If you’re a business owner, you hear this a lot. In short, digital marketing is the term for your company’s online marketing efforts.
Tools To Use
Google search, social media, email, online advertising, and your website are all examples of tools you can use to enhance your company’s digital presence.
Do I Have to Pay For All of Those?
While social media, email marketing, and your website are not technically paid advertising. Each avenue contributes to the overall online presence of your business.
When people naturally come across your social media posts, for example, the sharing of that content helps reach an even larger audience without any cost to you!
Is Social Media and a Website Digital Marketing?
It is important to have a website and social media profiles to be an information location for potential and continuing customers.
A great example of digital marketing is having a review section on both your website and social media for customers to tell others how great your business is.
A website is also key to having your company on the digital map.
By having a well-put-together website, your business will be found easily by potential customers via Google search. It is also a place for online ads to be linked to when seen by potential customers in other areas of the internet.
How Does My Investment Help Me With Future Marketing?
Another reason to invest in digital marketing is that it is the easiest way to reach your target audience: online.
This will allow you to see real-time, measurable results from your marketing efforts. You can adjust as you need to, and using that data to create future advertising.
Using your website and social media, you can funnel money into your marketing to best reach your target audience.
Paid digital marketing efforts include displays and banners, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, and boosted social media posts and Facebook Ads.
Find out how you can apply digital marketing to your business with the Post and Courier here!
The Charleston community nominated and voted for the top businesses in a variety of categories. Now is the time for you to highlight your honors and give your business the extra boost that awards can provide.
Here in Charleston, customers are always on the lookout for Charleston’s Choice honors, as it shows a business is the best of the best. And this goes for all types of awards any business might be recognized for. Let your community know you’ve been recognized through these branding and promotional strategies. Almost all of them can be done digitally and virtually so that you don’t have to rely on in-person customers.
Brag in your email marketing
You’ll want to make sure that you’re bragging about your award everywhere you can. Emails are a great place for that. You can make specialized emails focused on your award. Or simply add in the honors to your existing communications.
If you have a regular newsletter, dedicate a special edition to announcing the honors. Make an event out of it and catch subscribers’ attention by detailing how and why you won.
What makes your customer relations the best in the business? Why is your business the top tourist hotspot? Awards carry prestige by nature. But customers want to know just why you’re the best.
This is also a good place to start incorporating the award logo into your branding. This would be temporary and wouldn’t be applicable in all branding locations, so there’s no need to rework your logo. So find the best way to pair your logo with the award branding and place that naturally in your emails. Have employees update their signatures to include that your business is an award winner.
Businesses with a customer-facing storefront will have an easy time showing off their award. On-location signage promotes your success to all potential customers or clients.
But businesses located within a large office complex in their own suite don’t have the opportunity to flaunt as much. Local billboards are a good substitute and open you up for even greater reach.
If physical ads by the side of the highway aren’t your thing, you should at least be showing off your victory on your website and social media pages. Update your website’s hero image and fancy up your homepage for a few weeks to celebrate. Maybe even run a contest to show you want to celebrate with your customers, not just tell them how great you are.
Other benefits of winning awards
If you haven’t gotten your business entered into awards, consider the added benefits outside of attracting new business. The prestige of being an award-winning organization affects all aspects of business.
Awards can bring growth to your business internally as well. It’s not always about showing off the award to the public. Current staff will be able to take pride in the work they do and the company they belong to. It’s an opportunity for a great boost in company morale. So even just putting up the award logo around the office can have great effects.
The celebration events for the awards themselves can also be a great opportunity for employees of winning businesses. Award parties can be a place to network with other winning businesses and build new business relationships.
Our Charleston’s Choice celebration brings together local businesses and gives them a chance to show the community why they were selected for the top honors. Restaurants and beverage companies can share their award winning creations with attendees.
Signs, advertisements and published announcements are the wide-reaching way to show off your accomplishment. But, an event sponsorship gives you a more intimate way to connect with potential customers or partners.
Finally, it should go without saying that a little time to unwind does wonders for everyone.
The year 2020 has shown us that social media advertising is here to stay, and that allocating your budget to successful campaigns with a high ROI is more important than before. Many times businesses feel the return on print advertising can’t be accurately measured. The beauty of marketing via social media channels is the variety of insights provided that can be analyzed to continually improve your campaigns to achieve successful results.
Gone are the days where social media was solely for social interaction. In fact, research shows that 52% of all online brand discovery still happens in public social feeds (organic & paid). This suggests that the majority of consumers use Instagram and Facebook to investigate a new company before even visiting their website!
Build brand awareness and loyalty by engaging with your followers and curating a feed that gives consumers a feeling of trust and relatability. Of course this means understanding the algorithms and the importance of curating captivating content. Let’s break down common questions surrounding social media advertising.
What are the benefits of social media marketing?
Social media is proven to increase brand awareness, inbound traffic, conversion rates, customer satisfaction, brand loyalty, and most importantly is measurable and cost effective.
Audience Growth: Facebook v Instagram
Of all social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram are proven to be the most interactive and can produce the best ROI. However, the benefits of each are very subjective and depend on which features are being used, your industry, audience, and other factors.
Facebook launched in February 2004, and introduced Facebook Ads in November of 2007. The platform was originally created to help people stay in-touch with family and friends and became an advertising powerhouse with the launch of Facebook Ads and Business pages in 2007.According to Statista, Facebook reported almost 1.79 billion daily active users and overall, daily active users accounted for 66% of monthly active users. This number continues to grow by 9% compared to the year before, despite the speculation that Facebook is “dying”.
Instagram launched in October 2010 and is a younger platform focused on storytelling through images and now instagram reels and stories. Instagram ran its first ad in November 2013. By 2017, Instagram was averaging more than 2 million businesses with purchased ads, compared to Facebook’s 5 million.
However, according to Statista, Instagram has over 500 million daily active users out of 1 billion monthly active users, making Instagram a powerhouse when it comes to audience engagement.
Audience: Facebook v Instagram
Facebook may not have the highest engagement, but because it is the oldest platform the audience is huge, with more than 2.45 billion monthly active users. Facebook differs from other social media platforms that show strong trends in users by age. The average age for a Facebook user ranges from 18-49, with little variance in between. However, Facebook is the most popular social network among seniors and the majority of the users are in the United States.
Of this 1.79 billion daily users, the ad audience reach for the U.S. is only 183 million people. This audience size has also seen a decrease in the past year from 3% to .4% - a fairly significant dip.
Instagram’s growth continues to be studied and monitored by marketers. In the United States, the network reaches over 37% of the population. The global audience is diversified, with only 11% of Instagram users represented by the U.S. eMarketer estimates 2020 will reveal a growth of over 5% in the U.S. compared and anticipates this number to continue growing at this growth rate.
More adults use Instagram than you would think, with 37% in 2019. The network is also significantly more popular amongst the younger generations. 67% of users are between the ages of 18-29. Here’s a breakdown from Hootsuite:
Another important and interesting insight to Instagram’s audience is that the gender demographics are pretty even - 48% female and 52% male.
All of these statistics are important to research when considering your buyer personas. You should always analyze your business’s audience and design your strategy based on this information rather than the overall network statistics.
Brand engagement: Facebook v Instagram
It’s no surprise that consumers rarely engage with branded social content compared to all content on a social platform. A study by Forrester revealed that on six of the seven social networks, the brands studied had an engagement rate of less than 0.1%. So, between Instagram and Facebook, which platform has the highest engagement? Depending on the blog you read, you’ll render different results. According to the Forrester study, one platform stood out the most: Instagram.
Facebook launched Facebook Business Pages to support the Facebook Ads launch in 2007, and now has over 60 million business pages. 39% of Facebook users that follow Facebook Business Pages do so because they want to receive special offers. Interestingly enough, the average organic reach of a Facebook post is only 6.4% of the Page’s total likes. Statista reports that in 2019 the social network’s marketing spending reached almost 9.9 billion U.S. dollars, an increase of over 2 billion U.S. dollars from 2018. However, despite this level of spending, the engagement on Facebook with paid branded content is still under .1%.
A study by Merkle reveals that ad spending on Instagram is 23% higher than facebook. What is driving this shift in ad spending to Instagram’s platform? Story ads and higher engagement.
Types of Ads: Facebook v Instagram
Facebook offers Facebook Ads Guide for types of ads. These ad types include: Image Ads, Video Ads, Carousel Ads, and Collection Ads. Facebook provides thorough research where their teams explored the effectiveness of ads based on engagement, exploring text, timing, and format considerations. You can find some of this research here. Facebook’s targeting tools are considerable, and allow you to narrow down by purchase behavior, interests, location, demographics, Facebook communities, and more. You can create Core, Custom, and Lookalike Audiences for your ad delivery to increase relevance, thus leading to higher ad engagement.
Instagram ad types consist of feed posts and story ads. Both types look just like regular posts and stories, but are labeled with a “Sponsored” label and include a call to action button with options to send to your messages, website, Instagram profile, etc. According to AdEspresso, the average engagement rate for Instagram branded posts is 4.3%, compared to Facebook’s 1.5%.
The user experience for Instagram story ads shows most users don’t realize they’re seeing an ad play back to back, revealing a smooth experience that isn’t too interruptive. Additionally, because an Instagram story takes up the entire screen there is no competition with other content and when targeted correctly, the experience feels organic. Therefore, consumers are more likely to engage.
Both are measured by reach & impressions. Reach is the number of unique views on a post. Impressions are the total number of times a post was seen. Both metrics provide helpful insights to your ad performance and allow you to make adjustments to improve your ad engagement overall.
Cost: Facebook v Instagram
A study in 2019 found that the average CPM for Instagram is $5.14 per 1000 visits. While the average CPC for Instagram ads is between $.20 and $2.00. Compared to Facebook’s CPM of $5.12 and CPC of $.80, Instagram wins again in this category. This study is a broad estimation, and certain factors like your target audience will affect these costs. Let’s discuss a few factors that affect the ad costs.
Ad Relevance - Facebook takes into account the relevancy of your ad amongst your selected target audience and factors this into the cost of the ad. Facebook and Instagram provide a relevancy score that changes while your ad runs. If you receive high engagement, your score will increase. If consumers are hiding your ad, your score will go down. A/B testing is a great way to determine what is relevant to your audience. Remember to only change one factor so that you receive concise data. Similar to a Google algorithm, the more relevant your content is to your target buyers and ad audience, the less expensive your ads will be.
Target audience - If you are targeting a popular audience that is high-demand, the cost will fluctuate.
Time of year - like any retail or sales strategy, the time of year will determine the cost of the ad. Popular times of the year, like holidays, will affect the ad cost.
Ad Run Dates - Obviously, the longer you run an ad the more your cost will increase. The average ad doesn’t necessarily need to run for a long period of time. Assessing your impression and reach goals will help guide you to determine a reasonable ad length and price.
Having a poor onboarding experience for your customers can pretty much kill your growth and potentially your business.
The first experience someone has as a potential customer sets the tone for your relationship. If the onboarding process is confusing or overwhelming, you risk driving the customer away permanently.
What is onboarding?
Customer onboarding is the process a new user goes through to become acclimated with your product. The onboarding process starts from the moment a new visitor begins your signup funnel. It continues as they tour your product for the first time and never truly ends.
You should continue to use onboarding as you educate your user base about new product functionalities and features. No matter when it happens, great onboarding quickly and effortlessly answers several key questions for your customer.
Why use email to onboard?
Email is a great supplemental onboarding tool that can further educate users about your product’s features and benefits. The process should always start with a welcome email, and can then go on to include emails with followup and additional information.
Welcome emails have four times the open rate of other types of emails, and are shown to perform even better when they include video. A good way to incorporate that is by using short looping videos in a welcome email. This adds interest and movement to an otherwise static experience.
You can use email in other ways to enhance your onboarding experience. Remind new users to access the product during their free trial. Dig deeper into product benefits. You can even share social proof to build value.
What should the email series include?
An email onboarding plan can look different for every company. But time has shown that there are best practices for how many emails to send, and how much to space out the send dates.
Once you get the welcome email out to the customer’s inbox, what comes next? For additional insight into how the Post and Courier onboards its brand new subscribers, I spoke with Digital Marketing Manager Stephanie Dill.
“Currently our onboarding process is a series of 6 emails sent over 30 days,” Stephanie points out when asked how many emails and how often the company sends.
“We start with a welcome letter from our Executive Editor, putting a human face behind the subscription, and then the following emails highlight different benefits you receive as a subscriber.”
Explaining benefits that customers receive as patrons of your business is crucial to the email onboarding process. When customers walk through your store, or browse your catalog of products or services, they get the basic idea of what they’d be paying for.
Present exclusive customer benefits in your emails
The email onboarding process is your chance to present the deeper value of your business, outside of what the customer already knows on the surface.
“These [benefits] include newsletters, access to apps and our digital replica E-Paper, our podcasts, exclusive subscriber-only Facebook groups, etc.”
For customers using the newspaper’s E-Paper service, videos have been made available to walk them through the service’s interface and show them how to navigate the digital newspaper replica.
Great onboarding can decrease your customer service requests. If you do a great job teaching new customers how to use your product, they’re less likely to have questions down the road. In fact, 47% of businesses say using video as an FAQ tool has helped them do just that.
“The onboarding series is a way for us to help our new subscribers make the most of their subscription and form a relationship with them that we hope will last for a long time,” Stephanie said.
How often should you send emails?
Your business should decide whether it wants to send out a burst of many emails in a short period of time, or if it should send a series of fewer emails over a longer period of time. There can be ways to meet in the middle, but you should find the right balance for your business and its customers.
“I think a blend of the two is ideal for us,” Stephanie said. “Right away, we want people to know how to use their subscription, so we send quite a few emails in the first 10-12 days. After that we back off, giving more time between sends, but continuing to check in and have little touch points for the first 30 days or so.”
Adapting the plan to your business model
The message behind your onboarding emails can and should look different depending on how you sell your product or service. Are you a business that simply sells your goods, and then hopes customers return to pay you again? Or is your revenue built upon subscription services, or other forms of recurring payment over a long period of time?
Stephanie gives valuable information for how the onboarding process should differ for these two business models.
“I think for an already paying subscriber, you already know they are committed to their purchase, and you are working to show them additional benefits to keep them long term,” Stephanie said.
“For a marketing qualified lead, they haven’t made that commitment to your brand yet, so your relationship is in a different place. You are still building and nurturing the relationship, and it is still very sales focused. You are offering things they want and need, but trying not to overwhelm them.”
For these types of customer leads, you should offer them discounted access to your product. You already know they have shown interest in your brand. They just need a little extra push to dedicate their time and money to you.
Finding the right balance of email frequency and regular communication with customers is the key to keeping customers invested but not overwhelmed. You never want to drive anyone away if they feel their inbox is becoming cluttered.
So always make sure your emails are valuable and informative. Treat your potential customer well, and talk to them like a person, not just a piggy bank.
By, Sterling Eason, Senior Director of Partnership Development
Now more than ever, consumers are gravitating to brands to hear their authentic stories. They want to see the CEO on Zoom (with her dog) in weekend clothes giving a tour of the factory or follow a social media campaign that teaches them something new. And, it's comforting when the delivery is genuine and authentic. The best part? Authentic communication is as effective as it is affordable.
This is where branded content comes in. It is the vehicle for the authenticity to travel within, which is why it can be one of the most effective tools used by brands today. Trust can be built between the consumer and the brand when they see the people behind the brands and the products.
We recently surveyed our business partners at Steeplechase of Charleston with the majority indicating that their top tools for marketing are social media and branded content. This is where the affordability theme steps in. Creating branded content doesn’t mean slick and expensive productions.
HOW TO GET STARTED
What is your goal?
Let’s start with what branded content is often used to do:
Increase brand awareness
Improve brand loyalty
First, gather your smartest minds together and talk it out.
Be sure to populate that team with people from multiple areas of the company. Remember, your brand is represented in everything from sales to operations to the front lines of customer service - all these areas should weigh in.
What do you want for the brand? Find your themes.
Start putting them into buckets with ideas attached to each.
If you are efficient, this is a one-hour meeting. Preparing your people before the meeting is key. Give them time to think about the brand and assign them ideas to bring to the table.
Develop the story and concept.
You have your buckets of goals with themes, now pick one. Pick a week on the schedule to push it out and work backward to begin your planning. While you are at that, create a basic content calendar for the year and share it with the team. Be willing to change that calendar as often the market will present new challenges. For guidance, here's a great article discussing the Nine steps to great storytelling.
Develop content that strengthens likability while also carrying out your major goal.
Good content is key to convince consumers to click. People like content that makes them feel good and in turn, they often will feel good about the brand. Make them laugh, teach them something, give them special access. With consumers spending less time commuting, etc., they are looking to fill in gaps. This is your opportunity to bring them content that entertains and informs - resulting in consumers taking action.
A SATISFYING CONTENT EXPERIENCE → DRIVES CLICKS → HOME PAGE → SALES
A few ideas to consider:
Give them access to something - Go behind the scenes and show your process. People love to see things being made!
Another suggested strategy is to not only attempt to create a community centered on enthusiasm for your brand, but for your brand to enthusiastically support existing communities that have a purpose separate from, but relevant to you.
How to tell your story
Find the easiest platforms for you to use. This is where Social Media steps in often. It is user-friendly, easily-measured, and inexpensive. (If you aren’t consistent with content on social media, you are likely not going to build your followers.)
However, there are many other platforms such as articles, video calls, virtual events, branded videos, newsletters, as well as conference calls.
Identify the voice: If it is a Zoom call, bring in a moderator to hold the content together by keeping everyone on message; if it’s an article, have your CEO pen the piece from their perspective, or, if you are hosting a virtual event, pin it to a theme and have your host give a strong introduction and close.
Record and reuse. Once you have built a body of content, save it! Use it again. Replay it to a new audience. And by all means, add it to your website so that those visiting for the first time can get a sense of your brand voice.
Here's an example of a branded content video created by Steeplechase of Charleston for our presenting sponsor, Baker Motor Company:
Last but not least, three golden rules:
Have a purpose for what you are doing when you tell your story.
Tie that purpose back to a call-to-action.
Make it easy for them to act as well as react.
The time is now to drive connections. The desire of your customers is there. What are you waiting for?
A partnership with Steeplechase of Charleston can mean much more than exposure on race day. Consider a conversation with me to discuss how your brand can be a part of our overall content strategy that begins well in advance of race day and extends across multiple platforms.
By Sterling Eason, Senior Director of Partnership Development, Steeplechase of Charleston, The Post and Courier