Choosing the right social media platform article header image of social websites

Choosing the Right Social Media Platform for your Business

Audio Version — 8:19

The Rise of Social Media Platforms

choosing the right social media platform social web illustrationDigital technology, devices, the surging popularity of the internet, and the human need to stay connected have given rise to many social media sites and other virtual communities over the past 20-years. Social media’s popularity continues to accelerate with no sign of slowing soon, allowing marketing professionals to connect their brands with customers.

Ninety-two percent of marketers in companies with more than 100 employees plan to use social media for marketing activities in the coming years, according to statistca.com. The current data shows that more than 91% of marketers use social media platforms to connect with customers. With so many different social media sites, the question remains, should you be on every platform, and how do you select the right social media platforms for your business?

In this article, I guide you through choosing the right social media platform for your brand and answer the age-old question of should you be on every platform, specifically, the popular ones.

When Your CEO Tells You the Company Needs to be on All Social Media Platforms

It’s a story that transcends social media itself — or it feels that way at least; your CEO walks into the marketing office and cluelessly suggests that the company should have a Twitter presence. You look perplexed, thinking to yourself that your high-target value does not congregate on the social media platform. You quizzically ask, “Why?” He responds, “Because XYZ company is on Twitter, and I think we should be too.” 

The CEO exits your office, leaving you confused and bewildered. You ponder the idea of whether you should add the platform to your marketing communication mix or how you’ll inform him that you should not waste marketing resources to explore that platform.

If this scenario sounds remotely familiar, you’re not alone. I cannot tell you how many CEOs I worked with that suggested which social media platform I should direct the company to because their wife, kids, or friends suggested the social site. CEOs — or anyone for that matter — armed with just a little knowledge of social media can be and are dangerous enough to derail your marketing strategy — or stall your plans temporarily

I am going to arm you with information for choosing the right social media platform for your company. Then you will have the necessary information to help persuade your boss why you should or should not participate in specific social media platforms, perhaps saving valuable marketing resources.

Why Marketers Use Social Media: Advantages and Challenges

Social media has proven to have advantages and challenges for marketers. Advantages include:

  • Social media offers a targeted and personal approach to consumers, allowing marketers to create and share tailored content with specific target audiences and communities.
  • It provides a channel for dialogue (complaints, compliments, and needs) between customers and the brand.
  • It’s immediate and timely. Marketers can reach customers anywhere and at any time, making social media indeed a global communication channel.
  • Social media is cost-effective compared to print or television. Small businesses can embark on a social media campaign for almost zero marketing costs.
  • Social media platforms are best for encouraging customer engagement and sharing, allowing marketers to expand their brand message and content through a word-of-mouth strategy.

Conversely, social media presents a few challenges for marketers. The biggest challenge is walking a fine line between promoting the brand and engaging customers with relevant content. Because consumers drive social media through their positive and negative interactions, brands need to earn the right to be on any specific platform. Marketers that jump right into social media promoting products are often met with resistance by consumers. To gain acceptance and trust amongst consumers, making them a part of the brand conversation, marketers need to produce targeted, valuable content for consumers to digest.

Before you can create valuable content, you need to know where your customers congregate online and what they value. Thus, the question remains, what are the right social media platforms for your business?

Finding the Right Social Media Platforms

target illustration for right social media platform articleIdentify your key customers

Determining the right social media platform requires that you understand your audience. You need to know their likes, dislikes, needs, and where they “live” online; what social media sites they frequent. In other words, you need to identify your ideal buyers, also referred to as buyer personas

Research the Channels Audience

If you are new to marketing or have not yet identified who your ideal customer is and where they may spend their time online, you will want to research each channel you plan on engaging. Researching each social media channel may be daunting, considering thousands of social sites exist, ranging from the mainstream ones like Facebook and LinkedIn to niché social media sites like Reddit and smaller, specialized online communities.

High-quality third-party online sources are also suitable for researching social media statistics and the types of consumers that utilize the platforms. The following are a few research websites for learning more about social media platform audiences and trends:

  1. eMarketer. Part of Business Insider Intelligence is a research firm targeting decision-makers such as CMO’s a comprehensive source of information on operating in a digital world, offering transparently sourced and vetted data from thousands of sources. 
  2. Pew Research Center. Pew Research is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world. 
  3. Social Media Examiner. The information on this website helps businesses discover how to use social media to connect with customers, drive traffic, generate awareness, and increase sales.

Top Social Media Platforms Demographic Overview

The chart below offers a glimpse into some demographic data about the listed social media platforms. It’s an excellent place to begin your research in your potential audience demographics. However, keep in mind that to improve the success of generating a following on the social media platform, you will need to develop a few profiles of the ideal buyer (personas) to develop better content that engages your audience.

I have included several mainstream social media sites along with a few niché platforms. As a general rule, if you are unaware of what platform to start with, it’s good to craft your messages on the most popular social sites. For example, Facebook and YouTube are the most prominent social media platforms, with 81% of users stating they have used Facebook and 69% reporting using YouTube at some point, according to the Pew Research Center.

However, the top two most active social media platforms marketers use to connect and promote their businesses or products are Facebook and Instagram. Below is a list of leading social media platforms ranked according to popularity for marketers, based on the Social Media Examiner’s 2021 Industry Report. The demographic data comes from the Pew Research Center.

Social Media Demographics and Stats Chart

 FacebookInstagramLinkedInTwitterSnapchatYouTubePinterestNextdoor
Users2.7B854.5M740M187M265M2.1B459M27M
Adult Men61%36%31%25%22%82%16%10%
Adult Women77%44%26%22%28%80%26%16%
White67%35%29%22%23%79%34%15%
Black74%49%27%29%26%84%35%10%
Hispanic72%52%19%23%31%85%18%8%
<$30K70%35%12%12%25%75%21%6%
$30K-$49,99976%45%21%29%27%83%33%11%
$50K-$74,99961%39%21%22%29%79%29%12%
$75K+70%47%50%34%28%90%40%20%
High School or less64%30%10%14%21%70%22%4%
Some College71%44%28%26%32%86%36%12%
College +73%49%51%33%23%89%37%24%
Urban70%45%30%27%28%84%30%17%
Suburban70%41%33%23%25%81%32%14%
Rural67%25%15%18%18%74%34%2%

Data Source: Pew Research Center 4/2021

Summary

Since the explosion of the internet and digital technology, social media has gained and continues to gain popularity. The question marketers have is, should they be on all social media platforms or narrow their choices down to a few high-target value sites? Suppose your company has the resources to deploy content to all of the significant and niché social media sites. In that case, the answer is, yes, participate in all of the social platforms. However, the reality is that most firms do not have the resources and must narrow their selection down to the right social media platforms for their business and products.

Understanding who your customers are by developing two to five buyer personas can help you narrow which platform is right for your message. Targeting the different social media platforms requires research and sometimes trial and error in crafting the right message for the right audience.

African American businessman and woman looking at digital tablet

Why Traditional Marketing and Digital Marketing are the Same and Different

Audio Version — 5:21

Traditional and Digital Marketing are the Same

Here’s an activity to try. The next time you are in the office or socializing with friends, ask them to explain the difference between traditional marketing and digital marketing. Chances are, you will be at the receiving end of either a confused or blank stare. Then, follows either the utterance, “I do not know,” or, more likely, your co-workers or friends try to fumble through an explanation. Side note: this activity will not work effectively on an actual digital marketer or marketing professional in general.

The reality is, there is no difference between the two types of marketing. Yes, you read that correctly. There is no difference between the two types of marketing. Before you start murmuring ill-will toward me under your breath, please read on.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing:

 “as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

Before we can create, communicate, and exchange offerings that bring value to customers, we need to “create” a customer. Thus, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, profoundly stated:

 “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

Therefore, marketing (and innovation) aims to “create” a customer by creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for the customer. The only difference between the two marketing terms — traditional and digital — is the channels used to communicate, deliver, and exchange a firm’s offerings and value to the customer.

What are digital marketing channels? More specifically, what is the definition of digital, and what are the advantages of digital marketing channels over traditional marketing channels?

Digital Marketing Channels Defined and Its Advantages

marketing metrics - illustration of business man looking at analytics dashboardBud Caddell, a digital strategist, defines digital and its advantages for marketers as:

 “a participatory layer of all media that allows users to self-select their own experiences, and affords marketers the ability to bridge media, gain feedback, iterate their message and collect relationships.” 

In other words, digital offers marketers a way to understand their customers’ behavior while giving customers a path to exploring and discovering content they engage with and like.

Traditional marketing and digital marketing are no different from print, radio, or television marketing, all of which are communication channels under the marketing umbrella. Rob Stokes, an author of eMarketing, identifies two fundamental ways that differentiate digital marketing from traditional marketing. 

The two fundamental differences are audience segmentation and measurability, giving digital marketing channels an attractive advantage over traditional marketing channels.

Audience Segmentation

Digital marketing channels allow marketers to precisely and frequently segment audiences in real-time. What this means for marketers using digital media is that they can make changes to their marketing campaigns and strategies almost instantaneously.

Traditional marketing channels would take much longer, if it all, to rival the speed or precise accuracy of digital marketing. Additionally, the cost of targeting and measuring traditional media channels’ effectiveness is expensive compared to its digital counterpart.

Several ways that marketers segment with digital channels include customers:

Measurability

Digital channels also allow marketers to measure a customer’s digital journey, which includes:

  • What they watch. 
  • Which web pages they visit.
  • Their interaction. 
  • Their sentiments toward products and brands. 

Brands can measure the success of a campaign and determine which ones performed better than others much quicker and at a fraction of the cost than traditional marketing channels. 

Summary

Marketing is “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” Firms can achieve communicating their value and offerings through either traditional or digital marketing channels. Thus the two types of marketing are the same in terms of a marketings definition.

However, marketing through digital channels gives the marketer an advantage of accuracy, speed, and reduced costs over its relative, traditional media. The faster pace and accuracy allow marketers to quickly make changes in their strategy, further serving customers more accurately and at an affordable cost. Hence, the difference between the two  types of marketing.

going viral article image header

Going Viral: Five Content Categories That Increase Your Chances

Audio Version — 10:12

Going Viral, the New Black

Marketers and brand executives dream of taking their content viral, infecting viewers with their messages in hopes of gaining market share, brand recognition, and hours of free advertising.

Marketers learned that digital video and other digital content are an alternative to traditional media at tremendous savings after Evian Water posted their Babies Rollerblade video online. According to research conducted by the author of the book Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, Karen Nelson-Field, the video became a viral sensation garnering millions of views in the United States and globally, 

The 2009 Evian Babies video opened the doors for marketers exposing the reality that viral video success is attainable, but with the right mix of content. 

What Does Going Viral Mean?

Nelson-Field points out, in her book, that millions of videos get produced and uploaded annually, yet not all videos or digital content go viral. There are more viral losers, so to speak, than viral winners.

Defining viral is not an easy task. There is no set number of content-shares or specific views determining if one content is more viral than another. Even videos that gain tens of thousands of views in their first few hours of uploading and then dwindle are still considered viral videos. Because going viral is an enigmatic concept, I offer a broad definition of viral:

 

“The frequent sharing of content, still image or video, that spreads rapidly through a population of unique individuals.”

 

One thing is for sure, Nelson-Field points out, going viral requires content to be engaging. In an earlier article, Creating Engaging Videos and Their Optimal Lengths, I touched on the topic of what makes videos engaging and how high-engagement correlates with increased chances of going viral. Content, specifically video content, that elicits high positive arousal-emotions outperforms all other emotions. Content that evokes exhilaration with positive high-arousal emotions exceeds videos with just high-arousal emotions, according to Nelson-Field. Additionally, her findings show that videos that are high-arousal, positive, and demonstrate personal triumph are likelier to deliver shared success.  

However, be aware of negative, high-arousal content. As discussed in my earlier article, content that incites negative emotions gets shared. Nelson-Fields’ research demonstrates high-arousal negative emotions go viral. However, the negative video’s impact is unknown to brands. Brands that decide to experiment with high-arousal negative content need to tread lightly as the negativity could harm their brand image. See the Research Highlights section below for some of Nelson-Field’s viral marketing research findings.

Content Categories That Increase Your Chances of Going Viral

While there is no magic formula for making your content go viral, we have learned that high-arousing positive emotions that evoke exhilaration have a high probability of going viral. Additionally, video content that demonstrates personal triumph has a higher chance of being shared over other creative content.

Since not all content becomes viral content and that most brands do not necessarily focus on delivering high-arousing positive content, other avenues can help take your content to the next level and increase the likelihood of getting shared. As Nelson-Fields points out from her viral marketing research, less contagious videos can be winners as well. The key here is to seed and support your content through multiple platforms and even online paid advertising.

The following categories can improve your chances of increasing content shares and possibly taking your meme, video, story, or image viral.

 

Facts

Content that speaks about the “facts” gets shared amongst like-minded people more often than content perceived to be factual. However, people ignore facts, hence the rise of the “fake news media” and “alternative facts” comments in the past several years regarding U.S. politics. 

Side Note

Click to add your own text here

If you plan on posting “facts” as a content piece in hopes of making it go viral, a recommendation is to know your audience first. Do they subscribe to actual, provable facts or “alternative facts?” Knowing the difference between your audience will increase the likelihood that your “factual” piece of content — image or video — will go viral.

The meme below demonstrates the polarity of the alternative facts meaning. George Washington’s original quote was, “I cannot tell a lie.”, however, to drive the point that alternative facts are not facts but untruths, the meme points out the incongruent message from Washington and spread across social media as a viral meme.

alternative facts meme going viral - image of George Washington

 

Incongruity

Content that strays from the norm and displays things that are typically incompatible, inconsistent, or in disagreement tends to go viral more often than congruent content. For example, the cat and mouse (rat) video below (from the article Creating Engaging Videos and Their Optimal Length.) demonstrates the incongruent behavior of a rat chasing the cat. The rat chasing the cat is counterintuitive to what we know about the predator/prey relationship between the two animals; thus, we are amazed, amused, and bewildered when we see the incongruity. As a result, we want to share the video content with others.

Copyright Viral Hog

The key with incongruous content for your brand is juxtaposing two incompatible or odd items that appear counterintuitive to people into your content video or visual piece. But be careful that the imagery does not negatively harm your brand image.

Humor

Humor is another category that requires careful audience analysis. What one person or culture finds humorous, another may think offensive. 

The current theory on humor is the incongruity-resolution theory. In short, the I-R theory infers that humor occurs when presented with incongruent or unexpected information, which then the incongruity becomes resolved through further details, hence the punchline in many jokes. 

When it comes to humorous content, it’s vital to know your audience. Take, for example, the VW commercial below. The young lady enters the car, “rips a fart,” and then her date introduces two other people already seated in the back that the offending girl did not initially see when entering the vehicle. The commercial was viewed and discussed by millions of viewers in the United States. However, if this type of content aired in many middle east countries, it would be deemed offensive content and possibly backfired for the brand.  

Inspirational

Content that is positive and demonstrates triumph over tragedy ranks high on the viral sharing list. People like to be inspired and like a feel-good story. In 2011, a news video of a homeless man, Ted Williams, went viral with millions of views and shares. Williams, at one point, was a radio announcer that became homeless due to alcohol and drugs. A news reporter videotaped Williams and learned that he had a “golden voice.” That video (below) went viral, and Williams became a national icon as he received numerous job offers for voice work. Here was a rag to riches story that moved millions of people.

Incorporating inspirational messages in your branded content could help boost your chances of going viral. The caveat, though, the content piece must be authentic and sincere. Inspiring content that appears fake or forced can leave your brand looking inauthentic, causing viewers to see your brand negatively.

Psychological Insights

A few years ago, research about the relationship between profanity and intelligence opened the gates for internet goers to share viral memes about the subject. The idea that something frowned upon in society had a positive spin to it was counterintuitive. 

For decades, society viewed people who cussed as uneducated or low-class. The study demonstrated the opposite based on the researcher’s findings. People, specifically those who regularly used cuss words to color their communication, began sharing the news via social media platforms. 

The content was incongruous to what people initially thought about the subject, but it filled a need for curiosity about human behavior. In other words, the psychological insights packed a double punch to help the content go viral; it was incongruous, and it provided insights into human behavior. 

Content that offers psychological insights or knowledge and studies about how people behave often tends to get shared amongst social media platforms, especially if they provide additional viral elements, like incongruity. 

viral meme image of profanity as intelligence

Summary

Marketers want to take their video and other content viral in the hopes of appealing to a broader audience at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. However, not all content goes viral. More videos fail to go viral than those that end up spreading across social media platforms with millions of views and shares. Yet, we still do not have a clear definition of what it means to go viral other than a rapid sharing of content across social channels with thousands or millions of unique people.

Improving your chances of going viral may rest within five categories: facts, incongruity, humor, inspiration, and psychological insights. Positive messages that inspire, specifically those content pieces that show triumph over tragedy, do best when it comes to viral content. 

Brands can improve their chances of going viral, not only by producing content that fits one or more of the five categories but by seeding their content across the internet. In other words, brands that promote their content through varying social media platforms and utilize paid ad placement have a better chance at taking their content viral.

Research Highlights

The following highlights are summarized from a few select chapters of the book, Viral Marketing: The Science of Sharing, by Karen Nelson-Field.

Book ChapterResearch Highlight
CH. 3Content that draws a high-arousal positive emotional response is shared more.
CH. 3Generating arousal with video content is useful for both commercial and non-profit organizations to achieve sharing success.
CH. 3Videos that evoke feelings of exhilaration tend to be shared more than any other high-arousal positive emotion.
CH. 3If you choose the high-arousal negative space, proceed with caution. Little is known about its long-term consequences for the brand.
CH. 3Focus less on creative appeal and more on emotional appeal.
CH. 4 Using babies in your content outperform many other creative devices , but only when the video evokes high-arousal emotions.
CH. 4Of all possible creative devices, videos that display personal triumph appear most likely to deliver sharing success.
CH. 5High-arousal positive videos display more branding than the other groups, yet still share the most.
CH.5 The level of branding present has no effect on the degree to which a video will arouse viewers.
CH. 6More than 90% of viewers do not share.
CH. 6Less contagious videos can be viral winners too if they are well seeded and supported. It depends on your definition of success.
CH. 7Videos that elicit high-arousal emotions cut through the clutter and are remembered most.
CH. 7The most commonly recalled positive emotion is exhilaration.

 

 

Image of video blogger for engaging videos article - Allen Stafford

Creating Engaging Videos and Their Optimal Length

Audio Version — 8:58

engaging videos article - illustration of man looking through telescopeThe Web – A Visual Medium and Engaging Videos

Humans are visual creatures. Our survival depends heavily on visual cues for fundamental behaviors like locating food, a partner, and shelter. We also rely on visual cues for complex actions like parental care and the forming of social hierarchies. 

In a 2004 research paper by Indiana University School of Law professor William C. Bradford, he notes that 5% of the population are experiential (tactile and role-play) learners, 30% of the people are verbal learners, with the remaining 65% of the population being visual learners. 

It is no wonder that MTV — the music television cable channel that first aired on August 1, 1981, grew in popularity, broadcasting “visual” interpretations of artists’ music. Record producers probably knew that by exposing music fans to music videos, they could reach a potential 95% of their audience.

Fast-forward to 1990, when the first WorldWideWeb browser developed for the NeXT Computer lead to the graphical internet that we know today. The web is a visual medium for the most part, and the birth of social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube have helped fuel the graphic revolution, specifically amongst the video medium.

There are over 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute. It is no wonder that YouTube is the second most searched website in the world after Google. Facebook users watch over 100 million hours of videos daily on the social media site. There are tens of thousands of other videos watched and uploaded to other social media sites and private and public web pages daily. With so much video distributed throughout the internet, it makes it challenging for marketers to cut through the noise and grab your already waning attention span. 

Whether a marketer should produce engaging videos or not is a pointless discussion. Of course, engaging videos must be part of your marketing strategy. The question is, how do you get viewers to engage with your video content, and how long should your video run?

What is Engagement?

The concept of online engagement is reasonably new, and pundits have not locked in consensus on the idea of what exactly constitutes engaging online content. According to research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review titled, Creating Online Videos That Engage Viewers, the authors — Dante M. Pirouz, Allison R. Johnson, Matthew Thomson, and Raymond Pirouz; professors of marketing at Western University of London, Ontario, Canada — offer a broad view of what constitutes engagement: 

“We…define engagement as behavior that includes sharing but also extends to other forms of measurable user involvement.”

The other forms of measurable user involvement — noted by the scholars — include commenting, favoriting, and liking. In other words, engagement is anytime a viewer interacts positively or negatively with your content or, in this case, your video.

In their research, Pirouz et al. dispel several myths about online videos. Their results show that neither professionals nor amateurs are better than one another in creating compelling content for accumulating views. So, you do not have to run out and hire a professional actor to represent your marketing video; anyone can do the job.

Additionally, the study finds that:

  • Branded videos are liked more but disliked more as well.
  • Adding cute babies and animals does not increase engagement either.
  • Attractive people do not increase engagement.
  • Sexually suggestive videos also do not increase viewer engagement. 
  • Satire, associated with hyperbole, increased views and comments, yet it induced anger. If you are looking to generate outrage, satire may be an option for you.

What Makes Engaging Content?

Hand sketch couple looking at smartphone - engaging videosIn their research, the team discovered that the number one element that increased positive engagement — views and likes — was the element of surprise. Interestingly, surprising yet frightening videos garnered more views and likes than videos with just an element of positive surprise. The team does point out that fear-inducing videos increase views but at the cost of generating negative attitudes toward the videos. The key is to produce videos that induce fear and surprise, not frightening videos like those found in horror movies, which decreased engagement the researchers found.

When looking at ways to invoke surprise, the researchers looked at hyperbole (exaggeration), incongruity, and novelty. They discovered that while hyperbole and surprise increased views and comments, it incited anger. That may work for political marketing campaigns, but not necessarily for brands looking to create a positive image.

The best approach for engaging videos, according to the researchers, is to pair the element of surprise with either something novel that viewers have not seen or show something counterintuitive or incongruent that also demonstrates surprise. For example, I conducted a non-scientific experiment on a Facebook group with over 27,0000 members. I posted varying videos to test the findings in the engagement study. The video that received over 200% more likes, comments, and shares was a video (shown below) of a cat attempting to chase a rat; in turn, the rat chased the cat down the street. The video displayed an element of surprise (the fact a cat would run from a rat), and it was equally out of place or incongruent to what we know about the relationship between a cat and rat or rodent. In other words, the video displayed visuals that are counterintuitive to how we see the world, and that alone created the elements of surprise, novelty, and incongruity.

Copyright Viral Hog

 

Does Video Length Impact Engagement?

The current assumption is that shorter video lengths improve viewership. That is, if your video time is short, then you will attract more viewers. The thinking coincides with recent studies that indicate people today have about an 8-second attention span, shorter than a goldfish. Add in the reality that 4,000 to 10,000 ads and messages bombard us daily; it makes sense to think that shorter is better when it comes to competing for attention. 

Despite all of the noise and clutter that competes for our daily attention, shorter video length does not necessarily impact viewer engagement. What impacts engagement is content. Set aside most social media platforms’ hard video length limits; you are bound by them regardless of content and viewer attention span. You should direct your focus toward the type of story you want to develop and communicate.

Researchers discovered that shorter videos are not necessarily the most engaging in research conducted by Google’s Unskippable Labs initiative (see video below). What engages viewers is compelling brand stories, specifically amongst the Gen Z and Millennial demographics who have an anti sentiment toward being sold. Unskippable Labs found that the longer the ad, the greater the brand awareness and consideration of the brand offerings. The caveat, though, with longer videos is to develop a compelling, emotional story. The unskippable Labs study shows that longer video cuts (30-seconds and 2-minutes plus) increase brand favorability. An increased interest in a brand with the longer video allows more time to develop an emotional connection between the brand and the viewer.

Shorter ads, like 15-seconds, showed ad recall; however, they did not change a consumer’s mind in regards to liking a specific brand.

Copyright YouTube.com

 

What is the Optimal Video Length for Engaging Viewers?

While the Unskippable Labs study measured videos up to around the 2-minute mark, another study conducted by Wistia concluded that the optimal length for a video is between 2 to 3-minutes. Engagement exponentially drops off after the 3-minute mark.

For best the optimal video best practices, it is best to keep your marketing video under 3-minutes. For brands that want to tell a story, the 2-3 minute video range is optimal without introducing the brand until after the 1-minute mark. For brands looking to halo their brand name and build brand recall, shorter videos, like 15-second videos, do well. 

Summary

Video is a fast-growing medium for marketers. The challenge is knowing the right amount of time a marketing video requires before viewer engagement falls-off. Studies show that the optimal video length for engaging videos is 2 to 3-minutes for brands looking to increase brand favorability amongst their viewers. Anything longer than 3-minutes, then viewer engagement drastically drops. Brands looking to increase brand recall do better with shorter videos that are 15-seconds.

image of online shopper for website credibility article

Nine Elements That Help Boost Your eCommerce Website Credibility

Audio Version — 5:03

Consumers and Website Credibility

website credibility hand drawn sketch of laptopIn the 1990s, when graphical browsers graced computers with a way to view websites, web surfers became enamored with the technology and their ability to visit, or surf, websites for information. When businesses began using the digital channel to sell their products, many consumers lacked trust in eCommerce websites. Studies have suggested that a consumer’s intention to purchase online directly correlates with their trust level for a particular website. With over 6-billion indexed web pages (as of 2020), web surfers and consumers have plenty of places they can find themselves online. 

One of the many challenges small to midsize businesses face with digital marketing is projecting credibility through their website. It’s no longer true that if you build it (a website) that “they” (consumers) will come. They may come, but they will not stay, let alone make a purchase from your website if it appears to lack credibility.

What is Credibility?

Credibility is the quality of being convincing or believable. It refers to how trustworthy and legitimate your website looks. Credibility is a primary consideration for consumers and web surfers when deciding to use or make a purchase from your website. Below are nine elements that can help boost your website’s credibility.

Nine Ecommerce Website Credibility Elements

Professional Looking Website
Although it is subjective, websites that appear professional and not appear to be built by an amateur do better in the credibility department. A clean, professional website communicates stability to the consumer; it demonstrates that you have an organized process and are serious about doing business online.

Company Address and Phone Number Readily Available.
Your company address and phone number in prominent places on your website communicates to consumers that real people are operating the business. It also communicates that you are easily accessible.

About Page
Consumers want to see the human side of your business. The “About” page offers insights into your company. It also tells the story about how your company started and its business purpose and goals. In other words, your story. It’s also a good idea to show images of real people working within your company to give the consumer a sense that real people are behind the scenes doing the work.

Authentic Testimonials
Having testimonials is an excellent way to present credentials. It’s social proof that people are willing to buy from your business or visit your site and use your services. Testimonials also provide potential consumers with the confidence that someone else is satisfied with your product or services. Testimonials with names are acceptable. Adding a photo to the testimonial is even better. However, video testimonials are the best way to convey trustworthiness to potential consumers. 

Reputable Sales Channel
For eCommerce websites, having a reputable sales channel helps build credibility. Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento are excellent shopping cart and eCommerce platforms. Pair that with Amazon.com or eBay.com, and you even add more credibility to your eCommerce store.

Associations, Affiliations, Awards
Adding the logos of any association or affiliation or any other organization you are associated with will boost your website’s credibility. The same applies to any awards you may have as a company. All of these show consumers your commitment to your business.

Third-Party Reference or Endorsement Links
Suppose other credible websites endorse you on their website. In that case, it’s a good idea to link to their endorsement of your business. By doing so, it’s an excellent way to assert your credibility without tooting your own horn.

Updated Content
Keeping your content updated is a way to show that your business is active. A news or blog section and even your social media pages that are not regularly updated communicates to consumers that nothing is happening within your business. Keep the content flowing regularly. Developing a content calendar is an excellent way to stay on target.

Error-Free Website
Websites with grammar and misspelled words communicate a site or company that is unprofessional. While many readers may not pick up on the errors, the few that do can cause you plenty of grief. Errors also extend to broken links, malfunctioning online tools, and other parts of the website that underperform your brand’s promise. 

Summary

Developing a website is only one part of your company’s digital marketing strategy. To successfully get customers to purchase from your eCommerce website, it must appear credible. Following the nine tips above provide a good starting point. As research has shown, customers that perceive a website as credible will most likely engage and purchase from that website.

Digital Marketing Channel article header image

Five Common Digital Marketing Channels and How They Are Used to Engage Customers

Audio Version — 12:07

Digital marketing, to many small business owners and B2B leaders, is still something of an enigma. They acknowledge its existence and importance but often do not understand how the digital communication channel, and all that it offers, functions to their benefit. These leaders understand terms such as SEO, analytics, PPC, and social media. However, they fall short of understanding how each digital channel operates independently and together to deliver customers and profits at a fraction of traditional marketing channels’ cost.

Without overwhelming the reader with elaborate details, this article addresses the most common digital marketing channels and how they communicate their brand value and engage customers. The list is not exhaustive but a primer for business leaders looking better to understand the digital landscape and the types of information and content typically communicated to their audiences.

The Digital Marketing Channels Advantage

digital marketing channels illustration of bits and bytes on a trayDigital channels, more commonly known as digital marketing, is marketing that uses digital technology or digital media. The medium has revolutionized marketing due to its unique ability that allows the marketer to target online customers precisely. Before the digital marketing revolution, marketers would create advertisements that broadcasted to large target audiences. The firms would distribute their marketing campaign through print advertisements, radio, and television. In other words, marketers engaged in undifferentiated marketing — or marketing where the firm created a single message for their entire target audience.

The commercial advertisement below demonstrates a typical ad that firms would broadcast to millions of viewers with the hopes of increasing brand recognition or increasing sales. However, the single message ad to their entire audience was challenging to track. Companies did not have an easy way to track their audience reaction or target specific demographic groups like they do today with digital media.

The following commercial for Friskies Cat Food from 1969 aired over television to a broad audience with the hopes of capturing cat owners with little to no control for specific targeting based on precise demographics or psychographics.

Now, imagine the above commercial advertisement distributed through digital channels. Marketers would have greater control over who, where, when, and how viewers watched the ad through advanced analytics and online targeting tools, like google analytics. Today’s digital tools provide advanced ability to target and track customers with precision results due to the rise in popularity of the internet.

As online expenditures increased, more customers turned to online retailers for their purchases. According to Statistica.com, There were nearly 228 million online shoppers in 2020, with a steady yearly rise in new online shoppers, primarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. People turned to online retailers to avoid going out to physical stores for fear of exposing themselves to the virus.

With digital technology and online shoppers, digital marketing implementation gives marketing managers access to tools that specifically target online customers. Furthermore, marketers can target specific customer segments with digital targeting tools based on personal interests and affinity groups (groups of people with similar interests). The precise targeting and analytics allow marketers to measure their campaigns, often in real-time, and determine the success or failures of those campaigns. In other words, marketers can determine what’s working and what is not working. Monitoring campaigns in real-time saves the marketing department resources while fine-tuning low-performing campaigns or duplicating their successful ones.

Popular Digital Marketing Channels

While digital marketing is an umbrella term for all digital marketing functions and technologies, people often categorize digital marketing into a few popular categories. These categories include:

  • Social media marketing.
  • Search engine optimization/search engine marketing (or SEO/SEM).
  • Display advertising.
  • Email marketing.
  • Content marketing.

Each of these digital marketing categories provides a different way to communicate through their respective digital channels.

Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Marketing (SEO and SEM)

Purpose: SEO helps drive organic traffic to your owned digital assets. In contrast, SEM helps make your products and services discoverable to customers.

Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are often confused by people who do not fully understand the two strategies’ contrast. While SEM includes SEO, SEO focuses on driving traffic to your website organically. In other words, SEO is the practice of using keywords and different strategies to improve your company website’s chance of showing up on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

However, SEM does include SEO as part of its strategy and has paid and non-paid activities. As an example, purchasing ads through Google Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns is part of SEM. So is developing engaging video content for your YouTube channel and creating a social media influencer strategy. 

In short, SEM is the practice of making your products discoverable through the SERPs and other digital channels.

The example below shows Google’s search engine results for the keyword bookshelves. Notice the images in the upper Google Ads feed? Five different ads for bookshelves appear, followed by the organic listing for websites that offer bookshelves. The ad images result from deliberate ad placement (or paid advertisement). The information below the ads is organic results, a product of SEO. Together, the ads and organic results are part of a firm’s SEM strategy.

digital marketing channels article SEO and SEM example

 

Social Media Marketing

Purpose: Helps brands connect with their audience in a non-sales way to better understand their audiences’ likes and dislikes. Also, to provide content solutions to the audience’s pain points.

As its name implies, social media are social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, to name the more popular ones. Social media channels help brands connect and engage with their customers. Social channels like Facebook are excellent places for the brand to interact and “listen” to their customers. 

What is meant by social “listening”? 

Social media platforms allow customers to comment and brands to ” listen” or read their comments and respond to understand customers’ likes and dislikes better.

The example below shows the Facebook feed for Nordstrom’s department stores. In the feed, customers leave comments, likes, and dislikes about Nordstroms as a social media specialist responds, allowing a two-way dialogue between the retailer and customers.

digital marketing channels social media Nordstroms example Facebook

 

Social media platforms are more for engagement and less for selling. The social channels are ideal for delivering content that helps solve customer’s problems without a hard sell. The example below comes from Southwest Airlines Facebook page. Their social media team shares research from a Harvard University study on mask usage and the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The virus is a topic that weighs heavy on almost every passenger’s mind when flying during the pandemic.

Southwest airlines facebook feed example

 

You can look at social media as a friend’s backyard barbeque social gathering. Friends and family attend the event and socialize, sharing stories, ideas, and helpful solutions to problems they may openly discuss. Rarely do you see or hear a guest delivering a sales pitch to people at such social gatherings. They may share their places of employments and discuss what they do. Still, people generally do not attend a friend and family gathering to conduct hard sales.

Display Advertising

Purpose: Display advertising helps build brand recognition and target specific customer segments online to deliver your product offerings.

Display advertising is advertising represented and broadcast through websites, apps, and social media. Display ad formats may include text advertisements, images, flash, video, and audio.

Distribution of display ads occurs through websites that partner with ad platforms, such as Google. They may also appear in your email inbox or through apps on your phone. The example below shows display advertising through the Google Partner website.

As part of a search engine marketing strategy, the primary purpose of display advertising is to deliver your brand message or product offerings to website visitors.

 

display advertising example

 

Email Marketing

Purpose: To stay connected with your customer base or help potential customers move along the marketing funnel toward conversion.

Email marketing is one of the oldest and most cost-effective forms of digital marketing. Early on, Email marketers would purchase or harvest email addresses and broadcast product messages, filling millions of recipients’ inboxes. Later, legislation passed prohibiting marketers from sending unsolicited Emails. 

Today, marketers are leveraging Email to customers who sign-up to receive information about your company, products, or helpful solutions to their problems. Marketers use Email to connect to customers, to keep them informed about new products, specials, and to better their lives with the products.

The newsletter below is one example of email marketing. Petco, a popular pet store (in the USA) selling various items for pets, sends their newsletter to current customers. The newsletter keeps their customers informed about new or on-sale products and helpful information about keeping their pets safe and healthy.

 

Email marketing example

 

 

Content Marketing

Purpose: To provide valuable information to customers or potential customers about how products and services may solve their pain points. Content is more informative than sales-oriented.

The fifth popular form of digital marketing is content marketing. It has been the buzzword in digital marketing for several years now. However, content marketing is not new. Companies like Coca-Cola have been content marketing for over a century.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach where content is created and distributed, intending to attract customers to a product or service. The key to content marketing success is that the message does not overtly advertise the product or service. Instead, content marketers focus their message on delivering informational or educational content to increase interest in a product. 

Content may be in the form of a written article, video tutorial, infographic, case studies, or any communication that helps inform or solve a customer’s pain point. 

The advertisement for Carnation Milk below is an example of content marketing in 1943. During World War II, food was in short supply in Europe. To help send food to their allies, the USA launched a program promoting gardening at home, which encouraged Americans to plant food for their use while the government sent food supplies to Europe. The Carnation Milk company was one of many advertisers that took advantage of the Victory Garden campaign by promoting their product using content marketing.

In the example, Carnation discusses the benefits of growing your food along with a helpful recipe using their canned milk. The content addressed how consumers might prepare a meal with the food they grow and a can of milk.

1945 Carnation Milk Content Ad example

 

Summary

Whether you call it marketing or digital marketing, it is all the same. The only difference is that digital marketing uses digital channels to communicate brand messages. These digital channels are found in various formats across all digital devices yet serve a specific purpose for delivering brand content. Additionally, the digital marketing advantage is that brands can target specific customer segments and get fast analytics to better serve their customers.

Facebook ad KPIs

Catapult Your Sales by Setting the Right Facebook Ad KPIs

Audio Version — 13:35

Measuring Facebook Ad KPIs

facebook ad KPI hand drawn illustrationIf you have ever spent money advertising and promoting your product or service on Facebook, you undoubtedly had an objective in mind. For example, maybe your goal was to generate $10,000 in sales from a specific campaign or that you wanted to sell 500 units of your product or, perhaps, sign up ten new clients.

Whatever your goal was, have you ever measured your ad campaign performance relative to your objectives? That is, did you establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine if you are on track toward reaching your goals? Don’t worry; if you have not, you’re not alone.

As social media advertising spend amongst business owners and marketers increases yearly (see eMarketer.com chart below), so does the competition. To give you a competitive advertising edge, I discuss several Facebook ad KPIs to monitor when advertising on the social media platform. I also discuss why they are essential to your sales success.

Facebook ad KPIs social media spend chart

 

What Are Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?

Before I dive into the Facebook sales KPIs, allow me to provide an overview of what a KPI is; for those that need a refresher explanation, of course.

A KPI is a strategic objective that targets where you want your company to be by a specific date. It helps you monitor where you are at the present moment with where you want to be in the future.

One example of a KPI may state, 

 

“We will increase revenue for product “A” by 10% by the end of the second quarter.”

 

Notice that the stated objective is to increase revenue for a specific product. The target is a 10% increase by a particular date. The more specific you write your KPIs, the easier it is to measure them.

Facebook Ad KPIs

As part of an ongoing ad campaign management process, I recommend two essential metrics for your Facebook advertising success. The first metric is the Cost-Per-Action (CPA) metric.

Cost-Per-Action (CPA)

Cost-Per-action, sometimes referred to as cost-per-acquisition, is perhaps one of the critical KPIs that you want to track for ad spending. CPA allows the advertiser to pay for only the actions a user makes due to your ad.

An action can be any one of the following:

  • Purchase from your E-Commerce site.
  • App download.
  • Newsletter Signup.
  • Registration for your webinar or conference.
  • Or just about any other activity that requires a visitor’s engagement.
facebook call to action image example for facebook ad kpis article

A sample ad from Facebook desktop news feed shows the advertiser using CPA advertising to increase downloads of their article.

 

For example, you can use CPA to monitor and control costs for visitors who click on your ad link versus paying for cost-per-impression (CPM). 

Note

Depending on your ad and desired action, CPA could cost you less than deploying a CPM ad strategy.

A high CPA cost can lead to higher costs and indicate that your Facebook ad is not performing well. However, the caveat is, you may experience a high CPA in the initial days that your ad is running. It is best to allow your ad to run for at least three days before checking the CPA. Suppose your ad CPA is still high after a few days from its initial launch. In that case, you need to make adjustments to your ad visuals or headline, target group, or Placement.

 

Example Facebook CPA Ad KPI

A written Facebook CPA ad KPI may read like the following:

 

Reduce Facebook CPA by 20% over the next three months.

 

The KPI assumes that you are past the initial ad launch by at least three days and that your CPA is higher than usual. Note that the KPI has a strategic objective to improve ad costs. It states a measurement strategy to reduce costs and has an explicit target within the next three months. 

 

CPA Calculation and Formula

To calculate CPA, divided the advertiser’s cost by the total conversions (or actions taken due to your ad). 

cost per action formula

 

As an example, let’s assume that the total cost to advertise is $1,000 for a campaign. You receive 25 actions for that $1,000 campaign. 

 

CPA= $1,000/25

 

Your CPA in this example is $40 per action. Some may regard this as expensive. However, compared to industry benchmarks, if you are in the auto, home improvement, or finance and insurance industry, the CPA is considered lower than average. If you are in the apparel industry, your CPA is high, and you must make adjustments to reduce your costs.

 

CTR Facebook ad KPI illustrationClickthrough Rate (CTR)

The clickthrough rate (CTR) metric is vital to monitor, especially for ads running two weeks or more. Although CTR is a simple metric, it is a telling one. 

A CTR drop may indicate that viewers are passing on looking at your ad in their Facebook feeds. Like products, ads have a shelf life too. For example, suppose you experience a 1.6% CTR for beauty products with a specific ad. In that case, your ad performs at the industry benchmark. If your CTR drops to below 1.6% and continues to decline over time, it may be necessary to change your ad’s visuals or the headline, or both.

Suppose your ad does not generate any clickthrough. In that case, it’s also an indication that there are possible issues with your ad’s visuals, headline, or target market. One suggestion is to turn your ad off and run several ad tests to determine which ad generates an increase in CTR.

Example Facebook CTR Ad KPI

An example Facebook CTR KPI may read something like the following:

 

“Increase our CTR on ad “X” from 0.8% to 1.4% over the next three weeks.”

 

CTR Calculation and Formula

To arrive at the CTR, divide the total number of clicks by the total number of impressions.

clickthrough rate formula

 

As an example, let’s assume that your ad received 200 clicks from a total of 1,000 ad impressions. That’s a 0.20% CTR rate; it’s low for almost all industries where on average, the CTR is 0.90%. In this example, you missed your 0.8% CTR (as noted in the above KPI example) and would need to adjust your KPI and tactics to reach the 0.8% CTR before trying to accomplish the 1.4% CTR. Your new KPI may read like the following:

 

“Establish a 0.8% CTR benchmark in the next two months.”

 

On the other hand, if you reach your KPI, you will want to set new goals.

Optimization

Facebook ad KPI success illustrationTo optimize is to make something as good as possible. Our goal is to consistently “tweak” the ad until it is as good as possible for Facebook ad optimization. When optimizing an ad, aside from changing the visuals and copy, headline, or call-to-action (CTA), there are five key optimization areas to focus on:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Country/Region
  • Placement
  • Frequency 

Additionally, for new Facebook ads, it’s best to allow the ad to gather data for at least five days after launching the campaign before you begin the optimization process. For older advertisements that were once successful and are now showing a lower CTR, take a look at the visuals, copy, or headline before optimizing any of the above criteria. (See the section on CTR above.)

Age

You’ll launch your ad campaign targeting a specific age group. However, you may find that your highest converting age target group is something else. Facebook allows advertisers to target subscribers from the age of 13 to 65+.

As your ad matures, examine your best-converting age groups. Are they what you expected? Did you discover an entire age segment with a higher conversion rate than your initial age target group? The strategy with age is to move your entire budget to the highest converting age demographic. 

Two possible key performance indicators for age demographics may read like the following:

 

Increase CTR in the age demographic (ad your age range here for the best converting CTR) to 35% conversion within the next 30-days.”

or

Increase sales in the secondary age demographic by 5% in the next seven days.”

 

The first KPI addresses the highest performing CTR age demographic. In contrast, the second KPI addresses growing the second-highest age demographic to increase your revenue.
Once you have established your highest conversion age demographics, the focus should be on growing the second-highest demographic by optimizing your ad visuals, headline, color, or copy.

 

Gender

Facebook allows the advertiser to target a specific gender, men and women. Following the same guidelines as with the age demographics section above, examine which gender category is converting more. Suppose one gender demographic is higher in conversions. In that case, it may be wise to move your ad budget toward that gender category.

Your product may not be suited for both genders. If it does apply to both genders, optimizing the ad for the poorly performing gender demographic may be required.

An example KPI for this demographic may read like this: 

 

“Improve conversions for (gender with low conversions) by 25% of the higher-performing gender category within two weeks.”

 

Country/Region

Targeting different countries or regions can pose challenges for new advertisers. It can also pose challenges for advertisers entering into new markets. The more regions/countries you target, the more the ad can potentially cost you or not perform as well due to a variety of reasons.

It’s best to begin your ad campaign targeting one specific region, providing that your product or service is suitable for that region. Allow at least five days to pass before reviewing the CTR for the ad. If your ad is performing poorly, your options may include optimizing the ad image or headline. 

Once you have mastered and increased the Facebook ad CTR of a specific region, begin experimenting with other same language regions. If you target countries that are non-English speaking, your ad will need to reflect the native language.

Two possible key performance indicators for the country/region metric may read like the following:

 

To increase ad conversions in (name of country) by 25% in the next two weeks.”

or

To enter into new territory (name territory) and have sales earning $500/month by the end of February (or whichever time frame you decide to specify).”

 

Placement

The Placement KPI (or Place) is one of the 4P’s of marketing. Placement identifies where you promote your product or service. 

Facebook offers several ad placement locations on its desktop and mobile platforms. The key is to find the optimal Place on their platform that delivers the highest conversions for your ad. 

As a general rule, ads performing lower than 1% conversion may need further monitoring and continue to underperform, optimize the ad, or eliminate its Placement. 

Another good practice is swapping the low-performing ad spot with a higher-performing (converting) ad to see if the Placement is driving down conversions or the ad itself.

One possible KPI for Placement may read like this:

 

Increase ad conversions of the Facebook right column ad to 10 complete sales per week by the end of the month.”

 

The KPI assumes that you are running several ad placement spots and want conversion improvement on the right column ad.

Frequency

Frequency refers to the number of ad impressions shown to an individual. Frequency becomes essential when the ad shown continues to increase and your conversions begin to decrease. The cause is likely one or several of the following:

  • Your ad has been seen too many times by the same target group. 
  • Your audience size is too small. 
  • The ad’s image needs refreshing. 
  • Your offer is “tired,” and you need a new offer.

Frequency also correlates with increased ad costs. As your frequency number increases, so too does the cost of the ad.

A possible KPI for Frequency may read like this:

 

To reduce our ad Frequency from 8 impressions per person to 3 impressions per person by the end of the week.”

 

The KPI addresses the increased impressions the ad has and the goal of reducing the impressions per person to reduce ad expense and increase conversions per impression.

Frequency Calculation and Formula

Calculate Frequency by dividing the number of impressions by the ad Reach (how many ad exposures per unique individual).

ad frequency formula

 

Summary

Facebook advertising can be lucrative for your business if executed effectively. Setting useful KPIs, monitoring them, and making the necessary adjustments along the way to correct for low-performing ads is essential to your ad success. The key to successful optimization is to monitor and fine-tune your progress consistently. When something is not working, test and adjust until it does work.