Anti-Social Media Marketing

Marketing professionals are feverishly obsessed with “social media marketing.” Social media includes websites where huge numbers of users provide their own content and create connections and relationships by sharing information and following each other’s updates. There are dozens, and perhaps hundreds of these sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Spoke, ecademy, Classmates.com, Friendster and Flickr, where people exchange business and personal information, status updates, photographs, videos, news articles, political views, resumes, sexual interests, sports opinions, recipes, health facts and endless amounts of other data.

It doesn’t end there. Social media marketing also includes the use of blogs, online videos, discussion forums and creating ways to allow customers to provide feedback and ratings on the pages of your websites. And a lot more. It’s tremendously valuable and some organizations have done a great job getting real value out of their social media marketing efforts.

Without a doubt, there are massive marketing benefits available to marketers who can figure out how to harness the attention and preferences of audiences using social media tools. Everywhere you turn in the marketing world, people are promoting the value of engaging social media for businesses purposes. I quickly went through a week’s worth of emails to find invitations to attend or view whitepapers, webinars and conferences. Here is a sampling of what I’ve received over the last seven days:

  • How to Develop a Social Media Strategy That Works For Your Brand
  • Connecting Constant Contact and Social Media for Internet Marketing Success
  • Free webinar – Webcasting + Social Media Increase Attendance: An UNLEASH09 Case Study
  • The Best of Both Worlds: How to Effectively Leverage Social Media Relationships with Real-Time Collaboration Tools
  • Email Gone Viral: How To Extend Email Reach Through Social Sharing
  • 2009 B2B Social Media Benchmarketing Study
  • Service in the Time of the Social Customer
  • Understanding Your Online Reach
  • Generate a Buzz for Your Business Through Social Media Marketing. Convert that Buzz into Revenue.
  • 5 Killer Ways to Promote Your Facebook Fan Page

Now, I subscribe to several marketing newsletters, but there are hundreds of others and this list represents just a week of emails — and I probably missed some. Marketing via social media is white hot — the level of excitement is off the charts.

Social media, however, cannot yet substitute entirely for other, more traditional forms of marketing. Recently, I was on an “expert panel ” at a marketing event and the audience was breathlessly excited about social media. At one point, all of us panelists were asked to comment on the value of this new channel and when it was my turn, I stated that while I thought social media would someday provide enormous marketing value, I was concerned that people were focusing too much effort and attention on it. I said that, in my view, there was probably no huge “first mover advantage” in figuring out how to market successfully via social media and that it was important to continue to utilize email, direct mail, direct sales, telesales, advertising and other channels for now. I said that people should make sure they stayed current with what was happening in social media and they should be constantly experimenting, but, since no one has yet cracked the code on measuring the results of these new opportunities, it was important not to get distracted from demand generation methods we currently use that we know are effective.

These statements won me a large number dirty looks and I felt like I’d just announced that I was predicting a major comeback in Yellow Pages advertising. Several people in the audience probably dismissed any notion of hiring my company to do marketing consulting for them and I think there may have been murmurs of organizing a lynch mob.

The odd thing is that I actually am very excited about the potential of social media marketing and we use it in my company everyday. I just think that its value as a form of demand generation isn’t clearly understood yet and, since it’s not very measurable, it flies in the face of responsible marketing for most companies to devote inordinate amounts of resources to it.

We have a tendency in marketing to assume that new channels make old ones obsolete. For example, when email began to gain in popularity and effectiveness, many marketers concluded that direct mail was on its way out. Oddly enough, email marketing, to some extent, became a victim of its own success. Spam grew at a faster rate than quality email, and soon customers’ in-boxes were loaded with so much garbage that system administrators all over the country became more aggressive at filtering out unwanted email. Unfortunately, a lot of good quality email, much of which customers had subscribed to, got caught in spam filters. Deliverability rates of email marketing campaigns dropped precipitously and the whole medium has lost some of its effectiveness. The net result is that direct mail, good old fashioned printed offers sent through the USPS, has made somewhat of a comeback. The death of direct mail was highly exaggerated.

Something similar is likely to happen to social media marketing and I think it’s already started. For example, I get many emails telling me that people have started to follow me on Twitter. These emails contain no information about my new fans, just a cryptic user name, which I can click on if I want to see who it is. What I have discovered is that a growing number of these “followers” are providers of porn and are probably signing up to follow tens of thousands of unsuspecting Twitter users like me. If this continues unchecked, I will not be a Twitter user for long because, as it turns out, I am not actively seeking more junk mail in my in box. I suspect you are not, either.

My own company has yet to generate any business from our social media efforts. “Old” methods like telephone calls, emails, speaking at conferences and networking still drive most of our business. When I started Real Results Marketing five and a half years ago, I resolved to go through my contacts and either email or telephone people in my network every month. To this day, most of the business opportunities we uncover happen through this type of work and former colleagues are still the richest source of consulting deals. It’s a real struggle sometimes to make myself take time out of a busy day to make those calls or send those emails, but they’ve proven so vitally important to our revenue stream that I don’t dare let up on these efforts.

I realize that most businesses can’t rely on the founder’s professional network as a primary form of demand generation. Bigger companies have their own tried-and-true methods for driving growth. Your company may utilize a sales force, telesales personnel, advertising campaigns, sophisticated database marketing initiatives and other tools for creating sales opportunities and I’d argue that the importance of those approaches hasn’t diminished one bit in the face of social media growth.

Whatever has worked for you historically should still be the primary focus of your sales and marketing. You certainly want to stay plugged in to social media and, by all means, attend workshops, conferences and seminars on the subject. It might even be a smart investment to devote a headcount or two to doing nothing but experimenting with these exciting new marketing tools.

Someday, someone will master how to market effectively and measurably via social media. Once that happens, all of us in marketing will need to learn how to adapt those discoveries to our businesses and use them to drive sales and profits. Until that time, however, marketers should focus most of their resources on the tools they understand so they can live up to their primary responsibility of driving profitable, long term growth for their employers.

I have joked that I have become the leading advocate for “antisocial media marketing.” I’m actually a big supporter of these exciting new channels — just not at the expense of marketing techniques that have been proven to work. Nonetheless, my less extreme position on the subject probably means I won’t be voted the most popular speaker at marketing conferences in the future. I’ll just to have to be sure I stay one step ahead of the lynch mob and keep making my networking calls month after month.

I hope your business is thriving. You may be hearing from me soon.

New Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2012

2011 is gone, and 2012 has rolled in without missing a beat. The social media industry is growing in leaps and bounds. I often hear business people say social networking is like the Wild Wild West! So answer this question for me. Would it be valuable if you knew the future social media trends for 2012? How wonderful would it be to know what trends are in store for the coming year? Could you adequately prepare for this rapidly changing industry? In this article, I provide my 2012 predictions for the evolving trends in the social-networking industry. It’s always gratifying when my predictions come true. My predictions are not based on any kind of special powers. They are based on my industry research, what I read and what I see happening every day in my work. My accuracy rate in the social media industry has been about 97 percent. However, even when I’m wrong it’s only because my timeline ended up being longer than I thought it was going to be. I have a knack for spotting social media trends. And this article lists four powerful trends unfolding right now. You can profit from what I say or ignore me, the choice is yours. Either way these trends will unfold as the year progresses. So read on and heed my advice. Prepare your social media marketing campaigns to take advantage these trends for 2012 and beyond.

Prediction #1) Social Media Networks and Marketing will continue to grow at an alarming rate.

Last year Facebook grew from around 600 million to 800 million users depending on whose numbers you believe. Twitter and LinkedIn also both showed growth and added many new features, (not to mention that they both acquired several new partners and internet assets). Add to this, Google started Google+, and Microsoft is said to be in the works of building their own social network. The adoption rate of small business will lead the way, but expenditures by large corporations will exceed that of both small and medium-size businesses. My first advice to you is; create and implement “an employee social media use policy” to control business hour usage. Second, create a social media marketing plan to reach and engage this enormous market. Combining both engagement and pay per click campaigns work best.

Prediction #2) One of the largest players in the social media arena will make a “miss step” in 2012.

I believe that one of the top four Social Media Network companies will make a costly mistake causing them to lose significant market share. Right now several of the larger social media giants like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all share one crucial flaw. They try to make it almost impossible to communicate with them. Take Facebook, for instance. They do not list any contact information other than a Facebook page. Sure they have lots of help pages. Yes, Facebook has a blog, lots of YouTube videos, but provides no phone number where you can call and talk to a human being? They do have a Facebook page you can enter suggestions on, but that’s it. What happens when you get a strange message from Facebook, or you’re having trouble with your account? You post a message and never get a reply! Twitter and LinkedIn are not much better. They don’t list a contact phone number or address either. However, I have found that they do reply to your email and posted messages, although it sometimes takes as long as seven days to get a reply.

In my opinion, of the top three social media companies, LinkedIn provides the best service. Google is new in this game. It’s not as easy to lump them in with the rest of the social media giants yet. However, I can tell you that Google has a notoriously poor customer service reputation. It’s been my experience with Google that the quality of service you receive depends on the person you get on the phone. The good news is that you can get someone on the phone! Google does list contact numbers. My advice to any business is easy, be ready to make changes to your social media campaign if need be. Furthermore, if you’re using any of the top four social media services, make a backup of your data. This is in case you decide to make “the switch” and ditch one of these players.

Prediction #3) Google+ will become one of the top 3, in the social network arena by the end of 2012.

I know I’m going out on a limb here, but I believe this is inevitable. Google’s share size and current customer base will allow Google+ to grow at a much faster pace than other social media sites. The exact number of Gmail users is not public, but we do know that it is huge! I have read estimates ranging from about 190 million to 250 million accounts. Furthermore, Google owns so many internet properties, that they can easily integrate the use of these properties into their social network. This adds value to their social network. Add to this, the fact that Google owns Google Search, Google AdWords, YouTube, Blogger and Picasa. Are you starting to get the picture? Google is gigantic. Google controls the lion’s share of internet traffic and advertising dollars.

Google has also been able to produce a social-networking product that is easy to use, search engine friendly and innovative. These qualities’ have made them the internet leader they are today. I am not sure that they can keep this frantic pace forever, but for 2012, it’s a done deal. My advice to you is to review where you are spending your advertising money and see if it makes sense using any of the Google properties. If you’re an individual, and have been waiting on the sideline with Google+, stop what you’re doing and take the 10 minutes to set up a Gmail and Google+ account. If you already have a Gmail account, this will only take you about 5 minutes. The bonus here is you can also set up a Google+ Brand page without a lot of fuss.

Prediction #4) More businesses will start using blogging and article marketing to build trust.

You may be asking the question; what does blogging and article writing have to do with social networks? The answer is straightforward. Both blogging and article writing create a following, and they both encourage fan interaction. These followers will leave comments on the blog/article sites and interact directly with the authors. Now that I have established that blogging and article marketing is social in nature, let’s discuss building trust.

There are many ways to build trust with people. Here are just a few ways that a business can build trust; receiving word of mouth and written testimonials, consistently providing a good product or service, providing written guarantees and making it easy for your customers to communicate with you.

Today, writing articles is creating a new powerhouse for trust building. Any business that receives expert status from writing about their industry niche will garner instant credibility. According to the website “numberof.net,” the number of bloggers in 2007 was around 23 million. The same source predicted that, by 2012, U.S. bloggers would reach 35 million. Guess what, this year’s articles in Technorati and Blogpulse both listed worldwide blogs to be around 164 million by the end of 2011, almost five times the original predictions given in 2007. I guess the adoption rate for blogging has far exceeded what was once looked upon as a strange new type of website forum.

We live in a society where the published word has high value. This is truer today than ever. Savvy businesses are taking to blogging and article marketing as an exciting new way to distinguish them from their competitors. What, you say you can’t write? Ghost writers are a cost-effective alternative. They are readily available and well worth looking into. My advice to you is straightforward, create and use a blog for marketing. Your blog articles can also be used in article marketing by submitting them to article databases. They can also be integrated into your website. Your blog post can easily become part of your website “current content strategy.” If done well, blogging will build your reputation as the go to expert in your particular business field. As an extra bonus, you will be able to engage prospects and clients in a way that builds trust, a commodity that is vastly absent in today’s business climate.

In this article, I have discussed four powerful trends emerging in the social media industry. In the past, I have kept my prediction secret, and used them as part of my own marketing strategy. This year I decided to make my predictions public. My accuracy over the last five years has always been exceptionally high. I have sometimes missed the mark on the timeline, but I have rarely been wrong at predicting what will eventually take place. These four social media predictions should make sense to you. My predictions are based on my reasoning, research and experience, not some mystical power. My work leads me to believe that these trends will continue to grow at unprecedented rates. I have always had an uncanny ability to spot trends before, but anyone willing to look can spot these trends if they take the time to look. By heeding my predictions and adjusting your social media strategies, you will engage and garner more customers this year. Take the time to develop and put in place all the necessary elements needed to implement your social media strategy. By doing this, you will profit from social media like you never have before.

That’s my opinion; I look forward to hearing yours.

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Social Media Marketing (But Were Afraid to Ask)

The live chats at the Vocus webinar a few weeks ago were fantastically lively and informative, with participants answering as well as asking questions that were posed to the scheduled speakers, Deidre Breakenridge, David Meerman Scott, Beth Harte, Lee Odden and Brian Solis. As time was tight, not all the questions were answered, so we thought we’d scoop some up from the logs and try to give some insights.

Q1: How do I increase my Twitter following?

This was a common question, but there’s no quick answer (unless you use a mass-following tool, which might boost your numbers but won’t necessarily give you a worthwhile audience that includes valuable influencers) – it can be a slow build, however, there are ways to make a difference:

• Write content that people want to read! Bit obvious, but just spieling out advertising isn’t the tastiest bait. Write interesting and useful articles and blog posts and link to them; create infographics, videos, slideshows and share them; make astute and witty observations; share content by others that you think your followers will find helpful. Give them a reason to follow you and retweet you.

• Search for your audience and follow them – if you’re doing the first point well enough, they’re likely to follow you back. Use any of the numerous Twitter applications and search engines to look for relevant people and influencers who would be interested in what you have to say.

• Get involved in Twitter chats to connect with your relevant audience – this is a great opportunity to offer advice, opinions and knowledge to key people who may become followers afterwards. Robert Swanwick (@swanwick) has compiled a Twitter Chat Master List where you can find the right subject for you.

• Find a way to link what you’re saying to topical themes and hashtagged subjects – this gives you a more targeted audience when people search for those terms and keywords.

• Finally, give an incentive now and again – run polls, competitions, promotions to engage and reward your loyal followers, and encourage more people to follow you.

Q2: How can I make my blog more effective?

It’s easy to feel that your blog is lost in the webiverse, but there are ways to increase its visibility and boost traffic.

• Just like in question 1, content is key – write posts that are informative, useful, interesting and engaging. See this post for a more in-depth guide on how to write a great blog.

• Optimise – just like your website, make sure that you are implementing keywords, links and other SEO tactics to ensure that your blog can be found and ranked by search engines. Register with blog directories such as Technorati or PostRank to add to the places you can be searched for, and to keep an eye on your blog metrics.

• Network your blog with other social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn – link up your RSS feed, or manually link to posts you want to push out there.

• Comment on relevant sites and blogs – not with pointless spam directing people to your site, but with genuine, thoughtful comments. If people appreciate what you’re saying, they’ll click through to your blog to see what else you’ve come up with.

• Search for other bloggers in your field who you could invite to guest-blog (or blog swap), creating a backlink and an interesting new slant for your blog.

• Most importantly, write posts that generate conversation – your audience will be compelled to comment, share, and your traffic will grow.

• Distribute: get your posts bookmarked, upload them to relevant sites, copy them to article-sharing sites etc – the more places they can be found, the more they will be read.

Q3: What’s the proper Twitter etiquette on mutual following?

Well, it depends how powerful and influential you are – if you’re such a big shot you’re followed by 20K and only follow one back then good for you, but you won’t be getting much out of the social aspect of Twitter!

You don’t have to follow every person who follows you, but ignoring everyone who tries to interact with you defeats the purpose of Twitter and can be, well, a bit rude. Choose those whose tweets you actually want to read and find useful. If someone’s followed you that you don’t want to add to your following list, then at least send them a “thank you for following” personalised message to show your appreciation. It’s useful to note that you can also add people to lists without having to follow them.

Q4: How do I use YouTube for marketing?

YouTube serves as a standalone search engine that is becoming more and more powerful within social media and SEO. Using it as a marketing tool really depends on your business, your aims and your content, but there are several ways to make use of YouTube as a social media marketing tool:

• Set up your own channel, where you can host your videos, link to your website/blog/social media profiles, hold discussions and answer questions.
• Use slideshows or infographic videos to back up a blog post or key point.
• Give out some personal and local information – show a behind the scenes of your company or location, introduce your staff, give a presentation on something that is important to you and your business.
• Document case studies.
• Film interviews with key company members, customers, associates etc.
• Have some fun – don’t take yourself too seriously (but at the same time, don’t make a total arse of yourself!)
• Make instructional and ‘How-To’ videos – these make up a lot of the search content within YouTube, as it’s much easier to learn from watching a demonstration than from reading an explanation.

Once you’ve uploaded a video, share it and distribute it via other social media platforms – embed in your site, your blog, link to it from Twitter and Facebook, add it to Vimeo – the list goes on. Get your content out there!

Q5: How do I measure/monitor the ROI of social media?

This is the big one, and unfortunately, the answer is not particularly straightforward. The first thing to do is stop trying to fit social media into a traditional sized marketing box. The purpose and results of social media marketing are less tangible than a PPC campaign, or press release launch – social media affects the reach and influence of your company, which in turn will affect its popularity and your website’s traffic, or awareness of your brand, which in turn will affect sales, conversions and profit. So how do you measure engagement?

Firstly, put monitoring tools into place – there are a ton of free tools out there, though you may find that most only cover specific areas of the metrics you are after, so you will need to use several simultaneously, or different tools for different analytics.

To use these tools effectively, you need to have an aim or goal in mind – what are you trying to measure or track? The number of followers or fans is not the bottom line – you need to look at how those followers are interacting with you, whether they are spreading your message, whether they are driving traffic to your site and more. Focus on an objective and measure the appropriate metrics. Here are some examples of aspects you might want to keep tabs on:

• Influence
• Click-throughs
• Site hits
• Re-tweets/mentions
• Followers
• Fans/Likes
• Interactions
• Increased time on site
• Sharing of your content
• Comments
• Backlinks
• RSS subscribers
• Image/video views
• Number of bookmarks

For example, you’ve written a blog post on your business’ new product – you publish it, distribute it, linking to the relevant page on your site. Now you need to track its progress. In this case, you’d want to look at how many click-throughs you get to the product landing page, how much new site traffic you receive, whether people are sharing this information amongst their friends. Monitor these aspects through each of the social platforms you publish the information on – and from there you will be able to see how social media affects the number of conversions/sales from each area.

Q6: How do I show the value of social media to my boss/uncertain executives?

Another popular question, especially for companies just starting out with social media marketing. Often, businesses, or those working above marketers, don’t see the instant results of a social media presence (or, as in the point above, are not receiving targeted analytics to prove its value).

First, gather information on how competitors and other companies in your field are utilising social media – see what works, how they’re interacting, and if it’s having an impact on their brand. If you have no social media presence, chances are that someone out there is talking about you (or your line of business) anyway – go and research and see what questions people are asking, what problems they’re coming up against and what they want from you.

Second, find out where your customers are, and where you should be – in which social media community should you be making a presence for yourself? If your audience are big Twitter communicators, get talking to them; if they loiter around YouTube, upload some videos and get comments and views. Find your niche and get settled in it.

Third, take an example from question 5 above, and show your execs some hard facts and figures – and explain the power of resonance involved in social media, how it can strengthen your brand, make valuable connections with customers and act as a fantastic customer service platform.

Q7: What’s the best way to use social media for a Non-Profit organisation?

I think initial supposition is that it’s harder for a non-profit organisation to market themselves, because they are not providing a service or a product in retail terms. Contrary to this assumption, I believe that non-profits actually can do exceptionally well with social media. The very nature of social media interaction connects likeminded people for things they believe in. Social media is emotional, we participate because we want to, because we are moved or amused by something. Non-profit organisations can take this opportunity to promote their work, their aims and the issues they deal with and gain support, publicity and awareness.

A few places to start:

• Assuming your organisation already has a website, add a blog, on which you can post content in a more conversational style, on issues and subjects that encourage comment and discussion. For example, some non-profit blogs document the progress of individuals who are fundraising by participating in a sponsored event, or post pictures and videos of success stories and company events.

• Facebook accounts have the option of creating a page or a group for your organisation – for this, a page is generally more appropriate, because it enables you to add more structure to the profile, whereas a group might be more useful for a specific goal or issue you are trying to gain support for.

• Twitter is a fantastic place for conversation, and raising awareness. Hashtags can easily organise a subject, and recently have been used to attract attention to issues which require donations and assistance, for example many tweeters are adding the hashtag #Pakistan to tweets which include a link to one of the various donation site for the Pakistan flood victims.

• Make the most of multimedia and sites like YouTube, Flickr to broaden your message and distribute different types on content.

Q8: Where do I find the time to do all this?!

Well, apparently there’s this hot tub that’s also a time machine… Or, you could just make use of those ‘time management skills’ that are on your CV and get organised.

• Focus on one thing at a time – there’s a tendency and a temptation to try to stick your fingers in all the pies when it comes to social media, since there are so many options, so many offshoots and avenues to explore. Target an objective, plan your action and monitor carefully rather than running around madly trying to connect with everyone, everywhere, all at once.

• Set realistic goals. Choose a few things that have the highest priority for any particular day. Put the rest aside and concentrate on achieving your immediate goals. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted by the fast-paced realtime world of social media.

• Schedule ahead of time. I’m a big fan of Hootsuite for pre-composing tweets and facebook posts, squirreling them away and schedule them to be posted later (there are other social media network options for multiple postings). Then you can concentrate on other distribution and interaction.

• Target the most active times for your particular community – look into a monitoring tool and find out when is the best time to post, to join a discussion, to comment and make yourself available at that time – it could be just one hour in a whole week that makes a big impact to your network.

• Form a routine. Everyone and every business is going to have different needs, but as you get more proficient within social media, you will start to find a groove, and see how best to organise your time. Having a routine makes things more manageable, makes you more efficient, and rather than making you stuck into a rigid schedule, it actually makes it easier to deviate if you need to, because you know where you left off and where you need to pick up to keep on track.

I hope these were helpful for those of you starting out in social media, or feeling a bit lost in the networking world! If you have any questions about social media marketing, SEO, PPC, web analytics or any other aspect of internet marketing, please let us know and we’ll try to keep posting Q&A articles like this regularly.

Either leave a comment below (or on any other blog post that you have questions about), send us a tweet @ikroh, or post something on our Facebook wall. We’d love to hear from you and we’d be happy to answer your questions.