SEO Spring Cleaning [Infographic] – Your Annual SEO Audit

It’s that time of year again – that’s right, your annual SEO audit. Just like your home, your website needs a little sprucing up from time to time! The digital equivalent of dusting off the cobwebs and cleaning out that utility closet, a thorough audit of your site with a focus on search engine optimization can ensure that the nooks and crannies of your SEO efforts get some TLC and come out sparkling.

Our SEO Spring Cleaning infographic contains a list of items that can be easily overlooked or perhaps neglected as a website grows in size (and hopefully, high quality traffic). Taken individually, most of these aren’t considered deal breakers, but taking the time to go through and make sure you’re utilizing best practice can have a serious impact on organic visibility.

Click below to embiggen the image, and feel free to share or repost using the handy dandy embed code below the graphic. Happy housekeeping!

seo spring cleaning infographic - annual seo audit

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The Mobile First Mindset

Still need convincing that a mobile first mindset is the choice of smart marketers across the globe? Good, you’re in the right place. Considering over 90% of U.S. Citizens have their mobile device within reach 24/7, you’re probably even reading this on a smartphone or tablet.

It’s increasingly important in our perma-connected world to provide a good mobile experience to your customers. Offering a mobile version of the site, or a responsive website can improve your conversion rates, increase user engagement, and prevent users from bouncing and going elsewhere.  61% of customers who visit a site that isn’t mobile friendly will leave and go to a competitors website…leaving you with a measly 39%, most of which won’t convert.

Do you own a brick and mortar business that depends on foot traffic? You’ll be a lot easier to find if your marketing efforts focus on mobile devices and platforms. Optimize your Yelp! profile, get connected on Foursquare and encourage check-ins. Anything you can do to connect with people on-the-go is going to benefit your mobile efforts.

Plan on distributing content through social platforms? Optimizing that content for mobile devices will amplify your reach. Mobile users share content twice as often as desktop users, and every time someone shares your content your reach is extended far beyond your company’s social network. To paraphrase Field of Dreams, “If you optimize it for mobile, they will share”.

Mobile First Mindset

By 2015, global shipments of tablets are expected to exceed shipments of personal computers. Mobile is not a trend or a fad it won’t be dead in 5 years, it’s the future and it’s already here. If you’ve got a website redesign planned in the near future, it should be a responsive site to provide the best experience for users on any device. For more stats and compelling evidence to make the switch to a mobile-friendly site, check out our responsive design infographic.

Leave us a comment if you’ve got some creative ways to think mobile-first!

 

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Why Do I Need S.M.A.R.T Marketing Objectives?

First off, let’s do a quick review of what a S.M.A.R.T. marketing objective is. This part of your strategic marketing planning should be a simple, concise statement that sets a goal meeting the following criteria:

S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objectives

So if your goal is “Attract New Customers”, you might have a S.M.A.R.T. marketing objective that looks something like this:

“Increase leads generated by our website by 20% by the end of 2014.” – It specifies that our improvement goal is 20% and will be accomplished via web traffic, it’s measurable via web analytics, we’ve done some historical research and decided that 20% is attainable, it’s relevant to our goal of obtaining more new customers and it’s time-bound by saying we want to achieve this by the end of the year.

OK, now that we’ve covered the What, let’s talk about the Why. S.M.A.R.T. marketing objectives set the stage for determining strategies and tactics for achieving your goal. Given the above example, without the S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objective, we’re left with “Attract New Customers”….cool, we’ve set a goal, but it has no confines that help us determine if/when we’ve met our goal, by how much, or through what channels this will be done through. Defining a S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objective gives us a target to hit, a concrete number that we need to hit by a certain date. Setting this upfront also helps us narrow down which methods we’ll use to achieve our goal. In this case it’s increasing leads, so maybe we need to attract new customers via SEO or PPC. Or perhaps we already have good amounts of traffic coming through, we just need to convert more of them – in which case we could improve conversion rates by conducting some A/B testing. Once your deadline has passed, you should revisit your objective and compare actual metrics against the target. If you met/exceeded your goal give yourself a high-five. If you didn’t, your goal may not have been attainable or you just simply aimed too high….either way, take this as a learning experience and refine your process for defining your next S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objective.

Whatever your marketing goals are, establishing a S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objective(s) can help you achieve them. Now that you’ve got the ‘What’ and the ‘Why’, go impress your boss by writing some S.M.A.R.T. Marketing Objectives for your business.

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Marketing Automation for Businesses

Marketing automation is a concept that has grown within the last year and is likely to expand even more in 2014. There are already dozens of automation options and for good reason: The returns they provide are irrefutable. In addition, as this process has developed, we are seeing that it is no longer only for large corporations, but that smaller businesses are seeing an increasing benefit to utilizing this practice. Read more to find out what marketing automation is and how it can help your business.

What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation is a process using software to automate messaging to customers/potential customers. The most utilized forms of marketing automation are sending personalized messages via email. This is an automated follow up after a certain action is performed by a qualified lead.

What Sort of Actions can Trigger a Message?

Actions performed by a lead that can trigger marketing automation include, but are not limited to:

  • A topic oriented lead nurturing campaign triggered by a download
  • A sign up for newsletters or weekly updates
  • Abandoned shopping cart trigger (when a user adds something to their cart and leaves without purchasing)
  • Inactivity triggered by disinterest
  • After sale support such as training materials, assistance and future upgrades
  • Transactional triggers which can include:
  • Upselling (suggesting a higher cost version of the product)
  • Cross selling (offering additional related products)
  • Cycle-based selling by following up with a lead after a period of time to offer repair, services, or upgrades

Why is it Used & How Can it Help MY Business?
Utilizing marketing automation can:

  • Qualify leads. Companies that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451% increase in qualified leads.
  • Create efficiencies within an organization. Distributing personalized content much quicker allows for companies to spend more time nurturing leads who need it. Also, allowing more time to create better content will be beneficial to your customer base.
  • Improve relationships with customers. Having a personalized message with a call to action that will benefit the customer creates brand trust and an improved sense of brand loyalty. If a customer sees that you are working hard for them with personalized touches and thoughtful recommendations, they will more likely choose you over a competitor.
  • Shorten the sales cycle. Sending customers a follow up to exactly what they need depending on where they were in the buying process will create less lag time in this process.

How Can I Get Started With Marketing Automation?
Our team of marketing gurus at BEM uses unique marketing automation tools to help companies create a seamless process to qualify and nurture leads. We help execute simple and complex campaigns that guide and engage customers. Contact us today to get marketing automation started for your business.

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Master Content Marketing Once Your Publisher Brain Has S.U.R.F.A.C.E.D.

As marketers we all must wear multiple hats on a daily basis, whether it’s thinking creatively, strategically, or analytically, you better be prepared to change your head-wear from time to time. As we put more emphasis on content marketing, one of the increasingly important hats to wear these days is the publisher-hat.

Here are a few tips that will take you down the road of content marketing mastery. But first, here’s an awesome acronym/mnemonic device to help you remember this -  S.U.R.F.A.C.E.D.

S: Socialize! The power of social media has grown in recent years and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. Find out where your audience hangs out and distribute your content through these channels. You can also connect with industry experts through social, more about that later.

U: Understand and Listen to Your Audience! Just as book publishers do, know who’s going to be consuming your content. Book publishers don’t hire a children’s book writer to put out a self-help book (or maybe they do?!), but the point is, create content that your audience wants. You can learn a lot about your audience by listening to them on social if you’re already an established brand.

R: Recruit Help! Don’t try to generate all of your content on your own, you’ve probably got easy access to experts on any range of relevant topics to your business. Check with colleagues & peers to see if they’d be interested in writing a piece on a topic in their given field. You can also enlist the help of influencers or industry gurus via social. Connect with them, build some rapport with them first, and then see if they’d be willing to contribute their expertise.

F: Follow Up! So you put out a case study a few months ago to highlight one of your success stories. People loved it. You had tons of downloads or pageviews. Sweet, now follow up! Don’t let a gem like that dwindle, you can regenerate similar buzz if you check back in with that company and do another piece detailing the rest of the story.

A: Always Capture Leads! That’s why we’re doing this right, to connect with our audience? If it’s a whitepaper or eBook, you can require an email address in order to download it. A simple, subtle call to action can elicit more conversions than you’d think – if you don’t ask for it, you won’t get it.

C: Create an Editorial Calendar! How many times have you missed a deadline? How many New Year’s Resolutions have you made to be more consistent with your social media or blog posts? Look no further than an editorial calendar to solve these problems. Establish a timeline with what exactly you’re going to post, where you’re going to post it, when you’re going to post it, and how frequently you will distribute content.

E: Establish Your Themes! Anyone can write about the product or services they sell, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t. But don’t limit your content to only these topics. Put out some content that addresses the interests and concerns of your audience. Some of the most successful content marketing strategies I’ve seen barely involve self-promotional content at all.

D: Develop Recurring Pieces! Like a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live (Spartan Cheerleaders anyone!?), people love to see some familiarity in their feeds. Maybe it’s a monthly ‘Employee Spotlight’, or an annual buyers’ guide. Whatever you decide, stick with it and sprinkle it in your content mix on a regular basis.

Voila! Your publisher’s brain has S.U.R.F.A.C.E.D. and you’re a master of all-things-content-marketing. If you need some help contact us, we’ve always got a few extra ‘marketing hats’ you can borrow.

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*these tips are in no particular order of importance

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7 Keys to Designing Conversion-Focused Landing Pages for Lead-Generation

There are many facets to designing a successful, conversion-focused landing page. But if we were to break down the basic elements that contribute to the overall success and address key pain points, then the following seven items stand out to me as essential to the success of a landing page design.

Simplicity

I’m sure you have heard the KISS acronym, Keep It Simple Stupid? If ever there were a time to keep it simple, it would be with a landing page. The most successful landing pages maintain a level of simplicity in each aspect of the page, be it content, imagery or the call to action.  So let’s take a look at them one by one, shall we?

Content Hierarchy

Content-HierarchyThe content hierarchy has a big impact on the flow of the page. The content of the page should be broken up in a way that can be consumed easily and lead the viewer to the conversion point. If the content and imagery is unorganized, or weighted too heavily on the page, it can negatively affect the purpose of the page.

The page shown here contains quite a bit of information that are broken up into small, digestible blocks. There is also a clear hierarchy starting at the very top, with the remainder of the page providing supporting content, ending with testimonials. This page is well structured, and simple in execution. Unfortunately, it has two competing calls to action.

Visual Flow

An effective and conversion focused landing page design should guide the user to the call to action, without the need for overt manipulation. Visitors follow common behavioral patterns when looking at a page for the first time. Simply put, they usually begin in the top left corner and scan diagonally into a sweeping spiral. Using imagery and good design is more elegant, guiding the reader without holding their hand.

The example below executes this concept very well. Can you spot the leading devices?

visual-flow

The image is relaxing, and does a fabulous job of enticing you to schedule your next vacation. But two elements of the image, combined with good design are pointing you to the call to action. First, the green box with the headline gets your attention. Then the eye is drawn to the smaller block of green and to the bright orange pillows and then voila, you’re looking at a very simple submission form. If the pillows did not help, the landscape in the background probably did. They are two leading devices that connect the headline to the call to action.

Another note about the flow of a page; use white space. No, that is not a “hole” that needs to be filled. Open space around key elements can bring focus to the element and help it stand out. White space also helps break content into blocks. White space is good when used properly, so please learn how to use it effectively.

Color and Contrast

color-and-contrastColor selection and execution in the design is crucial for an effective landing page design. The human eye is attracted to both color and contrast; but in order to be effective, you must have both.

In the example to the right, the left side of the image has color, but not enough contrast. On the right hand, we are using the same color hue but with higher contrast. A simple method to determine if the contrast is high enough is to convert the image to black and white. Even in black and white, the right hand side of the image is the best option.

Now take a look at the example below. The layout and color palette is somewhat muted. Take a moment to scan the page.

muted-palette

Let’s see if you and I followed the same path? I began with the red logo and down to the headline, then to the female on the phone and to the awards at the lower end of the page.

Did you overlook the call to action as I did?

The form block blends in with the content. It is absorbed by the black and white text of the page. The use of color in this example leads you past the call to action. Now, I’m not suggesting that you make all your contact forms bright red, but if the form had a color border and a colorful “Register” button underneath it, your eye would have moved laterally to the form rather than the awards. If the primary call to action is muted, then your conversions will be effected.

Typography

typography-1One of the best features of the modern web is the ability to use a much broader selection of typefaces to enhance communication. Good typography improves legibility and provides structure. But great typography becomes part of the user experience, delivering a more emotional and powerful message.

Both of these examples make great use of typography to more effectively generate an emotional response. The first example uses a simple typeface in extra bold that gives the sense of movement, complimenting the image in the background. In the second option we see a vintage style typeface that compliments the product being offered (an app that allows you to give your pictures a vintage feel).

typography-2If the typefaces on either of these sites had been just your average computer typeface, centered on screen, would they be as effective?

One final note regarding typography: stick to the KISS principle. More than three typefaces on a page is a train wreck. And making every other word bold for emphasis is the equivalent to making nothing bold. It’s like everyone in a meeting talking at the same time. Don’t do it.

Imagery

poor-imageryPersonally I find pages without visuals rather boring, but then again I do have the attention span of a gnat. (The dog from Disney’s “Up” comes to mind. “Squirrel!”) Your landing page does not need to have an image per se. However, it better have some color and good typography if it is going to be effective.

In my opinion, this page is a good example of an elegant failure. I personally find it completely unconvincing. Sure, the call to action is easy to spot and easy to use. But the page does not really convince me as to what exactly they are offering. A strong visual in the background or even off to the side would have made a much better first impression. After all, the first impression is all you get.

Imagery not only adds visual appeal and support for the message, but it can also lead the reader to the all-important call to action. The example below comes to mind. Although the hand is swiping the card, the finger is pointing toward the form. The lower hand and phone are tucked up nicely to the form element. And the strongest colors are behind the form element, naturally attracting the reader’s eye. A great example of a simple design that is very effective.

great-visual2

Call to Action

Yes, I saved the best for last. Each and every item in this list has but one purpose, to generate a conversion. The call to action can come in a few different formats such as a button, form, or other action. Regardless of the specific format, the call to action MUST stand out. So following are a few tips for creating a successful call to action.

  1. Keep It Simple: allow for white space (open space) around the primary button that completes the action. White space around an element such as a button will naturally attract the eye. Note the spacing around the buttons in the example below. A little separation from other elements gives the buttons higher visibility.call-to-action1
  2. Button: make it larger than the average button; for a form, make sure the form is encapsulated using color or positioning.
    call-to-action2
  3. Colors: use color that contrasts with the background elements. In both examples above, color plays a big role is making the actionable elements stand out.
  4. Forms: only get the most basic information you need to collect for a follow up. People do not enjoy filling out forms, so keep them as short as possible. Don’t be greedy.
  5. Use descriptive text in the actionable button so that the user clearly understands what they are about to do. Examples could be:
  • Download Free Trial
  • Register for Event
  • Join Our Mailing List
  • Submit Your Application
  • Make A Reservation

Landing pages are the perfect opportunity to present a targeted message to a captive audience. But all too often they message is weak and the page poorly designed, leading to lackluster performance. Take some time to evaluate your page and apply some of these basic principles and I am confident you will see better results.

-J-

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The Secret to Cracking Google’s Search Algorithm

Enlightenment = Listening…

Are you struggling to rank well for your top services or product keywords? Do you have insight into why the competition is performing better than you? Are you struggling to get users to convert when they finally get to your site? BEM has discovered the answer to these age old questions… 

Listen to your customers. The expert on your product or service is the person who buys it, not the owner of your company. Consumers are the people who will examine what they’re getting with a fine tooth comb. They have their own opinion about what your product or service is, how it works, what problems it solves, what industry it fits into, etc. Ask the right questions, listen to customer feedback, and observe their behavior.

 Data = Optimization

Google Analytics Sample

Tools like Google Analytics, CrazyEgg and UserTesting.com allow you to gather data on user behavior, search patterns, and site interaction. Interpreting this data and updating to your site accordingly will make it easier for customers to find the information they need to make a buying decision.

Google and other search engines want their users to have the best experience and spend as much time as possible using their tools so that they can continue to serve them ads and convince companies like you to invest and reinvest in tools like AdWords. The more time they spend, the more Google gets. Below are sample searches for online marketing terms using a tool Google provides called ‘Google Trends’.

Google Trends SEO Terms

‘Trends’ collects aggregate data from users’ searches and also makes connections about trending topics that are similar in nature. This can be a great tool to see the difference between what you think your customers are searching and a more comprehensive breakdown of similar trending searches.

Okay, back to big data… Have you figured out how Google continues to improve user experience? They listen. Whether or not we know about it or agree with it, data collection is at an all-time high. Companies like Amazon, Netflix and Facebook are great examples of data collection turned into market capitalization. They thrive on customizing each user’s experience to such an extreme that it becomes an addiction…

netflix addiction

Recent Quote: “Last Saturday I started watching the BBC television series Sherlock on Netflix and completed the entire first 2 seasons. After 8 hours of continuous crime solving I would normally have gone to bed, but Netflix suggested I might also like the TV show Bones. I went on another 2 season bender before finally passing out.” – Ryan Forrest, Exhausted BEM Interactive Digital Team Lead

Customer Voice = Your Voice

Customers can be your biggest advocate or your worst PR nightmare. That’s another great reason to listen to them. Focus on fixing the problems and promoting the successes. Make it easy for customers to review you and share you with their friends on a personal level as well as through social outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp. Not only will this provide you with feedback and new customers, it will open up opportunities to improve your product or service as well as the information and user experience on your site.

Beyonce sung it best. When your customer is alone at a crossroads, where they don’t feel at home in their own home, and though they’ve tried and tried to find the perfect Coach purse to match that new cashmere sweater… Listen…

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5 Things to Do Before You Even Think About Social Media in 2014

1. Research Platforms Where Your Customers Hang Out: Creating a Twitter page just because all your competitors are doing it is not an effective social strategy. If Coke told Pepsi to go jump out of an airplane, do you think Pepsi would go for it? Well… I’m sure if they had a parachute and could make a sweet action-packed commercial out of it they might consider it, but that’s beside the point. It is important to know where your customers go to find information about your product or service. For example, Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social media channels and coincidentally contributes to millions if not billions in online sales. If you sell products that users talk about or pin to their boards, you should have a Pinterest page.

2. Research Changes And Trends In Social Media: Did you know that Snapchat recently hit over 5 million active users (source)?. More importantly, do you know what demographics use it and why they’re choosing to move away from Facebook? How about Facebook’s brand new Paper app (see video below). Staying on top of trends like these will keep you more prepared for shifts in the marketplace and give you a competitive edge.

3. Establish Your Goals and KPIs: All great plans are built around specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals. Create a high level goal for the next year and develop performance indicators that you can use to measure how well it is performing. Here’s an example: In the next year, we want to grow our Facebook activity to at least 20 post likes, 5 post comments and 2 post shares per day.

4. Develop A Calendar For Communication: Each new month, week, or day brings new opportunities to reach out to followers. Building a schedule for where and when to distribute your content will help you keep in regular communication with your audience. This can include a variety of items such as big company events, holiday specials, or just some time to research and post new industry trends that your clients or customers might be interested in. After building out a channel calendar, you may find that you have a ton of great new topics to write about. It is important that you keep your communications frequent. Come up with a weekly or monthly theme and build out new sub-topics from there.

5. Use Your Website As The Final Destination: Just because you have 10,000 likes does not mean that traffic is coming to your website. Make sure that your social content includes teasers or other information that encourages the user to come to your site for more valuable content or to convert. A good example of this is using a partial snapshot of an infographic on a Facebook or LinkedIn post and including a link to the website where the full graphic can be viewed and downloaded.

Infographic-teaser

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The ABCs of Analytics [INFOGRAPHIC] – Are You Getting The ROI You Need From Analytics?

Here at BEM, one common theme we hear when speaking to prospective analytics consulting clients is the idea that even as organizations collect more and more data about their customers, actionable insights don’t always come hand-in-hand. When you consider how different those two processes are (data capture vs. data analysis), you can start to see why: implementing an analytics platform and collecting information is very tactical, while deriving insight is much more strategic. So it’s important to have a framework in place to start making sense of all this data, and using it to make profit-focused business decisions.

The infographic below explains the “ABC” framework promoted by folks like Avinash Kaushik – you may’ve also seen this when it was adopted within the revamped traffic sources reporting in Google Analytics. By focusing on specific areas on your customers’ journey to conversion, you too can start extracting awesome insights from your sea of data and start seeing the true ROI of web analytics.

analytics infographic ABC framework

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5 Things You’re Probably Not Doing With Your Social Campaign

Social media is a great way to interact with your audience, build brand awareness and create touch points with customers and prospects. It can be a very powerful tool in understanding and reaching people if used properly. There are a lot of things people do right with social, but also a lot of areas that get overlooked. Here I’ll discuss a few items that can take your campaign to the next level.

1: You’re probably not utilizing automation tools. Tweet This

Social media doesn’t close, so why should you stop posting when you’re not at work? Chances are your audience is more active on social in the evenings and weekends. I know, I know, you don’t want to spend personal time making social posts for work…..good thing there are tools for that now! Did you know you can schedule posts directly in Facebook now?? Note: this only applies to Pages, not personal profiles. If you’re on platforms other than Facebook, fear not, HootSuite has both paid and free subscriptions which allow you to schedule posts on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and more. Work smarter, not harder: Utilize this tool (or one of the many others like it) to help you out with your social media postings.

2: You’re probably not monitoring brand mentions. Tweet This

Want to know how people feel about that new product you just launched? Is there a social media influencer out there talking up your brand or product? These are questions that many businesses want to know the answer to but don’t know how to go about getting it. Enter social monitoring.  ‘Listening’ is an essential part of understanding your target market and is a great way to get candid information from people already familiar with your brand. Check out socialmention for a base level, free tool.

3: You’re probably tracking followers/likes, not engagement. Tweet This

Don’t get me wrong, Likes and Follows are awesome, but not the most important metric in your social campaign.  Engagement is the key though. Having a ton of followers that don’t engage with your brand is like screaming from the top of a mountain; your voice is traveling, but no one can hear it. Focus on creating and curating compelling content that people want to like, comment on, and share with their circle. If you’ve been running a social campaign for a while, take a look back through your previous posts and see what types of posts had the best engagement. If you’re just starting out, pay attention to what gets the most attention. And don’t forget timing! A post at 2am isn’t likely to yield a high engagement rate (unless you’re Taco Bell).

4: You’re probably not maintaining a consistent ‘voice’. Tweet This

Create a persona to represent your brand on social media outlets. Just the same as you want to create consistent brand image throughout your marketing efforts, it’s important that your social messaging carries a similar consistency. Understanding your audience will go a long way in determining what this persona should be. Is your audience mostly female or male? Are they Boomers, Gen X or Gen Y? Is your relationship with the audience professional (B2B), or mostly consumers? These are all questions that will help develop your social personality and help deliver consistent tone throughout all social platforms and among your social team.

5: You’re probably not posting the right mix of content. Tweet This

This is a big one. A lot of companies are great at posting on a regular basis. What a lot of companies are not good at is mixing up the types of posts they’re making. I’m a big fan of the 4-1-1- rule. The premise behind this rule is that for every 6 posts you make on social, four of them should be new pieces of content, one should be a re-share and one should be a self-serving post. Confused? Here’s an example, let’s say you run social media for Burton Snowboards. Your four new pieces of content could be ‘Proper Snowboard Care’, ‘Best Mountains for Riding Powder’, ‘Getting Started: Making Turns’ & ‘Best Cameras for On-Hill Use’. See how these are all relevant to the audience but not necessarily trying to sell a product? Now for your re-share, a photo from Shaun White’s page of him practicing that new ridiculous trick. And finally, for your self-serving post, ‘Want to ride what the gold medal winner rides? Check out his/her setup on our website!’ By mixing up the types of content you post, you’re keeping things interesting for your audience and staying top of mind with them.

Now go out there and get social! And don’t forget, we’ve got a team of pros here at BEM, so if you’re still lost or just need some help getting started, let us know.

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