Monthly Archives August 2011

The Oxymoron of Small Business Social Media Marketing

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I’ve worked with a great number of small businesses that I admire, both as social media consulting clients as well as potential customers. I am happy that I have helped several companies get to their next level with regards to their social media marketing, but I also find that many companies that seek my services are looking for social business expertise with a budget that does not place sufficient value on the experience they need. Social marketers have a complex yet unique combination of traits that make them true artists in their field. Are small businesses ready to appreciate the value that they bring?

If we analyze the situation further, however, we start to uncover the many issues that small businesses have with social media marketing. That’s why I call it an oxymoron. Let me explain further.

Small businesses have limited budgets, especially in departments that are not immediately revenue-generating contributors. This means that, unless you can show immediate sales through engaging on social websites, the value is not seen by many a small business. Small businesses got to where they are by being lean and only investing on services and people that bring immediate results. Once they see results, money flows, but until then, it is a classic chicken and egg scenario.

But that’s only part of the greater oxymoron between small businesses and social media marketing that I see. What can small businesses do to overcome these challenges? Let’s first examine the contradiction in greater detail.

Small Budget or Resources not Available but Investment is Necessary
It’s obvious that without a specific budget allocated, you can’t hire or appropriate the adequate resources to ensure that you create a robust social strategy and implement it effectively. This is why small businesses often end up hiring social media interns or having someone who might lack the experience but is available to do the job. If you’re going to be active in social media, you need to have a general education of the lay of the land. You need to have used the tool from a business perspective; otherwise, it could backfire. Those that are utilizing social media on behalf of your company also have to have a business background to understand the potential implications of the conversations they are having on behalf of your company. Needless to say, it is truly a case of you getting what you pay for, and a small budget can severely impact the chances of a small business to be successful in social. Social media requires budget because it costs more than what most small businesses think.

It also takes time to socialize with people, and it is no different on social networking websites. Social media is a commitment, not a campaign, and an investment in resources is the first sign to see whether or not a small business is serious about wanting to be successful in online social circles. Resources required go beyond the person or agency you hire for social media – social media often requires the entire organization to get involved and provide resources to support the effort. Without strategically allocating resources, it will be hard for a small business to be successful in social media. As my old boss used to say, it is truly a case of, “No free lunch.”

Immediate Returns Wanted but Long-Term Investment is Necessary
Nobody makes a splash in social media and immediately gets lots of fans or a loyal following. It takes time to socialize in person as it does online, and therefore immediate returns in social are hard to attain. Small businesses, however, look for quick gains from their investment and are quick to get frustrated if they don’t see things developing that affect their bottom line in a relatively short time span. This short-term view can negatively affect their social media activities, and it helps to explain the many “salesy” social media accounts run by small businesses that we see out there in the social web.

Social media requires a time commitment in addition to an investment in resources.

The Returns Requested are Simple When in Reality it is More Complex
One thing I find is that some small businesses, without a social education, feel that merely having lots of Facebook Fans or Twitter Followers means they are doing well. I’ve said it before, but fans and followers can be bought. The real business ROI of social media is how it affects your bottom line, and often social media ROI has impact on your entire organization that many a small business owner does not see in advance. Small businesses shouldn’t get fooled in thinking that a simple metric can determine their success in social media. This is an area which calls on the small business owner to exercise their leadership and read beyond the hype and understand how social business yields benefits for the entire company.

Conclusion: Social media requires a minimal commitment of time and resources with a long-term approach and a need for metrics that are aligned with your business. Even if you were to have a Marketing employee devote half of their time to social marketing, it would require a few thousand dollars a month in terms of resources, not to mention time and an education. ROI for social media within a business context does exist, but it often requires the CEO to believe in the vision and sometimes begin launching social media implementation through experimentation. If you invested 10% of your marketing budget into social efforts, it is a good place to start to see the potential effect that your program can have on your bottom line – and then some.

There are no rules in social media nor guarantees that any business or person will be successful at it. Yet there is a guarantee that we are spending more of our time on social sites and that opportunities abound for small businesses, even without brand recognition, to take advantage and build a new revenue-generating community of present and future customers as well as find new business development opportunities through monitoring conversations and engaging with the participants. The only long-term solution for such an oxymoron is the continued education of small business leaders with regards to social business, a task which I am committed to and investing my time and energy to fulfill.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been many successful small businesses who have adapted to and become successful at social marketing, but they are like the goldfish in the image above, swimming against the stream of their industry norm.

By Neal Schaffer

 

Social Media Language, Taking Over the Oxford English Dictionary

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Social media has taken the world by storm. There’s no doubt about that, it is but a fact. People talk about all things social media and networking every single day, whether it be at work, in business or even personally with friends. You’ve probably over heard groups of people talking about the latest gossip on Facebook yourself, it really is everywhere. People talk about it so regularly now, that language which is associated with social networking has officially made into the Oxford English Dictionary. This helps prove just how substantial sites like Facebook and Twitter are in today’s professional and personal worlds.

A prime example of a term which has become common place in day to day life and thus made its debut into the Dictionary, is derived from Twitter and is the term, “Re-Tweet”. The official definition of this word is, as stated in the Oxford Dictionary,

  • Pronunciation:/riːˈtwiːt/
  • verb: (on the social networking service Twitter) repost or forward (a message posted by another user). Noun: are posted or forwarded message on Twitter” -Courtesy of BBC Online

Social Media Terms, Will They Replace Traditional Words?

The likes of Twitter and Facebook have become such an integral part of peoples lives that it’s no wonder we talk about it, usually using the language associated with the working of these networks. It’s easy to use this language when it so easily and best describes the functions they carry out. The more people talk, the more popular language and terms become, hence why they are immortalised in dictionaries as known and accepted phrases within modern language.

Technological terms are just as important to modern society than more broad and well known terms and words. It’s possible that they may even replace older phrases. A good example of this would be “Friend Me”, as in the Facebook action of requesting friendship. Personally, I detest this phrase as I believe it’s incredibly lazy use of language. However, although it’s not accepted in the Dictionary yet,  it doesn’t mean that it wont be in years to come. This is because it’s a word which you hear more and more and so it’s gaining traction. The popular a word is, especially if used globally,  the more likely it can be added to a dictionary. You never know, to “Be-friend” someone may be a thing of the past but I sincerely hope not. Be-friending just sounds so much more pleasant and correct but the feelings of one person means very little!

Another social media term that has now officially graced the pages of one of the world’s most respected dictionaries is, “Follower”. This is described as,

  • Pronunciation:/ˈfɒləʊə/
  • noun: someone who is tracking a particular person, group, or organization on a social networking site”. Courtesy of BBC online.

The fact that they have made it into the OED means that they are terms which are deemed to be with us for the long run. Fiona McPherson, senior editor, has said that these are all terms which will be with us for years to come, “Some words are flash in the pan, but you can normally gauge by using your own judgement whether or not something is going to have a life.”

Times change, people move on and as they do, so does the language they use. Whether you agree with all the changes in “hip and young” words, even spellings, social media has created a language all of its own and this acceptance of it by official books means it’s definitely part of everyone’s lives from here on in. It’s time to embrace this change and get yourself up to date with all these newfangled technology terms!

By, Nikki Peters

 

How Social Media Has Helped to Reshape Marketing

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Marketing is an ever-changing landscape, which we’ve seen with the rise and fall of SEO and the revolution of Inbound Marketing led by the guys over at HubSpot. Social Media has also become one of the big influences in marketing, becoming an integral part in any successful business marketing strategy.

Here are some ways that Social Media has helped to reshape marketing.

Facebook and Twitter’s new influence on Search
With how ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ plus ‘retweets’ are becoming more and more important in getting the word out, the big search engines have started to realize that those public announcements are like a vote of confidence from the sharer. Permanent links were what all SEOs had dreamed about. Now, SEOs are hoping to get their links shared by influential tweeters, which are proving to influence search ranking factors. Here’s an unexpected case study on a tweet’s effect on rankings by SEOmoz Of course, there is more value than just the boost in search rankings from ‘likes’ and tweets. There is brand exposure and clicks, which also are valuable things in marketing. But there is no doubt that with the search industry continuing to grow, that Social Media should be an important part of any SEO strategy, what with the growing influence Social Media has on search rankings.

Companies Focus on Engagement versus Selling
Think about how back in the day we used to have our local dry cleaner who everyone in the family knew and who knew everyone in the family, the convenience store clerk who you talked to about your problems at work while he made your favorite cup of coffee, and the homely waitress at the local diner who knew how to get your eggs just right. Those were the days that were less about profit and transactions and were more about creating genuine, personal relationships. Businesses now, through Social Media, are working to reverse the effects time has had on the personal customer experience by engaging users to create more loyalty. It’s not unusual to get an @reply from a company saying thanks for sharing a neat tweet or even engaging in an intellectual or simply fun exchange with you.

Blogging to Build Influence and Authority
I was recently approached by the awesome Noah Kagan who asked about leveraging blogging to build influence and authority after seeing my name pop up in some of the bigger outlets in the startup space. An authority in the marketing realm himself, I was more than happy to oblige because I had much respect for the former Director of Marketing at Mint.com and current Chief Sumo at App Sumo. Wise professionals and marketers like him are continuing to understand the value in blogging. Both in the networking value because you become part of the writing community where other writers treat you as a peer, and in the authority you build, becoming an expert and influence in the space you write about. I also had a recent chat with Scott Gerber, expert on young entrepreneurship, who is syndicated in outlets like Entrepreneur, WSJ, FoxNews and more. By blogging, he became one of the leading sources in everything about young entrepreneurship, and is constantly receiving inbound inquiries (perhaps more than he can handle) about what’s new in youth entrepreneurship.

Social Media as a New Distribution Channel
By using channels like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, you leverage your network, your second- and third-degree networks and heavily trafficked platforms for mass distribution because of the viral potential these channels have. Here’s an interesting study by ChompOn showing the value of social action in online commerce. These days, it’s less about the stale press release, which is arguably dead, and more about empowering customer evangelists, who are more trusted referral sources in spreading the word. In fact, some businesses leverage Social Media to create hype or make announcements about exciting things they’re doing. The popular Robert Scoble played an integral role in helping to launch the awesome Flipboard app, which couldn’t support all the great hype it got during launch, but was able to rebound.

Social Media Advertising
It’s amazing what’s happening in marketing these days, especially in advertising, which supposedly became a dying channel once other cost-effective channels like SEO and Social Media started popping up. But one new form of advertising emerged from all this change, Social Media advertising. For example, you can do Youtube video and channel sponsorship. Some of these YouTube vloggers even have agents, just the same way famous movie stars and athletes do! But with sponsorship of a Youtube vlogger, you can promote your business and product to that special vlogger’s community of thousands of subscribers that might even reach millions of viewers. A killer success story here is with custom women’s shoes startup, Shoes of Prey, sponsoring a 16 year old video blogger to create a video promoting their product which led to 500,000 views in one week and a permanent tripling of sales, absolutely nothing short of most marketers’ dreams. Then, there’s also sponsored blog posts, which are noted as such, on blogs with massive followings to get links and traffic, plus a permanent post to be used as reference when Googlers search it, or when readers are looking for something related to your business on that blog. There are even endorsed tweets, with networks like Ad.ly where you can pay to get a celebrity to endorse you through Social Media. Other networks even let you sponsor the average layman to tweet your link letting their followers know they support you.

Active Listening to Incorporate Customers into the Feedback Loop
The age of Social Media came with the age of active listening. Consumers now had a voice, and businesses were now lending an ear because businesses that didn’t faced a ton of flak from those now empowered and vocal consumers. But with all this active listening came active responses, allowing companies to figure out better ways to serve and target their audience after learning more about their core consumer’s desires and needs. Active listening and responding to your community keeps businesses lean since they’re getting feedback and iterating based on that feedback, which is more than just analytics and data alone.

Danny Wong

 

Why PR Should Take Social Media Seriously

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There are two parameters that help define PR, reach and influence and getting your corporate message out efficiently without filters is also vital in the age of digital media, where cynicism of the old methods is pervasive.

So why does Social Media need to be taken seriously?

  1. It’s more believable and trustworthy than the filtered mainstream media that has many vested interests
  2. Its fast and efficient as it can be sent from smartphones before it even hits the traditional media channels (remember the Iranian Elections)
  3. It has leverage. (One Friend tells another, who tells many more, who then tell others.. its exponential,and  it helps to have great original content or a good story)

So what is the reach of Social Media? and which have the most Influence? When you look at the the players like Facebook and Twitter, and the other Social Media’s platforms numbers, the motivation for being involved becomes compelling and should negate any excuses about being engaged in Social Media.

Eight Major Social Media Channels

  1. Facebook: The Premier Social Networking Site where you can add friends, post photos, share your life and join groups
  2. Twitter: Share information, “follow” other people and get your information out as a “live” stream.
  3. YouTube: It is the Social media channel where you can upload and share Videos, subscribe to channels and again add friends
  4. LinkedIn: A social media site that operates primarily in the the professional networking and business relationships segment
  5. MySpace: A social networking platform that enables the easy sharing  of  multimedia nd works well as a multimedia aggregator
  6. Digg: A social platform that enables you to post your articles and others can vote on whether they like your story or not.
  7. Blogs: An interactive way of sharing content informally and receiving comments
  8. Wikipedia: The socially generated encyclopedia which is updated and edited constantly by the online community

Their Reach

  • Facebook: Over 200 million members and 80 billion monthly page views (Techcrunch)
  • Twitter: It now has over 44 Million unique visitors a month (according to Comscore)
  • YouTube: Over 100 Million visitors in March and over 13.8 Billion video views in March alone (YouTube report)
  • LinkedIn: Over 16 million unique visitors a month with a a very affluent demographic where the average user is 39 and makes $139K ayear and over 500,000 C-level members (Quantcast)
  • MySpace: Just under 100 million visitors a month and 43 Billion page views (Techcrunch)
  • Digg: More traffic than the New York Times with 23 million unique visitors a month and 4.5 billion pages views (Techcrunch)
  • Blogs: Over 5 million blogs are tracked by Technorati, the “Bible” of Blogs with 600,000 being corporate blogs (Technorati)
  • Wikipedia: Nearly 63 Million Unique visitors June 2009 (Compete)

Note: If you want to look at some really interesting numbers have a look at (Future Marketing Trends at FutureBuzz.com)

So what is the Reach of the Old Media? and what does that say about their influence.. is it growing or waning?

  • USA Today” (largest read newspaper in the USA)  2.1 Million a day (Audit Bureau of Circulations) which if it was unique views per month of 63.1 million (which it isn’t it. would still be 3 x smaller than Facebook)
  • AARP is the most widely circulated magazine in the USA and reaches 24.5 million which is slightly more than Digg (Audit Bureau of Circulations) but still 8 times smaller than Facebook
  • Fox News Channel (highest rated news channel for 90 months) has 15.6 million viewers a day (Huffington Post)..The same as the number of unique LinkedIn visitors sees monthly.
  • Rush Limbaugh the largest talk radio in the States  has 14.75 million a day is less than half the 40 million unique visitors to Twitter each month (Talkers Magazine)

Note: 40 % of people blogged in 2008, 50% got their news online and 35% from print newspapers (Pew Research)

So what are some of the PR Values of the New Media?

  • Twitter: You are able to listen and to respond to what people are saying about your brand in the market place within seconds with worldwide reach
  • Blogs: Corporate blogs provide “recency” by allowing companies to provide the latest information delivered by RSS feeds to customers that position your company as a thought leader in their industry and getting its message out without “corporate speak” making the corporation seem human rather than faceless.
  • Facebook allows you to improve customer satisfaction(that’s good PR) by more than 17 times according to research done by the the Aberdeen Group
  • YouTube allows you take take control of your brands image on YouTube by creating an account and utilising its growing SEO priority in search engines , due to its increasing growth (over 53% last year) and growing importance as a Free Marketing, PR and branding medium, have a look at 5 reasons your company should be on YouTube in this Post by Small Biz Trends.
  • MySpace provides more chance of getting your page viewed as its viewers average over 20 minutes a day as compared to CNN that averages 5 and a half minutes.
  • Digg’s PR Values are to increase the visibility of your stories by having them voted on and increase your social networking opportunities
  • LinkedIn allows you to communicate with highly affluent people that have the greatest  capacity to directly impact your business.

So in when someone is searching for your company and you want your PR to get out rather than someone elses message about your brand you need to  be across a range of social media. This gives your company the best chance of having your message seen and heard. If you do not join in the Social Media conversation, “it will take place without you” and you might not like what is being said.

In Summary Social Media’s Role in PR is about

  • Efficient delivery of your message through ensuring that search engines find you easily (SEO..Search Engine Optimization), because you have optimised your Social Media (SMO… Social Media Optimization)
  • Maximizing the level of  control over your message by being so high up in the search engine that you are the first 7 or 8 on page one, because you are maximizing your SEO through great content and spanning multiple boundaries of Social Media.
  • Ensuring that peoples different preferences for hearing your message is maximized because you have it in audio text, image and video in social media

Written by jeffbullas

Why companies should stop blocking social media

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We’re living in the age of the Internet, right?

These days news breaks on Twitter, not network TV. Video chat on Facebook, Google+, and our smartphones phones is making it easy to chat with friends, in real time, no matter where you are. The speed of information is moving so fast that some millennials aren’t even using email to communicate.

Social communication has become part of the fabric of our everyday lives.

So, why is it that 54 percent of companies are still blocking access to social media sites at work?

Certainly that number has come down in recent years, but to think that more than half of all companies are still not affording their staff to access Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter during the day. That just doesn’t add up.

Now, I’m not here to say all companies should unblock social sites in the workplace. Certainly there are times and places where it makes sense. But, 54 percent—that seems too high.

Here are some business reasons why that 54 percent should reconsider:

Companies are investing in social media as a marketing/communications tool.

Nearly all of them (94 percent), according to a Digital Media Wire report.

That means that a number of companies among the 54 percent are sending mixed messages to their employees. In essence they’re saying: “We believe in the power of social media to help us market our products and services, we just don’t trust our employees because we think they’ll waste an inordinate amount of time on Facebook.”

Employees aren’t dumb. They see what you’re doing. And they will react and speak out.

More employees are relying on social networks to do their jobs.

This is especially true of business professionals.

In the PR industry, think about your work. How often do you turn to friends and colleagues online for advice? How often do you read blogs to keep up with industry trends? How often do you refer to a how-to YouTube video to better understand a particular process or tool?

Look at the data: 25 percent of employees rely heavily on social networks in the workplace. I would guess that they are most likely your star employees (usually the folks that are the most tech-savvy and with the biggest professional networks).

Do you really want your top performers looking to work for the competition?

Millennials simply won’t accept it.

According to a study by American Express, 39 percent of younger workers won’t even consider working for a company that blocks Facebook. It’s no wonder. In most cases, Facebook has become their communication tool of choice among colleagues and friends. Why would they work for a company that’s going to block the tool they want to use and are using on a daily basis to communicate, share, and learn?

Ever heard of the smartphone?

According to Nielsen, 50 percent of all Americans will own a smartphone by Christmas (compared with 10 percent during the summer of 2008). Half of your company may own a smartphone by the end of this year. That means they don’t need your network. They’ll be (and are) accessing Facebook, blogs, YouTube, and whatever other social network they want via the phone in their pocket or purse. Blocking social networks on their computers seems pretty darn pointless, doesn’t it?

Breaks equal more-productive employees.

This might be an arguable point, but recent research suggests employees who are given short breaks to surf the Web or connect with friends on Facebook are more productive than those who don’t.

Companies are blocking social media because they fear their staff will waste too much time on Facebook. But there are a couple of things faulty with that logic: First, that’s a management issue, not a social media/Web issue; and second, who’s to say Facebook and other social media sites are the only websites where your staff can “waste time”? Ever heard of The Onion? US Weekly? Laughing Squid? That list is endless. Just because your blocking “social media” doesn’t mean your staff won’t waste time in some other fashion online.

What do you think? Are you surprised 54 percent of companies are still blocking social sites? Should that number be lower?

Arik C. Hanson is the principal of ACH Communications in Minnesota. He blogs at Communications Conversations, where a version of this story first appeared.

Stone Meta Describes ‘Swarm and Herd’ Strategy

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Social media strategists Stone Meta Media tells auto dealers the key to creating Facebook fans and keeping them engaged in the dealership’s postings is a ‘swarm and herd’ strategy.

“We use a ‘swarm and herd’ strategy to first build a large Facebook fan base for the dealership and then we use techniques like coupons, games, contests and other fan incentives on the page to begin drawing or herding fans into the dealership,” says Stone Meta CEO Rob McClurg.

Dealers like Apple Chevrolet in Tinley Park, IL, use this strategy to empower their Facebook pages. “The strategy keeps our fans paying attention to our site,” says Tom Gorham, the dealership’s Internet Sales and Marketing Manager. “They have to be checking out our page often if they want a chance to win one of the many promotions we run all the time that helps us draw customers into our dealership.”

‘Swarm and herd’ is a phrase first coined in the book Nature of Marketing, and the idea adopted by Stone Meta for social media is highly relevant. It refers to creating a large Facebook fan base first and then herding those fans to the dealership through very specific Facebook engagement events.

“This swarm and herd strategy creates a sense of fun, community involvement and trust and as the page continues to capture more fans,” McClurg adds, “it becomes alive with engaging conversations, monthly promotions, special coupons and local links to coincidentally create business opportunities for the dealership.”

“This is a delicate situation, herding people to the dealership,” notes Gorham. “The effort cannot be obvious or it will turn people off. It has to happen in a special and careful way, which is why we use coupons – and we’re experimenting with Groupon to offer LOF services at ridiculously low prices – to get people in on word of mouth, where we can win them over and make them lifetime customers.”

Apple Chevrolet and Chevy Chase Acura-Nissan of Bethesda, MD say their social media provider suggested a number of fan-engagement tactics to support their swarm and herd strategy. For instance, Chevy Chase Acura-Nissan engages fans using giveaways — iPad and other popular electronic incentives that encourage fan growth. Apple Chevrolet uses gas card rewards for Facebook sweepstakes and game rewards to create swarms of new fans.

“Chevy Chase started its social media marketing with about 1500 fans and after using the swarm and herd strategy grew the base rapidly to 6,000 fans. Apple Chevrolet uses the strategy and has seen its fan base jump from 300 to 3400 in just 90 days,” reports McClurg.

“Only when your social media efforts are building a large fan base can you start to herd these fans into your dealership and turn them into lifelong customers,” McClurg says.

Readers may contact McClurg at 815-333-3332 or visit www.stonemeta.com