8 GOLDEN RULES FOR SOCIAL MEDIA

The digital world is changing every day. But when it comes to social media, there are some truths and guidelines that always ring true for creating the best experiences, building the best relationships, and putting your best foot forward.

    1. Be transparent and engage with your audience. At its heart, social media is all about two-way communication. As a rule, try to respond to comments and feedback within 24 hours to build customer loyalty.

 

    1. Develop a response strategy for both negative and positive comments. Yes – the good, the bad and the ugly. In addition to ensuring your team is prompt and prepared, a smart response strategy will help streamline communication, customer service and engagement.

 

  1. Listen to what your audience is saying about your brand, industry and competitors. Then you can optimize your content and better understand the conversations that users are really interested in. Consider:
        + Who is talking about your brand?
        + What is your industry talking about?
        + What are people saying about your peers?
        + What are the conversation trends and sentiment?
        + Where are people talking?
        + Who are the influencers?

    Incorporate listening throughout your entire social media strategy, and think of it as an ongoing task.

  2. Know your audience.
    Since each segment on each channel has different needs, take the time to understand how each group uses social media differently to best serve them. Plus, get to know the social channel you’re communicating on – including its best practices and most common uses.
  3. Measure what you’re doing, and make it better. 
    Continually analyze your content and imagery to improve your social strategy and your results.
  4. Be strategic about channels to ensure you’re reaching the right target audience. 
    For instance, just because Instagram is popular doesn’t necessarily mean your brand should be present there. If your target audience isn’t active on Instagram, don’t waste dollars toward content and creative for it.
  5. Determine your voice and tone.
    Use a consistent voice across all of your media channels – from your website to online ads to Facebook to Twitter. Using a social media persona can help humanize even the biggest brand – as well as create consistency.
  6. Integrate social with email, website, traditional media, as well as existing and future campaigns. Social is not a silo. Make it part of your overall marketing strategy to make it more powerful – and more effective.
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SECRETS TO BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL CONTENT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION

Building a content management solution goes beyond just picking a Content Management System (CMS). It starts with asking the right questions during discovery, selecting the right tool for the job, creating architecture, and setting the stage for development.

    1. Discovery: Determine Wants & Needs
      Discovery is the first step for building a successful content management solution. It’s the time to determine both technical and non-technical requirements. And above all, it’s the time to ask stakeholders, editors, developers and system administrators what they need – and what they want.
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        + Stakeholders will drive what content is on the site. It may range from a few simple pages about the company to a complete product catalog, separated into categories.
        + Editors will tell you what they need to get content published on the site. That often means rich-text editors for formatting content, spellcheck and rich-media capabilities like photos, galleries, videos and audio.
        + Developers will tell you what they need to develop the design as well as advanced functionality, such as supported programming language to develop contact forms, polls, and integrations with third-party systems, as well as templating requirements to reduce the amount of code needed and minimize code duplication.
        + System Administrators will tell you what they need to run and support the CMS, like server hosting requirements, an on-premise solution or a cloud-based one, access control, just a username and password to author content or more limited author permissions.

 

    1. CMS: Choose the Right Tool
      Picking the right tool is the next step. Evaluate the requirements from your stakeholders, editors, developers, and system administrators, and compare them against the features of CMS options in the market.Keep these elements in mind:

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        + Customizable and flexible content model – Some come with a single page for content, others come with the ability to define custom content with its own set of properties. The more custom and flexible the content model, the more dynamic the site can be.
        + Flexible templating system – Some are drag-and-drop component based, and others embed templates within each other. The more flexible the system, the more you can reuse templates and reduce code duplication.
        + User management – Some are very simple, define a username and password and give it a role that can perform actions; others are more complex, defining what content a user can author.
        + Budget – Some CMSes are free and others cost a licensing fee per user. Smaller ones might require a single server, larger ones multiple servers. Be aware of your budget, since the costs will add up.

 

    1. Architecture: Define Your Plan 
      Once you’ve determined your requirements and tool, you can create architecture to help guide development. Your architecture will define:<padding= 10px=””>

        + How the content model is built with the chosen CMS. The necessary pieces of information and grouped entities and fields are defined, as well as relationships between entities so content can be displayed correctly.
        + How templates should be structured with the chosen CMS. This defines how many different templates the developer will need to create.
        + Integrations with third-party systems. Is there a separate system for contact inquiries or is the product information stored in another system that needs to be queried directly or imported into the chosen CMS?
        + A test plan to validate development. Include what browsers and devices – and what versions – the site is being developed for. And include other criteria from the requirements that came out of discovery.

 

  1. Development: Build, Test & Talk
    Development is the final step. Build the content model, create the templates, and develop any integrations with third-party systems. What will make development most successful?<padding= 10px=””>

      + Be flexible when it comes to changes. As development digs in, new discoveries will be made that will increase the effort needed to complete requirements.
      + Test as you go. As different pages and sections are completed, test them right away instead of waiting until the end of development. Fix challenges before they cascade into larger problems.
      + Review with stakeholders and authors early and often. As with testing, review pages and sections together once they are completed – and solve issues as you go.

Keep these secrets in mind, and you’ll set your content management solution up for success.

 

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BEYOND THE TAG CLOUD: 4 TAGGING TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR WEBSITE OR BLOG

When you think about content tagging, your first association might be the ubiquitous tag cloud:

word cloud

But tagging your content effectively can serve purposes well beyond the tag cloud. Tags can bring in organic visits via search engines, help your users easily find content on your site and create better content organization.

Convinced, but not sure where to start? Here are four ways to start (or improve) your tagging strategy starting today:

  1. Begin your search. Start creating your base of keyword-rich tags with Google Keyword Tool. Search for keywords related to your industry. (The more specific, the better.)
  2. Consider categories. While tags and categories both help organize, each has very specific purposes. According to WordPress.com, categories create site structure around broad keywords, while tags are specific.
  3. Avoid overtagging. More tags isn’t better. Relevancy is much more important. ManageWP says, “The key is to tag sparingly and efficiently.”
  4. Maintain your tags. After you’ve chosen your tags, ongoing maintenance is key, especially if your site or blog has multiple authors. Make a point to review your tags every few months to ensure you’re tagging consistently, taking advantage of new opportunities and removing tags that are no longer relevant.

As you can see, the right tags matter. They can be an important part of helping users navigate your blog or website. Not to mention, they’ll help ensure that your audience finds you in the first place.

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5 TIPS: HOLISTIC APPROACH TO PAID MEDIA

Media has become fragmented and complex. But the good news? That actually can work in your favor.

Long gone are the days of pouring marketing dollars over masses of unsegmented audiences and budget waste. Because there’s a simple truth: marketers no longer drive the buying process. Consumers do. Say hello to marketing efficiency and giving consumers the reins. Your customers decide what they want to buy and detest irrelevant ads that get in the way.

So how do you effectively market online – at the right time and place?

    1. Start thinking holistically. 
      That means integrating paid media into your overarching communication strategy, leading with customer experience (CX). This approach stays focused your customers, making it easier to conquer fragmented media channels.
    1. Think about context in your communication strategy.
      Paid media is a driving force for interaction. But it doesn’t come first. And it doesn’t fly solo either. If planned well, it can complement your content (earned and owned media) and the rest of your communication strategy.
      Remember, advertising ignites interaction and content fuels it. Consumers research online before purchasing, and they talk about their experiences afterward. So, before you spend a dime on an ad, make sure you have content to assist with them with their decision—don’t waste their time.
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    1. Research the reality behind media channels.
      It cannot be said enough that customer experience is the key to successful marketing. That means more than building a responsive website. It means researching media channels and learning about the real experiences they provide. Ask:

        + Do they offer frequency caps?
        + How do they sell their impressions (fixed CPM, programmatic bidding)?
        + What do they offer for ad size, type of ads, CPM, CPC and targeting capabilities?
        + Where is their traffic coming from?
        + And what are their performance measuring capabilities?

 

    1. Buy and measure desktop and mobile ads separately. (Test them, too.)
      Don’t automatically assume a channel effectively delivers on all screens or assume a high share-of-voice (SOV) is a good thing. For example, you could be sold on a great homepage space with a well-known publisher and later learn the outlet has a completely separate mobile site that does not pull in that homepage ad you purchased. The best practice is to buy desktop and mobile separately, and measure them separately, too. Test the customer experience, so you know exactly what your target audience will see.
CX
  1. Add nurturing content to paid media budgets. 
    In the past, media and content were separate investments. Media budgets included the cost to create ads and ad space, while content costs were often classified in a separate “website” budget. With the evolution of marketing and content strategy, “nurturing content” should be included within the advertising budget. After all, you’re delivering an end-to-end customer experience. So make sure your marketing dollars are optimized, simultaneously driving interaction and keeping content relevant.

    Simple, right? Remember, by thinking holistically about paid media, you don’t have to focus on fragmented media channels. You can focus your investment on your customers – right where it belongs.

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SALESFORCE: THE SECRET TO TRACKING USER ADOPTION

How are you measuring user adoption in Salesforce? Can you use Google Analytics to do it? Good news – absolutely.

Picture it. The big moment has arrived. You’re so excited about rolling out Salesforce to your users. Months of hard work have been spent getting ready for this day, and you know your users are going to love the new features. You have every “t” crossed and “I” dotted. And then your boss asks you to simply prove that the user adoption of Salesforce has been successful. Not by anecdotes or by the numbers of records in a given object, but by how the users are interacting with Salesforce.

3 Common Ways to Strike Out
Such a simple question, but how? You might think:

  1. I can go to the “Storage Usage” link and see how many rows have been created for each object type, but that’s not what my boss wants. Strike 1.
  2. I can go to the “Login History” link, see how many logins have occurred and access an administrative report called “Users Logged in This Week,” but that’s not what my boss wants either. Strike 2.
  3. I already implemented the free ‘Salesforce Adoption Dashboards’ from the AppExchange, and although that’s great, it still is not what my boss wants.
    Strike 3.

Am I out? How do I figure out what objects and tabs within my Salesforce instance are being used by my users to prove that it’s been successful?

The Homerun: Integrating with Google Analytics
At Sundog, we’ve created an integration between Salesforce and Google Analytics that puts that information at your fingertips. The concept is similar to the free ‘Web Analytics’ AppExchange app, which will send certain data to Google Analytics for you. However, that free app has two problems:

  1. It’s based on a method of injecting the Javascript needed to call Google Analytics that is no longer supported by Salesforce.
  2. It does not segment the pages viewed or user’s settings in an easy-to-use manner.

Our Sundog team overcame these two limitations by using fully supported features of Home Page Components and Visualforce. This structure allows us to use the Javascript in a supported way to make calls to Google Analytics. Plus, we can customize the segmentation of the data, so it’s more meaningful to you as it becomes available in Google Analytics.

Yes! Now you can track which tabs, list views and objects your users are most frequently using – all within the power of the Google Analytics. And you’re the hero to your boss, which means we’ve done our job.

Want to learn more about how our software engineers can solve issues like this? Or need other creative solutions for your marketing goals? Bring us your challenges. We’re here to help.

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SUNDOG SPOTLIGHT: KATIE

She’s a familiar face to many, but she’s broken through her intern roots and is now a fulltime ‘Dogger! And if you need another reason to love her, this girl’s got design speed (and a foot made of half cadaver bone, but that’s neither here nor there). We’re talking about none other than, Katie Schalow.

Position at Sundog: 
Associate Designer – That means I get to spend my days creating things and can still play the beginner’s card when I need to pester coworkers with questions.

Work experience:
This is my first fulltime job, but in college my most recent design internships were with the U of M Recreation & Wellness Center and the Center for Spirituality and Healing. At the Rec Center, I had the opportunity to work on a lot of really cool projects that came along with the opening of a new facility that year, including the branding of a café/juice bar within the building.

Favorite thing about being a ‘Dogger:
Getting to think creatively on a daily basis with some really wonderful people

What brought you to Fargo: 
I grew up in Fargo, left for 4 years to attend school in the Twin Cities and came back after graduating to be closer to my family.

How do you get inspired:
I have a lot of secret boards on Pinterest where I pin my best finds. I like to come back to those boards when I need some inspiration.

Last concert you went to:
Wild Child

Tell us about your family:
I’m the oldest of four children and am recently engaged, which means I get to start another family that so far consists of myself, my partner, Graham, and my cat, Avett.

Guilty pleasure: 
Browsing animal adoption websites. I know that’s weird.

Things you can’t live without:
Micron pens, my camera, rollerblades and avocados

Favorite TV show:
Weeds and Parenthood

Dream vacation spot:
Safari in Tanzania

Weirdest thing at your desk:
It’s a tie between the webcam wearing a party hat and the framed photo of a younger Jason Jacobson, both of which were gifted to me when I moved in.

Favorite restaurant:
Wasabi

And, because sharing is caring, you’ll leave our readers with:

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7 REASONS WHY UX MATTERS

Maybe you gave up on ordering that gift online because the checkout process was a hassle. Maybe you tried to schedule a doctor appointment, but the clinic’s website wasn’t mobile-friendly. Or maybe your wine shipment exploded because the overnight temp was -25°, and then you couldn’t find customer service info online.

Sound familiar? (Ok, minus the -25° part? We love living in Fargo anyway.)

Here’s my point: frustration is the common denominator. And that emotional response is exactly why user experience (UX) is so vital.

Wait, what is UX – really? Well, it measures a person’s behavior and feelings when interacting with a brand or product across platforms. It involves research, technical architecture, usability testing and much more. It’s complex. But the reasons why it’s so important? Those are actually pretty simple.

Top 7 Countdown 

    1. It’s everywhere. Your Facebook page, your phone, your Fitbit, your iPod. You name it. If you touch a device that uses technology, guess what? Someone, somewhere, considered how to best organize every bit of information you need to access with it. (And if they did it well, you’ll never even think about the professionals behind that curtain.)

 

    1. Negative experience = negative feelings. One bad experience can turn a user away from a brand for life. And consumers are TWICE as likely to talk about a negative experience than a positive one, which also creates a ripple effect. (Source: 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer)

 

    1. Likewise, positive experiences = positive feelings. Exceptional experiences can create a vocal advocate for your brand and a customer for life. And on average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. (Source: White House Office of Consumer Affairs)

 

    1. Use it or lose it. 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. Enough said. (Source: Forrester)

 

    1. It’s not about you; it’s about THEM. Your organization knows what you want to sell and is a great advocate for that. But UX experts are advocates for the end users of your products.

      This quote from Laura Schjeldahl, Sundog’s own Experience Architect, sums it up perfectly: “A company can have the best product in the world, but if it isn’t presented to the right customers in the way they want to see it and can understand it, the company will fail.” Nobody wants that, right? Right.

 

    1. Responsiveness matters. Mobile and tablets and desktops, oh my! Your customers have tons of choices when it comes to when, where and how they are interacting with your products and your brand. From smart watches to 100-inch screens, quality responsive design is key to making sure your users have the best possible experience. Everywhere.

 

  1. The end result should be seamless. You have a lot of different departments at your company, and that means it’s easy to have tunnel vision. But guess what? Content strategy + design + UX + web development (and more) = everything your user will see at the exact same time. So tear down your silos. The best websites and applications come from a UX expert working closely with those key players – from designers to developers – to build your user experience together.
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4 SIMPLE STEPS TO MEASURE MARKETING RESULTS

Marketing doesn’t have to be unpredictable. It’s no secret customers base their buying decisions on their experiences. And since online experiences are a huge part of that equation, it’s more important than ever to invest in analytics – and measure the real impact on your bottom line.

4 Steps to Measure Your Marketing Efforts 

  1. Establish a baseline.
  2. Set goals linked to specific objectives.
  3. Define your KPI and tools needed to measure them.
  4. Analyze the results.

1. Establish a baseline.
Before setting goals, review results of your past marketing efforts. It will help you see any deficiencies in your analytics capabilities and think about long-term objectives. Ask the tough questions. Instead of just looking at which marketing channels are the most cost effective, drill deeper into which channels have led to more conversions and the amount of sales directly resulting from marketing. You can also look at:

Traffic Sources

  • How are different traffic sources engaging with your website?
  • Where is the traffic coming from?

Conversion Contributors

  • Which keywords drove traffic to your site and which ones led to conversions?
  • What channels have been the best performers?

Sales Nurturing

  • How long is the sales cycle?
  • What is the current customer online experience?
  • Who are the primary and secondary personas?

Logic

  • Is my sales team getting qualified leads?
  • Are my marketing efforts in line with our priorities?
  • Is our share of voice too thin?

Once you have a solid information base, you can set goals for your future marketing efforts, decide what you want to measure, and what type of analysis will be done.

2. Setting specific goals and objectives.
What does success look like? The answer lies within your specific goals. Think about milestones that occur before a lead becomes a sale and before a visitor becomes a lead. Some examples may include:

  • Form completions
  • PDF downloads
  • Generating calls
  • Webinar sign-ups
  • Engagement with content
  • Multiple pages viewed by each visitor

Got your list? Now you optimize campaigns and custom experiences around these objectives.

3. Define KPI and invest in tools to measure them.
“Conversions” are the typical term used to define the desired end result, but they aren’t enough. To define the right key performance indicators (KPI), you also want to identify touchpoints along the way. Decide whom you want to drop off (and when) and whom you want to nurture along, and then make sure you have the right tools to measure them. With the right technology, you’ll see what actions are being taken, when, in what order, and how long it took from beginning to end. Map your user experience from content to final destination, and identify any inefficiencies that you can eliminate before launching your campaign.

You need the right tools to collect the right data. Test your design by asking, “Are we measuring what we set out to measure?” Consider the value in both quantitative (volume of clicks, calls, open rates) and qualitative (types of leads, social sentiment, behavioral motivators) results.

4. Analyze the results. 
Partner with someone who specializes in marketing analytics to analyze your campaign. The analyst can shed insight on the true value of the results, not just hand you a CTR report. Even if your goal was awareness, an impression report is meaningless unless you know something about the people you reached. Marketing analysis reveals if you are on track to reach your goals, make adjustments if needed, answer tough questions and explain successes and failures. Specific KPIs will give you what you need to know, such as cost-per-lead, lead-to-close ratios, customer retention rate, and customer value. But additional information can also be shared such as how many new people visited your website, why they came, where they came from, what they did while they were there, and the driving force conversions and possible answers for non-conversions.

By following these simple four steps, you can remove the unknowns and take control of your online marketing success.

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THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO SECURITY REVIEW FOR PLATFORM SETUP

Proper security setup and configuration is extremely important. If you pick the wrong tools, wrong configuration or wrong integration, you could be setting yourself up for failure.

One of my favorite sayings as a football coach is, “The game is talking to you. Are you listening?” With football, the way the opponent lines up will give you specific cues about what they intend to do. Your platform is talking to you in the same way. It’s calling out for integrations over here, simplifications over there or consolidations in the server room (if you still have one).

When listening to your platform, there are consistent areas to examine to define your key priorities and direction, as well as ensure you have a strong platform that’s manageable and scalable.

Intersection of 3 Key Entities 
First, we need to ask questions about the intersection of:

  1. Users
  2. Data
  3. Systems

Then you can define the applications needed to help your organization work efficiently and effectively.

1. Users
Users must be segmented at many different levels for each interaction. There are internal users vs. external users and many different roles, groups and profiles within those two segments. There are two basic terms to keep separate when defining how these users will access the data and systems:

  • Authentication: The process of determining whether someone or something is, in fact, who or what it is declared to be.
  • Authorization: The process of determining which permissions a person or system is supposed to have.

Talking about authentication could lead you into conversations about active directory, single sign-on (SSO) or user provisioning. Talking about authorization could lead you into questions about which network drive a given user can access or what table in a database a user can read. Keeping those two terms separate can help clarify the tools necessary to succeed in each area.

2. Data
Data is the lifeblood of an organization. It defines what’s been done and what still needs to be done. Users do not access the data until they have been authenticated and authorized. But once they can access that data, we need to help them be very efficient with processing it. When we talk about data, there are again two important terms to discuss:

  • Master Data Management (MDM) – A technology-enabled discipline in which business and IT work together to ensure the uniformity, accuracy, stewardship, consistency and accountability of the enterprise’s shared master data assets (Gartner IT Glossary).
  • Data Deduplication (aka de-dupe) – The process to eliminating duplicate or redundant information. While this can be termed a part of MDM, the tool and processes involved can also happen at the application or database level.

Asking which system is the “source of truth” for a given piece of data will help us define the process for keeping that data clean and in sync with all necessary systems. MDM and de-dupe do not mean that one piece of data like ‘First Name’ belongs in only one database. But talking about these concepts allows us to:

  • Build applications faster with less cost
  • Gain better reporting on the back-end
  • Better manage and consolidate data

Many applications need to access the same data, but one of the keys is designing them so that integration costs to get to that source data are minimized.

3. Systems
Systems are essentially the hardware and software used to run the business. Back to the principles of coaching football, it’s better to run five plays well than run 15 plays poorly. The quicker we can figure out the tools that define your system, the quicker we can build and train teams to implement and extend those systems. That isn’t to say that we can’t add new tools to the toolbox over time, but the decision must be made in light of how our users and data are affected.

To sum it all up? Defining your system design and architecture meetings around users, data and systems will help drive the right questions. And then you can find the right answers to drive priorities today and tomorrow. These priorities will be the enhancements to your applications and infrastructure that support your entire enterprise.

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YOUR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES = YOUR BRAND

This March, the annual Adobe Summit wrapped up in Salt Lake City. If you asked any of the nearly 7,000 attendees, they would probably sum the conference up in one sentence: Marketing is your product, and customer experience is your brand.

Branding isn’t only about logo specifications, fonts and color pallets. Are those elements important for consistency? Absolutely. But what’s more important? Creating a seamless, personalized experience for your customers across multiple touchpoints and channels.

2 Reasons Why It Matters

  1. The new digital reality. Today most customer experiences are happening online, and with the explosion of social media, every interaction is a reflection of your brand.
  2. High customer expectations. Customers expect instant access to whatever they’re looking for – using whatever device they choose. They also expect extremely personalized recommendations and services, since they have more choices than ever before.

Of course, mastering the customer experience is no easy task. It’s often overwhelming to bring the customer journey together with complex data and technology – and then make sense of it all. But marketers are embracing the new reality of their role. According to the recent study The Retailer’s Imperative: A Strategic Approach to Customer Experience, 80% of marketers agree with the statement “Our customer experience is our brand.”

In fact, most marketers are beginning to recognize that it’s not about blasting out product features. From creating smart content strategy to nurturing relationships after purchases, it’s about focusing on the whole experience – from social conversations to service and everything in between.

It’s a long journey. And the message to marketers is clear: be ready to go the distance.

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