Archive for the ‘Blogs’ Category

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#3: Develop Relationships

June 5th, 2013

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

A true relationship has to be earned. It’s about respect and trust. And a balanced relationship is reciprocal. You do something for somebody else, and they do something for you. You exchange ideas. You use each other as a sounding board. For a relationship to last, it has to be a two-way street.

Followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook are not equivalent to relationships. Just as in the real world, a true relationship on social media has to go deeper than just a surface connection. Having 5,000 followers or 10,000 friends is meaningless if you don’t truly connect. If you’re not convinced of that, ask one of your Twitter followers for an opinion on that white paper you’re writing. If nothing happens, you’ve got your answer.

One of the keys to nurturing real relationships on social media can be found in the manner of your engagement. People want to be valued, and once they feel you value them, they will most likely feel a connection with you—and some degree of loyalty—and will also continue to expect an ongoing dialogue to reinforce those feelings. And you’d better deliver if you expect the relationship to grow and strengthen over time.

Successful relationships are also about helping to support others. It’s not all about you, your company, or your agenda. Social media is a community, and as a member of that community, you should not only contribute to it in various ways, but you should also recognize the contributions of others. For example, promoting other people’s accomplishments by “liking” their videos, retweeting their tweets, or sharing their latest blog posts will go a long way toward building connections and real relationships.

And don’t let those relationships stop at the keyboard. Get to know your social media connections in the real world whenever possible.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#4: Establish Trust

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#2: Plan Carefully

May 29th, 2013

By Kent Huffman, Author of 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success

Too many marketers jump right in and start using various social media tools and technologies—such as Twitter, Google+, and blogs—before they’ve even developed a strategic plan or thought about how those activities might impact the rest of their marketing initiatives. Don’t make that mistake! Take a little time to determine how to best integrate social media into your existing marketing strategy and mix. It’ll pay off for you.

Step one in the planning process is to nail down specific social media objectives, based on the listening activities detailed in Mandate #1. Now that you know what your constituents care about and are discussing on social media, how does that impact the messages you need to communicate to them? Step two is to integrate your social media strategy into your overall marketing strategy to ensure your resources can be leveraged most efficiently and effectively and that common goals can be more easily reached.

If you work for a large enterprise, you have two significant advantages over a small business when it comes to planning and budgeting for a social media marketing program. First, your company’s DNA most likely has a built-in “think strategically” strand, and second, it also probably has a fairly large wallet. If, however, you work for or own a small business, you have an advantage as well. You most likely can make strategic decisions and launch new marketing programs fairly quickly. That can be a huge benefit in the fast-paced social media world.

Finally, be sure you’re prepared to monitor and measure your impact and progress. Establishing benchmarks and other metrics that can be tracked over time will help you better understand what’s working and what’s not, and thus be able to make whatever adjustments are necessary to ensure the success of your social media marketing activities.

(This is an excerpt from Kent’s new book, 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success.)

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#3: Develop Relationships

LinkedIn Helps You Pay It Forward to Nonprofits

April 17th, 2013

By Wayne Breitbarth, CEO of Power Formula and author of The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success: Kick-Start Your Business, Brand, and Job Search

You’ve polished your LinkedIn profile, developed a large network of valuable contacts, and joined the most advantageous LinkedIn groups. From a professional standpoint, you should now be reaping the benefits—growing your client/customer base, seeing increased activity on your website, and becoming a thought leader in your industry.

You obviously did not get to this point alone. Friends and business associates have written recommendations for you, used the introduction function to introduce you to key members of the business community, and shared your status updates with their networks. Along the way, you have undoubtedly assisted your connections as well, but now it is time to pay it forward in another way—by helping your favorite nonprofit organization.

Here are six ways you can use LinkedIn to benefit your favorite charitable group:

  1. Include information about the organization in your LinkedIn individual profile. In the Experience section, list as a current job your title and/or involvement, along with the name of the organization. You then have 2,000 characters to explain the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and needs. Once you do this, the organization will appear in the top box of your profile. You can list three websites on your profile. Use one of the three websites for a hyperlink directly to the organization’s website. In the Summary section, consider having a special section to describe why this organization is important to you. Include in the Specialties section the name of the organization or other keywords that describe the group. You can then be found more easily if someone searches for people involved in your specific group or other groups with a similar mission or purpose. Use SlideShare or Google Presentation to share a PowerPoint or video about the organization. Use Blog Link or WordPress applications to connect the organization’s blog to your profile. Finally, list the name of the organization in the Groups & Associations section.
  2. Use the Status Update Box on your home page or Discussions/News in groups you belong to. Here you can publicize an event, recruit volunteers, share results and accomplishments, ask a question of the group or your network that will help solve a problem, and find employees, suppliers, and/or vendors for the organization.
  3. Use the LinkedIn Advanced Search function to find out who in your network knows people at the significant foundations and companies in your marketplace. Then facilitate an introduction to the staff of the nonprofit organization.
  4. Search for and join LinkedIn groups in and out of your regional or local market that appear to be in the same space or have a similar mission as your organization. This is a great way to keep track of what others are doing, saying, and sharing.
  5. Start a LinkedIn group for the organization’s supporters, donors, and/or volunteers. A subgroup can be created to share information that is only pertinent to volunteers, for instance. Starting a group for an event you are planning can help you share information leading up to the event and wrap up information after the event.
  6. Use the Events application to promote the organization’s upcoming events.

Follow these six simple but highly effective steps—all of which can be done without leaving the comfort of your home or office—and then don’t be surprised when the phone rings with an invitation to join the board of your favorite nonprofit!

Using Twitter for Marketing and PR: Do the Pros Practice What They Preach?

April 3rd, 2013

By Kent Huffman, Chief Marketing Officer at BearCom Wireless and Co-Publisher of Social Media Marketing Magazine

It seems that everyone claims to be a Twitter expert these days. Of course, most are not. But several of the real Twitter pros I know—including those who have written books about using Twitter as an effective marketing and public relations instrument—have figured out how to best leverage the 140-character microblogging tool to promote themselves, their books, their firms, and their clients. And some of them actually follow their own advice!

How Smart Marketing Book Authors Use Twitter

The Tao of TwitterFor example, Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions is the author of the book The Tao of Twitter: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time. He and his firm provide affordable outsourced marketing support to address both short-term sales opportunities and long-term strategic renewal.

Mark uses Twitter to help deliver on that promise for a number of his blue-chip clients, including Nestle, AARP, Anheuser-Busch, Coldwell Banker, Scripps Networks, Keystone Foods, and the U.K. government. He also very effectively promotes himself and his book on Twitter as part of his own marketing, branding, and relationship-development strategy.

“I’ve literally built my business from networking on Twitter and connections from my blog,” Mark said. “That’s what most people miss. Twitter can be a powerful business networking platform. It’s so much more than ‘what you had for breakfast!’ ”

Hollis Thomases is the CEO of Web Ad.vantage. She is also the author of Twitter Marketing: An Hour a Day, a book that offers marketers, advertisers, brand managers, PR professionals, and business owners an in-depth guide to designing, implementing, and measuring the impact of using a complete Twitter strategy.

Hollis uses Twitter to generate qualified website traffic that gets converted into actions, leads, and sales for her clients, most of which are challenger brands or large non-profit organizations.

Much like Mark, Hollis’ strategy includes using Twitter as an effective promotional tool for her book and firm. She also leverages Twitter to expand her speaking engagement schedule, which features topics such as “Social Media 101,” “Twitter Automation,” and “Social Media Etiquette.”

And finally, Laura Fitton, co-author of Twitter for Dummies and founder/CEO of oneforty, has been an active Twitter user for some time. She has amassed approximately 80,000 followers and engages with them daily.

Laura’s firm helps people get started with Twitter, organize the chaos of their daily social media routines, and connect their social media efforts to their core business to drive ROI.

“The single most important thing is to make yourself useful, which you can do by curating great content, answering questions, shining a spotlight on others, and trying to turn everything inside-out to make it more about your readers,” noted Laura. “I tell people to ‘Listen. Learn. Care. Serve.’ (in that order), and then keep cycling through that process.”

Twitter’s Impact on How Journalists Search for SMEs

In an environment where fewer and fewer journalists are covering more and more stories than ever before, media members are increasingly taking a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” approach to finding sources and stories to cover. Rather than waiting around to be pitched by traditional PR reps, many media members are looking for their own sources—not only Google and HARO, but Twitter as well—to search for and connect with subject matter experts (SMEs). Book authors and other experts who have built digital platforms that showcase their credentials and provide valuable information on their topics have widened their nets to catch such queries on Twitter.

Beth Gwazdosky is the Vice President of Digital Marketing at Shelton Interactive, an Austin-based firm that works with its author clients to create social media and interactive marketing/PR strategies and platforms that generate attention—online and off. “We help our authors understand how best to use Twitter and other social media channels to stand out in this new environment,” said Beth. “Creating strategies to organically pull media hits, speaking opportunities, and client relationships has proven to be much more efficient than trying to pitch our way onto the air.”

So if you’re interested in promoting yourself, your book, your organization, or your clients, why not use Twitter to your advantage? But don’t jump in without a well-thought-out strategy. Pay attention to the real Twitter pros who are actually practicing what they preach, and then emulate their approach.

Turning Facebook “Likes” into More than Just Clicks

March 27th, 2013

By Kelly Loubet, Social Media Consultant

Everyone knows that clicking the “like” button on a company’s Facebook page shows that company is increasing its fan base. But what happens after the click? For me, it’s often just that. A click. I’m sure I’m not alone. So how do brands turn a simple click into loyal relationship with consumers?

It all starts with engagement. If a brand can engage its audience, it’s on the right track. Being able to excite the fan base and get them to act is key in building a Facebook community. But in order to get them to act, there must be an exciting call to action. Contests, polls, and general questions encourage a sense of community. They’ve already acknowledged that they like the brand, now’s their chance to share their opinion.

In addition to a call to action, in order to engage the audience, a brand must also put out worthwhile content. Blog posts that both inform and entertain readers are a must. So many brands today are just putting out fluff pieces. Sure, these pieces of content keep their Facebook pages fresh, but audiences want something more. They want something they can relate to. A well-written post can be shared again and again across Facebook by loyal community members. Give them something worth sharing.

Finally, loyal community members want to be rewarded. Companies that find a way to give back to their fans have much more activity on their pages than brands who don’t engage. A simple “thank you” to fans when a certain milestone has been reached can go a long way: ”Thank you to all our readers who helped us reach 10,000 fans. We couldn’t have done it without you and your input.” A message like this will prompt those who have been around from the beginning to comment and be proud of the community they helped to build.

Beyond words of thanks, giveaways are another nice way to show your community you’re happy to have them around. Brands might also consider a charity drive. Giving back always builds a sense of gratitude in people. Nothing builds community more than giving.

These are just some simple ideas that could be easily implemented with a dedicated team. Without a team willing to put the time in to keep the conversations going, it’s not going to work. Facebook is about people. It’s about relationships. No relationship grows without some cultivation.

If your brand is looking to step up your Facebook efforts, be sure you have the proper team in place. Soon enough, your Facebook community will be going beyond the “like.”

Tips for Addressing Brand Misuse While Mitigating PR Backlash

January 30th, 2013

By David Bell, Lawyer and Chair of Social Media Practice at Haynes and Boone, LLP

Perhaps you’ve heard about Chick-fil-A’s recent “oops” moment. The company fired off a cease and desist letter to a Vermont artist over his use of and trademark application for EAT MORE KALE. The chicken eatery sent the letter in an effort to protect its EAT MOR CHIKIN tagline, but the letter sparked an outcry throughout Facebook and the blogosphere. It also led to an anti Chick-fil-A petition that has already garnered tens of thousands of signatures and a CNN feature story mocking the company.

Marketing professionals know that protecting a brand can be vital to its continued success. Cease and desist letters aim to persuade someone to stop brand misuse, without having to resort to a lawsuit. In the past, letters might fall on the desks of just the recipients or their lawyers. Social media now spreads many of these letters like wildfire. One overly aggressive notice could land a full-page blog post, thousands of re-tweets, and negative publicity. In some cases, this is unavoidable, and a strongly-worded letter is simply needed. In others, the public relations risk should be more heavily weighed.
 
Tips and questions to ask before sending a letter:

  • Research the individual or company to whom you plan to send a cease and desist notice. Who posted the content—a current or former employee or vendor, a company critic or competitor, or a well-intentioned consumer or fan?
  • Consider how a proposed notice will be received. Think about how it would play out in the press or before a judge. The additional time researching and writing an appropriate letter is well spent. It can help to avoid a PR fiasco or positive to the receiving party, as in the Vermont kale enthusiast’s case. In some cases, you can also lower the risk that the recipient will file a preemptive lawsuit, asking a judge to rule that there is no infringement occurring.
  • Consider whether sending a letter is even appropriate. If no action is taken, the brand misuse might not create much true harm. For instance, if it appears in a single blog post, it might be deeply buried on the website after another day or two. And if on an unpopular website of social media account, few eyes may see it anyway—again, assuming you don’t fuel the fire by unnecessarily upsetting that person.
  • Use a tone appropriate to the situation. It should parallel the company’s level of concern, speak appropriately to the person who will receive the notice, and reflect the company’s values. Polite requests can be more effective than aggressive letters. Of course, the result that your company is seeking, and how quickly, is important. If the situation involves truly abhorrent behavior by an infringer, then a letter should more likely be sent by outside counsel. Among other advantages, this allows the company to distance itself somewhat from any harsh tone necessarily included in the letter.
  • A cease and desist notice is almost never confidential or privileged. It is very possible that a notice will end up on the recipient’s blog or website, or in the news, and the sending company will likely have no legal recourse.
  • Spin your wins. Use your company’s blog, social media outlets, and website to educate the public that you are shutting down frauds because you want to protect customers against malicious activity and work to keep costs down. When communicated with care, this can leave a favorable public impression, not to mention advise customers to beware of unauthorized products, vendors, social media pages, apps, and other Internet and mobile content.

In short, to avoid the “fowl” attention that Chick-fil-A landed, before sending out cease and desist letters, brand owners should weigh PR risks against business and legal considerations, think carefully about whether a letter should be sent, and match the tone and language of a letter to the circumstances at hand.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the law firm with which the author is associated, or its other lawyers or clients.

Social Media: Still a Mystery to Most Small Businesses

November 7th, 2012

By Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies

Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t ask me about social media for business. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all new media tools that can help bolster your Internet or digital “footprint.”

You can read all about how social media is ramping up the conversation by doing a simple Google search. But the more important question small business owners want answered is how to use social media to boost sales and get the phone ringing. I call it “turning on the water faucet.” Social media for businesses should mean one thing: free tools that can strengthen your organization’s SEO (search engine optimization), help get your message out, and engage with customers and prospects.

Now these tools may be free, but the time you must spend executing the work can be extensive. A lot of writers just re-hash what’s already been written, so what I find most helpful is to share what we help clients do in the trenches every day. Below are the main barriers to using social media and why it remains a mystery, followed by how to get started and what to do first.

The barriers for most small businesses using social media are:

  • Time and education: It takes time to read and learn about the ever-changing, growing tools online, and most business owners don’t have extra time to devote to this. I hear it every day, and as a small business owner myself, I certainly understand this constraint. Small businesses have limited resources and must focus on revenue development and all that comes with running a business. Social media can help a small business tremendously, but most owners have not had time to get up to speed.
  • Lack of resources: It takes a dedicated effort to employ social media tools. Most companies can hire help, but many simply don’t have the extra resources to do so.
  • Reluctance to embrace new media: A lot of people are just flat out skeptical of social media. There are legitimate reasons to ignore it, especially if you are in a regulated industry (banking, insurance, finance, etc.), as some governing entities such as the SEC have policies against any use of social media for work. I think that will change soon, as I’m already seeing some large organizations issue new policies on social media use.
  • Generational: Most people would be surprised to know that the average age of a Twitter user is between 40 and 55. Age isn’t an excuse to avoid social tools, but it is often an explanation.

How to get started if you want to add a social media strategy to your marketing toolkit:

  • Read, read, read. There are some excellent blogs (like this one) and other resources online that can tell you all you need to know. There is no “magic wand” that will do this for you. If you really want to jump in, you have to do the reading yourself. You can hire it out of course, but the ideal results spring from the business understanding social media and embracing it, even if it means only monitoring at first. Let’s take the Judy McLellan Team for example (@JudyMacTeam on Twitter). Judy hired my firm to help with a real estate marketing and PR strategy that included the use of social tools. At first, we did some of the tweeting and posting. But now, you can find Judy out selling homes while using her iPad and iPhone to tweet and spread information about her listings.
  • Pick one tool and learn that first. For me, it’s Twitter. Once I understood Twitter, I moved on to learning about some other tools. I think by mastering one tool, small businesses can see results faster. Let’s take Cheffie’s Cafe (@Cheffies on Twitter) as the next example. We helped Cheffie’s Cafe spread the word by using Twitter, along with traditional PR during the previous few months. A good Twitter strategy is key to a successful PR campaign.
  • Look at what your competition is doing. Get online and do a little research to see what your competition is up to in the social space. Let’s take OrthoMemphis, a successful orthopaedic practice in Memphis that adopted social media long before its competition did. We have helped OrthoMemphis (@OrthoMemphis on Twitter) use social media tools to not only market their sub-specialists (knee, hips, and shoulders), but also to launch OrthoStat, its acute care walk-in clinic. Combined with direct mail, PR, and patient communications, Twitter and Facebook have been tremendously helpful.
  • Get a social media policy in place and communicate it to your organization. There are some great examples online and free resources available. I suggest any small business that wants to use social media tools have a policy in place just like a media policy. Talking online is like talking in the newspaper, and it’s important to have a strategy and know the dos and don’ts of posting online. Good examples are Coca-Cola, Kodak, and Intel. (A list of these can be found on my blog.)

The smaller the organization (or flatter), the easier it is to employ social media. Even though they may have more resources, larger companies are often more bureaucratic and have more red tape. Larger companies are also usually slower to “get it,” and we have found that companies without all the red tape can move faster and are often more decisive. Social media gives the little guys a leg up and is a great way to have a big voice online.

Wow, What a Story!

September 26th, 2012

By Adam Karwoski, Founder of Social Brand U

Isn’t social media cool? Since I graduated college in 1992, I’ve been involved with two of the biggest fundamental shifts in communications in our history: mobile phones and social media. I started selling cellular phones in 1994 for BellSouth Mobility and just left that industry last summer. I started dabbling in social media since that time, and I’ve uncovered a new-found passion. Long story short, six months later, I’ve started my own social media consulting company. (I think that’s kind of cool, too. Owning your own business is part of the American dream, right?)

I began to put pen to paper to find out what really jazzed me about social media. What’s the catch? In my last blog post, I talked about a friend of mine who in 2009 asked me if I was on Facebook, and I said, “No, I’m not 16 years old.” Little does he know that I remember that comment to this day.

Here are the reasons why I think social media is cool and why people love it, companies love it, and our culture loves it:

  • I love technology, and I think we all do. Social media is a new kind of technology. In a lot of ways, it’s a lot like cellular technology back in the day. You couldn’t see the voice transmissions of a cell call, but making a call on a Motorola flip phone was just “cool.” Social media is real-time communication on a speakerphone with the world, where everyone or just a few loved ones can see talk, write, send videos, share photos, write articles, find jobs, get advice, or listen to what their favorite movie star or football player has to say. Technology is awesome, and social media has taken it to a new level.
  • Our entire existence is based on relationships. No matter where we are or what we’re doing, chances are we’re communicating constantly and building relationships. A hundred years ago, it was around a campfire in the wilderness. Fifty years ago, it was in a mother’s home over tea and Tupperware. Today, it’s online and on our smartphones almost every hour of every day. There are plenty of downsides to social media, but that’s for someone else to write about. I love people, I love building relationships with people, and I love to learn from other people. Social media allows me to do all three all the time—and that’s cool.
  • The best parts of social media are the stories; e.g., your story. Everyone has a story to tell. And I would argue that almost everyone has a compelling story to tell. If the volume of books, articles, and blogs are any indication of how many of us have a story to tell, then it makes complete sense to me why social media has exploded in recent years and will continue to evolve, expand, and become even more popular. Small business owners are learning that social media allows them to listen to their customers’ “stories” while allowing them to share their own. That conversation is taking place every day on social media.
  • Stories draw people in. There’s power in telling stories. Look no further than Hollywood (Mark Zuckerberg has a cool story to tell). And social media success stories are everywhere, especially in business. Many small businesses understand social media and use it quite effectively because they haven’t forgotten how to tell their stories, which helps build relationships with their customers. But it requires you to be transparent and genuine. That builds trust. Trust with your customers builds your business. And whether it’s an idea, a product, or a vision, people buy from who they know, like, and trust.

Technology, relationships, and stories. Those are the reasons why social media has exploded. What’s your story? Whatever it is, share it and start a conversation. You will build relationships with others that will inspire, teach, encourage, and “wow” you.

Going Gaga!

August 29th, 2012

By Nina Buik, Chief Marketing Officer at HP Connect

I admit that I’m a fan of Lady Gaga’s music, but even more a fan of her marketing strategy:

  • Creates a globally recognizable brand image
  • Creates edgy, compelling headlines
  • Is “virtually” ubiquitous
  • Fearless of putting herself “out there”
  • Has built an incredibly loyal following

You don’t have to be “born this way” to be successful at social media, but you do have to have a successful strategy, or you may simply end up in a “bad romance.”

The social media explosion has proven that like-minded consumers/people like belonging to a group (e.g., ski club, track club, Lady Gaga fan club, etc.). They want to know more about the “thing” that makes them like-minded, and they want to communicate with one another. Thus the advent of social CRM.

So what is your strategy? Is it measurable? Is your entire organization part of and supportive of your strategy? What is your organization’s “love game” with your customers? Here are a few tips:

  • Other than your product or service, identify what your customers have in common.
  • Identify where your customers hang out—online and offline.
  • Take a good look at your brand image/messaging. Make sure it is current/relevant and “fits in” these virtual groups and/or physical locations.
  • Define measurable outcomes.
  • Assign passionate “owners.”
  • Provide tools to your foot soldiers (tweetsheets, blog templates, etc.).
  • Encourage your team to find the “edge” of their message (staying just within the guidelines).
  • Use a hub/spoke model (your website is the hub, and all external spoke messages refer the reader back to your site).

Lady Gaga has it right. Whether you enjoy her music or not, stop “dancing in the dark” and take note of her successful marketing strategy.

Four SEO/SMM Strategies to Get Your Blog Listed on the First Page of Google

August 15th, 2012

By Marci Reynolds, Director of Operations for Global Help24 at ACI Worldwide

Business blogs have become critical tools in any social media marketing tool box, and they are an excellent medium to share expertise and build your business brand. But just creating a blog is not enough. You must also focus on blog SEO (search engine optimization) to ensure that it receives top placement in Google, Bing, and the other search engines.

I began blogging in 2009, when I launched The Sales Operations Blog, and in 2011, I launched a second blog called Rat Terrier Mom. What do the two blogs have in common? They both appear on the first page of Google for multiple search terms and get the majority of their traffic from organic search engine links. Social media marketing nirvana!

Here are four strategies that I recommend and have leveraged to get my blogs listed on the first page of Google:

  • Focus and differentiate the content on your blog. There are thousands of blogs on the Internet, so if you want yours to stand out and appear on the first page of Google, it must offer something unique. Before I started The Sales Operations Blog, I did some research on blog competition and the popularity of search terms related to my content. I found that there were thousands of blogs on “how to sell” but very few on sales support. I also discovered that the phrase “sales operations” was one of the more frequently used search terms related to my topic. So before launching your blog, check out the competition, do some research on how potential readers search for your content, and attempt to focus and differentiate your blog.
  • Include a power search term in your domain name. Google does not like cute, it likes relevant. For this reason, I chose the domains SalesOperationsBlog.com and RatTerrierMom.com. (Okay, Rat Terrier Mom is a little cute.) When choosing your domain and blog name, select a frequently used search term that aligns with your content. In my domain research, I have found that many of the most popular words or phrases alone are already taken, but if you add the word “blog” at the end, most of them are available. For example, B2Bemail.com is taken, but B2BemailBlog.com is still available. Check out GoDaddy.com to research domain options.
  • Identify and leverage the top 20 search terms in your blog content. Use Google Adwords or a similar tool to identify the top 20-ish search terms that readers use to find content like yours, and then use this intelligence throughout your blog. This includes your post titles, post content, categories, HTML image labels, and in-post HTML tags. Note that the search terms should enhance your high-quality, interesting blog content, not actually make up your blog content. In addition to using the Google Adwords tool, monitor the “real time” search engine terms driving traffic, as reported in your WordPress dashboard. Copyblogger is an excellent resource for tips on keyword research and blogging SEO.
  • Keep the content fresh. As part of your social media marketing plan, publish high-quality, relevant blog content, ideally once per week. There is a direct correlation to the frequency in which you publish content, your ranking on search engines, and your website traffic. Add your Twitter stream or another user’s topic-relevant Twitter stream to the home page of your blog. Every time a tweet is posted, your blog home page will get fresh content. Add a specific page to your blog that includes links to other similar, recent online content. Refer to the Other Sales Ops Articles page on The Sales Operations Blog for an example.

If you focus and differentiate, choose a powerful domain name, include popular keywords in your content, and keep your content fresh (and high quality), there is no doubt that your blog popularity and traffic will climb.

I wish you good luck in your adventures in blogging and social media marketing!

Why Every C-Level Executive Should Write a Book

June 20th, 2012

By Bill Newton, Owner of C-Suite Press

The executive leadership team in most organizations includes individuals who have titles that begin with the letter C, such as CEO, COO, CFO, CIO, CMO, and so forth. These are people who are important and influential to the mission of their respective companies. They see the big picture. They are strategically wired. And they command respect.

If you happen to be one of these individuals, you probably have a book in you. In fact, I’d be willing to bet you’ve at least entertained the idea or been told by someone that you should write a book.

Getting it written, however, is another matter altogether. Time constraints—travel, round-the-clock meetings, and family and personal responsibilities—probably mean that writing a book has become just wishful thinking for you. However, postponing such an endeavor, or dismissing the value it can bring to you, is really not acceptable—even if you’re not a very good writer. You’d be surprised at the amount of help that some of today’s best-selling business authors have had in their quest to produce a book.

What you need to fully understand is the impact that writing a book can have on your career. After all, you’ve already come a long way to get where you are. And now, putting your thoughts down on paper may be the only thing keeping you from reaching your next goal.

For a moment, let’s not look at your position with your company. Let’s instead examine you as an individual. Like it or not, you’re your own brand. People and companies have invested in you because you bring a strong value proposition to the table. Whatever you can do to enhance and preserve your brand should always be pursued.

In the corporate world, thought leaders—those people who can sell a premise, mount a charge, and have everyone follow—are often hard to come by. It’s a given that members of the C-suite have certain skill sets, or areas of expertise. If they are also well known, they are often recognized as subject matter experts. That’s where authoring a book can come into play.

A lot goes into writing a book, however, so make it easy on yourself. Start simple by opening a Word document and begin getting your thoughts down as a rough outline. Spend fifteen minutes a day making notes. In six months, you’ll probably have more than enough material for your book. Or, if you blog, simply collect all your posts. And since you’re reading this post, you’re at least somewhat active on social media. So be sure to include content from your activities on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. All that will make for a great start. 

There are professionals who can take your Word doc, craft a final piece, design the cover and interior layout, oversee the editing and proofing, and manage all the other activities necessary for your book to appear on the shelves in Barnes & Noble stores around the country and on the Amazon.com website. Believe it or not, that’s the easy part in today’s world of print on demand.

One more thought. If you take the initiative, a year from now, you could be taking copies of your book to your next stockholder’s meeting, key customer presentation, or speaking engagement.

Social Media Marketing on a Shoestring

April 25th, 2012

By Kent Huffman, Chief Marketing Officer at BearCom Wireless and Co-Publisher of Social Media Marketing Magazine

If you’re a small business owner or manager—or even a corporate marketing executive with a very limited budget—and you’ve been wondering how you could leverage social media to help grow your business, you’re definitely not alone. Almost every marketer I know is having to deal with limited financial resources in 2011, primarily because of the challenging economic times we’re facing right now. So what do you do?

No Money? No Matter!

In most cases, success in social media marketing doesn’t necessarily require a large financial investment. But depending on your level of involvement, it may demand a significant commitment of time. Jessie Paul, author of the book, No Money Marketing: From Upstart to Big Brand on a Frugal Budget, says, “Unlike media such as TV, radio, print, or even Google Adwords, which are capital intensive (i.e., the more money you have, the more successful you are likely to be), social media in its current form is labor intensive.” But because of the magnitude of the potential opportunities presented by social media marketing, that investment is often a wise one. Jessie goes on to say, “Social media gives marketers a chance to be in direct contact with customers. That is very hard to get in any other media and is worth quite a bit of experimentation to achieve.”

I’ve been active on various social media sites (including Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn) since early 2009 and have been amazed at the benefits and opportunities that activity has brought to me and my company in a relatively short period of time. As Jessie suggested, I didn’t have to invest very much of my marketing budget to reach my social media marketing goals, but I did spend a lot of time developing strategy, content, and most importantly, relationships. I have to say it has been worth every minute.

Key Social Media Channels and Sites

If you’re just starting down the social media marketing path, an important first step toward making the most of the online social scene for your business is to select the right channels and tools to use. Robbin Block, author of the book, Social Persuasion: Making Sense of Social Media for Small Business, says, “Knowing your own abilities and the impression you’re trying to make can play a big part in the types of sites you choose. There’s a big difference between creating original content and simply participating. For example, posting a response or voting is much different than writing an article. If you’re a creator—that is, you have the time, talent, or inclination to create original material—then content sites are a good choice.”

“Whether you choose to be a creator, a participant, or a blend of both depends on your strategy,” adds Robbin. “Certain types of small businesses are a natural fit with particular social media categories. For example, a speaker might post a video on YouTube, list events in online calendars (like Yahoo! Upcoming), and upload presentations to SlideShare. If you’re short on budget but long on talent, that may help you decide. Writers may choose blogs, videographers may choose content sites, social animals may choose networks, and subject experts may choose Q&As.”

Reaping the Benefits of Conversations

Once you’ve selected the right social media channels and sites for your individual situation, you’re ready to join the discussion, build relationships, and ultimately reap the benefits.

Recently, Network Solutions and the University of Maryland (UM) conducted a compelling study about the use of social media in small businesses. “Social media levels the playing field for small businesses by helping them deliver customer service,” says Janet Wagner, Director of the Center for Excellence at UM’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “Time spent on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs is an investment in making it easier for small businesses to compete.” Connie Steele, Director at Network Solutions, added, “Tough market conditions mandate small businesses to think and act creatively to sustain themselves. Social media can be the best friend for small business owners who constantly seek new ways to maximize productivity while keeping costs low.”

And those same challenges apply to most every marketer, no matter how small or large his or her organization may be. Eric Fletcher is the Chief Marketing Officer at McGlinchey Stafford (a commercial law firm based in New Orleans) and is one of the most popular CMOs on Twitter. He frequently writes about social media marketing-related issues. Eric says, “The ultimate goal of any social media marketing effort should be to enhance the brand and move forward on a continuum that leads to a new or deeper relationship with the target. Nothing accelerates the establishment and deepening of relationships like the give-and-take of conversations on social media.”

Eric is also acutely aware of the budgetary challenges marketers are facing today. “In an environment where marketing budgets are frozen (if not shrinking), a robust social media strategy is based more on the investment of time than dollars,” he notes. “We have always understood two things: the value of word-of-mouth marketing and the need to ‘fish where the fish swim.’ In social media, those two essentials come together—giving any enterprise, regardless of budget, a way to have a daily conversation with a world of prospective customers.”

The Practical Marketing Applications of Facebook (Part 2 of 4)

January 4th, 2012

By Sam Mallikarjunan, Chief Executive Officer of Mallikarjunan Media Group

Part 1

“Like” Me!

The most well-known is the Facebook “like” button. Whereas Facebook used to give users the option to become “fans” of something—be it a brand or company or person—they can now “like” something with a single click. The “like” button is easy to install on any website. If used properly, it allows the owner of the page to publish updates into the news feeds of all the users that “like” that page. This is incredibly valuable, as it makes it easy to turn a single visitor into a returning one without having to capture an e-mail address. Whereas e-mail marketing has long been the predominant information-capture focus of most websites, gathering “likes” is quickly gaining in importance. The Facebook “like” button should be on every page of your website, and you should use the people that like it to create sticky traffic by publishing relevant updates into their news feeds.

You can incentivize people to “like” your posts and pages using different methods. First and foremost, organic “likes” will be the most valuable. People who genuinely appreciate your content are more likely to be great customers, brand loyal, and engaged on your page, as well as share the content with others. However, you can stimulate activity with incentivized contests and games. A favorite strategy of mine is to make a post (either on the brand’s Facebook page itself or on a blog) and say, “‘Like’ this post for a chance to win (insert something somewhat valuable here).” For example, if you’re writing an article about a cool inbound marketing service, you might offer a free consultation, a free month’s service, or even just a free T-shirt to a random winner from those who “like” the post or publish an update back into their news feeds to come back and win the prize.

Facebook also has an incredibly useful comments module which will allow people to leave comments on your website while logged into Facebook. Since there’s a small probability that some of your visitors may not have Facebook accounts, I’d strongly recommend that you create a back-up comment module, similar to the one on the CigarRobbie.com blog. This useful widget allows your users to carry the conversation about your page or brand back to their networks of Facebook friends, since by default, it will post back to their profiles. Essentially, comments now have the power to share your content far beyond just your own visitors and into each of their social networks. This module also includes a “like” button with the same features and flexibility.

Add a Facebook “like” button to every page on your site, and decide what relevant content you want to share with those who click it.

Easy Logins

There is a great deal of value in having users be able to login and register at your site. It can create unique user accounts for them or create a unique experience. The need to identify one user from another is as fundamental to any other site as it is to Facebook itself. Many sites, such as Formspring.me, now allow you to register for their sites with a single click rather than the formerly arduous process of registering at a site by entering your name, age, state, zip, e-mail, gender… you get the idea.

Remember that Internet marketing is much like electricity. Users will take the path of least resistance, but the more resistance (i.e., steps) in the process, the more people that you’ll lose—whether it be user registrations or value conversions. By making it incredibly simple to register an account on your site by using Facebook’s one-click login, you’ve instantly created a system that’s easy to use with low resistance. Also, by integrating it with Facebook where users can revoke access and permissions, you’ve made people feel more comfortable than they may have been giving you their personal or contact information to begin with.

Keep in mind that not everyone has Facebook, so you should offer other registration options on your site as well.

Decide if there is any reason to have a visitor register with your site. If so, make Facebook a one-click option.

Part 3

Are We There Yet? Tuning Up Your Metrics

September 28th, 2011

By Marian Burk Wood, Author of The Marketing Plan Handbook

Before you roll out a new social media marketing program, be ready to answer one key question about results: are we there yet? Here’s a roadmap for tuning up your metrics so you’ll know where you’re headed and how to track progress along the way.

Look Ahead, Look Behind

Just as your GPS needs a street address to plot a route, you need three types of specific objectives to serve as destinations for your social media activities:

  1. Marketing objectives for brand building and relationship building (such as targets for brand awareness or customer acquisition). Ford’s campaign for the new Fiesta—initially a social media event reinforced by traditional media—set (and achieved) objectives for brand impressions and awareness as well as pre-launch information requests. In the follow-up to P&G’s super-viral Old Spice Guy campaign, one marketing objective was to attract a million Facebook fans to the brand’s social media “sacred club,” part of the push to increase brand awareness and change consumer attitudes.
  2. Financial objectives for money-related results (such as sales and profitability—by channel, by customer, etc.). QVC can set sales objectives for sales driven from its Facebook page (which has 300,000-plus “likes”) and its Twitter presence (more than 30,000 followers), track repeat business, and calculate profit by product and channel.
  3. Societal objectives that give your social media marketing a larger purpose (such as raising money for a worthy cause). P&G’s Dawn relied on the brand’s Facebook and Twitter interactions to get customers involved in achieving its target of donating $500,000 to wildlife conservation organizations.

And to steer clear of potholes, don’t forget to check the rearview mirror—learn from how and why existing programs hit bumpy roads in the past.

Prepare to Shift into High Gear

With objectives in place, your next step is to set up standards and a timetable for checking these metrics:

  • Compass points. Are you going in the right direction? For marketing objectives related to brand awareness or preference, metrics such as the number of Facebook “likes” and the number of positive blog comments can give you a sense of whether you’re gaining ground, standing still, or going south. QVC, for instance, regularly monitors the number and sentiment of comments on each blog post, promotional tweet, and Facebook post. Bounce rates, referral rates, and engagement duration are other compass points; think of indicators that make sense for your objectives and business.
  • Mile markers. You should be able to estimate how far along you need to be at various points in the journey so you can make interim adjustments as needed. For example, are you attracting and converting enough visitors every day/week/month to reach your long-term targets? Check these metrics early and often to avoid nasty last-minute surprises. QVC drills down into its sales statistics—sometimes minute by minute—to determine whether each product or promotion is on the right track and make mid-course corrections as necessary.
  • Speed. How quickly are you moving toward your destination? Look at viral rates for your communications to analyze how quickly you’re gaining new friends, subscribers, or customers (depending on your objectives), and investigate unusual lags or patterns in response to social media initiatives. If something is working especially well, use it to accelerate your results.

Now you’re all set to hit the road and put the pedal to the metal!

The Online Newsroom: The Factory that Runs a Brand’s Content Engine

August 31st, 2011

By Ed Lallo, Principal at Newsroom Ink

Google your company’s name and see what comes up. Do the stories at the top of the search results reflect the business you’re running? If not, why not? Maybe it’s because your company has a better story to tell than is currently being told.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google have changed the playing field for integrated marketing communications. What has not changed is the need for companies, organizations, and even politicians to communicate their stories from a unique perspective that only they can offer.

Social-integrated marketing communications offers an ever-increasing amount of tools to connect with targeted markets, but what has been lacking is a centralized content engine that drives conversation and integrates the elements of the promotional mix of advertising, public relations, direct marketing, and sales.

The online newsroom is the factory that runs a brand’s content engine. It’s the place to address brand issues, public relations, crisis management, marketing, and communications—all aligned with the CEO’s agenda. It’s the one place that consumers, vendors, and employees—as well as local, national, and international media—can obtain stories, photos, and videos told from your unique perspective, 24 hours per day.

But an online newsroom can be much more than just a newsroom. It can become the “landing site” for the social media efforts of companies, organizations, and political campaigns. The online newsroom translates your corporate agenda into a compelling story that the press, your customers, employees, vendors, and stakeholders want to read, learn more about, believe in, and contribute to on a regular basis. Using a proven model that delivers timely and influential news, the newsroom becomes an indispensable tool for a brand’s communications program.

A recent study of online newsrooms by the Corporate Executive Board—a member network of the world’s leading executives that spans more than 50 countries and represents more than 85% of Fortune 500 corporations—showed online newsrooms to be the top channel for disseminating information and effectively telling a company’s story.

Dynamic online newsrooms are not about pushing the company agenda from the top down, but instead letting the voices of others tell your story in a way that increases the credibility of your company’s brand. This “corporate journalism” style adds balance and influence and gives your brand a unique distinction.

With cutbacks in budgets, staff, and resources, print, broadcast, and digital media have turned to online newsrooms to obtain information and story ideas. According to the 2009 Journalist Survey on Media Relations Practices conducted by online public relations site Bulldog Reporter, “Public relations practitioners should shift their energies to online newsrooms, blogs, and social media,” and “journalists’ usage of these technologies continues to increase.”

Most importantly, online newsroom results are measurable. A recent study for the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board by Cision, a leading media tracking firm, found that for a three-month period, media exposure of Louisiana had reached an estimated audience of more than 3.4 billion in the United States. The Board used the online newsroom as the content engine, supported by traditional PR, Twitter, and Facebook.

Turning the online newsroom into a landing site for social media creates a centralized place to openly engage audiences, tell your brand’s many stories, and paint a picture of the uniqueness of your organization. It is like inviting someone into your house so they can see everything at a glance, and at the same time, putting the CEO’s agenda in the middle of the news.

Fueling the Social Media Engine: How Building Relationships Online Drives the Growth of Brands

June 22nd, 2011

By Luis Gallardo, Managing Director of Global Brand & Marketing at Deloitte

The world’s most successful brands go the distance. Beyond logos, colors, and shapes, brands endure over time and geography, attempting to do what no other commodity or service offering before them could do—or better yet, promise.

Brands are expected to perform, and customers expect nothing short of that promise. In fact, one must think holistically about the brand by understanding how multiple stakeholders are interacting, sharing, and perceiving the value of the promise across hundreds of brand touch points around the world. Then, one must get personal by understanding how emerging media and other Web 2.0 communities impact the development and maintenance of meaningful relationships—an emotional bond and distinctive brand experience for customers and stakeholders.

Is your organization capitalizing on emerging media technology as a key brand-enhancing activity to help differentiate it from the competition?

At Deloitte, the largest private professional services organization globally, social media is not just another buzzword. We boldly anticipate the success of social media in helping our people and clients to step ahead in the marketplace. Pragmatic in our approach, we are building on the success of several social media marketing campaigns to continuously grow our brand within the professional services market.

Our recent success with the 2010 Deloitte Fantasy Football engagement program, for example, allowed our 170,000-member firm practitioners, as well as our clients, to highlight their pride in cultural diversity, their love for the game of soccer, and a relentless approach to staying a step ahead of the fantasy competition during every World Cup match game. In addition to being an all-around fun game, Deloitte Fantasy Football was a strategic brand-building initiative that relied heavily on the power of building relationships online via social media channels, peer-to-peer recommendations, and real-time collaboration among colleagues, friends, and clients.

Social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, in particular) played an integral role in sustaining the momentum and energy behind the campaign, week after week. In fact, the results of the campaign exceeded our expectations:

  • More than 80% of Deloitte member firms actively promoted this event, leveraging unique opportunities for local market fit.
  • There was a ten-fold jump from Deloitte Australia’s original 3,000 participant count in 2006 to an impressive 33,848 total number of participants who registered to play the game in more than 160 countries.
  • More than 61 percent of the Deloitte workforce participated in the competition, complemented by a respectable level of client participation at 34 percent.
  • More than half a million unique online visitors from 162 countries and territories came to the competition site. More than 15 percent of these visitors had not previously visited a Deloitte Web site.
  • Each visitor spent an average of 7.38 minutes visiting the Web site—an equivalent of more than 4 million page views.
  • The Deloitte Fantasy Football campaign directly impacted our overall social media profile. We grew our official Deloitte Facebook page during that time from a fan base of 2,000 to more than 77,000 active users. Deloitte now has the largest global Facebook presence among its professional services competitors.
  • More than 40 Deloitte member firm practitioners from the South African firm acted as “green dot” reporters by blogging about the spirit of the live games.

Deloitte continues to shift perception from being just one of the Big Four to being the market-leading private professional services organization—in a category of one. To help accomplish this goal, Deloitte Fantasy Football (as well as other brand engagement programs) allowed our network of member firms to build on the exciting momentum of the world’s largest sports phenomenon, while exposing stakeholders to a variety of brand messages that appeal to clients and talent. By supporting these relationships in online social media applications such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs, Deloitte continues to break away from the pack.

Using social media as part of the marketing mix, Deloitte is able to authentically embrace the interests of its people and clients in a non-traditional way. From weekly engagement levels provided by Facebook metrics to a whole new database of potential clients, social media is a strategic business driver with the potential to positively impact lead generation, brand reputation, and risk, as well as advancements in thought leadership and new product development.

People Have the Power: How Social Media is Changing Business and Why the Old Guard is Terrified

June 8th, 2011

By Barry Libert, Author of Social Nation: How to Harness the Power of Social Media to Attract Customers, Motivate Employees, and Grow Your Business

For as long as anyone can remember, the expression “those who have the gold, rule” has worked. But times are changing. Today, the power is shifting to the masses, and they are using the power of the sheer size and capabilities of the Internet to make sure their voices are heard. And this is making the old guard—existing management teams, boards, and investors—terrified for lots of reasons.

Most companies and their leaders have perfected business processes and competencies focused on making, marketing, and selling “things”—not listening, facilitating, and sharing information and experiences. The skills and technologies (command and control and assembly lines) required for the former are different from those required for the latter (empathy and compassion and social media). However, I think it is time for the old guard to get on board and recognize they have a unique opportunity to participate in the revolution—or risk losing their heads the way Marie Antoinette did.

Understand the Power of Social Media

The unprecedented growth of Facebook (550 million users), Twitter (200 million), bloggers (150 million), and text messaging resulted because there were tremendous unfulfilled demands by customers and employees that were not being met by traditional organizations or tools. These demands were basic: to communicate and connect. Further, the demands were profoundly valuable and important to almost all constituents—to be heard, connected, recognized for their contributions, and ultimately, self-actualized.

Facebook and other social media entities surfaced to satisfy those needs and reap the benefits, along with the organizations that invested in them.

Embrace the Voice of Your Customers and Employees

Most traditional organizations don’t have a team—let alone a senior ranking professional—charged with building their social media initiatives and developing their communities. If we look back just 10 years ago when e-commerce was first taking off, traditional leaders of brick and mortar companies thought that e-commerce was just a passing fad and would only be used for selling technologies. Obviously, they were wrong, and the same is true for social media and community engagement.

We are just at the beginning of a structural shift to the socialization of organizations. It’s important to build your social media team now, so you can join the conversation and hear what your constituents have to say. Don’t let the voices of your customers and employees go unheard.

The Crowd Can Help You Grow and Prosper

Regardless of what you think of your employees, customers, prospects, or alumni, there are more of them than you. Most importantly, you never know where the next great idea will come from, which could include your existing people or people from outside the four walls of your organization (and by extension, your partners). Research has repeatedly shown that crowds have wisdom, expertise, and passion that can help you grow and innovate.

It doesn’t matter how big your company is or how long it has been around. The growing size and popularity of social media signals a seismic shift from institutions and their leaders to individuals and their peers (e.g., communities). It’s time for a new organizational model: “business by the people, for the people” (not by the leaders, for the leaders). Leaders have to learn to become true followers of their constituents (customers, employees, partners, etc.) and join the social media revolution. It’s time to ask yourself if it’s better to be terrified of the masses or to join them and ensure your future success. It’s your choice.

Using One-to-Many Technologies to Create One-to-One Experiences

May 25th, 2011

By David Harkleroad, Chief Marketing Officer at Hay Group

I’m re-reading Neil Rackham’s B2B classic, Major Account Sales Strategy. While written in 1989, it is still remarkably relevant—and he would have included a section on social media had it existed at the time!

Neil asked experienced B2B sales professionals about the hardest part of selling, expecting to hear, “getting a consensus of needs when several different people are involved in the decision” or “getting customers to see that the need is urgent enough to justify action.” Surprisingly, they said, “getting in the door in the first place!” He concluded, “if you’re trying to penetrate a new account, the easiest starting point is to find a receptive individual—somebody who’s prepared to listen.”

To find those receptive individuals, B2B firms traditionally rely on business developers—or, as any Mad Men aficionado knows, the Roger Coopers or Pete Campbells—who leverage relationships, cold call, or, in its modern day equivalent, spam (does anyone ever open those?) to get in the door. As an aside, many B2B business leaders confuse these prospecting activities (a one-to-one activity) with marketing (one-to-many), much to all of our chagrin.

Today, social media, as many thoughtful B2B marketing peers have learned, offers real opportunities for marketing success by, in essence, using one-to-many technologies to create one-to-one experiences. To build those connections takes time, creativity, repetition, and the right content—similar to any other marketing approach. The challenge is tweaking that content to raise brand awareness, and more importantly, to create sales leads and conversations. A few simple, cost-effective ways to experiment:

  • Make it easy for people to opt in to your content. Listen to what your targets have to say, and create content that both supports your marketing objectives and matters to your online audiences. At the same time, think through a clear call to action for every touchpoint you have online. Offer a clear and simple way to connect for additional information, and track those leads.
  • Have a content hub. A blog isn’t realistic for everyone, although that is the ideal. Consider creating a robust microsite as a center for information on a key topic. It’s a nice platform for external audiences but can also effectively rally internal audiences and salespeople. Or, for those without the corporate resources, a social media news release, such as those found at PitchEngine, can house a variety of multimedia content. Whatever the method, offer clear ways to connect or to solicit input.
  • Build relationships with bloggers. As Kevin Briody notes in The Very Basics of Blogger Outreach, you must identify the right bloggers—and get to know them. This is the time to roll up your sleeves, because there is no “easy” list. However, there are some sources that can help point you in the right direction: Alltop, Google Blog Search, and Technorati. Once you identify a few key bloggers, look around their sites for any helpful information on blog rolls or lists they might produce themselves, such as this one, which offers a robust community of management and leadership bloggers.
  • Engage on Twitter. It’s critical to build your followers before you launch a social media campaign. Adam Holden-Bache provides six useful steps to find your B2B audience on Twitter. Listen for a while. Check to see if your LinkedIn connections are on Twitter. Scan for any customers, prospects, key bloggers, and competitors.

At Hay Group, these efforts have already generated one-to-one meetings with organizations we want to do business with. And our consultants report much more receptivity to meeting requests, which is perhaps the most satisfying result, since it increases their confidence to go open some more doors.

What tactics have worked for you? Please share your successes, so we can all learn.

Reaching Beyond Your Own Space

March 23rd, 2011

By Jay Miletsky, Co-Author of Perspectives on Marketing, Perspectives on Branding, and Perspectives on Social Media Marketing

Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed a very interesting trend among people—small business owners and managers, especially—looking to improve their marketing through social media efforts. They started out skeptical (can this really work for my company?), moved on to anxious (I’ve got to start a social media marketing program, fast!), graduated to proud (I’ve started a blog and a Facebook fan page!), and have now increasingly settled on disappointed (this social media stuff really hasn’t done much for my business).

It’s a sad state of affairs, really, that so many business owners and marketing managers are reaching a point of disillusionment when it comes to their social media marketing efforts. But it’s a virus that seems to be spreading—a quick search on Facebook through practically any industry will show a veritable wasteland of abandoned fan pages that seemed to be launched in earnest, updated with regularity, and abruptly forgotten about when new wall posts failed to generate user interaction and fan counts never reached much beyond an early round of invites to friends and family.

The problem isn’t social media as a discipline, however. The problem is that too many marketers take the lazy way out—or at least fail to realize that small business success in the social space requires more effort than simply launching and updating a fan page and expecting people will engage you there. Even a remote control car only moves when someone’s at the controls steering it.

To gain a following (blog readers, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, etc.), marketers need to reach beyond their own social space:

  • Don’t just write posts on your own blog. Reach out to industry blogs to guest write for them.
  • Read popular industry blogs on a daily basis. Zero in on one or two posts you feel strongly about—or at least have an opinion on—and leave a comment. Make it thoughtful and informative, and, if possible, leave it early in the morning, so it’s one of the first comments of the day. That way, other readers will be more likely to read what you have to say.
  • When you comment on someone else’s blog, always remember to leave a standard signature with your name and company name, as well as links to your site/blog, fan page, and Twitter site.
  • Don’t simply leave wall posts on your Facebook fan page. Look for larger organizations on Facebook that have fan or group pages where you can reach a broader audience. For example, suppose you’re marketing a hospital. Don’t limit your interactions to your own wall and fans. There are Facebook groups on general health topics as well as specific topics like breast cancer that literally have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers. Posting topics there or commenting on other posts will help expose your brand page to many of those followers.
  • Find #hashtag conversations on Twitter related to your industry, and join in those conversations to build a following.
  • Check out LinkedIn Groups and see where you can add your thoughts to existing conversations or start your own thread based on topics that will be relevant to you and the group.

Most of all, as with any other form of marketing, success requires a consistent effort. Results are rarely, if ever, seen immediately, and only those who persevere through audience droughts will be around to feel the flood.

Engage Your Most Dissatisfied Customers for Radical Thinking

March 9th, 2011

By Dr. Philippe Duverger, Assistant Professor at Towson University

I agree with Tom Quinn’s recent post on the SMM Magazine blog—By Invitation Only: Letting Your Customers in Behind the Velvet Rope—where he advocates for a by-invitation-only brand community that leverages customer engagement in a private and exclusive environment. Facebook Pages and other initiatives that inform and lead your consumer base (customers and potential customers alike) to follow your brand and try your services and products is a different strategy than listening to your most valuable customers. Both strategies are valuable and have their place in the social media environment.

A social media strategy using Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other open-to-the-public environments will raise awareness, trial, and traffic. But it will also allow competitors to listen in on the conversation. If you are in need of radical service ideas and want to mine your customer base or test new ideas, you should create a secluded environment where only trusted and creative clients can participate.

This is where the dilemma exists. Should you invite only your loyal customers to participate in idea generation through online brainstorming sessions? Or should you invite your most dissatisfied customers? I advocate for the latter strategy.

Your most dissatisfied customers are probably thinking about switching providers. They are more likely to feel underappreciated or have experienced sub-standard service from you. They might have logged a complaint, only to receive an unhelpful administrative response, which further enraged them, thereby increasing their dissatisfaction. So it is more likely that they can tell you what is wrong with your business.

You might not want to hear it, or you might dismiss the complaint as a rare occurrence or subjective to the customer’s unrealistic expectations. And you might be wrong. That customer could be a visionary who will feel compelled to find a service provider that will satisfy her needs. If none of your competitors provide it, the customer might decide to provide it herself (assuming she has what it takes), become your competitor, and drive you out of business. Too far, you think? Take entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Kemmons Wilson (Holiday Inn), or Howard Schultz (Starbucks). They all have a common characteristic: they did not like what was available in the market and went on to create it for themselves.

Interestingly, Starbucks recently engaged in a Web-based brainstorming exercise where anyone—including its competitors—could participate and watch. Starbucks collected thousands of ideas. Great… except that only one radical idea would suffice to make a winter-coffee company an all-season coffee and smoothies company. The Frappuccino, according to Schultz’s memoirs, was a customer’s idea and now accounts for almost half of Starbucks’ revenue.

Certainly, among the tens of thousands of participants, there are bound to be creative consumers, satisfied or not. But the most dissatisfied and creative ones either won’t participate or will be outnumbered by the conservative, happy, and loyal customers.

Cyberbullying is explained by the balance theory where a customer posting a radical idea might preface it with a complaint, leading others to defend the brand by bullying the culprit out of participating. The solution? Segregate your behind-the-velvet-rope communities between radical thinkers and those who only have improvement ideas. Or, more practically, have a radical-thinking community composed of your most dissatisfied customers. And then listen.

Embracing Social Media Measurement

February 23rd, 2011

By Deirdre Breakenridge, Co-Author of Cyberbranding: Brand Building in the Digital Economy

If there’s one area of marketing strategy that deserves significant attention, it’s measurement. Back in the days of traditional communications, marketers were always held accountable for the results of their campaigns. We had to know if the marketing efforts raised awareness, created consumer loyalty, and moved products off the shelves or if our initiatives helped the brand’s reputation. However, much of our measurement was based on eyeballs or impressions. How much did that advertisement cost and how many people actually saw it in their favorite magazines or heard it on the radio during their morning drive to work?

Then we morphed into digital communications and were able to target our campaigns to capture activity and sales from clicks to conversations. And we became no strangers to the terms PPC and CPM. Today, as a result of social media marketing, we are focused on conversations and participation in the social sphere. Consumers are becoming more active in their Web communities and trusting the advice and word of their peers over the brand’s messages. As a result, marketers know they need to create opportunities for brands to engage with their consumers through high levels of interaction. Of course, social media engagement can lead to any of the following: awareness, perception, reputation, education, conversations, authority, leads/sales, etc.

With so much listening, monitoring, and measuring that needs to be done, how do you select the right tools to capture the metrics that show value to the brand? How can you tell the difference between the high-level/high-value interactions versus the Facebook “like” or follower on Twitter that never leads to a product sale? I’ve found a couple of different measurement techniques that show good value for any brand that takes the time to invest in these types of measurement. They are “share of voice” and “social influence marketing (SIM) score.”

If you are unfamiliar with these two metrics, here’s a brief overview:

Share of Voice

A brand’s share of voice includes any type of brand mention, which could appear in social networks, blogs, microblogs, message boards and forums, video and photo sharing sites, wikis, etc. Share of voice lets you hear what people are saying and where they are saying it, how they perceive your brand, and what they think about it. You can compare your brand’s share of voice to that of your competitors. You can also capture those communities that have a greater share of voice, allowing you to capitalize on any brand champions speaking on your behalf by building better relationships with them as they continue to be your advocates. It’s also a good practice to evaluate any weak areas where you can create stronger ties with your stakeholders and engage in more meaningful interactions.

Social Influence Marketing (SIM) Score

The SIM developed by Razorfish supports a brand’s attempts to track, analyze, and improve net sentiment by setting benchmarks against itself and also by comparing the SIM scores to that of its competitors. The SIM score is calculated by looking at the brand’s positive, neutral, and negative mentions in relation to total conversations, both for the brand and the brand’s industry. For example, net sentiment for a brand (which is calculated by positive mentions plus neutral mentions minus negative mentions) is divided by total conversations (positive plus neutral plus negative) to get a brand sentiment score. The same calculation is used to obtain the net industry sentiment score, calculating the positive plus neutral minus negative mentions, and then dividing by total industry conversations. The SIM score is equal to the total net sentiment divided by total industry sentiment.

These are only a couple of the metrics that can be used to measure the results of social media marketing. With so many conversations to capture from our consumers and other stakeholders in Web communities, we must embrace social media measurement. Whether you are using free tools (such as Social Mention and Alterian) or automated services (including Radian6 and Sysomos), it’s critical to turn up the volume on our listening/monitoring and measurement practices and show our executives that no matter where we market, there are results, and we are accountable.

The Perfect Bundle: A Netbook and an Aspirin

February 9th, 2011

By Jeff Hasen, Chief Marketing Officer at Hipcricket

I’ve always thought that a drugstore was a place to treat a headache, not to receive one. But we’re in dangerous territory these days. No, not the kind of danger where your wife or girlfriend asks you to pick up a feminine product that will be in your hand just when your buddy—armed with a mobile device and Twitter and Facebook feeds—is in line for his daily dose of beef jerky.

Consumer electronics have found a home at CVS between the deodorant and Pepto Bismol. How convenient, you say? How crazy, I say.

Why? It’s illogical to ask the consumer, or heaven forbid, the stockboy to be informed about consumer electronics products being introduced virtually every hour in the era of technology on steroids.

CVS began selling a $99 Sylvania netbook computer over the Labor Day weekend and quickly sold out in many locations, according to news accounts. It features a seven-inch display, 128 MB of internal memory, and 2 GB of NAND Flash. The computer runs Internet Explorer on Windows CE 6.0. How wonderful.

If you walked down the street or into your local CVS store (otherwise known as your consumer electronics destination of choice), do you think more than three in 100 could tell you the benefits and downside of 128 MB of memory and 2 GB of NAND Flash? What the heck is NAND Flash anyway? None of your Facebook or Twitter followers can help here.

Consumers were driven to CVS by Sunday circulars that proclaimed the “New Netbook… Wow! $99.99.” InformationWeek reported that “several users said they hoped to find a way to eventually download some Android apps to the netbook.” If you are going to hold your breath for this one, please consult the pharmacist. Other users said they bought the netbook for their children, while still others said they would give the machines as holiday presents. Shouldn’t this treatment of children be reviewed by the authorities?

The netbook can’t run Microsoft Office 2007 but gives lucky buyers WordPad, DocViewer, XLSViewer, and PDFViewer. Not to mention the headache that can be treated by CVS’ aspirin. Which brings us to the consumer electronics stores.

Whole new categories and operating systems are—or soon will be—for sale. Tablets are being offered that promise an iPad-like experience for a fraction of the cost. Smartphones are so plentiful that you have to wonder if every device can be that smart.

The better retail experiences will feature informed, patient salespeople educating the eager and uninformed. They will deliver on the “moments of trust” for the store and manufacturer. But that will likely be the exception, given staffing levels and the near impossible task of having anyone keep up with all the products and services that the tech world is introducing.

You’ll be hearing all about the pain on Twitter, Facebook, and a blog near you. It’s fortunate that aspirin is as mobile as the netbook and smartphone.

Three Questions the Savvy Executive Asks about Online Marketing Strategy

January 12th, 2011

By Stephanie Diamond, Author of Web Marketing for Small Businesses: Seven Steps to Explosive Business Growth

If you’re a leader whose business has an online component, you’d probably like to find some guidelines that make it easier to develop and sustain an online marketing strategy. There are lots of conflicting ideas swirling out there about what to do online. If you followed many of them, you’d be spinning your wheels with no revenue in sight.

As someone whose has worked online since 1994, I’ve watched the marketing “shiny object” change from Web site to newsletter to blog to social media network. And on it goes. I know that getting locked into a tactic with no clear strategy in sight is a common mistake.

If you’re uneasy around the topic of social media strategies, you’re not alone. Because you’re not down in the trenches tweeting and posting, you probably don’t have the “hands-on” feel you have for other areas of marketing.

If you attempt to delegate, employees suggest all manner of tactics to engage customers. You’ve heard that you need to engage with Twitter and Facebook, study ongoing analytics, present sparkling content, and co-develop with customers. Great advice. But without the strategy behind it, your campaigns are destined to fail. Like every other area of business, you need to create the strategy first and make sure it flows down to everyone in your organization.

In formulating an online strategy, here are three questions to consider:

  1. Value. Do your employees know the real value consumers place on your products and services? If you don’t develop and constantly hone that message, your employees can’t communicate it in their social media efforts. In turn, all the ratings and comments that show up about your company will not engender the “word of mouth” referral power they could. If your customers aren’t selling for you, you’re missing out on one of the most powerful weapons you have today.
  2. Intellectual property (IP). Are you encouraging your employees to mine the intellectual property hidden inside your business to create information products and services? I’m not referring to the patents or formulas your company owns. The IP in companies today can be found in their vast stores of information. The key is to evaluate that information based on enhancement of the customer’s life. Think broadly. Consumers today are hungry for quality information that solves problems. Can your staff take that information and create videos, e-books, and other downloadable properties with that in mind?
  3. Competitive advantage. Do your employees understand who your real competitors are? I’m often surprised when I work on competitive strategies with my clients that they overlook several real online competitors. It’s a mistake to focus on only those who sell your exact product/service in exactly the way you do. The Web provides the opportunity for your customers to pick and choose from a variety of options. For example, if you sell sales training courses, your competitors are online video portals, coaches (both in-person and online), downloadable audio courses, etc. Make sure your staff has looked at all the possibilities.

One more note—there are many visual thinking tools (like mind mapping) that your team can use right now to gather ideas from all internal disciplines. Consider using these techniques to get ideas from programmers and marketers alike. In today’s marketplace, you can’t afford to overlook a great idea.

Will Social Media Courses Enable a Cultural Shift in Higher Education?

December 1st, 2010

By Dr. William Ward, Adjunct Professor at Grand Valley State University

“The times, they are a-changin’.” —Bob Dylan

Universities are using social media through their institutional marketing departments to attract new students and communicate with alumni. Various academic departments have reluctantly added social media courses. Some progressive universities are even hiring new full-time faculty to teach these courses. To all of this I say congratulations—but has the higher education culture shifted?

This is a bigger question than should we offer a social media course or who is qualified to teach it or what college or department should be responsible for teaching social networking. A cultural shift in higher education is needed, but a social media course is not the answer.

David Armano, Senior Vice President at Edelman Digital writes about three social business models: “closed,” “collaborative,” and “open.” Closed organizations are recognized by silos, rigidity, and information hoarding, while collaborative organizations freely share information and knowledge internally. Open organizations connect internal and external communities for mutual gain.

So, how do you tell if a university is closed, collaborative, or open?

If you ask, all universities will report that they are open and collaborative; but, digging deeper, may not tell the same story. There are five questions that higher education institutions must answer to determine if they are acting the culture they seek:

1. Are university presidents and administrators personally using social networking or blogging to engage with faculty, staff, and external publics?

2. Are all faculty members creating content using social media, blogs, or collaborative digital tools like Google to communicate and share with their colleagues and industry for research and learning?

3. Are all faculty members using social media to communicate and learn with their students for all of their classes?

4. Are students using social media for learning, communicating, creating, and sharing in all of their courses or just in their social media courses?

5. Are universities (and accreditation systems) measuring social media and digital output and the new ways of sharing and publishing beyond traditional academic journals for tenure?

Unfortunately, most universities talk about collaboration and being open but have rigid academic silos that make real collaboration challenging. Social media courses and initiatives being added as part of existing academic silos are not enough to create the change needed in higher education for truly open cultures.

To become an open organization, university presidents, administrators, and faculty must model the behavior they seek to create for higher education. Assigning student interns or individuals in a department to be responsible for social media is not the answer. Everyone in the organization must be actively engaged.

You are what you measure. Universities (and accreditation systems) must measure and reward individual social media and digital output to empower change. If academic journal publication is used as the sole research measure for tenure, then social media will not be integrated to create an open organization.

Social media is a powerful tool for research, learning, communicating, collaborating, and creating, but the real power is in the cultural shift to a dynamic and open organization.

Could Big Brands Learn a Thing or Two from Singer Leann Rimes? Hell, Yeah!

August 11th, 2010

By Aaron Strout, Chief Marketing Officer at Powered

I have always been a music enthusiast, but I’ve never been that interested in country music. And while I’m not ready to race out and fill my iTunes account with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, I recently purchased a few songs by the lovely and talented Leann Rimes. Why the sudden change of heart? If you must know, it was because of a single tweet. Well, it was actually two tweets… and the fact that during a show I saw at the ANA’s Masters of Marketing event, she was authentic and genuinely made an attempt to connect with the crowd of 1,500 senior marketers.

As someone that embraced Twitter back in 2007, I regularly use it to learn, engage, and build relationships. To that end, I often make a point of acknowledging people, companies, and organizations when I feel like they are doing a good job. This may or may not mean anything to them, but it’s my style, and so far, it’s borne a lot of goodwill and business value for me.

Getting back to Leann Rimes and her performance at the ANA conference last week: as she was wrapping up her set, I took the time to look her up on Twitter and send her a thank you tweet. Imagine my surprise when she actually tweeted me back!

The reason I’m sharing this experience is not to show off—although who doesn’t love having a successful female country singer tweet them back—but rather to point out a lesson that big brands could learn from this experience. For starters, it doesn’t hurt to follow Ms. Rimes’ lead and ensure that your brand is perceived as credible and authentic. That was the thing about Leann that got me to tweet her in the first place. But more importantly, the fact that someone as busy as she must be took the time to tweet back to a potential fan was huge.

Did she do it because she knew that I was on the fence about liking her? I don’t think so. Looking back in her tweet stream, it appears she does that with a lot of people. It’s just who she is. What I can guarantee is that while she is a very talented singer, one of the main reasons she has become so successful is because she engages her “customers.”

Now would I have been as excited if a brand like Lexus or Starbucks tweeted me back? Probably not. But I do appreciate it when a brand takes the time to acknowledge me, and it has made me more likely to stick with that brand. For example, in the case of WiFi provider Boingo, I’ve actually become one of its biggest fans, primarily because Boingo regularly engages me in conversation on Twitter. Now Boingo only earns $120 per year from me, but I tell everyone I know about Boingo, have mentioned it in blog posts, and have even gone so far as to be interviewed in an article about Boingo and the “network effect of super fans” on the FASTforward blog.

So is your company engaging its customers? It doesn’t take a lot to get started—just a good listening tool and an internal and/or external resource that can help reach out to customers (or prospective customers) who are mentioning you. You’ll be surprised how far a tweet, a blog comment, or even a Facebook “like” will go in turning people’s heads.

Is Farming Out Selling Out?

May 19th, 2010

By Phyllis Neill, President & CEO of WeMentor Social Media Marketing

The more we learn about social media marketing and management, we realize that the devil is in the details. We now know it’s not enough to simply be in social media, but we need lots of relevant, compelling content, frequent updates, and ongoing efforts to find followers. Most importantly, we need to inject our authentic brand voice, which cannot be outsourced. Or can it?

The good news is, there can be a happy medium. The secret to success is knowing what to farm out, what to keep in-house, and having a strategic plan that helps you do both.

What You Should Farm Out

You could feasibly farm out the creation and posting of 70 percent of the educational content you need to be providing:

  • Make a list of the top 10 to 15 sites where your target and current customers spend time, such as blogs, online news sites, niche social media sites, etc.
  • Engage someone to do a weekly “listening” campaign, where they select the top two to three articles or blog entries from each of the sites you identified.
  • From the list of top articles and blog entries gathered, engage someone to turn them into educational tweets, and have them post these three to four a day throughout the week for you.

What You Should Keep Within Your Company

Even if your business is trying to establish itself as an expert in a specific field, you will need to do more than have highly relevant article link tweets to get you there. Part of the appeal of social media is the intimacy factor; the ability to really get to know a company and its people like never before. Therefore, it is critical that you are able to inject your brand personality into your social media efforts, or people simply will not continue to follow you:

  • Create mini-blog entries. Have your social media marketing company create an editorial calendar that maps out suggested blog topics for each month, giving you the ability to give out guest blog assignments way in advance with a topic already suggested.
  • Post company events on Facebook. If you had a summer picnic, a charity fundraiser, or a trip for your top salespeople, post pictures of these events with personal captions under each picture. Nothing gives a customer or prospect a better feel for the company brand and culture than getting a peek inside how the company celebrates.
  • Develop a relationship with Twitter followers by commenting on other tweets and retweeting interesting articles.
  • Create real-world interactions out of social media meetings. Plan once-a-week LinkedIn lunches to stay top of mind with your LinkedIn contacts. Or write a handwritten note to someone you’ve met through your social media efforts.

The Importance of Strategy and Relationships

The bottom line is that it is possible to outsource a lot of the legwork involved in your social media strategy and still remain highly involved in the messaging. Just make sure to stay strategically involved in the relationship-building piece of the program, and your social media program will be a success.

Social Media Marketing: So Much More than Tools

February 24th, 2010

By Frank Reed, Principal of Frank Thinking

With the whole field of social media marketing coming together over the past few years, there has been a feeling of constant change. Twitter has gone more mainstream in the past 18 months, Google Buzz has jumped into the fray, Facebook fan pages have gained momentum, and corporate blogging is getting the true attention it deserves. As a result, it will be important to quickly recognize what actions a company must take in this frantic environment so time and resources wasted are limited.

The first focus, and perhaps the most important one, is avoiding what I call social media “tool mania.” This condition results from people getting caught up in the swirl of experts and gurus crying out for everyone to be using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and any other tool that is available in today’s social media marketing marketplace. The implication being if you are not using these tools, you are not an effective marketer.

What has thus been created in this initial wave of social media marketing efforts is a focus on the tools to be used with little or no consideration for the business application of the tools. I tell people that while a screwdriver is a fantastic tool, you are not going to paint a house with one. The same basic theory applies to social media marketing. If a tool such as a Facebook fan page or a blog simply does not fit your business needs, then you may not need to have one. Social media heresy, I know, but more often than not, these ill-conceived efforts end up costing companies valuable time and resources with little or no return.

So why the rush to apply these tools without the appropriate assessment of the business application? Well, people don’t want to seem like they are not current or cool. Since “everyone” has a Facebook fan page or Twitter presence, then I have to as well, right?

First, the statistics don’t bear out the “everyone is doing it” theory. A Burson-Marstellar study published in February 2010 shows that 65 percent of the Fortune Global 100 had active accounts on Twitter, 54 percent had a Facebook fan page, 50 percent had a YouTube channel, and 33 percent had corporate blogs. While encouraging, these numbers really say little, because having a presence is no indication or guarantee of success. Just look at the graveyard of Facebook presences that haven’t been updated in months and blogs that have been left to rot on the vine. These do more damage than good, so were they really a smart use of resources? Not likely.

So what are we to do? Well, it’s pretty basic. Research where your customers are, determine how your competition is engaged in social media, get the right resources in place, establish KPIs that are truly measurable, and then proceed with business acumen and solid business common sense. Be careful, though, because many of the social media “tool purveyors” don’t have the business skills and knowledge, due to lack of overall business experience.

A general who takes his troops into battle with plenty of weapons but no battle plan would be labeled a fool. My question then becomes is there any difference in a social media marketer doing the same thing?