DSL Marketing Myrlte Beach

Friday, October 30, 2009

New Technology Enables Franchises to Affordably Extend Brand into the Digital Age

October 30, 2009 ( PowerHomeBiz.com ) - New technological advances in the past year have ushered in a plethora of opportunities for franchises looking to extend their brand into the digital age, as localized marketing and social media strategies once considered cost-prohibitive have since become more possible. Until recently, implementing local search engine optimization, email/mobile marketing campaigns and social media simultaneously seemed logistically and financially unfeasible for franchisors. But now, intelligent new software platforms such as ElementsLocal offer online marketing solutions that are easily manageable, comprehensive and cost-effective.

“As recently as a year ago, it was nearly impossible for a franchise to affordably launch hundreds of autonomous, optimized web sites for each of its franchises, not to mention monitor each of them for brand compliance,” said Jeremy LaDuque, president and CEO of ElementsLocal. “Today, technological developments allow franchises to effectively leverage and maintain control of their brand marketing online, in email and on mobile devices, without costly oversight.”

So, just what is the digital age for franchises and why can more companies now participate? LaDuque explains the key components and why they’re now more affordable to implement:

Local Search

Ø Why it’s relevant: A strong, localized search-marketing strategy is now considered one of the most critical components of an overall web marketing approach for companies with franchises in distributed markets. To compete in the digital age, it’s vital for a franchise to have unique web sites, optimized with key, regional words in the domain name for every location it serves, as this will result in a higher search engine ranking and increase the company’s relevance for that service in that community.

Ø Why it’s now affordable: In the past, it was not cost-effective for a franchisor to launch web sites for each franchise location because of the manpower required to effectively monitor and manage the brand. Now, with new technology like ElementsLocal, which can create a large network of interconnected web sites linked to search engines, a franchise can affordably launch fully-autonomous web sites – not just microsites – for each of its locations. And through embedded BrandSecurity publishing tools that protect the national brand and ensure web standards are followed, franchisors can confidently outfit each franchisee with a locally-owned and controlled web site.


Ø Why it’s relevant: Email and mobile-driven strategies are a critical component within any marketing mix, as consumers today rely primarily on the Internet and their mobile phones as a means to seek out information on products and services. To sustain in the digital age, it is imperative that franchises target brand messaging to these mushrooming mediums.

Ø Why it’s now affordable: Until recently, franchisors had no cost-effective options to provide franchisees with simple email software to manage their email and SMS-based marketing strategies and lists. Today, ElementsLocal can offer franchises software similar to the larger, more expensive providers at an affordable price by leveraging franchise buying power through bulk email/SMS purchase. Additionally, ElementsLocal alleviates the need for cost-prohibitive franchisor oversight of local email/SMS marketing campaigns by providing a template-based platform though which:

1. Franchisors can launch a broad-scale campaign to all franchise lists for a nationwide promotion

2. Franchisors can create a template that franchisees can customize and send to their respective local lists

3. Franchisees can launch micro-scale campaigns by selecting an approved template to send to their respective local lists

ElementsLocal also allows franchisors to efficiently maintain brand control over the simultaneous marketing efforts of the entire franchise network by putting email caps and blackout dates into place.

Social Media

Ø Why it’s relevant: Participation in social media will not only help franchise web sites rank higher in search engines, but it can also help establish the company as a trusted resource for consumers.

Ø Why it’s now affordable: Again, the cost-effectiveness of a franchise marketing strategy is determined by the franchisor’s ability to manage messaging. One franchisee’s social media mishap could result in swift degradation of the brand. ElementsLocal puts a structure around social media by establishing a corporate Facebook, Twitter account or blog that allows franchisees to contribute in a controlled manner that won’t compromise the national brand.

“New technological innovations have significantly reduced the need for costly franchisor management, monitoring and maintenance of localized marketing strategies,” said LaDuque. “This has really opened the door for franchises to participate and become competitive in the digital age.”

For more information on ElementsLocal, visit www.elementslocal.com and take the Tour.

Elements Inc., an interactive web agency, designs and develops online business applications, corporate web sites and Internet marketing strategies that enable clients to harness the power of the Internet to streamline their business. Based in San Luis Obispo, CA, and founded in 1999, Elements recently introduced ElementsLocal™, a software platform developed specifically for the unique challenges and opportunities franchise companies face in online franchise marketing. ElementsLocal clients include Jiffy Lube, Paul Davis Restoration and Always Best Care, among others. For more information on the company, visit www.elementsinc.net .

Elements founder Jeremy LaDuque is available for speaking engagements and article contributions related to innovative Internet marketing strategies and maximizing ROI on the Web. To coordinate, please contact Jordan at On the Horizon Communications at (805) 773-1000

Using ReTweets on your Content

As you can see, there are plenty of tools out there to help you syndicate your content, allowing people and businesses to pick it up and send it out to their friends, readers, and fans.

So why not share?

Want a copy of your own Retweet Script? Contact DSL Marketing today and we'll send it to you. Free of charge. What to learn more about social media marketing, give us 30 minutes of your time and receive a free consultation.

5 Elements of a Successful Facebook Fan Page

Brought to you by Samir Balwani

For many companies a Facebook fan page is an integral part of their social media campaign. But, what elements help fan pages build up large followings and what can brands do to emulate the success of others? I’ve put together a list of specific elements that I believe have helped create fan pages with large, engaged, followings.

1. Networking with other platforms
Building a large following requires a network of other platforms, working in conjunction to drive visitors to your fan page. One brand that does that well is Victoria’s Secret with their PINK line.

As you can see, on their PINK landing page they have a link to their Facebook fan page and their MySpace profile. Victoria’s Secret leverages the traffic their home page gets and pushes them to their Facebook fan page.

Many companies lack this level of dedication, expecting their consumers on Facebook to find them automatically. However, that’s not usually the case.

When is the last time you went looking for a brand’s Facebook fan page? More often than not, a consumer will stumble upon the page, either through a friend or from a hub, similar to Victoria’s Secret’s PINK page.

Understandably, the fact that the demographic targeted by Victoria’s Secret PINK, aligns exactly with the demographic that is most active on Facebook, has helped grow the group as well.

Key Takeaway: Connecting multiple social platforms and a hub from the brand website, can help funnel consumers throughout the network.

2. Creating a resource
Some pages are used as connection hubs, but others offer information pertinent to their consumers. They use the information as added value to have consumers create a connection with the brand.

Dell has done a great job with their social media resource for small businesses. Understanding that small business owners buy computers, by offering them this resource, small business owners interested in social media keep Dell top of mind.

Although, Dell can’t explicitly gauge the success of this program in ROI, it is a branding exercise. Also, since they offer deals and updates on new products on the page – the page does have a chance to convert small business owners into Dell consumers.

Key Takeaway: Offering a resource page allows a brand to target a new demographic, outside of those that already know and love the business.

3. Creating contests that include participation
For brands that want fan pages to have added value (a reason for users to join the page, aside from brand loyalty), but don’t want to become a resource portal; offering contests and coupons specifically to Facebook users can entice consumers to join.

Sears offered fans a $10 coupon to use in stores, giving consumers a reason to join. Clicking on the coupon takes you to a page where Sears collects your information and sends you information about the coupon, deals, and offers. There’s no way to make sure the coupon is given to only Facebook fans, however like Sears, brands can require an email before receiving the coupon.

Key Takeaway: Offering something to consumers to join can help build a large community. Some examples of things to offer: Coupons, free shipping, weekly deals.

4. Empowering pre-existing pages
One of my favorite stories about social media involves the Coca Cola Facebook page. The fan page was created by two users who liked Coke. What started as a fan page for fun, turned out to be the largest product fan page on Facebook.

Coca Cola, instead of taking over the page and making it their own, rewarded the fans by bringing them to Atlanta and giving them a tour of the Coke facility. The fan page remains theirs, but now they have the blessing and help of Coca Cola.

By empowering the fans to keep their fan page, Coke ensures a passionate page owner.

The Coca Cola marketing team was also smart enough to realize that letting others know what happened here would work in their favor. The fan page creators were told to make a video of the history behind the fan page, and how Coke had reached out to them and rewarded them for this.

The video shows future ‘brand enthusiasts’ that creating successful groups around Coca Cola can result in rewards and recognition.

Key Takeaway: Taking over unsanctioned Facebook fan pages isn’t always the best idea. Instead, rewarding dedication can inspire others to do the same.

5. Targeting the proper demographic

Sometimes no matter what you do, your Facebook page won’t grow. This can simply be a side effect of Facebook’s demographic. There are just some brands that will not have a strong presence on Facebook.

Understanding the demographic present can help you decide if Facebook is worth it for your business.

From Quantcast estimates, we can tell that Facebook skews towards female youths. Interestingly, 53% of users have kids and a majority make over $60k a year salary. Obviously, over 50% are college kids. The demographics that make up Facebook are changing quickly, as more moms have begun to join and the college market has become saturated.

Armed with this knowledge, Seventeen Magazine jumped on to the Facebook fan page bandwagon. Their brand targets the demographic most prominent on Facebook, meaning a fairly quick and organic growth.

For companies whose brand does not target the optimal demographic, finding a specific line that does, works.

Consider the brand mentioned earlier in this article, Victoria’s Secret. Instead of putting the entire brand on Facebook, they targeted the PINK line, a line for college students.

Key Takeaway: Some brands cannot expect huge followings on Facebook. Brands or product lines targeting the demographic most prominent on Facebook tend to see the quickest growth.

I purposely did not talk about using advertising to increase the size of a fan page, because although it can be useful to jump start a fan page, organic growth can help build a more engaged group.

Creating a Facebook fan page is simple, but getting it to work well takes time, dedication, and some planning. Don’t expect to create a page and then have a huge following instantaneously. Build good content, make it easy to share, and let people know about it, and over-time the community will grow.

Do you have a successful fan page? What did you do to get the word out? What elements did you add to make it easier to pass along? How do you engage your consumers?

You can follow this author on Twitter http://twitter.com/samirbalwani.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

How to Get Your Site a Top Ranking in Google

Brought to you by Paul Bliss

It's the new American dream. Your website appears in a top spot on Google for your chosen keyword. Next thing you know, orders start coming in faster than you can handle, and you are rolling in the money. If only it were so easy, right?


It can be done. I've done it many times in many different industries. There is no secret, but rather, it's just knowing what to do. I've made just about every mistake one can make with a website, but I learned from every setback. If you were only allowed to do one thing to get ranked for your site in Google, without a doubt, all you'd need to do is get links for your site.

Yes, there are many other factors involved in getting your site to a top position. But this is the most powerful way as of this writing to get a top spot in Google. It's not just enough to have links pointing to your site, but you need to have your keyword "anchor linked" to your site. Anchor linking is when you use your keyword phrase as the click-able text for a link. So, instead of saying "Click Here", you would use "Widgets" as the link text.

Now, another point of consideration is determining what keyword/phrase you want to use to get your site found. Most times, people impulsively choose a one word phrase. While this would be a great way to bring traffic to your site, would it bring targeted traffic, with people looking specifically for your product or service? Most times when people type in a one letter keyphrase, they are in the beginning of their search.

They may type in "Shoes", but are really looking for "Running Shoes". So, if you have a top ranking for shoes, do you serve that user's needs? Maybe, but they may also be looking for dress, casual, Women's, Men's, Children's, athletic, girl's, boy's, etc. This is why when you begin to optimize your site, you should focus on more targeted keyword phrases.

Suppose you sell a certain brand name of dress shoes. For this example, we'll call the famous brand XYZ. So, by getting anchor links as "XYZ Dress Shoes", you are already eliminating those users who are looking for another brand or line of shoe. Next, you need to make sure that the page that gets linked contains the on the page content with "XYZ Dress Shoes". If you would link to a page without relevant content, Google would view this link as possible spam, or more appropriately, irrelevant content.

Now, once you have compiled your list of keywords, you need to see which one are searched on the most. The best tool for this is WordTracker, and it is worth the tiny fee you need to pay to have access for one day. There are also free tools online that you can use, but WordTracker will give you the most accurate results.

Once you have run through your list of all your keywords, the obvious choice is to pick the ones with the highest amount of searches (and content relevant to your site!). The next step is to then begin the process of a link campaign. Now, I can already hear you complaining about doing a link exchange. This is only 1/3 of your campaign. The ideal method is to not only engage in a reciprocal link exchange, but to also engage in strategic linking.

Strategic linking is when you get a link to your site without having to return the favor. What's the best way to do this? Write an article just like this one. If I get one website to use this article and have it point to my site, I've just created another link to my site. Pretty easy, eh?

Since you have now engaged in a linking campaign, you should expect to see results in Google in as little as 4 days, and as far as 6 months. All of this is determined by where your links are coming from, and the popularity of the site from which the link came. Next, you need to get as many links as you can pointing to your site with your popular keyword phrase anchor linked to your site.

As I mentioned before, there many other factors that will only enhance your rankings in Google, but the implementation of a link campaign is the strongest method to get your site to a top ranking!

-To your online success!

Paul Bliss

6 Ways to Use Twitter to Market Your Small Business

Brought to you by Alison Woo

Recent news reports show that small businesses have flocked to Twitter in larger numbers than big businesses. What I'm amazed about is how this tool, that only a few people knew about last year this time, has become an marketing tool with amazing versatility.

Almost every day I find someone who is using Twitter in a number of ways:

From restaurant Crepe Cellar in Charlotte that's using it to offer unadvertised specials, to Kilwin's, an amazing fudge and ice cream place, that's using it to drive customers sample their WillyWonka-esque delights.

If you want to think bigger about your business communciations, it's time to get on board Twitter. What do you need to know if you want to use Twitter to market your business? Here are a few brief pointers:

Twitter is all about conversations. So speak naturally. Remember what they used to say in high school speech classes? It still works here. Imagine that you are speaking to just one person.
Use a light touch. Don't hit people over the head with "Buy my widget!" Share what you have to offer. You wouldn't walk up to someone at a cocktail party and say that so imagine what you would say. Be subtle.
It's about tone. "Be yourself no matter what they say" Sting croons in "Englishman in NY." He's right. No one can be you better than you can, so be your lovely, witty, authentic self.
Post often. Twitter works best in short, frequent bursts. So plan on Tweeting at least once a day. More if you can say something fresh and relevant.
Use tools to make it easy. There's a ton of apps out there that are free and fabulous. Are you time strapped? Use TweetDeck, futuretweets or Twuffer to help you plan your posts.
Have fun! Yes, I've said it. The F word. Fun! Not enough business owners are having fun using new media. You can't take life so seriously that there's no joy in it. Otherwise it's just another thing to do on your ever-growing "To Do" list. And who wants that? What would make it fun for you? Why did you go into business in the first place? To help people? To make a difference? Reconnect to that playful, passionate side of your business nature and your readers and followers will have fun too!
For more free business marketing tips, tools and tweets from the book, "How to Say It: Marketing with New Media" follow us at www.twitter.com/newmediamavens.

Alison Woo is the Chief Media Maven at New Media Mavens, a digital marketing agency in New York City and Charlotte, NC.

DSL Launches 'Myrtle Beach Mac Attack' Campaign for McDonalds

Who says nothing in life is free? On November 11, 2009, Facebook fans of FastFoodSavings.com will be able to redeem their coupons for a free Bic Mac at participating Horry County McDonalds. "Why?" you ask, would anyone give up the delicious "two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun" goodness... for FREE? Simply put, they want to reward their fans for all of their support.

The coupons are redeemable at the following locations in Horry County:
9595 North Kings Hwy
4815 Highway 17 South
100 Highway 17 North
2200 Highway 17 North
3451 Bougainvillea Road
3730 Renee Drive
2607 S. Kings Highway
2913 Highway 17 Business South
1734 Hwy 17 North Deerfield Plaza
1467 Hwy 544
4500 US Highway 17 Bypass
9527 Hwy 707

The offer is good only on 11/11/2009 from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

To learn more about the promotion, check out http://www.myrtlebeachmacattack.com
Join their Facebook Fan Page here to get in on the action: http://www.facebook.com/McDonaldsCoupons
To learn more about DSL's Interactive marketing: http://www.dslmarketing.com/services/interactive_marketing.cfm

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why Great Content Fails on Social Media

Brought to you by Dharmesh Shah

Recently I wrote a guest post that took me a long time to write and was well crafted timely pillar content which nonetheless failed miserably on social media, even the site I targeted directly. OK, I may be biased, maybe it was just “great content”, or rather a great article as I do not like the fuzzy term “content”. It was a how to that grew to be a small tutorial in fact. As this was a guest post and it targeted my favorite community Mixx I was really disappointed. After I overcame the ensuing suicidal tendencies I started analyzing what happened and comparing it to other posts both successful and not.

Now I present you the outcome, the top 10 reasons why great content fails on social media:

The Headline
The headline is crucial, without a proper, intriguing, kick-ass headline the best content will fail. Take a look at this post at SEO ROI which also failed miserably: “The Biggest, Baddest, Resource Bonanza Bar None!“
What the heck is it about? Nobody knew and thus it failed even on Sphinn where otherwise it would have ruled the homepage. I was silly enough to submit it without changing the headline. I should have called it something like “111+ Most Important Online Marketing Resources of All Time” instead.
Basically the original title just does not give you a clue what the post is about and why anybody should care for it.

The Submitter
Now this is something most social media mavens already know and most bloggers hate, being submitted by a nobody. It’s often as bad when someone submits who will describe your post as “good post about blogging” where all other posts are outstanding, amazing or must-read, a post that is just “good” will fail. So if you’re a blogger and you just provided the best list post of you blogging career make sure someones submits it who can get it the attention it deserves.

The Target Audience
You should know beforehand who you target with a post. Bloggers? Webmasters? The social media crowd? Which social media site? Just today I noticed someone who submitted a post to Digg that used a title targeting web developers. Now the submission to Digg included the word “SEO” instead which equals to self-annihilation on Digg. No story that contains “SEO” in its title makes the Digg front page. So study your audience at least a little. You won’t enter the Indian market selling beef either! Each site has specific topical preferences you must take into account.

The Time Submitted
This one is really important. If you write in English, and you should if you want to succeed on social media, you basically write for the US. I have more than 50% US traffic, 10% Canada etc. although my English is far from perfect. So you have to take time zones into consideration and not submit at night but in the morning or during day time.

Also a post submitted on the weekend might get overlooked by many, especially if it’s dealing with business stuff. Most other business people also have business hours ;-) Just recently a great post of mine failed miserably after it was submitted on Friday evening to Sphinn. It had 21 votes on Monday when the 3 day “upcoming” phase ended.

The Appearance
Most people decide whether they leave your site in seconds or rather milliseconds. So you have to grip them by their throat. You really need an eye-catcher. Lidija of Blog Well understood it very well when she posted her legendary b00bs/resources post. My guest post which failed had it’s images downsized so drastically that they were unintelligible. You couldn’t discern anything. They were meant as illustration of the tutorial. A tutorial with useless images is no tutorial.

Of course if the only thing above the fold/scroll are Google or banner ads I will leave immediately. Last but not least: If the page copy is one huge piece of text I won’t torture my strained eyes either.

The Source
Now this might not be obvious, but some sites will never succeed on some social media. SEO 2.0 will never ever get to the front page of Digg as the Digg bury brigade does not read SEO posts (posts about SEO) at all, they hit “bury” right away when spotting the term “SEO”. The same post might succeed being published elsewhere but not here.

Also some people are persona non grata on some sites, like Jason “SEO is bullshit” Calacanis e.g. on Sphinn. An a-list blogger might succeed even with rather poor content. An unknown blogger must be twice as good to be successful.

The Me Too Factor
Some topics are hot as long as they haven’t been covered by dozens of others days, weeks or months earlier. When people are tired of some kind of content it can be the best but it will fail anyways. So not write another me too post when the topic has been already covered to excess.

The Genre
In literature we have poetry and prose and everything inbetween. We also have drama, comedy and horror movies. At the box office or on social media weird experimental mixes won’t succeed as people will be confused. So decide if you write a list or a tutorial. If you write an analysis do not make it opinionated etc.

The Categorization
I see this mistake every day on StumbleUpon. SU is very dependent on it’s categories/tags. Without adding the right categories nobody potentially interested will even see your post. Just recently my “Flagship Blogging” post has been submitted in the “Internet” category to SU. This is a very broad category which deals with many topics, but just because blogs are part of the Internet does not make this category the right one. StumbleUpon has the weblogs/blogs category for this, also writing is fitting in this case. This is just one of dozens examples of miscategorization at StumbleUpon.

The Initial Push
The initial push means making your friends and peers online aware of your post. Did someone submit your post? Now you have to contact people of your social network on the Web to ask them to vote for you. Without the initial push of a 12 votes by your peers you won’t even get noticed at most social sites. You will end up as a bleep among thousands. So rally for your post if you truly believe it’s worth it.

So by now you may already sense that it’s not just about content is king on social media. It depends. A king is nothing without a kingdom or an army. The good news is: You can overcome most of these 10 reasons why great content fails on social media. So try not to make these mistakes next time.

Ironically I published this post on a Friday night so any submission will fail ;-)

Nonetheless, do not wait, submit it, it’s my bad this time. Also I need some proof for my theories.

How To Promote Yourself on Social Sites Without Actually “Promoting Yourself”

Brought to you by David Wallace

I was recently asked the question, “How do you market your company on social news / bookmarking sites without appearing like a spammer?” This is a great question — one that has a pretty straightforward answer but which also requires a lot of work. Why? Because it is easy to sign up for a social bookmarking site and simply submit your own “stuff.” Submitting your own stuff does however not guarantee that your efforts will be successful. There is actually a lot more to it.

If I could sum up in two words how to be promote yourself on sites such as Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Twitter and the others without actually promoting yourself, I would say, “Get involved!” And how does one actually get involved in a social news / bookmarking site? By being an active member of the community.

It is really no different than web forums which are still around but are quickly being replaced with social media. Typical profile of a web forum spammer – they join an active forum and do nothing else but toot their own horn. This typically consists on dropping links to their own site(s), promoting their own products or services or even in feeble attempt to help or provide advice, invite other forum members to their own sites for “more information” rather than keeping the conversation going on the forum itself.

I see the same scenario happen over and over again with social news and bookmarking sites. Here are a few indicators that someone is there merely for self promotion and/or gain:

ONLY submits sites they own or have an interest in
DOES NOT vote on anything from other sites
Attempts to FRIEND EVERYBODY even though they may not know them or have any common interests
Doesn’t know how to FOLLOW THE RULES of the community
Creates MULTIPLE PROFILES so they can vote their stuff up
While there may be rare occurrences where this type of behavior has some measure of success, most often it fails. That is due to the fact that success with social sites is largely dependent on the community itself.

So how does one promote themselves on these site properly? The essential ingredient is to become involved in the community. Instead of just submitting your own content all the time, submit and vote on other people’s content. Also get involved in the conversation (commenting on submissions), friend those you know or who have similar interests as you and even help combat spam (where applicable).

When these things become your regular practice, it then becomes easy and even perfectly acceptable to “slip” your own content in from time to time. Your content will also have more merit because you yourself are viewed as a respectable member of the community.

I would also advise one to pick and choose which social news / bookmarking sites you want to spend your time on. Sure there are tools a plenty that will allow you to submit content to multiple social sites, all with the click of a button. However, rather than quantity you should concern yourself over quality. In other words focus your efforts on the social sites you are going to be involved in and sites that going to be related to the content you are submitting (i.e. don’t submit an article on power tools to social site geared towards women).

Bottom line to to actually use social sites for what they were intended for. Add value to the community and the community will pay you back.

The Next Generation of Internet Communication

Google Wave is "a personal communication and collaboration tool" announced by Google at the Google I/O conference on May 27, 2009. Instead of sending a message and its entire thread of previous messages or requiring all responses to be stored in each user's inbox for context, objects known as 'waves' contain a complete thread of multimedia messages (blips) and are located on a central server. Waves are shared and collaborators can be added or removed at any point during a wave's existence. Any participant of a wave can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and add participants at any point in the process. Users can reply to blips within waves. Recipients are notified of changes/replies in all waves they are active in and then view the changes when they subsequently access a given wave. In addition, waves are live. All replies/edits are seen real-time, letter by letter, as they are typed by the other collaborators. Multiple participants may edit a single wave simultaneously in Google Wave. Thus, waves not only can function as e-mail and threaded conversations but also as an instant messaging service, merging the functions of e-mail and instant messaging. It depends only on whether both users are online at the same time or not, allowing a wave to even shift repeatedly between e-mail and instant messaging depending on the user's needs. The ability to show messages as they are typed can also be disabled, similar to conventional instant messaging.

Please check out the video from Google here to learn more!

4 Steps for Creating Usable Social Media

Brought to you by Jessica Want

Over the past few decades, the study of usability has yielded best practices to ensure that websites and other forms of digital communication achieve the desired business results. Social communications should be sure to adhere to these tried-and-true principles in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.

So, how can you be sure people can use your social media? Here's where you can start.

Stay infomed! To learn about defining social media ROI, attend the iMedia Agency Summit. Dec. 6-9. Learn more about the iMedia Agency Summit.
Become a behavioral scientist
The first step to great usability is observing human behavior. Study your users' social media behaviors. What do they do? How do they act, speak, and interact? Observation will help you learn to connect with them. Do your clients share photos, read blogs, or use Twitter?

Go where they are. Become a member of the same social media outlets and listen in. Are they vocal users who comment, or are they passively using social media for research?

At the same time, become your client. How is language used? What kind of comments are they making? What are their other interests? Participate in their world and learn their behaviors. Knowledge of your audience demographic is not enough. You need to know how they behave, where they go, what they do, and what they say -- and how that can benefit your brand.

Create the space
Users are not interested in talking about products. They are interested in talking about their lives, and products are part of those lives. Build meaningful relationships with your consumers by supporting their needs and understanding your brand's role in their lives.

The Gold Medal Flour baking blog does this well. Who is interested in talking about flour? It's just flour, right? But consumers are interested in baking.

Gold Medal created the blog with Rose Levy Beranbaum, a real person who shares her recipes. Beranbaum builds relationships with users around their interests, not the product or brand. She uses Gold Medal, and thanks to her recipes, the audience probably will too.

Create a space where consumers can meet around shared interests. When they talk about your products, listen. And even if they don't talk about your product, continue to listen. Glean what you can from their conversations, respond, and create an environment that supports them.

Support simplicity
Social media is just plain fun. Regardless if you are engaged in a political blog or looking for classmates, the interaction and banter is irresistible. Recognize that you are creating a space where your clients will talk about you. It's your job to support their conversation, and make it happen smoothly.

First, make getting involved easy. Fast registration like Facebook Connect (authentication in three clicks) is now the expectation. Basic tasks of engagement, like posting a comment, should happen without jumping through many hoops.

Second, choose clarity over jargon. Whether you have a niche network or a Twitter account, talk like your users do. Avoid being overly technical, unless of course your users are.

Finally, test how your audience interacts with your site, blog, or social media element. Social media can establish a relationship, but if it's too difficult to engage, nobody will bother.

The best way to figure this out is to conduct simple usability tests with four to six people. Watch where they trip up and find out if they feel frustrated. Do they feel free to engage effortlessly? When they do, the conversation can begin.

Join the conversation
Social media will humanize your brand. As this happens, your communication will have to become more direct and candid. In "Groundswell," authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff suggest you listen to what your consumers say about you and then respond.

Actively listening and responding to user needs are classic principles of usability. Social media makes this easy, but comes with consequences. When they voice concerns, each consumer is now also voicing them to the other thousands following your brand. How you respond can make or break you, but you can provide support to other people having similar issues instantly. Keep in mind that users expect their problems will be responded to quickly, and by real people.

Whole Foods, Dell, and JetBlue use Twitter for tech support communication with consumers. Instead of calling a service center, consumers can use social media to get responses to their problems and concerns.

With social media, brands have the opportunity to correct missteps in real-time. Admit a mistake when you make one, and earn forgiveness. After all, to err is human. Brands that are transparent, acknowledge errors, and communicate their apologies are more likeable and regarded as trustworthy.

There has to be a reason for users to engage with you; a reason to interact is central to usability. Observe, listen, and create an easy way for your users to interact. Then be real and respond.

Jessica Want is information architect for Flightpath.

On Twitter? Follow Flightpath at @FlightpathNY. Follow iMedia at @iMediaTweet.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cool Website of the Day

Ping.fm is a free social networking and micro-blogging web service that enables users to post to multiple social networks simultaneously.
Making an update on Ping.fm pushes the update to a number of different social websites at once. This allows individuals using multiple social networks to update their status only once, without having to update it in all their social media individually. So if you wanted your "tweets" on Twitter to match your "status updates" on Facebook, Ping.fm can make it happen. It can be a huge timesaver if you are looking to extend one consistent message over many social media outlets.

8 Idiot Mistakes in Social Media

Brought to you by Jessica Kizorek

1. Obsess over Numbers Sometimes bigger is better. Sometimes it isn’t. Keep your sights on making your tribe tighter. Too many organizations worry about numbers and not devotees. Go for quality over quantity in your relationships. What matters is the depth of commitment and loyalty that true fans will deliver. You’re not hunting for eyeballs - you’re gently converting nonchalant fans into passionate enthusiasts.

2. Don’t Complete Your Profile People without a profile picture are suspicious. Put a photo, a logo or a cartoon. Whatever. Once you chose the sites you want to engage in, you’ll need to sincerely become part of that network. Fill out your user profile like a good little member to let everyone know you’re not going anywhere. You’ll garner more trust when you fill it out completely with contact info, photos, description and whatever other details are important to that specific network. Your clients won’t engage with you unless you are an active participant in the conversation. Don’t be afraid to tell people who you are and what’s important to you.

3. Create Profiles Everywhere It’s not necessary to plant your flag in every community on the web. It’s probably a good idea to snag your name before somebody else does, but that doesn’t mean you have set up shop and fill out a formal profile. Take the time to find out where your clients are, and where they are most actively listening to each other. Make sure you’d be welcome there, and not viewed as an intruder. Focus your efforts in a few networks, or else suffer from the painful Social Media Account Overload (SMAO). Keep your eyes on giving your people what they want, where they want it.

4. Enter Blindly With No Plan A large percentage of companies are wasting their time on social networks. They are dabbling, exploring, and not producing a single lick of value for the people they are trying to seduce. Know what you want to achieve, and form a cohesive strategy to achieve it. Don’t jump in before you come up with strategic goals to measure your output. What’s your intention? Drive traffic to your website? Increase readership on your Blog? Increase attendance at your events? Better conversion rates? Whatever it is, set a benchmark and track whether you’re getting a return on your investment

5. Be Inconsistent I’m totally guilty of this one, so I’m going to take my own advice. Don’t tweet 11 times in one day, then abandon Twitter for the next 31 days. Be consistent. Post once a day. Or on Tuesdays. People react to patterns, to cycles. A splotchy performance on a social network won’t keep people at the edge of their seat.

6. Be A Spammer There’s nothing more annoying than receiving spam over social networks. When I say spam I’m not talking about Viagra or Vicodin. I’m talking about blast invitations or announcements that a person sends out to their entire network, with little consideration as to whether the recipient would be the least bit interested. Sending every piece of content out to every person in your mailing list will label you as a spammer in the long term. Find out which friends are interested in what. Start a spreadsheet. Identify which friends want what. Otherwise you’ll be the little boy who cried wolf. People will stop listening. Or worse – they’ll block you.

7. Assume that One Size Fits All LinkedIn is not Facebook. Twitter is not Blogger. A one-size fits all approach will have you look like an idiot to members of the network, and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. It’s like going to Saudi Arabia and acting like you’re in Las Vegas. Dumb. Every social network has it’s own culture, and code of conduct. They demand a unique method of interaction, and being successful in one doesn’t guarantee success in the others.

8. Be a Sales Person “Hi. Nice to meet you. Want to buy my widget?” That doesn’t work in the offline world, and it’s even a bigger flop in social media. You need to create relationships before you ask somebody to buy your widget. No one will listen. Worse – they’ll get aggravated. That’s like a man who walks up to an attractive woman he’s never met before and says, “Hey hottie. Wanna get laid?” In the short term, get ready to be slapped. In the long term, you’ll risk permanently damaging your brand. Can you afford it? Take some time to learn about the community and to connect with people. Only offer your widget when people like you and are receptive to your offer.

Jessica Kizorek
The Viral Pulse
www.TheViralPulse.com www.JessicaKizorek.com
jessicakizorek (at) jessicakizorek.com
Cell: 630.835.4811

Social media marketing: In search of an opt-out

Brought to you by Spencer Kollas

As I was having dinner with friends the other night, one of them said to me, "My company is doing email marketing, but I really need to get into this social media thing." His statement got me thinking. How similar are the worlds of email and social media?

You see, my friend is an avid social media user on a personal level, but his company is doing very little with this new marketing channel. There are a number of industry professionals who are integrating social marketing into their marketing plans, but many of them are flying blind when it comes to what all these social media "numbers" mean and how best to optimize their social marketing efforts. Tools are popping up to help marketers better understand and capitalize on the channel (including tools from StrongMail), but what I want to discuss today relates to how one fundamental of the email marketing world correlates to what is currently happening in the social marketing world.

Stay informed! To learn more about how online marketers are redefining social media ROI, attend the iMedia Agency Summit, Dec. 6-9. Learn more about the iMedia Agency Summit.
Any time you start trying to understand an aspect of email marketing, you have to start at the beginning: your opt-in policy. This is one of the most important parts of email marketing, and it will have a waterfall effect on everything you do moving forward. Most of you already know this, but any time I have the opportunity to talk about how important opt-in programs are, I do. Of course, there are still those marketers who are doing opt-out programs that are not as effective and have the potential to increase spam complaints.

One interesting marketing tactic that I recently witnessed was on a retail store's website. While I was purchasing an early Christmas gift for my wife (once she tells me something she likes, I order it right away so I don't forget), I opted-out of future email communications with this retailer during the checkout process. It is not uncommon for marketers to have an opt-out during the checkout process, but what caught my attention this time was that less than a minute after completing my purchase, I received an email from this retailer -- and it was not my receipt. Instead I got an email that stated the following:

While registering as a shopper with companyXXX.com, you chose not to receive our promotional Email. This is being sent to confirm that skollas@strongmail.com will not receive Email from companyXXX.com.
The decision to receive Email is personal and can be influenced for a variety of reasons. In an attempt to better understand and respond to our customers, we would appreciate it if you would answer a short survey on this topic.
To participate in the survey, click here.
Your responses, and your email address, will remain private and will help us to continue to build a better shopping experience for you, and a stronger relationship with our customers.
CompanyXXX.com has always believed in using only permission-based Email marketing. If, in the future, you decide that you would like to begin receiving our promotional Email you can subscribe at companyXXX.com.
Thank you for your participation, and thank you for shopping with us.
I thought this was an interesting tactic, and while I was having dinner with the aforementioned friend, we discussed this email and tried to determine what the equivalent to an opt-in/opt-out program would be in social media.

An opt-in would be equal to a "Follow" on Twitter or becoming a fan of something on Facebook -- but what equals an unsubscribe? Of course, the first thought both of us had was the "Unfollow" on Twitter, or removing yourself from a group as a fan on Facebook. As we kept discussing this, we tried to think about how often either of us (or anyone we know) actually takes some form of action to no longer be a part of a social media network, such as unfollowing a brand or no longer being a fan of a product or company. I have seen very little of this, which is probably because people are having a harder time managing all of their social connections.

All of this leads to the obvious question: Is there a practical equivalent in social marketing to the unsubscribe or opt-out in email marketing? I don't have the answer to this question right now, but it will be interesting to see how it unfolds as the popularity of social media marketing continues to rise.

Spammers are already adopting the channel, which makes it more important than ever for legitimate companies looking at using social media marketing to follow through with another smart email marketing tactic -- sending relevant messages. In doing so, you shouldn't have to worry as much about any impending social media unsubscribe.

Good luck and good sending.

Spencer Kollas is director of delivery services for StrongMail Systems.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.