If you're looking for the Constant Commentary blog, we invite you to check out our new and improved home over at http://blogs.constantcontact.com.
You'll find the same great advice about email marketing, social media marketing, event marketing, survey and feedback, and general business trends — and so much more!
We hope to see you there!
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Thanks for reading and sharing your feedback, everyone! As some of us have said, QR codes will only be here to stay if marketers use them effectively. If people continue to slap them everywhere without thought for the user experience, then they will not be around long. I don't think they're a bad thing, and in fact, I look forward to smart marketers using QR codes well (and/or better) in the future. To that end, thanks for the 8 suggestions, Maureen!
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What a week. Just as everyone was finally settled back from their holiday time off, Google went and woke people up when it announced it'd be integrating its struggling social network, Google+, more actively into its search engine. Not surprisingly, this sent a ripple through the social media world. Suffice it to say, some folks (particularly those at Twitter) were less than pleased, and a war of words began.
But not everyone was fighting. (Phew!) Love was in the air elsewhere as more proof was revealed that social media and mobile go together, and two big players in the email space came together.
Read on to learn about these stories and more in our weekly news roundup.
1. Can't Google and Twitter get along?
When Google announced it was integrating Google+ into its search engine this week, Twitter threw a bit of a hissy fit, saying it was "bad for people" and "a bad day for the Internet." Then Google fired back at Twitter, saying if Twitter is unhappy, it's their own fault because Twitter chose not to continue its relationship with Google last summer. Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it looks like when a real-life catfight plays out on (and about) social media.
Bottom Line: As Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media said, this drama is "driving us all crazy and ruining search and social for everyone." (Case in point: these real-life examples of how the Google+ integration actually works.) Maybe that's an exaggeration, but it raises the question of why these social sites and networks can't just play nicely with each other. One day, maybe they'll all be integrated, but until then, all we can do is hope that when we go to Google, that we'll still be able to find what we need — and that customers, clients, and prospects will be able to find us too.
2. Consumers suffering from feedback fatigue
It's a best practice to get feedback from your customers. But what happens when everybody is asking for feedback? Consumers get tired of answering those questions and stop giving feedback, that's what.
Bottom Line: Feedback is a gift, but asking for it too often can result in negative customer feedback. Be smart about when you send an online survey, and more importantly, make sure you do something with the results. Part of the reason why people are unwilling to take surveys is because they feel it'll be a waste of their time. If you share the results and what you're going to do with the information you learn, that will go a long way toward encouraging more survey participation.
3. More people are "Liking" on Facebook from mobile devices
The number of “Likes” on Facebook being generated from mobile devices has increased by almost 55% since September, according to social media marketing firm Vitrue. Additionally, the use of mobile devices to "Like" Pages increased 18% during the week between Christmas and New Year's. Bottom Line: The accessing of social media sites through mobile devices shows no signs of slowing down. As the Vitrue study indicated, when people are out shopping or running errands, they often get out their smartphones to check the most recent status updates and tweets. Marketers need to capitalize on this by encouraging mobile engagement. Ask customers to take and share photos/videos. Encourage people to Like and comment on things. Direct them to mobile-friendly websites.
4. Brands not dominating consumers' social conversations
Social media users are a chatty bunch, but one thing it appears they're not talking about as often is brands. According to AYTM Market Research, 57.8% of U.S. Facebook users had not mentioned a brand in their status updates, as of October 2011. Twitter use was similar: 61.3% of users had not tweeted about a brand. Offline channels, such as TV, radio, and print media were the ways consumers most frequently discovered new brands, products, and services. Offline word-of-mouth and physical stores also played a role.
Bottom Line: Do you want your customers talking about you? Are you giving them something to talk about? Tell your customers, clients, and members that you'd love to hear from them. Give them a strong call to action that they should share their feedback on Facebook and Twitter. Or better yet, provide a strong (and positive) enough customer experience that a customer won't be able to stop talking about. The more people use social media, the more likely they'll be to talk about the brands they love.
5. Return Path acquires OtherInbox
Email deliverability firm Return Path announced this week that it had acquired OtherInbox, a startup that helps consumers manage the email marketing messages they get. OtherInbox's product works with Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and AOL mail, organizes email messages from commercial senders (shipping information, payment reminders, and information about upcoming sales, etc.) and places them on users’ calendars or puts them in dedicated folders.
Bottom Line: While this deal will likely not affect small businesses directly, it's still one they should applaud. OtherInbox gathers information that helps marketers craft more relevant, targeted messages. Return Path is the industry's leading arbiter of sender reputation, helping those messages to reach recipients' inboxes. This union will help Return Path to be even better at what it does, and to improve its Sender Score reputation scoring system.
What news stories caught your eye this week? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Guest blog post by Steve Abramowitz, senior digital marketing manager
If you haven’t already heard, this week, Google announced plans to incorporate results from its upstart social network, Google+, into search results. Why is Google making this move, and what impact will it have on users — and most importantly, why should small businesses and organizations take notice?
How does it work?
In Google’s ongoing quest to personalize search results for higher relevancy, it will soon be folding in personal social content into your search results. In addition, Google’s algorithm will now rely more on social signals (specifically, +1's) to influence how and where websites, blogs, photos, videos, and other digital assets rank in search results. For example, check out this screen shot:
When you perform a search on Google, such as the one above, if you're signed into a Google+ account, then you'll see the standard universal search results you're accustomed to and ones from your Google+ account (such as photos and videos). The personal results will be identified by an icon resembling a person's head. Only you will see your own personalized search results, but content you've shared within your Google Circles could populate in other people's results. You can also opt out of having your shared content included in search results.
Why is Google doing this?
The answer comes down to this equation: Relevance + Engagement + Loyalty = Revenue. Simply put, Google wants you to stay on their website longer. Like all other websites, including those that serve ads, increasing the "stickiness" by engaging people with content, tools, or technology increases repeat visits and eventually translates into revenue.
Peeling back the onion a bit, a number of factors drove this initiative. One, however, is rooted in the evolution of consumer purchase behavior that's influenced by the wide adoption of social media. Before social media, search engines enjoyed a more direct digital pathway from search to purchase, with a few external sources, such as word-of-mouth or online reviews, influencing a purchase.
Fast forward to today and the path includes stops on social media sites to gain peer reviews and insights. Last year, a GroupM study called The Virtuous Circle: The Role of Search and Social Media in the Purchase Pathway found that almost 60% of consumers began their path to a purchase with a search. Of those, 40% then went to Facebook or another social site for information related to their purchase decision. In addition, while on a social site, consumers may have clicked on a paid advertisement for a product, thus closing the deal. In those cases, the sale would be credited to that social network, which reduced the perceived value of the search engine.
Suffice it to say, Google took notice of this and decided to make a change.
Although it took years of development and failed attempts, imagine if you could perform a search, receive regular and personal results, and have it backed by social influence — all in one place. Welcome to the new Google Search+.
Why should you care?
More of your customers, clients, members, or prospects have and will be exposed to Google Search+ by virtue of their existing search habits. (Not to mention the on- and offline media, advertising, and general social buzz.) Chances are good that many more people will eventually join Google+ (some predictions are in the hundreds of millions by the end of 2012). However, it's still to be determined to what degree those people will actively engage in Google+ when they’re already using other social media sites. Either way, search results will soon be influenced by Google+ activity, so you’ll want to pay some attention.
As a small business, what should you do?
Get in the game. Google is now a search engine with a self-fulfilling engagement platform. Those who actively participate on Google+ have a better chance of getting in front of their target audience via search results. As consumers begin to adopt and favor personalized search results via Google+, those brands and businesses that engage on Google+ will have an advantage over those who don't.
Ask and listen to your customers or prospects (on- and offline) about whether they're using Google+. If they are, then you should be too. Even if they’re not currently active, get ahead of the curve and set up a Google+ business page. (You’ll need to have a personal account first). Build out your profile, add the +1 button to your website, and share the page with your contacts. As with anything, the more you put into it more you’ll get in return.
Full disclosure: As a digital marketer who recently launched a small family-run business, Google+ was not a top priority for me. However, during the development of this post it became clear to me that it should become one of my many priorities. Google+ is another means to get in front of and engage with customers and prospects in a familiar environment, using tools they’re already accustomed to. Earlier today, I set up a Google+ business page and am in the process of adding the +1 button to our website, alongside the Like and Follow Us badges.
What do you think? Are you using Google+? Does this change to Google Search make you more likely to sign up and use the social network? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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There's a lot of debate these days about what it means to be a "good" social media marketer. Every expert seems to have his or her own opinion. Does it mean tweeting or posting to Facebook a certain number of times each day? Does it mean posting a certain type of content? Does it mean you can't pre-schedule your posts and tweets? Or does it mean having a certain number of fans or followers, or a high Klout score? The definition of what makes a good social media marketer seems to be different for everyone. And in fact, there's a lot of "best practice" advice available — you can find it here on this blog, in our Learning Center, and on our Social Media Quickstarter, for example.
An easier (and more amusing) question to answer may be what not to do on social media. Perhaps that's why when I asked a few of Constant Contact's own social media experts to name their biggest social media pet peeve, they jumped at the chance. Are you looking to be a better social media marketer? Our advice is to stay away from the following "worst" practices:
"When I don’t see any interaction or conversations — just constant posting of articles, links, and other content. That stuff is definitely valuable, but one of the reasons social media is such a great tool for businesses is that it allows for a two-way conversation that lets people build a relationship with the brand."
— Dave Gerhardt
"Twitter handles that are too long. I’m all for being descriptive and having a great Twitter handle, but I’m also trying to send you a message in one tweet, and your handle is eating up precious character space."
— Jarrad Mack
"Don't ever tweet that you forgot to floss today. I don't need to know that."
— Aaron Severs
"Businesses that use social media for selling and not engagement."
— Michael Pace
"Businesses and organizations that don't respond to comments or tweets. Social media is a two-way conversation, which means you need to both listen and respond to comments directed at you. If someone walks into your store or calls you on the phone with a question or comment, you wouldn't ignore them, you would respond. You should do the same with social media. This is actually an area where small businesses have a significant advantage over larger companies because small businesses are more customer-centric and know how to build quality relationships."
— Mark Schmulen
"I hate receiving a generic direct-message (DM) auto-reply when I follow someone on Twitter."
— Rosalind Morville
"When people start tweets with a Twitter handle when the sender intends the tweet to be public. Doing that limits who will see the tweet."
— Erica Ayotte
"Auto DMs on Twitter. That usually results in an automatic unfollow."
— Dave Charest
"When I get a default message invitation on LinkedIn by someone I don’t know or an automatic response message on Twitter when I start to follow someone, it feels as though those people are not trying to connect with me personally. They just want to collect another fan, follower, or friend. "
— Corissa St. Laurent
"When people or businesses automatically cross-post content between Facebook and Twitter. If businesses encourage you to connect in different channels, then they should treat each one differently and have a communication plan for each. Or at least pay attention enough so that 'giveaways' like having hashtags in Facebook posts aren’t obvious. Because what you are telling me as a fan or follower is that there is no reason to connect with you in both places."
— Josh Mendelsohn
"People who post personal troubles looking for sympathy, or who post what they are cooking for dinner or that they just ran 10 miles, because they're looking for a pat on the back."
— Patrick McAdams
"Auto DM responses on Twitter. I know it's efficient, but it's so un-engaging."
— Elyse Tager
"LinkedIn requests from strangers that don't say how they may know you."
— Anissa Freeman Starnes
"When businesses don’t integrate their social media marketing efforts. If you have a Facebook Page, make sure you link to it on your website, your blog, your other social media profiles, and in your email newsletter. It’s really important to let people know about your other communication channels when they’re visiting any of your communication channels because every profile, update, tweet, email, post, and visitor is a chance to reach a new follower."
— Azure Collier
"When people on Facebook send out spam with links to free things without doing any research to find out if it’s a valid promotion. Then everyone else does it because they all follow the trend."
— Marissa Wilson
"Getting a spammy auto-DM on Twitter after I follow someone."
— Danielle Cormier
What are your biggest social media pet peeves? Is there anything you wish your friends, or the people you follow, would stop doing? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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At the end of the year, it's natural to want to look back and take stock. We here at Constant Commentary decided to do just that, and to put an extra spotlight on some of your favorite and our favorite blog posts from 2011.
The posts listed here (in no particular order) were either the most read or most commented on, or just a personal favorite of the team's. Either way, if you missed any of these (or want to refresh your memory), then there's no time like the present to catch up.
As we close the books on 2011 and move on to bigger and better things in 2012, let me end this year by saying thanks for reading and engaging with us here, on our Facebook Page, and on Twitter. We'll see you next year!
1. 7 Ways Dunder Mifflin Could Use Facebook to Win More Business
In this post, we gave some suggestions to the fictional team from the TV show The Office.
2. What Happens After Someone "Likes" Your Facebook Page?
Getting people to "Like" your Facebook Page is just the first step. What happens next is more important.
3. In a Pickle Makes Raising Awareness Social
We're big fans of businesses that humanize their brand by promoting more than their products and services. Here's one example of that.
4. Quantity vs Quality: How Many Twitter Followers Do You Really Need?
Dave Charest, our senior content developer, and I discussed one of the biggest questions in social media.
5. 7 Easy Ways to Build Your Email List on Social Media
Using social media to increase the size of your mailing list was one of the more popular topics this year.
6. Google+ for Small Businesses: Our Quick Take
This new social network raised a lot of questions when it launched this summer. Here was our perspective.
7. Does Klout Score Really Matter?
The debate goes on about the merits of social influence and how much a Klout score is worth.
8. 4 Tips to Increase the Open Rate of Your Nonprofit's Email Newsletter
Just because you're not selling a product or service, that doesn't mean you can't send compelling email messages.
9. Use Social Media to Show Who You Are, Not Say What You Do
In this post, we shared three tips to help businesses and organizations create a more personal and engaging social presence.
10. Power up Your Emails by Adding Multimedia the Right Way
Using photos, videos, and blog posts in your emails is not enough. You need to do it the right way to make your efforts worthwhile.
Do you have any favorite posts from the past year? Please let us know here, or you can share your thoughts by posting a comment on our Facebook Page.
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As 2011 comes to a close, we just wanted to take a quick moment to say "Thank you" to our customers, and especially, to small businesses everywhere.
We at Constant Contact love small businesses because they're inspiring, because they have a passion for what they do, because they're part of the community, because they know us as well as we know them, and, well, because small businesses just rock! Actually, there are more reasons than we could fit into a blog post, so we put together a video to explain just how much we love small businesses.
Thank you for a great 2011. We truly appreciate your business, and we’re looking forwarding to wowing you at every turn in 2012 and beyond.
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This week, most people were buzzing about the holidays and making sure they were ready for Christmas and Hanukkah with all their presents bought, their tree and menorah lit, and their preparations made for some well deserved time off. But those who were keeping an eye on the marketing world had plenty to talk about as well. Hot topics included the addition of Sponsored Stories into Facebook users' news feeds and two new studies that showed Google+ users (what few active ones there are) are not following brands' pages in large numbers. Speaking of "hot" topics, Hotmail rolled out its much-touted "Graymail" features, which are intended to help users manage their overcrowded inboxes.
What were the takeaways from this week's big news stories? Read on.
1. Hotmail rolls out "Graymail" features
This week, as part of its "Graymail" initiative, Hotmail began implementing changes and new features in users' inboxes. Among those changes are the ability to flag emails and have them remain at the top of the inbox, categorization and filtering of messages (such as a "newsletter" category), and a scheduled cleanup feature that will automatically delete or file away old messages at specified times. One of the more significant changes is a one-click unsubscribe feature that makes it easy for users to remove unwanted senders from their inbox. "Hotmail takes care of all the details like telling the sender to take you off their list, setting up a rule to block messages from that sender, and even cleaning up your inbox if you want — all in one easy step," Microsoft explained in a blog post.
Bottom Line: At first glance, these features sound like they present significant challenges to marketers. However, as with other email clients' efforts to clean up users' inboxes (think Gmail's Priority Inbox), our advice comes down to relevant, well timed content. The more you're wanted in a recipient's inbox, because you're sending the information subscribers want at a frequency that works for them, the less these changes will affect you.
2. Google+ users not quick to follow brands
BrightEdge, a research firm, recently looked at the Millward Brown list of top 100 brands (think Starbucks, Apple, Coca-Cola, Amazon, etc.), and found that 77 of them have a Google+ page. By comparison, 93 of them have a Facebook Page. More startling is the fact that the total number of followers for those 77 brand pages is just 222,000. In a similar study, Simply Measured looked at the Interbrand Top 100 Brands, and found that 61 of them had Google+ brand pages. Of those, only 13 had followings of 5,000 or more.
Bottom Line: Given that Google+ reportedly has 40 million users (or members, if you prefer), it's clear that very few are interested in connecting with brands on the site. Our take on the struggling social network remains that small businesses and organizations should continue to focus on Facebook (and Twitter), where the majority of social media users are. Until Google+ gets some real traction, it's not worth spending your time on it.
3. Facebook to add Sponsored Stories to users' news feeds
Facebook this week announced that it would begin peppering users' news feeds with Sponsored Stories, starting in January. Until recently, those stories appeared only in areas specifically designated for advertisements. Stories will be labeled as sponsored, thus preventing user confusion. Ben & Jerry's has already signed on to have its stories included in news feeds.
Bottom Line: In 2007, Facebook tried a similar tactic and it was met with anger from users (mostly due to privacy concerns). It's important for anyone who uses Facebook as a marketing platform to remember that people join the site to connect with friends and family, and to be social — not to be marketed to. The brands that are most successful on Facebook are the ones that remember that and try to interact with fans, not sell or intrude on users' "social" time.
4. Does your small business have Klout?
By now, everyone has a presence on the web and/or social media. So how does a consumer distinguish between one business or organization and another? Increasingly, it's by turning to sites like Klout and PeerIndex, which measure a person or brand's "social influence." Klout and PeerIndex take your social media identities (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Google+, blog, and others), look at your reach and activity, and produce a number that ranks you, in an effort to reveal how much influence you have relative to other people and brands on social media.
Bottom Line: While the merits of Klout has certainly been a hot topic of debate this year, according to a column by Tyson Goodridge that was posted this week, social influence shouldn't be overlooked. He says small businesses should connect their social media identities to determine their score, focus on one area of expertise, and be open to fluctuations. Klout and PeerIndex scores may not be reliable metrics just yet, but as they get more popular, your potential customers and clients may determine whether or not to work with or buy from you based on your score.
5. Social media and ROI do blend!
If you've ever seen one of the amusing videos on Blendtec's YouTube channel, then you know the company uses humorous content as a significant marketing tool. And it's working: The channel has more than 440,000 subscribers and its videos have been viewed more than 181 million times. In addition, more than 86,700 people Like the business' Facebook Page, and more than 7,400 consumers follow Blendtec on Twitter. But how do you prove ROI from videos that feature iPhones, skeletons, and other random objects being blended up? The company relies on Google Analytics to show where site traffic is coming from, and special codes for the coupons that are distributed on social networks.
Bottom Line: Great content is what will get consumers' attention and turn them into brand fans — and more importantly, customers. "It's not complicated," says Nate Hirst, Blendtec's global marketing analyst says. Rather than selling your products with a straight face, what can you do that will make your customers smile and make more people want to buy?
What news stories caught your eye this week? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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The past year has been dominated by talk of social media — so much so that if you didn't know any better, you might think people weren't using email to communicate with customers, clients, members, and supporters anymore. But you'd be wrong. Very wrong.
As we come to the end of 2011, email is not just alive, it's thriving. More messages are being sent, people say they prefer email over other communications methods, and new channels like social media and mobile are actually making email better and more effective.
Check out our new infographic to see the many ways that email marketing is still going strong.
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I was lucky enough to spend the past few days in beautiful, but cold, Park City, Utah, representing Constant Contact at the MediaPost Email Insider Summit. It's one of my favorite conferences of the year (just like the spring edition, held in Captiva Island, Fla.), but not because of the location — that's just a bonus. The Email Insider Summit is a chance for leaders in the email marketing world to come together and take a pulse on current trends, and to join together for the sake of industry unity and collaboration. We are very lucky to be in an industry with so many smart, passionate people, and it's always exciting to "talk shop" with them.
This week's event was enjoyable because it attracted some great attendees and featured some thought-provoking panels and presentations. (And a big thank you to Programming Chair Morgan Stewart, CEO of Trendline Interactive, who invited me to moderate what was a lively roundtable discussion about email marketing and social media.) There were plenty of takeaways from the event, but which ones were the most relevant for small businesses? Here are five:
1. Email and social media should be used together, not just separately
In his opening presentation on Monday, StrongMail's Chris Marriott explained that marketers need to think of what they're doing in terms of campaigns, not tactics. Each tactic becomes more effective when used with others. However, while much of the talk at MPEIS was about how businesses were using both email and social, oddly, there wasn't as much talk about how they were being used together. In a way, it was heartening to hear that so many bigger brands are having a hard time really integrating the two (beyond just including a "Follow Us" button in emails, for example), because it gives a real opportunity for small businesses and organizations, who can be more nimble, and can present more coordinated messaging that really engages their customers, clients, members, and supporters. (One related sidenote: I really liked how Raghu Kakarala, of Engauge, defined ROI as it applies to social media — Risk of Ignoring. It put the question of identifying the ROI of social media into a totally different perspective.)
2. You have to ask people to engage
Speaking of engagement, there was an excellent keynote on Tuesday by Augeo Marketing's Chief Marketing Officer Ken Greer about the subject, and how engaging customers is not a single event, it's a process. "The end game of engagement is not a click," Ken said. "It's driving sustainable business performance." How do you get people to engage with your business or organization? Ken said it comes down to one of three things: You offer a reward, you provide group validation, or you communicate values that you share with your customers, clients, members, and supporters (by using more humanized content). But more than that, you have to ask. Too many marketers forget to solicit for comments or feedback, or to link people to a place where they can engage with you. Like Ken said of the staff at the event venue, they don't just tell you where to go, they actually take you there. Do that with your email subscribers and you'll get more engagement.
3. What do you do about inactive subscribers?
The most vigorous and longest-lasting debate of the conference had to do with reengaging inactive subscribers. AlchemyWorx CEO Dela Quist challenged attendees to rethink how they define "inactive" subscribers/customers because someone may not be clicking on your email messages, but he or she is still seeing the subject lines, and that makes an impression (hopefully a good one) that isn't counted in an open rate. Further, that so-called "inactive" subscriber could be engaging with you in other channels. That may be true, but no one really wants "unemotionally subscribed" people on their list, right? To bring these people back, YesMail Senior Creative Director Matt Caldwell suggested conducting a re-engagement campaign that doesn't use a negative tone or acknowledge the unwanted behavior (i.e., not saying "We miss you" or "Come back"). Instead, try a positive message like Hewlett-Packard did: Not too long ago, it sent a "Thank you" message to inactive subscribers. That campaign's more positive tone generated a high response and was considered a success.
4. "It depends"
One slightly amusing side effect of having so many panels at MPEIS was that it became clear very early on that what worked for one business wasn't the same thing that worked for another. So the phrase "it depends" was uttered quite often. For small businesses and organizations, it's a good reminder that one-size-fits-all best practices don't exist. There is no one best time for everyone to send an email. The best kind of content for you is not going to be the same for another business or organization. And so on. To know what will work, you need to know what's already working. Look at your metrics and get to know your customers, clients, members, and supporters better. Then you'll get the direction you seek.
5. Mobile is everywhere
Like social media, the topic of mobile marketing permeated many of the panels and presentations. Why? Because more than 1 billion consumers will be accessing email on their mobile phones by the year 2013. (By comparison, fewer than 200 million did so in 2009.) How is this affecting email? Interestingly, mobile open rates are going up, but click-through rates for mobile readers are going down. Email marketers need to adjust their design and content so messages are shorter, have compelling subject lines, are easier to read, and perhaps most importantly, so a reader can act on the content easily. As Litmus Marketing Director Justine Jordan said, Nothing is more frustrating for a consumer than wanting to follow through on a call to action and not being able to. Be simple, specific, and obvious if there's something you want your mobile readers to do.
Do you have any thoughts on these subjects? What's your biggest takeaway from this list? Please leave a comment here or on our Facebook Page and let me know.
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It’s been two weeks since we last checked in on the week's top stories and trends. In that time, Facebook Insights has gotten, well, more insightful. We've also had the trio of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday all contributing to the country's bottom line. That's making people busier than ever, so many of us are looking at the end of the year and hoping we can take some time off. A recent poll asked business owners what happens on social media when they take vacation. Those stories and more — is Google+ really showing signs of life? — are what we're buzzing about this week.
1. Small Business Saturday 2011 considered a success
Big retailers are celebrating after a record Black Friday and Cyber Monday (heck, even President Obama had a Cyber Monday sale this year), but it appears that during the weekend after Thanksgiving, a large number of Americans were shopping small. Small Business Saturday, an event started by American Express, resulted in increased sales across the country for local independent merchants.
Bottom Line: We did our part for Small Business Saturday, we hope lots of other consumers did so for your business, and we hope this continues throughout the holiday season. If you ask us, Small Business Saturday should be every day.
2. Social proof is the new marketing
Social media has done wonders for word of mouth marketing. Now it's incredibly easy to share your interests, preferences, and activities with others and to influence untold numbers of your friends, family members, and colleagues. Quite simply, people like to follow the lead of others. According to one study, a restaurant increased sales of specific dishes by 13–20% just by highlighting them as “our most popular items."
Bottom Line: The more your customers, clients, members, and supporters talk about you on social media, the more of an effect it can have on the people in their networks. Deliver a great customer experience, provide great content, encourage check-ins on location-based services like Foursquare. Let the actions of those you come in contact with drive the actions of others.
3. Facebook Insights now shares negative feedback
Facebook has added a new metric to its Insights dashboard that shares when users have either hid a post or given negative feedback on a brand's Page. Not all Page administrators can see this functionality yet (like many new Facebook features, it's being rolled out slowly), and there is no word on when everyone will have access to it.
Bottom Line: While it can sometimes be painful, knowing the not-so-nice things your Facebook fans are saying about you is incredibly helpful because it can encourage positive changes. Hopefully Facebook will make this feature permanent and available to everyone soon.
4. LinkedIn generates twice as many B2B leads as Twitter
According to a new study by marketing automation software provider Pardot, Twitter reigns as the social network of choice for B2B marketers. But LinkedIn is the site that generates the most leads. The study found that 32% of marketers had found leads on LinkedIn, versus blogging (27%) and Twitter (15%)
Bottom Line: Facebook and Twitter may get most of the attention when people talk about social media, but LinkedIn, with its quieter but active network of more than 135 million users, is an effective channel for some more than others. What's working for your B2B?
5. Google+ site traffic sees increase
After months of mixed opinion and low usage, Google+ is starting to show some signs of life. The social network had more than 6.8 million U.S. visits in the week ending November 12. That's a 5% increase compared to the week before, and a 25% increase compared to a month ago, according to Hitwise. The reason for this, at least according to some analysts, is that now that Google+ has more than 40 million users, people are finding more friends and colleagues on the social networking site than they were when it launched last summer.
Bottom Line: Are you on Google+? More importantly, are your customers, clients, members, and supporters? With more people using the site, it may be time to start exploring whether it's worth creating a page there for your business or organization.
6. Can you take a vacation from social media?
Do you let your social media presence go on vacation when the person responsible for it does? According to a SmartPulse poll, 35% of businesses say their social media posting goes on a break when their staffer is away. Perhaps more frightening was this statistic: 17% of employers said "Our social media person doesn't get to take vacations."
Bottom Line: Social media activity is 24/7. You never know when someone will tweet or post about your business or organization. But we're all human and we need a break sometime. Use a tool like HootSuite to pre-schedule social media posts, and then use NutshellMail to stay abreast of what's being said about you, even when you (or your social media person) are on vacation.
What news and trends caught your eye during the past week? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, it's full-steam ahead on the holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or something else (Festivus, anyone?), it's likely you're going to be buying and receiving lots of gifts over the course of the next month. You may even be buying a few today, given that it's the so-called Cyber Monday. I've already received a wish list from my niece and nephews, so I know I have my work cut out for me.
Of course, I have a wish list too — though I'm thinking an iPad isn't in the cards again this year. But that's not the purpose of this blog post. Instead, I'd like to share the list of things I'm hoping to get from email marketers this holiday season.
If you'll be sending any email messages between now and New Year's (and if you're reading this, then I'll bet you are), here are the 6 items on my wish list this year:
1. Respect for my inbox. Everyone is sending more email this year. I may have signed up for your mailing list, but I know I didn't ask for this many messages. If you're going to increase your sending frequency, I'd like a heads up like Zappos sent earlier this season that said instead of weekly emails, I'll be getting them three times every week until the new year. Yes, that's a bit excessive, but I don't mind as much because Zappos showed some respect for my inbox with that message, acknowledging that this frequency is above and beyond what I'm used to. Even better might be not increasing your email frequency, and instead, using Facebook or Twitter to communicate with me.
2. Unique offers. Everyone is giving me 20% or 30% off my purchase. Those offers and emails are so generic and plentiful that when I get one, I often just delete it. What I'd love is some creativity. Something unique. It doesn't even have to be a wild idea. For example, why not a random number off? If you're sending an email today, it could be 28%. Or maybe an offer that relates to a member of your team. (Is it someone's birthday between now and New Year's? How old is that person turning?) That adds a bit of unpredictability and surprise, and gets me more interested in what you have to offer.
3. Exclusive offers. What's the value of being on your email list if I'll get the same discount whether I'm on it or not? I'd love to get emails from you that give me a little something extra for being on your list, whether it's an additional percentage off (25% vs 20% for everyone else, for example) or special shopping hours when your business won't be as crowded. Make me feel valued and part of an exclusive club. Make it worth it for me to give you my email address.
4. Valuable information. Better yet, I'd love emails that de-emphasize a percentage off and instead give me some information I can use. Gift ideas, product usage tips, parking locales near your place of business ... something that I can learn and benefit from, and maybe even share with others. Word of mouth is so important, especially during the holiday season, and if you give me information that I think my Facebook friends and Twitter followers will also benefit from, then I'll gladly pass it along to them.
5. Short emails. Between the parties, the shopping, the work I have to do before taking time off, and other things I have to do between now and the end of the year, I have a lot going on right now. Now add in the emails you're sending. If you want me to read what you have to say, keep your messages short and to the point. There's no need to tell me everything. Just the important details. You can fill in the blanks on your website or on social media. This will be even more important considering I'll likely be reading your emails on my iPhone, when I'm on the go, and won't be able to read a long email very well.
6. Inclusive messaging. I like Christmas just as much as the next person, but officially, I celebrate Hanukkah. And I know I'm not alone. Remember, unless you're a religious organization, you're likely communicating to an audience that celebrates more than one holiday. This is especially important this year, given that Hanukkah and Christmas fall during the same week, and even overlap. The more you talk about "Great gifts for Christmas!" or wish me "Merry Christmas," the less interested I am in doing business with you. To be clear, I'm not saying get rid of Christmas messages. I'm just asking for consideration for those of us who don't celebrate that holiday, and some messaging that's more inclusive.
What would you like to see from email marketers this holiday season? Will you be giving me (and your other subscribers) any of the items on this list? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Thanksgiving gives us all a great opportunity to step back and say thanks for those things that really matter: friends, family, good health, and happiness.
For me — at least in a professional capacity — what really matters is readers. So allow me to take a second to thank you for reading this blog, for commenting on the posts that engage you, and for sharing the ones you think others would benefit from reading. We work hard to create helpful, fun content that will benefit all of our readers, and I'm so glad to know you're reading and responding to our work (and not just here on the Constant Commentary blog, but our Hints & Tips and #CTCTSocial newsletters as well).
We recently asked folks here at Constant Contact to share what they're giving thanks for this year, and suffice it to say, there was an overwhelming amount of response. Some of those answers appeared in a separate blog post that went live earlier today (click here to read it). Here are even more of the things the Constant Contact team is thankful for ...
"I am thankful for stubbornness. Yup, stubbornness. The stubborn determination of our small business and nonprofit customers to persevere in a tough economy. The stubborn refusal of our team to deliver less than the best. The stubborn demands of our shareholders for us to deliver growth and profitability. Stubbornness makes me reach for more. Not everyone finds my stubbornness endearing. I am thankful for them too."
— Gail Goodman, CEO
"I am thankful for an unruly team that makes me laugh every day. It makes coming to work a pleasure."
— Holli Scott, Manager, Customer Support
"I'm thankful when customers want more information, when they show up at multiple meetings, when they actually thank you for helping them. And I'm even more thankful for all the people that I can never thank personally for all that they do every day. We are one great company, and all of us have the chance to make it even better."
— Dave Yunghans, Regional Development Director, Philadelphia Metro
"I am thankful for the people that can look at the positives even when they are hard find. Life's too short to focus on negativity. Onward and upward!"
— Caroline Shahar, Product Marketing Manager
"I’m thankful for my daughter, her health, and her crazy personality! It’s amazing to see her little sponge-like brain soak up everything she learns and mimic all her newfound skills."
— Merissa Rakowski, Support Specialist
"I’m thankful for my wiener dog, Gia."
— Aimee L. Chaisson, Market Analyst
"I’m thankful that I get to work with the best customers in the world every day. They are saving this economy one small business at a time. And Slurpees. I'm definitely thankful for Slurpees."
— Dave Gilbertson, Vice President, Strategy & Corporate Development
"I’m thankful for Michelle Ashby’s help, and the help everyone on the support teams around me who’ve helped me ‘get it’ in my first months on the job here at CTCT. I’m better at my job for having her help when I started, and I’m trying to pay it forward to those around me on my new team. And I love the weekly Beer Cart."
— Tim Mallot, Customer Support Specialist
"I am thankful for this amazing job where I can learn cool new things every day that not only help small business owners but also provide an income for my amazing family."
— Jeannine Roa, Customer Support Specialist
"I am thankful that my husband, Todd, is finally able to work on his business and be successful with it, and that Constant Contact plays a great role in that by allowing him to reaching out to his customers. I am also very grateful for my family and friends and for their health, happiness, and success."
— Candy Maki, Billing Support Representative
"I am thankful for my brand new baby girl! And also that most everyone I know is in good health and in good spirits leading up to the holidays."
— Justin Tryon, Distance Learning Specialist
"I am a single mom and am very thankful to Constant Contact for providing me with a job that helps me support my family. I am also thankful for my amazing 9-year-old son, who is the light of my life. He is also thankful for Constant Contact, especially now at Christmas time."
— Rebekah Rodriguez, Customer Support Specialist
"I’m thankful for family and friends who make me laugh so hard that no sound comes out, and for Dunkin Donuts’ pumpkin spice coffee — extra cream with two Splenda."
— Jackie McLemore, Training Manager, Training & Employee Development Team
"I’m most thankful for having the facilities — both mental and physical — and the support structure to allow me to best take advantage of the opportunities I’ve been afforded."
— Alexander Sullivan, Tier 3 Tech Support Specialist
"I am thankful for 10 healthy fingers and 10 healthy toes. I am thankful for the people at my son's daycare that keep him safe while I go to work. I am thankful that they use Constant Contact to keep me informed about upcoming events at Jack’s “school” because it always reaches my inbox. And I am thankful for binkys. I am really, really thankful for binkys."
— Michelle Burtchell, Director, Acquisition Marketing
"I am thankful for the simple things in life that are not simple for all. I’m thankful to wait 20 minutes in line in a warm grocery store check-out line instead of waiting 6 hours in line out in the cold to get into a soup kitchen. I’m thankful to sit in traffic on the way to a job. I’m thankful to pay bills every month for a safe and private place to sleep, for warmth, for hot water, and for electricity. And I’m thankful to have the opportunity to help others for whom the simple things are not simple at all."
— Alberto Caira Jr., Product Manager, Core Business Services
"I am thankful for an amazing support system, friends and family that are gorgeous inside and out. I am thankful for the eclectic group of people that I get to work with every day, for their humor, poise, ideas, wittiness, and thoughtfulness."
— Erin Brumley, Tier 1 Support, EAC Leader
"I'm thankful for NFL Redzone. It has raised watching the NFL to an entirely new level."
— AJ Kriete, Channel Marketing Program Manager
"I’m thankful that after a sporadic move from Iowa to Colorado this year, I was lucky enough to find a job that I love and enjoy, as much as I did my last one. Leaving a company that you have been with for five years and moving without a job waiting for you at your destination can be scary. Thankfully, it all worked out for the better."
— Celina Baca, Customer Support Manager
"I’m thankful for the independently owned restaurants in the Denver area. These small businesses are where I create all of my memories this time of year. Whether it’s getting together with friends, eating great food, or enjoying the snow topped mountain views, having a local atmosphere is just as important as the people you are sharing it with."
— Ashley K. Rouse, Team Leader, Direct Sales
"I’m thankful that my father is now resting and at peace."
— Stephanie Manship, Instructional Design Specialist, Training and Employee Development
"I am extremely grateful to still have my now 3-year-old son, Emrick, who has battled through having a Wilms Tumor and one of his kidneys removed, then toughing it through 8 months of chemotherapy. He is now cancer free and doing great! My family had tremendous support from my friends and co-workers here at Constant Contact making the journey much easier on us."
— James O'Brien, Helpdesk Administrator
"I am thankful for a wonderful experience I had with a customer of ours, Camp Unleashed, this Labor Day. It was a long weekend away in a camp setting with my dog and 50 other dog owners. A time that all dogs were off-leash exploring and learning new things."
— Jessi Mraz, Customer Support Manager
"I am thankful to be spending the rest of my life with my best friend, Jason. I am thankful that I have a job that comes with great health benefits so I’ll have more life to spend with Jason. I am thankful to feel appreciated by loved ones as well as coworkers and managers on a daily basis. I am thankful that I’m finally growing up!"
— Sherine Harivandi, Account Review Specialist
"I am thankful to be able to play with Nerf guns at work."
— Dan Horan, Software Engineer, Email Marketing Core Team
"I am thankful to work for a company that makes feel empowered and valued, and has such a strong sense of community. I am thankful to have coworkers that continually challenge me to do and be better, and who bring dynamic ideas to the table every day. And finally, I am thankful for the weekly Beer Cart. Drinking beer with people I like is a big time win in my book."
— Lory Hamill, Customer Success Specialist
What are you thankful for this year? We invite you to share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving (here in the United States, anyway), and at Constant Contact we sure do have a lot to be thankful for.
Speaking personally, I'm giving thanks for Twitter. Yes, Twitter. It's the reason Ben & Jerry's paid our Waltham office a visit back in August and gave us free ice cream, but more important than that is the fact that this social media network has allowed me to meet new people all around the world, to build relationships, to learn, to share, and so much more. I never thought I'd enjoy using Twitter as much as I do.
I asked the rest of the Constant Contact team what they're thankful for this year, and suffice it to say, there was an outpouring of response. So here's the first part of what people said ...
"I am thankful for developing new friendships this year (and getting fit!) through triathlon training and participation."
— Sarah Webber, Director, Custom Services
"I’m thankful for my son’s red hair. He is the spitting image of me — much to chagrin of my wife, who has jet black hair."
— Peter Hughes, Search Marketing Specialist
"I’m thankful for my many partners around New England, who help me put on amazing seminars and events."
— Corissa St. Laurent, Regional Development Director, New England
"I’m thankful for joining the Constant Contact team this year and moving the family to Massachusetts. Hooray!"
— Dave Charest, Senior Content Developer
"I’m thankful that my mom is still with us after overcoming breast cancer. I'm also thankful for the opportunity to support the success of small businesses with what I do day after day."
— Mariana St. Germain, Product Marketing Manager
"I'm thankful to be surrounded by people, both in my personal and professional life, who not only accept me but also support me for who I am. This has not always been the case, and I am truly grateful to be in this place."
— Ellen DePasquale, Regional Development Director, New York Metro Northeast
"I am thankful for the ability to work at a great place and have fun while providing for my family!"
— Rick Edwards, Tier 2 and 3 Technical Support Manager
"I'm thankful for the smiles, hugs, laughs and kisses my children smother me with every day. And I’m thankful for the ability to remember the wonderful smiles, hugs, laughs and kisses when they are clinging to my legs crying and whining and nothing is working to calm them down."
— Rebecca Grossman, Conversion Marketing Manager
"I’m thankful for the opportunity to partner with our RDDs and meet so many wonderful small businesses and nonprofits through their efforts! I would also like to thank Women Inspiring Women for all of their insightful input for our Event Marketing product."
— Erik Mintz, Director, Event Marketing
"I am thankful for the new connections I have made in my role as an RDD. I thank all my attendees for their support and kind remarks."
— Lanelle Henderson, Regional Development Director, Georgia
"I am thankful that every day at Constant Contact is casual Friday!"
— Sarah Hamilton, HR Shared Services Center Specialist
"I am thankful that at the age of 37, I still have three of my grandparents and one of my husband's to appreciate and learn from in ways that would never have occurred to me as a child."
— Rachel O'Connell, Director, Content
"I’m very thankful for my loving family, specifically my daughter and husband. Having them in my life has given me so many reasons to be a better person, and for that I am thankful."
— Debbie Ballard, Business Development Manager
"I’m thankful for customers like Leslie Sturgeon of Women Inspiring Women, Dan Soskin of Pinot Boutique, and Collette Morgan of Wild Rumpus Books, and the trust they’ve put in us to help them manage their events."
— Christopher M. Litster, Vice President & General Manager, Event Marketing Business Unit
"I am so thankful that I have the honor and privilege to help small businesses and nonprofits thrive and succeed. If I can help them, then I feel satisfaction personally and professionally."
— Shannon Murphy, Interaction Designer, User Experience
"I am thankful for the many nonprofits out there that are doing such amazing work every day to sustain our communities and their people. I'm also thankful for peanut butter, Amos Lee, Sunday afternoons, orange Goody's powder, the Muppets, Diet Coke, zappos.com, Chandon Champagne, and my coworkers (not necessarily in that order)."
— Anissa Freeman Starnes, Regional Development Director, the Carolinas
"I am thankful that I have the opportunity to help small business owners achieve their dreams."
— Jonathan Mandell, Product Manager, Analytics
"I’m thankful for the past year I got to spend with my friends and family."
— Katharine Farrell, Distance Learning Specialist
"I am forever grateful for my wife, because she’s amazing, smart, and I love her. She’s supported me in so many ways, like helping with my decision to go back to school to finish my degree and having such a great family that’s contributed so much to me over the last 15 years. My life is very rich because of her."
— Patrick Keating, Inbound Sales
"I am extremely thankful for my family, first and foremost! I am blessed to have the most amazing girlfriend, whom I plan to be engaged with very soon — thankful for that. And this wonderful new job opportunity, this is a great company and I look forward to my future here."
— Kevin Larmon, Customer Support Specialist
"I am thankful for every day that God gives me life! I wake up every morning in good health and that is important. I am thankful for the ability to learn things in a quick pace, and the ability to make sure that our customers learn the things I learn everyday!"
— Denise Tirado, Customer Support Specialist
"I am thankful to work in an office where it is accepted — nay expected — that people dress up as the Kardashians, characters from Gilligan’s Island, and Charlie Brown on October 31. And I am thankful to live in a time where we can travel from Boston to Munich in eight hours and not think twice about it! Congratulations, Wright Brothers, for figuring out the physics of how to launch thousands of tons of metal into the air, flying above the clouds, and landing safely on the other side of the world in less than one day. Incredible."
— Sarah Barone, Acquisition Marketing Manager
"I am thankful to be a Green Bay Packers fan! GO PACK GO!"
— Julie A. Steinke, Communication Consultant
"I joined Constant Contact in February. In my former life, I worked restaurant hours and therefore spent nights and weekends away from my wife and kids. In the last eight or nine months, I have been thankful to have more time with them (but don’t tell my wife, I don’t want her to get a big head)."
— Chris Jacobson, Concierge Team
"I am thankful for the balance I have in my life:
I have a wonderful husband and family
I work with a great group of people to help another group of great people (small businesses) to become more successful
I have a fitness instructor, who is another small business owner, who keeps me full of energy, motivated and strong
My friends are terrific!
Northern Colorado is an awesome place to live. It is beautiful and there are SO many things to do."
— Amy Gregory, Sales Manager, Direct Sales
"I’m in San Francisco now but I’m a native New Yorker. I was living and working downtown in New York City on 9/11 and the toxic cloud settled over my neighborhood for weeks, ruining my lungs. For the past 10 years I’ve been in and out of hospitals, constantly ill, and on a cocktail of meds to keep my lungs going. Last month, the attending physician of my pulmonary team told me, 'We finally know how to treat you effectively.' For the first time in years, I feel energetic and hopeful about a healthy future. That’s quite a bit to be thankful for."
— Rebecca Gardner, Senior Software Engineer, NutshellMail
"I am thankful that I have a job when so many that I know do not. I am thankful that I work for a company that cares about others: small businesses and charities, to name a few. I am glad that I can celebrate Thanksgiving freely and with my family and friends in a country, with all its flaws, is still a free country filled with great people."
— Roberta Messuri, Designer
"I am thankful for my mother-in-law and husband, who helped me fight a horrible infection that could have killed me. It's been one year from surgery and medication, and I am healthy once again. I couldn’t ask for a better support team!"
— Sarah Woodruff, Concierge Specialist
"I am thankful for the love of my family and friends, the wet kisses from my two awesome dogs, the freedom that we enjoy here in the U.S., and most definitely the Beer Cart on Fridays. Does it get any better than this ??!!"
— Sheila Green, Communications Consultant
"I am thankful that I can be part of a company that puts our customers first. We help build their success through our wonderful coaching and customer support. We have amazing products, and now we can help our customers with their social media marketing! What an exciting time to be a part of this company!"
— Jamie Self, Team Leader, Direct Sales
"I am thankful and blessed to have a job to come to at a company that is the greatest to work for. It's extremely hard for many in today’s economy, and to not only have a job, but a job I love is something to be thankful for. That, of course, comes second to being thankful for my family and friends."
— Debi Retterath, Customer Success Specialist
Check back later to learn what else our team is thankful for this year. In the meantime, what are you giving thanks for? We invite you to share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Ha! Great question. 🙂
Seriously, though, I'm glad you're always ready to find new contacts and customers. You never know where you may find them. It's certainly helpful when you have the tools at your disposal to collect the necessary information.
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For many people, Thanksgiving this week means turkey, family, and a much needed day off. It also means we're just about a month away from Christmas, Hanukkah, and the end of the year. Chances are good you've already started receiving an increased number emails offering 20% off, free shipping, and other generic offers. You may even have already sent a few yourself.
At the holiday time, with so much competition in the inbox for subscribers' eyeballs and attention, separating yourself from the herd can be a challenge. That's why it's even more important to use all your communications channels — particularly email and social media — to reach customers, clients, and supporters.
When you blend email and social media, you present a stronger communications message, one that's more engaging and more visible. Email and social media, when used effectively, can make the difference between a business or organization whose messages blend into the others, and one where its customers, clients, and supporters actively look forward to receiving and interacting with them.
Here are 3 ways you can combine the power of email and social media at holiday time, and year-round:
1. Use social media to support your email program. This holiday season, in between your regularly scheduled emails, make sure you're keeping up with your posting to Facebook and Twitter in between your email messages. And don't keep posting coupons and special offers. Share good content that will make a connection with your fans and followers, and engage them. Ask questions about their holiday plans. Share tips for using your products and taking advantage of your services. Resist the temptation to sell, sell, sell, and your fans and followers will keep you in mind when they want to buy or donate.
2. Promote your emails on social media. If you want your emails to be seen, give your subscribers a heads up on social media that they should look out for a message from you. Post a message on Facebook and/or on Twitter such as "Our newsletter is being sent out later today. Keep watch for it and let us know what you think!" Or, even better, tease the content that's included in your newsletter. That will put people on the ready and get them excited to read.
3. Get your subscribers to share. Sure, everyone likes a discount, but on social media, people like helpful or fun content they can pass along to their friends even more. When you give that to your subscribers, and arm them with the tools they need to share your content, then your messages will go farther than your subscribers' inboxes. In fact, they may even be seen by someone who is looking to buy the product or service you sell, or to support your cause.
What kind of content will get passed along? Expert tips on using your products or surviving the holiday season. Compelling success stories about the success your organization has found. A fun video that shows off your business or organization's silly side. Anything that doesn't sound like a promotion and that provides a benefit to your readers.
What tips do you have for getting your customers, clients, and supporters' attention at holiday time? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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With changes in social media marketing happening on an almost-weekly basis, it can be a challenge for anyone to keep up. That's why it's heartening to learn that small businesses are becoming less intimidated by social media and are using it in greater numbers to reach, connect with, and engage their customers.
According to Constant Contact's Fall 2011 Attitudes and Outlook Survey, small businesses report allocating more time to social media marketing to engage their customers. A full 81% reported using social media to market their business, up from 73% in the spring of 2011. Of those using social media marketing, 96% of respondents say Facebook is their tool of choice. Twitter is quickly gaining ground; usage surged in the last six months, from 60% in Spring 2011 to 76% today.
The survey also found that roughly 60% of small businesses respond to all comments on social media platforms, regardless of whether those posts are positive or negative. Those who don’t respond say it's because they don’t have time, they don’t think it’s necessary, or they don’t know what to say.
These social media efforts are paying off. Respondents said they have found success in significant numbers:
86% found Facebook effective, up from 82% in Spring 2011.
60% found Twitter effective, up from 47% in Spring 2011.
55% found LinkedIn effective, up from 47% in Spring 2011.
(Effectiveness scores remained flat for review sites, video sharing, and location-based services, and decreased for photo sharing and MySpace.)
Use of Integrated Marketing Campaigns Still Strong
While social media marketing efforts are growing, it is not at the expense of other marketing efforts. In fact, 65% of survey respondents report that social media tools are used to complement other forms of marketing. The survey also found that 95% of participants use email marketing, 98% use websites, 71% use print advertising, 66% use online advertising, and 55% use event marketing.
One platform that small businesses have not yet incorporated into their marketing plans is mobile. A full 72% of respondents report that they don’t incorporate mobile into their marketing campaigns, and only 13% have created a mobile-friendly website.
For more results from Constant Contact's Fall 2011 Attitudes and Outlook Survey, click here.
Do these survey results surprise you, or are they in line with how you're feeling? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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At Constant Contact, innovation is at the heart of everything we do. For example, we give all employees time to work on creative ideas that are outside their day-to-day responsibilities, we have an annual company-wide competition for innovative new product features and ideas, and we take part in events where innovative people gather together to discuss and create.
Last weekend, our AppConnect team was in New York to take part in the "Reinventing Local" General Assembly Hackathon, where developers, designers, and entrepreneurs created new location-based and offline-centric applications that would help local communities and small businesses. Tomorrow, they're crossing the country and will be in San Francisco for the Under the Radar conference.
Recognized as the most important showcase of innovation and deal-making in Silicon Valley, Under the Radar is an event with innovation at its core; business leaders and startups come together to discuss hot topics (such as cloud-based businesses) and show off new products and services. In the past three years alone, 62% of startup presenters at Under the Radar have gone on to raise major funding and/or been acquired by companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Cisco, BT, Microsoft, Twitter, Fox Interactive, and others. Suffice it to say, it's a big deal to be included in such an event.
Kevin O'Brien, director of the AppConnect Program, is representing Constant Contact at Under the Radar. He'll be one of four judges for the Engagement competition, which is taking place Thursday at 2:00 PST. Be sure to follow our Twitter handle, @constantcontact, to find out who wins.
We wish good luck to all the presenters and look forward to seeing what innovative ideas are discussed during the conference.
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With Halloween now in the rear-view mirror, all eyes are on the end-of-the-year holidays. Chances are good that if you don't have holiday décor and merchandise in your place of business yet, you've seen it elsewhere. Don't try to resist: Christmas and Hanukkah are coming, and they'll be here before you know it.
With nearly every business and organization increasing their communications this time of year — and creating lots more "noise" in the process — it makes the challenge of being heard even greater. But social media can help. Here are 5 ways to get noticed during the holiday time (and year-round too).
1. Show, don't tell. Bring your communications to life with photos and videos. Use photos of new merchandise that just arrived, a picture of your office or place of business all decorated for the season, a video of you thanking your customers, clients, donors, or volunteers for their support, or share holiday wishes from you and/or your staff.
2. Introduce the team. Who are the people your customers, clients, or donors, will come in contact with? Let your staff share holiday gift ideas, memories from the past year, or shopping tips. Then, when customers come in to your place of business, or join you at an event, they'll have someone to look and ask for will come in contact with? Let your staff share holiday gift ideas or shopping tips. Then, when customers come in to your place of business, they'll have someone to look and ask for.
3. Involve your customers, clients, volunteers, and supporters. Let those people's voices come through, either by sharing their tips for using your products, rallying other donors or volunteers to get involved, picking their favorite dish or service that you offer, suggesting their own gift ideas, or by introducing themselves to their fellow customers. Capture this information on video, or with a quick photo and a caption that includes their thoughts.
4. Use social media to support your email program. If you'll be sending email this holiday season (and really, who won't be?) give your messages a better chance of being seen by promoting upcoming issues on social media. Post a message on Facebook and/or on Twitter such as "Our newsletter is being sent out later today. Keep watch for it and let us know what you think!" Or, even better, tease the content that's included in your newsletter. That will put people on the ready and get them excited to read.
5. Have fun. Get in the spirit this season! Share YouTube videos of your favorite holiday tunes. Ask your fans and followers about the worst gift they ever received (or gave). Take a poll about people's favorite (or least favorite) aspect of the season. Whatever you can do to make the season more festive and fun, and engage your customers, clients, donors, volunteers, and supporters.
How are you planning to use social media this holiday season? Share your thoughts with us here or on our Facebook Page.
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Halloween wasn't the only thing people were buzzing about this week. Google garnered attention for two reasons: It finally gave access to Google+ business pages — but only to some of its users — and made some significant changes to its search algorithm. Elsewhere, a new study released by Nielsen showed that a majority of U.S. consumers under the age of 45 carry a smartphone. What do these and other hot topics mean for marketers like you? Read on to learn our take on some of the week's big stories.
1. Google+ business pages are here (sort of)
After months of waiting, Google finally gave access to business pages for its Google+ social network. But there's a catch: The pages are only accessible to those who use the Google Apps for Business service. There has not been an announcement about when other businesses will have access to this section of the site.
Bottom line: Remember how we said you didn't have to worry about Google+ just yet? Well, now may be a good time to start thinking about whether or not you'll use the site. Sources claim that Google+ has more than 40 million users, but it hasn't gained much traction outside of marketing and technology circles (no pun intended). If you're going to ask your customers, clients, and supporters to join you on Google+, you're going to need to provide them with a good reason for connecting with you there (in addition to connecting with you via email, Facebook, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn).
2. Most people under the age of 45 now carry a smartphone
According to a new study by Nielsen, only 43% of all mobile users own a smartphone. But among those under 45, the number is more than 50%. Android leads the market overall, with 43% of the U.S. marketshare. Apple's iPhone follows in second place with 28%.
Bottom line: If your marketing efforts don't already include mobile-friendly strategies (such as using location-based services), then you may want to change that. With the growth of mobile (not just in the U.S., but worldwide), more customers than you realize may be communicating with you and researching your business while they're on the go.
3. "Graymail" should help email marketers
Hotmail is developing tools that will help users better filter what it calls "graymail," or emails like Facebook/Twitter notifications or Groupon deals that people request but read infrequently. Hotmail's group program manager recently said that as many as 75% of the email messages that people reported as spam are really legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that they just don’t want anymore. By contrast, only 14% of the messages they receive are messages that they highly value.
Bottom line: As always, it comes down to the content of your emails. The more relevant and valuable your messages are, the more likely subscribers will continue to read, engage with, and share them. And that means graymail filtering will not affect you. However, if all you do is sell and provide content that's not helpful or unique, then your email may be filtered right out of your subscribers' inboxes.
4. More of your Facebook fans are seeing fewer of your posts
At Facebook's recent F8 Developers Conference, Facebook announced changes to users' profiles and newsfeeds (some of which are still being rolled out to users). One of those changes is brands are now being shown to more users, but less often per person. The good news is that these changes have led to "substantially increased" fan interactions with brands, according to AdAge Digital.
Bottom line: Which would you prefer, being seen by more people or having the same people see you more often? Facebook thinks you'll prefer the former, so it's up to you to make each post on Facebook count. Share articles, photos, and videos, and ask questions that will get your fans to interact and engage with you. Be social, not salesy.
5. Google changes its search algorithm again
Google has made another enhancement to its search algorithm that will affect as many as 35% of searches. The change should put the priority on newer, fresher content, with older results appearing farther down the page. For example, if you search for "Olympics," Google will assume you want information about next summer's Games, not the 1990 Games.
Bottom line: This change makes it more important than ever to keep your content updated. For example, don’t leave your blog stagnant for too long, or your previously high-ranking posts may dip down in search results.
What news stories and topics caught your eye this week? Share them here or on our Facebook Page.
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You know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Well, for the second year in a row, American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday, a nationwide effort to get people to forgo the mall and instead, shop small during the post-Thanksgiving weekend. Scheduled for November 26, during one of the peak shopping times of the year, Small Business Saturday is poised to direct lots of retail traffic and revenue right in the direction of the millions of U.S. small businesses.
Last year, Small Business Saturday had terrific results, both in sales and attention:
1.2 million Facebook users “Liked” the Small Business Saturday Page at facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday
30,000 tweets were sent using the hashtags #smallbusinesssaturday or #smallbizsaturday
200,000 consumers registered their American Express cards to receive $25 statement credits when they shopped at a small business on Small Business Saturday
41 elected officials declared November 27 “Small Business Saturday”
Small Business Saturday 2011 looks to be as big as or bigger than last year's day was. Is your small business ready? Thankfully, Constant Contact has plenty of resources and coaching available to you:
We've designed special templates for you to use that will encourage your customers to visit you on November 26. (We also have special Black Friday and Cyber Monday templates.) You can find them under "Offer-Based Campaigns" in the template section when you log in to your account.
Every Wednesday from now until November 23, we'll be hosting a special edition of our Holiday Promotions Planning and Design webinar that will include special tips and advice for taking advantage of Small Business Saturday.
Want help planning your promotions? Download our promotional worksheet or our to-do calendar and start creating a special offer that will drive customers to your door.
Make Small Business Saturday a real event: Our Event Marketing tool will help you get the word out, and will help you to know how many people are planning to stop by.
Our personal coaches can help you use email marketing, social media, or any of our other tools better. They can be reached at 866-289-2101.
Special episodes of our Problems Solved! podcast series discuss how to make the most of mobile technologies, social media, and online reviews to attract customers.
Keep reading this blog and our Support Blog throughout the month to learn more about how you can use Small Business Saturday to drive traffic to your business.
Share your thoughts, plans, and questions with other small business owners in our Community forum devoted to Small Business Saturday.
And that's not all. American Express' Small Business Saturday Facebook Page (facebook.com/ShopSmall) is an active hub of activity where you can find free tools that can help you make November 26 your biggest sales day of the year. Share the Page with your friends, family, customers, clients, and colleagues. And tweet about this special day with the hashtag #smallbizsat to join in the conversation.
Small Business Saturday 2011 is going to be huge. We hope you'll help us get the word out.
What are your plans for Small Business Saturday? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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Halloween is upon us again. It's a day for dressing up and acting a little silly, and (especially) overdosing on sugar. Here at Constant Contact, we're taking that maybe a little too seriously with our annual costume contest. People are dressed up in some wacky outfits (I'm dressed up like Santa Claus), and there's a ton of candy and snacks all over our offices. But it's all good; we're having lots of fun today, and tomorrow we'll go back to being our normal selves and things will be business as usual.
Can your customers, members, clients, supporters, fans, and followers say the same thing about your business or organization?
It's important to remember that while Halloween is a day for fun, scares, and surprises, you shouldn't treat every day like it's October 31. Things that are perfectly acceptable behavior today could turn off your customers once all the trick or treating is over. So with that in mind, here are three things to remember so you don't scare off your customers the rest of the year:
1. Forget the masks. Just be yourself. People get enough marketing and advertising messages these days as it is. And it's becoming increasingly true that people like to support brands they know and trust, rather than ones that come off as less personable and that only want to make a sale. That's partly why people join social networks and sign up for email lists: to communicate with other real people, minus the marketing. The more you can show off your true, authentic self (through great content and genuine responses), the more you'll make a true connection with people you're trying to reach. Then they'll be more likely to patronize your business, donate to your organization, hire you for your services, or volunteer their time to support your cause.
2. Keep giving out treats. When it comes to your online marketing efforts, you need to give your customers the kind of candy — er, I mean, content — they want, the kind(s) that will get them to engage with you. How do you find out what they want? There are a handful of ways: One is to ask them, in an online survey or through another feedback method. Another is to pay attention to your reporting data. Watching to see what gets your subscribers to open, click, and share will tell you which articles and types of content they value the most. A third is simply to see what's getting the most response on Facebook and Twitter. If asking a question and soliciting the thoughts of your fans and followers gets the most likes and comments, then do that more often. If sharing photos or videos works, then share more of those.
3. Don't be a ghost. Far too many businesses and organizations make the mistake of ignoring comments and questions posted by customers, members, clients, and supporters on social media. According to a recent study by Maritz Research, 86% of consumers expect a business to read a comment they've posted on Twitter. More important, according to InboxQ, 64% of consumers said they'd be more willing to make a purchase if a business responded to them on Twitter. The message is clear: Customers love to be heard on social media. Always be listening (using a tool like HootSuite or NutshellMail) and ready to respond when your customers, members, clients, and supporters talk to or about you.
What is your business or organization doing to keep customers and not scare them away? Share your thoughts here, or on our Facebook Page.
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Hi Sara. Thank you for your comment and feedback. I'm sorry you took offense to this blog post.
We would never advocate for a business or organization to have pets in a place where people would be allergic. In fact, as Susan says in her blog post, you need to get buy-in from everyone on your team before you allow a dog or cat to come in to your office. I'd add that if you're going to have a pet in an area where customers would be, you should hang a sign or something so people know the dog or cat is there, especially if any customers are at risk of an allergic reaction. Any business owner that values his or her customers would surely not want to let customer run a risk like that.
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For years, fans have laughed and cringed with Jim Halpert as he's navigated the uneasy workplace environment at Dunder Mifflin, the fictional paper company featured on The Office. After all, anyone who has spent any amount of time working in an office job can surely relate to the awkwardness and inappropriateness of some of the things that have gone on.
But while Dunder Mifflin may not be real, the problems it's dealing with are, and they're not particularly unique if you're a business-to-business organization, or if you have a specialized and hard-to-market product like paper. So we here at Constant Contact decided to take on Dunder Mifflin as a "client" and help them with their marketing — specifically their Facebook marketing.
How should the Scranton, Penn., office of Dunder Mifflin use Facebook? Here's our advice:
1. Pick an admin.
The first thing the Scranton office should do is pick one person to manage the business' Page. We nominate Pam Beesly, the office administrator (something tells us Dwight's going to want nothing to do with this "social media" stuff). She seems to be the most on top of things, and will speak for the business with a warm and personable voice.
2. Show off the team.
The greatest asset the Dunder Mifflin team has is itself. That's what really distinguishes them from the competition. Especially given the impersonal product it's selling, we'd say Dunder Mifflin should use Facebook to make a more personal connection with customers and show off the people that make the company so special. Talk about Andy Bernard's theatrical pursuits, or Kevin Malone playing in a band called Scrantonicity when he's not sitting with the accounting team.
3. Share photos and videos.
Forget the embarrassing shots that former Regional Manager Michael Scott took at Christmas parties past, or his movie Threat Level Midnight. Instead, Facebook would be a great place to show off photos from the Dundies or Halloween parties, or footage of the team having fun at their recent garden party. Let customers see who they're talking to when a salesperson calls.
4. Find other uses for the core product.
Sure, paper isn't the most glamorous or exciting product. But somehow, we think the team could find some creative uses for it that would get customers to see it in a different light. Perhaps each week someone like Jim could create a different kind of paper airplane and let it fly, or someone could show off some origami, or how paper could be used as a funnel in a pinch, or how a case of paper makes a good doorstop.
5. Have fun.
Continuing that theme, one thing we've learned over the years is that the Dunder Mifflin team knows how to have a good time. They could show that to fans and customers on Facebook by including video footage of events like its Office Olympics, or the dance the group did at Jim and Pam's wedding. Or, maybe some fun facts could be shared, like how many pieces of paper it would take to stretch from Scranton to the moon.
6. Help customers by becoming a resource.
Office supply costs sure can add up. And while Dunder Mifflin does want to sell more paper, it could probably earn the respect and loyalty of its customers and fans by sharing articles and helpful advice about topics like recycling. No, that won't move the sales needle, but long-term it will position the business as a resource, and more than just "where we get our paper from."
7. Put the spotlight on the customers.
Jim, Dwight, and the other salespeople speak affectionately about their customers (when they aren't trying to keep their business, of course), so why not give those customers a little love on Facebook? Share quotes, photos, or videos of customers saying why they continue to use Dunder Mifflin as their paper supplier.
New CEO Robert California said it best in a recent episode when he encouraged the team to stay strong in the face of competition from larger office supply chains. Dunder Mifflin — and real businesses like it — has a great opportunity to distinguish itself by using Facebook effectively. We look forward to seeing our "client" win more new business as a result of engaging with its customers on the social network.
What advice would you give to Dunder Mifflin? Or is there another fictional organization that you'd like us to help? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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What were the hot stories this week in the marketing world? Well, while people waited to pick up their brand-new iPhones, they were learning about new enhancements to LinkedIn and Google that could affect their efforts to reach and communicate with customers, clients, supporters, and prospects. Check out this roundup of the week's big news to learn about these developments, new stats that may encourage you to take your marketing on the go, and more. 1. LinkedIn Adds Status Updates for Businesses LinkedIn recently added a feature that lets businesses post status updates about what's going on within the company. If a user follows specific businesses, he will start seeing status updates shared by the company in his homepage news feed. Bottom Line: With this addition, LinkedIn becomes a little more "social," and more like Facebook or Twitter. But given that LinkedIn is where more professional activity happens, your news about employee moves, relevant job opportunities, or new product/service announcements may be better received than they would on Facebook or Twitter. 2. Apple Begins Selling New iPhone 4S The new iPhone 4S went on sale today, and lots of Apple fans (and likely a bunch of frustrated Blackberry users too) lined up at Apple Stores across the U.S. to snatch one up. The new device has a better camera and an updated operating system that includes lots of integrations with Twitter. Bottom Line: Those Twitter integrations mean users are going to be sharing more than they ever have before. Photos, articles, videos, whatever people are seeing, doing, and reading, will be public and social with just a couple clicks. Are you going to give your customers, clients, supporters, and event attendees something to share? 3. Mobile Coupon Use on the Rise While use of mobile coupons is still a niche activity, use of those coupons is growing at a rapid pace. eMarketer estimates that 9.5% of U.S. adult mobile users, or 19.8 million people, will use mobile coupons by the end of this year. By 2013, 35.6 million mobile owners will have redeemed a mobile coupon or code for either online or offline shopping. Bottom Line: Are you making use of mobile in your marketing efforts? Making your emails more easily scannable, and including a coupon that can be read and redeemed while on the go, is one trend you shouldn't ignore. 4. Google Enhancement Means Good Writing Is More Important Than Ever Google recently made enhancements to its search algorithm (that's what it uses to determine what results to show a user), in an attempt to lower the rank of "low quality sites" and improve search results overall. The change reportedly affects almost 12% of all search results. Bottom Line: It's not enough to have content (blog posts, etc.) on your website to attract visitors. You need to have good content that will keep people reading. The longer people stay on your site, the higher your site will appear in Google search results. 5. Wednesday Is the Most Popular Day for Content Sharing The bookmarking and sharing service AddThis celebrated its fifth birthday by releasing a bunch of cool facts about how, when, where, and why people share content. Among the findings: Wednesday is the most popular day, most people click within two minutes of when a piece of content is shared, and more content is shared in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Bottom Line: People love to share good content. Whether it's your own original content or something you borrowed from someone else, whether you're on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, giving people something fun, helpful, or just plain cool that they can easily pass along will help you to be seen as more of a resource, and not just a business that people buy from or an organization that people donate to. (Tools like our Social Share bar can help.) What news stories caught your eye this week? Share your thoughts here or on our Facebook Page.
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Hi Marsha. Monogram Lane used the subject line 'You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby' to capture readers' attention, and get them to open an email about new technology decals. That was certainly more fun than 'October Newsletter' or 'New products this month.' For your newsletters, you could do something like 'A picture is worth...' or something else that plays with a theme in your issue. As Barbara Watkins from Monogram Lane said, if people know exactly what's in your newsletter just from reading your subject line, then they might not need to click to open it. Tease your readers with something more fun. I hope that helps.
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An event — be it a networking gathering, open house, fundraiser, or class — is by nature a social affair. People attend to connect, interact, and share with their peers. People join social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect, interact, and share information with their peers. Sound familiar? Given their similar natures, it makes perfect sense to use social media to help make your event an even more social experience. After all, if your goal is to get as many people as possible interested in your business or organization, then social media can help spread the word beyond your core base of customers, members, donors, and volunteers, to people who aren't even in attendance. As the busy holiday event season gets underway, here are 4 ways to make your events more social: 1. Use a hashtag: Creating a hashtag (such as #HolidayFun11) and encouraging your attendees to use it will help to foster discussion, and will allow your attendees to meet each other more easily. And as a bonus, hashtags will allow you as the event host to monitor the buzz more easily because you can follow the hashtag feed. 2. Encourage people to use a check-in app: When your attendees check-in using an app like Foursquare, they'll know which of their friends are also in attendance. They can also share tips and photos with others in their network. Be sure to create a "Place" so attendees have somewhere to check in to. To encourage check-ins (and the sharing of them), you can also create a special offer at your event on Foursquare (a free beverage or tshirt, for example). 3. Promote your social presence: Do attendees know how to find you on social media? Be sure to post signs with your Twitter handle, Facebook Page, LinkedIn profile, and any other social media presences you have. Then encourage attendees to post from their smartphones that they're at the event, and to "tag" you in their posts. 4. Share photos and updates in real time: Thanks to smartphones and other devices, you don't need to bring a camera with you to document your event. Snap quick pictures of your attendees and post them to Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or another site. Or, forget the photos and just share an update about what's happening (for example, "Blaise Charest just took the stage! Wish you were here.") Want more ideas? Join us for a special free webinar this Thursday, co-hosted with HubSpot. Click here to register. To share your thoughts with us about how social media helps make your events more effective, post a comment here or on our Facebook Page.
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If you have children, then you know how important it is to give them clear directions about what to do. They may know they have clothes to wear or that there's food on the table, or that they have to go to school, but until the parent says, "Put on your shirt," "Eat your broccoli," or "Go out to the school bus," those things will just sit there untouched. Similarly, your customers, clients, and supporters need a little nudging if you want them to take action — specifically, if you want them to go from your email newsletter to social media. After all, it's one thing to have a Facebook Page or a Twitter handle, for example, but if you don't give people a reason to engage and interact with you there that complements your email marketing efforts, then the school bus may just pass you by. So what makes a good social call to action? On the most basic level, it should tell people where to go, give them an easy way to get there (i.e.: a link), and most importantly, give them a reason to go there. A good social call to action should be clear, simple, and easy to accomplish. The better your call to action is, the better and stronger the link between your email marketing and your social media presences will be. Think back to your original goal for your campaign. What is your "dream ending?" Does your call to action encourage customers, clients, and supporters to act as you would like them to? For example, will they be compelled to: Engage with your business or organization Learn more about your business, organization, area of focus, offerings, or services Tell friends about you Share your content Advocate for your cause Learn more about what you offer Read an article you wrote or published Write a review Marvel over your industry expertise The more straightforward you are, the easier it will be for your audience to act. "What do you think of this topic? Share your thoughts on our Facebook Page." "Have you ever experienced this situation? Tweet about it and mention our Twitter handle." "Want to learn more? Visit my profile on LinkedIn." Give your customers, clients, and supporters a reason to click from your emails to your Facebook Page, or to Twitter, or LinkedIn, and soon they'll be interacting with you in multiple places — and there won't be any broccoli left on the dinner table. How do you get customers, clients, and supporters to go from your emails to social media? Share your own calls to action here or on our Facebook Page.
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If you've ever hosted an event, then you know the process of planning, managing, marketing, and promoting one can be quite involved. Having a plan can help. That's why we teamed up with the good folks at HubSpot to create this Event Marketing from A to Z infographic, which covers everything from start to finish in the event marketing process, and includes lots of helpful hints too. It's like a handy cheat sheet that you can refer to as you go from idea to event to evaluation. To get more of these tips, sign up for our free, joint-hosted webinar, How to Excel at Event Marketing with Social Media, taking place Thursday, October 13, at 1 p.m. ET.
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In fact, that functionality does exist already. You can add a video to your emails now. Just go to your email, and on the left side, under the "Insert" options, click "Video Link" and add the URL. That will add a thumbnail of your video, which will link to the video itself -- just like with the email you received from me! I hope that helps.
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