Marketing on Pinterest – Getting Started

I’m not sure its even remotely secret…I absolutely adore Pinterest as a user.  I find all manner of ideas and recipes there that help make my days more interesting.

As a marketer, Pinterest is a bit tougher nut to crack.  It has a pretty narrow demographic and if your product or service doesn’t fit, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.

Creating a marketing strategy around Pinterest is not an easy process.  I think the first step is to be extremely realistic about the ability of your business to appeal to Pinterest’s audience.  Someone who sells auto parts might struggle a bit.  If you sell hand-made craft items…you’re in for a great ride.  The truth is, if you can turn your product into something very visually appealing, that can be labeled and marketed as interesting to the Pinterest demographic – you’re probably going to do okay if you go about it the right way.

Some things I’ve read and figured out on my own: Continue reading

Can Oprah Sell Twitter to the Mainstream?

Can Oprah sell twitter to the mainstreamOprah can sell cars, she gave away some a few years back, and the maker of the car saw an increase in sales. Oprah can certainly sell books, authors would sell their souls to have the media mogul pick their book for her book club. Oprah also likes Amazon’s Kindle, when she said “my new favorite thing in the world”, sales bumped up. Oprah can even sell an entire nation on the worthiness of one Senator over another to be President of the United States. The woman has influence companies can only dream of having. Now, Twitter doesn’t have to dream any longer.

Tomorrow, according to her Facebook page, Oprah will set foot into a world where most of us marketing, social media and search geeks have called home for the past two years. She’s about to bring with her, an army of loyal and rabid followers who are not exactly technogeeks. Are we ready for this invasion?

Maybe we should be asking Twitter themselves if they are ready for the invasion? After the upgrade two weeks ago, a bounty full of fail whales and missing avatars, I really hope Twitter’s architecture can handle what Oprah’s about to bring them. This is a lot like the “Digg Affect” on unsuspecting sites – your site goes down, and you piss off a lot of loyal customers & lose sales, just for those folks who want to “glance” at it (whatever the it is .. that’s hit the front page of Digg).

It could just be a one day affair. We know most celebrities find these technologies fleeting, and for most celebrities its about the next best thing to be seen doing. So will Oprah keep Tweeting? If she does, it’s likely to have more of an effect on bringing Twitter into mainstream America than anything to date. The woman is a marketing machine, and if her fans see her continuing to Tweet, well then, you can bet within a few months every one of her loyal fans will have a twitter account to connect to her with, and each other. This is probably one of the best examples of how communities can connect, and how Twitter really is about community.

As for Ashton Kutcher being the “King of Twitter”, I have a hard time swallowing that. Oprah’s to have him on the show tomorrow. Of course we all know this is a huge publicity stunt for Ashton Kutcher to beat out CNN to a million followers. I guess Ashton purpose is to show how to use it – how simple it is, to the audience full of women wishing they were Demi Moore.

Twitter is about to hit the mainstream folks, it’s about to become an even bigger topic on marketing agendas because of a one woman marketing machine – Oprah. Are you ready for this change?

Not only that, are you ready to help your Mom understand Twitter? I might have you all beat there, my mom‘s already there and even uses Tweetdeck!

URL Shorteners That Frame Websites Hijack Your Content

By Liana “Li” Evans

hijackinghotspotWith the rise of Twitter and it’s limit of 140 characters (250 if you turn off javascript), when it comes to maximizing space to get your message across, every character counts. With that fact in mind URL shorteners are cropping up all over the place. There are some great URL Shortening services, Tweetburner, Bit.Ly, TinyURL and are some great services and actually will track your click throughs.

Then we have another new crop of URL shorteners appearing. These “frame” your content underneath their own branded bar. Digg of course is the biggest well known implementer of this kind of bar. There are several others that do this as well, Ow.Ly and BurnURL are just two. So what’s the big deal, why all the fuss? What could be wrong with what Digg’s doing, after all they are still sending you traffic, right? Well to start with, some of these services have the potential to play havoc with some analytics code. Then there’s the whole “hijacking” of your URL, which is likely one of the things that surfers on the internet are trained to remember, this is essentially hijacking your content for their own benefit – increasing the number of uses of their service.

What’s the difference between what does and what Digg does? Well does a 301 redirect straight to your content when someone shortens your URL, therefore when people click on a shortened URL done by you end up on the content and see the true URL. What Digg does is puts your content under their bar, with their own URL. The visitor NEVER, EVER sees your full URL. Sure some of these allow people to click out of the bar and show you a truncated URL stream to click on, but it’s certainly not the same as someone looking into the address bar for your site’s URL.

What happens when they want to bookmark your site and then entered through Ow.Ly, BurnURL or Digg’s bar? Their shortened URL is what is bookmarked not your site’s URL, doesn’t matter if they are bookmarking to their browser or to a social bookmarking site like Delicious or even StumbleUpon. Again, they are highjacking your content by keeping the framed bar with their URL in the address bar and not 301 redirecting like the other URL shortening sites are!

Sure, some of these URL shorteners that put the frames around can say “oh we make it easy to share with out pull down menu”. Well here’s the thing, people are already “trained” to bookmark or stumble through the bars they have installed in Firefox or IE, that’s where they are going to go first, not to a pull down on a frame. It’s tough to retrain people who’ve been stumbling or bookmarking for well over two years to use some “framed bar” from a new service that isn’t familiar to them, they are going to go with what they trust.

content-hijackThen lets look at the whole “oh I found this I want to blog about it” piece of the marketing and social media puzzle. Someone who finds some great content via one of these framing URL shortening services and isn’t quite tech savvy, pulls the shortened URL from the address bar. Guess what, your site doesn’t get the credit for that link, the shorten URL does. Again, this is basically like hijacking your content.

These URL shorteners make claims that it makes it easier to get your content to be more viral. Personally, in my honest opinion, that’s a load of bunk. It isn’t this tool that makes the content go viral – it’s the perceived value of the content itself that makes something go viral. Then stop and think, what is the sense of your content going viral if the visitors viewing it can’t even see your URL? What is the sense if they themselves can’t share it properly with their own communities like StumbleUpon, Delicious or Magnolia? Your URL is how people remember you, and a lot of sites don’t put their URL in their graphics or headings, they rely that its always going to be in the address bar.

I’ve been having discussions on Twitter about this, and one person claimed I was afraid of them stealing my “Google Juice”. I had to suppress a laugh at that term. I guess because I came into the industry as an SEO, some people will assume I “want my Google Juice” darnit! It’s not about Google Juice at all, at the end of the day this is about who owns the content. The publisher owns the content – not these framed URL shortening services who are hijacking URLs. It’s about it’s perceived value to the visitor and if the visitor perceives its value to be great, shouldn’t the original publisher get that credit, not these framing URL shorteners?

Here are some other great reads on this subject:

Big vs. Small: Which Companies Have An Advantage in Social Media?

I’ve seen a lot of discussions over the last few months about what kind of companies do well in social media. Is it the small businesses because they are nimble and can turn things around on a dime? Or is it the large companies because they seem to have the unlimited resources – both money and staff – to pull off the dedication needed to implement a successful social media strategy? I don’t believe there is really a “true” correct answer to this question if you are just comparing the “size” of the company based on number of employees or yearly revenue.

What it comes down to is the dedication of the company to the social media strategy being successful. If the company has a social media champion within its walls, someone who understands that its not about direct correlation of click to purchase, but can still identify realistic objectives to measure for obtaining goals, that is a huge advantage no matter what the size of the company.

Having the Resources Isn’t Enough To Create A Social Media Advantage

Dan Leon - Former Philadelphia Eagles EmployeeWhile having a significant budget available for marketing efforts, or having a team that can dedicate the time does help, at the end of the day, that isn’t necessarily an advantage. If your senior management isn’t on board with the efforts you are trying to push forward, if they do not understand that its really tough to measure successful via click correlation, if they think the social media is just “for kids”, all the resources in the world won’t help you be successful because you lack the buy in from the senior management to attain your goals.

Looking at the other end of the ladder, having too many resources can be just as much of a problem, especially if they are not all on the same page when it comes to your strategy in social media. Making sure all of your resources are filled in on what the company’s message is, how to act in the social media space and what affects their efforts could have on the final outcome of the strategy is vital and key to success you wish to attain. It’s also not just the direct team that is involved with implementing your strategy. If you are a huge company, you have to stop and realize that social media touches everyone within your company who has access to a computer, and not just access to a computer on company time.

Take for example Dan Leon, who use to work for the Philadelphia Eagles. Dan was the front gate manager for the home games at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field. Dan has nothing to do with marketing, I doubt the marketing team at the NovaCare Center (home base for Philadelphia Eagles operations) even knew Mr. Leon existed. That is until Dan posted something on his Facebook page. Dan, like every other Eagles fan in the Philadelphia area was extremely upset the team let Brian Dawkins go to the Denver Broncos, and posted as such with an update on his Facebook page, complete with expletives. The Philadelphia Eagles fired Mr. Leon for that update, even though he apologized, and removed the offending update from his Facebook news stream. What ensued was a firestorm of anger towards the Philadelphia Eagles and an outpouring of sympathy for Mr. Leon. ESPN, FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, the local TV news (CBS, NBC, ABC), the local radio stations, the local sports blogs, the local papers, all took this and ran. In fact they are still running with it.

The Philadelphia Eagles had (and still don’t to my knowledge) no social media policies in place, they have never spoken to its employees about how to conduct themselves on these social media sites and most of all – they never got buy in from its staff on the messaging they are trying to convey to the public. What makes the Eagles look even worse is not only does Mr. Leon have a disability, but he also has shown off his certificates for a job well done with the Eagles. Top that off with Brian Dawkins giving Dan Leon his game day tickets when he comes back this year to play at Philadelphia, the Eagles organization just really looks bad all around, despite the fact that Mr. Leon did something out of line. BTW, the Eagles’ resources are upwards of multi-millions of dollars.

Being Nimble Isn’t Enough to Create a Social Media Advantage Either

While small companies can move a lot quicker and be more nimble because there’s a lot less red tape to cut through, it doesn’t mean it creates an advantage for them when it comes to finding success in social media. Sometimes being able to move so quickly can cause companies to not really be able to see how things in social media play out. Then add in the “Bleeding Edge” of technologies in this space, some companies can fall into the trap of the “shiny object syndrome” by implementing new technologies every month because they are so small and nimble enough to be able too. That’s not only not wise and its also not good for your audience. People need time to adept and accept in the social media realm, changing things out as quickly as a new “Google Killer” appears on the internet can really be a detriment to your social media strategy.

Just because your business is small, you are the owner and you love Digg, doesn’t necessarily mean that Digg is the right choice for your business to utilize when it comes to your marketing efforts. There is something to be said about taking a somewhat methodical approach to your strategy, rather than looking at how easily you can implement something. Taking the time to understand that your audience is in Flickr or on a message board and mapping out the right strategy will make you more successful than small enough to be being able to switch gears each month hopping from efforts in Digg, to Facebook, to Plurk and so on.

What Creates the Social Media Advantage?

There’s a lot of factors that create an advantage in social media and it’s not the size of the company’s work force or the revenue they bring in. It’s not actually one thing either, it’s a combination that can create some significant advantages for your company to utilize social media. These are just a few of those components:

  • Openness to Trying a New Approach
  • Having a Social Media Champion
  • Knowing Who Your Demographic Is
  • Understanding What Your Audience is Doing
  • Giving Your Audience Something Valuable
  • Having Buy in From Senior Management
  • Understanding Everyone In Your Company Has a Stake In Social Media
  • Determining Measurable Objectives Before You Jump In

At the end of the day, the discussion of who’s better in social media – Big or Small Companies – is actually not really a good discussion. It’s more about the openness to changes and the ideas of different types of marketing approaches that is really at the root of this discussion. Big, small, red tape, nimbleness, are really moot points, unless you have the buy in from the right areas of your company to implement your strategy. Without a cohesive strategy, no matter what size your company is, most ventures into social media will fail.

Are You Blogging or Doing Social Media for SERPs & Links?

linksA lot of companies hear a lot about the social media space. Most of what they hear revolves around Blogs, Digg and Facebook and immediately they think “I have to be there!” Whether its because its the newest fad, their competition is doing it or that they’ve been shown that it can get the SERPs or better yet links, a lot of times companies never stop to look beyond the shiny pretty wrapper of social media to look at what’s really involved when heading down the social media path. At the end of their path, generally it ends in thinking social media has failed them. Why? The major reason is entering into the space for the wrong reason, like acquiring links or getting more footholds in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

Social Media Requires Resources

Just because a service is free to utilize, as in it costs nothing to sign up for services like WordPress, Blogger, Facebook or Digg, thinking that it is free is a misnomer. Companies need to stop and think about the resources it will cost them in time & effort of their employees to manage a social media strategy. It takes time to grow a powerful account on Digg, if that’s the way you want to go. It takes not only time, but planning, to create a blog that will last. When working on forums, employees need to take time out to respond to messages, threads and pose new questions.

Companies looking to outsource this effort will still have to pay someone to do it, but they could also pay in bigger ways. Having someone, or some company, answer your responses for you, make friends for you, manage your social media profiles for you – can literally turn into a nightmare if it’s found you are not being transparent about it. Anytime you try to automate your social media efforts to be more efficient and less time consuming can also turn you in the direction of facing a Public Relations nightmare with your audience. If an audience feels you aren’t being transparent – upfront about your actions, willing to listen and have a conversation – you’ve lost their trust and its very tough to get it back again.

Social Media Requires Listening

There’s no way around this. In order to understand what your target market wants and how you can provide them value, companies have to take the time, stop and listen to what their audiences are saying and talking about in the social media circles. Coming in and trying to slam marketing or advertising down their throats or just starting to blog about their industry will not get you very much – just a whole lot of crickets chirping. Audiences what to know and feel like they are being heard. That their experiences matter, that what they share with others can some how help even if in a small way. True rewards in the social media spaces aren’t coupons, special discounts or freebies. People feel rewarded when they can help better a product, share a new way to use a service or help create something – feeling like they are part of something is one of the true rewards of social media and in order to give your audience that opportunity, you have to listen to understand what they want to be part of.

Social Media Requires Conversing

Just like with the listening, there’s no way around this either, not if you want to have a successful venture into Social Media. You can’t just lurk in social media. Hiding out in forums, seeing what people are saying about you, then issuing press releases to “correct the wrongs” or launching some other program to “fix what’s misunderstood about our company/product/brand” doesn’t work. A lot of times by just lurking and not getting involved in the conversation, companies can totally misinterpret what the audience is really saying.

By taking the time to speak to the audience and become part of the group, you build a trust that no press release will ever garner you. You build relationships no article in the news media will every let you create. You touch people on a more personal level and they in turn can relate that personal story to all of their friends, and so on. Conversing in the social media realm also puts a more human touch to your message or your marketing efforts. People want to connect to people, not buildings, not marketing pieces of paper or websites, not systems or gadgets (although iPhone users can argue differently) and you connect through holding conversations.

Social Media Requires Providing Value

Just putting up a blog that regurgitates your press releases, articles on your site or some boring piece about another product launch doesn’t provide value to your audience. That’s all about you, and what you perceive value to be. Audience perceive value totally differently. Give them a new or interesting way to use your product or service that they might not have thought about – or better yet, ask one of them to help out with creating the piece about the new way to use the product – now that’s value an audience can relate too. Don’t just write about it either, shoot photos or even a video and create even more value.

If you stop and first think about, “what will my audience find valuable in this content”, rather than “how many Diggs will I get”, your success with your content will turn out a lot better. By focusing on the value you can provide, it puts the focus squarely on your audience and off of you. In social media it’s not at all about you, it’s about the value the customer/audience gets from you that’s the most important factor.


Social Media Requires Passion

Considering building a blog because it will get you some “link juice”? Want to get posts out there because they’ll rank for certain long tail key word terms? It may seem like a great idea at first, but unless you’ve got someone who’s passionate about the subject that your blog is about and willing to be social in the community beyond the blog posts, your blog will go no where. Blogging is about sharing your passion with a community for something whether its your life, your hobby, what your company does or the industry your company is in, you have to have someone writing who loves to write about it and wants to talk to others about it. It also extends into other forms of social media. Participating in forums? Having a person passionate about helping people understand your company or product or industry goes a long way in building relationships and trust. If you have someone out there that is just doing it because “its their job” or they were “mandated” to do it, will do you more harm than good.

Outsourcing your blogging can also shine right through, too. If the company you choose to “ghost write” your blog isn’t deeply involved in your industry, a lot of your posts will come off flat, probably overly SEO’d and read like a true marketing piece. Look at successful company blogs like Nuts About Southwest, GM’s FastLane or even Bill Marriott’s mix of podcasting and blogging, all of these are wonderful examples of companies not just blogging about the company but their industry, their employees and customers. Asking you to buy their products, announcing a sale or a new pricing structure from their blog is the furthest thing from their minds, unless its something the audience has asked for.

The Reality of Social Media With Links & SERPs

It takes a lot of time and resources to be successful in social media if your only end goal is getting links or SERPs from it. These are natural byproducts of a truly good social media effort. What you never hear about some of these “overnight successes” is that it takes a lot of man hours creating content that is of value for an audience, as well as being truly social (listening and conversing with your audience). Just because you’ve gone out and bookmarked your blog post, or posted a picture in Flickr or a video in YouTube doesn’t mean you’ll be successful. There’s another entire realm of involvement here that companies need to take into account when planning their social media strategies. None of this really works unless you are being social on some level.

Profiles don’t gain “power” unless they are out socializing with the community – making friends, commenting, rating, adding media, etc. Just because you made a profile in MySpace or a page in Facebook, doesn’t necessarily mean it will take a spot up in the SERPs anymore, 2 years ago, yes, now only if you’ve got an obscure name. The search engines are looking to different signals within the profiles to understand if people are finding these profiles relevant. Sure they still look at links, but now also weighted into the mix are ratings, comments and interaction factors. If you create the “optimized” profile and just let it sit there its not going to do you a whole lot of good.

In the end, you need to plan your social media strategies around other success factors, not how many links you gain or SERP spots your take up. If you plan your strategy around other success factors, the links and SERPs will only naturally come because you efforts were successful in other ways. The links, the SERPs – in social media, they are just icing on the cake to a successful venture in social media.

After Thoughts of SES New York Guy Kawasaki Keynote & His Twitter Use

Guy Kawasaki - SES NYC Keynote March 2009At this year’s SES in New York City the opening day keynote was Guy Kawasaki. Guy presented a lot of stuff about Twitter. Being a man who’s rather well connected, a thought leader in the marketing world and someone who has decent sense of humor, I found myself rather intrigued by this keynote. It was by far the funniest keynote I’ve attended in a long time, and I think humor goes a long way with me being more open to what a speaker is trying to convey.

Guy’s connections allot him a lot of “first cracks” at tools, websites and services that most “Non-A-List” people don’t have access to, so he gets intimately familiar with the marketing aspects some of these tools could be used for. Now with that being said, is every tool presented to him, or pitched to him make it to his list to present at keynotes? Likely not. The tools he did present actually can be used for some genuine marketing and measuring purposes.

I heard a lot of “grumbling” at SES that Guy Kawasaki is a spammer. “If one of us SEO’s told people to use these tools that way, we’d be fried at the stake“, was one cry minus a pitch fork or two. I found myself disagreeing with this line of thought. When you physically have the choice to follow or unfollow him and even the option to block him as well by very simply clicking a button to not see the spam, I find it hard to call what he does with his Twitter account spam. He does come close to the line with his use of TwitterHawk, but if he uses it truly as he showed the audience where he reviews the tweets before they are sent, then, I really don’t see how that is spam. This is using a tool to help market your message in a unique way.

Tweeting isn’t like searching. With search results, scheming websites are made by the thousands to spam the search engine results and as searchers we don’t have the control like you do in Twitter to just block the result and not see it every again (however, technically you can now with Google’s Search Wiki). With search spam you don’t have the option to “unfollow” like you do in Twitter. If you don’t like what Guy’s tweeting, simply go to his profile and click “unfollow” or “block” and what you call “spam” will cease – “walla!”

There are over 95,000 people following Guy Kawasaki. Apparently those people are finding something of value from the information he and his staff tweet out. We as SEO’s may label his tactics “unethical” or “gray”, but I have a hard time even doing that. I also asked the question on my own twitter, “Is Guy Kawasaki a Spammer or just a Marketer using tools in a unique way”. To my surprise, the opinions came back overwhelmingly that he was a savvy marketer.

I also heard a lot of people making such a fuss about Guy Kawasaki “ghost tweeting”. I took a step back and had to honestly ask myself if it was ghost tweeting if the person readily admits on stage he has people tweeting with him in his account, if he puts it on his profile and readily tweets about it. It’s not ghost tweeting, he’s being transparent, he’s been up front about it for a while now. Would I recommend a client setting off to do what Guy’s doing? Most likely not the same way, again the value to the audience dictates how to work the social media strategy.

Then this morning, Tim O’Reilly was surprised because of the New York Times article that included 2 paragraphs about Guy’s “ghost tweeting“. This particular tweet has been retweeted over and over again. Shock, Drama, Outrage! But why? The man has stated for a while he’s had help with his tweeting, he says he does it to an audience at both SES and SxSW, he has it stated on his Twitter account (also states names of who helps him) after asked to amend it by Dave Fleet, and readily admits it in his tweets when asked. I guess people would like him to add “TRGK” on his tweets for “The Real Guy Kawasaki” for the one’s he tweets? What’s the sense in that – if you don’t like what he and his team tweets – unfollow him.

Then there were outcries that Guy’s a “broadcaster”. I’ve been watching his tweet stream closely. The man (and Guy states it is him who responds, not his team) does interact with his audience, he doesn’t just send out link after link. If it was link after link that truly delineated a spam account from a ‘real’ account, wouldn’t CNN’s account then be considered a spammy twitter account? It’s about the perceived value of the content to the audience. Apparently Guy’s content is valuable to his audience because not only are his followers growing, but look how often he’s ReTweeted. In social media its about the value the end user perceives they are getting, if Guy’s figured out how to give his audience what they want through using tools like Twitterhawk and Adjix, more power too him.

Might some of his tactics float around the “grey” area of marketing and spamming? Perhaps, but I keep going back to those nearly 100k followers who not just speak to him but retweet not just his links but what he says to say they obviously don’t mind, obviously they are seeing value in Guy’s “Spam”. Ironic, no? I think this goes to prove a point that “spam” in Social Media it truly is about the value the end user is getting, not the tactic by which they receive it.

Twitter Etiquette – Egos verses Community

twitter-logoI was an early adopter of Twitter, back in the early months of 2007 when it was easy to manage friends, followers, conversations and relationships on the medium. A lot has changed in these two years. From constantly seeing the fail whale, to briefly flirting with plurk, to coming back to twitter with a slew of new applications that enhanced its use, I admit, Twitter has won me over.

That being said, somewhere along the line I feel that people have lost site of what Twitter was really about. Community, engagement, conversation, all in 140 characters. At first it seemed silly – ‘I could never use Twitter, it’s stupid’ was heard a thousand times, but as it was became more of a viable communication tool and companies were engaging in unique ways with their audiences on this medium, something has changed — it’s gone main stream. You scoff? I know it’s reached the main stream when my mother has a Twitter account.

As I stated before, somewhere along the way to the jump to mainstream something seems to be lost in Twitter. There seems to be a growing lack of etiquette as this Web 2.0 tool reaches the main stream. As with any tool that becomes popular, eventually someone tries to monetize it for their own gain through spammy techniques. To a degree it dampens the spirit of what Twitter was originally all about. Of course I realize this happens everywhere, no fear, I’m not naive! The other part of the lack of etiquette part on the rise is the “Ego”. It’s all about how many followers you have compared to who you are following, are you contributing to the conversation or just ranting about yourself, or do you just constantly link to your own blog instead of steering others to other great pieces by bloggers your followers never heard about?

Auto DM’s (Direct Messages)

If there’s one thing that will get me to unfollow someone quicker than sending me porn tweets, its an Auto DM (Direct Message) that “promotes” some other site, profile, white paper, affiliate site or anything else people want to try and get me to click through on. This folks, is Spam. Just because I followed you, it does not give you the permission to SPAM me on Twitter, it just pisses me off and makes me hit the unfollow button. I won’t go into a whole debate about Automatic Direct Messages, Christine Cavalier (fellow Philly gal) has an excellent post on Auto DM’s that is well worth the read, as does Chris Brogan.

I find the “click this” mentality in Auto DM’s to be just total, absolute junk. If you’d really like to get me to read something, talk to me first and then ask me to read it, or become your friend on FaceBook. I don’t have as much of an issue with Auto DM’s that just say “Hey thanks for following me!” without the links, still its lacking the “community” feel, but at least you aren’t spamming me with junk links.

“Tweeters” Who’s Tweet Streams are Just Links

Unless your Twitter account is a blog or a newsfeed (like ESPN, etc.) and it’s specifically transparent that that is the sole purpose of the twitter account, tweeting nothing but links just reeks of spam. I check out each follower email I get to see if the person is someone who’s conversation I’d like to follow. If you’re twitter stream is one tweet after another of tinyurl’s and no conversations, I won’t follow you. It’s likely no one else will either if they are serious about using Twitter to communicate and not really a broadcast channel. Now that being said, there are some twitterers who like getting their news updates this way – and they opt into that. But if you are just a person or just a company pimping your affiliate links, the love affair with your followers likely won’t last long. Twitter is about conversing and engaging, how can you have a conversation if all you do is send out links? It looks like what it is, just Spam.

Not Sharing The Love

This is one of the places where “Ego” comes into the picture. Are you out there sharing the love? Twitter is no different than a blog when it comes to this area. Sharing your knowledge, sharing things you come across, retweeting others tweets, that’s all a form of “sharing the love” and other tweeters really do appreciate it. One of the people I admire the most, who does this so well is Connie Reece, at least a few times a day you see retweets, links to other blogs, links to other tweeters you should consider following or information about causes or just neat stuff. Connie doesn’t let her ego get in the way, she’s truly involved in the community and cares about it. It’s not about her, or how many followers she has – evident by her 18k+ tweets (that are not Spam!).


Are You a Lurker/Stalker?

All too often lately, I come across followers who have nothing on their profiles. No tweets! They follow lots of people, and they actually have some followers back. Why would you follow someone who hasn’t put up one tweet? I find this a little disturbing, almost a little stalkerish, which is why I won’t follow someone unless they’ve at least demonstrated they want to at least try Twitter. Why go through even putting up a bio or a specialized Twitter background if you aren’t going to participate? It just seems a bit bizarre to me. It doesn’t take much to get involved, you just type your 140 character message into the box and press “send”, “Hello World” is just 11, it’s not hard, honest!

Follow, Unfollow, Follow, Unfollow….

Unfortunately I cannot be on Twitter 24/7/365. Work for my clients, family time and even the occasional down time take priority over me getting to follow back those who are following me. I try to be pretty good about following back – usually within 3-5 days. What I found rather unnerving is Twitter folks who use the Follow/Unfollow as an attention getter, or that they unfollow you 24-48 hours after that follow message goes out. I’m not alone here either! At South By South West, that was one of the biggest complaints I heard over and over again. Theses “attention” seekers will follow you, then unfollow you, then follow you again to get on the top of your followers list. Adept Twitter users aren’t stupid and they know what you are doing, and guess what – they likely won’t follow you for doing things like this.

Then there comes the people who unfollow you 24 hours later, so they can add more followers to their list. You come back and add them (you don’t know they’ve unfollowed you) and then you get an email again that they’ve followed you. This was another thing that annoys twitter users at South by South West – the people who are just after the big number of followers. Again, that goes back to ego, and Twitter is about community.

So stop and think about how you are using Twitter. Are you so focused on “you” and your ego that you are forgetting what Twitter is about? Are you guilty of one of the above? It’s not too late to change your ways – the other great thing about the Twitter community is if you say “oops i screwed up”, they are very forgiving! 🙂

Doctors, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs – Gag Orders in Social Media

doctors-stethescopeI came across an article in USA Today a few days ago about how some doctors are now requiring patients to sign waivers. Waivers are nothing new, but these types of waivers are. These waivers basically are just “Gag Orders” barring patients from posting negative comments online about the doctor or the practice. What’s probably even more appalling is that there’s a man who has made a business of helping doctors monitor and prevent online criticism by implementing and following through on these waivers.

I’m lead to posing this question: “What makes doctors any different from contractors, restaurant owners, hotel owners or plumbers?

All businesses that service individuals have to learn to deal with negative feedback, especially in today’s world of Yelp, Twitter and YouTube. You don’t deal with it by issuing “Gag Orders” before you render services, its just not how businesses operate. Customers have a right to their opinion whether they spread that opinion online or offline, inevitably there will be disagreement, disapproval and negative feedback in some form. How you deal with it speaks volumes to how your business will survive in today’s economic environment.

I believe I’m awestruck by the arrogance and audacity of these doctor’s who are going the route of the “waiver”. I’m sorry, if your bedside manner sucks, I’m going to speak about it. If you’re office always runs perpetually late on its appointments, I’ll warn my friends before giving the recommendation. If you screw up and leave a sponge in me during my operation and never apologized or showed any remorse, guaranteed I’m going to talk about it. If you treat me like the reasonably intelligent human being I am, with respect and professionalism and answer my questions, I’m also going to speak about it and recommend you. It’s no different than if a plumber screws up the hot and cold water pipes for my shower, and refuses to fix it – I’m going to talk about and want to share my experience with others.

I am the consumer. I have a voice. I have power. I have control. And with the power of the internet – I can share.

So what should these doctors’ be doing? Well first off, if you feel the need for a waiver, maybe you should step back and take a look at how your treat your patients. Second, instead of being offended by the negative criticism, perhaps you should listen to these experiences that they are sharing. A great example of this comes from Charlene Li’s book, Groundswell. Memorial Sloan-Keating in New York started listening via social media about what their patients experiences were and what they thought about them (as well as other cancer treatment facilities in the NCCN network). One of the biggest take-aways was that it wasn’t the doctor’s experience or the reputation of Memorial Sloan-Keating that they had assumed brought patients there, it was the recommendation of their primary care physician. By listening they understood, and stopped assuming they knew it all.

No matter what business you are in, you can’t stop the negative. The negative will always be there, its just how you handle and embrace the negative that will make the difference. I’ve spoken before about upset customers as opposed to trolls, the trolls are easy to spot. The upset customer represents the opportunity to create an evangelist for you, the best kind of marketing money cannot buy. If you want to create these evangelists, you don’t do it by forcing them to sign waivers, you first start by listening and then communicating.

Postscript: thanks to Simon Heseltine for this bit about Lawyers trying the same route as the doctors

Online Video Marketing

Did you know that the 2nd largest search engine is no longer Yahoo? That’s right, people are using YouTube to conduct searches more than Yahoo. That being said, do you have an online video marketing strategy?

Gone are the days where making commercials cost millions of dollars, not just in production costs but in air time as well. Welcome to the revolution of social media and web 2.0 technologies. You don’t need a high end camera anymore, you don’t need uber expensive software either. What you do need is a strategy and some congruent follow through. Without those, just throwing up a video will allow you to flounder or even fail.

Online video is now becoming more about strategic marketing than ever before. Without first thinking about “what’s in it for the audience” first, anything you set off to do will likely get a chilly reception, because you are thinking about it from your own perspective. As with anything these days, understanding that people really hate marketing being shoved down their throats, making your video piece be more about what the end user wants is more important now than ever.

While the subject of your video may be the most important thing, there are other aspects companies need to take into consideration when they look at an online video marketing strategy. Making sure your identity, your marketing measures and your branding are congruent with not just on your print media or on your website, but across all your marketing channels is imperative. What I’m talking about here is avatars, colors, skins and graphics. Companies pour thousands if not millions into these efforts, its their identity, its how people recognize them. A lot of times companies forget to carry this over into all the aspects of online marketing, especially video, and they miss out on big opportunities when they do. In the video below I talk to Greg Jarboe about this at SES London this year.

YouTube by all means is the giant in this space, but its got such a broad user base. Reaching that target market you are really trying to get to engage with your company or brand, can be a pretty tall task when you are dealing with millions of searchers a day. This is where knowing where your audience hangs out becomes vitally important because of all the niche video sharing site out there. Research into this area can really pay off. Sometimes if a video goes hot on one of these sites, it can have a ripple effect into other video sharing sites, even YouTube.

Big companies do not corner the market on this online video marketing world either. Small business with just a flip camera and some simple video editing software can create compelling and engaging videos that can be marketing boons for their businesses. Small business can that produce commercials that can cost less than $100 can hit very targeted markets can be extremely effective. Think about a weekly “specials” video for a restaurant, seeing the food being prepared and then served hot & fresh is more compelling than just a staged photo of a plate with food on it. Attach that to your local profiles and you give people more reason to come to your establishment!

So if you haven’t thought about online video marketing yet, perhaps you should take a second look. This is becoming one of the fastest growing marketing mediums out there, and if you don’t have a strategy to plan and track it right you could loose out!

Markting Via Twitter Is All About Community Engagement

My new article on some ideas on how to “Harness the Power of Twitter for Local Marketing” just pubbed this morning at Search Engine Land. In it, I describe how a number of small and large local businesses are using Twitter, and I provide a small handful of ideas as to how to do it.

Make no mistake, though – the basic foundation of marketing through Twitter is all about “audience engagement” or “community engagement”. Twitter is a communication medium, a micro-blogging platform, a community forum. Micro-communities and macro-communities are grouping up on it rapidly so that people with common interests can easily ask each other brief questions and get back quick answers. Also, people are using it to keep up-to-date with one another in something far closer to real-time as well.

From my perspective, the most effective business uses of Twitter are where companies are providing snippet information of direct interest to their communities, and responding to questions from their stakeholders and customers. Whole Foods and Marriott International are two of these companies which are demonstrating that they “get it”, and are providing compelling interaction through their Tweets.

For many locally-oriented businesses, Twitter is a really good opportunity to gather together a community of interested current and future customers. To do this, one must respect the time and patience of the audience — don’t waste people’s time by too much inane chatter. Also, to build an audience rapidly, consider giving away some really great rebates or freebies. For instance, my coworker Li Evans just “retweeted” (“forwarded”) this offer from Maggiano’s Restaurants to her list of followers this morning:

Li Evans retweets a Maggianos Offer

This sort of discount offer is highly compelling. I took the offer, began following Maggianos, and forwarded the offer to my list of Twitter followers as well. This sort of Twitter use is very powerful! Notice how it’s viral: it encourages people to distribute the offer out to their friends, who send it to their friends, who… you get the picture!

The Twitter phenomenon is growing very rapidly since the service launched only a couple of years back. Savvy marketers will learn how to leverage the potential, but only if they understand the basic foundation of community engagement.