Category Archives: two-way communications

Five Ways Brands Benefit from Social Media: Part 2

Social media brings together people with similar interests.

People with similar interests hang out together.

Those who gather around the new water coolers tend to hang out with others that share common interests. That leads to passionate conversations by people passionate about [insert topic here].

It also leads to opportunities for brands to help facilitate and/or participate in conversations with consumers who share interests with their brand. In most cases, social media tools have brought these people together and we can find where they’re congregating.

Of course, you have to show up in relevant ways. It’s not about you in these places. It’s about the community. Add value. Don’t be self-serving. Participate in the conversation. Don’t try to dictate it. In short, be a good neighbor.

In some cases you can help make the conversation possible by sponsoring forums, message boards, conferences, etc. For example, Tire Rack sells performance tires. It sponsors the Tire & Wheel forum at Bimmer Forums, an online gathering place for BMW owners and enthusiasts. It is helping to enable conversation around a topic it has expertise and interest in.

Another benefit of being able to identify community members with shared interests is the possibility of converting skeptics about your brand to advocates. Accomplishing that is possible. It takes time, patience, honesty, listening, and consistently adding value, among other things, but it can be done. Just ask Richard.

*Image by Jacob Botter.

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Five Ways Brands Benefit from Social Media: Part 1

Are You Invited to the New Water Cooler?

Are You Invited to the New Water Cooler?

Are you looking for concrete brand benefits in regards to implementing social media initiatives? Are you looking for those nuggets that can help sell it in to clients or, for those of you on the corporate side, within your organization?

This week I’ll share a benefit each day. These are by no means the ONLY benefits for brands who engage in social media, so feel free to add others that you fly as a flag when discussing the space with clients. Of course, you should make sure your brand is ready to participate in social media before selling it in.

Social Media Communities are the New Water Coolers
The water cooler was always a place to share rumors, laughs, insights, great experiences, rants and raves. Social media communities are the new water coolers. What’s the big deal? There are two major differences between the old water coolers and the new water coolers.

There are MUCH bigger crowds at the water cooler.
That means that more consumers hear and are potentially influenced by what one person has to say about your brand – good or bad. Remember how one opinion matters more than ever today?

Brands are invited to the water cooler.
This is the BIG difference and the real benefit for brands. You can listen in on online conversations using tools like Technorati, Google Blog Search and Twitter Search. Do you want to know if consumers are talking about your new national campaign and, if so, what they’re saying? These tools can help you do just that.

You can shape the conversations happening online. Notice that “shape” is very different from “dictate.” It’s dialogue and people typically won’t regurgitate your key messages just because you pop in and shout them. But you can correct rumors quickly, share an insightful piece of news for your industry and encourage positive discussions through your meaningful participation.

You can identify brand evangelists and think of appropriate ways to reward them or their connections to create even deeper bonds with your company. Approach a few influential bloggers, give them a product you’re currently testing and ask for their candid feedback. Offer to give them five finished products to give away to their readers through a contest once testing is over and it’s ready to hit the marketplace.

Lastly, the new water cooler gives you an opportunity to keep more customers. If a consumer is ranting about your product or service, reach out to them. If they have a valid argument, consider ways to fix the problem and tell them how you’re fixing it. Thank them for bringing it to your attention. Chances are good that other consumers are having the same problem. That means that addressing it benefits a good percentage of your customers and, consequently, your brand.

Is your brand hanging out at the water cooler? What else are brands missing by not listening to and helping shape the conversations going on there?

*Image by John Brooks.

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Three Reasons You Should Care About Social Media

Many marketers are still apprehensive about involving their brands in social media initiatives. Quite a few still deny that their brands have anything to gain from interacting in the space.

I agree that you have to dive in because it’s right for your brand and NOT because you suffer from shiny object syndrome. After all, social media isn’t right for all companies. But I venture to say that it makes a lot of sense for most. Why? Here are three reasons why it matters and why your brand should seize the opportunities it affords.

One opinion matters more than ever.
People have always shared their negative and positive brand experiences with friends and family, but we have a small circle of influence in the offline world. And it takes a decent amount of effort to rant or rave by phone, e-mail or in-person with everyone you know. So you tell a few of them.

Thanks to social media, the circle of influence that consumers now have has never been bigger. It allows them to cast wider nets by connecting with more contacts. Frequent interaction within the networks and adding value within them also builds each consumer’s level of influence among their contact.

It’s also MUCH easier to rant or rave with social media tools. In 45 seconds, a consumer can use her wireless phone while sitting at a restaurant to praise great service on Twitter, Plurk, her Facebook status, and FriendFeed. In short, consumers can share experiences with significantly more people than before and they can do it faster and easier than ever. This image by Sam Lawrence illustrates the difference in size between our offline and online networks.

Consumers are connected across many social media platforms.
We talk about touch points because we know that the more a consumer sees a brand’s message, the more likely they are to recall it. The graph below from Steve Jurvetson illustrates how members of my social media networks are connected to me in more places. If I have a positive experience and mention it in my Facebook status, send a “tweet” about it on Twitter, share a “plurk” on it and write a blog post about it, a good percentage of my connections will see that message in more than one place. That means that my messages about a brand have a good chance of becoming part of how others see that brand.

Brand reviews within social media play a big role in consumers’ purchase decisions.
The numbers don’t lie. Here are some interesting stats that show how consumers use social media to determine which brands they buy.

  • 68 percent of consumers look to and trust their peers when it comes to product advice (Word Of Mouth Marketing Association – WOMMA)
  • 72 percent of consumers who use social media tools also use them to research a company’s reputation (Society for New Communications Research)
  • 74 percent of consumers who use social media tools choose to do business with companies based on the customer care experiences others share online (Society for New Communications Research)

There are, of course, more than three reasons why brands should care. What have I left out? What compelling information have you used to help show its importance to your clients or within your organization?

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3 Truths Marketers Should Live By

What guides you?

What are the nuggets that guide us professionally every day, whether we’re discussing product development, crafting marketing strategies or drafting news releases? Those things that we remind ourselves – or should be reminding ourselves – of as we plan how our brands will be presented to news media and customers.

Here are three truths that I try to live by daily.

It’s not about me.
By me, I mean the brands I represent. Of course I think they are the best things around. I drank the Kool-Aid. But most consumers don’t care that your brand has been around for X years or that your business led an industry-wide revolution in 1983.

We consumers are a selfish bunch. I want to know how your product or service helps ME. The burden is on the brand to show how it makes my life easier in a meaningful way and that should shape everything from product development to marketing messages.

It’s not about my gut.
We sometimes make broad generalizations about a demographic based on our individual association with it. I can’t tell you many times I’ve seen female marketers blurt out assumptions about all females. Or marketers with children make assumptions about all consumers who happen to be parents.

I bet you’ve seen this, too. You’ve probably been guilty of doing it. I know I have. But I don’t speak on behalf of all white males in the marketing industry who are married with two kids. I remind myself of that often.

It underscores the importance of research. Seek insights about the group you’re reaching out to even if you fall into its demographic. On second thought, ESPECIALLY if you fall into its demographic.

It’s not about yesterday.
What worked last year, may not work this year. Likewise, what didn’t work last year, may work miracles this year.

I was in a meeting during which a new employee shared a promotional idea. A wet blanket was immediately tossed on it by a 20-year veteran because a similar idea didn’t work in the 1990’s. The new guy’s boss asked about the previous execution. They decided to give it another shot while tweaking the specifics. Six months later it was the most successful promotion the company had to date.

If someone brings up an idea that the brand tried before unsuccessfully, don’t automatically kill it. Talk about what didn’t work the last time and whether changing the specifics may lead to different results.

That brings me back to “It’s not about me.” I’m interested in your insights. What truths do you live by professionally?

*Image by Paul Downey.

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Readers Vote on PR Pitches They Want Reporters to Cover

We sometimes open media pitches by saying something about believing it will be interesting for that outlet’s readers/viewers/listeners. FastCompany.com is taking PR people up on that in a new way that turns the assumption of what readers want covered into the reality of what they want covered.

Now, PR folks can submit their pitches publicly to Fast Company’s “The Killer Pitch” blog and readers vote the pitches up or down based on what they’d like to read about. If you’re trying to get an idea of it in your head without clicking on that link, think Digg.

This is the first I’ve heard of this, but I could see other media outlets doing it moving forward. Why wouldn’t they?

Why it’s Great for Media
1. It involves readers in the editorial decision-making process. Giving your audience some ownership in the finished product helps make for more loyal readers.
2. It ensures that Fast Company covers topics its subscribers want to read about in its pages and online.
3. It could cut back on the number of pitches individual reporters receive and reserve more of their time for researching, interviewing and writing.

Why it’s Great for PR
1. Whether the story is written or not, readers who participate in the process see your pitch and learn a bit about your new product, service, etc.
2. It requires more time spent crafting the pitch to as close to near perfection as possible, since it will be made public.

What do you think about this move? Does it provide a great opportunity for media relations? Do you think others will follow?

Thanks to my friend Mark Tosczak for the tip-off. I’ve cross-posted this from relentlessPR, the Mullen PR team blog, where I also post regularly.

*Image by Daniel Morrison.

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How NOT to Pitch Bloggers

I’ve seen a LOT of bloggers calling out PR pros specifically in posts the past couple months. When you’re finished reading this, scroll back up and check out this example for your reading and learning pleasure from Eric Karjaluoto that he posted last week.

They all share the same tips for approaching them the right way – read their blogs, start a conversation, contribute through comments. It’s the same thing offline reporters have been telling PR folks for years –read my past articles, know what I cover.

The challenge is that many clients care more about quantity than they do quality. The only PR stat many CEOs or board members look at is total number of impressions (circulation, audience, readers, etc.). They base their perception on successful PR on that one little (or big) number. So clients want to see massive call reports and the bigger the better. They want as many emails sent and phone calls made as possible within each hour. That approach doesn’t give the account team time to research the people they’re pitching.

Our industry jokes about “smile and dial,” but that’s one of the reasons we get a bad rap among reporters. We’re doing the same with email blasts when we “spray and pray.” The difference – and it’s a big difference – is that managing editors aren’t going to give up precious editorial space for a reporter to vent about bad PR pitches. Bloggers, on the other hand, have much more liberty to draft a negative post to vent their frustrations.

What Eric and others are asking for – dialogue – takes a strong investment in time and energy by either clients, agencies or both. And the relationships aren’t built overnight.

As we all find ourselves beginning to target blogs and other social media, my question is “Does this change the way we reach out to bloggers going forward?” I believe it should if we want to give ourselves the best chance at success and lessen our chances of becoming the subject of blog posts about “PR Idiots.” But that will take a shift in focus from both clients and agencies that values quality over quantity. At the least, they should be valued equally.

Do you think we need to change our approach? Do you completely disagree?

*Image by Stefano Brivio.

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Five Things Your Brand Must Embrace for Social Media Success: Part 5

Transparency is important in social media efforts.

This week, I’m passing along the five things your brand or client must embrace to increase its chances of executing a successful social media strategy, based on Geoff Livingston’s book Now is Gone with my own take and additions.

1. Give Up Control of the Message (click here to read)
2. Participate Within the Communities (click here to read)
3. Stakeholders Who are Social Media Savvy (click here to read)
4. Dedicate the Resources (click here to read)
5. Ethics and Transparency

People want to participate within communities with people they can trust. That also applies to your company or the community relations managers who lead your social media efforts. Social media communities have little patience – if any – for unethical actions or smoke and mirrors.

Ethics Schmethics?
The first part of that equation is conducting your business in an ethical way. This isn’t about what you tell your audience. This is about how you operate as a company. Making mistakes is acceptable – depending on the mistake, of course – as long as you own them and make changes to lessen the chance of it happening again. Having a positive corporate reputation about the way you do business will help soften the beach for your social media effort.

Increased Transparency
Likewise, the social media community expects more transparency than you may be used to providing. The one-to-one relationships that these networks provide empower everyday consumers to ask direct questions and receive direct replies. You don’t have to give away total access to your business, but if you have a reputation for hiding issues, spinning facts and skirting responsibility, then you’re online outreach will most likely fail.

As Geoff says, “If your company has not traditionally been open in its dialogue with consumers, this should be a red flag for you. The company may not be new media ready.”

What’s missing from this series? What other important ideas should a brand embrace before planning and executing a social media strategy? What would you add to the list and why?

*Image by Scott Feldstein and used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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Five Things Your Brand Must Embrace for Social Media Success: Part 4

 

This week, I’m passing along the five things your brand or client must embrace to increase its chances of executing a successful social media strategy, based on Geoff Livingston’s book Now is Gone with my own take and additions.

1. Give Up Control of the Message (click here to read)
2. Participate Within the Communities (click here to read)
3. Stakeholders Who are Social Media Savvy (click here to read)
4. Dedicate the Resources

People often underestimate the amount of time and energy that is required to execute a social media strategy well. Whether we’re talking about posting regularly to a corporate blog or creating a engaging Facebook group, it takes large doses of both to keep the efforts going. Remember Part 2 in this series? It’s all about participating and being a good neighbor.

If your brand sets up a Twitter account but never makes an update, your company gets a bum rap for that. (Or at least a few laughs among those in the Twitterverse) Likewise, no one will visit your blog if the last post was two months ago. Social media guru Mack Collier says that corporate blogs should have at least two new posts each week. In order to reap the benefits of social media, you have to participate regularly. And that takes time.

When planning your social media strategy, consider realistically how much time, energy and dollars it will take to implement it. If you’re not sure, ask someone who specializes in it for help. If your company can’t dedicate the resources needed to pull it off successfully, scale back or set it aside until you can.

Or approach the efforts differently. If your CEO can’t commit to posting regularly to a blog, make it a team effort and assemble a cross-functional group from marketing, sales, engineering, product development, customer service and other areas to post once a week or every two weeks.

Do you have other ideas for ways to share the load that would allow more companies to jump into social media?

*Image by Bart Hiddink and used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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