Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category

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

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

Turning Facebook “Likes” into More than Just Clicks

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.”

The Digital Native: 5 Things You Need to Know

By Michelle Manafy, Director of Content at FreePint

Between all generations lie gaps. Yet in the course of some generations, major events occur that cause tectonic shifts. The fact is that many individuals and businesses today face a massive and growing generation gap. As this digital native generation—which has grown up immersed in digital technologies such as the mobile phones, gaming, and social networks—becomes our dominant employee and consumer base, those in older generations must learn to navigate a radically altered landscape in order to succeed in business going forward.

Here are five key insights into the digital native generation that will help you understand how best to leverage their distinct worldview to achieve your business objectives.

  1. They live publicly online. Without a doubt, the notion of privacy didn’t change overnight with the advent of the Internet. For better or worse (or for lack of a better word), we’ve seen an evolution of privacy. It was once the norm to keep one’s dirty laundry tucked away out of site. This gave way to a generation that would share from the relative privacy of a therapist’s couch. More recently, we have witnessed the era of trash-mouth talk shows and reality TV. However, with the digital native, businesses must address the expectations of a generation raised in social networking environments, in which they routinely share every detail of their activities and opinions with a potentially limitless group of friends. Tip: Often, businesses are hamstrung by outdated notions of privacy. They fail to recognize and capitalize on the digital native’s openness. We need to understand the native’s natural inclination to live publicly to guide these activities so that they are consistent with our business objectives. We can also build business models that leverage on this openness, both in the way we structure our employee activities as well as customer interactions.
  2. They share knowledge. Once we recognize that the natives are living their lives out loud, we can begin to understand how this behavior is shapes all aspects of their lives. Despite a good deal of hyperbole about social media and marketing via Twitter and social networks, as many as 50 to 75 percent of organizations limit or ban the use of social networks while on the job. What this demonstrates is not simply a fear of exposure through inappropriate use of social technologies, it shows a distinct lack of understanding of how to effectively manage and channel the knowledge sharing inclination of this generation. Tip: Beyond crafting guidelines to regulate the appropriate use of social networks on the job, proactive use of socially mediated, open, collaborative ways of working can help companies capture otherwise transient knowledge assets. The old adage was that knowledge is power; for the digital native knowledge shared is power.
  3. They believe transparency yields trust. Because digital natives live publicly and value knowledge sharing, organizations that demonstrate a similar level of openness will be the ones that attract and retain them as employees and customers. Digital natives make new friends, followers, and fans every day. However, it is important to keep in mind that it takes a lot of work to maintain the kind of genuine relationship required with the digital native. If digital natives dislike your brand, they will make it publicly known. Luckily, the reverse is also true. Today’s ultra-connected consumer, raised to share and monitor sentiment, may seem like a fickle friend, but that’s only if organizations don’t stay involved by listening, responding, owning up, and doing the work it takes to maintain a genuine, long-term relationship. Tip: When it comes to attracting and retaining this generation as employees, it is essential to recognize that today’s best employees are also monitoring opportunities and discussing employers online. For recruiting, this can provide insights into who the best, brightest, and most social media savvy are. And for employee retention, employers can leverage these same tools and tendencies to make sure they are competitive in the market and respond to concerns in order to attract and retain the best and brightest.
  4. They are timely, not time managed. While most people are painfully aware that the line between “at work” and “off duty” is increasingly blurred, for the native this will be taken to a whole new level. The digital native will move beyond what previous generations called a work/life balance to a new sort of work life integration. For the digital native, work and social activities are ever present—they travel with the native anywhere and anytime. Digital natives may log more hours at their computers during the course of a day than those in previous generations, but they switch back and forth between work and leisure in short bursts. Though this may strike some managers as inappropriate, it helps to realize that while an older worker might head to the break room or a co-worker’s desk to clear his head, natives are more likely to “info snack” or catch up on a quick burst of Facebook updates. Tip: Moving forward, companies that emphasize collaboration, learning, and socialization will see key benefits in comparison to companies that focus solely on productivity. The native doesn’t need to play all day to be happy. However, there’s no reason that work inside an organization can’t be constructively influenced by the expectations of our younger workforce.
  5. They believe in interactions, not transactions. Social networking, social media, social . . . with all this socializing, one might begin to wonder how any business ever gets done. Suffice it to say, it does, and it will continue to do so. However, organizations that develop good social skills will have a competitive advantage over those that remain socially inept. One quality that will be essential for business success going forward is recognizing that this generation is not interested in traditional transactive business models, which are based upon exchanges of money for goods annd services. This is a generation that is interested in interactions. Tip: Unlike a transaction-based system, an interactive one is based upon social currency. The fact is that all aspects of business will need to embrace interaction, from marketing and CRM to product and content creation. This generation doesn’t just want to do business with companies it views as friends; it wants to do business with itself and expects to see its ideals and objectives reflected in the companies it chooses to do business with.

While there are many digital immigrants who are wholeheartedly adopting digital tools, it is not simply emerging technologies that must be mastered. A lifelong immersion has affected the mindset, behavior, and expectations of the digital native generation. To succeed in business with them, we must understand it and build models based on this new native culture.

Bridging the Digital Gap with SnapTags

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits

If you are a marketer, I can almost guarantee that one of your goals for 2012 is to figure out your mobile strategy. You’re not alone. Everyone is talking mobile, but very few have figured out how to integrate a mobile strategy into an existing marketing plan. I found an answer to this dilemma, and it’s called “SnapTags.”

SnapTags are similar to QR codes but way sexier, offering more options for the user and a wider reach (SnapTags have capabilities on 88% of mobile phones, compared to 13% with QR codes). I’m encouraging marketers to integrate SnapTags into all their existing marketing campaigns. It’s a low-cost solution that bridges the gap between your physical marketing campaigns and your mobile and digital marketing goals.

In my case, I’m using SnapTags in my new book, Running the Gauntlet: Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change, and Grow Profits. Readers can “snap” a SnapTag at the beginning of each of the 37 chapters to view the video that accompanies each section of the book. This creates a more personal connection with my readers, as they get to see and hear me introduce each chapter on their mobile phones! Plus—and this is the best part—the reader is provided with links to my Facebook and Twitter pages each time they “snap.” I’m bridging the gap between the physical book and the digital relationship I’m building with my readers through social media.

The advantage of this strategy is that your brand can create more than a simple piece of print media. SnapTags enhance simple print media to:

  • Forge a digital connection across social networks
  • Drive new customers through your digital sales funnel
  • Create a point of purchase through virtually any placement

Some of the largest brands in the world are already using SnapTags, like Bud Light and Coca-Cola. Most recently, SnapTags were deployed in the September issue of Glamour magazine, being featured on the cover and across both editorial and advertising pages. This campaign netted Glamour more than 100,000 consumer activations and more than 500,000 consumer interactions (includes scanning the codes with an app, texting a picture message, taking subsequent actions such as agreeing to “like” an advertiser or article, signing up for the deal or sweepstakes being offered, or sharing the offer with friends).

Mark my words—in 2012, mobile integration will play a critical role in your overall marketing plan. The key to bridging the gap between your traditional and digital marketing campaigns is the mobile device. SnapTags Founder and CEO, Nicole Skogg says, “In 2012, you will see shopping SnapTags create a new way for consumers to buy whenever and wherever they encounter a brand message. Anticipate seeing SnapTags in some transformative brand marketing campaigns.”

I’ve already integrated SnapTags into my big marketing campaign for 2012. Have you?

Tips for Addressing Brand Misuse While Mitigating PR Backlash

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.

Will Social Media Change the Face of Modern Marketing?

By Debi Kleiman, President of MITX (Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange, creators of FutureM)

The very foundation of marketing is transforming before our eyes, and social media is playing a bigger and bigger role in the way marketers communicate.

MITX’s FutureM offers the community a week of events exploring the future of marketing and media, designed to promote innovation and bring the community together around the biggest and most exciting topics facing marketers today. FutureM events address the changing role of social media in marketing, so we reached out to our socially savvy event partners to find out their answers to the following question: “What is social media’s role in the future of marketing?” Here is what they had to say:

  • Ian Cross, Professor of Marketing at Bentley University
    “Social media is woven into the fabric of social discourse and upending conventions about what should be shared, discussed, and presented to society. But the medium is not the message; the message is defining the medium. Technologies will come and go, but the free exchange of real-time information is exciting, and it is challenging organizations and consumers. Tricky questions of censorship, organized riot and revolt, and online identity will need to be resolved. But right now, let’s embrace the unfettered exchange of ideas and technology that bring us together and resist efforts to command and control.”
  • John Fichera, Boston University student and intern, The Castle Group and CMO, FutureM Student Committee
    “Social media makes marketing personal. For example, if you see that one of your friends is into a certain product or brand (e.g., via Facebook), then this can spark your interest to at least research the product, raising name recognition.”
  • Chris Pollara, CEO of Convertiv
    “As adoption continues to grow, social media will become the preferred connection point and education vehicle between brands and consumers. Leading organizations will need to adopt and scale accordingly. Well-executed campaigns will motivate your community by fostering natural, self-sustaining conversation centered on consumer-generated media.”
  • Matt Rainone, Manager of Strategic Marketing at AMP Agency
    “The future of social is less about the channels and more about how, when, and where we’re accessing them. Our emotional connections to our devices point to a future where our social profiles, location-based services, and mobile payment systems converge to create an always-connected, one-step-from-purchase lifestyle.”
  • Marty Watts, Director of the Meltwater Group
    “In the future, social media will alter the role of (PR, advertising, and digital) agencies, and more importantly, how these service businesses are run. By leveraging the slew of new social media technologies, these organizations will be able to drive down fixed operating costs while generating net new revenues through digital client work. It will be exciting to watch which agencies embrace this sea change and succeed and those that cannot adapt and go the way of the Dodo.”

Social media is evolving as a force—if not THE force—in modern marketing. As e-commerce and social grow together, websites like Twitter, Facebook, and the young Google+ are becoming the playground for experimental marketing. This is creating new challenges for marketers, buyers, sellers, and others within the social ecosystem. As innovations—such as Facebook’s “Sponsored Stories”—show, there are plenty of up-and-coming ways to turn social media into a powerful marketing medium.

The modern social media strategist must be part technologist and part behaviorist. As marketing leaders, we must be willing to experiment with and implement technology while studying the changes in human behavior that come with new and evolving social media adoption. As our experts stated above, we are in the midst of foundational change. Who’s brave enough to create social media’s future?

The Trend: “Alone Together.” The Trigger? Web 2.0

By Berenice Ring, Professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas

There are now 2.1 billion Internet users on planet Earth—30 percent of the world’s population! And to access the Internet, we now have countless models of cell phones, laptops, tablets, and every other wonder technology has provided us with. We can no longer live without them!

Visiting friends recently, I witnessed an interesting scene in their living room. The father, an advertising professional, worked on his iMac. The mother, an interior decorator, chose fabrics on her iPad. The daughter, multitasking on a PC, searched the Internet to do her homework and listened to music on iTunes while still logged on to Facebook. And the son played video games. All of them, no doubt, had their cell phones on. A commonplace scene, no? The question is, were they actually together in the living room?

This is the latest trend emerging all over—”alone together”—driven by advances in technology and by Web 2.0.

Trends are behaviors that define change patterns that have been building for some years and are expected to last for another many years. Is this particular trend good or bad for society? As with everything else in life, there are several sides to the issue.

MIT professor and ethnography specialist Sherry Turke published a book earlier this year entitled Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Turk argues that, instinctively, we humans still need physical proximity, noticing the lack of satisfaction and increased alienation among users she studied.

With the recent explosion of technology and social networks, we might gather that human relationships are thriving as never before! However, what Turke suggests is that we are ascribing human attributes to objects and treating each other as things. She reveals the paradoxical picture of today’s human disconnect, caused by the expansion of virtual connections on cell phones and computers.

We are indeed alone in the room, alienated from our family and everyone in our milieu. And yet, when my family took car trips before the emergence of all this Internet paraphernalia, my daughter often announced that she was going to turn on her “isolation kit” (i.e., iPod) for the duration. So I ask, didn’t our Generation Y children already isolate themselves from the family in their rooms long before all these tools appeared?

And if, on one hand, we are alone in our living room, on the other, we are more united than ever with our friends through Facebook and Orkut, to people with common hobbies and tastes through communities in which we choose to take part, and to other professionals in our industry via LinkedIn and Twitter. Moreover, technology enables us to establish joint creative connections with other individuals through wikis, like the one that resulted in the fabulous phenomenon Wikipedia. The strength of like-minded masses even elected the American president! Using a reverse approach, Foursquare was created, already boasting 10 million users, bringing people together in the physical world—in bars and restaurants, for instance—with a digital “check-in” tool that enables us to inform people we know of our whereabouts.

It is worth keeping in mind that there is also a fraternization side to this story. A viral message received by a father, for example, may become a subject of conversation with his son, and vice-versa. There is surely still much to talk about regarding the consequences of this trend for both the family and society.

And what about corporations? Companies that keep an eye on trends are always ready to draw insights from them. Those that manage to deploy these trends constructively will be better equipped to see the direction where we are going and to build potential future scenarios more accurately. Their strategies to deal with the present will have a much greater chance of success! Not only that; by arriving ahead of others in the marketplace, they gain significant competitive advantage over their competitors.

There is no doubt that great business opportunities are waiting for us—in the physical, digital, and mobile worlds.

How about you? Have you begun thinking about your digital strategy?

Google+: Where Do You Fit In?

By John Foley, Jr., Chief Executive/Marketing Officer at Grow Socially

Google+ has taken the social media world by storm. The search engine mammoth has finally created a social network with some traction, and everyone is taking notice, including Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team. At this point, businesses should be sitting up and paying attention. But should you be jumping into the new social venture?

Google+ offers features that can be highly beneficial to businesses. Features that even Facebook can’t match. For example, there is Hangouts. This feature allows for you and ten friends to video chat all at once. This is a simple, hassle-free way to video conference with clients, partners, and more. Video chatting can be more fun than a standard conference call, and it is a way for you to connect with your clients in a more personal way. Really get to know your cross-country customers.

Circles is another feature that can make life easier for your business. Have circles of friends dedicated specifically for the companies that you work with. Send out messages directly to the people you want to have read them. This way, you can keep up a personal, engaging relationship through the social network without the pain of having to sift through long lists of friends.

There is also Huddle. This is a way for you to chat with all the members of a Circle. You can use this for interoffice communication purposes. Keep everyone informed about meetings, time changes, new clients, and more.

These three great features of Google+ can easily be used to help your office’s efforts in communication. Google+ bridges the gap from social media interaction to real-time, practical, personal interaction. From the social network, relationships can improve with clients, prospects, employees, and business partners.

If you decide to jump into Google+, have a plan in place. Aggregate some influential and worthwhile Circles that can immediately give you people to connect with. Just like Twitter and Facebook, have a content strategy for when you are going to push out content and how you are going to engage your audiences.

Give Google+ a try. The more people who join, the better and more effective the features will become. And with a little planning, those features can greatly enhance your business.

How to Overcome Your Own Fear of Social Media

By Phyllis Zimbler Miller, co-founder of Miller Mosaic

Have you recently found yourself standing in the checkout line at a chain drugstore hearing an ad for a product that includes a reference to social media? For example, you may hear, “Follow us on Twitter or ‘like’ us on Facebook to learn about our new products.” And you say to yourself, “I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about those things for the marketing of my company’s products and services.” If you’ve been reassuring yourself thusly, you’re dead wrong.

Social media is here to stay. And if you don’t want your competition to trample you into the ground, you need to get with the program right now!

The irony is that, once you admit you don’t know enough about how your company can benefit from social media, and you resolve to learning more, you’re already on the way to harnessing some of the power of social media. Why? Because the most effective use of social media is sharing information with others, as opposed to selling your products and services.

A little secret that makes a big difference: when it comes to social media marketing, almost everyone has to start at zero. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve grown up with Facebook or without computers, the concepts of using social media effectively for marketing have to be learned. Why is that? Because effective social media marketing goes against the grain of traditional advertising/marketing. Instead of pushing out our company’s messages, we have to share information with our prospective clients and customers, be responsive to answering their questions, and think of the benefits of our products and services from their perspective and not ours.

For example, consumers in the age of Facebook are probably not very interested in how many employees your company has or what your headquarters looks like. But they probably are interested in how much easier or more fun their lives will be if they use your products or services. And you can show rather than tell this by sharing information on social media sites.

Let’s say you manufacture a revolutionary new food blender. Besides sharing the revolutionary benefits of the new features, you can also sponsor a food blender recipe showcase in which people share their own recipes on your company’s Facebook page. Your food blender gets publicity created by its own fans. And those fans can share their enthusiasm for your new blender with their friends on Facebook, who can share with their friends on Twitter, who can post videos on YouTube, etc. And the concentric circles get bigger and bigger.

It’s okay to start at zero knowledge regarding social media marketing, as long as you commit to moving forward to an ever-increasing knowledge base. If you do this, you and your company can look forward to connecting with your prospective clients and customers in ways you never could have imagined possible only a few short years ago.

Social Media: Still a Mystery to Most Small Businesses

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.

“Like” is the New Link: How Facebook is Reorganizing Google’s Web

By Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media and author of Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks)

You wake up one morning and your back really hurts. You’ve been putting off finding a new doctor ever since you moved to town, it’s been forever since you’ve had a check-up, and now you’re paying the price.

The pain is too much to wait any longer, you’ve got to find a chiropractor now. So you grab your computer, go to, and enter “back doctor” and your town’s name. You see a list of a ten chiropractors who have paid Google to be listed there and dozens of others who come up in the organic search results. But do you really want to trust your throbbing back to a complete stranger in an emergency?

Then you think of another idea, and you head to Facebook and again search “back doctor.” At the top of the results is a doctor’s listing with a sidebar telling you that three of your friends “like” this chiropractor. “Sweet,” you think. “Someone I can trust, because my friends like him.” You make a quick call, and you’re off to get your backache taken care of by a recommended doctor, a professional your friends “like.”

This scenario and scenarios such as this aren’t happening en masse quite yet, but the use of Facebook and the social graph for search and commerce isn’t far off. Think about it. Why would you possibly make a decision about a doctor, an attorney, a mechanic—or any important product or service for that matter—based on advertising or Google placement when you can make that decision based on the preference and recommendations of trusted friends? Facebook and social media have made it infinitely easier to do the latter. It’s nothing short of a gamechanger for marketers and businesses of all sizes.

The great news about the new world of communications we live in today is that everybody has a shot. Build a great product, get the word out to a few people, make it easy for people to share with their friends, and you can win without spending a boatload. Just five years ago, for instance, if you went to a new restaurant that you loved, you might have shared your thoughts with a few of your friends, family, and/or neighbors. Perhaps if you really loved the restaurant, you may have raved about it for a week to as many as 10 or 15 friends. Today, you can share those thoughts with 200 Facebook friends, or 300 Twitter followers, or 150 LinkedIn connections—all with one click on your computer or smartphone!

No matter what the size of your organization or client’s business, you too have the ability to follow the simple rules of social media to reap the rewards. Senior management—and anyone in a communications position for that matter—needs to know that marketing in a social media and Facebook world is not about broadcasting your message and getting the largest reach and frequency, it’s about tapping into the conversation by listening, engaging, and empowering. The loudest, biggest spenders don’t win anymore—the smartest, most flexible listeners do.

The Power of “Likes”

By Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media and author of Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks)

I was standing in line to check in at Las Vegas’ then-trendiest hotel in town, the Aria Resort & Casino, for nearly an hour. It was June 2010, and I had just arrived after a six-hour flight from New York. The last thing I wanted to do was waste an hour of my life waiting in line. Frustrated, I pulled out my BlackBerry and tweeted, “No Vegas hotel could be worth this long wait. Over an hour to check in at the Aria!”

Interestingly enough, the Aria didn’t tweet back to me, but a competitor did. I saw a tweet from the Rio Hotel & Casino just two minutes later. If you’re anything like most people with whom I’ve shared this story, you’re probably thinking, “What did the Rio tweet, ‘Come on over—we have no line.’?”

Had the Rio tweeted such a message, I would have likely felt annoyed by them, too, as if they were stalkers or some creepy characters looking to manipulate me and benefit from my bad experience. On the contrary, however, the Rio tweeted the following to me: “Sorry about the bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your stay in Vegas goes well.”

Guess where I ended up staying the next time I went to Las Vegas?

The Rio used social media to listen and be responsive, showing a little empathy to the right person at the right time. An ad or a push marketing-like message simply wouldn’t have worked. But the hotel staff’s ability to listen, respond, and be empathic did. The Rio essentially earned a $600 sale from one tweet—one message that got my attention and ended up being integral in my decision as to where to stay the next time I was in the city. That would be considered an excellent ROI by anyone’s standards. But the story doesn’t end there.

Before I even arrived in Vegas for my next visit, I “liked” the Rio on Facebook by clicking the “like” button at, thereby letting my 3,500 friends—and the world at large—know of my endorsement of its customer-friendly practices.

A few months later, my friend Erin was looking for a hotel to stay at in Las Vegas over the New Year’s holiday, and I received the following message from her on Facebook: “Hey Dave, I noticed you liked the Rio’s page. Thinking about staying there for New Year’s. What do you think?” A friend’s recommendation is more powerful than any advertisement, and Erin ended up staying at the Rio as well.

Dozens of other friends have surely noticed my tweets and Facebook “likes” about the Rio and have been influenced since. So, one tweet led to one “like” on Facebook and, in fact, thousands of dollars worth of business.

It used to be that happy customers tell three people about their good experiences, and unhappy customers tell ten about their bad ones. But as my experiences with the Aria and Rio hotels demonstrate, today—thanks to social media—happy customers AND unhappy customers can tell thousands of people their feelings about a company’s service or products with just a few clicks, relying on the “like” button as a virtual endorsement. The Rio leveraged this fact to its advantage, while the Aria did not.

Wow, What a Story!

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.

Five Tips to Leverage Your Social Media Strategy

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?

Traditionally, ROI means “return on investment.” And that’s a very important component to consider in any marketing strategy. However, it can be difficult to track when it comes to zeroes. In the absence of hard numbers, ROI becomes something I call, “return on ignoring.” It’s especially relevant in your social media strategy.

Social media is happening with or without you, so what’s the worst that can happen? Most likely nothing, but consider that via Twitter and Facebook, the worldwide impact of the death of Osama bin Laden was readily apparent. The leading social analytics company, PeopleBrowsr, demonstrated these results in a recent blog post. There were more than three million mentions in the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of mentions in countries like Brazil, Venezuela, and Canada in the 48 hours after the news hit.

Another great example: during the Super Bowl, folks were tweeting and commenting on the commercials. The reach and impact of companies advertising during that event was just as important and viable via social media as it was through traditional commercials during the game.

Five tips to leverage your social media strategy:

  • Overcome the challenges and capitalize on opportunity
  • Set a policy for engagement
  • Decide who speaks for your company and make sure they speak with one voice that represents your organization and brand
  • Get out there—establish and protect your brand
  • Quality over quantity—your message must have value and impact

Even if you’re a small company with a limited budget, you can still achieve big impact. If your message is relevant and genuine, and you listen to your customers, they will often sell your product or service for you.

The Sexiest Ain’t Always the Best

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

Facebook is the bikini of the social media wardrobe. Some people choose to bare all, sharing intimate personal details, shocking photographs, and other information that is sure to make your mother blush.

Then there’s Twitter—short bursts of engaging verbiage that informs or moves others to action. Consider it the wardrobe accessories or the flashy, eye-catching addition to every outfit.

Now where does that leave LinkedIn? In the social media wardrobe, I would consider it the practical navy blue suit—a necessity in any professional’s wardrobe.

LinkedIn currently has more than 100 million members, with a new person being added every minute. As reported on the LinkedIn website, the average user’s household income is $91,566, 63.2% of users hold a college or postgraduate degree, and 20.6% are middle management or above. I don’t know about you, but those sound like the kind of people I’d like to add to my network.

Facebook and Twitter may be more fun—and I’m not questioning the value they can provide—but in my opinion, LinkedIn is where the real work gets done, especially if you are in the B2B space. Perhaps it is the less-than-sexy nature of LinkedIn that causes many people to include only the basics in their LinkedIn profile. If your profile is in need of a makeover, here are a few suggestions to glam it up:

  • Summary: I find this to be the most consistently underutilized section of the profile. I like to think of it as your cover letter. Some people may not read beyond this point, so take full advantage of the 2,000 available characters. There is a tendency to treat the Summary as a resume and focus on the past. I suggest you treat it as a presentation of your business plan. Briefly summarize specific, quantifiable accomplishments and direct the reader to a few of the most important parts of your profile. But then focus on what you are doing now, how you can help the reader of your profile, and what you plan to be doing in the future. Regurgitating your resume is unnecessary because those facts will be outlined in other sections of your profile. Ask yourself: If I have only a few minutes to share my professional story with a potential customer, client, or business partner, what would I want to say? Then use the Summary to tell your story in a friendly, conversational way.
  • files: The key to networking, whether face to face or online, is freely sharing your knowledge and expertise with others. This builds trust. Once they know and trust you, they will want to do business with you. enables you to post PDF, Excel, and Word files to your profile. These files can be downloaded by visitors. This is a great place to post white papers, articles, company brochures, photos of your projects or products, customer testimonials, and other documents that increase your credibility and helpfulness.
  • Google presentation/SlideShare: Let’s face it—most people would rather watch TV than read a book. These two applications allow you to post slide shows that showcase your personal expertise, presentations about your company, and/or photos of projects you have done. Video is becoming an increasingly important part of many companies’ branding efforts, and if video is part of your slide show, you can post those files here.
  • Other applications: LinkedIn has an extensive list of applications to enhance your profile. Some are industry specific (e.g., real estate pro, legal updates, etc.), and others can be valuable to most LinkedIn users. Connect your blog to your LinkedIn profile, use Events to find interesting professional events, or share your favorite books with your network through Reading List by Amazon. Whatever your LinkedIn strategy, there is a plethora of applications to help you achieve your goals.

These additions are fun, easy, and will certainly make your profile more appealing to viewers, but don’t overlook the blue-suit basics. Include a descriptive headline and professional-quality photograph, and thoroughly outline your educational background and employment history. And don’t neglect to seek out those all-important recommendations. They provide essential outside verification of the information you have provided in your profile.

While wearing the bikini and the glamorous accessories can be fun—the lasting impact and real productivity are products of the professional garb!

Social Media and the News

By John Foley, Jr., Chief Executive/Marketing Officer at Grow Socially

Just 140 characters—140 strikes on the keyboard by thousands of people in a few-hour span was the culmination of one of the biggest news stories of this generation. When Osama bin Laden was killed, Twitter, among other social media sites, became the catalyst for a national frenzy.

“Twitter says bin Laden’s death generated the highest sustained rate of tweets ever,” according to an NPR release. “From 10:45 p.m. on Sunday to 2:20 a.m. on Monday, users pecked out an average of 3,000 tweets per second, according to Twitter. The traffic peaked at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday, minutes before the President’s televised briefing, with 5,106 tweets per second.”

“Twitter users are being credited with breaking the news,” said NPR, “thanks in part to a man in Abbottabad, Pakistan, who tweeted the details of the U.S. raid on bin Laden’s compound as they unfolded near his home (he was prompted by the sound of helicopters and gunfire but hadn’t known the reason for the commotion). Within moments, the man gained 14,000 followers.”

“If anyone isn’t a believer in Twitter as an amazingly powerful news vehicle, last night should convert you,” tweeted Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post’s political website, “The Fix,” the day after bin Laden’s death.

Also consider the recent tragedy in Joplin, Missouri. The tornado-torn town has been a hotbed for social media coverage. There have been videos uploaded to YouTube chronicling the destruction. And Flickr has seen an influx of photos from the natural disaster.

Facebook has also been a critical forum in Missouri. Jen Lee Reeves of KOMU radio wrote on MediaShift about the impact her station’s Facebook page has been having in the tornado’s wake. “My newsroom’s normally local-focused Facebook page quickly became a clearinghouse for updates about how mid-Missouri could help the tornado-ravaged community,” said Reeves. “Fans are using the page now to share news, photos, videos, information on relief efforts, and in general to connect with each other in a time of crisis.”

The tornadoes in Western Massachusetts also were chronicled in social media. Photos and videos were uploaded simultaneously as the area was hit with the unfamiliar and unforgiving weather.

Social media is tremendously successful when used as a reactive tool to breaking news stories. It has also become a consistent political podium, always open for announcements for anyone who feels like they have something to say. For example, Newt Gingrich announced his candidacy for the 2012 Presidential race on Facebook and Twitter, and he also released a web video. Even more recently, Mitt Romney released a YouTube video explaining his intentions to run for President, one week after tweeting a desire to run again.

Social media’s legitimacy is skyrocketing. Internationally relevant political news has been broken by social media, and one can’t help but take notice.

The gravity of these stories is immense. We condense them into a Facebook status or a 140-character tweet. This does not diminish the importance of the events; rather it amplifies it. We have taken our social networks and made them the fastest possible avenue for our news.

Dare to Be Radically Transparent

By Jeffrey Hayzlett, author of The Mirror Test: Is Your Business Really Breathing?

I speak frequently about the value of social media, that’s no secret. And how we use social media is as important as how we use any other medium. Social media is now the mainstream. There’s no going back.

Take the Super Bowl ads for example. Not only were they on during the game, but they also had a social media component. Now people watch TV and tweet at the same time. For those who question whether we can really do that—they said the same thing when they added radios to cars. It’s real, and it’s happening.

Companies who thought they once controlled their brands are realizing that social media is the new norm. It’s not about catchy slogans—it’s about listening and being radically transparent.

So what is radical transparency? It means we need to be genuine in our approach. Don’t just spew forth information. Social media is about hearts and minds, not ears and eyeballs.

That said, it’s also about being who you are. If I say, “bite me” in a post, it’s because I mean it. You may disagree, or you may not like it. But for me, radical transparency is all about being true to who I am, and it’s also about being true to you. What works for me is what works for me. It will be different for you—and for everyone else out there as well. That’s why it’s called “social” media and not “one kind” media. The old rules don’t apply in the same way. For as many fans as you have on Facebook or followers on Twitter are the number of ways it can be done.

And ultimately, we all have a choice in who we follow or friend. If you don’t like what I have to say, you have the choice not to follow me. And we can agree to disagree. At the end of the day, those who follow me know that I’m the big, brash guy from South Dakota who tells it like it is, really wears those cowboy boots, and loves to ride horses. I’m me, and I won’t change who I am.

So be true to who you are—in social media and in business. Be radically transparent.

Why Every C-Level Executive Should Write a Book

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 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.

Freedom from Friends?

By Diane Hessan, President & CEO of Communispace and co-author of Customer-Centered Growth: Five Proven Strategies for Building Competitive Advantage

Would you post a Facebook status update containing your thoughts about innovative ideas for a brand? Most of us would not. But would you join a Facebook fan page to get a sneak preview of new offers from the brands you love? I bet you would.

Two recent studies from our research team help to shed light on this. In the first, we found that in the eyes of consumers, public venues are primarily for hearing from brands—and having their loyalty rewarded—whereas private communities are more conducive to advising them. In the second study, we found that participation rates in public social marketing sites still tend to follow the “90-9-1 Rule:” 1% of people create content, 9% respond to it, and 90% view the content without contributing. In contrast, participation rates (people creating content) in our private communities averaged 64% each month.

What accounts for that discrepancy? In the first study, entitled “Like” Me, we found that people mostly join social marketing sites and Facebook fan pages in order to get product information and promotions. Brands are “liked” in order to learn about sales/discounts, new products, and interestingly, local events. These tangible, “pushed” offerings are more important to them on fan pages than having their voices heard.

And it isn’t just our own research surfacing these trends. Our data complement findings from a December 2010 study by SSI which determined that the relatively small population of Facebook users who are willing to participate in surveys is skewed towards 13-17 year-olds, and it also noted that those willing to participate in surveys are not interested in participating in public discussions, thereby limiting the range of consumer input available to marketers and market researchers. Also, recent studies by Razorfish and ExactTarget found that consumers do not view Facebook and Twitter as proper places for having conversations and building relationships with brands. That conclusion was echoed in a study released by iVillage which found that women, in particular, are “more inclined to have serious discussions on focused community sites than on venues like Facebook.”

In contrast, consumers prefer private communities for giving their feedback and opinions on new products and brands. 92% of members in our study of 246 private communities and more than 86,000 members said they feel their opinion matters in private online communities, as compared to only 66% of members who said they feel their opinion is being heard in the other brand-sponsored websites. In private communities, they feel the brand is actually listening, and this makes them feel more invested in the community sponsor.

But it’s not just about feeling heard. What makes private or highly targeted public communities such gold mines lies in what people are willing to share. Five times more people are comfortable sharing pictures of the inside of their medicine cabinets in a private community than in any of the social marketing sites they visit. Four times more are comfortable sharing the details of their holiday shopping budget. And so on.

And why? Precisely because unlike a social network, in a small, private, password-protected, recruited (vs. self-forming) community, their friends and colleagues aren’t there. Private communities provide a sanctuary from the daily, real-world relationships that can inhibit sharing as much as support it. (See the second study, The 64% Rule.)

So as you refine your own social media strategy, step back and evaluate your objectives. Don’t abandon your fan page—it’s a powerful channel to consolidate your brand fans and win an even larger share of their wallets. But recognize that if you want to learn what makes your customers tick and want to engage them in a constructive, ongoing dialogue, you may be better served by providing them a safe haven, away from the prying eyes of their thousands of “friends.”

Social SERPs: Social Media’s Growing Influence on Search Engine Results Pages

By Dana Todd, Vice President of Performance Innovation at Performics

In “ancient” times (circa 1999-2009), traditional search engines were a one-stop shop for people to search, find, consider, and purchase things online. Then social media emerged. Facebook—with the help of Twitter, Foursquare, and others—enabled people to search, find, consider, and purchase things online with a little help from their friends. Now people spend more time on Facebook than on Google. According to comScore, Facebook drove ten percent of all Internet pageviews in 2010.

Google and Bing are keenly aware of this new reality. To keep their users, they’ve recently adapted by layering social on search. And to stay relevant, they must continue to make search engine results pages (SERPs) more social. Google and Bing have started by incorporating various social aspects into their SERPs—from reviews in Google Place pages to tweets in real-time search to embedded user-generated YouTube videos. Google’s new +1 button enables searchers to “+1” (or “like”) search results, so that other searchers, like their friends, can see that a result was helpful. Similarly, Microsoft has partnered with Facebook to incorporate Facebook “likes” into Bing SERPs.

The effort to socialize search has resulted in SERPs that are controlled by 1) the brand owners and 2) the consumers—more appropriately called the “participants”—and by extension, their networks. In ancient times, brand owners exercised the most control over their brand’s SERP goodwill. Today, brand owners still control the SERP’s paid search ads (“paid content”) and can employ SEO tactics to boost digital asset visibility (“owned content”). But the participant has the most control over the SERP’s “earned content”—opinions, reviews, recommendations, social chatter, and videos.

There’s no doubt that the social SERP complicates search engine marketing (SEM); it requires brands to take a grassroots approach to reputation management—one that starts on the social networks. And brands must accept that their SERP goodwill is built with their customers’ participation and collaboration. When a person searches for a brand, they now see results potentially influenced by friends’ opinions, links, and experiences. Search engine marketing thus becomes word-of-mouth marketing.

The good news is, word of mouth can be influenced at its source—the social networks:

  1. The first challenge is building and organizing a meaningful number of participants (i.e., building the fan base). Twitter Promoted Accounts and Facebook Engagement Ads provide a creative platform to gain fans/followers through guaranteed reach. For instance, Redbox gained 269,000 Facebook fans in ten days using Facebook Engagement Ads (counting direct ad impacts only; nearly twice that number joined during the period measured, above normal baseline, which appears to have been influenced from seeing their friends join). Redbox incentivized people with ad copy that offered a free video rental to anyone who “liked” its brand.
  2. Once a fan base is established, the second challenge is mobilizing those fans/followers to talk positively about the brand—ideally in venues or channels that are indexed by search engines. This can be accomplished through incentives, promotions, polls, questions, or by creating highly sharable content. For instance, Baskin Robbins mobilized its 18,000+ Twitter followers on April 27th through its 31-cent scoop night promotion, which included a charity campaign partner. On April 27th, so many people were tweeting about the promotion that a Google search for “Baskin Robbins” showed a first-page link to 300+ real-time results.
  3. Third, keep it up. Sometimes the most difficult part of marketing is consistency and long-term commitment. Given that digital marketers consistently complain of being overworked and under resourced, it’s no wonder there are so many “ghosts of social media campaigns past” floating around out there. The companies that are succeeding the most in harnessing the powers of social media are distributing the workload between various departments (e.g., customer service, HR, PR, and marketing) and regularly inserting highly creative campaigns to keep the momentum going.

Of course, there’s the other side of the coin—the negative social media conversations that can make their way to the SERPs. Once again, these conversations can be influenced at their source. Savvy brands today employ social listening tools to uncover what people are saying and quickly address customer issues/gripes before a negative conversation spirals out of control. In many cases, these “fixes” become part of the social SERPs and can help offset any negativity. This becomes important in presenting balanced information for consumers and search engines. (Recently, there’s evidence that Google is using sentiment analysis that may weigh against a site or asset based on negative reviews).

As search becomes more social—and social drives more search—influencing participants to engage in positive social media conversations around brands is fast becoming the most important tactic to fund. Social media itself links customer experiences seamlessly from device to device, and it is thus of significant value as consumers move through the screens of their lives and express their intent through more search tools than just Google and Bing. Winners in social media can more easily be winners in mobile search and barcode/QR code search, Internet television, news search, and beyond.

Social Media Marketing on a Shoestring

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.”

Disaster Control: How Social Media Can Help

By John Foley, Jr., Chief Executive/Marketing Officer at Grow Socially

A natural disaster can happen at any time in any place, but even though a disaster may affect a certain area, the business world keeps moving everywhere else. So when your office is suddenly unavailable, how can you quickly reach out to your employees and clients with updates, news alerts, and other critical information they may need to know? Social media can be the first hand of assistance in this particular situation.

Social media is known for its ability to spread information in a fast and effective way to a large amount of people. The second you publish a post or tweet, it becomes visible to hundreds, even thousands, of people instantly. Another convenience of social media is that you can use it from any device with Internet access. You can access it on smartphones, computers, iPads, and more.

Now that you know why social media is a great communication tool to use during an emergency, you may then wonder, “How do I prepare myself to use it for this type of issue?”

The first preparatory step would be to create a private group on your social media accounts, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. You can make these groups private since they do not affect the general public, and you can inform clients and employees that this site is the place to go in order to obtain emergency updates during a disaster. You can share news articles, quick announcements, contact information, and anything else that may be important and reassuring to your audience.

Here are the “must haves” for an emergency company group page on Facebook:

  • Staff directory—all contact information
  • Client directory—all contact information
  • Links to local news of workplace
  • Links to local maps
  • Emergency preparation kit
  • Company calendar
  • Shelter locations
  • Contact information for local police, fire, and other departments

Finally, be sure that all employees are group members.

If your audience uses Twitter, you should create a “company alert” hashtag. Some examples for my company, Grow Socially, could be #GrowSocially911, #GSAlert, or #GSEmergency. You can post the hashtag on your company’s Twitter account in order to tell your audience that tweets with the alert hashtag are updates on your disaster control efforts. Using hashtags in these scenarios is helpful because when people search the hashtag, all of the tweets you create that include that hashtag will appear on their screens.

Using these techniques would also be helpful to your employees because this would inform them to avoid the work area if it is too dangerous. If they are able to work from home, they would be able to take over client needs while the people in charge take care of the actual workplace.

Social media is an excellent communication tool when people have no time to talk to a large group of people individually. Your audience will appreciate knowing the situation your company is in and that you are doing everything you can to resume usual schedules.

If making individual calls to each client and worker is the last thing you want to do when you are trying to keep your business afloat, then social media is the way to go. Posting short, informative messages throughout the day will give your entire audience a consistent, helpful update on what the situation is for your business.

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

By Sam Mallikarjunan, Chief Executive Officer of Mallikarjunan Media Group

Part 3

Facebook Profiles for Brands

There are some cases in which profiles are very appropriate for brands, such as personal or celebrity brands. My profile, for example, is much more useful for me than a page would be, since it chronicles my personal life and allows for deeper levels of engagement with my friends. Also, profiles provide the unique ability to invite users to events, organize them into convenient lists, tag them in posts and photos, and interact on a far deeper level by commenting on their posts, links, walls, etc.

However, we must be mindful of the fact that many consumers still resent the intrusion of marketers into social media. Many of them find it bothersome enough that we have paid ads and pages. The fact that we’d intrude into their lives with profiles of our own may offend some.

Also, there’s an issue of scale when choosing between pages and profiles. It’s not Facebook’s intent that profiles be used for marketing businesses; therefore, they reserve the right to prevent you from making additional friend requests, which can severely limit the potential reach of your Facebook marketing efforts. So while Facebook profiles have some engagement features that may be more useful than pages, you must balance the advantages of pages and decide which is better for your company or brand.

Are you a personal brand, or do you want a deeper level of engagement with a smaller number of people? If so, consider a profile!

Facebook Apps

I remember when Facebook first opened themselves up for third-party application development. For a while, I checked every day to see what was new and what was the latest and greatest. Now, with countless apps being added every day, it’s almost impossible to keep up with them all.

Facebook apps provide a fascinating opportunity for marketers. If you can create an application that is useful to your consumers, whether they’re already your customers or not, you can create your own phenomenon to help put your brand in front of a massive audience of potential customers. If you can create a tool, game, or other system that builds value relevant to your consumers, you can do amazing things.

Can you think of any kind of neat app or game that would make using your product or service easier?

Tips and Tricks

Here’s a neat trick on how to use Facebook PPC for B2B sales: If you’re targeting a specific company, find out what city its corporate headquarters is located in. Then target fans of its page who live in the same city as the company’s HQ. Odds are, most or many of their employees (including senior management) are fans of the company page. This gives you a unique opportunity to put your ad right in front of their faces, and even create custom landing pages to capture their e-mails or phone numbers for follow-up campaigns.

What about you? If you know of other ways to use Facebook for marketing, or if you have any questions on what I’ve written here, feel free to comment below!

The Practical Marketing Applications of Facebook (Part 3 of 4)

By Sam Mallikarjunan, Chief Executive Officer of Mallikarjunan Media Group

Part 2

Personal Information

Interestingly, Facebook recently went through a big “scandal,” where applications such as Farmville and others may have compromised users’ IDs for some people on Facebook. Facebook’s history is fraught with concerns of privacy violations and what they’re willing to share with marketers. As a marketer who spends a lot of time trying to squeeze demographics data out of Facebook, I can assure you that gathering your personal information isn’t as easy as it sounds.

However, Facebook does allow sites and applications to request “extended permissions” to access additional personal information, such as e-mail addresses, birthdays, photos, and more. Facebook users can revoke these permissions, and for the most part, Facebook users seem very willing to grant extended permissions to applications. Again, though, you may want to build a basic and extended application that can utilize different levels of personal information. That way, users who are nervous about granting extended permissions can still register on your site.

Is there any information you’d like to gather? Birthdays? E-mail addresses? Locations?

Facebook Pages for Brands

Formerly called “fan pages,” Facebook now allows users to “like” specific brands, which connects them to the page that they’ve set up. These pages are the bread and butter of marketing on Facebook. However, they have advantages and disadvantages.

Traditionally, the consensus has been that “profiles” are for people and “pages” are for businesses. However, the functionality of Facebook has blurred those lines to a great extent, since pages and profiles each have unique features.

Users can “like” your page, and the information that you can gather about them is very limited. Your connection is also fairly limited. It shares some of the same features as profile pages, such as the ability to share photos, post status updates, share links, etc. It has some very unique advantages as well. It has a fairly robust reporting system, which gives interesting information on demographics. It also has the feature of FBML (Facebook Markup Language), which allows you to code custom HTML landing pages. This is very useful for creating vivid landing pages to capture e-mail addresses, show off special offers, and anything else you can imagine in HTML.

Facebook also has a very interesting pay-per-click (PPC) advertising system with which you can advertise your page. Also, users can “like” it with a single click. This is fantastic for getting off the ground and building more fans. In also has a very unique target system. Since Facebook’s PPC ad system is technically paid traffic, I don’t classify that exactly as social media marketing, and we’ll have to discuss that in its own article.

Do you want scale of interaction or quality? If you have hundreds of thousands of consumers to connect with, consider a page.

Part 4

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

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 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, 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

The Practical Marketing Applications of Facebook (Part 1 of 4)

By Sam Mallikarjunan, Chief Executive Officer of Mallikarjunan Media Group

Any business owner, from the Fortune 500 to the corner liquor store, has heard about the tremendous potential of social media for Internet marketing. However, although everyone acknowledges and accepts that social media has great potential, and many of them know they should be involved, few people understand the specific, practical marketing applications for social media sites.

In this four-part blog post, I’m going to profile one such social media site: Facebook. I’ll also share some data that I’ve aggregated through my research. Keep in mind that there are many third-party applications that make using Facebook easier that I’ll profile as well.

What is Facebook?

Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the social media marketing world. The brainchild of Harvard geek Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has more than 500 million users (yeah, that’s about seven percent of the population of the entire planet) and has created a phenomenon of unprecedented scope and scale.

Hundreds of millions of people spend huge segments of their daily lives on this single site, interacting with friends, sharing content, playing games, and scheduling or organizing their social lives. It’s become a venue for collective action, knowledge, and an incredibly detail-rich (if personally detached) social environment. Users willingly share an incredible amount of personal information, and they greatly trust product and service recommendations made by members of their network.

Facebook has also created a incredible scale of off-site integration. Although many social sites—such as Twitter, Digg, Buzz, and others—have buttons that allow you to share content, Facebook has created a phenomenon with its social plug-in applications. Facebook’s Developers Guide is probably the best way to find out more about what options it offers and how to install them.

If you haven’t already, go to the Facebook site and create a personal profile for yourself.

Part 2

Who’s Branding “You, Inc.?”

By Adam Karwoski, Founder of Social Brand U

Two years ago, a friend of mine asked me if I was on Facebook. I replied in a somewhat haughty tone, “No, I’m not 16.” Today? I tweet! I’ve not only embraced social media but evangelize to others about it. I have a brand.

Shortly after I was laid off last summer, my mother, of all people, told me she saw a CNBC segment about how companies use Twitter to find talent, find customers, and build loyalty. I had to laugh. My mom is 74 years old and not exactly on the information superhighway. She does, however, surprise me from time to time with knowledge of topics of the day. The second thing I did was laugh again, because my impression of Twitter was that it was designed for Taylor Swift or Chad “Ocho Cinco” to communicate with their “fans.” Twitter, it seems, is the most misunderstood social medium out there.

I did a little research and found out she was right. The enterprise presence on Twitter was amazing. So I created an account and learned how to use it. My intent was to find out which companies on my “target list” had a presence on Twitter and how I could leverage that presence to get in front of the right people. What I discovered was a community of recruiters, career coaches, resume experts, industry leaders, job boards, and subject matter experts of all kinds expressing compelling information that was not only relevant, but extremely insightful, timely, and practical.

My interest skyrocketed, and as I added followers, I began to understand that Twitter is really about a conversation with a community of like minds. There were individuals willing to help, share, learn, advise, teach, inform, and ultimately, build relationships. I’ve spent my adult life in the wireless technology business and have a passion for communication. How did I not see this one?

I started to share with others in my circle of influence what I was learning about Twitter, and it was met with the same amazement and intrigue that I had experienced. I’m not sure if I’m more surprised by the number of people and companies using Twitter or the number who don’t. In addition, I never suspected that Twitter could be such an effective tool for branding either one.’s CEO is a great example of how effective it can be.

I spoke to some college students recently who I thought would be heavy users of Twitter, but I was wrong. They had the same misconceptions about Twitter that I did and had almost the exact same comment: “I just don’t get Twitter.” In today’s employment market, with so many experienced professionals needing jobs, college grads need any advantage they can get. Someone should be teaching these Generation Yers how to: 1) identify opportunities with the companies and industries represented on Twitter, and more importantly, 2) how to use social media, including Twitter, to brand themselves in the marketplace.

Those of us who are forty something can be using it, too. Once we get beyond the notion that Twitter can be used for something more than letting friends know where happy hour is going to be, watch out! Imagine the advantage we can have knowing how to use social media to communicate with peers, customers, and employers around the globe, in real time, accessing a wealth of education and experience from the tips of our fingers on any wireless device in the world. Our microblogging activities (i.e., tweets) actually help build our brand at the same time.

So I have one question for you. What’s your brand? The answer: whatever you want it to be. There are many ways to brand YOU. Twitter is unique because it requires you to be concise, compelling, and relevant. You speak to the topics you’re passionate about, and in turn, build relationships with others around the world or around the block. One tip: have the courage to be you.

What’s my advice? Think about what your brand will be three months or three years from now and start branding “You, Inc.” today. Oh, and always listen to your mother.

How Social Networks Help Us Choose

By Berenice Ring, Professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas

Have you noticed how many decisions we need to make nowadays and the amount of details involved in each one? Surely life was much easier in the early 20th century, when consumer staples were sold in bulk and housewives had their goods chosen for them by the shopkeeper, whom they relied on and trusted.

If you wanted to buy a car in 1915, the choice was quite simple. The only automaker was Ford—who had introduced the assembly line—and the options boiled down to one model, the Model T. In 1987, Brazilian consumers could choose automobiles from six makers: Ford, Volkswagen, Fiat, GM, Gurgel, and Toyota. By 2008, 36 car manufacturers offered their vehicles, exponentially increasing our options.

A 1991 supermarket offered 15,000 items; today, in the same store, we find almost 50,000—including 100 types of yogurt and 200 models of mobile phones!

However, abundance of choices does not necessarily mean better decisions. As psychologist and professor Barry Schwartz points out in his wonderful book, The Paradox of Choice, the huge amount of options adds excessive strain to the decision-making process, causing exhaustion and discouragement. Furthermore, making one choice means relinquishing all other options, so that your preferred alternative seems less appealing and even elicits a sense of loss.

Until recently, people counteracted this frustration by consulting other people they trusted. But today, our world has become an ocean of information. For instance, if you’re planning a honeymoon trip to New York City, sites like TripAdvisor will provide complete information on virtually every hotel in the city. For example, if you decide to spend your hard-earned money on a wedding night at The Pierre, the famous hotel featured in several movies, you can read online comments by the site’s user community, ranging from “Great hotel!” to “Disappointing.” It is a huge benefit to get recommendations not only from your travel agent but from people who have stayed there recently. And upon your return, if you invite friends over for dinner, you can visit Epicurious on Facebook to find recipes, or you can search Twitter using the hashtag #recipes to find plentiful tips from users.

Some brands have grasped this new trend and offer their customers a dedicated section for comments and criticism, such as My Kmart and MySears Community. Other sites were specifically founded upon this trend, such as byMK and Polyvore, which allow users to express themselves.

The penetration of social networks today is amazing. A recent survey shows that 90% of respondents know at least one—and on average, four—social network websites. Facebook is the best example, of course, with more than 500 million users and countless communities. And if you want to find customer reviews of New York restaurants, the American site Yelp lists 12,000-plus establishments—not to mention more than 7,000 stores—along with user reviews of dentists, architects, and even surgeons.

As a Nielsen study confirms, “Recommendations by personal acquaintances and opinions posted by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising globally.” The study of 25,000 Internet consumers in 50 countries shows that nine in ten people trust recommendations of people they know, and seven in ten trust online recommendations from strangers.

In this scenario, a good social media strategy can do wonders for a brand in terms engaging its audiences. Can the brand help consumers make better choices or play the role of an early 20th century “shopkeeper” whom its customers trust and rely on? Are brands making the best of this tremendous opportunity?

Search Engine Optimization Versus Social Media Marketing: A Battle that Doesn’t Need to Be Fought

By Rob Croll, Professor at Full Sail University

Successful organizations know that their customers now “find” them online in many ways, including Google searches, Facebook pages, customer review sites, social shopping sites, and more. Some interesting facts and figures:

  • More than 16 billion searches were conducted worldwide during October 2010, according to data from comScore.
  • More than 250 million people use Facebook on a daily basis.
  • Twitter claims more than 50 million tweets per day.

That’s a lot of online activity, happening in a lot of different places. For organizations trying to maximize their effectiveness, it can be difficult to prioritize. Factor in limited budgets, and it’s easy to fall into either/or arguments, particularly regarding search and social marketing.

The arguments for search engine optimization (SEO) typically include that it’s often more targeted, that searchers are actively “looking,” and that traffic from search frequently converts better. The arguments for social media marketing typically include that it’s better at building longer-term relationships with customers, that it gives you more control since it’s not reliant on search engine algorithms, and that the social aspect allows for customers to engage with and evangelize brands.

However, any argument over which is better—search or social media—fails to consider the inherently symbiotic relationship between the two. In today’s world, focusing on one to the exclusion of the other is folly for most organizations. Of course, the relative merits of each differ depending on the goals of the organization and, more importantly, the objectives of the web user.

In a post called Comparing SEO and Social Media as Marketing Channels, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz noted that “search is an intent-driven activity. We don’t search casually (much), we search to find answers, information, and goods and services to consume.” Visitors who arrive at a site from a search engine are specifically looking for something. Generally (though not always), these searchers are further along in the purchase decision-making process and thus potentially more valuable, at least in the short term.

Social media marketing, however, brings potential customers of a different type. These visitors expect more dynamic content and more opportunities to engage and interact. Even if they don’t have an immediate intent to purchase, these potential customers represent a longer-term opportunity for organizations. If they feel positively about your brand, they may share that enthusiasm within their own circle of influence, expanding the reach of your marketing activities. Building a relationship with them also greatly enhances the likelihood that they will do business with you in the future. For example, studies show that individuals who have been exposed to a brand message in social media are more likely to click on an organic search listing for that organization.

Finally, consider that results from a searcher’s social graph now appear in the search engine results directly. These social results typically include an image, which increases the likelihood that they’ll be clicked. In an article on Search Engine Journal, Bill Sebald gives an anecdotal example of getting search engine traffic for keywords for which his blog didn’t organically rank well. That traffic was being driven by what he calls “the eleventh listing”—the “results from people in your social circle” on Google.

It’s clear that the relationship between search and social will continue to grow in the future. Search engines have been seeking to incorporate more social signals for some time now, and the momentum shows no signs of slowing. With advances in technology and shifts in consumer behavior, it’s time for marketers to look at search and social media as two critical—and inherently interrelated—components of their overall efforts.

Are We There Yet? Tuning Up Your Metrics

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!