How to Master the Art of the Professional DM

The familiar sound of a Twitter notification echoes on my phone. I’ve received a direct message from another user.

“Thanks for the follow! Click this link to learn more about me,” the automated words populate on my screen. This is the written equivalent of a pre-recorded voicemail and they’re asking me to drive traffic back to their site.

Aren’t we past generic messages and overly self-promotional content?

A direct message (DM) is a private message sent to a user on social media. They’re often used for getting in touch with a prospect, contacting a hiring manager, or simply establishing a business connection. They show up in a user’s personal inbox—so shouldn’t they be personable?

At Hootsuite, our human resources and sales teams are constantly reaching out and being contacted over social media. We spoke to the experts—Cassie Loewen, our global employer brand specialist, and Mike DeCastro, an enterprise development representative—who gave us the 411 on sending professional DMs.

4 tips for sending the perfect social media DM

1. Reach people through various touch points

Recruiting expert Cassie Loewen has a theory about connecting with people on social media.

“It’s kind of like dating,” she says Explaining that it’s better to have built a rapport before asking someone on a date so that the interaction is as seamless as possible.

Thankfully, social media is designed for socializing—built on likes, shares, replies, and comments. It’s not strange to engage with the same user multiple times—and on different social media platforms—before reaching out to them directly.

Could you imagine doing that over email? It’s more acceptable to receive five retweets from the same user than it is to receive five emails.

When developing a strategy to get to know someone over social, try using a layering technique. Find the person you want to reach out to on different social networks and interact with them in different ways., You could share one of their LinkedIn articles and then give them a shoutout in one of your tweets.

Mike DeCastro, one of Hootsuite’s sales experts, likes to tweet at potential prospects on Fridays with a simple, “Have a good weekend!” He combines this with liking and commenting on a few of their social media posts. Only then does he follow-up with a request to connect.

The key is to reach that person at different touch points so that when you send a DM, it feels like a natural progression of your relationship.

2. Be strategic with your message

So you’ve commented on someone’s tweets and you’ve shared a couple of their articles on LinkedIn. Now you’re ready for the next step in your relationship—crafting that pivotal direct message. This is your shot at making a good first impression.

Tips for planning your attack:

  • Make it short and sweet. People are busy and don’t have time to read a novel. Keep it simple and don’t overwhelm them with information.
  • Be professional. Avoid spelling mistakes, skip the jargon, and don’t use internet slang. “Wassup? Hey how r u?” doesn’t exactly translate to “I’m a qualified professional.” Especially on a platform like LinkedIn, using too much slang or jargon won’t get your message the respect it deserves.
  • Be clear. State why you’re reaching out and give them incentive to respond. If you’re contacting the hiring manager at your dream company, be clear that you’re hoping to land a position, explain why you’d be a great fit, and suggest a means of connecting offline.
  • Don’t make them do extra work. You already want a reply, so think about what you’re asking on top of that. Do you want the person to comb through your resume and then to match you with available positions at their company? Asking for too much might turn the person off from responding to your DM.
  • Include a CTA. Have a call-to-action that provides actionable next steps. Without a CTA, your DM might go unanswered. What are they supposed to do with the knowledge of your existence? Try, “Let me know if you’re interested.” Or if you want to get specific, “How about a call on Thursday at 3 p.m.?”

3. Know your audience

Loewen and DeCastro are both huge fans of personalized DMs. They demonstrate effort and care.

Getting to know your audience is necessary to separate yourself from the crowd. If you’re reaching out to a sales lead or an HR person, there are probably hundreds of other people doing the same.

How you can personalize your DM:

  • Do your research. Take a least five minutes to scan the contact’s profile and gather information on them. Check out their bio, what kind of content they’re posting, and what might be top-of-mind for them at the moment. Is it their favorite sports team? A book they’ve been reading? Use that intel to add a personal spark to your message.

For example, one look at Loewen’s Twitter profile will let you know exactly what she’s interested in. (Hint: it’s donuts.)

How to Master the Art of the Professional DM | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Cassie Loewen on Twitter.
  • Tailor your message to their communication style. Do they use emoji? Do they share a lot of jokes? Do they refer to themselves as something other than their real name? Incorporate some of those details into your message.

For example, if you’re thinking about contacting Hootsuite’s SEO specialist—Zak Ramdani—you might want to refer to him as The Great SEO Owl instead.

How to Master the Art of the Professional DM | Hootsuite Blog
Image via Zak Ramdani on LinkedIn.
  • Avoid templates and automated messaging. “Once I notice a template, I immediately unfollow them,” DeCastro tells us. People want a well-thought-out message, not something generic. Nobody wants to talk to a robot and nobody wants to be subscribed to a bunch of broadcasted messages.

Sending out a professional DM is a give-and-take process. If you don’t put in the work to get to know them, why should they put in the work of replying?

4. Tailor your message to the platform

Each social media network caters to a specific kind of interaction and a different level of privacy. When connecting with someone you’ve never met before, be mindful of the nuances of the social network you’re using and the expectations for privacy on that platform.

Networking approaches best suited for each platform:

  • Twitter. Best for casual interactions. It’s where you can do some mingling by liking and retweeting a few of their posts.
  • LinkedIn. Best for professional interactions. LinkedIn is meant for business networking, so it’s also where you’ll find the most competition when trying to connect with someone directly.
  • Instagram. Getting personal. People are posting pictures of their personal life, but might also be looking at branded content. Although Loewen prefers to have met someone in person before letting them follow her on Instagram, she also finds it great for sharing what #HootsuiteLife is all about.
  • Facebook. For personal use. People use it to connect with family and friends, so it’s not the best place to reach out to a potential business contact. Keep in mind there’s also a chance that someone might not receive your DM, as Facebook files messages from outside your “Friends” list in in “Other” inbox.
  • Snapchat. The most personal. Cassie says if she’s met someone in person a few times, exchanging Snapchat handles seems appropriate. If you’re trying to connect with a sales prospect or potential candidate, it’s can be a great way to showcase some of the behind-the-scenes of your brand.

Even though social media is a public space, it’s important to remember that everyone has their own personal boundaries. Some good rules of thumb are to avoid digging deep into someone’s social media activity and commenting on their personal lives.

Use Hootsuite to discover new leads, monitor real-time conversations, and manage DMs across all your networks in one place. Try it free.

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13 Facebook Live Tips from Hootsuite’s Social Media Team

Facebook Live introduces an audience to the people behind a brand—an experience that builds real human connections.

To discover other ways Facebook Live can benefit a business, we spoke to Hootsuite’s social media marketing specialist, Amanda Wood, and social media marketing coordinator, Christine Colling.

Emphasizing the importance of authenticity, Wood shares, “Facebook Live is a way for marketing to be less polished, and more raw and authentic. With so much competing noise on social, content can often come across as an advertisement. Facebook Live gives insight into the brand personality and culture.”

Continue reading to find out what Hootsuite’s social media team learned from doing Facebook Live video.

13 tips for Facebook Live success

1. Test your equipment

“You can make your Facebook Live broadcast private at first for testing,” Wood explains. “This lets you see what it will look like and how it will sound.”

Many issues can easily be avoided with a brief run-through and test.

Before every one of Hootsuite’s Facebook Live broadcasts, we test out our tech equipment, check our lighting, ensure all microphones are working properly, and monitor external sound levels. As far as equipment goes, our team recommends using an external microphone (especially for interviews) to ensure optimal audio performance. A tripod is also important to ensure you capture a steady shot.

2. Don’t focus on perfection

A big part of Facebook Live’s appeal is the authentic content. Maker Studios’ chief content officer Erin McPherson declares, “The new authority is authenticity.” This is especially true if you’re targeting millennials, as only six percent of this age group trust traditional online advertising.

Colling says, “Don’t be stressed out if it’s not perfect! The appeal of Facebook Live is its unedited and raw nature, and your audience is much more forgiving here.”

3. Prepare talking points

Appearing authentic is not the same as being unprepared. To avoid any uncomfortable moments in your Facebook Live broadcast, think about what you’re going to say in advance. If you hit a lull in the discussion, you can easily turn to your talking points to spark interesting conversation.

4. Schedule a ‘Go Live’ notification

A “Go Live” notification is a great way of to ensure your audience knows when to tune in. In your video settings, simply toggle the switch from off to on.

Once you’ve done this, your followers can subscribe to your channel and will receive a push notification when your broadcast begins streaming.

5. Promote your broadcast

In addition to scheduling a notification for our audience, we make sure to promote our broadcasts through our other social channels.

We schedule regular Facebook and Twitter posts letting people know when to tune-in. Wood shares, “We also create Snapchat and Instagram Stories with a sneak preview of the content we’ll be covering in our Facebook Live broadcast to spark our audience’s interest, as well as a clear call-to-action inviting viewers 30 minutes before we go live.”

6. Reintroduce what you’re talking about often

If you’ve ever walked into a meeting late, you know how frustrating it is to not know what’s going on. To avoid making your audience feel this way, Wood recommends reintroducing your topic often.

“Give yourself a buffer time at the beginning so that people have time to join the video, and then get others up to speed by repeating the topic and current discussion at least once again,” she advises.

7. Have a dedicated engagement person if possible

A Facebook Live broadcast is a fast-paced event where many things are happening at once. When we run our Facebook Live broadcasts, we have a person dedicated to monitoring and responding to comments.

Colling recommends streamlining this process by having a list of resources and key messaging ready.

“You’re likely to get the same questions or comments more than once, so this is a great way to save time and maintain consistency,” she explains.

8. Boost your content right away

If you have the budget, there’s no better way to promote your Facebook Live event than by giving it a boost. As Wood explains, “Make a bigger impact and reach more people with your Live video by boosting it after you’ve ended the broadcast. You can set your spend and choose the audience you want to target. Using a tool like AdEspresso can help a lot with this!”

It’s important to stay on top of your efforts, and keep an eye on the post to make sure you’re reaching your target audience. Wood recommends checking your boosted post for responses every day and adjusting if needed.

9. Repurpose content for your other channels

When you’re planning your Facebook Live event, consider how you will be able to repurpose the content.

Our social team will shorten the video for regular Facebook and Instagram video, and share any tips to the appropriate social channels as posts.

Colling shares, “It’s also a great idea to think about how you can turn the content of your Facebook Live broadcast into a permanent piece of evergreen content, like a blog post or guide.”

One of the best ways to repurpose your broadcast is to highlight key tips and the most valuable information, and create a piece of content your audience can refer to and use as a trusted resource.

10. Make sure you have visible branding

While you might find it hard to forget your brand, others who are tuning into your Facebook Live broadcast might need a reminder. Ensure you have visible and easily recognizable branding representing your company throughout the entire broadcast.

At Hootsuite, we add a watermark of our logo to the corner of the video and shoot on a set that contains branded merchandise, like Hootsuite t-shirts and Owly plush toys.

11. Keep your intro short

“Our first broadcast had an intro that was almost five minutes long,” Colling shares. “We realize we should have limited the intro to one minute, at the maximum.”

While it’s important to have an intro in order to acquaint your audience with the topic, you don’t want it to be so long that your audience drops off.

12. Track the right metrics

Facebook counts a video view at three3 seconds, but at Hootsuite we focus on viewers who reach the 10 second mark of our Facebook Live stream. This means that the viewer has not only surpassed the autoplay mark, but stayed an extra seven seconds.

In addition to counting the number of viewers who stayed for 10 seconds or more, we measure the average watch time, and the percentage of viewers who watch with sound on and off.

To measure engagement, we look at the number of comments we received as well as shares. As Wood declares, “If you’re getting shares, you’re getting views.”

13. Know how to drive traffic

Facebook Live can bring big attention to your brand and help drive traffic in many ways. Colling explains, “When you publish your video, you can edit the copy to include clear CTAs encouraging your audience to visit your other channels.”

Provide links to resources such as your blog, guides, website, and webinars, and encourage your viewers to check them out.

There’s no one size fits all key to success for Facebook Live, but the above tips can guide you in the right direction. Test and adjust your approach as necessary, and find the best fit for your brand.

 

5 Expert Tips For Presenting Social Media Data Effectively

Hopefully you’ve established the social media metrics that matter the most for your business (and if not, we can help you figure out the ones that do).

Now you’re thinking about how to present the results to someone else—your manager, an executive in the company, or a client. In order to sell the value of social media, you need to know how to present the data clearly in order to make a persuasive case.

We sat down with Hootsuite’s manager of business insights and analytics, Dan Piecuch, to find out his top tips for presenting social media data.

5 tips for visualizing social media data

Know your graphs

Let’s take you back to STATs 101. All graphs aren’t created equal—each one is designed to display data in a certain way and some are better than others.
Here’s what you need to know about graphs and what they’re used for.

  • Scatter plot—To show correlation.

social media data visualization

  • Pie chart—To show proportion. Piecuch recommends that you have no more than five slivers. If you need more, you’d be better off using something other than a pie chart.
  • Line graph—To show trends and patterns. This is sometimes known as a timeseries graph.

social media visualization

  • Bar chart—To show comparisons.
  • Table—To show precise values.

Let’s apply this to social media data. A pie chart can display how an ad campaign budget is being spent. Because budgets add up to 100 percent—a definite value—a pie chart will clearly show what percentage of the money is being spent where.

Keep color in mind

“Get it right in black and white,” is one of Piecuch’s go-to quotes when he hosts Hootsuite’s workshop on data visualization. Piecuch actually starts all of his graphs in black and white, then adds color if necessary.

While it’s tempting, using a ton of color to make a data chart more attractive isn’t recommended. Too many colors in a graph can be distracting and unnecessary for your audience to understand the information being presented to them.

Here are some smart ways to incorporate color into data visualization.

  • Avoid red—Red has a negative connotation to it. For example, even if you’re highlighting something good—like a rise in Instagram engagement—when our minds see red, we initially think that something went wrong.
  • Use color gradients to display a time series—Taking a shade from lightest to darkest can signify past to present. As the color fades, it can illustrate how data from previous years might become less relevant.
  • Highlight—A strong hue can emphasize a particular value that you want your audience to pay attention to, such as a surge or drop in click-throughs.
  • Give each color a value—This is handy for when you want to use color to represent a range. For example, blue for anything over 90 percent and orange for anything below 10 percent.
  • Use color to group relevant data together—For example, you might use blue for Twitter, yellow for Facebook, and pink for Instagram.
  • Use company colors—This will ensure you don’t go overboard with too much color.

Know your audience

Just like when it comes to delivering social media content, knowing your audience is key if you want to effectively engage them. Tailor your presentation to the people you’re presenting to, whether they’re stakeholders, colleagues, or executives.

According to Piecuch, the C-suite often prefers a high-level overview of key performance indicators (KPIs). And it makes sense why—executives are busy. Don’t overload them with information.

This report will differ from one created for a director who would likely be interested in both the high-level KPIs and the specific figures that drove them.

In this case, you want a visual that compares values that are very precise. Piecuch recommends tables for this kind of data, especially when you need to show decimal points. They might not be as aesthetically-pleasing as an infographic—but what they do offer is hard data on metrics such as leads, conversions, and more.

Make it easy to understand

Looking at data isn’t like using an app or navigating a website, but the user-experience is just as important. To deliver data insights effectively, Piecuch insists on taking an audience-centric approach when it comes to data presentations.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering the user-experience.

  • The mind works left to right—This is specific to charts that are meant to compare values. Make sure the values are presented in an ascending or descending order—you don’t want the user to have to go back and forth between values just to compare them.
  • Do the work for your audience—That means taking the time to sort data in sequential order, group values together when it makes sense to, and highlight important points.
  • Don’t be overly focused on aesthetics—Resist the urge to use too many colors. Refrain from using a pie chart when simply writing out numbers will do.
  • Keep it simple—Stay away from clipart, imagery, and logos that will clutter your presentation. Let the data speak for itself.
    Use the right tools

We asked Piecuch as well as Hootsuite production designer Brenda Wisniowski what kind of tools are best for presenting data. Here are some of their favorites:

  • Tableau—Tableau makes it easy to take an enormous amount of information and turn it into a dynamic visual. They’ve catered to industries of all kinds and businesses of different sizes. There’s also a free version available online.
  • Adobe Illustrator—This is great for the designer on your team, as they’re probably using Illustrator in their role already. With that mind, getting the most out of Illustrator’s graph-making feature will come easy. The program offers nine customizable graphs to suit your needs.
  • Hootsuite Analytics—You saw this one coming. When reporting for business, the Hootsuite dashboard takes your social media metrics and turns them into shareable visuals.
  • Boards are good for live data—things like campaign management or social media listening. Reports are customizable documents, which makes them great for KPIs, campaign effectiveness, or competitive intelligence.

Here’s a Hootsuite Analytics report that visualizes our data team’s predictions for the 2017 Oscar.

And if all else fails, we’ll leave you with this handy quote from Hootsuite’s data expert: “Stick with the tools you are comfortable with,” says Piecuch. “But if it’s Excel, stay away from the defaults.”

Before you go ahead and visualize your data—you’re going to need to collect it first. Try Hootsuite Analytics to see real-time results about growth and performance on social. Take everything you’ve learned about presenting data, assemble your insights, and you’re on your way to selling the value of social.

8 Advanced LinkedIn Tactics to Stay Ahead of the Game

Mastering the ins and outs of LinkedIn for business isn’t easy. It means going beyond the basics and picking up on the newest and most useful tricks to better engage your audience, find prospects, and build relationships with other professionals.

Even if you’ve been on LinkedIn for awhile, this guide will offer you some helpful tactics to make the most out of your LinkedIn presence.

8 advanced LinkedIn tactics for your business

1. Have LinkedIn send you leads automatically

This feature is a huge time-saver when it comes to recruitment. Instead of combing through the site for hours on end, LinkedIn will forward potential candidates to you automatically.

To do that you have to first create a lead profile by using LinkedIn’s search function.

How to do it:

  1. Enter your keyword in the search bar at the top of your page
  2. Once you’ve entered your keyword in the search bar, select from the dropdown whether you’d like to search for jobs, people, groups, or other categories that appear based on your keyword
  3. Click Search
  4. On the search results page you will see the following tabs at the top of your page: Top, People, Jobs, Groups, and Schools
  5. Select any of the tabs to view search results in that category
  6. On the right of the search bar, you’ll find search filters under Filter people by: Connections, Locations, Current companies, Past companies, Industries, Profile language, Nonprofit interests, and Schools
  7. Once you’re happy with your selections, click Create search alert and LinkedIn will send you leads based on these preferences.
8 Advanced LinkedIn Tactics to Stay Ahead of the Game | Hootsuite Blog
Image via LinkedIn.

2. Keep your recruitment activity hidden

Stay hidden while you’re checking out potential candidates, doing industry research, or conducting a competitive analysis.

Head to your Privacy Settings, scroll down to Select what others see when you’ve viewed their profile under Profile viewing options.

8 Advanced LinkedIn Tactics to Stay Ahead of the Game | Hootsuite Blog
Image via LinkedIn.

3. Use search operators for hyper-targeted results

Get better targeted results by running a Boolean search—which allows you to limit, widen, or define your search with operators such as AND, OR, NOT, and NEAR.

LinkedIn uses advanced search operators and Boolean logic to make your search as detailed as possible:

  • Quoted searches—For an exact phrase. For example, “senior software developer.”
    NOT searches—To exclude a particular term. For example, “social media coordinator NOT manager.”
  • OR searches—To see results that include one or more terms in a list. For example, “sales OR marketing OR social media.”
  • AND searches—To get results that include two or more terms in a list, you can use the uppercase word AND as a separator. For example, “team lead OR manager OR director.” Keep in mind, you don’t need to use AND. If you search two or more terms, you’ll automatically see results that include all of them.
  • Parenthetical searches—To do a complex search, you can combine terms using parentheses. For example, to find people who have “VP” in their profiles, but you want to exclude “assistant to VP” or SVPs, type VP NOT(assistant OR SVP).

4. Personalize connection requests on mobile

When it comes to reaching out to a prospect, using the default message that comes with a LinkedIn connection request isn’t the best option. Even if it’s someone you met once—it’s nice to remind them when and how, or what made your meeting memorable.

This feature is now available on mobile, so you can send personalized requests on-the-go.

5. Message prospects directly for free

InMail is for messaging LinkedIn users that aren’t in your network, which is helpful for reaching out to potential recruits, new leads, or other connections that might be worth having. However, that helpfulness comes at a price—each LinkedIn InMail message costs $10.

The good news is LinkedIn actually lets you send up to 15 free direct messages to a prospect if you’re both members of the same LinkedIn Group. That means you can send a message to any of the 467 million registered users on LinkedIn once you’ve joined the same group as them.

To do this, find the person you want to connect with. This might be a second or third connection, or somebody outside of your network. Scan their profile for the LinkedIn Groups they’re part of and join one of them. Under the LinkedIn Group title, click on the number of members. This will open up a Members List.

From there you can find a member and use the messaging icon beside their name to send them a greeting.

8 Advanced LinkedIn Tactics to Stay Ahead of the Game | Hootsuite Blog
Image via LinkedIn.

If you want to connect with a prospect without going through a LinkedIn Group or paying the $10 InMail fee, you can sign up for LinkedIn Premium.

6. Build rapport and trust with your target audience by engaging them in LinkedIn Groups

To build trust with your prospects as you develop relationships with them, become part of the community by participating in LinkedIn Group discussions. This is where you engage with other users—that means liking, sharing, and commenting on their content. The key here is to share valuable insights that will help other members in the group.

Only bring your product into the conversation once you’ve built a rapport with the community. A good way to do this is to ask questions that lead to your product.

For example, if we were hoping to talk about the Hootsuite dashboard, we might ask, “What are your biggest pain points when it comes to social media management?” Depending on the responses, we could explain how our product addresses one of those pain points directly.

7. Find new leads using the ‘Who’s Viewed Your Posts’ feature

When you post on LinkedIn Publisher, you can see who’s engaging with your content—whether they liked, commented, or shared your post.

Head to your profile, click on Who’s Viewed Your Profile, and you’ll find yourself at Who’s Viewed Your Posts.

This helps you figure out who’s positively interacting with your updates. Comb through these people and check out their profiles. Do some research. Do they align with your business’ buyer personas? Do they live in the same area as your consumer base? Do they qualify as a prospect?

If you find someone that looks like a potential lead and you’re not already connected, send them a personalized connection request and thank them for acknowledging your post. This post featured in LinkedIn Tips suggests:

[NAME], thanks for sharing my article, [subject or title]. I appreciate your spreading the word on it. Because we have a mutual interest in [subject], I’d like to connect here and explore ways we may be able to work together. I hope you agree.
– [YOUR NAME]

Keep a few templates like the one above handy when it comes to reaching out to these warm prospects.

8. Use your company page as a landing page

If there’s anywhere on LinkedIn that’s acceptable to talk solely about your business, it’s your Company Page.

Publish product updates, new releases, and videos that demo your product. Wrap it up with a clear call-to-action in your LinkedIn summary. This is an opportunity to connect with potential clients and drive traffic back to your website, company blog, or an article that talks more about your brand.

Get ahead of the game and manage your LinkedIn presence with Hootsuite. Use Hootsuite to find and engage prospects, discover your next employee, and measure the impact of your efforts in real-time. Try it today.

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Combine Instagram and Email Marketing to Drive Sales for Your Business

Being an email marketer, you would have, at some point (if you’re honest) envied the reach and followers of a social media marketer.

It’s natural, especially in a time when many marketers believe the myth: “Email is dead.”

But that’s far from the truth. As per a Radicati Group report. There are 2.760 billion email users worldwide, including both businesses and consumers, with numbers still on the rise.

In fact, emails and social media platforms are two sides of the same coin. Both have their individual value, but combining them can spell wonder.

One such social platform that’s caught our attention is Instagram. With over 600 million Instagrammers—more than 300 million of whom use Instagram every single day—it’s one of the most popular social platforms today.

Then why not fuel sales by blending Instagram marketing into your email list?

Instagram for email list growth! Seriously? But how?

As mentioned earlier, Instagram is an extremely attractive and powerful social platform. And with its ever growing popularity, email marketers are cashing in on ways to yield best results through Instagram marketing.

Fascinating right? Let’s take a look at how it functions.

Roughly half of the businesses out there don’t know how to profit through Instagram, though many have tried. But for those who’re still confused as to how, check out the Instagram sales funnel below:

The basic process is to acquire potential leads through Instagram marketing and then nurture those leads towards sales.

Brands today have become highly active on Instagram as it increases their brand visibility, but it can also help in acquiring more leads which results in increased sales.

But how?

3 ways to use Instagram to grow your email list

1. Optimize your Instagram profile for acquiring email sign-ups

The first step to optimizing your Instagram-email marketing flow is to add a bulletproof sign-up form to your Instagram bio in the space allowed for a URL. These forms can help collect quality leads for your brand.

There are numerous email marketing services—such as Constant Contact, AWeber, ConvertKit, GetResponse, MailChimp, Campaign Monitor, and ActiveCampaign—which aid in building custom sign-up forms that you can integrate on various platforms.

Make sure your forms have slots to capture information that can help you learn more about your Instagram leads. An in-depth lead study can help you understand key information like behavior and buying patterns.

You also need to provide incentives to entice potential customers to fill in your form. Make sure your incentives are something your customers would want as well as something you are willing to offer. Things like free downloads, promo codes, discounts, contests, and product samples work well.

2. Nurture your leads with relevant content

Once you capture leads you must understand their preferences. What pages do they follow? What are their interests? What are their online purchasing habits? What are they expecting out of your brand?

Make sure to research each aspect of your new customers early on in the process. Pay attention to things like gender, interests, location, recent purchases, buying history, and patterns before gently pushing them towards a sale.

Though making a sale is going to be your ultimate objective, make sure to give your leads a good experience along the way. A good experience will not only keep present customers happy and engaged, but also attract more potential leads to your brand. Word of mouth is powerful.

3. Build email lists to drive sales

Once the sign-ups increase, you can start sending offers and deals right to your customers’ inboxes. Since they’ve subscribed to your emails via Instagram, they will likely be expecting interesting and interactive content, so, be sure to give them value, keep them engaged, and, most importantly, understand what’s relevant to them.

Make your profit-boosting flow easy and simple. Sending newsletters and offer emails to your subscribers can lead to conversions.

Newsletters are particularly important in this process, especially if your leads have come through Instagram. Most leads you capture will be from your Instagram posts, but often your posts can be missed or get buried under other posts in the feed. Thus, sending a regular newsletter with your offers and recent posts can really spice up your relationship with your leads.

The Hootsuite App Directory offers a number of email marketing apps to help you better manage email campaigns alongside your social media. 

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Challenges and opportunities for inbound marketing in 2017

It’s not easy to create a successful inbound marketing strategy, but it still offers great opportunities once marketers understand its potential. What do we need to know, then, about inbound marketing in 2017?

Content can be a powerful tool for a business when used strategically, and that’s how inbound marketing has become an effective method of capturing leads and increasing traffic.

More marketers are ready to explore its benefits, which is why we’re examining the best ways to use it in 2017. It’s interesting to look into Hubspot’s State of Inbound 2016 to see what other businesses think of inbound marketing and how to take advantage of its potential.

Top marketing priorities

Marketers are leaving 2016 behind, and their top priorities for the year ahead are:

  • converting leads into customers
  • growing traffic to their website
  • increasing revenue from existing customers
  • proving the ROI from their marketing activities

All these priorities have to do with the effectiveness and the profit coming from their marketing efforts. As competition increases, it is becoming more important to find the tactics that will boost a brand’s goals, and inbound marketing has played a key role in this attempt.

Top inbound marketing priorities

According to Hubspot, inbound marketers are much more likely to be satisfied with the tactics their organisations are prioritizing. Ranking their priorities for the past year, the growth of SEO and their organic presence was their main focus, while content creation and distribution were next.

Another interesting priority was marketing automation: there seems to be a growing interest in the best ways of including automation in a marketing strategy.

Moreover, blog content doesn’t seem to be the only concern, as marketers also included interactive and visual content among their main priorities.

All these priorities demonstrate the complexity of inbound marketing and how each organization interprets it differently, depending on their goals and their plans.

Top marketing challenges

Inbound marketing is not just about great opportunities, but also about big challenges, ranging from finding effectiveness to budget and training.

It’s not easy to create a successful inbound marketing strategy, and the main challenge for marketers is to generate traffic and leads from it, while justifying their activities through ROI is also a big concern.

Moreover, as content evolves, so does the need for a bigger budget. This is a challenge that small businesses understand, especially when they’re trying to compete with bigger ones.

Adding new content distribution channels

A good way to overcome the challenges in inbound marketing is to explore new content distribution channels. For this reason, marketers are ready to focus more on Youtube, Facebook videos, Instagram and messaging apps, as these seem to be the biggest trends in content marketing.

Moreover, podcasts are still among their preferences when trying to reach a different audience, while Medium is also an interesting choice in terms of simplistic content consumption.

Their first three choices for 2017 indicate that visual content and video, in particular, is a key choice for the coming months, and as it seems to increase engagement, we can expect more businesses to try it out this year.

Inbound vs Outbound

When it comes to marketers’ primary approach to marketing, Hubspot’s State of Inbound shows that 73% of respondents pick inbound marketing over outbound marketing.

Although both aspects are important, the preference over inbound marketing proves how the rise of content turned it into a powerful weapon for every marketing strategy. Despite the challenges and the budget limitations it may occasionally bring, the consistency in inbound marketing can lead to great long term results.

Inbound marketing in 2017

It’s an interesting time to explore inbound marketing, as content creation and distribution reaches new levels of maturity. This means that more businesses will be able to find the desired ROI when embracing inbound marketing techniques as part of their bigger marketing strategy.

Although marketers are aware of the challenges that come with inbound marketing, they seem to be focused on finding the best ways to make it work along with their goals.

The best way to start exploring the benefits of inbound marketing is to analyse your existing content and explore its potential and how it can affect your marketing and sales goals.

How can you improve it? How can you create more strategic content from now on?

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Organic Reach on Social Media is Declining—Here’s What to Do About It

Organic reach is in decline. Call the authorities. Call the doctor. Call someone, because this is changing the way businesses use social media.

Organic reach for Facebook Pages fell 52 percent in 2016. That’s one of many statistics that speak to how both algorithms and competition—in terms of the amount of content that’s being shared—are drastically changing the way we consume media.

This also means your beloved social media content strategy isn’t reaching as many people as before. What to do? Here are four ways to deal with the decline in organic reach.

4 ways to tackle a decline in organic reach on social media

1. Create unique content for each platform

Be where your audience is. More and more users are consuming media in the same place they’re doing their networking—it makes sense to deliver content to them directly and to not take them away from their favorite online communities.

This is known as a distributed content strategy. Instead of driving visitors back to a blog or landing page, produce content that allows your audience to remain on the platform they’re using. Make sure that each of your social media channels features unique content that differs from one another. This strategy also works in tandem with platforms like Snapchat and Instagram that work to keep users contained in the app.

We use the same kind of content strategy here at Hootsuite.

For example, Hootsuite’s Snapchat channel is meant to showcase behind-the-scenes content. It’s a backstage pass to what it’s like working at Hootsuite.

This is a lot different from our Twitter handle—which is tailored to promoting the Hootsuite blog, thought pieces from our CEO, and articles circling the industry. Twitter is also where we fuel online discussion—it’s where our Twitter chat #HootChat is hosted every Thursday.

Meanwhile, on Facebook we share Instant Articles and broadcast live video.

2. Feature someone else’s content

Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to marketing—it’s not all about you. It’s not all about pushing out your content over and over again, hoping that your audience will become obsessed with everything your brand has to say.

Recognize that social media is about being social. That means sharing other people’s content and not just your own. Take the time to monitor your audience. Find out what engages them, what they want to learn, and what could be helpful to them. Use these insights to start curating content that you know will suit their interests.

By catering to your readers, you position your brand as one they can trust—and one that cares about what they want.

Sharing relevant content also positions your brand as a thought leader who knows what’s happening in the industry and is happy to share that information with its customers.

Serve real value to your readers—it’s not always about them knowing what your company can do for them.

Having curated content also saves you time, is cost-efficient, and keeps things moving when it comes to finding variety. It’s why Hootsuite’s social media team adopted the hashtag, #ChoiceContent. Our social team zones in on what they think audiences would like and we push that content forward. We also publish any content that we as a social media company find useful and engaging.

If we see something of value—we want to share that nugget of wisdom with you too.

We’re also lucky to have content swap relationships with other publishers in the social media business like Forbes and MailChimp. This is a mutual relationship, where both Hootsuite and our partners drive traffic to one another’s social media channels.

It’s a win-win situation that will help align your brand with like-minded organizations in your industry.

3. Know the algorithms

As soon as you log in, your news feed and online behavior is being scanned and noted. Most social media platforms use algorithms, which are designed to deliver the most relevant content to each individual user—giving preference to posts from family and friends, for example.

As a social media marketer, your best bet to make the most out of these formulas is to study them closely and understand how they work.

Here’s a quick low-down of what to expect from some of our favorite social media platforms:

There’s as many as 100,000 factors that influence the Facebook algorithm alone. Most of these factors are based on how users behave and how they interact with content they like. Considering how user behavior is always changing, we recommend keeping up-to-date with how each platform ranks content.

4. Put budget behind your content

Social media ads, sponsored content, and boosted posts—these are the best ways to reach your audience amongst the onslaught of content swirling about in the WWW.

In over 475 online advertising campaigns, Nielsen Brand Effect found that ad recall on Instagram exceeded the norms for online advertising by almost three times. In other words, Instagram ads are memorable; they make a lasting impression on the people that see them.

We took a look at popular paid channels like Facebook Ads (the same tools as Instagram Advertising), LinkedIn Ads, and Twitter Ads. Here’s what we found to be the most valuable reasons to get into social media advertising across all networks:

  • Get higher conversions—You’ve got control over where your ad is displayed, when it goes out, and who it gets delivered to. With these targeting options, getting your content noticed is much easier.
  • Create ads easily—Use ad formats to create ads quickly. Facebook has a variety of ad types to choose from including slideshow ads, video ads, dynamic ads, and more.
    See results—Create custom reports based on the metrics you care about most. See your top-performing ads, where your leads are coming from, and how audiences are engaging with your content.
  • Make it mobile-friendly80 percent of social network users access social media via mobile. You’re not missing out on any of that number by creating social ads that consider both mobile and web display.

At Hootsuite, our social team uses social advertising to boost content that’s already doing well organically. If it’s gaining views, shares, and impressions without paid promotion—imagine how well it’s going to do with the help of a social ad boost.

Looking to add fuel to the burning fire that is your social media marketing content? Put some budget behind it using AdEspresso by Hootsuite or Hootsuite Ads. Both are powerful options that make it easy to create, manage, and optimize campaigns.

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Brand TLDs vs .com (part two): How can brands benefit from a .brand domain?

In part one a few weeks ago, we discussed what brand TLDs (top level domains) are, which brands have applied for them, and why they might be important.

Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at the potential benefits for brands, and explore the challenges brand TLDs could help solve.

Content produced in association with Neustar.

Recap: what brands are doing

Tech powerhouse Google has brought together content from more than 19 existing blogs under one roof at www.blog.google, and this site is now Google’s corporate blog. It has also rolled out www.environment.google, which hosts information about the company’s environmental and sustainability work, as well as its future goals.

Financial services brands have followed suit, with the homepage of UK bank Barclays, for example, now found at www.home.barclays instead of the historically used barclays.com URL. Statistically, more than half of all brand TLDs fall into either financial or technology verticals.

Other recognizable brands including Canon have also made the transition. Perhaps seeking to further separate its global and regional brand propositions, Canon has shifted its global homepage canon.com/global to global.canon.

Brand TLDs are generally popular among large multinational companies – more than 40% of brand TLDs have been applied for by Fortune 500 companies, including BMW, which now displays its vision for the next 100 years at www.next100.bmw. Other companies using TLDs include Dell, Deloitte, Nike, NFL, Chanel, Microsoft, Audi and many more.

.brand: the benefits

When generic TLDs (gTLDs) like .guru, and .ninja were authorised by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Name and Numbers (ICANN), there was much debate over the potential SEO benefits. One notable and much-publicized example was www.coffee.club, which ranked on page one of US SERPs for ‘Coffee Club’ just a week after launching.

However, Google was quick to quash speculation of gTLD favouritism in its rankings. In July 2015, webmaster trends analyst John Mueller published a post to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog entitled ‘Google’s handling of new top level domains’, to clear up misconceptions surrounding gTLDs. He did so in two short sentences: “Our systems treat new gTLDs like other gTLDs (like .com & .org). Keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

In other words, second-guessing Google’s search algorithms has become a fool’s errand. So why have so many major brands got on board? Well, a .brand TLD has several other benefits that make it an attractive prospect.

1. Web usability

Shorter, simpler URLs are more memorable and easier to understand. Removing the .com means the new URL contains more salient information in a smaller space, and front loads the URL with the most important information first.

This makes the link’s destination clearer, requiring the reader to expend less effort to understand it. For example, when navigating to the Microsoft website, a user is likely to already know which brand or product they’re after.

So the most important piece information is the part of the website you’re on. The new URL www.surface.microsoft delivers this information more efficiently and more intuitively than, say, www.microsoft.com/surface.

This may seem trivial, but when it comes to web usability, these tiny differences are crucial. Google itself has weighed in with its number one piece of advice for URL structure: keep it as simple as possible.

Semantically meaningful URLs are just as important as simple ones – both make URLs more user-friendly. Having a short, meaningful URL can improve click-through rates from link sharing. By comparison, complicated, meaningless URLs are off-putting to users as they don’t clearly indicate their destination.

Another benefit of .brand URLs is simply reducing the length of the URL. Greater creativity ‘before the dot’ means less detail is required with multiple slashes and long paths following the Top-Level Domain. Shorter URLs often go hand in hand with higher rankings, although there are other factors at play. Rand Fishkin, head of SEO website Moz, explains URL structure best practice in this Quora answer:

“We’ve done a bunch of analysis on this and shorter URLs are certainly more correlated with higher rankings. In our rank modeling, it appears to be a small input, but things like dynamic strings (the use of the ‘?’ character) appear to be surprisingly negative. My advice would be to worry less about length and more about making them static, using keywords intelligently (but not in a spammy fashion) and ensuring that they’re also usable and sharable.”

2. Brand differentiation

Brands are always looking for ways to stand out from their competitors. Generic TLDs like .info and .cafe achieve this to some extent, but a .brand TLD allows a company to really own its web presence, and helps to create a unique experience for customers using their brand each and every time.

What’s more, the limited availability of .brand TLDs will temporarily help brands differentiate themselves from those that failed to acquire them. With only around 600 brands signed up and a second application round not expected for another few years, owning a .brand TLD has become something of a badge of honour and a potential competitive advantage.

3. Microsites

Finally, .brand TLDs are perfect for creating microsites for individual products, services or events. Compartmentalizing in this way gives brands greater scope to optimize and personalize the experience of users landing on the site.

A speculative example would be the next iPhone launch, which will likely have its own dedicated microsite. This resource allows Apple to tightly control how they roll out their product online, and gives them a unique, information-heavy, and shareable URL – which could be something like www.iphone8.apple. Those taking care of Apple’s intellectual property and domain names will be relieved not having to worry about the availability of domains in the future or keeping product names silent for fear of losing out or expensive buy backs.

4. Safety and security

For large brands, copycat websites are a serious concern. A negative experience on a fake version of a brand’s website can damage the original’s reputation, despite the brand having no hand in creating it.

A .brand URL safeguards that brand’s supply chain by offering a guarantee to customers that they’re on an authentic website. As the brand manages all second-level domains, only the brand itself can use their TLD. This is good news for brands that rely heavily on consumer trust, such as those in the financial services and technology industries. It’s no surprise, then, that more than half of all brand TLDs fall into these verticals – .sony, .google and .dell are just a few examples.

Going forward…

The road is long for .brand TLDs, but there certainly seems to be significant benefits for brands and consumers.

To learn more, join our webinar hosted by ClickZ Intelligence, Neustar and featuring other industry experts from Major League Baseball and VaynerMedia on February 28 at 2pm EST / 11am PT. We’ll cover everything you need to know about branded TLDs, exploring their history, benefits, limitations, implications and everything in between. Click here to register your interest.

 

This content has been produced in association with Neustar. Click here to read our collaborative content guidelines. Views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of ClickZ.

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The word INFLUENCER in bold wooden block capitals against a brown and blue wood background.

How One Travel Brand Uses Social Media to Reach a Global Audience

Social media continues to change the way we buy. As a global brand, how do you adapt to reach your customers?

In this episode of the Hootcast podcast, we chat with Arnaud de Broves, digital marketing manager at leading hotel operator AccorHotels, about their strategy for reaching customers at every stage in the buyer journey.

Hootsuite’s Jaime Stein follows up with tips for brands looking to better connect with customers on social.

Press play to hear the show in its entirety, or if you don’t have a set of earbuds handy, read the transcription of our conversation with AccorHotels below.

In this podcast you’ll learn:

  • Why it’s important to reach customers on social
  • How global brands do social across timezones
  • What the “experience economy” is and why it matters
  • How brands are delivering amazing experiences on social

Q&A with AccorHotels digital marketing manager Arnaud de Broves

How has social media changed the tourism and hospitality industry? Why do you believe it’s important for hotels to adapt to these changes?

Around 77 percent of travelers look for their next travel destination on social media. During their stay—whether they are in a hotel, Airbnb, or hostel—one third of travelers publish pictures on their social networks’ personal accounts. So we know that our customers share their experiences on social media. Therefore, any travel-related company has no choice but to be active on social media, too.

What has AccorHotels been doing to adapt to these changes to be more customer-centric?

We have identified the customer journey of an AccorHotels client with seven steps. These steps are: dream, select, book, prepare, stay, share, and return. Our digital plan aims at being present at each step of this journey.

Today we own around 4,000 Facebook Pages within the AccorHotels group. We came up with a solution to give our local teams and hotels the opportunity to become more efficient when it comes to managing their social accounts.

Our solution is the Social Desk. The Social Desk is the AccorHotels global tool aimed at enhancing our social presence at every stage of the journey and helps our brands and hotels be more efficient.

It has been built around three pillars. The first one is the inspiration platform, which has example content for our local brands to get inspiration. The second pillar is a training platform where teams can learn about social networks and how to manage them. And the third pillar is the management tools that we offer to the hotels. Two of them are Hootsuite Amplify and Hootsuite Enterprise, which are adapted for all hotels to manage their social media presence.

AccorHotels has over 4,000 hotels in 92 countries on five continents. As a global brand how does the Social Desk allow you to give a consistent experience to all your customers in every region?

One of our big aims over the next 12 months is to increase social media maturity across all departments. By bringing everyone to a similar level with training, consistent content, and social management, we can offer a consistent experience across 4,000 hotels globally.

And what is the thinking behind an innovation like the Social Desk?

The main idea behind the Social Desk is to change the way we manage social media among our brands’ teams, which includes strategies, guidelines, and recommendations for the hotels.

Before the Social Desk, our hotels’ online presences were very isolated from one another. That’s when we realized we needed a global tool. The Social Desk provides one tool adapted for multiple teams, which is key for the success of our hotels.

Well, it definitely sounds like the right tool given what you’re trying to accomplish. So, in your experience do you have a success story that you could share with us about the Accor Social Desk?

A big goal of the Social Desk is to have 100 percent of our hotels active on social media. If we take Facebook, for example, in one year we achieved 1,500 active pages when there were only 700 a year ago. We see this increased adoption as the first big indicator of success.

One last question for you. In one of your talks here at Hootsuite I heard you mention the ‘Thank You Score.’ Could you tell our listeners about what that is and what it means to you?

The Thank You Score measures the happiness of our customers on social media. For example, if someone complains on Twitter saying that a hotel bathroom was dirty, our goal is to end the conversation with a message from this customer saying thank you to customer care. It means that we’ve fixed the problem and that the customer who was angry is now happy with the relationship that we have.

I remember you saying people are just as likely to Tweet or post about a problem as call the front desk. So to be able to monitor guest feedback and turn customer complaints into a thank you or positive experience means that a guest is more likely to recommend or re-book with you in the future.

Absolutely. It’s very important that we never forget the last two steps of the consumer journey, which are share and return. We’re much more likely to get positive reviews on Booking.com, TripAdvisor, or Facebook—and of course, return—when the customer is happy.

Exactly. A successful customer journey ends in a bit of a loop. And that is definitely important here in the tourism and hospitality industry, but really this thinking can be applied to any business out there.

Thank you for joining us and sharing your story.

Listen to the Full Episode

Six stats on the importance of trust in influencer marketing

Image by Walter Lim, available via CC BY 2.0

Successful influencer marketing depends on trust. 

Influencers need to establish trust with their audiences in order for their posts to resonate. Brands and agencies conducting campaigns must establish trust with their influencers if they want their campaigns executed effectively.

Consumers are inundated with media competing for their attention, and consumers’ trust for brands is lower than it’s ever been. This makes establishing trust with your audience harder and more important than ever.

Generally, people trust their peers and the recommendations that they provide. So to cope with this battle for trust, savvy marketers are turning to influencer marketing to take advantage of these peer recommendations and build trust with their audiences.

Don’t just take my word for it — look at the statistics.

“Only 22% of brands are trusted.” (Havas Media)

That’s a frightening metric for any marketer. Without establishing trust between your brand and your audience, it’s nearly impossible to market your product or service. So marketers are faced with the difficult question of how to create and maintain trust with their audience.

61% of women said they won’t engage with an influencer’s sponsored content if it doesn’t feel genuine.” (Bloglovin)

Trust and authenticity are critical for engagement in any influencer campaign. Without trust, the content that you’re hoping will build engagement won’t feel genuine and won’t resonate with your desired audience.

Low trust equals low engagement, and a pattern of this can erode an influencer’s audience over time. While this report references women specifically, these principles are applicable across the influencer marketing sphere.

“43% of millennials rank authenticity over content when consuming news.” (Forbes)

According to a survey of 1,300 millennials carried out by Forbes, young people prioritise trusting a company or news site before they will look at any content it produces. As Dan Schawbel of Forbes wrote, “Millennials connect best with people over logos.”

If trust isn’t established, millennials may not even interact with your content. An influencer can get a lot of attention, but the only attention that matters for your brand is authentic, genuine interaction that builds trust between you and the audience.

“60% of YouTube subscribers say they would follow advice on what to buy from their favourite YouTube creator over a traditional celebrity.” (The YouTube Generation Study)

Celebrity spokespeople have long been considered a surefire way to build positive associations for your brand among your target audience. H&R Block wants to establish trust with their audience, so they recruit Jon Hamm to be their spokesman.

But savvy brands are turning to influencers on YouTube and other channels who have built audiences related to a shared set of interests. These placements are more authentic, and drive more brand-relevant recommendations than the generalized appeal of celebrity spots.

83% of consumers trust recommendations from their peers over advertising.” (Nielsen)

Consumers take recommendations from their peers much more favorably than the ‘recommendations’ they see in ads. They trust the opinions of their friends because they know they’re both unbiased and providing recommendations that are personalized to the individual. Influencers fit this bill nicely.

The best influencers turn down deals that don’t have a natural fit in their feed and approach branded deals without bias. Either they already love a product and are happy to endorse it, or they agree to test the product and give an honest review or endorsement.

If you find the right influencers whose personas fit your brand values, targeted to your area of interest, the recommendations they share are more personalized for their audiences.

54% of consumers believe the smaller the community, the bigger the influence.” (Technorati)

Although influencer marketing can help you reach a larger audience, ultimately, that audience doesn’t matter if it’s not the right audience. It is more valuable to show your brand to 30K likely buyers than it is to show it off to 200K totally uninterested viewers.

Finding influencers whose content and style perfectly match your brand, no matter their follower level, is a much smarter strategy than just getting as many eyes as possible. Influencers with smaller followings may have a more relevant, engaged and trusting audience because they haven’t “blown up” yet. Check the comment sections on a Kardashian-branded post and you’ll see what I mean.

To build trust with your audience, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. But you do need to foster trust between your brand and the influencer — trusting them to make content that will capture your brand values while also engaging their followers in the best way.

You can take advantage of existing marketing principles to build a playbook to engage your audience. Make use of peer recommendations from authentic influencers to drive engagement with your brand.

Brian Zuercher is CEO & Founder of SEEN, and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

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