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 Can I Use Social Media for My Ecommerce Business?

For ecommerce businesses, social media is going to become and may already be one of the most formidable arenas for advertising to potential customers. If you’re an ecommerce business owner, you can take advantage of the reach of social media to find potential customers at any part of the sales funnel.

hands holding purple box toward customer for marketing on social mediaUse of social media as an advertising tool for ecommerce businesses is sneaking up on social network addicts as well as the businesses and marketers that advertise to them. The birth and rapid expansion of influencer marketing has also pushed shoppers to start their buyer’s journey on popular social websites like Instagram and Facebook.

In those same places, advertisers are dropping chunks of their advertising budgets on videos that demand viewer attention and get them interested in products about which they didn’t know. Ecommerce sites may still be able to generate significant revenue without social media presence, but they will be missing out on an enormous audience of potential buyers – an audience that their competition may already be targeting.

Not convinced? These facts and statistics about social media and ecommerce may change your mind:

how to use social media for ecommerce facts and statistics infographic

People Spend Time and Money on Social Media

The average person spends 1 hour and 40 minutes on social media every day, and accounts for $1,734.05 in ecommerce dollars every year. It takes each person seconds to see and interpret an advertisement – imagine how often they will be able to see your advertisements. If you’re a successful advertiser, you could also grab a significant portion of the money that ecommerce customers are spending every single year.

There Are Tons of People Shopping Online

The number of online shoppers, defined as people who had browsed products, compared prices, or bought merchandise online at least once, is expected to hit 217.1 million in 2017.  Add a few million every year, and the potential profit for ecommerce businesses begins to multiply exponentially. Experts estimate that the total ecommerce market revenue for 2017 will reach 3.5 billion U.S. dollars. Companies who realize the increasing value of online shoppers are seeking every possible avenue to entice every possible customer.

Social Media Wants to Help with Advertising

Estimates for 2017 put total social media advertising revenue per user up to $65.91, the majority of which comes from targeting mobile customers. Facebook made themselves $7 billion in 2016 just through their various advertising programs.

The potential customers scrolling through their social feeds love the freedom to shop from anywhere, which means you can advertise to customers anywhere, especially as social networks become mobile-focused.

Video Will Dominate

We say with confidence that video is likely to quickly become the most common form of social media advertising for ecommerce businesses. Already, most of your Facebook and Instagram feeds are probably showing you videos rather than posts and pictures. As long as videos grab attention quickly and provide valuable information, they are the most efficient and easily digestible form of advertising for mobile and desktop customers alike.

Get into Social Media for Your Ecommerce Business Now

Building a social media presence doesn’t happen overnight. You can use social media as one of your main advertising channels for your products, but you have to build an audience first, and if you want to make money, it better be a large audience. Plus, you’ll need to figure out where your branding fits into your social media persona. Grab your accounts now, and if you already have them, start posting as soon as possible with product descriptions, special offers, and quick graphics and advertisements.


 

Your friendly Leverage Marketing team is already hard at work creating social media opportunities for ecommerce businesses. We know how to push product announcements, bring in customers for awesome sales, and find new audiences for your products. Talk to one of us today to learn more, and don’t forget to join our newsletter for invaluable marketing know-how you won’t find anywhere else!

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.

Biggest User Experience Stumbling Blocks on Ecommerce Sites

Designing an ecommerce user experience that pleases the customer is difficult. Besides creating a pleasing ecommerce layout design, you want to craft a seamless experience from landing page to purchase. These are some of the common failings ecommerce sites fall into–and you should attempt to avoid. By focusing on your ecommerce UX and avoiding stumbling blocks, you can succeed where others have failed.

biggest ux stumbling blocks statistics facts infographic

Limited and Missing Product Info, Pictures

Website users want clear-cut, straightforward information. They want ample details the explains what your product is and how it will help them. Your ecommerce site should have multiple pictures of each of your product from various angles, presented in an exciting way. Don’t use stock images either; customers prefer images you’ve created or photographs that were taken expressly for your product.

Lack of Mobile Optimization

It’s impossible to ignore mobile–it’s growing and becoming a larger segment of ecommerce activity each year. People shop from their phones and tablets even more, especially around the holidays. Your ecommerce website should be responsive and easy-to-use on mobile, with large buttons and a simple checkout process.

Long or Confusing Checkout Process

A prompt checkout process in integral to the success of your ecommerce site. If your checkout takes too long and isn’t smooth, it can dissuade buyers and lead to abandoned carts. A one-page checkout, with multiple options for payment–including the option to sign in with Google, Amazon, or PayPal can increase your conversion–and success.

Bad Site Search

You hopefully already have a site search function for your ecommerce site–but how well does it work? It should include filters and advanced functionality to help your customers find what they need. Give them options to search by category or feature. Purchasing and enabling quality software will enable this.

Missing or Hidden Contact Information

This piece of advice is simple–don’t hide your contact information. You should provide multiple forms of contact: phone, email, chat; whatever works for your ecommerce website. The more expensive the items you’re selling are, the more easily reachable you should be. Place this information prominently in your header or footer and include easy links to a contact us page.

Lack of Engaging Content: Videos, Etc.

To create a successful ecommerce site, you need to engage your buyers. That means creating exciting content for them to watch or read, including videos, infographics, case studies, and more about your products. Your content should enhance the user experience, explain your products, and reinforce why your company is right for the customer.

Poor or Hidden Social Sharing Buttons

Social media is a vital aspect of ecommerce–and ignoring it can be the downfall of any ecommerce site. A successful ecommerce site allows customers to share items they wish to or have purchased. Social sharing can result in additional conversions–and by making this process easy, you can increase your web presence as well.

Creating a seamless user experience for your ecommerce customers is the key to your success.  Avoiding these pitfalls and focusing on ecommerce UX design will ensure your product shines and customers return to your site and recommend you to others. By following these ecommerce UX best practices, you can see increased conversions and higher revenue over time.


If you’re looking for some help with your ecommerce site, Leverage is here for you. We have experience working with ecommerce businesses and can tailor an approach for your company. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you.

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.

9 Free SXSW 2017 Interactive & Networking Events

2017 is a unique year for South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX. Fresh visual technology and virtual reality will play a larger role than ever in the interactive sections of the event, and emerging mobile app capabilities are likely to dominate the floor. The ever-revolving marketing sphere turns on the axis of new technology, so wise marketers are already looking for free events that will upgrade their digital marketing game for the rest of 2017.

Enjoy these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events and share the info with your fellow entrepreneurs, marketers, and friends. These events are accessible at no charge with a free guest pass unless otherwise noted.

Treehouse Old School Happy Hour

Date Time RSVP
March 8 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM Yes

Treehouse is not only hosting a happy hour with free drinks, food, and music at Old School in Austin, they’re also giving away free one-month memberships to Treehouse for Business. The happy hour will unfold crawl-style, and you’ll get the chance to experience both Austin’s most unforgettable food and drinks as well as some of the most influential speakers of SXSW.

treehouse old school happy hour shot of crowd enjoying drinks

Austin Tech Happy Hour

(Note: This event allows entry by ticket. Free tickets are likely to run out fast, so reserve your tickets right away, or you may have to pay for tickets or cash at the door.)

Date Time RSVP
March 9 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Yes

The Austin Tech Happy Hour has been running for ten years, and it’s stronger than ever in 2017. Admission gets you two free drink tickets so you can loosen up with Austin’s tech crowd before the SXSW truly kicks off. The emerging technology community will be there ready to make friends online and offline.

austin tech happy hour logo

SX Create

Date Time RSVP
March 10 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM No

SX Create dives into the world of emerging technologies and the ways they can be customized and manipulated. Kids and adults alike can take in the wonder of 3D printing, drones, robots, biohacking, and whatever other secret projects with which inquisitive minds have been tinkering.

sx create r2d2 droid

Decoded Fashion: Content Is Still King

Date Time RSVP
March 12 3:30 PM – 4:30 PM Yes

Decoded Fashion wants to explore new and exciting ways to bring original content to fashion-hungry audiences. Even if you aren’t in the fashion industry, you’ll have the chance to learn a thing or two about PR, influencer marketing, and the very personal journeys that lead customers to relevant content.

decoded fashion house logo

Amazon Web Services ATX Startup Crawl

Date Time RSVP
March 13 5:00 PM – ? Yes

Amazon Web Services is pulling together Austin’s hottest startup businesses for a bar crawl that entrepreneurs and job-seekers alike won’t forget. The crawl is offering free drinks and pulled in a whopping 12,000 registrants last year. Guests can enjoy free drinks, check out local office spaces, share résumés, and talk with ambitious startup owners and employees.

atx startup crawl logo

Digital Media Women: Burgers & Bubbles

Date Time RSVP
March 13 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM Yes

Women are a powerful force in digital media, and the leaders of Digital Media Women want everyone to know about it. This is your chance to talk face-to-face with existing and upcoming digital media leaders as well as find out the secrets of women who are innovating at the forefront of technology. Plus, there’s food and tasty beverages.

digital media women sxsw 2017

Women in Digital Meetup

(Note: This event is already waitlisted, and the event coordinators are attempting to reserve an additional tent for those who want to attend. If you’re interested, register right away.

Date Time RSVP
March 13 4:00 PM – 7:00 PM Yes

It’s no secret that women are playing incredible roles in digital media and marketing, and this SXSW Meetup is set to celebrate the success of Women in Digital as it exceeds 450 members. This event is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet some of the most astounding minds in digital marketing and media and join a powerful network of hard-working women.

women in digital homepage screen grab

Pet Rescue Lounge

Date Time RSVP
March 13 5:00 PM – 1:00 AM Yes

Pets are near and dear to the dog and cat lovers of Leverage Marketing, a sentiment shared by nearly all of Austin. Meet like-minded individuals that can’t get away from their preoccupation with pets, and help find homes for deserving dogs and cats while enjoying unique entertainment from famous pets and free pet swag!

pet rescue lounge event logo

Local and Vocal

Date Time RSVP
March 15 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM Yes

Local and Vocal is an event that focuses on local Austin talent in entertainment. If you’re a marketer, you’ll have a rare opportunity to find talent to which you can offer your unique services. This event includes free drinks for those who are over 21 years old – which, of course, lends itself to some serious networking.

local and vocal sxsw 2017

Even though the events are free, we welcome you to support the event coordinators, participants, and local businesses by enjoying an extra drink or dish. Network, learn about new technology, and hone your marketing skills at these free SXSW 2017 Interactive & networking events coming your way very, very soon.

 

Want more free stuff? Sign up for our awesome Leverage Marketing newsletter. It’s packed with news about digital technology, marketing, business trends, and can’t-miss bulletins – and it’s all for free. FREE!

Brand Marketing at SXSW: How to Make Your Brand Stand Out

South by Southwest (SXSW) is an annual conglomerate of film, interactive media and music conferences that take place in Austin, Texas. With increasing attendance and new attention-grabbing tech displays each year, brands struggle to get noticed at SXSW. How can your brand bring a unique experience to SXSW that translates into something unforgettable? It’s increasingly difficult to get noticed when every consumer-facing company gives out free swag, throws parties with free beer, and shows off the latest technology.

SXSW is known for helping to launch Foursquare and Twitter, and the conference regularly screens excellent films and television shows, many of which go on to great acclaim. Marketing at SXSW is an increasingly complicated endeavor, as getting noticed above all the buzz is difficult enough. Brands struggle to tie in product releases, navigate consumer trends, and figure out how to draw attendees to their events.

While every SXSW is different, last year some successful brand activations made their mark on attendees and marketers. Creating SXSW marketing that stands out sometimes means doing something a little different than what everyone else is doing (or what you think they’re going to do).

Each of these SXSW brand activations highlights a unique aspect of their product and communicates that to the audience—something every brand needs to do. While you may be successful by just following the current marketing trends– whether that’s virtual reality, make-your-own soda, or just giving out free stuff—doing something that conveys your signature SXSW brand image will likely be more successful.

American Greetings

american greeting sxsw branding

credit: @mullenloweus

It might seem odd for a greeting card company to even come to SXSW, let alone do a brand activation. But American Greetings wanted to disrupt the mold of disruptive digital technology by bringing in the analog. Their three-day 2016 promotion was entitled #Analog and allowed festivalgoers to do DIY printmaking and pop-up cards. They could learn letter-making techniques from an American Greetings artist, fill in a coloring book mural, and even get a selfie stitched with thread. American Greetings’ message is not to say that digital communication is not important or analog can replace digital communication, but rather that they’re complementary. Many people don’t slow down to send paper cards, and American Greetings’ SXSW marketing message is that analog still matters, and we should slow down to appreciate it.

Suicide Squad

Another unique brand activation at SXSW 2016 was Suicide Squad’s tattoo salon. Although the movie didn’t come out until Summer 2016, Warner Brothers started promoted it early through this special Harley Quinn-inspired experiential marketing. Instead of just doing a sneak peek of the film, Warner Bros transformed Affinity Tattoo and Body Piercing into Harley Quinn’s Tattoo Parlor—and offered free real (and temporary) tattoos. This brand activation got people excited about the film, created a unique SXSW marketing angle, and involved artists and fans in an innovative way, without using virtual reality or alternate reality to do so.

Mr. Robot

Mr. Robot, a techie show that launched at the 2015 SXSW festival and won the SXSW Audience Award, wanted to come back in 2016 and make a splash. The show’s marketing team figured there was no better way to do way to do that than to bring their iconic “Wonder Wheel” Ferris wheel to Austin. In one of the largest SXSW brand activations to date, USA Network designed the Ferris wheel to look like the Coney Island Wheel in the show, complete with nearby carnival games. The Mr. Robot cast and crew even visited SXSW to pay homage to the success the festival helped them garner—and of course, see the Wonder Wheel in real life. By creating SXSW branding that directly references the television show and allows the audience to experience a piece of their world—Mr. Robot succeeded in their SXSW marketing.

Mophie

If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably heard of Mophie. They make external batteries and cases to charge your favorite devices. As you can imagine, at SXSW, battery life gets eaten up pretty quickly. Between all the tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, and interactive brand activations and events, your smartphone may be dead before the day is half over. But Mophie is here to rescue you—with adorable St. Bernards. At 2016’s SXSW, Mophie partnered with the National St. Bernard Foundation, Glympse, and a motorcycle company to bring you a fresh phone battery when festivalgoers needed it. If someone tweeted using the hashtag #mophieRescue, the company would send one of its fleet of St. Bernards straight to them with a Mophie battery pack to charge up. This cute SXSW brand marketing makes Mophie look good, helps people out, and helps a good cause—dog rescues.

The Takeaway

SXSW is a brand marketing war. There are hundreds, if not thousands of different companies competing for attention from festivalgoers and consumers. Many companies try using the tried and true techniques of giving out free swag, throwing parties, and utilizing the latest technology trends. But these aren’t enough to truly make your product or company memorable. Take note of the uniqueness of the SXSW branding campaigns mentioned in this article—they all did something that was integral to their brand identity and helped their core audience in some way. If you can harness this mentality for your SXSW marketing, you can succeed in the crowded marketplace.


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