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.

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.

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.