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5 Content Marketing Ideas for May 2022

Content marketing is a powerful tool to attract and engage potential customers. The right content is helpful, informative, and entertaining.

In May 2022, businesses can target competitors, produce reports, cover local events, profile products, and share a little brotherly love.

Here are five content marketing ideas to try in May 2022.

Build on Competitors

William Slim, a British military commander in the last century, famously said, “When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take — choose the bolder.”

In May, borrow some inspiration from Slim and go after your company’s closest competitor. Identify the competitor’s top-producing content in terms of site traffic, and then produce something better.

For example, if it sold camping supplies, your retail company might compete head-to-head with REI. Using a tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush, you learn that REI’s “Camping Checklist” drives about 36,000 visits a month. The article is part of an introduction to a camping content series.

Go after it. Produce a topic cluster that provides 10 times the value of REI’s. Make it the best introduction-to-camping resource on the internet.

Screenshot of REI Camping Checklist article.Screenshot of REI Camping Checklist article.

If you compete with REI, why not try to produce better content?

‘State of’ Reports

The state of any topic or industry is a staple of B2B content marketing and can generate engagement for just about any company.

Consulting firms may have originated this genre and still use these reports to position the business as an authority. An example is McKinsey & Company’s “State of Fashion 2022: an uneven recovery and new frontiers.”

Screenshot of McKinsey & Company's article.Screenshot of McKinsey & Company's article.

Create a “state of” report, such as this example from McKinsey, that journalists and bloggers will want to quote and reference.

The formula for “state of” reports goes like this:

  • Identify a suitable industry trend.
  • Survey a significant number of respondents — likely more than 500.
  • Analyze the responses.
  • Compose a report.
  • Publish and promote it, including releasing it on newswires.

Local Content

Although ecommerce companies can sell products to anyone anywhere, it is often best to focus on niches or locales.

For example, it is less expensive to provide fast shipping to nearby customers than second-day shipping to those far away.

With this in mind, online companies may want to target prospects near shipping facilities. Businesses could produce articles, videos, or podcast episodes that feature local events, organizations, and relevant topics.

Thus an online sporting goods shop could cover high school sports in areas nearest its shipping facilities.

Photo of a volleyball team celebrating. Photo of a volleyball team celebrating.

Consider paying extra marketing attention to the regions your business can serve best. Image: Vince Fleming.

Product Profile

The items a business sells can spur compelling stories about innovations, achievements, and human perseverance.

Try profiling your products in May 2022. Discuss the intersection of products and people. Create articles, videos, or podcasts that tell their exceptional stories.

Here are three examples from the shoe business.

First, there is Mr. Porter’s “Behind Every Iconic Sneaker Is An Even Better Story,” which states, “The sneaker market thrives on performance and storytelling. The former ages about as well as milk. But given time, the latter is more like fine wine. As the years go by, a shoe’s story often gets richer and fuller, adding to its prestige and increasing its value both in a literal and a cultural sense.” This excerpt hints at how “sneakerheads” are attracted to a particular shoe’s history.

Next, read this article in the Orlando Sentinel about Hush Puppies becoming a cultural icon. Malcolm Gladwell, the author of “The Tipping Point,” a bestselling book, discusses the shoe’s rise in popularity.

“The brand had been all but dead until that point. Sales were down to 30,000 pairs a year, mostly to backwoods outlets and small-town family stores. Wolverine, the company that makes Hush Puppies, thought of phasing out the shoes that made it famous. But then something strange happened,” Gladwell wrote.

The article goes on to propose that fads and fashions move like epidemics.

Third, look at the history of Tony Lama boots. Unbeknownst to most consumers, Tony Lama was an Italian immigrant.

In each of these articles, the product (shoes or boots) offers a way to tell a meaningful story.

Screenshot of Tony Lama web page, The Story of Tony Lama.Screenshot of Tony Lama web page, The Story of Tony Lama.

Tony Lama, who helped popularize the cowboy boot, was from Italy. He moved to the United States as a young boy.

National Brother’s Day

May 24, 2022, is National Brother’s Day. Similar to Mother’s Day (May 8) or Father’s Day (June 19), the occasion honors one of the most important human relationships.

National Brother’s Day may be an opportunity to profile brothers who impacted the industry your business serves.

For example, an online store selling movie memorabilia or licensed products might feature the Warner brothers, Harry, Albert, Sam, and Jack.

Picture of the four Warner Brothers.Picture of the four Warner Brothers.

Consider recognizing the brothers who contributed to the industry your business serves in honor of National Brother’s Day.

The four men created what is now Warner Bros. Entertainment and were pioneers in early filmmaking. The article might tell about the brothers, how their family immigrated to the United States from Poland, and how they started making films. It might also discuss some of the studio’s best early films.

For your company’s content marketing, identify brothers who contributed to your industry.

TikTok Marketing Done Right

TikTok is the hottest app to share and explore content. It frees companies from typical forms of marketing by allowing personality and creativity while building engagement and reach.

In this article, I will look at four brands successfully marketing on TikTok.

4 Brands on TikTok

Puma, the sports apparel company, builds exposure through branded hashtags. Nearly every post has a tag, such as #PUMAfam and #PUMAfootball.

Screenshot of the hashtag PumaFootball on TikTok.Screenshot of the hashtag PumaFootball on TikTok.

#PUMAfootball keeps users engaged with the company’s content.

Videos on TikTok tagged with #PUMAfootball have accumulated 159 million views, mainly featuring prominent football (soccer) players using Puma’s footwear. Another hashtag, #PUMAvault, connects with older products, content, and company info.

Branded hashtags allow Puma’s marketing team to keep audiences connected to the videos and facilitate quick searches of the company’s name and other posts. To be sure, Puma has a huge advertising budget. Regardless, branded hashtags are an effective tactic for any company.

Screenshot of a Puma TikTok video using the hashtag #PUMAvault.Screenshot of a Puma TikTok video using the hashtag #PUMAvault.

Posts tagged with #PUMAvault share older products and content.

Chipotle is another brand that markets on TikTok by understanding its target audience. From listicle videos to product launches, Chipotle uses unpolished, authentic humor and personality to describe its menu items to prospects.

A video introducing Pollo Asado (grilled chicken) received 4.2 million views in roughly a week.

Screenshot of a Chipotle TikTok video promoting new menu option.Screenshot of a Chipotle TikTok video promoting new menu option.

Chipotle shares a fun TikTok video promoting Pollo Asado, a new menu item.

Elf Cosmetics knows how to utilize influencers. In 2020, the company commissioned a song — “Eyes, Lips, Face” — a spoof of Kash Doll’s 2018 hit, “Ice Me Out.” Elf then launched a branded hashtag challenge (#eyeslipsface) on TikTok via a team of micro-influencers, who encouraged their audiences to dance their way to $250 worth of cosmetics and skincare products.

Videos tagged with #eyeslipsface reportedly have 9 billion views to date.

The takeaway? Create challenges for your audience on TikTok, wherein users generate content.

Vineyard Vines is a U.S. clothing and accessory retailer that understands TikTok’s fun-loving meme generation. Any campaign on TikTok should remember that audience.

Here’s an example, a video with a pink whale mascot walking sadly across a garden with the caption, “When you’re working an event and get kicked or punched by a little kid for the 50th time.” The video captures a trend of using Owl City’s song Fireflies excerpted only to hear “I’d like to leave” as the punchline. It was funny and received many shares and comments.

Screenshot of a TikTok video by Vineyard Vines. Screenshot of a TikTok video by Vineyard Vines.

Vineyard Vines shares a humorous video.

Keep Experimenting

Remember that your initial ideas on TikTok might not work. But keep experimenting. On TikTok, good ideas are rewarded no matter how small the account.

The Creator Economy Draws Entrepreneurs

The creator economy is attracting new entrepreneurs, perhaps supplanting retail ecommerce as the starting point for many small and new ventures.

Just a few years ago, if she wanted to own a business, an entrepreneur would frequently turn to ecommerce — opening a small online store, adding a few products, and advertising to drive sales.

In 2022, that same person might instead launch a YouTube channel or publish an Instagram Reel.

Barrier to Success

While opening a small ecommerce store is easy, success is not guaranteed. The many retail ecommerce businesses and direct-to-consumer brands make competition tight.

In 2005, I started an online toy store selling Papo and Schleich figures. At the time, a handful of other online shops offered these toys. A simple search ad could generate thousands of dollars in sales.

Now, Google Shopping lists dozens of merchants selling Papo figures, and Google search results show more than 4 million pages indexed for these inexpensive toys.

Screenshot of a Google search for Papo figures.Screenshot of a Google search for Papo figures.

There are hundreds of online stores selling identical or similar products, such as inexpensive toys.

With so many merchants selling identical items, price is often a key differentiator. Margins grow thin.

In 2005, if you wanted to open an online store, the barriers to entry were the cost of inventory and the technical challenges associated with launching a site.

Now those barriers are significantly reduced. Retail inventory is relatively easy to find (supply chain problems aside). Financing options abound. And many ecommerce platforms can have a store open and selling in just a few days, if not hours.

Competition and the ubiquity of online commerce are the new barriers to success.

Content Creation

Just as retail ecommerce appears to be more competitive and therefore more challenging to start, content creation is becoming relatively more straightforward.

Massive social media networks have built their businesses on advertising, and the fuel that makes their advertising engines run is engagement.

Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and nearly every social media site seek active users. To sell ads, they need folks to scroll, watch, and interact.

These social platforms have introduced tools and developed courses to help creators generate content. And an ecosystem of software and hardware services has emerged to make the process easier.

YouTube creators once needed serious video cameras and lighting gear to stand out. Now, YouTubers can have quality results with an iPhone and a light ring. There are dozens of cheap and fast video editing options.

Podcasting was once a complicated task of recording and mixing audio to achieve radio quality. For less than $300 a year, a podcaster can now produce professional interviews with Riverside, an online recording studio, and many similar services. The result is an excellent audio podcast and video, too.

Starting a creator business is as easy as putting up your first post. This ease makes being a creator attractive for entrepreneurs.

Why spend months launching a DTC brand only to struggle to make a sale because you don’t have an audience of customers? Instead, build a profitable creator business more efficiently and get an audience of customers.

As evidence to support this supposition — that the creator economy is attracting entrepreneurs — consider Shopify. In March 2022, the company, one of the largest SaaS ecommerce platforms in the world, launched a free link-in-bio service called Linkpop.

Screenshot of Harley Finkelstein's LinkedIn post about Linkpop.Screenshot of Harley Finkelstein's LinkedIn post about Linkpop.

Shopify President Harley Finkelstein announced Linkpop on his LinkedIn profile, noting that the service could connect content and commerce.

Link-in-bio services are aimed at creators. Shopify sees an opportunity in the creator economy.

Screenshot of a call-to-action from Linkpop website. Screenshot of a call-to-action from Linkpop website.

The Linkpop by Shopify website addresses creators.

Ecommerce Again

Content creation could be a new path toward ecommerce.

In retail ecommerce, businesses tend to build the product, launch a website, and head out in search of customers. While in the creator economy, brands tend to develop an engaged audience and create products specifically for that audience, then sell those products with relatively little competition.

For now, creators tend to sell digital products such as ebooks, online courses, and similar, but that could change. In the same way, creators could start developing physical products.

Here is an example. Imagine you are a content creator. You make fishing videos and publish them on YouTube.

Over time, you build an audience of a few hundred thousand followers. Of these, 30,000 have signed up for your weekly fishing newsletter.

You decide to create a DTC fishing rod. You get feedback from your audience during the design process. You hold a contest wherein a few newsletter subscribers can test and review prototypes.

When you are ready to go into production, you sell pre-orders — promoting the product on YouTube and via your email newsletter.

You have effectively bypassed competition and used your audience to validate and buy your product. It is a new path to ecommerce.

Instagram Shops: Tips and Strategies

Instagram shops can serve as an additional storefront for your products. Meta’s tutorial on setting up an Instagram shop is a helpful start. In this article, however, I’ll share my experience on essential features and key selling strategies.

To first step is getting all the components of your shop working in unison.

A mobile user who lands on your Instagram page with shops enabled can tap the “View shop” button. From there, she can view your products. You can also highlight on this page promotional products or new arrivals.

Screenshot of Vicidolls Instagram pageScreenshot of Vicidolls Instagram page

Clicking on the “View shop” button takes users to an Instagram Shop, such as this example from Vicidolls, an apparel brand.

To make your shop more visually appealing, feature products and collections. Vicidolls does this, using its shop section to promote top products, seasonal items, restocked bestsellers, and new arrivals.

Screenshot from Vicidolls Instagram shopScreenshot from Vicidolls Instagram shop

Vicidolls’ shop promotes top products, seasonal items, restocked bestsellers, and new arrivals.

Tags are a way to showcase products on your Instagram feed directly. You can integrate tags into photos, videos, and Stories. Clicking on a tag will take viewers directly to the product.

Consider adding tags to influencer posts. Also, stack multiple tags in a single photo or video for complementary products. Instagram allows up to five tags in a single post.

Check out how the skincare brand Murad tags its shoppable post.

Screenshot of a Murad shoppable post with two product tagsScreenshot of a Murad shoppable post with two product tags

Tags are a way to showcase products on your Instagram feed directly. In this example, Murad tags products in a shoppable post.

Collections allow you to organize products into groups. Instead of forcing users to scroll through an endless feed, group your products into categories and highlight the best selling and most relevant ones in order.

Here’s how Herschel Supply Co. features its uniforms and weather-resistant bags.

Screenshot fo Hershel Supply's Instagram shopScreenshot fo Hershel Supply's Instagram shop

Collections allow you to organize products into groups. Herschel Supply Co. does this with its uniforms and weather-resistant bags.

Product detailed pages – PDPs – are similar to the product pages on an ecommerce site. Add to your PDPs specs, shipping policies, and, importantly, unique and compelling descriptions.

Speck’s PDPs explain the key features of its phone cases.

Screenshot of Speck's iPhone case product page on InstagramScreenshot of Speck's iPhone case product page on Instagram

Product detailed pages on Instagram are similar to the product pages on an ecommerce site. Speck’s PDPs explain the key features of its phone cases.

Checkout is a critical feature of your Instagram store. Clicking “View on website” will funnel users directly to the product pages on your own site. This process is seamless, but make sure the Instagram PDPs match the general look and feel of those on your site. Otherwise, you risk losing users.

For example, at the time of writing, Sephora’s Give Me More Lip product on Instagram linked to a nonexistent page on its own site.

Screenshot of Sephora's web page showing a broken linkScreenshot of Sephora's web page showing a broken link

Clicking “View on website” will funnel users directly to the product pages on your own site. But make sure the process is seamless, unlike this example from Sephora.

Search this shop. Set up as many product categories as practical to help shoppers find the items that interest them. Plus, category names appear when users click the search bar, as shown below from Sephora’s shop.

Screenshot from Sephora's Instagram shop showing categories below the search barScreenshot from Sephora's Instagram shop showing categories below the search bar

Category names appear when users click the search bar. This example is from Sephora’s shop.

Key Strategies

Show off your products. You don’t need to follow traditional ecommerce image rules on Instagram. Colorful, realistic product posts and those that feature influencers and users are more appropriate.

Make actionable content. Actionable means, “Does it sell?” Design your photos, Stories, and Reels with shoppers in mind. Track your product post’s engagement and interaction. Switch tactics as needed.

Be authentic. Focus on the real-life benefit of your products rather than features. Sell the experience by combining the right image with the right message. Aim for 80% regular posts and 20% shoppable.

Drive engagement. Murad, the aforementioned skincare company, incorporates Q&As, product masterclasses, wellness testimonials, and tips and tutorials into its store. It’s a compelling way to integrate content with the shopping experience.

The Best Ecommerce Content for Twitter

Social media increasingly drives traffic and awareness to ecommerce brands. But effective social content varies depending on the channel. I’ve addressed the best content for Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.

In this post, I’ll discuss Twitter.

Twitter Content for Ecommerce

Ask questions. Asking questions of your followers can drive engagement. The questions can be related to your brand or your products as well as holidays, trends, and current events. Elon Musk, for example, regularly questions his Twitter followers, generating a lot of buzz around his companies and products.

Screenshot of Elon Musk's Twitter page with his tweet, "Why is the traditional media such a relentless hatestream?"Screenshot of Elon Musk's Twitter page with his tweet, "Why is the traditional media such a relentless hatestream?"

Elon Musk’s questions on Twitter followers generated much attention.

Twitter Polls provide instant feedback and offer followers a chance to weigh in on important issues. Use polls for sales and marketing topics or thought leadership. Polls can also promote products, even in a lighthearted manner, such as this Wendy’s example.

This poll from Wendy's asks, "How do you eat our hot and crispy fries?"This poll from Wendy's asks, "How do you eat our hot and crispy fries?"

Polls on Twitter can promote products, even in a lighthearted manner. This poll from Wendy’s asks, “How do you eat our hot and crispy fries?”

Industry news tweets can establish your credibility as a market leader and a go-to source for updates and info. News-related content can also help sell products. Netflix uses this strategy often when promoting the careers of actors who have starred in one of its original movies or series.

Tweet from Netflix congratulating actor Jung Ho-Yeon.Tweet from Netflix congratulating actor Jung Ho-Yeon.

Netflix promotes on Twitter the actors in its original content. This announcement congratulates Jung Ho-Yeon for an award.

Brand announcements. An upcoming product launch or feature release can quickly raise awareness among followers. Pair the announcement with user-generated endorsements and testimonials for more impact. For major announcements, consider “pinning” the tweet, which forces it to remain static at the top of a profile. Butterfinger, the candy bar, did this recently for a live company event.

Butterfinger pinned a tweet announcing a live roundtable discussion.Butterfinger pinned a tweet announcing a live roundtable discussion.

Butterfinger pinned a tweet announcing a live roundtable discussion.

For product announcements, explain how the item will help followers in a way that facilitates conversation. Disney+ did this on Twitter to a big effect.

This tweet from Disney+ explains benefits of subscribing: "From Snow White and the Seven Dwards to The Mandalorian."This tweet from Disney+ explains benefits of subscribing: "From Snow White and the Seven Dwards to The Mandalorian."

This tweet from Disney+ explains the benefits of subscribing: “From Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Mandalorian.”

GIFs and memes are compelling short-form content, ideally suited for Twitter. GIFs and memes alone won’t draw in new visitors to your page. The quality of a meme — short, funny, culturally relevant — will make it stand out (or not). Innocent Drinks, which makes smoothies, provides a good example of a simple, text-based meme that describes the perils of working from home. The humor is easy to understand. It was retweeted 600 times and liked by 3,200 followers.

Innocent Drinks tweeted a simple, text-based meme that describes the perils of two years of working from home.Innocent Drinks tweeted a simple, text-based meme that describes the perils of two years of working from home.

Innocent Drinks tweeted a simple, text-based meme that describes the perils of two years of working from home.

Promo codes and flash sales can attract consumers looking for a reason to buy your products. Including promotional codes and sales into social media content is essential for most companies selling goods and services online. For example, JetBlue’s tweeted “5 days of deals” around its 22nd anniversary.

This tweet from JetBlue announced "5 days of deals" around its 22nd anniversary.This tweet from JetBlue announced "5 days of deals" around its 22nd anniversary.

Promotional codes and sales are typically effective social content. This tweet from JetBlue announced “5 days of deals” around its 22nd anniversary.

Caution Advised

Other content types on Twitter include infographics, motivational quotes, and links to relevant blog posts. Be careful, however, with humor, politics, and sensitive subjects. As with any social media content, what’s positive for one person is offensive to another.

Behind-the-scenes Content Is Authentic Storytelling

Video content ranks number one in social media marketing these days. One of the best video strategies is behind-the-scenes storytelling.

Behind-the-scenes (BTS) content gives an unedited look into what is happening inside a business. Examples include posts highlighting employees, workplace culture, and company events.

BTS content is effective because it provides businesses with an authentic way to connect with their audiences and build trust. Good BTS content focuses on revealing company processes over products. The more authentic a video, the more successful it will be.

Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the eyeglasses retailer, produces BTS content that shows followers what’s happening inside the company. For example, Warby Parker’s Instagram page recently featured a video with lifestyle influencer Katie Duke and her journey to find a new pair of glasses at the company’s physical locations.

Screenshot of Instagram post with Katie Duke Screenshot of Instagram post with Katie Duke

Warby Parker produces authentic BTS content, such as this Instagram post featuring lifestyle influencer Katie Duke shopping for eyeglasses.

The video works because it takes followers behind the scenes, showing them how the in-person eyewear selection process works while providing a human experience and an unscripted glimpse into the company’s brick-and-mortar locations.

Feelgrounds

BTS content can include even a tedious process, such as picking, packing, and shipping products. Feelgrounds, the German footwear company, did this on Facebook to good effect. The video is a sped-up version of the fulfillment process paired with a Benny Hill theme song. It’s both entertaining and shareable.

Screenshot of the Feelground Facebook postScreenshot of the Feelground Facebook post

Feelgrounds’s Facebook post is a sped-up video of the company’s picking, packing, and shipping process.

The video also states the Feelgrounds team is working “tirelessly throughout the weekend” to ship all pre-orders, creating a sense of excitement and “fear of missing out” around a new product.

Terrebleu

Terrebleu is a Canada-based online wellness business that showcases brand culture using Instagram Reels. The videos include the company’s farm horses, lavender fields, and staff. Terrebleu knows its audience (wellness consumers) and the types of content to connect with it — simple and effective to generate trust.

Screenshot of Terrebleu's Instagram Reel videoScreenshot of Terrebleu's Instagram Reel video

Terrebleu showcases its brand culture using Instagram Reels that include farm horses, lavender fields, and staff.

HelloFresh

HelloFresh shows off on TikTok its “day in the life” workplace. From following employees throughout their day to sharing what goes into a food stylist’s preparations for a photo, HelloFresh reinforces brand values by emphasizing the people that keep the business running.

Incorporating TikTok’s trending music and sounds is an added benefit — making the content relatable to potential customers.

Screenshot of HelloFresh's post on TikTok.Screenshot of HelloFresh's post on TikTok.

HelloFresh shows off on TikTok its “day in the life” workplace.

How to Integrate SMS into Email Marketing

SMS marketing is booming. The rise of smartphones and text messaging provided a new vehicle for companies to communicate with customers. Slowly, short message service — SMS, synonymous with text messaging — has supplemented many companies’ email marketing efforts.

In this post, I’ll review how to integrate SMS into your email program.

SMS vs. Email

Email marketing is effective because it directly connects to a customer or prospect. Nowadays, most recipients receive emails on their smartphones, making the channel even more effective.

However, email has challenges that SMS does not. First, email senders face deliverability hurdles. Senders are at the mercy of large email platforms such as Gmail, Yahoo, and others that control the filtering or blocking of messages. Recent statistics show that 99% of email users check their inboxes daily. Still, senders wait until a subscriber checks and then hope she reads the content.

SMS offers near-instant communication. Most recipients read text messages very soon after arriving. Wearable smartwatches mean text-message recipients no longer have to be near their phones. The immediacy and intimacy of SMS translate into a powerful way to connect with consumers.

Launching SMS

SMS can provide superior customer service. Examples include the hospitality industry confirming reservations and airlines updating passengers on flight status.

Screenshot of a text message from United, announcing a delayed flightScreenshot of a text message from United, announcing a delayed flight

Airlines use SMS to update passengers on flight status. This example is from United.

The first step in implementing SMS is to confirm customers want to receive those messages. Many ecommerce brands use SMS for basic order info. Customers often prefer that method for shipping and other updates. So it’s a good idea to provide this option during checkout.

Screenshot of a checkout page with a box to provide a cell phone numberScreenshot of a checkout page with a box to provide a cell phone number

Customers often prefer shipping and other updates via text. So it’s a good idea to provide this option during checkout.

Beyond transactional info, SMS can be an effective marketing channel provided, again, customers want to receive the messages. Include SMS sign-up options throughout the site with clear frequency expectations and instructions for opting out. Providing value in exchange for a phone number can improve sign-ups.

Strategies for SMS Success

Obtain expressed permission. The U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act requires businesses to receive explicit consent to send text messages. The requirement is much stricter than the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, which does not require an opt-in, only that brands honor opt-outs. While it’s not required, include opt-out instructions with every text.

Reintroduce your brand. A drawback to SMS is identifying the sender. There’s no “From:” line as with email. Recipients only see a number. Thus, it’s essential to make clear on every text message who it’s from.

Screenshot of a text message from Verizon with first sentence reading, "Hi. It's Verizon."Screenshot of a text message from Verizon with first sentence reading, "Hi. It's Verizon."

Verizon identifies itself with every text message.

Frequency. Send far fewer SMS messages than emails. Start with intervals between texts of at least 10 days. As with email, testing will determine the best frequency to minimize opt-outs and drive engagement. The type of product or service impacts frequency. For example, if consumers purchase your products every six months, the SMS frequency should follow that schedule.

Screenshot of two text messages from Red Cross showing dates about 10 days apartScreenshot of two text messages from Red Cross showing dates about 10 days apart

Red Cross’s SMS frequency is roughly every 10 days.

Messages types. Be careful with promotional messages. Don’t overdo it. A good strategy is to alternate between transactional and promotional. This will keep recipients engaged and reduce opt-outs.

Complement Email

SMS reach is finite. Far fewer consumers choose to receive text messages versus email. A text is a personal form of communication for many, reserved only for limited acquaintances. Nonetheless, done correctly, SMS complements email — increasing engagement, customer service, and conversions.

Outbound Marketing In an Inbound World

Search engine optimization, content marketing, and the whole of inbound marketing are important for promoting a business. But let’s not forget about advertising.

I recently attended a marketing event where an inbound marketer responsible for search engine optimization and content for a multi-million dollar company complained that her site traffic has dropped because of poor advertising performance.

It was odd to hear her complain about advertising results and yet admit a dependency on them.

Aren’t inbound tactics supposed to replace ads?

Inbound vs. Outbound

For years, some marketers have argued that outbound (traditional) marketing was dead, dying, or less important.

As HubSpot puts it, “Inbound marketing is a business methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them. While outbound marketing interrupts your audience with content they don’t always want, inbound marketing forms connections they are looking for and solves problems they already have.”

Screenshot of HubSpot page describing inbound marketingScreenshot of HubSpot page describing inbound marketing

HubSpot pits inbound marketing against outbound.

Take a marketing course from the Digital Marketing Institute, and you’ll hear an instructor, Philippe Polman, say, “In today’s business world, inbound marketing is the most important aspect of digital marketing.”

But is that always true? What if outbound marketing is essential? And why can’t inbound and outbound coexist?

A few facts demonstrate that advertising (outbound marketing) is growing, and the growth is likely an indication of value.

Amazon Ads

Amazon’s advertising services generated $31.6 billion in 2021, according to the company’s 10-K filing (PDF) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Some $9.7 billion of that revenue came in just the last three months of the year. Year-over-year, Amazon’s ad revenue was up 32%.

This result puts Amazon well behind Google Ads ($205.9 billion in 2021) and Facebook ($115 billion in 2021), but ahead of YouTube ($28.8 billion in 2021) and TikTok ($4 billion in 2021).

Amazon is a major player in digital advertising. And it continues to rapidly grow despite being restrictive. The company controls most of the content, keeps a close watch on the audience, and has even been accused of stealing product ideas from its advertisers (marketplace sellers).

The growth implies advertising on Amazon — perhaps due to its rich first-party targeting data and purchase environment — is valuable to advertisers and thus effective.

Google Ads

Amazon is not the only ad platform growing.

Google’s advertising revenue rose 42.6% from $146.9 billion in 2020 to the aforementioned $205.9 billion in 2021.

Google acknowledges that its success is contingent on happy advertisers. “We generated more than 80% of total revenues from the display of ads online in 2021. Many of our advertisers…can terminate their contracts with us at any time,” the company reported in its 10-K.

“Failing to provide superior value or deliver advertisements effectively and competitively could harm our reputation, financial condition, and operating results.”

Google almost certainly understands that the quality of its search engine results is a key factor in advertising success. But it would not be surprising if the company found ways to optimize both: the search experience and ad value.

Consider position zero. Google often tries to answer the user’s query on the search results page.

Searching “inbound marketing definition” on Google can return a snippet that includes an answer to the query, leaving no need to click elsewhere.

Screenshot of Googe search result showing top snippet from SalesforceScreenshot of Googe search result showing top snippet from Salesforce

Searching on Google for “inbound marketing definition” produces a position-zero snippet from a Salesforce article.

A search engine optimizer might argue that position one is a big win for the company. But gaining and holding it is an SEO challenge.

Google presumably wants to answer queries quickly and keep users on its properties. As this trend continues, competition for organic keywords could become fierce. At the same time, an ad could trump even position zero.

Facebook Grew, Too

Not too long along Facebook took out full-page newspaper ads claiming that Apple iOS 14’s opt-in requirement would significantly harm small businesses (and Facebook’s ad revenue).

“We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere,” the ad’s headline read. “Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% of their sales for every dollar they spend….these changes will be devastating to small businesses.”

Let’s put aside the irony of making a case for personalized digital ads in a newspaper and recognize that Apple’s policy changes certainly impacted ad targeting. However, small businesses, in general, have not been devastated.

What’s more, predictions that iOS 14 could send advertisers to inbound marketing have not yet come to fruition.

Apple’s iOS 14 update was a meaningful, significant change to advertising, but still something of a nonevent for the industry.

This is especially true when you consider that Facebook’s advertising revenue rose 36% in 2021, up from $84.8 billion in 2020. Facebook saw average revenue per ad and total overall ad revenue increase.

Even in the face of adverse effects, outbound marketing on Facebook is still booming.

Balanced Approach

None of this implies that advertising is somehow superior to other marketing forms. I’ve cited Amazon, Google, and Facebook to point out that outbound marketing remains valid and should be part of a balanced approach that includes SEO and content.

14 Free WordPress Plugins to Build an Email List

Engaged email subscribers are a key revenue driver for many ecommerce companies. But building that list is not easy, with much inbox competition. Fortunately, WooCommerce and other WordPress users can select free plugins for successful email list building.

Here is a rundown of WordPress plugins to build an email list. There are tools for creating and automating pop-ups and opt-in forms, driving and managing newsletters subscriptions, capturing leads, and more. All of these plugins are free. Most offer premium plans as well.

Plugins to Build Email Lists

Sumo offers several tools to build an email list. Use the List Builder app to generate an email collection field after page load, after a mouse hovers, embedded within an article, as a call-to-action button, upon user scroll, and more. Sumo also offers a Welcome Mat, Smart Bar, and Share buttons for social. Sumo integrates with WooCommerce to create unique offers and discount forms. Price: Free up to 10,000 emails per month. Premium plans start at $39 per month.

Home page of SumoHome page of Sumo

Sumo

Icegram is a popular pop-up builder for lead capture, call to action, and email marketing. Use Icegram Engage to show the right messages at the right time. Capture leads using attractive pop-ups, slide-ins, opt-ins, and welcome bars. Access 50-plus free pop-up templates and action bar themes. Set up exit-intent pop-up campaigns, action bars, badges, stickies, inline opt-in, fullscreen overlay, ribbons, sidebar panel, and more. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $97 per month.

Email Subscribers and Newsletters, from Icegram, is a newsletter plugin to collect leads and send automated post notifications and email broadcasts — and manage them in one place. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $6.50 per month.

Rainmaker, another tool from Icegram, is a plugin for creating forms with ready-made templates. Display forms anywhere on your WordPress site using a shortcode. Rainmaker automatically saves all form submissions to the WordPress database. Connect your mailing list service, and automatically subscribe leads to a list. Price: Basic is free. Premium plans start at $2.25 per month.

Home page of RainmakerHome page of Rainmaker

Rainmaker

Newsletter is an email marketing system to create, send, and track emails and responsive newsletters. Utilize subscriber lists and advanced targeting with your campaigns. Manage user subscriptions, email automation, follow-up notifications, and list building. Price: Basic is free. Premium versions start at $69.

Optin Forms is a simple and easy-to-use opt-in form plugin for new subscribers. Choose from five unique layouts and customize to match your company’s brand. Integrates with major email services, including AWeber, iContact, Mailchimp, GetResponse, and more. Price: Free.

MailPoet is a plugin for creating, sending, and managing newsletters in WordPress. Add a subscription form to your site. Manage your subscribers and lists. Create and automate post notifications and welcome emails. Price: Free for the first 1,000 subscribers. Premium starts at $13 per month.

Home page of MailPoetHome page of MailPoet

MailPoet

Klaviyo helps businesses engage consumers across email, SMS, web, and in-app. Leverage Klaviyo’s free form builder. Build fly-outs, pop-ups, and embeds. Target forms to specific segments, devices, or pages. Use the library of pre-built forms and automated campaigns, such as drip messages, abandoned cart reminders, and sale promotions — or design your own. Price: Free for up to 500 emails to 250 contacts. Premium starts at $20 per month.

Hustle offers simple opt-in forms, targeted marketing pop-ups, and designer-made templates for different uses (e.g., Black Friday, giveaway, newsletter sign-up). Set up a range of behavior triggers for your pop-ups and slide-ins, and schedule when the messages deploy. Price: Free plan for one opt-in method. Pro plans start at $5 per month.

HubSpot offers several tools to build an email list. Create nearly any kind of form and pop-up using a simple drag-and-drop builder. Build responsive email newsletters inside WordPress, and nurture leads with automated campaigns. Manage your database with HubSpot’s free CRM, and group contacts with the built-in list builder. HubSpot comes with 20-plus pre-designed email templates. Price: Free.

Home page of HubSpotHome page of HubSpot

HubSpot

MailMunch lets you create an opt-in form as a pop-up, embed, top bar, scroll box, and sidebar. Apply themes, A/B testing, targeting, exit intent, and analytics. Sync your newsletter subscribers to Mailchimp, Constant Contact, AWeber, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor, and more. Price: Free. Premium is $13.99 per month.

AWeber is an email marketing platform with automated messaging, landing page builder, ecommerce pages, and web push notifications. Start with a pre-built template or drag-and-drop editor. Embed AWeber landing pages and sign-up forms on your WordPress site. Price: Free for up to 500 subscribers. Premium plans start at $16.15 per month.

MC4WP is a plugin to grow your Mailchimp lists and write better emails. Create attractive opt-in forms or integrate with any existing form on your site, such as comment, contact us, or checkout. Price: Free to 2,000 contacts. Premium plans start at $59 per year.

Sendinblue is an all-in-one email marketing platform. Create custom subscription forms and easily integrate them into your posts, pages, or sidebars to grow your list. Manage the list with advanced segmentation. Use the drag-and-drop builder or template library to create and send newsletters. Develop automated marketing and transactional emails. Price: Free up to 300 emails per day and unlimited contacts. Premium plans start at $25 per month.

Home page of SendinblueHome page of Sendinblue

Sendinblue

The Best Ecommerce Content for LinkedIn

Social media drives ecommerce sales. But each social channel is different, requiring unique content for that audience. I’ve addressed the best ecommerce content for Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.

I’ll discuss LinkedIn in this post.

LinkedIn Content for Ecommerce

LinkedIn has transformed from an employment site, mainly, to a primary networking destination for professionals. The users are active. Many hold significant purchasing power within their companies, making it a B2B lead-generation magnet.

It’s the B2B audience that makes LinkedIn unique and different from Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, which are consumer-focused. Hence, the platform is best for merchants with business customers, and the content should follow.

Articles on your company’s LinkedIn page should raise awareness about your business and spark engagement. Focus on industry and company developments, product releases, specification details, management tactics, revenue and expense tips, and similar.

Google’s page, for example, includes profiles of employees and team-building articles. One of the best came from Robert Enslin, president of cloud sales, when he shared his collaboration approach.

Screenshot of a post on Google's LinkedIn page showing employees cookingScreenshot of a post on Google's LinkedIn page showing employees cooking

Google’s LinkedIn page includes team-building images, such as this one from Robert Enslin, president of cloud sales.

Videos on LinkedIn are increasingly popular. Informative videos (not excessively promotional) can start conversations. Videos can demonstrate new technology and products, highlight behind-the-scenes operations, and more. Brevity is key to video engagement. Use subtitles for those over 30 seconds.

Accenture, the consulting firm, produces compelling videos on business-strategy topics. The “Decluttering marketing” example below, just 18 seconds, is impactful and informative, confirming the company’s expertise. The post links to an extended, detailed “decluttering” article on the company’s website.

Screeshot from Accenture's LinkedIn page of a video titled "Five rules for Decluttering marketing."Screeshot from Accenture's LinkedIn page of a video titled "Five rules for Decluttering marketing."

Accenture’s videos address business-strategy topics. This “Decluttering marketing” example is just 18 seconds, but it links to an extended article on the company’s website.

Images on LinkedIn are as popular as videos. Images with graphs, statistics, and infographics are common to highlight case studies, research, and survey results.

Microsoft, for example, posted an image with a statistic from an internal employee survey.

Screenshot of a post on Microsoft's LinkedIn page with image containing a statistic from an employee surveyScreenshot of a post on Microsoft's LinkedIn page with image containing a statistic from an employee survey

This image on Microsoft’s LinkedIn page includes a statistic from an internal survey of employees.

Highlighting a company’s key personnel is another frequent use of images on LinkedIn. The practice serves a dual purpose: humanizing the brand and enticing future employees. The example below from Amazon showcases an engineer in the Alexa division.

Screenshot of Amazon's LinkedIn page with an image of a male engineer-employeeScreenshot of Amazon's LinkedIn page with an image of a male engineer-employee

Highlighting a company’s key personnel can humanize the brand and entice future employees. This example below from Amazon showcases an engineer in the Alexa division.

Many companies on LinkedIn use images that direct readers to an event or destination, such as a web page for a new product launch or a new ebook.

TED Conferences does this to drive views for archived talks online. Every image on TED’s LinkedIn page is unique and engaging with quotes, bright colors, and diagrams, prompting readers to share with colleagues. Review TED’s images to spur ideas for your own business.

Screenshot of an image on TED's LinkedIn page showing "Top 10 TED Talks of 2021"Screenshot of an image on TED's LinkedIn page showing "Top 10 TED Talks of 2021"

Images on TED’s LinkedIn page often drive views to archived talks, such as this “Top 10” example.