Markters, PR Agencies, Advertisers, and Business Owners must understand social media marketing.

I’ve written about why businesses need to do social media marketing and shared with you a video that depicts why social media isn’t a fad, but a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. I want to talk today a little bit about the future of social media marketing.

For all marketers, PR agencies, advertisers, and business owners, understanding social media marketing is going to become a necessity. This is for two reasons.

The first being that we, as a society, are going to increasingly rely on information about businesses and brands from people we know. While current social networking sites may not be optimized for marketers, betters tools are being created and current tools are getting better every day. Ignoring the amount of time people spend on social networking sites and the activity that occurs on these sites is a stupid decision for marketers or business owners to make.

The second reason is that social media marketing isn’t a stand-alone solution. Social media marketing will become an integral and necessary component of any business’s integrated marketing communications plan. This means that social media marketing will enhance traditional advertisements, PR, experiential marketing events, and all other marketing efforts. On the other hand, all marketing efforts by a business will enhance their social media marketing. The better integrated a social media marketing strategy is to the rest of their marketing/PR efforts, the better both will do.

What this means is that businesses must make sure that their PR agency, marketing expert, and their social media marketing guy are all working together, in unison. Otherwise, you’re wasting a lot of time, money, and opportunities.

Best social media marketing strategies implement collaboration marketing principles.

John Hagel, using the term Collaboration Marketing, explains the most important principles behind a successful social media marketing solution. The following is an excerpt from his full blog post: Restoring the Power of Brands. This is written in 2005, but applies now more so than ever, as businesses flock to social media without a clear understanding of the important principles that allow marketers to harness social media effectively.

“In essence, collaboration marketing focuses on attracting customers rather than intercepting them with traditional advertising. It attracts customers by becoming more and more helpful to them, both in terms of evaluating potential new products and services and getting more value from products and services once they have been purchased. In part, collaboration marketing programs seek to become more helpful by mobilizing a broad range of relevant, specialized third parties to add value to the customer relationship. Collaboration marketing challenges the current mantra of “one to one marketing” and instead views the opportunity as “many to one”, connecting each customer with as many entities (including other customers) as may be required to maximize value for the customer. Collaboration marketing represents a “pull” approach where the marketer becomes so helpful to customers that they seek the marketer out, rather than a conventional “push” approach blasting marketing messages out in an effort to find customers that might be receptive to the marketer’s offering.

Rather than “owning the customer”, collaboration marketing strives to give each customer the perception that they own the vendor. To do this well, companies will also need to master the skills required to capture and analyze detailed information about individual customers. By serving as the orchestrator, helping to connect customers with other entities, collaboration marketers develop richer profiles of customers and their needs and they learn much more deeply and rapidly about their customers than traditional marketers who focus on narrow “one to one” relationships. The good news is that powerful new platforms and tools, ranging from the Internet to Web services technology and powerful analytic tools, are becoming available to help vendors implement these new marketing programs and deliver on this new brand promise.” (

Why do social media marketing?

No matter what business you run, you want your customers and potential customers to think about your brand or business, in a positive way, as often as possible. The more this happens, the more likely they are to return or come to you for business and the more likely they are to suggest you to others.

One way to do this is to engage in traditional advertisements. Brands can find their way into the idle consciousness of people during commercial breaks, or as they’re driving around by using billboards or radio ads. However, there are limitations to this. The biggest being the inability for people to respond. It’s difficult to measure how many people view your advertisements or how many take the next step to becoming a customer. If a person believes the ad is relevant to himself or his friends, it takes a few extra steps for him to save or share this information.

Remember, just because somebody wants to do something (such as sharing with friends information about a special deal your business is offering), doesn’t mean they’re going to do it. By making it easier for people to do what you want them to do, you make it more likely that they will do it. That’s what a lot of social media marketing is about.

It should be no surprise to you that social networking site usage is increasing as a percentage of overall time spent on the Internet. What this means is that people are spending more and more of their idle time time engaging with friends, content, and brands, as opposed to simply surfing the Internet. People are still finding the same content as before, but the way they find it now is often through friends.

It addition, almost every social networking site’s business model is based on brands and marketers wanting to leverage the functionality of their site and user base. The creators of social networking sites have in mind what the businesses want, and are going to become profitable by creating tools that will benefit marketers the most.

As a result, social media marketing is going to become increasingly relevant.

If you don’t engage in social media marketing, you’re also doing the following:

  • Ignoring the opportunity to engage with customers during their idle time.
  • Making it difficult for your customers to share interesting or entertaining content about your brand/business.
  • Missing out on the opportunity to take advantage of the most recent and technologically advanced marketing tools, which you can start using free of charge.

When starting to implement your social media marketing strategy, remember that it’s not a stand-alone solution. You should be using social media marketing to increase the value of your product or service and increase the effectiveness of your marketing/PR/advertisements. And vice versa.

Introduction to Social Media Marketing

It seems like social media marketing is all the craze. Everybody seems to be talking about it. Every business is either hiring a social media marketing expert or a social media intern. But what is social media marketing? Do people really understand it?

Social media marketing is an additional element to marketing/PR that leverages the popularity and rise in social networking sites. The first thing business owners and marketers must understand is why people use social networking sites. In short, people use social networking sites to share and receive updates and news from people they know. This includes everything from their personal life, such as what they’re doing, photos, or what they’re thinking, to updates about what’s going on in the world, such as interesting links, news stories, or funny videos. Social media marketing allows businesses to leverage these daily interactions that happen online and get their customers to promote their brand at little or no cost.

Social media marketing starts by creating and sharing interesting and entertaining content through the business’s social media outlets. Since the purpose is to get your customers and friends to share your content, marketers must make sure that the content they’re posting is likely to be shared. The term for this is social media optimization. This begins by reading and understanding the type and format of content that is most commonly shared, liked, and commented on. It’s not important that the content directly relates to your product or service, more so that it’s relevant to the interests of your target market and customers.

Businesses have two options when posting sharable content. One is to create the content themselves. This includes everything from starting a blog, creating videos, answering questions on Q&A websites, and sharing photos. The other is to find content that already exists. This includes finding blog posts, news articles, images, and videos that relate to your product, your service, or the culture that your company will thrive in.

The best way for businesses to start implementing social media marketing is to set up their social media outlets, to start posting content they believe is relevant, and to study the response of their fans, followers, and friends. Don’t expect to implement a successful social media marketing strategy over night. For all businesses, it’s important to treat social media marketing as a learning experience as much as it is a marketing strategy.

Social Media Marketing is more about culture than technology.

When I tell people that I’m starting a company that studies and implements social media marketing, many people respond by telling me that it sounds interesting, but that technology isn’t their thing. This is a misconception. A successful social media marketer is someone who understands the nuances of the current cultural landscape.

Social media marketing is very similar to word of mouth marketing, but with a few differences. With both marketing strategies, marketers must find out how to fit their brand into the day-to-day interactions that people have. Word of mouth is more about face-to-face interactions, which is more genuine and effective; marketers must focus on their brand evangelists, the people who are constantly promoting their brand for them. In social media marketing, the depth of each interaction and the loyalty of the brand evangelists are both less, but the speed in which something can spread is tenfold that of traditional word of mouth marketing.

What’s most important in social media marketing is understanding how and why people use social networking sites. Understanding UI/UX design, programming code, database structures, analytics, and technology is a big competitive advantage, but not a necessity. It’s more important that you can answer questions like, “what types of links do people share with each other, and why?”, “what time of the day are people on social networking sites, and why?”, and “who is most likely to share my content, and why?”

Because the two marketing strategies are so similar, the effect is multiplied when both are put into place. This is when you have to start understanding the big questions like, “how has social networking sites affected people’s lives offline?”, “what is the public (or niche) perception of people who use social networking sites?”, and “how conscious are people of how the information they share online affects their overall reputation?”

When I’m analyzing social media marketing strategies, I’m spending my time trying to understand people, culture, and society. Not technology. That’s all I’m saying.

How to throw a successful party.

Imagine a party with free booze, an awesome live band, amazing food, and no people. You wouldn’t call that a successful party. A party can only be successful with people there, so throwing a party starts with marketing. Word of mouth marketing to be exact.

If you’re throwing a party as big as Hard Halloween, you’ll have to do some real marketing. But in this post, I’m talking about house parties, birthday parties, and college parties, where your goal is simply to get your friends to come out. If every time you throw a party, all of your friends come out, then this post is not for you. However, most of us have had an experience where people whom you thought would come to your party decided to do something else that night.

Word of mouth marketing for parties is all about understanding and leveraging the conversations that goes on between your friends, when they aren’t around you. First, you want to make sure they talk about your party. Next, you want the conversation to be heading in the direction of, “Yeah, let’s go to his/her party.”

Get people to talk about your party.

Just because you received an invite to a party on Facebook doesn’t mean you’re going to bring it up the next time you see your friends. Nor are you necessarily going to call/text your friends about the party immediately. Sometimes, by the time the topic comes up, you’ve already discussed and/or committed to going to another event. What you want is for your friends to start talking about your party to each other before they’re thinking about what they want to do that day.

Start by making sure you get an event invitation out at least a week before. People get together on the weekends, and this is when you want your party to come up as a topic of conversation. I try and send out event invites on Friday afternoon, so it’s still fresh on their mind.

Then, text or call some of your friends that weekend, at night. Simply to check in and see how they’re doing. If they’re hanging out with friends, this could spark the conversation about your party next weekend. Be wary of texting people with the sole motivation of promoting your party, because it can come off as not genuine. But it’s alright to be a little more active with your text the weekend before you throw a party.

Make sure that conversation leads to a Yes.

Just because people discuss your party doesn’t mean they’ll decide to come. Every time I throw a party, I run through some mock dialogues in my head on how conversations about my party might go.

Common topics include: how’s parking? how are we going to get there? whose going to be there? were we all invited?

Make sure you address as many of these issues as you can in your party invitation and via texts (different people will have different concerns). For example, your friend’s friend may not want to go because she wasn’t invited. By simply writing “invite your friends!” on the invitation, your friend’s can comfort her that she is indeed welcome.

Aside from that, make sure that the party you’re throwing is actually going to be awesome. Make sure you share with your friends why it’s going to be awesome. Also, having one unique thing at your party can often spark positive conversation. I’m talking about having a tetherball court at your party, a six foot long ice luge, or a petting zoo.

Photo from Flickr. Thanks AleReportage!

Why people use social networking sites.

This post is directly taken from my response to a question on Quora, a Q&A website in which I answer questions about social media marketing.

Q: Why do people engage in social media?

A: This has to do with the evolution of the Internet and it’s usage.

When the Internet first became available to the masses, information was shared from few-to-many. Few people had the technical knowledge or the resources to afford the technical knowledge to create websites.

As the cost of creating content on the web decreased, the information network on the Internet increasingly became many-to-many. It started with people posting on discussion boards and public chat rooms, then people could create full websites and blogs with no technical knowledge.

Eventually, the early social networking sites started to acknowledge relationships between people, creating a filter of information based on people you actually know or have agreed to share content with. This is the new few-to-few model, only possible because your profile and network online act as filters.

The parking ticket grief cycle.

If you’ve never heard of the grief cycle, it’s five sequential stages of grief that will lead you to acceptance, the last stage. Defining the stages can help people who get stuck in grief to over come it. Here are the five stages of grief, applied to when we get parking tickets.

  1. Denial – This happens the moment you see the parking ticket on your windshield. You’ll check your watch to see how long you’ve been parked. You’ll read the street sign to see what you did wrong.
  2. Anger – This could be at yourself or some other external factor. Whatever the reason you got this ticket, you’ll be upset at.
  3. Bargaining – You might contemplate throwing the ticket out or ignoring it. You might even take it to court. You don’t want to pay this ticket.
  4. Depression – This happens as you’re writing your check or sending it to the government. You know the money will be taken out of your account, and you hate it.
  5. Acceptance – What’s done is done. You’ve learned your lesson. You won’t do it again, or so you tell yourself.

Parking tickets suck.

Photo from Flickr. Thanks Xraijs!

Customer-centric twitter strategy.

I’m not a subscriber to Food & Wine Magazine, but I do follow their twitter. Today, through Twitter, they got me to contemplate subscribing to their magazine. Not by ever mentioning the magazine to me, but by simply helping me out. I’ve never done a thing for them, but they’re providing me a service for no cost and no commitment. Maybe I should subscribe to their magazine, I bet it’s entertaining and helpful.

Let me start from the beginning. I woke up today and decided I wanted to cook miso-glazed fish; I probably saw it on a food network show recently. I did a google search, got a few leads, good start.

As lunch rolled around, I checked my Twitter briefly and saw this post from @fandw:

I thought, “Hey, I know what I’m cooking. I doubt they’ll actually respond, but let’s see what happens if I reply.” This was my reply:

Within minutes, I received a response! A simple link to their fish recipe section. They didn’t even link me to a specific recipe, but I was really excited that they were listening to me.

@fandw social media marketing team, my hats off to you.

Let me start off by saying that this sort of conversation-centric SMM strategy isn’t for everybody. Food and Wine Magazine is a big brand and has the resources to do this.

@fandw is successful because it has successfully made their Twitter page a customer relations service, which is a new and different service from everything else they offer. Their website has a large portfolio of recipes that people search through on a day to day basis. They leverage this content as ammunition, and provide personal recommendations to people who want some advice for a very cheap cost, 5 seconds of work by one person.

This strategy is great for companies who have a lot of helpful, informative, categorized, timeless content on their site. Beware, however, if you start responding to too many people through your twitter account, this could result in a decrease in followers. Make sure this fits in well with the rest of your social media marketing strategy.

What other businesses would you like to see implementing this sort of customer relations service?

When is it acceptable to run in a suit?

I saw somebody running across the street with a suit on today. It looked goofy. He was a regular looking guy with a briefcase in one hand and good posture. But running in a suit can look weird, or out of place. Who do you think you are? James Bond?

Sure, I realize he was probably in a rush. Maybe he was late to something. He probably ran because the crosswalk light was flashing. However, if you’re going to wear a suit, I think you should be able to keep your composure and move at a sophisticated walking speed. It’s as simple as being able to make plans you can comfortably get to, and leave early enough to make it to your appointments or meetings on time with class.

On the other hand, who are we to let society stop us from doing something that’s practical and healthy? Running across the street here and there at opportune moments can save you valuable time. Sure, suits may not be the most comfortable clothes to run in, but we’re not talking about sprinting nor running a marathon.

Finally, if you’re chasing down a terrorist, an assassin, or a par kour stunt man, it’s definitely acceptable to run in a suit.

Wait, what’s the point here?

It should almost never be necessary to run in a suit, but it’s always acceptable, if you have good form.

Photo from Flickr. Thanks Mark Ramsay!