dark·​room | \ ˈdärk-ˌrüm  , -ˌru̇m \

noun

 

: A darkroom refers to a space where art and science come together to create something complete before premiering to the public. It’s where process and creativity combine to form a final product.

 

This is why we’ve chosen it as our name.

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Direct Response Ads vs. Brand Awareness Ads

Different ads serve different purposes in the sales cycle, from introducing customers to your brand and building trust, to driving customers to your site and converting them. There are two primary types of ads to know how to deploy effectively — direct response and brand awareness ads. Used in conjunction with one another at various different parts of the funnel, they can drive powerful growth for your brand. Here is a closer look at how you can maximize your results from these advertising options.

Branding Ads

Branding ads, or branded content, is about defining who your brand is and what makes you different from your competitors. It isn’t directly selling a product. Instead, it is selling the idea of what your company does and what makes you unique. 

Often, branding ads aren’t focused on your products or the free shipping weekend you have coming up. Instead, branding ads tell your brand’s story. And there are best practices and quick tips for making these work (see our other writings on the subject).

As Elizabeth Smithson writes for Branding Magazine, “Your brand is built to be a true representation of who you are as a business, and how you wish to be perceived. […] A professional appearance and well-strategized branding will help the company build trust with consumers, potential clients and customers.”

Why Branding Ads?

Branding ads may not lead to a direct sale right now, but they are crucial for building a long-term audience for your company, and often times, not having a RoAS centric strategy, can lead to better long-term results.

One key trend sticks out when evaluating branding ads — authenticity. While one research report found that 86 percent of consumers felt authenticity was important in determining brand support, 57 percent of those surveyed said that fewer than half of brands created authentic content.

Branding ads must be true to who you are as a company. It should speak to the ideal user of your products in a way that is natural and appealing — not forced and fake. When done right, branding ads will create the positive perception of your brand that is so important for generating word of mouth and sustained loyalty. Even if seeing an ad doesn’t prompt an immediate purchase, that strong impression will linger in a potential consumer’s mind and help them remember you when they are ready to buy.

Direct Response Ads

While direct response ads should still invoke the imagery and principles of your brand, they are less concerned with creating a general impression and instead more focused on prompting a response (hence the name), a click, and ultimately generating sales.

These are the ads that are highlighting current promotions, offers, or sales. They are trying to get people to buy right now. But not always, they can be value proposition-based ads that simply incite responses with compelling calls to action.

It’s often perceived that there isn’t any time for storytelling or metaphor with a direct response ad, but when done right, you can incorporate varying visual identity and storytelling ideas within an ad that may tie a campaign together. Nonetheless, these ads should hook your attention right away with upfront information about the current offer, paired with a clear call to action that encourages viewers to make a purchase or take an action. 

The most effective direct response ads also utilize a measure of scarcity. Whether stock is limited or the special offer expires at the end of the day, this helps prompt an immediate reaction from consumers. In other words, it taps into our inherent FOMO (fear of missing out). When people know that a deal isn’t going to last, they will be more emotionally compelled to buy now rather than later. You can tap into this in a variety of ways. When done well, it can increase lift in meaningful ways.

Ultimately, direct response ads serve as a type of “follow-up” to, and further down the funnel than, your branding ads. The branding ads engage the interest of your target audience and build awareness. The direct response ad comes in with a highly enticing offer that will encourage them to buy.

Case Study: BOOM!

WIll use a case study in its simplest form to illustrate the concept: cosmetics brand BOOM! used phased direct response campaigns to target users who had abandoned their online shopping cart. The campaign started with a standard email urging shoppers to complete their purchase, achieving a 9.4% conversion rate.

To target those who still didn’t convert, the campaign then sent a 10% off coupon a few days after the initial abandoned cart email. The coupon was valid for only 48 hours, combining the sense of urgency and scarcity that can improve any direct response call to action. This follow-up ad provided the lift BOOM! wanted, bringing in thousands of dollars more in sales that might otherwise have not been completed. Simple enough.

Direct response ads don’t always have to be focused on product purchases. However, they all rely on targeted messages meant to drive a very specific action. This could include reading a new blog post, signing up for an email list, or scheduling a business consultation.

Developing a Winning Campaign With Direct Response & Branding Ads

There is no “one size fits all” approach to designing a winning ad campaign. When used strategically based on the needs of the brand and the interests of the audience, both direct response and branding ads will play a key role in helping your company get the results it needs. By using both types of ads, you can build long-term cachet for your company while also generating more immediate sales.

If you’re not sure where to start with your campaign, reach out to us to learn more. We’ll be your partner, helping you develop a unique ad strategy to drive revenue and growth for your brand.

Use These Hacks to Avoid Blowing Your Ad Spend On the Wrong Social Networks

In 2014, Copyblogger did something that sent waves through the marketing community: they shut down their Facebook page. Copyblogger has been a key voice in the WordPress and content marketing spheres for a while, and when they decided to get off Facebook it was just part of a larger trend within their company.

They had been evaluating resources, trying to figure out which platforms were going to be best for them moving forward. At the time, Twitter and Google+ were offering results that Facebook was not. They’ve since returned to Facebook, and the landscape of digital marketing has changed significantly since then, but the reason for their radical move still exists.

These days, organic social is harder than ever and ad spend has become far more crucial than it was at the time of Copyblogger’s move. None of us have infinite time, money or resources, much as we’d like to. No matter what your company does, you’re going to have to pick and choose what platforms to invest your effort in.

If you spend money wisely on the right social networks, it can supercharge your business. If you spend money indiscriminately, you’re weighing your business down. You need to know how to find the right social networks for your business …

So how do you find the right place to spend your advertising dollars, exactly?

Know Your Audience

When Copyblogger left Facebook, they didn’t just leave and replace it with nothing. Instead, they invested their resources in platforms where they had more traction. At the time, these platforms were Twitter and Google+.

Though they were more niche than Facebook was, when Copyblogger’s team dug into the numbers, they realized that those platforms were the ones driving their growth. They had active, engaged users, and those users wanted the content that Copyblogger put out.

By contrast, their Facebook page had built up a following of 38,000 fans, but the engagement was so low that it didn’t matter. CEO Brian Clark even brought in outside help to figure out what to do, and they tried several different creative strategies.

Even focusing on building up engagement didn’t produce much fruit—why?

Because their audience wasn’t there.

As Erika Napoletano wrote in the article explaining the decision, “It’s not our job to tell our audience where we live. It’s to grow communities where they live.” If you’re putting your ad spend into a platform where your audience doesn’t live, what does it matter how good your strategy is? You’ll never get good ROI from talking to an empty room.

Measure, Measure, Measure, etc.

As Content Marketing Institute discovered in a 2016 study, brands that document their social media strategies are more confident and more effective in making that strategy work.

That’s not rocket science, as any business major can quote the axiom, “What gets measured gets managed.” Even if you’re still spread across multiple platforms, you need to carefully consider how to prioritize your resources.

For social media you’re already comfortable with, dig deep into the analytics that you’ve built up over time. You already have a history to draw from. Take a look at your growth over time, and prioritize ROI, not just surface-level engagement numbers or followers.

If you have a lot of people clicking or tapping your ads but no one taking action, it’s time to take a second look. Is it your creative? Is it going to the wrong audience? Or is the platform even one that works for your business?

If you’re dipping your toe into the water on a new social media platform, you need to be doubly careful to measure your results. The carpenter’s phrase “measure twice, cut once” is just as applicable to social media. Don’t come in trying to make a big splash all at once—start small, then look at the results.

Slowly work your way up. Set low spend limits on your first few campaigns, and then once you get comfortable with the platform and feel confident you’re using it correctly, re-evaluate. Should you invest the effort? Is it worth it for your business? If you’re measuring every step of the way, you’ll have the answer you need.

Kill Your Darlings

“Kill your darlings” is a common phrase in writing circles, often attributed to Stephen King, who quoted it from William Faulkner. It means to get rid of your pet phrases and favorite bits when they don’t serve the interests of your audience.

In terms of your social media platforms, that means taking a long, hard look at what your ad spend is actually doing. Are you putting money into a platform because you think it should perform well, but it doesn’t? Are you spending money on a platform because you personally like it?

When you write, the easiest way to tell when someone’s suggesting you kill one of your darlings is the instant defensiveness that comes with it. You’re emotionally attached to that phrase, chapter or paragraph. The very same thing can happen in business.

Think with your head, not with your heart. Look at your analytics. Figure out which platforms are getting the best results—then either spend less on the ones that don’t or cut them loose entirely.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing which social media platforms to use your ad spend on. Every business is different, and the audience and strategy that works for one may not work for another. But if you’re using industry best practices and good creative and still not seeing results, it may be time to decrease or stop your ad spend for that platform.

You’re not made of money or time, so you have to prioritize what works best for your business. Know your audience, measure everything, and cut loose any platforms that are underperforming. 

Build out a laser-like focus on what works for you and don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Know yourself and know your customers. If you do that, you’ll be well on your way to success in every avenue of social media advertising.

*Image Credit:

-Featured Image, Pexels

Interested In Instagram Video Ads? These Strategies Will Produce Immediate ROI

Though Facebook may still have more total users than any other online platform, there’s no denying that Instagram is quickly becoming one of the most powerful and influential social media networks out there thanks to its engaging method of presenting photos and videos. 

This trend isn’t going to change anytime soon …

According to data from the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of U.S. teens say they use Instagram, compared to only about 51 percent who use Facebook. If your brand plans on targeting Millennials and Generation Z, it’s clear that Instagram is where you’ll find your audience.

It’s also worth noting the changes that Instagram ads have undergone over the years, with video now more fully integrated into the advertising experience than ever. There’s good reason for the rise of Instagram video ads — according to the social media company’s own numbers, video viewing time increased by 80 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone.

Needless to say, if you want to reach a younger, highly-engaged audience, Instagram video ads are a great marketing tool — here are some advertising guidelines that I’ve found to be most effective in delivering a strong ROI for your brand:

Utilize Different Video Ad Options

A basic Instagram video ad is a great starting point, but it’s far from the only option available. Depending on your campaign goals or the type of story you wish to tell, other video advertising options will likely prove even more effective.

For example, you can use a video carousel ad so that users can swipe through a series of videos that have been shared as part of a single post. This is a great way to highlight multiple products that are currently on sale or provide a helpful “how-to” ad featuring a tutorial for one of your products or services.

For limited-time offers or special sales, a Stories ad or Canvas ad could be even more effective. Stories ads are visible for 24 hours, after which they disappear, making them a great way to create a sense of urgency for a special promotion. These full-screen video ads also make it easy to get customers to your site by swiping up — no call to action button needed. 

Story ads have been found to be especially effective at generating a high clickthrough rate thanks to their more immersive approach and the sense of urgency created by their fleeting nature.

Capture Users’ Attention In the First Seconds

When I scroll through my own Instagram feed, most posts will have only a few moments to capture my attention — and the same is true of your customers. This makes the initial seconds of your video ad of the utmost importance.

So what can you do to increase your chance of hooking your viewers? It helps to keep content from looking like an ad. If a video ad looks more like the relevant content that users engage with on an everyday basis, they will be more likely to watch.

You also need to make sure that viewers can immediately recognize that your ad is a video — otherwise, they’ll keep scrolling. Even a tiny hint of movement in the first seconds of your ad will be enough to signal that your content isn’t a photo. Following that initial movement with engaging, relevant ad content that stays focused on a single product, idea, or call to action will keep viewers watching until the end.

Finally, you can’t ignore some of the unique aspects of posting a video to Instagram. Videos that appear in a standard Instagram feed use a 1:1 square ratio. Stories, on the other hand, utilize full-screen vertical video. Filming with the proper aspect ratio in mind will streamline the editing process and help you create more visually striking content that immediately captures a viewer’s attention.

Unleash the Power of Captions

Video has long been viewed as an experience that combines both audio and moving images. But for someone browsing through their Instagram feed on their smartphone, the audio portion is often neglected.

The average person doesn’t want sound to suddenly blast out of their phone because they scrolled past an ad, and as a result, Instagram ad settings require that users physically tap on their screen to start playing sound.

If you’re like me, you’ll often be scrolling through your Instagram feed in a public place where you don’t want to play sound. Using captions in the video itself is a great way to ensure that your message doesn’t get lost.

This doesn’t mean that you have to create word-for-word captions for the entire video. Many brands find success by overlaying key pieces of text over certain parts of the ad, or by alternating between text-only images and normal video. The key is that you should still be able to effectively communicate your message without sound. Don’t forget about adding a compelling caption that incorporates your call to action below the video!

Create a Mobile-Friendly Landing Page

A great Instagram video ad isn’t enough on its own …

It needs to be paired with an equally engaging landing page. You don’t want customers to click through to your site after viewing your video, only to click away moments later because the page isn’t optimized for mobile users or because the content appears irrelevant.

You can get around this hurdle by using responsive web design, but this isn’t the only step in creating an attractive landing page for Instagram leads. In my experience, someone coming from Instagram probably isn’t going to want to read through huge blocks of text — they’re going to bring that same “scrolling” mentality from when they first stumbled upon your ad.

For best results, your landing page should be relatively light on content. Text should be limited to bullet points or short paragraphs, paired with vibrant, attractive images related to the video ad. One-step conversion buttons for key calls to action like signing up for a free trial or placing an order for a product will also streamline the experience and increase your likelihood of achieving your campaign goals.

Start Advertising

Your audience is out there — you just have to reach them.

By creating high-quality Instagram video ad campaigns, you will better appeal to the highly engaged users of this social media platform. With the right videos, you’ll be well on your way to seeing the growth your brand hopes to achieve.

*Image Credit:

-Featured Image, Pexels

This Marketing Medium Will Prove to Be a Game-Changer for Your E-Commerce Store

Would you use a medium that had a 98 percent open rate? One that’s guaranteed to reach people wherever they are and whatever they’re doing? How much effort would you put into a marketing medium like that?

That medium exists, and it’s been around for a while. Yet far too few companies take advantage of the boundless possibilities of this medium — I’m talking about text messaging.

Text messaging is an incredible tool in your marketing toolbox if you harness it right. 81 percent of Americans own a smartphone, and almost 100 percent own a cell phone. SMS marketing has the distinct advantages of brevity, immediacy and reach—you’re giving people a very low-friction message on a medium they’re basically guaranteed to check.

There are two main areas that text messaging can help you cover. Firstly, text messaging allows you to reach both current and prospective buyers with your message. Secondly, text messaging helps you stay relevant in the minds of your customers.

Reaching Prospective and Current Buyers

We have to get one thing out of the way first: sending text messages to people who haven’t opted in is both illegal and bad business. It will get you in trouble faster than just about anything else you can try.

Email marketing has been dealing with the same restrictions, though, and we all know how effective it still is. The opt-in method that email marketing uses works just as well for text message marketing. Give people something that they can use and ask them for their contact information so you can keep them up to date.

Dirty Lemon has used this strategy to great effect with their customers. The wellness drink company has used text messaging as the main platform to grow their customer base, and they’ve built their own in-house platform that allows their customers to use text messaging for everything from ordering to customer service.

They answer tens of thousands of text messages a month, using automation technology to help streamline the process. The capability to reach buyers directly in their pocket — and vice-versa — makes text messaging the powerhouse that’s driven Dirty Lemon’s success.

Ashley Furniture is another company that’s seen success with text message marketing. Through giveaways and a weekly shopping spree, they were able to build up a database of text message subscribers. Once they’d reached a critical mass, Ashley created a “Secret Sale” that was only promoted over SMS and email.

The results?

Ashley received $138,460 in revenue over four days. Over $85,000 of that was attributed to SMS messages. For every dollar they spent, they received $76 via their email campaign — but their text message campaign did even better, with $122 of return for every dollar spent.

Ashley had been a regular buyer of newspaper advertising, but when newspaper advertising began to go downhill, they had to find other avenues. SMS marketing, once derided by executives as “spammy”, now forms a central piece of their marketing mix.

Stay Relevant With Current Customers

After reading some of the statistics and case studies above, it’s clear that text message marketing is extremely effective. And it’s just as effective for keeping up awareness and relevance with your current customers.

Chipotle Mexican Grill was an early and fervent adopter of text messaging to stay in contact with its customer base. Its receipts have long had the SMS short code at the bottom, and they routinely run giveaways, contests and other activities that are centered around the text messaging platform.

There’s a caveat to that, though…

As explained by Fuzz Productions director of business development James McNally in a Retail Dive interview. “What becomes less ideal is maintaining the dialogue between brand and fan through SMS beyond that initial action. The text client is a ‘personal’ space — it’s where parents, significant others, friends, etc. reach us,” he says.

“No surprise that brands want in, but the risk of alienating fans is extremely high … if Chipotle wants to engage users via SMS after the contest, it needs to do so very carefully and tactfully.”

So far they’ve mostly hit the nail on the head. Chipotle doesn’t spam with its campaigns, instead focusing largely on bigger promotions that aren’t so likely to get screened out.

The company has also been smart about using cross-platform strategies for its SMS campaigns, combining email, web, social media and text into effective campaigns. Look at its Tough Mudder campaign for an example.

They offered a massive trip to a Tough Mudder event in Australia as a grand prize, with a year’s worth of free burritos as a runner-up possibility. A custom landing page and email campaign drove engagement through the web as well.

It’s useful for other purposes too. According to one report commissioned by Quiq in 2017, nearly two-thirds of respondents wanted to use mobile messaging to help with a purchase after the fact, not make one. Billing issues, delivery status, troubleshooting, reservations and bookings were among the uses customers wanted from text messaging.

Smart companies can leverage the brevity and immediacy of text messaging to create a quick two-way channel between themselves and their customers. It’s especially important in e-commerce, where you don’t necessarily interact with customers in person through a storefront. If they don’t see you in the physical world, text messaging can help keep you top of mind in a way that other mediums just can’t match.

The Power of Text

Text message marketing is an incredible tool, and it’s still underutilized by many marketers.

Why?

Probably because they’re afraid of screwing it up. Using a tool that has that much penetration carries a bit of risk for turning off buyers entirely. There’s a reason customers are so likely to open messages: because texting is still largely personal.

There also seems to be a little bit of a misunderstanding among small and mid-size businesses of the impact that SMS marketing can have, too. They may think that only large companies can afford to do it.

Or they may not realize how many services are out there focused on providing SMS marketing for smaller businesses. Whatever the reason, it’s a niche that hasn’t seen the degree of attention it should.

Are you using text message marketing?

If you haven’t explored the possibilities, it’s time to start. Establish communication with your customers. See what the incredible open rates and penetration of SMS can do for your business. You might be surprised.

How Voice Search Is Changing The SEO Game

When was the last time you talked to your phone?

If you’re like most people in the developed world, it was probably today. Siri today is far from the disposable novelty most people thought it was; now, talking to your phone or your home speaker is as natural as breathing.

That has huge repercussions for search. ComScore estimates that by 2020, fifty percent of all searches will come via voice. Even more impressive (depending on who you ask), voice shopping is predicted to rise to $40 billion by 2022, with an estimated fifty-five percent rise in smart speakers in homes. It’s obvious at this point where the market is heading.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, now is the time to be focusing on voice search. You need to know the who, what, when, where, why and how of voice, and have the vision to capitalize on it.

Key Question #1: Who?

Who exactly is using voice search? At the moment, it’s mostly mobile users.

Voice search is integral to mobile search. Twenty percent of all mobile search queries are voice, and that number’s going to keep rising. Smart speakers don’t yet have the penetration of smartphones, so for now, you’re usually dealing with people on the go.

In the future, though, this isn’t going to necessarily be the case. We’ve already seen how significantly smart speaker penetration is supposed to rise. That’s going to mean more people using voice search for things they used to do through their computer.

For the moment voice search leans towards mobile. You can’t forget about the home user, though, especially if you’re keeping an eye towards the future.

Key Questions #2 and #3: What and When?

What are people doing with voice search? And when are they using it?

That voice search is most likely to be someone looking for local results — more than three times as likely. Google Voice Search statistics show that Google in particular is used mostly for local information. Those include movie times, “near me” searches, directions and other obviously mobile queries.

These queries have high intent, contain more conversational words and tend to be longer. Typed searches are usually two to three words, while voice searches are usually five to seven.

There’s an immediacy to voice search that isn’t always there with text search; with high intent, very local queries and a clearer focus on what’s wanted, voice is narrower and more clearly defined. They’re not looking to browse your website. They want to call you, or find your business, or see what’s available in the area.

That can be an opportunity.

Even more than text search, voice search is a chance to grab people’s attention immediately with high intent. The hard part is making sure you show up when people are looking.

Key Question #4: Why?

Why use voice search instead of text search?

Noted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has been talking about voice search for a few years now, mainly because of one characteristic: lack of friction. In an interview with Paul Cutsinger at CES 2018, Vaynerchuk noted that “Alexa and voice is the future of a frictionless world.”

That’s one of the biggest factors that drives voice search — it’s just plain easier. The high number of searches for directions are tied in to that; if you don’t have to use your hands to search while driving, your phone suddenly becomes a much more powerful tool.

Second screening is also a significant driver of voice search, especially for teens. Almost sixty percent will search via voice while watching TV or doing other leisure activities.

One thing to keep an eye on moving forward is voice search’s grasp of context, with Google undoubtedly leading the pack on this front. With the Hummingbird update, Google became far more adept at figuring out intent in sequential searches. It’s still not perfect, but as voice search becomes more of a focus, voice search will become more popular for rapid follow-up questions.

Key Question #5: How?

At this point, it’s clear how important voice search is.

We know why people are using it, what they’re looking for, and the way they want to get there. Now we come to the million-dollar question: How do I capitalize on this?

There are some very easy tips you can do to make sure you’re voice-optimized going forward:

• Make more specific, smaller content. Voice search is much more likely than regular search to pull from a feature (particularly on Google). If you can get your content in a featured box on the page, you’re ahead of the game. Tagged micro-data can allow you to grab attention that would otherwise never come to your website. Expect less people to actually go to the content itself in the future, with more of them accessing it through voice search.

• Use question-based and long-tail queries to optimize your content. Most of your voice search queries will fall in this bucket, rather than the shorter, more general keywords that might get you better results on desktop. Voice search optimization is basically the same for these as it is for regular SEO, with the caveat that you’ll probably need to make them longer than you would for desktop.

• Organize, organize, organize. Neil Patel recommends using specific markup language and submitting a sitemap to Google — this will help with traditional SEO as well.

• Claim your My Business page. Google’s My Business is one of the biggest keys to voice search. Making sure you have the right category, the right phone number, high-quality photos and an up-to-date listing could be the difference between showing up immediately on voice search or not showing up at all.

• When you write long-form content, answer a common voice-search question. This may take some doing, but doing some keyword research on very long tail keywords, especially those that take the form of a question, can make your content pop up on voice search where it wouldn’t otherwise. This, again, will also help you with your regular SEO.

• Be mobile-friendly. Your site should be mobile-friendly already, with low load times and an adaptive design; this will be even more key moving forward, as more search goes mobile.

In general, if you’re doing good work on your SEO already, voice search isn’t going to change much of what you’re doing. It just requires some tweaking to make it more specific to the way people use voice. Figure out what people are searching for, then constantly keep refreshing that list.

Consistency is key in any SEO strategy, and that goes for voice as well as text.

No matter what your business, you can use the power of voice search to drive high-intent traffic to your content. Voice search is getting more important by the day, and today is the time to start optimizing for it.

Don’t let the opportunity pass you by.

Creative Content Creation: How to Succeed With Targeted Instagram and Facebook Ads

Facebook and Instagram have been a part of successful marketing strategies for several years now — and that’s not going to change any time soon.
 
In the last year, spending on Facebook ads has increased by 40 percent, while Instagram ad spend has risen by a whopping 177 percent.
 
Those numbers are worth paying attention to, because if the competition is still flocking to these well-known platforms, it means that a lot of customers are paying attention to these ads.
 
Facebook and Instagram ad spending can generate a big return on investment for e-commerce brands, especially with the targeting options made available through these platforms. Here’s how you can improve targeting to succeed with your next campaign:

Get Personal With Things

Knowing your audience is key to successful branding on any platform. Facebook and Instagram are no different, and should serve as an extension of your current branding efforts.

The better you know your audience, the easier it will be to create high-quality content that appeals to their wants and interests. You can’t just say that you want to target “males between age 25 and 45.” You need to more narrowly define who your target audience is so you can understand what makes them tick.

Facebook and Instagram’s targeting options showcase just how important this is.

You don’t just have the option of targeting your ads by age or gender. You can dive deeper based on app usage, page engagement, other interests and hobbies or even the type of device they use.

Such insights should ultimately define everything that goes into your Facebook and Instagram ads. It will influence the type of images you choose, the tone of your text content and even hashtag curation as you strive to create compelling ads.

Find a Twin or ‘Lookalike,’ If You Will

Understanding who your primary target audience should be is one thing. But expanding your reach on social media can sometimes seem easier said than done.

One especially effective Facebook and Instagram targeting tactic is the use of lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences essentially allow you to use your brand’s existing followers to automatically generate a new target audience for your campaign.

Plus, it saves you the effort of digging through this targeting minutiae on your own.

Lookalike audiences primarily use demographic information, shared interests and online behaviors to create a new target group that is similar to your current followers. Because of their shared interests and attributes, they are more likely to be interested in your product or service when exposed to your ad.

Remarket Your Way to Easier, More Reliable Sales

Remarketing is another effective targeting option for Facebook and Instagram ads. Facebook actually allows you to embed a “pixel” on your website that tracks the actions visitors take when they visit your site.

Using the information gathered from the pixel, you can then create custom audiences on Facebook and Instagram to target users who have visited your site. Further customization allows you to retarget users who have already made a purchase, or even to recapture visitors who abandoned their digital shopping cart.

Remember, the likelihood of someone buying your product or service the first time they come in contact with your brand is extremely rare. On average, most businesses require about seven “contacts” with a potential customer before a sale is made.

By putting your ads in front of people who have already visited your site, you greatly increase the likelihood of generating sales or at least moving potential leads farther along their buyer’s journey.

Go Organic

Social media marketers like to talk about “organic growth” — increases in their number of followers that come as a result of normal posts, rather than paid ads. Consistently creating engaging content is one of the best ways to build your following on Facebook and Instagram so you can eventually make a sale.

However, this idea of “great content” can be equally successful when applied to a paid ad. Just because you’re paying for the placement of the post, doesn’t mean it has to look like an advertisement.

Experiment.

Make some of your ads look like natural, organic content. This doesn’t mean you should stop creating promotional posts, but content that appears organic (even when it is part of a paid ad campaign) generally gets more likes and other forms of engagement than sponsored content.

Experiment With Different Formats

Successful Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns don’t merely rely on standard photo ads. Instead, they use a diverse mix of content to capture the attention of their target audience in new and interesting ways.

On Instagram, one of the most popular alternative ad methods involves working with influencers to create sponsored posts. We often think of people like the Kardashians as Instagram influencers, but in reality, even someone with 10,000 followers can provide a valuable influencer partnership for your niche.

For best results, you’ll want to find an influencer who has a similar following to your target audience, who posts regularly and receives a high level of engagement.

Check to make sure they actually work with brands to create sponsored posts. Look at their prior content (both sponsored and non-sponsored) to determine if they are a good fit for reaching your target audience.

You can also experiment through your own channels with carousel and video ads.

Carousel ads allow you to display multiple images in a single ad. Users can swipe through to view each image. Such ads are especially effective when displaying a new e-commerce product line-up, and have been found to be up to 10 times as effective as a standard Facebook ad.

Video ads have also proven to be a popular choice for more effective targeting on Facebook and Instagram — over half of all internet traffic is spent watching online videos. Instagram allows video ads of up to 60 seconds in length, giving you plenty of space to tell a story or share a behind-the-scenes look at your brand.

Targeting Success

What works for one brand on Instagram or Facebook won’t necessarily be the be-all end-all for successfully targeting your social media ads. To achieve lasting results, you need to stay true to your brand persona and create content that will appeal to your target audience.

However, by following these guidelines for social media targeting, you’ll be able to achieve your desired outcomes — whether you’re an electrical contractor or a clothing designer. When quality, relevant content is paired with proper targeting, you’ll be well on your way to increasing conversions and sales.

Before Hiring Any Kind of ‘SEO Expert’ for Your Company, Ask These Questions

These days, pretty much every business understands that SEO is important — that the higher you rank in Google search results, the more people will discover your business. In a time when most people go online to look for a business, the fact that 92 percent of clicks go to companies on the first page of Google search results (with nearly one-third of all clicks going to the top spot) cannot be ignored.

The problem, of course, is that understanding the importance of SEO and knowing how to improve your rankings can be two very different things. I’ve seen plenty of businesses fall behind their competition because they knew the why, but could never wrap themselves around the how of SEO implementation.

Because of this, most companies in need of SEO assistance will outsource the task of improving their web rankings to an advertising agency or a freelance marketing expert. The thing is, not all SEO experts are created equal.

By having at least some understanding of the SEO process before you make a hiring decision, you can be better informed and ask the right questions so you don’t accidentally get involved with someone who will use black hat schemes that ultimately tank your rankings.

Here are some key questions to consider when hiring an SEO expert:

How do you select keywords?

Keyword research is the basis for any SEO campaign. The right keyword variations need to be targeted in both your on-site content and in any articles you get published with third parties to help increase your relevance in targeted searches.

No two keyword sets are exactly alike — and even changing a single word could yield three times as many searches. Alternatively, a keyword with fewer overall searches may be better for your business, as it is used more frequently by your target niche.

A real SEO expert will use Google Analytics to research keywords related to your business to select the best options based on factors such as competition level, bid amounts, and brand relevance. Be wary of agencies that aren’t willing to take the time to better understand your own company’s operations, as this could completely throw off the keyword strategy.

What is the strategy for on-site optimization?

Quality SEO begins with improving your own website. This covers everything from updating meta descriptions and title tags to compressing images to improve site loading speed.

I’ve found that many SEO agencies almost entirely emphasize backlink generation, while on-site optimization gets completely ignored. The thing is, it isn’t enough to have a lot of links going to your site. You also have to provide high-quality, relevant content so that users don’t immediately click away when they arrive.

On-site SEO efforts should be designed to improve the site experience so you can lower your bounce rate — the percentage of visitors who click away after only viewing a single page. The more time users spend on your site and the more pages they visit, the more relevant Google will determine it to be.

Fine-tuning your current site experience is a great start, but a quality SEO expert will also ensure that you are consistently providing quality content by helping you produce a blog that addresses the interests and needs of your target audience.

What is the strategy for creating quality backlinks?

It’s not enough for an SEO agency to tell you they will “help you build backlinks.” After all, there’s a major difference between backlinks coming from the New York Times and a link from a low-authority blog that nobody actually reads.

Dig a little deeper when meeting with a prospective SEO agency …

Ask about which websites they use to generate backlinks for their clients, as well as how they obtain these links. Stay away from those who use shady practices like spamming forums or creating generic link pages. Make sure that they also take steps to enhance your local SEO by submitting your site to local business directories or helping you maintain an accurate My Google Business account.

Link-building is a never-ending process. As you continue to generate new quality links to your site, Google views your brand as an authority figure in its niche. However, getting backlinks from low-quality or spam websites could lower your domain authority instead.

Even after you’ve made a selection and hired an SEO expert, you should periodically ask to see the backlink profile for your site so you can have confidence that you are getting quality links to your site.

Can I get any references?

Depending on the type of business you do, you likely get asked this question by potential customers on a regular basis. It’s only natural that they would want to hear from a previous customer so they can have a better idea of what it’s like to work with you and if you deliver on your brand promises.

When it comes to your company’s marketing budget, you can’t afford to simply take a so-called expert’s word for it when they explain their services and how they will improve your SEO results.

You have to do some research on your own — this is what I expect of everyone who comes to me for marketing help, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to any legitimate SEO practitioner. Online reviews can be helpful, but you’ll get far more detailed information by reaching out via email or a phone call.

Be wary of SEO practitioners who are unable or unwilling to provide references, as this could indicate that they don’t have current or former clients who are satisfied with their work. Honest agencies have nothing to hide, and should be more than willing to refer you to case studies or former clients you can speak with.

Make the Right Decision the First Time Around

As with any other service you might hire to assist in your business endeavors, who you choose to help with your SEO will make all the difference for your results. SEO isn’t a quick fix — rather, it’s a long-term investment.

An SEO expert won’t necessarily get you to page one after only a few weeks. Instead, they will implement strategies that help you gradually build a legitimate web presence, so once you reach the top, you’ll stay there.

* Image Credit:

– Featured Image, Pexels