Content Marketing

What Does It Really Mean Series: Native Advertising

570074655_1280x720Next in our “What Does It Really Mean” series is Native Advertising. This is another one of those confusing industry buzzwords, but one that’s important because native advertising is everywhere. With more people turning off traditional forms of advertising, marketers are employing more subtle forms of messaging. You may have engaged with native advertising and not even know it. Let me demystify native advertising for you.

What is native advertising?

Native advertising is paid advertising that’s so artfully created that it blends seamlessly into the non-paid content that surrounds it. It’s designed to trick you into believing that these native ads are actually part of the content. As a result, they’re much less disruptive and more engaging than traditional advertisements.

How does native advertising differ from traditional forms of advertising?

Traditional display ads are the boxes and banners we’re all used to seeing at the top of search engine results pages. These ads are obvious promotions with calls to action; their purpose is to get you to buy. Native ads are totally different. They’re created to match the look and feel of the content they’re seamlessly integrated with so that they appear to be part of the content itself. When executed well, you shouldn’t be able to pick out the native ad in the content. They’re not designed to sell; they’re designed to influence content, generate brand awareness and improve site traffic. It’s quite a piece of clever trickery.

What are the benefits of native advertising?

As consumers, we’ve become ad savvy. We can spot paid ads a mile away and we don’t trust them. Many of us don’t consider traditional ads relevant anymore and as a result we block them. According to a new report by PageFair, ad blocker usage surged 30% in 2016. There were 615 million devices blocking ads worldwide by the end of 2016, 62% (308 million) of those mobile. Desktop ad blocker usage grew 17% year-over-year to 236 million. As a result, native advertising is proving to be more successful than traditional online advertising. On mobile devices the average click-through rates are four times higher for premium native ads versus non-native display ads (Business Insider). Native ads are not easily identified as paid advertising and therefore there’s a greater chance that the consumer will trust a native ad and engage with it. According to Forbes:

  • People view native ads 53% more frequently than traditional ads
  • Native advertising can increase brand lift by as much as 82%.
  • Purchase intent is 53% higher when consumers click on native ads instead of traditional ads
  • Native ads containing rich media can boost conversion by as much as 60%

Are there any disadvantages to using native advertising?

Native advertising is very effective as long as people remain unaware that they’re reading and possibly engaging with an advertisement. The potential problems arise if the ad’s cover is blown. You then risk a backlash by people who feel tricked and could potentially develop a negative mindset against your brand.

If you’re interested in learning more about native advertising or would like to incorporate it into your marketing campaign, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today. Our expert advice, strategy, planning and execution can make a significant difference to your bottom line.

Advertisements

Are You Missing the Boat with Social Media?

28011015990_8ff191ee0f_bSocial media is buzz word on everyone’s lips, yet it remains a mystery to many people. According to Social Media Examiner, 97% of marketers are currently participating in social media—but 85% of participants aren’t sure what social media tools are the best to use. I can’t tell you how many times I get a phone call from a business saying that social media doesn’t work for them and can I help. Of course I can help and I do because CreativeWorks Marketing has been helping companies succeed in the “social” space for years. I thought I’d take this opportunity to demystify social media for you – explain what it is and how best to use it.

What is social media?

Many people are under the mistaken impression that the content posted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and the like is social media because we’re using the term generically to describe any online content. Let’s look at what social media really is. The word social refers to interacting with people by sharing and receiving information. Media refers to which virtual community, platform, application or network the interaction takes place.

How can you use social media effectively?

Social media is an extremely effective way to connect with your audience and build relationships. It’s about useful, relevant and engaging conversations. Ask questions, encourage comments and opinions. It’s not a broadcast channel for you to bombard your audience with highly generic content that they will surely ignore. Audiences respond to conversation, not promotion. Conversation seems genuine while promotion is perceived as an advertising ploy. Social media is a meeting place and an integral part of the brand and customer experience.

  • Set goals and objectives
  • Make sure your content aligns with your message
  • Ask questions that start a conversation
  • Respond promptly
  • Share your expertise
  • Provide value
  • Monitor, track and evaluate

Ask yourself these questions before posting content on social media

Many people feel compelled to post, even when they have nothing to say. There must be a purpose and objectives.

  • Who is my audience?
  • What platforms are they using?
  • What type of content should we be posting?
  • Is our content personalized for our audience?
  • Are our social media posts aligned with our messaging?
  • Are we engaging our audience?
  • How can we measure our results?

Is social media for you?

92% of marketers say they have increased exposure through social media, and 80% see positive results for traffic (Social Media Examiner). When used effectively social media offers real opportunities for growth, engagement, increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, improved customer experiences, decreased marketing costs, improved search engine rankings, increased inbound traffic and higher conversion rates. Social media is important for every business! There are over 3 billion internet users and over 2 billion of them have active social media accounts (wearesocial.net).

However, as you no doubt have discovered, an effective social media campaign is very complex with many variables. Contact CreativeWorks Marketing. We have a great deal of experience creating social media strategies as well as ongoing social media services (writing and posting). Let us put you on the path to social media success.

How To Make Podcasts Part of Your Winning Strategy

In my previous blog post, I went over some of the key advantages of using podcasts as part of your marketing mix. Now I’d like to share with you 5 tips on how to incorporate podcasts into your marketing strategy.

1) Understand Your Strategy

Before you dive in head first, take a minute to understand how podcasting will fit in with your overall marketing strategy. Podcasts are great when they are used in addition to your company’s already-established brand, but they may not be the best method to get a new company up and running.

2) Differentiate Yourself from the Noise

Let’s face it; there are a lot of podcasts out there. You may be wondering how you are going to stand out. My suggestion to you is to come up with unique and engaging information. Do you have an interesting angle on a certain topic? Do you know any industry thought leaders you could interview? Imagine the types of content that would keep you engaged, and deliver that to your listeners.

3) Provide Great Conversations

It’s all about the content you deliver, but we can’t forget about how you deliver that content. In my experience, using a conversational tone works much better than simply dumping information onto your listeners. Consider having two speakers on your podcast, and try drafting your script as a question-and-answer style. This will make your podcast more accessible to your listeners.

4) Use Your Resources

Podcasts are all about the audio, so when it comes to choosing the right recording equipment, it’s crucial you don’t cut any corners. I suggest investing in a high quality microphone, good audio software, and a headphone. As you can probably imagine, this can get a little pricey. It may be a good idea to evaluate whether you want to invest the money and energy in creating your own content, or outsource it.

5) Promote Your Content

Just because you’ve finished recording doesn’t mean the process is over! The last step in creating a podcast is sharing it with your audience. Promoting your content won’t take you too long, but it will make all the difference. Some great ways to promote your podcast include: encouraging subscriptions, sharing it on your social media channels, and promoting it through email marketing.

Podcasts really have become an invaluable tool for marketers. I encourage you to consider adding podcasts to your marketing mix – it may just be your business’s next big thing.

To find out more about how you can use podcasts in your marketing strategy, contact CreativeWorks Marketing today.

Content Contempt

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog about the lessons we learned from marketing in 2016. One topic I touched on in that blog was about purchasing content on the Internet. I’d like to delve deeper into this issue because as a marketer, content creation is one of my main responsibilities.

So what exactly is content marketing? The Content Marketing Institute describes it as “the technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

Content marketing is key to the marketing process because it adds value to your business in the eyes of your customer. Your business’ page is not just a website where you can purchase a service, it’s a website where people can go to learn about your business and what you stand for. That’s why I was surprised when I started noticing a lot more pay-for-content websites appearing online. These websites are essentially content stores; a user can go in and purchase a generic blog or a video while gaining the usage rights. Who is writing the content about your business and for your customers seems to be not too relevant or valued. Although you can pay extra for it to be “customized” content, the writer does not know your voice, your brand, your company, you, or the value you bring to your customers.

While this content is quick and easy, as a professional marketer, I know how important it is to know my customers before I can write for them. Whenever I finish a blog or an article, I have to look at it and say, “Would my client say this?” If not, I have to re-work it. If blogs are used as persuasive text written by an industry authority to inform a targeted audience about an industry issue, then that content needs to be an informed and educated one.

The blog writing process can be lengthy and it can be difficult to fully capture someone’s voice and opinion on a subject, which is why bloggers often interview, create outlines, have many conversations, discuss topic ideas and angles before writing the first word. This process is not part of the “buy a blog” dot com experience; in fact it is quite the opposite.

I have personally tested many of these online content sites, only to find spelling mistakes or generic content that adds no value to the conversation online. I have downloaded a blog on LinkedIn, only to find LinkedIn spelled incorrectly. If small business owners were to simply buy and post the content, what would be the result?

I have heard that from a Search Engine Optimization perspective, these online sites offer great content, but blogs contain SEO based on the sheer fact that they are online content, not just based on keywords thrown in. More importantly, I don’t feel a quest for SEO results should detract from the value of a good blog.

I work with a lot of small businesses, and one of the main things they want to promote to their customers is the personalized quality of their service. I am not convinced that any online content provider site can create this level of quality prose, simply because there is no investment in understanding exactly what the client’s value is to their audience.

When it comes down to it, marketing isn’t a commodity. It’s about the relationships you form with your clients and the work you produce for them to get them the results they want. I love the feeling of writing something amazing for my clients, because I know that both themselves and their clients will get value from the message.

So next time you are shopping online for content, remember: if you don’t value the content on your site, how can you expect your clients to?

The Social Media Election

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been glued to the American presidential election since it began to heat up earlier this year. This election is different from others for a number of reasons. For the first time ever, a woman is the Democratic nominee for president. Her opponent, the leader of the Republican Party, is loudly entering the political arena for the first time. Whatever the outcome is tonight, the 2016 election will be looked upon as a “social media election”.

In the 2012 American presidential election, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were the first candidates who really used social media to gauge voter interest in their campaigns. Facebook was a reliable channel for distributing key campaign messages for both parties, and Twitter was just starting to make waves. Obama successfully generated almost 20 million more followers than Romney did on the platform, and secured the presidency in November of that year. Obama’s victory tweet after winning the election became the most retweeted piece of content on the platform up to that point.

While social media had a huge influence on the last election, nothing can top how it’s altered the current presidential race. The two candidates have been using social media for years, thus allowing voters to tap into their past posts. Take this tweet by Donald Trump, for example:

Somehow I can’t see Ronald Reagan saying something like this.

The use of social media allows presidential candidates to give minute-by-minute updates on their campaign and gives voters direct access into their professional and private lives. Donald Trump has been successful in using his Twitter account to influence his voters throughout his presidential campaign. His brash language and brutal honesty has positioned him as a “no-nonsense” candidate. While some voters find this behavior unsettling, he has appealed to the untapped demographic of American voters who want to abolish political correctness.

Hilary Clinton might not be as “honest” as Donald Trump, but she also has an impressive social media presence. Her slogan “#ImWithHer” has been shared millions of times all over social media. Due to her large celebrity fan base, Democratic social media influencers like Katy Perry and Lena Dunham continue to share supportive messages and images.

Trump relies heavily on his Twitter account while Clinton has broadened her social media presence through Snapchat, blogs and apps. While running completely different campaigns, both candidates have secured a huge social media following. Twitter and Facebook accounts are free to use, but don’t let that fool you into thinking social media hasn’t cost each campaign dearly. Donald Trump’s campaign spent $200,000 to purchase the promoted hashtag of the day, allowing it to be seen from every Twitter user in the U.S. through sponsored posts and the trending hashtags sidebar.

What has me so concerned as a marketer is that social media has provided voters with an inside look into the candidates, but it might not be the most reliable way to judge a future president. As we all know, social media is great for storytelling but that doesn’t mean it always reflects reality. One thing I have noticed throughout this entire campaign is that we’ve begun to lose sight of the actual issues at hand. Stories about Donald Trump’s latest misogynistic tweets are as much of a story as the crisis in Aleppo. While social media has played an important role in this election, it’s important to note that it is not the only factor Americans should be looking into when electing their next president.

So where do we go from here? I think it’s safe to say that neither candidate will have their own true voice on social media if they are elected President of The United States.

From a marketing standpoint, both these candidates have utilized social media to their advantage by creating consistent content marketing campaigns to appeal to their voters. However, voters in the United States need to consider that a candidate’s social media personality is likely to change once they have been elected, so they need to be confident in their candidate as a leader, not a tweeter.

Rethinking Your Brand: When Your Audience Doesn’t Like Your Brand

Last week, Canadians were glued to televisions across the country as they watched The Toronto Blue Jays take on the Cleveland Indians in what became their final playoff game of the season. As exciting as that was for us Canadians, a separate story was emerging, focused on something other than the sport itself, specifically the name “Cleveland Indians”.

This team’s name has been involved in controversy for many years, but this year in particular it all came to a head. The term “Indian” is a derogatory term that just isn’t used anymore, as it is very insulting to our First Nations people. The Canadian public was so offended by the team’s brand that even an activist filed a request to ban the team from using their name and logo in the remaining games on the grounds of racial discrimination.

I draw your attention to this issue because as a marketer, it highlights the importance of a brand. The Cleveland Indians’ brand is obviously alienating people, and as public opinion influences buying decisions, this in turn affects the baseball team’s bottom line.

While this is an extreme case, the concept of rebranding to adjust to social values isn’t unheard of. For example, Kentucky Fried Chicken rebranded to KFC in 1991 as health concerns around fried foods as well as rumours of genetically modified chicken were growing. By taking the words chicken and fried out of the brand name, it allowed them to distance themselves from these unpopular public opinions, diversify their product offerings and thereby strengthen their relationship with existing customers ad appeal to a new ones.

If your audience is weighing in on your brand, and it’s creating a negative buzz about your brand as it is with the Cleveland Indians, then it’s time to revaluate your brand strategy. The first step in doing this is conducting market research.

While your brand might not be offensive or politically incorrect, make sure it reflects the values your customers expect to see from your product or service. For example, if you’ve always been known as the leader of a certain product, check to see if your competitors have met your match, or if your loyal customers value the fact that you are a leader.

Hire a marketing agency familiar with your brand, or work with a research firm to conduct market research on your customers and find out more about what they value, why they choose you, and what your brand means to them. Getting feedback directly from your audience will allow you to not only identify who your audience is, but also the types of messaging and values that have meaning to them.

Your brand must be aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values, so conducting research with your customers to help with your audiences will allow you to create a brand identity that will benefit both parties.

Your brand is your promise to your customer. It represents your organization’s values and sets you apart from your competition. It is who you are. Rebranding your company to align better to the values of your customers is a big first step to improving the connection and relationship you have with your audience. And ultimately, don’t we all want loyal customers who value what we do?

The Future of Social Media

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.10.25 AM.pngThe future of social media is a topic of endless conversation with many differing opinions. The truth is that no one knows what the future will bring, but that doesn’t stop anyone from putting in their two cents. One thing I can tell you for sure is that things will continue to change and evolve.

Social networks have been in existence for quite some time and contrary to popular belief, Facebook was not one of the first. A social networking site called Six Degrees was founded in 1997. It allowed users to create a profile and then friend other users. After that ICQ, my Space, LinkedIn (still in existence) and others came along. Facebook didn’t exist until 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg registered thefacebook.com domain and Twitter didn’t arrive on the scene until 2006. As you can see it’s really in the last 10 years that social media has exploded on the landscape and become a worldwide phenomenon.

How are we using social networks?

  1. News/current affairs
  2. Staying in touch with friends and family
  3. Reconnecting with old friends
  4. Sharing photos/videos
  5. Dating
  6. Business networking
  7. Connecting with people who share a hobby/interest
  8. Promoting products/services
  9. Filling spare time
  10. Connecting with political/public figures

Who’s using social networks?

Women and men use social media at similar rates. Young adults aged 18 – 29 are the most likely to use social media. The biggest increase in usage is among adults aged 65+. (Pew Research Center)

What will the future of social media look like?

A few trends in the future of social media are beginning to emerge.

  • Instead of enormous catch-all sites like Facebook, social media sites that are vertical specific – music, cars, films, sports (or sport specific) – have huge potential.
  • All social media sites will be responsive to mobile.
  • Shopping on social media sites will be common.
  • Businesses will encourage employees to share content.
  • Targeted social media advertising will increase.
  • Social video is the way of the future.

Social media is here to stay. As smoke signals eventually evolved into the mobile phone, I know social media will continue to evolve and to me, the future looks exciting.