May 11, 2009

How to Get Over the Ouch Syndrome in Blogging

By Li Evans

Detractors Let's face it, no one likes to hear "bad" things about themselves.  It's never more true when you have a corporate PR or Marketing department who's only job is to "spin".  But negative thoughts, comments and situations are a given whenever a company enters into the public spectrum.  There is always a detractor somewhere.  This is why companies who are entering into the social media space really need to be prepared to accept the love as well as the "non-love" with their brand, products or services.

So with a little inspiration from the group on Sunday night's #blogchat group and from Debra Mastaler (who I've personally called the Link Goddess) I present some ways for companies to get over the "ouch" of starting a blog.

  1. Grow a Thick Skin
    Everyone has a detractor.  That old saying that you need a "thick skin" or just let it roll off like "duck off a waters back" is very true when it comes to blogging.  Blogging naturally attracts emotions of all kinds.  People love you, people hate you, you as the company or blog owner need to have a thick skin to be able to accept both the negative and positive comments the posts on your blog will attract.  The biggest thing is don't freak out!  The next biggest thing is don't go into the standard "defense" mode.  Think things through before you actually respond to a negative comment.
  2. Don't Engage (or Feed) the Trolls
    Don't feed the trolls anymore goats than you need too. It's a bit tough to pick out the constant complainer & avid troll, from that customer who loves you but just has this one complaint or two.  Understanding the difference is key.  It means the difference from having a constant enemy to having the most evangelical fan out their for your brand, product or service.
  3. Allow Comments on Your Blog
    Don't be a one way communication device.  The days of just jamming a marketing message down your audience's throat is gone.  Even though it is technically your soapbox, blogging requires at least two way communication.  Even more it requires community participation to become authentic and authoritative, that's why comments are vitally important to a successful blog.
  4. Post a Comment & Trackback Policy Prominently on Your Blog
    To make things clear, and fair, companies should post (very visibly) policies about what types of comments and trackbacks they will recieve and publicly post.  This protects both the audience and the comment poster (not to mention the blog itself).  Having a policy that points out you will not accept comments that are vulgar, defamatory on a personal nature or racist in any way avoids companies from having to post such negative garbage and having to defend themselves against it.  Post a link to your comments & trackback policies prominently on your blog to avoid this type of nonsense.
  5. Don't Moderate for Negative Comments
    As much as anyone hates negative comments about themselves, you have to let them through, you can't moderate them out, not if you want to be taken seriously.  Even if the person thinks you are the worst brand to walk the planet earth, you have to have that think skin (referr to bulletin item #1) and just let that negative roll right off your back.  Look deeper into the comment and try to understand why the commenter is upset.  A lot of times negative commenters are really people who like you but are just really upset because you disappointed them in some way, shape or form.  By taking the time to figure that out and addressing it, you have the opportunity to turn that negativer commenter into your biggest evangelist!
  6. Admit When You Are Wrong
    If you were wrong, or your company did wrong, don't avoid it - just admit it and get it over with.  By admitting that you did wrong on your blog - whether its through blog comments or through a blog post itself, just admit you were wrong.  By admitting you were wrong, you'll gain a lot more respect from your audience, as well as loyalty.  We're all human, we all make mistakes, but when you can admit to those mistakes in a public forum, something that sticks around for a while, it creates a whole new dimension to your "trust factor" as will s strengthening your relationship with your audience.

I'm sure there's other tips out there for dealing with the "ouch" syndrome, do you have something that worked for you?  Would love to hear about it!

Follow Li Evans on Twitter

April 22, 2009

A Pizza Hut PR Stunt Or a Social Media Blunder Waiting to Happen?

By Li Evans

Yummy-pizza To kick off the work week Twitter was all abuzz with news that Pizza Hut wanted to hire a summer intern to man their Twitter account. The story even made the New York Times. I really don't know what made me roll my eyes more, that the NY Times gave this obvious PR Stunt credibility or that the Vice President for marketing communications at Pizza Hut (Bob Kraut), actually stated "The successful applicant will speak fluent OMG and LOL and correctly use the terms DM (direct message), RT (retweet) and # (hashtag)." to make himself sound cool and hip.

For the record, if you tweeted DM it wouldn't work on Twitter, it's "D" for direct message, let alone they left out knowing how to reply to twitterers with the "@" symbol.

Tom Martin, who writes at Positive Disruption asked if this "Twiternship" was Ethical, its a very interesting look at the situation and a very thought provoking piece if you into marketing, PR and social media.  It kept me coming back to even more questions, beyond asking if this was just a PR Stunt to draw people away from the Domino's video fiasco.

You Seriously Want an Intern Handling Your International Brand on an International Stage?

Pizza Hut is not just a national brand, but an international one.  Twitter isn't just a U.S. based tool, its a world wide tool.  Now, stop and think.  Would any company be crazy enough to let an intern who doesn't know the inner workings of their global brand (carefully crafted messaging they've spent millions on) plan, prepare, run and speak at an international press event that launches your brand on an international stage?

Continue reading "A Pizza Hut PR Stunt Or a Social Media Blunder Waiting to Happen?" »

April 17, 2009

Why You Need a Social Media Champion

By Li Evans

Social-media-champion Lets face it, Social Media can be pretty tough sell to the senior management or to clients who have just gotten their arms around the whole "SEO and PPC thing".  Trying to force them into putting social media into a marketing plan can be a pretty tough sell if you are just looking at it from a dollars and cents perspective, or even a links & search engine results perspective.  The toughest thing with social media is that its rough on seeing the immediate return - except when it's 'bad'.

I use the term "bad" loosely as it could be PR-wise, bad because something went viral and the traffic took down your server to you couldn't sell anything, or bad because it just doesn't seem to be working.  There can be a thousand other references to "bad" and when things seem to go down hill with online marketing efforts in social media, "bad" is usually how it ends up being described.

This is why agencies or companies need a person or a department that is their social media champion.  Social media is a vital part of marketing as a whole, not just online or offline.  It's not something that can be attempted lightly, without resources being attributed to it, otherwise it will end up "bad".

These are just a few of the reasons that if you don't have a social media champion on your team you should consider getting one:

Dedicated to Creating a Presence & Conversation in the Social Media Circles Your Audience Is In:

This person can become your voice and constant presence in the social media sites where your audience is holding conversations about you, your products, your brands or even just your industry.  This person (or even a team) can become a trusted resource for your audience to come to whether they are seeking out advice on how to use something, letting you know about a problem or giving you advice on how to improve your products. 

If your social media champion isn't out there participating, how will you know what's really being said about your company.  How will you know if your target audience is really being reached and the messaging you so carefully crafted is getting through.  Without those eyes and ears who are trained not only to understand your company in and out, but to listen to your customers and understand what they are saying, you'll totally be in the dark.

Understanding Your Audience & Objectives to Measure:

Measuring-tape Who better than someone dedicated to being your voice, who understands how the social media site work can help you navigate and put in place reasonable, understandable measurements so that you know if things really are "bad", than a Social Media champion. This person, or team, will understand better than your Public Relations, IT or even your search marketing team, what can reasonably be measured.

By understanding the in's and out's of the social media sites, and by understanding exactly how your audience is communicating, the Social Media champion can get a much better handle on those conversations that are taking place. They can also understand what those measurements you set in place, mean, in relation to what's going on in those particular social circles. It's one thing to have numbers, its another to have realistic data.... and then it's whole other ball game to but context and understanding behind those numbers. That's what a social media champion can do.

Help Set Social Media Policies:

This is another "Lets face it" situation here, HR is not going to really understand the damage a Facebook update can do, so allowing them to alone make the policies in this area isn't a smart move. Sometimes neither can a CEO or a CMO, understand the true impact of just 1 "tweet" can be. This is where a social media champion can really help you out beyond the marketing focus.

By understanding the impact a tweet, update or post in a forum has upon an audience about your company's perception, it can behoove companies to have the Social Media champion squarely involved in helping to develop social media policies for employees who are not directly involved in the companies social media efforts. This can help cover things that employees should be aware of, like their own personal blogs, twitter accounts or even Facebook & MySpace profiles.

Promotes Social Media Throughout the Company - Everyone Has A Stake:

Lastly, but not finally (there's always more to come with social media!), your social media champion can promote social media throughout your company. You may be wondering why you want someone to do this, who cares if the janitor has a Facebook page, right? Well you should!

Most likely that janitor has put down that he works for your company. He's got photos out there, updates, applications and everything else that a person who isn't technical, puts on their profile. That janitor has friends, and his friends know he works for you. He can have an impact on how your company is perceived in the social media sphere he participates in. A social media champion who realizes everyone in your company has a stake in social media, can relate to each employee what their individual stake is. Most employees want to do their part and help their employer, the social media champion can help make that happen

So have you thought about this some more? Still on the fence about dedicating resources directly to social media?  Stop and think about how hard it's been trying to pull a social media marketing effort together currently with all different departments pulling at you.  That should be enough to let you know its time to assign one person (or team) to be solely at the helm of the efforts to make them a success!

March 26, 2009

Small Businesses Succeed by Listening To Customers: NYC Search Engine Strategies

By Kim (cre8pc)

This is the first time there is a small business track at Search Engine Strategies. For 9AM the morning of the second full day of sessions, the room is packed. This points to a genuine need for marketing and web design conferences to include and expand topics for small and medium business needs, particularly in view of a global depressed economy and in America, additional government assistance for small businesses and start ups.

The main topic for this session is social media marketing and how small businesses can participate and use this medium for promotion of their companies.  Especially of importance, of course, for small business are concerns over money, but also how to get the most benefit out of every dollar they spend.  It's important to target specific customers.  One of the leading takeaways from this session is that is not wise to cast a wide net to see what you catch.  Rather, start small.  Go narrow.  Work up. The beauty of social media is its foundation on the conversation. 

Session: Small Voices, Big Impact: Social Media for the Little Guy
Moderator: Stoney deGeyter, of Pole Position Marketing

Panel:
Jennifer Laycock, SiteLogic and Searc Engine Guide
Amber Naslund, Radian6
Christina Kerley, ckEphiphany
Tim Kendall, Facebook


This session was a blend of two presentations, by Jennifer and Tim, who each brought brief power point slides, and an open mike question and answer between the remaining panelists and audience, led by Stoney.  Their goal was learn about the needs of their attendees and promptly address them.

Highlights:

1. Rather than calling it "social media marketing", it is really about social conversations.  Conversations are your chance to get your business involved.  This allows you to connect to your customers in a new way. 

2. Don't buy into the belief that social media is bleeding edge technology or this "new thing you have to learn".  In reality, social media has always been around, in the form of forums, for example.  (In the 1990's we had Usenet, AOL chat, listservs...) Social media marketing can happen ANYWHERE PEOPLE CONNECT WITH EACH OTHER.

3. When you get into a new social media site, there is a smaller community and you can reach more people.  This is nice for a specific niche. However, the drawback is that the audience smaller and you get less bang for your buck.  You may want to invest in whatever has taken hold and has proved to work.  In a recession, there is less money to spend, so rather than pushing out and promotion willy nilly, it is actually better to be looking for conversations. Smart companies go out and listen to discussions or online conversations to find out what's important to their target market.

Top places to look for affordable promotional opportunities are:


1. Flickr - Images are powerful.  This medium uses emotion to catch they eye.  A gorgeous picture with text evokes a better connection. The Flickr community will comment on each others pictures.  Users look for discussions on current topics.  For $25 a year you have unlimited photo and video uploads.  There is no search engine rank "juice", however, due to their nofollow links.  It's easy to use and you can access it and post from your camera phone and email client.  Adding links to photo descriptions is a nice way to lead people to conversations.  A good example is something like taking a picture of a recipe and linking the how-to.

2. Twitter - The immediacy of Twitter allows for instant feedback. It's like a giant wall with "post-it" notes, where there are little snippets of conversations.  You can narrow them down.  You can direct message people. For business, Twitter is a nice way to listen to your customers.  Are they talking about you? Are they tweeting about your company?  You can address them and their needs, which is great for customer service. Don't forget the power of a re-tweet. The "tweet" goes to who follows you in your network, then it is re-tweeted and shared with other networks.  Before you know it, you've reached a greater audience - into the thousands, very quickly. You can update by phone and its easy to get started.

3. YouTube - This site is second only to Google for places where people run searches.  It's great for getting your message out. When you upload videos, it offers options for optimization, tags, descriptions, titles and much more. Creative videos actually do take off and can be done inexpensively.

4. Linkedin - In addition to being than a place for business to business contacts, you can join in discussions by asking or answering questions.  Target discussions in your networks. Seek introductions to people.

With regard to social conversations (aka social media or social media marketing), the narrower the niche, such as a blog or article on a specific topic, the more exposure to your company or yourself.  Outbound links from blogs and articles tend to be less, and therefore less competitive with other sources that offer far more links, ads, and discussions.  Accordingly, you get more bang for your buck by making sure your brand is promoted in a less complicated space.  Social news web sites offer a wide array of topics, which means less attention on your ad, content or link. 

Consider the "value triangle" and use it wisely.  Content rises, which means you can utilize micro blogging, social news sites, search engine results, forums, social reviews (and user generated content), articles and blogs.  Use each of these, but aim for the top where you are more likely to be the main subject.


Facebook

Facebook is in the advertising business.  They offer advertising to large corporations and small businesses, including targeted demographic PPC and of course, the ads in the right side column.  98% of revenue for Facebook is ads driven.  Free tools are available by Facebook to aid small business.  Listening

I asked, on behalf of start-ups and very small, budget conscious businesses, about affordability. I also inquired about a "what's in this for me".  Essentially, first you have the free profile, which is a great start.  You can keep everyone informed simply by updating your status and providing daily news. Facebook "page" are considered to be the most popular landing pages. You can cap the amount you want to spend.  You can Geo Target, which allows local businesses to stay localized if they wish to.  Facebook gets a 1/2 million new users a day. "Every keyword is a person," to them, which is in interesting and obvious user oriented approach.

Consider, too, that with Facebook you can add videos, which everyone who is affiliated with you can watch. Build a target base by searching on your city and state to find people.  Build a presence, introduce yourself, and above all, use Facebook to LISTEN to what people are talking about.  What is the local conversation?  This can help you with marketing and also writing Geo targeted content, setting product pricing, etc.

User feedback is a sweet spot for Facebook.  You can "fan" conversations and items with "I like it" clicks. Friends pass items along to their friends.  Very quickly, your item can be seen by several networks. 

Other insights from this session:

1. Negative publicity can be a favor!  When your company has suffered from bad comments in something such as a blog or forum, turn it around by respectfully and considerately responding.  Turn the experience into a positive customer service response.  With social media, your customers are asking you to listen to them.  They want to be heard. What can you do to fix a problem?

2. Social media didn't create criticism.  It's just easier to hear it today.  Information comes from customers rather than paid sales persons and is considered more credible.

3. Check out Radian6.com for brand monitoring services

March 20, 2009

When It Comes to Twitter & Celebrities Its Not About Conversation

By Li Evans

Hollywood-stars-and-wannabes I'm going to indulge in a little guilty pleasure this Friday. I decided to start poking around a few Celebrity Twitter Accounts to see how some of these "stars" are using Twitter.  There's a wide variety of ways it's being used, but for the most part when it comes to Celebrity Twitter accounts, its definitely not about conversations with their communities or fan bases.

Perhaps its just the way celebrities are, that whole "look at me" factor that 95% of them are in the entertainment industry for.  It goes with the territory I suppose, we the adoring fan base waiting on bended ear to hear something great fall from their lips, or in this case, tweet from their fingertips.  Its all apart of the voyeurism of celebrities, if we didn't like to watch these celebrity train wrecks there wouldn't be a TMZ, Perez Hilton of US Magazine.

For the most part a lot of the Celebrity Twitter Accounts I'm going to list are basically just Public Relations or "Handler" controlled accounts (especially in the Music Industry) that are used a just another vehicle to get the word out about new albums, tour dates, ringtones, guest star appearances or pushes to vote for songs.  For other celebrities its about pushing their shows, videos, and guest appearances.  There's a definite difference in how engage some of these celebrities are.

There's also a difference when it comes to how "popular" the celebrity is, and their use of Twitter.  But in rare cases, like that of Jane Fonda, they understand Twitter and actually use some of the technology that's sprung up around it.  Jane uses hash tags to relate her tweets to things going on in the twitterverse, and although she really doesn't hold conversations, you don't get that "fake" PR Handler feel from her account like you would from say country music star's Faith Hill's twitter account.

Continue reading "When It Comes to Twitter & Celebrities Its Not About Conversation" »

March 18, 2009

Online Marketing Tips Video: Social Media Metrics - Measuring Success & Failures Part 2

By Li Evans

This week's Tuesday's Tips in Online Marketing is the 2nd part in the two part series on Social Media Metrics.  We're covering measuring ratings, reviews, retweets and more.  Complete with screen captures this time so you can see what exactly we're talking about in the tips.




Full Social Media Metrics - Measuring Success & Failures Part 2 Video Transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Social Media Metrics - Measuring Success & Failures Part 2" »

March 11, 2009

President Barack Obama & His Social Media Agenda in the First 50 Days

By Li Evans

President-barack-obama Quietly, without trumpets, fan fare, ticker tape parades or walks outside of the limo that give the secret service heart attacks, President Barack Obama has been changing the way the executive branch of the government does business online.  Not only that he's influencing the other branches, in particularly the legislator, both Congress & Senate.

In the first 50 days of his presidency President Obama's team has pushed forward a number of new sites to help citizens of the United States understand better what the President and his staff are doing. This was something we have never seen before, all we ever got before was a static WhiteHouse.gov site that people continually tried to Google Bomb for "miserable failure".

I stated back in November that President Barack Obama was going to be "Our First Social Media President", within the first 50 days of this presidency he's sure living up to that moniker I tacked on him (sure hope he doesn't mind).  We also know that Blackberry is sure thankful for the free press, since he wouldn't give up his and got that super dooper James Bond one.  Besides the Blackberry, in the first 50 days of his presidency, President Obama and his team have launched a number of new sites above and beyond just WhiteHouse.gov and that's what I'd like to focus on today, along with some other things.

Continue reading "President Barack Obama & His Social Media Agenda in the First 50 Days" »

March 10, 2009

Online Marketing Tips Video: Social Media Metrics - Defining & Measuring Goals Part 1

By Li Evans

This week's Tuesday's Tips video is part one of a two part series discussing social media metrics.  How do you define what is a success, have you defined your goals?  These tips discuss some areas you can look to and measure to gauge your success or failure with your social media strategy.



Full Social Media Metrics - Defining & Measuring Goals Video Transcript After The Jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Social Media Metrics - Defining & Measuring Goals Part 1" »

March 09, 2009

Add Blog Subscribers: Find and Thank StumbleUpon Reviewers with Analytics!

By Alex Cohen

Stumbleupon-logo In the blogosphere, you have 4 basic audiences:
  1. Readers
  2. Commenters
  3. Subscribers
  4. Reviewers

Readers are vital, but they aren't very engaged until they become commenters or, more importantly, subscribers.  A subscriber is more likely to engage and spread your content which, in turn, gets you more subscribers.

So, How do You Get More Subscribers?

It's that last group, Reviewers, that are most likely to add subscribers to your blog.  Word-of-mouth is probably the best way to build your subscriber list.  We all trust our friends. 

That's one of the reason StumbleUpon is a great source of traffic.  StumbleUpon lets people find random sites by stumbling on them with their toolbar (learn more with their step-by-step guide).

People rate your site by giving it a thumbs up or down.  Some Stumblers will also review your site.  Reviews can have a huge impact on your traffic (I got a 10x increase in visits to my post on picking a blog platform after someone reviewed it).  They are also likely to get you more links, which also brings you traffic and helps your search engine optimization.

Say Thank You and Build a Relationship!

If someone goes to the trouble to review your site, it’s a great opportunity to cement their positive feelings and build a relationship.  Doing this builds your brand and may lead to more reviews and links (and subscribers!) in the future.

Here are step by step instructions to use web analytics data to find and thank your StumbleUpon reviewers.  I’m using Google Analytics in the instructions, but any web analytics package will have these data.

  1. Look in Referring Sites

    You may notice a large spike in your traffic.  Start by looking at All Traffic Sources.  Choose “Medium” from the dimension listed just below the graph to the left.  This will show you your major channels of traffic – Organic Search, Direct Traffic, Referring Sites, etc.

    Dimension-referring-sites  

    If you notice that Referring Sites is send much more traffic than usual, it may be due to a StumpleUpon review or another similar review site.  Open the Referring Sites report up and find which site is causing the spike.
  2. Filter by Landing Page

    Click on StumbleUpon.  This will drill down just to the activity from that referrer.  Next, change the Dimension to “Landing Page” to figure out which page was reviewed.  There it is, a giant spike in your traffic for a page that someone liked.

    Dimension-landing-page

  3. Install The StumbleUpon Plug-in

    The next trick requires you to have the StumbleUpon plug-in added to Firefox.  My guess is there are alternatives for IE, Safari and Chrome users (feel free to comment if you know of one).

    You can get the Firefox plug-in right here.
  4. Find the StumbleUpon Review

    Google the full URL of the page that was reviewed.  Your result will be at the top.  The StumbleUpon plug-in will display a rating and/or review bubble next to the listing that looks like this:


    Stumbleupon-review

    Click on the link and it will take you to the review. 
  5. Return The Favor

    Aha, now you know who’s been spreading the good word.  At the very least, you should send them a thank you for the review. You can join their network and friend them to stay in touch.  Most StumbleUpon reviewers list their site in their profile.  If you like it, return the favor with a short review.  

The Power of Relationships

Like most things social media, this takes time.  That’s exactly why it helps you stand out from the crowd.  If you show that you’re paying attention to your fans and are grateful.  
Now, if you like the article, I wouldn’t turn down a review :-)

Alex Cohen writes about optimizing your website at Digital Alex.  He’s also the Marketing Manager at ClickEquations – Pay Per Click Software.

March 02, 2009

Skittles & Social Media - Obviously a Company that Doesn't Get It

By Li Evans

Via Mashable this morning, I found out that Skittles changed its homepage.  Now, normally this wouldn't be news, no more than launching a new site.  But here's the kicker, they changed their homepage to a Twitter stream about Skittles.

Now, at first glance this may seem really neat, but let's dig underneath the surface here a bit.

  • Does Skittles control the @Skittles account?  Nope!

  • Does Skittles actively participate in discussions on Twitter?  Nope!

  • Does Mars, Inc., its parent company participate on Twitter?  Nope!

Now on the surface, this may seem really cool and hip, using this new trendy service Twitter, in an unusual way.  Heck it's having word of mouth effects - people are talking about this.  Unfortunately in due time this could turn around and create a big PR problem for Skittles & Mars, Inc..

Why?

They are just pulling up a stream on Twitter that references people using the word "Skittles" in their tweets.  This leaves the company's home page ripe for Twitter spamming, and worse, for people to make a mockery of the Skittles brand.  In due time this could create a nightmare for Mars, Inc, if people continue to take advantage that their tweets are now on display for a national audience.

For example, take a look at what I caught on this screen capture below (my apologies if this offends anyone, please be forewarned there are offensive words in this screen capture, that is not my intent and that tweet does not reflect my own feelings), or this tweet that appeared as well (again, can be offensive to some).

Skittles-home-page-twitter-stream


Skittles doesn't even offer anything into the conversation.  Twitter users know that twitter is about discussions.  They don't even have a Twitter account to hold a conversation - at this juncture in time.  If they did, I'm hard press to find it - and they aren't advertising it.

I'm sure usability folks could have a field day with this latest revamp of the Skittles site too, to replace it with a twitter stream and have a javascript piece follow you down the page for navigation, just begs for a usability expert to rip it to shreds.  Add in the box that demands you agree to their terms, and another annoying box about typing in some URL before you can even navigate off the twitter stream into Skittles other pages, wow, just a nightmare.

This isn't social media folks, seriously, for it to be social media, Skittles has to be engaging in the conversation, and they aren't. If they were truly into social media, they'd have a Twitter account, engage in the conversation, much like @Maggiano's is or @WholeFoods or @Zappos.    What skittles has done has gotten other people to talk about Skittles, at this point in time early in the convo they haven't spoken, so it's all one sided.  Social Media requires a conversation (them talking with people), this, is just basically an electronic billboard on the web that says "look who using the word Skittles!" 

Its a unique billboard I give them that, but that's about it.

One last point, Mars, Inc. should think about, too. Twitter, on a good day, can't handle the traffic it has reliably (it's getting better), so Skittles will be at the mercy of Twitter for its exposure.  I don't know if I'd want to bank my brand's exposure on it like this.

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