Relevancy At Its Finest

This past weekend I had a chance to check out the Rock Make Music & Art Street Festival where I enjoyed listening to some local Bay Area bands and soaking in some much needed sun. While I walked around, I couldn’t help but notice this sign, which was hanging throughout the festival:

The sign, which has a QR code that leads to the Facebook page of Audyssey, illustrates two points that are often overlooked by many social marketers.

  1. Know your audience. Audyssey is an audio company. They made this marketing push at a music festival that was filled with audiophiles, their key demographic. I often see companies trading likes for incentives with little thought as to who the people are who are participating in the promotion. That kind of one-time interaction does nothing to build an audience who might actually be potential customers. Audyssey gets it right with targeting that makes sense, rather than a shotgun approach.
  2. Give people a reason to like you. In the social age, requests to like a brand on Facebook are so commonplace as to be easily overlooked. Make sure to tell your customers why they should bother. In this case, it’s for a free beer. It doesn’t always have to be a giveaway, though. Maybe it’s exclusive information, access to pre-sales, or just great content. Whatever it is, make sure that you communicate it when you make the “ask.” In this case, Audyssey taps into something that their audience can get excited about. See point #1, music and hipsters like beer. Sometimes it really is just that simple.
Everywhere I go and everything I do, I see social calls to action that I never think twice about. It’s refreshing to see a brand that gets it.

 

For The Data Geek In Your Life

Looking for the perfect gift for the marketers in your life? These shirts oughta bring a smile to their face!

 

9 Ways to Delight Your Facebook Fans Without Giving Away The Farm

This post was originally published on the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

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When it comes to social media marketing, and Facebook in particular, the name of the game is engagement. Conventional wisdom says that the best way to keep your Facebook fans engaged is to reward them, the most obvious way being with free products, discounts and other types of giveaways. For many small businesses or businesses with limited resources, though, doing this on a regular basis is unrealistic. So, instead of thinking of this as a barrier, think of it as a creative challenge. Here are nine other ways the creative marketer can engage and delight their fans and customers without spending a dime.

1. Ask Questions

One of the primary reasons your customers become fans on Facebook is to have a channel to interact with your brand. Make it easy by asking them questions and giving them a reason and an opportunity to start a dialogue. Asking questions on Facebook can be a great way to gather valuable customer feedback about your company, but can just as easily be used to have a little fun. Think about the kinds of things that will get your customers talking and start the conversation!

2. Provide Exclusive News

People love to feel in the know or ahead of the curve. Have a new product coming out or an upcoming sale that hasn’t been announced yet? Reward your Facebook fans by sharing the news with them a few days early.

3. Lift The Curtain 

In the same vein, giving your fans a behind the scenes look at your business can be a great way to start conversations and make them feel special. Day to day activities that we take for granted might actually be fascinating to many of your customers. It doesn’t have to be directly related to your business, though. Do you or any of your employees have interesting hobbies or community service projects? These kinds of stories make for great Facebook content.

4. Let The Games Begin 

What’s more delightful than playing games? There’s a reason social games like Farmville and Mafia Wars have taken over your Facebook newsfeed, and there’s no reason you can’t get in on the fun. Try asking your fans trivia questions or challenging them to take pictures of themselves and their friends using your products or visiting your locations. Facebook doesn’t allow contests that aren’t run through 3rd-party applications, but there aren’t rules against playing games for fun.

5. Rally Around A Cause 

If your company already contributes to a charity with any sort of regularity, why not get your fans involved? Cause marketing is an extremely powerful way to engage your fans, make a difference, and give your brand a bit of personality while you’re at it. Try tying your donation to fan activity by pledging incremental donations when your fans like your status. Don’t know what cause to support? Take a cue from idea #1 and ask your fans for their input.

6. Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Simply recognizing your fans is a great way to bring smiles to their faces. In fact, recognizing a winning fan can be a great “prize” for the games in idea #4. Consider selecting a fan every week to feature on your wall and thank them for their support. A little goodwill goes a long way.

7. Be Responsive

Another form of fan recognition that is often overlooked is to respond when they leave a comment on your wall. While it may be obvious to respond to a direct question, responding to other comments might not be so intuitive. If a fan leaves a compliment on your wall or responds to one of your status updates, take the time to acknowledge it. There’s no better way to show your customers that you’re listening.

8. Take It Offline 

Does your business have a physical location? Would what you do be interesting to your fans? Behind the scenes tours are a great way to reward them. Perfect for everything from restaurants to artists workshops to manufacturing facilities, selecting a fan on a regular basis for an exclusive behind the scenes tour is an awesome way to get them to interact with your page. As an added bonus, your fans will be inclined to share this experience with their networks and you may even earn some new customers in the process!

9. Don’t Give Away The Farm, Give Away A Dozen Eggs Instead

Okay, so technically this costs money, but the point is it doesn’t have to be a lot. What little rewards might you have that fans will appreciate nonetheless? T-shirts, USB drives, a small discount off their next purchase…little rewards have the ability to delight your customers as well. Small rewards also give you the opportunity to do more promotions on a recurring basis. While one large sweepstakes may create some buzz and make one winning fan really happy, a lot of small ones make it so the fun doesn’t have to end.

 

Rise To The Top With Facebook EdgeRank

This post was originally published on the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

Facebook can be a great place to market your small business; many of you have set up fan pages and are actively building a Facebook audience. One thing you may not realize, though, is that not all of the messages you share on Facebook are being seen by your fans. In fact, many of the posts you share on your Facebook page will only be seen by a handful of people, regardless of how many fans you have. If you want to know why this is and what you can do to optimize your posts for maximum reach, you’ve come to the right place.

For the personal profiles of your fans, the default setting on their newsfeed is set to display what Facebook considers “Top News.” Users have to manually select “Most Recent” to see all posts from their friends and pages that they are a fan of. Unfortunately, most don’t. To determine what posts end up as top news, Facebook uses a proprietary formula named EdgeRank. While the exact science behind calculating EdgeRank is a secret Facebook won’t be sharing any time soon, we do have a decent idea of the kinds of things that make an impact and what you can do to affect them.

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Affinity: Affinity refers to the strength of the Facebook relationship between users. The more a fan interacts with your page by liking or commenting on your content, the higher the affinity will be between them and your page and the higher the chance that your posts will continue to appear in their newsfeed.

What You Can Do: Encourage conversations with fans on your page and start a dialogue. If a customer leaves a compliment on your page, don’t just let it end there. Thank them and start a follow-up conversation. The more interaction you have with individual fans, the more prominent your posts will be in their newsfeeds.

Popularity: As more people engage with any given piece of content, the more popular it becomes in Facebook’s eyes. So, as a post receives more likes and comments, it has a greater chance of showing up in the newsfeeds of other fans.

What You Can Do: Figure out what kinds of posts get the most reaction from your audience and be smart about what you post. Use Facebook Insights to see which of your posts saw the most activity over a certain time period. Was it the article you linked to about new regulations in your industry or was it a post on a project you’ve been working on recently? Use your findings to shape your Facebook posting strategy.

Type of Interaction: Feeding into how Facebook determines post popularity is the value that they assign to different kinds of interactions. Since typing actual thoughts on a post in the form of a comment takes more effort on the part of your reader than pushing a like button, posts with more comments are going to take precedence over those with simply a lot of likes.

What You Can Do: Try to share things on Facebook that encourage conversation or require some sort of answer to interact with. Rather than just using Facebook as a broadcast medium, ask your fans questions and get them talking.

Weight: Some kinds of shared content are weighted more heavily in EdgeRank and therefore are likelier to make it into top news. Again, we can’t be 100% sure what content types are best, but a reasonable assumption is that Facebook rates videos, photos, and links higher than plain text status updates.

What You Can Do: Use photos, videos, and links as often as possible when posting to your page. Even if the main objective of your post is something else, say a question you’d like answered about what features your fans would like to see in an upcoming product release, try anchoring it with a relevant image that will catch your readers eye. Posts of these types also encourage more interaction, so it’s a win-win when it comes to lifting EdgeRank.

Timeliness: The last piece of the EdgeRank puzzle is also the most intuitive. The older a post is, the less likely it will appear in the newsfeeds of your fans. If a post is getting a ton of engagement and therefore satisfying the other EdgeRank criteria, it has a chance of sticking around. But, for the most part its safe to assume that yesterday’s news is, well, yesterday’s news.

What You Can Do: Be strategic about when you post to Facebook to maximize when your audience is most likely to see your updates. There are studies out there that purport to have found the best time of day to post on Facebook, but the fact of the matter is it’s different for every business. Post updates at varying times over a month or two and see which ones get the most reaction. This will let you know when your fans are most active.

Like any other marketing channel, there is no silver bullet or one size fits all approach to Facebook. That said, by testing different things, you can begin to put the puzzle together and get the most out of your efforts. I’d love to hear about the successes (and yes, even failures – we’ve all experienced them) you’ve had with Facebook.

 

What the Heck is Google+ and What Does it Mean For My Business?

This post was originally published on the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

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Another social network?!

Yes, another social network, but one that you should definitely pay attention to. Although dominant in the search market, Google has tried for years to break into social with little luck and some large failures. Google+ seems to be a product of the lessons they’ve learned along the way. After a week of exploring Google+ and its features, I am impressed by how well thought-out it appears to be. Sure, there are a few off things here and there, and my homepage can sometimes feel like a ghost town since only a handful of folks are on it so far, but I see a ton of potential, particularly for businesses.

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So, how’s it different than Facebook?

At first glance, Google+ actually looks a lot like Facebook, probably a good thing when it comes to user adoption. The home page doesn’t drift far from the look and feel of the Facebook wall and status updates and the commenting function works essentially the same way as well. Hey, Facebook has honed its user experience for years…no need to re-invent the wheel, right? The key benefits to Google+, though, lie in the features that aren’t available (or weren’t until just last week) on Facebook in any form. There are five in particular which really stand out to me:
  • Circles: Circles give you the ability to sort all of your contacts into separate groups based on the nature of your relationship. You can then select which circles you want to be included whenever you share something on Google+. For example, you could have a circle for your family members where you share pictures of your kids and other family news, while keeping a different circle for your friends and even another circle for just acquaintances. By sorting your contacts in this fashion, the information you share can be much more targeted, and in turn, more relevant to the people you’re sharing with.
  • Hangouts: Hangouts are group video chats. By making yourself available to “hangout” you can start a video chat with up to ten of your contacts who are also online at that time. Hangouts recognizes who is talking and the main video feed will focus on that person, making it a lot like a real conversation. You can also share things during a hangout (say an article or a youtube video) which everyone can view together. Now that’s cool!
  • Sparks: Sparks is a feature that recommends content for you based on your interests, online activity, and preferences…sort of like your very own custom content curator. Given Google’s expertise in data mining, I expect this feature to become really robust over time. Another nice thing about Sparks is the ability to share things you find to the circles of your choice without ever leaving Google+.
  • Huddle: Huddle is a group chat function that can be used online or across Android, iPhone, or SMS. Yes, Facebook just announced the rollout of group chat too, but the integration of mobile and a more professional environment (see next bullet) give Google+ the edge here.
  • Aura of professionalism: Okay, so not technically a feature, but I think the professional vibe put forward on Google+ so far (or at the very least, the ability to easily separate friends from professional contacts using circles) is a huge benefit for the network. Google+ seems to take the powerful functionality of Facebook and marry it with the professional environment and discussion topic types of LinkedIn. On top of all that, Google+ functions a bit like Twitter too, in that you can follow someone’s updates regardless of whether they are following you or not. This is a huge plus when it comes to finding good content. For these reasons, Google+ has a lot of implications when it comes to business applications.

Okay, then what does Google+ mean for my business?

For the time being, Google has asked that businesses refrain from creating a profile on Google+. The company says that they have plans for businesses to be able to get the most out of the network, but that it’s just not ready for that functionality yet. If you’re interested in being one of the first businesses on Google+ permitted to create a profile, you can sign up with Google to be notified as soon as profiles are availableUpdate: Google is no longer accepting applications for beta company profiles of Google+. Look for news on company profiles opening up to everyone later this year.

That said, there are several ways right out of the gate that Google+ is good for business:

  • Productivity: Between Hangouts, group chats, and the ability to create work specific circles, Google+ is poised to be a powerful internal communication tool at your company. Imagine being able to push certain information or topics towards one or a few departments without bogging down peripheral employees’ news feeds. With circles, this will be a snap. Have offices spread across several locations but need to arrange a quick face-to-face meeting without springing for a pricey web conference solution? Hangouts has you covered. And for those companies already using Google apps at some level, the inevitable integration with Google+ will be a serious game changer.
  • Professional Networking: While Google+ probably won’t replace LinkedIn when it comes to things like showcasing your experience and professional recommendations, it will be a threat to areas like industry specific content sharing and discussion groups. Additionally, Google+ enables users to allow other people to contact them via email, regardless of whether they are in each other’s circles or not. While not everyone will leave this feature on, for those that do it will open a great avenue for new business contacts.
  • Competitive Research: For the same reasons that Google+ is a powerful professional networking tool, it can also be useful when it comes to keeping an eye on and interacting with your competition. Google+ allows you to follow anyone with a Google+ profile regardless of whether the connection is reciprocated. Of course, users can specify whether or not specific content is shared with public circles, but for content that is public, Google+ can be a great way to stay up-to-date on news and announcements in your competitive space.
  • Personal Branding: Because Google+ profiles are publicly searchable and viewable – don’t worry, you control what is and isn’t shared – the network represents a great opportunity for users to brand themselves by maintaining a complete profile and sharing content that speaks to their areas of expertise. By specifying which circles see what, you can tailor this messaging even further. Remember, though, personal profiles are a reflection of the company as a whole, so be sure that employees who share their affiliations with you are representing the company in an appropriate way.

Any last thoughts?

While still in its infancy and admittedly kind of limited to tech geeks like me and our ilk at this point, I see a ton of potential for Google+ moving forward. By making the effort to truly field test the technology before rolling it out to the masses, I think Google will avoid many of the problems they’ve had with social in the past. Google is building a powerful social network on top of an infrastructure (search, email, documents, advertising, etc.) that already has mass adoption. Leveraging this fact is going to be the difference here and what makes Google+ the first legitimate contender to Facebook’s social dominance.

 

Facebook Deals: Kind of a Big Deal

This post was originally published on the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog.

Screen shot 2011-05-09 at 9.45.25 AMReleased to five pilot cities at the end of last month, Facebook Deals is the social network’s latest tool for businesses of all sizes to tap into the marketing potential of a community of over 500 million users. Similar to daily deal services like Groupon and Living Social, Facebook Deals offers users access to limited-time only offers from both local and national businesses. The major difference, though, is that Deals takes advantage of the social nature of Facebook, making it really easy for users to share deals with friends and for businesses to promote themselves across the site.

Because of this, Facebook is primarily focused on deals that involve products and services that friends can experience together. Take a look at the deals currently being offered in San Francisco to get an idea of what I mean:

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Like any new marketing tool available to businesses, we’ll have to wait and see how this one develops, but I have a hunch that Facebook Deals may just be the silver bullet everyone in the daily deals space has been looking for. Here’s where I think the differences will be:

Social, Social, Social

Sure, other daily deals enable users to share offers with friends, but none of the purchasing and recommending is happening in the same place, which adds the additional layer of someone having to take yet another step to spread the word. Facebook Deals automates this process, posting any deal a user purchases in the news feeds of their friends, just as if it were a status update. Friends can then comment on and “Like” these posts, encouraging a level of engagement unmatched by other services’ share features.

Hit Your Target Every Time

There is no other advertising network out there that can provide businesses as much data about customer demographics as Facebook can. Most daily deal services can give you an email address and a zip code; Facebook can provide anything from age and location to favorite movies and education level. As Deals expands, businesses will also be able to target customers who have bought certain kinds of offers in the past. Not only is this level of demographic information great for targeting your initial audience, but it will also be available to you about everyone who purchases your offer and can help you craft future marketing messages to them.

Mobilize Your Customers

More than half of Facebook users access the network on mobile devices. Included in this are millions of people that use Facebook to check-in at various business locations. As Deals develops, businesses will be able to leverage this mobile use with offers right at the point of purchase.

Virtual Currency = Real Revenue

Up until now, Facebook Credits could only be used for virtual goods in games like Farmville and Mafia Wars. Deals changes all that. Initially, Deals will only allow people to use Facebook Credits for activity vouchers, services, or other non-physical goods, but I suspect this will change soon as the currency system becomes more widely accepted. Either way, the ability to use Credits for purchases on the site is an important difference from other daily deal services. For one, it makes for a great and easy gift. Secondly, it opens up your offers to a whole new demographic of customers with money to burn: kids. Many members of the coveted tween and teen demographics don’t have their own spending money, but parents can load up their Facebook Credits accounts as kind of a virtual allowance. Reach this audience with your offer and watch it go viral!

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Facebook Deals isn’t available everywhere yet, but expect to see the service expand across the nation rapidly. If you’re interested in trying out a Deals promotion for your business, check out Facebook’s Deals Guides for Businesses here.

And remember, running a promotion like this is the perfect time to integrate email marketing best practices too. Make sure to promote your deal to your existing mailing list as well as make it easy for new customers purchasing your deal to sign-up for your newsletters on your Facebook page.

 

Good News

I am excited to announce that, as of tomorrow, I will be joining the awesome team at Vertical Response as their new Social Media Manager.  It’s a great role at a great company and I couldn’t be happier.

Though I’ll be hitting the ground running (I’m already headed off to Boston and NYC next week for user seminars), I’m sure it will take a bit of time to learn about all the facets of what will be a really hands-on and exciting role at the company.  I look forward to keeping you updated on everything that I’m doing and learning about.

And yes, you can continue to peruse my thoughts, ramblings, and miscellany here at Where Worlds Collide…it’s not going anywhere.  Just remember, my opinions here are always my own.

Finally, thanks.  There are so many of you that supported me in so many ways on my journey to find the perfect opportunity, and for that, I am truly grateful.  This is a great new beginning and I can’t wait to get started!

Your Social Media Channels Matter

Here’s a great infographic from from the folks over at CMO.com.

I can’t emphasize enough how social media marketing should be considered no differently than traditional marketing strategies. Only pick your delivery channels once you’ve clearly defined your objectives. This infographic does a great job outlining which social channels work best to achieve specific results. I’ll be referring to it often.

Click here to view full-size pdf

(via Mashable)

 

Citi Doesn’t Think Social Media is a Fad

Great post from the JBS Partners blog.

A sample of what Citi had to say:

“What used to be simple messages are now interactive and ongoing dialogues. Industries and businesses that succeed in the new environment are harnessing social network technology to offer highly personalized service and virtual, online communities. In short, consumers everywhere are becoming more knowledgable and sophisticated. We must treat them accordingly.”

Read the rest: Citi Doesn’t Think Social Media is a Fad.

HT @chrisbrogan via @fairminder.

 

Whines of the World (Wide Web)

Is it just in my network, or is social media turning all of us into a society of complainers?

You know what I’m talking about. The Facebook status update about the lack of mayo on an otherwise pristine sandwich. The tweet lambasting traffic conditions or calling out a store/hotel/airline/brand for – insert gripe here, ranging from legitimate to comically petty.

Make no mistake; I am as guilty of this as anyone. In fact, it was this tweet I posted just recently that got me thinking of this in the first place:

Granted, it was annoying.  After months of indifference toward Living Social (I have been a long time Groupon subscriber and didn’t see the need for yet another daily deal), the Fandango offer that I wrote about last week was enough to convert me.  Once I had registered, and entered all of my billing info, the site’s server became overloaded and I was unable to complete my transaction. After several failed attempts to retry, I took to Twitter.

What is significant here is that this was something I never would have done without social media.  If complaining had required making a phone call, or even writing an email, I wouldn’t have done it. No, I would have just waited a few minutes and tried again (which, incidentally, is what I ended up doing, and I am now the proud owner of 2-for-1 movie tickets).

You might argue that social media is just another channel for customer service and that it shouldn’t be viewed any differently than our traditional means of filing complaints, but that line of reasoning overlooks two very important differences. For one, complaining via social media is just so much easier (read: less time consuming)…social media enables complaints that wouldn’t have been made otherwise. And two, there is an icky “shame factor” to the whole thing.

Sure, I could have filed my complaint privately, by starting my tweet with @LivingSocial, but instead, I took a different route. I purposefully began my tweet with text so that it would show up in the feeds of all of my Twitter followers. I knew Living Social probably wouldn’t reply to me, but a part of me was satiated because I knew that at least someone had heard me vent. If even one person, I reasoned, saw this tweet and gave Living Social a second thought before signing up, I had done damage equal to the perceived slight on their part.

In retrospect, I could have achieved the same result by approaching things a little differently. I could have contacted Living Social with an @ – reply that only they would see. I also could have been polite and more open to communication, rather than the snarky tone I took. Finally, I could have balanced my complaint with praise when it was resolved. *

* I kind of did do this when I posted the deal to my Facebook wall, but even that was self-serving in that there was an incentive to do so.

As much as social media can be an effective method of airing your grievances, and despite the fact that it may be the fault of pushover marketers or a one-way ticket out of a job, at the end of the day, it’s just kind of obnoxious. There’s even an Urban Dictionary entry for “twitching:” the act of tweeting bitter and whiny statements.

If you have a beef with a company, take it up with them directly. Next time you’re about to complain on a public forum like Facebook or Twitter, think about who’s reading it. Our friends and followers are there because we engage in conversation and content that is interesting to them. The uppity attendant at the Delta counter just isn’t that.