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Archive for May, 2010

ConsumerSphere’s Week of Tweets

by ConsumerSphereGuy on May 28th, 2010 in Twitter

Interesting read from SMT:

Though social media marketing is rapidly advancing in terms of adoption and sophistication, many marketers and business executives still struggle with it. They wonder if their organizations are doing enough, if they are doing things right, even if they should be involved in social media at all. This confusion is partly due to some still-common misconceptions about social media marketing, this post will attempt to de-myth-ify it.

1. Social media is so easy we can hire an intern to do it. Because social media is fundamentally about conversations, the individual(s) behind your social media activities is often perceived as the public face of your company. This person is answering questions about your products and/or services, responding to or redirecting complaints, sharing interesting content, providing more information…you’ll probably want to be a bit careful about who gets this responsibility. ->

2. Social media marketing is really hard. True, there are techniques that work better than others, guidelines that are good to know, rules of etiquette to follow and common mistakes to avoid, but the general skills called for aren’t all that uncommon, and the specifics are teachable. It helps to be creative, curious, articulate, friendly and helpful. Okay, so not just anyone can do it, but it’s not rocket science either.

3. Social media is only for the young. Argh, no! On the consumer side, the largest cohort of Facebook’s user base is the 35-54 age group, and the fastest growing is the 55+ cohort. On the producer side, the most important attributes are interpersonal skills and industry knowledge. Age is irrelevant in social media usage, and life experience is a plus for social media marketers.

4. Social media is free. Um, no. While recent studies show that about half of marketers say that social media reduces their overall marketing costs, it is by no means without a price. The primary budget effect of social media marketing is to shift costs from media buying to labor. The tools of social media are (mostly) free, but the time, effort and expertise required to make social media marketing effective has real costs.

5. Since social media marketing is labor-intensive, we should offshore it. Ooh, not a good idea. While offshoring works well for tasks like IT consulting services and software application development, it tends to be less efficacious for market-facing activities. Thoughtful companies keep their SEO efforts local (to avoid link-spamming, for example) and after evaluating all of the costs, many are even moving call centers back onshore. And see myth #1 above.

6. Social media marketing success is all about rules and best practices. Not really. True, there are guidelines as to what works well (being sincere, helpful and knowledgeable) and what doesn’t (trying to use social media sites as one-way broadcasts of your marketing brochures), but the field is new enough that many of the “rules” are still being written. While there are some techniques that seem to work well and are worth replicating, and others that should clearly be avoided, there’s also a great deal of space for creativity in this rapidly expanding and evolving area.

7. Social media marketing has no rules. Now, just because there isn’t an established cookie-cutter approach to social media marketing success doesn’t mean there are no rules. Don’t be excessively self-promotional, don’t try to automate everything, be sincere, add value—there aren’t a lot of rules, but these are a few very important ones.

8. Social media marketing gets immediate results. Almost never. Sure, you may run across an example somewhere of this happening, just as you may hear about a couple who got married three weeks after they met. It can happen, but isn’t common and shouldn’t be expected. Social media is about building relationships and influence. It takes time, but the payback can be much more lasting than a typical “marketing campaign” as well.

9. Social media marketing is too risky. This fear is most common in the medical, financial services, and other regulated industries. And it’s certainly true that there are situations where a company has to be somewhat cautious about its social media participation and content (another reason to keep myths #1 and #5 in mind). By all means, be aware of your specific industry and regulatory environment and put necessary safeguards in place. But people in your marketplace—customers, prospects, analysts, journalists, shareholders and others—are talking about your company and/or industry across social media channels right now. The real risk is in ignoring those conversations.

10. Social media marketing is new. Not really. Certainly the tools are new: Twitter has only been around since 2007, Facebook since 2006, and even blogging has been popular for less than a decade. But social media marketing is fundamentally about participating in and influencing the direction of conversations about your industry and brand. Those practices are timeless, but social media has increased the velocity and magnitude of such conversations.

11. Social media marketing doesn’t apply to my business. There are isolated niches where this is true. For example, if you build weapons systems for the U.S. military, you not only don’t need social media marketing, it would probably be best to avoid it. And there may be a few other such situations. For virtually every other type of business however, someone, somewhere is discussing your brand, your industry or your competitors in social media. You’re missing out if you’re not listening and participating.

ConsumerSphere’s Week of Tweets

by ConsumerSphereGuy on May 21st, 2010 in Twitter

ConsumerSphere’s Week of Tweets

by ConsumerSphereGuy on May 14th, 2010 in Twitter

ConsumerSphere’s Week of Tweets

by ConsumerSphereGuy on May 7th, 2010 in Twitter

Maybe it’s because you’re in marketing. Maybe it’s because you’re from the younger generation assumed to be digital natives. Or maybe it’s because you’re already been experimenting with social media and your success has been noticed.

You have chosen you to write a social media plan, now what? Where do you start?

Here are some ideas

1. Opportunity Backgrounder

Start your social media plan with some startling statistics and pithy quotes about the huge shift away from traditional publishing towards social media.

If you wrote this plan two years ago, you would have leaned on the endorsement of old media with quotes like this:

“Consumers are flocking to blogs, social-networking sites and virtual worlds. And they are leaving a lot of marketers behind.” – The Wall Street Journal

But now you can tell the big opportunity of social media by just relying on social media’s accomplishments. Include nuggets like:

* 4 of the top 7 highest-traffic websites (Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia, and Blogger) are social media websites
* Two-thirds of the global internet population visit social networks — Nielson, Global Faces and Network Places
* More than half of all people in the U.S. over 12 have set up a social media profile
* With over 400 million users, if Facebook were a country, it would be the 3rd largest country in the world
* Twitter now has 110 million users and is adding 300,000 a day

Add with a flourish a quote or two from a top social media book, such as Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, or The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott.

2. Define Social Media

Because social media is such a nebulous thing for many, you need to put concise parameters on what it is. However, don’t start your plan with the definition of social media because it’s not as exciting as the first section about the big opportunity. Get their attention first, and then you can go Webster on them. Include something like this:

“Social media is user-generated content on the internet. It’s created with free or inexpensive technology, is easy to update, and can reach a niche audience or millions. It can be mere words in a blog, but also user-generated videos, photos, and audio. It can be interactive with unfiltered comments from visitors. And as user-generated content, it does away with controls associated with traditional media – and most of all, it removes the need for big media.”

3. List Tangible Business Goals

If you don’t already have a social media plan, it’s very possible that your top management fears that social media is only a plaything. You have to show them you mean business. Tell them how you will use social media activities to:

* Build awareness
* Strengthen relationships with clients, prospects, and influencers
* Better understand your buyers
* Improve customer service
* Identify new product ideas
* Increase web site traffic
* Improve search engine rankings
* Drive traffic to your trade show displays at events
* Generate leads
* Generate sales

You don’t have to promise to do all these things. And preferably your goals will match top management’s goals. But whichever goals you choose, make them attainable, and include a measurement plan. Ask for a grace period (at least several months) for learning and experimentation until you have to start proving tangible results.

4. Plan A Timeline Of Steps

You can’t just push a button and have a full-fledged social media marketing program running full-swing. But management won’t wait forever, either. Give them an idea of what your steps will be, which may include:

* Time to define goals, objectives, and strategy
* Time to get trained on social media
* Time to determine team, either internally, choosing a social media consultant, or both
* Setting up accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube
* Finding your existing community of clients, prospects, and influencers on the main social media sites listed above, on niche social media sites, and on established industry blogger sites (if you determine your clients are not yet on social media, you may not have a plan!)
* Time to set up your own blog
* The sequence of social media sites you will concentrate your efforts
* Time needed for listening to each online community
* Time to develop a following
* Time to create content, such as a blog (which is ongoing), videos, white papers, podcasts, and more
* Time to learn time-saving tools such as RSS feeds, Technorati, Hootsuite, Bitly, and more
* Dates of pre-scheduled progress reports

Write this timeline of steps on paper, not in stone. This is a working plan that you use every week, and change as you learn what works and what doesn’t.

5. Set Realistic Expectations

Because social media revolves around so many free tools, and because it has become the darling of marketing hipsters everywhere, expectations run high. So you also need to help your team understand there’s no guarantee it will be a silver bullet. Tell them things like:

* Social media is not a panacea: if your company or product sucks, social media is not going to make that go away
* While many of the tools are free, it can take a substantial investment in time and consistent effort to build up a loyal following on the main social media sites
* Social media is not just another advertising channel – old-school product messages will go down in flames
* There is a substantial learning curve of the technology, language, and culture of the various social media sites
* Social media is always evolving, so successful methods can stop working
* Success may require effort from a team, not just one person

6. Ask for Resources

Getting this plan accomplished will require resources. Don’t be shy, ask for help, be it training, people’s time, or budget to pay for consultants, website hosting fees, a video camera, or useful web applications you later determine you need. Because social media requires near constant attention, tell them you need a laptop with broadband access, and a smart phone with an unlimited web access plan, too.

And ask for something free but priceless: For your top management to share their buy-in with your plan to help you get more cooperation from the rest of your company.

7. Recommend Who Does Social Media For Your Company

The first step of choosing who does social media for your company is deciding between doing it internally, hiring a consultant to do it, or a combination. You can shorten your learning curve with social media consultants who can train you and help identify online communities where your clients already gather. But ultimately, your social media activity really should be done by people who work for your company. It’s just too hard to hire an outsider to be the authentic voice of your company.

Then figure out who does social media within your company. Just remember that while the youngest member of your marketing or customer service team may be the most familiar with social media, they may not be the best choice to represent your company in social media. You want someone who has:

* Deep knowledge of your customers, industry, products, and company
* Exemplifies the personality of your organization
* Insatiable curiosity
* Integrity
* Good people and communication skills
* A quick study on technology
* Very strong work ethic

That person, of course, may end up being you.

8. Finish with an Urgent Call to Action

While similar to how you started your plan, you want to finish with some more strident points that create a sense of urgency. End your plan with things like:

* “We no longer control our brand – it is being shaped by our customers in social media with or without us, so we must engage with them to protect and enhance the brand.”
* “Social media is where our communities are shifting their attention; we ignore them at our peril.”
* “If we delay our entry too long we risk being left behind by our customers and our competitors.”

Social Media is a vast universe of communities, cultures, and ultimately, for the marketer, choices. I hope these 8 parts of a social media plan will help you to inspire your organization to get engaged with your clients, prospects, and influencers via social media.