Instagram Marketing Is Quickly Catching Up to Facebook

Written by Christopher Heine, Contributor for Adweek:

How close is Instagram to Facebook when it comes to brand activity? Probably closer than you think.

Social media shop Shareablee pulled the following numbers, which illustrate that marketers—while most of them cannot run ads yet on Instagram—are highly active on the social-mobile phone app.

The intriguing stats below are for United States brand pages during the second quarter. Keep in mind that Facebook went live in 2004, and Instagram hasn’t been around for four years yet.

  • Facebook garnered 2.5 million brand posts, a year-over-growth of 22 percent.
  • Instagram had 493,000 of such posts, a 49 percent year-over-year jump.
  • Facebook accrued 6 billion actions (likes, comments or shares).
  • Instagram totaled 3.4 billion actions (likes, comments).
  • Facebook had 2,396 actions per post.
  • Instagram racked up 6,932 actions per post.

There is a trio of obvious takeaways from the findings.

First, Instagram got 56 percent as many total actions on the platform as Facebook during Q2. And, brand activity is growing much faster on Instagram than Facebook—which isn’t necessarily surprising since the former is much newer to the marketing world than the latter. But what should raise eyebrows is that Instagram is achieving three times the engagement per post when compared to Facebook.

What all of this means to the future of Instagram paid advertising isn’t clear.

But Tania Yuki, Shareablee CEO, expects brands to jump on board to amplify their messaging.

“We are optimistic about Instagram’s future ad monetization potential,” she said. “One unknown will be whether Instagram can find ways to effectively drive traffic to advertiser sites without detracting from its own traffic and engagement—and the willingness of advertisers to invest in Instagram without this outbound linking.”

Stay tuned.

15 Mind-Blowing Stats About Search Engine Marketing

by Giselle Abramovich, Senior & Strategic Editor, CMO.com:

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Spend is up, click-through rates continue to grow, and mobile is providing a new spin. What must-know channel are we talking about?

Search, of course. Search engine marketing (SEM) is a tactic that marketers cannot afford to ignore. This week’s batch of stats demonstrates why.

1. Eighty-five percent of retailers surveyed said search marketing (including paid and SEO) was the most effective customer acquisition tactic.

2. Seventy percent of agencies predict client SEO budgets would increase this year; 47 percent of respondents said there would be a significant or, at least, some increase to their SEO budget.

3. Nineteen percent of brand marketers expect to significantlyincrease their paid search investements next year.

4. The average salary for search professionals decreased from $75,543 in 2012 to $68,600 in 2013.

5. Mobile advertising in the U.S. will total $17.73 billion in 2014, with mobile search spending accounting for more than half of that total, or $9.02 billion.

6. By 2018 mobile search spending will reach $28.41 billion, or 85.9 percent, of the U.S. digital search advertising market.

7. The volume of U.S. Google searches about financial topics spikes in the beginning of the year; travel searches are most popular during the summer months; and retail searches start building for the holiday season in September.

8. Google holds a staggering 67.6 percent of the U.S. search engine market share. Bing remains at a distant second with 18.7 percent.

9. Over­all search spend in the U.S. grew by 9 percent year-over-year, with most of the increase com­ing from click growth.

10. When com­par­ing search ad spend in Q2, Google con­tin­ued to dom­i­nate with a 78 percent share of search adver­tiser spend, while Yahoo/Bing gar­nered 22 percent of the share. How­ever, com­pared to Q1 2014, Google search ad spend dropped by 2 percent, while it rose 2 percent for Yahoo/Bing.

11. Much of the growth in paid search can be attributed to increased advertiser focus on mobile devices, including both tablets and smartphones. Spend share on mobile devices continues to climb on a quarter-over-quarter basis, with overall mobile spend share reaching 29 percent.

12. More than 1 billion search queries are made a month on Facebook.

13. Ninety-three percent of online experiences begin with a search engine.

14. Seventy percent of the links search users click on are organic.

15. Search is the No. 1 driver of traffic to content sites, beating social media by more than 300 percent.

About Giselle Abramovich

Giselle Abramovich is senior & strategic editor at CMO.com. Previously she wrote for outlets including Direct Marketing News, Mobile Marketer, Mobile Commerce Daily, Luxury Daily, and Digiday. Reach her at abramovi@adobe.com, or follow her on Twitter @GAbramovich.

How to Use Google Analytics: Getting Started

By , Contributor for Social Media Examiner:

Do you need a deeper understanding of Google Analytics?

Do you know what data each section of Google Analytics offers?

A few important details and settings can improve your Google Analytics reporting.

In this article I’ll share the basics of navigating Google Analytics and what you need to set up now to make the most of its data.

Note: This post assumes that Google Analytics is already set up for at least one of your websites. If you have not set up Google Analytics, you can find a thorough walk-through of the setup process in the Google Analytics Help Center.

get started with google analytics
Find out how to get started with Google Analytics right now.

Google Analytics Quick Glossary

Before we begin, there a few terms you should know. You’ll see them often in your Google Analytics data, and I’ll use them throughout this post.

Dimensions—A dimension is a descriptive attribute or characteristic of an object that can be given different values. Browser, Exit Page, Screens and Session Duration are all examples of dimensions that appear by default in Google Analytics.

Metrics—Metrics are individual elements of a dimension that can be measured as a sum or a ratio. Screenviews, Pages/Session and Average Session Duration are examples of metrics in Google Analytics.

Sessions—A session is the period of time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc., within a date range. All usage data (Screenviews, Events, Ecommerce, etc.) is associated with a session.

Users—Users who have had at least one session within the selected date range. Includes both new and returning users.

Pageviews—Pageviews means the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

Pages/Session—Pages/session (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.

Avg. Session Duration—The average length of a session.

Bounce Rate—Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits (i.e., visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page).

New Sessions—An estimate of the percentage of first-time visits.

Goals—Goals let you measure how often users take or complete specific actions on your website.

Conversions—Conversions are the number of times goals have been completed on your website.

Campaigns—Campaigns (also known as custom campaigns) allow you to add parameters to any URL from your website to collect more information about your referral traffic.

Acquisition—Acquisition is how you acquire users.

Behavior—Behavior data helps you improve your content.

Google Analytics Home

When you log into Google Analytics, you end up on the Home page where you cansee a list of all of the websites you have set up in your account. This list shows you some basic data right off the bat such as your number of sessions, average session duration, bounce rate and goal conversion rate.

google analytics home screen
The Google Analytics home screen.

If you have a lot of websites like I do, you can use the search box under the date range to search for a particular domain. If you only want to view the domains that are most critical to your business, you can mark them with a star and change the Show settings to list only the starred websites.

You can use the date range to see your data over any specified time period. You can also use it to compare the current time period to a previous time period to see the change in sessions, average session duration, bounce rate and goal conversion rate.

google analytics date range menu
The Google Analytics date range selector lets you compare data.

Since the data for each website changes to reflect the compared timeframes, it’s easy to see which of your websites are getting more or less traffic and conversions.

google analytics date range data comparison
Comparing basic data across your top websites.

To view more data about a particular website, just click on the corresponding link and you’ll see the Google Analytics Reporting page.

Google Analytics Reporting

The Google Analytics Reporting page shows your Audience Overview data.

At the top of the screen, you’ll see the basic Google Analytics menu bar that allows you to go back and forth between the Home page, Reporting, Customization (reports) and Admin section. Further to the right, you can switch to another website within your Google Analytics account.

google analytics top menu bar
Google Analytics top menu bar options.

On the left sidebar, there is a search box to help you find specific reports and a list of links to important areas of your Google Analytics.

google analytics left menu
Google Analytics left menu options.

I discuss each option below.

Dashboards

Dashboards allow you to create customized views of your Google Analytics datausing widgets. It’s a great way to see specific subsets of data without having to navigate through your standard reports.

google analytics custom dashboard
Sample Google Analytics customized dashboard.

You can add widgets to your dashboards using the +Add Widget button or by adding widgets as you browse your standard reports using the Add to Dashboard link. You can also download ready-to-go dashboards in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.

Shortcuts

Shortcuts are simply that—links to your favorite Google Analytics reports.

google analytics shortcuts
Use Google Analytics shortcuts to quickly find data.

Whenever you’re viewing a specific piece of data in Google Analytics that you want or need to revisit often, click on the Shortcut link above it. This places it in your Shortcuts menu for future reference.

Intelligence Events

Intelligence Events are alerts you can set up within Google Analytics that email you when a specific event occurs.

google analytics intelligence events
Google Analytics Intelligence Events examples.

You can set up alerts for events like a dramatic change in number of sessions, goal conversions or other metrics within a daily, weekly or monthly timeframe.

Real-Time

Want to know who’s on your website right now? Real-Time data gives you access to that data instantly.

google analytics real time overview data
Google Analytics Real-Time Overview data.

You can see current visitors’ pageviews, active pages, locations and more.

Audience Through Conversions Reports

The meat of your Google Analytics data is found in the Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions sections. These are the in-depth reports on your users, traffic sources, content and goal completions.

Chances are, you’ve toured most of these reports in the past. I’ll be writing about the data and benefits of each of these sections in upcoming posts here at Social Media Examiner.

Google Analytics Standard Reporting Views

Each subsection of the main sidebar options offers a standard report. When you’re viewing a standard report, you will likely see the following: the report name (e.g., Language), the date selector and a standard toolbar with options that allow you to customize the view, email the report, export the report data to various spreadsheet formats or PDF, add the report to your dashboard or create a shortcut to the report.

google analytics report menu options
Google Analytics standard report menu options.

When you see the graduate hat beneath the date selector in the toolbar, you can click on it to learn more about the data within that specific report (as shown below).

google analytics education tab
Google Analytics Education within your standard reports.

Under the toolbar menu, there are two options. All Sessions shows you your data throughout Google Analytics as a whole, and +Add Segment allows you to see your data based on certain criteria, such as direct traffic, search traffic, mobile traffic and so forth.

On the +Add Segment page, you can use the +Create New Segment option to create your own criteria, such as traffic from the US or traffic that entered your website on a specific landing page.

google analytics segments
Google Analytics segments for specific traffic data.

You can see a great post on how to use segments to track social media traffic by Eugen Oprea and download ready-to-go segments in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.

Looking at All Sessions, you’ll see the data specific to the report you’re viewing. Most reports start with an Explorer timeline view.

google analytics explorer view
The Explorer section shows you an overview of your report data.

At the top of the Explorer view is the option to switch between Summary, Site Usage, Goal Sets, Ecommerce and AdSense.

The Summary view is the default and shows the Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions data for the data being reported. In the example below, this would be the data for visitors who speak a particular language.

google analytics explorer summary view
Summary view of report data in Google Analytics.

If you have several goals set up for your websiteuse the Conversions drop-down menu to change the data to a different goal.

google analytics goal in conversions dropdown
Use the Conversions drop-down to show a particular goal.

The Site Usage view shows you just the number of sessions, pages/session, average session duration, percent of new sessions and bounce rate for the data reported. Basically, the Site Usage view is everything from the Acquisition and Behavior portions of the table except new users.

The Goal Sets view shows you the overall goal conversion rate for goals within a set (you can have four goals per set), per-session goal value and individual goal conversion rates for each goal in a set. (We’ll talk about setting up goals toward the end of this post.)

The Ecommerce view shows you revenue, transactions, order value, ecommerce conversion rates and per-session value for the data reported. In order to receive this data, you need to have set your website up with ecommerce tracking, which you can learn about in the Google Analytics Help Center.

The AdSense view is for publishers who have Google AdSense set up on their website. This shows you data for AdSense revenue, ads clicked, page impressions, CTR and eCPM for the data reported. To receive this data, you must have yourAdSense account linked to your Analytics account.

Beneath the Explorer view options is a drop-down for Sessions vs. [Select a Metric]. Use these drop-downs to see different data comparisons within your report, such as Sessions vs. Bounce Rate.

google analytics metric comparison
Using the Explorer metric drop-down to compare metrics.

To the right of these drop-downs, you can change your data view to daily, weekly or monthly and change the timeline to a more detailed chart or graph view.

google analytics explorer graph view
Additional Explorer graph and chart views.

In the table below your Explorer, there are a few more viewing options. At the top left, you’ll see drop-downs to add a secondary dimension.

For example, let’s assume you’re viewing the en-us Language report (Audience > Geo > Language > en-us) and want more detailed information about the top sources of traffic for English – United States users.

Click on Secondary Dimension, choose Acquisition from the menu and then choose Source. The table data now shows you the data you want.

google analytics secondary dimension view
Use a secondary dimension to find specific information.

At the top right of the table, you can change the view to different charts and graphs. For example, you can change to the pie chart view and see that most users come to the site via direct means (no referring website, search engine or social network) and speak English – United States.

google analytics secondary dimension pie chart
Pie chart view of the Language report with traffic source as a secondary dimension.

You can also click on the Advanced link next to the search box to filter specific dimensions and languages within the table. For instance, you can show only users who have a Bounce Rate less than a certain percentage to find out which languages and related traffic sources have the lowest bounce rates.

google analytics secondary dimension advanced filter
Use the Advanced Filter to show sessions with a low bounce rate.

At the bottom right of the table is a drop-down to show more rows. This allows you tosee more than the default top ten reported data types within your table.

Last but not least, within the table view, be sure to click on links within your table. These allow you to drill down to particular subsets of data.

For example, if you are in the Location Report (under Audience in the left sidebar), the table shows which countries the majority of your sessions are happening in. If you click on United States, you’ll see the States breakdown of your traffic. If you click on a state, you’ll get the top cities.

The same happens if you click on links within the table under the All Referrals report. Instead of just seeing the domain that is sending you traffic, you can see the pages within the domain sending you traffic.

This is great if you contribute to other blogs, for example, as it shows you which of your posts are sending the most traffic your way.

google analytics drill down table
Drill down in your reports by clicking on links.

Google Analytics Customization

The next main item in the top menu bar is Customization. The benefit of using a Custom Google Analytics report is that you can see an exact portion of your Google Analytics data and have it emailed regularly to contacts you choose.

google analytics custom report
Example of a custom report in Google Analytics.

You can create new reports on your own, organize them by category and import reports from the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.

Google Analytics Admin

The last main menu item in the top menu bar is the Admin menu. This is where youmanage all of the settings for your website within Google Analytics. You can find a full breakdown of everything you can manage—from accounts to data filters—in the Google Analytics Help Center.

Two Features You Need to Start Using Now

Before we conclude your tour of the what’s what in Google Analytics, there are two things you should start using right now (if you aren’t already) to truly get value from your Google Analytics: Goals and Custom Campaigns.

#1: Google Analytics Goals

In the Google Analytics Admin menu under View, you have the option to set up goals for your website.

google analytics goals setup admin view
Google Analytics Admin options.

Google Analytics Goals, as mentioned earlier, help you track the data related to a user completing a specific action on your website.

The simplest goal type is the Destination goal. This type of goal allows you to say that when a user reaches a specific page on your website, a specific goal has been completed. Here are a couple of easy examples.

Example 1: If you have a mailing list, create a custom page on your website that thanks users for subscribing after they submit their information. Then set up that page as a destination goal called Mailing List (or something you will easily recognize as a mailing list conversion).

Example 2: If you have a contact form on your website that you use to capture leads for your business, create a custom page on your website that thanks users for submitting their contact information. Then set up that page as a destination goal called Contact Form (or something you will easily recognize as a contact form conversion).

Example 3: If you have a shopping cart on your website to sell products, you likely have an order confirmation or thank-you page that users land on once they’ve successfully completed an order. Set up this page as a destination called Shopping Cart (or something you will easily recognize as a shopping cart conversion).

If there are specific pages that shoppers land on throughout the shopping cart process, you can turn on the Funnel option and include those pages as well. This allows you to track which pages in your funnel get the most abandons so you can optimize your shopping cart for more sales.

To set up a destination goalclick on Goals from the Admin panel, then click on the +New Goal button.

google analytics create a new goal menu
Create a new goal via the +New Goal button.

Name your goal and choose Destination as the type, then click Next Step.

google analytics name a goal
Name your goal something intuitive.

Enter your goal details. If your thank-you page is always http://domain.com/thank-you/, enter /thank-you/ as the web page URL and leave the drop-down set to Equals To.

If your thank-you page URL has appended tracking information added to it, then change the drop-down to Begins With and enter /thank-you/ as the web page URL.

google analytics goal url destination
Determine your destination URL.

To find out if your new goal is working, you need to submit your opt-in form, contact form or make a purchase in your shopping cart.

The two optional items in your goal details are Value and Funnel. If you know a specific value for each goal completion (e.g., the average order through your shopping cart is $10), then you can add that as a value. Otherwise, leave it blank.

If you have a shopping cart with specific pages that a user will visit throughout the process of purchasing a product, you can add them under Funnel.

google analytics goal funnel options
Value and Funnel are optional steps in Google Analytics goal setup.

You can view your sales funnel(s) in the standard Funnel Visualization report.

google analytics goal funnel setup
Funnel Visualization report in Google Analytics.

Once you’re finished filling out the form, you can click the Verify this Goal link before saving your goal. If any users have completed the goal in the past seven days, you should get confirmation that your goal is set up correctly.

By setting up a Destination goal, you can measure ROI using your Google Analytics. You’ll be able to see which traffic sources and social networks send the most users to your website who complete a goal. You’ll be able to see which countries users who convert live in, and much more.

Aside from Destination goals, there are three other types. The Destination type is generally the easiest to set up and the most useful. You can learn about setting up the other types and their advantages in the Google Analytics Help Center.

#2: Google Analytics Custom Campaigns

Custom campaigns track visitors from specific traffic sources. Campaigns are set up using UTM parameters appended to the end of a URL a visitor would click on.

Google Analytics requires three parameters to track campaigns: the campaign medium (utm_medium), the campaign/traffic source (utm_source) and campaign name (utm_campaign).

For example, you can create a campaign to track traffic from a link shared through the Buffer app on Twitter.com, which is social media. In this case, social is your medium; twitter.com is your source; and buffer is your campaign name.

When someone clicks on a link shared by the Buffer app, they’ll see the following URL in their browser address bar:

http://iqtell.com/2014/02/are-we-managing-our-to-do-lists-all-wrong/? utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

That link tells Google Analytics that someone completed your campaign parameters. You can see the results in the first entry in the Campaigns report below.

google analytics campaign tracking
Campaign tracking within Google Analytics.

When you click on buffer (the campaign name) in the above example, you can see the source and medium.

google analytics acquisition campaign tracking
Campaign source and medium details within Google Analytics.

Using campaigns, you can track visitors who come from just about anywhere, right down to those who clicked the third link in an email you sent to your mailing list on May 15.

The best part about setting up these links is that you can do it easily using the campaigns URL Builder tool from Google. You just enter your URL, the campaign source, campaign medium and campaign name.

google analytics utm url builder
Creating a custom campaign with the Google Analytics URL Builder.

The key to accurately tracking campaigns is to keep your parameters consistent. Capitalization, spelling, spacing and punctuation must be exactly the same to always count as the same campaign within Google Analytics.

If you want to use buffer as a campaign name, be sure that you always use buffer, not Buffer or Buffer App, as those will be considered new campaigns. Or, if you’re going to use twitter.com as a source, always use twitter.com, not Twitter or Twitter.com, as Google Analytics considers each of those new sources.

Wrapping Up

I hope this has given you a good feel for navigating around your Google Analytics data, as well as a few to-dos to make that data worthwhile. In my next posts, I’ll be diving deeper into your Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions reports to show you how to analyze and utilize the data to improve your blog or business!

What Time Should I Send My Email?

By , Director of Deliverability for Adobe:

Each day, mil­lions of mar­ket­ing emails go out into the world, and it has become a hot topic of con­ver­sa­tion among mar­keters as to what time is the best time to send them out. Study after study has been con­ducted to try to get into the psy­che of the con­sumer to try to fig­ure out what time is the best time of day to attract their attention.

One study, based on 100 mil­lion online trans­ac­tions and reported by mar​ket​ing​profs​.com, claims that over 65 per­cent of email recip­i­ents open pro­mo­tional emails in the after­noon and evenings. The study found that 38 per­cent of email con­ver­sions (opened, clicked through, and con­verted) occurred in the after­noons and 27 per­cent in the evenings. The least opens occurred in the morn­ings when most pro­mo­tional emails tend to be sent.  If this is true, then as a mar­keter, you have to ques­tion the strat­egy of send­ing emails dur­ing a time when they are rarely opened.

Some say that Tues­day and Fri­days are best for send­ing while oth­ers claim that 3 pm on Thurs­day is the best time for con­sumers to get your mes­sage. This con­tin­u­ing dis­cus­sion leaves much room for debate.

The assump­tions being made by many of these stud­ies is that con­sumers have been sit­ting at their com­put­ers wait­ing for a pro­mo­tional email and that they act on it as soon as they receive it. But other stud­ies sug­gest that while 76 per­cent of email opens take place in the first two days after receiv­ing them, 79 per­cent of pur­chases take place after those two days and one-third of pur­chases hap­pen more than two weeks after the ini­tial email offer. What this may tell us is that more and more, con­sumers are in the driver’s seat and they are mak­ing indi­vid­ual deci­sions about when to open their emails. The times they open emails may change from day to day depend­ing on their activ­i­ties and circumstances.

Some peo­ple open their mail at lunch while oth­ers may open them con­tin­u­ously as they come in if they are work­ing on the com­puter all day. Oth­ers may wait a few days before check­ing offers.

One of the fears dri­ving the con­cern over when to send is that con­sumers are being drowned by email offers, and while for some that may be true, other stud­ies sug­gest that may not be true for all. And since most con­sumers are pre­fer­ring to receive com­mu­ni­ca­tions by email, these pro­mo­tions may not be entirely unwel­comed. In fact, if you have used the best prac­tices we have dis­cussed in this blog over the weeks (care­ful tar­get­ing, using a pref­er­ence cen­ter, etc.), your cus­tomer may be quite happy to get your offer.

What this may all mean is that while stud­ies are inter­est­ing and can often yield help­ful infor­ma­tion, there is no rule that will guar­an­tee your emails will be opened and will result in a trans­ac­tion or con­ver­sion. The best strat­egy seems to be to keep exper­i­ment­ing, try­ing dif­fer­ent times of the day and dif­fer­ent days of the week.

After all, the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence is the most impor­tant fac­tor. Let them dic­tate when you mes­sage them by allow­ing them to state this in a pref­er­ence cen­ter, or use the behav­ioral data you have as a mar­keter and send to cus­tomers at times when they have opened in the past. (Don’t for­get that email is global and there are dif­fer­ent time zones to con­sider.) Get­ting to know your cus­tomer through an email pref­er­ence cen­ter, pay­ing atten­tion to your ana­lyt­ics, and cre­at­ing the best offer you can are great ways to insure a return on your invest­ment and to cre­ate a great cus­tomer experience.

 

Alyssa Nahatis

Alyssa Nahatis is Director of Deliverability for Adobe, where she’s responsible for leading the deliverability function for the company’s North American client base, including reputation management strategies and services, and deliverability operations.

How to Get Started With Social Media Marketing

By , Contributor for Social Media Examiner:

Do you need a beginner’s guide to social media marketing?

Looking for something to help you get started with social media?

Social media is a conversation you can join any time. Join now. You’ll be welcomed.

In this article I’ll help you blast through the hardest part of social media: getting started. Right here. Right now. Here you go: the essential how-to guide, no experience required.

getting started with social media graphic

#1: Start Slow

Don’t try to do too much, too soon—you’ll end up overwhelmed. There’s no need to dive head first into a long list of social networks, or even the top four, right out of the gate.

Pick just one or two. Each has a learning curve, but none is so complex you won’t be able to grasp the basics and begin.

The question is which social media networks make the most sense for you? The answer: The networks your customers prefer. Dig around a bit to find out which networks they’re using—visit their websites or simply ask them.

#2: Find Out Where People Connect

Identify a handful of companies in your space that are active in online marketing and visit their sites. Are they blogging? If so, look at the number of shares for each post to see which channel is most active.

Do they have social media icons? Look for the f, g+, in, P, bird and camera logos (Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram, that is) and click through to their social media pages. Do they have sizable followings on particular social channels? Is there a lot of activity there or do things look a bit static?

social media logos shutterstock 201609656
Find the right social network to reach your perfect audience. Image: Shutterstock.

You want to be where the conversations are happening. After looking into several competitors, it won’t be hard to figure out where the action is. Go along with the crowd. Get started with the one or two networks where you’ve determined competitors and the market at large are connecting.

#3: Watch Influencer Activity

In addition to competitors and customers, look at the social media activity of industry influencers. The most influential social media players are generally writers and publishers. Which websites, bloggers and authors have authority in your industry?

The experts in your field are likely to have established audiences, which should help you make smart choices—and provide good examples of how to interact on various media. You may find that influencers aren’t just blogging, Facebooking or tweeting; you may discover some are active with video and podcasting as well.

#4: Create a Thoughtful Profile

Every social media network offers you the opportunity to create a profile. You can get by with just completing the required fields, but you’ll be sabotaging your success if you do. Take your profile seriously and do your best to fill it out completely.

The rules vary widely across social media profiles—from Twitter, where you’ll have only 160 characters to work with, to LinkedIn, where you can write a lengthy bio and post any kind of media you choose.

twitter profile bio of michael brenner
On his Twitter profile, marketing professional Michael Brenner wisely includes numerous keywords and links and presents a professional and friendly portrait.

The main thing is to be professional, but personable. Avoid applauding yourself unnecessarily. Be humble, but confident. Your profile plays a large part in swaying others to follow you (or not), so be authentic and interesting.

As you create your different profiles, include keywords that are most relevant to your profession to enable others to find you via search. Frequently, you’ll find hashtags (the # symbol) preceding keywords. Include links, where possible, to your website.

#5: Upload a Nice Photo

Too many social media users are inappropriately creative when it comes to their profile picture.

Don’t use family photos, pets, landscapes or any odd depictions of yourself or your professional persona. In my opinion, you should also avoid logos if possible. In a physical social situation, you wouldn’t introduce yourself by whipping out a picture of your dog.

Your online profile is a social situation—show visitors your smile. Use a simple headshot of you looking into the lens, cropped closely. People want to connect with a person, not a logo.

#6: Upload Headers and Background Images

Options for headers and backgrounds vary across different media. However, most social networks have followed Facebook’s lead by offering a space to upload an additional image that acts as a page header (sometime called a cover photo). On Twitter, you also have the opportunity to customize your page’s background.

feldman creative google+ header
In the header of my Google+ page, I feature a photo of various Feldman Creative items to help reinforce my brand.

Put some thought into your cover photo and your profile page will become that much more welcoming. You might elect to show your city, workspace or the like. Commonly, marketers will use graphics from their website or something representative of their brand, which is wise. It’s unwise to neglect your header image because a generic one will be automatically placed there creating the impression you don’t care.

#7: Learn the Network’s Features

Yes, you’re going to need to learn how your network of choice operates. Each network has much in common, but they differ in significant ways. Invest a little time learning the ropes. You don’t have to read books or enroll in a course (though you have that option). Instead, acquaint yourself with the network you’ll use by asking for help from a friend, downloading an ebook or guide and searching for blogs that offer guidance from experts.

#8: Follow Others

Your path to engaging on social media begins by following others whose updates will appear in your feed when you sign on. Don’t overthink this process. You can always revise your decisions later by unfollowing people, so fear not and simply begin following folks.

who to follow suggestions on twitter
Twitter and other social media networks offer suggestions on who to follow based on your profile.

Whom should you follow? Start by following people you know, as well as current customers. If you want to find influencers or others with common interests, do a keyword search on each network. Consider following those who follow the people you follow. (You follow me?)

Based on your profile and your follow list, most networks will suggest additional people to follow. In a short time, people will begin to follow you. Follow them back.

#9: Listen for Best Practices

In social media, the word “listen” really means “look.” Translation: though it’s tempting to start posting immediately after joining a social network, you’ll do yourself a world of good if you step back first and observe how others behave and interact.

You’ll pick up on nuances of the network. You’ll figure out best practices and etiquette. There’s no formula for how long or how much listening you should do, but you do indeed learn a lot by watching from the sidelines for a bit.

#10: Share Others’ Content

The best thing you can do to build relationships via social media is share content you discover and enjoy. Social media is very much reciprocal. People notice and appreciate it when you take the time to share their blog posts, images, videos, etc., and will likely return the favor.

share image shutterstock 204859984
Build relationships by sharing. Image: Shutterstock.

Social media experts often claim as much as 80% of your updates should be shares. I don’t wholeheartedly agree, but I do suggest making thoughtful sharing a regular and large part of your social media activity.

#11: Endorse Others’ Updates

Endorsing other people’s updates may be slightly less significant than sharing, but it’s thoughtful and won’t go unnoticed. It’s also easy and can be done with just a click.

example of google+ endorsement
This Google+ post from Martin Shervington received + endorsements from 52 people.

Of course, the most well-known of all endorsements is the Facebook “like”—a thumbs-up icon. Each network has one or more forms of endorsements including a “+” on Google+, “like” on LinkedIn and “favorite” on Twitter. Don’t endorse every update you read, but do it when you mean it. You’ll find plenty of content and comments worthy of a click.

#12: Comment on Updates and Articles

The heartbeat of social media is conversation, so while sharing and endorsing can be thoughtful and smart, commentary is better still. When you get rolling and your network grows into the hundreds or thousands, you won’t have the time to comment on every update you see. However, the best content you come across will provoke thoughts, just like any conversation.

When you comment, express yourself. Agree. Disagree. Answer questions. Ask questions. Cite examples. Offer links. Say thank you. Again, at its best, social media is a conversation and when you put something into it, you get something out of it. It’s fun. Enjoy it.

#13: Join Groups

The social media you joined are big networks with hundreds of millions of members. You have the option to interact with more like-minded people by joining (or creating) far more focused groups, communities, chats and so forth. Don’t hesitate to try them.

social media groups
Most social media platforms offer opportunities to join or create special interest groups. Above is a sample of the many LinkedIn groups I belong to.

Along your journey, you’ll find some of the most valuable exchanges occur within groups, and as result of your participation, opportunities continuously present themselves.

#14: Be Consistent

You need to budget time to do social media. How much time is up to you, but understand you’ll be taken far more seriously if you’re active on a daily basis. Yes, you can shut it down for a day, weekend or take a break without threatening your good standing. The caution I aim to make here is if you merely check in with a post now and then, you probably won’t be taken seriously.

#15: Don’t Pitch

If you want to buy advertising on social media, do it. Most networks offer advertising options, and many are quick to attest to its effectiveness. However, outside of the sponsored opportunities some social media networks offer, your fans and followers won’t tolerate relentless sales messages. The more you pitch your products and services, the more they’ll reject you.

I’m not saying social media isn’t for marketing. In fact, it is. The trick is to market with a utility mindset. Try a softer approach to selling. Think of your offers as friendly invitations.

Promoting an event, special offer, sale, new product or the like is all fair game. You simply need to strike a balance so as to not put people off. Your updates should be valuable.

It’s far more effective to pull than push on social media. When you teach, advise and help people, your contributions are embraced.

#16: Tell People Where to Find You

As you surf the web, you come across social media icons everywhere—as it should be. If you’re going to participate in social media, you’ll want to take advantage of every opportunity to let people know where they can find you, so include the icons on your site as well.

Consider showcasing links to your social sites (usually represented by icons) across all customer-facing touch points, including your:

  • Website
  • Online properties (including other social media)
  • Email signature
  • Newsletter
  • Business cards
  • Advertising

#17: Be Real

Your digital presence is not a veil. Don’t try to be anything other than yourself on social media. Write as you would speak.

social media image
Personal branding leader William Arruda says, “Be real before being virtual.”

When you let the authentic you come through, you’ll attract the right people, make the right connections and accomplish what social media is really for: building relationships.

Wrapping Up

Social media is not a fad. It’s essential. Just as your customers rely on the phone and email, they rely on social media. It’s where you connect. To believe otherwise can limit and threaten the growth of your business or career.

But if you’re new to social media it can seem like another language. Foreign. Frightening. You may be thinking, “Will I look lame?” Am I too late to the party? Will anyone care what I have to say? Relax. Social media is a friendly place. Use the advice in this essential how-to guide to get started with confidence.

Geomarketing: It’s Where It’s At Today

by Samuel Greengard, Contributing Writer, CMO.com:

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Digital marketing has made clear that getting the right message to the right person at the right time is paramount. Yet somewhere at the intersection of technology and opportunity lies the very real world of putting an effective plan into place. At the center of this concept: geomarketing.

“There’s a growing understanding and appreciation for the role of location-based data in marketing,” observed Michael Boland, chief analyst and vice president at consulting firm BIA-Kelsey. “Almost everything hinges on where you’re at and what you are doing at a particular moment.”

Marketers have traditionally approached the task by using IP addresses to identify where a person is conducting a search and what might be relevant. If it is raining in Akron, then an ad network might serve up an advertisement for raincoats or roof repair services. In some cases, news sites and others provide further personalization–and more geographically targeted ads–by letting individuals enter their ZIP code. Meanwhile, retailers, restaurants, and others operating on Foursquare, Facebook, and other social media services have depended on customers to check in manually to drive promotional offers and collect data.

However, location-based technology is evolving rapidly–particularly as consumers turn to smartphones for transactions, product information, loyalty programs, payments, and more. BIA-Kelsey predicts that U.S. mobile ad revenue growth will skyrocket from $7.2 billion in 2013 to $30.3 billion by 2018. Within this space, geofencing, beacons, and real-time data feeds are ushering in an era of instant promotions, contextual information, and big data.

Said Asif Khan, founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association (LBMA): “The key question that advertisers and marketers must answer is: How, once I know the location of a person, do I put the right messages, information, and media in front of them?

It’s no simple task. “Mobility and geomarketing are difficult areas for marketers to get their arms around,” noted Ray Pun, mobile marketing and analytics leader for Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company) and author of CMO.com’s Mobile First blog. “There are a growing number of channels and an increasing array of things to think about in regard to mobile marketing. There is a need to take data to a far more granular level.”

Location-based marketing takes a step beyond knowing when someone is in proximity to a store or restaurant. “It’s about building a marketing strategy and technology framework that takes location into account across channels, devices and situations,” Pun explained.

Beyond GPS
It’s no secret that the Internet and mobile technologies have transformed the face of marketing. The post-PC era has ushered in entirely new ideas and expectations about companies, brands, and relationships. Within this framework, accprding to Forrester analyst Sarah Rotman Epps, computing is changing in distinct ways. “It becomes more ubiquitous. It’s something we do anywhere and everywhere, and not just in a fixed location. It becomes more casual, something we do in in-between moments, such as waiting in line at Starbucks.”

In fact, about 60 percent of all Internet activity in the U.S. originates from mobile devices and about half of total Internet traffic flows through mobile apps, according to comScore. In addition, more than half the searches conducted on mobile devices involve location in some way–frequently to find something.

“A few years ago, the goal was to convince consumers to share their location data actively. It was about identifying what a customer was doing and where they were at a given moment–in exchange for a coupon or discount,” LBMA’s Khan said. “We are now adopting a passive framework that revolves around consumers opting in and sharing their data on a constant and ongoing basis.”

A number of factors have contributed to this changing environment. Data networks and connectivity are now nearly ubiquitous, and mobile apps have become increasingly sophisticated–tying into GPS data, social networks, sensors residing both on and off the phone, and enterprise and cloud-based data sources. There’s also a growing use of geofencing tools to establish an electronic perimeter around a specific area. When a person enters the space, a business may send a notification or a coupon to the smartphone. Starbucks, for instance, notifies mobile app users when they are near a store. Other retailers have used the technology to deliver loyalty points and promotions when a customer opens a mobile app in or near a store.

In addition, retailers, professional sports clubs, and others have also begun to adopt beacons–including Apple’s iBeacon–to establish indoor geotracking capabilities using Bluetooth Low Energy. Walmart, Safeway, Tesco, Macy’s, Major League Baseball, and the National Basketball Association have turned to the technology to deliver coupons, promotions, and information to customers.

“Indoor tracking is the final piece of the puzzle,” BIA-Kelsey’s Boland said. “There’s a need to link communication and interaction outside and inside stores.” In fact, the technology introduces capabilities that transcend geotargeted promotions. “It makes it possible to understand how people move through stores, where they spend time, and how they react to different cues and offers,” he added. “This can influence store displays, design, and customer service.”

Khan said he believes that beacons and other emerging tools have remarkable implications for marketers. Apple’s iOS 8 will reportedly introduce geotargeted app recommendations on the bottom front left corner of a locked screen. “Although you haven’t purposely checked in or provided any active information, the phone can notify you that there’s an app available for the business or museum and ask you if you would like to download it,” he said.

Kahn also pointed out that the use of beacons needn’t be limited to smartphones. For example, billboards along a highway could transmit offers to automobile navigation systems. This, in turn, might lead to digital billboards or services such as Google Outside, which pulls contextual data and introduces a dimensional location-based marketing approach.

“The goal,” Khan said, “is to create a real-time environment that taps into contextual data. It must be relevant and valuable to the individual … the true power of location-based marketing is the ability for marketers to move from a framework of mass media into a world of where it appears as though you’re delivering a TV commercial for an individual.”

Marketers must get to a level where a number of data points and variables come together, including location, time of day, weather, past behavior and purchase history, and inferred intent when conducting a search. What’s more, a company’s databases and IT systems must be equipped to respond to this real-time environment. “It’s a step beyond what almost every organization is doing today,” Khan said.

Mapping A Future
Navigating the emerging world of location-based marketing is not a task for the faint-hearted. Khan, who coined the phrase “location in the new cookie” in 2012, said that CMOs must adopt a more holistic and comprehensive view that ultimately connects to loyalty and branding. This means thinking about mobility as more than the sum of smartphones and tablets, and viewing coupons and promotions as only part of the marketing opportunity.

Within this arena, success revolves around the relationships of “people, places, media, and objects,” including sensors and machines comprising the Internet of Things. Contextual data drives results. For example, this might translate to a clothing retailer using a smartphone app and RFID tags on clothes to deliver personalized music in a dressing room–and later texting the customer with an offer to purchase the song.

Adobe’s Pun said he believes that a key to building out this type of next-generation environment is assembling, storing, managing, and sharing data effectively. “Too often, data winds up residing in different places in different formats,” he explained. “Moving forward, there’s a need for a centralized data source for digital marketing.”

This could include the use of a master marketing profile that feeds data through multiple channels, including SMS, e-mail, push notifications, mobile apps, and other forms of interaction and communication. In almost every instance, it also means breaking down internal silos and working with business partners to establish an IT platform and data exchange standards to support an agile, real-time framework. This also could include the use of marketing and analytics clouds.

Boland said that it’s critical to think about the customer cycle in an end-to-end fashion. Among other things, this means tying together all the various elements of customer interaction, including loyalty programs and payments, and bridging online and offline channels. There’s also a growing need to use beacons and other tools to deliver product information at the store shelf.

“Businesses must extend systems to the last mile of the store and the point-of-sale terminal,” he said. “In order to achieve complete visibility into the relationship, everything must be traceable and trackable.” Boland pointed out that within this emerging environment, objects such as Google’s Nest thermostat and Apple’s iBeacon embedded in phones become potential data sources. At the end of the day, he added, smart homes, smart cars, computing devices, and just about everything in between create data collection opportunities.

The marketing field is currently in the early stages of adopting a location-based approach, Boland pointed out. Unfortunately, adoption typically lags expectations and buzz–and many of the same challenges that undercut other tools and technologies may slow adoption of location technologies. There’s a fundamental need to think differently on both a conceptual and practical basis, he said. This includes rethinking metrics, key performance indicators, and other measures of success. Yet, more than anything else, success revolves around segmenting groups, bridging technologies and digital delivery channels, and understanding markets, customers, and advertising in fundamentally different ways.

Boland and other experts said it’s wise to think creatively, pilot projects, conduct A/B testing, experiment with technologies, and continually learn from results. Testing different providers of ad technology and different ad networks specializing in location marketing is also advised.

“There’s still a need for national campaigns–that isn’t going to go away,” Boland said. “But it’s important to target more narrowly and understand each customer’s unique behavior and interests.”

Pun said that marketers must think more in terms of using a carrot rather than a stick. “It’s critical to find ways to get customers to share their data and make sure there’s something valuable in it for them,” he said.

In the end, all roads lead to location-based data, Khan said. “Whether you’re at home or in the car, at work or in a store, you’re at a location, and you’re using a device–phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer–to go online and handle tasks. There is a constant transition through the day of an average consumer–where are they, what device are they using, and what are they trying to do? That’s the cookie we need to be tracking. Marketers must obtain data from devices and then combine and correlate it with other data–both online and offline–to produce new and deep insights that are relevant to both the business and the consumer.”

Facebook Tests Buy Button To Let You Purchase Stuff Without Leaving Facebook

Written by  (@joshconstine), writer for TechCrunch:

Facebook is trying out letting you pay for ecommerce purchases from other businesses without leaving its site or app. For now it won’t be charging the few small and medium-sized businesses in the US to test this new Buy button on their News Feed Pages posts and ads. When I asked if Facebook would be charging businesses for the feature eventually, it said “it was not disqualifying that option” in the future.

Rather than clicking away to a merchant’s site, the Buy button lets you complete the entire purchase flow within Facebook, which could boost conversion rates and endear retailers to the social network. You can use a credit card you have on file with Facebook, enter new payment details and save them for future use, or just checkout and not store your payment info. The feature is privacy safe, and Facebook won’t pass payment details on to other advertisers. Users who have

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Getting A Cut Of Ecommerce

Facebook made several forays into ecommerce over the years. It tried a Pinterest-styleCollections feature with buy buttons that led off-site back in 2012. It enabled on-site payments to charities with its Donate Button, last year. And most recently, it’s been testing an “Auto-Fill With Facebook” feature that automatically enters your payment details when you’re making a purchase in a third-party ecommerce app. Now it’s experimenting with letting you make purchases of physical good from for-profit ecommerce retailers entirely within its walled garden.

A Buy button recently surfaced on Twitter, indicating it too wants to try hosting ecommerce transactions. The method could also be how Pinterest eventually gets deeper into ecommerce.

If the test is succesful and rolls out, Facebook could eventually earn money on the feature by charging a fee or revenue share in exchange for processing payment and improving conversion rates. It could also use the purchases to prove return on investment to advertisers, encouraging them to buy bigger campaigns. Collecting credit card info could also help Facebook with other commerce-related intiatives.

Shaving Down The Purchase Funnel

Whether its websites, apps, social media, or ads, with ecommerce, it all comes down to conversion rate. Can you make someone who might be interested in buying something actually complete the purchase. The problem is this usually involves a narrowing funnel where each step of the process hemorrhages potential customers. Two especially lossy steps are getting the customer to the checkout screen, and having them painstakingly enter their credit card number.

Facebook effectively eliminates both these steps with the Buy button. You don’t have to leave the comforting blue chrome of Facebook and your friends. And even if you’ve never bought something from a merchant before, you don’t have to re-enter your payment details if you’ve already stored them on Facebook. You just click Buy, and click again to confirm, and the item is on its way to your door. It’s like the candy they sell in the grocery line. You’re already at checkout with your credit card out, so it’s easy to make an impule purchase.

By shaving down the time and effort from interest to purchase, Facebook could get more people plopping down cash for ecommerce purchases. That’s something retailers might be very willing to pay for.

Visual Social Marketing 101

Written by Seth Fiegerman, Business Reporter at Mashable:

Digital_marketing

IMAGE: MASHABLE COMPOSITE, GETTY CREATIVE. ELLAGRIN

In preparation for the upcoming Mashies awards, we are running a series of articles looking at the changing face of marketing. More information on the Mashies can be found here. There’s no shortage of mobile platforms available for brands to reach consumers with gripping visuals. If anything, the problem is picking out which platforms to embrace and which to ignore. Brands can now share images and videos with followers through InstagramVine and Snapchat, just to focus on three of the most prominent visual platforms. Some companies may try to make use of all three of those; others may struggle to get a grip on just one.

While Snapchat, Vine and Instagram may share certain features in common, the strategy for making the most of each is different. In general, Snapchat is best used for sending playful messages that look more informal, Vine’s optimal use is for posting playful videos that look professional and Instagram is best employed for sharing professional content that looks professional. We talked with a couple marketing experts to pick out some of the best brands on these three platforms and identify some dos and don’ts for each.

Snapchat

Of the three platforms, Snapchat is the one marketers may have the most difficult time getting a grip on. The tools are intended to produce clips that are less polished than creatives are used to and the platform isn’t designed for reach. “It’s not the way the typical creative process works, nor is it the typical way the advertising process works,” says Ian Schafer, CEO and founder of Deep Focus, a digital agency. Snapchat, he argues, isn’t really designed for marketers all. “Snapchat is probably for their kids.” Still, a growing number of brands are braving the platform. Schafer highlights Taco Bell, one of the first brands on Snapchat, as a prime example of how to do it right.

“The key to it has been them figuring out their voice and being able to speak in the vernacular of their audience,” Schafer says of Taco Bell’s success on Snapchat. “It means being relevant to them and understanding where they fit within their customers’ lives.” Taco Bell isn’t afraid to be weird and make use of Snapchat’s illustration features. Perhaps more importantly, Schafer believes Taco Bell’s customer base overlaps significantly with Snapchat’s user base. “They know where their audience is. You follow the scent and that’s where it led them,” he says. That same thinking also explains the success that other food and entertainment brands like GrubHub, the New Orleans Saints and HBO’s Girls have had on the service. The best brands on Snapchat are playful and authentic. They’re willing to experiment with features and offer candid behind-the-scenes moments. And they’re relevant to the younger demographic using the app.

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 6.13.04 PM
A Snapchat from Girls

Vine

Vine is the newest of the three platforms, though many learned of it before Snapchat gained more mainstream attention last year. Vine videos are often whimsical and some even seem effortless, but the most popular users may spend hours or even days creating memorable stop motion videos. “Don’t take a 15 second spot and cut it to 6 seconds,” says Josh Engroff, chief digital media officer at The Media Kitchen. “Embrace the medium and create for it.” The best videos, according to Engroff, tend to be surprising and memorable. He offers the example of Tide, which frequently shares videos that are unexpected and hilarious.

Another of Engroff’s favorites on Vine is the video below from Samsung. Not only is it clever, but it succeeds in using Vine to make a soft sell rather than a hard sell for Samsung’s products. “You don’t really notice that it’s a Samsung device… It’s interesting in its own right,” he says. “That’s the bar. These have to be interesting in their own right, regardless of the brand.”

Beyond that, those we spoke with pointed out that Vine has more potential for real-time potential than the other visual platforms because it integrates with Twitter. That doesn’t mean brands should constantly be trying to put out Vine videos that tie into real-time events, but if it’s a good fit, you might find some traction. The Vine video below from Nike is a good example of a timely post that ties into a big event — the World Cup — which Nike’s customer base clearly cares about. It gets bonus points for working very well with Vine’s infinite loop.

Instagram

Many of the world’s top brands are now on Instagram and for good reason. The social network has more than 200 million users, integrates well with its parent company Facebook and lends itself more to the types of professional photographs and 15-second video spots that marketers are accustomed to. The brands that prove to be the most natural fit for Instagram, according to Schafer from Deep Focus, are those that have products that can be “fetishized.” These tend to be more high-end products like Lexus cars, Beats headphones and Burberry outfits.

Brands can also find success on the platform by capturing a gripping moment in images or video. Engroff lists GoPro and Red Bull as prime examples of that.

Those we spoke with recommend adding some topical hashtags to your posts on Instagram to gain traction, but not to go overboard or try inventing some complicated branded hashtag of your own. As for whether to post videos or images, the goal is just to optimize the mix. Videos haven’t caught on among users the way Instagram had hoped, but they remain an effective tool for brands and media outlets if done well. For Instagram, and indeed for all three platforms, Engroff stresses that it’s important to remember you’re not dealing with marketing on a television or a giant billboard. These images and videos are being seen on a small screen that is much more personal and intimate to the viewer. “It has to be authentic, has to be an evocative emotional moment in that it stirs something in the viewer,” he says. “The brands are getting much better at it, but it’s often been something they’re not good at.”

DOT REPORT: Five Steps to Better Content Marketing

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We’ve all heard the marketing mantra: Content is king. With the volume of information traveling the Internet every day, every hour and every minute, that adage is more relevant than ever. A solid content strategy is an absolute must for achieving your Internet marketing and website goals.

Here are some tips to help you stay on top in the content wars.

Set Clear Objectives

It all starts here. Do you want to increase website traffic? Introduce new products or services? Maximize lead generation? Drive sales conversions? Be known as a thought leader in your business segment? You may even want to encourage people to visit specific pages of your website. Regardless of the particular goal, you need to get a handle on what you want to happen when your audience reads your content.

Differentiate Yourself

You can’t afford to ignore the competition. And they probably have some valuable things you can learn or need to counter. There’s no harm in admitting your competition is doing a better job than you are. So define what makes their content strategy strong and proceed accordingly, in a strategic way that sets you apart.

Think Through Your Topics

A helpful way of coming up with a content strategy is to use a topic-oriented approach. Work with colleagues who will be collaborating with you and take a day or two to brainstorm. Topics could be anything from info on industry trends and new technologies as a value-added, educational resource to a listing of awards that builds credibility for your organization. Then, prioritize your topics into a spreadsheet and set up a timeline to stay on track.

Take a Visitor Perspective

Be objective. Put yourself in your audience’s place and think about how you would respond to your message. One way is to ask some of your customers what they think, since they’re your ultimate target. The visitor perspective counts for any size and type of business. Then you constantly need to be innovative to maintain interest.

Leverage Channels

Content can be broken into two parts, on-site and off-site. On-site is the pages of your website. Off-site is what you use on external websites,

which can have a direct impact on search engine rankings. Ask yourself, “How can we use our content to move people through these channels?” For example, a YouTube video could direct people to a landing page on your website. You will provide your audience with relevant content, utilize a social media channel and drive visitors to your site.

These steps will help you create content that is relevant to your targets audiences and delivers results.

How to Use Google Analytics Audience Data to Improve Your Marketing

By , Contributor for Social Media Examiner:

Do you need to learn more about the Audience reports in Google Analytics?

Do you want to know more about your website visitors?

Understanding the demographics, behaviors and interests of your website visitors improves your online marketing.

In this article I’ll share what data is found in the Google Analytics’ Audience section and how it can apply to your online marketing strategy.

google analytics audience

Take a deeper look into your audience data on Google Analytics.

Note: One way to get the most out of any Google Analytics data is to set up conversion goals. If you haven’t done this already, set up the easiest goal type by reviewing the first point under the Google Analytics Admin header in this Google Analytics Basics post.

google analytics left side menu

Google Analytics left sidebar menu with Audience section.

 

The Audience Reports

There are nine separate reporting sections under Audience in your website’s Google Analytics profile.

With the exception of Overview and Users Flow, each section includes an easy-to-read sessions graph and table chart showing the acquisition, behavior and conversions data for each group.

google analytics data age details

Google Analytics acquisition and behavior data broken down by age group.

Below is a brief description of what data you’ll find in each reporting section, based on the reporting period you define in the date range drop-down menu.

Overview—A top-level view of user metrics

Demographics—The age and gender makeup of your website audience

Interests—User behaviors segmented by affinity and marketing categories

Geo—The languages and locations of your website audience

Behavior—Comparisons of new and returning visitors, how often return visits occur and how long visitors spend on your site

Technology—The browsers, operating systems and networks of your website visitors

Mobile—A breakdown of devices used to access your website

Custom—Reports you define

Users Flow—A visualization of how users move through your website

Now, let’s dive into the Audience report sections of Google Analytics. You can access it using the menu in the left sidebar of your Google Analytics dashboard.

#1: Overview

The Audience Overview is generally what you see when you first log into your website’s Google Analytics. At the top of the Overview tab is a graph of the number of sessions performed by website users.

google analytics audience overview sessions

Number of sessions in the Audience Overview.

Beneath the graph are top-level session details showing you the number of users who have performed sessions on your website, pageviews, pages per session, average session duration, bounce rate and the percentage of new sessions.

google analytics audience overview session detail

Session details in the Audience Overview.

At the bottom of the Audience Overview are quick links to top demographic, system and mobile data, along with a chart showing the number of sessions on your website from visitors speaking a particular language.

google analytics audience overview demographics summaryA quick view of the first ten rows of data from detailed Audience reports.

You can click on each of the links to see the first ten rows of data from each of the referenced reports, or you can access the full reports from the corresponding section on left sidebar menu under Audience.

#2: Demographics

The Demographics Overview breaks down your visitors by age and gender.

google analytics data demographicsGoogle Analytics traffic breakdown by age and gender.

You can access the full Age and Gender category reports by clicking the link in each chart or from the left sidebar menu.

If you’re tracking goals in Google Analytics, look at the data next to your conversion rates in these reports to find out which age groups and gender are mostly likely to convert.

google analytics audience conversions by age

Conversion data for visitors by age group using the Goal Set 1 explorer view.

For example, if you’re targeting an audience for social media advertising, especially on networks like Facebook, the table above shows that people in the 18–24 and 55–64 age groups are your highest converting website visitors.

Creating ads that are specific to these age groups will increase the likelihood of making a conversion.

#3: Interests

Curious what your website visitors are interested in? The Interests Overview will show you just that.

google analytics interests overview

Google Analytics shares the interests of your website visitors.

There are three reporting categories under the Interests section.

  • Affinity Category—Affinity categories are used to reach potential customers to make them aware of your brand or product. These are users higher in the purchase funnel, near the beginning of the process.
  • In-Market Segment—Users in these segments are more likely to be ready to purchase products or services in the specified category. These are users lower in the purchase funnel, near the end of the process.
  • Other Category—These are more granular categories than Affinity or In-market, and let you identify users who are not in those other categories.

If you’re an advertiser, the data in these reports can help you effectively target ads based on specific interests, especially if you use goals to know which interest group is mostly likely to convert.

Publishers can use this data to target their content toward the main interests of audiences that already come to their website.

#4: Geo

The Geo section covers the language and location of your website visitors.

google analytics audience conversions by language

Conversion data for visitors by language using the Goal Set 1 explorer view.

While the Language and Location categories both include the standard charts showing the acquisition, behavior and conversions data, the Location portion also has a map that visually displays your visitors’ locations.

google analytics map overlay

Google Analytics map overlay for location.

The map is extremely useful for targeting social and search ads—especially if you know the locations and languages of visitors most likely to convert using your Google Analytics goals.

It can also come in handy for local businesses that want to know if their marketing efforts are driving traffic from the right regions, and for publishers who want to create content that is locally focused.

#5: Behavior

The Behavior section includes detailed category reports New vs. Returning Visitors, Frequency & Recency and Engagement. These reports tell you more about how often a visitor comes to your website, how many days on average it is between sessions for repeat visitors, how long visitors stay on your website and how many pages they visit while they’re there.

google analytics audience behaviorThe Frequency & Recency distribution report in Google Analytics.

By using goals in Google Analytics, you can track the behavioral patterns of visitors who are most likely to convert. For example, you’ll know if you’re most likely to get the most conversions on a visitor’s first visit or returning visits.

google analytics audience conversions by new returningConversion data for new and returning visitors using the Goal Set 1 explorer view.

If you notice returning visitors are more likely to convert, do everything in your power to get first-time visitors back onto your website by having them subscribe to your blog or email list.

If you notice new visitors are more likely to convert, aim for conversion optimization strategies that grab people on their first visit, such as exit intent pop-ups (like the ones that ask for your email or offer you a discount code as you’re leaving a site).

#6: Technology

If you want to learn more about the browsers, operating systems and Internet service providers your visitors use when visiting your website, look through the Technology reports.

There are two category reports in this section: Browser & OS and Network.

google analytics technology

Technology reporting that shows you browsers, operating systems and additional visitor details.

If your business creates online tools or software, you can use this to gauge whether you should be creating Chrome extensions or Mac-based desktop applications. You can also use this to make sure your website is working well in the top three browsers your visitors use.

#7: Mobile

Not sure if you should optimize for mobile? This is the area you need to visit. The Mobile Overview shows you the number of desktop, mobile and tablet userswho visit your site.

The Mobile Devices category report shows you exactly what devices those visitors use.

google analytics mobile

Mobile device breakdown in Google Analytics reports.

If you’re interested in creating an app for your business, now you’ll know if your visitors are more likely to use it on an Apple, Android or Windows device.

#8: Custom

This custom audience report goes beyond the standard reports. This is a more advanced report.

The other reports here are simple to access. You simply click on the link to get information.

With this custom report you have to define your own variables, metrics and dimensions to create a report. This is too advanced for this article. We’ll cover this later when writing about custom reporting options.

#9: Users Flow

If you’re curious about the path your visitors take through your website, you can find it in the Users Flow.

Using the drop-down menu at the top left, you can see the flow of users based on language, location, browser, mobile device and similar dimensions of data.

google analytics audience user flow

Users Flow view in the Audience section.

Follow users from the starting page where they enter through as many interactions as they make or pages they view on your site.

It’s an interesting way to see which pages on your website lead visitors to view even more pages.

Wrapping Up

I hope this has given you a good feel for what you can learn from your Audience reports and how you can apply it to other areas of your online marketing. In my next posts, I’ll continue to dive deeper into Google Analytics acquisition, behavior and conversions data to show you how to analyze and use the data to improve your blog or business!