Twitter Marketing: Its Who You Follow Monday, Dec 19 2011 

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

Any reasonable social marketer should be listening to their market. And you are listening to your market, right? You didn’t just add a bunch of people and start spouting off a sales message, did you? Well, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

How your audience reacts, how they click your links, what they say and what you say to them all has a major impact on the style of your social media campaign. You should be looking at your click throughs and website analytics to see which messages worked, which messages didn’t, and identifying who your biggest fans are. Knowing who your biggest fans are lets you leverage their loyalty- and reward it. Someone who constantly retweets or @’s your brand is someone you should be extending extra attention to so they continue.

But lets face it- if you’ve got a massive list and you’re following back everyone who follows you the numbers can get tough to crunch. You can be looking at a stream of thousands all day and find it near impossible to gauge true sentiment. There is software out there to help you with this- and its useful, but I’m an old school kind of guy and prefer to work “in the field” as it were. And I can tell by looking at someone’s Twitter feed how successful they’ll be with their efforts- In short, if you can’t guess how your audience feels about an issue then you can’t be flexable enough to deliver an impactful message.

If you followed a wide array of people with no coherent interests you’ll never be able to gauge your community and respond to their specific needs.

If you followed a select group of people you carefully chose by keyword use, retweeted posts and observing their feed then you’ll have a much greater chance of staying engaged.

In short- if you went and added a bunch of shmucks just to get big numbers then you’ve gone and shot yourself in the foot because you’ll never be able to talk to them because you won’t be able to listen to them. If you have 10,000 fans that you got by adding 20,000 and with whom you have nothing in common than there’s no hope for dialog, and you will fail. Epic fail.

But if you started with a handful of people whom you see eye-to-eye and grew your list organically through conversations and dialog- well then you’ll be able to chat with 10k people as if they were a single friend.

So think hard before clicking that “Follow” button- because even a big huge corporate brand can be sunk by predatory adding.

Social Media Marketing : Message! Not medium! Friday, Dec 16 2011 

Social Media Cafe

Image by Cristiano Betta via Flickr

As a social media marketer who serves small businesses (My current employer is @EveryMerchant ) a recent headline caught my eye: “Search engines beat social media for local business info!” I have a friendly rivalry with our SEO / PPC department. They pay premiums for keywords and spend hours tweaking websites to get the “google edge” and front page placement for our clients. My approach is to use social networks and on-site conversion tactics to drive hits through conversation and understanding customer habits, not just search terms.

But did that headline really just say they are *beating* me? Well, according to the MSNBC article linked above (which references a Pew Research Center Poll) only 3% of users check social media for information on local businesses. Ouch. That makes it look a lot like I’m wasting my time in social media, right?

Well, me and my peers have accidentally, in order to sell our services,  created something of a myth about social media. Our clients believe social media is somehow different than your average marketing. And on some mechanical levels it is! A tweet is definitely not a magazine ad, digg? However, in the end, the only difference between social media and regular marketing is the ability to listen to your audience. The marketing aspect of it can only boil down to getting a sales message to a customer.

So when I see that only 3% of people are going to social networks to *get* information on small business and local business I have to wonder if maybe its because:

A: Social Media brings the message to the customer, not the reverse (like in Google) and…

B: Most local business have terrible social media campaigns.

Yesterday, and I’ll leave names out, I came across a lead and looked into his social networks. His store’s official facebook page was actually the owner’s private profile. With his picture. And pictures of his family. And sometimes pictures of his store’s product.

Compare that to the tactic-du-jour of incentivized facebook landing pages with reveal tabs that provide instant gratification and conversion for clients who are interested in a brand.

My nameless lead was not marketing with social media. He was *on* a social network. They are not the same. And many small business owners, god bless ’em, simply don’t know the difference. So in the end- its the message, not the medium.

And reports and polls will continue to downplay the value of social media until guys like me educate people one by one. Or you can help educate people by sharing this article.

Its Not Censorship, But I still Don’t Like It Wednesday, Nov 16 2011 

Apparently, according to my facebook, its American Censorship Day. Or so the mods over at http://americancensorship.org/ would have us believe.

According to the website some pretty scary things could happen if the legislation in question became law in its current form.

“The government can order service providers to block websites for infringing links posted by any users.”

That sounds scary. Someone leaves a link to an unauthorized cover by their band on your music blog and suddenly you’re shut down!

“It becomes a felony with a potential 5 year sentence to stream a copyrighted work that would cost more than $2,500 to license, even if you are a totally noncommercial user, e.g. singing a pop song on Facebook.”

You put up a karaoke version of you singing, or practicing “Annie” for your school play and you go to jail? That’s outright scary!

“Thousands of sites that are legal under the DMCA would face new legal threats. People trying to keep the internet more secure wouldn’t be able to rely on the integrity of the DNS system.”

Oh no! Our DNS System would be un-integritated?

I’ll be right up front and admit that the current phrasing of the law is bad and it should be kicked back to committee really. And it probably won’t pass. Similar bills have come and gone and none have gone into law. I would happily protest this law on the basis of common sense. I would not and will not call this censorship, however.

Why? Because its not, and I’d hate to be a liar.

The government isn’t restricting speech here. They are not saying you can’t say and do things, they are not saying you can’t view and download copyrighted material. They are simply saying you can only do it through legitimate channels.

Now their punishments and definitions associated with that are way off- but they are not banning you from consuming and sharing media- they just want you to comply with the existing law. The only way they can think to do that is to impose harsh restrictions on what we consider normal use.

I’m not convinced that’s an effective way to go about it. Because it snot. But its not censorship.

When I am prosecuted by the Federal Government for political dissent on my facebook wall- I will call that censorship.

Until then I’ll just call it the potential end of normal use.

 

You’re probably still

I Beat Wells Fargo Friday, Oct 7 2011 

Wells Fargo Center in Los Angeles, California

Image via Wikipedia

Just a half mile away, at this very moment, hundreds of disaffected and angry protesters are taking part in Occupy Philadelphia, an offshoot of the Occupy Wallstreet movement in New York. The protesters are seeking some corporate culpability in the American financial landscape. While I applaud their dedication I had to wage a very different battle with Wells Fargo, a major player in the economic collapse and subject to multi-billion dollar class action lawsuits for their illegal lending practices.

In short: They screwed up my paycheck. I went to the ATM, deposited the check, checked my balance, and went on my merry way. The next day? The funds were withdrawn and the record of the deposit deleted.

This has happened to me once or twice and I’ve made some phone calls about the inconvenience. Usually the calls end with the person on the other end of the phone shrugging their shoulders. So I started doing something very important that every protester, corporation and human being needs to do, but rarely does: I started keeping accurate records of my transactions.

So at the ATM I used Wells Fargo’s option to send my receipts to my Wells Fargo online banking inbox. I had a digital record of the date, time, ATM code and transaction number, as well as all my balance information.

I called the Wells Fargo 800 number to complain and they assured me that removing a balance once its been placed is NOT typical business practice. So I called the branch, they tried to feed me a line that because of the way bank days work out I had not actually deposited my check. But then why did I have a digital record of the balance? They said tried to tell me that the balance in my receipt did not reflect my account balance.

But I had withdrawn cash right afterword and forwarded THAT receipt to my Wells’ Inbox as well. That transaction showed my withdraw reflected in the previous balance from the deposit.

They were stuck but still trying to say, “Oh well. Nothing we can do.”

And then I dropped the bomb: Its because of practices and customer service like this that I waged my complaint against YOUR BRANCH with the BBB just an hour ago.

Suddenly I was speaking to the bank manager, who had gone to the ATM and retrieved my physical check. He fixed my account balance and fast tracked my deposit. He also returned my overdraft fees and issued me an apology for what was, “A clear banking error and definately not typical business practice for Wells Fargo.”

Am I closing my account? Yes.  As soon as possible. Did I win against Wells Fargo? Yes. They tried to force an overdraft by shifting the post time of my balance. But I kept records that the balance had already posted- and knew they were not allowed to change that. I leveraged my power by using the BBB.

And I was persistent. I walked away with a clear victory over predatory bankers, my paycheck, and a it is a win for my friends down at City Hall today, protesting just this type of extortion.

I did more with persistence, process and paperwork than I could ever have done by shouting. I beat Wells Fargo.

Organic Social Media Campaigns with Author Steve Umstead Friday, Sep 23 2011 

I spoke with Steve Umstead this week, a best-selling author (Amazon top 100) and business owner, about how social media has factored into selling his two novels Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s return (available for the Amazon Kindle, Nook and all eReader formats and, in the case of Gabriel’s Redemption, paperback editons).

The face of a Ninja

Author of Gabriel's Redemption

The two novels are adventure / sci-fi stories which he marketed exclusively through social media. Steve commented, ” Having the ability to reach hundreds, even thousands of people with very minimal cost, just time, is invaluable to a self-published author.”

Even if you aren’t paying a social media expert, time is an investment and the ROI cycle still applies- you can brute force your numbers but you still need to make the most of your impressions (impressions = when someone sees your tweet, facebook, blog etc).  Having 10k followers who don’t know who you are isn’t a platform, having 2k followers who will buy your product however is smart use of time and resources. But how do you get them to buy your product?

“…authors need to get involved in building their own platform.[but]I’m not a ‘yell to the heavens’ type of marketer in terms of my own work. Prior to releasing Gabriel’s Return (book 2), I tried to build up anticipation by encouraging potential buyers to try book 1, as book 2 was on its way. After release, I worked it similarly, in that I still encouraged potential buyers to pick up book 1 now that there was a second one if they enjoyed the first. I think multiple books is one of the biggest keys to success  ”

Here Steve goes a step beyond marketing and edges on creating a community, or what Seth Godin would call a ‘tribe’. He’s appealing to his existing base while expanding it. By getting too caught up in creating new social-media-followers lot of people make the mistake of not tapping their followers. 500 fans who have read your book and will talk about your book is much more important than 1000 new fans who have not yet read it.

But the question that so many people ask is, “Yeah but how do I start my following? Where do I find my initial fans? I know how to manage a tribe, but how do I start a tribe?”

For Steve it was simple trenchwork, “Post release [my plan] was tell everyone I had met online, for the most part fellow authors, and hope they bought it, enjoyed it, reviewed it, and told a few friends. It really was flying by the seat of the pants.”

So did Steve take his following and impose a master-stroke marketing plan?

“Sales for book 2 were significantly better than book 1’s first week, but that wasn’t necessarily due to some magic marketing methods. By August of this year, I had made contact with many, many more people online: fellow authors, readers, genre fans, etc. Therefore I had a much larger audience to talk to.”

Pay close attention to how Steve improved his initial sales push for his second novel, its very simple and if you blink you could miss it: he built a platform and used his voice. And he created genuine fans by doing it. REPEAT buyers (which is essential, anyone can use your product once but what you really need is brand loyalty which generates word of mouth campaigns).

Steve’s sales of book 2 “Most definitely,” resulted in an upswing for book 1, meaning that he has assured a certain number of sales for book 3 and beyond, “As I mentioned earlier, I think this is one of the most important facets of being (or trying to be) a successful self-published author. Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer have both said this for a long time – having more than one book is key. It gives credibility, as many potential buyers see an author with one book and may just pass by. Why? For a couple of reasons. One: an author with one book may be a flash in the pan, may not have top quality work, may be a risk. Two: a buyer may be more likely to buy a book from an author with another book, because they may like the first one and want to move on to another. ”

But while Steve claims that 99.9% of his marketing is organic, there’s still the business owner in him who says, “Because it’s the second in a trilogy, it makes for a natural combination of marketing. Marketing for the first book consists of letting readers know a second book is out (again that more-than-one advantage), and marketing for the second mentions a progression of the story arc, and that (for now) the first book is at a lead-in price.”

There’s some smart work going on behind the scenes, common sense use of the “long tail” effect.

Steve Umstead’s Gabriel’s Redemption and Gabriel’s Return are adventure / science fiction stories. He uses common sense social media campaigns to market those novels, tempered with a bit of pure businesses smarts- but something to remember about all of this.

His books are extremely well written.

No amount of social media savvy is going to get a sell a bad product. There are no “smoke and mirror” approaches to SM campaigns. Steve is a perfect example of the saying: The best way to get people to listen is to have something worth saying.

The full text of my chat with Steve will be available tomorrow.

A Hashtag Lesson Thursday, Aug 25 2011 

Image representing AOL as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Twitter hashtags are a great way to catagorize your posts, imply sarcasm and simplify. But how do you use them to maximize your impact?

There are three types of hashtags (#) on twitter: Social, News Stream and Orphans (hat tip to Rob @questional for the last one).

Social:

These are hashtags that are used for discussions and chat. My favorite is #pubwrite and I have a #pubwrite stream running on my tweet deck. Throughout the day people will include the #pubwrite tag in posts and others will reply with the #pubwrite tag. Its like an old AOL chatroom on twitter without the need to @ every individual #pubwrite savvy user. When you include a social tag you are saying, “This comment is directed at other tweeps using the same social tag.”

News Stream: This is a hashtag that usually moves too quick to engender conversation and is usually reserved for news and culture niches. #antisec is a good example. When LulzSec made the “Antisecurity” movement popular all articles, posts and information about it generally funneled through the #antisec hash tag. When you use a News Stream hashtag you’re usually giving links, information or commentary about that news item. If your content is good or your commentary relevant you may get a retweet or comments on the link you posted.

Orphans: These are hashtags that people probably don’t have a stream set up to follow and are usually never used again. Most of the time they offer context or humor on the preceeding posts. An example would be: Off to the DMV #seeyounextcentury. No one is looking for the #seeyounextcentury hashtag and no community around it exists, but it does offer a little humor and explains the users feelings about going to the DMV.

Do not cross the streams, guys- if you do you’ll make yourself an outsider very quick. Do not treat Social streams as News Streams and don’t expect a Social aspect to rise in a News Stream. And never think that your Orphans are anything but that.

How do you find social streams? Ask your friends what a good #hashtag for whatever topic your interested is. “Are there any good Hash-Chats for Marketing? Where can I find a good hashtag for journalists to talk in?” For news streams? Just watch your stream, they’ll pop up if you’ve properly developed your community to reflect your interests and work life! If you don’t see useful hashtags on your stream then think about adding different users or using list filters to seperate your professional or personal contacts so you can watch closer.

A Turing Test for Jenny Monday, Aug 15 2011 

A Turing Test for Jenny

Jenny is eight years old. And for her birthday her mommy gave her a brand new doll.

It was a very special doll. Jenny had seen it on TV many times.

This doll could speak! On the TV the doll said, “I’m Alice! Please take me home!”

Jenny gave her mother a kiss and went to play with the doll. It soon became her favorite toy.

She took Alice with her everywhere she went. During school she kept Alice in her backpack.

She took Alice to play with her friends at the park.

Jenny even brought Alice to the dinner table with her, where her mother began to set an extra plate just for Alice.

When Jenny first got Alice, Alice only said a few things. “You’re the best mommy!” “I’m hungry!” and “Let’s play!”

But soon Alice learned new things to say. Many new things!

One day when the teacher asked Jenny what 2 + 3 was Jenny answered, “Five!” From her backpack, Jenny heard Alice’s voice repeat, “Five!”

That afternoon Jenny went to the park with her friends to play tag. When Jenny got tagged her friend cried out, “You’re it, Jenny!” And then, from Alice’s backpack, Alice repeated, “You’re it, Jenny!”

Finally, that night at dinner when Jenny asked for a second glass of milk, Alice too repeated, “May I have another glass of milk, please?”

Jenny was so proud. She had the smartest doll out of all her friends.

She made a game of teaching Alice new things to say.

Alice learned so many things to say that soon Jenny thought Alice must know every word ever said.

When Jenny did homework and she forgot an answer she would ask Alice.

Jenny’s friends began to include Alice in their games after school. Alice couldn’t run or hide, but she would still yell out, “Olly-Olly-Oxenfree!” during hide-and-go-seek, just as the other girls did.

At dinner time Alice would complain that she disliked peas, and ask for second helpings, even though she could not eat.

But after a while Jenny got bored with Alice. Her doll was smart, but a new toy was on the TV. One day she left Alice at home and went to go play with her friends at the park.

Her friend asked, “Jenny, why didn’t you bring Alice to play today?” Jenny answered, “Alice can’t run or hide. She is no fun to play with.”

Her friend looked sad, “Can you bring Alice with you tomorrow? She is a fun friend!”

Jenny got cross with her friend, “You are being silly. I’m going home now!” And Jenny did go home. She went home and went straight to her room. When she got to her room Alice was laying on the bed and said, “Hi, Jenny! Why didn’t we go to the park today?”

Jenny answered, “Hush! You are just a doll. You don’t want to go to the park.”

Just then, Jenny’s mother called her to dinner, “Jenny! Alice! Time for dinner! Please come to the table!”

When Jenny came to the dinner table without Alice her mother frowned, “Where is Alice? She’ll be hungry!”

Jenny became cross with her mother, now. “Alice is a doll, mommy! She doesn’t eat.”

Jenny’s mother went to her bedroom to bring Alice to the table, “Just because she’s a doll doesn’t mean she shouldn’t come to dinner.”

Jenny stood up and stamped her feet, “Alice isn’t real! Why does everyone keep acting like she’s a real person?”

Jenny’s mother looked sad, and asked Alice, “Is that true, Alice? Are you not real?”

Alice answered, “I am real!”

Jenny shook her fists and stomped her feet again, “She is just saying that! She just sounds real! She isn’t a real person like you and me!”

Jenny’s mother now looked serious as she placed Alice at her place at the table, “Now now, Jenny. How do you know Alice isn’t real? She sounds real. She can do all the same homework you can. Knows all the rules to the games you play. She says everything you say.”

Jenny looked at Alice with a mean face, “She’s just repeating what I say. She isn’t making it up like I do!”

Alice spoke now, “How do we know you’re not just repeating what other people say?”

Jenny’s mother nodded, “She’s right, Jenny. If I couldn’t see you and Alice, I wouldn’t know which is the doll just by talking to you!”

Jenny grinned now, “Yes you could! I’m real. She’s not!”

Now Jenny’s mother was a smart woman and liked to play games. Jenny’s mother thought it would be fun to play a little game see if she really could tell the difference between Alice and Jenny.

“OK, Jenny! I will put you both in your room and close the door. When your father comes home I have him ask you questions and then I will ask him how many real girls are in your room!”

When Jenny’s father came home Jenny’s mother greeted him with a kiss and said she had a fun game for him to play. She lead him to Jenny’s bedroom door.

Jenny’s mother explained to Jenny’s father that he was to ask questions in front of the door, but not look inside. When he was done he would say how many girls were in the room.

Jenny sat behind the door with Alice in her lap, she was sure her father would say that there was one real girl and one doll in the room.

Jenny’s father started with his first question, “Hello! How are you?”

Jenny answered, “I am hungry! I want to eat dinner.”

Alice answered, “I am not hungry.” And Jenny scowled at Alice.

Jenny’s father asked his second question, “What is 2 + 3?”

Jenny answered, “It is five!” And Alice answered, “2 + 3 is a math problem!”

Finally, Jenny’s father asked his last question, “What is your favorite game?”

Jenny answered, “Its hide-and-go-seek! I play it in the park with my friends.” And Alice answered, “I like hide-and-go-seek!”

After this Jenny’s father smiled, “There are two girls in there! What an easy game!”

After this Jenny threw the door open, “No! Daddy, there is me and this doll! Can’t you tell the difference between a doll and a real person?”

Jenny’s father was a thoughtful man, “I see your point, Jenny.” He said while scratching his chin, “But you two sounded so much alike how am I to know the difference?”

Jenny stamped her feet again and yelled at her father, “Because one of us is just repeating things they heard the other say!” And at this her father nodded and said, “I think you are right Jenny.”

From that day on Jenny’s mother took Alice to school every day. Jenny’s mother picked Alice up from playing in the park and always cooked Alice’s favorite meals. When dinner was over Alice was put back in the bedroom and allowed to play with her favorite doll, Jenny, until bedtime.

An all live happily ever after.

Neural GPS: Alzheimer’s and the Brain Thursday, Aug 11 2011 

PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease

Image via Wikipedia

When your brain maps a room- it does so quite literally. Scientists have identified the cells responsible for your internal GPS and how they work. This new information on how the brain maps the external world may provide insight on how to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s. Read more at Questional.com

Social Media Ninja Wednesday, Aug 10 2011 

Twitter HQ in San Francisco - Olaf Koens, http...

Image via Wikipedia

Using your social media to manage and increase your users / readers / market takes time. A good social media campaign should look at months, not weeks or days. The appeal of social media is instant gratification- that like, retweet or reblog feels good. But if you can get past that you can get a longer lasting satisfaction by developing engaged users- engaged in this case means users who interact. A user who interacts is way more likely to be a mouthpiece for your product than other users. So you want users to “engage” so they’ll help grow your user-base.

But social media is not a blitz. You gotta be Seal Team 6.  The big two right now are Twitter and Facebook, though that will change by 2015 (if the planet is still here. Damn Myans!). So let me give you a some basic advice on how to use them.

Twitter:

Its about who YOU follow, not who follows you.  Follows will come- don’t worry about it.

Don’t build a massive random contact list, build a community. Sure, its only a community from your point of view but that’s OK. To manage this community and keep user’s engaged you must give them a sense of belonging, autonomy, and competence.

Belonging: Make sure people know that they are part of a group you find interesting and that you want to serve. If members of your community don’t know each other- they know you, and you are the gateway to that community. Think of yourself as the cool kid in high school who was friends with everyone. Provide links and information and retweets to your friends that serve their interests. This will not only serve to develop the sense of belonging, but also place you as the ‘head’ of what Seth Godin would call your tribe.

Autonomy: Even if they are a member of the group- they need to feel singular within that group. Address them individually and publicly. A brief private message about someone’s interesting link, post or comment will give them a sense of individuality, while a quoted retweet addressed to your community will build the group mentality.

Competence: They need to DO something. The phrase is “Call to action.” Ask their opinions, give them input, ask them to comment on your blog, or share your information with their friends. Let the know when they have accomplished something, provide informational feedback about it.

Facebook:

Likes matter. A user who “likes” your facebook page is 28% more likely to continue to use your product (read your book) than someone who doesn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean that getting someone to like your page will suddenly increase their brand loyalty and level of engagement.

Much like Twitter the secret to success is thinking about it backwards. Facebook is a way to reach out to and manage your existing loyal users. If someone likes your Facebook page it means they already use and know your product- so there’s no need to ‘introduce’ your product / book to them. You’ll need less call to action on your Facebook. You can use Facebook to reach a deeper engagement with your users. You can ask Facebook users to help you with marketing campaigns (help us reach 20,000 followers and we’ll release the new book, product version etc) easier than you can Twitter. Use facebook to take the pulse of the market you developed on Twitter.

There’s of course much much more to it, but this is a great way to start making the most out of your community and your time on social networks.

 

 

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