Jon Samsel, CEO of Heardable.com, a website that helps companies measure the effectiveness of their online brand, shares his top five social media optimization tips for savvy brands.
1. Maintain Brand Consistency: Brand fragmentation is bad for your business -- especially as you utilize the Internet to market to new customers, communicate with existing customers, or try to expand the visibility of your online brand. Brand consistency means using the same spelling of your name anyplace it appears, publishing true color schemes, and using persistent design aesthetics. Why? Consistent branding makes it easier for customers to find you -- and to recognize your brand from other brands with similar names, logos, or taglines.
Brands should try to do whatever it takes to ensure that their brand name is consistent across the web. Register your brand 'handle' on as many social media sites as you can before someone else does -- and use the same url extension everywhere. If you are unitedvanlines on Twitter, don't be united-van-lines on Facebook. Keep everything consistent. For a fee, services like KnowEm.com can help you register your brand on over 400 popular and emerging social media websites.
2. Play Responsibly: Actively participate in a minimum of 5-10 social media sites in a meaningful, transparent way that provides value. Our favorite social networks are: Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, SlideShare, Digg, FourSquare, and StumbleUpon. Be sure to publish content on a daily basis and mix it up with your followers or prospective fans. Post, read, follow, engage, solve problems, thank people, listen, learn, and put a human face to your brand. Don't just sit back and wait for people to come to you, don't simply post corporate propaganda, and try to think of social media as more than an early warning indicator for customer service complaints -- or as mere listing posts for mentions of your brand.
3. Treat Social As It's Own Business Channel: When I was a senior vice-president at Bank of America, I gave a presentation to internal leadership in which I provided research insights and a call to form a new business channel, social search, within our digital marketing division focusing on this emerging new business opportunity. I made the argument that social search is not paid search, it's not organic search, and it's not social media -- social search is an emerging channel in and of itself.
Today, as we all know, search has become more conversational, more real-time. There are numerous new vertical search engines (plus unconventional ones like Twitter) and for the most part, they are not scanning traditional websites to see if they are following SEO best practices. The new wave of search -- social search -- is sorting through RSS feeds, API feeds, bog posts, consumer ratings, social media updates, and videos to glean insights for searchers.
Brands who focus on website optimization or paid search media buys to generate traffic/sales are missing the boat. To be visible within social search, brands must be active publishers within dozens of social communities and multimedia content portals.
4. Spread the Social Chum: It's not enough anymore to simply post a promotional video to YouTube or blog about your company's latest product release. You need to market your content in bold, innovative ways to get found. In fact, marketing your content is just as important as the quality of the content you produce.
Here is a sample way to 'chum' after posting a brand promotional video on YouTube:
- Embed the video code into a prominent position within your website
- Embed the video code into a new blog post about the video, and tie your blog posts into LinkedIn and Friendfeed to maximize your distribution
- Tweet the video link -- and don't just do it once. Re-phrase your post and tweet it 3-4 times on different days, at different times of the day
- Email the video link to your contact database asking them to check out the video and like it
- Post a link to the video to Facebook, Digg, Reddit, and all the other social destinations you can think of
- Post a StumbleUpon review of the link / video
- Don't limit your video to YouTube -- post it everywhere (Vimeo, DailyMotion, Etc)
I like to call this practice, spreading the social chum, because it reminds me of what marine biologists do to attract sharks. They scoop heaping portions of tasty fish parts into the ocean and wait for the scent of food to propagate through the current to attract its intended target -- sharks! The end result? Swarms of sharks appear within minutes, ready to consume the chum.
5. Monitor, Measure, Rinse & Repeat: I know everyone talks about measuring and monitoring performance, but besides glancing at high level data found in Google Analytics such as the number of site visits, or source of traffic, I have been a bit disappointed with how brands are gleaning insight from the data that is available out there.
You will never know how far you've come without knowing where you started from. That's why establishing baseline performance metrics are critical for brand marketing managers.
Here is a short list of tools from my 'measurement & monitoring' toolbox:
By 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide.* Even mobilemarketingwatch.com claims that 46% of active Twitter users already access the site via mobile devices.
The mobile web is upon us -- yet surprisingly, most of today's websites don't offer visitors an online experience that is optimized for the mobile visitor.
So what's going on here? And why should you sit up and take notice?
Let's take a look at Clearwire.com, a leading provider of wireless broadband services based in Kirkland, Washington. When their website is viewed via a mobile browser, the user experience looks something like this.
Basically, the entire homepage is squeezed into a very small screen, making the content practically illegible. Common user activities such as logging into an account or searching for coverage area are not easily found. Once you do find what you're looking for, it's not reasy to use. The only way to view the content is to zoom in, look around, and click when you find what you are looking for. The website is just not designed for the mobile user to experience. It was created for the PC user.
Here is what the site looks like in regular web browser on a typical laptop or desktop computer.
Notice the difference?
It's a well-known fact that mobile web users make fewer clicks on a website than users accessing sites from a standard computer. When your website is not optimized for smaller-screen formats, your customers have less-than-optimimal user experiences. At best, your entire site is squeezed into a very small viewing screen, making it nearly improssible to read, navigate, or find things. Some websites are not viewable at all.
"I don't need to worry," you say. "Our site is built on a Wordpress blogger platform -- so it's automatically reformatted for the small mobile browser screen."
Well, that may be the case if you've installed a mobile re-sizing plug in, or if your tech team has worked its magic on your code in a way that optimizes your site for portable devices. In most cases, however, your site will not render effectively for a mobile user.
Take TheFordStory.com for example. It's a nice looking automobile fan site built on Wordpress. For the PC user, it's a quality experience. Viewed from a mobile phone, however, and you can see the site has simply been squeezed into a tiny viewing area. Wordpress alone didn't magically transform the content into an optimal online experience.
If your website has not been optimized for viewing on a mobile devise like an iPhone, you are probably losing money as a result. Even more concerning -- there is a chance your brand could be negatively impacted as well, as today, the online experience users have has a direct correlation -- and lingering impact -- on brand impression.
Leading retailer, Walmart.com, does a much better job by providing a steller online experience for its mobile visitors. See below.
Basically, when a mobile user types in Walmart.com, Walmart's site automatically detects -- and redirects mobile users to -- a mobile-optimized web experience. The Walmart mobile site is very different from their main website viewable from most standard web browsers. Walmart has trimmed down the navigation to the seven key things a user might want to do most:
1. Store Finder
2. Values of the Day
4. Top Rated & Best Sellers
5. Local Ad
6. Shopping List
7. Order History
Walmart's mobile site design is also tailored to a mobile browser's small screen -- with no images that might slow down the page load time, and focusing on only a few functional tasks that a portable visitor might want to do.
Compare Walmart's mobile site with its standard website below.
Considering that the 'age of the mobile user is upon us,' most CEO's and professional web marketers will want to have their websites reformatted or rebuilt -- or risk offering a terrible brand experience to your customers.
3 Simple Steps to Mobile Web Optimization
1. Benchmark your current online performance.
Try Heardable.com - Is your website optimized for the various mobile browsers? Scan your URL on Heardable.com and see what your Portable subscore is. If it's less than 200, you have some work to do! Sign up for your free Heardable account today and you can see which mobile browsers your URL is optimized for and which ones it's not.
Simulate the User Experience - See what your website might look like in a mobile browser by using this free tool.
2. Determine if you can make improvements to your website code yourself or if you need help from outside developers or web consultants.
Fix It Yourself - If you have an in-house IT, marketing, or technical development staff who can enhance your website to be more mobile-friendly, and you have the budget and bandwidth to do it, then what are you waiting for? Make your website mobile-friendly today.
Get a Free Consultation - There are thousands of companies out there who might be able to help you optimize your website. Call the team at Heardable for a free quote on how we can help optimize your website for the emerging mobile marketplace.
3. Monitor your mobile web performance on a regular basis
Bookmark Heardable.com - Use Heardable.com as one of your regular weekly or monthly tools to track and measure your brand's mobile performance. Be sure to bookmark out site today and come back often. Heardable results are in real-time -- so changes you make today can be measured immediately!
* Source: Gartner, Inc.
No matter what your political preference, you gotta hand it to Christine O'Donnell's political campaign -- they know how to take a negative and turn it into a packaged piece of election year content in a way that get's it's message out 100x wider than her opponent -- by tapping into the viral vein of social marketing that gorges on controversy.
O'Donnell's opening line echoes a chilling statement from yesteryear -- Richard Nixon's "I am not a crook" line, then goes on to showcase a calm, normal woman speaking from her heart. "I'm nothing you've heard," O'Donnell says. "I'm you. None of us are perfect." See video clip below.
Whether you like Christine O'Donnell or not -- whether you believe she's being honest or spewing conservative propaganda -- from a personal branding standpoint, she's taken the reins from her enemies and embraced the controversy surrounding her candidacy in a way that mixes all the right ingredients to benefit her personal brand.
Her video has generated a ton of buzz, proliferated the blogosphere, and stoked the political-media mainstream news outlets with yet another reason to talk about her.
But this time, the message centers around the proactive decision she made to produce the video. It's her campaign's spin on her own words. It's her personal story told on her terms. It's the story of Christine, to you.
Combine brand authenticity with a dash of "nobody's perfect" messaging and stir with plenty of political controversy and you're looking at the perfect recipe for viral video success. Well played, Ms. O'Donnell. Well played indeed.
Typically, marketers tend to sell the FEATURES of their product or service. They develop a nifty headline, eye-catching graphics, and a bullet-point list of the product's specifications. It's a time-honored, traditional way to advertise one product over another.
Problem is, there is nothing HUMAN or AUTHENTIC about this marketing method. Sure, it might do the job, but it's not nearly as effective as it could be. It's almost as if showcasing why customers love a service is not in a brand marketer's DNA. Say it ain't so.
Here is one example of a traditional approach to sell a product via its features.
"STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST® REWARDS provides guests of the W Hotel with the ability to remeem points at over 960 hotels in 97 countries."
A better way to promote a product or service might be to call out its BENEFITS rather than simply emphasize the features themselves. Benefits speak to customer's needs and desires -- which can resonate on a deeper level.
"The STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST® REWARDS program will save you money, up to $500 per year on average, because our points can be redeemed at any of the Starwood family of hotels all over the world."
Brands can further improve the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns by focusing on the emotional benefits of certain product features. "Starwood Hotels is a proud supporter of "Fight like a girl" national breast cancer awareness campaign in an effort to save the lives of the 500,000 mothers, aunts, sisters, daughters, employeeds and customers who will die this year from breast cancer. For every dollar you spend durring the month of August using your STARWOOD PREFERRED GUEST® REWARDS card, we'll match that amount with a charity donation to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation."
Great marketing is the ability to tap into what people aspire to -- rather than simply touting the product's features. Product benefits, as well as a service's emotional benefits, is what great branding is all about.
Gunther Sonnenfeld, in his presentation, Culturecasting, says that brands are an expectation of things to come. We could not agree more.
Channel surfing through YouTube today, we came across ZOMM, a niche electronics device manufacturer that sells the world's first leash for your mobile phone. At first glance, the product seemed like a gag gift of sorts -- totally not needed. Right? Wrong.
The company's website tells a powerful story of a budding female entrepreneur desperately in search of a new breakthrough product that would propel her to business stardom. ZOMM's co-founder, Laurie Penix, created a sleek, stylish, and surprisingly useful product along with an ad campaign that tapped into the emotional benefits of its customers -- a winning combination. See for yourself in the video clip below.
Notice how the commercial plays up the product's benefits to tap into the emotional needs of the potential buyer -- a smart marketing move.
Never lose or forget your mobile phone again.
Never miss an important call again.
Never worry about your family's safety and security.
At Heardable, we believe brands who tell the best stories win. But how you tell that story -- how you market your offer and your message -- may be equally as important as your product features. Don't forget to play up the user benefits, as well as the emotional story behind what you are selling. It just might be one of the smartest moves your brand makes.
ZOMM is available online at zomm.com and Amazon.com for $79.99 in both black and white color options.
Cebu Pacific Airlines is not known for its outlandish flight attendant antics like their competitor, Southwest. And they are not know for discount airfare liker JetBlue. Come to think of it, the Cebu Pacific brand isn't known much at all to consumers in the Americas. It's a relatively small passenger airline company looking to break through the marketing clutter (like so many of its competitors) in any ethical way possible to boost brand awareness and sales.
Their website traffic is very low, especially when compared to passenger airline giants like United (see Compete.com site traffic chart below).
Of course, the video was well planned, choreographed, and filmed with plenty of advanced buy-in from Cebu Pacific management -- but who cares! A video doesn't need to be spontaneous and unscripted to be a marketing success. 300,000 plays in one day on YouTube is a nice start!
A quick glance at YouTube's sidebar of videos mentioning Cebu Pacific clearly shows that previous videos featuring or mentioning Cebu have averaged under 20K views for the most part -- which makes "Cebu Pacific FAs dancing" that much more exciting to talk about. It's a big win for a small brand.
This is small proof that it's not critical to drive consumers to a branded website anymore. It's important for your brand to get found -- any way and any where your customers are congregating online. In this case, YouTube is functioning as a second home page for Cebu Pacific. And that's perfectly okay.
Watch the video for yourself.
For e-commerce site managers worldwide, there may not be a better BFF (best friend forever) than PayPal.
We didn't realize this till just the other day but there seems to be a misconception out there in businessland that a company must choose between electronic payment methods (and vendors) when doing business online. In browsing through a few questions posted on LinkedIn, we came across the following set of questions that highlights the issue quite well.
"What % of online users make purchase with Paypal vs MC or Visa? If you elect to only have a paypal option on your website, how much business are you turning away?"
Many e-commerce site managers may not be aware that they don't have to risk turning away online sales based on the electronic payment merchant you select to use for your website. Why not? Because you are no longer forced to choose one payment vendor over the other. That is, if you use PayPal. PayPal now accepts most major credit cards via the PayPal service.
Set up is easy:
1. Sign up with PayPal.
2. Add the payment logos to your site: VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and PayPal
3. Watch the sales roll in because you offer your customers all forms of electronic payment
Having to choose between PayPal and credit cards appears to be a lingering e-commerce misconception. PayPal may now be the ideal payment processing solution because it combines all payment types into a single service.
When it comes right down to it -- the KEY TO SALES SUCCESS online is to advertise ALL PAYMENT BRANDS on your website. Providing USER CHOICE is critical.
With PayPal, once your visitors are ready to buy an item and click on their payment method of choice, they are taken to PayPal where they are presented with the various payment options to choose from. The consumer can select VISA, for example, over PayPal, as their payment method of choice. Your visitor provides his/her VISA information to PayPal and PayPal processes the order. It's that simple. You now have a satisfied customer!
Visit the PayPal merchant page to learn more about the credit cards that PayPal supports, plus learn how to become a PayPal merchant.
Click here to get infomation about PayPal's brand health score on Heardable.com.
We just returned from a successful two-day consulting assignment in Dallas, Texas, working with one of the best known brands in the world. It's always fun working with new clients -- and this company was no exception. Two groups of 20 energentic staff from our client's marketing department participated in an intensive day-long interactive training program designed to help marketers write smarter. The ultimate goal being to expand their online brand reach.
The folks in Dallas were mighty kind hosts. It was a fun, informative event all around. And our AT&T 3G wireless card came through in the clutch -- allowing us to play streaming video from YouTube throughout our Powerpoint presentation. Sweet!
"I never realized how important storytelling was as a branding tool," one student said to another during a break one day one. "I'm looking forward to integrating customer stories into our marketing material."
Our sentiments exactly!
TRAINING COURSE TOPICS - THE WRITE WAY
- The power of stories
- Article writing (techniques, not a grammar lesson)
- SEO enhancement (not coding, not offsite SEO)
- Web writing considerations
- Writing to expand your brand reach
- Transmedia branding and cross-media integration
- Practice writing exercices
- Examples and case studies
POWER WRITING - SMART BUILDING BLOCKS FOR YOUR BRAND
Famed management consultant, Peter Drucker, said, "As soon as you take one step up the career ladder your effectiveness depends on your ability to communicate your thoughts in writing." In other words, if you want to be noticed within or outside your organization, you have to be able to express yourself-clearly and concisely.
The same can be said when you are an employee representing a company online, whether that's on a corporate website, press release, training module, marketing campaign, social media site or email. Your writing is a critical extension of your company's brand -- so it's important that business leaders invest in assisting their employees become the best ambassadors of communication possible.
BOOK YOUR TRAINING SEMINAR TODAY
To receive a free phone consultation and proposal from Heardable on how to help your business write smarter, call 1-888-520-0034 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Automobile manaufacturers and major cars brands have been taking it on the chin lately. From the massive government bailout of GM to the recall issues plaguing Toyota, this business category can't seem to catch a break.
Heardable decided to evaluate 25 automobile websites to see which brands had the highest and lowest Heardable Scores. To our surprise, Toyota had the highest score with 683 out of 1,000, followed closely by Lexus and then Chevrolet. A Heardable Score between 601-800 ranks as a category leader. The highest ranking score is between 801-1,000 and ranks as a champion brand.
The lowest performing brand was Mazda with a Heardable Score of 152 out of 1,000, which was surprising since so much of Mazda's marketing is geared toward the youth market. We would have expected Mazda to rate very high in online marketing capabilities since today's under 30 crowd is so tuned into the web to conduct research and make purchase inquiries. If Mazda is proficient in all things web-related, Heardable's crawler and scoring engine were unable to detect it. BTW: A Heardable Score between 0-200 is considered poor.
Here are the top 25 automobile websites ranked by Heardable Score, on a scale of 0-1,000, one-thousand being best, for May, 2010.
1. Toyota.com - 683
2. Lexus.com - 682
3. Chevrolet.com - 607
4. Honda.com - 550
5. Hyundai.com - 526
6. Buick.com - 503
7. Kia.com - 483
8. Subaru.com - 428
9. NissanUSA.com - 423
10. Ford.com - 408
11. Jeep.com - 406
12. Porsche.com - 394
13. Audi.com - 375
14. Mercedes-Benz.com - 375
15. Renault.com - 352
16. GM.com - 346
17. Ferrari.com - 335
18. Hummer.com - 307
19. VW.com - 298
20. Saab.com - 293
21. BMW.com - 288
22. Lotuscars.com - 279
23. Volvo.com - 233
24. MitsubishiCars.com - 163
25. Mazda.com - 152