Does B2B Influencer Marketing Make Sense?

Influencer marketing—the practice of partnering with influential individuals to communicate a brand message—is hardly a new concept for B2C companies. In fact, back in the 1760s, the pottery company founder Josiah Wedgwood was using endorsements from painters, architects, and even royalty to promote his products. There’s centuries’ worth of evidence that influencer marketing can be an effective tool for B2C brands, but what about B2B companies?

If you own a B2B company, you might be under the impression that because you’re targeting a narrower audience than your B2C peers, influencer marketing just isn’t worth it. However, B2B influencer marketing can be incredibly effective, as long as you’re working with the niche B2B influencers that your target buyers follow.

How Influencer Marketing Can Benefit B2B Brands

B2B influencer marketing example from American Express

Collaborating with niche influencers—including industry analysts, conference speakers, and other thought leaders—can help you:

Humanize Your Brand

While you may be selling your products or services to businesses, it’s important to remember that it’s still people who are doing the buying. And those people aren’t likely to connect with your brand if you hide behind dry industry jargon and generic lists of product features. B2B influencers give your brand a human face and inject personality into your message, helping you appeal to your target audience and stand out from competitors.

Capture the Attention of Difficult-to-Reach Leads

One of the biggest challenges in B2B marketing is capturing high-quality leads at the right time. Industry influencers who align with your brand can reach a highly-targeted audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey, and with the right message, they can nudge those audience members towards your business.

Build Trust

When you invest in influencer marketing for B2B, you’re making an investment in your brand’s reputation. B2B influencers have dedicated a lot of time and effort to build trust with their audience, and when they make a recommendation, their audience listens. If you find an influencer who believes in your product or services, you’ll earn the trust of their followers.

3 Standout B2B Influencer Marketing Examples

Hopefully, you’re starting to see how powerful B2B influencer marketing can be. If you’re still unconvinced, check out these examples of B2B influencer marketing campaigns that had a major impact:

GE’s Instagram Series Takes Flight

General Electric was ahead of the curb with B2B influencer marketing: way back in 2013, they invited six influential Instagram photographers to tour and document their newest aviation facility. The company also shared an Instagram post inviting six aviation fans to join them on the tour by posting a sentence about why they were the biggest GE #avgeek. In less than 24 hours, the post got over 1,000 likes and over 130 comments.

Since this initial campaign, GE has launched their #GEInstaWalk series on Instagram. They now regularly invite some of Instagram’s best photographers and biggest tech aficionados to tour and take pictures of their cutting-edge facilities.

American Express Shares Design Tips with SMBs

American Express wants to appeal to small business owners, and one way they do this is by teaming up with experts who can address the pain points small business owners often experience. As part of their Love My Store campaign, they partnered with HGTV Design Star winner Emily Henderson to make a series of videos about in-store design. In the videos, Henderson visited different stores and offered the owners advice on using design and signage to attract more customers. American Express also invited small business owners to post photos of their storefront with the hashtag #LoveMyStoreAmexContest for a chance to win a one-on-one consultation with Henderson.

SAP Captures an Online Audience with Influencer Interviews

SAP, an enterprise software company, decided to use B2B influencer marketing to get more mileage out of Sapphire, their annual user conference. The company identified authors, academics, and independent business consultants who could speak on topics that appealed to SAP product users, and then invited those influencers to participate in interviews at the Sapphire conference. SAP used Facebook Live to broadcast these interviews, extending their conference content to over 80,000 people who didn’t attend. In addition to sharing their videos on Facebook, they also leveraged the interviews to create blog content.

Ways Your Company Can Use Influencer Marketing

 

expert roundup influencer marketing example

Example of expert roundup blog post from American Webmasters Association

It’s not just big brands like American Express and GE that can benefit from using B2B influencer marketing. Here are a few ways B2B companies of any size can start working with niche influencers:

  • Collaborate on a whitepaper. You could ask an influencer to co-author a whitepaper or eBook, but if the influencer you want to work with doesn’t have the time for such an extensive project, they could simply contribute several “Expert Tips.”
  • Write an “expert round-up” blog post. These blog posts often pose one question (e.g. How has social media marketing changed your business?) and collect responses from several industry insiders. If you curate this type of piece, ask the experts who contribute to help extend the post’s reach by sharing it with their social networks.
  • Invite an influencer to co-host a webinar. Attract more participants to your next webinar by inviting an influencer your audience respects to co-host. Not only will working with an influencer boost your authority, it will also add an interesting perspective to the webinar that you might not have gotten otherwise.
  • Write a guest post for an influencer’s blog (or vice versa). In some cases, an influencer might be willing to write a guest post for your blog in exchange for you contributing a post to theirs.
  • Conduct an interview with an industry expert. You could conduct the interview over the phone or email if the expert is remote, but if they’re in the same city, see if you can do a video interview. This will give you visually appealing content to share on your site and social media.

Remember, there are many different ways you can work with B2B influencers, but none of these strategies will be fully effective if the influencer’s message doesn’t align with your brand. Do your research: instead of just chasing the influencers with the most fans or followers, look for micro-influencers who resonate with your target audience.

Introduction to Content Marketing

Content marketing is the creation and distribution of media to consumers on the internet.

It is a practice that aims to:

  • Improve the quality of content available online
  • Help audiences find the products, services, and expertise for which they are looking
  • Help products, services, and expertise find their appropriate audiences
  • Improve the visibility of websites in major search engines

Content encompasses an astounding variety of consumable media, and disseminating that media through marketing requires knowledge of every digital marketing channel available.

interest in content marketing over time data from google trends

Google Trends data shows us that content marketing sharply rose in importance around 2012 and has been steadily increasing since 2014.

It’s intimidating to increase your visibility as a website or business owner in today’s online world. But by building your understanding of content marketing from the basics, you can boost your ability to unite your marketing efforts and bring your content to the audiences who seek it.

The Meaning of “Content”

Content is anything that is consumable on the internet.

Any complete piece of media that you find on the internet can be considered digital content. There’s a long list of media that we call content, which means a content creator’s job requires an unusual breadth of skills. Some of the most common content pieces you’ll find include:

PagesGraphicsPublicationsVideos
BlogsFeatured ImagesWhitepapersExplainer Videos
Landing PagesInfographicseBooksCommercials
News ArticlesMotion GraphicsPress ReleasesSocial Media Videos
Ad CopyAnimationsManuals/GuidesHow-To Videos

Surprisingly, the list doesn’t end there. Businesses may ask content creators to go beyond the normal scope of content creation to make highly customized pieces of content. Custom content may use less popular media such as audio or print, or could combine popular media in unique ways.

However, it’s easier to think of the most common content as a part of the four main categories:

 

Pages

icon for visual content explanation  Text-based pieces of content that focus on providing information and value to consumers and search engines.

Graphics

rightword arm example of leverage custom graphicsVisual media designed to enhance the user experience and allow information to be consumed faster and easier than information contained in text.


Publications

purple book with leverage logo for publications exampleAdvanced and thorough pieces of long-form content that provide top-level expertise on a topic or topics.

Videos

video rounded corner cutout with trees and mountainMoving images that improve the consumability of information by providing it through visual and auditory channels.

 

Once a content creator makes a piece of content, it needs a home. In most cases, that home will be the creator’s or his or her client’s website. From there, the content needs to reach the world, which requires effective content marketing.

The Meaning of “Content Marketing”

Content marketing is the science of creating and distributing content to the appropriate audience.

We defined it earlier, but the alternative definition above may be easier to digest. As a process that requires lots of experimentation, social aptitude, professional courtesy, technical knowledge, analytical ability, and financial management, content marketing is a far less tangible concept than content.

But that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach. Like content, understanding content marketing on a basic level enables webmasters, business owners, and marketers to change the direction and scope of the practice.

Content marketing is just a collection of approaches for the dissemination of content to which each marketer can apply his or her style and expertise. The most common approaches to content marketing include:

Search Engine Optimization

leverage green computer with fading search resultsThe SEO approach is built into quality content; that is, the easiest way to get your content to those who need it is to write thorough content with valuable information that search engines will pick up and rank highly.

Email Outreach

arm holding off white envelope for email outreachOutreach by email is the process of sharing content with interested parties by writing an email to those parties and attaching a link or document for sharing. You can use this method to solicit guest posts or to get your content on popular, well-ranking websites.

Social Outreach

arm holding twitter bird for social outreachSocial outreach is the act of sharing content on popular social media channels; it can be done organically by using available free sharing tools, or it can be done using paid advertising now available on most social media platforms.

Influencer Marketing

leverage green computer showing influencer marketing chatThe influencer marketing approach uses manual or automated outreach to influential men and women who can promote your content to their followers. Influencers hold sway over their audiences and, when they endorse a product or service, have a significant impact on its success.

Content Distribution Platforms

cannon firing leverage publication for content distribution platformsPaid content distribution platforms use a pay-per-click approach to present your content to audiences who see sponsored links to your content on websites with similar content. You pay for impressions or clicks, but you get massive traffic – as long as you offer quality content.

Each approach requires the marketer to build a new set of skills. But following the mastery of each approach, the potential for content to reach new audiences increases substantially.

How to Get Started with Content Marketing

You can’t begin marketing content without first creating it. But to begin creating valuable content, you have to have a brand that backs it.

Branding

Before you dive into content creation, start with branding.
leverage logo with white border and background

  1. Find out who your competitors are targeting and consider how you can appeal better to that audience and others.
  2. Think of adjectives that describe your persona or that of your company and stick to those adjectives when representing yourself or your organization.
  3. Record and use hard brand guidelines as a point from which you can jump off, but be ready to allow your brand to evolve.

Your brand guidelines will direct the topics your content covers, how those topics appeal to consumers, and what channels you can use to distribute your content.

Creation

Your branded business can begin content creation with or without a dedicated marketing team, but it requires a significant time commitment to accomplish.

Some of the most common and effective content published regularly on today’s websites includes:

  • Service & Product Pages – Pages that describe in detail a service or product offered by you or your company.
  • Blogs – Articles written to share information that does not have a direct marketing approach.
  • Graphics – Visual media that shares information or acts as an advertisement for you or your business.

As long as you have a computer available, content creation is inherently free except for the hours required to complete it. Start creating content today and publish it on your website or social media channels to garner organic traffic and build your audience.


 

Your marketing experts at Leverage Marketing know how to build content from the ground up and take it to the audiences that are searching for it. Let us know if you need a hand in your content creation or marketing, or learn more from our content marketing service page (one of our countless pieces of valuable content)!

How to Use Instagram to Promote Your Brand

There’s no question that Instagram has become a juggernaut in the social media landscape. Since Facebook acquired the platform for almost $1 billion in 2012, Instagram has surged in popularity, skyrocketing in daily active users and monetizing itself through branded hashtags, integrated ads, and more. Using Instagram as a marketing tool can enhance your brand’s success, connect you with your fans, and bolster your online presence.

Why Instagram?

You may be asking, “Why use Instagram?” If your company or brand is already successful on Facebook or other social media channels, utilizing Instagram may seem redundant or unnecessary. But marketing on Instagram allows you to interact with an age group younger than Facebook and other platforms and provides a personalized experience for your audience. Marketing with Instagram can give your followers and fans a behind-the-scenes look at your business or brand, providing them with easy opportunities to engage.

However, only 36% of online marketers use Instagram, compared to 93% of whom who use Facebook. While Instagram isn’t right for every brand, it’s worth looking into whether using Instagram as a marketing tool could be beneficial for your business.

instagram marketing stats

It only takes a quick look at Instagram’s demographics to see why the service could be essential to your business. Over 25% of Internet users were using the platform in 2015, with over 50% using it in the key demographic of 18-29-year-old people. Instagram users engage with the platform in a way other social media platforms dream about—with 4.2 billion likes on posts daily, as well 95 million photos and videos shared daily. When you use Instagram for brand marketing, you can achieve engagement rates much higher than Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.

While more women than men use Instagram, people of all genders like, share, and post on Instagram—from taking food photos to live videos. Marketing on Instagram means communicating with your followers and understanding what they want. By setting specific goals for your Instagram marketing, such as increasing follower count, improving your images and videos, or deriving additional revenue, you can leverage Instagram for success.

How Can I Succeed on Instagram?

instagram marketing

Using Instagram for marketing effectively requires using the tools available. With the right tools for success, your brand or company can leverage Instagram to increase sales, visibility, and your connection with customers. Here are some of the most crucial elements:

  • Consistency and Frequency- Publish often, but not too often. The rate will depend on your brand, but it may be daily, or even 2-3 times a day. Whatever frequency leads to optimal engagement is what you should aim for—and stick to that. Being consistent with your posting will help establish credibility and allow you to keep to a schedule.
  • Understanding Your Audience/Followers– Know who follows you. You want to develop the right content, be it Instagram Stories, photos, or videos, that appeals to your audience and shows that you get Specificity may require building out buyer personas for Instagram to understand better who your followers are and could be in the future.
  • A Strong Vision and Strategy- Develop a plan for how you want your company Instagram to feel. There should be a distinct vision for your posts—a clear goal for what you’re communicating to your followers, which can be aided by…
  • A Clear Visual Style- Everything from a consistent font to a color palette to filters used for your colors should be defined for your Instagram. Create a simple visual style guide for company images to help yourself and anyone else who manages the account—perhaps go through this process with an in-house graphic designer or consultant.

By using these tools, you’ll be on the right path to success with Instagram. Other useful tools include Instagram scheduling apps, repurposing content from other platforms, and utilizing contests and giveaways to engender additional interaction with your followers.

What Kind of Content Should I Post on Instagram?

So now that you understand why you should use Instagram and how you can succeed on the platform, you might be wondering, “What kind of content I should post?” The easy answer, especially for B2C companies, is to post photos of their product, but that simply won’t get the level of engagement you want. Instagram is all about engagement, so here are some techniques for driving followers to interact with your brand:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Content- Use videos or sets of photos to show your fans what it’s like at your company. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, this helps create trust with customers and can be a fun way to provide an inside look into how your business operates. Like Snapchat, Instagram videos don’t require professional polish—they should look clean but don’t need extensive editing.
  • User-Generated Content and Customer Stories– Utilizing content produced by people who love your product or company—who are as passionate about your brand as you are—can resonate with your audience. Use Instagram to ask for user-generated content, offering a reward in the form of a gift card or another prize.
  • Hashtag Strategy- Develop a hashtag strategy for your content. Use relevant and related hashtags to your company and content for your posts to connect with other Instagram accounts and gain followers. Using Instagram hashtags may seem complicated, but it doesn’t have to be.
  • Be Fun, Light-Hearted, and Educational- Instagram is an exciting platform—there are so many ways to produce and edit content and reach your audience. Experimenting with different media and techniques with A/B testing and educating your followers about your brand will lead you to the right content to produce.

Marketing on Instagram for Your Brand

No matter what type of company you have, Instagram is a viable candidate for marketing today. Companies as diverse as Nike and Ben & Jerry’s have active Instagram presences, utilizing photos and videos to increase their brand visibility and connect with customers. By following Leverage’s Instagram marketing tips, you can develop a strategy for including it in your social media marketing.


Let the social media experts at Leverage help you get started marketing on Instagram today. Contact us to learn about our social media marketing services and what we can do for your company

How to Use Snapchat in Content Marketing

Since its initial release in 2011, Snapchat has exploded in growth, becoming the leading image messaging app, known for its disappearing pictures and fun filters. In 2017, Snapchat has 8 billion daily views, reaches 11% of the US digital population, and is worth more than $16 billion. It’s hard to ignore Snapchat for content marketing—it’s an important platform that reaches younger users in substantial numbers. The average Snapchat user spends 30 minutes daily in the application—time that advertisers can use to market to them.

But Snapchat digital marketing isn’t the same as marketing through Facebook or Instagram. Snapchat requires a more personal style—even from branded accounts. Creating connections on Snapchat may mean engaging with individual Snapchat users by directly sharing photos with them. Large branded campaigns are harder on Snapchat. Smaller accounts can’t do traditional ad spending on Snapchat, as the minimum ad spend for CPM (cost per thousand impressions) is $40,000 a month.

However, with Snapchat’s incredibly large user base, a talented advertiser can use Snapchat for marketing to create stories that engage their customers and create a loyal following. We’ll walk you through successful Snapchat marketing campaigns and tips to build your Snapchat account. Count on Leverage to grow your Snapchat prowess.

snapchat marketing phone

How to Improve Your Snapchat Marketing Skills

Snapchat can be a challenge for many marketers attempting to first break into the platform, because it’s markedly different from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or Pinterest. It’s more of an authentic experience, as users (and brands) don’t polish their images or videos the same way they would on other forms of social media. Snapchat is ephemeral, and the content produced for it is therefore not as professional. Users want to find something that feels genuine, a behind-the-scenes look at your company, not a heavily-edited marketing video.

One of the most important things to note about Snapchat is its demographics—more than 60% of its users are in the 13-34 age group, with 37% between 8-24, and 71% between under age 25. Only 2% of those using Snapchat are 55 and older. It’s a young audience—and your best practices and ideas for use should reflect that.

Snapchat Marketing Best Practices—and How to Use It

If you’re embarking on Snapchat marketing for your business, there are some best practices you should take advantage of when creating a campaign:

  • Create Urgency – Snapchat is all about ephemera, images, and videos that only last a certain amount of time. Creating an ad campaign, whether it’s a Snapchat story (a series of videos or images) or just a single video or image that evokes urgency will help in getting your message across.
  • Test Your Content in Private Messages– It’s imperative that you test your Snapchat content before sending it out to hundreds or thousands of followers—create a dummy Snapchat account or connect with a co-worker to gain feedback and see if your campaign works well on various platforms (iOS, Android, etc.)
  • Fit Your Content to the Platform– When developing content for Snapchat, it’s important to remember you can’t just use images you’ve created for Instagram or Facebook. As mentioned previously, Snapchat requires a personalized touch—address your audience like you’re talking to a friend and develop a persona for your Snapchat account and brand.
  • Use Both Images and Video– It’s important to use all forms of available media for Snapchat. With Snapchat Stories, you can combine both pictures and video using available filters and lenses to create a story your followers will love.
  • Tell Your Story­- Your brand or company has a story. Use your Snapchat account to tell your fans a personalized story about what you’re marketing. You can use custom images and still photographs, as well as candid video to tell your company’s story. Polished and perfect won’t work for Snapchat, so develop something that feels core to the brand.

Market to Your Audience

snapchat marketing billboard

With all these best practices, you still need to sell your product to the audience. For advertising to the younger Snapchat demographic, try some of these ideas to convert your followers:

  • Coupon Codes: Limited time coupon codes (ephemera) that expire after a brief time
  • Influencer Marketing: Snapchat celebrities or popular accounts can cross-promote your product
  • Anticipation for an Event: Use a popular event, like the Oscars or Super Bowl, to build hype for your company or product—tying it in with a promotion or offer

Snapchat Campaigns that We Love

snapchat marketing selfie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since Snapchat is a relatively new platform, it can be harder to find successful Snapchat marketing efforts. Nevertheless, here are a few of our favorite Snapchat marketing campaigns:

  • WWF (World Wildlife Fund) used Snapchat to raise awareness about endangered species through its #LastSelfie campaign. This selfie hashtag campaign symbolized the diminished population of many animals in Turkey and Denmark and played on people’s emotions for success. It used Snapchat’s ephemeral format to demonstrate how the animals, without intervention, could be the last of their species on Earth.
  • GrubHub took advantage of Snapchat to find summer interns, using the medium to share the job posting. By considering the average age of Snapchat users, GrubHub took advantage of the platform’s uniqueness. The job posting required “Snapchat Skillz” and included an application link within the Snap itself.
  • Audi partnered with Snapchat and The Onion, a satirical online newspaper, to drive up its Snapchat following during the Super Bowl. Audi gained over 6000 new Snapchat followers, posted dozens of images not necessarily related to their cars, and was talked about throughout the Super Bowl and for days afterward. By using of-the-moment memes and millennial jokes, Audi reached out to the target Snapchat population.

Snapchat as Your Marketing Partner

Snapchat is certainly not a traditional advertising platform: it doesn’t offer CPM for smaller marketers, its demographic is far younger than average, and it traffics in ephemera. However, if you play to Snapchat’s strengths, using less expensive targeted geo-filters, target the younger demographic, and follow the best practices, you can succeed on Snapchat. Remember, Snapchat is a useful social media platform only for some target audience. If your buyer personas are all older millennials, Gen X’ers, or baby boomers, Snapchat may not be the right choice for you. Leverage Marketing can help you decide whether Snapchat can pay off for your company.


Leverage Marketing’s marketing team has the experience with Snapchat you need. Our social media gurus know everything there is to know about Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest—all the platforms you need for your business. Contact us today to learn more about our social media services.

4 Wedding Industry Insiders Share Their Digital Marketing Strategies

As someone who recently got engaged, I’ve realized there’s a lot I have to learn about wedding planning. And as a content marketer, I’ve noticed that wedding businesses are great at reaching me while I’m doing research online. From sponsored posts about wedding day survival kits on Facebook to the promoted wedding dress Pins I keep seeing on Pinterest, brands are everywhere.

To get a better understanding of how wedding businesses are capitalizing on digital marketing, I reached out to the following four wedding industry professionals:

  • Kaleigh Wiese, founder of MéldeenWiese founded luxury stationary company Méldeen in 2009. Méldeen creates custom save-the-dates, wedding invitations, ceremony programs, thank you cards, and more. In 2016, Wiese introduced PIXEL by Méldeen, a custom Snapchat filter design service.
  • Stephanie Padovani, co-founder of Book More BridesPadovani and her husband, Jeff, started Book More Brides as a part-time project that played to their shared interest in marketing. Their consulting business, which helps wedding entrepreneurs increase leads and revenue, now grosses over six figures a year.
  • Ariel Meadow Stallings, founder of Offbeat BrideStallings launched her Offbeat Bride site in 2007 to promote her book about nontraditional weddings. The website gained popularity thanks to its focus on inclusivity and empowerment and now averages more than 1 million visits per month.
  • Jennifer Stein, co-founder and Editor in Chief of Destination I DoStein was inspired to help start Destination I Do in 2004 when she was planning her own destination wedding and realized there weren’t any magazines covering the subject. Destination I Do is now an international magazine with digital components, including a blog and online planning tools.

Méldeen: Using Analytics to Reach Wedding Planners

For Kaleigh Wiese, success in digital marketing is all about focusing on the right audience. Because of Méldeen’s price points and minimums, Wiese has found that wedding planners are her best customers (although she gets some direct inquiries from engaged couples, too).  Wiese has a few major strategies for getting Méldeen in front of wedding planners:

  1. Research the keywords and hashtags wedding planners use when searching for inspiration.

  2. Explore relevant search terms that are getting more volume (e.g. foil, letterpress). Capitalize on those concepts in Pinterest content before they reach peak popularity (and saturation). Use Promoted Pins for high-value, relevant content.

  3. Use Google Analytics to identify where the most traffic is coming from and focus paid campaigns on those geographic locations.

Bonus Tip: Wiese also pointed out that digital marketing strategies can help with networking—something that’s especially important for a wedding business that works with other wedding professionals. When using Instagram, Wiese says that she always tries “to tag all vendors involved in the day-of event.” It’s something that not a lot of wedding vendors think to do, but tagging one another on social media helps to build network connections and leverage credibility with potential customers.

Book More Brides: Capturing Leads with Hot-Button Content

Stephanie Padovani isn’t afraid to speak her mind when it comes to writing content for Book More Brides. She shared the following recipe for attracting clients (in her case, wedding professionals):

  1. Identify a controversial topic your target clients get really worked up about.

  2. Write an article that proves the arguments for your prospects and makes them look good.

  3. Promote the article to your target audience and encourage sharing and republishing.

Padovani explained to me how she did this with one of her blog posts: 10 Things Couples Need to Know About the Wedding Industry That the Media Will Never Tell You. She wrote this post in response to common headlines that talk about “wedding markups” and “getting taken advantage of” when planning a wedding. In her article, she explains why those accusations are mostly false and how much behind-the-scenes work goes into being a wedding professional.

In addition to publishing the post on the Book More Brides blog, Padovani shared it with her email list and social media audience, encouraging readers to republish it and spread the word. In a few days, the post had received 3,000 page views and over 3,500 Facebook engagements and Tweets. To date, the post has received over 24,000 unique page views.

After getting the ideal audience to the site, Padovani recommends using multiple opt-in offers to generate leads. For example, the Book More Brides blog prominently displays an email template that visitors can download after they submit their email address.

Offbeat Bride: Listening to the Online Community

Ariel Meadow Stallings launched the Offbeat Bride website in 2007 as a way to promote her book (Offbeat Bride: Creative Alternatives for Independent Brides), and since then the site has become an active online community and collaborative blog with well over a million readers per month. As the site has grown, the Offbeat Bride brand has evolved to reach a wider audience. In an interview on her site, Ariel said:

“My initial target readership was super weird people planning super weird weddings…It became clear within a year that the majority of my readership was not actually all that weird, nor were they especially tech-savvy. The majority were brides planning what initially appeared to be relatively traditional weddings, looking for creative and unique ideas to make the weddings feel personal.”

Stallings often gets ideas for content that will resonate with her audience by going straight to that community of readers. Until 2015, Offbeat Bride had a private online forum with members who were “super vocal, super engaged, and highly invested.” Stallings sometimes sourced content directly from forum members and followed discussions to get an idea of what issues were most popular with her readership. While the forum is no longer online, Stallings now uses native insights from Facebook and Instagram to listen to the Offbeat Bride community. When she and her staff develop content, the focus generally remains on material “that’s positive but also provocative, relevant to consumers as well as industry readers.”

Destination I Do: Adapting to Changing Landscapes

Destination I Do began as both a print and online magazine, and while the publication still includes both traditional print and online components, its marketing strategy has evolved to meet the needs of today’s readers. Co-founder Jennifer Stein told me that because so many engaged couples rely on online and mobile content when planning their weddings, Destination I Do has invested in increasing visibility and providing a great user experience. Stein noted:

“We invest marketing dollars in Instagram to generate a genuine engagement with our readers as well as leveraging idea inspiration platforms such as Pinterest. We also put our budget in areas like Facebook, Google AdWords, and SEO [strategies] to drive traffic directly to our site. Data is only one piece of the puzzle. Our goal isn’t just to get unique visitors on our site to bring product awareness, it’s to engage with our readers so that they can experience a helpful conversation with us.”

Stein and the rest of the team at Destination I Do are most interested in targeting a niche audience of engaged couples who are planning a destination wedding and honeymoon. Stein said that because a destination wedding is such a big moment (and one that requires a lot of planning), “we do our best to provide partner products, inspiration, and content that will help [couples] with that process and, in the end, make it fun and stress-free.”

Takeaways for the Wedding Industry

Although the four wedding professionals I spoke to are all targeting different audiences, I noticed a few similar strategies:

  • Pay attention to what your target audience is talking about in wedding forums, blog comment sections, and social media posts. This will help you develop content that effectively engages that audience.
  • Use Google Analytics (and other data collection tools) to get a better understanding of your site visitors’ behavior and interests. You may find that your site is appealing to different segments than you originally thought.
  • While search engine optimization is important, it’s equally important to optimize your wedding business website for your visitors. Provide the inspiration and information that will be most useful to your audience, whether they’re planning their wedding or assisting with the planning for someone else.

Are you a wedding business owner with an online presence? Let us know what digital marketing strategies have worked for you in the comments. And if you have any questions about how you can increase your traffic and conversions, don’t hesitate to contact Leverage Marketing directly.

40 Questions To Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Maybe you’re planning to hire a marketing agency for the first time. Maybe you’ve been burned by a black hat SEO agency and have sworn you’ll be more particular about the next marketing partner you choose. Whatever the case, you know that when hiring a digital marketing agency, you need to do your research and ask all the right questions.

Not sure if you’re covering enough ground with your current list of questions? We can help with that. We’ve come up with a list of 40 questions to ask before hiring a digital marketing agency. Many of them are questions that our clients have asked us—or that we wish would come up more often!

No time to read the list right now? Save it for later:

40 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Digital Marketing Agency

Jump to a section:

SEO

  1. How will you improve our search engine rankings? Get the agency to talk about their process. Watch out for agencies that use black hat techniques (such as buying low-quality links) or promise that they can get your page to rank number one for certain keywords.
  2. What’s your process for earning high-quality links? Does the agency have a database of relevant placement opportunities and a process for reaching out to bloggers?
  3. Do you follow Google Webmaster Guidelines? Your agency should always follow the Webmaster Guidelines to help Google find, index, and rank your site. Following these guidelines will also help your site avoid penalties.
  4. Have you ever helped a site recover from a penalty? Can you tell me about that process? Hopefully, the agency hasn’t gotten any of their clients penalized, but they may have had new clients come to them needing help recovering from a Google algorithm penalty.
  5. How long will it take to see results? The agency won’t be able to give you an exact date, but effective SEO campaigns should start positively affecting your site in about three to six months.
  6. What will I need to do to make the campaign successful? Find out what information you can give the agency to make your SEO campaigns as successful as possible.

Content Marketing

  1. Can you show us some writing samples? Any agency that offers content marketing services should be able to show you examples of their writers’ best work.
  2. How will your writers familiarize themselves with our business and industry? You need to know your agency can handle the amount of research needed to produce authoritative content for your business.
  3. How do you optimize your content for readers and search engines? Learn about the content team’s process for connecting with your target audience. Find out how closely they work with the SEO team and whether they optimize their content for relevant keywords.
  4. What types of content do you produce? Find out if the agency has experience producing not just website copy and blog posts but also infographics, video scripts, short animations, email campaigns, eBooks, and more.
  5. How many internal and external content pieces will you create per month? If your goal is to stay top-of-mind with your audience by publishing a new blog post every day, you’ll need to make sure your agency has enough bandwidth.
  6. Will you be publishing new content on our site? Find out if the agency can add images, format content to appeal to online readers, and publish the final product to your site. If the agency doesn’t handle publication, you’ll have to assign an in-house team member to stay on top of it.
  7. What metrics will you report on? The agency should go beyond just vanity metrics (traffic, social shares, number of comments) and measure how their content assists in conversions.

Paid Search

  1. Do you have a Google Partner Badge? If your agency has a Google Partner Badge, it means they have employees who are certified in Google AdWords, have access to their own Google Agency Team, and keep up with the latest AdWords innovations.
  2. Do you offer services across multiple PPC platforms (not just AdWords)? While Google is the most widely used search platform, it may be worthwhile to find out if your PPC agency also uses Bing Ads (especially since Bing has a 22% share of desktop search traffic).
  3. What tools do you use to optimize your paid search campaigns? The agency you’re interviewing might use paid search tools that would be too expensive for you to bring in-house. They may also have proprietary tools that you can’t get anywhere else.
  4. Will we be able to see actual spend within AdWords? Your agency should be transparent about how they’re spending your ad dollars.
  5. What metrics are included in your standard reports? CPC, CTR, ad positions, conversion rate of keywords and landing pages—your agency should deliver easy-to-read reports that make it clear how your paid search campaigns have been performing.
  6. Do you have experience managing paid campaigns on Facebook and LinkedIn? As organic reach on Facebook and LinkedIn decreases, it’s becoming more valuable to hire a marketing agency with experience in paid social media.

Social Media

  1. What social channels should my company be on? Chances are, you don’t need to be on every social media network in existence. Your agency should be able to recommend the channels that are most relevant to you based on your audience and business goals.
  2. What is your process for community management across platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)? A good social media team should be prepared to respond to comments and facilitate conversations on all your social channels—and to look for ways to connect with customers across those channels.
  3. How will you ensure our social media presence reflects our brand? Your agency should be thinking of social media strategies that are consistent with your brand rather than just resorting to tactics they’ve used for other clients.
  4. What is your content development strategy? Find out how closely your agency’s social media and content marketing teams work together when it comes to producing social content.
  5. How do you measure ROI on social media efforts? Your agency should be able to describe how they’ll track campaigns and measure the results in relation to your goals (e.g. conversions, revenue, customer acquisition).

Web Design

  1. Can you show us some of the websites you’ve designed? Although your website obviously won’t look exactly like the others your agency has designed, it’s good to get a sense of their aesthetic before you commit.
  2. Do you custom-design websites or use templates? If you have a limited budget and your website isn’t a major source of sales, a template site might be enough. However, if you need a unique site that will generate leads or sales, you should talk to agencies that offer custom design services.
  3. How much input will I have in the design? Find out if you’ll be able to see the website and provide input as it’s being created. You should also find out what the agency’s process will be if you don’t like the initial design.
  4. Will you use responsive design? Any good web design agency knows that websites need to look good on all screen sizes, from smartphones to desktop monitors.
  5. Will my website be able to scale as my business grows? Your agency should design your website so that more products, services, navigation options, and other features can be added as needed without a complete site redesign.
  6. Do you offer ecommerce services? If you have an ecommerce business, you’ll want to work with an agency that can handle shopping carts, support for multiple currencies, updating prices to reflect discounts, and more.
  7. Do you offer ongoing maintenance once the site goes live? Will the agency be able to handle troubleshooting post-launch, or will you have to find another vendor to maintain your website?
  8. What role does SEO play in your site design? Will your web design agency also be able to produce keyword-optimized content, add title and meta tags, implement a crawlable link structure, and use other strategies to make your site SEO-friendly from the start?
  9. Do you set up Analytics tracking when designing a new site? It’s important to get Google Analytics tracking set up with your new site so that you can begin viewing behavior and performance metrics.
  10. What kind of security features do you offer? It’s a good idea to make sure your agency can set up a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate to establish a secure connection for traffic between the web browser and server.

General

  1. How will you help me stand out from my competition? Your agency needs to understand your target audience and what you can deliver to your audience that your competitors can’t.
  2. How will you improve my site’s conversion rate? The agencies you interview may talk about how they can improve your visibility and increase traffic to your site, but they ultimately need to increase conversions/sales to make your investment pay off.
  3. What experience do you have working with businesses in my industry? It’s nice to know if your agency has experience with other businesses in your industry, but it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker if they don’t. You could also ask: What steps will you take to become an expert on my business and industry?
  4. How will we communicate? Find out who you’ll be working with on a regular basis and how often you can expect to talk with them.
  5. How will you report on our progress month-over-month? Will the agency deliver an easy-to-read report and summary every month? Will they walk you through the report in a monthly meeting?
  6. How do your different marketing efforts fit together? Ideally, you’ll find a digital agency that sees all its departments as working together towards big-picture goals, rather than existing in separate silos.

We hope these questions will help you in hiring a digital marketing agency. And don’t forget: Leverage offers all the services described above. Contact us to learn more, and subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to have helpful marketing advice delivered to your inbox.

Mother’s Day Marketing Secrets that Lead to Profitability

Mother’s Day is one of the biggest commercial holidays of the year. Thanks to companies like Hallmark and the power of collective guilt, in 2015 the average consumer spent $173 on Mother’s Day gifts. The holiday has expanded from mothers to wives, daughters, sisters, grandmothers—women in general. The challenge, therefore, is figuring out how to develop Mother’s Day marketing ideas for this larger population.

Developing a Mother’s Day marketing strategy before the holiday is integral to your success. With an increased focus on online shopping, three in 10 shoppers will buy a Mother’s Day gift online this year, using mobile phones to research and purchase their gifts. By developing a mobile-focused and forward-looking approach to Mother’s Day advertising, your brand can succeed this year.

Marketers use conventional techniques around holidays like Mother’s Day to entice shoppers, including free shipping (55%), price cuts (44%), and coupons (41%).mother's day marketing techniques

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But beyond these apparent techniques, here are some of our Mother’s Day marketing ideas to help your business delight customers and the important women in their life this year:

Video Marketing

Mother’s Day video marketing campaigns like Proctor & Gamble’s 2016 Olympic Games’ ad employ emotional techniques, invoking the bond between mother and child. This Mother’s Day marketing strategy displays the strength of mothers and how they help their children succeed. Developing Mother’s day video marketing campaigns can be extremely successful, as videos like this can perform up to 20% better than similar as placements.

This P&G ad has over 22 million views at the time of publication. The ad shows Olympic athletes’ mothers helped them in their journeys to the Rio games, comforted them in times of struggle, and supported them through everything.

When creating Mother’s Day video advertising ideas for your product or brand, attempt to play on the feelings of the audience—the connection between mother and child, or wife and husband. By utilizing emotional advertising techniques, you can capture market share and increase your sales around Mother’s Day.

Contests and Giveaways

No matter the season or holiday, consumers love contests and giveaways. You can utilize sweepstakes and giveaways around products you’re promoting to drum up excitement for your Mother’s Day sales and marketing efforts. Tie your special or contest into the items you’re trying to sell, such as beauty products, chocolates, or flowers for mom.

Offering a high-value prize, like a spa day or a vacation package for two, can get customers talking about your brand. This type of Mother’s Day marketing strategy can be an excellent way to get email sign-ups for your mailing list as well.

Gifts and Mother’s Day Specific Products

When creating Mother’s Day marketing, focus your deals and promotions on specific gifts for Mother’s Day. Remember that Mother’s Day goes beyond gift-giving for mothers–to aunts, sisters, grandmothers, wives, and even daughters. You can create Mother’s Day packages targeting specific segments of the population, as well as those to whom they want to give the gift.

Nostalgia is a powerful factor in driving customer engagement—whether it’s a child buying their mother a gift that’s reminiscent of a good time in their lives or a husband giving his wife a gift reminding them of how happy they are to be parents. Utilize social media to promote your Mother’s Day gift packages—Pinterest and Instagram are the most popular social media platforms for Mother’s Day.

Email Marketing

Before beginning an email marketing campaign for Mother’s Day, it’s important to segment your email lists and create email content that speaks to your individual customer bases. As Mother’s Day is a diverse holiday, create well-crafted emails targeting those who plan far in advance—in addition to emails for last-minute gifts will allow you to maximize your email list.

Simply starting email subject lines with “Mother’s Day” will also increase your success, as titles that start with the holiday phrase have a 16% higher engagement rate than those that include the phrase later in the line. By segmenting your lists, using Mother’s Day-front loaded subject headings, and writing original emails, you can succeed in capturing market share during the holiday.

Mother’s Day PPC Campaigns

mother's day flower image

To make an impression this Mother’s Day, work with your PPC team to create a campaign several weeks before the holiday. Make sure to update relevant ad copy for Mother’s Day product categories and talk to your team about prioritizing bids for Mother’s day product categories, including popular gifts and presents.

A smart Mother’s Day PPC marketing strategy would be to start with low bids on broad queries and then segment and monitor engagement to accurately remarket to likely customers. Advise your PPC team to save ad dollars for last-minute Mother’s Day shoppers as well.

By using these techniques and other Mother’s Day advertising ideas, you can increase your sales and build goodwill towards your brand. Mother’s Day grows each year, with spending reaching $21.2 billion in 2015. Grab a slice of the pie by utilizing these marketing strategies.


If you need help with your Mother’s Day advertising strategies, the Leverage Marketing team can help you develop a plan to increase your sales and website reach. Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest news in the digital marketing world from Leverage.

 

6 Unique Ways to Use Video in Your Marketing

Scroll down your Facebook feed, catch up on Twitter, or rummage through Instagram, and you’ll notice immediately the use of video in marketing. Visit a major retailer or electronics developer’s website and you’re likely to stumble on how-to and explainer videos.

Why use video in marketing? Because leverage green computer with mock facebook on screen and videosopportunity exists to market your goods or services within those channels to customers who need and want them with a bit of clever video creation.

It’s no simple task to learn how to use video in marketing, but there are some rarely traveled avenues for video that your competitors probably haven’t explored yet. The following unique ways to use video in your marketing all require only a basic video setup with a microphone and some free space.

Attention-Grabbing GIFs

Animated GIFs don’t just have to come from your favorite TV shows and movies – you can shoot a custom video and turn it into an animation that will pull your website visitors’ attention immediately.

eric promotion highlight animation pointing at text to the leftUse GIFS to:

  • Draw attention to a CTA
  • Make an offer
  • Enhance branding
  • Inject personality

You can use GIFs on your website, in your emails, on social media, and in presentations. Just don’t overdo it – too many GIFs in inappropriate places will hinder your professional credibility. If you don’t have software like Adobe Photoshop to make custom GIFs, use Giphy’s GIF Maker to assemble your animations.

Video Email Signatures

Give prospects, business partners, and clients a chance to look through another entertaining and enlightening window into your business by adding a crafty signature video to your email signature block.

 

The video should exhibit your individual personality and include some elements of your work culture. There’s no one format, and you can film it anywhere at any time. Like most videos, keep it short – it should be fun for the viewer and heighten their goodwill and respect for your company.

Weekly Broadcasts

leverage purple computer showing weekly broadcast showWeekly, monthly, or even daily broadcasts uploaded to YouTube are beneficial to your SEO and can also be easily posted and shared through major social networks like Twitter and Facebook. If your site garners a healthy amount of traffic, you can also feature them on an exclusive part of your website and encourage visitors to register for other special content that you provide.

Assemble short videos to:

  • Display new products
  • Update customers on upcoming products
  • Announce new services
  • Provide industry tips

If you haven’t addressed them in a while, you can also just say hello to your audience. Your broadcasts are most likely to catch views if you share them on social media and encourage others to share as well. However, you can still get some traction by recording periodical videos to create a library of company news and events as well.

Interviews with Influencers

leverage green computer showing interview with influencer

Influencers hold phenomenal authority in the world of social media, which gives them the ability to direct customers to a product or service they deem worthy of their fans’ attention. If you’re using influencer marketing as part of your marketing plan, you’re already on the right track to reaching your target audience and bringing your product or service to the people that are currently looking for it.

 

Influencers and video both currently dominate social media. Combine these trends to multiply the results of your efforts.

Broadcast and record live chats and interviews with influencers about your product. Do it question-and-answer style or just spend some time thanking an influencer for his or her endorsement and reinforcing the reasons that your product or service is worthy of attention from influencers and their followers. You can then turn your live videos into exceptional testimonials for your website.

Unscripted Testimonials

leverage purple computer showing video testimonialVideo testimonials exist scarcely in the deep recesses of the Internet – but that’s not because they aren’t effective. Text-and-photo testimonials still dominate because they are easy to make and post. But by employing only a small amount of additional effort, you can collect a few video testimonials that will tell more than text ever could.

Coordinate with happy customers and offer them an incentive if they don’t seem to have time to fit you in. A one-off free service or product offering is an incredible price for a video testimonial. Prepare a short list of questions to ask to get organic responses and provide the list to the customer beforehand.

Try some of the following questions:

  • What do you like about our product or service?
  • Can you tell me a story about a time when our product or service helped you or your business?
  • Why do you plan to continue to buy or use our product or service?

Bring customers or clients in for a shoot (don’t forget to ask them their name and company while recording), send them on their way, then do a quick edit for a 30-second testimonial and you’ll capture a new level of trust from your audience.

Offline Customer Service

leverage green computer with hammer and wood showing offline service videosCustomer service representatives often have a script from which they read to help customers solve their problems. Save your customer service team some time and eliminate the troubleshooting script with a video or series of videos that attempts to show customers and clients how to solve basic problems without human guidance.

Draw from an available Frequently Asked Questions database or start collecting information from your customer service department. Then draw out a script with step-by-step instructions on how to fix problems. Give the videos a single, cohesive format and brand them so your customers know that it’s your company that cares enough to give them a hand solving their problems.

Get creative with your videos, and no matter how you’re doing them, make sure:

  • Your brand is clear
  • Your actors are recurring
  • Your video fulfills a need
  • Your video’s content has not been done before

Follow content marketing best practices (provide useful information, don’t manipulate your audience, etc.) when creating and sharing videos to increase their power. When executed correctly, videos can enhance almost every part of your digital marketing strategy. Try to find new ways to integrate video into multiple marketing channels at once to take your brand or company to the top – fast!

Leverage knows video marketing. We stay up to the minute on video trends to keep our skills sharp and share information with trusted readers and clients like you. Stay afloat in the video information flow by signing up for our newsletter today. It’s easy, free, and loaded with marketing magic.

How Do Customers See Your Brand?

It doesn’t matter if you think your brand has the potential to be the next Apple or Nike—what matters is what your target audience thinks of your brand.

Understanding brand perception is essential to succeeding in a competitive marketplace, according to Brian Woyt, founder of the branding agency Wolf & Missile. “Ultimately, your brand is what the marketplace says it is,” Woyt says, “Not what you think it is.”

To be long-lasting, your brand must form a connection with your audience. That connection is based on trust, and your brand earns trust when it remains true to what your audience expects of it. Unfortunately, it’s hard to remain true to your customers’ expectations when you don’t understand those expectations in the first place.

You need to research how customers view your brand so that you can develop resources that meet your audience’s expectations.

Brand Discovery: When You’re Starting from Scratch

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ll be able to use real customer feedback to understand your audience’s perception of your brand (more on that later). But if you’re new on the scene, you won’t have any marketplace feedback yet. Instead, Woyt recommends performing a brand discovery exercise:

  1. List the attributes or features of your product or service. (e.g. The FidoVac 5000 has a power rating of 8.5 amps.)
  2. Determine the consequences of the attributes (With the power of FidoVac5000, pet owners will be able to suck up pet hair from all surfaces).
  3. List the benefits of your product or service. (FidoVac5000 owners will enjoy the appearance of a cleaner home and won’t have to worry about pet hair getting stuck to their clothes when they sit down.)
  4. Determine the value of your product or service to your customer. (FidoVac5000 owners will enjoy greater peace of mind in their clean home.)

This exercise should help you move from the features of your product (which you already know) to the value of your product (which is what customers care about). Once you’ve identified the value your product or service offers, you can use this to define your brand. Your value should stay front and center of your traditional and digital marketing branding.

Positioning: How Your Customers See You vs. Your Competitors

Your brand doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Like it or not, most of your potential customers are weighing you against your competitors. To stand out, you’ll need to determine what makes your brand different from similar brands. Ask yourself: What does my audience want that I can deliver but my competitors can’t?

Woyt suggests taking the following steps to position your brand:

  1. Research the competition.
  2. Create a four-quadrant map of the competition’s positioning, as in the example below.
  3. Add your brand to the positioning map.
  4. Ask yourself what you need to do to minimize overlap or set your brand apart.

Next, you should write a brand positioning statement. This can be a sentence or two that states your brand’s unique value in the marketplace. To write this statement, ask yourself:

  • Who do my products/services appeal to and why?
  • What are the people at my company passionate about?
  • What promise is my brand making to the customer?

Understanding Brand Perception

If you’re an established business, you should be talking to real customers (and potential customers) to better understand how they see your brand. Conduct surveys by phone and email, and organize focus groups if possible. Questions to ask your customers include:

  • What attracted you to our brand instead of a competitor? Or, if you chose a competitor, why did you go with them?
  • What are the biggest frustrations you experience when trying to do business with companies in our industry?
  • Have you ever recommended our brand to another person? If so, who? And why?
  • What’s the first word that comes to mind when you hear our brand name?

In addition to interviewing customers directly, you can also use social monitoring tools to see what kind of online reputation your company has on social media and review sites.

There are dozens of social monitoring tools on the market, and you’ll have to do your due diligence to determine what’s best for your business. Here are just a few of the most popular tools:

  • Google Alerts: Lets you set up email alerts for mentions of your brand and other keywords in online publications
  • Hootsuite: Lets you view brand mentions (on social channels, blogs, and news sites) in real-time and gauge brand sentiment
  • Talkwalker: Lets you track mentions across all major social channels, print publications, and TV and radio broadcasts globally
  • Buzzsumo: Lets you view social shares of your brand’s content and identify specific users who have shared your content

Pay attention to both positive and negative sentiment. Looking at negative sentiment can help you identify what you need to change to improve your customers’ perception of your brand.

Your Customers See Your Brand Differently Than You Thought—Now What?

If your research reveals that brand sentiment is largely negative, it may be time to rebrand. As part of your rebrand, develop buyer personas. Identify buyer needs and pain points. Think about how your messaging can better connect with your customers. Work through the brand discovery exercise (if you haven’t already) to make sure you’re focusing on the value you bring to customers, not just the features of your products or services.

If brand sentiment is largely positive, but your customers think of your brand differently than you do, it’s still worth making some changes. Ask yourself if your brand’s actions and interactions are aligned with your positioning statement. If they’re not, think about how you can better tailor your marketing resources to your audience’s expectations.

Need help positioning your brand in a crowded marketplace? Leverage now offers digital marketing branding services—contact us now to learn more.

And don’t forget to subscribe to our biweekly newsletter to receive our latest blog posts in your inbox.

Should You Axe Your Comment Section?

Small business blogs struggle to get their readers to comment on their posts.  Meanwhile, larger online publishers have a different problem: comment sections are dominated by trolls who are more interested in picking a fight with the writer and other readers than in having a conversation. Whether it’s an issue of too little engagement or too much of the wrong type of engagement, many bloggers have decided it’s time to say good-bye to their comment section.

Many major online publishers (such as Recode, Reuters, Popular Science, Mic, NPR, and Vice) have already shuttered their comment sections and shifted their conversations with readers to social media. Of course, these are news sites that were getting hundreds of thousands of comments per month—their position is a little different than that of the typical business blog.

So what if you’re one of those business bloggers who is getting some well thought-out comments on each post but is also having to wade through spam? Should you soldier on with your blog comment section or shut it down?

Before making your decision, you should consider some of the challenges that comment sections create, the benefits (and limitations) of social media comments, and your blog’s audience.

Keeping Up with the Vocal Minority

One person speaks into giant megaphone, representing the vocal minority in comment sections

In a perfect blog world, the comment section would include remarks from a representative sample of readers. These readers would take the time to think about an article and share resources or ideas that add to the conversation. In reality, most blog comment sections are dominated by a small number of (often angry or combative) readers who don’t represent the views of the majority.

Let’s take NPR as an example. In an NPR commentary piece from August 2016, editor Elizabeth Jensen noted that while their website had 33 million unique visitors in one month, comments came from just 19,400 users (less than one percent). And of those users, just 4,300 were responsible for two-thirds of all comments. Digging deeper, NPR found that an estimated 83 percent of commenters were male, while an estimated 52 percent of all NPR.org users were male. It’s clear that their commenters were not a representative sample of the NPR audience.

The unrepresentative nature of the comment section isn’t the only issue. Many sites allow users to post anonymously, which means commenters can say incendiary things without worrying about their words being tied to their real-life identity. Not only can this be exhausting for writers and site moderators to keep up with, but it can also affect the way a site visitor views the article they’ve just read. One study found that people who read a scientific article accompanied by insult-laden comments were more likely to have polarized views of the technology described in the same article than people who read the article accompanied by civil comments.

Moving the Conversation

Social media icons in speech bubbles, indicating social media comments

Turning off their comments and shifting the conversation to social media has been a natural move for many publishers. After all, their readers are, for the most part, already on social media. And with many sites now seeing more than half their traffic coming from mobile, communicating over social media just makes more sense. Mobile users frequently access news and blog posts through apps like Facebook and Twitter, and they’re more likely to add a comment within one of those apps than they are to go to the publisher’s site, create an account, and add a remark to the comments section.

In addition to the convenience of social media platforms, many bloggers have found that conversations stay more civil when they move away from the comment section. There are still trolls on social media (especially on Twitter), but in general, there’s more accountability for social media users than anonymous commenters. Facebook and LinkedIn users are encouraged to set up accounts that are associated with their real-life identities, so anything they say through that account appears under their name.

For some publishers, the decision to ditch the comment section and focus on social media comments is also about visibility.  Kara Swisher, the executive editor of Recode, told Nieman Lab that Recode is focusing on social because they are more likely to have well-known people or industry influencers retweeting or liking one of their posts than going to their blog and leaving a comment.

Of course, social media conversations aren’t without their drawbacks. For one thing, sharing a post across several different social media networks can lead to fractured conversations: someone might make a great point on Facebook that doesn’t get picked up in the conversation on Twitter, or a helpful resource that someone shares in the comments on LinkedIn might not make it to Reddit.

Another potential issue is that not all readers are on social media. However, this may not be a noticeable setback for bloggers, since two-thirds of U.S. adults—and 90 percent of people ages 18 to 29– now use social networking sites.

Questions to Ask Yourself

If you’re still unsure whether you should keep or deep-six your blog’s comment section, ask yourself the following questions:

Is anyone leaving comments? If they’re not, your comment section isn’t doing you much good. You might as well disable it and encourage readers to connect with you on social media.

Are the comments thoughtful and productive? Some niche websites, like SEO-focused blog Moz, get lots of meaningful comments on each post because of the nature of their audience. In Moz’s case, the audience is largely made up of SEO professionals who are interested in sharing their knowledge and gaining new insights from their peers, which makes the comment section a valuable resource.

Are you prepared to moderate? If you do have an active comment section, you (or your writers) need to find the time to participate in the conversation with readers. When writers engage with their readers in the comment section, it helps keep the conversation thoughtful and lets the readers know they’ve been heard.

Whether you decide to keep your comment section, shift the focus to social media, or find some middle ground, be prepared to start a dialogue with readers—not the trolls, but the people who find value in your content and want to be part of the conversation. Engaging with site visitors or social media followers in this way helps to build trust, and that established trust will make you stand out from competitors when your readers are searching for the products or services you offer.


Leverage still has a comment section on our blog, so feel free to share your thoughts below. However, we’d also love to take this conversation to social media—share this post and your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Don’t forget to sign up for the Leverage Marketing newsletter—you’ll get all our latest blog posts, along with news about digital technology, marketing, and business trends.

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