Category Archives: SEO

Smart Business, Social Business

Michael Brito’s Smart Business, Social Business is a great how-to source for converting a business into an interactive social media environment. He emphasizes that a brand cannot become social without the internal business, itself, first evolving to become social. This involves breaking down barriers between different sectors of the business, which he calls “organizational silos,” and fundamentally changing the culture of the organization.

In brief, this happens through a concentrated effort to implement “organizational models, culture, internal communications, collaboration, governance, training, employee activation, global and technology expansion, team dynamics, and measurement philosophy” that situate social media as a prominent component of marketing strategy. Brito goes into great detail to describe the changes that need to be made in each of these areas.

He also shares a variety of social media tracking and measurement tools so that his advice is truly actionable. Brito emphasizes the need to integrate the best tools for the particular organization, basing this on factors such as the current software systems in use, IT capacity, and the need for company growth, or scalability. A whole chapter of Brito’s book is devoted to different technologies available, from social business collaboration tools such as Jive and Microsoft SharePoint to social listening tools such as Radian6 and Sprinklr.

Technology, however, is just one of the three prongs in social business development. A business also needs to establish a solid governance model so that its employees know to engage transparently, disclose affiliation with the company, engage respectfully, follow the company philosophy, and follow a variety of other guidelines that are laid out clearly for them. The organization also needs to plan how it will provide feedback on social media platforms, measure impact, and develop over time. This is the “process” prong; the third prong is “people.” Becoming a social business requires a shift in the interactions between different parts of the organization – improving communication between different parts and finding management personnel who will champion the shift to social media. The diffusion of innovations model of behavior change tells us that few will be early adopters of social media. But promoting interaction on these various Internet platforms throughout a company, and teaching employees not just what to do but how exactly to engage, can increase the rate of adoption.

Brito points to the importance of measuring influence and ROI, from both a business perspective and one of evolving social media proficiency over time. This can be challenging because there’s no standardized measurement method. Not everything in social media converts into a monetized value, and different organizations tend to use different tools to track influence, including things such as Twitter retweets, RSS subscriptions, the comment-to-post ratio, customer retention, likes, share of voice and conversational sentiment. These are just a small handful of the many ways to measure social media impact, and none are perfect, but they can be used to demonstrate the importance of social media, growth and change over time, which can be especially important for garnering and maintaining the support of management.

The book also describes how there are different types of customers that have to be treated differently. These include venting, passive, used-to-be, and collaborative customers, customer advocates, and future customers. Brito also distinguishes brand advocates from influencers – influencers have a large social media network and their own agendas, and may write about a company (not necessarily positively).

Brand advocates speak out in support of the brand simply because they love the brand and its products. A company might want to offer new products to an influencer for review, but it’s incredibly beneficial to create a system for promoting and rewarding content creation by brand advocates. This could be something such as creating a special community within the company website, or otherwise mobilizing brand advocates.

Most importantly, just as Brian Solis emphasizes in Engage!, messages need to be relevant to the audience, the community, the time of posting, and other contextual factors. Rather than simply pushing marketing messages at customers, companies need to provide helpful information through social media by answering questions, resolving conflict with pertinent information, and being interesting by offering content such as multimedia and contests. This positions the brand as an important provider of information that customers can trust and believe. Determining what is relevant requires personnel and time resources – the company must engage in intensive listening on social media channels.

However, this investment can have immense benefit, increasing reach because customers are more likely to comment, retweet, post, and otherwise engage in response to content they care about. Relevant content also increases organic search results because the selected keywords match what customers are searching for. This content will also increase the amount of inbound links a brand receives from from related and respected sources, which also helps with SEO.

Brito discusses the option of working with a social media agency to monitor online activity, create a social media strategy and implement the program. An organization has to take into consideration the expertise of its own online team as well as research various agencies to select one that matches its particular needs – the type of organization it is, the experience of previous clients, actual social media engagement by the agency, the agency’s social media philosophy, and other characteristics. Whether an organization creates its own social media strategic plan or uses to an agency, Brito provides guidelines on the most important components to include. In ascending order of specificity, these are the mission statement, goals and objectives, strategies, and tactics.

My client, Public Citizen’s infant formula marketing campaign, can benefit from the framework set forth in this book even though it is focused on social businesses rather than advocacy organizations. All organizations should work to change their internal culture before engaging extensively in social media. Creating a strategic plan and engagement manual, implementing social media listening and measurement tools, engaging advocates and amplifying their voice, hosting platforms for idea generation by employees and the general public, and securing a social media budget are just a few of the items in this book that are universally important to modern organizations. Although a nonprofit might not have the same investments of money, manpower and time for social media involvement than a large business, it can work under the general principles set forth in Brito’s book and maximize its capacity to make a real impact through social media.

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Filed under communications, infant formula marketing, multimedia, online marketing, organizational silos, Public Citizen, SEO, social brand, social business, social media, social networks, web presence

The Long Tail

Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (2006) examines the new market of products, services and information that the Internet has made widely available. Our culture has increasingly moved online. Businesses that take advantage of digital technologies, which enable the sale of a much wider inventory than physical retail stores do, are doing incredibly well. For example, Amazon and eBay save themselves the distribution costs of physically storing and shipping goods by having the people who sell products through their site do so. Their inventory is dispersed, while information-based goods such as music and movies require no physical storage or shipment at all.

What the virtual storefront allows, Anderson writes, is for us to sell an enormous array of niche products. This was never possible with the limited space in retail stores. We can avoid the bottleneck of selling only what is predicted to be most popular, and just sell everything.

All the stuff that couldn’t have been sold in-store, seen in a movie theater, played on the radio, etc. can now be accessed online. And it can be accessed wherever we are, whether we’re geographically distanced from storefronts or searching for information and goods on the go. This book made me aware that my client should maximize web and mobile distribution of its message to make sure it’s available everywhere.

This accessibility is creating demand – a huge amount of demand. It’s not that one niche product will necessarily have an enormous customer base, but the aggregated bulk of these products adds up to a much greater demand than there is for the most popular “hits” and goods. Sometimes, web user-generated content does go viral, but this often happens through active promotion. Though it’s not about viral Internet phenomena, specifically, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point is a great resource on the basics of social epidemics.

Consumers are no longer limited to the goods that hit-makers like Hollywood and big music labels push out to them. It’s becoming more and more evident that people have unique tastes, and therefore want unique goods, whether that’s 1970s horror film or musical subgenres like breakbeat hardcore.

Anderson talks about three major forces that have made this possible – the democratization of the tools of production, the democratization of the tools of distribution, and the connection of supply and demand via filters. For example, most of us now have access to the technologies needed to record a song or a short video, and upload it to YouTube. Then, filters such as search engines and recommendations for similar content direct web users to and between our creations.

These filters are necessary because although it’s now more likely that people will find the products or information they want, the long tail also includes a great mass of things they don’t want. Filters allow us to sort through everything so it isn’t overwhelming. They guide us deeper into niche content, to both find what we are looking for and discover new items of interest.

They use actual data from user click paths to measure behavior, where traditional marketing relied simply on predictions of consumer behavior that often led to business mistakes. Furthermore, while goods in physical retail stores can only be organized in one way, people can navigate the long tail of the web in a variety of ways. For example, web radios categorize music by artist, genre, user playlists, click path behavioral analysis, and other means.

Here, SEO (search engine optimization) and appropriate tagging of online content are of utmost importance for increasing visibility. My client can take advantage of this by integrating keywords into website code, and coordinating with similar campaigns and relevant blogs to increase inbound links.

All of this can increase the likelihood that web users will arrive at the campaign amidst the highly competitive field of information on the Internet. And when they get to the campaign web pages, Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think is an excellent resource on how to make websites user-friendly and effective in generating action.

Along with the expanded market for niche products, marketing itself is becoming fragmented. Companies are no longer as in control of their image. The Internet is taking us back to an earlier time when word of mouth, not public relations departments, dominated product and brand perception. As emphasized in Brian Solis’ Engage!, this is regularly occurring through social media sites like blogs and Twitter. Companies need to pay attention and respond to the online community, and Anderson gives various examples of successes and failures in this arena.

My client also needs to monitor conversations that are taking place online to determine the best way to contribute, and to get influential web users interested in and talking about it. In The User is Always Right, Steve Mulder and Ziv Yaar demonstrate the importance of developing online personas to predict how the largest segments of your audience will think. We can plan for optimal click paths and how we will align our needs with theirs, but ultimately we need to measure user behavior and refine our tools – all made possible through Internet technologies like Google Analytics.

Some things have changed since Anderson’s book was published. For example, as he predicted, Netflix’s reach is no longer limited by mail-exchange of DVDs. It’s now all digitized, and its inventory is immediately accessible.

This is what he describes as the elimination of production costs by selling content that exists as information bits instead of physical atoms. This article in the Huffington Post describes the amazing possibilities of 3D printing and the “democratizing of manufacturing,” which Anderson briefly discusses.

The central point of Anderson’s book is that we as consumers tend to inaccurately perceive cultural conventions as choice. This explains the wider popularity of limited-variety goods such as Hollywood hits, print newspapers and top-brand kitchen appliances prior to the advent of the Internet. Now that we know there is so much more available and have access to it, we no longer accept the status quo of lowest common denominator goods, services and information. The long tail is everywhere, even in search keywords.

We seek something different, and what each of us seeks is unique. Rather than try and predict what will be popular, Internet-based companies and organizations can maximize their business or information transactions by making everything available. For my client, this means framing its message in ways that are targeted to different niche audiences, rather than pushing out a one-size-fits-most message to all web platforms.

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Filed under blogger outreach, infant formula marketing, long tail, niche interests, online marketing, Public Citizen, SEO, social media, social networks