Shannon Kinney

Shannon Kinney, founder Dream local Digital

Dream local Digital

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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 sought-after 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 for 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 significant 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 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.

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