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How to Plan Your Instagram Posts [+22 Free Instagram Planning Templates]

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When you’re not following a plan on social media, it’s easy to forget to post regularly.

Additionally, creating image and video-based content meant to drive revenue for your business can seem far from your bottom line.

However, 90% of people on Instagram follow at least one business nowadays. To compete with other companies in your industry, you must have a solid Instagram strategy, especially if your intended audience uses the app.

Fortunately, once you have an ideal plan for your Instagram content, you can create content more intentionally and ultimately drive more results for your team and organization.

In this post, we’ll cover everything from determining what kind of content you want to post to picking a content theme. Then, we’ll get into the details of planning individual posts.

HubSpot, AdobeSpark, and Iconosquare teamed up to create a 30-day planning guide for business Instagram planning.

We’ve also thrown in 30 templates to help you get started. Click here to get the planning guide.

Your Instagram’s Visual Theme

Once you’ve decided on the type of content you want to post, you’ll want to select a visual theme for your posts.

Aesthetic consistency will help you in several ways:

  • When an Instagram user finds your business’ account, the images will appear coordinated and well-thought-out.
  • Your followers will begin to sense patterns in your content and pause when they see your post as they scroll because they recognize that pattern.
  • When you’ve pre-selected a go-to font and color scheme, it takes away some of the pressure of planning because there are fewer decisions to make for each new post.

If you use Adobe Spark, you can download our free Adobe Spark Instagram templates to create a new post with a template rather than starting from scratch. You’ll also get access to the previously-mentioned calendar of content ideas.

To establish visual consistency across your posts, pay attention to the colors in your photos, the filters you use, the fonts you use in your images, and, if you’d like, the pattern of content types you’re posting.

  • Colors – Keep your brand colors top of mind when creating Instagram posts. Pick a few colors that complement your primary brand color and ensure that the most prominent color appears in your posts.
  • Filters – When using filters, do so lightly, as over-editing can dilute the quality of your photos. If you decide to use filters, use the same one or two across all posts.
  • Fonts – Select one font to use whenever you want to overlay text on photos or videos and use one of your brand colors for the font. Since Instagram is a friendly platform, aim to use an easy-to-read, sans-serif font and keep it the same across all posts.
  • Content Pattern – To create a visual pattern for your overall feed, ensure that every third post has a specific background color. Since Instagram has three columns in the grid view, you’ll end up with a column that shows you thoughtfully planned your posts. You might consider using a white background with the same font style and color to share an industry tip for every third post.

Once you’ve decided on the content type and visual theme you’ll use on your brand’s Instagram account, it’s time to start planning posts.

Create a spreadsheet with the following columns (or download our free, pre-made spreadsheet along with planning templates for all of your other social media channels, too):

  • Date of publication
  • Time of publication
  • Image caption
  • Image file name or a link (if it has been uploaded to the web)
  • The link that you’ll add to your bio when the post goes live (or add to a Linktree-type multiple links tool)
  • Campaign/Goal: What is the goal for this post? Are you trying to amass more followers? Drive sign-ups for your product, a free trial, a consultation, or another next step toward becoming a customer? A well-articulated goal will help you ensure that each post exists for a purpose. You won’t be creating a dead-end for your followers but rather an opportunity for continued engagement with your account, brand, or product.

When you’re done, it should look like this:

Social media spreadsheet example

Download This Template

Pro Tip: Duplicate the spreadsheet tab for Instagram Stories, as well, to leverage Instagram’s other avenue for engaging with your followers. Stories are best used for interactive content like polls and quizzes, sharing photos or videos from live events, and more casual, friendly updates.

Once you have your spreadsheet ready to go, decide on your frequency. We recommend ramping up to posting around three times per week.

1. Define Your Content Posting Schedule

Post at least once a week to establish a reliable posting pattern for your followers. You’ll risk losing followers if people feel that they’re not consistently seeing interesting or helpful content from your account.

To establish that consistent pattern, set dates and times for posting first. For example, if you decide to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, fill in the date and time column with the next month’s Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Then, add a recurring event to your calendar for post planning for the following two to four weeks. Set a recurring 10-minute calendar invitation at your selected posting times to reference your spreadsheet and quickly post what you’ve planned if you’re not using an automated scheduling tool. With the planning sheet handy, you’ll be able to copy and paste captions and links and locate the images for your posts easily.

When slotting specific posts into your spreadsheet, begin in whichever column you’d like. For example, you could start by evenly splitting the rows into separate campaigns and filling in the caption or image link for each post later.

2. Add Visuals

If you already have a repository of photos that you can post, you might start pasting the links into the Image File Name/Link column and fill in the other columns afterward.

You’ll also want to start creating more visual content for future posts. For example, consider repurposing event images that your company has taken, soliciting photos of your employees or customers using your product, or simply creating visually-appealing text graphics like this one on a tool like Canva or Photoshop.

Upload each photo to a centralized folder and use a standardized naming convention so that it’s easy to find the file you’re looking for. If you’re not using a post-scheduling tool, you’ll likely have to post directly from your phone.

To easily access photos with their file names from your phone, you can upload photos to a Google Photos album on your computer and then use the Google Photos app to download the content before posting directly.

3. Write Engaging Captions

Finally, decide on your caption for each post. The ideal caption style depends on your audience and the type of content you’re sharing. For example, aesthetics-focused content may perform best with a quirky, short, and clever caption. In contrast, education-focused content may be most likely shared and liked if the caption includes a couple of concise, straightforward tips.

How to Plan Instagram Posts: Write Engaging Captions, example of a two toned orange on Instagram

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4. Choose Hashtags

Make sure to include three to five thoughtfully planned hashtags in your caption or in a comment on your post to ensure it gets in front of new audiences. You’ll want to include a mix of branded hashtags (e.g., #HubSpotAcademy or #OnlineLearning) and trending hashtags so that more people see your post.

You can research the hashtags you might want to use by typing them into Instagram (head to the ‘Search’ tab and then tap ‘Tags’) to see how much volume they get. Prioritize the higher-volume ones.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram

Regardless of which kind of content you decide to post, it should always be content that attracts your ideal audience. Think beyond your product, service, or office. What does your ideal customer actually care about, and what motivates them to follow a business account on Instagram?

Bite-Sized Education Instagram Content

If you know your audience is interested in consuming bite-sized education on social media, you might use Instagram to share industry tips and tricks.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Bite Sized Educational content

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Videos or well-organized captions can be useful vehicles for providing your audience with well-researched information for their benefit rather than the benefit of your business.

Showcasing Products Instagram Content

If your product or service lends itself to being photographed, consider sharing photos or videos of real customers using it. You can lighten your content creation load by relying on user-generated content. Have your customers send in photos of your product in action.

Here’s an example of how Beats by Dre uses Instagram to showcase customers using their products:

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Beats by Dre portable pill speaker

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Still, there’s no need to make these product or service posts promotional. Instead, the value for your Instagram following would come from drawing personal connections with real stories about how others have successfully used your product.

Inspiring Imagery Instagram Content

However, if your audience isn’t consuming education on Instagram and your product or service isn’t easily photographed, you can take a more aesthetically-focused route, posting images and videos that people would simply love to consume. These may not drive a significant number of conversions, but a visual-first Instagram can amass a large number of followers.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Designboom shows a home on the outskirts of Vienna that was completed in 1971

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The key to the aesthetically-pleasing route is to check in frequently to ensure your posts are driving actual value (perhaps in the form of brand awareness or community among your followers) for your business.

Experiment With Content

If you’re unsure of the type of content you want to post or the kind that will succeed for your brand, pick the one you believe your audience will be most interested in seeing. That can include product-agnostic education, product-centric content, usage-focused content, or aesthetically pleasing content. Try it consistently for a month.

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: Casetify Instagram page

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Then, try another type for the following month and compare engagement rates. How many people are liking and commenting on your content? How many followers did you gain each month? What other business outcomes, if any, were impacted by your Instagram posts?

In addition to deciding the general topics you’ll post on Instagram, you’ll want to experiment and determine which content formats you’ll post. For example, if you take an educational approach, experiment with videos versus text-focused images and various lengths of captions.

Alternatively, if your educational content lives on your blog, knowledge base, or in another library, consider using Instagram posts to point people to those resources rather than squeezing too much information into one Instagram.

For example, HubSpot Academy’s Instagram often promotes in-depth courses that HubSpot Academy produces rather than trying to dive into the details in the caption, image, or video itself. The account keeps followers interested by sharing short clips and tips from the courses, too:

Types of Content to Post on Instagram: HubSpot Instagram post

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Additionally, we’ve put together this downloadable calendar of creative content ideas if you’re not sure what type of content to try first.

Instagram Planning Apps

Who has time to come up with every post at a moment’s notice? It takes time to create compelling content, and that timing won’t always line up with your content calendar. Using planning apps to schedule Instagram content in advance makes the most efficient use of time and sparks creativity. It can also allow you and your marketing team to become more informed marketers.

1. Preview

Instagram planning App: Preview app

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Preview allows users to design, edit, and analyze their Instagram business page. With Preview, you can create a calendar to schedule photos, videos, albums, and stories for your business’ Instagram page. Preview lets you plan reels and IGTVs and access a suite of editing and analytical tools, including hashtag testing, engagement rates, and interactive charts. Preview also allows your entire social media team to plan your Instagram page together without sharing your Instagram password.

Pricing: Free Plan, free for 1 user; Pro Plan, $6.67/month for 1 user; Premium Plan, $12.50/month for an unlimited number of users.

2. Later

Instagram planning App: Later Instagram scheduler.

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Later’s Instagram scheduler can be used on your desktop or mobile devices. The scheduling tool offers a calendar with drag-and-drop functionality, hashtag tools, personalized scheduling insights, analytics, a stock photo library, and many more features to help you make the most of your business’ Instagram presence.

Pricing: Starter Plan, $15/month for 1 user; Growth Plan, $40/month for 3 users with an additional $5/month for each additional user; Advanced Plan, $80/month for 6 users with an additional $5/month for each additional user. Later offers a 14-day free trial of all of its plans.

3. Sked Social

Instagram planning App: Sked Social

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Sked Social makes it easy to edit your photos, queue posts, create a linked landing page for your business’ bio, and quickly add hashtags and mentions to your posts using templates. Sked Social also features a robust content calendar pre-filled with holidays from around the world, so you can plan content that celebrates and commemorates the special days that matter to your audience.

With Sked Social’s Essentials and Professional plans, you can collaborate with your team to manage your business’ Instagram marketing, no matter how many team members you have.

Pricing: Fundamentals Plan, $25/month for 1 user; Essentials Plan, $75/month for an unlimited number of users; Advanced Plan, $135/month for an unlimited number of users. Sked Social offers a 7-day free trial of all of its plans.

4. Planoly

Instagram planning App: Planoly Instagram scheduler.

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Planoly’s Instagram post planner and Reels planner allow users to plan, design, and schedule their business’ Instagram posts and Reels.

Planoly lets users analyze post metrics and add to their content with stock photos and photos from Canva. Users can also create a linked landing page and respond to Instagram comments from within Planoly.

Planoly’s scheduling tools include a content calendar that sends users reminder emails and push notifications when it is time to post content.

Pricing: Starter Plan, $11.25/month for 1 user; Growth Plan, $19.50/month for 3 users; Professional Plan, $36.50/month for 6 users. Planoly offers a 7-day free trial of all of its plans.

The right kinds of content planners ensure that your business’ Instagram posts are well thought out and draw consumers to your product or services. The following tools provide visual support as well as ideas that can transform content from dull to engaging:

1. HopperHQ

Instagram Content Planner: HopperHQ

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HopperHQ claims to be the number one Instagram tool. It goes beyond crafting posts, giving users the ability to access analytics that help determine the best time to post.

HopperHQ’s Instagram planning tools include a drag-and-drop content calendar, automated posting features, an Instagram grid planner, and a team manager that allows you to collaborate with your business’ social media team and customize each member’s posting permissions.

Pricing: $19/month. HopperHQ offers a 14-day free trial.

2. Brandwatch

Instagram Content Planner: brandwatch

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Brandwatch is a platform devoted to creating strategies to help you plan your next Instagram campaign with progressive insights. Brandwatch helps you monitor your business’ brand and benchmark it against your competitors.

With Brandwatch, you can monitor social media trends, convert your Instagram posts to ads, and create workflows that repurpose assets to help your business save time and money.

Pricing: Brandwatch offers a $108/month plan for small businesses of 1 – 2 users. Larger teams can access Brandwatch’s full suite of products by booking a demo.

3. Content Scheduler in Adobe Express

Instagram Content Planner: Content Scheduler in Adobe Express

Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler, previously known as ContentCal, allows Instagram users to plan and schedule content. With features such as snippets, pinboards, and a web clipper, Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler makes planning for Instagram campaigns more organized.

Adobe Express’ Content Scheduler offers free downloadable tools and templates, including content calendars, an engagement rate calculator, and a marketing plan template that help you plan and execute your business’ Instagram strategy.

Pricing: Free plan with limited features; Premium Plan, $9.99/month with a 30-day free trial.

Tools for Making the Most of Your Instagram

To stay organized, we recommend using two types of tools — a post-scheduling tool and a tool that allows you to link to several different places from your Instagram bio.

By using a post-scheduling tool, you’ll be able to plan out as far in advance as you’d like, ensuring you have a steady stream of content ready to be posted even when other projects pop up in your day-to-day work. Posting consistently is important for follower retention and will give you more opportunities to experiment and figure out which posts get the most engagement.

Scheduling your posts allows you to visualize which types of posts you have coming out and swap posts if needed. You can see the weeks you’ve planned enough content and those during which there are still empty slots.

You can also use a spreadsheet like this one (download for free here):

Instagram post-scheduling calendar from Hubspot

Download the Calendar

Examples of post-scheduling tools include HubSpot Social Tools, Later, Buffer, and Hopper.

Expanding Bio

An Instagram bio can either entice a potential customer, make them laugh, or make them keep scrolling past a page. Unfortunately, writing an eye-catching bio with an enticing call-to-action that tells visitors everything they need to know about your business can be tough because of Instagram’s limiting structure for bios.

Since Instagram only allows you to place one hyperlink in your bio at the top of your profile, we recommend investing a few dollars per month in a tool that creates one landing page that links out to several other pages.

Then, in individual posts, you can reference clickable links available at the link in your bio, which provides a much more user-friendly experience than having your followers copy a URL manually into their browser, toggling between apps. MilkShake is a tool that allows you to create a mini-website with links and videos that users can access through a link in your business’ Instagram bio.

HubSpot Academy coursesImage Source

Examples of post-scheduling tools include Linktree, Lnk.Bio, and Link In Profile.

Enhance Your Instagram Experience

By taking a thoughtful approach to planning your Instagram content, you can ensure that your posts deliver value to your followers, convert those followers into leads or product users, and expand the reach of your brand’s messaging to new audiences.

Using tools such as schedulers and links to help carry out your Instagram journey can improve your business’ social media presence and extend its reach. It takes time to determine what resonates with your audience, so be patient as you experiment and evaluate your strategy.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Chatbot Improving Customer Experience in Online Business

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Chatbot Improving Customer Experience in Online Business

Globally, more people are using smartphones now. The use of text-based chatbots is the most significant trend that has been noticed. Although we think of the chatbots for current smartphones as rudimentary, it is anticipated that the automated discussions on which the chatbots are based will become more valuable. The chatbots offer customers recommendations.

Here’s the explanation for those who are yet to have a better understanding of the term.

What is a Chatbot?

Artificially intelligent chatbots that automate customer interactions are likely the most promising technology in the digital era. Businesses like Facebook are spending much money creating and promoting their Facebook Messenger platform and adding a Developer SDK and Messenger API. You can create your chatbot if you know some programming and technical jargon.

A Chatbot is a computer application that uses a messaging platform or app to communicate digitally with consumers. Enterprise chatbots often use big data and artificial intelligence to learn more intelligently about people with each contact. To achieve this, they employ a system of neural networks, which technologically mimic the enormous connections in the human brain.

As artificial intelligence technology advances, AI-based chatbots will gradually be adopted into all human-computer interactions across all industries.

Factors That Influenced The Need For ChatBots in Various Industry Segments

  • It’s difficult to dispute the rising popularity of texting apps. The development of artificial intelligence technology has raised the bar for chatbots.
  • AI increases the accuracy of machine parsing and understanding of requests by up to 90% when used in conjunction with natural language processing.
  • Sophisticated notifications that are always on across devices and take into account the situation’s context are another essential element.
  • The personalization of virtual communication and the capacities of predictive aid were enhanced by the accelerated development of all types of sensors and wearables, as well as analytics and data science.
  • The chatbot’s functionality is expanded further by the payment integration to other parties via APIs.

A new challenge for businesses and ability offers, chatbot app development, has every opportunity of becoming one of the hottest trends.

Chatbots Are New Way To Interact With Customers

An AI-based chatbot is one of the newest innovations fostering the expansion of companies with an online presence. Forbes claims that more than 80% of retailers worldwide intend to use online chatbots in marketing in some capacity by 2020. Additionally, it is anticipated that by 2025, the chatbot market will be worth $1.25 billion.

Many companies are working to develop chatbots to assist organisations aiming for automation. Businesses’ marketing and consumer interaction strategies must include chatbots. They support companies by:

  • Facilitating automated user interaction
  • Offer 24/7 customer assistance
  • It produces leads
  • Save time and effort for people
  • Speed up customer response

Chatbots Supporting Key Industrial Verticals

Chatbots assist with everyday conversations, e-commerce, trip arrangements, and more. Today, marketers are employing chatbots more and more extensively to boost e-commerce, particularly concerning younger clients.

The technopreneurs are adamant that chatbots have the potential to raise user shopping cart contents and attract transactions. In addition, chatbots offer more significant potential for consumer involvement and customization while reducing the activities of a customer support representative and sales associate. For instance, the conversational commerce paradigm has been revolutionized by Amazon’s chatbot named “Echo,” which enables users to ask the bot anything they want.

  • You may order a taxi using Uber, another well-known chatbot for messaging apps.
  • For ordering food for delivery home, consider Taco Bell and Domino
  • Users who utilize HelloVote can register to vote.
  • Users may search for and book flights with Icelandair.

Why Should Your Business Consider Implementing ChatBots?

Businesses use many resources in customer service and technical support. Chatbots can also aid in the improvement of this procedure. You will notice that most inbound requests are identical once you have examined them.

You can automate repetitive queries by building a chatbot for your company. Your consumer will value the direct communication from support service that avoids holding on the line and speaking to strangers.

  • By 2023, 86% of customer retention will be handled automatically.
  • ChatBots are the most often employed AI technology in businesses, according to 35% of executives from various sectors.
  • In the next few years, intelligent agents will handle 45% of all mobile interactions.

Taking The Next Leap – Integrating Chatbots

You have probably never noticed one intriguing detail. Millions of various apps are available in in-app marketplaces. However, the research reveals that users spend roughly 24 hours each month using apps, with just five apps receiving 80% of their attention. Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, and WhatsApp are, without a doubt, among them. As a result, it is challenging to launch a new app for your company, but there are still good chances that you will be able to include your chatbot in a platform like Uber Clone App that is used frequently by your users.

From a practical standpoint, bots might provide more efficient and quick user contact. Uber is a good example. When the Uber app is opened, the user can call a taxi with a single button. With the Uber bot, the user can request a car without opening the app by sending a quick message to the Uber Chatbots over their preferred messaging app.

Hence, integrating Chatbots in a Taxi Booking App has the potential to become one of the most popular trends and a brand-new challenge for businesses and software providers.

Moving Forward With Chatbots – Final Thing

Chatbots will ensure better customer service delivery than conventional communication methods.

They are currently greeted with an equal amount of zeal and cynicism regarding their usefulness, but they will eventually gain knowledge and skill. Younger millennials also referred to as “Generation Z,” are expected to be the first to fully adopt bots because messaging apps are their preferred means of communication.

Get ready for bot talk since the time is running out and the bots are rising.

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How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

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How To Build a Communication and Implementation Plan

You learn about a C-suite decision that will have a transformative impact on your content marketing team. Perhaps, the announcement included one or more of these directives:

  • “We must produce more content and manage multi-platform distribution with greater agility. We plan to add ChatGPT to our editorial capabilities and implement a headless CMS.”
  • “We’re updating our three-year business strategy and need all teams to align their operations around achieving a new set of goals.”
  • “We’ve been acquired. We will be merging many of our business units and will need to relaunch our website so we can tell a more unified story.”

Or maybe it’s another substantive shift in strategy or operations. As a content team leader, whether excited or terrified, you must get your team on board and ensure the initiative succeeds.

Transformational changes are nearly impossible to implement without a clear plan that communicates the desired destination, the motivation to pursue it, and the path to reach it.

Jenny Magic, marketing strategist and professional coach, shares how to do that in a Content Marketing World presentation she co-developed with Melissa Breker.

You can watch the conversation (beginning at 2:30-minute mark) or scroll down to read her recommendations to gather support, clear obstacles, and keep efforts moving in the right direction.

5 sabotages that disrupt transformational changes

Every organization has unique conditions and challenges, but Jenny points out five common barriers that prevent the successful adoption of new priorities and practices:

  • Forced change. When workers don’t understand or agree with the change, they won’t invest in the process, especially if it requires a lot of effort or a long-term investment.
  • Misaligned goals. You can’t sell a change that benefits the company if employees don’t see how it helps them reach their personal or professional goals.
  • Group-speak. Your team may nod in agreement when the CEO says, “We’re all going to do this together, right?” But that enthusiasm might not hold when the boss’ eyes are no longer on them.
  • Rushed process. Team members already overwhelmed with responsibilities don’t give new tasks top priority. Jenny says if you can’t take something off their plate, communicate they won’t be pressured to rush it through.
  • Lack of team alignment. Everyone must be on the same page regarding the direction, intention, and actions required. Without this alignment, tasks fall through the cracks, and all the hard work may not lead to achieving the goal.

Forced change, group-speak, rushed processes can all disrupt transformational changes, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For your change mission to succeed, your communications plan should account for how you’ll address (or avoid) these obstacles. These details will minimize the friction, lack of participation, and flagging enthusiasm you could have experienced during implementation.


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Plan for the transformation journey

Jenny shares a three-part approach she uses to help her consultancy clients get big ideas off the drawing board, onto team members’ priority lists, and into the marketplace.

1. Establish the destination: What’s changing, why, and what’s involved

To get your team to join the journey of change, they need to know where they’re going. Create a change summary to help with that. The simple map summarizes the relevant details about the change, the phases of implementation, and the benefits gained when the goal is reached.

First, identify the most critical details to communicate. Answer these questions:

  • What’s the nature of the change? What is being done differently, and what does that mean for the business and team? What isn’t changing that might be the stability anchor?
  • Why is it happening? Why does the organization think this change is critical? Why is now the right time to do this?
  • Who’s involved? Who will the change affect? What will they be expected to do? What about their roles, processes, and priorities? Why would they want to participate, and why might they be reluctant?
  • When will it happen? Will the change occur all at once or gradually? What happens at each stage, and which ones will require the content marketing team’s involvement?
  • What are the expected results? What is the organization looking to achieve? What benefits or advantages will it bring? What will the company and team see when the goal is reached?

With these answers, you can build a change summary to share in stakeholder and team member conversations. Any spreadsheet or presentation tool will do, though you can create a template based on the document Jenny uses for her client engagements (below).

The summary of what’s changing appears at the top of the page and details of the most critical elements appear below it. Bulleted notes detail what to expect with each element and the benefits for the business and your team. Lastly, a general timeline outlines each project phase.

2. Load up the crew: Gather support and communicate benefits

To achieve the change goal, all players must agree to travel together and move in the same direction. “If our team is not aligned on where the heck we’re going, there’s literally no chance we’re going to get there,” Jenny says.

Team members who immediately see the value in the initiative might follow your lead without question. But some key players may need a little more convincing. Jenny offers a few ideas to get them on board.

Enlist the support of an active, visible sponsor: Social media shows putting the right influencer behind your pitch can move minds. The same goes for pushing through a big change within an organization. Research from Prosci finds projects with an extremely effective sponsor met or exceeded objectives more than twice as often as those with a very ineffective sponsor.

If you have the support of senior team leaders and high-profile company personnel, ask for their help socializing the change to others. They might seed relevant information in their newsletters and other content they share internally or help shape your change activities and messaging to improve their appeal.

Translate organizational goals into personal motivations: Some team members may reluctantly participate because they perceive an impact on their role. For example, workers may think the added work will strain their already demanding schedules. Others may be skeptical because of negative experiences with similar changes in the past or disbelief that the change might benefit them.

A series of stakeholder conversations can help identify the significant concerns and disconnects that might prevent them from engaging. They also can reveal specific challenges and motivations that you can address with more resonant and appealing messaging.

Translate organizational goals into personal motivations so team members can see how they’ll benefit, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Some marketing tools you use to influence an audience can help you facilitate those conversations. For example, Jenny says, personas can surface critical insights about who may be impacted by the change and what it might take to nurture them onto the path.

Her personas checklist includes these questions:

  • Who’s leading the change? Do any key sponsors directly relate to the persona’s role?
  • Will this persona be impacted more or less than others?
  • Will they need information more frequently or in greater detail?
  • What reactions will they have?
  • How will you approach training for this persona? What support will be provided?
  • At what phase of the change will they be most affected?

Jenny also recommends using your marketing communication and engagement tools. For example, the simple tracking sheet she developed (below) can help visualize the audience, delivery formats and channels, optimal messages, and approval and final sign-off requirements to mention in your stakeholder discussions.

Choose the right messenger – and a customized message: Sometimes, a disconnect occurs not because of the message but because of the message’s deliverer. For example, employees expect to hear about significant corporate initiatives from executives and senior leaders. But for changes impacting their day-to-day responsibilities, they may prefer to hear from a manager or supervisor who understands their role.

Other times, preventing a disconnect could require tailoring the message to the team’s needs. Jenny suggests focusing on the direct benefits once the initiative is activated. “Consider how it might help them further their career, address something they’re struggling with, or offer an opportunity to explore an area they’re passionate about,” Jenny says.  

Surface hidden issues with confidential interviews: Valid concerns can remain hidden, especially for team members who are reluctant to voice their objections in team meetings. Working one-on-one with a neutral or external moderator – someone with no stake in the decision for change – might help them open up.

Ensure they know the confidential interview results will be aggregated so no individual responses will be identified. “It’s really helpful to get that confessional energy,” Jenny says. “It can help you surface individual reservations, causes of their reluctance, and personal motivations. “

A confidential one-on-one interview with an external moderator can help surface concerns from reluctant team members, says @JennyLMagic via @joderama @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Jenny shares in her checklist (below) some preliminary questions for a moderator to assess during a confidential interview:

  • How does the individual feel about the change?
  • Is it the right change?
  • Is it the right time?
  • Is it supported enough to succeed?
  • What risks do they predict?
  • Do they have ideas about how we could reduce obstacles and challenges?
  • What lessons from past change efforts can they share with us?
  • Could they become a change champion?

The process can fuel opportunities to shift messaging, positioning, or delivery approach to help the outliers see how the change can benefit them and get them more excited about participating. Jenny says it can also reveal valid concerns that need to be solved so they don’t hinder progress.

3. Hit the road: Position and prepare your team for success

Big changes are always risky. They disrupt the status quo, and if they involve multiple teams and business functions, some changes may feel like a win for some at the expense of others.

Taking a few extra steps before executing your plans can keep those issues from diverting the goal or leaving any team members stranded along the way. “This is where we establish commitment and accountability and think about what could go wrong and how we’re going to deal with it,” Jenny says.

Own up to what you do and don’t know: Ultimately, you can’t plan for every contingency. “You’ll lose trust rapidly if you pretend you do,” Jenny says. She offers a few communication tips to set the right expectations from the start:

  • Be clear and candid: Directly address what you do know, don’t know, and what is and isn’t possible with this change. Outline how you will communicate status updates and new information as they arise.
  • Be receptive: Don’t take resistance personally. Listen to your team’s questions and respond to their feedback with an open mind.
  • Be visible: Socialize progress across your team’s preferred communication channels, and make sure everyone knows how to reach you if they encounter a problem. You can regularly host town hall meetings, road-show presentations, or open forums to ensure everyone stays informed and has a chance to share their thoughts.

Position project requirements as opportunities and advantages: Jenny suggests exercising creative thinking to help concerned team members see the new responsibilities as a chance to benefit personally.

For example, if they need to learn additional skills to accomplish their tasks, provide in-house training or access to third-party educational tools. Position the opportunity as a chance to expand their capabilities to help them be more prepared for this change and to advance their careers in the long run.

You can also use the big change to rethink your org chart and rebalance team member responsibilities. “Every single person has work that they hate on their to-do list. I’ve found folks become more open if they’re offered an opportunity to do a task trade-off,” Jenny says.

Incentivize the journey – not just the destination: A lengthy and gradual implementation process should include incentives at regular intervals to motivate team members to stay the course.

Rewards can be specific and tangible, such as bonuses or loyalty program points. Or they can be intangible, such as shoutouts during monthly meetings or in internal newsletters. Arrange team happy hours or give comp time for extra hours worked. These appreciation efforts can make the added burden feel worthwhile.

Overcome obstacles in predictive planning: An element of science exists in the journey of change. You can’t reach your destination if the forces of resistance are stronger than the forces propelling you forward.

Jenny shares an innovation tool from a company called Gamestorming that can help quantify the balance of those forces at each phase. By working through this force-field analysis, you can take steps to ensure the winds of change will be in your favor.

An example of how it works is shown below. In the center, an illustration represents the change you want to implement – transitioning from hierarchical to more transparent hubs.

On one side, the forces of change – all the elements of the vision that characterize the importance of the change and how it works in your favor – are listed. In this example, those forces are:

  • Improve long-term revenue
  • Help meet market demand
  • Satisfies customer expectations
  • Addresses current unsustainable costs
  • Give a competitive advantage in the marketplace

On the other side, the forces of resistance – conditions and constraints that may prevent realizing the vision – are listed. In the example, these forces include:

  • Company culture
  • Time constraints
  • Viability of new tech
  • Client adoption
  • Current costs

Rank each element’s impact on the project’s success on a scale of one to five.  Then add the rankings on each side and compare the scores to see whether you have a stronger chance of success than failure and identify where efforts should be made to overcome obstacles.

Plan the journey for a smoother arrival

Convincing your team to jump aboard the organizational-change train is rarely easy. But with a clear operational plan, aligned support, and open communication, you’ll help them see the benefits of participating and get them excited to reach their destination.

Want more content marketing tips, insights, and examples? Subscribe to workday or weekly emails from CMI.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

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Alternative Search Engines: Why They Matter and How to Rank on Them

The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

12 billion, 3 billion, 1 billion. That’s the number of searches made in some of the top alternative search engines monthly.

While Google still holds more than 80% of the market share, ignoring search engines such as Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo can make you lose out on relevant traffic. So don’t limit yourself to Google’s algorithm as you plan the next year’s SEO strategy.

In order to grow in the digital economy, we have to diversify our efforts. What better way to do that than by making sure that you rank on all the top search engines relevant for your audience?

Generally, there’s two reasons why your audience would choose an alternative search engine over Google: geopolitical reasons and/or privacy concerns.

As such, I’ve categorized the search engines below by global market share and by data privacy.

Top alternative search engines by global market share

When analyzing the global desktop market share of search engines throughout the last decade, there are a few small but mighty search engines that stand out. These are:

1) Bing

2) Yahoo

3) Yandex

4) DuckDuckGo

5) Baidu

These are the engines you want to give extra consideration if you intend to expand internationally. They all have their own unique search algorithms that are in many ways as complex and developed as Google’s.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

If you’re like me a few years ago, a die-hard Apple fan remarkably repulsed by Microsoft’s products (I’ve now converted to the seamless team of PC), you might think prioritizing resources to optimize content for Bing or other engines is a waste of time. What I failed to consider then, and what you might be overlooking, is geographic segmentation.

Do you want to reach the American audience using voice search? Consider Bing.

Are you expanding into China? Check out Baidu.

Each search engine matters because of its unique user types. Regardless of how small that market share might look on a global scale, if there’s regional search volume from your target audience, it’s worth the optimization.

Let’s go through them one by one.

Bing and Yahoo

Screenshot of bing.com, November 2022

Since 2018, Yahoo is exclusively powered by Bing Search. So as long as you rank in Bing, you’ll rank in Yahoo.

Bing Search, in combination with Yahoo, is without a doubt the strongest player after Google. Together, they have more than 10% of the global market share for desktop.

Now, some say that Bing’s market share will increase due to mergers and acquisitions, while others argue for its decline due to the death of Internet Explorer.

Still, all Microsoft browsers, such as Microsoft Edge Legacy and Chromium-based Microsoft Edge, have Bing as the default search engine, making Bing Search the natural choice for Microsoft product users. Yahoo, which is powered by Bing Search, is the default search engine for Mozilla’s browser Firefox, adding billions of impressions to Bing’s search results each year.

If we look at the United States alone, Microsoft sites own over 18% of the market share.

This is much due to their partnership with Amazon, where all voice-activated searches on Amazon Echo and Alexa are made with Bing Search.

Microsoft also pushes Bing further by offering easy rewards for searches and more advanced image search capabilities than Google.

Although the algorithms differ, optimizing for Bing search results is not much different than optimizing for Google. With a bit of fine tuning, it’s more than possible to come up with a strategy that allows for high rankings on both.

To rank on Bing, and thus Yahoo, make sure to do the following:

Infographic by AS Marketing, December 2022


1. List your business on Bing Places

Bing Places is the equivalent of Google My Business and is the fastest way to get your business ranking for local seo. Many even consider Bing Places to favor small business owners as Bing puts their information more prominently on display.

2. Upload an XML Sitemap using Bing’s Webmaster Tools

While the debate on how much sitemaps really do matter for Google SEO continues, uploading one with Bing’s Webmaster Tool for XML Sitemaps allows the algorithm to better categorize and manage your content, making it more visible and relevant to the search audience.

3. Match keywords in your content

Check that the exact keyword match can be found in your page titles, meta descriptions and overall content. It’s known that the impact of on-page tactics as a ranking factor is much greater in Bing than Google.

4. Keep your social media profiles up to date

Go social! Bing considers your social media presence more than any other search engine. The Webmaster Guidelines specifically states that Bing considers social signals from third-party platforms to rank your content. Bing might even extract certain information directly from your Facebook company page to your Bing Places display.

5. Use high-quality images to enhance your content

Bing’s image search is much more advanced than Google’s. If you want your landing page to rank, add high-quality design assets to showcase your offerings. If you want your blog to rank, attach too-long-to-read infographics to highlight your points. Like the one above.

Yandex

Screenshot of yandex.com, November 2022

Second to Bing is Yandex, having a total of 1.5% of the market share in global desktop search.

While it looks a lot like Google, its algorithm is different in many ways. Most prominent is the way Yandex indexes pages. Unlike Google’s almost continuous indexation, Yandex indexes pages sporadically. That means that you might have to wait around for a while before your site shows up on Yandex.

Despite this, it is still possible to rank on Yandex. You just need to have a bit more patience.

While waiting for your site to be indexed, take a look at the following:

1. Focus on tags over internal site structure

According to The Ultimate Guide to Yandex SEO, your header tag, title tag and slug are way more important than your internal site structure. In fact, it was only recently that Yandex started to support hreflang tags. Before that, Yandex only allowed the <head> hreflang implementation.

2. Consider search intent to rank

Some argue that Yandex meets search intent better than Google. The modern ICS score, which replaced the Thematic Index Citation, is determined by how relevant a site is to the query. Yandex uses its own version of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T) test to determine relevance.

3. Eliminate toxic links

Many do not know this, but Yandex was actually the first search engine to roll out a link-based algorithm. Already in 2005, 7 years before Google’s Penguin algorithm, Yandex introduced the Nepot filter, which specifically looked at the impact of toxic link exchanges and spam links.

Baidu

Screenshot of baidu.com, November 2022

With over 3 billion searches daily, Baidu is the Google of China. If you want to do business in China, it’s the place to be.

While the site is available worldwide, the site predominantly favors simplified Chinese. So before taking any other steps, hire a native speaker to help you along the way. To win at global, you have to ditch translations.

Here’s a few steps to get your content ranking.

1. Localize your keywords and content appropriately

As with all multilingual SEO, you need to work with a native language expert to ensure proper keyword localization and content optimization. If your site experiences high bounce rates, Baidu will tank your rankings immediately. As with any search experience, localization matters.

2. Position relevant content and keywords to the top of the page

Baidu favors a completely opposite layout than the Westernized one. The sooner you get to the point the better. Therefore, it is important to position your keywords as early as possible in the text and introduce all relevant content already in the top of the page to rank.

3. Obtain a verification level and get certified

By registering and paying a small fee you can obtain a verification level to improve your domain authority and rankings on Baidu. If you want to secure top ratings, you can get certified and obtain an ICP license, which is much more difficult than getting verified.

Top alternative search engines by data privacy

While most of the search engines mentioned above are tied to big corporations or political forces, global initiatives are setting the stage for more privacy-focused search engines. Among these is DuckDuckGo, the forefront runner with over 130 billion searches processed since launch.

Why they matter and how to rank on them

In many ways, the movement is a response to Google’s invasiveness on privacy. Many are fed up with how they are capitalizing on personal data and controlling the narrative with targeted search.

On a macro scale, the European Union continues to protect data privacy with strict GDPR regulations and the California Consumer Privacy Act indicates similar trends for Americans.

From a micro perspective, documentaries such as The Great Hack shine a light on how global companies monetize on personal data. As a result, privacy-safe search engines continue to rise.

If you’re working for an innovative SaaS startup, there’s a high chance your ideal customer persona is using one of these search engines.

Let’s go through how you rank on DuckDuckGo and two alternative equivalents.

DuckDuckGo

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

Screenshot of duckduckgo.com, November 2022

DuckDuckGo aims to make your search experience as simple and true to its cause as possible, i.e. no tracking for personalized search results and filter bubbles. Instead it uses semantic search to determine search intent for your queries from over 400 sources.

Consequently, this attracts tech-savvy experts with a lower bounce rate. Once they commit to a search, they stay.

Here’s how to optimize for it:

1. Sharpen Your User Experience

UX continues to make an impact on SEO, not to mention for DuckDuckGo. Make your content easily scannable and stay away from intrusive pop ups that harm your users’ experience and ease of navigation.

2. Focus on High-Quality Backlinks

As with any SEO, high-quality backlinks play a huge role for ranking. If you already have a solid backlink profile from your Google strategy, you should be good to go. If your backlink profile has a high level of toxicity, do some cleansing.

3. Rethink Local SEO

Since there’s no location tracking available for searches, location-specific searches such as “services near me” don’t work. If you like to rank for these types of searches, include a specific location in your keyword strategy. Otherwise, you won’t be able to optimize for local seo.

Startpage

Screenshot of startpage.com, November 2022

Startpage could be my personal favorite among the alternative search engines. It basically is Google without the tracking.

And while many consider DuckDuckGo to be the forefront runner of the privacy-focused search movement, many forget how Startpage ‘blazed the trail in 2006’. Offering a search experience without IP recording or tracking back when it was more or less unheard of. Now, it is the common denominator among all privacy-safe search engines.

So, how do you rank in Startpage? Simple. You rank in Google.

SwissCows

Screenshot of swisscows.com, November 2022

There are many more privacy-safe alternatives to search engines than the two mentioned above. Perhaps one without equal is SwissCows – a search engine that prides itself on being the only family-friendly, privacy-safe semantic search engine available on the web.

This means that any intrusive search results, like adult entertainment or offensive content, is naturally censored from the search results. At the same time, they never store any data nor track user specific information.

SwissCows SERPs bring up organic results and paid ads directly from Bing so in order to rank in SwissCows, you need to rank in Bing. Just make sure to omit any content that’s not PG-13.

What do they all have in common?

In the end, none of these alternative search engines can replace Google. As an SEO, I’ll never advise starting out with anything other than a Google strategy.

But when you are ready to branch out and extend your reach, give these alternatives a try. Analyze where your target audience hangs out and optimize thereafter.

Many of the privacy-focused search engines require little optimization as they pull their search results directly from other sources anyways. Simply do a quick check to see how you rank on each one.

And who knows, perhaps Microsoft will continue to steal more of the global search landscape. If that happens, you’ll be there — ranking in first position, ready to reap the rewards of your diversified efforts in an ever-changing search landscape.

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