A sort of fairytale

April 30, 2011

The Royal wedding on the big screen
As I was scanning the tweets on TweetDeck last night, an update from Brian Clark (aka Copyblogger) stood out for me. It said:

“Why did we care about the royal wedding? Because we care about stories. We need fairy tales to come true, even if to others”.

And Brian is absolutely right.

Despite my natural inclination to consider the more cynical angle of any ‘feel-good’ event, I thought the royal wedding was a spectacular celebration, not only enjoyed by millions in the UK, but by billions across the globe. OK, I’m sure the money could have been spent better elsewhere and for some the royal family are not an accurate representation of modern British society, but who cares. With morale at a low across the country (and other parts of the the developing world) and wars kicking off left, right and centre, it was refreshing to put all that aside for one day and take in the fantastic pomp and pageantry that only the British can do with such majesty.

Unsurprisingly, the Americans really got into the spirit of the royal wedding, which is no great surprise. After all, the USA is a country whose national ethos is the ‘American Dream’, an ideal that proclaims that all men are equal and that anyone can do anything. A fairy tale, if you like, that anyone can buy into and aspire to achieve.

Stories are extremely powerful and can be used by anyone, including companies and brands, to differentiate themselves and capture peoples’ imaginations. They’re a way of creating a narrative and a connection that stays with people and leaves a lasting impression.

So what’s your story? If you’ve got one, get out there and tell the world. It might just make a difference.

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The state of social media 2011

April 8, 2011

This week I took part in a webinar hosted by Hubspot and presented by Michael Steizner from Social Media Examiner that revealed and explored some of the key findings from a new report: the 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

The 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report was compiled following a survey of 3,300 social media marketers who were all asked what question about social media marketing they wanted answered. 2,200 people provided responses, all of which were qualitatively analysed and grouped into the top 10 questions.

The report also looks at the time invested in social media marketing, how social media marketing is being used by different types of companies and – crucially – the main benefits offered by social media marketing.

Although the report is very US-centric (only 6% of respondents were from the UK), I’ve always found that the Americans are often ahead of the game when it comes to digital marketing trends such as these. I therefore wanted to write this post to highlight some of the findings that really stood out for me and will hopefully provide you with an insight into what social media marketers are thinking and where their priorities lie in 2011.

Key findings

• 73% of businesses are planning to increase their use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogging in 2011

• The top three questions social media marketers want answered:
#1 – How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?
#2 – How do I integrate and manage all of my social media marketing activities?
#3 – What are the best ways to sell with social media?

Half of marketers have less than one year of social media marketing experience, with B2B companies using social media longer than their B2C counterparts

58% of marketers are using social media marketing more than six hours a week, whilst 34% for 11 hours or more. And the longer people have been using social media, the more time they are investing in it on a weekly basis

• The top three benefits of social media marketing:
#1 – Generate exposure for the business
#2 – Increase traffic/ subscribers
#3 – Improved search rankings

It takes time, patience and commitment to see the financial benefits of social media. Those who take the time to learn about social media and use it consistently will see the greatest benefits

Facebook (92%), Twitter (84%) and LinkedIn (71%) are the most used social media tools, with blogs fourth in the list with 68%

• The top areas of focus for 2011:
#1 – YouTube/ video
#2 – Facebook
#3 – Blogs

People want to learn about Facebook (70%), blogs (69%), social bookmarking (59%), Twitter (59%), LinkedIn (55%) and YouTube/ video (55%) the most in 2011

46% of people want to learn about geo-location marketing (FourSquare, Facebook Places etc), although the report found that geo-location is most likely to be used by larger companies (501-1,000 employees)

My thoughts

There wasn’t a great deal in the report that surprised me in terms of the findings. It’s clear that marketers want to begin seeing financial rewards and return-on-investment from their social media activities. The ‘buzz’ is beginning to die down and I’m sure financial directors and business owners are now demanding to see tangible results from their social media efforts.

Facebook is the tool most people want to learn more about and use in 2011 with Twitter not far off in second place. Although I was surprised to learn that blogs are only fourth in the list of the ‘most used’ social media tools, it’s nevertheless encouraging to see them the third top area of focus and the second most important priority marketers want to learn about in the year ahead.
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What did you think of the report? What stood out most for you? Is there anything else you’d have liked the report to have looked at?


Social Media Heavyweights (Part 3)

March 30, 2011

Joe Louis by By cliff1066
This is the third instalment in my ‘Social Media Heavyweights’ series (please go ahead and check out Part 1 and Part 2). Once again, I’ve picked out another five influential people who I have looked to in my endeavours to become a more proficient social media practitioner. To see all the other heavyweights who I believe you have to follow, check out my Twitter list.

Guy Kawasaki
Blog: http://blog.guykawasaki.com
Twitter: @guykawasaki and @alltop
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/guy

Guy Kawasaki, one of the original employees responsible for marketing (and evangelising) Apple’s Macintosh computers in the 1980s, is everywhere on Twitter, both via his Twitter feed and on Alltop. Guy is a positive, vibrant, charismatic individual who leads by example and has recently published his sixth book, ‘Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions’.

Liz Strauss
Websites: http://www.lizstrauss.com and http://www.successful-blog.com
Twitter: @lizstrauss
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lizstraussfan

Liz Strauss is not only a social media heavyweight, but a networking heavyweight, too. I recently blogged about Liz Strauss and how she uses Twitter to engage with her audience and this in itself demonstrates Liz’s uncanny ability to connect with her network in a way that makes every one of them feel they are a valuable member of the social media community.

Brian Clark (AKA Copyblogger)
Blog: http://www.copyblogger.com
Twitter: @copyblogger

Brian Clark is the mastermind behind Copyblogger, a blog all about how to write effectively for the web. Copyblogger has tons of brilliant posts and articles (largely from a vast pool of excellent guest bloggers) on how to write compelling copy for headlines, landing pages, SEO … and of course social media.

Lee Odden
Blog: http://www.toprankblog.com
Twitter: @leeodden

When I first became interested in social media, I often searched online for comment, news and information to so that I could start building up my knowledge of the subject. The more I searched, the more I came across Lee Odden and the Top Rank blog. Top Rank offers posts and resources on everything from live blogging to content marketing and social media and is one of my go-to destinations for opinion, tips and best practice advice.

Mark Schaefer
Blog: http://www.businessesgrow.com/blog
Twitter: @markwschaefer

Mark Schaefer was brought to my intention by Mitch Joel, via the Six Pixels of Separation podcast. Mark was a guest on Mitch’s podcast debating the pros and cons of ghost writing. Although I was mainly siding with Mitch Joel (who is anti-ghost blogging), Mark nevertheless made some very good points so I checked out his {Grow} blog to learn more. As with all the social media heavyweights I’ve profiled, Mark is a true expert but is also incredibly down-to-Earth and practices what he preaches. He’s an example any aspiring social media enthusiastic (such as myself) can learn from.

An entrepreneurial boost from StartUp Britain

March 28, 2011

StartUpBritain initiative
Earlier this month, a wrote a blog post about doing whatever it takes to fulfil your goals. In the post, I talked about how the economic downturn is affecting peoples’ life goals and how many workers in the UK have been made redundant as a result of the economic downturn. However, I mentioned that anyone from any industry sector can take inspiration from entrepreneurs and how many enterprising individuals are looking for opportunities and starting up their own businesses despite the gloomy economic climate.

Today the UK government launched the StartUp Britain campaign, an initiative run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and supported by a whole host of companies (including Google, Microsoft and Virgin Media). Aimed at encouraging people to set up their own businesses, the campaign’s objective is to provide would-be entrepreneurs across the country the resources and information needed to give their ventures every opportunity for success.

I think this is an exciting initiative and one that I hope really does inspire people across the UK to take the leap and set up businesses of their own. Entrepreneurs not only instil a sense of belief and fortitude into the hearts and minds of others, but they also create jobs, competition and act as a catalyst for economic growth. StatUp Britain may be the boost many people who have always dreamed of owning their own business need, and I wish any new entrepreneur setting up on their own every success in the world!

What’s behind the numbers?

March 26, 2011

Facebook's Domination by infographiclabs
Last week I spoke with the managing director and marketing director of an online publication company looking to use social media as part of a digital expansion programme. It was encouraging to speak with two senior managers who have clearly recognised the opportunities and benefits that social media can offer and are prepared to use new media channels as part of their company’s marketing mix.

However, one of the things that concerned me during our meeting was when they said one of their main social media objectives was to boost the number of ‘likes’ on their Facebook page from around 9,000 to 1 million within a four to six month period and that ‘scale’ was of particular importance to them.

Bigger is not always better

A large following, whether that be through ‘likes’ on Facebook or followers on Twitter, is a perfectly legitimate social media marketing metric. Amongst other things, a large following will give you a fantastic opportunity to market to your existing customer base and help you establish credible social capital. But when this is one of the only social media marketing metrics, one begins to worry. It may be a cliché , but quality really is more important than quantity when it comes to (effective) social media marketing. You may grow your following and boast over a million ‘likes’ on Facebook, but so what?

Social media is a paradigm shift from traditional marketing techniques and requires a different type of thinking. It involves bringing the audience into the marketing process by including them in conversations, engaging with them and starting a dialogue. Social media marketing will not be effective if you build up a following only to broadcast messages and advertisements to them in the traditional one-to-many fashion. You need to proactively target your key social media audiences and give them a compelling reason to connect with you.

It’s not just the size – it’s what you do with it that counts!

One million Facebook ‘likes’ would be great, but what if only 25% of the Facebook following really liked you and the majority were disengaged with the brand and unresponsive to the discourse you’re trying to generate? Surely it would be better to aim for 20,000 Facebook fans who are interested and enthusiastic about your product or service and form part of a community that regularly interacts with your content and spreads it organically across their social graphs. Only this way will you begin to see increased conversions, be it actionable clicks over page views, enquiries, leads or sales. These are the metrics that really matter the most.

What are your thoughts on social media marketing metrics? What do you use to measure success? What does good social media look like?

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Photo credit: Inforgraphic by Infographiclabs. To view the full picture click on the picture or alternatively click here.

Social media heavyweights (Part 2)

March 23, 2011

Cat's Cradle by cliff1066™

This is the second part of my ‘Social Media Heavywieghts’ series (you can read Part 1 here), where I will list another 5 masterful people and resources from the world of social media who (in my opinion at least) MUST be followed!

For a comprehensive list of all my ‘Social Media Heavyweights’, please feel free to log in to Twitter and follow my Twitter list.

Julien Smith
Blog: http://inoveryourhead.net/
Twitter: @julien

I first discovered Julien Smith when I read ‘Trust Agents‘, a fantastic book he co-wrote with Chris Brogan about building your influence and reputation.  What I like about Julien is that he has a great sense of humour and he injects this, along with as a sharp wit and a critical eye, into many his blog posts and social media commentary. If you want to know what Julien’s really thinking – well, he’ll tell you!

Jeremiah Owyang
Blog: http://www.webstrategist.com/blog/
Twitter: @jowyang

Jeremiah Owyang is a new media ‘big thinker’ and web strategist. Jeremiah is an analyst who gets under the skin of social media and digital marketing trends and regularly produces very interesting in-depth reports that contain a wealth of brilliant information. Jeremiah isn’t afraid to tackle the big issues and regularly blogs on a range of both strategic and tactical social media issues.

Harvard Business Review
Blog: http://hbr.org/ and http://blogs.hbr.org/
Twitter: @harvardbiz
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HBR

Although the Harvard Business Review isn’t dedicated to social media, if you’re serious about using social media marketing effectively as a business tool then HBR is required reading. The magazine (which I have a subscription to because I’m so afraid of missing out on their reports and analysis!) and blogs offer a wealth of insight on a variety of business issues, and both with give you a very good grounding in solid business principles that form the backdrop to which social media takes place.

Tamar Weinberg
Blog: http://www.techipedia.com/
Twitter: @tamar

If it wasn’t for Tamar Weinberg I might never have caught the social media ‘bug’. Tamar’s was the first social media book I read (‘The New Community Rules‘) and it really opened my mind to what social media can do, how it works and more importantly, what it’s’about’. Tamar is an active participant on the social web and is an expert in social networking, social bookmarking, blogging and much, much more.

TED
Blog: http://www.ted.com/
Twitter: @TEDTalks, @TEDNews
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TED

TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design and is a global set of conferences that explore a wide range of topics and subject areas. The people that speak at TED events are more often than not geniuses – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Seth Godin and Malcolm Gladwell to name a few – and nearly every TED talk (which is 18 minutes or less) I’ve watched has inspired me in one way or another. Like the Harvard Business Review, TED isn’t about social media, but the ideas and concepts are invigorating and will encourage good practice on the social web.

All or nothing

March 21, 2011

All or nothing
All too often I speak to individuals or companies who are considering using social media as part of their marketing efforts and yet they haven’t got a clear idea as to how it will fit into an overall plan or strategy.

I truly believe that social media marketing can be a very valuable part of a company’s marketing tool kit. But as with any other tactic or communication channel, it needs to be integrated into the overall business or marketing strategy effectively, with clear goals, objectives and milestones in place. Creating a one-off Facebook page or Twitter steam without an endgame in mind is simply using social media as a marketing ‘add on’, separated from from the core values, personality and image the brand is aiming to portray. Consistency is key and social media plays a vital role in generating brand awareness across both the traditional and social web.

Unless you are prepared to commit to social media entirely and use it as a genuine part of your marketing plan then I would recommend that social media isn’t used at all. Many may say that this would be far too drastic and that not participating in any social media channels would be a backwards step. However, the consequences of poor social media implantation has the potential to be much more damaging, with the possibility of frustrating followers or even customers through inconsistent participation and tone of voice.

A social media strategy doesn’t have to be a weighty tome, but it does have to coherently map out why you want to use social media, how you are going to use it and with whom. If you’re not prepared to take the time to put a simple plan together, I doubt you’ll have the time to consistently engage with communities using social media. It’s better to focus on the channels you can use really well (whether they be online or offline) and add value, rather than spread yourself – and your brand – thin across a variety of social media sites where you rarely turn up and join in.

Social media heavyweights (Part 1)

March 16, 2011

Champion-Match Johnson-Jeffries by cliff1066™

Whether you’re new to social media or simply looking for more inspiring blogs to read, videos to watch on YouTube or people to follow on Twitter and Facebook, here is one of a few of lists I am going to publish about the essential social media people and resources to follow. They have been selected from a Twitter list I have compiled (simply click on the link, log in and follow away).

The social media heavyweights set out in this list have educated, entertained and inspired me and I hope they will do the same for you. I have not gone into lots of detail about each of them (you can discover that for yourselves!) but I have briefly outlined why I believe they’re amazing!

Seth Godin
Blog: http://sethgodin.typepad.com
Twitter: @thisissethsblog

Seth Godin isn’t strictly a social media guy, he’s a marketing guy who over the last few years has also become a brilliant thinker and writer on leadership. Although he doesn’t tweet himself (it’s an automated account that tweets links to his blog posts), Seth’s blog – which he updates every day without fail! – is one of the best around. It’s truly inspirational and a fascinating read.

Chris Brogan
Blog: http://www.chrisbrogan.com
Twitter:@chrisbrogan
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChrisBroganMedia
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/chrisbrogan

Just like Seth Godin, Chris Brogan often updates his blog daily. However, unlike Seth, Chris’s posts are much more marketing related and many of his blog posts are more helpful in a practical sense. For example, Chris often posts handy hints, research findings, advice and opinion, as well as posts on his business and marketing philosophies. He really knows his stuff and if you’re interested in social media and marketing he is an absolute must to follow!

Mitch Joel
Blog: http://www.twistimage.com/blog
Twitter: @mitchjoel
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MitchJoel

I first heard of Mitch Joel when I saw his book ‘Six Pixels of Separation’ (which is also the name of his blog and podcast) listed as a top social media book on Mashable (see more information on Mashable at the end of this list).

In my opinion, Mitch’s podcast is one of the best digital and marketing podcasts out there, in which he regularly interviews smart and interesting people throughout the advertising, media and marketing worlds. Mitch updates his blog nearly every day with thought-provoking and philosophical posts, and he alone has taught me so much over the last year or so.

Brian Solis
Blog: http://www.briansolis.com
Twitter: @briansolis
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thebriansolis
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/briansolistv

I’m currently reading Brian Solis’s book ‘Engage’ and it’s fantastic! It’s stylishly written with a wealth of insightful information. Brian’s blog is also brilliant and offers a wonderful analytical look at social media and digital marketing strategy. You must check out Brian’s YouTube channel where you can watch ‘Revolution’ – a series in which he interviews social media champions from around the world.

Mashable
Website: http://www.mashable.com
Twitter: @mashable, @mashsocialmedia, @mashbusiness … and more and more! (Just search ‘Mashable’ in Twitter to see all their accounts)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mashable
YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/mashable

Mashable is a social media goldmine! It’s filled with a mountain of information and the most up-to-date analysis and features on social media, technology and online marketing. And  as you can see from above, there is a whole raft of Twitter streams to follow as well as comprehensive coverage on Facebook and YouTube, too.

Watch out for Part 2 of my ‘Social media heavyweights’ series!


Whatever it takes

March 10, 2011

there is no try - by alamosbasement

The ever-excellent Chris Brogan wrote a blog post last week about persistence and how we should all recognise it as a skill worth nurturing.

Keep on going despite the economic downturn

Chris’s post really resonated with me. With all the doom and gloom regarding the ‘economic climate’ at the moment, I wanted to expand further on the theme of persistence and why I believe it is such a powerful and important attribute to have during these tough times.

With government spending cuts, public (and private) sector redundancies, reduced budgets and rising unemployment, I have personally felt a little dispirited over the past few months or so. It all seems too much to bear at times, but this is exactly why perseverance and a will to succeed is so important.

Persistence in sport and business

Never giving up and doing whatever it takes to get where you want to are the qualities that champions display. In the sporting world, Manchester United at their best spring to mind, scoring goals late on in a match to win the game, or Raphael Nadal and Roger Federer fighting it out – two fierce competitors focused entirely on their personal objectives and completely unprepared to back down.

In business, I always think of Richard Branson and his ceaseless desire to create companies and products to rival others. The story of Virgin Atlantic Airways and their rivalry with British Airways is a perfect example of a visionary leader doing whatever it took to get what he wanted. Despite fierce opposition from British Airways, Branson persevered and eventually met the goal he had set himself – to become one of the UK’s major airline operators.

Take inspiration from entrepreneurs

It’s so easy to give up and yet it’s also so wrong. Throwing in the towel and surrendering is simple – anyone can do it. But what if you stayed focused, stuck to your plans and kept on going, regardless of the naysayers?

That’s what entrepreneurs are doing all around the UK in the face of cuts in public expenditure and increasing unemployment. Resilient and resourceful people who have been made redundant or are looking for a better way of life have rejected the notion that they’re not good enough and have persisted with their own personal goals and objectives. Many of their stories are inspirational and are proof that hard work, seeking out opportunities and persistence pays off.

What motivates you to keep on going? Do you have any success stories to share?

What’s your price tag?

March 7, 2011

Although I’d agree there is only a tenuous link (if any at all!) between the lyrics in Jessie J‘s new single ‘Price Tag’ and social media marketing, listening to the song made me think a little about social media, its core values and how companies and individuals should apply social media correctly as part of their marketing plans.

In the song, Jessie J sings:

“Seems like everybody’s got a price,
I wonder how they sleep at night.
When the sale comes first,
And the truth comes second,
Just stop, for a minute and
Smile”

The song is clearly about the negative effect of the commercialisation of modern pop music – but I found some interesting parallels with social media marketing!

Social media gives marketers the opportunity to interact and engage with customers in a way that doesn’t push the product in their faces and go for the sale immediately. Social media gives us the chance to build a relationship and a rapport with our audience whilst transparently making it clear who we represent and the benefits our products and/or services can bring to the market.

Social media can also be a lot of fun. Just look at what Old Spice and Blendtec have been doing! Just two of many more examples of companies having a great (and successful) time using social media.

Where the parallels begin to end is when Jessie J sings:

“It’s not about the money, money, money
We don’t need your money, money, money”

Social media marketing is ultimately about making money, just as all areas of marketing are. But it’s how you go about marketing yourself and making money using social media that’s potentially different – and better.

So just as Jessie J suggests, chill out, relax, be true to yourself and smile. Don’t take yourself too seriously, embrace social media as part of your marketing tool kit and engage with your audience. You might just find that they end up selling your product for you!