Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#8: Continue Listening

By Eric Fletcher, Chief Marketing Officer at McGlinchey Stafford

All listening is not created equal.

Consider how a physician uses the stethoscope in order to measure the activity of the human heart, or how a mother calibrates her ear to detect the faintest whimper of a newborn, or how a conductor trains the ear to pinpoint the one-out -of-a-hundred instruments slightly out of tune.

Compare these with the ability to tune out a barking dog, or half listen to the rant of a coworker, or subconsciously mix the rhythm of the rain to the precise sleep-inducing decibel. Now consider how we interpret tone, process innuendo, translate vernacular, and compose a whole new message—all while we (theoretically) listen in the context of conversation.

Indeed, all listening is not the same.

Listening is done at many levels. But as we become skilled at reactive listening—mixing to a manageable level everything we’re taking in—we’re inadvertently contributing to the demise of effective communication.

What’s missing? Intentional, proactive listening.

Intentional listening reveals the voice of those with whom we want to connect. And by voice, I mean the cares, aspirations, and concerns of your target audience. It’s the key to the most basic principle of effective communication—that connection takes place in the context of shared experience.

Put another way, intentional listening will identify, outline, and define the language of the closest you will ever come to a can’t-miss message. And it’s the key to the instigation of a whole new brand of experiences—those uniquely shared by you (or your business) and your most coveted customer.

Translation: the shortest distance between where we are today and a relationship that results in the development of stronger brands and better business is less about the construction of a long list of capabilities and more about one or two questions that instigate dialogue. It’s less about what we do and more about where our clients live each day. It’s less about what we know and more about what we can learn if we’ll listen first—and then build experiences that center on ways to continue to listen.

Game-changing social media marketing plans and strategies—not to mention the path to lifetime customers—just might be less about beginning with a compelling marketing message and more about intentional listening.

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

Start at the Beginning: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#1: Start Listening

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#7: Ensure Value

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

“What’s the ROI from all that social media stuff you’ve been doing?” your boss asks. One of his favorite questions, right? Or if you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably heard that same question from your partner or CPA.

Generating reliable performance metrics for your social media activities—gathered and reported in an efficient, easily interpreted manner—has become a major priority for practitioners of social media marketing to help them demonstrate the value from participating in social media and validate their investments in it.

Your boss, partner, or CPA wants to compare the investment of personnel, time, money, and other resources to the return. But without supplying verifiable ROI data and analysis, any long-term relationships that marketers hope to develop and maintain with their social media communities are most likely in jeopardy.

So how do you go about ensuring that you’re deriving value from your social media marketing efforts—and that you can accurately measure that value? Obviously, tracking online “chatter” can help expose the bad as well as the good. For example, your fans and followers may publicly laud your products or suggest improvements to them, giving you the opportunity to respond quickly and address their comments or concerns. Also, there are now a myriad of technology tools available that can help measure the financial impact of social media on your organization, including lead generation, e-commerce revenue, etc.

The social media monitoring and measuring process is still in its infancy. However, in today’s hyper-competitive environment and relatively weak economy, generating measurable, repeatable value from social media is no longer an option for most marketers.

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

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#8: Continue Listening

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#6: Build Community

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

Building a loyal community of fans and followers is not a snap-your-finger deal. You have to put the “right stuff” out there to attract and grow an audience, and you’ll have to continually nurture the crop before it bears any fruit. But the payoff for that investment can be significant.

Where to begin, you ask? Start by identifying key influencers and cultivating individual relationships with them that you can later aggregate into a group of people who share common interests. This is your foundation—the heartbeat of your social media marketing activity. These relationships will become the core of your community and will help you expand its reach and contribute to its growth and influence.

The key to aggregation is providing quality content to your community that interests your target audience—content that’s informational in nature, not a sales pitch. And make sure that content is always relevant to your strategy and your followers. Effective connections with your audience are built when you provide information that’s based on understanding your market segment and your community’s needs, and by presenting those relevant morsels in a concise, easy-to-digest way.

And make it easy for your community members to share your content with their other communities. This will help dramatically expand your reach. Also, you don’t have to create all the content yourself; instead, promote the submission of user content from within your community, so everyone who wants to get involved is able to do so.

Yes, community building can be difficult, mainly because it requires determination, dedication, and grit—and a lot of time. But it’s key to your longevity in social media.

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

Next: 8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#7: Ensure Value

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

8 Mandates for Social Media Marketing Success—#1: Start Listening

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

I believe that listening is the single most important key for marketers who want to be successful in social media.

Although the average person spends about 45% of his or her waking hours listening, most of us are simply not very good at it. Various studies conducted over the years have shown that we comprehend and retain only about 25% of what we hear!

With that challenge so prevalent, applying good listening strategies and skills in the social media environment becomes even more critical. “Intentional listening,” as my friend and colleague Eric Fletcher calls it, should be front and center in your social media marketing strategy, as it plays an integral role in ensuring that you can find your target audience, hear and understand their wants and needs, and then effectively communicate with them in such a way that establishes trust and strong, long-lasting relationships.

At the outset of your social media marketing program—even before implementing your listening tactics—do your homework. Conduct surveys and focus groups. Gather responses and evaluate. And spend some quality time “lurking and learning” on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media channels to find out what your target audience has to say.

Finally, make sure you’re carefully monitoring your competitors as well. Are they listening to their constituents or just broadcasting marketing messages? You’ll have to do a little old-fashioned detective work, but remember that with social media, the playing field truly has been leveled. You don’t have to guess about who’s doing what—just listen.

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

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

5 Ways to Legitimately Increase Your Twitter Followers

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

Twitter can be a mighty tool in your social media arsenal. You can reach a specialized audience with carefully constructed tweets, relevant links, and engaging material. Of course, you can maximize the effect of those efforts by having a solid number of followers.

Here are five quick ways you can legitimately increase your Twitter following:

  1. Follow other people. Unless you’re a celebrity, there may not be hordes of people taking the time to find and follow you on Twitter each day. Thus, you need to engage other people by following them. Find users with a similar industry background who would be interested in the content that you’re sharing.
  2. Retweet. Another way to get attention on Twitter is to put in the time and effort to retweet great content. Retweeting can increase engagement and awareness. Also, it may even flatter the original tweeter! Making someone feel important is normally a good thing.
  3. Be interesting. People see thousands of marketing messages each day. How can you make yours stand out? One way to do this is to provide a variety of content. This applies to the topics you tweet about and the format as well. Don’t be afraid to share some personal items (favorite bands, sports news, etc.) Also, don’t simply post links to articles in every tweet! By sprinkling in photos, videos, and conversations, your Twitter profile will become more attractive to others.
  4. Participate in hashtags. When it comes to Twitter, hashtags can be a great way to group people around a certain event or topic. Find ones that are relevant to your industry and take the time to participate in them.
  5. Fill out your bio. Make sure your biography is filled with pertinent information that your prospects and customers may be searching for. And as things in your industry change, make sure your bio adjusts with them.

LinkedIn Helps You Pay It Forward to Nonprofits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Smart Marketing Book Authors Use Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Twitter’s Impact on How Journalists Search for SMEs

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

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

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

Turning Facebook “Likes” into More than Just Clicks

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.

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?

“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 Google.com, 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.

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.

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.

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 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.”

SXSW: 8 Essential Takeaways for CMOs

By Margaret Molloy, Chief Marketing Officer at Velocidi

Since attending the SXSW Interactive Festival in March, a number of CMOs have asked me for my key takeaways from the event. Articulating these succinctly has not been easy. After all, SXSW provided such valuable insights into new technologies, inspirational speeches, and fantastic networking opportunities. Upon reflection, I can summarize my key learning in a few words: get back to basics.

The pace of the technological evolution is dizzying—racing to keep up with it can cause us CMOs to lose site of the big picture. Digital platforms are not an end in themselves, they are tools that help us more efficiently do what we’ve been striving to do for years: engage customers, know them, guide strategy, and achieve growth and influence in our markets.

Based on this premise, here are eight imperatives to guide us through our rapidly evolving digital landscape, garner internal support, and achieve growth:

  1. Align all digital marketing activities with your company’s business goals. Focusing on the bottom line will help you choose the right platforms to engage your customers and build the digital initiatives to help you achieve the right results. (Remember that innovation and learning can also be excellent desired outcomes.)
  2. Manage your brand’s digital presence (web, social) with the same vigilance as your CFO manages cash flow. A well-executed digital presence—and the appropriate investment in it—will yield the customer data and engagement required to drive business strategy and impact your company’s valuation.
  3. Know your customers in a better, deeper, more textured way than your competitors do. Leveraging social media platforms to understand your customers’ personal interests, preferences, and motivations can provide you with data required to drive powerful new marketing campaigns.
  4. Embrace customer segmentation and pricing with discipline, or risk margin erosion. Given the degree of price transparency and ease of information sharing online, your margins need constant vigilance—not all customer segments require discounts to establish loyalty, referrals, advocacy, and repeat purchases.
  5. Channel your inner educator, specifically your economics 101 professor, when addressing digital marketing tactics with management. Train your executives on the strategic metrics for your business, or risk them defaulting to the popular definition of ROI (number of followers, website impressions, etc.). If management doesn’t know how to assess and measure the effectiveness of digital marketing initiatives, it’s not realistic for them to fund the programs.
  6. Strive to balance long-term customer relationship building with lead generation, activation, and sales objectives. Avoid the temptation to jump in and close a prospect on the first signs of potential interest, or risk losing them.
  7. Consider your brand a publisher and be clear on your content goals—education, entertainment, community building, etc. Draw on the entire spectrum of content (brand-generated, partner-created, user-generated, curated, etc.) to select the right mix to cost-effectively engage your customers.
  8. Be authentic in your customer engagements through all communications channels. Customers are smart, well connected, and can easily identify insincere behavior and expose questionable tactics—honesty remains the best policy.

Focusing on these imperatives will ultimately provide you with a compass to guide you through the evolving digital landscape and toward the digital programs that will help you achieve your business goals.

Why “Think Global, Act Local” is No Longer Enough

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

“Think global, act local”—commonly referred to as “global-local” or “glocal”—is more than just a tagline describing the cross-border pollination of ideas and products of today’s global economy. It was originally used as a rallying cry for people to consider the health of the entire planet and take action in their communities. Today, it takes on a much broader context. From environmental to public policy to business, many have even embraced the “think global, act local” mantra as the philosophical foundation of running a successful global brand.

But why exactly are political pundits and global economists drawn to the ideals of this ubiquitous framework? Does it really provide the context for which organizations and businesses of all sizes can respond to rapid shifts within our economies of scale?

From my point of view, up to now, “think global, act local” has only scratched the surface of this tremendously complex issue. What we need now is a 360-degree view of how we can best prepare businesses for sustained, long-term profitable growth. What we need now is to “think holistic, act personal.”

Global vs. Holistic

Simply put, global is too broad and undefined. It implies that we should standardize and lead from the center, so that we can better drive efficiencies that meet the burgeoning demands of local markets. This is in stark contrast with thinking holistically, which I define as the ability to take into account complex linkages and interconnections in order to facilitate decision making of the highest order.

It is no longer enough to “think global.” We must:

  • Gain appreciation of the world at large, and in turn, know how to best position organizations to win the supreme jackpot of sustained profit and growth
  • Capture interlocking elements, interdependencies, and synergies of the commercial environment

After all, with brand as the pathway to value and gaining the recognition organizations deserve in the marketplace, what better way to drive that distinction than by thinking holistically about business?

Local vs. Personal

Similar to thinking globally, acting locally does not touch upon the essence of human behavior—what we do or don’t do in response to change, challenge, and the status quo. Acting personal, however, mirrors human dynamics and the multi-dimensional profile of each individual. Acting personal allows you to engineer communities, making messages and actions a relevant and timely response to the big picture needs of people.

At Deloitte, we see the benefits of acting personal in our social media efforts every day. Addressing the individual concerns and aspirations of our stakeholders—talking to them about what they really care about—drives the engagement to boost client and employee satisfaction, retention, profits, and multi-stakeholder advocacy. It has the capacity to not just act but to deliver “happiness” with each experience.

Thinking holistically about the recent tragedy that occurred in Japan, we can’t forget to consider how one tsunami has caused nearly half of the world’s most developed countries to reassess their nuclear strategies. The need to act local must be replaced with the need to act personal in order to go beyond action in our communities and address the specific needs of human suffering and post-traumatic stress.

Share with me your thoughts on “think holistic, act personal.” Follow me on Twitter or post a comment below. Do these terms help sustain growth and eradicate major challenges such as poverty, education, or sustainability related to business or the environment?

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. Zappos.com’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.

“Give Me that Old-Time (Marketing) Religion:” The Importance of Focus and Commitment when Using Social Media

By Jim Lyons, Professor at the University of Phoenix

Lately, I’ve been working on a LinkedIn project assigned to me by our local campus of the University of Phoenix. And in taking it on, I’ve repeatedly been reminded of the “marketing basics” which I profess, literally, at the very same institution. I’m finding that with social media projects, like any other marketing-related activity, time-honored practices—such as focusing on a well-defined marketing strategy with clear objectives, clearly identifying a target market, and committing to a plan over a reasonable time period—are as relevant as ever.

By way of a little background, the local campus staff had asked me to shore up the LinkedIn group we’d started a couple of years back, and which like so many other social media attempts had gone somewhat stagnant after a fast start. This interest fit nicely with my personal ambition to help give our faculty a better feeling of connectedness—getting to know each other better as both undergrad- and graduate-level instructors (all part-timers), as well as members of the much broader professional community where we each pursue our very diverse “day jobs.” My vision was to make the LinkedIn group a virtual “faculty office building,” where we could get to know each other and collaborate in the virtual world, something that the University of Phoenix knows very well, at least from an online education standpoint.

There, too, was an interest within the client organization of making the group a discussion forum to be joined by at least the more engaged students, as well as alums and even “friends” of the university, including local business and community leaders. Also, it could perhaps become somewhat of a job-seekers forum as well. It didn’t stop there, either, and with this growing set of objectives, I started to feel overwhelmed.

Focus

As I began to think about implementation, I went back to good, sound marketing fundamentals. And when it came to defining the product/service I was enhancing, I had to ask myself a key question: “Who is the target market?” Obviously, the answer to the question had quickly become “many groups.” The next question then became: “Can I successfully serve this many masters?” (The answer to this question is invariably on the negative side of the scale, at least when put to the reality test.)

We are still working on the right approach, but as time goes on, the objective of providing a fun and friendly faculty familiarity/recognition platform seems to be winning out. We may need to launch a new group or sub-group to target another set of objectives/markets, but when has this stopped a good marketer?

Commitment

As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Starting a new business, launching a new product, or kicking off an advertising/PR campaign takes time, too. We have all been there—we get impatient, pull the plug too soon, or get wooed by a newer idea. And in the world of social networking—just like face-to-face, old-fashioned networking—patience is everything.

I’m reminded of my attempt to help a former colleague get his footing after a long period of unemployment by having him as my guest at a meeting of our local entrepreneurs’ networking group. After that first meeting, he thanked me, concluding with something like, “Well, we’ve done that. Let’s see what happens,” (as if based on his six or eight brief introductory conversations, the job offers would start rolling in). Sorry, friend, but networking is a long-term investment, and even in this world, which we often perceive to be all about instant gratification, a commitment to a plan—and sticking to it—is as critical as ever.

Knowing your customer, not trying to do too much, having clear objectives, and exercising patience—just a little of that old-time (marketing) religion!

How Social Media is Helping Marketing, PR, and Sales Become Better Friends

By Michael Brenner, Senior Director of Global Marketing at SAP

The biggest question I get asked on B2B Marketing Insider is about the challenges of sales and marketing alignment. I try to address the big issues in B2B marketing—such as integrated marketing, demand generation, and social media—but somehow, the topic comes back around to the relationship between sales and marketing. And it extends to our colleagues in PR.

I guess this shouldn’t be a huge shocker. I started my career in sales. Then I quickly moved into marketing to follow my frustrations. The alignment problem is what drove me into marketing.

BtoB Magazine recently reported on a Forrester survey that proves the point that this is huge challenge: only 8% of B2B companies say they have tight alignment between sales and marketing. Just 8%. They identify marketing’s long-term view vs. sales’ short-term view as the main reason for this disconnect.

So how can marketing and PR lead our organizations to better alignment with sales? The answer is social media.

A recent survey of 175 CMOs by Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club tells us that 74% of CMOs will tie their social media activities to quantifiable ROI in 2011. While that should help address the timing differences, I think there is more to it.

Today more than ever, marketing sells and sales people are marketing. And we are all communicators—some of us just more highly trained or capable. As Joe Pulizzi recently exclaimed, “Yes, We’re All Media Companies. What Now?” We need the content we produce across our companies to be professional, solve real customer problems, and be easily found.

Along comes social media, causing even more of a collision between sales, marketing, and PR/communications. The reason? We are all trying to align around customers through social channels. Add customer service, support, HR, and operations folks, and we have a real social media cocktail party happening.

Steps towards social alignment:

  • Define the goal. Marketing and PR should help lead our organizations to a better total customer experience in alignment with sales, but also across our entire organizations.
  • Work together. Social media can help us all get along (better). Marketing and PR should continue to take a leadership role in social media by defining how to best orchestrate social media strategy with sales, customer service, support, and other customer-focused groups across our companies.
  • Develop a crisis plan. This is really where PR can take the lead. They have the skills and best practices knowledge, but they also need to partner with marketing, sales, HR, and customer service so that a 360-degree process is identified. As the Kenneth Cole fiasco on Twitter showed us, the crisis can come from anywhere, even within. So get your crisis plan in place today.
  • Manage responses. One of the biggest opportunities for companies in social media is to develop a full response plan for inquiries, complaints, and so-called “trolls.” Here is an excellent example of a social triage process that can be used a model. By taking a leadership role in defining how we listen to social conversations and how we will respond, our companies can begin to achieve the true goal of a positive total customer experience.

I believe that by following these steps, we will start to see marketing, sales, PR, and all the functions across our companies become much better friends. And we just might create some new, happy customers along the way.

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!

Social Marketing: Building a Continuum of Access Points

By Allen Fuqua, Chief Marketing Officer at Winstead

Nat Slavin, founder and President of Wicker Park Group, is fond of saying that in today’s market, “one size fits one.” He’s right. For marketers and business developers in the B2B space, this must become the mantra for strategy and tactical execution.

Though many professionals see this as a burden, the reality is much more positive. For those of us willing to engage individuals on their own terms and with genuine interest in their issues and challenges, then the relationship process becomes an easy game.

But in order for “one size fits one” to be sustainable and scalable, it must be built into a go-to-market strategy and the appropriate corresponding programs. These must allow the organization to focus on listening, gathering client feedback, and then responding in a personalized manner. This isn’t new and really isn’t that difficult if you build the appropriate tool set. Here’s an example.

About 30 years ago, I was involved in a community outreach to a target market of some 150,000 people. Our objective was to engage people in a manner where they could obtain personal support from a small community group, investigate ways to build a better life and relationships, and work through any outlier personal problems. Yeah, pretty soft, personal, and “none of your business”-type stuff.

So how did we engage with a large target market in a personal way? We built communication platforms that allowed people to choose where and how they would access information and engagement. It looked like this:

  • We ran one-minute radio spots regularly on local stations with messages that inspired listeners to consider some aspect of their lives and relationships. Each spot had a way to connect with us if the person so desired. (Today, this might be a blog.)
  • We ran ads in the local newspaper that highlighted the issues we tried to address and provided a response option. (Online ads on targeted sites.)
  • We developed community events with speakers addressing very specific issues our target audience might be dealing with. These were publicized with ads and public notices. (Webinars, meetups, etc.)
  • We operated (here’s a time stamp for you) a “code-a-phone” number (for those of you under 45, a code-a-phone is a telephone answering machine which plays a message to anyone who calls that number) that ran a different helpful spot (much like the radio spots) on a daily basis and provided a response option. (Twitter.)
  • We operated a storefront, street-level office in the central downtown business district. People could access professional counseling and materials or enroll in a community group. (Surely you can make the connection here.)
  • We organized and facilitated community groups (10 to 12 people per group) that met in people’s homes and had audio/tutorial group materials and a trained facilitator. These groups provided an environment for people to explore any number of issues while building a small functioning community. (User groups, interest groups, etc.)

I share this with you so you can see what a continuum of social marketing options might look like. The point of this continuum is to allow each of our target audience members to choose where and how they are comfortable interacting with content and people. Those who are marginally interested or shy can listen to radio spots or call a phone number to hear a message. For those who are ready to interact publicly, there are seminars. For those who want to talk to someone personally, there is a storefront to access specific expertise. I think you get the idea.

Well, that’s also how personalization works in social media. We plan a continuum of access points and build in response capabilities at each point—based on the interest represented by the target’s actions. No one pushes except our target client. The client determines the context, the content, and the interaction. We give him/her options and are always at the ready, no matter what level of interaction they are comfortable with.

Build your social marketing capability with a continuum of access points and content. That will allow you to listen and your target to fit it to themselves.

Keeping Score in Social Media

By Dr. Don Roy, Professor at Middle Tennessee State University

The use of social media to develop customer relationships can be compared to interactions with co-workers at an office party. Many of your co-workers may be relative strangers in that you may know their names and perhaps even the names of their significant others and children, but the relationships lack depth. Conversations outside the usual environment of the relationships allow for a greater quantity and quality of communication. Similarly, social media can humanize the faceless, impersonal image of a brand, becoming more of a friend or trusted advisor to a customer than a business that exists to sell things.

The potential impact of social media on customer relationships with a brand calls for measuring engagement, not exposure. Yet many managers look to measures of reach to quantify social media’s impact on brand building. Let’s consider the sports industry as an example. Sports properties are driven by reach measures such as ticket sales and TV ratings. Extending that mindset to the digital marketing space, the reach of a sports brand in terms of followers or friends on social networks is used as evidence of brand power.

A measure developed by Coyle Media, known as the Sports Fan Graph, ranks professional and collegiate sports brands according to the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends. According to the Sports Fan Graph as of December 2010, the NBA was the top-ranked brand, based on the sum of its Twitter followers (just under 2.2 million) and Facebook likes (approximately 7 million). In contrast, the NHL ranked 19th, with a total reach of about 1.7 million (471,000 on Twitter and about 1.2 million on Facebook).

If we are to accept a measure like the Sports Fan Graph, we can conclude that brands with high rankings like the NBA enjoy far greater impact in their social media programs than lower-ranked brands. But not so fast! Measures of social media reach support the hypothesis that strong brands in the offline world are among the most popular digital brands, too. Whether the brand is Starbucks, CNN, Oprah, or Manchester United, success breeds success when it comes to building virtual relationships. But how meaningful are those relationships?

A measure like the Sports Fan Graph is an indicator of popularity, but how well liked a brand is may not be an ideal indicator of what social media efforts can do to build a brand by strengthening customer relationships. Traditional scorekeeping measures may be straightforward to calculate and interpret, and they may also be favored by managers who equate popularity with effectiveness. However, brand building is not based on winning a popularity contest; it is fueled by customers’ willingness to be in a relationship with a brand. Methods for keeping score are needed that link social media to enhancing brand relationships, not counting admirers.

Four Steps to Inspire Infectious Action

By Andy Smith, Co-Author of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change

When you grab people’s attention, they sit up and listen. When you engage your audience, you connect with them and inspire them. However, too many efforts stop there, leaving people with good intentions that may never be acted on. Taking action requires individuals to exert themselves and to make the transition beyond being interested by what you have to say to actually doing something about it. When organizations combine the power of the call to action with innovative social media tools, they can achieve extraordinary results.

Consider these four design principles when you want to empower others to take action:

1. Make it easy. By demonstrating you value your audience’s time and by making use of their contributions, you simultaneously boost their effectiveness while giving them a greater sense of accomplishment. This increases the likelihood they will continue to participate. Helping people achieve small goals leads them naturally to adopt more ambitious behaviors, often without a bigger intervention. For example, if the big goal is to convince people to be more environmentally friendly, ask them to change a single light bulb in their homes. Let them breathe, basking in their success, and then intervene again, expanding the effort by making the target behavior something larger. Perhaps you might suggest they replace all the inefficient bulbs in their homes.

2. Make it fun. The fueling effect of fun is an important and often overlooked element of social movements. It will also make your endeavor more enjoyable for you and a whole lot stickier for your audience. Many charities organize runs, walks, or bike races to encourage people to donate time and money. Another way to harness fun is game play; it taps into our innate competitiveness and desire for recognition. Groupon infuses fun in every one of its communications—the company hired Chicago-area comedians as its copywriters.

3. Tailor the experience. To motivate people to act on behalf of your cause, you need to match their skills, talents, or interests with your needs. Whether being creative, as with Gap’s “Born to Fit” initiative (where customers can design new outfits), providing an endorsement or reference, or making a physical donation (such as when people with a needed blood type make a donation), the more that people feel they have uniquely contributed, the happier and more satisfied they will be—and the more likely they are to spread the word or return to contribute.

4. Be open. A critical step to creating a culture of sharing is to design with the principle of sustained transparency. Most companies believe they are far more transparent than consumers think they are. A second step is to ideate, prototype, and test frequently. By doing this, you will—by definition—be designing for feedback. Showing people they are actually making a difference is arguably the most critical aspect of encouraging action. A good example is DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit that allows people to help fulfill public classroom “wish lists.” Donors can watch incremental donations to their causes grow in real time. When each project is fully funded, all donors are e-mailed photos, a thank you letter from the teacher, and a cost report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Harkleroad, Chief Marketing Officer at Hay Group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Five Useful Tips on Developing Social Media Conversations with Your Customers

By Kenneth Cossin, Professor at Full Sail University

As marketers, we have heard so much about how social media allows us to rapidly build our brand, get the word out regarding our products and services, target different demographics, and optimize consumer engagement. Yet we need to take social marketing to the next level.

Thus, I pose the question: Is your company simply using social media channels to create an online marketing presence, or is it creating social media conversations with your customers?

For example, as a professor at Full Sail University, my students are my customers. I use many different social media channels to get each student to “buy into” my courses. I develop student engagement, but then I also intentionally develop a professional relationship with each individual student. By doing so, each student gains a sense of personal investment in my courses.

Here are my five tips for creating social media conversations with your customers:

1. Your attention, please! Gaining our customer’s attention is pretty simple for us marketers. It is something that we have been doing since before the days of social media. Thus, continue to bring attention to your brand and develop your brand story through your social media channels.

2. Get your customers to opt in. Remember, everyone loves a good story. Therefore, the better your brand tells your business story, the more customers you will get to opt in. Once you have an engaged consumer, it is imperative that you learn what attracted him/her to your business. Traditional marketing methods of gathering metrics on your customers remain important. And with social media, you can discover why a customer is choosing you.

3. Determine your customers’ individuality. Find unique ways to get your customers to tell you how they found you. What about your customers makes them choose you? How are you fulfilling their unique wants and needs? What incentives do you provide to keep your customers engaged?

4. Focus on conversation. Typically, businesses will ask customers a series of questions through the use of impersonal surveys, questionnaires, or cold calls. At this point, many marketers usually stop. With social media, you cannot stop here. You must follow through and build a personal conversation by leveraging social media in new and unique ways. So what are we to do?

5. Develop interaction. Through the use of social media interaction, periodically make intentional contact with your customers. Remember to treat your customer as you would a good friend. We do things for our friends because we care about them; thus, demonstrate to your customers who connect with you through social media that you care about them. Communicate with them. Give them the service they deserve: prompt responses, incentives, and other cool offers. You will receive in return the continued trust and loyalty you need and desire to grow your business.