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What’s The Ideal Length For Your Business’ Digital Content?

What’s the ideal length for my business’ digital content?” It’s a question I’ve been asked many times by startups in Asia.

Here’s the advice I give

Before you dive into how long your content should be, ask yourself three simple questions:

1. Who is my audience?

2. What are their pain points?

3. How does my business help?

Once you’ve answered those questions, start by defining your audiences in terms of personas. (Not sure where to start? HubSpot offers a free buyer personas template.)

Now put yourself in your personas’ shoes. What kind of content would solve their pain points or interest them? Let’s say your target audience are busy CEOs. They’re likely interested in topline insights and best practices rather than long-form whitepapers. (At least, that’s been the case in my experience.) Alternatively, if you’re targeting digital marketing managers, they often crave in-depth articles with practical tips on a particular topic. See the difference?

For a more data-driven approach, I recommend checking out BuzzSumo’s Content Analysis tool.

Once again, let’s assume you’re promoting digital marketing courses. If you enter “digital marketing” into the tool, it will show you the length of related articles that get the most shares online.

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According to the chart above, “digital marketing” articles over 2,000 words tend to get more shares online. It’s interesting to note that articles less than 1,000 words received around the same amount of shares as articles over 2,000 words, at least on LinkedIn.

So, it’s worth noting not only the total shares across social media platforms but also the total shares on the social media network that your personas use.

By using this data along with your personas’ insights, you’re more likely to develop the right content for your audience.

What about SEO?

Your content’s position on Google can often make or break your content, in terms of views and conversions.

So which does Google prefer: shorter or longer content?

According to search engine results page (SERP) data from SEMRush, they found that longer content tends to rank higher on Google. In fact, the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.

Now content length is not the only factor that Google considers when ranking content on the first page, but it does have an impact according to the studies above.

Remember this…

While longer content tends to perform better on search engines and get more shares, the most important variable when considering your content length should be your audience. Keep them satisfied and your rankings and shares will follow.

Source: Forbes, article by Joe Escobedo (http://www.forbes.com/sites/joeescobedo/2016/10/24/whats-the-ideal-length-for-your-business-digital-content/#5472e0362e7e)

 

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Why Small Businesses Need Online Marketing

Small businesses with limited marketing budgets are competing with national brands when it comes to advertising. Due to the online nature of commerce in this era, local businesses have no other option but to compete with corporations that have marketing budgets much larger than merely a couple of years of revenue. The online attribute required of companies demands that small businesses compete on a larger scale, but how do entities do remain competitive?

Small businesses can best stay relevant through online marketing. Thanks to the rapid growth of the internet, small businesses are better positioned than ever to compete alongside big companies through the utilization of an online marketing strategy. However, many small business owners believe that online marketing is ineffective and useless. Many owners will say things like “My customers aren’t online,” or “Online marketing is a fad.” Some go as far to say that, “Online marketing doesn’t work for me.”

The truth is, a company will never gain new online customers— and even in-person consumers— if the business does not have a strong online presence. There are close to five billion Google searches a day and over one billion active Facebook users. It’s hard to argue that at least some of those users won’t be interested in searching for a local products or services. With online advertising alone, small businesses can target specific demographics and geographic regions; reaching hundreds of potential customers online.

The rapid growth of online marketing can be most evidently seen in the retail sector. In a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, online retailers were found to be the overall drivers for retail sales for more than a year, while traditional department store sales declined.

Online marketing is, in fact, a necessity. Here’s why:

1. Consumer expectations have changed
When most consumers hear of a new business, they immediately look up the website and social media accounts to learn more. To find you, they plug your address into their smartphone and use Google maps to get there. People expect you to have a website. If you cannot be verified digitally, individuals searching out information doubt your existence and legitimacy. Also, more consumers are increasingly searching for products and services on the web and these trends are expected increase exponentially.

2. Your competitors are online
You might not have launched an online marketing campaign yet, but your competitors mostly likely have. Michael Priyev, manager of new york web design agency, Toggle Web Media, explains that, “The reason why online advertising doesn’t work for so many small businesses is that their websites do not engage or connect with potential customers online. It’s not a question of how pretty the website is designed, but rather, how effective it is in converting online visitors into customers.” Priyev adds, “Providing a unique brand value proposition, user experience (UX) design, and click-to-action (CTA’s) buttons on a site are key to a successful digital marketing strategy.”

Online marketing is essential for small businesses today and is a cost-effective way to increase revenue, customers, and brand presence. Consumers are now online, and online marketing is only growing more important.

Source: The Huffington Post, article by Kara Mulder (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kara-mulder/why-small-businesses-need_b_11869800.html)

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How do some of the biggest startups stay on top of international teams?

For many startups from countries like Australia and New Zealand, the relatively small size of the local market pushes them to go global, and quickly.

That mindset means learning how to manage offices in multiple countries, time zones and languages — something that requires some quick adaption.

Using such tools also means she can stay away from formal emails, which she views as draining. “I think one of the biggest indicators of teams that have low trust is very long emails that take a long time to get a small point across,” she said.

A video call or a quick message on chat works a lot better to establish trust when you can’t physically be in the same room.

While a company like Atlassian, which makes workplace software such as the chat platform HipChat, has perhaps a technological advantage in managing international teams, it too faces some unique challenges.

Dom Price, head of R&D program management at the company, told Mashable Australia its teams are highly distributed. Not simply in Atlasssian offices in Australia, the U.S. and Poland, but also remote teams who might work from home in France or even Tasmania.

The company, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange in late 2015, still maintains a large office in Sydney.

“You’ve got to hire the smartest people where you can find them and they’re not always on your doorstep,” he said. “We have to face that problem every day.”

One strategy the company has chosen is using open documents — what Price called having “one version of the truth.” That means no matter what changes were made overnight, when employees arrive in the morning, they have access to the latest version of everything.

Price, who works in Atlassian’s Sydney office, also emphasised the importance of personal contact whenever possible. “We’re not afraid to fly people around the world, just to have that face to face connection,” he said.

Cardinal agreed that meeting in-person is invaluable.

“I think that if anybody is going to take on the role of leading teams in different locations, if the company is not going to invest in travel, I’d think twice before doing it,” she said. “Meeting in-person helps digital relationships from there onwards.”

The quality of that travel is important, however. It’s necessary to avoid what she called “flyby bombings.”

“You come in and try and solve everything and fix everything because you’re physically present. I think that’s a quick way to undo everything you’ve built up,” she said. Instead, she advised having a beer and getting to know people.

Understanding cultural differences, as well as time differences

No matter how global the company, each location is going to have its own methods and rituals, where one region’s workplace culture may not always translate.

“I find Australian businesses have this nice kind of scrappiness,” Price said. “Sometimes when you take that message to other countries or cultures, it doesn’t always carry the same weight or gravitas.”

Setting out loose guidelines for work interactions, including having no phones in meetings, can help with that. As well as ensuring cultural details are appreciated. “With our Polish guys, they love structure, and so we always make sure we have an agenda for our meetings with them,” he explained.

All these online mechanisms and global hours mean it can be tempting to always be online. Nevertheless, Price pushed back on blaming the tools.

“We build our tools to be default always on, always open,” he said. “We have to make sure people don’t abuse that and don’t confuse that with thinking you always need to be on.”

In his view, the ability to switch off should be part of company culture as well as come from personal discipline. For some of his team’s work, that can mean working at the time that’s best for them.

“We have some rough business hours, but given the nature of what our business is, I want them to solve the problem when they’re in their zone,” he explained.

While she said she was lucky there was only a small time difference between Australia and New Zealand, Cardinal suggested it was still important to try and not bother people when they’re not expected to be at work, as well as keeping on top of their personal details.

“You have to make a conscious effort to remember things like birthdays, and maybe when they’ve gone above and beyond, because you don’t have that face to face as a reminder.”

“It feels like you’re married to 10 people at once,” she laughed.

Source: Mashable, Article by Ariel Bogle (http://mashable.com/2016/08/17/australian-startups-international-teams/#.PA2.bhbcPqd)

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Using Social Media to Build Professional Skills

If you think of social media as the sole province of vacation selfies and muffin recipes, the idea of using it for genuine professional development may seem absurd. But there are plenty of ways you can use social media to build professional skills, knowledge, and relationships, without getting overwhelmed.

To get real learning value out of social media, ask yourself these three questions:

What do I want to learn?

Want to learn more about your industry? Follow smart industry leaders on LinkedIn and Twitter to see what they’re reading and what they’re thinking about. From that you can learn key industry hashtags on Twitter to discover great new resources. Seek out the best blogs and podcasts in your field by reading or listening further when you find an interesting story that a colleague has shared online. Think about the specific subfield or topic you want to learn about next, and focus your reading in that specific area so that you develop expertise instead of just learning a tiny bit about a lot of subjects.

Think about your skill gaps, too. If you do a lot of presentations and are getting tired of those boring old Excel pie charts, start looking at infographics on Pinterest to get inspiration for how you can do a better job of presenting data. If time management is an ongoing issue for you, follow a list of productivity experts on Twitter to get their latest tips.

Using social media to work on areas like these will not only strengthen your professional skill set; it will also help you broaden your network. By re-sharing the useful resources you find on LinkedIn and Twitter, you can find others who are interested in the same topics as you and build a community of learning (more on this later).

When do I have time for learning?

Social media can be an effective way of pursuing professional development because it fits easily into your daily life. Yes, you can get a lot out of attending a few conferences a year—but there’s nothing like an ongoing learning process to get you fired up and thinking in newly creative ways. Put some thought into when you have time and mental energy for learning, and what formats would work best for your schedule. Then use your social networks to find the information you want in the format you need.

For instance, if you want to work on self-development while working out, doing household chores, or commuting, that’s a great time to listen to the podcasts you’ve discovered. If you commute by public transit and can read while you ride, set up an RSS reader like Feedly, which you can use to subscribe to blogs in your field.

You’ll be able to get a lot more learning in if you spend your time actually reading or listening to the sources you’ve unearthed instead of skimming the latest headlines.

Whom do I want to learn from or with?

Many of us learn best when we’re part of a learning community. This is where social media really shines: because social media is all about being able to share ideas with other people, it’s a great way to engage in active learning, with a community of people who want to hear your ideas and insights in addition to sharing their own.

There are a lot of ways to find or form a learning community online. If you’re looking for a community of practice — a group of fellow professionals in your field, sharing the inside scoop or best practices with one another — you can find those communities on Facebook, LinkedIn or even Slack.

To find a group that works for you, ask friends or colleagues whether they’re part of any learning or professional communities that could help you in a specific field or area of your working life. The clearer you are about what you want to learn, and the types of people you want to learn from, the more likely you are to find the right community for you.

In my experience the most valuable groups are smaller, invitation-only communities in which every member knows at least one other person in the group. That creates the level of trust necessary for people to share difficult experiences and inside tips, as well as to ask questions they might not feel comfortable asking in a more public setting.

Setting your learning intentions for what, when and who you want to learn from can turn social media into a powerful and timely resource for your ongoing professional development. Yes, there’s still room for snapping photos of your breakfast foods — but when you’re ready to settle down to work, remember that social media can help you with your next career goal, too.

Source: Harvard Business Review. Article by Alexandra Samuel (https://hbr.org/2016/08/using-social-media-to-build-professional-skills)

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Brands Born Online, Reshaping the Retail Landscape

The world might be a mess, but look on the bright side: Men’s shaving products are much better than they used to be.

Thanks to several online shaving start-ups, razors, creams, gels and other paraphernalia are now cheaper, of higher quality and are more convenient to purchase than ever before. Last week one of the upstarts, Dollar Shave Club, was acquired by the consumer products giant Unilever for $1 billion. For shaving behemoths like Gillette, it is the first skirmish in the coming guerrilla war for men’s faces, not to mention other parts.

This column usually focuses on the technology industry, an area that sounds far removed from shaving. But the Dollar Shave acquisition signals something bigger than a mere improvement in shaving — it also underscores a consumer products revolution that would not have been possible without technology.

Hilarious online ads passed along social networks allowed Dollar Shave to create instant customer recognition — in other words, a brand — far more quickly, and for far less money, than a shaving company could have managed a decade ago. Online distribution allowed it to get products into consumers’ hands without a costly retail presence. In fact, by cutting out on retail, and shipping products to people’s homes on a subscription basis, the company made buying shaving products more convenient than going to a store.

The same forces that drove Dollar Shave’s rise are altering a wide variety of consumer product categories. Together, they add up to something huge — a new slate of companies that are exploring novel ways of making and marketing some of the most lucrative products we buy today. These firms have become so common that they have acquired a jargony label: the digitally native vertical brand.

These kinds of online brands aren’t new. Dollar Shave is five years old, and Warby Parker, the online eyewear company, began selling glasses over the web in 2010. But over the last few years there’s been a proliferation of such companies — into underwear, children’s clothing, cosmetics and more — and the Dollar Shave deal suggests their growing importance. These firms could become an emerging problem for consumer products conglomerates like Procter & Gamble, and they might also spell trouble for television, which relies heavily on brand advertising for its revenue.

For you and me, this is a boon. By cutting out the inefficiencies of retail space and the marketing expense of TV, the new companies can offer better products at lower prices. We will get a wider range of products — if companies don’t have to market a single brand to everyone on TV, they can create a variety of items aimed at blocs of consumers who were previously left behind. And because these companies were born online, where reputations live and die on word of mouth, they are likely to offer friendlier, more responsive customer service than their faceless offline counterparts.

“We think it’s a unique moment in history where you can create brands that can be scaled quickly thanks to technology, but you can still maintain a one-to-one connection that delivers an elevated level of customer experience,” said Philip Krim, chief executive of Casper, which sells mattresses online.

 

Mr. Krim and four friends started Casper two years ago after studying the traditional mattress industry. They discovered it was plagued by inefficiencies and annoying gimmicks. Customers had to trudge to a mattress store and awkwardly prostrate themselves on numerous surfaces before choosing one to use for a decade. There were too many choices and brands, and mattresses were expensive.

With Casper, you simply buy the mattress online and it’s shipped to you in a comically small box (the compressed foam expands into a full-sized mattress, like a magic trick). You have three months to try it out, and if you don’t like it, the company will come pick it up free.

Casper’s business model offers a break from the annoyance of offline mattress shopping. It also works out for the company. Casper advertises on social networks, on Google, podcasts and a variety of other places online; the ads are creative, convincing, targeted and cheap. By selling directly rather than through retail middlemen, the company also creates a connection with customers that allows it to test and develop new products — it now sells sheets and pillows, too.

After two years in business, Casper is on track to book $200 million in sales over the next year, but its success isn’t ensured. Precisely because the internet has lowered barriers to entry, Casper is facing a surge of new mattress start-ups like Helix Sleep, Tuft & Needle and Leesa, among others.

Of course, competition could be great for consumers if it continues pushing down prices for all mattresses, and if these companies invest in better products and customer service. But competition could result in evaporating profits, too. Remarking on the Dollar Shave deal, Ben Thompson, an analyst who writes a tech-business newsletter called Stratechery, predicted widespread “value destruction” across many consumer product categories. He also warned of doom for TV, which “is not only threatened by services like Netflix, but also the disruption of its advertisers,” he wrote.

Value destruction could be on the table. But there’s another view that new online brands could unlock profits through products aimed at people who are not well served by incumbents.

Consider Walker & Company, a start-up founded by Tristan Walker, an African-American entrepreneur who argues that traditional shaving, hair care and cosmetics companies have neglected the potentially multibillion-dollar global market of nonwhite customers. Mr. Walker’s first brand, Bevel, creates men’s shaving products that promise to reduce razor bumps, which disproportionately affect black men. He plans to create several more brands, including products for women.

Unlike Dollar Shave, Mr. Walker does not aim to compete with traditional consumer product companies on price alone. “We want to build a very profitable business,” he said. He will do so, he said, by fostering a deep, lifelong connection with an audience that is getting wealthier and more influential — and whose influence, thanks to social networks, can now be tapped.

“Global culture is led by American culture, which is led by black culture in the U.S. — look at music, dance, et cetera,” he said. “So if we’re catering to an audience that are the most culturally influential demographic group in the world, we can use the internet to promulgate our message across the board, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram — and that gives us amazing leverage.”

Walker & Company declined to provide sales numbers; a spokesman said revenue had grown 300 percent over the last year.

I spoke to several other online start-ups that echoed the idea of serving untapped new markets. One was Primary, a year-old clothing company founded by Christina Carbonell and Galyn Bernard, former executives at Amazon. Primary makes so-called essentials for children — logo-free pants, shirts and other clothes that don’t shift according to fashion trends. Basically, it offers a way for parents to find specific clothes they like, then to buy the items in several colors and sizes as their children outgrow them.

“We’re offering a solution to busy parents that’s just not out there in the marketplace,” Ms. Carbonell said. “It’s not about some new style every day, it’s something you can count on.”

It’s striking how few of these online companies could have taken off in the presocial age. At the very least, they would have been sunk by the inability to target ads to the demographics they’re aiming to serve.

“Look at Dollar Shave,” Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s vice president of ads and business platform, told me. “They were just trying to reach men. If they’d started advertising on TV, they definitely would have wasted half their money.”

Source: The New York Times. Article by Farhad Manjoo (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/28/technology/these-stores-didnt-develop-websites-they-started-there.html?_r=0)

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