Now you can listen to us on our new web radio show “Hey Marketing Genius!” You can listen by clicking here http://www.blogtalkradio.com/heymarketinggenius
Today’s show discusses branding. Our guest is Erik Kent, President of NJWedding.com.
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.
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 TheDefendersonline.com 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…
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 Twitter.com 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.
It’s an understatement to say Google has taken over the Internet, it may be even more parochial to speak about how Google has taken over our lives. From search, maps, video (Youtube), email, cell phones, and publishing, Google has built a vast business empire faster, and perhaps far more reaching, than any business in history. Heck, GE is now partnering with Google on environmental initiatives. This is GE, the king of all things industrial, partnering with a search engine on environmental initiatives? Who’s zooming who? But it’s true, Google is not only a resource for all things personal relative to the Internet, but the good folks at Google are smart enough to take leadership positions in non-core business opportunities.
However much Google has become a part of our lives, it’s important to know that business on the net is much more about the Internet than Google. And it is much more local than anyone, including the mainstream media, will lead-on. Once we recognize that the Internet is still an infant that can be shaped in ways that can be meaningful to our lives and businesses, then and only then can we recognize the wonderful opportunities that lay ahead, locally. Locally? Locally, like right down the street locally. Locally like within your city, county or state locally. But we’re talking about the vast Internet, a world controlled by the Googles, MSNs, and powerful media moguls who we see on TV. Folks, the Internet is local and Google can’t do anything about it, unless it start opening up stores in your area – note to the people at Google, the Google store thing is my idea.
Let’s get to heart of the matter. The local market? You’re probably saying, who cares. More importantly, you’re probably thinking you can’t monetize the local market in a way that generates real cash flow, and that’s why Google is staying away. Well, there are many very successful local sites that have built themselves a terrific niche in the local market. These hyper-local, meaning everything is local, may cover issues relevant to one town, one business vertical tied to a particular geography, or neighborhood sites have proven that they can not only generate cash, but become real brands.
I would argue that hyper-local sites are real competition for becoming online gateways to local communities. And while the publishing industry’s troubles are directly related to the rise of the Internet and media fragmentation, there is a strong case to made for looking closer at the publishing model as the Internet continues to evolve. Think of Google as Time Magazine, and think of hyper-local sites as your local or regional magazine that focuses on your community. Both provide information that you deem relevant, just different information. Unlike Time or Newsweek, your regional publications are your connection to what is happening locally. So no matter, how relevant the national magazines are, the local ones are just relevant or useful.
Why is hyper-local so relevant? And why is it a coveted market? Let’s take a closer look at social networking sites and their success. What is it about Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or Youtube that makes them so popular? The easy answer is you and me. Yes, that’s right, those properties are about you and me, they are ubber hyper-local relevant to me. I can create my own reality, with my friends, my interests, and my world within a given social networking site…It’s all things relevant to me. My personal reality show if you will. And so within the vast confines of facebook, I can create my own little world where I can connect with friends I haven’t seen since college, and go out to dinner (local), I can discuss a movie (seen locally), review a spa (which I go to locally), and share good news about the birth of a new child with my cousins in Argentina who will send me flowers using a local flower shop over the net. You see, the Internet is relevant, locally. So the rise of hyper-local sites, though not orderly, is a business model that deserves attention.
In Montclair, New Jersey there’s Baristanet everything local to Montclair. Founded in 2004, the site “soon after emerged as a leader in both hyper-local blogging and the online citizen journalism movement. Baristanet receives more than 5,000 visits a day and has inspired local news sites in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, New Haven, Watertown, MA and Red Bank, NJ.” Baristanet effectively competes for audiences with traditional local media such The Montclair Times, the venerable weekly newspaper, to CNN.com.
Staying in New Jersey, we find a business vertical, there is NJWedding.com a website that ties all things weddings to a geographic region. Founded by Erik and Beth Kent on February 14, 1997 to help wedding professionals promote their services and directly connect with future brides and grooms. According to the site, it currently “receives over 500,000 hits per month and features over 500 wedding businesses serving New Jersey and parts of New York and Pennsylvania that future brides and grooms can choose from, including helpful articles and tips about wedding planning, expert relationship and marriage advice and much, much more.” NJweddings.com competes not only with Google but with the 800 lb. gorilla of wedding sites, theknot.com.
In Maplewood, New Jersey, the well-healed turn to Maplewood Online for neighborhood gossip, news…it’s the equivalent of an online piazza. The site is jam-packed with classified, a community calendar, and every else imaginable. It even serves as a portal to news sites such as The New York Times, professional sports teams, cross word puzzles, all within one, local, place.
So as the Internet continues to grow, the threat to places like Google loom larger because people will continue to find ways to make the Internet resources relevant to them. And with the continued rise of mobile, let’s see if these successful hyper-local sites adapt or go the way of newspapers. There are already sites popping up offering hyper-local mobile coupons delivered right to your phone.
The problem is, Google doesn’t have the foot-soldiers to compete at a hyper-local level. What it can do is to start buying hyper-local sites, but then again, why not simply buy community newspapers and turn them into mega-hyper-local sites (ok, enough jargon). One final thought, I’m not sure if I would count Google out. They understand relevancy and adaptability, arguably the two most important strategies for success online. More to come..
The internet as a medium is old news. Yes, it’s the most revolutionary medium in the history of man, but it’s old news. The good news is that we continue to discover how to use the internet to connect with consumers, build businesses, expand brands, and engage markets. The 800 lb gorilla is content distribution strategy, which is how business get as much relevant exposure as possible across markets and demographics on the net. And why is that important? Well, think of your website as space sitting on your URL. And while you’re promoting the site in various way on and offline, there are ways to repackage your existing content and position it across the web.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say your site has video and 15 pages of static content. Think about the high value of relevant link-backs and create a channel on Youtube and upload your videos there, create a blog on blogger and recreate your content there…and use that blog as a platform going forward to update your customers on your products, business etc. Now, with a little effort, your site’s exposure just got exponentially more powerful.
Most importantly, continue to look for new ways to get your content out there where your customers aggregate and where you can get those valuable linkbacks…it’ll keep you one step ahead of your comeptition.
Social networking is a powerful tool. It’s even more powerful when it’s being promoted as a cure for all things ill in marketing. Sure, facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a cause celeb in the media – recent Oprah appearance and the cover of FORTUNE. And why not? With 175 million registered users, who are actively engaged in the medium, the 24-year Zuckerberg seems to be on to something…to say the least. And with 175 million users, marketers are in a gold rush mode, scrambling to make sense and capitalize on channels like of facebook and other social networking technology…
There are several important, yet basic, things that the media is not telling us about Social Networking. Before I go on, let me address my concerns about the way that social networking is being hyped and promoted. What we’re getting from the media is not necessarily the entire story. The same tired cries about people getting rich, businesses having endless ways of reaching their clients, markets expanding, and so on…yeah, yeah, yeah…now tell me how it’s done. In this environment, or any other environment for that matter, it’s not enough to talk about outcomes, it is more crucial to provide insight about how one gets there, making mere observations are no longer sufficient. And while social networking sites like facebook, MySpace, Ning are getting the press, social networking opportunities go way beyond these verticles when you use blogs, podcasts, and web engagement tools that you can employ right on your website
Social Networking is Not an Elixir, It is a Tool
Social networking is about behavior and will largely mimic the way your business behaves offline, but that also makes it more dangerous to your brand, because here, you have very little control. Here’s why…If your marketing is not up to par, chances are your social networking won’t be either…If your website is a relic, and your social networking is working, where do you think people go back to? Your website, and now what?
Integration of Social Networking To Your Overall Marketing Strategy
Social networking ought to be a strong component of your integrated marketing plan. And because it is a medium that screams for engagement, you have to plan to continuously engage, if not you risk loosing your audience. Speaking of audience, let’s start with that. Audience aggregation, check that, relevant audience aggregation is the foundation on which you build successful social networking campaigns – aside of course from your business, product, or service.
Your website is the center of your social networking universe. For example, if you have a group on facebook, and a group member invites someone to join the group and this person doesn’t know anything about your business, chances are they are going to visit your site first…if your site doesn’t pass the 4 second rule (4 seconds for someone to decide whether they will stay or leave), then you just lost a potential network member and possibly a client. The same goes for blogging, pod-casting and so on…So make sure that web world is up to par prior to engaging in this activity. But, this philosophy is exclusive to your social networking campaigns…the same applies to any off line campaigns. If you’re raising awareness through TV, billboard, networking or what have you, guess what? People will visit your site, so it’s vital that your web presence reflects the depth and bredth of your products and services, as well as be presented in a manner that is expected by your customers or market.
Like Good Advertising, Social Networking Must be Relevant
Yeah, there’s 175 million people on facebook, so what? Clearly for businesses, even those with national / multinational presence or aspirations, the 175 million facebook users must be segmented into something more meaningful. One identified and segmented, now what? It’s time to get creative about engagement. And engagement comes with developing campaigns that are highly relevant to the audience. It’s what keeps them interested, coming back, and telling other people – on and offline…
The Jig Is Up
10 years ago everyone rushed online with wide-eyed hopes of making tons of money…what we’re finding out now is that the web is more about strategy than design and programming – although these elements are vital. It’s important to heed lessons of history and apply them…look at what makes sense for your business, pick a medium and work it…own that medium…I argue that it’s impossible to truly be effective managing every medium like blogging, LinkedIn, MySpace, facebook, and the various directories that are so ubiquitous online…so figure out where your aggregate audience is, build the network, make sure that your own site is up to par before diving head first into the social networking waters.
So what’s next? Social networking takes work and time. Yes, the sites may be free, but you’ll need to dedicate time and resources to develop meaningful, thoughtful campaigns that make business sense.
Execution matters…execute your campaigns, learn about audience, deliver, evaluate, and do it again!
By Abe Kasbo
So I went to a magazine launch party tonight. I needed to eat…we arrived late and I went in search of shrimp. By the way, the food was great, the event was wonderful and it seems like these guys just might cut through the clutter in their space and produce a good product. I am rooting for them. While the food satisfied my hunger, there was something à gauche and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I finally figured out that either something is strange in the world of networking or I missed something. I know all about the 30 second elevator speech deal, but I have never seen put into practice with more precision and speed like I had earlier this evening. I felt like I was in an episode of “business speed dating on steroids.” So after 5 or so of these business come-ons (roughly less than satifying 150 seconds), I headed for the bar, glass of wine, and a sanity check…and thought to myself “why are these guys telling me about themselves, how many clients they have, or how much business they have instead of telling me how relevant their business is to their clients?” After all everyone is in business because the market needs their service(s).
The success of any business relies on several elements, one of which is relevancy to the market and consumer. If you’re a small business ($5 Million to $250 Million in revenues), you must continuously strive to stay ahead of your clients. This can certainly be done through marketing, but it can also be done through other avenues such as innovation or new product role out and so on.
So how do we stay relevant? Here are some ideas. From a marketing point of view, craft programs that deliver the value of your business from the client’s point of view. Engage the clients through meaningful interactions, be it on or offline. And if you have not embraced the internet (Note: if you have a website, it does’t mean you’ve embraced the internet, it means you have a website) you may want to consider what strategies are available to either increase sales, brand awareness etc. How well do you utilize search engine optimization? What do you with social networking / online communities? Online directories? What about blogging? And there’s more…Offline, how are you competing and on what? Price? Service? Both? Are any of these relevant?
What other ways can you make your business more relevant? Well, if you can answer that, then you’re off to a great start!
Companies have been shying away from allowing users to generate content to represent their brand, and rightfully so. It’s perfectly rational that businesses ought not surrender their brand equity to the masses, or more importantly, the individuals who may have the ability to adversely affect their business by getting content out to the masses.
The arguments against user generated content range from lack of standards for the medium, to fragmentation of technologies and audiences, and measurement. But what if brands partnered with their customers to generate meaningful content? What if brands provided precisely enough guidance to users to generate content? You ask how? In many ways this is already happening on the medium side. Take Facebook and myspace et al, what they do well is allow the user experience – in this case – their social network to create user generated content relevant to both the user and his or her network. It’s the ultimate “it’s about me forever campaign.” The point here is that people don’t denigrate themselves on these sites. At least people that fall within the normal distribution curve. Not looking for outliers here. And with meaningful engagement, your customers will not denigrate your brand. Remember, your campaign has to provide guidance and control for your customers in order for your user-generated content campaign to work properly.
Businesses indeed can partner with their customers on user-generated content while exercising control over the brand message. And customers already engage in “user generated content” off the net, it’s called word of mouth. So why not partner with your customers to deliver your messages to the masses? Here’s why it makes sense:
1. Video / audio technology is affordable if not cheap
2. Video / editing technology is easy to acquire or outsource
3. Plenty of online distribution channels – youtube, myspace, revver, yahoo video etc.
4. While Internet video represent a tiny subset of how brands are distributed, the medium is growing exponentially
5. In many ways, campaigns are measurable
And while measurement is a key issue, no media plan has a perfect measurement mechanism – no matter what your agency says. So start thinking about taking a position online and rethink how your brand can partner with you customers. Because the more meaningful engagement, the more ownership your customers take of your brand.
The world is a different place today. A new economy coupled with radically different consumer behavior and new media. As fierce and independent advocates for our clients, we are leading a different kind of change, by delivering business driven marketing communications strategies. We are in the business of generating and executing market-leading ideas that transform businesses. It’s what we do. It’s that easy, and that hard.
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