Category Archives: social network

Time to Rethink Social Media

As I shared with you a couple of weeks ago (and many others have covered) Facebook is changing the way it treats brand’s posts and their distribution (or lack thereof).

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Should anyone really be surprised? Does it not make sense to monetize the accomplishment of being the number one social network? Sure, you can get ticked off, but can you really blame Facebook.

And you know what … you should take some blame yourself. Does it really make sense to put the control and success in the hands of another platform? What has kept you from putting control and destiny in your own hands?

So if you agree that you need to keep control and manage your own destiny, this means that you, the brand, need to have your own platform. Here is what I mean by this …

Every brand should have its own “home court.” This means that brands should have a content repository where all their content is housed. This content repository should sit on the brand’s website. Often the content repository takes the form of a blog. Brands should not place their content on a platform that someone else controls. You should control this platform.

Now this does not mean that I think brands should not use social media, but the social channels should be used to proliferate content. Social media should also be used as an extended channel for brand engagement with their target audience. A brand should put together a content strategy for the owned digital asset (their website) and then think about using social media channels to distribute abstracts of the content such that digital traffic is driven to a platform they control.

When a brand builds success driving traffic to their website, the next step is to think about building a community there. About two years ago, I indicated “Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community.” Now some may say, why should I bother to build a community? Why would anyone come to my community when there is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others? Can I really get a crowd developed? Well, think about this. If you truly deliver content that is interesting, entertaining, and/or compelling, you will capture a crowd. And if you are worried about the size of your community, simply look at each individual as a potential ambassador of your brand spreading your content and brand value. Give them a reason why they would want to join your community. Even if you had a handful of ambassadors, that is a major accomplishment. Earlier this year, I provided a play book describing “Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community.”

I am certain there are some that will say they don’t have the resource or budget to do what I am suggesting. Heck, I’ve heard it from the companies I have worked for and clients I provide strategy and plans to. My answer to this is simply … if you truly care about your customers and potential customers you will find the budget. I say this not because this is the business I am in, but rather because the audience behavior demands it. I am a marketer first and foremost. I got into digital and social media because I followed the audience behavior.

And now new Facebook procedures demand change. Change that I recommended even a couple years back. Change that demands you keeping up and adapting your marketing skill set.

And needless to say, other social platforms will change. So here is the question … are you going to stay stagnant with your digital, social, and overall marketing? Or as the title suggests, isn’t it “Time to Rethink Social Media” and your whole digital approach. Audience behavior, technology, and platform operations demand you be adaptable. Don’t get comfortable. Put your seatbelt on and drive the course to success. If you expect a straight road you are fooling yourself.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, content marketing, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Successful Social Marketing – Integrating Content and Community

The ultimate social marketing success is having a platform that stands out as the go to place for your target audience. If your product/service aims to capture an audience with special interests, you should consider a social strategy and plan that integrates content and community. Special interests groups could include fitness minded, wines enthusiasts, tech innovation, pet lovers, executive peer groups and many more.

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As I have stated many times, content is the core of social. So brands should think of themselves as publishers. Every brand should have a digital platform where they produce and curate industry related content of great value to their target audience. Do not think of this as product or service literature. Produce content that addresses the needs and interests of people within your brand’s industry.

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Launch your own brand’s digital blog, magazine, or journal.

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Be committed to continuous production and updates so that your audience is inspired to keep on returning and builds strong affinity for your “Brand Digital Media” platform. You want to build a reputation as being the go to place for your industries information, insights, and entertainment.

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In order to accomplish a “go-to reputation” you should consider a number of different types of content, which include original content, curated content, and UGC (user generated content).

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As example, consider the slide below as the “BRAND Digital Media” content hub for your brand…

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Determine a finite set of topics you will cover. Use the navigation bar to list these topics and allow your audience to click through directly. Build frames to pop in various content types. Try to keep a set template for these content frames so you can condition your audience to access information they desire and know how to easily obtain it. Update at least one frame a day. Include social sharing and follow buttons.

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Once you have established a “BRAND Digital Media” platform, use your social channels to proliferate the content. Include content reference updates on these social channels.

And make sure you are tracking how well the BRAND Digital Media content hub is performing. Consider metrics as follows …

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Once you have built a successful BRAND Digital Media platform, now you are in the position to launch an industry community platform.

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Assuming you have an audience coming to your content hub for information, why not give that audience a place to engage with your brand and one and other.

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As people come to your BRAND Digital Media site for information, give an opportunity to sign up and sign in to your community.

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The BRAND Network is an extension of your BRAND Digital Media hub. It is a place for people to connect, converse, and network.

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While anyone can get content at the BRAND Digital Media site, only members can comment on content, engage with other users, set up meetings, and network with peers. For starters, consider the following BRAND Network feature set.

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The power of having your brand serve as an industry related community is that your brand delivers great value to the target audience. Strive to be the industry digital leading member’s forum. Avoid overt product push. Just aim to be an extremely valued industry information and networking source.

And like any other marketing effort, you need to track success metrics. Consider the following for your BRAND Network …

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So think about what you can do to deliver a BRAND Digital Media hub and BRAND Network. If you deliver stellar content and a networking platform your target will truly value your brand.

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Yes, building an industry leading content and community front takes much effort, time, resources, and budget. But do you want to be a recognized industry leader or is just being part of the pack good enough? If you want to be a leader, demonstrate leadership. Building the industry best BRAND Digital Media platform and BRAND Network demonstrates leadership.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, community, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Digital Marketing Strikes Disruptive Chords for the Music Industry

download musicDigital media and platforms are disruptive. Probably no vertical knows this better than the music industry. But maybe the days of diminishing sales revenue for the music industry are behind us. (Maybe not.) Earlier this week, The New York Times reported year to year sales had increased 0.3 percent. And while you may think that is negligible, it is noteworthy that this is the first increase in music sales since 1999.

Taking this cue, James McQuivey, a Forrester Consumer Product Strategy Analyst, provided some great lessons learned at the hands of the music industry that all brands should consider with regards to managing digital disruption. You should read his entire article and get further explanation, but here are suggestions he listed:

• Disrupt yourself before someone else can.
• Build a digital customer relationship.
• Care more about convenience than quality.
• Anticipate a reduction in revenue on a per transaction basis.

There is definitely some great advice there, but if you want to see a real life example of taking these recommendations and putting them into action, consider Amanda Palmer. Amanda is a punk-cabaret performer and she spoke at TED 2013 this week.

Ms. Palmer’s presentation was titled “The Art of Asking.” She highlighted how she stopped selling music for a sticker price and simply asked people to fund her art. The result – $1.2 million raised.

Now granted, not everyone can raise that much money, but there is a strong message here for brands … have a great product; spend time engaging with your target market; and be truly genuine with your audience and build trust.

Palmer is extremely active on Twitter. She has engaged with people via social channels and has connected with people to provide a place to sleep, asked to practice on an available piano, and other face-to-face favors and meetings.

So when it came time to making money, Amanda had a trusted audience. I the love part in her presentation when she talks about the media asking her “The music business is tanking and you encourage piracy. How do you make all these people pay for music?” Amanda answers, “I didn’t make them, I asked them.” You see when you build close relationships with your audience; they come to your support when you ask them for it. If you are simply prostituting your offering, forget it. Funny enough Palmer tells a story where someone came up to her after a show and gave her a $10 bill and said, “I’m so sorry, I burned your CD from a friend, and I want to give you this money.” That’s an example of a relationship that didn’t even need “the ask.”

Audience development and emotional branding is extremely powerful in the new disruptive digital world. I am not saying brands should just let people pay what they want for their product/service, but if you have a deep relationship with your audience, you can ask them to help on your behalf. You can ask them to share your brand with their friends for example.

Another great quote from Ms. Palmer’s presentation is when she opens her arms wide and says “I trust you this much. Should I? Show me.” This was in reference to her stripping naked and letting people sign her body. I do not suggest you do this (maybe, it could be fun ), but this is a great metaphor. Can your brand strip down naked for its audience and will they show you supreme respect and admiration? She then goes on to say “Celebrity is about a lot of people viewing you from a distance. But the Internet and the content that we are freely able to share on it are taking us back. It is about a few people loving you up close and those few people being enough.” And if you are a brand, you only need a few people to get a movement to build.

So marketers, take the last word from renegade Amanda Palmer about the importance of social engagement …“when you connect with them, people want to help you.”

Are you truly building brand connections?

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brands, digital media, indie music, marketing, punk music, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter

Separating Personal and Professional Social Presence

For the past five years plus, I have established and maintained a professional brand as Social Steve. The focus of my Social Steve brand has been to share experiences, best practices, and my perceptions in social marketing having worked with a number of clients and brands. Being completely transparent (as I always try to be) my objectives are two fold … 1) promote social marketing as a key driver of business success through sharing experiences, and 2) be viewed as and respected as a social marketing thought leader.

Personal vs professionalAs I look to establish and maintain my own professional brand, I have made a handful of conscious decisions to separate my professional and personal social presence. Some of my own rules of thumb have been as follows:

• Facebook – I use Facebook for true friends and not professional friends and acquaintances. My litmus test has been – “If I want you to see pictures of me and my family in our bathing suits at the beach, I’ll accept your friend request.” This really makes people I work with separate from personal friends. While I really have nothing in my closet to hide anymore, I do reserve Facebook for my own personal world. Early in my social media consulting career, I made the mistake of accepting clients in Facebook.
• Tweeting – 85% of my tweets are about social media and marketing. 10% is about music (my drug of choice). 5% is about family excursions. The reason I add 15% of tweets of the personal nature is simply to give my audience a feel that there is a real person behind the professional tweets.
• 96% of my articles on the SocialSteve Blog are about social media and brand marketing. This is what people come to my blog for. There have been a few exceptions. I have blogged about Martin Luther King Jr and my sister – two people that have served as outstanding examples and models for me in my life.

Now I am not saying this is the way it should be for everyone, but rather that each person should consciously determine what is right for them and set up their own ground rules. And while I have determined some conditions to practice in my own social presences I continue to learn along the way. Continuous social learning is imperative for people and brands. Each entity needs to produce, execute, and assess how their audience reacts. Demographics, psycho-demographics, and natural behavior cause variations of different target audience’s reactions.

Now just a bit of data and then my analysis based on my own blogging.

• Most of my marketing and business blog posts get very little, if any, references on Facebook. I experience a much higher rate of mentions on Twitter and Google+ for business related postings.
• Personal stories (such as the Tribute to My Sister last week) have had very little postings on Twitter and Google+ and have had a relatively high rate of references on Facebook.

For brands, I think this has some key implications. Most users are on Facebook for friendly socialization as opposed to connecting with brands. Yes, brands can have strong Facebook programs that build relationships and brand preference, but their Facebook implementations must have a strong brand personality and not corporate-like or advertorial. While Google+ lacks the adoption of Facebook, the circles functionality allows the separation of socialization for different purposes. It remains to be seen if Google+ connection segmentation will be valued by people and if their user base sees growth.

For me, I know how I use my various social channels for different purposes. By no means am I saying this is correct and one size fits all. In fact, I’d rather this post be the basis for a discussion rather than my typical guidance. What do you think? Do you see a need to separate personal and professional social presence and if so, what are your self-imposed guidelines? I would love to learn from you. Chime in and join the conversation.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under behavior, brand marketing, Facebook, marketing, social marketing, social media, social media marketing, social network, social reviews, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter

Why Facebook May Not Be Your Brand’s Community

This past week, I participated and presented at a Digital Academy for one of my pharma clients. I took them through best practices and the importance of what it means to have a social mentality to drive winning results. One of the key points that I made (and it is applicable to all brands) is that you need to think about how your audience may and may not use Facebook before you jump on the band wagon. There may, in fact, be better social networks or channels to be used as determined by consumer behavior.

First, let’s talk about healthcare brands and then I’ll dive into a broader perspective. If am a Facebook user and have a certain condition (say diabetes or high blood pressure or anything for that matter), I may not “like” that brand and/or engage with that brand because that is something I do not want visible to my friends. It is just not a topic that I share with old high school friends and the vast number of people I am connected to. Yes, you can say that Facebook has privacy settings to protect this, but in all seriousness, how many people drill into that level of privacy and mess around with privacy settings at that detail. So it is the target audience behavior that dictates such decisions.

But that does not mean that the use of social is a bad idea for pharma companies. There are two other options – run with the pack where they already exist or be the go to community for information and discussion of the topic the brand provides solutions for. I always recommend that social starts by finding the relevant conversations, where they happen, and go there to start discussions (even if you are building your own social network). There are existing communities and discussion forums on just about every topic in the world. Go there and be an active brand voice. Help by providing information and solutions as opposed to being advertorial. The other option (and it takes a strong commitment) is to work like a publisher and be the go to destination for a particular topic. This requires the site to have awesome original content, curation, and places for people to have conversations.

Too many brands assume that Facebook is the most important social channel for them. As explained in the pharma examples, it may not even be a worthwhile channel. The issue that not enough brands are considering is how users behave and act on Facebook. Too many marketers think that the “like” is the end of their effort. They run a sweepstake to capture a like and claim success. The reality is that no user really cares about brand presence on Facebook. That is, unless the brand provides something valuable, engaging, and compelling. And when brands do this successfully, it almost always focuses on user interested topics as opposed to product push.

Whether brands use Facebook, an existing forum or community, or establish their own community, they must focus compelling content that relates to their brand as opposed to being about their brand. A good example of this is “Dove Inspired.” Do you think that any women would actually be compelled to follow a Dove social channel if Dove talked about moisturizing soap … not likely. So instead, Dove established a program and a following for users to highlight women that inspired them. The focus was not on product, but rather an understanding of the target market and developing a topic that would keep the target marketed engaged. This is something I call “associated marketing.” Dove stays top of mind, by keeping their audience engaged with something of importance to them. Dove associates their brand with something relevant to the target market.

Recognize that Facebook is a social network where friends congregate. Sometimes a brand will have a greater success in a different social network where people with similar interests and needs connect. There, members are not necessarily friends, but their concerns create a strong association and/or support network.

And one more note getting back to the question about establishing a brand’s own community. You cannot build the field of dreams and expect the crowd to come. You must ask, “Why would anyone want to come to our community?” The answer to this will come from two areas: deep customer insights; and complete commitment to being the go to destination for the target audience and the topic(s) covered.

So a handful of suggestions in closing:

1) Understand your target audience and what interests them
2) Cover topics that are relevant to your audience and associate your brand with matters that are important to them
3) Be a valuable source
4) Work to establish a friend nature, not a brand broadcast pipe
5) Determine if you can establish a strong presence in an existing community or if there are benefits of establishing your own … if you establish your own community, consider a publisher mentality where you have an editor in chief and support staff.
6) If you do establish your own community, have a strategy that not only motivates conversation between the brand and users, but also creates a platform where users with similar interest engage with each other.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

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Filed under brand communication, brand marketing, community, Facebook, marketing, marketing plan, social marketing, social media, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Tell Me You Don’t Think Social Connections Matter After Reading This

January 19th, 2012 was a horrible day. My sister was diagnosed with cancer (a few days later it was determined to be over a good portion of her body) after having beaten breast cancer about six years earlier. The doctor gave her weeks to live. By the time I was able to see my sister on the weekend, her eyes and skin were yellow from liver failure.

After the initial diagnoses, Barb was able to consult with another doctor. You know, the Michael Jordan type that likes to get the ball in his hands with 2.3 seconds left in the game and down by two points. Dr. Mehta ran the charts and prescribed an extremely aggressive and heavy dosage of chemo. Barb was warned (and had to sign and acknowledge) that this cocktail could kill her. But with death staring you in the face and nerves not quite of steel, what do you do?

Barb will have cancer the rest of her life. She will go for chemo every three weeks for the rest of her life. It is really a matter of how much more time can be stolen and the quality of life she will lead. Yes, it is extremely tough for her, but I am happy to say she is doing very well (her liver returned to full function and the various blood counts the medical staff looks for are very good). Barb has made most important milestones – our mother’s birthday, Valentine’s Day, her husband’s birthday and their anniversary, and most important to her at the time of the diagnoses and little hope of life past a month – her daughter’s graduation from high school. And now she leaves for college this week.

Let me tell you a little bit about my little sister who continues to teach me everyday about the important things in life. Barb is one of the most strong-willed people I have ever met. At times in our lives I would consider her inflexible, but this characteristic is certainly paying dividends now given Barb’s unwillingness to give into cancer. She is also a most humble and modest person … never wanting the spotlight and attention focused on her. And Barb is one that puts 26 hours into a 24 hour day – all aimed at her love for her family and their well-being.

When my sister was first diagnosed, she was introduced to Caring Bridge – a social network whose mission is “to amplify the love, hope and compassion in the world, making each health journey easier.” It is basically a social network segmented for health challenged individuals and their private group. Caring Bridge allows postings and updates, for patients and their friends and families. Prayers, words of encouragement, and helping hand offers and requests. Barb joined and I was frankly surprised at her participation. She is a most private person, but she shared much in her posts. It also surprised me the degree of interest she has in the postings on her board. Like I said, she never looks for attention focused on her.

But Barb most enjoys the stories and updates from people regarding what they are doing. The fact is that she is looking to stay connected to the people that matter given the hectic world she lives in … hectic even before the battle with cancer. There are four things that are going to keep my sister living – a reason to go on (her family); a brilliant and compassionate doctor; a strong mental outlook; and luck.

Now I am not saying that Barb’s connection with a social network is keeping her living, but it certain plays some small role. It definitely is a strong contributor to her tough mental state. And I don’t want to compare the importance of social media to fighting to live. By no means are the two anywhere near equal. But I do want to challenge anyone that says social networks are silly … “who really cares that someone went to the movies or restaurants.” “Social networks have taken away the way we used to talk to one another face-to-face, on the phone, and had a real conversation.”

The reality is that we have made our lives so jammed packed. Heck, I’ll look at myself … after spending 13-14 hours away from home between my commute and work, and wanting to come home and spend some time with my kids, I have little time for anything else. My life is completely filled. I can either elect to engage with some friends with a quick email, text, or social network post/conversations or forget about them totally. And while I am a social media enthusiast, I have to admit I have let more connections dwindle away than I would like to admit.

The question I am asking you (and myself) is do we really want to wait until death stares us in the eyes to make sure we stay connected with those that matter? Yes, human connection is the strongest when we are actually together. I am sure many felt the telephone was impersonal when it became part of every household. And now the same is being said about social networks. The reality is we have made our lives what it is while at the same time technological advancements have proceeded. We can elect to use technology for the good or the bad.

You make the decision. Stay connected? Do something meaningful?

I usually end my articles asking for your opinion and share your thoughts. While I am always interested for feedback and comments, I’ll make a different request here. Please share this article in honor of my sister, Barb; in honor of those that you know living with cancer; and in honor of those we lost to the dreaded disease.

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under cancer, community, social media, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

Why the “Social Media Person” Needs to Be More than Just the Social Media Person

What does it mean to be the social media person at a company? For the most part, it means managing the Facebook page, tweeting, and maybe putting up blog post and responding. As I have worked with numerous companies on social media, I can tell you this is pretty much their expectations.

Straight up – this is NOT enough. It will get you nowhere. And this is what I mean when I say the social media person has to be more than the social media person.

Let me give you an example of a project I have been working on at the practice I run for a marketing agency. I am the “social media guy” so when there are client opportunities, I get pulled into the discussion, strategy, proposal, and presentation. Recently we were working on a client opportunity and I was asked to define the social recommendations. As expected, I provided a content strategy and plan for Facebook management and tweets. Additionally, for this particular client, having their own community made sense as they have a particular strong advantage and opportunity to be their vertical’s leader. But I provided one other element as well – a personalization program that provided customization for each user as the starting point for community sign up. When I submitted this, someone who was on the team questioned why I provided a “product enhancement” as I was the “social guy.”

Why would the social person extend beyond social channel management? Because social media is NOT about building the “field of dreams” and having expectations that everyone will just come. It is a noisy world out there with no shortage of places your target audience can go to get compelling content and engage. In the example above, it was very important to provide direct user benefit in a short period of time. The personalization and contextually relevant user experience went beyond the set definition of social media responsibility. While a community is a great place to gather people with similar wants, needs, and interests, each member must get their own specific value from participation. This is especially true for the brand I was working with because they provide different value to different users based on the user’s specific interests and motivations. The benefits each user got from the brand was in fact very personal.

When you take on a social media endeavor, put yourself in the place of the user community and address WIF-M (what’s in it for me). There are tons of blogs, communities and sites that likely cover your brand’s audience. What is going to make you stand out such that you provide greater value to your audience over the competition?

Once you have defined this, what are you going to do to promote your social presence? In the past, I have talked about the importance and use of “Digital PR and Outreach.” (This is a very important aspect of the social media practice at MediaWhiz.) Let me expand on this one step further and show you three slides I often present to clients and prospects …

The brand relationships should traverse through the A-Path – a sequential process for brands to develop deep relationships with their target audience … Attention to Attraction to Affinity to becoming part of the brand Audience to becoming an Advocate. You start the early stages of the A-Path offsite. Then there is a cross over to your site or your platforms. You have the strongest success of the A-Path steps offsite in the beginning and the greatest success of the A-Path steps in the later stages on your platforms.

The next slide highlights A-Path execution off of your brand owned digital assets:

As you begin to build affinity for individuals, you introduce them to your assets (on digital assets). Affinity is the cross over point as shown in the slide below. The slide highlights moving your target segments to becoming part of your audience, and then actions to get a subset of your audience to become advocates.

What I have described above defines a holistic social media operation. Anything less will not yield measurable results. My advice to all of you is do NOT put the social media person in a box. If you are a CMO or other executive overlooking social media as part of your organization, demand more from your social lead. Got it? Ready?

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

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Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, community, social media, social media marketing, social network, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve