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Tim Peter

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September 22, 2014

Is Google+ Dead, Dying, or Something Else Altogether?

September 22, 2014 | By | One Comment

Is Google+ dead?Larry Kim writes on Wordstream’s blog that Google has dropped its mandatory Gmail integration, which used to require users to create a Google+ account when they signed up for Gmail (and some other services, too). Kim notes:

“Rumors of the decoupling of Google+ and Gmail first surfaced in the spring. Google, unsurprisingly, hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to shout about the change from the rooftops, instead choosing to quietly shelve the mandatory integration.

Although the change means that new Gmail users will no longer be forced to sign up for Google+, they’ll still have the option to do so, as you can see in the image above.”

Loads of folks have wondered for some time whether Google might be killing off its social network, especially since the departure of former head Vic Gundotra. Let me be clear: Google+ isn’t dead… but it may be dying. Despite its popularity among a focused, passionate user group (photographers, for one, seem to love the service), it’s never really caught on as a mainstream alternative to Facebook. But that’s not the important part. No, the real question, though, is whether Google+ is dying for your business.

And the answer is, for many businesses, probably not. Google continues to emphasize Google+ in its Google My Business and Google+ Brands offerings. And evidence suggests the search giant increasingly values brands in its search results. Claiming your brand’s identity within Google+ should only continue to benefit you in the near-to-mid term.

Now, does that mean that Google+ is the perfect social channel for your brand and your business? Of course not. But, to be fair, no “perfect” channel exists. Instead, use Google+ for the benefits it offers — simple content posting, clear profile for Maps and search, some favorability for search rankings. It doesn’t matter whether Google+ is dead, dying, or (most likely), evolving into something else altogether (for example, many business’s direct access to Google’s back-end directory). What matters is that you use it correctly and get the benefits you deserve.

Curious about the marketing and e-commerce trends that will drive your business in 2015? Check out the slides and video from my recent webinar, “Digital Marketing Directions: Three Key Trends Driving Your Marketing Next Year”:

And, if you’re interested in learning even more about how customers changing behavior shapes e-commerce and marketing, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

Finally, you might also want to check out some of our past coverage of the mobile, local, social web and how to make it work for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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March 18, 2014

The 4 Rules of Social Marketing for Hotel Marketers (Travel Tuesday)

March 18, 2014 | By | No Comments

Couple by pool sharing their stayA hotel group recently invited me to talk about how they could use social media more effectively for marketing. Their key question was: “What rules exist in social media for hotel marketers?” I thought you might enjoy finding out some more about that, too.

Based on my experience, 4 rules exist when it comes to social marketing in the hospitality industry (and in most other industries, too). They are:

  1. Social is people. Your guests (or clients, customers, members, or whatever you prefer to call them), have individual needs and concerns. They’re busy folks on a mission to solve their problem, not spend a lot of time listening to you. “Social” isn’t a channel that you can use to simply shout about yourself. Well, you can. But you won’t see any positive results. Instead, you need to listen, understand, and engage with customers in social on their terms. That is, as human beings.
  2. All marketing is social. Broadly, the role of marketing is to connect customers with a solution. And since customers are social by definition, your marketing must be social, too. More specifically, you’ve probably noticed the increase in ratings and reviews in search results, and the way your competitors make it easy for their guests to share information with their friends and family and fans and followers on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and all the rest. Have you made it easy for your guests to do the same?
  3. Your brand = What you say + what guests experience. Every single guest in your hotel is now, effectively, a professional reviewer. And, as you’re likely aware, they’re more than happy to share their experiences with those friends and family and fans and followers I just mentioned. As I’ve noted before, working to increase the quality and quantity of your property’s reviews and ratings represents the single most effective way to improve your online marketing.
  4. There are no rules. As Barbossa memorably notes in Pirates of the Caribbean, these are “…more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules.” Social media continues to evolve. And your guests’ use of social evolves along with it. The “rules” that “everybody knows” today may turn out to be different tomorrow (in fact, I’d bet on it). So, instead, you’re best bet is to test and see what works for you to drive the results you need.

Anyway, that’s a quick look at what works today. When you get a moment, you can check out the whole presentation here:

If you’re interested in learning even more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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February 14, 2014

Why Doesn’t Social Shopping Work?

February 14, 2014 | By | No Comments

Why doesn't social shopping work?eMarketer has some fantastic new research out that shows Millennials use different social networks throughout their purchase path to post comments and buy assorted types of product. It’s a crucial fact to understanding your customers. More importantly, that fact underscores why social shopping “doesn’t work.” (Don’t worry, I’ll come back to why that’s in quotes in a moment).

First, if you ask most people what the world’s largest social network is, they’ll undoubtedly say, “Facebook.”

They’ll also be wrong.

Facebook is not the world’s largest social network. Not even close. Neither is Instagram or Google+, YouTube, Twitter, or Tumblr. None of them.

Ok, you ask, so what is the world’s largest social network? Simple: the Internet is the world’s largest social network. All the tools most people call “social networks” are in reality social platforms.

And the reason Millennials use different social platforms to talk with friends, post, and buy is because their social network—their friends and family and fans and followers—is spread across a wide variety of those platforms.

Millennials rely on different tools to bring different people into the conversation based on what their needs are for a given purchase. As I’ve said many, many times, they don’t go online; they are online. Constantly. They use the tools that help them accomplish their goal at any particular time. For instance, they might choose Tumblr and Snapchat to check with friends, then choose Facebook when, strange as it may seem, they want mom and dad’s advice. A similar dynamic typically applies to Boomers and Gen X,

Which brings me to “why social shopping doesn’t work.”

The thing is, it does work. Customers depend on ratings, reviews and the advice of friends and family all through the purchase path. The challenge is seeing your efforts across these services deliver results.

Most businesses are really bad at tracking customer interactions across the array of devices and platforms and media consumers experience all day long. (From a privacy perspective, that may be more feature than bug).

But if you can’t draw a clear picture of when your customer uses Wanelo to highlight an adorbs new skirt, Snapchat to show her friends what it looks like in the fitting room, and Facebook to check and make sure her mom thinks it’s OK to wear to her cousin’s wedding, the most common explanation is “it doesn’t work.”

But, just like believing that Facebook is the largest social network, it’s an incorrect explanation.

Increasingly, the companies achieving the greatest success selling through social are those who most effectively understand how their customers use social throughout the shopping process, then adjust their strategy and tactics to ensure they help customers every step of the way.

It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to Millennials, Boomers, Gen X, businesses, or all of the above. If you can’t tell what your customers do, what difference does it make who they are?

Interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web? Register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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December 5, 2013

Top 5 Social Media Trends for 2014

December 5, 2013 | By | No Comments

2014 social trendsEvery year, social media marketing becomes a more important component of online strategies. The biggest social networks are still the best and fastest ways for any business to spread marketing messages. But of course, as with every online strategy and the tech world as a whole, the rules keep changing.

What will 2014 bring to the social media table? Here are five trends for marketers to watch as we enter a new year of brand building and share-focused campaigns.

Companies Will Embrace User-Generated Content

By now, every marketer understands that the biggest key to successful social media campaigns is emphasizing the social aspect—the part that encourages participation and sharing. In 2014, more businesses will get on board with the idea of user-generated content.
This is already a popular strategy on a small scale. It’s been demonstrated that social media posts that ask a question receive better responses, more traction, and higher engagement. Now, many companies will take it a step further by inviting users to submit content related to their business—photos, videos, even personal stories or testimonials.

Inviting user-generated content not only increases engagement, but also lets companies measure ROI, a constant challenge for social media marketers.

Social Media Marketers Will Need to Diversify

In less than a decade, social media networks have exploded from just a few main players to a multitude of sites. While Facebook and Twitter still reign supreme, there are plenty of other networks producing results for businesses: Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Tumbler, Vine, and Instagram, to name a few.

Next year, more companies will experiment with multiple networks. It’s important to find the social media networks that work best for your type of business, but maintaining more than one will increase your cross-channel exposure and let you introduce different types of content into the mix.

Google+ Will Become a Must

Speaking of diversity, many social media marketers will discover that Google+ simply can’t be ignored any longer. The search engine giant’s social network is steadily invading more channels. For example, the Google-owned YouTube recently launched a comment section redesign that requires either a YouTube channel or a Google+ account in order to leave a comment.

More importantly, Google’s most recent statistics reflect more than 300 million active monthly users on the Google+ network. It’s a more visual platform than either Facebook or Twitter, and comes with greater opportunities for businesses to improve their SEO through an active Google+ account.

Businesses Will Get Better at Monetizing Social
Every business wants to turn a profit. In fact, an initial stumbling block for entering the arena of social media was the big question, “But how will it make money?” Since the answer seemed to be “it won’t,” a lot of companies avoided making social media a major part of their online marketing strategy.

Facebook and Twitter both failed to generate a profit in the beginning. However, Facebook has been consistently beating revenue expectations quarter after quarter, and Twitter isn’t far behind with the recent announcement that it’s filed the paperwork for an IPO. In 2014, expect more opportunities for revenue streams to begin surfacing among social platforms.

Marketers Will Spend More on Social Media

A survey from Decipher, conducted on behalf of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) and the American Marketing Association (AMA), found that seven out of 10 marketers expect to increase social media spending in 2014.

That’s 70 percent of businesses putting more into social, compared to the 53 percent who will invest more in email marketing and the mere 16 percent who will increase print marketing spending.

Another report deals with the overall spending increase for this channel. ZenithOptimedia released a combined report and forecast that estimated social media advertising spending of $4.6 billion for 2013—up more than a billion from 2012’s $3.4 billion. And by 2015, the forecast estimates that social spending will reach around $8 billion.

Where do you see your company on the social media landscape for 2014? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing in a multiscreen world? Register to receive a special report Tim produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, if all that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the trends shaping the social, local, mobile web and what they mean for your business, including:

About the Author:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Image credit: Image courtesy of falco.

Tim Peter

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November 26, 2013

How Facebook Thinks About Travel (Travel Tuesday)

November 26, 2013 | By | No Comments

If you didn’t get a chance to make it to PhoCusWright last week (like me, I’m afraid), Tnooz has a few videos up, including this gem from Facebook’s director of products, Sam Lessin, about the role social plays in travel.

Some of Lessin’s talk overlaps with things I’ve talked about before, such as how mobile has made it an “all e-commerce” world.

Check out the video when you get a chance here (and, if you’re having issues with the embed, you can view the video on Tnooz here):

Tim Peter

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November 6, 2013

Why Isn't Social Working? – Thinks Out Loud Episode 49

November 6, 2013 | By | No Comments

Content marketing and social success

Why Isn’t Social Working? Headlines and Show Notes

The Skype “Born Friends” video is here:

And, here are the slides from my “The Truth: How the Social, Local, Mobile Web Affects Sales Online and Offline” presentation:

You can also register to receive a free copy of my special report, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World,” produced in conjunction with Vizergy, here. While it’s targeted to the hospitality industry specifically, most of the lessons apply across verticals.

Contact information for the podcast: podcast@timpeter.com

Technical details: Recorded using a Shure SM57 microphone
through a Mackie Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface into Logic Express 9 for the Mac.

Running time: 16m 31s

You can subscribe to Thinks Out Loud in iTunes [iTunes link], subscribe via our dedicated podcast RSS feed (or better yet, given that Google has now killed Reader, sign up for our free newsletter). You can also download/listen to the podcast here on Thinks using the player below:

Tim Peter

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November 1, 2013

Email Marketing: When & How Often to Hit Send by Megan Totka

November 1, 2013 | By | No Comments

Email marketing timingDespite the rise of social media and mobile technology, permission-based email lists are still the reigning champion of online marketing strategies. A recent study from ExactTarget showed that a staggering 77% of consumers prefer email for receiving permission-based marketing over other channels In fact, we’ve been calling email “the forgotten social network” for several years now.

Of course, you need the right strategies to make email marketing work for you. Your email marketing campaigns should have compelling subject lines, a professional and aesthetically appealing design, and great content to help you overcome Gmail’s tabbed inbox interface.

What’s missing from this list?

Timing.

Why Timing Counts in Email Marketing

In order to be effective, your marketing emails need to be opened and read. Your catchy headlines and fantastic content will be wasted if your emails get lost in the shuffle. There are a lot of reasons people delete emails unread, or open them without actually reading the content and subsequently forget about them. Many of these reasons are related to timing.

The trick is to send out your emails at the best time of the day, on the best day of the week, and at the right intervals to get as many people as possible to open them.

How Often? Finding Your Email Marketing Interval

The best send frequency for email marketing messages has long been a subject of debate. If you look, you can find evidence that less is more, more is more, and every range in between is the “right” one, too. So how do you decide?

Fortunately, there are a few basic rules to apply here. We know that if you send email too often (say, every day), your customers will get either bored or annoyed, and start deleting your messages unread—or unsubscribe. And if you don’t send often enough (say, quarterly or bi-annually), your customers will forget who you are and what you do. In effect, you’re starting at the beginning of the conversion funnel every time.

The right interval really depends on your business, your customers’ expectations, and the type of content you send. If you use email lists to send out information-packed newsletters with lots of articles and resources, monthly is a good interval—it takes time to put all that information together, and quality is more important. If you’ve got a list for new subscribers that you’re using to send a series of building content, you might want to get those out close together—say three times a week.

In general, once a week or once every two weeks is a good interval. That way you’re not burying your subscribers in emails, but your messages are arriving often enough that they’ll remember you.

When to Send: Best Days and Times for Marketing Emails

Knowing which days of the week and times of the day more people open emails can give your email marketing campaigns a boost. Recent research from MarketingSherpa asked email marketers to let them know which days of the week gave them the best results. According to the findings:

  • Weekdays are more effective than weekends
  • Tuesdays had the highest effectiveness, with 26% saying their campaigns performed best on that day
  • Wednesdays are a close second at 23%, while Thursdays at 18% beat out Mondays at 15%, and double the effectiveness of Fridays at 9%
  • Sundays are the worst, with 42% saying they’re least effective. Saturday is right behind Sunday at 39% least effective.

As for the time of day, earlier seems to be better. Emails sent between midnight and 3 a.m.—so they’re waiting in your subscribers’ inboxes when they first check their email—are most effective, according to the latest Email Marketing Metrics Report from MailerMailer.

Of course, the best way to find your own most effective days and times is to analyze the results from your email marketing campaigns with send timing in mind. Find out when your highest open rates are, and adjust your mailing schedule accordingly.

Interested in learning more about the future of marketing in a multiscreen world? Register to receive a special report Tim produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

And, if all that’s not enough, you might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

About the Author:
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.

Image credit: Image courtesy of William Warby.

Tim Peter

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September 24, 2013

The Single Most Effective Way to Improve Your Brand's Digital Marketing (Travel Tuesday)

September 24, 2013 | By | No Comments

Ecommerce satisfaction cycleOK, Big Thinkers, it’s pop quiz time: If you’re a hotel, resort, or restaurant, what’s the single most effective way you can improve the value of your marketing? More to the point, what will kill your other marketing efforts if you don’t take care of it.

Now before those of you outside these industries run off— and before I answer the question— stick around for minute. For many industries, the same tactic matters just as much.

I’ll give you a few hints:

  • It’s not SEO.
  • It’s not paid search.
  • It’s not social media (at least not in the sense most people think of it).

So, what is this “magic” tactic?

It’s managing your online reviews.

Seriously.

Think about all the places your guests and customers encounter reviews and ratings for your business:

  • TripAdvisor
  • Yelp
  • Traditional search engines, like Google and Bing
  • Map sites like Google Maps, Mapquest, Waze, and Apple Maps (you can read more about the business implications of the integration of search and maps here)
  • Online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, and Hipmunk
  • Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — with many customers using the cameras and connectivity on their mobile phones to post pictures, ratings, and reviews while they’re in the middle of their stay
  • Travel and food blogs
  • Even brand websites for many hotel chains now feature ratings and reviews of their properties

In fact, just about every interaction a potential customer has with your brand online provides insights into what they can and should expect.

If you’re not a hotel, resort, or restaurant, don’t think you’re out of the woods. Plenty of dedicated sites exist across a variety of industries, while the non-industry specific sites (search engines, social networks, mapping tools and the like), often provide the same picture of your brand to customers.

So why are review sites such a big deal?

One word: Money.

Studies from Chris Anderson at the Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research and Michael Luca at Harvard Business School [PDF link] show revenue gains of around 5% to 11% for each increase in star rating across popular review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp (this data supports the findings from my own research behind the P’s & Q’s model I talked about a couple of weeks ago).

Now, review sites aren’t perfect. For one thing, recent data from Maritz Research [PDF downloads of part 1 and part 2 here), suggests that roughly 45%-60% of users trust the data (it varies by site and demographic group) and that only a small percentage of users actually write any reviews at all. (H/T to Tnooz for the link to the study).

One of the main reasons for that lack of trust stems from the frequency of false reviews from businesses either trying to promote their own brand or, worse, downgrade their competition. Happily, states have begun to crack down, with New York recently charging some businesses with false advertising for trying to game review sites. While a small step, it undoubtably signals a positive direction for businesses overall.

Or at least those focused on improving their review scores.

Conclusion

Your brand is not some mystical, intangible thing; instead a brand is the sum of all the experiences your customers have with your business. Not just what you tell guests about yourselves, but what they experience, every step of the way. Your customers travel through myriad steps prior to making a purchase decision and each step informs them a bit more about who you are and what value you provide. And, increasingly, reviews communicate your brand more effectively and more efficiently than any other marketing activity you undertake—whether it’s the brand story you want your guests to hear or not.

Yes, fake reviews are a problem. But that’s beginning to work itself out.

And, yes, improving your ratings and reviews takes effort. But not working to improve your customers perception of your brand and business costs you money, every day. I didn’t say it’s the easiest way to improve your marketing’s value. I simply said that it’s the most effective way. So, before you start another marketing campaign, take a look at what your customers say about your business and your brand, then ask yourself, what can I do to improve what they say about me.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of e-commerce and marketing via the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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September 18, 2013

Making the Most of Key Influencers in Social Media

September 18, 2013 | By | No Comments

Do you know what a Key Influencer is? Do you want to?

Of course you do.

Key Influencers are those well-regarded and widely respected folks who help promote your content , brand, and business to their friends, family, fans, and followers on social media channels.

But how do you get them to do that?

Well, that’s the topic of my latest Biznology post, “Content Marketing for Fun and Profit”. Check it out if you get the chance.

If you’re interested in learning more about the future of marketing on the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including:

Tim Peter

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July 31, 2013

How Connected are Social and Mobile?

July 31, 2013 | By | No Comments

I spend a lot of time talking and writing about the social, local, mobile web. One reason is due to how connected the two trends are. A chart offered on Business Insider today illustrates the connection clearly:

Social is mobile and vice versa

You can check out the whole article on Business Insider.

And if you’re interested in learning more about the future of marketing on the social, local, mobile web, register to receive a special report I’ve produced in conjunction with hotel marketing firm Vizergy, “Digital Hotel Marketing in a Multiscreen World.” While it’s targeted specifically at hotel and resort marketers, the lessons apply to just about any business. You can get your free copy of the report here.

You might also enjoy some of our past coverage of the social, local, mobile web and what it means for your business, including: