Category Archives: social media marketing

using the web to develop dialog and relationships with site visitors, clients, and prospects

Trim & Focus: Keep Content Lean and Keep Your Audience

Courtesy of Contentshortcuts.com

Courtesy of Contentshortcuts.com

Information overload is a significant issue for everyone. Of the 200+ emails I receive each day, I delete half without reading. I opted to receive most of them, but I rarely have time to get past the subjects lines. I dedicate a few hours per month to unsubscribe to lists that over-communicate or share frivolous content. In the same vein, I am actively removing Twitter accounts for the same reason. It is my dream to have an efficient and relevant content feed, worthy of the time I allot to reading it.

Isn’t that what we all want?

As marketers, isn’t that our job, to know our audience and deliver the content that will help them, in the appropriate intervals? Through my PR training, I learned to write a press release knowing that a journalist might only get to the headline. Furthermore, sending one release to a specifically targeted journalist will matter far more than blanketing everyone. The same guidelines should be considered for the general public. A few good leads that result in sales are better than hundreds of unqualified ones.

This concern is #1 on Julia McCoy’s list of priorities in The 2014 Social Media Guide, which she wrote for Social Media Today.

There are many more interesting ideas in her article, which, I might add, are nearly all relevant to me, a social media marketing consultant. I will be keeping them in my Twitter feed (@socialmedia2day).

Top 10 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Top 10 Lists

It all started in the 1960′s with Dick Clark and American Bandstand. Every Saturday morning, he would count down the top 10 songs of the week. Then in 1985, Late Night with David Letterman started making fun of People Magazine’s top 10 lists. I have always enjoyed both because they were relevant and, in the case of Letterman, funny.

Top Ten Lists on TwitterList content was created to be easily digested and everyone wanted to know what the top song was, or the the top thing that “almost rhymes with peas”, in the case of Late Night. There was a time when these lists got your attention and maybe they still do, but I have recently come across so many that I have soured. Are you itching to know what my #1 reason I don’t like Top Ten Lists?

I don’t have 10, only 3. Read On.

Drum roll, please. The top 3 reasons I have soured on 10 lists:

#3 10 is too many. Who has that kind of attention span anymore?

#2 The entertainment value of lists has gone way down. I will take quality entertainment over quantity any day of the week.

And the #1 Reason I have soured on Top 10 lists is…

#1 Overuse. When a marketing device becomes so common that it makes a marketer cringe, well then, it’s time for something else.

See today’s recent tweets at the right for some examples. You get what I mean, right?

High Fructose Media: Going on an Information Diet

The information dietAt this time of year, many are thinking about going on a diet. So it seems apropos that I heard an interview on the Bob Edwards Radio Hour with Clay A. Johnson about his new book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. I was intrigued with his analogy that our information consumption is like our junk food consumption. We are barraged with information, but so much of it is junk, crafted with bias for Google search results, clicks and advertisers and requires an educated consumer to know what to ingest and how much.

Johnson was one of the architects of the much noted social media campaign for President Obama’s first election and has the likes of Bill O’Reilly and others on an information diet. He does more than tell you about the problem, but how to stop ingesting empty information calories.

While I have not read this book, I plan to in the coming month.  I look forward to learning how to craft my own information diet and would love to hear from others who have adopted thoughtful information strategies.

 

Awkward Silence: Recovering From a Social Media Content Lull

Okay, so it happened. Our blog has been silent for six-months, and despite what we tell our clients about planning and teamwork and the importance of keeping momentum, we blew it. It took a potential client who decided not to talk to us because our social media had “flat-lined” to be hit over the head with it.

If a social media marketing firm can’t keep it going, then who can?  Our reasons (excuses) are the same you might have- lack of resources, clients come first, and always a lack of time. We have no shortage of ideas, and we have always had a sustainable content strategy, but we lost our way.

When we started this blog in 2008, we posted twice/week, then went down to once/week, and finally, maybe more like once/month. I assigned writers from the internal team, I found guest bloggers occasionally, but in the end, it fell to me, the face and voice of the company, to get it done. Today, when I heard that the prospect passed on us, I was truly humbled. Our ability to keep their content going for the long-term is brought into question.  I could only agree with their decision to pass.

Now that I have confessed,  what can I do about it? How can we redeem ourselves and build trust for new clients to see? The only way I know how: own it and make good on it.

So, as I drove back to the office to write this post, I decided to use this learning experience for a series of posts that help marketing professionals keep on track.

I plan to address the following:

  • How can I make sure this doesn’t happen again?
  • What have other companies done and have they regained their position?
  • What are realistic goals for small shops?
  • Why you MUST get back on the horse.

If you have a story to share, contact me. I’d love to hear it.

Now, finally, I am going to push the publish button and finally get back on the horse.

Sex, Lies and Tweets. Arrogance or Ignorance?

Today’s Wall Street Journal was riddled with examples of “smart” people in high places making age-old mistakes.  And it’s the oldest stuff in the book.

Yahoo’s CEO misstated his college degree on his online biography. This would have been no big deal until Mr. Thompson decided to lie about how it got there by blaming a search firm. That is when the cover up got him fired. Does this remind anyone of the Martha Stewart lie that put her in jail?

Best Buy’s new CEO was caught having an affair with a subordinate and resigned, but the Founder and Chairman didn’t tell the ethics committee and is off the board.

Francesca’s Holdings Corp., a public company, fired their CFO because he “improperly communicated company information through social media.”   One example, Gene Morphis (@theoldcfo) tweeted on March 6th: “Dinner w/Board tonight. Used to be fun. Now one use be on guard every second.” Does this guy think he is talking to someone privately or is he unclear on appropriate behavior for a CFO?

Is this arrogance or ignorance? Do they believe they are too valuable to get fired or do they believe they won’t get caught?  Maybe it is simply lack of common sense. In the case of the CFO tweets, the comments were blatantly unprofessional.

We can spend our time wondering how this stuff still happens, or see the writing on your Facebook wall: it’s hard to get away with bad behavior if you plan to publish it on line.

Good behavior is not just required of the ordinary employee. Executives are under closer scrutiny than ever, given that companies are judged by the hiring decisions they make.  These executives put their boards in a difficult position, their brand in a bad light, and can put the company’s stock price in peril. Best Buy is already struggling to compete with Amazon and Apple, Yahoo with Google. A blaring WSJ headline is certainly not going to help.

Ethics and social media policies are not just for the lowly, and they could be intertwined with an overall media policy. If these companys have them, did they share them with the executives who made these mistakes? I’d love to know how your company handles your code of conduct. Let us know. We won’t tell. :)

Facebook Brand Pages: Making Brands Human

Today, a big change came to Facebook brand pages, and will require your attention to fully harness the new opportunities for your page.  Brand pages are a highly visible part of your interaction with customers, and Facebook has made changes that will help you improve your ability to interact.

Cover Photo
First and foremost, you will need to bring your attention to the cover photo on your page, which will replace the current 5 thumbnails. This image is a great opportunity to draw in users from the moment they arrive.

Timelines
Like personal profile pages, brand pages will now have timelines. You can add milestones to showcase the company history and even pin important posts at the top for up to 7 days so important news doesn’t get buried.

About Section
The about section has moved, along with other landing page tabs and will blur the lines between ads, company content and likes. They will now be on the right. You will be able to order these tabs as well, and hide the likes tab if your like numbers are low.

New Content and Organization
Added to the mix is Facebook Offers, which allow brands to distribute coupons to fans directly on their timeline, more visible apps to graphics vs text links, and a highlights feed, which can be customized and moderated.

Direct Fan Communication
Fans will now be able to contact a brand directly vs post on their wall, which requires more monitoring time, but could keep some negative content off your page.

Admin Panel and Insights
Finally, the admin panel has been reconfigured to have everything in one place. The stats will be real-time, and non-admins will actually have access to the data about a particular page through the Likes box.

We strongly recommend you begin making updates to your page before Facebook moves to the new design on March 30, and as always, let us know how we can be of assistance.

Links to articles about the new Facebook Brand pages you may enjoy:

10 changes to Facebook you need to know
Facebook Timeline Branded Pages Are Here
Facebook Timeline for Brands: The Complete Guide
Facebook Brand Pages: 4 ways to humanize your brand

 

Financial Industry Is Slow To Get Social, Restrained by Regulation

Series 1 on Social Media in Highly Regulated Industrieslocked keyboard

Some in the financial industry think it simpler to abandon social media, but for most, they are stuck in a difficult juxtaposition as they are expected to grow their book of business, but then told they cannot use all the tools available to do so. My Edwards Jones money manager is forbidden to use Facebook for business, and the company won’t allow her to have access to the site from her office.  Merrill Lynch just recently began allowing their employees to use LinkedIn, but under strict guidelines.

With social media in full swing these days, what is it that keeps the highly regulated industries from swimming with the rest?  The difference might be in the government regulations rather than in the social medium.  Banks are regulated by the OCC, investment firms are regulated by the SEC and other industries like legal and real estate are heavily regulated at the State level.   The biggest challenge is that companies would need to monitor online activity for all of their employees and make sure no laws are broken, or invest in social media training as a matter of prevention. This costs money, but does the cost outweigh the benefit? Facebook and Linkedin have already been shown to be rich oil fields of prospects and clients, so how can these companies maneuver safely and confidently within those realms?

For several years, I worked with a large family owned real estate company headquartered in Connecticut, where we immersed more than 2000 agents in social media training. This occupation is about relationships, yet agents were fearful of the platform, mainly because they could not grasp how to use it. I heard more than once, “I don’t want people to know my phone number, my address” To which I replied “isn’t it the same as posting a sign with your face and phone number in front of your customers’ houses?”

On a similar level, companies are fearful of employee missteps online where everything published can be tracked.  Every highly regulated industry has guidelines for conduct, but now these guidelines must be extended to social media channels.  Training on acceptable use of social media, and monitoring, must be implemented to ensure those guidelines are followed.

Social media has already knocked on the door of each and every company and will not go away. Time will tell who manages to work within strict regulations to take advantage of the growth opportunities of social media, and who gets left behind.

Thanks to contributing writer Lori Vintilescu.

Pinterest: The Power of Images

Over the past few years, there have been a mind-boggling number of technology innovations. So many, that it has our heads spinning. As for social networks this past year, the launch of Google+ was big. But, by all reports, the next big thing is Pinterest. Pinterest has over 4 million registered users as of this week and is growing rapidly. 1.5 million of the predominately female audience visit Pinterest every day – spending 14 minutes on the site on average.

Alexa.com reports “Pinterest.com is ranked #133 in the world according to the three-month Alexa traffic rankings… The site’s visitors view 10.7 unique pages each day on average.”

In our individual attempts to make sense of the vast sea of information that the internet gives us access to, we bookmark things in our browsers, we like things in Facebook, and now you can Pin things to boards in Pinterest. This is more than a personal organizing tool, it is a social tool, where you find friends and other people who like what you like. If you thought you had seen it all, trust me, you haven’t. Whatever your interest, it’s already pinned to a board somewhere on Pinterest, and easy to find with categories and search.  In fact, it’s fun and by many accounts, addictive. Once you’ve found pictures of your favorite place in the world, you want to keep looking.

For businesses who have visual products, whether it is fashion, art or power tools, Pinterest is a great tool for getting feedback from your audience on what they like. I created this board to collect my favorite Marketing Infographics. I search Pinterest to repin things to my board from other boards, and was notified immediately when someone liked my image.

We marketers know that there is plenty of content out there to curate and share with our audiences to engage them. Pinterest makes it visual. Business applications abound. For instance, interior design firms create thematic boards to show clients and get feedback.  A pet store might have a cute puppy contest where entrants post photos. The winner is the pinner who got the most repins. The examples are endless.

Businesses can create their own account and add the pin it icon to their website so visitors can pin images from your site that they like.  If you have a Facebook business strategy, this works well with it since Pinterest integrates with Facebook and has an iPhone app for pinning where ever you are. For SEO purposes, when a user pins one of your images to their board, it links back to you, adding to your inbound links and making your site more relevant.

We will be hearing more about how this tool will work for marketers. I encourage you to share your Pinterest strategy, and even better, share your Pinterest links. Weber Media has just started using the tool. Go find us at http://pinterest.com/WeberMedia/.

 

 

 

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+.

An Explanation of Recent Facebook Enhancements

Whether you use Facebook for personal reasons or as a business tool, you have probably noticed a lot of changes on the site since last Thursday, when founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled them. (NOTES and WARNING: This is 1 hour and 40 minutes long. Fast forward to minute 7.5 if you want to avoid the stand up comedian pretending to be Zuckerberg).

There has been an uproar from some users, but there always is. Change is hard for some, but it is inevitable, especially if Facebook wants to remain in the top spot as a social networking destination.

User complaints abound.

“Too cluttered and overwhelming”
“Stop trying to keep up with/be like Twitter and Google+”
“Don’t try to tell me what I like”
“I liked it the way it was, stop changing.”

Facebook tells us that the changes to personal pages are so you don’t miss recent news that is important to you and that you may have missed since you last logged in as well as flexibility to hide news you don’t want to see using filters.

Upates include:
Real Time News Ticker (think Twitter) at the top right of the page
Bigger photos on your wall
Friend filters
Subscribe Button
(Mashable’s article gives all of the details and video)

THE IMPACT ON YOUR BRAND
So, What does that mean for your brand on Facebook?

SUBSCRIBE is like FOLLOWING on Twitter: Individuals can now follow other individuals (Facebook says “subscribe”) so any public content on a personal Facebook  can be in your news feed. This means that your CEO or other thought leaders within your company can share their ideas (blog posts, links to articles) with their subscribers. Getting subscribers is like getting followers on Twitter- the more of your friends that follow someone, the more of their friends might. Building a following on Facebook can reach a more mainstream audience in a more consumer/personal forum.

FILTERS make it easier for users to qualify the content they receive, making it easier to unsubscribe (while still being a friend), moving their content to more visible or hiding it all together. This means that organizations must be ever more conscious what they are posting to their subscribers so they don’t lose them. Use a litmus of 1) is it helpful? 2) is it informative? or is it 3) sales?  If you or your thought leaders provide subscribers with helpful industry information, you will gain more.  If you sell to them, you will lose your audience.

More updates are coming in a few weeks including:

  • A completely redesigned Profile page
  • A Timeline (think: this is your life flashing before your eyes)
  • Integration with Music and other Media (rumors about about a partnership with Netflix, for instance) using Open Graph

Last words
While many of the new changes are making your experience more custom and allow users to hide what they don’t want to see,  we know that these updates are motivated by the compelling  functionality that Twitter and Google+ provide.  While they currently have smaller audiences, they had the luxury of learning from Facebook before they launched their networks.  Google has launched a fully open Google+, which provides flexibility and simplicity and, having learned what Facebook did not offer, at least initially, it offers much, much more. Read this for the details. Therefore, many things have been bolted on to the Facebook experience that weren’t even a glimmer in Mr. Zuckerberg’s eye when he created the original Harvard-centric tool.