Tagged branding

Listen up! Here’s 10 top snippets from Social Slam!

by Jonathan Barrick

Social Slam 2013 has concluded, and that makes me sad. However, Social Slam 2013 was awesome, and that makes me happy. The content was brilliant, the speakers were tremendous, and the people were the best. Social Slam is without a doubt, a must-attend event for ANYONE working with digital tools, professionally or personally, to connect and communicate.

Scanning back through the countless tweets sent out during the event, there’s so much gold it’s clear that everyone walked away from the event energized and excited to get to work using new techniques and approaches to the digital space. Here is but a handful of the great content that was shared during Social Slam, but for those craving more, simply search for the #soslam hashtag on Twitter and immerse yourself!

“You’re not just competing with the guy down the street. You’re competing globally.” – @jeffbullas

My take: Jeff’s own presence at Social Slam after over 40hrs of exhaustive delay-ridden travel time reminds us all that there are no borders in social media. Forget about competing locally, and be awesome worldwide.

“Social levels the playing field for introverts and extroverts.” – @jeffbullas

My take: Your content isn’t judged based on how you act at cocktail parties. It’s judged based on its value. By creating great content, even the most meek and mild of us can become social superstars.

“Use your social media to tell your whole story: employees, community, environment.” @xanpearson

My take: Your story is not contained within your logo, your mission statement, or your brochure. It’s contained within the actions of every single one of your employees, customers, and partners. Use the power of social to share the entirety of your brand.

“Blog comments come from emotional reactions to your content. They need to WANT to share their take on your content.” – @dinodogan

My take: Dino reminds us that comments don’t appear simply because you wrote something. They appear because something ‘sparked’ inside the reader. An emotional impact triggers the desire to comment. Want comments? Write something that creates that ‘spark’.

“Community is at the heart of everything we do.” – @gabriellenyc

My take: Wow! What an INCREDIBLE talk this was. Gabrielle captivated the entire audience with her amazing stories and reminds us all that everything we do connects us to other people. Everyone we meet, shake hands with, share a laugh with, share a moment of sadness or of joy with, inevitably becomes part of our personal community. Social media amplifies this and makes our communities grow stronger, larger, and faster, stretching across the globe.

“You can’t teach how to blog unless you blog. You can’t teach Twitter if you don’t use Twitter.” – @markwschaefer

My take: In other words, if you want to be a great communicator, then you need to COMMUNICATE. Invest the time in learning the tools, honing your voice, and appreciating your audience. Becoming great in social takes time, and takes practise.

“Common sense is strangely uncommon most of the time.” @JeffBullas

My take: Think before you do. Read before you post. Choose your words wisely. Jeff’s statement is deceptively simple, yet speaks volumes. Many of those using social do so with very little forethought. Be smart about how you use social media, use care and caution, and pay attention to the perceptions of your audience. It matters.

“Automation isn’t evil. Use it right & save time. You can’t automate & then bail on your audience.” – @ChrisQueso

My take: Social media is not a ‘set it and forget it’ kind of media. It’s real-time, and is fuelled by interactivity and engagement. Using automation for certain repetitive tasks can be a huge time saver for many of us, but it does not mean that your social networks are now self-sustaining. It needs to have your personal interaction and attention, otherwise you’re just advertising.

“If all you’re doing is sharing mediocre content, you’re amplifying the suck.” – @jenkaneco

My take: ‘Meh’ content does not get retweeted. It does not get liked. It certainly doesn’t get commented on. Don’t just post for the sake of posting. Post because you’ve got something that is bursting at the seams with awesome. Deliver value, all the time, or your brand will be one big ‘meh’.

“It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story. – Mr. Rogers” – @ducttape

My take: Your story is your brand. Who you are, what you’re all about, what you do and why you do it. This is why people like you, this is why people like your company. Don’t seal up your story away from your community. Share it & be proud of it. Your community isn’t just listening to your story, it is an integral part of it.

In addition to being an event overflowing with great content, it was also one of the greatest networking events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Speakers did not run back to their hotel rooms or to the airport after their time on stage had concluded. They became part of the crowd, attending other sessions, and talking with everyone they could find. I was absolutely honoured to personally meet many of the brilliant headliners, had some truly brilliant conversations, and lots of fun hanging out at the pubs!

(So glad I got a chance to hang out with so many brilliant people, like Jeff Bullas & Gabrielle Laine Peters!)

My most profound thanks to Mark Schaefer for making this an incredibly valuable event that will undoubtedly influence attendees to go out to their various corners of the world and utilize the awesome lessons that were learned, and share these lessons with their own communities. I know that I’m already looking forward to Social Slam 2014!

http://soslam.com>

Social Media Sommeliers – Choosing perfect pairs of social networks

by Jonathan Barrick

A well maintained social media presence is like a fine wine; it develops more character as it ages. As you invest more time in to social media, joining additional networks and using new tools, your presence gains different characteristics that it did not have before. However, just as certain wine characteristics mesh well together, others simply do not. Certain wines will pair well with certain foods and enhance the experience, while others conflict and compete. So it is with different social networks. Some are natural fits, enhancing each other and creating synergy. Others are so vastly different in scope and purpose that using them together can actually weaken the total effort.

So how do you know which networks jive well together, and which just don’t? Well, I reached out to several brilliant professionals whose experiences in social media give them a unique perspective on which networks work great together. They are, for all intents and purposes, Social Media Sommeliers, pairing different networks together to create an experience greater than the sum of its parts. So, what networks do they believe hold the greatest power for synergy?

Here’s what Ric Dragon http://twitter.com/ricdragon had to say:

image“I’m of the mind that the Twitter/G+ combo is killer.  G+ is more open than FB, and it’s easier to share blog-type posts publicly. Twitter, of course, is the place for garnering those weak-link connections – those people with whom you share an affinity. So Twitter makes the connection, and G+ allows you to share deeper content with those new connections.”

Smart stuff, to be sure. And after speaking with multiple other professionals, and with so many different networks out there to choose from, it became quite clear that everyone would have a different approach tailored to their individual style, fitting with their unique approach to their industry.

I asked this extremely savvy group of Marketing/PR/Social pros to look at this concept from two different angles:

1) Which two social networks do you feel are most complementary, and why?



2) Which two social networks do you feel have the biggest disconnect, and why?

Here’s what they had to say:

Mark Schaeferhttp://twitter.com/markwschaefer
image“The biggest synergy that I see is between Blogging and Twitter. Building a Twitter audience is an effective way to build an audience for your blog. A tweet is like the movie trailer for the movie! They fit like a hand in a glove.

As I see it, the biggest disconnect in social networks right now is between Google + and everything else. Google is not making the sharing easy so it is probably the least integrated network.”

Peg Fitzpatrickhttp://twitter.com/pegfitzpatrick
image“I feel that Google+ and Pinterest are a powerful combination. They are both very visual networks with savvy users. Photographers are really killing it on both platforms such as Trey Ratcliff, with 4.5 million Google+ followers and 4.7 million followers on Pinterest, that’s an enviable social media network! Google+ and Pinterest, more than other platforms, really reward their power users with engagement and activity with their content. You can save your Google+ posts on Pinterest boards or find interesting things to post on Google+ from Pinterest. Both platforms support hashtag usage and using keywords is a benefit.  Google+ and Pinterest complement each other and add mutual value without distracting or overwhelming the other.

I feel like LinkedIn and every other network are disconnected. LinkedIn doesn’t seem to fit naturally with any of the other networks although they have taken strides towards improvement. The endorsement feature made LinkedIn spammy to me and weakened the recommendations, which I felt was their most valuable asset. I feel that LinkedIn has its place for job seekers and networking but I don’t see how it blends with Pinterest, Facebook or any other site. I think that this was their intention but they shot themselves in the foot with that plan. You need to have a presence on more than one social media platform so if you are on multiple platforms, you’d like to work them seamlessly together.”

Don Powerhttp://twitter.com/donpower
image“LinkedIn and Twitter work beautifully together for me. I use LinkedIn to get comprehensive background info and details about individuals and their histories and companies before connecting with them on Twitter. Or, you may be connected with a person at Company X on Twitter – you can use LinkedIn to find more people at Company X to connect with (including their Twitter backgrounds). I use them in tandem quite a bit but for me – all roads ultimately lead to Twitter – if I make a connection on LinkedIn, I’m always suggesting that we continue the conversation on Twitter.

Facebook and Twitter – two almost completely exclusive sets of users (in my opinion and personal experience). For example, almost all of my high school friends are on Facebook (I graduated high school in ‘86) but NONE of them are on Twitter. Most of the people I’m connected with on Facebook are not active on Twitter. I only use Facebook to respond to people who find me or reach out to me there. I don’t start conversations on Facebook and 99.9% of my posts on Facebook (unless I’m responding to a specific tagged post) are simply copies of what I post to Twitter (and no – I don’t care that my Facebook posts are often marked up with @ symbols and hashtags)

As I see it, albeit an oversimplification, Facebook is made up of 90% of the people who want to be social 90% of the time. Twitter is made up of 90% of social people who want to do social business communication (in a no sales-y way) 90% of the time. Facebook is 90% wasting time and sharing crap, Twitter is 90% time connecting with people and building networks where the underlying assumption is – how might I be able to leverage this connection, now or in the future, for a business purpose? Because those networks have two completely different modus operandi, they are a total disconnect for me.”

Susie Parkerhttp://twitter.com/susie_parker
image“I often see how well Facebook and YouTube can work well together. Facebook being the largest social network and YouTube being the second largest search engine makes it easy to share a powerful, compelling, funny, or moving video with a large network of people with one click.

There is so much potential with Foursquare and Twitter. But there is too much disconnect and not enough businesses have claimed their locations to maximize the benefit to their businesses. When sharing where you are on Foursquare it would be great to have better Twitter integration to connect better with a potential new place to experience.”

David Christopherhttp://twitter.com/davidchris
image“Twitter I find great as a tool to build new relationships and to start conversations that continue on other platforms. It also allows you to connect with your network and keep those important relationships alive in just 140 characters when in today’s busy business world you don’t have time for much more.

Google+ for is the opposite. It’s where conversations continue and evolve (especially with the recent release of Google+ Communities) and for those where the need for much deeper level relationships are important. What I find interesting is that of the Twitter users in my network, very few of them use Google+. For this reason I find they complement each other as they don’t compete against each other for market share.

As for networks that have major disconnects, I’m going to give you a response that maybe you weren’t expecting here. External Social Networks and Enterprise Social Networks. There is a big disconnect between the Enterprise Social Network (behind the firewall) and the External Social Network (beyond the firewall). This isn’t a technology response, but a cultural response. Employees are your companies Brand ambassadors and should be leveraged as such but fear of what they might say prevents this. This is creating a disconnect in consistent messaging and preventing engagement opportunities with your customers.”

Sam Fiorella – http://twitter.com/samfiorella
image“Google+ and YouTube are natural partners and work together for the brand’s benefit on many levels. Google+ Hangouts upload directly to a YouTube channel for one-click cross-network sharing. Further, with Google Authorship, the combo packs a great SEO/SEM punch. There’s little-to-no expertise required to create conversational videos with customers, vendors, the  media or others and best of all, the platforms are free!

When talking about disconnected networks, I believe those are Pinterest and YouTube. Each are successful in their own right and each is a visual medium. Pinterest is great at sharing with Facebook but doesn’t accept other forms of visual content from other networks well. I see great opportunities for individuals and business if Pinterest would allow the inclusion of videos onto their boards, it would make for a richer experience.”

As for me? I believe that Facebook and Instagram are a very powerful combination. The ease with which you can insert creative, timely images in to your Facebook timeline, and the ease with which users can interact, share, and comment on this activity make them a natural fit for both personal use and for showcasing the personality of a brand.

Where I fail to see much synergy is between Pinterest and Twitter. Much in the same way that the absence of Instagram image support within Twitter has hurt the synergy between them, I feel that it is a crucial missing element that Pinterest should be working towards achieving. Being able to see a pin from within Twitter without the need to click would add a lot of utility, enabling users to view and re-share Tweeted content from Pinterest in one step instead of multiple steps in two different apps.

As you can clearly see, there is no definitive, all-encompassing answer to the question, which appears to be the general nature of social media to begin with. Everyone does it differently, and that’s ok. Ultimately it comes down to your personal ‘taste’ when choosing the social networks that work best for you.

What do you think? Are there two networks that consistently create business magic for you? Or are there two that don’t jive for you at all? Let’s hear!

Jonathan on Google+

SEO Poison: What you get when you hire a link farmer

by Jonathan Barrick

Ever get a phone call from someone claiming to be from XYZ Digital Web Services who’s been researching your company’s website on Google and noticed that it isn’t on page 1 for important keywords? Then they’ll kindly tell you that they can help get you ranked on the first page of all major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? After all, it’s a lot of work to get on page 1 of Google. You’re competing with all the really big sites for those top spots, and it’s a real tough fight!

There’s just one problem: They get you there by flooding the internet with garbage. It’s called ‘Black Hat SEO’, and it is the scourge of internet marketers worldwide. It relies entirely on exploiting search engine algorithms for their loopholes and selling these tricks as legitimate services to unsuspecting companies. The newspaper backlinks from Freshlinks is what one could check out when it comes to link building.

For example, let’s look at one of the most common exploits employed by these scammers: Backlinks. Most seasoned SEO pros (see more about it)will tell you of the importance of backlinks. These are links found on other sites that point back to yours. In a nutshell, the more backlinks you have, the better. The quality of those backlinks is the second half of the equation. Backlinks to your site that are found on popular, relevant websites are worth far more in the eyes of search engines than those found on sites that have nothing to do with your company or industry. With the help of SEO services like sirlinksalot you can grow your website.

However, these SEO magicians that claim to boost you to page 1 on Google simply ignore the ‘quality’ side of the equation and just go after ‘quantity’. They employ their armies to scour the internet for any blog or website that allows comments to be posted, and randomly post gibberish text containing links to your site. These poor victim sites and blogs end up with junk comments piling up on their posts, with little else they can do but manually delete each one. Often times they slip by unnoticed, perpetuating the problem for everyone.

There are a few telltale signs that comments are being posted by a link farmer. Often riddled with horrifying grammar and spelling mistakes, within each comment there will inevitably be a backlink embedded in to the text of the comment so that it doesn’t immediately get caught at a glance. You actually need to read it to be sure of what it is. Once you do, you’ll notice how completely irrelevant they are to the content of the original post. When it comes to spreading the word on a service or product, getting target customers and understanding the basics of building a connection with them is important.

Fortunately, Google and other search engines aren’t just sitting on their hands. They don’t want their systems gamed any more than we do, so they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms to close loopholes and make results increasingly more ‘real’ based on what you’re looking for.

Often times what happens with companies who fall victim to link farmers and Black Hat SEO will notice a massive drop in their rankings whenever Google releases a new major update to their algorithms. This is because whenever those exploits and loopholes get closed, Google slams the door really hard on sites that have been gaming the system.

Here’s the thing about SEO: No matter what detailed changes occur in their algorithms, search engines will always reward websites that:

  1. Have quality content
  2. Are updated regularly
  3. Are linked and backlinked with relevant partners

If you cover those three bases, then you shouldn’t see any drastic swings when an SEO update occurs. There’s no magic bullet for SEO. It’s a long term investment, and rewards those who focus on quality, above all else. So the next time you get a call from someone promising magical SEO results guaranteed to push you to #1 – Politely say “Thanks, but no thanks”.

But we can each do our part to help minimize the problem:

  • Delete any comments like these that find their way on to your site or blog.
  • Don’t hire any company making lofty promises about page 1 rankings.
  • Spread the word to colleagues to they don’t fall victim either.
  • Focus your site content on quality, and release new material as regularly as you can.

Black Hat SEO and link farming sucks for everyone. Customers hate it because there’s no guarantee that the companies on page 1 of Google actually deserve to be there. Companies hate it because even if they are the most relevant company for the keywords, they can be bumped down on the list of results because of sites who game the system. Unsuspecting companies who do hire link farmers take a major reputation hit when they get found out, and when algorithm changes cause their rankings to plummet. It’s just bad news all around. I hope this post sheds a bit of light on how link farmers operate, and why you should avoid it like the plague. If this post saves at least one good company from getting involved with the ‘bad crowd’, it’ll all be worth it.

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

Jonathan on Google+

How Tim Hortons hit a home run combining TV and social media.

by Jonathan Barrick

imageMonday night saw one of the greatest examples of brilliant branding combining with TV product placement and social interaction. The iconic Canadian brand Tim Hortons appeared on How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM) as part of a long-running gag on the show, and the results are tremendous.

It’s an elaborate story, but it all comes together in the end, trust me.

Tim Hortons has appeared before on the show. One of the characters, Robin, played by real-life-Canadian Cobie Smulders, is a Canadian living in New York who spent her teenage years in Canada as one of it’s biggest pop stars, Robin Sparkles.

In this particular episode, her fiancee Barney, played by the brilliant Neil Patrick Harris, travels to Canada in hopes of discovering a terrible secret from Robins past, which he attempts to uncover while interrogating her ex-boyfriends at a Tim Hortons coffee shop.

image

At this time it’s revealed that the entire story of Robin Sparkles’ dark past can be learned by watching an episode of ‘Underneath the Tunes’ from MuchMusic, Canada’s answers to ‘Behind the Music’ and MTV, respectively. After obtaining a copy of the show, Barney and the remaining friends watch it, uncovering more details including the epic fall from stardom when Sparkles becomes an obsessed stalker and changes from pop princess to angry grunge rocker.

‘Underneath the Tunes’ also features a slew of cameos from famous Canadian stars of all types, from Rush frontman Geddy Lee, to 90210 star Jason Priestly, and Full House comedian Dave Coulier. All of them reminisce about the fall of Robin Sparkles, and Steven Page from the band Barenaked Ladies makes the powerful statement that:

“To this day, you ask any Canadian where they were when Robin Sparkles lost it, not only can they tell you which Tim Hortons they were in, but what donut they were eating. Me? Wawa, Ontario. Blueberry Fritter.”

We then hear from each cameo star, from Alex Trebek to Luc Robitaille, their Tim’s location and donut. By far the most memorable was Jason Priestley, who was so distraught that he:

“Crammed a Timbit in to a Strawberry Vanilla and invented ‘The Priestley’. Should’ve been the best day of my life.”

image

Now, this in and of itself was easily enough to get people fired up and talking about the show on Twitter, with #himym and #robinsparkles hashtags trending, as well as people posting their own #robinsparkles TIm Hortons & donut stories. (Yes, I did too. And for the record, it was Barrie, Ontario. Honey Cruller.)

Now for the ‘social’ part. First, they posted a clip from the show on their Facebook page with all the great Tim Horton’s references, which generated tons of comments, likes, and shares. They also got in to the conversation on Twitter, responding to mentions and talking with fans.

image

Here’s the link to their Facebook video: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=331151936984294

But the best part? They then posted this picture:

image

BRILLIANT.

They actually created ‘The Priestley’. Jason himself responded with admiration, Cobie Smulders clearly wants one of her own. And fans went nuts.

image

image

Everything came together flawlessly. Tim Hortons took ownership of all the stereotypes about their brand, and of Canadians, and showed that they love to laugh about them as much as anyone else in front of a massive North American audience. The stars who made cameos had tons of fun with this appearance, I’m sure. HIMYM undoubtedly got a boost in viewership due to all the chatter and positive mentions happening.

This is a perfect example of what brands can accomplish by having a real personality, being proud of it, and HAVING FUN WITH IT.

I give Tim Hortons a perfect 5-Timbit rating for this brilliant display of being awesome.

Legen – wait for it…….dary!

When a business ‘humanizes’, what kind of human will it be?

image

by Jonathan Barrick

Social media is humanizing business, and few can explain how and why this is happening better than @garyvee, so I’ll let him sum it up before we move on:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UkiM3OaHxw?rel=0]

Video -> The Thank You Economy: How Business Must Adapt to Social Media

“We are living through the humanization of business. The reason that so many people watch my show, buy my books, why I’m one of the top 300 most followed people on Twitter, and by far the least famous or brand-recognized, is because I out-cared everybody.” – Gary Vaynerchuk on the ‘Thank You Economy’

Many books have been dedicated to this simple yet powerful theory, with more being written every day. Business consultants are dedicating their whole careers to helping businesses humanize themselves. Social media advocates all over the world have been heralding the rise of the humanized business as a wonderful era, full of respect for consumers and for the communities they form.

Wonderful words have been used to describe the traits of the humanized business:

Honest, Caring, Trustworthy, Open, Generous, Courageous, Dedicated, Appreciative, Respectful

And the list goes on, and on. Put it all together, and it sounds like an amazing shift for businesses. Heck, possessing all of those traits would make businesses better humans than most actual humans. Which is the crux of the whole thing. Not all humans possess all those traits, so why do we assume that humanizing a business will result in it gaining so many positive attributes?

Let’s be honest; Some humans are jerks. Some are selfish. Some are manipulative, deceitful, and greedy. Some are arrogant, boastful, and pushy. Some are just generally unpleasant, uncouth, and undesirable. It’s hard to deny that some businesses will fit these descriptions, too. Customer satisfaction rates and countless testimonials only confirm this to be true.

Of course, you can’t possibly worry about what kind of human everyone else’s business will be. You just need to look at your own, and it comes down to one thing: CULTURE. @markwschaefer hits the nail on the head in this interview with @brennermichael where he says: “The most over-looked factor in social media success is coincidentally the most important one — corporate culture.”

Without a doubt, it’s the culture contained within your organization that dictates what kind of human your business will be as the result of engaging in social communications. Does your company already care about each and every customer’s satisfaction? Does your company already care about it’s impact on the world around it? Does your company already choose to do business with ethical, well-respected suppliers and partners? These are the factors that determine social media success or failure.

Need an example of how this actually plays out in the real world? Check out the classic story of Boners BBQ as told by @unmarketing:

http://www.unmarketing.com/2012/01/10/worst-use-of-social-media-of-2012-boners-bbq/

imageWhat kind of human did social media turn their business in to? The answer is pretty clear. I have no doubt that the culture at that restaurant was like that long before the advent of social media. Behind closed doors, conversations like that wouldn’t have gone any further than the few employees ranting about it at the end of the day. Now? Their company culture becomes visible to all, and it’s not pretty.

On the other side of the spectrum there’s the famous social superstar company, Zappos. In their own words: “Your culture is your brand.”The definitive poster child for brilliant use of social media and exceptional customer service. This company is one of the most respected humanized businesses in the world, and they are admired far and wide for their amazing corporate culture. Their customers are their best friends, and Zappos lets them know it, day in and day out.

Social media is humanizing business, no doubt about it. It truly brings the inherent traits of your business to light like no other type of communications we’ve ever seen. However, if the traits of your corporate culture aren’t the kind of traits your customers look for in new friends, you might want to take steps to fix them before opening yourself up for the world to see. After all, every human needs to do a little self-improvement from time to time.

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

The Promise of Social Brands

Advertising is full of crap. Well, at least most of it is, I think we’d all agree. Advertisements and brand messages have long been full of lofty promises and ridiculous imagery that alludes brands to be magical entities given to us from the heavens to alleviate the pain of every day tortures like laundry, dusting, and what to make for dinner. Without them, our lives would descend in to unparalleled misery and despair.

More than a few humorous articles have been written online chronicling hilarious ads from decades gone by that made promises so laughable, we are astonished that anyone ever actually believed them. Cigarettes that soothe throat irritation. Exercise contraptions that melt fat away while you sit on your ass. Young lovers coming together through a mutual desire to consume lard.


Seriously?

Oh, most definitely. In fact, the promises being made by brands today aren’t that far removed from those of the past. Swiffer dusters that make cleaning so much fun you have to dance. Cat treats so tempting they make your cat destroy fences to get one. Magic shoes that give you an award-winning butt just by wearing them.


Reebok EasyTone Shoes Commercial

Things are different now.

Consumers are talking about everything. We’re comparing our experiences with others, not just in our immediate group of personal friends, but with people around the world. We’re realizing that poor customer service isn’t just an isolated incident, and crappy products abound. We’re voicing our dissatisfaction of companies with the world, and the world is on our side. We’re fed up. We’re speaking up. And companies need to step up. Deliver on your promises, or you will feel the wrath.

This is the promise of social brands.

We’re just at the cusp of this change. Although some forward-thinking businesses recognize the shift of power, many more continue on, blissfully unaware that promises made are now going to have to be kept. Or else.

One of two things is going to need to happen, and it’s going to need to happen fast if a brand wants to earn kudos instead of complaints:

1 – Brands will cease to make promises that cannot be kept.

or

2 – Brands will actually deliver on the promises they are making.

Companies cannot afford to be called out for not delivering. It’s too easy for the reality of the brand experience to be brought to light by customers and made public for the world to see. Social is going to force brands to be real about their promises, one way or another. If a brand makes an ad depicting a fragrance so potent it makes women de-clothe as they passionately run towards an unsuspecting man, we’ll call BS on it before the logo even appears. It’s not going to be worth it to create stuff like that anymore.

Social is reducing the variance between the ridiculous promises brands make & the reality of the actual brand experience.

Eventually, we’ll hit an equilibrium where the expectations we have of a company based on the messages we receive will be exactly what we get. Or if we’re lucky we’ll get more than we expect. That’d be nice.

Of course this all hinges on the vocal consumer. Consumers need to continue speaking, louder and louder. Share more and more. Call out brands that don’t deliver, and praise those that do. Smart companies will do what they need to do, and we’ll all be better for it. Companies that don’t? Well, we really don’t need them around anyway.

Ok brands, it’s time to deliver.

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

Share of Search – How much interest are you capturing?

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Web metrics are in a constant state of evolution. As we gain access to more and more raw data and behavioural reports through tools like Google Analytics, the necessity of using more effective metrics rises to put all that data in to some kind of useful context so that we can truly understand what the information is really telling us about our business and markets.

One of the most powerful metrics that I’ve been experimenting with more frequently lately is what Google Analytics wizard Avinash Kaushik refers to as ‘Share of Search’ (number 6 on his list of key metrics). In simplest terms, ‘Share of Search’ can be defined as the portion of overall online interest in a particular keyword that you are capturing. That is to say, if there are 100 searches every day for your product category, how many would your site receive? 10%? 20%? 50%?

If your ability to be found online is important to you, then taking a look at what your current estimated share of search is, and making changes to potentially improve this metric, could have dramatic effects on how you approach your online activities. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple metric to calculate, requiring only a few points of data which are easily obtained.

Here’s how simple the formula is:

Your monthly search referral traffic for a specific keyword or phrase / Google’s average monthly searches for that specific keyword or phrase x 100 = Your estimated % share of search.

You can easily obtain your sites monthly search referrals for specific keywords or phrases from your Google Analytics dashboard. To get the average overall searches for that phrase or keyword through Google, you can use the Google Keyword Tool. Simply make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples by setting the same criteria and restrictions in both tools (country/region, keyword vs. phrase, etc).
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Once you’ve obtained your estimated Share of Search, you can begin to monitor it for changes. As your share of search rises, you should try to determine what factors this might correlate to. Did you do a big advertising push? Is interest in your product seasonal? Did you publish strong new content such as blog posts or educational articles? Is there a trade show coming up?

If your share of search decreases, take a look at what might be causing it. Are competitors making big changes to their websites or publishing strong new content? Is your industry seeing an overall decline? Are your ads or marketing messages misaligned with market needs? Is your product becoming obsolete?

Continually monitoring your Share of Search allows you to keep tabs on how ‘findable’ your business is, and how effective your web properties are at capturing the interest of your potential customers. Remember: Search performance is all based on RELEVANCE. The more relevant your content, the more you should see your share of search increase. In theory, an increase in share of search should correlate to an increase in market share as well. Hence, by measuring changes to your share of search and comparing to changes in your market share, you can see if there are disconnects or misalignments in your content, marketing messages, and product offerings.

The real key to effective web metrics is CONTEXT. Simply looking at big numbers like page views and number of visitors doesn’t give you any insight in to how you compare to the rest of the world out there. By looking at more context-driven metrics like share of search, you can begin to understand how your actions impact your performance in the market.  However keep in mind that there is no one magic metric that answers all questions. Share of search is just one more gauge of performance for you to look at. There are many more, but hopefully the simplicity of share of search and the insight it can give you will inspire you to dig deeper in to your data and see the real story that it’s trying to tell you. Big numbers mean nothing. Big context is everything.

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

Brand Against The Machine – A Book Review

by Jonathan Barrick
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After years of relentlessly being inundated by business books overflowing with textbook terms like ‘brand equity’, ‘value proposition’, and ‘positioning statement’, this book was incredibly refreshing and rejuvenating. It cuts through the BS and gives you the tools you need to build a powerful brand TODAY.

‘Brand Against The Machine’ isn’t like any other brand book you’ve ever read. Its chapters are short, and free of fluff. Each one is like an espresso shot of inspiration. The language style is conversational, and injected with humour. Author John Morgan @johnmorgan wastes no time in getting right to the point: Brand-building is going through a metamorphosis, and things are never going to be the same.

Now that communications between customers and brands have evolved and are far more powerful, far faster, and far more widespread, the branding methodology we’ve traditionally used is being shaken to its core. No longer are brands determined by the company’s positioning statement, but rather what your consumers say and think. They are the judge of what your brand is. You don’t tell them, they tell you.

Morgan’s book isn’t a preachy view from 30,000ft. It provides real-world examples of branding successes and failures using methods that are far from mainstream. One of the most poignant lessons I took away from BATM is to let go of our reliance on the ‘tried and true’. Take a chance, take a risk, and try something that’s never been done before. The most memorable and powerful brands are the ones who break from the mainstream and zig when everyone else zags.

Without a doubt, you will be inspired by this book. Each chapter attacks one particular branding issue or challenge, and will leave you with a simple concept that makes you confident that ‘Yes, we CAN try that’. Brand Against The Machine will undoubtedly be one of those books you keep on your desk or in your office and will be read and re-read time and time again. If you want to know what it takes to build a remarkable brand in 2012 and beyond, you need this book. Part roadmap; Part wake-up call; All awesome.

Find Brand Against The Machine on Amazon

More great stuff from John Morgan

Note: This review was not solicited in any way. My copy of Brand Against The Machine was purchased personally.


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

Who Owns the Account? – Navigating the Minefield of Social Ownership

by Jonathan Barrick

When your job responsibilities include engaging in social media, are the contacts you make truly yours, or do they belong to the company?

It’s a divisive topic for companies who engage in social communications. If you put an employee in the position of representing your brand in social media channels, what happens with that account if that employee leaves your business? How should you set up these accounts, and how ‘personal’ do you make them appear?

Recently, the story of PhoneDog and its former employee Noah Kravitz brought forth a shining example of how things can go horribly awry. PhoneDog alleges they setup the account & username for Kravitz to use for business purposes. Over time the number of followers grew to over 17,000, and when Kravitz left to work for a competitor, he changed the account name to his own & continued to use it.

On the surface, the answer seems pretty clear. PhoneDog setup the account for business, so it’s theirs. However, there are different perspectives that come in to play in the world of social media that muddy the waters. For example, is it certain that the followers were truly following the ‘brand’, or were they following Noah? What’s the context in which this account was used? Does the context even matter, or does the original intent of the account override any personal factors rising from how it was used?

These questions can be extremely difficult to answer for some businesses, and the decisions you make here could have huge repercussions in the future. These are questions not typically addressed in your average social media policy, as they generally stick to covering things like behaviour and the types of content being shared, not the ownership of connections being made between individuals. Fortunately, there are some sensible steps you can take to easily maintain a ‘personal’ face for your brand AND minimize the risk of disruption if certain individuals leave your business.

In navigating this minefield, the first question you need to ask is “Will the account be used for BUSINESS PURPOSES?” If the answer is “Yes”, then I believe that the following criteria for the setup of social media accounts would protect both parties regarding ownership of accounts that are used for business purposes:

  • If the account was created under the individual’s personal identity prior to the beginning of the contract, the account remains property of the individual.
  • If the account was created by the company for the purposes of official company communication/representation, then the account remains property of the company.
  • It is appropriate for small businesses and sole-proprietorships to present themselves through the personal accounts of the owner, but it is important to keep in mind that any personal opinions shared through these accounts directly impact the image of the brand. It is nearly impossible to separate the brand of the business from the brand of the individual in these situations.
  • In larger businesses, it is appropriate for special corporate accounts to be created for each individual who will be participating in social communications, and these accounts should be designated as such. Example: A Dell employee named Jim might communicate on behalf of Dell on Twitter using the handle: @JimAtDell
  • Visually, choosing the right profile picture for the account is also important. Using the example above, it would make sense for @JimAtDell’s account to feature a picture of Jim with the Dell logo added to it in order to visually distinguish it as an official company account.
  • If the company will have multiple individuals contributing through the same account, it is effective to add the initials of the individual posted at the end of each piece of content to designate the person responsible for that posting. Example: An employee named Mike Smith tweeting through the @starbucks account would end each of his tweets with ‘MS’
  • In situations where multiple people are using the same social account on behalf of the company, it would be appropriate for the profile picture to be that of the corporate logo, or other universally applicable image not associated with any one particular individual. Although in certain situations, one individual may be designated to be the figurehead of the account, and therefore use of their picture along with a logo would be appropriate.
  • In certain situations, it may be wise to cross-reference the account of the individual and the account of the company in the bio spaces of each account. From the example we used earlier, Mike Smith’s @mikesmith personal twitter account bio might mention he tweets from @starbucks with the initials MS, and the @starbucks account might mention tweets from @mikesmith in its bio. This would help to ensure that business followers and personal followers are aware of the difference between the two.

Ultimately, every company needs to choose the approach that best suits their brand & their goals. And in the event that the one, singular face of your brand in social media decides to leave your business, the reality is that some of your fans WILL inevitably go with them. Of course, how many fans leave will depend on more than just how you approach each of the factors I laid out above. HOW they leave, WHERE they go, and WHY they left will all play a role in how things pan out for your business.

The best approach, of course, is to maintain a clear line of communication to the employees managing the accounts regarding the company’s expectations. Make it clear at the very beginning that the accounts created for the purposes of business belong to the company. They are communications tools just like laptops and cell phones, and the employee should understand that when they leave they must return all property. That includes Twitter accounts!

On the other side of the spectrum, companies must recognize that just like personal laptops or cell phones, a personal Twitter account stays with the individual. If you ask or require them to use their own equipment or account for company purposes, then you’d better respect their ownership of it.

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

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