It's one thing to reach your target audience. It's another to turn them into your customers. CDG Interactive is a full-service agency specializing in web strategy that converts. Whether you need a comprehensive online strategy, an email marketing campaign, a content management solution, or simply a better way to increase your visibility online, turn to CDG and watch your conversion rate skyrocket. Contact us.

3_pinballsHard to believe, but the year is winding down, and we’re starting to look toward all that 2013 has to offer.  To that end, I was interested in a discussion that emerged on LinkedIn’s Content Strategy group regarding content trends for the coming year. Following are 3 trends mentioned in the discussion that I predict will be the most interesting and significant for 2013.

  1. Mobile content – This one is sort of a no-brainer. It’s no secret that mobile devices are literally changing the way we experience the online landscape. According to a recent Pew Internet study, more than 45% of Americans own a smartphone, 25% own a tablet, and the vast majority of those people access the Internet regularly—or even primarily—on their mobile devices. By now, many design-related mobile conventions have emerged, but not so with content. Next year people like yours truly will continue to grapple with how to best present content in a mobile context. (Personally, I’m preparing myself by reading Karen McGrane’s wonderful new book Content Strategy for Mobile.)
  2. Content for responsive design – Separate but related to mobile content, this trend is an outgrowth of the increasing demand for “responsive” online environments; that is, sites/apps that adapt their display to the device on which they’re accessed. (So, for example, instead of having a separate mobile website, you’d have a single site that automatically displays differently on a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, etc.)  Responsive design presents an enormous challenge for content strategists and producers. In fact, I’d argue that it requires you not only to write, prioritize, and optimize your content, but actually to “design” its individual components (headlines, subheads, meta content, product descriptions, long-form articles, etc.) with an extreme degree of precision and attention to detail. This is something I particularly look forward to tackling in 2013.
  3. Visual content – With Pinterest really taking hold and becoming a legitimate force on social media during 2012, it was inevitable that companies and organizations would look for ways to use it to market products, extend brands, and gain a wider audience. Well-designed, eye-catching, and compelling infographics are becoming an increasingly potent way to get your message across online. Designers and content producers are going to have to hold hands and do some creative collaborating to create visual elements that aren’t only memorable, but sharable.

What do you think? What will you be working on content-wise during 2013?

Remember, no matter what challenges lie in store for you next year, CDG can help. Contact us & let's talk content.

Tumblr-npr-freshair

Tumblr, the microblogging platform, is getting increasingly prominent in the social media landscape, and for businesses, that's a reason to give thanks.

First launched in 2007 as a quick and easy microblogging platform, Tumblr has now grown to over 64.7 million blogs and 26.9 million unique visitors.

Along the way it has expanded beyond its initial notoriety as a platform for one-concept theme blogs (Feminist Ryan Gosling, anyone?) to one ideally suited for supplementing traditional blogging with more focused content curation.

And that means it’s time for businesses to take another look at using Tumblr for content marketing and promotion.

Here are 3 reasons to use Tumblr for business marketing and promotion:

  1. Content Curation. The currency of Tumblr is reposting the content of others, called “reblogging.” Many businesses use their Tumblr blogs for this purpose while publishing longer original content on their traditional blogs.
  2. SEO. All of those reblogged posts generate links back to their original sources, providing some nice link juice and a little SEO boost. And of course the Tumblr content itself is indexed, giving your business one more way to be found in search (ComScore calls this strategy the “Digital Shelf”).
  3. Younger Demographics. Overall, Tumblr users are younger (and slightly more female), making it an ideal option for reaching this demo, whether it’s your current target market or one you want to expand into.

Intrigued and want to learn more? Our self-guided social media training site, PowerUp Social, has more detailed information on Tumblr for blogging and small business promotion, including the marketing tactics described here and examples of organizations and businesses using Tumblr right.

Or Contact CDG to review your digital strategy and determine whether Tumblr—and any other social media platform—should be a part of it.

Facebook_demosWhen it comes to choosing a social media platform to use for your business marketing, one of the considerations to make is its demographic profile. Does its audience match your target audience? After all, you want to spend your time & resources talking to your target audience, not a random group of folks on, say, Google+. It pays to take some time to investigate who is hanging out where in the socail media landscape.

And even after you’ve done the initial research, be sure to review those demographics periodically because the numbers are always changing. Where you find your audience today may not be where it is tomorrow—and your target market may have changed, too.

Here are 5 social media demographic stats for the U.S. you should know:

  1. You can reach more women on Facebook than on Pinterest. Although Pinterest’s users are more disproportionately female, the total audience on Facebook is greater: 70% of all female online users, according to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report.
  2. Older men love Google+. The user base of Google Plus is 71% male and half of them are over 45.
  3. Most Instagram users are under 29. The photo sharing service is used by 27% of internet users aged 18-29, but only 8% of those who are 30-49.
  4. More adults use LinkedIn than Twitter. Professional networking site LinkedIn has an audience of 20% of U.S. online adults; Twitter’s is 16%.
  5. The majority of YouTube’s global audience is female. Out of a total audience base of 800 million (that’s a lot of people watching “Gangnam Style”), 55% are female.

These numbers are just a portion of the social media demographic data that’s available, of course. To really dig in for the information that’s most relevant to your business, try these sources:

Still not sure which social media platforms are right for you? Review our information and tools at PowerUp Social, www.powerupsocial.com, or Contact CDG to craft a custom social media strategy plan for your business.

Fall is officially here, so in the spirit of the Back to School season, here’s a quick lesson for you on some of the changes and trends you need to pay attention to on social media. Let’s get to work:  

1.       Twitter has a new header image

Today show's Twitter header imageLaunched on September 18th, Twitter introduced a headline image, similar to that of Facebook and Google+. The dimensions are different (1252px X 626px for optimal viewing across all devices), so you you can use an image that has a broader impact. Also, whereas on Facebook your profile picture is on the left side, on Twitter both your profile picture and personal bio are centered on the header image in white. The new header image has been optimized for mobile and tablet interaction, so there are even more reasons and opportunities to get creative about how you present yourself and/or your organization.

Why this matters: You and your business now have the ability to put a better public face forward on one of the two most influential social media channels. The sooner you adapt to the new format, the better you look compared to the competition who is surely working on the same thing.

Your homework:

 

2. Yelp is now integrated into iOS 6

Example of Yelp integration with Apple IOS6With the release of iPhone 5, Apple’s faithful users were inundated with new features to make the gadget even more synchronized and easy to use. Among the most anticipated was the integration of Yelp into iOS 6 Maps. Even though post-release Apple’s Map application has been less than ideal (see Tim Cook’s apology), Yelp’s introduction to the platform has been widely accepted.

As Yelp’s director of business development Mike Ghaffary said, “Yelp’s integration with Apple maps is now available on iOS 6 on all iPads and iPhones . . . and in 17 countries where Yelp has a presence.” So when you search for bars, coffee shops, spas, movie theaters and more, Apple Maps will return a collection of places all tied to their Yelp business pages, with their Yelp star rating on the map.

A click on any business shows a vibrant business page with a rotating cover picture, business information, Yelp reviews, and photos sourced from Yelp. You can also click to “check-in” at the location, add a photo, or leave a venue tip all through this new integration.

Why this matters: It’ never been more important to list and claim your business on Yelp. With the kind of audience that Apple products provide, there is no reason not to take advantage of the free listing and see your visibility increase and your business increase with it.

Your Homework:

 

3. Facebook reintroduces Facebook Gifts for users to buy friends real gifts through mobile and desktop

With more than 800 million active users, Facebook exerts the heaviest gravitational pull in the social media universe. (To wit: Apple announced that more than 100 million iOS devices are running the latest operating system, which means approximately 15 million iOS users have connected with Facebook only a week after the option became available.)  With that kind of audience, any changes to Facebook deserve your attention.

Here’s what you need to know:  Gifts are back.  Yes, those quirky little relics from mid-2010. If you can remember back that far, you’ll recall that you could send your friends virtual gifts for $1, which were then donated to a charity of Facebook’s choosing:

On September 27th, Facebook officially re-launched Facebook Gifts, available through their desktop or mobile versions. But this time, it’s a true e-commerce function, meaning that you can choose, purchase and send real (as opposed to virtual) gifts to your friends. Facebook announced this new feature shortly after acquiring Karma, a social gifting application.

Why it matters: Facebook + ecommerce. Nuff said? Even if you’re not in a position to become a retail partner and offer Facebook Gifts from your business, this feels like it’s the start of something big. We all need to pay attention.

Your Homework:

  • Reevaluate your own Facebook presence and make sure you're doing all you can to promote your business. Here's a handy overview with specific information about Pages, Places, Groups and Ads. 

 

4. MySpace is bringing music back…to a social platform

New myspaceUntil last week, few people gave MySpace a second thought. Although it still had 25 million monthly visitors, when compared to Facebook’s 800 million, it was considered an antiquated social media platform from the early 2000’s and most people couldn’t say if it still existed or not. Undoubtedly the biggest change in this list, MySpace is trying to make a huge comeback after its demise seemingly as a result of Facebook becoming available to the general public.

After trying to remember my login information from six years ago, I saw first-hand that Myspace has been hanging in there with a relatively small but committed base that’s dedicated to sharing and finding new music. In fact, most musicians still maintain a Myspace page, and often Googling an artist will show their MySpace page as a top result. (And as we pointed out in May, the MySpace audience is primarily young and racially diverse—and potentially still attractive to businesses targeting this demographic.)

Then, the musical heavens opened up and Justin Timberlake took a vested interest in the out-of-date platform. After watching the “New Myspace” promotional video, I have to say JT and his team have made me hopeful that this once giant site will make its return to the big leagues. The new MySpace will let users connect to the site with their Twitter and Facebook accounts, signaling that they won’t try to compete with those social media giants as a networking service, a smart move no doubt.

Why this matters: One niche the current top five is missing is social music exchange and this new, seemingly flawless design seems like a promising contender to fill the gap. If MySpace does reemerge as a big player in social media, businesses will need to assess whether it makes sense for them to have a presence there.

Your Homework:

  • This one's fun. Put yourself on a list to get an invitation (eventually) to try out the new MySpace. Sign up here. 

 

5. Klout adds support for Facebook pages

And finally, let’s talk about the measurement tool everyone loves to hate: Klout. In case you weren’t tuned in this summer, Klout has made some major changes in how it determines social influence and how it is used. Here’s a run-down:

  • Klout introduced support for Facebook Pages almost two years to the day after they added support for Facebook users’ influence. In respect to how this addition will affect individuals’ Klout scores, the website’s blog (ambiguously) says, “It depends. The mean score increase for a Klout user with a Facebook page is about seven points, all else held equal.” They also quickly make the distinction that they will only support having one type of Facebook account connected per Klout account. In other words, you can only connect your personal profile or your business page.
  • Klout and Bing have recently teamed up to create more “influential search results.” According to Klout, this change will allow people to understand their influence, be recognized for it, and benefit from it. Perhaps more importantly, Bing will provide Klout with additional search data, a long-time missing piece of the user-influence puzzle. "Just like Wikipedia articles can reflect a person's real world influence, search results for a person signal accomplishments achieved beyond social networks and serve to influence others," Klout CEO Joe Fernandez said.
  • Klout also revamped its formula to determine your Klout score. Its new algorithm purports to give a better and more authentic measure of a person’s influence.

Fun fact: As a result of this adjustment, President Obama finally has a higher Klout score than Justin Bieber, who used to have a perfect 100 (though under this system, he has been pushed down to a mere 92).

Why this matters: Although there is ongoing debate about the accuracy and importance of Klout scores, the number is becoming increasingly  pervasive, as indicated by their multi-million membership numbers. If you have a Facebook page, this can help bump your influence in areas of interest and if you have any desire to gain a bump from the new calculations, this is a reminder to check the account and see how many points your score has increased. Klout is a good way to identify influencers on specific topics and in your industry though we often take their topics with a grain of salt – they still have trouble parsing phrases versus individual words.

Your Homework:

And now, we've come to the end of our lesson. Hopefully, you're good and motivated to get back into the social media groove. If you could use a little tutoring to get you up to speed, please Contact Us at CDG. We'll make you an A+ social media student in no time.

Class dismissed.

 

This is the second in a series of posts about rethinking the museum experience to attract a new audience.

Art of video gamesIn the past, when a museum mounted an “interactive” exhibit, it typically meant that attendees could touch what was on display. Now interactivity has a newer and richer meaning, and museums are scrambling to keep up. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has jumped into the fray with The Art of Video Games, not only allowing visitors to interact in the traditional sense (you can play Myst, PacMan, Super Mario Brothers and other games), but also incorporating social media, QR codes and webcasts.

I had a chance to catch up with Georgina Goodlander, the exhibition coordinator for the Art of Video Games, who said that the exhibit was an outgrowth of Smithsonian 2.0, a brainstorming conference that addressed ways the Smithsonian can continue to interpret its mission “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” in the digital age.  “Video games are a huge part of American culture and they are an art form,” said Goodlander.

The concept of allowing online participation in the exhibit was introduced early in planning stages; curators developed an online voting system to determine which games would be included in the exhibit. (The exhibit features one game from each of 5 stages in video game development: "start," "8-bit," "bit wars," "transition," and "next generation.")

The voting site was promoted on Twitter and the museum’s blog as well as the website announcing the upcoming exhibit.  Goodlander said that the voting exceeded the Smithsonian’s expectations and sparked interesting discussions, not only on the museum’s blog, but also on gaming forums.

Commenters debated the question of who should be able to answer the question “What is art?” and wondered whether the online voting would skew toward the best-selling/most popular games. (They didn’t). “It was clear that people though carefully about which [video games] should be represented in the Smithsonian,” Goodlander said.

Continue reading "The Smithsonian Gets Interactive: Exploring The Art of Video Games" »

Local searches account for 20% of searches on computers and 40% of searches on smartphones, according to Google. And those numbers are projected to keep growing. If your business’ online presence isn’t optimized for local search, you are missing out on customers who are looking for you.

Fit bodyLuckily, it’s not that difficult to fix. You just need to post a few key pieces of information in the right places.:

  • Your address
  • Business hours
  • Phone number
  • Website URL
  • Photos of your business

CDG’s clients have seen great results from optimizing for local search. A Zumba and yoga studio located in Sterling, VA, Fit Body ‘n Mind, made these changes and saw changes in their traffic within two months, including:

  • an increase in referral traffic from local sites including Yelp (100% increase) and MeetUp.com (164% increase)
  • an exponential increase in search traffic that did not include their name (from 9 to 200)
  • an equally remarkable increase in search traffic that included their location “springfield, va” (from 5 to 114)

What these statistics tell us is, that prior to optimization, customers had to know they were looking for Zumba and Yoga Studio by name. Post-optimization, people who searched on “Zumba in Springfield VA” or “Yoga in Northern Virginia” we finding our client.  So, how do you get similar results? Read on.

Continue reading "Four Easy Fixes Guaranteed to Help Customers Find You on Local Search" »

CDG is looking for volunteers for user testing during the week of September 4th. We’re looking for female volunteers who are politically engaged and interested in women’s/feminist issues and social justice. We are seeking at least 2 participants under the age of 30 and at least 2 participants between the ages of 35 and 50. The test will take no longer than 1 hour, and will be conducted remotely; you’ll need access to a phone and to a computer with Internet access. We will schedule a time that is convenient for you, but the tests must be conducted during business hours between September 4 – 7.

You will receive $25 for your participation. If you or someone you know interested in participating, email Elizabeth@cdginteractive.org or call 202-872-9500 for more details. 

Kaz_sushi_googleNearly a year after launching Google+ pages for brands and businesses, the search giant continues to roll out changes to the way these pages work.

Two of the changes announced recently fulfill a long-standing request from brands—custom URLs—and a prediction we and others have made previously—merging of Google+ pages for local businesses with their Google Places listings.

Here’s what you need to know about these 2 changes to Google+ pages for your business.

Google+ Page Custom URLs

Currently, all Google+ pages (and profiles) have lengthy, impossible-to-remember URLs, such as this: https://plus.google.com/b/100984478133254575364/100984478133254575364/posts. (That’s the CDG Interactive Google+ page—circle us, won’t you?)

But Google has announced--in a post on its Plus page, appropriately—that it is beginning to roll out the ability for brand pages to select custom URLs, similar to the functionality currently available for Facebook pages.

However, in order to have access to this functionality when it’s made available to everyone, your Google+ page must first be verified.

There are two ways to do this.

First, you can request verification for a Google+ page via this form.

One major criteria to take note of: When you use this process, Google requires a “substantial” number of followers (i.e. people who have circled your page), although it does not define what that number is. Even if you meet all of the other criteria for a verified page, the verification request will be denied if your follower count is too low.

Alternately, if your page was created in the category of Local Business, you will see an Unverified marker at the top of your page. When you hover over that, you should see a Verify Now button. Click that to begin the verification process. (Full instructions for verifying a Local Business Google+ Page.)

(Not sure if your Google+ page is a Local page? Go to your page and click on the About tab. Local pages have addresses at the top of the information and a small Google Map of the location on the right side of the page.

Google+ Page and Places Merging

This brings us to the second change, the merging of Google+ Pages for local business (which Google calls Google+ Local) with their Google Maps Place listings, which began back in May.

According to Google, when the verification process described above is completed, “Existing listing information on Google Maps will now be merged with your new Google+ Local listing.”

Even if you don’t go through the verification process, if you have a Google Place, it will be converted to a  Google+ Local page automatically at some point this year.

Now what if you already have a Google+ Business Page but it isn’t a Google+ Local Page? (How’s that for confusing?) As of right now, there’s no way to join a non-Local page and Place together, but we expect this may change in the future as Google clearly wants to eliminate Places altogether.

Also unclear at the moment is what happens when a business has both a non-local Google+ Business Page and a Google+ Place. The Place listing will get converted to a Google+ Local page, but will that leave you with two Google+ Pages for your business, one local and one not?

Since this applies to us, we’ll be keeping an eye out for additional information on this particular scenario.

Help With Google+ Pages for Businesses

If you have any problems during the verification process or other functionality with Google+, try asking questions on the Google and Your Business product forum; they’re often answered by Google employees or other highly knowledgeable users.

Our social media for small business site, PowerUp Social, also has several articles on using Google+ to promote your business.

Update April 10, 2013: Google is rolling out a completely updated dashboard for Places that better integrates management of merged Google+ Local pages. The following articles provide additional detail:

For custom consulting on creating and using a Google+ Page or any other social media platform, Contact Us to find out how we can help you today.

CDG Interactive is looking for some new talent – specifically a User Interface Developer. Know someone or want to apply? Send your resume and links to jobs@cdginteractive.com.

User Interface Developer

CDG Interactive is looking for a User Interface Developer to join our technical team. We’re looking for someone with a demonstrated understanding of how quality software and services are designed and constructed. We want you to think as much as you code.

What You'll Do:

  • Implement user interfaces for websites and applications using HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and related client-side technologies.
  • Work closely with the design and development teams to deliver an excellent user experience for all of our work.
  • BS or MS in Computer Science or similar discipline, or equivalent experience.
  • Expertise in HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and W3C DOM.
  • Ability to cleanly implement a UI across different browsers (IE8, Mozilla/Firefox, Safari).
  • Experience in UI development of content-based applications such as blogs, photo albums, email, content management systems, etc.
  • Experience implementing standards-based web application user interfaces.
  • Demonstrated understanding of how implementation choices impact user experience in terms of browser compatibility, accessibility and performance.
  • Strong work ethic.

What You Need:

  • BS or MS in Computer Science or similar discipline, or equivalent experience.
  • Expertise in HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and W3C DOM.
  • Ability to cleanly implement a UI across different browsers (IE8, Mozilla/Firefox, Safari).
  • Experience in UI development of content-based applications such as blogs, photo albums, email, content management systems, etc.
  • Experience implementing standards-based web application user interfaces.
  • Demonstrated understanding of how implementation choices impact user experience in terms of browser compatibility, accessibility and performance.
  • Strong work ethic.

What Will Set You Apart:

Here's what will make you stand out and get you the job: 

  • Experience integrating rich web interfaces with server-side code.
  • Technologies: jQuery mobile; XML and Web Services; Internationalization.
  • Ability to learn. Candidate must show they can adapt to the rapidly changing technology landscape.
  • Demonstrated willingness and ability to work and lead in a fast-moving dynamic team-oriented environment.

About CDG:

CDG is recognized as an industry leader in the creation, implementation, and marketing of interactive environments that enable our clients to grow their business. Our innovation efforts are focused on achieving our clients' goals through user-centered design. In all aspects of its work, CDG seeks to help our clients deliver high value to end-users.

Working at CDG, you’ll find we’re serious about what we do, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. Perks and benefits include: generous vacation leave, health insurance (with flexible spending account), Metro-accessible office, casual dress code, free soda and snacks, and the best-looking co-workers in the DC-Metro area. Interested? Send your resume and links to jobs@cdginteractive.com.

LightningThe recent severe thunderstorm event (aka the derecho) that raced through a large swath of the Midwest and Northeast on June 29 left millions without power--and very unhappy about it. Many of them took to social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to express their displeasure with their utility companies. (Just check the accounts for @pepcoconnect or @domvapower for a sampling of customer sentiment.)

Responding to unhappy customers on social media is always challenging, but that challenge is magnified in a crisis or other severe event. Even if you’re not a major utility responding in times of natural disaster, any business would do well to be prepared to respond if a crisis hits. That’s why you need a crisis communications plan for your social media accounts.

Here are 5 tips for using social media platforms as part of a crisis communications plan.

  1. Respond quickly. If you wait too long after someone mentions you on Twitter or posts on your Facebook page, it looks like you aren’t paying attention or don’t care. No, you can’t spend 24 hours a day monitoring your account, but respond quickly when you are, and let followers know when the account will be unmonitored.
  2. Be authentic. Don’t just give the same canned response to negative comments; vary it so your account doesn’t seem like an unfeeling robot.
  3. Be polite. This can be a tough one, especially if thousands of people are venting virtual invective at you, but as with ordinary customer service, responding in kind will only escalate the communication. Keep it simple and keep it calm. “We understand you’re frustrated and we’re working quickly to resolve the situation.”
  4. Be transparent. Give us much detail as you can, as soon as you can. Once followers realize you aren’t trying to keep information from them, they’ll be more understanding.
  5. Have an end game. How will you continue communicating after the crisis passes? What will you share with customers to let them know how everything was resolved and what you plan to do to prevent or mitigate such an event in the future?

Remember, too, that your social media universe doesn’t just consist of Twitter and Facebook. If you have a YouTube channel, check for comments there. Ditto for other profiles your company has, such as on LinkedIn or Yelp. Don’t be afraid to call for help, either. If the level of response becomes too much for you or your team, augment your resources with a communications professional who can not only provide additional people power, but the experience to respond appropriately and quickly.

If you don’t know how you’d respond to a crisis, or who would be on your incident team, you need a social media crisis management plan. CDG Interactive can guide your brand through the process, from pre-incident preparation to response management and coordination to post-incident conclusion. Contact us today.

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