Industry Benchmarks for Social Media Engagement: How Much Should Your Posts Receive?

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One of the best feelings as a marketer is when you spend time crafting the perfect message for your social accounts and then your audience actually engages with that post. Interactions like shares, comments, retweets, and favorites tell you that your messages are resonating with your fans and followers.

But how you know when the number of interactions you’re getting is good? And what does “good” mean, anyway?

The answer: It’s all relative. A “good” amount for engagement for a marketer in the software industry could be a totally different number than for a marketer in the financial services industry. That’s why we put together the 2015 Social Media Benchmarks Report -- it's 49 pages of of social media data and analysis from over 7,000 business in nine industries.

In this post, I’ll analyze our findings on audience participation on social media for each of the industries represented. Find your industry below (or use our jump-to links to head directly to your industry) to see how much interaction is happening relative to how much a company posts a week on social media, and also get some key takeaways for how to apply this to your own social strategy.

  1. Real Estate
  2. Marketing Services
  3. Software / Tech
  4. Hardware
  5. Nonprofit / Education
  6. Business / Financial Services
  7. Healthcare
  8. Consumer Goods / Retail / Ecommerce
  9. Manufacturing

1) Real Estate

You might think that the real estate industry has it easy when it comes to social media. They have the advantage of getting new inventory on a regular basis, and one piece of inventory can spur Facebook albums, Pinterest posts, and quick one-liners with a link for tweets. That’s bound to attract a lot of interactions per post, for every post, right? Take a look at what we found for interactions per post for the real estate industry:

2015smbr-interactions-real-estate

Key Takeaway

What’s actually happening in the real estate industry is that as post frequency increases, the average number of interactions per post decreases. Companies that are posting about one post per week are getting the best ROI compared to companies that post more than once.

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the real estate industry, consider trying to “feature” one piece of inventory per week on your best-performing channel. Now that you know one post per week gets the highest amount of interactions, you can use that to your advantage.

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2) Marketing Services

Companies and people that sell marketing services such as marketing agencies, PR firms, and social media consultants should be very well versed in the world of social media. It’s likely that those in the marketing services industry offer social media as part of their services, so being comfortable with using social media on behalf of their business is almost part of the gig. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post on the real estate industry:

2015smbr-interactions-marketing-services 

Key Takeaway

This industry’s sweet spot lies with companies that are posting 3-10 posts per week on social media. This is likely because that number of social posts -- assuming the content is up to par -- makes these folks look like thought leaders in their industry, and probably have some loyal fans and followers that want to gobble up their content as soon as it’s posted.

How to Apply These Findings

If you don’t find your own analytics aligning with our findings, consider not only how much you’re posting per week, but also the quality of your content. You don’t need to have 10 separate pieces of great content to get this level of engagement. You do, however, need to have some pieces of great content with the knowledge of how to reposition them for different social networks. Learning how to recycle and reuse content can lead to great return, like this company that gained 400+ leads and 6 deals from recycling content.

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3) Software / Tech

The companies in the software / tech industry are likely very socially savvy, so you’d expect them to be pretty hands-on when it comes to marketing themselves on social media. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post in the software / tech industry:

2015smbr-interactions-software-tech

Key Takeaway

Like the real estate industry, companies that post 1 post per week on social media see the best ROI for their time spent creating content for that marketing channel. However, while we see a dip in interactions for companies that are posting 1-3 times a week, we see an increase in engagement when companies post 3-10 times per week.

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the software / tech industry, consider posting once a week or making sure you’re getting a good 5 or 6 posts in per week. Our findings tell us that you’ll need to pick only one of these paths to get the most possible interactions per week. If you’re a newer company just ramping up your content strategy, try featuring one piece of content per week for your audience. If you’ve got a lot of content at your disposal to share, try hitting that 5-times-a-week mark. And like the marketing services industry, don’t forget that you can reposition one piece of content to your social networks to get the most out of the content you’re creating.

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4) Hardware

The hardware industry as a whole averages about nine posts per week, which means people are hearing from most hardware companies about once a day on social networks. These companies could be sharing content about their own hardware, reviews, or news about the hardware industry -- and these posts can add up quickly. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post in the hardware industry:

2015smbr-interactions-hardware

Key Takeaway

While companies that are posting once a week are getting the most bang for their buck, companies that post 1-3 times per week and 3-10 times per week aren’t far behind. However, check out the dip in interactions per post when companies post more than 10 times per week. Of all the industries we’ve mentioned so far, this is the lowest we’ve seen. 

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the hardware industry, here’s a good rule of thumb when considering how much to post on social media: If you’ve got more than 10 posts planned per week, reconsider how you're devoting your time. Instead of pumping out a ton of posts on all social networks, prioritize your posts by the network where you typically see the most engagement, and then by topics after that. If you still have more than 10 posts, try moving those to the next week or for a few weeks out to see if your engagement per post goes up. You never know until you try.

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5) Nonprofit / Education

Social media is a great channel for marketers in nonprofits and education who need to reach large audiences at scale. Not only does social media allow for direct communication with the audience, which can be especially important for businesses like these, it’s also relatively cheap compared to other marketing channels. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post in the nonprofit / education industry: 

2015smbr-interactions-non-profit-education

Key Takeaway

This is one of the more interesting graphs we’ve seen thus far in our report. There are two sweet spots for this industry when it comes to getting the most interactions per week: companies that post 1-3 times a week, and those that post 10+ times a week. The moral of the story here? Posting as much as you can is worth it, but is not, 2-3 times a week is good.

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the nonprofit / education industry and only posting once a week, try ramping it up to two or three times -- it looks like you’ll be happy with the results. If you want to aim for the 10+ times a week, really take the time to flesh out your social media editorial calendar. Can you make Mondays all posts about X? Could you scatter a tips and tricks series throughout every day of the week? Thinking about ways to regulate and repeat some of your content might help you a lot. 

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6) Business / Financial Services

Similar to the hardware industry, companies in the business / financial services industry post close to nine times a week. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post for the business / financial services industry:

2015smbr-interactions-business-financial-services

Key Takeaway

It’s easy to see from the graph above that companies in this industry get the best results when posting once a week. Any more than that, they’re looking at a steady -- but not extremely drastic -- decline. Even when posting once a week, though, the average number of interactions per post is the lowest of any industry in our report. 

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the business / financial services industry, your posts may not be getting much action when it comes to engagement on your content (but you can be rest-assured you’re not alone). If you want to try some new tactics to spruce up your social media marketing, check out this free guuide to writing effective titles and headlines.

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7) Healthcare

The healthcare industry has a few special nuances to it when it comes to communication. Because some of these companies regularly deal with patients, they have to be really careful about privacy laws. This could be why healthcare companies have a lower number of average posts per week than the other industries we've already identified. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post for the business / financial services industry:

2015smbr-interactions-healthcare

Key Takeaway

It seems like the healthcare companies that are getting the most interactions per posts are the ones that post several times a week -- not more, not less. You can see that the ROI is lower even in the 3-10 range, and is drastically lower in the 10+ posts a week range. 

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the healthcare industry, try posting once a week in these three categories: your company, the industry, and popular relevant content that's being shared with your target audience (that's also relevant to your company, of course). To help you do just that, we suggest heading over to your audience's favorite social networks and searching around with relevant keywords. Not only will this help you find content to share immediately, but it could also help with content ideas for the future. Not too far in the future, though -- you want to make sure the topic is relevant and fresh when you share it. If it's not, you won't get the engagement you're looking for.

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8) Consumer Goods / Retail / Ecommerce

This industry has a lot of opportunities to share content with social networks, especially images. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post for the consumer goods / retail / ecommerce industry:

2015smbr-interactions-consumer-goods-retail-ecommerce

Key Takeaway

I think one line here sums it up: The more posts, the merrier. Companies in this industry are apt to get more and more interactions on what they post the more they post. This is important because this industry is one where brand loyalty is everything. Buyers today are much more educated about your company before they buy anything from you, and they have a lot of choices. Getting folks to choose you is a big deal -- and social media can help with that.

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the consumer goods / retail / ecommerce industry, it might be easy to say, “We don’t really have anything new to post about.” Not true! If you’re trying to cultivate loyal customers, reach out to existing customers and figure out what they like about your company. Then, use that information to inform your social strategy. Maybe folks like you because you have the fastest X out there, or the most comfortable Y. Lean in to what makes you special and use those topics on social media to create more loyal customers for your business.

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9) Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry rounds out our report with the lowest number of posts per week. However, that's not the most interesting thing about this industry's results. Take a look at what we found for interactions per post for the manufacturing industry:

2015smbr-interactions-manufacturing

Key Takeaway

You can really see by the graph above where the sweet spot is for getting the most interactions per post. Similar to the software / tech industry, manufacturing companies do best with either one post a week, or at least a handful -- but definitely not more than 10. The drop-off from the average number of interactions in the 3-10 category to the 10+ category is downright scary.

How to Apply These Findings

If you’re in the manufacturing industry, first focus on getting one relevant post out per week. If you're seeing good engagement with that, think about how you could repurpose content you already have to stretch that one post to a week to, say, four. It's most important that you've got a solid hold on where that one post a week should go -- Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn? Once you've found your place, you can use that platform to experiment with more posts.

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Want more data on social media benchmarks by company size, or more social data on your industry? Download our free social benchmarks report.

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11 Expert Tips for Growing Your Company’s Blog

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Most marketers dream about the day their blog has "made it." 

How we define "making it" differs. Maybe it's when we reach a certain traffic or lead goal. Maybe it's the day one of our posts finally gets shared by an influencer. Or maybe, it's when your blog makes a "blogs to watch" roundup.

However you define "making it," we can always learn from those who've done it before. Recently, we launched a new ranking tool called Inboundrank -- using different parameters like traffic, domain authority, and social shares, we ranked the top marketing blogs in the U.K. To learn what made the top blogs on the list so successful, we reached out to some of the marketers who run them. Below are some of their tips for building a highly successful blog (regardless of whether you blog about marketing or not). 

(And if you'd like to see how your blog stacks up, you can find your Inboundrank here.

Graham Charlton, Econsultancy

1) Remain consistent.

To build and keep an audience, you need to set expectations around the quantity and frequency of articles. Many business blogs just post an article or two, then nothing for three months -- and then probably don't see the results they'd hope.

If you only have time to post once per day, that's fine. The key is to remain consistent with your blogging efforts. At Econsultancy, they aim to post 5-7 articles per day. The blog's audience knows that they'll find something new and valuable every time they visit the site -- that's why they keep returning.

2) Build a bank of evergreen content.

Evergreen content refers to content with a longer shelf life than simple news updates. It provides traffic over a longer period of time, has greater SEO benefits, and is generally more rewarding to create.

For the folks at Econsultancy, detailed tips and advice, how-to guides, and insightful interviews remain relevant long after publishing. Roughly a third of their monthly traffic comes from blog posts written months and years ago. 

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Dr. Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights

3) Define your online value proposition, and stick by it.

You need to define your Online Value Proposition (OVP) to help you stand out in a unique way.

Dr. Dave Chaffey believes in taking a "less-is-more" approach. At Smart Insights, they aim to filter out the noise by curating alerts on the digital changes and updates that marketers really need to know about. They also provide benchmark stats to help marketers compare themselves to their competitors. Finally, they provide practical how-to posts, covering digital strategy and optimisation. Plan, Manage, Optimize! is their strapline, and they have worked to develop a tone and style of voice that shows their passion for digital marketing.

DaveChaffey_Quote

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Matthew Woodward, MatthewWoodward.co.uk

4) Devise a solid traffic and promotion strategy.

A common hurdle for new bloggers is building sustainable traffic to their blog. When you’re starting out, the key is to keep things simple. 

Start by scanning forums for content ideas. What problems or hurdles are people facing? Create blog content from these. Then, go back and engage with these people, giving them a link to your blog post. You should also scan social media for relevant questions and jump in to offer help/advice, linking to your blog posts where relevant. 

Create a presence in relevant communities by helping people. Spend time crafting genuinely helpful replies to people -- don’t just go dropping links all over the place. Building those relationships with people will carry your blog forward at a rapid pace. It is critical that you are helping people rather than focused only on driving traffic and metrics.

Matthew_Woodward_Quote

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Stephen Kenwright, Branded3

5) Don't use cheesy stock photography.

Use stock photography sparingly -- or at least choose "less stocky-looking" photography. Visitors can spot it a mile away, and it can result in an increased bounce rate, (which could have an effect on how you rank in search).

Stephen suggests that to make your blog successful, you need to add some value for a visitor that they can’t get anywhere else. If you’re framing your post with an image that the searcher has already seen, you're missing a chance to show that you're offering something unique. 

If you have access to professional photography or designers, use them. Also try adding captions under the images you use in your posts. They can be read more frequently than body copy. Stephen also advises using your caption space for something important, like a CTA or a link to where you can read more about the subject featured in the image.

6) Build strong relationships.

Building relationships are key when it comes to blogging, particularly when it comes to building those all-important links to your blog. It would be naive to think that your blog posts will gain links by themselves.

Stephen advises against sending cold emails to people asking them to link to you. If you want to be someone who people link to often, you have to show willing to link to other people who you think deserves it -- and share their stuff too. Stephen believes that blogs should be seen an extension of your social channel, and you should treat it as such -- a place to build relationships.

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Linda Bolg, SocialBro

7) Research your audience.

Great content is only great as long as it resonates with your target audience.

Take time to really understand your readers. Research their challenges, create buyer personas, and most importantly, create content that’s relevant to them. Social media is a great and cost-effective way to find insight about your audience.

8) Maintain a content schedule, but remain flexible.

Maintaining a consistent schedule ensures you always have fresh and interesting content on your blog ... but it's also important to be flexible. Be ready to jump on breaking news stories when they arise. Being the first to cover a news story relevant to your audience could give your blog a competitive advantage.

9) Test, test, test.

Always be testing. 

Linda recommends experimenting with blog headlines on social media -- the feedback is instant and you’ll be surprised what a difference it can make to your blog readership.

LindaBolg

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Dan Sharp, Screaming Frog

10) Invest in quality over quantity.

Posting a couple of really unique pieces of content a month that your audience wants to share can be much better than forcing yourself to write a couple a week that are lower quality. 

Dan believes that content should be created when you have something valuable to say -- not because an SEO, your boss, or a calendar says to do it. Create as much content as your resources allow. 

11) Don’t use your blog for selling.

Remember the aim of your blog should be to help your audience and provide content that is of interest to them. Dan advises against being overly promotional or ‘sell’ all the time on your blog. Nobody wants to read sales pitches.

Dan Sharp

Have you found out how your marketing blog stacks up? Discover your rank on Inboundrank.co.uk.

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The Back Office Developers

shutterstock_18292468 What are the 5 biggest tech employers in the world? I conducted a survey amongst some tech entrepreneurs and interestingly, almost everyone guessed wrong. Take a second and write down your top 5. If you guessed Apple, Google or Amazon, you’re wrong – and by a huge margin! These companies have approximately 5k-35k developers, almost ten times less than the real behemoths: TCS,… Read More

How to Grow Your Email List by Running a Contest

running-contest-marketing

Marketers often think of running contests for things like branding, customer delight, and fan engagement -- but that's not all they're good for. Created a certain way, contests can also help you fill your funnel, making your audience and your boss happy at the same time.

We've seen this happen first-hand at HubSpot. Last December, my team had the idea to run a contest, but wanted to see if there was a way to tie it more closely to business objectives. Our idea? Run a holiday-themed contest and give away eighteen $100 Visa gift cards, one for each winner and an additional gift card for one of their colleagues.

The aim of the contest was to delight customers, increase engagement, and increase brand awareness ... while also generating actual email contacts. Would it work? I'll spoil the ending for you: It sure did. To help give you ideas if you want to run a similar contest, I've broken down the approach below that we took to running the contest.

Holiday Hero Landing Page

How to Run a Contest

1) Choose a Platform

While you don’t necessarily need a platform to run a contest, I would highly recommend shopping around for a platform built explicitly for such a purpose. Contest platforms provide functionality that you wouldn’t necessarily think you need at the beginning of your contest (but will appreciate later). For example, it was extremely helpful to have certain features built in from the start, such as multiple types of contest entries, quick tallies of the entries, and random selection of the winners.

The type of contest you're running will usually dictate what features you find important and what functionality you'll need, but there is one key feature all contest platforms should have: social sharing integrations. Getting a contest to go viral is the best way to make it bigger and better than you initially imagined -- and having certain social sharing capabilities in the platform will make that much easier. So when you're considering platforms, think about what kinds of social media activities you'd like entrants to do.

In our contest, we primarily wanted people to enter with an email address (it was designed to help us build our database, after all). We also wanted to get a larger reach from our contest, meaning we counted the following actions as extra entries:

  • Following HubSpot on Twitter
  • Tweeting a link to the contest
  • Sharing via email
  • Sharing via Facebook

After perusing a few of the major platforms I settled on using Gleam because it allowed me to directly integrate with HubSpot, entering contestants into a list automatically. Most platforms require you to export contacts from the contest platform and into your database (one extra step that I’d rather avoid). Gleam also has functionality to disqualify people if their email address doesn’t exist, and it won’t let them enter the contest if they are outside of the U.S. and you’ve selected U.S. only.

2) Set Up Your Contest

Deciding how many winners there will be, how long your contest will run, and where to promote it are often the biggest items on your to-do list when you are just getting started -- but that's not actually the best place to start. 

Instead, think about the ultimate, bottom-line goals you're hoping to achieve, and backtrack your contest-specific goals from there. So if you're hoping to generate 100 leads from the contest, and you know that your typical visit-to-lead conversion rate is 10%, you know that you need 1,000 visits (at least) to your contest. And knowing that visit goal can help shape how you promote your contest (and the rest of the other items on your contest to-do list).

When we ran the Holiday Hero Contest, our goals were of net new email addresses, number of shares per channel (email, Twitter, Facebook), and number of selected winners. Outlining these goals helped keep our expectations both realistic and achievable, and it also provided a benchmark of what success for this contest (and future contests) would look like.

3) Run the Contest (But Make Sure to Check on It)

Now's the part you've dreamt about: Actually pushing your contest live, promoting it, and getting entries. How you exactly do that will depend on your contest goals, but if you need some ideas on how to promote your contest, check out this free resource.

To generate interest, my team shared the contest across multiple channels: We created a dedicated landing page for our contest, then blogged about it, emailed it to our database, put together specific Pinterest boards, and shared that landing page all over social media. Since the contest was only available in the U.S., we made sure to share it with that audience.

Gleam_interface_final-edited

Throughout the promotion cycle you’ll also want to “take the temperature” of your contest. Are your promotions successful? How is your contest doing across various platforms? Is your technology working the way you expect? Are contacts being properly fed from the contest app into your database? Are contestants getting a follow-up email about their entries?

These are all questions that can only be answered by frequently checking on your contest settings. I would recommend checking these settings every day or every other day just to ensure that if you do run into any hiccups, you can quickly address them.

4) Choose Your Winners

So now that you've gotten all of your entries, you've got to select your winners and let them know they've won. 

If your platform lets you randomly select a winner, we'd highly recommend using that (unless your contest rules say otherwise). Once they're selected, it's up to you to do the reaching out.

In our contest, we chose to email the winners to let them know. We also emailed the rest of the entrants to let them know that winners had been chosen, as one big complaints about contests is the mistrust as to whether anyone actually received the prize.

The best part of running a contest has to be the delight that people experience when they win. It is incomparable to anything else -- and if you are lucky, sometimes winners will share a story with you about them winning. (I was lucky to receive such an email ... I've still got it tucked away in my inbox!)

5) Analyze Your Results

Like you would with any other marketing campaign, you should always analyze the results of your contest. Which channels drove the best results in terms of traffic, entries, and new contacts? Did certain promotions and/or messaging get better results? What would you try differently next time? Taking the time to look in your marketing analytics and analyze your results will ensure you are setting your next contest up for success.

All in all, I’d say our contest went really well -- we had hundreds of new participants each day and over 20% of the total entrants were new to our database. While there are definitely things we'd change for next time around, we were proud with how this contest turned out.

3 Lessons Learned From Running Our Contest

Now that the contest is over, there are some general things I learned that other companies should keep in mind when running a contest:

  1. When planning a contest, make sure your prizes are relevant to what your company does and what your audience needs. If you offer promotional items that are vague or random then you are less likely to get qualified leads.
  2. Before creating your contest, check in with your company’s legal department to make sure terms and conditions are properly stated. 
  3. Set big, virality-specific goals to help you achieve your bottom-line goals. Just because you're ultimately aiming to drive bottom-line growth doesn't mean you can ignore top-line goals. It’s really good to know how many shares you are hoping for on each social media platform so that you can better analyze your promotional strategy at the end of the contest. 

Have you run a contest before? What tips would you suggest to marketers who've never run one?

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You can now pay your friends through Facebook Messenger

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Feed-twFeed-fb

Facebook's long-awaited payments feature is finally here.

On Tuesday, the social network announced a new feature for Messenger that lets users send and receive money to one another. The feature will roll out to Facebook users in the U.S. across desktop, Android and iOS over the next few months.

Users who add their debit card information in Messenger's settings section can send payments by striking up a conversation with a friend, selecting the "$" icon that will appear in the row above the software keyboard, and tapping "Pay." Users who receive money do so by opening up that friend's message and accepting the payment when prompted. Like bank deposits, payment may take up to three business days to go through. Read more...

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7 Ways to Create a Long-Lasting Relationship Between Content and Design

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When it comes to building a strong brand, no matter what your industry, every company's key to success starts with stellar content and equally stellar design. Whether you’re creating a website, infographic, print ad, email campaign, blog post, social media account, etc., there’s always a need for some degree of both parts. 

But as with many companies, individual schedules often get bogged down with tasks, meetings, and strategy planning, putting time for Content and Design to collaborate, plan, and lay out the groundwork on the back burner. Or they simply get frustrated with the whole process because both teams haven’t communicated properly about the project specs. So how do we still ensure those stellar results we want so desperately?

Content-and-Design
Even with limited time and other related restrictions, there are still many ways for both parties to create and maintain a happy, healthy and long-lasting relationship when creating projects. Here are seven first steps to help set yourselves up for success: 

1) Brainstorm together.

No matter what platform you’re creating content and design for -- whether it be a website, an e-book, a print ad, etc. -- the initial brainstorming session tends to bring up the age-old “chicken or the egg” debate. Do we start the content creation or the design first? 

While there are many arguments for both sides, that’s not what’s most important to think about in this stage of the game. What’s important is to start generating concepts and spinning ideas off each other as a team -- concepts and ideas that are creative, user- or viewer-friendly, and realistic to execute within your timeframe or budget. 

If limited time for in-person meetings is one of your hindrances, write out your ideas and send them over via email. Or, if you share the same office space, sketch it all out and old-school paper airplane it over to the other team’s room. That would definitely be the start to an awesome partnership.

2) Don’t get married to any one idea.

Let’s admit it: we’ve all done it. Whether planning a social event, completing a college project, or organizing a large-scale business plan, we’ve all had that one epiphany idea that we were 100% sure would move people to tears when they heard about it. Sometimes these ideas really are as ingenious as we know they are in our heads, and other times they’re better left forgotten. 

But even the ingenious ones that blow everyone’s socks off have the chance of being unrealistic, out of the budget or not within the brand guidelines. When that occurs on either side of the design-content spectrum, it’s essential to remember that marrying any one idea can be harmful to the project’s overall purpose and success. 

Many of us know that user experience (UX) is “the new black” in the marketing arena, and if you’re in it for anything else, it’s just simply a fashion faux pas. Deterring from a user-centric focus – whether from the designers or the content developers – for the sake of one “great” idea could result in a poor user experience and potentially the loss of a valuable customer or lead.

3) Provide feedback, not criticism.

You’re good at what you do. That’s why you do it. What’s easy to forget sometimes though is that someone else is good at what they do, too. Designers are not content developers and content developers are not designers.

And while feedback is important -- we all need it to grow, learn and succeed in life -- if it’s nothing but opinion-based, subjective criticism that is all but constructive for the other person, there’s no value in that viewpoint.

In a Huffington Post blog article by Diane Gottsman, “Business Etiquette: 5 Tips to Turning Negative Feedback Into Constructive Criticism”, five great ways to keep criticism as helpful as possible are brought to light, touching on focusing your feedback on the action at hand rather than on the individual; being specific; providing assistance if needed; and more. This is a great way to help the other person get a different perspective on their work without feeling like they’re being attacked. 

4) Start learning your partner’s native tongue.

A content developer probably wouldn’t be able to tell you the first thing about parallax scrolling, in the same way that a Web designer probably wouldn’t be able to tell you what a past participle is. This goes back to what we mentioned in the previous tip, where people are good at what they do for a reason. But that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for communication among the language barrier.

If you’re a content developer:

  • Learn a little about coding; there are many free “crash course” resources that will help with understanding the subject matter, even if from a helicopter point of view
  • View a short tutorial about design basics; you’d be surprised at how knowing some best practices for layouts, typography, white space, etc. can benefit you when creating content
  • Watch a designer in action; take note of some common first steps a designer takes and see how you could apply those to your content

If you’re a designer:

  • Read some stellar content; check out some examples of content written on Web pages, infographics, etc. to get an idea of what the copy might look like in your design
  • Consider where specific content should go in your design; especially for website content, make sure you have a good understanding for what content is most important and where it would be most helpful to the viewer in the navigation menu; if there’s an opportunity to build out more original content (i.e. blogs, e-books, etc.), chances are the content developer is going to generate a lot of copy for those sections, so they should be very visible
  • Watch a content developer in action; notice what he/she does frequently with copy in terms of length and placement
  • The key here is to accept your individual areas of expertise, but to also challenge yourself to understand your partner’s everyday lingo. 

5) Do your job with the other’s job in mind.

Depending on your company’s structure, the project might start with one team before another. It might be one company’s best practice to have the design done prior to content because a client may prefer for the site to be more visually appealing than informational. Or vice versa. 

Ideally, the more interaction between teams, the better. But no matter what structure you fall in, you should be prepared to always have the other team’s work in mind while doing yours.

If you’re in a position where the content must come first, make sure the content generated is organized in a way that can be easily designed around it. Don’t make content too heavy if it isn’t necessary – be clear and to the point where possible. If you’re in a position where the design must come first, be sure that the structure is centered around creating a positive user experience, with practical places for content to be placed.

6) Work in tandem to fix problems.

Uh-oh. You’ve run into some unexpected issues while putting everything together. Maybe your website design doesn’t match the format of the content structure. Maybe your content is too lengthy for your print design. Maybe both are great separately, but not combined. Now what?

If your first thought was either to run and hide, or start playing the blame game, you should think again. Fixing problems can be as easy as:

  • Pushing away the urge to get defensive about your work 
  • Asking questions to the other party about the issues you’re running into
  • Listening and really understanding the other party’s questions or concerns
  • Answering the other party’s questions with as much detail and explanation as possible
  • Offering a solution (or two) to a problem the other might be facing
  • Being prepared to adjust your work to better the project as a whole
  • Remembering to look at the entire picture when making adjustments

Additionally, if you’re creating a project for a client or for a major stakeholder in your company, be aware that your ideas or work could get a nod of disapproval at any time… and there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. 

7) Understand that you both have the same end goal.

Google is a star example of this. All of the changes, the algorithm updates, the ever-shifting ranking factors, etc. – all of it is to give their users the best possible experience. That’s what should always be in the back of your mind when creating any material that includes both content and design: user experience. 

If both parties remember that it’s not about each other, but rather the end user, you might find that you both have a lot more to agree on than you thought.

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Creating Internal Buy-In for Inbound Marketing in Higher Education

internal buy-in higher education inbound marketing teamwork

You’ve read all the books, you’ve listened to all the top influencer podcasts, and you’ve analyzed case study upon case study. You’re sold and ready to start implementing an inbound strategy for your higher education institution. Now comes the tough part, selling your colleagues on the value.

When Val Fox, a director in Bentley University's marketing and communication department, wanted to implement Hubspot for their PreparedU program, one of the first things she had to do was “sell people internally” on the idea.

Change can always cause some anxiety, but being strategic and proactive is your first step towards marketing automation bliss. We talked with Val and she walked us through three tips for creating internal buy-in.

1) Communicate Openly

Many of your higher education colleagues may shudder when they start hearing marketing jargon. You’ll need to create a shift in mindset and demonstrate the value for your industry. As Val put it, “This is where marketing is headed in terms of creating awareness.” This couldn’t be truer for the higher education industry.

Solution:

Describe the process and impact of inbound marketing in terms that make sense for higher education institutions. Instead of saying, “We are creating content to build our brand equity” maybe try, “By using an authentic voice to tell our story, we will be able to recruit students who are a better fit for our university.”

2) Start Small

The higher education industry isn’t really known for having an abundance of resources at its fingertips. Shifting your strategy and taking on something new usually means you’re going to have to use your already short-handed staff. Val knew that switching to a new marketing system wasn’t going to be “just 5% to 10% of someone’s job. There is work involved and would require at least half of a full-time person to be dedicated to an implementation and strategy plan.”

Solution:

Starting small might be the best option. You don’t have to implement a new website, blog, email marketing campaign, and SEO strategy all at once. You don’t even have to do all that in one year! Pick out a couple of tactics that you think will show the most significant change for your institution and test them out. Probably best not to completely revamp your website at first. Instead, edit the content for search engine optimization and make your lead capture opportunities more prominent.

Are your colleagues still skeptical and not sure they want to mess with something that’s been working pretty well? Why not create a separate, optimized landing page that will drive prospects to your website. Assign click-through-rate goals for the landing page and compare them to previous tactics used to drive prospects to your website.

3) Set Expectations and Overshare Results

With higher education prospects taking on average 2-3 years before they make a decision, setting expectations is crucial. That’s a long wait time to show any sort inbound content marketing impact and quell the internal grumblings.

Solution:

Val used two tactics to help get her colleagues more comfortable with the idea. First, she did what anyone working in education would do…she educated. She and her team read the same inbound book and attended the INBOUND conference. Educating your colleagues will help them get a better understanding of inbound marketing and how it might be used at their own institution.

Second, Val celebrated the small victories. While they may not be able to measure the ROI of their higher education marketing through to accepted and matriculated students for awhile, they can see an impact in the short-term. “Our leads have already doubled just by simply optimizing our lead capture.”

Track the small victories by doing a month-to-month analysis of your leads, conversions, site visits, and click-through-rate. When your leads go up year-over-year for the month of March, drill down on how your content contributed to that increase and share it with your colleagues. If your click-through-rate seems to be remaining stagnant or even drops, reevaluate your approach and explain to the team what you think might have caused the decline, how it should be tweaked, and why this adjustment will show more positive results. Not everything is going to be a home run, but showing how convenient it is to change and how quickly measurable results can add up on even the smallest of tactics shows the flexibility of inbound marketing.

Your colleagues may take time to convert to inbound marketing. Give it some time and do a little lead nurturing with your teammates. Address concerns upfront, get them comfortable with the idea, start small, and celebrate the little victories.

use blogging to attract new students

14 Tools & Resources for Conducting Market Research

market-research

This post originally appeared on Agency Post. To read more content like this, subscribe to Agency Post.

We are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to buying behavior. We know the location of our favorite products in the store, and we trust that they'll work year after year. In fact, research shows Americans buy the same 150 items, which accounts for 85% of household needs. 

People don't like change. It's a battle to get someone to switch to an unknown brand. 

When a client wants to launch a new product, get into a different market, or open a new store location, the odds are stacked against him. Consider this: Only 3% of consumer packaged goods exceed the sales goal benchmark of a successful launch. 

In part, we can blame lack of research for why there are so many unsuccessful product launches and ill-conceived new feature additions. Founders and brand managers "know" it will be successful -- they run on their instincts, not the facts. 

I'm sure the people at Heinz felt the same way when they launched purple ketchup. It was this instinct that led Clairol to release Touch of Yogurt Shampoo, which some people thought was a breakfast food option.

Finding out if a product will be successful beyond the initial curiousity is just good business. With market research, you determine if the opportunity exists, how to position the product or service, or what consumers' opinions are after the launch. 

If you're sensitive to the high costs of failure and need to gather facts and opinions to predict whether your new product, feature, or location will be successful, start by investing in market research using these tools and resources. You can find demographic data and lifestyle preferences, understand the market size, launch surveys for user feedback, and gather ideas for your marketing plans. Information, not instinct, is powerful when it comes to predicting consumer preferences. 

14 Market Research Resources

1) Google Insights Databoard

Need information on how search ads increase brand awareness or how "showrooming" affects purchasing behavior? Google's Insights Databoard offers interesting insights on how people browse and buy.

google-insights

2) American Fact Finder

American Fact Finder is a resource for searching U.S. census data. You can filter by age, income, year, race, and location.

fact-finder

3) County Business and Demographics

County Business and Demographics provides information on the areas of the country with large numbers of certain types of businesses. 

census.gov

4) Business Dynamics Statistics

Business Dynamics Statistics takes census data and allows you see economic data on job creation, startups and shutdowns, business openings, expansions, and closures. 

business-dynamics

5) FedStats

FedStats provides an up-to-date forum for finding data released by federal agencies, including agriculture, education, transportation, and energy. 

fed-stats

6) Nielsen MyBestSegments

Nielsen's MyBestSegments provides researchers with tools to understand an area's demographic information and lifestyle habits. You can find out which areas would be most receptive to a campaign or launch, which competitors are located nearby, and trends in the area that have shifted. 

nielsen

7) SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey is a powerful tool for creating in-depth surveys that will help you understand the market and consumer preferences. (Learn more about crafting a survey for market research here.)

survey-monkey

8) Typeform

Typeform shows viewers one form field at a time, and you can include multiple choice image options. It's an easy-to-use, mobile-optimized form-builder that's great for gathering feedback. 

typeform

9) Survata

Survata is another form-building option, but you can determine a target audience. It also employs people who will review your survey questions, so even if you are not a trained market researcher, you can get quality, actionable answers.

survata

10) Loop11

Loop11 is an usability testing service that allows you to test even your competitors' websites -- any webpage, basically. You can create a form and recruit people to take the test through your own website or by using a partner service, such as Cint.

loop11

11) Userlytics

Userlytics provides a platform for doing user testing of mobile apps, videos, display ads, and more. It performs both a webcam and a screen recording, and you can compare the user answers with their reactions on video to understand how people are really interacting with your creative. 

userlytics

12) Temper

Sometimes you need a no-frills test to take the pulse of consumers. Temper allows you to add a question, grab a snippet of code, and pop it onto your website. The smiley face, "meh" face, and frown face make it easy for viewers to make a snap judgment.

temper

13) Persona App

This simple app gives you guidelines for creating your various buyer personas. Persona App makes it easy to outline the person's behaviors, needs and wants, and demographic data. This tool could come in handy when collaborating with a client on the development of his personas or by keeping things organized for a client with many different audiences. 

persona-app

14) Ubersuggest

Ubersuggest is a simple tool for doing keyword and content research. You can input a phrase, and it'll spit out a long, alphabetized list of additional keywords.

ubersuggest

What are your favorite tools for market research? Share them with us in the comments below!

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30 Ways to Lose an Argument [Infographic]

lose-argument

We all know how frustrating it is to lose an argument -- especially when you believe strongly in the value of your idea. If you're going to get better at convincing others, you need to figure out why you lose arguments in the first place (and then avoid those mistakes in the future).

Most of the time, you can find a specific diagnosis for your lost arguments. Did you lose the argument because you relied on anecdotes to support your claim? Did you see the dispute in black and white instead of considering multiple possible conclusions? Did you mix up correlation and causation and end up digging yourself into a hole?

To help you identify what mistakes you might be making, check out the infographic below from The Visual Communication Guy. It lists 30 of the most common ways people lose arguments, and includes examples. Next time you're writing a persuasive email or trying to support your claim to your peers, you'll be able to reflect back on this guide. 

lose-an-argument-infographic

  Writing Good CTA

Making it easier to report threats to law enforcement

Today we’re starting to roll out a change that makes it easier for you to report threats that you feel may warrant attention from law enforcement.

Here’s how it works: after filing a report regarding a threatening Tweet directed at you, you’ll see an option on the last screen to receive a summary of your report via email.

Clicking the “Email report” button will send you an email that packages the threatening Tweet and URL along with the responsible Twitter username and URL and a timestamp as well as your account information and the timestamp of your report. Our guidelines for law enforcement explain what additional information we have and how authorities can request it.

While we take threats of violence seriously and will suspend responsible accounts when appropriate, we strongly recommend contacting your local law enforcement if you’re concerned about your physical safety. We hope that providing you with a summary of your report will make that process easier for you.

Finally, we’d like to acknowledge our safety partners, like the National Network to End Domestic Violence, for their feedback on this feature. Their input continues to be extremely valuable to us as we refine our reporting process so that it’s more efficient and useful.

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