Building Content Marketing’s Most Valuable Tool: The Style Guide

“We don’t need more content. We need better content, and we need to focus on creating better content.” – Ann Handley, MarketingProfs

Amen, sister. These days, content is everywhere you look. It consumes your Facebook newsfeed, Twitter feed, LinkedIn, email inbox—you name it, content is front and center.

I had the pleasure of hearing Ann Handley speak about this issue earlier this year at Social Media Marketing World.

She shared two stats that struck me: 

  • 75 percent of marketers want to create more engaging content
  • 69 percent want to be better storytellers

The reason why I find this impactful is because we’re in the same boat here at Business.com. Is our content good at engaging the reader and storytelling? Yes. Could it be better? Yes. 

These stats represent practioners in the field that are tapping content marketing, but think they could be doing it better. Very few are the examples of “what to do” and even those could use improvements. We’re all learning as we go, and we have to help each other in the journey to creating better content.

The secret sauce to content that moves mountains, according to Ann Handley, is a content style guide.  

Related Article: Streaming Happiness: Lessons From Netflix About Content Marketing

Why You Need It

If you don’t take a step back and think about your business as a whole when it comes to creating content, your content will be a lost cause from the get go. The reason, according to Handley, is that who you are, what you do and what you’re like to deal with is your tone.

The very culture of your business is your tone—it is the voice that becomes your brand ambassador to the outside world. In every piece you publish and share with the public, this voice not only communicates your mission, but also builds your brand image, empathy and story.

First Things First: Find Your Words

As the first part of the exercise, Handley recommends finding your “words”—three words that define your company. She says to steer clear of words like “friendly, reliable and honest” because those are things you should be regardless. 

Put your customer/client in it. Tufts University, for example, uses content marketing to appeal to applicants. Their three words were:

  1. Reassuring
  2. Helpful
  3. Humorous

Depending on who you ask in the company, you might get different responses, which is why this is a good exercise in branding in addition to content. To me, our three here at Business.com are:

  1. Data-driven
  2. Thought-provoking
  3. Actionable

Beyond your three words, it’s important to develop other brand specific “words.” This should be a list of words that you specifically employ to convey your tone of voice. Within this list, include jargon to use and to avoid.

Regardless of if you have just one person doing the writing on your team or if you have hundreds of contributors, this list will help you more clearly define a voice that contributes to your tone.

Related Article: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy…That Actually Works

Next Steps: Putting It Down on Paper 

Now that you have found your words, it’s time to put them into action—well, on paper that is.

Creating your own brand style guide might sound daunting, but thanks to the Internet, there are plenty of great templates and examples that exist to aid in your development.

Here are some we’ve found in our research, and that we’re currently using to develop our own Business.com Style Guide. It’s a work in progress that we’re looking forward to sharing with you when it’s complete.

Hubspot Internet Marketing Written Style Guide

HubSpot

Hubspot has established themselves as one of the go-to examples of content marketing. One of the things that this comprehensive style guide how-to helps you achieve is consistency, which is vital to your brand voice and tone. 

An added bonus is the section on how to implement your style guide and get buy in from those in and outside of your organization.

Kapost 

I currently have this template on my desktop. It is an easy-to-use template that includes all the style guide essentials. Depending on the needs of your organization, you can pick and choose what to keep, toss or expand upon. 

Or, if you’d rather, just place your logo on it and call it a day—it’s that good as is.

Buzzfeed Word ListA Glimpse of BuzzFeed’s word list

Buzzfeed 

Buzzfeed has such a stellar example of a style guide that really captures tone. With hundreds of on-staff writers, plus a contributing community, it’s clear why keeping everyone aligned on tone and voice is of utmost importance. A glance at their word list and it’s clear—yep, this is Buzzfeed. 

MailChimp

Handley called MailChimp the “poster child for B2B” style guides, and once you see it, you’ll understand why.

In their intro, MailChimp shares what their style guide will accomplish: “This guide will cover some grammar basics, explain the types of articles we publish, and give you a sense of MailChimp’s personality.” This should be your goal, too.

They go on to share their unofficial tagline and what they are. It’s also worth a sharing:

MailChimp’s unofficial tagline is “Love what you do,” and that spirit should come through in every piece of content we produce.

MailChimp is:

  • Fun but not childish
  • Clever but not silly
  • Confident but not cocky
  • Smart but not stodgy
  • Cool but not alienating
  • Informal but not sloppy
  • Helpful but not overbearing
  • Expert but not bossy
  • Weird but not inappropriate

In Conclusion

A style guide is really much more than that. It is your brand, wrapped up in a beautiful package, that’s ready to be shared with the world through the power of words. A style guide will allow you to share the vision of your brand and it’s content with others, so that they can be a part of creating that content. 

Don’t Believe the Hype: Why Live Streaming Isn’t For Everyone

Periscope this, Meerkat that. Twitch this, YouTube that.  

Though livestreaming services have been around for years, the recent explosion of the two apps has brought it back to the forefront of our minds.

Yes, it’s incredible that modern technology has provided us the opportunities to broadcast our businesses and ourselves with the tap of a screen or the click of a button. The opportunity is great—it’s practically face-to-face communication with a very captive target audience. Your brand is on a podium, and your viewer is an attentive listener that’s plugged in socially. In short, a marketer’s dream.

But as anyone who’s ever created a webinar or a video knows, live events and video production take a lot of time, money and preparation, and live streaming is the paramount of such. On top of that, optimizing production value with a smartphone is not an easy feat.

So I’m here to say: don’t believe the hype. And if you don’t believe me, here’s what AJ Dellinger had to say in the The Daily Dot,  “Even though live streaming isn’t new, it’s never been this easy. But does anyone outside of the obsessive tech community truly even care? Probably not!”

Related Article: 5 Tools for Leveraging Your Next Networking Event AFTER It’s Over

When Live Streaming Works & Who It’s Best For

In a former life, I worked for one of the top live streaming video services. We saw plenty of great uses of the technology, most of which were B2C and consumer. The power of live streaming allowed for pop stars to do live Q&A’s, millions watched as eagles raised their young and political debates were streamed as virtual drinking games.

B2B was a bigger challenge. Live streaming worked especially well for conferences and events, and even threatened to challenge the webinar business. But in order for a brand or business to really do it well and reach their audience, they had to have the proper technology, technical skill level and marketing budgets. 

This obviously narrowed the playing field quite a bit. Which is where Periscope and Meerkat come in.

The two apps have taken the tech world by storm, and have great use cases. As displayed in Ian Adams’ Slideshare presentation, the following events are perfect for the apps: 

Live streaming usesImage via Slideshare

Related Article: 4 Ways to Lower the Cost of Making a Business Video

The Latest and “Greatest”

I’m not denying that Meerkat and Periscope greatly lower the barrier to entry to live streaming, which is something we constantly dealt with at my previous employer. It was simply too hard and too expensive for many businesses to incorporate into their marketing efforts.

For this reason alone, I think the apps are exciting for business. But here’s the reality: for the time and effort you take to prepare and even market your stream, the viewership might not be what you’re hoping for. Let’s look at the numbers. 

As reported by AdWeek, “Periscope users shared their livestreams on Twitter 1.5 million times through May 22 (1,510,709, to be exact) since… March, according to Nuvi.”

Meerkat streaming looks to be along the same lines, but is actually outperforming Periscope. Via AdWeek: “Meerkat livestream URLs were shared on Twitter 1,521,424 times during the same period.”

These figures sound impressive, but the bigger picture is that viewership and streams are not the same. Viewership numbers are hard to come by, but let’s say that every stream had an average of 100 viewers, which is extremely generous (most I’ve seen hover around 25 simultaneous viewers). That would be about 151 million and 152 million views for each network over a three-month period, respectively. 

Now consider these stats (via the Daily Dot): 

Facebook claims to have 745 million daily active users on mobile alone. 70 million pictures are posted on Instagram a day. The somewhat still in existence social network Path has 5 million daily users. Myspace manages 50 million monthly users who bother to log in and watch a digital tumbleweed roll across their screen. 

In comparison, when you think about the Periscope and Meerkat streaming figures above, they are just a blip of activity compared to other networks. And not only that, there is the challenging quality component of live streaming.

In Conclusion 

My point is not to say that these apps aren’t worth anyone’s time. I think there are people and brands using them in inventive ways, and that’s bound to continue. Meerkat and Periscope are great advancements in streaming technology, and bring about a new age in social media and it’s capabilities. 

That said, I would not recommend dedicating a portion of your marketing budget to your Periscope or Meerkat efforts. As marketers, it’s our job to tinker with the latest and greatest, but we are also charged with the task of evaluating ROI before spending a dime. Until we see that our time and money are met with the potential of a network, anything beyond experimentation should wait. 

What do you think?

Article image via Ian Adams

B2B Marketing: Focus on the Big Picture

Marketing business products and services to other businesses used to be relatively simple. You developed a series of ads touting the features and benefits of your product or service, and you ran those ads in leading trade journals and exhibited at leading trade and association shows. This straightforward approach existed for well over 100 years until the Internet came along, irrevocably changing how marketers reach, engage and sell to business decision makers.  

Today, B2B marketers have a dizzying array of brands, platforms, services and technologies being pitched to them, each touting to be more powerful than the next.

Our industry is also awash in data and analysis, fueling an endless number of silly debates like whether the average B2B purchase is 55%, 67% or more than 70% through before the buyer engages with a sales rep. Whether the average B2B buyer reads 11 or 12 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep. Or whether there are 5.4 or 8.5 decision makers involved in the average B2B purchase decision. Here’s the reality; all data and analysis is directional. At best. Also bear in mind, analysts are selling you analysis.

It is easy for B2B marketers to get lost in data and analysis and have their marketing get stuck in incrementalism as a result. It’s important to understand the big trends, especially the major market transitions and how they impact your marketing. But don’t get caught up in the increasing avalanche of minutia around the lack of alignment between sales and marketing, or the buyers journey, whether content marketing works or the role of marketing automation. Focus instead on the big picture, and then match your tactics to your strategy. 

Related Article: 6 B2B Marketing Tips to Stay Ahead in 2015

There are 4 key elements to success in business marketing today:

  1. Brand Engagement: Reaching and engaging your target audience.
  2. Demand Generation: Generating prospects as they are working through their purchase process
  3. Nurturing: Qualifying and nurturing prospects into customers
  4. Retention: Renewing and growing customers and developing customers as advocates

Engineering your marketing so that these critical steps work together is the key. To be successful in these four marketing disciplines you need several things:

Data

All successful marketing today is fueled by high quality data. Preferably 1st party data. Your target audiences rely on digital brands they trust for knowledge and insights. As they do so they leave digital footprints that reflect their intentions around the purchase of related products and services. This data is invaluable in targeting your marketing as well as for use to fuel programmatic advertising.

TIP: Make sure that your advertising is running on high quality sites that can capture audience data and provide a more compelling experience and more targeted advertising. At Business.com, we built our own data platform to capture and analyze every visit, which allows us to tailor the experience for our audience as well as increase advertising performance by contextually integrating advertising. We have also added several data platforms and services into our platform, like Krux, 6Sense and BoomTrain to provide even more value from the ongoing 1st party data we gather on our audience of business decision makers.

Multi-Channel Approach 

It used to be that multi-channel referred to on and off line. Today successful marketing is about harnessing the power of multiple online advertising products, performing in a coordinated fashion, to drive performance. Brand engagement fuels successful demand generation and successful nurturing moves a prospect into a customer.

Content Marketing

Advertising is dead. Long live content marketing. Do not waste another second debating or wondering about whether content marketing works. Invest that time and energy into getting it right.

Download our Whitepaper on Content Marketing strategy and tactics in order to navigate around the obstacles and learn how to maximize your content marketing ROI.

Related Article: Content Marketing Metrics: Write, Measure, Repeat

Brand Trust

Regardless of what you’ve been told, significant business decision makers are brand conscious for the simple reason that their jobs are on the line.

Where and how your digital marketing reaches and engages business decision makers matters far more than you might imagine. Hammering prospects via lists, unbranded emails and content syndication networks is no longer an effective model. Where you advertise, how you advertise and how you follow up once prospects engage with your advertising all contribute to your prospects understanding of your brand and the value they place on it. If they don’t trust the source, your advertising or your follow up, they won’t trust your brand. There are two key things to focus on in developing brand trust:

Consistency

Consistency and continuity are the hallmarks of a trusted brand. Erratic behaviors and disjointed experiences can indicate instability or a lack of focus that will scare away your audience. 

TIP: Make sure your marketing materials share a common message, tone and esthetic. This unity of design will promote confidence and elevate your brand’s perception. 

Transparency

Transparency is key for building relationships based on trust. If your audience doesn’t get the whole story, they might assume the worst. 

TIP: Quickly address mistakes or errors rather than attempting to cover them up. Treating your audience like good friends, showing respect will build a loyal following of brand advocates.

Know your buyer

Regularly analyzing customer data; renewal percentages, win/loss reports, top customers by region, category and price point, and defining clear KPI’s for customer success are important. It’s critical however to add a qualitative analysis on top of this data. Ask yourself:


  • Who is your optimal customer?
  • Which people within your target accounts influence the decision?
  • What are their motivations?
  • Are they aware of your brand?
  • How does their purchase process work?

Yes developing “buyer persona’s” is a good idea. This isn’t some mystical art however. When in doubt go meet with your prospects and ask them about their company, themselves, how they make decisions and how they feel about your brand. 

Stay focused on the big picture in your marketing strategy and don’t get distracted with the analysis paralysis that can result in your playing small ball. For more information on B2B marketing best practices, learn from our Market Experts at Business.com.

 

Native Video: The Major Players & Why YouTube Should Be Scared

Every day, people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube and generate billions of views. Every minute, 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. Every month, 1 billion unique visitors are watching content on the site.  

Marketers are well aware of video’s impact. In fact, 72% of them used YouTube to market their business in 2014. But, has YouTube’s fame phased out with the evolution of native video launched by Twitter and Facebook? As brands and companies evolve their content marketing strategy, YouTube may have a reason to be scared.

The Impact of Facebook and Twitter Video

It’s too early to know what the economic impact of Facebook and Twitter’s video product means to video, but it’s clear that these new products give marketers new choices in which to distribute their videos. Now, instead of embedding the YouTube code on your site to play video natively within your content, marketers can use Facebook’s code as well.

Why Does It Matter?

Why does it matter where you publish your video?  As the second largest search engine in the world with 3 billion searches per month, it’s clear why YouTube has been the video network of choice for quite some time.  Even so, brands and marketers climb an uphill battle to get their video content viewed, and more importantly, shared.

Facebook’s native video means one very important thing: more eyeballs.

Related Article: Play It Right: Keys to a Successful Online Video Launch

Facebook’s Power Play

Though the option to share video via the social network has been available for some time, Facebook has recently put more of their eggs into the video basket. First, they made algorithm changes that gave more visibility to videos published on Facebook. This change not only gave preferential reach to videos on Facebook, it also downgraded the reach of videos from third-party platforms (i.e. YouTube).

Brands and publishers immediately glommed onto this reach-enhancing shift; Buzzfeed even published their video featuring President Obama on Facebook instead of YouTube. Digiday shared the insight that “as of November [2014], native Facebook videos accrued 80 percent of total interactions on the platform’s video posts, leaving just 20 percent for YouTube and other video formats, according to social media analytics startup Socialbakers.”

native Facebook videos accrued 80 percent of total interactions on the platform’s video posts, leaving just 20 percent for YouTube and other video formats

On March 25, Facebook used their F8 developer conference to announce that videos published within their platform would now have the ability to be embedded elsewhere on the web.

With the one-two punch of increased organic reach and embeddable video, Facebook is now a threat to YouTube’s monopoly on the video game.

Twitter: Not to Be Outdone

Twitter has long supported the sharing of video. Their 6-second, viral video-making machine, Vine, still has a strong foothold in the market, and their newest addition, Periscope, allows users to live broadcast to their Twitter feed. On top of these efforts, Twitter will soon be expanding its video capabilities to native.

As reported in TechCrunch, “The Twitter Video Player will host videos of up to 10 minutes with no limit on file size, initially supporting mp4 and mov files. There will be no ability to edit videos or schedule them within the player; at least in its first iteration. And, pointedly, the Twitter Video Player will not support videos hosted on YouTube or anywhere else, just those on its own service.”

Twitter continues to look for ways to reach new users and re-engage current users as their numbers have begun to decline. Beyond that, the focus is on expanding their advertising product suite.

Related Article: Seeing is Believing: How to Use Web Videos to Improve Your Bottom Line

What Does It All Mean for YouTube?

To be clear, the assumption that native video on Facebook or Twitter will kill YouTube is incorrect. YouTube is a destination for video, and the engaged users within the platform are not going to jump ship to Facebook or Twitter anytime soon, if not for any reason other than discovery.

What’s most important to note, though, is that views and metrics are looked at differently on each platform and therefore cannot be compared side-by-side.

As reported in Digiday, “Facebook, which autoplays videos in the news feed, counts three seconds of viewership as a view. And if you go back and watch that video again, that’s another view. For YouTube to register a view, you need to actively click (or tap) play on a video. And if you return to it later (on the same connection), YouTube won’t add to the video’s total view count.”

For marketers, this seemingly subtle difference is actually glaring, and will aid in maintaining YouTube’s value and relevance.

The Key to Opening Content’s Lock? Content Distribution

As editor in chief at Business.com, paid distribution of our content is equally as important as the production of content. With Facebook’s constant algorithm changes, and Google promoting their own content over others, content distribution requires an aspect of paid promotion in order to reach earned media.

As a rule, we don’t pay to distribute all content-our approach is to only promote stories that have proven successful organically first. It’s very similar to the approach that brands like Kraft take when using Pinterest as a sounding board for choosing the most popular images before they use them in their magazine or in commercials. For us, after an article reaches a certain organic threshold, we weave it into our paid distribution plan.

So while content is king, distribution is like parliament-it holds all the power. Here are some of the top platforms that we have found successful, and others you may want to consider. (more…)

The Key to Opening Content’s Lock? Content Distribution

the key to content success is distributionAs editor in chief at Business.com, paid distribution of our content is equally as important as the production of content. With Facebook’s constant algorithm changes, and Google promoting their own content over others, content distribution requires an aspect of paid promotion in order to reach earned media.

As a rule, we don’t pay to distribute all content—our approach is to only promote stories that have proven successful organically first. It’s very similar to the approach that brands like Kraft take when using Pinterest as a sounding board for choosing the most popular images before they use them in their magazine or in commercials. For us, after an article reaches a certain organic threshold, we weave it into our paid distribution plan.

So while content is king, distribution is like parliament—it holds all the power. Here are some of the top platforms that we have found successful, and others you may want to consider.

Content Distribution for Page Views

If your goal is just to drive page views and nothing more, Facebook, Outbrain and Taboola have worked for us. But, here’s the catch: if you have a smaller team and want a managed solution, SimpleReach is that solution. They work with 100+ publishers and have a predictive algorithm to determine how many social referrals an article will drive based on the acceleration of social sharing and resulting page views. Though we’ve occasionally seen bugs in the interface and discrepancies in the data, overall they are very customer-facing and a perfect managed solution if you are trying to drive page views and determine which pieces of content are resonating with the social audience.

According to Kent Krekorian, VP of Operations, they are “the only platform with code on-page, giving them the ability to close the loop between what’s happening on distribution channels and your site, optimizing paid distribution for content that maximizes organic traffic. To me, focusing on prediction and real-time adjustment is much more effective than looking in the past and determining what worked.

If you have internal resources available, Facebook, Outbrain and Taboola interfaces are all very user-friendly, targeted and allow you to optimize bids and content based off audience.

Content Distribution for Brand Credibility and Direct Visits

If you are looking for ways to increase your brand awareness, drive direct visits, increase demand generation inquiries, and build direct traffic to the site, Nativo and Flipboard have solutions for all three.

Flipboard aggregates content through links culled from users’ social media accounts and has 150 million users digesting content. Up until recently, Flipboard was only designed for tablets and smartphones, but just announced a new application tailored for desktop. In November, they reported that their readers were flipping about 8 billion pages per month. That’s a lot of pages. For more on publishing and advertising with Flipboard, they have a nice, clean Q & A section here.

Nativo is a straight native placement play. You won’t get traffic back to your site as the content resides natively within the publisher’s site. This one that, in theory, is really interesting, here’s the problem I have with it.: native ads can’t be the same piece of content and a mechanical distribution. Native placements must be placed and crafted specifically for the audience that it’s serving.

Producing unique creative for each placement is expensive. If other companies are successfully using the same creative placed natively in various publishers, I want to know how they’re doing it, and replicate it quick.

Content Syndication Only

If you are looking for true syndication only, Newscred and a handful of others do this well. The problem is that most sites don’t handle syndication properly and doesn’t adhere to Google’s guidelines and recommendations around syndication, which are:

  • Use the rel=canonical tag to help consolidate the PageRank of the stories and avoid any issues with Google (source: Search Engine Land)
  • Link back to the original article and provide attribution back to the original source

If you are not concerned about which site will rank for a piece of content than Newscred is a platform you should consider, if you qualify. Characterized as a content marketing platform, they have a syndication solution allowing brands to add content to their system, which is then hand-picked by their editorial staff.

If you get accepted into their publisher platform, you can show up on sites like Visa, Hartford or even Pepsi. In the Visa example, you can see that Gigaom, The Next Web, etc. all get exposure through their content, but there are no links or canonical back to the original article. There’s just one line that says “This article was written by Kevin Fitchard from GigaOm and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.”

Other Tools You May Want to Rethink

Other tools like Zemanta and PRNewswire are often mentioned as another distribution channel. Zemanta claims that they place links back to your site on credible sites in your arena. If you really manage it daily, this is probably true. If you don’t, it’s a disaster. We started showing up on Chinese language sites (which we only operate in the U.S.), X-rated sites and mom and pop sites about raising kids (we are strictly B2B), so it wasn’t valuable for the audience or for us.

PR Newswire and other PR distribution sites are also not a great option if you are trying to drive links or traffic. If, and only if, your content is of value to the media should you use these channels. I may be old school, but my background in public relations still holds true—don’t make it all about you when pitching to the media, make it about them.

Native Advertising: What Is It Exactly?

Native advertising this, programmatic that. The buzzwords fly freely, but does anyone ever take a moment to really explain what the heck is going on in plain English? The reality is that new “trends” are really old ones, re-packaged or spun a bit, and that is definitely the case with native advertising. So what is it, how does it work, and how can you get in on the action? Keep reading.

What Is It?

Simply put, native advertising is a form of sponsored content. Wherever it is, be it Twitter, Facebook or your website, it looks like it’s supposed to be there. It is the definition of contextual. Let’s take a promoted pin, for instance: (more…)

Native Advertising: What Is It Exactly?

Native advertising this, programmatic that. The buzzwords fly freely, but does anyone ever take a moment to really explain what the heck is going on in plain English? The reality is that new “trends” are really old ones, re-packaged or spun a bit, and that is definitely the case with native advertising. So what is it, how does it work, and how can you get in on the action? Keep reading.

What Is It?

Simply put, native advertising is a form of sponsored content. Wherever it is, be it Twitter, Facebook or your website, it looks like it’s supposed to be there. It is the definition of contextual. Let’s take a promoted pin, for instance:

Pinterest ad mockup via Digidayvia Pinterest as published by Digiday

 The pin looks and acts like all the other pins, but down at the bottom, you’ll see that it’s marked as “promoted.” Facebook and Twitter are two other big ones that employ native advertising, which they disperse among the content you’ve chosen to see by following or liking.

If you think about it like television, commercials are to traditional advertising as product placement is to native advertising (so long as it doesn’t change the format of the show).

In August 2014, a study by 614 Group and OneSpot revealed some pretty impressive stats:

  • 69 percent of marketers believe that native advertising is valuable
  • 22 percent view it as the future of digital advertising
  • 52 percent of marketers assert that getting to right level of scale is their job No. 1 for native advertising and content marketing
  • 87 percent employ their own websites as a means to promote content
  • 80 percent use social networks

How Does It Work?

In traditional advertising, let’s say for a magazine, editorial and advertising are kept very separate. The editorial team is charged with creating content that is within the voice of the publication, and at it’s core, promotes their mission and brand values. The nature of editorial is truthful and journalistic, and is the main reason why readers will patronize a publication—because they trust it. There is no ulterior motive in editorial besides telling a story in the way the writer intended it to be told.

Native advertising blurs the lines. Take Forbes’ March 2015 cover, for instance:

Forbes cover March 2015 native advertising

This move was a bold one. Typically, what is now known as “native advertising” lived in the back of a magazine, where sponsored content existed but looked and acted very different from editorial content. This new iteration of native advertising made many feel like they were being misled, and the journalists weren’t too happy about it either. Former staff tweeted that they had “just sold-off its last bit of editorial integrity” and were “pushing forward the complete bastardization of journalism”.

The difference between the Forbes example and Pinterest might be subtle, but it’s clear: in order to maintain the trust of your audience and/or potential customers, be clear about your motives.

How Can You Get In On the Action? 

As a B2B marketer, you’ve probably already been thinking about how exactly you can get in on the native advertising action. If you’re using Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook, it’s relatively easy—promoted pins, tweets and posts are a regular part of their advertising products now.

Native advertising example Dell on Business.com
Additionally, most B2B publications are prepared for native advertising. Business.com was built to be a native platform, and the opportunity for sponsoring native content was baked into our new design. Want in on the Business.com native action? Contact us.

Native advertising on business.com CA

If you’re looking to create native advertising opportunities for your clients and customers, this is a good time to get to it.

The logical (and most important) place to start is to create for the mindset that native advertising is a marriage of the minds between editorial and sales. Native advertising should present the message of the advertiser in the voice of the publication, while making sure that it’s clear to your audience that the content is sponsored.

In order to do this well, you need to get all stakeholders onboard, and early. Make sure your sales team is talking to your content/editorial team before promising anything to an advertiser. Talk to your design about how you’ll differentiate sponsored native content from published editorial. Talk to tech about how it will be implemented.

Small Business Finds The Internet… It Only Took Two Decades [Survey]

Where would we be without the Internet? We’d still be using paper maps, calling restaurants to make reservations, listening to CDs and reading newspapers. And Business.com,”like millions of other companies, wouldn’t be around.

Clearly, the Internet isn’t going anywhere, but it’s taken quite some time for the mom and pop shops of America to really get their heads (and wallets) around marketing on this juggernaut. Year over year, small business Internet marketing spend increases, and according to the SMB Internet Marketing Survey by BrightLocal and Chamberofcommerce.com, 37% of these SMBs are planning to increase their spend on internet marketing yet again in 2015.

Of the 736 SMBs surveyed, 29% allocate more than 70% of their marketing budget to online channels. This stat alone is an indication that Internet marketing has become of increasing importance to the local businesses of America as technology and opportunities improve. In fact, since 2013, “there has been a 16% rise in SMBs that plan to increase their Internet marketing spend over the next 12 months.” (more…)

Small Business Finds The Internet… It Only Took Two Decades [Survey]

Where would we be without the Internet? We’d still be using paper maps, calling restaurants to make reservations, listening to CDs and reading newspapers. And Business.com, like millions of other companies, wouldn’t be around.

Clearly, the Internet isn’t going anywhere, but it’s taken quite some time for the mom and pop shops of America to really get their heads (and wallets) around marketing on this juggernaut. Year over year, small business Internet marketing spend increases, and according to the SMB Internet Marketing Survey by BrightLocal and Chamberofcommerce.com, 37% of these SMBs are planning to increase their spend on internet marketing yet again in 2015.

Internet Marketing Spend Increase Plans

Of the 736 SMBs surveyed, 29% allocate more than 70% of their marketing budget to online channels. This stat alone is an indication that Internet marketing has become of increasing importance to the local businesses of America as technology and opportunities improve. In fact, since 2013, “there has been a 16% rise in SMBs that plan to increase their Internet marketing spend over the next 12 months.”

The reasons behind the increased spend can be many, but one of the most important is the increasing effectiveness of Internet marketing. 75% of those surveyed find it to be “effective” or “very effective” at attracting customers. Only 20% said it was not effective, and 4% don’t do any Internet marketing at all. In their analysis, BrightLocal said “it is this increase in trust towards internet marketing that has persuaded 37% of SMBs to up their spending levels over next 12 months.”

Internet Marketing Effectiveness SMBs

So which channels are these SMBs finding the most success on? Next to word of mouth, they said that SEO (20%), online directories (15%), and email marketing (10%) are the most effective marketing channels. In our experience at Business.com, we’d agree that email marketing and SEO are effective channels, but the online directories stat gave us pause upon reading. But, given that the majority of the businesses surveyed in this report are self-taught and not in the business of the internet, it’s not surprising that they’d be a few years behind in their perception of what’s working versus what’s trending in Internet marketing.

Though word of mouth is considered to be an offline channel in this survey, review sites like Yelp are contributing to word of mouth marketing for businesses: “the impact of a great reputation which is shared widely online can earn businesses lots more customers.” The growing importance of online word of mouth will continue to fuel Internet marketing spend for SMBs as they realize the impact it has on their business.

Online Marketing Channel Effectiveness

Though the majority of the SMBs surveyed consider a phone call to their business as the best success metric of their marketing efforts, 40% of respondents said that traffic to their websites and search rankings are the most important. Another 14% said that website inquiries are of the highest value. When compared to the “in-person” success metrics of phone calls and actual customers walking through the door (45%), the online metrics are the clear winner (54%). This is a clear indication that spend will continue on its upward trend as SMBs pursue improvement in these metrics.

Internet Marketing Success Metrics

Of the 18% of SMBs that use a consultant or agency to handle their online marketing efforts, only 11% are not satisfied with the results. Most impressive is the respondents that “love them, think they’re brilliant”—up 30% from last year from 9%! This surprised me. Because small businesses tend to have small budgets for marketing, it could be deduced that when they do empty their pockets on an agency, they have high expectations. For so many SMBs to feel satisfied with their agencies not only indicates that the consultants are not only doing their jobs better, but perhaps that SMBs better understand what value they bring and how they do so. This is great news for Internet marketing agencies.

Marketing consultant performance and sentiment

Similarly, with each passing year SMB owners are becoming more interested in Internet marketing, and are making efforts to learn how they can best apply it to their business. Many SMBs struggle with limited resources including time and money, but the majority of those surveyed are dedicated to taking a DIY-approach to Internet marketing. Only 2% say they’re not interested in Internet marketing for their business.

Attitudes towards internet marketing SMBs

As we get well on our way with 2015, one thing is very clear about Internet marketing for small business: it’s here to stay. This is good news for all of us in the business of making money online, but to me, the most important takeaway from the SMB Internet Marketing Survey is that we continue to see an increased understanding and investment in online marketing efforts across the board from big brands to your favorite family-owned restaurant. With this outlook, the only way to go is up. Here’s to a year full of Internet marketing for ALL!