Thursday, September 22, 2011

A few Marketing Reminders from the Outback

During a business trip down under, I took my last day to trek to the edge of the Outback in the Northern Territory of Australia, an amazing experience. I took my observations, and thought I would apply them to some primary rules in social media and marketing:

1.       Don’t just jump in without reading the signs. Northern Australia is beautiful, but can be deadly for those who don’t pay attention to posted signs. Take for instance, the beaches, infested during the summer months with the Irukandji (Box jellyfish or Sea Wasp). This match tip sized creature packs a wallop, and will put you in the hospital in no time flat, and if they don’t get you, the saltwater crocs will.

Marketing Message: Do your homework before any initiative. Don’t jump in blindly. A little research can make all the difference.

2.       Adapt to survive. The rules of Darwin are in full effect in south of Darwin, Australia. Only adaptive species have survived. My favorite example is a species of termite that builds tall habitats called mounds that have vanes. The vanes provide cooling for the mounds and keep the temperature close to constant.

Marketing Message: Many businesses have not adapted their marketing plans to the Internet Age, and their profits have suffered. Be aware of new technologies, and adapt your programs to leverage their advantages.

3.       To navigate vast territory, you need local, specialized knowledge. Just about the whole center third of Australia is a vast desert, with brutal conditions and sparse resources, but there are Oases of beauty and thriving life located within. You just need to know where they are, and how to identify them from afar, and the locals have all the knowledge.

Marketing Message: The Internet is broad and vast, and with so many Social Media outlets, it takes some serious expertise to create a focused effective marketing program. Seek expert help, as no one can do it all.

4.       The road less traveled can reap rewards. After driving for the better part of a day, one of my business partners and I looked at the map, and found a “gravel” road that was 42km, a connector that would cut an hour off our time back to Darwin. We took the plunge, and did not realize “gravel” is Australian for red dirt. After several airborne incidents over ruts, and almost drifting off the road, we finally made it back.

Note: Red dashes = unfinished, red dirt roads

Marketing Message: Finding new paths and taking calculated risks can reap great rewards. Be bold, be different and try new things.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Press Releases and the Social Circle of Life ( PR Wise)

In the age of new media, press releases can be a great driver for leads, awareness and overall message delivery.  It amazes me in this day and age, the lack of "socialized" releases.  Using Social Media as to add dimensions to an otherwise one dimensional message is key.  Below are some great rules to follow:

  1. Use a press release organization that has built in Social Media tools.  We utilize MarketWire, and they have a great SM tool set for releases.  You can really socially enable, with tagging, keywords, etc., and drive your message into the Social Channel.
  2. Place links to social pages and applications within your releases.  A prime example:  If you are releasing a new feature, place a link to your YouTube channel in your release to provide that second dimension of engagement.
  3. Ensure that the ground work is in place in your social channels.  All roads lead to a unified message...and your audience should be able to find information and additional links on your release regardless of where they land.  Make sure you have the theme pervasive throughout your web presence.
A few simple rules I have found effective.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The 3 Degrees of Content: Context, Terminology and Concept.

Content is content, right?

Have you ever gone to a web page for your industry and said, "Huh?".  Companies seemed to be so focused on getting content out there, they miss the notion of quality.  So what constitutes quality content?  I have always subscribed to what I call the 3 Degrees of Content, as outlined below:

Context.  In order for content to be relevant, the context needs to be correct.  Context issues usually occur when you have a non-industry individual or non-expert in the field write the content.  Many businesses utilize the saturation method, outsourcing their writing tasks to the lowest bidder.   What is the theme, and how are terminology and concept implemented?

Terminology.  Correct use of terminology is absolutely required, and the overuse of acronyms can kill a site quickly.  In the technical/software space, you should always shoot to provide content based on the audience.  You may even need to go so far as to create micro-sites or paths for different users to avoid "term saturation".  This is typically where you want both marketing and technical folks to work jointly on content to avoid a tech heavy feel.

Concept.  Last but not least, is concept.  What are you trying to get across?  Are you trying to sell?  Inform?  Explain?  Having an overall concept for a site, micro-site and page is critical and can go deep.  Stay on task, focus on concept, and incorporate it into your page flow, your graphics, and how you interact with users.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Social Whirlpool: How do I keep from drowning?

With so many social media platforms on the web, how in the heck do you pick your poison?  In a marketing meeting yesterday, we drew a ton of circles on a white board to map out our strategy, and plot where we are today, and where we want to go from a Social Media perspective.  I keep coming back to several core themes that will influence where we focus:

  1. Marketing is a dynamic beast, and you need to go with the flow.  New feature out?  Create a YouTube video.  Trade Show on the horizon, twitter your heart out to drive traffic to your booth.  Just established a partnership, leverage LinkedIn to insure the industry and other partners are aware.  I 
  2. Use Social Media Synergy to create a Social Web.  Sending out a press release on a new feature?  Coordinate the deployment of a video, landing page and postings to drive interest and generate leads.  
  3. Don't drown in the Social Whirlpool.  Choose your poison.  Is it really necessary to use all platforms at all times for everything?   Choose pertinent platforms for your business and strategy, and focus on quality information on those apps.
  4. Careful of the "Noise" factor.  I see it all the time on twitter where folks have automated technology to help them get their job done.  They do a BLOG post, and it auto-updates their twitter feed, with no has tags, and sometimes with replicated tweets.  Overdoing social media can lead to your company becoming ignored noise.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

So, who should write web content?

So, a concept we always struggle with internally is:  Who should write our web content?

I was checking out a contracting site the other day and noticed a ton of projects for writing web content.  Many of the companies listed were extremely technical, and i could not believe they would have a "lowest bidder" write their web info.  I scratched my head, and thought a bit.  Have you ever been to a web site within your industry, maybe a competitor, and said "Who the heck wrote this stuff?"  Improper use of terms, errors in context, and even issues with the overall concepts.  See the forest through the trees, and focus on the 3 degrees of content:  context, terminology and concept.  This is especially true within the software and technology industry.  Some key tips for making sure you hit the mark:

  1. Know your audience.  If you are in a highly technical market, and your audience is technical, your content needs to be accurate in all degrees: context, terminology and concept.  It is always advisable to have multiple reviewers, to make sure there is no lapse in credibility.
  2. Create paths within your site for different audiences.  Perhaps you create multiple subsites, or "site paths" that different users can follow depending on their depth of expertise.  For the standard users, marketing written content might be just fine, but for the technical subsite, an engineer/technologist is involved.
  3. Writing teams work best.  We all know that engineers are not always the best writers (I am one so I can say that ;) ), and having tech and marketing work together to build content is always the best solution.  Marketing folks do well in rounding out technical verse, and tech folks/subject matter experts can check for validity.  And don't forget the SEO/keyword gurus!!
  4. Third parties can be invaluable.  Having an objective third party as an overall reviewer, one with industry expertise, can help with the overall quality of the site and may help find any issues before production.
I guess it all comes down to not letting the new marketing intern write the new web site ;).  There is strength in numbers and differing experience levels.  Follow some basic rules and create great content.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

I finally found it: Social Synergy

So I have been trying to come up with a term to define what we are trying to achieve within our overall strategy towards the web and Social Media.  I think the term Synergy truly defines the overall theme we are always working to achieve.  Synergy can be defined as combined cooperative action or functioning.  This synergy can provide a "multiplier" effect on your web-based efforts, driving traffic and really improving your overall standing within search engines and just in general.

 I believe this concept is one that is typically missing in most Social Media and Web Strategies, so below I have outlined critical strategic steps towards reaching this state:

  1. How do you want to be seen and found?  An absolutely required step is to outline your overall strategy.  At its simplest, just answer the question.  Obviously you want to be found based on your company name, but to truly build synergy, you need to define a cross-platform strategy.  What are your key words and phrases?  Does everyone working within your social media accounts know them?  Are they published?  When this was established within our organization, we had remarkable lead numbers and overall quality of traffic to our site.
  2. How are you linked?  SEO basics demand using proper keywords/phrases within links back to home base.  Are proper linking techniques being used across all social media platforms?  Are all marketing folks on board?  This is simple to verify, just do a broad based search across twitter, Facebook or any other platform and see how you are linked.  Note:  With true synergy, users will use links to traverse your web presence and gain information about you.
  3. Can users leap frog to other Social Media platforms from any established web presence? Creating a synergistic presence on the web requires cross linking from all Social Media platforms.  Ensure that your BLOG, website, twitter landing page, Facebook page, etc. all link to each other.  This creates an "engagement ring" that interlocks all your web-based platforms, with a mesh of paths anyone can take.
  4. Time, patience and content.  The path to true synergy requires time and patience, but most importantly content.  If you truly build a Synergy Strategy, you will engage users, and provide them paths through the web to find more and more information about you.