A CHAT WITH DREAM LO­CAL DIGITAL FOUNDER SHAN­NON KIN­NEY

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Dream Lo­cal Digital founder Shan­non Kin­ney is a sea­soned startup founder and ex­ec­u­tive with over 25 years of ex­pe­ri­ence. She is con­sid­ered a thought leader in the on­line space and is a highly soughtafter key­note speaker, ad­vi­sor and con­sul­tant. She founded Maine-based digital mar­ket­ing agency Dream Lo­cal Digital in 2009 to bring the power of on­line mar­ket­ing and suc­cess­ful so­cial me­dia to small and medium-sized busi­nesses. Dream Lo­cal Digital works with pub­lish­ers, me­dia com­pa­nies, ad agen­cies, and di­rectly with busi­nesses on all as­pects of their on­line mar­ket­ing plans.

News & Tech sounded her on trends in the in­dus­try.

What trends are driv­ing the big­gest re­sults f or our in­dus­try?

For the past 25 years, I’ve been work­ing with me­dia com­pa­nies to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to be suc­cess­ful on­line. I started Dream Lo­cal Digital nine and a half years ago to de­velop so­lu­tions to help them nav­i­gate digital mar­ket­ing ser­vices. Cur­rently, this is the big­gest trend driv­ing re­sults for me­dia com­pa­nies. By sell­ing digital mar­ket­ing ser­vices, I mean ser­vices such as so­cial me­dia man­age­ment, SEO (search en­gine op­ti­miza­tion), web­site devel­op­ment, paid search and so­cial me­dia ads (PPC, pay per click), email mar­ket­ing and much more. Through the sell­ing of these ser­vices, me­dia com­pa­nies can act as full-ser­vice agen­cies for their clients. While it is pos­si­ble to build teams to ful­fill these ser­vices in-house, it’s dif­fi­cult to do so prof­itably or at scale, and the ma­jor­ity of me­dia com­pa­nies out­source the ful­fill­ment to some­one. Dream Lo­cal Digital is one of the sev­eral firms that of­fer that ser­vice to me­dia com­pa­nies.

The Lo­cal Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion re­cently re­leased their In­no­va­tion In­dex, which sur­veyed me­dia com­pa­nies through­out North Amer­ica. It found that many of them are de­vot­ing sig­nif­i­cant re­sources to sell­ing digital mar­ket­ing ser­vices, with high per­form­ers see­ing it rep­re­sent 40 to 50 per­cent of their digital rev­enue. That’s con­sis­tent with some of the com­pa­nies we work with as well.

As Google and Face­book con­tinue to dom­i­nate on­line ad­ver­tis­ing, by sell­ing digital mar­ket­ing ser­vices a me­dia com­pany can keep some of that mar­ket share for them­selves, as well as the valu­able trusted ad­vi­sor role with the ad­ver­tiser.

The most pop­u­lar ser­vices are so­cial me­dia man­age­ment, SEO, paid so­cial and search ad­ver­tis­ing, au­di­ence ex­ten­sion, tar­geted dis­play and re­tar­get­ing, web­site devel­op­ment, email mar­ket­ing and na­tive ad­ver­tis­ing/con­tent mar­ket­ing.

If any­one read­ing this is try­ing to fig­ure out how to ap­proach sell­ing these ser­vices, or is won­der­ing how to make them more prof­itable, I’m happy to talk with them and of­fer any help I can!

How does a com­pany achieve the largest so­cial me­dia en­gage­ment in lo­cal me­dia?

Me­dia com­pa­nies should def­i­nitely pri­or­i­tize gain­ing en­gage­ment on their own so­cial me­dia chan­nels, not only to in­ter­act with their au­di­ence and gain wider ex­po­sure to their con­tent and brands, but also to de­velop op­por­tu­ni­ties to mon­e­tize that au­di­ence. Key ways to in­crease en­gage­ment in­clude:

• In­ter­ac­tive con­tent to be­gin con­ver­sa­tions (could be as sim­ple as ask­ing ques­tions, or a poll, quiz or con­test).

• Rec­og­nize that some­times the con­tent that will drive the high­est en­gage­ment may not be hard news, but rather top­ics that are po­lar­iz­ing and/or en­ter­tain­ing. Care­fully track your post per­for­mance and see what kinds of con­tent your au­di­ence re­sponds best to.

• Com­pelling images make a sig­nifi cant dif­fer­ence in driv­ing en­gage­ment. Video is a strong driver of en­gage­ment, even quick videos shot from your phone.

• Go where the au­di­ence is with your con­tent: for ex­am­ple, if the lo­cal school district has a par­ents group on Face­book, post your sto­ries about the school district there and not just on your own pages.

• En­gage in con­ver­sa­tions with your read­ers in com­ments.

Once you have a larger and en­gaged au­di­ence, you can lever­age tools within Face­book to mon­e­tize that au­di­ence in­clud­ing spon­sored posts (broad­cast com­pa­nies are great at get­ting top­ics like weather posts spon­sored), branded (na­tive) con­tent, ads within Face­book Live and more.

How should we in­ter­act with Face­book and In­sta­gram?

While some me­dia com­pa­nies may view the com­pa­nies as a threat, the fact is they are sig­nif­i­cant traf­fic driv­ers and where many peo­ple get their pri­mary news. It’s im­por­tant to have a strat­egy for en­gag­ing with your au­di­ence and post­ing con­tent to Face­book in par­tic­u­lar, and cre­ative me­dia com­pa­nies have had sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess en­gag­ing read­ers un­der 35 on In­sta­gram. In ad­di­tion to spon­sored posts and branded con­tent rev­enue op­por­tu­ni­ties, me­dia com­pa­nies can also choose to re­sell man­age­ment and ad­ver­tis­ing ser­vices on Face­book and In­sta­gram (see an­swer above on digital mar­ket­ing ser­vices) to drive digital rev­enue and cap­ture au­di­ence mar­ket share. The ma­jor­ity of small and medium busi­nesses are us­ing these tools to pro­mote their busi­ness, but they find the process con­fus­ing and trust me­dia com­pa­nies to help them fig­ure it out.

How do we show up on a search en­gine?

Show­ing up on a search en­gine is crit­i­cal for busi­nesses to­day, it’s the new lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion. It’s im­por­tant for me­dia com­pa­nies to make sure that their sites and con­tent are op­ti­mized for search (un­less they have a hard pay­wall ex­pe­ri­ence), and there are op­por­tu­ni­ties to sell ser­vices to help clients master search as well. Key things to do to make sure you show up well on a search en­gine in­clude:

• En­sure your site is reg­is­tered with the di­rec­to­ries on­line (imag­ine them as a se­ries of yel­low pages books that map the In­ter­net. Google and other en­gines use them as short cuts to de­ter­mine the rel­e­vance of a busi­ness).

• Claim your Google+ and Google My Busi­ness pages for your busi­ness or me­dia com­pany, and pop­u­late them with in­for­ma­tion about the busi­ness and key­word-rich con­tent.

• Cre­ate con­tent on your site, and in your so­cial me­dia posts (in­clud­ing Google pages) that is de­scrip­tive in the prob­lems you solve for your cus­tomers and other items you want to be the an­swer for when peo­ple search.

• If a me­dia com­pany, op­ti­mize your head­lines and ledes in par­tic­u­lar for

search en­gines.

• Make sure your web­site has rich data for the search en­gines to crawl,

and that you up­date it reg­u­larly so they keep com­ing back for more

• I of­ten ad­vise small busi­nesses to think of the ques­tions they get asked the most by cus­tomers, and have pages on their site (of­ten blog posts) that an­swer those ques­tions. That helps them rank higher in search.

What the best strat­egy for Mes­sag­ing and chat bots?

I be­lieve one of the big trends to watch in 2019 is the emer­gence of more com­mu­ni­ca­tion, cus­tomer ser­vice, and mar­ket­ing mes­sages go­ing through mes­sen­ger sites and fa­cil­i­tated with chat­bots. Face­book owns Mes­sen­ger and What­sApp, both of which have more than 1.2 bil­lion users. They’re test­ing mar­ket­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties within the sys­tems, and on our side pre­lim­i­nary re­sults have been ter­rific for the right ad­ver­tiser at the right time. Chat­bots are be­ing lever­aged in many in­dus­tries to an­swer sim­ple ques­tions such as “Does your ho­tel have a room avail­able tonight?” and more. It’s early to share best prac­tices on strat­egy as the space is evolv­ing. Where we start is for each client con­sid­er­ing how their cus­tomers want to in­ter­act with them, and ex­plor­ing if mes­sag­ing or au­to­ma­tion through chat­bots are op­tions that we should test to deepen that re­la­tion­ship or help the cus­tomer find what they need quickly.

How does a news­pa­per de­velop events?

I don’t work heav­ily with me­dia com­pa­nies on this tac­tic, but I agree it is an im­por­tant one. Many of the mar­kets we work with lever­age Sec­ond Street to fa­cil­i­tate best of the best events. But, I wouldn’t con­sider my­self an ex­pert on this one.

How does a news­pa­per get started with video?

Video is play­ing an ever-in­creas­ing role in how peo­ple con­sume in­for­ma­tion each day. In fact, YouTube reaches 81 per­cent of all on­line adults in the U.S. each month. Part of this is be­cause the hu­man brain can process images (photographs or video) 60,000 times faster than text. Peo­ple are drawn to images when they con­sume con­tent. I would en­cour­age news­pa­pers to ex­per­i­ment with video, both short form to en­gage their au­di­ence, and longer form types of sto­ry­telling. One key thing — high pro­duc­tion doesn’t guar­an­tee high suc­cess. In fact, many quick videos taken with cell phones have been highly suc­cess­ful. The key is the con­tent. An­other ex­cel­lent tool to ex­per­i­ment with is Face­book Live, Face­book Watch and In­sta­gram Sto­ries.

An­other topic I be­lieve is truly im­por­tant is me­dia com­pa­nies pri­or­i­tiz­ing build­ing their own ro­bust email lists and learn­ing about their sub­scribers. Par­tic­u­larly with the al­go­rithms of so­cial me­dia chang­ing on a semi-reg­u­lar ba­sis, it’s im­por­tant for me­dia com­pa­nies to have their own au­di­ence data­base that they can lever­age. This can be lever­aged to send emails to de­liver con­tent, news and mar­ket­ing mes­sages. It can also be used to cre­ate cus­tom au­di­ences on so­cial me­dia to in­crease the ef­fec­tive­ness of paid ads or boosted posts, and en­sure that more of your read­ers see your con­tent. How do you build the lists? Through pro­mo­tions in me­dia, at events, and other tac­tics on your web­site. Other op­por­tu­ni­ties in­clude lever­ag­ing tools like Sec­ond Street to hold con­tests and give­aways. These can be used to drive sig­nif­i­cant on­line rev­enue while also as­sist­ing in build­ing your own email list, a tremen­dous as­set.

Shan­non Kin­ney, founder Dream Lo­cal Digital

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