Top 4 Steps To Improve Your Network Security

Network-Security

Network security, in its most basic form, is defined as anything you can do to protect your network and its data from threats and managing who accesses the network.

Many people are under the impression that you have to be an IT expert in order to protect a network successfully, but this could not be any further from the truth.

Here are the top four steps you can take to improve your network security right now:

Upgrade Your Operating System To 64-Bit

 If you’re currently using the 32-bit version of Windows, now is the time to upgrade to 64-bit. The reason why you should upgrade is because 64-bit is able to handle a significantly larger amount of RAM (random access memory) than 32-bit can.

As of now, Windows 10 64-bit is the best operating system you can use for optimal network security. If you’re still using Windows 7 and especially if you’re using a system as old as XP, you need to make the upgrade sooner rather than later.

Use Microsoft Office 2010 Or Newer

 Many people and small businesses continue to use Microsoft Office 2003 or 2007 because of a “don’t fix anything that’s not broken” approach.

While that’s certainly great advice to follow in life, it’s actually not the best advice to follow when it comes to computer applications.

Office 2003 in particular utilizes a binary file format that is much more vulnerable to malicious code than Office 2010, which comes with a Protected View system that will open up possibly malicious files in Read Only mode.

Keep Administrator Accounts To A Minimum

 The very first account that you open up on a Windows PC system will be an administrator account, even if it’s not labeled as such.

The problem here is that most people will continue to use this account for any activities they do on their computer, which leaves them at much greater risk for malware (especially while accessing e-mail or using search engines).

To avoid this problem, create a separate standard user account that you will use for your everyday computing activities. You don’t want to delete your original administrator account, but you will want to relegate yourself to using it only when it’s absolutely necessary (such as when installing new software or hardware).

Keep All Of Your Programs Updated

 Most programs will remind you when they need to be updated, but others will not, which means you will need to make it a part of your weekly routine to scan your installed programs and see which ones need updating.

Always update your programs and software when you are notified to or when you see they need to be, because even if you don’t particularly care about the new features the updates come with, they will also come with critical security updates to increase protection of your network.

Improving Your Network Security

 While there are certainly many more steps you can take to ensure that your network is properly protected and managed, the four we have covered in this article are the most basic ones that virtually anybody can do.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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Republishing Content: How to Get More Traffic by Writing Less

Getting traffic to your blog is hard work – far more than you ever imagined.

How much easier would life be if you could just write remarkable content and have readers flock to it by the thousands?

Life would be pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. You’ve got to work for traffic. For many bloggers, that means writing more guest posts. These bad boys put your content in front of audiences much larger than yours, and ultimately driving more traffic to your site.

But somebody has to write those guest posts, and usually that someone is you.

What if there was another way? What if you didn’t have to spend hours writing more content?

That’s where republishing content comes into play.

Why You Should Blog Smarter, Not Harder

Creating compelling content that keeps your readers engaged and happy is no easy task. It’s time consuming.

Think about the last article you wrote that absolutely killed. How many hours of your time did you spend on it? If you’re like me, I’m guessing upwards of 5 hours, sometimes much more.

This is why republishing is such a powerful way to grow your site’s traffic. It’s all about blogging smarter, not harder.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers uses the 80/20 rule for his blog marketing strategy. He spends 20% of his time writing content, and 80% marketing it.

Here’s how you can republish your already existing content and do the same:

Identify Your Best Performing Content to Republish

 First, you want to find which pieces of content generate the most traffic for your website. This is usually a great indicator of performing well on larger publications (assuming they’re in the same niche).

There are a variety of SEO checker tools available to help you identify your best performing content. Or, you could use Google Analytics by going to the Behavior tab and clicking on Overview. This will give you a rundown of your site’s most viewed pages and posts.

Find a Site That Accepts Republished Content

 With your content chosen, next you need to find a site to target for republishing. Start by listing out other sites in your niche that you’re familiar with. Larger sites like Entrepreneur magazine are great. While usually more competitive, they also always need content. This is good news for you.

If you’ve taken the time to write something truly remarkable, you will probably stand out from the rest.

There are plenty of sites out there that will not accept republished content, but there are tons that will. This step is all about doing research and finding a blog that fits your bill.

One site that always accepts republished content is Medium. There’s no gatekeeper, so you can simply copy/paste your articles there, use relevant hashtags, and press publish. The risk with Medium is not knowing whether or not your content will make it in front of a large audience – something that’s guaranteed with a larger publication.

That said, there are still plenty of positive reasons to republish your content on Medium if all else fails.

Craft Your Pitch and Send the Article

 

Not every site is going to accept your republished articles. You have a much better chance if:

  1. They publicly state that they accept them
  2. You craft a compelling, hard to resist offer

When reaching out to another blog, you want to be honest and straightforward. Don’t try to sneak an article past them without mentioning it’s recycled. Let them know it’s a post you’ve already published on your website, but you know their audience would love it.

They might want you to change at least a small percentage of the article. If that’s the case, happily oblige and reap the benefits of more traffic with very little extra work on your end.

As a final word of advice, don’t just read this article then do nothing. Creating a well-oiled, traffic-generating machine is all about blogging smarter, not harder.

Identify your best content for republishing, find a new home for it, then convince the gatekeeper it’s a win-win for both of you.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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Six Essential Apps and Platforms for First-Time Business Bloggers

There’s no way around it: today’s businesses need to blog.

Many modern start-ups avoid the practice of blogging because they see it as a potential roadblock in terms of their skill-set or simply don’t see the ROI. For starters, many newbies to blogging don’t believe that they have the chops to publish their own work. Likewise, the commitment and time involved with writing and tracking data can be daunting for a team without a dedicated blogger.

That being said, can you really afford to miss out on opportunities to exponentially increase your potential for revenue, traffic and social growth?

Making money through consistent blogging doesn’t have to be rocket science, especially with the wealth of tools out there to help first-timers get their feet wet with writing. Chances are, you or someone within your team has more than what it takes to manage your company blog. The following six apps will ease your mind and make it significantly simpler for your business to start blogging now.

Trello

Project management is instrumental in increasing productivity and ensuring that everyone involved with your business’ blog is on the same page. Solutions such as Trello allow your team to manage content ideas, files and feedback all in one place versus bouncing back and forth via email. Blog work-flow doesn’t have to be a paper-trail nightmare: Trello can hold everyone accountable in terms of their role in the blogging process and is absolutely free.

Slack

Easily integrated with Trello, Slack allows you a platform to chat with team members beyond email or text message. If you need to shoot a quick question or stay connected as a remote team, such a platform is absolutely invaluable.

Evernote

Content ideation is one of the more difficult aspects of running a blog, especially when some of our best ideas hit us at unexpected times. Keep a virtual pen-and-paper with you through Evernote to ensure that you never miss a good idea. Besides, brainstorming beyond the keyboard may uncover a goldmine as the practice of jotting down ideas forces us to rewire our brains.

Hemingway App

“But I’m not a writer” is no excuse for not having a blog. You can make your writing simple and straightforward thanks to the Hemingway App, which ensures that you’re taking a “less is more” approach to writing. Increasing the readability of your content may be easier than you think: avoiding complex sentences and too many words may very well be your ticket to looking better on paper.

Grammerly

Likewise, it may have been awhile since your last grammar lesson in high school. Grammerly checks your content at a glance to spot any glaring grammar errors that your word processor may not have caught. Easily integrated with any browser, Grammerly represents a surefire way to ensure each and every piece is final-draft ready.

Google Analytics

Approximately 64% of marketers don’t make data-driven decisions: this could easily spell the death of your blog if you aren’t part of the other 36%.You need to be knee deep in analytics to understand which keywords your site already ranks for and what you need to do to unlock new streams of traffic. Likewise, Google Analytics easily integrates with any blogging platform and allows you to see at a glance what’s working and isn’t in terms of your company blog.

You can break down the fear barrier to start blogging today, especially if you have the proper tools on deck to help you get started. Instead of holding your business back, think of your blog as an opportunity to grow your skills and brand alike.

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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How to Merge Social Media with Your Content Marketing Strategy

Social media and content marketing are basically one and the same.

Social is content, right? Viewing the two as separate endeavors doesn’t really make sense from a marketing standpoint.

Consistency is one of the keys to any successful marketing initiative. Syncing social media marketing to blogging, guest posting, videos, events, and other forms of content marketing ensures that a consistent brand voice is maintained across all channels.

Recent statistics have provided some interesting insights into social media marketing, including that there’s a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing and that a call-to-action significantly increases engagement.

The majority of marketers have been focusing more on social media over the past six months. Of course, in order to harness those benefits, you’ll need to understand social media and how to perform it.

Here are the most popular social media and chat platforms worldwide.

While 1.5 billion people are using Facebook, other networks such as Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn are still important to focus on, especially for B2B companies.

There are both similarities and differences in how marketers choose to focus social media efforts in B2B and B2C.

 

Take a look at how they line up.

Making sure you’re choosing the right social channel for your business model is the first step in aligning social with content marketing.

But what about the nuts and bolts? What methods or tactics need to be in play in order to make your social media and content marketing efforts sing in perfect harmony?

As mentioned, consistency is key between the two.

When executed correctly, social media will supplement digital and offline content, providing a full-orbed view of the brand.

I’ve provided a list of seven steps to get this started, but it’s by no means all-inclusive.

Every content marketing plan is different, and sustaining conversions through such initiatives takes consistent work and planning in key areas.

1. Create a content calendar.

One of the biggest problems faced by content marketers is producing a steady amount of engaging content.

We all know how time consuming and difficult it can be.

You want to post frequently enough to gain a readership, but not so much that you end up creating a spammy site that can’t pass search engine qualitative standards.

Here’s a breakdown of other challenges faced by content marketers. Notice that “producing engaging content” is the biggest piece of the pie.

A curated content calendar resolves many of these issues, creating a schedule in advance and allowing an overview of each month’s content.

Not only can a content calendar help organize content marketing efforts, it also provides direction to the social media department.

Holidays, sales, and promotional events can all be marked in advance on a content calendar to ensure that quality content is researched, designed, edited, and formatted in time to publish for maximum impact.

Even with a content calendar, it’s important to stay abreast of current events. DiGiorno, for example, created an Internet firestorm last year when the company hijacked the domestic violence awareness hashtag #WhyIStayed to sell frozen pizzas.

You want to increase brand awareness, but not at the risk of appearing tactless or insensitive.

2. Enable social media promotion on WordPress.

To get the most out of blog posts on social media, you’ll need to enable the ShareThis plugin (which is automatically included for WordPress.com and Jetpack users).

ShareThis allows you to enable social media sharing buttons on your WordPress posts so that once they’re published, they’re automatically promoted across various social media platforms.

After linking social media accounts in the “Publicize” section of WordPress settings, each individual post will automatically be posted in each connected social media feed.

This plug-in automatically bolsters social media as a function of content marketing and is essential to automating processes.

If multiple authors contribute to internal blogging efforts, each can individually add their accounts while the main company account is available to all posters. In doing this, you’ll spread your reach across multiple social media accounts.

A popular social media hack is to use automated bots (called sock accounts, in reference to them being used as sock puppets). Be aware of both white and black hat bot practices as you don’t want to end up having your account banned and losing all the time, money, and other resources you put into building a following.

3. Optimize images and descriptions for social media.

Yoast SEO is one of the best SEO-centric WordPress plug-ins on the market. Not only does it check posts for readability and other SEO factors (keyword usage, word count, spelling/grammar, etc.), but it also allows you to create SEO-optimized page descriptions.

When you edit the post snippet, social media sites are able to display more accurate and engaging teasers to entice people to click.

It’s also important to add both full-sized and thumbnail images. This ensures that anyone who shares your link shares a picture, which increases the likelihood of the post being viewed, read, and shared by others.

Both Netflix and Oreo experienced huge wins on social media with engaging visual content, according to AdWeek. Following their lead is a surefire way to inject life into a stale business.

Here are a few more visual marketing statistics to consider in 2016.

4. Schedule posts with Hootsuite or Buffer.

Once you have a content calendar filled out with a month’s worth of engaging content, it’s time to automate a few supplemental social media posts around the clickbait.

Marketing automation is one of the most effective ways to support customer acquisition and retention.

In fact, over 88 percent of marketers responding to a recent survey indicated that social media automation specifically plays a major role in streamlining social media efforts.

While a proprietary automation on the backend is ideal, not every organization can afford this. For the time being, Hootsuite and Buffer are some of the best social media automation tools on the market.

Using either platforms, you can schedule posts across multiple accounts on multiple social media platforms. This provides a one-stop shop to both monitor and post on social media.

As mentioned above, be sure to periodically check scheduled posts to ensure you’re not accidentally doing something inappropriate like promoting guns the morning after a mass shooting, which the NRA inadvertently did after a deadly school shooting.

Live-tweeting and otherwise celebrating live events on social media, however, is a fantastic way to sync social media with other content marketing efforts.

5. Coordinate real-time sessions.

Social media is an effective way of organizing live events. Whether it’s an in-person meetup or just a live video session, these events gather groups of people to participate in a branded event at one time.

  • Here’s how to create a private or public event in Facebook.
  • Click “Events” in the left menu of your News Feed.
  • Click “Create” at the top right.
  • Click “Create Private Event” to choose between a private or public event.
  • Fill in the event name, details, location, and time.
  • Click “Create.”

You’ll then be taken to your event where you can invite guests, upload photos, share posts, and edit event details. This is a great way to take a headcount and estimate the effectiveness of promotion efforts.

Social Media Examiner has a great list of other ways to promote events on social media.

6. Enable Facebook comments.

Enabling Facebook comments on your website allows readers to log in and verify themselves using their Facebook account. It also provides a checkbox to allow them to share comments (along with a backlink) on Facebook.

This is an invaluable tool in spreading the conversations being held in your blog’s comments sections throughout social media. People often have strong feelings, and by involving their social circles, they’re increasing post visibility.

Here’s a video tutorial on how to enable Facebook comments on your WordPress website.

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Facebook is far and wide the most populated social media platform. The company also owns WhatsApp, Messenger, Instagram, and Oculus, which all have growing user bases as well.

Here are a few statistics to consider when integrating Facebook into your website.

Mainstream blogs like Huffington Post (the highest-traffic blog online) use Facebook logins and comments to great success. It’s a vital step toward merging social media with content marketing initiatives.

7. Hold regular meetings.

The only way to ensure that everyone remains on the same page is through regular team meetings. Your social people need to talk to your blog people who need to talk to your leadership people, and etc.

By gathering everyone for status reports and to bring up issues, you ensure that everyone agrees on a common goal, mission, and direction for the company.

I’m not a fan of holding meetings just for the sake of meetings. If there isn’t important information being discussed, it’s simply a waste of everyone’s time.

Here are a few tips for running an effective meeting. These tips apply brilliantly to your social media/content marketing coordination meetings.

With 25 million meetings taking place in corporate America every day, it’s important to be brief, concise, and direct, following up via email with written confirmation of any important points or responsibilities.

These meetings provide a time and place to address any concerns, brainstorm topic ideas, and discuss both wins and areas of opportunity for the business.

Conclusion

Social media is an essential component of a comprehensive content marketing initiative.

If you’re neglecting social, you’re basically neglecting a massive pipeline of brand virality and exposure for your brand. It doesn’t matter if you’re a B2C or B2B, social matters.

When you integrate social media into content marketing on both a technical and operational level, it becomes easier to maintain a consistent brand voice across all channels.

Automation tools help connect social media platforms to web properties while proactively researching, and planning content provides a solid foundation to scale marketing efforts.

When social media and content marketing work hand-in-hand, the overall ROI for the business increases exponentially as customers are satisfied, referring friends, and coming back to engage with the brand for more.

How have you integrated social media into your content marketing strategy?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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5 of the Best Certifications for Marketers to Boost Credibility

Whether you’re a digital marketer, or you’re a small business owner looking for someone to fill that role, it can be hard to figure out the right qualifications. Many digital marketers have college degrees already (although quite a few don’t as well), but what about the additional credentials?

What are the best certifications or additional training and education a digital marketer can have that not only look good on a resume but have real-world benefits and applications? There are a lot of options available, but below are five of the best options for any marketer. The below certifications and courses can also be good for small business owners to look for when hiring a new contractor or employee.

Coppyblogger Authority Training and Certification

Copyblogger is considered the go-to resource in the world of digital content creation, and they offer content marketing training and certification for members of their “Authority” community. It’s a good way for digital marketers to hone their content skills and boost their abilities and expertise in this particular aspect of digital marketing.

To participate, marketers sign up for a paid annual Authority Membership, and then they can also pay to take part in the separate Certification Program.

Digital Marketing Certified Associate Training (DMCA)

With this in-depth digital marketing certification, participants learn everything they need to know to be a digital marketing pro who can hit the ground running. It includes 48 hours of instructor-led training, 40 hours of project work and more, all aimed at ensuring participants are ready to become part of a high-level team, or lead their own campaigns. What’s unique about this certification offered by Simplilearn, is that certification participants work on real-life projects, giving them

What’s unique about this certification offered by Simplilearn, is that certification participants work on real-life projects, giving them valuable experience they won’t get from many other similar courses.

Google AdWords Certification

The Google AdWords Certification is focused on a very specific niche of digital marketing: online advertising and best practices for using AdWords. The AdWords certification exams allow participants to test how much they know about online advertising, from the basics to the more complex. To become AdWords certified, participants must pass two of the certification exams. This includes AdWords Fundamentals, and one from a list that includes search advertising, display advertising, mobile advertising, video advertising or shopping advertising.

To become AdWords certified, participants must pass two of the certification exams. This includes AdWords Fundamentals, and one from a list that includes search advertising, display advertising, mobile advertising, video advertising or shopping advertising.

HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Certificate

Available through HubSpot Academy, this is an excellent tool for learning about inbound marketing, and the best part is that it’s free, self-paced and open to anyone who wants to participate. This Inbound Certification shows the foundation of inbound marketing, which includes attracting your audience, turning leads into conversions, closing and also transforming happy customers into promoters and brand ambassadors.

Mobile Marketing Fundamentals

Available from DMA, Mobile Marketing Fundamentals is an excellent course because it focuses so narrowly on the key principles of mobile marketing. This course offers a no-frills introduction to mobile marketing, with content that’s actionable rather than only highlighting theories. It’s an interactive

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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6 Tips for Finding the Perfect Startup Cofounder

Starting a business is hard—that much you already know.

But starting a business without any partner? That’s almost impossible.

I say almost because there are actually startups that managed to hit the big time with just one person at the helm.

But truth be told, these companies are the exception, not the rule. Not everyone can be a Jeff Bezos, after all.

Source

The simple fact of the matter is that sooner or later, you won’t be able to do everything in your startup on your own. And if you want to expand your company, you’re going to need more minds and bodies to share the labor.

As the saying goes, two heads are better than one.

My own success as an entrepreneur can be traced back, not to me alone, but to the super smart and hard-working people I’ve been privileged to know.

That’s why I’m 100% committed to the principle of co-founders.

If you’re starting a business, you need to find one.

Destroying the Lone Startup Founder Myth

The idea of a lone wolf, striking it out against the world, sticking it to the man sounds bold and appealing, almost heroic.

But it’s far from the reality that young companies face.

Believe me. I’ve been there.

Having a co-founder makes sense for several reasons.

  • For starters, a co-founder serves as one of many insurance policies any startup should have. Calling a co-founder an “insurance policy” sounds cold and calculated, but, remember, I’m just pointing out one of the many advantages. There is a larger and more important aspect.
  • A co-founder helps to encourage and support you. Starting a business isn’t easy. You’re going to want to give in, go home, and maybe throw up a few times. Your cofounder will be there to keep you strong. You’ll do the same for him.
  • Having a partner means that if you find that your skills are inadequate for certain aspects of your business needs, you have someone who can come in where you fall short. There’s no shame. Only strength.
  • Businesses manned by two or more people with complementary skills and qualities (e.g. the realist vs. the optimist, the implementer vs. the idea guy) are also more likely to succeed.
  • Running a business isn’t cheap, and as many startup owners know, early funding can be hard to come by. This is where a partner comes in handy. You have someone to share the bill with, whether it’s by splitting costs or equity.
  • Investors also like to see a company that is led by more than one person. It just makes sense that more people means less chance of business failure.

Consider the following scenarios.

  • Say you’re a programmer with a promising app but don’t know how to spread word about your product. You need a partner specializing in marketing and media relations.
  • You could be an aspiring restaurateur but don’t have any real cooking experience. Obviously, you need a chef with connections as your partner.
  • You’re a copywriter with a stellar portfolio under your belt, but you don’t know all the technical aspects of online marketing to start an ad agency. You need someone with experience in SEO and CRO among others.

You get the picture.

Unfortunately, the process of finding a co-founder or partner is never easy. It requires trust and plenty of and communication to make things work.

Just because you snag a great co-founder, however, doesn’t predict easy sailing.

For every successful startup built on a solid relationship between two or more founders, one also failed due to problems stemming from problematic relationships.

Source

Finding a co-founder can be challenging, and the entire relationship is tricky and hard to navigate.

Here are some things that I’ve learned in my searches for cofounder.

1. Create a checklist for the “perfect cofounder” profile.

Source

The key to finding a business partner is to think first about the areas that you know you need help in. Ask yourself these questions before going off to look for a partner.

  • What are your strengths when in it comes to business?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your startup’s immediate needs that you can’t fix on your own?
  • Do you have the skills to address your target market’s concerns?

By finding the answers to these questions, you now have a reference for locating your ideal partner.

Remember to be as objective as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up just limiting your search to your family and friends.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, especially if a friend or family member offers the right skills set and experience to complement yours.

But generally speaking, you want to expand your horizons as far as possible, which is hard to do if you limit your choices to people you’re close to.

Your list should include ideals. But stay realistic. You’re not going to find someone who fits 100% of your criteria.

Stay flexible, but know what you’re looking for.

2. Go to the right networking events.

If your current social spheres aren’t surfacing cofounder material, it’s time to make that sphere bigger.

Get your feet wet by joining a networking or matchmaking event. Even if you’re not necessarily in the market for a partner, meet-ups are a great way to interact with people who have similar interests and face the same challenges as you do.

This is especially true if you’re joining a startup event, which will be full of opportunities for VC funding and networking with startup fanatics.

Follow this checklist when attending these events:

  • Plan Your Agenda – Prepare an outline of your networking goals. Are you looking for potential partners? Looking to meet investors? Do you want to market your product?
  • Pick a Relevant Event – Not all networking events are the same, even those geared towards startup owners. Again, your networking goals should help guide your choice.
  • Prepare to Interact – Although it’s important to set networking goals, your general approach to an event shouldn’t be to network per se, but to meet people. This mindset will make your feel more relaxed at the event and ready to interact at the event.
  • Don’t Just Talk, Listen – Don’t just approach networking events with the intent of gaining something from them. You also need to consider how you can help others. This approach of listening to people is also more likely to help you identify potential partners who appreciate you taking the time to listen to them.

Intentionally grow your network, not just in size, but in value.

If you are going to bars and nightclubs that don’t have co-founder-level people, switch it up. Find the places where these people hang out, and get in their social path.

3. Considering moving to where the startup action is.

Now that you know the who and the how, it’s time to consider the where part of your co-founder search.

It’s no secret that certain cities just have better environments for helping startups grow, which is why relocating might be what you need to find a co-founder.

Source

Location plays a huge role in startup survival. Without the right ecosystem and support in the form of infrastructure, your company’s chances of thriving are low.

If your company is based in the middle of North Dakota, for example, you might be hard-pressed to find a co-founder. This is especially true if your company is in a niche industry.

But you shouldn’t jump on bandwagons either. For example, if you’re a tech company, should you relocate to Silicon Valley?

Personally, I’d say no. I’ve found thriving entrepreneurial and startup hubs all over the world. I moved away from Silicon Valley, not to it.

Try checking out other startup hubs near you. Don’t just limit your horizons to New York or San Francisco.

For example, according to an Entrepreneur report, droves of tech companies are moving shop to Salt Lake City, “inspired by startups launched by alumni from software pioneers Novell and WordPerfect.”

The report goes on to add, “VCs invested nearly $1 billion in local startups last year, making Salt Lake tops nationally in dollar-per-deal average.”

Here are some other options:

  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Greenville, South Carolina
  • Kansas, Missouri
  • Sacramento, California
  • Minneapolis–Saint Paul

Digital nomads have found great startup hubs in places as different as Medellín (Columbia) and Riga (Latvia).

Keep your options open, and consider the right move.

4. Don’t be afraid of working with people who are a lot different from you.

As much as it’s important to have an outline of qualities and skills you want from a potential partner, it’s also important to be willing to bend the rules a little.

For example, when most startups think of bringing in a partner, the ideal candidate is usually someone who is young, tech-savvy, and highly-educated.

But if this is your only criteria for hiring talent, you’ll soon have a staff with the same ideas, resulting in your startup being an echo chamber.

Mark Zuckerberg once said:

I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter. Why are most chess masters under 30? Young people just have simpler lives. We may not own a car. We may not have family.” 

While there are certainly merits to hiring young people, for example, limiting your talent search to a specific subset of people also means you’re limiting the kinds of ideas you can get.

Truly unique and special ideas can come from people you least it expect it from. Embrace diversity and consider people with backgrounds different from your own when looking for a partner.

5. Take plenty of time to get to know each other.

You finally found someone who ticks off a lot of the requirements in your “Perfect Startup Co-founder” outline.

Congrats.

Should you sign a partnership agreement at this point? No.

Remember, you found an ideal candidate for partner, but that doesn’t mean you’re 100% sure he or she is a good fit.

Don’t be too eager to bring people on board just yet, not when there’s always the option of putting them on a consultancy basis first.

I know it’s exciting to meet someone who shares your vision and goals for your startup, but you should still take as much time as possible to get to know each other before signing any official documents.

Having a business partner is a lot like being in a relationship with a significant other. You never truly know your SO’s personality and quirks until you’re in some kind of stressful situation.

The same thing applies to co-founders. And given how managing a startup is one of the most stressful challenges in the world, it only makes sense to have a partner who can stay cool under pressure.

For example, put your “practice” partnership to the test by taking on a weekend of intense planning and decision-making — perhaps brainstorming for a marketing campaign.

Observe how this person thinks, acts, and works to fix conflicts and make decisions.

This should tell you a lot about a potential partner’s worthiness for the role.

6. Don’t be afraid to set very clear terms.

I can’t stress this enough:  Finding a startup co-founder should be approached with the same seriousness as getting married to someone for the rest of your life.

And if spouses can agree to sign a prenuptial agreement, company co-founders can also agree to set terms over their partnership.

I don’t want to take the marriage thing too far, but you should at least be serious about it, and realize that a lot is at stake.

For example, compensation is usually a topic most startup owners would rather tackle sooner than later. But like I said, it’s better to hash things out while your company still isn’t making a lot of money.

You can agree to either pay yourselves right away, or receive cash outs when you finally get venture capital.

The decision is up to you and your partner/s.

Another conversation you should be having is division of labor. This is where most conflicts arise.

  • How many hours can you commit to the company?
  • Do you plan on keeping your “real” jobs for the meantime?
  • Who’s in charge of talking to the press?
  • Do you have an exit strategy in case things go up in flames?

Don’t be afraid to take on difficult or sensitive conversations. It’s better to have everything out in the open early on than to sort things out when it’s too late to repair the damage.

Many startups often fall apart because co-founders assumed that they were on the same page, despite having different priorities and business goals.

I would suggest writing these things down in a legal document to avoid major conflicts down the road.

Conclusion

Experience has taught me that the right co-founder/s can make or break a startup’s chances of survival and success.

Startups present far too many challenges, and unless you’re some kind of freak of nature who can take them all on your own, you’ll always be better off with a partner or team.

Startup co-founders can help share the workload, share your stress, solve problems, and — a major concern for many startup owners — split the bill on operating expenses.

Even if your startup fails, you can still proceed to the next project if you had a great working partnership.

Looking for a co-founder is always a challenge. But the payoffs are worth all the frustration when you finally find the right match.

What has experience taught you about finding a startup cofounder?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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How to Leverage Your About Page in Your Content Strategy

Your About Us page is one of the most important elements of your business, but it’s also  one of the most undervalued.

Even if you’ve followed the countless tips online for writing the best About Us page there’s a pretty good chance that you’re making the same “set it and forget it” mistake.

The About Us page is where your customer turn to learn about your company. What they see can result in either the loss or gain of that customer.

Here’s what we can do better to leverage the About Us page in our content marketing strategy.

Make a Better Human Connection:  Design a Better About Us Page

I’m going to assume you’re at the point where you’ve invested time into your About page and have already studied how to get the most impact from that content.

If that’s not that case then I want you to read and digest this guide from CopyBlogger before reading on. It will give you a detailed rundown on how to vastly improve the quality of your About page content. If you are writing an about page for your personal website, check out a guide that I wrote.

This is where we need to step up our game to include better on-page engagement and make your About content an integral part of your content strategy.

Your About Us is More Than an About Page

Stop thinking of your About page as an About page and start thinking of it as a super-powered landing page.

Landing pages are the heart and soul of any marketer’s inbound lead generation efforts. Despite that relevancy to lead generation and conversion, 44% of clicks for companies are directed back to the homepage rather than any particular landing page according to MarketingSherpa’s Landing Page Handbook.

We can do whole lot better than that, and I’ll bet your metrics would agree.

Every set of numbers tells a story. Unique users, time on page, referral sources and visitor flow paint a pretty clear picture about why people visit your About page.

They’re interested in doing business with you while simultaneously judging you. On some level they’re engaging with you and your metrics can show you not only how they arrived but what they do after they read your About content.

That reveals two opportunities where you can work your About page into your content strategy – external and internal.

Pushing External Traffic To Your About Us Pages

Landing pages are awesome… blah blah. Don’t drive traffic to your homepage… blah blah. Do A/B testing… bah blah.

That’s all necessary and true but it’s been talked about a thousand times and it’s lame. Those tips never get to the heart of how to leverage your About content once you’ve made it awesome.

From an external position there are several ways to start driving traffic back to your About page in a way that makes it relevant to the user experience, and where it becomes a critical part of your sales funnel.

Tie videos to your About page

If you want to tell your story in a digestible format that is quick and engaging, do it with video. Push out video content on sites like YouTube, Vimeo and through shorter clips like Periscope videos and Vines.

In every video you publish you should link back to your About content. Let them get a taste for who you are, and your personality, then push them to your brand centerpiece when they click to find out more.

Don’t just give them a wall of text when they land there. Embed more relevant video and make the experience visually captivating.

Grove Labs built an innovative concept; that people can create a more resilient where food production is spread out, making it easier for anyone to build and grow healthy produce in their homes. It’s a very cool story and makes for an intriguing video.

Grove Labs greets you with this video preview that spans their About page with a play button that invites you to watch and learn more about their ideas, story and their founders.

What’s even better is that the video is responsive so it makes for an amazing mobile experience – something to consider since mobile search queries are now surpassing desktop and more people than ever are browsing the web from mobile devices.

Video is a compelling way to incorporate your About content into your content marketing strategy, just remember to use text along with your video for visitors who can’t watch or have difficulty playing it.

Send social traffic to custom About pages

There’s a lot of traffic being driven to websites from social media so a customized landing page is a necessity. Think about it: the people who click your ads and content links from social media sites – as well as paid social campaigns – are valuable visitors. They’re in the process of engaging with your brand.

  1. Crew found that customers who engage with them via their social media outlets  (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram) generally spend 2x more than the average customer.

You don’t dare send that traffic to a generic landing page or your home page! Send that social traffic to customized About pages.

Yes. I said pages. Plural. There’s no rule that says you’re limited to a single About page. You have more than one target audience and you create custom landing pages to match the audience of your campaigns – why not create custom About pages to match the different people who find you via social media?

Think about who your target market is: their demographics, geographics, likes and needs. Tailor your About content to talk to your audience in their language – show that you understand those wants and needs as you present your brand story. Then include the next-step or call to action relevant to that audience.

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Each of your social profiles includes a place to link to your website, so maximize the impact on conversion by sending them somewhere besides your homepage. Darren Rowse provides a perfect examplewith his custom About page that links from his Twitter profile.

You’re constantly engaging your audience as you share your own and curated content, so send the people you engage with to the one place where they can clearly get your brand story.

Link your people and your brand to your About page

If you’ve got listening posts set up online there’s a good chance you’re catching alerts for your company name, your name and the names of your team. Keeping tabs of brand mentions is smart, but you’re wasting an opportunity if you don’t do anything with it.

You never know when a reader is going to view you, your brand or a team member as someone who brings real value: an influencer. Don’t just settle for links to social profiles. Reach out to the content authors where the content originated and ask them to link those names  – brand included – to a custom about page that highlights your story and your team.

This is a great opportunity to set up supporting calls to action to follow the brand on your social channels and move prospects forward in your buy cycle.

Internal Content Promotion and Engagement

Using your About page with external content is easy – you drive traffic to it and customize it accordingly to cover that inbound opportunity. Now you have to think about post-engagement.

Control what they do after they engage with your site content by stepping up the presentation of what they digest.

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A new take on confirmation pages

I think Thank You pages and confirmation pages are one of the most value-wasted pages that we generate in marketing.

Your audience just made a conversion. They literally did exactly what  you wanted them to do, and your response is to serve them a “thanks for that” page?  Strike while the iron is hot and they’re in the middle of engaging your brand!

This is another point where you create a customized About page for receiving redirect traffic post-conversion. There are several benefits to this:

  • The thank you message to show you appreciate the customer
  • The presented company info to solidify the existing trust that spurred the sale
  • Greatly reduced chance of buyer’s remorse
  • Keeping them in the buy cycle (or launching a new buy cycle) for one more call to action
  • Continued engagement with the brand

You don’t have to be done with them once the conversion is complete, and you shouldn’t be ok with letting them leave. Which leads us to the next recommendation…

Why isn’t your About Page your new information/social hub?

You can liven up your static brochure content with some video and images but why not turn it into more? We constantly churn content out through our social channels, so make your About page into the social hub for your business.

Present your social channels via live feeds in one place. Supplement that with a magazine-layout presentation of your most recent blog posts along with press features for your company. Embed your Snapchat stories, Twitter roll, and Instagram. Make it the one place a customer or prospect can quickly and easily digest every type of content you put it.

That’s the page you want them to bookmark and share – not your home page.

Let your about page tell a story

Good content marketing tells a story and there’s no better place than your About page for that. Level up your content by giving your audience an opportunity to be the storyteller.

Think about it from a customer or client perspective. Would you put your trust in a company talking about how awesometastic they are? What if instead it was a colleague raving about the work your company did?

That colleague is far more likely to be unbiased, providing a realistic view of what your company is like. Letting customers tell their story provides a more down-to-earth view of how you do business.

FortyOneTwenty provides standard goods on their About Us page with a well-designed value proposition, but there’s gold below the fold. By including testimonials that feature faces they present a list of companies that “trust” FortyOneTwenty, automatically making them more likable and trustworthy in the eye of prospects.

Conclusion

If you’ve ever celebrated a string of opt-ins from exclusive offers or witnessed the organic traffic from strategic content marketing then you know full well the power of customized landing pages. That’s why you should be employing similar tactics with your About Us pages.

You can transform those pages into an engagement and conversion heavy part of your content strategy with the right approaches:

  • Use video and visually compelling content to drive traffic.
  • Push social traffic to your About page for authority and further engagement.
  • Create multiple customized about pages that are audience specific.
  • Link published content with brand mentions back to your About content.
  • Use customized About pages for redirected confirmations.
  • Transform your About page into a content-rich social hub for your brand.
  • Use content to tell a story, and embrace letting others tell the story for you.

This approach will bring more value to your customers and enrich the relationships & engagement you have with your audience.

Have you done anything unique with your About page to get more from your content marketing and audience engagement?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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5 Simple SEO Hacks to Survive Any Search Engine Update

It’s no secret that Google is continually experimenting with how it search engine ranks works, finding new ways to improve the Google user experience.

How? I’m sure you’re familiar with the drill.

One way the company does this is with regular updates to its search engine algorithm, making small adjustments to the way website are ranked and displayed on the search engine results pages.

Most of these updates are so minor they’re more security patches and updates than anything. But others, like Panda, Penguin, Penguin 2.0 and Hummingbirdmade sweeping changes to the landscape of SEO.

Who Benefited from These Updates?

Content marketers, digital marketing agencies, nimble marketers, and lean user experience teams have benefitted the most from these updates, mostly because their efforts were geared towards improving the user experience in the first place.

In the months that followed, we witnessed a massive transition toward content marketing:

  • Blogging emerged as a necessity in content marketing, and as a consequence, in SEO as well
  • Social media became the main pathway for referral traffic
  • Digital marketers now have more channels to spread content, forcing them to tell stories and reap the rewards, which were often proportionate on the quality of their content

Most, if not all, search engine updates were made with the user in mind, and not so much the people (or businesses) using it for marketing and advertising purposes. Fortunately, there are a number of foolproof hacks to protect your site from any algorithm update, and it all begins with what Google’s been fussing over so much: the user.

1. Build Content for People, Not Just Search Engines

Doesn’t sound like much of a “hack,” huh? Hear me out.

User optimization is the only way to succeed with search engine optimization.

Why? If Google’s Panda and Penguin updates taught us one thing, it’s that “Content is King,” and indeed it is.

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Search engines, i.e., Google, love fresh and original content, treating it as a primary ranking signal. Moz has been preaching this mantra since 2011!

These updates were made in response to the practice of many marketers and SEOs who had spent more time gaming the system with some SEO trick (whitehat and blackhat alike) instead of just concentrating on giving people what they want—real, original, and valuable content.

I can’t count the number of times someone approached me talking excitedly about some new scheme that’s going to be the “Next Big Thing” in SEO.

These include:

  • Paid blog networks
  • Article spinning
  • Link spamming
  • Keyword stuffing
  • Automated forum posting and blog comments

Right. Next big thing, huh? If you call a penalty a “big thing,” then, yes, I see your point.

These methods are about as old-school as you can get with SEO, and for a while, they helped launch hundreds of previously unknown sites to the top of the SERPs in relatively little time and little resources spent.

But when Google Penguin came along, many of these sites were penalized harshly, causing a dramatic drop in their SERP rankings and traffic.

Why it Works: The lesson is simple, and something I’ve pointed out to clients over and over again:  Don’t try to cheat the system and don’t build for search engines. Instead, focus on creating an SEO strategy with your users in mind. In other words, users first, search engines second.

If you use your time to develop the best possible experience for your users, the traffic will come, regardless of what updates are made to Google, Bing, or Yahoo!.

This infographic posted on Search Engine Journal lists down a number of strategies around content marketing. You’ll notice none of them are gimmick, focusing instead on some kind of information—albeit in different formats—to users, which is really what SEO should be about.

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2. Steer Clear of Low-Quality Backlinks

Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.

To some extent, the gist of that quote also applies to SEO practices, specifically with backlinks. The problem, as you probably know, is that it’s to control all sites that link to you, so it’s important to have a regular schedule of disavowing low-quality backlinks.

Finding Bad Backlinks

Yoast offers a terrific guide on how to identify and eliminate bad backlinks. Let’s start with how to find them.

Backlinks from Websites Created for SEO Links

These sites are usually easy to identify, as they will often have several articles and content assets with little coherence or connection to each other. Another red flag to watch out for is the site’s use of the default WordPress theme.

Backlinks from Comments – These links are especially infuriating as they’re usually generated by bots. (I get hundreds per week.) Bot behavior is fairly easy to identify. They’ll comment and say stuff like “Nicely written post!” or “Great article, looking to learn more soon!”

Bot technology has gotten so good that some comments will even be personalized, complete with author names.

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Over Optimized Links – It’s usually safe to assume most backlinks to a website use that website’s name as the link or anchor text, or the site’s URL itself. But if the majority of your backlinks are coursed through exact and clearly optimized keywords, you have every right to be suspicious of some shady business going on.

Links From Countries Not Part of Your Targeted Audience – It’s natural to expect that most websites linking to you will be related to your business, so it’s easy to understand why links coming from some site in Russia or Nigeria to your digital marketing firm in Connecticut should trigger some alarms.

Why it Works: Your site’s optimization suffers when it has backlinks with low ranked and irrelevant site. Each bad backlinks acts as red flag. The more irrelevant backlinks, the lower your reputation in the eyes of search engines.

A good way of assessing the sites linking to you is to use Google’s PR Checker to check their page rank. Backlinks should come from sites with a similar or higher pagerank as yours, and more importantly, should be relevant to your niche/industry.

3. Keep It Simple, Stupid

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The K.I.S.S. principle also applies to SEO.  Especially when you’re setting up your on-page SEO. The fewer complexities your site has, the lesser the likelihood of something going wrong. Also it’ll be much easier when you check and update your on-page optimization.

Why it Works: It’s highly unlikely for search engines to have a dramatically different method of crawling sites and web pages, so having a logical and flat structure, with short (but optimized) URLs and clean code makes the crawling process faster.

Here are a few K.I.S.S on-page SEO tips for your site:

Keep your URLs short and logical. They not only work better with search engines, they’re also more attractive to users, as they’re easier to remember and share.

Keep your interface simple and clean. Simplicity is also the safer and most user-friendly approach to web design and structure, as it allows your visitors to easily use and navigate through your site. Simpler designs also increases your page speed.

When update your on-page optimization, you can use tools such as OnPage to get suggestions on what to optimize. If you already have a good idea what you need to do, then you can use simple crawlers such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider to crawl your site for data.

4. Bring Down Your Bounce Rate

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Search engines in the future are expected to rank websites based on the level of their user engagement—the more engaged your audience, the closer you’ll be to the spots on the SERPs.

Why It’s Important: Even now bounce rates are recognized to play a factor behind a site’s rankings, but I see it having a bigger impact in the near future. Site content that causes users to “bounce” out or leave a site to go back to the search engine results pages naturally has a lower value than content that gives users a valid reason to stay, or move onward to a more relevant page within.

So how do you improve your content’s engagement factor and make people stay? Below are a few things you can do:

  • Boost site speed – Faster loading speeds are more likely to encourage to a user to stay and find out what information is on a webpage. In contrast, a site with a slow-loading photo or buffering video may drive them to go back to the results page and try their luck elsewhere. (Blame it on people’s shorter attention spans.)
  • Ensure cross-device compatibility – There’s a reason why Google itself championed responsive web design. With mobile continuing to grow, sites need to ensure their content can be viewed intuitively on any device, software, and browser. The user experience has to has to be clean and smooth, no matter what platform they’re on.
  • Give a reason to explore your site – The initial click leading to your site is just the first step. Now you need to keep their interest with content assets or resources relevant to their search.
  • Reduce distractions – Distracting elements such as pop-ups, obtrusive calls-to-action (CTAs), or subscription signs up tend to backfire when they’re too distracting, annoying returning visitors and turning off new ones.

5. Bridge the Gap between Relevant Content

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With search engines increasingly relying on predictive analytics, sites in the near future may soon be ranked for content that has the most lasting value, or content that successfully predicts what information a user might need next. In other words, if your site can bridge the gap between the page or content flagged by the initial query, and lead to other content they might be interested in, your site responds better to the search engine algorithm.

Why It’s Important: The key is not to limit optimization to a few keywords related to a specific content asset. While this has been the SOP since the dawn of SEO, adapting to predictive modeling means finding ways to tell both the reader and search engine that your site offers both relevance and suggestions on what additional information they might find useful.

  • Offer competing keywords – Optimizing content that targets users looking for “best headphones” can yield better results if you also optimize with suggestions to brands like Sennheiser, AKG, Grado, or Beats.
  • Use semantic keywords – If your landing page is targeting people looking for “San Antonio personal injury lawyers,” you should consider increasing its coverage with related keywords like “Texas injury lawyers” and “Texas work injury attorneys.”
  • Use the local community to your advantage – Searchers tend to favor organizations that identify themselves as experts and insiders in their respective local communities. Use localized search terms that appeal to this desire

Conclusion

Contrary to popular belief, SEO isn’t dying—far from it. Technically, it hasn’t even changed all that much either—that is, if you’ve been paying attention. Google’s algorithm updates (most notably the infamous Penguin and Panda updates) gave us enough clues to figure out what direction the search engine wanted to take when ranking websites, and if you ask me, it was done for a good reason and purpose.

Keeping up with search engines really boils down to addressing your users’ needs, not the search engines’. Provide a great user experience, and both the traffic and rankings will come. I guarantee it.

What are your search engine updates war stories…and lessons learned?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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10 Signs You Might Need to Hire Outside Help with Your Social Media

Is your brand on social media?

Are you tired of pouring time, money, and other resources into your social media accounts while watching other brands outperform you?

Maybe it’s time to hire some outside help.

In this article, I’ll discuss the major signs that you should consider hiring outside help to get your social media presence back on track and contributing to your profitability.

1. You’re leaving customer questions and comments unanswered.

JetBlue is well-known for having one of the most responsive business Twitter accounts.

Whenever a customer mentions the brand, the company responds within an hour. Even CEO Robin Hayes is known to respond.

Apparently, not every company is doing it like JetBlue. According to Convince & Convert, “70% of companies ignore customer complaints on Twitter!”

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If your company isn’t able to respond to customers immediately the same way, you’re leaving a bad impression on social media. This makes your social media presence more of a hindrance than a help.

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Some brands might have a social hotline for customers to air their grievances. If you do, then you need to be monitoring it and responding to it.

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If you’re not responsive, then you might need a little outside help.

Social media consultants and agencies are dedicated to social media activity. Social media professionals make sure that no customer questions or concerns go unanswered. Instead of leaving customers hanging, consider hiring outside help to create a social community that contributes to the company’s bottom line.

2. Your social media following is shrinking.

Donna Maria at the Indie Business Network recently highlighted a myriad of ways businesses lose customers via social media. Social media is supposed to be a place where customers connect and engage with a brand. If they’re unable to relate to the business on social media, they’re likely to leave, never to return.

Social media agencies have established processes and procedures to effectively build a social media account into a positive extension of the brand. When a customer enters your brick-and-mortar store, you treat them like part of the family, and the same should be true on social media.

3.  You’re not seeing enough website traffic from social media.

Social media traffic should account for approximately 30 percent of your web traffic. This 30% may include all social sources, not a single social site.

Garrett Moon discussed his strategies for driving traffic on social media platforms. By gathering and analyzing data on social media activity, you’ll have an accurate picture of how you’re doing and can adapt accordingly.

Data analysis is an important part of business, and it’s an area on which social media agencies built our business. If you’re unable to implement solid processes to collect and analyze social media data to quantify your efforts, it may be time to hire outside help.

4. You know you’re not that great at social media.

All over Twitter, you’ll see people label themselves as “social media gurus.” These self-proclaimed experts may have a large following (or not), but it’s difficult to tell if they’re able to translate this success to future work with your business.

In order to be successful on a social media platform, you need to know how the community works, optimal times to post, and how to encourage engagement. A lack of expertise slows innovation, so it’s important to have experts on the team.

Hootsuite has 6 quizzes to test your knowledge about social media. If you’re unable to pass these quizzes, it’s time to start looking for social media help.

5. You’re doing a lot of social stuff, but you don’t know how to focus on the right stuff.

A successful social media campaign needs to be focused and consistent. From 2011 to 2015, Coca-Cola saw a 96 percent positive or neutral consumer sentiment on over 125,000 posts across all social networks, thanks to its #ShareaCoke campaign.

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During this time, the company went all-in on the campaign, printing common names on their products to encourage sales and sharing of their products.

Social media agencies know how to create a voice and stick to it. Instead of trying different things, leading to an inconsistent impression among customers, experts can drill down to the brand image and constantly supplement it. If you’re struggling to create a consistent brand image across all marketing channels, you’ll benefit from seeking outside help.

6. Social isn’t making your business grow.

Greg Shuff, the owner of DryHop Brewers, emphasizes the need for delegation to grow a business. While a solo entrepreneur or employees of a small business often wear many hats, this business model isn’t sustainable as a business begins to grow.

Business owners looking to scale their business to the next level need to have a dedicated staff for each business process. A dedicated social media agency focuses entirely on social media marketing, allowing other teams to focus on their goals. By compartmentalizing each job process, teams improve productivity, contributing to the overall efficiency and success of the company.

7. You know you’re wasting time on social media.

There are a lot of social media platforms these days. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Tumblr, and StumbleUpon can each keep a person busy for an entire work day. Dedicating all this time to social media without a defined ROI can feel like a waste of time.

Social media agencies excel at quantifying and monetizing a social media campaign. By formulating a plan, preparing a schedule, and executing each step, a social media pro can create and document success.

Over time, you’ll see increases in followers, customer engagement, and conversion rates, which provides a valuable ROI for any business.

8. You feel like you’re throwing away money on social media.

Every company would love to have a dedicated digital marketing team, but most don’t have the budget. It costs a lot of money to staff a team, and training, development, and turnover can quickly drain the company’s liquid assets.

In 2015, the average business spent between $200-$350 per day on social media. A monthly cost of $4,000-$7,000, thus, is a decent estimate for social media cost projection. According to surveys, businesses spend 13% of their marketing budget on social media, a number which is expected to rise to 21% in the next few years.

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But what is the ultimate impact of this money? Where is it going? What is it doing?

When hiring an outside agency, these operational costs are shifted to the agency. Social media experts can provide qualified and experienced staff so your business is focused on selling and turning a profit.

9. You don’t have a clear plan for your social media strategy.

No business can succeed without a plan, but planning and executing a successful social media campaign takes a lot of work. Often what happens is businesses become reactive and are never able to formulate an actual social media plan.

It doesn’t need to be complicated. A simple four-step plan, like the one below, is a perfect starting point.

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Social media agencies start with a business plan. When you’re searching for outside social media help, start by asking potential vendors to submit their past successes and a personalized plan for your business.

Before spending a single penny, you’ll have a solid social media plan that both parties agree to and work to materialize.

10. Your social media conversions are really low.

Regardless of how well your social media accounts are doing, it means nothing if those interactions don’t convert to sales.

If conversions are low, it could signal problems with your approach. Sure, most people know how to “do” social media, but do they know how to drive conversions and improve revenue?

It’s important to carefully track conversions from social media in order to assess the ROI. You may wish to go to the extent of creating a funnel like the one below, demonstrating the path and progress of sales leads.

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It’s vital that your sales and marketing teams work together and complement each other to ensure a seamless transition from the first interaction to the final sale.

Outside social media agencies are focused on generating leads to turn over to the sales department. While social media metrics are important, contracting an outside vendor allows you to hold them accountable for generating leads that convert to sales.

Conclusion

Social media is an important part of any business’s online presence. On social media, customers can engage with companies to form a connection and raise brand affinity. This only occurs when a social media presence is solid.

It’s important to be responsive to all customers, promote valuable content, and convert engaged followers into paying customers. If you’re struggling to quantify your social media presence, employees are being stretched too far, and are lacking a solid business plan, it’s time to consider seeking outside help with your social media.

Do you hire outside help with social media? Did it change things for better or worse?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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Marketing Techniques You Won’t Learn in College (But Must Know For the Real World)

Have you ever heard people complain that they didn’t learn much from college, but they learned a ton from their first job?

There’s a reason people complain about school. Part of the problem, of course, has to do with the students themselves. (Partying has marginal educational benefits.)

Education itself has built-in disadvantages. I’m not here to disparage education. Education is essential. But education can’t prepare you for some of the most critical aspects of marketing that you will face in the real world.

Here are some of the most valuable marketing techniques that you’ll probably hear nothing about in your marketing classes.

1. Customer psychology

Customer psychology is the science of why people buy. Customer psychology is at the root of every purchase decision.

Apart from a perfunctory Psych 101, few students ever dive into the why and how of buying behavior.

The result is that most companies just guess at consumer behavior. Doing “market research” doesn’t substitute for the intuitive understanding of human cognition that lies at the root of search-click-buy activity online.

Customer psychology unearths valuable information that completely changes the way you approach all of marketing.

  • What are the subconscious activities that predispose a customer to purchase?
  • What conditions lead to a customer’s position in the buy cycle?
  • How do pain and happiness affect a user’s behavior on a website?
  • How do cognitive biases affect purchase behavior?

To benefit from this fascinating field, you’ll have to do the digging on your own.

2. Personal branding.

Apart from a passing reference in “Introduction to Entrepreneurship” you may not even be familiar with the term “personal branding.”

However, building your personal brand is an essential part of marketing in today’s environment.

A personal brand is not about narcissism. It’s about marketing, plain and simple. To sell anything, especially personal or consulting services, you must have a platform. If no one knows you exist, how can they be convinced to buy from you.

The advantage of a personal platform can’t be overstated. The larger and more successful your personal brand, the better you can start businesses, market products, and grow your business.

3. Analytics

Any business student will have his baptism by fire in college math class. Most businesses students may also wrangle with freshman accounting or some other nefarious bugaboo.

But analytics? Scarcely a mention.

Analytics is “the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics.” Sounds boring, but it’s crucial. Why? Because it’s the only way to know what’s going on with your business.

From analytics, you can discover the following:

  • How many website visitors you received over a certain period.
  • How many mobile users converted during the month of April
  • Which headline — version A or version B — caused the most people to buy your product.
  • How 18-25-year-olds interact with your site.
  • Where people are leaving your checkout process

Analytics is like a business genie in a SaaS bottle. How do you get the genie out? You learn analytics. There is a variety of analytics platforms, such as Google Analytics and other systems that help to interpret data in actionable ways. There are also platforms with more detailed types of analytics, such as SEO performance.

4. Mobile

Mobile. Just one word.

But a world of potential.

Mobile and desktop Internet usage is now approximately equal. If you go through school without learning about mobile trends and marketing actions, then you have some catching up to do.

You’ll need to learn about some of the latest and most influential trends in mobile:

  • Mobile marketing in general
  • Mobile social media usage
  • Mobile search engine optimization
  • Mobile app development
  • Responsive design
  • Tap to call marketing
  • SMS marketing
  • Mobile gamification
  • Marketing with wearable technology
  • Mobile checkout
  • Mobile customer behavior monitoring
  • Mobile research
  • Mobile usage trends
  • Mobile marketing statistics and analytics

Mobile is one of the most significant trends in the modern marketing era.

5. Content marketing

The web is driven by content. You’ve heard the phrase, now cliche, “content is king.” As worn-out as it is, the statement is no less true.

Content is what attracts search engines, gains user attention, compels customer conversions, and makes you money.

To not be aware of content marketing is to overlook something that will comprise your most useful and potentially lucrative forms of marketing. I’ve used content marketing to build several businesses. I can assure you that its profitable.

For one of my businesses, Kissmetrics, I spend 99% of the marketing budget on content marketing and email marketing. That’s a lot of money. But there’s a lot of ROI.

6. Search marketing

How do search engines work?  It’s an important issue, because search is what makes the online world go around.

Without a basic understanding of search engine optimization, few companies would be successful with their marketing. Digital marketing starts with an understanding of SEO, keyword optimization, technical optimization, and then developing a plan that attracts and converts the right kind of traffic.

7. Social media

Most college students know how to use social media. But marketing on social media is much different than stalking your crush, looking at pics, and posting status updates.

Social media marketing gets into the thick of promoted posts, engagement levels, ROI, and audience growth. It takes a level of commitment and sophistication to get at Facebook from a totally different angle.

8. Conversion optimization

Conversion rate optimization or CRO is a mix of psychology, art, and science, that gives you a major ROI. Defined precisely, CRO is a systematic approach to improving a user’s website experience so that they are more likely to convert, or take a preferred action.

Conversion optimization starts with understanding your users (refer to customer psychology on this one) and knowing exactly who they are and what they want. From there, conversion optimizers shape a website structure and content so that it is most likely to gain the attention and action of the users.

But that’s only the start.

The real action in conversion optimization is the testing. Conversion optimizers use a practice called a/b testing (or split testing) to know for certain which variations of a website convert more users.

Few universities have courses on split testing, even though it’s an important part of marketing. To get at this, you’ll have to do research and get practice.

Conclusion

I understand why schools don’t offer courses in all of these things. It’s hard to teach a course in an area that is constantly changing.

Marketing is an industry that is in constant flux. The best practices of a few months ago are outdated almost as quickly as they are adopted.

That’s why it’s up to us to try to keep pace, self-education, research relentlessly, and apply what we know.

What marketing lessons do you wish you learned in college?

Jessica Corry

Jessica is a marketing consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship.

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