Tag Archives: facebook

Social Media

How To Get The Most Out Of Social Media

“Are you taking advantage of Web 2.0?” This question has been circulating throughout the business world regarding the online world of mass collaboration and consumer-generated content. Web 2.0 is redefining public relations, marketing, communications and branding for businesses worldwide.

Nielsen’s 2009 Global Faces and Networked Places report states that two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visits a social network or blogging site, and the sector accounts for 10 percent of all Internet time. “Consequently, the global media and advertising industries are faced with new challenges around the opportunities and risks this new consumer medium creates,” the report states.

Ken Reaser, a partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design in Scottsdale, agrees. “People’s opinion is going to be out there,” he says. “You can attempt to influence it, but you can’t control it.”

Gabriel Shaoolian, founder of New York-based Blue Fountain Media, says social media can be tough to navigate at first, but once a company starts talking to its customers, “that dialogue is priceless. The persistent nature of online interaction means that (social media) has the long-lasting effects of traditional advertising, but the immediate interaction means it also has the revenue-driving power of traditional sales.” However, Shaoolian cautions that social media marketing is not for every business or marketer — but its impact is hard to ignore.

Businesses are all at some level of using social media networks, says Anthony Helmstetter, a partner at Spin Six. “Some are using it for reputation management, where social media is used as a function of customer service,” he explains. “However, 90 percent of the businesses out there will not stop using other marketing outlets.”

Forrester Research released its five-year forecast in July 2009, which states that spending on interactive marketing in the United States will reach almost $55 billion and represent 21 percent of all marketing spending by 2014. The report shows that social media spending alone will increase to $3.1 billion in 2014 from $716 million in 2009, representing a compound annual growth rate of 34 percent — the highest percentage gain in the marketing mix. This spending activity ranks social media as the third most prominent program behind search marketing and display advertising.

“Social media has its place, and we do find it to be a helpful tool, but only when it’s used correctly. … Be cautious with it.”

— Ken Reaser, partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design in Scottsdale


The following is a look at the top social networking sites on the Web:

Link it Up: Optimizing LinkedIn for the Business Owner

LinkedIn helps people manage and make connections with other industry professionals, and expand beyond boundaries companies have been unable to reach. The site is relatively easy to use and provides a helpful breadth of information, as well as multiple ways to expand small businesses.

Mashable, an online social media guide, posted “How to Build Your Company’s Profile on LinkedIn” in August 2009. Adam Ostrow, a regular Mashable commentator, writes that LinkedIn separates itself from other social media networks with its company profiles. Company profiles allow a business owner to provide potential candidates with a lot more information about the company and the people who work there.

Here are Ostrow’s tips on how to set up a company profile:

  • Go to the “Companies” menu on LinkedIn. Select “Add Company.”
  • Enter the company’s basic information, such as a description, number of employees and industry in which it operates.
  • Follow LinkedIn’s wizard for creating your company profile, which allows you to add a logo, locations and feed for your company blog/newsletter.

LinkedIn will pull data about your company from around the Web site to further enhance the company profile that already has been established. For example, all of the company’s job listings will show up automatically on the profile, along with links to profiles for current, former, new hires and recent promotions regarding company employees.

Inovedia Marketing provides several tips for small business owners when utilizing LinkedIn, such as:

  • Connect with customers and vendors.
  • Improve a company’s image by requesting LinkedIn recommendations from happy customers.
  • Answer LinkedIn questions to build the company’s brand and promote it within the LinkedIn community.
  • Keep track of all contacts. You never know when you’ll need them.
  • Test a company’s ideas by joining marketing groups and utilize the “Start a Discussion” feature to act as a focus group.
  • Connect with fellow small business owners and find multiple small business resources.

All of this aggregate data about the company provides potential candidates information to determine if the company is a good fit for them. If a company is concerned about the information available online, LinkedIn does allow edits to the company’s basic profile information.

According to Ostrow’s post, LinkedIn recently added a premium product, Custom Company Profiles, that allows a business owner to add more features such as videos about the company, positions, interactive polls and several customized options for recruiting. Ostrow adds: “These are worth considering for larger companies (they come at a price), but for small businesses, a basic LinkedIn company profile should be enough to add lots of efficiency to the recruiting process — both for candidates and for you.”

www.linkedin.com

Face Off: Putting a Face to Your Business through Facebook

Facebook has become the largest player on the global social networking stage. In September, the company announced it had 300 million active users.

“Based on a simple design, broad demographic appeal and a focus on connecting, Facebook has become the most popular social network measured by Nielsen Online.” — Nielsen’s 2009 Global Faces and Networked Places report

Facebook started out as a service for university students, but now one-third of its global audience is aged 35-49 years, and one-quarter is over 50. In July 2009 alone, Facebook attracted 87.7 million unique visitors in the U.S., which was 14 percent higher than the previous month, according to comScore. In absolute terms, Facebook added about 10 million new visitors in July 2009 versus roughly 1 million new visitors for Twitter.

In August 2009, Facebook purchased FriendFeed for just under $50 million, which cost one-tenth as much as Twitter would have, had Facebook gone through with its plans to purchase the site.

So how can businesses capitalize on this growing social network empire? HubSpot, an inbound marketing system specifically for the Internet, published a report called “How to Use Facebook for Business.” The report outlines the difference between Facebook Profiles and Pages — the latter being specifically for business use.

  • Facebook Pages allow a company to designate multiple administrators to help manage the account.
  • Pages are by default made public and will start ranking in Facebook and public search results, and engines such as Google.
  • Pages are split into different categories to help the company get listed in more relevant search results.

For companies worried about privacy, Facebook is flexible in letting administrators control a business’ exposure. The creation of a Page is very similar to a user profile, except that you choose a category (i.e. brand or product) and a name for your Page (usually the company’s name). Once the creator is done setting up the Page, be sure to hit “Publish” to make it public.

Ken Reaser, a partner with Spin Six, strongly warns Facebook users to keep their personal profiles separate from their company pages. “You are now becoming a participant in a community where you no longer have control — be cautious,” he says.

There are various ways to promote company Facebook Pages, such as leveraging the viral nature of Facebook via the news feed, drawing on the administrator’s personal existing network, making the Page publicly searchable, and using Facebook Ads for an extra push, according to HubSpot.

Other areas Facebook excels at include:

  • Facebook Groups: Similar to Pages, but meant to be built around a group of people rather than an individual business or a brand.
  • Applications: Developers may write software to help promote a business on Facebook.
  • Polls: Marketers can use them to get quick answers about a particular feature, or find out information and opinions from specific demographics.
  • Facebook Connect: Helps integrate a company Web site with Facebook.
  • Facebook Ads: You can choose a specific demographic target, see how many people that demographic will hit and advertise to that demographic.

This point spotlights the biggest challenge for Facebook — turning its network into a revenue-producing mechanism. In 2008, Facebook earned around $300 million in ad revenue compared to MySpace’s estimated $1 billion. MySpace has primarily become an entertainment site. In September 2009, Facebook said it achieved positive cash flow for the first time since its founding six years ago.

Still, the fact that content supplied by the social network’s members is of a highly personal nature creates a Catch-22. The personal data is potentially one of the network’s most valuable assets, yet it provides a major obstacle in generating revenue as members see highly targeted ads as an invasion of privacy.

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the 8th most-populated in the world, just ahead of Japan.”

— Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, January 2009

www.facebook.com

A Birdie Told Me: Utilizing Twitter’s Real-Time Potential

The first reaction many people have to Twitter is bewilderment, which matches the reason for the name of the micro-blogging site.

“Twittering is the sound birds make when they communicate with each other — an apt description of the conversations held on Twitter,” says site co-founder Biz Stone on the Twitter 101 site. “Every day, millions of people use Twitter to create, discover and share ideas with others. Businesses can use the outlet to quickly share information with people interested in the company, gather real-time market intelligence and feedback, and build relationships with customers, partners and other people who care about the company.”

Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO and co-founder, says that in the best cases, Twitter makes the public smarter, faster and more efficient. However, not everyone believes in the Twitter-hype.

Anthony Helmstetter, a partner at Spin Six Strategic Marketing Design, says Twitter, despite being hot right now, sees a less than 40 percent retention rate after someone has had an account for 30 days.

“What this shows is that this exuberant hype is short-lived,” Helmstetter explains. “What Twitter lacks is a ‘sticky’ component. There’s nothing to make people keep using it.”

He clarifies that Twitter is better for real-time information, but not to build legacy content. But that’s not stopping major brands across the nation from tuning into the world’s mind. Mashable’s commentator Ostrow reported in August 2009 that big brands are embracing social media, with Fortune 100 companies selecting Twitter as their choice of venue. According to recent study by the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller:

  • Among Fortune 100 companies, 54 percent have a Twitter presence, 32 percent have a blog, and 29 percent have an active Facebook Page.
  • Of companies using only one of these tools, at least 76 percent of them choose Twitter.
  • Of the Fortune 100 companies on Twitter, 94 percent use it for news/announcements, 67 percent for customer service, and 57 percent for deals/promotions.
  • The average Fortune 100 Twitter account has 5,234 followers. The median is 674 followers.
  • Many companies are simply avoiding blogs and going directly to Twitter instead.

One of the most well-known brands on Twitter is Starbucks. According to the Twitter 101 Web site, Brad Nelson tweets on behalf of Starbucks Coffee, and says he “loves” the 140 character limits for tweets. He manages it through a third-party application called TweetDeck that allows him to group his followers and see everything at once, from DMs (direct messages) and replies to searches and trending topics.

What a company chooses to post about depends on its goals for using Twitter.

“Listen regularly for comments about your company, brand and products — and be prepared to address concerns, offer customer service and thank people for praise,” Twitter’s co-founders say. But most importantly, don’t spam people.

“There’s the idea that social media is free, but it’s not free,” Spin Six Partner Ken Reaser says.

He adds that businesses looking to go into social media, especially sites such as Twitter, need to be consulted as to why they want to get involved, what their goals and expectations are, what they want to get out of it, how much money they have budgeted for it and the cost to manage it.

www.twitter.com

Follow us

AZ Big Media News: @AZBigMedia

Editor-in-Chief Janet Perez: @perezbizgal

Managing Editor Allie Bell: @alliemcbell

Play to Stop Campaign

Sustainable Europe — A Greener World, One Country At A Time

Fresh from my trip to Europe (specifically my native Poland), I decided to look into what our neighbors across the Atlantic are doing for the sustainability movement.

A survey requested by the European Parliament and the European Commission, coordinated by the Directorate-General for Communication of the European Commission, summarized the general attitude on the Continent toward climate change as “serious but the process is not unstoppable.”

The poll claims that 75 percent of Europeans think “alternative fuels should be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

Green EuropeThe survey also suggests that citizens of certain countries — particularly Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania — are not well informed about climate change.

However, according to the poll, citizens of Slovenia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland are “both well informed about climate change, and personally take action to fight climate change.”

Although I’m not in a position to analyze the conclusions of this survey, I do know that it’s never a bad thing to promote and publicize the issue of climate change awareness. Not only does this (hopefully) get people’s attention, but it also demonstrates society’s commitment to an issue that is universal and affects us all.

The European Commission is promoting climate change awareness to young Europeans by partnering with MTV Europe on a campaign called “Play to Stop— Europe for Climate.” What better way to get through to young people than through concerts, TV programs and the Web?

The eye-catching campaign also has a presence on popular social media sites Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

The campaign will be making its way to my homeland, as well as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Germany, Sweden, Britain and Romania.

So, alas, unlike the U.S., I think it’s safe to say that Europe is making a concerted effort to educate people about climate change and sustainability. Making the world a better, greener place won’t happen overnight, but it’s comforting to know that although we may not all agree on everything, when it comes to this we’re all in this together.

Read the rest of the survey
Play to Stop campaign

Photo: Play to Stop

Social media

Social Networks On Internet Pose Challenges And Opportunities For Businesses

Instinct: Nearly every decision a person makes in his or her lifetime can in some way be tied to an instinctual reaction. One of the most primal of instincts is survival and the key to our evolutionary climb has been the instinct to live in groups or the herd mentality. The instinct is simple — survival in numbers is far easier than going it alone.

The herd is now electronic and in the form of social networking on the Internet. No matter what your interests, you can find a social networking site that will allow you to communicate with like-minded individuals anywhere in the world, at any time. Technology, specifically the Internet, has removed traditional boundaries (distance, time zones, etc.) that previously limited “global gathering,” and this medium has literally exploded. Now more than any other time in our history people are gathering together. While virtual through the Internet, individuals continue to benefit from the comfort, safety and strength that are found in the herd.

Industries and businesses have increasingly been trying to figure out how to leverage the massive amount of information and consumers that are available on these social networking sites. Perhaps the two most prominent and recognizable social networking sites are Facebook and MySpace. Each has a demographic that is very appealing to businesses of all types. However, the primary obstacle to further leveraging these sites’ business appeal to date is resistance from the users to advertising or any other type of interference in their “personal space.”

For many social networking site users, the site represents a place of control and solitude from their everyday lives. Social networking site participants literally go there to get away and spend time in an environment that is entirely in their control. Now business is trying to integrate into a domain that many view as private.

While there may be a belief that these individual pages in MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, etc., are personal and private, the reality is they are not. Multibillion-dollar entities such as Microsoft and News Corp. would not have taken positions in them if they did not see the potential for a substantial return on their investments. The question is not if business is going to try to leverage these sites — the question is how. Advertising has always been the most obvious and first application of business on social networking sites, but how to advertise has been a trial-and-error process. Pushing advertising on users has proved problematic for both MySpace and Facebook.

The next avenue that business pursued was market research. In November 2007, Facebook encountered outrage from its users after it published users’ purchases for friends to see. While there was an “opt out” option, most users did not see it until after the fact. This tactic represented a huge PR issue for Facebook. However, this marketing tactic is another, and perhaps the most viable, business option for organizations to leverage through the social networking sites. The amount of data that the sites capture can be gold. But the site owners have to be extremely careful with how and what information they are sharing outside of the site. First there are privacy concerns, but second, a site that does not listen to the concerns and needs of its user base is destined for failure. With the rate at which new sites are popping up, the landscape to attract users is dramatically more competitive than it was even two years ago.

So the question still remains — will social networking sites become a tool for business to increaseproductivity, start small businesses, and develop larger organizations through market research? Maybe, but probably not.

To quote Tom Davenport, who holds the President’s Chair in Information Technology and Management at Babson College in Massachusetts, and formerly lectured at Harvard University: “I see no evidence that students andyoung adults — the audience for which these tools were originally intended — want to use the tools to do their business.”

The fact that many users go to these sites for relaxation and enjoyment leads me and others to believe that the use of social networking sites for business, other than advertising and marketing, is severely limited and not likely to take off anytime soon.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 Offers Companies A New Way To Conduct Business

Those unable to offer a clear definition of Web 2.0 are not alone. Even computer industry experts have a hard time agreeing on exactly what it is.

“The reason why there are so many different opinions is because the term is so comprehensive,”says James Windrow, director of interactive strategy for Scottsdale-based I-ology, an Internet strategy firm. “It’s misused so often to include absolutely everything, all new technology that’s been developed for the Internet for about the past four to five years.

“The way I define it, and I use Web 2.0 and social media interchangeably, I define Web 2.0 as just technology that’s used to facilitate communication or collaboration amongst different people.”

David van Toor, general manager and senior vice president for Sage CRM Solutions North America, a business software company with offices in Scottsdale, looks at Web 2.0 technology from a business perspective.

“It’s describing, really, the concept that it’s the way that businesses can derive value from treating the Internet as a technology platform and as a business platform,”he says. “To me, it’s a way of conducting business – a different way of conducting business.”

Although the term implies some major redo of the Internet experience, “in reality, it’s just the next version, it’s the next step, it’s an evolution of the process,”according to Tyler Garns, director of marketing for Infusionsoft, a business software company in Gilbert.

The tools that come under the vast Web 2.0 umbrella have led to online communities and social networking, video sharing, blogging and wikis. If you post a page on MySpace or Facebook, watch and comment on a YouTube video, review a product on Amazon or glean information from Wikipedia, you are taking advantage of Web 2.0 technology.

Some businesses have fully embraced Web 2.0. When General Motors stock took a major dip in October, CEO Rick Wagoner appeared in a short YouTube video to state his company’s case. Cable giant Comcast is effectively using the social networking and micro-blogging site Twitter as an element of its Comcast Cares program. Go to Sage’s Web site for ACT! (www.act.com), its popular contact and customer management software, and you can join discussion forums, access an executive’s blog or suggest a feature for a future product update.

“I don’t need a marketing team to communicate with customers now,” van Toor says. “I can do it directly on the blog. I don’t have to force my customers to go through a service department to reach me.”

That’s part of the big change brought about by Web 2.0. In the past, the Internet experience was pretty much a one-way conversation. There was some modest interactivity, but many companies were satisfied using their Web sites as online brochures. Today, businesses are able to engage customer and employee collaboration as never before. Corporate executives are instantly accessible. Active participation results in lightning-fast dialog and feedback.

Another important point is there is now a type of corporate transparency never available before.

“The way that businesses today are leveraging that is they’re opening up their companies and being fully transparent,”Garns says. “What that allows the customer to do is to have a direct view into the company. And when they see things they like, they then trust the company much, much more.”

Windrow points to a change in the way Web 2.0 impacts a company’s ability to control its brand message. In the past, he says, businesses sought complete control.

“In today’s Web 2.0 world, that’s just not the case,”Windrow says. “Now the brand message has left the control of the company and is firmly with the consumers. They are controlling what’s being said about companies. They’re controlling what information is being shared. And they’re actively seeking ways to punish companies that they feel are socially irresponsible in one way or another, or reward companies that they feel are acting in the best interest of consumers.”

That’s why it’s especially important for businesses to offer consumers direct communication options.

“If you invite them to your business and to your sites, and allow them to communicate there in the way they want to, then you can respond to them in a way you can’t if they do it on other people’s chat rooms or places like Amazon,”van Toor says.

Selling, in particular, has been dramatically impacted by the Internet and Web 2.0 technology. According to Garns, today’s consumers educate themselves. They read reviews, hop into forums and find out what others are saying.

“By the time you go to purchase a product or service, you know exactly what you want and you know the price you want to pay,”he says. “When you walk in the door, you’re ready to negotiate. And so the business that you’re buying from has now been cut out of the sales process.”