Northern Lights PR and Marketing http://www.northernlightspr.com Northern Lights PR: We'll help you drive business growth, minimise crises and engage your employees Thu, 04 Feb 2016 22:01:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Are there risks to guest blogging and posting on LinkedIn? Tips on how to protect yourself against Google penalties http://www.northernlightspr.com/are-there-risks-to-guest-blogging-and-posting-on-linkedin-tips-on-how-to-protect-yourself-against-google-penalties/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/are-there-risks-to-guest-blogging-and-posting-on-linkedin-tips-on-how-to-protect-yourself-against-google-penalties/#comments Thu, 04 Feb 2016 10:22:28 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11316 Guest blogging – writing articles to be posted on other people’s websites – is a really useful tool in the content marketing toolbox. And when it comes to content marketing, the more mentions and links the better. Increased reach, more exposure – it all sounds great, right? Well, not always. If your blog or article … Continue reading Are there risks to guest blogging and posting on LinkedIn? Tips on how to protect yourself against Google penalties

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blogging-1168076_640Guest blogging – writing articles to be posted on other people’s websites – is a really useful tool in the content marketing toolbox. And when it comes to content marketing, the more mentions and links the better. Increased reach, more exposure – it all sounds great, right? Well, not always.

If your blog or article content is shared in more than one place, it could – in some cases – lead to a drop in your Google rankings.

Back in 2011, I highlighted a potential SEO issue for PR agencies that publish their clients’ press releases. “By re-posting to a wider audience, you would think that the article would be shared more widely and thus score more highly with Google. But in fact, it could lead to Google scoring both websites down for duplicate content, as it doesn’t know who is the true author and assumes both sets of content to be spam.”

This issue came up recently for Victoria at Northern Lights, and our conversation about it was what prompted me to write this blog post. There are two issues she discussed – posting blogs from the Northern Lights site to her LinkedIn profile and blogs from the site being posted on the CIPR site.

Starting with the latter, Victoria is registered as a blogger on the CIPR Conversation blog. She had thought this would mean writing original, unique content for the site – as is best practice for all guest blog posts. As discussed, posting the same content on multiple sites can harm your search engine rankings.

However, the CIPR instead republishes some of Victoria’s blog posts from the Northern Lights blog – in full without any changes – and the same with a number of other leading communications bloggers.

Since there is a link back to the original article, there is some SEO benefit for Northern Lights, but the duplicate content has the potential to cause issues if it is picked up by Google and the websites involved could be issued with a Google penalty.

So what should Victoria do?

I’d normally advise that Victoria contacts the website owner and requests the reposted content be removed from the site.

However, the CIPR blog is well established, reputable and has a large readership. The CIPR tweets about new blog posts, so they are shared widely and receive a lot of retweets. Arguably there are benefits to having content posted on the CIPR blog in terms of increased profile for bloggers, who have their content shared with new readers.

acrobat-634423_640Ultimately it’s a decision about the balance of risks versus benefits.

But there are some things you can do to protect yourself and mitigate against the risk of duplicate content and Google penalties.The main one is to ensure you have a well optimised website. This doesn’t just mean ranking well generally in Google, but also getting new content indexed quickly because you already rank for other relevant content.

So – how do you optimise your site to be indexed quickly in Google?

If you post regular, high quality content (a weekly blog is ideal), Google will get to know your website and the topic(s) you are an expert in. You will then be on Google’s “radar” so each time you publish a new blog post, it will get indexed immediately in Google. When Google indexes your content, it is given a time stamp and you become the official “author”. Then if anyone else copies the content, Google will know who is the original author, and who is the “copier”.

As Northern Lights has an established blog with regular high quality content, the blog ranks very well on Google and new blog posts are indexed quickly.

In the case of Victoria’s content (posted on both Northern Lights and the CIPR sites), the Northern Lights version ranks higher in Google search results than the CIPR’s – so Google is likely to know that Victoria is the original author.

The risk of Northern Lights being issued with a Google penalty is therefore low, but the CIPR leaves itself open to risks of Google penalties if it continues to repost content from other sites.

What to do if you find your content posted on another website

spam-940521_640If you find your content has been reposted by another site, check the domain authority of the site on open site explorer – good sites tend to be at least 25+. Look at the number of back links on the site. If the website looks spammy, you should send a request to the website owner for your content to be removed. Regularly checking and monitoring for copied content from your website should actually be part of your online reputation management (ORM) process anyway.

But don’t wait until your content is copied! There are some pre-emptive actions you can be taking now to protect yourself against penalties for duplicate content.

5 step guide to protecting yourself from Google penalties from duplicate content

The tips below have been tried and tested. In our research, using these tips together (amongst other things) can get content indexed within minutes, compared with some websites taking up to 2-3 weeks.

  • There are a number of ways you can protect your blog content against Google penalties for duplicate content, including marking up your content with “rel=author mark up” tags and updating your Google+ profile with content links.
  • Build your website on a platform like WordPress, which notifies you of any backlinks. When you write a blog post, you should include internal links (to other posts or pages on your website). Then if someone copies your blog post onto their site, the links will be picked up by WordPress, and you will receive a notification that someone is linking to you.
  • Have a live Google+ button on all pages across your site. Always share your blog posts through Google+.
  • Use Google feedburner as a subscription service to blogs. While Google feedburner isn’t necessarily the best service, common sense would suggest that if a Google product is actively looking for new content on your site to deliver a service, it will surely notify an internal system there is new content to spider.
  • Use schema to mark up content. This is just about applying general SEO good practice. Check out schema.org for more details on this.

If you follow the tips above, you greatly reduce your chances of being issued with a Google penalty if someone reposts your content on their website.

Should you publish blogs on LinkedIn?

Last year, LinkedIn introduced a feature so that anyone can publish blogs on their LinkedIn profile. But Northern Lights is not the only agency to be worrying – is this duplicate content if you publish blogs that appear on your website?

My own view is that I would not advise copying and pasting the same blog to LinkedIn because there is a danger again for duplicate content. I do think it is a good idea to produce a different blog, or a round up blog, or even a summary blog for LinkedIn to avoid the threat of a Google penalty. . However there is no question that reach and engagement is stronger on LinkedIn than most website blogs.

In my own business, we are looking at a weekly blog post on our site and a monthly LinkedIn post as our strategy.

I’m interested to hear from others who have looked at these issues. What are you doing? What are the results?

Have you ever been issued with a Google penalty? How did you overcome it?

Please share your experiences and comments below!

 

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Life beyond 140? Twitter considers 10,000 characters and Ben was right! http://www.northernlightspr.com/life-beyond-140-twitter-considers-10000-characters-and-ben-was-right/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/life-beyond-140-twitter-considers-10000-characters-and-ben-was-right/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:47:59 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11296 This is my smug face. I’ve made some bold predictions in my time and this is one of those rare occasions when I get to say “I was right!” – I’m hoping few will remember my claim that Google+ will be the next big thing. Twitter is going to increase its character count from the … Continue reading Life beyond 140? Twitter considers 10,000 characters and Ben was right!

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This is my smug face. I’ve made some bold predictions in my time and this is one of those rare occasions when I get to say “I was right!” – I’m hoping few will remember my claim that Google+ will be the next big thing. Twitter is going to increase its character count from the tried, trusted and frustrating 140-limit to a whopping 10,000 – probably…

Earlier this month, I delivered my Top Ten Social Media Predictions For 2016 and said Twitter would extend its character count as a number of the big players moved towards becoming content platforms. Just days later and the co-founder and interim chief executive of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, confirmed he was considering letting users have a 10,000 character limit for tweets.

Unsurprisingly, this has caused a Twitter storm. On one side of the vociferous debate you have those who are wholeheartedly in support of the increase and are thanking Dorsey for listening to their brilliant ideas. On the other, you have the traditionalists who claim it will destroy Twitter’s unique appeal.

As yet, we’ve not been told whether this will definitely happen. However, Dorsey’s changes while he’s been back in charge steadying the Twitter juggernaut suggest it’s more than likely.

Why is Twitter increasing character count?

First, why is Twitter planning on increasing the character count to 10,000? As I said in my predictions – smug face again – all of the major social media players have a new focus on hosting content on their platforms.

The reason for this is that they want users to stay with them rather than click away to different web platforms. Twitter is now a publicly-listed entity and needs to deliver profits. If they are constantly encouraging users to click elsewhere by following links in individual tweets, it makes it hard to demonstrate value to advertisers.

LinkedIn has already opened up its “post” option to every user – instead of just gifting it to the select few “influencers” – and has enabled everyone to blog direct to the site. It has proved to be hugely popular and millions of people are posting original content every day.

In addition to keeping people on the site and becoming a valuable resource, this avalanche of content also has huge search benefits and ensures LinkedIn constantly appears in engines like Google.

Twitter – and Facebook – wants to do the same. By allowing people to write lengthy posts, they will be searchable, will encourage people to stay on the site and look at advertiser tweets and, hopefully, add value to the entire experience.

Why change the character count now?

There has been a growing trend for Twitter users to write lengthy pieces of content and then upload the text as an image under a simple tweet. Dorsey claims 300 million people are doing this – I find that hard to believe as there are only something like 350 million active Twitter users.

However, there has been a clear move to this new way of delivering content and Dorsey says this demonstrates the need for more character capacity.

It’s hard to question his motives, but the one big drawback of content as an image is that the text isn’t searchable and Twitter desperately wants to know everything about you so it can give you lots of relevant adverts.

Will this be the death of Twitter?

Dorsey obviously claims this will make it stronger, but many are worried. Twitter’s popularity is built on short, pithy and swift updates and most fear that huge swathes of content will make it very difficult to contend with – especially on mobiles.

As a result, many predict the 140-character Tweet will live on and any extra content will only be visible if you click on the actual Tweet.

Others say that the 140-character limit forces people to generate quality content and get straight to the point. By allowing people to use 10,000 characters, this could impact on quality and could force people to look elsewhere for their social needs.

One response I got to a Tweet about the plans perhaps says it best for those who love the simplicity of the platform…

The reality is that short, snappy intros will still be needed to grab people’s attention – especially when you consider the attention span of social users is now estimated to be six seconds. My feeling is that, ultimately, Twitter will still be relied upon primarily as a quick update and distribution tool. Most users will want people clicking on links to their website for content – another critical element of having a strong search profile.

So, will Twitter increase the character count?

Since Dorsey took charge again, content has been his primary focus. He has already created a curated news feed called “Moments”, has built trends into the search function and has started featuring performance analytics on your profile page to help you improve your content.

Twitter wants users to be able to use the platform for storytelling and this increase in characters will pave the way for that. Dorsey also argues that the original 140-character limit was set because of the 160-character limits of SMS messages when Twitter launched 10 years ago. The rise of smartphones has put an end to that and Twitter says it should respond.

All of this suggests Twitter has probably already decided to scrap the old limit, but you can bet it will remain focussed on ensuring the main news feed still has those same, short updates everyone has come to love.

My feed will undoubtedly have a few 140-character variations on smug claims about my predictions for a few weeks to come…

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How are councils making use of social media? http://www.northernlightspr.com/how-are-councils-making-use-of-social-media/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/how-are-councils-making-use-of-social-media/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2016 15:03:09 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11287 For local authorities, Government departments, councils and metropolitan boroughs, using social media can be a major headache. With hundreds of different departments, a multitude of agendas, a diverse range of stakeholders and events ranging from small meetings to major catastrophes, creating an effective and engaging social media community can be a significant challenge. While managing … Continue reading How are councils making use of social media?

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Storm cloudFor local authorities, Government departments, councils and metropolitan boroughs, using social media can be a major headache. With hundreds of different departments, a multitude of agendas, a diverse range of stakeholders and events ranging from small meetings to major catastrophes, creating an effective and engaging social media community can be a significant challenge.

While managing and monitoring multiple accounts across a swathe of platforms, councils must maintain a common voice and support teams that range from overly-enthusiastic about social media to bloody-minded resistance.

The result is that, while most have a presence, many councils opt to tackle the bare minimum and simply post their printed content to social media and do little to engage their communities. However, when councils invest time in creating a social media profile that is engaging and a valuable resource, the benefits can be massive.

Social media helping councils make savings

I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of councils and Government organisations on their social media strategies and managing their online presence in recent months and have been hugely impressed by their appetite for creating new ways to engage with the electorate.

A BDO report from 18 months ago showed social media is transforming the way councils communicate and is increasingly being used by customer service teams. The report found social media was freeing up time for other tasks, with 63% of councils producing less paper leaflets and 40% seeing a drop in the need to telephone customers.

Since the report was published, I’m convinced those numbers have continued to rise as more councils begin to see the benefits of using social media.

Councils using social media for crisis communications

Those benefits are perhaps best seen in the wake of the Boxing Day floods that ravaged the north of England and Scotland. Council social media channels instantly became a vital resource for everyone affected by the deluge and have remained an important resource in the weeks that have followed.

social 1From providing live updates on rising water levels, rescue operations and refuge centres to then delivering support and resources for the clean-up operation, these channels have been critical in ensuring each region can bounce back from the floods.

More importantly, they’ve helped to position the councils at the heart of the crisis and demonstrate how hard they have worked to support residents, secure funding and emergency relief and also lobby decision makers to prevent future catastrophes.

The power of social media for councils

One great example is Calderdale Council. The borough was again hit particularly hard by flood waters, but the council team responded quickly and made sure their social media channels were a reliable and trusted source of information throughout the crisis.

At this point I should say that I have worked with Calderdale Council to help shape their social media strategy and engagement plans, but have been blown away by their response during the floods.

social 2Head of Customer Service and Communications, Zohrah Zanduci, hailed the power of social media and revealed the council’s main Twitter feed had more than one million impressions during the floods.

Throughout the crisis, the council utilised all of its social media feeds to deliver updates on floods, provide advice and guidance for residents, show critical information wsocial 3ith infographics, help with the clean-up operation and also help raise more than £1m from the public for flood victims – and then show where it is being spent.

More importantly, they also closely monitored social media and actively engaged with any debates or comments being posted by groups and individuals outside of the council. By joining these discussions and providing instant responses, the council helped to shape the debate and demonstrate it was listening to concerns and then acting on them.

So, how are councils using social media?

It’s important to remember that social media is something that can and should be used by councils throughout the year and not just at times of crisis. As always, engagement is key. Social media accounts that simply promote initiatives and fail to ask questions or actively respond don’t interest users.

Social media communities want two-way dialogue and want to know they are being heard and understood. It’s the most-used format for making complaints, but is also hugely powerful for helping to transform perceptions when councils respond and act.

There are some great examples of how social media is helping to transform the way councils communicate and make savings by driving through new efficiencies. Many now use social media to answer frequently asked questions or to provide answers to key issues – massively freeing up time for customer service teams.

Others, like Leeds City Council chief executive Tom Riordan, use social media to get access to the people in power. He uses Twitter to talk to the decision makers in Westminster, speak out on key issues and influence policy.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Wakefield Council are bringing transparency to their decision making by live broadcasting meetings on new tools like Periscope.

social 4The Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, UKTI and several councils are using blogs and other pieces of online content to position their leaders, demonstrate the value of services, attract investment and put themselves on the international stage.

Most importantly, a number of councils are now directly targeting social media communities to seek feedback, consult on proposals and make sure the end users are getting a direct say in the decisions that will affect them.

Social media is constantly evolving, but each new generation allows councils to engage far more effectively than ever before. While it will continue to pose challenges, the benefits of social media to the councils who embrace it are far greater.

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3 Essential LinkedIn Steps to Boost Your Career In 2016 http://www.northernlightspr.com/3-essential-linkedin-steps-to-boost-your-career-in-2016/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/3-essential-linkedin-steps-to-boost-your-career-in-2016/#comments Thu, 07 Jan 2016 12:10:28 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11275 This blog appeared on Prime Women and looks at how to use LinkedIn to boost your career. If you have personal ambitions for 2016, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools to help you achieve these. Follow these steps to make a great start on LinkedIn

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Woman - linkedIn

This blog appeared on Prime Women and looks at how to use LinkedIn to boost your career.

If you have personal ambitions for 2016, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools to help you achieve these.

Follow these steps to make a great start on LinkedIn

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Top ten blogs of 2015 – and what we can learn from them http://www.northernlightspr.com/top-ten-blogs-of-2015-and-what-we-can-learn-from-them/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/top-ten-blogs-of-2015-and-what-we-can-learn-from-them/#comments Tue, 22 Dec 2015 14:33:35 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11260 The end or start of a year is a good time to reflect, analyse and plan. This week I have been looking at the stats for our blog and seeing what I can learn from them and planning what we should do in 2016. A key task is to see which blogs are doing best, … Continue reading Top ten blogs of 2015 – and what we can learn from them

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learning curveThe end or start of a year is a good time to reflect, analyse and plan. This week I have been looking at the stats for our blog and seeing what I can learn from them and planning what we should do in 2016.

A key task is to see which blogs are doing best, thinking about why and then writing more on similar topics (this blog on how to use Google analytics tells you how to analyse your stats).

So here I look at our top performers of 2015 and outline what we should cover next year – hopefully when we do our 2016 review, we will have followed our own advice!

1. What were the top blogs of 2015?

Yet again, our most popular blog has been What is a good bounce rate for a website? This was a guest blog from our associate, Jonny Ross from April 2013 (thanks again Jonny!) – and written in response to several of our clients asking us about bounce rates.

There are two lessons from this

  • Listen to the questions your clients ask you – they are goldmines to help drive traffic to your website/blog
  • Get your partners, associates, clients to write guest blogs for you on topics where they are the experts

The next popular blogs were, in order

board meeting

One particular blog interested me, ‘Building social media stakeholder engagement’ and made me dig further. You might say our blog How to create a social media strategy for universities is quite similar, but this has only half the traffic. My thoughts on this are

  • The words ‘social media stakeholder engagement’ are good search words and we need to write more blogs around this in 2016
  • Putting the word ‘universities’ into the social media strategy blog has made it very niche. It may have turned some readers off – but we should not worry too much. Having the word ‘universities’ in the blog has helped us come top of Google searches around ‘PR for universities’ and we have won business from this (do a search and you will see this blog comes second on Google – I have only just discovered that!). So being very niche can be good for winning business, even if it is not the biggest driver of traffic
  • Actually ‘social media strategy’ is still a good topic and we should include this in our 2016 blog plan

Other observations from these are

  • Internal communications is a big issue for companies – the intranet and internal comms blog are top performers. We should write more blogs on this and develop our services
  • Directors’ LinkedIn profiles – this is winning us work and an issue for senior people. More blogs on this topic are needed!
  • I wrote the blog ’10 successful income generation ideas for your business’ more as a game to see if it would work for traffic. Clearly it did! It is not particularly the way we position ourselves – most of our clients talk about ‘winning new business’ rather than income generation. It hasn’t won us business. I think I will leave it as a useful exercise in trying out blog titles that work
  • I had not spotted that the blog on how to chair a board is working so well. This is part of the services we have put together on leadership communications and is a useful affirmation that there is a need for this
  • A client had emailed me ‘where should internal communications sit – HR or marketing?’. The lesson, again, is listen to the questions your clients and customers are asking

what planet was I on?

  • What planet was I on when I wrote that blog title ‘How to get new business in Dubai from standing start in less than a month. Through LinkedIn. Here’s how’? It breaks all the rules for blog titles – much too long. But I suspect it gets picked up for ‘new business in Dubai’ and just shows that if you get the angle and content right, that’s what matters
  • I just went to the end of our Google analytics to see what titles are NOT working so well, which include ’10 take-aways from the CBI conference to make you optimistic’ and ‘Social media is changing crisis communications – are you prepared?’ We should not bother with these ‘thought’ pieces but focus on sharing our expertise and tips

    3. Your blog plan for 2016

So what lessons can you learn from all this? Here are my thoughts for your blog plan

  • Spend an hour on Google analytics and make notes. What is working, what is not? Are there themes of the blogs that are working? Choose five of them for your 2016 blog plan
  • Which types of titles work best? Is ‘5 tips’ or ‘How to’ or does your audience like the more reflective types of blog? Every business is different, understand your audiences. Do a list of blog titles that work well and use similar ones for 2016
  • Are you using your blogs strategically to win business? What blogs could you write to support your sales focus? Do a list of key services that you want to sell in 2016 and then write blogs to support these.

Good luck for 2016, hope these ideas help. And call us if you would like to discuss how you can use blogs strategically and win business from them. You might also find our Amazon bestselling ebook useful, How to write a top-ranked business blog’.

And do share your stories of which blog titles are working best for you and why.

 

 

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Top ten social media predictions for 2016 http://www.northernlightspr.com/top-ten-social-media-predictions-for-2016/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/top-ten-social-media-predictions-for-2016/#comments Fri, 18 Dec 2015 09:58:45 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11243 Here I offer my ten predictions for social media in 2016, sharing the top social media trends and opportunities for business.

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star gazingIt’s that time of year when we gaze into our crystal ball and attempt to predict the social media trends and opportunities that will emerge in 2016. Here I offer my ten predictions for social media in 2016, sharing the top social media trends and opportunities for business.

The past year has been a phenomenal year for the social media world. Not only have the big firms found a firm footing, delivered a swathe of new technologies and delivered eye-watering profits, but the adoption of social media has penetrated every corner of the business world.

Researchers claim 99 per cent of the world’s top brands now have a social media presence but, more importantly, we’ve seen a massive rise in the use of social media among the business to business community.

All of this points to social media continuing to become an increasingly important tool for businesses over the next 12 months, but what should you be looking out for?

1. Live video and more real-time updates

broadcastThe arrival of live video-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat have transformed social media communications. They allow anyone to broadcast to the world live and they have rocketed in popularity since their launch in Spring. Around 40 years of live footage is watched on Periscope every day!

Video has always been one of the most popular and engaging pieces of content and the ability to broadcast in real-time has only fuelled its popularity further. In 2016 we’ll see businesses using it more to engage with key customers, share news, discuss key industry issues and demonstrate their expertise with a global and engaged audience.

When I spoke to social media guru Jonny Ross recently, he talked about using Periscope to record videos in real time so you can engage clients directly and then place the recorded videos on your YouTube channel for people to refer to later. Top tip!

2. Social media becoming content platforms

Facebook’s new Instant Articles feature caused a storm a few months ago when it was announced. The platform is going to include full articles – key players like the Guardian and Nation Geographic have already signed up – as it aims to become a content platform as well as a social media site.

We’ve already seen LinkedIn make a clear move to generate more content by allowing every member to post blogs and Twitter is talking about allowing people to use more than 140-characters or even include longer pieces of content. Twitter has now also launched the “Moments” service which delivers curated content around the top news stories of the day. Look for it in the menu bar at the top of the page.

The move towards content is about keeping people on the social media platforms for longer, rather than encouraging them to go elsewhere to read articles that interest them. For businesses, it’s about finding where your audience is going for content and then providing it. In 2016, that may mean putting articles on social media platforms.

3. Social media as a search engine

social mediaWe’ve seen a rise in people using social media to search for businesses and content, rather than relying on Google in the first instance. This is because people now want real people’s opinions of a business before then contacting them or making a buying decision.

Social media allows them to understand your values and get instant reviews. The rise in the use of social media for search means that every business needs a carefully managed profile to ensure they can seize on these unique opportunities.

4. Consolidation – no new social media players in 2016

The major firms have become so big and successful that the likelihood of another social media player crashing onto the scene is slim. The big four have proved to be hungry for acquisitions and they will snap up new technology rather than allow it to gain a foothold on its own.

I suspect we may also see some consolidation in the market, with some social media platforms coming together to compete in an intense marketplace.

5. More in-app functions for social media

This desire to keep people on platforms for longer and the acquisition of new technology will see more functions appearing among the key players.

Facebook has created the digital assistant, content apps are emerging elsewhere and we’re seeing a swathe of other technologies appearing. All of them will be aimed at immersing people in the apps for longer and businesses must look at how they can be used to communicate with customers.

6. Growth of one-click purchasing

With lots of new technology and more engaged consumers, social selling will become huge in 2016. The goal is a simple one-click button that will enable people to spot something in their social media and buy it instantly.

It’s already coming through and it will be a major opportunity for businesses looking for instant and easy access to their customers.

7. Competition for visibility will grow

With more businesses coming online and social media platforms finding new ways to generate revenue, the result will be a growing challenge in getting found on social media. Facebook are already restricting how businesses are found through organic searches and you can expect others to follow suit.

Twitter are talking about creating curated feeds instead of the standard chronological approach we get and LinkedIn already delivers you “top results” unless you ask for the most recent updates. All of this means businesses can be pushed down and forced to consider advertising.

As always, quality content and a targeted, engaged audience will be key, but this growing competition will force many to look at social media advertising and promoted content. Another result of this will be soaring advertising rates. At a meeting I had the other day, one consultant described Twitter’s new rates as “ridiculously expensive”.

8. Increased social media security

Scandals like the Ashley Madison data breach have ensured that social media security has remained at the top of the news agenda for much of 2015. Personal data is a massive issue and it remains a top priority for all of the social media platforms who not only have to protect it, but also be able to track it and provide critical information when required.

Expect to see a wealth of security updates and a new generation of transparency in 2016. For businesses, it’s critical you stay on top of updates and make sure your accounts are secure.

9. More touchscreen and mobile friendly systems

touchscreenWith Google now penalising websites that aren’t mobile friendly, the shift to optimise everything for touchscreen devices is well underway.

Social media platforms and apps are also following suit and will start including more touchscreen and mobile-friendly features throughout 2016. Again these could provide unique opportunities for businesses to engage with customers and should be monitored closely.

10. Quality content will become even more important

Content is the undisputed king of the online world and the crown looks far from being toppled for the months to come. Google has placed an even greater emphasis on content in its mysterious search algorithms and all of the social media platforms are hungrily eyeing ways to include original content on their sites.

Businesses must generate original, interesting and engaging pieces of content if they want to be found, trusted and engaging. Customers crave ways to find out more about firms and understand values and expertise. Many still want written articles but don’t forget about video and infographics as they are hugely popular in social media channels.

What does the future hold for social media?

mobileWith demographics shifting on social media – we’re seeing a gradual rise in the age of users on Facebook – we will continue to see phenomenal growth in the popularity of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat which appeal to a younger audience.

They too will start introducing more functions and are obviously aiming to grab some of the revenues their bigger brothers are clawing in. This means businesses must be aware of the opportunities they can bring and look at some of the successes the big brands are already finding on these new platforms.

Overall, the future of social media is all about getting people to spend more time on a platform. Whether that’s reading and watching content or using a digital assistant to plan your week, the upshot will be social media platforms getting further embedded into your life.

While many will recoil in horror at that prospect, the truth is that it has already happened. However, that presents a unique opportunity for businesses to use these platforms to get instant access to the hearts and minds of customers.

Do you have any other predictions to add?

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The press release is not dead http://www.northernlightspr.com/the-press-release-is-not-dead/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/the-press-release-is-not-dead/#comments Fri, 11 Dec 2015 12:29:24 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11231 Here at Northern Lights we’ve seen a rise in popularity of press releases once again and are producing them for a variety of clients.

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Leading communications writer Max Tatton-Brown has written an article recently that argues a traditional press release has limited value and is little more than a vanity project that few want to read. I disagree with this overarching view and say a well-crafted press release for businesses still has real value for positioning a brand and addressing key issues.

The piece says press releases are the selfies of the marketing world and argues, like selfies, they make the company at the heart of the press release an artificial focus point and ignore the bigger picture behind them.

It’s a really interesting point and I totally agree with Max when he goes on to say that businesses need to shift the focus and start using press releases to focus on the whole landscape.

Here at Northern Lights we’ve seen a rise in popularity of press releases once again and are producing them for a variety of clients. We’ve seen success because we never shout “we are excited to announce” and instead look at how the business can add value to their target audience by leveraging their expertise and insights.

The evolution of the press release

Successful communications today have to use a plethora of different channels to secure success, but the press release is an integral part of this.

Many PR agencies boldly claim they will never send out a press release and proclaim “the press release is dead”. This is shortsighted and they are missing out on a powerful communications channel that has priceless value to a brand in person and, most importantly, online.

While expertly crafted websites and comprehensive content marketing strategies that are supported with robust social media campaigns are fantastic, they need to be supported by external sources. Google wants to see quality content linking back to your business from trusted media outlets, blogging platforms and other businesses. Press releases are a great way to get these trusted external sources to feature articles and opinion pieces from you.

I keep banging on about this, but the world is online and Google is the supreme overlord. To succeed, you have to be on page one of the search engine and press releases are a great way to get found.

How do you write a successful press release?

But, how do you create a successful press release in today’s landscape? In truth, Max and I are in agreement on this. It can no longer be a duck-faced, naval-gazing piece that shouts “look at me” – like a selfie, these just attract derisory looks and are rarely used.

A successful press release has to add something to the debate, provide answers readers need or challenge existing opinion.

Most importantly, a press release has to have value as a story. Will someone want to read what you have to say? If it’s only the people in your business and your mum who will be interested, scrap it and think of something else.

Base your piece on clear, simple facts, share your experiences and help people to understand the trends or how they can overcome the challenges they are facing in their business.

Keep it short and to the point and bring it to life with people. Use interviews and real-life examples and justify what you say. Illustrate the story with the facts, quotes and with a quality image.

Understand your sector, listen to the issues that are being discussed and provide the answers. Get to know the journalists and editors and look at what they are writing about – see how you can provide what they need.

If you get the combination right, you’ll get that coveted coverage and you’ll position yourself as an expert in your field.

Getting coverage in the media

Now, more than ever, the media and other online outlets are clamouring for content that will add value to their readers. The industry is facing ever-increasing pressure and has limited resources so there is a real opportunity to support exhausted journalists with quality stories.

Similarly, that mountain of pressure to deliver also means newsdesks have zero tolerance for poor press releases that have little value. Get it wrong and your future press release could simply be ignored.

Going back to Max’s excellent selfie analogy. Too many of us simply stare at the black mirror in front of us and let it publicise every facet of our business and personal lives, luring us into believing we have found stardom.

The reality is that everyone is so involved in their own stardom that they rarely see anyone else’s. By turning the camera around and sharing your views on the world, you can start to be heard above the clamour of a selfie-obsessed world.

 

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‘Digital is critical for the future of law firms’ http://www.northernlightspr.com/digital-is-critical-for-the-future-of-law-firms/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/digital-is-critical-for-the-future-of-law-firms/#comments Thu, 03 Dec 2015 16:52:08 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11208 At a recent event hosted by our client the Leeds Law Society, the heads of the legal sector in the UK came together to debate the future of the profession. It was a fascinating debate and one key element that emerged from the session was the need for law firms to embrace digital technology. Digital … Continue reading ‘Digital is critical for the future of law firms’

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At a recent event hosted by our client the Leeds Law Society, the heads of the legal sector in the UK came together to debate the future of the profession. It was a fascinating debate and one key element that emerged from the session was the need for law firms to embrace digital technology.

Digital technologies like social media, services delivered online, big data algorithms, e-commerce service packages, virtual communication and procedures handled by artificial intelligence programmes are all transforming the business to business sector, but are law firms making the most of the next generation of opportunities?

In attendance was the Legal Services Board, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and the Legal Ombudsman and all agreed that digital technologies, intelligent automation and social media presented unique opportunities for professionals to fill a “yawning gap” in the provision of legal advice.

Leeds Legal Elisabeth Davies

The head of the Legal Services Consumer Panel, Elizabeth Davies, told the audience in Leeds that “digital is a critical part of the solution” but warned there is a growing appetite for the provision of online services from business consumers and law firms are failing to rise to the challenge.

Leeds Legal Sir Michael PittSir Michael Pitt, the chair of governing body, the Legal Services Board, said £12bn of business is going wanting because SMEs and larger corporates can’t access advice in the way they want. He said: “We are seeing more innovation through the use of alternative business structures, but the use of digital technologies is missing. We need to create a dynamic marketplace that can provide the right product at the right price and digital technologies are critical to this process.”

Can law firms use social media to win business?

2015-05-13_1731-172x246Their comments mirror Northern Light’s own findings from the Yorkshire’s Top 100 Legal Firms research paper we completed earlier this year. While the research programme found many firms were recognising the need to harness digital technologies, few were making use of their full potential and were still at the talking stage or were delegating basic online tasks to junior members of the team.

While digital technologies have the potential to transform the way legal firms operate and deliver services – something another of our clients, Pat Chapman-Pincher, has spoken about at length – they can go much further.

While the legal chiefs focus on the impact on service delivery, law firms need to also consider how digital technologies can transform the way they communicate with clients, target potential customers, develop relationships and, crucially, demonstrate their expertise.

Using social media to target customers

At the time of the research, the McKinsey Global Institute published a paper that concluded: “The professional services industry has the greatest potential of any industry to see huge return-on-investment benefits from social media.”

This is because social media and other digital technologies are a hugely powerful tool for breaking down barriers, improving links to customers and creating clear channels for customers to understand a firms’ values and expertise. All of which lead to new business.

My greatest argument for using digital technologies are the access they create. Not only do they enable you quickly to identify who you need to speak to and allow you to communicate directly, but they enable you to position yourself as the go-to expert in your field and create a personal brand people want to buy into.

How can law firms use social media?

social media, world

All too often the biggest barriers to the adoption of digital technologies in law firms are the lawyers themselves who don’t see the value in spending time on social media or are afraid of giving away their IP. The perception of social media is also a major issue with many lawyers seeing it as a waste of time or something for teenagers.

Social media adds value and can become a time-saving tool as well as a valuable source of new business enquiries. Using social media you can quickly identify the issues clients face and then share your insights to help them overcome challenges. By giving them genuine insights, you help them address a problem while also starting to develop a trusted relationship.

While digital technologies are crucial for improving search rankings, many lawyers also argue that clients won’t use Google to find them. Whilst this is true, most clients will still carry out online research to understand your values and expertise. If you’ve also created online channels for them to access your services, getting found online will be vital.

The top performer in the Northern Lights research was Lupton Fawcett and managing partner Richard Marshall said: “Your online presence is now much more than a brochure – it’s a device for creating a funnel of work. We use social media and blogs to create calls to action, make it easy for people to find out who we are, what we do and how to engage with us. Crucially, blogging has generated fee earning enquiries and is turning into work.”

Building digital technologies into law firm strategy

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Digital technologies are transforming the way we all work and the legal chiefs are right to say law firms need to do more. Adoption of digital technologies are on the rise but the reality is that professional firms are falling behind consumer appetites for online services and communications.

As yet, social media and digital technologies aren’t going to become the main driver for new business, but they are now an integral part of that mix. With a clear need for streamlined and accessible legal services that don’t compromise on quality, digital technologies need to be part of every law firm’s business strategy.

Like the legal chiefs, my fear is that most firms still have little idea where they will add value, leaving the door open to a new generation of disruptive firms operating under an alternative business structure.

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How did Northern Lights break into international trade? http://www.northernlightspr.com/how-did-northern-lights-break-into-international-trade/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/how-did-northern-lights-break-into-international-trade/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 09:26:20 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11184 Northern Lights broke into exports in just 28 days and used LinkedIn and social media to research the market, secure overseas meetings and sign its first international deal in the Middle East. Here, chief executive Victoria Tomlinson explains how Northern Lights targeted overseas markets, researched export opportunities, sought introductions to business leaders in other countries … Continue reading How did Northern Lights break into international trade?

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Northern Lights broke into exports in just 28 days and used LinkedIn and social media to research the market, secure overseas meetings and sign its first international deal in the Middle East.

Here, chief executive Victoria Tomlinson explains how Northern Lights targeted overseas markets, researched export opportunities, sought introductions to business leaders in other countries and established a presence in a new territory.

Addressing key issues like overcoming export challenges, identifying a niche for your product or services and motivating teams around the world, the interview provides key insights into success in overseas markets.

Crucially, Victoria explains why she has never seen Northern Lights business in Dubai and Abu Dhabi as “exporting”.

Click here if you can not watch this video.

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14 lessons from a small business selling overseas – from the start http://www.northernlightspr.com/14-lessons-from-a-small-business-selling-overseas-from-the-start/ http://www.northernlightspr.com/14-lessons-from-a-small-business-selling-overseas-from-the-start/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 10:34:18 +0000 http://www.northernlightspr.com/?p=11175 We share our experiences and tips for small businesses to break into international trade. Read the blog on Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership website here. If you would like support to explore new markets and seek out exciting business opportunities overseas, click here to browse support from the LEP and their partners.  

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We share our experiences and tips for small businesses to break into international trade. Read the blog on Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership website

here.

If you would like support to explore new markets and seek out exciting business opportunities overseas, click here to browse support from the LEP and their partners.

 

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