Deliberately lo-fi

The resolution of communication has been on a downward slide for more than a decade.

Careful hand-tuned typography shifts to endless Helvetica, poorly kerned.

Face to face goes to landline phone call goes to cell phone call, goes to yelling into a speakerphone goes to lazy Zoom etiquette.

Music goes from live to vinyl to mp3.

Much of this is driven by the need to squeeze more and more stuff into a narrow pipe combined with a cultural desire for more instead of better.

But…

It will flip.

It always does.

Because better is better.


3 Areas Marketers Must Focus on in the Age of the Connected Customer

I originally published today’s post for Oracle CX. It appeared on their site on March 20, 2019.


Updating Your Journey Maps

Thank you to Amit Asamwar for posing a question to me on LinkedIn, after I shared a post about journey mapping. His question is one that I am frequently asked.


5+ Ways to Socialize and Operationalize Your Core Values

I originally published today’s post on Forbes. It appeared on their site on November 18, 2019. I’ve made some additions and edits since writing the original, so this is a slightly modified version of that post.


Esprit de l’escalier is overrated

The quick comeback. The clever repartee. The ability to, in the moment, say precisely what needs to be said.

As the world gets faster, more of us feel the regret of the staircase. The perfect remark, often cutting, comes to us just a little too late.

Don’t worry about it.

Because as the world keeps getting faster, there’s actually a shortage of thoughtful, timeless ideas that are worth sharing an hour or a week later.


Defending the status quo

Random House isn’t in the bookstore business, they’re in the business of publishing ideas that matter.

Audi isn’t in the gasoline business. They sell personal transportation.

You’re not in the business of having a job with an office. You are willing to trade time and effort in exchange for money and a chance to do work you’re proud of.

When the world changes, it’s tempting to fight hard to maintain the status quo that feels safe.

And so, utility companies lobby to ease emission standards, when they would be just fine if the standards were tightened. And so tech companies fight against new formats and new forms of exchange instead of leading with them. And of course, powerful cultural forces fight to preserve their hierarchies instead of figuring out how to thrive with new ones.

What we want and how we believe we get it are often two different things.


Money costs money

Because there’s a cost to using it on one thing instead of another.

And because the person who invests money has choices, and often chooses the choice that works best for them.

Most people would be happy with a hotel that generates a profit of a thousand dollars a day. But if the hotel cost $50,000,000 to build, you’re bust.

Time costs money too.

That’s not the same as saying “time is money,” which it isn’t. Time is magnificent, hard to stockpile and impossible to recover.

But it still costs. Which means that it’s worth considering whether something worthwhile comes back for your investment and your effort.


How to Make Your Social Media Content More Accessible

As many people in the United States have shifted to remote work and remote learning in light of the global pandemic, internet accessibility is more important than ever. 53% of Americans go as far as to say that the internet is an “essential” service during this time. Additionally, social media usage has increased significantly as well. Twitter alone saw a 24% increase in daily active users in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year. This includes official government accounts that are increasingly using social media to announce guidelines in the time of Coronavirus virtually. For instance, the CDC’s Twitter account has grown to 2.9 Million followers as of July 2020.

Typically when we discuss accessibility concerns as digital marketers, we are referring to accessible website guidelines. This has been an area of focus for Portent for a while now, and recently we have been encouraging our clients to consider accessibility in their social media strategy as well. Social media platforms are still playing catch-up when it comes to accessibility features (including a lack of options for advertisers), but we have determined there are three key areas that businesses can immediately address.

ALT Text

At Portent, we talk about ALT attributes with our clients regularly. ALT text is read by screen readers in place of images, or displayed in place of images when the file is not loaded. ALT text on social media is similar, but executed on each platform vs. on-site. Most platforms have automatic ALT text functionality, but because it is written by AI, there are instances where the automatic ALT text does not accurately convey the meaning or emotion in the image. Also important to note, ALT text should not be confused with the link description, which is a standard field in most social media posts.

To ensure that your images are described appropriately to your entire audience, we recommend manually updating the ALT Text as part of your standard deployment process.

You can find the instructions for adding ALT text to each platform here:

Video Captions

Captions for social media videos have been a best practice for a few years, as more and more users engage with social media content with the sound off. Additionally, including captions ensures that those with accessibility concerns can consume the content as well. We always recommend including captions on both organic and paid videos.

However, we typically advise against creating videos with burned on (or open) captions. Alternatively, uploading captions via SRT file will allow screen readers to ingest the captions without issue.

Readable Text

Making sure your text is readable to all users is just as important on social media as it is on your website. Here are a few things to keep in mind when creating accessible content for your social channels.

Formatting

The function of social media is to provide information to users, and inappropriate formatting can be the biggest barrier for those with accessibility concerns.

Unicode text is one of the most common culprits, and something we highly discourage using. While you may feel like it adds emphasis to posts and tweets, some screen readers omit it entirely. As I mentioned previously, this can cause major implications for users trying to find information during emergencies, natural disasters, or pandemics. The below tweet is a great example of an official government Twitter account supplying information about Coronavirus in a format that is not accessible to those that may need it.

Hashtags

Hashtags should always be created in camel case, which capitalizes the first word of each letter. Using this formatting automatically makes the hashtag easier to read for both screen readers and users with dyslexia or other cognitive abilities, as well as users who are learning the language.

#AccessibilitiyInSocialMedia is much easier to read compared to
#accessibilitiyinsocialmedia

Emojis

As a social media marketer, I have seen the impact that a properly placed emoji(s) can have on ad copy. That being said, inappropriately placed emojis can have the opposite effect on your social media posts. We recommend avoiding overuse of emojis, and solely relying on emojis to convey meaning. There are two main reasons:

  1. Overuse of emojis can lead to confusion for those learning the language, and those using screen readers. The below example illustrates how emojis sound to a screen reader:
     

  2. Emojis also look different from device to device and between platforms as emoji code is not always consistent between programs. For example, here is the same tweet but viewed in Slack:

    Since the emoji code didn't transfer properly to Slack, some images appeared as square blocks of color, or were replaced with something complete different.Since the emoji code didn't transfer properly to Slack, some images appeared as square blocks of color, or were replaced with something complete different.
    Image courtesy of UN Volunteers on Twitter

This tweet was specifically formatted for emoji day and we expect to see emojis used throughout, but that’s not the result. To avoid this, look for instances where emojis can be traded for text, or reduced to include a thoughtful description as well. Doing this will guarantee that the information is readable for all users.

Image Text Overlay

In recent years, Facebook and Pinterest, in particular, have pushed the delivery of both organic and ad content that is formatted with text overlay, and this trend will likely continue. At Portent, we consistently recommend this approach, both from accessibility and performance perspectives. We encourage applying the same contrast guidelines you would use on your website to social media content creation. For example, the text overlay on this image may be difficult to read for users because of the poor contrast:

This 2x3 grid of product images includes some instances of white text overlay on top of photography with contrast making it difficult to read.This 2x3 grid of product images includes some instances of white text overlay on top of photography with contrast making it difficult to read.
Image courtesy of Compliments furniture.

But after a few color and text placement edits, it’s much easier to read, and will work great for both Facebook and Instagram.

The same 2x3 grid of product images has been updated with darker text placed in less cluttered locations over the photographs.The same 2x3 grid of product images has been updated with darker text placed in less cluttered locations over the photographs.
Suggested image edits courtesy of Nielsen Norman Group.

Final Thoughts

In this age of increased virtual connection, users of all types are interacting with your social media profiles, some of them for the first time. If accessibility concerns aren’t already incorporated in your social media development process, taking the above steps is a great way to get started. Your social media content should be accessible to everyone. Implementing these features allows your content to reach users you may not have been previously accommodating.

The post How to Make Your Social Media Content More Accessible appeared first on Portent.


Keys on the ground

If you find a key and you don’t know what lock it will fit, you haven’t found much.

It’s easy to get excited about half the system, but real change and real benefit only happen when both pieces are working together.


Outreach Competitive Analysis: The How and Why of It

Forming an outreach strategy is necessary before you actually get to work. But even before you create your strategy, you’ll want to know what you’re up against so you can use tactics that will be effective against the competition.

An outreach competitive analysis will do exactly that—show you what your competitors are doing so you can plan to get ahead. It’ll help you identify their strengths and weaknesses and give you insight into the tactics they’re using. Ultimately, it will help you figure out what you need to be doing so you can outshine (and outrank) your competitors.

Helpful Competitive Analysis Tools

While your brain is obviously your most powerful resource, having a couple of other tools in your belt will make the process much more efficient. The best SEO tools for executing a competitive analysis are Moz and Ahrefs. You can get by with just one of these, but will gain the best insights by using a combination of both. We’ll specify how to best use each of these tools below.

What to Evaluate in an Outreach Competitive Analysis

You’ll need to look at more than one thing to determine how big a threat each competitor is to you. Here are the most important factors to consider, and which tool will give you the information you are searching for.

Domain Authority (Moz)

If you’re not already familiar with it, Domain Authority (DA) is a metric that will help you see how you rank compared to your competitors. It ranks sites on a scale between 1 and 100. Generally, you want your site’s DA to be as high as possible.

But don’t get too caught up in worrying that you have too low of a DA—it’s a relative metric that you should use to compare your site to your competitors.’ You want to see what DA range your competitors fall under so you know where your DA needs to be. If you’re looking at five competitors with DAs of 49, 53, 46, 51, and 50, your site’s DA should be at least 46 if you’re going to rank among them. If your top competitor has a DA of 53, that’s what you want to beat.

Number of Followed Inbound Links (Moz)

Links are a top ranking factor for Google and will help boost your SEO efforts. When it comes to links, typically, the more the merrier. See how you compare to your competitors for the total number of backlinks referring to your site.

Number of Referring Domains (Moz)

While links alone are great, having links on unique domains will do more for your SEO than having multiple links on the same domain. See how many unique referring domains your competitors have as compared to your own site.

If a competitor has 1,000 links on 200 domains and another competitor has 1,000 links on 500 domains, the one with 500 domains likely gains more SEO benefits. You’ll want to look at those 500 domains as the number to beat.

Number of Broken Links (Ahrefs)

Broken links don’t provide value or a great experience for the user, and their SEO value isn’t as impactful. You want to have as few broken backlinks as possible on your own site and always fewer than your competitors.

This can also be an opportunity for you to pull a list of your competitors’ broken backlinks and do some broken link building or use a list of broken links on your own site to do link reclamation.

Link Distribution (Moz)

Link distribution can show you if there are spammy links or if a competitor may be involved in paid or black hat link building tactics. You want to aim for a healthy, natural link distribution.

A healthy link distribution will chart a smooth curve related to DA versus the number of linking domains, with appropriate DA ranges. An unhealthy distribution will show disproportionate DA ranges, and a high volume of low DA links may indicate link spam.A healthy link distribution will chart a smooth curve related to DA versus the number of linking domains, with appropriate DA ranges. An unhealthy distribution will show disproportionate DA ranges, and a high volume of low DA links may indicate link spam.

Exceptional Coverage and Links (Ahrefs, Moz)

Filter through the list of backlinks for each competitor and see if they have any exceptional, high-authority coverage or links. Did they get a link on Forbes or CNN? Or did they receive coverage on a top website in your industry?

Take note of some of their top links and the anchor text of those links, and theorize about how they got them. Look for patterns in each competitor’s coverage, such as:

  • Does a single page on their site have tens or hundreds of links pointing back to it within a short amount of time? Or was a survey or original data on their site referenced? They’re likely doing content promotion.
  • Has someone from their company been quoted in several articles? They might be answering HAROs.
  • Was an article on another website written by your competitor? Has the same person been authoring content offsite and linking back to your competitor in several articles on different sites? They’re doing guest posting, regular contributorships, or content collaborations.

This will show you what tactics they might be using, so you’ll know what you need to be doing. It also shows you what you’re competitors AREN’T doing, which means you may have the advantage. Your competitors might be answering HAROs and doing guest posting, but they may not be doing content promotion. That would be an opportunity for you to jump on content promotion and get a mass amount of links before your competitors know what hit them.

Link Intersect (Ahrefs)

Using the Ahrefs Link Intersect tool will show you how many domains are linking to your competitors, but not to you. This shows where your opportunities are and on which domains you should focus on getting links and coverage.

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Outreachable Content

Study the content your competitors are producing and rate it on how “outreachable” it is. “Outreachable” content is content that’s easy to link to. This is generally some type of evergreen, newsworthy content, like a survey, original data analysis, or a helpful, in-depth guide. It could even just be blog posts with really high-level, authoritative content. Outreachable content helps show your expertise and authority in the field without being “salesy” or overly-promotional. You can use a rating system of your choice; just make sure it’s easy to follow and compare (i.e., a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the great, outreachable content).

This will give you an idea of what kind of content you need to have and how you can make your content better and more linkable and outreachable than your competitors.’ Can you beat a report or guide they’ve produced and then promote it to get coverage? Or is there a unique way you can analyze some data and showcase it with cool designs that can be shared easily? You’ll have a sense of what kind of content other sites are linking to, and you’ll have to get creative in making your content better.

How to Keep Track of Competitor Information

You’ll want to have all of your competitor information kept in one place. Using a simple spreadsheet that includes all competitors will make it easy to compare them side by side.

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Once you have all of the information mentioned above, you can rank your competitors from the most to least competitive. The most competitive are the ones you’ll want to keep a close eye on. Depending on how your site compares to the least competitive one(s) on your list, you may not have reason to worry about their outreach efforts if they aren’t doing much.

Choose a couple of your top competitors to watch and stay up-to-date on the tactics they’re using to see how you can improve and overtake them. Keep track of their Domain Authority and take special note if it goes up to see what may have sparked the increase. Once a month is a good cadence for checking up on DA and seeing how you line up with your competitors.

Now, Check Out Your Competitors!

Now that you know what to look for and where to find it, you can start analyzing your competitors. Once you know what they’re doing, you can work on forming an outreach strategy that will leave your competitors in the dust!

The post Outreach Competitive Analysis: The How and Why of It appeared first on Portent.