Browsing articles in "Social Media"

5 Tips for Better B2B Branding

Mar 26, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Thought Leadership  //  No Comments

Think branding only falls in the B2C court? Think again.

In fact, three of the top 10 brands in 2009, as ranked by Interbrand, generate a sizable amount of revenue from their B2B customers: IBM, Microsoft and GE.

As a B2B marketer your brand is your most valuable asset.

B2B branding is less about cool, hip monikers (the Apples and Starbucks of the world) – and more about thought leadership.

Particularly in down economies, B2B prospects and customers conduct significant research leading up to purchases. That means you as a marketer have to educate them early on, and establish your brand as a trusted resource that gets their problems and has the solution.

To help your organization be seen as the thought leader it is, we’ve identified five B2B branding tips:

1. Consistently produce useful, innovative content

These days, every company is essentially a media company. So it’s easier than ever to provide relevant, informative content for customers and prospects.

From a company blog to Twitter to YouTube, there is no end to the content channels available. Provide the latest industry news and insight on trends through:

  • Offering a white paper through an email marketing campaign
  • Creating videos and promoting through YouTube and on your web site
  • Conducting interviews with industry influentials and turning into blog posts

Whatever channels you choose to promote, and whatever types of content you create, these consistent signals prove to customers and prospects that you are a thought leader.

2. Network digitally and in person

Nothing communicates a brand more than direct involvement with customers and prospect. In that regard, online social networking has opened a new door. According to a recent eMarketer study, six in 10 B2B marketers planned to up spending on social in 2010.

Whether your organization integrates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or another social network into its B2B branding efforts, the same rules apply:

  • Social media is about engaging in conversations, not just pushing products
  • It’s not about the masses; it’s about your target audience
  • It’s listening and hearing before selling and talking

That’s not to say that in-person networking is irrelevant. On the contrary, perfect B2B branding combination. Take advantage of opportunities to give keynote speeches, participate in panel discussions or lead breakout sessions at industry events.

3. Get personal and be real

B2C marketers seem to have this concept nailed. But humanizing your company for customers and prospects is just as important in B2B branding.

For one TopRank® Online Marketing client, an industrial part distributor for the bulk powder processing industry, humanizing its image was a top concern.

The TopRank team created the Powder Doctor, a unique character, to relate to customers and prospects through email marketing campaigns. This humorous cartoon character offers advice – Dear Abby style – for common industry problems. Powder Doctor campaigns have increased sales for Powder-Solutions by 83%.

4. Position yourself differently than others in the space

No doubt about it, it’s tough to build personal B2B brand if you’re just like everyone else. You simply can’t be known for what everyone else is.

Standing out from the crowd is easy when your products or services are truly one-of-a-kind. When products or services are similar to those offered by the competition, it’s more of a challenge to uniquely position yourself.

For one TopRank client – a staffing software company – that challenge was known all too well. To help the client stand from a large pool of competitors, TopRank developed a copywriting strategy where website copy was written in first person, from the viewpoint of the staffing software (i.e., “why you should hire me to fill your staffing software needs”).

This strategy has not only helped the company develop a truly distinct B2B brand; the strategy has also achieved increased search traffic, high rankings for terms such as “staffing software” and a trend up in inquiries.

5. Leverage proof points

It’s perfectly appropriate – and necessary – to toot your own horn from time to time as part of your B2B branding efforts. Whether it’s an impressive media placement or a web traffic milestone, implement proof points illustrating why your organization is a thought leader into marketing communications.

Keep in mind that proof points are both analytical and subjective. For example:

Analytical: website traffic increases, number of retweets of blog posts, number of blog subscribers

Subjective: media placements, media interviews, mentions on blogs

Are Your Ready to Take B2B Branding to the Next Level?

B2B branding through thought leadership is not as easily quantifiable as other marketing efforts. And investments in reputation building might not pay off as immediately as pay-per-click or email marketing.

But building a recognizable B2B brand pays off in the form of long-term increased referrals, positive brand conversations on both digital and in-person channels, web traffic and sales.

What methods have you used to build a B2B brand?

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5 Tips for Better B2B Branding |
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SESNY Keynote Interview: David Meerman Scott

Mar 22, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

David Meerman Scott is a best-selling author and popular keynote speaker on the topics of viral and online marketing as well as the convergence of web marketing, digital media and online PR. One of his most popular books, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to use news releases, blogs, viral marketing and online media to reach buyers directly, was a real eye opener for a lot of companies trying to make sense of where blogs, press releases and search marketing fit together.

The second edition of The New Rules has recently been published and David will be keynoting the upcoming Search Engine Strategies conference in New York. I caught up with him just before SES and did a phone interview to get more insight into the new book, his insights into the emerging social media world including Twitter, Foursquare, Blogging and Content Marketing. I also asked him to share some practical advice for time management and staying current.

The first edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR was a real groundbreaking book for many marketers, bringing together web marketing and public relations strategies & tactics together. What’s new about the second edition?

First of all Lee, you were among the very first people in the world to to read the book and identify that it had something interesting to say and help talk it up. I appreciate that. There were a handful of people really early on in June 2007 who discovered the book, picked it up, read it and said wow, there’s something going on here.

The first edition came out June 2007 but I wrote it throughout 2006. If you remember in 2006, Twitter didn’t exist. Facebook was only for students, you had to have a .edu email address. Second Life was really being hyped. After the book was published for a few years, I’ve been getting emails nearly every day from people asking if I’d heard of a cool new service called Twitter that’s not in the book.

I had to update services and take a hard look at each of the examples in the book. I kicked out about 15 of them and added 25 – 30 new examples, so the new book grew a little bit in the number of pages. The examples are really interesting and really current. One of the challenges of writing a book is when you submit a manuscript, the book doesn’t come out for 6 months. Now, I wish I’d written about Foursquare, since that’s not in this new edition.

What is one of the biggest myths you’re seeing perpetuated about marketing on the web? About social media?

It’s not what I’d call a myth, but what I hear a lot are people who mistake these ideas that we’ve been talking about for 3-4 years with just being about Twitter and Facebook. People say, I’m doing this Online Marketing thing, I’m on Twitter. Or the opposite, they’ll say, “What are you talking about? This isn’t a form of marketing, it’s just a toy. who cares what you had for lunch today.” I see this everywhere, all over the world as I go on the speaking circuit.

People confuse the broad ideas that we’ve been talking about, on how to reach people on the web in all of its forms with the “latest fad”. One of the fads out ther eis the phrase, “social media”. We didn’t use that untill recently. That fadish sort of phrase does a disservice to us getting the word out about the big picture of what you can do on the web. I continue to call it the new rules of marketing and PR. It’s just allowing us to create and publish content and get it out there. There’s lots of ways to do that. The labels and attempts to box it in can be limiting.

Let’s try some word association. I’ll mention a word or phrase and you tell me what comes to mind.

“Foursquare”: Newest hottest thing, I’m obsessed. Really interesting, fascinating. Foursquare was huge at SXSW.

“Twitter”: Twitter. Twitter. I think Twitter is with us for the long haul. I think Twitter is a real and valuable form of communication.

“Content Marketing”: People don’t know what the word “content” means. I wrote a book in 2005: Cashing in with Content. That book is just as well written and groundbreaking as The New Rules of Marketing and PR. But it suffers from a horrendous title. Because nobody associates content with marketing despite many people trying to make that association, including me. I am trying not to use phrase “content marketing” because many people don’t know what “conten”t means. I often use “information”. I learned my lesson. I wrote a really good book on the topic but no one has ever heard of and followed it up with an international best seller in 24 languages and the major difference was use of “content” in the first book.

“Blogs”: A lot of people are saying blogs are dead. I don’t beleive that in the least. I think it’s the best way for people that are passionate about a subject to share that passion with the world. Have you heard some of this “Blogs are dead stuff?”

Lee: Yeah, I think of it this way. If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn how to use a tool in a way that results in positive outcomes, you can either decide to quit and call it dead or you can figure it out. I say that from a position of feeling very satisfied with our own blogging effort.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Tom Peters, who said his best marketing is his blog. For many of us it’s huge. I interviewed Seth Godin as well and I’d guess that he would say a blog is a big part of his success as well. If you don’t do a very good job, it’s easy to dismiss. Many people are doing quite well. Social media and blogging is not an issue of either or. They work together.

“Viral Marketing”: I love the concept of viral marketing. The idea of people spreading ideas for you. There’s nothing better than people talking you up.

“Social Media Expert”: Ha ha. Snake Oil Salesmen. There are plenty of people that are very skilled at different aspects of social media. And provide value in education and some execution. I just have to think there’s other people out there who really are just jumping on the latest bandwagon and don’t really have the skills that companies are looking for and may be doing a disservice to their clients. Some of these people, were the same person in the 1970’s who opened a video center then a tanning salon in the 80’s then in 90’s web sites and then the late 90’s offered email and SEO and now doing social media. It feels like whatever the hot topic is, there’s experts coming out of the woodwork claiming themselves as experts. Don’t get me wrong, there are many talented people out there, it can be hard to tell who’s real. It can be hard for companies to tell because the don’t have the skills to see the difference.

Please share a few tips on how companies can decide where to start on the social web:

I think the best thing is to start where you’re comfortable. Decide what media you’re most comfortable with. Not everyone can write for example, so a blog might not be a good idea for them. Maybe photos or video is a better match or if you’re analytical, create charts & graphics that help people visualize critical concepts.

Forget about your own company and products. No one cares. Try to understand the people you’re trying to reach: the buyer persona. What problems can you solve for them? Then create content that helps them.

People coming into online marketing from an advertising agency or PR firm or even direct marketing all bring a different bias.

You’re like the energizer bunny, doing an amazing amount of work. What insights do you have for companies or individuals at companies on managing time and being efficient with social participation?

First, I would like to tell everybody: You have permission to say no. You have permission not to respond. A lot of people treat social sites like email – there’s an expectation that when you get a message you have to respond. You can do your best to be responsive, but there’s only so much time. I have ablog, I do videos, Twitter and FourSquare. However, I’m not on LinkedIn, not on MySpace and I don’t do a podcast. You have to pick and choose.

We all have pockets of downtime. Maybe you can take 5 minuets every 3 hours or so and take a quick look in the morning. Then again maybe after lunch. When you’re feeling productive, and this is very true in my case, you can really crank it out. That’s when it’s a good time to shut off access to other distractions. Today’s a great example. I just spent 5 days at SXSW and I’m so tired. It’s a perfect day to have a conversation with you. I couldn’t do a blog post today. There’s a right time and place.

The social web is still new to many companies and as a result, opportunists who are at best, familiar users” of social apps, come across as “experts” without having actually implemented paid consulting for companies. The same has happened with web design and SEO. How much of a problem is this? Is it a problem at all?

There are a number of people that say because they have 10k followers they’re a Twitter expert. They actually do provide a lot of value because they can teach you to be a better user of the service. However, that’s very different than helping you to create a strategy in a company to grow a business.

How do you stay current and informed? Events, people, blogs/feeds, social tools, testing, magic 8 ball, secret handshake society?

The main thing is that I’m so lucky to speak around the world and give presentations. Of course when I do that I get to meet lots of people that share their stories. Some are of success and some are about wanting to do more. I use those as my way of staying current. I first heard of Foursquare at a conference. In early February I was speaking at an event in Amsterdam. Some people were talking about Layer and how cool it was. I started using it and blogged about it. If I hadn’t been at that conference in Amsterdam I wouldn’t have heard about Layer. It’s really about getting out there, talking to lots of different people, listening and asking questions.

I live in fear of being a gray haired consultant that people look at and say, he was really smart 10 years ago, but now he’s lost it.

What are your thoughts on the future of the social web in 2-3 years?

We’re experiencing a revolution akin to when the telephone was invented or when the television was invented. There’s a new and fantastic way that we’re communicating today. Literally 100s of millions of people are communicating in new ways and the numbers of people and companies using social media are all growing. Some tools might not be growing like Second Life, but overall it is. We’re in the middle of a revolution. It’s important for people to recognize that this stuff is really growing.

What question should I be asking you? (And the answer of course)

One of the things I pay very close attention to is what’s going on outside of North America.

New Rules of Marketing and PR is publishing in 24 languages: From Vietnamese to Turkish to Bulgarian. It’s proof these ideas are working all over the world. I’ve been fortunate to deliver presentations in over 20 countries in the last 2 years. There are so many companies doing interesting things worldwide. There are so many social networks that are popular that we don’t know about. It’s a global phenomenon.

That’s fantastic, thank you for your time.

You can get more information about the various books written by David Meerman Scott here along with his blog. You can also see David presenting a keynote presentation at the upcoming Search Engine Strategies New York conference. For readers that are attending SES, I also invite you to attend the Digital Asset Optimization panel right after David’s keynote. Hope to see you there.

For even more of David’s insights, watch this video interview we shot at a past Minneapolis St. Paul Social Media Breakfast.

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SESNY Keynote Interview: David Meerman Scott |
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Google: The Social Media Company

Mar 19, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Twitter  //  No Comments

Over the last few years, the popularity of social channels – for professionals, teens, grandmas and everyone in between – has skyrocketed. Consider the recent numbers:

  • Twitter experienced an annual growth in 2009 of 1,382%
  • Facebook now boasts 400 million active users
  • Every minute, 20 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube

Between blog posts, Facebook status updates, tweets, videos and every other piece of social content published, there’s a whole lot of information floating around out there.

Enter the latest social media player, Google.

Google’s latest activities, acquisitions and features all point to the fact that the search giant no longer has a close eye on web 2.0; it’s already there.

Here are 5 ways Google is now becoming a dominant social media player:

1. Google Social Search

Google Social Search results

Until now all of the social content in channels like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, hasn’t been easy to find in a central place – including through Google search.  Until now, that is.

That’s where Google Social Search comes in. It’s still in the experimental stages, but this new feature combines users’ social connections with organic searches. For example, if you were to search for “New Zealand,” social search results would appear beneath the organic search results. The tool scans your social connections’ content (based on the social accounts included in your Google profile) to create these results.

2. Google Buzz

Google Buzz

These days, it seems the social world is abuzz with talk of Google Buzz. This new product is built into Gmail and essentially turns users’ inboxes into social networks. A mobile version of Google Buzz is also available.

Here’s how it works: Google Buzz leverages current email contacts and connects you with their social profiles. Through Gmail, you can share status updates and photos, and start conversations, all through from your email.

What does this mean for your brand? You may want to consider adding Gmail to your social media marketing mix.

3. Twitter and Facebook Feeds in Search Results

Imagine the tweets highlighting your latest blog post or a new product launch getting found in organic searches. These days, that’s a reality.

At the end of February, Google happily announced on Twitter that public status updates from Facebook fan pages would now be included in real-time search. Facebook joins a long list of other social content appearing in search results including:

  • Twitter tweets
  • FriendFeed updates
  • Google Buzz posts
  • MySpace updates

Twitter and Facebook marketing efforts, then, take on new importance and new meaning. It’s now essential that all social content be optimized just as other online content is optimized.

4. Google’s Social Acquisitions

Still not convinced that Google’s sights are set on social? Just check out the list of its acquisitions over the last nine years, and count the social platforms.

In terms of sites owned by Google, the search giant has the gamut covered:

5. Google Wave

Google Wave

Google Wave

Essentially, Google Wave is 21st century email. The tool enables real-time communication and collaboration – i.e., share images, post videos, discuss ideas. Within Google Wave, you can create a message, invite other users to take part in the discussion, and add files, images, videos, you name it.

The coolest part about the tool is conversations are live, but you can rewind the wave at any time to see a previous comment.

It’s only available in limited preview right now, and you need an invitation from Google to join. Unfortunately, I’m not one of the lucky ones. Google, if you’re out there, can you hear me?

There’s no doubt about it: Google’s gone social. What’s up in the air is where it will go next. What do you think will be the next Google social media tools or applications?

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2010 LeadingRE Conference: TopRank Digital Marketing Sessions

Mar 17, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

Last week, I was in Las Vegas for the LeadingRE annual conference and marketing technology event speaking on social media and SEO strategies for real estate professionals. It’s always interesting to see where different verticals are at with their willingness to embrace social channels, and I’m pleased to report the top realtors globally are already engaging, or at the least starting to define their path.

I gave the opening presentation to the MarTech part of the conference – a track of panels/sessions designed to help real estate professionals better integrate their marketing initiates with technology. Additionally, I spoke on two panels in the general sessions of the conference: one on online reputation management and one as an open panel Q&A answering marketing strategy questions.

For Online Marketing Blog readers, following is a wrapup of each of my sessions and some key takeaways.

Architecting A Web 2.0 Marketing And PR Strategy

For this session, I took event goers through an overview of the process we at TopRank implement for companies seeking social media strategy: a social media roadmap. I took audience members through the essential elements of the roadmap:

1. Define an audience
Who is it you are trying to influence? Where are they participating, what types of content resonates with them? Understanding your audience comes first, and will drive the next pieces of the roadmap.

2. Identify objectives
What outcomes do you want from this audience? Only after you understand your digital audience should objectives be solidified, as research may uncover new opportunities not conceived initially. While many skip to objectives, audience research provides the current situation necessary to proceed to identify objectives.

3. Develop strategic approach
For a social media marketing strategy to be effective and not a cookie-cutter application, you must have a strategic approach unique and logical for your brand. Audience data + objectives + insight into your industry + strategic mindset as a marketer will enable you to formulate a strategic approach that delivers results and permeates the market.

4. Implement tools/tactics
Even more popular than skipping to step 2, most marketing and PR pros skip immediately to step 4. It’s a cliché to say “we need a Twitter account” or “we need a Facebook page.” You don’t know that yet. Nor do you have the proper roadmap elements to execute them successfully by skipping immediately to tactical elements. It’s like entering a battle by sending in the latest wave of ultra-sophisticated fighter jets but not having any sort of plan of how they work into your larger strategy. Yeah, they might be bigger/faster/stronger but it’s setting yourself up for failure without knowing how they integrate with other elements.

5. Measure results/metrics
What will your success metrics be? Formulate not just an ultimate objective measurement, but define the right KPIs that actually roll to those objectives. Understand how they all work together and stagger them in the right order in your marketing dashboard to keep your finger on the pulse of success.  It takes a comprehensive understanding of web analytics reporting before getting into this phase.

Online Reputation Management Panel

For this panel, I presented alongside Jennifer Baumann, Esq. of DLA Piper. As I am not a lawyer and cannot provide any legal counsel, it was a good idea for Eric Brin, conference organizer for LeadingRE to pair us. I shared prevention and response strategies and Jennifer discussed legal issues.

In terms of online reputation management, the old adage of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not be truer. I spoke mostly on prevention, but also response. Some key takeaways from this panel:

Negative PR gets referenced – The web is referential, and we are actively tagging brands to their actions. For example, the first thing many mom bloggers now think of when they hear the name Motrin is the Motrin Moms fiasco. We are constantly archiving and building upon events, news and essentially our lives digitally. This paints a larger picture of people and companies, and the scars of negative PR are not going to go away. By having a presence yourself and already established as a brand digitally, you get to be a part of that debate as opposed to silently sitting on the sidelines and allowing others to dictate how you are seen.

Additionally, if you foster a community of supporters, that negative PR might get hedged in the first place. If I wrote a blog post titled, “Apple Sucks,” almost immediately I’m going to get comments defending Apple – not just in my own comment section but on other blogs that debate and interact with me. Instead of a one-sided story, it will turn into a lively discussion and debate, with all sides being considered. A community of brand advocates is a powerful force for defending a brand or personal reputation.  In the case of Apple, whether by design or simply due to fanatical fans, they are now a part of the brand’s organic response.

Search engine brand awareness – If your brand has a large digital footprint with multiple domains/sub-domains, an authoritative presence across social channels and a fan-base, owning page 1 of Google for your brand name is possible. By doing this, you won’t let a negative (and let’s hope isolated) event or experience show up in branded searches.

Of course, in cases where negative PR spirals out of control (aka a Groundswell) a negative situation can acquire so many links/attention it ranks on page one for your brand. In those cases, buying search ads to help counter the negativity, posting responses on the offending site, adding a response on your own site, and strategizing ways to regain control of page one via organic SEO methods are just some potential steps you can take. But of course, it all depends on the specific situation what the response strategy should be.

Speaking of response strategy – for problems you anticipate may arise, having one is critical to be prepared for the worst.

Consult PR before engaging legal The RIAA’s reputation is irreparably damaged by their continual treatment of their biggest fans as criminals. Whether they legally can do something is not necessarily a reason they should. When technology comes along that makes a previous model obsolete, the natural reaction of the incumbent is to rally against it to defend a previous world. Unfortunately, all this succeeds in is positioning the organization or industry as draconian and opens the door to innovators who are designing models that embrace the new.

When someone says something truthful but biting against your brand, the natural reaction might be to call your laywers to suppress that information. All this does is provide ammunition for that individual or media entity to succeed in gaining greater attention.

In 2003, Barbra Streisand tried to sue photographer Kenneth Adelman for $50 million for taking a photograph of her house as he documented the California coastline as part of a project. As a result of the case, the picture substantially increased in popularity – quickly attracting 420,000+ views of a photo that otherwise would have existed in relative obscurity. Mike Masnick reported on the situation and coined the phrase “The Streisand Effect.” The name stuck, and now even has its own dedicated Wikipedia page documenting multiple examples of companies suffering from the Streisand Effect by calling legal before consulting PR.

Of course, there are situations where legal should be consulted, but they should be considered carefully, with legal being used as a last resort.

Strategy Salon Panel

LeadingRe-Panel

L to R: Matt Dollinger, Matthew Ferrara, Adam Singer, Steve Harney – image by Barbara Springer

This was an open Q&A discussion from the audience, where, Steve Harney, Matthew Ferrara, Matt Dollinger and I all riffed on answers to audience questions (moderated by Eric Bryn).  A few of the riffs from our discussion included:

Getting your company to buy in to social media – This needs to happen from the top. If your leaders aren’t fully bought in and driving forward the items you want team members participating in, you can’t expect them to succeed. As one example, if you have a company blog, someone up top should be leading and driving it if you want the rest of the team to contribute as well. To inspire people to stay motivated and engaged, create feedback loops within the organization to highlight success and nurture participation.

The perfect company website – There is no single archetype of the perfect website. Also, yours shouldn’t necessarily model competitors or one you think is pretty, rather it should resonate with prospects. Keep SEO in mind from the start and work with developers cognizant of search engines or consult an SEO firm to guide your development process. Site search matters, and is one of the most important features of any website according to Google. Leverage site search to gain data/insight into your customers and also tweak results to highlight fresh content or current specials.

The real estate company of the future – Instead of doing everything in-house, you may begin to outsource certain elements like design, marketing or IT. Why have generalists when you can have specialists in each field and work with them across distances and time zones via agile project management systems? Also, for smaller companies, it will be about more than just those within a small radius; recruiting top talent will be vital for performance. Of your full-time team members, leadership will be an integral role and not something simply relegated to management. You need to find and empower leaders at all levels within the organization if you want to succeed against competitors.

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2010 LeadingRE Conference: TopRank Digital Marketing Sessions |
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5 Ways to Electrify Your Social Network

Mar 16, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

social networking

A typical situation for many marketers when it comes to social networks is this: Setup LinkedIn profile, check. Corporate LinkedIn page, check.  Facebook profile, check. Facebook Fan Page, check. Twitter account, check. Corporate blog, check. Check check check!

But where’s the buzz? Where are the fans, friends, followers, comments, links, traffic, search engine rankings? Where’s the customer engagement? And the most pressing question of all: What is all this social web participation doing for our company and our customers?

Showing up to the game doesn’t mean there will be an audience. This is as true with the social web as it is offline.  The problem that marketers have with attracting interested customers and growing their social networks often stems from approaching social participation tactically and without a plan.  Testing and experimentation is great, but if what you’re doing is something that has a cost and is to be accounted for, then you’d better have a plan and objectives.  How can you score without a goal?

Here are 5 tips to help business marketers energize and electrify social network development:

1. Decide to start

You must start by deciding what business objectives you intend on meeting as a result of social network involvement. Once you’ve clearly identified objectives, then you can create a strategy that outlines which tactics make the most sense to reach and engage your audience.

Common objectives for companies to develop online social networks include:

  • Create connections with those interested in the type of solutions you offer so you can better meet customer needs
  • Build out a channel of distribution for promoting content
  • Connect with existing customers, create a place for them to connect with each other
  • Initiate discussions around product for new ideas, enhancements, focus group
  • Extend reach to influentials in your market for publicity
  • Tap into active user base for content
  • Facilitate conversations about your products & services to aid in new customer acquisition and/or upgrades
  • Create a communication channel that reaches employees for internal PR
  • Build up the personal networks of executives for thought leadership with journalists, analysts and key bloggers

2. Know your customer

If marketers spend their time on the social networks dujour without really knowing where their customers are spending time, then of course there will be a disconnect between experience and expectations. Picking friends, at least initially, on social networks should be very intentional, not random. Understanding customer preferences towards information discovery, consumption and sharing along with which web sites they prefer is essential if a marketer wants to connect in a meaningful way.

3. Be real, be useful

There are a lot of buzzwords like “transparency” and “openness” that describe the need for marketers to be “genuine”. Oops that’s another.  To be real is being honesty in your intentions.  I’ve seem highly respected marketers make absolutely idiotic statements about transparency, taking it to the extreme.  Ignorance is bliss I suppose, but there’s not much money in it.

The core principles of understanding the needs of your customers and then finding a way to meet those needs in such a way that is helpful and that at the same time leads to product sales, need not be elusive.  Approaching a social network blatantly announcing that you’re a marketer and that you will be marketing so buy some product dammit, isn’t being transparent. It’s being stupid.

Identifying yourself as a representative of a brand, product or service and communicating your intentions both in words and helpful actions is what I mean by “be real, be useful”.  Those good deeds create trust and relationships.  They create word of mouth and a certain gravity of popularity for your brand with your own identity as the proxy.  Fans, friends and followers “happen” because the word gets out that your brand promise is meaningful and being followed through on.

Developing relationships can be hard work. People already know this through the relationships they have in daily life. Yet  it’s very common for corporate marketers to initiate online social networking efforts only to become disillusioned at the lack of immediate sales results.  It’s important that social web participation for a company become a part of what the company is, long term. Not an “add on” marketing tactic.

4. Recognize and reward

When developing an active social network, participants will demonstrate certain behaviors that are more desirable than others.  For example, standing up for the brand when a troll appears or mashing up content in a creative way.  They say people will work for a living but die for recognition. This is a key concept for electrifying your social networking efforts.  First, understand what behaviors you want to reward. Participate and identify those behaviors that will influence the kinds of outcomes you’re looking for. Recognition can be active and passive. Active recognition is to reach out and recognize specific behaviors publicly and/or privately.  Passive recognition is built into the social CRM system you’re using or the platform within which customers participate. An example would be points based systems that provide rewards or more access based on accumulating points for completing certain behaviors such as comments, ratings, contributed content, etc.  The key to “Recognize and Reward” is for the recognition to be deserved, genuine, relevant and consistent.

5. Monitor, measure, feedback loop

All the good intentions in the world won’t result in relationship and business growth from social networks unless there’s management of content and curation of interactions with the outcomes from participation. It can be as simple as noticing “5 of this” or “10 of that” tips blog posts yield 200% greater engagement scores (comments, retweets, inlinks, etc) than posts that focus on a single, general topic.

Web analytics along with social media monitoring and a CRM component can facilitate the feedback loop to know whether customers are responding in the ways that you’d hoped.  Simply focusing on fans/followers, comments or sales can leave out some of the essential pieces of why some efforts fail and others succeed. Social media monitoring tools are essential for upfront research, ongoing monitoring and after-action results measurement.

In the end, the steps to take for growing a social network for business must be rooted in an understanding of the customers and their needs combined with whatever it is you decide you’ll provide to meet those needs. Being useful by itself doesn’t turn an active network into achieved business goals. Provide opportunities for interested members of your social network to opt-in to a more commercial relationship when they’re ready.  That could be as simple as moving from a Facebook Fan to a Webinar participant or Email Newsletter subscriber. In some cases it might mean becoming a buyer of products/services.

If your business has successfully developed it’s social network presence, what have been some of the roadblocks you’ve overcome? What insights can you share on best connecting with networks and growing your business as a result?

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Can Businesses Learn from Lady Gaga’s Branding

Mar 12, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Brand Recognition, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Social Media  //  1 Comment

Gaga’s business model starts with an incongruous product.

Listen to Gaga’s Poker Face and you might imagine it’s Britney Spears  in a track suit. But watch the video and you’ll see a work of conceptual porn. Gaga, a 23-year-old blonde with bulletproof bangs and 3-inch lashes, slinks across stages in gleaming metal bustiers, smoked latex underwear and thigh-high stiletto boots. Performing Paparazzi at the Video Music Awards, she ended the set dangling above the stage in gauzy white La Perla lingerie, horrifying her audience as fake blood gushed from her bosom.

All this debauchery is purposeful fodder for social media and the mainstream press. "She’s a perv, but Lady Gaga understands viral marketing better than anyone on the pop scene today," says magazine industry veteran Simon Dumenco. By showing up wearing a bird’s nest or a model of the solar system on her head, every Gaga appearance becomes an item (11,500 mainstream media stories cite her this year). "She is directing every frame of her music and her life, imagining how clips will appear on YouTube and what people will tweet after she appears on the VMAs," says Dumenco.

She’s meticulous about imagery, especially the sets of her live shows. Preparing for a gig in Los Angeles, she discovered that a stage had been painted a radiant shade of white. "This isn’t the freakin’ ice capades!" she yelled at the crew. It was repainted.

On Gaga’s Twitter page, 1.6 million people track her outlandishness. They learn of Gaga’s problems with hairspray and get updates on her father’s recent heart surgery. Having that many followers can be perilous. Last month Gaga posted a link to one of her own videos on fashion icon Alexander McQueen’s Web site. After a single tweet by Gaga, her rabid fans streamed in and crashed the site’s servers.

Gaga leverages buzz by sharing the limelight with other, mightier entertainment brands than her own. "There’s an art to fame," Gaga once told Vancouver television. Performing with members of the Bolshoi ballet, she wore a hat designed by Frank Gehry that resembled a mini Bilbao and played a piano painted by Damien Hirst. This year she collaborated with Beyonce and Michael Bolton. In October she showed up onSaturday Night Live with Madonna, where the two of them, dressed in matching dominatrix gear, tussled in a mock catfight (and near kiss).

One surprise: Gaga’s outré sexuality hasn’t fazed corporate marketers. Branding guru Steve Stoute, who paired Jay-Z with Hewlett-Packard, is working on a handful of tie-ins for Gaga. This month he inked a deal for her with Mac cosmetics. Next will be Gaga-branded electronic sunglasses, he says, similar to the ones that often cover half her face in concert.

“ Telephone ” is choc-full-o Lady Gaga shock value, and at more than nine minutes in length, could probably classify as a short film. Dating site PlentyOfFish somehow managed to get prominent placement (fast forward to 4:27 if you’d rather skip the rest of it).

Early indications are that “Telephone” will be every bit as popular as recent Gaga hits, with the song, its participants, and even a string from its URL already dominating trending topics on Twitter ahead of its offical premier on E!. It also briefly took Vevo – YouTube and the record labels new music video website — offline.

So what can businesses learn from Gaga’s understanding of the social media sphere?

By now I am sure you are saying why would I ever want to learn something from a person that pushes the limits of pervocity, it is not what she does, it is why she does it, and what she is motivating by doing it. Businesses need to look at their products or services and truly looking into how you can motivate you customers with it.

Branding isn’t just for big companies any more. With the internet and search, it’s become easier and cheaper to for companies to brand their names in front of their target audience. It’s true that good branding efforts will always cost you some time, energy and even a little bit of money, but it’s not out of reach of small businesses with little extra cash on hand for what is traditionally considered a non-sales generating marketing strategy.

The benefits of branding yourself, your business, your products, or services…

A solid branding strategy is important for any business and should be a part of its online marketing efforts. So let’s talk first about some of the benefits of branding yourself. If you’re like most small businesses you’re more concerned about selling products or services than you are in establishing a name for yourself. Why go through the effort? Simply put, branding helps sales.

Let’s look at this in the smallest of cases. Say you create name recognition for your company with a single person. That’s right, one person knows your company and you’ve convinced them to trust you and the products or services you sell. Big deal, right? Well, it is.

This one person will choose to buy from you rather than your competitor. Your ability to brand your name, and make it synonymous with your quality, has just earned you a sale. But one sale? Big deal!

Well, yeah, it is. Because that one person may tell one other person. The trust you earned by one has just multiplied into two. You just got another sale. Another big deal? OK, by now you’re getting it. Branding is a big deal.

Let’s look at this from anther angle. What is the effect of branding on an unknown audience? The most effective branding is not in the number of people you reach, but in the number of times you’re able to reach any single person with your brand.

This is where Lady Gaga understands how to manage her customers in the social media sphere, she keeps them guessing for what comes next. She handles and motivates people to want to do something

Let’s say you want to buy the pair of headphones she uses (Yes, I want a pair!) Assume that want one but you don’t know who sells them or where to go to get one. Where do you turn? Your favorite search engine of course.

Do a search for Lady Gaga Headphones and you see a list of results all ranging around Monster Beats by Dre..

As my easy button would say, “that was easy.” Perhaps a bit too easy, who knows everyone might catch on.

The branding strategies employed by business will be similar to what we saw here. But you don’t have to be a pervotic rockstar or go after highly competitive keyword phrases to get similar branding power. All you need is research, an understanding  of your customers, and a branding strategy.

If you need help 4D Impressions is here, “Bringing Fresh Ideas for Your Growing Business”

5 Social Media Tips for Ecommerce Marketing

Mar 12, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Twitter  //  No Comments

If you run an ecommerce business, chances are your customers – regardless of their age, gender or economic status – are active on social networks and social media sharing sites.

Just consider the statistics from social media monitoring site Pingdom:

  • Males and females almost equally use social sites (47% vs. 53%)
  • 61% of Facebook users are middle aged or older, with the average age being 37
  • 18- to 24-year-olds don’t dominate any particular social networking site; they’re spread out all over

The bottom line: If you aren’t discovering which in social networking channels your customers spend time and include them in your ecommerce marketing mix, you’re probably  missing out on building relationships, community and increasing new customer acquisition through online word of mouth.

Leverage these five social media marketing tips for ecommerce to either get started with more social digital marketing or take your current social strategy to the next level:

1. Go Where Your Customers Are

Very few things in life promise endless options – digital and social media marketing being one exception. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to YouTube, there’s no limit to the number of social networking channels available for your business to leverage. Key to successful social media marketing for ecommerce is choosing the right channels to reach customers.

Find out where your customers are congregating by:

  • Asking them. Sounds overly simplistic, but sending a formal survey to customers or more informally polling them on your website can provide a wealth of knowledge.
  • Monitoring social sites. Use a free tool like Social Mention or Trackur. For something far more robust use tools like Radian6 to discover how and where customers are talking about your brand, your competitors or target keywords.
  • Leveraging the stats. Some sites like Facebook are transparent when it comes to user statistics. Or leverage research conducted by third-party firms like eMarketer.
  • Revivew backlinks, job postings, news announcements and keyword rankings of competitors on a regular basis to get a glimpse into their online marketing health.

2. Monitor What Your Competitors Are Doing

Whether your ecommerce business is new to social media marketing, or just need to take your efforts up a notch, competitive intelligence can be very useful. Spend some time by conducting a competitive audit of your top five competitors on the social web. Include:

  • The social sites in which they are active
  • The type of content they publish on the social web
  • The number of followers/fans/views they have on each site
  • How they promote specific products, programs or events via social media

For even more inspiration and insight into what works well on the social web, look to ecommerce sites in other industries or even successful B2B social media examples.

3. Promote Exclusive Offers Through Social Media

In order for your ecommerce business to gain a following on whatever social channel you choose, entice customers with something they can’t get anywhere else.

For example, promote a contest via social media. Last fall, TopRank® Online Marketing leveraged this tactic for one of its ecommerce clients. TopRank used the client’s blog and Facebook fan page to promote a Halloween contest to name the best costume. This initiative not only drove additional traffic to the client’s website, but also helped increase the number of Facebook fans.

Alternately, offer an exclusive item to social media followers or fans, such as free shipping or a weekly coupon. You can also offer “breaking news” that does not appear anywhere else, like pre-product release announcements or an inside look at your company’s inter-workings.

4. Don’t Just Push Products and Promotions

The primary goal of your ecommerce site may be to sell products, but your social media marketing strategy should encompass a wider range of tactics that simply promoting offerings. With too much product pushing and not enough engagement, you’re unlikely to experience optimal success.

Incorporate some of these ideas into your ecommerce social media marketing strategy:

  • Share messages or news stories from external sources
  • Create a blog on your website and feed blog content to your social accounts
  • Ask questions, participate in discussions or poll your customers via social media
  • Post pictures from company events or videos from your CEO’s speaking engagements

1-800-Flowers maximizes the use of social media for its marketing efforts.

5. Sell Products Through Social Networks

Many ecommerce sites leverage social channels to make it even simpler for customers to purchase their products. 1-800-Flowers has taken this idea to the max (see image above). It was the first ecommerce site to launch a Facebook store, allowing customers to browse and purchase its products directly through Facebook.

1-800-Flowers may be an extreme case, but ecommerce sites large and small can still indirectly sell products through their social profiles. For example, highlight new products or best-sellers and provide a link to the order page on your website. It may not be quite as simple as purchasing directly from the social profile, but it can be just as effective.

The five ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ecommerce social media marketing. What social media tactics have you found to be successful?

11 Free Tools for Social Media Optimization

Mar 10, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media  //  No Comments

Plenty of bloggers are talking about the inevitable intersection of social media marketing and search engine optimization. Keyword optimized social content and channels of promotion provide abundant signals to search engines for improved visibility on standard, social and real-time search.

The changing nature of social media marketing and optimization create the need for tools whether for research, marketing and promotion or analytics. Here are 11 social media and SEO tools you might find useful:

What low cost or free tools have you found to be effective for social media optimization tasks?

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For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert PR Mess

Oct 12, 2009   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Social Media  //  No Comments

Sarah Needleman from the Wall Street Journal writes an interesting article defining how Twitter and PR can work hand in hand. It shows how a well defined social marketing campaign can help redefine how a company markets itself.

Here is the Link to the article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124925830240300343.html

I would love to hear you comments on this.

The Gen Y Guide to Web 2.0 at Work

Sep 18, 2009   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Social Media  //  No Comments

This is the Greatest example of the Next Marketing Generation.

[flash width="425" height="355"]http://static.slidesharecdn.com/swf/ssplayer2.swf?doc=genyweb20-1210364558509716-8&rel=0&stripped_title=the-gen-y-guide-to-web-20-at-work[/flash]

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