Monday, December 24, 2012

Social Media for Good II

The Country Garden center in Hyannis, MA had a surplus of tulip bulbs at the end of the fall selling season. They could have just thrown them in the compost pile. Instead, they decided to offer them to a local non-profit and asked their Facebook fans to nominate an organization to receive them. They got a reasonable response for a week-long event in a small population area, during Christmas season at that! They probably also got more Facebook Likes, which they are working on. Great idea!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Social Media for Good I

You may have seen the K-9 Comfort Dogs in Newtown. They have attended major tragedies and do everyday work like visiting retirement homes and interacting with school children. Each dog has a Facebook page and an email address, listed on the business cards they hand out. Pages like Ruthie's are often in 1st person. Some of their many pages have already been updated this morning, so people are working hard on the social media aspects of this worthwhile program.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Trends for Internet and Social Media Marketing in 2013

Tis the season for marketing predictions for 2013—my Twitter stream is full of them this morning. There are a lot of retrospectives also and we can learn from them, but I’m sticking to looking ahead.

One recent post suggests that 2013 will be a year for consolidation and implementation. There’s a lot of truth to that but who knows when and where the next great technology development will occur? I’m not willing to say that it won’t be in 2013. And there will be lots of useful, if not revolutionary, developments like the Thinglink platform that I wrote about last week for marketers to incorporate into their actions.

With that in mind, I’ll use eMarketer’s 5 key trends as the basis for my take on 2013 trends. They are all issues that are familiar to marketers—and ones to which most marketers can substantially refine their approaches. The entire eMarketer presentation is embedded at the bottom of this post, and it’s well worth reviewing.

Trend #1—Fragmentation everywhere
Fragmentation affects all aspects of marketing, witness the recent interest in microsegmentation. Channel fragmentation is probably the marketer’s key issue and that’s one place where new developments could occur. We will all continue to struggle to integrate all our channels in a meaningful fashion. In the process we may learn more about targeting specific segments through specific channels. I just pinned an infographic that looks at consumer relationship to channels and brands in 2013 that has some good insights.

Trend #2—Mobile first is the mother lode
After the bazillions of words written about mobile in 2012, what is left to say except that the trend continues and even accelerates? A growing amount of website traffic is generated by mobile devices. The same is true of ecommerce sales. Did I really see a TV crawler headline that someone bought a $48k bulldozer from his (almost certainly?) smartphone recently? Apparently that’s not the only high ticket item bought from a smartphone this holiday season—and paid for with PayPal!

Trend #3—Consumer behavior becomes circuitous
That’s another way of saying that purchase behavior is non-linear and may follow a variety of different paths at different times for the same individual. Maybe the bulldozer purchaser hired a driver through an ad in a local newspaper—digital or print edition, maybe both. This McKinsey article on the consumer purchase path is not new, but good concepts don’t get outmoded rapidly.

Trend #4—Content marketing is dominant
That’s not news to readers of this blog. There are interesting takes on it though. eMarketer’s own strategy for these trends is worth noting. They published an article on each trend beginning in late November, leading up to the webinar in December. Good repurposing—and promotion! Content marketing goes by different handles—Brent Turner calls it “native advertising” in an MIT blog post. They’ll be offering other posts on trends through the end of January. Think about it. Most of us are doing our posts as end-of-year celebrations. They are continuing into 2013 with thoughtful posts from guest bloggers—good content marketing!

Trend #5—Big Data is still the big thing
This is hardly news either. We all know that data for tactical uses such as personalization and data mining for strategy development are crucial. The torrent of data will only speed up in 2013, leaving marketers continuing to struggle to keep up with it. One of the most interesting insights comes from the recent LeWeb conference in Paris. It’s theme was the Internet of Things. Again, not a new concept but one that is exploding all around us. I found the example of the diabetes mobile app and online communities especially compelling. Social media for good is always a pleasant topic. 

eMarketer calls it Marketing Reimagined and it suggests that marketers in 2013--as always--have their jobs cut out for them. May all the developments be positive ones!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Making Your Images Interactive

Updated from post originally published December 3, 2012.
I recently ran across a delightful DIY Internet marketing tool. This may not be entirely new technology, but the concept of interactive images is compelling for marketers. I tried it and found it to be easy—that’s even better!

According to CrunchBase Thinglink is an early-stage startup located in Helsinki, Finland with a US office just north of San Francisco. They describe their product as an engagement tool giving users the ability to create clickable images with a variety of ways of sharing them on social media. They, of course, have premium services for business. Their blog concentrates on fun activities for users. For instance, they have a post at the moment with templates for Christmas cards.

Why wouldn’t any marketer love the opportunity to direct visitors to just the product information they want them to see? I tried it out by using the cover of our Internet marketing textbook as an image and emphasizing some of its important features. Hover over the book to see the link symbols, each of which has an alt tag.

You have to upload the image you are going to work with; the free account has a limit of 100 uploads and that should last awhile. That seems to me to be the only intellectual property issue. I’d be sure that you own, or have permission to use, the image you are going to make interactive. Otherwise, everything has to be links, so that should be no issue.

I choose three chapters out of 16 that I think are especially important to the Internet marketing instructor and student to promote in the center of the image. That seemed like enough. I could link directly to Overdrive Interactive’s social media map and the Home Depot ad with the QR code. The Basics of SEO chart is Debra’s creation, and I Pinned that in order to get a link. Then it worked fine as did a bitly link to Cengage Brain. That site has enormous URLs and I thought bitly was safer. Fact is, though, that I didn’t ever run out of space when describing my links but I wanted good alt tags, so I kept them short.

The link to the G+ page at the top worked just fine. So did the link to my Twitter image with my name. I tried to upload Debra’s directly from her Facebook page, but Facebook doesn’t seem to play nicely with Thinglink. I was able to connect from her profile picture, though.

All in all, a mostly successful experiment and I look forward to experimenting with other images and sharing them on other social platforms. Why don’t you give it a try?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is Content Marketing Becoming the Dominant Digital Marketing Tool?

Is content marketing becoming the key digital marketing tool, eclipsing SEO? A post from B2B content marketing firm Reputation Capital argues that content marketing is increasingly dominant. They point to various changes by Google in 2012 including the Panda updates and its decision to cut ties with marketing services firms that don’t use Google-sanctioned data in Google-related products. They argue that these changes make it harder to track SEO results, making SEO less attractive to marketers. Read their post and decide for yourself.

It is axiomatic that customers, both consumer and business, want informative content when and where they choose. But in a world with a growing number of channels and platforms for reaching the customer, content marketing is not easy. Creating and disseminating it can chew up a lot of resources. A strategy that is both efficient and effective is needed. Kapost has an infographic that identifies a set of steps. One glance tells the marketer that none are easy but that all are, in fact, standard parts of the marketing repertoire. The accompanying post is full of good tips and contains an example of an editorial calendar to keep the team in sync.

According to Marketing Profs, both B2B and B2C marketers agree on the top 3 content marketing challenges, although not in the same order. They see issues in producing enough content, producing content that engages users, and adequate budget. A study quoted in Marketing Charts points out that whether the content is print or electronic, a large portion of the budget is for personnel costs. That’s undoubtedly true even if the marketer is good at repurposing content for various channels—it all takes time. Marketing Profs has good slideshows on their 2013 content marketing benchmarks and trends reports for both B2B and B2C.

One of the more interesting recent takes on the subject can be seen in this video from David Edelman of McKinsey who links great content to great customer experience. One of his most provocative recommendations is to ensure that good content (dare I say “talking points”?) is disseminated internally. That way your employees who are active in social media will have the information they need to push that content out to their followers.
I recently wrote about the social media team for the Mars Curiosity Rover which is a prime example of disparate groups working together to create a brand personality that can weave a great story over time. Discipline as well as strategy are necessary to execute a complex content marketing plan.

Some of the studies of marketing tools seem to position content marketing and search marketing as “either or.” That’s not the case. Getting found in search is essential. Good content—written, images, video and more—has to be search friendly. It’s not one or the other; it’s making sure your content is visible in the channels where customers look for it. That’s not all there is to audience development, but it’s one critical element.

Content marketing may not be easy. However, it’s doable and it’s measurable. That should seal the deal!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Holiday Shopping is Apps Enabled!

Originally published Nov. 16, 2012.
Web sites and email notifications are now a staple of hoilday shopping. Specialized mobile apps aren’t new, but they become more sophisticated each year. This year is no exception.

There are a couple of basic kinds of apps for holiday shopping. There are the aggregator sites like Black (specializes in ads) or Coupon Deals (specializes in coupons and offers) and about a zillion others. There are also the apps from individual retailers like Macy’s.

The new Macy’s app for iPhone and Android has gotten a lot of buzz. You can download it from a link on the Macy’s site by texting to their short code number. I tried it and it worked like a charm, much easier than having to locate it on iTunes. I was also able to sign up for updates at the same time. Warning; it only works on the iPhone5 or equivalent operating system. I tried it out, and it does everything advertised (pun intended; it is full of promotions!).

As you can see from the menu, the Macy’s app will do pretty much anything the shopper needs, either while planning a shopping trip or while in the store. I think the coolest thing is the instore navigation map, now only available for the Herald Square store. It will not only tell you where you are and the location of items you are looking for, it has the capability of offering or highlighting specials. The software site gives examples for not only retail, but also other large and often confusing venues like hospitals and airports. The Museum of Natural History has had its app since 2010 and its usefulness is obvious.

I like the idea that retailers are trying to improve the shopping experience. Any improvement is welcome. The importance to retailers is made obvious by WSJ data. It shows that over $100 of the per customer $400 spent during the Black Friday weekend was spent online. That means almost $300 was still spent in stores. I can’t tell whether “weekend” includes Cyber Monday or not. However, it’s clear that the apps are set up to guide shoppers through the holidays and the instore navigation systems have a potential far beyond that.

On the questionnable gift front, at least to me, is the sweater Macy's is offering that has a personal video viewer on the sleeve.

According to Recom Group, the developer of the technology, The fashion video tag slides into a pocket on the sleeve, which makes it waterproof, and comes with software that allows users to convert any YouTube or personal video. It holds up to two hours of content. The organic LED plays continuous video nonstop for 8 to 10 hours from a single charge.

Oh, well. At least it's a conversation piece. Happy shopping!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How to Have a Great LinkedIn Page--For Your Company and For Yourself

Updated from post originally made Nov. 9, 2012.
We are all familiar with LinkedIn as a professional social network frequented by hiring managers and job seekers. According to its own website LI has over 187 million members in over 200 countries at the end of September 2012. Closer to home, many of us have our inboxes filled with updates from our network, LI advertising offers and new products like the ability to follow thought leaders on the network. They will also be updating personal profiles; more about that in a moment

Given the importance of LinkedIn to individual professionals, the growing importance of LI company pages should not be a surprise. A word of warning: LinkedIn updated company pages in October, so be careful of dates if you look for advice. HubSpot has an ebook that gives advice on how to use the new format. As good marketers, they use their own revised LI page as an example throughout. Take a look at the main Dell page (they also have specialized ones) as a corporate example and Sprout Social as a small company. The pages are long, so you really need to look at them on the site to see all they offer. You can see from the screen shots that they allow news postings and welcome me as a job seeker (no thanks, folks) and links to product info.

According to HubSpot, the key elements of the overview page include the ability to:
• Use the same kind of cover image as Facebook, Twitter and G+
• Post jobs
• Add products or services with detailed info and links
• Create various versions of product pages for target segments and geographical regions.
• Use LI ads to promote your page
• Get detailed analytics on followers, page, employees and leads.

This is powerful content. In addition the ebook suggests that maintenance should take no more than 10 minutes per day—hooray! They advise no more than 3 posts per day, which is a shout-out for relevance. @TomMartin recently complained about the amount of crap being retweeted. I’d add that people retweet stuff that is too old to be useful. You don’t want to populate your LI company page with that. I’d also be careful about how much you post because the pages get very long.

Social Media Examiner has good tips for optimizing the pages, which includes featuring blog posts that have been well received. That’s another vote for careful content curation.

LinkedIn has become key to recruiting for many companies and an important source of leads for many brands. That makes a good company page a must for large to mid-sized corporations that wish to reach quality potential employees and qualified potential customers!

 Also in October LinkedIn announced new personal profile pages. Given the activity we've seen lately, it's not surprising that endorsements are prominently featured. There also are sections that are new (to me at least); for example a section for Volunteer Experience and Causes.

 The new personal profile pages have been in beta since October, but they're now beginning to roll them out to all users. I got an email this morning about changes that would automatically be made to my profile. They're not eliminating the SlideShare presentation I have there; they are just moving it.

So it behooves us all to check changes on our profile pages and to take advantage of opportunities offered by the new profile page.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Creating Brand Personality: the Mars Curiosity Rover

Originally published Nov. 6, 2012
I’ve been following NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity on Twitter for several months—along with over 1.2 million others. That’s a hefty following, whether for a government agency or for a robot millions of miles away!

It’s fascinating on several dimensions. What Curiosity is doing is interesting, even to the non-scientist.  As a marketer I’m intrigued by the way in which the NASA communications people have established and consistently executed a delightful brand personality.  A little digging shows it to be no accident.

The social media team is led by Veronica McGregor who has been Tweeting  for NASA  since the Mars Phoenix in 2008. Most NASA missions have a Twitter feed, so there is considerable institutional knowledge. One thing the rover teams learned early on was that first person was more engaging than third. It’s also easier to humanize the vehicle and give it a personality. The Mars has frequently been described as “sassy.” McGregor told Forbes:

Back when Twitter was new, we tried tweeting both ways – in the first and third person. We always got more feedback when we were in first person. It’s also an advantage given the 140 character limit – ‘I am’ is a lot shorter than ‘The spacecraft is.’”
“It’s easier to anthropomorphize rovers,” added Smith. “The cameras make it look like she has eyes. So it’s tempting to think of the rover as a bodacious chick on the surface of another planet with a rock vaporizing laser on her head.

The rover started Tweeting on November 19, 2008 with a naming contest announced by Pixar robot WALL-E. Curiosity was suggested by a Kansas 6th grader, won the online voting, and was announced by NASA in March 2009. All pretty standard stuff–effective in generating awareness of the mission but time consuming. Curiosity’s Facebook page was started in mid-2010; the actual Mars landing was August 2011. So, as usual, this is no social media fluke. It took time, lots of effort, and a real understanding of social media and the various target audiences who might be interested.

How do the three women on the team do it? Have they made any mistakes in execution? This Bloomberg video is less than 3 minutes and gives a lot of insight into those questions.

What constitutes a good brand personality? Brand consultancy Amicus identifies key dimensions:

1. Demonstrates a Brand’s Passion and Expertise … Defining the Brand’s Ultimate Purpose and Differentiating It from the Competitive Set.
2. Creates an Affinity with Targeted Customer Segments … Touching and Energizing their Motivations.
3. Projects the Brand’s Core Values and Beliefs … Describing How Customer’s can Expect to be Treated.
4. Communicates an Over-Arching Tone, Style, and Attitude about the Brand’s Experience and Customer Interactions.

They go on to say, “Personality gives a brand dimension and depth. It can breathe life into inanimate images. It can be the cornerstone for service delivery … and connecting emotionally with customers.” The personality must carry through at all touchpoints to be effective.

The @MarsCuriosity team makes it look easy—which of course it is not. We can all learn a lot from them!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Promote Your Product, Become a Thought Leader on Pinterest

Originally posted Nov. 1, 2012
Buzz about Pinterest peaked early this year when data about the explosive growth of the photo-sharing site indicated it was a leading source of referral traffic to websites. It has major impact for its relatively small size, partly because of its demographic skew toward women, as demographics from a recent Pew study indicate. It doesn’t have the greatest number of users by a long shot. However, it beats out other sites like Facebook on purchasing impact, according to studies like the one from BizRate.

What should marketers do to take advantage of Pinterest’s popularity and impact? There are two key things:

1. Promote your products. This can work in both B2C and B2B markets, but the predominance of female users makes it increasingly relevant in the B2C environment.
2. Become a though leader. This is especially relevant to B2B marketers.

The same general principles for use of Pinterest apply to both. Social Media Examiner summarizes advice that all B2C marketers can follow. They are the starting point for new B2B users also. The advice includes: 

• Create customer profiles and personas to help you understand their interests and motivations.
• Give your pinboards meaningful, interesting names.
• Give your images compelling, keyword-rich descriptions, but make them concise.
• Work to build your follower base.
• Use Pinterest to portray your brand personality.
• and more.

HubSpot has an excellent ebook on How to Use Pinterest for Business. Here are some of their recommendations:

• Use your own visuals and generate customer visuals by creating pinboards and holding contests.
• Use the PinIt button on your site to encourage visitors to add the image to their own pinboard. Note that you can only use the PinIt button if you have access to the code for your site. You can also add a "Follow me on Pinterest" badge like the one on the right sidebar.
• Track the leads that Pinterest refers to your site and understand who these customers are and infer what their intent is. They may be significantly different from your overall customer base.
• Use hashtags, perhaps creating a pinboard with the hashtag as its name. Integrate the use of hashtags with your Twitter and Google+ usage.
• and more.
Read the report (download here) for case studies of how businesses have used Pinterest successfully to generate more leads.

If you don’t have a visual product, the though leader issue becomes paramount. That means careful, strategic curating of visual content, yours and others. Check out what content site Mashable does on Pinterest—you ought to get some ideas!

Social Media Examiner quotes Beth Hayden, author of Pininfluence: For any business using Pinterest, the goal is simple—drive traffic back to your site, add people to your mailing list and convert those visitors into buyers.

Like any social media platform, you can’t just talk about it. You have to set up your own account, use it, think about how it works, and strategize about how you can use it in your business. Give it a try, whether you start as an individual or whether you start a page for your brand. As the BizRate data shows it’s fun and engaging. A Washington Post columnist called it “digital crack!” Find out why at!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Internal Social Media Use by CEOs Builds Emotional Capital

Originally published October 25, 2012
How can CEOs and CMOs manage organizations that have a strategic commitment to social media marketing if they know nothing about it? I’ve often repeated that C-level executives need a user-level familiarity with social media even if they are not intensive users. Otherwise, how do they know whether the organization is using social media wisely and well?

A recent blog post by HBR suggests that half of CEOs are “social media challenged” and 35% of those are actively fearful of social media. In this case, lack of familiarity breeds contempt. Few users of social media fail to understand its communications reach and power.

SMR published an article in September that suggests an avenue for the social media challenged executive to engage in a way that is useful and perhaps less intimidating than engaging with customers right off the bat. All CEOs have things they are trying to accomplish within their organizations and most spend a lot of time communicating that to groups of employees. Why not use social media to communicate their messages more widely and to engage workers.

The article by Huy and Shipilov of Insead found that internal social media use could build positive emotional capital among employees. Interestingly, they also found that an expensive IT buildout of internal social infrastructure worked less well than an inexpensive implementation at Tupperware clearly aimed at creating positive attitudes among a far-flung workforce. Their 4 pillars of emotional capital are:
1. Authenticity
2. Pride
3. Attachment
4. Fun.
Read a summary and posts about other research on internal SM on Shipilov’s blog.

Each company CEO can think about how to express the 4 issues in ways that are relevant to the organization, its issues, and its future. A study reported on the Workforce blog of Crain Communications reports several goal-directed programs that have achieved success. Southwest Airlines, for example, encouraged employees to establish Facebook pages at each airport, which turned out to be useful for timely updates of local conditions. They have a corporate intranet which has employee profiles, photos and comments on issues that impact Southwest. “It is interesting how it has reinforced our culture and driven interaction for our employees,” (Katie: Director for Communications) Coldwell says. If an organization doesn’t already have a culture of open communication, one will have to be built and social media is ideal for that purpose. Huy and Shipilov call it “building community first.”

Be warned of several issues, however:
• If employees see lack of authenticity, the initiative is DOA. That ranges from having an assistant write the CEO messages to taking negative comments off the network.
• Technology is not the issue, corporate goals and objectives are. However, there are platforms designed for internal use that may work better than the free ones we use as consumers and marketers.
• It is just as important to listen to employees, to implement good ideas, and to let them know the results as it is to communicate straightforwardly with customers.
• If top executives can poke a bit of fun at themselves in the process, it does wonders for the culture.

Here’s a good summary of the 10 major mistakes made with corporate social networks. Follow the links and read the experiences of corporations, small businesses, government organizations and non-profits and for yourself.  All suggest that the work of the organization can be supported and extended by judicious use of social media. How long will it be until the best employees expect that kind of corporate engagement? Do the elusive Millennials expect it now?
For me, there’s another take-away. This is the kind of employee interaction CEOs should crave–should already be doing to the extent they can. An internal social initiative extends both reach and frequency. It allows the CEO to communicate vision and direction as well as inform about daily issues. It does so in a familiar environment—the business itself. It has potential to be an excellent training ground for the social media challenged executive, even though it takes some time and maybe some attitude adjustment.
More organizations should design their own internal social media initiative and use it to build positive emotional capital. Do you have experiences to add?