Turning Social Media Traffic into Sales and Sponsorships: 3 Strategy Cheatsheets for Sports & Entertainment Brands

For sports and entertainment brands, social media pays off.

But while the industry has seen a lot of success, there are still many opportunities to expand these results and better translate social media audiences into new sources of revenue.

As Dr. Michael Pfahl, an assistant professor at Ohio University’s Department of Sport Management, notes: “To unlock that opportunity, you need to think bigger than basic engagement or tracking mentions and impressions.”

One thing that we’ve seen work really well is adding social media contests to traditional sponsorship packages, which allows you to collect data about your audience (through contest form fields, etc.) and connect social media to the different business goals of your sponsors.

A few examples of successful ways to introduce social media contests to your audience:

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For a complete cheatsheet on how you can use social media contests to attract and retain sponsors, plus many more market-tested recommendations and tactics for monetizing your social media audiences, download this guide.

Based on our work with global entertainment brands such as Mr Green Online Casino, Blizzard Entertainment, Major League Soccer, the Vancouver Canucks, the Canadian Football League, and other sports and entertainment brands, this guide will show you how to:

  • Attract and retain advertisers with social media contests
  • Develop new strategies to keep up with mobile and social audiences
  • Turn local social media traffic into ticket sales and other revenue streams

Bonus: Social media campaign checklist for every stage in your campaign: planning, deployment, and wrap-up.

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Want more?

Learn how you can leverage the power of social media—from creating appealing digital advertising packages, to monetizing online-only content to drive revenue—in our webinar with social experts from Disney Theatrical Group and Mr Green Online Casino.

Watch Benefit from the Buzz: Social Media Strategies in Sports & Entertainment

6 Reasons Why You Need Brand Ambassadors For Your Business

Brand ambassadors are the not-so-secret weapon of many hot companies. They help the up-and-coming companies stand out among the many others in the field. To put it simply, “brand ambassador” is a term used in the marketing world in reference to a person who represents and promotes your company. A brand ambassador will endorse the products and services of your company as well as embody your corporate identity in appearance, demeanor, values and ethics. Brand ambassadors are most often unpaid volunteers, doing their noble work for the good of the company (and maybe an occasional bonus of branded swag). They may even be employed by a different organization, or work as a freelancer in the same industry, and their ambassador duties are completed solely out of their appreciation for the brand’s products or services.

Credible brand ambassadors provide visibility to your brand, boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales. On social, brand ambassadors market your company through channels like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc., and essentially create buzz for your brand. The brand ambassadors’ strength lies in their ability to strengthen the customer-product/service relationship and influence their own audience. Most commonly brand ambassadors promote, provide customer service, and act as general cheerleaders for your brand. Brand ambassadors also reap the benefits of being associated with different brands. From expanding their professional network to free swag, brand ambassadors may also gain incredible experience in customer service, product development, as well as general marketing strategy.

6 benefits of having brand ambassadors for your business

1. Brand ambassadors humanize your brand

Companies staff sizeable sales departments, because people like interacting and buying from other people more than just a huge faceless brand. In that same vein, brand ambassadors become one of the many faces of your company. They can take on duties of a marketing team member and a sales representative, without receiving a paycheque from your organization. Through social media, brand ambassadors are able to not only able to help your customers but they can help translate and promote the brand promise your company delivers to the consumer. Below is a video that one of our brand ambassadors created to show how you can use Twitter lists in Hootsuite to find brand advocates.

2. Brand ambassadors help increase your social reach

By default, the more people you have reaching out and creating awareness of your brand, the better. Usually brand ambassadors have solid online reputations already and have a strong professional network of people in their industry. When they come on board as your brand ambassador, their influence becomes something that can benefit your brand. For example, if you have 12 brand ambassadors and they each have 10,000 Twitter followers, you increase your reach on Twitter by 12,000.

3. Brand ambassadors help protect your online reputation

Brand ambassadors can help address a bad online review of your company. They come to the rescue when there is negativity surrounding your brand, and they put out fires. If there’s a non-technical issue where they can offer expertise, or share their own experience with the product or service, it can help mitigate the negative effects of a bad review. Brand ambassadors help build a positive image of your brand through positive comments, good product reviews and referring others to your product.

4. Brand ambassadors provide positive word-of-mouth

Positive word-of-mouth is more credible then negative word-of-mouth conversations about brand’s online. According to research from Keller Fay Group, overall, only 8% of brand conversations are truly negative, and 66% of brand conversations are truly positive. Meaning that if you have brand ambassadors out there endorsing your company, they are slowly turning people into potential customers. Below is an example of comment that one of our brand ambassadors left on a LinkedIn post, advocating for our product and increasing positive word of mouth.

brand ambassador comment

5. Ambassadors help increase traffic to your website

Brand ambassadors who own a blog can help you increase traffic to your website by linking to your site. Not only does this link help increase views on your site, but if your brand ambassador’s blog has a high domain authority, that link can help you increase SEO ranking for your company’s domain, as well as your search engine rankings. This is an easy win and effective way to get extra traffic to your website without your marketing team having to extra work.

6. Ambassadors help increase awareness of your brand in regions you’re not present in

People usually listen to their friends’ advice over an advertisement. When marketing departments target different regions that they are not present in, those intended messages don’t always land. That’s where brand ambassadors come in. Last year, we started expanding worldwide, including the Asia Pacific region. Check out this banner for a webinar that one of our ambassadors hosted in India!

hootsuite webinar brand ambassadors

If you have brand ambassadors in different regions, this word-of-mouth marketing is the best and most cost-effective way to get word of mouth advertising out there.

Start finding your brand ambassadors on social media with Hootsuite Pro.

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4 Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Customers Using Social Media

Beyond publishing and advertising, one of social media’s most important business functions is that it enables you to connect with customers on a very personal level. Every client is within your reach and can easily be talked to directly. You can have many of these conversations simultaneously, something you couldn’t do over the phone or even in person. And social media allows you to quickly learn about customers, from what they share and your interactions with them.

All of this can help you build a more personal connection with customers, as long as you understand its value. We look at four important ways to strengthen your relationship with customers using social media:

Meet customers where they are, not where you are

As the saying goes, every customer is different. Thankfully, every social network is different too. There are different networks that work better for publishing, reviews, bookmarking and simple discussion. In fact, there are at least 8 categories of social networks, with some networks (like Facebook) fitting into several, if not all of them. People will use Twitter for customer service, Facebook for content and Pinterest for shopping. Others will use Twitter for shopping, LinkedIn for content and Facebook for customer service.

Image via Markus Spiske via Flickr modified by author
Image via Markus Spiske via Flickr modified by author

If that seems too complicated, you should look at it from the customer’s perspective. The variety of social networks means a variety of options to connect with businesses on their own terms. In brick and mortar businesses, the company determines the setting and environment of your interaction. Online, customers are the ones who decide. They expect more flexibility and you can respond by giving it to them.

Meet your customers where they are, don’t wait for them to come to you:

  • Find the largest concentration of your clients and prospects and double down on that social network.
  • Bring your customer service teams wherever people are asking questions.
  • Offer content on networks where most of your customers are sharing it.

Meeting customers where they are also means allowing them to use the tools they’re comfortable with. More and more, this means creating mobile-friendly experiences. Whether they’re on their laptop or their photo, whether they’re an iOS or an Android user, you and your content should be accessible to them. Though it can feel overwhelming, there are apps like Sparkflow to help you optimize your efforts for any platform. The small emphasis you put on meeting customers expectations on social media will make a big difference in building a real relationship with them.

Make traditional marketing social

No one expects businesses to simply ditch traditional approaches to marketing. Instead, companies should be working to make those approaches more social. From email marketing to events, social media will help you strengthen the connections you create through traditional marketing channels.

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways for businesses to touch base with customers, but it is a very one-way method. Using social media in tandem with email marketing turns that touch point into a real conversation. With the MailChimp app for Hootsuite, you can track the performance of your customer emails to understand what content succeeds with your customers and learn more about them. This knowledge can then quickly be applied to your social media interactions with the same customers.

Hosting events is another traditional marketing approach that is greatly strengthened by social media. Events used to be very rigid, defined by the venue and the number of tickets sold. Social media has changed that.

Look at FreshBooks, a cloud-based accounting solutions provider that used social media for an innovative event marketing campaign focused on a repurposed food truck. FreshBooks wanted to do something special for Small Business Week in Canada—to show that it is a company that cares. The team came up with the #FreshBrew campaign, repurposing a food truck as the “FreshMobile”and delivered hot cups of fair-trade coffee to entrepreneurs and small business owners in downtown Toronto.

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They didn’t use a venue or ask people to sign up. Instead, they tweeted out their route each day via the #FreshBrew hashtag and surprised individual offices with hand-delivered java if they indicated on social channels that they couldn’t make it out to that day’s location. The team monitored the hashtag, company mentions, and tracked who was interacting with their content and messages. This resulted in a very successful campaign, one that taught them a lot about their customers and provided opportunities to meet them face-to-face, creating a real personal bond between clients and company.

Listen more than you talk

Too many businesses see social media as another opportunity for broadcasting. Social media is even more powerful when you spend your time listening. Social networks provide so many opportunities to listen to your customers and gain personal insight that will help your business succeed.

Take geo searches for examples. Geo searches allow you to listen to regional or location based conversations. This helps businesses find out what people really think about them, even if they’re not mentioned directly in the Tweet.

With locations on multiple continents, Five Guys restaurant uses geo search to monitor specific conversations in specific locations, so they don’t miss anything important. By first setting up a good listening strategy, and then breaking it down by location, the Five Guys team has been able to gain deeper understanding into what is working and what’s missing the mark across their global markets, as well as sentiment around individual campaigns or initiatives.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries

When they opened the first Five Guys location in the UK, they used Hootsuite to monitor people’s discussions about the restaurant within a certain mile radius of the city of London. They also reached out to individuals directly and let them know they were opening.

Geosearch helped Five Guys find both positive and negative feedback from customers, and engage with them on a more personal level.

To better connect with your customers, create a social listening strategy. This should involve:

Tell their stories

One of the easiest ways to strengthen your relationship with clients is to tell their stories. Businesses should be striving to make their customers the hero of their brand story, not themselves. Sharing customer stories or user-generated content is one of the most effective ways to achieve that.

You should always be encouraging clients to share their successes with your product or service. Acknowledge their stories and share them with other clients. This kind of recognition shows them you appreciate their business and their contributions to your online community. It also encourages other customers to share their own stories, creating a cycle of community building on social media.

Universitat Politècnica de València

We use this technique at Hootsuite, not only to share the successes of customers but also to provide learning opportunities. Take our success story with the Universitat de Valencia. This Spanish university created a fantastic multi-level social media strategy designed to make it easy for students to reach out with questions, as well as find information to help them on their student journey. Talking with the university about their experience taught us so much about how clients are finding innovative ways to use Hootsuite. Sharing their story provides countless other organizations with insight that will help them succeed in their own social efforts.

Start building stronger client relationships with Hootsuite Pro.

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Backlink Bummers: 5 Clues to Off-Site SEO Trouble

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To fix a client’s floundering SEO campaign, an SEO manager needs to do three checks.

  1. Review what has already been done to see if any mistakes were made along the way.
  2. Run an SEO Index check to make sure Google is indexing the site correctly.
  3. Use Google Webmaster Tools to see if there’s a manual action being reported.

What should be done when all the checks have been completed and the problem still hasn’t been found? Make use of the many tools that are available to check and analyze the backlinks.

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First, Gather the Data

Download the site’s backlinks using Google Webmaster Tools and then pull reports from Ahrefs.com, Majestic.com, and/or Moz.com. Make sure to review at least three reports to have a good cross section of links.

Once the backlinks have been exported, consolidate all the different sites’ files, putting each site’s data into an Excel sheet. Separate the different sites’ data packets on to different tabs, and then consolidate it all on one, new tab. Keeping them divided like this makes it easy to go back and review the raw data.

Before going any further, be sure to de-dupe the data. The data should be as clean as possible so that there are only unique domains/links.

Once the list of backlinks is all set, look for these five clues:

Anchor Text Ratio

The site’s anchor text ratio is crucial. The money terms, i.e., the highly competitive keywords or phrases that the client is trying to rank on, should not outweigh the branded terms. If the site’s brand name or the website’s actual URL is more common, then it’s probably OK, but if the targeted money terms are the majority, there’s some cleaning up to do.

DoFollow Links vs. No NoFollow Links

Next, take a look at how many NoFollow links there are. If 99 percent of them are DoFollow links, then the profile will look unnatural. A high number of DoFollow links shows that the site is spamming the Internet with articles and trying to gain rank with its content, as opposed to contributing in a way that benefits the audience. A healthy backlink profile should be about 80 percent DoFollow links and 20 percent NoFollow links, like comments, social media, and anywhere the site shows engagement.

IP Diversity

Now, take a look at the IP diversity of the backlinks. It’s bad if a lot of the links are from domains on the same IP blocks. That’s a clear sign the site is using a link network, which Google will swiftly punish. The IPs should be diverse, not siloed under one server.

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Neighborhood

If the site is hosted in the same block as spam sites, it’s in a bad neighborhood and should be moved. Shared hosting services are a lot like apartment buildings. A site can end up with a bunch of lower-quality sites living in its server, decreasing its property value and dinging its rankings. Majestic.com has a neighborhood checker that can be used to see if this is the problem. If it is, the client should move out and find a new server hosting solution.

Domain Authority of Linked Sites

The backlinked sites’ domain authorities could also be causing problems. Plug each site through Moz and check. Any site whose domain authority is lower than 20 isn’t that good, and should be disposed of accordingly. A plug-in for Google Sheets is another available resource, though this method does require a bit more work.

Conclusion

If a client’s website isn’t ranking as well as it should be after 90 to 120 days of work, the issue could be the backlinks. Gather them all up and check for these clues. Once the necessary fixes are implemented, the campaign will start heading in the right direction.

5 New Types of Content for the Future of Marketing

Every search marketer knows that a good SEO strategy rests on the strength of its content. In the past that has meant a compelling article, likeable image, or viral video, but in the future there may be other types of content to consider. Savvy brands will keep an eye on the following five emerging content types to determine when it makes sense to integrate these new formats into their existing search campaign.

Livestreaming

Those of us who attended SXSW this year couldn’t avoid the buzz around Meerkat, the livestreaming app that lets your friends see what you see in real time via Twitter.

Of course, the Meerkat team’s high of winning SXSW was quickly dashed by Twitter’s move to limit their app’s access to Twitter’s social graph in favor of a competitor, Periscope, which Twitter recently acquired. And since we live in the world of technology copycats, it’s only a matter of time before Facebook updates its app to introduce livestreaming to its billion-strong member base.

No matter which app or platform ends up dominating livestreaming action, one thing for sure is that billions of livestreams are going to make their way in front of consumers’ eyeballs this year, and marketers should be thinking about how to react to this new content type.

One of the most obvious plays for brands is to encourage consumers to livestream their product experiences. For example, if I managed a clothing brand, I would have my retail stores encourage, and maybe even incentivize, livestreams while consumers shopped for clothing. You know, getting their friends to weigh in on what outfit to buy, that type of thing.

This goes the same for musicians, sporting events, tourist destinations, art galleries, bars, and just about any physical location that sells an experience.

Incentives could be as simple as, “tag us while you livestream, and get 10 percent off your purchase.” Or you could train and equip retail managers to deploy a “surprise and delight” campaign if they catch a customer livestreaming their experience.

I think we’ll also see brands start asking Influencers to use livestreaming to promote their product. It’s a slight twist on a product review, but the new medium will certain attract a level of excitement that could help a run-of-the-mill review go viral.

Augmented Reality

Magic Leap just released a new video show casting its augmented reality capabilities through a video game.

Augmented reality adds an additional dimension to our environment by overlaying virtual elements onto our physical surroundings. A great example is a piece of virtual clothing you can “try on” without having to go to a store.

If you’re a clothing brand, that means your online asset library should now include high- resolution virtual products, not just product images and videos. Of course, those virtual products will need to have some meta data associated with them such as price, colors, sizes, available inventory, materials, washing instructions, sale information, etc., and this is just the beginning. What about friends who own the same outfit, discounts for sharing the outfit with your followers, social contests for who would wear it best, recommend accessories, seasonal color guides, skin tone guides, matching shoes recommendation — the possibilities are endless.

Virtual Reality

Similar to augmented reality, virtual reality (VR) can provide users with a virtual product experience. However, virtual reality goes a step further by removing the user from the physical world, and immersing them in a completely digital world.

Keeping the clothing brand example going, a brand could design a holistic virtual shopping experience where a consumer could meet up with others within the same virtual store for a private shopping trip with real commerce taking place. This is the likely future of e-commerce online.

Of course VR content extends beyond shopping. Think of how many hair tutorials the average shampoo brand uploads to YouTube. All those tutorials can now be 3-D virtual experiences where the consumer stands behind the virtual shoulder of a professional beautician in their LA salon as they style a favorite celebrity. Or the consumer can join a makeup artist on the set of a new movie as they prep a star for their next scene.

If you thought getting a few thumbs up on a video was “engagement,” wait until VR goes mainstream.

Podcasting

What’s old is new again. Podcasting has come back in a big way, in part thanks to the rise of smartphones.

I used to listen to music on my commute or when working outside in my yard. Now I’m just as likely to listen to a few episodes of my favorite podcast. And I’m not alone; according to research put out last year by Edison Research and Triton Digital, 39 million Americans listened to a podcast in the last 30 days. That’s 15 percent of America, and it’s growing by 25 percent a year.

Brands will go where the consumers go, and consumers are flocking back to podcasting. Savvy brands will get a head start on the stampede, and will begin building their audience before the channel becomes saturated with competition.

Nanobots

If injecting tiny robots into a body to control and repair cells sounds like science fiction, that’s because it is. But it also happens to be reality for the U.S. military. According to Entrepreneur, the military has the technology to wirelessly control miniature robots inside the body.

The immediate use case is to repair damaged nerves and cells, but given a few decades of nanobot innovation, it wouldn’t surprise me if nanobots could deliver messages directly to your brain in the form of images, sound and other stimulations.

Could you imagine a world where your nanobots could sync with someone else to wirelessly deliver a message by just thinking? As marketers, the possibilities of that world is almost too endless, and frankly, too scary to delve into. Let’s just say that we’ll have plenty of time to figure out how to create nanobot-delivered content before it’s ever approved for marketers.

What Will You Play?

Do any of these new media content types sound like a good fit for your future marketing campaigns? Leave a comment below, and let me know where you think the future of content marketing is going.

6 Ways to Validate a Product Idea Before You Waste Your Time and Money

Validating a product idea: an all-important step to take to avoid wasting time and money building a product nobody wants. It seems like an obvious thing to do, however many times it’s a step that gets pushed aside.

Why? It could be because:

  1. We think we already know what our audience wants and will pay for.
  2. We’re anxious to actually begin creating something and rush through the research phase.
  3. We don’t know how to validate.
  4. A combination of all of the above.

I’m fascinated by the idea of product validation – spending time upfront to confirm that what it is we’re about to build is actually something people want and are willing to pay for.

If you find out it’s not, then good – you will have avoided wasting time and money and can move on to something else. If you do validate your idea, then you’ve given yourself a much higher chance of succeeding with that product. Your execution of that product, the sales page, the marketing, etc. play an obvious role in the success of that product, but at least you’re not as worried about the product itself being a cause of failure.

In this post, we’re going to explore 6 ways to help you make sure that what you’re thinking of selling will sell.

1. Share Your Idea

The biggest mistake people make when creating a product of any kind is keeping the idea to themselves. You must share your idea with others.

As mentioned by Jon Saddington, uber-successful serial entrepreneur featured in Session #61 of The SPI Podcast:

…Because this is what happens when you start sharing that idea–it starts becoming refined. And a refined idea is a much more mature idea. You’ll quickly get feedback – instant, guttural feedback from people, and especially complete strangers that say “that is a stupid idea” or “that’s a great idea but have you thought about this?”

Of course, a big reason why we don’t do this is because of the possibility of other people taking our idea. Jon goes on to share in our interview:

…Here’s the difference between you and the next person on the street who has a great idea–if you’re committed and you love the idea, you will actually see it to completion. Most people never execute on their ideas because they just never execute. The reason I’m a success as an entrepreneur, and why many other entrepreneurs are a success is simply because we do it. We don’t just talk about it, we do it. But talking about it is where it starts, and because when you start talking about it with other people, you continue to drive the motivation. You continue to build momentum, and you continue to get excited on a much better and much more refined idea.

The more you share your idea, the better that idea becomes. or the more apparent that the idea is not a good one. Share it with friends, family, people in your mastermind group, people in your community and even complete strangers!

I personally made the mistake of holding a couple of product ideas back in 2010 when I dove into the premium WordPress plugin space. I could have saved over $10,000 in development costs if I had simply taken the time to ask people their opinion on my plugin ideas, rather than keep them a secret so that I could unveil it later down the road.

2. Find Products Like it That Already Exist

Most people think competition is bad – especially if someone else has “beat you to it” and built and marketed your product before you.

Entrepreneurs, however, know that competition is a good thing – especially if you find a product like yours before you spend time and money to create it.

Why?

Because someone else has already spent the time and money to validate that idea for you!

Plus, you have an advantage coming in later – not only knowing that there’s a market for that product – but also knowing what can be done better.

If you’re creating a course, for example, search through a course directory like Udemy to see if a course like it already exists. If so, see how popular it is and what people are saying about it already. What do people love about it? What do people want more of or feel is missing? Keep note of those things because your ultimate goal is to create a better version of what’s already out there.

Give people want they want – yes – but give them a better version of what they are already getting. (click to tweet this)

3. Pay Attention to “Signs”

In 2008, when I was just starting to think about monetizing GreenExamAcademy.com, I was lucky enough to have a few people in my audience tell me they wanted a more convenient way to study for the LEED exam, rather than just reading page to page off of a website. A few people even told me they would buy a book if I had one.

You can’t get any more clear than that. (Actually, yes you can – but more on that later in this post).

Other times, however, the signs are not so clear, but they are there.

Last year, when my 5-day per week podcast AskPat was launched, a custom player that was built to help serve the show became a huge attention-grabber for a lot of other podcasters. I received numerous emails from people asking me where I got it from and how it works, and then it finally clicked that this was something other people wanted too. Then, after having private discussions with a number of podcasters, I pulled the trigger to turn it into a distributable premium WordPress plugin, which later became known as The Smart Podcast Player.

Chris Ducker also tells a story in a presentation he’s given in the past about how Virtual Staff Finder was born. In one of his blog posts about using VAs (virtual assistants), someone left a comment saying he wished there was a service that could help find VAs for him. A couple of months later, Chris executed on that idea and VSF is now the top resource on the Internet for finding virtual staff.

It’s all about reading your audience and creating that solution that people may be asking for, although they may not (and are usually not) asking you directly in a completely obvious way.

4. Create a “Mini Version” of Your Product First

One of the cool things I’ve learned about food trucks since starting FoodTruckr.com is that a lot of people who start a food truck are actually aspiring brick and mortar restaurant owners. They use a food truck to validate their restaurant idea, test their menu and build a brand following before paying a lot more money to start an actual restaurant.

You can do the same thing with your product. Instead of going all out with the full creation of a product, you can create a “mini version” of that product and see what the response is like. It may not be 100% fully functional, but you’ll get honest feedback on a version people can sort of use, instead of just the idea of that thing.

This works particularly well with software.

A great example that comes to mind can be heard on Episode #13 of Startup, one of my favorite podcasts. Alex Blumberg, the host, creates a half-working version of an app idea that he had, and he shares it with people and listens to the response as they use it.

The response isn’t pretty, but it’s necessary for him to figure out whether or not to keep going with it.

If you’re creating a course, perhaps you dedicate time to creating the first module – and that’s it. Share it with power users in your audience and ask to record their voices as they walk through it with you. It can be as simple as a Skype chat. If you don’t have an audience, you can pay a few people to go through it and give their first impression.

If you’re writing a book, outline it and write the introduction, and then get feedback from those who read that. Is this a book that looks interesting to you, and why or why not? What would you look forward to reading the most in this book, or what do you feel would be missing based on the table of contents?

5. Sell Before You Build

Most of the above tips go into making sure you’ve got a good potential idea on your hands, which is obviously important to understand up front so you can continue to build it out the right way.

But, if you truly want to know whether or not a product will sell or not, you’ve got to get people to pull out their wallets and actually pay you for it.

Notice how I didn’t really get into surveys or simply creating landing pages to build an interest list. Those can help, but when you ask your audience “would you buy this”, many may say they will, but when it comes time to pay they don’t. Having a list of 1000 people who claimed they will buy could end up leading to disappointment.

Building a list is important, but it’s not a true indication of whether or not a product will sell.

True validation comes from people actually paying you for that idea. And yes, even before they can get it.

We’ve talked about this kind of validation in the past here on SPI. In Session #146 of The SPI Podcast, Jarrod Robinson shared how he was able to earn several thousand dollars from his audience before the actual creation of his product, an app idea he had for his target market of Physical Education coaches.

Recently, Jarrod shared even more details about the results of his $15,000 pre-sale launch on his site here.

John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire has also successfully pre-sold a number of his offerings before creating them. Podcaster’s Paradise, as well as Webinar on Fire were presented to his audience as solutions that he was going to build if there were a certain number of people interested, and he was completely upfront and honest about that to his audience. If he didn’t get to those numbers, then he wouldn’t build those things. Easy enough.

He indeed asked for payments from people upfront (again, before the product was even created) to validate products, giving customers a “champion” or “VIP” price for doing so.

Both of those products were validated, then John and his team worked hard to actually create the courses after that. You can bet that after selling those products and meeting his goals, he was motivated to do the work to put those things together and make them awesome.

These examples come from people who already have built an audience, but what about pre-selling strategies for those who don’t already have an audience?

This is where paid advertising comes into play. You’re going to have to pay a little bit to discover whether or not a targeted audience on a platform like Facebook, for example, would be willing to pay you for that product idea.

In a similar fashion as John’s example, you’ll want to truly understand the ins and outs of what this product will become so you can setup a sales page as you would if it really existed. You could drive traffic directly to that page from Facebook, or you could try something like collecting registrants to a pre-sell webinar, which could convert even higher for you since you’d be building a relationship with those prospects at the same time before your pitch.

Either way, you’ll want to be honest with your customers and tell them the product is not yet created, but like John, you give them something for coming on early and say straight up that you’ll build the product if you have a certain amount of interest.

Tim Ferriss talks about a similar strategy in The 4-Hour Work Week, using Google Adwords to test product ideas and gauge buyer interest.

Does this actually work?

Yes.

This article on Entrepreneur.com shares that Alex Brola, co-founder and president of CheckMaid.com, an on-demand cleaning service, used ads to verify their idea:

“We actually validated [the idea] without having any cleaners to do the cleanings. We threw up a site, a booking form, a phone number, and ran some [pay-per-click] ads through Google and Bing, and saw what the conversion rate would be had we actually had cleaners.”

And actually, there’s a service that can help make this kind of thing happen too. QuickMVP claims that using their service, within 5 minutes you can setup a landing page, send ad traffic to it and quickly validate your idea before you spend any more time and money on it. Pretty cool!

Oh, and by the way, Dropbox, now a billion dollar company (which I use myself every single day now!) used this same technique to get thousands of signups before writing any single piece of code too!

6. CrowdFunding

And finally, a very popular way to validate a product idea, which combines #5 from above with marketplaces where people are looking to pay for exciting stuff that doesn’t exist yet, is crowdfunding.

Sites like Kickstarter are crowdfunding platforms for entrepreneurs testing the waters. At the same time, they are building a rapport with their potential future customers too.

Run a successful campaign, you’ve got a product with paying customers already! If you fail, then you’ve learned that product may not be the best idea after all.

The only caveat with platforms like this is that if you do run a successful campaign and meet your funding goals, you will have to deliver on your pledge awwards, and pledge awards (goodies given to people based on what level pledge they backed your idea at) can be a very exhausting part of the process.

It’s Not Easy…

It’s not as easy as a coin flip to truly validate a product or idea, but it’s a whole lot easier putting in that time and effort up front than wasting a load of time and money down the road when you find out your product didn’t turn out like you had hoped.

There’s no real way to 100% guarantee of the long term success of a product before it’s actually out there in the market, but using these techniques you can definitely increase your chances.

Thanks so much, best of luck, and if you find this post useful, please use the sharing buttons below to spread the word!

Cheers!

Amazon Gives Google a Run for Its Money With Home Services

Amazon has launched a new marketplace for local service providers that will rival search competitors like Google and Yelp.

The new addition, Amazon Home Services, will help users find services ranging from housekeeping to home maintenance. Amazon plans to vet service providers by making Amazon Home an invite-only marketplace and the company plans to check each providers’ background before extending an invitation. Unlike Yelp or Google, Amazon will also offer users a “happiness guarantee” and verify reviews to make sure that they are from real customers. 

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Home Services currently offers 2 million services from 700 service providers, including grazing goats for lawn maintenance. Home Services is currently only available in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and San Francisco, but will likely roll out to other areas soon. 

Social Update: F8 Highlights, News on Facebook and Periscope Continues the Live-Streaming Trend

By Hootsuite Video Team | 6 hours ago | | No Comments

After a brief break, Social Update is back to bring you the latest news in the world of social media and digital marketing. This week, Facebook dominated both traditional and social media channels with announcements from F8, its annual developer conference.

F8 highlights include expanded functionalities of Facebook’s Messenger app, a new real-time comment synchronizing system for Facebook feeds on external websites, and support for spherical video in Timelines and News Feeds. Social Update host Sunny Lenarduzzi explains the new features in greater detail, and discusses a possibility of journalists hosting their content directly on Facebook in the near future.

Remember SXSWi darling, Meerkat? The live-streaming app now has some competition from Periscope, a similar app owned by Twitter. Watch the latest episode to learn about the differences between the two apps.

Stay tuned for more episodes of Social Update—subscribe to Hootsuite’s YouTube channel today.

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3 Things We Learned About Social Media Marketing When Zayn left One Direction

Image via Twitter

By Donné Torr | 2 hours ago | | No Comments

Teenage girls collectively were weeping in anguish last week, when news of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction spread. If you live under a rock or possibly are not a teenager and have other things to read and think about, you might have missed this startling news. Here at Hootsuite, our social feeds were inundated with tales of distraught teens and rumors of who would replace him. Instead of taking compassionate leave, we instead took the opportunity to reflect. Out of the chaos and sadness we came to realize that Zayn’s departure is a great example of a few social media principles, lessons you don’t need to be in a famous boy band to take advantage of.

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1. Get in front of the story

Never let anyone else control your PR moment. Be the one to make the statement and control the statement. This way regardless of what rumors grow, you had the first and last word on the matter.

In a social media context anyone has the power to spread misinformation and lies about you or your brand. By being the first to share news, you inherently become the most reputable source on the matter. As people share your announcement, other, less reliable sources will fade into the background.

2. Build a community where it’s less about you and more about the relationships between community members

One Direction has done an incredible job of building a fan base and community around them. And while, yes they are in the center, they have helped foster relationships between fans. Meaning that when news drops, the fans share between themselves and not just back to the band. If this isn’t the most perfect example of a brand ambassador program, I don’t know what is.

When Zayn left the band, One Directioners shared their crying photos and videos. While this provided a few laughs for many people, it illustrates that they felt a real connection not just with the band but with each other. It’s not like Zayn was looking at their photos. They went online to share an emotional experience with the community.

3. Teenagers are more powerful than you might think

Social media trends are driven by teens, even if we’d like to believe otherwise. On Twitter, which often is said to be targetted towards older generations and which teens supposedly don’t like anymore, they still dicate conversation. You can even look to the success of apps like Snapchat, Whisper and Yik Yak. Without teen buy in, many of those apps wouldn’t be where they are today.

Check in next week for the next edition of 3 Things We Learned from…

5 Trends to Watch in the Mobile-First Search Era

New figures from eMarketer reflect the growing mobile momentum with estimates that mobile advertising spend will be double that of desktop by 2017, and by 2019, mobile will account for 72 percent of total digital ad spend.

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This should come as no surprise as mobile is topping list of where consumers are spending their time. Late last year, comScore reported that 60 percent of time online is spent on mobile, the majority of activity happening within apps.

Shifting audience behavior is dictating a refocusing of search strategy. Early this year, I wrote that 2015 should be considered “the year of the consumer,” and as it stands, the modern consumer demands a mobile-first strategy.

In this forward-thinking mobile world, let’s look ahead to the five key mobile trends to watch.

1. Google’s Emphasis on Mobile Friendliness

Mobile search rankings are about to get a bit friendlier. On April 21, Google will be expanding its ranking signals to account for mobile friendliness. While there’s been no indication of responsive design being valued over mobile-specific sites, it’s clear that for marketers who have neither, the time is nigh to make a move. Weigh the pros and cons of your mobile-friendliness approach – and play nice, as Google says this change will have a “significant impact” on search results.

2. Bing’s Mobile Moves

Starting March 23, Bing ads rolled out an upgrade to Unified Device Targeting. Just like Google’s shift to Enhanced Campaigns, this Bing update will mean campaigns will target all devices by default. If there’s any lesson we learned the first time around it’s to stay active in monitoring and optimizing your bid adjustments accordingly.

Beyond device targeting, Bing has also indicated the forthcoming introduction of mobile app extensions to help marketers drive further discovery and installs in the vast app marketplace.

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3. The App Explosion

Speaking of apps, discovery is only one part of the game. To really benefit, you must have the tools in place to measure and track beyond the install. This is how you’ll be able to grow customer lifetime value in the mobile era.

The sheer number of available apps is creating fragmentation in the market, even when it comes to search activity. Today’s mobile consumer seeks speed and convenience and specialty apps that cater to specific needs (think Yelp) are the thing to watch. Yahoo is also trying to capitalize off in-app activity by offering its own SDK to integrate Yahoo Search within apps.

4. The Native Play

The mobile format, with its infinite scroll, is highly conducive for a seamless integration of in-stream advertising. Not only does native represent a contextually friendly and engaging experience but it also seems to sparkle with inventory possibilities in an otherwise limited mobile search-scape.

As mobile and native merge, look no further than Yahoo Gemini, a one-stop shop for mobile search and native advertising.

5. The Intrinsic Connection of Mobile and Local

We can’t talk about mobile-first without mentioning the implication for local search as well. Recent research from the Local Search Association found that the majority of U.S. adults turn to mobile when searching for locally focused information.

When thinking local-mobile, of course there are the relevant extensions – location and click to call – but it’s more than just that. There are designated call-only campaigns, local inventory on Google Shopping, and opportunities with apps. These capabilities and opportunities are growing and strengthening.

Having a mobile presence can no longer be seen as a competitive advantage for an advertiser but rather serve as a marketing staple. Now more than ever, it pays to be an agile marketer who can embrace the mobile mindset.