It is safe to say that public trust in institutions these days is at an all-time low. According to recent reporting, only 7% of Americans have “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the news media,[i] with only about a third saying they trust the U.S. Congress.[ii]
When it comes to the business world, the perception amongst Americans is no better. Only 14% of citizens find big businesses to be trustworthy,[iii] while over 70% have little faith that brands will deliver on the promises they make. One conclusion that can be drawn from these statistics is that displaying authenticity in your marketing has never been more important. In this blog, we will talk a bit more about why authenticity matters, as well as how you can weave it into more of your marketing initiatives.
The Power of Authenticity
Why does authenticity matter? Well, because it can make a real difference in dollars-and-cents. 86% of customers are on the record stating that brand authenticity is important when deciding where they are going to shop.[iv] In addition, Gen Z, one of the most powerful up-and-coming consumer groups, wants to purchase from companies that support social and environmental issues over those that do not.[v] What is abundantly clear is that companies must put authenticity front-and-center to compete in the marketplace today and tomorrow.
How You Become More Authentic
Luckily, there are a variety of easy steps business leaders can take to start promoting brand authenticity:
First, clearly define your values. After all, being authentic means that you are what you say. But you can’t live up to what say you are until you define it. And no, that doesn’t mean simply just listing your products or services. Instead, develop a comprehensive brand story, including a “promise” for how your company will help customers live better lives.
Next, communicate your story. You have likely already heard about content marketing: a strategy for using content to draw people to your website and convert them into leads. However, you can also use content marketing to highlight your brand story and promise. To do this, reduce how often you’re hard selling and produce more educational content. This can solidify your reputation as a helpful resource rather than merely a money-making entity.
Consider reviewing and revising your brand’s image – including fonts, colors, slogans, logos and imagery. So much of how human beings perceive others depends on non-verbal characteristics. Think about what’s right for your target clients. If you want to position your business as a socially conscious enterprise that Millennials and Gen. Z. will love, then those principles must also be reflected in your brand aesthetics.
Put the human at the center of your communication. It isn’t good for companies to drift into cold, impersonal communication – which certainly doesn’t scream authenticity. Always remind your customers of the real humans working hard behind the corporate veneer, figures who are passionate about helping them solve problems. There are variety of ways you can do this – from taking people behind the scenes of your business to running employee spotlight features on your blog.
Authenticity is the Way of the Future
In our digital-first economy, customers are growing increasingly savvy, and unsurprisingly, this has changed their expectations. It is no longer sufficient to have good products or service; customers are also prioritizing companies that are invested in improving their lives and communities. Just like any other market trend, companies that don’t adapt do so at their own peril.
Nearly 20 years into the age of social media, is organic content still enough?
For many people, social media is old hat these days. Oh sure, the kids are still rocking out on TikTok. Platforms like Twitter and Facebook still boast userbases in the millions and billions respectively. But let’s be honest, social seems to have lost some of its luster, prompting many to ask themselves: Is it still worth it for my business? The short answer is, absolutely! An overwhelming number of people in the business community agree with this, with 80 percent of enterprises saying social media is the most important factor in digital marketing success.[i]
The longer answer is: It’s complicated. Social media still represents an effective, low-cost way to connect with your customer base and position your brand. But the recipe for success has changed in the two decades many of these platforms have existed. In fact, research increasingly confirms that restricting your social media activity to organic posts will only get you so far.
Below, we’ll assess if this is a good option for your agency.
What do the experts say?
Research shows that people are increasingly deploying paid social media advertising. Eighty six percent of marketers noted in a recent survey, for instance, that they now combine paid and organic tactics.[ii] One reason for this is that some platforms are seeing a dip in organic reach. Organic posts on Facebook reach only 5.5 percent of a brand’s followers on average.[iii] There are multiple reasons for this decline. “For one, the high volume of ads competes with organic content for space on users’ news feeds.”[iv] There is also a widely held impression that algorithmic changes have disincentivized the role of organic social, making its ROI far less impressive than it might have once been.
So, has organic social’s time passed?
Even though there has been a clear decline in the reach of organic social media, that doesn’t mean that businesses can afford to not be active on these platforms. There are many reasons why companies need a strong social presence, some of which include:
Increased brand recognition
More brand loyalty and authority
Higher conversion rates
Increased inbound traffic
Lower marketing costs
Richer customer experiences
Improved customer insights
Even a cursory look at U.S. social media usage should put doubts to rest about whether it is still worthwhile. As of 2020, for instance, nearly 65 percent of American adults are active social media users, while 42 percent of Twitter users visit the site daily.[v] These are facts you just can’t argue with when considering where to put your marketing time and effort.
What is the best approach today?
Instead of jettisoning organic social media, then, what should savvy business leaders and marketers do? Well, instead of choosing one or the other, marketers have increasingly paired organic and paid strategies. Perhaps one of the best things about social media is that it can serve as an enormously valuable source of data on your audience members. Unsurprisingly, these data-driven insights have come to be seen as a guide for which type of content you should boost and on which platform.
Basically, if you have a type of organic content that consistently performs well, you should take a hard look at whether you want to expand its reach with an ad buy. People respond to the content they do for a reason. Don’t miss your opportunity to leverage that knowledge to make a well-reasoned, moderately priced ad buy and expand your presence on social.
Final words on the organic/paid debate
Like so much in the marketing world, nothing in social media stays the same – at least not for long. Over the course of its lifespan, social has changed dramatically, nowhere more so than in the rise of paid postings. But before you throw out organic social altogether, you should look at it as something that can be paired effectively with paid social. That’s where the magic happens.
Want to learn more about how you can harvest data from your social media feeds? Check out this helpful primer.
Participating in events is a shrewd way to promote your business. Here’s how to fully leverage your presence.
Despite the importance of digital marketing in today’s economy, sometimes the old ways are still best. Person-to-person marketing is often the most impactful method for spreading the word about your business. Participating in events or tradeshows is a great way to deploy this type of outreach. Here are a few tips for making the most out of these opportunities – before, during and after the event!
Before the Event
While participating in events is about person-to-person marketing, digital marketing still has an important role to play. Let’s be honest, if you don’t let people know your business will be at an event, people won’t seek you out and you won’t get a chance to have the type of conversations that can drive eventual business gains.
Start promoting your attendance at an event well in advance. First, determine your goals, audience, messages, channels and budget. Then, structure these items around a realistic timeline. Next, establish some effective strategies and tactics to get your message out, such as:
Creating a social media campaign communicating where you’ll be located at the event site and a value proposition for why attendees should visit your booth.
Putting notices about the event in your newsletter.
Establishing an email marketing campaign.
Connecting with the hosting organization behind the event to inquire about joint-promotional efforts or opportunities.
Writing related content like a blog entry.
As with any other marketing plan, you’ll want to ensure that you also attach evaluation metrics to the campaign to gauge your efforts. It’s difficult to over-emphasize how important this step is. Without metrics, you will be unable to make real-time adjustments to your marketing efforts or fully assess your ROI.
During the Event
One of the most important things to remember is that your marketing efforts don’t end once the event begins. When you’re on-site, you will have three new marketing priorities:
Continue to attract people to your booth
Leverage news from the event
Just because the event has started doesn’t mean you should stop building out and disseminating event-related content. Continue to use social media, blogs or emails to promote your participation in the event and to discuss its highlights to position yourself as a thought leader. Doing this will serve two purposes. In the short term, it will remind people to visit your booth while the event is going on. In the long term, it will enhance your firm’s standing for those who couldn’t attend but may be following via digital channels.
Once you have people paying attention to your presence at an event, however, there are other steps to take. Ensure your business is represented in a way that is professional and unified by creating a fully branded booth with consistent colors, logos and lettering. Including an interactive element is a great way to deepen the impact of your booth and your overall presence at the event. A photo backdrop is just one example of something you could do. Event attendees will be naturally drawn to your booth to commemorate their experience and may even share their photos on social – further extending your reach.
If you pull all of this off, you can effectively grow your business’s brand awareness. Best of all, if people have a positive experience visiting your booth, they will be more inclined to engage with you and share their contact details.
After the Event
Once an event has come and gone, it can be tempting to rest on your laurels; but you can’t stop just yet. After you’ve put away your booth and left the venue, you still need to do something with the contact information you’ve gained. All the business cards you’ve collected or email addresses you’ve compiled need to be sorted and organized.
The next step is to follow up with your new prospects. But before you start emailing contacts or calling them over the phone, just think for a moment. Is that the right approach? Where do people actually spend most of their time these days? Where do they feel the most comfortable interacting with acquaintances? Social media, that’s where! Seek them out on LinkedIn first and build authentic connections before you start marketing to them more directly. People are much more inclined to buy from you if they have a strong sense of who you are and what you can do for them.
Events require a lot of work, even if you are merely a participant and especially if you look at them as a golden opportunity to promote your business. But by adhering to best practices and solid marketing principles, you can fully leverage the unique platform offered by the event environment.
Committing to social media marketing can be a heavy lift. Read on for tips to make it easier.
Whether you love it or hate it, social media has permanently changed our world. It has certainly opened new avenues for marketing. Whether you are firing off micro-targeted ads, responding to customer questions or concerns, or using it as a vehicle for branding and thought leadership, social is an essential digital marketing tool. Let’s look at how small agencies can tap into the power of social without becoming overwhelmed.
Social Media 101
First, determine where your audience is. It can be tempting to create profiles on as many platforms as possible, but if you overextend yourself, you may not be able to keep your profiles consistently updated. This can make you look unprofessional and even harm your brand.
Instead, consider a data-driven approach. In our industry, it likely makes sense to start with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Facebook, for example, has incredible reach, with 69% of American adults using the platform as of 2019.[i] LinkedIn is an ideal choice for B2B brands, with 80% of leads coming from the platform.[ii] The platform also offers powerful tools for showcasing your company, recruiting workers and even building your company culture. Twitter has significantly less user adoption – 22% circa 2019[iii] – but it is a hotbed for journalists and is perhaps the easiest platform for engaging in the type of one-to-one customer communication that social thrives on.
After you have your platforms, create profiles that are complete and optimized. At the beginning of 2021, we wrote a blog post outlining how to do this on Facebook, and while each social media platform differs, the best practices we covered are largely applicable to other platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. Just remember to prioritize the use of photos, your “About” section and your business’s contact info, and you’ll already be ahead of the game.
Next, establish a posting strategy. As you might expect, there is no shortage of opinions on how much to post on each platform. With Twitter, it is suggested that you post three times a day or more, while Facebook and LinkedIn get two times and one time per day respectively.[iv] Yet that cadence is likely not feasible for most agency owners. Posting once per day per platform is sufficient to keep your pages looking fresh and active. Even putting up new content two to three times per week goes a long way toward creating a vibrant social media presence.
Quality Over Quantity
With any content strategy, quality trumps quantity. Focus on thought leadership and educational content over company updates. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should neglect to promote your business or publicize your products, but you want people to see you on social as a helpful resource rather than a pesky salesperson. Here are some great examples of content to post:
Company blog posts
Product demos or videos
Quick tips or advice
Holiday or awareness day posts
Photos of your company culture
White papers or reports
Polls or questions
As long as your posts are visually appealing, educational and inspire engagement, you’re on the right track.
Join the Conversation
Posting your own content is only half the battle on social media. The other half is social listening and fostering conversation. First, establish your community and/or audience on each platform. Friend or follow a few people each day. Depending on the platform, you can also join groups or forums.
Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to track keywords that pertain to your business. That way, you can stay apprised of any chatter where it would make sense for you to join the conversation as a thought leader. Once again, social media is all about two-way communication, community and establishing yourself as a helpful resource. If people start seeing you that way, they may circle back around when they need the product or service your company provides.
To start easily tracking hashtags and keywords, look into a social media listening service. The good news is there are plenty of options out there that offer a free version.
Final Thoughts Like much of marketing, social media can feel overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a designated staff person handling things. But it doesn’t have to be. By being choosy with your platforms, creating optimized profiles and establishing a solid content strategy, you can leverage these technologies
We test out a lot of things these days. Why not our marketing collateral?
We live in a world of endless trials. Whether it be for streaming services, meal delivery programs or pretty much any software tool, testing something out before committing seems as American as apple pie. So why would we not apply this logic to our marketing content?
A/B testing is the process of testing out various iterations of marketing collateral ahead of fully disseminating it. Also known as “split testing” or “bucket testing,” A/B testing assists businesses in identifying which variation of a piece of content is most successful in achieving the desired outcome with a target audience. The good news is that, due to marketing solutions dropping in cost over the past few years, A/B testing is an increasingly viable practice for smaller firms.
And it couldn’t have come at a better moment. With the market growing increasingly competitive, particularly online, ensuring that your collateral is as optimized as possible is more important than ever. Nobody has time to waste on creating content that has no chance of converting customers. Here’s how you can begin incorporating A/B testing to improve your marketing practices.
A/B Testing: Your Ticket to Better Marketing
Have you ever felt that there is too much subjectivity when preparing a new marketing campaign or initiative? While there are concrete best practices with writing or content strategy, select elements do seem to come down to individual choice. Should a button be lower or higher on the page? Would a different color or CTA (call to action) resonate more deeply for a specific audience? A/B testing brings more scientific rigor to the tweaks and changes that are a typical part of honing campaign material.
It’s also a straightforward process to understand. A/B testing technically harkens back to the 1960s, but its contemporary version is most typically used in the context of email marketing campaigns. Many email software programs today allow you to create multiple versions of a campaign email and then send them to a test audience to gather feedback. Operating similarly to the scientific method, a marketer would create a control email and then a supplemental email that is slightly modified.
Once each version is sent and opened (or not), the system automatically compiles analytics for each variation, allowing you to put real data behind your final writing or design decisions. Users can apply this method to test nearly any element of an email – including subject lines, colors, body copy, font size, font family, imagery, links, video and more.
Perhaps best of all, A/B testing does not require specialized knowledge. It’s easy to get started by viewing any of the many well-produced video tutorials that you can find online.
Emails Are Great, but Where Else Can I Use A/B Testing?
Emails are perhaps the easiest way to use A/B testing, but they are not the only one. A/B testing is a crucial aspect of social media advertising, SEM (search engine marketing) and even landing page development. Social media platforms make it easy to create different versions of an ad and then cycle through them for the campaign’s duration. Each platform will continually update you with fresh data on which version of your ad is performing best, allowing you to reallocate your funds and maximize your marketing dollars in almost real-time.
Conducting A/B testing for landing pages is a little more difficult – but not by much. All that is required is to create two different versions of your landing page, changing elements such as headlines, body copy, CTA buttons and their respective layouts. After you have these established, funnel a similar number of people to each page version and gauge performance.
You can do this by employing Google’s free analytics platform, Google Analytics, although that may involve a learning curve. Happily, many leading CMSs (content management systems) have built-in analytics that are more user-friendly and accessible than Google’s. Some of the main metrics you should look at when assessing the quality of your landing pages include (but are not limited to): views, session duration, conversion rate and bounce rate.
If you’re interested in getting your bearings with Google Analytics, there are a ton of fantastic resources online that can help get you started.
Make Your Marketing Count
Running a business is only possible if someone is buying your products and services. And people cannot buy from you unless they know who you are and what you do. This is a long-winded way to say that marketing matters. But marketing is also time-consuming, and when you’re leading an agency, time is always in short supply. Still, A/B testing is worth the time investment. Whether you are conducting an email campaign, disseminating paid ads or even looking to optimize your landing pages, A/B testing allows you to tweak your collateral more effectively before making a final decision.
Simply put, it increases the prospect that your content will convert, and your hard work be rewarded.