Ask the Readers: What is the Value of Online Contests?

online contestsContests are widely regarded as really good ways to increase your online engagement.

They come in all shapes and sizes – from the massively detailed and logistically challenging Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunts – to the quick and dirty book giveaways and random draws you so often see around the blogosphere.

Likewise, there are all sorts of reasons that you may want to run a contest, from increasing social media engagement to teaching new skills and a whole world of options in between.

Now, some online contests perform better than others, and measuring that performance means knowing what your goals are and how much time and energy you’re willing to commit!

If you’re looking for a quick bump in your blog post engagement – then a simple giveaway can be very effective.

Social media not giving you what you want? Facebook contests, Twitter contests, and Pin it to Win it contests have been around almost as long as their respective social media homes.

Traffic down? A guest posting or other content-centered contest is a great way to see your numbers jump up.

At Firepole, we run at least two online contests a year – the annual guest posting contest in January, and the Great Online Marketing Scavenger Hunt in March – and we always find these to be great ways to deliver value to our audience. Less frequent for us is the one-off contest, where we have something to give away to a lucky commenter – although we have used that technique in the past, like when we were re-launching our podcast.

Whatever type of contest you run, it’s important to have clear goals about what you’re hoping to achieve, and the metrics to see whether or not you reached those goals – whether it’s comment counts, social media shares or backlinks.

And so this month’s ask the readers is about contests.

Do you participate in online contests? Why or why not?

If you’re a blogger yourself – do you run contests? What works best for YOUR audience?

The Insanely Simple Trick To Keeping Your Customers Hooked

Business CreativityThe dawn of a new year is the traditional time to revamp ourselves and our lives. But does your business need a makeover too?   Tweet it! If your mailing list is not bursting at the seams, maybe it’s time to shake things up.

The pace of change in the business world is breathtaking.

Are your competitors moving relentlessly forward?  Are your customers becoming ever more challenging to satisfy?   We all know the answer to those questions!

Customers are increasingly savvy and demanding – they want experiences.  They want ‘fresh’, ‘new’, ‘unique‘.  They want to be entertained.

But at the same time they want higher perceived value and cheaper prices.

We need to work harder than ever to satisfy those needs and make a profit.

Our business needs to constantly adapt.

It’s Not About ‘Keeping up’. It’s About Survival.

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CEI 036: Starting in Software with Jack Born

building softwareMeet Jack Born, a software entrepreneur who creates products that help other small businesses and entrepreneurs connect more effectively with their audiences.

Jack is the brains behind AWeber Pro Tools, a software that helps entrepreneurs do all kinds of cool things that aren’t available through AWeber itself. He has also launched Box Shot King, as well as another successful software that we’ll get into a bit later.

Listen up for details on how Jack built two successful software products and the lessons he learned along the way. If you’re thinking of creating a software product for your business, you can’t miss this episode!

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My “Good Friend” and other Marketing Myths

Good Friends & Marketing Myths - Firepole MarketingLast week, I received an email invite to attend a webinar with someone whose list I’ve been on for a few months.

They were going to be interviewing their “good friend”, the President of a major corporation/country/intergalactic empire (you fill in the gaps) on April 1st.

Of course webinar attendance was free but there would be the obligatory sales pitch at some stage, and undoubtedly the list holder would get a commission from his “good friend”.

Was this an April Fools setup or was it genuine?

It’s hard to tell if this person really is their “good friend,” or if this is yet another cynical sales gimmick that proliferate on the internet.  It seems that as the digital world gets smaller, everyone knows everyone, and the world spins on joint ventures supported by half truths and lies.

At this stage you probably think I am against joint ventures, commissions, webinars, free thinking, the tooth fairy and a lot more besides.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  Some of my good friends make their living via joint ventures.  They take and give commissions and are honorable people.  So what is the difference?
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Social Media Marketing is Changing, not Ending

Facebook is not deadGrim news has shocked the social marketing world: Facebook is losing its user-base.

At least that’s what many business and social analysts are saying.

When I first heard that the flagship of social marketing was sinking, I’ll admit I panicked a little bit. My own company specializes in SaaS products, and we have based so much of our past marketing strategies through the social platform that I was sure that, if Facebook crumbled, it would take our presence down with it.

And I know I wasn’t alone in my fears – 82% of businesses use Facebook to market. So any time Facebook marketing shifts, 8 out of 10 business owners have to scramble to figure out what that change means.

Determined to discover the veracity of these reports, and to try and quell the surges of panic I, and so many other small business owners, were feeling, Tweet it! I did a little digging and uncovered that rumors of Facebook’s demise have been great exaggerated.

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Project ABC Update: How I Made Failure a Non-Option in 2014 and How You Can Too

abc“Success doesn’t happen in a night, it happens in the thousands of nights that no one will ever write a song about.” ~Paul Angone

Tweet it! What would you desire if you knew failure was not an option?

What would you be capable of if the people around you refused to let you fail?

In 2012, I chose to lose 40 pounds.

What it Feels Like to Not Have Failure as an Option

I came into college overweight and wanted desperately to lose the extra luggage and carry a six-pack instead (not the alcoholic kind).

In high school, I had much going for me: my grades, my extracurriculars, my friends, but not my health. If Jared was the spokesperson for Subways, I was the poster child for McDonalds.

I tried multiple times to change my diet and exercise.

P90X, Insanity, Low-Carb diets, you name it.

I failed.
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A Beginner’s Guide to Online PR

Beginners Guide to Online PRSince Matt Cutts recently announced the death of guest blogging for SEO purposes, many Internet marketers have been exploring other options of obtaining links and building their client’s brand presence online.

I believe many of us saw this day coming and were already putting to practice different strategies.

One of those strategies we found to be effective is online public relations: a mixture of content marketing, reputation management, social media, SEO and public relations all nicely wrapped in a Matt Cutts-friendly fashion.

Online PR has gone by many names: SEO PR, custom publishing, reputation marketing. You can check out the graph below to see their popularity in the search engine.

Online PR Search Term Popularity

Online PR Search Term Popularity December

Online PR remains the top term because of its cost-effective approach to communicate with a company’s stakeholders. It takes the values and many of the same tactics of public relations and puts it to use in the digital world.

Online PR started gaining traction in 2010. According to the 2013 UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report, 42% of companies surveyed are paying for online PR at their Internet marketing agency but an additional 33% said they plan to use the service in the near future.

There’s no doubt online PR will continue to rise as a go-to service considering its ethical tactics, measurability, and results.

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CEI 035: Design Elements Every Online Entrepreneur Should Know

designing websitesToday Megan interviews Christina Gunn, Firepole’s own design lead, on the design elements that you must be aware of when building a website.

Design is a big term that covers a lot of territory. In the context of our conversation today, Tweet it! design is the perfect marriage of something working better because it looks better.

Listen up for details on how a good design effects your website visitors, how to plan out your first website, and what to pay attention to on your website – even if you don’t have the budget for a graphic designer!

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Why the Clickbait Era Will Die (and What Will Replace It)

Photo credit: Karen Roe

Isn’t it nice?

You just published your latest blog post, podcast episode, or YouTube video.

For the moment, it’s another job well done. Thoughts of overnight success swirl in your head as it’s time to tell the world again, “Hey, look! I made this from scratch!”

This is what’s known as clickbait – creating content whose main purpose is to encourage people to click back to your website.

But creating all that content is stressful, time intensive, and often exhausting.

There has to be another way to market your brand without constantly conjuring clever headlines and running on the new content treadmill, right?

You bet your sweet booty there is!

That better way is called curating.

I believe we should curate our entire existence, and then choose which parts to remix and share. That’s because our marketing is stronger when it’s not limited to curating only “content.”

It’s time to learn Experience Curating … and let the world market you for a change.

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Don’t Be An Expert – Do This Instead

say it loud... world is mine!“Be an expert.”

How many times have you received this advice, and how many times have you advised people to do this?

Come on, admit it: you have, haven’t you?

I have received this professional advice from pretty much every expert, ninja, guru, and maven I know.

Tweet it! When I am invited to speak somewhere, people want to know my expertise. When I tell them I am not an expert, their jaws drop. Their expressions remind me of my businessman father’s when I told him I want to study literature and be an artist.

They are shocked; they want to help me. They feel more sorry for me when they find out I am a certified filmmaker from New York University and a master’s degree holder from Columbia University.

“Really?” some ask in disbelief.

I don’t blame them.

We are so entrenched in this be-an-expert business that we fail to realize that what we think of as our USP (unique selling proposition) is the common denominator between us and our competitors.
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