Social Media’s Impact on Your Brand

Social Media marketing is changing how brands engage with consumers and in the process, shifting the face of marketing like a snowboarder cutting through fresh powder in Lake Tahoe.

Just over a year ago Twitter was considered a non-mainstream micro blogging tool for digerati trendsetters and celebrities and many considered Facebook to be just a social network for teenagers.

Fast forward to today - brands and companies are using social media to connect directly with their customers and many are bypassing their ad agencies along the way.  How the social media landscape has shifted:

  • Facebook and Twitter usage via smartphones has grown tremendously, approximately 347% for Facebook and 125% for Twitter users. Take it to the bank, these growth rates will keep accelerating moving forward.
  • Facebook now has over 600 million users world wide - I believe they will break the 1 billion mark by the end of 2011, as do many analysts.
  • Facebook is now the most frequently searched term and most visited web site for 2010 based on information just released via Inside Facebook today.
  • Twitter’s growth rate continues to move faster than Tiger Woods sponsors in retreat  - over 25 Billion Tweets (messages) were sent out in 2010 and over 100 Million people now use Twitter.
  • At times the media darlings of social media appear to be Twitter and Facebook. But, ignore LinkedIn at your peril - over 100 million people are connected via LinkedIn, with a new user being added every second of the day 24/7/365.
  • Even second tier social networks like Xing (German based) and Viadeo are growing rapidly, with 9 Million users for Xing and 35 Million strong for Viadeo.

What does all this growth mean to your brand and what should you do about it?

  1. Get on-board the train - social media marketing is moving mainstream and many of your competitors are there. If you expect to succeed with any marketing initiative you want to include a social component.
  2. Listen to the social web. Today’s informed social-enabled consumer has no hesitation about firing off a Tweet or doing a status update  via Facebook that can hale your company as the best thing since a 50% off Groupon coupon at Starbucks to or the worst polluter bar none since BP!
  3. Branded content is crucial to getting established and growing your brand in the social eco-system. It can be anything from a 140 character Tweet to a two minute video uploaded to YouTube that is complemented via TubeMogul syndication and distribution. Clearly, today’s content experts need a much broader skill set than what has traditionally been considered acceptable.
  4. If your an executive like Warren Buffett who can barely use email get down to Borders and purchase “Engage” by Brian Solis and “Trust Agents” by Chris Brogan, then get warm/fuzzy with a 20-something or the nearest marketing geek and get on/in the social web and communicate. Remember it’s transparent and your no longer in that corporate silo/comfort cocoon.
  5. If your a large corporate brand (see point 4) you will want to flatten our your company - effective social media marketing should involve your entire team, not just the marketing geeks. The more the better  - think HR, Sales, Customer Service, Exec staff, even R&D - the whole enchilada.
  6. Your messaging can be anytime, anywhere and any place - the freedom is unfettered but social conversations can be like drinking out of the proverbial fire hose.
  7. Move beyond the community with your social connections. Depending on brand’s focus (consumer or B2B) you will want to motivate your social followers to connect with you via a subscriber list, registration via your site or some other viable call to action. It’s like herding cats - you need compelling content that motivates users to connect with your brand off the social web.
  8. Have some idea of what’s working and what isn’t with your social media marketing activities. There are a ton of social media monitoring apps out in the marketplace. There are 150 on this Wiki List alone. You don’t need to belly up to the bar with a shiny new VC-backed social media monitoring app from day one. Start with Google Analytics at least and move up the food chain with an additional service or app as your social cred and activity increase.

Need help working through the processes then please reach out via my Contact Page or LinkedIn.

Creating Social Media Credibility

George Orwell would be pleased with all of the “new age” syntax being created by today’s digital wunderkinds - it’s truly 1984 all over again and we are making Eric Arthur Blair (real name) proud.

How does this dive into Orwell’s biting social commentary relate to a blog post about creating social media credibility?  Simple - a new age is dawning in marketing and if you want to thrive you need to understand the currency of the realm. In this case creating social media credibility as mapped out below.

Be Authentic - this simply means your social voice should convey accuracy when/where possible, strive to build productive relationships with people online as you would offline, a dash of pay it forward as Chris Brogan frequently points out won’t hurt either.  Remember the ying/yang of social media is that is transparent - what you say and do can be quickly read by others.

Understand the Social Medium (if you will) - each social platform, whether its Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn has it’s own set of social mores. It’s akin to standing up when a lady leaves a table at a restaurant - shows class, breeding and good manners.

Retweet others via Twitter with a ratio of 10-1 if you can, don’t spam via DMs, use language that reflects some character - letting others know you aren’t some dweeb broadcasting your ass off to try and make a quick buck. There out there on Twitter, I’ve unfollowed enough of them to know.

Go Long and Deep - the challenge of social media marketing is the effort involved in doing it and time commitments. But, if you are going to embrace social media then make sure you establish a viable presence on multiple platforms -  people will know you are serious and multiple digital touchpoints build real credibility.

Be Creative and Original - clients ask me about this all the time. How do I get creative with a Twitter or Facebook account? I tell them it’s all about the messaging and content strategy you are utilizing to convey information about your brand.

Tell a story when where you can. It can be as simple as talking about how you first sat down and mapped out your first business plan on a napkin with a co-founder at Starbucks. Then flesh it out from there moving forward,  by building a more complete storyline.

Be Tenacious - dealing with people today in our 140 character driven world can be like dancing with a 220 volt cord standing in a bucket of water. Your moving fast all the time. Diving into Twitter is even worse - these conversations are flying around while no one pays the slightest attention to you for quite some time.

Your not going to get Robert Scobel’s attention easily, even if your startup is the best thing down the pike since Groupon.  But, don’t give up, he may come around eventually.

Live on the Edge - nothing wrong with trial and error. The good thing about social media marketing is it is moving so fast you can afford to take some chances. Even if you fail miserably (remember the antenna on the iPhone problem), the market is moving so fast hardly anyone will notice other than your wife, BOD and investors. Not necessarily in that order…….

Understand Influence versus Popularity - Kim Kardashian is way more popular than Julia Baird - but I’d “vote up” in Quora terms Julia over Kim as an “influencer” any day and faster than a New York minute.

So executive summary: be authentic, class up, grasp the social mores, cover the social web if you have resources, be creative and tenacious, understand popularity versus influence and “take it to the limit” as the now ancient rocker Don Henley would say…….

Optimizing LinkedIn for Business

Optimizing LinkedIn for Business makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Facebook may be getting much of the press but LinkedIn can and does generate significant returns for any professional. With over 85 Million users and one being added every second of the day, you want to have a presence via this truly global tsocial media platform.

Just a few days ago LinkedIn opened its Groups so all discussions within its 750K Groups will now be accessible to search engines and the public at large. The only caveat is that individual moderators or owners of Groups have the ability to decide whether or not they want a Group’s content shared.  Some critical steps for Optimizing LinkedIn for Business are mapped out in this post below.

1) Optimize and promote your Profile

  • Using Anchor Text in the URLs that link out to your site, Twitter account, etc. - this will drive more search engine rankings.
  • Incorporate targeted keywords in the actual profile writing itself. This should include your Summary, Profile and Experience.
  • Incorporate an image in your profile  - probably 10-20% of LinkedIn users do not do this, missing critical opportunities.
  • Integrate your professional or company Blog with your account (more on this below).
  • More and more professionals are incorporating a video via their profile - this can help you stand out from your peers.
  • Make sure you achieve 100% completed status via LinkedIn’s system - anything less than this will impact your profile negatively.
  • Once your profile is complete, ensure that you cross promote it by adding a link to your Google Profile and add to your email signature.

2) Starting your own Group on LinkedIn

Many recommend starting a Group on LinkedIn, as it gives you powerful marketing capabilities downstream. I don’t recommend doing this initially, unless you have a lot of time to invest in building a Group - your better off getting a sense for how this dynamic social media platform works and coming back 2-4 months later and creating and managing your own Group.

3) Utilize Third Party Applications

LinkedIn has connected their community and platform with a wide number of third party applications that help to extend the functionality and cross promoting your content and other social media profiles.

  • Your Twitter account can be easily connected to your Profile and will then make your status update very dynamic. I recommend integrating a Twitter  account as long as you are not using Twitter in a superficial way (“Just pulled in to Starbucks with my team…..”). If using Twitter and broadcasting content that is meaningful then I would integrate it with LinkedIn.
  • SlideShare.Net can be easily connected to your account, enabling you to share business presentations you have done.
  • I don’t use LinkedIn’s Company Buzz application as my brand focus is different from some of you. But it’s an interesting application that enables you to monitor what is being said about your brand or company.
  • Box.Net lets you easily add any type of a file to your account which facilitates sharing professional information (Resume or Bio) or for your brand: Facts doc or Company overview.
  • I don’t use Trip.It but its a cool way to share right on your travel plans with others and understand where others are going so you can easily meet them when you are both traveling to the same destination.
  • Utilize the WordPress application to add your Blog to your profile.

4) Leveraging LinkedIn’s powerful Groups and become an Expert

You can join up to 50 Groups via LinkedIn and this is one of the most powerful features of this dynamic community.  Become an expert by actively responding to questions within your Groups and driving discussions and visibility by posting intelligent questions for your peers.

As discussed at the beginning of the post, LinkedIn is now opening Group discussions so they can be viewed on the internet  and show up in search results. Contributing to Groups could give you great visibility moving forward.

5) Promote your Blog and Content via LinkedIn

You can add your Blog to your LinkedIn Profile via a third party application (takes just 2-3 minutes) which will enhance your profile and drive much more views of your Blog via potential customers and others.

6) Recommend others and seek Recommendations

The pay it forward component of LinkedIn can be found in recommending others within your profile - this helps to stimulate recommendations back to you as well, although I wouldn’t count on this happening. There is nothing wrong with soliciting recommendations from others as well.

If possible, you want to have 3-5 recommendations for each position you reference in your LinkedIn profile with at least ten recommendations. But, it can be challenging at times to get recommendations from others. But, keep after them, as recommendations add considerable weight to how people view your profile - the more the better of course.

7) Grow your Connections via LinkedIn

Optimizing LinkedIn for business can be driven by aggressively building connections via the network. There are many schools of thought on just how aggressive you should be. I’ve built my network over a couple of years with some real time and attention to doing same.

I would also counsel you to immediately accept and invitation to connect via LinkedIn as long as the profile of the individual is consistent with your optimizing LinkedIn for Business.

Adding connections via LinkedIn is similar to what happens via any other social network - you won’t pick these up instantly, but over time (assuming your active within the community and promoting your profile) you will generate inbound requests.

Analyzing Web Site Traffic

I engage with the very vibrant community on Quora and one of the themes that I try to convey to members of this dynamic eclectic group of is how critical analyzing web site traffic is. Whatever the size of your business, from start up to enterprise, your shooting in the dark if you don’t have a good sense of web site traffic metrics. Helpful applications for analyzing web site traffic include:

1) Google Analytics is the de facto industry standard used by hundreds of millions of sites around the world. It’s free, extremely powerful, easy to set up and gets you out in the analytics fast lane quickly.

Google Analytics does require a snipped of code (few lines) installed via your web site. Just set up your account and go to Analytics to cut the code and have a developer install in your HTML code at the bottom of the page.

To be productive with Google Analytics get  familiar with baseline metrics first: Bounce Rates, Time on Site, Entry & Exit Pages, GEO Location of Traffic, Referrers, Keyword Analysis (Standard & Long Tail). Then, move on to more sophisticated capabilities. Note: this earlier blog post Best SEO Tools will give you a deeper dive into applications and processes to help you with overall search engine optimization.

2) Omniture is like Google Analytics on steroids - it’s extremely powerful and has robust features. Typically better suited for an large corporate entity that wants to leverage Omniture’s (now part of Adobe) real time analytics and customization reporting. Cost is prohibitive for most small business, as this can run anywhere from $10-50K per month, depending on usage.

3) Mint is a server based product that must be installed on your server, requiring a little more effort for installation than other products. But, the interface is gorgeous, easy to pull data from and powerful. The cost for Mint is minimal, only a $30 lifetime fee, which is affordable for a small business that wants to keep data in-house and likes Mint’s feature set. Another distinguishing capability for Mint that I like is the plugins that extend Mint’s digital reach.

4) Chartbeat is a different animal from other analytics applications and platforms - it’s primary value versus Google Analytics or Mint is its real time analytics capabilities. The Chartbeat dashboard gives you an immediate snapshot in real time with what’s occurring via your site.

Its a great tool for understanding when/if you are getting traffic spike for your sites, as well as high quality standard analytics. Has built in customizable alerts that can send SMS messages to your smartphone.

5) Quantcast is a free service that aggregates your site visitors with demographics, giving you insight into who is visiting your site and forcing or enabling you to share this data with others. So, if privacy is a concern this product may not be of interest to you. But, it does give you much more insight about your visitors, which can enable you to do much more targeted marketing via your site.

As I convey to clients all the time - analyzing web site traffic is an important component of any kind of social media marketing or advertising campaign. Make sure back end analysis is factored in when you map out marketing campaigns so you’ll know what marketing initiatives are working and how well and what are not!

How to Ensure Your Social Media Marketing will Fail!

It’s estimated that about 40-60% of most social media marketing initiatives will fall flat on their digital faces moving into 2011 according to a number of analytics firms!

Social Media marketing is taking on some of the behavioral characteristics of the “.com bomb” days - they hype is overshadowing the reality. Some steps to avoid if you want to be successful via social media marketing.

1) Integrate your social media marketing campaign with your overall marketing strategy. This means making sure you  just don’t bolt on a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube account to your overall marketing and leave it to that.

For example, cross promote your YouTube marketing by embedding some of your videos in your Blog posts, integrate links to videos via your Twitter and Facebook accounts and feature it in a Newsletter or EMail marketing campaign.

2) Falling in love with your social media guru/expert/digital sage (self included) and following blindly down the path with whatever she/he recommends. I’m a digital strategist and I don’t claim to be an expert at social media marketing and shudder when I hear the term used.

The entire social media eco system is only two to three years and no one is an expert. Yes, those of us with experience can help as a digital guide but walk away from anyone that claims to be an expert.

3) Not involving your entire staff with your social media initiatives. An effective social media marketing campaign should integrate your sales team, customer service representatives and even  members or your management team. For the latter, social media can help to put more of a humanizing face on your business, especially if larger business.

4) Not using some type of social media policy and procedures (click hyperlink for details on latter).  This does not need to be a massive, detailed five page document - a simple one page or less outline will help to put some structure in the marketing processes. Social media is transparent - you may not want your interns uploading images of the company Christmas party showing your CEO wearing antlers dancing around with a drink in each hand to your Facebook Wall or Twitter account via TwitPic.

5) Not tracking ROI for your social media marketing initiatives. This can be as simple as using a URL shortener like Bit.Ly, coupled with Google Analytics and baseline metrics available via HootSuite or Klout. But, set up some tracking capabilities on the front end of your campaign to have some sense of which facet(s) of your campaign are producing results.

6) Falling in love with the big four Social Media Platforms and ignoring everything else. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn are getting the attention but there’s more to social media marketing than just concentrating on these platforms and communities. Yes, you probably want a presence on at least two of these, depending on campaign goals, size of your company, etc.

But, a Blog is still a powerful way to drive great search rankings, engage with your customers/community and it can be easily cross promoted via an effective content marketing strategy via other platforms. It might be staid in the age of all things/persons in love with Facebook. But, a Blog can do some wonderful things for any social media marketing initiative.

7) Ignoring baseline search engine ranking tactics and strategies. Your social content needs to be integrated with your overall SEO campaign; i.e. keywords should be incorporated with content, encourage viral repeaters to drive backlinks, embed your links within and across the social web (Posterous, Tumblr, LinkedIn Groups, etc.).

8) Assuming a social marketing strategy is going to be free or extremely low cost. The gotchas in social media marketing costs are in the labor costs, not so much in the platform or applications, which are free or very low cost. But, creating quality blogs, building a following via Twitter and Facebook require some real effort - yes, Twitter for example is still growing rapidly. But, it takes time to garner a following (these people have ADD) and engage with them.

9) Not taking some risks and being creative is a deal killer in VC speak. Go big or go home right? Be creative with your content, images, videos, etc. The satirical picture integrated with this Blog post was pulled from today’s Boing Boing Newsletter, which in turn received a submission of a real life poster done in a neighborhood in London. (Or, could be clever ad agency trying to get some attention.)

I don’t know of any formula that ensures success with social media marketing initiatives, other than avoiding some of the activities I’ve mentioned in this blog post, coupled with hard work, an engaging content strategy and connecting with your social consumer!