Trends that Will Change How Companies Use Social Media in 2015

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Most companies, both big and small, are finally taking a hint: they need a social media presence.

A Duke University study pegs spending on social media outlets at 9 per cent of most company’s marketing budgets. Based on the evolution of the industry and the quick-paced nature of channels such as Twitter and Facebook, that number is expected to jump to 21 per cent in the next five years.

Obviously the breakneck pace of social won’t be changing — if anything, it’s poised to accelerate in 2015. And some recent changes will change how companies should position their social strategy. Here are some trends that organizations should keep their eye on in the coming year.


Shell Out More Cash For Facebook Business Pages

Traditional wisdom has told us that more Facebook page Likes translates into a greater reach for content. While that used to be true, changes in Facebook’s algorithm over the last couple of years means that content is reaching fewer and fewer fans.

While a company may boast tens of thousands of Likes on its company Facebook page, the number of followers who are reached organically without any ad dollars has steadily crashed. According to a study from Social@Ogilvy, organic reach for Facebook posts on business pages had slowed to 6.15 per cent as of February 2014. And that number is set to plunge to a big, fat zero this year at the social network moves to change those configurations yet again so that users won’t see any unpaid content from company pages, based on a recent report from the Wall Street Journal.

So while your images may be striking and your content is brilliantly composed, companies who wish to be seen need to be ready to shell out some cash. Whether it be promoting your page, boosting posts, or running a full on ad campaign, organizations will need to work those ad dollars into their budgets this fiscal to get eyeballs on their content.


Payments Through Social Media

Back in November, TechCrunch announced that SnapChat was partnering with Square Cash to allow cash payments through a new feature titled “Snapcash.” Users can now hook up their debit cards to their account and type a dollar amount into the text feature to instantly send money to a SnapChat buddy.

And you can expect more social media outlets to take the dive into ecommerce as we move into 2015. Rumours are already circulating that the Facebook Messenger app contains a hidden payment option, so users can reasonably expect to see that feature emerge in the coming months.

Additionally, users can expect to see the rollout of Twitter and Facebook’s “buy” buttons in the coming year. These buttons will allow users to purchase items directly out of ads placed around the social network without ever leaving the site. And Twitter is testing a similar buying feature to cut out as many steps as possible between seeing a product in an ad and purchasing it.

This push from social channels into instant payments and cash transfers is all part of an overall rush into the mobile payment space. And this is potentially good news for retailers and companies in the ecommerce space. Many of the transfers sent through social media are either low cost or completely free, making this form of instant payment highly attractive. Compare that to credit card payments, which require a percentage on top of the cost of the transaction to be sent to the credit card company. That’s a lot of cost savings for companies.


The Rise of New Social Channels

We’ve seen social networks come and go. It was only a few years ago that MySpace ruled the roost when it came to social outlets. The space is constantly evolving and making way for new players.

In the light of increasing privacy issues and more obvious advertising on some of the major social platforms, some users are seeking alternatives for niche markets.

Some of the biggest newcomers to the scene include Ello, which claims to offer an ad-free space for users. Also keep an eye on Yik Yak, which offers anonymous posting for people in a close geographic area, and Tsu, which offers users revenue sharing on popular posts.

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ExhaleMarketingTrends that Will Change How Companies Use Social Media in 2015

Landing Page Split Testing

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Split TestingIn the previous two posts, we examined when you need to use a landing page, and how to create an effective one. Whether you’re using it for a PPC campaign, lead capture, or a featured promotion, you have a particular goal in mind, and everything on the page should be designed to accomplish it.

Everything – the images, the colours, the headline, the main body text – should actively move your visitors to do what you’d like them to do. Typically, that means either clicking through to the next page, or submitting their contact details.

If you’ve utilized the proven strategies mentioned in the previous post, you’re well on your way. Your chances of a successful campaign are good. So you just sit back and wait for the customers to start rolling in, right? Wrong.

Once you’ve created your landing page and it’s “live”, you’re still not done. There’s an axiom about online marketing: Always be testing. Any page you make could always be better. More efficient. A tiny tweak here and there could lead to significantly higher click-through and conversion rates, and that can amount to much higher sales or leads captured. How do you find the best version of any given page? Through landing page split testing (also called a/b, a/b/c or multivariate testing).

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing refers to a comparison of two or more slightly different landing pages. You have your “A” version (called the control) , and your “B” version (the variation). The basic idea is to use both pages for a set period of time, and then compare their results. It’s crucial that you have an active goal for the test – something that people actually need to do – such as visitors submitting their email address. That way, you have data to measure and compare. You can determine which version is performing better (more people doing what you want them to do). “More visitors” is not a useful goal, as there are too many variables that could affect the outcome, and the differences on each page don’t have anything to do with it (after all, they’ve already landed on the page before they actually see it).


How Do You Conduct an A/B Test?

There are several methods you could use. Some of them are free, and some have a monthly fee (but do offer a more robust and user-friendly experience). Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely are two of the better known paid services. They allow you to quickly and easily set up, conduct, and analyze tests with little or no knowledge of coding or analytics.

If you want to go the free route, there are many services and plugins available for your WordPress site. Install, and then follow their individual instructions.

A third option is Google Analytics. It provides a detailed analysis of your page traffic, sources, and conversion rates. This method demands at least a general understanding of the service (a topic for another day), although you can use the Google Content Experiments plugin to make things a little easier on you. You can set up basic A/B tests under Behavior-Experiments on the Analytics main page.

No matter which method you opt for, an A/B test follows the same general structure.


Here are five steps you need to complete:

1. Ask a Question
2. Formulate a Goal
3. Design the A/B pages
4. Collect Data (for at least one week)
5. Analyze the Results

A good understanding of landing pages will help you ask the right questions. It’s best to keep things simple, at least for your first few tests. You might, for example, ask whether different short copy on your call-to-action (the text on the submit button) would lead to higher conversions. Or whether an orange button placed above the fold (on the top half of a web page) would yield a higher click-through rate. Or whether a different headline would increase sales.


There’s no limit to the variations you could test:

● Headlines (text itself, one vs two lines)
● Sub-headings (no sub-heading, different sub-heading)
● CTA Text (text itself, on-button vs below button)
● CTA Button (colour, shape, size, placement)
● Images (number, placement, different images vs no image)
● Testimonials
● Social Media (button, icons, placement, displaying share and like numbers)
● Design Elements (colour schemes, framing, amount of whitespace, order of text)
● And much more…

The key is to ask a doable question and designate a measurable goal. Formulate it as an actual question in the early stages. “Would a blue colour scheme with a large orange button yield higher conversions than what we are seeing now?”. Then, create the “B” page, changing only the colour scheme to blue and the button to orange. It’s important to leave everything else exactly the same, so as to know that whatever change you see – either positive or negative – was a result of that variation. Limit your variations to one or two (if they’re small) at the most for each test. Higher than that, and it’s impossible to determine what exactly had the effect.

A typical A/B test will then split the traffic, usually 50/50 (with half of all visitors seeing the control page, and the other half seeing the variation), during the length of the test.


How To Analyze the Data

At the end of the test period, you’ll have enough data to accurately compare the two pages. You’ll want to look at the total number of unique visitors, the conversion rate (how many of those clicked-through to the next page, or submitted contact details, or made a purchase, or whatever other goal you set), and how those numbers compare. If, for example, your control page (“A”) had a conversion rate of 13%, and the variation page (“B”) clocked in at 17%, then you have a 4% increase. You would be wise to make the variation page your new control. It’s performing better. That’s it. You’ve conducted your first split test and acted on the results. A negative conversion lift means you don’t change the page. Simple.


Why Is A/B Testing Important?

It’s a numbers game. Even though the actual difference is only 4% in the above example, that represents a 26% improvement. Would you knowingly turn away 26% more sales or leads?

Look at an even smaller change. Let’s say a control page resulted in a 2% conversion rate, while the variation page saw a modest increase to 2.5% overall. That’s not bad. But what is 0.5% in the grand scheme of things? Again, you’ll want to think in terms of conversion lift, and going from 2% to only 2.5% is an improvement of 25%! And all because you changed the image appearing on the page (for example). Are you starting to see the benefits now?

Smart marketers know to always be testing. Always tweaking. Always experimenting. You’d be surprised at the little things than can result in big, big gains. You want to see your conversion rate going up. You want to capture more leads. You want to see higher click-throughs and sales. A/B testing can help optimize your landing page for maximum results. Find something that gives you a boost, and then ask another question. And another. Always. Be. Testing.


There are plenty of services and tools for conducting A/B tests yourself with relatively little headache or tech knowledge. If you’re still feeling uncertain, contact us and let’s chat about your marketing and how we can help.

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ExhaleMarketingLanding Page Split Testing

When to Use a Landing Page

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Man QuestionsWe’ve been receiving a lot of questions from clients on landing pages.
What are they?
When would you need to use one?
And how to ensure it’s optimized?

This has inspired our 3 part landing page series.  In week 1 we’ll focus on when to using a landing page, followed by the key elements that make-up a high converting page in week 2 and ending with an article on split testing.


What is a landing page?
A landing page is not simply any page on your website upon which a person can “land” or arrive. Nor can your home page replace a specifically built landing page.

A landing page is a web page that has been custom designed as part of a campaign and around a specific goal. It is often also termed a “lead capture page”, “click-through page” “lander” or “gate page”. I’m sure we’ve missed a few terms, if you have others you’d like to share – be sure to use our comments section!

How landing pages boost your campaign results.
Let’s say your ad states that your company has the best landscaping in Phoenix. I’m in the market for a landscaper, click your ad, and end up on your generic homepage. OK. Um, now what? There’s no obvious next step for me.

A better option is a landing page created especially for that ad campaign, one that lays out your most popular packages, and has a quick form to collect visitor details and follow-up.

(Check out one of our Exhale’s landing pages:

When to use a landing page?
From PPC, product specific promotions, offers based on segments of your clients (e.g. those who have downloaded a trial but never purchased), lead capturing to add-on sales, landing pages can be used in every aspect of your inbound marketing.

A well-crafted landing page will dramatically lift your results, while making the path to purchasing more clear for your customers.

4 marketing campaigns that need a landing page.

If you’re using any of the following four strategies, a missing landing page probably means you’re also missing out on sales.

PPC Advertising
Imagine that you see an ad for waterproof socks. You click on the ad and land on a page that is the storefront for a clothing shop. “Where are the waterproof socks you wonder?” A little lost, like the average busy individual, you probably spend no more than 30 seconds looking for something that represents the reason you clicked, before you give up and bounce from the page (bounce = leave.)

Now, imagine if you had clicked on that ad, and to your glee, a new page opened with a wide array of waterproof socks, easy to see pricing, a clear description and a quick purchase option. 5 minutes later, you’d have yourself a few new pairs of socks and that business would be a little bit richer.

Using a proper landing page also lifts your Quality Score with google. As your score goes up, the cost of your ad goes down.

Lead Capture
Every business that wants to grow, needs a great lead capture strategy. Depending on your particular business this can be achieved via several routes (email, PPC, banner) yet one consistent and critical element necessary to lead capturing is a clean and easy to understand landing page.

The best lead capture pages present an easy to complete form (the minimum fields) along with an incentive (see our next section on White Papers and E-books). You may also wish to have a few benefits of what your business brings specific to the target audience you are engaging, but watch you don’t go overboard. This is a version of your website in miniature.

White Papers, E-book or Other Resources
Giving away an e-book, white paper or other resourceschalk full of useful and free information is one of the best methods to collect data and generate leads. Entire companies have been created around this so called freemium model.

A landing page allows you to give away this valued resource in exchange for contact information (name, email, phone). Many companies will use this to gain new leads, re-engage lapsed customers or even build word of mouth. Having a great library of resources to use in campaigns in conjunction with an optimized landing page opens the doors to a multitude of customer engagement options.

Tip – Make them excited about the offer and ensure it is ridiculously easy for them to give their details and get the gift. Plus, it shouldn’t end there, a follow-up drip campaign should be constructed to nurture that relationship.

Featured Promotion
Free Webinar! Add-on Product Savings! Promotion for Returning Customers! Whatever the promotion, one of the best ways to ensure you don’t have clients wandering off course when they go to “learn more” or “purchase” is by using a landing page. This will funnel clients to a page highlighting the features of the promo, specific benefits and make it really easy for them to complete the transaction.

Why landing pages work.

To a marketer, campaigns consist of multiple layers, components and (with the amazing world of automated marketing) moving parts. However, to your customer, it is a roadmap – your first touchpoint being the beginning of the journey inviting them to continue forward.

It’s up to you (or us, if you are one of our clients) to ensure that this story is timely, engaging and relevant enough to keep that customer moving along that map. Plus, that map must be clear – the next steps obvious to your consumer.

Landing pages play an integral role in this customer journey, acting as a marker along the map, keeping your customers moving in the right direction – primed for purchase. Great landing pages will directly affect your conversion rates. Watch next week for our topic on Recipe for Creating a High Impact Landing Page. Can’t wait until then? Contact us and let’s chat about your marketing and how we can help.

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ExhaleMarketingWhen to Use a Landing Page

Why You Need a Social Media Listening Strategy

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Shh! Do you hear that? It’s the sound of millions of people talking about you and your brand online. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

And the best part? It’s okay for you to listen. In fact, it’s highly encouraged. Crucial.

There are hundreds of social media platforms online, not to mention the millions of blogs, forums, and discussion boards. We live in a time where anyone anywhere can express their opinion and release it to the world at any time, with a potential reach of hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people.

Scary, eh? The trick is using that potential to your advantage. Dealing with the negative, and acknowledging the positive. Connecting and engaging. Social media listening refers to monitoring and listening to the real conversations people are having online about your company and brand. It’s socially acceptable eavesdropping. And used properly, it’s a tremendously powerful tool.



Direct Line of Communication with Customers and Prospects

Social media is remarkable. Marketing and sales departments from as little as 15 years ago would kill for the opportunities most of us today take for granted, a direct and free channel for speaking with millions of existing and potential customers. Consider this:

  • Roughly 75% of internet users are active on at least one social media platform
  • Each age group of consumer has a social media usage percentage of at LEAST 43% and as high as 89%
  • Facebook has 1.15 BILLION active users, and almost 50% of Americans list it as a major influencer when they make a purchasing decision
  • Twitter ranks second with 550 million registered accounts, followed by Google+ with nearly 360 million users.

What does it all mean? Social media is dominating communications, and what people say on it matters. You’d better be paying attention. They say there is no stronger publicity than word-of-mouth. Imagine being able to lean in and listen to your clients talking about you at a restaurant, or gathering together tens of thousands of customers to discuss your latest product launch. It’s a focus group for the 21st century, to the nth degree. What if you could acknowledge each positive review, or address complaints almost instantly?

You can.



What Not To Do

But, and this is important, you have to be careful. You have to be active. And you have to be real. Social listening means just that – you listen. You monitor. You need to be aware of what exactly people are saying about you on at least the major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) if you want to harness the awesome power.

The pitfalls are found in treating all dialogue the same or taking too long to respond. Social media, and the world as a whole, wants instant gratification. Instant recognition. Instant response. It’s possible, you just need to have the mechanics in place to do it. Setting up social media profiles and then not paying attention to them is a slap in the face. And potentially dangerous. Completely automating your social media platforms – for both posting and responding – is equally bad. Consider the following missteps:

  • A street artist posted a complaint to Twitter after being chased away from his sidewalk art in front of the Bank of America. His complaint, as well as the hundreds of comments and retweets, were met with a canned auto-response from the bank that said “We’d be happy to review your account with you to discuss any concerns.” The company looked ridiculous and robotic.
  • American Airlines recently auto-replied to an angry customer complaint with “Thanks for the support! We look forward to a bright future as the #newAmerican.” Opportunity missed.
  • The British grocery chain Tesco suffered a mistimed auto-tweet when it posted “It’s sleepy time so we’re off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets” in the midst of a horse meat scandal.
  • JP Morgan asked for followers to post questions for an executive in their #AskJPM campaign. Thousands responded…but not the way they had hoped. Questions included “Can I have my house back?” and “Is it easier to purchase a congressional representative or senator?” Perhaps JP Morgan has an image problem? Thankfully, the Twitter account was being monitored, but the damage was already done.

Instead of set it and forget it automation, you need a healthy mix of strategic automation and real engagement. It’s never a good idea to create a “one size fits all” response to every online mention. A real live person should monitor social media channels using any of the countless tools for the job, including:

These services can be set up to report or alert every time someone mentions your company name, brand, or keywords. Then you have the opportunity to handle it in a quick, professional, and human way. According to Social Habit, 42% of people expect a response to a complaint posted on social media within 60 minutes. 7 days per week. Fail that, and you’ve made the situation at least slightly (if not much) worse.



What to Do

Proper monitoring of channels allows you to respond to opportunities and address issues. Customers want to be thanked, or at least acknowledged, when they post something positive. A quick “hey thanks” goes a long way. Likewise, acknowledging a customer complaint, even if you can’t do anything about it right away (or ever) is a proven method to diffuse the situation. It’s all about connection and engagement.

Reach out regarding complaints that involve you but are not your fault, like Taylor Guitars. They addressed a customer whose guitar had been damaged by an airline. They offered their sympathies and suggestions for certified locations to get it fixed. And more importantly, they impressed that one customer – and everyone else who saw the exchange – by responding to something that involved them only indirectly. That’s an example of fantastic monitoring and brand awareness. You can bet they gained new clients and fostered loyalty through their response.

Virtually every department – from sales to marketing, from customer service to R&D – can benefit from social listening:

  • Identify and solve problems.
  • Identify customer discontent with a service or product
  • Respond to complaints
  • Acknowledge customer loyalty and praise
  • Promote and ask for feedback (but selectively, and be prepared for negative reviews)
  • Engage and communicate with real people in real time

And social listening need not be only for your brand. You can listen and monitor your direct competition, too. What are people saying about them? You can replicate (but not copy) their successes, and avoid their hiccoughs. It’s like being allowed to sit in on their board meeting or focus group for their next big product. Follow them. Monitor them. And actively use the data.

Social media can be a god-send. The data and opportunity it provides are unparalleled. But you need to remember the golden rules:

  • Be quick
  • Be real
  • Be honest
  • Be human

Address things as they occur. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ to actively engage and connect with your customers and fans. Respond as a human, not a machine, to both positive and negative comments. Monitor the major social media platforms for any mention of your name or brand. And don’t be afraid to have a little fun, like Bodyform’s tongue-in-cheek response (from the CEO, no less) to a post on their Facebook page. You’re only human, after all.

Social listening makes you a fly on the wall in millions of homes and dozens of countries. It’s an almost magical ability to eavesdrop on customers, competition, and the market in a way that past businesses could only wish for. Everyone is sharing their opinion, and ranting, and praising, and complaining with the understanding that you may be listening. In fact, they want you to.

Don’t let them down.

Not sure where to begin? Connect with us, and let’s chat about how we can help.

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ExhaleMarketingWhy You Need a Social Media Listening Strategy

What is Opt-In and Why It Helps

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optinWe are taught early on to mind our “please” & “thank yous”, but for business contacting their clients the words “may we” are important to add to the list

If you are ready to increase your response rates and generate more revenue through effective message communications and marketing, Opt-in is the key. What is Opt In you may ask? It is the action of receiving express consent from your prospects/customers to provide them with relevant, timely, personalized information.

Aside from simply staying on the right side of the law dealing with messaging compliance to avoid unwanted spam, opt in has a far more valuable aspect. Opt  In gives you a list of those consumers who genuinely want to receive information from you, whether it is special offers, service/product updates, account status or program notices.

With permission gained through Opt-In to contact your customers, you can engage them through multiple channels by email, voice, or by what is quickly becoming the most prolific communication channel – mobile phone.

‘Mobile coupons receive 10 times the redemption rate of
traditional printed coupons.”

As an added bonus a properly designed and executed Opt-In campaign will help you broaden brand awareness and build stronger customer loyalty. When permission by a customer to contact them is given, your messages are welcome instead of ignored. You dramatically increase the quality of your communications and will experience a measurable lift in response.

“Debunking the 4 Myths of Opt-In”
There are a lot of misconceptions around obtaining Opt-In. The following are four we feel are important myths to debunk.

1) Bigger is Always Better! (My list will shrink and I’ll loose clients)
You know that having a large contact list with a very low open rate is a waste of resources. By employing an Opt-In program, such as that offered by Ventriloquist, you transform your list into a quality database. Your marketing efforts will begin to out-perform your previous campaigns due to reaching a committed and responsive audience.

2) It’s difficult to get Opt-Ins.
Opt-In efforts do not need to be complicated. At Ventriloquist we can help you create a straightforward and simple way of having your customers or prospects say yes to the information they are interested in receiving. Whether through a short code text back on their mobile device, pressing a key during a voice message or checking a box on a form, there are many ways to gain Opt-In.

3) It costs too much to run an Opt-In campaign.
Few things can rival the value and long term rewards of a well-executed Opt-In campaign. e.g.: a national women’s clothing retailer recently generated a staggering 6,600% ROI thanks to their professionally deployed Opt-In promotion.

4) I can just keep doing what I’ve always done.
Allowing your list to stagnate can cause serious consequences in the long run. For example, unconfirmed email lists can cause costly bounce backs and risk your organization to be spam flagged (internet version of being blacklisted) hindering future digital marketing efforts. It is also important to keep in mind the growth of mobile marketing, which when used as a promotion tool legally requires Opt-In.

Feel free to contact us if you need assistance staying on top of your mailing list.

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ExhaleMarketingWhat is Opt-In and Why It Helps

4 Solutions to be Jolly About

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Santa ListFeeling that chill outside? The countdown is on and the holiday season is just around the corner! It’s time to start considering how you will turn your holiday budget into a well orchestrated marketing strategy with profitable and customer relationship building results.

The following 4 strategies are a few holiday solutions which will allow you to stand out to your customers. The Results: Build loyalty, gain their appreciation and boost revenue.

1) Get on the “Nice List” with Customer Appreciation

Whether you are appreciating VIP Customers,  or want to reach out to your entire client base, a customer appreciation campaign delivered in their preferred channel will shine.

Your campaign may include a personalized seasons greeting or special thank you through a custom voice message, or a holiday email with gift ideas and/or a coupon.  Bright Idea: Consider using a voice message or email with an opportunity for an SMS opt-in promotional program.

2) Deck the Halls with SMS Cheers

A thank you to customers is pointless when it gets lost in the shuffle of holiday cards, flyers and emails. This season ensure your cheers & holiday greetings are noticed by creating an SMS campaign. With over a 90% open rate, your message will be not only be received but remembered. Bright
Idea: Combine a SMS Cheer with a promotion or holiday gift. (SMS campaigns must have client permission/opt-in).

3) Ring in the Profits with Email Brand Awareness

The hunt for great gift ideas has started, why not bring your organization to the forefront of clients minds with a powerful email brand campaign.

Whether you provide a gift idea catalog, a membership promotion or a community giving push, we can help you create a holiday email with distinct and measurable result.

4) Make Memories with a 12 Days of Savings Series

On the first day of Christmas my “loyalty program” gave to me….. a promotion of a buy one get one free….

Daily deals became a very popular tool last year with shoppers opting-in to receive a new feature promotion each day. Creating a sense of excitement and urgency with a splash of anticipation, this is a unique way to increase profits, thank consumers and create a festive season of sales.

We’d love to hear your ideas for boosting customer relations and sales during the holiday season. Please feel free to share your thoughts in our comments section.

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ExhaleMarketing4 Solutions to be Jolly About