Tagged Business

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. The text marketing platform can be helpful for companies to make their brand aware to public.

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

Jonathan on Google+

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’?

Return On Influence – A Book Review

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Whether you like it, love it or hate it, whether you agree or disagree with its philosophy or purpose, there’s no denying the fact that Klout and other social influence scoring sites are changing the way we all think about online influence and social media. This is the overarching theme of Mark Schaefer‘s latest book, “Return On Influence – The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing”.

There is a simple reason for the meteoric rise of social scoring sites like Klout, Peerindex, and the newest kid on the block, Kred. They promise to keep a running score on something that’s inherently elusive and extremely difficult to measure in any quantifiable way: How likely is it that you will affect behaviour and actions related to a specific topic?

It’s pretty easy to see why this would be valuable information to have. Being able to identify key influencers around specific topics would give businesses and individuals much greater ability to communicate precisely focused messages.

There is of course a great deal of debate around whether such a thing is actually measurable, and whichever side of that argument you fall on I’ll leave you to decide. Ultimately though, the perspective presented in this book will provide insight in to how the algorithms calculate influence scores, the different ways certain actions will affect your score, and how businesses are using these sites to their advantage.

Mark Schaefer does an excellent job in this book by looking at the popularity of Klout, PeerIndex and others as a simple reality of today’s online world. The bottom line is: These sites exist. If trends continue, it’s clear that they aren’t going away anytime soon, so you’d best understand what they do, how they work, and what they can mean for your business.

Schaefer presents both sides of the story through relevant anecdotes and personal experiences. You’ll hear stories of tremendous success along side stories of people gaming the system and being discriminated during job interviews because their scores aren’t high enough. You’ll also hear how social scoring companies like Klout are constantly working towards more effective measurements and minimizing the chance that the system can be gamed.

Social scoring is in its infancy, and as a result it’s sound advice to keep an open mind about it. Given the frequency with which new communication tools have appeared in recent years, I don’t think that anyone can guarantee a prediction about how the business of social scoring is going to play out. But this book gives clarity to some very muddy waters. Overall, Return On Influence is an excellent read, and it will certainly give you pause to rethink your position on influence scoring, regardless of whether your for it or against it.

Find ‘Return On Influence’ on Amazon

Note: This review was not solicited in any way, and my copy of Return On Influence was purchased.

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

Knowledge Hoarders – Does your business have a problem finding the ‘awesome’?

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Businesses reluctant to pursue activities in social media inevitably blame their lack of action on factors like ‘We don’t have time’, ‘Our customers aren’t there’ or the always popular ‘We don’t have anything interesting to say’.

I take issue with all of these, as they’ve all been proven wrong by the countless social media successes of businesses of all types. However, the one that makes me shake my head in frustration most is why so many businesses in all kinds of different industries firmly believe that they’ve got NOTHING to say in social media.

Really? In your entire organization there’s nothing going on that’s worth talking about with your customers? If this is true, then I fear for the future of your company because you’re stagnating.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see the good stuff coming through in your business because you’re so accustomed to the day-in day-out operations that you become numb to what makes your company exceptional. But rest assured, there’s always SOMETHING there that’s timely and relevant to your community. There’s always SOMETHING that’s awesome.

Too many businesses treat knowledge the way those troubled people on “Hoarders” treat the objects that occupy every square inch of their homes. It accumulates gradually, a little bit at a time, nothing is ever actually done with it, and very seldom is it ever realized just how much there actually is. Well, the time has come to unleash the power of your knowledge hoard and share the piles of ‘awesome’ that your company has spent so much time accumulating over the years.

Here’s a few examples of how you might find treasure troves of knowledge you could unleash as great content:

  • Local/Regional Reps – These reps know the ins and outs of their territories. They’ve spent the time learning the intricacies of local markets, and what you need to get things done in specific regions, and as such are a perfect source for targeted blog posts, tweets, or even YouTube videos. For example, does climate affect your product or service? Do you sell in northern Canada as well as the southern US? Well these are the guys you can get insight from on how climate plays a role in their area.
  • Engineers – This group is overflowing with knowledge. Is your product engineered to comply with a certain set of standards or regulations? These tend to be overly complex and hard to understand, so why not use blog posts or short YouTube videos to explain them in terms that matter to your customers? Explaining why things are designed the way that they are goes a long way to building value in your products and trust in your company.
  • Customer Service – FAQ’s are incredibly valuable, and no group is better at compiling a list of this type than your customer service team. These can make great tweets, Facebook posts, and can become an ongoing series of blog posts. One additional thing I’d suggest is adding a bit of personal touch to the list by quoting and attributing the answers to individual reps. They’ll appreciate being presented as an expert, and the readers place more faith in the answer if it comes from an identifiable human. Creating great content should boost your brand not just outside your company, but inside it as well.

Finding the sources of knowledge in your business isn’t a chore. It’s FUN, and inevitably what you’ll find is that your company has a lot more to offer a social audience than you think it does. Great content isn’t your product specs, it’s not your latest pricing special, or your corporate tagline; it’s the awesome that is contained in the brains of your team. Find the awesome, and you’ll find great content that your customers will care about.

Happy hunting!

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

The January Social Checklist – 9 simple things you need to do NOW for 2012

by Jonathan Barrick

2011 was a tremendous year in the world of social communications. We saw the emergence of several new big players in social networks like Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. We also saw massive increases in the use of social by businesses, and a dramatic shift in the way we all interact online.

2012 is undoubtedly poised to continue down this path, and now is the perfect time to make a few simple but powerful tweaks to your online social presence. Here’s a handful of tips that can help you get off to a strong start in 2012!

1 – Consistent profiles

Make sure all of your personal profiles across all the social sites you use are consistent. It should be easy for your Twitter followers to identify you on LinkedIn at a glance, and across all other networks that you participate in. In addition, doing this will also tighten up how you present your personal brand.

2 – Reserve your usernames

You don’t need to use every new social site that starts up, but you never know which ones are going to be huge, so get in early on every site you hear about and register your account. This way you make sure to reserve the same username across all the networks out there, just in case. Again, the key is consistency.

3 – Get the apps

If you don’t have all the apps for all the networks you use, get them now. Easy access to your networks and real-time monitoring are crucial to making sure that you’re not missing anything.

4 – Set up your alerts

Google Alerts, TweetAlarm, and other notification services are extremely valuable to keep you in the know when the conversations turn to you or your company. And don’t forget that you can also use them for any topic that you’re interested in or passionate about. It doesn’t have to be all work all the time.

5 – Link to everywhere from everywhere

You should be able to get to any of your networks easily from your profiles. Some make this easier than others, but at the very least you should make sure that your main ‘hub’ of activity is linked to all your profiles, and all your profiles link to your main hub.

6 – Make a list of ‘Superstars’

We all have a group of individuals that we consider to be the best of the best. If you haven’t already done this, create a special list dedicated solely for those people on your favourite networks so that you can easily browse through the latest stuff posted and shared by your ‘superstars’.

7 – Register for key events

Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for those events that you really want to attend. Register now, and make the commitment. The last thing you want is to miss out on an event that could be a great opportunity to learn and network with other awesome people.

8 – Plan out your essential reading

Check your ‘Superstars’ list for any upcoming books they may be authoring, or anything they may recommend that suits you, and make sure you add them to your reading list for the year. This also counts for blogs that you may stumble across as well. Make sure to keep your list up-to-date as you go!

9 – Choose your key metrics

Identify a handful of metrics that you will track throughout the year that will give you ACTIONABLE information you can use to improve. Everything you do has an impact, but being able to identify WHAT that impact was, and what it means for your brand or business is the key to making positive changes and adjustments as you go.

There you have it! A few simple tips that anyone can use. Hopefully you found at least one or two things here that can help you in 2012, and beyond!

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

For Auld Lang Syne – 5 Resolutions to Help Make Social Media Better

by Jonathan Barrick

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Forget those stereotypical resolutions like losing weight, learning ballroom dance, joining a book club, or taking up piano lessons. This year you can make a real difference by choosing one of these simple, easy-to-follow resolutions that will make unicorns dance, kittens smile, and rainbows shoot out of your ears.

1 – I will never send a Twitter Auto-DM from this moment forward.

The auto-DM was a bad idea from day 1. People still do it. If you’re one of them, then this is the resolution for you!

2 – I will not do anything for the sole reason of ‘raising my Klout score’.

Doing stuff to raise your Klout score only benefits you. There are hundreds of other more worthwhile things you can do to benefit your entire community. Do those instead.

3 – I will not unfollow people simply because they didn’t follow me back.

Really? If you only followed someone because you hoped they’d reciprocate, what are you really trying to accomplish? Follow because you WANT to, and BE followed because THEY wanted to.

4 – I will include a personal message on every invitation to connect on LinkedIn.

Where do I know you from? Why do you want to connect with me? Who ARE you? Blind LinkedIn invites are a really quick way to get the recipient familiar with the location of the ‘Decline’ button.

5 – I will not be ‘too busy’ for my community.

Did someone ask you a question? Answer. Did someone comment on your blog? Respond. Did someone ask for your opinion? Reply. Do you want your community to think you are awesome? Then BE AWESOME.

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‘We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for Auld Lang Syne.’ Happy New Year to you all!