Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

University Brands: The Importance of MOOCs

Whether we accept it or not, all of us are in the business of information these days. From the coffee shop to the fashion boutique to the largest of multinational brands, it cannot have escaped many people’s attention that both prominence and profile are the fundamental marketing objectives of our time. And, as the points of contact between the organisation and the consumer continue to proliferate horizontally, rather than hierarchically, it is the shared experience and the common interest which will always dominate the marketplace of this newly levelled playing field.

But how does our current information revolution relate to the spheres of higher education and to the brand identities that many institutions have carefully cultivated for themselves over the years? Will distance learning across the web ultimately prove itself to be an evolutionary leap in how we approach the sharing of knowledge and our understanding of how it is taught? And is the online model a financially viable one: that will generate not only sufficient revenues to sustain itself, but to also attract the leading institutes and the brightest students into participating? These are the key challenges facing the first generation of massive open online courses (“MOOCs”), as we see them today.

moocs-future

There is something of a strange irony when considering the length of time it has taken for the first massive open online courses to find their way into the public domain. Because the technology of the internet was originally developed with the specific purpose of allowing academic bodies to communicate and to share knowledge across the globe. It is a particularly harsh reality then that the vast majority of learning institutions have, until now, proven themselves as slow to adapt to, or to even recognise, the central role that the online world will play in the future of education.

From a technical standpoint, there is no reason why this should be the case. Both text documents and streaming media content are amongst the most basic of web content to manage. So the slow exploration of the digital realm by academia is more likely a result of factors beyond either the technical or the logistical. Instead, it should be assumed that the most frequently aired doubts raised about MOOCs by higher education institutions (“HEIs”) – those of financing, and a perceived undermining of reputations – have been the primary deterrents up until this point.

empty-lecture-theatre

In this regard, HEIs have positioned themselves alongside the corporate media, which has been equally slow in finding new ways to exploit the online environment as a method of securing global audiences. Both media and academia fear a loss of income that this may entail, but history has taught us that we cannot shout at the waves of change. Only this week, the writer and social commentator Will Self wrote of the “irrevocable severing” of media and information from an assured revenue stream. MOOCs are the way that institutions will remain active and responsive to the demands of an online, global marketplace for learning.

In this regard, the success of MOOCs will be a self-realising one. The institutions which break new ground online will achieve a greater global prominence for their brand, and as their popularity inevitably grows with a broader uptake of courses, so too will it attract the previously sceptical competitors into the market. With this added degree of competition, the quality of the MOOCs on offer will, in turn, reach new heights, and so the prestige of offering a respected MOOC will feed back to the institution itself. As with any form of online social media, success is governed by participation.

mooc-word-cloud

This is not to suggest that institutions will immediately offer a full degree through the MOOC platform, but insight and background into the subject, which will capture the imagination and whet the appetites of new students. Indeed, there are many benefits from creating an identity for MOOCs which is distinct from on-campus learning. In the USA, for instance, Ivy League universities such as Stanford provide online students with a Statement of Accomplishment carrying the Stanford brand, but not certificates or course credits. Far from being a limitation of the MOOC system, it is just such an innovative approach that benefits every party, from the student, to the HEI, to the MOOC platform itself. A Statement of Accomplishment will be an invaluable addition to any student’s CV. To the institution, it will make their brand a prominent and highly recognised one and – most importantly of all – one that is increasingly in demand.

The first MOOCs are about to go live in the UK and, tellingly, the most notable participants are those institutions which are well known for championing innovation over tradition. The University of Southampton offers students from across the globe the opportunity to learn “How the Web is Changing the World”, whilst the University of East Anglia will investigate “The Secret Power of Brands” in partnership with brand agency Wolff Olins, cementing its reputation as a world leading institution for brand leadership studies. If any one course is emblematic of the entire MOOC experience, it is this.

university-brands-online-learning

So, can universities turn a lively, open and online learning experience into a viable and self-sustaining revenue stream: one which attracts the brightest and best students in high numbers? It is still early days in the MOOC life cycle, but anecdotal evidence from across the globe is positive. In Asia, where online learning is an established part of education, individual tutors are already earning substantial fortunes by making their courses available across the web for a small fee which is still a tiny fraction of the cost for on-campus education. At this preliminary stage, it would be damaging to promote the inclusion of paywalled course content for domestic MOOCs. But their popularity would suggest that the concept of online learning is attractive to the general public and that it is, indeed, a growth market.

We are still very much at the dawning of this social media age. Although there are lessons to be learned from the early pioneers of our new digital frontier, it would be naïve to presume that we have already seen the high water mark of this new approach to the sharing of information and marketing strategy. As the online environment evolves, every organisation – from the corporate to the academic – will need to respond and reposition itself to maximise the full potential of its own brand.

Further Reading

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massive_open_online_course

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303759604579093400834738972.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23069542

http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=2012080915084470

http://elitedaily.com/news/business/english-teacher-makes-4-million-per-year-in-south-korea-yes-you-read-that-correctly/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/09/hatchet-job-mark-kermode-review

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University Brand Experience

The academic and practitioner literature which surrounds branding would seem exhaustively to have discussed all of the possible ways in which the brand experience can be crafted within businesses. In contrast, however, the literature on the ways in which higher education institutions (“HEIs”) formulate and think about their brands is sparse. Whilst some of the principles which apply to universities are similar to those within the business sector, such institutions actually think somewhat differently about themselves, and the way in which their brand experience operates.

Of course, the first thing to realise about most HEIs within the UK is that they do not think very much about the brand experience at all. The majority of branding work within universities is still relegated to the marketing department, rather than being treated as an integral part of the academic sector. Many academics view branding as a dirty word, not wanting their work to be packaged and sold in the same way as a chocolate bar might be. As one might expect, this attitude leads to most HEIs within the UK presenting a disparate and confused brand to their potential ‘customers’.

loughborough-university-poles

Those HEIs which have crafted a successful branding experience have usually explicitly realised the necessity of defining their own brand, and of identifying their unique selling point. In the academic sector, the ‘customers’ to whom the brand experience is important can be seen as the students whom the HEI is attempting to recruit, and the academics whom it is attempting to employ. If a university wishes to differentiate itself from the herd, then a unique brand experience is key. An example of this can be found at Loughborough University, which has been highly successful in leveraging its initial investment into sports infrastructure and technology into a world-wide brand around sports excellence. In order to do this, Loughborough identified its existing strengths, and made an active decision to focus its marketing and branding efforts around them. Simply put, it has been more successful than most in promoting its unique selling point. This is so much the case that students in other subject at Loughborough often complain that people assume they are studying for a sports science degree!

inspector-morse-itv

The numerous undifferentiated HEIs across the UK could learn more from Loughborough’s experience than the simple importance of defining one’s unique selling point. The university has also been adept at making use of free and/or cheap publicity, both by hosting high profile sporting events such as the Loughborough International athletics meeting, and leveraging the profile of famous and successful alumni. Other HEIs have not had to make such a proactive effort to achieve the same level of publicity, with already famous institutions such as Oxford attracting it as a matter of course. Oxford’s brand recognition, for example, cannot have been harmed by being the weekly subject of the TV programme Lewis (and before it, Inspector Morse). The suggestion that the city is a hotbed of murder and intrigue, of course, might have been less useful!

All joking aside, smart organisations align themselves not only with their existing strengths, but with the appeal of their geographical location. Whilst the University of Oxford is a special case given its existing brand strength, the same effect can be seen through an examination of the city’s other university, Oxford Brookes. That organisation has made a point of playing up the refined atmosphere of the dreaming spires, even though it is actually situated to the east of the historical Oxford city centre. Those managing Oxford Brookes’ brand experience know that the reputation of its sister university can be used to their advantage, and have not been slow to do so.

oxford-brookes-vs-oxford-university

Rugby match between Oxford University and Oxford Brookes University

Whatever the unique selling point and free publicity which is leveraged for it, however, no brand experience can substitute for the reality of an institution’s advantages and disadvantages. Too often, brand managers seem to believe that they can weave a story which will eliminate the actual weaknesses of their organisation and the courses it offers. Such a strategy cannot last for long. Again, Oxford Brookes can be used as an example. Its postgraduate legal offering ran into trouble this year, suffering as a result of the downturn in the economy and the resulting lack of demand for the vocational training required to become a solicitor. Whilst it attempted to sell its course using the traditional attractions of its location, and its unique selling point of partnership with the University of Oxford, the best brand experience techniques were no match for the blunt economic realities of the legal market. Above all, brands must be aligned with reality, if they are to survive. If HEIs manage this, identify their unique selling point correctly, and take advantage of free publicity, they will be well on their way to successful differentiation.

Sources

Loughborough Image http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/olympicsvideo/9222125/London-2012-Olympics-Team-GBs-training-camp-is-best-kept-secret-of-sport-in-Britain.html

Inspector Morse Image (Copyright ITV) http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/jun/07/morse-oxford-walking-guide1

Oxford Rugby Match Image http://www.sport.ox.ac.uk/student-sport/clubs-colleges/

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University Funding Cuts: Brand Differentiation

At a time when budgets for primary research, teaching and educational infrastructure are being slashed, it might seem that branding should be a very low priority for higher education institutions. This is certainly true, if branding is viewed as an inevitably expensive and resource-intensive process. This does not, however, have to be the case. A rebranding exercise can give new life to a demoralised institution, helping to refocus staff and students onto their primary goals, and to externally project those goals into the wider world.

Of course, branding can certainly be done in the wrong way. Research suggests that undertaking commercial branding in the context of “not for profit” organisations can create a spirit of harmful rivalry within the sector in question. This can cause a marketing ‘arms race’, in which all institutions increase their spending on branding in order to produce often questionable and intangible benefits (Sargeant, 2009). This was often the case during the economic boom years, particularly within a higher education sector driven by the government target of 50% of young people achieving a university degree. The research above, however, suggests that instead of a traditional high-spend strategy, universities may be better served by leveraging their strengths of creativity and innovative thinking.

One recent example of a university doing just this is the University of California, which underwent a major rebranding exercise in the last quarter of 2012. Taking their starting point as the logo which has represented the university for over a century, the team working on the project aimed to create a modern and instantly recognisable identity for this disparate collection of higher education institutions from across the state. They recognised that, at a time of spending cuts and belt-tightening, it would not be appropriate to launch a traditional branding exercise. Instead, they have attempted to cut through the current image of the university with one new logo, supported by a range of low-cost marketing tools. The rebrand has ensured that discussion around the University of California has increased, and that residents of the state who had hitherto taken the institution for granted are being exposed to its values, its purpose, and its relevance to 21st century California.

In the era of digital communication and viral media, it should be easier than ever for non profit organisations to leverage their existing non-financial resources when looking at branding. There is no need to spend vast amounts of money on marketing if existing staff, students and other stakeholders are consulted about what makes the university attractive to them. Finding out the reasons for existing stakeholders having chosen the institution makes it possible to build on already existing strengths within the brand, whilst building loyalty to the institution and a sense of involvement within its academic and alumni community. It may also be advisable to ask students and staff from other institutions about the existing brand of the university, to better recognise its weaknesses.

Consulting existing stakeholders is only the beginning of leveraging an institution’s existing strengths. In an era of innovative and virtually free online communication techniques, which are often spread through social media and viral marketing, a university’s staff, students and alumni can be significantly involved in promulgating the brand message on which they have been meaningfully consulted. If a rebranding exercise forms a coherent part of a comprehensive strategy which is understood by all stakeholders, a non profit organisation can leverage the kind of support which, in previous decades, would have cost large amounts of money to purchase from professionals.

Existing marketing strengths can include the location of the institution, which often plays a role in the branding of universities (see Chapelo, 2010). It has been found that certain cities, such as Manchester, are broadly considered to be desirable from a lifestyle perspective, whilst others, such as London, offer a cosmopolitan and international experience. The branding efforts of higher education institutions within those locations tend to work in synergy with the existing brands of the city, gaining strength and influence without any additional injection of money (see Walvis, 2003). The local and regional political institutions of such cities have access to significantly greater resources than most universities, and working with the grain of their marketing strategy makes a great deal of sense.

It is also open to academic institutions to reverse the pattern of the marketing ‘arms race’ which was identified above, and instead to work together to strengthen the brands of their particular academic specialisms. This can be done either through the centrally directed efforts of the institutions themselves, or at the initiative of particular academic departments and their natural inclination to work together on specific projects. Rather than promoting one institution over another, universities can advertise the prospect of cooperation and synergy with other institutions as a positive good. No university is an island unto itself, and the marketing efforts of such organisations should recognise this. Weaknesses in a brand can be offset through cooperation with other organisations.

It should now be evident that a branding approach which involves significant investment of financial resource is only one kind of marketing strategy which can be utilised by higher education institutions. Particularly in the current economic climate, it is almost certainly not the best approach for universities to be taking. Instead, such organisations should be seeking to leverage existing positive factors, both in terms of the creativity of their stakeholders, and the existing brand strengths of both their location and their academic specialisms.

References

Chapleo, C. (2010). What defines “successful” university brands?. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 23(2), 169-183.

Sargeant, A. (2009). Marketing management for nonprofit organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Email Marketing: Build or Buy an Email List?

Email marketing has become a staple in today’s marketing world, especially with internet-based businesses. It involves personal communication with customers through email. You craft newsletters, articles and sales pitches and send them to targeted recipients through email. This of course requires that you have a mailing list that contains the contact information of potential customers. There are many ways to do this: You can build one yourself or you can buy it from an email list-broker or another company. This article looks at the pros and cons of each to help you determine which way is best for you.

Advantages of buying an email list

  1. It’s quick. Assuming that you have found a well-built email list for your particular purposes, you need not spend any more time determining how to find your targeted customers and convince them to share their contacts with you.
  2. You benefit from experts. Again, presuming that you’ve done your homework on finding good providers, one advantage of buying a list is that you benefit from the expertise of a marketing expert. You don’t need to go through trial and error in order to find out which strategies work best to target your niche customers. Someone more qualified already did it for you.
  3. It is less labour intensive than building your own list.

Risks involved in buying an email list

  1. The biggest risk involves scams. It’s difficult to know whether the list you’re buying is a real one. Considering that email lists can be quite expensive, it’s possible to experience real substantial loss through having someone take advantage of you and sell you rubbish.
  2. You might get a list that is completely irrelevant to your business purposes. Imagine getting the list of a business that sells dating and relationship products when you’re targeting customers in the food industry. A total waste of time and money.
  3. Sometimes you can get a list that targets the right audience, but which has not been updated for quite sometime. You try sending emails to these people only to discover that most of the emails do not work.
  4. Buying a list comes with the risk of associating your business with some bad history. Perhaps the company you’re working with sends too much spam or otherwise mishandles its subscribers and you are unaware of it. You buy the list only to have the account closed soon after and ruin your reputation to your customers.
  5. If you send mail to customers who have not been acquainted with you, they are likely to treat it as spam. This means that your money and efforts will be wasted.

Possible Solutions?

You can avoid these potential problems by:

  1. Paying only for actual subscribers, rather than a whole list. Have an arrangement in which you provide an option to the subscribers of that list to sign up for your own list. Undertake to pay for only those subscribers who end up signing up for your list. This way, whatever you pay will be worth it.
  2. Use reputable companies and list brokers to avoid getting scammed or paying for worthless lists. This in itself requires quite some effort. To save time and effort, use the same companies that are trusted to provide direct mailing lists for your email lists as well.

Advantages of building an email list

  1. If you build your own list, you will be certain that only those customers who are interested in your product will sign up. Your emails will always go to people who already know you and are interested in your product.
  2. There is also no risk of a bad history because you’re building your own list from nothing.
  3. You control all your dealings with your customers and you can be certain about the status of your account and your reputation at any point in time.

Problems involved in building an email list

  1. Clearly, it takes time, effort, technique and expertise to find your targeted audience and to convince them to subscribe to your list.
  2. Lack of marketing expertise poses a real challenge for a person who is completely new to both technology and marketing strategies. It can take too many trials to get it right.
  3. If you decide to hire an expert, it can also be expensive to plan and implement marketing strategies that will get the relevant audience to sign up for your list.

Possible solutions?

  1. You can hire experts to help you create an effective email marketing strategy. The investment may prove well worth it in terms of saving time and effort.
  2. Research quick and effective strategies. There are many resources readily available on the internet. Educate yourself sufficiently before you undertake the project.
  3. Make use of software to make work easier.

Conclusion

If you are more interested in maintaining control of your list and do not mind the slower but safer process of gradually building up your own list, then this may be the option for you. The sense of accomplishment, peace of mind and the community you build, of customers who willingly sign up for your emails will be well worth it. However, if you are interested in a quicker process and prefer to buy a list, be sure to do your homework first. Find reputable companies and list brokers and stick to them for all your business once you find them. They certainly are not easy to come by. As in most marketing strategies, an integrated approach is always best. Both options are effective for their intended purposes if approached with due care and preparation.

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Big Business – Gaining your Competitors’ Dissatisfied Customers

September 17, 2012 |  by  |  Strategic Brand Management  |  No Comments

Approximately 91% of dissatisfied customers do not wish to do business with the companies that have previously disappointed them. Out of this number, approximately 13% share their negative experiences with at least 20 other people through day-to-day conversations and social media. This makes a competitor’s dissatisfied customers a perfect target for increasing its own customer base.

It is much easier to get the attention of a consumer who is actively looking for alternatives. The need is already established and all it takes is for a new company to provide a better option in order to remediate a previously bad experience. Unhappy customers also act on emotion, they are usually distraught or aggravated and will be quick to switch when they see something better. While also usually being a great source of useful information, dissatisfied consumers provide feedback on what the market wants and values, importantly what your competitors are lacking. This is useful information when deciding how to approach a new marketing strategy, or what products a company should develop in the future.

Where to Look for Customers You Can Convert

An integral part of the ‘finding customers’ that can be converted strategy, is to make it easy for them to locate your company. Dissatisfied customers actively search for better options and alternatives. Businesses should invest in good online communication media, including a website that ranks well on search engines, for instance Google and Yahoo. The site should also be easy to navigate, filled with relevant content and information. Obviously you can also attract people’s attention by investing in more traditional media, such as local television commercials (budget permitting), or interesting print adverts, for instance featured reviews. Once you make your presence known through marketing mediums, your team can communicate the features and benefits of your product to your target market and competitors’ customers.

You should also be aware as regards to when and importantly where people post complaints about your competitors. For instance by checking online forums that cater to your niche market, even perhaps local groups that receive specific complaints related to your industry. This could also take the form of tapping into social media sites, by searching for specific mentions made by disgruntled customers about their personal experiences, when using a product similar to your product or service.

Further, brands could also visit locations of which their target market converges. Find these locations and be involved in events and activities that your target market participates in. Connect with competitors’ dissatisfied customers, in order to provide them with details on how your product can better satisfy their requirements. This is also a great way of getting ideas with regards to what a competitors weaknesses are, also what can be done to further enhance a current marketing approach.

The Art of Converting Customers

Marketing is all about convincing your potential customers that they need what you have to offer. Usually for the most part, it can be difficult to grab the attention of consumers that are bombarded with thousands of marketing communications per day. Dissatisfied customers however are far easier, they are already interested in the product or services that a company has to offer, and already know what they like and dislike.

Here are some steps to follow to successfully gain the loyalty of your competitor’s disgruntled customers:

1. Monitor

Devote some resources to monitoring competitors. This can take the form of checking on public sources such as Facebook, Twitter or blogs to get an idea of what competitors customers are complaining about. Observe how competitors deal with these complaints, to see how they can be improved upon. Use analytics and tools to identify main issues, focusing resources on how to provide better solutions to these problems.

Companies should also watch out for top influencers within their industry. Certain blogs, websites, or social networking sites actively influence a substantial chunk of a target markets’ consumers. These sites may deal with product reviews, customer satisfaction, or industry updates. Creating great relationships with these influencers can potentially provide sound business results, helping to convince customers that a new company can provide better solutions to their needs.

2. Improve

No matter how great a company thinks their product is, there is always room for improvement. Use the information gathered from monitoring competitors and work on making products or services better. If potential customers are unhappy with the customer service provided by competitors, attract them by training your front line support staff to provide not just better, but the best quality customer service available.

3. Close the Deal

Approach prospective customers in a positive manner, for example by not insulting competitors. Begin by discussing the most common product or service errors made within the industry and discuss what strategies or improvements that your company has made to avoid the same mistakes. The ideal result being the realisation that your companies product is a better option and it better meets their requirements. Build customer loyalty by emphasising what your company can do better, not simply by bad-mouthing competitors.

4. Deliver

Customers will always find something to complain about, but they can be contented, as long as a company deliver upon what was promised. Set the correct level of expectations by making goals clear from the start, “Under promise and over deliver” so that customers are not repeatedly disappointed.

Conclusion

Customers who have been disgruntled with previous providers, bring with them the potential for establishing a strong and lasting business relationship with a new company, make that company your own. It is important for brands to create a method of identifying where to find unfulfilled customers and how attract them in order for them to try out a better offer, make that your offer.

Process improvement should not be underestimated; companies should always be willing to invest in product upgrades that will meet customers’ expectations and needs. Deliver on what has been promised and only promise what can be delivered. Companies that are able to attract the dissatisfied customers of their competitors, will have a great opportunity to grow their own number of loyal customers, particularity more efficiently in comparison to those who target people who have not yet decided to use a product or service.

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The 5 Big Reasons Why Tweets Fail to Go Viral

A harsh reality of the Twitterverse is that at any given time, 70 to 75 percent of tweets fall on deaf ears, or as the case may be, on blind eyes. In the never-ending onslaught of messages that is Twitter, you have to stand above the crowd to get noticed.

There are five major reasons that most Twitter users can’t seem to make a tweet go viral. Learn about them, and better yet, learn to avoid them.

1. No Call to Action

Like a good landing page, your tweet should contain a call to action. Something as simple as “RT”—meaning “retweet this”—is preferable to nothing at all.

There are two elements to the call-to-action concept with regards to retweets: the implied call to action, and the explicit. Your explicit call to action, “RT” in the example above, should be short and to the point. Your implied call to action is the value of the tweet itself. A well-written tweet should sell itself to users, urging them to send the tweet along to their friends.

A tweet containing little more than a link has no chance of going viral. You should strive to make your tweet as unique, compelling, and valuable as possible. While this may be obvious, it is all too easy to forget once you find yourself working with only 140 characters.

Keep in mind that Twitter users are constantly bombarded with tweets, and indeed, retweet requests. Stay ahead of the game by demonstrating to your followers why they should retweet your message. Don’t rely on the explicit call to action.

2. Low Quality Link

A power Twitter user, the type that has the kind of following that you can’t wait to tap into, has no interest in sharing a low quality, spammy, or otherwise irrelevant link with their followers. One of the main laws of Twitter marketing is that you should never link directly to a landing page—not if you want others to spread your tweet around for you. Instead, link to well-written, thought-provoking, and valuable content. The page that you link to can contain a link to your landing page, but be careful not to draw unnecessary attention to it.

These are things that big Twitter users do take the time to look at before deciding whether to do you the favor of a retweet or not. Keep this one question in mind when writing your tweet and deciding what to link to: “How will this benefit my followers?” Then, demonstrate to the big Twitter user that you have their concerns and interests in mind.

3. The Wrong Time of Day

A tweet is a very short-lived entity. Unlike Facebook posts, tweets exist in the moment. If your tweet doesn’t get picked up, that’s it. One of the most important things you can do to help your tweet go viral is to identify your target demographic, and then determine when the largest number of those people will be online. For most niches, this means avoiding posting your best tweets in the middle of the night or late in the evening.

Tweet primetime seems to be from around 9 am to 3 pm Eastern Standard Time. Getting them out earlier in the day also gives them plenty of time to be retweeted before tweet volume winds down in the afternoon. If you find yourself in the evening needing to get a tweet out, you may be better off waiting for morning. It is always a mistake to tweet the same messages to your followers multiple times.

4. No Hash Tag

A hash tag is composed of the “#” sign followed by a word or phrase that represents your tweet, it can be your brand for instance. Before you use a hash tag, you should visit hashtags.org or a similar site and see if anyone else is using the tag that you want to use.

Sites like hashtags.org group tweets by hashtag, creating a saerchable database of related tweets. By creating a body of useful tweets on a single subject with a hashtag, you can instill confidence in your followers. A tweet containing such a hashtag is valuable for both you and the people you hope will retweet for you, and hence has a much greater chance of actually being retweeted.

5. The Tweet is Difficult to Understand

Finally, while Twitter is much more laid back on the surface than other networking sites such as LinkedIn, don’t make the mistake of being overly carefree when it comes to spelling and grammar. Your followers and prospective retweeters will judge you based on both.

Your grammar combined with the elements above all come together to form a conclusion about you and your message in the space of just a few seconds. Try to keep any message that you want retweeted at 110 to 120 characters or less. This way, the person retweeting your message may have the chance to add a few words or a hash tag of their own, or an @Reply.

Always keep in mind that a retweet is usually a “you scratch your back, I’ll scratch yours” proposition. Give your followers incentive to retweet your messages, and they will. Ask yourself, “What’s in it for them?”

Attraction Marketing: A Viable Alternative to Traditional Marketing Methods

Attraction marketing is a relatively new marketing concept. You can use it to draw potential customers, who also happen to be interested in what you sell, to your brand. Combined with the ever-expanding power of the Internet, attraction marketing can be a phenomenally powerful asset.

Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing strategies such as running radio and television commercials tend to become less effective over time. As customers are bombarded by these non-stop advertisements, they become less sensitive to them.

In fact, while traditional marketing ploys may increase sales over the short term, they can contribute to a phenomenon known as “brand fatigue” over the long term. Brand fatigue refers to the tendency of customers to lose interest in a given brand after being exposed to it for an extended period of time.

Traditional marketing increases brand fatigue and decreases interest by bombarding customers with impersonal, outrageous, occasionally misleading, and often flat-out annoying advertisements. These one-size-fits-all messages must be—but seldom are—exemplary to stand out from the crowd and deliver stellar results. To achieve this, there is a better alternative.

Attraction Marketing

Attraction marketing deviates from the beaten path in that its main goal is to demonstrate to potential clients a brand’s worth by providing a valuable product or service for free. In the Digital world, for instance in business to business, this can take the form of a company or individual giving away valuable insights in the form of a digital book.

To master attraction marketing, you must study your demographic. You must learn what they want, and then demonstrate that you have it. This doesn’t have to mean giving away your entire inventory. The idea is to give them something of value, while leaving something of even more value off the table.

Making this information freely available on a website, and then using sound SEO principles to rank highly in major search engines, means that you won’t have to bombard people with advertising that they likely won’t be receptive to anyway. Your customers will come to you, hungry for the information that you have to offer.

Attraction Marketing and Social Networking

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are saturated with users who share links to sites with valuable information. When you foster goodwill between your brand and your prospective customers by offering a high-value report, blog, book, or newsletter, you stand a good chance of getting a mention from these users. This highlights the importance of coupling attraction marketing with a strong, active social networking presence. By creating a profile for your company on these sites, you will give fans and satisfied customers a place to direct potential leads to. Don’t forget to leave links to your social networking profiles in your free ebook, report, or newsletter. By doing so, you can create a self-perpetuating cycle in which new customers discover your brand and old customers promote it.

Common Attraction Marketing Mistakes

New attraction marketers often make the mistake of not spending enough time actively participating in communities surrounding their niche. You can overcome this tendency by joining forums that are related in some way to the product that you are selling. The stronger the relationship, the better.

Post insightful answers to questions while letting your forum signature promote your brand. Demonstrate to members of the community that you are a leader first and a business second. A forum signature containing a link to your site accompanied by a good answer can do more for your business over time than paid advertising.

Secondly, you must take care to properly identify what your market wants. If the solution that you offer them is not a valuable proposition, it won’t matter how much of it you are offering for free. A great place to start is at the forums that you have identified. Look for threads that are posed as questions, and watch out for questions that are posed again and again. These indicate potential shortages of supply in the market, that is, information that is desired but not available.

Successful attraction marketing hinges on creating relationships, demonstrating value, and delivering on promises. While you may have to put more work into it than you would for radio ads or Internet banner ads, the potential long-term benefits of an effective attraction marketing campaign can outweigh any short-term benefits seen with these traditional marketing methods.

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Improved Search Engine Rankings Using Social Media

One of the best ways to improve website traffic is by gaining a good search engine ranking position from search engines such as Google and Bing. Online users who type in specific search phrases or keywords are provided a long list of related sites; however the vast majority only go as far as reading the first page. Unfortunately this can be the case, no matter how excellent your content may be and it can remain in obscurity, unless the website improves its search engine ranking method, with the aim of propeling it to the first page of the search results.

The “game” of optimisation used to be simpler; today webmasters can resort to a number of unethical means (such spamming) in an effort to gain top rankings. This can result in useful content often being difficult to find, as online viewers are required to click through a long list of irrelevant websites before finding the information they need. However recent updates made by the top search engines, have focused on providing “natural search results.” Google, for instance, recently released the Penguin update which aimed to reduce low-quality back-links, over optimisation, and illicit SEO strategies.

More than ever, it has become essential for writers and bloggers to provide online content that is both compelling and informative. It is also important to focus on building a strong network of natural back-links that serve as portals to the website. The more links there are out there, the higher the chances of a stray reader stumbling upon your page.

Here are some social media techniques that you can use to drive audience to your site:

1. Social Media as a Tool for Encouraging Back-links

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are great tools for building strong links to your webpage. Google and Bing have both made confirmations that links used on these social media sites are used in their algorithm. Fortunately, both sites have made it easy for webmasters and writers to integrate their blog links into post creation. For instance, once new entry is posted, it is possible to have Facebook and Twitter post updates and inform followers. Google+ is another great way of reaching a wide audience base, the more “+1” votes recieved on a blog post, the more visibility it gets.

Optimal times for posting upon social media platforms exist for certain demographics; however another method is to post multiple times, although not excessively. Scheduling tools are also widely available online, which enable authors to have certain links posted repeatedly over a pre-determined period of time. This way, you can reach potential readers who have varying schedules of activity or may be in different time zones. Scheduling also spares webmasters from the monotony of having to manually create updates featuring the same links.

2. Social Media as a Source of Content Ideas

The concept of search engines is that users are looking for information, based on certain keywords and phrases. If your goal is to get many readers, then you will likely attract more people by writing about content that interests them personally. The more interested people are about your article, the higher the likelihood of them sharing your link with other users. Thus, it is beneficial, to entice readers to share through social media network,s while providing them with the content they crave.

Social media sites are also excellent places for finding ideas on article topics of current interest. They have become tools that provide information based on what the majority of users are interested in, at any given time. Twitter for instance, has an easy to use search bar and “Trending Topics List” that will give you an insight into what people are currently talking about and showing interest in. Use these methods to find topics that fit your blog portfolio and provide interesting information or insight that will attract attention and let potential readers find it by making it available online.

3. Encourage Social Media Following and Re-Posting

Social media is the best tool to encourage direct access to your website via links. While being very easy to use, readily available, widely accessible and in terms of the future, being relatively safe from any algorithmic changes that search engines may make, for instance calculating page rank. In other words, it would be wise for a blogger not to simply rely on search engines for page visits, but to maximise the usage of social media to attract a strong following.

Most social media networks provide sharing buttons that can be clearly displayed on a website. These can easily be attached to your blog, using codes that are obtained by visiting the social media platform support page. Having these buttons displayed visibly on your page will encourage readers to share articles or entries that catch their interest.

As a last resort, another approach is to directly ask for help from your followers. Adding simple phrases like “please re-tweet” or “please re-post” is enough to encourage other users to share your post. This is particularly true for well-written and informative content. However it is important not to seem desperate, as this may impact upon your followers.

In summary, social media tools can be used to drive attention and traffic to your site. However, the content of your site remains the biggest factor in attracting readers. Content, after all, is king. No matter how extensive your social presence is, poor content will not get a good mileage. The best way to maximise your tools is to become an industry expert or authority figure in the topics that you are writing about. Gaining credibility in your craft will result in more social media following and repeat visitors to your site.