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Social Media Marketers: Be Sure to Blog!

bloggingIf you’re in the business of social media marketing and you aren’t already blogging, you’re making a HUGE mistake. Although blogging is helpful for all types of industries, it is absolutely critical for social media marketing companies to create and maintain a regular, interesting, and informative blog. In my very first blog post entitled “Blogging: The First Step to Social Success” I outline some of the reasons why having a blog is so important. However, blogging is especially important and should be mandatory for anyone in the business of social media marketing.

Firstly, almost every social media marketing plan should include a blog strategy. Therefore, as a social media marketer it is vital to have a blog or else you’ll just sound like a hypocrite. Why will your clients hire you to do something you can’t even do for yourself? It is especially important to create a polished blog with useful content that will appeal to your target market. Your blog will also be a great example to give potential customers an idea of what you can do for them.

blogging-for-SEO-process-s356x266Another reason to blog is to enhance your brand’s exposure online. If done correctly, blogging can increase your company’s search engine rankings and improve the chances of people finding your company rather than your competitors’. By strategically placing keywords in titles, descriptions, content, and tags, you can expand the reach of your articles and build more brand awareness and recognition online. Blogging is thus a great way to find and attract new leads to your company’s website. Many people search for information and tips to help them gain a competitive advantage on social media. If your blog has great advice, people are likely to continue reading your articles, trust your knowledge and expertise, and eventually be inclined to hire you to help them. By going into depth about all the required steps and actions to successfully execute a social media marketing plan, your readers will be more inclined to pass off the work to you… after all, you sound like you know what you’re doing.

You can also re-post from other blogs related to marketing and social media. This will save you time and also provide interesting information for both yourself as well as your visitors. Re-posting content will also build relationships with other industry partners who might possibly re-post your content to their blogs in the future.

Success-in-blogging-MakeMeNois

Finally, engaging with readers, responding to their comments, and answering their questions are all important activities you must carry out while maintaining your blog. It’s easy for a blog to become a one-way conversation so it’s important to remember to keep the dialogue flowing both ways. Social media marketing is a hot topic that people are usually excited to talk about and voice their opinions on. Therefore, by creating a blog that focuses on social media marketing, you are giving people exactly what they want.

Do you think it’s important for social media marketing companies to have their own blogs? Would you think differently of them if they did or didn’t? What kind of articles would you be most interested in reading about on a social media marketing agency’s blog? I would love to read your comments and feedback so please feel free to leave a response below!

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Measuring Social Media: Tools for Success

There are many times in your marketing efforts where you’re going to want to take a peek into a company or competitor’s social situation.

What are people saying about you online? What conversations are people having about your competitors? Who is talking the most?

These are all important questions to consider, and the answers aren’t all that difficult to find out.

I explored three different free social media measurement tools in my pursuit to find out the social presence of Whistler Blackcomb, the world-renowned ski resort that I’m fortunate enough to call home.

Addict-o-matic

I decided to start my search using Addict-o-matic, an incredibly easy to use tool that I’ve mentioned in a previous post, “Top 10 Free Social Media Marketing Tools You May Not Know About”. Typing “Whistler Blackcomb” fetched a ton of results from a variety of different sources.

AddictomaticWhistler

As you can see, it brought up lots of great, relevant news and articles from Google News and Blog Search, Bing News, WordPress, and Delicious. It also found media from YouTube and Flickr. The results provided me with a good overview of the various conversations taking place on many different platforms.

Unfortunately, it found nothing from Twitter which is surprising considering @WhistlerBlackcomb has 53.8K followers. One clear drawback of using a free tool like Addict-o-matic is that you may be missing some or a significant amount of information. Since there’s no Twitter data, it only makes me wonder how much other information was missed. Another problem is that there are some irrelevant results that you must filter through and some keywords may produce too much irrelevant information to sort through.

For those reasons, I decided to explore another tool and see if it could do any better.

HowSociable

When I arrived at HowSociable I was eager to see how it compared with Addict-o-matic. To my disappointment, I found it incredibly useless – as a free tool at least. I didn’t sign up for the free or paid accounts so I can’t speak about the other features available. However, for a quick “go-to” look at a company’s social presence, I wouldn’t recommend it.

HowSociableAbove is the snapshot I received after inputting the keywords “Whistler Blackcomb.” At a glance, it’s just a bunch of numbers on a page. Luckily I’m not the only person to stare in confusion at the numbers since they’ve added a little question bubble beside the words Social Media Brand Magnitude. I clicked on that and was taken to an explanatory page that is inevitably just a sales pitch. The explanation for the numbers given is “the level of activity around a brand on a 0 – 10 scale.” They say it’s calculated based on a one week period of activity and what portion of that activity references your brand. Personally, I can look at these numbers all day and not gain a dimes worth of insight from it.

Moving on.

SocialMention

The last tool I used to research Whistler Blackcomb’s social presence was the appropriately named tool, SocialMention. This was my favourite tool by far because it gives you a lot of information in a clear and concise way.

SocialMentionWB

The website is very easy to use and pulls a lot of information to look at that many other tools do not. Like Addict-o-matic, it gives you a stream of conversations and content surrounding your chosen keywords. One thing it does provide that Addict-o-matic didn’t however, are the Twitter results. This is a definite advantage as it demonstrates superiority in the amount of information it collects.

The great thing is that SocialMention gives you more than just news results. It gives you top keywords, top users, top hashtags, top sources, sentiment, strength, passion, and reach. It also gives you very clear definitions of what those words and numbers mean when you hover over them with your mouse.

However, like Addict-o-matic and other tools there’s always the challenge of missing information. Due to Whistler Blackcomb’s large following, I know there are more than 30 retweets. I think the problem here is that all of Whistler Blackcomb’s accounts are conjoined as just “WhistlerBlackcomb.” That might cause a lot of lost results because the keywords wouldn’t match.

In that kind of a situation, paid social media measuring tools might be a better option and a wise investment for some companies.

For many companies though, a quick glance at your or your competitor’s social presence using a free tool will suffice. Based on my research thus far, I’d definitely recommend using SocialMention.

Exploring Conversations

While using the aforementioned tools, it’s important to keep track of the conversations people are having surrounding your brand. To give you an example, I found ten conversations about Whistler Blackcomb from SocialMention and rated them as either positive (+1), neutral (0), or negative (-1):

WBCon2 0

WBCon3+1

WBCon4+1

WBCon5+1

WBCon60

WBCon7+1

WBCon8+1

WBCon9+1

WBCon10+1

Based on those conversations, Whistler Blackcomb has very high positive sentiment +8/10. By monitoring these conversations, Whistler Blackcomb can see that photos and videos are obvious strengths – people love to share. Why not give them something to share that aligns with their marketing objectives? Why not reward them for creating content surrounding their brand? Why not provide them a platform to publish their content for all to see? If it weren’t for social media measurement, Whistler Blackcomb would lose many opportunities. Based on these conversations, it is clear that people want to advocate for the mountain and the experiences they have there so it’s crucial for the company to listen and respond.

There is so much you can learn from measuring social media activity, and fortunately so many tools at your disposal.

Do you know of any other social media measuring tools that might be useful for companies? What kinds of ways can or do you use the information gathered from tools like SocialMention and Addict-o-matic? I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions so please feel free to leave a comment at the bottom.

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Social Media Release: What’s in Your Digital DNA?

Media Contact:
Debbie Boyce
416-355-7425
Deborah.Boyce@ketchum.com

What’s in Your Digital DNA? MasterCard Study Reveals Five Unique Online Personalities across the Globe

According to a new global study from MasterCard’s Global Insights group, consumers shed their “real-world” identities when they go online and assume “digital personas” that better reflect how they feel, what actions they take around their personal information and how much value they place on their own data.

There are five personas that are spread evenly throughout global population regardless of regional or demographic boundaries. There is a clear hierarchy in the kind of information consumers are willing to share and there are certain organizations they trust most with their data.

  1. Open Sharers
    • Most highly digital group and tend to lead less risk-averse online activities
    • 50% are online 10+ times per day
    • In return for sharing their personal information, they expect deals, access, and offers
  2. Simply Interactors
    • Some of the most dedicated social networkers, yet not particularly tech-savvy
    • 80% will research products online however 63% still prefer to shop in person
    • They have low awareness of targeted marketing so they don’t see their data as valuable and don’t express concern about it
  3. Solely Shoppers
    • 90% research products online before buying and 50% use their mobile phone to price check in-store in order to get the best deals
    • They have low awareness of targeted marketing (only 37%) know that social media sites use their personal data to inform ads
  4. Passive Users
    • Less frequent on social networks (only 48%) and not heavy online shoppers
    • More likely to shop from their mobile device and more likely to trade their data for something in return
  5. Proactive Protectors
    • Highly aware of targeted marketing (82% of them know marketers can target them based on their search and browsing history)
    • Unlikely to use social networks and the most guarded with their privacy settings – taking steps to protect and control their digital footprintConsumers know what they’re worth – 64% believe their personal data has value to merchants and advertisers

Consumers who are curious to find out their online personas can take a brief quiz to find out.  For more detailed findings, visit the interactive website and research report titled, “Around the World in Five Personas,” which will be discussed during a panel session at the World Retail Congress in Paris on Monday, October 7, 2013 at 12:45 PM Central European Time.

Download the full infographic for more details and results of the study.

“Nearly 2.5 billion people around the globe use the Internet every day,” said Theodore Iacobuzio, Vice President of MasterCard’s Global Insights group, which produced the study. “This research shows that regardless of who they are and where they live, they all share something in common when it comes to how they act and behave online -these five unique global personality types. It also shows us that when consumers go online, characteristics such as age, gender or nationality become secondary and they instead assume a sense of what we refer to as ‘social citizenship’.”

“In today’s digital world, consumers are continuing to spend more of their time and money online,” said Iacobuzio. “That’s all the more reason that understanding these five distinct personas will be important for a variety of audiences, but perhaps most especially for retailers and marketers. By better understanding why consumers want to share their information online in the first place, companies can be better prepared to engage with them in more meaningful and relevant ways.”

Methodology

MasterCard conducted both qualitative and quantitative consumer research between November 2012 and March 2013 in nine markets: the United States, Canada, Germany, United Kingdom, India, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Colombia. The study included a survey of more than 9,000 digital consumers aged 16-65, all of whom engaged in some type of online activity at least once a week. The five unique online personas emerged out of a vigorous statistical examination, which grouped respondents together based on the similarity of their answers to questions across six dimensions: 1) awareness of targeted marketing; 2) social networking; 3) online shopping; 4) mobile sophistication; 5) privacy management; and 6) data as currency.

About MasterCard

MasterCard NYSE: MA, http://www.mastercard.com, is a technology company in the global payments industry. We operate the world’s fastest payments processing network, connecting consumers, financial institutions, merchants, governments and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. MasterCard’s products and solutions make everyday commerce activities – such as shopping, traveling, running a business and managing finances – easier, more secure and more efficient for everyone. Follow us on Twitter @MasterCardNews, join the discussion on the Cashless Pioneers Blog and subscribe for the latest news.

SOURCE MasterCard Canada

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What’s the Deal with Google+?

One of the most commonly asked questions to social media marketers is “What platform should I be using for my business?”

The plethora of available social media channels that people are using these days makes that decision a really big headache. Usually, companies will automatically focus the majority of their time and energy on Facebook and Twitter. But what about Google+? Should it be part of your social media tactical plan and to what extent?

I found a great article to help answer that question on Social Media Today entitled “Dear Marketers: Ignore Google+ At Your Own Risk.” Author Alexandra Jacopetti lists 8 reasons why you should absolutely incorporate Google+ into your social media marketing strategy. In the following video, you’ll find out why she believes that you should definitely NOT ignore Google+!

Does your company incorporate the use of Google+ into your social media marketing strategy? Why or why not?

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Top 10 Free Social Media Marketing Tools You May Not Know About

There are a multitude of great social media management tools available for both marketing and monitoring that can greatly help you succeed with your campaigns and improve the effectiveness of your social media strategy.

I’ve put together this list of the top ten FREE social media marketing tools that you may not know about:

1. Buffer

Buffer, also known as BufferApp, is a really handy tool for people who want to share a lot of content throughout the day without the hassle of keeping track of your findings and then scheduling your posts. After installing the browser extension, all you have to do is click a button to add the article or page to the queue. Posts are then distributed at different intervals set either automatically based on your followers or else based on a customizable schedule you can create.

Pros: User friendly interface that’s easy for beginners. Free to manage one Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn account and up to 12 other platforms available for paid plans. Saves you time and helps you optimize the best days and times to post in order to reach your target audience. BufferApp for smartphones makes it even easier for you to share the content you find “on the go”. Buffer analytics are available for paid plans as well. You can use your own link shortener account if you have one such as bit.ly.

Cons: Only 10 posts can be scheduled on the free plan and only one account can be used with the 3 out of 12 social platforms.

bufferapp

Brand the Net’s Buffer Dashboard

2. Addict-o-matic

Addict-o-matic is a really great way to search social media platforms for news, blogs, images, and videos, related to a keyword. This can help you track what people are saying about you and your competitors as well as where that content is being shared. This tool is incredibly useful for both monitoring conversations surrounding your brand (and competitors) as well as reputation management. This is a good free alternative to Google’s Google Alert alternative, Mention.

Pros: Very easy to use with a customizable user friendly dashboard. Ability to bookmark the page so you can always come back and find fresh information. Searches Twitter, WordPress, Bing News, Google Blog Search, Flickr, YouTube, Twingly Blog Serach, Blinkx Mainstream Vid News, Delicious Tags, FriendFeed, Technorati, Topix, Yahoo News, Newsvine Tags, Digg, Bloglines, Google News Images, Truveo Video Search, Yahoo Web Search, Wikio, Yahoo Top News Sources, Tweetmeme Links, Addicto Top Blogs – Bloglines, and Ask.com News.

Cons: Twitter results don’t work very well. There is a lot of irrelevant content to filter through in order to find what you want.

addictomatic

Adara Hotel search results on Addict-o-matic

3. Swayy

Swayy is a content discovery tool that will allow you to find lots of interesting content based on either your previous post content or by categories. All the content is saved to your dashboard where you can easily distribute the links on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Pros: Very easy to use with a user-friendly interface. Great and easy way to find interesting and relevant content to share with your audience.  Suggests hashtags to include in your posts and share buttons to distribute your content in just one click. Free analytics are displayed for your activity. Integrates with bit.ly link shortening accounts.

Cons: There’s a lot of content to filter through if your audience has a broad range of interests. It doesn’t automatically post content so you have to sign in and post manually.

Swayy

Dashboard for Adara Hotel on Swayy

4. Compfight

Compfight is a great way to find images to use in your posts on blogs and social media platforms. You can search by keyword to find photos on Flickr with Commercial Use licenses or from Creative Commons.

Pros: User friendly interface for beginners. High quality images available for download. Prevents you from violating a copyright and risking a lawsuit.

Cons: You have to mention the photographer with an HTML code they provide you to use the image, but in all honesty that’s a fair price to pay.

compfight

Image results for “Whistler” on Compfight

5. Tagboard

Tagboard lets you search hashtags across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, App.net, Vine and Google+ as well as schedule posts for Twitter and Facebook.

Pros: Clean, user friendly interface that’s great for beginners. Makes it really easy to monitor conversations about your brand, your competitors, your contests, what people are interested in, and more. It’s also a great way to find content that will interest your audience. Gives you that ability to reply, retweet, or favorite any of the content.

Cons: Can only schedule posts for Twitter and Facebook.

tagboard

Adara Hotel Contest Search Results on Tagboard

6. Knowem

Knowem checks the availability of usernames on over 575 popular social media networking platforms, social bookmarking sites, domains, and more.

Pros: Very easy to use. Allows you to easily secure your brand’s name on all the key social media networks which is essential for trademark protection and brand reputation management. It will also help you protect yourself against identity theft.

Cons: None.

Knowem

brandthenet Search Results on Knowem

7. Moz Open Site Explorer

Moz Open Site Explorer is a domain/page authority tool that shows you who is linking to your website (inbound links), top pages, anchor text, linking domains, and lets you compare link metrics. You can even see how the most-linked-to content has performed on the social web.

Pros: User friendly interface and easy to use for beginners. Side-by-side comparison reports make it a breeze to measure up against your competitors. You can check your site for free up to three times a day.

Cons: Can’t check social platforms and have limited access to analytics with free plan.

mozopensite

Comparison of Adara Hotel and Competitors on Moz Open Site Explorer

8. Social Mention

Social Mention is a real-time social media search and analysis tool that makes it easy to monitor conversations and sentiment surrounding your brand.

Pros: Very clean and user friendly interface that can be easily be used by beginners. Option to set alerts so you stay up to date on conversations and can reply on the dime. Great way to find brand advocates by searching through Top Users.

Cons: Doesn’t give you the ability to respond to the content that was found which would make it a lot easier to manage.

socialmention

Search Results on SocialMention for AdaraHotel

9. Tweak Your Biz Title Generator

Tweak Your Biz Title Generator is an interesting tool that will help you find catchy titles for your blog and article posts. Simply put in your topic and get instant results.

Pros: Very easy to use for beginners. Lots of suggested titles for different kinds of posts such as; lists, best, how to, questions, love, secrets, business, celebrities, and more.

Cons: Better as a starting point than a “copy and paste” solution as titles will often need tweaking. 99% of the suggested titles will be irrelevant.

TweakYourBiz

Tweak Your Biz Search Results for a Title for this Blog Post

10. Manage Flitter

Manage Flitter gives you the ability to “clean up” your Twitter followers and who you are following, find influential and relevant people to follow, as well as schedule tweets based on when your followers or target demographics are online.

Pros: Very user friendly interface that is easy to use for beginners. Great way to save time by mass unfollowing people or following with just one click. Helps you quickly see people who aren’t following you, have no profile picture, are non-english, or who are inactive on Twitter so you can unfollow them. PowerPost lets you schedule tweets because it shows you when people in a certain location or your twitter followers are online.

Cons: There are a lot of limitations on free accounts such as you can’t find influencers or good matches to follow in order to get more followbacks and no access to analytics.

powerpost

PowerPost Results for Adara Hotel Followers and People in Two Cities on ManageFlitter

These are just ten among hundreds of free tools available out there that will really aid you in carrying out your social media strategy. However, there are constantly new startups and the social media landscape is always evolving so it’s likely there will be dozens more to add to this list.

Have you used any of the tools mentioned above? What did you think of them? Also please share any other free social media tools you think can help businesses succeed that I may have missed!

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Astroturfing: Worth the Risk?

In my previous post about Social Media Transparency,  I differentiated between transparency and authenticity. This week, I’m delving deeper into social media authenticity and exploring a very controversial SEO practice: Astroturfing.

For those of you who may not be familiar with the term, Oxford Dictionaries defines it as:

“the deceptive practice of presenting an orchestrated marketing or public relations campaign in the guise of unsolicited comments from members of the public”

While exploring the topic, I found and submitted a great article to Digg called “Inauthenticity – Social Media’s Dirty Little Secret” by Sam Fiorella. He discusses the idea of inauthenticity as it applies to products and services reviews. Although there are consumers who actually contribute to common review websites like Yelp! and TripAdvisor, there are many sneaky “cyber shills who are paid to manually inflate positive reviews and ratings.” Shills are people who pretend to be enthusiastic customers in an effort to entice or influence other people’s buying habits and opinions.

Marketers often regard inauthenticity as something that can and should be avoided in order to maintain a good brand reputation. However, astroturfing is actually quite a popular strategy that has created a big industry both locally and overseas. Studies have emerged to support the idea that astroturfing is positively affecting brand perceptions and purchase decisions.

Source: SocialTimes.com by Neil Glassman

Source: SocialTimes.com by Neil Glassman

One danger Sam warns about is that increasing public awareness of astroturfing tactics will create more cynical and skeptical consumers. In the future, they may not rely on review websites and comments for fear that they may be “planted” and not authentic. After that happens, marketers will have to find a way to get the customer’s personal and trusted networks’ support because that’s where they’ll go to seek advice. Google Search Plus Your World takes a step in that direction by prioritizing content that has been created, shared, or promoted by a person’s personal social graph in the search results.

Source: SocialTimes.com by Neil Glassman

Source: SocialTimes.com by Neil Glassman

Strangely enough, there’s a high level of tolerance among marketers for this somewhat shady SEO tactic. Inauthenticity is sometimes the key to success, as Sam points out: “a small business can appear as big as it wants to portray itself through technology and design.” There are even job seeking advertisements that publicize the fact that marketers are looking for false reviewers… how much more obvious does it get? Perhaps that is a good indication that public awareness of astroturfing may not be as damaging as you might have imagined. Consider the following chart:

Source: SocialTimes.com by Neil Glassman

Source: SocialTimes.com by Neil Glassman

Only 8% of respondents would definitely stop purchasing from a brand they found out was planting reviews. Therefore, it might be worth investing some time in astroturfing to manage your brand’s reputation and boost consumer perceptions of your products and services. It shouldn’t be your first and only SEO tactic, but it is possible that it can benefit you in the end.

Do you think astroturfing is a good or bad practice? Have you ever used or considered using a cyber shill? What would you think of a brand if you found out they had been planting product and service reviews on the Internet or paying someone else to do so? Please leave your comments and share your thoughts.

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Social Media Marketing: The Question of Transparency

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, transparency can be defined as:

  1. free from pretense or deceipt
  2. easily detected or seen through
  3. readily understood
  4. characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practice

transparency-in-business_color

Social media provides an excellent tool for companies to control their level of transparency. By taking advantage of direct and ongoing relationships with your audience, you can share as much (or as little) as you’d like.

The question is, how much do you want to share?

To answer that, I looked to the help of Pam Poore’s blog article “Social Brand Humanization: Transparency vs. Authenticity.”

She begins by differentiating between transparency and authenticity: both important components of any social media marketing plan. She says that “transparency is how much you share and authenticity is the truth of your words and actions.” Her main point here is that confusing authenticity with transparency can mislead companies into believing that they must share the same thing with everyone in order to be viewed as authentic – but that’s not the truth.

According to Pam, “Authenticity does not require the same level of transparency with every relationship.” There are different layers of transparency that vary based on who you are, your industry’s norms, who’s in your community, and who your audience is. How much you decide to share with who will determine the future of your relationship and what benefits can be achieved.

I never really thought of tailoring transparency to different audiences before, but after reading her article it makes perfect sense. For instance, on LinkedIn or Google+ where your company may connect with more industry partners you may wish to be more (or less) transparent.

Circles-Twitter-Hootsuite.001

You should consider carefully what you share to whom so as not to help your competitors as well. That’s one great advantage of Google+, you can add certain people and communities to your circles and choose who specifically to share your content with. This is a great way to influence key industry leaders and promoters while preventing your competition from gaining any kind of advantage.

Furthermore, your consumers probably don’t need to know about your company’s Christmas party, but may be interested in the fact that you’ve recently switched over to a more environmentally friendly production process and enlighten them about the damage your previous production methods caused.

Your investors on the other hand may be grateful for the opportunity to see your newest policies, pricing, and future prototypes. This will build trust with them and encourage them to continue to invest in your company. (See image below)

Future-of-Social-Media-Trust

By investing some time and effort into selecting what you share with whom, you will be able to build better relationships. To decide what your company’s transparency levels should be to which audiences, you must as Pam points out, know yourself  and your audience. Once you’ve figured out what and where you’re comfortable sharing, you can begin incorporating transparency into your social media strategy.

Do you think that your company should tailor what it says to different audiences? What kinds of things might you want to share only with industry contacts? How about your consumers? Comment with your thoughts below 🙂

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