One of the core BizWorks360 consulting products is the BizWorks360 Digital Audit. I developed the product in response to client requests to 1) better understand how the digital landscape was or was not working effectively enough for them and 2) improve their digital efficacy.
What is a Digital Audit?
The BizWorks360 Digital Audit is a comprehensive evaluation of a company's digital assets, including its website, digital content resources and social media presence. The evaluation is done against a company's stated business goals and objectives, established digital practices and the digital performance of its direct competitors. And most importantly, it includes recommendations and a road map for improving and/or enhancing a company's digital assets to yield better results.
In advance of the Inbound Marketing Summit, this past September, I had the opportunity to talk with my colleagues at The Pulse Network about this product. That interview is included below.
If you want to learn more about the BizWorks360 Digital Audit, please click the link below. In the meantime, if you have comments or questions, about the overall product, I would appreciate your feedback in the comment section.
I love good content. I love Hubspot's content. I tell clients that they need to create content. I help them create and execute content calendars. I help them optimize their sites. I help them build their businesses.
But when it comes to my creating content on a regular basis, I am always finding excuses about not taking content to the next level. Not any more. Rick Burnes, Hubspot's Community Manager, did a great job in helping me eliminate my own writers block - so much so that I am dashing out this post after his presenation "Taking Content Creation to the Next Level" here at the Hubspot User Group Summit.
Some of the great take-aways for me today include:
1. "You don't need to be Hemmingway"
Just do it! Write! Don't get caught up in making it perfect. Actually, Hemmingway became Hemmingway by not focusing on being Hemmingway. He was a journalist first and cranked out daily!
2. Always be focused on creating content
Everywhere you go, you have an opportunity to create content. For example, here at the Hubspot User Group Summit, there are opportunities to get someone to spend time with you to do an interview that could be done as a video blog or as a written interview. In fact, over lunch, I am going to try and find someone who I can interview . . . stay tuned.
3. Always be iterating
Try new things when it comes to blogging. But don't forget to check the analytics and see what is working. At the end of the day, per Rick "data should decide content choices."
4. Find ways to repurpose content
If you invest in creating content, there are always opportunities to repurpose that content into a presentation, a webinar, a white paper or a new blog series. Always be finding ways to create links to your content. It will help your website's traffic.
5. Delight Your Audience
When Hubspot first started blogging, they took a very "Charlie Rose" approach. It was working, but it wasn't delighting their audience. Through experimentation, Hubspot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah found that cartoons produced explosive results with their audiences. I particularly like this cartoon featured in Ten Social Media Cartoons Guaranteed to Make Your Smile
I am very proud of myself for getting this done by lunch. I hope those that read it find it useful. I want to delight and I want to help! Please let me know if I have succeeded here. :)
This is the third Inbound Marketing Summit for BizWorks360. When we first came two years ago, I still had my social media training wheels. While I am not riding yet like Lance Armstrong, I have come along way and I attribute a lot of my growth professionally and personally to the amazing people I have met and learned from, especially the great folks at Hubspot, where I became a client in the winter of 2010.
I know that this year's summit will be no different and I am glad that it is in downtown Boston! Plus as a New Yorker, being in the Patriots stadium was a little disorienting! As for my pre-summit thoughts on Inbound Marketing Summit, I had the privilege to share of my thoughts with the The Pulse Network.
I look forward to connecting with many great people here. And while I have now abandoned my social media training wheels, I am hoping to leave here riding like Lance Armstrong.
In my last installment to my series on the Top Ten Business Practices for Twitter, I focused on when and how often to tweet. This post focuses on the best content posting practices. To that end, I put together a list of eight things to tweet about, and none of them are about what you're eating for lunch:
1. Links to Blogs and Articles About Your Industry
In the course of the day, we all see numerous articles and blogs that are relevant to our respective industries. It is great to share these editorial finds, but it is even better to write them in a way that will get people to link on them, as John Borthwick, founder of Betaworks does below with this tweet:
2. News About You and Your Company
It is great to share news about you or your company as it is relevant to your followers. In the tweet below, @FordMustang does a nice job tweeting about a recent article discussing the power of the Ford Mustang versus Ford Trucks:
3. News About Your Industry
It is great to comment about news in your industry. Last week's LinkedIn IPO unleashed lots of commentary from many digital leaders and commentators on Twitter, such as this tweet from Henry Blodget, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider:
4. Trending Topics
Trending topics on Twitter invite wide variations of commentary. This past week, Christian broadcaster Harold Camping's prediction that the world would end on May 21, 2011 generated a lot of Twitter commentary, including this funny tweet from British comedic actor Stephen Fry:
The use of hashtags for events make it easy for people to track the stream of insights coming from the attendees at an event. So, when you are at events, it is a great practice to tweet out your insights using the event hashtag. It is a terrific way to connect with other people at the conference as well as people who could not make it. The recent Mashable Connect 2011 conference offered a rich stream of tweets including this one from public relations professional Jessica Randazza about a talk by Meetup Founder Scott Heiferman:
6. Pictures and Videos
Twitter is a great place to provide links to photos and videos. Services like Twitpic and Twitvid make it easy and fast to upload videos and pictures for followers to see. In addition, just tweeting out links to pictures on your website or Twitter is a great way to engage audiences, especially if you are enabling them to experience something from the perspective of an insider. This tweet from Pitchfork Media does just that.
Questions are a great way to secure retweets and responses from followers. They can be used for a wide range of topics from trivia questions to opinion-soliciting to idea crowd-sourcing. Rolling Stone makes a regular practice of soliciting responses through tweets and links to its website, such as this tweet on Pink Floyd:
Retweets, along with @mentions are the currency of the web and one's influence in the Twitter ecosystem. It is good to retweet great tweets when you see them. However, to ensure that the tweets resonate well with your followers, it is a good practice to add commentary at the beginning or end of the tweet, as Netflix does effectively in retweeting Entertainment Weekly:
Not on the list are two common sense things that everyone should consider when sharing on Twitter:
- Make sure it interesting
- Make it about you, your brand or your industry.
Do you have other ideas about what to tweet about? I would like to expand the list. Just don't make it about what you are having for lunch!
I have friends and colleagues who benefit from using Twitter strictly as a newsfeed. Businesses, on the other hand, are on Twitter to generate followers and customers, which requires sharing compelling content on a consistent and regular basis. In this second installment of my series on the Ten Best Business Practices for Twitter, I look at questions about sharing content on Twitter.
How Often Should You Tweet?
There are various schools of thought on the answer to this question, pushing the issue of quantity over quality of tweets. As most tweets have a short life [as illustrated in the chart below from social media monitoring firm Sysomos], many businesses have opted to tweet constantly to stay top of mind, tweeting several times an hour.
From my perspective, tweeting constantly to stay top of mind with potential followers is not the right way to go. I think the best policy is to share meaningful content on a consistent basis throughout the day (5 - 12 times a day), making sure to space out tweets. Cramming tweets into tight time frames is less likely to generate much in click throughs, retweets or mentions. Spacing out tweets also enables you to see what tweets resonate with your followers.
Is it OK to share the same tweet more than once?
The answer to this question is YES, particularly as it relates to a link to your website or blog. Your followers will tune into their Twitter stream at different times during the day and might miss interesting information that you are posting. While it is important not to flood your Twitter stream, there is nothing wrong with putting out the same information again. News broadcasters on television and radio do this all the time.
Guy Kawasaki, accomplished author, internet entrepreneur and technology marketer, who has over 330,000 Twitter followers, typically tweets the same links four times eight hours apart. I checked his Twitter stream while writing this post to verify this and I did.
As he is Guy, he can get away with using the same text. I recommend that businesses share the same content several times, but share it in different ways each time. Experimentation will help determine what types of tweets generate the most click throughs, retweets and mentions.
When are the best times to share content on Twitter?
From an overall macro perspective, The Social Media Guide found that noon EST is the best time to tweet as you hitting "three major break times": 1) office arrivals on the West Coast, 2) before lunch on the East Coast and 3) end of day in the UK and Europe.
In terms of timing tweets to maximize retweets, analysis from Dan Zarrella of Hubspot shows that the afternoon is the best time.
Regardless of this information, I think it is most important to be tweeting when your followers are most likely to engage with your content. In fact, there are now companies and tools that help businesses do this.
For example, Social Flow, Betaworks company, has built a platform designed to help clients dynamically publish content at times when it will resonate best with its customers or with the audiences they are seeking to reach. Social Flow's platform benefits from click through data secured from fellow Betaworks company bit.ly, the leading URL shortener.
What is your experience with sharing on Twitter? When do you enjoy the most traction? And why? I look forward to your thoughts.
In my last blog post on the Ten Best Business Practices for Twitter (posted on holiday from Italy) I promised to follow up with more details on how to adhere to each practice. Now that I am recoverd from jet lag, I am keeping to that commiment!
The first Twitter best business practice I am focusing on is optimizing your Twitter profile. There are critical things that every Twitter profile should do:
Provide critical and relevant information in the Twitter account description
Each corporate Twitter handle should accurately describe the company as well as provide a link to the business's website. The link is critical for two reasons: 1) driving inbound links to a company's website and 2) verifying the Twitter handle as official. The link is critical now, as Twitter has closed its beta account verification program.
When a company maintains several Twitter accounts, it is good to clarify what each Twitter account is for. For example, Netflix has a corporate Twitter account - @Netflix and a customer service account - @Netflixhelps. On the landing page for @Netflix, the Company aptly describes who they are and provides a link to its customer service channel as well as its website.
Personal Twitter accounts should also provide identifying information, including who you are as a professional and a photo. In addition, there should be a link to a corporate bio, personal blog or LinkedIn account. I regularly encounter colleagues joining Twitter using Twitter's default egg image with no bio or indication of why they are on Twitter.
This is a sure way to limit your ability to generate followers. In fact, Hubspot has found that having a bio can boost your follower counts. According to their research, Twitter accounts with a description have eight times more followers.
Integrate corporate brand and logo into Twitter background
The best way to ensure consistency is to create a custom background using existing corporate collateral. A custom background can be uploaded within the design settings of a Twitter account. The uploaded image should be consistent with a company's color theme and logo. Jet Blue provides a good example of this integration.
Build or modify your background in compliance with Twitter's new design specs
In September of 2010, Twitter introduced a site redesign which impacted Twitter backgrounds. Prior to the introduction, there was ample room to use the margins to include additional information about your Twitter handle. For example, Southwest Airlines provided a significant information on the company in the left margin of its Twitter page:
With the introduction of Twitter's new design specs, this information is now covered up, as illustrated below:
There are a number of resources to help companies with managing these changes including a great post from Mashable on HOW TO: Customize Your Background for the New Twitter.
As it relates to customizing backgrounds with the new Twitter, I like how American Idol is using the reduced left margin to provide critical information.
Some may argue whether focusing on the right Twitter background makes sense any more with so many accessing Twitter through mobile devices or third-party clients, e.g. Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. However, I do think it is important for garnering followers. Before hitting the follow button, many still go to the profile to check out who they are following.
Keep it human
Some argue that companies should always have a human face as it relates to their Twitter presence. Comcast has made this a practice, initially with Frank Eliason (who grew to social media fame by responding to customer complaints on Twitter) and now with Bill Gerth who oversees the @ComcastCares Twitter account. That Twitter account sports Bill's image, not a corporate logo, reenforcing that Comcast views Twitter as a platform for human interaction, as well as providing transparency on who is doing the communicating.
Other businesses, like Southwest Airlines provide a link to the personal profile of the person in charge of their Twitter account. Jet Blue provides a link to a public list of those people behind their Twitter account.
I am not sure if having a human identity directly linked to Twitter business accounts is critical. However, I do believe transparency is essential. What are your thoughts?
Many businesses like to tout that they have a Twitter account. However, if a business isn't adhering to the best business practices for Twitter, it will not reap significant benefits.
Based on professional experience working with clients seeking to optimize Twitter and other social media channels, I have come to discover ten best business practices for Twitter.
1. Optimize your Twitter profile
Your Twitter profile should reflect your brand and should effectively convey what your Twitter account is about. In fact, according to Hubspot, Twitter accounts with a description of their account have eight times more followers.
2. Share information on a regular basis
Consistent tweeting delivers better results than random tweeting. It is recommended that businesses look to tweet interesting information at least 4 to 5 times a day, typically between 9 AM EST and 3 PM EST.
3. Listen and respond to conversations about your company
Twitter is a public square where customers are quick to criticize companies. It has also become a place where customers go to to ask questions or get information. Companies [even those not on Twitter] need to monitor and listen to those conversations. Social media monitoring platforms like Radian6 and Sysomos can help companies in this regard. There are also free services like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and Seesmic that are very helpful to begin monitoring use of your company's name in the Twitter-sphere. And when there are comments, be sure to respond constructively.
4. Keep tweets under 120 characters, not 140 characters
Twitter allows you to use up to 140 characters in writing a tweet. However, if you are a business, you want to see your tweets spread through retweets. When someone retweets your message, it automatically includes your business's Twitter handle which adds more characters. URL shorteners, e.g. bit.ly, can also help shorten tweets when sharing links.
5. Use language that is likely to generate Retweets
There is a science to the language you use on Twitter. Dan Zarella, a social media scientist, has put together the Science of Retweets Report, including data that shows the words most likely to be retweeted and those that are less likely to be retweeted.
6. Don't be a broadcaster
It is not enough to just broadcast tweets about your business. It is best to think about your twitter communication as if you were at a business cocktail party. Yes, you will talk about your business. Yet you will also talk about people in your industry and provide interesting insights about your industry. You will also compliment people on accomplishments or new endeavors. Your twitter feed will be much more interesting if you behave in this way in composing your tweets. It will also help in building a twitter following.
7. Ask questions
Twitter is a useful forum for asking questions of your followers as well as those tracking keywords used in your questions. Question ideas include:
- Crowd-sourcing product ideas
- Soliciting feedback on products and services
- Getting reactions to news and/or information germane to your industry
- Having fun by asking trivia questions
8. Reward followers
A number of companies have built significant Twitter followings by rewarding followers. Rewards can include price discounts or prizes. Jet Blue has had great success with a separate Twitter channel that they launched - @JetBlueCheeps - where they announce last minute deals on cheap flights every Tuesday.
9. Support stakeholders and key constituencies
Companies can create good will on Twitter by spotlighting their followers, promoting their clients or integrating the tweet handles of related entities. For example, @amazonmp3 typically includes the Twitter handle of the artists they are promoting.
10. Integrate your Twitter profile into your company website and other communication channels for your company
Add a Twitter Badge to your company website to make it easy for existing and potential clients to automatically start following you on Twitter. In addition, if your company maintains a blog, include the ability for readers to tweet your blog posts. Another idea is to include an RSS of your company's tweet stream on the company blog. Integrating your Twitter feed into other communication channels is also helpful. For example, employees should include your corporate Twitter handle in their email signatures. If your company maintains a Facebook page, a separate tab can be set up for integrating your company's Twitter feed. Finally, integrating your twitter handle into traditional advertising vehicles is also a good idea.
Over the next two weeks, I will be providing more in-depth information on how to follow these best practices. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on other best Twitter business practices? I look forward to your feedback.
During Social Media Week in NYC recently, the Social Media Club of New York City brought back Social Media Camp. The last camp was done during Internet Week in June of 2009 and was modeled after the bar camp format made popular in Silicon Valley. Bar camps are conferences created around a topic where the attendees have the opportunity to add their own sessions to the agenda on the fly.
I attended Social Media Camp in 2009 and immediately signed up when news of the 2011 Social Media Camp was announced by Howard Greenstein, social media strategist and journalist and President of the Social Media Club of New York City. The 2011 event did not disappoint.
The 2011 Social Media Camp agenda reflected how much social media has become more more integrated in the US business fabric. The 2011 sessions concentrated on applying social media to business versus the Social Media Camp of 2009 focus on what is social media.
Indicative of the transformation was the session I attended entitled Some Day Your CEO Will Tweet, co-moderated by Tessa Horehled, Engauge social media strategist and Paul Michaud, SVP of Social Media at Citicorp for their consumer credit card and banking services.
Tessa and Paul co-moderated their session in an informal interview format, focusing on five topics:
1. Shifting Towards Social Media
Paul bluntly stated that Citicorp realized that social media was "happening whether we are participating or not." This reality coupled with Citicorp's recognition that social media offered them "a new way to humanize the brand" provided the foundation for the company's own shift toward social media.
2. How to Make the Shift
Citicorp's shift started with developing procedures and guidelines as well as the right voice and tone. This shift required collaboration with the legal, compliance, fraud, technology, security, public affairs and finance departments. To facilitate that collaboration, Citicorp spent time educating internal stakeholders on social media and why they should care.
Externally, Citicorp listened to what was being said about them in the social media universe so that they could develop their voice and tone as well as build a following. They also employed various tools to help them listen, such as Radian6, Sysomos and Scout Labs.
3. Lessons Learned
Paul and Tessa both shared lessons learned:
- Social Media is not a replacement for customer service. Citicorp views social media as another media channel to compliment its customer service activities. The bank leverages its Twitter presence by direct messaging customers tweeting concerns to bring the conversation into a secure communication channel. In addition, Citicorp's Twitter presence is managed by the same people managing customer service.
- Create separate Twitter handles for different communication purposes. At Citicorp, @AskCiti focuses on customer service, while @Citi_Forward is used as a channel for communicating customer features and other marketing information.
- Data is an executive's friend when seeking internal approval for a social media program. Through Tessa's wide experience, clients that succeed in securing senior management buy-in have been those that use available market data to demonstrate the growing importance of social media. Tessa presented a number of data examples including this recent eMarketer chart regarding companies integrating social media into marketing efforts:
- Make sure your customer outreach is in line with your customers. Social media only works if you are communicating with your customers where they are at. And as Tessa reluctantly admitted, a company should not engage in social media if their customers are not actively engaged in the available social media platforms.
- Social media needs to focus on resolving problems. Tessa pointed out that it is not enough to just have a social media presence. Effective social media requires problem resolution.
4. Guiding Data
Both Paul and Tessa advised taking a portfolio approach to social media data sources. As there is currently no one data solution for measuring and monitoring social media engagement, using a basket of social media tools can provide companies with a range of important data and indicators. They also both noted that different services provide different benefits. For example, Radian 6 provides a wide volume of data and sentiment analysis. Scout Labs, on the other hand, provides a broad social listening platform with easy to pull reports.
5. What Next?
Paul believes that social media is still in the entrepreneurial phase of its development where experimentation and testing are accepted by senior management. As more companies begin using and leveraging social media more extensively, both Paul and Tessa see greater corporate emphasis on return on investment as it relates to social media. And as it relates to when corporate CEO's like Citicorp's Vikram Pandit will start tweeting, there were no predictions!
What do you think is next for social media? I would love to hear your thoughts.
This morning, a colleague who runs a significant media website, sent me a New York Times article from May that discusses search engine optimization considerations for writing news story headlines. Some of the examples are funny, but the article reflects that copywriting has changed. Headlines that meet what people are searching for now trump clever headlines.
The article also made me think about how every website needs to incorporate the headline editorial practices of the 21st Century news room, particularly those of us like myself who are also building business blogs to help their customers. So, I spent some time today analyzing what is involved in writing headlines to drive traffic. (I am also hoping that the lessons will pay off as it relates to people reading and sharing this post!)
Here are the top considerations that I picked up and have also incorporated into this blog post:
- Pay Attention to Headline Length. Headline length has always been important for print layouts. Online, headline length needs to be kept to 60 characters or less. If it exceeds 60 characters, the search engines will not display the extra words in search results. Also, given the 60 character-cut off, it is also a good idea to put the most important words in the front of the headline. As for my headline, I came in at 44 characters, including spaces and made sure "how to" was near the front.
- Keywords Do Matter. It is important to use keywords that focus on what your audience cares about or your prospecitive audience could be searching for. In the case of this blog post, I am looking to help clients who are building their own blogs as well as other business professionals who are considering how to improve their blogging headlines to drive readership.
- Fulfill Your Headline Promise. Your headline should tell the prospective reader what the article is about. It needs to draw their attention when viewing titles from search results or in an RSS reader. In addition, your headline is your pact with your reader. You could choose to game the system and build headlines that will lift search results or get people to click. But if the headline and the blog are not in synch, you have broken trust with your reader. In this blog, I have kept my promise to you by talking about "learning how to write winning blog headlines". I did not write a "how to" post about writing headlines that have succeeded.
- Learn from Winning Headline Formulas. Copyblogger has an excellent collection of articles on its site under the heading Magnetic Headlines. Several of the articles focused on using winning formulas that attract readers. It is a great series and I encourage you to go there to explore more. In the meantime, here are some of the winning formulas:
- How To Headlines [used here!]
- The Secret of [blank]
- . . . and many more
How do you manage writing headlines for your business blog? Do you think there are things I could have done better here? I look forward to any ideas or input.
As part of my consulting practice, I conduct Digital Audits for clients where I assess their overall digital presence, including website, content solutions, and social media. Each Digital Audit though begins with a Website Checkup.
I thought I would use this post to provide some guidelines for doing a Website Checkup. And while this may be web self-doctoring, it is safe to perform at the office or home if you choose!
- Does each page of your website have a unique title?
- Does the title of each page include targeted keywords that explain what the page is about?
- Is your title 63 characters or less?
- Do you have an <H1> heading for each page that reenforces the keywords in the Page Title and URL?
- Are your headings compelling?
- Are you using good subtitles for your <H2>, <H3>, <H4> and descending headings?
- Meta Descriptions
- Have you placed keyword-rich meta descriptions into your content management system so that people get the right descriptions of your website and individual website pages on search engines?
- Alt Text
- Do all the the images on your website have Alt Text [alternative text] that include keyword-rich descriptions which place the images in context?
- Are keywords present in the text throughout your website?
- Are you spreading keywords evenly throughout the text?
- Are you using bold face function as appropriate to highlight keywords?
- Do you have high quality links to your website? HINT: Use Open Site Explorer to study quality of your links.
- RSS and Social Sharing
- Are you including RSS and Social Sharing functionality on your website?
- Are you updating content on your website regularly?
- Do you have a blog? Do you have a blog calendar?
- Website Navigation
- Is your website navigation uniform across the website?
- Custom 404 Pages
- Have you created 404 Custom Pages for pages that no longer exist on your website that lead visitors to targeted sections on the website?
- Contact Us
- Do you have a Contact Us link?
- Do you have prospective customers contacting you?
- Landing Page
- Do you have a Landing Page for your website?
- Is your Landing Page user friendly? Are you capturing leads?
- Google Analytics
- Are you using Google Analytics to track your traffic?
- If you do have Google Analytics installed, are you monitoring it regularly and adjusting website to improve performance?
Going through this list on a regular basis can be useful to optimizing your website's effectiveness. In the meantime, if you have other recommendations to add to this list, I welcome them and will post updates to this blog post.