28 January 2011

Online Marketing Budgets set to increase

With more companies connected to the web than ever before, B2B online marketing budgets are expected to rise yet again during 2011, according to a new survey conducted by BtoB Online.

Overall, 51.9 percent of B2B firms plan to spend more on marketing this year. For the majority of respondents (78.5 percent), online will be their primary focus, with many forecasting a double-digit growth for their marketing expenditures.

"More and more we are going interactive; but for our integrated campaign, kicking off a new company, we are definitely going to use print," said Eduardo Conrado, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Motorola Solutions, highlighting the importance of multichannel marketing initiatives.

The majority of campaigns will be centered on customer acquisition (69.1 percent), although brand awareness and customer retention are also top goals for many firms.
Search marketing was the leading channel in 2010, with many firms investing heavily in both B2B search engine optimization and paid search strategies. During the first half of the year alone, businesses in the USA spent more than $5 billion on search marketing initiatives, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

21 January 2011

Google - Schmidt is out as CEO

We don't normal report on our blog, we tend to post information.. However this announcement by Google definitely warrants a mention. Google just dropped a bombshell: Eric Schmidt is out as CEO (as announced in the company's earings report)
He will step down from the role starting April 4, and co-founder Larry Page will take charge of Google's day-to-day operations as CEO. Co-founder Sergey Brin will devote his energy to strategic projects like working on new products.

Schmidt will assume the role of Executive Chairman, focusing externally on deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships, government outreach and technology thought leadership--all of which are increasingly important given Google's global reach. Internally, he will continue to act as an advisor to Larry and Sergey.

20 January 2011

Social Media makes up 22% of time spent online

The onslaught of new social media sites has fundamentally changed the role of any marketing or communications professional. Every day millions of users are spending significant periods of time on social networks. In 2010, social media use represented 22 percent of the time spent online by users. The impact of social media on business cannot be ignored but how much is too much? For many organizations, hiring a social media specialist isn’t a viable option due to budget constraints or the responsibility for managing the social media programs falls on the shoulders of the communications department. It’s a role often already filled with deadlines and juggling of priorities between internal and external efforts, media relations, content creation, meetings and more.
The bottom line: Don’t chase every shiny object in the marketplace. A quick search on “social networking websites” and a visit to Wikipedia gave me 201 options. Now sure, some of these are very small and specific to a niche but it’s interesting to look back at all the ideas that someone thought were brilliant and revolutionary for their time.
The sad fact is that for every useful site like Caring Bridge or big hit like Facebook, there’s a Bolt or a Google Buzz that came and went or never took off at all. Set goals on what your company needs to achieve and create a set of key questions that you use in reviewing any new tool you want to explore. Think about using those filter questions as a screen to evaluate opportunities in front of you.
The questions will vary but take some time now (after a few more paragraphs at least) to think about and talk with the key stakeholders in your organization about the right questions. Filters should be specific enough to give you real, measurable information that can inform you about the potential success of your investment (time or money) in a social platform.
  • Does this generate enough direct revenue to offset the staff time required?
  • Will this expand our opportunities into a new market of interest to us?
  • Is this tool effective enough to get customers to take a specific action whether its click to buy or visit a store?
  • What level of speculative time investment are we willing to make?
  • Could this lead to collaboration or co-promotion opportunities that will benefit the company?
  • Does this effort align logically with our existing initiatives?
These are of course just samples and there isn’t a single way to do it. Perhaps 20 percent of a full-time employee’s time  to execute a program with unknown success is worth it in your model or the opportunity to create an entry to a new market.
Even once you create filters, there are times when you should try new efforts that don’t fit or take a chance. But by slowing down to evaluate the opportunities you at least make sure you’re not adding yet another task to your role without thoughtful purpose and a good chance at success.
How much of your time do you estimate goes into social media on a daily basis? And what has worked for you in balancing the requirements of social with other essential roles? If you are looking to outsource Social Media Marketing, look now further the Scream Media. Contact our marketing team today for a free no obligation quote. 021 5590800 or sue@scream-media.co.za

17 January 2011

Cutting Edge Website Design

More and more people are starting their own online businesses, and the competition within any particular marketplace is getting more and more intense. This is why having the right website design is now such an important part of the success of any online enterprise. Remember that your website is your store window, and just like any good store, the best window dressing will attract the customers in their droves.
Many newbies tend to make the same mistake, and that is to scrimp on the amount of money they spend on their website design. The problem is that there are a number of online businesses that offer cheap or even free website design. But the truth of the matter is that is that these low or no cost websites are very basic. Often they are simply templates that you can personalize in a limited way with choice of colors and font styles, but if you are serious about wanting to run a successful website, and your ambition is to handle lots and lots of traffic, you need a website that is capable of handling that sort of activity.

Finding a good website design company is not hard, and the website that you commission doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. But for a small outlay, you will be investing in your own future and your own online success. You must have the right tools for the job, and quality website design is fundamental to that success.
A good website design company will give you two essential things. The first thing is a website that looks aesthetically pleasing, and the second thing is a website that incorporates cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art knowhow. Let’s examine these two elements a little more closely.
Your website design needs to be aesthetically pleasing because you only get one chance of capturing a visitor’s attention. When traffic first arrives on the chosen landing page of your website, it is vitally important that you capture their immediate attention and interest. You need a visually stunning website that not only grabs and holds their attention, but also leads them further into the website to eventually clinch a sale. Lose them and they are gone forever.
But as well as being visually stunning, your website design must also include cutting edge technology. For example it should have the capability of streaming video, which is superb for great advertising and marketing messaging. It should also include state of the art coding in its links and structure because it is these links that enable search engine spiders to crawl all over website, indexing it for the major search engines which will enhance your website’s search page rankings.
A good website design company will also help you with your content, making sure that it is interesting, relative and informative, because this too will increase your website’s search engine ranking, making it much easier to find for customers seeking out the sort of products and or services that your website promotes.
Finally the right website design company will design your website making sure that it operates at a high conversion rate, meaning that it takes newly arrived traffic and stands a much better chance of converting casually interested visitors into cash paying customers. The best website design companies are not just there for the short ride. It’s not just a case of design a website, then leaving it all up to you to make the best of it on your own. A good website design company will be a permanent partner to you, always being there when you need them to tweak your website in one particular direction, or to insert some new form of technology that keeps your website at the cutting edge of current effective website design.

16 January 2011

Social Media

When discussing social media with business executives, I'm frequently reminded of the fable of the elephant and the blind men. In the story, six blind men, hearing that an elephant has been brought to their village (and having no idea what an elephant is), go to the village square to investigate. One feels the elephant's side and proclaims that an elephant is like a wall. A second, feeling one of the elephant's legs, says it is like a pillar. A third, touching the tusk, describes the animal as being like a solid pipe.
Although each man's description was accurate, each perceived only part of the elephant; none had a perspective of the entire beast.
It's the same with many business executives and their views of social media:
  • "Social media? Twitter isn't appropriate for our market."
  • "Our company already has a Facebook page!"
  • "We don't have time to maintain a blog."
  • "Several of our people use LinkedIn."
Such statements reflect perceptions of "parts of the beast"—components (tools) of social media. But using one or more of those tools, with no clear objectives for benefiting the company, doesn't constitute a strategy.

Phase I: Observation
"You can observe a lot just by watching." A bit of research and observation up front will make your participation later much more productive and prevent false starts and missteps.
Some of the questions to answer in this phase:
  • Where are people talking about our company, industry, and competitors? Which social media platforms do they congregate on?
  • What are they saying? What are the hot topics?
  • Who's doing the talking? Which voices seem to have the most influence?
  • What opportunities do we have to respond and participate? What kind of content seems to be most popular?
  • What questions are people asking that we can answer?
Phase II: Preparation
Every company with more than a handful of employees is already involved in social media—whether those running the company know it or not. That's because nearly half of all South African are now active on at least one social network. And though employees may be using these networks primarily to share pictures of the kids or to plan which clubs to hit next weekend, most will bring up the workplace at some point:
  • "Our new CEO, John Doe, is an incompetent jerk."
  • "I sure hope our new product works because we've really skimped on the testing."
  • "If I owned any stock in this company, I'd dump it now"
Though employees may share positive thoughts about your company with their friends, family, and followers, they may also post comments like those above, leading to bad PR, reduced sales.
One common objection voiced by executives about social media is that it can't be controlled. That's true, but when it comes to what a company's employees are saying, it can, at least, be guided. Developing a social media policy is a crucial first step toward making social media a constructive, rather than dangerous, communication channel. If you would like a copy of our Employee Guidelines drop me a mail on sue@scream-media.co.za
In short your guidelines should include
  • The company's approach to social media. What are the goals, limits, and rules? A small restaurant will use social media much differently than a heavily regulated financial services company.
  • Guidelines. What's acceptable and what's not? Don't rely on "common sense." Spell it out.
  • Consequences and questions. Let employees know what will happen if guidelines are violated, and point them to someone who can answer questions for any "grey area" issues.
Once the decision is made to embrace social media, companies need to establish plans. Based on the research conducted in the Observation phase, the plan should address issues such as these:
  • What are the objectives?
  • Who will be involved?
  • Which social media platforms will be used?
  • How will results be measured?
  • What types of content will be produced?
  • Who will create the content?
  • How will content be optimized across platforms? (e.g., executive profiles on LinkedIn link to the company blog; blog posts are tweeted and posted to LinkedIn Groups)
Phase III: Participation
With the groundwork laid, monitoring in place, and plans developed and approved, the company can begin "officially" participating in social media—or, more likely, reassessing initiatives already in place, as many firms have already jumped into the social media fray without proper planning.
Participation can take a variety of forms, from simple monitoring of and responding to brand mentions to actively creating thought-leadership, informative or entertaining content, and promoting across social media venues.
For companies that produce content, a blog is often at the center of the effort. More than half of B2C firms and nearly three-quarters of B2B vendors maintain company blogs.

The key to successful social media participation is engagement. Sharing content shouldn't be viewed as broadcasting to the market but rather as seeking to start conversations. The point is to draw in interested parties, key influencers, and ultimately sales prospects by engaging them in discussions and building business relationships.

Phase IV: Integration
Most companies think of social media first in terms of marketing and PR activities, and they begin their social media efforts in those areas. But those at the highest level of social media maturity and integration are using social media for a variety of purposes across the organization.
Just as it would make no sense to provide telephones only for the sales force, or email access only to accounting, there's no need to limit social media interaction to the marketing department.
At this advanced stage, companies may be using social media not only in marketing and PR but also in a variety of other areas, including the following:
  • Human Resources. HR departments use social media to recruit and prescreen candidates, improving new hire quality while reducing recruitment time and cost.
  • Customer Service. While no organization should overly rely on social media to resolve customer-service issues, it can shorten the "time to answer" some customer queries and reduce costs. Large enterprises that have incorporated social media into their customer service options include Woolworths (check their Facebook page)
  • Sales. Social media has changed the buying cycle. Prospects are now much more informed before they even begin a dialogue with sales; they've researched alternatives, developed a short list of vendors, and know what key features they're after. The ability of buyers to do all of this before ever contacting a vendor has increased their expectations of salespeople as well; they expect sales pros to know what their company does and what challenges their industry confronts. Social media is valuable to the sales force not only for prospect research but also for generating leads and building credibility.
  • Product Development. Whose input could be more valuable to product development efforts than your customers' and prospects'? The Wall Street Journal has described social networks as the new focus groups because of the high value and relatively low cost of use. Because of potential legal issues involved in using someone else's ideas, firms often use public networks for basic research and rely on their own branded online networks, with clear rules spelled out, for more direct suggestions.
I hope this article has sparked you interest in using Social Media to your benefit. If the above all sounds a little too much to handle then consider outsourcing your Social Media. At Scream Media we have over 7 years experience promoting our clients online, contact us today for a free no obligation Social Media health check.

13 January 2011

Website Design

Everybody thinks they’re a designer. Just like everybody thinks they’re a good driver. But there is a big difference between being a good driver and being a race car driver. The same thing can be said for web design; there is a big difference between having somebody who thinks they have good taste lead the design for a website and an actual designer who does it day-in-day-out and considers the user experience just as much as the best mix of colours. Once you have the goals of your website redesign established the best thing you can do to ensure it’s success is by involving the talents of a professional designer with a background in user experience.
There are many graphical designers out there that have made the jump to web design, but when it comes to doing a good job the best web designers look beyond aesthetics and plan for interactivity. I concede that there are other disciplines beyond professional design that are required for a successful website redesign (I.e Search engine optimization, content strategy, programming performance, etc.) but, if something’s not designed well to begin with it won’t get used. It’s that simple.
Appreciation of design, like any art form, is a very subjective thing since we all have our personal tastes and preferences, but when it comes to websites the most important person to impress is the user. You are not the user and neither is your boss, so it is critical to look at things from your website visitor’s perspective and the goals they are looking to fulfill when interacting with your digital presence. Although I have an appreciation for good design and have knowledge regarding best practices, I’m not a designer.

11 January 2011

Kewords are Key

You've no doubt optimized your site and marketing materials for top keywords, but have you thought about the influence they can wield in less traditional ways?
Consistently optimized messaging across all of your company content—from its name and description to your employees' titles to your site content—helps create an image in customers' minds that establishes your identity, argues Jeffrey L. Cohen at the Social Media B2B blog.
Cohen offers these tips for unorthodox but effective keyword placement:
Make your company's description a corporate mantra. Encourage your employees to describe their company with the same keywords and phrases online and offline—whether for social media profiles, during speaking engagements at events, or in casual conversations with friends and colleagues. "Customers and prospects will start to search for those specific terms and find your company," he explains.
Incorporate keywords in your company's job titles. According to Cohen, LinkedIn has profiles for 132 Hubspot employees with "inbound marketing" in their titles. "Hubspot is an inbound marketing company and they have used this subtle approach to influence the search results of this term," he says. "People begin to think of Hubspot as an inbound marketing company when interacting with their employees, and search using these terms."
Optimize all printed material—not just sales and marketing online content. Brochures, fact sheets and whitepapers can all plant keywords in prospects' mind—terms they will likely use when they conduct follow-up research online. Also consider that your human resources, customer support and finance departments often post FAQs and other informational content as Web pages and PDFs. Using keywords in all your copy will aid your organic search chances.
The Po!nt: Careful how you say it. Put your keywords to work anywhere they might influence a potential customer's online search

06 January 2011

Link backs - Keep it Real!

Link backs are an essential part of SEO. But is it really worth while getting genuine, quality link backs for your website?
A senior Google employee was asked exactly that, the question posed was "what is Googles stance on Link Spam?" Below is his answer  "We're already aware and have taken action on some of the sites mentioned, so now's a good time to point out that even if we have taken action on a site to address bad linking, it doesn't always mean that you'll see the results of it in such an obvious way like a site being completely obliterated from the index and not showing up for site: queries.
That said, we can take pretty strong steps to preserve the quality of our results, and link schemes are one of the toughest violations for a webmaster to recover from."

Pretty strong stuff. So be warned, if you were thinking "link farm" to grab those all important links, think again Google is watching ! Need help with gaining quality link backs? Contact Scream Media at 021 559 0800 and speak to our SEO team today.