50 Social Media Marketing Influencers to Learn From in 2018

Social Media Marketing Influencers 2018

It’s that time of year again for the conference extravaganza known as Social Media Marketing World.  Each year I pull together a list of influential voices that are engaging on social networks around the topic social media marketing. My goal? To help showcase speakers for people in the industry to learn from and follow.

Why are these people influential? That’s a great question. I would answer with, “Why is anyone influential?”. Because they have specific expertise that they share publicly, consistently and in a way that improves the knowledge, skills and perspectives of those who follow them.

Influence is not only popularity. Influence is the ability to affect action.

When I started out in my digital marketing career, it was thanks to connecting with some generous people that had a lot more experience than me that I was able to overcome introversion and reluctance to write and become an international keynote speaker, author and blogger with over 1.4 million words written so far. What I have learned about influence is that it is not self-assigned.

Influence is earned by being helpful, effective and relevant as well as having reach. Influence is also earned by mentoring those who are coming up in the industry. While working with influencers transfers influence by association, helping others become influential is when earned influence really skyrockets.

In this year’s list of Social Media Marketing Influencers there are many people who demonstrate this kind of helpfulness and I am encouraging those influencers as well as our community of readers to nominate up and coming social media marketing leaders. You can find more details on that at the end of the post.

About the Methodology for this List:

Specific Scope: Rather than scan the entire social web, the starting data set for this list is having been named as a speaker for the SMMW18 conference. Mike Stelzner and Phil Mershon of Social Media Examiner do an amazing job of hand picking speakers for this conference and this list is an extension of their research and expertise into finding, qualifying and recruiting over 180 social media marketing speakers.

IRM Platform Assisted: Ranking of the people in this list leverages data and algorithms from Traackr, an influencer relationship marketing platform. Unlike the vast majority of lists like this that are published online, this list considers many more data sources than just Twitter. To provide a better sample across the web, Traackr ranking can include citations and links from data sources such as blogs, publications, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

Ranking data sources and scoring: For the ranking, this list leverages a combination of data points including:

  • Relevance – A score that indicates how influential a person is to a specific topic based on the keywords you provide. Signals for relevance include keyword mentions, keyword diversity, content production rate, freshness of content and other contextual measures. In this case, it was “social media marketing” as well as 10+ derivative phrases.
  • Resonance – A score of how impactful the influencer is with their audience. Resonance measures engagement activity that occurs as a result of publishing (mostly social) content.
  • Reach – A score derived by the reach algorithm that takes into account followers, fans, subscribers, visitors and other audience metrics. Remember, this is more than just Twitter.
  • Audience – Overall social audience size

Each of these signal sources are factored into the algorithmic ranking for identified influencers with a focus on topical relevance, resonance of message with the audience and then audience reach. The result is a combination of broad based influencers as well as individuals with a very specific focus and very high resonance and relevance scores. What I like about pulling this list together is seeing a number of new faces as well as as a variety of disciplines and specialties represented.

This list of 50 industry experts speaking at Social Media Marketing World is worth checking out as you plan which presentations to see, who to follow online and who to meet.

Kim Garst @kimgarst

Live Streaming Strategist, Social Selling Pro, Keynote Speaker at Boom! Social

Presenting: How to Make Money With Live Video

Donna Moritz @sociallysorted

Digital Content Strategist, International Speaker, Visual Content Strategist at Socially Sorted

Presenting: Tips and Tools for Visual Storytelling on Instagram

Brian Fanzo @isocialfanz

Founder and CEO at iSocialFanz

Presenting: Facebook Strategy in Light of the Facebook Apocalypse

Koka Sexton @kokasexton

Advisor, SenderGen

Presenting: How to Turn LinkedIn Into a Funnel for New Leads

Madalyn Sklar @madalynsklar

Social Media and Digital Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Podcaster

Presenting: How to Up Your Twitter Game With Smart Tools

Dan Gingiss @dgingiss

Vice President, Strategic Group at Persado

Presenting: Why Social Media is Key to the Customer Experience

Ian Anderson Gray @iagdotme

Co-founder at Select Performers Internet Solutions

Presenting: How to Create Your Killer Live Video Show: Tools and Tips

Jeff Sieh @jeffsieh

Pinterest Manager at Social Media Examiner

Presenting: Visual Marketing for Non-Designers: Tips, Tricks, and Hacks

Viveka Von Rosen @linkedinexpert

LinkedIn and Personal Branding Expert, Co-founder and Chief Visibility Officer at Vengreso

Presenting: How to Best Use LinkedIn Native Video in Your Marketing

Neal Schaffer @NealSchaffer

CEO at Maximize Your Social

Presenting: How Brands are Breaking Through to Generate Results on LinkedIn

Josh Elledge @joshelledge

Founder at upendPR

Presenting: How to Get Traditional Media Exposure Using Social Media

Robert Rose @robert_rose

Founder at The Content Advisory & Chief Strategy Advisor at Content Marketing Institute

Presenting: Becoming an Audience First Company: How to Understand and Measure the Most Valuable Asset in Your Business

Gini Dietrich @ginidietrich

Chief Executive Officer at Arment Dietrich

Presenting: Crisis Communications: Tips From the Trenches

Carlos Gil @CarlosGil83

Founder, Gil Media Co.

Presenting: Snapchat Ads: How-to Use Snapchat’s Full Service Ad Platform

Darren Rowse @problogger

Founder and Keynote Speaker at ProBlogger

Presenting: 10 Things I Wish I’d Known about Blogging That Will Shortcut the Growth of Your Blog

Mark Schaefer @markwschaefer

Executive Director at Schaefer Marketing Solutions

Presenting: 10 Mind-Bending New Ideas for Our Social Media Marketing Future

Tamara McCleary @tamaramccleary

CEO at Thulium.co

Presenting: Innovating Your Way to Strong Social Media ROI

Mark Mason @masonworld

Quality Manager, Interface Products at Texas Instruments

Presenting: How to Make Your Podcast Stand Out: Tips from the Trenches

Rebekah Radice @rebekahradice

Founder at RadiantLA

Presenting: How to Make Visual Content Your Social Media Secret Weapon

Brooke B. Sellas @madsmscientist

Founder & Chief Executive Officer at B Squared Media

Presenting: Organizing for Social Success: Insource? Outsource? No Source?

Tyler Anderson @tylerjanderson

CEO / Founder at Casual Fridays

Presenting: Winning With Influencer Marketing: What Top Brands are Doing Now

Samantha Kelly @tweetinggoddess

Owner of Women’s Inspire Network

Presenting: How to Convert Twitter Conversations Into Customers

Ian Cleary @iancleary

Founder at RazorSocial

Presenting: 9 Content Marketing Tools to Drive More Traffic to Your Website

Mari Smith @marismith

Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, Bestselling Author

Presenting: The Future of Facebook: What Marketers Need to Know for 2018 and Beyond

Mike Stelzner @mike_stelzner

CEO and Founder at Social Media Examiner

Presenting: Social Media Marketing in 2018: What the Newest Research Reveals

social media marketing speaker network connections

Andy Crestodina @crestodina

Strategic Director at Orbit Media Studios

Presenting: Building Better Mousetraps: A Content-Driven Approach to Conversion Optimization

Bernie Borges @bernieborges

Advisory Board Member at OneMob and Co-founder and CMO at Vengreso.

Presenting: The Secrets to Getting Employees to Engage on Behalf of Your Brand

Alex Khan @1alexkhan

CEO at Attractive Media GmbH

Presenting: Mass Seduction: Proven Techniques to Engage and Build Your Audience

Peg Fitzpatrick @PegFitzpatrick

Director of Social Media + Marketing at Kreussler

Presenting: How to Use Pinterest to Drive Long Term Traffic

Chris Penn @cspenn

Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications

Presenting: Seeing Into the Future: Predictive Analytics for Social Marketers

Michael O’Neal @inmikeswords

Host of The Solopreneur Hour Podcast

Presenting: Becoming an Interview Master and How it Can Massively Grow Your Podcast or Livestream

Brian Solis @briansolis

Principal Analyst at Altimeter Group

Presenting: The Past, Present and Future of Social Media

Park Howell @parkhowell

Founder and President at Business of Story

Presenting: How to Invest in Brand Storytelling to Earn the Greatest Return

Nicky Kriel @nickykriel

Social Media Consultant & Social Media Strategist at Nicky Kriel Social Media

Presenting: How to Use Twitter Data to Improve Your Content Marketing

Melanie Deziel @mdeziel

Brand Strategy Consultant and Speaker at Mdeziel Media

Presenting: 5 Branded Content Best Practices From the World of Journalism

Andrea Vahl @andreavahl

Social Media Consultant at Andrea Vahl

Presenting: Facebook Ads Strategy for Small Businesses

Jay Baer @jaybaer

Founder at Convince & Convert

Presenting: How to Prove Social Media Works to Skeptical Managers

Steve Dotto @dottotech

President at Galileo Consulting and Producer of Dotto Tech

Presenting: YouMake YouFortune on YouTube: Making Money on YouTube

Ann Handley @marketingprofs

Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

Presenting: Creating Better Content in Less Time: 5 Real-World Writer Secrets

Lee Odden @leeodden

CEO at TopRank Marketing

Presenting: How Content Plus Influence Equals Results: The Confluence Equation

Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki

Chief Evangelist at Canva

Presenting: Achieving Social Media Success by Defying Conventional Wisdom

Shaun McBride @Shonduras

Owner Esports/Shonduras Inc

Presenting: How to Influence Influencers: The Creative Process

John Jantsch @ducttape

President at Duct Tape Marketing

Presenting: How to Grow a Highly Profitable Consulting Practice Without Adding Overhead

Jessika Phillips @jessikaphillips

Relationship Marketing Evangelist, President at NOW Marketing Group

Presenting: Relationship ROI: How to Grow Your Business by Focusing on Repeat and Referral Relationships

John Lee Dumas @johnleedumas

Host of the EOFire Podcast

Presenting: How to Grow Your Podcast Audience and Fuel Your Business

Roberto Blake @robertoblake

Owner at Create Awesome Media

Presenting: Mastering and Measuring YouTube Analytics for Video Marketing

Shep Hyken @Hyken

Chief Amazement Officer and Owner, Customer Service Speaker and Expert at Shepard Presentations

Presenting: How to Turn Social Customer Service Into a Marketing Strategy

Jasmine Star @jasminestar

Owner at Jasmine Star Photography

Presenting: How to Create 30 Days of Instagram Content in a Single Day

Bryan Kramer @bryankramer

Keynote Speaker, Emcee and Event Host at PureMatter

Presenting: How to Humanize Your Social Brand for Better Conversions

Brian Peters @brian_g_peters

Digital Marketing Manager at Buffer

Presenting: How to Build and Maintain an Authentic Community on Instagram

If you want to follow all 50 of these fine folks, then check out the speaker list on the SMMW18 conference schedule page.

What about non-digital influence? 

I think this is a great question because not everyone that is influential (especially in the B2B world) spends as much time tweeting, blogging and posting Instagram photos as many of the influencers listed above do. And yet they are highly influential.

For example, here are several more speakers that are pretty influential to me, even though they are not on the list above: Amisha Gandhi (client), Beverly Jackson, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, Konnie Alex (client), LaSandra Brill, Shannon Paul, Tim Washer, and Ursula Ringham to name a few.

Suffice it to say, I think when you are deciding on which influencers to work with, it’s important to get out of the digital bubble and consider offline-specific influencers as well – especially in B2B.

Big Questions About Influencer Lists & Influencer Marketing:

  • How do you find the right influencers?
  • What do you collaborate with them on?
  • How do you measure influencer marketing performance?
  • Are there processes and formulas for success?

These are some of the most common topics that come up through my agency’s influencer content marketing consulting with brands like Dell, SAP, LinkedIn, 3M and even mid-market companies like DivvyHQ or Cherwell Software.  I’ll be tackling these questions and more in my presentation at Social Media Marketing World 2018. Here are the details:

How Content Plus Influence Equals Results: The Confluence Equation

Thursday, March 1st at 4:10pm Room: 32AB

Content marketing and influencer marketing are hot topics for marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. But how do you find the right influencers? What kind of content should you collaborate on? How do you best measure influencer and content success? Join Lee Odden to learn from his experience working with brands big and small to develop efficient and effective formulas for influencer content success.

I hope to see you there!


I know some folks are feeling left out and others would have added other social media marketing speakers to this list. Lists are exclusive by nature, but I think it would be amazing for the experts on this list as well as our readers would nominate up and coming industry social media marketing pros that are consistently providing useful expertise, leadership and engaging with their communities.

Please leave full name, title, company and Twitter handle (or other social profile) of your nominee in the comments. I will follow this list up with a People’s Choice style list of Rising Social Media Stars after the conference.

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The post 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers to Learn From in 2018 appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.


Top Marketing News: Facebook Tests ‘Downvotes,’ Internet Rages at Google, Pandora Takes Aim

Six Essential Email Marketing Tips [Infographic]

Looking for email marketing success? This six tips can help you – and your emails – reach the right target. MarketingProfs

Google Brings the Popular Stories Format to AMP: Is It Worth Using?

Google announced a new story format for AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) this week. Google describes the new shiny thing as “a visual driven format for evolving news consumption on mobile.” Econsultancy

Internet Rages After Google Removes ‘View Image’ Button, Bowing to Getty

Google removed the “view image” button this week in response to a recent lawsuit from Getty. This move has enraged the internet, but was done with hopes to encourage clicks through to the image’s hosting website. Ars Technica

45% Of Marketers Cite Content & Experience Management As Top Priority In 2018

Econsultancy’s Digital Trends 2018 report found that 45% of professionals surveyed cite content and experience management as their top priorities for this year, followed by the 32% that cited analytics. Econsultancy

Top Digital Advertising Trends

MediaPost compiled a research brief to show top digital advertising trends, including evidence that Google and Facebook owned 63% US digital market in 2017. Microsoft made strides, but remains a distant third place with just 4%. MediaPost

Google Announces Two Major Changes to Image Search

Google has announced two major changes to image search – including the previously reported removal of the “view image” button and the removal of the “search by image” button. Publishers are happy about these changes, Google search users aren’t so thrilled. Search Engine Journal

Pandora Takes Aim At Spotify And IHeartRadio With Programmatic Audio Ads

AdAge reports: “Pandora said Tuesday that it will now offer its audio inventory programmatically through popular demand-side platforms such as MediaMath, The Trade Desk and AdsWizz.” AdAge

Snapchat Gives Creators Access to Audience Analytics

Some select content creators on Snapchat are being given access to analytics and data about their audience, such as story views, engagement and demographics. This is only available to those who are part of Snapchat’s Official Stories program. Search Engine Journal

B2B Demand Generation: Marketers’ Favorite Tactics

Recent research from Demand Gen Report shows that email remains a top demand generation channel for both top and bottom funnel prospects. MarketingProfs

Facebook Is Testing A ‘Downvote’ Button

CNBC Reports: “Facebook is testing a ‘downvote’ button that lets users flag and hide comments they deem inappropriate. The social network clarified that it is not a ‘dislike’ button and the test is running for a small set of people in the U.S. only.” CNBC

Google To Move More Sites To Mobile-First Index In Coming Weeks

Google plans on rolling more sites into the mobile-first index in the next several weeks. It’s time to make sure your site is optimized for mobile if you haven’t already – the time has finally come. Search Engine Land

On the Lighter Side

Red Stripe Says That, Whatever the Cost, It Will Buy a New Bobsled for Jamaica – AdWeek

TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News:

Steve Slater – Your M-Commerce Deep Dive: Data, Trends and What’s Next in the Mobile Retail Revenue World – Big Commerce

Lee Odden – Better Than Bonuses: 4 Motivators That Matter More Than Money – Workfront

We’ll be back next week with more top digital marketing news! If you need more in the meantime, follow @toprank on Twitter or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

The post Top Marketing News: Facebook Tests ‘Downvotes,’ Internet Rages at Google, Pandora Takes Aim appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide

Trusting Hands

Trusting Hands

My first encounter with marketing data malpractice came at a young age. I wasn’t old enough to understand what was going on at the time, but my dad loves to tell the story. As I’ve gotten older, the humor and timeless relevance of this anecdote have struck me more and more.

It was the mid-90s. We received a piece of mail at our house addressed to Lucy Nelson. It was a credit card offer from one of the industry’s heavy hitters. Nothing out of the norm so far, right?

Here’s the problem: Lucy was no longer alive.

And the bigger problem: Lucy was not a human. She was our dog.

As it turns out, my older brother had been cited by an officer at a nearby park many years earlier for walking Lucy without a leash. When asked to give a name, he stuttered out the Golden Retriever’s, along with our family surname. Somehow “Lucy Nelson” ended up in a city database and the credit card company had plucked it out to add to its mailing list. Ultimately, this resulted in our dearly departed dog being pitched a deluxe platinum card.


Flash-forward 20-some years. It’s a different world now. The rudimentary practice of collecting names and addresses from public databases seems so quaint in the Age of Big Data. Businesses and institutions now have the ability to gather comprehensive insights about people, both in aggregate and at an individual level.

For the general populace, this can feel unnerving. And unfortunately, almost everyone reading this has experienced some breach of trust when it comes to corporations or government and personal data.

But for marketers, the sheer volume of information now readily available presents a significant opportunity to take our profession to all new heights. By getting it right, we can help stem the tide of rising consumer wariness.

A World of Distrust

In 2017, for the first time since being introduced almost two decades ago, the Edelman Trust Barometer found a decline in consumer trust toward business, media, government, and NGOs to “do what is right.” That’s bad. And even worse: the organization’s Trust Index didn’t rebound in the 2018 study, released in January.

2018 Edelman Trust Barometer

“A World of Distrust,” Edelman has dubbed it in 2018. And who can blame folks for losing faith? These days it can feel like the only major news story that isn’t shrouded in doubt is when Equifax leaks the personal information of 150 million people.

In such an environment, it’s hard to not to squirm when learning that your Amazon Alexa, and even your smartphone, is listening to you pretty much at all times.

While apprehension is understandable, these aren’t people spying on us; they are robotic algorithms collecting data in efforts to understand us and better serve us.

As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. Customers rightfully have high expectations of our ability to offer high-quality tailored experiences, and we need to follow through. It’s an historic opportunity.

[bctt tweet=”As marketers, we can play a major role in showing people the benefits of a data-focused marketplace. – @NickNelsonMN #CX #DataDrivenMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Connecting the Dots

Our CEO Lee Odden recently wrote this in a blog about data creating better customer experiences: “One of the universal truths that we’ve operated under at TopRank Marketing,” he explained. “Is about the power of information specific to customers that are actively searching for solutions.”

In that post, Lee wrote about his experience searching online for a portable battery charger and then being served ads for purple mattresses. That’s the kind of thing that drives me crazy. As Lee notes: “The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand and optimize customer experiences?”

The consequences of missing the mark are very real. A few years ago LoyaltyOne conducted a survey of 2,000 U.S. and Canadian customers on the subjects of data collection and privacy. Among the findings: only 35% were accepting of retailers using cookies to track their online behavior and just 27% were cool with location-based offers.

How much less widespread resistance might we be seeing against these tactics if they were being utilized more effectively?  

[bctt tweet=”The data is there. Customers are telling you what they want. The question is, how to connect those dots of data to understand & optimize customer experiences? – @leeodden #CX #DataDrivenMarketing” username=”toprank”]

The Data-Driven Marketer’s Imperative

The stakes are high. We need to piece the puzzle together correctly. If marketers and advertisers can start consistently delivering the sort of customized content and recommendations that data empower us to provide, it’ll go a long way toward restoring customer faith.

We should be using this information to optimize, not traumatize!

Among the biggest areas for improvement I can see, from the perspective of both a marketer and customer:

  • Cut down on data fragmentation and organizational silos. This issue is abundantly common and extremely damaging. The “garbage in, garbage out” adage will never cease to be true. Make the necessary investments to unify your data and enhance the customer journey from attract to engage to convert and every step in between.
  • Be more transparent. Location-based tracking and other oft-used practices would be much less irksome if they didn’t feel so sneaky. Inform customers when you’re gathering info and why. Commit to opt-in policies wherever possible.
  • Follow the principles of the “virtuous cycle.” LoyaltyOne CEO Bryan Pearson suggests that building trust is tantamount to developing face-to-face relationships. “In the beginning, we share a little. Then, once we show that we can be responsible with what the customer has shared, he or she will reveal a little more. And gradually the relationship deepens. This crawl-walk-run approach to sharing information is a sensible way for us to proceed in data collection and use. After all, as long as customer information is used to enhance the customer experience, taking small steps along the way can lead to big things.”

Data has come a long way since the days of sending credit card offers to dead dogs. Marketers, let’s make sure every campaign we create is reflecting this progress.

[bctt tweet=”We should be using the data & information we have to optimize, not traumatize. – @NickNelsonMN #DataDrivenMarketing #CX” username=”toprank”]

How can you build more trust with your audience? A more thoughtful approach to content marketing can help. Learn several ways to build credibility and trust with content.

The post In a World of Diminishing Trust, Data-Driven Marketers Can Turn the Tide appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

This Changes Everything: How AI Is Transforming Digital Marketing

How AI Is Transforming Digital Marketing

How AI Is Transforming Digital Marketing

Will artificial intelligence (AI) put marketers out of work?

It’s a question I’m seeing a lot lately, and to me, it’s a strange one. It’s like if everyone 150 years ago was asking: “Will the tractor put farmers out of work?” Of course, John Deere didn’t put farmers out of business; better tools just made them more efficient and better able to scale.

Granted, the tractor did reduce the demand for horses and farmhands. So, no, AI will not put you out of work…as long as your work is creative, innovative and intelligent. If all of your daily work can be done by a machine, eventually it will be.

To be the farmer rather than the horse, you need to understand what AI can do to augment and scale your efforts, not replace them. Here’s what AI can do to improve your digital marketing efforts right now.

#1: Artificial Intelligence and SEO

If there’s one area of digital marketing that is most affected by AI right now, it’s SEO. Machine learning is directly affecting site visibility right now, and its influence will only increase in the future.

A machine learning algorithm called RankBrain (link to Backlinko’s incredibly useful guide) is currently Google’s third most important ranking signal. In the past, Google’s developers monitored search results and tweaked algorithms to better suit search needs. SEO experts then tried to reverse-engineer each algorithm change to better position their content.

With RankBrain in the driver’s seat, though, no human being will know why content is ranked up or down. The algorithm will continuously be testing and refining settings based on user behavior.

This switch means some traditional SEO activities, like keyword lists and backlinks, will decline in importance. The ranking signals that will matter most will be those related to user activity:

  • Time on page
  • Bounce rate
  • Pogo sticking
  • Scroll depth

Any indicator that shows how a user found your content valuable is now an SEO indicator. SEO experts and content creators will need to work more closely together to ensure content meets a specific search need, addresses a specific audience, and is compelling to read.

That’s not to say technical SEO is dead, but it is evolving. SEO experts should focus on structuring data, applying schema, implementing AMP, and optimizing for voice search. What do these tasks have in common? They’re all candidates for automation. SEO experts of the future will be feeding data into their own AI and using it to apply these ranking factors to content at scale.

[bctt tweet=”#SEO experts of the future will be feeding data into their own #AI & using it to apply ranking factors to content at scale. – @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

#2: Artificial Intelligence and Chatbots

Chatbots are AI-driven programs that interact with users in a natural-language environment. These programs are rapidly becoming a major area of interest for marketers, as an increasing amount of social media traffic takes place on private messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Buffer’s annual social media report found that there are more people on the top four messaging apps than on the top four social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn). That’s an engagement opportunity that’s hard to ignore. And, of course, chatbots can live on your brand’s homepage, answering questions and providing support.

Most digital marketers see chatbots as a way to provide personalized customer service at scale – which is tangentially related to marketing, but not directly a marketing function. However, chatbots can also help guide users through a customer journey to a sale.

A lot of the chatter (no pun intended) around chatbots is how to make them indistinguishable from interacting with a human. Marketers seem to care a great deal about this issue, but I would argue customers don’t. Customers want their questions to be understood and quickly answered; it doesn’t matter if it’s Robby the Robot or Robby the Call Center Rep who has the answers.

Marketers can make use of chatbots themselves, too. There are a growing number of smart assistants available that can aggregate and report on data in real-time, through Slack and other private messaging services.

[bctt tweet=”Customers want their questions to be understood and quickly answered; it doesn’t matter if it’s Robby the Robot or Robby the Call Center Rep who has the answers. – @NiteWrites on #AI in #DigitalMarketing” username=”toprank”]

#3: Artificial Intelligence and Content Marketing

If you’re a content creator, talking about AI and content marketing likely makes you feel the cold fingers of obsolescence tighten around your throat. Gartner says by the end of the year, 20% of business content will be authored by machines. AI is already being used for everything from white papers to earning reports. It’s enough to make you feel like a horse watching the farmer start up his tractor.

Should you be worried about your job? Neigh. For one, AI right now isn’t quite ready to draft content with personality and a strong hook for the reader. Since SEO is increasingly about the reader’s experience, that means human-crafted content will win out for the foreseeable future. And even when AI can write convincingly like a human, it will still need creative input from humans.

So think like a farmer: Use AI to take care of repetitive, mindless tasks like metadata tagging and adding recommended content to blog posts. And use it to deliver personalized content at scale. AI can use data from your site’s visitors to dynamically customize and display the content you create.

As the content creator, part of your new AI-enhanced job will be to look at how your audience can be segmented by behavior, and draft modular content that the AI can put together based on user behavior.

[bctt tweet=”Marketers, think like a farmer: Use #AI to take care of repetitive, mindless tasks like metadata tagging & adding recommended content to blog posts. And use it to deliver personalized #content at scale. – @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

#4: Artificial Intelligence and Email Marketing

Email marketing remains one of the most effective forms of marketing out there. Sixty-one percent of consumers enjoy receiving weekly promotional emails. Which may explain why email marketing has higher conversion rates than social media and search combined.

AI is making email marketing even better, both for you and your customer. Personalization at scale is every marketer’s dream – and AI makes it possible. AI can use data to create personalized emails to every one of your subscribers, based on their previous interactions with the brand. It can customize based on what content they’ve consumed, what’s on their wish list, what pages they have spent the most time on, and more. For example, if one user always visits links to product pages in your email, but another skips those links and goes straight for content, the AI can send different messaging with the most relevant links for each user.

AI is also making drip campaigns more sophisticated. Instead of one or two triggers and a few customized emails, you can use “If/Then” statements to customize emails for dozens of different triggers. Rather than, “send an email in two weeks,” or “send another if they opened the last one,” you could say, “if they visited three product pages, send an email with a link to a related blog post and recommended products other people have purchased.”

[bctt tweet=”When it comes to #EmailMarketing, personalization at scale is every marketer’s dream & #AI makes it possible. – @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

#5: Artificial Intelligence Influencers to Follow

As AI continues to evolve, one thing’s for sure: None of us know as much about it as we should (myself included). These four influencers are among the select few who really have a handle on AI’s potential to transform marketing.

1. Chris Penn, VP of Marketing Technology, SHIFT Communications

Chris Penn of SHIIFT Communications

Chris is a futurist, a keynote speaker, and AI visionary. His presentation at Content Marketing World last year alternately energized and scared the pants off me.

Blog – LinkedIn – Twitter

2. Paul Roetzer, Founder, Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute (MAII)

Paul Roetzer of Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute

Through the MAII, Paul aims to do for AI what Joe Pulizzi did for content marketing: Provide resources to educate people on how to use AI in marketing, and develop the standards to make AI a useful strategic tool.

Blog – LinkedIn – Twitter

3. Magnus Unemyr, Marketing Automation & AI Consultant

Magnus Unemyr - Marketing Automation & AI Consultant

Magnus has turned out a ton of high-quality content on marketing automation and AI in the past few years. He publishes daily newsletters available through his blog and Twitter feed, and has written a series of books on e-commerce and online marketing.

Blog – LinkedIn – Twitter

I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

Will AI put marketers out of a job? Not if you think like a farmer with a shiny new tractor. It’s a tool, not a replacement – a multi-use tool that will eliminate drudgework and help you reach your audience more easily and with more compelling, personalized content.

The rise of AI in marketing is one of the top trends in 2018. Find out what other digital marketing trends deserve your attention in 2018 and into the future.

The post This Changes Everything: How AI Is Transforming Digital Marketing appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Digital Marketing News: Alignment Challenges, Instagram’s ‘Collection’ & Amp for Email

The Top Three Reasons Sales and Marketing Alignment Is Off [Infographic]

Communication, broken processes and disconnected metrics are the top three reasons that sales and marketing alignment is off. Is it an issue of focus, priorities, or something else? MarketingProfs

Instagram Gives Brands New Way to Sell In ‘Collection’ Ads

Instagram launched “collection” ads, which allow users to shop and purchase directly through the Instagram platform. AdAge

Google Announces Amp For Email – Delivering Accelerated Mobile Pages Experiences To Your Inbox

The new spec is available today through the Gmail Developer Preview, with support in Gmail slated for later this year. MarketingLand

Instagram Tests Its Version Of The Retweet But Thru Stories

Instagram has begun testing a new feature that would allow users to share public posts from other profiles to their own followers through the Stories feature. MarketingLand

Nielsen Creates New Metric to Measure the Effectiveness of Product Integrations

Nielsen is launching a new metric that may help marketers and publishers standardize brand mentions across platforms, like TV, short-form video and subscription-video-on-demand services. AdWeek

Google Launches New Look For ‘People Also Search For’ Search Refinements

Go to a search result, click on a listing, and then click back to the search results page on Google to trigger this on Google desktop search. Search Engine Land

Breaking Up With Facebook: Users Confess They’re Spending Less Time

Mark Zuckerberg says recent changes have reduced the amount of time users spend on Facebook by 50 million hours each day, but those changes aren’t the only reasons, according to users. USA Today

How Facebook Is Changing the Way It Reports Organic Reach for Page Posts

A redesign of Page Insights began rolling out this week for iOS and Android, along with a more accurate way for page admins to determine the effectiveness of their organic posts. AdWeek

New Research: Account-Based Marketing Trends: Top Channels, Priorities, and Challenges

New research indicates that the top challenges and priorities for account based marketing are the same – aligning sales and marketing, attributing marketing efforts to revenue and scoring and targeting ideal accounts. MarketingProfs

Snapchat Is Opening Up Its Marketing Platform to All Ad-Tech Players and Agencies

Snapchat is opening up their API to allow companies more access to their ad buying platform, and potentially more data. AdWeek

Google Sets Deadline for HTTPS and Warns Publishers to Upgrade Soon

If you haven’t made the switch on your site from http to https, it’s time to get started. Google has set a deadline of July 2018, after which Chrome will begin warning users explicitly if a site is insecure. Search Engine Journal

Statistics on Personalized Content

On the Lighter Side:

Google Launches 2018 Winter Olympics Features Across Search ResultsSearch Engine Journal

McDonald’s Absurdly Lavish ‘Bling Mac’ Ring Could Be Yours, If You Love It EnoughAdWeek

Over 150 New Emojis to Be Released on iPhone and Android This YearIndependent

TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News:

Rachel Miller & Lee Odden – Top 100 Social Media and Marketing Influencers – Digital Scouting

Lee Odden –  37 Digital Marketing Conference Speakers Who Will Inspire Your Marketing Programs – Outbrain

Lee Odden – Who Were The Top CMO Influencers Of 2017?  – Forbes

Lee Odden – 16 Digital Rockstars you Need to Follow – neilmchugh

We’ll be back next week with more digital marketing news! In the meantime, quench your digital marketing thirst by checking out TopRank Marketing on YouTube and Twitter!

The post Digital Marketing News: Alignment Challenges, Instagram’s ‘Collection’ & Amp for Email appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

5 Productivity Hacks to Bring Content Creation From Failing to Flying High

Hot Air Balloons

Hot Air Balloons

Let’s just get this out of the way: I don’t know anything about hacking. I’ve never hacked anything in my life, unless you’re describing my golf swing, or you count using a Game Genie to cheat at Sega Genesis back in the early ’90s.

In general, I find terms like “life hacks” and “growth hacking” to be… well, hackneyed.

But you know what? Blog titles that include “hacks” – or other strong and compelling descriptors such as “surprising” or “critical” – have a greater tendency to gain viral traction. Sometimes a simple data point like that can be the springboard you need to uncover inspiration.

Which brings us to the purpose of today’s post.

Here at TopRank Marketing, we have an insanely talented Content Team. Legitimately some of the best writers and strategic thinkers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working alongside. But even these awesome pros are not immune to the occasional creative rut or swoon in productivity. It comes with the territory.

Recently the team came together to discuss some of our personal methods for overcoming content creation slumps and getting back on track when we’re dragging. I figured I would share some of the most salient pointers to come out of that meeting here, so other marketers can benefit and maybe adopt a few of them during their own periods of stagnation.

Hacks, insider tips, pearls of eternal wisdom – whatever attention-grabbing name you’d like to apply, I just hope you find these practical tips helpful in enhancing your productivity and elevating your content marketing success. (And feel free to comment with your own if you have tricks that work for you.)

#1 – Embrace the 5-Second Rule

The 5-Second Rule Book CoverLast year, Mel Robbins published a book called “The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage.” The premise behind this guide to conquering self-doubt and procrastination is rooted in psychology.

Basically, the crux is that because our brains are wired to avoid risk, we are innately predisposed to abandon many ideas and plans almost as quickly as they arrive.

Robbins challenges us to overcome this inclination by forcing ourselves to take some sort of action to move an idea forward within five seconds of the thought crossing our consciousness. It can be small and it doesn’t always have to lead anywhere. But it’s all about getting past your initial misgivings and, in some way, turning an idea from concept into reality.

So, next time the notion of a blog angle passes through your head, take the step to jot down a note, or even a loose outline. When you’re struck with the spark for a content campaign, but not quite sure about it, discuss it with a colleague or at least record a quick voice memo on your phone.

Basically, stop saying “later” and start saying “now.” By following this approach, you’ll find yourself with a whole lot more to work with, and it might just be that a passing fancy you’d have otherwise pushed out of mind turns into something great.

[bctt tweet=”Stop saying “later” and start saying “now” when an idea crosses your mind. – @NickNelsonMN #ContentCreation #ContentMarketing” username=”toprank”]

#2 – Start with Your Conclusion

A classic writing tip from fledgling novelists is to draft the ending of a story first, and then work your way up to it. This same advice can be aptly applied to any content writer who is struggling to get a piece off the ground.

When I’m sitting down to write something new, I frequently find that getting started is the toughest part. You need a strong, compelling introduction, and in many cases can’t proceed until you’ve got one worked out. Another issue can be that once you’ve surpassed that initial hurdle, you start wandering and get sidetracked from the main points you’re trying to make.

Writing your conclusion before anything else can remedy both of these issues. Since it’s always smart to have the beginning and ending of a post tie together, you might find the pathway to your intro by taking this approach. And as you progress through the drafting process, you’ll always know exactly what the end destination is.

#3 – Keep a List of Recent, Authoritative Statistics

Sometimes, statistics can provide the backing we need to substantiate a point. But finding the right one isn’t always a quick or easy task. Getting bogged down in research is often one of the primary culprits in waning productivity.

If you have a team of writers on hand – particularly ones who cover similar topics or niches – it can be helpful to create a central doc with up-to-date stats from trusted sources, such as respected media publications or verified research organizations. Trim off older items as they lose relevance, and continually add in new ones. You’ll want to be careful to avoid the trap where everyone on your staff starts using the same numbers and sources over and over again, but in general I find this practice to be a strong productivity-booster and time-saver.

#4 – Dig Into Data

Stats are not only able to contextualize and reinforce a case we’re trying to make, but they can also illuminate a case worth making in the first place, or provide direction on how to proceed. For example, the insight I mentioned earlier about “hacks” being a clickable blog post title made me wonder: “What ‘hacks’ do I actually know? What kinds of hidden pointers could I surface that might actually be useful to our audience of smart marketers?”

Revelations can be found in insights about particular types of content that resonate within your industry (articles and studies about trends are good sources), or a conclusion drawn from your own Google Analytics (“Wow, look at how well posts about Topic X have performed!”).

Data points are stories waiting to be told, and they are almost infinitely abundant in every industry and vertical.

[bctt tweet=”Data points are stories waiting to be told. Dig into them to find inspiration & overcome #ContentCreation slumps. – @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

#5 – Reckon with Writer’s Block

It can be tough to get unstuck when you hit a wall in content creation. There’ve been countless instances where I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit wordsmithing one particular sentence, or figuring the best way to transition from one idea to the next.

In these cases, it never hurts to move on to something else for a while and then circle back later. You can leave yourself a placeholder, as simple as [XXXXX] or more referential like [something about hacking and Game Genie]. This enables you to accomplish other stuff and return with a fresh mind.

Painful as it may be, you should even consider simply getting something down on the page in these moments, even if you don’t think it’s good. A 2012 article in Psychology Today on the subject of overcoming writer’s block argued that this can be necessary to achieve that frequently elusive “flow.”

“Here’s the truth about writing (or any other form of self-expression): If you can’t accept the bad, you can’t get to the good,” wrote Barry Michels. “It’s as if the flow is pure, clean water trapped behind dirty, disgusting sewage. If you can’t welcome the sewage and let it flow through you, you’ll never be able to get to the pure stuff.”

Such a lovely metaphor, isn’t it?

Put Your Content in Flight

Ready to see how high your content can fly? Try incorporating these tips into your routine and see if they can help give your productivity a lift:

  • Challenge yourself to take action on every content creation idea as soon as it strikes you.
  • Try breaking your routine by writing the conclusion to your next post before anything else, and see if it helps make your process more efficient.
  • Create a centralized doc with your most-used sources of stats and insights, then share it with your team and encourage them to add.
  • Analyze data trends from your own past content as well as the industry at large to identify hot topics for your audience.
  • Alter your writing approach to overcome writer’s block.

Otherwise, if you’re interested in learning more about how we do content marketing at TopRank Marketing, check out our services page or reach out and give us a shout. We’re all about driving growth, without any hacking required.

The post 5 Productivity Hacks to Bring Content Creation From Failing to Flying High appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

9 Upcoming Events to Learn All About Content and Influencer Marketing

Learn Content Influencer marketing

According to a new study from eMarketer, in 2018 nearly nine in 10 business-to-business (B2B) companies in the US will use digital content marketing. At the same time, influencer marketing has become one of the hottest topics in the marketing world: The L2 from Gartner reports that over 70% of brands used influencers in their 2017 marketing plans and 95% found them to be effective.

We know how this goes in marketing: a strategy or tactic becomes popular with every opportunist repeating the echo chamber of best practices until it’s unclear what’s really relevant for your business.

We’re seeing firsthand, the impact content and influence is having on marketing and have been working with many of the top B2B brands in the world to plan, implement and optimize content marketing programs with highly credible and connected influencers.

That expertise didn’t happen overnight. We’ve been working hard on B2B influencer marketing strategies, process and workflow, measurement and reporting for the past 6 years. In addition to helping clients develop and implement influencer content programs, we’re also teaching our community about this impactful intersection of disciplines.

In fact, over the next 2 1/2 months there are 9 events happening online and in cities including Scottsdale, Boston, San Francisco, Ft Lauderdale, San Diego and Minneapolis where you can learn the strategies and tactics of influencer and content marketing, presented by team members from TopRank Marketing. Find one that works with your schedule.

B2B Marketing Exchange

Feb 19-21: B2B Marketing Exchange – Scottsdale, AZ  #B2BMX

Millennials & Influencer Marketing: How to Organize & Optimize for B2B

Not only are Millennial aged professionals more trusting of social influencers when making purchase decisions, they’re also more likely to participate as influential content creators. B2B brands that can master working with internal and external Millennial talent to co-create content and engage on social channels will reap rewards now and into the future.

This presentation by Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing and Alexandra Rynne of LinkedIn Marketing Solutions will help B2B marketers understand the influencer marketing opportunity with Millennials in multiple ways:

– Understand influencer engagement models from seasoned brandividuals to rising star Millennials

– Bust myths about working with Millennials and how B2B brands can create win/win relationships

– Learn from examples of B2B influencer content in action

Demand Gen Strategies Summit

Feb 22: Demand Generation Strategies Summit (BrightTalk) – Online

The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

Content and influencer marketing are hot topics for B2B marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. What many marketers don’t realize is how collaborating with influencers can create even more credible, relevant, and optimized experiences for target accounts. Join Lee Odden to learn how working with influencers and their communities can help scale quality B2B content that gets results.

Digital Transformation Days - SEMRusn

Feb 22: Digital Transformation Day (SEMRush) – Online  #DTDconf

Barry Schwartz and Lee Odden interview each other

Barry Schwartz, President of Rusty Brick, News Editor of Search Engine Land and Executive Editor of Search Engine Roundtable will interview Lee Odden and Lee will interview Barry about trends in the search and digital marketing world.


Feb 28 – Mar 2: Social Media Marketing World – San Diego, CA  #SMMW18

How Content Plus Influence Equals Results: The Confluence Equation

Content marketing and influencer marketing are hot topics for marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. But how do you find the right influencers? What kind of content should you collaborate on? How do you best measure influencer and content success? Join Lee Odden to learn from his experience working with brands big and small to develop efficient and effective formulas for influencer content success.

everything content minneapolis

Mar 22 – Everything: Content – Minneapolis, MN

Converging Content & Influencers to Stimulate Marketing Impact

For years we’ve seen celebrities plastered on magazine covers, perform in television ads and pimp out their social media networks for pay. But is that really influencer marketing?

What if instead, there a way for B2B and B2C brands alike to develop a structured influencer driven content program that is less about paying a famous face and more about helping your audience see themselves in the content that you create?

This presentation from Ashley Zeckman will cut below the surface to uncover top ways to work with influencers in order to create a memorable content experience for your customers, build brand authority and generate marketing ROI.

Three key things the audience will be able to do after attending this session:

– 3 stories of content + influencer marketing success

– Key steps for creating a stellar experience for influencers and customers alike

– Scrappy ideas for co-creating with influencers

AMA Iowa

Apr 4, American Marketing Association Iowa Event – Des Moines, IA

Influencer Marketing is only for B2C Brands (And Other Lies Your Parents Told You)

For years celebrities have been gracing the covers of magazines, acting in commercials and pimping out their social media profiles for pay. But should that really be considered influencer marketing?

While it may seem like B2C brands have influencer marketing all figured out, there is even more opportunity for B2B brands to begin building meaningful influencer relationships.

One way to do that is by developing influencer driven content programs. These programs provide a unique opportunity reach and build credibility your audience by working with experts that they can relate to and trust. In this presentation, Ashley Zeckman will share:

– A dive into 3 stories of successful content and influencer marketing in action.

– Steps for creating a stellar experience for your audience and your influencers.

– Scrappy ideas for collaborating with influencers when you have limited time and resources.

– Bonus: Formulas for determining content and influencer marketing ROI.


Apr 11-12: Pubcon Florida – Ft Laudedrale, FL  #Pubcon

Participation Marketing: The New World of Content Co-Creation, Influencers and Integration for PR

The converging roles of PR and communications with content and marketing is creating rapid demand for new strategies, skills and expectations. As earned and owned media intertwine, communications professionals who fast track their ability to adapt and evolve will gain a competitive advantage in their roles in the new world of PR.

In this session, you’ll learn tested and proven models, strategies and tactics for content marketing based on an integrated and cooperative approach. Some of the key learnings include:

– Content marketing and what it really means for earned, owned and shared media.

– How content co-creation enables content quality at scale.

– Redefining what influence and working with influencers mean for content.

– Key opportunities to integrate the best of PR and marketing for meaningful digital communications that deliver an impact

Marketo Marketing Nation Summit

Apr 29-30: Marketo Marketing Nation Summit – San Francisco, CA  #MKTGNATION

Content Marketing Integration 

Without content, there wouldn’t be any search engines and yet most marketers treat content as if it were simply a tactic for SEO. Content is the fuel that powers all forms of media on all digital channels where customers engage. The most successful marketers approach digital marketing with a customer and content-centric approach that integrates with SEO, social media, influencers and advertising in a way that helps the brand become “the best answer” wherever customers are looking. This presentation from Lee Odden focuses on how to plan, produce, promote and optimize content as a marketing approach that works with or without search engines. But definitely better with search engines. <img src="https://s.w.org/images/core/emoji/2.4/72×72/1f642.png&quot; alt="

Digital Marketing News: Social Media Trends, What CMOs Search For & Mobile Ads Soar

Social Media Trends to Put Into Practice in 2018 [Infographic]

What should social media marketers focus on in 2018? This infographic shows several trends, like social media ROI, mobile growth and trust. Social Media Today

Search, Paid And SEO, Rank Higher As CMOs Seek New Agency Partners

What do CMOs look for in agency partners? A new report shows that while advertising and direct marketing remain on the top of the list, SEO and SEM are moving to toward the top in leaps and bounds. MediaPost

Mobile Ads To Soar In 2018, Especially In Local Media

MediaPost reports: “Social media ad revenue from mobile (not including tablets) now represents just over 70% of total social ad spending – and will grow to 80% by 2022, per BIA/Kelsey.” MediaPost

Google Analytics Introduces New ‘Audiences’ Report

Google Analytics has released a new report called “Audiences,” which is located, appropriately under the “audiences” category within the Google Analytics dashboard. To use this report, make sure to configure audiences in your account. Search Engine Journal

Google Officially Announces the New Google Search Console is Available for Everyone

Great news for Google Search Console users: the new version (in beta) is now available to everyone. You can still toggle between the old and new views if needed. Changes include consolidated error reporting and better export usability. Search Engine Land

Twitter Extends Full Tweet Archive to Developers

ZDNet reports: “Twitter announced it’s giving developers access to the full archive of its history – all the way back to the first tweet in 2006. Until Thursday, full access to Twitter’s history was only available to enterprise API customers.” ZDNet

Instagram’s Carousel Ad Format is Coming to Instagram Stories

Instagram announced recently that they’re bringing their Carousel Ads into stories, allowing for more than one piece of media. Advertisers can now use 1-3 pieces of media (photos or videos) in this new format. TechCrunch

The State of Chatbots in 2018: Top Benefits and Challenges

Consumers are saying that the benefits of chatbots include 24-hour customer service, along with getting instant responses. However, 43% of those surveyed said a potential blocker to using chatbots would be their preference for a live assistant. MarketingProfs

Amazon Wins the Superbowl (of Ads)

According to USA Today, Amazon’s “Alexa” spots beat out the NFL’s “Dirty Dancing”-themed ads during this year’s Super Bowl. USA Today

US Social Users Head to YouTube, Facebook to Watch Videos

Marketers can no longer afford to ignore video advertising. Why? eMarketer is predicting that video ad spending in the US alone will reach $15.42 billion this year, and will grow to $22.18 billion by 2021. eMarketer

Intel Made Smarts Glasses That Look Normal

Apparently, The Verge recently got an exclusive sneak peek at Intel’s new smart glasses Vaunt, which uses retinal projection to put a display in your eyeball. The best part? The glasses actually look like “normal” glasses. The Verge

Digital Ad Buyers Say Google Search, Facebook Deliver the Best ROI

A December 2017 survey of U.S. senior ad buyers by financial services firm Cowen and Company showed Google search was held in the “highest esteem” when it came to ROI. Nearly half of respondents named the platform as offering the highest ROI. Meanwhile, Facebook ranked second, named by 30% of those polled. eMarketer

Snapchat Slips in Features Like Fonts and Do Not Disturb Amidst Redesign

Snapchat appears to be following in Facebook’s “Time Well Spent” steps. The latest? Snapchat is offering a way to mute specific people without formally blocking them, according to TechCrunch. In addition, the major redesign that’s slowly rolling out comes with ways to jazz up your Snaps with colorful text styles and multiple captions. TechCrunch

Best & Worst Super Bowl 2018 Commercials

While the world knows the Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions, which brands took the gold for best commercials? And which ones can be crowned as the worst? Billboard’s picks for the best include the Doritos & Mountain Dew combo, and Amazon. Billboard

On the Lighter Side:

Pepsi CEO Says It’s Targeting Women With Doritos That Are Cleaner and Less Crunchy. Apparently, ladies need quiet snacks that don’t make a mess. At least, that seems to be Pepsi’s belief. As AdWeek reported: “In an interview with Freakonomics, PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi said that while women ‘would love’ to lick their fingers and pour Doritos chip crumbs into their mouths, they ‘don’t like to crunch too loudly in public’ and ‘don’t like to pour the little broken pieces and the flavor into their mouth.’” AdWeek

TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News:

Debbie Friez – 2018 Social Media Marketing Tips From 23+ Marketing Experts – Hot in Social Media

Lee Odden – Top 20 Marketers that Influence CMOs – Forbes

Lee Odden, SAP & LinkedIn (clients) – Report: Understanding the B2B Content Marketing Landscape – eMarketer

The post Digital Marketing News: Social Media Trends, What CMOs Search For & Mobile Ads Soar appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Social Media Marketing Spotlight: U.S. Bank Rallies Local Allies for a Friendly, Engaging #MNNice #NiceOff

US Bank NiceOff

US Bank NiceOff

Roughly 120,000 visitors from 130 countries descended on the Twin Cities last week to take part in Super Bowl LII festivities hosted in downtown Minneapolis. To welcome visitors to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank-which just so happens to have its name on the stadium that hosted the big game-wanted to give visitors a taste of “what Minnesota is all about.”

For those of you who haven’t heard, Minnesota-where TopRank Marketing is proudly based-isn’t just known for its frigid winters and as the birthplace and residence of the late Prince Rogers Nelson. It’s also known for its “northern hospitality”-or as it’s affectionately called-Minnesota Nice.

With Minnesota Nice as their inspiration-and some great strategic thinking-U.S. Bank launched the #MnNice #NiceOff conversation and friendly competition on Twitter, inviting its followers and other local brands to try to “out-nice” each other by sharing acts of kindness that are Minnesota Nice signatures.

The result? A social media marketing campaign that was thoughtful, engaging, subtly brand-centric, and influencer-activated.

Starting the Conversation

While the conversation started with the single tweet below, the campaign was in the works for weeks.

US Bank Minnesota Nice Off

As it so happens, TopRank Marketing alumni and current U.S. Bank Social Media Campaign Manager, Jason Schober, was part of the action. And he was gracious enough to give us an inside look.

“We really wanted to evoke some engagement and brand activation within the community of people that would be participating in the activities leading up to and at the big game,” Schober told us.

Eventually, the Minnesota Nice-themed campaign strategy emerged as a winning idea. To get started, the team team laid out a strategy that would ensure FCC compliance by not mentioning financial products or services in communications, respect Super Bowl guidelines since U.S. Bank was not a direct sponsor, and make sure the campaign made sense for their brand identity and voice.

The campaign was in great shape, but U.S. Bank didn’t want to go at it alone. So, roughly a week before launch, they began to form partnerships with other local, well-known brands-including Target, Land O’ Lakes, Sun Country and 3M-to be part of the conversation. However, none of the partnering brands knew what others would be posting until it unfolded on launch day (Feb. 1), which kept the conversation real and spontaneous. Here’s a shot of the beginning of the conversation.

Target and US Bank Nice Off

For the work we do at TopRank Marketing, this move is directly tied to the power of influence in marketing. By partnering with influential brands, U.S. Bank was not only able to add credible voices to the conversation, but also extend their reach to these brands’ respective audiences. In addition, once the ball got rolling, other brands and individuals were given an organic opportunity to get in on the fun. Of course, many of the interactions cleverly intertwined a brand’s own marketing message. Here’s one of our favorites:

3M Minnesota Nice Off Tweet

Top the Tater Minnesota Nice Off Tweet

When it came to selecting the right hashtag to define the conversation, their approach was two-pronged, according to Jason.

“The original idea was #MinnesotaNiceOff,” he explained. “But for both tracking and engagement purposes, we decided to leverage two hashtags: #MnNice and #NiceOff. Reason being, we knew #MnNice was already being used and could open our conversation up to a broader audience, and #NiceOff would be something we could own and brand the conversation with.”

The Big Takeaway

A thoughtful, integrated social media marketing strategy is an absolute must. Start by looking at any compliance and trademark red tape, as well as how a campaign will integrate with and complement your brand. Then ask yourself: What other credible, influential voices can be added to elicit shared value?

Managing Engagement

There’s little doubt that trolls and disgruntled users are commonplace on social media these days, often trying to ruin the spirit of good conversation. And in today’s world of social media, hashtags are conversations. So, when it comes to branding your marketing message with a hashtag conversation starter, marketers need to prepare for the fact that they don’t necessarily own the content or the conversation.

For U.S. Bank, they knew the risks of starting the #MnNice #NiceOff conversation. But they also believed the campaign easily lent itself to passively putting trolls in their place. As you can see from the thread below, U.S. Bank made it a point to go full-out with the campaign theme when confronted with negativity.

US Bank's Repsonse to Nice Off Troll

“Our entire campaign was centered on Minnesota Nice,” Jason said. “The only appropriate response to these kinds of interactions was to be as overly polite as possible.”

The Big Takeaway

When it comes to anticipating trolls or negative responses, consider the worst-case scenario for your hashtag-branded campaign and build it into your overall strategy. As our own Joshua Nite recently wrote on the topic of proper hashtag usage, when creating your own hashtag, ask yourself:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What are you trying to say?
  • How else could your hashtag be interpreted?
  • What other conversations might it start?

Keeping the Momentum Going

Once the tweeting began on launch day, Jason said his team was using Spredfast as a helpful tool to monitor, track, and respond in real-time. But once it became clear that the conversation was on the right track-barring input from trolls-the team decided to leverage Twitter Moments to turn the conversation into a storytelling space.

“This was already in the original plan because we wanted to continue to tell the story beyond the initial conversation,” Jason told us. “But we were waiting for the momentum to take over before creating the Moment.”

As for results, between Feb. 1 and Feb. 6, the Twitter Moment saw nearly 35,000 total opens, 31,247 unique opens, 448 likes, 155 shares, and a 8.48% completion rate.

The Big Takeaway

Whether it be a campaign or every-day usage, make sure you understand the full capabilities of any social media platform you’re engaging on. This will not only help you think more strategically about your messaging and interactions, but also help you provide more value for your audience. This is especially important in the age of decline (or extinction) for organic visibility on social platforms.

In addition, social media listening and management tools are often an investment that pays off-especially during campaigns. As TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden has said: “Tools make reaching social media marketing goals possible.”

Shine the Social Media Spotlight on Your Brand

For brands and marketers of all industries, social media hashtag campaigns like this serves as a great example of running a smart, strategic, and integrated campaign.

By thinking strategically from start to finish-and inviting like-minded, influential brand voices to the table-U.S. Bank was able to not only capitalize on one of the biggest sporting events of the year, but also garner meaningful and organic interactions, engage in some friendly competition with other local brands being gracious Super Bowl hosts, and spotlight and activate their brand identity.

Want some more inspiration from brands on Twitter? Take a peek at both B2B and B2C brands mastering the art of social customer care on Twitter.

The post Social Media Marketing Spotlight: U.S. Bank Rallies Local Allies for a Friendly, Engaging #MNNice #NiceOff appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

9 Top Marketing Trends for 2018

Top Marketing Trends 2018

There is no question that 2017 was an incredible year for marketing.

What’s even better than a banner year is fresh optimism for the next. Predictions and trends for 2018 present even more opportunities for marketers that can see the signal amongst the noise.

As we continue to grow, I’ve been researching what trends are worth considering and investing in for B2B marketers. The result is the following list: Influencer Marketing, Content Experiences, Artificial Intelligence, Data, Video, Privacy Protection, Audience Development, Voice and Purpose Driven Marketing.

Influencer Marketing Grows Up

Within the realm of influence, there are big shifts towards engaging with microinfluencers, always on programs, greater accountability of influencer reach and effectiveness and an emphasis on measuring influencer marketing ROI. Marketers are also taking a more holistic view of who an influencer is, including customers, members of their community and employees.

Many marketers are shifting their focus away from big name influencers towards niche players and for good reason. Microinfluencers deliver 60% higher campaign engagement rates and those campaigns are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those with influencers with larger followings.

Beyond niche industry influencers are the internal influencers to a company: employees. Companies are increasingly realizing the value of tapping this invaluable resource of credible influence. 90% of brands say they are either pursuing employee advocacy programs or have programs already active.

In 2018 we’ll see even more marketers transitioning from campaigns to always on engagements with influencers in a way that emphasizes mutual value. Influencers can build credibility by becoming ambassadors for the brand and the brand develops relationships with the influencer’s audience.

Ongoing engagements with influencers also help build a more authentic experience for the audience vs. one off campaigns promoting a specific product or service. Always on and ongoing influencer engagements with brands will pave the way for greater influencer marketing ROI. That said, those arrangements are only as strong as the relationships and as we all know, relationships are not automatic – they take time and investment.

Integrate Content Experiences with Influence

It is no longer enough to inform buyers, they want to feel something. Content experiences that are highly relevant, purposeful and engaging can come in many forms from video to interactive. All help engage customers intellectually and emotionally.

There is a strong connection between influencer marketing and content experiences. Amisha Ghandi, Head of Influencer Marketing at SAP (client) puts it best;

“Working with influencers to co-create content delivers mutual value. When that content is interactive, it creates an experience that is more engaging and inspires action.” @AmishaGandhi

With so many options for content, customers expect to be “info-tained” not just informed. Brands that can integrate trusted industry and internal experts with interactive and engaging content they are proud to be a part of, will be appreciated by contributing influencers just as much as they will be rewarded by customers.

Optimize with Artificial Intelligence

In a study by Smart Insights, AI and Machine Learning were rated the #3 marketing activity that will make the largest commercial impact on business in 2018.

Another study by Salesforce found that high-performing marketing teams are more than 2 times as likely to use AI in their campaigns than under-performers.

What are marketers doing with AI? Areas of focus with AI in marketing include advertising automation and optimization, chat bots for service and assisting in sales, and content personalization.

Bots for service are not new, but an increasing number of marketers are using chat apps and bots to engage customers during the sales process. In fact, 1.82 billion people worldwide are projected to use a chat app in 2018 and by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.

I don’t remember where I heard it first, but the saying “Marketers are data rich and insight poor” is more true today than ever.  Machine Learning and AI can help marketers make sense of all the “dark data” they’re sitting on as well as structured and unstructured data online to surface insights about ideal content, offers and even emotional triggers to inspire conversions.

Of course, marketers shouldn’t use AI to automate and optimize their marketing because they can, but because that’s what it will take to meet customer appetite for personalized experiences.  The increased competition for customer attention amidst the huge amount of media each consumer is confronted with each day requires every advantage to optimize for reach, engagement and conversion.

Data Informed and Inspired Marketing

Speaking of data, it has become clear that few successful marketing programs are not informed by data in ways that were not considered 10 years ago. While companies only analyze 12 percent of the data they have available, senior marketing executives are more informed about what is possible and taking action. Josh Mueller, SVP, Global Marketing at Dun & Bradstreet (client) puts it well:

“A data-inspired framework is absolutely essential for modern marketers. To implement this necessity, we’ve fully integrated our content and demand gen organizations, with shared editorial planning and KPIs across the entire customer journey. With these common insights, our teams have built a continuous feedback loop – from topic selection through performance – that ensures every piece of content we create has a purpose and is measured against that purpose.” @jmueller03

Rather than being limited to using historical campaign data to iterate future campaigns, companies are using evolved marketing automation, machine learning and dynamic personalization platforms to apply customer insights from their data to marketing in real-time. There’s a lot more of that to come in 2018.

Video Stars Are Everywhere

There’s been a substantial increase in demand and production of video by brands wishing to better engage with customers. What is catching marketers’ and customers’ attention most with video is live streaming through popular live video platforms including Facebook live, YouTube live, Instagram live, Twitter, and Periscope. According to Facebook’s stats, live videos get 3X the views than recorded videos. Video optimized for mobile experiences is also hot for marketers and customers. Mobile video ad spend alone will grow 49% to roughly $18 billion in 2018.

Everyone with a smartphone and apps is empowered to create, publish and promote video content. Video is not the plaything of B2C anymore either as more B2B companies invest in creating engaging stories through video and publishing them on LinkedIn. I think we’ll see a lot more creative video coming from B2B brands in the new year.

Privacy as Marketing and Good Business

With the increase in compromises to customer data, concern over privacy is something more marketers are tapping in to. Realizing that certain segments of customers care about privacy, some marketers are using it as a marketing attribute.

Another consideration for greater focus on privacy is the oncoming implementation of GDPR in Europe. Companies anywhere including the U.S. that market to citizens of Europe must comply or face potentially significant consequences. Compliance with GDPR requires changes in opt-in, communications and data handling that marketers must address and soon.

Not only is compliance good for customers, it is also a solid marketing message and good business.

Capture and Captivate Your Audience

Numerous studies show buyers don’t trust ads or brand communications as much as the people and sources “they know”. Brands that develop audiences and community by providing value not only create relevant context but also hedge against the increasing challenges around customer trust and privacy. Companies are also making progress towards growing their own audiences with content marketing vs. buying access to those audiences with ads.

As Robert Rose of Content Marketing Institute says,

The key trend that I’m seeing that will actually help content marketers move the needle will be a move to direct access to subscribed audiences – and the data they provide – as a means of building value for the practice of marketing. @Robert_Rose

Voice – Can You Hear Me Now?

Search queries are evolving from obscure sequences of words typed into search box on laptops to sentences either typed or spoken into a variety of devices.

In 2017 20 million units of smart speakers were sold. Voice assistants like Siri and smart speakers like Echo and Google Home are training customers to use voice in ways that marketers must adapt to. Voice accounts for 20% of searches and is expected to hit 50% by 2020.

Voice content in the form of podcasting is also seeing great growth: 68 million Americans listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. Marketers looking for ways to engage with customers in a more meaningful way are looking at podcasting as a way to do that.

Two of my favorite new podcasts are “Data Inspired” from Rishi Dave, CMO of Dun & Bradstreet (client) and the “CMO Moves” podcast by Nadine Dietz. I have no doubt many more brand and executive podcasts will launch in 2018.

Purpose and Profit

With over 80 million Millennials and over $1 trillion in spending power, consumers are increasingly factoring things like brand mission, values, and sustainability into their purchase decisions. A study by the Economist Group found that 79% of consumers prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose. Companies must consider what their purpose means in terms of communications and marketing.

Defining purpose is an initiative we are undertaking within our own company and it’s not as easy to translate into marketing communications as you might think! But brand purpose resonates with modern buyers and more companies will be incorporating their purpose into how the brand is positioned and how they operate – including marketing.

Beyond all the tactics of chatbots, microinfluencers, livestreaming, optimizing for smart speakers and purpose driven marketing is the strategy that answers “why” and for “who”.  To inform marketing strategy, there is one universal truth for marketing: customer centricity. With a eye for optimization on customer preferences and behaviors, marketers will always have the right marketing mix.

How do you make sense of what trends to focus on? At our own company, we deliver “best answer” content marketing programs that integrate influencers, SEO, social, advertising, design and marketing performance optimization. Will optimization for voice search play a part in that mix? Sure. Do AI and machine learning have a role to play in optimizing search and social ad campaigns? How using AI to surface insights about the best content to create and offers to make? Of course.

As a marketing agency it is tempting to chase shiny marketing objects to differentiate. To know what’s possible, we really have to. But we’re also focusing on customers and the core expertise that satisfies 95% of the performance expectations of our marketing programs. By being exceptional at very specific things consistently, we’ll be able to exceed expectations. We’ll also have room to experiment and find data that supports new and customer-centric areas for innovation.

2017 was also a record breaking year for our marketing agency, TopRank Marketing. We added 15 new amazingly talented staff and had the largest increase in client programs and new customer engagements than any year before. While we’ve seen much success with B2B influencer and content marketing programs, it is our focus on the intersection with data from SEO, social and analytics plus all new interactive design capabilities that has enabled great results and more opportunities.

What are the marketing trends you’re most focused on in 2018?

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