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Operation Marketing: 8 Components of an Effective Marketing Strategy

How many times have you seen ad agencies advertise that they can help you “develop a killer marketing strategy”? (For some reason, “killer” is a frequently-used adjective in this context, but moving on.) Hearing that you should have a marketing strategy, but not knowing exactly what that entails, can certainly invoke a bit of anxiety. We’re here to help ease your concerns. The components of an effective marketing strategy are concepts you are likely already familiar with.

What is a marketing strategy?

Put simply, a marketing strategy is a plan of action. It is a means to an end—a set of actions leading up to a goal or set of goals in regards to advertising. In other words, if you’ve got goals for your brand or business, a marketing strategy is a research-based, organized plan for setting those goals in motion.

Why is having a marketing strategy important?

Defining marketing strategy also involves taking into account your audience and its needs. A marketing strategy serves to identify your target audience and outline how your marketing messaging is going to appeal to your audience’s needs. Without strategy, you might as well be throwing wet noodles against a wall to see what sticks—and with oodles of competition out there, you can’t afford to be throwing wet noodles.

Developing a marketing strategy will help to keep you focused on your objectives—and the tactics involved in reaching those objectives. All of this is in an effort to make sure you get what you want out of your marketing efforts with the overarching goal of seeing your brand thrive. A marketing strategy can ultimately save you money—so you are not wasting your time and money on futile efforts.

What does a good marketing strategy include?

OK, time to get out your pen and paper (or more likely, computer and keyboard). Note these components of an effective marketing strategy:

  • Target audience. Before you craft your marketing messaging, and before you decide how you’re going to put it out there, you need to know who it is that you are talking to. Just like you might talk differently in a business meeting than you would on a Saturday out with friends, the theme of your marketing messaging—and the way it’s delivered—depends on who is on the receiving end. You can define a target audience for a particular campaign, or define one for your marketing strategy overall—as long as you make sure you are marketing to people who are actually (potentially) interested in your product or service.
  • Market assessment. Examining market dynamics is another among the components of an effective marketing strategy. Once you know the types of consumers you want to pinpoint, you need to examine trends happening within those respective markets. For example, look for opportunities in the marketplace where consumer needs are not currently being met, and focus on solutions in those niches.
  • Awareness of the competition. The goal is to always be ahead of the competition, so you don’t know where “ahead” is unless you do your research. Study what your rivals are doing in order to position yourself optimally in the market. The idea here is to determine what you can be doing differently than other brands in your market, not to replicate what they are already doing.
  • Objectives—short and long-term. We all want to strike it rich and retire happy. But when it comes to components of an effective marketing strategy, we need to be a little more specific. Short-term goals could include generating leads, growing social media following by “X” amount or increasing website traffic. Long-term goals are the results of achieving short-term goals, and can include items like enhancing overall brand awareness, improving your Google search ranking or cultivating a positive brand reputation via positive reviews. Everything your marketing strategy encompasses serves to make these goals a reality.
  • Appealing content. A solid requirement for a marketing strategy? Marketing content. What words, stories, images, etc. are you going to use to appeal to the masses? This is where you will decide on your marketing messaging—on the hook you are going to use to appeal to your potential consumers. The specific content involved in this messaging will depend on your target audience; however, to appeal to human beings, your hook should do at least one or more of the following:
      • Create a narrative
      • Appeal to emotions
      • Add value for consumers
      • Be relevant and relatable
  • Multiple marketing channels. Hand-in-hand with what your content is saying is how you are putting it out into the world. Your marketing strategy should detail what marketing channels you will use to disseminate information. Your content should exist on multiple platforms, which may include social media, websites, apps, or traditional marketing means like print and out-of-home (OOH) advertising like billboards or signage.
  • Timeline for execution. Creating a timeline for executing your marketing strategy will help you stay on task with the steps you’ve outlined to meet your goals. Having a specific timeframe in mind is also inherently necessary for goal-setting, as goals typically include having “X” activity done by “X” amount of time.
  • A budget. Thinking about money is never the fun part, but budgeting for your marketing strategy will ultimately help you save in the long run. It will prevent you from overspending on potentially ineffective efforts—especially if you do all of your research first.

We know—all of these components of an effective marketing strategy can seem overwhelming. If that’s the case for you, then enlist some help! McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

 

 

Images and SEO: Best Practices for Using Alt Text

In 2019, we’re always searching. Searching for something to make for dinner tonight. Searching for a route to take on our next road trip. Searching for someone to call our significant other. With search engines like Google at our fingertips 24/7, both searching—and ideally, finding—have become second nature. In marketing, we want our brands to be found in these everyday searches, and that’s where SEO (search engine optimization) comes in. You may know that the copy and keywords in your online content have a direct effect on SEO, but images and SEO also go hand in hand, which requires using alt text.

What images should I optimize for search?

Before we talk about using alt text, let’s pinpoint the images that we will be applying it to. Though images are a powerful tool to have on deck in almost all instances of marketing, here we are specifically referring to the images that you post to your website—such as on your blog. Pairing your blog copy with images is a smart move for getting more people to engage with your content. It’s been proven that people respond better to visuals than text, so as a rule of thumb, every article you post to your website should have an image to go along with it.

You can and should also optimize stand-alone images posted to your site’s other pages beyond your blog. This includes images used as buttons for calls to action, like “click here,” and “read more.”

Adding alt text to your images is an important way to help them get indexed by search engines.

What is alt text?

When it comes to images and SEO, there’s a little terminology you need to get to know: alt text (sometimes called alt tag). The term “alt text” is an abbreviation for an alt attribute on an “img tag” in HTML.

If that confuses you, the basic principle of alt text is this: it describes the appearance and function of an image on a page. For example, if there is a picture of a stack of waffles, the alt text could simply read “waffles” or “stack of waffles.” If there is an image that calls for viewers to click to redeem an offer, the alt text could say “button to click to redeem offer.” Short, sweet and simple.

A few more specific uses for alt text includes:

  • Help for the visually impaired. Screen readers read off the words included in alt text for blind and visually impaired persons visiting a website to tell them what is on an image.
  • Search indexing. When search engines are crawling websites, they’ll use the alt text on the site’s images to better categorize them.
  • If an image does not download for whatever reason, the alt text will be used in place of the image.

Why is alt text important?

Using alt text both improves the user experience and can benefit you in terms of SEO. To address the first point, alt text at its base function serves to describe to users what they are seeing. As mentioned above, this includes screen readers that serve to help the visually impaired. Adding alt text to your images ensures that you are not leaving anyone out when it comes to being able to interpret your content.

Images and SEO comprise another equally important reason for using alt text. Though search engines are smart, they still can’t “see” images like humans can—with context taken into account. Thus, alt text serves to tell search engines what they are seeing. For example, if you have a picture of Tom Hanks wearing a sombrero and eating an omelette on your site, a search engine might see it as “man, wearing hat and eating.” However, if you want to rank for a picture of “Tom Hanks wearing a sombrero eating an omelette,” the alt text allows you to add that level of specificity.

Where do I add alt text?

In HTML code, alt text looks like this (using our waffles example from above):

<img src= “waffles.jpg” alt=“waffles”>

At McNutt & Partners, we use WordPress as the platform for our websites. WordPress makes it foolproof to add alt text sans code. When adding an image to a post in WordPress, look for “Attachment Details” on the right side of the “Add Media” screen. Then, you simply add your alt text where it says “Alt Text.”

Best practices for using alt text

Though we used a very straightforward example, there is an art to writing alt text that can make it more effective. Here are a few practices to follow:

  • Be accurate. Make sure the text you’re using to label the image as, is actually what the image conveys.
  • Be brief, but comprehensive. Most screen readers cut off alt text at about 125 characters. That being said, “man wearing sombrero eating omelettes for breakfast” is better than just “man eating.”
  • Avoid unnecessary words. Along the same vein as keeping things brief, you don’t need to include phrases like “image of,” or “picture of” (i.e., “picture of waffles). It is inherently assumed that alt text is referring to an image.
  • Use keywords. Alt text gives you an opportunity to include keywords that you would like to rank for in search. Make sure to include them in order to reap the benefits of using alt text for SEO.

Using alt text is a simple task with potentially huge payoffs that you should add to your SEO checklist. Need help? McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

 

 

 

 

 

April Fools! 8 Great April Fools’ Day Marketing Examples from 2018

Holidays present the ideal opportunity for marketers to unite with consumers around a common date on the calendar. From the Fourth of July to Christmas, celebratory days are a gimme in the marketing world. There’s one holiday, however, that is not necessarily on everyone’s radar—much to the amusement of the people who do celebrate it—and that’s April Fools’ Day. Each year on April 1, unsuspecting people are tricked, fooled, bamboozled—(call it what you will, it never gets old), and big brands like to get in on the action as well. Here, we’ll check out some April Fools’ Day marketing examples from last year—and keep an eye out for today’s mischief!

 

Burger King

A chocolate Whopper? It’s not necessarily out of the realm of possibility, especially when Burger King puts together a high production-quality commercial advertising a chocolatey version of its star menu item. Complete with a chocolate cake bun, flame-grilled chocolate patty, raspberry syrup and white chocolate onion rings—we’re not saying we wouldn’t try it. Watch the ad here.

 

T-Mobile

T-Mobile revealed a “new” tech/fashion hybrid product last April Fools’ Day called the Sidekicks SmartShoePhone (Say that 10 times fast.) The Sidekick itself was a slider phone that T-Mobile produced from 2002 to 2010, but in its April Fools’ resurgence, it’s an actual pair of shoes with phone capabilities, advertising that “now, all of the capabilities of your phone are at your feet.” Watch the ad here.

 

Coca-Cola

Another instance of a new food product announcement for April Fools’ Day marketing came from Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola Britain announced three new millennial and “brunch-inspired” flavors, including Avocado, Sourdough and Charcoal—all with zero sugar, of course. The faux launch article states, “Their arrival follows intensive social media research to understand the taste buds of a new breed of brunch-loving, superfood-snacking millennial.” Read more here.

 

Google Maps

Where’s Waldo is a throwback for many of us, but Google Maps brought him back last April Fools’ Day. This one was more of an interactive play than a joke, but it was in keeping with the humorous theme of the holiday. Google Maps users were instructed to “find” Waldo and his friends in various places around the world using the app. Read more here.

 

Head & Shoulders

“Head, shoulders, knees and toes (knees and toes!)” You know it, and you probably love to hate it. Proctor & Gamble’s Head & Shoulders shampoo capitalized on this love/hate relationship with the jingle during its April Fools’ marketing campaign last year. Check it out here.

 

Lego

Now this is a fake product we could actually use. Lego’s VacuSort specifically sorts all of the painful Legos populating your playroom floor—and even does so by color and brick size. A clever idea, but unfortunately it was just for laughs. See the Facebook post here.

 

Roku

Binge watching TV series has become a modern-day pastime, and Roku saw the opportunity to play into that commonality last April Fools’ Day. Introducing Roku’s Happy Streaming Socks! “The long time battle between snack and remote comes to an end with a new innovation from Roku Devices.” These socks allow you swipe your foot to navigate your TV’s home screen, so touching your remote with snack residue-covered hands is a thing of the past. Watch the ad here.

 

Yelp

Local-search service Yelp went for the shock factor last April Fools’ Day. When users opened the app, it appeared that their screens were cracked—but April Fools! It was a hook to advertise the fact that you can find phone repair services by using Yelp. Whew, that was a close one. Read more here.

Let these April Fools’ Day marketing plays remind us how to have fun with our marketing messaging. And be careful out there—brands aren’t the only one playing April Fools’ Day pranks!

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

 

 

Communication Shakedown: Tips for Refining Your Call to Action

The advancement of technology and enhanced communication go hand in hand. Once upon a time, designated messengers would travel via horseback on weeks-long journeys to deliver news from one party to another. Today, it’s as simple as picking up your smart phone. Those same messages that used to take months can now traverse the world in a matter of seconds. For marketers, this means opportunities abound to communicate to current and potential customers—and behind every strong marketing message is a call to action.

What is a call to action?

In marketing, a call to action (CTA) is exactly what it sounds like. You are calling out to consumers in hopes of inciting some type of action from them. The basic idea behind a call to action is to give people a reason to want to do what you are asking of them. Calls to action can be anything from encouraging people to visit your website to asking them to like your social media page. They can be as complex as asking someone to upload a picture of what they had for breakfast while using your branded hashtag or as simple as saying, “Buy now!”

Where should my calls to action appear?

Calls to action can come in many forms—from the copy on a print ad to a banner graphic on your website. The placement of a call to action depends on what exactly you are asking people to do. For example, if you’re asking followers to visit your website, you wouldn’t place that call to action on your website because obviously, they are already there. If you’re asking people to sign up for your email list, you wouldn’t place your call to action on a billboard, because people are driving and can’t enter their emails right then and there.

Does every marketing message need a call to action?

The short answer—no. However, every marketing effort is indirectly pushing some larger initiative. For example, if your business posts to social media every day or even multiple times a day, it could start to annoy followers if they feel like every message is trying to sell them something. There’s nothing wrong with posting something sans call-to-action about the “beautiful weather we’re having” or a simple “did you know” with a fun fact. These posts serve to build a rapport with your clientele even though the posts themselves aren’t shouting at them to do something. We suggest mixing posts like these with call to action posts to find a good balance.

Beyond your daily social media posts, we would say calls to action are necessary for most all other marketing efforts—especially those that are less fleeting. Keep in mind that a call to action can be as simple as, “Click here” or, “Try it today.” Beware, though of “weak” calls to action that can seem desperate to your brand followers.

Tips for refining your calls to action

To avoid being bland and appearing desperate, check out these tips for strengthening your calls to action.

  • Use strong verbs. Let’s go back to elementary school for a minute. They taught us that instead of saying, “We went to the store,” we should say, “We ran to the store,” “We jogged to the store,” or “We skipped to the store.” Action verbs, people! It is a call to action, after all. In a call to action format, use action verbs to clearly communicate what it is you want people to do. “Download our resources.” “Subscribe to our newsletter.” “Comment on our blog.” “Request more information.” “Speak to a member of our sales team.” Also, don’t muddy up your message with unnecessary words. “Give us a call now!” is admittedly weaker than just saying, “Call us now!” Action verbs are your friend in marketing.
  • Be specific. This goes along with using strong verbs and being concise. “Come see us today,” is a pretty weak call to action vs. “Pick up a pair now!” or “Drive away in your new car today!” The first example, “Come see us,” begs the question—come see us to do what, exactly?
  • Evoke emotion. “Call us today” vs. “Call us today!” Which one is more engaging? If you’re like us, the first one makes you think of a bored employee in a call center droning away in a monotone voice. Your call to action should be enthusiastic because you want your audience to be enthusiastic about following through with your request.
  • Tell people why they should do what you’re asking. Selling can be a tough gig, especially these days when there is so much competition. People need to know exactly why they should agree to your call to action. In other words, tell them what they’re missing out on by not doing it. For example, “Visit our website to get your free coupon,” is better than just saying “Visit our website.” It incites action (visit our website) and the reason why (to get your free coupon).
  • Create a sense of urgency. You want people to take action—now! That call to action in front of them is not something they are likely going to think about for more than a few seconds. Generate a sense of urgency with phrases like, “Only 3 left!” for a product or “This deal won’t last long!” You can also create urgency in subtler ways, by using words like “now” and “today.” (“Act now” or, “Call today.”)
  • Get creative. Don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your calls to action. People respond better to language that is conversational and casual rather than stiff and systematic. For example, a call to action that says “Shop our lawnmowers now!” could be made better by saying “Cut down on your weekend chores starting today!” This also goes back to tip No. 4, giving people a reason to want to complete your requested action. Creativity can also come in not just the way you say things, but what you’re saying. Website visits and phone calls are pretty standard. But you could also implement ideas like “Be the first customer in the store today and win a gift certificate,” or the post a picture with our branded hashtag example from above.
  • Make it easy. Strategic placement is everything concerning calls to action. If it’s not easy, people won’t do it, so you want to place opportunities within easy reach. Want people to call you? Provide your phone number. Need website visitors? Give them the link. Also, think about the platform you are using for your call to action. Saying, “Come see us” on a social media post may sound fine, but how many people are actually going to get in the car right then and there and drive to see you? Instead, a more appropriate call to action on a social post might be, “Visit our website for the latest deals.”

Calls to action are a critical component of your marketing messaging. Successful calls to action vs. weak ones can make the difference between whether your brand prospers or perishes.

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

10 Digital Marketing Misconceptions to Shed this Spring

Whether it is cultivating a social media presence or simply checking the weather in the mornings, almost everyone alive today is online in some form or fashion—and with everyone being on the internet, everyone has an opinion. If you are working to build a brand presence online, you’ve probably been given advice (solicited or not) from friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. But whose advice is right? In an “everybody’s an expert” environment, it can be difficult to sift through the fiction to get to the facts. Here, we’ll help by pointing out a few common digital marketing misconceptions.

  • You should post to social media several times a day. While posting to social media multiple times a day might be right for some brands, it can have the opposite effect for others. It’s true that organic reach has declined on social media for business pages, but that does not mean you should oversaturate your accounts with multiple posts per day. This can get annoying to your followers, and the last thing you want is for them to unfollow you in an already-limited organic reach climate. Start out with caution when it comes to your posting schedule. Monitor feedback, and increase your posting frequency gradually if people are engaging with your posts. You should be more focused on follower engagement on social media than the number of posts you put out there. Think quality over quantity.
  • You only need to be present online where your competition is. “The guy across the street isn’t online, so why should I be?” Wrong! If your competition isn’t online, that’s exactly why you SHOULD be. Being present online is no longer optional. Though your competition may not be online, your audience is, and it has expectations.
  • Conversions only count when someone makes a purchase. Digital marketers want conversions, which refers to the point at which a potential lead becomes an actual customer. However, among the digital marketing misconceptions out there is the idea that you only count conversions when they lead to a sale. False. Conversions come in all shapes and sizes. A conversion can include any call to action, whether it is someone signing up for your email list, filling out your contact form or even downloading resources you have posted on your website. The truth is, each of these could potentially lead to revenue, which means they should not go ignored.
  • You can “set it and forget it” in terms of SEO. Absolutely untrue. SEO (search engine optimization) works as an ongoing process. It involves strategies like keywords, backlinks, website speed and security, mobile friendliness—the list goes on. Each one is another drop in the bucket for SEO. As you continue to create and disseminate digital content and assets, you should continue to optimize that content for search rankings.
  • Blogging is more of a hobby than a digital marketing necessity. Anyone can go online and start a blog. From clean eating to collecting stamps, there’s a blog out there for anything and everything. When it comes to digital marketing, however, blogging is a tool that you should not proceed without. The benefits of blogging from a marketing standpoint are twofold. For one, it shows brand followers that you know your stuff—and that you care enough to share your industry knowledge with them. On the other hand, maintaining a blog is also beneficial for SEO. It gives you a space to incorporate keywords, backlinks and just general fresh content—all of which make your site look good in the eyes of a search engine.
  • Only “exciting” businesses should be on social media. The great thing about the internet is, it’s all-inclusive. You may think that plumbing, pest control or paper products are too “boring” to sustain social media accounts, but you’d be wrong (and we’ve run accounts for businesses in these industries to prove it). Each business niche serves a specific group, whether your brand is B2B (business-to-business) or B2C (business-to-consumer). That means your content will be of use to someone, even if it is not interesting to everyone.
  • Email marketing is dead. With so many digital marketing routes to take, you may wonder whether email is becoming obsolete. The short answer—it’s not. Email is still a very viable tool for reaching a targeted consumer base. According to a report from The Radicati Group, people were expected to send and receive 281 billion emails per day in 2018, which was higher than in 2017. In the United States, more than 85 percent of adults send or read email, according to the same study, and 99 percent of those people check their email every day. If you’re not tapping into those numbers in your marketing efforts, then it’s your loss!
  • A website is all you need for successful digital marketing. Website traffic is the ultimate goal for many brands, but that does not mean that a website is the only asset you need in your digital toolbox. You can have the most user-intuitive, mobile-friendly, responsive website out there, but that means nothing if you are not directing traffic to it. The way you do that is via other marketing means, like social media, email, paid online ads and even traditional marketing platforms.
  • Any content on my website will do. Think you can throw up some pictures, copy-and-paste some text onto your site and call it a day? Think again! Among our digital marketing misconceptions is the idea that it doesn’t matter what content you put out there, as long as you are putting something into cyberspace. The truth is, posting garbage content to your website and other digital assets could actually be hurting you in the long run. Search engines prioritize fresh, quality content that is targeted toward the specific needs of your audience. In addition to search engines, your brand followers will also appreciate content that is beneficial to them—and
  • that is updated on a regular basis.
  • Word-of-mouth trumps the need for digital marketing. Consumers rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals, and that’s something that will likely always be the case. However, word-of-mouth can also happen online, with your digital marketing efforts facilitating. For example, word-of-mouth could be asking customers to leave an online review, a branded hashtag or even a photo of their experience in a retail space. The concept of word-of-mouth has essentially expanded beyond physical speech to opportunities made possible in an online setting.

Don’t get caught up in digital marketing misconceptions. If you need more help distinguishing between fact and fiction in your digital marketing efforts, the McNutt & Partners team can help. Call us at 334-521-1010, or fill out our contact form for more information.

10 Surprising Stats About Gen Z as Consumers

Our assigned generations serve to categorize us among others who have shared and continue to share the same cultural experiences that we have along the timeline of human existence. Right now on that timeline, we are watching Baby Boomers retire, Gen Xers raise their families and Millennials begin and progress in their careers. Among all that activity, there is another generation playing an increasingly important role: Generation Z. Gen Z generally refers to those born after 1996 through the mid-2000s, meaning the oldest of the bunch is turning 23 this year. In marketing, that means it’s time to start thinking about Gen Z as consumers.

They’re the generation of smartphones, tablets and search engines. The generation of Alexa, Netflix and Google. Even the oldest members of Gen Z have barely known a world where the internet wasn’t 100 percent at our fingertips.

Though they’re young, Gen Z is already infiltrating the world’s consumer base, meaning that products are increasingly being designed and marketed with their preferences in mind. Gen Z members have been digitally immersed for their entire lives, which is something to keep in mind when considering Gen Z as consumers. Let’s look at a few other surprising stats, courtesy of a study by WP Engine.

  • Gen Z influences as much as 93 percent of family consumer decisions. From food to tech purchases, younger family members have a significant say.
  • By 2020, Gen Z members will make up the largest group of consumers in the world. In fact, as a quarter of the population, they already represent up to $143 billion in spending power globally!
  • 55 percent of Gen Z can’t go more than five hours without internet access. They were born with the internet in hand, so it’s not exactly surprising. By comparison, 22 percent of Baby Boomers say they can go more than 168 hours without access to the internet.
  • 54 percent of Gen Z believe that internet influencers are more important than politicians. This includes people who build and manage websites.
  • 64 percent of Gen Z would rather have unlimited internet access and no college degree than a college degree and no access to the internet. Now, if only they could find someone to make them that offer…
  • 68 percent of Gen Z think websites will intuitively know what they are looking for upon visiting a web page. To add to this, 40 percent said they would leave a web page if it didn’t anticipate their needs. Websites better be on the ball when Gen Z comes through!
  • 44 percent of Gen Z would forgo privacy concerns by providing data if it meant their websites could give them a more personalized experience. Hello, marketers—something to think about when considering Gen Z as consumers.
  • Marketers have seven seconds to capture Gen Z’s attention before they move on to something else. By comparison, they have 12 seconds to make a mark on Millennials.
  • 61 percent of Gen Z prefers websites over apps when it comes to making online purchases. It’s not an overwhelming number, but could be a trend to watch going forward as Gen Z’s successor, Generation Alpha, comes onto the scene.
  • 75 percent of Gen Z trusts online-only companies. Face-to-face interaction with a store owner at a brick-and-mortar location was once the preferred way to go. However, internet-only companies have more credibility with the tech-dependent generations.

It’s not that Gen Z is on the verge of making a significant impact on consumerism—it’s already happening. If you aren’t already considering the weight of Gen Z as consumers in your marketing efforts, now is the time to start.

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

 

Spring Clean Your Social Media: Spotting Fake Social Media Followers

You’ve heard of spring cleaning—the idea that the change of seasons is the ideal time to open the windows, let in the fresh air and sunlight and rid your home of all of the dust and debris that accumulated while you were holed up all winter. But besides your home and your vehicle, spring cleaning can also apply to other aspects of your life—like your social media accounts. In general on social media, the more “likes” and “follows” we have on our pages, the better we feel. Some of these followers, however, could actually be doing you more harm than good. Fake social media followers can ruin your account’s credibility—and you might not even know they are there until you look.

What are fake social media accounts?

An account that we are describing as a “fake” social media account can often look like a real, legitimate social media user with a profile picture, person’s name, bio, etc. But beware—some of these are bots. Bots are essentially algorithms acting within social media networks.

Bots serve to mimic human social media followers in the way they comment on and like posts. According to a study cited by Forbes, 30 percent of legitimate social media users can be fooled by a bot. There are certain things you can look for when spotting these fake social media followers, which we’ll address later.

Social media bots exist for a variety of reasons. Some serve to convince you to buy things. Others signify some sort of influencing opinion and want to sway you to agree. Still others exist simply to cause trouble, mimicking legitimate social media accounts of celebrities and politicians, for example.

There are companies that create these bots and sell “followers” to everyday businesses looking to increase their followings. This is obviously a no-no. Read on to learn why.

Why is having fake social media followers bad?

You might think, “The more likes, the better” when it comes to your social media pages, but this is not necessarily true. The more quality likes, the better, is more like it. Fake followers can not only harm your page’s credibility, but they can actually affect the way your posts are disseminated to your legitimate followers.

Most social media algorithms limit your posts’ initial organic distribution to only a select number of your followers. Now consider the fact that some of that initial sample of users who your posts reach organically are fake social media followers. The post is essentially wasted on these false accounts when it could have reached a higher number of legitimate ones.

If you have too many of these low-quality followers, your initial engagement will be low, and the algorithm will not push your content any further beyond that initial sample group. This equals poor reach for your social posts.

How can I spot fake followers?

Though bots aim to mimic “real” social accounts, there are some very telltale signs that a social account is not backed by an actual human being.

  • High follower count with few posts. If an account genuinely earned a significant number of followers, there would be posts to back it up.
  • Maxed out following count. Instagram limits the number of users you can follow to 7,500, for example. Fake social media followers are more likely to max out their follower count than authentic accounts are.
  • Questionable profile. Is there no profile picture, or a profile picture of say a gorgeous model that doesn’t seem to match up? What about the bio section—is it nonsensical or vague? Probably a fake.
  • Sketchy content. Look for ads, spam and other posted content that just feels…shady.
  • Automated comments. Unfortunately, we get these all the time on our McNutt & Partners Instagram. Comments like “Great photos!” or “Love your feed!” These are sure signs of bots.
  • Inappropriate comments. Bots don’t comprehend context. Some of the automated comments mentioned above may appear somewhere completely irrelevant—like, “Great photos!” on a picture of someone’s grandmother who passed away.

What can I do about fake followers?

No one has time for fake friends—especially when it’s hurting you on social media. Luckily, you have defenses against these faux followers. For one, when you spot a questionable account, you can manually block that user, which will in turn prevent the user from seeing your content and remove the user from your follower list.

If you have a significant number of followers with limited time to weed through them all, there are automated tools that were designed specifically for this purpose. Programs like Fakers App for Twitter and Social Audit Pro for Instagram are a couple of automated tools to help you audit your followers. There are also free online tools like this fake follower bot checker, which allows you to type in an individual username to determine whether it is a fake.

Start your spring cleaning by ridding your page of fake social media followers that only serve to bring you down. Need help? Call us at 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

How Readability Affects Your Search Ranking

Think about opening a book. What do you see? Large type? Small type? Line breaks? Huge paragraphs? Some of this probably sounds preferable over the rest. That’s because as human beings, we are inclined to favor what is easier and more pleasing for us to read. It’s not just true for hardbacks and paperbacks. We want the content we read online to be seamless and appealing as well—all in an effort to give us the best web browsing experience. Not only does the readability of your online content affect your followers, but also readability affects your search ranking.

What is readability?

Readability refers to how clear a section of copy is for both reading and comprehension. Google likes quality content (cue the fact that stuffing keywords into copy is no longer acceptable to the search engine). Quality content to Google also encompasses the readability of text on a web page.

How does readability affect SEO?

While there are more than 200 ranking factors that go into Google’s search algorithm, readability is one that has become—at least indirectly—increasingly significant in terms of SEO. Though it may not be something that is directly measured, it definitely affects the user experience. User experience correlates to direct ranking factors like the amount of time someone spends on a page, for example.

With Google’s latest update, Hummingbird, the search engine has taken mimicking human behavior more seriously. This includes trying to read web pages like a human would. That being said, paying attention to readability when devising web copy is not only important for the sake of your site visitors, but also to appease Google in hopes of scoring a higher ranking.

What does good readability look like?

To answer this question, think about what you do when you visit a web page. Unless you’re just sitting down for some quality web browsing time, you’re likely quickly scanning the page, reading headlines and subheads in an attempt to get the main gist of the article without having to read it word for word.

Google does the same thing. It prioritizes a combination of sentences that are concise and to the point with longer ones in a manner that flows conversationally. It also likes content to be grouped together in a way that makes sense using a visual hierarchy to break up long blocks of text.

Another factor to note in the way that readability affects your search ranking—voice search is on the rise. In response to a voice search, Google wants to pull content that answers the question, but that does so in a clear, concise way. It doesn’t want to read a long, drawn-out sentence that takes too long to get to the point—and it won’t.

How can I improve my content’s readability?

Now that you know you need to do it, here are a few ways you can improve the readability of your web content.

  • Use simple words. Your brand’s web space is no place to show off your vocabulary. Difficult and complex words are a quick means to losing readership—and Google’s blessing.
  • Choose concise sentences. Along the same lines, keep sentences relatively short as well. Try taking a long sentence and breaking it into two shorter ones. It’s OK to alternate between short sentences and slightly lengthier ones, but keep the multiple clauses to a minimum.
  • Break up long stretches of text. Not only do the length of your words and sentences impact how readability affects your search ranking, but so does the content structure itself. There’s nothing that makes a website visitor want to leave sooner than a scroll of grey text that goes on for days. If you’ve got a lot to say—that’s OK, but make it easier on your readers by organizing content with heads, subheads, lists and/or bullet points. Graphics, charts, pull-quotes and more are also good ways to break up the boring.
  • Get to the point. Content structure also matters in terms of how you structure copy within a paragraph. Make your main point clear out of the gate, then fill in with supporting details as the paragraph goes on.
  • Opt for a conversational tone. Online, it pays to keep your copy casual. This is no college research paper, so don’t address your audience like it is your professor. Imagine that you are talking to someone in real life as you write.
  • Find a font that is easy to read. It’s all about sans-serif—at least for your long-body text. Serif fonts are better suited for print materials like magazines and newspapers, where they thrive more than they do on screen. Also, pay attention to the size of the font. Long-body text should not be too large or too small.

If all else fails, read your web copy out loud. If I doesn’t sound good to you, it likely won’t sound good to anyone else either—including Alexa, Siri or Google Home.

Does worrying about the readability of your online content give you a headache? The McNutt & Partners team can help. Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

Verifying Your Facebook Business Page: Why It’s Important and How to Do It

In the wide world of the internet, claiming ownership your online assets is critical in order for your business to appear reputable and legitimate to web users. It also maintains that your online assets are just that—yours—and that they cannot be claimed or misrepresented by anyone else. Facebook offers you a way to “claim” your pages, and it’s called verification. Verifying your Facebook business page is not a requirement, but it is in your brand’s best interest for several reasons.

The benefits of verifying your Facebook business page

Verifying your Facebook business page can help your brand in a variety of ways, including search engine optimization. When you go to verify your page, even Facebook tells you that doing so will help your page rank higher in search results.

In addition to SEO, verifying your page adds that level of legitimacy that we previously mentioned. It shows your followers that yours is “the” official page representing your brand. That way, if for some reason a duplicate or similar page is created, Facebook users can see that yours is the real deal—not the imitator’s.

Giving this officiality to your brand’s Facebook page is especially important for consumers today, who are more cognizant than ever of where their content is coming from. They want to know that they are following legitimate sources when it comes to their online content.

Determining whether a Facebook page is verified

To see whether a page is verified, look for a check mark next to the name below the profile picture. Facebook calls these “badges.”

A gray badge indicates that it is an authentic page for a business or organization with a confirmed location. There are also blue badges, which are used to indicate verification for public figures (including celebrities), media companies and larger brands. For example, Bed Bath & Beyond’s brand page has a blue badge, while a specific Bed Bath & Beyond store’s page would have a gray badge if verified.

At McNutt & Partners, we’re considered a small business with a confirmed location, so we get the gray badge.

 

How to verify your business page

Verifying your Facebook business page may sound daunting, but it’s actually pretty easy (and a gray badge is much easier to obtain than a blue one). Here’s how to do it:

  • Go to your Facebook business page.
  • Select “Settings” in the top right corner of your page.
  • Choose “Page Verification” from the options (It’s second from the top on ours.)
  • Here, it will prompt you to request a code. You do this by entering your business phone number and then clicking “Call Me Now.”
  • Facebook will then send an automated call to the number you entered. Answer your business phone and write down the code provided.
  • Enter the code in the space indicated on your screen.
  • Ta-da! Your page should now be verified.

Facebook also gives you another option if you do not want to use the phone call/code method—the option to “Verify this page with documents instead.” This requires you to upload documents that prove that you legally own the business. Accepted documents include:

  • Business utility bill
  • Business license
  • Business tax file
  • Certificate of formation
  • Articles of incorporation

While Facebook assures that it will keep this information private, the phone call option does seem to be the easier of the two. The document option requires a manual review, which could take longer (anywhere from 48 hours to 45 days, according to AdEspresso). In our experience using the phone call/code method, we have received immediate verification for the pages that we help manage.

Speaking of help, if you need it, we’re here. We work to make sure that all of our clients pages are verified and much more in an effort to help them secure their digital assets. Give us a call at 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.

10 Ways to Extend the Life of Your Smartphone

The average smartphone user checks his or her phone around 80 times per day, according to research. That equals once every 12 minutes! Surprising? Not really—because some people check their phones far more often than that. These handheld devices have become extensions of ourselves, so much so that one day they will probably literally be extensions of ourselves (cue augmented reality and neural lacing). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. For now, smartphones are still very much present, allowing us to carry out a wide variety of daily functions—from saying, “Good morning” to mom to ordering groceries right to our front doors. But these technological life helpers come at a steep price, to the point where considering ways to extend the life of your smartphone is in your best interest.

People are now keeping their smartphones longer than they ever have (three years compared to two-and-a-half years two years ago, according to Hyla Mobile). Not only are phones more expensive than they once were, but the concept of a free phone upgrade is now obsolete. If you’re looking to get the most mileage out of your investment, implement these ways to extend the life of your smartphone.

  • Practice caution. Just because your phone goes everywhere with you does not mean it is suited for all of your activities, (i.e., swimming, climbing, four-wheeler driving). Before you get too excited and jump in the lake with your phone, take a breath and set it down on your towel first. Also, use caution when having your phone on you while working out. Sweat can easily damage phones.
  • Use protection. Secure a sturdy case and a screen protector. Your case will buffer your phone from any unexpected falls, while your screen protector can save you the hundreds of dollars it costs to replace a screen in the event of a crack or shatter. Try a tempered glass screen protector, or even a stick-on one is better than nothing.
  • Replace your screen (not your entire phone). Sometimes even a screen protector is not enough to protect your smartphone from the hardest of falls. Instead of replacing your entire phone, just replace the screen. On higher-end models, this can run you more than $300 at times, and if it’s a $1,000 phone, then you’re still saving money.
  • Charge smartly. You may have heard that keeping your phone on the charger past 100 percent will kill your battery—experts say this is NOT true. However, it is best practice to not let your charge go below 75 percent before charging it. Charging at 75 percent or higher is said to extend your phone’s battery life.
  • Replace the battery. Smart phone batteries generally start to decline after about two years. If you notice that your smart phone is having a hard time holding a charge, you can replace the battery (typically for about $100 or less) without having to replace the entire phone.
  • Keep it clean. It’s no secret—our smartphones are covered in bacteria. In fact, the average smart phone is 10 times dirtier than a toilet seat, according to the University of Arizona. Too much dirt and grime is not only bad for your health, but it can get into your phone’s internal structure—and affect its operating ability.
  • Update regularly. When your phone prompts you for an update—do it! A phone update provides the latest security enhancements, fixes bugs and resolves vulnerabilities. While updates are a way to extend the life of your smartphone, there will eventually come a point where your phone is too old for the next update, and then it’s time for a new one.
  • Avoid viruses. No one would ever intentionally download an app with a virus or malware, but sometimes accidents happen. If an app seems suspicious, it probably is—don’t download it. If you downloaded an app, and now your phone is acting up, check the app’s data usage to determine whether it is sending out information to a third party.
  • Free up storage. Speaking of apps, another way to extend the life of your smartphone is to free up storage space on your device by removing apps you rarely or never use. You can also significantly free up space by storing your photos, videos and other similar files on a cloud-storage service. Google, Apple and Amazon all offer cloud storage services.
  • Power down. Sometimes we all need a break—and your phone is no different! Turning off your phone for a few minutes a few times a month will help it run smoother—and in turn, help to extend its working life.

Your smartphone is your lifeline for communication, knowledge, entertainment and so much more—so treat it with care. Doing so only serves to help you save money and avoid headaches in the long run.

Another great use for smartphones? Marketing to a mobile consumer base! Need help? Call us at 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.