All posts by Catherine Weber

Businesses Benefit from Strategic Social Media Programs

Bridge to CustomersWhile social networking began as a consumer activity, it has become a crucial component of most business marketing strategies as it allows companies to reach highly targeted audiences with custom messaging to build brand awareness and establish a relationship with the customer who now expect companies to be reachable and accountable.

Business Benefits
Businesses are now regularly using tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn for hiring, customer support, product development, brand recognition, and, of course, client acquisition and retention. Social media has another benefit: the cost of acquiring customers is significantly lower than placing ads, and creates a lasting relationship.

The benefits of a quality social media marketing program include:

  • Transparent, authentic feedback from your audience
  • Integrates well with conventional marketing programs
  • Reach highly-targeted audiences
  • Improves search engines positioning
  • Lower cost than advertising
  • More long term and wider impact than conventional public relations

Listen first, Act second
Buyers look to objective internet sources to compare business products and services including existing customers who are more than willing to share their experience with these products. Companies can’t control the chatter, but they can learn what customers want.

Brands such as Comcast have made major strides in customer service by listening on Twitter. When their brand is mentioned, they know. When someone has a problem, they help them within minutes. They follow the first rule of social media: listen first, act second. Maintaining a regular monitoring program helps to understand customer sentiment and how it changes as you implement online programs.

Defining Success
Measuring the success of a social media campaign is possible only if you define your targets in advance. Whether they include increased traffic, website conversions or leads, you must have clear targets for successful campaigns, at short-term and long-term time intervals. A few examples of what success might look like include:

  • Gaining a better understanding of your customers
  • Increase brand exposure in ways which were not possible before
  • Reducing costs for achieving the same targets using other marketing tactics
  • Increase sales and conversions

Some great resources to compliment this blog post:

Social Commerce, Social Media Today, November 2, 2010

Content for People, Not Robots, Impressions Through Media, September 18, 2010

Speaking of Core Values

Core ValuesLast month,  I presented to FastTRack MBA students at Babson College in the Managing Growing Business class about Weber Media Partners’  history, growth and core values. In the five years that I have presented to this class each semester, rarely does any other presenter whom I share the podium talk about their organizational values. Most talk about profit and venture funding and the mechanics of the business.  While I can’t say that values alone will make you profitable, and that having no values will cause you to fail, I can say that they matter to our company.

A few weeks ago, I attended a presentation by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, who spoke at Bentley University for American Marketing Association, Boston Chapter as part of his Delivering Happiness book tour.  Tony attributes his company success to developing and staying true to core values.   His slides and audio of his talk (turn your volume up for this) will give you some insight into why Amazon bought Zappos for 1.2 billion dollars in 2009.

The values, relationships and passion he talked about resonated with our business values at Weber Media Partners.  They drive how you communicate with your audience, the business practices you use and your every day communications with your team.   I would love to hear from you about how your company’s core values guide your success.

Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area’s new Trip Planner

Weber Media Partners has been working with Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area for nearly 10 years. We have had the pleasure to work with some of the hardest working professional National Park Service staff, who care tremendously about natural resources in this country, and in particular, about the natural history and American history that makes up the many islands in Boston Harbor. When we had the opportunity to work with them on their new website, we were excited, but also knew that it was a highly visible project, with many stakeholders to serve.

We had an amazing team of writers, developers, project managers and designers, all who care passionately for the outcome. We created a site that provides intuitive trip planning for all types of visitors. See the full case study for more details.

We are pleased to say that our hard work has paid off for Boston Harbor Islands, where visitation is up to an all-time high. Superintentent Bruce Jacobson writes in his weekly email:

“We had more visitors to the islands this past spring, summer, and fall season than any other year. More than 100,000 passengers rode the park ferry. Double that number visited locales accessible by car.

Thank you to all who have worked so hard making this season one of the best yet!”

To add to this, Weber Media Partners has been selected as a finalist for a much acclaimed MITX award for this project in the Environmental Consciousness category. We are thrilled to be recognized for our work and look forward to the ceremony on November 18th.

Content for People, Not Robots (well, mostly)

Search Engine RobotDianna Huff, DH Communications, presented content marketing at the SEMNE meeting on Wednesday. Her presentation focused on why SEO firms should think like marketers and helping clients create content. See her presentation here.

I was excited to hear another marketing consultant expound on this important issue. The challenge for any business, large or small, with making social media succcessful and keeping it on track is to have a content strategy and have a regular stream of valuable content that speaks to your audience. Some SEO practitioners may be optimizing content, but not actually helping them produce it, when of course, SEO is not just about optimized content, but the continued publishing of optimized content that will actually be useful to your audience. It’s not just about the robots that index your website, it’s about the actual PEOPLE who read it!

We at Weber Media Partners recognized this as the main challenge for SMBs to contend with when they consider doing a social media work- from blogs to twitter to Facebook, if you want to stay in front of you customer, don’t annoy them and don’t be invisible- be helpful and interesting. Companies have the same issues when launching SEO and PPC campaigns.  So, having said this, Dianna gave some great tips, which I agree whole heartedly with: Continue reading

Learning Loyalty from the Grateful Dead

In 2008, David Meerman Scott drew comparisons between social marketing and the Grateful Dead at the the first Inbound Marketing Conference in Massachusetts. Having seen dozens of Dead shows, my first in 1982, I immediately understood what he was talking about.

This band did everything differently– they produced only 13 albums over 30 years but instead toured constantly, doing more than 2300 shows. They played different songs every night from their catalog of 500 and supported the fans need for live shows by letting them record from a special section in the audience. Their brand lives on more than 15 years after Jerry Garcia’s death, and new fans are discovering them even now.

So, when I heard that David and Brian Halligan of Hubspot had written “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History”, I knew I needed to review it here. It covers how the Dead did the marketing basics differently: Their unique brand, message and offering, their fans(customers), and finally, their business model and operations. It’s a perfect guide for CEOs and marketers to learn to think differently and  create a break through brand.

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Do you like what I like? The power of social influence.

Twenty years ago, our friend Dan did meticulous research on lawnmowers, comparing price and quality, reading Consumer Reports, and talking to various salesmen, asking questions at local stores. Once he decided which brand and model to buy, we piggybacked on his research and bought the same one because we knew he did a thorough evaluation.

While influence is nothing new, the many ways we’re influenced is, in more and more ways.  If you consider all of the consumer buying decisions we make: where we shop and dine out, which movies we see and what music we listen to, we have always made decisions with influence from our family, our friends, and, even perfect strangers.

Now, in addition to in-person influence, we are often influenced by a virtual community made up of people that we know, and their friends, many who post their opinions on Facebook, by liking a page, or on Amazon, by reviewing a product, or on Yelp, by reviewing a restaurant or local business.  (Yelp, by the way, got in trouble with site users for manipulating reviews in favor of advertisers and has changed their policy based on widespread negative feedback.)

That’s why Facebook has been making it easy for companies to incorporate the Like widget on their websites and blogs. Everything you “like” is cataloged for all of your Facebook friends to see.

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It’s No Secret Why Blogs Fail

This week I’ve had some interesting conversations with clients about their social media strategy.

During a discussion on  blogging, one of our clients pointed out that everything they see on blogs is BORING, longwinded, and is more like stream of consciousness thoughts vs. useful information.

If you Google “Why Blogs Fail”, you will get more than 89 million links to articles, many of them blog posts to this very topic.  The reason blogs fail is not a secret, and some statistics claim  that 95% of them do.

  • Blogs fail because the organization has not made a real commitment to resources
  • Blogs fail because there is no clear content strategy
  • Blogs fail because the author doesn’t know if anyone is listening

What is considered blog success?
If your blog

  • contributes something of value and demonstrates your expertise regularly (at least once per week)
  • set you apart from your competition
  • has visitors who read your content (how many depends on what share of the audience you want)
  • gets comments and starts conversations

you can feel pretty good that your blog is going in the right direction.

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Nonprofits Need to Develop a Social Media Strategy

nonprofit, social media, Simmons CollegeEarlier this week I spoke on a panel of social media professionals to 70 executive directors and marketing staff of nonprofit organizations at Simmons College in Boston. The subject was Social Media: Tips and tools for using social media to build support for your mission. The event was organized by the Center for Non-profit Success.

We had a great group of panelists who provided a balance of tools, case studies and strategy. My task was to present on strategy.   While everyone had a Facebook presence, only two or three audience members had a strategy to back up their social media activities. This is common amongst most nonprofits and many for-profits.  Unfortunately, without a strategy in place, these organizations may not be creating content that serves their audience, delivers on their organizational objectives or have the triggers in place to understand how successful their programs are.

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The Risks of Doing Nothing: Social Media for Healthcare

Social media can have an impact on health care organizations, whether the organization has proactive programs or passively chooses to ignore it. By doing nothing, hospitals are at more legal risk because no clear guidelines articulate how staff should participate in social communities, how doctors share medical advice on blogs and where patients get medical information.

Andrew Cohen of Forum One, recently wrote about the session he attended at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, which identified legal issues as the top concerns of hospital administrators. Second to this is “lack of comfort with social media by administrators as well as staff…”

With patients helping themselves to information on websites that may or may not be good information, hospitals and other healthcare organizations like lifecare facilities have an opportunity to help guide patients and their families to good information and support.

In fact, every department needs to consider how social media effects them including human resources, legal, marketing, IT, patient services, and each and every medical specialty.   In 2009, we met with many of the SVPs  at a major teaching hospital north of Boston, Lahey Clinic, to give them a sense of what they need to think about.

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All Blog Content Isn’t Created Equal

Here’s the dilemma: all blog content isn’t created equal. On the one hand we’re told people should write in a casual manner, be transparent, say what’s on their mind. But when does sharing become oversharing?  Take the case of conductor Leonard Slatkin who was “pelted by brutal reviews” and bowed out of the production in humiliation after he blogged that not only was he new to “La Traviata,” but that he was”somewhat naïve in this repertoire.”

A few years back, Curt Schilling started blogging on 38Pitches.com about every pitch and what was going through his mind.  Managers told him point-blank—stop.  Give away the mechanics and you risk losing the awe of your fans.

In business, it’s not a company’s mission to tell customers the most inner workings of their organization; product development secrets, what regions they’re thinking about expanding into. Companies keep those cards close to their chest and divulge the information when and if it’s time.

If the conductor or the baseball player’s blog had been treated like any other media outlet, the organization could have nipped those blog posts in the bud. Ideally they would have had a content strategy and coached the writer on what’s acceptable and appropriate to write about. And more importantly, what’s not. They wouldn’t have been forced to censor.

Transparent, authentic voices—yes. But within guidelines.