11 Ways To Build Consumer Trust With Emerging Media

Consumer behaviors have changed a lot in the past few decades and online shopping is expected to only grow, potentially as high as $370 billion by 2017. As consumers change, so have brands and the relationships between the two.

As technology changes, the ways in which people buy may change, but the fundamental truth that people buy from those they like and trust remains the same. Here are 11 ways to use the tools of emerging media to get to the root of sales — building trust with your consumers.

1. Build relationships.

I love these words by JP LaFors: “Consumers today, people today, are thirsty for brands to provide something more than just a product or service. They want relationships, especially amid our technologically immersed lives, where human interactions seem to be decreasing and digital interactions are increasing.” Emerging media offers many opportunities for brands to make meaningful connections with consumers, when brands remember that there are real people on the other side of the interaction.

2. Share your mission.

Well done mission-driven marketing can create an emotional connection between a brand and a consumer, increase loyalty and build brand equity. According to Dan Kennedy, you can’t be shy about sharing your story. Social media is a great venue for telling this story in a real and meaningful way.

3. Show behind-the-scenes content.

Speaking of social media, let’s not forget that social media is, well, social. Consumers want to see a brand’s personality shine through, and they want to feel like they are getting an exclusive look. Platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, especially, offer unique venues for brands to leverage that opportunity. Don’t be afraid to show consumers why and how your company does what it does.

4. Give them valuable content.

When Outbrain outlined the “five most important content marketing trends for 2016,” Gilad De Vries said that “a true content marketing strategy is focused on adding value to the target consumer by delivering stories that make an impact on an emotional level and inspire and nurture them.” De Vries also explained that strategic marketers find a way to balance “the value exchange”–providing value to the consumer while meeting business goals. Ensure that you give consumers valuable content and they will be more likely to read your blog, engage with your site, opt-in to consumer tracking and refer you to others.

5. Be consistent.

According to Charles Edge, a good content strategy includes a “regular cadence,” so that readers know when to expect content and “that you’re going to be there for them on a regular basis. Consistency isn’t just about a schedule. While your tone may change depending on the digital platform, your brand voice should be consistent no matter where or how your consumer engages with you. Consumers will be more likely to trust you if they feel you are giving them a consistent experience and message.

6. Be responsive.

Emerging media is all about timeliness and many emerging media platforms, such as social media and blogs, are all about dialogue. If you aren’t responsive to your consumers, you will not build their trust. In fact, you may make matters worse by staying silent. According to Convince & Convert, about a third of respondents in a recent survey showed that they expect a response within 30 minutes of contacting a brand through social media for customer support and “42% expect a response within 60 minutes.”

7. Be transparent.

As more companies rely on data mining, consumers are becoming more concerned about their online privacy. Be transparent about the ways in which you may use consumer information and make it easy for consumers to learn more and to opt-out. Additionally, be transparent about policies, contests and anything else that may be a source of confusion or worry to customers. You will gain their trust by addressing their concerns and answering questions directly.

8. Personalize their experience.

As much as consumers are worried about behavior tracking, they also want a personalized experience. Offer customization that feels natural and safe to consumers; for instance, through self-segmentations and consumer opt-in opportunities. A personalized experience makes consumers feel like you know them and value their uniqueness.

9. Be accountable.

Companies, like people, aren’t perfect. And with emerging media, mistakes these days aren’t private. According to Forbes contributor Mark Zwilling, “success in any business is all about accountability.” Even after making a public faux pau, brands can regain trust and build relationships with consumers by being accountable for their words and actions.

10. Share the spotlight.

Building trust means knowing when to include others. Interview other experts on your blog, share content from community partners on your social media posts, highlight employees who have phenomenal stories and encourage feedback from your consumers. Doing so gives brand credibility, increases innovation through collaboration and builds relationships from dialogue.

11. Say thank you.

Acknowledging your customers contributions and recognizing them on social media are just two of the 13 ways Firas Kittaneh says you can show love to your customers. Consumers trust companies who value them and treat them like much more than a sale. Mobile rewards programs, discounts and coupons, and valuable content are just a few other ways emerging media can be leveraged as a thank you.

What would you add to this list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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Drop The Jargon: Why Your Content Should Sound Natural

In my previous post, I discussed the importance of content marketing as it relates to search engine optimization. With this post, I wanted to address how you can write content in a way that will increase your readership and engagement. (Bonus: This will help your SEO, too!)

simplify

Your company’s tone will change depending on the platform and your audience, but using natural, everyday language on blogs, social media and even your website will help your strategy be successful.

Here are four benefits of using natural language:

1. Natural language humanizes your brand.

Businesses are built on relationships and showing customers who you are will help build consumer loyalty. Check out this article by Forbes writer Meghan Biro on 4 ways to humanize your brand. According to Biro, online dialogue is an important part of social media strategy. Dialogue = conversation and conversation = natural language. Whether you’re on social media or your blog, incorporating natural language will spur dialogue, which leads to relationships.

2. Natural language increases your search engine optimization (SEO).

Thanks to voice-based search, search engine queries “will become longer and more conversational,” says Kathrina Tiangco. Modeling the language that everyday people use to search your product or service is key to increasing your SEO. If you were a consumer, how would you ask questions about your product or service? What specific audience do you want to reach and what words would they use?

3. Natural language helps with relevancy and current trends.

Dovetailing on current trends can make your brand more timely and relevant, and can help your brand be part of online conversations. But tread lightly here. If the topic is a stretch from what you would normally talk about, it won’t feel as genuine to consumers. If it fits, go for it. Use hashtags and trendy phrases that show your company’s personality and engage consumers in a way in which they are already familiar.

4. Natural language helps position you as an expert.

It may come as a surprise that using everyday language would help position you as an expert. Only long, fancy words are impressive, right? Consumers have questions and they need answers–the best way to provide answers is to use language and formatting that is easy to understand. In the words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Put industrial jargon aside (unless you are sure that your audience understands it) and using natural language. Your consumers will appreciate it and will come back for more.

Obviously, your brand voice and your audience will help determine how colloquial you can get with your tone. But try it where it makes sense and where it fits with your strategy. If you can, use focus groups or sample groups who best meet your demographic to review your ad campaign, social media strategy or even blogs to make sure your language is understandable, relatable and likable.

How Content Marketing Leads To Better SEO

As technology evolves, so too does search engine optimization. Gone are the days of adding keywords to your website to optimize for search. Search engine optimization (SEO) has grown up and wants a more meaningful relationship with content.

Companies that want to leverage search engines must (as with all successful marketing strategies) put themselves in the consumer’s shoes. What do consumers want when they are searching online? By helping consumers find desired quality content, companies can better align themselves with SEO’s purpose.

And so it comes back to the familiar saying: Content is king.

According to Forbes writer Josh Steimle, “the best long tail SEO strategy dovetails with an effective content marketing strategy” that is accomplished through “blog posts, infographics, white papers, and other content that will get indexed by the search engines, be found by searchers, and then lead them to your website.”

The infographic below by Brafton shows the important tie between content and SEO. Producing quality branded content not only influences consumer decisions and improves your brand’s reputation, it feeds your website and social channels with content that consumers are more likely to find through search engines.
WhyContentForSEO_FINAL_2

In a separate article, Steimle says great content marketing “contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines.”

In the words of Neil Patel, “SEO and content marketing are like PB&J. They go together. They just fit. They work well together.” Patel’s article “Why SEO Is Actually All About Content Marketing” perfectly demonstrates the symbiotic relationship between SEO and content marketing; they need each other to be successful.  I highly recommend that you read the article, but here are Patel’s main takeaways:

  1. “You’re not an SEO, unless you’re also a content marketer. You’re not a content marketer, unless you’re also an SEO.”
  2. “Your SEO campaign will fail unless you integrate content marketing. Your content marketing campaign will fail unless you integrate SEO.”

Bottom line: If you want to positively impact your SEO, start with a good content marketing strategy that answers the searchable questions consumers have about your product, service or company.

How To Increase Your Organic Facebook Engagement

facebook-likeFacebook can be a great tool for businesses to connect with consumers and build communities around brands. This blog by Alice’s Marketing Analytics shares why Facebook is the leading social media platform for small business advertising.

While companies will likely see better results through a strategic Facebook advertising campaign, knowing how to build organic reach and engagement on your company page is an important skill, and necessary even with the best advertising. It helps ensure that your company is producing quality content that will lead to a sustainable community even when advertising budgets are low.

According to Facebook’s Brian Boland, reaching Facebook fans organically means publishing “content that teaches people something, entertains them, makes them think, or in some other way adds value to their lives.”

Facebook is a social site, filled with people who want to connect with family and friends and just be entertained. Learn to take off your marketing hat and think like a consumer on Facebook.According to  Neil Patel, “80% of your updates should be social.”

This infographic by Mike Gingerich of tabsite shows 5 ways to amp up your Facebook engagement:

5WaysToAmp-Infographic

All of these tips are important, but my favorite is the first: Provide Value. Increasing engagement on your Facebook page isn’t just about the number of “likes” or clicks to your site. It’s about building a community with consumers and engaging with them in a real and meaningful way.

Move beyond getting consumers to see your content; focus on getting them to want it.

The Secrets Of Great Headlines With Lasting Impressions

female at keyboard

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Back in my freelance journalism days, I was notorious for sending in incomplete assignments. I wrote articles with compelling descriptions and memorable quotes, but rarely did I include a headline. That quickly changed. Once I became an Assignment Editor at a publication company, I was thrown into situations where I had to create catchy headlines on the spot, sometimes just before the paper went to press.

Crafting great headlines has always been a necessary skill for writers and journalists, but in the realm of emerging media, the need is greater. A vast amount of internet content means that companies have to compete to break through the clutter to catch the attention of consumers. But amidst this internet clutter, companies must also compete to be remembered.

According to Konnikova, a headline not only captivates interest, it “changes the way people read an article and the way they remember it.” Even those who read a full article may have an unintended response (such as negativity or confusion) because of their first impression with the headline, she says. If there was ever a reason that marketers shouldn’t rely on clickbait titles for their content, that’s it. At least, not if you want to make the right lasting impression.

So what makes a good headline? Let’s talk about some of the elements of a powerful headline, instead of a formula.

Tease a story the reader can’t ignore.

“Itches need scratching,” says PRNewser’s Shawn Paul Wood. Give them enough to be curious so that they want to know more.

Use emotional headlines; particularly positive ones.

According to Garrett Moon with CoSchedule, emotional headlines are more likely to be shared and “positive emotions seem to add an additional boost.”

Test your headlines.

A/B testing through social media and blogs can be very difficult, but tracking the metrics and engagement on your various headlines can give you some insight as to how what types of content your audience is drawn to. This article by Leo Widrich, Fast Company, shares how you can try A/B testing on social.

If A/B testing is too complex, find easier, informal ways to test out your headlines. Create a list for your editor or your colleagues to vote on or check out this headline analyzer by CoSchedule. When you only have seconds to spare, it can be a quick tool to vet those last minute creations.

My title score for this blog was 70. Plug in your most recent title. How did it do?

Amazon Expands Compatibilities of IoT Service, Alexa

This week, Amazon released instructions for techies to access Alexa Voice Service by using a Raspberry Pi. The home-assembled device isn’t quite as sleek as the Amazon Echo, but is a cheaper solution for those willing to put in a little elbow grease.

According to Nick Statt, The Verge, the instructions were “posted to GitHub by Amit Jotwani, Amazon’s senior evangelist for Alexa” whose “job involves helping developers — and apparently tinkerers too — bake the company’s voice service into third-party products.”

Amazon also released instructions for syncing Alexa with Nest thermostats yesterday. “Just shout at the voice-activated helper and it’ll adjust the temperature,” says Roberto Baldwin of engadget.

The expanded compatibility of Alexa comes at a good time, as “Google is reportedly working on its own version of The Echo,” according to Mashable’s Raymond Wong. It opens doors for Alexa to become a part of consumers’ daily lives before the next best thing comes along.

This 2014 infographic by Carlos Monteiro (cropped for relevancy — you can see the full infographic here) shows the tops reasons consumers want to use the Internet of Things. From timed sprinklers to synced fitness devices, consumers want items that will make their lives easier and more coordinated.

smart-apps-01-2014

In order for these things to happen IoT devices and products must be able to talk to each other, and that requires compatibility. By expanding the compatibility of Alexa, even with third party products, Amazon is increasing Alexa’s relevancy and convenience, which leads to happier, connected users.

Have you used Alexa? Do you wish it was more compatible?

4 Questions To Unlock Your Brand’s Social Media Tone

free_social_media_icons_image_ubersocialmediaSocial media can be an influential way to market to your target audience, but it’s important that companies understand how to talk to their social media audience before dipping their toe in the water.

Sales author Jeffrey Gitomer said it best:  “People don’t like to be sold — but they love to buy.” Social media channels are no different. Individuals on these platforms are there to socialize, connect, and build on hobbies or interests; they don’t want to feel like they are “being sold to.” Learning how your audience prefers to be engaged on these platforms will go a long way in helping your brand break through the clutter.

While it’s important to maintain a brand voice for consistency, brands must adjust their tone depending on the social media platform and its audience. With the help of Gather Content, Fast Company’s Kevan Lee defines brand voice and tone in this way: “Voice is a mission statement. Tone is the application of that mission.”

So how should the tone of your mission change depending on the social media platform your brand is using?  Here are some things to consider:

how is this social media platform used?

Not all platforms are equal. Even people of the same demographic will use various platforms differently,  adjusting their tone to match each audience. Brands should do the same. This infographic by AddThis perfectly sums up how various social media sites are used with the analogy of a donut.

Social Sites Explained

Who uses this social media platform?

Last week, my classmate kmartin619 looked at the varying demographics of a handful of social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. Studies by Pew Research Center delve into the demographic distinctions by age, gender, income, education and race.

This chart by ComScore gives a snapshot of multiple platforms by age only. Age is just one way to segment a platform’s audience,  but by better understanding the demographic, you can create a tone that’s appropriate for that audience. Other considerations may include education level and average time spent on each platform. This may shape the language you use and the length of your content to better reach the demographic.

Demo Composition of Leading Social Networks

Who are you trying to reach and what matters to them?

Knowing the demographic of a social media platform is just one piece of the puzzle. Another piece is knowing who your brand wants to reach. Yet another piece is finding out what matters to them. It can be tempting for brands to cast a wide net out to potential consumers by marketing to groups as wide and diverse as “women” or “millennials”. Segmenting these audiences and building out personas can be helpful in addressing your target audiences.

In 2014, AdWeek highlighted the “12 types of millennials” with the help of digital advertising network Exponential. The “types” included Travel Enthusiasts, Culinary Explorers, Millennial Marthas, Millennial Moms and more. At the end of the list, researcher and Exponential VP Bryan Melmed said “Millennials as a generation are the most diverse and the most heterogeneous of any we’ve seen before.”

Rather than using a blanket approach, determine your audience and why they use various social media platforms.

What do you want your target audience to do?

Effective social media marketing relies on objectives and strategy. What are you hoping to accomplish through your social media content and how will success be measured? Again, knowing your audience is key. If your goal is to get consumers to watch a video, you need to learn about the kinds of videos your target audience finds engaging and how to create digital videos that will success on the platform you’re using.

This chart below from Contently shows the  many motivational factors behind a simple share, and how these motivations resonate with consumers based on age segments. If your goal is for consumers to share content, this can give you good insight into the tone you should be using on social.

Social Sharing

It’s important that your brand voice remain consistent and true to your mission, but adjusting your tone based on the social media platform and your segmented audience can help consumers resonate with your message.

What question would you add to the list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

3 Ways Emerging Media Shapes Our Daily Lives

I graduated from college at a time when flip phones were socially acceptable and Facebook was exclusively a campus-oriented site. I had a VCR in my college dorm and the thought of streaming a video on a pocket-sized device seemed like something of the far future.

So much has changed in the past decade. Although new media is no longer “new,” the ways in which we interact with it continues to evolve. Emerging media has pushed the envelope on what is possible in terms of accessibility and customization in the digital world. Whether we realize it or not, it is all around us, infiltrating our experiences and influencing our decisions.

Here are three major ways in which emerging media shapes our daily lives:

1. how we consume news

Emerging media has drastically shaped how people produce, distribute and consume news.

First, it has affected who is capable of producing and distributing news. Consider the power of citizen journalism particularly as events unfolded after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Dan Gillmore of The Guardian described the power of a mobile phone in documenting law enforcement actions. Photos and videos of the events flooded social media and were shared by journalists and nonjournalists alike.

This infographic produced by the University of Florida Online and shared by Kimberlee Morrison of AdWeek’s Social Times shows how social media has influenced how people engage with news.  Nearly half “of people regularly or occasionally hear about a breaking news story from social media before it appears on any official news source.”

Evolution of Social Media & News

Major news companies, from CNN to Huffington Post, have taken to Twitter and other social media channels to disseminate news. Savvy-marketers have even collaborated with news companies to develop news-like ads to target their markets. When the New York Times debuted its first native ad in 2014, Poynter’s Rick Edmunds took a critical look at how paid content was incorporated into the site and how this move could affect the news industry. In the title of his column he asked, “Will other newspapers follow?” Indeed they have.

With the click of a button, news can be collected from smartphone cameras, shared in social networking spaces and aggregated through mobile apps. Without emerging media, your news may be old news.

2. how we are entertained

At times, it can be difficult to remember that emerging media exists for a purpose other than entertainment. Even as I type this, celebrity news and TV show updates fill the list of the top Google trends.

Consumers want to be entertained through emerging media. The entertainment industry has adapted in expectant ways — through online TV exclusives, celebrity social network accounts and entertainment blogs, for example. But there are other surprising ways in which people are being influenced by emerging media within the entertainment realm. TV advertisements have adopted unique ways of engaging consumers in the digital space, such as Diet Coke’s use of Shazam’s technology, which offered consumers a way to engage with exclusive content in real time.

Then there are sites like Netflix and Hulu, allowing consumers to access countless shows and videos across multiple devices. Podcasts, music services, gaming services and social networking sites are a few more examples. Consumers now demand entertainment that follows them wherever they are and on whichever device they choose.

3. how we shop and buy

Commerce is one area that has undoubtedly been impacted by the development of emerging media.

According to this HuffPost Business Blog by Danny Wong, “e-retail sales hit $305 billion” in 2015 and “by 2019, U.S. mobile retail sales are estimated to reach nearly $150 billion.” While desktop computers remains the device of choice for e-commerce, mobile devices and apps play an important role in shaping consumer behavior.

Apps and even a quick internet search helps savvy consumers price compare or consult online reviews while shopping — even with stores. Retailer apps such as Target’s Cartwheel takes advantage of impulse buying among consumers who are in the store and eager for a deal.

On the retailer end, merchant services such as Square and PayPal have given mobility to small businesses and independent vendors in need of affordable ways to adapt to consumer expectations for payment convenience.

Emerging media has so permeated our lives that at times it can be difficult to even tell when and how it is influencing us.