Tagged blogs

Retrospect – 6 Undeniable Marketing Truths Learned in 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

Another year, another look back.
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2012 was a year of contention in marketing. Debates raged on many fronts, but none were more heated than the battles on two particular topics: Social Media ROI & Influence Scoring. Other issues came and went throughout the year as well, such as what kind of metrics marketers should be using, and if EVERY business really needs to be using social tools.

Throughout all the fiery Tweets and divisive blog posts created through the last 12 months, however, I came to learn (at the very least) six key points that influenced me in 2012, and will continue to do so going in to 2013.

Behold! These six undeniable marketing truths are:

1: Influence Scores aren’t evil, but people are using them for evil things. – Klout, Kred, PeerIndex made some people stand up and cheer, and others reach for their pitchforks. There are few topics as divisive in marketing right now as influence marketing. Opponents raise valid points about the poor use of such scores in things like job interviews and as a credential to provide proof of expertise, and they’re right. Using a Klout score as the definitive measure of influence or expertise is just plain stupid, much in the same way that using an SAT score on its own without context is just as foolish. If you’re ever asked in an interview what your Klout score is, or if the job posts a ‘minimum required’ score, run away. That company is clueless.

Where social scoring sites do some good, however, is as a starting point in identifying the most active, well-known personalities in social media related to a particular topic. ATTENTION: It’s absolutely essential to note that activity and visibility are NOT the same as influence, but what these numbers do is give you a place to start. Now that you’ve found these people, DIG DEEPER. Look at their content, connections, accomplishments, personality, and activity that surrounds them. Then, and ONLY then, will you have a somewhat valid picture of their true level of influence. Realizing what the tools actually do (measure activity & visibility) and using them accordingly where we need to go from here.

2: Blogs still matter, but only if they’re awesome. – Find me a better way for a company to showcase their personality, expertise, dedication, and professionalism alongside their appreciation of their customers, desire to improve, and commitment to their industry. I dare you. Bet you can’t find one, can you? They allow you to truly prove that your business is a leader by writing about things that matter to your customers, to your business, and to your industry. The catch? You have to publish good stuff, because junk content won’t do it.

A well-written blog that has a purpose, that is maintained regularly, and that stays relevant is one of the greatest brand-building tools a company can have. Quitting a blog after three months because ‘it’s not working’ is an all-too-common scenario for many businesses. To use the stereotypical analogy of social media ‘experts’ around the globe, a blog is a marathon, not a sprint. Building an audience and reputation takes time, as does refining your writing style and personality. Stick with it, and the benefits will be huge. Search engines love blogs and readers love blogs, so have one and make it awesome.

3: Social media does have ROI, but it’s not the same for every business. – Now this one ruffled a lot of feathers this year. Anti-ROI people claimed that social ROI is inherently unmeasurable. “How can you tie brand affinity to a dollar amount?” “What’s the ROI of your mother?”, etc. Pro-ROI people claimed that EVERYTHING can be tied back to a measurable return on the investment. You just need to look at the right clues.

The unavoidable conclusion: They’re both right. Not everything a business does ties directly back in to a sale, but everything a business does CAN be measured. What’s the time savings you’re achieving through social communications with customers? What’s the market research value of 30,000 Facebook fans? What’s the long-term loyalty aspect of social activities? Sometimes YES, you can measure in simple $, but sometimes you can’t. This doesn’t mean the return isn’t there. It just means you need to look deeper. How your business measures the ROI of social is up to your business. Start with what your goals are, and figure out how social is helping you meet them.


4: You can measure anything, but without context those numbers are useless. –
“We got 5,000 referrals from Google this month! YAY!” So what? What do you do now? How does knowing that you got 5,000 referrals from Google give you any idea whether your marketing is working or not? Marketing people have been tossing around generic, meaningless metrics for way too long and nobody’s said anything. Well, I get the distinct feeling that those kind of metrics just aren’t going to fly in 2013. Likes? Followers? Hits? Forget them, they aren’t helping. It’s time to dig deeper.

Need some examples? Try ‘Share of Search’. Google can tell you who many monthly searches occur for a specific set of keywords. How many of those searches does your web presence capture? This is your share of search. If it goes up, you’re doing something right. If it goes down, your competitors are. What search terms are you dominating with vs. what search terms are you failing with?

Need another one? How about ‘Social Sentiment’. Are your customers ranting about you or raving about you? What about your competitors? How does your sentiment rank against theirs, and what’s the share of conversation you’re capturing? CONTEXT is what makes metrics work. If the numbers don’t tell a story that helps you improve, they aren’t worth measuring.


5: Listening in social is not the same thing as paying attention in social. –
It’s really easy to set up alerts & social monitoring. Every time a keyword gets mentioned you get notified, but what happens then? Are you simply listening for your own name, or are you really paying attention to the conversation? One example I had the pleasure of observing recently illustrated just how easy it is to look stupid in social if you’re not paying close enough attention. A Twitter user sent out a sarcastic Tweet mocking a lame commercial, and the business responded (two days later, mind you) with a cheery ‘Thanks for the compliment!’. Suffice to say, the original tweeter thought it was pretty funny, and so did I, therefore it was immortalized with a blog post.

It was a tiny little tweet in amongst billions of others, but it shouted loud and clear “Yeah, we’re listening. Kind of. Mostly.” Set up the notifiers, but when you get notified THEN PAY ATTENTION. Social media monitoring tools can’t catch sarcasm, so be sure the person tweeting out the responses for your company can and will. It’s easy to set up the alerts, but it’s even easier to look silly. Be vigilant.

6: Yes, every business should be social, but in their own way. – The question isn’t whether businesses ‘NEED’ to be social. The question is ‘Why wouldn’t you want to be?’. Customers aren’t’ there? Please, just stop, because you know that they are. No time? BS. Nobody has time, you need to make time. Find where you’re wasting time and resources and shift them. Don’t have anything to say? Then you shouldn’t be in business. It’s not an all-consuming process to be social. Tweeting all day isn’t the answer. Plan it out and schedule it just like you plan out everything else you do for your business.

This isn’t about being all things to all people. You don’t have to be on EVERY social network, but you damn well better be wherever your customers are and where they want to see you. To paraphrase some guy named Scott Stratten, ‘Stop marketing to people the way you hate to be marketed to.’ Do you like sorting through piles of junk mail? Do you love clicking on banner ads? Do you live for the newest billboards? No. You love to check out cool pictures, interesting videos, and helpful articles. Give customers who like your business the same regard that you want from business YOU like; VALUE. Connect with them on their terms. Answer their questions, don’t push your agenda. Show them what they want, not what you feel like broadcasting. Educate, don’t preach. Be awesome, not annoying.

There you have it. Six points that shaped my view of marketing this year, and will no doubt be a factor going in to 2013. It will be quite interesting to see what the hot-button topics will be over the next twelve months. Will influence continue to divide marketers? Will ROI continue to be elusive and confusing? Or will marketers take the lessons learned in 2012 to heart and shake off the fear of abandoning comfortable, old-school, dollar-wasting marketing in favour of truly connecting with customers and giving them real value on their own terms? I know what I’m going to shoot for. How about you?

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Blogs of Greatness – Marketing Brilliance

How many blogs do you read? I mean, REALLY read? Regularly. How many can’t-miss, always-awesome, have-to-share blogs do you read?

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For me, there are just a handful. I peruse lots of them, and scan over even more, but the ones that I can say that I ‘read’ are limited to a select few that consistently deliver the goods that I can’t seem to get anywhere else.

I will state right now that yes, Seth’s Blog is great. We all know that, so let’s talk about something different.

Blog #1 – Mitch Joel‘s ‘Six Pixels of Separation’ – http://www.twistimage.com/blog/
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Mitch is one of those fantastic bloggers that not only gives you advice that you can deploy today, but also makes you really THINK about where we’re going with all this ‘marketing’ stuff. No two posts on Mitch’s nearly decade-old blog roll are the same. He does brilliant podcasts and interviews with the top thinkers & doers in business. I’ve seen Mitch speak live on more than one occasion, and I can say with certainty his blog delivers just as much personality in writing as he does in person. A truly great business blog that is my default go-to place when I’m looking for marketing inspiration.

Blog #2 – Sam Fiorella‘s ‘The Social Roadmap’ – http://www.senseiwisdom.com/Home/bID/3/
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Sam is all about results. Actual, measurable, results. If you can’t translate your actions in to a real benefit for your business, then WHY are you doing it? This is the question that Sam’s blog posts answer. One of the first things you’ll notice about the writing on the Social Roadmap is that it’s infused with passion. It’s a no-holds-barred assault on pretentious marketers who spew buzzwords and measure success based on what CAN happen instead of what DOES happen. Read this blog if you want to break through the BS and develop a plan that gives tangible results.

Blog #3 – Mark Schaefer‘s ‘{grow}’ – http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog/
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Mark is truly a great author, speaker, and thinker. His focus is, quite obviously, helping you and your business grow and thrive. Mark’s articles span a wide range of topics, but always seem to come back to a central, overriding theme of ‘Do It Right’. It’s not a matter of doing things because they’re new, shiny, or fancy. It’s a matter of doing them because it’s the right move for your business and for your customers. Mark is a true advocate of relationship building as the core of success. Those businesses that can forge the strongest relationships with their partners are the ones that will grow and thrive. Mark often brings in guest writers to shed a different perspective on certain topics, and only chooses those writers who hit the same high standard his readers have become accustomed to.

These three blogs are indicative of what I look for when searching for the latest and greatest in marketing thinking: Passion, diversity, experience. Too many blogs tell you what you already know, and not enough of them tell you what you need to hear. Bookmark these three, add them to your RSS reader, follow them on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or wherever you turn to for good stuff. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

So those are my top three, but what are yours? Where do YOU turn to for the ‘awesome’?

The Big, Bold Benefits of Blogging for Business

by Jonathan Barrick

A recent eMarketer article told an interesting tale on what marketers are planning for social activity in 2012. Not surprisingly, the majority of respondents marked Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as the top 3 places where they are currently active. After all, these are easily the most talked-about social networks right now, and are poised to continue to be tremendously effective in connecting with customers for the foreseeable future.
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Blogs came in at #4 on the list. This shouldn’t be too much of a shock, since blogs are one of the oldest forms of ‘social’ on the list, according to how we define it today. We should take note that every item on this list (with the exception of ‘blogs’ and ‘forums’) are specific ‘sites’, like Twitter and Flickr for example. ‘Blogs’ however is a pretty broad term, and includes innumerable variations across such platforms as Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, Posterous, and more.

What might surprise you, however, is that of all the social options available to marketers, blogs are indicated as the one area that will see the greatest increase in activity in 2012. Why would this be? Shouldn’t blogs be the one area that would see the LEAST amount of growth, since there are other newer shinier social sites popping up all the time? You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.

Businesses must recognize the extensive list of benefits that come as a result of maintaining a relevant and up-to-date blog. Blogs are one of the most effective ways to convey what your brand is REALLY all about. What you talk about, and how you talk about it, gives your readers a very personal insight in to what the culture of your business is. It sheds light on what the core values and beliefs are in your organization by addressing what you stand for, how you view issues facing your customers, and how open your business is to talking about what’s going on behind the logo.

In addition to the obvious ‘branding’ benefits that come with maintaining a blog, there are many other benefits that might not be apparent at first glance. Not the least of which is the boost you can achieve in organic search traffic. You see, it’s most likely that your main website is optimized for a certain collection of keywords. These are typically your brand name, specific product names, and product or service types. However, when writing blog posts you create an entirely new batch of content that answers completely different types of search queries.

While your public website might be optimized for terms or things like ‘computer repair’, or ‘flower arrangements’, your blog posts will start to appear in search results because of specific questions that they answer. For example, if we use the ‘flower arrangements’ product/business type, you might write a blog post about ‘Most Popular Spring Flowers for Weddings’. Now, this blog post would appear in the search results for much more specific questions about that particular topic, like “what kind of flowers should i choose for a spring wedding?”. You’re not just showing up to sell ‘flowers’, you’re showing up to answer a particular call for help.

My experience  has shown that searchers who find helpful content as a result of a more specific question, rather than just a product page appearing from a short keyword, are more likely to spend more time on the site READING the material that answers their questions. Through blog posts, you’re not just trying to sell them something; you’re trying to help them learn more about the topics that interest them. The goodwill that occurs through being genuinely helpful goes a long way to building relationships with your readers, so that when they do need to buy, you’re much more likely to be their first choice.

The big bold benefits of blogging for business will come in varying degrees, based on the approach you take. The more you do, the benefits grow exponentially. If you’re simply using it as a press release newsfeed, don’t expect much in terms of results. If you’re using it to reach out, to answer questions, to offer help, and to provide added value for your readers then your hard work will pay off. Let’s just hope that for the sake of readers everywhere that the increase in efforts of businesses in 2012 will be of the more ‘helpful’ variety.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

4 Simple Steps for Starting A Social Media Presence

by Jonathan Barrick

You have the key, and there’s gas in the tank. You just need to start it up.

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YES – there are still businesses that haven’t yet made a move in to the world of social communications. It may be hard to believe, given the sheer volume of discussion about social media happening everywhere, but it’s true. For every socially-savvy business out there rocking the world of Twitter and being fascinating on Facebook, there are dozens more who are struggling to figure out what they should be doing, and where they should be doing it. There is a large portion of business owners who KNOW they need to be participating, and yet take one look at the vast array of social media tools available to them and think “Where do I possibly begin?!?”

It is for those people that it’s so crucial to provide simple, effective approaches to getting started in these communication channels so that they get off on the right path from the beginning.

Step 1 – Search for discussions

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Social Media is all about generating conversation and interaction between your business and its communities. Rest assured, that no matter what product or service you may provide, someone somewhere is talking about you. You just need to search for them. Use search tools like SocialMention as a compass to point you in the right direction, and to get an idea about where the action is occurring. This tool will tell you on what sites the conversations are happening, and also an overview on whether they are typically happy, angry, or neutral about the topics of discussion. Once you’ve found where people are talking, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2 – Read the content

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Now that you’ve found where the conversations are happening, whether it be on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, or somewhere else, the time has come to listen intently to every word. Before you can start posting your thoughts, it’s crucial to understand how these communities are talking to each other, and about you. Jumping right in with a ‘BIG SALE THIS WEEK!!’ message might be the worst possible thing you could do. You want to COMPLEMENT the conversations and CONTRIBUTE to them, not shout over them with slogans and your daily specials.

3 – Determine what value you bring

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As mentioned in Step 2, in order to be well received by the community, you need to complement the discussions taking place, and contribute to them. How you do this depends entirely on what value you bring to these conversations. Most people follow brands and companies for one (or a combination) of three reasons:

Entertainment – Videos, photos, blog posts, links that amuse or impress, etc.
Education – Helpful tips, tricks, advice, troubleshooting, etc.
Exclusives – Deals, specials, or giveaways not available anywhere else.

If you can’t provide any of those, you’re not looking hard enough. The simplest way for most new businesses to contribute to the conversation without having to give discounts, or pretend to have a sense of humor (especially if your business doesn’t) is to be a helpful expert. Take the knowledge contained in your business and share it with your community.

4 – Share, and share, and then share some more

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Once you’ve found the value you bring to your community, let it loose. Don’t hold it back, but give it freely and openly. Become the expert on your topic. Share the awesome photos you’ve accumulated over the years. Give your communities a special appreciation discount code. Every time you share, you generate value you didn’t have before. Every time you make them smile, you’re generating positive brand awareness. Every time you answer their question, you take away the opportunity for a competitor to do the same.

So there you have it. A simple 4-step approach that can be used for any company, anywhere to get a handle on how they can approach social communications. The real clincher to this strategy is Step 3 – Regardless of the channel you choose, you need to provide value. If you’re not giving your community something they wouldn’t otherwise have, in a format that makes them want to see it, all you’re doing is advertising to them. If they get the sense that this is what your social media content is all about, don’t be surprised if their fingers move to that ‘Unfollow’ button before you even have a chance to say ‘hello’.

The most important thing to keep in mind when participating in social communications is ‘Am I helping myself, or my community?’. The answer to this question is much easier to determine than you’d think. Just look at what you want out of the companies that you personally follow, and realize that your business’ community is no different. Keep that mindset, and you’re already on your way to social success.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com