Increase Engagement Through Video Marketing

Facebook now favors video updates in Newsfeeds, and average over 1 billion video views per day. Last year, Buzzfeed scored over a billion video views per MONTH, leading them to launch the new Buzzfeed Entertainment division, led by web video impresario Ze Frank. Listicles are so 2015….video ads are now delivering the hype.  And thanks to their ever-evolving algorithm, Facebook reach has plummeted to a dismal 6% (according to this Social@Ogilvy study). But here’s a happier stat: 1.65 BILLION people are watching video on Facebook everyday.

Those of us who follow such things surely noticed the high number of mentions of online video marketing in those ubiquitous Top Digital Marketing Trends of 2016  published last January. I don’t know about you, but we paid attention. And we came to the conclusion that video marketing is the new social media, in a sense.

With both digital trends, companies were initially reluctant to recognize and admit that they needed to include them in their marketing, or risk getting left behind. Both were seen as time-consuming and slow to generate ROI.

This is no longer true, of course. Companies can use instant gratification platforms like Vine or Snapchat to generate videos for their brand, or find increasingly affordable outsourcing options like Humblee or VeedMe. These serve as a kind of matchmaking service between companies and a vetted network of videographers and producers – awesome! Or there’s always platforms like Typito (which is subscription-based), a sort of Canva for online video that lets you craft videos out of standalone images or video clips, or use a template.

There are a few different types of marketing videos you can make, depending on what you’re selling:

Explainer Videos

These are one of the most common asks, and consist of a short statement about what your company does or sells at a high level.

One of the most talked about and most copied of the last few years is Dollar Shave Club’s:

It’s hilarious, features their actual founder, is shorter than most explainer videos, and clearly works – Unilever bought them for $1billion this year. That is “F***ing Great.” And the video is still collecting views on YouTube – at the time of writing this article, they’re at 23M views. Damn.

Customer Testimonial

As the name suggests, this is like a video version of a case study you’d use to show off your client wins. It’s also one of the best ways to get social validation if you’re selling a product, especially since millennials tend to trust reviews by their peers more than any other type of advertising.

Customers vouching for your product or service builds trust and credibility, which is why this is one of the best and highest-ranking formats for B2B companies. They are also considered to be one of the most challenging types to make.

This testimonial by 99designs is awesome because it’s eye-catching, moves fast, and does a good job of showing how their logo creation services helped this successful accessories designer launch her business from scratch:

And as an added bonus: reviews and testimonials boost your search rank.

Product demos

Ah yes,….ye olde product demo. This is where you get to, as the old pros say, eat your own dog food. These usually feature someone from your company talking enthusiastically about your product or service.

Go ahead and fanboy or fangirl right out on your moneymaker, like Squareup did. Way to make that “little white thing you plug into your phone to take credit cards” sound cool:

A couple tips first: write a script. Not a good idea to wing it, as you don’t want to miss all those key elements like “value propositions” and “product specs,” do ya?

Also, hook them early. That’s right, drop your hook right in the water at the beginning of your demo with a good tagline or amazing stat about how much money people can make with your app, or whatever.

And finally…Finish Strong. BOOM, like that. This is a CTA (call to action) and is kinda the whole point of your video.

Animated videos

People like these because they remind them of cartoons. Just kidding…sort of. But  they do eliminate the need for shooting a lot of expensive, time-consuming live footage. They also allow you to make quick cuts and transitions, which is particularly useful for explaining why people should care about your startup, for example. And short and sweet wins the day on Facebook (30 seconds max, plz), just make sure to use some punchy text overlays since Facebook auto-plays videos without sound.

Pinterest went this route when they unleashed their strangely addictive virtual hoarder social platform:

Their video went for 90 seconds since it was 2012 and attention spans hadn’t shrunk down to 30s yet, but it was a nice touch letting people know that up-front.

If you use 3D animation (less expensive than you’d think), you can create a nice, lifelike prototype of your product. And you don’t need to have a company mascot, like those annoying Afflac ducks, to create animated videos. Of course, if you already have one, by all means use it as a narrator – you won’t find a cheaper spokesperson.

One more tip before we leave you to your Red Bull-fueled brainstorming sessions – don’t get caught up in the Periscope, Facebook Live, and Instagram Videos hype to the point that you’re ignoring YouTube. It’s still the second largest search engine on the Web (never forget their parent company is Google) and the third most visited site. So keep posting your videos there, and use good SEO practices when you do – it matters.

Feeding Social: A Collaborative Effort

Companies everywhere are trying to harness the amplification and audience-building powers of social media. As social business gets more entrenched, companies are on the hot seat to consistently generate standout content that informs, engages and nurtures the learning (and buying) cycle. This has led to a dramatic rise in investments in content marketing.

To win the time and attention of its target audience, content must be informative and educational. To create great content, companies must build a culture of content and dismantle job role knowledge siloes in favor of collaboration to discover and build an arsenal of content that actually helps customers with their challenges.

According to the Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends 2015 report, B2B businesses are turning to the following social media channels to gain traction:

2015-b2b-content-marketing-benchmarks-budgets-and-trends-north-america-by-content-marketing-institute-and-marketingprofs-22-638

Those surveyed reported the following rates of social network effectiveness for each channel:

2015-b2b-content-marketing-benchmarks-budgets-and-trends-north-america-by-content-marketing-institute-and-marketingprofs-24-638
A Cluttered Content World 

Chase McMichael from Infinigraph shares what happens in a typical Internet minute now:

WhatHappenInAnInternetMinute

It can be overwhelming when you consider the amount of noise that your content will compete against to win the time and attention of your prospective customer. In this piece about essentials of successful content, KISSMetrics talks about how content must supply answers to customer questions. Content that answers the questions your prospects are typing into search engines is an important dimension, but you can also take this further based on internal company investigation.

You can start by asking your sales team, “What are the questions that prospects and customers ask you?” And, “Are there common, recurring challenges for the industries or types of businesses we serve?” Work within your company to find and articulate the patterns because they provide important clues to what kind of content will be worth curating and sharing, as well as creating. Once published and shared, content that educates, like a company blog post, can have a long digital life as it works to attract visitors and search engines to your site.

Harvesting the Knowledge Wealth Within

Experts exist in every part of your company and have much to contribute, but it’s often up to the content strategist to help them realize they are the keepers of such great information. John Bell talks about a number of great strategies you can use to encourage your internal experts to be part of the collaboration process. When developing and nurturing internal thought leadership, it’s important to find ways to motivate your internal voices. Empower them to share articles and information they would normally only share within their department or with a few potential customers.

Here are some questions you can ask colleagues to discover which forms of content your company should be investing in:
Sales

  • In your sales calls with customers or prospective customers, what are the most common topics of discussion? Sometimes you can find informative content on these hot topics on your company web site, but other times it will need to be created.
  • What resources or tools do you send to prospects to help educate them about how the company offering can help solve the challenges they face? Research from the Corporate Executive Board Company shows B2B buyers are 57% of the way through the purchase cycle before they actually pick up the phone to talk with sales. Sales tools can be repurposed into content for your web site.
  • Do you ever send 3rd party materials (like analyst reports or industry studies) to add context and information that helps customers navigate the solution marketplace? If the answer is yes, you should link to these and reference them in content you develop.
  • What sorts of materials do customers tell you are the most helpful? Are there specific formats they prefer or find easiest to digest (for example, white papers, short videos or infographics)? Where, why and how your customers spend their time and what they use to make decisions should guide your content strategy.

Product Management

  • Who are the experts in the industry whose work you follow? Why do you follow them? What is important and relevant about their work and ideas? What others find inspiring may also help your target customers.
  • Do these experts bring up topics that engage you to write a rebuttal or respond with a different or opposite perspective? What moves you to take part in a debate may also be important to your customers. This is a clue that you should use to keep a pulse on these industry hot buttons. The instincts of experienced professionals are invaluable!

Support

  • Are customer questions being recorded? Common questions may be turned into useful marketing content for the company—for example webinars, white papers or blog posts.

Good content begins with taking stock of the wealth of information you have within. Employees are a company’s most precious asset—value them and invite them in to collaborate, be recognized and share what they know. The content you create will demonstrate their value and keep interest in your company high because its value is readily available on social channels.

Communications in the Social Media Age: Yearning for the Authentic Voice Online

For this week’s blog post, I’ve asked long time colleague, friend and community expert, Rachel Medanic, to write about the challenges companies face keeping an authentic voice in today’s “always on” world.  Rachel has been a marketing pro for over 14 years and currently is a Community Manager for the Cisco Learning Network.  For more insights into marketing from someone who always “keeps it real” you can read Rachel’s personal blog.

cartoon: honesty as a policyThanks to social media and the power of the searchable web, the era of the authentic voice has arrived and our customers are demanding it publicly using their voices.  In his blog post, Keith Ferrazi apologizes and speaks honestly about his overly aggressive marketing campaign to which his customers responded negatively. Their responses all told him he’d failed to use an authentic approach in his communications campaign. The authentic voice is a proactive approach companies can choose as they embrace all the new realities social media is exerting on customer relations and the practice of marketing.

I recall first feeling the need for an “authentic voice” in 2001. After 7 years in technology as a marketer describing customer “solutions” “platforms” and “implementations,” I longed for something more authentic, but I wasn’t sure how to achieve it. In truth, these words (sterile and impersonal as they are) have become a tried and true way of communicating. They have a place and serve a function. But with the turn of the Millennium, the new social mediums such as blogs/micro-blogs, wikis (online communities and collaboration), podcasts and video have quickly expanded the number of channels with which we must engage to reach our target audience. The din of competitive messages and voices is now a roar of billions of voices around the world.

As marketers this more than triples the amount of work we must do and as a result (intentional or not), some of us have let the unthinkable happen:  we have allowed these sterile messages and this impersonal tone appear in our company blog posts and in communications with our online communities. We’ve told ourselves that if it doesn’t have a voice or a persona, or that if it is vague and doesn’t tell the customer what is really going on, it must be a safe investment for our brand. Perhaps some of us are ignorant about using social media in business, we have stifling corporate communications policies or we anticipate and fear negative consequences for using a more genuine and human way to communicate.

But what masquerades as safe and sanitized messaging now no longer is as credible with customers because it lacks authenticity. In addition, social media demands interactive communication, participation and upkeep. The fast-paced, highly interactive social media driven world is truly an exciting circumstance for us to thrive in professionally as marketers. We get instant feedback, but along with that comes the need to be able to respond quickly and to accept that we may have failed and will be told so directly by our customers rather than by a bad click through rate. As Lorraine wrote in her blog post, Keeping it Real: Marketing Success Tips for 2011 and Beyond, “…it’s always better to be honest about mistakes…” Mistakes or even just bad marketing choices don’t have to be something we hide.

In 2007, I began working with online communities. What I have learned most from community work is it that honesty (especially where policy and practices that pre-date social media proliferation are concerned) has the ability to earn respect from customers who know businesses are still evolving to align social media practices and expectations into the way they do business. Customers who have embraced and who use social media at the speed it allows for sharing information work quickly, expect a lot and can often effect change faster than businesses can create solutions.  In community work we can match them by bringing our real selves and company policies to the table—openly—even if it is just to say, “Please be patient, we are working to revise our policies to your expectations, but this will take some time.” Show your customers that your company is making the effort and keep communicating. For those customers who haven’t embraced social media, they are also still adapting to all the new possibilities it presents.

Keeping up in the social media world is a fast-paced game, but if we invest early on in an authentic voice and honest communication, we will be protected when bad situations arise.

Keeping it Real: Social Media Success Tips for 2011 and Beyond

I recently dusted off my copy of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey and was refreshed again by the book’s tried and true principles.  In the new world of social networking with 24/7 Internet and mobile feeds screaming “look at me,”  “hear me,” “pay attention to me” − scattered with fake testimonials and other dubious schemes meant to manipulate Internet rankings, it can be difficult to believe that doing anything “old school” can reap results.  Forgive me for what may come off as preaching, but I, like Covey believe there are timeless truths that when properly applied to all facets of life will yield lasting results that don’t fade with the latest and greatest fad.

“Personality Ethic” is Covey’s description of the recent paradigm where success has become more of a function of personality, of public image, of the use of more shallow tactics to drive human reaction vs. applying genuine principles, what Covey calls “Character Ethic” to achieve results. Covey states, “the glitter of the Personality Ethic, the massive appeal, is that there is some quick and easy way to achieve quality of life − personal effectiveness and rich, deep relationships with other people− without going through the natural process of work and growth that makes it possible. It’s symbol without substance. It’s the ‘get rich quick’ scheme promising ‘wealth without work’.  And it might appear to succeed – but the schemer remains.”

I believe building fruitful relationships with media, bloggers, partners and customers is a process that inevitably takes an investment of time and effort to produce real and effective results. Ultimately it is Covey’s principle of “Character Ethic” rather than “Personality Ethic” that will help companies achieve superior long-term results in their marketing efforts.

If you decide to follow Covey’s higher path of “Character Ethic,” here are a few ideas on how to get started…

  • Build a Genuine List of Social Networking Followers/Fans: As much we’d all like to automate social networking – and there are great tools that help this process – beware of programs that build your follower/fan base on autopilot.  It’s really not about the number of followers, but rather their relevancy to your business and  loyalty that counts.  Taking shortcuts may seem to increase popularity more quickly, but thoughtful and personal communications build genuine relationships over time.

TIP:  When someone becomes a fan or follower, don’t send a self-serving automated message − take the time to send a personalized “thank you” note.  This is the opportunity to make a first impression that is meaningful and demonstrates your genuine interest in the person/company that is following you.

  • Toot Someone Else’s Horn: If possible, it seems the self-importance of individuals and companies has become even more inflated with the advent of social networking.  If you want to take a fresh approach, drop the “it’s all about me” approach and become the advocate of your industry peers and customers.  Use air time to promote their achievements and accomplishments in addition to your own.  In Charlotte’s Web, it was the “humble” pig that amazed everyone, won the blue ribbon, and saved his own life in the end.  Take the time to be genuinely concerned about your contacts and their specific interests and they will become faithful followers in the end.
  • Adopt a “Win-Win” Approach to Customer/Partner Relations: In my previous blog “Tried and True Strategies for a Prosperous 2010”, I noted that many companies fail to engage their customers and partners because they do not present a compelling value proposition. Self-centered requests often fail while successful programs are based on answering the customer’s question of “What’s in it for me?” Recently Google changed their search engine ranking criteria and added customer feedback as a key component of how companies are ranked.  As you can imagine, this has spawned a variety of schemes that help companies improve their online reputation with fake customer ratings and phony feedback.  Despite the allure of such shortcuts, the best strategies require you to build customer loyalty with good products and excellent customer service throughout the sales cycle.
  • Honest Communications, always:  Many companies have learned the hard way, but it’s always better to be honest about mistakes than to cover or lie.  And with online communities, chat boards, Twitter, citizen journalists, and the likes, it’s only a matter of time before truth gets out.  People and customers are much more forgiving of companies that are willing to air any dirty laundry before they find out themselves – everyone makes mistakes, so own up to them quickly.  A reputation of integrity and honesty will stand the test of time and companies that build their brand around such principles will be rewarded in the long run.

So may we all find the time during the holiday hustle and bustle to reflect on what “Character Ethic” principles we can apply that will help shape our businesses and lives to make 2011 the best year yet.

,

PR Strategy: The Importance of Blogger Relations

As I reported back in August, Traditional PR is Not Dead, by any means, but the influence of bloggers is certainly gaining ground and should not be ignored as you develop your 2010 public relations strategy.

According to a blog post entitled,Statistics Show Social Media is Bigger Than you Thinkby Erik Qualman there are over 200,000,000 blogs and a reported 34% of bloggers post opinions about products and brands.

With over 1.5 million new blog posts every day and 77% of active Internet users reading blogs, coverage in the blogosphere can greatly increase your potential brand exposure and drive interest from target audiences.

Another upside is the fact that today’s journalists increasingly rely upon blogs and microblogs to find story ideas and conduct research. According to a new survey from Middleberg Communications and the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR), 66 percent of journalists use blogs and 48 percent use Twitter and other microblogging sites to assist them with reporting.

These findings shouldn’t surprise any of us considering the growing lists of journalists using Twitter and other social networks.

To engage this new audience of influencers, you will first need to find the bloggers that cover your space. Free tools like blog search engine Technorati or Google can help you build and research your list. As a starting point, I would recommend that you identify no more than 20 targets.

Next subscribe to the RSS feeds and get in the habit of reading the posts and comments daily. This will help you monitor target blogs for topics that merit commentary or present possible opportunities to engage — but don’t jump in just yet. Blogger relations require different tactics than traditional PR because most bloggers don’t get paid to cover a specific beat.

Technorati’s 2009 State for the Blogosphere report claims over 70% of bloggers are hobbyists and self-expression and sharing expertise are the primary motivations for these bloggers.

According to our social media maven, Susan Getgood, the success of your blogger relations program depends upon how well you translate PR and marketing messages into stories that will resonate with your target bloggers on some personal level. Unlike the news media, bloggers don’t necessarily require the story to be new. Relevant is often more important, although this space will have a tendency toward wanting the latest news.

First and foremost, make sure that you understand your target blogger’s motivation for blogging and personal interests before you attempt to post a comment or pitch a story. With all the noise in the blogosphere, you must provide real value in order to be worth a post or better yet a longer-term relationship.

Finally, make a commitment to be in this for the long haul because blogger relations are very personal and an ongoing program is more effective than a campaign approach.

Corporate Social Media Done Right: 5 Lessons Learned

Robert Mullins is a freelance technology writer in Silicon Valley. His writing can be found at his Robert Mullins blog.

©iStockPhoto.com/thesuperph

©iStockPhoto.com/thesuperph

To tweet or not to tweet? That is the business dilemma.

Some companies see value in embracing social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and the like as a new way to connect with their customers. Nothing says we care like a status update such as “Just keepin’ the customer satisfied!” But despite the push for businesses to exploit social media, some of them can screw it up if they don’t think it through.

Before I get to that, first off, there are those who are decidedly anti-social to social media. Some companies prohibit use of it by their employees because of security risks. Surveys asking “Which ‘Mad Men’ character are you?” could be a delivery device for maladies that could infect the computer network and steal valuable company information. For others, it’s just considered a time waster. When the boss reads your status update, “Gawd, will five o’clock EVER come?” she’ll give you more work to pass the time.

But even for those who embrace social media, including blogs, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it that has nothing to do with the risk of viruses on your network or dawdlers in your office. Social media experts speaking at a recent Inbound Marketing Summit in Boston detailed five ways to fail at social media. A catchphrase heard at the conference that sums social media up is clever: “It’s not rocket surgery.”

First, a company’s social media strategy should go beyond just pushing sales. An example that came up is from Citrix, a company that delivers virtualized software applications to desktop computers. Its blog discusses a broad array of issues related to telecommuting, so it’s not just an ad for Citrix virtualization. A health insurance company promoted a community bicycle sharing program to keep people healthy, not to convince people to buy a policy from them.

Another way social media strategies can go wrong is if there’s no there there. That is, if a company invites customers to comment and share their opinions on a particular subject and doesn’t respond to their suggestions, it’s an empty gesture. Southwest Airlines considered following other airlines in making assigned seating aboard its flights. By posting its proposal on its blog, Southwest heard from customers who liked the first-come-first-served approached and kept it, with some modifications, based on that feedback.

A social media strategy can also fail if the company doesn’t embrace what needs to be an adaptive technology. The company’s blog or Facebook page needs to be simple for anyone within the company to operate without having to submit a work order to IT.

That said, there needs to be some corporate discipline in how social media are used. Attendees at the conference warned of the “rogue employee [who] ‘goes off’ on Twitter” as something to watch out for. Social media conversations can be casual and free-wheeling, but message control is still important.

Lastly, a social media strategy can fail if the corporate culture doesn’t truly embrace it. The strategy needs to be customer-focused, which seems obvious, but in some cultures, process, policies and products can take precedence over using social media to serve the customer.

Oh, I guess this is the point where I should invite your comments, to which I’ll be eager to reply.

Facebook for B2B? Absolutely.

Not even the most entrenched Luddite in corporate America still questions the value of social networks for reaching the consumer market. How and what may still be up for debate, but it is no longer a question of if, merely when. Even small and local businesses are experimenting with Facebook and Twitter; the ubiquitous F and T are now found on even the smallest websites.

Business-to-business marketers, on the other hand, are still wondering whether consumer social networks like Facebook and Twitter have any place in the marketing plan.

B2B marketing generally organizes on vertical lines — even when products are horizontal. It’s just easier to understand and engage the customer when things are organized on the simple commonality of industry. As a result, it’s not that hard to make the leap to using social media tools within the company online presence by adding things like blogs, forums and wikis to the website. The B2B marketer gets the value of increasing customer engagement and loyalty.

Broad consumer social networks though? It’s not as easy to see how these might be useful in the business-to-business marketing context beyond personal connections and networking. That’s in part why the B2B answer to social networking is often “We are all on LinkedIn (or Twitter)”

In my opinion, B2B marketers should take a second (or third look) at Facebook as an element of their marketing plan. Here are a few reasons.

Go where the fish are
According to Facebook, the network has 300 million active users. About 50 percent of whom log in every day. Odds are that some — many — of your customers, prospects and other stakeholders are using Facebook. Perhaps not in a business context, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be interested in following your company news on Facebook. This is particularly true if your firm is a significant employer in a community or particularly active in an issue or cause. Your stakeholder is already “there” and the Facebook platform makes it easy to share the information with others.

Facebook Connect
Facebook Connect lets you use Facebook user credentials for secure areas on your site. One less password for the customer to remember. You can also allow the user to share back content on your site with his Facebook friends, exposing your material to the user’s friend base. Granted, Facebook isn’t the best place to share detailed product information and other material that just won’t be interesting to a broad base of consumers, but social initiatives, corporate materials, employee/community relations information. Why not Facebook?

Facebook Fan Page and Fan Box
You can use the Fan Box to display your Facebook Page activity on your website. This adds a dynamic social element missing on most B2B websites, which often resemble nothing so much as a corporate brochure.

Am I suggesting that every B2B marketer go out and set up a Facebook Fan Page? Not at all. But you should definitely do a little digging:

  • Are your customers on Facebook? Your competitors?
  • Are people discussing your products, your company, your issues, your competitors on Facebook?
  • Is your product a horizontal offering? Does it have both consumer and B2B applications?
  • Is your company a major employer in the community?
  • Does your company support a major charity or issue of interest to the community at large?

If the answer is yes to one or more of these questions, and you have or can create shareable content that lends itself well to the Facebook format, you may want to consider adding a Facebook Fan Page to your marketing mix.

Twitter Me This

Robert Mullins is a freelance technology writer in Silicon Valley. His writing can be found at his Robert Mullins blog.

©iStockPhoto.com/joshblake

©iStockPhoto.com/joshblake

I witnessed two signs of the end of days in one week this September. First, disgraced ex-Congressman Tom Delay did his star turn on “Dancing with the Stars.” Second, Twitter raised $100 million in VC funding so more people can, for free, tell the world, “I’m eating a ham sandwich.”

I had coffee one afternoon with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur sharing his advice on how to network and he said, “The most important thing I would say for you to do is get on Twitter.”

I’ve been on Twitter for a few months but still find the experience puzzling. To me, Twitter is Facebook reduced to the status updates. I just don’t get it. Maybe if I reach the Ashton Kutcher level of followers – 3.5 million, according to Newsweek – then I might achieve the critical mass to really connect with my fellow Tweeters. But, really, do any of those 3.5 million Kutcher pals think if they meet him in person, they’ll be able say, “Hey Ashton, my bud! Can I borrow 50 bucks from you?” Kutcher: “Robert! Dude! Of course, here’s $50. I know you’re good for it, follower 3,235,612!”

And yet Spark Capital, Institutional Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price and Insight Venture Partners think enough of Twitter’s business model – a service for people to send text messages of up to 140 characters, plus photos and video, via a computer or cell phone – to invest $100 million, its third and largest funding round since Twitter was founded in 2006. The Wall Street Journal reported that the company, which has no revenue model and, therefore no profits, has a valuation of about $1 billion.

While Twitter traffic includes drivel like “I’m watching ‘Mad Men’” and “This bus is never going to come,” among the group that has found it useful are marketers. The Public Relations Society of America recently hosted a seminar titled “Social Media and New Media PR Boot Camp,” one of scores of such workshop invites that has likely filled your inbox. “You will learn … how to use Twitter to track news and build communities,” the workshop promises.

And yes, Twitter, along with Facebook, Flickr, You Tube and other Web-based services, can be effective tools in an integrated marketing campaign. In some cases it’s as simple as a writer posting a tweet touting a column he wrote with a link to said article (such as the message I will create to draw my followers to this column). That’s marketing.

Today, Twitter and other social media are hot, which lends them to hype. In a guest post on the site PR2.0, social media expert Louis Gray warns that Twitter is not the marketing campaign but a tool to execute the marketing campaign.

“The non-stop promotion of the tools and, yes, the individuals who think they are ‘experts’ is getting a little overwhelming,” Gray writes. “Many of the companies that have initiated new media practices are practically falling over themselves offering self-congratulatory praise for how they embraced these new technologies.”

Twitter may evolve into an effective communications platform – in some ways it already is; I found out that the columnist William Safire died via a tweet from the New York Times. But until marketers learn to stand out with their marketing message from the “I’m eating a ham sandwich” crowd, the signal-to-noise ratio of Twitter will remain high, and a limitation.

Newsweek columnist Daniel Lyons cited a study of Twitter which found that “40 percent of the messages are ‘pointless babble.’” But then, he continued, “look at TV.” No one can dispute that TV is a monumental platform for marketing, even if it’s for a TV show where a disgraced ex-congressman dances to “Wild Thing.”

Ignore Facebook at Your Peril

Robert Mullins is a freelance technology writer in Silicon Valley. His writing can be found at his Robert Mullins blog.

I’d thought of Facebook as a fun, entertaining time-waster, which would distract me from work I should be doing to take quizzes on what’s my favorite breakfast cereal or what kind of “Mad Men” character I would be. But I became impressed by the power of social media on June 25, the day Michael Jackson died.

On my Facebook News Feed popped up one post from a friend with a link to a report on the gossip site TMZ.com that Jackson was dead. Soon I was clicking my mouse with one hand and the TV remote with the other looking for confirmation. Mainstream media like CNN and MSNBC weren’t reporting he was dead; the only other Web sites reporting his death only cited the TMZ.com report. My News Feed soon filled with messages from others trading information on Jackson. It was like people gathering around radio sets when Pearl Harbor was bombed or around TVs when President Kennedy was assassinated. Only it was interactive.

I’d also heard that the initial reports of that airliner that splashed down in the Hudson River Jan. 15 came from Twitter.

So, the value of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms is clear; they can be a powerful way of disseminating information and, where a business is concerned, managing it.

My e-mail inbox is regularly filled with invitations to online webinars or real world seminars on marketing and PR via social networking. For instance, the Web site Mediabistro.com, which follows media news and offers professional training, invites people to view a panel discussion, “Social Media Essentials for PR.”

There is also evidence that embracing social media can help head off PR crises. The Wall Street Journal, in an Aug. 3 article titled “For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert PR Mess,” recounts how three major companies – Ford Motor, PepsiCo and Southwest Airlines, averted PR problems by responding quickly on Twitter.

In the Ford case, the auto maker was being criticized online for forcing a fan Web site – TheRangerStation.com, dedicated to its compact Ranger pickup – to close. Ford’s director of social media, Scott Monty, immediately posted a Twitter message that he was looking into the matter, the Journal reported. He learned that Ford lawyers believed the site was selling counterfeit Ford parts bearing the company’s famous blue oval logo. Monty got the lawyers to back off forcing the site down if the site agreed to stop selling the fake parts. Problem solved.

And you don’t have to be a giant public company to use social media strategically. The New York Times reported July 29 on “Managing an Online Reputation” about how small businesses can set up Google Alerts to send them a message each time their company is mentioned in blogs or other Web sites.

To track Twitter mentions of the business, the Times story mentions TweetDeck, Twendz or Twitter’s own search function as resources.

While social media are still growing and evolving, their value is becoming clear, so scouring Facebook and Twitter may not be a time waster after all, but time well spent.

Content is King

Amid the Roar of Social Network Spam, Good Content Still Rules

Tweet, tweet, tweet. Social media sites and associated spam are growing in volume every day as new-bees jump on the social networking bandwagon in hopes of growing their network and making a splash – or at least being heard.

The point is that we now have a very powerful platform to connect and express ourselves in ways that weren’t possible just five years ago. However, while we have this new distribution mechanism, these new channels don’t necessarily mean opportunity. It is still the potential to share ideas that matter which brings us a further opportunity.

From a business perspective, a large network is of no value unless the members of your network see value in what you bring to the table. By consistently providing value and conversing on a level of transparency and trust, the network will respond. Your network will grow, it will be much easier to spread content (with your name attached) and ultimately, bring in more customers.

Really, this is no different than the days of marketing and PR 1.0. Just because you could write a press release every week and blast it to a large network of media contacts did not guarantee anyone was listening. In fact it was strategic – and still is strategic – to release a steady stream of newsworthy announcements in a digestible timeframe. Otherwise, your communications will be seen as white noise and you’ll be labeled as one who provides little value no matter how many tweets and blogs you can churn out.

A person of few words is often still considered the wisest – and often the most respected.
The real goal, in my estimation, is to develop trust, build relationships, and earn the attention of people in our circles of interest. That’s what matters. Without providing value, internet channels are worthless.

Some key items to remember as you venture into the brave new world of social media and networking:

  • Develop a strategic and targeted list of contacts, blogs, communities and networks. These relationships should be nurtured at all costs – even in this crazy high-tech world, people are always behind the technology. It’s still easier to attract bees with honey than vinegar. 😉
  • Cultivate compelling content, always. Customer case studies and real world scenarios that tie to current events without stretching the truth are always more influential.
  • Spray and pray tactics (as I have heard recently, LOL) are a good back-up approach but should never replace targeted communications and lead generation efforts.

The bottomline is that you need a strategy that incorporates a blend of the old and new but always leverages compelling ideas and content for best results.