June 10, 2008

Online Marketing Tips Video: Business Tips for Twitter

By Li Evans

It's that time of week again, and this week, our Tuesday's Tips in Online Marketing is featuring some more Twitter Tips, but this time more geared towards how businesses can utilize Twitter in the best ways possible.

Even though Twitter does have it's issues, lately its been down time and really limiting requests, it definitely has begun to make it's way into the mainstream and companies and small businesses alike are looking for some tips in how to use Twitter.


   

We've also put in a new area in our navigation that features the videos each week, small descriptions with players from various video sharing sites out there, so check out the Online Marketing Videos page here at SMG.

Full video transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Business Tips for Twitter" »

June 09, 2008

A Sucky Interface is Better Than No Interface

By Li Evans

Twitterwhale I <3 Twitter.

I hate that stupid whale.  I also hate seeing "Limited Exceeded, Updates Paused for 5 minutes" which really turns into 15-30 minutes.

I really don't like Plurk all that much.  I think it has a sucky, un-user friendly interface.  I think it's like setting 8 years olds loose in Dylan's Candy Bar.  There is so much going on, you can't figure out where or how to get things to work, and there's no way to really track people who are "@"ing at you.  In Dylan's do you go for the new candy, or the retro candy, do you keep your eyes on the 8 year olds, or do you go after that last bag of Charleston Chews?  This is what Plurk is like for me.

I find Plurk very distracting.  Not clean and easy like Twitter, I think that has to do with my programming background where I love clean linear code.  I couldn't even think of letting a client near Plurk at this time.  Maybe that's good for Plurk - less marketers.

But here's the thing.  At least there is an interface to have a conversation on.  A sucky interface is better than no interface at all Twitter.  I'm not alone in thinking this either, some of your most prolific twitterers, are now holding their conversations on Plurk.

Today is the WWDC (world wide developers conference) by Apple, where Steve Jobs is expected to unveil the new iPhone.  The last conference Steve Jobs was at, Twitterers brought down Twitter in the blink of an eye.  Scoble himself has raised your ire, because he is a prolific user (and can likely bring your service down too).  You're scalability issues have now become your Achilles heel.

Today, we're slowed to 10 requests an hour.  Heck I'm not even getting that coming through, and when I go to Twitter's page, instead of using Twhirl, I get that stupid whale picture.

Twitter, you just got funding.  Twitter, you really need to wake up and realize, people will go where the conversations are happening, right now that conversation isn't happening on your service because you are always BROKEN or limiting the use.  Dear Twitter, use your funding to fix this, and fix it fast.

Twitter, your conversations are going to Plurk - no matter how sucky I think their interface is.


*Hattip to Mack Collier for the inspirational blog post title.

June 03, 2008

Online Marketing Tips Video: Twitter Tips

By Li Evans

Wondering what the heck this Twitter thing is?  Mesmerized?  Is it a chat program?  This week's Tuesdays's Tips in Online Marketing explains what Twitter is and and some quick tips about how you can use it to help market your business.

Tips about how Twitter works, your profile, how to stay relevant and on topic with your followers and just what about those 140 characters are all discussed in this week's video.

   

Full video transcript after the jump....

Continue reading "Online Marketing Tips Video: Twitter Tips" »

June 01, 2008

Bringing a Community Together Who is Miles Apart For a Birthday Celebration

By Li Evans

Kim Krause BergOne of my dearest friends in this industry celebrated her 50th birthday this month.  Through a mix of emails and phone calls, her very cool and very hip hubby Eric and I put together a party for her at the Fox & Hound yesterday.  I knew though, that some of her very close friends from the Search Industry couldn't make it because of the distance and others because of prior obligations, but I wanted to bring folks together who meant something to Kim.

I can't take all the credit for the idea, Barry Schwartz actually inspired me.  Because the party was being held on a Saturday, Barry who honors the Sabbath on that day, couldn't attend.  However, Barry still wanted to take part and he put together this very touching video and this got me inspired to bring together folks from all over the industry to send their wishes and be there even without being there in person.

I got a very touching response from those who responded to my email asking them to participate.  Barry Welford sent over an MP3 and it just made me smile, he sounds exactly like I've "pictured" him sounding and he made me giggle listening to his message all the way from British Columbia.  Jeff Quipp, another favorite Canadian pal of ours, sent over birthday wishes from the whole crew at SearchEnginePeople, I just love Jeff's accent.  Then miss Dazzlin' Donna herself sung happy birthday to Kim complete with her own southern accent.

Then came the videos.  Andy Beal sent over his wishes for a fantastic birthday along with his offer to help her with some reputation management and  squash those vicious 50th birthday rumors.  My boss, Christine Churchill and two of her four horses, sent along birthday greetings from Dallas, Texas and I even got Elizabeth Able to break out of her shell and record a video complete with a mention of naked midget wrestlers (honestly, it's just a joke the Cre8asite Forums shares with Kim). 

People celebrating Kim Krause Berg's BirthdayFinally to round out the birthday wishes in person were myself and my coworker Bill Slawski.  I do believe that Kim was really happy and actually very flattered that so many folks came together in a special way to make her birthday extra special.  Kim carried the disc around that was labeled "Happy Birthday Kim"  "From the Search Industry" around to show 20+ people at the party who wouldn't really know what even a title tag was.  Once she explained what we did, her friends and family were really impressed that people from miles away would come together this way.

When communities care, amazing things can happen.  Thank you to everyone who helped to make Kim's birthday extra special, and thank you Barry, for inspiring me to bring us together to make her day a great one!

*if you'd like to take a look at the photos, check out my Kim Krause Berg's Birthday Party set on Flickr.

May 29, 2008

NonProfits Can Benefit from Social Media, Just Ask Mara Triangle

By Li Evans

Elephant at Mara Triangle, KenyaSometimes as global audiences we get inundated with "causes" that we ignore those "Donate" buttons because we see them over and over again.  Unfortunately for Non-Profits, the offline blindness they have to overcome has now really become the same issues online.  What's worse is that some of these non-profits are getting bad advice about just starting up websites and "they will come".  I'm sorry to break this to the non-profits, just building a static website anymore - won't cut it.

Today I stumbled across the story of the Mara Triangle thanks to Twitter's blog (see even when they are down, they are still good for something!).  What's the Mara Triangle you ask?  Well, it's a wildlife park in Kenya which under the management of the Mara Conservancy helps to protect the wildlife from poachers.  Poachers are one of the biggest threats to the wildlife in this area, and with the conservancy in place, they are able to employ rangers to help protect the animals from these poachers.

Up until last year, none of these rangers had likely even touched a computer.  Up until last year, the park solely ran off of the entrance fees to the park.  Up until last year, Kenya as a country was pretty stable. 

That all changed until this year's election when political unrest erupted and put the entire tourism industry in Kenya into complete and utter chaos.  With no one coming to visit Kenya or the Mara Triangle, funds started to run out, fast. 

Enter William Deed, prior to helping the Mara Conservancy, he lead what he pretty much terms as a "bored with his lot" life and started his own blog about Waiting in Line.  That caught the eye of famed Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey and his son-in-law, Emmanuel De Merode who run Wildlife Direct.  They tasked William with building blogs and getting the word out about the different wildlife projects under Wildlife Direct.

Giraffes at Mara Triangle in KenyaIn February Mara Triangle's blog launched.  It was a slow build, but through word of mouth, news of this blog and what the rangers were doing started to spread.  The blog's chief contributer is Joseph Kimojino a ranger in the park.  He blogs just about every day, which is an amazing feat when you learn that he just click a mouse for the first time back in November.

What makes this story even more compelling?  Joseph isn't just blogging!  Joseph tweets on Twitter, he uploads photos just about everyday to Flickr, he loads videos to Vimeo and even helps to maintain the Facebook cause.

Likely though what caught the eye of Wired magazine is the use of Twitter.  It's also what caught my eye, and got me to click around and just be really amazed and excited.  There use of many different parts of social media just impressed me and made my jaw drop - photos like their's usually tend to do that.  I felt compelled enough by the story they conveyed to give a monthly donation.

Social media when used in the right way can convey compelling stories.  Whether its a blog, photos or even videos, social media allows emotions to be conveyed in ways no piece of paper or static website can.  Combining these powerful tools together can result in truly wonderful stories people just feel compelled to take up a cause for (or even buy a product or service).

Are you telling your non-profit's story in a compelling way?  Does your story touch your audience in a way like the Mara Triangle did me?

May 19, 2008

Using Social Media to Research Customer Service Experiences

By Li Evans

Think that people don't care about conversations about the customer service experience your company provides?  Think again!

According to a recently released study from The Society for New Communications Research on Customer Care, a lot more people are using Social Media to investigate Customer Service experiences dealing with companies.  In the study 91% percent of the respondents said they used some sort of Social Media either "Always", "Often", "Sometimes", or "Rarely".  That's saying something, and companies should start taking heed.

Society for New Communication Research Customer Service / Social Media Study

Continue reading "Using Social Media to Research Customer Service Experiences" »

May 12, 2008

Twitter Policy - Do You Have One In Place?

By Li Evans

Usando mi camisa twitter - Picture by Flickr User: LuisdrkTwitter is growing at a phenomenal pace.  There's no doubt that as more and more companies adopt new communication platforms like Twitter into their marketing strategies, as well as allowing their employees to use them, some rules should be set up along the way.

Back in December I wrote a piece about "Is Twitter Really Dangerous?", which was prompted by Michael Krigsman's "Twitter Is Dangerous" article.  I was reminded of this again, when I happened upon TwitterLocal.net  (shout out to Drew Olanoff for the tip), and I stumbled across a local user in my area, who actually had his own Twitter policy.  He's just an individual blogger, but he has a link right in his profile on twitter to his policy about who he will and won't follow, and what his guidelines are.

I don't want to put a finger on this person, as I believe he does have a right to privacy, but I just found it fascinating that this person actually took the time to write up his own Twitter policy.  Here's just two of his disclaimers:

  • If you’re twittering more than 10 tweets a day, I may have to stop following just so I can keep up with other folks.
  • If you add my feed, I will certainly check to see who you are, but if there’s zero identifying information on your profile, why would I add you back?

And he's got a few guidelines he himself tried to follow:

  • I’ll post links to things only now and then, since I know Twitter is very often used in (and was intended for) mobile contexts; and when I do, I’ll give some context, rather than just “this is cool …”
  • In spite of my best intentions, I’ll probably break these guidelines now and then, but hopefully not too much, whatever “too much” is.

Now why do I find this so fascinating?  Mostly because major brands are out here on twitter and haven't even taken the time to define a Twitter policy. There's a lot of things to consider when you start an account on a place like Twitter or even Facebook or MySpace.  Thinking about the following items might help you come up with a decent Twitter policy that can define it very easily to your audience how you intend to communicate with them.

  • Who will you follow?
  • How do you hold conversations?
  • What will you talk about?
  • Who is the account with? (Who Owns The Account?)
    • Is it a company representative?  If so who's the rep?
    • Is it a number of company representatives?
    • Is it an authorized twitter account from the company?
  • What's the twitter account's purpose?
    • To hold conversations with an audience?
    • Get feedback on products / services?
    • Promote special sales or events?
  • Why do you "unfollow"?
  • How many tweets do you tweet a day?
  • How do you respond to direct messages or replies? (@'s)
  • Do you promote others on twitter?
  • Is your blog part of your twitter account?

As you can see these are just a few things that companies should think about.  Heck, even popular individuals probably should think about having a twitter policy.  This can help to head off a lot of hassles, headaches and misunderstandings a head of time.  It can also lead to a much better conversation with your community if they understand where you are coming from in the first place.

Twitter Art by Flickr User: jmtucuWhen big companies start a Twitter account these days, sometimes its because they see it as the "latest" thing they should be involved in.  Without even thinking about some consequences, before they know it things can spiral out of control. 

Quite the opposite can happen, like in the case of Delta Airlines.  Delta Airlines has a twitter account but it's not the official account from the company.  Its actually kind of sad, because it is such a great tool and it's just an employee, not an "official" channel Delta customer could speak with.  If you are a big brand, or a popular brand, you should at least snag up that twitter account name so well-intentioned employees don't do it for you.

Twitter is a great way to hold a conversation with your community.  A great way to make sure the conversation stays on track and doesn't get derailed or ended, it to put a Twitter Policy in place.

*Twitter Shirt Picture Credit: Luisdrk, Twitter Art Picture Credit:  jmtucu

April 30, 2008

Twittering For Charity

By Li Evans

Matt McGeeEveryone who hangs around me or follows me on Twitter, knows I love to razz Matt McGee about not being on Twitter.  I actually find it kind of fun, because I know he follows who twitters his name.  He and Jeff Quipp of Search Engine People are battling to be the last person on Twitter.

Well, that all ends today.  Yes, both Jeff & Matt have succumbed to the pull of Twitter!

Now, it's just not any reason they are doing this.  It's all for charity.  So, which ever one of them gets to 500 followers first, the money Jeff and Matt have put on the line - both $250, will go to their favorite charity.  (Little do they know 500 might be a piece of cake after we're all done!)

I'm going to go with this too - who ever wins, I'll chip in $50 bucks too

How about you Twitterland, will you Twitter for charity too?

April 23, 2008

Building Communities in Social Media

By Li Evans

Wendy Piersall started her blog as a hobby, the blog was an extension of her business, a tool to compliment it.  Within three months, Wendy’s eMom's at Home blog became its own full time job.  She had to rethink her strategy about the business.  Within 2 years Wendy had a thriving community on her hands, with thousands of readers and subscribers. How did this happen?

Conversation.

Communities thrive on it, we humans crave it.  Unless you are a hermit or a person on a religious quest that requires seclusion and not speaking, we seek out human interaction.  We want to hear other people’s thoughts, we long for interaction to know if our own thoughts are in line with common thinking or if we are out of line, or are we rebels (with or without a cause).

Communities are nothing new.  Communities bond upon a single or a few commonalities.  It was how this nation (the United States) was formed, a common bond of the wish to have freedom of religion.  Later on for immigrants coming through Ellis Island, the bond was the dream of a better life.  It is no different even with all of our gadgets, speed and technologies, we as humans still need to bond, and it is why we seek out communities online.

Wendy’s community grew and thrived because she fostered a great conversation.  She listened and she also conversed with her audience – she never spoke "at" them.  She constantly listened and she participated in the conversation, always keeping in mind “what would her audience get” from each conversation she would invoke with her blog posts.

Wendy was also wise enough to realize the conversation wasn’t just going on, on her blog.  There were other blogs out there having similar conversations that she felt helped or contributed to the conversation.  Wendy wisely not only sought them out and commented about on their blogs she included them in her own conversation as well.  By doing this,  she was eventually pulling in their audiences to participate in the conversation.

Now a little over 2 years later, realizing that what started out as her “hobby” has grown into this enormous community and her original thoughts for the blog my limit the potential for the conversations growth, Wendy reached out to her community.  Wendy asked and the community overwhelming responded and now eMoms at Home is opening to an even wider community by becoming SparkPlugging, focusing on the entrepreneurial community.  Wendy's own blog is getting renamed to Sparkplug CEO, as well.

When you recognize that a conversation is happening and you embrace it and foster it, a community can grow around that conversation.  Hard sells, preaching a message, and advertorials just don’t work, those methods do not foster and grow communities.   You really have to have a love, a passion for your conversation, you have to care about it, if it is going to even have any shot at succeeding in this new online social world. 

It’s why companies who really do care about what people think about their brands, or their products or services succeed in overwhelming ways in social media.  If you only care about selling a soda (think Sprite Sips on Facebook ), or getting people into your store (think Walmart Flogs) you likely won’t get very far since your conversation is only one way and isn’t really genuine.  However, if you are like Wendy, or BlendTec or even Lionel Menchaca from Dell, your community grows at astounding rates.

The key to building communities?  Conversation and realizing that as much as they involve speaking to someone, building communities involves a lot more listening and understanding.  So, stop and think – are you preaching or are you conversing?

I said yesterday that Mack Collier inspired me to love Blogging again.  Wendy also inspired me about communities and she made me excited about the potential of building a great community. To read about Wendy's presentation at SEG's Unleashed Conference for Small Business Marketing, check out David's take on Wendy's session.  Hop on over to SEG to get all the coverage of what happened at SEG's Unleashed Conference in Houston.

You can also find Wendy on Twitter, Mack on Twitter and even me on Twitter, too. Why not start a conversation with us?  :)

April 17, 2008

Twitter & the Democratic Presidential Candidates

By Li Evans

Twitter is growing by leaps and bounds.  It is starting to reach into the main stream, especially when you consider how even the 2008 Presidential Candidates are using it to get the message out about their campaigns.  I looked at all three candidates presently still alive in the race, Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama on the Democrat side, and John McCain on the Republican side and how they used twitter. 

Twitter Search for 'John McCain'I wanted to be fair and show both sides, but when I went and looked at all three, and I couldn't find the "official" Twitter page for John McCain. However, I did find two popular ones McCain News & JohnMcCain2008.  Not sure who it is that really has the John McCain Twitter account, but its obviously not the John McCain running for President.  Searches on Twitter for John McCain don't produce the official twitter account either.  Since that campaign isn't utilizing Twitter at this point as a campaign tool, I'm just going to focus on the Democrats.

Hillary Clinton & Twitter

Hillary Clinton's Twitter Information I sit here at my keys wondering how to start this.  Well you know that term "elitist" that's been tossed around these days before the upcoming Pennsylvania primary?  Well if you looked at Twitter, you honestly would be thinking the opposite of what the press tells us here in Pennsylvania (mind you I take what the press tells me with a grain of salt) or this candidate.  When you look at Hillary Clinton's Twitter account, you see that she follows NO ONE.  Seriously, no one. 

Then there's the Hillary Clinton Twitter account for her MySpace page.  Alright, that one does a little bit better, they are following one person on twitter (as of this writing).  There are a bunch of other Twitter accounts out there about Hillary Clinton as well and those fare better in the way of following their followers. 

Hillary Clinton's Twitter Feed Talk about wanting to put out a very controlled message.  Everything that comes into the Hillary Clinton Twitter account is a reflection of her blog, but added with the words "I am" or "I'm".  There's no opportunity for two way conversations when you think of it, and there's nothing more than what's on her blog.  It's all about delivering the "spin" in a very tight, precise and controlled fashion - typical of "old politics" and how they like to run campaigns.  Trouble is - we're in a new world now and on the internet there's not a lot you can control when you enter the Social Media realm.  It's also why it doesn't appeal to the younger set of voters, they see this as typical "old politics" - not the opportunity to have their voice heard.

There are a lot of other Hillary Clinton based or themed Twitter accounts out there.  When you do a search on Hillary Clinton in the Twitter site you return 12 results, and the official Hillary Clinton Twitter account doesn't appear to near the bottom of the page.  Some of these are detractors (take a look at the icon for third result in this screen capture of the search results for 'Hillary Clinton'), but some are fans and supportors that are reporting on the news that Clinton is making in the media.  These accounts actually are engaging in conversation about Hillary Clinton, unfortunately for the Clinton campaign they can't control it.

Barack Obama & Twitter

Barack Obama's Twitter Information By contrast, you look at the Barack Obama Twitter account and you see this account is following just as many as are following him (sometimes it falls behind).  Who ever is running the account (I find it hard to believe that either candidate is "Twittering" like us "somewhat normal" folks are), is actively engaging in following people who choose to follow them, and they are twittering in a way that isn't as controlled.

If you look at the type of Tweets that are coming out of the Barack Obama Twitter account, they seem a lot more personable and less "contrived".  There is the "I'm doing this" but it's also including things like "why don't you come and see me" or "take a look for yourself" parts of a conversation that engage the audience and ask them to do something.  Compared to the Clinton Twitter account its refreshing to see this account seeming to interact with its followers rather than bragging about doing this or doing that.

Barack Obama's Twitter Feed Barack Obama's campaign team has also really promoted and used twitter, not just to say "I'm at this debate" or "I'm at this place speaking", they use it to say "hey come take a look at our video" and use it to promote different things with the campaign.  It must be working, because they have over 7 times the followers that Hillary Clinton does.  I think this also goes to show how Barack Obama is Rocking the Youth Vote, where Hillary Clinton does not.  All of this really makes me wonder, if they (Barack's campaign) took it to the next level and said "Hey voters in PA, tell us what you think about XYZ", how this might engage more supporters and voters?

A search on Twitter for "Barack Obama" shows 17 different accounts on Twitter, and the official Barack Obama account is right at the top.  It's also a little easier to see that if you just typed in "Obama" into Twitter, of those 90+ results - the majority of those are Barack Obama supporters.  Its easy to see this because his name is pretty unique, unlike typing in "Hillary" or "Clinton" where it is a lot more murky as those names are more common as people's first names or last.

So what's the conclusion in all of this, does it translate over votes?  Well a lot would point to Ron Paul and how he grew on the internet as a force to be reckoned with, but yet that didn't translate into votes that it probably doesn't. 

I think Barack Obama's campaign is fairing a lot better, thanks in part, not just to Twitter but to them recognizing how to use social media on a whole to communicate (yes two way conversations) with the younger set of voters in this country.  Look at the exit polling numbers, look at the data of the record number of youth votes in this primary - and then look at who they voted for.  I'd say social media definitely has some kind of influence there, don't you?

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