mardi 21 avril 2015

How I Manage a Social Media Platform of Over 11 Million Followers Every Day

Big or small, influencer or newcomer, everyone looking to get more followers and more likes on social media—more engagement, period—seeks out strategies that work.

And what works with a platform of 11 million followers tends to work for platforms with 100, too.

Social media is a moving ocean of posts, images, tools, ideas, and content that flows at a fast pace. You can find success by building your own social media strategy and keeping it fluid by checking and rechecking what’s working.

I’ve had the chance to check and recheck dozens of different social media strategies in managing a social media platform of 11 million. How do I do everything that I do? And what do I do, specifically? Well, I’d love to share the details with you!

scale your strategies social media

My network of 11 million

I’ve had the privilege to assist Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist at Canva and former evangelist at Apple, on his social media marketing, and I’ve worked on building a social media following for myself.

I manage a huge social media platform across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. I started at zero on all my accounts, just like you, and I’m not a celebrity or household name. This is how I’ve worked to build a great social platform – and you can too!

What I manage:

  • An audience of 10,637,540 for Guy
  • An audience of 935,793 for me

Total: an audience of 11.5 million people

I’ve had the opportunity to take the skills and tricks I’ve learned along the way, managing my own social media platform and applying it to Guy’s social media and for clients we work with, and implement them in some exciting ways. Fortunately, a lot of the strategies have worked! And if things aren’t working, I find a different way to do them.

What is social strategy?

Your social strategy is the plan that’s going to make your social media work.

It’s a combination of content creation, content curation, creativity, and organization.

Random acts of social media won’t do a darn thing to help people find you or to be known for a topic area. To build your authority in your niche, you need to create a solid social strategy that will help people find out who you are, what you do, and most importantly how you can help them.

Answer these questions before you begin the work on your social strategy:

  1. What need will you fill for the people who will follow you?
  2. Why should they follow you?
  3. What will you consistently provide to them?

Let’s use the Buffer blog as an example since their wildly popular blog helped put them on the technology tool map. (Here’s a look back at the blog in late 2013.)

The Buffer blog, circa December 2013

First they created their great product, Buffer, then they started their blog to help get the word out. Leo Widrich started early awareness for Buffer with an extensive guest blogging plan; this was before Buffer had a big team. They’ve since moved to an in-house blogging method with a team of great writers and a social media plan to get their message to as many people as possible.

Their goal was to find people to use Buffer. What they did to achieve that strategy was guest blogging with social media to boost it and they’ve scaled it to match their growth.

You’ll need to be willing to grind it out to make your social media strategy work. Nothing works unless you do.

There are different elements to the social strategy I work with. I’ll go more in depth into each of these:

  1. Content creation
  2. Content curation
  3. Social media amplification
  4. Social media conversations
  5. Social media listening

Content creation & content curation

What is the difference between creation and curation?

Content creation is creating your media in the form of writing, graphics, design work, video, or any combination of these together.

Creating the media to share and express your blog or brand is very important to help build awareness and trust with your targeted audience.

Content curation is finding content that other people have created to share on your social media accounts.

From Buffer’s Complete Guide to Content Curation:

Content curation is sorting through a large amount of web content to find the best, most meaningful bits and presenting these in an organized, valuable way.

You’ll want to find content that matches the message that you’re presenting with your own content creation. Your curated content should boost your created content and work together. This is what you use to feed the content monster every day – a mixture of your own content and your curated content.

If you’re an artist, you might want to share curated content about art, creativity, and being an entrepreneur. The items that you curate and share are woven into your own social message so what you share is as important as what you create.

There are three ways I’ve found to make creation and curation as efficient and effective as possible:

  1. Be organized
  2. Load your tool belt
  3. Automate what you can

1. Be organized

Organization is the most important cog in the wheel of your social strategy – a world of planning means nothing without implementation. Keep this in mind when choosing what to do so you can plan time in your schedule to get it all done. Being realistic in your time, motivations, and ability to implement is key.

2. Load your tool belt

Feedly screenshot

This screen shot is from Feedly. I’ve set up my Feedly profile so I can batch process my content curation and easily find content for different accounts. For example, the highlighted accounts show Guy’s LinkedIn. I have RSS feeds set up to go into Guy’s LinkedIn folder based on the appropriate content for his LinkedIn account. You can choose an article, read it in Feedly and quickly send it to Buffer.


One key to great curation is to not share things all at once – let Buffer work for you by filling it in batches and sharing at the most optimal times.

Chrome extensions are invaluable to me. They are quick and efficient allowing you to do more in less time. A few of my must-have extensions:

3. Automate what you can

Using IFTTT or Zapier to streamline repetitive tasks can save you time. Both of these services link other app services together. My favorite IFTTT recipe shares my Instagram photos to Twitter with the image. If you don’t use this to share images from Instagram to Twitter, it will tweet but without the image.

instagram-twitter ifttt recipe

My favorite Zapier zap posts my pins from Pinterest to my Buffer account. Once they are in Buffer, I can edit the description to customize it for a tweet and add a hashtag. I don’t want all my pins to go to Twitter so this gives me a chance to select them or I can edit the Zap to share only pins that I post to a certain board.

Creating your own social media shortcuts with IFTTT or Zapier can save time but make sure that you’re vigilant and check what is being processed on your social media accounts to make sure everything is going smoothly. You don’t want to share suboptimal content to save time. Quality is always important when posting.

Engagement [Social Media Conversations]

The wind beneath your wings for your social content.

A big part of the social media magic happens in the comments and conversations that take place on social media channels. When you post on social media, be prepared to have conversations with people. Scheduling your content frees you up to do other work and provides you with time to respond to tweets and posts.

Automating your content isn’t a free pass to be offline and unavailable. People will notice. While you don’t have to be online all day long unless you’re a social media pro or community manager, make sure that you plan several times a day to check your social media.

When you post new blog content, you want to make sure you’re available at that time to respond especially succinctly to comments or discussions that pop up around your new article.

Typically, I like to respond on each social platform. If you like to streamline tasks further, find a way to see and respond to the comments on each social platform that you use. A few that I like:

Cleaning house [Social Media Comments]

While you’re busy checking your comments, make sure that you take the time to sweep out all the spam comments from your posts. These come in different forms by platform.

  • LinkedIn published posts are being plagued by the LIONs (LinkedIn Open Networkers) spamming the comments with “invitations to connect.” Remove these comments from your posts to keep it clean for real comments and thoughts.
  • Facebook posts get spam in post comments leaving requests to like their page or some other off-topic link.
  • Instagram spammers leave their messages and requests to visit their page and follow them.

Keeping your community spam and profanity free makes it nice for other people to be there as well as encourages positive commenting. This is a daily, on-going task that shouldn’t be ignored.

Build a reciprocal network [Social Media Amplification]

A big part of my overall social media strategy is to post great content that people will love to share whether I write it or share someone else’s content. I feel that this creates a social media presence that people will love to follow and look to for great content to share.

I don’t advocate begging people to share content or bugging influencers to share your content. Simply share great content and people will find it. I have a solid distribution process for sharing my own content and don’t ask others to share it.

I use the Social Warfare plugin on my blog because how things are shared when I’m not there to do it are important! It takes time to load the images into the plugin but it’s worth it for fantastic social sharing and it reduces the load time of the page since the images are behind the scenes.

This is a little of what I do when I publish new blog content. Guy calls this “Pegging a post.”

How to share a blog post

  1. Create images for social sharing:
    > Pinterest 735 x 1102 pixels
    > Facebook 940 x 788 pixels
    > Twitter 1024 x 512 pixels
    > Instagram 640 x 640
  2. Create blog graphics (560 x 315) for Open graph sharing
  3. Pin blog post on Pinterest first
  4. Share on Twitter with an image
  5. Schedule later in the day for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+
  6. Schedule tweets to go out on future dates for more traffic
  7. Add relevant hashtags to content based on the social platform and what’s acceptable.
  8. My posts go automatically into Triberr
  9. I also use Comment Luv on my blog so my latest blog post is shared when I comment on blogs.
  10. Add click to tweets into Social Warfare with quotes from the blog post

It’s important to customize the text and style on each social media platform. Dumping a link everywhere at the same time won’t get you social conversation or blog traffic.

Final step: Lather, rinse, repeat.

Being consistent with your social media and blogging is essential to success. I publish once a week on my blog and every day on all the social platforms that I’m active on.

Getting started on social media may seem like a big task but that’s just the beginning. Sticking with it and sharing great content every day is what creates social media platforms worth talking about.

Over to you

I hope this peek into what I do every day gives you some ideas to boost your social media efforts. If you want more, grab a copy of The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users and really get serious.

Have you tried some of these tips with your social media strategy? What would you add to the list here that’s worked for you? It’d be great to hear from you in the comments.

Image sources: Pablo, UnSplash, IconFinder, Wayback Machine

How I Manage a Social Media Platform of Over 11 Million Followers Every Day

Voice of the Customer – Great! But What Is It?

The term Voice of the Customer is widely spoken about in the Customer Experience world and, alongside Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction and Customer Effort Score, is considered to be one of the most important research techniques/ metrics on offer to CX professionals. That being said, for a few different reasons, it is also arguably the most mysterious and misunderstood of all of the CX measurement techniques.

Voice of the Customer – what’s in a name?

The phrase ‘Voice of the Customer’ provides a strong indication as to what the purpose of the technique is, namely to ensure that the customer’s voice is heard and has an influence upon the future strategic direction of the organisation. However due to the rather vague nature of the phrase, different people and organisations have used it to mean different things over time. The Wikipedia definition is:

Voice of the customer (VOC) is a term used in business and Information Technology (through ITIL, for example) to describe the in-depth process of capturing a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions. Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives. Voice of the Customer studies typically consist of both qualitative and quantitative research steps. They are generally conducted at the start of any new product, process, or service design initiative in order to better understand the customer’s wants and needs, and as the key input for new product definition, Quality Function Deployment (QFD), and the setting of detailed design specifications.

In summary, the definition tells us that it is a market research technique that consists of both qualitative and quantitative research steps. However we have also heard it described as being other things as well.

A market research technique or a closed-loop feedback ‘system/ program’?

In the past five to ten years there have been a number of different software platforms introduced that have been categorised under the term Voice of the Customer. In general, these platforms are different forms of closed-loop feedback system that map and mirror the process journeys of the business in terms of their interactions and transactions with customers. In the same way that NPS has evolved into transactional NPS (Net Promoter System) to provide closed-loop feedback following individual interactions between the business and the customer, thereby providing the business with an opportunity to provide a resolution to any identifiable issues highlighted by customers, these VOC systems do a very similar thing, albeit not necessarily with the ‘likelihood to recommend’ question.

In some instances, these system implementations have been further developed into programs that help the business not only provide resolutions to customer issues, but also to undertake root-cause analysis, so that the cause of any recurring issues can be identified and resolved.

However, we have heard VOC being described as other things as well…

The most complicated

In one case, a Market Research professional was heard talking about CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) and Voice of the Customer being the same thing. Although we can see where they might have been coming from, we do not consider them to be exactly the same thing. Depending on how it has been set up, CSAT could be designed to be like ‘the second half’ of a Voice of the Customer research programme. Unlike VOC, however, CSAT tends not to have a qualitative research element as an initial and intrinsically integrated step.

First and foremost, considering its origins, it is our view that VOC should primarily be seen as a research technique. There is no doubt that it has evolved into the ‘platforms and systems’ space, however because of both the qualitative and quantitative nature of VOC, these platforms and systems are not necessarily able to do everything that the research methodology is capable of.

That being said, programs/ systems are also able to do things that the research technique is not capable of, such as providing real-time ongoing feedback that can be utilised by the business to support both immediate and root-cause resolution of customer issues. There are very strong arguments in favour of having the system in place, however only once an initial (or recurring periodic) piece of research has been undertaken.

VOC as a technique and as a system are not necessarily alternatives, as they do/ achieve different things. This being the case, it can be recommended that a business should consider doing both, possibly in sequence.

The Research Technique

This being the case, we need to understand, in more detail, what the research technique consists of. Our approach to VOC research includes four stages, namely:

1. Qualitative – the identification of customer expectations

2. Qual. to Quant. – the prioritisation and filtering of customer expectations

3. Quantitative – the substantiation and further prioritisation of expectations, including the identification of performance and importance factors relating to each

4. Analytics – analysis of expectations, including the identification of the satisfaction and loyalty drivers

In more detail:

1. Qualitative – Here we would use qualitative research techniques, typically focus groups (across different customer segments), to identify customers’ expectations of a ‘world-class’ or ‘ideal’ provider. At this stage, we would expect to gather something in the region of around 200 to 300 expectations. In addition to expectation gathering, this research would also include a personification exercise in order that we can understand customers’ perceptions of the brand’s current positioning.

2. Qual. to Quant. – There are a number of techniques that can be employed here, however we would typically undertake workshops in which we would carry out weighted pairs/ conjoint analysis exercises (although there are other statistical techniques that can be used) in order to group, prioritise and filter out the expectations of least importance. As a result of this exercise, we would expect to identify something in the region of 20 – 30 key/ core customer expectations.

3. Quantitative – This exercise, which can be carried out using telephone, face-to-face or online surveys, helps the organisation to further prioritise the key/ core expectations identified in the previous stage. This stage, which helps the business to create statistical significance for these expectations, also helps it to identify scores relating to the importance and performance of the business against each of the expectations. This data is absolutely essential for a business wanting to undertake Customer Journey Mapping, helping it to identify the empirical state of current and ideal customer journeys, including the identification of both pain points and moments of truth between the business and its customers. During this exercise, a number of other questions are asked relating to factors such as likelihood to recommend and likelihood to repurchase.

4. Analysis – In the final stage, an analysis of the data, including multiple regression analysis and the identification of correlation coefficients across all data-sets, helps the business to identify other factors, such as brand differentiators, and the drivers of satisfaction, loyalty, retention, recommendation and repurchase.

Overall, the data coming out of the VOC exercise helps the business to:

A. Underpin any potential Customer Journey Mapping exercise, backed by empirical evidence

B. Identify the drivers of loyalty, retention, satisfaction, recommendation and repurchase; as well as brand differentiators

C. Create Customer Promises and Commitments, helping to provide informed guidance and context to any transformation and brand repositioning exercises undertaken by the organisation

Let’s keep listening…

Voice of the Customer – Great! But What Is It?

50 Totally Un-Boring Ideas For Social Media Marketing Content

social media contentBlog post link. News article link. Infographic link. YouTube link. Yawn.

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of occasionally getting a little bit, well, routine with your social media content. It happens to many of us. Social media networks reach some 82% of the world’s population currently. However, nearly half of all social users can feel more than a little fed up at times. Some 41% recently reported feeling annoyed with social media posts, and expressed intent to spend less time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other networking sites.

If your brand’s content has gotten too formulaic, boring, or predictable, you’re only contributing to many consumer’s growing issues with brand’s online presences. Many of the world’s most socially-savvy companies don’t just rely on blog links to create posts! To give you a little inspiration and help you up your engagement in the weeks to come, we’ve compiled a list of 50 creative content ideas.

In this blog, you’ll learn ways both B2C and B2B brands can provide humor, relevance, and true value to their prospects with a wide variety of social media content:

  1. Polls:
    Who doesn’t love sharing their opinion on brand social media pages?
  2. Fill in the blanks:
    “After work on Friday, I am going to ____.” Watch the comments roll in!
  3. How I Work:
    What does a day in the life of an employee at your organization look like?
  4. Favorite Things:
    What brand of coffee do you drink at work? As long as it’s relevant to your buyer personas, it might be relevant social content.
  5. Controversial Content:
    Be cautious, but don’t be afraid to start a debate.
  6. Throw-Back Thursdays:
    How did your office, staff, or product look in the past?
  7. Life Balance:
    Work is stressful. It’s something we can all relate to, and it’s something B2B brands can address on social media. How do your staff, especially parents and students, maintain balance in their lives?
  8. Team Member Tuesdays:
    Profile employees with fun photos, bio notes, and interviews!
  9. Sock Photos:
    It may seem too weird to be true, but people love sharing photos of their fancy socks!
  10. Random Tips:
    Share random work or personal-related tips, which will probably do much better in a video format.
  11. Ask for Advice:
    Would your prospects choose a blue or green popsicle on the hottest day of the year if given the chance?
  12. Random Tip Solicitation:
    What do your Facebook fans wish they’d known months ago? Or earlier today?
  13. Recurring content:
    Create a weekly series, which could be “share photos of your dog Days” or “random facts” days, and stick to this posting schedule.
  14. Quotations:
    It only takes a few minutes to create a custom, shareable quotation image in Canva or another design tool.
  15. Profile Your Customers:
    Link to their websites, social media, and much more.
  16. Favorite tools:
    What are the graphic design, social media, or productivity tools that are integral to how your company operates?
  17. Mystery Photos:
    Offer a prize to the first individual to guess which of your products or staff is featured in a confusing or obscured image. Always check social media network terms of service before running a contest, though!
  18. Challenges:
    If your photo gets 100 likes, could you convince your boss to buy the entire team donuts? It’s certainly worth a shot (and it’s worked exceedingly well for the IMA team in the past).
  19. Lists:
    What are your team’s top ten favorite flavors of your product? Share with the world.
  20. Company celebrations:
    Is today your 3rd anniversary, or your 21st birthday? Share your milestones, especially with images of your staff celebrating.
  21. Website testimonials:
    Every so often, share what your existing client base thinks of your brand.
  22. Employee accomplishments:
    If your Operations Manager finishes her Master’s degree, complimenting her on social media can lend a human element to your brand.
  23. Industry Shoutouts:
    Make a habit of routinely calling out, complimenting, and linking to thought leaders and collaborators in your industry.
  24. Humor:
    Using humor in marketing can be really tricky. Make sure your joke can’t possibly offend any of your prospects, and post away.
  25. FAQ:
    Repurpose content from your website and provide pithy answers to questions you know your prospects have!
  26. eBooks:
    Can you really share an entire eBook on social media? You can on LinkedIn. Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are the perfect candidates for links to eBooks in Slideshare
  27. Weird Holidays:
    Did you know that April 7th is national beer day? I bet your prospects would love to know, too.
  28. This or That:
    Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts. Starbucks or Bongo Java. Which do your audience prefer? Binary polls can incite a Facebook riot of comments, shares, and likes!
  29. Post Cats and Babies:
    This isn’t appropriate for every brand. But as Sellfy points out, it’s one of the “worst kept secrets of social media engagement.” Often, it will work like a charm.
  30. Creative Boards:
    What are some of the colors, trends, textures, and concepts that are inspiring your creative staff? Bonus points if you link to a collaborative board on Pinterest!
  31. Stats:
    Everyone loves to sound smart. Sharing original or new research can give your prospects and clients something to cite.
  32. Graphs and Charts:
    You can create a custom Excel graphic (be sure to customize it until it’s brand-appropriate and pretty) or better yet, take screenshots of your white papers or case studies!
  33. Forums and Discussions:
    Is an industry discussion blowing up in a LinkedIn group or Quora? Go ahead and post it for your nerdier prospects, especially if your brand is actively engaged in the discussion.
  34. Event Social Media:
    Is your organization engaged in a conference or another offline event, like a hosted networking night? Share images, spotlight attendees, and curate key findings.
  35. Recipes:
    I bet your prospects wouldn’t hate it if you shared your Marketing Director’s famous 5 alarm chili recipe. Bonus points if you curate staff recipes on Pinterest.
  36. Crowdsourcing:
    Why not get your audience involved in creating your new product name, concept, or logo? You can even offer a prize for winning concepts.
  37. Staff baby photos:
    This concept can quickly get ridiculous, but if one of your employees took a truly ridiculous shot as a baby? Go for it.
  38. Professional Development Resources:
    Are you aware of great places online to build your skills, exceptional professional orgs, or just networking tips? Share away!
  39. Confessions:
    What would you do differently if given the chance?
  40. Vine or Instagram Videos:
    Honestly? There can never be enough Vine or Instagram videos on social media, especially if they’re downright clever.
  41. Sponsorships:
    If your brand’s name made it on the back of sports team jerseys or on the wall at a charity event, be sure to share.
  42. Caption contests:
    Ask your followers to create a clever caption for a cartoon or image of your staffers.
  43. Great deals:
    Did you just find a great deal on a product that compliments your own?
  44. Templates:
    Have your office Excel whiz build a smart tool for budgeting, calculations, or other necessary operations.
  45. Future Predictions:
    Share your ideas on how your industry will change next year. You could possibly incite a riot of comments!
  46. Expert Quotations:
    Make the most of any thought leader interviews you’ve done by sharing their thoughts on social media.
  47. Product Comparison:
    Create a handy-dandy chart that compares your products by major purchase criteria.
  48. Tutorials:
    Create a screencast or video showcasing how your product can be used, or related life hacks.
  49. Podcasts:
    Link to your company’s podcast as a way to offer even more multimedia content to your social media followers.
  50. Social proof:
    User-generated content can affirm your brand’s value to your leads.

What are some of your favorite off beat ideas for social media content? Share your wildest successes in the comments!

Social Media Tuneup

image credit: mike licht/flickr/cc

50 Totally Un-Boring Ideas For Social Media Marketing Content

Twitter Announces You Can Now Receive Direct Messages from Any User

Twitter announced they made a major change to Direct Messages making it easier to communicate one-to-one or to groups on the social network. The change allows you to send and receive Direct Messages from anyone, even if you’re not following him or her.
You can enable a setting to Receive Direct Messages from anyone on the Security and privacy settings page. According to Twitter’s blog changes also include:

  • A setting that allows you to receive Direct Messages from anyone, even if you don’t follow them. Twitter provides these instructions for changing your settings.
  • Updated messaging rules so you can reply to anyone who sends you a Direct Message, regardless of whether or not that person follows you.
  • A new Direct Message button on profile pages on Android and iPhone. You’ll see it on the profiles of people you can send Direct Messages to.

Twitter also says that if you receive a Direct Message from someone you don’t want to privately converse with, you can either block the user or unfollow them and delete the conversation. If you have enabled the Receive Direct Messages from anyone setting, blocking the user will stop them from sending you Direct Messages.

What do you think about this change to Direct Messages on Twitter? Will you opt to receive messages from anyone? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Twitter Announces You Can Now Receive Direct Messages from Any User

The Secret to a Standout Candidate Experience? Company Culture.

It’s pretty clear how much company culture affects the employee experience. But it doesn’t stop there. Company culture also influences the customer experience, and just as importantly, the candidate experience. candidate

According to a PWC study, 36% of millennials surveyed said that the organization’s reputation was the most important factor when selecting their current job. That makes it the second most important consideration, nudging out even starting salary. A huge component of this reputation is the company’s culture and employer brand.

Given that information, how do you ensure that you are putting your best culture foot forward to create a memorable candidate experience?

1) Understand your culture.candidate experience

You can’t sell your culture to candidates unless you know what what differentiates it. Understand your bragging points, and own them. As always, employee feedback is a good starting point. Send a survey to ask employees about makes your company stand out.

Our CultureIQ Survey is also a good place to start, because it allows you to pinpoint your strengths and highlight your overall score!

2) Add your values to your website.

All new hires should believe in and live by your values. The first step to value alignment is informing all candidates of your values from the very beginning. By publishing your values to your website, you are giving everyone the opportunity to assess alignment prior to even applying. Additionally, this simple step helps to communicate your employer brand to the outside world.

3) Highlight company culture as an interview topic. 

Don’t wait for the candidate to ask about company culture. Instead, introduce it up as a key topic, on par with job requirements and responsibilities. Provide materials to help communicate your employer brand, such as a slide deck, photos, or videos of powerful anecdotes. HubSpot’s Culture Code SlideShare is a great example of a fun and informative resource.

4) Demonstrate your culture.

The way you handle the interview process is a reflection of your culture. Everything from email communication with candidates to the questions asked during an interview will send messages to candidates about their potential experience as an employee. Use the interview process as an opportunity to demonstrate what makes your culture stand out

This article was originally published in the CultureIQ Blog.

The Secret to a Standout Candidate Experience? Company Culture.

Mobile-Friendly or DEATH BY SMARTPHONE


No, I’m not being melodramatic. If your web site is not mobile-friendly, you are in deep, deep trouble. You can find out your fate immediately by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test at After the tool does its work, what you want to see more than anything else is this:
google says jebraweb is mobile-friendlyIf you don’t see that, the end is truly near. We’ll explain why, and then we’ll throw you a rope. Read on…if you DARE.

What do you mean, “mobile friendly?”

If your site is “mobile-friendly,” it means that the whole of your content can be seen in the smartphone screen without someone needing to zoom in. It means that your links and buttons aren’t too close together. It means your images are not enormous files you’ve just made smaller using your content management system’s re-sizer. There are hundreds of other details that make a site mobile-friendly, but most of all, “mobile-friendly” means that, despite the many ways that smartphones are not like computers, your site is still usable to all the people viewing it, even those who are waiting in line at the post office or on the train to work or at the park with their kids.

It means you care about your web site users enough to make their lives easier when they’re looking at your site on their smart phones. Mobile-friendly sites show them, subtly, that you want to meet them where they are.

googlemademeThat’s all very nice, but why should I care if Google thinks my site is mobile-friendly? Can’t my customers just zoom in?

Sure, if your customers can ever find your site.

As of April 21, 2015, Google, a search engine so iconic that its very name has become the default term for “find that information online,” will begin ranking web sites that are easy to browse on a smart phone HIGHER in its rankings than sites that are not easy to browse on a smart phone. Depending on how niche your site is, that might mean your forward-thinking competitors could be several notches to several PAGES of notches ahead of yours in the list of sites Google returns to people searching for something that they could find on your web site, if only your site was “mobile-friendly.” This goes for the Google search conducted on a mobile device and the Google search conducted on a computer.

Imagine someone desperate for a local acupuncturist in your (imaginary) town of Marloville. They pull out their smart phone and use Google to search for “acupuncturist Marloville.” There are twelve acupuncturists in Marloville, and eight more in neighboring towns that serve the people of Marloville, and say so on their web sites. If your web site is not mobile-friendly, and the other acupuncturist sites are, then your site will show up on the second or maybe even the third page. When was the last time you clicked on the third page of search results?

Where on earth do I start? What could be wrong?

There are so many little rules about mobile-friendliness that it would be best for you to review some tips written by the experts. In this case, the work of heavy-duty geeks like programmers and engineers and the work of marketing/search engine optimization experts have converged.

The motherload of great articles on what some people are calling “Mobilegeddon” is at Search Engine Land (of course). Though most have great practical advice to share, my favorite is Adam Dorfman’s article “Putting ‘Mobilegeddon’ in Perspective,” wherein he says the following:

“Even if your content lacks mobile friendliness and you fail to show up in search results, all is not lost. You can still very quickly make changes and see improvements; and Google will not put you in a penalty box if you fail to optimize your site by April 21.”

And also:

“If you are close to getting a mobile site launched and worried it won’t be ready by April 21st, don’t bust your budget to make a fix. Adopt change at a pace that is right for your organization, and once you have a mobile-friendly site, the benefits of implementing this should happen quickly.”

If today is the first you’re hearing of this “mobile-friendly” stuff, or the first time you’re taking it seriously, know that you can’t likely fix the problem by tomorrow. Dorfman’s point is that Google will not pass judgement tomorrow and then never look at your site again. You can and should take the time to make these changes well, even incorporating them into a larger set of web site improvements.

Until then, maybe just don’t Google yourself.

Mobile-Friendly or DEATH BY SMARTPHONE

Building Company Culture with Remote Employees

All_activities_1-red_(2)Having a solid company culture has multiple benefits such as increased employee engagement, strengthened brand image, and higher quality goal alignment. Building this type of environment can be difficult when a company’s employees aren’t in one physical office location, but there are best practices for doing just that. Here are some fresh ideas for developing culture with remote employees.

1. Embrace the Remoteness

Some managers believe that the best way to build up culture with remote employees is by simulating the kind of interactions that office workers have through conference tools like Skype. However, by its definition simulation is  “an act of pretending.” Instead of forcing the imitation of an office life, especially in the onboarding process, managers of remote teams should embrace the remote nature of their employees’ work. For example, instead of playing the 2 Truths and 1 Lie “icebreaker” game, remote employees could take a photo from inside their work vehicle and take turns at guessing which car belongs to which employee. This kind of staff exercise celebrates the remoteness of their jobs and can be just as engaging and fun as in-person icebreaker games.

2. Share Relevant Content

Building company culture is as much about employee engagement as it is about the reinforcement of the umbrella vision or goals set by high level leaders. Some managers like to bring employees together (in an office or online conference) to discuss the progress of the team, believing this the most effective way to reinforce goals. However, 17% of employees from this study reported that they would rather watch paint dry than attend a team meeting. This will be especially true for a team of employees that have characteristics that excel with independent work. A more organic way to spread company goals through a remote team is by sharing relevant content, such as articles or blogs that directly correspond with company visions. Some leaders even encourage their team to share animated Gifs that relate to the specific aspects of the company or remote work. The element of humor can go a long way towards understanding and reinforcing company culture.

3. Involve Work in Your Culture

Despite all the advice on the “perks” organizations should offer to attract new employees, this Zapier article points out that the most healthy company cultures have one important thing in common: their employees love their work. Employees are unlikely to stick around a job just for a foosball table or happy hour on Thursday nights. Involving remote employees in the decisions that affect their core activities can also be a way to build up a meaningful company culture. One relevant example for field teams is the decision on how best to communicate with other team members. Involve your team in this decision and let them weigh in on whether they prefer email, phone, or even more specialized communication through a mobile app. Even small decisions like this can place identity on the organization as a whole.

Simplicity Marketing Brief

Building Company Culture with Remote Employees

Make a Great Career Move: Quit Your Job

Right now, you’re staring out the office window thinking about what it would be like if you ran the place. Or, you’re spending every boring moment of your work day searching for resources on how to get rich quick and stick it to the man. Maybe you’re struggling to build your side hustle so you can finally control your own income, but your progress is stalled; your job is in your way.

It might be time to quit your job and start a business.

I talk to dozens of people every week who tell me basically the same story: they have a business idea they’re passionate about, but they spend all their time thinking about launching it instead of actually launching it, because:

  • They’re afraid their boss will find out
  • They fear the business might fail
  • They don’t know how much money they need to start
  • They’re scared to say goodbye to a regular cheque so they can focus on their business

Any of these sound familiar?

They all resonate with me. I had all those fears and emotions five years ago.

It got to the point where I just could not imagine staying employed in the long term. I tried to think five years ahead and asked myself: “Is this where I want to be? Still waiting and hoping for the right time to create the life I really want?”

There Might Not Be a Right Time

Most often, it takes at least a few months to start earning a fair income from your own business. If you realistically think you could get through the hard times for a little while – without risking the health or safety of your family and loved ones, or yourself – then it might be time.

If you know you have a clear solution for a problem you can easily define, and you know exactly who is suffering the problems you know you can solve – then it might be time.

If you spend more hours thinking about being an entrepreneur than actually focusing on and enjoying your job – then it might be time.

The perfect time, unfortunately, will never come. It’s about deciding at what moment you’re just going to jump.

For me, quitting my job was the best career move I ever made. It forced me to figure a lot of things out really quickly – what to charge for my services, what online tools to use, how to create a marketing and sales funnel – things that I wouldn’t prioritize before, because I was always focused on earning more in my job.

I kept looking for a higher pay check, instead of writing my own.

I honestly don’t know if I would have ever launched Renegade Planner if I had tried to do it while still working.

Of course, handing in a resignation today isn’t the right move for everyone. But for some, change happens only when you stick your back up against the wall. Because when “making it work” is the only option, a true entrepreneur can emerge.

Are you one of them?

Make a Great Career Move: Quit Your Job

Controlling Bad Habits for a Successful Career

shutterstock_222708985Habits run our lives. Our behavior has a direct and profound effect on our attitude.

Anyone can manage the good times and can cultivate the habits that promote well-being and success. However, every now and again, we gain bad habits that cause fatigue, depression, and create a significant barrier to success.

When we act like the person we want to be, we eventually become that individual. Failure in the past to kill bad habits is no indication of future performance.

Habits can be changed, but only if we understand how they work and gain a comprehension of the most effective ways to combat undesirable actions. Above all else, it’s important to remember that bad habits are hard to break, but they are even harder to live with.

Below, you’ll find a comprehensive study of why habits form and how to break the cycle to achieve what you want.

Explaining Self-Discipline and Will Power

Willpower and self-discipline ultimately determine the quality of life we lead. Luckily, willpower is a learnable skill.

However, willpower alone is not a sufficient tool that will prevent us from engaging in the undesired behaviors. Whenever we plan a habit change, it’s easy to underestimate the level of desire or temptation we experience on a regular basis.

The problem with trying to rely on mental strength alone: it will not teach you how to act when when you’re overwhelmed by stress or mental exhaustion.

Your willpower is a muscle and as the day goes on, you become more and more prone to going back to your old habits.

Ego depletion refers to the idea that self-control and willpower draw upon a limited pool of mental resources that can be used up. When the energy for mental activity is low, self-control is typically impaired, which would be considered a state of ego depletion.

5 Simple Tips to Begin Behavior and Habit Transformation

Understand and identify the motivations for why you’re engaging in the undesirable habit. Our sales recruiting specialists stress to be honest with yourself. The more information you have about a habit, the easier it is to eliminate. Below are 5 exercises that should assist with furthering your knowledge and aiding in habit transformation.

1. Create small wins. The most efficient way to make a permanent change is to focus on daily, incremental improvements. Your aim is to wean yourself from the habit by setting target goals that consistently decrease the amount of time you spend doing the undesirable habit.

2. Take digital sabbaticals. Completely disconnect from the internet. Do so for a chunk of hours at a time.

3. Write down the reasons you want to make a change. Know why you want to make the change and what result you expect from this experience.

4. Know the feelings, actions and situations that trigger the undesirable habits. Is it nervousness, excitement, boredom, depression or another feeling that initiates the need to engage in the habit? Once you know, you can systematically save up your will power for when that feeling approaches.

5. Commit to one habit change at a time. It’s almost impossible to make multiple changes at once. Most individuals don’t have the willpower to manage multiple new routines. Depending on what source you believe, cementing a new habit can take as long as 2 months or as short as 3 weeks.

In the End

Over 40% of what you do on a daily basis is habitual. We perform every action for a specific reason. Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.

When a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making. However, that can all be changed, it simply takes time, self-knowledge, belief and consistency.

Controlling Bad Habits for a Successful Career

A Counter-Intuitive Truth: Personalization CAN Scale

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An unseemly tirade for retailers with ambition: Part 3

We’ve been venting a lot lately. Thanks for listening.

We got most of our frustrations out in our recent rant about personalization, but there are some things that we think we should clear up.

Lots of marketers know personalization is something they should be looking into. Most know they should be doing something now. But, for whatever reason, they’re putting it off. Kicking the can.

Maybe because they think it’s “not for me.” Or because they “don’t have the resources.” Another big misconception out there right now: Personalization can never scale.

All of which couldn’t be further from the truth. As we put it in the rant:

It does NOT take years of research and a snafu of systems integrators with a new data warehouse and six coders to link to your ecommerce platform.

You can actually get going in a week or so. And once you’re up to speed, you can deploy new experiences for new segments in minutes. Without bothering the very talented but very overworked IT dudes. This isn’t something we wish to be true. This is something we know to be true.

We know it sounds counterintuitive, but hear us out. Personalization becomes scalable when you think of it as delivering tailored experiences to distinct user segments. The beautiful thing about segments: They’re flexible. Dynamic. Lots of people visit your site, leave, and come back later. Why not test a message or promotion to these return customers? It’s all about acting on the data you already have. (And trust us: You have a lot of it. Even if you think it isn’t yet actionable.)

Say you buy a new winter coat from a fashionable retailer. It arrives on time, it’s the right size, you love the color, and it keeps you warm all winter long. Spring rolls around, and an email shows up in your inbox promoting what? A new line of bright summer-ready shirts, none of which are available in your size.

We both know you have the data, dear retailer, so why aren’t you being smart about it? It may sound like a small detail, but we think it’s a big deal. And we’re not alone. Take this quotation from the new book, Becoming Steve Jobs:

As a great marketer, Steve understood that every interaction a customer had with Apple could increase or decrease his or her respect for the company. As he put it, a corporation “could accumulate or withdraw credits” from its reputation, which is why he worked to ensure that every single interaction a customer might have with Apple—from using a Mac to calling customer support to buying a single from the iTunes Store and then getting billed for it—was excellent.

Vindicated by the immortal Steve Jobs himself. Can’t do much better than that.

Check out the rant to learn more about our frustrations and our take on the myths that may be holding you back.

That concludes our 3-part blog post series on personalization in retail. (See also: Parts one and two.)

A Counter-Intuitive Truth: Personalization CAN Scale

Ask the HR Experts, Part 2: 3 Tips for Hiring Marketing and Sales Teams

Recruiting the right employees can be difficult, especially when you’re looking for someone to join your sales and marketing teams. It takes a unique set of skills and experience to make a strong candidate, and as most hiring managers can tell you, Recruitingmany just don’t have the expertise or aren’t the right fit. A new study from Gleanster Research and Act-On, focused primarily on mid-sized B2B companies, found that 92% of respondents cited “hiring skilled resources” as their top challenge.

Why is it so hard to find good people? And what can you do to improve your hiring practices in order to find the best candidates for the job? We (“we” are senior writer Lisa Cannon and Marketing Action blog editor Sherry Lamoreaux) recently sat down with Dawn Glockler, Director of Human Resources at Act-On, and Brian Gelfuso, Act-On’s Corporate Recruiter, to talk about best practices for hiring marketers today, and to get insights for building a marketing team that can meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Tip 1: Be Specific About What You Want

SHERRY: Let’s look at this from the perspective of the department manager, division manager, or director – any leader who’s got an opening. What are the best practices for them, what mistakes do they make, and what can they do to help the recruiter find the right slate of candidates?

BRIAN: I think from my perspective, the managers that help me the most, that help me find the right candidates, start with a very detailed idea of the job description. They put together the details of what they need and expect, from the day-to-day duties to the big picture, outlining specifically the experience that they want that candidate to have, all the way from years of experience, to particular skills, to what are the must-haves. I like to hear, “I don’t want to see any resumes unless they absolutely have this background.” And then, I want to know what the nice-to-haves are. “If they don’t have these experiences, that’s still okay. But if they do, then these are rock-star candidates.”

It’s also important for that hiring manager to provide feedback in a timely manner from when a resume is sent, and give me feedback as to whether they do or don’t like the resume and why. That helps us find the right candidate. If we’re presenting resumes to managers and their responses are, “Nope, not a fit, not a fit, not a fit,” that doesn’t really help me fine-tune my process. I’ll probably still keep presenting them with candidates who have a similar profile because I don’t know why they’re not a fit. The more feedback the manager can provide as to why the candidate is not a fit is very helpful. So then the next time, I’m not going to present them that same profile.

It’s also useful to consider applicants from specific companies. Right now, I’m working with a manager in Boston, and we’re looking to build a sales team out there. This manager provided me with a list of 10 companies in the Boston area, and said that if we got a salesperson who had previously worked at one of those companies, they would fit in great at Act-On because they use the same processes and kinds of sales strategies. And that’s very helpful. If I find somebody with that background, I’ll get them in front of the manager quickly.

InterviewsDAWN: The hardest thing is a manager who doesn’t know what they want. They just know they want someone. [LAUGHTER] At Act-On, it’s really nice because whenever we do have an open position, it’s very specific. If it’s for engineering, the job title may be “software engineer” and there may be 10 skills listed as desirable, but the manager will say, “I really need a person with these five skills. So let’s focus on that right now.” And then for the next opening, the manager will say, “Okay, now we need to focus on these other five skills, even though all 10 skills are still in the job description.” For sales, now that we’re maturing as an organization, we’ve hired a lot of people, we’ve learned how the DNA that works really well, and we know what doesn’t work so well, and we are perfecting that.

It’s never going to be an exact science, of course, but I think we’re getting a lot closer. The feedback loop is extremely important because each time we get better. But we do a lot of repetitive hiring. Marketing’s different because the roles are going to be one of one, not one of 80. So it varies a bit more, it gets a little bit more specific on the marketing side of things.

Tip 2: Use Data to Drive Recruitment Strategies

LISA: For the positions you hire for often, engineers or salespeople, do you think you’ll ever get into a Moneyball kind of situation? Where you’re vetting people – you’re quantifying what makes a good salesperson and then you rate that, and you score it?

BRIAN: I think we’re starting to evolve into that. I think we’ve gotten to a point where we’ve been around long enough, where we know what types of profiles are typically more successful than others. And there’s actually been a lot of research lately looking at those profiles. We’ve hired people who were coming from different industries who have not really worked out very well. And so we’ve been taking that research and focusing on finding people with those backgrounds who have been successful.

It’s also implemented into our interview process. We’ve added many kinds of layers and steps into the sales interview process. It’s specifically designed to the point where we now know if somebody goes through all the steps of the sales interview process and they pass all those steps, we’ve made a pretty good hiring decision. Where we’ve fallen short before is when we skipped steps in that process to rush a hire. There have been times when they haven’t worked out. And that’s because we didn’t follow the process that we put into place. So yeah, I would definitely say you’re right in terms of the Moneyball approach, it is something that could apply and something we’re refining and utilizing more and more.

DAWN: There are companies that add in a layer of personality assessment on the front end of hiring. We don’t do this, but some companies do. You can’t even submit your application without doing a personality assessment. And if you don’t hit on a certain area, you’re just rejected without even going to the hiring manager. Again, we don’t do that, but there are places that do that kind of thing.

SHERRY: Very interesting. We did a blog post recently about building a team based on personality profiles, and how it’s possible to go too far when relying on personality tests.

DAWN: True.

Tip 3: Find the Right DNA Across Generations

LISA: What do you see changing and where do you think the future is going as far as hiring practices go?Multiple Candidates

DAWN: I think the most interesting thing that we have in this time and place right now is a wide range of generations that are in our workforce. And all the different experiences that each generation has had are really very different. If you look at my mom’s generation, which is the baby boomers, they’re very much in the workforce still. They have probably another 10 or 15 years before retirement.

And then you look at the millennials. They’re just coming out of college. They’re 22, 23. There are huge differences between those generations. I know this happens at every point in time, but I feel like we now have the widest range of technology, experience, perspective. The baby boomers went through the Civil Rights era. And women’s equality; we’re still struggling with all these things. It’s said that the millenials are the most open to diversity; they don’t care about sexual orientation or the color of someone’s skin. Plus, they don’t care about privacy. They put everything online. For Brian and other recruiters, the challenge is, how do you talk to each person from each different perspective? Brian, you’re talking to a huge age range.

BRIAN: A very wide range, from folks just got a couple years out of school and to people who have been doing sales for 20-plus years.

DAWN: You still want the same DNA, but you also need to think about their life experience, and how it’s going to make them successful or different, and bring something new to the table, which is really exciting. But how do you find that consistency in personality that we know works really well in this role? It’s a challenge. And then they have to work together, the millennials and the baby boomers. [LAUGHTER] At the same level, as peers.

BRIAN: It’s a challenge, on the one hand, but it’s also a great opportunity for a richer working environment.

DAWN: That’s right.

SHERRY: Thanks again to both of you for taking the time to talk to us.

High Performance Marketing DeptMarketing’s functions have changed dramatically in the last decade, which means the way we structure the marketing organization needs to be re-thought. To be successful today, your department must be structured for agility and speed. While every department will be organized differently, there are common traits high-performance departments will need to build into their structure. Read our eBook, The High-Performance Marketing Department, and discover how to staff your marketing department for maximum impact.

If you’re a job seeker looking for advice, be sure to check out part one of this conversation: Tips for Marketing and Sales Job Seekers. And check out the Act-On job board to see if the perfect career is waiting there for you.

Ask the HR Experts, Part 2: 3 Tips for Hiring Marketing and Sales Teams

It’s All About the CTR and Why It Doesn’t Matter

Click-through rate (CTR) is one of the most important KPI’s – if not the only KPI – in the advertising industry. It’s a common goal to keep cost-per-click (CPC) and cost-per-impression (CPM) down while maintaining a high CTR, but it’s not a valid goal if the traffic you are receiving from your advertisers isn’t comprised of the right people.

The Birth of Click Bait

Certain types of paid advertising (such as PPC) are administered based strictly off of keyword targeting and content that matches users’ intent. In this case, the quality of the traffic is directly correlated to the terms that are bid on. Social networks also allow precise targeting, assuming the right persona is used and the correlating psychographic information is accurate. When the advertiser delivers a high CTR to the client (even if it’s the wrong type of traffic) it’s still a reasonable metric of the advertiser’s success. If the campaign does not perform well, the only person to blame is the marketer.

So if we just said that CTR matters, then why does it not matter? The truth is, I bent the truth a little. CTR does matter, but only in instances where you can control your ads. What are the instances where you can’t control your ads? Welcome to modern day native advertising.

I’ll have to admit that Taboola and Outbrain were neat back in the day. There wasn’t as much content floating around in the universe and there wasn’t as much competition for attention spans. When content marketing came into vogue and the fluster storm of content arrived, readers’ guards went up and the resulting effect was the birth of click bait.

The Bait & Switch

Click bait helped readers get over their cautious consumption of content by pulling them away from their logical inquisition and appealing instead to their emotions. Then seconds later, their emotions would be crushed, realizing they were baited and switched.

Native advertising platforms soon moved in to police click bait and restore trust to their audience. They achieved this by allowing publishers the freedom to choose what did or did not show up in their content recommendations. They did this all with one goal in mind: CTR.

This is where I tell you that the CTR doesn’t matter. As a user of native advertising platforms, it’s important to know their history and how they work.

Content Recommendations as a Form of Native Advertising

These platforms receive a lot of content and subsequent bids for CPC. They then put them in a marketplace where gladiators fight to the death and the winners earn spots on the widget. The championing content gets shown to visitors of the publishers website and the content with the most clicks get shown more frequently.

This does two things:

  1. Determines which content pieces “you may like” by others’ popularity
  2. Ensures the content that gets clicked the most gets shown the most, thus increasing CTR

This makes advertisers think that they are doing their job by “targeting” the right content. The content that is popular on a site continues to be served and clicked. The advertisers are happy and everyone profits, right?

No. The CTR is high and the unlucky winner is you. Let’s do a simple math problem.

  • Content Piece A receives a high CTR of .8% with a bounce rate of 94%
  • Content Piece B receives a low CTR of .2% with bounce rate of 76%
  • Each content piece receives 100,000 impressions

We can use the following equation to solve for the traffic’s level of engagement, an indicator of quality traffic:


They appear to be equal, right? Wrong. Let’s also consider the bounce rate:

Now Factor in CPC:


The Detrimental Effects of Buying Bad Traffic

Both these estimates have produced very similar results from our paid media testing. Based on these results, we can see that they both drove the same overall amount of good traffic, but one cost more and generated more bad traffic (as indicated by number of readers who bounced).

There is more to it than just the extra $20 dollars wasted buying bad traffic. The extra $20 bought worse experiences for the users who did not find what they wanted. They will continue to trust the native advertising platforms less and less, as well as remember having a bad experience with your brand.

This is the downfall of the native advertising platforms. They are purely optimized for CTR because that is how they generate their cash cows. While some platforms boast that they offer “optimization,” through experience, they only turn off sites that are sending you bad traffic after the undesirable experience has already happened. There is no way for these platforms to identify the right user that best deserves that ad. You end up renting dynamic digital billboards that can be removed by the owner of the land the billboard sits upon at their own will.

The Path to Better Content Recommendations

Here are some steps you can take while the functionality of these platforms continues to mature.

  1. Remove the content that is performing poorly yourself. Ad sets can be modified and it is in your best interest to do a periodic monitor of the performance and do some tidying up.
  2. Target for what you can. Some platforms allow regional and mobile/desktop targeting. You should always push your content to the right regions, as well as think about the users that might consume the content. Is the content long and informative? Target desktop. Is the content short and leads to more questions? Use mobile. Test to see what works best for you
  3. A/B test your titles. Just because the systems can ingest through an RSS feed, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think of this like an ad. Find articles that are performing well and A/B test the titles to reduce the costs.
  4. Finally, not all content is best for native advertising. Really informative content that has high barriers to consumption should be distributed by the right promotion channel. Often times, shared tweets by influencers and the amplified versions draw the best user engagement because of trust and credibility.

What are your experiences with native advertising and some of your tips and tricks?

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It’s All About the CTR and Why It Doesn’t Matter

5 Historical Market Research Disasters You Might be Committing Right Now


Market researchers labor hard to make sure probabilities work to the benefit of their organizations. It’s as much of a numbers game as it is a value-finding egg hunt. After all, marketing campaigns are typically long and expensive, with failure something akin to the Hindenburg disaster (certainly one of history’s great marketing catastrophes, beyond the horrible human tragedy). Yet the reality is that there are instances where market research contributes to the very crashing of product zeppelins.

Here are some of the major misadventures of market research:

New Coke

This is easily one of the most notorious failure of marketing analysis, although some business conspiracy theorists contend it was a ploy to actually deepen the desire of an iconic product by its removal and return (Michael Jordan mastered this years later).

Regardless, the sad tale is that in early spring of 1985 Coca-Cola changed its formula after almost a century. The company feared that Pepsi was making too many inroads in the soft drink market. In any event, the release of New Coke was met with widespread resistance, including:

Protest groups — such as the Society for the Preservation of the Real Thing and Old Cola Drinkers of America (which claimed to have recruited 100,000 in a drive to bring back “old” Coke) — popped up around the country. Songs were written to honor the old taste. Protesters at a Coca-Cola event in downtown Atlanta in May carried signs with “We want the real thing” and “Our children will never know refreshment.

(Yes, we’re talking about carbonated water here. This underscores the power of branding.)

In July of that year, Coca-Cola switched back to the old formula.

What market research said: New Coke actually proved to be better in taste choices, not only beating Pepsi but also Old Coke. Some accounts report the company tested up to 200,000 consumers. Doesn’t get more mathematical than that, does it?

What market research overlooked: The brand Coke represented an American lifestyle from a bygone era. Furthermore, if it ain’t broke don’t fix, and change can be perceived as an admission of weakness. As marketing academic Daniel Turner said:

In a naïve way, it made perfect sense for Coca-Cola to improve its product, making up for a known deficiency versus a focal competitor. But it made a fundamental error in forgetting what value it was offering customers—brand associations of America, friendship, nostalgia. These are emotional associations we cannot ignore.


Protesters not angry at the Cold War but at New Coke

The Ford Edsel

This lead balloon is the quintessential poster child for a marketing research problem. Released in 1957, Ford’s new vehicle was meant to be the evolutionary zenith of automobiles. The Edsel, featured Teletouch steering wheel, electric gear-shifting, self-adjusting brakes, a nifty speedometer redesign, and many other gadgets. It ended up costing the company $400 million, never resonating with the consumer.

What market research said: Everyone wants an encompassing product that does and has everything (it certainly worked for smartphones and personal computers). That certainly should have overcome an unattractive name in a world with so many car models with odd names (the name actually based on Henry Ford’s son).

What market research overlooked: Being everything to everyone is not always a good idea (just ask Google+). Perhaps more than that, as a marketing source explained: “One of the biggest problems with the Edsel was that it was competing against itself, matching retail value on many of the cars in Ford’s established Mercury line without bringing anything new to the table.” Lastly, hubris blinded Ford during its golden age, making it perform one of the worst mistakes in marketing by offering “the answer to a question nobody asked.”

In recent times the Ford Edsel has become a collectors item for a hipster generation

In recent times the Ford Edsel has become a collectors item for a hipster generation

Calvin Klein’s Sex Sells Campaign

Calving Klein certainly made money pushing the envelope, as have many other fashion brands. After all, trendy often means counterculture. In 1999 Calvin Klein overstepped the line with a series of commercials featuring underage, barely dressed amateur models—in a wood-paneled room basement, being interviewed by a creepy middle age man. The commercials were certainly stylistic and highlighted denim in all its glory. The public blow back was intense, however. The company yanked the commercials within 24 hours.

What market research said: Sex sells, goes the conventional wisdom, and when parents feel offended it commonly means teens and young adults will open their wallets.

What market research overlooked: Market research methodology should never take conventional wisdom for granted. According to a 2007 study from the University College London, sex actually doesn’t sell:  “There was no main effect of advertisement type on brand recall suggesting that the presence of sex in advertising does not assist memory for the advertisement.”

More importantly, an air of pedophilia is never, never a good atmosphere for advertising…or really anything…

I don’t have to quote any experts on this. Look at the video:

 McDonald’s “I’d Hit It”

McDonald’s launched in January 2005 a doomed banner campaign presenting a young man slobbering over a double cheeseburger. The young man says: “Double cheeseburger? I’d hit it. I’m a dollar menu guy.”

McDonald’s quickly pulled the advertisements before any instances of romance between human and burger. There is certainly an odd connection to this year’s marketing campaign failure from McDonald’s—where consumers could express romance before a cashier for a free meal.

What market research said: Young people develop a certain jargon. Being perceived as sensitive to their culture, like talking their lingo, makes perfect sense in a marketing plan template.

What market research overlooked: McDonald’s own marketing department admitted it did not research the term “I’d hit it.” They say content is king in marketing, but context can be the executioner. Research every term, and go here if you’re still wondering about “I’d hit it.”

It would be interesting to see what interpretation McDonald’s would have of Britney Spears’s first hit single

It would be interesting to see what interpretation McDonald’s would have of Britney Spears’s first hit single

Google Glass

Not too long ago, Google possessed the Midas touch when it came to anything in its grasp. That ended last January when Google Glass unceremoniously failed. The dawn of the wearable tech got a rude awakening with a resounding rejection from consumers. This seems odd, since outside of the NSA, Google leverages the largest sphere of information in the galaxy.

What market research said: If tech can be shrunk to fit in the hand, as with smartphones and tablets, why not other parts of the human body?

What market research overlooked: Everything, it seems. Privacy and price concerns alienated much of the public—and the fact Google released early copies only to rich geeks in the west coast, thereby branding the product as elitist instead of the “affordable luxury” philosophy of Apple. As a CNN story explained:

“Google’s fast retreat exposes the most fundamental sin that companies make with the “build it and they will come” approach. It’s a process that tech companies rely on, referred to as public beta testing.”

Speaking of, it should be interesting to see what happens to Apple Watch at the end of April, although it’s safe to assume it actually has done some market analysis.

(And I should bring up Google+ again, the Edsel of social media).

Would offering a mustache with each pair have saved it?

Would offering a mustache with each pair have saved it?

Obviously there are often variables that no market research studies can predict. Ford couldn’t foresee a sudden recession in 1957 that crippled any possibility of saving the Edsel; Google can’t be blamed that America has entered an Edward Snowden era. Nonetheless, each of the examples above reveals serious blind spots in marketing research that were costly, if not sadly humorous.

Perhaps Jim White, a founding partner of RealityCheck, offers what is always needed for market research in his Greenbook article: empathy, experience, sharing, translation, and quality.

With these elements, surely some of the marketing Hindenburg’s could have been avoided. In the end, these examples showcase the limitations of market research—especially with its heavy leniency in number crunching and quantitative studies.

In the end, there are humans involved who tend to defy all probabilities.

This post was originally published at qSample.

5 Historical Market Research Disasters You Might be Committing Right Now

How to Write a Great Subject Line

Your subject line is one of the most important parts of your email newsletter.

Writing a great subject line will ensure you attract your readers’ attention and convince them to open your message.

But have you ever wondered if your subject lines could be more effective?

Watch this video below to hear five subject line tips that can help you write better subject lines than ever before.

Or read the transcript below:

Your subject line is really important because it’s the first impression you’ll make on your readers.

The goal of a subject line is to stand out in the inbox, grab your readers’ attention, and convince them to open your email.

Here are 5 tips for writing an effective subject line.

1. Stay short and sweet

Remember that a lot of readers are going to be looking at your email from a mobile device, so you have a small space to work with. For best results, limit your subject line to about 40 characters (or five to eight words) so that nothing gets cut off.

2. Avoid anything spammy

Certain language like ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Free,’ or loud punctuation like all caps or multiple exclamation points can send your email to the spam folder. You can use our spam checker tool within your Constant Contact account, which filters through your email content and makes sure your email is in line to land in the inbox.

3. Ask a question

Questions are great because they pique your audience’s interest. If a contact is scrolling through their inbox and they see a question, they’ll want to click on your message to get an answer from your business.

4. Include a deadline

I think we all know what it’s like to wait until the last minute to do something. By including a deadline, you’ll create a sense of urgency with your reader and you’ll show them that your message is timely and that they should open it.

5. Add a list

Similar to the format of this video, people love lists because it’s really easy to digest the information. They know when they open your email they’ll have a really clearly laid out set of points that they can scan through quickly. Think about what kind of lists or tips would be useful for your audience, and include it in your next email newsletter.

Put these tips to work!

Tweaking your subject line slightly can improve the impact of your next email newsletter.

For more inspiration, check out twelve subject line tweaks that worked for other small businesses and nonprofits.

How to Write a Great Subject Line

Don’t Worry About ‘Mobilegeddon’, You Can Stand the Heat

Ahhhh, the Google algorithm update. From my perspective as a journalist these are always a bit like the culinary run-up to Christmas.

Every industry commentator with something to say about your website and brand strategy assumes the role of TV chef, each with a hot new SEO recipe to get you through those crucial, terrifying hours. It’s usually either a solution to your problem so Blumenthally bonkers complex that it barely passes as a turkey dinner, or so pointlessly simple you’ve already thought of it, and the end result is still it barely passes as a turkey dinner.

In any case, us writers all have our ways and means of telling you: “It’ll all be alright on the big day. Just do your prep and don’t burn your grandmother.”

Not so today, however. I’d be showing you how to roast a bird when you really should be serving cheesecake by now.

There’s a host of old, somehow magically active websites that Google is looking to weed out

Aaaargh, Mobilegeddon!

Google’s latest, worldwide algorithm update – stronger than Panda, sleeker than Penguin, more lofty than Hummingbird, in fact so powerful that a cutesy animal onesie couldn’t even contain it ironically this time – today comes into force to up-rank mobile-optimized websites. Or punish the ones that aren’t. Or both. As far as I can tell they’ve decided to call it the very cute ‘mobile-friendly ranking algorithm’. Awww. The industry calls it ‘Mobilegeddon’. Shock and awe.

Take the Google Mobile-Friendly Test below

This all feels a bit much, though I concede I’m writing this in lieu of the app-ocalypse (thank you I’m here all week, don’t forget to tip your waitress). If it is Mobilegeddon and today’s Judgment Day, quite frankly Terminator found Ms. Connor a while ago. If you’re not mobile-friendly by now – and, it should be said, 40% of websites apparently aren’t, while last year ComScore reported that 60% of our digital life is conducted from a mobile device – there’s not much I can say now to assuage your fears. I’d guess you’ve already read the Gordon Ramsay-type SEO’s comments, telling you the chicken Kiev that is your website lacks unctuous garlicky content, and you are screwed.

Don’t worry. Thing is, unless your website’s dinosaur old and hasn’t been updated in years, it will probably be fine. For a start I’m willing to bet that that 40% includes a whole host of old, unused, but still somehow magically active websites that Google is, quite rightly, looking to weed out. It’s a bit like the last days of the leaded petrol engine.

Optimise for mobile now, here

Furthermore, the indications right now are that this update will affect mobile-specific search results. There’s talk that Google is crawling app feed information, for example, so mobile sites that emulate the ‘everlasting’ newsfeed style of your Facebook phone app are kind of formats that will be ranked highly. So if you were a desktop-centric business website before, it’s likely your desktop search rankings will be unaffected. If you’re mobile-centric, I expect you’ve got most of the important elements under control. Though read on if you still have some concerns about this.

If all this Mobilegeddon stuff is a genuine worry for you then I expect you’ve already bookmarked a list of SEO articles as long as your arm, full of the latest recipes on how to avoid disaster. I’d say you’re better off just following this, the Google Mobile-Friendly Test, which will tell you if your website’s OK, and this, the Mobile SEO site, which will give you all the bits you’ll need to tighten up a few wavering cogs.

The chicken Kiev that is your website lacks unctuous garlicky content

I’m more of a happy-go-lucky, Jamie Oliver kind of a guy. Relax, s’all good mate. Now you’ve got the right tools I think it’d be better to focus on the pukker positives of this. Mainly – your edge.

A chance to Find a new edge

It’s easy to forget amongst the inevitable grumble over Google’s latest update, always bear in mind that these algorithm updates come in to give Google a competitive edge. Google is a commercial entity, and its primary function is a search engine. Looking for stuff on the web for you is what it does, and it needs to do it better than its competitors. It’s all about user experience. Google is focused on improving QUALITY of search results – give it quality content and you’ll be rewarded with quality ranking.

With that in mind, forget all this technical SEO stuff, trust me as someone who’s seen the bad and good sides of this ever-evolving world in action. Get the basics right using the tools above and then see this as YOUR opportunity to get a competitive edge.

So, Google wants a mobile-friendly site? Well, dagnabbit, you’re gonna give it to ‘em. Don’t just make your mobile site an updated version of the desktop one; design it for the format. Give them value and exclusivity. You want mobile user brownie points? Design a mobile user experience. It’s that simple.

Give Google quality content and you’ll be rewarded with quality ranking

Mobile friendly recruitment marketing

One of the big positives in terms of standing out from the crowd happens to be one of my favourite subjects – recruitment content marketing. I like cars and football and He-Man and stuff too, mind.

I see massive opportunities in recruitment content from this update. Why? Because the kids these days use their phones to go job hunting. As you’d expect, really. But it’s got to a critical mass now. It was reported last year that mobile usage on LinkedIn was at 41%, up from 38% in 2013. Nearly half of LinkedIn’s users do so from their phones.

Even more tellingly, the employee review site Glassdoor ran a similar survey last year and discovered that 89% of job seekers intended to use their mobiles to do so. Meanwhile, 45% of them said they’d use their mobile to search for jobs at least once a day. But just 44% said they’d actually APPLY for jobs on their phones.

So what does that tell you? The employer that designs a mobile website experience and/or working app, that makes job application simple from a phone, will have one hell of a Christmas dinner this year.

This is what I’m talking about – you have to change your thinking when it comes to these crazy updates. Go with the flow. These are not creative restrictions; they’re creative opportunities. So sink your teeth into that tasty bird. Pukker.

Does he even say that anymore?

Don’t Worry About ‘Mobilegeddon’, You Can Stand the Heat

Website Performance: How Does Yours Rate?

Website performance is often confused with how a website looks. Although user experience and responsive design are important the key objective of a website is overlooked. Not too long ago, developing websites and making them ‘live’ on the world wide web was a capability that was available only to web programmers. Today, with the phenomenal Content Management Systems, (joomla, drupla) and more specifically the ‘programming-challenged’ CMS (gotta love WordPress) availability, many business professionals mistake the ease of making a website live, with it’s effectiveness.

So what exactly is required to ensure optimal website performance:

1) A Plan: All the technology and software in the world won’t replace a good, innovative and hard working ‘plan’. A website is the first impression of any business so it must resonate with the intended target audience. It also must have a clear set objectives and strategies. The definition of success for any website can only be determined if there is a measuring point. What does the website need to do? What is its core function and what are the delivery expectations in terms of sales leads, traffic numbers and contact point? Once these questions have been answered website performance can be more easily assessed.

2) Content Strategy and Structure: What does the website have to do? Does it have to inform? Showcase the business as an expert? Be a go-to for actual sales? Is there going to be an online store? Does the site need to generate leads? Most websites have a combination of many of the list just mentioned. Providing users with good, easy to read content in a structured and user friendly environment are key elements for optimizing your website performance.

3) Connection Points: It’s important for any website to have more than one point of connection. Weaving connection points throughout the site to prompt viewers to take action and connect is critical – especially if generating leads is key for the website’s performance. Connection points need to be closely integrated to content strategy and structure. Consider providing a forum where viewers can download white papers, eBooks or register for a webinar.

4) Be Responsive: Responsive design is easier to achieve now. CMS platforms have coded their web themes to provide optimized adaptation to many devices. That’s high-tech responsiveness. But web performance means that it’s not only necessary for sites to be responsive on mobile and perform visually on any device, it’s also important to be responsive to queries from viewers who are potential clients.

5) Search Engine Optimization: The importance of analyzing and developing a keyword strategy can’t be stated enough. Website performance is dependent on a critical and well laid out SEO strategy. No site in today’s world wide web would be complete or be able to compete without it.

Getting a website up, live and looking good without taking into consideration the core components that optimize a website’s performance doesn’t make business sense. Are there any other considerations that should be included to this list? Please share them here.

Website Performance: How Does Yours Rate?