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Announcing Our Expansion into the Lifestyle Vertical & Introducing Citizen Goods

Announcing Our Expansion into the Lifestyle Vertical & Introducing Citizen Goods

After four years of focusing exclusively on tech products and publishers, we are thrilled to share that StackCommerce will now be offering our native commerce solution to lifestyle publishers, launching with a stellar list of partners including AskMen, theCHIVE, Digg, Rant, The Awesomer, Everyday Carry, and over a dozen others. These new partnerships expand our reach to more than 200 million unique visitors per month, and open an entirely fresh commerce opportunity to current and future partners.

We would also like to officially introduce Citizen Goods, our brand new lifestyle marketplace featuring curated modern products across home, outdoor, grooming, everyday carry, and apparel categories. Citizen Goods is the destination site for our lifestyle-focused partners that prefer an affiliate solution rather than an integrated Shop. To support Citizen Goods, we’ve also launched amazing new product features that allow for further customization of Shops with adjustable homepage heros, content modules, fonts, and navigation. With more advancements in the pipeline, we will continue to deliver innovative ways for our partners to truly personalize the look and feel of their Shops.

Native commerce is clearly resonating with tech and lifestyle audiences, as our member community within our network of Shops grew by 250% to more than 2.5 million members over the past year alone. The overall effectiveness of Shops is also increasing, and we’re proud to see publishers averaging six-figures of gross sales annually, and top partners generating well into the seven figures. This demonstrates the proven success online media sites have found with native commerce as a new and incremental way to monetize their content.

We believe this expansion comes at an ideal time for lifestyle publishers given the rise of ad blockers and decreasing effectiveness of banner ads. The key factor is that truly native commerce works not only from a financial standpoint as an alternative to ads, but also adds brand value by turning readers into loyal buyers who appreciate access to exclusive commerce content. With native commerce, we also eliminate the need for publishers to manage operations, shipping, sourcing, and customer service so they can focus on creating impactful content for their readers. We will continue to expand further into new verticals in 2016, pursuing our mission to revolutionize content and commerce across all online media categories.

Native Commerce vs. Native Advertising: Which One is Better for Your Brand?

Native Commerce vs. Native Advertising: Which One is Better for Your Brand?

You may be wondering how Native Commerce compares to Native Advertising, or perhaps whether Native Commerce is a type of Native Advertising. Rest assured, the answer to the latter is “no” — Native Commerce is its own beast, and it comes down to one crucial difference: Native Advertising primarily benefits brands while Native Commerce focuses on content creators.

Let’s think about Native Advertising and what it, in the most basic form, actually does. Ad exchange service Sharethrough defines Native Advertising as “a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.”

Essentially, Native Advertising allows brands or content creators (through services like Sharethrough) to more seamlessly integrate their marketing and / or products into your content, with the intention of driving prospective buyers or readers away from your site. Breaking that down:

  • Making brands more likely to want to advertise to your audience — great!
  • Blurring the lines between your own content and that of an outside brand — not so great.
  • Taking your users off your site — bad, bad, bad.

Even the first point isn’t a real selling point. Brands always want to advertise with publishers that cater to the same audience — Native Advertising just makes it easier on the advertiser’s end.

Now let’s compare this to Native Commerce. Native Commerce allows publishers to seamlessly and organically integrate relevant products into their own content, so they own the customer’s purchase cycle from start to finish — from discovery to desire to checkout. Breaking that down:

  • Selling products directly through the content you’re already producing — great!
  • Monetizing in a completely transparent way that gives users direct access to products when they want them most — wonderful!
  • Keeping users on your site to buy instead of sending them somewhere else — hooray!

If you’re trying to figure out new, innovative ways to generate revenue from your site, don’t always feel like you have to give someone else center stage. With Native Commerce, keep everything under your brand — and generate more revenue — in the most seamlessly integrated way possible.

B2B Podcasting Tips: Why Its Important, How To Get Started

B2B Podcasting Tips: Why Its Important, How To Get Started

Have you started a podcast yet? If not, you’re potentially missing out on a direct connection to customers and prospective clients, as the number of monthly podcast listeners has tripled in five years to 75 million. Podcasting has yet to reach its zenith, with new shows and topics cropping up by the day as brands and publishers realize the value of a direct voice of authority and authenticity in a world of hype-driven advertising.

Millions in the daily commute grind spent their gridlock time listening to podcasts. Not everyone has time to read your blog or keep up with your social posts – an audio format for your ideas and offers is essential in the time-is-money world. So how do you keep your brand engagement active, particularly in an E-Commerce world where physical retail isn’t an option? Download-ready podcasts allows brands to develop a true-voice persona while advertising inexpensively. Eventually, several episodes with valuable content will make great strides in defining your company’s profile in the minds of an unlimited audience.

So what are you waiting for? If the endless options and avenues to getting your own podcast started are paralyzing, you’re not alone. I’ve compiled a good range of info to help you get started, from help with technical resources to the all-important question of why.

Plan Your Podcast

podcastsThere are an incredible number of B2B podcasts out there, and Marketing Dive has compiled seven of the best for your quick reference. Business-podcast rookies can find clear-cut paths to success through the expert advice of B2B podcasters and brands who are already finding a foothold in the field.  I’ll add one to that list: Tim Ferriss’ podcast, the #1 business podcast on all of iTunes. In addition to interviews with a kaleidoscopic range of top-level CEOs, celebrities and industry heads, Ferriss also offers vital meta-learning tactics in his 4-Hour Chef audiobook, which is totally free on StackSocial.

Gear

Your recording will require some basic hardware and software essentials. As for software, a wide range of options can do the trick. Many podcasts are done on free iPhone apps, while others are recorded directly to GarageBand. Have a look at 45 top podcasters’ recommendations on the necessary gear to kick off a successful series.

On the hardware side, a Macbook Pro is ideal, though an external hard drive is recommended in such a case to handle the heavy data use. PCs are, of course, just fine – as long as you have an audio input.

Microphones: Don’t cut corners, but don’t break the bank. While you have a wide variety to explore, Blue Microphones’ Snowball iCE is ideal, a plug-and-play USB mic with swivel tripod stand. Another popular mic, the Samsung Meteor will run you $49.99 on Amazon.

Headphones: Everyone has their favorite, and as long as they do what they’re supposed to, you don’t have to stress this one. Good quality headphones of your own choosing are all you need. Built-in microphone not recommended.

Choose Your Audience

Trying to appeal to everyone is the easiest way to fail. The kaleidoscope of interests & passions out there is exceeded only by the amount of opinions and polarities involved. Find your niche, do your research and stay informed. What can you offer to the conversation that hasn’t been said before? How can you inspire your listeners? Think about what you can offer in a way that nobody else is.

Establish Consistent Structure

How long and how frequent will each episode be? Establishing regularity is key for building an audience. Will the show be segmented? Do you have a sponsorship plan? Will you feature guests?

Strong Content is Key

No matter how intelligent and charismatic your host may be, off-the-cuff podcasting is risky business. What ideas do you have to offer that’s worth the direct attention of strangers? Establish an outline structure, key points of discussion, and guide conversations with guests to remain on-topic. Bouncing from topic to topic with rambling digressions is unappealing at best. Bullet points for reference will help guide the discussion down a clear path.

Personality

You aren’t going to be Tim Ferriss, Joe Rogan or Tony Robbins, so don’t try to sound that way. Speak with authentic character, express enthusiastic humility in your words and be as informative and engaging as you can.

Promote Your New Brand Voice

itunes podcastThe recording may be finished, but your work is far from complete. Promote your podcast in consistent installments via social media, newsletters, RSS feeds and more. Link to previous posts whenever contextually appropriate, and keep the conversation going so your prospective client, partner or customer is consistently drawn to you.

A few great examples can be found on Entrepreneur’s list of 11 Clever Ways to Promote Your Podcast, including submitting it to iTunes, implementing video and more.

Happy ‘Casting!

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Snapchat Marketing: How Brands Are Succeeding

Snapchat Marketing: How Brands Are Succeeding

Without the benefit of a physical retail store, the rapidly-evolving world of social media is a vital tool for E-Commerce companies. Utilizing mobile photo app sensation Snapchat as a marketing strategy is relatively new, but a number of companies are engaging readers with unique content – and seeing tremendously good results as the app has exploded in popularity.

With Snapchat’s recent $16 billion valuation, it’s been clear that the platform has moved far beyond its former persona as an outlet for self-destructing risqué interaction. Now, as Snapchat emerges as an effective and hugely promising way for brands to acquire and interact with customers, businesses are beginning to see a wealth of marketing potential and revenue opportunity.

Snapchat Discover offers a new content publishing feature, with channels of original content at launch from CNN, Cosmopolitan, the Daily Mail, Comedy Central, ESPN, Food Network, Warner Music and more. The Discover platform provides advertisers with a way to reach customers with daily series, swipeable ad-editorials, sponsored content between ads and more. Additionally, a new advertising program will allow brands to get their geofilters automatically approved as well, adding thousands of them at once with a small “sponsored” tag.

Brands Leading The Way in Snapchat:

Audi

 

The luxury carmaker partnered with The Onion in 2014 to Snapchat the Super Bowl live, utilizing its agency Huge and Onion Labs for a humorous content team-up. The event grew Audi’s Snapchat following by over 5,500 users before the end of the big game.

McDonald’s

Going behind-the-scenes with world-class athletes such as LeBron James, Richard Sherman and Johnny Manziel, McD’s has ramped up fan exposure on Snapchat and built a steady stream of unique user incentives including coupons, contests and more. With the recent addition of geofilters, the french fry kings are poised to tailor their marketing to more specific audiences.

Taco Bell

Launching its Spicy Chicken Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Tacos, Taco Bell was among the first to embrace Snapchat Stories with a six-minute mini-movie. Connecting culture constellations, the fast food giant snapped a scene on the red carpet of the MTV Movie Awards, unveiled its Doritos tacos, and delivered a completely immersive new advertising ecosystem for readers virtually in realtime.

General Electric

On July 15 last year, GE’s Snapchat presence came to life, engaging users with trivia, puzzles and exclusive content featuring legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin. It was a prime opportunity to announce The Mission sneakers as well, celebrating the 45th anniversary of GE’s contribution to the 1969 moon landing.

Bottom line: exclusive content is key, and there’s an open field of opportunity for innovation on Snapchat.

As Snapchat continues to evolve, E-Commerce businesses have a virtually blank canvas of opportunity to engage people, expand their consumer base and bring new colors to their brand. Original content, stories, contests and giveaways provide a high-potential entrypoint for gaining a promising new E-Commerce foothold. And while it’s still in its infancy of advertising possibilities (metrics are virtually nonexistent, editing is limited, etc), the future looks very bright for business opportunity on Snapchat.

StackCommerce will soon make the leap into our own Snapchat journey, utilizing calls to action across our existing social platforms and incentivizing friends & followers with contests, behind the scenes content and more. We’ll continue to share our insights and developments as we embark on another new adventure at Stack.

6 Great Analytics Solutions for Publishers

6 Great Analytics Solutions for Publishers

If you’re not tracking, you’re slacking. Without the right data, it’s impossible to optimize, grow and succeed as an online business — it’s that simple. While there are countless web analytics solutions available, not all are suited to the unique needs of a publisher. Below are six great analytics platforms that digital media publisher use to help make the right decisions.


 

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is pretty much the standard option for any website when it gets started. For a free product, it’s remarkably robust and is a great option until you start pushing the limits. The premium version comes with a six-figure price tag, but by the time you reach that level, you’ll be best served by moving to an analytics solution designed specifically for online publishers.

Clicky Web Analytics

Clicky is another great option for new(ish) websites looking to get the best data. With a free plan for sites up to 3,000 daily visits and premium plans starting at only $9.99 (with advanced features), Clicky is a great budget option for publishers looking to get a bit more than they would from Google Analytics.

FoxMetrics

FoxMetrics is beyond the needs of a small blog or new site, but if your site has been steadily growing and you have several people creating content, FoxMetrics could be a great option at a reasonable price. Starting with their Medium plan ($50/month), FoxMetrics provides a set of tracking tools geared specifically for today’s digital media publisher. In addition to modules for articles, you can track metrics around authors as well.

Chartbeat Publishing

Chartbeat Publishing is Chartbeat’s analytics platform for online publishers, with versions available for both Editorial and Ad Sales. The platform is built from the ground up for publishers, allowing you to monitor every metric and optimization opportunity you could want. You can even display data via an overlay on your site through Chartbeat’s Heads Up Display.

If you create a lot of video content, Chartbeat is definitely your choice. It has an optional module specifically for video content for tracking engagement, ad drop-off points, and other key stats (and providing it in the context of the rest of your site, of course).

Parse.ly

Parse.ly is an excellent option for large tech-driven digital media publishers. Parse.ly’s platform has plenty of data for everyone — they have specific sections on their website for editors, product teams, data analysts and business/sales teams — plus an API for implementing custom integrations. It also provides reporting for native advertising as an optional add-on.

While Parse.ly has a free trial available, pricing is by quote, which means that it will generally be out of range for the vast majority of publishers on the internet. If your company has the resources, Parse.ly is definitely an option to consider.

sovrn

sovrn works a little bit differently than the others — in addition to a comprehensive set of analytics, including benchmarking data from their network of publishers, there is a monetization suite baked right into the platform. sovrn offers various kinds of digital advertising services and helps you optimize so your content generates the most revenue possible.

4 Useful (and Free) Tools for Automating Content Distribution

4 Useful (and Free) Tools for Automating Content Distribution

You’re almost done. The i’s have been dotted, the t’s have been crossed…your article is now published. Time to get it posted on social networks…lots of them. Ugh.

Syndicating your content across the social web can be a monotonous chore, but there are a handful of tools (that start out free!) that you can use to quickly distribute your content across many channels instead of logging into one service after another to post.


 

OnlywireOnlywire

Onlywire allows you to push your content to dozens of social networks, content aggregators and bookmarking sites via individual posts or automatically through your RSS feed, making content distribution an absolute snap. All you have to do is authorize your accounts for each site and connect whatever feeds you want to use, and you are good to go.

Onlywire also includes a great monitoring section for seeing how your content performs (including Bit.ly analytics), as well as a “recommended” tab for finding great content to share with your audience.

Onlywire starts free, with paid plans starting at only $5/month.


 

IFTTTIFTTTIFTTT

Be careful with IFTTT (IF This, Then That) — once you start diving in, it can hard to stop! IFTTT enables you to create cross-service triggered actions, and with numerous services (or “channels,” as they are called on IFTTT) being added all the time, the possibilities are pretty much endless.

While most of IFTTT’s “recipes” focus on automating tasks in your personal life, there are a number of great actions that you can trigger from a new post being added to your blog, a new picture being uploaded to your Instagram, a new tweet going out with a specific hashtag…you name it. In just a few short minutes, you can set up very customizable “recipes” that automatically publish every new article on your blog to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and many other networks.

IFTTT is completely free to use.


 ZapierZapier

Zapier is similar to IFTTT, but with a heavier focus on business-related automation. All of the great content automation functions you can create in IFTTT can also be done in Zapier, so if your company uses several of the SaaS apps that can connect to Zapier, it’s worth trying out a Zapier account.

Zapier starts free, then scales upward, with paid accounts starting at $20/month. Zapier really starts cooking when you get to their paid accounts, though the free version is useful, too. You can also check out their library of 300+ apps and all of the triggered actions you can build before you pull out the credit card.


 

BufferBuffer

Buffer has a great reputation as a very useful tool for social publishing — and it definitely deserves it.

Buffer is built from the ground-up with today’s social media manager in mind, with plenty of great tools included for syndicating both your content and content you curate. Have you noticed that posting at certain times of the day or week is extremely effective? Great — you can create a custom posting cadence to make scheduling a breeze. Just add content to your Buffer queue and you’re set. You can even make things easier by connecting your Buffer account to IFTTT and Zapier.

Buffer has a robust free version, with their “Awesome Plan” costing $10/month. Buffer also has a business product, Buffer for Business, which starts at $50/month.