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Over-Sanitizing Your Content

16 May

Over-Sanitizing Your Content

Creating original content for your business is a great thing, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you’re constantly scrubbing out all the dirt, bite and passion from your blog posts, tweets and videos. Sometimes getting a little grimy is good thing.

I speak with businesses every week that say they want to make their corporate communication channels compelling and engaging to their users, yet when it comes time to pull the trigger, they trim and cut out all the meat that made the content worth publishing in the first place.

Recently, Chris Brogan posted an article on his site about agencies discontinuing their blogs due to lack of engagement and readership. He believes, like I do, that if no one is reading your blog, it’s probably because it’s boring.

Businesses take risks every day. Some of them pay off and some don’t. Content creation is an investment – one that I believe is not only worthwhile, but essential to your business. If you’re going to spend the money and human capital to make a go of it, have the courage to push boundaries. Be bold. Speak your mind. Take a position on issues relevant to your industry. That’s what your users want to see and it’s what will help you build a passionate community around your offerings.

What do you think? Do you agree that we shouldn’t over-sanitize our corporate content, or is there more at play here? I’d love to get your comments below.

Converse Embraces Their Rock N’ Roll Status

23 Jan

Converse Embraces Their Rock N’ Roll Status

Converse All-Stars have long been the footwear of choice for rockers of all genres, ages and styles. From the Ramones to Joan Jett to Billie Joe Armstrong to Slash, Converse have dominated the rock n’ roll uniform for decades. In fact, in full disclosure, I own about 10 different pairs of “Chucks” in various styles and colors and wear them just about every day. To me, the word “iconic” doesn’t begin to do this brand justice.

Today, I saw that Converse is giving back to the music community that’s been so good to them by opening a recording studio in Brooklyn, NY that caters to up-and-coming talent. The best part for bands? If you’re selected you get recording time free of charge. You also get Converse’s considerable promotional muscle working to help you find a larger audience for your work.

As Converse’s CMO, Geoff Cottrill, says “we are absolutely in the business of selling footwear and apparel. This is an opportunity for us to say thank you to lots of people who are already wearing our footwear and apparel.”

Obviously, Converse is spending a significant amount of money to fund this studio in the hopes that the investment keeps them relevant in the hearts and minds of rockers throughout the world. Is it a good plan? I think so. Rock n’ roll has arguably kept this brand hip and timeless in a way that few others have been able to pull off. This project allows Converse to talk about the support they offer to the music community, while hopefully capitalizing on the goodwill and hype of the social media community.

What do you think? Is this a quick ploy by Converse or a real chance for struggling musicians to get their music heard in a way not possible before? I’d love to get your comments below.

A Look Back at BlogWorld Los Angeles

10 Nov

A Look Back at BlogWorld Los Angeles

Last week I attended BlogWorld Los Angeles in my capacity as Evangelist / Community Manager / Blog  Lead at eBay Partner Network. BlogWorld is always one of my favorite events each year because of the swell of creativity and passion that overflows from each attendee. In addition to meeting lots of new people, it’s always great to connect with old friends and reminisce about the old days of podcasting and the infancy of blogging. This year showcased the continuing maturity of the social media and online content space. Brands continue to take notice and choose to be part of the conversations on a very social level.

I put together this video recap as part of the latest season of ePN TV. Take a look:

You can read more about my experience over at the eBay Partner Network Blog.

Grow Your Audience with Twitter

4 May

Grow Your Audience with Twitter

Today I wrote a post for the eBay Partner Network Blog that I think is very relevant to my readers here. I’ve often talked about the importance of using social media in a smart way that is centered around goals and building log term brand reputation:

From the ePN Blog:

“As publishers at eBay Partner Network, many of you use websites or blogs as part of your business model. That means you’re constantly thinking about how to increase traffic to those properties and stimulate more engagement with your brand. Today I want to talk to you about how you can accomplish that more effectively using Twitter.”

For me, using Twitter involves three major components:

1. Setting Up Your Infrastructure

Did you choose a Twitter handle that properly reflects and represents your brand? Did you complete your profile in a complete and thoughtful way? Did you include your URL?

2. Creating Excellent Content

A couple weeks back I wrote about how Content is King – that applies especially to social media channels like Twitter. How can you expect people to follow and engage with you on Twitter unless you have something interesting or important to say? A word of caution though: don’t use Twitter as a one-way broadcast channel. People get over that really fast. Instead, try to get involved in conversations and be part of a meaningful dialogue.

3. Building Your Community

This will take you a bit of time and effort and shortcuts will usually come back and bite you. I recommend following people that are into the same things that interest you. Do keyword searches for people that have the same types of interests and engage them in a discussion. Over time, people will see you a contributing member of the community and will start to follow you back.

Make sure you check out the full article over at the eBay Partner Network Blog for a deeper dive on these points.

Hashtagging Primetime

26 Apr

Hashtagging Primetime

I’m sort of a TV nut. Truth be told, I probably spend too much time obsessing about my favorite shows. In my defense I can say that I’ve drummed up more than a few content ideas for this blog by feeding my TV addiction. Watching what brands do well (and do poorly) in their television marketing has sparked more than a few tirades on these pages.

Two weeks ago I was watching an episode of Fringe on Fox. In the lower right hand corner of the screen, just above the affiliates ID badge, I noticed the hashtag “#Fringe.” For those unfamiliar, a hashtag is either a community or brand driven convention labeled with a “#” meant to add additional context to tweets. While using hashtags to promote a show may not be a new concept, Fox is the first network that I’ve seen use hashtag placement on screen for the entire episode.

So, who cares right? Well, as a marketer, YOU should.

FOX GETS TWITTER

Clearly Fox understands the power of Twitter. I also appreciated the subtly of their hashtag implementation. They didn’t beat it over our heads with a big explanation or garish graphics. Instead, they figured that if you are hip to Twitter, there was no explanation needed. To those of us dialed into the social web, that makes it sorta cool.

SAY NO TO THE DVR

One of the big obstacles that TV executives have been battling in recent years is the ubiquitous DVR. When people timeshift their favorite shows, they fast-forward through the advertising. That advertising is what keeps networks on the air.

I personally don’t know anyone that schedules time to watch their favorite shows when they actually air – do you? Instead, we program our season passes into our DVR and watch our faves on our own schedule. Instead of fighting that viewer shift, Fox is doing something that might actually have the power to affect real change on that behavior – they are creating a community experience around a shared passion.

Let’s use sports as an example – why do you think that DVRing sporting events hasn’t really caught on? I think it’s because sporting events are meant to be shared by a community – we feel connected to the fact that others in a relevant geographic zone are watching something at the same time that we are watching it. In fact, if you’ve logged onto Twitter or Facebook in the last week you’ve surely seen people live updating while watching the NBA playoffs. As humans, we get off on those types of shared experiences. Fox is essentially creating that type of communal event around Fringe. By creating and encouraging the use of a hashtag, they are inviting fans of the show to watch it as it airs and live tweet with millions of other enthusiasts. You can’t create that level of excitement with a timeshifted program.

SPREAD THE WORD

There is no better way to create buzz about your shows than with strong word of mouth. NBC can (and has) shown me all the promos for “The Voice” that I can stand, but I’m way more likely to watch it if I see members of my social circle talking about it online. Traditional advertising has it’s place, but you can’t beat the trusted recommendation of your personal social graph. By creating and promoting the use of a hashtag, Fox is not only connecting enthusiasts of its shows during their airing, but also generating trending buzz on Twitter.

SAVVY VIEWERS

Would this type of campaign work on a show like NCIS or Law & Order? Doubtful. Those shows tend to skew to an older, less tech-savvy demographic. My guess is that you wouldn’t find my Dad watching either of those programs while updating his Facebook profile. The audience for Fringe on the other hand is a younger, hipper demographic and Fox is taking advantage of that enthusiasm. For the record, I’ve also seen them apply the hashtag treatment to Glee as well. You don’t get a more rabid, vocal fanbase than the “Gleeks.”

MINIMAL INVESTMENT, MAXIMUM RETURN

These are the types of tactics that brands don’t spend enough time thinking about. If you break this campaign down, it involved absolutely no time, resources or infrastructure on the part of Fox to implement. Hell, their graphics department didn’t even have to create a badge! All they did was type #Fringe or #Glee into the character generator and apply it to the screen. Everything else is handled by the existing Twitter platform. It doesn’t get any simpler or more cost-effective to launch a marketing initiative than that.

What other tactics have you seen that are as easily deployed ? I’d love to get your comments below.

Yep, Content Still Rules

4 Apr

Yep, Content Still Rules

I love looking back at stuff I’ve written or taped and seeing how my opinions have changed since that period in time. Sometimes I shake my head and wonder what I was thinking. Other times I pat myself on the back that I was right about how something would play out.

Today I was sifting through some social media content on YouTube and I came across this interview I had done with CT Moore at last year’s Affiliate Summit East. He asked me about what I was hearing people talking about as trends at the show and also about Twitter’s foray into advertising.

Looking back at this seven and a half months later I think the concepts still hold up. People are constantly looking at search strategies and how to maximize every dollar spent and Twitter’s foray into advertising and promoted Tweets has served them well so far.

But let’s talk about content for a second. I talk a lot about the value of content on this blog and in CT’s video. I thought it was important almost 8 months ago and I think it’s important now. Whether you’re doing full blown video production or creating interesting snippets on Twitter in 140 characters or less – you’re building and sharing content that has the potential to add value to someone’s online experience. Adding value helps to foster trust and build relationships. That is powerful currency in today’s online world.

I talk to companies all the time that think nothing of spending $40,000 on a corporate website, but won’t invest $5,000 on creating blog content. They’ll send 10 people from their sales team to a tradeshow at a cost of $30,000, but won’t entertain the thought of investing 10% of that amount in building a communication channel like Twitter. It’s short-sighted and these types of companies are going to be left behind.

Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman wrote a great book called, appropriately, “Content Rules” and it’s not only a great read, but it’s also a great hands-on reference guide to crafting great content in areas like social media, ebooks, webinars and podcasts. I highly suggest you pick it up.

What value does your business place on content? How does it rank in priority within your overall marketing mix?

You Got Me Gmail…

1 Apr

You Got Me Gmail…

I’m not one for April Fool’s jokes. They always seem so obvious to me. Today, I was definitely caught off guard.

I logged into my Gmail account and noticed the “Gmail Motion BETA” link at the top right-hand corner. I clicked on it and proceeded to watch the video:

As I was watching it I kept thinking about how stupid this was. I kept thinking, “wow, this is going to fail bigtime.” It never occured to me that this was an April Fool’s joke. I guess I’m the idiot.

Kudos to Goole for maintaing their sense of humor and clearly spending significant resources to make this all happen.

The Onion: Facebook a Dream Come True for CIA

22 Mar

The Onion: Facebook a Dream Come True for CIA

First off, I love The Onion. They have a way of summing up exactly what we all think, but most of the time don’t dare say. Even though this video is comedy, I thought it was relevant for the blog. Facebook has revolutionized how we communicate with out friends and families – so much so that we now know what everyone is up to – and where they’re doing it – all the time. While this certainly has it’s benefits for us marketing types, we should remind ourselves as Facebook users – and users of the social web in general – that we are sharing information online. Forever.


CIA’s ‘Facebook’ Program Dramatically Cut Agency’s Costs

I am OK with my information being out there. I don’t care that people know how old I am or that I live in Santa Barbara. Sure, some will say I am taking a risk by putting those pieces of info out there, but I think there are risks in everything. You have to live your life. Just understand the parameters you’re comfortable with in using the internet and stick within them.

Social Media: What Should I Measure?

15 Mar

Social Media: What Should I Measure?

Last week I wrote about what I think you can expect in terms of ROI on a social media strategy. This week, I want to focus on what you should be measuring to gauge the productivity of your initiatives. These are not hard and fast rules, but more my personal preference of metrics.

BLOG

Your blog should be your hub, your epicenter. It’s the soul and personality of your business. In addition to being the most effective place to create and share content, it will also boost your domain rank in search results on sites like Google.

Measuring your blog is fairly straightforward. I use Google Analytics and keep monthly tabs on things like pageviews, visits,  and time spent on site. Also, look under the “content” section in GA to see which of your posts has had the most impact in terms of pageviews and average time on page. My analytics tell me that “Bad Emails Killed the Radio Star” has been my most popular piece of content so far, but people spent the most time (five minutes and 40 seconds) reading “Driving Traffic to Facebook.”

Next, I look at where my traffic is coming from. Right now, 30.41% is direct traffic, 56.43% is from referring sites and 13.16% is from search engines. Of those referring sites, Twitter and Facebook are my top two traffic generators.

Finally, I look at how I’m doing this month compared to last month. Google Analytics tells me I’m up 19.51% in total traffic.

TWITTER

Twitter has been my most popular referral engine for my blog thus far – I can see that from Google Analytics, but what else can I measure in Twitter? First off, I look at how much my community is growing. Are people following me on a regular basis? Is my number of followers going up and not down each month?

Next, Let’s take a look at Twitter engagement. How many people are clicking on links that I Tweet? A great way to measure this is by setting up a free account at Bit.ly. It will tell you how many people have clicked on a particular link making it easy for you to measure how far and wide your content is traveling. Beyond clicking, how many people are re-tweeting your content? Are you creating #hashtags? Are people picking them up and using them?

Twitter can be measured and quantified in a variety of ways. These are just a few of the metrics I look at to make sure my Twitter mojo for my own brand is moving in the right direction.

FACEBOOK

More and more data is emerging that Facebook may not be the best place to interact with consumers. Sure, it’s the largest social network on the planet – by far – but new studies suggest that users don’t necessarily want to interact with brands there. Instead, they see Facebook as a place for interaction with “real” friends and family. That said, I think there is still value in participating there if you’re a business.

How do you measure it? The most comprehensive way is to use Facebook Insights. In addition to tracking obvious things like the number of fans your page has, you can also use Insights to look at Interactions, Post Quality, Page Views, Media Consumption, Discussion Posts and Demographics. Essentially , if there is a stats that has some meaning to your campaign effort, Facebook Insights can probably help you track it.

If Insights is a bit much for you, try looking at simpler things like friend / fan count month over month. Is it increasing at a rate that is meeting or exceeding your stated goals? What about interaction and engagement – are friends and fans commenting on your content and status updates? Are you engaged and commenting back?

YOUTUBE

YouTube is a tricky social media platform. Sure, it has become the defacto standard for online video, but most companies still don’t know how to properly use or measure it. My preference is to not drive traffic to my YouTube.com channel. Instead, I embed my videos on my blog and send traffic there. Why encourage interaction and comments on YouTube’s site, when I can provide a richer experience for users on my own web property?

So what should you measure to gauge YouTube’s effectiveness? I’ll admit that this one is a bit trickier. It’s hard to measure much more than total video views and comments. I think the more valuable metrics when assessing a YouTube video’s success are the ones surrounding the other channels in the social media wheel. Embed the video on your blog and use Twitter and Facebook to distribute it. Then, look at the metrics we’ve outlined above to track the efficacy of that particular piece of content. You’ll get a more comprehensive set of data points.

The other really great thing about using YouTube is the SEO benefits it provides. As we all know, ranking for almost any text keyword is extremely difficult. Getting on the first page of Google for almost any subject is nearly impossible. But, Google is always trying to find a way to feature video items in search results. So, while you may not rank on the first page for text-based keywords, you might be able to get prime placement for a video you created that was tagged and described properly for those competitive terms. The reason? While everyone is out there fighting over text-based results, very few companies are creating relevant video clips thus the competition for those video placements is far less. Obviously, applying some sort of metric and goal around that concept will legitimize your use of YouTube in your social strategy in a big way.

TIP OF THE ICEBERG

Obviously there are hundreds of other social tools I didn’t touch on in this post. I also only scratched the surface of what you can be doing to measure the effectiveness of a social media campaign. For companies that want to really drop some cash and dig into the depths of social media measurement and reporting, there are products like Radian6 that are geared towards enterprise level clients that need more extensive data at a more granular level. While I understand the need for  Fortune 500 companies and the like to go to such lengths to report on such a large component of their marketing budget, I think the tips outlined above should get the majority of you started on planning and launching the first stages of your social media campaigns in a manageable and affordable way.

Increasing Revenue with Social Media?

8 Mar

Increasing Revenue with Social Media?

I pitch to a handful of new clients each week. Some already understand they need a social media strategy, but for a variety of reasons they’ve been unable to implement it on their own. Usually it’s because they don’t have someone on staff that understands the intricacies of new media and they would rather roadtest a lower-risk campaign with an outside contractor rather than hire someone full-time to create and implement their strategy. That’s where I come in to help.

The question I’m asked most of the time on the first phone call is “How much will this social media campaign increase my revenue?” Or, they phrase it another way, usually something like “If we see financial gain from this in the first month or two then we’ll continue it indefinitely.”

This is where I close my eyes on the other end of the phone, calm myself and politely deliver the response that I’ve delivered a thousand times before. I explain that it doesn’t work that way – social media is not a quick fix to increase sales. In fact, if that’s your only objective then the money you’ve earmarked for a new media campaign would be better used on search or affiliate marketing. Both of those channels are optimized for sales and have a proven track record in increasing revenue. Social media, not so much.

WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT FROM SOCIAL MEDIA?

For many potential clients, the call is over after I finish explaining the points noted above. For them it was only about short term sales and if that isn’t possible, there was no point in spending money on all that new-fangled Twitter stuff. But occasionally, I talk to a client that gets it. They understand that social media is an investment in their brand. Below I’ve outlined four things that you should care about when envisioning your social strategy:

1 . RELATIONSHIPS: Social media’s biggest benefit is its power to help build lasting relationships. Sure, you may not make a sale in the first month or the second month – but someday when a member of your social community is in the market for your product, chances are they will buy from you as opposed to your competition. Why? Because you took the time building a relationship, sharing information, offering knowledge and not being sales-y. Chances are they trust and respect your brand and making a purchase from you is an obvious choice. Heck, even if they don’t buy something from you, if you’ve made an impression on them they are likely to share information about your business with their social circle. Nothing beats that trusted recommendation.

2. LISTENING: Most businesses using social media miss out on this one, yet it can be one of the most valuable tools you have in your marketing arsenal. Companies pay thousands of dollars for focus groups and market research – social media has these things baked right into it. By monitoring your social channels for industry keywords and your business name you can learn a lot about what the marketplace is saying about you. What do they like about you? What can be improved? What products do they want that you’re not providing? How much is that information worth to you?

3. CUSTOMER SERVICE: Social media has become a great way to provide excellent customer service to your customers. Companies like Comcast were pioneers in using Twitter to address customer issues. This not only led to Comcast’s search results becoming more positive, but also changed the dynamic of the company. Consumers have become increasingly vocal in social media when they like or don’t like what a brand is doing. These present new opportunities, not only for a business to get involved in the conversation, but also to right any wrongs that may have been done. As a bonus, by keeping your ear close to the ground and monitoring keywords from your industry you may be able to step in and help a disgruntled customer of one of your competitors. How’s that for new customer acquisition?

4. THOUGHT LEADERSHIP: This is usually the fuzziest item of the bunch for most businesses to understand in terms of need. Many businesses simply don’t believe that a blog (your platform for thought leadership) is a must have. I’m here to tell you, it is. Sure, if you’re Coca-Cola you probably don’t need to become a thought leader in soft drink space. But if you’re a business trying to stand out from your competitors, thought leadership is a great way to do it. The best way to build trust in your brand early on is by showing the market that you are an expert in your market segment. The best way to show them that is by creating content: blogging, video, audio podcasts and white papers are all great ways to demonstrate that your people know what they’re talking about. Creating this type of dynamic and shareable content also increases your SEO juice around keywords you care about.

SLOW AND STEADY WINS THE RACE

Social media is not a sprint. It’s not a quick fix. It is an undertaking that has to be integrated into your overall marketing strategy in a thoughtful way. It demands buy-in from the highest levels of the organization and requires genuine intent and transparency from all those participating in the project. I believe eventually a great social strategy does lead to an increase in revenue, but it shouldn’t be the primary goal. Instead focus should be placed on the longterm growth and health of your brand by being cognizant of the four tenets listed above.

Do you coordinate the social strategy at your company? How long have you been doing it? Was it hard to get buy-in? Does executive management see the value in it?