December 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Investing in Social

Earlier this week I wrote a blog post about social media and how to be user-centered in your social media strategy, the benefits of using social media, and how it can add to your customer’s experience. 

Organic (or unpaid) social media is a great way to get in touch with those who already follow you, but how do you reach out to new users who may not follow you or know about your brand yet? Paid social media.

Paid social media is when you “boost” a post on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc. to send your post out to people who are not your followers, but rather to a targeted audience that you set. This gets your content onto the screens of new or potential users effectively.

Now, what’s the big deal? 

Grow your audience– With organic social media, you build a community with those who are already aware of your brand, while if you do paid social posts you will expand that community to a new audience. 

Expand your user base– Organic posts only allow you to post to those who follow you, while paid posts can also help you get in front of users that you think would be a good fit for your product or service, thus building your brand awareness with that group and possibly expanding your user base. 

Specific Targeting– With organic social media you are limited to your audience that follows you and to whomever they share your post with, with paid social you are able to specifically target your posts to new audiences. Here is an example of the options you have for targeting in Facebook Ad Manager:

Using Facebook’s targeting parameters, I am able to create a custom audience with all these filters in order to ensure the right people are getting the posts. This allows you to hone in on the people that are most likely to become users of your product.

In the end, organic and paid social media posts both have their benefits and are best when used together in a social media strategy. When adding paid social posts into your social media strategy be sure to follow the guidelines I listed in my previous post (goals, knowing your audience, competitive analysis, etc.) in order to make the social media experience as best as it possibly can for your users. 

With paid social media you can test out new ideas to different audiences and see what the response is, and you can grow your reach to new users which in turn opens you up to more valuable information from these people. You can use social listening to see what the new audience thinks of a new idea or to realize the pain points they have with getting to know your product. 

Guidelines to Paid Social

Smart targeting– don’t do too much when targeting, with all the available options it can be tempting but be selective and identify what gives you the best reach while still giving you the best audience.

Use rich content– if you can, use videos! Content like videos and gifs get more shares and engagement than other forms of content.

Test, test, and test again!!– use A/B testing (if you don’t know how to do that check out the blog I wrote about it). A/B testing will ensure that you are using your dollars wisely and getting the most out of your posts. 

Monitor your paid posts– check your KPIs to see how your posts are performing and make changes as you see fit. One of the great things about social media advertising is how trackable everything is, so make use of that data!

Align with your user journey– be sure the content you are promoting aligns with your user journey and that you are giving the right information when users need it.

Influencers

In the past, marketers used celebrities and characters (such as Progressive’s ubiquitous Flo) as brand ambassadors, but with the rise of blogging and social media regular people can create huge followings which results in a shift towards using influencers in social media strategy. 

People rely on people, we look to others to see how we should act and to gather information. The same goes when making the decision about a product. We even rely on people we don’t know to help us make our decisions.

Remember all those power users you have? They’re great people to have become your influencers.

When is it best to use an influencer? And how?

It is best to make use of influencers when you are trying to build brand awareness or to do research on a particular audience. 

The best kinds of influencer content? When you make custom content for them, content that drives participation to an event or contest, and live events such as live streaming. 

To find the right influencer it is most important to do the following: 

·     Identify the audience you want to connect with

·     Research the people with large followings within that community

·     Find your own power users and brand ambassadors

·     Look to industry leaders 

Success Stories 

Rational Interaction & Acer

Rational Interaction used influencers in with their work with Acer, they challenged users to answer a series of challenges over 21 days in order to win the world’s most expensive laptop. 

To spark engagement around the campaign they used a variety of methods, one of which being influencers. They used three key influencers to reach their target audience. The result? More than 75 million impressions, increased sales for the predator laptop, and more than 580,000 audience clicks.

SAP

Enterprise application software leader SAP even uses influencers, showing it is for the b2b markets as well. SAP uses executives and industry experts as their influencers. SAP’s use of influencers drove 50% of all the social media mentions for an event in Germany.

Influencer tips and guidelines

Follower counts– a large following does not mean an engaged audience! Be sure to measure the influencers following in other ways, such as likes and comments. 

The user journey– it all comes back to the user and their journey; make sure that your use of influencers fits in with your user journey well and is meaningful. You want this influencer to provide value to not only you but most importantly, your users. 

Be picky– be sure you are picking the right influencer for your goals, this means spending time and researching to find out who will be the most effective. 

December 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

User-Centered Social Media

Facebook has 2.23 billion users per month, Instagram 1 billion, and Twitter has 335 million. This paired with the rise of mobile devices we can only expect those numbers to rise. What does that mean for you? You should care about social media. 

Over 2.46 billion people use some type of social media, and if your users are using social media, you should too.

Social Media Strategy

With social media, you can design a better digital experience for users and be in touch with them in various different channels. 

Strategy 

Goals - Always start with creating goals, what do you expect to get out of the use of social media and how will you validate your efforts? How will you measure and track your success?

Know your users– understanding your users and who they are is essential to creating content that they will like, share, and comment on. 

Competitive Analysis– See what your competitors are doing, how are they using social media? This will not only help you be aware of what they are doing, but it will also help you spot opportunities or pain points users may be having. 

Expectations - You want to send messages that align with your users’ needs and their expectations. What information do your users expect from you? Is this information they want? 

Frequency- According to a report from the Neilsen Norman Group called the Social Media User Experience, users often said that companies who posted too much were a top annoyance. You want to find that sweet spot; in order to do this, it is best to look at similar companies and to your users to see how frequently they post and do some testing yourself.  Once you find this sweet spot, be consistent with your frequency of messaging.

Create a Content Calendar – Plan the social media experience you will provide for your users, what type of content will go out on what days and have a consistent flow.

Not all social platforms are the same, it is tempting to just post the same content over all your social channels, but different content does better on different platforms. 

Content Creation

What do you want your users to get from your social media posts? When writing copy for your posts this is the most important thing to think about. 

You want your copy to have clarity in message, be simple (but not simple-minded), have brevity (not too much or too little words), and humanity. 

Be visual with your content – a study on learning showed that after 3 days only 10% of users were able to recall what they read, while 65% were able to remember what they saw. 

Rule of thumb: when balancing an exciting visual or exciting copy, pick one or another.

Social media gives you more than brand building

Having a good social media strategy gives you SO many more benefits beyond building your brand. 

UX Research – social media provides us with so much rich user data which you can use to identify gaps in the market, pain points, and reveal your users’ needs. 

Persona Creation– With social media, you can have a better idea of who your users are, what they like or don’t like, and more. 

Listening – Using social media you can enable things like Google Alerts to enable you to listen to social media conversations surrounding your product, making feedback and data collection easier. 

Be with your users– If your users spend time on social media you should too! By being active on social media you can engage in conversation with your key users and get a feel for who they are, what they like, et al. You can identify those who love you and turn them into possible brand ambassadors or use them for usability testing, or you can identify those who complain and acknowledge their pain points or turn them into fans. 

A consistent experience– your users move between many different channels so it is important to have a presence each one to provide a consistent user experience with your brand. 

Hootsuite

After planning your social media strategy it may seem daunting to put it into action. Using a platform like Hootsuite will make it much easier. You can schedule posts, track posts about your company or a hashtag, engage with posts, see social data, and more. 

I’ve used Hootsuite in a variety of ways to create social media reports and to plan out content. It made my life so much easier being able to schedule my posts and interact with multiple social channels at once all in one place. 

Even better? The base platform is free! There are other plans that are paid versions, but for someone starting out you can learn the ropes using the free tool. 

Social Media Success

Want to check out some companies that are killing it with their social strategies? 

Posting content that your users want to see

Sh*t that I knit is a company that sells homemade knit products (hats, wraps, etc.). Using social media, they have built their brand up to have 24,000 followers on Instagram alone. They do a great job at posting content that their users like to see and posting content of their customers wearing their products. 

Conversations

Social media enables you to connect with your users and to engage them in a conversation. Check out these companies that are having conversations with their users and killing it. Having conversations with your users allows your brand to become more human, strengthen the relationship, and get key insights.

To conclude– social media is great and works well when you keep your user at the center of your strategy and your posts, and you can get so much more out of it than just getting your brand out there. 

December 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Content is King, but UX is Queen

In the age of ad blockers users are avoiding ads at all times, so how do we get users to engage with our content? Consumers also have more access to information and significantly more sources to find answers and solutions than they did in the past. So how do you get past all the noise and help give them the information they need to solve their problem?

The answer? Content. 

I don’t mean ads, I mean blog posts, site pages, social media, chatbots. All ways to be in contact with your customer. You know your customer best so you can give them the information they need when they need it. 

By creating content that is useful to your user it impacts your user, encourages them to interact with you, and educates them. All this helps you build trust and position yourself as a thought leader. 

Content is your voice, and you need your voice to be there for your customer when they need you, giving them valuable information to them at intentional points in their customer journey.

Content Strategy

The key pieces to content strategy: 

Users– These are the people your company engages with and has a relationship with, it doesn’t matter if they are a paid customer or not.

Personas– These are your users! Know them! Do persona building exercises; who are you reaching? Who do you are your customers? Understand them. These exercises will help you build empathy for your customers by understanding their behaviors, motivations, goals, challenges, values, etc.  

Journey Maps – After you’ve created your personas and understand who your customers are, what is the journey they have with your company? What are the different touch points? Pain points? And importantly – how can you improve this journey? 

Content – Now that you have your personas and their individual journeys in mind think about what points in their journey you can provide them with content. Be sure to be intentional and meaningful, people aren’t going to want to be bombarded with content at all moments. 

Goals – If you are going to be spending all this time (and company money) creating this content, you need to set goals in order to track how the content is performing and to put a value to your efforts. 

Another tip: People will remember how your content made them feel before they remember what the content was. 

For your long-term content plan, you should keep these things in mind: 

How do you start? Align with your customer journey map – Creating a content strategy is a daunting task and can seem like a lot, but if you work with your personas and journey maps it will make the process significantly easier. 

Telling a story through your content– This content aligns with your user’s journey - to tell a story with it. I don’t mean a literal story, but make sure it is cohesive and all the pieces fit together. 

Don’t remake the wheel– Audit the content your company already has, take those things and see how they can fit into your plan and with your goals. You don’t need to use everything, but it’s always good to have a starting point and content to fall back on.

After all this, you need to think about how are you going to get this content to your users? That’s where marketing comes into play. Using social media, newsletters, SEO, etc. 

It is important to be user-centric when developing this plan and strategy. You need to think of them at all points in this process and put yourself in their shoes. 

If you want to go more in-depth checkout usability.gov’s article on Content Strategy Basics.

Compare Hubspot B2B to Pottermore’s B2C Content Strategy

HubSpot (B2B)

By creating the HubSpot Academy as a way to connect content with users places themselves as thought leaders and introduces people to the idea of content and inbound marketing. The academy guides users through the understanding and learning of content marketing and makes it a cohesive experience. It helps users when they need information and need to learn more. In addition, it gives the opportunity to get a certification (which I am working on!) which rewards the users with something after they learn.

Pottermore (B2C)

*Disclaimer, I’ve never read Harry Potter or seen the movies, sorry!!

For those like me who didn’t know, Pottermore is a company that is everything J.K. Rowling – from digital publishing, to e-commerce, to entertainment and news. They have tons of fun content for their fans to engage with. I specifically tried the House sorting (a quiz that says which Hogwarts house you belong to) and as you complete the quiz it gives you the option to share and learn more about your house, thus encouraging more site traffic, but also gives you more information and things such as wallpapers, more stories, character profiles, et al. This is a great example of aligning content strategy with their customer journey map, they gave me those pieces of content about the different house after I found which one I aligned with, making those subsequent pieces of content more meaningful.

Content is King, but UX is Queen

The king and queen must work together to rule, the king is the main focus, but without the queen, the king would be nothing. 

Good UX makes it easy to engage with your content and to find more; if you make it too difficult to engage with your content people won’t bother. 

Bad UX kills great content. 

Users don’t know or can’t articulate what they want. You need to understand them on a deeper level in order to understand what they truly want and need. This means looking at the data in order to uncover these insights.

Where are you posting your content? Make sure that user experience is easy to understand and to go through. This includes: having a responsive website, making sure your site loads quickly, making your website accessible to all personas. Also – be sure to test your site before adding content, if your site experience is bad most won’t give the content the time of day.

Usability 

Melissa Eggleston from the Content Marketing Institute covered it pretty well: 

“UX includes usability, which is often defined as ease of use or learnability. Usability is arguably the most important factor in user experience, and in practice the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. However, UX has a broader aim to ensure users are satisfied with content, features, and function. It’s possible to have great usability but not great UX because users’ needs and desires aren’t fully met. (The sound system is great, but it’s only playing ’90s pop.)”

To read more check out her article titled A UX Lesson for Content Marketers: Your Invisible Advantage

All-in-all, UX and content go hand in hand, you need one to have the other. So, in order to have the best content make sure you think of both.

December 29, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Let users make the decision for you

What is A/B Testing?

At some point or another you’ve probably heard about A/B testing and how great it is, but maybe you weren’t quite sure what it was or how it is done. 

An A/B test is a controlled experiment where you unleash two different versions of a design onto the world and let your users “tell” you which one is best. I like A/B tests because it helps me make user-centered design decisions; I can test which color of a button is best, which email subject line is best, the layout of a website, et al. A/B testing is powerful because it allows your users to make the decision for you and you to give them the best possible version with them in mind. 

You can test myriad different things from the subject line of an email, the images on a website, the content of an advertisement, to the color of a button. The possibilities are "almost" endless.

A How-to Guide to A/B Testing

Step 1: Set the goals - What do you hope to achieve from testing? What do you want to gain from the information you will gather? It is important that these goals are measurable so you can prove that your efforts are of value. 

Step 2: What to test & how to measure - Are you comparing two email subject lines or the placement of an image on a webpage? Decide what you are going to test and how you will know what success looks like. For an email subject line test, you may want to look at the number of opens as a metric or you could measure the click-through rate. 

Step 3: Create A/B versions - This step is pretty self-explanatory – once you’ve decided what you are going to test, create different assets.

Step 4: Run the test! - This is the best step because it is the point where you get to run the test and let the users do the work. 

Step 5: Analyze data & decide - Now you’ve run your test and gathered the data, now analyze it and see which version performed better!

Step 6: Implement changes (or do nothing) - You understand which version is the best, now you can implement any necessary changes.

Step 7: Test again! - Users change and it’s important to always be testing different components to better understand what is best for them.

There are a few different ways to conduct an A/B test, depending on what and how many variations you want to test: 

A/B Testing: This is where you test one version against another, typically one version is the original or current version. 

Multivariate Testing: Testing the original against many different versions; here you may have ABCD versions - all are variations of the same thing to see which would be best (think testing the color of a button).

*When conducting an A/B test, it is important to only change one thing between the versions so you can understand what is causing the difference in response. Example: If you want to test an email subject line, only change the subject line between the two emails. 

Why conduct A/B tests?

Low cost– it doesn’t require expensive tools or an expert, you only need two versions of what you want to test and a way to divide the users into two groups. 

Measures actual behavior- It is a test that causes no inconvenience to users – most won’t even notice something is being tested. Having users use what you are trying to test without knowing gives you the richest information about them. 

User-centered– I would argue this is the most important point.A/B testing helps you pick the option that is best for your user. By conducting A/B tests you are taking the guesswork out of design decisions and ensuring you make the right decision with your user in mind. 

Informed decisions– By using A/B testing, you eliminate the risk of “bad” decisions and ensure that you are making a decision informed by data that was accurately gathered so you know you’re making the right decision. 

Measures small differences– A/B testing allows you to test the smallest things, from the location of a button on your webpage to the color of a button. 

Creating the best version– You can constantly be checking and making sure your website, email, et al. is the best version it can be. 

Limitations of A/B testing 

A/B testing is great, but it is important for you to understand the constraints so you can make an informed decision on whether it is right or not for your goals

Doesn’t tell you why– A/B testing can tell you what works and what does not, but it cannot tell you why it does/does not work. To understand why you need to conduct deeper user research. 

Are you solving the right problem?– While A/B testing is a powerful tool that you can use to constantly test and improve, it cannot tell you whether or not you are solving the right problem. 

My experience with A/B testing 

I’ve used A/B testing in multiple different ways, from testing social media posting times to email subject lines, but my favorite A/B test I ran was from when I worked at Nintex.

During my internship, I wrote and designed a weekly blog newsletter that was sent to blog subscribers and prospective customers. I wanted to know how different layouts would compare, so I ran an A/B test in Marketo comparing the two email layouts. Following the tests, I analyzed the data using metrics such as click-through rate and where they clicked in the emails. Ultimately, I found that the original layout performed the best and we went forward with that design.

Here are the two layouts I tested:

Companies that do A/B testing well

Discovery Communications

Discovery Communications tested their video player. The outcome? A 6% rise in video engagement. 

comScore

comScore tested customer testimonials on their product pages and increased their conversions by 69%!

Electronic Arts

Through testing of promotional messaging, EA increased their digital downloads by 50% for their release of SimCity 5.

Extra Resources

The Harvard Business Review put out an article titled The Surprising Power of Online Experiments that goes into how to design A/B tests, test integrity, and how to analyze results. 

The Neilsen Norman Group article has some great information in A/B testing and how it compares to other types of testing in cost, benefits, risk, et al. 

December 27, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Stop guessing and get some answers!

Why Analytics?

We are often told that analytics and data are important, and of course they are, but why are they so important? Why should we care? 

Analytics and data are important because customers aren’t very good at telling us what they want, but if you look for trends in the data you can uncover those things. We can see what things people like, don’t like, their tendencies, and habits. It also allows us to show the value of the work we do within marketing. If our job is to communicate value to our customers we should also be able to prove that what we are doing is valuable to the company. If we can’t prove the value of our actions, why do we do what we do? 

For those working on the digital side, Google Analytics is a great way to quantify the value you are providing and uncover information about your users you may otherwise miss.

Now, what about Google Analytics?

Google Analytics was created in 2005 and is pretty popular within the marketing industry. For those who don’t know – it is a web analytics tool. Think websites and apps, it can give you all the information about your website to help answer the questions that have been nagging you. 

Using Google Analytics, you can track users at all points in the digital process, from acquisition, to behaviors, to conversion. It can help you figure out if you should design a mobile-friendly site or not, where your users are coming from, your users’ journey through your site, how they interact with your site, the possibilities are (almost) endless. 

The best part? It’s free!

I personally found Google Analytics very valuable during my internship with Nintex. During my time there as a Marketing Automation Intern, I was in charge of writing a weekly blog newsletter and updating the editorial team on how the blogs in the newsletter were performing. Some of the data I was able to pull from Marketo, but I quickly found I wanted to get more rich information about the blog website itself and how content is performing there. 

Using Google Analytics I was able to report to my team on how the blog was performing overall, how it was performing compared to the past quarter, which blog posts people were spending the most time on, and how most people were getting to the blog (ended up being from my newsletter – which was pretty validating to see). 

With all this information, the editorial team was able to make decisions about which topics to write more blog posts about and what types of content users enjoyed the most. We also were able to see the impact our work was having on the company, which made our work even more enjoyable.

Learning: Google Analytics for Beginners vs. Advanced Google Analytics

Google Analytics for Beginners

I recently took the Google Analytics Individual Qualification exam to become certified. In order to learn the ins and outs of the software I highly suggest starting out with Google Analytics for Beginners. In this course there are four units: 

Unit 1: Introducing Analytics– in this section, you will go over topics such as “why analytics,” setting up an account, and how to set up views in filters. This section will answer the questions you have in regards to how to get started and how to attach Google Analytics to your website. 

Unit 2: The Google Analytics Layout– here you will go over the user interface of the product, the hierarchy of information, how to understand the different reports, sharing, and dashboards. Using the information taught to you in this unit you will find out how to see the number of users, sessions, and page views your site has, as well as the session duration. 

Unit 3: Basic Reporting– this unit you will go over audience reports, acquisition reports, and behavior reports. Ever wondered how people get to your website? Here’s how you find out.

Unit 4: Basic Campaign and Conversion Tracking– this unit covers how to measure and track campaigns, use goals, and Google Ad campaigns. This is where you will be given more insight into how your marketing campaigns are providing value to the company and which are performing the best. 

Advanced Google Analytics

Now if you want to take a deeper dive into the program to better understand it, the Advanced Google Analytics course is your next step. As in the beginner’s course, the advanced course is comprised of four units: 

Unit 1: Data Collection and Processing– this will teach you how data is collected and stored, how to generate reports, create measurement plans, and more. So, if you’re curious about how Google tracks you and gathers your data, this is the place for you to go. 

Unit 2: Setting Up Data Collection and Configuration– here you will learn about organizing your account, creating custom dimensions and metrics, and how to better understand user behavior. The information provided here will help give you greater insight into how people interact with your website. 

Unit 3: Advanced Analysis Tools and Techniques– from this unit, you will understand how to analyze data by channel or audience and use custom reports. Using the analysis taught here you can perform benchmarking analysis where you can see how you compare to others in your industry. 

Unit 4: Advanced Marketing Tools – during this unit you will be taught about re-marketing, better targeting, and have a course summary. After this unit you will be able to better leverage the data you are given for better marketing. 

The best part? For each course you get a certificate to put onto your LinkedIn or share on other social profiles!

Google Merchandise Store

In order to better understand how to use Google Analytics I played around a bit with the Google Merchandise Storedemo account. 

Being interested in UX, I wanted to see how users interacted with the site, their behavior on the site, and so on.

Here’s what I found: 

  • The bounce rate for mobile is 52.04%, while the bounce rate for desktop is 40.03%. This makes me wonder why people are leaving more frequently on the mobile site, I would want to check the usability of the site and ensure that the mobile experience is as good as the desktop. 
  • When looking at the checkout behavior of our users I can see that from billing and shipping to transactions, the number of users decreases from 462 users to 239. With this information in mind, I would look more deeply into the checkout process and try to pinpoint what is causing users to not follow through with their transactions.

Some other useful stuff: 

Customer Journey Mapping– This is SO important. As a marketer or someone within UX, it is critical for you to understand the customer’s whole journey with your company. By doing customer journey mapping exercises you can be aware of the current touch points, pain points, and recognize the opportunities for future meaningful touchpoints. These exercises also help develop your empathy for your customers and help develop a deeper understanding of who they are, their frustrations, their goals, et al. 

And with all the great data and information you can get from Google Analytics it will only make that information more meaningful if you understand your customer’s journey better.

If you want to learn more check out Google’s article.

Test, Test, TEST– You have all this great information about your website and want to make some changes, now what? Test your changes!! A/B tests are your best friend when finding out what content or layouts work the best. Don’t assume the change you want to make will be the best thing, validate your assumption by testing it. Google has a great overview of content experiments and what you can do with them.


Lizzie Rice

ux designer

elizabethkayerice@gmail.com