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2013

by Derek Flanzraich

 

My company, Greatist, is the fastest growing health-and-wellness site on the Web. We wouldn't have that label without these tricks for using Pinterest.

 

Greatist, the website and company I founded, has been the fastest-growing health and wellness site on the Web since November of 2011--and that's thanks in no small part to our presence on Pinterest.

 

The super-popular pinboard site continues to be our No. 1 traffic referrer (to the tune of a whopping 30 to 40 percent of our total traffic). With more than three million unique visitors per month, we're working to build a trusted brand in our space--and we couldn't have gotten where we are today without Pinterest.


But, as many brands have already discovered, it's not just about sharing photos and waiting. Through much trial and error, we at Greatist have identified 10 Pinterest strategies that yield the best results:


1. Use Pinterest yourself.

Brands on Pinterest are no different from regular users--everything works exactly the same. Getting a sense for how people really use it is key--as with any social platform, familiarity is uber-important before wading into the dangerous waters of self-promotion. Reading articles (like this one) isn't enough!


2. Get great visuals.

Visuals are key because, well, there needs to be something worth pinning (and re-pinning and re-pinning) in the first place. When we decided to go all-in on Pinterest, step one was to go on a "find every awesome contributing photographer and illustrator possible" spree. We wanted not just good visuals, but the best--and now almost all of our content has original photography or illustrations (see our healthy recipes for example). Plus, each article has what we call a "header image" of some sort, one purposefully Pinterest-worthy and unique.


3. Follow small brands.

We'll get to the big brands in a second, but it's the small ones that will collectively move the needle for you. Brands see who is re-pinning, commenting, and liking their pins. So do those things--and they'll pay them back in dividends.

 

4. Befriend power users.

You don't need celebrities to succeed in social media. You need to re-think how you define "celebrity." On Pinterest, it's owners of Pinterest boards with over 10,000 followers. Making friends with them is easier than you'd think--most have their Twitter handles, blogs and other links readily accessible in their profile. Reach out to them, be friendly, and start cross-promoting.


5. Cozy up to big brands by showing off your content.

Most big, well-known brands suck at Pinterest. They may have a solid following, but they're still trying to figure it out. You can help them. If you're consistently sharing awesome visuals that lead to high-quality content on a topic that's relevant to their audience, they'll re-pin your stuff over and over again. Every major brand in the space has shared Greatist's stuff--because it's good and because, well, they need good stuff to share! Make it easy for them (then grab some of their audience members who are still just figuring out this Pinterest thing, too).


6. Put the article title in the description first.

The toughest challenge on Pinterest is getting a user to click on the pin instead of simply sharing it. It's easy to get frustrated when a lot of sharing is happening, but nobody is clicking through. The question to ask, then, is: "Did they know to click in the first place?" Make sure the description of your pin is crystal clear--and mentions what it's leading to.

 

7. Put the article title on the image.

Early on in our Pinterest experiments, we came up with a surefire way to make sure the pin descriptions didn't get overlooked: literally add the title into the "header image." (For example: 30 other satisfying 100-calorie snacks.) I'm pretty sure we were among the first on Pinterest to start doing this. Sure, it's difficult to do in a way that's visually appealing, but the truth is, it works. Almost all of our top traffic-driving pieces of content on Pinterest fall into this category.


8. Organize your pinboards.

Believe it or not, users may not want to follow every topic or category you cover (celebrity news and horse grooming, really?). Let them pick and choose. Don't have too many of them, either--if a user has to scroll to see more boards, they likely won't. Focus on well-curated boards with defined categories.

 

9. Name your pinboards wisely.

Don't over-complicate your pinboard names with clever names (e.g. "Happy Hollandaise!"). We made this mistake early--and the good news is it's easy to fix. Pinterest users make a split-second decision to follow or not follow...and then never return. That said, I wouldn't recommend going too generic either (e.g. "Food"). Somewhere in the middle is probably best, like "Snack Smart."


10. Optimize your pin's size.

Pinterest automatically resizes images into its pinboard grid, and rectangular images get it the worst. We've found that, for the most part, the longer the visual, the more re-pins--and it's probably because vertical pins are more prominent in the feed.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

Multicultural_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

The face of the American consumer is changing dramatically, and the repercussions of those changes will be felt for decades. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asian Americans make up about 35 percent of the current U.S. population. By 2050, the Pew Research Center projects that non-whites will become the dominant ethnic group in the country.

 

With this group's sizable buying power—amounting to about $2.5 trillion today—small businesses that actively court them through multicultural marketing efforts will find a significant source of new customers, new sales, and new brand-building opportunities.

 

These three groups are only the tip of the iceberg, too. "Multicultural has expanded to include several groups," says Lisa Skriloff, president of New York-based Multicultural Marketing Resources, a marketing and public relations firm founded in 1994. "It doesn't necessarily mean that a customer is of two cultures."

 

Today, Skriloff says, members of a variety of groups—including people with disabilities, seniors, women, and smaller but identifiable ethnic groups—could be included in multicultural marketing.

 

Join ethnic associations

Some small businesses may be reluctant to wade into ethnic marketing because of misconceptions or fears. For example, sending out the wrong message because of a bad translation is a common concern. Or, not knowing which group within a larger ethnic group to target. "There are 15 different Asian groups," Skriloff explains. She adds that some businesses trying to reach Hispanic consumers might be unsure of their country of origin.

 

But there are a number of steps that any small business can take to overcome these apprehensions and get started. For example, a retail establishment with an employee on staff who speaks Spanish could put out a sign saying "We Speak Spanish" in Spanish. They could also enlist the help of an agency that specializes in multicultural marketing.

 

Skriloff also recommends getting involved with associations and organizations that already serve the ethnic business community, such as the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, the Hispanic Federation, and the Asian American Advertising Federation.

 

Partnering with grass roots or local community organizations—through networking or sponsoring an event—can yield good results. "Another good resource is the local ethnic media," Skriloff says. "If you're thinking of taking a small ad in an ethnic newspaper or a local ethnic TV channel, the media outlets themselves might help you create a small ad at no charge."

 

Multicultural_PQ.jpgKnow your customers

As with mainstream marketing, multicultural marketing involves constructing a clear picture of who your potential customers are, and then approaching them in an appropriate manner.

 

"You have to understand the cultural nuances, who the influencers are, and reach out to them in a variety of ways," says Esther Novak, CEO of VanguardComm, a New Jersey-based multicultural marketing agency. "That means either through social media, targeted mainstream media, or associations where they gather."

 

For example, she says, multicultural households are more often multi-generational than mainstream households. It's not uncommon to find grandparents living with their children and grandchildren under the same roof. And it's not uncommon for some of these children not to go away to college. Marketing messages need to be sensitive to these realities.

 

Researching your target group and the community they do business in should also guide your marketing choices. "If you're marketing in a highly ethnic neighborhood of either Hispanics or Asians and where there's been a fair amount of new immigration, then you've got to do it in Spanish and Chinese and Korean," Novak says. "You have to speak their language, literally."

 

Sometimes the best way for a small business to gain a multicultural customer is also the most transparent: let them know you want them. "Over 50 percent of the babies [born] in Los Angeles are Latinos," Novak points out. "So if you have a cleaning service for cloth diapers, you have to do something to let them know they're welcome."

 

Be true to your brand

For some multicultural marketers, getting the word out about ethnic groups doesn't end with a sale. It ends with redefining how these groups are presented to the public. This is the case with Greencard Creative, a New York-based communications firm that is trying to change the perception of Latinos in America with their social platform, the American Latino Initiative.

 

"The mission of the initiative is to change the industry narrative about Latinos and to break through a stereotype," says Tatiana Pagés, Greencard's CEO and chief creative officer. "The first thing you need to do is see who these people are today and how they relate to your brand and the values of your brand."

 

As an example, Pagés recalls talking with women in both Mexico and the United States about Campbell's soup, one of her clients. In Mexico, Campbell's promoted the brand's convenience—quality food that doesn't require much time in the kitchen—to female consumers. But when Campbell's reached out to Mexican women who had immigrated to America, their approach changed. Now, the company talked to them as Latina housewives who like or want to spend more time in the kitchen. "Why are they talking to these women as a Latina brand when they are an American brand?" Pagés says. "That was a big insight, seeing why these brands are changing [the way they] talk to Latinos." If products or brands want to connect successfully with ethnic groups, Pagés explains, their marketing needs to go beyond ethnic insights and strive for something more universal.

 

As Latinos reinvent themselves and bridge the gap between old and new worlds, Pagés advises small businesses to stay true to their core identity and values. To connect with Latinos, she says, "you have to be transparent and be an honest brand. It has to feel honest and true to the essence, so they become loyal for the long term."

GooglePlus_Body.jpgby Jennifer Shaheen.

 

Get ready—Google+, the little known social media platform, is likely going to play a much more important role in your marketing strategies in the future.

 

It’s all part of a plan Google vice president Bradley Horowitz first laid out in 2011.Google+ has a social networking component, but it is not meant to be solely a social network. Instead, Google+ is the integration of all the Google tools and applications, which gives the company the opportunity to roll out and integrate features that enhance the user’s experience. You can use Google+ to connect with your circle of friends, host online meetings through Hangouts, search for local businesses or protect ownership of your content through Google Authorship. "Google+ is Google itself. We're extending it across all that we do—search, ads, Chrome, Android, Maps, YouTube—so that each of those services contributes to our understanding of who you are," Horowitz said.

 

The reach of Google

On average, Google+ users are spending 12 minutes a month on the social network. That pales in comparison to the 8 hours a month users spend on Facebook. Given this disparity, why is Google+ relevant?

 

The answer’s simple. Guy Kawasaki said it best in his book, What the Plus! “Google owns one of the biggest rivers of Internet traffic.” As a result, if you’re a new user who wants to use any of Google’s most popular products or services—like creating a YouTube Channel or utilizing review sites like Zagat and Google Local—you now have to have a Google+ account. Creating a simple Gmail account, however, does not force you into using Google+ and individuals who already have a Google account haven’t been forced to register for Google+ either. But if you would like access to certain features, you will find yourself redirected to a sign-up page for Google+. (If you want to access any of Google’s services without being forced to sign up for Google+ Lifehacker tells you how.) The move requiring forced registration has ruffled a few feathers, but Google’s in the enviable position of being Disneyland in a world otherwise populated with cut-rate theme parks. To get on the best rides and have the most fun, you’ve got to pay the price of admission.

 

GooglePlus_PQ.jpgGoogle has been working steadily to integrate Google+ into sites it doesn’t actively control. Web publishers are lured by the promise that something as simple as adding Google’s “+1” button—which only requires cutting and pasting a few lines of code to the site—can exponentially boost site traffic. Five million people hit that “+1” button every single day, sharing articles, blog entries, photos, logos and iconography, a YouTube video, reviews, and more.

 

Ubiquity has its benefits

“The Google platform gives you enterprise quality tools for a small business price,” says Ivana Taylor, publisher of DIYMarketers.com. “Specifically, I like that they all integrate into the most powerful search tool on the planet. You can literally run an entire marketing system on one platform.”

 

For years, Google has been providing entrepreneurs with free tools they can use to market their business. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster, and Google Places—now Google Local—are critical components of many small business owners’ digital marketing arsenal. Google+ adds another layer of functionality to the tools they’re already using.

 

It’s important to be strategic and determine what role you want Google+ to play in your digital marketing strategy. To do this, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what the features and capabilities of Google+ are.

 

“Get on it, and add your other profiles and websites/blogs to the About Page,” advises Joel Libava, The Franchise King. “Make sure to do the Google Author Markup along with it. It helps tie it all in for your Google search results.”

 

The importance of knowing your customer

“The psychology of getting someone to share your message is very different than the psychology of getting people to drive to your store and actually buy something,” says B.J. Bueno, managing partner at the Cult Branding Company. “The key thing to remember is that communication has a biological function. It’s vital to our survival. People tend to share things that give them value in their social circles.”

 

“The way to get the most out of your Google+ strategy is to put yourself in the shoes of your customer,” says Taylor.  “What will your customer "touch" first? Chances are that they will search first so it makes sense to do Google Local and Google Adwords and YouTube. You can see how powerful the integration is for getting found and ultimately getting chosen.”

 

Ramon Ray, of SmallBizTechnology.com, uses Google+ primarily for video chatting with clients and colleagues through the Google+ feature known as Hangouts. His key for engaging with customers via Google+? “Just like any other vehicle, you need to deliver great content, regularly,” he says.

 

Google+ as a customer service vehicle

Viewing Google+ solely as a social media platform for corporate communications is a mistake. You can also expand the utility of Google+ by using it as a customer service tool.

 

Says Bueno: “We use Google+ specifically for the Hangout feature for our business. It is quickly becoming our preferred way to interact in the virtual space because it's very easy and seems reliable thus far. As small businesses continue to operate in fragmented work/life space, services like Google+ can provide a vital way of keeping team members, vendors, and clients connected through sight, sound, and motion.”

 

For entrepreneurs who value flexibility, Google+ has distinct advantages as well. “With seamless access on iPads and other portable devices, you can now conduct meetings from virtually any location,” Bueno adds. “With integrated and other Google apps like Drive, Google+ has a lot to offer small businesses.”

 

As Google+ gains more and more of a foothold in our digital lives, being able to recognize and make best use of this powerful tool can help small business owners on a budget expand their brand presence efficiently and affordably.

QAjoepulizzi_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Content marketing is fast becoming an essential part of the overall marketing strategy of businesses. In a recent study from BtoB magazine, two-thirds of respondents said they expect to be heavily involved in content marketing in 2013. Examples of content marketing include social media, online articles, blogs, online videos, and case studies. Myths and misconceptions about the proper application and use of content marketing tools abound. To shed light on these sometimes hard to grasp ideas, business writer Robert Lerose recently spoke with Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Ohio-based Content Marketing Institute, and a leading evangelist of content marketing in the business community. Pulizzi is also the host and driving force behind Content Marketing World, a conference that brings together experts on and practitioners of content marketing, every September.

 

RL: Content marketing has been referred to in a variety of ways: custom publishing, branded content, customer media. How do you define it?

JP: It's thinking more like a publisher and less like a small business. If I think like a publisher, I'm going to create lots of valuable, relevant, compelling content. I'm going to build a relationship with my customers and prospects over a long period of time. By doing that, they're going to have an emotional connection with me. So when they're ready to buy, they're going to buy from me.

 

RL: Direct mail or email campaigns are designed for an immediate response. But content marketing takes time to build a relationship, doesn't it?

JP: If you're looking for business right away, content marketing is not for you. But if you're interested in the long haul, there's nothing better to grow relationships with your customers than to give them amazing information.

 

RL: Example?

JP: If I have a small business, I couldn't just say that I'm going to start a content marketing program and expect anything to happen in the first month or two months or three months. To build credibility using content takes time. If I'm creating a custom print magazine—a small business would be more likely to use a custom print newsletter—my goal could be retention and loyalty. I'm sending this to my best customers, so they keep us top of mind. Or the goal could be lead generation, where I create daily blog posts to get my prospects to sign up for them at some point.

 

RL: So what's the first step a small business should take with their content marketing?

JP: You want to make sure you have some kind of strategy before you think of the marketing channel. The key portion of your strategy for content creation does not revolve around talking about your products or services or pitching. For a small business, a lot of it is ‘ask and answer.’ If your customer asks a question, you want to answer that through multiple vehicles. It is really valuable information that is focused on the pain points of your customer.

 

QAjoepulizzi_PQ.jpgRL: Come up with a strategy first, then decide on the marketing channel?

JP: [Yes.] The tactics could be white papers, research reports, blog posts, ongoing video series, podcasts, in-person events, as well as through print. Most small businesses fall into the trap of thinking about the channel first, [instead] of asking why they [need to be] in the channel.

 

RL: Tips for coming up with a strategy?

JP: First, have a very clear understanding of who you're talking to—who your target audience is—and then figure out what their pain points are. Then, come up with what I call a content marketing statement. For a small business, the content marketing statement should state who their audience is, what they are going to deliver to that audience, and what their audience's goals are: to live better lives, get jobs, whatever it is.

 

RL: Next?

JP: Then, what is your content project going to be about: Retention? Search engine optimization? Lead generation? Whatever the goal is, you have to put metrics to that. At the end of the day, you have to say, "OK, we're successful because…." This is where most small businesses don't do that. As an example, the success metric for the blog on our site is [the number of] subscriptions.

 

RL: The number of paid subscriptions you get?

JP: No, free subscriptions. We're trying to get people into the top of the funnel to sign up, so we can start building relationships with them. Most small businesses start their online attention efforts with blog activity. The blog becomes the magnet for everything a small business does when it comes to content marketing. You can publish easily, the content is easily shareable, and search engines love blogs. From there, you can reimagine that content into other things, like white papers, newsletters, or webinar programs.

 

RL: We're flooded with information. How do small business owners turn that information into relevant content?

JP: Most small businesses go wrong because they're creating content that's just okay—and okay content doesn't cut through the clutter. What cuts through the clutter? Content that people want to do something with, that they want to make a behavior toward. This is not easy. It's difficult to tell stories that cut through the clutter.

 

RL: Tips for success?

JP: First, quality content is consistent. When it comes to content marketing, the biggest failure of small business is that they stop doing it or they do it at different times. If you want to create great epic content marketing, you have to commit to it. Two, a lot of small businesses are not good storytellers. [Fortunately,] there are so many resources out there to help you tell your story more effectively. Launch a pilot program for at least six months and put metrics to it. Then learn from it and figure out where you need to go from there.

 

RL: Example of a small business that does content marketing well?

JP: OpenView Venture Partners, a small venture capital company in Boston. We did the content marketing mission statement. Then they hired a content marketing manager who worked with their employees to get the types of stories they felt were incredibly helpful and useful to their core audience. They created a blog out of it that evolved into an online platform with over 1,000 pieces of content that solves literally every possible question their customers were asking.

 

RL: And the results?

JP: Nothing much happened the first six months. Now, almost two years later, they have over 16,000 people signed up for their weekly newsletter—so that's a really good confirmation that they have good content. The customers reach out to OpenView now. Their sales cycle has been cut in half because they don't have that qualification period. Customers come to OpenView because they want to work with them. OpenView gets the deals done, and that's all been through content marketing.

 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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