Social media is free…but I’m not

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It’s been one of those days… so I’m going to allow myself just a wee bit of time before I snap out of it.  I’m going to vent. It started this morning when I heard back from a prospective client who liked the 5 page social media strategy overview document but…

The “but” was they wanted more specific details on what I was going to do. I told them that I would give them the specifics in time. but that I thought that it was important that they understand the how and the why before we got into the how to and the what for. I did this because we’re talking about a client that knows virtually nothing about social media.

If I would have given them the latter, 2 things would have happened. 1)  It would have been so over their head that they would have not understood and probably bailed and or 2) Believe it or not, they could take the document and either try and implement it themselves, or use it as a blueprint with another company and leverage their new found knowledge. You might not think that happens, but it does, as well as some other things  Why?

The ease of entry into social media is less than zero. I can sign up for a majority of social networks in less than a minute. I can create social profiles in less time. So the assumption with a lot of companies and people is, “What is so hard about being social”? or creating a Facebook page, or a Twitter profile?and you know what? They are right. It’s easy.

Boom.

The thinking is really as simple as the majority of social interfaces that you see. Just create a profile and now you’re part of the social media revolution. You don’t need a consultant or a company to tell you how to do this. It’s easy. Plus there’s all of these killer blogs and sites with free information on social media, all these free tools, you can just figure all of it out on your own.

Sure. You can figure it out until it falls flat and you have one comment on your blog post. You have 19 registered members in your community, or you have 5,000 followers and you’re  following 5,000 but you have 111 tweets and zero conversations. Or maybe that Facebook page of yours has 56 fans but is doing nothing else. Or the YouTube video you made, has driven approximately 24 views.  When stuff is free, you get what you paid for.

There are some seriously smart people in this space. I value what they do and say and we value what we do and say, and we value what we create. But we also are working for a living. As much as we would like to give it away, we can’t. As it stands, the majority of people in this space, give away a lot. In fact, the amount of time that a lot of the social media marketing people that I know, give away, is extreme.  In terms of amounts of their time and resources-there is not a more giving  bunch. That’s the essence of social media.

But… at the end of the day, bills have to be paid and you’re going to have to take that leap of faith.

I’m done venting.

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How to strike the balance between your blog and Twitter

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Do you feel like Twitter is stealing the oomph from your blog? That you don’t blog as much as you used to? Yea me too. A lot of good topics get thrown under the 140 character bus in the form of epiphany like sound bites. So what do you do about it? How are you striking the balance between the 2? Are you on a schedule? Do you tweet at certain times?

How do you decide when to save that mind blowing tweet for a full blown blog post?

I used to blog every day, and now? 3 times a week. However there are days that I might write 3 blog posts in one day. Is that you? Here’s what might work for you. Because though I may be only blogging 3 times a week, I’m getting my source material from Twitter.

So though Twitter might be stealing some of my thunder, it is also creating the lightning for my blog posts.

Use Twitter as your source and inspiration for topics.

The real trick though, as has just been pointed out to me by@newjerseyliz, is how do you manage to read tweets, respond to tweets, read blog posts and respond to blog posts and write your own blog posts? And do it consistently. That’s why my Twitter network has evolved into my own personal RSS filter of what I should read. Maybe yours should too? Tell me what’s working for you.

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10 Blended Social Media Marketing Strategies A Company Might Want To Consider

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We have been talking a lot lately about… talking. When we should be doing a lot more… doing. So the thought for this post, interestingly enough, bubbled up from a client request, that I should supply a document that mapped out the ways that you can blend social media into your marketing mix. So what I’ve done is supplied the tool or the platform, how I used it, what was the time suck and what were the results. Hopefully this will shed a little light on what the heck we’re doing and why we talk about it so much. Keep in mind one thing though- I do not get into the number of hours I put into meetings, documents, strategy docs, client objectives, client objections, proposals, pitches, the number of clients I pitched, the number of proposals rejected, the number of times I’ve been told that it doesn’t work, the number of times there is no response and the number of times I’ve educated the client and then have had them put into action on their own, what I have told them they need to do and why they should use us…So this is also for them. If you’re going to do it, at least do it with some knowledge of what you’re doing!

1)      Twitter. You’ve heard of Twitter but why use it? Twitter helps you monitor conversations about anything that might be relevant to you and your company. You don’t even have to actively participate to monitor it.

Time suck rating: Depending on how much you want to monitor and participate. Give it a rating of 5/10

Use case: Created structured conversations around hashtag to create community, market under the radar, build credibility and lead source. Monitor clients,products,industry,city,state,region. Ex: hashtagsocialmedia.com

2)      Search is not going away soon. Universal search is looming larger and larger by the day. Universal search blends listings from news, video, images, local and book search engines as well as social media elements compiled from Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, and YouTube. By understanding the value of Search and it how it plays into the overall strategy of your company and it’s goals and objectives, the better you will understand the importance of having more than just a “cup of coffee” type of presence with each of the above listed elements and sites. There is such a direct correlation between search and everything that people do on a day to day basis that to underestimate or devalue it is a grave mistake.

Time suck rating: Extensive. 9/10

Use case: Created reputation management program built on all elements of search using Flickr micro-websites, robust white hat SEO tactics and product specific blog sites. Results were reduction in negative websites and mentions. Increase in traffic and visibility.

3)      Social Bookmarking– In recent years, social bookmarking has become more sophisticated, somewhat diminished and yet no less important. Important to what? Social bookmarking adds a great deal of efficiency to your searches-That’s right, SEARCH, for useful information on the web. That information will be about you and your company. Not only are resources easier to find, but your company is easier to find as well. This means additional promotional opportunities for you and your brand by being able to better target people who will be interested in what your company is about. Example sites of Social bookmarking are Digg and StumbleUpon and Delcio.us

Time suck rating: Not bad 3/10

Use case: Created corporate profiles on the top social bookmarking sites, seeded each site every day with a new blog post or link revolving around relevant product, service, company, or industry. Resulting in hundreds of links, tags and bookmarks relating back to corporate and product. Results were seen in less than 6 months in the SERPS.

4)      YouTube-Video is permeating our lives. It had been for awhile, but we just didn’t call it video, we called it TV or we called it,”the movies”. Today we call it online video. You don’t have to look farther than YouTube, and Hulu to see the value of it. But did you know how much video is tied into search? That’s right we’re back to search again. As another channel to push out content you’ve created, which search engines love, to tag that content, which search engines devour, and to find ways for others to take your content and embed it on their sites perhaps, means that video is a perfect vehicle to take your message further than any other content that you might have, short of a widget. What does it require? A $30 webcam and some creativity.  The payoff? The chance that your content can go viral. Example: Musician hoping to get a million views in one year of his music video appeal to United airlines about his damaged guitar-gets 4.5 million in less than a month.

Time suck rating: Pretty easy 4.5/10

Use case: Created and embedded Youtube videos on client site and blog with relevant  tags and keywords resulting in continuous and steady traffic every day to blog site. Blog site links back to product site resulting in sales growth of 11% directly attributable to video.

5)      Flickr– We all have cameras embedded in our phones now right? Digital cameras are dirt cheap and you have products, employees, conferences, meetings and content just waiting to be tagged and… searched upon. Understand this, “every digitized element that you have in house, now has the potential to be searched upon”!. What makes that point more important and relevant, is that there are now more social sites than ever before to accommodate and house those elements. For what it’s worth, and or until the top SE’s change their algorithm, there is a very strong tie between search and social networks. Which means that your Flickr photos and their associated tags, will show up in image searches as well in some standard searches. What does this mean to you? A chance to push out more content about you and your company…Again.  Requirements? Your ability to understand the upload function of social sites and how to manipulate and tag your pics.

Time suck rating: Nominal 5/10

Use Case: Created  Flickr product accounts for CPG’s with relevant tags and keywords all pointing back to product/e-commerce page as well as to customer forum; and additionally corp. blog site. Results were direct and indirect traffic, as well as image sharing requests with requisite track backs to product and growth in the SERP’s.

6) Facebook– Facebook cannot be ignored. Does this mean that it becomes the primary focus of your organization? Not necessarily. But Facebook fan pages are a great way to market to people that are not registered with Facebook. Which means that fan pages are indexable. i.e. show up in search! The difference between fan pages and group pages are that with fan pages they are, for the most part, better for a long-term engagement with your fans, brand champions, and customers because the barrier for entry is low and the ability to push out information is real time and quick and easy to manage. Group pages are generally better for attracting quick attention but can be tough to sustain, though group members have the potential to become recruiters of the group site and can take it viral quick.. The requirements? Some type of comfort level of the tools, bells, whistles and apps available for the administrators; as well as and this important to note: The Privacy settings. FYI read them and understand them.

Time suck rating: Above average 6.5/10

Use case: Created fan page and group page sites for CPG, and Twitter site, which resulted in ongoing growing list of targeted brand champions, evangelists and new customers, as well as placeholder for announcements, offers and polling and 2-way messaging.

7)      LinkedIn– Personally speaking, not only should each person within yours or any organization have a Linkedin profile, but even from a professional standpoint as well. What can you do with Linkedin? You can, in short order, join thousands of groups and associations, ask and answer questions associated with you and what your company does, create your own group or organization, find people and groups that do what you and your company do, and link to them and research the people or company that you are getting ready to hire or work with. If they are not on Linkedin. It is now an immediate red flag. The requirements: A little time to set up.

Time suck rating: Below average 3/10

Use case: Created interactive Q and A series resulting in  corporate branding exposure, development of database of contacts, companies and potential partners. Also created Linkedin group resulting in over 300+ contacts.

8)      Blogs– Don’t think their importance is diminishing just because of the advent of micro-blogs. They are still very relevant, very link friendly and can be integral to the success of some organizations. As well, they are not just place holders for the written word. They can now hold video, audio, podcasts, images, widgets and more.

Time suck rating: Blogging can be somewhat time intensive if the intent is to create another relevant, visible, and valuable vehicle for your message: 7/10

Use case: Created multiple corporate blogs to create 2 way conversation between customers and company, push down negative press and improve a tarnished corporate image as well as criticism stemming from negative public sentiment. Also created CPG blog to support product launches, latest consumer information as well as provide tips, links and resources to consumers and tire kickers.

9)      Microsite development– Developing small relevant websites that revolve around your products, your company and your keywords is a great way to drive links, push out content and otherwise add to the search results for your product or company. They don’t need to be robust. They can be text heavy, link heavy or even video heavy, but creating content laden sites is a way to not only you’re your main site, but also as a way to amplify your message. If you are adept at HTML or if you prefer to use a CMS to fire up your micro-sites, either way is effective.

Time suck rating: Fairly laborious on the front end 7/10

Use case: Able to create multiple micro-sites for multiple clients resulting in positive search results, reputation management success and increased product and customer awareness as well as positive SERP results.

Note: Short of coining a new phrase I decided to call this blurb “macroblogging.” Twitter is called microblogging and the next step up would be these next 2 sites. Tumblr and Posterous. These 2 platforms are redefining what it means to blog. What these 2 sites/platforms are providing is a more, if that is possible, streamlined way to push out content to the masses in lieu of using a traditional blogging platform like wordpress or typepad. The upside? You guess it, search. They are simple to fire up and easy to Market, share and build. I have not yet used them extensively to provide a use case.

10) Community development- A number of years ago I started an online community to support a very popular consumer product at the time. To me it just made sense from a communication standpoint. It also made sense because we had a built in sounding board for new product releases, customer support and polls. Not only was the community an immediate success, it gave us insight into our typical customer’s mindset. We were able to test and float ideas before we took products to market. For the people of the community, all who were very passionate about the product, it gave them a place to hang out and bond. I’m not saying all products have that potential but there are numerous ways to create online communities around your brand champions and evangelists and customer service initiatives. They can be done via Facebook groups, Ning, Groupsite, Google groups and half a dozen template based sites.

Time suck rating: Can get labor intensive 8.5/10

Use case: Built, managed and recruited online community to support CPG. At its peak, it had 5,000 members contributing hundreds of posts and comments per day.

So as you can see from this list, these are only 10 scenarios of what has worked for me. There are other smaller examples that I have employed with a minor degree of marketing and branding success from podcasting, creating a nationally recognized personal blog, co-authoring a book, creating successful email campaigns, and personally building close to a 100 web sites. But let me reiterate This is what has worked and works for me when working with clients. I am comfortable with these 10 activities and their associated tools.  I know there are more, and I’m learning more as I go, but I thought I should share what has worked for me so that others might learn as well. If you want to specifically explain how to do it, let me know and we’ll go from there!

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Hey marketers, what can one person do?

I have conversations every day about brand champions, leaders within communities, word of mouth marketing and  how some things can go viral. During yesterday’s Hashtagsocialmedia chat with host Rachel Happe, someone used this video as an example of a Flash Mob within a community. Watch this video. It is a perfect example of  how a) one person can make a difference and b) how viral things can quickly become.

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ROI-Return On Influence

Earlier this week on Twitter I got into a back and forth discussion on whether Influence could be measured with Niall Cook. Niall essentially says that:

I am reaching the conclusion that influence cannot be measured, and thus is a futile metric for exploration.

Though this may end up being a chicken versus the egg type of discussion, I decided to throw up some visual representations of my thoughts on the matter and have some fun with it. Here are Niall’s thoughts on the topic: Social Media influence cannot be measured. One issue- there is a bit of a difference between social media influence and influence… Or is there? What are your thoughts?

Don’t Blame Social Media

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I was reading an editorial by Jonah Bloom of Adage titled, “In a crisis, don’t get too distracted by Twitterati” in which he essentially says that social media people are the one’s that fuel the fire when brands screw up.

To which I might say, “What’s wrong with that”?

In the social media sphere, yes the mob mentality does it exist. And when things go awry for brands, bloggers and the Twitterati alike, will flock to the subject and beat it to death- points taken and noted. I get that.

But…

Saying that  Brand marketers can’t respond to the Twitterati and or bloggers “because of the incredulity and self importance of their wailing”, couldn’t be further from the point.

The problem is, brands are afraid to engage. They are afraid of putting a face to the brand, and they drag their feet. When in actuality they have the perfect vehicle to be proactive-social media. But instead they are still sitting around deciding whether they want to engage their users/consumers using social media.

What are you waiting on? A crisis?

Don’t blame the promoters and champions of social media for the mistakes that a brand makes. And don’t blame them for the mistakes that a brand continues to make after the fact.

Social media pundits, champions and promoters are just as quick to ask why a brand has not done something, as they are to point out when a brand does something great as well. In fact Peter Kim provides a huge list of companies enagaged in some aspect of social media. A positive.

Beth Harte just did an awesome post on a Dominos franchise that’s getting it right…another positive.

But I suppose that get’s overlooked since it’s an inconvenient truth.

Monologues to Dialogues

How many people sell first and then try and get to know the customer later? Not many. In the halls of social media, the same holds true. If we look at Twitter and Blogging as 2 very prime and very visible examples-the best way to market yourself or a product is to get to know the people that you might want to sell or market to FIRST.

But there’s one catch, actually two…

First, If you are blogging- sure you could write a great post with a great hook, but unless you are doing some serious social posting of that post-no one is going to read it unless..You make and take the time to visit other blogs and get to know the writer and comment on that writer’s post, and develop a dialogue and a relationship with that blogger. As a blogger- You need to change your monologue to a dialogue.

Second, If you are on Twitter, the following occurs whether you realize it or not. This is how your relationships start. They start with you and your effort.

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But it ultimately  will end up like this.

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You, in the middle of a whole lot of conversations. What you need to decide is how are you going to “manage” that noise. Why? If we have a one on one conversation, you have my undivided attention. Add another person, and now my attention has been divided, add another, divide again, and so on and so forth. Until ultimately you are essentially having conversations with 10%-20% of the people you either follow or that follow you.

Think about that. If I follow 100 and 100 follow me- At any point in time I may have conversations with only 10-15% of those people. Conversations consisting of more than one tweet between us. If that’s the number I have to work with- shouldn’t I try to make the best of those interactions? Shouldn’t you? Quit tweeting about nothing.

Monologues to Dialogues.

Transparency-Where are you drawing the line?

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Susan (Kang) Nam, aka @pinkolivefamily in Twitter asked the following question late today on Twitter: Point of transparency = where do u draw ur line? I said, The line has been drawn in the sand.  It’s changing fast.  Don’t believe me? Read David Armano’s latest post.

The beauty and sadness of social media

This week for me brought to light what makes social media so great. But conversely, it also showed me or allowed me to share in the pain and sadness of the passing away of someone who made a difference in the lives of many.

Andrew Bourland, the co-founder of ClickZ passed away this week  after battling cardiomyopathy, a form of heart disease.

Bourland was also the former publisher and CEO of ClickZ.  In 1997, He and Ann Handley, founded ClickZ  to cover the Internet advertising and marketing sector.

Andrew Bourland also had Bourland.com, his blog where he covered everything from blogging and email marketing to video marketing and viral advertising.   But back in November, he did something amazing; similar to Randy Pausch he used his blog to announce that his heart condition was worsening, stemming from having radiation treatments to treat testicular cancer many years before, and that he wasn’t sure how much longer he might have.

He subsequently had posts from him, his brother and his wife, who all chronicled his remaining time with family and friends and loved ones.

It was painful, it was joyful, it made me cry, it made me smile;  but most of all, it dawned on me that this very private time was there to be shared by anyone and everyone. Social media, specifically this blog, had allowed us to share in the life and times of Andrew Bourland.  Andrew Bourland and his family had allowed it. They let us in. For me, these are truly amazing times. Thank you for that Andrew.