Friday, July 31, 2009

Once You Start, You Can't Stop

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I've had several borderline arguments with marketing directors and traditional advertisers about the need to stay involved in social media once the process is underway. Some of these more traditional communications professionals think that social media can serve as just another venue to share press releases, which means deliver a message and then disappear until the next release.

I tell them that social media can't work in that way. Social media by nature is social. It is about conversations, relationships, building rapport and trust between two parties. That relationship and trust that you've built with your audience becomes null and void if you suddenly drop of the social media map. Not only do you have to start over the next time you want to use social media, but the inability to remain connected may ultimately detract from your company or brand's respect.

You can liken this to meeting somebody at a party. Imagine you hit it off with a person, friend or otherwise, had a great conversation and decided to exchange numbers to hang out again. Lets give you the benefit of the doubt and say you hung out together again about a week later, had another really good time and said you would call them to do it again. All of the sudden you don't call for a couple of months, but you try calling after that two-month break. What kind of response do you think you would get from the person on the other side of the relationship? I can bet that 9 times out of 10 you would something like "Where have you been? Why are you calling me now? No that's okay, I don't think I want to hang out with you anymore."

The point is that if you're going to begin to build a social media presence for yourself or your brand, you have to continue it. Your social media activity can't be started and stopped based on your promotional needs.
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Social Media Strategies Aren't Uniform

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I had yet another conversation today where I heard a statement like "shouldn't we be building out or Facebook page? I know one of our competitors has a big Facebook presence." This type of statement should sound of an alarm in your social media mind.

Every time I hear something like this I want to yell, "YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU!" Social media isn't about doing what works for other people or brands, its about finding the right communication strategy for your specific goals and resources. Listening to best practices is good because it will provide you a road map and ideas to discuss, but ultimately you should determine a completely unique strategy.

Some factors to weigh while determining you social media strategy include:
  • Products and Services offered
  • Target Audience
  • Resources
  • Man power
  • Goals (whether to mass message or engage highly active individuals)
  • Personalities of people communicating on your brand's behalf
A brand shouldn't just jump onto Twitter because they think they're supposed to. Again, each brand/individual is different and your social media strategy has to reflect that.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Funny Social Media Videos

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There are thousands of videos out there about social media, some very serious and some very funny. If you interested in learning about social media through video the resources are definitely available, but here are a couple of the more comedic videos about social media for your viewing pleasure.


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Monday, July 27, 2009

Groupthink in Social Media

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Ron Callari, from Inventor Spot, asked the question "does social media produce groupthink?" This is a fair question with a somewhat predictable answer. Ron does a good job of breaking down the instances of groupthink and explaining his thoughts on the subject.

For those that aren't entirely sure what groupthink is, it occurs when a group of individuals avoid confrontation and questioning what they believe to be the mass consensus because they are either afraid to be wrong or don't want to mess with the amicable nature of the group. Groupthink often leads to quick decisions, which aren't always the best decisions. Nobody in the group thinks critically, asks the hard questions and stands up against what they may believe is the wrong result.

Social media enables groupthink in many cases. People are so concerned about fitting in with a community, increasing their followings and being seen as a authority or reputable source that they refuse to stir the waters. This has been demonstrated many times over with marketing campaigns, social consciousness campaigns and more.

With that said, social media also enables the movers and shakers of the world to really stir the pot. There is no face to face interaction so people are more willing to go out on a limb with a contradictory comment. This scenario has shown to be the minority case, but it does exist.

It is important to note that groupthink on social media doesn't go to extreme levels. There haven't been extreme cases of groupthink like you would find reading the anals of a Phil Zimbardo study.

Another popular psychology phenomena that takes place in social media quite is the "recency effect." This just means that people remember the last thing they heard best. Social media is unfortunately a forum where the recency effect occurs all the time. People are always trying to learn the newest technology, the most up-to-date strategies, want to be the first to post a link. This often means that people forget to process the new information with their long-term or short-term memory, which makes for a lower quality of information.
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Friday, July 24, 2009

Some Friday Fun With Widgets

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Is Video The Next Big Thing In Social Media?

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I've had a quite a few conversations of late that lead to the question "are video sharing sites the next big thing in social media?"

Youtube, Viddler, Vimeo and all the others have really grown and become a force in the social media world. Youtube obviously gets the bulk of acclaim from the general public, but don't sell all the other tools short.

Discussion boards had their time in the sun, Blogs were the big thing for quite some time and social networks/microblogging are currently experiencing the fastest growth. Is the time coming where the written word, even if just 140 characters, will be lost to video sharing? Thoughts?
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Step by Step Social Media Guide for Brands

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Most brands and companies have at least dipped their feet in the waters of social media at this point, but if they haven't it can be daunting for them to start. First, social media is confusing for those that aren't intimately involved in it. There are thousands of communication platforms, a set of new languages and some technical skills required. Second, the brands that aren't using social media are behind the curve and therefore might feel like they can't catch up.

There is no doubt that your brand's social media experience should be completely unique. It should depend on your service/produce, your audience, your goals, your budget and many other variables. With that said, this list is meant to provide a general guideline on what needs to be done to truly leverage social media:

1. Monitor And Listen

This is a vital step. You have to listen to your communities of interest. You need to figure out what they're saying about you and your competitors, as well as determining where they are saying it. Is there a large contingency on Facebook, or is the bulk of you audience congregating on Ning? Are they on 7 different platforms?

Listening can be time consuming or costly (depending on your choice of monitoring method), but as I said before it is vital. Monitoring enables your brand to go straight into a strategy with insight and intelligence. It removes a large part of the guess and check of social media.

If you have no budget, you can start with Google alerts about key terms. If you have a budget their are great monitoring tools out there ranging in price from a few dollars a month to a few thousand dollars a month. The price range is affected by the level of insight you are getting from the monitoring company. If you're looking into hiring a monitoring company or licensing their program, I highly recommend one that provides both quantitative and qualitative insights.

2. Develop A Strategy


Now that you know what your target audience is saying and where they are saying, it is time to put a plan in place. Do you want to build a Twitter account, create a blog, comment on popular sites in existence? These are all questions you have to ask.

In addition to the action items, it must be determined who will be doing the social media work internally. It is pointless and potentially harmful to create social media landing pages and profiles for your brand if the content and engagement isn't going to continue. You should figure out ahead of time who will be in charge of the accounts and consumer interactions moving forward.

3. Construct Your Landing Pages

Now it is time to take action. You've done your due diligence, you've decided on the plan and who will be in charge, it is time to set up your landing page(s) and/or profiles. Most social media platforms are pretty easy to set up. This is even more true of social networks like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and several others. Video/photo sharing channels, Ning accounts, discussion board account, and social bookmarking accounts are also easy to create. Blogs are a little more difficult. The most basic blogs are fairly easy on blogger, wordpress and typepad. If you want to get creative with your blog you might want to seek the help of a knowledgable source.

4. Establish Your Social Media Point Of View

Okay so you have the landing pages or profiles. Now yo have to put up content. Whether is is a blog post, a tweet or something else, you have to produce regular content. This will prove to your audience that you're there to stay, while showing them what value they will be getting from you.

5. Network And Engage

After you've posted content regularly for some time, you need to network with people in your audience. Reach out to the most influential people, share your posts with other sites in your industry and register your Twitter account or blog on directory sites.

It is also key to engage your audience through these communication channels. Ask them questions, respond to inquiries, talk about the things they post about and anything else that might fit.
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This is just a basic layout. If you want to get a little more detailed or have critiques of this social media to-do list please reach out and let me know.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Social Media Value, Attempt at ROI

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Earlier today, WetPaint and Altimeter--two left coast based firms--released their "Ranking of the top 100 Global Brands" study. The goal was to look in-depth and rank the world's biggest brands on their engagement success through social media.


This report should not be taken as final word on ROI or the value of social media, but it does give great insight on engagement in particular. They assert, and rightfully so, that engagement with consumers is a primary indicator to the success of social media. I will let you draw your own interpretations, but from my perspective this is a fantastic piece of work that propels social media forward as a business tool.

There is no doubt that social media is a necessary marketing tool, but the issue for years has been proving the value with metrics and quantifiable numbers. This report doesn't solve that problem, but it will help sway the minds of mid-sized brands that want to catch up to the big boys.
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Guide to Upcoming Social Media Events

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For all those who are interested, Mashable does a great job of showcasing some great social media events around the country. Check out this week's list.
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Saturday, July 18, 2009

You Forgot Blogs, Discussion Boards, Video Sharing and Others

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I just came across an article on the Examiner.com asserting that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is the holy trinity of social media. There is no doubt that these these tools are immensely popular and extremely effective marketing tools, but it is terribly shortsighted to call them the holy trinity.

The first segment of social media that was forgotten would be blogs. I know I've lumped hundreds of millions of sites in together here, but that is what blogging is all about. It is having a singular source to share your thoughts, while connecting with others blogs to network and converse. The power of blogs is amazing. Lets look at Gawker Media Groups blogs in particular:

  • Gizmodo averages over 2 million visits per day
  • Lifehacker averages over 1 million visits per day
  • Deadspin averages just under .5 million visits per day
Those are astounding numbers that cannot be discounted when weighing the value and influence of a social media tool.

Discussion boards are still wildly popular. They are most prevalent when talking about consumer products or college athletics, but lets not forgot about the passion that is shown on these forums. The fervor people display in these forums is greater than you will ever see on a social network or a comment section of a blog.

Video and photo sharing sites also can't be forgotten. The Youtubes and Flickrs of the world have immense influence and often touch the peripheral social media users more than other sites will. These are also rapidly growing platforms and will continue to gain strength moving forward.

I don't want to call out the writer of this original statement, but I think he jumped the gun on declaring the existence of a holy trinity of social media.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Can Social Media Do It Alone?

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Social media as been proven to be a great marketing tool, but can it be relied upon as a stand alone marketing strategy? Clearly with a question like this, I'm going to have to start with the obligatory "it depends." The size of the company/individual/brand, the scope of their campaign and the target audience are all variables that need to be weighed.

With that said, I think the most common answer is NO. Social media should not be used as a solo marketing strategy. It is best used when integrated into a multi-platform marketing plan. This means incorporating traditional media and advertising, maybe including a mass e-mail push and other common components used by corporate America over the years.

Don't get me wrong, there are certainly examples of social media being successful on its own. One of the most commonly used examples comes from Hewlett Packard and Buzz Corps:
  • In early 2008 HP launched a new laptop they dubbed 'The Dragon'
  • HP employed traditional advertising methods initially
  • Sales fell flat
  • With Buzz Corps, they created a competition administered through 31 specially identified techie blogs
  • Sales of the Dragon subsequently increase 84%
  • HPShopping.com experience a traffic increase of 14%
  • Google searches for "31 Days of the Dragon" exceeded 380,000
  • Estimated reach/impressions from the campaign approached 49 million
  • Check here for more
Though these success stories do exists, they are often the exception to the norm. Even companies built around social media like Zappos have a major traditional media and advertising component to their marketing strategy.

Even though there are 200 million plus people on Facebook, over 100 million blogs and Twitter is growing at an amazingly rapid rate, a large segment of the population still visits social media sites in light doses if at all. In order to truly reach the bulk of your target audience, you should actively market on as many platforms as make sense for you particular campaign.

Don't rely on social media to be your lighting in a bottle.
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Let's Get The Ball Rolling

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I’ve started this blog for a couple of reasons. First, I just love talking about social media. Second, I want to share the knowledge I’ve obtained through my years of work in social media and learn from everybody else out there that have so much to offer.

We’ll start with a little bit of background. I graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in psychology of all things. I know all you non-psychology majors out there are saying “what’s he going to do with that” or “way to play it safe,” but it really has been useful in this industry I am a part of. Soon after school, I began working as a media analyst as a communications/public relations company in Charlotte. The clientele consisted of primarily sports and entertainment brands. Within months I was given the opportunity to help shape the direction, services and other major components of the social media side of the company as the Director of New Media. I’ve been at this post for quite some time now. I really enjoy and think I’ve helped to make major strides for my company.

There are certainly going to be people out there that are more knowledgeable than me with each individual skill, but I like to think of myself as well-rounded in social media. I’m well versed in general best practices, macro and micro strategies, monitoring and metrics, the debate about ROI, how best to integrate social media in a cross-platform marketing strategy and many other things.

Now for my philosophy…social media is about building relationships. Every day I find somebody who is wrapped up in the newest technology or the race to get 10,000 followers on Twitter. I try to remind them that social media is about people, trust and community. At its very core, social media should be about having a conversation one-to-one or one-to-many.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for learning about the next big communication channel and new flashy widgets, but I will always keep the personal and social aspect of our world at the forefront. Hopefully you’ll be able to glean some insight from me, but even more than that I’m hoping you engage in a conversation with me and we build on what is already out there in the social media world.

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Who? Why?

Social media often becomes a rat race. Who has the newest technology? Who has the most friends or followers? This blog is designed to slow it down a little and remind people that at its core, social media is about relationships and conversations.

Jake Rosen
Managing Supervisor, Fleishman-Hillard
jake.a.rosen@gmail.com

The content on this site reflects my own opinions and not necessarily those of my employer.

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