Gallup Survey Offers Wakeup Call to Social Media Marketers

Businessman with social media conceptsIn his 1982 book, Megatrends, futurist John Naisbitt discussed the concept that the more technology takes over our lives, the more we need human interaction. He writes: “What happens is that whenever new technology is introduced into society, there must be a counterbalancing human response – that is high touch – or the technology is rejected. The more high tech, the more high touch.”

An interesting new Gallup survey on the impact of social media marketing seems to confirm this, showing that 94% of consumers say they use social media to connect with friends and family and only 29% to follow trends and find product reviews and information. Fully 62% said that social media did not influence their purchasing decisions. In fact, the research showed that most people rely on their friends, family and experts when looking to buy.

This is obviously not a ready audience for traditional advertising. Why then do so many companies continue to treat social media as just another advertising venue – promoting themselves and their products on their Facebook and Twitter pages, hoping that “like” and “fan” numbers will generate sales?

It seems pretty clear that these companies are going to have to rethink their online marketing strategy if they want to make a real impact. They have to generate trust first, and trust is most often generated through two-way communication and transparency.

In reviewing the findings, The Gallup Blog suggested that companies could better utilize social media by being “authentic,” “responsive,” and “compelling.”   In other words, ditch the sales pitch and create an “open dialogue” with consumers; listen to what customers are saying and offer a timely response to negative feedback; and finally, create compelling content – that is, content that readers find valuable and not just promotional.

Conversation between people in an engaged community has always been the most effective type of communication in building a reputation or a brand. In order to be successful, social media marketing – indeed, all marketing – has to perform a similar function.  As Naisbitt wrote more than 30 years ago, “high tech” has to be counterbalanced with “high touch.”

Posted by Margot Dimond

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There’s no excuse not to include video in your social media strategy

Today’s post by Emma Walter is courtesy of WordWrite Communications of Pittsburgh, a fellow member firm of PR Boutiques International.

With YouTube, Vine and Instagram it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the latest video flavor of the week. We’ll get to which tool is best for you to use later, but with all these new and easy video creation and sharing apps, there’s really no excuse for not including video in your social media strategy. Studies continue to prove that photos and video drive the most engagement on social media sites. Videos are shared 12 times more than text and links combined, and video results appear in roughly 70 percent of the top 100 listings in search results.

There will always be a place in our social media marketing strategies for the traditionalmixbit_large_verge_medium_landscape-resized-600 longer professional quality videos. They are a great investment and can bring great value to your social media efforts over time. In fact, 100 million users take a social action, whether it be commenting or sharing, on YouTube each week. However, with the overload of short snippet video services, we are experiencing a shift in the way social users prefer their videos. If you’re going to create professional, commercial style videos, it’s important to include micro-videos in your strategy as well. With the recent swing, many social media users are looking for short, creative videos that focus on one key takeaway at a time.

Just this week, YouTube founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen announced their new video creation app, MixBit. So, what makes this app different from the others? For one, the videos are longer. Although Vine allows six-second videos and Instagram 15, MixBit offers 16 seconds. You’re probably thinking, “What’s one more second going to do for me?” It’s what you can do with your 16-second videos that makes MixBit truly distinctive. MixBit gives users the capability of combining 16-second videos into one longer video; hence the name MixBit. Users can mix up to 256 clips to create an hour-long video that can be shared on your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus or on the MixBit website.

Another key distinguishing feature of MixBit is the ability to use any video clips you want. While Instagram just released this feature on Wednesday, Vine still only allows users to use video shot within the app. MixBit encourages the use of outside video to create new works and to tell great stories together.

Vine, Instagram and now MixBit have many similar features. Before deciding which one to incorporate into your social media strategy, you should find out which one your key audience participates in most. If by doing some secondary research, you’re unable to determine which is most appropriate, poll your audience. Ask on your other social networks or send out a targeted marketing email to solicit responses. Whichever platform you choose to move forward with, remember to embed your videos in your blog posts and webpages to gain additional traffic and followers.

It’s important to walk before you run when executing a social media strategy. You may find there’s a relevant audience on both Vine and MixBit or another social channel. Try picking and focusing on one network, and become expert at it. Once you feel like you have a successful strategy to which your audience is responding, then focus on working another outlet into your plan.

Whether you choose to use YouTube, Vine, Instagram or MixBit, videos are an important component to work into your social media strategy. By identifying the appropriate network and creating a comprehensive strategy, you’ll be able to establish your organization as a thought leader in the industry and grow your bottom line.

 

Email Marketing: Does it Work?

News PhotoOften neglected or forgotten, email marketing is the stepchild of the social media world, regularly taking a back seat to The Next Big Thing.  Yet, depending on your business goals, it may be one of the best ways to expand your client base.

Email marketing is “one of the most effective means of communicating your brand identity and generating sales,” according to Michael Beaulieu, group manager for digital media at Wayfair – a U.S.-based multinational e-commerce company – who is quoted in a recent article on Digiday.

At our firm, we have had success with e-news – a more subtle form of email marketing that includes newsletters, news announcements and articles on topics of interest to the people on your email list.  Clients who were initially reluctant to try it have been surprised at the positive feedback they get with this means of communication.

Obviously, it’s just one tool in the PR toolbox, but if your firm is trying to reach a specific market, rather than promote to a broad consumer base, it is a cost-effective way to get your message out.  In addition, by using a professional program, you can see who opens your email and how often they do so.  A regular reader might be someone who is interested in hearing more from you.

So while e-news coming from your company will not replace external media coverage, it does offer distinct benefits:

  • Clarity:  Your message is sent – exactly as you want it worded.
  • Frequency:  You can send emails as often as you have news to impart.
  • Targeted:    You can send directly to the decision-makers who can influence your business.
  • Feedback:  You will know if and when your news is welcome – if your email is opened; if you get new subscribers; or if your subscribers “unsubscribe.”

Some cautionary notes to keep your subscribers interested:

  • Keep the content valuable.  If your email is all puff and no substance, people will stop opening it.
  • Don’t send it too often.  You don’t want to overwhelm your audience to the point that you are a nuisance.
  • Make sure everyone on your list is part of your target audience.  Sending information to the wrong person can put you in a Spam category.
  • Have a recognizable design and layout for your email.    You want to look as professional as you are.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Does Your Company Need a Social Media War Room?

Social media war rooms are in the news right now.  In fact, they recently were a featured part of a story by Ned Hibberd of Houston’s FOX 26 TV News. The story, which was prompted by Hibberd’s own experience as a consumer, quoted Lisa Dimond, principal of DoubleDimond Public Relations.

It isn’t surprising that this topic is gaining more attention.  While social media channels are great for creating interest, hearing from and targeting consumers, they can create havoc with your company brand.  All it takes is one embarrassing video posted on YouTube or one thoughtless comment on Twitter and, with the speed of light, you are dealing with a PR crisis.

Most companies – especially those who sell products or services to the public – are taking this possibility very seriously.  It’s dangerous not to do so, considering such recent social media missteps as the tweet by a KitchenAid employee during the presidential debate.  The tweet was quickly disavowed by the company, which helped tamp down on the negative publicity they were receiving.

Although corporations are not known for moving quickly, social media demands immediacy.  You have to communicate in real time – engaging with consumers and responding quickly to online comments and complaints.  In fact, with the appropriate response, you can turn a complaint into a positive experience for your customers.

And that’s where war rooms come in.  Many large corporations have in-house war rooms within their marketing or public relations department to monitor the use of their name across social media.

Do you need a war room?  Unless you are a big company sporting a well-known brand name, it’s probably not cost-effective.

But reputation monitoring is essential for all businesses.

Posted by Margot Dimond

The Wrong Fight: Social Media Management Is Not About Age

From what I can tell, the dust-up over the proper age for a social media manager started in July, with an article on NextGen Journal by recent University of Iowa graduate Cathryn Sloane.  Her article, “Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25,” asserted that, since people her age have grown up with social media, they should be the ones who are in charge of that function professionally as well.

The response to the article was overwhelming – to the point that the title was referred to as “link bait.”  If so, it worked. (Just Google “Cathryn Sloane” to see for yourself.)

Most of the comments criticized the author’s “arrogance” and “sense of entitlement,” quoting statements such as this one:  “To many people in the generations above us, Facebook and Twitter are just the latest ways of getting messages out there to the public, that also happen to be the best. . . .The specificity of the ways in which the method should be used is usually beyond them, however.”  And this one:  “Yet, every time I see a job posting for a Social Media Manager/Associate/etc. and find the employer is looking for five to ten years of direct experience, I wonder why they don’t realize the candidates who are in fact best suited for the position actually aren’t old enough to have that much experience.”

The War of the Ages was on!  Inc.com published an article by Hollis Thomases, president of a digital marketing and advertising service company, that presented an entirely different point-of-view.  Entitled “11 Reasons a 23-Year-Old Shouldn’t Run Your Social Media,” it seemed to challenge Ms. Sloane’s position directly:  “Just because you don’t understand social media doesn’t mean you should forfeit all common sense and hire your niece, nephew, or any other recent college grad (say, your best friend’s sister-in-law’s kid) because ‘they’re really good on Facebook,'”  Ms. Thomases says and goes on to enumerate the reasons why she thinks this is not a good idea.

Her post also generated lots of criticism, as well as a response by Lauren Rothering, PR and social media coordinator for a Wisconsin PR agency.  In “Why millennials should handle your social media,” published in PR Daily, Ms. Rothering asserts that millennials are creative, trustworthy, individualistic, more familiar with social media and more mature than Ms. Thomases gives them credit for.

Stop, please!  My head is hurting!  The main thing about social media is not the method, or even how it is used.  It’s whether or not it fits into a company’s overall public relations/marketing strategy.  Each social media platform is a tactic for reaching and motivating a particular audience – one that is important to the success of a business or nonprofit organization.  Like any tactic, it should be used as part of an overall strategic plan to advance the goals of an organization.

Now that can be done by someone in their 20s or even 60s, but whoever that person is should have the overall communication strategy as the driving force behind their activities.  They also should have some experience in crisis communication, since social media can be a double-edged sword, with negative comments or postings traveling the globe in a matter of hours.

Take Ms. Sloane.  As numerous others have noted, she never responded to any of the criticisms of her article, as is usually done in this type of post and as others writing about her have done with critics of their posts.  She has “virtually” gone into hiding.  She had an opportunity to start an interesting “social media” conversation, but chose instead to essentially strike and run – not a good move for anyone wanting a job in social media, where monitoring of comments and reputation management are essential.

Maybe she will do so in a future article.  She should; that her article caused such a long-lasting stir shows she has a flair for writing that gets read.

Posted by Margot Dimond

 

 

Mobile Marketing for Your Business

Ever wonder what all those shoppers in the mall are doing on their phones?  They are probably trying to make a purchase and haven’t yet found what they are looking for.  They are checking their phones to see if they can find what they need in a nearby location.

Hang out with a group of smartphone users, and you will see that consumers are increasingly comfortable purchasing on-the-go.  It’s called mobile marketing, and your business could benefit from this cost-effective marketing option.mobile marketing

Think about it:  When you are out shopping for a specific item, that’s when you are most likely to consult your smartphone to find the best place to buy it.  And that’s when a business has the best chance of selling that item to you – that very day!

Max Byer has just posted this collection of mobile marketing statistics on the Business 2 Community website.  Here are a few points that stood out for me.

  • Worldwide, more people own a cell phone than own a toothbrush.
  • More than half of all mobile ads result in a phone call.
  • A mobile unfriendly site will send a majority of customers to a competitor’s site.
  • Half of all smartphone owners have scanned a QR code, with almost one-fifth of the scanners making a purchase.

You can read the entire list here.

Posted by Margot Dimond

Nonprofit Organizations and Social Media

Nonprofit OrganizationsNonprofit organizations are lagging in the use of social media for outreach to their constituents, according to a recent survey by software and service company Sage, covered in an article in this week’s PR News.

Almost two-thirds of respondents in the study said they don’t use any digital tools to manage social media programs. Not surprisingly, more than half of the respondents weren’t happy with their social media efforts.

Since social media marketing would seem to be made for nonprofit organizations and their communications programs, this is an unfortunate situation.  But from my point of view as someone who has handled public relations for many nonprofit organizations – large and small – there is no mystery as to why this is happening.

While there are many large nonprofit organizations, there are also many more than have limited budgets and operate with a small, multi-tasking administrative staff whose work lives are stretched pretty thin.  Very few charities have an in-house public relations person – let alone a communications staff.

Outsourcing these activities is the answer for these organizations, but they often opt for pro bono work by an outside agency, where necessity dictates their taking a back seat to paying clients.

To be effective, social media marketing takes strategic planning, time and dedication.

It can be a vicious circle:  nonprofit organizations who don’t communicate with their publics on a regular basis miss out on fundraising opportunities, and lack of fundraising opportunities keeps them from adequately funding their communications programs.

Nonprofit organizations that eventually become financially stable have one thing in common: they have leaders who think big and look to the future.  they invest in a public relations program – and in today’s world, that program includes social media.

Post by Margot Dimond

Starting a Social Media Marketing Program for a Small Business

Social Media MarketingYou own a small business – maybe a retail shop or a professional services firm – and you keep hearing that social media marketing is the way to go to get and keep customers.  But you don’t know where to start.  With so many new social networking sites, it can be confusing.

Don’t give up!  Social media marketing was made for businesses like yours – businesses that want to connect with potential customers, engage them in a dialogue and build the kind of relationship that leads to long-term business success.

The important thing to remember is that, like any other public relations or marketing venture, you cannot dabble.  You have to commit for the long-term.  And it may be best to designate one person or an outside agency to manage your program because, if done correctly, managing social media sites will take many hours per week.

That said, you definitely need to get on board.  But which sites should you start with?  Let’s keep it simple and start with these three:

Facebook.  According to American gangster mythology, when asked by a reporter why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton replied, “because that’s where the money is.”  Well, Facebook is where the people are.  It’s the top social site for referral traffic.  You can’t afford not to be on it if you are trying to reach potential customers.  But just having a Facebook page won’t get you anywhere.  You need to have a “call to action,” an opportunity to share, post photos and videos, and ask and answer questions.  Make your current and future customers feel as if they are a part of your business.

Twitter.    Got a sale coming up?  Have a special two-for-one pricing on meals or drinks?  Want to share a great tip on filing taxes?  Hear of a new trend?  Tweet all of the above – and more – in 140 characters or less.  Also, you can tweet relevant and interesting articles, start a poll, re-tweet customer comments, and on and on.  The important thing is to have an ongoing conversation with your customers.

Company Blog.  Your blog isn’t really a social networking site, but it is your voice to the world.  How is it promoting your brand?  Do you post regularly, or do visitors see outdated information there?  Are you linking back to your social networking sites and website, or does it just sit there – like an orphan?

Writing a blog is a real commitment, and it can become a chore, especially if you aren’t comfortable writing.  You can invite subscribers to post as well, but don’t count on that.  The important point here is that if you can’t keep it current by yourself, hire someone who can.

Posted by Margot Dimond

New Takes on Social Media Users

A couple of interesting news items on social media came across my desk today.  One was an article in a business journal about a social media contest the publication is sponsoring.  It noted that of the 32 entries it had received to-date, 28 were from small businesses.  Very few of the larger companies the writer contacted for the article were actively pursuing social media.  Of those who did, most reported using it to communicate with employees or existing customers.

Social MediaThis has been our experience as well.  Social media is a boon for smaller businesses, for whom traditional advertising and marketing can be cost-prohibitive.  It’s an inexpensive way to reach potential customers quickly and efficiently and, in many cases, it can lead to rapid increases in sales and profits.  It also works well for larger companies that sell directly to consumers.

For large business-to-business firms, social media is less likely to produce immediate results.  The hierarchical structure of most large companies can make them less flexible when it comes to communicating, and flexibility is the hallmark of social media messaging.

The second piece of news is a report on Facebook fan pages in PR Daily. Apparently, brand promotion through Facebook is a dud with millennials – those cherished consumers born between 1980 and 2000.  According to a recent survey of college students, while 86 percent of millennials visit Facebook every day, only 1 percent visit a brand page daily.  If they are fans on Facebook, it’s usually for an organization they are personally involved with, such as a nonprofit organization or a sorority.  This seems to be yet another example of social media tools being used to communicate with people who already know you.

Posted by Margot Dimond

What social media sites are best for my company?

Social Media SitesI worry that I’m falling behind in doing social media marketing for my company.  Just when I think I have a handle on all the types of social media, I hear of new ones and wonder if I should try them.  What’s the best way to decide what’s best for my company?

I can understand your confusion; it seems there is an endless array of sites out there, and it can get confusing and frustrating to try to keep up.  But it sounds like you are approaching this challenge tactically, rather than strategically.

Think of this as you would a home improvement project.  Your social media sites are your tools.  Do you look at the tools you have and decide what you can do with them?  Or do you look at what needs to be done, make a plan of action, then get the needed tools?  I think most of us would agree that looking at what needs to be achieved is the way to go.

It’s the same with promoting your company.  Determine what you would need to achieve your goals.

  • What kind of company are you promoting?
  • What products or services does it offer?
  • Who is your target customer?
  • When you communicate with them, what response do you want?

Once you do that, you’ll have a better idea of what social media sites will actually produce results for you.

The Social Media Examiner asked some of their top social media specialists for their 2012 predictions.  If you can wade through all 30 predictions, you’ll find some good insights.