Epic Fails in Social Media Content Marketing

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There was a time when Content for Social Media Management platforms like Buffer, Hootsuite and even Klout made sense in its hey day but not anymore.

The amount of effort (unpaid) that goes into creating content and then having no eyeballs to appreciate them is a reality we all have to deal with some day. You now have to get on board with all social platforms, be online 24/7 to answer queries and find the time to manage your real business while at it? That’s true too. Forget the hired hand who blogs for you. He won’t do it for free so that in itself is a cost factor.

All social media platforms will give away some freebies but these freebies do not always justify the effort you put into creating content for your followers.

Your efforts are bound to fail if you don’t want to understand that content marketing is like any other advertising or advertorial campaign that is backed up with plenty of ad spend. Here’s why.

Facebook Organic Reach is a Costly affair

Facebook is like the high class hooker from New York. If you don’t have the money then there is no honey. Social Media Management platform gurus will always tell you that you have to decide on your objective and strategy for Facebook but NEVER tell you that you need to budget lots of cash for this effort.

Yes, creating content takes effort. But signing up to a Social Media Management platform is not going to get you the eyeballs you need for branding of conversion success. The platforms cautiously omit telling you this as they want you to take the bait, hook, line and sinker before you realize that your budget isn’t enough for a year long campaign. How much does it cost? Let’s assume you are doing this on your own for a small business, spend probably US$100 a week on promoted post to your followers on Twitter and Facebook. That’s US$400 a month, and let’s throw in that package from Hootsuite, which at the lowest is US$120 a year. That’s about US$5,000 a year, excluding the cost of a hosted site. And this is just for a a small business. Let’s factor in a 3 fold ROI to justify that return on investment. You need to pull in US$15,000 in revenue returns to your small business to spend that sort of cash.

Facebook has zero organic reach. Twitter won’t give you the time of day too if you are not going to pay so signing up for a promoted tweet is a must.

People who start on Facebook do not understand that each post cost them money to show to your followers. These are the same blokes who liked you page in the past but come back to play candy crush with their online pals on Facebook. Do they notice the notifications on their menu? Nope. So the best way to reach them is to force feed a post onto their timeline.

Here is how Facebook wants your moolah.

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Every FB post (unpaid) to your followers will yield roughly 1 percent reach. That means if you have 1000 followers, you post will reach about 10 people per 1000 followers. To get your post on all their timelines, you have to spend money. Lots of it…and this is just to build awareness.

All FB post to your page is best suited for branding and awareness building. It does not help you get more followers. To get more followers, you need to promote your page which is actually a subset of their advertising master plan. You have to advertise either on the timeline or on the sidebar [sidebar advertising isn’t available on mobile platform].

If you are interested in a straight out conversion from your advertising budget, you need to advertise to a regional or country specific audience. This is where you measure ad spend versus return on investment (ROI).

In old world advertising terms, if you spend US$100, you should get at least US$300 return in investment (3 fold ROI). This unfortunately doesn’t quite gel these days in any social media marketing plans if you take into account the money you have to spend on FB or Twitter, and at the same time sign up with a Social Media Marketing Platform [at a cost of over US$120 to US$600 a year depending your requirement]. So once you go down this path, you have to take into consideration the amount of money you have already spent without even going into the advertising details of each social media platform.

Facebook is not responsible for the quality of eyeballs you get on their platform. In the old world advertising, you advertise with a magazine like Tatler or Monocle because the people who read it are…well, are your specific target audience who would buy a whole wine cellar as a hobby. That means these eyeballs command a premium if you advertise with them. FB and Twitter is by no means a quality platform as any Tom, Dick or Harry can start multiple profiles as seen in the Click Farm business. Instead, you are given a choice of location, target age and probably some of their more fanciful hobbies as a potential audience profile.

Getting followers for you blog, Pinterest board, Instagram, Facebook and even Twitter can be done in only two ways. The paid way is to get people to click a link to your content and become a follower. The other is the splatter method.

The splatter method is when you follow people to get them to follow you back. It is like a follow for follow tag currently popular with some folks hoping to break into to the social circles. I call this a splatter method because you have no idea who you are following most of the time, except maybe that they like what you like or live within the same locality as you do. This is not quality advertising for your content as people who have similar interest as you do may not live within a 1000 miles from you. So unless you are running a brand awareness campaign, or offer online shopping, chances are those post will be ignored. But all this takes effort on your end to search and add them.

Videos give you Better Reach on Facebook

Here is another clue. Video is the next big thing on FB. They have even tried to introduce self streaming videos to the annoyance of mobile users.

Posting videos to your FB page will automatically give you a 5 percent reach as compared to a link or text post. So for every 1000 followers, you have a chance to reach 50 of them for free. You want more eyeballs? Sign up for their Premium Video Ads for ROI.

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But before you say it’s a good deal, let me ask you, how much time and effort did you spend on shooting, editing and planning for that short video? Is 50 eyeballs enough to satisfy that need? Go figure and write Santa a note about getting some Facebook credits for next Christmas.

Twitter is no different than Facebook

Yes, unfortunately that is true. You pay for what you get and in the end, you just gotta justify your ad spend. Twitter’s organic reach is hovering at an all time low. It just fails to suck up those eyeballs and convert that into measurable ROI.

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That’s why these folks are betting big on ‘live’ streaming since that is a buzzword they can still use to justify their dollar denominated advertising plan. Vine videos haven’t taken off in a big way except with college kids and people with too much time on their hands. Instagram has video to further add to the basket of eyeballs wanting moving images and finally, there is live video which could be the future for Twitter on Periscope.

Tumblr isn’t for Everyone

The young of heart may be your next target niche but no one told you that Tumblr is still a very American centric social and content discovery platform. You are not going to reach out to that same age group in Japan, Korea or for that matter Vietnam using Tumblr.

Even though Tumblr maybe way better than WordPress.com in some ways but in the end, you still have to pay to get discovered.

Ever since Yahoo bought them out in May of 2013, featured ads has been appearing in user’s content stream. This is both good and bad news.

The good part is that hashtags can still be used a strategy to find your future or potential customers and generate the sort of brand awareness you need to start. However if you want a straight cut ROI on your ad spend. You probably have a better deal signing up with Tumblr to show those ads.

Pinterest is Instagram on Steroids

Let’s face it. Starting a board on Pinterest is a time consuming affair. You can either curate or create content for each board. Who gets to see these boards? Only fellow users who are out to get more pins.

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Since Pinterest is image centric. You can’t help but draw similarities between them and Instagram. Both require User inputs and that’s you I am pointing at.

Both work the same way and since each board is in itself the description of the pins, you can’t help but think that the board itself is a hashtag of sorts to categorize content.

Pinterest also has promoted pins, and with it an advertising plan to suit your target audience. The same can be said of Instagram when they started to introduce promoted content (advertise content) to specific region of users.

There is no such thing as a Free Lunch

I like to call social media campaigns as a Freemium Advertising Gateway as you have to ante up on those dollars to find some sort of success.

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The only free social platform that is devoid of any advertising right now is Google+. That’s because Google has much grander ambitions than to charge you for your post as they have the search engine to back that all up.

Getting a ROI on investment on any social media marketing campaign will cost you money. Don’t think it is cheap as even Americans feel it is far too expensive.

If you can spend the time to crate content but can’t spend the money to promote it, you are doomed. At every level, you cannot think for one moment you are getting a free lunch. That’s why Social media has become a Freemium platform. Once the social media networks hooks you, they hope you get dragged under the water with their advertising masterplan.

Success in any business can only be measured by ROI. How much you aim to get out of it in the end to sustain your business empire is crucial. It’s not just about eyeballs but quality eyeballs. This sad fact, unfortunately, is lost in translation as one grabs onto social media…thinking it was the elusive pot of gold to their online success.

Start with a Web Presence

A web presence is a web site. If you haven’t got the time of day to do one then social media marketing isn’t for you. There are plenty of free hosting sites which can of course establish your de facto web presence. My own recommendation is strikingly.com, which gives you a free web page for your product, company, portfolio in the simplest design terms. It has easy to use templates and you just key in the text and fill in the pictures. I will give you my reasons why this should be the first step towards establishing your own web presence first before any social media marketing can take place, but you already know that having an actual web site speaks volumes about your online dedication. So take the first step. Start your web presence with a site before attempting social media.

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Chasing Google SEO: Mobile requirements Updated

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There was a recent update announcement to the Google algorithm and will go live in April and it has to do with being Mobile friendly. Let’s be fair, we were all expecting it to happen as Google has been kinda slow to implement and recognize the value in mobile web traffic. Best of all all, this update has  no secret name or handle for this new update, and you can view it here. The point of this update or revision is concerned with making your site responsive to mobile devices.

How your serve up content to mobile customers is the key to this revised algorithm. Looking at the prerequisites, it doesn’t seem to be much. But it will be a huge jump for those who have traditionally created only desktop type websites for their products and services.

This revised algorithm does not change what is already implemented in Google Hummingbird but builds upon it. So you will have points deducted once it recrawls your site to see if you are mobile friendly.

How Google Tweaks its Algorithms

The general public thinks that Google only tweaks the algorithm on a quarterly basis but in reality, only major changes are updated that way. Every month, the Google team takes a piece of code and takes it apart to better reflect its goal. Sometimes it works and other times it is very turbulent.

You can view the turbulence chart here at MozCast which is calculated on a monthly basis. For this, search engine results (SERPs) are monitored for changes and that’s how the chart comes about.

To be on top of the list, there are a few factors in which you are awarded page rank points. The rest is fair game. The mobile friendly requirement however seems to be more critical, as it will change the page rank of your site if found to be mobile un-responsive.

Responsive Web Design

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Google is going out to woo mobile users. Web traffic for mobile site have increased dramatically over the years and the challenge is to pare down the desktop friendly site so it becomes usable without being a data bandwidth hog. These days, an average website landing page is definitely more than 1MB, this can be even up to 10MB at times and more for those with high graphic demands. Having a RWD site means the server CMS will scale down the data usage to meet mobile standards.

Responsive Web Design is more UX based, but Google has injected it’s own regulations to ensure your site is crawlable. To know if they think your site meets their approval, Google has its own crawlable test, which you can take here.

Mobile SEO Explained

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One of the most pertinent issues are addressed in the new SEO update. The lesser ones, that concernslayout and single page dynamic content is not addressed. Part of the problem is that Google’s own engine isn’t that complex and much of what it does relies on content identification, URLs and linking. There are Schema requirements too, and this sort of optimization requires you to fire up your text editor and to add and tinker with code within the Theme of a CMS.

Much of Google’s new requirement fall into the following criteria:-

  • Speed of loading
  • Dynamic Serving of Pages
  • Keep Resources Crawlable by avoiding robot.txt usage
  • Deep Linking for App-only Accessible Content

Like it or not, if you don’t have any HTML knowledge, you better let someone else do it for you. A CSS sheet, with HTML code is a massive page of text which only the geek in us can decipher. Knowing where to enter the schema friendly code takes some knowledge and please don’t do it unless you know what you are doing. Simple mistakes like using an opening <center> and not closing it with a </center> tag can throw up rendering errors for your theme or page.

This makes things difficult as bug hunting can take hours or days depending on how you approach the problem.

Ranking and the new Mobile SEO

Design wise, Google offers no clues. Should your mobile site conform with page layout requirements like in a desktop websites? I have no idea but this is probably a gray area that Google has not been addressing.

Content has to be crawled. This means that for every link you put up that links to some kind of content, it has to be mobile friendly or else you will get booted off the rankings. Faulty links will be penalized so you have to pay attention to how your site responds to mobile users.

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Should I be Chasing the Page Rank or just make it Mobile SEO friendly?

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When you look at the turbulent state of Google’s Algorithm each time they tweak it, found on Mozcast, you’d realize that the finer points of Page ranks is often fought with a team of full time army of people which many of your have no access to. Every month, Google engineers will implement new tweaks and in the process affect your placing on SERPs. As long as you follow the fundamental requirements, your only other hope is to have a unique branding of content, socially active on social media and refined your site with RWD.

You must not forget that since Hummingbird came into play, the new algorithm is tuned to look out for content that is shared and provide useful information for its users. RWD is there to help your site when Google detects its searches made through a mobile browser and will offer to serve up only RWD sites first.

Google’s main aim is to allow Google Voice Search to do the searching for you in mobile, and as long as you have very thin written content, that in itself will affect your ranking. So if your content consist of mainly graphics, images or video, the only hope for you to reach the top SERP rankings is boost it through social sharing and usage.

No website will completely meet the requirements of Google’s Hummingbird and constant algorithm changes, what you lack, you can make up for it in other areas and chasing the elusive prime spot on SERPS for your product or service category can be better achieved with the use of Google ads. Cheaper too if that is what you are after.

Content 101: Why having a Strategy Matters

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The idea behind having your content is two fold. One is to get on top of a SERP, the second really for social media. Both count towards your eventual goal of reaching the top 10 but let’s not also forget that content plays a huge part of it all. Whenever you do a search, UGC from different sources (country IPs) also help to boost your visibility. Whenever you do a search for a product or service, reviews from consumers and users will show up results that is linked to your brand. This is why having a solid content strategy matters.

Back in the days where social media was nothing more than online communities (it still is btw) you posted stuff you did, stuff you want to do and shared some pictures online. It was like, Buzznet, and my profile is still active there too. Social media like Foursquares, Tripadvisor, Linkedin, Facebook and G+ are intrinsically linked to content found on Tumblr, Blogger and self hosted WordPress sites.

Facebook and G+ changed it all in recent years as your social profile also became your brand and what you associated with. So if you happen to run a business or work for one, they would have their own presence online outside of the traditional website. The game changer was that your businesses could  qualify as an online entity thus was born the need for social media content. This entity should be alive, as determined by Google Algorithms, and updated to show it is alive.

Online Brochureware versus Content Development

Still relevant in today’s online world are online brochures to show you have a company presence for people to drop by and browse your services/products. If you are lucky, they might even send you email. But any long forgotten and undated revision to your website will only show that your strategy isn’t about content but more of a online brochure, with that your SERP gets gunned down by Google for being too plain and unhelpful. Brochure ware sites are Zombie entities, not entirely living or dead so this gets bumped down the search chain over time. Using keywords within your brochure site  isn’t going to help you rise to the top of a SERP but at least you’re somewhere in the top 100, or maybe top 1000. Oh…maybe that wasn’t your intention to begin with?

Why Site Planning Matters

There are plenty of places to host your own online brochure. That one page calling card which you call a website has many advantages, like maybe your email and fax number for contact. However if you want to be found outright in a SERP, you need to invest.

First, you don’t have to do this. Your business is going great and you won’t miss those emails screaming for orders from the darkest corner of Africa. However if you want to sharpen your online presence, you need to take note of a few following details.

1. Migrating to a CMS System

When do you graduate from a website to one that is content friendly? This is time you finally decide to use a CMS or Content Management System. If you have no content, heck you can even do that on a free WordPress account. Free hosting too. It’s done so let it sit! But if you have regular updates (meaning weekly or monthly as opposed to once in a year revisions) then that needs to be managed. There are three popular CMS platforms for self management, WordPress, Joomla and Drupal. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  Having a web designer isn’t the ultimate solution. Designers work on design and are totally clueless when it comes to your content needs.

2. Web Designers are Not Content Developers

This is another thing that people have to understand, web designers are not content developers and have little or no regard to what makes your business work. They do not come out with content on the fly or make that work with social media. Designers create sites which suit the content you have or the content strategy you have in mind. They worry about how the system will perform and how the content will look. The also have to think about the back-end system based on your content requirements.

3. Web Designers are not SEO Consultants

Here is another problem people face, if you want to have an SEO friendly site, you don’t hire a designer to do that, this is not their role. 5 years ago, SEO was real easy. You could use Black Hat techniques to fool search engines to display your site ontop of a SERP. There were web tools and even downloadable programs which can do this. Those same tricks aren’t going to work now as the whole SERP business has gotten a lot more complicated. This is where the SEO consultants come in. Today, SEO consultants have to transition to content consultants as their role to find the easiest way to the top of the SERP has gotten so much harder. Most of them are snake oil salesmen. And you know why? They cannot guarantee a metric in which to prove any success. Pageviews or web traffic can be generated without having to hire a consultant, you can pay Google to put your name on top. Web traffic can also be gained by putting up banners on partner sites. SEO consultants can lend a hand to boosting your SERP rank but they cannot guarantee a return on your investment. So go figure.

4. Content is Dynamic

Content has to be shared via multiple platforms that we all know as social media. People want to know what works and how to do things. Even B2B sites need content that showcases their services or products in the best light. This is why so much effort has been given to Google’s Hummingbird update. There is no point of having content that is locked into a particular platform. That platform has to help disseminate your content to a wide audience. This is why YouTube works so well. It is share friendly. You can post videos you made to both G+ and Facebook. However if you post video to Facebook, that content gets locked into that platform and it can’t be shared outside of the FB community.

Google’s algorithm is being tweaked all the time. Every month, they do something to adjust it and this can be viewed on Mozcast, a site that monitors the SERP turbulence created by these minor changes. These changes affect how your content is placed in a SERP and if you are chasing a SERP rank, you probably need to have full time staff monitoring such changes that affect your site ranking.

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5. Know your limits on Budget

From the onset, having a CMS isn’t going to be easy as you need someone to manage it. Then there are other cost factors for each strategic decision. For example, shooting a video and putting it up online might seem relatively easy but you have to ask yourself who is going to do this if you’re not video savvy. The same can be said about graphics for your site. If you want a highly customized graphic, then you need a web designer who knows how to manipulate images in Photoshop or create one digitally in illustrator. Do not expect that to come from one person. Everyone has a different role as what your want sometimes lies outside your intended budget. Let’s not forget the budget for SEO consultants and content developers if you don’t have the time to develop them yourself. All this adds up as part of your ongoing budget.

6. A Dead Site is a COMATOSE Site

There are plenty of comatose sites on the Internet. Businesses who concentrate mainly on existing customers do not update their own company websites when they have new products. This becomes very exasperating for customers when they hear of something new and can’t find any resource on it. Just coz you paid for the hosting and put up a static front page isn’t helping you or your customers in any way. Today, people are information driven. They need information to make credible decisions. Having a static site that sits there minding its own business is a waste of money.

One way of avoiding this is to cross post content from Tumblr, Instagram and even Pinterest to your own website. Social Media management systems like Hootsuite, Buffer and IFTTT.

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IFTTT.com is probably one of the most creative uses of web action fucntiions where you can trigger cross posting of content to various other media channels. The only downside is that it doesn’t support either Pinterest or G+ for the time being but Facebook profile, pages and groups are supported.

Online isn’t cheaper than Print

One of the age old paradigms is that having a website is going to be cheaper than printing a brochure as it was suppose to disrupt the traditional way of doing things. Not anymore. It cost more to get your brand recognize and even more for you to make money from it.

You should instead take websites and social media as complementary channels for your marketing strategy and not rely on it solely to bring home the bacon.

Online has gotten to be as expensive if not more than what it takes to print a brochure. One of the reasons is that technology has made it more complicated to reach out to new customers as everyone else is clamoring for that same piece of the pie. Your voice gets drowned out if you don’t shout loud enough in the marketplace and this is where you need to strategize your priorities. Big brands with millions of dollars in advertising budgets never have to worry because they have what it takes to create their own online presence whereas for the SMB, your budget is limited. Competing with the big names isn’t your priority but find your niche is. This is where you have to formulate strategy to get things going for yourself.

Content marketing is all about attracting eyeballs and you need to spend time, effort and money to make it all work.

SEO & CMS Equation

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Whats the difference between a Website and a CMS platform? I need an online presence and will it affect my chances of getting a page rank with a CMS?

Not really, no. Websites were terms used in the 1990s for people who wanted online brochures. People needed a way to advertise their presence without having to send out printed company information. This hasn’t changed but how you get a page rank has. Before Google, there were search engines like Yahoo, Netscape, Altavista and Webcrawler. These engines sent out ‘bots’ to index your website and there was a time you needed to do this manually by submitting your domain name to the search engine. Some still do, like Microsoft Bing, you can submit an invite to the resident SEO bot to spider your site and find relevant information. When Google came along with their fancy algorithm, it changed the search landscape. The criteria had to be met before you could be ranked. It started out as all search engines did, badly. Like aged cheese from a farm, it got better over the years and finally people came to trust a search engine to go through their entire site.

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