3 Business Success Trends for 2014

take the plungeWelcome to 2014. This year will be more competitive. This year, the marketing din is going to get a lot louder. This year is also going to be the year you get savvy about marketing your small or medium size business. To help you do so, here are three trends that will affect the business landscape, and your own bottom lines.

Social Media Is Not Optional. The days of just dipping your toe in the social media waters are long gone (circa 2011). You’re either engaged in social media marketing or you’re not, and – trust me on this one – you have to be engaged. No modern, effective marketing plan is complete without a social media component. Get expert advice on how to start. Pick your platforms with care. Develop a content strategy that is authentic to your brand and develop protocols and best practices for conversing with your followers. When all of that is done, then you can jump into the social media pool. (Remember, no toe dipping. This year calls for a full on, no hesitation cannon ball into the deep end – but you have to plan it out first.)

The Value of Public Relations Is Growing. While publishers may be consolidating media outlets, the ironic twist is the demand for quality content is disproportionately expanding. What this means for your brand is opportunity; opportunity to develop meaningful content and, more importantly, content people want to share. One caveat – that content must rarely be brand-centric. While the content should be relevant to your space, it cannot put your brand front-and-center if you want it to be seen as authoritative, authentic and of innate value to the public. PR is increasingly going to require a mix of earned and owned media, but that owned media – if executed well – can pay significant dividends. This content marketing (or brand journalism) trend is growing rapidly, and your public relations advisor or team needs to be leading the charge.

Smartphones Are Windows to the World. As mobile access continues to become part of everyone’s new normal, brands need to consider how to engage their consumer audiences via this medium. A responsive designed website is just the start of ensuring your brand and/or products are accessible on any mobile device. You’ll also want to track your website’s analytics to monitor your level of mobile web traffic and adjust your marketing efforts accordingly. Additionally, opt-in SMS text messaging campaigns and branded Apps are two mobile marketing tools we’ll be seeing more of in the year ahead.

These and other tactics are the new business as usual tools. More and more, companies will need to adapt to the latest technologies if they want to engage with their audiences. Meanwhile, the New Year offers new challenges and ample opportunity. On behalf of everyone at Kimball Communications, may your businesses find success in overcoming the former and excel at leveraging the latter.

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When to Hop Off the Facebook Bandwagon

Jump Off

via Flickr user psmithy

In my internal life as a secret pundit, I hold strong, unpopular opinions on a wide range of topics. I’ll spare you my monologue on the proper storage of tomatoes, but let’s discuss my wildly unfashionable opinions on Facebook, which are probably more relevant to your interests.

Here’s a radical thought: Facebook doesn’t work that well for some brands, particularly small B2B service providers. Yes, that Facebook—the stuff of marketing mavens’ dreams. For many, it turns into a marketing nightmare; after devoting time and energy to creating and curating a brand page, a chorus of crickets greets you instead of legions of grateful fans.

Many self-proclaimed social media experts will suggest that you are doing it wrong. That is true in some cases, but not all. If Facebook isn’t working for you, I think there are a few reasons it is more than okay to stop using your brand page.

It’s cost prohibitive

Contrary to popular belief, using Facebook as a PR and marketing tool is far from free. It is time-intensive, no matter what strategies and tools you use. It’s cliche but true: at work, time is money.

To get the most out of a Facebook brand page, you should spend time and money not only perusing and posting, but also creating videos and custom visual content like infographics, memes and quality photos. Last time I checked, graphic designers don’t work for free. Plus, paid ads, contests and promoted posts are often the only way to get any semblance of a noticeable boost in fans and engagement. This could be time and money well-spent, but not if you don’t see results.

Your content never meets its mark    

When I say engagement, I’m not speaking in abstract jargon. What I mean is people seeing, liking, commenting beneath and clicking thru to your content. On Twitter, engagement defined this way is possible any time someone logs on and scrolls through their feed. On Facebook, what someone sees on their News Feed depends on a number of factors analyzed by the company’s EdgeRank algorithm, which you can read more about here.

From a personal user’s perspective, there are advantages to EdgeRank and otherwise being in control of your News Feed. For example, with a few clicks, you can hide future posts from your Facebook-addicted auntie and never again be subjected to her semi-literate rants on the tyranny of everyday objects.

However, the same tool may prevent a user from being exposed to your brand’s content, even if s/he would like to see it—which s/he presumably does, since s/he “likes” you. Users rarely return to a brand’s Facebook page after they have liked it, so they won’t see your pithy posts there. And if you don’t share a photo, it is unlikely that they will see a post in their News Feed. As many have lamented, EdgeRank prefers gimics over content that is relevant to your audience. If you provide B2B services, or something that is equally ill-matched to meme-ing or Harlem Shaking, you just may never stand out.

There are other options    

Should you want to stand out on Facebook? This question nags me. For companies that provide consumer products or entertainment, the Facebook News Feed is a natural fit. You want to be (and often are) an integral part of your customers’ personal lives, so you fit in snugly between a cousin’s baby pictures and political rants from college friends.

For most other kind of brand, the Facebook News Feed is an awkward fit, like trying to wear the clothes you thought were cool at age 15. No one thinks you look cool in those JNCOs, and no one wants to hear about some esoteric corporate service while they are perusing their iPad on the couch.

In the wide world of digital marketing and PR, there exist many more agreeable options. If you are struggling with Facebook and don’t even enjoy the medium, maybe it’s time to redirect your efforts elsewhere. Perhaps your time and energy could be better spent on Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog. Read case studies, ask around and give a new network a try.

I’m far from the first person to suggest Facebook isn’t the social media marketing magic bullet, but I don’t think many take action in response. Has anyone out there abandoned their Facebook strategy? Tell us about it in the comments.