Monthly Archives: September 2015

Cereal Doesn’t Always Live in A Bowl

Eating cereal conjures images of a spoon and bowl. At least that’s what pops into my head when I here the word, but cereal can make so many other far-from-mundane edible items that will surely put a smile on any child’s face!

Between 3% and 6% of kids spend 20 hours a week or more on extracurricular activities, and thirty-one percent of those kids have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. That doesn’t give them much time to sit down for any meal, let alone breakfast. Check out these creative cereal alternative perfect for kids on-the-go.

Froot Loops Marshmellow Treats (from Spaceships and Laser beams)

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Rice Krispies Granola Bars (from Mostly Homemade Mom)

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Cereal Breakfast Pops (from Mom Favorites)

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S’mores Granola Bars (from Happy and Blessed Home)

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Froot Loops + Marshmellow Bombs (from Blackberry Babe)

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The next time you need an alternative for your kids, try one of these creative ideas for portable breakfasts and snacks. Your kids will never know what hit them!

 

Facebook Buy Buttons: Fab or Fad

Written by Shannon Stubbs

If you are a small business owner, you know the struggle of keeping people engaged and on your site. After all, if people aren’t there, you aren’t selling things. Facebook joined forces with Shopify to allow you to make purchases directly from your newsfeed. Instead of leaving Facebook to make purchases on a company website, you now have the power to make shopping even easier.

The Buy Button that you may see while scrolling through the newsfeed is fairly new and businesses are loving it. After all, with Facebook reach at frustrating low, you never know when your update will be seen but you want to be sure that you can maximize your profit. By allowing people to buy right then and there, you gain a customer and that customer will likely continue to see your status updates in their newsfeed.

From your Facebook business page, you can see the results of your sales under your analytics page so you can see what time people are making purchases so you know when the best time to share with your readers is. While Buy Buttons are only available to a select few merchants, expect that to change. Slowly Facebook will begin allowing more merchants to begin using Buy Buttons in their Facebook ads.

Think of what this means for business owners – you scroll through your newsfeed and suddenly see something you are in love with and have to have. You buy it. The reality is that what that item is wasn’t even in the plans for you to purchase but suddenly bam! It’s right there in your face and you bought it. Instead of waiting for people to be searching for that specific thing, you now have people buying something they may not have even been planning to purchase. This is a huge upside for businesses.

Are you a small business owner hoping to use the Buy Buttons to increase sales? Where do you feel this will take marketing on Facebook? What do you feel would make this even better for store owners?  

 

About the Author: Shannon is a busy mom of 3 wonderful little ones, Realtor, and blogger. You can find her at www.OurPieceOfEarth.com where she writes about just about anything. You will find a variety of topics including parenting tips, eco friendly living tips, party planning ideas, recipes and so much more. Soon you will find homeschooling tips, tricks and fun activities.  

Stop Words: What are They and Why are They important?

Written by Andrew Eaton

Stop words are function words and an integral part of sentence and phrase structure. Although there is no “absolute” list of stop words, they consist of words like; the, it, is, and, as well as, and so on. Stop words are typically ignored by computers while reading the data because they do not relate to the content. They provide value only when read in a sentence by a person.

Importance of Stop Words

Why is it important to recognize stop words? If you publish articles on the web, it’s important that you know about stop words, when to use them and when not to use them. Search engines take them into account as part of their algorithm when crawling your blog. Search engines recognize stop words when they process data from your blog articles, blog titles and URLs.

When a search engine is crawling your blog, it will see your titles, URLs and content. All of which may contain stop words. Knowing when and when not to use them may help you perform better in search engine results. Using stop words properly may increase your positioning in search engine results.

When to Remove Stop Words

Removing stop words from URLs is good practice because search engines like short, valuable URLs. When search engines crawl your site, they don’t need to read words like “the” or “and” in your URLs. These words carry no value and do not describe your content. There are certain exceptions to the rule, but they are few and far between.

Use as few stop words in your blog titles as possible. Using function words in your blog titles may be necessary to convey the content of your blog article. There is no need to sacrifice your titles to impress search engines. For best practice, keep stop words to a minimum while conveying your message.

From a search engine’s standpoint, you want to use valuable titles that convey the message without being long and drawn out. Using as few function words as possible will help you create titles that are optimized for search engines to read.

Example:

Original Title: How to Impress the One You Love Without Spending a Whole Lot of Money

Stop words: how, to, the, you, a, lot, of

New Title: Impress Your Love without Spending a Fortune

Stop words: your, a

Wordsmithing this example, we cut the number of stop words from 7 to 2. Of course, recognizing stop words should become part of your keyword research to determine the best phrases and titles for your blog articles. Search engines will, in most cases, ignore stop words completely and only focus on keywords. This means when doing your keyword research, there’s no need to look for phrases with stop words in them.

Considering these factors, there is no need to cut every stop word out of your blog titles. The focus should always remain on the humans who will be reading your blog titles, both on your blog and in search engine results. If it sounds good to you, it probably is.

Continuing on to the URL, for our example, it may be best to use: “/impress-love-without-spending-fortune” as the URL slug, which removes all the stop words and gives the search engines the juicy data which best reflects the content of the article.

Don’t Stuff with Stop Words

We know longer articles do better than short articles in regards to search engine rankings. We know that articles should be at least 400-500 words in length to do well in search results. However, using function words to extend your articles is unlikely to benefit you.

When writing a short article, it may be tempting to replace “and” with “as well as” to snag an extra two words and beef up your word count. Since these are likely considered stop words, the search engine isn’t actually reading them for value and stuffing these stop words into your article will have no benefit.

Stop Words Best Practices

Search engines hold their algorithms in the most secretive manner, which is why we may never know the actual list of stop words they use or how they use them to determine search rankings. However, there are best practices which can be derived from other aspects and SEO knowledge.

  •         Excessive use of stop words may hurt SEO
  •         Remove stop words in URLs
  •         Limit stop words in titles
  •         Use stop words naturally in your articles
  •         Do not stuff stop words to increase word count

Finally, never sacrifice your writing or your reader’s experience. Using stop words will not negatively impact your search engine optimization, unless you’re using them in an excessive and unnatural manner. However, using them sparingly and removing them when they provide no value to the reader is considered best practice and may help improve your position in search engine results.

About the Author: Andrew Eaton is a New England native who enjoys the freedom of freelance blogging, web design and social media management. He loves to explore the nooks and crannies of New England as well as travel across the country with his best friend and better half, Katie. He is an avid DIYer, a magician in the kitchen and a geek at heart. He blogs at Scrappy Geek.

Paribus Revolutionizes How Consumers Shop and Save

Walmart’s Savings Catcher gives consumers a way to price compare without having to do any work. You simply shop and scan a receipt into the Savings Catcher app. Walmart then searches other stores in the area for sales and gives money back to the consumer. It’s a no-brainer and a great way to create loyal shoppers.

A new company launched in May called Paribus. Its concept seems similar to Walmart’s in that it monitors prices and gives shoppers back money, but it goes a step further.

How it works:

A consumer signs up for Paribus using an email account. They suggest you start a new email account that you use solely for purchases.

Next comes my favorite part, the shopping! Paribus currently partners with 18 big name retailers including Walmart, Target, Gap, Sephora, Macy’s and Amazon.

You sit back and reap the rewards while they do all the work. Paribus monitors price changes and coupons in real time, and does the store engagement to file claims so you get paid. Money is typically refunded in the same way you made the original purchase.

How much does it cost?

All claims are free of charge, but Paribus gets paid 25% of what they successfully earn for you.

Signing up for Paribus is a no brainer. Consumers look for quality products at the best price and as long as they are treated right, are loyal to the stores they shop in. Paribus makes shopping and saving too easy not to join. With major retailers already connected to Paribus there really is no need for discount apps, emails about sales or coupon clipping and I predict consumers will spend more knowing Paribus is watching their back.

End of 2015 for Shopper Marketers

Written by Aly Howard and Rachel Majors

Can you believe it? 2015 is three-fourths of the way through. We know, we’re just as shocked at the realization as you are. Going into the final months of the year marks a great time for reflecting on what has happened and preparing for what’s to come. We turned to our CB leaders – Amy Callahan, Co-founder and CCO, and Bill Sussman, CEO – and asked them to reflect on Shopper Marketing in early 2015, as well as give us some insight into the end of the year and 2016.

Social & Digital to trump in-store

Bill believes shopper marketers will continue to look for efficient social and digital media solutions that help them support their most important retail customers, and that this trend will continue to accelerate in 2016.

Amy agrees with Bill, “especially as retailers continue to eliminate in-store tactics for suppliers, social and digital will be efficient spends to target their customer to point them back in store for purchase.”

It will be interesting to see how brands change their social and digital efforts to reach consumers. Will these advancements hurt in-store sales? Only time and continued digital efforts will tell.

Content > social networks

It’s no secret that brand involvement in social media is practically a necessary tactic nowadays. But rather than getting platform specific, our leaders recommend that brands focus on creating shareable content.

“To me, social platforms are the distribution vehicle to reach lots of people,” Bill states. What matters more is the content that gets created to be shared on those social platforms. Great content equals engagement.”

Amy sees content the same way, and also addresses the possibilities of new platforms entering the market:

“All platforms are going to continue to gain importance and new ones are going to keep popping up. What I think is more important than focusing on just one “important” platform is to create enough quality content that can be tailored to live on any social platform.”

The consumer should be able to see and understand the content no matter what platform they are using. Just like we post the same picture of our dog to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram so all our friends can see how awesome he is, brands should focus on doing the same so their audience can receive a unified message.

Buy buttons to succeed only if placed strategically

The news of social platforms adding “buy buttons” has been in your newsfeed for weeks. With several brands testing out the new buy buttons on sites like Pinterest, we wanted to see what our CB shopper marketing professionals thought.

“I think buy buttons are great if they are placed in the appropriate places,” Bill said. “If a user’s mindset is not aligned with having a buying experience and they are only visiting your site or social platform as a browsing and idea generation experience, then buy buttons will get in the way and chase away visitors/traffic.”

It’s not all business for our leaders, though. After all, it’s practically a dream come true to be able to click away to your heart’s desire on everything “Pinteresty” and actually receive those products you love. Amy said, “I personally like buy buttons, but I am not your typical shopper/consumer. If I find the right item and the buying experience can be made simpler for me, I am all in.”

We got some great insights from the CB leadership. One thing’s for sure though: brands are seeking new ways to personally connect with their consumers. We are confident that digital efforts will continue to be essential for shopper marketing. Let us know your predictions on these topics and the rest of 2015 in the comments below.

 

What Marketers Need to Realize About Consumer Electronics Shoppers

Written by Jamie Smith 

How many of us remember buying our first electronics? I sure do. Although at 14, I have to admit that my choice of boom box (yes it was called that) was more about price and how cool I thought it looked. As I matured, I knew to ask the sales clerk questions about the products I was buying and to purchase the device that best fit my specific needs and budget.

Since that time, I can’t tell you how many electronics I’ve purchased from alarm clocks to laptops, tablets and cameras. Instead of going with cool factor or only asking the store employees for help, I do my own research. I look online to see what’s available first, then go to the store that has the most options I’m interested in. I usually ask an employee who specializes in the product I’m searching for and if I have time, will do more research online before making a purchase. I do tend to be the type to purchase from the store if I have actually gone into the store.

The ways that consumers research and then purchase products such as electronics has changed and shopper marketers need to make sure they are accommodate that rapidly growing trend.

As it turns out, my personal path to purchase when it comes to electronics is fairly similar to a large portion of the population.

Fellow blogger and consumer Kori Tomelden, for example, says she does her research upfront, especially to compare products side-by-side. However, Kori said she tends to be more the type to search in-store but then make the actual purchase online.  

That’s just two real-life examples. Let’s take a look at what national marketing research indicates.

Electronics shopper behavior by the numbers

The Consumer Electronics Association is a technology trade association representing the $211 billion U.S. consumer electronics industry. According to a press release, the CEA released its report Enhancing the In-Store CE Retail Experience Using Mobile Devices in December 2014. That report outlines how social media, mobile device and shopping in-store go hand-in-hand.  

“Mobile shoppers most often use their mobile devices for assistance when shopping for electronics (60 percent) than any other product type,” the report reads. “… While shopping specifically for electronics, mobile shoppers use their devices to compare prices (63 percent), read customer ratings or reviews (52 percent) and search the Internet for more information (51 percent).”

“Mobile devices have significantly shifted consumers’ shopping behavior,” said Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis, CEA in the release. “Retailers are increasingly focusing on delivering a complete consumer shopping experience and mobile devices are now a vital piece of that puzzle.”

The Interactive Advertising Bureau released a report, Showrooming: Empowering Consumer Electronics, in 2013 with similar research results that indicate the prevalence of social media and mobile device use. “The most significant finding in the mobile component of the research was that while 42 percent of in-store mobile device using shoppers ultimately made their purchase online, a full 30 percent made their purchase in the store,” according to the report. “Interestingly, those who used their mobile phones while shopping were also more likely to make an unplanned purchase (32 percent in-store vs. 22 percent online).

A few more findings from the IAB report that we need to consider:

  • 42 percent of those who used a mobile device spent more than $1,000 while in the store
  • Among mobile device owners who didn’t use their device in-store, only 21 percent spent more than $1,000
  • 65 percent of shoppers who use their mobile device while in the store indicated that using their mobile device while in-store made them more likely to buy the product

Takeaways for shopper marketers

What these stories and anecdotal evidence show us is that brands must be savvy in multiple information channels including social media, website information, and yes, still in-store. It’s no longer appropriate or effective to broadcast a message and expect people to fall in line. We as consumers want information and we want it in the moment we need it. 

So what does this mean? Marketers need to work with their brand clients to make the entire path to purchase environment approachable, accessible and attractive. Marketing is not about using a bullhorn to spread a message anymore. It involves preparing the client to meet the hurt points (needs) of the consumer.

This means making sure the website provides access to product reviews, product specifications, and the ability to compare products. The website must also be mobile friendly. This concept also means ensuring that the in-store experience is positive including well-educated employees and having adequate if not ample Internet access in-store for the mobile users. I know I’ve personally walked away from a decision because I couldn’t get information online while shopping in a store.

Finally, it means using multiple methods to make sure customers realize these information sources are available including in-store signage, social media engagement, and utilizing brand ambassadors to share the brand story.

About the Author: Jamie Smith is an avid content creator both for her personal blog Jamie’s Thots and for her writing business Jamie’s Notebook. A newspaper journalist by training, Jamie has loved the written word since elementary school. She started her personal blog in 2005, but had never considered that platform as a means of making a living until joining Social Fabric in 2013. She still writes some magazine and newspaper articles, but the majority of her work is now in sponsored blogging, corporate blogging and website writing. Happily married to husband John, Jamie works in a home office and loves sharing about her four-legged “children.” Tweet her at @JamiesThots.

Bricks and Clicks: Future of Grocery

Written by Kayla Domeyer

Nielsen recently released a 2015 report titled “The Future of Grocery”. In the report, Nielsen reveals data collected across the globe that details grocery shopper’s current habits, future desires and how stores might make the best consumer experience they can.

The report focuses heavily on e-commerce and brick-and-mortar interests. Data reveals that a large part of the globe is willing to do more digital and tech-savvy shopping, while many already rely on such things. Neilson introduced the article saying, “The most successful retailers and manufacturers will be at the intersection of the physical and virtual worlds […]”.

How? The study touches on a few possible ways, but the future is left largely as a blank canvas. No doubt more and more consumer experiences will be enhanced by mobile and online coupons, e-commerce apps, mobile shopping lists or online delivery services in the years to come; but there are likely countless other improvements on the horizon as well.

One key point made in the report brings opportunity for retailers and bloggers to build lasting partnerships. The first strategy for e-commerce success discussed by Neilson is, “Establish credibility and exceed expectations”. Meeting expectations is a burden that falls only on the retailer, but establishing credibility is often easiest and most successful when the conversation is organic, and not directly from the retailer.

Bloggers are in a key position to help retailers to gain credibility. Who better to introduce something new than a trusted source? From sharing personal experience with a new app, to offering coupons or free trials to readers, bloggers have the ability to share the message without broadcasting it. Blogs then become a platform for discussion, sharing and (hopefully positive) feedback.

As brick-and-mortar begins to mesh more and more with virtual shopping, traditional media and messaging should also meld with online conversation. In this way bloggers can help retailers as they move toward a more blended shopping experience.

About the Author: Kayla is a professional graphic designer who loves to spend her time creating unique and affordable printables and DIY projects.  She’s married to her high school sweetheart and has 3 adorable cats.  She’s the face of Sweet Anne Designs [saynotsweetanne.com] and can be found tinkering in the kitchen, the garage, or crafting on the living room floor.

Good Eats: Food Paired with Social

Written by Sam Freeze

Everyone loves food. It drives economies, fails diets, and even inspires television channels devoted entirely to mouth-watering delights. We consume food content paired with Gordon Ramsay meltdowns, silky radio advertisements, and more and more through our social media newsfeeds. Here’s some reasons why food content works so well with social media.

Finding Food

About half of all consumers learn about food through their social networks through captivating posts like this skinny chicken fettuccine alfredo from Katerina at diethood.com and these salted caramel pretzel pecan bon bons from Ashley at bakerbynature.

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Mining for Millennials

Food social content especially resonates with millennials, a demographic that spends on average 5.4 hours on social media a day. When information is needed, millennials flock to social media and the internet. 68 percent of millennials ask their friends before selecting a restaurant, and when grocery shopping for something new to make, 69 percent of millennials say that they look up recipes on their mobile device while in store. Enticing content like these Santa Fe stuffed peppers from Aimee at shugarysweets and Chocolate covered strawberry s’mores from Jordyn at almostsupermom is perfect for targeting millennials cruising the aisles at the store.

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Harking for Hispanics

Being the largest growing demographic in America, reaching Hispanic consumers is more important than ever, particularly on social media. 80 percent of Hispanic adults in the U.S. use social media, versus 70 percent of whites and 75 percent of African Americans. They also tend to be bigger spending consumers. Hispanics spend 14 percent more on routine shopping trips and 10 percent more on stock-up trips and shop more frequently.

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Homegating For The Win

Everyone has been to or heard of a tailgating event. This is where one gathers with friends, family and fans to celebrate their team with food, drink, and fanfare before they head into an event. The tailgating phenomena began in the 60’s when Georgia fans traveled down to Florida for a game, but there were no bars around to celebrate in. They decided to party out of their cars instead. As we know, this tradition spread and has become a culture for events these days. In recent years, a new tradition has emerged called homegating. There are various reasons why celebrating at home or, “homegating”, has been catching on. One is due to the economy and rising prices for tailgating adventures. From the cost of the admission ticket to parking fees to tailgating supplies, this can really add up for fans. In 2013, it was estimated that $35 billion is spent on food and beverages alone for tailgating every year. That’s quite a market. The average tailgater is a college educated male between the ages of 35-44 who spends over $500 on tailgating food alone. Just imagine how the rest of it adds up?

As rising costs are leading the way for people to turn to homegating, so are other factors like people wanting to make it more a family event or to use their big screen TV they purchased for the home media room. Some even just want to avoid the crowds. Families are now enjoying creating homegating parties with family and friends. From recipes to decor, you can find inspiration all over the Internet. One study showed the average cost of tailgating versus homegating, and the savings really did add up! Tailgating came in at $5,235 for a family of four and only $2,725 for a homegating event. That’s a significant savings. Some feel being at the actual event is priceless, and you should not worry about finances when you really want the experience for you and your family. Whichever mindset you take, it’s a fact that many are turning to homegating now as a great option to celebrate their teams. The Social Fabric community of bloggers have some of these homegating fans. Here are some great ideas from them about making homegating a win in your household!

Rustic Football Chip, Dip & Suds Station (from Kendall Rayburn)

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Football Party Ideas (from Michelle’s Party Plan-It)

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Game Day Party & Butterfinger Peanut Butter Cup Popcorn (from Mammamoiselle)

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Crowd Pleaser Tailgate Party (from Aprons and Stilettos)

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Football Snacks in Mason Jars (from It Happens In A Blink)

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DIY Football Food Stadium (from Happy and Blessed Home)

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Football OREO Cookie Balls (from One Artsy Mama)

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Big Game Treats (from Julie is CoCo and Cocoa)

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Just Create Something Already (Lessons Learned from my Favorite #CMWorld Sessions)

One of the better marketing conferences I’ve attended, Content Marketing World delivered on a number of my needs (both personally and professionally). I think I most appreciated the emphasis on the word “content” in the event’s name and educational message. Under pressure to deliver measurable (sometimes instantaneous) results, marketers often eschew good content in favor of creating fast content delivered through a predictable process. 
 
Throughout the event, I heard several variations of the quality vs. quantity debate, and in my last session found someone who said we should have both.
 
A few of the my conference highlights included: 

 

>> In an expo floor packed with vendors servicing in-house marketing teams that need to manage their own content, I found a few hidden gems like VisibleThread, that automagically grades content for quality to suggest places you can easily improve your writing, and MyEmma.com, a more efficient way to build and manage e-mail marketing campaigns than the same old solutions we’ve used for years.

 

>> I got to see the Bare Naked Ladies in concert, and they rocked out a 90 minute set with some very specific entertainment they created just for conference attendees. Great show!

 

>> I met one of my son’s YouTube heros, MatPat, who has not only built up a couple of celebrity video channels and owns a burgeoning marketing consulting business for brands but also is a genuinely nice guy happy to take a minute to record a video for a fan.

 

>> John Cleese closed out Day One with with insightful commentary on the nature of creativity and what we can all do to stoke that creative ember within us. He advocated for the essential ingredients of “boundaries in space and boundaries in time” to maximize our creative potential. In other words, get away from distractions and block out time for things that stoke creative fires, such as meditation and play.

 

More than anything, I came away from the conference inspired to make more great content.

 

John Lee Dumas discussed his experiences creating a podcast with 1 million unique listeners that generates over $300 million in revenue per month. Using a uniquely spelled acronym for SUCCCCEESS, he outlined a framework for starting a podcast and keeping with it, urging attendees to follow their passions with discipline and determine. Three recommendations from his presentation rang especially true.

 

>> Start – If you want to “be” a podcaster, start podcasting. If you want to “be” a blogger, blog. You’ll never know what you can be if you spend all your time planning and no time doing.

 

>> Commitment – Dumas said, “Don’t start until you’re ready to commit to a frequency, a path, a mission.” Ask any “overnight success” rock band. The path to success is a marathon, not a sprint. Start doing something and stick with it until you figure out your own version of success.

 

>> Systems – Good systems reinforce commitment. Dumas said in 4 hours on a Monday, you could record enough shows to publish at least one per week for month. According to him, Systems lead to Consistency, and Consistency leads to Success.

 

In the last session I attended, Jay Acunzo said content marketers in search of prolificity should eschew the old quality vs quantity debate. For Acunzo, quantity begets quality. After all, practice makes perfect, right?

 

Acunzo recognized that many of us produce large quantities of low-quality content, something he affectionately calls reaching the “crapping point.” He said, “The crapping point is the moment at which no amount of technology or process can delay the inevitable: You’re creating too much content to sustain any semblance of quality. You’ve crapped out. Crap-o-la. Craptastic. Crap along if you feel like a room without a roof (#GetCrappy).”

Truly prolific creators, however, can push their crapping point back further and further without relying on automated tech wizardry. He lined out 5 key traits all prolific creators share. You can read them all in this fantastic post he wrote as a recap of the presentation. If you create content or work in any way with content creators, do yourself a favor and read this now.

I came home from #CMWorld with some good ideas for my company. I came home energized and excited about the content industry as a whole. Most importantly, I came home inspired to create.

I’d call that a pretty good week.