Developing a Story with Google Analytics

Next Tuesday I’ll be taking the Google Analytics IQ test, and I’m currently experiencing a mix of anxiety and excitement.

The anxiety is originating from my perception that the GAIQ is really, really hard – 90 minutes for 70 questions about somewhat daunting topics like the difference between first and third party cookies, aggregating data, and more. That gives me about one minute and sixteen seconds to overanalyze each and every question. But more importantly, I’m actually very excited to take the test. Mastering the GAIQ means I get to differentiate myself from many other applicants during my post-graduation job hunt, and work my way towards having a well-rounded marketing resume. It also means I’ll know how to not only analyze data, but telling a story relevant to business and marketing objectives with it. Google Analytics is the most widely used website analytics software, and I’ve been blown away learning just much it can do. Knowing all the tools provided by Google Analytics is especially useful for marketers (marketing is storytelling, after all), and hopefully will help me land a job after graduation (fingers crossed).

The GAIQ was recently updated to include both the Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles. I’ve spent the last several days learning all the content from Platform Principles, and there’s quite a bit of information covered. There’s four main components of the Google Analytics platform:

  1. Data collection
  2. Processing
  3. Configuration
  4. Reporting

Google Analytics uses either a Javascript tracking code (for websites) or a software development kit (SDK, for mobile apps) to collect data from each page a visitor sees. The tracking code in a webpage uses first-party cookies to create unique identifiers for each user, and finds information about the user such as OS, browser, and language. SDKs work similarly in mobile apps, and are different depending on the OS. SDKs actually batch data they collect (called dispatching) and send these dispatches to Google Analytics after a set period of time, not right away like tracking codes. The reason for this is that mobile devices often lose network connectivity (which is annoying for both the user and Google), as well as to conserve battery life of the device. As I mentioned earlier this week, 2015 is the year of mobile, so it’s absolutely necessary for marketers to track and analyze mobile engagement along with website visits. Google Analytics also has a tool called measurement protocol, which allows for tracking of other web-connected devices as well by manually building data collection hits.

Platform Principles combines processing and configuration into their own lesson unit, as the two steps in Google Analytics go hand-in-hand. There’s four major transformations that occur during processing and configuration:

  • Google Analytics organizes the hits it’s collected into users and sessions
  • Data from other sources (like AdWords or non-Google systems) can be combined with Analytics data via the tracking code
  • Data processing will modify the data according to configurations (filters, goals, and groups) you’ve set
  • Analytics will then aggregate the data by organizing it in meaningful ways and storing it in tables for quick report generation

I think a major thing to note here is how Google Analytics will actually combine the data it collects with data from other sources like AdWords. This is done through dimension widening (using either a file or APIs to import data) or cost data import, which imports data to show the amount of money you spent on non-Google advertising. Combining all your data means you can analyze the success of things like marketing campaigns all in one place, and lets you see what’s driving engagement with users versus what isn’t. With this tool, you can see what platforms and content your audience prefers, where they’re coming from, and more.

The final step in the Google Analytics platform is the reporting process. All reports are based on combinations of dimensions and metrics – characteristics of your data like page name or traffic source, and quantitative data measurements, respectively. Dimensions and metrics are typically reported in a table, but note that you can only combine the two based upon the scope (which level in the analytics hierarchy they fall). The hierarchy is simply users, sessions, and hits. Analytics uses application programming interfaces (APIs) to automate reporting tasks to integrate its own data with other data you specify. After all this, report sampling may or may not occur: it depends on how much data you want Google Analytics to use. Sampling occurs when you’ve given Analytics a large subset of sessions to analyze, and have gone over the maximum number of sessions that can be used in a report. This isn’t a bad thing, but you can stay below the limit by simply shortening your date range if possible.

Google Analytics, although formidable, is useful in more ways than I can count. I’m planning on spending my entire weekend locked in my apartment taking practice tests and going over study guides, and I seriously recommend taking the time to watch all the Analytics Academy lessons and then taking the GAIQ. Digital media provides us with so much data, and being able to transform that data into a story relevant to your business objectives and audience needs is what Google Analytics (and digital marketing) is all about.

Next step: getting AdWords certified.


Delivering Quality Content, via Programmatic Ad Buying and Native Advertising

Native advertising has quite the rap. It involves brands integrating their messages directly into content (oftentimes it’s in print or online format, but it takes other forms such as podcasts too), which means it looks and seems like an editorial piece. The problem with this, of course, is that it often feels like the readers and consumers are being tricked to read a piece of content marketing as opposed to an editorial piece. Many people view native advertising negatively because of this, which is entirely understandable. Native advertising seems to often blur the lines between editorial content and advertising (or “church and state”, as it’s referred to). I love myself some John Oliver, and I think he explains the conflict quite well:

Besides this, native advertising has other drawbacks in comparison to traditional advertising. The analytics for it are mediocre, and targeting isn’t refined enough for it to be more appealing than digital usually is. And even with analytics, it’s hard to tell if brand awareness is created by the native ad itself or all the PR surrounding it.  The folks from the StartUp podcast discovered this, and spent a whole podcast discussing it.

But here’s the thing – native advertising has the potential to be really innovative, and often is. When done properly, it meshes beautifully with the editorial content it appears alongside, and delivers its own creative and relevant content to boot. All while being aesthetically appealing! And, as Ad Age points out, it should be transparent. In the video above, John Oliver is totally right: sticking a tiny logo somewhere on a piece of content isn’t being very transparent. As marketers, it’s important to be honest with the audience you’re providing content to, regardless if the content is presented through native advertising or some other format. Emphasizing the clear line between advertising and editorial content upholds journalistic integrity and creates trust between the brand and its audience. While some publishers aren’t being very upfront about the sponsored content they post (I’m looking at you, Buzzfeed), others are looking to improve native for the better.

The Wall Street Journal’s Custom Studios, their take on a native advertising platform, clearly defines what is sponsored but also catches the audience’s eye by delivering quality content. The New York Times, Forbes, and the New Yorker all do this as well. Maybe it just takes publishers known for good journalism to get the job done right? It comes down to having standards on both sides, and the best content (in either form) you can give to readers. Putting compelling advertising next to high-quality content, and delivering it to the right people at the right time is what good content marketing is all about, and excellent native advertising is a perfect example of this.

Another big trend in paid advertising is programmatic ad buying. It’s complicated (even when it’s explained to you like you’re eight), but seems a whole lot like eBay (or eTrade) for ad space. Instead of bidding for media space in the more traditional way, much of it is now done automatically similar to trading stocks online. It’s a billion-dollar industry, and (as I keep emphasizing) it should come down to making advertising better for the audience. ComScore recently announced its plan to provide better insight for media buyers in programmatic, that will create trust for both publishers and buyers while (hopefully) making for better paid advertising and content. Programmatic’s benefits are immense, and it factors in consumer data, marketing goals, and more to help deliver the best quality content through formats such as native advertising.


Coding: Not Just for Nerds and MySpace Users

Remember Myspace? That social media site from the Web 1.0 dark ages that made you feel special by allowing you to add a song to your profile, change your background and layout? The one that also taught you the fundamentals of coding?

Wait, what?

That’s right people, MySpace taught us how to code (kind of). Hypertext markup language, or HTML, is what the entire internet is composed of, and allows us to navigate from place to place online. It’s easy, customizable, and you’ve probably used it if you ever desired to change the formatting of your MySpace profile way back in 2005. But coding and web design are far more relevant than just changing social media profiles. It’s a valuable tool for marketers to know and understand, and it’s ridiculously easy to learn. And you can do it for free.

Codecademy is a pretty well-renowned site at this point, and anyone can sign up with it to learn HTML, CSS, Javascript and more. I used it last night for two hours, and really enjoyed the experience. It was incredibly simple (far more than I was anticipating), and their lessons are user-friendly. I’ve been meaning to learn at least the fundamentals of code for awhile now, and was actually very excited the opportunity presented itself for my digital marketing class. In two hours, I got 25% of the way through the HTML and CSS lessons in Codecademy (up through HTML Basics II), and plan on finishing both as well as continuing on through Javascript, jQuery, PHP and more.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 9.15.22 PMScreen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.55.59 PM

(Two hours of Codecademy is probably more useful than two hours of Netflix)

As I’ve discussed many times previously, marketing (like the rest of the world) has become largely digitized. Everything from websites to email to social media run on some form of code. To fully understand how the web works and to make informed digital marketing decisions, knowing code is crucial. Knowing how things such as HTML work allows for better communication with web developers, graphic designers and IT people. You’ll actually know how to communicate what you’re looking for in your marketing campaign, understand what all those crazy tech words actually mean, and maybe be capable of fixing an error yourself. IT people will love you for that, and it’ll allow you to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd as a valuable, multi-skilled marketer. You don’t need to be able to design a whole website, but basic knowledge makes for informed decisions and better allocation of time and resources. Knowledge of up-and-coming computing trends and their product applications isn’t a bad thing either, as computers are shrinking drastically while simultaneously becoming more powerful.

Long before MySpace, in the 1950s, Alan Turing created a model of a general purpose computer. Since then, processing speeds and power have doubled nearly every two years. Computers that couldn’t accurately predict the weather used to take up rooms, and now our smartphones are tiny and do almost as much as our laptops (and predict the weather pretty accurately in mere nanoseconds). The problem with this, however, is quantum physics – eventually transistors will just become too small to be composed of conventional materials. Scientists across the globe are working on new forms of computers so physics doesn’t stop us from innovating. Things like chemical and wetware computing use chemical reactions and cells (living cells!) to carry out elementary computing logic. Although both options are currently very slow (think minutes, not nanoseconds like we’re used to) and have run into their fair share of problems, they have tons of potential. For example, ChaoLogix chips are maximum security computer chips that are based on a wetware cellular design. They’re basically impossible to crack, and would probably help prevent all those hackings we’ve been hearing about lately.

Instead of just knowing how to fix your MySpace background, you can use your handy dandy coding skills to fix campaign errors or design mistakes, and think of new ways to apply those mind-blowing computing innovations. Coding is for everyone, and is especially useful for us marketers to understand.


Why “Googling It” Matters to Marketers

According to Google, people around the globe searched trillions of times in 2014 (Trillions! With a T!). Google is a verb in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and we use it all the time when someone asks us a question or brings up a topic (“Google it”). Search is a fundamental part of our online experience, helping us navigate the web and providing us with useful information in less than a second. Marketers and businesses simply cannot take it lightly, and adding search engine optimization to their toolboxes means they can not only show up when people around the world are Googling, but also creates a more user-friendly site and helps them gain valuable leads very easily. Many companies specialize in SEO, and Moz is one of them.

Moz is a kick-ass company based in Seattle that provides software not only for search (what we’re talking about now), but also links (what I’ll be talking about soon), social and brand. Their focus and number one skill is inbound marketing, and they’re all about transparency, authenticity, generosity, being fun, empathetic, and exceptional (or TAGFEE). What makes them different from other inbound and SEO companies is focusing on the top part of the sales funnel. Moz sets themselves apart by thinking about where leads are before they get to your site. Their CEO holds the position as Wizard of Moz, and there’s other positions such as Code Wookie and Head of Team Happiness. Their uniqueness and transparency is obvious, and makes them even better at what they do. I’ve gathered the content I’m sharing with you today from two sources of theirs: their Beginner’s Guide to SEO, and their Guide to Link Building.

Search engine optimization (SEO), is the practice of improving and promoting a website to increase the number of visitors a site receives from search engines. The majority of a website’s traffic is driven by search, regardless of what type of site it may be. That means regardless of whatever services you may be offering online, it is absolutely necessary to make sure your site is optimized for search in order to survive. It’s also important to note that SEO isn’t only about search engines: it’s about people. Making users the priority will better optimize your site than creating one that is only friendly for search engines. According to Moz, the best kinds of pages and sites are:

  • Easy to use
  • Provide relevant and direct information in relation to the query
  • Deliver credible and legitimate content.

Notice how all these are directly related to the human user?

Think of all the sites that pop up every time you Google something, and usually have the answer you’re looking for. Rand Fishkin, Wizard of Moz gave a quick list of sites with great SEO: Wikipedia, imdb, and Urbanspoon all are user-friendly and give searchers the information they want. Hubspot and Moz both have great SEO as well, which I think proves they’re really good at what they do.

A search engine’s primary responsibility is to serve relevant and useful information to a user very quickly, and to do this, they use crawlers (automated robots, sometimes referred to as spiders) to browse the web to find what a searcher may be looking for. Once search engines find these relevant pages, they index these in giant databases all over the globe for future searches for quick and easy recall. Links and link-building are key to helping crawlers navigate your site efficiently, but I’ll touch on this later.

But how do they find your site? Keywords are fundamental to search, and using them successfully is pretty easy: use them in titles, text, and metadata. They should be relevant to the content you’re delivering, and not overly-specific. Don’t abuse them either, or you can get banned from Google. Scary, huh? Popular search terms actually only make up about 30% of what’s actually searched on the web. The other 70% are less popular, but more important in terms of SEO: these “long-tail” keywords have higher conversion rates, and catch people later on in the buying process. Like the rest of inbound marketing strategies, SEO comes down to content.

We know content is probably the biggest part of inbound and digital marketing. Delivering the right content to the right user at the optimal time is what will set a business apart from its competitors. Well, SEO and content go hand in hand. When a search engine hunts online, it determines relevance to the user’s query (via complex algorithms), and ranks based off the site’s popularity. Google and other search engines assume that popularity equals validity, and the more popular a site is, the better its information must be. Which is why good content is such a necessity: providing great content and valuable information means users will like (and share) your site more, which in turn makes the site more popular and ups its ranking. Social media has increased massively in popularity over the past few years, and it is powerful for SEO too: while social shares aren’t considered as important as links, they do establish a lot of credibility, especially when the share is from someone influential. Google also serves personalized information to users who are logged in to their social sites, which makes for more convenient searching. Google+ may be the butt of many jokes, but it is a highly useful tool for SEO and helps businesses (especially B2B ones) rank higher in searches. Besides content, ranking in search engines is determined by the number of links pointing to a site.

As I mentioned earlier, crawlers navigate websites by means of links. Creating crawlable structures online makes it easy for crawlers to search your site and provide the right information to potential leads. The more people linking to your site, the more popular it is. Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other sites to your own. A hyperlink (or link) is how users navigate between pages online. Search engines use links to discover new web pages, and help determine how high a site should rank. If a business gets high-quality sites to link or “point to” theirs, they’ll rank higher. Building relationships with leaders in your industry is not only useful for establishing credibility with your audience – it means these people might link to your site and promote your content, and improve your SEO. Through link building, other relevant websites will send relevant leads your way, improving your reach and probably your sales. This is actually one of the three types of links, editorial links.

  • Editoral links are given by other website owners (such as bloggers), and are more efficient than asking someone to link you. They’re highly ranked on Google, and the best kind of links for SEO.
  • Manual or outreach links are the most common types of links, and involve manually contacting website owners to link to your content.
  • Self-created, non-editorial links are usually considered spammy and are often penalized by Google. They trick search engines into thinking you have valuable content, when in reality you actually don’t. Don’t use these, you’re better than this. If you’re lying to Google, you’re probably lying to your audience, and that is NOT okay.

It’s important to link to specialized resources, which aren’t always homepages: they could be landing pages, your blog, or more. Just make sure it’s providing the right content to the right people. Remember this, “all link building campaigns should start with something worth linking to“. In creating a link building campaign (actively trying to increase links to your site combined with an overarching marketing objective), set realistic and measurable goals that directly relate to those of your business. What are you using to attract and earn your links, and who’s your audience as well as linking audience? Building links will increase reach, and help optimize your site for search engines and increase your website’s traffic.


Unsubscribe No More: How Emails Can Add Value to Your Inbox

I have a not-so-secret confession: I dislike receiving emails. Oftentimes I feel like certain brands and businesses are spamming me with boring content and information that’s completely irrelevant to my life. On average, I’d say I delete about 70% of the emails I receive before even bothering to open them. These are usually promotional ones offering me discounts on things I neither need nor want, or are simply advertisements with my name attached to make them seem more “personal”. And don’t even get me started on unsubscribing – hitting the “unsubscribe button” and getting another email notification telling me I’ve unsubscribed from a list. Doesn’t that seem awfully redundant to you too? Recently, though, I went through my inbox and cleaned it out. And I discovered something: some emails actually contain really relevant and compelling content, but these are very much outnumbered by the spam-like ones. It’s time for brands to fix this problem.

Email marketing can be used for brand awareness, lead generation and conversion, and customer retention. Social media trends change drastically, and organic reach is being removed as an option on many sites such as Facebook. Email allows businesses to reach consumers organically, and at a level that often feels more personal than with other channels. Companies like MailChimp and TinyLetter specialize in helping people and businesses send great emails, and they send millions of emails every day. Email is crazy cost-effective, and has a ridiculously high ROI to boot: for every $1 spent on email marketing the average return is $44.25, which makes it nearly 40 times more effective than Facebook or Twitter. And just like other forms of inbound marketing, it all comes down to the content in your message. Remember when people used to get excited about having a full inbox (we’re talking Kathleen Kelly, 1990s-level excited, people!)? Well, delivering the right content at the right time to the right segment might get your mailing list looking forward to your messages again, and not selecting “unsubscribe”.

How do you find out what my audience is interested in and finds valuable, you ask? Segmentation and listening, of course! Combining your emails with other inbound channels like social media guarantees contact, as well as looking at your email reports and analytics helps you become fully-attentive and listen to what your leads and current customers are saying. A/B testing anything you can in your emails really helps businesses and brands discover what works and what doesn’t – and you can really split test about anything, from call-to-action buttons to even the text. But this is only part of making your content and emails personal. Tailoring each email to the person who’s receiving it (both in the subject line as well as throughout the copy) deepens your relationship with your recipient and helps them feel connected to you.

Both Hubspot and Constant Contact have lists regarding the best practices of email, and how it can extend your reach and increase your ROI. Here are some commonalities and highlights:

  • Treat your contacts like the real people they are
  • Keep your subject line short and simple, and to the point
  • Go beyond the inbox: Integrate social media, blogs, and more with your email and include links to all these within your copy
  • Don’t use a purchased list: Always ask permission, and request that your recipients opt-in (not opt-out)
  • Make sure to follow up with your emails, and find out what your readers do and don’t like
  • Segment and personalize your list based off interests, stage in the buying process, demographics, and more
  • Focus on the benefits! Why does subscribing to your list, getting your newsletter, or buying your product benefit them?

Things like newsletters consistently add value to your recipient’s lives, and give them informational content they can look forward to (as opposed to only the promotional variety); According to The New York Times, “An email newsletter generally shows up in your inbox because you asked for it and it includes links to content you have deemed relevant. In other words, it’s important content you want in list form, which seems like a suddenly modern approach.” This also follows the 80/20 rule of inbound marketing: 80% informational content, 20% promotional. We look to our inbox for a variety of things, such as news, social content, and yes, promotional messages. By optimizing emails to cater and add to that variety of content, businesses extend their reach and turn leads into customers easily and organically in ways that other channels simply don’t allow for.


Land, Ho!

No, my sadly un-punny title is unfortunately not referencing Jeff Tweedy’s fictional band on Parks and Recreation. Nor is it about sailors or explorers finding terra nova. I’m actually here to talk about landing pages.

As we know, inbound marketing is all about relationships. Part of a relationship, regardless of the type, is making that crucial step after getting to know someone: getting their contact information. How else are you going to create and maintain a relationship without being able to stay connected? For businesses and their leads, that step is seen in the form of a landing page.

Landing pages are website pages specifically designed to convert visitors into leads. High quality landing pages also allow businesses to successfully segment their audience into different markets, which means reaching the right people, at the right time, at the right place. As I’ve discussed numerous times before, content is everything. But with landing pages, context is equally as relevant. I’ve also mentioned Hubspot’s buyer’s journey and its various steps: awareness, consideration, and decision. An ideal landing page should be catered and customized toward your particular visitor, and whatever step they’re at in this journey (in fact, according to this Hubspot blog post, you should have at least 15 different landing pages to create maximum success – increasing the number of landing pages from 10 to 15 can raise conversions by 55%). A good landing page has a mixture of a lot of different things, and Mashable’s article on successful customer acquisition lists the three most important:

  • Make it clean and simple to use
  • Give a clear call-to-action
  • Make the design attractive

Minimalism is back, people. Simplicity is the new black, and embracing whitespace is a big deal. Clutter, in whatever form, is distracting and annoying. Removing it from your landing page removes distractions, and keeps visitors focused on that big end goal (also, your landing page is NOT your homepage). According to Copyblogger, the most successful landing pages are usually the most simple: one column of relevant, content-filled text with social proof and maybe a nice webinar generates far more leads than a busy site with too many links to click. It’s actually best if you remove any sort of links on your landing page: chances are, those visitors won’t come back.

Content is all about creating relevant information for a unique visitor and (at the end, the teeny-tiny 20% of your content) showing them how they can benefit from your services as a business, whatever they may be. The Content Marketing Institute summed it up nicely on their blog: “You need to entice visitors to opt in for your content. Just stating the title of your video or white paper is not enough to do this. Add some copy that explains the benefits of requesting your material. For example, I like to include short bullet points that highlight what visitors will learn when they check out the content.” After all, you’re asking your visitors and potential audience members to create a relationship with you by having that call-to-action: you’d better make it personally tailored to them, informational, and harmonious to whatever point they may be at in the buying process to keep them coming back for more.

You know how after you’ve gone to a nice get-together at someone’s home, or gone on a really good date with someone, you thank them for the evening and tell them you look forward to spending time with them again? Well, guess what? Businesses should be doing that as well. We as consumers usually get thanked for doing business with someone (in my case, buying shoes I don’t really need), but we don’t ever get thanked for providing them a little bit of our souls: our email addresses. By including a thank you page after a visitor has successfully been converted into a lead, you can further entice the customer with downloadable content and help encourage actions (like, for instance, maybe social media calls-to-action) that will help further the relationship even more.

Okay, so I’m kind of leaving out one big thing that I’ve discussed before: testing. A/B testing allows businesses to test which landing pages, call-to-actions, and even thank you pages are most successful at maintaining those relationships. I won’t go into too much detail about it (you can read my thoughts on the wonders of split testing here), but it’s incredibly useful and simple, and absolutely necessary to help cater your content and the context it’s presented in to each individual visitor.


Becoming a Social Brand in a World of Social Customers

Good morning, Blogosphere!

It is another beautiful morning in Bellingham – the sun is somewhat shining, the seagulls are chirping (what sound do seagulls actually make?), and I’m here to discuss with you, once again, the power of social media.


Okay, this picture isn’t actually from today, but my view looks very similar to this right now and I love it. 

Now, as you know from last week’s post (where I discussed different platforms and class four of Hubspot Academy), there are plenty of ways different social media platforms benefit a business – chances are, your audience is definitely on Facebook, Twitter is a great way to gain an audience by means of hashtags and short-but-sweet posts, and Snapchat has a lot of growing popularity with businesses and users alike. As we’ve learned from Hubspot, social media is all about knowing your audience, asking them questions, and listening to what your audience has to say not only about your brand, but other things that interest them as well.

What is being a social brand, you ask? Well, according to Michael Brito’s talk with Hootsuite about the Shift to Social business, we have all become social customers. As I’ve said before, word of mouth is amplified online. So it’s important for businesses to become social brands – companies, products, and individuals alike should all focus on using social media to connect and engage with their audience online. And Hootsuite is there to help.

Hootsuite allows its users, especially businesses, to listen to their audience way more effectively and efficiently than just checking each platform individually. So many of us have a morning routine similar to this: wake up, make coffee, and check your different social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc). We’re social customers. With Hootsuite, everything is in one place, and it is a useful tool for businesses – they can see what their audience is talking about, what their different buyer personas are sharing, analyze what content they’ve posted is doing well (or not so well), and work on becoming great social brands. It allows us to be omnipresent! I watched SCMD 160 and 162 of Hootsuite University, and both were crazy helpful and interesting.

Hootsuite emphasizes the relevance of your online community – a group of people rallying around a shared, common interest. For businesses, building a community revolves around engaging in conversation, becoming a resource, and advocating for your customers. It’s incredibly valuable for an online community to be seen as a sort of focus group – you can find out what your audience wants (both content and product-wise), listen to what they have to say, and add value to your customer’s lives by sharing meaningful content with them and providing the best customer service possible. Twitter and Facebook, once again, are the most popular for this: Hubspot emphasized this on their blog, mentioning how brands should really delight their customers and make them feel special ASAP. “Social care” is the new customer service trend, and responding quickly to negative feedback (and positive!) is here to stay. Regardless of the platform, it makes for easy and awesome customer service – your audience wants a response now, and social media lets you engage with them instantly. According to Hootsuite, there are four different types of social media engagement that help you grow your online community:

  1. Proactive engagement: seeking out your audience and responding to themFacebook_like_thumb-624x534
  2. Negative feedback: unhappy customers, who you need to address (and fast!)
  3. Customer support queries: questions and answers about your product
  4. Shared content

Proactive engagement is something Hootsuite and Hubspot both emphasize continuously – going out and finding your audience and connecting with them via interesting content (like shared interests and valuable information that is pertinent to their lives) is far more effective than pulling them in with traditional methods alone. Social media is all about two way communication, and it’s key for a business to do a LOT of listening. Michael Brito made another point that I think is huge: the only thing worse than not listening is listening without taking action. Social media allows businesses quick and convenient feedback, and to maintain brand and audience loyalty, it’s key that they take the time to respond effectively to what their audience is saying (as my mother likes to say, actions speak louder than words).

Seeking out your ideal, social customers is made simpler when you can do so on multiple platforms at once – remember, different people and personas prefer different types of media, and viewing all these sites together allows a business (or just one user) to figure out how big their reach is on one platform. Gone are the days of being too dependent on one platform! We can be omnipresent in a very simple, easy way. Just keep in mind that your audience and potential customers may be spending their time on one site in particular (and there’s a good chancScreen Shot 2015-01-26 at 4.58.50 PMe it might be Facebook) so be careful to monitor your analytics to discover which one that might be. Then, use your knowledge of great content (80/20 rule, people!) to your advantage to appeal to and engage with your leads and audience in order to become a better social brand.