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The Currency of Influence in Marketing — Buy, Sell, or Trade

Paper currencies from many nations image.

Paper currencies from many nations image.

Influence is its own form of a modern digital currency. Influence is able to overcome almost any obstacle, and more than ever, it's the powerful (sometimes-hidden) global fuel that helps drive our multi-trillion dollar online business world.

In fact, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer “In Brands We Trust?” report, 63% of consumers trust what influencers say about brands much more than what brands say about themselves within their advertising messages.

An even more telling statistic from the same study is that 58% said they had purchased a product in the past six months because of an influencer, as shown below.

2019 Edelman Trust Influencer Image

As the internet has matured since its 1991 creation, networking between people around the world has expanded to truly astounding heights, helping make wonderful projects and partnerships happen.

[bctt tweet="It’s not about who has the most followers, or the gaudiest personal brand. It’s about who resonates most with your specific customers and prospects. — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN" username="toprank"]

By learning the importance of influence, how best to incorporate it into your own life and marketing, and how to deal with some of its primary challenges, B2B marketers and brands can harness the power of influence and reach new levels of business and personal success.

Whether you call it influence, networking pull, or professional persuasion, connecting with successful people in your industry will bolster your own efforts both today and long into the future.

Buy: Influence Is Loaded With Strengths

Influencer Word Highlighted by Marker

Successfully wielding online influence today puts the world at your fingertips.

As with gold or paper money, the currency of influence can be earned, accumulated, spent, traded, or used towards philanthropic causes.

When influence is willingly shared it has the special quality of creating other new introductions and connections, setting in motion a sphere of professional networking and knowledge that can keep growing as long as you put in the effort to understand and maintain it.

[bctt tweet="Working with influencers is about building solid relationships that last over time, not just a summer fling. — Ashley Zeckman @azeckman" username="toprank"]

Just as influence comes in vastly varying degrees, so to do influencers, who can take the form of micro-influencers or other specialty varieties. Recent data from several surveys shows that micro and niche-influencers are forging stronger target audience connections and boosting long-term loyalty.

Heather-Mae Pusztai of Buffer recently took a close look at micro-influencers, in “Why Micro-Influencers May Be the Most Effective Influencer Marketing Strategy.”

[bctt tweet="Topically, the influencers you work with must have relevant expertise, insight, interest, and audience, ultimately aligning with your goals and expertise of your brand. — Caitlin Burgess @CaitlinMBurgess" username="toprank"]

More and more brands are looking to harness the power of influence through influencer marketing initiatives. In fact, influencer marketing spending in the U.S. and Canada has seen 83% year-over-year growth, accompanied by second-quarter spending of $442 million, according to recent research data from Instascreener. Over the next 12 months, 65% of multinational brands plan to increase influencer marketing spending, according to the World Federation of Advertisers.

We’ve explored the unique strengths of influencer marketing in many recent articles, including these helpful takes:

Sell: Influence Is Rife With Challenges

Woman rock climber scaling vertical wall.

Who really has influence and who is merely claiming to? Building influence is time-consuming, so why should I even bother?

There’s little doubt that celebrity influencers have faced increasing skepticism, but the process of finding true B2B industry experts who are hyper-relevant to your industry is as important as ever, and we’ve looked at how to go about this in several recent pieces:

The challenges influencer marketing has faced are real yet surmountable, especially when campaigns are conducted for the long term, with proper planning, key performance indicators (KPIs), and goals.

When done well, it’s no wonder that 95% of respondents to a recent DGR survey favor credible content from industry influencers, a 30% increase over 2018.

[bctt tweet="Cutting edge B2B influencer marketing focuses on both online and offline engagements. — Konstanze Alex @konstanze" username="toprank"]

The topic of influencer marketing was present during this year's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, as Maja Pawinska Sims covered in "Cannes: Brands Can Avoid Being Fake By Shifting To Niche Influencers," and in our recent "6 Cannes Revelations About B2B Marketing in 2020."

Trade: Influence’s Future Strong Yet Still Unfolding

Woman holding ball of energy image.

Measuring influence has changed over time and will continue to evolve.

Will the ability to achieve and grow online influence remain fully accessible to everyone, or will those holding little influence and clout face insurmountable obstacles in the future?

Will a backlash against celebrity influencers — or perhaps even twinfluencers — continue, or will methods and systems evolve that help us filter out pretenders and make it easier to discover and connect with true industry experts?

[bctt tweet="The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come. @leeodden" username="toprank"]

Educator and writer Lillie Marshall recently took a look at the challenges that even using the word influencer can sometimes present, and the role diversity can play when considering the quality of influence. She ultimately prefers using the word "sway" over influence, a fine synonym in my book as well.

[bctt tweet="It’s a fine balance to embrace the power and joy of our voices, yet honor what audiences truly desire. — Lillie Marshall @WorldLillie" username="toprank"]

Several additional resources we've compiled to dig in and explore how influence and influencer marketing can intertwine to help B2B firms are these:

[bctt tweet="Whether you’re tired of or wired for 'influencer marketing', make no mistake: The growth of influence on individual and organizational effectiveness in the B2B marketing world will continue for years to come. @leeodden" username="toprank"]

Influencer Marketing Offers a Win-Win Partnership

Win-win Scrabble tiles image.

Whether you call it influencer marketing or working with top relevant experts in your industry, the quality of influence itself has a timeless and unmistakable power to drive successful marketing campaigns.

[bctt tweet="When identifying and qualifying influencers, go beyond what the numbers are and see what that data really means. — Amisha Gandhi @AmishaGandhi" username="toprank"]

Here are three articles with examples of how influencer marketing has helped B2B firms achieve strong results:

With enough hard work, great fortunes of influence can be earned and put to use, whether in marketing campaigns or other areas of our lives.

Finding a marketing agency specializing in influencer marketing can be difficult enough, and if you need one focused on the world of B2B, the challenge can be all the more daunting.

Thankfully, the number of marketers realizing the power of influencer marketing has grown, and even esteemed measurement groups like Forrester have begun listing B2B agencies that specialize in influencer marketing. TopRank Marketing was thrilled to be the only such agency listed in Forrester’s most recent “B2B Marketing Agencies, North America, Q1 2019” report.

Want to dive deeper into influencer marketing tips, tricks, tactics, and strategies? Then take a gander at our vast collection of influence marketing insights on the TopRank Marketing Blog.

The post The Currency of Influence in Marketing — Buy, Sell, or Trade appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Organize Your Team for Successful Organic Social Campaigns

Do you want to do more with your organic social media activities? Is working with many different team members and departments slowing you down? In this article, you’ll discover how to increase the success of your organic social activities while working with many people. #1: Gather Your Foundational Campaign Elements Start by building your organic […]

The post How to Organize Your Team for Successful Organic Social Campaigns appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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Content Marketing Interview: Annie Granatstein on Creating Emotionally Engaging Content Experiences #CMWorld

Interview with Annie Granasteing of The Washington Post

Interview with Annie Granasteing of The Washington Post

We are all products of our environments, and the experiences we carry are invariably influential to the way we approach and think about our jobs. 

Recently we shared an interview with Margaret Magnarelli, who spent nearly a decade as a magazine editor before moving into a content marketing leadership role. With her background in journalism, she offers important perspective for marketers everywhere.

The same is true for Annie Granatstein, who lives at the center of the convergence between investigative journalism and brand marketing. Annie runs The Washington Post’s BrandStudio unit, which takes The Post’s award-winning proclivity for immersive digital storytelling and leverages it on behalf of brands and advertisers.

Peruse BrandStudio’s archive and you’ll find a wide range of multimedia techniques applied to bring stories to life. These include 360-degree environments, photo tours, augmented reality applications, choose-your-own-adventure journeys, and more. With the theme of this year’s Content Marketing World being show-stopping experiences that delight our audiences, the work being done by Annie’s team deserves our full attention.

She was one of the CMWorld speakers who contributed to our interactive conference preview experience, where she proclaims that engaging our audiences emotionally should be an utmost priority. 

The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth

In her extended interview with TopRank Marketing, Annie elaborates on how BrandStudio is pursuing this objective, with plenty of examples and insights to illustrate.

Annie Granatstein on Immersive, Emotional Content Experiences

1. What do your day-to-day duties as Head of WP BrandStudio entail? 

I oversee a multi-disciplinary team of content strategists, writers, editors, interactive designers, developers, program managers, producers, and social media and onsite performance strategists. We work together to conceive, create, and promote branded content programs for Washington Post advertisers that are story-first, data-driven, technology-forward. On any given day I move between pre- and post-sale, and also between high-level management and hands-on creative oversight. So I might spend some time developing business strategy or strategizing team structure and then move to editing an article, giving notes on a video cut, or providing creative direction on proposals.

2. Compelling stories are table stakes for content marketers these days. To stand out, we need to elevate these narratives through more immersive and engaging experiences. How can we all better embrace this central philosophy of BrandStudio?

The key to creating more immersive experiences is collaboration between different types of talent. As a content leader you must find ways to continuously encourage and improve that collaboration. One way we’ve done this is by creating multi-disciplinary initiatives such as our Emerging Media Taskforce. 

This group of about eight creatives from across the Studio’s disciplines gets together once a month to discuss which innovations in storytelling are most promising, plan for researching and prototyping them, and report back to each other. Innovations such as in-browser AR and development of proprietary emotion recognition technology arose out of this Taskforce. We then can use these innovations to create out-of-the-box content for advertisers. One example is we used the emotion recognition technology in a 360 campaign for Mike’s Hard Lemonade where our audience was able to see how good news affects their emotions in digital content (see The Good News Effect) and at an exciting experiential event.

In addition, it’s essential to use data to show advertisers the ROI of immersive experiences. For example, we have found that immersive experiences tend to drive higher time spent, and we’ll show this data to advertisers to encourage them to invest in this type of content. 

[bctt tweet="The key to creating more immersive experiences is collaboration between different types of talent. @anniegranat" username="toprank"]

3. Your team uses a variety of multimedia techniques to bring content to life, including 360-degree experiences, photo tours, motion graphics, illustrated articles, and more. Which formats and features do you see as most promising and versatile in the marketing world?

It’s all about what works best on mobile since the majority are engaging with content on the small screen. Certain interactive experiences are truly mobile-friendly or even mobile-first such as 360 experiences which can be navigated with your finger or by moving your phone. 

Augmented reality is still fledgling but exciting as it’s truly mobile-first, and recent technological developments have allowed for the experiences to be available in-browser (versus in-app), reaching a larger audience. For MGM National Harbor, for example, we enhanced an article about cherry blossom season with an AR experience of cherry trees blossoming through your phone (open Hanami at Home on your mobile device). As we made this experience available in browser we saw 4x the scale of AR experiences only available on the Washington Post app. 

Custom podcasts are also a great way to reach people on mobile—deeply. We’ve had a lot of success engaging audiences for long periods of time with a variety of podcasts, including multiple seasons of a personal finance podcast for T. Rowe Price, The Confident Wallet, which garnered six-figure downloads and 4.5/5-star average ratings on Apple Podcasts.

[bctt tweet="Custom podcasts are a great way to reach people on mobile—deeply. We’ve had a lot of success engaging audiences for long periods of time with a variety of podcasts. @anniegranat" username="toprank"]

4. Given the diversity of topics you cover, what are some steps BrandStudio takes to better understand specific audiences, and what might resonate most with them?

So many! Understanding The Post’s different audiences is a number one priority for the team. The better we know our audience, the better we can create content that resonates with them, providing more value to our advertisers.

We tap into many data sources, like content performance and audience interest surveys. We test experiences in our UX Lab. We derive insights from this data to understand what will resonate with different audiences. We also think of our audience in three categories — consumer, business, and thought leader — and use these insights to dive deep into the characteristics, interests, and content habits of each. We then use these insights to inform the story, content type, and distribution tactics.

5. Can you cite one or two of BrandStudio’s most successful and well-received programs, adding your perspective on what made them pop with audiences?

For Optum, a health services innovation company, we created a multimedia investigative feature on the opioid crisis, Working to End the Epidemic, that blended educational elements such as infographics and interactive maps to inform our audience of the scope of the epidemic with emotional, human elements such as video interviews with recovering addicts and treatment providers. 

The program was incredibly successful, garnering high time spent, a flurry of social media activity (including organic tweets from important influencers such as Katie Couric), earned media (named to the top of Ad Age best branded content partnerships list), and awards. This blend of educational and emotional elements on a pressing topic resonates deeply with our intellectually curious and highly intelligent audience.

6. Which speakers and/or sessions are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Content Marketing World?

I’m always interested to hear the perspectives of folks leading content inside brands since it’s the flipside of my perspective running a publisher-based content studio. So, really looking forward to talks from execs, such as:

  • Maliha Aqeel, Assistant Director of Brand, Marketing & Communication, Ernst & Young
  • Carlos Abler, Leader of Content Marketing Strategy, 3M
  • Ann Bakuniene-Milanowski, Director of Editorial, Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic is also a valued, long-term partner of WP BrandStudio and The Washington Post overall. We have created truly innovative and important content together such as this multimedia feature on treating brain disorders as we age, Keeping Your Mind.

More Memorable Stories Await

You’ll be able to witness plenty of of immersive storytelling on-stage at Content Marketing World 2019, and you’ll definitely want to check out Annie’s session on Sept. 4 at 11:20 a.m.: Speaking Their Language: How to Engage Different Types of Audiences with Content that is Uniquely Meaningful.

Until then, you’ll find plenty of uniquely meaningful content (plus a couple of fun games to play) in our interactive experience, The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth!

The post Content Marketing Interview: Annie Granatstein on Creating Emotionally Engaging Content Experiences #CMWorld appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Set Up a Facebook Ad Funnel for eCommerce Products

Wondering how to sell your eCommerce products with Facebook ads? Looking for an easy-to-follow Facebook ad funnel you can adapt to your business? In this article, you’ll find a step-by-step guide for creating a complete Facebook ad funnel that works. #1: Set Up Your eCommerce Site With Facebook Before diving into how to set up […]

The post How to Set Up a Facebook Ad Funnel for eCommerce Products appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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Facebook Group Privacy Changes and What Marketers Need to Know

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Social Media Marketing Talk Show, a news show for marketers who want to stay on the leading edge of social media. On this week’s Social Media Marketing Talk Show, we explore updates to Facebook Group privacy with Dana Malstaff and new chat features being tested on Twitter with […]

The post Facebook Group Privacy Changes and What Marketers Need to Know appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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How to Wireframe a Landing Page: 6 steps

A look at the wireframing process we use for our websites at MECLABS Institute (MarketingSherpa.com, MarketingExperiments.com, and MECLABS.com)

The post How to Wireframe a Landing Page: 6 steps appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

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Digital Marketing News: Most Google Searches Don’t Yield Clicks, Facebook Drops Group Chat, Diminishing Ad Trust & More

The post Digital Marketing News: Most Google Searches Don’t Yield Clicks, Facebook Drops Group Chat, Diminishing Ad Trust & More appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Create Videos That Sell

Do you use videos to sell your products or services? Looking for a proven model to help you sell with videos? To explore how to create videos that sell, I interview Owen Video on the Social Media Marketing Podcast. Owen is a speaker, live-stream host, and event MC. He’s also the founder of The Video […]

The post How to Create Videos That Sell appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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Wow Your Crowd: How Influencers and Media Integrations Can Add Pizzazz to Your Content Act

3 Pointers for Adding Pizzazz to Your Content Marketing Act

Some performers take the stage all by themselves, with no props or partners to lend support, and capture their audience with a riveting solo act. Hilarious standup comedy routines and enlightening TED Talks exemplify this ability in action. 

As a content marketer, there are occasions where a well written piece will take off on its own, with no help required beyond a powerful message presented clearly. But more often, spicing things up with added elements of interactivity or visual pizzazz provides a necessary added boost in today’s busy digital environment. And incorporating the right strategic partners is a reliable way to increase your program’s reach and impact.

When I attended my first Digital Summit Minneapolis two years ago, Seth Godin delivered the opening keynote. He employed a technique that still stands out in my mind to this day. Following a fairly brief monologue, he pulled out a plush cube toy and tossed it into the audience, encouraging the recipient to ask him a question and then throw it to anyone else around them in the crowd. This went on for about 30 minutes.

With one ultra-simple prop, Seth brought freshness to the familiar and turned his audience into part of the show. This represents a broader goal for modern content marketers of all stripes, and one we can achieve digitally through various emerging tactics. 

Plenty of other practitioners are mastering the art of elevating experiences through audience immersion today. Whether through props (multimedia, interactivity, augmented reality) or partnerships (influencers, user-generated content, co-creation), they add an extra flare that makes content irresistibly engaging. How?

Ahead of Content Marketing World 2019, TopRank Marketing teamed up with Content Marketing Institute to create an insight-fueled interactive experience: The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth. One of the most vital topics covered — and one that will surely be a central focus at CMWorld 2019 — is picking the right props and partners to propel your content. Today we’ll touch on some key insights from those leading the way.

3 Pointers on Adding Punch to Your Content Act

#1 - Choose Influencers that Align with Your Strategy

Siegfried and Roy make the perfect pairing. So do Penn and Teller. But if you remixed those combinations, it probably wouldn’t work out so well. (Poor old Teller would be silently limping away from a performance covered in tiger scratches.)

At TopRank Marketing, we obviously believe in the power of partnering with influencers. But in order for this strategy to pay dividends, you need to put serious thought and research into the selection process. It is essential to identify influencers who align with what you’re trying to do, have the relevant topical expertise, and will resonate with the audience you’re trying to reach.

“Finding ideal influencers for impact means discovering those with on-topic credibility, the ability to publish, an engaged network and a willingness to share,” says our CEO Lee Odden. This collection of qualities is harder to find than you might think, but once you do, compelling collaboration awaits.

It’s a mistake to base influencer selection solely on celebrity or star power. In many cases the most fitting partner will be someone with a smaller but more tightly attuned and aligned audience. Lee often says “everyone is influential about something,” and sometimes the most relevant thought leaders are living outside of the spotlight. For now.

[bctt tweet="Brandividuals can drive awareness, subject matter experts can create engagement and customers who advocate can help inspire sales. @leeodden on #influencermarketing alignment #CMWorld " username="toprank"]

#2 - Put On an Eye-Catching Show 

In his extended interview with us, Andrew Davis had one overarching message for video marketers: show, don’t tell. We are often not doing enough to take advantage of this medium’s visual nature, he argues, and as such we’re leaving opportunities on the table. 

“Instead of a talking head or another interview, how can you SHOW me?” he asks. “Spend more time shooting the rest of the story and immediately, you'll take your videos from drab to show-stopping.” 

Bringing a TV producer’s mindset to the discipline, Andrew advocates for shooting plenty of B-roll footage that you can intercut with your main narrative to keep the action moving throughout. This applies beyond video content, as well; we should always be looking for ways to catch a viewer’s eyes, even (especially?) when dealing with written text. Don’t forget about the importance of sound, either.

[bctt tweet="You shouldn't forget about the soundtrack for your video … sound effects and music go a long way to making video that works. @DrewDavisHere on #videomarketing #CMWorld" username="toprank"]

Delivering a high-quality, visually interesting video production doesn’t necessarily require deep expertise or a lofty budget. As we wrote last year in offering up video marketing tips for beginners, your efforts will benefit from proper preparation, creative use of resources, practice, and purpose.  

#3 - Appeal to Audience Emotions

The most effective way to create a memorable experience for your audience is to engage them emotionally. There are many different ways to approach this — through humor, suspense, sadness, etc. — but the bottom line is that you need to make them feel something.  

Annie Granatstein, who runs WP BrandStudio for the Washington Post, is at the frontline of emotionally connective content. With a purpose of elevating experiential storytelling through diverse multimedia integration and other emerging technologies, BrandStudio is a model for modern marketers everywhere.

“One example is an investigative multimedia feature covering the opioid crisis for Optum, blending emotional videos and evocative imagery with interactive infographics to educate our audience on the epidemic and solutions,” she says. You can explore that experience here.

As content marketers, we have a vast assortment of tools and tech at our fingertips, and they can bring our initiatives to life in unprecedented ways. It’s all about choosing the right ones for what you’re trying to accomplish. As you weigh the merits of techniques like motion graphics, 360-degree experiences, augmented reality, and photo tours — all mainstays in the BrandStudio mix — think always about which will be most effective for building those crucial emotional connections.

[bctt tweet="Multimedia and interactivity are in our wheelhouse at WP BrandStudio for driving engagement with our stories. @anniegranat on building emotional connections with content #CMWorld" username="toprank"]

By striking the intersection of influencers, visual appeal, and interactivity via technologies like VR, we can bypass the barriers of traditionally dry verticals and earn emotional investment from our audience, as Lee discussed earlier this year at B2B Marketing Exchange:

Enter the Era of Integrated Content Experiences

As Seth Godin remarked in his aforementioned Digital Summit keynote, “When a system changes, the people who come out ahead are the people who change.” 

Content marketing is changing. The bar has been raised when it comes to engaging our audiences in an era of attention deficits and content saturation. Building meaningful emotional connections by integrating the right influencers, multimedia, and interactive elements presents the key to delighting audiences and driving action. 

You’ll learn plenty more about the changing content landscape at Content Marketing World 2019 when the curtains open on Sept. 3, 2019 in Cleveland. Before then, you can find plenty more guidance on taking your programs to the next level in our interactive experience, The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth.

The post Wow Your Crowd: How Influencers and Media Integrations Can Add Pizzazz to Your Content Act appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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How to Create a Model of Your Customer’s Mind

(This article was originally published in the MarketingExperiments email newsletter.) Marketer, you know you have a good product. In fact, it’s exceptional. And you need to get this message out to as many people as possible in the most effective way. So, you have a message you are trying to communicate with prospective customers. But determining exactly […]

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