Marketing personalisation and the buyer journey

Out this week, the John Lewis Retail Report 2015, How We Shop, Live and Look, made for fascinating reading. With 34% of John Lewis sales now online, the brand has declared 2015 the coming of age of the ‘Master shopper’. Meandering down a complex buyer journey towards an eventual purchase (and repurchase), the Master shopper uses the full range of online and offline channels available to get inspired, get information, garner opinions from peers, make a purchase, get it delivered and tell the world about what they think of it. Depending on what they are buying they might move through every channel, or double back, or move directly to purchase, there is no set A+B=C.

This omnichannel path to purchase is a result of technology weaving its way into our everyday lives. There are, of course, buying patterns, but each of us uses technology in our own way. We have come to expect technology and digital channels to be there to answer questions, and provide solutions. A big part of this is social media, which John Lewis have now declared more influential on buying decisions for their customers than celebrities and models on the catwalk, with inspirational Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest product images driving sales.

The thing about social media is that it’s just more personal. We can curate our own information flow into our feeds, and then share with our friends what we think about the information we have invited to be sent to us. This personalisation of experience is bringing brands closer to its customers, and in part replacing the role that seeing items on a model had in inspiring purchases. As John Lewis put it, “From working out, to planning a showstopping wedding, this was the year that customers were their own stylists, interior designers and wedding planners.”

The premium and luxury retail sectors have historically been slow to adopt digital marketing personalisation, with some major fashion brands only this year launching on Instagram. This is gradually changing, with many high profile brands integrating social media and marketing personalisation into their PR and marketing. This year, Burberry blazed a trail by premiering its SS16 collection on Snapchat the night before its catwalk show, but all major fashion brands now live-stream their shows.

At Luxury Interactive 2015 this October, Stacy Huggins, Vice President of Digital Marketing at Tamara Mellon, said, “Data-driven personalization is today’s handwritten note.” This could take the form of targeted mobile adverting campaigns that use geolocation to deliver real-time product information, or more prosaically, the segmentation of data to access insights into the motivations and behaviours of a brand’s customers. Whether its cutting edge campaigns, or solid bottom line drivers, digital channels offer opportunities to provide the kind of enriched experiences that make premium brands stand out from the crowd.

It’s important, though, to remember that all of this marketing personalisation is about people. While geolocation offers brands the chance give real-time product information in a seamless way, it could be seen by some customers as creepy, rather than cool. Fashion etailer Zalando this summer rolled out Zalon, an online personal stylist service, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. A team of 150 stylists offer personal telephone consultancies and personal product picks to customers, at once driving sales and building customer profiles through real-life relationship building, not just real-time automation.


Marketing personalisation is not just a way of growing sales, it’s the future. As technology more and more becomes part of our everyday lives and buyer behaviour, personalisation will become expected across every channel. How this will look and how brands will translate the power of omnichannel delivery and data driven personalisation remains to be seen, but the opportunities are there.

Personally, I am looking forward to it.

Top five social media mistakes retailers make

The positive impact social media can have on revenue is well documented. Back in June, I even wrote a post about why retailers should take Pinterest seriously as a way to increase revenue. However, in order to tell your social media success story, you first need to be doing it the right way. From best practice bloopers to strategy fails, here are the top five social media mistakes retailers make – and what they can do to rectify them.

Not adding a call to action to their Facebook Page


Earlier this year, Facebook rolled out call to action buttons on Pages. These sit in line with the ‘Like’ button and are designed to put a business’s main objective right in front of its Facebook audience.

There are a variety of calls to action currently available, including “Shop Now”, “Contact Us” and “Sign Up”. However, many retailers haven’t taken advantage of this handy little feature. As a simple and effective add-on, it’s good practice to ensure your call to action button is set-up.

To add a call to action button, visit your Page and click the “Create Call-to-Action” button. From there, select the most appropriate statement and enter the URL of the webpage you want to send people to. Facebook also gives you the option to personalise the experience for mobile users by sending them to a mobile-friendly website or an app.

Not compensating for Facebook’s algorithm change

Another common Facebook mistake relates to not adapting to changes on the platform. Two years ago, Facebook announced some pretty big changes to the way it determined what content was served to users’ News Feeds. You can read about these algorithm updates here. To summarise here, Facebook suppressed the organic reach of Pages, making it much harder for businesses to be visible on the platform.

Posting unique content and uploading links with a large preview image can help compensate for this loss of visibility. However, to see the same kind of reach as three years ago, retailers need to embrace paid advertising on the platform.

Of course, any investment in getting your content placed in more News Feeds is wasted if users don’t engage with it. Therefore, alongside a budget for adverts, retailers need to invest in a content strategy underpinned by customer insight.

Sticking with tried and tested platforms

A 2014 study by Hubspot revealed that on average, consumers expected brands to be present on 3.4 different social platforms on average.

Data showing how many platforms consumers expect brands to have a presence on

The survey also revealed that 84% of consumers asked expected brands to be on Facebook and 64% expected them to be on Twitter.

Data showing what platforms consumers expect brands to have a presence on

If you’re unsure where to build your social following, it makes sense to start with the two biggest social media platforms. However, many retailers focus solely on these platforms without considering where else their audience might be. For example, consumers buying homeware might use Houzz to find inspiration. Likewise, customers shopping for clothing might check out the latest trends on Polyvore.

The simplest way to find out which social media platforms your customers are active on is to ask them. Send out a survey asking which platforms they like to use then use the data to inform your strategy.

Focusing on last click conversions

In Google Analytics, it is possible to see the impact social media has on important metrics like conversions.

Impact of social media

Naturally, an ecommerce business will want to see a positive return on investment when embarking on any social media activity. However, a mistake retailers often make is becoming too transfixed on last click transactions.

Most consumers aren’t in buying mode when active on social media platforms. Therefore, it is unlikely they will click straight from your content to your website and purchase something right away. This is even truer for luxury retailers or sellers of big ticket items like furniture. These are considered purchases, where a consumer will take their time before deciding to buy, as opposed to purchasing on impulse. Therefore, last click transactions are less likely to take place.

To truly understand the impact social media has on revenue, you first must understand your customers and the buying journey. Are they impulse buyers? If they are, social media advertising directing targeted users to hero products could be a good strategy. However, if your customers like to research an item before purchasing, use social media as a channel to publish informative content about your products.

Working in a silo

Although many retailers have embraced social media as part of their marketing strategy, an issue we frequently come across here at Leapfrogg is teams working in silos. PR, marketing, social media and editorial teams all have an important part to play in a retail business. However, they don’t always work closely enough together.

When working on natural search strategies for clients, we first find out who the customers are and what they are interested in. We then create a content plan filled with ideas inspired by this consumer insight and tied in with the brand’s commercial objectives. This plan cascades down through the different marketing channels so everyone is working towards the same goal.

Breaking down silos within a business doesn’t happen overnight. However, the simplest thing like working from one centralised plan will enhance any marketing activity and make it much more impactful.


The Hype – Digital innovations at London Fashion Week

In this edition of The Hype, we look at the retailers and designers that have showcased fashion and digital at London Fashion Week (LFW).

Every season, the role of digital becomes more prevalent at Fashion Week as more and more brands harness the power of online. Now you don’t even have to be in the Frow in order to interact and engage with the shows, as more and more designers bring their collections to consumers via technology.

Burberry’s Snapchat story

Burberry on Snapchat

The digital pioneer that is Burberry inevitably stood out this year due to their innovative use of Snapchat.
In a first for a luxury brand, Burberry created a Snapchat story which revealed its spring 16 collection the night before its Fashion Week show to Snapchat’s 100 million users. The preview remained on Burberry’s story for 24 hours and was then followed up by a ‘Burberry Live Story’ that combined crowd-sourced Burberry show-related video and images into a single stream on Snapchat. The content then of course disappeared after 24 hours giving it a real feel of exclusivity. I’ve seen many brands use Snapchat, but it has often felt like the brand has been thinking ‘platform-first, content-second’, but in Burberry’s case, its use of the platform felt polished and really added value to their show.
Prior to Fashion Week, Burberry also launched another first for a fashion brand – a music channel on Apple Music. You can find the channel in the ‘curators’ section and it showcases collaborations with British artists in the form of songs, playlists, films and performances that are all in keeping with the Burberry brand.
The campaign was clearly a success as data from Brandwatch showed that Burberry was the most talked about designer on social this season – pulling in over 40,000 tweets – over 10% of the total tweets about London Fashion Week.
Former CEO Angela Ahrendts (now retail boss at Apple) was responsible for putting digital at the heart of Burberry’s business strategy, which has included launching live catwalk streaming and the ‘Art of the Trench’ mini-site. Last year during LFW, Burberry also partnered with Twitter to launch a click-to-buy button for Burberry products as they were modeled on the runway. 

Topshop’s Pinterest Palettes

Topshop Pinterest Palettes screenshot Topshop is the only high-street brand on the fashion-week schedule, and their Unique Show which is now in its 23rd season, has become one of the most highly anticipated shows.
In order to engage their entire customer base in the London Fashion Week excitement, Topshop teamed up with Pinterest to launch ‘Pinterest Palettes.’ Their online tool scans and identifies colour trends based on either a user’s individual Pinterest boards or those curated by Topshop on the trends they spotted in New York, London, Milan and Paris. Based on the colour palette selected, Topshop then provides shoppable recommendations from their online store. According to the team, a potential 16.8m colour combinations will be possible, providing unique results for every user.
For those in London, Topshop hosted a pop-up on the lower ground floor of its Oxford Circus flagship that offers shoppers the ability to explore their Pinterest boards on iPads, and print out their our Pinterest Palettes colour inspiration cards. Their personal shopping team is also offering colour advice tailored to customers’ individual colour spectrums.
According Brandwatch’s analysis of Fashion Week, Topshop secured largest number of sponsor mentions.

House of Holland NFC-enabled wearables

Eclectic English Fashion Designer, Henry Holland teamed up with Visa Europe to combine fashion, wearable technology and payments in another Fashion Week first. At his London Fashion Week show, front-row guests were given a Henry Holland-designed ring – created just for the event which featured integrated NFC technology, which linked up to a number of pieces containing a payment receiver tag. This was then linked via Bluetooth Smart technology to a virtualised terminal and Visa’s payment network. Guests could then purchase items directly from the runway which could then be picked up after the show. On speaking of the wearables, Holland said he designed the “connected jewelry” with fashion in mind and it was important to him that the technology was completely invisible.  

Hunter goes live on Periscope

British heritage brand Hunter Originals utilised live-streaming app, Periscope, at their London Show to extend the reach of their brand to a broader audience with a series of live mobile gigs in the build up to its show.

Hunter launched #BeaHeadliner Mobile Sessions on the app to showcase music and interviews from up and coming musicians which were filmed as the musicians travel to see the show in Hunter-branded 4×4 vehicles. The #Beaheadliner campaign tied in nicely to the brand’s association with music festivals as the label’s Wellingtons have long been the staple footwear at festivals. Hunter will continue to use the hashtag post Fashion Week to promote upcoming musicians during festival season.

According to DigiDay, Hunter Originals was the fourth most tweeted about show, fifth most tweeted about brand, and received over 40,000 Instagram interactions.

That’s it for our round-up. Which brands and designers stood out for you at Fashion Week this year?

Twitter displayed in desktop searches and Facebook referral traffic increases


This week there have been a few developments in social media that we thought were particularly interesting. Read on to find out about Twitter’s new partnership with Google and how recently published data shows that Facebook has now overtaken Google for referral traffic.


Twitter results displayed in Google desktop searches

Following an initial test on mobile and in the U.S, Twitter has officially begun to roll tweets into Google desktop search results for all English language searches.

The agreement between Twitter and Google was designed to put “real-time info” into Google searches, as well as providing Twitter with a larger audience for their content to promote the service in a relevant and engaging way. This partnership is great news for Twitter who has recently declared stagnating user growth and subsequent investor fears.

Now when you search on Google, a feed of the latest tweets relating to the search term will appear in a carousel in the main column of organic search results. Typing in a hashtag into Google also generates a list of trending tweets on that topic.

The tweets will only show when Google deems them to be relevant to the search results and users do not need to have Twitter account to click on the tweets. So far, we’ve started to see tweets appear in search results for both us and also some of our clients.

tom dixon


This change increases the chance of your content being discovered and it’s also another area your brand can dominate in the search results. For example, a fashion retailer might have a nice informative blog post about the latest seasonal trends and how to get the look with their collection. but on the flip slide, negative tweets about your brands might appear, so it highlights the importance of providing exceptional customer service at every touch point.

Facebook pulls ahead of Google in referral traffic

In more search and social news, recent data from traffic analytics firm has shown that Facebook has overtaken Google in driving traffic to news sites.

In its quarterly Authority Report, looked at referral traffic to the top 100 news sites (as ranked by comScore and Alexa) from May – July. They found that in this period, 43% of the referral traffic came from social and 38% from search.

Google has traditionally made up a majority of referral traffic. However, the search giant peaked in October 2013, when we saw Facebook traffic start to steadily increase. Google has always remained dominant until the last quarter, when Facebook’s referral traffic share made up 38.3% compared to Google’s 35.8%.

Social media is very agile and instantaneous – a breaking news story is likely to surface on social media first so people are checking these channels first for news, rather than traditional websites as it takes time for content to be uploaded.


Facebook tests ecommerce by building shops into Pages

Facebook has taken another big leap into ecommerce – a market that is predicted to be worth $350 billion this year. The platform has begun testing shops within Pages, allowing businesses to sell to customers directly. Complete with “buy” buttons, these mini-ecommerce sites allow the entire shopping experience to take place on the social media platform – from product discovery to making a purchase.

Currently, most of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, and this is driven by the data that users provide. By offering people a seamless online experience – including the ability to buy their favourite products without having to the leave the platform – Facebook further cements itself into people’s online lives.

What is happening to commerce elsewhere on the web?

Facebook isn’t the only online social media platform to explore ecommerce functionality. Both Twitter and Pinterest have introduced shopping experiences of their own, such as Buyable Pins. Instagram (the photo sharing app owned by Facebook) has also enabled “Shop now” calls to action on adverts. Moving away from social into the world of search, even Google wants a piece of the action, recently unveiling its own Buy Button.

One of the main driving forces behind changes in the online retail landscape is mobile. Having a mobile-friendly website was made even more vital when earlier this year, Google announced they would be boosting the ranking of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. You can read more about the update on the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

However, apps are also a significant part of the online experience on mobile devices. According to research institute Forrester, we spend 80% of our time on mobile apps within the top five apps. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for online retailers to get the attention of customers. Therefore, it makes sense for Facebook to exploit this need by giving businesses space on the platform to sell directly to users.

Important considerations for retailers

This latest project by Facebook is still in its infancy, with less than a hundred test shops said to exist (Facebook won’t release the names of the businesses currently trialling the feature). However, based on what Facebook has done in the past, there are a few things retailers should consider.

The first is how much selling directly to users might cost. Facebook currently doesn’t make money from sales that take place on the platform. However, as we’ve already pointed out, online commerce is worth a lot of money – even more than digital advertising. Facebook won’t want to miss out on a slice of that pie.

Facebook also has a track record for offering something for free then changing their minds later on. Businesses used to be able to communicate with their fans easily in their newsfeeds. When Facebook decided to reduce the organic reach of Pages, businesses had to resort to paid advertising in order to reach the same people.

It is perfectly possible that Facebook will monetise shopfronts on Pages in the future. However, if the trends in mobile usage and social commerce continue, retailers might not have a choice if they want to get their products in front of customers.

Main image via Maria Elena on Flickr.

Insight Edit – Does social media influence purchasing decisions?

Here at Leapfrogg, we have a panel of more than 800 premium retail consumers that we engage with on a regular basis to help us understand customer needs and expectations from the brands and retailers they buy from.

Every month, we question them on a range of areas from buying behaviours and brand opinion, to emotional purchase triggers and their recent shopping experiences.

The Insight Edit is our weekly bite size edit of the insight we gain from our panel in our search to truly understand the mind of the premium customer.

As the importance of social media within the digital marketing mix continues to increase, retailers are focusing on how to measure the commercial impact of those channels.

In light of this, we wanted to find out if social media had influenced purchasing designs for premium retail consumers within the last six months.

To do this, we asked our Premium Panel if they followed any of their favourite brands on their social channels.


We then asked those who replied ‘yes’ (57%), if they had purchased a product from a brand as a direct result of seeing it on a social media. As a result, 55% of our panel said that they had been directly influenced on those channels to purchase a product.


The fact that nearly 30% of our respondents were able to recall a time where social media played a role in their purchasing decisions underlines the importance of brands getting the communication on their social channels right!

When you’re planning your social engagement strategy, make sure you really understand which of your customers are engaging with you online and communicate with them accordingly. Different customers will follow you on different channels. One size does not fit all, so ensure you do not put the same message and communication out across all your social channels.

To find out more, you can download our series of ‘Engagement Reports’ to find out which brands we believe are doing the best job of engaging their customers across their social channels.

Why it’s time to take Pinterest seriously as a way to increase revenue

The direct impact of social media marketing on conversions can be difficult to measure. For brand awareness and community growth, Facebook, Twitter and the plethora of other social platforms out there are fantastic. However, because you are engaging with your audience at a much earlier stage in the buying journey, it can take time for someone to become a customer.

One reason why social media referral traffic doesn’t convert straight away is because users aren’t in the frame of mind to make a purchase. They want to talk with their friends, not be sold to. This is reflected in the types of content that people engage with – likes, shares and retweets are usually reserved for interesting or informative content, not self-promotional statements about products.

The social media platform that bucks this trend is Pinterest. We recently compared four online footwear retailers to see how their content performed on social media. As expected, blog posts (style guides, information about the latest trends etc.) were shared the most on Facebook and Twitter. However, product pages were most popular on Pinterest. This would suggest that users of this platform are further down the sales funnel and are thinking about making a purchase.

This anecdotal evidence is backed up by data from Pinterest itself. A recent study co-sponsored by the platform found that pins actually influence purchasing decisions. Over half the active Pinterest users surveyed said that the site helped them find items to buy. In addition, 32% said they purchased something in-store after viewing content on Pinterest.

There are a number of ways brands can optimise their performance on Pinterest to help increase conversions. However, one that we frequently find is overlooked is the implementation of Rich Pins. These provide users with more information than regular pins. In the context on an ecommerce website, Product Pins (a type of Rich Pin) includes real-time pricing and availability. A survey by Sprout Social also found that Pins with prices get 36% more likes than those without.

Rich Pin

How to implement Rich Pins

Rich Pins work by pulling in additional information from your website along with the image. What that information is determined by meta tags. These are snippets of code that are added to your website and tell Pinterest things like:

  • Product name
  • Product type
  • Quantity
  • Amount

If you don’t have access to the back-end of your website or you aren’t comfortable with code, we recommend either speaking to your website developer or to us about implementing Rich Pins. Although not complicated to set up, they do require some understanding of how your website works in order add them into the right places.

If your social media marketing objective is to increase conversions, you’re playing the long game. However, by making sure your website is fully optimised for Pinterest, you’ll reach users who are ready to make a purchase.

Image source: Pinterest

Header image via Jason Howie on Flickr

How to amplify your content & updates from Twitter, Google and Facebook

Here’s our round-up of need-to-know social media & content news from the last few months and what it means for your digital marketing.

Savvy content marketers adopt a multi-channel approach to amplification

Content marketing has and always will be about creating useful, relevant content and targeting it at a carefully researched demographic. So far this year, I’ve noticed brands jumping on board with social media with gusto… unfortunately, there’s a heck of a lot of them jumping on board with zero strategy in place. With so much noise from brands and individuals, savvy content marketers need to be more strategic than ever if they’re going to get their content noticed.

Having a dual approach is crucial, blending highly useful, shareable onsite content to attract inbound links and mentions, while driving more relevant website traffic, with an outbound approach to get the attention of major publications and influencers. One often overlooked tactic to do this and a highly cost effective one, is the use of social PPC advertising to alert industry influencers and journalists about your content.

Whatever your brand, next time you have a piece of content you want to shout about, stop scraping the barrel for journalist contacts and put the news right in front of them. A great way to do this is to create Twitter lists of highly influential people and then target a Twitter ads campaign to appear directly in their newsfeeds. You’ll then have a measurable metric for the success of your content (clicks, retweets etc.) and furthermore, increase your chances of it being picked up and published.

Tied in content marketing, using a blend of promotional devices – and in this case focusing on the power of social PPC – instead of relying solely on more traditional journalist approaches (email, phone) to get your content featured, is my top tip for your next big campaign.

Google and Twitter partner up again

Google and Twitter reached an agreement for Google to start indexing tweets again after granting access to its Firehose. Firehose pings out over 9,000 tweets a second, meaning Google will always have access to the most up to date Twitter conversations to make Google searches even more relevant and the information thrown back to searchers, hyper-relevant and real-time.

If you were in any doubt as to the efficacy of Twitter as a marketing tool, this partnership – and with it the ability to get your tweets in front of both Twitter users and non-users – should convince you to step up your efforts on the platform and find your audience both in search and social.

Storytelling and tapping into emotion – the sure fire way to generate campaign engagement

Whether it’s marketers shaping the story, or the customer directly, storytelling in campaigns continue to be a strong tool for capturing your target audience’s attention.

Last month, we ran a campaign for our client, RocketSki, who – as the name suggests – provide fabulous ski holidays for corporates, groups and families.

The campaign – #TalesFromTheSlopes – asked RocketSki’s Facebook followers and lovers of skiing across Facebook (through Facebook advertising) to share their most breath-taking, funny or scary moments from the slopes and a picture of them in their best ski pose.

In collaboration with influential ski and snowboarding bloggers, the storytelling element of creative brought the campaign to life, as people flocked to the contest page to tell their #TalesFromTheSlopes. The winner, Claire Lomas, had an incredible story to tell. In 2007, Claire had a freak accident while competing at Osberton Horse Trials. This didn’t stop her though, as she turned her attention to mono skiing – essentially flying down the slopes in a specially crafted seat on skis. Her #TalesFromTheSlopes story attracted nearly 400 votes, making her the clear winner and a testament to the power of such an emotional journey – a story that captured the attention of all involved in the contest.

The campaign achieved great results for the client, including reengaging previous website visitors and converting new users into paying customers. Storytelling can be the catalyst not only for brand awareness and social media engagement, but as a genuine tool for driving sales and tangible return on investment.

Facebook continues to repress brand published organic content – less eyes on brand content

At time of writing – the last update from Facebook being on April 21st 2015 – titled ‘Balancing Content from Friends and Pages’ appears to lend itself to the following: “Dear brands, ‘If you were in any doubt, it’s time to use Facebook PPC to promote your brand message”.

Facebook is of course laser-focused on optimising content so that users’ eyeballs land on content that is relevant and interesting to them, so while organic posts are likely to see a further dip, it is still important for brands and the media to publish a rich variety of content. Whether it be videos, quizzes, thought provoking or humourous imagery, through to creative contests that reward followers for their support, brand pages will still play an important role in getting a return from social media efforts. Just don’t ignore the not so inconspicuous ‘paid social elephant in the room’… it’s time to up your social paid advertising budget if you really want to get your content seen.

Social engagement within the premium multi-brand fashion sector

As part of our ongoing crusade to create the perfect customer experience, we’ve recently been examining how well premium retailers understand their customers and are therefore able to produce content that engages them.

Last year we looked at premium furniture retailers and this year we’ve been focusing on multi-brand fashion retailers.

For multi-brand fashion retailers, building a unique identity that customers want to engage with can be challenge compared to retailers that stock own-brand products. Own brand retailers are much better placed to be able to carve out an identity for themselves through the uniqueness of their product and being able to focus their brand and style to a narrower target audience. In light of this, multi-brand fashion retailers need solid and effective content strategies tailored to specific customer segments in order to stand out in a competitive market and engage their customers to encourage purchases and loyalty.

In our report, we’ll reveal how 15 leading fashion retailers have performed in our analysis. We’ve also looked in depth at the three top scoring brands and explored the reasons why these brands have scored higher whilst offering some tips and recommendations for these brands to create even more engagement that other brands can learn from.

Get your copy of the report here.

Facebook and Pinterest updates, social listening and building ‘good’ links

Here’s our round-up of need-to-know social media & content news from the last few months and what it means for your digital marketing.

Facebook cracks down on promotional posts and rolls out CTA buttons

If your business has a Facebook Page, you can’t have failed to notice that your content is reaching fewer and fewer people. Throughout the past year, Facebook has been rolling out updates to its News Feed which have gradually suppressed content published by Pages in order to improve user experience. At the end of last year, Facebook announced further changes which specifically target “promotional content” from Pages such as offers, competitions and product announcements – meaning we’re pretty much at the stage now that organic reach on Facebook is, at best, incredibly difficult to achieve and, at worst, non-existent. Therefore, it’s now essential that your Facebook strategy comprises two different strands: ‘paid promotional’ and ‘organic engagement’. In other words, if you want your content to be seen, you need to be combining advertising with publishing quality content that resonates with your audience. By separating activity into these two different strands, you’re getting your promotional content in front of your target audience, as well as building relationships with existing customers – which is essential for delivering a stand-out customer experience.


Image via Maria Elena on Flickr.

Despite reducing Page reach, Facebook maintains that Pages are an essential part of any brand’s social strategy. Of course they do, advertising is how they make their money. No matter how cynical you are about Facebook’s methods though, the fact remains that it’s still the biggest social network and – for almost every retailer – this is probably the place that most of your customers are hanging out in their spare time. In order to help brands make Pages more tailored to achieving their marketing objectives, Facebook is rolling out Call To Action Buttons including ‘Book Now’, ‘Shop Now’ and ‘Sign Up’ – so keep an eye out for these becoming available for your Page.

Pinterest introduces ‘Smart Feed’

Towards the last quarter of 2014, Pinterest stopped showing users pins from everyone they follow in their feed in chronological order by introducing an algorithm called the Smart Feed. This means that when you log on to Pinterest now, you will see pins from three different sources: people you follow, related pins and pins that Pinterest thinks you’ll like based on your interests. The highest quality pins (determined by a number of different factors) are pushed to the top of the feed, making them more likely to be seen. The Smart Feed also ensures that you aren’t being shown the same pins over and over again each time you visit the site.

What does this mean for your brand’s Pinterest account? It means that you need to optimise your pins for the Pinterest Smart Feed in order to maximise the chance of them being seen. Some of the ways that you can increase the chance of your content appearing in users’ feeds are:

• Ensure your images are eye-catching, high quality and portrait-oriented
• Implement rich pins to automatically brand your content and encourage conversions by telling your audience which products are in stock and how much they are
• Spend time crafting your pin descriptions, ensuring they are well-written and contain key words and phrases which relate to your content
• Only re-pin content from other users that’s as high quality as your brand’s content
• Pin things that are useful and inspiring rather than being overly promotional
• Add the ‘Pin It’ button to your site to make it easier for visitors to share your products and content – then your site visitors do the work for you

Social listening is essential

Social media users are becoming so bombarded with advert-style messaging that they’re getting pretty good at shutting out the noise – one of the reasons for Facebook’s decision to suppress promotional posts. With every piece of content you post in these social spaces, you’re competing for peoples’ attention not just with other brands, but with their friends, family and favourite celebrities too. If you’re just shouting about buying your products or services, then you’re never going to cut through all of the more interesting things that your audience could be looking at.

What’s the solution? Listen to your audience, get to know them, understand what they talk about, use the same language as they do and show that you care about the same things as them. There’ll be a reason why they followed you in the first place – because something about your brand resonated with them. Build on this by creating content that builds relationships. It’s only by nurturing your audience and showing an interest in them that you create a brilliant customer experience.

There are numerous tools available that you can use to monitor not just what people are saying about your brand name, but around terms relating to your product too – for example, if you sell coats you could monitor conversations around the weather being cold and join the conversation where appropriate. As you go along and discover these communities online, make a note of where most of the relevant conversations are going on – these are the primary channels you should focus on. Also pay close attention to the questions that your audience are asking – can you produce content that answers these questions for them and direct them to it via social? Or do your products solve their problems in themselves?

Building ‘good’ links to your site (and why bloggers are still important)

It’s been a controversial subject ever since Google released its first Penguin update, penalising sites that had focused their SEO strategy on building up hundreds or even thousands of low-quality, paid-for links. Subsequent updates and clarifications to Penguin saw Google telling webmasters that ANY followed link which had been paid for in any way – either by exchange of cash or goods – was at risk of attracting the wrath of Penguin.

Of course, to police every single link would be impossible – but the risk has been sufficient enough to make people wary of any practises that could be considered even remotely suspect. With this in mind, here are some suggested ways to gain links in a safe and sustainable way:

• Conduct customer insight to gain an in-depth understanding of your brand’s audience
• Create on-site content which addresses real, query-based searches which are relevant to your customers and potential customers
• Ensure that every single piece of content you publish on your site has purpose and adds value
• Make sure your content is better than and different to what your competitors are doing – that’s the only way to get attention

Once you’ve got the content on your site, tactics to get it linked to are:

• Identify relevant, niche publications relating to your industry and let them know about your brand and content – it’s much easier to get links from these smaller sites but links will be relevant (which Google rewards) and they’ll drive smaller volumes of highly qualified traffic which is likely to convert
• Take a look at the link profiles of your competitors, identify where their best links are coming from and target the same publications OR offer your own resources as an alternative / updated source where information is outdated
• Publish blog posts that feature quotes from or interviews with key influencers in your industry and let them know that they’ve been featured – they’ll likely be more than happy to share your content via their social networks and may even link to it from their site
• Sign up to sites such as HARO or Response Source and answer relevant queries from journalists which could result in coverage for your organisation – even if you don’t get a link, brand citations from authoritative sites will still have value
• Interactive content such as quizzes and branded tools are great ways to attract links because people have to link to your site when they talk about them

While for SEO purposes you have to earn links, this doesn’t mean that sending products to bloggers for review or engaging in commercial collaborations shouldn’t be part of your strategy anymore. Blogs which are read widely by your target audience are hugely important for raising brand awareness and driving quality traffic which converts. Even though these links won’t hold natural search value, don’t ignore them. Most importantly, a relationship that starts with a paid promotion can be nurtured to create an influential brand advocate – it might even result in editorial coverage and an earned link at a later date.

Header image via Jason Howie on Flickr.