What’s New and Interesting in Social Media

Here are some viewpoints to start off your week:

6 Corporate Pioneers in the Social Media Space

Revolutions in social media continue to stir evolutions in corporate customer engagement. As with any change in business processes, there are those who become champions of the newest strategies and tactics while others suffer missteps trying to adjust to new paradigms.

One of the first questions from anyone hesitant to engage in social media is what return on investment they can expect. This week’s Six @ Six highlights six companies leading the way in positive social media engagement. These industry leaders have created interactive and fully integrated online experiences that reach new audiences and generate excitement among supporters…

(Read more at Six @ Six)

How Social Media is Changing the 2010 Grammys

On Sunday January 31, 2010, the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards will air live on CBS. Mashable founder Pete Cashmore will be at the ceremony (lucky dog!) but even for those of us watching at home, the Recording Academy has taken great strides to make this year’s ceremony more interactive and fan-centric than ever before.

The Academy has also embraced social media for the 2010 Grammys, big time. We had a chance to talk to the RA about the move toward social media, the challenges associated with the transition and the response from the fans, artists and other Academy members…

(Read more at Mashable)

Top 8 Ways to Use Social Media

Here’s a great video by Lewis Howes on how companies should use social media. In less than six minutes, you can learn the elements of good social-media practices.

(Read more at AllTop)

Customer Experience More Important than Ever

The sum of all experiences you have with a brand is part of marketing. There is a lot of really good research on this topic.

While in the boom years many companies focused on acquiring new customers with a churn and burn mindset, many are now coming to the realization that there are only a finite number of prospects out there — many of them are their current customers.

You read that right. Often you will know a customer is exploring other services, you may learn they are by tracking their browsing habits on your site.

However, if you haven’t cultivated a good relationship with them, they won’t buy from you. Part of the good relationship is the ease with which they can do business with you. Would they recommend you to someone else? More importantly, would they buy more from you themselves?

(Read more at Conversation Agent)

What Social Followers Want

Deals aren’t the only thing

Brand marketers want consumers to follow them to build buzz and engagement, but social media users often desire something in return. What they’ve come to expect is a good deal, but many consumers—including the most active users of social sites—are also interested in deeper engagement.

A December 2009 MarketingSherpa survey indicated that learning about specials and sales was the top motivation of those who friended or followed a brand online, supporting the results of earlier surveys. But looking for savings was followed closely by learning about new products, features or services…

(Read more at eMarketer)

Conan’s Good-bye: 10 of 10 in Leadership, Reputation, and Community

A Lesson in Reputation Management

At a time that anyone serving the public is aware of the importance of brand and reputation management. It’s still rare to see a fine example of a response to a tough situation that shows authentic, human leadership. The recent NBC / Conan O’Brien situation had so much press that millions of people were following it.

Conan O’Brien’s farewell came after what could be called an unseating, what may have felt a betrayal. His final good-bye was televised. How would he communicate with grace and dignity when a crowds of fans and lawyers are looking at him to recognize what’s been?

(Read more at Liz Strauss at Successful Blog)

Social Media – Give It Some Time!

When talking to clients about social media and its effects on increasing sales of their products and increasing traffic to their site, the most asked, common question is: “That’s great — but what will social media do for us? Show me the money!” — and their point is rightfully valid. For those who still don’t quite understand the long-term effects that social media has on their company, it is rather difficult for them to understand the true purpose for setting aside a budget directly for social media, as they don’t see the monetary effects and gains that social media has on their organization. Even for those few who do understand the purpose for utilizing social media tools,  tracking monetary gains and effectiveness of social media it is still not an easy concept to grasp…

(Read more at Blonde 2.0)


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12 Social Media Marketing Myths

For brands, resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people create content for the social Web on a daily basis. Your customers have been using it for a long time. Your competitors have embraced it. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it should be.

But there are some recurring fallacies and misconceptions out there. Many companies are finding that these tools don’t live up to the hype, especially small businesses. There are a lot of challenges that aren’t immediately apparent. Are you considering Twitter, Facebook, et al as part of your marketing plan? Before you jump in, keep these myths in mind:

  1. Social media is cheap or free. Yes, many social media tools are free to use, including Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, the social network building tool Ning, and content aggregators like StumbleUpon and Digg. There are many free blogging tools, too, like WordPress, Blogger, FriendFeed, and Twitter. But incorporating them into a corporate marketing program requires time, skill, and money.
  2. You can make a big splash really quickly. Sure, sometimes this happens. Social media is great if you’re already a star, but there really isn’t any such thing as an overnight sensation. For example, tweets can drive traffic to articles, Web sites, Facebook pages, contests, apps, videos, etc. — this is easier if your audience already cares about your brand or if you have a truly original product or idea that excites people to the extent that they want to share with their friends. But it takes a lot of time and dedication to keep your content fresh.
  3. You need to be on all the big sites. Most brands that have succeeded with social media sites generally focus on just a few of them. Just because the media says it’s cool to tweet doesn’t mean it has anything to do with your business. If you plan to frequent social networks, don’t spread yourself too thin. The companies that choose their weapons wisely and give it their all are the ones that succeed in the social space.
  4. If you create something that’s great, people will find it. How’s that supposed to happen? Unless you can drive traffic to your social media effort, it’s akin to a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it. Many tools can drive traffic, including Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, blogs, and SEO, but word of mouth trumps them all  — one friend telling another, “Hey, check this out!” is very powerful.
  5. It’s for kids. Contrary to the perception that social media is for tweens, teens, and 20-somethings, older demographics are rapidly evolving into this space. According to analysis by iStrategyLabs, Facebook experienced 276% growth in users aged 35-54 in 2009 and is its fastest growing segment.
  6. You can’t build quality relationships online. The thinking on this goes that it’s a waste of time connect with people online that you don’t know in real life — that it’s a pointless exercise that doesn’t lead to lasting relationships with your brand. It’s actually quite the opposite: Social media enables you to be face to face with your target audience. Even if they don’t turn into paying customers, you still gain valuable insight into what they think and what they react to.
  7. It gives away content and ideas you should be charging for. Simply put: The more you give, the more you receive in social media. You need to let go of the idea that all the content you produce is is proprietary, engage with your audience, and encourage them to share what you’ve created.
  8. It’s a fad. The drumbeat about social media has become deafening. Yet many marketers remain skeptical, hesitating to expand budgets and expend resources on a craze. But social media is a fundamental shift in communication — it isn’t just a new set of tools, but a new sphere of networking, communicating, living, and organizing. It has become intertwined in our lifestyles, so it’s here to stay.
  9. Anyone can do it. It sure sounds that way, doesn’t it? There are a lot of people, from whiz kids to more experienced marketers, who claim to be social media experts. Some even portray themselves as gurus. But how many of them have created successful social media initiatives for clients? To be effective, a campaign must integrate social elements into all aspects of marketing, including advertising, digital, and PR. Theory is no match for experience, and the best social media marketers now have years of experience incorporating interactivity, forums, viral video, apps, social networks, blogs, user-generated content, and contests into the marketing mix.
  10. It’s a cure-all. While social media is a great tool for online reputation management, it’s not a panacea. Don’t get so wrapped up in the concept of of the social Web that you ignore the other problems with your marketing strategy. Social media is another in a long list of tools you should leverage for brand messaging.
  11. You can do it all in-house. You need strategy, tools, contacts, and experience — a mixture not usually found in in-house teams, who are often tempted to use the wrong tools or to reinvent the wheel… which leads to (you guessed it) lousy results. How many in-house teams have the expertise to conceive and implement a social media campaign AND drive traffic to it via blog advertising, SEO, Twitter, etc.?
  12. Social marketing results can’t be measured. There are a variety of methods and tools you can use for this; I’ve covered some of them here and here, and more become available every day. You can monitor blog comments, mentions in the media, traffic stats, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, comments on your content, real-time blog advertising results, click-throughs to your Web site. The tools are out there, and the number of people who know how to aggregate and interpret the data is growing.

What other myths are out there about social media? What lessons have you learned as you’ve tried to get your arms around social engagement as a marketing tool?


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What Google’s Real-Time Search Means for Brands

Google recently announced a new search engine ingredient: Real-time search. In addition to traditional search results — Web pages, photos, videos, maps, blog posts, articles, and news stories — Google’s universal search now streams real-time results from Twitter and from public pages on MySpace, Facebook, and other sources.

Google’s real-time search is poised to have a significant effect on brands in the social media space. In the past, it may have taken several minutes for content to be indexed by the search engine. There’s no waiting period any more — the instant an item is posted and linked, it’s searchable via Google.

Here’s a quick demo video:

(If you can’t see the video, you can view it here.)

How Google’s real-time search impacts brands:

  • Every customer experience is public — and magnified. Everyone has the potential to be influential more than ever before. It doesn’t matter whether someone has thousands of Twitter followers or just a handful — they have the ability to impact the conversations around them, in real life and online. If a customer has a negative brand experience, they may vent to their friends and followers. Brands that are highly engaged in the social space will reach out. The brands that are not as engaged may let those issues linger and/or not even be aware that a problem exists.

This should be a wake-up call for brands vis a vis reputation management, since customer complaints can quickly become public. The issues that are communicated by customers are now searchable, and negative brand experiences may appear on the first page of a Google search for your company. Companies with a commitment to social media engagement, a solid digital PR strategy, and great customer service will reap long-term benefits.

  • Social media presences for brands and companies are now in the spotlight. Many companies are educating consumers, building relationships with their audiences, and being brand advocates in the social space. They are engaged in the conversation about their brand. Many other brands, though, are not engaging, whether it’s because they feel it’s too risky or because they lack expertise.

Companies of every size need to create an active presence on the social Web — it doesn’t make any difference if your social media monitoring efforts tell you that there are 9 or 900,000 relevant conversations each month about your brand, products, or employees. The more content a brand creates, the more frequently that content will appear in Google’s real-time search results. Your “social brand” is now front and center, with the potential to drive top-line results for people who are searching for your product. Maybe it’s time to rethink letting an intern manage your Facebook Page and corporate Twitter account.

  • Content will emerge  quickly through your audience. Remember that great viral video you created several years ago that you couldn’t get anybody to watch? It can now be found more easily.

A big part of social media planning revolves around content: What will your brand say, and when? How do your brand’s objectives inform the content of your YouTube channel? How will you promote your new Facebook contest? As brands work to develop sustainable content plans, it’s important that they keep their audience in mind — brands are dependent on them.

  • Search engine optimization (SEO) is now even more closely connected to social media. Up to now, SEO experts have been using social media like blog posts and YouTube content to drive organic search rankings, forge relationships, and generate backlinks. They’ve also been leveraging social bookmarking sites to drive traffic and links.

SEO will now play an even bigger role in real-time search. For example, hashtags will now appear in search results, and those tagged conversations can drive additional awareness and coverage of the tagged topic.

What other ways will Google’s real-time search impact brands? Please share your thoughts!

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6 Ways Social Media Can Enhance Your Business

Social media is the new face of the Web. Just as the Internet revolutionized information sharing during the 1990s, social media is radically altering how people communicate and share information today. If you want to succeed on the Web, a solid social network presence is required. Search engines like Bing and Google have recognized the power of social media, opting to include updates from Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites in their search results. Optimizing your business for social media is quickly becoming a must to gain top SEO ranking.

Here are some of the ways the power of social media can help your business:

  • Understand your audiences: Social media facilitates direct one-on-one interaction with your target audiences. This can help you better understand their needs, enabling you to develop more effective, targeted marketing strategies.
  • Enhance brand awareness: Social media can help you communicate your brand identity and create awareness among your audience. The more that people have a credible image of your brand, the more likely it is that they will keep your business top of mind when they evaluate products and make purchase decisions.
  • Promote your products and services via word of mouth: Social media is the new word-of-mouth marketing channel. Because of the personal nature of the communications between individuals, it’s generally true that product information communicated in this way has an added layer of credibility. If one happy customer makes a favorable comment about your company or its products and services, many other people will notice and are likely to share the information with others.
  • Keep your audiences up to date about your company: People probably don’t visit your Web site every day, but they definitely engage via their social networks on daily basis. To keep your audience updated about the latest events and happenings in your company, it’s important to make the information available on social networks in addition to updating the news/current events section of your Web site.
  • Manage your reputation: You can track social media channels to see what’s being said about your company and its products and nip potential problems in the bud. (See #2 in 5 Steps to Developing a Meaningful Social Media Strategy.) The nature of the back and forth dialogue on social networks enables you to engage and turn around negative reviews and comments — this communicates that you listen to your customers and value their input, and acts to enhance your reputatuion.
  • Share your content virally: When you share something on social networks, it’s not just your immediate connections who read it. If they like it, they will spread it to their networks as well, which increases your reach to a much larger audience. From sharing a link on Twitter, posting a a story of Facebook, or bookmarking on Digg, Delicious, or Reddit, social media has the power to spread your content on massive scale.

How are you using social media to enhance your business and drive its growth?

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5 Steps to Developing a Meaningful Social Media Strategy

Many businesses have yet to embrace social media. Why? For all its benefits — an inexpensive way to get the message out (and to more people),  improved branding and customer engagement, speed of feedback/results, etc. — it is very time-consuming. Unless you have a lot of hours to devote to it, or a designated employee, it can swallow you up without achieving any results.

Social Media Brand Engagement Curve
Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

Here are five steps to help you get going with a social media strategy:

1. Set Goals and Define Your Target Audience
You need a real understanding of what you want to accomplish and who you want to reach. The best strategy will come from clearly setting your goals. These might include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Managing your reputation
  • Improving your search rankings
  • Getting more relevant site visitors
  • Increasing sales

2. Listen to What People are Talking About
Find out who is saying what about your brand and where they are saying it. Here are some free tools that give visibility to conversations about your company or brand:

  • Google Alerts monitors millions of news sites and blogs. It’s easy to set up alerts for keywords that are important to your brand. You can choose to receive batched or streaming reports.
  • Alltop is an online news aggregator. It scans blogs, forums, and news sites  to  collect the headlines of the latest stories on a topic.
  • TweetDeck and Seesmic are desktop applications  that combine search with Facebook and Twitter monitoring. They are highly configurable, making it easy to track conversations and brand mentions.
  • BackType is a real-time, conversational search engine. It scans the Web to find out what  people are saying about topics and Web sites that interest you.
  • Monitter enables marketers to listen to the Twitter conversations taking place about their brand in real time. Enter the keywords you want to search, and all tweets with those keywords are at your fingertips.

3. Make Contact and Engage
You need to demonstrate your company’s commitment to developing online relationships. Go where your customers are — build a community on Twitter, create a Facebook page, comment on blogs, upload images to Flickr, create videos for YouTube — all to further the discussion and create positive WOM.

4. Use Offline Events to Support Your Online Community
Nothing beats face-to-face communication. You can build stronger relationships with your online community via trade shows and other offline events. Organize a Tweetup, offer a special session with your CEO, give exclusive access to new product launches, all to cement the bonds you’ve built with social media.

5. Measure Your Success
To begin measuring social media success, you need to answer some more questions:

  • Did we learn anything new about our customers?
  • Did our customers learn anything about us?
  • Were we able to engage our customers in new conversations?
  • Do our employees now have an effective way to monitor external feedback and reputation management?

Trendpedia is a blog search engine that enables tracking and graphing of topics and term comparison. It can help benchmark your company vs. your competitors by running the same search and parameters before and after the beginning of your engagement campaign.

Companies that embrace social media are reaping its rewards. By creating a dialogue with key stakeholders, they are able to get a better sense of how they are perceived by their target audiences, and their customers are empowered to talk with them, not at them. If implemented thoughtfully and correctly, this engagement can be instrumental in achieving your goals.

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