Tag Archives: social media
Aside

Cloudy With a Chance of White Papers

30 Sep
cloud softwareI remember when Salesforce launched at the turn of the century. Okay, it was the early 2000s, but saying “turn of the century” makes it sound a lot cooler.
A publishing business I was working for at the time adopted Salesforce as its new CRM. We had a really young MBA for a CEO and he was always willing to try new things.
Salesforce was one of the earliest SaaS success stories. I recall that switching to Salesforce from our old, custom-built database required a steep learning curve for many of the sales personnel. This was back in the day before clean, user-friendly, WYSIWYG-packed applications were the norm. Workers were not yet hard-wired to navigate a cloud interface.
Switching to a new CRM also likely involved a lengthy contract obligation and manually migrating information from our outdated system. At the time, I’ll bet our CEO read quite a few Salesforce white papers and technical backgrounders to determine if the CRM would be a good fit.

Now My Head Is In the Clouds

Fast forward to 2013.  How many new cloud-based services do you sign up for each month? How many free SaaS demos do you try? As an online marketer involved in SEO, paid advertising, and social media, I’d estimate that I create about five new accounts monthly. Last week alone, I signed up for Trello, Triberr and a silly wedding planning app that shall remain nameless (I am getting hitched in a few months!)
The SaaS model is now ubiquitous. Anyone can demo a complex software solution in minutes for free or a low cost and with very little risk.  User-friendly dashboards and universal design best practices, make it quick and easy to learn how to use new software. In addition, many APIs play nicely with one another. This makes it easy for a Salesforce user to integrate other favorite tools like MailChimp or Google Apps.

So, let me get to the point and ask a few marketing questions:

Are traditional white papers still relevant marketing tools for selling SaaS products? Have free trials and monthly plans significantly lowered the risk of trying new cloud applications?  How have these changes impacted the B2B sales cycle?

White Papers vs. Ebooks and Numbered Lists

Gordon Graham, a.k.a. “That White Paper Guy,” recently authored “White Papers for Dummies,” a thorough guide to writing long form B2B content. In this book, Graham describes traditional white papers, such as technical backgrounders for CTOs or CIOs and Problem/Solution papers for executives. Along with those two styles of white papers, Graham also recommends an ebook, or numbered list paper. This is a more informal document that reads like a magazine article or an extended blog post.
There are still many B2B situations where a white paper makes sense. However, I think that many SaaS providers today, especially smaller startups, may benefit from a numbered list or ebook more than a more traditional white paper. 
Today you can demo a SaaS product, try it out for a month, and then cancel or sign up. In the digital marketing space, I see a ton of software startups with small teams and budgets selling services to other small and medium-sized organizations. In this space, the numbered list has several benefits:
1. Numbered lists are scannable and easy to read and contain actionable advice that will make the reader’s life easier. This will appeal to small business owners, who are pressed for time and always looking for ways to streamline and improve operations.
2.  The soft-sell approach of an ebook or numbered list advances the customers who are already in your sales pipeline. An ebook also works to attract new leads by addressing important industry questions or universal concerns. This is a big plus for startups who are trying to get their name out there and spread brand awareness.
3. Unlike a white paper, an ebook is not an obvious sales tool.  This makes ebooks and numbered lists more sharable and easier to promote on social media.  When you download a white paper, you know you’ll be getting a call from a sales person. A numbered list or ebook does not have the same “salesy” reputation (yet . . .).
What do you think about using ebooks and numbered list content in lieu of more formal white papers? Please share any thoughts or reactions in the comments below!
Photo credit: jojo nicdao

Graph Search on Facebook is Here, But Is the Revolution Here?

1 Feb
Graph Search on Facebook.

Options to refine a Facebook Graph Search.

The revolution will not be televised … it will be on Facebook. Ugh.

Today I received access to Facebook’s Graph Search in Beta. Even the tour that walked me through Graph Search was personalized! This creepy new search functionality already has  users in a tailspin about privacy.  Here’s a look at what Graph search does and how it may prove revolutionary for the Facebook empire.

What does Graph Search do?

Instead of limiting Facebook search to the structure of the site (i.e. pages, people, places, interests), Graph Search enables users to uncover connections between people, places and things. Formerly you could do keyword-esque searches to turn up people, business pages, community pages, places and interests. Now you can search your network for very specific interactions and interests.

A Sample Search: “My friends who like Radiohead”

For example, I ran a search for “My friends who like Radiohead” and Facebook returned a results page listing my connections who like this band. The results were not in alphabetical order. I think the results were organized by how recently and frequently I’ve engaged with each friend. To the right of the results, Facebook provided a panel where I could refine my search by gender, relationship, employer, age and more. I could also extend this search to see more content from the people who like Radiohead, such as their other interests, photos, places visited, and so on. I might look at the other bands this groups “likes” to discover new music or find out what restaurants this crowd has visited lately.

Future Potential for Graph Search

Marketers, small business owners, non-profits, and recruiters should all be watching this space closely.  Improved social search functionality  can ignite word-of-mouth, showing Facebook users the stores, restaurants, brands, products, and causes their network is engaging with. With a much larger user base than LinkedIn, job searchers and recruiters alike will be able to search Facebook connections by education, location, and current employers to network with a targeted group of users.

Read More about Facebook’s New Search Capabilities

To learn more, check out these articles about the impact of Facebook’s Graph Search:

Rel=Author May Be SEO’s Newest Signal

18 Oct

SEOs have been chattering about authorship as a potential new ranking signal, since the HTML 5 specifications were first released in 2011. Although HTML 5 is not going to be finalized for another few years, many of the markup language’s new features are already supported by leading web browsers and in use by web and software developers.

One of the new features that HTML 5 allows for is a rel=author tag, which tells a web browser that a certain individual is the author responsible for the content on that page. This tag will put a face behind a name, showing an author’s head shot and byline when a piece of blog or web content comes up in the search results.

Authorship goes hand-in-hand with many of Google’s recent algorithm changes, all of which focus on serving up more relevant, higher quality search results. It seems as though attributing authorship using this rel=author tag will let engines like Google know that the content is authentic, high-quality and written by a real person (and not spun or ghost-written).

I can imagine searching on Google a year or so from now, and only ‘trusting’ content that appears with a real photo and byline. In a few years, I can imagine a SERP where every piece of blog content and news has a photo and byline.

If you want to get a head-start and begin integrating authorship into your blog and content marketing strategy, visit these helpful resources:

Matt Cutts video defining rel=author: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FgFb6Y-UJUI

Matt Cutts video on implementing rel=author: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG3Oh7Ues8A

Linking your content to  a Google+ account: 
http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2539557

Troubleshooting rel=author implementation: 
http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1306778

A recent Pubcon talk on the new author tag: 
http://www.pubcon.com/google-author-tag

SocialMediaToday.com on the importance of authorship: 
http://socialmediatoday.com/liz-wilson/852201/content-creators-here-s-why-you-need-be-google-author

SEOMoz blog on preparing for Google author signals: 
http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-to-prepare-for-authorrank-and-get-the-jump-on-google

AJ Kohn’s blog on how author tags may affect SEO: 
http://www.blindfiveyearold.com/author-rank

SocialMediaExaminer.com post all about authorship: 
http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/google-author-tags/

An Eric Enge Interview with Sagar Kamdar, a group product manager for Google search: 
http://www.stonetemple.com/relauthor-defined-with-googles-sagar-kamdar/

Photo Credit: Alex Barth.

A Handwritten Note in the “Original” Inbox

7 Jul

Image via Flickr user dcJohn

I am a social media marketer. As I see all kinds of small business clients gaining immediate traction on social networks and through blogging, I know that social works for a lot of organizations.

But sometimes traditional marketing works well too. Here’s an example. I recently took my dog Jackie to a new kennel while out of town for the weekend. The place we usually go to was all booked up for the holiday weekend, so we chose Kennel Nirvana based on some Google reviews and the fact that they even had space left so close to a holiday weekend.

We had a great experience at Kennel Nirvana. The people were lovely and knowledgeable and the dog was comfortable from the moment we dropped her off. As any pet owner knows, it can be tough to find a great boarding facility for your pet’s needs.

Then today, a few days after Jackie’s visit, we received a note card in the mail. The card stock was thick and elegant, and inside was a handwritten note on the Kennel’s stationery.  The note thanked us for our visit, asked us to share any thoughts or criticism about the kennel and encouraged us to refer friends. Inside the card were a few business cards that the note suggested we pass out to friends.

This handwritten note sent to what I like to call the “original” inbox, otherwise known as a mailbox, worked wonders. It reaffirmed the positive feelings I had about the Kennel and encouraged me to spread the word the next time I am at the dog park or with friends.

I think this is a great example of how a traditional tactic can really help your small business marketing efforts. When everyone else is doing Facebook and Twitter it becomes kind of old-hat for your customers to interact with companies on these networks. Nothing beats a handwritten note, not even a direct message.