10 Ways to Improve Your Online Presence in Social Media and Email Marketing

26 02 2010

As you may or may not know, I work in the email marketing industry. It’s a very interesting field that has gotten a bad rap due to some undesirables shirking the law and their responsibility and creating what we know today as SPAM. Despite this set-back, email marketing is still one of the most popular and effective ways to reach consumers. Let us not forget that email was the first social media. In keeping with that theme, I have decided to write a blog that explores 12 best practices that apply to both social media and email marketing.

1. Write great subject lines.

This is the first rule of email marketing. Subject lines are the first thing a customer sees and are usually the deciding factor in how much attention they give an email. This is even more important in social media where many times your subject line is all you have. Using services like Twitter and Facebook you must focus on a strong “headline” if you hope to grab the attention of your over saturated audience. Don’t hurry writing your subject, come up with several different ideas and chose the one you think would appeal to your customer most.

2. Start strong and don’t forget about the preview pane.

The preview pane is that handy little window in email clients like Outlook and Thunderbird that shows a preview of the email before it is actually “opened”. It’s so useful in fact, that many people read their emails almost exclusively in this manner. Which means, the top section of your email is most important. In social media this applies to almost anything you present to your audience. There isn’t technically a preview pane, but there is in theory. Whatever a reader sees before they have to scroll down or click a link could be considered the preview pane. There’s an old journalists trick, we call it the “inverted pyramid”. Present the big picture at the beginning of your story and work your way down to small, less important details. This grabs the attention of your reader and ensures that even if they bail half way through the story, they didn’t miss the main point.

3. Avoid naughty language.

Chances are you’ve gotten SPAM before, but have you ever notice how they all seem share the same language? There seems to be a language of the disrespectful, unsolicited hard sell. SPAM filters are designed to pick up on this recurring “language of SPAM” by using Bayesian style filters. These types of filters have been popular for years and use common “SPAM words” to filter messages. The general idea is that by avoiding certain words and phrases can make your email more deliverable and your social media messages more palatable. If it looks like, smells like, and taste like SPAM, people are going to assume it is. The last thing you want is to associated with that dirty four-letter word.

4. “The difference between you and me? I make this look good.” – Will Smith, Men in Black

Despite the common advice to not judge books by their cover, everyone does anyway. This is true of websites, emails, and social media efforts. You might do everything else right, but if you have sloppy design, you can ruin any potential for success your hard work may have had. Not all companies need high style and design but look at your online media and ask yourself, “Would I be comfortable giving my credit card information to this company?” If your answer is no, you have a serious problem. Make your online efforts look professional and your clients will be more apt to click your links and buy your products.

5. Treat your recipients like real people.

There are many ways to appeal to your audience and no one way is best, but in the world of social media and email marketing, treating your clients with a respectful and personal touch can be the difference between success and failure. Online interaction can be notoriously cold and impersonal, if you find a way to break that mold and connect with your audience, you will give them a refreshing surprise that they are sure to respond to.

6. Focus on meaningful content.

Find out what your customers want and give it to them. Too many marketers get so wrapped up in their product that they forget about the consumer. If you provide your audience with something valuable, your campaign will be a success. Blatant solicitation is a waste of everyone’s time.

7. Establish your brand.

Assuming you are already producing content that your recipients actually want, the next step is to ensure that they don’t overlook your efforts. Maintaining similar design and messaging will make your online campaign familiar and it will make you recognizable to your audience. With the chaos that is the internet these days, this can be crucial to your success.

8. Let’s make a deal!

Including an offer is a fantastic way to attract attention and motivate social sharing. Exclusive offers are typically more attractive and have the potential of prompting recipients to send your offer to a friend if they find it an exceptional value. Free marketing doesn’t get any better than that! Don’t bother with this unless you can actually offer something with legitimate value and avoid being misleading at all costs.

9. Study provider policy.

Professionals in any field always do their homework. They know more about their topic than anyone else and they use that knowledge to their advantage. If you want to be a pro in the email marketing and social media world you need to know the policy’s of the major service providers. You wouldn’t ship goods somewhere without knowing the docking regulations of the port, so don’t be uninformed of the rules and regulations of companies like Yahoo!, Google, Facebook or Twitter.

10. Hire us to help!

Yes, this is a shameless plug and yes, we are available for freelance work.

Cheers,
Dan





Social Media as a Search Engine- Web 2.0

12 02 2010

With the creation of popular sites such as MySpace and Facebook came the wave of change that led to a new approach and definition of the Internet, known as Web 2.0. The rise in popularity of social media sites and blogs has forever changed the Internet as we know it. Not only has it led to new hobbies for procrastinating students and new marketing channels for companies and brands, but it has begun to leave its mark on the overall functionality of the Internet. The Internet is not only a way to entertain yourself, but it is more importantly a way to get information. With social media, this approach of gathering info is changing, and it’s for the better.

Once upon a time, Yahoo! and Google existed to cater to the Internet searcher’s needs, and in a way they still do. Google became so powerful in the search engine game that it was eventually adopted as a phrase, as well as the Internet’s top search engine. How often do you hear someone use the phrase “Google it”? I’m willing to bet that you hear this as often as multiple times a day. Though this is still the primary method of search on the Internet, the times are a changin’.

Now a days, people are interested in getting information as quickly as possible. With traditional media, news was provided only after someone had the opportunity to sit down and write an article or film a broadcast and even then delivery had to take place. Now, due to the impact of social media, information is exchanged by the minute. A simple search on Twitter will result in countless posts being updated in real-time. Let’s say that a major event takes place, you can be sure that numerous individuals including reporters, celebrities, musicians, and regular people will post to their Twitter and Facebook accounts. This flooding of instant information now supplies the public with instant information. Think of it as one large conversation amongst the internet community. We no longer have to wait to hear about current events and news.

In addition to supplying us with important facts in real-time, social media allows us to access important opinions as well. Thinking of purchasing a new phone, game, TV, or just about any product but aren’t sure if it’s worth it? Hop on Twitter and search for it. You will be sure to find countless comments and posts regarding other consumer’s experiences and opinions. Post the question on your Facebook status or blog and see what kind of advice people have to offer. Once upon a time, Googling a product would lead you to a product review. Helpful? Very much so. But why read about it when you can actively engage in a conversation about it? It’s as though you have a panel of advisers to help you with your purchasing decisions, consisting of millions of people. That’s quite the committee.

Social media is often brushed off as a hobby or silly time waster by those who criticize, a site to update my status and tell everyone what I am doing? Who cares? As judgmental as they may be, don’t hold their cynicism against them. They just don’t understand social media. That is exactly why we’re here doing what we do. Choose to not use it? That’s OK. But you’ll be missing out on a wondrous world of knowledge and information sharing. It’s the wave of the future. Web 2.0.

Noel





Conan and His Social Media Army

21 01 2010

I have a lot of clients ask me how they can effectively use websites like Digg or Reddit to tap into the social media audience. They hear the buzz about these sites and want to use it to their advantage. Each of these sites has a large and loyal user base, but implementing a campaign to utilizes these sites can range in difficulty from hard to nearly impossible.

I am an avid user of both Reddit and Digg. I find them hilarious and extremely informative. They can even be, at times, inspirational. Honestly though, Reddit and Digg aren’t a good marketing medium for everyone.

In an effort to better understand how an individual or company can benefit from social media exposure on Digg and Reddit, I have been keeping a close eye on the Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien Tonight Show Fiasco. In the recent weeks, the news about the battle for The Tonight Show has exploded on the internet. For Leno it has been disastrous, for Conan it’s been great.

Conan has always had a following and support from a younger age group. Those in the 18-25 range have been his most loyal supporters and, in his time of need, they have come to his defense in surprising numbers. Articles supporting Conan both on Digg and Reddit have been massively popular since the controversy has begun. Over half a million people have joined the Facebook group “I’m With CoCo”.  As far as public relations are concerned, for NBC and Leno, it has been a complete nightmare.

So how did Conan manage to get such good online press? Mainly, it was because Conan appeals to the individuals who have power in social media circles and creates content aimed directly toward them. Online bloggers and trend setters are a powerful group and Conan’s particular brand of edgy humor strikes a chord with people in that demographic. Conan’s camp also has a tendency to produce material specifically for the internet crowd. Conan has shown he is in touch with internet trends and topics consistently, such as when he referenced his Super Mario Brothers Set (a popular internet joke at the time). During the “Tonight Show Controversy,” Conan embraced the internet love he was receiving and went as far as to list both his show and himself for sale on Craigslist, a move that appealed greatly to the tech savvy audience. The more Conan spoke to the people of the World Wide Web, the more they loved him.

What does this tell us about how to be successful in our own marketing efforts on Digg and Reddit? It proves, and this isn’t revolutionary, that you need to know your target audience. If you go on Digg or Reddit and post a traditional advertisement or even a stale blog post about your business, it has absolutely no chance of making an impact on the community. To be successful in these social circles, you have to understand the people who frequent them. The best way to be successful? Have a marketer who understands and shares their humor, their technological fascinations, and their tendency to buck the system. Having a product that appeals to that demographic certainly helps too. If you sell concrete, maybe you don’t need to be on a website whose top stories are about LOLCATS or the legalization of marijuana.

On a side note..

One of the reasons why the controversy happened in the first place was because Conan wasn’t getting the ratings that NBC wanted at 11:30. It could be argued that this has something to do with the fact that his target audience, 18-25 year-olds who watched the Late Night Show, were not the same as his new audience on The Tonight Show. Leno fans and Conan fans are a completely different demographic. Leno appeals to a more mature crowd. By firing Conan, NBC is missing out on an opportunity to cash in on the next generation of money makers and wealth holders. We already know who they relate to, and it isn’t the ever aging Leno. Personally, I’m with CoCo.

Cheers,
Dan





Google Nexus One and YouTube: An Example of Effective Social Media Marketing

20 01 2010
Social media has greatly affected the world of marketing.  With innovative channels such as Twitter and Facebook, companies are now able to interact with their customers in a manner that is a far departure from “traditional” marketing techniques. This unconventional method has led to, not only an entirely new strategic thought process, but an entirely new branch of marketing. Businesses are now putting emphasis on hiring marketing professionals with the specific intent of managing the company’s social media accounts. With positions such as these in high demand, it is crucial for the marketing professional to be familiar with these social media sites, as well as knowledgeable on the tactics  necessary to be successful.

Each of these sites has their benefits. Twitter, for instance, allows businesses to promote their product/specials, build brand awareness/loyalty, track conversations that are occurring amongst consumers about their product and actively engage in open discussions with these consumers, all in an indirect, conversational manner. It isn’t as “in your face” as direct mail or advertisements, but is instead a way to communicate casually with your market. Twitter is also a large HUB for Word of Mouth, and being active in this will not only reflect positively on your brand, but will build trust and show the consumers that you care about what they say.

YouTube, on the other hand, is one social media site whose benefits aren’t as obvious. As one of the most popular sites on the internet, it is no mystery that building an effective campaign via YouTube would reach millions. The problem that I faced when considering this channel is that YouTube is often viewed as a video sharing site used to pass time and entertain with clips of hilarious babies or funny song parodies. I visit YouTube at least once a day, and my searches usually consist of live performances of bands I enjoy or segments from my favorite TV shows or movies.  It was never clear to me how one could use YouTube to promote their product without some sort of viral video, until I stumbled upon Google’s Nexus One.

A couple of nights ago, I was roaming YouTube as I so often do looking for a laugh or an impressive song cover. I didn’t really have an agenda, but was just passing time and keeping myself entertained by clicking link after link. This is when I came across an advertisement for Google’s Nexus One as a banner ad on the top of my home page. Now, I’d like to clarify that I own an Iphone and am happy with it, therefore I am not in the market for a new phone nor was I considering it. The advertisement boasted of the Nexus One’s cutting edge technology and provided a link to “view a demo”.  As a tech fan, I was immediately intrigued.  The banner ad gave the impression that clicking on that link would take me to a YouTube video of the phone being demonstrated, and due to the fact that I was just wandering the site aimlessly, I decided watching this video was something I was interested in. I clicked.

The decision I made to follow that link and view this demo caused me to evaluate my action, as well as contemplate the mindset of the YouTube viewer. As I mentioned, I had no interest in a new phone, yet I was willing to watch this video pitch for the Nexus One. I was confused by that. Upon further thought about my own situation and the observation of my friend’s habits when surfing YouTube, I realized that rarely is anyone on YouTube for a specific reason.  It is not the kind of site that you visit, take care of business, and then leave. This opens a huge window for marketers in getting information to the consumers who have an interest in that particular market. I am a huge tech fan and was therefore pulled in by the ad.  The fact that I wasn’t really “doing anything” played a large role in why I was O.K with following that link. What’s one more video? Google was wise for promoting a video with that banner ad while indirectly promoting the phone as opposed to directly promoting the phone itself. In a consumer driven economy, it is product quality that will ultimately be the most effective promotion, and Google knew their product could speak for itself. Their intention was to draw viewers to their video, and it worked.

Now comes my only complaint about the campaign.  When I did click on that link, I expected to be taken to the video within YouTube, but was instead taken to the Nexus One website where ANOTHER link led me to the Nexus One YouTube channel.  I was very annoyed when I saw that I was taken to the Nexus One’s site, as I felt that had disrupted my “YouTube binge”.  Though I eventually did choose to click the second link to arrive at the YouTube channel, I certainly considered just exiting and carrying on with my web browsing. This direction to the actual product site disrupted my interest and may very well cause others to abandon the video and move on to something new.  Had the ad just linked directly to the product channel, I imagine there would be a much smaller number of dropouts. It  becomes less of a decision to inquire and more of a sales pitch, which is sure to turn people off.

Now finally, the result.  Upon watching that video, I must say that I now think the Nexus One is an extremely slick piece of technology.  I even took it further and began looking at cost and what phone providers would carry it. Essentially, the campaign and video was so effective that it made someone who was not in the market begin considering it. This is mostly attributed to the product itself and the quality, but the YouTube channel and banner ad led me to begin researching and learning about a phone that I previously had no specific knowledge of or interest in. This experience gave me a clear cut view as to how marketing can be used effectively on one of the most popular and visited sites on the internet.  I now have an idea of what worked on me, as a consumer, and what didn’t. I look forward to trying to implement these lessons on YouTube in a future campaign, perhaps one that I will one day manage from my very own Nexus One…

Noel





Text Message Marketing – Marketing Superhero or Society Crushing Villian?

20 01 2010

If you travel in direct marketing “circles” then you probably already know that direct advertising through text messaging is the new hot topic. Social Media is still  the biggest buzz word in thousands of offices across the nation but Text Message Marketing, in my opinion, for better or for worse, will be the next big thing.

What is Text Message Marketing? Text Message Marketing is a form of direct marketing in which you contact your customers through a SMS text message. A simple idea whose implementation is not nearly as simple. Never the less, it does have potential to allow companies to reach a massive captive audience like never before.

Let me blind you with some science and throw down some randomly collected statistics that are probably, for the most part, true.

  • SMS is (basically) the only universal mobile platform for the masses. It does not require special downloads as it is already available on over 98% of all cell phones.
  • In October of 2009 an average of 4.1 BILLION text messages were sent/received each day.
  • From 2006 to 2008 SMS text messages sent per month increased by 450%, these numbers continue to increase.

Enough with the statistics, we all know that SMS messaging is a rapidly growing form of communication.

While adolescents are clearly the largest group using text messaging, users are found in every age group and texting becomes more common each year, even among older users. As these adolescents grow up it is doubtful that they will stop texting. Chances are they will continue to do it for the rest of their lives until they can actually link their brains with one another to share every thought, which will make farting in public and blaming it on your buddy a lot more difficult.

Without posting the statistics for cellphone use itself, I think it is safe to say that owning a cell phone is a growing trend. Kids are getting cell phones younger, cell phones are continually cheaper and more available, and people rely on them more now than ever before. Most people have their cell phones on them at all times. Let me repeat, most cell phone users carry their phones AT ALL TIMES. With this in mind, Text Message Marketing might be the easiest, most powerful way to reach the worlds biggest captive audience 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If that doesn’t have some marketers foaming at the mouth, I don’t know what would. At the same time I’m sure cell phone owners everywhere are, rightfully, in a minor state of panic. While the potential for marketing through text messaging may seem great, it could also be a horrible, horrible train wreck.

To make advertising through text messaging even remotely viable it would have to be handled with extreme care and responsibility by all parties involved. Lists would have to be very strictly opt-in and recipients would have to have an easy way to opt-out. Offers would need to be enticing and rich with content customers want. The potential for pissing off your customers would be at an all time high, marketers would have to send campaigns rarely and with a great deal of tact. But why am I worrying, marketers have never show before that they lack tact or that they have a complete disrespect for people’s privacy when it comes to technology right?

Oh..wait…email spam…hmm…

Can you imagine getting unsolicited text messages directly to your phone? If systems were available to send out mass text messaging campaigns there is a real danger of having an SMS spam meltdown. The annoyance of getting spam email would pale in comparison to the invasive violation of getting spam to your phone. I’m thinking people getting woken up by Viagra advertisements on their phone in the middle of the night. I’m envisioning hundreds of junk texts a day for any ignorant soul foolish enough to give out their phone number to the wrong person. I’m talking angry mobs with pitch forks.

Could this happen? Maybe, but probably not because service providers would never allow it..or would they? If I’m not mistaken it costs 20 cents to send a text and 10 cents to receive one (generally). If companies are sending hundreds of thousands of emails a day that could add up to a lot of money. But I’m sure our service providers have our best interest at heart and not the interest of their profit margins, right…RIGHT?!

Paranoia? Maybe.

Assuming the worst case scenario doesn’t happen, Text Message Marketing could be a great new frontier for marketers. I have already seen and heard of successful campaigns going out across the country.

One campaign that stands out for me is the “Free Movie Mondays” campaign from Redbox. You simply sign up on their website and Redbox will send you a free movie rental code on Mondays. I signed up for this and it was fantastic. I have never received any other advertising from them and I have never received spam of any kind from anywhere else. Once a month I get a text message that reminds me of Redbox and how cool they are to their customers. I almost always use the code and many times I’ll keep the movie longer than one day (so I end up paying the dollar anyway) or I’ll rent another movie later that week. This is the perfect example of how to effectively and responsibly use Text Message Marketing.

Will other companies be as savvy as Redbox? That is yet to be seen. The potential however, to reach one of the worlds largest markets, or to destroy humanity as we know it (I did it for the lulz) may be found in Text Message Marketing.

Cheers,
Dan








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