There’s been quite a bit of buzz about Facebook’s tweaks to EdgeRank. Are less people seeing your content? Is it all just a big scheme to get more ad dollars? Should your company jump ship to Google + where it is safe?

While we may never know the answers to all of our pressing Facebook questions, I can tell you this…If you do the basics you’ll be able to ride out any EdgeRank craziness.

Think of it in terms of weight loss, if you want to lose weight eat less calories and stay active. I know it sounds waaaay too simple, but I’ve seen it work. When it comes to Facebook you also need to do the basics to stay in the game – post regularly, post engaging content, interact with fans and buy advertising from time to time to get fans re-engaged or to draw in new fans.

In the meantime, Facebook will fumble, tweak and hopefully come up with a solution that makes both fans and brands happy. Your role as a page owner is to do the best you can to ride it out and keep fans engaged.

Pinterest recently moved into the Number 3 spot for social networks, which means a newbie like Pinterest is actually doing better than a giant like Google+. Aside from the fact that it is one of the fastest growing websites to ever hit the interwebs, why should you care?

1. The studies are still rolling in, but Pinterest does an amazing job at driving traffic back to web sites. The whole point of Pinterest is to bookmark web sites, but bookmark them in a much more visually interesting way. Whereas Facebook tends to work inside its own eco-system and Twitter tends to link to more news sites and blogs, Pinterest is there to capture more of the lifestyle links. We aren’t necessarily learning about the latest volcanic explosion as it happens, but we are able to see a really enticing recipe or cute new spring dress.

2. The visual world is becoming more important. We’ve seen that Facebook posts with images tend to perform better than text-only posts, but on Pinterest if you don’t have a good visual, you really don’t have much. Remember if you want people to be driven to your site, you have to host interesting visuals on your site. If you’re a clothing store who is constantly updating new images and styles online you are set. For the rest of us, that’s something to think about.

3. The big dogs are already jumping on board. Quite often you’ll see these new networks that never go anywhere, but Pinterest was smart enough to leverage what is already working to gain a mass quantity of users quickly. (In order to create an account you are prompted to use your Twitter or Facebook log-in which then allows you to see which of your friends/followers are also on Pinterest). You’ll also see that some companies, like Lowe’s, have begun using the “P” logo on the bottom of their ads. It’s fresh, it’s new and it’s very relevant to women in their 20s and 30s.

4. Facebook and Twitter have been very popular for a very long time, at least “long” in terms of the tech world. When you see a network explode in the way that Pinterest has, it is something to take notice. Inevitably, things are going to shift. I’m not saying Facebook is going away tomorrow by any means, but I do think Pinterest has made a big enough splash for you to think about the ways your business could leverage it.Image

Message boards? Those are so 1990’s errr…was it early 2000’s? If I was giving advice to a client I would definitely steer them toward something more modern. Set up a Facebook page, hop on Twitter, Pin something for goodness sake. But I have a confession to make. I’ve been spending more time on Message Boards than I have any other social network lately.

Why the throwback, you may ask? I’m pregnant. Yes, it is true, and I am trolling the mommy boards on the What to Expect When You’re Expecting site like no other. At first I was just a lurker, but now I’m a poster. I’m asking questions about which stroller to buy, whether or not I need to strap my baby on to me and if so, what do I do with the other one? (Did I mention it is twins?)

I have to admit these Boards are extremely useful, and here’s why.

1. Anonymity. I don’t want to be friends with these ladies on Facebook. Maybe it’s their hormones or maybe they always skew toward the unhappy, but there are some “feisty” women on these boards. The Forum / Message Board function allows me to get what I need out of it without getting personal.

2. Common bonds. These ladies are just as obsessed/terrified/excited as me. We are all going through this new experience together. All due in July. And despite differences in personalities, political views, geography, all feeling the same aches and pains. Forums are great for bringing people together with a strong common interest.

3. Separation from my “social” social world. I’m not a big fan of posting every day about my pregnancy. I have a few photos of me pregnant but that’s only because I went on vacation and happened to be pregnant. It gets to be overload when your friends share every moment of their pregnancy, soon to be followed by every moment of their labor and new child. I’ve been on the receiving end of the newsfeed and I swore I wouldn’t do it. The forums allows me to have a place strictly for baby comments and for people who actually care about baby stuff.

4. You get to learn a new language. You know you’re a part of an intense community when you have to learn the lingo to even be a part of it. DD (Darling Daughter), MIL (Mother In Law), FTM (First Time Mom), TTC (Trying to Conceive). I could go on and on. It took me awhile but I am in. It’s kind of a barrier to entry, and inevitably some newbie will get on and actually ask what everything means. Please, you think these ladies are going to take the time to explain? You need to figure that one out. It’s a rite of passage.

5. You get to listen in. Marketers should be here. I can’t help it. Even when talking about my pepperoncini cravings I’m thinking with my marketing hat on. If I was a company in the baby products industry or even a doctor I would be listening on this board like no other. The women are constantly talking about their needs, recommending products, complaining about OB GYNs. It’s like Yelp, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor rolled up into one for the baby industry. Trust me, you want in on this conversation.

I’m not saying abandon Facebook or Twitter by any means. What I am saying is find the online communities where your hard core consumers are having an in-depth conversation and you’ll find rich insights and feedback to be had. Maybe you can host one yourself (more tricky when they know the brand is listening) or maybe you can just be a fly on the wall, but don’t disregard this space, unless you can’t stomach all the husband bashing, odes to Taco Bell and Mother In Law rants. In which case, I completely understand.

Psst. Here’s a secret. If you want a lot of fans quickly you need one of two things: Money for an ad buy or an existing database (think your email list) that you can easily convert to fans.

If you don’t have either then your best bet is to grow organically by providing interesting quality content in your wall posts. Sure you can offer a giveaway, but even a giveaway without a large fan base and advertising support will only draw in so much activity.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with growing slow and steady, just make sure your expectations are set correctly.

If you have a page that has under 500 fans – expect to grow somewhere between 5 – 15 fans a month. 2,000 fans you could up it to 30 – 50 new fans/month. 30,000 a fair bet is 1,000 – 2,000 new fans/month. These are rough estimates but should give you some guidance.

Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t pulling in thousands of new fans each month. Slow and steady isn’t a bad way to go, especially if you are getting the right people and your engagement rates are high.

So next time you get pulled into a meeting and the boss man wants to hit 1 million fans in two months, it’s best to be upfront and tell him or her to budget some $$ for advertising. That’s just the way it works.

Facebook is prompting us all to get our heads out of the  “I wanna be popular” mindset, by forcing companies to pay equal, if not more, attention to engagement metrics as to “likes.”

The new insights page offers more in-depth engagement metrics if you want to dig around, but the  feature  “XX people are talking about this” may be one of the most useful new metrics rolled out. The Talking About metric lives directly under the number of fans on the left hand side of the page and is not only available to page admins but to any Facebook user. So what makes this metric so useful?

  • The Talking About metric is an easy way to keep tabs on engagement. Start to know the percentage of fans who are “talking about” your page every week versus total fan numbers. I’ve found most pages live in the 1 – 3% range when they aren’t running ads. Set goals for yourself and tweak content when this percentage starts to dip.
  • It’s also an easy way to spy on your competitors. Let’s admit it, it may seem childish but at some point we all develop  a case of fan envy when it comes to competitors’ pages. Sure your competitors may have more fans, especially if they’ve invested in Facebook ads in the past, but do they have as high engagement when you look at the Talking About metric vs Total Fan base? Now that you can view the “Talking About” metric on any page use it as a benchmark to see how your community is performing against others and then tweak.
  • The Talking About metric is an easy way to spot good ideas. If a page has high engagement rates (# of People Talking About / Total Fans) see what types of content they are posting and what ideas you may be able to learn from when building your own content calendar. Are their posts shorter? Are they using the Questions function more often? More photos than you typically use?

Facebook is trying to ease us into the idea of quality over quantity. Sure it doesn’t hurt to have a large fan base – more potential for exposure via the newsfeed –  but a community with a high engagement rate could lead to more word of mouth exposure (friends seeing friends’ activity on a brand post) as well as a chance to create deeper connections and loyalty  (brand and fan interacting versus just brand posting). So don’t dismiss the Talking About metric and try for a week or two focusing on engagement versus total fan base numbers. It won’t be easy – we all want to be popular – but it may be worth it in the long run.

The change game is complicated. Don’t make drastic changes (see Apple iPhone 4s) people complain. Don’t see change coming (see Blockbuster, Borders) you could go under. Make too many changes (enter Facebook) and you risk ticking people off.

Facebook’s new Timeline, Ticker and Newsfeed may take some getting used to, but after getting over the initial shock, I actually find the new changes worthwhile. Timeline is light years better then my profile page which had little use. Ticker brings what was “Recent News” to life giving more real-time exposure. And the Newsfeed? Well I’m happy to not have to toggle back between the two tabs. Only time will tell if brand pages are hurt by the move. I’ve noticed some activity lighten up on pages that don’t have as many fans but the ticker does seem to offer a quick burst of exposure every time you update.

Let’s be honest, if Facebook didn’t change it would become MySpace. Instead of ranting and raving about changes I think we should thank Facebook for forcing us to learn how to be flexible. Yes, the changes are irritating at times for the user, but we’ll survive and in the end so will Facebook.

Thanks to one of my clients – The World Affairs Council of Kentucky and S. Indiana – I had a front row seat with members of the Tunisian revolution. (This does circle back to social media so stick with me). I admit, prior to the event, I knew little about Tunisia and I certainly couldn’t pick it out on a map.  I did know that the Tunisians kicked off the Arab Spring. They were the first country in the region to overthrow their
dictator and you could say gave inspiration to nearby countries.

What struck me during the cultural conversation was one comment, spoken by one of the older Tunisians – “The youth had rocks and tires which they would set on fire, but the greatest weapon of the revolution was the mobile phone.”

After hearing their story, I have to admit it was true. The mobile phone allowed the people to continue to tell their story long after the traditional media had been shut down and the journalists jailed. The youth took photos and videos sharing them on Facebook and Twitter which were then used by media around the world.

I couldn’t help thinking of Mark Zuckerberg. When he created Facebook did he have any thought that one day this platform would give people the courage to overthrow a dictator? And it didn’t stop in Tunisia. The Tunisian youths taught the Egyptian youth how to best leverage social media along with other tips on surviving and winning a revolution. It was a sharing of best practices you could say.

The Tunisians are now in the rebuilding process and will start elections in October. Oh and by the way, this country went from one dictator to 107
political parties. Can you even imagine? I suppose they wanted choice.

Next time you take out your phone and fire off a tweet, give a second to think about the Tunisians and the power of social media. That phone of yours may one day be your most powerful weapon. You never know.

As we approach the 10th anniversary of 9/11 two things struck me – 1. How would it have been different if social media had been around? 2. I still was carrying a lot of emotion when it came to 9/11.

Everyone has a story of where they were when 9/11 happened. It didn’t matter if you lived in Manhattan or Des Moines, Iowa, your world suddenly stopped that day. I had just moved back from New York City to my hometown of Chicago a month before it happened. I did know people who lost loved ones from 9/11 and I did feel a sense of guilt for leaving the city behind.

I found out about the attacks when my father called me at work. He had been home watching the news and called when the first tower was struck. I kind of brushed him off because I was busy and had no idea the impact of what he was talking about. He called back when the attacks continued and I began to worry because his voice was wobbling. After all dads don’t cry often. At least my Dad doesn’t. I remember hanging up the phone and watching the office file one by one into the conference room where there was a TV. We were all watching in horror before they made the announcement to evacuate the building. There was a mad rush as we tried to get away from the tall skyscrapers of downtown to the train station. It was the longest elevator ride down 21 floors I had ever experienced.

Once home, I remember trying to call my friends back in New York and not being able to get through to any of them. All the phone lines were tied up and at the time texting never crossed my mind. It was a helpless feeling to not be able to connect.

Fast forward 10 years, and I truly believe that if I received the same call from my father today, Twitter would have been one of the first places I checked for news and Facebook the first place to check on my friends. Imagine going through half your phone list calling them  one-by-one versus scanning a newsfeed and knowing instantly. Sure Facebook could feel less personal then a phone call but at that time it wasn’t about being personal it was just about knowing he or she was alive.

We’ve seen how people have used social media to connect over and over when disaster strikes from cleaning up cities post riot in London to posting a lost and found on Facebook after tornadoes struck the South. Social has allowed us to organize quickly, connect no matter what the distance and “see” the disaster firsthand through the tweets, posts and pictures of those on the ground.

Part of me is glad social wasn’t around when 9/11 hit because it was so horrific. Part of me wish it had existed so I could have received more answers more quickly.  Either way I’m taking time to deal with some emotions (to feel, not wallow) on Sunday and to be grateful for all the good that has happened these last ten years.

How do you think 9/11 would have been different if social media was around?

Maybe we’re just used to quickly reading headlines or tweets and drawing assumptions, but when Facebook announced it was integrating location into a status update people seemed to get it wrong. A roar went up that Foursquare has “won.”

I think Facebook’s move is less about bowing to Foursquare and more about realizing that location is just one part of the story – the who, what, where, when. You could say the Place has been put in its place, it’s not the status itself but rather an add-on. I’m cool with this as I don’t mind when people check-in on Facebook, but I like it a lot better when they add some commentary as well. So you’re at a restaurant…is it good? What are you eating? Let’s personalize this check-in a bit.

With the new location roll out you will still be able to use deals, you will still be able to let your friends know your locations, it’s just that the stand alone check-in function is slowly being replaced with a location tag…similar to tacking on a photo or a link to a status. This option will also allow you to go back and tag vacation photos with a location without actually being there and will allow you to tag places for future events from your mobile phone or desktop. “Can’t wait to visit (tag it).”

Who knows how this will ultimately play out, but I do think it is a bit premature to say Facebook is out of the location game. I also think we all (myself included) need to read the full story rather than the headlines.

As a PR professional, I’m always interested in what is going on in the media world. Not surprising, print subscriptions are down, newsrooms continue to cut staff, and media companies seem to be scrambling to come up with some new technology that will save the industry. The New York Times tested their own social network which they later scrapped and most recently, the Tribune Co. announced it was coming out with its own tablet to woo new subscribers. Tribune vs. Apple? Doesn’t seem like a fair battle.

Having also worked in interactive marketing , the same lesson has been pounded over and over in my head and I think it could be the key to saving traditional media. Here it is: Be where people are spending their time. In other words go with the flow. If people are buying iPads, do whatever it takes to integrate yourself into an iPad, don’t waste energy building your own. If people are on Twitter and Facebook, make those social networks your priority, versus spending a ton of time and dollars managing your own.

Makes sense right? Taking this idea further…What if newspapers put social media first? Facebook/Twitter becomes their “site/paper” – reporters focus their efforts on social, not as an “after the fact, the story has been written” kind of way but more of an ”in the moment, this news is happening now” kind of way. The reporters who currently do it well are the ones who are using social networks real-time. They are at the city council meeting tweeting from the event. They are watching newsfeeds to dig for the next big story. They aren’t just tweeting headlines with links to the story after the event has occurred. Sure they still write the story at the end of the day and still play a very important role in gathering the facts and crafting something that is legit and vetted, but they’re also just as real-time as everyone else.

I get that real-time news may make some news organizations or editors uncomfortable, but as a friend recently said  – “I stopped checking the newspaper online because if something is important I’ll hear about it on Twitter.” Being uncomfortable is better than being irrelevant.

So if you did shift most of your efforts to social media and had your editorial in order, then what about advertising? Well what if you had a @gannettdeals for example. People who live for coupons could follow or fan that page. It could be something you could sell to advertisers (we’ll tweet XX amount of times for XX dollars) and it would push advertisers to be more creative/give something of value to readers versus a banner ad that no one wants to see or a circular I’m going to throw straight into the trash.

You could also take your classifieds and start Twitter handles/Facebook pages. @ganettjobs. People who actually are looking for jobs, cars, puppies, etc could easily find what they need without having to sort through all the other listings. Another lesson I’ve learned from my interactive marketing role, making life easier for people is always a win.

So there you have it, this is one idea on how traditional media could continue to thrive – by being relevant, flexible and most importantly being where people are spending their time. Oh, and by the way, if they are all these things, they’re also going to be more attractive to advertisers.

TV stations, you fall into this as well – use Twit Vid, YouTube and Facebook to air your segments, try live streaming. Your advertisers will thank you for it and your viewership has nowhere to go but up. You just have to be willing to change the way you measure audience numbers by including social.

I like local media and I would like local media to continue to exist for years to come. I hope they are willing to be flexible and change with the times. It would be sad to see them go the way of video stores, record shops and book stores because they just didn’t see it coming.

Any other thoughts on how to make traditional media profitable?

As social evolves, businesses and organizations are becoming more savvy on how they use social to reach goals. Here are two ways to use Twitter to get new business:

The Passive Approach: Position yourself as an expert to get referrals. Follow others in your field, create an industry specific list, tweet from conferences, share news articles on relevant topics. Be the expert of whatever it is that you’re passionate about. It’s important to try to be specific about your expertise, so you can make yourself easy to find. If you’re a lawyer  don’t just talk about law in general but make your Twitter handle reflect the type of law you practice and the industry you focus on.

The Aggressive Approach: Go find your customer.The search function is highly underused by most companies in their Twitter strategy. Not that you want to cyberstalk people by any means, but it would be nice to find your customer and let them know you are out there.

If you are a restaurant with a focus on healthy, low-cal, fresh food , search for people in your area who are tweeting about exercising, use the term “fit” or perhaps even “diet.”  Reach out to them by following with the hopes you’ll peak their interest and get a follow back. It’s not about spamming someone, it’s about delivering content to someone who has similar interests and has given you permission to share in those interests via a follow.

What other ways have you seen Twitter used to gain business?

There’s a difference between a marketing activity that is designed to create buzz and at the end of the day service the brand/product/organization, and a marketing activity that is designed to provide a solution for a consumer. In theory, if you provide a useful, quality solution, buzz will follow.

It’s too early to tell, but by all appearances, American Express’ new partnership with Facebook provides a solution. If I’m an AMEX user I can enter my card information into an app which lives on American Express’ Facebook page. The app then connects my Facebook likes with deals and special offers American Express provides, therefore delivering offers I’ll actually use. Pretty sweet.

Even better is the whole transaction is paperless. The deals or offers are loaded onto the card so I don’t have to worry about printing anything off.

I love this. I love this almost as much as the Chase commercial I saw recently where you can take a picture of a check and deposit from your phone.

There is so much data on  social to be harnessed and put to good use. Not just to paint a clearer picture of your customer so you can target better, but to actually tweak your services so you’re selling something people actually want. A strange concept, right?

What other real solutions have you seen on social or mobile?

Google + has been a bit of a roller coaster for me. At first the high of getting in, the rush of the potential, the excitement of circles and then the low of the fact my friends are still elsewhere.

It’s an unusual  network where you can be followed without following – a la Twitter – but it also looks a heck of a lot like Facebook not only in design but in the fact that it houses all of your info – photos, videos, likes/pluses.

My biggest struggle thus far is who to follow. I’ve used a weird methodology to following people – if we’re already friends on Facebook, it is a no-brainer, they are in a circle. If I follow them on Twitter it’s okay for me to follow on Google + probably. I feel a little awkward. I’m trying not to follow anyone I’m not already following on one of the other two networks quite yet….seems a bit intrusive and I just don’t want to be that creepy person that evokes the reaction – who the heck is this? Although I’m sure it has already happened.

In terms of content shared, Google + also raised some questions. On Twitter we’re sharing links, brief comments and the occasional Twitpic, but all and all it can be somewhat impersonal. And then there’s Facebook which if I really break it down feels like my online diary of sorts – I’m sharing info on relationships, vacation photos, events I’ve attended, birthday wishes.

So where does Google + fit in? Is this my new diary or is this my new means of keeping up with interesting articles from strangers who share similar passions? It seems like a mish mash of both – my worlds are colliding.

For now, I’m keeping my eye on Google + and going to continue to navigate, but I’m not quitting Facebook or Twitter yet. At least I know how to behave and what to expect on those platforms. And best of all, everyone is in their proper place.

Finally, Google has created a social network that people seem to like, or at least tech reporters seem to like. The rest of the world gets to have their say later this month.

Why Google + may work:

It’s clean, lean and seems to provide an easy solution for one of Facebook’s downfalls – I don’t want my mom/boss/potential future employer to see this post. Sure Facebook has created lists and groups as a work around to this problem, but after you reach the 200-plus friend mark, it almost seems easier to wipe the slate clean and start with a new social network placing friends where they belong from the get go.

It offers a quality video chat function. Facebook is set to announce one soon, but it puts them in a me-too bucket, a place Facebook seems to be often these days (see Foursquare/Places, Groupon/Deals).

Between the Circles and Sparks function, Google + seems to combine the best of both worlds – friends (Facebook) + interests (Twitter).

It already has brands itching to get on board. Aside from media outlets which have created profiles, Ford is one of the first brands to create a page. Google promises that small business pages are in the works.

And finally, it’s too important to not work.  With Bing in bed with Facebook, Google has to find its answer to social search. It tried Twitter, but recently ended that relationship and is banking on Google +.

We’ll see what happens and if people are going to make the switch. In the mean time check out the demo: http://www.google.com/+/demo/

 Involver, a social marketing platform, has partnered with Klout to create a Facebook app that unlocks special content based on someone’s Klout score. Basically, if a brand uses this app on its Facebook page it can detect if you have a high Klout score and serve you up special content based on the level of your influence. What’s a Klout score you ask? It’s a number that represents how influential you are on a social network – how many friends/fans, how often do people engage with your content.

Audi is the first brand to test this out, but no doubt other brands will follow, offering up rewards (coupons, special branded content, rewards) to those who matter most. Is this dangerous? Perhaps a little. I may be a hardcore fan of your product but I may not have a ton of followers on Twitter. On the other hand, if you’re trying to get the word out on a new product rewarding those with social influence could a great strategy.

Until Klout, and some of the other listening platforms, companies had to really dig to identify influencers. Now companies will know who “matters” more within seconds. I predict this will either tick off the loyalist (those who don’t spend a ton of time online but still love your brand/product) and/or make everyone work a little harder on producing good content and treating their followers well in order to pump up their Klout score so they can reap benefits.

Klout is a cool tool, but I also think you still need to pay attention to who is loyal to you and reward those folks as well.  If we were to go all “high school” on this topic – there should be a nice balance between the cool kids and your best friends. They’re both important in their own ways.

Stats came out from Inside Facebook saying Facebook usage had decreased in North America as had new users flocking to the site. Facebook is huge, mammoth even, but not invincible. And while I think it is far from dead, these stats did get me thinking – how would my life change if Facebook became MySpace? After all, I never really engaged on MySpace so this would be my first serious social network break up.

1. Birthdays would become more lonely. I admit it – I love getting swarmed by birthday messages from people I haven’t talked to all year or make that five years. I loved to be loved on my bday. Would miss that. I also would have a heck of a time remembering other people’s birthdays. Those event notifications have saved my hide many a time.

2. I may have to actually go to my high school reunion. I went to the 10 year, but saw no need to go to the next one as I follow most people on Facebook, or at least have friends who follow people so I can sneak a peak at their pictures if I’m curious.

3. I’d have to spend at least a week downloading my photo collection. Would I return to Snapfish? Naw. Flickr? Perhaps.

4. I’d dust off my address book. I’ve gotten lazy about asking phone numbers and email addresses.  

5. Would need to spend large chunks of time finding the next “Facebook” and then convincing my friends to join.

 

Kudos to Mashable for pointing out a flaw in Tiffany’s latest promotion. The promotion asked consumers to log on to an app and/or microsite to input their most romantic moments on a user-generated map.

 

The idea is cool, and a great fit for Tiffany’s, but as Mashable pointed out, a bit clunky when you have to remember the microsite url, or download the app. Could the same promotion not be handled using existing social media platforms – Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr? Probably. I liken it to you spending a ton of money on a great outfit, fixing your hair nicely,  and then sitting inside your house and hoping people will stop by. Kind of a waste when the bar down the street is packed and the dress code is casual. 

Tiffany’s isn’t the only brand that has fallen into this trap, it is a reoccurring  problem because: 1. brands still want total control from a creative perspective and perhaps you could argue analytics. 2. (This is the most important here) agencies don’t make nearly as much money when they don’t have to build something new.

It always irks me to see an agency pushing a branded app when it probably makes more sense to advertise or co-brand within an existing app that has steady traffic. Do it the other way around and you end up spending money advertising this app you built in order to drive downloads so you can  justify the development costs. I’d rather spend money advertising my brand not my app.

Or, when an agency tries to get a brand team to invest in a Facebook app or custom tabs. Most people will come to your page once to like it and then they’re done. If they want to interact with a post they’ll do so from the newsfeed which means you can fancy up your page all you like, but few people will see it. Investing that same money in a Facebook ad buy, or clever content for your posts – video, copywriting help, etc, would probably do more good. Once in awhile you’ll see a branded app break through, but for the most part people are spending their app time on Mafia Wars, Farmville, etc. You know, the guys that actually make a business out of building and maintaing apps as opposed to viewing it as an add on to a marketing plan.

Finally, when it comes to web, everyone is different. If you have e-commerce, well sure your site is pretty important, but if that’s not the case, have a web presence but host your promotional activity where people are spending their time. Unless you are a news site or weather.com, people do not wake up and go to (insertyoururl.com). They are, however, waking up and checking Facebook, Twitter, etc. Be there and have your promotion live there so people don’t have to leave.

We’re all busy. If you can appreciate that and serve up your branded content where people are spending their time, my guess is you’ll have better luck and more interaction. Just a hunch and a good reminder to think of your customers’ needs first.

While pitching new business I’ve realized that people have very different perceptions when it comes to social. I’m sure people had these same questions when PR first came into play and perhaps even advertising. The age-old “do we have to do that? I think we can make do with what we’ve always done”   will always be some people’s attitudes.

But social media is at a place and time where it is now at least being talked about, thought about, shunned by some and embraced by others. Here are three different attitudes toward social and my suggestions for approaching them whether it is new business or upper management.

There are the believers. They’ve seen how social media can build loyalty, handle customer service issues and transform relationships. They understand that social media is most powerful when it works hand in hand with traditional efforts. They don’t feel threatened, they embrace it and dive into the data.

Advice: For these folks, make sure they set realistic, measurable goals tied to business sales that can make other non-believers in the company understand.

There are those who are still on the fence. Okay, so this is more than a fad, but I’m not sure it really does anything for my bottom line. Seems like a bunch of people wasting time on-line.

Advice: Show them what people are saying about their brands online. Explain how the word of mouth newsfeed works. Too often we assume people know and understand the impact of a brand/business mention on social.

And there are the anti-social. I’m not saying they are hermits, I’m just saying you won’t find them using a hashtag anytime in the near future.

Advice: Do what you can to get them on social media. Without getting your hands dirty, social is a hard thing to wrap your head around no matter how many presentations you sit through. There is a a-ha moment that happens somewhere between a poke on Facebook and claiming a deal on Foursquare.

Any other advice you’d like to share?

Many stats show that small businesses are embracing social media and plan to devote even more focus in 2011, but what these studies don’t dive into is how businesses are going to staff these efforts. Right now I’ve seen two basic methods – do it yourself in-house, or use agency support.

Here are four things to think about as you contemplate expanding your presence.

1. Do you have the skills to manage a community on your staff? The technical stuff can be learned, but the communication and creative stuff will most likely need to come naturally. Some folks are good at math, others are good at talking. At the end of the day social media is about interacting with people online. If writing, responding and listening aren’t your strong points you may want to think about outside help.

2. Do you have the time? When you print an ad you can walk away and be done with it, same with direct mail. Social media is different, it requires you to respond, to monitor and to listen. Sure it is more work, but when you are building loyalty and working with your customers to make your business the best it can be, the payoff can be pretty sweet.

3. Do you have the desire? Social media is not for everyone. If you are one of those people who have said, “Why would I ever join Twitter? I don’t care what someone ate for breakfast.” You may want to hand social over to someone else. It’s one thing to not “get it,” it’s another thing to “not want to get it.” Somewhat similar to how I feel about football or baseball…er and hockey.

4. Do you have the funds? Sure setting a page up is free, but then what? To make social work hard for you, you need to keep the content fresh and the conversation engaging (that means spending time listening as well as talking). If you don’t have the time, skills or desire to handle in-house, then ask yourself if you have the funds to use an agency. Also think about supporting social with ad buys on Facebook or special promotions.

If you believe social media is a powerful marketing tool and want to increase your presence, go for it. Just make sure you have the right resources in place before you take the plunge, and don’t kid yourself that it won’t take time and energy. As any business owner knows, anything worth doing  takes a little effort.

Inside Facebook recently published a list of the most liked pages, and since these pages are successful in terms of gaining likes, I wanted to see if they were also successful in terms of engaging their fan base.

To do this I averaged the total interactions (likes and comments) off the pages’ last ten wall posts and divided it by the total number of fans of the page to get an engagement rate. I also used Inside Facebook’s stats to reach the average number of new daily likes each page was pulling in. Having run some fairly large Facebook pages I’m a firm believer that the more fans you have the more new daily likes you receive. A large page is easier to grow, because there tends to be more newsfeed activity from fans.

So here are the results:

In terms of gaining new daily likes, Facebook itself was raking in the most people, although their engagement rate was not the highest. I actually found it odd they were drawing in so many new people. No proof, but I’m wondering if new users think they are supposed to “friend” Facebook when they join?

When it came to engagement Justin Bieber had the highest rate at .22%. One reason for this – Justin seemed to write his own posts at times, which is very different than some of the other artsits’ pages which were more promotional. Shakira’s page was mostly about her new album but the one post that did look like it was actually from the star drew in 200K+ interactions.

At the end of the day, fans seemed to want more of the same – value (free stuff, chances to win), the inside scoop/behind the scenes and authentic interactions from brands/people they would otherwise never have the chance to meet.

How does your page measure up to these engagement rates?

After years of defending the power of PR I now have moved on to defending the power of social media. Like any new marketing medium social has to constantly prove its worth, an odd position because I believe social can be measured far more easily than any other marketing medium. (Yes, I believe social is easier to measure than PR, I’ll admit it).

For example:

TV – I can buy an ad or secure a segment on the morning news show but I have no idea how many people are truly watching it. Maybe the TV is on but they’re busy making popcorn. Unless you are hocking ‘buy one get one free’ products and have a redemption code, it’s pretty difficult to track actual viewership.

Print – Again, my ad is in there or my story is in there, but I’m not sure they read it.

Direct Mail – Did that postcard actually make it from the mailbox to the home or was it tossed along the way?

Online – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve opened another window to avoid having to watch the pre-roll ad. I let it roll and then I’ll come back to the content I actually want to see. 

Social – If someone likes it, retweets or comments, I know they saw it.  A like is living proof that a potential customer engaged and that engagement was most likely shared to their friends via a newsfeed. I’m not saying all 130 friends actually saw the message in their newsfeed, because that we don’t know unless they in turn take an action, but I do like my chances.

Still some will argue, does social drive sales? Well does your print campaign? How about your TV commercial? If the answer is yes, then your advertising was probably pretty well produced with convincing content. Make sure your social channels also have compelling content. I’m not saying you make every status a “buy me” update, I’m saying you learn how to speak social and make the soft sell in a conversational, interesting way.

At the end of the day, social sets you up well to reach customers with an easy to track, easy to engage, easy to listen-in platform. It also allows you to reach consumers more frequently than any other channel, unless your ad budget is ginormous. But that’s just half the battle. If you aren’t posting interesting content, if you aren’t listening and rewarding, well then no, your ROI won’t be very good.

If you’re ready to point the finger, my advice would be don’t be so quick to blame the channel, but rather take a hard look at how you are using it.


Facebook announced new changes for its Groups function today as well as the new “Send” button. The media ate it up and wrote their obligatory Facebook stories quoting this as a “major” makeover (USA Today). Don’t get me wrong I’m glad to see improvements but some of these changes either already existed or were old functions that Facebook got rid of only to bring them back.

Take Groups for example. While adding the questions function to the Group is new, giving admin control over who can enter a group is actually an old function that they didn’t carry over to the “new” Groups layout. I’m happy to see them bring it back as it offers more privacy and more control over the Group.

Other new changes include allowing Group members to create a photo album (again new for Groups but has existed for Pages forever), and sharing a link from a third party site via the Send button, more on that. You could always post a link to the group wall and the members would get it, but this step makes it a bit easier.

The Send button is another new feature Facebook has added to take some share from email. While the Send function does allow you to send a link to one friend versus posting the link to your wall, this function was always available via the general share button. It was in small font, but you always had the option to “send as a message” versus “post to your wall.”  I would think there would be slight hesitation from some news organizations, brands, etc, to facilitate a one-on-one message and give up the exposure of a wall post, which is what the other share function promoted more heavily. Regardless the Wall Street Journal now allows you to Send as well as Like and Email and Tweet and don’t forget Print.

It’s good to see Facebook tweaking and improving their services, but a major makeover…naw. If anything the more interesting headline would be – Facebook takes one more step toward making email extinct.

I’ll never forget my first manager, Virginia. As a junior PR person, she would take me in her office and make me role-play various media pitches via a fake telephone conversation. There was something humiliating about it. Not to mention it didn’t work.  Still I had to make my way down a long phone list, bugging reporters when they were probably busy writing.

So one day, unbeknown to Virginia,  I ditched the phone for email pitches instead. Wouldn’t you know it, the responses started coming in. I was reaching reporters in a way that they wanted to be reached, on their time. Fast forward ten years and as a PR professional, frustrated with Vocus’ database tool, I decided to use social to research contacts as well as reach out to contacts.

Much like email in 2000, I found that social was a better tool for getting the job done. Here’s why:

  • Social often gives a fuller picture of the journalist. On LinkedIn you can see what jobs they’ve had in the past and where their interests may be. On Twitter you can read their mini bio, often much more reflective of their personality than anything you’d find on the newspaper website. You can also see what topics they’ve been tweeting about – what’s been pressing on their mind.
  • Social also gives you permission to jump into a conversation in a natural way. You can comment on things via Facebook or Twitter that may have nothing to do with your clients, but is more about relationship building.

From a journalist’s perspective social can be a really useful tool as well.

  • Social is great for finding sources.  I recently tweeted about my undying devotion to the Flip camera, and a journalist from the Associated Press found it, set up an interview and the next day my quote was in 100+ papers across the world. Pretty cool. Social allowed the reporter to cut out the middle man in terms of finding a source. As PR professionals, a.k.a professional middlemen, that’s something to think about.
  • Social is good for identifying what people are buzzing about.  It makes sense that a journalist would want to write about a topic that’s important to his/her readers. Again, Twitter is great as it lists Trending Topics. You can also see which topics are popular by looking at social share buttons on a blog or other sites. If a topic has been retweeted or shared on Facebook quite a few times, the public has essentially raised their hands and said they are interested.

As communication tools change so do the way communication professionals interact with one another, and that’s a good thing. I’m pleased to say my days of role-playing and mile long phone lists are long gone. Of course they’ve now been replaced by @’s, hashtags and likes….I wonder what will be next.

I’ve worked with global brands who have spent six figures on Facebook advertising and seen great results, but what about a small budget for a small business? Here’s what happened when I invested $50 on a Facebook ad for my company Go Social, a Louisville, Ky based communications agency.

The Set Up: Creating the Ad

Some will disagree but I find the Facebook Ad system fairly easy and intuitive to use. There are multiple ways to get to the ad system – I went to my company page and clicked the Create an Ad link on the right hand side.

When you get to the Ad page the first step is to create the actual ad. Facebook will ask you to choose the page or insert a url that you want the ad to drive to  (this is super important to get right because that’s where people who click on your ad end up).

Choose Sponsored Story or Facebook Ad. Sponsored Stories pulls in fan activity from the newsfeeds and serves it up in an ad. If you have a small fan base and your goal is to get new fans or awareness I would keep it simple and go Facebook Ad, which are the standard ads you see on the sides of your page.

In terms of where you should send the people, I would choose Wall or Default (which is most likely your Wall). Really not sure why you would spend money on an ad to drive people to your photos tab or discussions page. I would guess most advertisers want more fans, in which case the Wall is probably your best bet.

I would put your logo or an image of your product as the picture. Remember the space is small so the more simple the picture the better. I went with my logo because it is bright and colorful, and I was hoping it would attract attention.

Facebook will put your page name as the Title. In a larger ad buy you can alter this and get more creative with the Title, guess that’s one of the perks. For the body text you need to keep it simple as you only have 135 characters.

Tip: Tell people what’s in it for them. My end goal was to get people to like the page so I could continue the conversation with 2 – 3 posts showing up in their newsfeeds a week. I could have said, hey hire me as your social media agency, but that’s a bit obnoxious and unless someone was specifically in that moment looking for an agency, they probably wouldn’t like the ad.  Instead I said let me help you keep up to date with social media trends.

The next step is Targeting. I narrowed my audience finally settling on the following: live within 50 miles of Louisville, Ky., 30 years or older, college graduate, English-speaking and not already a fan of Go Social on Facebook. Again, if your goal is getting new fans, make sure you aren’t serving up ads to people who are already fans as it’s a waste of money.

I played around with other attributes targeting people’s interests – like social media and small business owner – but it narrowed the field too much.  I’ve worked on other ad buys which were too targeted and Facebook was unable to deliver enough impressions for the budget.

Lesson: Be smart about your targeting, pick the things that really matter. In my case, I wanted to make sure that I was reaching people in Louisville that were in a position where they may influence marketing departments or own a small business themselves. I wasn’t interested in reaching people right out of college.

Budget/Distribution

Having worked on previous campaigns I’ve found you get more bang for your buck if you run your ad over a short time period. The idea is to take advantage of the social newsfeed aspect – more people seeing “so and so” liked Go Social in their newsfeed, the more likely they are to recall it and possibly like the page themselves. I ran my ad from 7 am on Thursday to 7 am on Saturday. Facebook will spread the money out over that period based on a bidding system. Every time someone clicks on your ad, you get charged. Remember though, you set the ultimate limit in terms of total money spent, so no big surprise bill at the end.

The Results

Long story short I received 164K impressions from my ad. Sounds impressive but I was less excited about impressions and more interested in the actual likes. If your goal is awareness then 164K impressions for $50 is pretty good. My goal was to get more likes so I could continue the conversation on a regular basis and stay top of mind over a longer period of time.

I had 45 people click my ad and out of that number 15 people actually liked my page. As a result of those 15 people liking my page I got an additional 3 people who liked the page because they saw it in their friends’ newsfeeds. So 18 fans for $50 which means I paid about $2.77 for each new fan.  Not bad. Prior to the ad buy I was averaging 8 new fans a month, so you could say $50 bought me two months worth of fans.

I researched advertising in a local paper and rates for a fairly small ad that would run in the back of the paper, surrounded by other ads, ran around $150.  While that price did buy me a month’s worth of exposure, I still find great value in getting into someone’s newsfeed, especially knowing the average Facebook user has 130 friends.

Was it worth it? We’ll see if any new business results, but for $50 I felt I got a good deal of exposure and 18 people who (fingers crossed) will help me spread the word to their friends.

There has been a lot of talk about revolts lately from serious political movements like Libya and Egypt to important, but less life threatening revolts like the Union struggle and even the NFL…which is important I suppose if you are a huge Colts fan like my husband.

I would argue that consumers have been on a revolt of their own for the last few years using social media as a tool, but unlike the Middle East unrest, it has been easy for corporations to turn their heads and pretend it isn’t going on.

Here is what I believe consumers are fighting:

– One sided marketing messages that are being forced down their throats at in opportune times (ie – uninteresting ads in the middle of your favorite TV show)

– Hearing recommendations or benefits of a product/service  from the same company who is selling it. (of course you’ll say good things)

– Not having a voice. (will this company ever respond?)

Along comes social media and suddenly consumers can connect and share opinions, recommendations and experiences easier than ever before. They also have unprecedented access to companies and organizations without having to call into a 1-800 number or being lost in a sea of  “contact us” emails.

Despite the fact this has been going on for a few years now most companies are still spending a large amount of money on traditional advertising. While there’s no doubt that TV or magazines reach a ton of people, producing ads the same way you’ve always done it doesn’t really cut it.

So who is doing it well?

Kraft’s experiment with Mac & Cheese and Twitter was a nice attempt at co-creating with consumers to produce a spot (the company took a tweet about Mac & Cheese and formed a commercial around it).  While I’m sure there are some tweaks and learnings it was the most interesting mac and cheese commercial I’ve seen in a while and they still got the fancy glossy food shot at the end.

Old Spice’s response to consumers via short videos was engaging and fresh, not to mention extremely buzz worthy.

Jimmy John’s is putting customer quotes on its outdoor boards.

Miracle Whip is enlisting everyday joes to proclaim their love or hatred for the product via short spots on YouTube.

Nationwide is inserting consumers or at least Pam..er.. NationPam into its commercial (kind of awkward, but props for trying).

Companies that are taking that first step forward are letting the consumer have a say from the get go. Like in any revolt or conflict there are bound to be negotiations, new ways of looking at things and chances to  give and take. Think about ways you can let your customers or members help co-create. It’s a new era and I have a feeling that those who play nicely will be nicely rewarded.

ESPN Magazine isn’t the first pub to push QR codes but its April 4, 2011 issue, provided some good learnings to share on what you should and shouldn’t do.

First let’s get the biggest mishap out of the way –  ESPN used Microsoft Tags on all its editorial content and even included instructions for readers on how to download (a nice touch). Here’s the bad part…they   forgot to tell their advertisers they were going the Microsoft Tag route.

While Microsoft Tags are great in the sense they provide analytics to the company using them, they aren’t universal -you have to download a specific Microsoft Tag app and a lot of other popular scanning apps don’t read Microsoft Tags. So while readers went through the steps to download an app for the editorial content, this app was not able to access all the advertisers’ QR codes which did not use Microsoft Tags.

I could hear the ad guys selling in the idea to their customers and completely failing to mention that the tag reader instructions were going to be for Microsoft Tags only. The experience would have been much smoother if  I could have used the same app on all pages. I don’t blame the ad guys entirely, but it does show that there really wasn’t an understanding of how the technology works.

Putting tag types aside there were some winners and opportunities to improve when it came to QR Code use.

Winners:

– Mountain Dew: Mountain Dew’s ad led to a mobile optimized site and there was a clear call to action to vote for a new flavor. In other words, I knew exactly why I was scanning and the user experience was easy and attractive. #winning

– Discovery’s Deadliest Catch: Clear call to action – “scan for exclusive videos” – great mobile optimized site with a ton to do and explore.

– ESPN: There was also a clear call to action on why I should scan and the information was useful. I wished they would mixed up the video content or at least changed the interview setting…it was a wee bit bland. But props to ESPN for also tying in a sweeps to the scans to get you to scan each and every code. More you scanned the better your chance was of taking home the XBox.

– NO2 Red (Muscle Enhancement): I’ve never seen this product before but they did a great job of driving trial with readers by leading them to a mobile optimized website where they offered up a coupon and more info. They also offered a text option within the ad for those who didn’t have a smart phone.

Room to Improve:

– Lexus CT: No clear call to action on why I should scan, and when I did it lead me to downloadable music clips from new bands. Kind of odd because their whole message was one of being green. There was a disconnect for me.

-Hankook Tires: Timing is everything. When I scanned to enter to win a Ford Explorer I received a message that the sweeps hadn’t started. I suppose they didn’t take into account subscribers get the publication prior to April 4. Another communication gap between client and ad team.

Ads I Wish Had a QR Code but Didn’t

– Belvedere and Absolut: A recipe would have been nice.

– GEICO Caveman Guy: A funny video or access to the GEICO app where they have games and downloads would have been good, especially because it is already built

-Old Spice: Who doesn’t want to see more of the Old Spice man? The brand had an interesting behind the scenes video of the making of their commercial that would have been cool to tie in.

– History Channel’s Swamp People: This show fascinates me and I would have loved video clips of some gator wrestling. A miss especially when you saw what Discovery Channel did.

– Mobile Companies – I don’t really know if I wanted to see content from HTC and AT&T but I did feel they should have been leading the QR charge, being mobile and all.

That’s my take. Anyone else have scanning fun with the issue?

When the American Red Cross was able to raise $200K+ via Facebook Causes in a matter of days for Japan, I was impressed but honestly not totally surprised. When the pool of people you are talking to is that big and the platform you are talking on is innately social, your ability to get a group of people to take an action is fairly likely. (Not to mention Japan relief efforts being a very worthy cause). 

Much in the same way that we take cell phones for granted and even the mobile web, I think the ability to connect millions of people in an instant has become the norm. I also think that’s a good thing. From political uprisings to connecting people in natural disasters social has become a tool we can’t live without.

And the power of this connection is built for making movements – whether that be a movement to provide disaster relief or something much lighter like getting Oreo into the Guinness Book of World Records for the most likes on a FB post.

The key to starting  a movement on social is to ask people to take small, easy actions, because on social even a baby step can lead to fairly big pay-offs. Obama asked his followers to donate $25 and raised millions. The Red Cross took the same approach with Japan. They were also smart enough to realize the value of world of mouth – if you didn’t want to donate you could still participate by acting as a “promoter” and getting the word out by donating your status update.

Brand movements should also ask little from their participants, knowing they’ll reap much more in return. A single like of a post can result in someone’s 200 plus friends seeing your brand.

Some may complain that social has infringed on privacy or caused us to rely on “fake” online connections versus making real friends, but I think social is uniting us in a way that is extremely powerful.  I’m excited to sit back and watch what other good deeds we accomplish as one big social community.

I feel for the social media agency rep who was fired by Chrysler this month for writing disparaging remarks about Detroit. That rep not only lost his job but his error was smeared across the traditional news.  Gilbert Gottfried also caught heat this month when he made jokes about Japan. While wrong, he is a comedian and comedians tend to push the line on current events and topics we don’t talk about. It’s kind of what they do. So when Aflac axed him, his Twitter jokes had cost him a pretty penny I’m sure. (I had no idea he was their spokesperson in the first place).

So what can you do to make sure you don’t end up with a Tweet mishap? Here are a few tips:

1. Put your client/work Twitter handle on a separate app then your personal Twitter account. With so many Twitter apps out there, you have plenty of options and you can make sure you don’t have the wrong account selected before you tweet. It’s actually quite easy to do, especially on mobile.

2. Know who is handling your account. I’ve heard too many people say: “We’ll just give this duty to an intern.” Would you let an intern produce your TV ad?  How about design your point of sale? Twitter, or any social media for that matter, can reach large amounts of people quickly, and traditional media seems to love to highlight social mishaps which translates into more bad press.

3. Check out your spokesperson before you sign them up. Twitter allows us a sneak peek into celebrities lives more than ever. Follow them for a bit and see what types of things they post before you engage with them in an offline deal. If you don’t like what they say before you sign the contract you probably won’t like it after.

Final words of advice – be kind. We’re all human and I guarantee we’re all going to have a social blunder somewhere along the way. You know just like how we all have our email nightmare stories – replying to all, copying the wrong person, etc.  When it happens take the necessary steps but try to be gentle.

Any other tips?

Call him crazy, call him a fad, but Charlie Sheen has been able to leverage social media to stick it to the man. Social has done two things for Charlie – 1. It has provided him a platform to tell his story after the traditional news segment has ended, and 2. It has  created new news for Charlie so he can continue to get airtime (ie) his record Twitter follower success – 1 million followers in 24 hours.

Ten years ago it is quite possible that Charlie Sheen would have had his story played out over a few days and we would have moved on to another celebrity tragedy, but in today’s world where social media gives a platform for anyone to have a voice, Charlie is stretching his rant and raves out as long as possible. Who knows…Sheen’s Corner on UStream may end up getting just as many views as Two and a Half Men one day. Perhaps it already has.

The Sheen ordeal is an important reminder that Social Media is a powerful tool which allows you to tell your story in your own words to an enormous number of people.   As marketers, you may never have a chance to grab the spotlight in the exact same way Sheen is doing so now, but there are lessons to be learned.

1. Content is king. Be interesting, slightly unpredictable, creative and fun. #tigerblood

2. Seize the moment. If there’s a time when large amounts of people are talking or thinking about your brand, jump in on it and have a voice. It is better to lead the conversation then let others talk about you behind your back.

3. When traditional media puts up a wall – you can’t get a reporter to call back, or you’ve tapped out all your appearances, interview ops -look to social to create new news or to start your own “news” channel.

4. Try to get traditional and social media to work together to really amplify your message.  (ie) CNN promotes your Twitter handle, and you promote your CNN apperance on Twitter.

Who knows how this will end for Charlie.  Good or bad, thanks to social media and the lack of a PR person, he’s going out guns blazing, and something tells me people kind of respect him for it.

Most people know social is important even if they aren’t active users. They’ve heard the names Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn enough to know this little thing called social seems more than a fad.

But what they don’t always think about is why social is so powerful in the marketing mix. If you think about the frequency and length of time to which consumers permit brands to speak to them social blows any other marketing channel out of the water.

Think about it, if you sent an email three times a week to your consumers, you surely would get a lot of unsubscribes. If you secure a great article or TV spot using PR you’d get a quick pop of interest, but it would soon be replaced by the next day’s headlines.  Social, done right, allows you to speak with a consumer multiple times a week for long periods of time.

When it comes to investment social isn’t totally free but the cost of creating compelling content will still pale in comparison to producing a TV spot. You also have a better chance at reaching people via social – less competition. TV is so fragmented that even with a large investment you are competing with hundreds of channels. People spend more time on Facebook than any other site and more than 80% of their time is spent on the newsfeed page. What does that mean? If you can get people to follow you, the chances of them seeing your message is quite high.

If done right, social has the power to allow you to talk more often, for longer periods of time than any other part of your marketing mix. It also allows you to have a two-way conversation and gives you the ability to listen in. Not bad. Not bad at all.

After a few glasses of wine, my dearest friend leaned over to me and said, “I read this article that said social media is going to be the next dot-com bust. I didn’t want to tell you but I thought you should know.”

For a second I panicked. After all, I just started a business centered around social media, but then, two breaths later I regrouped. People may overpay for Facebook stock, Twitter may never successfully make money and all the location based networks could be scooped by the next best thing, but I don’t think people are going to give up social quite yet. And it dawned on me, perhaps a bit late in the game, that it really isn’t about the network you are on, but rather about what social allows:

– A quick and easy way to spread information.

– A voice that businesses/government/organizations will listen too.

– An easy way to maintain connections. The lazy man’s friend. 

– An easy way to meet new people and get new ideas.

I can’t see people giving any of that up anytime soon. Facebook may fall, but social as a form of communication is here to stay, and companies are going to need help figuring out the best way to leverage social and how they are going to support their social efforts.

Phew, indeed.

Promoted Tweets/Trends have been popping up quite regularly since Twitter has offered the service, but some companies have missed the boat when choosing their signature #hashtag that accompanies the buy.

How does it work? Companies can pay Twitter money to be included among the the trending topics list on Twitter. You can either pick your own branded hashtag or topic, or you could hand over the reigns and pick a #hashtag that has been made popular by Twitter users.

What are Trending Topics you ask? Trending Topics are a list of topics that are chosen by a fancy Twitter algorithm – I see them as here’s what people are talking about now. Many times people will click on the trending topic to see what others have to say about it, or use the trending topic in their own tweet if they want to join in on the conversation. Same goes for a promoted trend, people can click on your trending topic and when they do, they will automatically see your company’s promoted tweet at the top of the list. Can be a bit confusing if you aren’t familiar with Twitter. But for those who are, logic would tell us if you pick a trending phrase that is engaging and interesting to a wide audience, you’ll not only get a lot of participation but a lot of exposure.

Pillsbury did it well with their play off of  the already trending  #lemmeguess and Coke did it well when they picked the already trending #alliwant.

But when companies insist on including their own brand name like Pizza Hut’s #ReadySetHut or a car company who simply used the name of their new model as the hashtag, it turns out to be a pretty awkward experience for both the Twitter user and the brand. The point of the #hashtag is to pick something broad enough that everyone can participate in, and it should be something that can lead to a larger discussion. #ReadySetHut  is somewhat limiting when you compare it to #alliwant.

By not making the ad buy all about them, my guess is Coke and Pillsbury probably had much more participation. More participation probably lead to much more exposure, signaling a win-win for both brand and Twitter user.

There’s always something refreshing about a brand taking the back seat versus shoving itself down your throat, especially in social. #lookatmybrand.

Let’s face it. People want short and sweet on social. Twitter forces you to keep it brief thanks to its 140 character limit and even Facebook will cut you off  if you attempt too long of an update.

But short doesn’t mean bad.  In fact if you do it right you can use this limitation to your advantage, especially if you are concerned about having enough content to post.

True Blood has really mastered taking a wee bit of content to make a big impact. The show could go silent during its off season, but instead they pick and choose some of the wittiest, most memorable one-liners from previous episodes and dribble them out a couple times a week. These quotes are a great way to keep fans engaged and spark a tremendous amount of conversation as fans rehash their favorite episodes.

Authors can also take advantage of this technique. Sure your book’s 500 pages may seem a bit overwhelming if you are faced with a  140 character limitation, but that hasn’t seemed to phase motivational author Deepak Chopra. You’ll find  inspiring lines and ideas from his books on Twitter on a regular basis.

If you have something that doesn’t seem bite-sized at first think about how you can divvy it up into short, interesting bursts of content that bring the larger project to life. After all, content is all around us, figuring out how to serve it up right – a.k.a. not shoveling too much in one post and having the patience to let it reveal itself over time – can be the tricky part.

True Blood “You may be the strongest, oldest vampire in my queendom, but if I wanted, I could own your fangs as earrings.” – Sophie Anne

DeepakChopra Self acceptance leads to success, not the other way around.

 

 

 

When thinking about Facebook and Twitter the two audiences tend to be quite different. At least they are for me.

Facebook is a group of people I’ve collected throughout the years – from a kindergarten friend to a woman I met at a dinner club last week. We are connected because of life experiences not necessarily interests. There are a few brands spread among my friend list but for the most part that’s because I have an emotional connection to them – I almost think of them as a buddy.

Twitter is a group of people who share a similar interest.  For me, my Twitter list consists of technology/ social media experts and resources and Louisville businesses, media outlets and organizations. There are a few folks on Twitter that I’m friends with on Facebook but the crossover is pretty slim.

My Twitter followers help keep me “in the know.” My Facebook friends help support me on an emotional level – whether that is liking my wedding photos or giving words of encouragement when I’ve had a not so good day.

As business owners of a FB page or Twitter account think about how you can fulfill these roles for your followers. How can you make your Twitter followers smarter – what tidbits can you give them? (Someone on Twitter is almost 3 times as likely to follow a brand than the average social network user by the way). When it comes to Facebook, how can you act as a friend  –  ask for support and feedback, share good news, and make sure your status updates have a human quality to them?

Next time you are switching back and forth between those two networks, think about how you behave differently and who you follow. Some Friday food for thought.

Just sat through a Facebook Live Chat for non-profits where they offered up their top 10 tips on leveraging Facebook. In case you missed it….

1. Create a voice that is personable and authentic. People want to connect with personalities not logos. Facebook pointed to American Red Cross as a brand that does this well.

2. Set up themed days – Fan Fridays, or Kick off the Week Right Mondays. Also be sure to tap into world events and holidays to draw people in. Facebook pointed to the Humane Society’s recent Big Cat Week, where they featured facts and photos of cats, as a good example.

3. Create exclusive content and programs. Don’t just repurpose your website content. Do something unique for fans. Facebook pointed to a  Haiti relief organization which showed exclusive videos of Nicole Kidman volunteering.

4. Use visuals. Toms Shoes takes photos of children receiving shoes around the world. Much more interesting than a text update saying “we delivered 100 pairs of shoes in Argentina.”

5. Make sure you push and pull. Ask questions as well as providing information. Facebook pointed to the Nature Conservancy as a good example. The organization recently asked fans “What’s your resolution for nature in 2011?”

6. Make supporters the stars. Comment back to people and give people shoutouts. The more connected people are the more they will support you.  Facebook highlighted (RED) as an organization that features a fan photo of the week.

7. Engage other partners, especially those with large followings. Consider fellow non-profits as well as your board members and corp. sponsors. Facebook highlighted Delta and Habitat for  Humanity as a good example. Delta created an app that allowed fans to vote on which city Delta employees should build a Habitat House.

8. Get creative with Facebook features with offerings like FB Places. Facebook mentioned a Stand up to Cancer event where people checked in to the event using Places to show their support, ultimately raising awareness for the organization.

9. Know your supporters. Be sure to monitor your insights so you can craft  relevant messages.

10. Market your presence -Include a Facebook Fanbox on your website and your Facebook url on marketing materials.

There’s a restaurant in Louisville, Ky, called Lynn’s Paradise Cafe. Its food is good, its wait staff friendly, but its reputation outshines many other equally good restaurants in town. Bobby Flay has stopped to film a Food Network Challenge there, celebrities in town for Derby are sure to book a table, and every weekend without fail there’s a line out the door. Why? Because Lynn’s Paradise Cafe knows how to have fun. There’s a gift shop in the waiting area with ridiculous, unique gifts, there’s a large stand up of a fork and spoon in the parking lot you can stick your head into and get your picture taken and there are toys on the table for you to play with, yes, even the adults, as you wait for your bourbon-infused pancakes. From the moment you pull up to the moment you leave you are in an environment that is fun.

Your social presence should be the same. People aren’t on Facebook to be serious, they want to have fun. A recent study says 49% of people follow brands because they want fun engaging content and only 16% follow brands because they want information on the brand. Makes sense to me. So how do you have fun with your fans? Let’s take a few lessons from Lynn’s:

1. Create something for them to do. Much like trying on quirky hats in the gift shop or playing with rubber dinosaurs at the table, you should give your fans something to do on social. Maybe it’s as simple as throwing out a few trivia questions or having them think of words that rhyme with your brand name. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, but it should be something light, fun and easy for them to participate in.

2. Stretch their imagination. The colorful decor and tree made of teabags in the middle of the restaurant make you feel like you are in another world when you’re dining at Lynn’s. While visuals are sometimes limited on social, there’s no reason your fans can’t help you dream up a new world for your brand – suggest new flavors, suggest new ways to serve or use your product.

3. Project fun. Even if you are having a bad day, it’s hard to be miserable at Lynn’s. There’s just something about being surrounded by an atmosphere of fun that makes you want to be fun too. Have fun with your social voice, post fun content, think of fun promotions online. If BlendTec can make a blender fun, so can you with your business. When people are having fun, they are happy. When they are happy they are associating positive thoughts with your brand, company, organization. Good leads to good leads to more good.

At the end of the day Joe Schmo up the street may have better pancakes, but he doesn’t make me smile. Guess where I’m going for breakfast, despite the long wait?

I’ve delved into the world of Twitter a bit more for a client and have been thinking  about the different ways in which you can pass content on. Here are the four main buckets and the role each one plays. Feel free to tag more on if I’ve left one out.

1.       Original Content – Sharing original content about yourself, organization or brand.

  • Benefit to followers: If good, the original content entertains or educates.
  • Benefit to you: A good chance for more exposure if people re-tweet your content. Also a good chance to create a deeper connection if the post creates a conversation with individual followers.

2.       Retweet – Repurpose someone else’s content.

  • Benefit to followers: Potentially exposes them to someone new that they may find interesting.
  • Benefit to you: Provides you with valuable content for your followers. Shows you are listening to what others have to say.

3.       @ Reply – A response to someone’s tweet.

  • Benefit to followers: They may have had a similar question or thought and can then  jump into the conversation.
  • Benefit to you: Provides you with a chance to create deeper connections one–on-one.

4.       DM – A private message.

  • Benefit to followers: None really aside from the person who receives the message.
  • Benefit to you: Allows you to share info that may not be relevant to the “masses.”

Four areas of social that I see becoming more prominent in 2011. Fingers crossed that I’m right.

1. Facebook: Facebook will continue to innovate and dominate.  They just surpassed Google for goodness sake. From Places to Deals to Community and Friendship pages Facebook was throwing out a new curveball every few months in 2010. My tip: It’s Facebook’s world, and each change they roll out is usually part of their bigger master plan. I try to spend less time complaining about the small changes and more time trying to figure out what direction Facebook is heading in order to stay ahead of the curve.

2. Traditional Media: Social Media will continue to invade Traditional Media. Not only are businesses hosting profiles on social media they are incorporating social into their more “traditional” elements – advertisements, websites, email campaigns.  My tip: Putting social front and center on marketing materials not only makes you look relevant, but more importantly sends a message that you are open to a two-way conversation. It’s also a great way to extend the conversation beyond a TV ad, piece of point of sale, brochure, etc.

3. Mobile: Mobile + Social is going to continue to revolutionize the space. Whether it is tapping into the GPS function for a social check-in or using your phone camera  to instantly upload pictures from an event, meal, night out with friends…mobile allows people to tell their stories right then and there. It also allows people to reap instant benefits. I think more companies will take advantage of Foursquare, Facebook Deals, Stickybits in 2011. My tip: If you own a space where customers come to or are hosting an event think about ways you can provide a social experience via mobile, because you know they are going to be checking that phone at some point.

4. Social Media Consultants/Agencies: (Slightly biased here) Social is a full-time job and to do it well people will need some extra support. It’s one thing to set aside time to update your status, it is quite another thing to stay on top of the ever-changing world of social media. Keeping up with the new players, the trends and how to best leverage all those Facebook changes can be time consuming. My tip: If you don’t have time to dedicate to social or don’t have the interest, find a partner who does. It can be a crazy but exciting world out there and a little help navigating it never hurt.

Here’s to 2011 and more exciting things ahead. What do you see growing in social in 2011?

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest apps and games and it is also easy to work in silos within your marketing team. What’s hard to do is to define what your brand stands for and then keep true to that message through the line – print, digital, pr, etc.

Coke is one of those brands that just gets it. The brand is all about making people happy, spreading joy and smiles. Their tagline – Open Happiness – conveys that as does one of their latest digital plays the Smileizer. Consumers can log on to the Smileizer site and record their laughter. Coke will donate money to a charity for every laugh recorded, which is a nice touch, but what’s even better than hearing your own laughter encased in a bubble is hearing everyone else’s laughter recorded. It doesn’t matter if you know the person or not, it is just the sound of ridiculous laughter that starts off “forced” and then erupts into something real. Before you know it, you’re laughing too.

You can share your recorded laughs or others’ laughs via Twitter and Facebook, and before you know it, you are spreading happiness. The whole program  works because it puts a smile on your face and it makes you feel all happy and warm inside about Coke. It also aligns perfectly with their other marketing messages.

If Coke is all about happiness, what’s your brand about?

 

Last night while watching TV I was surprised to see those cute cuddly Xtranormal bears er..dogs from the iPhone 4 viral video made popular on YouTube. Instead of debating the merits of Apple this time they were promoting Geico.

It was really a duh moment. What a clever, easy way to capture people’s attention and automatically tap into something that was culturally relevant. This worked for a couple of reasons.

1. Geico isn’t afraid to try someting new.

2. Geico knows at the end of the day people want to be entertained whether it is a talking lizard or a pig with pinwheels.

3. Geico puts the customer first and then cleverly weaves in their message. If people love these little robotic cartoon characters, then let’s give them the little robotic cartoon characters.

On a side note, later that night a commercial for CarFax appeared along with an animal mascot – Car Fox. It reminded me of the simple play off of Geico / Gecko, but this didn’t work at all. The Fox looked stiff like he was clearly a puppet, had little personality, and evoked no emotion from me. Point being, you can’t just throw an animal in your ad and call it a day.

Back to Geico, social media is a great place for marketers to get a pulse on what’s making people smile these days. What crazy video has gone viral, what games have errupted across Facebook, what topics are trending on Twitter? If you are smart and use this to your advantage, you can be relevant very quickly to a mass audience. You just have to have the courage to try and the willingness to listen.

My mother told me I would not be getting a Christmas card in the mail this year.  Despite the fact that they are financially sound she said they were cutting back because of the economy. As if to justify her position, she assured me that many people were cutting back on holiday cards. Which got me thinking, is it the economy or is it the fact that people are becoming so used to sending quick messages to a wide audience via social and mobile, that the thought of hand addressing a card becomes much too tedious?

My husband, for example, wanted to send an evite out for our wedding invitation. I squashed the idea despite the fact it was very tempting. As much as I love the holidays I also semi-dread handwriting the cards. My penmanship isn’t the greatest and I’m constantly searching  for stamps and people’s postal addresses.

Traditional companies like Hallmark, which have recognized online competition for years now, are forced to reinvent themselves. I just saw a commercial where Hallmark has incorporated augmented reality into their cards so you can actually play scenes from the Charlie Brown Christmas Movie by holding the card up to your web cam. Smart, but doesn’t solve the problem of making a trip to the mailbox or getting a hand cramp from writing. And of course, paper card companies also have e-cards, which are old hat now. There’s something acceptable about sending an e-card for a birthday but not as acceptable for the Holidays or for a thank you note. That is a completely imaginary rule I made up, but one which I have lived by in the past nonetheless.

I have no doubt that in time, sending “real” holiday cards will be replaced completely by virtual cards. Yes, it will be slightly sad, but in the end it will allow us more time to shop, bake and spend face-to-face time with our loved ones. So to my Family and Friends, I’ll be updating my Facebook status with a big old Merry Christmas on Dec. 25 and if you’re ready to make that leap,  I invite you to join.

When the World Cup locations were announced, Twitter was a tweet about Qatar and Quatar and Katar (all top trends, have to love the decreasing importance of spelling things right). Within moments a global audience was sharing their thoughts on whether or not Qatar deserved a bid because obtaining alcohol would be difficult and what fun is World Cup without a drink in your hand? Or so I’m told.

Now, your Facebook friends may not care about the World Cup, but on Twitter, where you can easily tap into people from around the world, the conversation was robust. Which got me thinking. What role does Twitter play in conversation?

With Facebook I may share inside jokes, personal photos and college memories, but Twitter, well Twitter is more about sharing info on your interests and less about what is interesting about me.

On Twitter, I’ve never met 80% of my “friends,” so I certainly don’t follow them because we’ve shared good times together, although you never know that may happen one day. I follow them because they are smart or interesting or useful to me. Twitter behaves in a similar role to a brand/organization Facebook page. It’s often a conversation starter between people who have similar interests but most likely don’t know one another. It’s a place for people to share their passion about their interests.

Knowing this, think about how you can maximise your role on Twitter.

1. Share useful links. Be that information resource.

2. Follow people who have the same interests. If you love the Indianapolis Colts, follow other Colts fans, follow reporters who cover the Colts. Don’t follow me, because I’ll most likely never talk football.

3. Save the personal, personal for your Facebook friends, you know the ones who actually care if you ate cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

At the end of the day social networks are tools which you can use to connect in different ways. Knowing the role of the tool and how to use it will allow you to get the most of your social networking efforts.

There is nothing more disheartening than putting up a post and then checking your insights to see there was little or no response. They’ve come, they’ve fanned you and they’ve stuck around so you know they like you a little, even if they aren’t responding. The key question is how do you jumpstart a like to a love? Since social media allows you to test and re-test try these tips and watch to see what happens.

1. Look at the frequency of your posting. Too many posts may dissuade people from feeling the urgent need to respond. Why like this post when I know ten more are just around the corner?

2. Check yourself. Look at the content of your post. Is it something that is important to you and your organization only or is it something that your fans would find amusing or useful?

3. Look at the previous posts. When was engagement the highest? What types of topics got your fan base talking? The good thing about social is people will tell you what they like. It’s your job to take notice.

4. Look at the length of your post. Time and time again, I’ve found the shorter the post, the higher the engagement.

5. Look at the wall posts generated by fans that aren’t in response to a post you put up. What questions are they asking? What pictures are they posting? What topics are they starting without you even prompting them? These proactive posts will give you insight into what types of things your audience wants to talk about.

6. Look at the time of day you post. Test a few different times and see if engagement levels change. Maybe your fans are more apt to check Facebook on their lunch hour.

7. Finally, are you setting yourself up for engagement? Are your posts asking for people’s responses or are they just telling them info. Not every post has to end with a question, but you should give people a nudge to participate from time to time. “Happy Thanksgiving” is very different from “What are you looking forward to eating the most this Thanksgiving?”

Here’s to seeing more action on your insights page, and remember they like you, they already said they like you, so chin up.

It’s always interesting to see how people can get creative to raise money. Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga are all signing off from social networks on World AIDS Day for the Digital Life Sacrifice event which benefits Keep a Child Alive. The stars will go back online after the charity has raised $1 million. It seems a bit egocentric to me that us mere mortals won’t be able to live without the twittering of Timberlake and will actually have to break down and pay to get him back. Then again someone did pay thousands of dollars for Justin Bieber to follow them on Twitter for charity, so you never know.

Regardless if it raises awareness and dollars it can’t be a bad thing. I guess I just think there should be a bit more effort from the celeb then just not updating their status.

What do you think?

http://buylife.org/

Update: As of 12/3 the celebs have raised $183K. A substantial amount no doubt, but it will be interesting to see if they can sustain a movement without a voice.

Is it weird to think that email may be out of date? Typewriters sure, fountain pens you betcha, but email is e-tastic. The truth is I’ve found myself emailing with colleagues wishing they would head over to the Chat/IM function. Look if we are making lunch plans, I don’t need to wait for you to craft an email and think of a clever subject line. An IM will do just fine. So it’s not totally surprising that Facebook heard other people saying email is too slow and jumped on it by rolling out Facebook Messaging – a new form of communication that is more integrated with IM, text and social.

Most are saying Facebook Messages is not an email killer, and that may be , but one day something is bound to replace email. And when it does something newer, faster, more efficient will come to life no doubt. Happens all the time with everything. So perhaps Facebook messaging is not cutting us off from email but rather easing us into this idea of change.

In this age of multiple devices and ways to reach people, I find it curious how my friends have attached themselves to one preferred method over another. If you want to reach Kristin – text is a 50/50 shot but Facebook will guarantee a response. My friend Sara on the other hand is a text junkie, I know that will warrant a response much quicker than a social network ping. My husband loves his blackberry so he’ll respond quicker to an email, even more so than a phone call for some reason, perhaps I should take issue with that. And finally, my friend Amy is one of the last few people I know that will respond to a phone call with a phone call back the same day.

I don’t have this written down anywhere. I just know. After trial and error and seeing where they spend their time and whether they do or don’t respond to one method, I’ve sorted it out in my head. You should do the same with your audience. Find out where people are talking about you, where you get the greatest response when you put out a message and be there. Don’t build an iPhone app if your audience is all on Blackberry or hasn’t made the smartphone transition. Don’t put a lot of effort into one social network just because you’ve heard other people using it. Know your audience, know how they like to communicate. Figure this out and you are one step closer to getting them to listen.

For me, Facebook is for friends and brands that I consider “friends” and Twitter is for information. I use it to stay current with the latest in social media and local happenings. But stuck somewhere between Mashable and WFPL is my guilty pleasure – @sn00ki (Nicole P. from The Jersey Shore).

She certainly doesn’t make me smarter, she doesn’t help me decide what to do on the weekend, but darn it if she doesn’t fascinate me all the same. There’s something about Snooki and her five foot poof that makes me admire her. Somewhere between judging her and poking fun, she made America fall in love with her without them even realizing it, and all along she smiled and remained true to herself. There’s also a shameful piece of me that watches her because I still think there’s a train wreck waiting to take place and I want to be on the forefront of her Tweets if it happens.

My husband on the other hand uses Twitter to stay current on sports and news, and his guilty pleasure is Kenny Powers persona @KfuckingP. I think he quotes him on a every other day basis.

Whether it’s a self proclaimed guidette or a washed up ball player, it takes all kinds to make a social network vibrant, and while I would argue most of the well-followed Twitter handles do provide legit information, there is space out there for the guilty pleasures. Who is your favorite guilty pleasure to follow? That is if you aren’t too embarrassed to admit it of course.

The Pew Research Center came out with a study saying only 4% of people are using location based services. Mashable points out a few flaws in the study – one being they interviewed people via the phone, potentially landline phone. I’m kind of shocked they even found 4% of people this way.

The truth is location is growing and with Facebook Places just announcing Facebook Deals, location is sure to grow even more. For some checking in will always be about the “look at me” factor. I’m somewhere cool and I want you to know. But for most I predict checking in will be about what’s in it for me, and nothing peaks people’s interests more than free stuff or deals. For example, The Gap is making a splash today by giving away 10,000 pairs of jeans. At a retail value of $60, that’s worth checking in and actually driving me back to the Gap, a store that’s long fallen off my radar screen.

At the end of the day location is simply a more efficient way of clipping coupons and providing value at the point of purchase. There will always be people who feel it is too big brother, but for the majority, I believe the benefits/deals will wash out any fear of being followed.

If Facebook Deals does explode in a way that Groupon and other online coupon offerings have, I hope that one day we can stop printing up all those circulars I throw away every week. In the future just sending out coupons on a hope and a whim to everyone will seem slightly ridiculous, when we can simply check-in to what we really want.

I had never heard of Josh Harris until I recently watched the documentary We Live in Public, and I haven’t been able to shake him since. Josh Harris, a dot-com entrepreneur, was too early for his time. Too early for reality TV, too early for video chat, but yet he predicted all of it in the late 90s.

Having lost almost all his fortune, he moved to Ethiopia and now he’s back pushing his idea of a new type of social network, one where we are all creating our own programming from the luxury of our home. Instead of the more static photos and typed status updates, imagine saying your social posts to a camera and showing them live.  There may be the shave cam sponsored by Gillette for example, the Hungry Man cam showing people eating, and so on.

This idea both scares me and excites me. Partly because Josh had a nervous breakdown during his trial run of living in public where he wired his Manhattan studio with cameras, and partly because it would revolutionize advertising. Advertisers would reach people at relevant times and actually showcase people using their products.

In a time period where it seems like many movies and TV shows are reworked content from the past – just watched Clash of the Titans remake and found out the new TV show Outsourced was a movie a few years ago – it seems the only original content we have comes from reality.

So will you log on to Josh Harris’ Wired City and start broadcasting from the comfort of your own couch? Or will Josh be packing his bags and running from creditors again because he was a smidge too early on this one? As I stare at the video chat on my iPhone and the built-in camera in my laptop I’m not too sure where this will head.

There are some brands you fan for utilitarian purposes – coupons, event invites, product news and then there are some you fan because they make you laugh, make you think, perhaps just brighten your day. Skittles is one of those brands for me.  With ridiculous posts like

If flamingos are so shy, why do they paint themselves pink? or Told Ma Rainbow I wanted a pet dinosaur and she gave me a thesaurus.

They simply make me happy.  And sure they don’t have much to do with the candy itself, but I would argue they have a much greater impact than the ordinary event invite, coupon, etc. They create a positive association between the brand and the consumer. They give the brand a personality. In short, they make me like Skittles in a way that I don’t have a connection with Milk Duds or even the brightly wrapped Starburst.

It’s quite easy to do the obvious. It’s harder to create a connection. Pick a personality that is interesting, uplifting or intriguing and stick with it. Watch to see what happens.

When driving North on I-65 I came across two billboards each a mile apart. The first was for a local mom and pop diner. On it was a picture of food and a call to action – the restaurant’s phone number. From what I could tell it wasn’t the type of joint you would need to call ahead for a reservation, so why was the phone number featured so prominently?

The second billboard was for Burger King. It also had an image of food but in big bold letters it read: Turn right at the next exit. Followed by an arrow. Burger King nailed it. Granted they probably had a support of a large agency,  but they clearly understood how the medium (a billboard in this case) worked. 

Whether it’s a poorly placed QR code or a text heavy Facebook post, people often fail to think about how the medium is being used by their customer. Here are two key questions to ask yourself when developing a campaign:

1. What is the information your customer needs to know?

2. What is the best way to deliver that information on the particular medium you are using?

If you are using mobile use wide ranging methods to reach your customer –  less QR codes and Apps and more use of mobile web and SMS.  Mobile search is often searching “in the moment” or “on the go.” What types of information would your customers need to know as they are heading out to shop, eat, etc?

If you are using social  be conscious of which platform you are using. Twitter behaves differently than Facebook which behaves differently than Pinterest. Make sure you are in the right space to reach your customers. On social media what social currency can you give your followers so they’ll help spread the word? Maybe it’s a coupon, maybe a recipe or perhaps a bit of trivia. Think about information that is interesting and useful for your fan base while still helping you achieve your business goals. 

No matter what the medium, it’s important to understand how people are using it and to identify the critical information they need so you can make a sale. Sometimes it’s as simple as a big yellow arrow pointing toward your next Whopper. 

 

Facebook is constantly reinventing itself, and you can’t blame them. To stay stagnant is a death wish in an industry that changes so rapidly. That said, some of the changes benefit users and some brands. The most recent newsfeed change is one that I believe tips the scale for the user, giving them more control over what they see on Facebook.

A user will soon be able to toggle between different newsfeed streams – Photos, Friends, Most Recent, Music and Following (brand/media pages). Great customization for the user, not so great for brand pages who currently get a coveted spot between posts from friends and families. I predict that the Following newsfeed will probably be the most underused feed, because at the end of the day no matter how clever a post, it’s still from a business versus a friend.

Should brands shut down their pages quite yet? No. Brands can still actively engage with users but they must find ways to get into as many newsfeeds as possible. If they rely just on the “Follows” newsfeed they’re likely to see their engagement levels drop pretty dramatically.

Here are recommendations for staying in the “feed”:

– Include images in your posts. With the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, it’s becoming more apparent that visual does well on social. As a brand if you post an image with your post, you can then secure a space in the Photos newsfeed.
– Post regularly. If you want to appear in the most recent news feed, you need to post. Simple enough.
– Create engaging content. Get people to engage with your content and it will appear in the Friends newsfeed.
– Consider advertising. It’s not been clearly defined yet, but from early talks it sounds as if ads will get your airtime in all newsfeeds, including the Friends newsfeed which will most likely be the most popular.

I have to admit…I was a bit hesitant about sponsored stories ads on Facebook. Wouldn’t you want a compelling line of copy (even if it is only a few characters long) and your picture of choice in your ad? That way you could ensure you’d win people over as customers and fans. But alas, much like everything else in social you have to shove your ego aside and give people what they want…which isn’t your copy writing genius.

Having hosted ad campaigns for a variety of businesses large and small, I can tell you what works best over and over again. It’s the sponsored story.

There’s something about the personal recommendation that is far more legit than any ad copy you or I could write.  And I’ve seen it not just perform better once or twice. It’s every time, most of the time performing 10X better than a standard Facebook display ad. (I usually always run them side by side, just to be certain).

It’s essentially word of mouth marketing, but you don’t have to wait for someone to tell their friends because sponsored stories do it for you.  For example, when you like Nike’s page it goes into the newsfeed once. It’s up to Nike then to pour a few dollars into a sponsored story ad campaign to make that “Like” work as hard as possible. Now that “Like” is being shown to all of your friends multiple times a day in the form of a sponsored story ad. Good news for Nike, especially if you’re an influencer among your circle of friends.

If you want the biggest bang for your buck on Facebook ads, go sponsored stories and save your copy writing skills for another day. It took me awhile to become a believer, but I got there eventually. You should too.

Image

It seems people have been waiting for Facebook to fail for a while now. Not sure where the anger comes from, but since the social network giant has continued to grow and gain traction, the naysayers have had to remain fairly quiet…until now.

Let’s face it, the IPO hasn’t gone smoothly. Finally, some negative news! General Motors doesn’t want to advertise with them anymore? Hooray, pile it on! eMarkerter has a survey saying Facebook ads don’t influence purchase? Bring it. The LA Times said teens would rather Tweet? Perfect. Teens are the barometer of what’s cool after all.

Facebook may not be around forever, but here’s the thing. I’ve long ditched my address book, I’m horrible at remembering people’s birthdays, and I actually enjoy keeping up with the lives of people I would otherwise never stay in touch with. (I’m talking about the randoms from high school, the ex co-workers and estranged family members). Facebook still holds all my social connections. I know that if at any moment I had to reach out to someone I could and they’d eventually get the message.

Remember, you don’t have to check Facebook every day to use Facebook. Just like you wouldn’t study your address book every day. It keeps your social network in tact for when and if you need to access it. That said, a lot of people still do check it every day out of habit.

You don’t have to love Facebook, you don’t have to even like it. But you do have to admit it is useful for staying in touch with a large amount of people at one time. Until there is another network that provides a similar service, in a better way, I don’t see Facebook going away tomorrow. Even if they’ve received a bit of bad PR.

 

Pinterest recently moved into the Number 3 spot for social networks, which means a newbie like Pinterest is actually doing better than a giant like Google+. Aside from the fact that it is one of the fastest growing websites to ever hit the interwebs, why should you care?

1. The studies are still rolling in, but Pinterest does an amazing job at driving traffic back to web sites. The whole point of Pinterest is to bookmark web sites, but bookmark them in a much more visually interesting way. Whereas Facebook tends to work inside its own eco-system and Twitter tends to link to more news sites and blogs, Pinterest is there to capture more of the lifestyle links. We aren’t necessarily learning about the latest volcanic explosion as it happens, but we are able to see a really enticing recipe or cute new spring dress.

2. The visual world is becoming more important. We’ve seen that Facebook posts with images tend to perform better than text-only posts, but on Pinterest if you don’t have a good visual, you really don’t have much. Remember if you want people to be driven to your site, you have to host interesting visuals on your site. If you’re a clothing store who is constantly updating new images and styles online you are set. For the rest of us, that’s something to think about.

3. The big dogs are already jumping on board. Quite often you’ll see these new networks that never go anywhere, but Pinterest was smart enough to leverage what is already working to gain a mass quantity of users quickly. (In order to create an account you are prompted to use your Twitter or Facebook log-in which then allows you to see which of your friends/followers are also on Pinterest). You’ll also see that some companies, like Lowe’s, have begun using the “P” logo on the bottom of their ads. It’s fresh, it’s new and it’s very relevant to women in their 20s and 30s.

4. Facebook and Twitter have been very popular for a very long time, at least “long” in terms of the tech world. When you see a network explode in the way that Pinterest has, it is something to take notice. Inevitably, things are going to shift. I’m not saying Facebook is going away tomorrow by any means, but I do think Pinterest has made a big enough splash for you to think about the ways your business could leverage it.Image