Content Marketing: Create, Manage, and Measure

Content marketing has grown to become one of the most important components of an integrated marketing strategy. It’s defined by the Content Marketing Institute as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Although quality content is being given a sovereign spot in the marketing mix, marketers today are failing to effectively develop and manage their marketing content.

According to a commissioned September 2012 Forrester study, The Rise Of Content Marketing: Invest In Content Development And Management For Success, while 86% of the companies surveyed recognize the importance of content marketing; half of these organizations fail to do it effectively.

Why?

Today’s content is different. Marketing has been impacted by all of the digital channels available for content distribution and consumption, including the Internet and mobile apps. Reaching consumers requires a complex, multifaceted approach across many direct and indirect channels.

Just as content has evolved; consumers have changed. These days, people aren’t looking just to buy; they’re looking to learn. They’re turning to peers and friends for recommendations about products and services. People are having online conversations about their brand experiences, good or bad. Consumers are becoming more transparent with their needs, wants, and fears – and much of this is happening on social media channels.

These wants and needs can be mapped directly to your products and services, but only if you’re listening. This is just as important as being there when the consumer needs you to be there, with quality content, when and where they are ready to consume. Yesterday’s sales funnel is being replaced by a content-oriented orbital model that focuses on creating long term value. The emphasis is on maintaining relationships with loyal customers and community members over and above funneling leads through the buying cycle.

The Sales Funnel is Replaced by an Orbital Model

Just as they are striving to create and distribute quality content, marketers are also under pressure to accurately measure the impact of their marketing programs. In the same Forrester study, 70% of marketers have trouble measuring the impact of their content strategy on their overall marketing success. More time and resources dedicated to the creation, management, and measurement of content goes a long way in helping marketers develop and measure the effectiveness of their programs.

Customer Experience Management (CEM) tools can make a difference. CEM helps you reach your markets and customers by creating a rich and consistent digital presence across all touch points, managing the creation and distribution of your marketing content, and providing the tools for measurement, analysis, and refinement.

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Creating Brand Moments that Matter

In a competitive marketplace, delivering compelling and consistent customer experiences is one of the best ways for an organization to differentiate itself from its competitors. According to Forrester Research, focus on the customer experience has become a top corporate objective since 2012 and will continue to increase in importance as businesses realize the value it can bring*.

Leading organizations focus on creating compelling brand experiences at every customer touch point. In our digital world, marketers can use a range of platforms to set the stage for the customer experience. The marketing toolbox has grown to incorporate new devices, channels, and types of media into its programs.

Clearly, having the right technologies in place helps to deliver experiences in an efficient, pleasing, and consistent manner. Web Experience Management (WEM) facilitates the management and optimization of experience across all channels and platforms to create compelling customer experiences, ensure consistent omni-channel brand experiences, and improve engagement with responsive design.

Designing responsive websites is the first step to providing customers with more contextual and consistent experiences. It’s an approach that involves building sites for optimal viewing across a range of devices, platforms, and resolutions to support intuitive navigation, easy reading, and an enhanced user experience. Responsive design promotes a device-agnostic website and the continuity of the customer’s web experience to ensure delight. The management of websites is streamlined and sustained, as is the overall brand experience.

Consumer expectation runs high for tailored, adaptable, and even predictable digital experiences. Omni-channel delivery focuses on consumer need and behavior to provide consumers with a consistent brand experience across channels. Instead of perceiving a variety of touch-points as part of a brand, omni-channel delivery expands experience beyond the channel to encompass all aspects of the brand. Marketers can target specific consumers by their purchase patterns, click-stream data, social networks, website traffic, and content analytics. This helps to paint a holistic view of data across all stages of the customer lifecycle. Programs can be refined and marketers can calculate their Return On Marketing Investment (ROMI) to be more efficient and save on customer acquisition and support costs.

WEM can help your organization deliver a consistent and relevant customer experience across all communication channels to increase brand loyalty, customer retention, and profit margins. Make all of your brand moments matter.

*Bodine, Kerry and Rogowski, Ron. “2013 Customer Experience Predictions.” Forrester Research Inc. January 3, 2013

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SMM Part 6: Developing a Blog Strategy

A blog is a critical element of your  social media marketing plan, and is one of the most popular forms of social media consumed today. When properly integrated with other online initiatives, blogs work as an additional media channel to build brand awareness, create thought leadership and engage with potential customers.

Before you begin blogging, you should develop a long term strategy for your blog. This will help you set objectives, stay focused, measure your outcomes and continually refine the strategy to get real results.

Here are some pointers to developing an effective blog strategy:

1. Set Goals and Objectives: Before you begin, establish a working set of objectives. Ask yourself why you are blogging. What are your key objectives, goals and targets? This will make your outcomes measurable and give you the ability to fine tune. Are you blogging to:

  • Demonstrate thought leadership
  • Create a following (how many followers?)
  • Build brand (through conversations with customers, partners and prospects)
  • Develop corporate culture
  • Make money/monetize content by advertising or participating in affiliate programs
  • Augment a PR strategy with social media
  • Drive traffic/SEO

2. Determine Your Target Audience: Who is your target audience? Executives? Prospects? Developers? Other bloggers in your industry?

3. Define Your Long Term Purpose: What is the point of your blog? How do you see it developing in the long term?

4. Set a Schedule: How often will you blog? Figure out a schedule. You can blog every day, which is fairly aggressive, but a good basic schedule to follow is three to four posts in the first week, once every two days for the first 3 weeks and once a week following the first month you blog.

5. Make a Commitment: What is your expected level of involvement? Expect to engage in discussion around your own blog, read competitors’ blogs, and read and post comments to other blogs from industry experts. Involvement should be regular, especially in the early days to promote awareness of your blog.

6. Integrate Online Communications:  Are your cross-pollinating your blog with social media sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other online communities, sites or networks that your organization belongs to? Twitter in particular is effective in driving traffic and building a following. See my previous post.

7. Plan a Launch Party: How will you promote the blog? What is your launch strategy? You should leverage your network(s) to promote the blog in any way you can. Here are some suggested launch initiatives:

  • Inserts in flyers or print brochures
  • Email (direct mail) campaign
  • Promotion at events or speaking engagements
  • Link from corp site/communities
  • Front page feature on home page
  • Search engines
  • Grassroots campaign
  • Internal launch to get all employees to follow the blog
  • Blog link signature in email/business cards if possible

8. Plan to Measure Metrics: What is your measurement strategy to ensure that you’re meeting your previously determined goals?

In terms of Search Engine Optimization, you can measure traffic and views of your blog and other key stats using tools like Google Analytics. The number of comments, tweets and rankings on sites like digg or StumbleUpon also gives a good indication of blog usage, as well as leads converted to sales. You can set up a keyword analytics package to receive keyword suggestions and track existing keyword performance Use the keywords you’ve identified and currently incorporate into your website for organic search results. Think about developing a long tail keyword strategy. Dosh Dosh has published a great article on this.

9. Competitive Analysis: What are our competitors doing in this area?  Take a good look at their content. You may also want to see what keywords your competitors are using. Learning how your competitors attract traffic is a powerful strategy to leverage to improve your own traffic.

What are some key elements of your blogging strategy that have met with success?

In Part 7 I plan to focus content on how improve your readership and rankings with tools like digg and StumbleUpon.

Read Part 5 in the Social Media Marketing Series: Top Ten Ways to Market Using Twitter

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Social Media Marketing: Part 5 – Top Ten Ways to Market Using Twitter

Twitter is a social media site based on networking and building relationships. More specifically, it’s about posting “tweets” – 140 character long messages or descriptions about news, events, opinions, contests and more using the Web, IM or mobile phones. Like other social networking sites, Twitter is fast, easy, free and hugely accessible.

As part of your online marketing strategy, Twitter provides an additional marketing channel that you can use to build brand, promote awareness and launch promotional offers or campaigns.

While it can help you to run viral influencer-based campaigns and even boost brand appeal, Twitter is lousy at turning prospects into leads. When used effectively, it can augment your web presence considerably. Part 5 of this SMM series presents various ways that you can use Twitter effectively to achieve your online marketing goals.

How to Market Using Twitter

CokeAs you build out your network using Twitter, you will want to do so strategically. Just like any other social media site, you should set clear objectives and targets, and develop and refine long-term engagement, maintenance and promotional strategies.

On a social level, the whole point behind Twitter is to amass a large number of followers, follow them and have them follow you. All of these connections make up the so-called “Twitterverse.” As far as online marketing is concerned, your focus should be on making relevant connections to build an engaging network, rather than on gathering a large number of random followers. To get the most out of Twitter, you want high value followers. When your objective is to market, your focus should be quality over quantity.

Once you have built up a good network, here are some effective ways to market using Twitter:

1. Generate traffic to your website: Twitter provides good online exposure to a captive audience because it is so popular. Tweets and conversations on Twitter can link directly to your website and likewise, you can use your website to promote your Twitter profile. You may also want to include links to your Twitter profile (and other networks) in your email signature. Make sure all of your social media profiles cross pollinate – many sites do this automatically for you (for example, LinkedIn will pick up your Twitter feeds).

2. Run influencer campaigns: Using Twitter effectively involves a significant time commitment.  To collect a quality following and run influencer campaigns, it’s important to do some research and discover who the key influencers in your target markets are and then follow them. Then you can build relationships with influencers in your field who are relevant (there’s that word again) to your business. Follow people who tweet about your products or services and try to engage them in your conversations. By establishing relationships with influencers, you can create brand evangelists who will recommend your products and services. You can then build campaigns around these key influencers. Users are drawn to well known Twitter personalities. My previous blog on viral videos illustrates just this point. Browse the Klout influence scores of your followers to identify potential ambassadors who can help spread your message – you can market directly to this VIP group.

3. Build brand: Twitter is based on conversations and you can use it effectively to engage in conversations and build relationships with your key markets. Because posts are pithy, the expectation is that exchanges are forthright and direct. You can ask your users directly for their feedback on a new product or service, for example. The tone is conversational and Twitter’s personal appeal allows you to get very close to your customers. For this reason, it’s a good mechanism to use to measure customer sentiment simply by tracking conversations about your brand. Be sure to join in the conversation when you see a tweet about your brand. Where needed, give support, advocacy or thanks. To maintain a dialogue, you will want to cultivate and support your followers. If you come across a complaint, engage directly to remedy the issue; this is an opportunity to convert the complaint into a positive endorsement. Keep your conversation honest and it will resonate.

4. Publicize promotions and contests:  Once you have a number of followers you have a captive audience and can broadcast contests or promotions to them in real time. A number of big brands use Twitter for just this.

5. Run viral campaigns: If your customers are happy and tweet about what you’re doing, the message will spread quickly between users as they pick it up and “retweet” it. In essence, any campaign on Twitter has a chance of going viral.

6. Promote new product or service releases: You can set up a feed that directly notifies your customers when you’re releasing a new product or service. As an additional online marketing channel, Twitter can support your release strategy or campaign.

7. Generate free word of mouth marketing/PR: Many organizations use Twitter to publish late breaking news as an extension of their overall PR strategy. People can subscribe to Twitter feeds for specific websites, which enables them to view content on the fly.

8. Augment event marketing:  Twitter can be used to promote events and even provide live coverage of events online (the Much Music Video awards featured an accompanying Twitter feed that displayed with the televised special). Real time commentary adds a dynamic online element to physical events. Twitter is a great tools for creating hype before, during and after events such as book tours and product releases. As a follow-on, you can tweet to provide information on updated event logistics to potential or registered attendees. For persistent marketing, post tweets to promote a speaking engagement or presentation and afterward, tweet your recap and link to any assets on the presentation, such as a video recording, presentation on slideshare or podcast.

9. Gather competitive Intelligence: Use Twitter Search to research what your competitors are dong. Track industry keywords and follow terms that are relevant to your markets. Participate in discussions to share your expertise, experience, or point of view. You can also use it to conduct research on customers and prospects by entering keywords related to your products or services.

10. Promote your blog: Tweets are a great way to promote your recent blog postings to your followers and even their followers. Many blogging platforms have automated this process so you can post the link to Twitter in one click.

Once you have a Twitter-SMM strategy in place, measure your effectiveness against your objectives. For Twitter campaigns, consider more than your number of followers. Track the total number of clicks per day for each of your Twitter accounts. Break this down by geographic region and time/date to see where and when you’re having the most impact. As with other SMM initiatives, your campaigns will need to be monitored and refined.

As with any other marketing channel, Twitter should be as targeted as you can make it. Take care of your followers. Engage with them and in return they’ll retweet your tweets and help you build up a positive and authentic brand experience.

Monitor your Twitter persona(s). Follow your followers and engage with them where you can. Like any other social networking site, you get what you give.

There are many third-party Twitter apps out there to help you research who’s tweeting what in the Twitterverse:

  • Twellow: Search for people in yellow pages
  • TwitterLocal: Tweets about a location or city; a good resource for local businesses
  • Twitter Karma: a Flash application that fetches your friends and followers from Twitter when you click the “Whack!” button, then displays them for you
  • Twitter Feed: Send RSS feeds directly to Twitter

Dosh Dosh has written a great blog on Why You Don’t Need to Mass Follow Users on Twitter.

Here are some interesting reads about how to use Twitter:

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How to Transform Your Website into a Social Platform

While social media marketing can play an integral part of any online marketing strategy, the cornerstone of all of your SMM activities will be a website that is optimized for user engagement, lead conversion and search engines. A handful of feedback mechanisms are easy to implement and can help to build a community of prospects and consumers. As well, a great website helps you analyze traffic to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and SMM activities.

Are you engaging with your visitors and prospective customers effectively on your website? The following questions should help you discover if your website is truly a social platform:

1. Is your mission statement clearly stated on your website? It’s important to communicate clearly to your audience who you are and what your organization does. Make sure your customers can identify the need that you’re fulfilling.

2. Is your brand communicated consistently across your site?

3. Do you display your URL prominently on all of your marketing materials?

4. Do you update your home page content on a daily basis? Other pages like your events or news pages should be updated on a regular basis. Long term pages, such as About Us also need a monthly refresh.

5. Do you offer a subscription-based newsletter? A newsletter offers a quick and easy way to connect with your customers, partners and prospects. Visitors should be able to automatically subscribe. Newsletters enable you to track your subscriptions and run campaigns to improve your reach. You can also use a newsletter to launch campaigns and discover what your visitors like to keep them coming back. It’s a great conversation starter.

6. Do you maintain a blog? If you can create and maintain an interesting blog, you stand to significantly increase the interactivity on your website. If your posts are compelling, pose a question, are controversial or incite debate, you can quickly amass a following of readers with an active comments section.

7. Do you offer dynamic content –RSS feeds and news that is updated automatically – on your site? You can keep content fresh by pulling relevant content from other sites using RSS Feeds. RSS feeds deliver aggregated and syndicated Web content to your website. Feeds permit instant distribution of content. Feeds could make your site a highly valued news source in your industry or area, for example. You can also easily use an “RSS-to-email” program so your readers can subscribe to the feed by email.

8. Do you promote your social profiles on your website? Today, companies of any size are creating profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Myspace, and other social networking sites. This is an easy way to add an element of interactivity to your website. Twitter offers widgets that you can easily install on your site to display your most recent Tweets.

9. Do you support a discussion forum on your site? You can use forums to host a moderated dialogue with your prospects and customers. Engaging with your visitors can be as straightforward as installing a program like VBulletin or phpBB. Based on the forum, you can create an FAQ / Knowledge Base section of your website where visitors can submit their questions and access previous Q&As.

10. Do you nurture a community on your website? A VIP members-only portion of your website is a great way to target a captive audience. You can use it to offer value-added access to resources, downloads, expert blogger programs, loyalty programs and more.

11. Do members have access to their personal profiles – pages they can fill out with personal information like education, experience and skill set? People use this information to connect with other like-minded people and this is how self-organizing communities are built. Organizations can use these profile-driven communities to build positive brand experience.

12. Do you use your site to convert happy customers into evangelists or key influencers? This is a great way to lose the typical marketing spin and leverage peer-to-peer influence in grassroots campaigns.

13. Do you offer internationalization or language support on your site? This is crucial if you want to expand into international marketplaces.

14. Do you offer a personalized experience that delivers relevant content to visitors based on their preferences? The future of the web is all about dynamically delivering relevant, tailored and personalized  experiences. This is what the Semantic Web is about: anticipating a user’s need as they feel it. A good example: Are You a New User? Giving newbies pointers on how to use your site. A partners forum and customer care portion of your site are other examples of tailored experiences. Your site should at the very least recognize repeat visitors using cookies to store specific login information (like a  form to download more information).

15. Do you allow polling or rating on your site? Many sites feature questions in a poll box on their home page that change quite frequently. Poll questions can be anything related to your business that your customers or prospects will care about. Keep your polls up to date to keep people interested. Rating, based on a 5 star rating system like Amazon’s, is a great way to monetize user generated content. You can aggregate your most positive feedback (like a 5 star rating on a product) and base campaigns on these. It’s a quick and easy way to engage with customers and their feedback on your products and services.

16. Do you allow User Generated Content (USG) on your website? Allowing user generated content is always a risk, but if you’re confident in your product or service, it can also deliver valuable word of mouth marketing. Of course, you need to monitor content for any negative press you might get.  You can also refute negative press or deal with it, turning bad press into a good PR opportunity. Providing a way for consumers to submit content to your site communicates a certain level of confidence in your brand, your customer relationship management and your customer service.

17. Do you enable registrations for webinars or other events on your site? This is key to making engagement with prospects as convenient and easy as possible. If it doesn’t work quickly and easily, people won’t use it.

18. Are promotions featured prominently on your home page and featured throughout the site, where relevant?

19. If you have customer service representatives, do you offer this service as a chat-based feature? Giving customers the opportunity to instantly connect for a support conversation or to find out more information significantly increases your site’s usability and your organization’s level of customer service. This can also be a great way to capture a name, email address or phone number before people leave your site.

20. Is your site search engine optimized? Search engine optimization (SEO) improves the visibility of your website in search engines via “natural” or organic search results. There are many ways that you can optimize your site within its content – for example ensuring that keywords appear many times on your top level pages and in your title tags. Other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) target paid listings.  More info on SEO can be found here. There are a lot of SEO blogs out there, a favourite of mine is SEO 2.0 Blog.

21. Do you manage traffic on your site using analytics tools, such as Google Analytics? It’s important to maintain profiles of your visitors that includes their web activities, as well as demographic and offline activities. And it’s free! You can also chose to pay for similar solutions like Leadlander, a web-based application that gives you access to real-time customer intelligence analytics reports. This allows you to identify which customers are hitting your site; reading your online product collateral; and researching your products or solutions. Regardless, you should maintain a working database of prospects and visitors to your site.

Speaking of conversations… let’s start one. What interactive mechanisms do you use to engage with customers and prospects? What do you think makes a great site?

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Social Media Marketing: Part 4

In my previous blog, I reviewed how the producers of the Last Exorcism used media site Chatroulette to create a buzz before the movie’s release. While this demonstrates how to effectively incorporate viral video into marketing campaigns to create awareness, a more compelling example is the recent Old Spice campaign that ran this past July.

Proctor & Gamble teamed up with marketing agency Wieden + Kennedy and a smug Isaiah Mustafa to breathe new life into an old brand in a campaign that garnered over 7 million views of their video commercials in just a week. How’d they do it? By igniting a viral video campaign and saturating social media channels for big results at very little cost. What’s pertinent here is that anyone, small businesses included, can use viral video for effective online marketing. The Old Spice campaign can be broken down into the following formula for social media success.

Top 10 Best Practices for Video Marketing

It was a smart move to use video sharing phenomenon YouTube to fuel a viral campaign. YouTube’s reach is massive. Here are some of the staggering stats as of May 2010:

  • Over 2 billion views a day
  • 24 hours of video uploaded every minute
  • The average person spends 15 mins a day on YouTube
  • The YouTube player is embedded across tens of millions of websites
  • More video is uploaded to YouTube in 60 days than all 3 major US networks created in 60 years

When we consider these stats, and especially this last one, posting your videos to YouTube could eventually be more effective than advertising on TV. Regardless, YouTube is increasingly being regarded as an effective online marketing tool in the marketing mix.

Like most social media sites, YouTube is built on user generated content (UGC). Using social sites to generate content, everyone can be a content creator or a video producer. In their Old Spice campaign, P&G capitalized on this Web 2.0 approach but they took this a step further: not only did the audience interact with the brand experience, they actually participating in the campaign, seeding ideas for more videos and writing copy themselves. This is where agency Wieden broke the social media mold. Let’s take a look at what they did right.

1. Combine Marketing Channels

The campaign kicked off during the Super Bowl in February, when we were introduced to the handsomely pompous and quirky Old Spice Man. A former NFL wide receiver, Mustafa’s looks were meant to attract the ladies, while his bravado would appeal to the men. His character was so-off-the-wall that we wanted more.

Five months later, Wieden acquiesced, sending a message on Old Spice’s Facebook and Twitter pages: “Today could be just like the other 364 days you log into Twitter, or maybe the Old Spice Man shows up @Old Spice.”

The first thing Wieden did right: combine marketing channels to create a viral campaign. The second, they made extensive use of social media, complementing their use of YouTube with Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, blogs and more.

2. Make Extensive Use of Social Media

What made this campaign so radical was that Wieden brought together a team of creatives, tech geeks, social media marketers and writers. Spreading a wide net, the group posted invitations to across social networks inviting people to ask Mustafa questions. Comments were tracked and users who had asked interesting questions and high profile celebrities were responded to directly. Initially, the team produced 87 short YouTube video responses in real time and everyone loved them. Brilliantly, Wieden engaged its audience to help generate content for the campaign.

Exchanges occurred between Mustafa and Ellen DeGeneres, Demi Moore, Christina Applegate, Alysa Milano, George Stephanopoulos, Apolo Ohno, Perez Hilton, tech gadget blog Gizmodo, and Stanley Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks.

One of the most famous responses: to Kevin Rose, the founder of social network Digg, who happened to be sick.

In response to Mustafa’s response, Rose tweeted: “… best get well video EVER from Old Spice.” This went out to Rose’s million-plus Twitter followers, and the campaign went viral. Which brings us to the next key practice:  target key influencers.

3 Target Key Influencers (They’ll Tell Two Friends, and So On…)

The Old Spice campaign was infectious, its reach exponential. This is because the marketers focused on key online influencers along with famous people. They targeted people who had huge followings on social networks. The results? An increase in Old Spice Twitter followers by more than 1,000 percent. And on Facebook, almost 600,000 gave the ads a “like it” vote. Finally, on YouTube, the video commercials received more than 7 million views in one week alone. At no cost, the campaign had saturated media channels to vastly improve its reach.

The key with social media marketing is to engage with people that others will find interesting and will follow. This includes bloggers who have considerable following, which will serve to compound your audience and also provide more links to your site to boost your SEO rankings.

4. Engage Your Audience

By responding to people’s questions, this campaign was very personalized and engaging. The creative process rolled into rapid fire release of videos in response to actual dialogue people were having with Mufstafa. P&G engaged their audience to build brand experience and a community of fans.

5. KISS (Keep it Short and Simple)

Another winning element: the Old Spice video format. The spots were interactive and episodic, presenting opportunities for people to share a link to an episode with their friends to feed the viral campaign. The episodes engaged viewers with entertaining content, and consistent, frequent delivery. These are important points because you don’t need to spend $$$ on video production; just maintain consistency of message and delivery.

Keep your message clear and simple. Use humour if it’s appropriate. P&G had to be intimate with their target audience—a large demographic that is largely cynical about marketing fluff.  Again, there’s no need for over-the-top production value on your videos; online audiences don’t want spin, they want content that is relevant. And if it’s not relevant, it should at least be entertaining.

6. Humanize Your Brand

Video is a great vehicle for this. Old Spice enriched the brand with a quirky character that resonated with people. They brought the Old Spice Man’s character to life using social media channels and by creating episodes in real time.

7. Show the Product

I like the way it’s discreetly tucked in his towel, snug up against his washboard stomach.

8. Combine Online and Offline

This expands on the first point made above, about using a multi-channel approach. The Old Spice campaign reverberated online and offline, picking up coverage on Fox News, CNet News and in Fortune Magazine. It never culminated in an actual appearance by the Old Spice Man (which is good because it would have demystified his character) but this doesn’t mean you can’t do “on location” meet and greets. Make sure your in-store signage supports your online campaign. Promote your website in any print materials you have. Consider using online or mobile promotions to encourage proximity marketing.

Finally, make sure you set up designated pages on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. where you can build your brand profile. These are great channels that support viral marketing.

9. Tag, Tag and Tag S’more

Tag everything that you post. Don’t be shy about how many keywords you use. Take advantage of YouTube tags and promote your videos through other channels. For example, use StumbleUpon to send videos to your friends, along with Digg and other social sites to drive traffic to your videos.

You’ll find some great tips for optimizing your tags on YouTube here.

10. Experiment to Find What Works

The Old Spice campaign was everything that Web 2.0 stands for – creative, out-of-the-box, user generated and real time. What made this campaign so innovative was its ability to push limits by combining a team of creatives, tech geeks, social media marketers and writers to create reactive ads in real time. P&G took a chance with this format and it paid off.

The great thing about social media is that it’s a fluid medium that allows marketers to track what works and what doesn’t so that they can focus on and refine what works.

And Now for Something Completely Different

When you innovate with social media, you can end up with groundbreaking results.

The Old Spice Man campaign is over, but the media just keeps going viral. On the Old Spice Facebook page, for example, P&G are inviting members to vote for the campaign as Brand Week’s Marketer of the Year Award, which would produce more word of mouth marketing for Old Spice.

Another cool result and an example of the potential social media and UGC: An Old Spice Man voicemail message created by users at Reddit.

How can you get there? Here’s a great blog on how to set yourself up for viral videos on YouTube.

You can also visit YouTube Creator’s Corner.

My next blog in this series discusses how to effectively make Twitter part of your online marketing strategy.

Read Part 5 in the SMM Marketing Series: The Top 10 Ways to Market Using Twitter.

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Social Media Marketing: Part 3

Finally, at long last a definition of Social Media Marketing (SMM), and reasons why you need to do it.

Social Media Marketing Defined

If you spend some time online, you may have heard about the site called Chatroulette (the site is currently being updated). It’s a website where you can randomly connect to anyone else on the site that also has their camera on: chat via webcam that is a tad on the invasive side, but quite advanced nonetheless. Sex sells and the latest campaign by filmmakers of the Last Exorcism capitalized on this fact and the inherent creepiness of Chatroulette by using social media marketing to virally promote their film.

In what is a perfect example of SMM, surfers on Chatroulette can connect to an attractive young woman who begins to take her shirt off. Thinking they’ve hit the jackpot, these poor sods are in for quite a shock as the girl transforms into a possessed she-devil before their very eyes. The video is embedded below (required disclaimer follows), but if you’re easily offended by swearing or are slightly squeamish, I’d recommend you don’t watch it.

This guy’s reaction is my favourite.

So it’s a little bit of YouTube meets Blair Witch and true to SMM form it has perpetuated itself across the Internet, appearing on many video networks, including YouTube. The marketers ingeniously used SMM to engage with potential viewers and raise awareness about the film, which was released August 28.

Targeting a Captive Audience…

A working definition of social media marketing is making use of social networks, online communities, blogs, wikis or any other online social media tools to engage with people to increase awareness, verify your business, broadcast new products and services and deepen relationships with key stakeholders.

When combined with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)—the process of improving search engine volume or quality of traffic to your website via “organic” or un-paid search results—and paid placement of advertising, SMM can drive huge amounts of traffic to your site.

SMM does not work in a vacuum and should be combined with other marketing efforts in fully integrated campaigns and marketing programs. According to Forrester Research:

“Social Media has yet to displace Traditional Media … however, marketers need to get ahead of these trends, integrate social media into traditional marketing efforts, and use the two to reinforce each other.”

As well as being fully integrated with other marketing initiatives, it’s important to have a long term SMM strategy that:  1.) Clearly states your SMM objectives (whether it’s improving traffic by a percentage, increasing number of unique visitors, etc.),  2.) Matches these to specific and effective SMM tools, and 3.) Can be refined and updated according to measured success and outcomes.

Combined SMM initiatives broaden your influence, reputation and brand by deepening relationships with your customers. Social media marketing extends your reach into interactive areas where customers gather—quickly, easily and affordably. You can leverage established networks to make sure that people find you by having presence on appropriate networks for your business. Your Twitter posts should feed into your Facebook page, email or newsletters and include links to your website, for example. Most social media sites are supported by mobile devices to create any time, any place awareness and unique opportunities for proximity marketing.

Why should you care?

When used effectively, social media marketing can be used to:

  • Increase traffic to your website
  • Create awareness by building a social media presence
  • Leverage the viral nature of Internet (“Word of Mouth Marketing”) and use it to run promotions, augment campaigns and build loyalty programs
  • Facilitate dialogue with customers and prospects to build trust and enrich brand experience
  • Capitalize on peer influencer marketing
  • Nurture brand evangelists
  • Create big results at very little cost
  • Tap into a captive audience—many of your customers are already there!

In my next blog, I focus more closely on how social media channels are being used most effectively by online marketers.

Read Part 4 in the series: The Top 10 Best Practices for Viral Video Marketing.

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Social Media Marketing: Part 2

The second post in a series on Social Media Marketing (SMM).

Your marketing strategy should incorporate social media marketing (SMM). It can help you drive huge amounts of traffic to your website(s), engage in viral campaigns, promote your products and services, market to a captive audience and focus on value-added content to optimize your sites.

Ashton Kutcher TwitterThere are different types of social media available and you should match your objectives and programs to your social media tools. For example, Twitter is more effective at raising awareness (via loyalty programs or contests) than converting prospects to leads (unless you’re Ashton Kutcher, of course).

This blog will focus on the kinds of social media available and their strengths and weaknesses from a marketing perspective.

How Web 2.0 Technologies Facilitate Customer Engagement

A refresher: social media describes user-driven websites that have a targeted or niche focus and feature Web 2.0 features or functionality. In most cases, the Web 2.0 technologies facilitate the creation of social media. What follows is a very basic overview of current Web 2.0 technologies that are “enablers” of SMM.

Ferriss - Four Hour Work WeekBlogs: Weblogs or “blogs” for short are a chronological and topic-oriented collection of entries posted on a Web page. Typically, blogs communicate an author’s point of view and solicit feedback in the form of comments. Thought leaders use blogs to communicate their insights and expertise, often collecting large online followings (Robert Scoble’s “Scobleizer”, Seth Godin, Tim Ferriss are good examples). Blogs are instrumental in influencer marketing, word of mouth marketing, viral campaigns and PR strategies. Best of all, they are very easy to set up and maintain. They allow you to create content, push this out to other social media sites and pitch to other blog sites. You can do a lot to configure your blog to maximize traffic to your site (more on this in a follow-on blog).

A good example of the symbiotic relationship between PR and blogging—Tim Ferriss’ blogging campaign pre-release of The Four Hour Work Week. The book became an online phenomenon before it was even released. Tim’s blog and personality took the book viral so that when it was released, the book became an instant best seller.

Microblogging: Blog posts with a limited character set to keep messages short. Twitter is the prime example of this. Followers subscribe to microblogs to receive streams of alerts or status updates. Microblogging gives you access to a captive audience that can be marketed to (like social networks).

Forums: Online discussion forums are one of the oldest ways to communicate using the Internet. Users post “articles” to forums organized around a topic, typically in question and answer format. Forums are a good example of how Web 2.0 tools can be used to facilitate conversations with partners and customers to build trust and generate significant interest within your user community. You can use moderated forums to host a dialogue and engage directly with your customers. These days, in fact, consumers are looking to communicate directly with other consumers. If you enable this mechanism with confidence, you can bypass marketing hype and build trust with your customers. Like blog comments, they provide invaluable feedback about your products and services and how effective they are. Forums give you the opportunity to listen to what your customers are saying. They can even lead to product or service enhancements that you may not have thought of to satisfy a direct customer need.

Wikis: A wiki is a collection of articles that can be entered, edited, linked, and expanded by any authorized user. Wikis facilitate the open sharing of knowledge on a designated Web page. Wikipedia is the most famous example of a public wiki. Wikis combine an ease of access, use and coordination that some more complicated collaborative tools lack. Organizations can use wikis to collaborate and capture content in context, something typical email exchanges fall short of.

Polls and Rating: Refer to dynamic data collection and tabulation, including Web site user evaluations of topics, articles and other content. Like ratings, these are a great tool for influencer marketing. Amazon makes great use of ratings and referral marketing.

Chat: Real-time instant messaging and other forms of chat within the context of an overall topic, Web site or meeting space. Although chat is not an emerging technology, I included it because it is a common and indispensable feature of social networks.

flickrMultimedia Publishing: Advanced forms of communications beyond simple text postings, including photo, diagram, audio, and video postings. YouTube and Flickr are two of the most popular examples. Many organizations today are uploading pitches, advertising and more in video format to increase awareness and drive traffic to their websites.

Mashups: A distinguishing feature of Web 2.0 is the ability to assemble and personalize Web presentations of people and information within changing contexts. Mashups combine multiple, data sources into new applications, services or dashboards. Showing us the future, mashups are fast and easy to deploy, use open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and enable non-technical users to produce highly relevant and customized Internet applications. The point here is that the extent to which consumers will be able to organize and consume information is becoming fluid and potentially limitless; gone are the days of push advertising.

AvatarRoles & Avatars: Your profile is your online brand. Social networks are largely profile-driven. With the increased personalization and the abstraction of different roles within different contexts, Web 2.0 permits an advanced form of identification of similar functions. In Second Life type applications, the use of avatars permits the assumption of changing role identities where appropriate, such as assuming a role in a call center or as an attendee at a virtual conference. Profiles and communities built around them are already impacting the online brand experience.

RSSReally Simple Syndication (RSS): RSS feeds deliver aggregated and syndicated Web content to Web based or desktop clients called “readers.” RSS readers inform users when Web sites, blogs, wikis, or news sources get updated. Consumers subscribe to receive blogs from news sites, for example, enabling them to reduce noise and pull relevant and topical information. Feeds permit instant distribution of content. From a marketing perspective, you can advertise in feeds and bypass the shortcomings experienced by traditional marketing channels, including spam filters, search engine rankings, and email inbox clutter.

Social Bookmarks: Web pages of interest that are marked and shared with other users. Tags and descriptions can be added to these pages to make finding them easier. Social bookmarks can be shared with other users on sites such as StumbleUpon and De.li.cious. As sites are added they rise to rank at the top of shared lists that that a group considers important. A great mechanism for increasing traffic to your website.

Social Networks: Web sites that facilitate connections of people based on self-generated user profiles. Facebook and LinkedIn are examples of social networking sites. Typically, a social network is made up of a member directory which contains personal profiles of each member detailing personal and professional information, along with a picture, relevant links, blog sites, and more. Social networks provide a great platform for viral campaigns by giving you access to a captive audience and mechanisms that enable you to expand your outreach into the millions.

Now that we have the technology fundamentals covered, the next blog will focus on social media marketing. I promise to delve

Read the next blog in this series, Social Media Marketing: Part 3 – SMM Defined.

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Social Media Marketing: Part 1

So what exactly is the deal with Facebook, Twitter and StumbleUpon – and how can these Web 2.0 sites improve your business? This is the first in a series of posts that will define social media and social media marketing (SMM), and discuss why you need it and how to implement it effectively.

What is Social Media?

Let’s start with the very basics – a definition of social media.

Social media is media that is produced by social interaction and distributed on the Internet in highly accessible and scalable ways. Social media refers to the dissemination of content and media through a social network. Social media is content (often called user generated content or UGC) that can be shared easily with the use of Web 2.0 technologies.

Social media uses Web-based technologies to transform media monologues (one-to-many) into social media dialogues (many-to-many). It supports the free exchange of knowledge and information, where people can be producers as well as consumers of media.

UGC includes ratings for an article on a news site, comments left for a product on a Web site and personal information posted on a social network.  Social media is powerful because it shifts power back to the consumers. While this has been possible before with online letters to the editor and moderated newsgroups, what sets social media apart are new capabilities that empower users to be editors, designers, creators and more.

There are numerous technical and sociological changes that are supporting the widespread use of social computing. More powerful technology, faster connection times and lower costs are bringing more people online. Along with improvements in accessibility, demographics are playing their part in introducing social media to businesses. Gen-Xers are adopting social computing tools to find the knowledge and exposure they need to do their jobs effectively. Their successors, Millennials, as “digital natives” will expect to use the same social collaboration tools in the office that they use at home.

From a business perspective, organizations are just starting to incorporate the principles of UGC into their Web strategies to create new business models for driving revenue.  Social media is being regarded as an area of potential investments as businesses progressively regard social networks, online communities and the Web as effective channels of communications.

Portions of this definition have been taken from the book, Managing Content in the Cloud.

Read the next blog in this series, Social Media Marketing: Part 2 – How Web 2.0 Technologies Facilitate Customer Engagement.

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The Rescue of River

Social networking saves lives. And I know this because I was there. Well, kind of—I was there virtually and very much in spirit.

This is River’s story. It’s a good story. It’s also a story about a network—a global network of animal advocates, lovers, and rescuers that stretches from North Carolina to Canada to New England and Istanbul. It’s enabler: Facebook.

Duke in NC

Duke

River’s story begins with Duke. I found Duke on Facebook. Topaz, Dolly, and Brooke brought me to Duke (these are other happy stories) and the Nash County Animal Shelter in North Carolina. Duke was surrendered to the shelter because his owner died. This made Duke high risk… not only because Nash shelter is high-kill, but owner-surrenders are typically top of the list. Some get heartbreakingly put to sleep as soon as they are dropped off. Duke at least had a chance, but to make his situation more critical, he needed a vet’s immediate attention—he had an open sore on his back and an eye infection.

Duke’s time was up. Friday May 27 at 4pm was his 11th hour. At 8 a.m. I was frantically re-posting his link and profile to lab rescues and pages on Facebook in the hopes that he would catch someone’s kind eye. One of those sites included Save A Lab, a fantastic network plugged into thousands of lab fans—a captive audience for Duke.

River

River

Duke was one of 6 dogs due to be put down that day (at least). Animals are put down every day at Nash Center—a small shelter—to make room for the continual incoming onslaught of drop-offs (how can there be so many, I wonder—but that’s another very important story). River, a very loving young mix was also due to be put down.  I was posting and sharing his profile as well.

While I was doing this, there were already discussions happening between those working “on the ground” locally in Nashville, NC. Most of the updates happened in seconds on the Nash County Animal Friends (NCAF; a site started by Carol to try to help the animals in Nashville, N.C. I urge you to check out this group). There was a flurry of activity and a real sense of urgency for the animals. They were identified and their status updated every few minutes. A couple of woman, Christy being one, had agreed to take some animals temporarily if they had a potential offer from a rescue.

While I was reading these posts, I got a message from Viktor from Let’s Adopt Global (LA Global) about Duke’s posting on their page. This group is absolutely mind-blowing. They focus on rescuing, fostering, rehabilitating, transporting (many times across the ocean) and homing handicapped or injured animals (their site needs a “Love” button; you can’t just “Like” this group!). Viktor was interested in Duke. While I was reading his message, Save a Lab posted on Duke’s thread contact information for a woman whose friend was willing to ADOPT Duke!!

There was a lot of talk about Duke on the NCAF site: A woman named Susan posted that Chris was on her way to pick him up.  I messaged the post from Save a Lab to Susan, to pass on to Chris. Her response: “I just called Kimberly and she has a perm home for Duke!!! Chris will be so happy!!!” If it sounds convoluted, that’s because it was! And all of these women, these saviours, were virtual strangers to me.

Figuring that Duke was safe, I returned to my thread with Victor and pitched River’s profile and picture. River was running out of time—and options.

Because he was a healthy male, River was not the perfect candidate for LA Global, as they focus on helping injured and handicapped animals. But they have big hearts at LA Global. And a large, very efficient global network. But Viktor needed 48 hours to coordinate a foster for River. River suddenly had a chance but he needed more time. The shelter would not hold him. I switched back to the NCAF site where conversations were happening at lightning speed. That’s when I saw the post from Chris’ mobile.

“I have Duke.” There it was, at the top of the page. He was out of the shelter.

Duke was safe, but what about River? I jumped into a discussion and asked Christy if she could take River because he could be rescued with more time. She said yes. I switched back into my conversation with Viktor—during which time he had already secured a foster! He gave me a name: Raciel had stepped up and would take care of everything if we could hold River. When I followed up with Christy seconds later, a friend of hers was already on their way to get him.

River was safe!!

Next post on NCAF: Who was left? We focused on these dogs now and managed to get Brandy and Shania out (with help from Alison of The Paws to Care rescue). One of the pups was adopted (Suzy is still there). As far as I know (and it’s hard to get all the facts being up here in Canada), all of the dogs due to be put down on May 27 were rescued.

It’s too overwhelming to put into words how I felt with all these people coming together to save these animals.

A Happy Boy

A Happy Boy!

From Viktor, to Carol, to Christy, to Alison, to Chris, to Raciel (and I have honestly missed a few)—none of these people know each other. Without ever having met River, these people acted together in record time to save his life.

As I write, River is flying to his new foster with LA Global footing the bill for his travel and vetting costs. He’ll be fixed and cleaned up, and then he’ll be up for adoption. I spoke to Christy last night and she told me, in her charming North Carolina drawl, that River was a very happy pup who loved other dogs. While we were talking, he was running in her yard, playing with her dogs, unaware of the fact that he had been given a new beginning. He will make somebody a great pet.

When I think about River running and playing with her dogs, it makes me smile a very big smile.

There will be more on River: Let’s Adopt Global puts together videos of all their rescues, from tenuous start to heartwarming finish. I, for one, can’t wait for his video.

Kendi

Kendi

Ellie Mae

RIP Ellie Mae

This post is dedicated to Kendi and Ellie Mae, and all the other dogs, around the world, that are euthanized every day.

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