All posts by Jaclyn Mosher

The Pluses and Minuses of Google+ Pages

Google+ business pages went public on November 7, and they are already making an impact on the social media landscape. The number of visitors to Google’s latest social media venture is up 25% this month, compared to October. Much of this traffic is a result of organizations looking to stake their claim in this new social sphere, even if they are not quite sure how this newest channel will fit into their existing social media plan.

We here at Weber Media Partners excitedly dove into Google+ two weeks ago. The hard work came in the days after. This month, we are working on our plan to integrate this new service into our existing social media marketing program and develop exclusive content for this new site.

Today, I will share with you some of our Google+ insights. If you’re debating whether or not to join, struggling with your content creation or curious about what other brands are already up to, here’s a “Pluses and Minus” list to get you started.

If you’ve already set up a Facebook business page, then setting up your Google+ page will be a breeze. This easy set-up is definitely a PLUS. If it only takes a few minutes, why not claim your place in the network. Bank of America learned the hard way about the errors of slow adoption – a parody site launched on Google Plus before the official brand page, confusing visitors and embarrassing the company.

Need help setting up your Google+ business page? This blog post and slide show from Mashable offers you a great step-by-step guide, along with examples of some top Google+ brand pages.

Hangouts are another PLUS. This tool, unique to Google+, allows users to video chat directly with their followers within the online network. Brands are already using this functionality in exciting ways: sharing exclusive content, announcing new initiatives, and even hosting video customer service sessions.

One beloved entertainment brand that has used Google Hangouts to reach out to fans is The Muppets. Kermit and Miss Piggy, along with actor-director Jason Segel, sat in front of a webcam and answered questions about their new movie, Disney’s The Muppets. (Sample quote: Miss Piggy summarizes the movie by saying, “It’s all about moi!”) Watch the Muppet Google+ Hangout highlight reel, embedded below:

While its launch and optimization has attracted a lot of press, Google+ is still more of a niche social network when compared to a behemoth like Facebook. This smaller, less diverse user base both has both positive and negative consequences for marketers.

Google+ currently has 40 million users, a MINUS when compared to Facebook’s 800 million. Yet Google+ is growing in popularity among young, tech-savvy American males, a PLUS for business seeking to attract the attention of this market in particular.

Additionally, as Crispin Sheridan of Clickz points out, the nascent Google+ is a “less noisy” atmosphere than Facebook, an even more crowded place thanks to the partnership with music sharing site Spotify and the increasing prevalence of social gaming. A less cluttered network, Google+ gives brands the opportunity to avoid the clutter and achieve “a much more direct and personal relationship with their audiences.”

Finally, the lack of shortened URLs for Google+ pages is a clear MINUS, in our opinion. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Google+ page URLs are made up of a long string of numbers, as opposed to a short alias (for example, facebook.com/webermedia). Some third party sites have shared work-arounds via URL shortening, but they are not ideal. No word yet on if or when Google will introduce these user-friendly “vanity URL.”

Overall, we think the “pluses” of Google+ outweigh the “minuses.” We are excited to experiment with and learn more about Google’s new tool, and we hope you’ll join us there. As always, if you need any assistance with Google+ or any aspect of your social media marketing, we are eager to help guide you. Contact us at info@webermediapartners.com for more information, and share your questions and insights in the comments or via Facebook, Twitter and, of course, Google+.

Facebook in 2011 – What’s New This Year?

2011 is nearing its halfway point, and we’ve already seen some dramatic changes in the social media world. The tablet war is heating up, social shopping has become big business, and just this week, Microsoft announced the purchase of Skype for a whopping $8.5 billion. 2011 has also been a big year for Facebook, with its still-growing user base and the increasing promience of “find us on Facebook” messaging in ads from everything from Nissan cars to Energizer batteries to Macy’s Deparment stores to Fancy Feast cat food.

Facebook has also made several key changes to its site in the first half of 2011. We detail these changes below, discuss what these changes mean for Facebook and it users, and look forward to changes that are reportedly in the works for the rest of 2011.

Instant Comments

In 2011, Facebook made it even easier for friends and fans to share their comments. In March, Facebook removed the “comment” button, previously the last step in the commenting process. Instead of a button,  users simply need to press ”enter,” and the post appears in the news feed.

This change is more than just about ease-of-use, however. This faster submit process is a signal of the primacy of data in the Facebook ecosystem.

Facebook’s astronomically high value (currently projected at $50 billion) is largely due to its ability to foster countless, continuous conversations among its over half a billion members. Every company wants to the know what the world thinks of its new product – Facebook is the closest we’ve come to developing a way to do just that.

By making comments that much easier to submit, Facebook is in effect generating more and more data to add to its arensal. The comment button provided users with a prompt to review their content before submitting it. By replacing it with a keystroke,  Facebook has in effect moved sharing into the composition process. A click requires a shift in focus from the keys to the cursor. ”Enter” is just another keystroke. Only this keystroke just happens to publish your thoughts to the world.

How can all of this derive from just one missing button? When you are dealing with a worldwide network the size of Facebook, one change can impact how the world shares information.

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How Can Quora Fit Into Your Social Media Marketing Toolbox?

Now that you know all about Quora and how it works, Weber Media Partners gives you three ways that it can help you and your business manage and build its online reputation.

1) Monitoring Your Brand

Quora is a unique way to monitor your brand’s online reputation. The site’s “Account Settings” provide a comprehensive list of options for e-mail notifications. You can choose to receive e-mail messages alerting you to new questions and answers, actions of specific users, and summaries of actions relating to a specific topic. Silicon Valley analyst Jeremiah Owyang recommends tracking brand and product mentions, for it is “likely if one customer is asking questions in Quora, it’s an indicator others are too.”  He further suggests escalating recurring questions or problems to the correct group within the company.

Weber Media Parents agrees, and we would be happy to work with you to develop a Quora monitoring program. We’ll help you identify FAQs, desired product or service changes, potential blog topics, or other industry trends. Contact us for more information.

2) Sharing Your Expertise

You and your colleagues know a lot about your industry – why not share this wealth of wisdom? Since corporate accounts are not possible, companies should instead encourage interested and knowledgeable parties to set up Quora accounts, identify themselves as employees, and comment on questions in their chosen area of expertise. Quora gives employees the opportunity to share valuable information with their contemporaries across the globe, and perhaps even become thought-leaders on a given topic.

These experts can be powerful spokespeople for the company, but they can also cause headaches if they are not given the proper guidelines from the beginning. A meeting among managers and the marketing team to establish ground rules – such as style guides, the discussion of new product details, or non-work-related submissions – is highly recommended before introducing Quora to the social media plan.

3) Responding to Your Customers’ Queries

Quora revolves around questions and answers, making it a powerful customer service channel. Mashable blogger Heather Whaling singles out Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom as one user who is performing this task particularly well on the site. Systrom, who created the popular iPhone photo app, provided in-depth answers to a number of questions about his company. Thanks to his clear authority and knowledge, his responses have shot to the top spot on the pages. By answering his customers’ questions thoroughly and openly, Systrom has both ensured that the correct information is distributed and garnered good will for himself and his company.

The Weber Media team is excited about this newest tool, and we hope you are, too! Share your thoughts on Quora here or via Facebook or Twitter. And please let us know if you have any questions about integrating Quora and social search into your social media marketing program.

Quora: The Social Search Engine

It’s 2011, and Quora has emerged as the latest social media tool that has marketers buzzing. The site, which was launched in January 2010 with Facebook’s former Chief Technology Officer serving as co-founder, has already attracted significant attention from the top social media blogs and from venture capitalists. Quora’s innovative “social search” is being touted as “future of blogging“ and “much, much bigger than Twitter.”

Yet what exactly is Quora, and how can it fit into your social media marketing strategy? Weber Media Partners will answer these questions in a two-part series. Today, we will introduce this increasingly popular new search site. On Friday, we’ll take you through the three ways Quora can help your business.

What is Quora?

Let’s start with the basics. Quora defines itself as “a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it.” Users can search the site for specific questions, browse questions by category, or post questions that have yet to be posed by a user. All users can also contribute to the answers, responding themselves or “voting up” their preferred response. Registration is free, and it is easy to connect your Quora account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles, and your blog.

Quora is a powerful tool, but it is not the most user-friendly one. The best way to learn is to practice. After creating your account, start following topics of interest to you. To do this, simply begin typing the topic into the search bar and select from the resulting list. Once you follow a topic, questions relating to the topic will appear in your activity stream (similar to your Twitter stream or Facebook news feed).

The next step after selecting your topics is to post answers or questions of your own. Click on the image at right to see an example of a Quora question and answer page. The answers appear on the page in descending order based on user votes (e.g. “up” votes make an answer rise up the page) and the author’s previous record (e.g. the higher their previous posts, the higher their answers appear).

The Quora team is quick to note that it has protections in place to prevent users from “gaming” the system, and thus negating the accuracy and value of its content. In addition to monitoring its users’ submissions, Quora requires you to use your full name to register. While it encourages users to share titles and employers as a way of verifying the source of the knowledge provided, the site does not permit the establishment of business or brand accounts. Quora has been actively removing accounts that violate this policy, including the blog Mashable‘s account. There are currently no plans to add this feature to Quora.

To learn how this new tool can help your business as part of your social media marketing plan, check back with us on Friday for the second half of our Quora series. And as always, share your thoughts here or via Facebook or Twitter.

Best Back To School Campaigns, Part III: Bookstore Alternatives

Part III of our Best of Back to School marketing campaigns of 2010 dives into the changing world of college textbooks.  In recent years, numerous companies have sprung up offering alternatives to the notoriously expensive college bookstore.  This year, I was particularly impressive by two such companies – Coursesmart and Chegg.

Through its sleek, easy-to-use website, Coursesmart offers an ever-growing selection of “e-textbooks” – electronic versions of the traditional print texts that can be read on desktops, laptops, iPads and even iPhones.  Coursesmart’s e-textbooks give the reader the ability to highlight sections, take notes in the margins, print selected pages and cut and paste selections.  Now there is no need to carry around tons of heavy books – you can keep them all on our laptop, read for easy access with just one click.

I was particularly impressed by Coursesmart’s synergy with Apple products.  Being able to access textbooks from an iPhone is the ultimate in transportable texts.  Furthermore, the iPad opens the door to more interactive and impactful textbooks.  (See image above for an example of a Coursesmart text viewed on a iPad.)  The Wall Street Journal discussed the iPad and Coursesmart’s innovative e-texts in a recent article, stating that the new device makes book publishers “eager to exploit its color, video, and touch-screen capabilities.”  I, for one, would love to test drive this exciting new technology.

Of course, this new technology comes with a big price tag.  Coursesmart’s e-textbooks, while less expensive than print versions, can still run in the $100 range.  And then there’s the iPad, priced at $499 – a very pricey item to pile on top of an already expensive back to school season.  Another textbook innovator, Chegg, combines new and old technology to offer a more affordable alternative.

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Best Back To School Campaigns, Part II: Target’s Social Checklist

On Wednesday, I kicked off my series on the best Back to School marketing campaigns of 2010.  I sought out campaigns that are innovative, fun and helpful, both to the shopper and the community at large.  In Part II of the series, I will highlight Target’s innovative and extremely useful “Roomates” Facebook app.

Target is a popular destination for college students stocking up on dorm necessities.  To help ensure these coeds get everything they need, Target has developed an interactive checklist accessible via Facebook.  The checklist has three options (“buy,” “have” and “pass”), and includes links to purchase specific products on Target.com.

The best part about this campaign, however, is the roommates option.  This part of the app allows students to share their list with their roommate(s), helping ensure that one suite will not wind up with four vacuums and only one lamp.  The app also features messaging, calendars, and even a bill splitter – definitely something I wish I had in college.

Once the checklist is complete, students can select the print option and bring the list along on their shopping trip.  The checklist is even available on Target.com in a more traditional PDF format.  All in all, this campaign is a helpful tool for college students, as well as an ingenious way to show off the megastore’s seemingly innumerable product offerings.

Stop by our blog on Monday for the conclusion of this series, in which I discuss two innovative and cost-effective alternatives to the traditional college bookstore.

Best Back To School Campaigns, Part I: Staples Makes a Difference

Two weeks ago, a milestone was reached: I received my first school-related e-mail message.  It opened with a jolly greeting from my professor, and moved quickly to talk of future assignments and course requirements.  That’s when it hit me – I need to get ready for back to school!

As a grad student, I’ve done the Back to School ritual more times then I’d care to count.  So, to liven up the hunt this year, I’ve added an additional item to my usual list of notebooks, highlighters and (of course) new shoes – find my favorite Back to School marketing campaigns.  I sought out campaigns that are innovative, fun and helpful, both to the shopper and the community at large.  A lucky few made it to the top of the class, and I will detail those campaigns in a series of three posts.  Today, I will profile Staples’ philanthropy.

Students and parents browsing the aisles (or web site pages) of this office superstore for back to school necessities can do more than just buy – they can give back, too.  For the third year in a row, Staples has partnered with teen-centric non-profit DoSomething.org to collect school supplies for children in need.  Donation bins have been set up in Staples retail locations across the country, and school supplies of all kinds will be collected now through September 18th.

This year, Staples used Facebook and a celeb-filled online game to help students get involved.  Teen can vote to join their favorite celebrity’s “pack,” and in the process donate $1 to the cause.  Donations are also accepted via text message.

All in all, I loved Staples’ idea and its execution.  These simple donations are a great way to teach everyone from preschoolers to high schoolers the importance of generosity and kindness towards those who are less fortunate.  Furthermore, through their Do Something 101 microsite, they provide helpful tips that help students run their own school supply drives – the lesson being that teens can really “do something” big to help their communities.

Judging by the 28,000 Facebook fans and thousands of votes on the contest page, this event is a proving to be a success.  Even Staples’ archrival Dunder Mifflin is getting in on the action!  With that endorsement secured, I now know where I’ll be purchasing my paper…

I hope you have enjoyed this first installment of my survey of the best of Back to School.  Be sure to visit our blog soon to see who else made the list!

Social Media Leaders and Laggards: Healthcare, Retail Sprint Past Financial Services, Energy

It may be early on in the race to Social Media marketing success, but there are already some notable leaders and laggards emerging.  Which industries are the ambling tortoises, and which are the speedy hares?

In this post, we will review the findings of a recent report from intelligence provider Social Media Influence (SMI), and share our own analysis to help you handicap this race to success.

In their June report entitled “The State of Social Media Jobs 2010,” SMI surveyed the marketing departments of all Fortune 100 companies, to find out whether they have in-house social media resources, outsource their social media campaigns, or have little to no investment in social media marketing.

The graph below shows the results of their survey.  The blue line represents the total number of companies in that industry, while the red line represents those companies in that industry that SMI deems “social media-savvy” (i.e. they devote significant in-house resources to social media marketing efforts).  As you can see, the leaders of the group include Tech/Consumer Electronics, Healthcare, Retail and Automotive.  On the flip side, the laggards are Petroleum/Energy, Financial Services/Insurance and Utilities.  (Click to enlarge image.)

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Using Foursquare to Reward Customers

With 1 million users and counting, Foursquare is touted as the next hot social media tool.  But is there a business application?  Should marketers care, or is it just another passing fad?

Foursquare is a location-based social networking service for the web and mobile devices, as well as a game.

The mobile app, calculates your location, and provides you with a list of restaurants and stores in the area.  You find your restaurant in the list, select it, and touch “Check-In Here.”  If you are hoping to locate people, you can include a brief “shout-out” message – “mini college reunion with Rachel and Pam!” -  which quickly spreads to your friends on Foursquare, and also Facebook and Twitter.

This is just one example of why city dwellers are tapping into this new service.  In addition to this friend-finding aspect, Foursquare is also a game.  Users compete citywide to earn the most points each week.  Each check-in earns that user one point.  Extra points are earned through “badges,” awarded to the user after certain events (25 different places checked-in, out four nights in a row, etc.)

As the number of users has grown, the rewards have become more tangible.  A user becomes the “mayor” of a location if he or she has checked-in there more than any other user.  Businesses in turn are rewarding their mayors with real-world benefits.  Local bars and restaurants are offering free or discounted food and drink, and chains like Starbucks and Whole Foods have launched coupon programs for Foursquare mayors.

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