Change is coming that will impact on how your business performs online. Can you relate to any of the following? 

 
What trends are you losing you online sales and leads?
 
  1. Facebook is just not working for you anymore - even when you boost your posts

  2. You’re putting lots of content out there but it’s not having any impact on leads or sales

  3. You’ve got a high bounce rate due to increasing volumes of mobile visitors (even though your website is responsive)

  4. Your paid ad campaigns are becoming more expensive for the same number of leads or there seems to be a decrease in the number of leads from the same volume of ads.

Setting the scene 

A few facts to set the digital scene that we're operating in today - as at May 2016.

  1. Traffic from social media to websites is now more than Google which makes us question where we should be spending our time and effort. 
  2. 70% of digital referrals are now via text/ direct messages leaving dark social one of the primary channels for word of mouth. 
  3. Mobile use has surpassed desktop browsing. This means that mobile behavior more than desktop should be shaping our decisions. 
  4. Google is now starting to index social media. They've started with Twitter and it's just a matter of time before other platforms are included as a matter of course. Google also have their sights set on indexing and surfacing the big unseen of content that resides in mobile apps. 

These are pretty big scene setting trends, which, if you haven't picked up indicates that both social and mobile carry a lot of weight in determining how a modern digital business should be spending it's time and effort.

Let's explore how these changes will impact your online business and what you can do about them. 


1. Facebook's pay to play model

Facebook

Facebook's algorithm is rigged to make room in people’s news stream for advertising. This means that less and less of your posts will display in your followers news streams. Unless you’ve got a high engagement and relevancy rate with your followers, chances are very few people are seeing your posts. Organic reach, which is the number of people that follow you that see your posts (without paying),  is said to be under 2%, and this is set to fall to close to zero in the coming year.

This is all part of Facebook’s need to monetise their platform. As a public company, Facebook have shareholders to please. Profits must be made. The Facebook business model is largely built on advertising. Facebook have increased the number of advertising accounts from 1.5 million to 2 million in less than a year - with the majority of these small business spending on average $5-$50 PER DAY.

Facebook have quite deliberately tipped the odds toward paying them to show your ads and the marketers are falling inline. At the recent Social Media Marketing World, Mike Stelzner revealed in their yearly research piece on social media marketing trends that there are now 50% more advertisers on Facebook this year than last year. 

And if you thought you could just switch over to Instagram, unfortunately, as a Facebook 'owned' platform it was only a matter of time before Instagram also started to 'filter' the stream based on what they 'think' people want to see. 

What can you do about it?

Facebook want you to pay to promote your posts and run campaigns with them to reach your desired audience. This is certainly an option that you will need to consider. But there are other things that you can think about as well.

  1. Review your current digital channel mix and strategy to see if Facebook is still your best channel to reach your target audience. People are constantly changing their digital preferences and behavior so it pays for you to review this on an annual basis or whenever you see your numbers change to a downward trajectory.

  2. Review  your current content strategy and what you’re posting on Facebook. If you can increase engagement and relevancy to your audience, you increase the likelihood of your posts being seen by your followers.

  3. Make sure you're content is very targeted, relevant and INTERESTING. There is no room in the news feed for anything that isn't brilliantly interesting (according to the followers) or paid for. 

  4. Consider starting up a Group for your customers to build a community of some sort that will align well with your business. Currently groups are a good way to increase your post's visibility. Although do keep an eye on this area as there are rumours that how Groups operate in Facebook will change in the near future.

2. Content shock

Content shock was coined by Mark Schaefer back in 2014 but seems to only be gaining traction now. Our key problem is that there is so much content out there it's difficult to get traction. There is no better way to demonstrate what content shock is than taking a wander over to http://www.internetlivestats.com/ which shows you real time the sheer volume of new blogs, emails, users and on and on the list goes of content being put out into the digital universe. While content shock is cited as a reason for the decline in organic reach on Facebook, and it is undoubtedly is, it's not just Facebook - it's across all channels – search – podcasting – webinars – video – blogging etc. 

After all, it's hard to stand out in a sea of content. Mark Schaefer wrote late last year about research released that showed: 

"50% of randomly selected posts received 8 shares or less

75% of these posts received 39 shares or less

75% of these posts achieved zero referring domain links"

See more at: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2015/11/11/content-shock-is-here/#sthash.vEDSr9B9.dpuf

Trying to address the issue is more of a challenge than probably any other problem out there. 

The first is obviously to have great content. Your content MUST standout. 

  • It must be completely relevant – don’t be afraid to niche down
  • BE interesting with it – engaging – people need to want to look for your next piece
  • Be different – don’t be the same as anyone else – how else will you stand out if you’re same as everyone else?
  • BE useful to your audience – if you’re selling widgets – then add value on how to make the widgets last for a long time or do more than what you thought etc etc

However this is not enough. Buffer and other major content sites have all reported that their organic sharing is down significantly despite doubling down and producing more. 

You may need to pay to get it out there, you may need to look at new channels and tactics to distribute and get cut through or you may need to niche down even more than you've done to date. 

Things that you can try to help get your great content out there are: 

  • Influencer marketing - is about those in finding those that have your audience and forming a beneficial relationship with them. Good examples of these have been Shonduras of Snapchat fame and Grace Bonney of Design Sponge* fame. Both have taken part in different forms of influencer marketing but both have large followings and used this to create related content on behalf of the business.
  • Live video is another trend emerging as a way to get cut through in a noisy environment. Blab, Snapchat, Facebook Live and Periscope are all currently in the spotlight as key players run with these channels and gain some market share and attention as a result. 

3. Ad blocking

Ad blockers

Ad blocking is set to become all pervasive with more than 45 million users in the US and 75 million users in Europe now actively blocking ads.

Ad blockers are apps that are installed in your web browser that will block ads from being displayed. Their popularity is rising as people show their objection to obtrusive and annoying advertising.

This means that if you’re reliant on paid advertising such as paid search display or banner and display advertising, then chances are your ads are not being seen. Depending on how the ad blocker works, some ads are still being served (and you’re being charged for it) but not displayed at the browser level.

While the full impact of these ad blockers has not yet been established, one thing is for sure. Change is very likely to emerge as a result.

For some of you that currently rely on paid search or display advertising to drive sales and leads for your business, it’s likely your advertising dollars are not being efficiently spent. For others there will very little impact. The key is to be aware.  

What can you do about it?

The first thing to do is to understand if it's impacting you. 

  1. Check the impact ad blockers are having on your paid campaign activity. Page Fair have built a tool to help you quantify what the monetary impact might be https://pagefair.com/

  2. Download and install a few ad blockers and run them over your digital assets and campaign activity. Identify exactly what’s being blocked and what’s not.

If you are in the position where paid promotion is core to your lead generation strategy, then it reviewing your current digital strategy and looking to supplement this with another channel so that you don’t have all your eggs in the one basket so to speak. Diversity in your acquisition channel will help ensure that you are well prepared for whichever way this new trend goes.

Making sure you've got great content in the right social media channels will help you establish more search engine visibility as well as providing new channels to make you visible to your audience. 

4. Mobile dominance

Ninety nine percent

90% of mobile users will research and compare a product or service before purchasing on their mobile.  

Mobile is a way of digital life for most of the people that you will be targeting for your product or service. This means that you need to be mobile ready.

Let’s consider a few more statistics. According to Kissmetrics (link: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time) 1 second delay in loading leads to 7% reduction in conversions and a 3 seconds delay in loading leads to a 40% people abandon website. These figures are from a few years ago now, but it’s unlikely that people’s patience levels are increased. Therefore, if you’re site is not only mobile responsive but also optimised for mobile browsers with light weight images and content that reads well for the mobile users, you will likely be losing a percentage of your visitors without them having properly considered your excellent offering.

Google are aware of the impact of the mobile browsing experience for users and have now baked this into their search algorithm and now favour those sites to display higher up the results page that are ‘mobile friendly’ ie. load quickly and display well on mobiles.

So the impact of not being mobile friendly is a double whammy - Google won’t help you be found and if you are found, users will leave within seconds if your site doesn’t meet mobile browsing expectations.

What can you do about it?

  1. Make your website mobile responsive

  2. Make sure your site loads quickly. You can check this at https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ which will also list any issues with your site that will be an issue for mobile browsers.

  3. Optimise your images to make sure that they don’t take a lot of time to load. https://kraken.io/web-interface is a free tool that will optimise your images down to the minimum size possible without losing the quality of the image.

  4. Work on the content on your page to make sure it’s tighter and more succinct with headings, subheadings and bulleted and numbered lists.

  5. Include a call to action that is mobile-friendly. Don’t ask them to do something that is too difficult or complex on a mobile. If you’ve got a form to be completed make sure that this works well on mobiles.

 

Don't have a set & forget approach

Most businesses use online to help promote and get the word out about their offering. However, things move quickly and change constantly. Keeping on top of things to make sure you’ve got the right digital mix of channels, social media, content and tactics is a must if you want to see continual growth in online sales and leads.

Don't have a 'set & forget' approach. Regularly review of your online program for your business to make sure you keep growing your online sales and leads.  Understanding the right digital channels, tactics and tools to use and how these work together will allow you to target and convert your audience into paying customers.

References:

http://www.slideshare.net/pagefair/2015-ad-blocking-report-the-cost-of-adblocking

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/marketing/peteschauer/2015-08-09/importance-mobile-marketing-2015-infographic#sthash.dgrm0BUi.dpuf

 

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