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02/Sep/2019
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Brands using inbound marketing have reported a 72% increase in leads and a 55% hike in conversion rates, according to a new study by portfolio website Visual Objects that extolls the virtues of content marketing, SEO and other organic methods designed to deliver value to audiences.

Titled How Businesses Use Inbound Marketing, the study found that the technique of drawing customers to products via content is having a profound impact on tangible metrics, with just 15% of those surveyed saying that they have not seen any change in the number of leads after running a campaign.

Inbound marketing has become more popular in recent years as consumers are more averse to hard sells and targeted advertising, which are unlikely to take their own interests and needs into account.

Inbound output is the opposite, using high-quality content to inform, educate and entertain audiences via digital platforms, including social media.

More than three-quarters of enterprises based in North America are now using inbound marketing to promote their brand while also serving their customers in some way, and the vast majority have reported a surge in leads and conversions.

Content marketing is not only a viable alternative to outbound marketing but is arguably also the best method overall.

For those aiming to improve inbound strategies, the report offers a few tips and tactics backed up by the opinions of the 501 businesses surveyed.

Inbound marketing focuses on moving consumers through the sales funnel, and brands wanting to succeed must use content properly at the ‘awareness’, ‘interest’, ‘decision’ and ‘action’ phases.

Attracting leads takes place at the very top of the funnel, and more than half of the enterprises say that blog content is an excellent medium for driving awareness.

To achieve this goal, businesses are also creating visual content and investing in search engine optimisation.

Brands then turn to content promotion, including call-to-action hyperlinks within written blogs and articles and landing pages to push them along the sales funnel.

When used correctly, content can move consumers easily through the buying cycle, which provides incredible value in terms of sales and revenue.

The final cog in the inbound marketing machine is social media.

Nine in ten businesses say that they use social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, to support distribution and other areas of their strategies.

This is no surprise, as social media provides brands with the opportunity to reach almost 3.5 billion people globally.

However, those surveyed admitted that they might need outside help from an agency to make the most of social media and the practice of getting content in front of audiences at the right time.

The study also found that attracting leads and converting them will remain the top priority overall, ahead of increasing website traffic and building brand authority, although the content is also likely to help in this area.

Silverback Strategies vice president of creative, Ben Kirst, said in a statement: “To really run effective campaigns takes expertise.

“There’s a degree of impatience and unwillingness to really invest the time and resources needed to gain that level of expertise.

“We want results and we want them now.”


22/Jul/2019
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Paid search and digital advertising continue to be hit or miss for brands targeting growth and increased brand awareness due to an inability to fully leverage audience data and meet volume targets, a new study by Marin Software has found.

The State of Digital Advertising 2019 is an all-encompassing study of how B2B and B2C marketers are dealing with their quests to address challenges and take advantage of new opportunities now that six months of the year are over. The study canvassed 450 marketers in the US and the UK for their views on a variety of topics.

Paid methods are often used to complement organic content marketing to amplify reach and engagement, but the study found that brands face “constant challenges” due to the growing threat of data privacy and the need to use analytics effectively to target the right consumers at the right time.

Paid search remains the most popular digital ad channel, as it commands more than a third of total budgets on average. However, paid advertising in social media is on the rise, and activities on Instagram, Facebook and other platforms now make up 18% of budgets, putting it in second place overall, just ahead of display ads (16%).

It is perhaps no surprise to see brands increasing their ad spends on Instagram due to the photo and video-sharing service’s growing popularity, especially with younger generations, but the study found that Facebook is not losing ground. More than two-thirds said that their advertising spends on Instagram will come via incremental budgeting as opposed to pivoting away from Facebook entirely.

Amazon is also making waves in the ad industry, and 60% of respondents said they plan to increase their investment in the e-commerce platform during the next 12 months. More than half view Amazon as a primary growth opportunity, and around 25% want to use it to drive more purchases at the bottom of the sales funnel.

However, it’s not all good news for Amazon, as 23% believe its reporting tools are not as sophisticated as those on Google and Facebook, which is a problem in today’s world of tracking metrics to determine ROI. Three in ten also say they have not yet got to grips with the ad environment on Amazon.

Google remains the most trusted published overall with an impressive score of 4.5 out of 5 on the trust index, and all but 2% of respondents rated the search giant as either 4 or 5. Many are also looking forward to using Google’s updated Search Ads format to improve their paid search campaigns.

“This year’s report shows a shift in advertising spend as marketers explore alternative channels and emerging ad formats,” Marin Software’s SVP of Marketing, Wes MacLaggan, said in a statement.

He added: “The digital advertising landscape continues to evolve, with advertisers struggling to close the skills gap as publishers innovate. At Marin, we’re seeing a greater emphasis on video and new ad formats like Responsive Search Ads and Shoppable Images to gain mindshare and drive growth. The eCommerce landscape is a hotbed of innovation, presenting retail brands with many opportunities and some challenges to navigate.”


01/Jul/2019
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A new report published by the Local Search Association (LSA) and SOCi is one of two released last week highlighting the urgent need for brands to publish localised content on social media and across other digital platforms to drive engagement with audiences in regional markets and support franchise brand growth.

The Localized Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report provides compelling evidence that localised social marketing is delivering tangible returns for brands of all sizes. It found that the top ten performers are realising growth at a 300% faster rate than category peers over a five-year period.

“Localized Social Marketing is the key for multi-location businesses to compete and win in a world dominated by e-commerce and Amazon,” said Greg Sterling, LSA’s VP of Strategy and Insights.

He added: “When done effectively, it can propel brands to the top of organic search results, build and maintain a highly engaged base of loyal customers and drive increased traffic and, ultimately, sales to local businesses.”

Social media is now a key battleground for brands, as it has evolved into a primary driver of consumer behaviour. Platforms that were once mainly hubs for customer relations and keeping in touch with customers are now vital outlets for content marketing and other digital experiences.

Recent research by Social Media Today showed that more than three-quarters of purchases decisions are directly influenced content posted on social sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while 75% of engagement comes via brands’ local pages.

LSA said that the latest findings make it clear that a localised strategy on social media is no longer a luxury but a necessity for brands and should form part of their wider marketing strategy. LSA noted that this change has occurred during the last decade and resulted from customers demanding more personalised and local level experiences.

SOCi’s Chief Marketing Officer, Monica Ho, added: “This vehicle provides brands the opportunity to personally engage with each and every consumer and create true brand advocates. To keep pace with this trend, social media platforms are providing a growing list of features and functionalities, such as reviews, social conversations, and local Business Pages that now enable what we have come to call Localized Social Marketing.”

The joint study also found that seven in ten consumers are now reading content, including reviews, before making a purchase and that this figure increases to eight in ten for younger people aged 18 to 35.

A report released by the CMO Council last week also put forward the idea that local content and experiences based on language and culture can give brands a competitive edge, although 73% of marketers believe they are not ready to meet the needs of modern, digitally savvy consumers.

The CEO of Worldwide Partners said that enterprises need to do more solve the “localisation gap” and called on them to overhaul their strategies to help them to provide “personalised, contextualised and culturally relevant experiences.” Brands that also make use of translation and transcreation services will also give themselves a better chance of achieving new customer-centric goals.


17/Jun/2019
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Six in ten content marketing teams admit to suffering delays to their campaigns and projects and just 7% are “fully satisfied” with their processes as a whole, a new joint study released last week by We are Social Media and Planable has found.

The two companies announced their intentions to collaborate on a comprehensive report in March, and after three months of analysing and dissecting insights and data, the Content Marketing: Behind the Scenes study is the result. The study presents a plethora of interesting takeaways on the success of campaigns.

Enterprises are getting better at supporting higher workloads, as 45% of marketers say they now post 11 updates on social media and publish five or more pieces of content,such as blogs and articles,over a seven-day period, although this figure drops to 33% for in-house marketing teams. However, many still grumble about how they get to that total, with a dearth of collaboration and time-wasting drawing the most ire.

Delays are a common bugbear, as 61% say they have been forced to put back completion dates due to process issues, such as excessive back-and-forth emails and problems with multitasking. The study notes that “future proofing” teams to support better workflows and habits could transform the process entirely.

“Our work grows in complexity every day and the difficulties multiply when our own marketing house isn’t in order. It’s affecting everything. From the success of the work to those lost nights and weekends,” said Miruna Dragomir, Planable Head of Marketing. “In the next phase of content marketing, the winners and the losers will be separated by how well teams work together and how scalable production processes are.”

Currently, the journey from content creation to distribution and publishing takes 5.4 days on average, with about a third of that time devoted to collaboration. However, 35% said their ability to push out work at a faster rate and be highly productive is often hampered by multitasking and email issues.

The report says that brands can truly scale their content marketing efforts by breaking down many of the barriers and outdated processes that are still in place when creating content. This is due in part to workflows not catching up with a new wave of advanced tech and the growing demand for content. However, brands will need to make changes to better manage bigger teams and more complex workflows to achieve success.

“The need for more content is not going away anytime soon. Brands have to be ready to face the continuous increase in demand for more unique and actionable content. The Internet is moving fast, and the brands that will win are those that can get their houses in order and be able to create, approve, and share great content with lightning speed,” explained Geoff Desreumaux, co-Founder and CEO of We Are Social Media.


22/Apr/2019
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Restaurants brands may be missing out if they fail to leverage the power of content marketing on social media platforms, according to a new report by MGH, which found almost half of the diners in the US go to a new eatery after reading or watching a post published by a brand online.

While restaurants are traditionally centred around offline experiences and interactions, supporting standard marketing efforts, such as local ads with digital content, can help to attract new diners, improve brand image and increase customer loyalty and retention. MGH, a full-service restaurant marketing agency, said social content can have a “great influence.”

The power of content may have been overlooked in the food industry, as 42% of diners have now interacted with a restaurant in some form via a social media platform, and two-thirds say these positive experiences make them more likely to order more food from the restaurant and visit in the future.

Restaurant-to-consumer engagement is beneficial in several ways, including enabling brands to tap into new audiences and reach more people. About 45% said they ventured to a restaurant because of an article, blog or video, while 22% said that type of content has enticed them to return.

“For restaurant marketers, it’s clear that high-quality social media content, along with active engagement practices, still has great relevance to consumers,” MGH Social Media Marketing Director and Executive Vice President, Ryan Goff, said. “When done right, social content marketing can have great influence over where diners choose to spend their hard-earned money.”

Brands that regularly post content online have a better chance of accruing more followers and friends, which, in turn, increases engagement and the potential for consumers to spend more on food. Three-quarters of respondents who actively follow a restaurant brand on social platforms, such as Twitter or Facebook, say this relationship makes them more likely to visit.

While the upsides for social content are plentiful, MGH did sound a word of warning, as 13% of US diners admitted that a low-quality post has discouraged them from offering repeat business to a restaurant. The takeaway here is that content must be relevant and meet the needs of consumers to ensure they do not hold a negative view of the brand.

Social media has become nearly ubiquitous for diners in the US, as 89% have at least one active social media account. This means brands may be missing out on reaching potentially millions of customers if they do not manage content campaigns on social and across the web.

Six in ten also say they log into social media three or more times during a single day, and four in ten follow restaurants. A further 39% said they keep track of a restaurant’s social account to determine whether they want to dine in or out.

MGH conducted the latest survey of US diners in February when it asked 1,069 adults about social content and their food eating habits. Those who responded all regularly dine in, order takeaways and get food delivered.


18/Jun/2018
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In 2017, agencies and brands alike began to see the importance of digital marketing in targeting and connecting with niche audiences, the IAB Digital Video Centre of Excellence says. This was particularly evident with video ads. The results of the March 2018 survey of 353 media buyers and brand marketers conducted by Advertiser Perceptions indicated that 23% of video advertising budgets in many businesses are set aside specifically for ads on social media sites. IAB revealed the results of the survey in April, with 50% of all respondents claiming they intend to spend even more money on video ads over the course of the next 12 months.

Social media advertising spending

Ads on social media often incorporate video content in the form of advertisements on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. Professional guidance can help these video ads to increase their click-through, conversion and customer acquisition rates. A third-to-a-half of a company’s advertising spending should be spent initially on content that allows scaling, according to Chamber Media’s Travis Chambers. As the advertising spending grows, content will need refreshing every quarter for a couple of reasons.

One reason is that content will become less effective as the audience watches that content multiply over time, and another is that social algorithms are aware of this and that content’s reach will also begin to decrease if there is not enough new content being uploaded. However, evergreen content can be served to new audiences continually and still retain its effectiveness. For high-converting mobile video, the most effective format is to have a hook within the first couple of seconds that will keep the viewer interested. Make sure both the problem and its solution are referenced very early, and then use humour, strong calls to action to entice a purchase, with press references and testimonials included to enhance credibility.

Strategies

With social media videos, many advertisers have rather polarised strategies, either being of a more traditional mindset and expecting to get results with a focus on brand awareness or more focused on e-commerce and immediate sales, often at the brand’s expense. These mindsets are correct together but not independently. Both avenues are required to achieve success, with several brands making huge top-funnel video adverts for social media but lacking any plan to ensure the customer stays engaged afterwards. Once the high funnel video has been served, it should be followed up to the same consumers with mid-to-low-funnel content that gives credibility, offers reminders and creates a sense of urgency, such as offers, origin stories and product demonstrations.

Mistakes to avoid

One easily avoidable but common mistake in regard to social media buying is viewing numbers in a vacuum, with many marketers examining ad platforms individually rather than as a whole. This mistake can result in a misinterpretation of failure when the opposite is true. A holistic mindset is vital when judging the effectiveness of campaigns. Another common mistake is using lower-paid junior ad buyers with limited experience, which rarely works out. It is far better to invest more in elite advertising buying talent, which over time can end up being worth millions.


12/Feb/2018
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Video is now the go-to content format for many brands, but William Grant & Sons Global Senior Content and Connections Manager Cathal Gillen believes marketers sometimes “over-invest” in the production of creative clips without considering whether it is beneficial for the business in terms of ROI and engagement.

In a new interview with marketing news website The Drum, Gillen claims he has seen first-hand how brands and ad agencies often divert a huge percentage of their media spend to video. While he agrees video can play a role in successful content campaigns, he believes other, more viable formats are often overlooked in the process.

He said: “Videos only go viral occasionally and there has to be budget to amplify it to get the right reach for your video content.” Going viral also seems an outdated concept in an age where consumers are looking for brands to serve up more personalised, informative and educational content, which actually adds value to their own lives.

Gillen continued by urging brands to recognise just how invested they are in media and social giants, such as Google, as a lack of alternative outlets for content could potentially have its downsides in the long run. He added: “We have to be really cautious towards the big channels. So much of the revenue and budgets are going into Facebook and Google. It is important to be really mindful about the power they bear on us. Martin Sorrell calls them ‘frenemies’.”

Finally, Gillen touched on the ongoing issue of transparency and metrics. He believes brands must do everything they can to measure effectiveness to ensure they are not wasting time or money on ineffective platforms and content formats, though he admits it can be challenging due to the statistics served up on social platforms.

He said: “When we look at impression numbers and reach numbers, we try to see how people have been impacted. You might have reached 10 million people but, how many people have viewed it? With Facebook, if you’ve been counted in as three seconds, is that good for you? Probably not. But if the view is something like 20 seconds out of 30 seconds in video then that’s potentially good.”

Video has been central to content campaigns for some time now, but last year saw the arrival of another major marketing trend: influencers. Contiki Social Media and Influencer Manager Natalie Siagian revealed in late January how the use of celebrities and other high-profile figures who have access to large audiences should not be seen as a silver bullet for engagement success.

There are around 500 million tweets posted every single day, so the scope for a targeted influencer campaign is considerable, but Siagian said it should never be a substitute for high-quality, relevant content. She added: “If you are looking at influencers to solve all your problems, that’s not going to happen. But if you are looking at influencers to communicate a message to reach a new audience, you must make sure you’re being smart about it.”


29/Jan/2018
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Snapchat announced the arrival of a new Stories Everywhere feature earlier this week, but the drive to get users to share more content on the platform is unlikely to win over marketers and advertisers, who continue to focus their attention on Facebook and Instagram for targeting buying audiences.

Stories Everywhere is basically Snapchat’s way of connecting with the services users rely on every day. Any user-generated content will soon be able to be posted in emails and text messages, as well as Facebook and Twitter, without having to navigate away from the mobile app. The feature will arrive alongside a complete redesign in the coming weeks and is aimed at keeping more users locked into Snapchat.

However, its usability for brands is limited, and a spokesperson for the image messaging site even admitted the latest changes are consumer-focused and will not appeal to advertisers, as there won’t be any impact on ad units. Snapchat said in a statement that Stories Everywhere would make it easier for users to share their favourite moments with “friends and family outside of Snapchat”.

With that statement being aimed squarely at the general public, it is no surprise that some brands and agencies have confirmed that they will not be investing any more money into content and other experiences on Snapchat in the near future. Deutsch’s Senior Vice President Rachel Mercer said the move felt like a “Hail Mary” effort, as the platform has a diminishing relevance in the social media landscape.

Snapchat revealed that it has 178 million users during its third-quarter earnings report, but that was just a 4.5 million uptick from the previous quarter. Mercer believes advertisers already on the platform may see a small boost in engagement but that it would only be a “short-term gain”.

She added: “The reality is that the sophisticated advertising platform, from a targeting and marketing perspective, leans heavily towards Facebook, Instagram and depending on the context or needs, Pinterest and Google. Generally, Snapchat is most effective for awareness plays, and with diminished user reporting, I don’t know if it’s still applicable.”

Wavemaker Managing Partner Noah Mallin echoed these sentiments and added that social users will be less inclined to migrate to Snapchat now that there is the ability to share stories on other platforms. However, he claimed that may change “down the road” if Snapchat can bring new users to the platform.

T3 Director of Connections Angela Yang also believes that Snapchat’s walled garden was one of the reasons why it has been successful and is seen as a potentially viable alternative to the bigger social hitters. She said one area where it could differentiate itself is via visual content and strengthening its commitment to be a “camera company”.

She added: “For example, I created this amazing video for Snapchat. How much more mileage can I get out of it? It gives brands the opportunity to take pieces of content and get more eyes on it in other platforms. Snapchat’s got to think of new, innovative ways to capture the world around us for this to work.”


27/Dec/2017
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Small business owners are still unsure whether their digital marketing strategies are working and claim that finding the resources and time to support creative content campaigns will be one their biggest challenges in 2018.

Content and digital marketing have been cited as crucial strategies for driving a variety of positive business outcomes, including engagement, awareness, reach and sales in 2018. But, a new report by marketing and sales platform Infusionsoft suggest micro-businesses and other small enterprises are still somewhat short of maximising the potential of video, mobile and other key trends.

The research polled the opinions of 1,000 small-business owners in North America in October. While digital marketing success remains out of reach for most respondents, almost three-quarters said they plan on publishing content across social media platforms next year to acquire new customers. Facebook will be the most popular outlet for these small-business owners.

While the report noted a certain caution in major digital marketing spend, more than a third will invest in social media management in 2018, and 30% will spend more on SEO and digital ads due to the growing importance of featuring on the first page of Google SERPs.

USA TODAY senior columnist, Steve Strauss said: “The vast majority of small business owners are indicating that they plan to invest their money in social media in 2018. I strongly recommend they invest in tools that enable them to…monitor traffic and conversion to see what’s working and what isn’t.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the report is the fact that most small-business owners are effectively in a blind spot when attempting to determine the success of digital marketing. A staggering 63% said they either “don’t know if their marketing strategies work” or “know their strategies aren’t working,” which indicates SMEs must do more to leverage tools, metrics and analytics to improve content decision making.

An outside influence could also help. A fifth of enterprises said a major challenge for 2018 would be finding the time and money to market their business properly. A third party, such as a digital content agency, could transform a brand’s marketing efforts, providing them with not only expertise but also regular, high-quality, targeted and relevant blogs, news, and videos that can benefit every aspect of a modern business.

Demand Gen Report & Marketing ID News Editor, Brian Anderson, added. “Finding time and resources for marketing, being able to convert leads into customers, being able to have the types of conversations that lead to sales: it’s ultimately not a technology solution as much as it’s a process solution. If you have don’t have a process to understand your marketing efforts and your sales efforts, your technology isn’t going to benefit.”

Digital marketing can drive the visibility, awareness and revenue small businesses need to grow, so marketers simply must do more to implement effective campaigns, as they risk losing out to larger enterprises that usually have more mature strategies and resources.


11/Sep/2017
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Shoppable visual content appears to be the latest frontier for marketers to improve engagement and drive better conversion rates after sports apparel brand Reebok and online retailer Very revealed this week that they are planning use to images and videos to push consumers along the sales cycle more effectively on both desktop and mobile.

Reebok has already published a series of videos featuring athletes wearing the brand’s latest clothing and footwear. The shoppable element to this content allows any viewers across social media platforms to click on items they see, find out more information and then advance to a checkout where they can buy them immediately.

Reebok says that this new strategy is designed to capture the attention of a growing number of customers, who like to use Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms to discover products and then shop online. Reebok is working with tech enterprise Curalate to create the shoppable experience that it believes will be “seamless” and reduce the cycle between discovery and point of purchase.

“Reebok’s online content celebrates fitness communities,” Reebok Senior Digital Manager, Mark Allin, said. “We’ll feature our products in content captured during genuine workouts, rather than simply product shots. This way people are clear as to what our position is in fitness, and can then explore options to purchase. This approach provides a clearer and more consistent message to the user, one considered journey.”

Shoppable content is beneficial for brands in numerous ways. It helps them to meet growing customer expectations regarding high-quality shopping experiences, while also optimising their marketing spends. Reebok says it will now be easier to determine ROI for branded content initiatives, which will, in turn, give them a clearer picture of a consumer’s “ideal” purchasing journey.

UK retailer Very also revealed this week that it has teamed up with Bauer Media for an extensive mobile and online shoppable campaign. Users watching the videos will be able to select items and create a bespoke outfit, while a personalised quiz will offer up advice by a range of style gurus. It will also tap into social media activity to deliver outfit suggestions and humorous fashion=focused commentary.

“In the fiercely competitive online fashion market, we’ve only got seconds to grab our audience’s attention on their smartphones before they swipe on,” Head of Brand at Shop Direct, Andrew Roscoe, said. “That’s why we’ve worked with Bauer on an innovative and impactful campaign, which will be relevant and inspire our target customer for V by Very. We’re proud of this work and can’t wait for it to land.”

Multi brand retailer Shop Director, which operates Very, revealed that almost two-thirds of sales are now completed via mobile devices, so they were eager to come up with a creative solution to engage and interact with a growing number of mobile users. A separate study by Influenster earlier this week found 90% of women prefer to consumer videos on smartphones, so the campaign should be a success.