Monthly Archives: December, 2012

3 Social Tools Smart Entrepreneurs Use and Why

While many understand that social media is an invaluable marketing tool for businesses, smart entrepreneurs see the true value in social and it has nothing to do with advertising. Here are 3 tools intelligent business owners use to grow their businesses.

“If a man empties his purse into his head no one can take it away from him. An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.” –Benjamin Franklin

1. Twitter Search

Sure we all know how to use it, but Twitter’s search bar is wildly underutilized. The social network has quickly become the most powerful news and information aggregator in the world. Rather than browsing Inc., Forbes, etc. for news, try searching Twitter to see what you customers / potential customers are saying. Learn from their complaints, wants, wishes, and praise to prevent your business from making the mistakes of those before you.

After taking a look at your customer’s preferences, search your competition, see what they’re doing, what they’re not doing, and what people are saying about them. Taking into account your findings, adjust your marketing strategy accordingly, if they’ve seen success with a contest it might be in your best interest to do a bit of gamification, if they hosted a conference and it was a flop, learn from their mistakes.

2. LinkedIn Answers

LinkedIn Answers provides a forum for users to interact and find solutions to problems of all sorts. If you’re a small business owner LinkedIn Answers is your personal support center. Have an IT issue? Try LinkedIn Answers. Have a question about SEO? Try LinkedIn Answers. Bottom line, you have a question, they (users) have an answer.

To take it a step further, make sure you provide insight and help solve other people’s problems anytime you can. Not only will this ensure your questions are answered in a timely fashion and receive multiple responses, but it will help to establish you / your business as a thought leader and valuable resource within your industry.

3. LinkedIn Groups

Similar to their counterpart (Answers), LinkedIn Groups provide users with the ability to learn, teach, and share information of all kinds. Join groups in your industry and actively participate, share relevant articles, and learn from others. Groups’ real value lies in the fact that they are filled with like-minded people. If you own a hotel and need advice on staffing and payroll you probably don’t want advice from a SEO expert, fortunately your Group is filled with thousands of hospitality professionals, most of which are willing to help in any way they can.

While these are by no means “new” tools, they are certainly underutilized. As “social marketers” we often fall victim to tunnel vision and only look at intrinsic marketing value, however, it is important to remember that social provides an enormous wealth of information and at the end of the day knowledge is the most valuable tool anyone can have.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow on Twitter!
@BrendanBrandt
http://www.brendansbrainstorms.com

Additional Reading

7 Epic Marketing Uses of LinkedIn Answers – http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/29581/7-Epic-Marketing-Uses-of-LinkedIn-Answers.aspx

LinkedIn Groups Add Marketing Power – http://mashable.com/2009/03/20/linkedin-groups-marketing-features/

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

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3 Ways To Promote Post Virality

Across the board, influencers are relentlessly attempting to differentiate themselves from the sea of 1,500,000,000 (1.5 billion) combined tweets and posts per day. While everyone wants to be the next Red Bull and blow up with half a million shares, virality is rarely ever achieved. Here are 3 tips to remember as you construct your next campaign and push for social infamy.

1. Want to go viral? Remember the basics.

When constructing a post remember what your audience, in this case anyone who consumes social content, is looking for. Make sure your wording, including a call to action, is interesting and concise. Chances are, if your introductory verbiage is bland, so is your content.

Avoid blocks of text. A few paragraphs are perfectly fine but nobody wants to read a wall of text. Break it up, use bullets, indents, and alter font (bold / italics) to create some visual relief.
Always include media. Let face it, we’re lazy and it’s much easier to glance at a picture or watch a video than it is to read, even if your text is short, say 140 characters, a picture or video brings a missing aesthetic element that will help your post standout.

Post on multiple platforms. Promote your content and make your call to action visible wherever you can. Publishing your information on various different sites will boost cross promotion, that is, a retweet on Twitter could ultimately translate into a comment on LinkedIn. At the end of the day the old adage still holds true, any publicity is good publicity, it doesn’t matter where that comes from. Fortunately, multiplatform integration has made simultaneously publishing one post to multiple sites extraordinarily easy.

2. If you want something, ask for it. Better yet, require it.

Unfortunately, you cannot expect your average social media user to retweet, reblog, or share something just because. While there certainly are some that do, it is important to remember that they are the exception and not the rule. However, by simply including a purposeful call to action within your post, you can often incite social consumers who typically remain on the sidelines into promoting your content. That being said, when aiming for virality, content creators should head in a different direction.
At risk of getting too far into gamificaiton, by hosting a contest, i.e. “Submit an offroad picture of you and your Jeep. The owner of the photo that receives the most likes wins a weekend at Jeep Adventure Camp! Users must share this post to win.” , influencers can directly drive virality.

For instance, the above post, includes not only a call to action “Submit an offroad picture of you and your Jeep”, but promotes sharing on 2 levels. First, and more overtly, the forced share – “Users must share this post to win.” The second tier of sharing or subshares, occur when uploading users (users who posted photos of their offroading Jeeps) ask that their friends, followers, connections, etc. interact on the host page, in this case Jeep’s Facebook, because the uploading user needs something (in this situation likes on their uploaded photo) in order to win the contest. This creates multiple waves of activity that drives traffic, prevents your content from going stagnant, increases total reach, and ultimately gives you a shot at virality.

3. Timing is everything.

Remember, social networks utilize the feed system, until a post starts seeing some activity, the playing field is level – the newer the better. With that in mind, it becomes clear that attracting shares and retweets immediately is the key to your dreams of virality. If you don’t see some activity almost immediately upon posting, there is a good shot your content will plummet into oblivion. In order to avoid this, influencers must time their posts properly. Social networks see a spike in activity early in the morning (8am-9am), late afternoon (3pm-4pm), and late night (10pm-11pm). While posting in these windows by no means guarantees activity, they gives content creators the best shot to attract users.

A word of warning.

The odds of achieving virality are certainly against you. Remember that it takes time, potentially multiple posts, and is much easier if you already have a substantial following. However, it can be done. That being said, if you’re a small business, make sure you can handle the traffic. Just because you can handmake 500 cupcakes a week does not mean you’re ready to handle 5,000 a day, no matter how delicious they are.

Merry Christmas!

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter!
@BrendanBrandt

Additional Reading:

37 Viral Post Ideas You Can Use Today – http://www.skelliewag.org/37-viral-post-ideas-you-can-use-today-103.htm

How To Create Facebook Posts That Go Massively Viral – http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-create-a-viral-facebook-post-2012-8?op=1

Viral Digitial Marketing

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

2 Easy Ways to Measure ROI on Social Campaigns

If you’re familiar with the Rodger’s adoption curve, you understand that the innovators, early adopters, and early majority have already hopped on the social media bandwagon, are marketing online, and are reaping the benefits. Unfortunately, these marketing trends have not yet taken hold with the late majority and laggards. Many of the business owners residing in the latter two groups cite various, valid, reasons for holding out, most commonly, their “inability” to track the return on their social investment.

However, by leveraging tools like SocialBro and Google Analytics, diligently monitoring, and properly tracking your campaigns, you can measure ROI with relative ease. Here are 2 things you should take a look at when considering your return.

1. Have your marketing costs decreased or sales increased?

At the end of the day it’s about dollars and cents. Social media, and digital marketing in general, is far less expensive than traditional means. A Facebook business page and user generated content is free, a month’s worth of billboard advertising is roughly $1,000, you do the math. When working with business owners this is an easy idea to pitch, option 1, we save them money by cutting back, not eliminating (I would never recommend that – a topic for a different day), on traditional advertising and in turn decrease their marketing expenditures, or, option 2 add free digital marketing to their current traditional campaign and increase revenue, either way, we put more money in their pockets.

2. Has web traffic increased?

Not only is this an easily translatable, tangible piece of data that makes sense to business owners, it is by far, the easiest metric to track in the history of metrics. It really is a no brainer, by simply tracking the number of hits month over month, you can easily determine whether your social media campaign has seen some “success” or needs a bit of tweaking.

A side note on this – while increased traffic is great, it can certainly ruffle some feathers. If traffic increases 50% and sales don’t increase at all, you might reveal some underlying issues related to conversion, management, etc. that business owners may shy away from.

One final thought – at the end of the day, it is important to remember and relay, that although it does need to be leveraged correctly, social media is FREE, and any return puts you in the black.

Don’t forget to subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter: @brendanbrandt.

Additional Reading:

Calculate the ROI of Social Media – http://www.briansolis.com/2012/10/calculate-the-roi-of-social-media/

5 Simple Steps to Measure Social Media ROI – http://socialmediatoday.com/node/463590

Rodger’s Adoption Curve – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle

Rodger's Adoption Curve

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

How to Market Like a Drug Dealer

Across the board, marketing efforts are becoming increasingly digital with every business trying to push out the next viral advertisement in hopes garnering millions of likes, shares, and retweets. Unfortunately, not everyone is the creative genius type, and enlisting the help of a Don Draper can break even the biggest of startup budgets. Thankfully, you don’t need to, instead, stick with what you know, generate your own original content, and market like a drug dealer.

Content marketing has grabbed the limelight as of late and has seemingly become digital marketing’s golden goose. In reality, content marketing is not a new idea, for all intents and purposes, a business that participates in “content marketing” is giving away something for free in hopes of hooking the would be customer to their product or service, forcing them to come back for more, at which time they will be forced to pay for the previously free product or service.

So, that coffee shop down the street that is giving away hot chocolate samples for free, is participating in content marketing. The lead aggregator company, that gives you a one month, no risk trial is no different than the digital marketing firm that publishes weekly whitepapers. In every situation, the premise is the same.

The easiest way to understand content marketing, and realize how, why, and where it occurs is to relate it to…a drug dealer. Often, dealers will give a “prospect” the first dosage of a hard drug for free because they know, that the user will quickly become addicted to what the dealer provides and will continuously return, as a repeat buyer, to purchase the drug that had been given to them “just to try”.
If we apply that to content marketing. it’s easy to see why firms invest so much time and money into publishing unique, quality content when a few good articles are no different than bag of meth.

Ready to start?

1. Publish unique, original, addicting content that is related to the product or service that you are selling and leaves your would be customers wanting more.

2. Be consistent, but don’t overdo it. Think supply and demand, if you flood the market with your product, its value goes down. You want your customers to anxiously await your next freebie until they become so hooked on it that they have no choice but to buy what you’re selling.

3. Make it visible. Publishing a good blog post with a few relevant tags is no longer good enough. Post and repost your information on every social network at your disposal.

Additional Reading

10 Content Marketing Tips You Can Employ Now

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/10-content-marketing-tips-you-can-employ-now/

Your Publishing Content Has a 72 Hour Shelf Life

http://mashable.com/2012/09/28/content-shelf-life/

Twitter: @BrendanBrandt

Content Marketing

Content Marketing

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

2 Social Vanity Metrics You Should Ignore, and 2 Metrics You Cannot

We live in a world where popularity is judged by the number of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and LinkedIn connections we have. Unfortunately, social media managers, whether a solo startup entrepreneur or a fortune 500 corporate team, often get sucked into the same trap – judging the success of their social media campaigns on vanity metrics.

What are vanity metrics?

In a word, exactly what they sound like, trivial numbers and facts that make your social media pages seem more robust and effective than they actually are. Here are 2 figures that you shouldn’t ignore, but rather, take with a grain of salt.

Remember, when we are talking about these metrics, we are gauging their importance based on marketing purpose / effectiveness.

1. Facebook Fans / Page Likes – Sure your 80s themed roller rink seems popular because you have 1,200 Facebook fans but lets break that number down for marketing purposes. First, we need to assume that 10% (probably on the low end) of your fans are your Grandpa’s poker buddies and your college friends who live halfway across the country and never have or ever will set foot in your business. That leaves us with 1,080 “relevant” fans. Now, lets remember that on a given day/time, excluding Wednesdays which have an 8% bump in post visibility for some unknown reason (apparently due to increased usage), and dependent on media content / links, your post will probably only reach 15% of your fans. That means, of your 1,200 total fans, your post will actually only reach 162 relevant people.

2. Twitter Followers– Similar to the Facebook Fan issue, Twitter followers make any social media “expert” or small business “consultant” seem like an expert. Say that Jon Smith, who is a self-described social media “consultant”, has 1,000 followers. Again, lets break that number down. Much like the 80s themed roller rink has irrelevant fans halfway across the country, Jon Smith has followers who are nothing more than spam (we all do). They, on average, account for 5-11% of followers, 72% if you’re Lady Gaga. On the low end, that leaves Jon with 950 relevant followers. On top of that, it is important to remember that Twitter is a feed, it is constantly being updating, scrolling, and the rapidity of your tweet’s decent to the bottom of the pile, is heavily dependent on the accounts that your followers follow and the frequency / rate at which those accounts post. The faster and more often those accounts post, the quicker your tweet will plummet into oblivion. Taking that into account, we can reasonably surmise that between only 10 and 20% of your followers will actually see a tweet, it may very well be a much lower percentage. If we calculate in both of these very important realities, Jon, the relatively notorious social media “consultant” with 1,000 followers actually only sees his posts reach 190 (on the high end) people. 190 seems a lot less than 1,000 doesn’t it?

The metrics you should take seriously.

Although technically two separate metrics, they are, for all intents and purposes the same. You should be closely monitoring the number of Facebook shares and Twitter retweets each of your posts / tweets receives. More specifically, you should track the ratio between your number of relevant users and your active users – that is, the number of fans / followers you have that actively interact with your posts and share them with their own friends or followers. Essentially, this is a digital version of “the network value of a customer”.

To give an example of the importance of these metrics lets look at an example. Lets say a local cigar shop has 50 Twitter followers (the exact same rules / principals apply to Facebook), 5% of them are spam. Of their 47 relevant / real followers, all of whom are local, loyal customers, 20% see each tweet, roughly 9 people. However, of those 9 people, 4 (~45%) of them retweet the cigar shop’s post. On average they each have 125 followers, totaling 500. Of those additional 500 people, 5% are spam, leaving 475 people. Of those 475 people, 95 (20%) will actually see the retweet. So, assuming there is only one level of retweets, the cigar shop that only has 50 followers, most whom are engaged, will actually have 104 people view their tweet, even though only 9 of their 50 followers even saw the post. If you compare that to Jon Smith, the social media “consultant” with 1,000 followers, it quickly becomes apparent that activity metrics are far more important than the vanity metrics we have become so accustom to monitoring.

Twitter: @brendanbrandt

Metrics, Social Media

Metrics, Social Media

© 2012 Brendan Brandt. All Rights Reserved.

The 4 digital “tools” startups should actually use

I’m constantly reading articles on Inc., Entrepreneur, Mashable (Pre-new layout) about “The (insert number) tools every startup needs”. Most of the suggestions, coming from experience, are useless. Here are the 4 digital tools you should actually use and why.

1. GoDaddy domain registration

You’re starting a business, its 2012, the first thing you need is a website.

GoDaddy is reliable, affordable, easily integratable with many hosting and design sites, and comes with 1 free, domain specific email account. i.e. info@brendansbakery.com

Also, in the event of a sale, or a prep for sale, you can actually get your domain appraised for free via their dashboard.

2. Wix website design / hosting

Now that you have a domain name, you need a functional, user friendly website that is aesthetically pleasing. Don’t want to spend $2500? Check out Wix.com – it is fully integratable with GoDaddy.

It turns even the most creatively challenged, unartistic people into talented web designers.

On top of that, it’s free to start (with ads of course) and very affordable for the premium version.

You can even program in Flash, HTML5, and get a free mobile site with the premium version.

3. Social Bro

Social Bro is the best FREE social analytics software that I have found.

You can track community growth, demographics, location, post frequency, etc. All for FREE. Enough said.

4. Twitter

Your new business needs a social media presence, you’re reading this post, you already know that. But, which site is right for you?

I constantly find myself asking, “Is Facebook obsolete?” While the answer in my book is still no, that no is very tentative.

When I’m a new business I need to do one thing to stay afloat, acquire new customers. Facebook doesn’t let me proactively solicit new prospects via my business page – aside from inviting friends / family from my personal page (most of which would be customers anyway).

Rather, I encourage you to start on Twitter for essentially one reason. You can proactively chase down new business by utilizing @mentions, hashtags, and following potential customers. Try using hashtags that feature a location i.e. #socal #hrva or folowing followers of a local news outlet. Both should reveal potential local customers.

What tools do you use? Sound off in the comments?

Twitter: @brendanbrandt

4 digital tools for your small business

4 digital tools for your small business

Has social made gen. Y (including myself) lazy?

Hundreds of emails come across my desk each day. On a good day I read, I mean actually read, 5. Those 5 come from people I deem extra important or contain a subject line that extraordinarily excites me for some reason or another. What of the other 95 you ask? I skim them. I briefly read them before filing them away into some miscellaneous Outlook folder or deleting them forever. Frankly, I don’t have time to completely read and / or respond to every email that I receive each day, that being said, I don’t want to. Does that make me lazy? Because I don’t want to spend 8 hours a day sorting through pointless emails? No. Rather, myself – and i argue, gen. Y as a whole is/am efficient. Why waste our time reading countless emails that contain an unearthly amount of unnecessary information? Maybe it’s growing up with internet, smartphone, and social media at our fingertips that has conditioned us to be lazy as many gen. Xers see it (efficient in my eyes). Why would I spend 10 minutes reading an entire article in the New York Times when I could follow their columnist on Twitter and get the 3 major points in 30 seconds? If I’m interested / want to learn more, I’ll click the attached link and read the full article. Social Media has completely revolutionized the way we take in information, I no longer need to browse Fox News, CNBC, and various blogs to get my morning fix (insert CNN and MSNBC if you lean to the left). Instead, I can follow The Factor and Jim Cramer on Twitter and get the exact same information, only condensed and delivered to my smartphone with the click of a button. However, the laziness / efficiency doesn’t stop there. I’m an avid reader – not books (they take too much time) but I do frequent certain websites – Mashable, Inc., and Entrepreneur to be specific. Each day I read roughly 30 articles. That takes me 20 minutes. First of all – if the title doesn’t have some sort of number in it i.e. “5 Ways Really Smart People Better Themselves”  I don’t read it. Articles like the afore mentioned are the easiest for me to breeze through and pull the important points. I can pull up that article, read the 5 bullet points, and in 20 seconds I’ve comprehended the same amount, if not more than the reader who spent 15 minutes reading through all the nonsense just to get to those same 5 points. I’ve been asked why I do this by several people, most of them much older than I, as I assume the equate this with not “taking the time to stop and smell the roses”. I give them the same answer every time. I skim through articles, stow away various tidbits of information I find useful and then formulate my own ideas rather than those outlined specifically in the articles at a later date. Since I only spend 20 minutes a day reading and not 2 hours, I have an extra 100 minutes to stop and smell the roses.

Follow me on Twitter @brendanbrandt

P.S. I wrote this article in 15 minutes while listening to a video by McKinsey’s David Edelman.