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Social Media and Search Engine Marketing

A Plan and a Process
By Brian Bluff

Material handling companies routinely ask two questions about Internet marketing: “How do we develop a search engine marketing and social media plan that delivers results?” and “Where should we start?”

Here we’ll explore a methodology for developing an Internet marketing plan that covers social media and search engine marketing, including effective strategies and tactics, and a step-by-step process for getting started right away.

Develop a search engine marketing and social media plan that delivers results.

The left two columns in Table 1 align a prospect’s buying process with a typical selling process. The right column lists corresponding Internet marketing strategies to fill the gaps between the selling and buying process.

Educate prospects about the benefits of your solution through the generation of expert content.

Creating thought leadership is one of the primary reasons for B2B companies to participate in social media. Begin with a blog and the consistent creation of blog content. Case studies, whitepapers and articles are typical formats used in the B2B blogging world. Blogging two to four times per month is the right level of effort.

Too many companies can’t get past their fear of the time required, and so they never start. My suggestion is to aim for great content, but make sure you create lots of good content. Not every post needs to win an award or be 1,000 words. Keep your posts in the 250to 500-word range. If an article swells beyond that, break it into multiple posts.

The trick is to consistently create content that provides value to your customers or that provides insight into your company’s personality and values.

Repurpose or reformat content for various online platforms.

Your blog platform is the canvas upon which you capture thoughts and work through difficult problems. Writing and posting the actual blog entry is just the beginning, though.

You can take that same thought and use it across various online platforms:
•Capture it in a video and post it on YouTube;
•Convert it into a presentation and use it on sales calls, at tradeshows and upload it onto SlideShare.net (a presentation sharing website);
•Use it as content for your newsletter; and
•Present that same thought on a customer webinar.

Thinking is the hard and time-consuming part, so multiply that work. Think once, then apply that thought many times in many formats.

Distribute content through social media.

It is relatively simple and quick to distribute blog posts, videos and presentations via social media:
•Tweet a link to your blog post on Twitter. Repeat every few weeks as long as the post is relevant;
•Post a link to your blog or video on Facebook and Google+; and
•Share posts and videos through your LinkedIn profile update and LinkedIn groups.

Position content directly in the path of prospects through better search engine exposure and participation in relevant social media activities.

Blog content, quasi-website content, has a big advantage over traditional website content. Within a blog post you have the opportunity to drift from the words you normally use to describe your products and services. You can more naturally talk about the problems your offering solves and therefore achieve good search engine ranking for important niche keyword phrases.

However, content is not limited to blog posts, videos and presentations. It also includes traditional website content homepage, product or service pages, catalog pages, etc.

Search engine optimization (SEO) – getting your content to rank at the top of the search engines – is critical to getting noticed at the exact moment prospects have a need for your products or services. Using best practices for SEO can help your website dominate the search results page, making your company one of the first places a prospect looks for information and services after he’s identified a need.

Beyond SEO, consider participating in appropriate search and social paid advertising activities, including search engine pay per click, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Strengthen brand awareness – create buzz.

Expanding your reach and creating a bigger following strengthens brand awareness. The bigger your following the more people (aka potential customers) see your expert content. Your goal is to grow the number of:
•Subscribers to your blog, YouTube channel, SlideShare page and newsletter;
•Followers on Twitter;
•Fans on Facebook;
•Connections on LinkedIn;
•Friends on Google+; and
•Attendees to your webinars.

Engage prospects through social media and a highly converting website content.

Lay out website content in a sequence aligned with the information needs of prospects. You should provide features and benefits, handle objections and provide solutions to the most common pain points that customers encounter. Think about the flow of past conversations with prospects and align your website content to follow a similar path.

The job of your website is to sell. Your job is to understand how effective your SEO, social media and paid advertising campaigns are at driving traffic to your website and how well your website converts visitors into prospects or customers.

Adding calls to action matched to the appropriate content and the needs of prospects will increase the chance of generating a lead or of a prospect “buying now.”

Use Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to track important metrics like number of visitors by source, bounce rate, time on site and, ultimately, conversion rates. Don’t be afraid to test alternatives. Sometimes a small tweak to a form or rearranging content can make a big difference in conversions.

Eliminate buyer risk, demonstrate value and simplify the buying process and decision.

Participating in social media and building out information-rich website content is important, but it’s the quality rather than the activity that makes the difference. Just like the feeling we get when confronted by a pushy car salesperson, selling too hard in social media and sloppy disjointed website content make prospects skeptical about doing business with your company.

To be taken seriously in social media you need to give as much as you get. If you want your blog to gain traction, you need to interact with other bloggers by leaving comments on good posts and referencing other blogs that you either agree with or take exception to in your posts.

Similarly, you can’t expect people to engage with you on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or even YouTube unless you take the time to interact with their content.

Social media messaging should be 10 percent selling and 90 percent listening, sharing and providing value. Website content should be accurate, easy to understand and navigate, and credible.

Encourage satisfied customers to help promote your brand.

The lifetime value of a customer is measured both by the revenue and margin they generate and the referrals they provide. Client testimonials have always been important, but social media allows you to share the experience of satisfied customers with a much larger group. It also allows dissatisfied customers a huge platform to air their distress.

Add snippets of testimonials on your homepage, product and service pages, and “about us” page; then link from the snippet to a webpage containing the complete testimonial. In addition to written testimonials, capture video testimonials and integrate them into your site and blog and, of course, post them to YouTube. Other social platforms can be used to leverage the good will of satisfied customers.
•Ask them to brag about you on Twitter or retweet case studies articulating the great success they achieved by working with you.
•Encourage happy clients to comment on your Facebook or Google+ posts.
•Ask for LinkedIn recommendations.

If you do receive negative feedback, social media is an ideal platform to handle it. It allows you to broadcast customer service “wins,” showing your company’s dedication to customer satisfaction. Social media feedback also allows you to quickly identify processes and services that may need to be updated.

Where do I start to create a successful social media and search engine-marketing program?

Starting with the end in mind is a great rule for tackling most big projects, and it applies to the creation of an Internet marketing program, too. Referring to Figure 1, your blog is the linchpin that ties your website and social media activities together. Visitors flow from the search engines and social media platforms through your blog to your website.

Figure 1: Internet marketing priorities, from most to least important. Build a highly converting website, make sure your site ranks in the search engines, start blogging valuable content, repurpose content in other formats (video, infographics,…), and distribute content via social media.

That means building a highly converting website is your first priority. Focus on converting more qualified prospects into leads or customers. A conversion occurs when visitors fill out a form, call you or place an order.

Boosting traffic is relatively easy, but boosting conversions is harder; that’s very dependent on the site. To boost conversions, first perform a traffic and conversion audit. This will shed light on how visitors arrived on your site – an indicator of how qualified they are – and what they did once they got there. You’ll likely find big holes through which visitors escape, never to return again.

Supplement audits with website user testing. This involves assigning a task to a neutral visitor and recording their audio remarks and screen movements as they navigate your website to fulfill the requirements of the task. User testing allows you to step back and hear the truth about your site’s usability.

When supported with data from the audits, user testing makes selecting the right improvement approach easy. Your options will range from minor website tweaks to a complete website rebuild. Although you might get the answer you don’t want, moving beyond this step without correcting the problems is like building a house on a marsh.

Once you are happy with your site’s ability to convert, you can begin opening the traffic faucet. Driving search engine traffic is your second priority. Why? Because people using search engines are actively searching for solutions to their problems. The ones searching with keywords related to your products and services are prospects. You need your content in front of these people.

Adding a blog will expand both the volume and breadth of search traffic your site attracts. Next, socialize your blog content. Don’t be fooled into thinking that socializing content – social media – is less important. It’s further down on the list simply because you need to build a strong foundation first. Finally, analyze how your entire Internet marketing system is performing and make plans to improve it.

In summary, here are the steps to creating a great Internet marketing program.
Step 1: Improve your website.
Step 2: Drive search engine traffic.
Step 3: Create expert content start with a blog.
Step 4: Socialize your content.
Step 5: Analyze data and develop improvement plans.
Step 6: See Step 1.

This article has covered a lot of ground. If you need help or want to bounce ideas off someone, feel to drop me a line at brianbluff@site-seeker.com or 315-732-9281, x11.

Brian Bluff is the president and co-founder of Site-Seeker, Inc., an Internet marketing firm specializing in SEO, SEM, social media and web development, with a strong focus on the B2B manufacturing and distribution arena. Together with his brother and Co-Founder Eddie Bluff, vice president of key accounts, Brian has grown the company into a successful source of search engine and social media marketing solutions. He has worked for some of the country’s most successful companies, including Pfizer, M&T Bank, and PAR Technology. He has held several vice president positions, including vice president of marketing at Rome Research Corporation and vice president/general manager of PAR Logistics Management Systems. Today, Brian shares the secrets of Internet marketing on the national stage, traveling throughout the U.S. and Canada to speak at trade shows, seminars and association meetings.