Archives for marketing

Imagery is Strong, But Word of Mouth is Powerful

Talking Heads: Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is powerful. What are people saying about your brand?

If an eye-catching photograph was a weapon it would be a bazooka shot by the hands of the marketing militia. A great marketer is like a master of warfare that knows all the right methods to reach his targeted audiences. He’s good at what he does, because he understands how to attract and manipulate the human mind. He uses sensory stimulation (mostly visual) to gain the attention of potential customers and then he plants the seed of desire in the viewer’s mind. The consumer can’t help his attraction to the marketer’s images, or can he?

Yes, he can. The consumer wants more than just stimulating imagery informing him about the worth of a company. He wants to know what other people have to say about it. He’s probably going to take the advice of someone he knows over the salesperson’s bias opinion. He will probably even take the advice of someone he might not know personally over the messages a commercial ad has to offer.

There are online sources for insight like angieslist.com that offer personal reviews on all kinds of companies nationwide. The site is made up of product/service users personal testimonials. It’s a good place to visit if you are thinking about purchasing a new product or service that you are unfamiliar with.

Angie’s List is sort of like the website version of the Yankee Army in the Civil War with the sometimes ruthless marketers filling the shoes of the control-hungry Confederate Army. Marketers tend to display an unbearing influence on the minds and desires of their targeted audiences. They sometimes tell the potential product-users only the things they think they will want to hear in order to win over their heart and the content of their pocketbooks. The Yankee Army on the other-hand would be representative of Angie’s List because of their moral and honest standings.

Companies like Angie’s List are the consumers army, fighting for genuine responses about a company’s product/service performance. They want to free all consumers from the normal advertisements by providing them with valid customer feedback via their website. They have the most powerful tool of all backing them; word of mouth. There’s no weapon stronger than a genuine verbal or textual review from an actual person who has experience with a product.

The needed exposure rate of any product or service can be severely decreased by the trusted marketing maven. To harness such influence through the word-of-mouth – via social media – is paramount to the success of the new (or old) venture.

Different Strokes: How Marketing Strategies Differ

Different Strokes

Oh yeah, 80's throw back. Different strokes for different folks. Just because it works for them does not make it right for you.

Every marketing guru will tell you that their way is the way to get the most buzz, the most traffic, the most sales, etc. But the fact is, there is no one sure fire golden ticket way that will deliver those results to you. Different strategies work for different people.

Even on this blog I have writers who recommend tactics that I don’t favor. Paper.li, for example, is not my favorite tool. However, James Martell has had great success using it to expand his twitter following. Another contributor Corina Newby really focuses on engagement and reaching your audience, while Deborah Hanchey ended up spamming her audience through over exuberant engagement. And Steve Silberberg chalks the whole thing up to a bunch of hullabaloo calling social media an online Tupperware party where we are all just trying to sell to our friends.

There are, of course, some truisms…and I know there are more than these.

  • The conversation is happening whether you are participating or not
  • People are talking about you
  • You need marketing to increase sales
  • Social media is one of the strongest marketing mediums

But how you manage these is up to you.

The conversation is happening: without a doubt it is! When I look into a social media strategy for a client, one of the first things I look at is the conversation that is happening online either about the brand or about their industry.  That chatter is what you want to tap into!

People are talking about you: If you are in business and have had clients, then you can guarantee that people are talking about you somewhere and in some fashion. Don’t you want to know what they are saying?

Marketing to increase sales: This is a big issue that many companies struggle with. You see the struggle most strongly during economic depressions. Marketing is the first thing cut. The problem is that marketing is what gets your product or brand in front of your audience. Some people say that they don’t market, they just have a store front or a yellow pages listing and they get clients. That is still marketing. People see the sign when they drive by. People see your name and number when they open up the big yellow book. Not all marketing is flash and dash. But if the smaller efforts pull in clients, what will happen if you put more of a concerted effort in?

Social Media is Strong! It is true that social media is a powerhouse for marketing. It is the ultimate word of mouth. You can invest a lot of money and develop a huge and powerful social media presence, or you can be more modest and still have a successful grassroots campaign. Time to market? Time to jump into to social media!

The important thing is to evaluate what people tell you to do. Look at how you want your brand to be managed and the voice you want to have. Make sure you marketing efforts are in alignment with that. And always keep in mind that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

SEO…yourself? Optimizing your Personal Brand

Article first published as SEO…yourself? Optimizing your Personal Brand on Technorati.

When was the last time you googled yourself? For many of us, it was not that long ago. But when was the last time you checked your SEO value?

Your what? Personal SEO value? Yes!

SEO, aka. search engine optimization, has more value than just boosting your website search ranking. It can also boost your personal brand.

In my writing I speak a lot about social media and related topics. However, I also frequently reference Smith College. I am an alumnae and a very proud Smithie. Recently when writing I referenced my alma mater. In looking for an image to use with the post I did a quick search for “social media smith college“. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that the first two lines of the search results turned up three photos of me and one graphic I created.

Lauren MacEwen Google Image Search

The success of personal SEO branding can be seen when you are associated with other strong search terms

Through my writing, linking and social media efforts I have associated myself with Smith College and social media. This is an honor I will gladly accept. Not to mention in image searches the results are usually flooded with generic clip art and stock photos, it is great to see your own personal branding infiltrating the sea of brand X images.

Social Business

The social business model is becoming the leading trend in business development. Companies are realizing that social media is more than just chatting on Twitter or playing Scrabble on Facebook. It is a way to directly communicate with your consumer base. It is a way to improve your reputation, build your authority, create a new avenue for customer service, and of course sell. Often what happens, especially for smaller businesses, is that one person becomes the voice (and face) of the brand. This is why managing your own online reputation is an important component to managing your online business reputation.

When you become the face of a brand then you are the person that is looked to as the authority. You are the person that is building the trust. You are the one people look to for answers to their questions. The more of an authority you become the more of a resource you become. This will extend beyond your brand. You can actually establish yourself as an authority in your area through personal branding. Do you think people only talk to Mari Smith or Chris Brogan about their services? Of course not. They are authorities on business social media and people look to them for advice and opinions on all avenues of social media, not just ones related to their business.

By building your personal brand you establish yourself as an authority in your topics. Part of the way you do that is by doing SEO on yourself!

SEO Yourself!

  • Get the Byline!

Writing a blog is a great way to get yourself out there. But don’t forget to give yourself the byline. Even if it is your blog make sure that it says “By …” at the top of the post. When the search engines crawl your site, they will also be crawling your name. The more time it comes up, the more you will be associated with keywords in your post

Guest blogging will also help get your name out there. The more bylines you have in more places, the better your personal ranking in Google.

  • Photos!

Every time you use a picture of yourself put your name in the image title, in the alt tag and in the description. You know the picture is you. Your audience might know the picture is you. But search engines do not know the picture is you, so make sure you tell them.

  • Social Media!

Social media is a great way to communicate with industry relevant people. The more you talk to people in your industry the more you will be associated with that industry. The search engines rank Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Sometimes having a conversation with a “influencer” in your industry can give your personal brand a huge boost in SEO. Through the conversations with influencers, they lend you their authority. Not only do other people see that you are talking to them, and they to you, but the search engines see it to. It would be like if CNN linked to your website. Your authority increases because of their authority.

Build Your Audience: Find a Fan Base (part 3)

The success of online content relies on both traffic and ongoing engagement, which demands a dedicated audience; a fan base. This series first discussed the importance of converting users to fans, and followed with simple ways to generate a connection with your audience and ‘prime’ them for loyalty. The next step is to generate a true fan base that can be a source of ongoing growth through your fans’ social investment.

The bigger your audience, the better chance you have to connect with a casual visitor and convert them to a fan; but it takes particular users to build a solid fan base. Fans are the people who not only read content, but are also willing to get behind it and share it with others. Fans tend to click, comment, enter contests, and generally be more active in the social media conversation. They will also attract other fans just by engaging with your content.

So, how to convert the casual users in your online audience, and identify fans? Here are a few suggestions.

Rewards: You can actively reward your audience and essentially ‘buy’ fans. Though contests and giveaways are easy and most immediately effective, avoid bribing people to click your content; instead try to integrate the rewards, so that the value of your content is reflected. Involving the user in the rewards process will also create a fan following. A simple example would be to have users submit a photo or video entry to qualify for a contest, and then feature their submissions on your site. You could even allow your audience to select a reward by vote, or elect a charity to benefit from your contest. All easy ways to identify and develop a fan base out of your general audience.

Recommendations: You can also solicit recommendations from outside authorities, to help convert a casual audience member to a true fan. Engaging with acknowledged experts around a subject, or having experts participate in your content by commenting or endorsement, lets you potentially benefit from a pre-existing fan base. In general, people take greater interest in supporting content when other people seem interested; having a recommendation from any user immediately validates your value and will attract the potential fans in your audience.

Referrals: Ask your audience for referrals, and ensure your fans can easily promote you to others. The share button itself is the easiest way for a user to ‘refer’ their friends to your content through social investment, essentially recommending your content by posting it to their social streams. Like a medical practice posting a sign in their lobby, make sure your audience knows how much you value referrals and fans.

By adding referrals and focusing on your fans, you’ll build a motivated and loyal audience willing to invest their social capital in your online content.


Corina Newby is a social media strategist, writer and community manager for Supernova.com. She’s also an anti-drama queen who fights crime in a future time @corecorina

Osama, SEO and Branding: It’s a Wrap!

It was a big news week – the biggest news in the media, and in social media, of course was the elimination of our Public Enemy #1. SEO on that topic was huge. Your SEO won’t approach that, but it can be more robust than it is – we give you  links to the latest web traffic research and explore the developing story about why we think social media is bound to rise in the SEO universe. Guest blogger Joseph Baker presents you with some pertinent questions aimed at boosting your brand, and Facebook gives you Deals for boosting your buying, but think about your personal exposure before you commit.

Want to write a Guest Blog? It’s easy and fun, and it will help you expand your audience. Just contact us for details.

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This Week on Blog Cubed…

Obama portrait as a Twitter Map of wordsThe Social Media Community Celebrates a World without #Osama

This was the biggest news of the decade: Osama Bin Laden was strategically eliminated and the message spread like wildfire through social media, trending like crazy and linking the global community.  4,000 tps (tweets per second) by the end of the President’s announcement!

Facebook Deals Shares your Infoa woman looking at boots through a store window

What’s the Deal? Here are Facebook’s terms for buyers and merchants who participate in their new social coupon program.  There are Deals, and rules, but also some risk. Caveat Emptor.

Does SEO win the traffic war?

Everyone wants site traffic – the question is which strategy will get you more? SEO certainly has an edge at present, but don’t count social media out. Do you just want random clicks, or real clients?

nike swoosh, Apple & other famous brand logos

 

The Right Questions: Initiating the Branding Process

Marketing processes are constantly changing; we are bombarded by thousands of campaigns daily. Guest Blogger Joseph Baker breaks through the hype to help you focus on your brand and your customer. Develop your branding strategy with these simple questions.

How Sticky is Your Business?

SEO is a great tool and beneficial for your brand and business. Search engines get us where we want to go. But social media builds relationships, and that’s what makes your business successful! Why building trust and loyalty are as important as click-throughs.

How Sticky is Your Business?

Hand dripping in honey

Is your website sticky or is your business sticky?

Have you seen the recently released study showing that SEO was better at building sticky traffic than social media? It is probably true. When you go to Google and search for a site, you are intending to spend time there. You are looking for it, and the search engine helps you find it. Boom…sticky.

Social media is not a tool for click-throughs, though you will get them. It is not a tool for sales, though you will make them. It is not a tool to drive traffic, though you will do that. Social media is a tool for building relationships with your audience.

This is beyond click-throughs and short term sales. This is more than singular traffic.

When you build a relationship with your audience, you are creating:

  • Brand recognition
  • Loyalty
  • Positive customer service
  • Authority
  • Lifetime traffic
  • Trust

“The best part of relationships is they are protectable assets. When someone likes you, trusts you or finds you credible, it’s very hard to take that away.” –Why Social Media Matters

Relationships take time, and this is where studies that only look at traffic sources and declare that SEO is more effective fail. They are looking at the one time click. They are not looking at the lifetime business relationship.

Relationships are built from a history of multiple experiences and exposures. The formula is simple; the more you interact the deeper the relationship. And because the company reputation is built off this relationship, one bad review or blog post is not going to be able to sully it. Reputations built from interpersonal relationships will not be tarnished by anonymous slander.

Yes, SEO is a wonderful tool that everyone should use. However, you are not comparing apples to apples when you compare SEO to social media. SEO looks at searches. Social media looks at relationships. And let’s face it, when you really like a brand because you tweet and Facebook with them, you don’t need to search for their website because you already know their domain (and studies can’t identify how much direct traffic came from social media followers…yet).

So how sticky is your website? Well, maybe it is time to ask yourself: how sticky is your business?

 

The Right Questions: Initiating the Branding Process

Brands of brands

Do you have a lasting brand? (Image Credit: Emily Berezin)

The average person sees around 5,000 ads per day. At the supermarket, products are arranged according to the price paid by the producer in order to reach the customer more effectively. Billboards along highways illustrate products which may only apply to a small number of passing drivers. Companies like Angie’s List seek to use “word-of-mouth” tactics which employ consumer reviews of a service (utilizing the important “market maven” technique) as a way to advertise that service. The list goes on and on. Methods of branding are immeasurable, in that they evolve on a daily basis on every level of the marketing spectrum. How does a company keep up? Furthermore, how can a company be proactive in reaching customers when they so quickly turn a deaf ear, or turn entirely to another product?

There are no easy answers. Entire textbooks have been written on branding methods. There are, however, some guidelines which may help quell the stresses with branding without causing bad decisions.

The Problem: Question

  • What need or gap in the market does your product/service fill?
    • Simply put: Who (is your target customer)? What (value do they see in your product)? Where (do they live)? When (will they buy it)? Why (will they buy it)? How (price; frequency of purchase)?
    • These questions start to feed into each other.
  • Example: One of my first companies was a pie shop that specialized in hand-made pies. The example below is a simple one, but holds to the general format of the problem question/answer:
    • XYZ Pie Shop seeks to provide the buyer (defined – see below) with a natural, hand-made product which is free of preservatives.

The Target Customer: Answer

  • Your target customer has everything to do with branding. Companies like Best Buy have developed entire approaches on how their floor sales people speak with the customer, all based on age. Empty Nester, Tech and College Grad are just a few of the many examples once used by the retail giant. The point is that your product is tailored to a specific age group naturally, so you market it to that age group. (There are exceptions; the iPod is an example of a product which the user defines.)
  • For pies, our target customer was primarily the Mother (30+). Below are a couple of other summations based on our customer evaluation:
    • The convenience of a hand-made product without her having to spend the entire day in the kitchen. (opportunity cost question)
    • Our price ranged from $12.00 -17.00 per pie, making us target retail stores in higher-income communities. Holiday seasons will result in more sales consistently.

This is only the first part of the process. The method of analysis mentioned here is just a glimpse into a much wider field of branding and marketing exploration. The ways in which we reach our customers determine our successes and failures. During the initial phases of developing a brand, the process begins with the right questions.


Joseph Baker’s business experience in management spans more than 15 years. A leader of development and management teams, he also implemented budget reductions professionally and as an independent contractor.   Joseph led strategic planning and systems of implementation for nine organizations, public and private, and worked extensively with small businesses.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, and an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

Social Media: The Big Four (part 4)

The old spice man

Old Spice created one of the most successful social media campaigns ever. It was on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their blog.

No surprise, the Big Four of social media are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs.  Ok, maybe that last one was a surprise. In Part 3 of our analysis of social media marketing trends, I talked about the rising influence of blogging in marketing. The Social Media Examiner’s 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report reveals the trends and where marketers are focusing their efforts.

Facebook is the number one focus, and businesses are investing more into Facebook as the cornerstone of their social marketing strategy.  There has been a lot of discussion on the effectiveness of Fan Pages for business development, but as a Business to Consumer (B2C) marketing tool, it is very strong.

Though Twitter is not as big as Facebook it is growing fast, and all levels of marketers use it. In fact, 77% of businesses are planing to increase their Twitter activity.   More people are finding the value in Twitter as a source for information and as a networking tool. Many marketers, including this one, would argue that Twitter can be a better tool than Facebook for forging partnerships, creating strategic networks and making sales.  Twitter facilitates active communication and does not restrict conversation between businesses and individuals the way Facebook does.

LinkedIn maintains a strong presence.Though many large corporations utilize LinkedIn, it is primarily a business tool for the small business or solopreneur. It is also used primarily for Business to Business (B2B) networking.  LinkedIn is best for small businesses and individuals because it is not meant to serve as a direct sales tool. It is highly valuable for group forums and the ability to network with business people.

YouTube is an area that marketers really want to grow. Large companies and experienced marketers are the ones who are really integrating video. 82% of businesses with more than 1000 employees said that YouTube was a key growth area for their social media strategy. Professionals who spend 40+ hours per week on social media are investing more into video content.  What this tells me is that video and video blogs are being dominated by companies with dedicated social media departments.  It is a very powerful social marketing tool, more accessible to those who have the time and tech resources to create quality content. People who create good video content are tapping into the potential to truly reach the viral market.

Facebook

  • Marketers of all experience levels are using Facebook
  • Number 1 preferred social media network
  • Used more for B2C than B2B
  • Increasing focus for B2C
  • 92% of marketers use FB
  • Top focus for people getting started

Twitter

  • Marketers of all experience levels are using Twitter
  • Number 2 preferred social media network
  • 73% of marketers plan to increase their activity
  • 77% of large businesses are likely to increase their activity

LinkedIn

  • Small businesses and self-employed are more likely to use LinkedIn
  • More B2B

YouTube

  • Large businesses are more likely to use video
  • Marketers with 1-3 years of experience are more likely to integrate video into their social media
  • Marketers who invest 40+ hours per week are more invested in creating video content
  • 82% Businesses with 1000 or more employees indicated that this is a key growth area

Social media marketing is on the rise. 73% of marketers plan to increase their use of YouTube, blogs, FB and Twitter; 86% do not plan to use MySpace (so you shouldn’t either). Facebook and Twitter are the undisputed places to be.  While you are at it, try to make a video or two, you might like the results!

Social Media: Marketers Focus on Blogging (part 3)

cartoon of a computer telling a person that it is time to update his blog

Is blogging boosting your marketing or is it time for you to update?

This is Part 3 of our analysis of social media marketing trends. Part 1 addressed overall trends in social marketing, and in Part 2 we looked at the time commitment and cost benefit of time investment. In this post we’ll focus on one aspect of social marketing, the blog.

Blogging is one of the best overall tools for your online presence. It establishes authority for your business by providing a forum for sharing your topical knowledge. It can be a resource for your clients and a good customer service tool. It is also an excellent way to keep your clients up to date with changes in your industry. However, blogging is a commitment that a lot of people are unsure about.

In yesterday’s post about the time commitment of social media we talked about new marketers spending about 6 hours per week on social media and the more experienced (1-3) years speding 15+ hours on it.  For people just starting on social media, 15+ hours is daunting.  However the reason experienced users invest so much time is because their return on investment has been so significant.

Data from the Social Media Examiner 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report indicates that blogging is something that most marketers are interested in doing, but the more experienced marketers are the ones who are significantly more invested in their blogs.

Blogging is excellent for driving traffic to your site, making your site dynamic and improving your SEO, establishing your authority and building brand recognition. So why are small businesses using them much more than large companies?

Though it is often easier for larger companies to make a bigger time commitment to social media because they can devote people to the task, they are actually less likely to blog. Once of the best reasons to blog is to build brand recognition and authority. Larger companies often have established strong brand recognition, so they do not need to incorporate blogs for those reasons.  However, blogging is not just for awareness and SEO, it helps establish you as an expert, thus making you a more robust resource for your clients.

The Ecomagination site is an example of a large business that has harnessed the power of the blog. GE obviously does not need help with brand recognition, but in fact their Ecomagination campaign has revitalized their entire brand. They use their site as a way to share information about the environment and trends in renewable energy. Thus the blog furthers their mission and keeps them positioned as thought leaders.

Blogging

  • Strong usage for the self employed and small business
  • Large companies less likely to use blogs
  • 75% of marketers project increased blogging activity in the coming year
  • Marketers who invest 40+ hours per week are more invested in blogging
  • More utilized by B2B
  • 81% of all marketers plan to increase blogging activity

Blogging has long been considered a playground for writers or “mommy bloggers” who want to share stories about their kids and spouse.  What has shifted is that these bloggers became influential in consumer decisions.  Thus, blogs have also become an important tool for reaching out, communicating about products, services and business.  I personally find that benefits from blogging include keeping me on top of my industry and thinking critically about developments.

So if you are considering a blog for your business, I would recommend that you do.  They are beneficial on a number of levels and they are the primary area that marketers from all levels of experience are intending to improve.

Social Media: The Time Commitment (part 2)

This is part 2 of Social Media: The Ultimate Business Tool. Yesterday we looked at the trends of social media and themost common usage by marketers. Today we consider the issue of time.

Lauren MacEwen with her hands on her head looking crazy with a Dali Clock behind her

Does your social media take too much time?

The Social Media Time Commitment

One of the first things most businesses ask about, when creating a social media strategy, is time commitment.  Everyone wants to know, how much time will I have to spend on my social media? An hour a day? 10 hours a week? 60 hours a month?

Well the question becomes not how much time do you want to spend on social media, but how much value are you getting for your time? The analytics below show that big or small, any time commitment will deliver big results!

The Social Media Examiner polled businesses that use social media to determine how it was being used. The numbers and percentages that follow are pulled from the Social Media Examiner 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

What the report found was that 58% of marketers use social media more than 6 hours per week.  However, what was really interesting was that the the people who had been using social media the longest also spent the most amount of time on it: 11% of marketers have more than 3 years of experience on social media, and 47% of them spend a minimum of 16 hours per week on it.

The reason they spend so much time on social media is because their sales, traffic and reputation directly correlate. 72% of marketers with more than 3 years’ experience report that social media helps close sales.

The reason marketers spend half their work week on social media is because it generates leads and sales.  However, you do not have to invest that amount of time to get results.

45% of those who have invested less than a year in their social media reported that new partnerships were gained. 52% saw lead generation for new sales. 81% report increased exposure for their business and 73% who used social media for more than 1 year saw an improvement in their SEO (search engine ranking). Interesting to note, 65% of those who are involved with their social media less than 6 hours per week showed an improvement with their SEO. A surprising 78% of the people who invested less than 6 hours had a  78% increase of traffic!

Nearly half of the people using social media have been using it for less than a year.

Here it is in a nutshell:

6 hours per week

  • 58% use social media for a minimum of 6 hours per week. 
  • 65% showed an improvement in their SEO
  • 78% showed an increase in their web traffic.
  • 81% said that social media helped increase their exposure

Less than a Year

  • 45% reported new partnerships
  • 52% had new sales lead generation

More than a Year

  • 73% reported improvement in their SEO

More than 3 years

  • 47% spent 16 hours or more per week on social media
  • 72% reported that social media helps close sales
  • 72% strongly agree that social media increases business exposure
  • 91% report increased traffic to websites

Social media does deliver immediate results. However, what this study also shows is that the long term commitment is what delivers truly substantial results to all aspects of your online presence. Don’t be overwhelmed with the idea of spending 20 hours a week on your social media, because the people who spend even an hour a day are showing amazing results.

So what is the takeaway? Social media is a powerful tool for your business marketing. So get out there and get social!

Read part 1, the top findings for trends and usage in social media.