Category: Marketing

Earned media

We’re seeing more and more traction from the term “earned media,” referring to fan-generated publicity at no cost to the advertiser. Sean Corcoran of Forrester developed this chart to elucidate the different types of advertising:

The role of paid advertising is rapidly changing from the forefront of company marketing strategies to the last addition, and often used to contribute to successful earned media and owned media. As the way people perceive information and make decisions changes, so must the way we reach them – true both for advertising agencies and the companies that employ them.

According to the CMO of Ford, James Farley, “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.” That is the heart of earned media, of social media, and it should be at the heart of our company’s strategies for growth.

5 best ways to reach people online

According to the US Census Bureau, 3 out of 5 American households have a computer at home with internet access. A full 77% of Americans know how to use the internet and 73% use it at least daily. So the question remains, what are the best ways to reach them when they’re online? Let’s look at usage first.

58% of internet users are reading or sending email
50% are using search
38% are getting news
38% are online just to pass the time or for fun
27% are using social networking sites

It would seem from the numbers that the best way to reach people is via email, right? Well, how many of your unsolicited emails do you read? Especially if they come from a stranger? If you’re like me, very few. Let’s look at a different set of data. This is online influence on consumers for 2009 holiday purchases in the first week of December, put together by comScore:

28% were influenced by social media
21% were influenced by discounts or click-throughs on Facebook or Twitter
13% were influenced by consumer-generated reviews
12% were influenced by expert reviews

Now, if you’re trying to sell something to the 73% of Americans who are using the internet daily, what are your best bets?

  1. Consumer generated reviews. Sites like amazon.com and epinion.com allow users to rate and comment on their experience with your product. Bloggers (non-sponsored and unpaid) have a great deal of clout as well. These methods work great because the 50% of Americans using the internet for searching will likely stumble onto reviews in the course of their search. Additionally, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can link to reviews of your product creating more clout.
  2. Expert generated reviews. Let’s face it. Some people prefer to follow what the experts do. And if someone like cnet says your product is better than competitors’ you’re likely to generate good sales. Again, that review will appear in search engines and can be linked to on social media sites, garnering even more popularity.
  3. Discount it! You don’t want to give away the farm, but we’re seeing more and more people clicking on bargain offers while trying to save some cash. When those discounts are given on social media sites returns will be amplified, reaching the 28% who are influenced by social media as well as the 21% who click through links on Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Place ads on Facebook and popular games. When people are logged in to a popular game like Mafia Wars you have a captive audience. When they’re scanning Facebook for friends’ status updates, videos, and pictures, you have the same phenomenon. Facebook also generates highly targeted ads for a very low cost. Companies are noticing that returns on Facebook ads are much better than returns on other online ads, and often much better than returns on traditional media ads.
  5. Make a video. Videos are targeted well by search engines and they play a large role in social media engagement. Upload a video to YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Video and start sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Make it catchy, unexpected, and end it with a transaction-minded call to action. Videos can be viral, when they’re done well. Why not give it shot now?

5 things to make or break your strategy

marketing strategy

Interactive marketing strategy. Market penetration strategy. Social media strategy. Here at Engage Them we develop these things for our clients to ensure that we meet their short term and long term goals effectively. But when it comes down to it, everyone uses strategy for different purposes in different venues.  That got us thinking. What are the common denominators that make a successful strategy? Here’s what we think it boils down to. Feel free to jump in to the discussion below.

  1. Long-term vision with short-term application. Your strategy needs to see where your business is heading in 5 years and in 10 years. And that vision for the future needs to have immediate applications in what you do today. A pie-in-the-sky dream of expansion into new markets will never be realized until you start taking steps to make it happen. On the other hand, acting on short-term goals with only a vague guess about what’s next is like a brand new driver who only looks at the road directly in front of his car. He veers all over the road because his focus is too short.
  2. Know your market. A narrowly defined target audience will keep your strategy focused, avoiding waste of time and effort on inefficient goals or advertising. Target everything in your strategy to your target market – from behaviors to benchmarks.
  3. Resource analysis. What do we have? Think of talent, time, budget, materials, technical skills, facilities… What do you already have that you can work with? What resources can you obtain creatively – through networking, barter agreements? And how will you obtain the other resources you need?
  4. Competitor analysis. You know what they say, “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” Know who you’re up against and know how you can beat them. Maybe you can’t offer a better price, or maybe your raw materials aren’t as good as theirs. But figure out where you can better them, and maximize on that. If you can beat them hands down on customer service, do it well, and don’t apologize for the aspects you can’t compete on.
  5. Re-evaluation. A strategy is only as good as its keeper. Consistent re-visiting of the strategy and fearless modification when necessary will keep it relevant and useful. A strategy that sits in the back of the filing cabinet is of no use to anyone. Use it to bring continuity to your business. Use it as a yard stick when evaluating options. Redesign it as the market ebbs and flows.

That’s our 5. What works for you?

Business Week's tips on social media

Last February Business Week debunked a list of 6 social media myths, and despite of the amount of time that’s passed since then, those same myths are still widely held. I would say that the landscape has changed a bit since then, making their responses to the myths a little dated.

For one, they suggest that a good social media campaign will cost you $50,000-$100,000. But the field has been flooded with companies doing social media strategy at various levels. And as any Econ 101 student knows, when supply increases, prices decrease. I suppose corporate giants like Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-a have use for multi-faceted campaigns that require resources like that, but for your general small to medium enterprise, a good social media marketing company (like Engage Them) can get you sorted for a fraction of that cost.

There are also a ton more ways to measure your social media impact than there were 10 months ago, and presumably will be a ton more by this February. Below is a chart that measures influence and audience on Twitter – Klout makes it relevant and user-friendly.

Klout Twitter

Tell me a story

Hat tip to Seth Godin who posted a great article this morning on challenge of marketing. We – as marketers or business owners or political proponents – expect people to think like us.  We think we can just tell them what we think or maybe why we think it, but it’s a little more complicated than that.

The challenge lies in helping them see your idea through their lens, not yours. If you study the way religions and political movements spread, you can see that this is exactly how it works. Marketers of successful ideas rarely market the facts. Instead, they market stories that match the worldview of the people being marketed to.

This is why telling stories is more effective than standing on a soap box or spouting facts about your product or service. People relate to experiences. You’re more likely reach an audience talking about the blueberries your kid smooshed on his shirt (that you got out with your special stain remover) than you are by reporting the enzyme properties of that stain remover.

megaphone-kid-marketingThat’s what makes social media so intuitive. It gives you the platform to tell your story, and interact with other people who are telling their stories about your product or service. There’s nothing more brilliant than that.

11 Tips to Persuade

Thanks to Shaun Groves for his spot-on tips on persuading people. He talks specifically about selling people on a response to children living in poverty, but for the most part his tips are highly useful wherever you are. My favorites were:

#4: No statistics. They’re great for powerpoint presentations and board room arguments, but in your typical coctail party conversation or elevator exchange, a single story can pack more punch than a list of statistics.

#7: Be positive. Show a little of the problem, a lot of the solution. People don’t like to feel guilty. They don’t like uncomfortable conversations. They’re put off by ‘difficult situations.’ Focus on the solution, stay upbeat.

And then there’s Point #2 – Don’t lie. And exaggerating is lying. When I’m watching the commercials at game time, I wonder if any of those people sitting in their advertising offices have ever heard that one. Just sayin’.
Marketing Megatrends
Thanks to Adam Kleinberg at iMedia Connection for his post yesterday about what he calls the Elephant in the room. There are 5 guiding factors, he says, that are driving successful marketing campaigns today – not the branding and strategically designed brand-unique stuff, but the overarching how-to’s of applying it.

For each of the 5 he gives an example of a company that’s doing it right. The usual suspects are in there – Apple, Sprint, IBM, but the surprises aren’t really so surprising – Ally Bank (formerly GMAC), the maker of those cute commercials where the suited grown-up tricks a kid with a bike or a hores; and Alibaba, who you would surely know if you’ve ever looked into a wholesaling or import/export business – they make the big, scary world a lot smaller.

The five megatrends he lists are the driving factors behind the success of both social media and social enterprise – user-generated content, constant connectivity, and distrust in big business play directly into the hands of social media. The world becoming smaller through technology and urgency to fix modern problems fuel green initiatives and social enterprise.

When it comes down to it, the principles that are driving successful marketers are accessible to everyone – the market has turned highly favorable for small business, and that can only be good. The climate of the market encourages competition and invites entrepreneurial innovation. All signs point to this trend having a reasonably long life-span, and we’re looking forward to seeing what new brands emerge to challenge those big businesses that have traditionally had a corner on the market.

social-media-graph

Harnessing the power of Social Media

As blogging gradually eases its way to becoming an somewhat acceptable mode of journalism, PR agencies are taking note (finally, I might add). A great article over at AdWeek details how some of the greats of the advertising world are harnessing the power of social media. It seems that word of mouth is merging into word of QWERTY, albeit not so spontaneously.

I love the idea of going beyond banner ads into more ‘authentic’ media, but there’s a part of me that finds sponsored posts somewhat despicable. Granted, I’m one of those old-school bloggers, tied to the archaic ideas of authenticity and validity. Maybe if I were doing this for personal gain or a get rich quick scheme I’d be more receptive to someone paying me money to say they made the best widget in Widget-world. Maybe I missed the bandwagon. Am I the only one who reads a blog post giving a stellar review of an appliance, or a book, or the newfangled shiny cog in the machine and instantly recognizes it as fluff?

Sure! I love the idea of marketing peeps and advertisers jumping on the social media bandwagon. But I also think a level of authenticity is called for and sponsoring posts is the digital equivalent to infomercials or those annoying “paid advertising sections” of the magazine that look just like regular pages, only they’re poorly laid out and filled with… fluff (and small print whispering that it’s inauthentic).

Call it old school. Call it naive. But a good friend of mine once said “The truth is your best tool.” (Thanks, Jerry, from the The Change.) Jerry was right. I want agencies to clue in and ride the social media wave. But I want them to do it for real – not with astroturf but with the truth – the kind you can stand on when the rains come.

Freelancer's best friend

Hat tip to Mitch at Six Degrees of Separation for his post on Social Media as threatening to freelance writers. He rounds it out nicely, giving some tips to freelancers about how to use social media to their favor. There’s an interesting dialogue out there with more than a handful of writers out there expressing elitist claims about how blogging has given even the least savvy writers access to readership.

Between blogs, wikis, and social media groups, anyone can have their say and the average reader has to sort through it to figure out what is fact and what is fiction (which is precisely why rumors float around about Obama being a radical muslim, Senate bills making gun ownership illegal, and hoaxes about non-existent crimes).

At the same time, social media is earth shattering in three very distinct ways:

  1. Open source digital media plays into the hand of the truly knowledgeable. It sets apart the experts in the field from the fake-it-till-you-make-it crowd. In the same way the Linux and open source software leveled the playing field for the “little guy” who wouldn’t have a chance against Microsoft’s Goliath, so social media opens up the playing field for the freelancers who really do have something original to offer. Of course, that doesn’t help a whit for the guy sitting on his couch watching daytime TV thinking freelancing may save him from ever having to do ‘real’ work.
  2. Socia media opens up the world of collaboration beyond what it would traditionally be. If I want to start a microfund in Zimbabwe I can find instant connections to people on the ground. If I want to read stellar short fiction about pet owners (riveting, right?), I can do that too. If I want to learn what’s on the mind of women in Iran, that’s online too. That means I can find the information I need, but it also means I can find the inspiration I want, and gain perspective from people around the world.
  3. I can be an expert. It doesn’t matter if my expertise is in Shostakovich’s influence on Russian socialist realism in the late 1930s or the Calivistic roots of the Industrial Revolution. I can be an expert and interact with other experts. I can prove my worth to would-be employers and run with the big dogs – if I can keep up with their research. A little time, some google-savvy-ness, and a few tidbits of SEO tools can keep me (or you) at the front of the pack.

I can see why social media might be threatening to some freelancers – it separates the wheat from the chaff. But assuming I’m whole grain, social media is the best way for me to promote myself. That goes for companies too – social media is the stomping ground where we find out what’s at our core. Social media has a knack for placing entities – individuals or companies – right where they belong. So how about you? Are you whole grain? Or chaff blown away by the wind? Or have you even made your way to the threshing floor?

Image Credit: Sandman1973
Image Credit: Sandman1973

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