February 26th, 2013

Your social media strategy = Free Awesome Sauce. Fake Grimlock is back to teach us ‘how social right.’

February 14th, 2013
January 4th, 2013
November 25th, 2012
April 24th, 2012

Corporate blogs losing popularity…

A couple of reports out today on the death of the corporate blog: 

  • This USA Today Piece, 'Blogs are Slogs, So Companies Just Quit,' shares results from a study that shows the percentage of companies that maintain blogs fell from 50% in 2010 to 37% today.
  • Results from this study by UMass/Dartmouth, 'Blogging Declines as New Tools Rule,' shows “…adoption of blogging is declining for the first time since 2007 among the Inc. 500 companies.” (Good charts in this study)

Both articles point to preferred use of other social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as the main cause of the exodus. And, as the USA Today headline references, most companies aren’t committed to the amount of work a worthwhile blog requires.  

A shame, really, but not entirely surprising as turning most traditional businesses into extroverted media publishers is quite a task, and putting corporate processes around such an undertaking may not be the best idea for creating a blog your customers will find remarkable.

Every company has great stories, great content, within their organization; be it employees, customers, vendors, customer service, sponsored events. It just requires someone who knows how to identify the greatness in the story and knows how to promote those stories in a manner that is of value to the audience. And, it requires someone who has the permission and the resources to do it on a regular basis.

The ironic part of the exodus is that an effective social media strategy, like those they are pursuing on Facebook, et al, is driven by a dynamic content strategy. All those other sites will require interesting content to engage the network. Changing channels isn’t going to address the problem. Figuring out how to capture killer content is the solution. 

Yes, it requires a lot more effort to create and maintain a great blog compared to a Facebook page, but the impression a great blog makes on your audience is much greater than any of the other social media channels can muster.  And the more other companies stop blogging, the greater the opportunity for those who do.

April 11th, 2012

Pinterest, brands, media, and retail.

It is said that a school of feeding-frenzied piranha can strip a cow to the bone in less than a minute. Witness the media attention focused on social media’s next big thing, Pinterest, which is now not only the fastest growing social media platform but also the number three social network in the U.S. behind Facebook and Twitter. The surge in popularity has introduced a new verb into the social media lexicon, “pinning”, and Pinterest owns it.

I propose that a lot of new traffic is from marketers logging in and trying to figure out what Pinterest is and how to use it.  By now you should be asking yourself, ‘Really? Another social network? Really?” Followed by, “Should we be on Pinterest? And, why, who, how…”

The short answer, for now, is: If you are a retailer, brand, or media property focused on women’s clothes, fashion, or interior design, or if you want to be considered an authority in any of these areas, then yes, Pinterest is for you. 

83% of Pinterest users are women and the most popular posts are photos about design, fashion and home decoration. As one woman’s mag editor put it, “Shoes and nails get the most engagement.” HubSpot’s Dan Zarrella crunched some numbers and found that the most pinned words are love, home, things, style, ideas. The most repinnable words are recipe, chicken, minutes, bake, cake, cheese.  You get the idea.

One example of a brand knowing their customer and using Pinterest to reach them is this Kotex campaign.

The long term answer gets a little more complicated, because Pinterest is about visual curation, taste making, and selling, like a web version of a great catalog that pulls from a variety of product categories to celebrate an ideal in a certain context.

“Pinterest is amazing from a retail perspective,” explains Dustin Robertson, Backcountry.com’s CMO.  “Because of the women audience and the visual navigation, product discovery works well.  Also, Pinterest is the first social tool that encourages product selling.  On Facebook it is difficult to have an honest product discussion daily without destroying your fan base.”

Backcountry.com, which has solid success on Facebook with 466,000 fans, has started several Pinterest Boards around product categories that link back to the product pages on their store.  Amazon and eBay are two other notable retailers experimenting with Pinterest integration. 

Media is also starting to experiment with content distribution and SEO strategies on Pinterest.  Adventure Journal’s Steve Casimiro was the first on the scene and currently curates 17 Boards aligned with the content features on his site. 

“Pinterest is Real Simple+Martha Stewart+Sunset,” Steve said. “It’s bright and shiny and happy and aspirational. It’s almost by nature commercial. It’s also one of those places where the analog to the real world is true — it’s like a giant pinboard. And think of how useful a pinboard is. It organizes information in a far more accessible way.”

No word yet on metrics but obviously the social platform has surged to such popularity that it is impossible to ignore. And, it’s eating Google+’s lunch at a time when Google was hoping to gain some traction. The average time on Pinterest per visitor is 97 minutes, the average time a user spends on Google+ is 3 minutes. 

So, the pinning dynamic has obviously tapped into some base human social sharing instinct. How great of appeal that dynamic has among demographics beyond women is yet to be seen, but it is definitely worth keeping an eye on. 

In my own Pinterest experiment, I’ll be pinning statistics and case studies on Pinterest Marketing on…Pinterest. 

January 5th, 2012

What is True? The foundation of a kick-ass brand…

The feature story in the Jan. 2 issue of AdAge, by Doug Levy and Bob Garfield, is titled “The dawn of the Relationship Era.” Apparently, Relationship development is the Big Idea in the marketing world for 2012. The piece is a relevant examination of the importance of what the authors call “The Human Element” for mass market brands trying to regain relevance in this new, digital, social marketing environment. It’s a great read, but the concept is perhaps not as revolutionary as the authors think (or hope, as it pertains to their forthcoming book…)

The authors extol companies to figure out what their brand stands for, why it exists, in order to establish a reason for building a relationship. The problem is most of the AdAge audience is working for brands or companies that have gone through so many changes (of ownership, management, or missions…) that they long ago ceased to be driven by a higher ideal, other than climbing the corporate career ladder and achieving quarterly profits and bonuses. The authors acknowledge as much.

And it’s not a new idea. It’s a realization that started gaining relevance when social media started gaining traction. You can’t hide, don’t try, be authentic and transparent. Sound familiar? 

It’s still a completely foreign approach to old school marketers. But new school marketers have discovered the secret sauce:

  • What is True? The answer to that—an ideal, a belief, an opinion—is the foundation of a relevant brand
  • Develop a product or service that embodies that ideal on every level
  • Build a marketing strategy focused on celebrating that ideal or belief
  • Develop the business as a vehicle to celebrate the ideal and inject that ideal in every aspect and touchpoint of the culture. 
  • Use the profits to further elevate the visibility and celebrity of the cause
  • Regularly examine/translate the answer to the True question in the context of contemporary perspective to keep the brand relevant

The ideal is the mission, the filter through which all ideas and strategies are measured. It drives everything. People will buy the product or service to express their agreement with the ideal and to celebrate your brand as the champion of the ideal.

That people/marketers are still wrestling with identifying credible authenticity is not shocking. Once a brand reaches a certain size, they need outside money to continue to grow. Outside money can poison the brand ideal by an requiring ownership stake and/or a high expectation of profit in return for their investment. It is the rare investment group that supports an ideal to the point of being patient for the realization of a healthy ROI.

December 30th, 2011

How (and why) to use your blog to launch a new product

Let’s start with the obvious just to get it out of the way: People use the internet to research purchases. People also use the internet to make purchases.

K. With that in mind, recall that you are always looking for ways to keep accurate information highly visible to potential consumers when they are researching your products. Having accurate and comprehensive information appear high in search results is one of the best ways to accomplish this. And, as the product’s manufacturer, you have the best opportunity to own organic search results around your new product. 

How? You control when information on new products is released. You have a built-in head-start on everyone else on establishing an authoritative, very search friendly page as a research resource. You should take advantage of that advantage to own organic search results for that product. 

Timing around the product announcement timing is your best opportunity to tell your side of the story during the purchase research process, without surrendering control of storytelling to the relatively uninformed opinons of media or consumer reviews. Here’s how. 

  1. Before you send information to anyone outside of your internal team, post an announcement of the new product on your blog, with product and in-use images and video, the day or week before the product is formally unveiled at the trade show or event. The post should be detailed yet have an informal tone, to be relatively comprehensive, as if the product designer were taking the sales team through the need for the product, the unique technology, and the features/benefits of the product.  Remember, it is written for the consumer in research mode.
  2. The headline of the blog should be super SEO friendly, with the brand name, product name, related activity (skiing, climbing…) and any other relevant high-profile search terms, such as an athlete or celebrity that played a role in the product development or a current event, like the trade show name.
  3. Publish the product announcement blog post with some, not many, outbound links to high authority pages.
  4. Post a link to the product announcement blog post page URL (not the main blog URL) on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Reddit and StumbleUpon.
  5. Encourage your sponsored athletes, employees and dealers to Share the post or re-Tweet the announcement, as well.
  6. Use the blog post page as the press release and email a link to the post to media who will be interested in the new product, in the hopes that they will also link to that page via their social channels, as it is still the only resource available with information on the product.

By providing a sneak peak at the product to your fans, followers and media, they will also share that information and link to the post on their social networks, forums and groups as they are eager to demonstrate that they have access to the inside scoop when it comes to your brand. By the end of the day, you should have several high-authority pages linking to your blog post.

The strategy is to use links and traffic from those high authority pages to give an instant boost to the authority of the product announcement blog post, because there is zero competition for the terms and phrases associated with the product.

This blog post will appear high in search results for anyone searching for information about the product during the trade show cycle. The more clicks to that page from search results, the higher the authority of the page becomes. It is a self-feeding search cycle.

By the time the product hits store shelves, your blog post should be in excellent position to compete for high search results versus retailers who are buying ad words around the product and authoritative online media reviews. This will keep your voice, your perspective, very visibile during the product research phase. You help ensure that the entire story is being told about the product. 

And, if you sell direct, you can provide a link to the store product page to drive sales…

December 28th, 2011

'11 Learnings: Don't outsource social

Hire an in-house social person/team.

Qualified outside agencies can and should help to build an organization’s social strategy, platform, and systems, as they can provide valuable outside perspective and resources, but you need a dedicated in-house social presence to truly make your social strategy remarkable, authentic and unique. 

Outside agencies, no matter how embedded, don’t live the organization’s culture as intimately as in-house people. They can help you build the guidelines and systems that you need to manage a social staff. If you can’t afford one dedicated in-house person, then designate teams of people qualified to post to social channels on behalf of the organization. 

December 27th, 2011

New Tools we Use: Topsy - Cultivating and harvesting social signal

We’re examining a couple of relatively new real-time social search and analytics platforms that attempt to bring some focus and utility to the amazing amount of information that is published on the web each day. First up, Topsy.

Topsy -  Cultivating and Harvesting Social Signal

Using a combination of influence and trending data, Topsy has three key functions:

  1. The main search surfaces the most relevant content around your search terms in realtime. Once you identify the best content, Topsy helps you identify the most influential people talking/Tweeting about the topic, story or link.
  2. Topsy’s “Experts” search function allows you to identify influential people or brands that frequently discuss your brand, product or category, so you can identify new influencers in your market 
  3. Topsy’s Analytics dashboard gives you a snapshot of the amount of mentions of your search term, and allows you to compare versus competitor mentions during the same period. 

I find Topsy valuable for identifying new influencers talking about clients, their products, their competition, and current events relevant to the client in their category. As well, we use the analytics function in reporting to show increase/decrease in conversations taking place around a launch or crisis, and competitive analysis around trade shows and shopping holidays.

The front-end search and analytics services are free. There are commercial API and licensed software options available for companies interested in integrating Topsy’s data. 

You will still need some resources dedicated to getting the most value from Topsy in order to get familiar with its capabilities and how/where to use the information, from PR to customer service, but its a great, free alternative to Radian6 and other premium social monitoring services. 

December 19th, 2011

Key digital trends for 2012

The importance of magnetic content, video and privacy in 2012.
  • Device adoption trends signal new imperatives for marketers
  • The line between advertising and content continues to blur
  • Social networking remains in growth mode
  • Consumers’ mobile, social and shopping behaviors are converging at the last mile
  • Privacy remains on the front burner for consumers and marketers
December 16th, 2011

How to…start to build the business of the future, today. Or, at least, how to start thinking about it.

Edelman is the most progressive, um, Un-PR agency in the field. They continue to leverage the new social connectivity opportunities to re-define what PR is and what it does.

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