Author: Melissa Nichols

Baby Boomers on Social Media: How to Connect With Them

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When marketing to customers on social media, who are you expecting to reach? For many marketers, the expected social media user is someone in their 20s or early 30s who is never far from their smartphone or mobile device.

But focusing your social media marketing efforts solely on Millennials means that you are potentially ignoring a vast swath of your customer base. While the stereotype of Baby Boomers (people born just after World War II through about 1965) might be that they’re unsure or scared of technology, the reality is that many of them are more tech-savvy and connected than you might think.

Get to know how Baby Boomers use social media and where you’re likely to find them so that you can better target your marketing efforts to connect with them.

Where Are Boomers on Social Media?

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At last count, there were around 77 million Baby Boomers in the US. Of those, around 65 percent between ages 50-64 and around 41 percent of those 65+ use Facebook.

Baby Boomers are less likely to use or have accounts on other social platforms. For example, just 19 percent of people 50- 64 are on Twitter, and only 21 percent have Instagram accounts.

Social media use among Baby Boomers does mirror social media use among the rest of the population. According to Pew Research Center’s annual social media use study, Facebook remains the most popular social network by far, with 68 percent of all US adults claiming to use it. Other platforms, including Twitter and Instagram, are considerably less popular, used by 24 percent and 35 percent of all adults, respectively.

How Do Baby Boomers Use Social Media?

Although Boomers might track with the general population when it comes to the platforms they use, how they engage with or use those platforms tends to differ. For example, only about one-quarter of Baby Boomer social media users follow a brand on social media compared to nearly half of Generation X and half of Millennials. That seems to suggest that if your brand hopes to connect with a Baby Boomer customer base, it needs to go above and beyond to stand out from the crowd.

Baby Boomers are more likely, however, to take action if they encounter something they like on a social platform. Nearly 60 percent of Boomers are likely to check out a company’s website after finding them on social media, for example.

Boomers also are among the most voracious content consumers, with one study revealing that one-quarter of Boomers spend more than 20 hours per week consuming content. A similar survey from Nielsen found that people over the age of 50 spent the most time reading or watching political and news content than other age groups.

When it comes to content type, video tends to be the most popular, with the majority favoring videos under 5 minutes in length. Additionally, Boomers are more likely to participate in interactive content, such as quizzes and polls, compared to users in other age groups.

How to Connect With Baby Boomers on Social Media

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Connecting with Baby Boomers on social media means not only tailoring your company’s message to meet their needs, but also the structure of your content.

For example, since videos are the preferred content type among social media users over 50, it can be worth it to produce informative videos to share on social. Another strategy to try is creating polls or quizzes that grab people’s attention and get them to share information about themselves with your brand.

It’s also important to know what not to do on social media to connect with Boomers. The three social media behaviors that are most likely to convince them to unfollow a brand are:

● Spammy posts
● Having a bad experience with the company
● Annoying posts

Final Considerations

Adults of all ages and life experiences use social media these days. To make sure your brand is connecting with its entire audience base on social, it’s important to know what and where your audience is and how they engage. To form a better connection with a Boomer audience, remember the following:

● Be on Facebook
● Try video  and interactive content
● Don’t spam your followers with too many posts or with meaningless, non-informative posts.

 

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Snapchat vs. Instagram – Which is Better for Marketers?

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It seems that since the beginning of time (or at least since 2011), two apps, Snapchat and Instagram, have been battling it out for the attention of the general population and for the dollars of marketers and advertisers.

In one corner, there is an app that lets people take photos and videos and share them with friends and followers for a limited time. People can dress up their photos and videos with filters, text and stickers.

In the other corner, there’s an app that lets people take photos and videos and share them with friends and followers for a limited time. People can use filters, text and stickers to enhance their images and videos. This app also lets people post photos and videos that permanently live on a feed.

But which app has more to offer marketers? The answer depends on a few things. Take a look at the differences between Snapchat and Instagram, then weigh the pros and cons of incorporating either or both into a marketing campaign.

Who’s Using the Apps

The user base for Snapchat and Instagram is wildly different. Snapchat has a much smaller number of users. Around 187 million people open the app daily, with the average user spending more than 30 minutes on the app each day.

Meanwhile, Instagram Stories, the feature it introduced in 2016 to rival Snapchat, has around 300 million daily users. The full app has around 500 million daily users and around 800 million people open Instagram at least once a month.

Snapchat’s user base also tends to trend younger than Instagram. For example, in 2018, the app is expected to gain 1.9 million users under the age of 25 while Instagram is expected to gain fewer such users – only 1.6 million.

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While Snapchat does skew younger and the content found on it does have a more DIY style compared to Instagram, it’s not an app that’s exclusively used by individuals. Several B2B businesses are using Snapchat to reach their audiences.  B2B companies also have found a way to use Instagram to connect with their markets.

The important thing to ask yourself when deciding between Instagram and Snapchat is: are the companies your business wants to reach using either app (or one instead of the other)?

How Marketers Fare on Each App

Beyond who’s using Snapchat or Instagram, another thing for marketers to consider is what kind of analytics and search tools the apps provide to businesses, and what sort of information you’ll be able to gain from using one or the other.

Previously, it was very difficult to measure performance or results for content published on Snapchat. Snapchat did recently introduce analytics tools which let you see how many people view your stories on the app and how long they spend viewing stories. The analytics also shine a light on who an audience is, giving your details such as location, gender, and age. In contrast, Instagram has been providing business users with analytics and data for some time.

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Another big difference between Instagram and Snapchat is how easy (or not) it is to find and connect with other people or users on the app. On Instagram, finding users who might be interested in what you have to say is pretty simple; the app has a Search and Explore tool that shows you photos and videos based on the information it already has about you.

On Snapchat, the only way to connect with another user is to have that person’s username, Snapcode or URL.  It’s also difficult for users to find new content on Snapchat, since there’s no tool similar to Instagram’s Search and Explore.

Reputation

One last thing to consider in the battle between Snapchat and Instagram is the reputation of each app.  Snapchat, with its younger user base, is often looked at as a “just for fun” app.  Instagram also has a reputation for being lighthearted, but tends to have a more diverse audience.  Both have their uses, depending on your marketing goals.

Final Considerations

When deciding between Snapchat or Instagram, remember these three things:

  • Find for your audience
  • Consider the app’s ease of use
  • Think about how well the app fits in with the image you want to project to your audience.

 

Using Influencers to Reach Millennials

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Millennials, roughly defined as people born between 1980 and 2000, are different from the generations that came before them. For one thing, many millennials are digital natives, meaning they not only grew up around technology, they are completely comfortable using it and seem to have an innate ability to pick it up quickly.

Another thing that sets millennials apart from other age groups is the fact that they are considerably more skeptical of traditional advertising and marketing techniques. One study, from the McCarthy Group, revealed that 84 percent of millennials were distrustful of advertising. What and whom millennials did trust included their friends, news reports, and people they knew through social media.

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Millennials’ willingness to put their trust in other users on social media, such as social media influencers, is one of the reasons why influencer marketing has had so much success in the past few years. Here’s how your company can use influencers to connect with a millennial audience.

What Exactly Is Influencer Marketing?

Influencer marketing is the use of influential people, usually on social media, to persuade or convince consumers to take a certain action. A company can use influencers to reach its core audience or demographic or to connect with a new audience.

Although it was once assumed that a person needed to have a substantial following on social media to be an effective influencer, the definition has changed somewhat. Since it  is possible to buy fake or spam followers, it’s more important to evaluate the connection an influencer has with his or her audience, rather than the size of that audience, when determining influence.

For example, an influencer who has a following of 10,000 might have more reach than an influencer with a following of 1 million. If those 10,000 people are actively engaging by liking or commenting on the person’s posts and by clicking any links he or she shares, the effect that influencer’s posts will have is likely to be greater than posts by the influencer with the larger following.

Why Influencer Marketing is a Great Way to Connect with Millennials

Influencer marketing can help your company reach millennials for a few reasons. For one, influencer marketing primarily takes place on social media and millennials are more likely than any other age group or generation to use social platforms. According to the Pew Research Center, 86 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 had an account on at least one social media site as of 2016.

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Millennials aren’t just using social media; they also feel that it makes up a significant part of their life. In one study, 37 percent of millennials said that they felt they were missing out if they weren’t on social media daily. More than half of millennials also liked brands on social media, considerably more than people in other generational groups.

There’s also the issue of trust. While trust in traditional ads is lower than it has been, nearly two thirds of people trust consumer opinions they see online and brand sponsorships, according to Nielsen. Millennials are more likely to trust what an influencer says than the message found in a traditional commercial or banner ad.

What Should You Look for in Influencers?

Since establishing and maintaining trust is so important when reaching millennials through influencer marketing, it’s critical that you work with the right influencers. There are a few things to look for when choosing an influencer to partner with.

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One is the type of audience the influencer has.  Would they find what your company is offering interesting or useful? For example, if you’re a B2B company, it would make sense to find an influencer who connects with a B2B audience, rather than typical consumers.

You also want to look at how an influencer connects with his or her audience. Do people regularly comment or share their posts? Does the influencer often respond to people’s comments? Or do the posts typically get very few comments or likes? The more engagement an influencer has, the more likely it is that the message will reach the intended audience.

Another thing to consider is the influencer’s typical message or content. If your company offers a technology solution, it will seem strange or inauthentic if a fashion or beauty influencer creates and shares a post for you.

Working with the right influencer can help you reach a new audience of millennials or give your company a boost of clout and social standing among an existing audience. As you use influencer marketing, measuring the results produced by each post or campaign can allow you see if you chose the right influencer, and if you’re getting what you hoped for from this type of marketing.

 

Handling a Crisis: 9 Steps to Take

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If you pay any attention to the news these days, it seems like crises are lurking around every corner. One month, there’s news of millions of people’s private data getting into the hands of hackers and thieves. The next, some government official or another has used the public’s money for reasons that have nothing to do with his or her job.

While your company might not have to face crises of this magnitude, in all probability, it will have its own problems to deal with at some point in time. How a company responds to a crisis, particularly in the eye of the public, can make or break it going forward.

If you try to brush things aside or sweep problems under the rug, you will earn the ire and disrespect of your customers. In some cases, poor handling of a crisis can be seen as a violation of the law, landing your company in even hotter water.

Having an action plan in place will allow you to respond to crises if and when they occur, or even avoid them in the first place. Follow these steps to quickly navigate a crisis situation and emerge from it in one piece.

1. Make a List of Every Possible Crisis

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If you have an idea of the kinds of crises that can happen to your business, you’re better able to make a plan in case one occurs. Take a look at the experience of companies in your industry. For example, wholesalers or retailers can look at credit card breaches experienced by their competitors for an idea of what to expect.

2. Evaluate Your Company’s Readiness

Review how prepared your company is to handle a crisis. Do you have a plan, and if so, when was the last time anyone took a look at it? Do you have a list of key people to contact in case the worst happens?

3. Make One Person the “Point Person

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It’s a good idea to assign one person, preferably someone on your communications team, the role of spokesperson or point person. He or she should be trained to handle the demands of speaking to the press without casting the company in a bad light.

4. Prep Members of Your Team

Although you want to have one person be the official spokesperson for your company, it’s still important that everyone else on your team who might be interviewed by the press have some preparation and training. Such training can provide valuable tips on how to talk to the media, and even how to stand and position themselves when being interviewed.

5. Be Proactive About Your Company’s Image

One way to soften the blow of a crisis is to work on building your company’s image and reputation. For example, you can heavily promote any charitable work completed by members of your team or by the business’s leaders.

You can also try to place positive profiles of your executive team in newspapers, magazines or online. Maintaining a positive social media presence and responding to people’s concerns or comments in a timely way can also help to bolster your company’s reputation.

6. Hold Crisis Response Drills

Just as your workplace holds regular fire drills, it’s a good idea to hold crisis response drills on a somewhat regular basis. The drills will give your team a chance to practice what they have learned and will help you see where there is room for improvement.

7. Respond Quickly if a Crisis Does Occur

In the unfortunate event of a crisis, you need to act quickly. Getting in front of the press and media before they have a chance to define the story gives your company an opportunity to smooth things over and present itself in the best possible way.

8. Don’t Cover Things Up

It can be a natural response to want to bury a crisis, but that never works out well. Companies that ignore major problems, whether they are public relations gaffes or security holes that affect millions of people, usually make more work for themselves when it comes to regaining the public’s trust.

Be transparent about what happened, and perhaps most importantly, own up to it. Don’t point fingers or place blame on others. An unfortunate situation occurred at or involving your company: it’s time to let the public know what you plan to do about it.

9. Review and Assess

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After a crisis, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate what happened. How did your company respond and how did people respond to your response? Was there a noticeable drop in business or a rise in negative sentiment? Or did people seem to accept what happened and move on?

Although you don’t want to end up in a sticky situation in the first place, you can look at it as a learning experience for your company. Assess your response and the outcome and consider what you can do differently going forward.

 

A Guide to Instagram Marketing

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Instagram is quickly adding new users every day. In April 2017, less than seven years after it launched, it had 700 million active monthly users. The social media platform is growing faster than ever, Business Insider reported. It added one million users in just four months.

Partly due to its rapid growth, Instagram has become a dream come true for marketers. But marketing on the image-based platform isn’t the same as marketing on other social media sites or marketing in a more traditional sense. Here’s what you need to know to get started using Instagram as a marketing tool.

Who Is on Instagram?

The first question you need to answer about Instagram is who is using it? What portion of your audience will you be able to reach on the platform?

Instagram users tend to skew younger and female. According to the Pew Research Center’s Social Media Fact Sheet, about 28 percent of adults in the US are on Instagram. Nearly 60 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are on the site and around 32 percent of adult women in the US use it.

In terms of location, education level, and household income, users are pretty evenly divided. Around 35 percent of adults with some college use Instagram and around 32 percent of college graduates are on it. Around 30 percent of people from each income level use Instagram.

People who live in urban areas are somewhat more likely to be on the platform, but about a quarter of people who live in the suburbs or rural areas use it.

Although Instagram has a reputation for being mainly for B2C brands, there is opportunity for B2B brands on the platform as well. As of 2016, only one third of B2B brands used Instagram for marketing, meaning the platform is less crowded and less competitive for B2B companies than other sites (such as LinkedIn or Twitter).

Creating a Strategy for Instagram

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The first step to putting together a strategy for Instagram marketing is figuring out your goals. What do you hope to accomplish by posting on Instagram? Measurable goals can include:

● Raising your follower count by X number or X percent
● Increasing engagement with your company’s posts by X likes or X percent
● Increasing leads or conversions by X (getting people to click through to your company’s website and register with your company or make a purchase)

Once you have clear goals, you can use them to determine what to publish to Instagram and how much to publish. For example, “regramming” posts from people who follow your company can help increase engagement. Using trending hashtags can help improve your follower count.  Including a special discount code in a post’s caption can help you track the number of conversions or leads from that post.

Building a Following on Instagram

Building a following on Instagram isn’t exactly easy, but it’s not that hard either. You can use “cheater” methods, such as buying followers. But if you want to reach an audience on Instagram, having a slew of fake or spam followers won’t do you much good.

Posting frequently and using hashtags are two of the best methods for gaining followers. Hashtags allow people to find your posts and profile, and once they’ve done that, they can follow your company if they like your content.

Regular posting keeps your company at the front of people’s minds. If you post daily, your followers are likely to see your photos or videos every time they check their feeds. If you don’t post often enough, people will either forget about your company or will unfollow you eventually.

You can also work with people or companies who are already established on Instagram to help boost your follower count. A common tactic is to have a popular Instagram user (an influencer) or a company (perhaps a customer) post about your company.  Ideally, the followers of the other company or influencer will check out your profile and follow you.

Creating and Posting on Instagram

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There’s a fine line between a promotional post on Instagram and a post that’s a blatant advertisement. You don’t necessarily have to highlight a product or service of your company every time you post something on the platform.

In fact, posts that are tangentially related to your products or services but aren’t specific references to them will be the most popular. If you’re a manufacturer, don’t just post product photos; feature people working in the factory, giving your audience a behind the scenes look. You can also publish photos that represent your product category, and include some brief facts about your industry.

Don’t forget to use hashtags on your posts; some companies create hashtags that are specific to their brand or to the campaign they are running on Instagram.  Hashtags not only help people find your posts during searches, they also boost engagement rates. Posts that have hashtags have 12.6 percent more engagement than hashtag-free posts, research shows.

Engaging on Instagram

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One of the biggest benefits of using Instagram for marketing is that its users are more likely to engage with companies or brands. About 50 percent of users follow at least one company, according to Instagram’s own statistics. Around three quarters of Instagram users are inspired to take some sort of action after seeing a post from a company.

A 2014 study conducted by Forrester examined the rates of engagement between companies and users on social media. On Facebook and Twitter, engagement rates were less than 0.1 percent, while posts on Instagram had an engagement rate of more than 4 percent.

There are a few tricks you can use to increase engagement with your company’s posts. First, mention other people in the caption of the post (if relevant). A study from Simply Measured found that posts with captions that mentioned another user scored engagement rates that were 56 percent higher than posts without a mention.

Another trick is to connect the post to a location. Location-tagged posts had engagement rates that were nearly 80 percent higher than posts without a location.

Finally, remember that quality counts. Post images that are clear and visually appealing. It’s OK to edit your photos before posting, either using a separate editing software or by using the filters available on Instagram.

Instagram recently simplified its sign-up process, so it’s easier than ever to create a profile on the platform. Just download the app, register an account, add your business information, and start following people or posting photos or videos.

 

Live Video 101

 

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Just how big has online video gotten? Inc.com named 2017 the “year of video,” due to the undeniable increase in video use online. Hubspot found that 87 percent of marketers use video, and Buffer App’s 2016 State of Social Survey found that 83 percent of marketers would like to make more videos if they weren’t constrained by a lack of time or resources.

One form of video that’s become increasingly popular is live video, the process of broadcasting in real-time to an audience who is streaming the video over internet. Live video differs from a video download because the action occurring in the video takes place as it plays.

About 42 percent of the marketers who responded to Buffer’s survey said they would put more time and resources specifically into live video if they could. But, while a popular concept, not everyone is using it just yet; Buffer found that just 27 percent of marketers broadcast live video content last year.

If you’re interested in giving live video a try, but aren’t sure where to start or why it’s worth it, here’s a quick primer on the why, where, and how of live video.

Why Use Live Video

Live video has several benefits over other forms of social media or online marketing. For one thing, there’s no need for complicated or expensive equipment to produce a live video. All you really need is a smartphone with a camera.

Live video is considerably more effective at creating engagement than other types of posts on social media. According to Facebook, live videos get 10 times as many comments as standard or pre-recorded videos. Facebook users also watch live videos three times longer than regular videos.

AdWeek reported the results of a survey from Twitter, which found that when brands post a live video of an event, their favorability went up by 63 percent.

Where to Use Live Video

The majority of social media platforms today offer some sort of live video options. Facebook has Facebook Live, Twitter has Periscope, Instagram has Stories. YouTube also offers a live video option and recently announced that it would offer 4K video for live streaming.

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Although many associate live video with social media, it’s also possible to put up a live stream on your brand’s website or blog. But there are a few benefits to using live video on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, rather than directly on your website. For one thing, people are more likely to find your broadcast and watch it. Most platforms send out a notification to your followers at the start of a live video stream.

How to Use Live Video

If you’re already familiar with how Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter work, figuring out how to use live video shouldn’t be too difficult. On Facebook, for example, you tap the “Live” icon when using a mobile device or click on “Start a Live Video” under the “Write Something” box when you’re on a desktop. After you’ve given Facebook permission to use your device’s camera and microphone and have written a description of your broadcast, just click on or tap “Go Live” and your stream will start.

During the live video, you can read and respond to comments from viewers and can see how many people are watching. Once you’ve finished streaming, just click or tap “Finish” and the video will be saved to your timeline.

Ways to Use Live Video

One of the great things about live video is that there are many different ways to use it. For example, live video is a great tool to use for product launches or major unveilings. If your brand is going to release a new product or will announce a major change, you can live stream the launch or announcement, so that fans or customers who can’t be there in person can get all of the details right away.

Another way to use live video is to interact with customers or to provide them with some sort of expert advice. Question and answer sessions are very popular; your audience can write their questions in the comments section and the person on camera is able to respond in real time.

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Live video is also an excellent tool for broadcasting performances or concerts. Fans who couldn’t make it to a big event in person can tune in on their laptop or smartphone. You can also use live video to give fans a “sneak peek” or backstage pass and take them behind the scenes during a play, concert or when a movie is filming.

Video is estimated to make up nearly three quarters of all Internet traffic in 2017 and nearly 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook alone every day. If you’re looking to give video a try this year, live broadcasting on your favorite social media network is the way to go.

 

 

5 Website Design Trends to Look out for in 2017

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As the internet has evolved and as the way people use the internet has changed, so has web design. Just as an avocado green refrigerator tells you that a home kitchen hasn’t been updated since the 1970s, a few design elements on a website give you an idea of when it was last updated.

If you want to keep your site fresh and up-to-the-minute, here are some design trends to pay attention to this year.

Vertical Flow

As of 2015, more Google searches took place on mobile devices than on desktops. By the end of 2016, 77 percent of Americans owned a smartphone, according to Pew Research Center.

The switch from primarily using desktop devices to using mobile devices has influenced the way websites look and function. One of the biggest changes is in the way sites flow. Instead of placing images and information side by side or horizontally on the page, designers now focus on the vertical flow of information.

When a site is laid out vertically, it’s easier for a smartphone user to scroll through it on his or her device.

More Hamburgers

Few design choices have caused quite as much debate as the hamburger icon — the little button at the top of some mobile pages (and increasingly, desktop pages) that reveals the menu when you click on it.

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But as mobile device use continues to rise in popularity and designers continue to look for ways to streamline the navigation options on a page, it seems the little hamburger is here to stay. You can expect to find it on more and more websites as the year goes on.

Colorful Gradients

Visit the homepage of a number of brands and you’ll be greeted by a colorful, usually two-tone background.

Color gradients aren’t new — they were big in magazine design in the 1980s and were a big hit with DIY website companies in the 1990s. People like them because they are eye-catching without being too distracting. You can choose a subtle gradient, like light blue fading into a deeper blue or a bolder color pair, such as magenta fading into a darker purple, depending on the type of impact you want the background to have.

More Movement

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Websites aren’t just becoming more mobile-friendly, they are also becoming more mobile. Designers are more and more likely to use animated images (like gifs and cinemagraphs) as well as video as part of a site’s layout and design.

The human brain is pretty good at processing images. A study from MIT found that it takes just 13 milliseconds for the brain to process an entire image. Moving images, such as video, are also processed by the brain much more quickly than text.

Aside from being more engaging than a few static blocks of text, moving images and videos also look cool. A visitor is likely to stare at a cinemagraph to see what happens next or at least pay a bit of attention to a video that autoplays as soon as a person scrolls to it.

If you are going to incorporate video into your website’s design, here’s one thing to remember: Most people watch video without sound. On Facebook, for example, 85 percent of videos play without any sound. It’s essential that the video’s meaning be clear even if it plays in silence.

Back to Basics

Sometimes, offering visitors to a website as few choices as possible and stripping the design of the site down to the bare bones is the way to go. Minimalist web design isn’t a new thing, but designers in 2017 might take things to the extreme.

While some sites will turn to more bells and whistles, such as moving images and lots of color, you can expect a small backlash to occur and for ultra-minimal sites to become popular, at least with a few brands.

Ultra-minimalist websites might not be much to look at. But they make it super easy for visitors to find what they are looking for and are appealing to many for that reason.

Trends in website design aren’t just about looks. They also help to make sites easier to use and more engaging for those who use them. Keep these trends in mind if you’re going to revamp your company’s website this year.

Tips for Putting Together a Successful Communications Strategy

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A communications strategy can take several forms. It can be a short-term plan for promoting a specific event or product launch. It can also be a plan for a long-term project or can focus on the overall needs of your company or organization.

No matter the purpose of the strategy, a successful one usually has several common features: measurable objectives, a clear definition of target audiences and a compelling message.

Know Your Objectives and Goals

Simply put, you can’t have a strategy without having a goal, since a strategy is defined as a “plan of action designed to achieve an . . . overall aim” or goal.  Without that aim, or goal, you just have a plan that might not lead anywhere.

A goal is usually a big picture item or the main outcome you’d like your strategy to bring about. For example, your overarching business goal might be increase awareness of your brand or to make your company a leader in its field by a certain date.

Once you have the big picture goal, you can focus on the objectives that will help you put the strategy into practice and allow your company to realize its goal. While goals are broad, objectives are narrow. They should also be SMART, meaning they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely.

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If your goal is to increase awareness of your brand, an objective might to be produce an ad that runs on a major network during primetime. Another objective might be to create a customer referral program to give current customers credits or points for referring others.

Know Your Audience

It’s important to understand the current relationship you have with your audience or intended audience(s), as that will determine the angle and tools you use to reach them. For example, you’d use different tactics to reach and communicate with current customers who plan on working with you in the future than you would to reach people who aren’t your customers and who aren’t sure that they will ever be.

You also want to consider who you use to deliver your company’s message and what relationship that person might have to the audience. For example, an authority figure or leader in your industry might be particularly helpful if your goal is to persuade more people to use your product, or if you want to reach people who might be skeptical about what your company has to offer.

 Find Your Story

 A story is a crucial part of any communications strategy. The human brain reacts differently to a story than it does to pure data or facts. As the New York Times reported, the same areas of the brain are stimulated when a person reads about someone’s experience as are stimulated when experiencing something directly.

As this infographic from OneSpot shows, 92 percent of people prefer ads that tell a story or that feel like a story. Figure out what your company’s story is, then make putting together a narrative a key part of your communications strategy.

Pick Relevant Tools for Connecting

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Once you know the why, the who, and the what of your strategy, you need to pick the how.

You don’t have to choose just one tool or method for communicating, but it helps to choose methods that will actually reach your target audiences. For example, if you’re going to use social media to connect with people, Facebook might be the social network of choice. According to a study from Pew Research Center, 68 percent of Americans use the site.

It can also be worth pursuing earned media opportunities – i.e., achieving product publicity in a trade magazine — over paid media. Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising study found that earned media was viewed as the most credible and trustworthy.

Once your strategy is in place, you can take stock of it to see if it is living up to your expectations. You can conduct surveys of the customers you wanted to reach to ask them what they think, or if there are ways you can improve. You can also use analytics and statistics to measure response to certain tools. For example, you can see if your Facebook posts are getting people to click, or referral codes are actually bringing in new customers.

 

 

How to Create Engaging Content

Is a blog post only as good as the number of comments it receives? If you post something on social media and no one likes or comments on it, did the post happen?

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Creating engaging content is one of the top challenges for marketers, according to the 2016 B2B Content Marketing Benchmark report from the Content Marketing Institute. Sixty percent of B2B marketers stated that producing engaging content was their number one issue. (#2 and #3 were producing effective content and producing content regularly.)

If your blog’s comments are low or people seem to click away quickly, it may be time to give one or all of the following a try:

Be Topical (With Care)

“Newsjacking” is the process of using topical, timely content to get your brand’s message out to the world. There are good instances of newsjacking and some not-so-good ones.  A good instance might be to take a trending story and create an educational and informative blog post from it.  Similarly, you can write a piece that references a popular TV show or that connects to something that’s happening in the news, as long as it’s relevant to your business and positive.

On the other hand, using a recent tragedy or crisis to try to promote your brand is in bad form, even if your product might be relevant to readers’ lives at the moment.

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Listicles, or articles that are simply a list of things, tend to get a bad rap. But research shows that people actually do love listicles, and are more likely to share and comment on them than other content forms (one study by  Lumanu showed that listicles received 10 percent more social engagement per article.)

Why are they popular? It turns out that the human brain is wired to respond positively to lists. When a reader sees a list on your blog or social platform, he or she knows a few things right away – like what will be in the article, about how long it will be (if it’s a numbered list), and whether the article will be interesting to him or her. Ranked lists are particularly engaging for people, since they sort the information in a clear way.

Give Something Away

People are more likely to share their thoughts and opinions with you if you promise them something in return. You have a few options when it comes to running a giveaway. You can offer a small freebie to everyone who comments on a blog post or who shares a post (such as a free e-book).

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Another option is to have a contest for a bigger prize, such as a month’s worth of your product or services for free. Enter the names and emails of everyone who shares or comments on your post by a certain date into a drawing, then pick a winner at random.

If you mainly create social content or want people to engage with a special hashtag, create a social media giveaway.  Encourage people to post on Instagram, Twitter or Pinterest (choose the network that is most relevant to your business), using the hashtag and mentioning your company. Give the person who creates the most likes or shares a prize. Your brand can end up with a lot of engaging content, courtesy of current or potential customers.

The bottom line:  Engaging content connects to people in some way, whether it’s giving them a reward, promising them useful information or helping them learn from a recent news story or pop culture phenomenon. If you’re not seeing results from your content, experimenting with a different form might be all you need to do.

 

4 PR and Marketing Trends to Pay Attention to in 2017

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As one year draws to a close and another one gets set to begin, it’s only natural to reflect on what has happened and to guess about what’s in store. While no one has a crystal ball when it comes to marketing and PR, a number of trends seems likely to continue, while others will become increasingly popular.

Knowing which of these trends to focus on in 2017 will help you better connect with your customers and put together a more effective marketing and PR strategy.

The Increasing Influence of Influencers

Using influencers to promote a product or service isn’t a new thing. But it’s expected that influencers will become even more influential in 2017. Influencer marketing is effective because when a well-liked or respected figure on Instagram, for example,  recommends using a product, people are more likely to be receptive to that recommendation than they would be to traditional advertising.

A survey conducted by eMarketer found that 48% of people who responded plan on raising their budget for influencer marketing in the New Year.  Another survey found that 86% of marketers used influencer marketing in 2016, spending between $25,000 and $50,000. Most marketers intend to double their influencer marketing budget in 2017.

Content Becomes More Immersive and Interactive

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The days of producing static content are over. In 2017, content will continue to become ever more interactive and immersive.

Interactive content can range from simple quizzes on a website to clickable infographics and from live streaming video feeds to fully immersive, augmented reality programs, such as Pokemon Go. The more engaging the content, the more likely it is to create tangible, real results with audiences and customers.

Native Ads Increase

Although many people dislike traditional ads and will go out of their way to avoid them by installing ad blockers or skipping TV commercials, native advertising is generally much more accepted.

Native ads blend into their surroundings a lot better than traditional ads and look as though they are meant to be there. Over the next five years, native ads are expected to increase from 56% of display ad revenue to 74%, according to a report from Business Insider.

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The format for native advertising is also evolving. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, new ad forms are continually being invented while certain types of formats, particularly visual or video-based native ads, are gaining in popularity.

As native ads become more common and popular, one of the challenges IAB anticipates is having those ads continue to focus on storytelling, rather than on simply selling a product or service.

The Shrinking Lifespan of Content

People’s attention spans have shrunk so much that a recent opinion piece argued that members of “Generation z” (those born after 1995) have an attention span of just 8 seconds.

Since no one’s going to pay attention to it anyway after a few seconds, it makes sense that the shelf life of content is going to continue to shrink in 2017. Snapchat, the social sharing site where content vanishes a few seconds after it’s viewed, is expected to grow in popularity this coming year.

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TechCrunch reports that the company expects its ad revenue to reach $1 billion in 2017. Although the site is thought to be a hit with younger users, its popularity with older people is growing. In 2016, the number of Snapchat users over the age of 35 grew by 86%, according to the LA Times, and the number of users between the ages of 25 and 34 grew by 103%.

Short-lived content is appealing to marketers for one big reason: There’s a sense of urgency to it. If a person doesn’t check out the image or story your company posted right away, they’ll miss it forever. That can spur customers or viewers to action much more effectively than a long-lived post on other social networks.

Of course, it’s difficult to predict the future with any real sense of certainty.  But, having a general idea of where marketing and PR are headed in 2017 can help your company better prepare for what’s to come.