Why Businesses Should Care About Google+

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Relatively new to the social media scene, Google+ has always had a lot of buzz surrounding it. I mean, it is a Google entity, so that’s not a surprise. But despite the initial hype and droves of people who signed up and created profiles, Google+ has left a lot of people and businesses confused. It has similarities to Facebook, but it doesn’t “feel” the same to users. What is it’s purpose? Why should I care who is in my “circles”? How can Google+ help my business? Before we tackle some of these issues, let’s start from the beginning, which for Google+ was in 2011.

History

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Google+, owned and operated by Google, launched in June 2011 with integrations across a number of Google products. It was initially launched as an invite-only social network, but quickly suspended that requirement because of high demand. With many of the same features as Facebook, Google+ allows users to create personalized profiles and personal connections. Businesses pages have also become available. In January 2013, Google+ surpassed Twitter as the second largest social networking site in the world. With approximately 500 million registered users and around 320 active users, Google+ shouldn’t and can’t be ignored by businesses.

Features

As I mentioned, there are some similarities to Facebook, but Google+ has several unique features, as well.

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  • Allows for targeted sharing within subsets of a user’s social groups. Put simply: Circles are small groups of people that users can share specific information. Each has a name, such as family, friends, co-workers, and classmates. It’s an interesting way to separate your social groups in real life and share specific information with specific people. Again, it helps with personal versus professional relationships.

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  • Similar to the “like” button on Facebook, the +1 button let’s you show users what content grabbed your attention and you wanted to endorse. When a user hits the +1 button on your content you’ll be notified, and anyone in their circles will be able to see what content they’ve clicked +1 on. This feature also adds weight to search engine results. So, the more +1s your posts have the higher Google will rank the post in search results.

Stream

  • Provides three columns of updates from users’ circles. The stream can be filtered to only show certain circles at any given time. Users can think of this as similar to Facebook’s wall.

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Hangouts

  • Places used to facilitate group video chat. A maximum of 10 participants can interact in a single Hangout at the same time. Hangouts can be shared to YouTube (also a Google entity) to be watched multiple times. Even President Obama has taken part in a Google+ Hangout. That’s pretty cool!

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  • Allow users to create ongoing conversations about specific topics, helpful for professionals in specific industries or individuals interested in certain hobbies.

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  • As with Twitter, hashtags (#) can group content of a certain topic together and display the highest ranking or most popular topics in search results. Hashtags can help get your content be easier to find and be noticed by more than those users who are already in your circles. From a business standpoint, hashtags are key to reaching a broader audience.

Google+ Local

  • Allows users to see reviews of local businesses from people in their circles, as well as see pictures and read about experiences from public users. Businesses should monitor Local to see what people are saying about them. It would also be beneficial to have your loyal consumers post about you or their experiences with the business, again, this would help attract new potentional customers.

Mobile

  • Launched in September 2011, Google+ mobile includes most of the features of the social network, including easy photo uploading, easy mentioning, and notifications.

Who is Using Google+Google+-infographic

Early adopters were generally male, ages 25-34. Google+ originally had an age requirement of 18, but in June 2012 opened the network up to users as young as 13. Still, today, the average user tends to be male (63%), around 28-years-old, and who is technically savvy.

Every month, nearly 320 million people worldwide use Google+ to post messages, make video calls, and endorse search results by clicking the so-call +1 button. In fact, in 2013 alone, 100 million new users joined Google+. The social network still struggles with the amount of time users spend on it. On average, active users spend on 12 minutes per day on Google+. That compares to the average Facebook user spending at least 20 minutes, per visit each day.

Here’s 11 surprising facts about Google+ you may not know.

So, Why is Google+ Important to Your Business?

This seems to be the main question most businesses debate. Why should resources be put into a social network that lacks engaged and active users. Well, the simple answer is: Google. The benefits to your businesses being on Google+ are numerous, but the most important one is search engine optimization (SEO).

SEO

Google+ posts get indexed almost immediately by Google. This means your posts count toward your overall SEO ranking. Content from posts has the same value as content on web pages. This is huge! It doesn’t take much to craft a successful post on Google+ and link it back to your business’ website. By doing this consistently, you’ll help your business rank higher in search results, and in turn, become more visible to potential consumers.

Also, because Google+ is owned by Google, those posts tend to rank higher in search results, another bonus for businesses. Unlike most other social networks, Google+ passes link authority. So, when you share a link to a page, that link is free of a “no follow” element that would strip away its link authority. Learn more about link authority here and other reasons you shouldn’t ignore Google+.

The larger your business’ Google+ network is, the more directly or indirectly you’ll influence search results of people who have you in their circles. Remember, just like with “regular” SEO on a website, keywords are key in Google+ posts and will help good content become more visible (and don’t forget those relevant hashtags either!).

Personalized Search

Social networking gives Google more details about its users, like where they live and what their interests are, so that information provided in search results can be personalized. Messages, photos, or videos tend to appear in search results from users’s personal connections, making those results seem more personalized.

YouTube Comments

Recently, Google also announced that comments from Google+ users circles would rank higher on YouTube videos than even the video’s creator or celebrities. The company says it recognizes that people care more about comments from people they know than complete strangers. If your business is on YouTube, it’s inevitable that you’ll almost be forced to join the Google+ platform because of this integration.

What Should Your Strategy Be?

Would I recommend putting a ton of resources into producing content specifically for Google+? No. But should it be an important part of a integrated marketing communications plan? Yes. All businesses should be on Google+ for at least the SEO exposure alone. But don’t make it harder on yourself or your staff, take content already being produced for other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter, and re-tool it. Remember, be aware of trending hashtags (I can’t say this enough, right?), be specific and strategic with keywords, and know who is your circles and provide content to those users that they will find valuable. Also, make sure your profile is complete and optimized, so users can easily find your business page. This includes a complete introduction, tagline, contact information, and photo.

Another benefit of Google+ is your content extends beyond the social network. It follows users across all of Google’s products: Reviews, Maps, Chrome, Ads, Hangouts, YouTube, Calendar, and more.

See how businesses around the world are using Google+ to get noticed and connect with their audience.

Outlook

Google+ may still be a mystery to some, but be proactive and take advantage of the benefits that come along with. Let’s be honest, Google isn’t going anywhere, so you should think of Google+ in the same light.  As Google+ develops and reinvents itself in the years to come, the fact that Google owns so many platforms will only grow. This cross exposure on other platforms is another way you can market your businesses to the masses.

Interactive Google+ Presentation 

Sources

Farnworth, D. (2013, March). Why Google+ is the best social platform for content marketers [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.copyblogger.com/google-plus-content-advantage/

Frasco, S. (2013, April 2). A Google+ overview: breaking through misconceptions [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/stephaniefrasco/1332761/google-plus-overview

Hof, R. (2013, May 16). Google still struggles to explain why normal people should care about Google+. Forbes. http://www.forbes.com/sites/roberthof/2013/05/16/google-still-struggles-to-explain-why-real-people-should-care-about-google/

Honeysett, A. (2013, October 9). Should your company be on Google+? [Blog post] Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2013/10/09/your-company-on-google-plus/

Kocher, J. (2013, August 30). SEO: 5 reasons not to ignore Google+ [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/57948-SEO-5-Reasons-Not-to-Ignore-Google

Kopytoff, V. (2013, October 3). Google is far from losing the war over social. Time Business & Money. http://business.time.com/2013/10/03/google-is-far-from-losing-the-war-over-social

Shepard, C. (2013, April 20). Amazing correlation betwee Google +1s and higher search rankings [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://moz.com/blog/google-plus-correlations

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Brand Envy: Social Media Superstars

It seems like every brand is on social media, but not every brand is succeeding at social media. Success, of course, can be measured differently depending on which social network you’re talking about, but the ultimate goal is the generate engagement with target audience. More engagement = more consumers. The best way to do this is by integrating your brand’s marketing communications across also social platforms.

There are many brands that are utilizing social media the right ways, but three brands have recently stood out to me and here’s why:

Michael Kors

michaelkorsKnown as one of the most successful American designers of our time, Michael Kors’ classic designs have grown from womenswear and menswear to include accessories, such as handbags, watches and jewelry, perfumes, footwear, and much more. Beyond the brand’s success in the fashion industry, Michael Kors, has established itself as a brand to watch on social networks. Whether looking at the Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or Instagram pages, a user can see a consistent message and imagery.

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Currently, this includes information about World Food Day, a cause unrelated to the brand itself but consistent with important causes the designer himself supports. The brand also takes the imagery a step further, by incorporating the #watchhungerstop hashtag across several platforms.

The Michael Kors brand also shines on Pinterest. As a visual social network, a fashion line can lend itself well not only to the imagery, but also to the core audience on Pinterest–women.

The main thing I notice when it comes to the Michael Kors social networks is the consistent “look” and “feel.” The voice is the same, and that’s so important when you think about branding. Many images/posts are translated between different social networks, yet all look consistent with the brand and obviously appear professional. Each network is driven by visuals and that’s what I find most engaging.

National Geographic

Another brand that is capitalizing through marketing communications on social networks is National Geographic.  Since 1888, National Geographic has been inspiring us to care more about the world. I know as a kid seeing those awe-inspiring magazine covers enticed me to learn more about a story or cause. As a brand, National Geographic, has done a great job of translating their same print standards to social media. Whether a user is on its Facebook, Google+, Instagram, or Twitter pages they will see the same imagery and branding standards as have been used in the highly reputable publication for decades. Currently the brand has the same cover photo on all of its accounts. In celebration of the brand’s 125th anniversary they are giving users the opportunity to become a National Geographic photographer. How cool is that?

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The brand standards also translate well to National Geographic’s YouTube channel. In fact, the featured video right now is about the channel receiving its one billionth view. Pretty impressive, but not surprising when you look at what the brand is posting. I mean who doesn’t love animal videos, right? But beyond wanting videos to go “viral” brands need to provide content that is high quality and will keep users engaged. National Geographic does this by incorporating videos from all over the world. Users can really “go” places and “see” things they might not normally be able to do through this channel. I think that’s pretty cool.

The content may be somewhat different on each of its social networks, but it all “feels” the same. As a brand this is what you need to be doing. Users want to know and love a brand. National Geographic proves it can be done, and done well.

Nike

Nike is obviously a superstar when it comes to branding in general. Three little words: “Just do it.” have defined it as a worldwide brand and continue to translate to the evolving marketplace. This obviously translates to social media, as well. Nike’s branding is consistent across all social media platforms. The “swoosh” and tagline appear on all brand social networks.

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But beyond the logo and tagline, Nike does a great job of trying to connect and engage with its audience on each social network. Content is posted on a regular basis and the brand positions itself as an hub for inspirational messages and imagery, all of which are consistent across platforms. On Instagram, Nike posts are consistently close-ups of the brand’s sneakers, but also include successful athletes, many of whom the general public aspires to be like.

Along the lines of inspiration, Nike usually uses the hashtag #justdoit but also frequently uses #makeitcount, again trying to pull at the average person’s emotions of making every moment count. The inspiration theme also translates to the brand’s YouTube channel, where the featured video automatically plays, drawing the user in, and then showcases how we all can be capable of great things. See if you feel inspired, I sure do.

The brand’s YouTube channel shines because it doesn’t only highlight commercials that have been produced, it also includes playlists that feature videos for specific sports, training methods, and videos that again intend to inspire the masses. Since YouTube is the No. 2 search engine, Nike does a great job with video titles and descriptions, using many keywords but not overloading the content, to a point where it doesn’t make sense.

I’d be surprised if people weren’t inspired by Nike’s social networks. In fact, I’m off for a run! Don’t forget its’s okay to envious of other brands on social networks. Try to incorporate what others are doing to better your own brand. Which brands do you think are the most social media savvy?

Inspiring Multimedia Communications

It today’s digital world, multimedia communication is key to the success of any business. With the popularity and growth of new digital and social media platforms, businesses small or large can benefit from a multimedia communications professional. I’m your girl! With experience in broadcast journalism, marketing, and social media, I’ve worked with several different communications platforms and accomplished a range of goals. Let me help take your communications strategies to a whole new level.

Television

As a news producer I was part of a Peabody award-winning team for our coverage of the Virginia Tech April 16, 2007 massacre. While I would give all the awards we won back in a second to have prevented that tragedy, working in that type of breaking news situation helped mold me as a multimedia communicator. Beyond writing scripts for constant broadcasting, I was able to communicate with a packed newsroom, reporters in the field, and the public. Working as a team we were able to provide accurate information and keep our community constantly updated on a developing situation.

While at WSLS my skills stretched into the digital world as well. I learned how to use content management systems for online stories and updates, and was the first producer to incorporate social media into live newscasts. As a result, I was tasked with developing an interactive 7 p.m. newscast, which included viewer feedback from social media networks and a live nightly web chat, which I moderated. It was a great way to see which stories viewers were drawn to and get that immediate feedback from our community.

Marketing and Social Media

Now working for western Virginia’s largest healthcare employer, Carilion Clinic, I oversee marketing communications and strategy for Cardiac Services and the Department of Medicine Services.

My job responsibilities include:

  • Marketing new physicians and services
  • Business plan development
  • Data research and market share
  • Communications planning
  • And more!

Due to my previous experience, I’ve also been the project manager over Carilion Clinic Living health and wellness segments. These one-minute segments air on local television stations, as well as on Carilion’s website. Each is aimed at providing information the public may find interesting, while featuring some of our healthcare providers as experts in their respective fields.

I also monitor and maintain all of Carilion’s social media networks, which include:

In the last two years, each network has seen significant growth and engagement. Our social media network analytics are now part of our annual department scorecard. Beyond monitoring each network and responding to comments, I’ve developed a content calendar to coordinate posts across all our services and highlight different information at appropriate times of the day. This calendar includes links to articles, videos, health tips, and more. Posts are strategically crafted to each social network and posted during peak times.

View more of my work from Carilion here!

I’d love to help you broaden your multimedia communications. Let’s connect:

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Not all blogs are created equal

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What makes a good blog? That’s a hard question to answer. No matter what the topic (and we know there are blogs for everything, literally!) there are four key factors each blogger should consider for success.

  1. Content can make all the difference. Bottom line: new content drives traffic.
  2. Be attractive to visitors. Utilize social media, make connections with fellow bloggers, choose the right domain, and take SEO seriously.
  3. Make it easy for visitors to return. Including social media sharing buttons always helps and also encourage email subscriptions to gather more information about your readers.
  4. Manage your time wisely. Most blogs don’t usually see instant gratification or popularity. It can take up to 6 months to a year, so be patient, but also be persistent. You have to give users a reason to visit your blog once and then return.

It’s important to recognize there are several different types of blogs. Besides various topics, many blogs have unique goals and purposes. Not all blogs are created equal.

Types of Blogs:

News: Generally feels and looks like a traditional online news website, reporting latest announcements and developments.

Professional/Semi-Professional: Professional blogs are generally of a high standard, produce content several times a day, and focus heavily on news and features. Semi-professional blogs differ in the amount of time spent blogging, usually the blogger is not full-time.

Recreational: Content tends to be produced sporadically, but it’s characterized by a very specific passion for a subject or hobby.

Aggregator/Link Sharing: Generally collates content and re-publishes, normally doesn’t provide original content.

Group: Collaborative, brings people together to create centralized content.

My Top 5 Blogs:

Mashable: Mashable is an example of a news blog. It’s purpose is to share news, information, and resources connected to the digital world. Founded in 2005, Mashable sees approximately 20 million unique visitors each month and has around 6 million social media followers. Mashable has established itself as a reliable resource for all things social media-related, technology-based, and business-savvy for professionals in today’s multimedia world. Mashable is constantly publishing new content related digital communications. In fact, each section of the site includes sub-sections titled: The New Stuff, The Next Best Thing, and What’s Hot. These three categories are what everyone wants to know. And Mashable delivers. 

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As a hub for social media news, Mashable makes it easy for users to connect via social media. One of the keys to a successful blog: provide multiple social sites where users can connect with you. Mashable does this well by placing “sharing” buttons throughout the site and making social media networks very visible on each page.  It’s hard to find something Mashable is missing, because I really look to them as a resource for best practices. Mashable does utilize advertising on its site, but the ads are not intrusive to users’ experience. Ads appear at the top and bottom of each page, and also in the “news feed” area, but the way each ad is designed almost makes it look like a “post” rather than stand out on the page. Not sure how effective that is for advertisers, but I enjoy it as a user.

Half-Hearted Housewife: The Half-Hearted Housewife is an example of a semi-professional blog. As the mom of four young boys, it’s not surprising blogger Claire doesn’t have time to keep up as a full-time blogger. But the site provides a very professional appearance and is driven by content, which is one of the reason I think it’s so successful. This blog puts a humorous, yet realistic spin on the life of an army wife, a mother, and real world experiences. It’s relatable (even to me who isn’t married or has kids yet!). This quote in the “About me” section grabbed my attention on my first visit:

“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to come over for a drink. Just warn me first so that I can throw all my laundry in a closet and hide magazines under the bed.”

Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 12.18.45 PMBeyond the content posted pretty regularly, Claire makes it easy to sign up for emails, connect with her via social media, and share her own content via the user’s social media sites. It’s clear Claire understands how to get her content shared and is utilizing all that her blog platforms has to offer. There is some advertising on the blog, but it’s very minimal and is mainly related to being a military spouse. It’s clear Claire knows who her audience is, and like I said even though I’m not a military spouse or a mom, I’m drawn to her content by the way she writes it. Her humorous and real-life spin on normal occurrences have educated me on what to expect when I become a wife and mother. It’s always a feel-good read and I encourage others to visit her site!

Bobbie’s Buzz: This blog is a sub-section of Today.com, featuring Bobbie Thomas’s take on everything fashion related. Bobbie’s Buzz is a professional blog and coincides with her appearances and segments on the national morning show. The purpose of this blog is to educate users on the latest fashion trends, but also provide great consumer information and tips for the everyday woman. The Today Show website does a great job of featuring each of the “Bobbie’s Buzz” blogs in an eye-catching way. Not only is there often fresh content, but catchy headlines and visuals draw the reader in.

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The site also includes many social media buttons and sharing options making it easy for readers to pass the helpful tips, cool products, and general fashion information along. There is a lot of advertising on the blog, but like with the Mashable site, most ads don’t stand out from regular posts. The design makes the transition between post and ad as seamless as it really could be. The one suggestion I would have for this blog would be for Bobbie to do video posts just for the blog, rather than just clips taped from the Today Show. I think this would help users connect with Bobbie on a more personal level, and maybe feel more loyalty to her as a fashion expert, rather than just to the Today Show.

The StorefrontThis blog is a professional blog that contains information about new retail businesses restaurants, and real estate news in southwest Virginia (where I live). Amanda Codispoti does a great job of staying in front of new businesses in our community and often blogs about questions readers have submitted. I think what makes this blog unique is it has a local focus. Those of us living in the community benefit from reading Amanda’s blog because we can stay in tune with how our community is developing and growing, and sometimes what happened with businesses that has closed.

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Screen Shot 2013-09-22 at 4.22.51 PMI’m sure a lot of the traffic that comes to this blog is through the main Roanoke Times website, but readers can also subscribe to a RSS feed or connect via social media. Amanda keeps her blog posts short, which helps with providing fresh content. Roanoke isn’t the largest metropolitan area, but it is a city with an ever-changing business atmosphere. Her content is usually focused on one topic at a time, which I believe provides the readers with fresh content more often. The Roanoke Times has advertisers all over the website, including on the blogs. What newspaper wouldn’t? I do think it’s cool that the site features some ads as if each is on a bulletin board. This is a different approach to catching people’s attention while reading a blog post.

Design HappensHGTV’s design blog is a professional blog that attracts homeowners and design enthusiasts alike. Featuring several staff bloggers this site appeals to a broad audience wanting to learn from design experts about tricks of the trade, tips on making home renovations and decorating easier, and overall design help. I think what makes this blog unique, is it really aims at inspiring the audience.

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Obviously, HGTV isn’t there to help you decorate or renovate (I guess unless you appear on one of their shows), but this blog can help consumers understand what a project will take and tips on how to go about accomplishing a project successfully.The blog does a great job of promoting it’s other social networks, specifically Pinterest, which obviously works well with this topic. As we know, Pinterest’s audience tends to swing toward females (Pinterest demographics infographic), and so does the HGTV audience. It makes sense to incorporate both platforms together. Ads do appear on the blog, but they are very related to the content (i.e., Wayfair.com – which is a home goods site).

So, what make a successful blog? I think many of the reasons listed above can answer that questions. If you’re still confused, I would suggest subscribing to a variety of blogs and making note of what you enjoy and dislike. It’ll help place superior blogs above the rest. I’m by no means a blog expert, but I hope you find this post helpful. Until next time, happy blogging!

ModCloth Does Push and Pull Marketing Well

If you couldn’t tell by last week’s blog, I love ModCloth. Beyond what they offer from a fashion standpoint, the company knows who its consumers are and as one of them, I appreciate the connection I feel from the brand. ModCloth does a great job of balancing both “push” and “pull” marketing techniques.

Push Marketing Techniques

Weekly email blast from ModCloth

Weekly email blast from ModCloth

When it comes to push marketing, ModCloth does various things. Consumers and allowed and encouraged to sign up for weekly email blasts. The emails vary when it comes to content, but usually provide consumers with exclusive offers, ways to further engage with the company, and new trends. This weeks e-blast promoted items the consumer “can’t find anywhere else!” Is that true? Who knows, but if you like their products, chances are as a loyal customer you would believe them and be more apt to buy something from them.

Any successful marketing strategy hinges on content and ModCloth does a great job of producing and utilizing fresh content. The blog site is updated nearly every day by several bloggers, producing content on a variety of topics. This helps engage consumers who may share similar interests or have different interests all together.

As I mentioned last week, ModCloth also makes it easy for consumers to become part of the company, and have a voice in what items are sold via the online store. There are several references and links on the site to “join the ModCloth community.” It’s very easy for users to navigate the site and engage. The “community” feeling is also a great way to enhance loyalty and brand preference.

Pull Marketing Techniques

Sponsored ad on Facebook

Sponsored ad on Facebook

ModCloth also uses pull marketing techniques to promote the business and engage with consumers. For instance, on Facebook, ModCloth often has sponsored ads that pop up in users’ newsfeeds and on the right side of the Facebook homepage. I’ve also noticed recently more Facebook events popping up for the company. The most recent one I saw promoted a Game Night themed event. Not only it is a chance for consumers to interact with the company in person, but it also allows the company to promote some if it’s new items through an event, instead of just through their traditional website.

No. 3 non-paid search on Google for "vintage inspired clothing"

No. 3 non-paid search on Google for “vintage inspired clothing”

ModCloth also does a great job with SEO. When I put in a generic search for “vintage inspired clothing” into Google ModCloth popped up as the third non-paid result. Not bad for a company that started as a hobby in a college dorm room. The company is obviously conscious of SEO and allowing users who many not know of the brand find it easily through a simple search engine search.

Mobile and Social

ModCloth app Promotion

ModCloth app Promotion

ModCloth Mobile Site

ModCloth Mobile Site

ModCloth also does a great job of connecting with consumers on mobile and social media outlets. It has an app for both the iPad and iPhone, which is promoted in many areas of the website, as well as in the weekly emails.  It also has a mobile website, which makes it easy for users to navigate which on their smartphones if they do not have the app downloaded. If companies are not creating responsive website designs or acknowledging the importance of mobile sites they are missing the boat since many consumers now search the internet via smartphones.

ModCloth also make a conscious effort to connect its consumers to all its social media networks. I’ve always thought Modcloth does a great job of using different social networks and in the correct way. They don’t just post the same content on each social network. While many are similar posts, you can tell each post if targeted for that specific social network and its users.

ModCloth makes it easy for users to find and connect with its social networks from the website.

ModCloth makes it easy for users to find and connect with its social networks from the website.

Overall, I think ModCloth is doing a great job of balancing both push and pull marketing strategies. While I think the company does a great job of pushing it’s social networks, I could see them incorporating more direct promotion of specific networks on its website homepage slider. For instance, if they start a new Pinterest board, they could promote it in the homepage slider to generate more pins and follows. I always look forward to what new products are being promoted each week, and I find myself using all of ModCloth’s networks to stay engaged with the company. In the marketing world, I think ModCloth is #Winning!

ModCloth Does Multimedia Communications Right

Hi, my name is Laura Markowski and I’m addicted to online shopping. To be more specific, I’m addicted to ModCloth. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, I’ll explain how this online thrift store which has grown into a million dollar business is using multimedia communications to reach customers.

I stumbled across ModCloth a couple of years ago after seeing a Facebook ad (see they do work sometimes). I love vintage-inspired style and for the most part ModCloth offers affordable pricing. A win, win for me.Image

After logging on to the website, the first few things I noticed besides the normal shopping site categories, were that ModCloth seems to really promote engagement with its customers. By asking customers to “Join the ModCloth Community” they clearly want engagement from their customers beyond great reviews. Image

In their “Be the Buyer” section, customers can sign up to review new designers’ items and ultimately have a voice in which items are featured and sold on the site. Besides picking items, users can also leave comments on styles and products that can be displayed next to the item, if chosen. For those of us who dream of working in fashion, but may never get the chance, this type of feature helps fulfill a girl’s dream! And for the company probably translate into more conversions. We all know loyal, engaged customers are what help make businesses successful.

ImageAnother thing ModCloth seems to do well is blogging. “Story by ModCloth” features blogs on fashion, beauty, lifestyle topics and more. Besides fashion topics, ModCloth really positions itself as a hub for anything its customers want. I would assume its target audience is young females, and the blogs cater to that demographic. Not only do I think to read about fashion trends and news, but it’s great to get DIY tips and home decorating tips in the same place. ModCloth is more than an online clothing store, it’s a style hub for those of us who enjoy everything vintage-inspired.

Besides ModCloth’s engaging website, the online store utilizes social media to its benefit. I’ve mentioned their presence on Facebook, but you can also find ModCloth on Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and YouTube. Each social network is very active and engaging. Most posts ask for customer feedback or try to prompt engagement, usually in the form of a question.

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ImageModCloth, like many online businesses, uses email to keep customers engaged and ultimately trying filling up those virtual shopping carts. I receive weekly email updates on new arrivals, fashion news, and sale items. While I do follow ModCloth on all of its social networks, email reminders are usually what gets me back on the site and browsing. It’s an instant reminder that there are new items to review or maybe sale items I’ve been eyeing up for weeks. My budget doesn’t always allow me to click after receiving each email, but I will say it does remind me to browse more often than not.

ModCloth is a company that started in a dorm room, now it’s a thriving million dollar business. It’s capitalized on turning a niche market, vintage thrift shopping, into a mass market business. By featuring different items, by independent designer, it’s created it’s own social network of users and ultimately of loyal customers. ModCloth has succeeded at the No. 1 rule in business and in communications: know your audience. ModCloth knows who its shoppers are and their brand voice reflects that – stylish, affordable, and approachable.  Mashable did this great article on ModCloth recently that can provide even more context into the business and how far its come.

ImageAnd beyond loving ModCloth’s products, messaging, and overall “feel” its mascot is Winston the Pug. Enough said. 🙂

Social Media Marketing vs. Classic Marketing

As we learned this week businesses are moving away from “transactions” and focusing more on building relationships. Social media is obviously helping with this transition. While, social media can help with transactions or conversions, it really is boosting businesses to build brand awareness and preference. This can ultimately help any business, small or big, succeed in today’s digital world.

There are some differences between how businesses use classic marketing tactics and how they utilize social media marketing, as referenced in the below chart. 

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While many of these aspects can work for both classic and social media marketing, I think two now lend themselves more toward social media platforms.

The first being “communication with customer.” Social media has really opened up conversations between businesses and customers. Communication is now rarely just two-ways, such as through a phone call. Now other customers can weigh in on conversations, monitor conversations, and learn from conversations without ever being truly involved. Even when a conversation begins in a negative tone, an open dialogue can show not only that one upset customer a better point-of-view, but also other customers viewing the conversation. Below is an example from my employer’s Facebook page. ImageThe interesting thing to note about this post, is we’re not even sure if this person is one of our patients (customers) or if he is just a member of our community. Either way, it doesn’t matter. One of our facilities shouldn’t have a tattered American flag flying outside of it. We should have caught this before someone had to bring it to our attention via social media. But nevertheless it did happen, and because we are on social media we were able to address it and fix the problem. We hope that this “fan” was pleased with the resolution and the other users who saw the conversation were pleased with our response and the ultimate resolution. Who knows if this person would have taken the time to call us and let us know about the situation. Would he have gotten in touch with the right person? Would it have been resolved in a timely matter? Who really knows. But chances are because we have a presence on social media, the issue was brought to our attention in a timely and easy manner. And it was resolved faster than it may have been otherwise.

We’ve also learned a lot about creating the right voice for a brand or business. And I think “language” also benefits from a marketing standpoint when it comes to social media. Businesses are able to have a genuine dialogue with consumers and build a more personal relationship, which is what people are looking for on social media. I think many people are now turned off by typical “marketing language” and want to feel like they are connecting with real people, rather than having stuff sold to them all the time. 

Within my organization, we make a point to respond to everyone who comments or posts on one of our social networks. We want our customers, or potential customers, to realize we are listening and we are ready to engage with them when they need something. In one of our most recent promotions for a cooking demonstration, one of our Facebook fans asked us to think about offering the cooking classes at a later time, so more people could attend.

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This is a great idea. I responded shortly after the user posted and not only thanked them for their feedback, but made sure they knew we would consider such an idea in the future. Our dialogue was very conversational, while still being professional. Yet, we make an effort on all our social media networks to be more personal. We always address users by their names, thank them for their input (whether positive or negative) and respond in a truthful and accurate way. Social media gives us the opportunity to have this dialogue, something classic marketing would not.

While I feel classic marketing tactics are still useful in many situations, and often times can work side by side with newer, different social media tactics, I do think developing more personal relationships and ongoing conversations with consumers are better served in a social media marketing world.