Expert Interview with Jeanna Barrett on social engagement

Social engagementThere is a strange phenomenon that seems to occur with all entrepreneurs and businesses. It can occupy an unhealthy percentage of your time, prompt your phones to ring without a single customer on the other line, and keep your inboxes stacked with unsolicited emails. Yes, from the moment you officially open for business, a plethora of multimedia and digital sales representatives will be knocking on your doors.

Every one of those representatives will claim to have the key to your potential successes and the pathways to your biggest goals and objectives. Buying from all of them would surely mean bankruptcy, so how can you discern the best value for your limited marketing budget?

Jeanna Barrett is at the forefront of an innovative marketing movement which focuses on content, inbound, and social marketing. She currently serves as the Head of Inbound & Content Marketing for Kabbage, the #1 online provider of business working capital. Mint recently spoke with Jeanna about marketing in the modern era.

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As a diverse marketing professional, what do you think of traditional forms of marketing like TV, radio, newspaper, and billboards in 2015? For the money, are they still worthwhile avenues for advertisers to pursue?

Some of the big brands have seen success with splashy campaigns that include more traditional advertising channels like TV; but even then, most of them are still weaving that story throughout online channels like content and social media too. For small businesses and startups, I think it's a challenge when the price tag of traditional channels is so large, and it's more difficult to prove-back a commercial with all the customers who signed up after seeing it. Since it's a lot easier to do just that with online marketing by using unique URLs, website analytics, and referral IDs, I'd always recommend starting with online marketing versus traditional marketing for smaller brands. Traditional channels are still important and still work, but you need larger budgets and measurement capabilities.

Facebook has made several changes as of late regarding its business pages and how their content is distributed among followers' news feeds. In your role at Kabbage, has this pay-to-play approach provided any obstacles?

Gone are the days when social media is seen as a "free" channel. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even now the new(er) sites like Instagram and Pinterest are figuring out how to make brands pay for exposure. Facebook, however, seems to be the social site that brands are frustrated with the most because a consumer could choose to Like a brand and want to follow its every post, but they'll still miss posts in the newsfeed unless a consumer clicks the Subscribe button. This has been a challenge for us at Kabbage and for every brand I've worked for in the past. No matter your size, you have to figure out how to balance what your audiences want to see and provide better content with a smart paid social media strategy.

As an advocate for small businesses, do you have any advice for business owners regarding these changes and what kind of money they should commit to promotional posts?

Even if you're a small business and don't have a big budget to do promoted posts or ads, small boosted posts can go a long way toward getting your brand's posts in front of eyeballs and improving the algorithms of who is served your posts in the future. At Kabbage, we look at our entire monthly content calendar and pick out a few instances we know we want to put a small boost behind, such as announcements, content we're proud of, and our premium content like webinars. It's also important to test different channels for ads. Facebook might be expensive with low click-throughs for your brand, but LinkedIn ads could soar.

Does a business's level of social engagement have any bearing on the effectiveness of its promotional posts?

Not generally. You could have low engagement on your social posts, but then your promotional posts will perform really well if you're targeting the right people. It's all about who you target and if the content you're targeting them with is high-quality. If those things are in line, you should get awesome engagement on your promotional posts despite your level of engagement elsewhere.

If a brand new business on a limited budget were interested in building its SEO presence, what steps would you advise them to take?

First, I'd recommend building a 10-30-keyword list based on top branded and industry search terms. There are lots of free guides and advice online on how to do this for your business; Moz.com is probably one of the best resources for this, and we also recently wrote a post on the Kabbage blog about this too. Next, I'd focus on making sure your business website is focused on these keywords; (in your content, title tags, etc.) and most importantly, build content around those keywords. Examples might include additional pages for your website like customer reviews or blog content. Finally, I'd recommend taking these three easy steps and being diligent with creating fresh content, rather than worrying too much about the constant rumored changes or trying to "game the system."

Since social engagement is such a vital component of marketing today, should a company prioritize its social media pages over its website, or should they both be treated with equal consideration?

No, I most definitely think a brand should focus on both. You absolutely need a website that you own. For instance, Facebook and other social media sites have complete ownership over your branded social pages. So, if you're only using Facebook for a web property and they decide to disable your page and take it down, then what? Your company website is where you can have complete control of how it looks, what it says, etc. That doesn't mean you should abandon social media or vice-versa. Both should work in harmony with each other to increase search engine results, reach new prospective customers, and maximize your customers' experience with your brand.

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