TopRank Marketing’s 2016 Influencer Marketing Predictions

2016-Influencer-Marketing-Predictions

This year, headlines throughout the marketing blogosphere proclaimed that influencer marketing is “the next big thing.”

At TopRank Marketing, we have been refining our influencer marketing strategy for nearly a decade. It’s our past, present, and next big thing. When done well, influencer marketing can boost brand credibility, provide valuable exposure for the brand and the influencer and create killer content your audience will love.

Now that influencer marketing has officially arrived, how will it evolve in 2016? We asked our in-house experts, and some of our favorite marketers outside the TopRank Marketing team, for their opinion. Here are the influencer marketing predictions for 2016.

Steve Rayson

Steve-Rayson

Director, BuzzSumo

@steverayson

I think one opportunity is to build relationships with a small group of influencers (6-10) that have relatively few followers but high engagement rates. To do this find well shared content that is highly relevant to your area. Analyze who shared this content and filter those with high retweet rates (on average how many times their tweets are retweeted) but relatively few followers. Develop relationships by answering questions they ask on Twitter, sharing their content, commenting on their blogs, attending their webinars and meeting them in person if you can; and above all, ask how you can help them.

Lee Odden

Lee-Odden-Tday-Blog-Post

CEO, TopRank Marketing

@leeodden

As consumers become increasingly numb to formal marketing messages and advertising, their trust in information from peers, social network connections and industry experts has increased.

A few interesting statistics about influencer marketing:

  • 84% of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral. (LinkedIn)
  • 92% of consumers rely on referrals from people they know above all else (TapInfluence)
  • 81% of those surveyed considered influencer engagement to be effective or very effective for meeting their objectives (Augure)
  • $6.85 for every $1 spent – This is the average media value earned by brands who implemented influencer marketing. (Burst Media / RhythmOne)

In 2016 I think we’ll see more brands expand their view of how to incorporate influencers as partners in content co-creation vs. simply as another promotion and advertising channel.

We’ll also see higher expectations of influencers themselves. Popularity is not influence and brands that use influencer marketing will expect more than mentions and social shares. Those influencers capable of affecting real business outcomes will become even more in demand and valuable.

To take advantage of the growing value of influencers, sophisticated marketers will begin to better distinguish between different kinds of influencers and the characteristics that make them the best match for marketing programs.

Influencer Marketing software will lead the way towards effectively identifying, qualifying, recruiting, engaging, managing and measuring influencer marketing performance. Companies that achieve higher levels of expertise with this kind of software will achieve a distinct competitive advantage in their respective industries.

Amanda Maksymiw

Amanda-M

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Lattice Engines

@amandamaks

Companies just getting into influencer marketing must understand that there isn’t a silver bullet or trick to overnight success. It takes time to build valuable relationships with influencers that produce results. You need to engage on social media, comment on blog posts, leave book reviews, interact in person (if possible), etc. In 2016, companies will realize that it’s the time for a less is more approach. Instead of targeting a list of influencers that is too large to manage and relying on automated tactics, marketers will focus on a smaller group so they can focus on more personalized, less automated outreach to garner big wins.

Susan Misukanis

Susan-Misukanis-Tday-Blog-Post

President, TopRank Marketing

@smisukanis

2016 will offer a prime opportunity for us marketers to move our strategies from smoldering ideas to bright and memorable initiatives. But only If we think and behave in the right way.

We’ve had clients ask us to “give them an influencer list” because penetrating influencer communities, they think, is the secret to an epic campaign.

In fact, an influencer with a solid, on topic and active community presents nothing more than an opportunity. Like a match looking at a log.

When a creative campaign ignites the influencer and community well, then meaningful participation can happen and opportunity is enhanced.

And when an influencer, their community and other stakeholders, are truly passionate about a toipic, the opportunity for a story to be passed from one social campfire to the next really heats up.

And so in 2016 we marketers will ideally learn that influencer marketing is more than “the right influencer”. It’s about relationships, community and common interest. Oh and let’s not forget a spark of creative.

To 2016. May your influencer campaigns burn as glowing examples for the rest of us to follow.

Susan Misukanis Influencer Marketing Prediction

Amy Higgins

Amy-Higgins

Director of Content Marketing, Deem

@amywhiggins

Many marketers today think of influencer marketing as a campaign, or a one-off. They co-create a series of deliverables with a limited number of influencers designed to bring about a particular result. To me, this is like coloring inside the lines. I predict that beginning in 2016 marketers will learn to color outside the lines of a campaign.

As a marketer, you’d never create a single campaign that focuses on your brand’s voice. Instead, you’ll weave your brand’s  voice into any and all content that you create. By utilising influencers throughout all of your marketing efforts, you can increase your reach and engagement. So then, why do marketers still compartmentalize influencers? By not weaving influencers into all of your marketing and coloring inside the lines of a campaign, you are missing a huge opportunity for your business. In 2016, let’s color outside the lines with influencer marketing!

What Are Your Influencer Marketing Predictions for 2016?

Influencer marketing enjoyed a surge of popularity in 2015, and the best practices are sure to evolve in the coming year. At TopRank, we will continue to explore new tools, platforms and strategies to keep learning and improving.

What are your company’s influencer marketing plans for 2016? Let us know in the comments.

Want to learn more about influencer marketing? Check out our website or contact us directly and let us know how we can help.

Disclosure: Deem is a TopRank Marketing client.

Header image via Shutterstock


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | TopRank Marketing’s 2016 Influencer Marketing Predictions | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Marketing Tactics: Earned Media Pros, Cons, Examples & Best Practices

content-marketing-earned-media

For any brand, reputation is everything—and reputations are often built (or torn down) with earned media. From a glowing news article about one of your products to that horrific Yelp review, every brand experiences the benefits and drawbacks of earned media.

And in today’s socially connected world, marketers are increasing their use of earned media as a contact marketing tactic as it continues to be a crucial factor in consumer decision making.

In fact, a study by Nielsen and InPowered shows that expert content—credible, third-party articles and reviews—is the most effective source of information in impacting consumers along all stages of the purchase process across product categories. The study also showed that earned media is 88 percent more effective than owned media content alone.

Definition of Earned Media

Earned media, also referred to as media relations, word-of-mouth, PR or publicity, is an unpaid brand mention or recognition such as a news article, published interview, or online review by a third party. In addition, earned media can also refer to a byline or article written by someone associated with the brand that is published by a third party.

Earned media is one of three major marketing categories, with the other two being owned media and paid media. Owned media is any content created and managed by the brand such as a website or blog. Paid media is–as it sounds–any publicity, advertising, or content published by a third party that’s paid for by the brand. Many would call earned media the Holy Grail of the three media types, and often earned media is the result of your paid or owned efforts. (e.g. running a promotion (owned) on your website that results in people around the web talking about it (earned).)

These days, social media and review curation sites are major earned media platforms. Everything from that nice tweet about your fabulous customer service to Facebook shares to poor reviews on independent review sites is part of earned media. And viral content is probably the ultimate example of earned media.

Pros

As a content marketing tactic, earned media is one of the most affordable and impactful strategies that a marketer can take advantage of. Here are just some of the benefits of using earned media in your content marketing strategy:

  • Expert content allows brands are able to build reputation, credibility and trust with new customers, while reinforcing current customer relationships.
  • Since credibility and trust are established, earned media also inspires customer action.
  • Earned media is incredibly cost effective because it requires your time, not a large budget.
  • Social signals such as likes and shares send positive juice to search engines and organic search results can be positively impacted.

Cons

While earned media can be have a positive impact on your brand, it does have its drawbacks, too. Here are some of the disadvantages of earned media:

  • Since you don’t own the content, you can’t control the message—which can include negative press, reviews, and comments about your brand.
  • Cultivating quality relationships with your customers and media outlets who cover your business is time consuming and doesn’t happen right away.
  • Newsrooms are slimmer on editorial staff than ever and earning placements is also more difficult.
  • The cost to pay a media relations firm for earned media in major publications does not bring a guarantee.

What Experts Are Saying

“Content is the currency for building social relationships with journalists and bloggers that can boost earned media. Companies that invest in content marketing through brand publisher models are able to attract more inbound media coverage due to their demonstrated expertise. Brand content also enables those same companies to bypass traditional media and connect with consumers directly.”

Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing

“Content marketing can be a powerful tool for brands, but the key is to ensure that the messaging is relevant and consistent to the brand narrative. Otherwise it can become extra noise in an already loud space.”

Mark Delcorps, Public Relations Manager at Overstock.com

“The earned strategy, or publicity gained through editorial influence, is something that has been around for awhile but has become more important due to the advent of social media. Not unlike earning coverage in an industry magazine article, gaining shares, ‘likes,’ re-tweets, posts, and every other social signal related to your business has become an important criteria for promoting your business’ authority. It provides Google with an opportunity to understand if your content is important and, in return, helps to move that content up higher in relevant search engine results pages (SERPs). Online earned media has taken the place of the “word-of-mouth” advertising we all coveted.”

Christopher Baldock, contributor to Content Marketing Institute. (Source: contentmarketinginstitute.com)

Brand Examples of Earned Media

TopRank Marketing

Lee Odden Skyword

TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden has established himself and the agency as thought leaders and innovators in content marketing. As a result, his expertise is often sought after for interviews, contributed articles and webinars. As an example, last year Lee participated in an interview with Content Standard by Skyword.

Budweiser

Budweiser

During the 2015 Super Bowl, Budweiser aired its “Brewed the Hard Way” advertisement that challenged the craft brewing industry a bit. The LA Times wrote an article titled “How the ‘Proud to be macro’ Budweiser Super Bowl ad got it all right.” Not only did the article make the beer company look great, but the LA Times is also a very trustworthy source. This is also a perfect example of earned media working with owned and paid media.

Copyblogger Media (client)

CopyBlogger Authority Rainmaker

In early 2015, Copyblogger Media—a well-known content marketing software and training organization—was preparing for its second annual Authority Rainmaker conference. With the conference still in its early years, Copyblogger partnered with TopRank Marketing to create an eBook that would leverage event speakers to raise awareness and attract registrations for the event. Promotion of the eBook included several earned media guest posts to industry blogs such as Kapost, SlideShare, and Simply Measured.

Combining earned media with other content marketing tactics, the eBook had a total of 26,859 views, more than 1,000 shares, and 139 downloads. A total of 19 referrals were logged as assisted conversions, with an additional 4 direct conversions.

Earned Media Best Practices

  • Create awesome, share-worthy content. Remember, content is king. Create quality, engaging content that serves a useful purpose. If you can address a paint point, provide valuable insights, or educate your audience, they’ll share.
  • Build and nurture relationships. Reach out to publishers, editors, journalists, influencers, and any other relevant third-party. These are the people who can cover your business when a new product launches, as well as special events, industry news and so on.
  • Be prepared to work on someone else’s deadline. Journalists and editors are always working on hard deadlines. Be prepared to speed up or delay your own efforts to fit with their needs.
  • Earned media should be just one part of your content marketing strategy. Think about how your owned and paid media efforts can result in some earned media. For example, Coca-Cola’s “Share a Coke” campaign that launched last summer was a huge multi-faceted campaign—that got a whole lot of people sharing photos of their Cokes on social media platforms.
  • Share positive press and reviews. If people are saying awesome things about your brand, show people. Add customer reviews to your website and share on your social media pages.

Software & Resources

The following resources can help you connect with media organizations and journalists, craft quality content ideas, and track the publicity you’re getting on social media.

Software

SEO and Analytics

Social Media

Content Distribution

The reality is that earned media is really just a part of doing business. Every brand will earn some type of publicity simply for being. But, marketers have an opportunity to grow the amount and the quality of earned media they receive by making it a part of their overall content marketing strategy.

Cultivating earned media is certainly not without its challenges, but it definitely needs to be a consideration since consumers are looking to that content for guidance before they buy.

How does your brand use earned media within its content marketing strategy? What are some of your best practices? Please share in the comments section below.

If you liked this post, check out our content marketing tactics index page with links to more than 25 helpful posts just like this one!

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Content Marketing Tactics: Earned Media Pros, Cons, Examples & Best Practices | http://www.toprankblog.com

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12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging

Content Marketing Lessons LearnedHappy 12th Birthday to TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog!

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which describes the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill as a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours or so.

By many definitions, this humble marketing blog has involved many more than 10,000 hours of practice. While we’ve achieved many milestones from being the only blog ranked the #1 content marketing blog three times by CMI to helping our boutique digital marketing agency reach a worldwide audience, it continues to be a work in progress.

There are multiple dimensions for evaluating a blog’s impact. Here is some statistical trivia about TopRank’s Marketing Blog (thanks to BuzzSumo) representing some of this “practice makes expert” effort.

  • 3,943 posts and 1.9 million words (overall)
  • 1,026 average social shares per post in 2015
  • 1.5 million+ unique visitors in 2015
  • Lists and How to Posts attract the most average social shares in 2015
  • Monday and Thursday are the top days for social shares in 2015
  • Posts with 3-10k words attract the most shares in 2015

Our industry is in a constant state of flux and many companies continue to come in and out of the blogging world. We’ve found blogging to be effective in numerous ways, long before the popularity of social media, content marketing and influencer marketing.

From recruiting to reinforcing customer relationships to growing industry thought leadership to direct customer acquisition, blogging is one of the most demanding yet rewarding marketing investments a company can make. Some of that popularity is measured through social media and to get a sense for what kind of content resonates with our community, here are the top 10 most popular posts for 2015 (by social shares)

  1. 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing – 6,283 shares
  2. Social Media Marketing Management Tools List – Updated! – 4,259 shares
  3. 5 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business – 2,928 shares
  4. Where Social Media and SEO Fit in Today’s Content Marketing Mix – 2,688 shares
  5. 6 Steps to Build a Massive Audience with Content Marketing – 2,674 shares
  6. Content Marketing Tools A to Z That You Can Use in 2015 and Beyond – 2,624 shares
  7. 4 Digital Marketing Investments All Companies Need to Make – 2,562 shares
  8. 25 Inspiring & Actionable Content Marketing Tips – 2,421 shares
  9. Report: True Impact of Social Media Marketing for Business – 2,301 shares
  10. 6 Bad Content Marketing Habits – 2,225 shares

The dynamic of being active in the industry and sharing insights as well as lessons learned is essential of a longstanding blog. Along those lines, here are a few insights you may find useful whether you’re just starting a new business blog or evaluating the direction of your current blog.

12 content marketing lessons I’ve learned from 12 years of blogging:

“Be the best answer.”

1.  Decide what you stand for and aspire to becoming the best resource for your community on that thing. To many companies try to be all things to all people with their blog, emphasizing a “more is better” approach. Specificity rises to the top in all things – especially in social media, search and the offline world.

2. Document your success in a specialty area and then duplicate that success in others. Expand your scope of knowledge and industry thought leadership following your own lessons learned in the process of  becoming “the best answer” for your community.

3. Optimize for answers in your blog content planning. Leverage search keyword data as well as social topic trends for voice of the customer insights you can use in content optimization. You can also monitor questions being asked and answered between customers and your sales and customer service teams. Being the best answer is a continuous effort of understanding the questions your audience is asking and optimizing your answers through content in an info-taining way.

“A blog is only as interesting as the interest shown in your community.”

4. Recognize your community by featuring influencers, internal team members, customers, members of the media, your community, or prospective customers in your blog content. Make lists, co-create, do interviews, liveblog and get quotes for blog posts to shine a light on talent. Becoming influential is great. Helping others become influential is how you gain true influence. Show an interest in your community, engage and recognize. Do that, and you will never run out of relevant topics to blog about.

5. Listen to your community through social media monitoring tools, sentiment analysis of blog comments, and contact forms, using social search tools like BuzzSumo and reviewing your own web and search analytics. Understand what your blog community is interested in and give it to them through blog content.

6. Inspire others by actively engaging on social networks, at industry events and in the right places where your community can participate. Social engagement can be overwhelming for many understaffed business blogging departments. Focus on just a few minutes a day consistently and use tools like social media monitoring or social search to uncover opportunities to poll your community, recognize their interactions with your brand and to answer questions – be useful.

“Great content isn’t great until people find, consume and act on it.”

7. Use search, social and target audience data to inspire content themes, topics and keyword optimization. Topical relevance is as important as keyword relevance for blog content discovery. Far too many companies focus entirely on content creation without considering blog content promotion. Make sure the blog content is what your community is actively looking for and talking about on the social web. Being relevant in this way will fuel inbound traffic and social sharing, which will attract even more blog traffic.

8. Empathize with your readers and create relevance through context and content that is meaningful. Learn the content preferences of your audience from topics to visuals to what devices they most often use to consume your blog. Go beyond thinking about your blog as a marketing tool and consider what would be the best experience for your readers.

9. Continuously review blog content promotion efforts and traffic sources to optimize performance. Conduct SEO, Content, Social Media and Conversion audits on your blog at least quarterly. With specific goals in mind for your blog, you should be able to tie blog performance back to goals. Performance is not just contribution to marketing, but the ability of your blog to satisfy the information needs of your community.

“If you want your content to be great, ask your community to participate.”

10. Identify the distinct audiences of your blog and create ways for those specific communities to contribute. Content co-creation can inspire promotion and improve blog quality. Most blogging efforts within companies are understaffed with high expectations. The most effective way to scale quality blog content and promotion is to involve the very community you’re trying to reach in the content creation.

11. Develop a mix of specialty post and recurring posts that allow you to attract new contributors and co-creators as well as a platform for return contributors. Content is a great relationship builder between any constituent audience and your brand whether they contributors are prospective clients, members of industry media or potential business partners.

12. Recognize contributors in a meaningful way. Share quantitative performance as well as qualitative feedback. People will work for a living, but die for recognition – as long as it means something.

Thank you to our community for being supportive of TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog over the past 12 years. Thank you to the candidates and companies that have taken that important step of following TopRank Marketing’s point of view on marketing through our blog and then engaging as an employee or customer.

I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over the years or who have sent letters and emails to say they’ve been reading our blog for years and that it has helped them in their marketing careers. It is very satisfying to know that something like a blog can both help you grow your business but also positively impact your industry.

A BIG THANKS to the TopRank Marketing agency team of blog contributors in 2015 including:

  • Ashley Zeckman, who has made a huge contribution in 2015 with over 75 posts including the most popular post of the year. This is the first time someone has published more posts than me  and it feels great!
  • Ben Brausen for consistently publishing helpful Friday news roundups. (54 posts)
  • Josh Nite who has raised the bar on TopRank Blog content and has inspired the rest of us to improve our writing and content quality. (13 posts)
  • Alexis Hall who has shared posts on client side marketing, marketing automation and has helped with livebloging. (11 posts)
  • Evan Prokop who has found the time to share his SEO expertise and help with liveblogging. (11 posts)
  • Debbie Friez who has done a great job with sharing her social media marketing smarts and liveblogging. (7 posts)
  • Michael Bak who has shared his online advertising expertise for search and social media. (5 posts)
  • Leila De La Fuente who has shared a mix of digital marketing expertise including online advertising, search marketing and ecommerce. (4 posts)
  • Joel Carlson who has contributed several highly useful social media marketing posts. (4 posts)
  • Caitlin Burgess who has jumped right into one of the toughest types of posts not long after coming on board at TopRank Marketing. (3 posts)
  • Nick Ehrenberg who has published some very popular social media marketing posts. (3 posts)
  • Jolina Pettice who is the busiest person I know at our agency (besides Susan Misukanis) and still found time to contribute (1 post)

What does 2016 have in store for TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog? A long overdue re-design, more contributions from the fast growing team at TopRank Marketing and even more useful insight to help our community become smarter and more creative marketers that can achieve real business results.

Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and being a part of our community!


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | 12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Online Marketing News: Bing’s Biggest, Google Goals Get Smarter, Twitter Signals State-Sponsored

Guide to 2016 Content Marketing Trends

A Complete Guide to 2016 Content Marketing Trends [Infographic] – Take a look at this infographic, which reveals their expectations for content marketing budgets, benchmarks and the key trends for 2016. Social Media Today

Bing Reveals The Top US and UK Searches of 2015 – Bing says we’re done collating stuff in 2015, and now’s the time to rank it all in order. What else are you going to do in December? Work? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Search Engine Watch

Why Sponsored Social Is One Of 2015’s Most Effective Marketing Tactics [Study] – Digital marketing is everywhere, but new research shows that sponsored social posts are actually getting noticed, explaining their growing popularity. ClickZ

New Study: The State of Employee Advocacy in 2015 – The Hinge Research Institute and Social Media Today conducted a comprehensive online survey of professionals who use social media for business purposes to figure out how businesses are using employee advocacy and what results they are getting. Social Media Today

Report: Brand Activity, Engagement Growing on Instagram – Advertising on Instagram has become an effective and profitable strategy. Social media users are heavily engaged with brands, and brands are learning that Instagram is no longer an option, but a necessity. SocialTimes

Twitter Extends Ads to Some Logged-Out Visitors, Including Those From Google – Twitter has started showing ads to some people who visit its desktop site without logging in. For example, now when someone who’s not logged in to Twitter clicks on a tweet appearing in Google’s search results, Twitter will be able to show an ad to that person and make some money.  Ad Age

Google Adds Forecasting Data In AdWords Display Planner – Google released updates to the Display Planner in AdWords on Thursday to show click and impression estimates based on the bid and budget an advertiser inputs. Marketing Land

Google Launches Smart Goals For Advertisers That Don’t Have Conversion Tracking – Smart Goals harness aggregated conversion data from Google Analytics-enabled sites for advertisers that don’t have another way to track and optimize for conversions. Search Engine Land

Facebook Introduced Transportation on Messenger – Today, we’re expanding the services available to you with our launch of transportation on Messenger. With this new feature, you can request a ride from a car service without ever needing to download an extra app or leave a conversation. It’s super easy and doesn’t take you away from the plans that you’re making with your friends or family. Facebook

Twitter Now Alerts Users To State-Sponsored Attacks – Twitter has introduced a similar notifications system, it seems. According to the Guardian, the company emailed more than 20 users with a notice saying their Twitter accounts were among “a small group of accounts that may have been targeted by state-sponsored actors.” Fast Company

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Zen Content


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. | Online Marketing News: Bing’s Biggest, Google Goals Get Smarter, Twitter Signals State-Sponsored | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Marketing Tactics: Influencer Content Pros, Cons, Examples and Best Practices

Influencer-Marketing

While the world is more connected than ever, it’s also more cluttered than ever. Yes. It’s the age of information overload, and competition to get noticed is fierce. As a result, marketers are focusing on creating scalable content that gets shared more often and reaches more people by using influencer content programs.

Influencer marketing often refers to celebrities or brandividuals advocating for a brand. Influencer content goes beyond advocacy to focus on the actual content being produced for marketing. Influencer content isn’t something new, but the digital era has changed how it’s used. Influencer content marketing in its current form started gaining momentum in 2014, and it’s now the fastest growing and most cost effective marketing channel.

Why? Simple. It works. According to a study by Tomoson, an influencer marketing platform, businesses are making $6.50 for every dollar spent on influencer marketing. In addition, 51 percent of businesses reported acquiring better customers through influencer marketing efforts.

Definition of Influencer Content

Influencer content is content that is created in collaboration with subject matter experts and industry authorities—influencers. As a content marketing tactic, influencer content aims to reach new or larger audiences by leveraging the credibility and social followings of those experts.

Collaboration with influencers can take on a couple different forms:

  • Content can be co-created with the help of the influencer.
  • Content can be created by the brand using a quote or contribution from an influencer.
  • Content can be created by the brand for the influencer’s blog, website or another publication.

Influencer content can work closely with earned media. Earned media is any unpaid publicity, mention or recognition you receive from a third party such as a news article, customer review or social media mention.

Pros

Influencer content programs are proving to be one of the most effective marketing tactics around. Here are some of the benefits of using influencer content as a content marketing tool:

  • Influencers are trusted by their followers and they can lend major credibility to a brand.
  • Influencer content allows you to tap into trusted authorities’ audiences and reach more people.
  • While influencer marketing can involve paid agreements with influencers, a lot of times influencers will market your content for free if it’s good quality and useful to their audience.

Cons

While influencer programs can be wildly successful, there are some downsides to consider before adding it to your content marketing strategy. Here are some of the downsides of influencer content programs:

  • Influencer programs are all about relationship building and then nurturing those relationships, and that is incredibly time consuming.
  • While influencers have an engaged following, that doesn’t guarantee your message will resonate with their following.

What Marketing Professionals Have to Say About Influencer Content

“Whether you are co-creating something new or including a simple quote from someone who is well-known in your space, incorporating influencers into your content marketing efforts is a win-win. It allows you to capitalize on your influencer’s brand, thought leadership, ideation, and reach so you can create more content and ensure you reach a broader audience. ”

Amanda Maksymiw, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Lattice-Engines

“Influencers have long-standing relationships with their audiences and provide a platform for brands to have the appropriate voice, time and lasting influence with consumers. As social media has progressed from a marketing afterthought to an integral marketing strategy, today’s influencers have expanded onto digital platforms, bringing unprecedented value to a specific audience segment through their large communities of trusting followers, authentic personal experience and expertise on a variety of social networks.”

American Marketing Association (Source: ama.org)

“Trusted relationships with the right industry influencers are key to ensuring brand content is relevant to customers. Influencers stay ahead of industry trends and have a pulse on what matters most to their readers, so they can be tremendously insightful in steering brand content strategy.”

Shelley Ryan, Global Content Strategist, Dell

Examples of Influencer Content

LinkedIn

Sophisticated Marketers Guide 

A great example of influencer content is the The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn. Influencers were included in the creation of the guide and it was promoted and repurposed through multiple channels. With both influencers and content communicating the value, visibility of LinkedIn as a marketing solution resulted in a huge ROI on the program and millions in new revenue.

Ray N. Welter Heating Company

Welter Heating Influencers

This Minneapolis-based HVAC service company wanted to increase community engagement to build brand awareness using influencers. Since Welter Heating falls in a niche industry, many influencers are actually competitors.

The first influencer post was “Thermostat Wars! Local Celebrities Tell Us What They Set Their Thermostat To,” and featured local news meteorologists, a news anchor and a young rapper/musician. Each influencer included in the campaign had a significant social media following and was easily recognizable to local residents. In just the first two weeks after publishing, this article had taken the number 2 spot behind the homepage as the most visited page on the site. See the full case study here.

Genealogy Research Firm

TopRank Case Study

A leading genealogy research firm leveraged their attendance at an annual industry event to to take advantage of the engaged audience of attendees. Influencers collaborated to create a blog post with tips for creating the best genealogy project, with the goal of driving traffic to a priority page on the firm’s website. As a result, within two weeks the target page received 5,509 pageviews and the blog post itself earned 8,000 pageviews—which is two-times the average. In addition, more than 600,000 people were reached on Twitter.

Best Practices

  • Define your influencer goals. Identify how you want to use influencers to contribute and promote your content. This will help you plan your outreach initiatives and your overall marketing timeline.
  • Be smart when selecting topics. The content topics you choose will also have an effect on who you’ll focus on during the outreach process. Focus on concepts that are relevant and will make your influencers want to care, interact, contribute and share your content.
  • Identify how those topics will be presented. Are you planning a series of blog posts? An eBook? A social media promotion? Define what form you content will take on..
  • Thoroughly research prospects. Make sure you do your homework on potential influencers to ensure they align with your goals. You’ll want to look at how large their social followings are and how often they interact with those followings, as well as their own content creation efforts.
  • But, remember audience size isn’t everything. Influencers don’t have to have a huge following to be considered for your campaign. This is why looking at interaction between them and their audience are important. Are they responding to tweet mentions? Are they sharing other people’s content on social? Do people comment on blog posts?
  • Start courting before you ask for help. One of the core values of influencer marketing is relationship building. If you’re able to build some type of rapport with an influencer early on, you’ll have more success when you ask for help later. Influencer relations doesn’t happen overnight, so think long-term.
  • Co-create content whenever possible. The opportunities to collaborate are only limited by your imagination and creativity. Influencers will also be more likely to share and promote this type of content.
  • Amplify your content by making it easy to share. Provide influencers pre-written tweets, embed codes, images or short URLs so they have everything they need to promote right in front of them.
  • Optimize for people and SEO is another core value of content marketing. All content should be optimized for people and search engines.
  • Measure success. It’s crucial to analyze if your efforts are helping you reach your goals. Use social network shares and mentions, blog pickups, and direct and referral traffic metrics, as well as conversions to see how effective your content is.
  • Don’t forget about your audience. Focusing on the customer, rather than just the influencer, will help brands achieve the most success. Remember, influence doesn’t matter if the message doesn’t connect with consumers.

Software & Resources

While influencer marketing in the digital age is still gaining some speed, there are already an unbelievable number of resources and platforms available for marketers—some free and some for a fee. Here are some of the most well-known:

  • Traaker
  • TapInfluence
  • Speakr
  • Crowdtap
  • Tomoson
  • Mavrck
  • Zoomph
  • Exposely
  • Hey Press
  • Notey
  • Buzz sumo

And, of course, the TopRank Marketing Blog. Influencer content programs are an integral part to many of our clients’ strategies and we’ve written a number of influencer marketing articles.

In today’s digital world, cutting through the clutter and connecting with people is a challenge for every brand. Influencers can help overcome that challenge by lending their audiences and their credibility. However, influencers can’t guarantee engagement. So, marketers need to continue to focus their content marketing efforts on the people they’re trying to reach.

Does your content marketing strategy include influencer content? Why or why note? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Did you like this post? If so, check out our content marketing tactics index page with links to over 25 helpful posts just like this one!

Disclosure: LinkedIn, Dell and Welter Heating Company are TopRank Marketing clients.

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TopRank Marketing’s 2016 Content Marketing Predictions

2016-Content-Marketing-Predictions

Was 2015 the year content marketing died? A quick Google search for “the death of content marketing” pulls up at least five articles written in the last six months, each seeking to put the final nail in the content coffin. To confuse the issue, for every “content marketing is dead” article, there’s a “traditional advertising is dead. Long live content marketing!” piece to balance it out.

Is this a Schrodinger’s Cat scenario? Are we holding a wake, or should we be performing CPR? In reality, it’s non-strategic content marketing that’s on life support. Audiences are increasingly ignoring the glut of mediocre content tossed haphazardly onto the web.

That’s good news. It means exceptional content with strategic creation and promotion can thrive. Making quality content the new minimum requirement is good for marketers and customers alike.

So make no mistake: Content marketing is very much alive, and it remains a crucial part of an integrated digital marketing strategy. We asked some of our favorite content experts, and some members of the content marketing team at TopRank Marketing (and yes, I did answer one of the questions myself), for their predictions on how content marketing will evolve in 2016. Here’s what they had to say:

Sujan Patel

Sujan-Patel

VP of Marketing, When I Work

@sujanpatel

I believe that 2016 will be the year of comebacks & repurposing. We’ve already started seeing video come back in the form of Live streaming (Periscope, Blab, Facebook Live). We’ll see more of that along with companies repurposing their content in different mediums such as Slideshare, Linkedin, Medium, Video, and likely even offline magazines. With repurposing, companies can better personalize their tone and content for the audience of a particular network or channel. Ultimately this creates a better user experience and a will increase user engagement.

Knute Sands

Knute-Sands-Prediction

Account Manager, TopRank Marketing

@KnuteSands

Video is increasingly easy to produce, and likewise becoming the most popular content type across all of social media. But, relatively few content marketers have embraced video as a primary content type in their ongoing efforts. In 2016, we will see nearly all content marketers attempting to utilize video more frequently. In addition, YouTube will continue to improve its ability to index content associated with, and contained within videos. As a result, we will see Google, Bing and other search engines adjusting their algorithms to favor video in search engine results pages.

Michele Linn

Michele-Linn

VP of Content, Content Marketing Institute

@michelelinn

Marketers constantly talk about quality content over quantity, and I couldn’t agree more. Only exceptional content need apply. Not only do I hope marketers spend more time on each piece of content (including creative creation, promotion and reuse), but I also hope they consider what currently exists that does not put their brand in the best possible light.

What existing content should be updated or retired?  Strive for content on your website that is current, relevant and organized — and pointing to other related items — and chances are you’ll see pages that convert better — and happier customers.

Jesse Pickrain

Jesse-Pickrain

Content Marketing Manager, TopRank Marketing

@jpickrain

This may be hopeful thinking, but I believe 2016 will mark the peak of B2B content in terms of sheer publishing volume. I’m not predicting a big drop – or even a decline, necessarily – merely an end to the “more is more” mentality. The pacesetters will continue to invest in understanding, parlaying those investments into contextually rich experiences that respect consumers’ time. Meanwhile, those who haven’t removed their foot from the “lofty production quota, low editorial standards” pedal will be forced to make an introspective pit stop. In the end, consumers will occupy the winner’s circle. The brands that gave them a lift via content will be right there with them.

Lorelei Orfeo

Lorelei-Orfeo

Senior Video Content Manager, Birchbox

@LoreleiO

The biggest opportunity for content marketers in 2016 is mobile-optimized video content. Global mobile users have outpaced desktop users and time spent on mobile within the US continues to grow, outpacing time spent on desktop and other devices. It is critical for marketers to focus on connecting with their customers on mobile. According to Ooyala’s Global Video Index from Q3 2015, videos less than 10 minutes in length are watched on mobile 69% of the time. Creating video content for channels like Snapchat and Periscope that have vertical orientation (ideal for mobile viewers) is a huge area of opportunity for brands and I expect to see more vertically-oriented video platforms in the next few years.

Ashley Zeckman

Ashley-Zeckman-Tday-Blog-Post

Director of Agency Marketing, TopRank Marketing

@azeckman

In 2016, there will be more content created than in previous years. That means, it will be even more difficult to capture and keep the attention of online audiences. In order to combat this issue, content marketers will need to push even further outside of their comfort zones and focus on uber creative, stunningly visual interactive content.

Interactive content will help connect the audience with the message and create an experience for them that is hard to achieve with other forms of content.  I see this as an exciting new challenge and opportunity to raise the bar on content to meet audience demand.

What Are Your Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2016?

2015 is not the year that content marketing died. But it may be remembered as the year content marketing grew up. After the initial enthusiasm; after everyone rushed to get in the content business; after experimenting, failing, and doing better; marketers are finally ready to get the most out of their content marketing efforts.

How is your company changing your content marketing approach in 2016? Let us know in the comments.

Looking for help with your content and content marketing strategy? Learn more about our content marketing services.

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How to Use LinkedIn Sponsored Updates to Jumpstart Content Promotion in 2016

linkedin

2015 was the year that content marketing exploded. Brands have become publishers and are all competing in the same arena to provide a quantity of quality content for their audience. In the coming year, content capabilities and demands will only increase.

It’s time that marketers think beyond creation, and take advantage of the tools available for content amplification, promotion and measurement. With over 4million business pages housed on their platform, there is no denying that LinkedIn is a powerhouse for amplifying and boosting great content.

Today, LinkedIn released their newest guide to LinkedIn Sponsored Posts. This guide was composed by scouring LinkedIn to find the best examples of business sponsored content. In order to  take the leap into investing in sponsoring content, you first have to make sure that you have something worth promoting. Below are a handful of examples of businesses using great content on LinkedIn to capture the attention of their audience.

Use Crowd-Sourcing to Involve Your Audience

Air Canada LinkedIn

There is no denying that content involving your audience can quickly become very powerful and sharable.

Earlier this year, Holiday Inn Express created an entire video campaign, website and social amplification plan around based on an initiative that involved their audience. They created a series of videos about the importance of breakfast and hired actor Rob Riggle to act as their new “Creative Director” in these video shorts on YouTube.

Not only were these videos entertaining, but Holiday actually held a contest using the hashtag #pancakemachine to have followers submit entries to name their fancy new pancake machines.

Consumer Brands Tackle a LinkedIn Content Strategy

Amazon LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the largest professional networking platform and has more traditionally been thought of as a solution for B2B companies. However, the individuals that use LinkedIn are also consumers. That means, there is a ripe opportunity for B2C companies to begin dominating with clever, visual and interesting content for their audience.

Consumer brands like Amazon and Starbucks have taken advantage of this opportunity and utilize LinkedIn to consistently provide great (and sometimes heartwarming) information for their LinkedIn followers.

Never Underestimate the Power of Video

Air Canada LinkedIn

A whopping 78% of people watch videos online every week, and 50% of all mobile traffic is from video views. Numbers like that make you wonder why everyone isn’t creating videos to better target online audiences. Truth of the matter is, videos are an investment of time, learning and often monetary funds. If you are setup to create quality video, consider using LinkedIn as a platform to distribute and amplify that content.

Take for example, Air Canada. This year, the airline company published a series of videos on their LinkedIn page that included travel tips from a tech entrepreneur as well as an upgrade to the dining experience fliers will experience when travelling with Air Canada. These short videos serve a couple purposes. First, they’re providing general helpful tips. Secondly, they are creating content that showcases how flying with them a pleasurable experience instead of a dreaded chore.

Compelling Visuals Help Great Content Shine

Dell LinkedIn

Content that contains compelling visuals has the power to entice and connect readers with brand content. With the overwhelming amount of content that exists today, it takes more than a clever headline or quality content to stand out in the sea of noise. In fact, there an average increase of comments by 98% if an update contains a visual element.

Dell recently released an interactive guide to help companies determine which technology fit would be best for their organization. On LinkedIn, the company shared a snappy and compelling update as well as a great image that displays a preview of a few of the different types of companies that are covered in the guide. The visual was entertaining (even funny) and informational for followers.

LinkedIn Sponsored Update Trends in 2015

For even more insights into how to use LinkedIn to capture the attention of your audience, check out LinkedIn’s handy new trends update below:

Also, if you’re ready to jump headfirst into sponsoring your awesome content on LinkedIn, be sure to download the Sophisticated Marketer’s Ultimate Guide to Sponsored Updates.

Disclosure: LinkedIn and Dell are TopRank Marketing clients.

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Defying Gravity: Our 5 Most Shared Influencer Marketing Posts of 2015

Top-Influencer-Marketing-Posts-of-2015

If you have ever seen a space shuttle launch–and let’s pause for a moment of silence for NASA’s funding—you remember how small the shuttle itself looks on the launch pad. Even though it’s a massive vehicle, it’s dwarfed by the fuel tanks that will boost it into orbit. It takes a lot of energy to defy gravity, and the shuttle needs all the help it can get.

For marketers, influencers are the fuel that can get our content out of the gravity well and up where people can see it. We know influencer marketing gets results, and it’s great to see it emerging as a trend. Eighty-four percent of marketing and communications worldwide expect to launch at least one influencer marketing campaign in the next year, and 81% who have already tried it say influencer engagement was effective.

Influencer marketing is one of TopRank Marketing’s specialties. Our CEO, Lee Odden, has presented on the subject at Content Marketing World, PRSA, InBound, and many other industry events. And we strive to share what we know with our dedicated TopRank Marketing Blog readers.

The following five posts are our most shared influencer marketing posts in 2015. We hope they inspire you to start your own influencer marketing program, or optimize the one you already have.

#1 – What You Need to Know About Content & Influencer Marketing

What you need to know about content

Lee leads the pack with this case study of our Killer Content Award-winning campaign for Content Marketing World in 2014. He details the tools we use, and gives a quick overview of our process for identifying influencers and integrating their contributions into content. As a bonus, Lee links to over a dozen additional influencer marketing resources at the end.

#2 – How to Improve Influencer Engagement? Avoid These 50 Fails

50 ways to fail

At TopRank Marketing, we work hard to do influencer marketing right. Which means we have identified, either by making mistakes or seeing where others have failed, plenty of ways to do it wrong. Lee rounds up the surefire ways to fail at influencer engagement. Learn from our and other marketers’ mistakes, and go forth to make your own on the way to greatness.

#3 – 3 Examples of How Partnering with Influencers on Content Creates a Winning Combination

partner with influencers

Influencer co-creation isn’t limited to eBooks, or white papers, or guest blogs. Director of Agency Marketing Ashley Zeckman presents three unique case studies in this article, showing how influencers can spice up virtually any kind of content.

#4 – The Difference between Brandividuals & Influencers – Why You Need Both

brandividuals and influencers

Spoiler alert: The difference is that brandividuals are popular, but influencers create popularity. They are two very distinct groups, each of which have a different function for influencer marketing. Lee explains the purpose each serve, and the value of a third type of influencer: someone who is not yet influential, but can become so with the right creative push.

#5 – Rule the School: 5 Essential Lessons on Co-Creating Content with Influencers [eBook]

Rule the School Influencers

This past fall, TopRank Marketing partnered with GroupHigh to create a seriously cool, totally meta influencer marketing eBook. It’s an instruction manual on influencer marketing, but it’s also an example of influencer marketing, featuring contributions from marketing luminaries like SAP’s Celia Brown, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions’ Jason Miller, and Xerox VP of Marketing Jeannine Rossignol. This blog post introduces the eBook and includes some tasty tweetable quotes.

Bonus! 3 Great Examples of Using Marketing Influencers to Market to Marketers  

Attention is a Currency

Our client LinkedIn Marketing Solutions brought in bestselling author Brian Solis and renowned cartoonist Hugh MacLeod for this eBook. The result is a heartfelt, emotionally affecting piece that allows LMS to express their core values in an innovative way.

40+ Predictions on Content Marketing in 2016

Our colleagues (and sometime partners) at the Content Marketing Institute pulled out the big guns for this collection of predictions. They went above and beyond the usual oracular blog post, lining up 40 influencers—including Lee—for this fun, well-designed, aggressively orange SlideShare currently at 45,000+ views.

Monsters of Funnel

LeadMD came out swinging with this big rock (pun intended), featuring rock star marketers across the industry. The campaign’s theme is fun, their promotion strategy was solid, and the content itself is high-quality stuff.

Thanks to our outstanding blogging team for their great work on these posts. And thanks to our readers for reading, commenting and sharing. We’ll use your feedback to make the blog an even better resource in 2016.

Are there any posts you loved that didn’t make the list? Are there any questions about influencer marketing we can answer for you? Let us know in the comments, or contact us directly.

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Online Marketing News: Facebook Adds Instant Article Ads, LinkedIn Introduces Interesting Insights, YouTube Tacks On Trending Tab

What Santa Can Teach You About Email Marketing

What Santa Can Teach You About Email Marketing [Infographic] – What can we learn from watching Santa and the way he organizes his work? A lot, actually. Every stage in the process that ends with a present under your Christmas tree has a parallel in email marketing. Let’s look at what Santa does and how we can apply those lessons to email marketing. FreshMail

AdSense Mobile Text Ads Get Another Facelift – Among several design updates, the newer version does away with the need to swipe in order to see the display URL. Marketing Land

Facebook Improves Their Name Process – This week, we will begin to test new tools that address two key goals. First, we want to reduce the number of people who are asked to verify their name on Facebook when they are already using the name people know them by. Second, we want to make it easier for people to confirm their name if necessary. Facebook

Google Adds Reporting Features For AdWords Flexible Bid Strategies – Google has added three new reporting features for flexible bid strategies in AdWords. Updates offer status annotations for flexible bid strategies, more performance reporting. Search Engine Land

YouTube Rewinds With Its Biggest Creators & Shares The Most Viral Videos Of 2015 – This year’s most watched YouTube videos generated 25 million hours of watch-time from channels with a collective 40 million subscribers. Marketing Land

Social Analytics Firm Topsy Shut Down by Apple Two Years After Purchase – Two years after being purchased by Apple for $200 million, social analytics firm Topsy today announced the end of its service. On Twitter, the company tweeted that it has “searched [its] last tweet.” Additionally, its website redirects to an Apple support page on using Search on iPhone.  MacRumors

Facebook Debuts Two New Tools for Video Publishers – Facebook Monday announced the introduction of two new tools enabling publishers to embed videos and posts from Facebook elsewhere on the Web. Facebook

Facebook Allowing More Ads in Instant Articles to Make Publishers More Money – According to Marty Swant in AdWeek, who spoke with a Facebook rep about the matter, the policy change lets publishers include up to 40% more advertisements per post in Instant Articles. The change, which began yesterday, will allow publishers to place an ad every 350 words instead of every 500 words in articles. Social Media Today

LinkedIn Introduces New Job Posting Insights – Good news job seekers, today we’re introducing new insights on LinkedIn job postings to help you with your job search. LinkedIn

YouTube’s New Trending Tab Shows Videos As They Go Viral – Google says videos are curated based on comments, views, novelty and external references. Marketing Land

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: FreshMail


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Online Marketing News: A Look Back, The End Of The Track, and Steaming App

Data Driven Holiday Marketing Strategies

A Guide to Data-Driven Holiday Marketing Strategies [INFOGRAPHIC] – How can your business gain a piece of the $650 billion pie? This infographic from Pixel Road Designs (the company of our Chief Social Media Strategist, Brent Csutoras) shows you how to supercharge your marketing and improve your sales this holiday. Pixel Road Designs

Facebook Is Using Surveys to Better Understand Viral Stories – As we work to improve News Feed, we make updates to the algorithm that help make sure you are seeing the most relevant stories at the top of your feed. We want to make sure that everyone who uses News Feed can understand what updates we’re making and the thinking behind them. That’s why we continue to publish News Feed FYI blog posts to explain major updates and how we’re working to get better at showing you the stories that matter most to you. Facebook

Twitter Releases 2015 Year In Review With Top Trends, Topics, Moments & More – Take a stroll back through Twitter timelines with their 2015 Year In Review. See the top Tweets, topics and moments of the past year. Twitter

Google Releases ‘Trial Runs’ Streaming App Ads – Today, the company confirmed a new streaming mobile ad feature. This new feature will allow users to access a short 60-second or less version of an app that will respond to taps just like the full app. TechCrunch

Google: New Penguin Algorithm Update Not Happening Until Next Year – Webmasters and SEOs need to have a bit more patience, as Google is not releasing the updated Penguin algorithm this year. Search Engine Land

Facebook Introduces Live Video and Collages – Now you can bring the photos and videos you share on Facebook to life with live video and collages, to help friends and family feel like they’re in the moment with you. Facebook

A New Look For Your Twitter.com Photos – This week, we’re introducing a richer photo experience on twitter.com. While Twitter began as an all-text platform, rich media has become essential to the experience. Starting today, we’re making your twitter.com timeline more immersive by uncropping photos, so you can experience and present them as they were meant to be viewed. Twitter

Facebook Ends Creative Labs Initiative and Shuts Down Slingshot, Rooms and Riff – Facebook ended its Creative Labs project, which was designed to allow its engineers to come up with unique and innovative smartphone and tablet apps. With the shuttering of Creative Labs, several of the apps that came out of the program are being shut down and removed from the App Store. MacRumors

Google AdWords Doubles Amount of Structured Information Shown on Text Ads – Google has now doubled the amount of structured information that can be shown with text ads, giving advertiser’s an additional line of structured information to work with. Search Engine Journal

Facebook Announces New Tools for Managing Communication on Your Page – This week Facebook announced additional features for Pages that further empower Page owners to manage communication from any device. We’re giving admins more control over their Page’s responsiveness badge and are launching new features that make it easier than ever for Page admins to manage both the public and private interactions they receive. Facebook

Google Continuing To Test 4 Text Ads In Search Results – We’ve received several reports of people seeing four text ads in Google search results on desktop over the past couple of months. For example, the screen shot above was sent by Frederick Hyland of S360 in Denmark last month. In all cases we’ve seen, four ads are served at the top, and no ads appear along the right rail; most reports have come from outside the US. Search Engine Land

Facebook Take A Look At 2015 In Review – As 2015 comes to a close, we remember what was on our minds this year and the difference we made by coming together. We’re taking a look back on the moments in 2015 that moved us and inspired us to take action. Facebook

From our Online Marketing Community:

In response to 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing Mari Smith said, “WOWEEE zoweee, Ashley and Lee!! You are both fantabulous. What a wonderful roundup; I love that you are championing women leadership. So many amazing peeps here.”

On Back to the Lab: Our Top 5 Social Media Marketing Posts of 2015Leila De la Fuente commented, “The “We’ve Been Failing” slideshare was one of the first pieces I’ve passionately read in entirety in quite a while. Super great topic, and the presentation was humbling. Glad it made your list.”

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Pixel Road Designs


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