Social Media Content Comparison

Social media marketing is an important component of every marketing strategy in web 3.0. That’s why it’s so important for companies to have a solid answer to the following questions: which social media channels should be used? Is Facebook enough? Or should other platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ play a role as well?  And which other social media platforms are attractive for business use?  From professional social networks and platforms for finding images to options for bloggers and social video networks, you’re sure to find something that matches your needs. When choosing the right channels, marketing experts can help deliver an overview on the social media platforms with the widest reach.

Social networking websites

Social networking websites are social media channels that don’t tend to focus on any one specific topic and instead aim to attract a wide spectrum of users. Users communicate, click, and share different content types that reflect their interests, making the themes on such social networks just as diverse as the users themselves.

The behavior of some members of social media sites allows their interests to be narrowed down to a particular category. This is due to the fact that particularly active users often follow certain profiles and channels, like certain content elements, and join or open groups that are related to these interests. Marketers are able to use this information to their advantage and can create tailored campaigns that speak to these demographics.

Facebook: the social hostess with the mostest (users)

There’s simply no getting around the original social network when discussing social media, and the rise of new competition over the past few years has done little to chip away at the market leader’s supremacy. One of the premier annual reports on the sector, the Social Media Marketing Report, confirms once again that Facebook is the king of the hill with 93% of all marketing specialists opting for the Palo Alto-based tech giant.

Strengthening customer loyalty

Facebook is widely considered to be the mother of all social media platforms and its most basic functions consist of providing an outlet for its members to communicate with each other as well as with private companies. The official profile pages of services or brands are home to a constant exchange of praise, criticism, and reports of user experiences. And while this real time interaction can be a challenge for community managers, it also presents attractive possibilities for strengthening customer loyalty.

Fact

Facebook adds 500,000 new users every day, that’s 6 new profiles every second!

Viral marketing: a fool’s errand without compelling content

Social engagement via Facebook is now common practice for most companies. As a global marketing and interaction platform, Facebook offers businesses exceptional reach. Interesting posts that are shared by users have the potential to spread like wildfire, reaching a large number of users in the process. This phenomenon is known as “going viral”. Combined with its low cost and its broad reach to a wide range of potential customers, viral marketing is becoming increasingly important for many companies. On Facebook, authenticity and relevant content count most. Only professional-grade posts and appropriate topics are the material you need to make a real impact. As an interface between perspective customers and businesses, Facebook profiles serve as ideal mediums for customer care and serve as outlets where input and ideas for new approaches to products can arise.

Like no other social media platform, Facebook offers businesses the largest reach for gaining new customers. No other platform enables target groups to be so directly contacted and motivated towards interaction. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’ll take time to develop a successful strategy for using Facebook to win over more customers. In addition to own company or campaign profiles, this platform also offers fade-in advertisements.

Under appreciated, underloved: Google+

Brought about by its namesake company in 2011, Google+ provides an alternative possibility for those accustomed to Facebook. As is the case with comparable portals, Google+ also incorporates similar functions that allow users to post and share information. By categorizing contacts through “circles” (e.g. “customers”, “partners”, or “influencers”) a direct and target group-specific communication flow is able to take place. But while it enjoys moderate success amongst businesses, Google+ has still yet to catch on as a network for private users.

High user figures — limited activity

According to a study, over 90% of the 2.5 billion users have never made a single post public. Google+’s high user rates are simply due to the fact that every Gmail user is automatically assigned an account upon registration. This includes all Android users, for whom creating a Gmail account is required. Even if many users’ activity is about as lively as tumbleweed rolling through a ghost town, a presence on the network still remains relevant—mostly for search engine ranking-related reasons.

Image networks: Pinterest and Instagram

With photo sharing platforms, visual aspects are put at the forefront: the focus here lies on publishing photos and videos; comments play a smaller role. What counts the most are entertaining posts that leave a strong and lasting visual impression on target groups. But what options are out there in addition to the market leaders, Pinterest and Instagram?

Instagram

With roughly 300 million active users, the micro blog for photos and videos Instagram is one of the most popular social networks currently on the market. And while it’s possible to share pictures and videos with Facebook or Google+, Instagram has its own unique dynamic that is centered on pictures. The app offers countless photo editing features. Entries are categorized with the use of hashtags.

Instagram also lends itself particularly well to reaching target groups through good content and well-thought out strategies. But there are also other ways to gain more attention for your companies outside of your own Instagram account. Over the past few years, product placement has again proven itself as a serious means of advertising, with businesses using influencers to market their products. Instagram has also recently introduced the option of placing ads in users’ news feeds.

Fact

When Facebook bought Instagram in 2012, there were just 40 million Instagram users, today that number has increased to 400 million!

Instagram stories

First launched in August 2016, this feature allows users to share pictures and short videos (which can additionally be labeled and drawn upon) that weave together a story when viewed in temporal sequence. What makes this function so special is that these pictorial narratives are automatically deleted after 24 hours. This latter aspect makes Instagram Stories remarkably similar to Snapchat’s ‘My Story Function’, a similarity that Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, was ready to recognize. The degree to which this aspect can be used for marketing purposes, however, remains to be seen. One possibility may be to generate attention for products and services and expanding a brand’s reach through creative, target-group focused stories.

Pinterest

According to estimates, there are roughly 100 million Pinterest users, with 81% of users identifying as female. Many use the platform as a source of inspiration for topics concerning fashion, lifestyle, and travel. At its essence, Pinterest is a kind of virtual bulletin board and doesn’t entirely adhere to the set-up of conventional social networks. Although traditional aspects of social media, like interaction and communication, don’t play such a large role on this site, the network is a great tool for increasing customer loyalty and strengthening your brand. The concept here is simple: users collect pictures and posts or those of others and share them on their pin boards. Pin boards can be structured according to different themes. Other users can also be followed; as a follower you will then receive their latest “Pins” in your feed. As a further advertising option “promoted pins”, are included into the natural, or organic content of users.

Snapchat

Among the social networks mentioned here, Snapchat occupies somewhat of a special role. This platform isn’t so much a traditional social media platform as it is an image messaging app. The mobile app, which is available for both Android as well as iOS, is used to send photos and videos that have been created and edited (often with drawings and animation) on smartphones or tablets. The trick here is that the sent images and recordings automatically delete themselves 10 seconds after they’re viewed. It should be noted, though, that there are ways to recover and save these images. This app is particularly popular among teenagers, a fact that can partly be attributed to host of playful features the program offers.

Snapchat has gone through some major developments over the last few years. It’s ‘My Story’ function enables users to publish pictures that have been loaded in sequential order so that they tell a story. These can then be accessed over a 24 hour-period after which they are then automatically deleted. Additionally, conventional text messages as well as video calls are also possible.

Marketing with Snapchat: still uncharted territory

Snapchat is quickly growing in popularity among marketing departments throughout the industry. But social media marketing on Snapchat is still relatively new terrain for many companies and is still being experimented with. Some companies even run their own accounts, providing relevant content for their target groups. They also often work together with influencers in order to further make potential customers more aware of their offerings. It’s more difficult for traditional advertising clips to gain traction with this app, as only there is only little user data available, making specifically targeted advertisements a challenge. What’s more, clips need to be presented in Snapchat’s vertical format, which can’t be used for almost any other format.

Flickr

The online community for images is among the oldest of its kind. Images taken by both amateurs and professionals alike can be found on the platform. In addition to images, the platform also allows videos whose length does not exceed three minutes to be uploaded to the site; there, users can also add other information and buzzwords to their recordings. In addition to enabling files to be archived, Flickr also makes it possible for users to view and comment these images, facilitating an exchange of sorts among these. The platform also commonly used by some companies to archive and distribute press photos. As of March 2016, though, automatic upload of larger amounts of data is no longer gratis and now requires users to be registered ‘pro’ members in order to take advantage of this function. Many experts see this as a chance for platforms like Google Fotos (the successor of the web application, Picasa), which allows many image files to be uploaded free of charge.

Tapping into emotion to increase customer loyalty

Clever use of Pinterest and Instagram can be an excellent way for businesses looking to gain more attention from potential customers. Pictures and videos offer clear advantages over texts in that their messages are conveyed much more directly. Visual media is also an effective means for tapping into emotions and can prove especially useful for image building. By “giving a face” to your business through photos and videos, visual marketing is able to substantially contribute to branding efforts.

  • Effectively using Pinterest and Instagram requires communication to be particularly image-heavy. Popularity on Facebook doesn’t guarantee similar success on other social networks. And it is precisely this sort of half-hearted approach to social media that prevent many companies from reaching their full potential. Only by truly investing time and energy in such platforms will your business begin to reap the benefits of a solid visual marketing scheme.

Carving out a niche: blogging networks

The origins of platforms like Twitter and Tumblr can be traced back to the blogging scenes. Today, however, they’re often used outside of the blogosphere. Twitter in particular has many accounts that have been set up by companies, organizations, media outlets, celebrities, politicians, etc. Users of both networks share different types of content (news, links, images, videos). Those who chose to follow a particular timeline are then presented with news regarding this profile in their time line, just as is the case with Facebook. Users who aren’t registered with the account also are able to view all the content that’s posted.

Twitter

According to estimates, there are some 680 million Twitter users. Of these, approximately 305 million are active users. Twitter has established itself as a reliable marketing channel in the United States, with most major companies presiding over at least one account. One of the biggest challenges in getting your message across on this platform has to do with Twitter’s design. Tweets are only allotted a maximum of 140 characters. In terms of how these messages are spread, Tweets are posted chronologically on users’ profiles and appear within followers’ news-feeds.

The need for a quick response

With the help of the ‘@’ symbol, users are directly addressed, and by incorporating a hashtag (#) individual posts can be assigned to specific topics. Tweets coupled with photos, videos, or links are particularly effective in grabbing your followers’ interest. Ideally, with enough exposure, Tweets geared at target groups will provide your account with more followers. Another possibility for boosting your business’ profile comes in the form of Twitter Advertising, which provides sponsored profiles and tweets. Operating in real time, Twitter demands quick reactions to current events and a high posting frequency from its users.

High Potential for courting controversy

Although Twitter has proven time and again to be a powerful resource for increasing the reach of your brand or company, those overseeing social media accounts need to be well aware of one potentially dangerous pitfall: hashtag-hijacking. One form of hashtag-hijacking occurs when a Twitter user exploits, knowingly or not, trending topics for their own private gain. Such stints almost always backfire and social media teams often find themselves reeling against a very unforgiving onslaught of outraged users.

Another version of this phenomenon comes about in a very different way. Some companies have seen their Twitter accounts overrun due to a mistake being made in good conscious. By inviting followers, or the broader Twittersphere, to comment via a promotional hashtag on your brand or product with the hopes of gaining popularity, you are putting yourself at the mercy of the general public. The results of this aren’t always pretty and may require extensive damage control measures to be taken.

  • With its high post rate and real time posting, Twitter can be a helpful medium for interacting with potential clients and customers. Further advantages include the ability to share links, pictures, and videos. Drawbacks are the 140 maximum character length and the potential for mass backlash against promotional campaigns.

Tumblr

Unlike Twitter, Tumblr is a more traditional blogging platform given that texts here aren’t limited by a minimum number of characters. In addition to posts, images can also be published on users’ blog space. And while it may not have the same clout as other, more prominent social media networks, with some 230 million users worldwide, most of which are teens are young adults, the platform is nonetheless still full of potential for marketers. Tumblr is also a popular social media platform for companies in North America, and, due to the nature of its demographics, is especially well suited for more international audiences as well as campaigns aimed at younger audiences.

According to Tumblr founder and CEO, David Karp, the publishing platform was never intended to be a social network; however, this is exactly the route that the platform has taken over the past few years. Following this, Tumblr listened to its users’ wishes and introduced an instant messaging function, which enabled registered members to communicate with one another. As a user, one of the site’s main focuses is to share the entries of other Tumblr bloggers.

Another aspect Tumblr has in common with more conventional social media platforms is the fact that content and topics can also be labeled with hashtags, making these relevant posts easier to find. This feature makes it easier to spread high-quality content and increase the chances that an entry will go viral. In order to build up a network and publish target-group specific content, it’s first necessary, however, to acquire your own following of sorts. This can be done by posting relevant content, following users similar to the target group that you’re trying to reach as well as by sharing and communicating others’ content. The trick here is to come off as authentic and genuine as you can. This allows you to more quickly gain the trust and attention of other users.

While not as prolific as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr enable companies to reach younger, more media savvy audiences.

Professional networks

Most experts agree that, at least as social media is concerned, that it’s best to maintain a healthy barrier between your work life and private life. For this reasons, many companies advise their employees to avoid communicating with business contacts via networks like Facebook. Professional networks like LinkedIn, however, have created themselves a niche market by catering explicitly to a more professional environment. This platform model facilitates an exchange between business partners, employees as well as applicants and companies to occur. They aim to offer all of the advantages that sites like Facebook have in terms of communication but in a more professional setting.

The file hosting service, SlideShare, which is owned by LinkedIn, contains presentations, documents, and videos on topics from a wide spectrum of occupations and professional disciplines. Users are able to upload content themselves or simply access other files that have already been uploaded.
The primary focus here is to share information, rather to build up or expand a network.

LinkedIn

Many experts advise against openly sharing too much information on social media platforms. Companies have been known to use sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. to screen applicants before deciding to invite them in for an interview. While shying away from social media may do wonders for your work-life balance, for some professionals, not having an easily accessible social media presence can be a major drawback. This is where professional networks like LinkedIn come into play: here, there is little need for users to share personal information, and they can instead focus exclusively on business-related matters.

As the go-to networking site for users around the world, LinkedIn hosts a respectable 332 million total users. This social network is structured into three pillars: the network area, which involves building up and expanding your own personal network, the knowledge section, which encompasses internal messages as well as the transfer of knowledge among users, and, finally, the opportunity portion on the website, which deals with continuing education possibilities and refocusing career paths.

SlideShare

What Instagram or Flickr offer for images, SlideShare offers for presentations: SlideShare allows you to publish and archive company or job-related content online, which unregistered users are also able to access. In addition to presentations, documents, infographics, webinars, and videos can also be uploaded. And when these are also labeled with the right keywords, then they can also be found in the Google search results. Those who publish information about their company, industry, product, or service also have the opportunity to receive feedback from users in the form of evaluations and comments, which can then be shared in your social networks. Renowned organizations and businesses like the White House, NASA, IBM, and Hewlett Packard all use the platform for their content. LinkedIn recognized the potential of this service and ended up acquiring it in 2012.

Networking and maintaining an image

LinkedIn is first and foremost about making new contacts and staying in touch with former colleagues and associates. But it would be a mistake to think that the network is set up exclusively for business-to-business topics. People who are active on a professional network are also potential customers of the companies in their contact lists. LinkedIn also serves as a job portal where both potential employees and employers are able to find out more about one another before further steps of the employment process are taken. Current or former colleagues have the option of rating each other. It’s important to note that on LinkedIn, companies are judged by their merits as employers, rather than the quality of their products or services.

Things look a bit different when it comes to SlideShare. Here, companies can demonstrate their expert knowledge, in addition to other their products, services, or innovations. The content published on this platform should always be professional in terms of its appearance and structure and should further include appropriate keywords so that these presentations can also be found in search engines.

LinkedIn is the best platform for connecting with business contacts. As a part of a broader social media strategy, this professional network enables companies to strengthen their own image, scout talent, and share professional competencies.

Video networks

For quite some time, YouTube was the only video portal that many marketers considered worth investing their time and energy in, and in some respects, choosing to focus exclusively this platform was in many cases perhaps the right decision: it is, after all, by far the most widely used channel of its kind and offers a lot of potential for those who know how to make the most of it. And it’s not just celebrities and businesses that are able to gain hundreds of thousands of subscribers — innovative ideas are awarded on this channel, allowing some YouTubers to turn their hobby into a career. As the home of so many influencers, it’s no wonder that it’s so popular among marketers.

Aside from the market leader, there are also additional video networks that may be of relevance for social media marketing-related purposes. In addition to niche platforms like Twitch (content on video games) and Vine (maximum six-minute long clips that are shared via apps), Vimeo is the name that stands out the most here.

YouTube

YouTube is another social media marketing outlet that offers great potential for spreading your outreach. The site can be reached directly through Google search results, making it particularly appealing. A total of 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube every month. This means standing out among the competition can be a fierce undertaking. And as is ever the case when it comes to content marketing: the quality has got to be right. Otherwise, you’ll be sure to be confronted with an onslaught of negative comments and ratings by unimpressed YouTube visitors. In addition to creating customized channels, YouTube also offers marketers the opportunity to promote their products or clients through target-group appropriate influencer marketing.

Vimeo

Vimeo is especially interesting for those looking to promote more technically advanced videos that put a greater emphasis on looks. Not only does the website appeal to more refined and professional audiences with its looks, its content also reflects this aesthetic: wobbly smartphone videos can’t be found on this platform. What users will encounter are professional, high-quality film productions, many of which that are of a more artistic and creative nature.

Vimeo is set up in a similar way to YouTube — anyone can watch the videos, but only community members are allowed to evaluate and comment on these. But the two portals differ in the way they deal with the topic of membership: those wishing to upload more than 500 MB of video material per week have to switch to a fee-based scheme. Companies wishing to post videos containing advertisements or content commercial nature are forced to sign up for a paid membership option. Independent production companies, charitable organizations, and artists are all exempted from this rule. A paid account may be worth it for companies; this is especially the the case for those wishing to engage with a more artistic or creative target audience.

Tough competition

There’s no single recipe for success when it comes to setting up and operating a YouTube channel. An expensive, professional production can easily lose out to a short, amateur clip of a pet doing something funny. But the rewards for striking viral video gold can be well worth the efforts. The list of world-wide viral hits is long and YouTube is often the place of origin for many of these. Companies can profit from the emotional appeal of many videos, and YouTube’s visual nature lends itself particularly well to creating such connections. A further bonus is that new products or services can be quickly and easily explained and described to viewers.

In addition to its enormous audience, one of YouTube’s biggest advantages is that one needn’t be an experienced film maker in order to experience success. In stark contrast to this model, there’s Vimeo, which rather lends itself to posting more advanced and professional content. On both channels, companies are able to profit from the emotional character of many of their videos. In general, it’s much easier to create an emotional attachment with videos than it is with other media forms. Videos are also a great way to explain to customers how now products and services work.

YouTube and Vimeo should always be seen as channels that complement your other marketing efforts. When utilized in tandem with other portals, these outlets can provide significant support in maintaining the image or brand of your company.

Target groups rather than channels

In today’s advertising environment, opting out of campaigns on social media platforms simply isn’t an option. When executed thoughtfully, businesses have the potential of starting a viral phenomenon that can translate into enormous gains in viewership, web traffic, and ultimately profit. But maintaining this wave of success is only half the battle. An expansive reach is of little use when target groups are ignored. By cleverly adding social media platforms to your marketing mix, businesses and companies are able to gather input directly from their customers, without having to perform extensive, large-scale surveys.

Define Your Customers Journey

The output of the customer journey mapping process is the map itself – a practical and visual document that should be able to communicate a number of things.

These include:

  • The steps the customer takes, their expectations, concerns and state of mind and the outcome they are seeking at each stage.
  • What success looks like from their perspective and from the organizations.
  • What the organization can influence and how their policies and processes affect customer experience, engagement and value.
  • Moments of truth – the points in a journey that define the overall experience; positive and negative:
    o  The moments that present an opportunity to delight the customer.
    o  The things the customer expects and does not notice unless they are absent.  These are the hygiene factors, or the opportunities to dismay.
  • What the organization needs to do to deliver the desired outcomes.

A good journey map should be something the organization could share, without embarrassment, with a customer. It should be possible to hand it to those responsible for delivery of the journey and have them recognize the steps and be immediately clear what is expected of them and why.

However, there is no standard blueprint for a customer journey map. If you want to build one utilizing high-quality design principles, that’s fine. If you’d prefer to use smiley faces, that too is fine. It can be a work of art or something fairly rudimentary.

But beyond the cosmetics of the map, there are various ingredients that good quality maps will possess.

The elements of a customer journey map

Customer journey maps (as used by front-office employees) in their simplest form should contain the following elements:

  1. Context or stakeholder map. We list all stakeholders and we order the hierarchy in circles of influences around the center, where you are. When working with customers you’ll have the customer in the center. Describe all relationships on the map by answering the question: what do we do for them; what do they do for us? This map shows you the landscape or force field you are dealing with. And you can discuss how this influences the quality of your work and how a customer benefits or suffers from it.
  2. Persona. We need a rich customer profile or persona. Describe his/her personal and business situation now (present situation) and in the future (ambitions).
  3. Outcomes. A description of his/ her desired outcome – what is he/she trying to achieve?
  4. Customer journey. We list all actions (as far as possible) the customer has to take to reach the outcome (placed in a horizontal line). Don’t start listing actions when the customer uses your service the first time. Start before the moment he/she decided to use your product or service. This way we visualize behavioral patterns.
  5. Touch-points. Underneath every action we list all channels and touch-points services the customer encounter. Not just yours! This way you’ll discover the landscape you are in form the customer’s perception.
  6. Moments of truth. Then we identify the moments the customer encounters your touch-points and channels. We start focus on those (you can move them down a bit). Identify the most important ‘moments of truth’.
  7. Service delivery. Underneath every touch point, we write down who delivers the service. Who is directly responsible for it (e.g. front office personal)?
  8. Emotional journey. Then give every vertical line a grade for the experience (Actions -> touch point -> who delivers the service -> grade). Don’t grade the functionality, grade the work. For the emotion, how do you think the customer felt at that moment? Use a scale from 0 to 10. The higher the number, the better the experience. This can be visualized (e.g. by a line going up and down), and is very effective as a conversation starter. It can often be a real eye-opener.
  9. Blueprint. Now, to make a long story a bit shorter, we can go on listing the organization underneath, writing down who supports the people delivering the service (back-office), and in turn who influences the back office (we link back to the stakeholders map), until we have a complete organizational blueprint, a complete picture of the working of an organization and emotional journey, from the outside in.
  10. Improve and innovate. Use creative, brainstorming and any other ideation techniques for the service opportunities you identified (low grades) and/or design complete new and ideal journeys or services. This usually is the moment people have the most fun. I have been surprised many times by the talent and eagerness of people to engage in this creative process. People are usual a lot more creative than you think. We just need to put them in the right situation and mood.

With the ingredients of a basic map in mind, how can organizations take a systematic approach to building a map? Here is a rundown of the tasks you need to undertake as part of a typical map building process.

Define your objectives

Identify what it is that you want to accomplish – for instance, do you want to fix current problems or build a new experience? Be clear on what you want to accomplish. Customer journey maps are excellent at showing the gaps between customer expectations and perceptions of the actual experience at key steps along the journey. They also help identify improvement opportunities and communicate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ with employees across channels, silos and functions. In journey mapping, as in so many things, beginning with the end in mind will define the path for getting there. So know what you want and keep your strategic goals in the forefront to guide you in your employment of journey maps.

Clarify ownership

From the start, you need to know who will own what part of the outcome. Ownership should not be arranged afterwards. Each department must assign empowered managers to own the required changes and outcomes.

Engage your executives

Make sure that relevant executives are bought into the objectives and are engaged in the process. If the end goal is improving your customer experience, obtain commitment and a budget to do so. If management refuses to commit, you know your customer journey mapping is nothing more than a fishing expedition.

Define the scope of the project

Identify the specific processes and target what customers are to be examined as part of the journey mapping procedure. A CJM should be undertaken for every important customer segment. It may be that some of your customer segments follow the same journey, in which case you can combine them but you don’t want to have CJMs that are an amalgamation of multiple segments. You’ll end up with a bunch of generalities and less useful insights. It’s okay to have the output show one journey with different variations after you’ve examined each segment individually.

The power of a journey map is its ability to effectively illustrate the journey of a customer as they works toward achieving their goals. To do this, you need to look through the eyes of a single customer, most effectively represented by a research-based customer persona that represents a broader segment’s unique wants, needs, and objectives. Without this context, the map cannot effectively represent the relationship.

Conduct internal research

Revisit customer insights and speak with internal stakeholders the length and breadth of the business to gauge their opinions about the existing processes. Build an internal view of the relationship. Bring together a cross-functional, customer-facing group to map out their view of the journey, including touch-points, opportunities, transitions, and issues. Internally driven maps are a great step to mapping the relationship and for identifying key interactions, inputs, and outputs.

Draft your customer journey map

This draft should be a high level outline of the key stages and interactions in the customer’s journey. This can be either for an entire life-cycle of a customer (such as the multi-year journey of car ownership), or for a specific stage (a family vacation in the car).

Conduct customer research

Speak with different segments in your customer base to ensure that your CJM is accurate, does not miss out any steps and reflects the perceptions of your consumers. Without this contribution, you could make decisions based on incomplete or flawed information. Listen to their feedback to understand how they view the overall journey, validate the stages you have proposed, and find out further information about specific interactions and steps within those stages.

The best journey maps are always created based on ethnographic research, contextual interviews, and increasingly analysis of social data. With the advent of social media, a data-set now exists upon which to conduct virtual ethnography; a process is much more accessible and cost-effective than ever before. As a side note: virtual or digital ethnographies are an amazing way to  map the customer journey, uncover moments of opportunity to engage and the key drivers of engagement for content creation.

Identify those interactions and steps that should be prioritized and opportunities for improvement. Not every ‘broken’ touch-point is critical to customers. In fact, some are not important at all and customers are still satisfied without those interactions being great. Every organization has limited resources, so make sure to prioritize the proposed improvements to your customer experience so that the actions you take have impactful results.

Build the final customer journey map

Update the map to incorporate the insights that you have gathered from your customer research. This should pull together all the steps that customers go through, their emotional states throughout, identifying places that are key moments of truth where customers have a strong emotional response (either positive or negative) to what you’re doing, and highlighting opportunities to really improve.

When it comes to what it should look like, there are a lot of examples of the physical maps, but that’s not what’s important about the process. You are doing CJMs to uncover specific insights that you will use for fixing problems, wowing customers in the future, or establishing measurement tracking systems. If you focus too much on copying someone else’s CJM, then you will often miss the nuances that are key for your customers and your company. And, more importantly, you lose the institutional learning’s that come from going through the process.

A journey map is a widely shared artifact. There are dozens of ways to approach it depending on your goals, your brand, the depth of data displayed, and the breadth of the journey mapped. It should look and feel important to your organization. Use ‘your’ language and ensure it is easy for the people who need to use it to understand.

How To Use Data For Your Content

I like to think that just about every marketer out there has taken a similar approach to content marketing.

You know, the “this all looks good, do it all, see what sticks.”

I’m guilty of it—we all are, which is not necessarily a bad thing. In some aspects, experimentation is a necessary part of marketing to your audience because the text-book stuff, or what the incumbent brands are doing, might not work for you.

That also means I’ve created a lot of content that failed miserably. I recall one piece I wrote drawing comparisons between brussel sprouts and content marketing. I thought it would do amazing.

Unfortunately, it bombed and saw virtually no engagement.

We all have under-performing content in our portfolios, but some more than others. While more marketers are using content than ever before, up 2% from last year, there’s still some 65% of marketers that aren’t able to determine what content is and is not effective.

Some of the top challenges for marketers today, especially in the B2B sector, is understanding how to measure the effectiveness of their content campaigns and produce engaging content.

As painful as it might be to look at all the failed content you’ve created, if you were to plot a chart comparing it to better performing content, you would see a pretty long tail of “failure”, where the engagement ramps up to the great stuff you’ve created.

 

There’s a lot you can learn from the content that seems to fizzle, and those that begin to perform better by examining the data around that content. Specifically, that data should be used to refine your content strategy moving forward so you write less about stupid things like Brussels sprouts, and more about topics that will actually drive engagement.

Introducing Social Analytics: An Easy Way To Gather Social Media Data

Data proves the worth of your work.

Gathering that data, however, can be time-consuming.

With Social Analytics it’s easy to:

  • Measure the success of your social messages so you can easily re-share your most engaging content (and improve future messages).
  • PROVE the ROI of the work you do! The proof is in the numbers, and now you can easily prove your value to your boss/clients (and yourself). Never question the results of your hard work!
  • Understand your engagement on social media. Spot trends with your content and social networks without the time-suck—and stress. Understand what your audience likes now to act quickly!
  • Know what’s working (and what’s not). Easily see and compare your performance across all of your social networks in one convenient place.
    See Social Analytics in action:

Companies Use Data In a Lot of Ways

The data you’ll pull from your efforts provides more than topical insights. A lot of the brands succeeding with content marketing rely on their customer and engagement data to refine funnels and customer touch points, and discover the best pathways to rock their audience.

Kohls analyzes its customer engagement metrics and information to create more personalized content design to push consumers toward the checkout, and Arby’s is pulling data online to find out which channels matter most to its audience – that lets them stay in front of the most relevant audience segments.

Other insights to pull from your content performance and customer data include:

  • The best times to post and share content to reach your audience
  • Which topics matter most to them
  • How they feel about specific topics
  • Friction points making them bail before they reach content later in your funnel
  • What content formats they prefer
  • Their preferred engagement level and how long you can hold their attention
  • Costs and return
  • Impact on acquisition and customer retention

Going Beyond Revenue Tracking

Measuring the success of your content strategy goes beyond monitoring a single conversion point, because the majority of your content is not transactional in nature. No single metric can indicate success. Instead, there are a number of metrics you should be using to monitor the performance and healthy of your content strategy and individual campaigns.

1. Page or Post Views

Generally speaking, page views shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reviewing analytics due to the fact that it’s a vanity metric. That means, by itself page views don’t really provide any kind of actionable insight for change or improvement. As a site-wide metric it’s nearly useless.

However, for your individual posts and landing pages, views are something you can use to measure success. Putting content side by side allows you to establish benchmarks for what to expect with traffic and performance.

When you perform the same kind of promotion across your campaigns, but one or more pieces of content aren’t getting views, you know there’s something to address like a headline, or the call to action that is (or at least should be) driving people to that post or landing page.

2. Unique Hits

It feels kind of pointless to spend time generating 10x content when nobody is turning up to view it. Looking at unique visits both for the content as well as your site is an indication of how well your campaigns are working to reach prospective customers in your audience.

Just remember not to put too much emphasis on the acquisition of unique visitors. While it’s a metric you should be tracking, acquisition should never be your number one priority. The behavior of the visitor, and what they do when they’re on your site, are more critical.

I would rather have 100 unique visits with 10 visitors staying engaged than 1000 unique visits with virtually no conversion.

3. Measuring Content Engagement

This is a metric I often see missed when working with clients to refine their content strategies. Many fail to review the level of engagement in their content, but the deeper your content sits in the funnel, the more important this metric is.

For example, while you want prospective leads to stay for the duration of top-of-funnel content, you absolutely want to ensure engagement stays high with content designed to assist with customer on-boarding later in the funnel – otherwise you’re going to see high rates of customer churn.

This is backed by data from Chartbeat, suggesting that prospective customers who spent at least 3 minutes viewing or reading your content will return twice as often vs those who only read for about a minute.

While your analytics provide some engagement data, this may not be the most accurate in measuring engagement. It doesn’t take into account people who open content then walk away, or how they engage your content. They may leave it open in another tab and get distracted by something else, or aim to read it later. Behaviors like that distort Time on Page metrics.

Instead, there are services like Riveted and other scripts you can use that measure actual engagement, like scrolling and clicking within the content, to provide an accurate engagement score.

Avoid relying on bounce rate as a means of measuring engagement. Just because a bounce rate is high doesn’t mean your content or calls to action are under-performing. It may just mean your audience got the answer they were looking for.

4. Return Visits

Returning Visitors is a key metric to watch, both for individual content posts as well as overall site traffic. For your content, it speaks directly to how helpful that content is. A high count of return visits means your audience is coming back time and again to refer to it. This is what you aim for with evergreen content loaded with tips, advice, and authoritative data.

For your site, it tells you that the content you’ve mapped to the buyer’s journey and your funnel is having a desired impact. HubSpot has a great example of how content can be mapped based on the sales cycle and buyer’s journey:

That top of funnel content has readers coming back for more, strengthening engagement and making them more likely to convert down the road as you build trust.

Regardless of the volume of traffic, a high return count is a good indicator that you’re doing something right.

5. Referral Sources

There are two areas to pay attention to when you’re monitoring your referral sources. When I monitor my campaigns I pay close attention to external referral sources. Not only am I watching for referral traffic that comes from guest blogging, but also to measure the performance of content promotion.

Your referral sources can also show how well-distributed content is doing. This includes places like Slideshare, LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, StumbleUpon and so forth. I want to compare that traffic to other pieces on similar sites to help gauge the impact of the content as well as the effectiveness of whatever call to action I’m using for a particular campaign.

Use this to determine which distribution channels to focus on based on performance.

I also recommend monitoring in-site referrals and visitor flow. Once traffic lands on my site, it’s important to find out how that traffic moves from page to page.

Your landing pages are still part of your content strategy, and monitoring this stage in referral traffic will help identify leaks in your funnel and friction points that are causing visitors to exit.

6. Social Engagement

Not all of your content metrics live in your analytics. Since promotion is a major part of any content marketing strategy, you want to dig into your social insights for measuring the health of your campaigns.

Don’t just focus on the performance of a single piece of content and how your audience engages with it on your own social profiles. Look at current and past content, doing side by side comparisons. This will give you great insight into audience preferences, and how social engagement changes by:

  • The channel it’s promoted on, as well as other channels used by your audience
  • Type of content (article link, note, image, video, audio)
  • Headline approach
  • Content length/duration
  • Tone and approach (promotional, entertaining, educational, user-generated, etc.)

This may be easier to find on some platforms than others. Twitter and Facebook both allow you to look at your past posts at a glance and in detail to dig into performance metrics.

Lastly, be sure to search for your content by title or hashtag (if you used one specific to your campaign.) If you use a URL shortener like Bit.ly, you can also track link clicks and shares that way where your brand may not be tagged within the post.

7. Comments and Sentiment

Sentiment can be a little more of a manual process, but it’s a great way to see how your audience feels about the things you share. For a new startup, customer sentiment can be one of the best metrics for refining products and services, and shaping their strategy.

This is one of the metrics I pay the most attention to when reviewing things like guest post campaigns or off-site content distribution and social promotion. Qualitative metrics like this are a solid way to find out what your audience dislikes, enjoys, and which topics are most likely to spark discussions.

Don’t just focus on post comments, but watch the comments on social media as well. For example, when I publish new guest posts, I closely monitor and respond to comments but also watched reader response across LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter where posts are shared publicly.

8. Measuring Click-Throughs and Goal Conversions

A solid strategy has content mapped to various stages of the buyer’s journey throughout your funnel, and each piece of content serves a specific purpose in the funnel. For that reason, you want to measure how click-throughs and lead attribution changes for campaigns.

Compare your click-through rates on various calls to action in your content to see how that content is helping to advance leads through your funnel. When you find bottlenecks or friction points, where click-throughs are far below your benchmark, you can examine the root cause.

Does the copy match the user intent at this stage? Is the call to action effectively communicating the value in the next step? Is there value missing at this step that made the lead lose interest?

It could be as simple as running some split tests on your calls to action, or swapping out a content or trial offer to something more relevant to your audience at that particular stage.

9. List Growth and Engagement

Don’t make the mistake of focusing on external content and your blog. Your subscriber list should be a big part of your content marketing strategy. Not only is this where the bulk of your lead nurturing takes place, it’s how you’ll stay engaged with your current customers to ensure they keep you front of mind.

Nurtured leads make up to 47% larger purchases, and sending relevant email content can drive up to 18x more revenue than generic broadcast emails. To ensure that you’re getting the right engagement, pay close attention to your open rates as well as your click-through rates.

This is particularly important with any auto-responders you have established. If the rates continue to decline over the course of your series, you need to review your approach.

When this comes up with my clients, I often look to the content itself to ensure there’s a good ratio between value based (80%) and promotional (20%) emails. Then review the actual value being provided – what is the audience getting out of the content?

Lastly, check how audiences are segmented. If you have a solid content campaign but engagement is falling you might want to consider improved list segmentation. This way you can create more targeted content to specific list segments they’re more likely to engage with.

When reviewing your email metrics, don’t get nervous when people unsubscribe-especially if there’s a lot of value in your list. In many cases, those people weren’t a good fit for your list.

10. Measuring Organic Leads

When you’re measuring the volume of leads that come in, break them down by source and pay close attention to organic leads. These are the ones that come from your content being promoted through social and distributed online.

Every lead is valuable, but the most valuable leads are the ones that come to you organically because of the low-cost of acquisition. Measure the close rates for your organic vs paid leads, and note the content that played a part in helping those organic leads close.

That data could provide insight into more top-of-funnel content to improve lead acquisition, as well as content topics that could help improve the close ratio of leads that come through paid channels.

11. Cost of Acquisition

Your paid advertising channels make it easy to determine the cost per lead based on what you’re paying per click or action. For organic, it’s a little less clear. While leads generated through organic content are reported to be over 60% cheaper than those acquired through paid methods, it doesn’t mean they’re free.

This will require some finagling with numbers since you have to calculate the cost of a content campaign relative to the value of your leads while figuring intangible costs.

I generally take into account the time I put into writing content, premium services I use like Quuu and Buffer for promotion, and other premium tools involved in the process of content production (like Buzzsumo for research.)

It’s not necessary get super-micro with overhead, like my hot mocha habit from Tim Horton’s, or the broadband costs, but it’s good to have a ballpark cost for organic leads.

12. Leads per Campaign

As your content marketing ramps up, you’re going to have content promoted and distributed through multiple channels. Pin-pointing where leads came from will help you easily determine which content is generating the highest return.

You might have a blog post with thousands of shares, and another with a few hundred. Knowing which one sent leads, and from which promoted channels, can help shape your strategy going forward.

Campaign tracking with UTM codes lets you trace those leads back to a specific piece of content. It doesn’t take much time to setup URL parameters and it makes it so much easier to determine, at a glance, which organic campaigns are kicking ass for you at any given time.

Buffer has a terrific guide I highly recommend on UTM codes and using them to measure campaign performance.

13. Content Traction and Velocity of Engagement

There’s nothing better than seeing a massive spike in traffic and engagement right after content is published. We’re not always that lucky though. For many growing businesses, you’re far more likely to see a gradual improvement as posts gain traction.

Don’t assume that because there’s minimal engagement that a post is under-performing. One study from HubSpot revealed to their team that on average, it took a few months for their blog posts to gain traction and start seeing consistent growth in traffic.

This is another point where you want to compare your traffic metrics to other similar posts and topics. If the traction doesn’t seem to be there, it might be cause for adjusting headlines, better promotion, or even repurposing the content in some other formats to reach more of your audience.

Now Power Your Content Marketing Strategy With Data

There’s plenty of metrics to draw insight from, but not all of them will be applicable to every piece of content you create. When you’re plotting out a new campaign, establish the key performance indicators and the metrics you’ll use to monitor success based on your goals. Paying attention to your campaigns according to selected metrics will make it far easier to adjust your campaigns on the fly, and optimize their performance going forward.

Webinar Platform Comparisons

One of my goals for 2017 was to incorporate webinars into my online marketing to promote some courses I have in the making. So I decided to research the different webinar software, services, and platforms that are available. In this post, I wanted to share my findings for others who are also in the process of choosing a webinar solution for their business.

Webinar Software Compared

The following are the webinar software, services, and platforms I chose to research.

  • AnyMeeting
  • ClickWebinar
  • Fuze
  • GoToWebinar
  • Join.me
  • MeetingBurner
  • WebEx
  • WebinarsOnAir (runs on Google+ Hangouts)
  • WebinarJam (runs on Google+ Hangouts)

Webinar Software Comparison Chart

Here’s what I found as far as pricing and features for each of the above webinar solutions.

Please note that while some offer specific features, they are only offered at certain pricing plans. Also, some features may be available for specific platforms but are not noted in the chart because the details were hard to find on their website.

Click the image below for a larger view. Pricing is per month unless noted.

Initial Impressions

When it comes to number of attendees versus price, you can’t beat the two services built on Google+ Hangouts – WebinarsOnAir and WebinarJam. For marketers who need a webinar solution for thousands of attendees, but don’t want to pay $280+ per month, then these are the perfect solutions. Especially WebinarJam since it’s $297 per year as opposed to per month.

For those who are a little wary about trusting their webinars to Google+ Hangouts and need a solution that handles up to 1,000 attendees, ClickWebinar is the right choice. It has similar features to GoToWebinar, but is $119 less per month. ClickWebinar also has a nifty chat translation tool that allows you to text chat during the webinar with anyone in any language.

If you want to go with the most recognized webinar solution and price is not an issue, then GoToWebinar is the right choice. I would say that 90% of the webinars I attend are on the GoToWebinar platform. GoToWebinar can be integrated with just about any other tool you use for accounting, CMS, CRM, ecommerce, email, marketing, social, and so forth through  Zapier. For example…

Your Review

If you’ve used one of the above-mentioned platforms, I’d love to hear from you! What are the pros, cons, and frustrations of each? Please note if your experience is an attendee, host, panelist, or presenter – all experiences are welcome!

Google Analytics – How Can You Use It?

Google Analytics 5 took the best features of their analytics program and made it even easier to use with new organization and visualization features. Here are nine awesome things you can do with Google Analytics 5 that will help you get the most out of your analytics information and use it to improve your website’s content, conversions, and user experience.

1. See your most important analytics data first.

If there is one (or more) pieces of data you want to see at a glance every time you login to your analytics, be sure to set it up in the Dashboards area.

You can create multiple dashboards, each of which can contain multiple widgets. To create a new dashboard, simply go under Dashboards in the menu bar of your analytics and then select New Dashboard. Then add your widgets. You can choose from widgets that show you one particular metric, a pie chart comparing metrics, a timeline of one to two metrics, or a table showing a dimension with two specific metrics. Each type of widget can also be filtered.

The best part of the dashboards is you can change the date range and see all of your widgets update with that date range’s data. This is great if you want to see an overview of your stats for traffic, goal completions, and other metrics of your choosing all in one place.

2. Find out which online campaigns bring the most traffic and conversions.

Have you been curious which of your online marketing campaigns (anything from local search to social media marketing) are the most successful in terms of bringing traffic and conversions to your website? Then it’s time to look at your advanced segments.

To create an advanced segment, click on the Advanced Segments dropdown and then the New Custom Segment. If you wanted to track traffic from local search directories, then call your custom segment Local Search Profiles and start entering the sites you have profiles on such as maps.google.com/maps/ for Google Places and yelp.com for your Yelp listing.

Once you have entered all of the domains you want to track, you can preview the segment to ensure it is pulling the right data and then save the segment. To view it, click on the Advanced Segments, check the custom segment you want to view and click apply. Now you can see all of your traffic and goal conversion data that arrives from those sources which will give you a good idea of what is working the best for your website. With the right custom segments, you can find out the ROI of your social media campaign as well as your other online marketing strategies.

3. Determine where your best visitors are located.

Have you considered using advertising via Google, Facebook, StumbleUpon, or other services? If not, it might be a daunting task to determine who you should target during your ad setups. Many of them will ask if you want to focus on a specific country or target your ad worldwide.

Thanks to Google Analytics, you don’t have fret any longer. Simply look under your Visitors menu to see the Location demographics of your visitors.

Here, you can see your worldwide stats, including the average time on site and bounce rate of visitors from particular countries. You can also drill down to particular countries and see these stats as well as your goal conversion rates in particular regions.

Now you will know the specific locations whose visitors bring you the most conversions. Targeting visitors in these locations with your ads will result in even more goal completions for your site.

4. Learn what people are searching for on your site.

Most people know how to find the keywords that bring visitors to their sites from search engines. But how would you like to go beyond that to find out what visitors are searching once they are on your site?

If your website has a search box, go ahead and perform a search to see the URL of the search results. Once you have this for your site, click on the settings wheel icon in the top right corner of your Analytics menu bar and find your Profile Settings. Under Site Search Settings, select the option to Do track Site Search and enter s as the query parameter (or the one that fits your site’s URL structure).

To see the results of this setup, go to the Content menu and the Site Search area. Under Usage, you can see what terms are being searched for, if visitors refined their search, continued browsing your site, or exited which will let you know if they are finding what they want. Under Pages, you can see which pages people are upon when they decide to use the search feature. When you click on each page, you can see what terms they searched for.

Site Search can help you determine if people are finding what they are looking for on your site. It can also give you ideas of which pages of your content need more specific information as well as the new content you can create on your site to further engage your visitors.

5. Visualize what people click on the most.

Curious where people are making the most clicks on your site? In-Page Analytics under the Content menu will pull up your website in the Analytics browser with information on the percentage of clicks that have happened on each internal link on your site.

You can hover over each link to see additional details and click through to more pages on your site to see more details. This can help you visually see what areas of your site are the most popular, and help you identify where people are clicking on your site. So if you have a particular link you want visitors to see, you should be sure to place it in the areas of your website that receive the most clicks.

6. Uncover your top content.

Want to know which pages keep your visitors on your website the longest, or have the lowest bounce rate? You can see this quickly by going under the Content menu and selecting Pages under Site Content.

This section can help you identify which pieces of content keep visitors on your site the longest and lead to them wanting to continue onto more pages on your site. This can help you produce more content that people will like in the future.

7. Identify your worst performing pages.

A few items down in the content menu from your top pages are your top exit pages. This will tell you how many people are arriving and exiting on a particular page.

This is somewhat common for blogs as people are coming to find a particular piece of information and then leave (hopefully) satisfied. But for other websites, it may signify that people are not finding what they are looking for on that page and then leaving. This may mean that you need to evaluate your site’s content to ensure that visitors are finding what they want and getting a call to action so they get where you want them to be before they leave, such as subscribing to a mailing list or purchasing a product.

You may want to consider using KISSinsights on these top exit pages to find out why people are leaving these pages.

8. Determine where people abandon the shopping cart.

Does your website have a multiple step checkout process? If so, you should setup a goal for your website using a Goal Funnel. To do so, click on the settings wheel icon and click on Goals. Create a new goal with the Goal Type of URL Destination. After you enter the basic goal details, including the final URL of the checkout process (usually a thank you for your order page), then check the Use funnel box to enter each of the URLs that correspond to the steps a visitor must take when purchasing an item.

By using this setup, you will then be able to view reports showing you when people abandon their shopping cart during their purchasing process.

If you note a particularly high amount of people who exit on the payment page, you’ll know that you need to do some work in order to make that page more shopping friendly. Or if people exit before confirming their order, you’ll know that there is something missing that is making people not want to click that final button. Fixing these issues can lead to more sales in the long run!

9. Discover if you need a mobile site.

Have you been wondering if you need a mobile version of your website? Find out by looking under the Visitors menu. There you will find a Mobile option where you can see all the way down to a specific device and the percentage of your total visits that are from a mobile device.

The key on this screen is looking at the average time on site and the bounce rate. If your average time on site is lower and the bounce rate is higher than your overall numbers, then you’ll know that you’re losing that much of your mobile traffic.

What Awesome Things Do You Learn from Google Analytics?

Now it’s your turn – what awesome things have you learned about your website from Google Analytics? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments!