Author Archives: Marsha Friedman

social.media

Which Social Media Platforms are Right for You?

If you want to be visible in today’s marketplace, you absolutely must have a presence on social media.

But there are so many from which to choose nowadays! In addition to the biggies like Facebook and Twitter, we have lots of newcomers, including Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr. Additionally, some of the older platforms have undergone major changes in recent months, which affect how effective they are for different functions.

How to know which platforms will best meet your needs?

I asked Alex Hinojosa, our vice president for media operations at EMSI Public Relations, to share some tips for helping you decide.

First, he says, if you plan to handle your social media marketing yourself, try different platforms and use ones with features you enjoy. That will help ensure you stick with it, and may lead you to create inspired content that’s more likely to be shared.

Be on at least two platforms, he says. (If one’s mostly personal stuff for family and friends, it doesn’t count!)

Here’s Alex’s rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of the four most popular platforms:

• Facebook: This works best if you’re an individual interacting on a personal level, as opposed to a business. Artists, authors, public speakers and certain other professionals may benefit from having potential customers get to know them on a more personal basis.

A downside to Facebook is that, in an effort to make money for shareholders, it has begun requiring users to pay for the potentially unlimited visibility that used to be free.

• Twitter: Posts are limited to 140 characters – about the length of a headline – and can include a photo or link to a website. This is a great network for getting to know people without sharing a lot of personal information. Plus, you can follow whomever you want, and anyone can follow you.

“It allows you to easily connect with prospects and potential associates, so it’s great for businesses,” Alex says. “People use it primarily as a source of news, which makes it easy to interact with people you don’t know – you have something to talk about.”

Twitter is now aggressively cleaning house of “robot” followers – dummy accounts sold for cheap that make it look like the buyer has a huge following. Even if you don’t buy robots, you may end up with some as followers.

“Don’t buy followers and delete any of your followers that don’t appear real. Twitter limits how many followers you can have, so you don’t want to waste them on ‘bots,” Alex says.

• LinkedIn: The social network for professionals is a good place to find and meet people within and outside your industry. People can easily see your credentials and endorse your skills. The background information on your profile page – where you went to school, other companies you’ve been associated with – provides great fodder for finding common ground with strangers and building relationships.

• Google+: The Google search engine favors anything posted on Google+, which is great for SEO. It also combines the best features of Facebook and Twitter, including photo sharing and categorizing content using hashtags (#).

“Right now, Google+ can be anything you want it to be,” Alex says. “It’s still new, just more than 2 years old, so it’s still defining itself. I think it will be the next social networking giant.”

As Alex suggests, if you plan to handle your social media marketing yourself, take into consideration the modes of networking that you enjoy along with the best platforms to meet your needs.

If you have limited experience in social media, jump into the platforms that seem to best align with your goals. You’ll have a learning curve, but a little practice goes a long way. And you’ll soon wonder why you didn’t get more involved a long time ago!

Marsha Friedman is CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, The PR Insider.

Twitter

Twitter IPO is Prompting Changes for Users

About two months ago, our lead social media strategist at EMSI Public Relations started noticing interesting changes involving the Twitter accounts we manage for clients.

Tools were suddenly disabled. Twitter’s technical support, which hadn’t been good, improved.

So, when news broke on Sept. 24 that Twitter had already formally taken steps toward going public back in mid-July, Jeni Hinojosa wasn’t surprised.

“The changes appear designed to make Twitter more appealing to investors when the initial public offering is finally made,” Jeni says.

“In some ways, they’re also improving the experience for users. But in other ways, some users will be disappointed.’’

Overall, Jeni says, Twitter will likely remain one of the most effective social media platforms for connecting with both individuals and large corporations. That’s because it’s less personal than, say, Facebook, and – this is the biggie – it’s quick and easy to have a conversation with posts of140 characters or less.

What are some of the changes Jeni has seen on Twitter and how might they affect you? She shares four:

• No more “automatic follow-backs” means the size of your following will grow more slowly. Some applications, such as HootSuite and ManageFlitter, allowed Twitter users to set up their accounts to automatically become a follower of anyone who first followed them. That allowed audiences to quickly swell – but it also removed human oversight. The result: Some of your followers, and some accounts you followed, would be fake, inactive or otherwise non-genuine connections.

“I believe Twitter’s shutting down the ways huge audiences of fakes can grow so that they can be properly valued for the IPO,” Jeni says.

While that’s generally good for users, people who want to build a large following quickly may be disappointed. One such group is authors trying to get literary agents or book deals, she says.

“Agents and publishers want authors who have a strong base of potential fans, and one way to demonstrate that is to get big followings on social media,” Jeni says. “Authors may be unhappy that their following grows more slowly, but it’s better in the long run – it’s not hard to tell when someone has a mostly fake following.”

• You can no longer remove fake or unwanted followers en masse. Twitter enforces limits on how many accounts you can proactively follow, so it’s important to periodically clear out the fakes, inactive accounts and other unhelpful followers.

SocialOomph and Manage Flitter allowed users to detect and delete these followers in large bunches, which saved time, Jeni says.

“That function is no longer available,” she says. “Now, you have to go through your followers one by one to delete them.”

• Improved technical support – in some ways. Before the recent changes, if you ran into a problem with your Twitter account, you went to a “help” web page, filled out a form describing the problem, and submitted it. Then you had to watch your email for a confirmation and reply to the confirmation within 48 hours in order for your “case” to move forward.

“While that pesky process still exists, the ‘help’ page now offers troubleshooting, which makes it easier to fix some problems,” Jeni says.

The downside? You’re forced to click through multiple steps and take certain actions before Twitter agrees that you have a problem and allows you to send a request for support.

The help page is support.twitter.com.

• More advertisements. As Facebook did when it went public, Twitter is now offering users the option to pay for their posts to achieve more visibility. So now, you may find a post from an account that you don’t follow appearing at the top of your news feed.

“Most recently, I’ve been getting posts about McDonald’s new Mighty Wings,” Jeni says. “It’s mildly annoying if it’s something you have no interest in, but it can also get confusing. You may see it and think, ‘Did I follow McDonald’s?’ and check to see whether you did or not, especially if you’re close to your limit on followers.”

Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to businesses, professional firms, entertainers and authors. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST. 

social media marketing

The ROI of Social Media

I was never a fan of the cocktail party-variety networking scene. I will never be one to dart around a room shoving business cards into people’s hands. I prefer meaningful conversations with people, getting to know them and vice versa.

But social media networking? That’s something different altogether. Done right, it’s never a hit-and-run. Rather, it consists of building relationships over months and even years by sharing information – both professional and personal – through posts, comments and responding to questions in various online communities.

What’s the return on investment, the ROI, for putting that kind of time into social media? Actually, it’s called the RON – the “return on networking.”

And for me, it’s huge.

I’ve been on Facebook for five years; I also have Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn accounts, among others. All totaled, I’m now approaching 100,000 friends, followers and connections. Those followers expose my name and message to their audiences every time they “like” one of my posts or share one of my links. Recently, someone re-tweeted something I’d shared on Twitter – he had 130,000 followers! That’s a potential audience of 130,000 people I likely would have never reached otherwise.

Talk about exposure!

Who knows how many of those people may someday become my clients? Who cares? I’ll still consider the exposure a good return on networking. Here’s why.

The RON of social media isn’t always tangible, not immediately, anyway. By establishing a continued presence online through regularly sharing content of use to my followers, I’m building my platform and my reputation as an expert. That grows in surprising ways – and it lives in surprising places.

A recent case in point: Late last year, I got a call from a prominent New York City hair stylist, the director of a salon in one of that city’s premier department stores. He wanted to talk about some publicity needs and what my company could do to help him.

When I asked how he got my name, he explained he’d written some books over the years with a co-author, and she’d heard me at a speaking engagement.

Well, that made sense. Speaking at conferences is still a great way to get your name out while also building credibility.

But the next thing he said came as a complete surprise.

“So, then I contacted the corporate office (of the department store chain) and asked what PR agency they would recommend.” And they recommended me and my company!

I don’t know a soul in the corporate offices of that high-end retail chain. I can only guess they learned of me through social media.

Just being on Twitter or Google+ isn’t enough, of course. You have to make a diligent effort to regularly post content that people find valuable, including links to informative articles, tips relevant to your topic, and/or informed insights on topics in the news.

You also have to “be a human,” as our lead social media strategist, Jeni Hinojosa, likes to say. She and our other social media producers encourage clients to send photos when they go on vacation, celebrate milestones or engage in hobbies. Posting those photos with a comment adds a personal touch that allows followers to connect on a more emotional level.

Our social media producers also make sure clients’ personalities shine in their posts, showing their sense of humor and letting followers in on the other things they care about, whether it’s victims of a natural disaster or a favorite charity.

Interaction is equally important. Strive to respond to every comment or question posted on your networking sites. Interacting is engaging, and people who are engaged tend to be happy followers. The more you take part in conversations via comments and responses, the more lively and visible your presence becomes.

The RON includes increased traffic to your website; increased trust in your brand and what you’re selling; and greater word of mouth than you could ever hope for by attending a cocktail party or even a speaking engagement.

Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.

social media day

Social Media Marketing in Times of Tragedy

If you’re using social media for marketing, what should you say following a tragedy like the deadly blasts at the Boston Marathon on April 15?

The horrific elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.?

The October storm that took lives and devastated communities across the Northeast?

Sometimes, nothing at all.

The age of digital marketing brings with it new challenges, including how to respond during a national tragedy. Remember, as recently as Sept. 11, 2001, we had no MySpace, much less Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Except for email, no vehicle for delivering instantaneous marketing messages existed. After 9/11, one of the most painful days in American memory, most of us had time to pause, reflect and put on hold print, radio and TV marketing campaigns that might be viewed as inappropriate or offensive.

In recent months, there has been lively debate on this topic in the marketing community, including how and when to tie – or not to tie — a marketing message into the news of the day, a  widely used strategy.

Gaffes can occur with the most innocent of intentions in any media content, marketing or not. Earlier in April, a new episode of the musical comedy “Glee” upset and angered parents in Newtown, Conn., because the plot featured a student bringing a gun to school, where it accidentally discharges.

“A lot of people were upset about it and that I feel horrible about,” Jane Lynch, one of the stars, told Access Hollywood Live days later. “If we added to anybody’s pain, that’s just certainly not what any of us wanted. … We’re always rather topical and rather current.”

Usually, however, simply applying your own sense of decency and good taste can help you avoid a blunder. Consider American Apparel’s notorious “Hurricane Sandy Sale – in case you’re bored during the storm,” advertised as tens of thousands of people endured freezing temperatures without power. Most of us wouldn’t have even considered such a ploy!

Here are a couple more suggestions for do’s and don’ts:

• If you use automated posts scheduled through a site such as HootSuite, turn them off immediately. If people don’t find them insensitive and uncaring or silly, they’ll likely conclude your messages come from a robot – not a real person – which is just as bad.

• Can you be helpful? Hours after the blasts in Boston, with cell phone service out in the city and family and friends desperately trying to connect with loved ones, Google.org launched “Person Finder: Boston Marathon Explosions.” There, individuals and organizations could share information about the status of marathon participants and spectators for those trying to find them.

If your community has suffered a tragic event, perhaps you have helpful information to share. Here in Florida, which is affected by hurricanes, people use social media to help evacuees and their pets find shelter, and to alert others to danger, such as downed power lines. Depending on your area of expertise, you may be able to provide more general information or commentary. For instance, an educator can share tips for answering children’s questions about the event. Philanthropists might comment on those selflessly step up to help.

• Of course, social media is also about reactions and, for many, that’s a sincere expression of sympathy for and unity with those affected.

If you want to post something and you’re unsure about what to say, take a look at what businesses and other brands are sharing, and how online users are reacting. You may decide to just say nothing for a day or two, or whatever time seems reasonable given the nature of the event.

Sometimes, saying nothing at all speaks volumes.

Marsha Friedman is a 23-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.

iphone

Pope’s on Twitter – If You’re Marketing, You Should Be, Too

His handle is @Pontifex and 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI can tweet in eight different languages on his brand new Twitter account.

On Dec. 12, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church tentatively typed out his first tweet on an iPad. It read, “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

(For those of you counting, that’s the maximum 140 characters allowed per tweet. Once His Holiness gets the hang of things, he’ll want to shorten them up a bit so they’ll be easier for his followers to re-tweet.)

And followers he has — more than 1.8 million and counting. The pope is already a hit in the Twitter-verse, which makes one wonder why he didn’t sign up a long time ago. And that thought leads to a more important question: How many of small business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals and authors are not yet using this marvelous social networking platform?

It’s time to take a lesson from the Vatican — whether or not you’re Catholic.

The pontiff took to Twitter for the same reasons anyone with something to market should:

• He needs to generate leads. “Part of the pope’s job description is to spread the word,” Greg Burke, senior communications adviser for the Vatican, has said. “Twitter is turning out to be a very effective way of doing this.” Like business owners, the Catholic Church must generate leads to bring in new “customers.”

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, while there are 66.3 million Catholics in the United States, the growth rate has slowed in past years, and only 24 percent of those Catholics attend Mass every week.

The church also has a problem with declining numbers of U.S. priests. The shortage has left nearly 3,400 parishes without a resident pastor. And book and product sales? Word of mouth to the world’s more than 1.2 billion Catholics can only help.

• He wants to keep the customers he has. It’s not just about growing his clientele; the pope wants to keep his existing church members coming back. Interacting with them regularly through the give-and-take of a platform like Twitter helps him create a more personal relationship with them. (On his first day of tweeting, the pope responded to three questions posed by followers using his #askpontifex hashtag.) It will also keep him in front of his target audience if he posts tweets regularly, responds to followers, and occasionally re-tweets their messages.

• He has an important message to share. The pontiff had thousands of followers even before his first tweet! Why? Because many people were already interested in his message, and they expect his posts will have value for them. So far, they apparently have. The third and final question from followers that he answered on his first day tweeting was, “Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?” His response:  “Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you.” It had been re-tweeted nearly 20,000 times by Dec. 14. The pope has a message he wants the world to hear.  That’s a good sign he’ll be successful on social media.

I find it fascinating, but not surprising, that Pope Benedict XVI is embracing social media. While the Catholic Church is a centuries-old institution steeped in tradition, it recognizes the need to be where its audience is if it hopes to remain visible and relevant in their lives.

For anyone in business, or anyone marketing anything, that’s not only true for you, too, it’s essential.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The 3-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.

Does Your Online Presence Pass the Truth Test?

What’s the fastest-growing marketing trend on the Internet?

I’m sad to say it’s the “fakeosphere.” Yes, fake blogs (called “flogs”), fake web news sites and fake testimonials. They look like the real thing, right down to comments posted by “bloggers” and their supposed readers. Those comments appear to be written by people discussing the pros and cons of a particular product or service, and they even include some naysayers.

“But in the end, the bloggers and their readers always win over the skeptics and persuade them to buy the product from a convenient nearby link,” writes Bob Sullivan in his blog on msnbc.com.

He cites Internet marketing analyst Jay Weintraub, who believes the fakeosphere has become a $500 million-a-year industry.

These fake sites and phony conversations are often more than simply misleading – OK, fraudulent – marketing. For consumers, they can be downright dangerous.

“The end game for most of these sites – no matter what they sell – is to persuade a consumer to sign up for a ‘free’ trial of a product, then make it incredibly difficult to cancel before the trial period ends,” Sullivan writes. “A similar technique … is to offer a free product and charge a web user a token shipping and handling fee, just to get the consumers’ bank account information. Larger charges soon follow.”

Consumers are – and should be – increasingly wary. They’re scrutinizing websites more closely, especially if they’re considering making a purchase there. They’re avoiding social media interactions with anything that smells less than genuine, and they’re more careful about who they share information with online.

What would they say about your online presence? Do you look like the real deal, or a potential cyber threat?

Here are some ways to ensure you pass the reality test — and some missteps that will ensure you don’t.

On social media:

• Real people have real friends and family among their connections. They can’t resist sharing photos of their vacation, the newest baby in the family and their genius dog (not necessarily in that order). They have interests that may have nothing to do with what they’re trying to market, and they comment about them (“I shot a hole in one today!”) or share a photo (“Here I am buying everyone drinks after my hole in one today. That was the most expensive golf shot ever!”) They also respond to all comments, even if it’s just to say, “Thank you.”

• Fake people generate mostly sales copy – “Buy my product! It’s great!” They don’t engage in conversation, they don’t appear to have a personality – or friends or loved ones or hobbies, for that matter.

On your website:

• Real people have text that informs and entertains users while offering them helpful information. The copy is professionally written – no typos or other mistakes – and provides answers to anticipated questions. It’s easy to learn more about you or your business and to find your contact information. Testimonials are from real people whose existence can be verified through a simple Internet search. They write blogs that are updated regularly and/or post articles with helpful information.

• Fake people have websites with lots of pop-up advertising banners and text urging users to “Buy my product!” Testimonials are from untraceable people with vague titles or credentials. The site may be hard to navigate; contact information may be missing or difficult to find; and there’s no link to media about the person or company.

In your newsletter:

• Real people share valuable information in their newsletters (which can be as minimal as a “tip of the week” email). Their newsletter (or tip) includes no overpowering sales pitch or self-promotion – or, at least, includes that only occasionally. It conveys a personality, whether warm and friendly, authoritative, or humorous.

• Fake people blast newsletters and promotional emails that may identify a problem but offer as the only solution hiring them or buying their product. They may seem unprofessionally written (errors, etc.) and lack personality. They offer nothing of value to the reader.

All of these things will help you create an online personality that conveys your authenticity. But the No. 1 thing you can do – what I value above everything else – is to be, actually … genuine.

In my book, “Celebritize Yourself,” I write about identifying the passion that led you to start your business, create your product or write your book. Maybe you became a financial adviser because you found it gratifying to solve people’s money problems. Or you developed a product that you know will benefit others. Or you have expertise that can help people live longer, happier, or more productive lives.

Whatever it is that got you going, that’s what makes you genuine. Identify it and make it a part of your message, and no one will ever call you a fake.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.