Friday, March 28, 2014

2014 Social Media Predictions -- Hold On, It's Going to Get Bumpy! by Kim Garst

With 2013 in the books, I have to admit my thoughts have been racing towards what's in store for businesses in 2014. We have seen such phenomenal changes this year in the way businesses are using social media, largely due to factors like the increase in mobile and video usage, and the mainstream adoption of content marketing.

So what changes can we expect to see in social media in the next 12 months? What trends do businesses and brands need to pay attention to in order to keep up?

Here are my top 5 social media predictions for 2014!

1. It's About Show, Not Tell: Visual-Based Content Will Dominate

Given what we have seen so far in 2013, there is no doubt that the popularity and use of visual-based content on social media is going to continue to increase in 2014.

We know that posts that contain images or videos outperform those without when it comes to likes, shares, comments, and retweets. Failing to incorporate image-based media into your social media content strategy will mean losing out on huge amounts of potential engagement!
Just take a look at what we know from this year:

Businesses will need to be creative in terms of incorporating images and videos into existing content, and coming up with fresh new ways of incorporating visual-based content into all aspects of their social strategy.

2. Instagram and Snapchat are Going to be Major Players And Businesses Will Use Them to Reach Their Audiences In Unique Ways

Some interesting current statistics for you about these platforms:

If you are not yet familiar with Snapchat (only 18.6 percent of iPhone users currently use the SnapChat app), here's a brief description: Snapchat is an app that can be used to send photos or videos that are only available to be viewed for a set amount of time (generally 1-10 seconds). Once time is up, the image or video is hidden from users and deleted from Snapchat's servers.

One of the most interesting uses of both SnapChat and Instagram that we should be keeping an eye on is for reaching consumers via coupons. While quite a few businesses are already taking advantage of Instagram for offering coupons, deals and discounts, it will be interesting to see what comes of Snapchat's 'exploding coupons'. These coupons will only be available to users for several seconds, giving a whole new meaning to the concept of 'flash sales'!

3. A Mobile Strategy Becomes Compulsory

With reports of mobile overtaking desktop usage somewhere between 2014/2015, businesses who want to keep up need to get serious about integrating mobile into all aspects of their business. Simply having a mobile-friendly website will not be enough.
Businesses will need to consider:
  • How their website is accessible via mobile: responsive design, mobile-version, or app.
  • How their overall marketing strategy works with mobile: With 84 percent of smartphone shoppers using their phones while in stores, businesses need to figure out how to integrate the virtual and 'real life' experiences of their customers (coupons, product reviews, mobile checkout systems, etc.).
  • How their content strategy works with mobile: Offering short, actionable pieces of content to mobile-users, determining when their target market is accessing content via mobile (see infographic below), using segmentation to offer the right type of content to the right people, etc.
4. More Brands are Going to Get Serious About Social

While an estimated 93 percent of marketers already use social media for business, brands are going to need to take their social media marketing strategies to the next level. Smart businesses will increasingly realize that it's not enough to just have a presence on the major social networks. Getting serious about social means integrating it into every aspect of the business, not just marketing: from product development, to operations, to customer service and retention.

Company-wide support of social will become increasingly necessary to make sure social media tasks are carried out consistently, and in a way that aligns with overall business goals and values.
As digital analyst Brian Solis points out, "While creating a social brand is a necessary endeavor, building a social business is an investment..." While social brands are businesses that use social media as part of their marketing strategy, a truly social business is one that has integrated all aspects of their business with social.

A social business aligns every level of their business with social: in their systems, processes, and planning. A social business goes beyond using social media to simply communicate with customers, and involves every department and employee in their social media strategy.

5. Google Plus FINALLY Hits the Tipping Point

Google Plus just turned 2 years old. I read a report that pegs Google Plus's current active monthly users at 300 million people (up from 190 million in May). This clearly trounces Twitter's 230 million and makes Facebook the next logical target, but will it pass Facebook in 2014? No, but it will hit what I am calling the "tipping point" late in the year and be a solid threat to Facebook's dominance in 2015.

This is going to sound crazy, I know that, but to win long-term people must "love" Google Plus. I know it's a subjective emotion, but there certainly seems to be a strong connection between the success of a social media site and people's emotional connection to it. People "love" Facebook. People "love" Pinterest and Instagram. Right now people do not feel that connection with Google Plus. As subjective evidence, I asked 140+ small business owners, entrepreneurs and social media enthusiasts in my DIY Social Media Inner Circle secret Facebook group what they thought about Google Plus and not a single person said they "loved" or felt an emotional connection to the site, but they will!

If you follow me at all, you know I am a big Google Plus fan and have been from the beginning. I love the functionality, communities, "hangouts" and the fact that everyone can see all of my content on their business pages. One real game changer for Google Plus this next year will be the continued integration of social media content into its search ranking algorithm and the realization by more and more businesses that being active on Google Plus is cheaper than paying your SEO consultant. Also, Google is reportedly testing on-site advertising, the staple of Facebook's monetization strategy. These two alone will not win the battle though. The real reason Google Plus will win big in 2014 is because people will finally accept it as a great place to form connections, meet friends and share experiences in completely cool and captivating ways.

What predictions do you think are missing from the list above? What major changes do you see happening in the social media world this next year?

Courtesy of, Inc

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

5 Signs of a Well-Designed Business Card by Pat Owings

Is Your Business Card a Slam Dunk?

The business card is an aspect of professionalism that dates back decades, and even serves as a rite of passage for many new employees and companies. The moment your box of business cards arrives in the mail, you feel an instant sense of importance and arrival on the scene of your industry.  Unfortunately, designing a great business card can prove to be quite the challenge, especially if you aren’t especially design-minded. Before we dive into our signs of a great business card, take a gander at this infographic on the history and makings of the business card.
5 Signs of a Well Designed Business Card image ultimate
If it’s time for you to brainstorm ideas for your company business card, it might help to have a few best practices in mind. Here are five signs of a well-designed business card.

Your Picture is Appropriate and Professional

It’s difficult to gauge whether or not the picture you select for the front of your business card is creepy and unsettling or professional and becoming of you. If you opt to put a picture on the front of your business card, the first step to ensuring that it is the latter and not the former is to show the potential picture to your fellow colleagues, co-workers or friends. Make sure they know the picture is for your business card so they can make a critique of it based on what’s professional and not what’s hilarious.

Your Font is Easy to Read

When you select the font for your business card, you should keep in mind that the card is tiny, and the majority of people who look at it will be disinterested in putting forth the energy to read a complicated font. Sure, it’s tempting to make your business card font fancy and original, but if your audience can’t read it, it hasn’t done you any good. When it comes to your business card’s print, try and keep the font straightforward, with clean lines and bold structure. The easier your company’s name and phone number are to read, the quicker people will start committing them both to memory.

Your Font is Tasteful

Creating a business card that uses an outdated or otherwise culturally despised font will make your company seem like it resides in the dark ages, when Comic Sans was all the rage. Choosing a tastefully unique, yet still accessible font is one of the most effective ways to improve your business card.

The Design is Simple

Of course you have a lot of intense design ideas for your company’s website, logo and content. Unfortunately, the amount of space available to you on the front or back of a business card simply doesn’t benefit from an overzealous design. Formulate a simple, effective, easy-to-digest design and a great font. Your message will stick more effectively with your audience when there is less for them to dig through.

You Include All Relevant Information

There are a few key pieces of information your business card should invariably contain. Among them is your name, your company name, a possible motto, your company email, address and phone number. It sounds like a lot, but if you space everything evenly and strategically, you can construct an attractive and informative card.

When it comes time to design a business card that is functional and effective, you need to keep a few basic rules in mind. Understand the purpose of a business card, know the audience of people who will be looking at yours and cater your design to their expectations. You want to make an impression, but not an overwhelming one. If your business card is the only thing some people know of your business, you want to ensure it’s the most flattering impression you can provide. The time you spend creating a great business card can pay dividends for your company in the long run.

Need help with Managing YOUR Print and Multi-Media Collateral Marketing?
Contact us and visit:

Friday, March 14, 2014

SensitiviTees prints colorful graphic apparel That Tells it Like it Is and Keeps it Fun

One of our client's is having a BIG $ALE
With SensitiviTees™ you can make sure that other people are sensitive to your child’s needs—with a little bit of lighthearted fun
mixed in.

SensitiviTees™ is a unique line of clothing for babies, toddlers, children, and adults that convey something special about the wearer that can be very helpful for others to know about. Through whimsical artwork and colorful “be sensitive” messages, the... SensitiviTees™ apparel line broadcasts your message and helps others be more understanding about potentially sensitive situations—from food allergies to new adoptions to same-sex relationships. A look at our website,, will show you why SensitiviTees™ is “the sharing caring clothing company.”

SensitiviTees grew out of our experiences dealing with our son’s allergies and our concerns about how to deal with this issue as he entered school. We were worried that teachers or school administrators would forget about his dairy-free dietary needs—after all, even our family forgets sometimes! Later on, he was diagnosed with celiac disease as well, which requires a gluten-free diet and made the situation even more important for us.

As moms who care deeply about helping other people become more sensitive to our son’s health and our need to maintain a strictly gluten-free household, we wanted to do everything possible to support him and support other families in the same situation. We decided there must be a solution to this dilemma—and for anyone dealing with celiac or food allergies—and in July 2010 SensitiviTees was born.

We understand from our own first-hand experience how hard it can be sometimes for parents to get the word out and hope that everyone around your children understands as well. With SensitiviTees you can make sure that other people are sensitive to your child’s needs regarding gluten-free eating, or wheat allergy, milk or dairy allergy, fish allergy, and peanut or nut allergy—with a little bit of lighthearted fun mixed in.

But it’s not only about what we think—we’d love to hear your great ideas for our graphic t-shirts for children and adults, so contact us with your suggestions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pros & Cons Of Date Stamping Your Content by Arnie Kuenn

As content marketing continually increases in popularity, more and more content is being published each and every day. In fact, more than two million blog posts are written daily. With all that content being published, date stamping is an easy way for users to gauge the newness and relevancy of a blog post or article.
But lately, I’ve noticed that many blog posts and articles lack a date stamp. In fact, Joe Pulizzi recently posted about this very topic on Facebook, which prompted a conversation among marketers and consumers about date stamping content.

The opinions were divided, with some people stating they won’t even bother with non-dated content, while others mentioned date stamping can result in disregard of otherwise compelling content.
Which way is the right way? Let’s discuss the pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Date Stamping Your Content - Pros
Pros Of Date Stamping Content
There are many reasons why you would want to use date stamping. Here are just a few.

Better For The Audience
Though the comments on Pulizzi’s Facebook post were split, many people noted that as a consumer, dated content is preferred. Why is that? Since much content is designed to be useful and helpful to your audience, not including the date can be quite the opposite of what’s intended.

Many times people search for content in order to solve a problem or to research a product, service, event, etc., and in those cases, a date would be beneficial. Without a date stamp, how will people know how recent (or old) your content is? They won’t (at least not right off the bat), which could result in the following:
  • Higher Bounce Rate: Some people will leave as soon as they realize the content is missing the date or will quickly recognize it as being outdated information, which could lead to a higher bounce rate.
  • Make Your Visitor Work For It: Others will wind up searching for clues elsewhere, either by reading through the content presented or by searching for date stamp of comments — both of which could result in an angry visitor, if the content is indeed outdated.
And though some won’t mind that your content lacks a date, without it, you risk alienating the people
who do.

Link Opportunities
I already mentioned that two million blog posts are written daily… And what do people usually do when writing a new post? They research supporting material and link to it in their piece.

Many writers will only want to source the most up-to-date content, making a date stamp essential. No one wants to reference outdated information, statistics or data if they can help it. Because of this, content lacking a date stamp could be overlooked for link opportunities.

Ensures Fresh Content
By including a date stamp, you are ensuring visitors that the content is fresh, which can also be achieved with an “updated” date stamp. News sites often do this so people know they are receiving the latest information.
If a story has changed, an error has been corrected, or there is just more information, an updated date stamp is present. The date stamp, updated or not, allows people to feel good about sharing breaking news, as everyone wants to be first to share new information.

Date Parameters
Additionally, search engines enable users to restrict search results to content published within a certain time frame, like the past hour, day, week, month, year, etc.

If you date your content, it will most definitely be included in the SERPs if it is within the chosen parameters, while undated content most likely won’t.

Pros and Cons of Date Stamping Your Content - Cons

Cons Of Date Stamping Content
There are also a few reasons for not date stamping content, which are as follows:

It “Dates” Content
Of course, date stamping does just that – it “dates” your content. This runs you the risk of your content being perceived as outdated even when it isn’t.

Many businesses create and publish evergreen content that is meant to be relevant and useful no matter when a visitor stumbles upon it. However, with a date stamp, some evergreen content may be overlooked, despite the content still being relevant.

Even if the content is compelling and insightful, some may pass it up for similar content with a fresh date stamp.

Potential Loss Of SEO Value 
When producing online content, though it should be created with your audience in mind, many cater to search engines in hopes of higher rankings in the SERPs.

In the case of date stamping content, without a date you may trick the search engines into thinking your content is fresh, even after it has been published for a long period of time. Search engines generally place a preference on new content, so your old content may rank higher without a date.

Date Parameters
Unfortunately, though date parameters can be a date stamping “pro,” they can also be a con. If you date stamp your evergreen content, it will only show up in the SERPs when it fits the date parameters, even if it is still relevant years later.

However, without a date, your content may not be included in date-restricted search engine results at all, which is something you have to seriously contemplate.

Other Things To Consider
There are a number of other things to consider when examining the pros and cons of dated vs. non-dated content. Here are a few:

“Updated” Date Stamps
Though not many publishers do this, adding an “updated” date on your content is a reasonable way to attract visitors to once old content. If you’ve published content about something that has since evolved or is just plain outdated, you can update the original content to reflect new findings and information.

Including the new date may attract some visitors who would have otherwise skipped over it due to the old date. One thing to note is the inclusion of the date in a URL. You might want to consider not including the URL, as the URL won’t change if you update the piece of content later.

Updating Without Date Stamps
Updating content can be as easy as adding a picture or extra text. These simple improvements allow you to increase the thickness, diversity and freshness of content, and as the page is repeatedly cached, small changes will be reflected in a search engine’s index.

Though you can update the date stamp of a piece of content when you make changes or insert new information, it isn’t completely necessary, and you can still reap the benefits of adding fresh material.
Pros and Cons of Date Stamping Your Content - Repurposing
Like updating posts, old, date-stamped content can be repurposed into new content with a new date stamp, which is beneficial in a number of ways. As creating content takes resources, repurposing content is an excellent way to provide new content without having to start from scratch.

You save yourself resources by utilizing the legwork and research done for the original piece, and you also provide a new piece of content for your audience. This is a particularly great tactic for outdated content that was very popular.

In Summary
It is clear that date stamping content has its pros and cons. Date stamping may be better for your audience in cases where the date is important, could lead to more link opportunities and will ensure your content is included in date-restricted searches.

However, it also poses problems for publishers creating evergreen content, as many people use the date stamp as a guide to whether content is applicable or not. Similarly, search engines also use date stamps when analyzing content relevance, so date stamping could result in lower search engine rankings.

The case could be made for either side, though updating content (with or without a date stamp) and repurposing content are two alternatives to consider.

What are your thoughts on date stamping content? 

Courtesy of Third Door Media, Inc.

The Good and Bad Of SEO Techniques by Leonid Singha

Anyone who is familiar with search engine optimisation (SEO) will know that the practice has undergone a number of changes over the years, many of them a result of people failing to use the techniques properly. Whilst SEO is a popular way of getting your website to rank higher in search engine results, it is of the utmost importance that you have used the techniques correctly, otherwise you risk your website becoming banned or blacklisted.

Keyword Research
Good – It is considered a good SEO technique if you strategically place keywords throughout your website, providing that they are relevant to the information on the page and they haven’t been used so many times that they are considered spam.

Bad – Targeting a single keyword on every page throughout your site is considered spam, as is hiding keywords in the background (by making the font the same colour) and using the keyword way too many times than would be considered natural.

Meta Tags
Good – Creating user friendly meta title tag using a relevant keyword phrase and that is 60 characters or less is considered good SEO, as is keeping your website traffic in mind so that your message can be heard when people read your description.

Bad – Stuffing your meta tag with keywords will not work in your favour when trying to rank higher in search engine results. If you forget about the user experience and just try to spam Google, you will quickly find your ranking lowered.

Good – For the optimisation of your content to be considered ‘good’, you will need to include keywords into it in a way that is understandable and relevant to the website. SEO is all about making the content users want much easier to find.

Bad – If you have so many keywords jammed into your content that it is nearly impossible to read, however, this is considered spam. It is also considered bad SEO if you have used keywords that aren’t relevant to the information on the page.

Directory Submission
Good – When listing your website on directories that will make it easier for people to find you, you should only choose highly trafficked and respected websites. This will ensure that you are getting relevant and high quality links back to your site.

Bad – Using a software program that promises to distribute your website to thousands of directories is essentially useless for SEO if no one looks at the listing and it can actually be detrimental if the directory is proven to be less than reputable.

Facebook Marketing
Good – Building a Facebook fan page that is inviting for your audience and allows you to spread your message is very handy for SEO, as engagement is something that plays a major role in optimisation today. It also gives you another place for links.

Bad – If you attempt to send thousands of friend requests from a personal Facebook profile that has been structured to come from a business, however, you will damage your SEO efforts and Facebook may even shut your account down.

Whilst there are good and bad approaches to many other SEO techniques (such as blog commenting, video marketing and the use of Twitter), the five areas that we have outlined above tend to be the most abused. When it comes to getting your website to rank higher in search engine results, it is important that you ensure you have used the correct SEO techniques in the right way otherwise you will run into a few problems.

Courtesy of  Business 2 Community

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Avoid these Four Common Online Marketing Mistakes by Iris Dorbian (included Janet O. Penn)

Online_Marketing_body.jpgIf there’s one thing that Gene Sower, president of Samson Media, finds frustrating it’s meeting with small business clients who are short-sighted when it comes to online marketing.
“I’ve had clients who’ve approached me and the first thing they want to talk about is the color of their web pages,” says Sower, whose Montclair, N.J.-based firm provides online marketing and website services. “I ask them, ‘Okay, but what do you want the website to do?' I try to get them to think of their website as more than a brochure.”
Sower says he has made it his mission to help clients with their online marketing by actively blogging about issues he feels are relevant to the subject. For example, he recently posted about the cost-effectiveness of using a template design for a client site versus an original design. Because the latter is often more expensive, Sower maintains that money earmarked for a customized web design would be better spent on a SEO or pay-per-click advertising campaign.
Read on to find out the most common online marketing missteps and how you can avoid them.
Mistake #1: Not allocating enough money
Just because it’s online, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend any money. Sure, you might derive some leads or pique the attention of a few prospects from a clever (and free) Twitter or Facebook initiative. However, these results could be short-term and middling when compared to the reach of a well-executed and strategic long-range online marketing campaign.
Says Sower: “Clients think that social media can drive all of their leads and new business when it’s just unrealistic. A lot of what I tell people is that you have to allot some money to marketing—whether it’s PR, advertising, or search engine optimization.”
Julie Davis, director of marketing and development for TotalHousehold, a two-year old Danbury, Conn.-based online marketplace that connects homeowners with qualified contractors, echoes Sower’s sentiment.
“When you’re looking to save money, you still need to go with reputable companies and the best plans rather than the cheapest plans,” explains Davis.
To prove her point, Davis cites how TotalHousehold recently selected PR Underground, which posts press releases online, for their weekly PR needs as opposed to the far more expensive PR Web.
“We do a weekly giveaway on our site and for $29 a week, we can generate a press release [via PR Underground],” says Davis. “If we used PR Web, which we do for bigger releases, it would be hundreds of dollars.”
Mistake #2: Doing it yourself
Some small business owners might think that if they take an hour-long seminar on online marketing or read a book on the subject they might be prepared to go the DIY route. Although it is possible that some business owners might excel in blogging or sending out e-newsletters, for example, most will not be skilled enough to launch a comprehensive online marketing campaign that will bring results. To get the ROI you desire, you must make an investment.
Janet O. Penn, managing director of Janet Penn Consulting, a seven-year-old internet marketing consulting firm in Fairfield, NJ, urges small business owners to steer clear of the DIY approach.
“A lot of times when someone starts their own business, they do it because they have a particular talent, such as making jewelry,” she says. “Their area of expertise is providing that service and they should concentrate on doing that. It’s not prudent or even a good business model to have people thinking they can do it themselves.”
Penn brushes aside the notion that it’s in her best interest to take this approach. “The lay person might be aware of Google’s changing algorithms but they don’t really understand what that means,” she explains. “There are so many critical strategies and business practices that are changing. If you aren’t spending a minimum of one to two hours every day just observing and understanding all of those changes, such as how to optimize a Pinterest post, you’re going to be left behind.”
Penn often counsels small business owners to allocate some funding to hire a marketing professional, even if it’s on a part-time or contractor basis. This allows busy entrepreneurs to tap into the expertise of marketing professional who can evaluate what needs to be done to have a solid and effective online strategy.
Mistake #3: Staying static with your website
Not too long ago, having a website, which listed the services of your small business and included a gallery of portfolio photos and contact information, might have sufficed. But in this social media era where information is constantly streamed to the masses, that is no longer practical. If you want to reach a target demographic or get more leads, you will need to be more proactive with your online marketing.
“Everybody these days is a content creator,” says Sower. “The new marketing is about sharing your knowledge and expertise with the people you’re trying to attract. You can no longer have a static brochure website. You have to have some kind of blogging component where you’re able to put up timely content that will be able to attract people to your business. This will not only give you something to disseminate through social media, but it will also help your search engine optimization because the search engines are always looking for sites that are being updated on a constant basis.”
Mistake #4: Not properly evaluating your online marketing needs
Believe it or not, not every small business needs online marketing. “It is fashionable, yes,” says Helena Zakmane, a marketing professional whose broad range of experience includes running her own small consulting firm as well as working for international companies. “But by no means is it necessary for everyone.”
For instance, Zakmane recalls advising a client—an apartment cleaning business—to forgo social media outreach in favor of direct mail in their city. “Not having a sufficient advertising budget made it practically impossible for them to reach their audience via social media channels,” explains Zakmane. “It's also hard to imagine someone following a cleaning company’s Facebook page.” 

The lesson learned: take a good look at the business you’re in before committing funds to an online marketing campaign. Just because many businesses are doing it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you.

Whether it’s to increase sales or elevate your company’s profile in a saturated marketplace, including online marketing in an advertising campaign can be an effective and efficient strategy to reach new and existing customers.

© Copyright 2014 Bank of America Corporation.