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SMToolbox: Free Twitter Monitoring and Search Tools

This week in the SMToolbox we review some of the best free Twitter monitoring tools. Whether you are monitoring a brand or a topic area, these tools will ensure you know the trending content, the key influencers, current discussions and the latest industry news.

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By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

7 Reasons "Facebook Fraud" Is Seriously Flawed

The "Facebook Fraud" video should make us all think, not about leaving Facebook (because then we lose the access to fans we do have, and the opportunity to grow in front of a billion people), but about being careful in marketing, which is and always has been an important part of being successful.

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By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

3 Tips for Mobile Email Marketing

Many industry experts agree: if 10% or more of your digital property’s traffic is coming from smart phones or other mobile devices, it’s time to optimize for mobile. Better get those mobile-optimized email templates fired up because according to a recent statistic from email analytics provider Litmus, nearly half of all email sent gets opened on a mobile device! In fact, according to this graphic from email service provider Emma, smartphone users check email on their phone more than any other activity, even making phone calls and sending text messages:

3 Tips for Mobile Email Marketing image mobile email

Not only are emails more likely to be opened on a mobile device, but mobile email also generates the largest share of unique clicks (Experian), indicating those on a mobile device are more likely to contribute to future actions on your website or other digital properties to which you are driving email marketing traffic.

If you use email marketing within your digital strategy, these data points make it pretty hard to overlook the need for mobile-optimized campaigns. Read on for our top three tips for mobile email marketing success:

Design with the Smallest Screen in Mind (consider responsive design)

If your design, content and layout render well on even the smallest screen, chances are it will look just as polished on larger screens. That’s why you usually can’t go wrong if you design for a mobile experience first. Having succinct messaging that shows up on a small mobile screen, leaving white space around design elements such as images and call-to-action buttons and removing any visual clutter where possible are all great ways to ensure your email appeals to both a mobile and desktop audience.

Also, consider the use of responsive design (a design technique that optimizes the viewing experience regardless of device, screen size, resolution, etc.) when producing your email templates. Currently, only 12% of email newsletters use responsive design to optimize their templates for mobile – meaning that 88% are missing out on an opportunity to streamline the process by only creating one version of an email prior to deployment.

Include Clickable Visual Elements

Whether your thumbs are perfectly average or even on the small side, chances are you’ve accidentally clicked a link within an email when you didn’t mean too, simply because the email was not designed with you – the mobile user – in mind. One of the best ways to ensure your audience is clicking purposefully is to make accompanying images clickable; whenever you include a link within your content, add the same destination URL to an image or graphic you are using to illustrate your point. Not only does this offer users another way to access additional content but it also capitalizes on the trend of digital audiences gravitating towards all things visual.

Complete the Mobile Experience

One of the biggest mistakes that email marketers make is to only optimize the email itself for mobile audiences. Given that email is a great way to drive traffic to your website or other digital properties, you would be remiss to end your optimization efforts with the email message itself. Even if it’s not feasible to optimize your website, blog or social channels for mobile, consider optimizing a few highly-frequented landing pages that will be receiving traffic from all of your email efforts.

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

6 Mantras For Successful Content Creation

6 Mantras For Successful Content Creation image 274604 l srgb s glWorking as a Content Curator on the Business Innovation site has given me the incredible opportunity to get a firsthand look at all types of content, even creating some myself. I am still on my journey to find the “secret sauce” for what works with the audience reading my content. Throughout that time I’ve had a first row seat, learning what some of the best bloggers on the Internet do to create successful content.

Not too long ago HubSpot published a blog on the 5 Habits of Highly Successful Content Creators.

I’d like to add a few of my own as well.

1. The best writers are readers, and curators too

The ideas for great content don’t come out of thin air. Bloggers are obsessed with their industry, as well as others that blend into it. When you know what’s going on, you’ll be better equipped to write content that your audience is interested in hearing.

2. Work out your writing muscle

I’m not suggesting you blog every day, but when you don’t use something you tend to forget how to do it. HubSpot offers up a great tip, write every day or every other day. It doesn’t have to be a completed blog, but take the time to write down a few ideas and starter sentences. You may not use that content for some time, but it’s there for you to tackle when the moment strikes.

3. Don’t be afraid to be challenging and controversial

Some of the best articles on Business Innovation have had incredibly controversial titles and even more challenging content. By challenging I mean it is content that takes a hard look at the status quo, then offers up a different point of view or even an untraditional solution to the question. Obviously don’t write anything profane, but keep mind everybody loves a little drama.

4. Embrace the role of an educator

Content creators are in a unique position to offer something very special, knowledge. Many of these individuals contributing to the conversations in your industry, LoB, or interest area are experts or asking enough questions to get there soon enough. You can be that person too. Blogging gives you an excellent opportunity to share your unique point of view on certain topics. Don’t waste time writing about your product, give the reader what they’re looking for, and most of the time that’s an answer to their question.

5. Figure out what high quality content means to you

This takes trial and error. Create a few pieces all with different approaches. Then look at the metrics like page views, leads (if applicable), social shares, and comments. When you find a set of numbers you’d like to see, don’t ever stop trying to hit those benchmarks with your content. The numbers will be a direct tell if your audience likes it or not, but it never hurts to stop and ask yourself before publishing: is this actually what my audience wants? Will this piece address their needs, wants, and interests?

6. Embrace your curious nature

Curiosity is what compels great content writers to come up with even better content. Why? Because, with curiosity drives an individual to learn more about a certain something. It encourages them to look at all angles, asking incessant questions. HubSpot puts it best when they say, “it’s the insights that come from [this] inherent curiosity that makes great content”.

Hopefully these tips help you on your content creation journey. Let us know if there’s another you think should be added to this list!

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

14 Creative Communications Tools To Amp Up Your Website Or Blog

14 Creative Communications Tools To Amp Up Your Website Or Blog image 179129835

Your website and blog are the holy Mecca of content marketing. That’s where you need to concentrate your efforts to attract traffic and convert leads. So if there’s any place you want to expend any extra creative communications juice, it’s there.

There are numerous creative communications tools on the market that will help you shave seconds off your loading time, give you clues about what your visitors like and don’t like, fix problems, and optimize your site for search engines. There’s so much competition for eyeballs and attention span today that you need every advantage you can get — and some of these sophisticated tools really bring it.

You probably don’t have the time or money (the premium versions are not free) to subscribe to all of them, but if you know that you’ve got a particular problem that one of these tools addresses — or a certain goal — what a bounty this could be for you!

14 Creative communications tools for websites or blogs you should know about:

1) Callrail: CallRail is a simple call analytics and tracking solution. It allows you to identify the marketing channels and campaigns that make your phone ring. You can track phone calls from anywhere, online and offline. They offer source-level call tracking and keyword-level tracking to cover all aspects of marketing campaigns.

2) Formisimo: Got forms on your website? Most people don’t fill them out. This tool helps you understand what stops them. Install a simple piece of JavaScript on your site and Formisimo will be able to track form interactions, providing information on how users interact with your forms. From the average completion time to the most corrected field, you’ll understand how your users interact with the forms on your website.

3) CrazyEgg: This is a heat map that shows you where your visitors are clicking on your site so that you can improve your user experience.

4) LuckyOrange: Lucky Orange also offers a heat map, but more. You can watch — in real-time — visitors’ mouse movements, or you can watch videos of their movements. And you can chat with them in real time through a chat box that pops up while they are on your site. You can also do visitor polls.

5) Both Visual Website Optimizer and Optimizely provide A/B split testing capability, which is the best way to determine which of two designs, landing pages or copy treatments work the best in converting leads.

6) GTMetrix: This tool analyzes your website for speed and shows you how to fix the things that need action. Speed is especially important now that so many people use their mobile device to access the web. They are not patiently waiting for your site to load!

7) Hubspot’s Free Marketing Grader: Plug in your URL and get a complete analysis in seconds! You’ll not only find out how your website, blog and social media stack up on a score from 1 to 100, you’ll get specific recommendations about what you can do to improve your score.

8) Smush.It: Smush.It reduces the size of your photos without changing their look or visual quality. This prevents them from slowing down your page loads.

9) Inkybee: This tool helps you with blogger outreach based on your most relevant keywords. It saves you time by finding and tracking your blogger relationships.

10) Broken Link Checker: Guess what that does? Yep. It also tells you exactly where they are in your code. And it’s free.

11) Open Site Explorer: This site allows you to check the domain/page authority of up to three sites per day. You’ll probably want to check your own and couple of your competitors’ sites.

12) vCita: A pop-up allows visitors to schedule an appointment with you right from your website.

13) PicMonkey: Pictures with text on them are more likely to be shared online. This tool allows you to add text easily and also to create collages.

14) Hellobar: This is a thin bar that appears across the top of your page after a time that you specify. You configure the text, the color and the call to action and have it up and running in a couple of minutes.

Now it’s your turn.

This is just a sample of the many creative communications tools to make your website and blog more engaging and profitable. Decide which ones meet your goals and work them into your marketing plan this year. Make one or two changes and keep track of your results. Over time, you will know what is working and what isn’t. That’s the way to see real progress!

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

What You Need to Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

What You Need to Know About Canada’s Anti Spam Law image canada anti spam lawOn July 1, 2014, Canada’s new Anti-Spam Law (CASL) will take effect. Though that may seem far in the future, it’s important for email marketers to start preparing for the law today. When one email mistakenly taken for spam can rack up a $10 million fine, you’d be crazy not to. That’s why we’ve compiled everything you need to know about the CASL and the updates you’ll need to make to be in compliance.

What is the Purpose of the CASL?

According to the official CASL website, the law is intended to promote efficiency by establishing clear rules for consent in electronic communications.

It’s important to note that CASL applies to any electronic message sent in connection with a “commercial activity.” This means texts and social media will be held to the same standards as email. What’s more, even if the message isn’t intended to produce a profit, it still comes under the jurisdiction of CASL if it’s in a commercial context.

In addition to spam, the CASL also addresses privacy protection. The law prohibits the collection of personal information by illegally accessing a computer system or utilizing an email-harvesting computer program. It also prohibits the unsolicited installation of computer programs (i.e. viruses) and the alteration of data in transit via an electronic message.

What Does the CASL Change In Regards to Email Marketing?

The big focus of the CASL is consent. Anyone who sends commercial electronic messages (CEMs) within, from or to Canada needs the permission of the recipient before sending the message with very few exceptions.

Consent may be written, such as when the recipient fills out a consent form or checks a box on your website. Consent may also be verbally stated. If it’s written, make sure to store the date, time, purpose and manner of the consent in your database. If the consent is oral, obtain an unedited audio recording. And here’s a big change: You can no longer assume consent by pre-checking an opt-in box or including consent language in your terms and conditions of use or sale.

But what about implied consent? This is where things get tough. Implied consent may still apply, but only in three very limited situations:

  • If you are sending an email as a result of an existing business or non-business relationship
  • If the recipient conspicuously publishes his or her email address without specifying not to send CEMs
  • If the recipient willingly sends you his or her email address without specifying not to send CEMs

However, implied consent becomes invalid after six months if the recipient does not become a client and in two years if an existing client does not purchase, subscribe or renew the account.

The CASL also requires you to provide recipients with information that identifies the sender and enables the recipient to withdraw consent. This must include:

  • The name of the person or organization requesting consent (or the name of the person on whose behalf consent is sought)
  • Contact information that is valid for at least 60 days after the CEM is sent, including a mailing address and either a website, email address, phone number or voice message system where recipients can receive more information
  • The identity and contact information of any affiliate or third party used to obtain consent
  • A free unsubscribe mechanism that provides recipients two ways to electronically opt-out of all CEMs sent by you or a third party partner, which must take effect within 10 days

For individuals and organizations that violate these regulations, the penalties are painful:

  • Fines up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for corporations, per violation
  • Criminal charges for individuals and organizations that make false or misleading representations regarding the sender or subject of a CEM, including vicarious liability for companies whose employees violate the law

Additionally, the Private Right of Action, which comes into force July 1, 2017, allows individual victims to file civil charges and seek damages of $200 per violation and up to $1 million per day.

What Steps Should I Take to Comply with the CASL?

The real question is, “How well do you know your database?” You can no longer dust off an old list and start sending emails if you don’t know whether you have any Canadian recipients and whether those recipients have opted in. And it’s simply not enough to look for obvious domains that end in “.ca”; the stakes are just too high, the penalties too severe.

Instead, we recommend email marketers meticulously check every list they own:

  1. Review your opt-in process for all electronic communications—including text and social media— to see what changes need to be made
  2. Review any cross-marketing initiatives with affiliates or third-party partners
  3. Consult with your ESP and legal counsel about any compliance gaps and systemic changes that might need to be made
  4. Develop an implementation plan, which may require establishing a central “do not email” list to ensure compliance across your organization
  5. Obtain express opt-in consent from every name on every list
  6. Identify who in your organization will be responsible for monitoring compliance on an ongoing basis

As we all know, dirty data and poor email acquisition practices can give all email marketers a bad name. But by understanding the laws and following generally accepted standards, your emails will make it to your customers’ inboxes, boost your conversions and avoid racking up crazy fines!

Do you have additional questions about compliance with CASL? Contact TowerData today for help!

What You Need to Know About Canada’s Anti Spam Law image 91c82e21 bf89 4c12 96fd 8aa0ee3efa881

Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

Can Big Data Help Us Predict The Next Big (Snow) Storm?

Can Big Data Help Us Predict The Next Big (Snow) Storm? image 274621 l srgb s gl 0488 0275 rl 00 00I have a confession to make. The weather over the past few months has been infuriating me. I am tired of temperatures that are colder than my freezer. Tired of the snow and ice. And even though I love my kids, they really need to go back to school – now! At this rate, they will be in school until July 4th!

Even more frustrating is when I turn on the local news for the weather forecast. Words like “if”, “possibly”, and “perhaps” are peppered throughout their reports – even when the prediction is 48 hours in the future. And don’t even get me started when they say “the models don’t match up”. Ugh.

So I ask our beloved weather forecasters, “What is going on?” With all of the data available today, why aren’t forecasts more accurate? If a business analyst ever gave a report like these latest weather forecasts with mixed results, they would be fired. But here is one thing that separates weather forecasters from business analysts – you can never predict the unpredictable.

Like the climate, the science of the perfect weather forecast is changing

As a kid, I remember weather forecasters who were like rock stars. They gave a three-day report and a good long range was a forecast of five days out. And for the most part, you could rely on them.

Nowadays, the game is totally different. They are educated, certified meteorologists. Armed with five different model algorithms (Global, U.S., European, U.S. Navy, and Canadian) that are more powerful and up to date than ever before, they are pressured to give a six- or seven-day forecast (or even a seasonal projection) that is accurate.

According to a high-school friend of mine, Wyatt Everhart, Chief Meteorologist for WMAR-TV / ABC 2 News, “With all the data available, you can’t just look at one model. To get the big picture, you really need to look at all of them at the same time. The finer details of the forecast for the immediate area are created by combining that data with their experience with the region’s climate and weather patterns. And really, the data is good only 24 to 48 hours ahead of time. Anything more is an educated guess because weather and jet stream shifts can happen at a moment’s notice.”

“If you take a look at what organizations like National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are doing from a national level, the accuracy can be stunning and life-saving,” Everhart continues.

According to NOAA, the devastating impacts of extreme events – such as the 2011 tornadoes in Joplin, MO and Birmingham, AL – can be reduced through improved readiness. As a result, the “Weather-Ready Nation” initiative began in 2011. Over the past two years, NOAA has been doing more than issuing warnings – they’ve been learning how to get people to respond to those warnings. With the help of government officials and community groups, citizens are starting to take these warning seriously and heed the agency’s advice.

The initiative also gave NOAA an opportunity to strengthen its credibility to give accurate forecasts. For example, the implementation of supercomputers can process the five models three times faster and more accurately. NOAA researchers are also using new tools and accepting government grants to learn more about the weather with the intent on saving lives. To make that happen, they are working towards understanding the dramatic shift of the global climate and the changing behavior of weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

Big Data can help us predict a lot of different things. However, there will always be something that cannot be accurately predicted in a long-range report. And right now, weather is one of them – at least until researchers can fully understand the changing global climate. Thanks to the latest innovations for in-memory computing and other sensory devices, researchers are close … they just had to wait for the right technology to come along.

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

32 Recruiting Tactics to Have Millennials Fall Head Over Heels For Your Company

You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day to court Millennials. In fact, wooing the best of this generation into your organization will mean doing a few things differently so you better get started today.

32 Recruiting Tactics to Have Millennials Fall Head Over Heels For Your Company image Be a career Cupid

Millennials want an employer that fits their lifestyle, personality, and priorities. The death of company loyalty, the rise of remote, flexible, and project-based work, and the plethora of entrepreneurship outlets available today have forever changed the employer expectations of the next generations.

Let me be clear that I am opposed to catering to Millennial’s every whim in order to win them over. However, those that adapt and find new ways to cultivate loyalty in Millennials will be positioned for next generation success. Begin implementing the below tactics to ensure your future leaders fall head over heels for your company.

32 Millennial Recruiting Tactics

  1. Make your career website and application mobile friendly.
  2. Create an employee blog and post the authentic insights and thoughts of your employees.
  3. Create an entertaining video intro to your company. Such as Top 6 Perks You Probably Didn’t Know About Our Company.
  4. Create an entertaining video that goes behind the scenes of the workplace. Millennials appreciate transparency.
  5. Offer virtual tours. Show were they will park, work, eat (surrounding areas outside of work) and what day 1 will look like.
  6. Be simple. Don’t use overcomplicated job descriptions, operational diagrams or compensation plans.
  7. Turn the online application into an experience. Offer a promotion or coupon as a reward for applying.
  8. Use images of real employees in all company collateral (website, marketing, etc.). Kill all stock photos and clip art.
  9. Showcase young leaders in your business.
  10. Shift from an employer to an advisor/advocate. Add value first (like offering tips on how to interview well via a company blog) then ask for their consideration.
  11. Communicate 2-4 potential career paths beyond their entry position.
  12. Specify how your company supports a work/life balance and/or flexible schedules.
  13. Detail top accountabilities and potential challenges they may face.
  14. Define the professional development opportunities offered by your company.
  15. Post your company mission and vision. Describe the “why” for Millennials.
  16. Use your young professionals as your recruiting group. Millennials get Millennials.
  17. Highlight company culture, innovation and professional development if you cannot compete on salary.
  18. Make Millennials first day epic. They just might return the next day with their roommates.
  19. Make the official job offer personal and a big deal.
  20. Adopt a “be everywhere” approach on social networks.
  21. Showcase your new technology and highlight their chance of being an early adopter.
  22. Highlight how new hires can get creative, contribute and innovate on day one.
  23. Highlight the company social perks (happy hours, beer cart on Fridays, kickball team, etc.).
  24. Stress the level of entrepreneurship infused in your company.
  25. Get involved in young professional associations.
  26. Create a project based co-op or internship program.
  27. Emphasize your community as a cool place to live. Millennials pick a city and then look for a job.
  28. Provide a calendar of fun upcoming activities to do in the community (ex: festivals, shopping, outdoor competitions, etc.).
  29. Throw a family and friends work party. Make it fun, quirky and off-the-wall enough that their friends want to join the team.
  30. Sponsor a parent day at a college. Winning over Millennial parents is crucial.
  31. Communicate the volunteer and out reach opportunities available.
  32. Stress diversity whenever possible.

Question: What unique attributes about your business would attract Millennials?

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

Six Business Blog Topics That Will Attract Local Customers

To improve your search engine rankings specifically for searches in your local area, it’s helpful to incorporate local references into your content. To help you do that in an authentic way, here are six local-focused blog post topics that will draw new customers from your geographic area.

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By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments

Maintain Your Brand When You’re at Your Lowest

Maintain Your Brand When You’re at Your Lowest image shutterstock 84136351Sometimes, life just isn’t fair.

You could be at the top of the world one day, only to have a tragic event or accident send you spiraling down into a pit of nothingness.

If it has happened to you before, you may think your personal brand is the last thing you need to worry about. But the truth is, even though you’re at your lowest, your brand could be the best it’s ever been.

If you don’t continue to regularly maintain your personal brand, it could very well topple. And this may sound like lip service, but things will get better — and you won’t want to find that all the progress your brand has made turned sour due to lack of maintenance.

The following tips are to help you maintain your personal brand when you’re at your lowest. Each one requires an open mind and a small bit of determination.

1. Bring in the reinforcements.

Sometimes when you’re feeling down, the best thing to do is get away from all the stresses in your life, managing your personal brand included. But that doesn’t mean you have to watch it fail — there is still a way to go on a mental vacation while still maintaining your brand.

Hire a freelance social media manager or content creator for a couple weeks and charge them with the task of upkeeping your personal brand. The cost would be minimum, and you can take all the time you need to get your mind back together.

If you’re worried about giving random strangers temporary access to your profiles, ask your industry connections if they have anyone they can recommend. Don’t let your pride get in the way of keeping up your brand!

2. Fight through just one more day.

When your heart seems like it was replaced with a black hole, work is nearly impossible to think about. But if you’re reading this, it means some part of you must want to save your personal brand from destruction, so make it through just one more day.

Here are a couple ways you can use that day to maintain your brand:

  • Use a social media tool like Sprout Social to schedule your content days, weeks, or months in advance. Curate and schedule as much content as you can in that day, so you won’t have to worry about the basics of personal brand maintenance being in jeopardy.

  • If you were scheduled for any webinars or speaking engagements, you might have forgotten them in the frenzy of emotions. Take that day to formally and respectfully cancel and, if possible, reschedule for a date you know you’ll be better. You don’t want to burn any bridges while you’re on your sabbatical.

3. Challenge yourself.

The road to feeling better lasts only as long as you make it. Challenge yourself to do at least one thing every day to maintain your personal brand. It doesn’t have to be anything big — only the basics — and you can gradually do more and more as you start to mentally recover.

If you need to, make a schedule or to-do list in your phone that alerts you when you need to complete a task. If you have even an ounce of determination, you can get this done and maintain your personal brand until you’re at or close to 100%.

What helps you maintain your personal brand when you’re feeling low?

By |February 16th, 2014|Social Media|0 Comments