The Agency Partner Directory: How Agencies & Clients Work Better Together

In my experience working with and for agencies, what rises to the surface during times of challenge is as varied as the areas of expertise in that agency: staying up on current trends and technology, keeping a full pipeline of new business or building bigger client retainers, finding and keeping talent on-staff… the list goes on.

But one thing that comes up that may surprise those not familiar with our industry (or who have spent most of their time on the client-side)—a huge focus for agencies is finding fit.

Agencies & Clients Need to Find Fit

Whether that’s in terms of finding fit in budget size or project scope—or it’s seeking out internal stakeholders and client teams that can match temperament and work style—most client relationships are not much different from what makes any relationship successful.

What’s less surprising is that clients want the same thing.

As project owner, day-to-day contact for agency workers, or member of an internal team that’s dependent on an agency’s output—roles all of which I’ve filled—fit is what makes or breaks project or overall campaign success.

Clients want fit. Agencies want fit. There’s balance in the need.

We know that a mismatch in the relationship between an agency and a client, regardless of who is at fault, means an end to the work.

So what can Sprout do to connect the two?

A Two-Sided Equation With an X Factor

When we look at how we can help our varied set of customers level-up their social strategies and marketing campaigns, both agencies and businesses from the startup to the enterprise are looking for and can provide tools to help the other.

We’ve got the supply of agencies.

And our customers from the startup to the enterprise have the demand.

So how do they find each other? And how do they prioritize fit and getting to know each other before all else?

We hope to help answer these questions with the Agency Partner Directory: a resource for agencies to tell their story and be discoverable by potential clients.

The Agency Partner Directory is a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes who want to:

  • Level up their social strategy.
  • Work with a partner on day-to-day management of social campaigns, using the full power of the Sprout Social platform.
  • Match with agencies who not only provide social media services and expertise, but a wide variety of marketing services, like content marketing, branding, SEO, paid social, and other digital marketing services.

Why Work With a Sprout Partner?

We know that clients are looking for the right fit and a level of trust. And all of our Sprout-certified partners are not only ready and willing to help them build better campaigns, but they have access to a host of resources and the full functionality of the Sprout platform to help keep their social strategy on the cutting edge.

So whether existing Sprout customers want to work with a trusted resource for their strategies outside of social, or a business wants to use Sprout but needs an agency with whom they can partner on strategy or day-to-day management—the Agency Partner Directory helps you find or get matched with a solution.

Check out our certified agency partners today.

And if you’re an agency interested in becoming a certified agency partner to be found by prospective clients, you can find out more information about the Agency Partner Program and reach out to us today.

This post The Agency Partner Directory: How Agencies & Clients Work Better Together originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Sprout Social

Crosspost: Your Guide to Getting Feedback Fast and Building Better Apps

Last November, during Microsoft Connect();, Visual Studio App Center (previously known as Mobile Center) was made Generally available. Their Blog made some changes as well and I got invited to write a guest post. I’m proud to share my first post on that blog that I’d like to recommend!

Read “Your Guide to Getting Feedback Fast and Building Better Apps

The article contains a lot of information, but some highlights are:

  • Understand why it’s vitally important to get feedback fast to build a succesful app.
  • Why having Beta testers can help you get the feedback you need and how to set it up and enable two-way communication.
  • Learn about the use of feature flags inside your apps to hypercharge the feedback loop.
  • Understand the importance of separating Deployment and Releasing using these feature flags.
  • Combining the feedback from users and metrics from App Center Analytics to compare Qualitative & Quantitative Feedback.

And much, more more!

Read “Your Guide to Getting Feedback Fast and Building Better Apps

Let me know what you think of the post by leaving a comment or through Twitter. Expect more crossposts on the Visual Studio App Center Blog in the future!

The post Crosspost: Your Guide to Getting Feedback Fast and Building Better Apps appeared first on

15 Tips to Building a Better Social Media Presence

If you’re a brand today, there’s a non-zero chance you’re on social media in some way, shape or form.

But many brands have an active, thriving social media presence?

And how much of them are just sort of there?

Reality check: you can’t expect much from social when you post random links, @mention a few folks and call it a day.

You need some structure. You need a strategy.

After all, you don’t reach the level of Wendy’s on Twitter totally by accident.

And likewise, there’s a reason why GoPro’s Instagram posts get “likes” by the tens of thousands.

And although some of these brands might have blockbuster budgets, the principles they use to create an awesome social presence can be replicated by businesses of all sizes.

Struggling for followers? Stuck on what to do with your social accounts? We’ve all been there.

That’s why we’ve broken the bite-sized tips any brand can follow to get their social media presence off the ground.

Now, let’s dive in!

1. Set SMART Goals

Pop quiz: why are you on social media in the first place?

If your answer is resounding “Uhh…” or “Everyone else is on it,” you might have a problem.

The concept of SMART goals has been around for decades, but they are so important to your social media presence today.

In short, brands should set goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

An example of a good SMART goal for social media marketing would be something like “Well increase our Twitter response rate by 25% by the end of the first quarter.”

  • Specific: “We’ve specifically identified the social channel (Twitter) and a metric (response rate).”
  • Measurable: “The response rate can be measured from the Sprout Social dashboard.”
  • Achievable: “We didn’t make an outlandish goal of say, a 100% increase in 10 days.”
  • Relevant: “Our goal will have an impact on our overall social media presence, making it very relevant.”
  • Time-bound: “The goal has to be met by the end of the first quarter.”

Assigning your social media efforts a concrete purpose helps you avoid the trap of posting aimlessly.

2. Identify Your Audience

After you’ve outlined your goals, you need to outline your target audience.

Pro-tip: “everyone” is not an audience.

Maybe it’s prospective customers. Perhaps it’s industry players and influencers. Either way, breaking down your audience will help you figure out the following:

  • Which social media sites you’re active on
  • Your posting schedule
  • The type of content you publish
  • Your brand’s voice
  • The information in your profiles

Many brands spin their wheels because they don’t post content that speaks to a defined audience. Spend some time looking at your audience personas, understanding what their challenges are and what brands they already love via social. This sort of competitive analysis can help you understand how your own social media presence can stand out from the crowd.

3. Be Human

This is a big one.

One of the worst mistakes to make on social media is coming off as the faceless corporation with zero personality. In the modern age of transparency, people want to get to know your company on a more personal level.

Many brands today crack jokes and aren’t afraid to talk to their followers like they would their friends. Whereas brands were once lambasted for coming off like robots, a human social media presence has become an expectation among many followers.

Similarly, showing off the human side of your brand means showing off the faces behind your social feeds. Whether it’s office photos or snapshots of your team “in the wild,” getting personal with your followers can help you form a much-needed connection.

And hey, that leads us directly to our next point!

4. Seek Relationships, Not Just Followers

We can debate all day whether or not your follower count is a vanity metric.

That said, having 100 followers who regularly engage with you and your content are infinitely more valuable than 10,000 that ignore you.

It might be cliche to say, but don’t leave the “social” out of your social media presence. The beauty of social is that you can form relationships in an instant with followers from just about anywhere.

For example, Sprout Social’s own #SproutChat gives us the opportunity to regularly connect with our lovely followers who are likewise stoked to get in touch with us.

If you’re not exactly sure where to start when it comes to relationship-building, here are some quick ideas:

  • Always @mention people you reference in your social media posts
  • Answer questions people ask
  • Reply when people @mention you or share your content
  • Don’t just Retweet and Like other people’s content; reply with a comment to start a conversation

5. Create an Editorial Calendar

Spoiler alert: sticking to a content schedule isn’t just something “extra” that brands do.

If there’s a common thread between the biggest brands on social, it’s that they post on a consistent basis.

Chances are you’re juggling multiple social channels and are trying to make sure you tick a lot of boxes in terms of descriptions and when to post, right? Consider how a content calendar can make the process much easier by…

  • Allowing you to fine-tune each of your posts for each platform without having to jump between sites.
  • Timing your posts to maximize engagement, keeping you from having to constantly post in real-time.
  • Avoid repeating the same content over and over again, ensuring each of your articles or pictures gets the most love possible.

In short, taking the time to make a schedule does double duty of keeping your social media presence organized while also maximizing your contents’ reach.

Social scheduling helps you save time and legwork when it comes to your social media presence

6. Automate the Right Way

Automation is all the rage in marketing right now, and for good reason.

However, you can’t expect to successfully put your social presence on autopilot and walk away.

For example, mass auto-replying has gone the way of the dinosaur as it typically comes across as insincere. This now-classic tweet from Bank of America is a good example of how to turn your social followers off via improper automation.

Poor automation can make your company appear cold or uncaring

Fast-forward to present day and it’s clear that customer care is a piece of social media that should be personalized, not autmoated.

Providing personalized help is a huge aspect of any given brand's social media presence

That said, automation in the form of scheduling or curating content is totally fair game. Just avoid it when you’re dealing with actual customers or followers’ questions.

This is why brands rely on social tools to help curate pieces of content already approved by marketing leaders. Bambu by Sprout Social, is in fact, just that piece of software needed to turn your employees into brand advocates. Tap into your workforce to help build your presence!

bambu current stories feature

7. Focus on Helping Over Selling

Although social selling is indeed on the rise, rarely should your social media presence be about the “hard sell.”

Sure, if you’re in ecommerce it makes sense to push offers and deals to your followers. What’s more important, though, is answering the questions of followers whether through replies or content marketing.

If your followers ask a question, you should respond in a timely manner.

And if your followers seem to be buzzing about a particular problem, you should craft content that speaks directly to it.

By offering solutions to problems instead of just pitching your products all the time, you’re proving your company is an authority and potentially earning a lifelong customer.

8. Optimize Your Accounts for Engagement

First thing’s first: don’t let the word “optimization” freak you out.

Unlike SEO, social media optimization isn’t particularly technical. That said, profiles can be optimized through imagery, keywords and fully filling out your account information.

For example, brands can use their Instagram bio to link to promotions, advertise their hashtag and let their brand’s voice be heard.

An optimized Instagram account includes relevant links, hashtags and a taste of your brand's mission

Similarly, a well-crafted Twitter profile with the right @mentions and HD imagery can signal your authority, helping you attract more followers.

An optimized Twitter profile helps prime you for more followers

And as noted in our guide for conducting a Facebook audit, a fully optimized page with complete business info can actually help your page rank better in Google.

Marketers should make sure that their profiles are 100% filled out based on that platform's best practices

Some quick ways to optimize your social media presence across your various accounts include:

  • Adding relevant keywords in your profile (hint: but not stuffing them)
  • Sharing content related to your industry—including keywords and hashtags in your posts
  • Connecting with popular accounts in your industry to additional exposure (hint: don’t be afraid to follow others)

9. When in Doubt, Get Visual

No matter where you’re posting, photo and video content are totally killing it right now.

Instagram’s image-based platform is exploding.

Facebook notes that Live videos get six times the engagement versus any other type of content.

And for those looking for more Twitter followers, graphics and videos get way more shares than text-based posts.

The good news is that getting visual doesn’t mean you need any sort of insane equipment or a full-blown production budget. Instead, consider imagery such as:

  • Team photos or videos
  • Photos of customers
  • Photos of events
  • Behind-the-scenes photos and videos
  • Quote photos
  • Infographics

Juantastico: Break the Trend

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine, but creativity lives outside the lines. Take it from Juantastico, grab a #Sharpie and Break the Trend! #SharpieSquad

Posted by Sharpie on Friday, December 1, 2017

And with so many tools to create social images and videos already out there, it’s easier than ever to get visual with your audience.

10. Make Your Presence Known

If you’ve gone through the legwork of establishing your social media presence, you need to let the world know.

From homepage feeds to icons on your site footer or email signature, anyone who comes in contact with your brand should only be a click away from becoming a long-term follower.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram feeds can all be easily integrated into your site with little more than a copy-paste code. Check out how ThinkGeek makes their social feeds a must-see on-site.

Advertising your social media channels beyond social media is a smart move to gain more followers

Cross-promotion on your website and through other social channels is a proactive way to grow your following over time.

11. Stay Active

Inactive social feeds are a bad look for brands, plain and simple. Rather than let your Facebook or Instagram gather cobwebs, you need to “show up” day after day with fresh content.

Some quick tips to help you stay active include:

  • Incorporating social scheduling and automation to save time and energy.
  • Picking and prioritizing your social networks based on your audience location.
  • Finding ways to repurpose content so you’d not always trying to reinvent the wheel.

Staying active on social doesn’t have to be a total time-suck. Through scheduling or simply blocking out 10-15 minute chunks throughout, you can post content and respond to customer concerns without wasting time. Also, you can try to base your activity around best times to post on social media to maximize engagement.

Instead of going overboard with content, optimizing the timing of your posts is much more efficient

12. Piggyback on What’s Trending

Between breaking news, trending hashtags or whatever the latest meme might be, brands always have room to get topical with their content. This is a great opportunity not only to build off of buzz of an existing trend, but also show off your brand’s personality.

For example, understanding the in’s and out’s of hashtags can help you brainstorm time-sensitive topics you can piggyback on. Of course, tread lightly with anything overtly political or controversial that could isolate your audience.

13. Don’t Be Afraid to Pay

Like it or not, social media at large isn’t the totally “free” channel it once was. While there’s still plenty that can be done organically, Facebook’s updated algorithm and new business features being rolled out Instagram signal a clear need for businesses to experiment with ads.

It’s not just ads that deserve your attention, though. Looking at the recent boom of influencer marketing, paid relationships among social movers and shakers is becoming more and more common.

The good news is that both social ads and influencer marketing can have an insane ROI. Between laser-targeting on Facebook or tapping into hyper-engaged influencer audiences, a paid strategy certainly has its time and place depending on your business’ social goals.

14. Use Tools to Monitor Your Activity

When people complain about the lack of ROI they’re seeing from social, there’s a good chance they aren’t taking social seriously.

Just like we’re often knee-deep in Google Analytics data, marketers need to treat social with the same sort of scrutiny. There are tons of analytics tools out there to help you identify your top-performing content, performance trends and essential break down your social media presence by the numbers. These data points can help you treat social media less like a guessing game and more like a science.

By tracking your social analytics, you can better determine which content performs the best

15. Create Content People Actually Want to See

If you want to stand out on social media, you can’t just parrot the content everyone else is posting.

In short, you need to create.

Whether you’re trying to build yourself up as a thought leader or want to stand apart from your competitors, original content is exactly how you’re going to make it happen.

Perhaps it’s your original blog posts, research or infographics.

Maybe it’s an eye-popping snapshot you took during your last vacation.

Or hey, it might be an opinionated rant on the state of your industry.

Either way, you should strive to post content that forces your followers to stop in their tracks. There’s a lot of noise out here on social media: make it a goal to break through it.

What Does Your Business’ Social Media Presence Look Like?

Listen: there is no “secret” or turnkey solution for a better social media presence.

Instead, there are small tactics and strategies that can help you build toward social accounts that prime for engagement.

And yeah, fifteen tips might seem like a lot on the surface. That said, these principles are staples of brands killing it on social right now. If you can follow them yourself, you’re already way ahead of the game.

We want to hear from you, though. What’s something you struggle with when it comes to your social media presence? Any tips or tactics that we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

This post 15 Tips to Building a Better Social Media Presence originally appeared on Sprout Social.

Sprout Social

Build Better Contact Forms with These Guidelines

Look around the web, and you’ll see that web developers (and their clients) love contact forms. And for good reason: they collect important information about customers cheaply and effectively. But so many of these forms are clumsily designed or poorly implemented, cutting companies off from their customer. Avoid these problems and learn to build better user experiences by following these contact form guidelines.

Is a contact form the right tool for the job?

contact form guidelines vanilla form

When your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail. Don’t let this be you! Contact forms might be de rigueur, but that doesn’t mean they’re always the best tool for the job.

There’s no doubt that contact forms are a valuable tool for website owners and marketers. They collect crucial information that users often leave out of self-written contact emails, and can encourage users to reach out when they might otherwise have stayed silent. For certain types of uses, they’re absolutely essential. However, it’s not always the perfect tool for the job.

Let’s look at a situation where a contact form is expected by users and useful for the website. If you’re working on the customer support section of a large company’s website, a contact form is probably essential. Users need to be reminded to include important information, like their contact information, software version, account status and issue type. This makes sorting and assigning the huge volume of support requests easier for backend tech support software, freeing up your client from the drudgery of manually sorting material. Users provide the information required at first contact, so they get response faster, and everyone’s happy.

Marketers can also see a huge benefit from contact forms. If you’re trying to collect users emails in exchange for an infographic, ebook or free trial, contact forms are the perfect way to do that. You can dump the information right into your contact database and automatically add folks to your email lists.

But for small- and medium-sized service-based businesses, they might not be so great. If you’re a homeowner that needs plumbing services, there’s a chance that you need those services as close to “now” as is possible. If your bathroom is flooding right this second, you need to speak to someone immediately. In this case, you don’t want a contact form. Users have the perception that contact forms are slow and impersonal, and won’t solve their problem quickly.

Instead, you want a giant phone number plastered at the top of the web page. That doesn’t mean you can’t also have a contact for capture folks that don’t like using the phone, but it must not be the sole method of contact. No doubt, you will get spam as a result of this, but many filtering options exist to reduce that problem.

Contact form guidelines for building better forms

Icons made by Alfredo Hernandez from is licensed by CC 3.0 BY

If you do decide you definitely need a contact form, don’t screw it up! Use these contact form guidelines to make sure it’s up to snuff.

1. Design a clear user interface

Designing a functional and pleasing user interface is harder that it seems, so this tip can be challenging to implement. But by and large, you can follow some basic rules.

  • Make fields easy to read. Text should be the right weight and color to read against the background, even for users with slightly impaired vision. Align labels to the left and position them above the field they apply to, and make sure the text is large enough to read without trying.
  • Pre-fill forms carefully. If you’re using pre-filled form text as labels, make sure that it’s legible against the background of the text area, and that it contains accurate information. Also, don’t make it real text.
  • Implement accessibility options. Make sure all input boxes can be reached by keyboard navigation, and that your <label> elements are descriptive and accurate.
  • Keep it brief. Forms with fewer fields are easier for users to fill out, and they’re more likely to submit them. Don’t request information you don’t need (like full address) because it’s “standard.” And don’t ask for information you already have: in most cases, you can determine a user’s city and state from their postal code.
  • Animate sparingly. You can do a ton of crazy-cool stuff with jQuery and HTML5 animations, but keep it in check. Don’t drown the user in gimmicky animations or over-the-top invalid response cues.
  • Size form fields in relation to their expected input. Email fields need more space than a phone number, and a customer message need more room still.
  • Use the generic radio buttons and checkboxes provided by the browser. These are easy to understand and users are used to seeing them in all their states. Plus, they always work!
  • Make required fields obvious. Use a red asterisk to denote required fields, or actually write the word “required” next to their label.
  • Accept data in any format. If you ask for phone numbers, for example, accept them with or without dashes and parentheses. Don’t reformat the input live either. Having parentheses, dashes and slashes suddenly appear as you’re typing is confusing for users.

2. Use custom branding

Consumers are uniquely attuned to the impersonal and generic. They might not be able to say exactly why, but if your contact form looks the same as every other contact form in the world, they’ll feel it.

To avoid this, implement some custom styling. This can be super simple, like changing field colors, border-radius values and typefaces. You can also get more complicated, restyling the form with scratch with unique interaction methods and live feedback. Whatever you choose, make sure it matches the company’s branding.

3. Make sure it works every time

If the user provides valid input, your form should submit every single time, without exception. But some developers, seeking to sanitize input and save work on the backend, shoot themselves in the foot with complicated filters and schemes.

You obviously need to make sure users can’t execute arbitrary code on your site, but that doesn’t require insanely complicated regular expressions to validate emails. Keep any validation methods as basic as possible to avoid surprise problems.

4. Secure it against common attacks

Anything you build for a client should be secure, but contact forms are especially vulnerable. Users are submitting data directly to your servers, and without checks in place, malicious users can execute scripts against your website.

Be smart about limiting common attacks, and use simple methods that actually work. For example, use HTML entity encoding and escape user submitted data to render code non-functional. You can learn more about this by reading about cross site scripting attacks (XSS) and MySQL injection.

5. Include relevant custom fields

To make your contact form most useful for your client, you need to include relevant custom fields in addition to obvious fields like name and email address. To take the example above, a support form for a software company should have drop down menus that request operating system and software version number. You might also ask users to choose a category for their question, though users sometimes have a hard time selecting this accurately.

6. Don’t ask for unnecessary info

The shorter the form, the better. And the less invasive a form feels, the more likely users are to submit it. If you don’t need personal information, don’t ask for it.

It might even improve your conversion rates. Some surveys have found that users are less likely to fill out a form when a phone number field is present, and shorter forms have higher utilization rates. As a rule, if data isn’t critical to the form’s purpose, don’t ask for it.

7. Try out different button copy

The text on your button is valuable: it should say what the user wants to do. Sure, the user wants to submit the form, but “Submit!” is pretty generic. Try using a call-to-action in the button text itself. For example, if you’re requesting user information to download an ebook, try out a button that says “Click here to download your free ebook!” This can help your conversion rate and reminds the user what will happen when they submit the form.

8. Keep the input process simple and flexible

Users shouldn’t need to think too hard to fill out the form. If your contact form imposes a large cognitive load on users, they’ll likely just ignore it.

Date and time pickers are a great example of imposing a mental burden on users. It seems like every picker is different. Some allow you to type in dates and then apply the correct formatting; others permit you to type in dates, but don’t accept the input as valid. And still others make typing in the date box impossible. All share one universal trait: they’re annoying, and yet necessary. If you must use something like this, make it as flexible as possible.

The perfect date picker would allow the user to use whatever input paradigm they’re most comfortable with. If you type in a date, it should automatically apply the proper formatting to accept the date. If you pick a date from a drop down calendar, that calendar should be easy to navigate, without superfluous animations or slow things down. Of course, it won’t be possible to achieve perfection on every project. Do your best to meet the user where they are, rather than trying to force your input method on them.

9. Use clear confirmation dialogues and error messages

If a form submits correctly, make sure you tell users! And then navigate away from the contact form page. It’s extremely unlikely that a contact form will be filled in twice, and users expect to be navigated to another page when they’re done with the form. Leaving users at the form will make it hard to tell if they were successful or not.

If something is wrong with the user’s input, make sure you tell them what’s wrong and why. Just indicate a generic problem isn’t enough: highlight the field with problematic input, and explain exactly what the problem is and how to fix it. Just make sure you’re only validating when the user submits the form! It’s stupid to have a form pedantically correct you on how to type an email address when you haven’t even finished typing.

10. Make it mobile-friendly

Contact forms that look awesome on a desktop browser might not so hot on mobile. Make sure that your form is reflowing as necessary for mobile users, and text extensively Use an actual mobile device to test it, confirming that form fields are all easily tappable and the submit button is large enough to hit accurately.

And make sure you’re giving users the right keyboard! By specifying your input type, you can automatically trigger context-sensitive keyboards on iOS and Android. For example, if you use <input type="tel">, you’ll trigger a phone number keyboard that makes typing in numbers easier for users.


You might also like:

Near-Perfect Lead Generation Forms: 2 Prime Examples
8 Killer Ways to Design Higher Converting Web Forms
45 Notable Website Registration and Login Forms

The post Build Better Contact Forms with These Guidelines appeared first on SpyreStudios.


Why your website sucks and how to better engage with digitally-savvy consumers

I recently had an opportunity to speak with Juliet Stott of Content Magazine about the impact digital has had on marketing, how customer experiences can help marketers differentiate their brands, and why websites in general, suck.

It was such a fun and revealing conversation, that I wanted to share it with you here.

I hope it helps you!

Content: What has been the greatest disruption to marketing, and what impact has it had on the industry?

Brian: Social is one of the disruptions, but it is not the most disruptive. Social democratized information and gave power to the consumers to take control of their own customer journey, and from there everything has snowballed. I think the greatest disruption in marketing has been the industry’s inability to disrupt itself. Since the inception of the web – marketers have not changed their approach with emerging technology. And that’s the challenge. Each technological disruption has brought with it an entirely new consumer mindset. The new platforms have changed how consumers behave, how they engage, and how they communicate. Yet, marketers, over the last 15-20 years, have not really evolved with the times. They have used new technology platforms, everything from social to AR/VR, with the same marketing playbook, without imagining how each platform opens itself up to new opportunities for messaging and engagement.

New platforms and devices are being launched at such a frequent rate—how can marketers keep up? Which trends should they invest in, which should they ignore?

Marketers need to look at the trends that their customers and people are adapting to, and not be swayed by ‘shiny object syndrome’. They need to understand why these technologies are becoming trends, and how they change behaviour. So, it’s not just about when to jump on something in the hype cycle, it is about using data to identify how technology is impacting on consumer behaviour. Marketers tend to get stuck in the rut of ‘business as usual’ – using the same metrics, the same campaign mindset, and the same budget to fund programs, and they put people in front of strategies that they aren’t the most qualified to manage. Instead they need to understand how to use these new technologies to be culturally relevant, and adapt their practices to align with the change in consumer behavior.

Why is delivering good customer experience important to marketers? Can you give an example of it/best practice?

The first challenge is to understand what the customer experience [with the brand] is today, and how that aligns with expectations. The word ‘experience’ is very personal. It’s an emotional reaction to a moment. It can be measured by what happens after that moment. Marketers have to understand that experience architects need to deliver the kinds of experiences that people don’t just want, but that ones that deliver happiness, engagement or entertainment in ways that they will simply cherish; as the best, and the worst, experiences become memories.

As technology evolves, customer expectations change, so do their tastes, and their values. It’s these expectations that create new opportunities for marketers to reach consumers and engage with them in ways that they haven’t considered before.

I don’t know a brand that I can tell you I love. Many have adopted new business models, in terms of modern commerce; they are using modern marketing methods to reach modern customers. But they are still using 1.0 CRM systems, that aren’t thinking about individual engagement. I think that there is an opportunity for marketers to reimagine the entire premise for what marketing means in 2017 and beyond.

Should marketers invest in new technology?

Asking if you need new technology is missing the point. The point is, what people are doing, what they expect, how they make decisions, and what they prefer is all changing. We have to reverse engineer the customer journey and design it with new touch points in mind. You almost have to borrow from the five Ws of journalism (who, what, where, why, how). Marketers need to think about being there at the right place, at the right time, delivering the right message, in the right context; then look at technology. Technology should act as enabler and have a purpose, but unfortunately today we use it as a solution to a problem that we don’t necessarily understand.

Many tech analysists are predicting the demise of websites—what is driving this sentiment? And if this prediction is true—what will replace them?

I think everything is disrupting websites, because websites suck. That’s the fault of marketers. We haven’t challenged ourselves to reimagine what a website should be since 1995. They are a horrible experience today, because they are built based on a web 1.0/analogue world. The first series of websites were digital brochures, and they still are. The most innovative we get now is injecting flash or immersive technology like VR, but they are still being built on a premise that isn’t engaging consumers in the way they want. Again, thinking about how people make decisions, one of the very last things they want is a tedious website—consumers are looking for quick answers. I did research with Google around ‘micro moments’—into how people make decisions. They just want to get to the next step, in the minutes they have available, while they are looking at their smartphones. So, in some cases voice is going to be the next platform, so is video, or traditional mobile UIs, but not one is going to displace the other. What they will all do collectively, is make legacy platforms obsolete, unless websites evolve; which they can and should.

What advice would you give to marketers who are looking to create their five-year plan today?

All plans should look at the bigger trends of how technology is impacting on markets, over time. Marketers need to look at disruptive technology, and the impact it is having on society, and identify their deficiencies today and what they need for tomorrow to breech that gap. It’s not about being ahead of the tech trends as much as being aligned with them and building the right infrastructure to track along with it. Technology is only part of the solution; the other part is perspective.

About Brian

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Designexplores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire and change executive mindsets.

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
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The post Why your website sucks and how to better engage with digitally-savvy consumers appeared first on Brian Solis.

Brian Solis

Is Facebook Getting Better or Worse? Top Experts Share Their Thoughts

Facebook has made the world both a smaller and more crowded place. With two billion users in the fold, the site can feel cluttered from time to time. News feeds run rampant with large chunks of text, videos and photos from around the globe, as well as targeted ad after targeted ad. With so many different elements popping up at once—and with no clear rhyme or reason to them—it’s easy to get lost in this sea of social media posts.

For marketers, this is both a pro and a con. Although Facebook’s algorithms offer advertisers tremendous opportunities to reach target audiences in mass numbers, the platform’s overwhelming news feeds often make it difficult for ads to make an impact on consumers. Making brand impressions on Facebook is tough, but can it still be done?

SME asks a range of social media experts for their opinions on Facebook’s cluttered yet still powerful presence:

Q: Facebook, in theory, is working hard to clean up your feed. What’s the best thing about Facebook right now from a personal usage perspective or as a marketer?

Andrea Hofer, Global Social Media Manager at Philips Healthcare: The fact that Facebook has to worry about fake news demonstrates its power as a player in shaping public perception. Twitter is doing work in this area as well. Their new Moments feature (collections of tweets around newsworthy topics) is curated internally by a Twitter team to make sure the news is not fake. Facebook’s power for me is in its ability to keep me in contact with my weak connections. I can read about my high school peers’ struggles with parenthood or look up a couch to crash on in the cities former coworkers have scattered to. People don’t vanish from your life anymore.

Jennifer Forrest, Director of Social Media at DEG Digital: From a personal user perspective, the most interesting aspect of Facebook right now is the headway it’s making in live video. As a marketer, it is the ability to use an incredible amount of data within the platform to target users with content, without it feeling obtrusive.

Stephen Monaco, Founder of Future Marketing Institute: The best thing about Facebook right now from a marketing perspective is the ability to use flex targeting to serve ads to prospective customers with laser precision. The best thing regarding personal usage is the knowledge exchanged within closed Facebook Groups.

Jason Falls, Founder of Conservation Research Institute: The best thing about Facebook from a user perspective is they’re still not selling our data out. It frustrates the crap out of me because I spend most of my time trying to analyze what people are saying online and about 2/3 of the conversation online is on Facebook. So I can only accurately report on the other third. For the longest time people claimed Facebook was a big privacy violation network. The truth is, they use your data to allow their advertisers to target more granularly — which theoretically makes the user experience better and supports the company — but that’s about it.

Drew Neisser, CEO of NYC-based Renegade LLC: Putting on my marketer hat, I continue to be in awe of Facebook’s ability to reach tightly defined targets and motivate them to take an action whether that is to watch a video, download an app, click to learn more or even buy a product. I have little doubt that Facebook will remain an important marketing channel for just about any business for many years to come.

Q: What’s not working?

Joel Comm, Author, speaker, brand influencer: Unfortunately, Facebook’s approach to dealing with #FakeNews is partisan and not balanced. I still love Facebook as a platform and am a big fan of Facebook Live. But I am concerned at their approach to dealing with content.

Josh Steimle, CEO of Influencer Inc: Facebook has gotten clunky, like a house that started out with a few rooms, but has undergone 20 additions–each of which made sense at the time–but which now adds up to a big mess. Sure, it’s still a great platform for users and marketers, but it would be nice to have an overhaul that takes into account where things are today and builds for current use, as well as the future, so we don’t have to deal with this cobbled-together blob with too many options, many of which aren’t placed where you would expect them to be.

Hofer: The diluted value of news feed content. One could blame the ad-focused algorithm but sometimes the ads are better targeted to me than the rest of the content. I should be glued to it; after all, if I were to get an actual distillation of the fascinating things happening in the lives of all my connections, I’d visit at least daily. A good fix would be tagging. When I push live a post, let me select from a few tags like “life event” “party/celebration” “baby pics” “travel” “sports” “politics” etc.—maybe even with image/text analysis pre-selecting the most likely option. If I could filter out politics ALONE, my feed would be a much happier and more engaging place.

Forrest: The worst thing about Facebook right now is just the general overconsumption of media. With Twitter, you get bite-sized bits of information that are easier to consume. With Facebook, it’s this wide-eyed look that’s cluttered and almost too much for your mind to handle. Facebook’s newsfeed is in need of another overhaul, which could help make media more manageable.

Monaco: The worst things will always be people posting every single humdrum thought that passes through their mind, and photos of what they had for lunch!

Falls: The worst thing about Facebook is I’ve hidden approximately 12,743 posts with a certain politician’s picture in the post because he makes me sick to my stomach and its algorithm hasn’t yet figured out to stop it.

Neisser: My feed is a mess right now but I hold myself partially responsible as I’ve welcomed way too many acquaintances as “friends.” Time to be a little more disciplined with my Likes so I see more stuff from my family and the friends I really care about and less from those that shouldn’t have been there in the first place!

While many appreciate Facebook’s sheer reach, the social media site appears to have a lot of content to clean up. Simple changes to Facebook’s presentation, such as news feed filter options and layout changes, could help users get more out of the experience. These tweaks may also lead to greater brand impressions on Facebook for marketers. Until then, we’ll have to do all the sifting mentally as we scroll.

The post Is Facebook Getting Better or Worse? Top Experts Share Their Thoughts appeared first on Social Media Explorer.

Social Media Explorer

Create Better Mobile Video Ads, Content Proofreading and Editing Tips & More: The Social Scoop 7/5/17

For my friends in the US, I trust you had a wonderful 4th of July celebration. I enjoyed a fun party on the 3rd and streamed the fabulous firework display on Facebook Live – it was actually to celebrate Oceanside, California’s 129th anniversary and we had a bird’s eye view. Hehee!  

Last Friday, I gave a talk on The Future of Facebook: What Marketers Need To Know at the annual Social Media Day San Diego for the 6th year in a row. I plan to lead the same talk as a Facebook Live in the coming weeks – stay tuned! 🙂

After traveling and speaking extensively all year so far, I’m delighted to be home all summer now. I will take a couple of mini breaks. But, mostly I have an epic number of exciting projects to catch up on and can hardly wait to share more with you!!

One such project definitely involves my Facebook Live show! On that note, the top ten most watched video publishers on Facebook racked up 16.3 Billion total video views in May 2017, according to TubularInsights. Take a look at the top ten Pages — what’s fascinating is that they are all media companies. Hm! ‘FB TV Network!’

The Top Ten Facebook Video Publishers

This Week’s Top 3 Articles

1. Want to Make Better Video Ads for Mobile? Here’s How via

Researchers at Facebook and beyond have found that mobile activity is strikingly frequent and fast! Check out these three stats: i) People scroll through mobile News Feed 41% faster. ii) Almost half of American adults check their phone at least 30 times a day. iii) People can remember what they see on mobile after only a quarter of a second or less. Creating excellent video ads and earning people’s attention is SO important to your business today. Read this article for excellent tips on making better video content and ads.

2. Content Marketing: 7 Tips for Proofreading and Editing via

Do you have a specific process in place for your brand’s writing? Good content marketing requires proofreading and editing before publishing and promoting. Check out the super helpful seven tips in this article to ensure more of your written content is consumed and shared! 🙂 Personally, I resonate with #3 and #6!

3. Mark Zuckerberg: 2 Billion Users Means Facebook’s ‘Responsibility Is Expanding’ via

Last week Facebook announced the company had reached 2 billion monthly users. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, stated, ”We’re making progress connecting the world, and now let’s bring the world closer together.” This, and the improvements announced for Facebook Groups a few days prior, are steps the company is taking to build a greater sense of community. Gotta love that! 

Facebook TV Is Coming: Get Ready!

If you already  joined the notification list for this exciting new course, thank you. And, thank you also for your kind patience in receiving the latest update from me. My team and I continue to work hard behind the scenes to complete the outline, speakers, format, delivery, timing and more on my exciting and long-awaited new program: Facebook Live Video Success Secrets + Facebook Ads Strategy Training (FAST!)  We’ll have further details to you ASAP!

If you haven’t already, do join the early bird notification list to be among the first to know when we go live! If you’re already signed up, stay tuned!

Find out more here… or click the button below to be among the first to know when we go live with this combo course! (Plus, get special bonuses!)
Get on the Notification List here!

The post Create Better Mobile Video Ads, Content Proofreading and Editing Tips & More: The Social Scoop 7/5/17 appeared first on

Mari Smith – Social Media Marketing Success

Page Layout Research: What the “Where’s Waldo?” books can teach us about designing better pages

What can “Where’s Waldo?”, the lovable children’s book series of the ‘90s, teach us about designing better page layouts?

A lot, it turns out.

In UX, we use different page layouts to help organize information and guide the users’ eye path. The “F” pattern, for instance, is commonly used for article heavy sites to guide the users’ eye path downward while supporting headline scanning. Reddit, Google News and Buzzfeed all use the “F” pattern layout.

F Pattern

“F” Pattern (Source)

One of the earliest layout patterns, and the one still most commonly used today, is the Gutenberg diagram. Originally conceived in the ‘50s by Edmond C. Arnold to help organize newspaper layouts, the Gutenberg diagram breaks the page down into quadrants and explains how the user interacts visually with each quadrant. In the diagram, the primary optical area is the upper left quadrant where the eye path naturally begins.

The lower right quadrant, the terminal area, is where the eye path ends. Gravity pulls the eyes diagonally between the two quadrants leaving the upper right and lower left quadrants largely out of the eye path.

gutenberg diagram

The Gutenberg Diagram (Source)

While it is very western centric, the Gutenberg diagram  makes sense. We read top to bottom, left to right, so our eyes are naturally drawn to the upper left of a page when first looking at it. As we scan the page, our eyes end up at the bottom right of the page.

We’re taught to follow this general eye path as soon as we learn to read. Even today, we utilize this pattern when designing web pages because it leverages our tendencies to follow that eye path. It’s rare to find a web site where the company logo isn’t in the upper left corner.

So what does this have to do with Waldo?

Randy Olson recently published an article on how to find Waldo in under 10 seconds (and trust me, it works.) Olson mapped all of the points where Waldo was hiding in the seven main Where’s Waldo books. Then he ran those points through an algorithm that found the optimal eye path to use to spot Waldo quickly. As part of his research, Olson created a kernel density estimate   to illustrate where Waldo is most commonly hiding.

Waldo Locations

Waldo’s 68 Hiding Locations Plotted Out (Source)

Waldo kernel density estimate

Olson’s Kernel Density Estimate (Source)

When you overlay the Gutenberg diagram and Olson’s kernel density estimate, something interesting becomes apparent; the highest density of Waldo’s hiding spots fall within the least viewed quadrants of the page. Waldo is most commonly hiding in the areas our eyes are trained to avoid. In fact, 70% of the time, he’s in the upper right or bottom left quadrants of the page.

optical layout map

Optical Layout Map (Source)

What does this teach us about designing page layouts?

If you’re designing a page and want the most important elements to pop out at your visitors, don’t put those elements where Waldo would be hiding.

Use the primary optical area and the terminal area as your main points of reference for important information.

And always remember that no matter what you do, we don’t optimize web pages, we optimize thought sequences. Guide your visitor through a thoughtful conversation. Eye path  and page layouts are simply tools to help you do that. But don’t forget that they are simply means, not ends.

Bonus: In case you read this whole thing JUST to find out how to find Waldo in under 10 seconds, 80% of the time, Olson’s optimized eye path to find Waldo is below. Happy hunting.

Waldo optimal search path

Olson’s “Where’s Waldo?” Optimal Search Path (Source)


You might also like:

Prominence: Design and layout lessons from Windows 8

This Just Tested: What is the optimal layout of a product page?

Homepage Testing: 91% conversion lift from new copy and layout

Marketing Research Chart: How do you know the most effective layout and images for your marketing sends?

MarketingExperiments Blog: Research-driven optimization, testing, and marketing ideas

How to Better Serve Customers With Twitter Direct Messages

Looking for ways to improve customer care on Twitter? Do your customers tweet you for support? Moving customer service discussions to private Twitter Direct Message (DM) threads can help your support team quickly resolve issues. In this article, you’ll discover how to use the latest Twitter Direct Message features to improve your customer service. Why […]

This post How to Better Serve Customers With Twitter Direct Messages first appeared on .
– Your Guide to the Social Media Jungle

How B2B Marketers Can Get Better Targeting and Deeper Insights

Knowledge about your customers’ preferences at specific moments is critical to unlock the marketing potential of contextual intelligence today’s digital marketplace provides. By studying and applying buyer personas and qualification to marketing processes marketers can learn more about customers’ preferences. Personas can be leveraged across several departments such as sales, marketing, advertising, and customer service. But the task of actually creating the ideal buyer personas for your business can be a daunting one.

However, B2B marketers are faced with the uphill task of making sense out of data from several systems, both online and offline, internal and external. They are grappling with the fact that the always-connected buyer’s behavior and preferences are constantly evolving, and marketers need to maximize the value of customer data in near-real time for better targeting and personalization, as well as to build lifetime value.

Identifying the right buyer persona requires the consideration of several attributes (demographic, psychographic, etc.) in order to make conversations relevant. Just like in the B2C environment where customer expectations of personalization and targeted content most relevant to them are now critical factors in accelerating their decision making, similarly B2B buyers also expect the companies or brands they interact with to know them well and identify their needs and goals. 

Technology to the Rescue AKA a Data Management Platform (DMP)

A data management platform (DMP) combines online and offline data from first-party proprietary systems, and second-party and third-party audiences to provide marketers with a central platform that stores and helps provide insight regarding audience and campaign data that is used for optimizing campaigns and media spend across channels. 

It is also deployed against cross-channel campaigns to better inform, for example, nurture programs within an organization.

With the help of a DMP, a marketer can manage and analyze audience profile data to better inform ad targeting through modeling, implement retargeting campaigns for better direct response, and optimize site performance using customer behavior data. It also enables marketers to add analyzed audience data into marketing automation systems, for example, to help B2B marketers receive a more informed view of their customers. 

Download Audience Data Management: Driving Top-of-Funnel B2B Prospects Through Digital Advertising and learn more about how B2B marketers can get better targeting and deeper insights by utilizing a DMP.

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