Wondering Out Loud

Social Media: Presence matters most

The lead fr0m the eMarketer article says it all:

Social media marketers feel that having a presence on social sites is more important than advertising there, but there are still challenges related to keeping a community running online.

And so it is today as it was in the beginning: Social media is about showing up and showing what you know. Because, let’s face it, in today’s world no one will give your ad a second look without trusting you first. That’s especially true in the B2B space. And that is the beauty of the power of social media.

Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, to name the biggies, give you ample opportunity to seek, build and engage an audience in a way that positions your people – and by extension your company – as industry experts. And when you take the step of sharing your expertise in public forums the market takes note and comes to see that your people can be relied on to offer counsel without without an invoice attached.

So we all seem to understand the importance of taking part in social media, but where we, all of us, still struggle is the all-important content creation. It’s not a question of how to do it, it’s a question of how to find the time to do it. I wish I had a good answer for you other than making time – 20-30 minutes – every day, or every other day, to scan your Google alerts for ideas (where do you think this came from) and decide how you want to handle them: Is it blog-worthy, or will a simple tweet do, and then handling them.

Of all the possibilities for social media involvement Twitter is, by far, the most forgiving. It takes very little time, yet it will expose your company and it’s people to an audience you won’t find anywhere else. Add a hash tag or two into the mix and you have the potential to grow your audience even faster.

Let’s be honest, we are constantly making accommodations for our time, letting something slide because another, more important, thing pops up, or dropping activities altogether. If you believe there’s value in social media, you will find the time to work it in. And as its value to your marketing programs grows, you’ll find yourself dedicating more time to it.

Regardless of time, market expectations say you have to be involved, so it’s time to get in and make your presence known.

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October 12, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media without strategy is the black hole of communications

Black Hole: A region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape.

If  you are using social tools to communicate with your audience without the benefit of a strategy, you are the proud owner of your very own black hole. Everything you produce – blog post, tweet, podcast, Facebook update, YouTube video – every last scrap of content is being hurled into a void so dark and vast it will only be consumed by those who happen to trip over it. I’ve seen it before. A lot. It’s usually the result of misguided notion that any content is better than no content. Unfortunately, that same idea ignores the fact that no content is preferable to bad content.

Even today, the same marketing professionals who diligently plan every aspect of every campaign, taking care to make sure every detail is accounted for, don’t think twice about what is being posted to the company blog. Whether it’s a website, brochure, commercial or blog post, what you produce represents the company that provides your paycheck and treating any content as second class is doing that company a disservice.

If you’re serious about making social media part of your communications activities, make it part of your strategy development, treat the content as you do other deliverables and give social media equal standing when discussing your activities. If you do you’ll find your content living in the bright light of the Internet being consumed by people who sought it out and have a genuine interest in what your company has to say.

June 1, 2011 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Politics meets NASCAR

UPDATE: A special thanks to Mike Keliher – of the one l variety – for pointing out my misspelling of Margaret Anderson Kelliher – of the two l variety. I shall not make the same mistake again.

Gubernatorial (dontcha just love that word) politics and NASCAR had a meet up on Reusse and Company on AM 1500 KSTP in the Twin Cities yesterday. I’m sure it’s happens all the time during campaign season, but Wednesday’s interview of Margaret Anderson Keliher – Speaker of the House in Minnesota and one of more than a dozen hoping to represent the DFL in November’s election – is one that made me stop what I was doing  so I could listen more closely. What struck me about the exchange came and went as fast as a lap at Daytona, but it got me thinking about how far politicians go to get all their talking points across.

If you’ve ever watched an interview with a NASCAR driver, they are magicians at working sponsor names into their answers. Jeff Gordon can’t go a sentence without mentioning his DuPont Chevrolet. Considering the mega bucks sponsors plop down for the privilege of having their logo speed along at over 100 mph, it makes sense to mention those names as often as possible. Keliher took a page from the NASCAR driver handbook and used the interview to inject all the necessary references to prove her Minnesota creds.

In no particular order she dropped in 4H, hockey, public schools, ice fishing and dairy princess in less than 30 seconds. A truly impressive performance. Now some will call me cynical for thinking Keliher was using well rehearsed talking points, but listen and you’ll hear her back track to clarify that her kids go to public school and, when asked when she last went ice fishing she deftly avoids answering the question. I am cynical, but I’m not drawing any conclusions…yet.

Here’s hoping her handlers haven’t told her she needs to sprinkle ice fishing and hockey references into every interview. If that’s the case, it will be a long campaign season.

February 4, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations | , , | 2 Comments

Traditional + Social: The new media mix

On January 8th I posted an entry, A social media question worth pondering, that touched on the subject of traditional media v. social media. Rather than pitting one against the other, which others have done, I want to explore how the two can work together to achieve your marketing objectives.

A former boss of mine once said, “All advertising works.” I believed it then and I believe it now. When used properly, all advertising will do the job it’s intended to do. Too often, however, marketers get stuck in the rut of seeing every challenge as a nail and, therefore employ their favorite hammer to drive the nail home.

Case in point: a former business partner is so deeply wedded to the tactical trifecta of direct mail-telemarketing-email that they won’t consider doing anything else. Hammer and nail.

But the world has changed and most buyers ignore claims of “world-class”, “industry leading”, “best of breed”, and all the other marketing speak associated with high-priced products and services. Buyers have become more savvy and educated and, believe it or not, want to know they can trust their vendors to deliver what they say they can.

In 10 years of marketing enterprise software to the SME manufacturing space, I’ve seen buyer’s primary concern move from functional (how well does the software fit my needs) to credible (does the vendor understand my needs and my industry). The change was a natural evolution in an industry where the products – ERP for manufacturers – are perceived to have been commoditized. When all products are the same, buyers start differentiating on a different level.

This is where the marriage of traditional and social media happens. Traditional media whether print, direct mail, email, etc. is where you make the claims. Social media gives you a forum for substantiating them.

In the old days, SoftBrands claimed to have expertise in the food and beverage manufacturing space. To substantiate the claim we used customer testimonials and this webcast as proof points (I’m the cute one on the right). If you don’t want to watch both videos – and I don’t know why you wouldn’t – I’ll give you the key points.

The testimonial is pretty standard fare until the COO says the final decision was based on…”The people”. Other software packages could do the job, but the people SoftBrands brought to the table gave the customer more confidence. The webcast is a break from tradition in that we don’t talk features and functionality of the software, rather we spend the time talking about the issues SME food and beverage manufacturers face everyday. By showcasing the subject matter experts within SoftBrands viewers concluded that the products developed by people with deep industry knowledge would fit their needs. The event generated almost 50 qualified sales leads. The video was directly responsible for one new customer who, after seeing what their competitor was doing with the software, eliminated all competition from the sales cycle.

Traditional media, fact sheets, brochures, print ads, whitepapers, and so on are still important – and will continue to be so – but they can only carry you so far in today’s buying environment. More than ever, but not as much as it will be, the most important marketing tools are the voices of your people and your customers. They are the ones who prove your claims of being “world-class”, “industry leading” and “best off breed.” It’s the real people behind your products and services that your prospects need to connect with, so put them out there now and let the connecting begin.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , | 2 Comments

@TomPick takes another giant ditigal leap forward

If you are a regular reader of the WebMarketCentral Blog, as I am, you might be surprised to see the site – while still there – is no longer the home of Tom Pick’s ( @TomPick) digital/interactive marketing insights. The new site Webbiquity was launched this morning. Here’s the subhead:

Webbiquity: 1) The fusion of SEO, search marketing, social media, reputation management, content marketing and interactive PR. 2) Being omnipresent on the web for the search phrase that uniquely describes you or your organization. 3) The place to find help with all of this. Webbiquity – be everywhere online

I met Tom almost 10 years ago – January 17, 2000 – when I joined SoftBrands (then called Fourth Shift). He was the internal expert on competitive analysis. He was driven by dissecting win/loss reports and souring the Web for information on our biggest competitors. His unnatural love of minutia probably stems from growing up in St. Cloud, MN just up the road from the Monticello nuclear power plant. I’m glad he has it,  because I don’t and we certainly need all types to survive in this world. In addition to details, Tom has a very keen mind and can spot a trend a mile away – which is why he started WebMarketCentral when most of us were still trying to figure out what the internet really had to offer. 

Based on past success, I see no reason to doubt Webbiquity will be a tremendous success.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging in a regulated industry

Every time I participate in, or attend an event where social media is the topic there is always one – sometimes more – person in the audience representing a company from a highly regulated industry. Most often they are from the financial sector – banking, investments, etc. – and they all have the same question: How can we blog when everything we say needs to be run through an extensive approval process?

It’s a great question. To understand the significance of the question, one need only listen to the disclaimers at the end of any commercial inviting you to invest your money with a particular money manager: Actual results may vary, you could lose some or all of your money, and my personal favorite…you could lose more than you invested. Regardless of the industry there are ways to leverage the power of the web and here is one of my favorites.

In its simplest form there are two sides to the social media coin – join a conversation and start a conversation. For my purpose we’ll look at the second one.

There are two primary ways to start a conversation. The first is to react to an event that is happening in the industry now – President Obama’s jobs summit last week provided a golden opportunity for investment advisors to weigh in with their analysis of the event. When one works in a highly regulated industry there is a certain amount of risk that comes with reacting in real-time, but professionals in these industries can still start conversations with little or no risk to themselves or their companies by creating a calendar of conversations. All it takes is some planning and buy-in from your internal subject matter experts (SMEs).

The first step is to meet with your team and crate a list of issues that are relevant to your audience and that your SMEs can discuss credibly. The next step is to put those issues into an editorial calendar then create content to that calendar. Using this strategy for content creation gives enough time for all the appropriate parties to review and approve the content. Once approved, distribute as normal. Whether to a blog or a LinkedIn discussion page – I prefer both – you have joined the world of social media contributors and have done it with the blessing of your internal regulatory professionals. 

If you’d like to inject some digital steroids into the process take a look at the ed. cals. of the industry publications you are courting and design yours to mirror theirs –  minus a few months. If you can write credibly today about a subject one of the pubs will be covering a few months down the road, you can begin building a case for why your SMEs should be tapped for interviews when the article is being written. It’s a great way to build media relations and, if your offer of supplying expert analysis is rejected, you still have your own content to point your audience to.

I’ll tackle other issue in a later post – reacting as events happen. It can be problematic for any organization, but it can also be done by any.

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Media, Smocial Media

Ever shot yourself in the foot? I’m not talking about using a firearm to do the deed, I’m talking about using your mouth. If you’ve ever stood in front of an executive and spent precious time explaining why they needed be involved in social media you have.  

Let’s face it, there are still too many in the marketing field who belive social media will replace movable type as the most significant invention of all time and that we who use its power to benefit our businesses are turning digital water into digital wine. To those who fit this description I have simple message: Get over yourself.

What we’re doing with these blogs and podcasts and videos and social media press releases is taking advantage of a lot of work that was done by those who created the miracle that is the Internet. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. But when you stand up in front of Mr. and Ms. CwhateverO and begin to pontificate on the beauty of Web 2.0 and the wonders that flow from it, you deserve to be met with glassy stares because they didn’t invite you in to talk about blogging and podcasting and Twitter and the next shiny object. No, they invited you to tell them how you are going to differentiate their company from its competitors. They want strategy not tactics. And social media is not, repeat not a strategy.

All the elements that make up social media are simply ways of distributing your message – whatever that happens to be. Granted they are very powerful means of distribution, but let’s not lose site of what they are at the core. When we do is when we are in danger of taking to the top of the mount and preaching the glories of social media.

Keep it simple, talk strategy. Remember, it’s not about you it’s about them.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

Social media levels the playing field

Traditional marketing uses campaigns to build brand awareness: Coke – “The Real Thing”, Pepsi – “The Choice of a New Generation”, BASF – “we don’t make the products you buy; we make the products we buy better”. Each is recognizable and each company invested millions of dollars to reach consumers.

I’m gonna take a stab in the dark, but I’m betting you, like me, are working with budgets that are substantially smaller than Coke, Pepsi or BASF. Guess what, it doesn’t matter because we all have access to the great leveler in the branding battle: the Internet.

OK, it’s not a perfect one-to-one exchange, but the power that lies within the worldwide web is boundless and with a little imagination and hard work you can leverage that power to create a brand for your product.

Until now, marketing and social media have been treated as separate and distinct and, truth be told, there’s argument that can be made for keeping them as such. But that doesn’t mean the latter can’t support the former.

Boiling it down to its simplest form, branding campaigns are designed to leave a mark, an impression on the mind. It is an impression you create and communicate, but the impression is only a perception, an opinion based on the message you provided.

As consumers, B2C and B2B became more sophisticated, their response to the bombardment of advertising became, “I’ll be the judge of that.” In other words, they wouldn’t accept what you have to say until they buy it, try it and make up their own mind. Your ads may get someone to buy once, but if reality doesn’t live up to the perception your advertising created they won’t buy again.

The power of the Internet makes it possible for all of us to turn perception into reality before they buy.

When you use social media tactics to promote the thought leadership in your company, when you expose the subject matter experts within to the market you are building credibility, you are building awareness. You are showing customers, potential and current, that there are people behind the brand. People who know the industry, people who know their customers and understand the business issues they face and are trying to solve daily.

In short, you are branding reality for your company, its products and services.

August 27, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Are you self serving or self promoting

As the adoption of social media by business expands at an ever increasing rate, its misuse grows along with it. When you engage in social media activities are you self serving or self promoting?

Have you ever considered the difference? Both deal with the self, but if you choose to practice the former over the latter, you are headed for social media failure.

Here are the definitions from dictionary.com:

Self serving: Serving to further one’s own selfish interests.
Self Promotion: Promotion, including advertising and publicity, of oneself effected by oneself.

Done correctly, self promotion will result in all the benefits – increased leads, sales and revenue – you can get through self serving means, without turning away a good chunk of your audience. If this sounds difficult to achieve, it’s not. Promoting the self – you, your colleagues, and your business – is as easy as showing your target audience what you know. How you show them, however, goes a long way toward defining which side of boarder you are on between serving and promoting.

Let me illustrate with an example of a LinkedIn discussion:

Q: My boss wants me to buy a list of emails we can use for marketing. We’ve never done this and I’m looking for advice on picking the right provider. Thanks for your help.

A1: You can buy any list you need from my company Lists-R-Us. We specialize in providing 100% opt in lists for every conceivable industry – and a few you can’t conceive of. Call me at 555-1212.

A2: Before you pick a provider you’ll want to ask several questions including how they compile their lists, what information they gather about the individual and the company, can they segment based on SIC codes, and what are the counts within the SIC’s you are targeting. Also ask to see a sample cut of the data and what accommodations they make for non-deliverable addresses. If you want more I’ve included the links to a couple of credible resources below. Hope this helps.

I will grant that the example I provided is fictional, but it is most certainly not extreme. Go through the discussions and you’ll find any number of questions and answers that are commercials. But LinkedIn is by no means the only site that suffers from sledgehammer marketing. Blogs – posts and comments – are not immune, nor are Twitter and facebook for that matter.

Provide help with information the individual can use to solve their issue. It is a way of promoting yourself, without selling yourself. Over time, as your credibility grows, you will find a growing number of people who follow you, listen to you, and offer your name to others a resource that can be trusted.

August 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Don’t fear social media technology, embrace it

Thanks to Adam Ostrow for exposing the folly of the SEC’s (Southeastern Conference) new media policy. But the SEC is just another in a long line of media that has feared new technology rather than embracing it for their benefit.

When radio was in its infancy, record publishers would forbid stations from playing their music out of fear that people would opt for the free access and their sales would plummet – history would repeat several years later when digital downloads became possible. What they ultimately figured out, purely by accident, is that sales actually increased. You see, when the audience is exposed to and likes part of the whole, they have an increased interest in owning the whole.

A similar scenario was played out when television came along. Movie studios were so worried that people would stop attending the weekly matinee, they refused to release movies that had completed their theater run to TV networks for airing.  Never mind the addtional revenue they could realize or the added exposure of their biggest starts, the common wisdom among motion picture executives, like the music industry before them, was that the new technology was a rival to be feared and beaten.

To the SEC, CBS and anyone else who is considering banning social media out of fear of losing control of their product: take a deep breath, close your eyes and let it go. You will find an existing audience that loves you for doing it and a new audience – you didn’t know existed – will be driven to try what you have to offer.

As with music downloads, people will find a way to get the content they want. I hope the SEC, CBS, et al, learn from the mistakes of the past.

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Journalism, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

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