The Power Of Small Data

The Power Of Small Data

Episode #514 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

He’s got a big brain, and he’s always thinking about marketing, advertising and brands. You can hear the excitement in his voice. Martin Lindstrom was made for this business. He has a unique sense of curiosity mixed with academics and layers it all on top with science. He doesn’t guess why people make the choices that they make. He dives in deep and cracks the nut open as to why. In a world of big data and analytics, Martin’s latest book is, Small Data – The Tiny Clues That Uncover Huge Trends, and it bucks the system with his global perspective and pioneering research. He is a New York Times and The Wall Street Journal best-selling author of six groundbreaking books on branding, including Buyology: The Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, BRANDsense, Brandwashed and many more. Small Data will make you rethink those insignificant observations, to help you better understand how overlooking them could be the reason that your brand has not been able to breakthrough. Enjoy the conversation…

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation – The Mirum Podcast #514.

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Life Lessons From a Rock Star… And Finding Your Magic.

Life Lessons From a Rock Star... And Finding Your Magic.

I could hardly believe my eyes.

"What? What? What?" This was my reaction as I came across the video below on my YouTube feed. In one corner of my life, I am obsessed with the work, thinking and writing of Alain de Botton. His books, The Pleasures and Sorrows of WorkThe Architecture of HappinessStatus Anxiety and every other one he has written are core to lot of how my thinking has evolved (and this includes both the topics that I choose to study, write and speak about). It’s deep. It’s not light reading. It is profound. There are not many contemporary people that I would label as a true "philosopher." de Botton – for my money – is the first name that comes to mind as a true modern philosopher and thinker (Douglas Rushkoff is up there too). de Botton also launched a pretty amazing organization called, The School of Life. Books, online training and live events. Most of the live events happen where de Botton lives (in England). In the other corner of my life, I am obsessed with music and the creativity behind it (have you checked out my music podcast? Groove – The No Treble Podcast). One of the most amazing artists that always creates music that moves me is Peter Gabriel. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying his music since the seventies, and have had the honor of meeting him on multiple occasions. 

The two worlds collide… and everyone wins.

In March 2016 Peter visited The School of Life to speak about the lessons he’s learned from his life as a musician and someone who gets deeply involved in important social causes. I love everything about The School of Life. This is how they describe this modern institution: "The School of Life is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through the help of culture, addressing issues such as how to find fulfilling work, how to master the art of relationships, how to understand one’s past, how to achieve calm and how better to understand, and where necessary change, the world." 

Watch a video of the evening here: The School of Life – Alain de Botton and Peter Gabriel.

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Pure Mastery. Pure Creativity.

Pure Mastery. Pure Creativity.

This man is a legend. 

You may not know him by name. You have heard hundreds of songs that he has played on. Over a year ago, I decided to start a new podcast (it’s called, Groove – The No Treble Podcast). As someone who studied and loves the sound of the electric bass, I realized that these musicians (these artists) are often in the shadows – their stories rarely told outside of the bass community. If you’re a bass player (or a musician), you will often know these people. As a casual listener, it’s often the instrument that is often forgotten. It’s also a relatively new instrument. One that is still coming into its own. Tony Levin is a bass specialist. Pure, simple and rhythmic. Bass players know how hard it is to find one’s voice. Levin has not only found his voice, but a very distinct sound, playing style and groove, whether he’s playing electric, upright or the curious Chapman Stick. It would be easy to lump him into the progressive rock genre (considering his work with King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, and Pink Floyd), but digging deeper into his discography (over 500 albums that include everyone from Cher and John Lennon to Carly Simon and Seal), you will uncover a true artist.

His hustle. 

It’s not just music. Tony started blogging (before it was even called that) in 1996, he writes books, is an avid photographer and more. Levin turns 70 years old this year, and he’s busier than ever. His Levin Brothers band (a duo featuring him and Pete – his brother) is still active, Stick Men is just finishing up a club tour, he will hit the road next month with Peter Gabriel and Sting, and then cap off the year with some additional King Crimson dates. Recording, writing, taking pictures, touring and more creative output. Levin – a legend in the bass space – does not want to slow down. Prior to our conversation, he was about to embark on a club tour with Stick Men. Imagine, at 70 years old, he’s hopping into a van, hitting the road, staying in random hotels and gigging in small clubs. It’s a far cry from where he’ll be in the upcoming months, as he heads out on the road as Peter Gabriel’s bass player (think private jets and the best hotels). Why bother playing clubs? Because he loves it. It’s who he is. It’s what he does to continue to develop. He’s 70. What’s your story? Often, people will ask me about the relationship between these conversations and this, the Six Pixels of Separation, community. These are artists that many of you have never heard of. Now, they are telling their story. If, for a second, you don’t think there is much to learn from people like this… you need to listen to this. Their inspiration, their process, their grit, their creativity and more…

Here is our conversation: Groove – The No Treble Podcast – Episode # 17 – In Conversation With Tony Levin.

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How to Upgrade XAMPP for WordPress Without Losing Anything

How to Upgrade XAMPP for WordPress Without Losing Anything

There are a lot of things to love about XAMPP, but the update process is not one of them. There’s nothing automatic about it, and you can go ahead and plan on hitting a few bumps along the way.

In this tutorial, I’ll walk you through the process so you can get XAMPP up-to-date with minimal hassle – and without tearing your hair out.

You might be asking yourself, “Why not just follow the official documentation”? And that’s a very reasonable question. XAMPP is a community-driven project. As such, it doesn’t have corporate backing and plenty of financing. One of the byproducts of this arrangement is that things you would expect a commercial project to offer – such as detailed documentation – aren’t available for XAMPP. Go looking for official documentation on how to upgrade to the latest version of XAMPP and you won’t find any.

Support for XAMPP is limited to the community forums and a brief FAQ at the Apache Friends website. If you search for “update XAMPP” what you’ll find is a smattering of hits at the XAMPP forum and StackOverflow offering suggestions ranging from “just install the new version over the older one” (please don’t try this!) to “you can’t update without losing everything” and every possible answer in between.

Why Update XAMPP?

current version of xampp available at apache friends

This might leave you wondering why you’d bother updating XAMPP at all. Do you even need to?

The biggest reason to update XAMPP is to get access to a newer version of PHP. Since XAMPP doesn’t update automatically, if you’ve been using XAMPP for a couple of years you’re probably running a badly outdated version of PHP. New versions of XAMPP are available running PHP 5.6 and even PHP 7.

Another reason to update is that you should always try to use the same version of PHP in your development environment and live on the web server. If your web server is running PHP 5.6, you’ll avoid any PHP surprises cropping up when you migrate a website by running the same version in your local development environment.

So what’s a WordPress developer to do? Luckily, you read WPMU DEV and this tutorial will you through the process of updating XAMPP without losing a single one of your WordPress websites.

Process Overview

Updating XAMPP is a six step process:

  1. Backup your website files.
  2. Export your databases.
  3. Uninstall the old version of XAMPP.
  4. Install the new version of XAMPP.
  5. Adjust PHP settings.
  6. Restore your website files and databases.

This process should work like a charm for moving WordPress sites, static websites built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and any other PHP and MySQL websites. So if you’re using XAMPP for WordPress, PHP, and general front-end development, you’re in the right place. However, if you’re using the XAMPP’s Tomcat server for Java development, all bets are off. The software update process will be the same, but you’ll need to take steps to ensure you don’t lose any website data in the process.

Step 1: Backup Website Files

All of your XAMPP website files live inside of the \xampp\htdocs\ directory. If you have more than one WordPress installation or website set up in this folder you’ll have a subdirectory for each installation or website. Take a look at the htdocs directory and determine which websites files you wish to keep.

To backup the files you wish to keep, create a new folder and copy the files you wish to keep into the new folder.

In my case, I wanted to keep all of my websites files except for those that were part of the XAMPP installation: dashboard, img, webalizer, xampp, and so forth. I created a backup folder called XAMPP Backup on my desktop and copied all of the files I wanted to keep directly into this folder.

copy website files from htdocs to another safe location

Step 2: Export Databases

Fire up XAMPP control panel if it isn’t already running and head to phpMyAdmin. There are several ways to launch phpMyAdmin: by using the link in the XAMPP dashboard that appears at http://localhost, by clicking Admin in the MySQL row in the XAMPP control panel, or by just typing http://localhost/phpmyadmin into your browsers address bar.

You have two different options when it comes to exporting your databases. The first option is to export all of your databases in one SQL file. The second option is to export each database individually.

While option one may sound like the easier option, the downside is that since you’ll be working with a larger file you are more likely to run into issues when importing your databases into your new XAMPP installation. I’ve used both methods, and I usually recommend going with option two. It’s a bit more work to export and import your databases individually, but you’re also less likely to run into errors.

Here are the steps to take to download all of the databases at once:

  • From the main phpMyAdmin page select Export.
  • Select the Custom export method.
  • In the Databases section, hold down Ctrl and select all of the databases you wish to export being careful not to select the database named phpmyadmin.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Go.
  • Wait for the SQL file to be downloaded to your computer.
select just the databases you wish to export

To download each database individually the process is a little different.

  • From the main phpMyAdmin page select the first database you wish to export by clicking on the name of the database where it appears in the list of databases on the left-hand side of phpMyAdmin.
  • Next, select Export from the top menu, and at the bottom of the export page click on Go.
select a single database with phpMyAdmin

Wait for the download to finish and then complete the same process for each database you wish to export.

If you aren’t sure which databases go with which WordPress website you can check by going into your website files in the htdocs directory, opening up wp-config.php for each WordPress site, and looking for the line that looks like this:

look for the database name in wp-config to identify the database you need to backup

In this case, the database associated with this WordPress installation is called standardwp.

Export each database you wish to keep and put it someplace you’ll be able to find it easily later on. Make sure you save it someplace far from the \xampp\ directory tree.

I want to keep all of my databases so I exported all of them at once and saved the entire SQL file in the same directory as my website files on my computer’s desktop.

Step 3: Uninstall the Old Version of XAMPP

First, before you try uninstalling XAMPP make sure you copied all of your website files and databases. Once you uninstall XAMPP anything you haven’t backed up will be lost. So take a second, go look at your website files and make sure you copied all of the files you wish to keep out of htdocs. Also, verify that you have all of the databases you wish to save. Once you’re certain you have saved a copy of everything you want to save, stop Apache and MySQL and exit the XAMPP control panel.

Now you’re ready to uninstall XAMPP.

There are three different XAMPP installation flavors:

  • Automatic installer;
  • Zip archive;
  • 7zip archive.

The flavor you get if you use one of the download links at the XAMPP website is the installer version. The other versions are hosted at XAMPP’s SourceForge page, and you would only have one of those versions installed if you did so intentionally. So if you aren’t sure which version you have, you probably have the installer version.

If you do have the installer version you need to use the uninstall script to remove XAMPP. You’ll find the uninstaller at \xampp\uninstall.exe. If you are running either the Zip of 7zip version you can safely delete the entire \xampp\ directory without running an uninstall script.

If in doubt as to whether you have the installer or archive flavor, just check for the uninstaller. If you find it, run it.

screenshot of xampp prompt to remove htdocs duringuninstall

When you run the uninstaller you may be asked whether you want to keep or delete the htdocs directory.

If you’ve followed my instructions so far, you don’t really need it. However, there’s certainly no harm in keeping it. So if you feel better saving it. Go ahead and do so.

Two backups are better than one, right?

If you select the option to keep your old htdocs folder intact and plan on installing the new version of XAMPP in the same location as the old installation, you will need to move the htdocs folder out of the \xampp\ directory. XAMPP can only be installed into an empty directory. Go ahead and move everything out of the old \xampp\ directory before attempting to install the new version of XAMPP.

Step 4: Install the New Version of XAMPP

Our tutorial on installing XAMPP walks through the installation process, so I won’t go over it in detail here. Head to the Apache Friends download page and select the version of XAMPP you want to install on your computer. I prefer the installer version you get when you download XAMPP directly from Apache Friends, but if you prefer the Zip or 7zip versions feel free to click on More Downloads and select the version you prefer. Download the version you want to install and get it set up on your computer.

Step 5: Adjust PHP Settings

The default PHP settings that ship with a new XAMPP installation are pretty restrictive, even more restrictive than an average shared server and strict enough to all but guarantee that you’ll exceed some sort of limitation while working with WordPress. Before going any further, I recommend making the following adjustments to the PHP settings:

  • Increase max_execution_time to 120 seconds;
  • Increase upload_max_filesize and post_max_size to 128M.

Those settings can be adjusted by going to \xampp\php\php.ini, searching for the setting you wish to update, and increasing the existing value. If you’d like to take a look at detailed instructions on making those changes, check out our tutorial How to Troubleshoot and Fix Common XAMPP and WordPress Issues.

Step 6: Restore Your Website Files and Databases

Restoring your website files is easy. Simply copy the files and folders you previously backed up and paste them into the new \xampp\htdocs\ folder. Once they finish copying they won’t be ready to test just yet since you haven’t yet imported your databases.

To restore your website databases you’ll need to import the SQL file or files you exported from the original XAMPP installation.

Importing Multiple Databases Simultaneously

Uploading your databases all at once is pretty straightforward. Launch phpMyAdmin, select Import, choose the SQL file you exported previously from your last XAMPP installation, and once you have it selected, click Go.

If the file is large it may take a little while for it to be uploaded. Be patient.

There are a couple of things that can go wrong at this point:

If you do run into an error, such as either of those listed above, that causes the import process to be aborted part of the way through, some of your databases will be imported while others are not. After fixing the setting that caused the error, but before you reattempt to import the databases, drop the databases that were imported. If you don’t, the data will be reimported when you reattempt the import process, and you will end up with duplicate records in all of your database tables.

to drop a database just select it and click drop

Dropping databases is easy. Go to the phpMyAdmin homepage, click on Databases, select the checkboxes next to the databases you want to drop, and then click Drop. Just be careful not to drop any of the system databases such as phphmyadmin, information_schema, mysql, and performance_schema.

Importing Individual Databases

You’re less likely to run into errors importing databases individually which is exactly why I encouraged you to go this route earlier. However, the trick to making this process easy is to name the new databases exactly the same as they were named under your original XAMPP installation. If you don’t, you’ll have to go through and update the wp-config.php file for each site where the database name has changed.

The process of uploading your databases one at a time looks like this:

  1. Go the phpMyAdmin and click on New from the list on the left-hand side of the application.
  2. Create a new database being careful to use the exact same name as was used for the original database.
  3. Select the database you just created from the list in the left-hand panel in phpMyAdmin.
  4. Click on Import in the top menu, select the SQL file for the database you wish to import, and click Go.
  5. Once the import is complete, repeat the same process for the next database you wish to import until you’ve imported all of your databases.

The PHP setting adjustments I recommended will probably keep you from running into errors if you import databases individually. However, if you import any exceptionally large databases you could still run into errors. If you do run into errors, and they aren’t the errors I mentioned in the section about importing multiple databases, Google is your best bet for finding a quick solution. Post your problem and the solution you find in the comments below so that any fellow WPMU DEV readers who run into the same problems can benefit from your research.

Bask In Your New XAMPP Dev Powers!

Awesome. You’re done!

Once your databases import successfully it’s time to fire up XAMPP, start Apache and MySQL, and test your websites. Type in http://locahost/website_directory/ just as you have done in the past with your old XAMPP installation to access your websites. All of your old usernames and passwords will still work just fine.

Updating XAMPP is no easy process and you’re almost guaranteed to run into some sort of hiccup along the way. However, if you need access to updated components, such as the latest version of PHP, there’s really no way around going through the process.

Have you updated XAMPP? How did it go? What errors, if any, did you run into and how did you get around them? Let us know in the comments below.

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Google to Hotels: We Pick Your Profile Photo

Google to Hotels: We Pick Your Profile Photo

Yesterday (first reported on Twitter by Craig Harkins, an SEO manager at InterContinental Hotels Group) Google switched virtually every hotel profile photo in their Hotel Local Pack results from an exterior to an interior shot.

While Google ostensibly offers businesses the ability to set this profile photo for their own business that appearance of “freedom” to a large extent is a sham. Business wishes be damned, Google is going to make the choice that optimizes their monetization of local.

After the change, Google almost exclusively shows interior photos.
After the change, Google almost exclusively shows interior photos.
b-b-williamsburg
Prior to the change, Google almost always showed exterior photos. This search was from early March this year.

A businesses’  photo that Google shows as their profile photos has always been a business’s most important photo, creating that critical first impression to the searcher. There is no photo seen in more places on Google, in more apps, more screens and on more devices than that photo… from Google Maps to Plus and most importantly search. And a business probably has no image of them seen more widely than this one.

Google has always offered up the ability to add your own photos and with the Google MyBusiness upgrade in early 2015 appeared to allow business to choose the profile photo. From the Google post at the time: Starting today, you can tell us which image you’d like to appear when customers search for your business on Google. Their recent API upgrade also  touted this as a new feature.

The reality has always been quite different. The image Google showed was actually determined by their algo and by their preference. If your choice was consistent with that preference your choice might have been left to stand. But if you were so presumptuous as to choose an image that was contrary to their preferences say a logo, odds were Google would change the image.

Thus choosing an image that best represented your business was a crap shoot and as a business owner you would never know exactly what would show.

When I inquired about this practice of ignoring of business preferences a few years ago I was told that the images were selected to improve the Map experience. IE an exterior photo that would help a person know what they were looking for when traveling was preferable to an image like a logo. That at least was an understandable if arrogant decision.

I know I have said this before but this change, clearly for commercial reasons, should put everyone on notice that their listing at Google is for Google’s benefit and any benefits that you may accuse are rented not owned. And unlike a normal business relationship you never know when the lease will expire.

The only option open to the Hotel owner and any business for that matter is to make every photo at Google count and don’t count on that carefully chosen profile photo showing.

 

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.

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Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They’ll Work

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work

Earlier this month, Instagram management tool Later.com (formerly Latergramme) provided a first look at the new Instagram brand profiles which are currently being tested among a select group of users. The new brand profiles include a prominent ‘Contact’ button, which allows you to directly e-mail the business or get directions to their store, a business categorization field, which’ll help users find your brand, and improved location listings.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media TodayAnd this week, Later.com also got their hands on some images of the new brand analytics options for Instagram. Included within the new business profiles, Instagram’s analytics options provide a range of new insights and tools to help businesses make better use of their Instagram profiles and gain more understanding of what’s resonating with their followers. Here’s how they work.

First off, Instagram’s analytics tools will be accessible from the front page of your brand profile – in the top bar of the screen, there’ll be a new analytics button to the right.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media Today

(Note: These images were screenshots were obviously taken before the latest Instagram update, in which all the blue banners were switched to black and white framing)

Once clicked, you’ll be taken to a new screen of analytics tools – Instagram’s adopted the Facebook term ‘Insights’ for the new option.

The first of these tools is a listing of information about where your followers are located, geographically, and at what times they’re most commonly active on the app.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media TodayIn the Location details, Instagram provides an overview of the nations in which your followers are located, giving you a better idea of when would be best to reach them, in relative local time. This can also be broken down to specific cities by clicking on the ‘Cities’ option at the top right of the graph.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media TodayThe functionalty’s similar to what’s on offer on other social platforms – understanding where your audience is located is crucial to contextualizing the other data points on offer. With this knowledge, you can not only better plan and schedule your Instagram activity to best meet the attention of your audience, but you can also get a better idea of the effectiveness of your on-platform efforts – are you reaching the people you need to reach (particularly relevant for local businesses)? Is your audience growing in response to your regionally-targeted ad efforts?

In terms of follower activity, the bar graph shows when your audience is most active, which can also help you better schedule your content to maximize reach.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media TodayOf course, there’s more to scheduling that just posting at peak traffic times – research on Facebook has shown that posting at the times when more people are online may actually reduce your reach, as your posts will be competing against a lot of other cotent. This is even more relevant on Facebook because the News Feed algorithm serves posts to users based on their affinity with each creator – so if you post at the same time as a whole heap of other people are posting, people who likely have strong, personal connections with other users, the chances of your brand content getting maximum reach are not that great.

Right now, Instagram doesn’t have an algorithm so the equation’s not exactly the same, but soon there will be a similar system in place, which is an important consideration when determining the best times to post.

In addition to these metrics, Instagram’s analytics will also provide a breakdown of your audience by gender and age for further insight.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media TodayAs you can see, there’s also a listing of total audience and new followers gained for the week, and you can analyze your demographics more specifically by breaking down the data into men or women, as well as viewing them all as one group. Knowing who your audience is plays a crucial part in directing your content strategy – by understanding which ages and genders your content is resonating with, you can make more informed decisions about what to post in future.

And the last element is post analytics, with data on how many impressions each of your posts has garnered, which you can list by either the past week or the past month.

Instagram’s Analytics Tools are Coming – Here’s How They'll Work | Social Media TodayThe main difference here is Instagram is showing you how many people saw your post, as opposed to how many people ‘Liked’ it, which provides additional context as to how your audience is responding to your content, and which of your posts are generating the best response.

You’d also expect that there’ll be an option to download your data for more in-depth analysis, which would give you the ability to match impressions against actions (Likes and comments). Of course, there are no URLs to click on in Instagram posts, so you won’t be able to determine click-through rates based on each as you can on other platforms, but the impressions metric – especially once Instagram’s algorithm comes into effect – will give you a better idea of how your audience is responding to your content, and what, specifically, they’re responding to, providing you with more direction for your on-platform strategy.

Brands on Instagram have been calling for analytics tools for some time, and these new options look to cover all the major data points that Instagram’s able to provide. What’ll be really interesting will be if Facebook connects the Instagram and Facebook Insights datasets at some stage, giving you the above information from Instagram, along with additional data insights on your Instagram audience based on their Facebook activity and profile. Facebook’s already connected the datasets up, at least to some degree, as you can target your Instagram ads via Power Editor using much the same contextual input as you can with Facebook ads. Even more, Facebook recently announced that ad retargeting is now available on Instagram, which means Facebook has the capacity to track Instagram users across platforms via their website pixel.

While we’re yet to see how Instagram’s feed algorithm will change the on-platform experience, and we don’t know the impact that more ads on the platform will have over time, as of right now, Instagram remains a key platform to consider for all social media marketers.

And as these new changes and updates come into effect, it’ll become increasingly important for brands that want to improve their performance on Instagram to ensure that they’re providing their audience with content they’re interested in, and are responding to. If not, as has occurred on Facebook – your interaction drops, which reduces your subsequent reach.

The ability to provide relevant and consistently valuable content will be critical. Instagram’s analytics tools will help you do just that.  

There’s no set date for a full rollout of Instagram’s brand profiles and analytics as yet, but a spokesman told re/code in March that they’ll be coming in ‘the next few months’. 

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6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media TodayA B2B content strategy is the key to your lead generation system. Content is made to attract, acquire, engage a clearly defined customer audience – and then drive profitable customer action.

In order to build a successful content strategy your team needs to develop a larger, more cohesive story for your organization to share. It will need clearly defined targets, goals, and a long-term horizon.

The following guide looks at how to define targets and clear goals, and how some of the leading SaaS companies are using some of the most effective content strategy techniques. This is a guide for building a plan that is both reflective of your company goals and engaging for prospective buyers.

Define Your Targets

Audience personas: First, get very detailed about the specific audiences that will see your content. A quality buyer persona will define your ideal user down to their interests, location, habits, and behaviors that relate to your product. Outline what their needs and pain points are.

What might their engagement cycle might look like? Creating a map of content to deliver throughout the buyer journey is also going to be helpful in later stages.  With a full understanding of your customer you can begin to tailor a message and a content marketing strategy to them.

Most companies will need more than one persona, but start with the most important. From this you can start to see what type of content to create, how it will be consumed, and the best way to deliver it to the audience.

“What would your content look like if your customer signed your paycheck?”

– Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer, Marketing Profs

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today

(Source)

Brand Story: Here, define what brand ideas and messages you want to communicate through your content. How will these messages differ from the competition? What will be the tone of your messaging? It’s important to think about how the landscape will evolve after the content is shared with your audience as well.

Channel Plan: Lay out which platforms you’ll use to tell your story. As well, define the criteria, processes and objectives within each. How will you best connect them so they result in a well-rounded brand conversation?

What are your Goals?

A content marketing strategy serves a variety of purposes. How you use it will depend upon the action you want your audience to take:

  • Prospecting: Generating leads for sales and marketing teams
  • Marketing: Generating interest in your products or services
  • Thought Leadership: Developing name recognition to influence your industry
  • PR: Developing and repairing public perception about your brand or offerings
  • Sales: Helping your sales team close more deals, more quickly
  • Community: Developing friends and supporters who get the most of your offerings

The fundamental thing to remember here is that you’re looking to see a profitable shift in your audience’s behavior. This means calls to action.

A comprehensive marketing strategy engages it’s audience with a variety of material to bring  them into the engagement cycle. But with every level of content should be a defined conversion goal, something like this:

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today(Source)

This phase also requires you thinking beyond a conversion, to the next step. It requires a methodical examination of each stage of engagement and proper planning.

When you’ve mapped out your sales funnel, you can optimize and personalize content in the middle of the buyer journey to lead them to a purchase. Think in terms of small steps, and the triggers that will bring your audience in the next part of their journey.

When you set out to map your content strategy goals, figuring out what actions you want your audience to take is key.

When creating these goals, be sure that each is appropriate to the stage of the buyer journey you’re targeting. For example, top of funnel goals could be opening an email or visiting a website. Middle funnel actions to encourage could be downloading a report, signing up for a free trial, or a webinar.

Centralize Your Marketing

To get conversions, you’ll need to first start a conversation and a great place to host that conversation is your company blog.

It’s also a great place to generate leads. Here, you can acquire a high number of unique page views and centralize your marketing strategy with your audience.

On the blog, less ambitious calls to action (such as subscribing to your blog or following you through social networks) can help with the overall effectiveness of your strategy.

By diversifying your appeal between email subscribers, social platforms, and content on your website, you allow for a more diverse and powerful strategy overall. A well-executed blog will spark curiosity, keep readers interested, and encourage them to come back for more.

Brian Clark, Founder and CEO of Copyblogger relates:

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.”

This means focusing on quality content that begins the sales cycle, but doesn’t come off as ‘salesy’. Positioning your content as media part of a digital magazine, instead of marketing, will make it unique.

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today

(Source)

This is the Adobe Digital Marketing blog. As a resource for an audience in-line with their Marketing Cloud, this does a great job of hosting the reader experience with quality content delivered in a fresh and appealing ‘top-of-funnel’ way.

With a content hub appearing as neutral, readers are invited to become email subscribers and enjoy other forms of content in a pressure-free way.

2 Fantastic Channels for the Modern B2B Marketing Strategy

The channels in your marketing strategy will be directly informed by your brand and your audience. Whether you use podcasts, ebooks, newsletters, guides, or more – the Content Marketing Institute found that B2B marketers, on average, work on 13 different content channels and target four separate audiences within a strategy.

Specific tactics will vary by industry and company. But a couple of content strategies satisfies a wide set of valuable purposes for B2B marketers. Companies seeking to turn over the greatest number of MQLs position themselves as thought leaders, and establish themselves within a community – here are two examples of great content marketing strategy.

Webinar Registration

As a content marketing tool, webinars are outstanding. CMI reports that 60% of marketers are using webinars. This is likely due to the fact that webinars attract highly qualified leads in the middle or late stages of the sales funnel. A webinar is great way to share your message with viewers and invite their trust with some ‘time-on-page’ learning more about your company.

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today

(Source)

In this Adobe webinar, the audience gets a great seat to an exciting conference while being continuously reminded of Adobe’s brand offerings.

For a great example of how to invite your views into a webinar, here’s how New Relic positions thiers:

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today

(Source)

The copy clearly defines how to register, what the benefits will be, and that space is scarce. New Relic also plants a CTA for a free account. This page shows exactly how to engage leads, wherever they might be in the funnel.

Case Study and White Paper Downloads

Long-form and substantial content is a great for generating sales. Promoting case studies and white papers which speak to your audience and their industry will boost MQLs and show you as a trustworthy authority.

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today

(Source)

Adobe thinks outside the box with their audio white paper series, hosted on Soundcloud. By approaching concept from another angle, the company can heighten its appeal as an industry leader and innovator and also promote content in novel way.

Google 360 provides another great way to lay out a whitepaper offer. Presented as a ‘featured resource’ for those engaging with analytics, this page is clean and helpful to all. White papers and case studies like this are great incentives for signing up for your email list.

6 Ways to Improve Your B2B Content Strategy | Social Media Today(Source)

Key Takeaways

In an industry swimming with content, a B2B company with a well thought out strategy will have an advantage. By first understanding target buyers, marketers can then develop a brand message to match their audience. From this, a map of conversions within the specific buying journey can be created. Only when these core concepts have been finalized should the marketer begin to select their content for engagement within the larger strategy. The examples of white papers and webinars show how leading SaaS companies have used blogs as a pivot point for their great content marketing strategies.

This guide was originally published on Referral Saasquatch

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Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters)

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters)

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

It’s a problem when your marketing starts to feel too much like marketing. Really, marketing tends to backfire once your audience becomes aware of it.

Investing too heavily in any one channel, being too persistent or just generally coming on too strong are all to be avoided.

In this article, I’ll make a case for why all marketers must find a calculated tactical balance, and will then provide guidance as to how to achieve moderation with your marketing.

Marketers Ruin Everything

Marketing thought-leader and digital powerhouse Gary Vaynerchuk once famously quipped:

There’s one thing I know more than anything, more than the fact that I know the sun will come up tomorrow, the thing that I know is that marketers ruin everything.

This is true in large part because of the discipline and craft of data-driven marketing.

Let me explain.

As quantitatively-inclined digital marketers, our core objective is to test meticulously and optimize our processes until we arrive at a set of best practices that consistently achieve the best possible results.

Sounds great, but the problem is that when us marketers find the perfect thing we (naturally) tend to go all in. We can’t help ourselves.

After all, we ran the numbers, and so long as ROI is positive, ruthlessly pursuing these tactics is like printing money.

The problem with this purely data-driven outlook is that it can blind us to the long-term ramifications of such an “all-in” strategy.

Relying on experimentation and experience is the foundation of all scientific reasoning, but causal relationships don’t always generate measurable results.

Philosopher David Hume’s famous “Problem of Induction” addressed this flaw and framed it like this:

“The inference “all swans we have seen are white, and, therefore, all swans are white” is proven wrong once you find one exception, the black swan.”

In our case, the problem can be re-framed as:

“If all eBooks were ROI positive in the past, therefore all ebooks will always generate good returns.”

The quantitative marketer will see nothing wrong with this statement and keep pursuing the same strategy until the statement’s no longer true.

In my mind, the really talented folks over at HubSpot have pushed the limit of their flagship content marketing product in this way.

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

Don’t get me wrong, I still love HubSpot’s eBooks and other content; and there is something nice about the consistency, but being inundated with them constantly for years has worn out their novelty and efficacy for me.

Being too persistent with any one tactic or channel runs the risk of taking a perfectly potent approach and spoiling the power of the method you worked so hard to hone.

Chaotic Systems

In essence, one of the biggest problems with a purely quantitative approach to marketing is that scientific testing and experimentation requires you to assume certain things always hold true within a given system like with email marketing, on a social network or elsewhere.

However, these assumptions of normalcy can break down when a system reaches a certain threshold and begins to change itself.

This idea is present in chaotic systems where there are multiple factors at play that interact with one another consistently.

For instance, the reason you can predict the weather fairly accurately is because the act of prediction does nothing to affect the system.

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

If that’s not chaos, I don’t know what is.

The stock market, on the other hand, is inherently unpredictable because once a good enough prediction arises that prediction will affect investor behavior and fundamentally change the system.

Marketing can be a chaotic system, meaning you need to be very careful when constructing plans and predictions. This is due to the fact that your own assumptions can affect the quality of your forecasts and strategies.

Not practicing moderation with marketing has the potential to ruin your hard work.

Diminishing Returns

Another important idea reinforcing my assertion that moderation in marketing is crucial comes from the world of economics. This principle (that you may recognize from Econ 101) is commonly referred to as “the law of diminishing returns.”

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

It’s a fairly simple idea – this law states that as you incrementally increase one factor in the production of a given item, the overall effect of that factor on output will gradually decrease.

There couldn’t be a better way of stating the need for practicing moderation with your marketing – the more you ramp up one single factor of production (in our cases a marketing tactic) the less that factor matters for advancing your objectives.

This is the mechanic that makes marketing an even more chaotic system. The law of diminishing returns can hinder the effectiveness of a strategy for any audience you over-expose.

One email a day can provide great returns for a very long time, but doubling the emails might poison the water and cause that tactic to be less effective not just in that one instance, but for all instances going forward.

In fact, the law of diminishing returns has been proven (more than once) to apply to various aspects of marketing, as seen here with the falling responses rates from posting more frequently on Facebook.

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

Source: Tracksocial.com

How to Practice Moderation

Now that I’ve illustrated the need for moderation, let’s explore how to actually implement it.

Perhaps the most important element of moderation is to consider each separate marketing tactic as a means to a larger end.

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

If all of your tactics are thought of as simply part of your larger purpose as an organization, then it’ll be easier to naturally adjust your approach when they contribute a diminishing return to your efforts.

Thought of within this broader framework, the reason for diminishing returns is because past a certain point, any given tactic will no longer serve the larger purpose of a content marketing effort.

Ebooks, emails or tweets might help to reinforce a content marketing effort with purpose, but there are certainly limits for each.

Beyond a critical threshold, pursuing a specific channel or tactic any further will either cease to be very effective, or (worst case scenario) it’ll start to become counter-productive.

As I mentioned in the introduction, this point of counter-productivity is most often seen when the end consumer becomes consciously aware of any one marketing channel or method.

A really fantastic example of a healthy marketing mix is Bonobos, and because their brand mission comes first, each of their separate marketing components are exercised in moderation.

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

Their emails are consistent, yet not overwhelming. Their Facebook presence is engaging, but not annoying. Their Instagram is always there, yet never in your face.

Each marketing channel and tactic reflects their mission of making shopping for men’s clothing painless and more personalized.

They might make it look easy, but there’s a well calibrated balancing act in play to achieve something like this.

Another stellar example of marketing moderation and diversification is General Electric.

For a company that does so many things, and is running many overarching campaigns and lines of business concurrently, they somehow manage to strike a great degree of balance with their content marketing.

By pursuing micro-campaigns and cleverly segmenting their brand messaging, GE’s able to engineer a unique approach to each channel and campaign instead of just dumping ad spend across their entire brand haphazardly.

Practicing Moderation with Your Marketing (and Why It Matters) | Social Media Today

A shortlist of GE’s most recent, highly successful content campaigns includes: a sponsored post with Mic Magazine, a successful long-form research portal, and even a critically acclaimed podcast.

Each of these various efforts necessitates a social media presence to spread the word, and supplementary content and outreach to support the core content. Yet, the whole approach self-balances because all of these various strategies are simply means to an end.

The end is fairly clear for those who follow GE’s brand: their mission is to not only pursue innovative technologies, but demonstrate how these innovations can be put into action.

In fact, they don’t even leave their mission up to interpretation – they spell it out in their tagline below their logo: GE imagination at work.

Resisting Temptation

The main takeaway from this piece should be to focus on pursuing strong marketing tactics that are optimized, but to not be tempted to go all-in on any single one.

Instead, make sure to balance your approach by mixing the marketing channels you’re using and experimenting with new campaigns, which should all connect back to your underlying brand purpose.

Continue to ask if the strategies you’re using are advancing or retracting from your greater brand purpose in the long-run.

This’ll help you avoid running up against diminishing returns or (even worse) killing your golden goose via over-eagerness.

When it comes to marketing tactics, moderation is key.

This post originally appeared on the Honigman Media blog

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A More Elegant Question About Publishing And Money

A More Elegant Question About Publishing And Money

How are publishers going to make money?

That is the question that everyone in the media wants an answer to. This is the million dollar question? Scratch that, this is the multi-billion dollar question. It’s not just traditional media outlets that are scrambling to digitize their content, increase advertising revenue on their existing products or – worse – attempting to stabilize the loss and shrinkage that is happening. The truth is that advertising shifted from a model of scarcity to a model of abundance (many more outlets, much better targeting and for a lot cheaper). With that, the definition of publishing expanded as well. Social media networks became part of the fold, and other publishing platforms that could have monetized with a revenue model that wasn’t advertising-based, flocked to advertising as brands, agencies and media companies do what they do best: attempt to find more people to buy their products/services in the different places that these consumers spend their time. Now, the publishing and advertising businesses are in a huge, heaping pile of mess. Billions of dollars are at stake, advertising continues to grow and disruption is everywhere. We’re in an ad-supported world, where consumers say that they hate seeing ads (you know all about ad blockers, right), but also won’t pay for content because it has been given to them for free for so long. Ugh.

The question: would consumers pay for content if the ads were removed? 

MediaPost published the article, If There Were No Ads, How Much Would You Pay? And here’s what happened: "Zigby Analytics asked that same question to 1,004 US adults and found that Americans assign a value of about $1,200 per year to the services provided them. 85% of respondents said that they prefer an ad-supported Internet model as opposed to paying for content… It may very well end up that after all the dust settles around how publishers will make money in the future without destroying their UX, ad-supported models will turn out to be the best option. No one likes having to pay for things, after all. 75% of respondents said that they would reduce their Internet usage a great deal on all devices if the Internet was on a paid model. 90% of them said that services like email, blogs, the news and weather were very important or somewhat important."

What does this tell us?

Consumer respect and value content. They prefer ads over paying content (but they hate the ads). Ad-supported models may be a publisher’s only hope (this means more players, less attention to the ads and less value on the price of the ad). Consumers would prefer free content (they value content, but don’t want to pay for it?). If publisher’s change for content, they will get less consumers. Consumers all agree, that they can’t live without this content and the services. What a headache. Smart people are trying to solve this problem. Few publishers have found a true, valuable and sustainable business model around this. It’s a complex problem as more advertising shifts to digital channels and segments beyond the traditional advertising channel.

Perhaps a more elegant question about publishing is this: Do consumers truly understand the implications of what happens when these publishers can no longer make enough money to keep the lights on, and what this means for democracy, access to information and how sustainable communities stay connected? 

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