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Benefits of using Twitter in Business

Apr 20, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Brand Recognition, Online Marketing, Search, Social Media, Twitter  //  No Comments

For businesses, there are a number of benefits to using Twitter. Many of which deal with the real-time gathering of information. Here are some ways that businesses should be leveraging Twitter.

  1. Participating in Industry Conversation – your target audience and/or potential prospects are on Twitter where they may be discussing their frustrations or are communicating positive experiences. Why not be a part of that? Participate in the conversation when it makes sense to do so. Thinking of Twitter as the newest type of social mixer to engage with your industry.
  2. Brand Awareness – businesses can use Twitter to keep their brand top of mind. Whether you are Gene Simmons (@genesimmons) promoting an upcoming Kiss concert in Windsor, Canada or Toys R Us (@ToysRUs) promoting the latest Transformer toys, Twitter allows a business to keep their brand out there for people to engage with.
  3. Use Twitter to gain Competitive Intelligence – hey guess what? Your competitors are on Twitter. As a result you might want to consider monitoring their tweets from time to time to see what they are working on. Perhaps they are preparing to launch a new product or are opening a new branch. Heck maybe they are going through massive layoffs and an opportunity presents itself to acquire them or at least hire some of their laid off employees. Twitter can be a great environment for monitoring what the competition is doing. It can also be a great way just to see how your competition is using Twitter themselves. Perhaps you can pick up a tip or two.
  4. Engage with your target audience – Twitter allows you to interact with potential prospects and your target audience. While you do not want to be "in their face" all of the time, Twitter does allow you to engage with these people by re-tweeting their posts or responding to something that they may have tweeted about, which leads us to …
  5. Online Reputation Management – information on Twitter breaks quickly. The reported death of Michael Jackson on June 25th, was one example of this. Businesses can use Twitter to monitor what is being said about their brand almost in real-time. If someone had a negative experience with your brand, chances are they may tweet about it. If so, work to address the issues and communicate the fact that you are doing so. Remember Twitter is a social environment so transparency and honesty can be a good thing.
  6. Promote your Blog Content – if your company has a corporate blog or various blogs, you can use Twitter to promote your blog content. Heck you can set up a feed to automatically post your blog post URLs directly to Twitter.
  7. Twitter and Mobile – because Twitter is so simple to use and is limited to 140 characters, mobile use with Twitter is also easy. You can both send and receive updates what you and your friends are doing on the go using a simple SMS. Twitter can be a great mobile communication tool. As we know in business, this can be a pretty powerful thing.
  8. Understanding Tool – Businesses can use Twitter as an understanding tool to learn what their desired target demographic is saying and looking for. For example, if you are a brand that targets a younger target market, just by listening to their conversation via Twitter, you can learn what their latest interests are and what’s the next shiny new object that they are looking to latch on to.
  9. Feedback Mechanism – launching a new product? Perhaps you are launching a new website? Businesses can use Twitter to obtain instant feedback on these items and as a result make any necessary changes before the formal launch. This feedback can be invaluable and by using Twitter, it is free!
  10. Promotion – of course you can use Twitter as a promotional tool to announce offline endeavors or upcoming online events (webinars, virtual tradeshows etc). If you are an e-commerce site, perhaps you have a deal of the day where you can promote these deals such as how Toys.com is currently leveraging Twitter @toysdeals. The fact is you do not want to be too promotional, but Twitter does present the opportunity to promote your products or service and brand to your friends.
  11. SEO Boost – if you have great content on your website and you want to drive additional traffic to this content on your website, you can use Twitter to do so. A quick tweet with the URL can help drive additional traffic to a preferred landing page on your site to help coax the conversion on your site.
  12. Ask Questions Receive Answers - those who do not ask will not receive. As a business, perhaps you are looking for a specific answer to a question that you have. Maybe you are looking for some industry stats. You can use Twitter to pose the question and if the question is engaging and if your friends are remotely interested in the same question, you should receive a response. Twitter is a social community and usually these social communities are tight knit. Someone is bound to answer your question and at least point you in the right direction.
  13. HR Tool – while this may not be the best way to go about your hiring practices, you can tweet about your HR needs and link to relevant job postings on your site via Twitter. You just might receive some additional interest that you may not have otherwise had.
  14. Press Release / News Management – Have a major announcement? Use Twitter to promote your press releases and to communicate company news. Remember our earlier discussion on Internet Speed? News travels fast online, Twitter is another information super-highway that can help communicate news quickly.Internal
  15. Communication Tool – while not many businesses think to do this, but you can use Twitter as an internal communication tool within your business. There are various ways to do this. Of course one of the best examples of this is Zappos, who encourage employees to tweet. http://twitter.zappos.com/. Again the timeliness of the information plays a key role in using Twitter as an internal communication tool. While we have instant messaging, using Twitter to communicate internally can also be an effective way of sharing information within. Of course there are pros and cons to this, but use your discretion

3 Tools to Help You Share Microcontent Online

Apr 2, 2010   //   by Erik Olson   //   Blog, Corporate Blogging, Industry News, Mashable News, Online Marketing, Social Media, Twitter  //  No Comments

Over the last few years, the concept of microblogging has gone from zero to hero. Just a few short years ago, the terms “microblogging” and “microcontent” were known only to early adopters.  These days, the only thing “micro” about microblogging and status updates is character count. Consider a few recent statistics:

  • There are nearly 40,000 Tweets a minute, according to TweeSpeed
  • Last year, Tweets grew 1,400%, while traffic to Twitter.com grew around 1,100%
  • More than 60 million Facebook status updates are posted every day

When it comes to microblogging sites, customers and prospects are either there, or those that influence them are. Microblogging can take on a life of its own – with users making connections, developing relationships and publishing content all from within.

Are you unsure of how to best leverage microblog connections and microcontent for other online marketing efforts?  One answer: cross-publishing or syndicating microblog content to other channels.

Fortunately today there are several tools available to help you and here, are three:

1. @anywhere

Twitter is in the process of rolling out a new feature, @anywhere, that will allow users to syndicate Twitter content to virtually any online channel without sending visitors back to Twitter.com. Not only that, but the syndication process will be as simple as dropping a few lines of JavaScript.

Initial participating sites include Amazon, eBay, Digg, Yahoo!, The New York Times, Salesforce.com, You Tube and several others. With @anywhere, visitors to these sites will be able to follow Twitter users, retweet content and search for new Twitter accounts – without ever having to leave the website.

Here’s what it could someday mean for your organization:

  • Customers reading a blog post written by your CEO could follow him or her on Twitter directly from your site
  • Prospects viewing a video on your website could retweet the content without leaving the webpage

2. Google Buzz

Google Buzz

The latest social media player to enter the game is Google. Its recently launched Google Buzz tool is built into Gmail and enables sharing of updates, photos and videos all from within the inbox. The tool connects with sites already in use, including Twitter, Picasa, Flickr and Google Reader.

Essentially the tool enables Gmail users to leverage the personal email contacts already made, as well as the entire Gmail community at large, to engage in conversations and share microblogging content.

Google Buzz goes beyond just status updates, though. It automatically pulls images from links and enables users to respond to content without ever leaving Gmail.  Whether Google Buzz attains the popularity of Facebook or Twitter remains to be seen.

3. Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect

Facebook Connect

With Facebook Connect, marketers can create more engaging experiences on their websites by allowing site visitors to bring their Facebook life with them. Facebook Connect pulls Facebook users’ profile information, photos, connections and more directly to your website.

Facebook Connect creates what it calls a “viral sharing loop” on your site by:

  • Making it easy for site visitors to share your content with their Facebook networks
  • Enabling you to show visitors what’s most popular on your site with their Facebook friends
  • Allowing visitors to comment on, review and rate content on your site

Other tools that make it easy to share microcontent incude: ping.fm, HootSuite or socialoomph.com.

What tools do you use to cross-publish or syndicate your microblogging content to other channels?

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3 Tools to Help You Share Microcontent Online |
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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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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?