Your Online Audience: web visitors and the right way to reach them

In some of our previous convos, we’ve touched on the importance of knowing your online audience when trying to make viral videos, as well as how to shape your online presence in being a part of that greater audience. There are many kinds of people online and trying to understand their activity can be a challenge. However, this blogger almost always seems to be stressing the importance of knowing that audience; so how do we kick-start the complex task of understanding the web? Well, here we’re going to take a look at the anatomy of a website visitor, focusing on how to get the attention of web visitors.

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As we’ll see, there’s no algorithm to understanding your online audience. Though Google’s algorithms and other online aggregate websites provide great tools that can help you attract web visitors and appropriately target your content to them.

Brandt Dainow, an independent web analytics consultant and the CEO of ThinkMetric, has provided a framework for understanding how web visitors shop online. He defines three specific kinds of web visitors, and how conversion mechanics work to influence each visitor in making an online purchase.

Basically, every visitor has a baseline purchase probability that determines their initial chance of purchasing something online. There is a visit effect (the effect of visiting a website on the visitor’s purchase probability) and a purchase effect (the effect of past purchases on the visitor’s purchase probability) that combine to either positively or negatively impact the chances of a website visitor purchasing something. In this, website interaction and past experiences determine the actions of website visitors, allowing us to apply Dainow’s work outside the scope of e-commerce.

His anatomy of a website visitor can illustrate the ways online audiences use the Internet to find whatever it is they’re looking for, whether that be in e-commerce or any other aspect of the attention economy. According to Dainow, any website visitor is navigating the web as one of the following:

  1. The Browsing Visitor.
  2. The Research Visitor.
  3. The Focused Visitor.

[BROWSING VISITORS]

images-1These are the window shoppers of the Internet. Browsing visitors are surfing the web for pure infotainment, traveling around social media to see what’s happening or searching the web in random areas of interest. Dainow describes the browsing visitor as being the most likely to be your “impulse purchaser.”

What this means for any other website is that browsing visitors will comprise that part of your audience that stumbles onto your website through a social media link or targeted ad. It’s not easy to find these specific visitors because of their broad web activity, but you can take steps to prepare for their random visits. Browsing visitors are highly influenced by design, so keep your web content minimal and your design simple to explore.

[RESEARCH VISITORS]

imagesResearch visitors are using the web for one thing; research. They have an idea of what they want to purchase, but want to make a more informed decision. There are two types of research visitor: Focused and Background. The focused research visitor knows what product or service they need and want to compare options, while background research visitors are trying to learn more about a general industry; not a specific product or service.

This means that a research visitor can be more easily identified, because of their confined activity online. A research visitor is most likely beginning their web experience on a search engine, so search engine marketing (SEM) is your best tactic in gaining their attention.

[FOCUSED VISITOR]

images-3Search engine marketing is a great tactic for attracting focused visitors as well. The focused visitor has graduated from being a research visitor and knows exactly what they are looking to buy. They’re visit is most likely with the intention of purchasing something, so they will value the navigability of your website.

More importantly, the focused visitor is easiest to find online. They’re the online browsers that are using specific keywords to search for their content and navigating the more popular websites because they know what they’re looking for. This means that these audiences are going to be the easiest to target online. We’ll discuss how to do this in a later post.

[SUMMARY]

Dainow’s conversion mechanics in his anatomy of a website visitor describes the purchasing behaviour of online shoppers. His categorization of website visitors (into the browsing visitor, the research visitor, and the focused visitor) can be applied outside of e-commerce. It helps us define the kinds of audiences that are visiting our websites and allows us to target our desired audience, depending on how confined their online activity is.

A research or focused visitor will be easier to find through search engine marketing techniques than the more erratic browsing visitor. SEM is extremely valuable to every website, because it connects demand to supply.

site visitorsOur next post will revolve around Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and other online tools that help us understand the activity of our three website visitors. By first understanding the kinds of visitors that are navigating the web, we can begin to understand the different techniques that will best influence each in gaining their attention.

Going Viral! How to make your ideas spread online with Seth Gobin

It’s important to every netizen trying to establish themselves online: going viral!

Viral videos are hard to initiate, and even harder to predict. This is because there’s no cookie-cutter formula to producing a viral video. Do you really think the first person to Harlem Shake in front of a video camera expected half the world to film themselves doing it, too? Probably not, but it had what any YouTube sensation needs to go viral: a remarkable experience.

It was new, unique, and spreadable; but most importantly, it was “worth making a remark about.” These are the words of Seth Gobin, a well-established entrepreneur and blogger on the marketing of ideas in the digital age. A decade after his TEDTalk on spreading ideas online, we revisit his speech and apply it to the trend of going viral.

Gobin establishes 3 rules for spreading ideas online, that are worth noting before we visit the practice of going viral:

  1. DESIGN IS NOW: people who find a way to be remarkable make design work for them.
  2. SAFE IS RISKY: the safe thing to do now is to be risky; appeal to the fringes and be remarkable.
  3. GOOD IS BAD: very good is boring, because no one is going to listen. Stand out!

[SETH GOBIN]: “In a world where we have to many choices and too little time, the obvious choice is to ignore stuff.”

In a time of information-overload, audiences are way too quick to practice their ignorance. They aren’t going to give their attention to the vast majority of images and texts that cross their screen, because they simply don’t care! So, like Seth Gobin explicitly acknowledges, we have to find the people that do care; we have to find our target audience. Gobin’s solution is to appeal to the innovators and early adopters of the “Adoption Innovation Curve” because they care; they’ll spread your unique ideas.

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The Curve is meant to illustrate the ways that consumers adopt new innovations; or, in our case, ideas. Twenty years ago, it made sense to market to the early and late majority, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Now, online marketing makes your audience directly accessible. Businesses and organizations alike can easily reach their audiences online through tools like social media target-marketing and Google Ad Words. However, (1) we need to know our audience and (2) our messages simply have to be “remarkable”.

Seth Gobin uses the work remarkable specifically, because online ideas need to be worth making a remark about. A viral video cannot simply be a repeat of another, unless you hop on the Harlem Shake bandwagon early enough. Instead, think of something new; something your audience is going to want to spread because it’s unique. It’s up to you to be remarkable!

Remember this?

It was truly remarkable! Honda’s “When Things Just Work” commercial was rumored to need over 600 takes before finally getting the shot to work. It was interesting and innovative, and it spread across the Internet like wildfire as a result. Preceding social media websites like Facebook and YouTube, having been released in 2003, the video spread mostly through email. Quite simply, it was remarkable; people wanted to share it because it sparked their interest, and they knew it would spark the interest of their friends.

[SETH GOBIN]: “figure out who does care, who is going to raise their hands and say they want what you have; sell your stuff to them and they’ll share it.”

THAT’S the secret to going viral! Don’t invest in sterling production value, don’t pay to have your content promoted across the web, don’t even bother getting superstar-power behind your promotions (although it’s definitely been proven to help). Just put time into knowing your audience and provide them with an experience; an experience that’s worth making a remark about.

Social media will adopt your content, if it’s worth adopting. Use the target-marketing tools that social media has to offer; use it to know your audience and understand where they are going online. After you know that, provide them with an experience; something they are going to want to share. Once you’ve posted your interesting, unique, and spreadable content somewhere where your audience is prominently established online, just sit back and watch the hit-counters rise!

LinkedIn Tips: business as usual

So I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple weeks helping out larger organizations. . . Now, I’m going to take some time to help out the most important ones, YOU! After all, we’re all in the business of establishing our own self-brand, and here’s some great tips to help us do just that.

 LinkedIn-Logo-02LinkedIn is known as the “professional networking site“. It is, obviously, still a social media platform, but without a doubt there are some things you might post on Facebook that you wouldn’t on LinkedIn. I doubt your future employers are interested in what you’re having for dinner or how many episodes of Suits you’ve managed to watch in a row. However, there are some important things that they do want to know about you, and I’ll bet you’re not currently telling them.

To be honest, I wasn’t at first either. As a student, I am looking to establish myself within the media industry, but I am also looking to find the best employees, as a hiring business entrepreneur during the summer months. I discovered that LinkedIn can provide important information for the un-employed, as well as employees and employers, when I had the pleasure of hearing PERRY MONACO speak about a week ago at Western University, London.

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As one of two Product Consultants for LinkedIn Canada, he had some great tips as to how everyone should be using LinkedIn in order to best qualify yourself to employers in your intended industry. Some of these tips you might be familiar with, but there are some new ones that could be the difference between landing that perfect interview and sitting on your couch this summer.

90% of employers now use social media during their hiring process. LinkedIn is a key social media tool, as it provides the important information that employers need (resumes, contact info, education, skills, etc.). So it’s important to keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date as well as utilizing it for your employment needs, too. Here’s how:

[ 1 ] NETWORKS

The more connections you have, the better. Not sure if you knew this, but there are three kinds of connections you can have on LinkedIn:

  1. 1st Degree
  2. 2nd Degree
  3. 3rd Degree

images-2Your 1st degree connections are all the people that you have added to your network, or those who have added you (essentially, a “virtual handshake.” A friend request was sent and accepted). Your 2nd degree connections are all those people who are connected to your 1st degree contacts, and I’m sure you can guess what your 3rd degree connections comprise of. All three degrees of connection make up your network. Don’t be afraid to associate yourself with people who have the largest network. After all, as your network grows, so do your available job opportunities.

[ 2 ] INTRODUCTIONS

Introductions are your way of incorporating other people into your network. Essentially, you can ask a mutual friend on LinkedIn to introduce you and someone you wish to be in contact with. This is a great way for you to easily reach the important people in your industry, and slowly build your ideal career path.

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Under each profile, You will see a tab that reads “Send InMail.” Once you pan over that tab, under the profile of the person you wish to be introduced to, you can select ‘Get Introduced’. From there, you can pick the right person for the job! Be sure to pick the person that is most closely connected to your intended contact’s network, in order to make the best impression!

[ 3 ] PROFILE

KEEP THIS UP-TO-DATE! It is much easier to fill-in your experience on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis than it is to do right before your job search. With an updated profile, employers can look at your experience at any time, and you could become a candidate without even trying. Your profile has some important information that employers are looking for in the job market:

  1. Name
  2. Photo
  3. Email (and other contact info)
  4. Resume (and other relevant experience)
  5. References
  6. ‘Profile Summary’

These are all key pieces to building your online brand. Although you may not know it now, your brand is a reflection of you, and employers take it very seriously. Just take a minute and punch your name into Google quickly, THAT’S your online brand. You can manage it by adjusting your activity on different social media sites, and everyone should have some kind of strategy in doing so. For the professional, LinkedIn is a must!

[ 4 ] ENDORSEMENTS

This is my favourite application that LinkedIn offers, and probably one of their most under-valued. Endorsements allows you to build a catalogue of skill-sets under the ‘Skills & Expertise’ section, that are endorsed by the people in your network. It shows employers what you’re capable of, and allows you to see what your employers need from you. This is also a great way to stay connected to your network, as an endorsement is still a way of staying in touch.

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As you can see, there are so many different skills that you can have endorsed on LinkedIn that it’s truly difficult not to make yourself look good! Take advantage of this tool, because it will be a difference-maker.

[ 5 ] RECOMMENDATIONS

We’ve all been told not to put “Recommendations upon request” at the bottom of our resumes, because employers never make that request. Yet, we’re all guilty of doing it. With LinkedIn, there’s no need for making a request to see your recommendations, because an employer just has to scroll down to the bottom of your profile.

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The best part about LinkedIn recommendations is the hyper-relevant nature of them. Like any social media platform, your experience is tailored to your past activity. For any employer, the ways they see your profile will depend on who comprises their network. That’s why it’s so important to get as many recommendations as you possibly can posted to your LinkedIn profile. The recommendations that you have, by people in your employer’s network, will appear at the top of your profile’s recommendations list. This allows you to not only be established in your employer’s eyes, but be established by the people who your potential employer already knows.

LinkedIn recommendations provides a level of validation that a paper resume simply cannot have.

[ SUMMARY ]

GO! Update that LinkedIn profile of yours. If your’e like me, you created it a few years back when you heard the hype, and haven’t opened it since. It is important to keep your profile up-to-date because it is a reflection of you, and a means of getting your self-brand established within your ideal industry. With over 200 million professionals worldwide using LinkedIn, you cannot afford to be disconnected in today’s interconnected business environment.

Managing Social Media: maneuvering your all-important “balancing act”

Before we explore some of the best social media management tools out there, lets talk about why they are so important!

I realized I may have left you guys hanging a little bit….

My last couple of posts spoke about social media strategies and how they are affected by the ways we structure our organization. There were two parts; one was on the implications of operating under the TALL organizational model, and the other was on the same implications but under the FLAT organizational model. By analyzing social media performance within the hierarchical and divisional organizational structures (TALL) as well as the horizontal and matrix structures (FLAT), we discovered one consistency: the “balancing act” of control and flexibility.

Every organization that utilizes a social media strategy, which I believe is absolutely necessary for organizations to stay relevant today, will experience this balancing act. It is important to stay flexible with the use of social media, in order to respond to current events and stay immersed in the many constantly evolving conversations online. A great example of this was Oreo‘s ad during the 2013 SuperBowl, where they posted a smart and spontaneous marketing campaign with a picture of an Oreo cookie surrounded by fading light reading “You can still dunk in the dark.” With over 15,000 retweets within the first day, the ad went viral because social media allowed them to stay relevant and topical to their audience, stressing the importance of staying flexible with your social media presence.

But don’t forget, as the biggest social media failures of last year remind us, being too flexible online can lead to damaged reputations. There is a need for control, but within reason. Even Oreo had a social media command center set-up during the game, complete with business execs, ad agency reps, a creative team, and their tech-support team ready to pounce on any new development. Now I’m not saying we all need to go to this extreme, but control is important within any social media strategy in order to ensure that nothing we post will be regretted later. Luckily, for Oreo their heavy investment during the Super Bowl paid off; but not all of us have these resources available to us. We do have access to social media though, and the many tools available that can help alleviate the finicky balance of control and flexibility, even for small organizations.

Here are some online tools that can help you operate your social media strategy:

[ 1 ] HootSuite

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HootSuite is by far one of the most popular, if not the most popular, social media management systems out there. If you don’t believe me, try the 30-day free trial for yourself. HootSuite provides the essentials; connecting multiple social media accounts through the one platform, scheduling your posts on each account, providing short URLs, and providing analytic tools on all of it. Aesthetic customization is available as well, but most importantly it is a proven and trusted system that allows everyone from start-ups to enterprises manage their social media activity.

images-4HootSuite allows you to manage your team and their individual posts. The Enterprise account provides you with Geo-Tracking options, for personalized ads and posts on Facebook. Further, HootSuite Conversations allows you to communicate with your team through the platform itself. Essentially, it allows you to strategize your strategy, in a private, centralized, and easily accessible space for everyone. Bonus features include HootSuite University (a “social media for dummies” library) and full support through HootCare.

[ 2 ] SproutSocial

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SproutSocial is comparable to HootSuite. It provides extensive analytics; allowing you to track hits, audiences, team members, and impressions as well as the demographics of your fans, followers, and influencers. So for the analytics nerd, SproutSocial can give you that extra edge on your social media content. SproutSocial gives you real-time numbers on your profile, and gives you the ability to pick and choose the best times to post and share.

sproutsocial_logoThe platform is highly recommended by John Saunders, a Digital Marketing Specialist and experienced user of many online social media management systems, during his in-depth and personal review. One of the best assets that this platform offers is a real-time review on your ROI. It allows you to see where your investments are going on social media and what kind of impression it is making on your audience.

I would recommend checking this one out, for FREE.

[ 3 ] Sendible

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Sendible is a little more basic, for those of you just starting your social media self-brand. However, it offers everything a social business needs. It allows team collaboration, publishing and engagement tools, all with analytic research attached. Further, SocialSprout records your interactions, aggregating a comprehensive “client phonebook” automatically, and has mobile options for the busiest of SocialOrgs.

SendibleFinalSendible offers an impressive array of compatible platforms. Keep in mind, similar to most management platforms, the price increases by the number of accounts you connect to it, but the platform has been recommended before. Its major fallback is the fact that it doesn’t have any free subscription options, so no test driving this one.

[ 4 ] SocialFlow

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Although SocialFlow isn’t as versatile as the pervious three options, it provides one great perk. SocialFlow allows you to watch your Twitter and Facebook data in order to discover the peak-times for posting to attain your highest ROI. It watches to see when your audience is most active and most receptive, to get you maximum exposure.

[ SUMMARY ]

Use these tools! They are the key to managing social media strategies that are controlled by multiple users. Let me know if you use any other tools that deserve some recognition. There are many out there, all of which help you establish a middle-ground between controlling your social media content and allowing it to spread responsibly.