Marketing & Public Relations Firm - Verasoni Worldwide

All posts tagged social networking

By Abe Kasbo and Kim Reydel

Social media was a huge buzz word in 2009 and the hype will undoubtedly spill over into 2010.  Without a question, social media is now the new mass media (television still dominates…for now), and while businesses are still scrambling to figure out how to maximize their investment, social media delivered the following important points to the market:

1. Aggregation

2. Segmentation

3. Revelancy

As companies continue to embrace social media to grow their businesses, expand their brand footprint, and utilize the medium for PR purposes, some are still struggling to optimize social media to its full potential. According to the Social Media and Online PR Report, 86% of companies plan to more money on social media in 2010. Conversely, 54% of those surveyed say the biggest barrier to better social media engagement is a lack of resources. So, although many are plugged in to various social networking outlets, about half of them see a hurdle in using the tools to their full capacity. In addition 60% of companies say that they have gained “some benefit but nothing concrete” from using social networking. Let’s be honest, when using a tool to grow your business it’s crucial to see the results and reap the benefits. Until you know how to properly engage in social media, it’s not an essential tool for your business.

According to a survey by Econsultancy and bigmouthmedia in the B2B world 11% of respondents were heavily involved in social media while 23% were not involved and 65% experimented only. In the retail business 10% of respondents were heavily involved, 27% not involved, and 63% of retail respondents only experimented with social media. Like any other business strategy you must follow through with a plan, and a short presence on facebook is sure to generate zero business for any company. The concept of social media may have been an experiment, but building your company’s presence on a social network is a business strategy that requires a commitment and understanding of the platform. The majority of companies agree that major benefits of social media include; increased brand awareness, customer engagement, communication with key influencers, and better brand reputation. Additionally 54% of supply side respondents say their clients are incorporating video and video sharing in their use of social media. It’s superb that so many companies have hopped on the social media bandwagon but truth be told, it might as well be obsolete unless you are using it as a tool to engage your audience.

So, although statistics show that companies know how to use social media, there is a lack of understanding when it comes to the value of engagement. In other words, any company has the ability to create a fan page on facebook and populate the group, but often times it stops here. Companies have to keep in mind that those who join your network on twitter or facebook or linkedin are looking for something and it’s your responsibility to give it to them. The social networking platform allows you to offer coupons, contests, news, videos, promotions etc to ENGAGE your audience. It’s important to bring people together via your social network but it’s crucial to keep your site functional and relevant. As another year is about to begin, let’s make a resolution to remember to engage engage engage!

I find myself broaching this important subject again. Where ever I speak, during client presentations, in the coffee shop, online forums, list-serves, etc., the hype about social networking continues.  Sure, in many important ways, social networking lives up to the hype, given the sheer numbers (people participating and their activity of course). Sadly, living the hype is not like hyping the hype, living the hype is less glamorous, I can assure you.

Here’s Why. It makes all the sense in the world to play in this space, but what good is it if you are not growing your network. Yes, there is value in being in touch with your customers, and social networking, gives you the opportunity to be exposed to your clients’ network. But isn’t the idea to grow your potential network so the influence of your brand, ideas, products, and organization grows?

My next post will be on the idea of dependence on social networking and the implications / complications that may arise…I’m also working on 10 ways to grow your network.

More to come…

So it’s been about fouryears since facebook redefined networking (MySpace fans, I do recognize that your site came first, but I’m on a roll here) and since, the world has come to see things just a bit differently. So here are some thoughts on what we have and have not learned about the new world.

1. Rush to fools gold – believe it or not, people still believe that you can get rich through social networking. This is Fools Gold 2.0. Yup, this is reminiscent of what happened with “the internet” about 15 years ago. The fact is, social networking takes time and work…one other thing, it’s not free. The medium may be free, but the work is not.
2. Who you tweeting to? – “I can get someone right out of college to do this stuff,” one of my current clients said to me when I was pitching his firm. “Certainly, you can.” I replied, “But will this person have the strategic background to build your network because if your network is not relevant, then there’s no reason to do this. Oh, and how are you going to keep your network interested in your firm.” Guess what? We got the account and the client is happy :)
3. Protect Your Brand – We now know that we need to protect our brands, products, and services on social networking sites. So it’s important that we secure these accounts even if we don’t intend to use them.
4. Your Network is Key – Building your relevant network takes time, but once it’s build it will serve you well, but only if you keep your network engaged. Are you measuring network growth? Are you measuring engagement? What are you doing for your network?
5. Social networking is the tip of the iceberg – It’s about integrating all the tools that the web offers and doing it well. Social networking is not a silo, it’s not an activity, and it must be a key part of your overall marketing communications strategy. And if it’s not, you’re probably dropping marketing bombs.

More to come.

1. Engage – People who join your group or fan page want something. Find out what it is and give it to them. Give them coupons, suggestion, offers, new, meetings, rallies, contests…what ever it is, you must keep your network engage or else you risk loosing it…or worse, having a stale network.

2. Aggregate – Social networks allow you to bring people together around your issues, products and services. Once you build your relevant network, you can engage by polling, conducting market research, delivering offers, and so on.

3. Measure Online – Measuring your activities on your social networks. For example, how many people joined your group. How many people are attending your events, how many people saw your event, and how many comments are made.

4. Measure Offline – Use every opportunity to drive your “offline” audience to your online social networks. So if have a quarterly magazine, or conduct monthly direct mail, or advertise in print or television, invite people to join your online network. Now you can measure what’s happening offline and at the same time grow your influence in your social network.

Social networking is no panacea.  But, done right, it can be a slice of heaven, even though it takes hard/smart/inspired work.

Here’s a brief interview with FIOS1 about social networking.

Last Wednesday’s train ride to DC was bumpier than usual, it breezed through the Philadelphia 30th Street Station when I decided to call my friend and journalist/writer/managing editor of and all around gal TaRess Stoval.  We chatted about my morning status update on facebook to which she replied, and then she asked me about my trip to the Capital. I told her I was basically heading there in search of business. I told her that I will also to talk to anyone who will listen to me yap about how build their social networking strategy through content distribution (as part of a larger marketing communications plan of course).  “Yeah, content is the new currency,” TaRessa hollered into my ear piece.  “You know what, that’s the title of my next blog, I’m stealing that..yeah, that’s right content is the new currency,” I replied.  So, now that I’ve given proper props, I’m taking it a step further, content and content distribution is the new currency. Here are three simple, but key thoughts…

Websites Are About As Obsolete Typewriters

Businesses put up websites, people engage in social networking. The Huffington Post, NPR, and some writers like Nick Kristof (who at the time of the writing of this piece has 118,937 fans) of the New York Times, deliver content on their websites, but engage readers on other sites by distributing the same content that’s on their website to other sites like facebook to reach readers, and listeners that would have otherwise would have never visited their website proper.  So clearly, creating content isn’t good enough, strategic distribution is vital.

Relevant Content Engages, And Invites

Businesses of all sizes must recognize that the social networking sites have done the work of aggregation, and now it is their responsibility to work with the golden opportunity in front of them. Frankly, no one cares that you have a website, people care about what they care about, so your business’ relevancy is about them, not you. Why should they join your group or fan your business? What will they get? Prestige? Coupons? Offers? Special content that no one else gets?  Insider scoops? Invitations to special events? Whatever it is, it must be relevant and frequent.  The frequency is important because it shows your network that YOU are engaged with them as well, which adds significantly to your online reputation.

Content Comes in Many Forms

Let’s not forget that Youtube is the world’s largest search engine, so utilizing video can be highly accretive to SEO and SEM. So integrating video, blogs, news articles and other forms of content, as long as it’s relevant, is the way to go.  Again, we’re vying to keep our network engaged through content.

Now, I am going to publish this piece, email it to my network, and share it with my facebook friends…because, content is the new currency!

Here’s a link to article about social networking in The Record by Joan Verdon. The article is also referenced below…

Mall links to shoppers via Twitter, Facebook
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Last updated: Tuesday July 21, 2009, 9:15 AM

When North Jersey’s largest shopping mall, Westfield Garden State Plaza, was looking for a new way to connect with consumers, it turned to two marketing tools becoming increasingly popular with retailers — a Facebook fan site and a Twitter account.

For the past 10 days, the Paramus shopping center’s representatives have been posting news about sales and deals on the Facebook page, and sending out instant messages via about celebrity sightings and restaurant specials. Mall enthusiasts have been signing up as Facebook fans at the rate of about 100 per day. As of Monday at 10 a.m., the site had 1,067 fans.

“Social media is shifting the way we communicate with our customers,” said Lisa Herrmann, the mall’s marketing director. The Facebook site and Twitter account “allow us to send out information that is significant to our shoppers with real-time updates in a fun and engaging way,” she said. The mall plans to expand its offerings with fashion tips and shopping suggestions from style experts, and video clips of celebrity appearances at the mall.

The use of Facebook pages and fan sites has surged among retailers over the past year. A study released by Hamilton-based interactive marketing agency Rosetta in January found that 59 percent of the top 100 retailers had Facebook fan pages, and that the number of such sites doubled during the second half of 2008.

National department store chain Macy’s debuted a fan site in late June and already has more than 11,000 fans.

The return on investment for retail social networking sites has yet to be quantified, but the investment needed is minimal, although some sites have spent money for features such as interactive contests. Computer company Dell Inc. last month boosted the business credibility of social networks by announcing that it had made more than $3 million in sales through links to one of its Twitter accounts.

Marketing executives caution that malls and other retailers should have a clearly defined marketing strategy in mind before they jump on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagons.

“We haven’t surveyed retailers to see if they’re getting the ROI [return on investment],” said Adam Cohen, head of the social media practice for Rosetta. “But frankly, to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook page is not that expensive.”

The value of such networking lies in allowing retailers “to connect with their consumers in a different way,” Cohen said. The sites let companies build relationships and a sense of community with their customers, he said.

Retailers, Cohen said, need to dedicate time and effort to truly interact with online fans. “Otherwise, I think a lot of companies are going to be disappointed. Or they’re going to be measuring the buzz by how often someone comments on their page. They’re going to have a hard time being able to really attribute that to any quantifiable increase in sales,” he said.

“It’s very powerful if you do it right,” said Abe Kasbo, chief executive officer of Verasoni, a Little Falls marketing firm that has seen its social networking projects increase tenfold over the past year. “You can stay in constant touch literally on a daily basis with your clients and customers,” he said. “But the big caveat is you have to have a strategy and you have to do it right.”

The biggest mistake, Kasbo said, is launching a site and not maintaining it with frequent postings and relevant information. “It has to be relevant to the customer or they’re not going to hang out with you” online, Kasbo said.

Another potential pitfall with Facebook fan pages is any fan is free to post comments about the retailer’s news alerts, and those comments may be negative. The Plaza site has generated very little discussion thus far, and all of that has been positive. But some retailers have seen their sites hijacked by disgruntled shoppers or even their own employees.

On most sites, however, the Facebook fans live up to their name. The Target site, for example, gets daily postings by people proclaiming their love for the Minnesota-based retailer.

Westfield Garden State Plaza got a running start on building the fan base by launching it the week “Harry Potter” movie star Tom Felton (“Draco Malfoy”) appeared at the mall. His appearance drew 2,000 fans of the film series, and the mall used the event to promote its Facebook site.

The no-Sunday-shopping blue laws of Paramus and Bergen County don’t apply to shopping tweets and Facebook updates. Herrmann said the Plaza’s Facebook and Twitter followers can expect to get news alerts even on Sundays. This past Sunday, Plaza fans online at 6:21 a.m. could learn that the Tourneau store at the mall was offering a free pair of TAG Heuer sunglasses with any purchase of a TAG Heuer watch.


I am pleased to bring you an interview with Laura Occhipinti, entrepreneur and CEO of New Jersey Young Professionals. With over 800 members and growing, New Jersey Young Professionals takes social networking to a different level, allowing members to meet and connect both on and offline…

AK: So Laura, tell me about New Jersey Young Professionals?

LO: I tell people that NJYP is a social networking group but in real words it is for helping people to make friends.  I basically bring people together, stir them up, and in the end friendships are formed.  It would be impossible to tell you how many friendships were made over the last 5 years but I am sure the number is in the thousands.

AK: How did you get the idea for the business?
LO: I was 27 and living in Bergen County, where I grew up.  Then I got a new job and moved to Somerset County where I knew no one.  I wanted to have friends right there, where I was living so I search online for something to join and nothing came up so I started a group on Yahoo to make friends, and it worked.

AK:  From what I gather, you’re in the social networking sense in the true of the term. Tell a bit about how you build a network like yours.
LO: No one has ever asked me this.  Basically I go to many events and can easily meet 100 people a week.  People then connect to me/and vice versa via email, facebook, twitter, linkedin, and even via the website.  I have a great memory so I bring people together who should know each other.  Being self-employed you also attract others who are self-employed and those who want to “pick your brain.”

AK: Aside from your website, what online properties or websites have your used to grow or promote your business?

LO:  I do not think I’d be where I am today with out craigslist.  It is where I first listed my group and where I continue to post events.  I used Facebook a lot as well as LinkedIn and I just started to use Twitter.  Other than that I post events anywhere I can for free.  It’s easy to get stuff out there for free.

AK: What the main keys to the success and growth of your network?
LO: Word of mouth!  If you provide a good, quality service people will natrually tell others.  Young Professionals hang, almost exclusively, with other young professionals.  They’ll email each other about NJYP, share an event via a link, share via Facebook. It’s great!

AK:  What are the lessons that you have learned about online social media?
LO:  It’s a lot of work to keep up with everything!  The key is to be current and that means daily maintenance, sometimes hourly updating!  One day I’d love to hire a 20 year old intern to take care of all the online social media that drives traffic to  They’d be so much better than me at it and they’d probably have fun too.

AK: What is your personal definition of social networking?
LO: Groups of strangers coming together at a set time/place for no other reason than to meet “strangers” and in most cases food and alcohol should be present:)

The proliferation of social networking sites is advancing at an impossible pace. For businesses, these sites offer the Holy Grail, the opportunity for engagement of their customers. This particular race is reminiscent of the race for eyeballs in the early days of the consumer Internet between Yahoo, Excite, iWon, Alta Vista, DogPile (yeah, remember those guys) and the countless search engines, turned portals.  Then Google appeared and poof, most of those guys are gone or relegated to the Internet’s C-list – in the business sense of course.  Some of them still retain their web presences, others have morphed into something else.

The similarities between the portal races and social networking race are many, let’s look at some of them:

  • Market share competition – This is done by creating useful tools that are meaningful to users.  More relevant tools, more people join, use, stay, and proselytize…at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.
  • Viral growth – portals and social networking sites relied heavily on their users for growth, although Yahoo delved into traditional advertising to drive growth. Interestingly, advertisers are creating their own space on Facebook, and bypassing their own corporate sites by driving consumers directly to their Facebook page through traditional advertising.
  • Relevancy rules the day – the survivors of the portal wars won on their space’s relevancy to the user. Yahoo finance was created making it robust and useful, Yahoo mail kicked it up a notch after Hotmail was bought by Microsoft. And as much money iWon vowed to give away, users rejected  its business model because users care about the things important to them: 1. relevancy, 2. usefulness…iWon delivered neither.

Based on these lessons, let’s look into the crystal ball and see what shakes out for the social networking world:

Like the portal proliferation of the mid to late 90s, Facebook, Linkedin, Plaxo, MySpace, Youtube, Twitter, Friendster, et. al. are in an arms race to create useful tools in order to attract and keep market share.  One thing that must be considered here, and only one…who will be left standing when the user bandwidth becomes depleted.  In other words, why would I have a Plaxo and Linkedin accounts? Or Facebook and Twitter accounts?  Who has time for all this stuff?

Still, let’s assume businesses have the resources to sign up for these sites. Your business at Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, is only as important as your network on those sites.  Imagine managing several networks, building your client database, and then working the networking by pushing out content.  This would involve high level strategy, definition of marketing tactics, PR strategies, and a solid implementation plan…I’m getting winded just thinking typing out these words.

Now on to Twitter…

Twitter’s growth, largely organic, press and celebrity driven, is understandable. I can understand how people would want to know what Brittany Spears is thinking about while on the checkout line at Walmart – well not really.  But why would I migrate my network from Facebook to Twitter. Ok, I can update my Facebook status via Twitter, but I can do so much more with Facebook and Linkedin. I can create groups, post videos, create events, and deliver status updates, so why would I recreate or duplicate my online world on a largely one dimensional site?  What is the relevance of Twitter to my business is the question we all must answer.  And so, if  we’re tweeting to no one or an irrelevant bunch of followers, than who cares.  But if we’re serious about tweeting as a social networking medium that can help advance business objectives, then we have to take time to create a relevant pool of people that either needs or wants to hear from us on  a consistent basis.  And if I’m on Facebook or Linkedin doing this very same thing, I am not inclined to dilute or distract my network by sending them somewhere else for a singular function, like a status update.

According to a recent article in Slate, citing a study by a Harvard Business School professor, showed that 10% of Twitter users were responsible for 90% of tweets. The article also referenced a study by Nielsen, the media research firm, which asserted “that 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next.”

So what’s Twitter to do?  Simple.  Provide more useful functionality to continue to survive. Attracting visitors is one thing, keeping them engaged on a long term basis is another.

More to come…

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article about social networking in a leading New Jersey business magazine. The story quoted several New Jersey based marketing firm execs who weighed in on social networking. The article found a consensus among these folks who opined correctly that social networking is still in its infancy, but wondered about the direct relationship between social networking and the bottom line. The article went on to say the following [editor's note - I have removed the names to protect the innocent]:

  • “I think most people are probably savvy enough to know you can’t draw a line directly from a Facebook page to the impact on the bottom line,” but     building relationships with constituents through social sites will ultimately contribute to a company’s success, he said, in ways that may not be quantifiable.
  • [Name Removed] compares the push to participate in social media to the early days of companies seeking higher ranking on Web search engines. With social media still in its early stages, [Name Removed] said there are no proven methods of how best to reach customers.  [Name Removed] said while many companies want to engage in social media-based marketing, she warns that few know what to expect. Taking time to understand how the new playground functions can save businesses from a few headaches. “Corporate America isn’t quite ready for this interactive marketing highway that we are going on,” she said. “With this two-way street, they can’t control [the interaction] anymore.”

While the article suggested, correctly, that social marketing efforts ought to be tied into integrated marketing efforts, it completely ignored certain business driven realities of the medium and went on to substantiate the experience of those quoted in the article.  I called the reporter to let him know that, indeed, you can quantify the contributions of social networking to the bottom line. I provided the reporter with several cases from our firm showing him the direct correlation between successful social networking efforts and the bottom line. Other firms who work within, and understand the nature of the medium have done the same for their clients.  The reporter rationalized that the purpose of the column was simply to point out that social networking is no panacea, that there are still miles to go before we perfect the medium for business.  Agreed and if you read my previous posts on this blog, you’ll see how much I agree. But as much as I agree, I cannot accept the fact that the other side was not told.

The truth is that social networking takes work. It takes time, it takes strategy, and moves in real time.  This is not easy, and not easily explainable. And yet, we have the other extreme where the corporate business media make it sound like you can sign up for Twitter and make a million dollars.  The blinding speed in which people adopt, and are attracted to social networking, certainly does not help.  Which means, that as marketing/advertising/PR/communications professionals, we have to stay not only on top of what is happening, but provide meaningful interpretation for our clients in order to best leverage the medium to advance their business goals.

But there are certain realities that marketing and PR folks will not speak about in public. Frankly many traditional marketing firms are very, very afraid of social networking, because social networking, if done right, is a game changer, an eminent threat to their bottom line.  Much like the Internet decimated newspapers because of their their head in the sand rigidity about protecting their revenue stream, newspapers were like the proverbial frog who hangs out in a slowly boiling pot until it’s too late. Traditional marketing and PR firms will soon suffer the same fate, unless they begin to change their business model, and delve deeper into social networking to uncover real value and meaning for their clients.

Take a look at the last quote above from the article. With all due respect to the depth and breadth of the experience of the marketing executives who were quoted, but, have these people been on the Internet? Have they looked around to see how “corporate America” is utilizing social networking and the web? Have they seen major international / national brands direct people from TV commercials straight to their Facebook, rather than their own websites?  Do they realize that “marketing and advertising” or a very good portion of it, is so 20th century, and engagement is about today and tomorrow. Have they heard of the iPhone and it’s billion dollar earning apps?  I am sure that these folks have heard the calls of major brands like Procter and Gamble, American Express, Verizon, who understand that their businesses indeed do not have control of their brands, but they’ve adapted by developing strategies to engage their customers to proselytize for them and advance their business.  Have they attended the many leading conferences, where the Global marketers have called on Madison Avenue to stop wasting their money and their time?

Head in the sand strategy seemed to have worked fine for our banking system, right? I make the same analogy here, marketing and advertising firms have a responsibility to their clients rethink and reshape the way they do business. Because like newspapers, if they keep the old model close to their vest because they don’t understand the realities of the day…well, need I say more…

I’ll post about the imperfection of social networking in my next blog…more to come.