The Power of a Social Network Post Policy Thursday, Jan 12 2012 

A segment of a social network

Image via Wikipedia

I work with a variety of clients. Some of them simply want a Twitter or Facebook set up, others want an actual social media campaign. The clients who simply want one of those networks running get just what they ask for- the other guys? They work with me to supply content and optimize their websites and let me work with their web teams to create landing pages so I can actually convert the communities they want me to build!

But before you can get into running a full on campaign you really do need your ducks in a row — you need a solid foundation for your social networks including a strong post policy, content schedule, and a single message / point of view / voice.

This week I had the pleasure of building just such a foundation for two of my major clients. When my firm came in to the scene both of these clients had their social networks registered and were doing what most businesses do at first: someone or several someone’s at their offices was asked to “make updates” to their social networks. These updates were unsurprisingly sporadic, often off message and generally lacking in any consistency whatsoever.

Their numbers were in the toilette and they were driving no traffic to their site, but rather than throw in the towel they decided to ask the important question, “Why isn’t this working and how can we do it right?” (That’s a question I ask myself, by the way, and every marketer should not be afraid to be self-critical when they aren’t getting the desires results)

So, I stepped in, looked at the companies previous analytics and found what type of posts their fans responded to most and thought about what caused these reactions. Using that “actionalble data” I drew up a specific post policy working from a pre-written template I generally keep handy. For most corporations (most, not all) the following template works almost without fail:

Post five times a week, once every week day.

Include 1 educational post which reminds users what the company is or does.

Include 1 discussion piece in which the company takes a position on a given issue which is derived from their mission statement.

Include 1 outside link to anything relevant to either the company or their fans to demonstrate connectedness to the brand’s community at large.

Include 1 shareable media post such as video or images.

Include 1 sales message directing users to a landing page, product or website which is optimized to allow users to spend their money right then, right there.

The point of this generic post policy is that it emphasises familiarity and engagement with a corporation so that when a sales message is sent users are prepared to respond to it- kind of like a micro-version of lead nurturing.

Its also important that these posts all filter through one final editor (usually your social media director who eats, sleeps, lives and breaths on-point messaging and community development) so that each post can be evaluated resulting in consistent voice & style, avoiding two competing concepts of what the company’s message may be (no two people think exactly alike) and so that the final editor can weave a consistent story over multiple posts.

So how did this work out for my clients? Well… I’ve done this type of thing before- but never with national brands. On a local business level post consistency and a solid policy can help you slowly build a following and show a steady drip of new activity on your social networks. When you combine pre-existing brand recognition with a dynamic post policy which takes the brand’s unique user expectations into account? It was a flood.

Triple digit increases in new likes, new activity and site traffic across the board for both of these clients. This resulted not only a good pat on the back from my boss, but also new opportunities for our firm. After demonstrating to these clients that we could, with some minor tweaking and good planning, show them measurable returns from social media they opened up to us and allowed us to expand our campaign. In short we got their trust- and your client’s trust is in the end way more valuable than their monthly checks.

Advertisements

Page to Page Facebook Activity Works Friday, Jan 6 2012 

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook

Image via Wikipedia

I’m an organic social media type fellow. I love to be behind my master dashboard (something my company cooked up which will soon be available to the public) and schedule posts and watch real time analytics. In short, I love talking to people and telling stories about my clients.

So when my employer (@everymerchant) gave me access to a Facebook page our biggest client “forgot” about (our contract was to run all *existing* social sites, so I was prevented from creating one for them! Dumb, eh?) I got excited. Not because the page was doing well, it certainly was in rough shape, but because I had a veritable blank slate to work with.

My challenge? Build a facebook following under brand restrictions (can’t be edgy) and with zero advertising budget. DAMN!

So I fell back on the old tactic which started my career (and, incidentally, raised me a few grand in college which I promptly spent on beer and horror movies- worth every penny!).

I talked. Online.

Brain crushing, eh? But I didn’t just “post into the air” to zero followers hoping that somehow, someway, someone would accidentally search for my brand and randomly be enthralled by my wit and high quality content. I “rode the ticker” by doing targeted “page to page” likes and engaging other brands which, while not in competition with my client, that my client’s customers would frequent. I didn’t just log in and spam, “CLICK MY PAGE” either. I spent a few minutes every day having real conversations with folks in the threads and showing a genuine interest in the topics.

Well every time I logged in to my client’s account a new notification popped up in the corner and my engagement levels sky rocketed. To be fair- facebook is kind in that it doesn’t provide Insights that go below “zero” so the only direction my client’s analytics *could* go was up.

In short this was just targeted advertising. If I jumped into a major discussion with folks I already knew were interested in my brand all it took was a few basic practices to inspire them to click on my client’s icon.

I kept my posts short, 1 or 2 sentences at most. In long discussion threads all but the most passionate will skip over the big blocks of text (tl;dr). Also if your post is between two other people in an active exchange your potential customers simply have to read your post to get to the next post (its human nature, we’re taught to read *everything* in grade school, not skim)(don’t debate me and tell me Internet users just skim, its different in real time chat when the posts are not in excess of 140 words).

I kept my posts relevant and made sure to generate discussion, not debate. Even if I was just agreeing with a previous poster, or the original poster, I contextualized my replies in a way that agreed with my client’s message and company.

I kept my voice and posts consistent, when they saw my client’s avatar they knew I wasn’t going to suddenly bend left and confuse people. I was a reliable source of opinion.

In the end, the other brand’s I communicated with benefited from longer converastions which kept users on their page longer, and my client benefited from increased visibility and… the only analytic most clients even look at… more “likes”.

So if you’re a small business owner- log in as your Facebook Page and cherry pick a couple dozen pages with whom you know you can have good discussions. Watch as the followers of that brand, and their friends who see their posts in the Ticker, discover your brand.

 

 

Your Community, Your Spokespeople Tuesday, Jan 3 2012 

Social Media Outposts

Image by the tartanpodcast via Flickr

At times being a social media marketer can be frustrating. Depending on the client you may spend more time educating them on what social media is (and isn’t) than you do actually marketing! It was with these similar frustrations that I vented on my facebook (its private) about a (nameless) client who wanted me to simply build up massive lists and post pictures of their print ads on their page.

A buddy of mine responded back with a little bit of amusement, but then said he knew of a page which was “doing it right” as he said.

The kid linked me to his local radio station (Radio 104.1 WMRQ) and for a moment I thought he worked for the station. He was so open about what a great station they were and how impressed he was that they actually cared about / responded to his posts that I assumed he was an intern. So I asked him if he worked for WMRQ…

He doesn’t work for WMRQ, but he does listen and when their little add appeared in the corner of his facebook page he clicked “LIKE” because they were familiar and they had his trust.

So, just to recap what happened:

WMRQ spent anywhere from $0.05-$0.50 to get this guy to click. They nurtured the connection over time by posting content, replying to comments and engaging users in a very genuine way (they have 18K “likes” and over 2k people talking about the page, and every single one of those users matters to WMRQ). This kid then came out in public (his profile is not private) and talked about what a great radio station WMRQ is. He’s got four four digits in friends and is active daily, people trust this kid.

So WMRQ’s chump change just got them a ton of impressions, at least me as a new fan, and more bang for their buck than a newspaper advertisement could possibly manage. Oh and this glowing blog.

So you small business owners out there- if you’re just thinking of social media as a digital billboard then delete your accounts, you’re hurting your brand reputation if you’re not engaging your audience and treating them the same way online as you would if they walked in your doors or called the office.

Lessons from Ocean Marketing’s Fail Tuesday, Dec 27 2011 

English: English: Mike Krahulik, co-creator of...

Don't mess with this guy. He's level headed, professional and has a wide audience. Do not mess with him.

Ocean Marketing is the focus of a lot of internet discussion, all of it bad. For those who don’t read Penny Arcade or have not seen this story I’ll recap:

Ocean Marketing represents a company who makes a really cool Game Controller.

A customer, who was dealing with a shipping delay of said controller, reached out to Ocean Marketing who handles the company’s customer support.

The man behind the helm at Ocean Marketing told the customer, ” put on your big boy hat and wait it out like everyone else.”

Then it got worse.

Long story short, the customer service rep at Ocean Marketing tried to win an internet flame war (ha) and ended up mentioning PAX (“PAX East is a three-day game festival for tabletop, videogame, and PC gamers. “- according to paxsite.com) and well… The head of Pax, Mike Krahulik, got involved. Mike also runs http://www.pennyarcade.com, and as he said in this email thread, its pretty popular.

As you can see from the thread, the emails sent by Ocean Marketing are pretty damming. The result has been a fiasco resulting in name calling and changed twitter handles to try and manage some kind of damage control from OM’s end.

What’s even better than name dropping PAX and having Mike Krahulik get right in your face and breaking the story of your poor customer service to the gaming community?

Having the following phrase on your website’s front page: Your brand is no stronger than your reputation- and will increasingly depend on what comes up when you are Googled.

Try and Google “Ocean Marketing” right now. I’ll wait until you’re done laughing.

But the title if this blog is “lessons” from the fail- the “fail” is recorded on the Internet forever.

So how could Ocean Marketing have recovered from this situation? Well, for starters they could have avoided the situation altogether by creating a set of simple guidelines for customer service, and having a community director (like me) oversee all communications.

Codification isn’t the straight jacket it seems like and could have avoided letting this email exchange turn into the biggest failure of customer service in recent memory. But lets say the community director was drunk (Who, me?) and missed it. What could have been done?

Well for starters the community director would be fired (drinking on the job?) as well as the customer service rep. Or at least moved to a different department. Somewhere far away from the public.

A public statement owning their mistake would have helped, too. That public statement would acknowledge the fact that a mistake was made, offer reasons for the mistake (lack of oversight and basic customer service practices), an apology to their client and the customer (dave) and also a clear promise of HOW these mistakes will be avoided in the future.

To do right by their client they should have resigned from the Avenger controller account and taken their name as far away from their client as possible. People are already taking their rage out on the wrong person here- a lot of heat is being directed at Ocean Marketing, yes, but the client is suffering from people who assume the Avenger creator is to blame. He isn’t. The only mistake he made was going with a PR company whose website clearly made promises they couldn’t keep.

In fact, Ocean Marketing could have benefited from this epic gaffe by turning around, handling it right, and then engaging other businesses in the lessons they learned from poor quality control of their team members. Speaking engagements from the head of Ocean Marketing on, “What we did wrong” would be worth 50 bucks a ticket in my opinion. They could spin this, if they wanted to, into a situation where they are not the “worst example of customer service in history” but they are “the best example of how to learn and grow from a mistake”.

 

Use Your Analytics on Social Platforms Thursday, Dec 22 2011 

TrackerSuite.Net, a Web-based product

Image via Wikipedia

I have a wide fauxcabulary. A fauxcabulary is a list of words which are basically nonsense but I’m forced to use in a business environment because well… If I said what I meant clearly all hell would break loose.  The first time someone said,”Bullet Point these Price Initiatives for me?” I asked, “You mean tell you how much this costs?” I was nearly tossed out on my thrift store clothed behind.

But Actionable Metrics is not fauxcabulariy- its your lifeblood as a social marketer. What are Actionable Metrics? Just what they sound like, measurements which suggest a course of action. For instance, if you post 100 times a day about turtle wax and once a day about bike chains, and the bike chains post gets your clicks? Well, then you know you’ve stocked your twitter lists with bike messengers and not car owners and, depending on your product, you can either change who you engage with or change your message.

Such was the case with one of my favorite clients last week. The client shall remain nameless, but we share office space with them and I take my smoke breaks with them. I’d been running a low level twitter campaign for them. I was waiting on some other things to come into place, so I wasn’t really building their following just yet. I would seek out and connect with a few locals (their business is local) and automate some messages about their product, but nothing major.

Well, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t seeing a 50% click through rate (Pretty easy, actually, with a small list, also tracked via bit.ly and @everymerchant ‘s soon-to-hit-market social media software). What really got me though, was that the majority of those clicks were coming before and after the business day and that the most clicks were on the product oriented blogs that the business was posting.

Well, this told me something- people were interested in product specifics, and those people had jobs.

So I changed my tactics. I took down all the content I had automated and replaced it with product details and changed the timing of the posts to peak hours of the previous month’s click throughs.

Will it work? Don’t know, have to wait until I’ve given it enough time to turn over. And, as much as it sounds reasonable  it may still *not* have been the right move. But you have to be rubber, flexable and listen to your fans and your data.

Hit me up at @pallanteMichael some time and we’ll talk about it.

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.