Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category

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

By Ed Lallo, Principal at Newsroom Ink

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

Understand the Power of Social Media

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

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

Embrace the Voice of Your Customers and Employees

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

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

The Crowd Can Help You Grow and Prosper

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

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

“Mocial” Marketing: 10 Things You Need to Know

By Steve Jarrett, Chief Executive Officer of MePlease

To help retailers seize the opportunity afforded by mobile marketing and social networking—or “mocial” marketing—we have come up with the top 10 tips that we believe need to be worked through to position your brand effectively for your new generation of customers.

1. Mobile marketing goes way beyond text. The first tip is that mobile and social media are meshing, and so should you. There is tremendous power in the integration of social networking and mobile, and we think this marketing sweet spot is the place to be.

2. Why mobile matters—stats don’t lie. A recent study showed that UK consumers send 11 million text messages per hour (MDA Report, 2009). Text usage remains dominant. Facebook’s 500 million customers follow at least one brand or company, while at the same time, nearly 50% of Twitter’s 190 million unique users do exactly the same (ExactTarget Research). A Harris Interactive poll recently showed that of consumers who received some form of permission-based text marketing from a company, 34% said the messages have made them more likely to visit the venue and 27% more likely to make a purchase.

3. In search of the holy grail. Moving from one-to-many to one-to-one communication is the holy grail of marketing.

4. Reach everyone (not just smartphone users). iPhone apps are this season’s must have. Or are they? Focusing on just mobile applications for certain devices like iPhone or Android smartphones automatically pushes you into a corner and limits a retailer’s ability to reach its target market.

5. Voucher promiscuity—how to discourage it. There’s a number of high-profile companies—such as Groupon and Vouchercloud—that are driving high-volume customer acquisition. Don’t get it wrong—new customer acquisition is good, but only if a significant number of those customers visit your business again.

6. Mocial is the new buzzword. Many people think of mobile marketing as a 160-character version of e-mail. Wrong! The very nature of mobile marketing offers retailers the opportunity to reach people at key decision-making moments of the day.

7. Make mobile social marketing cost effective. We think the trend is moving away from one-off mobile marketing campaigns (which can be costly) toward mobile marketing platforms that let any business engage with opted-in customers. Look for companies that offer you long-term value and social media integration.

8. Trust. Seek mobile and social networking partners that have strict privacy policies and will not pass on customer information or send out spam messages just to drive their own short-term revenue.

9. Set goals early. Before even approaching a mobile marketing service provider or platform, be sure to outline the key goals for your mocial strategy. Whether it is to gain more loyal customers, influence their friends, or just get more people into your shop, make your objectives clear to the provider. If they cannot tell you explicitly how they intend to help you to accomplish these goals, keep looking.

10. Don’t wait. Start now. Carpe diem! Those Romans knew a thing or two about communication…

Twitterviews: A New Medium for an Interview

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

What is a Twitterview? It is where people have a live interview on Twitter.

So how does it work? The first step to making your Twitterview a successful promotional tool is to create its hashtag. A hashtag is simply the pound symbol (#), followed by the name of the Twitterview. The name cannot have any spaces or punctuation in it. An example of a Twitterview name with its hashtag would be “#FoleyOnSocialMedia.” You would use “#FoleyOnSocialMedia” in order to search for it on Twitter as well. Once the hashtag is created, the best way to promote your Twitterview to your audience is by announcing it in all of your social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter, Web site, etc.).

While the interview is happening, you must always include the designated hashtag for that specific interview in each tweet. This way, every tweet that is exchanged during the Twitterview will show up when your audience searches its hashtag.

I recently participated in a Twitterview with the topic of “QR Codes and Video Tags in Tourism.” By taking part in this hour-long discussion, I was able to interact with tourism marketers from all over the country, including Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, California, and Montana. These were just the people who were actively participating in the discussion; however, I was probably promoting myself to many others who were just following along.

Throughout the Twitterview, we all discussed where QR codes can appear, where the codes can direct a person to, and why they would be useful and beneficial for the user. I was able to promote myself, QR codes, and QReateandTrack, a QR code service that one of my businesses provides. Using the Twitterview, I was able to promote myself in a variety of ways. The first way was by introducing myself with: “Hi, I’m @JohnFoleyJr from @interlinkONE. #TourismChat.” Here, I attached my Twitter handle, “@JohnFoleyJr,” my business’ Twitter handle, “@interlinkONE,” and the Twitterview hashtag, “#TourismChat.” In that one little tweet, I shared links to my personal Twitter profile and interlinkONE’s Twitter profile.

Further into the discussion, someone asked where he could learn more information about QR codes. I responded to this inquiry by including the person’s Twitter handle in the tweet followed with: “If interested, whitepaper here: #QRCodes ‘Using QR Codes to Reach the Busy, Mobile Consumer:’ http://ilnk.me/5058. #TourismChat.“ Here, I not only acknowledged a participant’s request for more information, but I also shared the link with everyone who was following the Twitterview.

Meanwhile, a representative from interlinkONE joined the Twitterview as well by using QReateandTrack’s Twitter handle, “@QReateandTrack.” While using this, she was able to answer questions and promote QReateandTrack on behalf of interlinkONE. Some of the ways she was able to give great tips, answer questions, and share links were by tweeting:

  • “@QReateandTrack: QReateAndTrack.com. There you can create the QR code and also track it. You can see where and when it was scanned. #TourismChat”
  • “@QReateandTrack: You could go about finding more info by setting up a landing page and asking people for more info. That would work. #TourismChat”
  • “@QReateandTrack: We created this poster: http://ilnk.me/5065. Each time it is scanned, the QR code changes its response. Try it out! #TourismChat”

Remember, Twitter only allows your tweets to contain a maximum of 140 characters, so that is why the tweets have to be very blunt and straightforward.

When the Twitterview was close to conclusion, I gave a few final suggestions and tips by tweeting:

  • “@JohnFoleyJr: Tracking needs to go beyond a scan to a page. Metrics are important. #TourismChat”
  • “@JohnFoleyJr: Don’t think big brother! Think reaching the mobile audience. #TourismChat”

Lastly, I thanked all of the attendees for joining the Twitterview and gave one last promotion of myself and the representatives from interlinkONE: “@JohnFoleyJr: Thanks! Any questions, ask me PLEASE! Or follow @QReateandTrack or @JasonPinto. #TourismChat.”

Twitterviews can be extremely useful when you are trying to market to a new group of people or industry. By participating in these online discussions, you are able to make a lot of connections in a short amount of time, and you can learn a lot as well. Take the time to do some searches on your favorite hashtags, and if you want to conduct your own Twitterview, ask some of your favorite tweeters to join in. Good luck!

Reaching Beyond Your Own Space

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Engage Your Most Dissatisfied Customers for Radical Thinking

By Dr. Philippe Duverger, Assistant Professor at Towson University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perfect Bundle: A Netbook and an Aspirin

By Jeff Hasen, Chief Marketing Officer at Hipcricket

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions and Answers about Relationship Marketing and Relationship Commerce

By Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at OpenSky

1: Relationships: how do you build them online?

I believe everything we do in our personal and business lives revolves around relationships—now more than ever. With effort, an online relationship may begin from the request of a Facebook friend or following someone on Twitter. But make no mistake—that initial request or follow will never create the relationship. Trust is built upon interaction, when you’re true to your word, authentic, and genuine. To build relationships online, you (as a brand or individual) have to offer value in return.

Be it via valuable information or personal introductions, engagement and interaction will remain key. By asking questions and proposing ideas, you can engage your followers in such a way to give them the ability and reason to respond. Then when they do respond, interact with them to solidify your relationship, lest it fade away. Directly acknowledge their response, ask follow-up questions, and share their insights with others. Follow me on Twitter (@TedRubin), and you’ll see what I mean. The more responsive you are to your audience, the more responsive they’ll be to you. And that’s where relationships are born.

2: What is the true value of a fan or follower to a marketer/brand?

I believe many are looking at this in too narrow a fashion. Everyone is trying to assign a dollar value to a Facebook fan or Twitter follower instead of addressing the fact that engagement and interaction that takes place in these mediums are incredibly important to a brand. Building a relationship with existing and future customers is the true value and strength of social media marketing. ROI is certainly incredibly important whenever investing, but companies have to start looking at ROR (“return on relationship”) when planning, strategizing, and most importantly, evaluating social marketing.

A new study shows that those who are fans or followers of a brand on Facebook or Twitter are significantly more likely to buy products and services or recommend the brand to a friend. Specifically, the study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that 60 percent of Facebook fans and 79 percent of Twitter followers are more likely to recommend those brands since becoming a fan or follower. And an impressive 51 percent of Facebook fans and 67 percent of Twitter followers are more likely to buy the brands they follow or are a fan of. Considering Facebook’s 400 million-plus users, the opportunity is great for social media marketers.

3: ROR: exactly what is that?

Facebook fans, retweets, site visits, video views, positive ratings, and vibrant communities are not measureable financial assets—they aren’t reflected on the balance sheet and can’t be counted on an income statement—but that doesn’t mean they are valueless. Instead, these are leading indicators that a brand is doing something to create value that can lead to financial results in the future. In addition, these relationships can be leveraged through initiatives, campaigns, and events to create real dollar value for a brand. In other words, ROR = return on relationship!

In a fast-paced digital world, defining and maintaining our relationships has become unexpectedly difficult. Social media has enabled us to connect with an infinite number of individuals; it has given us the tools to extend relationships that years ago would have been impossible. Yet make no mistake—social media is a facilitator of relationships, but it is not the relationship itself. You have to give to get. It’s so simple in concept yet not always easy to wrap your arms around when online since it is not as simple as a favor, a hug, or a handshake.

4: What is “relationship commerce?”

The way I see it, we’re overdue for a revolution in retail. So many of us have been sharing our passions and discoveries, it’s about time we acquired tools that empower us to share in the economic benefits. I believe that our economy is experiencing a monumental shift toward an era of increased self sufficiency. We all need to learn to earn, to provide for ourselves. We can’t continue to live dependent upon the (one time) security blanket of big corporations, parent companies, and traditional jobs. They may not always be there.

How many of you spend more than 10 hours a week on your online presence? 15 hours? 40+ hours? How many times have you recommended something to a friend, and how many times have you made a purchase based upon the recommendation of a friend? How many of us wish that our passions, our energy, and our influence could evolve away from pure hobbies and into a revenue stream? Relationship commerce—sharing what you love with others and facilitating their ability to buy it—easily can be a piece of that puzzle. That’s how it can make shopping better. Relationship commerce is simple yet novel: it’s commerce that emanates from people you know and trust. It’s this interpersonal exchange, the relationship, which differentiates relationship commerce. Life is not just about financial exchange, and neither is commerce. Relationships matter!

5: What can marketers do in the next five minutes to apply this information?

A great Twitter behavior that is often overlooked as being important is thanking people for retweeting you and for giving you a mention/shout out. So say thank you. Engage. Ask questions. Propose ideas. Give your followers/fans the ability and reason to answer.

Most misunderstand Twitter. It’s not a broadcasting tool for marketing, but an extremely valuable networking, experimenting, and seeding tool. And always remember we all have lurkers—those watching and following our conversations. Even though they do not make themselves known, they are there. So be aware.

Three Questions the Savvy Executive Asks about Online Marketing Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A CIO Takes On CMOs and Social Media Marketing

By Colin Osburn, Chief Information Officer at Parts.com

As a technologist, most everything I do has a technical bent first, with true ROI close behind. I realize that technology and finance to a marketer are like sunlight to a vampire, but steadily more and more of the marketing types appear to be following the technical and ROI trend. Metrics, reporting, automation, and justifying that mind-numbing campaign are all things that marketers are doing presently, while showing true technical aptitude.

I’ve had a real taste of why marketing and I are such distanced bedfellows. Running a national automotive parts Web site is complicated. A lot of technical effort goes into the operation and improvement of our search function, images, text, etc. Our customer base is earned through large partnerships, SEO (technical in its automation), and complimentary business lines. We even launched a short-run TV commercial this year for the first time in the company’s history.

It’s readily apparent that everyone—from small businesses to mega corporations and all the MLM shills in between—is jumping on the “new wave of technology” known as social media. To any decent technologist, this “new wave” is the same stuff we’ve been working with for years, but it’s in a new box with a bow.

All manner of Internet black magic that I can find, I heap upon our willing CTO to do a test run. I’m always looking at the newest technology for application to our business model. Automated sharing toolbars and widgets? Yep. Banner ads? Of course. Social media? Absolutely.

But I should have mentioned we do not have a CMO on staff. (Either that, or I disabled his account and forgot about him.) That means the technologists and sales executives are running the show. That also means we got exactly the results from all of these new implementations that you would expect:

  • The banner ads are completely pointless. I intend to remove them.
  • The toolbar never gets used, and no one shares anything.
  • The forums are dead.
  • We get very little response from our e-mail blasts.
  • We keep Facebook and Twitter because they keep the brand public. We also keep them because it’s a new type of customer service.

The Parts.com site is designed for commerce. We make money when someone buys an auto part. Pretty direct. We haven’t added articles and sticky reading-style content because our user base comes to our site for a very direct task and wants to do it quickly. The same people most likely do participate in auto enthusiast forums and spend a lot of time browsing “car porn” (photos of hot rods, tricked-out cars, and classic vehicles), but not while they’re buying a part. We also have a disproportionately large number of auto dealers who use our site, and the service manager isn’t interested in reading something while trying to get the customer’s part overnighted.

We have Facebook. We have Twitter. But I refuse to attach our brand to MySpace. We have hundreds of friends, and there are a lot of people talking about a lot of things, 99% of which involves the buying and selling of cars. It’s pretty damn hard to get people hot and bothered about a camshaft replacement or that hot new discounted windshield replacement. Have you figured it out yet? We’re not just commerce, but commerce as a subsection of a larger vertical. And that vertical has plenty of content and places that provide it. So we implement what we can as fast as we can and tweak, wait, watch, and adjust.

In reality, some key points came to light for me over the past year:

  • CIOs and CMOs need one another. That’s so painful to admit.
  • Marketing helps those awesome new technologies become ubiquitous.
  • If you don’t have a marketer on staff, this is a good time to start talking to your network.
  • Technology for technology’s sake works some of the time, but not enough to generate an ROI that keeps the monthly revenue high.
  • Content sites will almost always make more on the items I listed, from social media to banner ads. Commerce sites will overall make more on a direct revenue basis. Build a widget, sell a widget.
  • Commerce sites can make progress with these social media tools, but they should not bet projections on them.
  • Being a subcategory makes you look for the “why” a lot sooner. Dell and Ford kill it on social media and “new wave” commerce sales because they are the market. We sell parts. There’s a huge difference.
  • Take what you can get. Better customer service and communication has been a real win for us with these tools, even if we don’t make millions on banner ads.
  • The Get Satisfaction site is a real winner for us because it enabled us to learn from our customers what we need to know. (Facebook has helped us with that as well.)

To be continued…

A Window through Which We can Look at Social Media Marketing

By Ryan Sauers, Chief Marketing Officer at The Sauers Group

In all aspects of business, it is vital to utilize various tools to evaluate performance. One such device is the Johari Window. This tool is especially important for those of you in the marketing profession.

The Johari Window is broken into four distinct quadrants.

Let’s start with the upper left (blue) quadrant. This quadrant deals with things that are “public” in nature, meaning they are known both to you and others. It may seem that everything in the world of online information falls into this quadrant, but this is not true. For example, if you publicly display information that is accessible to anyone—on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—then you fall into this category.

The lower left (yellow) quadrant applies to things that are “private” to you (known to self) and are not known by others. This makes for quite a challenge in the social media environment, as it is hard to keep things private in a world that wants to make everything public. In social media, posted/written information often has a life of its own. So many times, private information might be accidentally posted in a place where a person thinks it is safe and private but where others actually have access to it. For example, many people go on job interviews where the interviewer already knows a lot about them beyond their resume, just by conducting a search for that person’s name on Facebook or Google with just a few keystrokes. So we must purposefully control what we do and do not want people to know.

The lower right (green) quadrant is referrerd to as “unknown.” These are things we all speculate about and quite frankly are unsure of the answers. For example, will Twitter be around in three years? Will Google keep growing? Will the economy turn around in 2011? Will the buying patterns of Generation Y remain the same in five years? You get the idea. So this area of the window represents those things that neither you nor the people you are targeting are completely sure of. This quadrant is an important one to consider as you develop your overall marketing plans and what role social media will play now and in the years ahead.

The upper right (red) quadrant is called the “blind spot.” This refers to something that is known to/seen by others but not known to/seen by yourself. This provides a huge growth opportunity for all marketers. If we are not aware of our blind spot, then we are truly operating “blind.” This means we are not aware of what we are missing—and yet, others around us are quite aware of it. This is a huge no-no for social media marketing. For instance, let’s say your company (in the opinion of all stakeholders beyond you) feels you are overdoing or over promoting your every success through the many social media tools available. So colleagues, employees, clients, vendors, and others see your campaigns/efforts as overdone and borderline obnoxious. But what if you think (your blind spot) you are not doing enough promotion and need to increase your social media marketing efforts? The key is to learn what your blind spot is, so you can address it. A great way to accomplish that is to get candid feedback from a variety of different people who will tell you the truth and not just what you want to hear.

The overall goal here is for you to use the Johari Window as another way to examine what you are doing, why you are doing it, what you know, what you don’t know, and why you do what you do. Doing so will enable you to be purposeful in all your marketing efforts. Rememember… the tools of social media are here to stay, and they will become even greater in the years ahead.

Strategic Networking on Social Media

By Frank Agin, Co-Author of LinkedWorking: Generating Success on the World’s Largest Professional Networking Website

Successful networking requires a multi-faceted attack. That is, to have a highly productive network, you need to involve yourself in the world from lots of different angles.

You need to continually work your contacts in your networking groups, such as trade associations, civic organizations, and structured referral groups. You need to make a point of attending various networking functions—such as chamber after hours, trade shows, and business open houses. And you need to engage in free-form networking—including things like individual face-to-face meetings, a round of golf, or other activities where you connect with others in an informal manner.

In addition, to be a successful networker in the 21st century, you need to embark upon a degree of networking using specifically designed Web sites, better know as social media. You could cast a presence on LinkedIn. Or you could involve yourself on Facebook. Or you could work yourself onto one of the many other social networking sites out there. Using any one of these can be a great means of adding another weapon to your networking arsenal. After all, these sites have a worldwide reach and operate literally around the clock.

The reality is, however, that LinkedIn, Facebook, and other forms of online social media are just tools in the networking process. They aid you in the development of relationships, but none of them replaces the need for good old-fashioned networking. If you want to be successful using online social media, you need to follow the same rules you would use when networking in the real world. Call this “LinkedWorking”—applying real-world networking habits to social media. Some examples of LinkedWorking include:

  • See opportunities in everyone. In the real world, everyone is connected—directly or indirectly—to opportunity for you. As such, you should approach everyone with open-minded respect. This is the same with online social media. You should never dismiss people because of the content of their profiles or stature in life. You just never know with whom they are connected.
  • Lead a life of altruism. In the real world, the number one way to be successful in networking is to commit to giving to the world around you. The same holds true for online social media. With everyone that you connect, ask yourself, “How can I help this person?” Then commit to taking action. If you do, things will come back to you in spades.
  • Take consistent action patiently over time. In the real world, a flurry of networking once or twice a year generally yields very little, as building strong relationships takes time. This sort of binge networking does no better when it comes to online social media. When you network online, as in the real world, commit to taking consistent, moderate action. Over time, you will be amazed at all that comes your way using this approach. Remember that networking is more like a crock pot than a microwave. With online social networking, the same is true—patience is a critical ingredient.

Successful networking requires you to work on several different fronts. In the 21st century, that should include social media. To successfully operate on this technological front, however, you need to practice LinkedWorking. That is, do the same things in networking online that you would do in the real world.

Social Media Marketing in a Crisis: VISIT FLORIDA and the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

By Will Seccombe, Chief Marketing Officer at VISIT FLORIDA

The Challenge

On April 20, 2010, the BP/Transocean Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and sank, resulting in a massive offshore oil spill. The spill became the top news story of the summer, and the live video feed of oil gushing from the failed “blowout preventer” was a real-time, persistent reminder of the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. In fact, 99 percent of Americans were following the story of the spill, 54 percent were following it closely, and virtually everyone was talking about it.

The stakes were high for the Florida tourism industry. Every year, 80 million people visit the Sunshine State, and more than 25 percent of those visitors choose Florida because of the 825 miles of beautiful beaches. Those visitors spend more than $60 billion and support nearly one million Florida jobs, making tourism the largest industry in the state.

As the official tourism marketing organization for the State of Florida, VISIT FLORIDA had managed hurricanes and “red tides” before, but the uncertainty surrounding this situation was unprecedented. How and where would the state’s coastline be affected? How do you balance the interests of directly impacted areas with unaffected areas fighting misperceptions? How do you keep visitors informed and continue to encourage travelers to visit the state? How can a marketing company be a trusted source of information in a time of crisis?

The Response

VISIT FLORIDA’s response to the oil spill focused on open, transparent, and proactive communication to provide consumers and stakeholders with easy access to credible local information to help them make informed decisions based on facts—not misinformation or confusion. An aggressive integrated communication program was launched on April 30 in coordination with the activation of the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC). (A complete timeline of VISIT FLORIDA’s response to the crisis depicts exactly what occured and when.)

The first step in addressing the spill was the activation of a Florida Travel Update on VISITFLORIDA.com, with daily updates on the status of Florida’s coastline from the EOC, as well as links to official information and FAQs from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Health, and the Department of Agriculture.

As the centerpiece and call to action for all crisis communications, VISIT FLORIDA developed and launched a new digital platform, Florida Live. Florida Live is a unique combination of content from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and live Web cams that allowed travelers to see with their own eyes that, despite the massive media coverage, Florida was in fact open for business.

VISIT FLORIDA also activated Floridians from around the state to counter the negative images spewing from the oil spill. Residents were encouraged to upload real-time photos of their favorite beaches to Facebook, and more than 2,000 time-stamped photos were then featured in real time on Florida Live.

To communicate the scale of the state’s tourism product and address the hyper-local nature of the crisis, VISIT FLORIDA added Twitter feeds to the Florida Live site from local convention and visitor bureaus with up-to-the minute information on the status of their beach communities. The site also linked to live Web cams from around the state, daily fishing reports, daily videos, daily photos, blogs, and live weather reports.

Additionally, VISIT FLORIDA’s official corporate blog, Sunshine Matters, served as a hub of stakeholder communications to coordinate, inform, and align the tourism industry and to share industry resources.

The Results

The marketing response was both visible and credible:

  • 44 percent of Americans were aware of VISIT FLORIDA’s marketing efforts.
  • 49 percent attributed the marketing efforts to VISIT FLORIDA by name.
  • 73 percent said they trust VISIT FLORIDA.
  • Traffic to VISITFLORIDA.com increased 46 percent in June and 16 percent in July versus the same periods in 2009.
  • People who visited the Web site were 31 percent more likely to visit Florida before Labor Day.
  • Most importantly, total visits to the state increased by 3.4 percent in the second quarter (in the heat of the oil spill crisis) versus the same quarter in 2009.

Florida Live has since been recognized as a best practice in crisis communications, primarily because the Florida tourism industry embraced it, the media endorsed it, and consumers trusted it.

How to Really Get “Liked” on Facebook

By Dr. Angela Hausman, Associate Professor at Howard University

“Likes” have replaced “fans” on business Facebook pages. Having more likes is a good thing, and Starbucks is the leading company, with more than 16 million likes. Starbucks is followed closely by Coca Cola, with more than 15 million likes. You can see the rest of the top 25 companies on the TNW Web site. As the average Facebook user has 80 friends, Starbucks’ message reaches more than 1.26 billion people!

How to Avoid the Top Three Facebook Faux Pas

Getting likes involves more than building a Facebook business page and waiting for people to find it. And if you use your business page as just another outlet for your press releases, as many businesses on Facebook do, you’re not likely to generate much interest or get many likes. Similarly, using your Facebook fan page to echo your tweets is a bad idea. Certainly, putting some good tweets on Facebook is fine, but don’t link them so all your tweets are automatically sent to your Facebook page. Buying Facebook fans or engaging in Facebook exchanges (where businesses agree to like each other) are similarly bad ideas, as they deliver fans who are not truly engaged with the brand.

Getting Likes

The key to getting Facebook likes is to give people a reason for liking your brand. Here are some great examples of ways to drive Facebook likes:

  • Support a cause. Pedigree recently launched a campaign to encourage dog owners to like its brand. For every Facebook user who did so, Pedigree donated a bowl of dog food to an adoption center. To date, more than a million bowls of food have been donated—which means Pedigree has added a million new likes. As part of the strategy, Pedigree also encourages sharing the program across about a dozen other social media platforms.
  • Give exclusive content. People want to feel special and love having access to information and products before anyone else. Having this access encourages them to like your brand and increases the likelihood they’ll pass along your information to their friends. Movie producers, book authors, and musical performers use this extensively. For instance, Taylor Swift often gives fans advance access to her music tracks or music videos before they reach the public. And companies are starting to use this tool. For example, Procter & Gamble offered advance access to Pantene for its fans before the product was sold in stores.
  • Host a contest. The Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts a contest on its Facebook page. People who like the page are entered into the contest and have a chance to win two tickets for a hot air balloon ride during the famous Balloon Festival. And Dunkin’ Donuts is using its contest not only to build its fan base, but to attract other fans. Contestants upload a video showing how much Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee means to them. Winners get a trip to Costa Rica or a year’s supply of the coffee delivered to their homes. The contest encourages Facebook users to like Dunkin’ Donuts, and the contestants encourage their friends to like the brand to be able to vote for their videos and win the contest.

Simply said, likes on Facebook encourage meaningful engagement with your brand. Just make sure you understand how to generate them appropriately.

Creating Luxury Tribes with Communication and Social Networks

By Berenice Ring, Professor at Fundação Getulio Vargas

Aston Martin has a dealership at São Paulo’s trendy Avenida Europa. Lamborghini has one as well. Office space in that avenue does not come cheap, and the rent per square foot is almost nonsensical. Yet these stores are neither small nor modest.

Since October 2009, 17 Lamborghinis have been sold in Brazil for an average price of R$1.6 million (± US$950,000). Surely, to sell 17 units of a vehicle aimed at such a select audience, none of these brands would need to invest in a showroom. They could easily locate their prospective clients and contact them directly.

Why then does Lamborghini keep this amazing store and engage in social media to interact with its fans? And why is it always present at exhibitions like the São Paulo Auto Show, where visitors come in all sizes and shapes except that of buyers of their cars? Why does it invest in communication?

To win a special place in the minds and hearts of their audiences, luxury brands must be admired by their customers and potential buyers. But they also must be desired and have their value acknowledged by those who cannot buy their products—the brand fans who visit the store at night and covet the car through the store window, who create communities on Facebook and post comments on Twitter, and who form long queues at the Auto Show to see the brand’s latest model. These fans help to establish the throne from where brands such as Lamborghini will reign for the few. This is the principle of exclusivity.

Through communication and social networks, luxury brands like Lamborghini disseminate their dream and their magic—and create aspirations. They enable the “sense of belonging,” brokering relationships between people who would never meet otherwise and making it possible for them to feel connected.

This dynamic engenders very clear perceptions. Buying a Lamborghini gives the owner much more than the thrill of accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in 3.4 seconds. The machine comes bundled with a whole set of meanings. Prestige is the first item in the package. The buyer becomes part of an extremely select tribe, recognized not only by their peers but also by those will never be part of it.

A taste for speed, sporty style, and bold design is ingrained in the imagination of the brand’s ambassadors, whether they are owners who take their machines for a ride on weekends or fans who collect photos on the walls of their homes. Lamborghini’s brand manager understands that well. Aston Martin’s does, too. And so do most well-managed luxury brands.

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

By Aaron Strout, Chief Marketing Officer at Powered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integrating Social Media with Mobile Marketing

By Shelly Lipton, Chief GrownUp at GrownUp Marketing

Traditional advertising channels—including print, broadcast, and online display ads—are perfect places for prompting users to text a keyword to an advertiser’s code in order to enter a sweepstakes or receive a discount coupon. This has been the foundation of mobile marketing since its infancy, but today’s savvy marketers are beginning to realize that social networking via channels like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube can spread the word even faster and more effectively.

Mobile marketing—interactive, real-time messages sent to consumers via their mobile devices—has taken its place as the advertising world’s “third screen” (in addition to television and computer monitors), and the promotional potential is unlimited. With mobile’s appealing “act now” incentives, consumers can do most of the legwork by sharing the information with their friends via their social media networks to enable an advertiser’s mobile campaign to go viral.

Here’s a sample scenario of how it might work: A national pizza chain launches a mobile marketing campaign to offer a “buy one, get one free” coupon. The company is already running TV spots and targeted online display ads to drive awareness and interest in the promotion. With the help of its ad agency, a message will be added to the TV spot that says, “Text TWOPIZZAS to code 74642 to receive a two-for-one coupon for a large pizza!” Consumers who see these ads will text the keyword and receive, via their cell phones, a digital coupon that can be redeemed at the local pizza store in their area.

Here’s where social media comes into the mix. If it’s a strong enough offer, a consumer will tell his or her friends on Facebook and Twitter that the local pizza place is offering a great deal. Those friends will tell their friends, and so on. They’ll all end up on the pizza place’s Facebook page, where they can find other share-worthy discount coupons.

According to a March 2010 article in Mobile Marketer, access to Facebook via mobile browsers grew 112 percent in the past year, while Twitter experienced a 347 percent jump, according to research by comScore. In the same article, comScore’s Director of Industry Analysis Andrew Lipsman was quoted as saying, “I think the key finding is that there appears to be a natural synergy between social media and the mobile platform. That we’ve seen such dramatic growth on Facebook and Twitter via mobile browsers is testament to this fact.”

It’s clear to both experts and observers that mobile marketing and social media are growing up together. Millennial Media’s S.M.A.R.T. Report for April 2010 revealed that social media represents 11 percent of all campaign actions on its network. And according to eMarketer in March 2010, 650 million people globally are using their smartphones for tasks such as e-mail and social networking.

With purchases of goods and services via mobile devices expected to reach $200 billion in 2012 (double what it is today), the linking of mobile marketing and social media is a marriage made on Madison Avenue.

Is Farming Out Selling Out?

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

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

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

What You Should Farm Out

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

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

What You Should Keep Within Your Company

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

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

The Importance of Strategy and Relationships

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

Social Media Strategy Unclear to Marketers

By Diane Meyer, Owner of Marketing by DM

We’re hearing it over and over again from marketers. They’re saying, “I’ve sat down through so many Webinars on social media, and they’re all telling us to develop a strategy, but what is that strategy?” Well, we’ve heard you, but now we’re listening.

There have been several leaders who have addressed this recently, such as a story by @eMarketer entitled, “What Makes Up a Social Marketing Strategy?” Quality content here. Definitely save this as a favorite. I would like to take a different approach, however, to help those that seem to struggle with integrating social media in their marketing mix.

Let’s focus in on Twitter. If you don’t understand Twitter, you cannot possibly develop a strategy. As an example, I don’t know how to play chess, so how would I be able to strategize a move that is beneficial to me? Going nowhere is not an option and quite boring. In fact, I wouldn’t hold my own attention, much less anyone else’s.

Some of you may relate better to football. First, you have to really understand the game. I actually do and certainly get it when Penn State wins. Then your coach (Twitter) can guide you (football) toward your goal (whatever you decide that to be). Setting a goal may be to connect to like-minded business executives, marketers, and/or owners so that you can stay abreast of what is happening in your industry.

You must engage everyone on your team (those you follow) in order to reach your goal. Just throwing out the football (your tweets) will leave everyone cold, bored, and unengaged. They may even quit your team (unfollow you). Know what others are doing, saying, and care about, and be courteous as though you were having a discussion in person. Choose your words wisely. This is even more important than in person.

Your goal may become very different than what it was months ago. Last August, my objective was only to learn everything I could about Twitter through the sharing of links and information from SEOs, CEOs, and marketing leaders I was following. Starting with just 30 people to follow was a choice I made so that I could keep up. I didn’t even start contributing to the communication stream until after one month. More than a year later, I’m now ready to develop a strategy that is best for me.

Depending on your goals, type of business, and who you wish to reach, you will have to decide in which social media service you invest most of your time. My recommendation would be to have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, but not necessarily in equal parts. Hopefully, your marketing mix already includes advertising, publicity, public relations, promotions, and sales. You will now add social media.

It is unfortunate if we view ROI only as dollars in return. For example, I like to think that my investment of time in Twitter results in ROE (return on energy). The energy I put into it comes right back to me ten-fold or a hundred-fold from some of the best of the best in the social media community. How do you attach a number that?

Have you reached a stumbling block on the strategy for your social media presence? Have you integrated Twitter or some other social media service into your marketing mix? Are you still confused? Should the goal always be dollars and cents?

LinkedIn: How to Properly Plant It into Your Social Media Marketing Landscape

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

LinkedIn is just one of a myriad of popular tools available in today’s rapidly growing and evolving social media world. So how do you justify the effort required to sow and nurture your presence on LinkedIn, especially the time and resources that could be invested elsewhere?

Lewis Howes (LinkedIn and Twitter) is a noted social media speaker and entrepreneur and co-author of the book, LinkedIn Working: Generating Success on the World’s Largest Professional Networking Web Site. Lewis thinks there a number of good reasons for putting down some of your social media marketing roots around LinkedIn. “With more than $109,000 as the average household income per user on LinkedIn (a far greater average than Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or the other popular social networking sites) and close to 45% of its members being business decision makers (versus 25-29% on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace), LinkedIn really is the place to be,” says Lewis. “It’s a great tool that can help you generate more leads and sales, drive traffic to your Web site, attract investors, control your personal brand, find your dream job or freelancing gigs, locate the right employees, build your database, get free PR, and position yourself or your company as a thought leader.”

But even if you agree that LinkedIn needs to be a focus for you or your company, how do you create a successful, impactful profile that will attract the right people and help accomplish your social media marketing goals?

Viveka von Rosen (LinkedIn and Twitter) is a successful entrepreneur, nationally renowned IA-certified LinkedIn trainer, and popular social media speaker. She is also the principal at Linked Into Business. Viveka teaches her clients and audiences that success on LinkedIn depends on several key actions. “Treat your LinkedIn profile like a Web site, and make sure it’s formatted, clean, and most importantly, filled with search engine-friendly keywords,” Viveka suggests. “Join strategically selected LinkedIn groups, and then invite members of those groups to join your network. You might even consider creating your own group. Then fill it with interesting and relevant information.”

Social Media Delivered, one of the largest and most respected social media optimization companies worldwide, is led by CEO Eve Orsburn (LinkedIn and Twitter). Eve believes that LinkedIn is a necessary component of any successful social media marketing strategy, especially in the business-to-business realm. “LinkedIn is the largest professional networking Web site in the world, with more than 65 million members,” Eve notes. “It’s also the most affluent social media tool and is ideal for reaching prospects in the B2B world, finding a job, obtaining venture capital, forming business partnerships, and growing your business.”

In the final analysis, it’s all about results. With the right strategy, tactics, and mindset, LinkedIn will quickly become an important part of your social media marketing landscape and will grow stronger and stronger over time, delivering measurable, repeatable results. This is especially true if you keep in mind the primary rules of social media: listen and learn first, share your knowledge, add value, always be authentic, and help others before you ask for help. On a related note, Viveka adds, “Remember to ‘give to’ more than you try and ‘get from’ other LinkedIn members. That’s the most important key to success.”

Social Media Marketing: So Much More than Tools

By Frank Reed, Principal of Frank Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Trenches: The Reality of Social Media for Business

By Amy Howell, CEO of Howell Marketing Strategies

2009 will be viewed as the year that the social media tidal wave hit, taking most businesses by surprise. But 2010 rings in promising new opportunities, more optimism in the economy, increased advances in technology, and with it, increased focus on digital marketing and social media marketing for most businesses.

In social media, like anything else, practice and learning by doing makes us better. We learn from mistakes and get better as we go—just like surfing. Kudos go out to those individuals and organizations who grabbed their boards, jumped in, and attempted riding this dynamic, changing wave.

According to MediaPost, 2010 will be the year of reckoning for marketers and social media. Forrester Research released a list in December 2009 predicting that companies will create cross-functional teams aimed at sharing ideas about social media and will get serious about budgets, efforts, and policies. The report also suggests that an “increasing number of marketers will adopt listening platforms to monitor social media.” A lot has been published online recently about predictions, trends, and stats, so I won’t repeat it all here, but it’s out there—just Google it!

So here’s the question: Boil all of this down, and what does social media really mean for businesses? As the owner of a PR and marketing firm, I have daily contact with every client of our firm, and many are still asking, “What does social media have to do with our business?” My response: Everything or nothing. We have advanced some clients’ strategies and have been able to point to some revenue generation due to social media engagement. And that is the key: engagement.

Social media itself is not a strategy. Success means using social media strategies to drive traffic to businesses to create opportunities, develop relationships (human interaction), and generate sales that actualize revenue. So from the daily trenches, here are some of my experiences that I share, hoping they are helpful.

  • Expect and anticipate the continued debate over social media ROI, especially for small businesses. We hear a lot about large corporate users, but remember that they have the resources (both human and financial) to use social media. The irony here is that the smaller the organization, the better the results (and speed to market) of the campaign. So if you are a small business, that means you have really big opportunities. Large companies are often too bureaucratic and political to agree, collaborate, and move quickly, and some spend too much time letting lawyers and HR dictate strategy (which is not the right way to do it, in my opinion).
  • View social media as a positive for your business! It’s giving us access like never before. You can ask a question on Twitter, for example, and get great advice and answers from some of the most brilliant people in the world. How cool is that? If you use Twitter correctly, you don’t need a research assistant.
  • Use traditional marketing planning to mirror key social media strategies. Social media is not an alternative to traditional marketing but a vehicle to advance what’s always worked. Get your plan together, focus on creative ways to market your business (generate revenue), and then apply the appropriate social media strategies to the plan. Budget for the time—and the resources—it will take to implement social media strategies. That can be a challenge for small companies, yet the rewards are far too promising.
  • Establish a corporate policy based on the appropriate culture, goals, and objectives of your organization. The best policies are the simple ones, and getting key players in the business together on the same page when it comes to social media is critical. Social media will fail if the stakeholders and/or owners don’t agree. For example, Kodak has one of the best social media tips and policies document I have seen. It’s brief, straightforward, and there is no way you can misinterpret its intent.
  • One of the most important issues to consider when applying social media strategies is the value of communication. Never in the history of business has it been so easy and efficient to communicate with mass amounts of people (customers, potential customers, the media, etc). What price can you put on that?
  • Pick your social media channel. The main channels and tools for businesses will be Web sites, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. There are certain strategies appropriate for certain vehicles.
  • If nothing else, listen and learn! Use social media as a way to monitor what is happening and take advantage of information. For example, Twitter is a great way to listen and monitor due to its real-time search feature.

Never in my 25 years in corporate marketing has there been this much excitement, and 2010 will be the year for organizations to realize actual revenue for their social media efforts.