Is Podcasting the next thing?

dog radio2Recently, the folks at Social Media Examiner published a “study” on the coming trends in Social Media Marketing. They apparently did this by asking marketers what they are looking to do next. You can see it here.

What struck me was the fact that so many marketers seem to have a renewed interest in audio content. Given that Social Media – and the web in general – is not exactly user friendly for audio content this is somewhat surprising. Sure, like blogs, there are countless podcasts floating around the digiverse but there really is no centralized way of organizing it all. This makes finding content about specific topics a challenge for consumers. It makes it even harder for marketers to use it as an effective tool.

I’ll leave aside the fact that when it comes to audio, the web and Social Media are really about music. Even though NPR and Adam Corolla have great success in terms of podcasting, it has lagged as a marketing tool.

But who am I to argue with this study. If brands and marketers see audio content as the next great opportunity – I’m all in favor of it. It is cheaper to produce than video and can be consumed more readily via mobile devices.

The real question is – how are these marketers going to proceed? Where are they going to find the talent to produce worthwhile content? Today’s digital producers are consumed with video. Taking the sound track off a video production is not the same as producing quality audio content. Audio has true theater of the mind capabilities. In the hands of a gifted producer it can paint a picture – and engage a listener – more effectively than video or print.

Fortunately, I have a solution. It comes from what is supposed to be a dead medium – radio. There are literally thousands of under employed producers, writers and performers out there who cut their teeth in radio. I know. I am one of them. These are people who revel in audio production. And, more importantly, they know how to write for the ear.

This is a distinctly different style and approach from any form of visual writing. If you’ve ever been to a presentation where the speaker was simply reading from a page (and bored you to death) – you know what the difference is between audio copy and any other.

If this is truly a new (old) wave in marketing I urge those who are considering it to enlist the help of seasoned audio (or radio) professionals. These people will give you ideas on content, rhythm and production that will make whatever audio content you are trying to create resonate with your audience. As with all forms of content production there is a level of art involved that is not attainable by the inexperienced.

If you – or someone you know – is truly interested in exploring this field please contact me.. I can point you in the right direction.

Steve Allan
Social Media (and Audio) Specialist
steve@smthree.com

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Social Media Predictions For 2014

magic8ball

As another year fades into oblivion we often find ourselves using the rear view mirror for self-reflection. However, in the faster moving world of tomorrow that we live in what little attention span we have left should be used for mapping out the road ahead. What awaits us around the next bend? What should we pack in our survival kit?

Before you plan for the Zombie apocalypse, here are a few casual predictions for the social/digital world of 2014

People will continue to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Pintrest, etc. at an ever increasing and alarming rate. They will do so to satisfy their own needs and desires. There will be countless blogs, articles and studies published that will tell them why they are doing this.

A Fortune 500 company will spend millions on a Social Media campaign or contest that will actually go viral. Social Media Experts will cite this as a reason that all your marketing dollars should be diverted to social. Those same experts will ignore the countless examples of viral failures.

More digital agencies will set up shop creating a larger demand for digital expenditures.

Sometime in the next 12 months, something will capture your attention for 6 seconds. You will chuckle and pass it along to your friends. You will have forgotten about it by the next day.

You will spend more time with your Smartphone than ever before. And you will be happy.

A random celebrity will tweet something offensive that will create a firestorm of controversy.

You will get lost in an unfamiliar area because your Smartphone stopped working. Since you do not know how to read an actual map it will be days before you are found – hungry, but alive.

Google will change its logarithm again. It will then partner with Disney and call it Tinkerbell.

SEO will become the new ROI.

It’s over. Otherwise known as the “death of” story. At least once a quarter someone will declare a piece of technology or media that existed before 2002 to be obsolete. Digital hipsters will notice. The rest of us will just go on with our day.

Ever increasing amounts of money will be spent on digital advertising leading to an ever increasing debate on whether it worked. No one will be able to answer the question so the process will repeat itself over and over. Meanwhile, many companies will continue to prosper by advertising in traditional media.

Secrets revealed. Your inbox or reader will be clogged with articles promising you the secret to…better open rates, more clicks, increasing followers, how to make millions, etc. Chances are you will hit delete without reading it.

A corollary to the above: Once a month someone will tell you how to make a video go viral. It won’t work.

A cute kid will do something completely random that will make you go awww. That video will go viral.

Yelp’s filtering system for reviews will continue to confound business owners.

Someone will lose their job over something they did in Social Media.

23% of your friends will share a picture of what they are about to eat.

A reasonably respected news organization will see something on Twitter and report it as fact. Then, will retract the story as further information comes to light. No one will think this strange.

The new…in 2014 we will hear about the “new” Facebook or Google or Linked In or something. It won’t happen.

People will worry that the NSA has too much info on them yet will continue to tell Facebook and Google everything.

One year from today, things will be different.

Happy New Year!

Steve Allan

Social Media Savant

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How long does a Facebook post last?

The eternal question in Social Media Marketing is – when is too much not enough? OK, that’s not really the question. The issue brands face is when and how often they should post content on their Facebook pages.

The easy answer is – no one really knows. The process contains a lot of trial and error and experimentation. However, a new study may point you in a direction…which is better than having no direction at all. You can read about it here.

The point of the article is that you attain your maximum reach of any Facebook post within thirty minutes of posting. This is strictly a percentage. It does not take into account the size of your audience or the quality of your content. It merely states that the half-life of a Facebook post is pretty darn short.

This makes logical sense. Your brand fans are not sitting on their newsfeed just waiting for you to thrill and amaze them with your content. And, they are certainly not going to your Facebook page to see all the great stuff you posted over the last 24 hours. You are, essentially, shooting arrows in the dark hoping to hit something.

This is not to say you can’t be smart about it. Here are a few things you can do:

Monitor Your Metrics – every time you post you will see how many of your fans saw it. Experiment with your posting times. Look for the higher numbers and feed the bulge.

Promote Your Posts – If you think you have something that will really pique the interests of your base use the Facebook “promote” feature. It is extremely cost-effective and can dramatically increase how many people “see” the post. By the way, it works.

Generate interaction – the more your fans comment, like or share a post the more people will see it. Yes, this is a “duh” comment. It is far easier to make this a part of your Social Media strategy than it is to make it a regular and actionable tactic.

These tactics are smart and useful but they ALL derive from the ability to post meaningful, interesting, compelling, emotional, worthwhile content. Your fans do not live in a world that is focused on you. They are living in a Social Media universe they have designed to entertain themselves. Your mission is to cut through all that clutter and deliver something that will cause them to remember you. And, you need to do that on a consistent basis.

What the above study shows is that you should be posting frequently. If you think one post a day is sufficient – you’re wrong. Most of your fans will never see it. That said, is there a maximum limit on posts? That really depends on what you are posting. If all you’re doing is “selling” then the answer is no. However, if you are “entertaining” – then there is no limit on how often you can post.

Facebook is show business and you are a performer. Dazzle, delight and deliver. The more often you can put your name in front of them the better chance you have of them remembering you positively. That can come in quite handy when they are ready to spend some money.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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Social Media: Are you sneaky?

The digital cognoscenti has been telling us – for years – that digital marketing is the wave of the future. That so-called traditional media, you know those dinosaurs on TV and radio, is a thing of some steam-driven past. I could go on a long diatribe about how this is nonsense but this guy does a much better job of that.

It goes without saying that click-thru rates are at an all time low when it comes to digital display. Much like newspaper ads – we just are not seeing digital advertising (with the exception of search). Consumers have trained themselves to filter these out because they are just so much background noise. (Don’t believe me? When was the last time YOU clicked on an ad.)

Of course, the key to making this work, according to the digital experts, is through content marketing. Create compelling content that just so happens to contain some sort of product/brand message and people will come flocking to buy your stuff. Tell stories, engage, start a conversation – these are the keys to advertising success.

Except when they aren’t.

According to this study as reported in Ad Age, so-called “contextual” marketing is actually perceived as negative. Why? The answer is simple – it is sneaky.

Consumers understand advertising. They know they will have to watch or hear commercials to get content they enjoy. And, they know what the commercials are because the messages are obvious. (Forget for a moment that the FCC and the FTC require commercial content to be – essentially – labelled as such). Consumers can choose to ignore or “engage” these commercials but they are not under the mistaken assumption that these messages are nothing more than attempts to sell them something. That’s OK. It’s fair game. And, for the most part – it works.

People see a TV commercial or hear a radio spot and use that information to make a decision on what they need to buy. Sometimes these messages have timely information (“40% off this Friday only!”) and sometimes they are just there as a reminder (“Drink Coke”). The consumer-advertiser relationship may be love-hate (or is it hate-love) but it works.

So, why would you want to disguise your messages as “real” information. Despite what you may think, consumers are not stupid. They can usually smell the sell from miles away. What’s worse, if you actually pass off your “content” as real and then they find out you’ve been tricking them – they get pissed.

Do you really want the words “sneaky” and “tricky” attached to your brand? We have been told that the digital era has ushered in a new wave of transparency. Why disguise your advertising as content?

I am not against advertising in the social space. I think brands should create stories – about themselves – as a way of creating a deeper understanding of what they offer. Use Facebook or Twitter to post interesting tidbits that relate to what you are and what you offer. By all means, let your fans respond and contribute. But, don’t sneak up on them and pretend you are trying to do anything else but sell your widgets.

We understand that is your mission and we respect you for it.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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Guerilla Marketing on Social Media

Some strange pictures started popping up in my news feed today. Apparently, many of my friends in the radio business are drinking some rather large cups of McDonald’s “small” coffees:

These are more than “vanity” pictures as each post includes a reminder that I can get a free “small” cup of McDonald’s coffee this week.

To this I say – brilliant! I know that these people are not just posting these pictures and accompanying “sales” messages because they think its funny. There is no doubt this is part of some overall promotion their radio stations are doing for McDonald’s. However, the pictures are fun and the message is unobtrusive enough to not bother me.

McDonald’s has succeeded in infiltrating personal social networks…all for the price of creating a prop.

This is how you get people’s attention in Social Media. Be different. Be clever. Be interesting. And, be personal.

Well played, Mickey D’s.

Your Thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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Social Media Rules!

Normally, I’m not a big fan of following the rules. I’ve always operated under the motto “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”

However, in the rapidly changing wild west world of chaos known as Social Media it is probably a good idea to have a starting point.

The folks at Fast Company have produced a very good infographic that lists the 36 rules of Social Media. They might not all apply to your situation but they are a good starting point when you are defining your Social Media strategy.

 

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

 

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Marketing is not dead…it’s just restin’

Monty PythonI’m a week late on this so my condolences to the Marketing family. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review – traditional marketing is dead. Apparently, you are no longer influenced by what you see on the television, hear on the radio or read in the papers.

Now, ALL of your buying decisions are influenced by what your friends tell you and what you find on-line. The new and undisputed champion of all things marketing is – once again -Social Media (cue roaring audience).

Except that this is total bullshit.

According to Bill Lee (who is a consultant, not the former Red Sox pitcher) there are several reasons we are sitting Shiva for marketing. Of course, he cites some serious sounding surveys and studies that back up his points. He is writing for the Harvard Business Review so he can’t just pull this stuff out of his…thin air.

He gives two reasons for Marketing’s untimely demise. First, we are no longer paying attention. We are making decisions by doing our OWN research. Look, there is no question that we are now able to find out more about the products and services we purchase by searching the web. But, what is the spark that ignites that search? WHY do we do our due diligence before we buy? Could it have something to do with awareness? And, could awareness have something to do with marketing? It’s a thought.

Second, he cites a study that says a whopping 73% of CEOs think their CMOs are idiots (or the equivalent). THAT is a reason for the death of Marketing? Perhaps those dissatisfied CEOs need to hire better CMOs. Again, just a thought.

The article then goes on to sell us on the fact that the “new” marketing is all about…wait for it…influencers, engagement, etc, etc, etc.

You see, all that money you are spending on TV or radio creative is just a waste of time. What you need to be doing is finding your most passionate customers and convert them into evangelists. There is no question that word-of-mouth advertising is powerful. And, in today’s connected age consumers are more willing to believe reviews they read on-line from total strangers than they are anything you tell them.

Unfortunately, Mr. Lee leaves out a very important part of this equation – motivation. What motivates people to talk about your business? Two things – money and emotion.

On the money side you can give your customers amazing deals. They might talk about that. Or, you can pay them to spread your word. While that will undercut their credibility because they are now working for you – it will ensure that they actually post, blog and tweet about how great you are. Either way, this requires an enormous amount of work to accomplish. Besides the difficulty in identifying these “influencers”- you have to convince them to speak on your behalf. In essence, you are asking them to work for you.

You have a better chance to get customers to talk about you by playing to their emotions. This is a double-edged sword because people are much more likely to complain than praise.  Think of your own experiences. When you go into a Starbucks or your local dry cleaner you EXPECT a certain level of service. If that level falls below your expectations you are likely to complain because you paid for less than what you got. This process is IMMEDIATE. You’re pissed off and want someone to do something about it – right now! If you are not given satisfaction you now have avenues – Yelp, Angie’s list, foursquare, etc – where you can vent away.

On the other hand, when service or products EXCEED your expectations you are left with feeling good about the experience. You will continue to patronize that business and if they CONTINUALLY exceed your expectations (a bar that will raise over time) you might be motivated to talk about it – in real-time or via your social networks. This process is evolutionary.

The key to getting people to talk about you is to under promise and over deliver – all the time. Great customer service needs to be part of your business’ DNA. (to see an example of this click here).

Marketing is a part of everything you do. From your logo to how your receptionist (or automated phone system) answers calls to the look of your website to the message you are sending to current and potential customers. It is also a system by where you make people aware of you. Yes, people will search a particular business category to see how good you are compared to your competition. But, effective external marketing will pre-sell them. People like to deal with businesses they are familiar with. THAT is what traditional, old-fashioned, intrusive marketing does. It introduces you to people.

What you do beyond that is up to you.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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Social Media is a team sport

I have been fortunate to work with a variety of companies/non-profits at the beginning of their Social Media journey. They have recognized the importance of Social Media in their overall marketing strategy while realizing that it is only a part of the plan. Too many companies (and gurus, mavens, ninjas, etc) see Social Media as the lead dog on the marketing sled. It is not.

But I digress.

One of the challenges facing any company as they begin their Social Media journey is – content. Yes, we know that “content is king” and that every single stinkin’ day someone writes a blog about the need for “engaging” content that gets your followers to participate and share. All top line advice that ignores the real need – WHERE to find that content.

Great content is all about your audience. You absolutely must be focused on them-not on you. There is no secret sauce here. No magic wand you can wave that will automatically generate fountains of great content.

However, there is one thing you can do in your organization that will help. Get everyone involved. From the CEO to the support staff – everyone has a story to tell, an anecdote, an insight. And, everyone likes to see themselves in the spotlight. To be recognized for a job well done. (OK, not everyone….absolutes never work, but you get the idea…)

This starts at the top. If the bosses, managers or leaders do not believe in Social Media no amount of cajoling will get them to participate. However, if your organization believes that the successful use of Social Media is important to your long-term success then you need to make it a part of your corporate culture.

Here are a few tips on how to do that:

Ask, Don’t Tell – You cannot force your employees to generate content for Social Media. In their minds they are already overworked and adding this to their daily tasks will just cause resentment. Start small. Get every department to contribute one piece of content a week. A picture, inside story, idea – whatever.

Show them the value – Explain what you are trying to accomplish and why. Is this about customer service? Making your company more accessible? Getting more people involved in your cause (for non-profits). In the end everyone realizes this is about making money but you don’t lead with the sales pitch in Social Media. The goal here is to personalize what you do by revealing the human beings (and nature) behind who you are. Your people are your greatest asset.

Reward them – Can you incentivize your staff for contributing content? Absolutely! Gift cards, better parking, a day off-  all are inexpensive ways to motivate behavior. Be careful on rewarding based on the “best” content as that becomes subjective and can lead to resentment. Initially, you are looking for quantity. Your marketing gatekeepers can determine quality.

Brainstorm – This is a great opportunity to find out what your staff deals with every day. They know what your customers or donors are saying. Have a big free lunch in the conference room and ask them to tell you what they think is interesting and post-worthy.

Ask for the order – Request that everyone like the company Facebook page, follow it on Twitter, subscribe to the You Tube channel, follow you on Pintrest, etc. Recognize that you will not get 100% participation. Don’t judge them for this. Some will be concerned about privacy, others are Social Media neophytes and just don’t get it and there is always that small percentage that just doesn’t give a damn about the company. You can also offer basic training in how to use Social Media for those who are interested but are challenged by technology.

Be patientCulture change does not happen overnight. It will take months to really get people to make this habitual.  And, even after they get into the groove they will lose interest – especially if their content suggestions are ignored. You will have to remind them over and over of the value they bring to this project. And, then you’ll have to remind them again. Once the newness of Social Media wears off it will become just another item on their to-do list.

Use the spotlight– Let your team know when someone scores. Do not be afraid to do this  on your Social Media platforms. Everyone likes an “atta boy” now and then.

Restrict access – The goal here is participation, not anarchy. You should NEVER give all your employees unfettered access to your Social Media platforms. That should remain firmly in the hands of your marketing team. You are looking to generate raw material, not a polished, finished product.

I have seen first-hand how getting the entire team involved has led to a significantly better Social Media presence. It can generate more likes & followers. It will spark more comments, shares and re-tweets.

It takes time but the effort is worth it.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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Social Media By The Numbers

A couple of reports were released in the last week that highlight how people are using Social Media – by two well respected research firms. While it is easy to get blinded by the numbers, a look inside can reveal some facts that can help you focus your Social Media marketing strategy.

First, the folks at Nielsen give us their April 2012 Internet usage report. The numbers do not vary much on a month-to-month basis so you can assume what you see here will continue for the foreseeable future. As always, Google gets the most traffic and Facebook gobbles up the most on-line time. The average US Internet user spends about 28 hours a month on-line – about 25% of that time on Facebook!

Yes, with the recent IPO fiasco and the gloom-and-doom reporting of the inefficiency of Facebook advertising you could come to the conclusion that Facebook is a waste of time. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Facebook IS a waste of time but there are a lot of people wasting a lot of time with it. A lot of pundits are quick to rush into the “death of Facebook” conversation. Don’t buy into that. The numbers do not lie. Over 151 million Americans spent the largest share of their on-line time with Facebook.

The trick here is for you to figure out how to capture their attention. Regardless of your message there is an audience on Facebook that is interested in hearing it. You need to figure out a way to deliver what they want. Simple to say, difficult to accomplish. Facebook is a viable way to market your message because the audience is so large.

The second report, in the form of a survey, comes from the folks at Pew InternetTwitter Use 2012.  It appears that Twitter continues to grow. While the percentage of adults who use Twitter has remained relatively static for the last year, their usage patterns have doubled. So, the Twitter devotees have become even more addicted to the platform.

This could lead one to come to the conclusion that Twitter’s importance as a marketing tool has dramatically increased. I say -not so fast. Though the amount of Twitter users numbers in the millions they pale in comparison to those that use Facebook. Because of the 140 character limit it is very difficult to create content that will attract an audience. You’re casting bait into a wide ocean hoping for a bite. It can be done but requires much more effort and deft than Facebook does.

One thing about Twitter that differentiates it from Facebook is the passion. Though Twitter’s audience is smaller they are much more wrapped up in the platform. True Twitter devotees are addicted. This is great for spreading your message because those that Tweet are always looking for something to say.

What you need to do is figure out how to message and connect in brief – but frequent – bursts. If you think coming up with two or three solid Facebook posts a day is challenging – -what do you have up your sleeve for 5 or 6 or more daily tweets?

This is not to say you should not ignore Twitter. Quite the contrary, even if you do not have the time or the content to be a regular Twitter feeder you can still make excellent use of the platform as a listening device. Twitterers love to talk. Listen to them. You may learn something.

All these numbers help put Social Media as a marketing tool into perspective. Spending 28 hours a month on-line is certainly huge. But, remember, the average American spends over 50 hours a month listening to old-fashioned over-the-air radio and over 100 hours a month plopped in front of a TV. Not to mention that more people read email everyday than visit any Social Media site.

It is easy to get blinded by the hype of Social Media. I do believe it is an essential part of any marketing strategy. And, despite the naysayers, has become an integral part of our daily lives. The more facts we can gather on this “new” marketing platform, the better we can use it to our advantage.

Your Thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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The Social Network

With all the hype surrounding Facebook’s public offering, GM’s decision to stop Facebook advertising and the countless articles pointing out how abyssmal click through rates are – we tend to lose sight of the value Social Media provides for marketing. The folks at Pew Internet have provided us with this reminder. While the data may almost three months old, even the change-at-the-speed-of-light nature of the Internet can’t devalue these numbers. There’s a lot of interesting data in their study but one finding stuck out:

Facebook users can reach a mean number (average) of more than 150,000 other Facebook users through Facebook friends of friends. A typical or median user can reach over 31,000 people.

That is staggering. That means that every piece of content you post has the ability to be multiplied by 31,000! More importantly, that multiplication comes with a shred of credibility. If you are providing content that elicits any sort of emotional response – like, share, comment – from your fans you are tapping into their “preferred” network. You are receiving an actual endorsement from them. Brands spend millions of dollars hiring celebrities to hawk their wares – to limited success. (Seriously, are you buying anything endorsed by Kim Kardashian?) But, for the cost of some well crafted, meaningful content you could potentially get your message – or at least your name – in front of 31,000 “trusted” friends.

Look, I know this number represents a maximum in a perfect engagement world- but even if you could get a fraction of that number – what would that be worth to you, your business or your non-profit? Two things spring to mind.

First, if you are using Facebook ads take a serious look at sponsored stories. Yes, most people realize they are a plant and paid for but on some level, seeing something “endorsed” by a member of my network lends it a bit more credibility, if not visibility. Of course, in order to generate sponsored stories worth sharing you have to, well, create stories worth sharing.

Which brings me to the second thought: How’s your content doing? No one really knows how many page fans see a particular piece of content. Intuitively, we know that whatever we post at 9AM will not be seen by someone logging in after lunch. It makes sense that you need to post frequently – but with relevance. Writing compelling content is hard work. If you’re posting 15-20 times a week on your Facebook page you are not going to score 100 on the compello-meter every time. You just have to hit enough home runs to raise the expectation level of your audience. In baseball, a hitter is a resounding success if they fail 7 out of 10 times. In Social Media ball, you should strive to make one out of every three posts something worth mentioning. You can fill in with stuff that keeps your awareness high but if you’re not giving them something that will grab their attention in some way you will eventually lose them to the next shiny object.

Remember that people participate in Social Media because it is fun, it is a diversion from the routine – it is entertainment. Tapping into that emotion is the key to accessing their network. We already knew that Social Media is the driving engine behind virality – this just puts a quantifiable number on the possibilities.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan, Social Media Specialist

SMThree

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