that when it comes to your business, you have to continually be exercising your authority and credibility within your industry to stay relevant and in tune with what matters most to your target audience. Once you’ve solidified this credibility it’s up to you to create content around your strengths and continue to build up and off of these assets.

Tip #3: Identify a Difference.

Industry competitors all share commonalities on some level. After all, they are pushing the same type of product and trying to reach the same audience. While there are similarities, you must identify a difference that sets you apart from your competition. When you find this distinction, you can begin to identify your company’s hyper-targeted ideal audience. Your difference will open you and your business up to a plethora of opportunities to tell a different story from your competitors, fixing other problems and in turn reaching out to new audiences. Once you’ve figured out who you are and what your company stands for, you can begin speaking to this notion and driving your point home through your content marketing strategy. All assets, from your website to your social media profiles, should reflect your main selling point and your unique difference from your competitors.

Tip #4: Pick your Content.

As marketers, we have the tendency to want to be firing on all cylinders and have as many irons in the fire as we possibly can. Basically, we could insert any cliché about doing too much into this paragraph and you’d get the picture. While it may seem like we have to dabble in each platform and test every idea, even if it doesn’t make the most sense for our brand, I’m here to tell you to do the exact opposite – for now at least.

Start by identifying a primary platform to distribute content. What platform does your target audience gravitate toward? Once you’ve decided on your focus, it’s time to begin consistently delivering valuable and insightful content. The byproduct of regular, valuable content will be that you build an audience on your chosen platform; over time, you can start to encourage that audience to follow you to another platform, rinse, and repeat across the myriad social platforms.

Tip #5: Be Flexible.

The current climate of digital marketing is always changing. When you feel like you have a grasp on a concept, Google launches a new algorithm, or another company completely throws you for a loop and introduces a brand-new platform or a way to approach your marketing. Rather than resisting and staying with the tried and true methods that have worked for you so far, you have to approach your strategy with an open mind and a willingness to be flexible. You’re probably thinking that the last two points I’m making are contradictory. In my fourth tip, I told you to focus on one platform at a time, master it, and then add another to your repertoire; now, I’m telling you to try new things, be flexible and avoid getting stuck in a rut. But, as is with everything in the digital marketing world, you need the yin and the yang. You need balance in order to see what works best for you and your company. While I’m not telling you to jump head first into a new strategy and completely change gears without any rhyme or reason, I am telling you to do your research, investigate new ideas thoroughly, and gradually implement them into your overall content strategy. I’m a firm believer in trying new things and testing new ideas, but you have to do it in light of your brand and your industry.

Content marketing is more than just a means to get your message out to the masses. It takes a well-rounded strategy, patience and a high caliber of execution to succeed.

This all sounds serious, but it can be done. If you need some help in the content marketing department, drop me a line. I’d love to chat about how Flying Cork can help your efforts.

Being in the world of marketing, you’ve probably heard the phrase persona thrown around in a strategy meeting. You likely have an understanding of what a persona is and how we in the industry use them to help craft messaging that resonates with the target audience. But perhaps you’ve taken them for face value and never really dug deeper to figure out the real (romanticized) reason behind personas.

Until today, that is. In this Flying Cork blog, we’re going to break down the reason you should incorporate personas into your process.  But first, where do you begin?

The starting point is in the discovery phase.

The process for website projects at Flying Cork consists of various phases. For larger and more complex projects, we start off with our discovery phase, otherwise also known as “Ideation.”

As with any design project, it is extremely important to know exactly what you’re creating, for whom, and why.

For the creative types among us (myself included), it’s difficult to fight the urge to dive right into the more tangible elements of a project like the features, technology, and visuals. However, this road is pitted with huge risks and hurdles, the biggest one being that the end product won’t address the wants and needs of the end user. While it may have all of the bells and whistles, it might not resonate with the people who matter most – your target audience.

This creative nightmare can be avoided by implementing a discovery phase into your project.

This leads me to the crux of this blog post: personas.

When all of the tools and exercises are complete, personas are at the very center of our discovery process. So what exactly are personas and how do we use them?

Personas are fictional characters – not real people. They incorporate traits and properties extracted from real-user research data, insofar as they are relevant to the users’ interactions with the website.

Although personas are fictional, good personas are very precise in their description/definition.

What are personas based on?

Market research, user behavior patterns, and any other target audience data you have available form the basis for personas. What you’re after is the information – most often around needs and wants – that outlines how different users approach and use the website. This data helps inform decisions about which personas should be created and how many.

They’re not user profiles

Although there are definitely dotted lines between personas and user profiles, they do differ in definition and usage. Whereas user profiles describe groups of actual people and their characteristics, personas are fictional entities that are artificially created to serve as a tool during the design process.

Elements of personas

Personas usually consist of attitudes, behavior patterns, goals (needs/wants), skills, and anything else relevant to the project, such as the context in which they will interact with the website. To add more realism, we also establish the following:

  • Name and portrait photo
  • Characterizing slogan (Ex: “Nit-picky Patty puts quality first”)
  • Marital status
  • Family background
  • Profession
  • Company information
  • Character traits
  • Emotional stances relevant to the interaction with the website

Different kinds of personas

Personas representing the website’s main target audiences should be treated with more detail and priority than personas representing audiences of lesser importance. A common categorization is the following, in order of importance:

  1. Focal – Primary users who are the main website’s target.
  2. Secondary – Also use the website. We satisfy their needs when we can.
  3. Unimportant – Low-priority users.
  4. Affected – Don’t use the website but are affected by it.
  5. Exclusionary – We’re not designing for them. Period.
  6. Stakeholders – usually clients who will benefit from the end product.

So, how many do you need? The number of personas is dictated by various factors like the scope and complexity of the website, the variety of needs of the target audience (more variety requires additional personas to represent the audiences), budgets, and time constraints. For example, medium-sized websites with limited functionality serving only two distinctly different audiences will need an average of four to eight.

I think I’ve covered enough for one week; check back for parts two and three where I’ll discuss how to use them, why to use them, and when.

No, you don’t have the wrong number. For the first time in more than 10 years, Google is making some major changes to its interface.

If you haven’t heard the news yet, Google is doing away with the tried and true, simple interface on its Android and iOS apps, in favor of a more personalized approach, in the hope of giving users just what they want to know, when they want to know it.

The new Google app will offer a more personalized look by providing users with a list of relevant topics as soon as the app is opened. Eventually, this interface will find its way to desktop, which means that its once stark look will now be populated with copious amounts of content that’s catered to your liking.

Essentially, as the digital world continues to shift, big-name companies like Amazon, Facebook and Uber are implementing predictive technologies into their solutions because users are demanding this caliber of personalization with every device and app that they use. This update is just Google realizing that, in order to stay relevant, they have to think like their competition – and then some.

Here’s what I mean.

When you catch wind that a news story broke about your favorite celebrity or something that’s of interest to you, where’s one of the first places that you check? Odds are, you reflexively grab your phone and open up either Facebook or Twitter to see if the topic is trending and if you can learn more about what’s going on. It’s this intrinsic nature of grabbing our phone and logging onto our Facebook or Twitter apps that Google is chasing.

So how can brands use Google’s latest update to their benefit? The answer is by creating relevant content for their respective industry.

Let’s say, for example, that you own a popular ice cream shop – Sweet (pun intended). App users who follow and interact with topics related to your ice cream shop will now be more likely to come in contact with your content and content that mentions your business. The upside of this is that because of the correlation between these users’ common interest in ice cream, you are now opening your business up to consumers who are more likely to stop in and buy something. If done correctly, this update could mean more eyeballs on your brand, but the only way to do so is by creating content that speaks to your target audience.

Think about it this way: If a user sees a topic that he likes, he’ll be able to dig a little deeper with one simple click. If there’s a news story that piqued his interest, that one click will take him to additional related content. The newsfeed will also now include information that’s drawn from a user’s search history and topics of interest.

It’s the latter that opens additional doors of opportunity for companies because Google’s News Feed will now be pulling information from other sources to curate content that reflects the user’s interests. This means that companies will have to look at their marketing through a holistic lens rather than a narrow scope. Because the branding wheel is made up of various cogs – social media, content and advertising to name a few – all of these have to work in unison to move the business forward.

Now that we’ve taken a look at how this update could help brands, let’s flip the switch a little bit for those people who live and breathe content. Since we pretty much just described one of our service lines, we’ll use ourselves as an example.

To us, this update opens up a plethora of opportunities to disseminate content to audiences who are interested in what we have to say. In our case, that would be marketing. So if there’s a trending topic that we could seamlessly tie in with marketing, we are increasing our potential of that piece of content showing up in the news feeds of people who are interacting with that trending topic, too.

While this seems like a lucrative venture for Google, and one that might stick given the fact that people all over the world crave personalized content around the clock, we can’t help but wonder if Google’s News Feed will inspire the masses or fall to the wayside like Google+?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below!

Out With the Old In With the New

Given the current state of many businesses in Pittsburgh today, attempting digital marketing/advertising is not a new concept by any means, but if done correctly a small business can now effectively compete with large companies simply by finding their target audience. Also known as identifying your North Star.

Business owners and marketers do research (consisting of reading a couple of blogs post from some unknown website) and then they venture into dabbling in online marketing and advertising, trying every channel available, even attempting to combine it with their traditional efforts.

There have been countless attempts at social media, specifically Facebook. You’ve even inserted the pixel needed to capture user data. Maybe you’ve attempted to upload email addresses or phone numbers of current clients to create your “lookalike audience” within Facebook’s dashboard all the while thinking, “How can I go wrong with a lookalike audience?”

Some, on the other hand, attempt to optimize their site in the hopes of gaining organic stability by meticulously updating meta-data and inserting keywords for Google bots to crawl and users to search. You even add an option for users to sign up for a newsletter. A newsletter sign-up option is a popular tactic these days, but it can be ineffective if not positioned correctly.

The next and most popular channel of choice is, AdWords. After testing the waters, you eventually throw in the towel, because the platform and data prove to be too much to get a handle on or you simply don’t have enough time in the day to maintain your ads. But, this is only after losing a few hundred or for some, a few thousand dollars.

You complete all these tasks, work tirelessly, and try any new tactic that comes your way, just to HOPEFULLY show up in search results and then… nothing happens. But why?  You used every channel available and even optimized your site for Google only to be left scratching your head wondering where you went wrong.

If you’re currently doing this, have done this or even requested that your marketing team try this, then it’s time to stop the madness and finally start practicing smart-marketing.

Let’s Get Started! 

My friends, it’s important to understand that digital marketing and advertising is not a sprint it’s a marathon (sorry for the mundane analogy) and like any race, there is a starting line. In this race, if you cheat, (knowingly or not) then you have already lost. The best part about this so-called race is that you can start over and still win!

So, let’s finally make our way to the starting line! Below, you will find a few tips and tools that will help gather data on your users and competitors. Remember, the goal of all preliminary research is to understand your users’ behaviors and properly catalog and organize them so when the time comes, you can release your custom strategy that will make every user feel important to your business because after all, they are.

With a clearly defined target audience, it’s much easier to determine where and how to market your company. The information gathered will be used to formulate a marketing and advertising machine leaving you with an effective and efficient strategy. From there, your job will be to nurture your machine so it remains up-to-date as your company and your industry matures and changes. In addition, you can use the current data you have collected in Google Analytics as a jumping off point.

Tips & Tools to Gather Data for Finding Your Target Audience

Review Your Current Customer Base. 

Who are your current and former customers? Why did/do they buy from you specifically? Look for common denominators, meaning characteristics and interests. Which of these denominators brings in the most business? It’s very likely that other people like them could also benefit from your business, too.

With all this talk about new customers, don’t forget about up-selling your current customers.

Check out your competition.

Research the type of clients your competitors target and make a list of their customers. This information is usually accessible on your competitor’s website or they have engaged with them on their social platforms. If you look at their site review the case studies they have available or recent projects they have posted. You might need to dig a little to find this information, but it’s worth it in the long run. The trick with this tactic is not to necessarily go after the same market unless that is, you have a value proposition that will dominate the market. If that’s the case, then, by all means, go after them.

Ultimately, you want to find and capitalize on a niche market that they are overlooking. The goal here is to take advantage of their low-lying fruit.

Analyze your product/service

Create a list of each feature of your product or service. Beside each feature, list the benefits it provides. For example, a software company offers a high-end product that logs the activity on projects that are being executed. The benefit is a professional way to keep companies organized and running effectively and efficiently saving them time and money on each project. A professional cost-saving solution will attract more customers because they see the company as trustworthy, knowledgeable and customer facing.
Once you have listed your benefits, make a list of people who have a need for your benefit. This same software company could choose to target on-going, service-based businesses interested in saving money and increasing efficiency. While this is still a bit general, you now have a base to start from.

Choose specific audience to target.

Figure out not only who has a need for your product or service, but also who is most likely to buy it. Think about the following factors:

  • Age
  • Education level
  • Marital or family status
  • Occupation
  • Ethnic background
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education level


Consider the psychographics of your target audience.

Psychographics are the more detailed personal characteristics of a person. It’s important to determine how your product/service will fit into your target’s lifestyle. Keep in mind how and when your target will use the product/service so you can integrate this into your content or photos that you will use throughout your digital marketing strategy.

Ask yourself a few questions to get started. What features are most appealing to your target audience? How can they be integrated into your strategy? What media does your target turn to for information? The answers to these questions can then be used to help you syndicate your content or branded photos/ads in the right places for your target audience to consume.

Here’s a quick list of psychographic characteristics to consider:

  • Personality
  • Attitudes
  • Values
  • Interests/hobbies
  • Lifestyles
  • Online Behavior

Now that you have gathered all this information you can start to layout your digital marketing strategy. Stay tuned, we will be breaking down what your strategy should look like and the next steps you should take to execute your strategy in the coming weeks.

Until then, HAPPY DIGITAL MARKETING!