What to Do When Your Client Won't Go Social

I've had a lot of discussions lately with other consultants, and some college students, about what to do when clients just won't use social media - when they are afraid to get started, or won't commit to the channels they've already set up.

So many networks! Photo from socialmediahq.
It can be really challenging to get people to commit to social media as part of their communications strategy. Here are some talking points that can get things rolling:

1) You don't have to be everywhere to be successful. Thinking about Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Digg, etc., etc. can be really overwhelming. I suggest that clients start on one or two channels - maybe Facebook and Twitter.  Most smaller organizations should set a goal of having a presence on three channels at the most. Any more, and they are going to be completely overwhelmed. Here's more information about how to decide which social media channels are right for you.

2) Social Media is NOT a strategy, it helps you execute your strategy. Twitter is not a strategy. Facebook is not a strategy. Pinterest is not a strategy. Social media is there to help you meet organizational needs. Your need to educate the public about a certain issue, sell a product, or deliver a service that makes people's lives better. You need to help your clients identify the goals they are trying to reach through the use of social media, and then you can craft a social media strategy that addresses those needs.

3) You don't need thousands (or millions) of fans to do it right. It doesn't matter if you only have 200 Facebook fans if they are the right fans. Social media isn't about getting the most followers, it's about building a community of people who share the same interests and helping people learn more about things that make them curious.

4) It's not too late. You didn't have to start your Twitter feed back in 2007 for it to have an impact. You're not too late to the party, and the fans aren't all used up.You're here now, and you're ready now, so do it now.

How are you helping your clients (or your own company) to go social? Please share or drop me a line to tell me your story.

Removing Barriers to Social Media Engagement

In your travels, you've probably seen some big brands who are barely active on social media. It seems weird, doesn't it, that a Fortune 500 company or a trade association with hundreds of thousands of members would only post on Facebook a few times a week, or that it would never retweet anyone, or never post a video on YouTube, right?

Getting social media right can be like climbing a high mountain.
It's a challenge. Flickr user brewbooks.
Here's what's going on in these organizations, and if you work with one of them, what you might do to help:

1) The debilitating approval process. I have a colleague doing some work for a big company right now. There is a 5-layer approval process for Tweets. The end result? The product SME's responsible for generating content can't be bothered with Twitter, so the channel goes largely unused, except by HR, which retweets the same "We're Hiring!" tweet every few days.

How to help? If the approval process can't be flattened, sometimes it's possible to help the product people package Twitter with other content. For example, this company does a number of whitepapers and other reports. If each report was packaged with publicity  - perhaps including a blog post, press release, and then some content for LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter - then everything could be approved in one process. At that point, five layers wouldn't be as much as an imposition, since everyone would only need to look at one package.

2) The feeding of the content beast. Some organizations  just don't have a lot of new content every week. In fact, MOST organizations don't, unless they traffic in the news and current events. Belief that you can a) only broadcast your own content, and b) you can only promote each piece of content once, can really hold you back.

What to do? Twitter, especially, is a community full of people interested in any number of things who support each other in what they do. Find some organizations with similar goals and retweet some of their tweets. Also, find some news outlets in your industry and retweet important industry news. Last, anytime you get positive media pickups or people from your organization are quoted in the media, post it. Facebook is a wonderful place to engage with your customers - while you'll definitely want to share your media pickups there, it's also a great idea to request user-generated content. Ask your Facebook fans how they feel about issues important to your organization, how they are using your product, or run a video or photo contest. Finally, consider the stock and flow social media strategy. That way, you'll always have content but you'll be ready for breaking news.

3) The fear of true engagement. Many people work in organizations where they aren't allowed to thank people for comments or retweet their followers, or even follow most people back on Twitter. It's not surprising that executives from organizations like this don't see a lot of results from social media - how can they when these tools aren't being properly used?

What's your strategy? You've got to be firm in explaining to your organization that it's violating the social contract implicit in social media by not showing any love. Does that mean you have to follow back everyone who follows you on Twitter? No, but follow more than you've been following, especially influencers. When there's multiple comments on a Facebook post, thank the commenters for their support and feedback, and provide more information if needed.

How are you helping your organization grow with social media? Let us know in the comments.

Make Your Content Go Viral

It's every marketer's worst nightmare:

Hope this isn't contagious. Flickr user eviltomthai.
Your next assignment from the C-Suite? "Make it Go Viral!"

That's right - they want you to guarantee that your next piece of content sails around the Internet like wildfire, faster than a Kate Middleton pregnancy rumor.

Usually, this command from on high comes about content like whitepapers, a new product, or a single Facebook post - content that's simply unlikely to go viral. Uh-oh, right?

But don't despair.

Here are some things you can do to raise the chances of getting viral marketing to work for you.

  • Video, video, video. Videos are more likely to go viral than most other types of content. Check out this article and video about a men's razor blade subscription service called Dollar Shave.The product itself didn't go viral - the video introducing  the product did. Make sure that all of your videos are shareable. If you haven't already, consider starting your own YouTube channel and integrating it with your marketing efforts.
  • If video isn't an option for you, consider other visually-oriented content, like slideshows, interactives, and infographics.
  • Be funny. People need to laugh, and they like to make each other laugh. So if your content is funny, it's more likely to be shared.
  • Be timely. If you can capture the zeitgeist of what many people are thinking about right now, then your content is more likely to be shared widely because it's newsworthy. You can check Google Trends or Twitter to see what's trending right now.
  • Be useful. Entertainment is great, but is there other value you can add? The Dollar Shave video isn't just entertaining, it provides relevant information about this new company and the problem they can solve, which is how men can get convenient, cheap, quality razor blades.

How are you solving the viral problem? Please share in the comments.

The Best Approach to Email Marketing

A new survey finds that marketing messages received via email are the most likely to make us shop. (Exact Target via Business Insider).

This internet cafe helps your marketing messages get out there.
Email. From Flickr user Matt Wi1s0n.
In fact, the Exact Target data tells us something really interesting. While many blogs and news outlets have trumpeted the death of email, this is largely for personal communications. That's right - if I want to talk to my college roommate, I'm reaching out to her on Facebook, not email, and if I want to say hi to my husband during the workday, it's best to send him a text.


Sorry for the shouty caps, but this is really important. Consumers want to receive marketing messages on email, where they can easily save them for when it's convenient, and email goes where they do - on their mobile devices, tablets, laptops, and desktops. 77% of consumers in the survey said they preferred their permission-based marketing to come through email.

At the same time, marketers are picking up this message and online consumers have received 21% more email marketing messages in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the same time last year. (Responsys via Internet Retailer)

What's your takeaway here?

Let's talk for a minute about how you can make email marketing work for you. What's the best way to approach email marketing now that your customers are so distracted by games, Twitter, and Facebook?

If you've been ignoring your own email list, it's time to get it out and dust it off again. After all, the people on your email list have either purchased your products at some point, or otherwise opted in to get your messages. These are people who already like your brand.

So put yourself in their shoes for a minute. If you were getting email from a retailer you liked, what would you want to see?

  1. Free shipping. This is the #1 strategy and has been for a while now. If you can make this work financially, do it. You can try it for a limited time, for purchases over a certain amount - whatever doesn't kill your profits.
  2. What's New? People will get bored if you send them messages about the same thing every week. Change it up - tell them about your new items, new trends, and new uses for your products. How does your product make your customers' lives easier?
  3. Be timely. What's going on right now? April is Earth Day and I've already seen some green messaging in my email inbox. Look at holidays - both those in the mainstream, like Easter and Passover, and the more quirky, like No Housework Day (it was on April 7), or Dance Like a Chicken Day (May 14).

Can your business adopt one of these crazy holidays and do a social campaign around it? You could gain a lot of new fans by asking folks to send videos of themselves dancing like chickens. Post the best ones to your Facebook page, and then let fans vote for the winners, who get a prize. Fight Procrastination Day isn't until September 6 this year, so think about this now instead of later.

How can you solve common problems with your email marketing?

  1. Bad addresses? Ask your customers to update you every time they buy. If people can set up accounts on your web site, send a request for account updates at least once a year.
  2. Low open rates? Work on your headlines, even test two against each other to a small portion of your list, and deploy the winner to your entire group. Also, look at your email results over the past year and see which messages had the best open rates. Try a similar approach and see how that works for you.
  3. Low click through rates? Writing the world's best headline won't help you any if the message and the headline don't seem congruent. The message should be in a brand and tone that matches your headline. Make sure the call to action is clear, and that there are multiple opportunities for customers to click. Ask for the sale. Use engaging visuals.
  4. Low action rates? What happens to customers once they click through. Do they get to a page with the content they expected, or do you dump them on your home page without any guidance? Consider investing the time to develop a special landing page for your emails, which helps customers understand what to do next.
  5. Small list? Since we know now that consumers are most likely to want marketing messages on email, consider directing advertising and social efforts towards getting them to sign up. Also, make email sign up prominent on your home page, and part of your checkout process.

Questions, comments, concerns? I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences on email marketing. Please share in the comments or drop me a line.

Advice for Businesses Just Getting Started on Social Media

Earlier this week, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to some college students about social media. All of these students had communications internships with local businesses, which they were trying to promote. I gave them an overview of what social media is good for and they told me about some of their challenges. I hope I get the chance to do this again! Here are some highlights from our talk:

College students should start using social media now to kick start their careers.
College students. From Flickr user Sterling College.
Many of the students wondered how to break through their clients' resistance to using social media. Some suggestions:
  • Remember, you've been hired by this client to help them improve their reach and messaging. Social media is a tool that can help with this.
  • Most brands are now discussed somewhere on social media. If you can prove that there's a discussion out there about your client that the organization can't  join because they're not participating in social media, then there's a compelling reason for your client to get on there to join, influence, and help the discourse.
  • It's always good to talk about lost opportunities. Think about current events and how they might relate to your clients' work. For example, a client that makes healthy snacks could be taking advantage of increased focus on children's nutrition - contributing recipes, providing expert advice, and introducing their product to people who want to give their kids healthy foods.
  • Finally, don't be afraid to show clients what the competition is doing. Sometimes, realizing that they're late to the game is enough of a kick in the pants to get people moving.

One student explained that her client was a small private Christian school that did not even have a web site. The principal was overloaded already and didn't want to add to her workload with all of these online channels.
  • I wondered if a business like this might begin their online journey with a Facebook page. Since Facebook easily accommodates things like events, announcements, and information sharing, this may be far easier for the school to manage than building a regular web site. Fundraising, also a concern of the school, can be managed with apps like Facebook Causes.

Finally, students wanted some pointers about their own social media presence. Do they need Twitter feeds? Should they start blogs? I don't think that every person everywhere needs a Twitter feed or blog, but if you're going to pursue a career in communications, then you need to be out there communicating.

  • I recommended to students that they think about their hobbies, interests, and passions - are they photographers, travelers, foodies, bakers, or knitters - and blog about those things. The key to social media is quality content. Also, since your clients might not let you write for them in your own style or voice, having your own blog is a way to show people who you really are and how you really communicate. 
  • In terms of policy - just remember that if it's illegal in real life, it's illegal on social media. Plagiarism, libel, slander, and copyright infringement aren't OK in print or online. My other rule of thumb - if I can't share something with my Mother-in-Law, then I can't share it on social media either.

What have you learned lately about social media and what are you trying that's new? Please share in the comments.

Social Media Trends for the Next Year

A few days ago, I attended a fantastic webinar, State of Social Media Marketing 2012, with Kipp Bodnar of Hubspot and Michael Seltzer from Social Media Examiner.

Social marketing trends for 2012
So many networks, so little time: Flickr user socialmediahq.
Much intelligence was shared, and I came away with a few nuggets to share with you, dear readers:

1) This year is about video. 76% of marketers surveyed said that they wanted to expand their video presence this year. Video helps your SEO numbers (don't forget that Google owns YouTube), provides sharable content to your fans, and helps your customers get more engaged with your product.

2) Google+. Most marketers want to explore Google+ but haven't had the time just yet. Those of us who are on there sometimes feel a  bit lonely. Seems like there are a lot of members but not a lot of engagement. That may change as marketers figure out how to connect their websites and blogs with the Google+ badge. Connecting the two means that marketers are then better able to control how they are viewed in search results - content posted on Google+ will be near the top of the results.

3) Ubiquity. Nearly 25% of time spent online is spent on social media sites. Only 10% of small business say they won't use social media this year. So if you're still shunning channels like Facebook or LinkedIn, it might be time to rethink a bit. And according to this article, 91% of adults use social media, with Pinterest growing quickly to become the No. 3 network, after Facebook and Twitter.

4) Targeting. Some of the people on this discussion thought targeting wasn't too important. This is valid - one of the wonderful things about social media is that anyone with an internet connection can participate. HOWEVER, one of the more amazing things about social media is that as time goes on, opportunities to target really specifically abound. Extremely targeted advertising opportunities are now available on both LinkedIn and Facebook. Have you tried this yet?

5) Time: There's a correlation between how many years of experience people have using social media, how much time they are spending on it, and how much success they see. Basically, the more the better. It's true that we all can't spend 24 hours a day on Twitter, but you may see some improvement by just dedicating a little more time to join conversations about your industry and your business.Try adding a few more posts on Facebook each week, and see what happens.

Here's the link to the 2012 State of the Social Media Marketing Industry webinar.

What do you think the next year holds in store for you?

How Facebook Ads Can Work for You

If you've tried online advertising and you're having trouble seeing any returns, you might want to give Facebook Ads a whirl. I think you'll find, like my clients have, that the targeting is easier to manage, easier to test, and can even be more affordable than other ad networks.

Budweiser ad painted on roof
Creative Advertising Photo by Flickr user rooneg.
Say, for example, like the people installing a new window in my dining room, you run a local home improvement business. Like them, you're not seeing a lot of results from advertising in the phone book.

Here's what to do:

First, write the ad. Keep it simple. Use a headline that pops - I like to try a question, and then a call to action, like "Great deals on quality home repairs - windows, floors, more. Click for current specials."

Then, add an engaging photo. I like pictures of people. If you don't have any good photos of people, consider a membership in a site like iStockPhoto, where you can choose what you need from millions of photos with practically any subject matter.

Now, let's talk targeting. This is what's so amazing about Facebook ads, and one reason why people are valuing its upcoming IPO so highly. Anyone, yourself included, can deliver highly targeted ads to a group that's self-identified as interested in what you might be offering. How?

  • First, you can target by location - by country, then by state, city, and/or zip code. For a business like this, I'd target by city - you're free to chose more than one.
  • Next, you can target by demographics, including age, sex, interested in (for dating purposes), relationship status, and language. For an ad like this, I might choose people 30 and up, since they are more likely to own a home, and maybe test ad response for single vs. engaged or married people. I might change the photo to something more group or family-related for the engaged and married folks.
  • Then comes the most exciting part - I can target this ad by likes and interests. I can choose fans of things like the DIY Network, Martha Stewart, Home Depot, and HGTV, since people interested in these kinds of things might want to fix up their houses. After I do this, Facebook will continue to suggest more opportunities for targeting. As you can imagine, this makes Facebook a powerful way to identify and connect with very targeted audiences.
  • Finally, you can target by education and work. You can target people by level of education, by school attended, and also by where they work or worked in the past. I don't think we need this kind of targeting for the ad we're working on today, but it can come in handy for other things.

All that's left to do is set our budget by impressions (how many people see your ad), or clicks. Facebook provides suggested bids. We'll also set a daily budget for each ad campaign.

And finally, once your ads are up and running, Facebook provides reporting on who has responded, by gender, age, and location, to further help your future targeting. How cool is that?

So, are you advertising on Facebook yet? Why or why not? 

Let me know in the comments, or send me a note and I'll help you get set up.

Why Marketing and Inventory are Intrinsically Connected

You might think that the folks who handle your supply chain and logistics should be the only ones concerned with inventory, but you’re wrong.

Your inventory, whether it’s t-shirts, mobile phones, hotel room nights, or seats in your restaurant, is intrinsically connected to your marketing strategy, or at least it should be.

The state of your inventory tells you what to sell. For instance, say you own a local restaurant. You have a certain number of seats to fill every night - an optimum number based on the number of tables, your opening hours, and how long it takes the average customer to get through a meal without feeling too rushed (or ignored). 

There's a restaurant not to far from me where the owners have mastered the art of managing seating inventory well. First, they noticed that their weekends could be a little better. They had entertainment on Saturday nights, so they added it to Fridays. They are only a block or two from a local theater, so then they added a pre-theater menu on show nights. Their Sunday brunch was already busy, so they worked on making service more efficient so they could serve more people.

Weekends taken care of, they looked at the week. Thursdays filled up after they began advertising some great happy hour specials, most of which they already had in place. Wednesdays are packed thanks to trivia night. Tuesdays, they do a seafood special, and Mondays they're the place to be, thanks to half-price burgers. 

Everything they do is promoted on their web site, their Facebook page, and they regularly advertise in the local paper. They also make sure their pages on sites like Yelp, Menupages, Urban Spoon, and MerchantCircle are updated with the current menu and specials, and that they read all the reviews and respond if needed.

Thanks to the fact that customers know there's a good deal or some great entertainment around no matter what night they come in, the place is reliably busy - they are making the most of the inventory they have available, making sure that those empty seats are filled, rather than wasted. They've even hired a few new people, creating badly needed jobs.

Your takeaways:
  • Look at what you have available, and sell that.
  • If something you have is great, but isn't selling, try promoting it in a new way. 
  • For inventory that's selling well, find ways to sell more.
  • Always look for ways to make happy, loyal customers even more happy and loyal. 
Have an inventory problem? Let me know. I can help.

How are you making the most of what you have available? Tell me in the comments.

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