I attended the well-regarded industry conference, Digital East (#DEast14) this week. I learned a few things and thought I would share some observations about the impact of the evolving digital age on certain behavior.
The conference agenda was focused on digital marketing, channels, best practice, etc., and the audience was a broad constellation of large industry, public sector, non-profits, small business, digital entrepreneurs, random enthusiasts and job seekers. This was definitely NOT geared for hard-core techies and the attendees were a diverse cross-section of the population.
The conference sessions were only 30 minutes each. This was new to me. At first I was skeptical about the value of a half hour sound bite to deliver topics as complex as SEO. In fact, the presentations were succinct and for the most part, presented valuable resources and ideas. I queried a number of other attendees about the length of the sessions and the response was very favorable. The people I spoke to said they really enjoyed learning new information by sampling – getting a taste of the subject, digesting what matters to them, and then moving on quickly to the next topic. Like my peers, I found the 30 minute sessions to be enough time to gain something of value, but not so long that I got bored. Is this reflective of our culture in general or is this information acquisition preference unique to certain audiences? It does seem like people’s attention spans are getting shorter.
The myth about our real brain’s ability to pay attention to two different things at the same time have been disproven, but we seem to have adapted a well-tuned brain toggling function. As I looked around the room during one of the sessions, I noticed about 50% of the participants had their eyes focussed on a screen (phone, tablet, laptop) during the presentations. Some were taking notes, others were looking up resources related to the topic, some folks appeared to be tweeting and sharing it on their social networks, and a whole bunch more were engaged in completely unrelated activities. In other settings this behavior may be considered rude, but there its just the way of the world. It was sort of funny to watch people doing their thing on the screen, appearing to be paying no attention to the presenter, then suddenly a head pops up, eyes focus on the power point for a few minutes, then they go back to the screen.
I wondered what caught their attention and how did they switch their focus so quickly? Since I was doing it too, I can tell you that this toggle (formerly known as multi-tasking) function can become highly developed and very effective. You can actually pay attention to two things at one time over time. Sure, you miss words and whole ideas, but when something of interest strikes your ear, the attention instantly shifts. There are certainly pros and cons to developing this ability, but it clearly exists in this ever-expanding digital environment.
One of the keynote presenters was Leigh Heyman, Director of New Media Technologies for the White House. He shared some fascinating initiatives and developments in the use of digital media in the Executive Branch. It is widely known that President Obama has been invested in the use of digital media to communicate with and reach not only his audience, but everyone. Regardless of how one might feel about him and his policies, it is hard to deny the value of his intention to reach people through more than traditional media.
One program launched by his administration, We the People, is a collaboration between the private sector and Heyman’s office, to create a platform that allows individuals to rally support for a cause and petition the White House directly. The White House has committed to respond to every petition, regardless of how whacky it appears. They have done an admirable job upholding the tenants of citizen engagement. The State of the Union Address this year saw a 38% increase in online viewers from 2013, with 90,000 tweets and 70,000 Facebook posts. This was record breaking digital engagement for that event and the live stream had the most viewers since its initial launch in 2009. Those who reported that the State of the Union Address had very low viewership did not include the digital channels. According to Heyman, people are not paying less attention, they are migrating from traditional media to digital platforms.
It was interesting to experience some of this evolving digital impact in real time with real people. If you have any questions or would like more information on the conference, please feel free to contact me.
Posted on 09/11/2014 at 08:30:00 PM
Digital Opportunities Continue to Expand
Sometimes I learn about different online resources for business through industry research, tapping into the community, and other times I discover new avenues out of frustration or boredom. Recently, review sites have been challenging my patience with poor customer service and other objectionable behavior that often accompanies wild success. In an effort to circumvent some of the big dogs, I found what often lies behind corporate giants…viable but smaller competitors committed to creating a better solution.
There’s so much more to maintaining a digital presence for your business now than review sites like Yelp or Angies’s List, display sites like Pinterest or Houzz, or even social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you are already active on these sites, you may be ahead of the pack in your industry. Even if you aren’t accessing the power of those platforms, boosting your business online is probably a good thing to consider. Here are some possibilities to explore.
Google – Sometimes the most obvious thing is completely overlooked. Don’t forget to actively put your business on Google. Yes, you want the search engine to find your website through searches, and starting with the search engine itself is a really good idea. Formerly known as Google Places, now you go to Google my Business and the site will walk you through getting your business listed on Google. Since it is focussed on business, you can even talk to live human if you run into problems and they are helpful (not so much with Google for individuals).
Thumbtack - This site challenges the essence of review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List by creating a more directed connection between customers and providers. With the other sites, the business profile sits static (unless you pay for advertising) waiting for traffic to come along. Advertising can be expensive, but without it a business profile is much less likely to get business, while their competitors snap up leads with their enhanced presence. With Thumbtack, a customer puts out a request for a product/service and businesses submit quotes for that job. The site makes their money charging the business for their bids. There is no guarantee they will get the job, but the competition is far reduced, businesses pay only for qualified leads, and customers get to choose from a select sample of qualified providers. It is an interesting model that is also not without some detractors, but worth checking out.
My City Place – This site also allows customers to get price quotes from businesses. It is FREE for customers to use and for business to be listed. Prospects can check out businesses reviews, ask them a question, or request a quote from one site. This site is not as popular, so the volume will be lower.
Local.com - Not unlike the other listing sites, this one allows you to put your business information, contact, services, etc. on their platform for prospective customers to see. They offer advertising as well to boost the impressions. This site is one to pay attention to based on the volume of visitors, over a million each day who use it to search for products and services.
Foursquare – This site has had its ups and downs, but still worth positioning your business there, especially if you have a physical location. It is very mobile driven with an app that allows your potential customers to check in, search your specials, see events, and see what is nearby.
You may not have the resources to stay up on all of this, and many more sites, but I recommend checking them out and at least getting your business listed on them. It is good for your overall digital footprint and you never know who may find you there. I also suggest you check out what your competition is doing on sites like these. If your competitors don’t have much of a presence there, you could dominate your in industry. If they do have a presence, you certainly don’t want to be left out.
Let me know if you have any questions about these and other digital sites for marketing your business. As always, Contact Us for a Free Consultation.
Posted on 09/04/2014 at 04:30:00 AM
There may be no such thing as a Free Lunch, but there are plenty of free resources on the internet. I am struck by the culture shift, that parallels the rapid growth of the internet, away from information as intellectual property and toward a collective agreement to share what we have. This is not to say that copywriting, licensing, and patent protection are a thing of the past…quite the contrary. I also don’t mean to suggest that there is no cost for these free resources. When companies provide tips and tools without asking for monetary compensation, they are doing so with an expectation that they are cultivating one or more of the following benefits in return.
1. Good will with their audience
2. An email distribution list of prospects and clients
3. A more powerful web presence as their shared material signals relavance to search engines
4. Branding (who they are) and brand awareness (that they exist) every time their information is used
5. Reputation building as industry experts and leaders in their field
From the user’s perspective, we are often expected to provide a way to reach us in exchange for the privilege of the resource. It is understood, and often clearly agreed upon, that by signing up, we agree to accepting their communication.
One of my favorite sites for prolific outpouring of valuable resources is Hubspot. If you google anything related to marketing your business online, chances are good Hubspot will come up with a free resource to share with you. For example, I was consulting with a client about their existing website. We wanted to know how it was performing in key areas, such as their on-page SEO, lead generation, and blogging. Hubspot offers a free tool called Marketing Grader. Here you can put in the website you want reviewed and your email address (their lead generation function) and it will connect you to an interesting report on how your site is doing in these areas, with suggestions for improvement.
The number of sites that share all kinds of resources, in every industries is to too long to list here. Just remember the next time you want to know what resources are available to accomplish something online, just put your question in the search engine and see what shows up. You are likely to discover all kinds of interesting things. As a matter of fact, some of us self-identified information grazers have a hard time avoiding rabbit holes in search of a straight forward answer.
This culture of sharing also impacts social media sites, where offering items of value is the name of the game. You see this on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin with business pages posting articles and resources. In Linkedin groups it is common for requests for recommended tools to garner more responses than a person is likely to be able to sift through and use. Many other sites and platforms have discussion boards with this kind of sharing support. It is very encouraging how easy and free it is to get help, tools, resources, and answers to questions in the digital space.
Posted on 08/27/2014 at 10:15:00 PM
Have you ever wondered who sees your posts and why your post impressions are so much lower than the number of likes on your page? Of the average 1,500 posts that could show up on a newsfeed at any particular time, only about 300 actually make the cut. Why don’t you see every post from every one of your connections? Imagine how cluttered your newsfeed would be. You would miss posts from the people you interact with the most because they would be buried in a sea of content. Facebook has distinguished itself from sites like Twitter and Instagram, where every post by your contacts is on your newsfeed, and created algorithms that choose which posts you see on your newsfeed.
Many Facebook users, both personal and professional, are angered and frustrated by this approach. It has been speculated that Facebook is making a business decision to limit the reach for business pages to encourage paid advertising to boost impressions. Though Facebook staunchly denies this accusation, they have not until recently been forthcoming about what factors are included in the decision for what shows up and what does not. This article/post by Facebook’s own Brian Boland, gives a good explanation and description about the decrease in organic reach. This is the approach Facebook has decided to take and it has a measure of validity and a methodology behind it, regardless of how we feel or what we understand about it.
Facebook has not made, and is not likely in the future to make public the thousands of ingredients that go into their recipe for choosing posts. They have, however offered these general insights for understanding their process which can help you guide your own newsfeed:
Posts now have options to allow you to communicate with Facebook. Here is a post on the newsfeed of one of our clients, Vince Coyle, with MVB Mortgage. As you can see by the drop down list at the upper right hand of the post, he has options to designate this post in a way that lets Facebook know what he wants to see on his newsfeed. The first option indicates that this is not the type of post you want on your newsfeed (which would not be the case here, since Stages Premier Realtors, DC is an excellent agency and a great connection for a mortgage lender). You can also designate a post as “spam” and hide anything from one of your connections. The more you label posts you don’t like, the greater the chance Facebook will screen out content that is not of interest to you. You can also classify posts as positive, signaling to Facebook the type of content you do want to see.
When you click on “I don’t want to see this post” you will have the opportunity to give additional feedback. Facebook will then give you three options of feedback, so it can better identify what you want to view.
Here is more evidence for the importance of interacting on Facebook pages for business. The more page visits, post likes, comments, and shares, the Facebook algorithms pick up this as interest and reinforces with more similar content. If that page is also interacting with your page, again, more signs that the content is valuable and should continue. If you want to be seen by others, interacting and engaging is a great way to increase your presence.
The more your posts are liked, shared, and commented on, that is a greater positioning with Facebook that your content is valuable and should be seen by individuals and pages that have liked your page.
Though social media sites are free to use, the big ones all have the option to pay for extra attention. You can dedicate a set amount of funds per day to promote a special post and the algorithm boosts your post beyond even your existing connections.
Facebook’s algorithms for who sees which posts may be a bit of a mystery, but that does not mean it is time to pack it in with Facebook. Follow these suggestions and you can have an impact not only on what you see, but what others see from you. If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us.
Posted on 07/31/2014 at 03:45:00 AM
This phrase is commonly used to extoll the benefits of something wonderful to someone who hasn’t experienced it. The same can be said to business owners who are not using digital media to market their business…they have no idea how their business could benefit from this approach, if done correctly.
Posted on 07/24/2014 at 04:00:00 AM
Most of us small (and many not so small) business owners who engage in social media and digital marketing do it as if we were partially blindfolded. We may follow some industry recommendations, like having a nice website, developing a presence on the major digital platforms, posting and sharing content regularly, but do we have a clear understanding of what our efforts are intended to produce? Are we oriented to the terrain of digital media so we can focus a campaign on results, or our we just jumping in the pool because we don’t want to be the only one not at the party (pardon the mixed metaphors)?
Posted on 07/09/2014 at 10:15:00 PM
As business owners we have multiple audiences – clients or customers, referral partners, strategic partners, vendors, and internal staff, employees, and associates. I recently ran across a Facebook page that reminded me to blog about this not uncommon practice of targeting posts to the wrong audience. This happens primarily out of ignorance about social media and a lack of clarity on who are the people intended to be impacted by the message. The most misplaced and useless target for social media engagement is an internal audience, yet some professional pages aim exactly at that group.
Posted on 07/03/2014 at 02:30:00 PM
Business owners often struggle with a never-ending “To Do” list for running their companies, and it seems to be getting longer all the time. Digital marketing, in all its varied forms, is becoming increasingly important as more and more of your target audience is searching for and finding products and services on the internet. Marketing experts like us recommend employing a hearty dose of social media, blogging, local SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and review site management, to grow your client/referral base. With everything else you have to deal with, how can you stay on top of Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin multiple times a week, not to mention a weekly blog, email campaigns, videos creation, and reputation management? If you recognize the value these activities will bring to your business, but don’t have the resources to hire someone to help you with it, consider these tips to make it work efficiently for you.
Posted on 06/26/2014 at 03:30:00 AM
There are many good reasons to blog, as discussed in last week’s article “Blogging About Blogs“. Now we look at what makes a blog great. Like most other subjects on digital marketing, there is an abundance of resources to help you navigate these unchartered waters. One such resource is the Loudoun SBDC (Small Business Development Center), which I highly recommend all existing and aspiring business owners to check out. They sponsored a seminar where the presenter, Ray Sidney-Smith, with W3 Consulting, encouraged businesses to become more proficient at creating an effective Social, Mobile, and Local presence for their brand. Ray’s book, titled SoLoMoSuccess, reinforces what those of us who work in the industry advocate to our networks – the need to expand our digital footprint if we intend to thrive and survive within the framework of an ever-growing digital age of consumerism.
Posted on 06/11/2014 at 07:00:00 PM
I’ve been writing my blog consistently for over a year now and I’ve developed a level of comfort with this role as a blogger. I have been surprised by some of the positive outcomes I had not considered when I started. For example, every week I compel myself to put some aspect of my growing fund of knowledge into writing. I would not be routinely documenting what I learn about this industry otherwise. The other surprising outcome is that I know more than I thought I did and I get to learn even more as I research topics to write about. Sharing knowledge is a great way to reinforce it.
Posted on 06/04/2014 at 10:15:00 PM