Services Include:

Search Engine Optimization

Local Search Optimization

Paid Search Advertising

Social Media Marketing

Website Analytics

Boost Your Marketing with User-Generated Content

Anode-User-Generated-Content-TweetEverywhere you look someone is declaring “content is king”! However, creating all that content on a regular basis can be difficult. User-generated content (UGC) can help create content and provide numerous other benefits. UCG capitalizes on people’s desire to express themselves, connect with like-minded people and earn rewards from brands they love. That content can then be repurposed in many ways for your campaigns.

So What is User-Generated Content?

User-generated content takes many forms including reviews, social media posts, blogging, contest photos and question-and-answer forums. This content can be on a third-party site or directly on a site you control. Basically, whenever someone is talking about your brand online, they are creating UGC.

Why Brands Need User-Generated Content

Obviously, you need the content. But what else can UGC provide?

  • Greater understanding of target audience – What people say can help you better understand their needs and concerns and anticipate future desires.
  • Increased engagement – UGC allows you to deepen your engagement and connection with consumers by creating a two-way dialogue.
  • Trusted content – An Nielson report states that 84% of consumers trust earned content more than any other form of advertising. The greater the trust people place in content, the greater its influence.
  • Stronger community – As consumers interact with each other, a community builds around your brand. The community members can then act as your brand ambassadors.
  • Greater website traffic – UGC can drive more traffic to your website or microsite as people gain greater awareness.
  • Increased time of site – If the content is on your site, people will spend more time on your site and possibly convert.
  • SEO benefits – The more content you have the more content can be indexed. Also, UGC will naturally contain the keywords people are using most.
  • Greater customer satisfaction – Setting up forums and community boards increases the likelihood that consumers will quickly find the specific answer they need.

How to Use User-Generated Content

UGC can be quite fragmented and spread across so many outlets. However, brands can influence consumers to generate it using multiple techniques.

Share content posted on social media
If you have fans posting pictures or videos of themselves using and enjoying your products and services, share it on your social media accounts with a link back to your site if possible.

Incorporate UGC into your contests or giveaways
An easy way to gain UGC is to make it part of a contest or giveaway. Require people to post videos, pictures or specific text with a unique hashtag. With permission, that content can then be repurposed.

Crowdsource ideas for your next campaign using social media
Marketing campaigns can be expensive, and sometimes your ideas get stale (think: car commercials). Ask your fans to submit ideas, and use the best one(s) as your next campaign. You can also test ideas this way. For example, you could directly use the idea or turn, say, a collection of videos into a commercial.

Feature UGC on your website
With the creator’s permission, include UGC on your website. This content could be a collection of the best entries in a contest or a featured consumer or content. The extra love shown will only increase brand loyalty. Also, the content on your site will be viewed as more authentic and genuine.

Incorporate UGC into your traditional marketing
With the creator’s permission, you could incorporate visuals and text into your marketing campaigns. This content could be requested as part of a contest, testimonials or reviews. Repurposing UGC will increase its lifespan.

Integrate user-generated content into your marketing strategy is easy and affordable and provides a constant stream of fresh content that enhances your efforts. Tap into this powerful form of content and leverage it to influence today’s consumer. Start with something simple like a contest. Done right you will reap the benefits of sales driven by consumer created content.

Google Display Network Targeting: Loss of “Other Interests”

Google Display Network-Other InterestsInteresting category marketing has been used  by advertisers since 2009 to interact with people across the Google Display Network. However, the options will change soon. The ability to add the “Other Interests” options disappears on January 15, 2015 for both new and existing audience campaigns.

So why is Google making this change? According to Google, other more sophisticated options have been added. The newer solutions will provide better performance and reach than “Other Interests” because they will be more targeted. Besides, “Other Interests” overlap them.

What Solutions Does That Leave?

Google will continue to provide a portfolio of audience targeting solutions:

  • Affinity Audiences – Drive brand awareness by reaching TV-like segments at scale. Extend your television campaign to an online audience. Mazda Canada used them to advertise Mazda 6 to the “technophile” segment and reached 10X more users than with previous campaigns.
  • Custom Affinity Audiences – Get niche audiences to consider buying your product or service. Unlike Affinity, you can better tailor your audience to those interested in your product or service. Electronic Arts used them to engage fans of specific NFL teams with real-time display ads related to field action in its Madden GIFERATOR campaign.
  • In-Market Audiences – Grab shoppers’ attention while they are actively shopping and researching. This audience is made for converting people most likely to make a purchase. Wayfair used them to increase ad response rates by 20% and power short-term behavior by 10-30%.

These three audience solutions cover the entire sales funnel from brand awareness to consideration to conversion. (You will still get to use remarketing, which is favored by Crescent Interactive.)

What Does This Mean for My Current Campaigns?

Here’s a quick recap of what will happen:

  • Starting January 15, 2015, you will no longer be able to add “Other Interests” to your new or current campaigns.
  • Current campaigns that use “Other Interests” will continue to run until June 2015 when they will automatically be upgraded to the new audience solutions. You can upgrade them yourself starting January 15, 2015.
  • You will still be able to pause and restart criteria in your existing campaigns.
  • You will not lose any performance data on campaigns targeting “Other Interests” but will notice the addition of data on new criteria. 

Google will provide more information to advertisers via the Inside Adwords blog and email so you will likely get all of your questions answered.

What to do now? If you have been using “Other Interests” to target, now is the time to start focusing on using affinity audiences, custom audiences and in-market audiences on your new campaigns. For existing campaigns, consider how you want to change the audience and make those changes ahead of the automatic upgrade to maximize results.

Use YouTube Video Calls-to-Action for Better Results

YouTube Video CTAs-megaphone

You have developed a great video strategy, but are you using calls-to-action (CTAs) in them like you do elsewhere? Adding CTAs to YouTube is a easy process than can yield great benefits, including conversions, subscriptions, likes and shares.

While we would all like to think people will take action on their own, the reality is people need to be told what to do next and preferably why. (Collective sigh.) Luckily, YouTube provides multiple easy ways to do it along with standard production ones you may use.

Before jumping into calls-to-action, you need to do two steps first. First, you need to determine the goal of the specific video and how the CTA can help support that goal. What are you trying to accomplish? If you want more subscribers, does the CTA encourage it? Do you want someone to make a purchase? Does the CTA allow them to click through to make the purchase? Presumably you know the first part since you have a video strategy, but you need to make sure the second part ties into it.

Next, with so many possible types of CTAs available, decide on the style and type(s) that will best support your goal. You want the style of your CTAs to complement your video. Otherwise, it is a jarring experience for the viewer who will quickly exit the video and not take any action. You also want a call-to-action that will bring the desired action and have it placed appropriately in the video. An exaggerated example would be to make a subscription request when you want viewers to purchase a product or service.

Now, let’s discuss some possible calls-to-action to use in your YouTube videos:


Annotations are pop-up messages, not ads, which appear in the video. People can immediately interact with them. Unfortunately, they often cause people to leave the video and can only be linked to other YouTube content. Therefore, do not place them during a vital part of the video. Waiting to use them in an end card may be a better option. However, you must weigh that placement with people’s short attention span. One-third don’t get past the first 30 seconds. YouTube provides more information on creating different annotations and best practices.

Most annotations are self-explanatory, but the spotlight one is a bit different. Spotlight annotations allow you to create subtle clickable areas within a video. The text appears when a viewer hovers over the it but only a light outline appears otherwise.

Call-to-Action Overlay

With an AdWords for TrueView ad, you can create CTA overlays. The overlay appears at the bottom of the player when the video starts and can be closed by the viewer. Share information about the video; promote other videos and websites, etc. When viewers click on the overlay, they are directed to the designated website. The overlays remain on the video until you remove them. They are, however, subject to review via the Google AdWords program.


Descriptions allow you to provide more information about the video and include CTA links. People will not be distracted from the video and naturally want to read more about the video’s content. However, be  very careful with the first couple lines of the description. Keep the YouTube SEO intact because that is what shows up in a YouTube search. YouTube is the second largest search engine so you don’t want to mess that up. For example, you can link to a related blog post, YouTube channel, email subscription. 

End Cards

For the end of the video, create an end card with a call-to-action. You can do something as simple as a screen with a text message or make it interactive with annotations. Use a template to maintain consistent branding. As mentioned earlier, some viewers will have already stopped viewing the video. However, those remaining are more likely to be willing to act on your CTA.

Host / Narrator Mentions

The host or speaker talks directly to the camera to request a specific action. Voiceover can also be done. The downside for this method is you need to stick with one action and the cost of changing it is high. Therefore, choose your CTA carefully.

In-video graphics

You can also include other graphics at key points in the video. For example, have a graphic with a URL landing page URL after your standard opening and then have it appear later.

The types and combinations of YouTube video calls-to-action are numerous. You will need to experiment and test to see what types of CTAs resonate with your audience. Get creative. Make it interactive. Check out brands that are known for great videos for inspiration. Use whatever combination of tactics that will help you further reach your goal but no more. Goals for engagement, subscriptions, purchases, etc. will be reached once you find the find the right combination and balance.


photo credit: floeschie via photopincc

Harness the Power of Twitter Lists

Hoover Dam-Harness Power of Twitter Lists

photo credit: susteph via photopin cc

Flowing water contains a tremendous amount of energy, and with a hydroelectric dam that energy can be harnessed to generate electricity. Likewise, you can harness the energy of the overwhelming amount of information and communications on Twitter for business purposes, like building key relationships and finding prospective customers, with lists.

What are Twitter Lists?

Generally speaking, Twitter lists are lists you create or subscribe to and are organized around a general theme or group of people. They help you organize accounts you really want to follow so you do not miss tweets and can be private or public. You do not have to follow the accounts to monitor them in a list. However, if you add them to a public list they will be notified. Private lists do not generate the notifications.

Types of Twitter Lists to Create

The types of lists you can create are only limited by your imagination. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Clients* – Monitoring your clients can help you anticipate their needs, inspire new products and services and answer their industry questions.
  • College and community/business group organizations – Many alum and local association members are more than happy to help make connections and referrals.
  • Competitors* – Knowing what your competitors are doing is always wise. Insights can come from inferred information. Don’t just add the official accounts but also add key executive accounts. Because you are not actually following them, they will not be notified of your observation of their feeds.
  • Event / conference attendees –  Developing relationships with other attendees can lead to business opportunities. If you want to meet certain people, they often state their location so you can intercept them or specifically ask to meet. Also, following top tweeters allow you to better follow the event.
  • Helpful resources for customers – Create a list you think would interest your customers. For example, if you are an accountant to small businesses, you can create a list of small business resources. 
  • Industry colleagues – Following others in your industry provides an ongoing education, tips and insights into trends. Also, the relationships built can provide business referrals and collaborations.
  • Industry sector* – Instead of viewing only direct competitors, you can look at a larger industry slice.
  • Location-based list – Sometimes you want to focus your efforts on a particular geographical area. For example, I have lists for Dallas/Fort Worth and Tennessee experts and colleagues in my field.
  • Prospective clients* – Anyone you wish to approach to become a client would be in this list. Reviewing the tweets in this list will provide you with information about their needs and how best to approach them. You can add them to a private list without following so they do not know of your interest before you are ready.
  • Thought leaders / experts – Adding these people to a list provides multiple benefits: education, access and an ego boost to the added people.
  • Vendors* – Key management changes, acquisitions, supply or plant issues and the like can impact your ability to run your business. If your company is ISO certified, knowing information about your vendors becomes more vital.

The asterisked lists are the ones I would recommend you keep private. As relationships develop, people can be moved from one list to another. Remember you do not have to actually follow an account to have it in a list, and only people and companies added to a public list will be notified. 

Take Twitter Lists Further

Did you know you can subscribe to other people’s public lists? You can. Let them do the heavy lifting of curating them. Look for people and brands you respect or are interested in to see their lists. Then, subscribe to them.

Also, include your account in your public lists. That way people who subscribe to them will also see your tweets. This technique is especially useful on lists where you can act as an expert or business solution.

Last, promote your Twitter lists on other social media platforms. Each list has a unique URL. Use an eye-catching name like My Favorite [insert topic].

How to Create a Twitter List

Now that you know what kinds of lists you want to have and who to add, it is really easy to create them. Under your header photo, click on Lists and choose “Create a new list.” A pop up box will appear where you can enter the list name and an optional description and choose whether the list is public or private. You can then go to an account’s profile to add it to your list. Click on the “gear” icon for a dropdown menu to select “Add or remove from lists.” Your collection of lists will be shown for you to check which list(s) to place that account in. You can even create a new list on the fly in this pop up box. Once you have accounts in your lists, you can go to Lists and view the feed for an individual list. That’s so much better than scrolling through everyone’s tweets.

Now that you have your lists in place, you can start monitoring them for various types of information and use them to engage with people you want to get to know better or convert to customers. I hope they are as useful to you as they have been for me. Without them, I would have missed out on numerous new client and collaboration opportunities.

How Digital Impacts In-Store Shopping

Mall Shopping Scene-Mobile Changes Retail ShoppingConsumers are doing online research to make online purchases, not in brick-and-mortar stores. People use smartphones while in stores to find better deals. Brick-and-mortar stores are an endangered species because of e-commerce. But is all that common wisdom really true?

Google with Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands ran a research study to find out the truth about these assumptions and more. You may be surprised at the results.

Today’s consumers arrive at a store better educated about products and services than before and use their smartphones as personal assistants instead of relying on store employees. However, many of them are still buying in-store, not online. They want an experience, not merely a transaction.

Myth #1: Search results only send customers to e-commerce sites.

Reality: Search results can drive customers to stores. Three in four people who find helpful local information online make in-store purchases.

3 in 4 people

Shoppers are more likely to visit if they can find local information such as in-store availability, prices and store location and hours. Absent that information, one in four shoppers (25%) will shop where they know product availability. Therefore, stores need to find ways to make as much local information available as possible. I purchased a laptop in-store based on availability information found online.

What local information do shoppers find very/extremely important?

Important Local Store Information for Shoppers

So what does this mean for local stores? Digital is a powerful way to reach customers. Inventory ads are one way to do that. If a customer sees that an item is in stock, she is more likely to purchase.

Myth #2: Once an in-store customer starts looking at her smartphone, the store has lost her attention to a competitor.

Reality: Retailers can gain customers’ attention through search results and store apps. This study reveals that 42% of in-store shoppers search for online information while in-store. Of those, 64% use search engines, 46% view the store’s site or app, and 30% visit a competitor’s site.

Where are those 42% of shoppers searching while in-store?

In-store Research by Shoppers

To keep people’s attention, Walmart recently updated its app to practically act as a personal assistant when it added the Search My Store feature. You can see if an item is at a particular location, the price, and its aisle location. No more wandering around lost to find an item that is not in stock. The company feels this feature “…puts Walmart light-years ahead of other brick & mortar retailer apps.” The company also said that “…within the first few weeks of launching on Android, more than 99 percent of Walmart stores had been search by Search My Store.” This app may be the future for physical stores, especially big box ones.

Walmart Mobile App-Search My Store feature screen shot

I used my smartphone to research a wireless router last summer while in-store. The brand I wanted was not in stock. No employees came to assist me so I sat on the floor looking up different router reviews online and on the office supply store’s website.

Myth #3: Online research has turned in-store experiences into just transactions.

Reality: Consumers go to stores for more than a purchase. They want a complete, customized experience.

Customers are visiting stores throughout the decision-making process. This survey found 32% of shoppers visit stores when they are first thinking of making a purchase, and 33% of them actively research in store to find out more about a product. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers gathered information while actually at the store, but two-thirds of them left without all the needed information. Thus, retailers have multiple touch points to connect with shoppers by providing information, expert recommendations and customized deals.

People do not want to feel like a transaction themselves. They want retailers to treat them as people and valued customers. Being available to to provide information and expertise is one way. Another way is customization through special deals and promotions for related products and services. My grocery store sends me coupons based on my purchases, which encourages me to return. Apparently, 85% of shoppers are more likely to shop at stores that offer customized deals and exclusive in-store promotions.

What kinds of customization do shoppers want?

Customized Shopper Experience Preferences

Digital has changed the shopper journey to a more mobile one, but that is not bad. Instead of fearing it, retailers, like yourself, should embrace it. Provide customers local information via search and online to increase your customer reach and engagement. Reach out with customized offers and recommendations to distinguish you from your competitors. Online retail is great, but it cannot replace the personal touch brick-and-mortar retailers can provide.

Using Hashtags in Your Social Media Strategy

Hashtag symbolHashtags are seen everywhere these days – online, television and print. I bet you use them in your personal social media, but are you taking advantage of them in your business?

Hashtags are used within a message and consist of the # sign plus a word or words. They were originally designed to index information and facilitate topic searches on social media. I love that the first tweeted hashtag involved one of my favorite unconferences, BarCamp. Now, they are used randomly and to express emotions or ideas that would probably best be done directly.

Why are you using hashtags?

Before you start using hashtags, you need to determine your objective. Is it to make your brand more searchable? Is it to monitor chatter about your brand? Is it to launch a new product or service? Is it to promote an event? Is it to promote conversation?

Knowing what you want to achieve will determine how you use hashtags, create brand consistency and provide a clear message to your target audience. Using hashtags haphazardly will waste your resources and may hurt your brand.

Types of hashtags

Brand hashtag

Brand hashtags are hashtags for the company name or tagline. If your company name is common or long, create a unique one. This hashtag is your go-to one because it defines your brand. Use it consistently across platforms, and get people to use it. If short enough, you can combine it with a campaign, event or other hashtags. For example, Verizon is #VZW, but it adds to it (e.g. #VZWBuzz, which is a weekly Twitter chat).

Campaign hashtag

Campaign hashtags are used to promote your latest marketing campaign. Make sure they clearly identify your promotion or contest. Promote this hashtag throughout the duration of your campaign to ensure people know about it and get them to use it.

Trending hashtag

Trending hashtags come and go very quickly so you have to be monitoring social media carefully to capture them. Done well you can take advantage of an event or other subject’s momentum to further your brand. Done wrong you can easily damage your campaign. Generally, only jump on trending hashtags that relate to your company’s products and services in some way. You can also use trending hashtags to show your brand’s personality. Spamming trending hashtags can get your accounts suspended so don’t use #MileyCyrus if she’s not related to the post.

Oreo is famous for its real-time social media. It got a big boost with its Super Bowl tweet “Power out? No problem.” accompanied by an image with the comment “You can still dunk in the dark.” Few companies can replicate Oreo’s success with real-time marketing.

Content hashtag

Many hashtags refer to the content of the message rather than the company itself. Therefore, they tend to be more generic.

  • Product / service hashtag
  • Lifestyle / hobbby hashtag
  • Event hashtag
  • Location hashtag
  • Industry hashtag

Content hashtags help people find information on specific subjects. Do not use too general of a hashtag, like #Facebook, or your message will get lost. Instead, you might use #FacebookTips. Event hashtags are great if you are participating in or hosting an event. Local businesses will want to consider location hashtags.

How to choose hashtags

Remember when I wrote about not using haphazardly? Well, now let’s talk about how to choose hashtags that will be the most effective. The short answer is research. Successful hashtags are unique, relevant, short and easy to remember.

You need to give special consideration to brand and campaign ones. You do not want them to be misinterpreted or hijacked by the public. For example, McDonald’s used #MeetTheFarmers to talk about the corporation’s guarantee of fresh produce and focus on wholesome stories about farmers, but then it used the related secondary hashtag #McDstories. The second hashtag was used by people to discuss fast food horror stories. #Fail.

Research will also help prevent errors such as Entenmann’s #notguilty tweet. Entenmann tweeted “Who’s #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!” Unfortunately, #notguilty was trending about the controversial not guilty Casey Anthony verdict. Oops! Apology to follow.

So how do you research and create a hashtag list?

Many tools and methods exist to research keywords to use for hashtags and existing hashtag usage. I’ll go over a few here to get you started.Many of the tools focus on Twitter, which dominates hashtag usage, but more companies are adding other social media networks.

If your company is new to social media, you probably do not know which hashtags are popular, but you probably know the influencers in your field. You can use Twitonomy to find out the hashtags used by influencers on Twitter. Remember that just because a hashtag is used by someone does not mean many people search for it. Sign in and enter the person’s Twitter handle to get a list of hashtags. Information is also provided on people they retweet and interact with most often for additional names to research. You can also search by hashtag. After doing this a few times with different accounts, you will have a basic hashtag list. I did one for Gini Dietrich.

Gini Dietrich-Twitonomy hashtags

Because I follow Gini, I know what many of these hashtags mean. But what if you don’t? You can click on the result to see how it is being used and get an idea of its meaning. Also, you can use Hashtag Dictionary and TagDef to find out more. People from around the world add definitions and descriptions for hashtags.

Next, will provide other trending hashtags related to your specific one. Enter the hashtag minus the # sign. You will get a graphic result that reminds me of Google+ Ripples. If you hover over one of the circles, more detailed information appears. The larger the circle size, the more popular the hashtag, and the closer it is to your hashtag, the greater the correlation. You can add the related hashtags to your list. Speaking of Google+, as you type your post, Google+ will create related hashtags, and as you type a hashtag, it will auto suggest others.

Here is the result for #contentmarketing:

hashtagifyme-contentmarketing hashtag result

But how popular is that hashtag? With Rite Tag, you can enter the hashtags you’ve collected and find out. Rite Tag uses a color code system. Gray is unused. Pink is overused. Blue is good. Green is great. You can even install a Chrome extension that will provide feedback as you type a tweet. I typed in #contentmarketing, and the result was green. However, #contentmarketingtips was gray. Therefore, I would use #contentmarketing as a content hashtag.

By this time, you may be wondering how to create a unique hashtag for your brand or campaign when so many hashtags have already been created. You don’t have to be completely unique, though that would be ideal. For example, BarCamp Nashville uses #BCN[2-digit year]. This year it was #BCN14. However, the same hashtag configuration is used by an event in Spain. As the events are local and in different languages, they continue to use the same hashtag. You would not want to use a hashtag that is also being used by a competitor or someone who could harm your brand.

Now that you’ve used these tools, you should have a good list of hashtagsto use for content you want to share, a brand hashtag and possible campaign hashtags.

How to use hashtags

Now that you have the why and the what, you need to add the how. One of the frequent questions I get is how many hashtags to use in a post or tweet. Research has found that the fewer the better. Too many hashtags create a spammy feeling. Generally, I advise one or two hashtags with a maximum of three. Although you can go up to 30 on Instagram, more is not necessarily better so please don’t go crazy. On Facebook, I recommend you test whether to use hashtags at all since it hasn’t really taken off there, except with the integration of Instagram.

Where should you place the hashtags? They can be placed in the message itself or at the end. Whichever method you choose, keep readability in mind. For that reason, I capitalize the words in a multiword hashtag.

Using the brand and campaign hashtags across multiple channels, including offline, will create consistency and integrate your messaging. Also, more people will see the hashtag, and seeing it in multiple places will help them remember it.

Remember effectively using hashtags as part of your social media strategy requires that you start with a strategy.Then, you build upon that foundation with a solid list of hashtags that are unique, short and easy to remember and use them properly. The result will be extended audience reach and increased engagement.

Use Google+ Hangouts On Air to Boost Your Business

Shuttle Launch-Google+ Hangout On AirAre you running yourself ragged on social media and other digital media outlets trying to gain exposure for your company? While not a total solution, Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) can provide benefits that other options cannot for free. You not only get to create branded content, but the live streaming video and recorded video provide you with many options to reach a greater audience, increase your following, drive search engine results and attract new clients.

What is a Google+ Hangout On Air?

A Google+ Hangout On Air is a free HD video conference tool.The video stream can be viewed live on Google+, YouTube and any website or kept private during creation. If live streaming, you can select whether the audience can actively participate and who can view. A recording is automatically made by YouTube and saved on your channel to be viewed publicly and shared. Many individuals and companies host HOAs on a regular basis and create topical series. Basically, your company can have its own broadcast show. Isn’t that great?

What benefits can Hangouts On Air provide your company?

  • Position your company as a thought leader
  • Multiple content repurposing opportunities
  • Google SERP and SEO advantages – keyword optimized and SERP prioritized
  • Demonstrate your industry advantage
  • Establish trust and credibility
  • Increase brand recognition
  • Build a following through live conversations and recordings
  • Communicate your brand’s culture and personality
  • Develop and strengthen relationships with expert guest speakers
  • Humanize your brand

What content can you present in a HOA?

The shorter answer would be what can’t be presented, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Announcements
  • Answer FAQs
  • Behind-the-scenes looks
  • Company culture insights
  • Customer testimonials
  • Employee stories
  • Events
  • Executive interviews / speeches
  • Expert interviews
  • How-to video
  • Product demonstrations
  • Webinars

Be creative, and listen to your audience’s questions and comments. Always think about what you want to accomplish and what angle you wish to take in the discussion. Ronnie Bincer suggests you first participate in a few Hangouts to get a feel for them, build relationships with guests and other viewers and find out what your target audience wants to know.

How to set up a Google+ Hangout On Air

  1. Have a Google account and Google+ company page.
  2. Create a YouTube channel if you don’t have and verify it.
  3. Connect the YouTube channel to the Google+ page.
  4. Create a specific circle if you want to ensure certain people know about the hangout and any guest speakers.
  5. Sign into the company Google+ account.
  6. Select “Hangouts” from the left dropdown menu.
  7. Under the “Hangouts On Air”tab, select “Start A Hangout On Air.”
  8. Start a Google Hangout On AirEnter the name of the event. Be sure to include keyword(s) to help people find it, and place them toward the beginning of the event name. Create something specific and intriguing to your audience.
  9. Create a Google Hangout On AirProvide a description that states exactly what people should expect and include keywords and tag any guests. Select “Later” and enter the date, time, duration and time zone.
  10. Add any additional people, including guest speakers, or make it private if you only want to show the recorded version.

HOA creation tips

If you create a HOA at least five days in advance, your event may be included on Google’s list of upcoming hangouts. Apparently, inclusion is not reliably automatic, but if your HOA is included, then you get extra promotion by being on the master list.

Be sure to include your primary keywords in the event title and description. You want to make it as easy for people to find either the live or recorded video.

Also, if you have any guest speakers, tag them. Tagging will encourage them to share the event with their audiences so you will be able to capitalize on their reach. You can have nine guests join you with an unlimited broadcast audience.

Once you have created your hangout, you can add a video or image as a custom trailer. To add a custom video, click “Add a Trailer” and add a YouTube video. To add a custom image, click “Add a Trailer” and add the image. Voila! You have added extra visual interest and information to your upcoming Hangout On Air. Otherwise, people will see a countdown clock, which is boring.

Promoting your upcoming HOA

Use whatever means you have to promote your upcoming Hangout On Air. Obviously, promote it on your social media outlets. When people respond to the event invite, it will show up in their news feed for their followers to see. Encourage guest speakers and employees to share on their social networks.

Internal and external newsletters are great ways to promote it. Depending on the frequency and lead time, you can include it multiple times with the video link along with doing an event specific email. You can also send out reminder emails as a countdown to the event.

The HOA can be promoted in a couple ways on your company website. You can have it as a special section on your home page. You can also write a blog post around the general subject with the video link included. That blog post can then be promoted on its own.

People will automatically be able to watch the live HOA on Google+ and YouTube. If you embed the video link on your website, they can also watch it there. Many people are not an active part of the Google+ community so letting them know they have viewing options will encourage more live viewing.

Another idea is to encourage people to submit questions in advance and then answer them on air. This option allows you to customize the content and bring the audience into the HOA.

Tips for during the HOA

Google Hangouts On Air can be raw videos or highly produced ones. Your experience and resources will determine which. Glitches are to be expected in live productions, but they can be minimized.

Chrome is the preferred browser. HOAs will work in other browsers, but Google obviously has everything optimized for its ecosystem. Before you start the HOA, you and your guest speakers will need to install the latest Hangout plugin.

A few minutes before the HOA begins, you and your guests should check audio and video to make sure everything is ready to go. This way everyone can go over what to expect and check their setups. Everyone should use headphones with microphones so the conversation can be heard better. Nothing like missing a question or a key point. Clear away any distracting background objects and sounds. Also, make sure each person knows how to use the HOA apps. If possible, have someone handle the technical side of the HOA while it’s live.

Good lighting is important for a quality video. A large soft light on one side, a smaller one on the other side and a back light make up the basic three-point lighting. A back light is important to separate the subject from the background.

Use a wired Internet connection to better maintain connectivity. Dead air is not good.

Last, YouTube also “listens” to what is said in the video as part of its algorithm. Therefore, include your keywords and variations thereof in a natural way during the video. Introductory and summary statements are good places to do it.

Extra features – apps

Google+ Hangouts on Air come with some great apps to enhance the broadcast.

  • Cameraman app – You can control whether to show or hide one or more participants on air. 
  • Q & A app – Taking questions in advance helps customize the content. Also, you can mark the questions as you answer them. People viewing the recorded video can then jump to specific questions in the video.
  • Control Room app – You can mute or unmute a participant’s video or audio, control a person’s audio level, give HOA control to someone else and and eject a person from the HOA.
  • Showcase app – You can share products, articles, website links and Google Play Store links with your audience. They can view them without interrupting the HOA broadcast.
  • Applause app – This app allows viewers to give a thumbs up or thumbs down during the broadcast. A real-time graph will show you the results.

Sharing and repurposing the recorded video

Once the HOA is completed, it will automatically be posted on your YouTube channel. You can edit it, and the edited version is what you will want to share. The URL stays the same throughout. At this point, it becomes indistinguishable from any other YouTube video. Add tags that include keywords, company name, etc. to further increase SEO juice. Consistent keyword tag usage will help your videos show up as suggested videos on the right hand side in YouTube.

Like before the event, use social media and email to share and promote the archived video. Many people cannot arrange their schedules to attend the live event. I usually have to view recordings because of schedule conflicts. You will also be able to reach people who did not hear about the live event. You may even wish to publish video segments if appropriate.

YouTube produces a transcription of the video discussion. However, I advise you create your own because YouTube’s automated transcription has its limits. This transcription can be included with the video and distributed elsewhere as well. Adding the transcription to the video helps with the video’s SEO. You can publish portions of it or turn it into a blog post and email. You can even tweet major points with the video link.

Embed the video on your website if you didn’t do it before. This way anyone who visits has the opportunity to view it and discover your video series.

Your Hangouts on Air don’t have to be finely polished productions, though that would be nice. In fact, in a recent B. L. Ochman HOA, Sona Patel of The New York Times stated they had better audience responses to the less highly produced videos. The audience seemed to like the more spontaneous ones. Quality content presented in a way that people can relate to will accomplish much. The more you do, the more you will get to fine tune the process and content. Think about how you can leverage your videos to get more distinguished expert guests, etc. You will have a learning curve, but don’t let that discourage you. The benefits you will reap will be well worth it.

Google Introduces Inbox, an Email App

Email Icon ImageIs your email inbox out of control? Mine is with 3,054 unread messages out of 3,601 total messages as of this writing. Google’s Gmail product team decided to rethink email and developed Inbox, a new email app. Inbox will do more of the heavy lifting for you to keep everything organized and presented in a contextual manner. As you know, it’s hard to get anything done if you are spending a great deal of time looking for a particular email or cleaning them out.

Key Inbox Features:


Bundles builds on the categories feature introduced in Gmail. It allows similar emails to automatically be combined together. For example, all your bank statements are grouped together so you can review them and then swipe away. You can teach Inbox how you want emails grouped by choosing which emails you want grouped together.


Key information from important emails, such as photos, flight itineraries and package tracking information, is highlighted. Google uses its data mining ability to add web information to your emails. For example, an email from the airline about your flight would include real-time information about your flight. You can click on the highlight to get the underlying message. Highlights and bundles help you get key information at a glance.

Google Inbox Highlights Example


Reminders, Assists and Snooze

We all have a lot to remember to do. With Inbox, you can add your own reminders, which will appear alongside your messages. They can be anything you want, including picking up your dry cleaning and making appointments. Google provides assists by pulling information from the web. For example, if you created a reminder to make a restaurant reservation, the restaurant phone number and hours of operation may be displayed.

Assists also work in your email. If you receive a restaurant reservation confirmation, Google will add a map to the location.

Google Inbox Reminders Example

A sampling of Assists

Not everything needs to be done right away, and sometimes you need to pause email and reminders while you focus on a task. Therefore, Inbox offers a snooze feature. You can set them to come back on at a specific time or when you arrive at a particular location, such as your office.

Using Inbox:

To use Inbox, you will sign in with your Gmail account. Your old Gmail messages will be there, and many changes will be reflected in Gmail. Inbox replaces the familiar list of subject lines and senders to the overall look of a social networking feed. Once in, you can create your own bundles, reminders, assists and to-do-lists. Also, stars become pins, and labels become bundles.

The current web version of Inbox only works in the Chrome browser (naturally), but compatibility with other browsers is planned along with a tablet version. Right now it does not work with most Google Apps for Business domains, only

Google will continue to work on Gmail but expects people to use one or the other but not both. Google claims Inbox to be a reinvention of email, but some of these features share similarities with other programs and apps, such as Mailbox and Google Now.

As I have reviewed Google’s blog post and early users’ experiments, one question keeps coming to mind. Why not put these features into Gmail? Maybe this app will grow into its own. Maybe features will eventually be incorporated into Gmail.

Google is rolling out Inbox on an invitation basis. You can invite friends once you receive one. If you just can’t stand waiting waiting, you can email to get an invitation as soon as new ones are available.

Maximize Your Company’s LinkedIn Efforts

LinkedIn Company Pages

LinkedIn has become a powerful platform for companies’ content marketing efforts. Not only can companies find new employees, they can generate business leads and sales and develop thought leadership. LinkedIn’s purchase of SlideShare and Pulse and the addition of the LinkedIn Influencer Program, sponsored updates, trending content and engagement scoring strengthened that ability. Companies like yours can capitalize on that to build business relationships and ultimately generate leads and sales. But how does your company do that?

Before we get to the details, let’s briefly talk about why you should use LinkedIn:

  • More than 313 million members in over 200 countries and territories
  • Counts executives from all 2013 Fortune 500 companies as members
  • More than 3 million companies have LinkedIn Company Pages
  • More than 1.5 million unique publishers actively use the LinkedIn Share button
  • LinkedIn members are sharing information in more than 2.1 million LinkedIn Groups
  • Invite-only Influencer Program has about 500 contributors with average posts generating 31,000 views, 250 likes and 80 comments

Company Page Creation


With data like that, your company cannot afford to ignore LinkedIn. Instead, you need to tap into this great resource. To do that, you need to first create a Company Page. Select Interests and then Companies and click on Create Company Page. LinkedIn will walk you through the basic steps, but you need to keep a few details in mind. The first items people see are your logo and banner image. Using a consistent logo will reassure people they have found the correct company. The image needs to be 100 x 60 pixels (standard)  or 50 x 50 pixels (square). The banner image (minimum 646 x 220 pixels) should reflect your brand and grab people’s interest. It can also be used to highlight latest company news and events.

Take advantage of the company description beyond the basic facts. Describe exactly what your company offers and its mission in a way that causes people to take action. Google previews the first 56 characters in its search results so lead with keyword-rich sentences. Also, LinkedIn Company Pages are designed to be SEO friendly. People can search by keywords so be sure to include them in a natural way.

Showcase Pages:

Have multiple product or service lines that target different audiences? Use Showcase Pages to extend your Company Page with dedicated pages that highlight key products and services. Showcase Pages are meant for long-term marketing campaigns. People can follow these specific pages just like your main page, allowing you to personalize content to their interests. For example, Hewlett-Packard has 11 such pages.

Content Sharing

Types of Content:

Now that you have these areas set up you are ready to start sharing content. Your updates will show up in your followers’ feeds and feel much like a Facebook’s News Feed. You can publish to everyone or target your updates. You will want to to keep it to snackable valuable content presented in multiple formats. You can share a tremendous variety of content, and this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Announcements
  • Behind-the-scenes looks
  • Blog posts that showcase your expertise and industry insights
  • Case studies
  • Company culture insights
  • Customer testimonials
  • Employee stories
  • Executive stories / speeches
  • Expert tips and insights
  • Product demonstrations
  • SlideShare presentations
  • Third-party articles about the company
  • Third-party articles about key industry issues
  • Top 10 lists
  • White papers

Some of this content can also be shared in short videos. I would highly encourage you to utilize them.

Regardless of the format, include keywords and eye-catching images. People can search by keywords within LinkedIn. Also, making your content visually appealing will make people more likely to consume and share it.

Posting frequency will vary based on your results and available content. Many companies post at least three to five times a day.


While you are conducting content marketing, remember LinkedIn is a social media platform. Pose questions to your audience. Respond to comments and answer questions. This interaction will further develop your relationship with followers and show your company’s personality and expertise.

Sponsored Updates and Direct Sponsored Updates:

Use sponsored updates to extend the reach of your updates. Use this option on your best content. Reaching your current audience is great, but you need to keep finding new leads to fill the top of the sales funnel.

Direct Sponsored Updates allow you to reach your audience without publishing on your Company Page. You can personalize the message to specific target audiences and test content variations.

Promote Your Company Page

Digital Options:

Add “follow” buttons in key areas of your company’s website and other digital and social properties. LinkedIn’s Developer page provides with easy code creation. You can also add one to your email signature and your newsletters.

Ask your employees to follow the company, update or create member profiles and share your company updates.

You can also utilize LinkedIn’s CPC and CPM options to rapidly increase page traffic. You can target by company size, title, industry and geography. You control the campaign cost by bidding and setting a budget.



Offline Options:

Add the LinkedIn icon to your non-digital marketing materials so people will know to look for your there.

Track Metrics

Tracking KPIs and other metrics is essential to knowing whether your efforts are effective. LinkedIn provides analytics that you can combine with your own current analytics solution. With this data, you can find what works and what doesn’t so you can adjust your efforts and also know whether you are reaching your goals.

Business people come to LinkedIn to consume professional content along with making new connections. They want to stay abreast of trends and new information in their fields. By offering useful, engaging content, you can build and sustain a loyal community around your products and services. If you need inspiration, check out the top 10 LinkedIn Company Pages for 2013.

Getting the Correct Thumbnail Image in Facebook Post

wrong Facebook imageEver had the wrong thumbnail image or no image appear when you post one of your articles to Facebook? Frustrating, isn’t it? It’s especially bad if you need to automate your publishing. You carefully research and craft a fantastic blog post and start distributing it on social media and other outlets, and then the Facebook image issue happens.  What the heck?

Why Isn’t Facebook Picking up the Correct Image?

Facebook scans the site’s header for Open Graph tags with post image information. The Open Graph code looks like this:

<metaproperty=”og:image’ content=”/>

One of the reasons may be the thumbnail image size. Facebook itself states this information about the Open Graph:

The URL of an image which is used in stories published about this object. We suggest that you give us an image of at least 600 x 315 pixels. However, bigger is better, so if you have a 1200 x 630 or larger image that you can use, please give it to us. Also, we recommend that you keep images as close to a 1.9:1 aspect ratio as possible to avoid cropping. (Note: image size must be no more than 5MB in size.)

The thumbnail image may not be recognized if it is smaller than the other images you have in the og:image tag.

Size is not the only reason for thumbnail images not being recognized:

  • Several caching plugins do not support use of thumbnails when uploading content to Facebook
  • CDN issues could obstruct correct thumbnail sharing
  • Lack of a meta tag associated with the open graph image

Three Possible Solutions to Incorrect Facebook Thumbnail Images

Manually Upload the Image

You can use the upload image feature to publish the image you want. This example is from a large image. The same feature is available for small images.

manual upload of Facebook post image

With this option you can get the correct image at the optimal size, but there are two tradeoffs. The image shows up in your page’s photo list. Also, when other people share the link the incorrect image may still show up. They would have to manually upload the image, which they will not do.

SEO by Yoast for WordPress Sites 

If you have a WordPress site and use Yoast’s plugin, you can specify the Facebook image. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to the Yoast metabox. Under the Social tab, you can upload a thumbnail image.

Yoast Facebook post image

This solution should solve the problem. If it does not, you will need to clear your Facebook cache.

Facebook Open Graph Object Debugger Tool

Facebook has developed a debugger tool to help with image issues.  Paste the URL of the post in the debugger tool. Click on Debug. Facebook will show you issues it finds. The most common issue will be

common Facebook image warning

You will see a preview of what Facebook has scraped.

debugged Facebook post preview

Then, paste the debugged URL into the Facebook post to get the proper image.

debugged Facebook post image

This method does not work all the time. Sometimes a website has other issues that prevent it.

We hope these solution options help solve your incorrect / no image Facebook thumbnail issue. An image that matches your post will better enhance your Facebook post for viewing and sharing. Happy Facebook posting!

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