Monday, 28 July 2014

India sees highest growth in social media usage: Study

More Indians are logging into Facebook and Twitter accounts, as evident from a record growth of 37 percent in social networking during 2013, according to a study by eMarketer.

“Indians are increasingly logging into Facebook and Twitter accounts, with the country recording the highest social networking growth of 37.4 percent in 2013,” the US-based independent market research firm, which provides insights and trends in digital marketing, media and commerce, said in the study.

Though the growth rate of social network users may be slowing globally, there is no stopping in India, as the number of social media users in urban India is projected to cross a whopping 80 million this year from 63 million years ago.

With the second largest Facbook user base outside the US, India is expected to have the largest Facebook population in the world by 2016, according to a data released Friday at an international conference here on “Social Media Marketing in Emerging Markets”.

The conference was organised by L.N. Welingkar Institute of Management Development & Research in association with Academy of India Marketing and IDG Media.

A survey by the Internet and Mobile Association of India found that 78 million netizens across the country were active users of Facebook in early 2013, registering a 50 percent growth over the same period in 2012, followed by 33 million users on Twitter and 20 million users on LinkedIn.

Asserting that social media was the next big frontier, institute group director Uday Salunkhe said whether people like it or not, they could not ignore the powerful medium in the virtual world.

“The boom has established social media as an imperative part of a holistic marketing strategy as it proved to be hugely beneficial for businesses to reduce costs, improve customer services and create an online personality,” Salunkhe told about 200 participants from management and marketing fields.

Executives from corporate world and research experts from B-schools across the country spoke on the best practices they adopted to use social media for promoting and marketing products and services in the virtual world.

Among the noted speakers at the conference included LinkedIn India head Nishanth Rao, US-based Emory University marketing and strategy professor Jagdish N. Sheth, Portea Medical founder K. Ganesh and Social Wavelength founder Sanjay Mehta.

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Natural Social Media Marketing + 50 Content Ideas!

I have had many a client mention to me that social media marketing is harder than they thought and they are getting very little results. They’ll post and post but get little likes or retweets or favorites or comments, making it tough to justify all the work!

I completely understand. Marketing can be pretty tough, not to mention time consuming and when there is little return it’s hard to keep pushing on.

We update our Facebook page with our latest blog post including a well drafted description of the post and “Come check it out at [insert link here].” We give a short snippet of the post on Twitter with a few different hashtags and the link. We pin to Pinterest like nobodies business. Yet we’re still not getting the results we need.

But aren’t you already posting on Facebook regularly about work and family? And aren’t you Tweeting about your favorite TV shows? And aren’t you pinning recipes you want to try out?

You already know how to use social media regularly and naturally, now you just need to apply those same principles to your blog or business! Social media marketing doesn’t have to be so hard- just quit stressing about it and have fun!

Speak to your fans like you would your friends!

There’s no need to edit your posts five times or include millions of hashtags or keep it short and on point. Speak naturally! Use the exclamation points and filler words and stupid puns. Speaking like a friend encourages trust. You come off as more approachable so fans are more likely to join in the conversation as they feel you’ll genuinely care about their comments.

Avoid selling!

Yes, sometimes it’s a bit necessary to promote your business or advertise a sale. But that doesn’t mean you need to sound like a car salesman trying to dig into their pockets. Use that natural friendly voice and tell everyone how excited you are about this discount and that you love discounts and that you found a great discount on a great pair of shoes this weekend but back to the discount- it’s awesome so you should buy now if you were thinking of buying! See?

Just be natural and approachable. If it sounds like it would be on an infomercial don’t say it (unless you’re being funny). “Hurry in while this offer lasts!” “But wait! There’s more!” Don’t do it. The minute you start selling, you start alienating your fans.

Post regularly!

Don’t just show up in your fans’ news feeds when you want them to buy something. Always remind them you’re around and ready to help them! Be the friend that is always there, not just there when they need something from you. I always encourage posting AT LEAST once a day, but the more the merrier (considering Facebook won’t even show all your posts to your fans anyways). Have a good variety of topics and types of posts to change things up and keep people interested.


Don’t just post your recent blog post and call it good. Ask a question so your readers are prompted to respond! And when they respond, engage! Talk back and keep the conversation going! Point out similarities between comments so you can introduce your readers to each other. Answer their questions. Help them with their problems. Laugh about how you do the same weird things. Your readers are doing you a huge favor by participating, so be gracious and interact with them.

Share everything!

Your Facebook page is not just a place where you post blog posts and advertise giveaways and announce sales. It’s where you create community! And no community starts with “Enter the giveaway to win $20!” It starts with sharing fun stories and finding things you have in common and asking questions and listening to answers. Use your social media platforms to let your community get to know you and your business at a deeper level so they can truly connect with you!
Need some ideas to keep your content calendar chock full of engaging and interesting topics that you’ll enjoy posting?

Here’s 50 ideas for content you can share on your social media platforms or blog!
  1. Past work
  2. A favorite blog of yours
  3. The food that powers your work day
  4. The story of how you got started
  5. Someone that inspires your work
  6. How you manage your family and your work
  7. Shows you watch while you work
  8. Products that go with your brand
  9. Links to thought provoking articles
  10. Your goals and dreams
  11. Client testimonials
  12. Behind the scenes of projects you’re working on
  13. Your favorite cafes to work at
  14. A book you’re reading
  15. How your childhood has effected your work life
  16. What your family thinks of your job
  17. Art you have displayed in your workspace
  18. Passion projects you’re working on
  19. A favorite quote
  20. What you wear while you work
  21. A picture of you and a client at a meeting
  22. How you stay organized
  23. Your favorite office supplies
  24. How you celebrated a launch
  25. Work from high school or college days
  26. What job you wanted as a kid
  27. Your very first (and likely embarrassing) blog post
  28. Old logos/headers
  29. The greatest thing about your week
  30. The funniest comment you ever got
  31. The playlist you listen to while you work
  32. How messy your house was during launch week
  33. The wallpaper on your computer/phone
  34. A typical day in the life
  35. How you get energized
  36. Your favorite pin of the week
  37. Someone you love following on Pinterest/Twitter/Instagram
  38. Newsletters that brighten your inbox
  39. Happy National [Fill in the blank] Day
  40. A teacher you loved and lesson they taught you
  41. Things your grandparents say about your blog
  42. Ways you get over a long day
  43. Your drink of choice while you work
  44. Your favorite websites
  45. Your favorite tools for your business
  46. A random helpful website you discovered
  47. How you get inspiration
  48. How you felt about your first mean comment
  49. Great small businesses you’ve worked with
  50. The most popular post of the month
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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Inbound marketing: how social media can be your startup’s strongest and cheapest lead generation machine

In recent years, inbound marketing has proven to the more popular choice over the traditional outbound marketing strategy, which usually consists of buying ad space on media and waiting for queries to come in. A 2013 study by inbound marketing experts Hubspot shows that 58 percent of marketers have embraced inbound marketing, and more importantly, 34 percent of leads are generated through inbound marketing; only 22 percent of leads are produced through outbound marketing.

This does not even consider the extra cost required for outbound marketing. The study shows that inbound marketing saves marketers about 12 percent the cost per lead and about five percent the cost per customer:

And ultimately, does inbound marketing actually generate considerable enough return-on-investment (ROI) to warrant a change in marketing strategy (if your startup hasn’t already embraced inbound marketing?)

Here’s your answer:

Nearly half the marketers testified that inbound marketing generated actual results, notwithstanding the 34 percent of marketers who could not or did not calculate their ROI.

So where does social media come in?

Now that we’ve established the importance of the inbound marketing strategy, let’s discuss why social media is such a powerful inbound marketing tool. Here are three reasons why your startup should use social media to pull in leads:

The ability to create specific content

Every audience has its own needs and wants, and your startup will need to be properly positioned so you can answer their queries or address their issues. And the best way for you to do that flexibly and with immediacy is social media. Traditional marketing platforms are largely one-sided in communication and not nearly adaptable to suit your audience. For example, social media can be used to create content that propagates your brand values, while also providing the latest news on your industry. There are so many ways for you to give value to your audience through social media, and with the instantaneousness that other marketing platforms cannot provide. Your content can be adjusted, skewed, and targeted to directly appeal to your audience. And when your audience sees the value in your highly specific content, that is where qualified leads come in.

Automated nurturing of leads

Many a time, high quality leads do not just appear in front of you. You have to create them. You will have to nurture them individually, making sure any leads with even just a hint of potential will be properly cultivated and convinced of your product’s or service’s benefit. Social media allows just that. You can now support your potential leads by answering their queries on your social media platforms in real-time, increasing their level of confidence in your startup and cementing them as a high-potential lead. Furthermore, most of your leads will probably not be convinced enough to immediately buy from you. You will have to be present throughout their thought processes, which is a perfect time for your social media platforms, because they can…

Help your leads along their buying process

 At different stages of the buying cycle, your potential customers will have growing, changing concerns. And it is very crucial that your startup remains on top of their mental recall by answering them, assuring them, and finally persuading them that your product or service is the best thing for them. What better way for you, as a startup, to utilize social media for that? It all boils back down to the immediacy of social media. Your responses to potential leads on social media can be specifically tailored to make each and every one of them feel like their worries about your product or service are being put to rest. When you’ve guided them through the mental buying process, you’ll not only be seen as a reliable source of information and help, but also close the lead as a customer. If there’s anything you can take away from this article, let it be this: using social media is a highly effective and cheap solution to your inbound marketing strategy. Social media may not be the only tool you can use to create strong inbound marketing for your product or service, but it is certainly the most cost-effective. It’s really a no-brainer if you want to market your startup on a lean budget.

Original written by by Marcus Ho

Marcus Ho is a social media strategist to best-in-class businesses in Asia. Marcus has helped over 200 corporations ranging from MNCs to fast-emerging startups to increase sales through social and digital campaigns. He is also the author of Social Payoff.

The Future of Social Marketing Automation is Here (And Improving)

A 2013 study of marketing professionals identified “social media marketing” as the second-most powerful trend contributing to the formation of the “modern marketer” — after the ability to track marketing ROI with technology. Yet even the most advanced modern marketing teams have struggled to effectively incorporate social media into their marketing automation workflows, let alone track the ROI on those communications. The hold up has been partly cultural and partly technological.

On the cultural side, this is part and parcel of the larger paradigm shift from “blast” to “triggered” (personalized) communications. It’s not an easy transition, especially when the ROI on blast emails is still 4300%, according to a 2013 DMA study. Impressive. So why fix what’s not broken? If you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already drunk the Kool-Aid (or read dozens of supporting studies showing the effectiveness) of personalized marketing.

Social media has a naturally conversational structure and is not particularly effective as a “blast” medium — so companies have dragged their feet implementing effective one-to-one response mechanisms, just as they have on the email side of the house. 

That means businesses are leaving money on the table. American Express reported in 2012 that its research found social media users are willing for pay a 21% price premium to do business with companies that provide exceptional service. As a result, social-based customer service improved markedly in 2013, more than doubling their response rate (62%) to questions posed directly to (or about) them.

So we’re halfway there when it comes to “social customer care” — but what about tracking and responding to those vast majority of mentions that don’t include your brand (or product) name? The natural next step is to link that “social listening” data to your marketing automation system — so that you (the modern marketer) can combine that “listening” data with what you already know about that individual — for real-time multi-channel response.

For example, let's say you are Apple tracking a customer segment that has purchased a computer from you in the last 12 months, and they complain about "my computer" — you'll know it's highly likely it's the Apple computer you sold them that has the problem. If you're tracking that complaint in your marketing automation system, you can fire off a warrantee reminder via email or have your social team DM that individual with an offer of support. If s/he mentions Apple directly, you can respond publicly.

Moreover, that social listening data, when linked to individuals’ profiles, can provide much more data for segmentation and scoring to fuel your marketing campaigns. Customers spend an average of 3 hours/day on social media, but likely just a few minutes on your site (if they make it there). By tracking what customers and prospects are talking about, modern marketers can build out automations that take social posts into account when tracking customers' "digital body language" to drive trigger-based marketing. For example, the New York Times could target foodies (commenting on recipes or restaurants) with their "Food" content and wine advertisements. Travelocity could send Austin hotel discounts to customers mentioning #SXSW.

Last October, Oracle’s Roland Smart presented a vision of "The Future of Social Marketing Automation" at #EE13 where companies could set up rules-based responses to customers' social posts based on natural language analysis. At the time, "social listening" and "marketing automation" were still largely held in separate buckets, so that was a vision not a reality. Today, we're many steps closer. Eloqua’s Social Behavior Sparkplug allows marketers to listen to their customers and marketing leads on social media — and trigger smart multi-channel responses (emails, ads, direct social responses, segmentation, and scoring) based on those social signals.

What's still "future" is on the technology-side: the ability to trigger those responses instantly, which is of course what makes those public social interactions, in particular, human-feeling. The good news is that vision is not too far in the future — we'll be there in 2014. In the meantime, modern marketers can take advantage of a huge new opportunity that has just opened up to (1) never miss a brand-mention on social media (even when it’s hidden), and (2) using all that rich social behavior data to direct the right message to the right person at the right time — all with trackable ROI thanks to today’s modern marketing automation tools.
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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

How Social Media Evolved as a Sales Channel

Over the past few years, major retailers have capitalized on the popularity of social media to increase brand awareness.  Inevitably, these retailers began to also treat their social media pages as direct sales channels in what has become known as social selling.

Of course, the major players of retail have the resources to devote entire infantries to managing the multitude of social networks now available, but small to mid-sized retailers can match the success of their larger counterparts with some simple best practices, even if they lack the labor force to forge a Twitter Team.

The evolution of social media as a sales channel has become the norm, and retailers need to stay in front of their customers by continuously engaging at their level.  Social media efforts will not only build brand awareness, but will facilitate that sense of community and engage shoppers, resulting with higher retention and increased sales, which is the ultimate goal.

Direct Sales

By 2015, about half of all web transactions will occur through social media, which translates to an estimated $30 billion in sales, according to projections by the marketing firm Vocus.  Yet, the same analysis says that of the 40 million business-related fan pages on Facebook, only 17% have the capacity to sell directly through this popular social media channel.

For smaller retailers, having to manually update Facebook on a regular basis let alone multiple social media accounts can take hours and thus discourage them from ever delving into the social selling realm.  But many of today’s  retail management systems and  ecommerce platforms now include integrations to major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, making it possible for small to mid-sized retailers to upload product images, descriptions and relevant links to multiple social media channels with just a few mouse clicks.  Selling directly through social media may not surpass the volumes sold through more traditional channels such as a brick and mortar stores or E-Commerce sites, but it can certainly influence purchasing decisions in those other venues through a process called channel-hopping.

Indirect Sales

A social sale will not always end on Facebook or Twitter, but a sale can frequently start there.  A link to a product on a social media site will often plant a seed in the mind of the consumer.  From there, they may turn to an E-Commerce site to conduct more research and ultimately finalize the purchase in a brick and mortar location.  In such a scenario, when the consumer “hops” from channel to channel before finalizing the purchase, does any single channel deserve full credit for the sale?  A recent study of cross-channel shopping habits revealed that consumers will complete about 60% of the traditional sales process before reaching out to a sales representative, no matter what the price point.  In other words, customers are often shopping without the retailer being aware of it.  Much of that shopping takes place right on a retailer’s social media page.

Social SEO

Social media links now factor into the algorithm used by Google to rank its organic search results, according to an article published by Entrepreneur.  Sharing links on highly ranked social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, can actually help boost the search rating of an individual E-Commerce site.  Retailers that publish relevant blogs on their E-Commerce sites have a considerable advantage when it comes to SEO.  By blogging and adding fresh content regularly, retailers can exponentially increase the number of indexed pages that are “crawled” by the major search engines.

Extend the CRM

Savvy retailers not only use their social media pages as sales funnels, but also as tools to manage customer relationships.  In that way, social media channels also serve as valuable extensions to CRM functions.  Through social networks, retailers can post news about upcoming discounts, sales events and other promotions, but also provide direct customer service.  While the major retailers can afford to dedicate teams of employees to field these inquiries, smaller retailers can utilize something as simple as an email notification to manage communications through social networks.

Speak, but Also Listen

Much of social media focuses on talking, but rarely stresses the value of listening.  A retailer’s social user base can often provide valuable insights into emerging trends, since they will likely represent part of their market.  A survey conducted by Deloitte revealed that 65% of executives who responded use social media to understand shifts in their market.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Social Media Is The New Blackhat

What happens when fake friends tell fake friends about your product? Does anyone care? Actually, yes, Google GOOGL -1.16%. They care because of how intertwined Social Media and SEO rankings are. SEO best practices are and should be the foundation of any business’ online marketing strategy. However, Social Media is not stand alone and is an essential part of that SEO strategy. Social media can help boost an SEO ranking when there is tons of buzz being generated in social feeds.

A recent study by Shareaholic, which tracked 300,000 websites over four months, suggested that social-media referrals now lead to 30 percent of websites’ overall traffic. But just like SEO, Social Media can have its dark side as well. The old trend was to try and scam Google using Black Hat SEO tricks and the new trend is to try and trick Google and users using Social Media as the New Black! And it’s backfiring on companies just like SEO did.

Not All Social Signals are Organic or Authentic

Not all social signals are authentic or organic. If you’re using a social site to boost SEO and brand awareness, we hope you haven’t been caught trying to fake your way to a following because it’ll ultimately put you in SEO jail. Google did a great job of fighting off black hat SEO marketers because it got better and better at identifying high quality websites. They’ve now turned their attention towards measuring the quality of your friends, likes, and views.

Buying a Friend

There are a lot of sources out there that will all sell likes and followers for a price. Whether you’re creating fake Facebook profiles to interact with your business’ Facebook page, cloaking deceptive content, writing fake reviews, or purchasing YouTube views, SoundCloud plays for your artists, LinkedIn LNKD +1.23% connections, and likes and followers for Facebook, Twitter TWTR +2.7%, Instagram, and Pinterest, it’s the same result: it makes you seem popular at face value but Google is learning to look past face value, more than ever they’re looking under the hood.
If all your ‘friends’ are from Croatia or India but your company is based in California, something is amiss and Google will find out and punish you. Google and YouTube spokeswoman Andrea Faville said: “(we) take action against bad actors that seek to game our systems.” And if you look at recent history, YouTube just wiped out billions of views from recording artist who were faking views to boost popularity.

Faking Virality

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and most marketers dreams are to go viral. Because of that, you can guarantee there are people trying to ‘fake or create’ virality. The common mistake is to taking the easy route and buy a couple thousand views to kick start the party and generating some ‘fake’ virality before it ultimately organically takes off. Wrong!  - If you went to a party that was suppose to be really cool, would you be able to tell immediately? So can Google. You can’t fake organic growth. If you buy 3,000 views, YouTube is waiting to see if there is organic growth. There is a reason it stops at the 301 mark. It’s waiting and measuring the quality of actual views and organic behavior. As Alex Bean from Fresh Consulting said, “Google doesn’t look at the fans or numbers of them, they look at the fans behavior. You can’t fake that.”

Bots will not share or retweet your post among influential friends and circles, they are either a computer or person simply paid to click the ‘like’ button and that won’t carry viral weight. If you have valuable content on social media, you will get organic social media reach and fans. If you are buying fake fans, then it sends signals that your content is not valuable enough to get organic fans and alerts Google accordingly.

Shape a Review

Social media marketing expert Ophelie Lechat discusses how black-hat tactics are generally unsustainable and Google usually neutralizes them with every algorithm update. Last year, an update to Google’s spam detection algorithms was aimed at stopping Local business’ from the number of reviews appearing on some Google+ Local pages. Google is very aware that local business owners are doing everything they can to scam the online reviews. They issued a warning to business owners that “fake glowing testimonies” written by SEO or reputation management companies will be taken down.

The Truth About How Social Effects SEO

It’s evolving. All the time. Every day, they tweak their algorithms to filter out spammers. Every year or two, they also roll out major updates that cause huge shifts in search engine rankings for nearly everyone on the web. As explained by the experts at Search Engine Land: Google launched the Penguin Update in April 2012 to better catch sites spamming its search results, in particular those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings. When the Panda update came out, it was meant to stop sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results.

The next Google update will undoubtedly not only keep out spammers but it will purposely penalize those companies that tried to utilize Social Media Black Hat methods as it did with Expedia earlier this year who lost 25% of their visibility. Companies using social media to make false representations risk losing all of their social media efforts and wasted money on fake content, interactions, and fans along with their SEO rank when detected.

One thing we know is that Google is obsessed with transparency and not being tampered with. They won’t remove a negative review unless there is a major violation of their guidelines but even then it takes a lot of time to prove it. Twitter’s Jim Prosser said it best about using Social Media Black Hat tactics: ‘There’s no upside. In the end, their accounts are suspended, they’re out the money and they lose the followers.” If Google finds that you’ve purchased a stadium of fake people in hopes to improve SEO traffic, it won’t just ignore you. It’ll shut you down, fine you, and remember what you did.If it doesn’t do it now, just wait till the next release.

Image Credit:  Orange is the new Black – Netflix

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Social media marketing is dead

In today’s millennial-inspired economy, social media marketing is dead. I didn’t say social media is dead — just the idea that social media marketing is the most effective approach to win over millennials.

Yes, millennials are heavy social media users and are 2.5 times more likely to adopt new digital, social and mobile tools. What drives social media activation for millennials, however, is content excellence.

Marketers are often pegged with questions related to the future of social media such as: Is Facebook still relevant? What’s the next social platform? Which is most powerful — a like, a share, a re-tweet, or a favorite?

While these are all fair questions, attempting to grade the social landscape in this manner is counterproductive and missing the greater point.

Your approach to content is what will make or break your marketing communication efforts in the future. Social media is simply one way to activate your content strategy.

Re-imagine creative excellence within a content excellence framework

For more than 40 years, the great brands of yesterday were focused on creative excellence. They crafted the perfect message and then pushed those messages out via various shotgun methodologies, hoping to build brand awareness and regard for their cherished products.

Brand awareness and credibility alone will not correlate in any way to extraordinary and sustainable financial performance.

Think of content as an opportunity for your brand voice to live everywhere you are not. We used to think of advertising as a means of communicating a message to a certain audience. But traditional advertising messages are limited to their medium. People experience brands in fluid ways and we can no longer simply rely on creative advertising to make an impact. Content is about the message and the context.

Your content strategy should be about activating and engaging your digital community in ways that traditional advertising never could.

Focus on creating content that is “share-worthy”

Millennials share content that interests them, not content that companies want them to share.

The idea of content being “share-worthy” is nothing new. Marketers used to encourage sharing by word-of-mouth. Today we talk about sharing by word-of-mouse. The “share” is no anomaly — we’ve just shifted from a mindset of advertising ideas to creating ideas that are worth advertising. Treating content in that manner ensures your message is meaningful to your audience.

Remember the Seinfeld “Break Up” episode? George says, “It’s not you — it’s me.” Sharing is rooted in peer affirmation and how millennials feel about themselves when they share content with friends, family and random strangers. The great brands of tomorrow will not simply push out social media messages — they will inspire sharing. Millennials share content that adds to their story, and bypass content that doesn’t.

Unique content will drive sustained brand success

In the future, the most successful brands will get consumers who are active participants to create more content on behalf of the brand than the brand creates for its own benefit. The key to this content is maintaining a certain level of uniqueness and meaningfulness.

The most unique and meaningful brands will have the highest probability of sustained economic performance. Uniqueness will be a proxy for brand-pricing authority and meaningfulness will be a proxy for sales volume potential.

5 implications for brand strategy professionals:
  1. Build a content excellence strategy first.
  2. Think about content and social media as different players. Integration will drive performance. Social media marketing isn’t a strategy.
  3. Inspiration is your brand responsibility.
  4. Useful is the new cool. Your content should be functional and inspiring.
  5. Participation increases brand value. Find ways for your most avid brand fans to join the movement.
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