Brands Follow the Bird

Emineo Media follow-me-twitter-bird

A study conducted by Constant Contact and research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey, analyzed the behavior of 1,491 consumers ages 18 and older throughout the U.S., and revealed a number of details about how people interact with brands on the world’s beloved 140-character social network. People who follow brands on Twitter are more likely to both buy and recommend those brands’ products, according to a recent study of online consumer behavior.Emineo Media follow-me-twitter-bird

So, just how powerful is the Twitter connection between consumers and businesses? The study found that 60% of brand followers are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after following the brand on Twitter, and 50% of brand followers are more likely to buy from that brand.

These findings mirror those from a previous report, detailing how consumers interact with brands on Facebook. The study found that 56% of consumers said they are more likely to recommend a brand to a friend after “Liking” a brand on Facebook, and 51% of consumers said they are more likely to buy a product after doing so. The findings from both studies seem to show that customer loyalty is about the same across both social networks.

Any increase in customer loyalty is great news for brands, especially those lucky enough to make the coveted list of followed companies. According to the study, though, the chances of making that list are slim, as only 21% of Twitter users follow brands on Twitter, and of those, 79% follow fewer than 10 brands.

If your brand makes it to that highly sought-after status, you’re in for the long haul — a whopping 75% of respondents claimed that they had never unfollowed a brand on Twitter. This finding, though, contradicts a previous study, which claimed that 41% of consumers have unfollowed a company on Twitter. The trend seems to favor longevity in both studies, however. If a user opts to follow your brand on Twitter, it’s more likely they’ll continue following, rather than decide to unfollow.

When it comes to a consumer’s decision to follow brands on Twitter, exclusivity and access to promotions reign. Here are the top five reasons given by respondents:

64%: I am a customer of the company
61%: To be the first to know information about the brand
48%: To receive discounts and promotions
36%: To gain access to exclusive content
28%: To receive content/information to retweet and share with others

For the most part, brand interaction on Twitter is still largely a one-way process. While 84% of followers read tweets posted by the brands they follow, only 23% claim to tweet about the brands they follow.

The study also found that Twitter users are frequent Internet users overall — 50% of Twitter users in the study reported going online more than once per hour. Of Facebook users, only 34% of respondents reported going online multiple times per hour. Facebook and Twitter users both outpace the average Internet user, though, as only 29% of overall users that do not have Twitter and Facebook accounts reported logging on many times within an hour.

Twitter users even use Facebook more than users who stick solely to Facebook — 60% of Twitter users use Facebook more than three hours per week, compared with 49% of Facebook users overall.

The study offered one final nugget of wisdom that should inform how brands on Twitter approach their content strategies — 67% of brand followers expect unique content from the brands they follow. So get to it, social media strategists!

Source: Mashable

See the complete constant contact study here:

Why Content is Still King in Higher Education Marketing

Prospective students today use the Internet, plain and simple. They are part of the digital generation, brought up with computers, smart phones and other digital devices. The latest report about this generation of prospective students’ online behavior and expectations when researching colleges and universities speaks volumes about the importance of providing a high quality digital content for this generation.

The 2011 E-Expectations Report sponsored by Noel-Levitz and the National Research Center for College and University Admissions specifically recommends universities and colleges maintain and deliver high quality content to both students and their parents through school websites, email and social media.

College Websites Need To Be Easy To Use

Perhaps the most important finding from the 2011 report is that one out of five students removed a university from consideration after a bad experience with the school’s website. A college’s website is the first destination for many prospective students and parents when beginning to research schools. An initial bad impression from a lousy website has the potential to turn students off to a school before really even exploring it in depth.

A university’s website should look good, be easy to use and provide students with the information they want and need most. According to students and parents surveyed, the majority first look for information on academic programs followed by admissions information, scholarships, student life, financial aid and more. Other features on a university website like cost calculators and interactive maps are also important for recruitment purposes. Universities must ensure students can easily access content about programs and admissions through the website without much hassle and that the content in those areas tells students what they need to know.

Email Isn’t Dead For Recruitment

It may seem today’s prospective students text message and use social media far more than email. But email still works as a primary effective means of communication simply because so many people have and use email accounts. Out of the parents and students surveyed, the vast majority had email accounts and 93 percent of students said they would provide the address to universities. The report recommends emailing prospective students and parents about key deadline reminders, status updates and important information about enrolling.

Social Media Is a Channel for Listening

The 2011 E-Expectations Report found one area of web content still needing further development was social media. And here there seems to be a mismatch of both university and student behavior. Well over 90 percent of colleges have a Facebook fan page and 80 percent of prospective students use Facebook. Yet, just slightly more than one-quarter of prospective students actually view a college’s social media profile. Why the disparity?

It could be the content. Prospective students said they found comments from current students the most appealing aspect of a school’s Facebook page. Students also said they valued general information and announcements about news, events and programs. The report suggests universities use social media to maintain an informal dialogue with students and avoid overt sales pitches.

The Marketing Takeaway

Prospective students and parents do want to communicate with the universities they are considering attending and they will do so in a variety of formats. Delivering great content in several mediums particularly a school’s website, email communications and social media can have positively influence a student’s final decision about attending a university. Just like for any business’s marketing strategy, great content starts out on your own website and should be cross-pollinated across all of parts of your online presence.

Why Content is Still King in Higher Education Marketing.

Content Marketing Strategy & Optimization

The rising importance of optimizing one’s digital assets came out of Google and other search engines’ decision to start including information and file types from other sources than their main search index. Some queries trigger search results that go beyond web pages, MS Office docs and PDF files to include sources such as images, blog posts, news, video thumbnails, books and shopping.

While many SEOs were responding to the changed landscape of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and optimizing for other file types, many others were already optimizing holistically under the premise of, “What can be searched on can be optimized“.

Most companies are not wired to create the variety of content that can achieve top visibility on search engines. In most cases, search engine optimization efforts are focused on content and digital assets that are currently in place.  Being able to get more marketing impact out of existing content is as much a driver of digital asset optimization as it is a part of a holistic strategy that matches up with the opportunities presented by an ever changing search results page.

In the DAO session at SES New York I presented a historical perspective on digital asset optimization based on when TopRank  started writing about it in 2007. I also talked about the changed search landscape that now includes personal, real-time, social and mobile search. I also discussed the following TopRank 10 Step DAO Content Strategy:

Search & Social Media Keyword Research

Anticipating demand via search is traditionally handled by keyword research tools such Google’s tools, Bing or services like Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery.

As advertising and media placements can drive search, so can social conversations. Social media monitoring tools can help marketers conduct social keyword research as a compliment to search engine based keyword research.

Find out what key language and key topics are being discussed on the social web and you’ll have invaluable insight into content ideas that can provide value for both social media marketing and search engine optimization.

Analyze Search Results Landscape

The output of Universal and real-time search results are not persistent. For example, a search for a particular phrase one day might yield news and image results and on another day display only web pages.

It’s useful to monitor the search results landscape for keyword phrases that you’re after. Understanding the mix of data sources besides the main search engine index can help with the allocation of optimization resources.

If news and real-time results are most common, it may make more sense to focus on content promotion there versus images or video.

Define Buyer Personas & Buying Cycle

Understanding the needs of your customer is marketing 101. Search marketers are becoming more sophisticated in their understanding of customer profiles and developing personas to represent who you’re trying to attract via search is an important step in a content strategy.

Knowing what kind of content and what type of digital asset your customers will best respond to can improve effectiveness at driving traffic from the search visibility you’ve achieved through SEO.

The buying cycle is another dimension that warrants attention to make sure you’re creating, promoting and optimizing content that is relevant to where your customers are in their search/research process. Broad concepts usually represent early stages of research versus more specific phrases which often indicate a buyer is closer to purchase.

Inventory Existing Content & Assets

With a more holistic SEO effort, especially one that will incorporate digital assets, it’s important to have a baseline understanding of what you have to work with. Taking inventory of your content and digital assets is something we’ve been recommending for over 3 years and it’s an essential first step.

Having an understanding of current content and digital assets can also uncover content that is ripe for re-purposing. A common example is video that can be deconstructed into multiple, short form videos, single images, transcribed into text or splitting the audio off into a podcast.

Develop an Editorial Plan for New Content

Understanding your search and social media keywords, buyer personas and the assets you have to work with will help identify what new content you’ll need to create.

Adopting the perspective of a publisher, not just a marketer, will help resource allocation, planning and goals/measurement for content creation.

For example, rather than just sending out a press release and publishing a blog post with a new product announcement, a company might, based on search/social keyword research and an understanding of their buyer personas, decide to create a resource page for journalists that includes links to relevant resources, a standard press release, images, PowerPoint, video, past media coverage, executive interviews, audio snippets, demo and appropriate media relations contact info. It would be made easy to bookmark or share this resource page as well.

The assets being linked to from the resource page would be hosted either on the corporate site, optimized of course, or hosted on 3rd party media sharing sites such as Flicrk, YouTube, SlideShare, DocStoc, PRWeb and others.

This provides a richer experience as well as numerous options for interaction. It also offers multiple, potential entry points into the resource page via search, since the optimized digital assets can rank in search results on their own and link to the destination content on the corporate web site.

Map Keywords to Content & Digital Assets

The functional process of implementing search/social keyword research is to map those concepts to the content and assets you have. This helps manage the initial keyword optimization process.

Mapping keywords to the editorial plan is also a useful guide for the future creation and optimization of content. Not only are web pages, images, video and other assets optimized for search, but optimized for customers.

Operationalize Content & Digital Media Creation with SEO

SEO and digital asset optimization are not one-time events. Keyword demand will change and of course, new content and media will be published. To ensure keyword optimization of new content, it’s important to incorporate SEO with established content creation and promotion processes.

That might be updating the corporate style-guide with SEO and keyword usage rules or it might mean making programming changes to the web site’s content management system to prompt content creators with keyword cues when adding text or other media.

Develop Off Page Digital Assets

The beauty of social content is of course, that it’s social! Sharing should be easy and encouraged. Hosting some digital assets on social media sharing sites such as those mentioned above (Flickr, YouTube, Slideshare, DocStoc) can introduce your optimized content to new audiences and attract both traffic and links. More relevant links mean better search engine visibility and web site visitors.

Promote/Syndicate via Distribution Channels

How will anyone know you have excellent content and digital assets if you don’t promote? Dedicate a fixed and persistent effort to developing social networks where your customers and influentials spend their time on the social web. Do the same with social media sharing web sites so that when you post a new video on YouTube for example, your network there can be notified.

Developing distribution channels for content will significantly improve reach and the likelihood of your content being passed on, shared and made socially popular. Email newsletters, RSS, Ping.fm and TwitterFeed services are good examples of content distribution services that help promote content efficiently.

Ongoing Measurement with Web, Social and Search Analytics

Search marketing professionals are well aware of the value from web and search analytics that measure search visibility performance as well as web site interactions and conversions. The importance of social media monitoring and analytics is also essential for a DAO Content strategy.

On the front end, social media monitoring tools can help you identify conversations and influentials that are meaningful to the topics and customers your marketing efforts are trying to reach. Social keyword research can in part, be accomplished by some social media monitoring tools. Those same tools are essential for measuring the social impact of your digital asset and social media optimization efforts.

A simple cycle would be one where you’ve identified new keyword topics beginning to buzz on the social web and taking that cue to create content. Promote that content through your social networks and use social media monitoring to track the effects of your content contributions to the larger conversation on the topic. Use web analytics to measure any increase in search based traffic based on the growing popularity and awareness of the topic based in part, on your contributions and social interactions.

With an Optimized Content Strategy, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is that by following these 10 steps, a significant impact can be achieved in overall authority for the topics and keyword concepts focused on as well as the ability to attract new business, media coverage and employees.

The bad news is that it’s not easy. Making the commitment to serving customers with content and media on an ongoing basis, indefinitely without the initial ability to forecast ROI will make many companies say, “Great idea and it makes sense, but not for us.”

However, those companies that make the effort to really understand and implement these fundamental concepts are making an investment with a payoff that is very long term and with momentum, very significant. Some companies will be able to “come out of nowhere” and dominate their category by following these 10 guidelines for an optimized content marketing strategy.

Content Marketing Strategy & Optimization