Millenials spend more than any other demographic making them the most coveted target for businesses

Did you know that millenials (18-32) spend 700 BILLION dollars a year?  This makes them the most coveted target audience for businesses. Where are your marketing and advertising efforts getting the most ROI? Online- specifically social media- and it must be mobile friendly. 90% of millenials own a smart phone- and 80% of them actively use their phone while in a store for shopping to search for coupons, get recommendations from friends on social media, find product reviews, search for lower prices elsewhere, and even make purchases on their phones (I’m guessing if they find the same product online for a cheaper price).

Another interesting statistic- every year nearly 4 million babies are born in the US – and 83% of new moms are millenials.   They are using their smart phones more than any other medium (laptop, tablet, tv, print, radio)- they do at least half or more than half of their shopping online.

Put simply- if your business is NOT online, and not mobile friendly, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of revenue.

This video is an awesome example of great social media marketing – check out how many views it got- and is very cool in terms of the message/quality- as a parent I think it perfectly sums up parenting in this day and age – and it went viral.  Good job, Similac!

If you have questions about your online marketing strategy, give us a shout- fill out the form below or call 585-737-1606

How to NOT Make Google Engineers Mad

Rather than give you all of the ins and outs of the industry, I’d prefer to approach this topic from a slightly different angle. I think it is necessary for everyone (professionals and amateurs alike) to know about some key things to NOT do when it comes to optimizing your website for search engines. There are a few things that will get your site banned from the Google ranks VERY quickly. Obviously I am a marketing expert- so although we do run successful social media campaigns, I wanted to interview someone with much more expertise in that area. Rochester, NY has a wealth of computer and technology related business so fortunately I was able to get a teleconference with the owner of Nothing But Net Solutions, Jim Gubiotti.

I asked him to outline several black-hat SEO “tactics” that would get your site banned from the Google organic search results. Here’s what I learned:

  1. Hidden, keyword stuffed content is bad. Really bad.  A way to do this is- putting white fonts on white backgrounds.  Magic- the words just blend right in!  Google engineers don’t really like it when you trick their carefully formulated algorithms.
  2. Meta tag keyword stuffing is also an especially terrible idea. Another way to have your site banned from Google.  The difference between this and the first kind of keyword stuffing is that you’re still using keywords, but just inserting them into meta tags rather than making them different colors to blend into the background.  The recently updated algorithms on Google have put less emphasis on meta tags and more emphasis on title tags and alt tags.  So even if you are doing this, it probably won’t help, BUT it will still get your site booted from Google just for trying to do it.   As a rule, if you are using more than 10 tags, you are stuffing.
  3. Doorway Pages: What these pages do is to serve as a re-direct page- only using coding that is not acceptable according to the algorithms that Google engineers have carefully developed.  These “doorway” or “gateway” pages are usually stuffed with content to optimize for certain keywords.  The actual Google user (the human on the end of this) does not see this page, but Google crawlers do see it, which is why they work to increase your rankings.  Certain types of re-directs are allowable if you change your site for example- a clear 301 redirect is ok to do.  Google will figure out that you are doing this, because eventually a real person (and not just a crawler) will see your page.  Then, your site will be removed.
  4. Link Farms: Think of a link farm like this: If you build your house in a crappy neighborhood, regardless how nice your house is, your property value is diminished.  Link Farms are the sites that you sometimes find that contain hundreds, perhaps even thousands of links to totally unrelated pages.  If you participate and have your site associated with these link farms, you run the risk of your site being removed by Google.  So just like real estate- location is everything.   When you build your site, if you are in a “bad neighborhood,” you are the only one who stands to lose out.

Many SEO consultants use these techniques, but you will find that these are the SEO consultants who have absolutely NO clue what they are doing whatsoever.  If your SEO consultant starts recommending any of these, I’d run as fast as possible.

Mr. Gubiotti does not ascribe to these beliefs and maintains that the best way to have your site highly indexed by google is by giving them credible, remarkable content.  There are several SEO tactics that are allowed according to Google webmaster guidelines- but the best rule of thumb according to Jim is this: “If the site is good for the human being reading it, then it will be good for the Google crawler.” If you have questions on how optimizing your site for search engines can benefit your business, you can contact Nothing But Net Solutions and see how they can help you.

Remember, it’s not going to be an overnight thing if you are doing it the right way- it takes time.  If you do things the wrong way, not only will you be penalized by Google, you will also lose a ton of credibility which can happen in an instant on the world-wide web.  In short: Black hat SEO= Bad Google Karma!  And as we all know… the Google karma police are always on patrol.

Inbound Marketing and The Medical Professional

Inbound Marketing is very effective for many industries, including medicine.  Some may argue that specific social media platforms are better for one industry or another.  I’ll take a leap and go head-to-head with that idea and say that all social media is relevant for all professions, if for no other reason, for inbound links.

Although the Doctors must take the utmost precaution in what they write about to protect their patients’ privacy, social media is just as effective as any other type of marketing tool a medical professional may implement. The New Zealand Medical Students Association recently published a guide for Doctors who want to use social media- however I think that these precautions apply to the use of social media in many other professions as well.   Here are some things to consider if you are using social media as an inbound marketing tool for your medical practice:

1) Google caches everything. Possibly forever. Maybe not forever, but for a really long time. You could post something and then delete it- if Google crawlers have been to your social media platform before you got the chance to delete it- too late, it’s already cached by the search engine. That being said, it’s necessary to take anything you might post under careful consideration previous to doing so.

2) If blogging is what you like to use for your professional social media, caution is needed.  What’s really important is that if you’re going to write about an interesting condition and a patient you treated, you need to make sure there are no specific details in your article.  Take that one step further and make sure that there are no specific details in your entire blog that could point to you (the professional) or the patient, even if it’s searched for on Google or any other search engine. Think of the search terms that one would search for if they needed to locate you, your practice, your hospital, or information about the condition. Chances are if you are writing about it, it’s something fairly unique- and that means your blog about this unique subject matter is more likely to come up in search results.

3)Do not speak about your colleagues in a negative way.  If you need to vent about something that happened at work, speak to your supervisor.  If you need to get something off your chest, vent to your friends.  Venting about these things on your social media platforms that are used for professional purposes only serve to diminish your professional credibility.  Not only that- but defamation is a serious issue that could land one in the midst of a defamation lawsuit.

4) Keep firm boundaries.  Doctor-patient boundaries should not be crossed.  These are set up to protect the patient- and violation of these could land the medical professional in some serious hot water.  I do not recommend allowing current or former patients access to a personal social media account.  However if the account is strictly professional and used for work only (a Facebook business page or professional Twitter account, for example)- I think it’s perfectly acceptable to allow current or former patients access.  Again- be sure to maintain confidentiality at all costs.  The same goes for colleagues and supervisors- keep your personal information personal- you don’t want to be seen venting about your boss on your Facebook account when he/she is one of your friends.  This is also applicable in any other profession depending on what your specific directives are when dealing with clients, customers, colleagues, supervisors, etc.

5)  Be mindful of the accessibility of your information.  Regardless of the strictest security precautions available- there are still ways to access your information through the internet.  If there is something you really don’t want people to know about you- keep it off the internet entirely.  Not only can patients find ways to get access to this information, but so can colleagues, prospective employers, educational institutions, and law enforcement-  keep everything you put online as professional as possible.

Hopefully those of you professionals reading this have already implemented these guidelines, but if you haven’t – definitely start doing so.  Social media is forever-changing- and the more information shared on this topic, the better we can all be at moderating our social media accounts.  What have you found to be helpful in protecting your privacy online?  What strategies do you carry out to successfully use social media as a marketing  tool if you are a medical professional (or a professional in any other industry)?

Inbound Marketing, phpBB3, customer service

Adventures in phpBB3 Land…..

Well, we’ve finally done it. We’ve added a new trick- administrating and moderating phpBB3 forums! Many of you probably are not familiar with what phpBB3 is let alone what php is. “Php” stands for “hypertext preprocessor” which is a very widely used open source scripting language for message board forums. Php was not created strictly for these forums, it is used to write web applications. It just so happens that php is easily embedded into HTML- so that is why it works so well for these message board style forums.  The “BB” part of PhpBB3 stands for “bulletin board.”

At any rate- we’ve had fun administrating and moderating this forum.  It’s a bit complicated at first- setting it up, moderating user groups, moderating the new users that sign up- it can get kind of crazy, but we’ve learned a few things.

  1. Having a phpBB3 forum for your business is pretty cool- not only will your customers come in to chat and ask questions, so will the other like-minded businesses in your industry.
  2. You can set up different areas of the forum that are accessible to different user groups- such as if you have sensitive information in one area that only customers should see, you can make it so that only users from the “customer” user group have access to it.  Similarly if you want to apply a “waiting period” to certain users to make sure they are not spamming your board, you can do it this way also.
  3. Having your employees take part in this adds extra credibility.  I find that since we’ve been working on this most recent bulletin board forum, it really gives the “faculty” a chance to shine- and show that they really know what they are talking about.
  4. It also helps with SEO!  Our SEO guy (Jim Gubiotti) who I interview in the new article coming out later this week, gave us this idea- so not only is it good for your customers, and partners, it adds to the “relevant content” that Google searches for to index pages.  Although there are many things that help with your search engine optimization- this is by far one of the best ways to optimize your site and truly make it a “hub”.

Lets get back to the basics: According to Brian Halligan from Hubspot, Inbound marketing is “where you help yourself ‘get found’ by people already learning about and shopping in your industry.”  It’s sort of like being able to predict what someone is looking for and strategically placing yourself in their path as if to say “hey! you’re looking for me!  let me make it easier and just walk up to you and introduce myself!”  This is also why it has steadily become the gold standard of customer service.  It becomes so much easier for the would-be customer to find the outstanding service they are looking for, saving them time, and consequentially, money.  It becomes so easy for the potential clients to rely on Google because they do rank search results according to credibility.  And although there are many white-hat SEO “tricks” you can use to increase your rank in the search results, the best way, by far- is to create remarkable content.

So… by using a bulletin board forum for people who are your clients, potential clients, and industry partners- it gives you a lot of credibility especially since you open up the door for people to ask your company, staff, and clients questions about the goods/services provided.  It shows you are being totally transparent as a business (this is a good thing), it shows you are the master of your craft, and it shows that you not only care about business, but care about enlightening your industry. It makes people like your business for participating in a meaningful way, and everyone knows that one of the most basic principles in selling things:  people will buy from you if they like you!

If you need more information on how phpBB3 style forums can help your business, feel free to contact me anytime with questions.

ReTweets: Followers, Semantics, Timing, and Virtual Snowballs

Who would have ever thought that such an innocuous little feature on Twitter could have turned into such a ground-breaking concept for SEO and viral marketing?  Certainly not myself.  I’ve had a Twitter account since I heard Barack Obama had one back in 2009.  I also heard on that same day that he was making tourney picks for the NCAA Championship.  This inspired me so I jumped on my computer and started tweeting about how cool I thought it was that THE PRESIDENT had a Twitter account and that HE ALSO PICKED HOOPS.  So obviously, being a very astute and like-minded constituent, I hoped he would see my Tweets.

No such luck.  I got frustrated and bored and ignored Twitter for a while.  THEN a little bird (how ironic) told me about the re-tweet feature.  So I decided to research the phenomena.  According to Dan Zarella, viral marketing scientist, and author of “The Science of ReTweets”- there are “four factors that make certain Tweets more viral than others.”  I’ll break it down for you along with my analytical drivel.  I’ll try to make this concise.

1) Followers do matter.  Zarrella states that although more followers might mean the likelihood of possible ReTweets increases, the correlation is weak and other factors may play a larger role.  He breaks it down using a mathematical formula:

Dan Zarellas ReTweetability Metric

Once looking at those numbers, Zarrella states that based on the trends he sees, he finds the content is actually more important.  The quality of the Tweet is much more important than the number of followers a user has.  This makes sense to me.  Quality matters.  Obvious.

2)Semantics and your Tweets: Zarrella suggests that while analyzing the semantic content of Tweets, several trends become obvious such as key language that gets the most ReTweets.

  • Include a call to action such as “please ReTweet“- although you think it sounds a bit elementary, it works.  Please refer to the K.I.S.S. theory.
  • Regular timely updates on Twitter get more ReTweets also.
  • Freebies are popular (I don’t necessarily think that I would strongly push advertising freebies for all types of business, typically retail does better in this aspect)
  • Self referencing (Tweeting about Twitter)
  • Lists are major
  • Blog posts are very popular among ReTweets

For further information on key words that are ReTweeted the most, please see Dan Zarrella’s article.  He also notes that polite calls to action (where the word “please” is used) have higher rates of being ReTweeted.

3) Timing is everything- Tweets posted during business hours – Eastern Time– are more likely to be ReTweeted.  The best time to Tweet would be hypothetically at the beginning of the work day.  According to Zarrella’s research, there is a marked increase in ReTweets during business hours and from then on throughout the day and into the night.  He suggests Tweeting at the beginning of the day to capture the most ReTweetability.  I agree with this.  Research that I have done on social media shows that the best time for new blog articles to be posted is also during EST business hours.  One could hypothesize this is because more people are surfing the web at work…. I believe this could be one of the factors as to why these hours are the best times to see ReTweets.

4)”ReTweet Cascading” is the theory that people will ReTweet content that they have already seen posted as a ReTweet.  I can say without any doubts, this is true.  At least for myself it is.  I cannot imagine my thinking is too far off from everyone else using Twitter- I am more likely to ReTweet something that I see my friends ReTweet.  For the same reason that people form friendships outside of Cyberland, they also form virtual friendships with like-minded people.  Chances are, if I like something enough to ReTweet it for my followers to see, it’s something I think they would like.  Ipso ergo, they are probably going to ReTweet it as well, thus causing a chain-reaction, a virtual snowball effect.  Zarrella also shows through his reasearch that the  more times content is ReTweeted, “the more likely it is to be further spread.”

Hopefully this information can lend some perspective when you are considering what your next Tweets will be.  For more information on Dan Zarrella’s research, you can see the link referenced above, and you should also take a look at another article he authored on some key words and phrases that will get you the  most ReTweets. 

Inbound marketing, blog your way to millions, web presence, SEO

How To Blog Your Way To Millions

Millions of eyeballs reading your content, that is.  While I’m sure if you own a business, you’d want to make millions of dollars, you need to first focus on winning friends who believe in your brand.  That is the idea behind social media:  to engage your audience by giving them something they can use.  You’re going to need to abide by a few very easy and simple cardinal rules of blogging in order to be effective and show your craft-mastery.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

1)Keep it simple:  The web is full of white noise, you need to keep your  message simple so it does not get lost in the frey.  Be suscinct, don’t be overly wordy.  If you’ve already written blogs, go back and edit to be more concise.  Don’t feel bad, everyone makes this mistake.

2)Be Relevant: Don’t use your work blog as a soapbox to spout your views on topics that are totally unrelated.  Make sure you stick to the subject at hand, and only stray from the pertinent subjects if you are extremely clever or witty and can find some way to make it relevant.  This is a word of caution, not everyone can pull this off.

3)Use Keywords: Tag your blog articles with relevant tags.  For example, if you are writing a blog about medical device measurement, make sure you are tagging the posts with “thickness measurement,” “medical device,” “medical device inspection,” etc.  This will increase your visibility on the web.

4)Be patient: You are not going to be an overnight success.  Do not expect it.  It will take weeks, maybe months, maybe even years to get to the “millions.”

5)Participate in a meaningful way:  Find other blogs that are either industry relevant, or geared towards success in business and start following them.  Subscribe to other blogs.  Comment on posts.  People want to receive comments, just like yourself.  In this case, one hand washes the other.  DO NOT leave spam comments with links to your site.  Think about what you are going to say first, and make it relevant, ask a question that provokes an answer from the author.

6)Post regularly:  You’ve worked hard to gain the readers you have thus far, you don’t want to lose their interest.  Update frequently to give them the content they want.  Also, if you are posting regularly, the search engines will crawl your pages regularly looking for new content to index.  Again, this circles back to the whole concept of increasing your visibility on the web.

7)The More The Merrier: Quantity does matter, when it comes to increasing your web presence.  However as a word of caution: don’t post just for the sake of upping your post count.  Make sure your articles are relevant and remarkable.  Keep the quality standard high so you don’t lose credibility in the eyes of your fans.

8)New information matters: You don’t want to post about topics that are outdated.  If you do post on an outdated topic, it needs to be relevant to something that is going on right now.  Your readers do not want to read old news.

9)Encourage participation: Always make sure your articles call your readers to action.  Ask for their opinion, their resources, or even just feedback on what types of future articles they would like to read on your weblog.

10) Research everything: The quickest way to lose credibility is to publish misinformation.  You want to make sure you have your facts straight, or you won’t be seen as the master of anything.  Also, cite your sources- you want to give due diligence to the professionals whose work you use for your information.

11) Have a voice:  Give your weblog a personal side.  You want your readers to feel as though you are speaking directly to them.  It’s okay to have opinions, so long as they are industry relevant.  Do not be afraid to write about controversial “hot topics” in your industry, as this is one of the best ways to inspire participation from your audience.

12) Use different posting styles:  It’s a good idea to mix up the styles of your posts- you can post “How To” articles, like this one.  Post video interviews, transcripts of real life interviews (always get permission to use these first), white papers, or business best practices such as “10 ways to increase your sales.”  Do not bore your readers with continuous long research style posts.

13)Titles matter: This is the first thing your readers will see when gauging if they want to continue on reading.  Make sure it’s catchy.  This becomes even more important if you are blogging in an industry where your audience will not have long periods of time to read long articles- and if they do have time for one, they will be drawn in by the post title.  Know your audience so you can tailor your weblog style to meet their needs and time constraints.

14)Get your blogs out there: Use these articles in the rest of your social media and your other marketing strategies.  Make it known that you have important information to give to your fans.  Make sure you have the option to subscribe on your blog- RSS or other types of subscription services will work very well.

Remember, this is not the final say on what will help your blog gain readers.  The main thing to keep in mind is that you need to be patient.  If you are doing these things, along with incorporating your blog into your other social media and your existing marketing strategy, you will definitely see your numbers increase.  Be consistent with your work on your weblog, if you cannot meet these requirements, consider hiring someone to do it for you.

You  may wonder if a blog is the way to go with your business.  Trust me, it is relevant for any business regardless of industry or size.  You want your customers, contacts, industry partners, competitors to see you as someone who really knows what they are talking about.  You want to be seen as someone who cares about your industry as a whole.  These articles will help your customers feel like more than just a number.  They give your audience a sense of importance, it gives them information that is useful to their own agenda, and ultimately becomes the gold standard of customer service.

If you blog, what are your strategies to increase your readership?  If you already have lots of readers, what have you done in the past that has worked really well?

Inbound Marketing Tip: White Papers Demonstrate Expertise

I like this term.  A white paper is jargon for “research paper.”  White papers are typically based on a topic in your industry that warrants further research or discussion.  Why would a white paper help you in a business sense?  In several ways, first, if you are on the receiving end of a white paper, it’s usually going to be something you are interested to know more about.  If you are on the giving end of a white paper, it shows your audience your “marketing muscle.”   How does this show marketing muscle?  It shows you know a LOT about your industry.  Who wouldn’t pay for a good/service from someone who is a true craftsman?  Hands down, when all things considered are equal, I’d much rather give my business to someone who cares to continually learn and educate people on important matters that they are passionate about.

Here is how I need your help.  What (in your opinion) is the more accepted standard for writing research papers?  There are two widely used formats: MLA Format (Modern Language Association) – I used this format throughout high school and college.  Then there is the APA Format (American Psychological Association).  I’ve personally never used APA, I can easily become acquainted with it, so there is no issue there.

My friend, Jill, said that “English uses MLA and science uses APA.”  So that’s why I’m stuck.  I can see that marketing is an art form, a very intricate art form.  I also see that in marketing, the use of quantifiable data and statistical analysis is prevalent to get your marketing to where it needs to be from a numbers standpoint.  My first thought is to write papers with less data using MLA and papers with more data using APA.  I do not want to come across as a research paper format basketcase.

What are your thoughts?  APA or MLA?  What is your reasoning behind this?  Here is a handy poll to help me figure out what is best.  I’ve included an “other” category for your thoughts as well.  Or feel free to comment.  Thank you in advance for your consideration in this matter.

Effective Advertising and the White Noise of the Web…

There is a lot of noise out there, especially when it comes to the world wide web and advertising.  There are millions of people with important things to say.  How do you set yourself apart from your competitors in a meaningful way?  How do you get your very important message out there to the right people?  Social media is the answer, if its being implemented correctly.

So, let’s say you’ve decided to venture into the world of social media… you’ve set up a few accounts, perhaps even uploaded some pictures.  You’ve very astutely filled in all of the pertinent information fields, and probably have even found some “friends” or “fans” depending which network you’re on.  Then… you come to a screeching halt.  It’s ok.  It’s totally easy to do when you don’t really know what to say.

The best way out of this debacle is to become opinionated.  Drink lots of coffee and find a soapbox to stand on.  In order to throw you a nugget of wisdom in regards to your soapbox derbies- here are some things you should consider when it comes to being opinionated about your business:

1) DO NOT rant about the person who cut you off in traffic today.  DO rave about a product or service that has helped better your business in some way.

2)DO NOT take strong political positions on your social media, unless you are a politician, or unless legislation directly effects your business and you can back it up with factual information.  Although you may have many people who agree with you, your business facebook page is not the proper platform.  DO take strong positions on industry-relevant matters.

3)DO NOT post about anything on your blog other than work related content.  If it is not directly tied into your industry, find some way to make it relevant.

4)Get involved in other discussions surrounding your industry.  Join a forum, post on message boards, find out what people want to know about.  This helps your content to be relevant.

5)Resist the urge to “moderate” your comments on your company blog.  I mean- completely disable the “approve comment” feature on your blog.  If people see that their comments have to be “approved”, this will further discourage them from speaking their mind.  Even if a comment is negative to you or your business in any way- this is the platform to show your customers that you want to make it right.  This is the platform where you stand up for your product/service.  It shows you care about giving the gold standard of customer service without “censoring” what people write.

6)Avoid schlepping your product/service all over the place.  The point of social media is to increase web presence- however you don’t want to come across as being annoying with your product schtick.  You want your audience to feel that you care about bettering them in the process.  Offer networking opportunities, best practices, webinars, etc.

You will without a doubt be seen as a master of your craft if you provide useful information.  What are some of your social media strategies?  What do you like to avoid when populating content?  What are you more prone to read when looking for information on your industry?

Social Media Tracking? Or Social Media Stalking?

I would say among all great things having to do with the Social Media Revolution, is the ability to track your viewers. Whether you are using an e-mail program, a newsletter design program, or are just moderating your blog, you can track visitors down to their e-mail address and street address. Creepy, right?

No. Not if you’re using it the right way. The reason why trackability is so important is so you can strike while the iron is hot. The moment someone opens your e-mail, you can follow up with a phone call. I’d advise against calling and saying “hey I just saw you opened your e-mail” because frankly, that sounds a bit stalkerish.  A better way to phrase your follow-up call is to wait an hour or so, then call and say something to the effect of “Hi! This is XYZ from ABC company.  I am just calling to see if I can answer any questions for you regarding (insert product or service here).”  This way, you’re reaching out to them while the content you’ve delivered is still fresh in their mind.

Another way tracking is beneficial is so you can populate content that is useful to people in different geographic regions.  What I like to read about here in Rochester, NY, may not be useful to someone- for example- in Niagara Falls, NY or Buffalo, NY.  Sometimes, when tracking your visitors/audience, you can even see their company name if they’re viewing your information from work.  Again, this gives great insight into what KIND of content you want to populate.  What a Marketing person would want to read, is usually a bit different from what a Lawyer or Doctor would want to read.

Thankfully, most e-mail newsletter programs give you the handy tool of being able to use merge tags and edit source code to make different pieces of content viewable to different groups of people on your e-mail list.  This way, you’re not creating fifteen different newsletters each month.

I am sure you know (as any business owner does) that there’s nothing more disheartening to follow up with “dead” leads that have gone cold since your initial contact.

The idea behind tracking your audience, is to give you the unique ability to foster your business relationships- to remain in contact with them for pertinent business reasons at all times.  It gives you insight into their thoughts so you can create relevant content that matters to them.  This sets you apart in the industry as a business with a social conscience who truly cares about bettering their clients, and industry as a whole.  Even if the prospect isn’t ready to purchase NOW, when they are ready, you will be the first person they call.

So… what’s your take on trackability?  How have you been successful by tracking your leads?  What tools have you found to be most helpful?