Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

What if Facebook Goes For the Money?

Ever since Facebook went public, there has been growing criticism and scrutiny of the biggest social media brand in the world.

Its stock has plummeted — dropping to nearly half its original value — everyone is selling shares, and no one has much good to say about the company’s strategies for mobile or anything else at all, really.

Everyone is waiting, it seems, for this powerhouse to start making money the old fashioned way. With the idea of charging consumers for its online or mobile service a huge long shot, chances are that revenue is going to inevitably come from advertising.

But until now, running ads on Facebook has been an inexpensive yet effective undertaking. With all the personal data collected by Facebook, ads can be easily targeted to a myriad of demographics.

That could change. To start generating real and more revenue, Facebook may have to start charging more for advertising.

That can mean spiked rates for click-throughs or even a charge for page impressions, which could significantly impact marketing budgets.

This could lead to a rough transition with some marketers exiting Facebook for cheaper ground. For others who have found they are getting good results on Facebook, higher costs may lead to fewer but increasingly focused campaigns.

And it may begin an upward trend in online ad rates across platforms — again, a downside for marketers, but a good thing for social media companies, online publishers, bloggers and the like.

Meanwhile, Facebook could introduce advertising spots that synch up more seamlessly with users’ news feeds. This, however, is how ads sometimes appear on the site’s mobile version, which has garnered many complaints.

If Facebook starts doing this, it will have to do it well — but it could offer an opportunity for premium ad space for big campaigns.

Another option for Facebook is following Twitter’s footsteps and begin a data-mining program to sell to third parties. For marketers, this could be a boon: finding out what certain groups are talking about and potentially buying.

Perhaps this is one of the big ideas the company is currently hinting at, but keeping under wraps.

So far, social media has been an inexpensive ride for users and for marketers. That could well change as the publicly owned Facebook moves forward. Are you ready?

Three Keys to a Successful Social Media Campaign

Many social media users and fans get excited when a brand knocks it out of the park with a great and engaging digital campaign. It provides credibility that this is the place to drive marketing activities in a different or unique way.

The reality is when social campaigns hit, they have the ability to hit in a big way.

Some of the best campaigns orchestrated by Google, Old Spice and McDonald’s have delivered dividends that far exceed the online world.

So what do brands and agencies need to keep in mind when devising the next great social media campaign?

1. Creativity is key. The generic or the broad rarely plays well in the offline world, let along within social media.

The best campaigns all have this in common. Those who do straightforward “join now” or “click here” campaigns may have trouble engaging fans and potential fans.

2. Hit emotional notes. Old Spice did this through humor, which made it doubly impressive. The “It Gets Better” campaign” created emotional engagement with celebrities and users, which heightened everything.

3. Find your online audience. You can cast a wide net but you have to still focus on target audiences who will talk about and share your campaign and its value.

Which social media campaigns have hit home hardest with you?

 

Content Marketing + Social Media = The Perfect Marriage?

content marketing social mediaHave you embraced content marketing yet? Have you bought into the idea that content is, in fact, king?

It’s difficult not to feel like the role and value of content has dramatically changed over the past year. It was not that long ago that brands were getting their heads around social media; now they have to think about becoming publishers. No wonder some brands have little idea about what to do given the landscape is changing so fast.

Here’s the thing about content marketing and social media: they’re both meant to attract eyeballs and, at the end of the day, drive transactions. In other words, they’re marketing and sales tools that can be leveraged to attract target audiences to change their thinking or behaviour.

It’s really as simple as that, although it can be difficult to tell given the hype surrounding content marketing and social media.

Here’s another reality: content marketing and social media have the potential to be perfect partners because while they share the same mandate, they address the challenges in different ways.

Content marketing involves the use of content – Webinars, videos, blog posts, case studies, whitepapers, etc. – to build a brand’s profile and provide existing and potential customers with some kind of value. By creating content that resonates, brands hope consumers will think of them in a different way, establish a relationship and, ideally, buy a product or service.

Meanwhile, social media is a way to engage and have conversations with consumers by using tools that allow for two-way dialog. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Linked, YouTube, Tumblr or Pinterest, brands leverage social media to connect with consumers and, hopefully, have them connect back.

So what happens when you put content marketing and social media together?

If done right, the content created or delivered by a brand is distributed using social media services to target audiences looking to consumer content in different ways.

By using social media, brands can do a better job of getting content into the hands of people who may find it interesting or useful. As important, social media lets consumers engage with brands about this content.

In other words, content marketing and social media complement and support each other.

It explains why many brands are embracing content marketing because it provides more ammunition for their social media efforts. At the same time, social media can offer an effective distribution network for companies creating a lot of content.

Bottom line: content marketing and social media can be a powerful one-two punch.

More: For some other thoughts, Erin Nelson has a post on the “real magic” of content marketing, while Lee Oden has a post on five ways that B2B business can win with content marketing and social media.

Will Brands Ruin or Super-Charge Pinterest?

Like any social media network that gains traction, the initial surge is led by people looking for a new way to consume or share content, or communicate with friends and family.

As a social network becomes popular, it is only a matter of time before it captures the attention of brands looking to connect with consumers. A classic example is Facebook, which not only embraced brands but created a new platform, Facebook Pages, so they could establish a stronger and better presence.

As Pinterest continues its impressive growth, one of the big questions is the impact of brands, which are likely salivating when they look at the 12 million active users and the amount of referral traffic.

Will brands ruin Pinterest by making it more commercial and transaction-oriented. Or will brands make Pinterest even more fun and entertaining by adding a new element to the mix?

While it is too early to assess the impact of brands on Pinterest, the thing that may keep brands in check is how Pinterest is a no-frills platform – at least for the time being.

The lack of bells and whistles is a key part of Pinterest’s appeal because it makes the service easy to use. There aren’t a lot of moving parts to distract or overwhelm users, which makes content paramount.

Unless Pinterest changes how it looks and works, brands will have to compete for the attention of consumers by delivering engaging, compelling and interesting content. If your photos, graphics or images have no curb appeal, you’re dead.

This reality could make it challenging for brands to establish strong footholds on Pinterest because they will need to be creative and think out of the box. Unlike Facebook, a brand won’t be able to super-charge its efforts by holding contests or giving away free pastries to become popular.

For Pinterest, the reality of having brands as part of its ecosystem will be an opportunity and a risk.

On one hand, Pinterest could benefit from having lots of brands because it could provide key pillars of its business plan – e.g. advertising and sales commissions. At the same time, however, Pinterest has to be careful not to change too much to accomodate what brands want.

In other words, it is going to be a delicate balancing act.

What do you think? Will brands ruin or enhance Pinterest?

For more thoughts about brands and Pinterest, check out this infographic by Maxymeiser.

7 Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Marketing Campaigns

There’s so much talk about engagement and conversations when it comes to social media that it tends to overshadow how social media can also be used to drive a company’s marketing and sales efforts.

In particular, social media monitoring and analytics can be effective ways to monitor the success of an online and off-line marketing campaign to give brands the insight to make on-the-fly tactical tweaks that can have a major impact.

So what are the keys to having a marketing campaign supported by social media?

1. Establish a target audience so benchmarks can be created and monitored: An important consideration is making sure there is  flexibility to account for insight from social media monitoring. For example, there could be an initial belief the most reaction to a marketing campaign will occur on Twitter but, for whatever reason, it takes place on Facebook. This insight can let a brand shift in focus in mid-stream.

2. Make sure there is creative messaging: Keep in mind social media services are tools to deliver content and have two-way conversations. The key to a marketing campaign is creative content layered on top of the social media services being used. It could be the use of videos (e.g. T-Mobile or Old Spice), contests, compelling content such as blog posts, or beautiful photography.

3. Talk the way the community talks: By monitoring how language is being used (aka semantics), brands can better connect with target audiences by communicating in a way that resonates and makes sense.

4. Media placement: As part of a marketing campaign, brands will use a variety of mediums to reach consumers. Some of them will work better than others, and social media monitoring and analytics can help to determine whether one approach should get more attention, while another approach should be toned down.

5. Promotional offers: There may not be such thing as a free lunch but consumers love getting stuff on social media, even if the prizes are fairly modest. By offering prizes, discounts, coupons or special access, brands can encourage consumers to connect with them (e.g. a follow or a “Like”), as well as drive word of mouth.

6. Leverage key influencers: There is a lot of talk about influence and influencers because they give brands the opportunity to tap into someone else’s network to drive broader attention. By identifying influencers AND listening to what they’re talking about, brands can adjust their marketing efforts to drive better results.

7. Global versus local campaign changes: Knowing where your audience exists geographically is a key element because it gives brands insight into whether their overall goals and target audiences are being reached. By using social media monitoring tool, brands can determine the location of activity on a local, regional and national basis.

At the end of the day, social media monitoring and analytics can deliver the insight and intelligence needed to have marketing campaigns that feature flexibility and agility as part of the success formula. By being able to introduce tweaks along the way, it can help to drive leads and sales, which, after all, is the ultimate goal.

For more insight into how social media monitoring and analytics can be a key part of a marketing campaign, Sysomos has a free whitepaper within its business library.

What’s Your Tolerance for Twitter Ads?

It has taken awhile – probably too long – but Twitter is finally starting to deliver ads within the live streams of users.

In theory, these ads will subtly blend in, appearing as relevant and contextual as opposed to sticking out like a sore thumb.

The question is how much tolerance users will have for these ads. Will they accept them once every 25 tweets, once every 50 or once every 100? Right now, it’s hard to tell because the program has yet to go full-blast but the initial response seems mixed.

Some Twitter users have expressed various degrees of dislike for the idea, which isn’t surprising given they have enjoyed an advertising-free Twitter experience to date. On the other hand, there are some people who seem receptive to the idea, as long as it is not intrusive.

Like anything new, there will be different reactions Twitter will have to handle as its advertising business gains traction and more advertisers come on board.

At the end of the day, Twitter has little choice but to introduce advertising to monetize its 200 million users. In-stream advertising is such low-hanging fruit that Twitter can no longer afford not to enthusiastically embrace it as a way to finally create a business model to support its costs and the expectations of its investors.

Sure, there will be some grumbling from a minority of users but given Twitter has little choice but to accept advertising, any pushback will be the price of admission into a market that could prove to be lucrative.

At the end of the day, advertising within live streams will become part of the landscape – something few people will think about anymore or, for that matter, worry about it. After while, most people will probably stop noticing when ads appear in their Twitter streams. It’s not that they will ignore ads but the ads will no longer jump out every time they appear.

If Twitter can attract enough advertisers, it may be able to achieve the same kind of win-win scenario for advertisers and consumers as Google’s AdSense program, which has become a highly profitable multi-billionaire dollar machine.

The key will be making the in-stream ads so relevant they meet the specific interests of Twitters users and, at the same time, blend into the background because they seem like a natural part of the overall experience.

According to eMarketer, 600 companies were advertising on Twitter by June compared with 150 at the end of 2010. This is not a surprise given the size of the audience. It will be interesting to see how these ads are received and the benefits delivered to advertisers. Emarketer said 80% of advertisers have renewed their campaigns while the engagement rate for an ad has been an impressive 3% to 5%.

It will also be interesting to see how Twitter can grow its network of advertising partners, much like Google has done by striking deals with Web sites to run ads. If Twitter can make money from these partnerships, it could reduce some of the antagonism between the company and the developer community.

Despite it being early days, it would difficult not to see advertising becoming a major business for Twitter, which should relieve some of the pressure it has been experiencing as it scrambles for ways to make money.

Social Media & “What’s In it For Me?”

Many companies that have embraced social media promote this activity on billboards, magazines, newspaper and television ads, their Web sites and marketing collateral.

But far too often they fail to make it clear to consumers why they should actually follow, like or subscribe. Their social media activities are just put out there with logos slapped on a Web site, billboard or marketing brochure.

The problem with this approach is it fails to embrace the classic “What’s in it for me?” question that every brand should provide consumers who are looking for reasons to get involved. If there are no benefits, incentives or “carrots” (aka rewards, contests, prizes, etc.), there is little reason for consumers to make an investment (time, energy, etc.) in the brand. In other words, companies need to give consumers real reasons to get involved.

Instead, too many brands seem to think that simply promoting their social media presence is enough to encourage people to jump on the bandwagon. The assumption is once people follow, like or subscribe, they will quickly recognize the benefits being offered – whether its content, contests, giveaways, polls, etc.

In many respects, it’s like owning a store that has signs in the window that read “Come on it!” or “We’re Open” with no other information such as “50% Off Sale” or “Buy Two, Get One Free” signs. If you don’t provide people with reasons to come into the store, they probably won’t do it.

There is a lot of talk about engagement when it comes to social media but the engagement has to start before people become part of the corporate fold. Engagement needs to happen from the start of the potential relationship; it needs to happen as part of the pitch to get involved.

How Many Carrots Within the Social Menu?

There is no such thing as a free lunch.

And, for that matter, there is no such thing as a freebie within social media when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of consumers. At the end of the day, social media is a “what’s in it for me” medium in which brands need to reward consumers on a regular basis.

While it may sound somewhat harsh to describe it this way, the reality is most consumers need to be given incentives if they are going to be engaged or stick around. It’s something I describe as “carrots”. Brands put a carrot on a stick so that consumers are motivated to get involved.

Carrots can be something as straightforward as prizes or free stuff (e.g. a free bagel from Einstein Bros. Bagels or a free pastry from Starbucks), it could be a contest in which consumers have to upload a photo or video for the chance to simply be recognized by the community, or it could be a simple poll or question.

Whatever type of carrot is selected, the goal is getting and keeping consumers engaged and interested after the “Like”, follow, join or subscribe has happened. Without carrots, the number of people who stay engaged start to disappear. This means if even you have thousands of “Likes”, for example, but it doesn’t matter if only a small percentage are participating on a regular basis.

My take is that carrots and content – aka the two C’s – are a dynamic and necessary one-two punch when it comes to attracting and keeping consumers on social media. If you don’t feed consumers enough of either “C”, they likely won’t stick around for long.

Five Social Media Marketing Mistakes

A few days ago, Mashable had a good post about the five marketing mistakes made on Facebook, which inspired me to create a list on the five social media mistakes overall.

1. Unrealistic expectations. Even though there may be less hype about social media, many companies still believe it is a silver bullet or magical solution that will generate fantastic results in a short period of time – be it more sales, better customer service, more Web site traffic or more buzz. It often means companies are disappointed when they don’t get instant gratification from their social media efforts. As a result, they lose their enthusiasm for social media or abandon it altogether.

2. Not recognizing there is a lot of grunt work involved. Social media just doesn’t happen. It requires an awful lot of work on a day in, day out basis. After the strategic plan has been created, the real work starts to happen when the tactical plan is executed. It requires someone to invest the hours to create content, engage with consumers, build a community and establish a vibrant presence.

3. Adopting a shot gun approach in which multiple social media services are launched at the same time based on the idea more is better. What usually happens is companies spread themselves too thin and, as a result, their efforts are, at best, mediocre. Instead, they should focus on doing less but doing it as well as possible. Only after establishing some traction should additional social media services be considered.

4. Not listening. In the scheme of things, listening is one of the most important things a company can do on social media. As much as creating content and engagement are crucial, listening is a key element because it offers companies insight, information and intelligence to effectively target their social media efforts. Too many companies are so intent on talking that they forget about listening, or make it a secondary consideration.

5. Creating social media as a standalone or silo-ed activity. Social media can do a lot of wonderful things but it can’t succeed or even establish a solid foothold without support from other parts of the organization. Many companies, however, think social media is so magical it doesn’t need any support to thrive. Some of the common mistakes include not highlighting their social media services prominently on the Web site, or not mentioning social media within sales or marketing collateral. In an ideal world, social media supports a company’s other activities, AND a company’s other activities support social media.

Any other common mistakes that companies make? Leave a comment to let us know.

Love Your Social Media, Don’t Orphan It

When many companies get into social media, one of the strange offshoots of their enthusiasm is they place their social media efforts into a silo.

This often happens because a company is so focused on making social media happen they forget to integrate it into the other parts of the business.

It’s a situation that emerges because the effort to create and launch a social media strategy and then implement a tactical plan can take a lot of time and energy.

This means the idea of blending social media into their communications, marketing and sales activity may appear like a different project altogether – something that would take a separate plan to implement.

The reality, however, is social media must be part of the overall mix from the beginning.

When a company starts to explore the idea of embracing social media, it also needs to think about how social media will support its communications, marketing and sales efforts. As important, a company needs to consider how its communications, marketing and sales efforts will support social media.

In other words, you want to create an ecosystem in which cross-pollination makes 1 + 1 = 3.

The worse thing a company can do is put social media into a separate silo or make it a corporate orphan left to its own devices. Without the support of the organization, social media can suffer and fail due to a lack raison d’etre.

The bottom line is social media needs to be embraced and cherished by everyone. When that happens, there are benefits for everyone involved.