Archive for category New Media – Online Marketing

Social Media Is Your Embassy, and More Zen Identity Tips

Zen Garden wikimedia Social media is your embassy.  Be true to your online self.  This post from zenhabits is a great contribution to getting rid of clutter in your digital house.

We’re all suffering a little from online information overload, and since we’ve been online for a while, it’s like when you do spring cleaning on a house you’ve been living in for 15 years and realize how much of your old life is still there.  You’re not that person anymore, but you still have all that person’s stuff.  The digital world is much the same way, and Tyler Tervooren of Advanced Riskology notes that we should purge that stuff and not mourn the loss of it. We’re becoming more of the person we want to be and staying true to that with the things about us that live online.

The idea behind this has everything to do with branding, as well as our online habits and the way we gather information. There are great tips on letting go – it is zenhabits, after all – and keeping clutter at bay so we can be more productive and enjoy ourselves a little more.

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Blog Content Strategy: What Are You Talking About?

What are you talking about on your blog?  If it’s yourself, you’re probably not getting readers.  You don’t want to be the guy at the party whose stories about himself only pause when he has time to stuff an hors d’ouevres in his mouth and continue with “and then I….”

When marketers say the 20 year or so old refrain Content is King, what they mean is the stuff you put on your Web site needs to be interesting to your readers, not just you.  Your blog is not a mouthpiece for your sales department.  It is a virtual conversation that provides something valuable to customers and partners and whomever else you are trying to get to read it.  It’s educational, entertaining, and probably informal.  The more natural a voice you adopt for your blog, the better.  Have fun with it.  Your blog is your creative arm.  It’s where you connect with people who are like you, who would enjoy your product and the subculture that surrounds it the same way you do.

How to come up with ideas to write about:

Listen.

Go to places where your customers hang out, in person or digitally, and see what they talk about.   What else do they like? What can you tie back into the values of your product? Educate them on how to use your product.  Provide profiles and links on people who are doing interesting things with the type of product or service you provide, though not necessarily customers all the time, since that all comes back to being completely about you.  There’s nothing wrong with telling a story or two about yourself.  Just don’t abuse it.  Have other stuff there.

Pay Attention to Subcultures

I read blogs because of the interesting stories they tell about subjects I follow.  And I’ll check out a book or product a blogger is promoting because I trust her, because she writes about other subjects that interest me.

I’ll buy a beauty product from a company if it is a natural product company that writes articles about growing organic herbs and aromatherapy, what collagen actually does for the skin, and how bee farming is humane and generates all sorts of useful ingredients, such as beeswax, which are used in products like theirs.  A blog like this is not designed to push a product, though it informs me about aspects of the product and reminds me of the natural organic subculture that I have unofficially joined through my interests.

Build (and Join) Community

As a side note, I really really love that company if it also sponsors events with recyclers, crafters, and craft brewers in the local organic community and writes about the festivals it supports, since that fits in with my subculture and helps me connect to their idea of community and my own even better.  But events are a whole other ball of beeswax. Though they help immensely with figuring out what to write about.

One way to tap into this community-building and be a local participant is to begin using Twitter to find others like yourself.  Put your interests or your business summary in your profile – as well as a link to your Web site.  Seek out and follow others by typing the words you used to describe yourself into the search bar in Twitter.  People will find you and begin to follow you.  Thank them for following you.  Comment or reply to others in the industry who put tweets up you enjoy, or people who enjoy the same things you do.  It builds on itself until you have a great group of folks who are engaged with your interests, and you can all share ideas – sometimes they are your direct customers telling you what they want, or showing you what they are reading (through the links they put up on their feeds), which is valuable information to have.

Use any or all of these methods to find ideas to write about and good content to link to on your blog. It’s not just about search engine optimization (SEO) or converting sales. You’re relationship building, and you do this through community – and through providing information people care about. Educate. Entertain. Inform. “Convert” comes later.

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Personal Branding For Business – Brilliant, Not Backwards

Personal branding, the science of establishing a brand identity for individuals, usually related to career/professional development.  The personal brand idea is taken from what companies have been doing since the dawn of capitalism, and an individual uses these principles to find a way to stand out from the crowd, figure out what value he or she adds, presenting a consistent personality online to develop a reputation in this space of too-much-information.

I’ve been reading quite a bit about personal branding lately; as a marketer, it fascinates me.  And I realized that some of the tenets of this practice are employing major principles of marketing that have atrophied in business, principles which need to be reexamined if brands are going to survive.

Me, Inc.The following is a list of 10 reasons individuals, especially job seekers, should be concerned with personal branding.  It comes from personalbrandingblog.com, the brain child of Dan Schawbel, one of the current proponents of the field, and author of Me 2.0.  I took these principles and turned them right back around to business branding, because businesses often seem confused in their Web content and social media strategy, as well as branding as a company-life-long effort. Which technologies to use?  What kind of content?  What does our audience want from us?   The information below is taken directly from Schawbel’s blog. I’ve added my comments in italics.

 1. Generations are colliding online

Facebook started out as a hang out place for college students, but now we’re seeing older generations adopt social networking. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010. This means that communication between age groups is occurring more and more each day, and your audience is changing rapidly. Entire families are interacting online and 70% of parents friend their kids. You have to be aware of your audience and the content you’re publishing because if they don’t match, it can have a negative effect on your personal brand.

Understand your audience. What are the demographics of the largest portions of your customers?  Don’t exclude older users from technology tools, including social media.  And consider your content and how it relates to them. 

2. Your online reputation can make or break you

Your brand is on the line, wherever your name and face is seen. Clients, managers and other professional stakeholders in your life have access to what you post publicly on the net. You can even lose your job over blog comments or attacks from people that already have a negative view on your reputation. For instance, Madhu Yarlagadda was hired by Skype as the new Chief Development Officer, and after a TechCrunch blog post, people came out of the woodwork to expose Madhu. Skype replaced him after a month of employment….

The brand of your employees matters as much as your company’s brand.  You must consider what your people are publishing, and encourage them to develop their own brands as experts in your industry, especially the execs.  And watch out for negativity.  Have policies in place about commenting or responding on blogs!  Transparency is great for business, so you don’t want to have too many watchdogs, but there ought to be some guidelines for avoiding bad publicity traps.

3. Employers are reviewing your online personal brand …

Almost every website on the planet has a search engine component to it and employers are using them to find more information about you.… Make sure your personal brand is consistent and up-to-date.

Make no mistake, people are Googling your company.  With the dollar tighter than ever, people want to know they’re making the right choice when they spend their money.   Check your Google results, and your online reputation.  Make sure it’s consistent with how you want to be perceived. The challenge is always aligning audience perceptions with your own, and how you wish to be seen.  It’s a give and take, but you can help it along with the right Web content, professional profiles, and SEO.

4. Perception (how we present ourselves) is king

It’s the little things that count, whether you’re in an interview, or interacting with people online. A CareerBuilder survey states that 67% of hiring managers say that failure to make eye contact would make them less likely to hire a job candidate and 38% said lack of smile. People will judge you on small things that make a big difference. By being professional, using good eye contact, shaking someone’s hand, having good posture, and using appropriate images online, you will be more successful when communicating with others.

Your customers will judge you on the small stuff, too.  Make sure you’re portraying your brand in a light that engages with your particular audience.  Know who that is.  If it’s a family friendly atmosphere you want, smile in all your photos, talk about your kids in your blog posts, and provide Web content related to child safety or education.  People need to perceive that you are who you say you are, and the tone in your blog and even the way you answer the phone matters.  Tell your employees to always answer the same way, with a smile – others can hear it. 

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Brand Equality: Can Human Rights (and Other Ideals) Be a Brand?

Branding is entering some new territory these days. Maybe not entirely uncharted, but sketchy and undermapped. We’re at the point in history where we are designing logos for concepts instead of organizations, and I’m intrigued to see where it goes.

On Fast Company’s design site, science and technology writer John Pavlus explores the international collaborative effort to design a logo for human rights. He writes that the concept isn’t well enough articulated to elicit a strong logo, and he may be right. But there are some pretty well articulated organizations getting involved, including judging by the UN itself, and the contest on humanrightslogo.net is using an increasingly popular crowdsourcing strategy to gather designs that might be able to pinpoint the issue. (See examples of logo entries below and in more detail on Mashable.)

Logo submissions for humanrightslogo.net contest from mashable.com

It could happen. The Human Rights Campaign for LGBT equality gained traction with their yellow equal sign on a dark blue background, and I still see the stickers on cars everywhere. As Pavlus mentions, the recycling symbol is another good example of a concept logo, and is devoid of intellectual property or copyright issues. He riffs that recycling is a concrete concept as opposed to the rather diffuse idea of human rights, and there may be a point there. The HRC defined a group of people as the target. Another equality campaign, the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA Yes” green and white logo), is pushing for a particular piece of legislation, both concepts a little easier to wrap one’s head around than a nebulous idea of human rights.

Is there an agreed-upon definition of what constitutes human rights as far as the humanrightslogo.net folks are concerned? Maybe not, but there are probably a few basic tenets we can all support. And since the UN is part of the package, there are no doubt many high minds working on a definition.

Regardless, the whole idea behind the logo, as well as its rather impressive list of participants, may be enough to draw attention to an issue, which is sometimes an important end-goal in itself.

On a less lofty but still important issue, the new USDA food plate sans pyramid demonstrates mass recognition of the idea that easier to digest (pun intended) concepts with quick visual cues are just better for developed countries’ lifestyles at this juncture. These representations raise the point that our society is becoming more visual and more attention-deficient due to constant information saturation, and reminds us that easy visual cues like logos still have weight in branding.

Something an individual can virtually hold in his or her hand allows for easier brand digestion, and color and design often do have more impact than words. So much the better if the concept they represent contributes to humanity in some fashion. Design might just save the world after all.

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Ad Performance Art – Sony’s cinematic bouncy balls

I like marketing that inspires.  Anyone can say, “Buy this product” or “check out our service,” but when companies take the time to make something inspirational and connect with audiences/customers on an emotional level, however abstract, it turns advertising into art and often inspires brand loyalty.  It has to be right for your customers and your product, but anyone can find a way to make marketing more inspirational with a little creativity.

Even better, if you mix inspiration with guerilla marketing tactics, public and viral acts that get people’s attention and are passed around for you, you have marketing that is also performance art and not just fine art.  This is the best possible scenario.

Check out Sony Europe’s Bravia ad – 250.000 bouncy balls unleashed in San Francisco to illustrate the power of color and the unique perspective of Sony.  It works.  They cleaned up the balls by the way, and they bought them from stores surrounding the area, so they gave back to the community and did not order the manufacture of hundreds of thousands  of rubber balls – in case anyone was worried about environment or community impact.  I did wonder if any residents got car dings, but their how-to video seems pretty positive about the whole experiment.  And the experience of watching their handiwork is calming, beautiful, and inspiring – perfect marketing performance art.

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Blogs: Conversation or Publishing? The Debate Continues…

A thought-provoking blog entry by John Lane of Centerline Digital goes a little deeper on the social media as conversation topic and reminds us that we’re oversimplifying if we think we can just start happy little conversations about ourselves and build pure relationships that lead to sales through blogging.  It may be naive to believe that we can control anything about how our brand is perceived or that if we start a conversation we can bring people to the shopping cart with any greater ease.  I agree that having something to offer with engaging content, publications, and promotions is a given, and that a chat with customers won’t do us much good in a vaccuum, though I also believe that being authentic and talking transparently to the people we want to reach has a strong effect on customer loyalty and trust.  So read this entry, draw your own conclusions.  Either way, it’s food for marketing mastication.  Read here: http://centerline.net/blog/?p=717.

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Creativity – Not Just For Marketing Budgets

Creativity is the crux of business marketing and operations right now.  People have been forced to get creative in all sorts of ways with the economic crunch, from free advertising to DIY projects.  But this effort shouldn’t end with ways to save money.  With so much competition for business, the ones who win the pot, so to speak, will be the businesses and entrepreneurs that stand out in creative ways. 

This means brainstorming new methods for capturing attention, from starting a blog with personality to inventive contests and promotions.  This means putting your brand “out there” a little more through public speaking engagements with the Chamber of Commerce or hosting events on subjects of importance to you.  It means starting a social media campaign if you don’t already have one, because if you’re not listening to the buzz and getting your name out, someone else who is may soon be taking your customers. 

To stand out in a crowd like this one, you have to be willing to risk putting your authentic self or business brand – what you and your company really stand for – at the forefront of the whirlwind of activity in the marketplace.  Because there is just too much noise right now to go about it any other way, and it will probably only get more crowded.  But being part of your community and getting in front of people both physically and virtually will gain you loyalty and trust, the biggest prize of all.  So sit down with your team (or yourself) and start brainstorming some creative ideas for getting your name in metaphorical lights – or actual ones if that’s what it takes!

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Email Marketing Primer

Email marketing can be a great place to start to stay in touch with your customers or donors on a grassroots level, especially if you’re old school and are still learning some of the social media tools – or your customer base isn’t likely to be on any of the new sites.  But many people don’t know where to start with email.  The best place?  Your current customer list.

image by renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net

Permission-based email marketing is the rule these days, and you need to have a prior relationship with people you email to avoid violating CAN-SPAM laws.  Sounds scary, but it’s not really so bad.  CAN-SPAM, or Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (whew!), is Congress’s method of protecting citizens from spam and governs email and other marketing contact.  Most of the time we are glad for the rule, when we’re on the other end of the email.  But if you start by sending to your current customers, you meet this rule head on with no worries.  And you can end up growing your list through WOM (word of mouth), the best way to do it anyway.  So start with who you know, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

The second consideration is content.  You have to have something worth reading, or you may end up in the junk mailbox despite your best efforts.  No need to fear this part.  Basically, marketing now is about providing education and resources and starting a conversation with your customers.  You do this anyway every time you do business, so go with what you know here.  Chat up your customers, and tell them a little about what you know.  Be a tease, and lead them back home to mama (or papa) where the motherload of knowledge resides.  That’s you if you weren’t following the parental metaphor….

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Marketing isn’t evil – anymore…

I know there are many folks out there who still think marketing has an aura of evil about it.  I used to be one of those folks, so I get it.  But the days of making a deal with the devil to market your business are over.  The Internet has made it possible to connect with people and still just be little ole you, without costumes, disguises, sleazy sales tactics, or – of course – selling your soul.

The genius of new media marketing is that you don’t have to be everything to everyone.  Customers can sniff out the inauthentic in any business, so you pretty much have to be yourself – which is good, because who else would you be?

If you’re an entrepreneur or a small business owner, you can talk to, and more importantly, listen to, your customers online and provide them with education and resources to show you care and earn their trust.  You do this through email and e-newsletters, blogs… Read the rest of this entry »

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