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If March Madness was a Social Media Tournament…

I’m sure the following question has crossed your mind a thousand times this basketball season: if March Madness was a social media competition, who would win? OK, maybe that isn’t the first question that comes to mind (maybe the second), but just take a minute and think about it.

 

How often do your resort to Twitter to get an update on a game? How many times do you catch yourself trash-talking with frenemies via Facebook because, for a split second, you think you are channeling the one and only Dick Vitale?  And, how many times do you see hashtags take center stage at the bottom of TV screens and across sponsors’ banners—thank you, Gatorade and ESPN—to motivate fans from the farmlands of the Hoosier State to the stars of the Hollywood Hills to discuss, interact and share?

 

The answer is a lot, which is why Schwartz Communications, a PR technology and healthcare agency, took the liberty of analyzing the growth and power of social media surrounding March Madness with a formula I think is pretty baller. To determine each school’s Social Media Power Ranking (SMPR), the Schwartz MSL Research Group  took the number of Facebook fans for each NCAA basketball team and added the number of Twitter followers for each team’s basketball Twitter handle and then divided that number by the total number of students attending a given university (as reported by Wikipedia.)

 

It’s OK; math was never my strong suit either.

 

From there, Schwartz MSL Research Group determined the social media powerhouse that knows how to make a slam dunk in the digital realm. Drum roll, please… the 2012 March Madness SMPR champion is The University of Kansas. Hey, at least you walk away with something, Jayhawks.

 

The point of this pep talk is this: with the growth and power of social media, one can’t help but take notice and advantage of our All-American communicators—Twitter and Facebook. These two social media platforms give brands, institutions and fans a chance to take their words to the Big Dance and create a little madness while they’re at it.

March Madness 2012

 

The super-secret, guaranteed effective guide to building engagement in social media


It’s unfortunate, really. I didn’t even want to write this post. But after endless conversations about the secret to building engagement, I realized it needed to be said.  So here it is. Are you ready? Read carefully, the super-secret, guaranteed effective guide to building engagement in social media:

The super-secret, guaranteed effective guide to building engagement in social media.

  1. Provide value to your audience

 

Oh, I’m sorry. Were you waiting for more? That’s it. That’s all you have to do. A lot of marketers will talk to you about social media engagement strategy like it’s a secret recipe for Sunday sauce handed down from their great grandmother. They’ll say you need one part education, two parts consumer spotlight, a dash of sales-oriented content and with a little love you suddenly have three-million comments, Likes and retweets.

Sure, there may be a certain mix of content that works for your brand, but only because you’re selling a particular product to a particular audience with a particular interest. That’s what they like.

You might think this is a bland recipe, but let it simmer. Think about it. There are two operative words: value and audience.

 

Audience

The folks in your online community are already customers, right? So you should know who they are and what they want (If you don’t know them, you have bigger problems than social media). Now, all you have to do is talk to them. Post things they want to see. If you were talking face-to-face with a customer, how would they respond to your latest update? Would they say “Wow, neat!” or would it be more like “Oh, I see.” Users were gracious enough to click that Like or follow button. Now give them something in return.

All too often, management wants to highlight moments that make management proud and make the organization look good. That’s fine – if you can honestly say your audience would find it valuable. Photos from your company picnic probably won’t do the trick.

The people in your online community are there because you share some common value.  Don’t ruin that relationship by telling them to think, feel or believe something different.

 

Value

Value isn’t just education. It can come in a lot of forms and it’s completely dependent on your audience. For example, there is a little newspaper is my hometown (I’m convinced their number of Facebook Likes is higher than their circulation). Every day, they post a poll question. Polls vary from local to state to national issues. You can always count on huge numbers of people posting paragraph-long responses. So how is this tiny daily providing value? It gives local politiphiles a place to voice their opinions. If you’ve gone to the trouble of Liking your local newspaper on Facebook, it’s safe to say you like to discuss current events. And hey, why not do it with a bunch of strangers on Facebook where you’re less likely to offend any friends or coworkers.

 

Skittles is another great example of providing value to your audience. With all current events aside, Skittles knows its audience on social media. I chuckle every time I read an update from skittles. See the below image if you need an example. You might say humor isn’t valuable from a marketing standpoint. But at the end of the day, what is Skittles as a brand?  Sure it’s food. But it’s not healthy. It’s not innovative. It’s fun – just plain old fun. Skittles are bright, colorful and easy to share with friends, just like their musings on Facebook.

So, next time you write a Tweet or click the “post” button, just ask yourself: Am I providing value to my audience? If the answer is yes, engagement shouldn’t be a problem.

 

3 Reasons why Pinning is #Winning

“Pin it” seems to be the catchphrase of the social media world as a result from the latest online craze, aka Pinterest. And, guess what? The picture/video-sharing site is sticking with users just as well as Ellen’s singing sensations Sophia Grace and Rosie (you have to check out their latest performance).

Pinterest Logo

Pinterest logo, courtesy of Google Images.

There are tons of articles floating around the cyber world that break down all you ever wanted to know about Pinterest, but we’ve boiled it down to the top three reasons why “Pinning is Winning.”

  1. Sight: There is a reason why people say “A picture is worth a thousand words.” And when it comes to Pinterest, that is a lot of words. The pictures on Pinterest are appealing and serve as a form of expression that can be interpreted in different ways and can represent various things we see on a day-to-day basis. Look at it this way: are you more willing to try a new recipe if you read about it or if you see a picture of it?
  2. Categories: It does not take long to notice the countless types of boards and categories Pinterest covers. I mean, the name Pinterest speaks for itself—the root word being interest if you have not caught on by now. From recipes to technology, Pinterest allows users to focus on their own interests, explore and share with others. It has become the go-to hub for sharing ideas, and it serves as a brands’ Mecca for monitoring and keying in on audiences’ interests. Who would have thought, right?
  3. Links: Pinterest gives credit where credit is due. Instead of seeing a picture or video and scrambling through webpage after webpage to find it, Pinterest serves as your personal tour guide and takes you to the exact page it came from. This is where the whole “what’s in it for me” comes into play. It is a great way for companies to direct new visitors or loyal consumers directly to its website or blog because they are clearly looking for something. Linking individuals back to a brand’s website is also an excellent way to create engagement and give users a reason to return.

Bottom line: Do not doubt the power of Pinterest. It has taken the world by storm and is raising the bar every day of how we share and explore online. I will just let this infographic speak for itself. http://mashable.com/2012/02/25/pinterest-user-demographics/

 

Celebs receive “greatest love of all” on social media after their final curtain call

Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs and Whitney Houston were all taken from this world too soon, and the reaction to their deaths on the Internet was overwhelming.

On Saturday, the most recent celebrity death of Whitney Houston flooded Twitter accounts worldwide. According to an article, more than 2 million tweets about Houston’s death occurred within the first hour after the news broke. The tweets peaked at more than 1,000 per second. According to the infographic below, this is more than Michael Jaskson’s death, which hit 456 tweets per second. However, neither can compete with the announcement of Beyonce and Jay Z’s baby, which hit a whopping 8,886 tweets per second or Super Bowl XLVI which now holds the record at 12, 233 tweet per second. (Yes, you did read that right!)

Although there are conflicting accounts, a Mashable article states that a Twitter user tweeted about the death of Houston to his 14 followers, 27 minutes before a credible news source.

So what does this mean for news sources? Are more people turning to Twitter and other social media outlets to obtain news? Check out the infographic below from PCMag.com, created by Leslie Horn, and let us know what you think.

 

 

Leslie Horn's Twitter Inforgraphic

Twitter Infographic Courtesy of Leslie Horn from pcmag.com.

What’s so “Super” about the Super Bowl?

Super Bowl 46 LogoFor football fans, it’s a holy day. For others, it’s just an excuse to pig out and down some brewskies. But, no matter the age, gender or motive, the Super Bowl represents a profound experience that makes it an “unofficial” holiday in our American culture. As each year passes, it seems as if the brains behind the Super Bowl operations look for the next big idea to take fans’ experience to the next level.

This year, the land of Peyton Manning, Touchdown Jesus and Bobby Knight is the new home of the Super Bowl and the first-ever social media command center created by the Indianapolis Super Bowl XLVI Host Committee to provide visitors with a whole new type of game-day experience. (It’s in Indiana if you’re still in the dark with those sport references.)

The Game Plan

The new social media experience angle of this year’s big game is spearheaded by a group of individuals from Raidious, an Indiana-based social media company, who are committed to giving “Hoosier hospitality” to fans and visitors of Indianapolis by monitoring social media outlets and answering questions about local attractions, parking and other Super Bowl-related topics.

Raidious Super Bowl social media command center

Raidious Super Bowl social media command center

The social media platforms which will be monitored include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare. The command center is giving others the play-by-play now through Super Bowl Sunday.

The Drive

But, there’s more to this social media-savvy event. The command center goes for a two-point conversion with its SEO efforts, and in my eyes, really puts those extra points up on the board. Not only will the individuals manning (No pun intended, but go Giants) the center monitor conversations occurring on various outlets, they will also use SEO to highlight keywords and phrases people are searching with to obtain certain information.  According to FastCompany.com, a list of about 300 keywords will be used to monitor all social media outlets as well as the Twitter hashtag, #Social46.

The End Zone

Here’s the bottom line: it’s all about customer satisfaction, which directly relates to the individuals’ experience. No matter what business you’re in or which event you’re preparing for, you want outsiders or customers to walk away with the “wow” factor. It’s like Thanksgiving dinner when your mom seems as if her head is going to pop off faster than the cork on a champagne bottle just because she wants everyone to have a great time full of memories.

This social media command center accomplishes that same goal because it reaches out and makes a connection with Super Bowl attendees and tourists visiting Indianapolis. By serving as the scouting team, individuals are left feeling valued and taken care of because the command center has the ultimate Super Bowl playbook. The best offense is a good defense, and by being a step ahead of the game, you are almost always guaranteed to cross the goal line. So whether you’re tuning in for entertaining commercials or watching to see which team will clinch the Vince Lombardi Trophy, remember it’s all about your experience and the memories you take away.

 

What’s Your Social Capital?

Repmanagment management in social mediaFrom Facebook statuses to hash tags to Pinterest boards, we have become consumed with posting every event that happens in our lives onto social media outlets. But could there be consequences for sharing too much information?

It may happen sooner than you think.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the age of online reputation is upon us. Several companies, including Twitalyzer, PeerIndex and PostRank, are already applying online analytics on individuals and businesses, quantifying “social capital.” (AKA- Online Influence)

The New Credit Score
Similar to a credit score, showing the creditworthiness a person possesses, a new numerical score may be affecting your reputation: your online reputation.

This new score will more than likely be used to make decisions relating to jobs, internships and even loans. But thanks to reputation.com, the first-ever online reputation management company, monitoring what people say about you online is easier than ever. So whether you’re a college student or the CEO of a company, this service will alert you when there are damaging posts about you and can even delete unwanted negative mentions for a fee.

Resumes No More
The idea of online reputation management could come into play very soon, since companies are now relying on job candidates’ social media sites to gauge their suitability for a particular position. Jobs that once required a resume, may now ask for a snapshot of your Twitter feed, Facebook, personal blog and LinkedIn profile.

With online reputation management on the horizon, it’s important to understand what social circle you may or may not want to be associated with. As this new trend makes its way into the spotlight, it’s also critical to know how to present yourself in a respectable way online while still allowing your personality to show through. Yes, it’s the “digital age,” but there’s eventually a line you cannot cross when it comes to content.; especially if it could cost you your next job.

So the next time you tweet, post or pin your life on the World Wide Web, think of the consequences it could have on your future, or invest in a membership to reputation.com!

 

4 Content Marketing Lessons from Chuck Testa

Screenshot from Chuck Testa adI bet you thought this blog post would teach you four content marketing lessons from Chuck Testa – you are absolutely right. It will.

We can make all the jokes we want.  The ad for Chuck Testa and Ojai Valley Taxidermy is hilarious and has spawned hundreds of equally hilarious memes. Whether or not Testa knew he was making viral gold, he has taught us several content marketing lessons along the way.

1. It doesn’t take a lot of resources

Looking past the infamous video, Testa regularly posts taxidermy tips on YouTube.  I don’t know much about taxidermy, but he appears to be a thought leader in the industry and has a lot of advice to give.  Testa repurposes the video content into blog posts on his basic WordPress website and links posts back to a gallery of his work and an online store selling a “NOPE!” shirt (If you haven’t by now, watch the video).

Even though all the elements are basic, they come together in a cohesive strategy.

2. It’s not about production value

Testa’s taxidermy tips are about two minutes long, use absolutely no editing and are shot on Handycam with no external microphone. But they provide great value to his audience. I’ve seen several educational YouTube videos shot in HD quality with eccentric narrators. I’ve also watched a grainy, muffled smartphone video to remember how to tie a Full Windsor.

The production quality of educational content is low on a viewer’s priority list.  The first thing on the list: quality of content.

3. It’s focused on the audience

If you are not a hunter or aspiring taxidermist, please do not watch Chuck Testa’s other videos. If you are a vegetarian or animal lover, I implore, PLEASE do not watch his other videos.  They are somewhat graphic and are not targeted at you.

I’m an animal lover, but I’m also from a small town in central Ohio where the first day of deer-hunting season is considered an excused absence from school. These are the people who make up Testa’s audience.  I can picture several friends back home on the edge of the seat while watching Testa’s tips for mounting an antler rack.

4. It’s all about seizing a fleeting opportunity

We may never know if Testa recognized the treasure he possessed when uploading that video to YouTube. One thing we do know, he embraced it.  Testa still regularly retweets people using his signature catch phrase. My personal favorite, “Homework finished? NOPE #ChuckTesta.”

He also held a contest to find the best Chuck Testa memes and posted the winners on his website. Viral video stardom is fleeting to say the least. Testa immediately used the video to draw traffic to his website, Twitter and Facebook page. When your name comes up and your website traffic spikes, you have to act to ensure the spike lasts as long as possible.

Making do with a simple WordPress site, he blogs, syndicates his social media feeds and regularly updates and repurposes site content.  You might think he uses a digital marketing agency. Nope – it’s just Chuck Testa with a well-executed content marketing strategy.

 

True communications

Many people now have an aversion to traditional advertising

It started with an idea that scared the hell out of me.  What if PR and advertising as we’ve all known it to be didn’t work anymore? What if the media didn’t carry the same influence as it always had or if people simply stopped watching television? At the time, these
were radical thoughts, but now they aren’t so far-fetched and people are actually beginning to watch less television.

True Digital Communications was formed on the belief that digital communications is built on a foundation of open, honest and relevant conversation. Gone are the days of simply interrupting with advertising or building brands with crafty, expensive public relations campaigns. Simply by performing a search, key audiences can learn everything they need to know about a brand including its products, personality, customer interactions, employee morale, history, reviews, etc. This is what I call a brand’s Digital DNA – the brand with all of its beauty and warts is on full display, every minute of every day. There is no place to hide it. So why not embrace your organization’s Digital DNA and build a proactive communications program around it?  Sounds like a bold idea but to the digital marketer, this is the opportunity.

I created True to help brands find and develop their voice through search marketing, digital public relations, email marketing, mobile and analytics. True, honest and effective communications is not just from the brand, but from all of its constituents, too. Working together, the effects on brand awareness, loyalty, customer service and thought leadership is exponentially more powerful than anything implemented through traditional means.

New thinking and new processes are done through a new type of marketing professional.  They love communications but understand the power of spreadsheets and analytics to understand what’s working and why. They are trailblazers who respect traditional means but embrace technology and new thinking to create better, more effective ideas and processes.

Team True is made up of professionals who vary in age and experience, but who are the best-in-class at what they do. Working together, we bring down the wall between traditional marketing silos and embrace new technologies and new thinking to create a brand voice in the digital space.

We welcome your thoughts and reactions to our ideas. The potential for an organization that embraces true communications – pure, relevant, naked, honest – is enormous.

It’s time for True communications.