• 29Sep
    Some prospects can't be led.

    Some prospects can't be led.

    I have been working on a social media strategy for one of my business-to-business clients. We have been going back and forth for some time on the real value of social media, and whether or not applying limited available resources to a social media campaign is going to pay off in the long run. One of the biggest challenges in PR and social media is measuring results. Sure, you can track the number of article clips, or the number of followers you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, but is measuring quantity of any real value? My client, in fact any client, is interested in leads, not followers.

    So how do you turn your social network into prospects? No one seems to have an easy answer here. Yesterday, I saw the most recent blog post from Marc Hausman, The Strategic Guy at Strategic Communications Group, talking about his latest social media initiative. The client was pleased with the increase in repeat traffic, but the program was a failure:

    “You’d think we would be hitting high fives and chest bumps. There is a problem though. While important, awareness and positioning are not our benchmarks. It’s lead generation and in this area we have fallen painfully short.”

    As I tell my clients, social media is part of a “long tail” strategy whereby you have to continue to invest in social media to get a return. But you need a solid conversion mechanism. In the case of Marc Hausman, he’s betting on a webinar. I’ve been trying to come up with alternate strategies for my clients, but converting followers into believers seems to be hard to do, especially in the B2B market.

    I recently saw a presentation by Dominique Lahaix, cofounder of eCarin, an interesting online application designed to help you monitor and manage social media conversations and blog content. What he had to say about his service was interesting, but his approach to social media conversion was more interesting. As a B2B marketer, Dominique uses his blog and social media channels to nurture online conversations and develop followers, but then he carries it to a logical conclusion with an actual sales call. Rather than going through multi-tier marketing and qualification strategies, he engages in direct conversation, offers a demo, and makes a face-to-face sales call.

    Apparently this approach, while not novel, is highly effective. And given the specialized nature of his service I can understand why.

    Finally, I want to point you to a very poignant rant by one of the bloggers I follow, Olivier Blanchard of The BrandBuilder Blog. Olivier is a pragmatist, which is why I like him, and he regularly calls out the Social Media Snake Oil Salesmen. He has a lot to say about what works and what doesn’t in social media, but common sense still counts for a lot. If the strategy smells bad for some reason, or you can’t quite follow the logic of the social media argument, it’s probably because there’s nothing behind the curtain. Beware of the three card monte, and make sure that your social media conversion strategy measures something meaningful, like potential buyers. Gathering a lot of competitive followers, or consultants, or interested kibitzers isn’t going to move the sales needle, and it’s not how you should measure your results.

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  • 25Sep

    I’ve been having a good week. For the first time in a while I am working with a new client, FaceTime Communications, setting up a media tour to introduce a new product. The process hasn’t changed much in recent years. You send the e-mail, don’t get a response, and then follow up by telephone to book a meeting. Ultimately you book a telephone briefing which usually proves insightful for all the participants.

    Public relations has been evolving with the Web. Back in the dark ages, before the web and when all e-mail was plain text, the telephone was my media weapon of choice. I would call editors with pitches about clients and new products, and they would patiently (or impatiently) listen to the pitch and either take the meeting, or tell me to move on. However, there was always personal contact, and a chance to interact in a meaningful way that would lead to an opportunity to work together again in the future.

    Now, when you look at reporters’ pitch profiles on Cision or Vocus or whatever your PR contact database of choice, and they all say “please pitch by e-mail” or for those reporters more evolved, by Twitter. So you develop the pitch and send the e-mail, and 99 times out of 100 all you hear are the crickets. E-mail is easy to overlook, ignore, or just delete.

    Which is why I am still a fan of the media tour. In the technology sector, there are fewer publications and fewer reporters than ever before, but nothing replaces a chance to connect a client with a reporter in a real conversation over changing market conditions or why a new product is going to change the landscape.  Your job is to help your client make a connection of mutual benefit – the client acquires a valuable media ally and the reporter meets a knowledgeable industry resource.

    I often tell my clients (and prospects) that my role is that of Yenta, the matchmaker. I help connect the client with members of the press who should be interested in their story. It’s these are the kinds of connections you can’t really cultivate over e-mail. No one can hear a voice inflection or read a mood in an e-mail message or a Twitter pitch. You still need the human connection, which is why media tours still have value, for both the clients and the reporter. If PR professionals are going to continue to be effective and offer value, we will have to continue to help our clients make those human connections.

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  • 22Sep

    monitor_handshakeYou are a LinkedIn LION with hundreds, even thousands of online contacts. You are the king of social networking because no one has as many followers on Twitter, Facebook, or even Ecademy. What does this really mean? Not much. No one can maintain hundreds or thousands of meaningful online relationships. How many of those thousands of contacts will be there for you when you need a referral or help closing a new account?

    So when it comes to online networking, do you want to go for quality or quantity? You can add as many contacts as you want to your online portfolios, but after a time they become unmanageable. You can’t tell the players apart, even with a scorecard. So continue to build your network, but be sure to keep a list of online contacts that is smaller and more intimate. Find people who can genuinely assist you, or maybe even buy your services, and establish a rapport.

    How do you do that? I recently saw a new blog post by The Strategic Guy, Marc Hausman of Strategic Communications, with a few concrete suggestions:

    1. Meet ups. Marc talks about corporate sponsored meetups but what about area meetings, Tweetups, club meetings, regional seminars, and other professional gatherings. Anywhere you can find like-minded professionals sharing ideas and insights is a logical place to move from virtual contacts to face-to-face connections.
    2. Webinars and teleconferences. Okay, we are still operating in the virtual web world, but at least these kinds of gatherings with real folk discussing real issues let you gather around an online water cooler to share a mutual passion.
    3. Good old fashioned sales call. That’s right, close our e-mail and pick up the phone! For many, social media is an extension of the sales process. Get out there and make a connection! Contact that individual on the other end of the online connection and ask questions, learn, interact. This will help foster that real connection that will benefit you later.

    In my years of pitching PR stories, I have learned that all the editors say they prefer e-mail pitches and don’t bother them when on deadline. So you send the e-mail to offer the story and make a virtual connection, but it’s the follow up phone call that cements the relationship. Most of the time the reporter won’t even remember the e-mail but, when you make the pitch by telephone you have an instant reaction, and an instant rapport.

    There’s no such thing as virtual intimacy. Get out there and make contact in the real world, in real time, either face-to-face or at least by telephone. It’s still the best way to build your network.

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  • 20Sep

    homer_dohI have become increasingly fascinated by the social media phenomenon, and the various ways that individuals are business are capitalizing on becoming connected. Last week I tuned into to another webinar on social media, this one entitled “Social Media as a Profitable Business Tool” and hosted by David Rifkin, founder of SelfGrowth.com.  Actually, this was more of an infomercial than a webinar, at least compared with other webinars I have attended recently, but there were some interesting points raised, including the top six mistakes most people make when adopting social media for profit. I wanted to share Rifkin’s insight here:

    Mistake 1 – Social media is not a business model. This seems obvious but I have increasingly been getting the sense that many newbies launch themselves into Twitterland and the Facebook universe, gathering friends and expecting the world to beat a path to their door. The Twitter phenomenon is particularly interesting as I see more people following me and when you read their tweets, there is the consistent theme of “buy my stuff.” That’s not conversation or sharing insight. However, social media outlets are the ideal place to demonstrate your expertise and promote your brand by giving something of value. Helping others is the real key to social media success.

    Mistake 2 – People don’t have a social media plan. This is a really common error. You need to have a roadmap to determine where you are going, and similarly you need to have a social media strategy that complements the rest of your marketing program. Are you targeting the right outlets to reach potential customers and partners? Are you using targeted content that is both valuable and connected to your brand identity? Does your strategy help you drive sales leads as well as increase awareness?

    Mistake 3 – Using the wrong tool to do the job. Everyone cites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube as the right social media tools. Are they really? It depends on your target audience. You need to be sure the tools meet the informational needs of your target audience. You need to hang out where your target contacts hang out, so explore vertical outlets and specialized online forums.

    Mistake 4 – Overuse and abuse. You need to understand the rules of social media. There are specific rules of online etiquette and when to post and when not to post. You need to follow the rules of the road, as well as use commons sense. Post too many useless spam messages on Twitter for example and they will suspend your account. More importantly, no one will care. In watching my Facebook wall and Twitter feeds, I know there are certain individuals worth following because they have something interesting to say. The others are just contributing noise – I really don’t care what you are having for lunch.

    Mistake 5 – Facebook and Twitter fatigue. This is really a function of trying to do too much using the wrong tools. If your interaction feels forced and unnatural, or if you feel you are posted too often or working too hard to finds something to say, you probably are.

    Mistake 6 – Failing to measure success. This is a big mistake that almost everyone makes, and ties back to Mistake 2, having a plan. You need to have some metrics to determine success. Ideally, your metrics should go beyond the quantity of connections, but should translate into something tangible that yields fiscal results, such as number of new customers, number of new leads, better quality leads, and so forth.

    Like everything else in life, you get out of social media what you put into it. Having a well-conceived game plan coupled with thoughtful execution can boost your sales and build your brand in ways never before possible.

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  • 17Sep
     

    I must confess that, in some areas, I am a social media naysayer. For business-to-business marketing, I have had my doubts as to the return on investment from social networking. Then I uncovered new research from Forrester Research that shows that B2B customers are active social networkers, or at least they are tracking the conversation, especially in the technology sector. I have posted the high-level findings from the Forrester survey and the numbers are self-explanatory:

    New research: B2B buyers have very high social participation

    New research: B2B buyers have very high social participation

    What’s really interesting is that there is a huge percentage of business buyers who are listening, but not participating. The research shows that 91 percent of decision-makers are spectators who are reading blogs and watching user-created videos, participating in social media, but not actively posting. Of these, 69 percent say they are using social media for business purposes. Only 5 percent are “inactives.”

    There are a large number participating in social networking – 55 percent. Of these, 43 percent are creating their own content by blogging, uploading videos, posting articles, etc. And he level of business participants is especially high.

    So is social media beneficial for B2B marketing? You betcha! You have to be focused in your approach. Choose the right social media vehicles and be clear about your objectives and your brand. But business professionals are still people, so the same behaviors apply. If you are engaged in B2B marketing and have not engaged in the online conversation, you are late to the game.

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  • 16Sep

    I try to keep up on what my peers are up to, so I subscribe to a number of blogs and social media feeds. I received an interesting note in my Inbox earlier today from The Strategic Guy, Marc Hausman of Strategic Communications, outlining one of the stupidest PR stunts I have heard about in recent history.

    I know there has been an ongoing feud between Facebook and TechCrunch. I have worked with TechCrunch on a few stories and I know they can be a tough audience. Apparently, they spotted a new “fax a photo” application on Facebook recently and wanted to learn more, so they contacted Facebook PR. Response was less than timely, so they went ahead and posted a notice on TechCrunch, which has a large following in the social networking community. It seems that Facebook punk’d TechCrunch. Big joke.

    So who is the bigger fool here? TechCrunch, for trying to report on a legitimate new feature they uncovered on Facebook. Or the Facebook PR team for pulling a fast one on those pesky TechCrunch journalists?

    Effective PR is about partnership, and, unfortunately, over the years the relationship between PR and the press has become strained because of narrow attitudes and stupid stunts like this. I always explain to my clients that my press relationships are more important than my client relationships. That client may be paying me today, but long after that check is spent I will have to call on that editor again, and he or she will remember whether I am friend or foe. I have run into situations where a client has balked at an interview I have set up, lied to a reporter, or put me in a situation where I cannot deliver what I promised to a journalist on behalf of a client. I always apologize to the reporter and try to salvage that relationship, because I know that the reporter relationship is more important and that client is now unreliable and will hang me out to dry again some time in the future.

    I also tell my clients (and my prospects) that good PR is a dating service. You can set up the meeting with the journalists they want to woo, but it’s up to the client to cement the relationship and give the reporter something to take to press. In this instance, the Facebook PR team has abused that relationship. Let’s see what happens the next time Facebook has something of real value to tell TechCrunch. 6HA94YFYBRAG

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  • 14Sep

    moneyshot1Social media is taking the online advertising community by storm. I recently received an e-mail from Gumas Advertising, one of my client companies, with some interesting statistics about online advertising. The social media sites are commanding 80 percent of online ad revenue. Here are some numbers from comScore to digest:

    Top Online Display Ad Publishers in Social Networking Category (June 2009 Total U.S.; Home/Work/University Locations)      
      Total Display Ad Impressions (MM) % Share of Display Ads Ad Exposed Unique Visitors (000)
    Total Internet Audience

    326,899

    100.0%

    188,589

    Social Networking

    68,927

    21.1

    129,620

    MySpace Sites

    30,004

    9.2

    64,472

    Facebook.com

    26,813

    8.2

    67,389

    Tagged.com

    1,940

    0.6

    7,422

    MocoSpace.com

    496

    0.2

    1,067

    Hi5.com

    461

    0.1

    3,459

    Bebo

    435

    0.1

    6,350

    Classmates.com Sites

    400

    0.1

    9,181

    BlackPlanet.com

    345

    0.1

    2,084

    GaiaOnline.com

    258

    0.1

    1,859

    DeviantArt.com

    204

    0.1

    3,681

    Source: comScore Ad Metrix, September 2009      

     

    A survey of the Association of National Advertisers and B2B Magazine shows that social media and videos have seen a jump in rankings:

    The survey found that 66% of marketers utilized social media in 2009, as compared to 20% in 2007.  50% employ viral videos, up from only 25% in 2007….

    Among social networks being embraced by all marketers, the top sites used are:

    • Facebook (74%)
    • YouTube (65%)
    • Twitter (63%)
    • LinkedIn (60%)

    If you follow the money, social media is where it’s at for marketing. If you haven’t embraced a social media strategy, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is.

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  • 13Sep

    In the last post, I mentioned that 95 percent of blogs have been abandoned, or at least untouched for three months or more. But what about those blogs that remain active? Are the authors getting the most from their online exposure?

    I have been reading Paul Gillin’s book, The Secrets of Social Media Marketing, and visited his blog to see what he had to say. Paul offers some insights into the basics of successful blogging in three separate blog posts. I want to share his list of “blogging blunders” here:

    1. Handing blogging off to PR. This is a tricky problem for me. I have written before about the challenge of online authenticity and the fact that PR and marketing professionals are better at messaging than conversation. Paul’s point that PR professionals tend to use the blog as another channel for news release is not inaccurate. However, I find that getting the real experts to contribute to the conversation can be equally challenging. Executives understand the value of social media, but don’t want to take the time to engage. Hence, PR moves from advisor to ghostwriter, which is where things can go wrong if you let them.

    2. It’s all about me. If you are writing a humor blog or online diary that’s one thing. But for corporate bloggers, the key is to converse, not pontificate. It’s just like talking to a bore at a cocktail party; it it’s all about me, you tend not to talk with that individual.

    3. A look that is boring. Well, we all can’t be design mavens, but I think the point really is that by investing in the look of your blog, you are showing you are invested in the blog itself.

    4. Failure to link. Paul calls links “online currency,” which is an accurate statement. The power of the web is in the threads you can create to promote discussion. Linking not only acknowledges your sources and helps promote traffic for their blogs and web sites, it promotes threaded conversation, which is what the web is all about.

    5. Treating your blog as a wire service. No brainer. That’s what web sites and wire services are for.

    6. Being irrelevant. By their nature, blogs are dynamic, which means they should reflect events of the day and new ideas.

    7. Turning off comments. Is it true that 20 percent of business blogs turn off comments? Why would you? That just shuts down the conversation. Beside, you are always in control of comments, and the feedback should be valuable.

    8. Nothing more to say. If you are going to blog, you have to make sure your online commentary has depth. I thought long and hard about the structure of the PRagmatist before I launched it. You want to make sure there is enough in the discussion to be engaging, interesting, and to promote your personal brand without running out of steam. I maintain an electronic clip file of potential topics I encounter on the web so I am never short of topics.

    9. Too busy to blog. I have had a couple of colleagues say, “when do you find the time?” Short entries don’t take long to create. Blogging is not like writing War and Peace.

    10. Nobody came. As I have noted in a previous post, patience is required, as well as self-promotion. Put blog entries out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other outlets, otherwise you are just talking to yourself.

    If you are going to blog for profit and to build brand awareness, you have to understand how to make the most of the medium. It’s always about conversation and engaging with others, not just self-promotion. Too many marketeers lose sight of that when they turn to the web to carry their message.

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  • 12Sep

    This Property Is CondemnedI was doing some research for a client project the other day and ran across an article in the New York Times talking about the high failure rate of weblogs. According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, only 7.4 million of 133 million blogs were updated in the last three months. That’s only 5 percent, which means 95 percent of blogs have been abandoned:

    “…many people start blogs with lofty aspirations — to build an audience and leave their day job, to land a book deal, or simply to share their genius with the world. Getting started is easy, since all it takes to maintain a blog is a little time and inspiration. So why do blogs have a higher failure rate than restaurants?”

    So why do people blog in the first place? Some see blogging as a path to fame and fortune. Others see it as a way to create an online forum to communicate with customers and prospects. I agree with an emerging breed of bloggers – creating a weblog is a means to extend your personal brand and promote an online presence.

    When talking to clients about social media strategies, I tell them they need to think about the three C’s – content, conversation, and community. You need to start with the content in order to provide topics of conversation that ultimately lead to community. The blog is an ideal online icebreaker. It gives you a forum to talk about what interests you, both personally and professionally, and gives you a platform to share ideas with the rest of the world. A blog invites conversation where a web site only offers a sales pitch.

    Blogging also makes you more three-dimensional, if not more interesting. It gives you an online soapbox to share ideas and concerns about topics that are of interest and make you stand out from the pack. Of course, there are more ways to build a web presence and engage in conversation these days. Facebook, for example, provides a great weblog platform with ready-made templates and discussions just waiting for you to adopt as your own. And then you have feeds on Twitter, LinkedIn, Plaxo, and elsewhere to help the content proliferate.

    The objective is to lay a trail of online bread crumbs that lead back to web locations, converting followers into allies. Whether those followers become clients or partners or sources for referrals really doesn’t matter. The first step is to engage them in conversation.

    So if you choose to blog, stick with it. The followers and the comments will ultimately find their way to you, in one form or another. It just takes commitment, focus, and a clear understanding of what you want to achieve with your online brand. These days, Google is the first stop when people want to learn more about you. Wouldn’t it be better to let web searchers uncover the content that you created and that tells your own story? That’s why you should take charge of your online brand with tools like weblogs.

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  • 11Sep
    Papa Hemingway at work

    Papa Hemingway at work

    During my lengthy and checkered career I have worked with words in a variety of ways – as proofreader, editor, typesetter, and most often, writer. I come from a long, literary family of editors and writers. Both my mother and my aunt were proofreading books well into retirement. But I am not a great grammarian. When it comes to writing, I consider myself more mechanic than artist, and I am normally able to assemble the pieces correctly and without instruction. However, I also keep copies of Strunk and White and the AP Stylebook close at hand, and am a fan of Grammar Girl’s podcasts.

    Even the best writers should be reminded of the rules from time to time, which is why I wanted to share some insights from a recent blog from Bob Cramblitt of Cramblitt & Company he calls “10 Creepy Writing Things.”  Granted, English is a living, breathing language and usage is changing at Internet speed, but there are some rules worth preserving, which is why I want to share Bob’s list.

    1. Avoiding the annoying quotation marks. Quotations are for attribution, not for emphasis.

    2. Improper use of the apostrophe. Know thy possessives! And know the different between singular and plural possessives.

    3. Morphing nouns into verbs. Bob doesn’t want to be incented, and he gives the nod to Seth Godin who talks about the difference between investments and investing, paint and painting, and gift and giving.

    4. Avoiding passive voice. It’s not that difficult. It’s all about identifying subjects and nouns and providing an agent for each action.

    5. Misleading headlines and jump leads. Anyone in news or PR has been guilty of producing poor headlines, and I recently saw a few beauties at the Newseum in Washington DC.

    6. Typographical errors, which actually seem to proliferate with the use of spell checkers. You have to read the copy for context because spell checkers can’t do that. (And I will confess that I am one of the worst offenders when it comes to proofreading my own material.)

    7. The 50-word sentence and the 20-line paragraph. This seems to be a particularly common offense in technology PR. Brevity is bliss, and if you doubt it, try re-reading Hemingway.

    8. Indirect sentences stacking up like planes over SFO. It’s a writing approach I have used upon occasion to try to build excitement and drama. Alas, it doesn’t work.

    9. Excessive use of adverbs and exclamation points! Enough said.

    10. Jargon overload. Another common trait in technology PR where TLAs rule. (That’s geek jargon for three-letter acronyms.) Every specialty has its terminology, but good writing shouldn’t require a code-breaker and should be clear to everyone.

    There are many other rules that we all live by, one way or another. English is inexact, and no one stylebook is perfect. For example, even though it runs counter to AP style, I tend to keep the serial comma before conjunctions because I find it lends clarity, particularly when discussing a complex series. Some habits die harder than others.

    What are your pet grammatical grumblings? I’d like to know.

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