April 20, 2014

Work: Website Revamp

Unbeknownst to me, car dealerships have eCommerce limitations unlike traditional businesses and have specific challenges without a lot of solutions available to them. They have inventory feeds that need to not only push out inventory to numerous third party websites, but they need to connect with CRMs for financing options, data collection, sales persons, as well as post to advertising platforms like Craigslist and eBay. Add to the fact the dealership I was doing work for doesn’t have just cars and trucks, they have unique categories like airplanes and dragsters too! Add classic cars with unique vin numbers, and you’ve got a whole other issue. A challenge I had no idea what I was getting into when I was asked to take on revamping the website for their auto repair shop and used car lot. 

I am not a web developer, designer, or a programmer, but I do have a B.S. in Internet marketing, and have years of experience working with WordPress and other platforms. More so, I know what impact an outdated website has on an overall web presence, so I accepted the challenge. 

So, the redesign of the Automotive Dynamics web site has officially started. I’m still working on the inventory feed for the car dealership section. I decided to just place the current inventory feed into a frame for the moment, until I find out more details on a lead I have for a plugin to remedy the solution. 

The analytics have already shown an improvement in overall traffic within the first few weeks, and I’m excited to see how the overall revamp impacts the bounce rate and walk through traffic and sales too. 

After: 

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Before:

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April 1, 2014

Strategy vs. Pick and Choose

Do you imagine that people who are training for marathons simply do whatever workouts they feel like doing, whenever? Maybe a two mile jog one day, a little hiking the next, a day or two off, a bit of rowing or aerobics the next? That approach would probably not result in the ability to run 26.2 miles.

The most common marketing problem we see is comparable to random training: a lack of strategy. It is surprising how many business owners cannot articulate how their marketing activities will help them reach their goals. In fact, most of them have trouble saying what their marketing goals are beyond “making more sales”.

Marketing and marathoning (is that a word?) are similar in lots of ways. The end goal is clearly defined, but the benchmarks might be a little blurry. There are lots of tangents and distractions along the way. Reaching the end goal takes time. A plan is necessary. And last, but not least, neither one is easy.

One of the problems with creating a marketing plan is that it needs to be fairly flexible. It’s easy to mistake random picking and choosing for flexibility. So, how do you know if you have a workable plan or if you are just making random marketing stabs?

The answer is that a plan is created, intentionally. A good marketing strategy will include enough space to try new techniques, but will keep you pointed in the right direction. Benchmarks are clearly defined within the structure of a plan, and they include things like pageviews, followers, rate of response and, of course, sales.

Particularly when it comes to digital marketing, it seems like there is some new thing every other week. MySpace is out Facebook is in, then MySpace is back and Facebook is on its way out. If you aren’t on Twitter, you’re losing customers, and have you tried Quora? What? It’s the newest, flashiest up and comer on the web!

Simply deciding where to have a presence and invest your time can be a difficult and confusing process. Everyone says you should be on Facebook, but you aren’t getting much interaction from it. Should you leave it alone, or change your approach? Your company’s biggest competitor has rented billboards all over town, should you try that too?

Creating a plan is the first, and arguably the most important, step to having an effective marketing strategy. Randomly trying this, and then that, is not likely to get you where you need to be. No one wants to break down on mile 6 of a 26.2 mile race.

This guest post was written by Dava Stewart.

December 22, 2013

Top predictions for content marketing in 2014 as leaders pull away from the pack »

Fantastic read on the top predictions in online marketing for 2014. And what an exciting time to be involved in digital marketing!  

Now, if we can only make updates to an outdated hiring process, which should include concise job descriptions, educate how to adequately distinguish between those with digital marketing skills and those without, to align with the new roles technology has created, we could perhaps close the gap between the perceived lack of skill-set and the enormous amount if talent that is available, so we can all win in 2014

(Source: which-50)

December 18, 2013

Online Marketing Tips for the Beauty Industry

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In 2008, I started consulting with numerous salons and other beauty businesses across the country to improve their online marketing efforts. During this time, I’ve noticed a common thread. A lot of salon owners still don’t realize the importance of marketing themselves online. So I decided to include a section here with the occasional tip to help you market your salon or beauty business on the internet. Obviously marketing online takes more than a few tactics, it takes full blown plan of action and a lot of work however, I wanted to start off with a few basic tips that will help you start making more income today. And who doesn’t want more money? 

  • Offer online scheduling

I’ve seen tons of beauty salons and even doctor’s offices, claim to offer online scheduling. When in reality, it’s just a contact or email form on the website. I don’t know about you, but when I see the word online scheduling, I expect to immediately make an appointment. And to me, a contact or email form on a website is not online scheduling, it’s a request for an appointment at a later time. What a huge waste of time!

Imagine how your customer would feel if your salon offered a value added service like online scheduling? They could make an appointment on their time, not when you have time to get back to them. It could also reduce the amount of back and forth time and make you more money in the long run.

Consulting with a hair salon recently, I convinced them to implement online scheduling. Within the first month, they saw a 17% increase in bookings as well as fewer reschedules, cancelations and no shows. That’s a nice return for a small investment. 

Tip: Now, there are plenty of options offering this type of service. Although not affiliated, Schedulicity is one of my favorites. I’ve used the service while working with hair salons and other appointment based industries for years. There are also low cost options, services that offer text message reminders, and even offering customers to book on Facebook. 

If you advertise online scheduling, kick the outdated contact form and lengthy back and forth to the curb and offer it, you will not be sorry. If you do not currently offer it, your customers will be excited they can make an appointment when it suits them. It is all about customer service and value after all. 

  • Reviews

I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve tried to research a new hair salon only to come up short finding information. Reviews are one of the most effective online marketing tactic you can provide potential customers online. Online reviews either through Yelp, Google+ or any of the online sources can provide social proof for your business. Often, they help a customer make an informed decision about your salon and walk through the door that much faster.

The best way to get more reviews online? Ask happy customers. Also make it easy as possible for customers to leave them.

Tip: Claim your Google+ local and Yelp profiles, make business cards and place the URL’s on the back, that way your client doesn’t have to search for your salon online.

Consulting with a salon a few years ago, I had them place a QR code on the back of their review cards. Once home, your client can scan the code with their smartphone, and the QR code takes them directly to your review site online. The easier you make it for them, the more likely they will leave a raving review.

There you have it, a few online marketing tips for your beauty business you can use to start making more money today. Do you have any tips you’d like to share? Leave them in the comments below. 

November 26, 2013

Social Media vs. Search

“The rules of search have changed. In fact, they change on a daily basis.” (Sandler, 2012)

The rules of online search are ever-changing, one thing that hasn’t changed, the importance of the basics when it comes to an effective search engine optimization strategy. Given, “SEO is often considered the foundation of a marketing campaign and one of the biggest sources of traffic to a website,” it’s only natural this process would include social media marketing as a component; as social media helps drive optimized content to an audience seeking out that information. An effective search engine optimization strategy includes site architecture, on-page optimization, as well as off-page optimization. Part of that off-page optimization strategy should include social media.

Social media helps spread content, which in turn, builds relevancy, and authority online in the eyes of the search engines. As a result, search engines index a web site or blog sooner due to keyword-specific content. Using social media, one can also entice an audience to share your content thereby, creating more links online through link baiting. Although the search engines haven’t stated explicitly how social media influences results, we do know social media can improve SEO numbers through engagement, consistent posting, and sharing.

However, I believe one of the most common fallacies about social media, if you have a big enough social following with influencers; these influencers might discover and share your content with their network, ultimately making a sale. Which is where many businesses and marketers alike miss the point of social media, the sales funnel process, and how it relates to the search and content marketing’s constant evolution.

While sure, the basics are withstanding, when content is spread via social networks that content is indexed, and becomes available throughout search engines for the public to search and find. However, mistakes are plenty as search engines have incorporated social signals, and content creation has evolved. For one, inexperienced business owners and marketers alike still use social media as a broadcast mechanism instead of listening or asking audiences what they’d like to see, optimizing that content, then finding a way to give it to them. Another mistake, using social media without preparing original, thoughtful, and keyword rich content.

Seems most are just taking a social stab in the dark by posting a random “lolzcat” images, to make the audience laugh in hopes the random image will generate “viral” sharing that warrants mass spending of products or services via Facebook. Instead, by preparing keyword rich content via video, images, graphics, and text, businesses stand the chance of connecting to customers via search engines with the evolution of blended search. Seems obvious in the grand scheme of things to engage a potential customer with an entertaining video or graphic meant to address a question or provide an answer, bringing them to your business doorstep with breadcrumbs instead of screaming at people to buy your stuff or crossing your fingers.

Search engine optimization without social media would be like Hansel and Gretel, never laying the breadcrumbs to find their way back home. And screaming sales at people is like the witch! Search engine optimization is the necessary foundation, and social media outposts are the breadcrumbs intended to reach the audience and searcher alike. Those crumbs are meant to engage those searching back to your web site, blog or e-commerce site to complete the sales funnel process.

Some may argue, social media is warm and fuzzy similar to the ending of Hansel and Gretel, and search engine optimization offers just the cold hard facts, but there is a direct coloration and method to the madness. At the end of the day, this quote best sums it up with the current evolution between search and social, “Content Doesn’t Win. Optimized Content Wins” – Li Evans

Referenced:

How Does SEO fit in your Social Media Strategy? :: WeeklyInterview. (n.d.). WeeklyInterview. Retrieved September 29, 2012, from http://weeklyinterview.com/?p=167

28 Stimulating Digital and Social Media Marketing Quotes. (n.d.). FUEL LINES — Fueling Ad Agency New Business Through Social Media. Retrieved September 29, 2012, from http://www.fuelingnewbusiness.com/2011/02/23/28-stimulating-digital-and-social-media-marketing-quotes/

How to Increase Your Search Rank Using Social Media. (n.d.). Social Media News and     Web Tips – Mashable – The Social Media Guide. Retrieved September 29, 2012, from http://mashable.com/2012/08/22/search-rank-social-media/

November 25, 2013

What Happened to LinkedIn the Professional Network?

I get all sorts of requests via social media to connect, and I have a few rules of engagement as I’m sure most do. Facebook, I must have met you in person. Foursquare, I’m really strict, as well as Google+ too. Twitter is a free for all. Then we have LinkedIn. LinkedIn, I’ve been pretty open for the most part, with a few minor exceptions. Until recently, this tactic hasn’t proved to be a problem.

A few months ago, things started to change for me on LinkedIn. I’ve had sales calls and emails at work from those trolling the inter-webs. I’ve had someone use LinkedIn to ask me out on a date. Twice. And now, people are using LinkedIn for greeting cards, and asking me to rate them on some business card thing!

However, today was the topper. Someone inquired about my freelance services. Woohoo, right? Not exactly.

I was asked if I knew of someone who would be interested in partnering with them on creating, implementing and managing an internet marketing campaign on a large scale project that would take someone creative, innovative, and apparently, a large amount of time.

Then the kicker came. The person or “partner”, would be expected to “invest sweat equity, time and creativity since this is a new venture, and have other employment which would support them until the project launched and would be profitable. And, it would not require them to relocate however, they may have to be able to travel during production.”

Here, let me ask you to connect, and within moments, ask you for a favor and for free nonetheless? Come again?

Don’t see it that way? Well, this person surely didn’t see anything wrong with it. And, they were quite upset with me that I wouldn’t consider the unpaid sweat equity project. I suggested perhaps they should enquire about a graduate student, or someone looking to build their portfolio instead.

Their response? A short reply suggesting I had to know of someone, considering I was in the “business”. As well as they couldn’t understand why I’d pass up such a great opportunity? Of course you wouldn’t. And that is why, when I typed your business into Google you did not come up. Anywhere.

I’d like to know, what happened to the Largest Professional Network, as well as simple business etiquette? Now, please don’t get me wrong, I’ve put in my time and years of sweat equity to build my portfolio, as well as helped out with volunteer efforts, and non-profits. As well as endured my share of “pick your brain sessions” to last a lifetime. It’s instances like this that give networking and social media a sour taste in my mouth. I’m more about building relationships as well as accepting opportunities with those who are in it to build a relationship with me first. Not those on the first date so to speak, are already expecting a freebie. I suppose if you don’t ask, you’ll never receive? Either way, I wasn’t impressed.

I’m curious, do you feel as if LinkedIn has changed the way we “network” online?  Do you think people need to scale back and remember online etiquette? Or do you have something in general to add to this conversation? Let me know in the comments below.

November 24, 2013

Impact of Local Search

“Think global, act local” is a phrase that has stirred a debate in recent history, but the context still has value on the World Wide Web. Even though the web doesn’t offer traditional borders, search algorithms have made it essential to act within their local municipalities more than ever. One of the biggest factors for web site owners is the need to stake their claim with quantity of references through online citations.

Online citations can include, business name, address, website and phone number, on sites such as Google+ local, Yahoo local, Yelp, and more. According to Search Engine Journal, each “citation you get on the web counts in your favor of your legitimate membership in that geo-location.” The first, and perhaps most important, claiming a business listing within Google+ local, and Google+ business page. Claiming these, allows those searching for a particular topic, more in-depth information about the business, especially since the inception of blended search results. The most important reason to set up your business in Google+ local is to capture those searching in the local area for your type of service, and by adding local modifiers to their keyword phrases those searching will find it that much faster.

As mentioned, including those local modifiers to their keyword phrases those searching can find a business faster however, there is another perhaps more crucial step to include that a lot of businesses neglect. Filling out a full profile. Optimizing your Google+ local page should include details such as, basic business information, contact information, service areas, business hours, website, and payment options. One of my favorite options to include on the Google+ local page is video and/or service discount. Doing so, will offer searchers with a call to action within the listing.

Another tactic I’ve used in the past for local SEO is to collect testimonials providing social proof to potential new patrons. Two of my favorite citation sources to use are Foursquare and Yelp. Offering a Foursquare check-in special will offer an element of fun and gamification, as well as now that Foursquare has positioned itself to become more of a local search provider.

Using Yelp, a review and rating directory, allows users to review and provide opinions, which will be essential to not only gaining feedback but also “Data from these sites, including both profiles and reviews, are used to reinforce the geo-location of a business. Further, the volume, quality and freshness of reviews helps provide the engines with a variety of important signals that contribute to your sites’ overall authority and relevancy based on their proprietary scoring.”

No matter where a company is located, local businesses can improve their listings by following a few simple steps. Following these simple steps can offer lasting results that can include new and potential clients finding your business, as well as optimizing your profiles and collecting favorable reviews can put your business in a more favorable position. At that point, the business can dominate local search for your product or service and gain new clients.

This excerpt is taken from my assignment at Full Sail University, original content may not be reproduced in any form, for any purpose. © 2012.

Referenced:

“3 Keys To Success For Local Search SEO | Search Engine Journal.” Search Engine Journal | News on search marketing, blogs, and Web 2.0. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.searchenginejournal.com/local-search-seo/8786/>.
“8 Steps to Building an Optimized Local Business Listing | Web Marketing Today | Strategies for growth.” Web Marketing Today | Strategies for growth. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://webmarketingtoday.com/articles/basu-local-optimization/>.
“Google Maps Marketing | Google Places SEO | Local SEO.” Local Search Marketing – Local Internet Marketing Services. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://www.smallbusinessonlinecoach.com/locallistings/>.
sites, ensuring you have a completed profile within popular review, suitably optimized, and with customer reviews. “ Customer Reviews & Local SEO .” RankPay SEO Blog | Search Engine Optimization Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2012. <http://blog.rankpay.com/customer-reviews-local-seo/

November 23, 2013

Launch Strategies

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

- Walt Disney

Sounds simple right? Quit talking and start doing. Not always when it comes to planning a business strategy from the ground up. A lot of micro businesses fail to take the critical steps when forming a launch strategy, and dive in headfirst, only to worry later about the how, and why things weren’t a success later. In this report, I’ll discuss one of my favorite launch strategies and why their tactics impressed me, and mention several strategies a micro business can use to launch a business online, but first, what is a launch strategy?

An online launch strategy is when a company releases new products, launches new services or comes out for the first time. It’s when a micro business takes their product or service from the ideation stage all the way through to that moment of catapulting the business for public viewing online. How you accomplish this is a can lain the foundation for future success. It’s important to note, that taking a momentary step away from your product or service even for a moment, and establishing a consistent online presence across platforms to continually attract and engage prospects, partners, customers and build vibrant online communities should be a large part of the launch strategy in the online world.

One of my favorite online launch strategies was a simple idea on a local level in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “A group of designers in Chattanooga want to showcase the unique character of the city by giving it its own typeface. The idea, when completed, will be free to use by area business owners, residents, and the city government. The plan is to utilize the font on everything from street signs to government letterhead to restaurant menus” (James 2012).

However, a simple idea must have a long-term strategy in place to get the word out after the launch as well, and that is just what the designers of CHAtype did. The designers for CHAtype established a consistent online presence across platforms, and built on a story of a burgeoning local community. They used storytelling, and leaned on not only the local design community for financial support, but also for spreading the word as well. They used a hybrid core launch strategy that encompassed all forms of online media, television, and video, including print and traditional advertising tactics. One of the most influential launch strategies they used was email marketing combined with a Kickstarter strategy. Nowhere else have I seen a smooth transition from idea, to concept to launch than from the designers of CHAtype.

Using a “Big Bang” strategy CHAtype utilized the popular Kickstarter platform with a campaign that was developed to the fullest. The designers of CHAtype wanted to point out, “Design is more than eye-candy. While there is bad design out there, design is function and design is identity. We want Chattanooga to be the poster child for municipal branding in America” (De Villers 2011). Throughout the Kickstarter campaign they crafted several ongoing email blasts and viral videos informing supporters of each step, leading up to the actual launch of the typeface. Alongside a Twitter, Facebook, and social media campaign that extended to reach those who backed the idea from the original concept by thanking them personally through shout outs during the effective campaign.

They used Kickstarter as their springboard, in order to collect email addresses, gain notoriety in the local press, and to spread content just before the official launch date via social networks, claiming the money would be used to finish the typeface when in actuality, the typeface was secretly finished and ready for beta testing. This in turn, allowed them to capture the essence of ideation that comes with growing a new business as well as gain excitement in the local community through effective storytelling concepts.

The next few steps included a viral social media and video campaign telling the story in the various stages of developing the typeface, and why a typeface is important to branding a city. Each step built upon the other such as breadcrumbs in the popular story Hansel and Gretel. The campaign ended on a high note, with an official launch party, yet didn’t end there. They continued to gain momentum with several articles in popular design and trade magazines with mentions across the world still over a year later. The Big Bang was the announcement the actual typeface was finished and would be distributed within a few local establishments such as the Chattanooga Public Library, and other prominent displays such as street signs in a popular part of town that was seeing a revival of sorts as part of the beta test.

CHAtype’s approach also included an Evergreen strategy as well. As each of the articles were published, videos released, and interviews they gave, they’ve naïvely created an online presence and footprint that has allowed continued success to look back on, and make a profit from. Not technically a profit for CHAtype but from CHAtype; because the font is freely distributed online, there isn’t a profit directly from the typeface. However, the designers have since been asked to be involved in lots of future projects not just in the Chattanooga area, but worldwide as well. Securing their future was a part of the plan all along.

I use CHAtype as my example for this report, because not only did they use the Big Bang launch strategy for their micro non-profit launch, they used strategies and tactics across the board all interconnected into one persuasive yet simplistic launch. They used email marketing, social media networks, local press, print, blogger outreach, and more. They used social influencers, a popular platform like Kickstarter, and offered a launch party for supporters of the new typeface, and campaign. Each step built on the other.

Which I feel is extremely important to point out; today, micro businesses need to use an array of Internet marketing tactics and strategies when launching their business online and to the public. It’s hard not to interlace ideas. To me, a core launch strategy to should be included in any business model, because they do so intertwine and feed off each other as marketing online does too. Each strategy builds on the other, while each tactic is executed; it plays off the step to build a massive network therefore creating an online presence.

These days, a micro business needs numerous avenues to be found, and heard online just as CHAtype did. Each tactic holds characteristics that allows for the other to work. A Facebook strategy is not enough; you also need a holistic overall marketing plan to see growth and to become a success online in the crowded sea of micro businesses online. No matter what, it’s all about the first impression. Whether you’re launching a non-profit, product or service, the launch can make or break it. It’s the brilliant moment when all eyes are on your micro business. As long as we quit talking and start doing.

Referenced:

10 Online Strategies for Your Next Product Launch. (n.d.). Mashable. Retrieved January 26, 2013, fromhttp://mashable.com/2011/01/26/product-launch-web-strategies/

CHAtype: A Typeface. (n.d.). Kickstarter . Retrieved January 26, 2013, fromwww.kickstarter.com/projects/chatype/chatype-a-typeface-for-chattanooga-tennessee

Chatype: A Typeface for Chattanooga | pixelFLYTE | interactive advertising and marketing agency | Blog. (n.d.). nashville web design | pixelFLYTE | interactive advertising and marketing agency. Retrieved January 26, 2013, from http://www.pixelflyte.com/blog/2012/02/29/chatype-a-typeface-for-chattanooga/

This is an excerpt from my Launch Strategies Research Report for my Internet Marketing degree at Full Sail University no portion may be copy or used.

November 22, 2013

Emergencies, Travel, and Social Media in 2013

One of my favorite topics, how brands get it wrong when responding to or ignoring customers via social media accounts. As a heavy Twitter and overall social media user, I expect a lot from brands on social media accounts. Especially because I see so many conversations, and customer service issues fall through the cracks. When all takes is someone on the other end of an account to listen and respond accordingly in a timely manner.

Just like the toll free numbers of the past, online customer service should be an important part of your social media marketing strategy. In other words, don’t expect to open a bunch of social media accounts and forget about them. People expect interaction. In a recent post by Jay Baer, “42 Percent of Consumers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time” he mentions an important statistic, “24% of American Internet Users 12+ Who Have Contacted a Brand in Social Media, Expect a Reply Within 30 Minutes, Regardless of When the Contact Was Made.” As a consumer and digital marketer, I agree with that stat wholeheartedly.

Recently, I was pleasantly surprised when I had a family emergency and had to travel cross country from Phoenix, Arizona to Chattanooga, Tennessee. In an emergency, you want to be there for your friends or family members in their time of need no matter the cost, time or amount of money you have to spend. Before leaving on a late evening flight, I made a car reservation through Thrifty Car Rentals online. I was flying standby thanks to a few good family friends, but wasn’t sure exactly when I’d get to my final destination. When choosing my rental time for pickup, I made a best guesstimate of noon the next day.

Once I knew I was going to miss that estimated arrival time to Chattanooga, I called the customer service number for Thrifty Car Rentals. The representative angrily told me, they only keep reservations 2 hours past the time of expected arrival. I told her my situation, my flight was delayed due to mechanical problems, and I was flying standby for a funeral. She told me there was nothing she could do, and if I didn’t give her an exact time of arrival, they couldn’t keep my car reservation. I have to say, I was extremely upset. I knew once I got to Chattanooga, finding a last minute ride was a burden I did not want to place on my family and friends in their time of need.

Naturally, I took to Twitter. I went from very upset, to more likely to rent a car from Thrifty Car Rentals again in the future. All because of a little more patience on my part, a dose of humor, and they responded accordingly with a conversation via Twitter.

At the end of the day, when a brand or business is ready to engage customers on social media, not only helps deflate a potentially tricky situation, it’s also expected from a large portion of social media users. Are you ready for customer service online?

November 21, 2013

Personal Branding: Are You Listening?

If you spend any amount of time on the Internet, online security is a concern that is always in the back of your mind. While most worry about viruses, credit card fraud, and general safety, there is another part to online security that a lot of people neglect to check:

Personal brand

Not monitoring your personal brand can set you up for all sorts of problems. For example, you’ll want to monitor conversations to make informed decisions, as well as keep tabs on more serious topics such as fraud or identity theft. As scary as the latter sounds, we can easily become vigilant about monitoring our  brand online.

I’d like to share with you something that recently happened to me, then I’ll give you a few quick tips to get you started monitoring your brand online.

I’m always on the lookout for emerging platforms online so I can share anything new with clients. About a year ago, I created an account on Betterfly. At the time, Betterfly, was a new service that connected service providers to new customers online. I quickly deleted my account realizing, I wouldn’t need it. The alert I have set up for my personal brand, notified me someone had created a Facebook page in my name. I quickly realized it was Betterfly. Even though I deleted my account over a year ago, they had made a Facebook page on my behalf. The worst part, I couldn’t log into the account to delete nor claim control of the page. I felt helpless.

After reaching out to Betterfly via social media, email, and by phone, I’m happy to report it was an accident on their part. I received an email from them, apologizing for the mix up, somehow my account was entered into cue for page creation, a new service they are now providing. I have to also mention, their great online customer service and support. They quickly responded, and the rogue page was deleted by the time Betterfly reached out to apologize for the mishap.

Let’s imagine for a moment, if I didn’t have an alert set up to monitor my personal brand? I would have never known about this rogue Facebook page that was created on my behalf.

Or worse, what if it wasn’t a reputable company who created it?

Monitoring your personal brand online can be done in a few steps. Of course there are more advanced techniques, and paid options, which I do recommend for maintaining and defending your brand long term as well as for larger organizations. However, for personal use, these free services can be used to start.

  1. Create a Brand-Yourself Profile. Brand Yourself has both free and paid options. Personally, I use the free option but, am considering upgrading to the paid option in the near future. I love this service, you get notifications and insights when people actually find your profile. It’s also helped me de-clutter the first page of Google for my name, and knock off those rogue profiles I’ve deleted or that I’m no longer using.
  2. Social Mention. Social mention monitors hundreds of sites across the web for keywords and your name. You can also click on the links as a way to track who is talking about your brand. Clicking on those links is an important step, I’ve actually caught a few sites ‘repurposing’ my original content on the web without permission. Busted indeed!
  3. Google Alerts. Setting up an alert for keywords plus your name is a great way to keep informed. You can send these to your Google reader, or your inbox.

These are just a few tools you can use to begin to take charge and monitor your brand. What are you waiting for? Take charge of your brand. 

November 21, 2013

Digital Gluttony

A few months ago, I signed up for SMS mobile coupons from one of my favorite clothing stores. I did it to get the extra 10% off coupon for that day, well, and to make the salesgirl leave me alone. Then it happened, I received 3 texts a day that week from that business. Shortly afterward, I texted “STOP” the madness to the number.

Does your business offer mobile text message marketing? If so, imagine for a moment, how you would feel as a consumer, receiving 3 text messages in a week about an extended 15% off sale when you were just at the 10% off sale a few days before.

As text message marketing becomes more business friendly, think about how you’re engaging those customers. Are you offering a lame attempt at wooing them back inside to shop more with a $5 off coupon, or are you offering them a valuable text message tip of the month?

Before things get out of hand, businesses today need to stop and think, is this valuable for my audience, or is it a waste of money or worth the loss of a customer forever? Which is why, I believe businesses should personalize mobile coupons and cater them to their audience instead of blasting consumers at every chance they get.

While some may argue mobile coupons are “the next big thing” it’s important to remember marketing 101. More so, just like social media, if you yell at your customers every second how awesome your business is, they won’t be customers very long. Which is why if you’re offering mobile coupons or SMS campaigns, offering something valuable, is so important.

As mobile couponing advances into our everyday lives, it important to keep things relevant to consumers especially when marketing to them on “opt-in” basis such as a mobile device. While sure, there are a recorded, 1.2 billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions worldwide but if your product or service becomes non relevant, guess who will be opting out first?

Whereas most business owner may fall victim to consumers digital gluttony, the point to remember unless you’re offering something of value more than the usual $5 off coupon, don’t become a digital fiend and misuse mobile as a one way messaging tool.

More so, stop for a moment a craft a relevant message that keeps folks wanting more.

References:

Digital Gluttony | UA Magazine. (n.d.).United Academics. Retrieved April 2, 2012, from http://www.united-academics.org/magazine/6667/digitalg

Global mobile statistics 2012: all quality mobile marketing research, mobile Web stats, subscribers, ad revenue, usage, trends… | mobiThinking. (n.d.). Home | mobiThinking. Retrieved April 2, 2012, from http://mobithinking.com/mobile-marketing-tools/latest-mobile-stats

Mobile Coupons Offer Multiple Benefits – Search Engine Watch (#SEW). (n.d.). Search Engine Marketing (SEM), Paid Search Advertising (PPC) & Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – Search Engine Watch (#SEW). Retrieved April 2, 2012, from http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2066449/Mobile-Coupons-Offer-Multiple-Benefits

November 20, 2013

Book Review: Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager

Let me preface this post by saying 90% of the “social media” books I read are fluff, theory, or flat-out crap. The book that I’m about to tell you about, is 100% the real deal. Back in October of 2012, I participated in an online chat with Spin Sucks, and Mark Story. By take part, I mean by stalking the comments section, I won a copy.

Hurray! I never win anything.

You can read all about the chat here. And of course, I wasn’t asked to blog about it, I found value, so I figured, share it with my readers. Imagine that! Mark’s book, Starting Your Career As A Social Media Manager, is full of tips on just that. It’s geared towards the newly graduated or perhaps those still in college. Now I have a lot of experience, and I found a lot value in this book. Actually, I wish I had years before entering marketing online as a profession.

Why you ask? If I could turn back time, {insert Cher music}, and read chapter nine, Getting Started: Figuring It All Out, I would have been ready to enter the job market. Yes, you read that correctly.

Between a step by step look into the interview process, preparing for work in an agency or private sector, Mark offers great insight into the world of working in “social media marketing” as a profession, minus all that fluffy stuff. He breaks down job descriptions into digestible bits so one can understand exactly what those crazy vague job description really mean. He offers interview preparation tips, such as negotiating salary, and looking into the mind of a recruiter.

I also have to admit, the section, Choosing a Role That Is Right For You, would help anyone attempting to navigate the utterly ridiculous job titles that “social media” jobs provide. I mean come on, Tweeter/Ghost Tweeter? If you’re like me, you struggle with titles, struggle with keeping a straight face that is! Overall, I’d say give it a read. In fact, my copy is all crumpled up now, and I’ve leant it to many a friend to start their journey, so it must be good! Go to Amazon.com and get a copy now: Starting Your Career as a Social Media Manager.

November 20, 2013

Online Marketing Providers: Experts Versus the Real Deal

Everyday, businesses and professionals pick and choose what they think will work for them, a little social media, a dash of online advertising, a pinch of email marketing, and before you know it, you’re scattered all over the place without a cohesive message. And more often than not, you’re not seeing results despite your efforts, and end up missing out on the customer right in front of you or frustrated, doing nothing.

This is where help comes in.

Hiring the wrong person or firm to handle your online activity can be a waste of time, money, and can take your business in the wrong direction. A lot of “experts” claim to know what they’re doing however one should know, it takes more to effectively market online than being good at Facebook, it takes someone who is trained in online marketing strategies and that provide measurable results.

Once you decide to seek out help with your online marketing, you may ask around for a referral, or Google online marketing or PR help in your area. If you search online, you’ll see a ton of results, which, can be overwhelming. Everyone from web design firms, to out of work college students offer online marketing services. Basically anyone with a domain name, can claim to be a self proclaimed “expert” in online marketing. Unfortunately, it’s not getting any easier to separate those claiming to be “experts” from the real deal.

So how does one select an online marketing agency or individual in a sea of “experts”?

When looking for a social media/online marketing agency, or individual, here are are a few things you can ask before choosing the right one:

  • Do they have certifications, additional training or experience, or a specialized degree in the services they claim to provide?

This is really important. Since anyone can claim to be an online service provider not all of them can provide results. There are certifications in everything from online advertising like Google AdWords and more, to additional training at social media conventions, to specialized degrees in Internet marketing or PR.

Experience is great but those who seek out additional education, either through webinars, college coursework, or seminars, are more likely the real deal verses someone who uses Twitter for personal use or can post an update on Facebook on your behalf. Continuing to ask questions about measurable success is important because, things are changing rapidly in the online world; as service providers, we need to keep up to date on those changes through continually educating ourselves.

  • Can they provide you measurable results or benchmarks for success?

Online marketing can and should be measured, otherwise how will you know what’s working and what’s not? Likewise, there is a lot of testing before you can determine actionable results therefore, if someone cannot provide you data or benchmarks for success, you may want to move on, especially, if they tell you social media can’t be measured. So ask, how do you determine success, what are your benchmarks, what type of value will you provide and what tools do you use? Measuring success goes beyond page views on a website, if they’re not using measurement tools, again, move on.

  • Do they actively blog? Which blogs do they read daily?

Sure, we all get busy with life but, marketing online things can change with a single tweet, or blog post announcement, and it’s our job to keep up to date on anything new in the online world. So if they’re not reading blogs or struggle to name any in the industry, regardless if you know them personally or not, you have a problem. Also, blogging allows for many Internet marketers to gain an audience, showcase their writing skills, or portfolio so, if the blog hasn’t been updated, or you can’t find it online, what value can they provide to your organization?

  • Have active social media accounts and an online presence?

One example, if they claim to build Facebook pages or can build your Facebook presence and their business is set up as a profile, Houston, we have another problem. It’s against terms of service on Facebook for a business to have a profile, they must make a page. If they do this and don’t practice what they preach, you can imagine what they can’t do for you. Online service providers should at the very least know about emerging social networks and provide you with some examples of the latest up and coming networks.

  • Do they follow the rules on social networking for contests or promotions?

Following the rules on social networking whether for contests, or promotions is a big deal, and if not followed, your account can be deleted. Once deleted, you no longer have those contacts, furthermore, you can only use an email address once on Facebook so if your whole account is gone, you’ve lost those fans forever. Therefore, it’s important to ask questions, and follow the rules. Professional agencies or individuals should know and follow them to a ‘T’, no exceptions. Also another big question, are they up to date with online terms of service agreements, privacy policies, COPPA or FTC Endorsement Guidelines again, if not, just walk away.

  • Do they have online conversations?

I see this a lot online, agencies have thousands of followers so they look active in the social world, dig deeper, they’re just chatting with someone within their company or just spamming people with a bunch of links. Social media is meant to be social, sure chat it up with friends but, pay attention to who they’re chatting with long enough, you’ll quickly know the faux “experts” online.

  • Can they provide examples of previous work, case studies, or customer testimonials?

This is by far the most important thing a business could ask for, examples of work. Regardless of experience, if they’re just starting out, an online service provider should at the very least do some mock up accounts, graphic design, or somehow be able to provide you with value as to what they can do. Don’t just assume, ask for proof. You wouldn’t hire a nanny without references or work history, same goes for online service providers, ask for examples or references. These are just a few of many questions that can be asked.

Dig deeper, don’t be afraid to ask, if they don’t offer an answer, you may want to keep digging for the right person for your needs. On a final note, expect your service provider to ask a lot of questions of you as well. I’ve done a few consultations where I ask all the questions and can tell the potential client is overwhelmed but don’t be. More times than not, it’s these types of questions and open communication that can lead to lasting success online.

And if you’re in need of an online marketing provider, feel free to contact me, I’d love to give you my answers to these questions and more.