strategy Archives - Harris Social Media

Four ways to make your content marketing EPIC

on Aug 20 in business, content marketing, hints and tips, social media, strategy, trends posted , by

charlton heston spreading arms in epic movie moses

ep·ic [ep-ik] 3. heroic; majestic; impressively great:


Ooh, I do love a good meme. So when my mom told my girlfriend to enjoy an “epic” birthday, that, I thought to myself, is a great word. And I love acronyms too. So in the spirit of sharing my thoughts and experience here are four ways to help make your content marketing E-P-I-C.
letter e woodcut

E is for Engage

If you can’t engage users in your content, don’t bother. Why is engaging your audience so important? Because at the heart of content marketing is the social signal. And the social signal is important because it is a key measure in the latest iterations of Google’s search algorithm. That is, all else being equal, content with higher social engagement (such as comments, shares and likes) will rank higher in search results. So first and foremost, your content must engage the audience. If not, you are certainly wasting your time. You’re also wasting the time of any content user who is kind enough to spend time looking at your material.
By engaging, you must give your fans the opportunity to interact. What is the point of social media if you are not engaging your audience in a two-way conversation? That means allowing comments on your blog, and social channels (including YouTube!). If you don’t allow comments, ask yourself what you’re afraid of? If trolls flame your social page, nine times out of ten, they’ll get a smack down from page fans. And remember, the bottom line is that you have control. Worse comes to worse, you can delete a negative comment. (I usually wouldn’t advise that, since a negative comment may actually alert you to a problem with a product or service. But you have no obligation to tolerate mindless bashing.)
Interactivity also means that you allow users to share your content. Social channels make this easy, but you can move things along by asking users to share. Also don’t forget to include a share button on your website! Designers think it’s enough to add social icons, but it’s easier for a user to bookmark or share a page if you provide one-click functionality right there on the page.
letter p illustration
Whether the goal of your content marketing is to generate leads or simply raise brand awareness, your content will always reflect your organization. So content must always reflect the professionalism of your team.

P is for Professional

Professional doesn’t mean that your blog, video or photos need to be slick and aloof. At the least, though, content should meet a minimum standard. It’s easy to figure out where to set that standard. Look at competitor’s content. Can you do better? If so, that’s your minimum standard. In practice, that means, for example, that your website meets design best practices including accessibility and coding standards.
Also a minimum standard means that text content is aligned with your audience, which usually means being grammatically correct and free of spelling errors and typos. Likewise, photos should be well-composed, appropriately sized for the medium, and given context with a caption.
Professional content also means that it is relevant to the audience. My dad told me that when he was in the Royal Navy, three topics were banned in the officers’ mess during meals: sex, religion and politics. So unless your brand is centered on those, it’s best to usually avoid them. Some things just don’t need to be shared. Even LOLcats are great fun, but are they relevant to the conversation you want to have with your audience? Talking of fun, professionalism doesn’t meant that content can’t be fun or funny. But humor and levity are spices best used judiciously in your content marketing dishes.
letter i woodcut

I is for Innovative

So much content. So few eyeballs. Well, there are a lot of eyeballs. But there is also a lot of competition. To rise above the noise, you must be creative! Innovation in content is probably the most challenging aspect of content marketing. But there are a few ways to help the creative juices flow. First, don’t be a one or two pony show. Facebook and Twitter are fine, but there’s a world of awesome channels that will stretch your imagination and inspire new ways of delivering your message.
Pinterest will force you to think about new ways to depict your content visually, whereas Tumblr offers a way to blog via video, images and podcasts as well as writing. Microvideo such as Vine and Video on Instagram, and mobile chat apps such as Kik, impose limits that encourage totally new ways to present content. Marketers are struggling with ways to leverage the appeal of ephemeral content channels such as Snapchat, but there may be untold opportunities for those that crack those particular nuts.
If you’re stuck for new ways to present your stuff, brainstorm! If you’re a team of one, remember that you can tap into your audience for ideas and inspiration. Another approach is to Google “next big thing” (and set up an alert) to make sure you don’t miss the latest developments in technology or media that will help you deliver your message in new ways.
But it’s not just about technology. Remember the Blend-Tec guy who sacrificed an iPhone in his high end blender? (This was in the days that the iPhone was the must-have device.) That video went viral, not because YouTube was new, but because he found a shocking (but SFW) way to deliver the message about his product.
letter c diagram

C is for Consistency

I worked with a client whose Facebook page had a feature: Photo of the Week. Yet, when I analyzed the timing of the posts, there was practically no instances where a photo had been posted two weeks in a row. The posts seemed random. The client thought that Photo of the Week was a good idea, but did not understand that it would mean to most users that a photo would be posted, well, once a week.
Inconsistency can reflect poorly on your product or brand. Why? When you are delivering social content you set up expectations – expectations of timing and quality. If those expectations are not met, fans will at best shrug and go on to the next meme de jour. Worse, they could troll your page, leaving you spending time on damage control rather than generating leads and inspiring loyalty.
Consistency, then, means meeting your fans’ expectations and keeping promises. It means providing quality content that is engaging, that to a minimum professional standard, and that is inventive and imaginative. It really means providing EPIC content.
I hope these suggestions will bring some epicness to your content marketing strategy. As always, I can’t include every hint and tip, so if you have any thoughts, I’d love for you to share them in the comments or just drop me a line.

How marketers can use Twitter’s weak social connections

on Oct 08 in branding, business, social media, strategy, Twitter posted , , by

twitter birds and speech bubblesIn this article in Social Media Today, Neil Alperstein discusses the premise that the weak social ties we experience on Twitter, where interactions occur mainly between followers, rather than personal friends.

Why is this observation important? Because, according to Alperstein, weak social ties do not require trust in order to be effective. He cites issue-based groups, that might tweet particular hashtags to gain traction.

Interestingly, Alperstein’s thesis runs counter to that espoused by Malcom Gladwell in The Tipping Point, that strong social connections are necessary to elicit societal change.

There’s a lesson here for marketers as well. If Alperstein is correct, and “proximity, trust and incentive to connect based on friendship no longer matter” then marketers must understand that the approach to brand marketing on Twitter will be quite different to that on Facebook, where social connections among fans are typically stronger.

This means in practice that a marketer will want to provide value, as always, but it may also be necessary and justifiable to increase the size of the marketing megaphone to reach an audience. This translates into tweeting more often, maybe repeating some high value tweets, and not worrying too much about connecting with every single follower whose tweets are mostly “Wassup?” It also reinforces an influencer marketing strategy, since it weak social connections imply that the brand network may have less impact than the networks of influencers.

Three things brands must do before they engage influencers

on Jul 24 in branding, business, marketing, strategy, thought leaders, trends posted , , by

painting jesus sermon on the mount illustrate influencer

Jesus may well be the original influencer. Certainly the Church knew how to use him to market their product. Was Jesus the original influencer? Maybe so, and whether you are religious or not, influencer marketing is the next big thing for social marketers. If it’s not on your radar already it should be.

A post in Social Media Today highlights three influencer marketing campaigns. Such successes encourage brands and social marketers to include influencer marketing as part of their strategy.

Yes, influencer marketing is a vital mix to a marketing strategy. But it should only one part of the overall strategy. Even the best-crafted influencer outreach will fall on deaf ears if the brand doesn’t provide value, both for the influencer and for the audience. 

An influencer will not support a brand that has a crappy product or web presence. Would you recommend a lousy product or service to your family and friends? And no, neither will influencers, simply because they will be aware of the impact on their own reputation and brand.

Indeed, influencer marketing carries a risk, since influencers may be just as likely to trash a lousy product as they are to praise it.  Before jumping onto this particular bandwagon, influencer marketing must therefore be preceded by three essential steps. Look at these first, and if you can answer the questions, you are good to go! 

  1. Brand review — Is your corporate messaging aligned with business goals and your communications strategy. Do your mission and vision statements adequately represent your organization? Have you established a set of core values, and ensured your logo and tag lines match your brand?
  2. Social audit — Does your social presence past muster? Does your social media outreach comply with best practices (optimized profiles, engaging consistently and effectively)? Are you a Facebook-only operation or are you engaging across all relevant social platforms?
  3. Website audit — It your website up-to-date and socially optimized? Does it provide an interactive engaging user experience? Is it search optimized with rich content? 

Once you can check all these boxes you can start connecting with influencers. At which point an influencer is more likely to respond positively to your outreach efforts. If you can’t, your influencer outreach might cause more harm than good.

 

Are all your social media eggs in one basket? – The risk of focusing just on Facebook or Twitter

on Apr 12 in business, facebook, marketing, strategy, trends, Twitter posted by

If you are focused just on one or two social media channels, such as Facebook or Twitter, you need to rethink your approach.

Ever since the demise of platforms such as Friendster and then MySpace, the social media landscape is littered with the corpses of once-great leaders. More recently, the popular blogging platform Posterous announced it was closing its doors.

The moral of this story is that brands run a risk by focusing only on Facebook and Twitter. Most of my clients come to me with just a Facebook profile. Some might have a Twitter account. Few of them have a presence on other social channels. This singular focus is a big mistake!

While Facebook and Twitter are undoubtedly the leaders of the pack, equally undoubted is the fact that other platforms are emerging to establish their market share, and trends among audiences are shifting like desert sands. It is perfectly possible for Twitter or Facebook to go the same way as Friendster, as a recent MIT analysis concludes: “It’s far from unlikely that Facebook itself will one day be a victim of a similar set of circumstances.” (An Autopsy of a Dead Social Network)

According to a new Piper Jaffrey study, popularity among teens of the leading social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and even YouTube (gasp!), has declined from two years ago (reported in the UK’s Daily Mail: The social networking teen turn-off: MORE evidence chat apps are set to take over from Facebook and Twitter).

Compared to a year ago, ten percent fewer teens named Facebook as their ‘most important’ site. Teens are ditching legacy sites in favor of lesser-known chat platforms such as Kik, Snapchat and Vine.

What does this mean for social marketers? The bottom line is that embracing only the 800 pound Facebook gorilla will hurt. It’s important therefore to spread your eggs among several social media baskets. 

For instance, Pinterest is the only big social platform showing growth among teens, so it makes sense to include it in your strategy, especially if teens are an important demographic. The challenge is to spread your efforts (risk) without diluting your presence in any of your platforms. Inevitably, this means higher costs as more investment is needed to maintain an effective presence in multiple platforms.

More importantly than jumping on the latest bandwagon is to monitor technology trends and to strategize around those trends. Also, your digital strategy needs to consider if trends among teens will translate to other demographics. And how does your strategy include engagement on chat platforms (if that is even tenable)?

A comprehensive strategy that incorporates multiple social platforms really is the only way to ensure the competition doesn’t crush your precious social media eggs.

Google’s brilliant ploy to get people to pay for testing Google Glass

on Mar 29 in advertising, branding, business, geolocation, google, marketing, products, strategy, technology, trends posted by

Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin models the company’s new augmented reality device, Google Glass.As a technophile and early adopter, I am as excited as anyone else by the prospect of trying Google Glass, the new augmented reality device coming from Google in the coming months. Augmented reality apps have been around awhile. You point your smart phone at something and by mashing up geolocation and image recognition the app supplies additional information about what you are looking at.

Augmented reality is a powerful idea, and one that is taking root, most prominently with Google Glass. Google have been tremendously successful in generating hype about the product, which allows users to interact with their surroundings and the Internet with unprecedented ease and intimacy. But the new device is also a big gamble for the technology giant.

The system requires a seamless integration of hardware and software, and we don’t know yet if Google has it right, despite awesome promo videos and gigs of hype. Existing augmented reality apps are still buggy, and limited to large cities where the appropriate infrastructure can support an acceptable user experience.

The company has invested a great deal in their brainchild, and Google Glass is coming. It’s a bold and innovative move for a company that is mostly focused on software. Indeed, just as clever as the device is their testing and marketing strategy.

It seems to me that Google is applying a software testing model to their new hardware. Allow me to explain. When we buy a car or washing machine, or a smartphone for that matter, we expect all the pre-market testing to have been done. The glitches should be ironed out and we expect to receive a good product for our money. Companies invest hugely in testing products to ensure as few expensive recalls as possible.

However, with software, we have become conditioned to accept a post-market testing model. Users do much of the testing after a product is on the market and then happily report bugs, many of which could probably have been picked up in pre-release testing. With an operating system or app, we routinely and unquestioningly download the latest update, assuming it is a necessary and worthy improvement to something we have already paid for.

Google now seems to be bringing the software testing model to the Google Glass hardware. Here’s how they did it. With their initial announcement of its release, the company announced the Google Explorer program. Prospective users had to apply by posting a message on Google Plus or Twitter consisting of fifty words or less, accompanied by the hashtag #ifihadglass. If their application was accepted, the lucky applicant had to pay $1,500 to receive the device.

That is, Google has very cleverly found a way to build a cadre of testers and have them pay for the privilege privilege of being among the first among the public to use the gadget.

What is more, these users are early adopters, and most likely influencers, who are undoubtedly going to feel considerable loyalty to the company, to forgive initial problems, and to become evangelistic brand ambassadors. So Google neatly solved two problems — how to test the product in the market place while minimizing testing costs, and at the same time generate buzz among technology mavens and enthusiasts. Well played Google, well played.

But things did not go as smoothly as expected. Just a few days ago, the technology press was reporting that Google was retracting some invitations. According to reports, Google tweeted: “We’re gonna need to disqualify a few non-compliant #ifihadglass applications that snuck through.” Oops. The retractions certainly bolster the idea that Google is using buyers to pay for testing, rather than magnanimously sharing their new technology with the deserving few, as they would prefer us to believe.

Is Apple’s Ping a Facebook-killer?

on Sep 02 in blogging, business, facebook, strategy, tools, trends posted by

Apple’s Ping logoBlogger Jesse Stay just wrote a thoughtful post about Apple’s launch of Ping its music social platform for sharing music.

Just announced by the company’s CEO Steve Jobs, Ping is a social application within Apple’s popular desktop app iTunes.

Jesse called Ping “the biggest announcement we saw come out of Expo, primarily because it’s of importance not just to Apple followers, but to every consumer in this digital age.”

I agree with Jesse, that Apple is going about this the right way, sticking to their core offering and growing the network to build a user base.

But I think Jesse’s off the mark when he suggests, “This is perhaps bigger than Facebook.” Other authors expressed the thought even more directly. Nick O’Neill asserts that “Apple Has Become Facebook’s Biggest Threat With Ping.” And so on.

Is Ping a Facebook-killer? I don’t think so. Even in the longer term, if Ping become the Apple’s Social Graph, as Jesse suggests, it has a lot of catching up to do. For one thing, Facebook already has more than twice as many users. iTunes users will need to transition from using it mainly as a desktop app to using it online. And of course, Facebook offers much more than just music. In fact, music is the one thing FB doesn’t do particularly well.

MySpace is the musician’s social network. So if anything, Ping will challenge MySpace. This makes sense — MySpace is in a downward spiral anyway. Apple is too smart to take on Facebook. MySpace is lower hanging fruit. Blogger Austin Carr would probably agree. In his Fast Company article, he wrote “”Ping won’t replace Twitter or Facebook… But MySpace should be scared as hell.”

I probably won’t use Ping that much. music is a personal thing, a rather private enjoyment. It’s never been much of a social activity for me, online or off. I’m not especially interested in the musical tastes of my friends. And I’m not too fussed if they’re interested in what I enjoy. But perhaps I’m a minority, and folks like me won’t stop Ping from being successful.

Popularity versus influence: what’s the difference?

on Aug 12 in business, celebrities, social media, strategy, thought leaders, trends posted by

What’s the difference between popularity and influence? Is it important? Brian Solis has an insightful article that highlights the differences and why we should be interested.

It’s easy to get bogged down in numbers. How many followers do I have? Is your Klout score more important than your Twinfluence? How many clicks did I get on URLs that I tweeted?

Just to clarify for those that have trouble wrapping their head around the concepts(I do!): You can be very popular (a lot of people know you) but have low influence (they don’t care too much what you have to say). Or your popularity can be low (few people know you), but you can have strong influence (they listen to what you say and act upon it). For example, Tim Berners Lee, who invented the Web has undoubtedly had a huge influence, but hardly anyone knows who he is. Practically everyone on the planet has heard of Muhammad Ali, but his influence is not very strong.

So where do numbers fit in? Let’s look at an example. On Twitter Brian Solis has about 62,000 followers, whereas Guy Kawasaki has about 265,000 followers. So Guy is more popular than Brian. But I have never commented on articles tweeted by Guy whereas I’ve commented a few times on Brian’s articles. So for me, Brian is more influential (using his definition).

Personally, popularity has never particularly interested me. So after three years on Twitter I still have only 945 followers. But I hope that among those that know me, I have some influence — so that a good proportion of my Tweets are RT’d, for example.

My baseline is simple: to provide value (to my Friends, Followers, clients, whoever). By providing value one’s influence will grow, and presumably popularity.

For social marketers, the next step is to evaluate the motives and needs of different users to categorize them as influencers or popular users (let’s call them celebrities).

For example, a business that wants to increase brand awareness might want to target celebrities. The business is not necessarily interested in a call to action so being known among celebrities with a large audience is likely to achieve goals faster than being known among influencers who have a smaller audience.

But say the business has a campaign to promote a special. They have a call to action (e.g. “buy my widget”). Now they will want to connect with influencers whose followers or friends will likely act.

My guess is that we will see a refining of user definitions and categories based on data. The influencer/celebrity dichotomy is too simplistic for targeted social marketing. We will want more sophisticated models that incorporate the various dimensions of user online behavior to ensure our messages have the greatest impact.

Dealing with negativity in social media

on Mar 23 in branding, business, marketing, public relations, social media, strategy posted by

To make their point, protestors co-opted the logo of one of Nestle’s best known brands. In my experience, the most challenging aspect of actually implementing a social media program is dealing with negativity. You can never be quite sure what the response is going to be.

Look at the backlash on Nestlé’s Facebook page. That’s the sort of PR you don’t want.

But there are best practices for dealing with negativity. These can go a long way to dealing with its impact. The Nestlé incident is a clear example of how NOT to deal with negativity.

My guess is that Nestlé took the cheap option and hired a novice to manage their Facebook page. Now it’s costing them vastly more than if they had hired someone competent in the first place.

So how could they have handled it differently? Their initial mistake was to criticize the person who was asking about the Greenpeace video (which got all this started). One comment called the response a “particularly indiscreet sense of arrogance.”

Instead, the Facebook Fan page manager should have acknowledged the user’s concerns. The manager could have admitted to the user that they had a right to expect the highest standards from a company such as Nestlé. He could have mentioned that Nestlé is not perfect, but always striving to improve. 

The most powerful tactic is to actually admit a mistake: “We’re sorry about sourcing palm oil from illegally logged Indonesian rainforests. We’re trying to figure out what went wrong and put it right.” And so on. A conciliatory tone would have been much less likely to invoke the huge backlash that now is simply a cringe-worthy embarrassment for the food giant.

Another ploy is just to wait and see. An immediate reaction might not be called for, especially when there is a risk of getting things out of hand. It’s always possible members of the community will come to your defense. Indeed one or two lonely voices are doing that on Nestlé’s Facebook page, but too little, too late.

The second mistake Nestlé made (and continues to make) is refusing to engage on Facebook following the initial flub. Now their official Facebook page looks more like a protest page, bombarded with negative comments. Many of these expand the scope of the company’s misdeeds.

When you’re talking to clients about the need for professional management of their social media program, you need to convince them to invest in training and hiring the appropriate expertise.

Incidences of negativity can be useful in your sales pitch. But you don’t want to go too far and put the client off social media altogether!

Facebook social game Restaurant City launches in-game ads

on Feb 12 in business, facebook, marketing, social networks, strategy, trends posted by

A few years back, gaming platforms were touted as a virgin territory to be conquered by advertisers. And they have been reasonably successful. According to Wikipedia, in 2005, spending on in-game advertising was $56 million, estimated to grow to $1.0 billion by 2014.

Typically, these messages have been embedded in console games and dedicated Internet platforms such as virtual worlds and MMORPGs. 

These delivery systems limit the audience to gamers, stereotypically a very specific demographic (young, a bit asocial, nerdy, tech-minded and glued to their computers). Recent studies have shown that the gamer demographic is more complex (see e.g., Gamer demographic complex.) But the audience is still limited. 

The explosion in the past couple of years of social games, most notably on Facebook, has opened up a wider demographic.  

One company to step into that gap is Playfish, which produces some of Facebook’s most popular games. In late 2008, the company launched their first in-game ad campaign with Procter & Gamble and Herbal Essences via the Geo Challenge Facebook game in the UK.

But the company has been slow to introduce in-game ads into its varied product range which includes two spots in the top 15 list of games.

But that might be changing. In this screenshot, a billboard ad discreetly placed on the road just outside the owner’s restaurant (from Restaurant City, which claims 15.5 million users) encourages users the chance to visit ProFlowers.com. Moreover, the ad incentivizes the click by offering the user in-game “cash” that can be used to purchase game items.

In-game advertisement for ProFlowers appears as a billboard in Restaurant City Facebook game

Playfish’s caution is well-founded. Their primary business model is based on the game experience itself. The users are hooked by the game’s novelty, high quality and social interaction. Then, as loyalty and numbers grow, the game monetizes aspects of play. So a significant ad presence would detract from the user experience.

Although usage of its products is trending downward, Playfish is surely smart enough to continue this delicate balancing act. In the above example, the company is cleverly using its tactic of seasonal game themes. During, say, the Christmas season, new in-game items are added that are available for a limited time only. In this case, the ad coincided with Playfish’s increased options for Valentine’s Day. Money can’t buy you love, but it seems love can buy you money!