June 14th, 2010.
Many thanks to the Biblical Suppliers Association for listening to my talk on:
How to build a Successful Search Engine Friendly Website.
You can download the presentation here.
I have also added some extra slides on attitudes to Social Media at boardroom level.
Also there is a slide of Resources slide for links to keyword tools, Datadial’s Reputation Management tool and a few other links worth looking at.
April 30th, 2010.
With the growth of digital marketing and social media participation we’re now starting to see more and more PR agencies looking to online communities as a way of increasing their clients influence.
In my opinion a more organised and structured approach to social media can only be a good thing, used in the right way it can be a very powerful tool, however far too many companies are either not using it to its full advantage, or doing things badly and damaging their brand while isolating themselves from other social media users.
However that’s not to say that every PR agency jumping headfirst into Twitter and Facebook is doing a great job. I still see many agencies that don’t really have a full understanding of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Many cases tend to be client-led, with questions and requests for a social media strategy leading to hasty moves in order to win business and prevent existing clients from potentially looking elsewhere.
In our various dealings with agencies these are the topics that repeatedly seem to reappear…..
Content really does matter – Most Of Your Ideas Will Fail
- The quality of the content is the key to any social media strategy
- You can’t rely on contacts for success. There are no friendly journalists or editors that can swing a campaign with a well placed piece
- Okay, good and great don’t cut it, if you’re relying on people to see your content and pass it on then it needs to be amazing, fantastic or brilliant
- Let go of the brand – in many cases overuse of the client brand will turn a successful viral into blatant advertising that people have no inclination to pass-on.
- The trickle-down effect is key to a successful campaign, brilliant content seeded onto key blogs, Twitter accounts and other social news sites will explode onto other social sites, smaller blogs and media outlets without you having to do anything.
- Having said all of that, most of your great ideas will fail. There really is an element of being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of any good fortune that comes your way.
It Isn’t ALL about Twitter
- Twitter at the moment tends to be used as a buzz-word for social media, desire to participate can often be driven by a CEOs 14 your-old daughter.
- There are other social sites that are just AS important
- Sites like Digg can potentially send far more traffic and is monitored constantly by journalists and influencers
- A well seeded and targeted story on a sites like Digg and Reddit can translate into national and international press
Understand Your Audience
- You need to understand not just who you’re talking to but why
- Is your or your clients Twitter account supposed to be speaking to potential clients, existing customers or journalists, bloggers and the media?
- Is Twitter and Facebook or Digg and Reddit the best way to connect with your linkerati?
- Spend some time understanding where your targets are communicating with each other. Any time spent on competitor intelligence is worthwhile, but bear in mind they might not have got things right themselves.
Don’t Use Channels In Isolation, Look At The Bigger Picture
- If you’re just using one social media network in isolation then you’re almost certainly underperforming
- It’s usually a good idea to create a blog or news section on your client site and then use this as a ‘hub’ for all of their social media activity
- Cross-promote your different networks, you’ll find that users will sign-up for other networks as well as the one they arrived from
It’s Not Just About What You Say But How You Say It
- Syndicating content isn’t just about pushing a release through a network like PRWeb, if only things were that easy!
- Draw up a list of targets for each release – blogs, news sites, media outlets, find their contact details and contact them directly as you would with any offline story.
- Have some idea of the potential ‘influence’ of each target, record metrics such as domain authority, Compete rank, Technorati ranking, and look at the number of comments each article receives. The idea being you can then identify the top sites in a given vertical and prioritise where you focus your efforts. Remember if you can gain coverage on the larger sites the smaller ones tend to follow.
It’s All About Measurement And Metrics
- The real advantage of being online is that everything is trackable. You can gain insight into where visitors arrived from, how long they spend on the site and where they move onto.
- Use this data to understand which elements of your activity work and which ones don’t
- Sign-up to a reputation monitoring service to track brand mentions online, you’ll almost certainly miss posts, mentions and articles if you don’t.
- Have a clear plan as to which metrics are important and make sure you track them – visits, views, contacts, sales, comments, signups, links gained, search engine rankings can all be influenced by your activity – track it and report it.
Remember You Have No Control
- Always remember you have no control over how things are passed-on and how they’re being received
- Things aren’t always ‘on-brand’ – remember people pass things on because they like them, not because they help you or your clients
- Be ready to react and respond directly to questions, be honest and professional at all times
Many of us have the question in our minds trying to figure out whether they should use facebook ppc or Google ppc, but realistically the only way one can resolve this dilema is to try them both and measure the results over a period of time.
- Facebook ads are rapidly gaining in popularity and are very beneficial to small to medium size businesses, attempting to increase traffic with pay per click.
- Facebook is currently showing up as having four hundred million active members and is the only company that Google actually acknowledges is a real competitor to them.
- Facebook is pretty much untapped compared to PPC advertising on Google, Yahoo or Bing. There is another big benefit to this type of advertising – if people like your business, they can pass “word of mouth” very easily to other people on facebook, and now you have happy customers doing your advertising.
- Another fantastic advantage of facebook advertising is you can target a list of potential customers in a way that was never available before. Demographic targeting means that facebook PPC clients will be able to set up their ads so that they only appear on the facebook pages of people who are tightly defined as part of their target market. For example, advertisers will be able to select from a number of options such as age, gender, marital status, geographical location, hobbies and interests. When ads are as well targeted as this, copy writing becomes a much easier process. You have a much better chance of generating targeted clicks to their sales pages.
- Google pay per click advertising is a flexible, relatively low cost method of promoting your website and generating interest that can help you achieve your company’s targets.
- It can be economical compared with more traditional advertising strategies.
- The principles of pay per click advertising are straight forward – if a company is willing to place the highest bid for a keyword it will be ranked the highest on the search results page.
- For short-term advertising campaigns, pay per click advertising is ideal – allowing organisations to change the copy of ads. as desired to reflect keyword changes.
In both cases the disadvantages of pay per click campaigns is if they are not monitored on a regular basis, ones company could end up spending more money than it made by pay per click advertising. The cost per click will remain the same rate, whatever your traffic levels are.
This document is a great guide for anyone company setting up a Social Media policy for their company and employees.
Coca-Cola’s approach is mature and shows the situation that we have arrived at: that is to say that they cannot restrain their staff from writing about their job and their company in which they work but that in doing so this also comes with (social) responsibility.
I cant remember where I first found this but it was floating around on the Internet so apologies if you have seen it before.
March 25th, 2010.
‘What page should I launch – a group or fan page?’
There are two ways on facebook you can advertise your business – a fan page or a group page. Firstly, you should consider how you want to communicate with your audience, i.e. do you want to be an information source or do you want to engage your audience in dialogue? Both groups and fan pages allow you to create discussions and others to reply. Both have a wall for people to write on and allow you to share videos and pictures and require you to manually remove posts as an administrator if something does not meet your standards or purpose for the page.
Here are some points that can help you decide which is best for you:
- Pages are similar to personal profiles on facebook, but used in a commercial capacity such as a celebrity, public figure, Brand, local business and so on.
- Pages are essentially a profile for your business, which can also be viewed publicly by people who are not users of facebook.
- Businesses can use fan pages to publish information, which is then picked up in status feeds of their fans.
- facebook users can connect with their favourite artists and businesses through fan pages and also show their colleagues/friends what they care about.
- Once a facebook user becomes a fan they then can recommend that page to other friends.
- Pages have two walls, one which the Page owner writes, and one just for fans to write their own messages. Like a normal facebook profile, Pages have tabs that uncover more information.
- Pages are better for companies who want to interact with their fans or customers without having them connected to a personal account, and have a need to exceed facebook’s 5,000 friend cap.
In summary if you don’t want to mix your personal interactions with your business on facebook, then a fan page might be just want you need. Your fan page can be strictly for your online business and will keep all your interactions steered towards your business contacts.
- These are generally better for hosting an active discussion and attracting fast attention.
- Groups allow you to send out bulk invitations (for instance, you can ask all of your friends to join the group) and any of your group members can also invite their friends. If you have “friends” on your facebook page who are acquaintances or just share common interests this is a good way to market.
- Groups are not public, but allow you to send messages that show up in a person’s Inbox, making more direct communication.
- Group pages allow you to set other administrators to see who is requesting to join the group. If you post something to the group page, it will also show up on your personal wall. Some people don’t like this because it ties them to their businesses, but this can be useful in creating a “person behind the online business” feeling with your customers. You have more control over participants and permissions with group memberships.
- A group, however, has a limitation of 5,000 members if you wish to send a message. They are generally considered to be best for more personal interaction.
In summary groups are great for organising on a personal level and for smaller scale interaction around a cause.
Regardless of which one you choose (of course, you can have both), be sure to update regularly, keep your audience engaged and offer something of value. If you use your fan page or group purely for promotional reasons, you are far less likely to build loyalty, and there’s a good chance that your members and friends won’t be returning to your pages anytime soon.
With the UK elections fast approaching I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how well the major UK political parties were using social media to connect with voters.
All of the UK parties are maintaining a social media presence, with Facebook pages, Twitter and YouTube accounts prominently linked from their respective websites. To take a snapshot of activity and a gauge of its success I recorded the following metrics,
- Facebook page friends
- Twitter followers
- Twitter tweets
- Twitter reach
- Klout score – a measure of Twitter influence
- Compete score – a measure of website traffic
While all parties get points for maintaining a social presence on the major social sites The Conservatives are way ahead of their competition when it comes to the number of raw followers and the reach of their campaign. The Green Party received the highest Klout score, a measure of their influence and interaction on Twitter.
Interestingly enough the extremist BNP received by far the largest level of traffic to their website, but were one of the lowest scorers when it came to followers and interaction levels – perhaps an indication of voters researching their headline grabbing policies, but a degree of unwillingness to follow and interact with them, will this translate into a lack of votes?
On the whole though the UK parties are doing a fairly poor job of leveraging and interacting with social media users. Compare the Conservatives 23,000 Facebook page friends with Obama’s profile currently over the 7.5 million mark. Even allowing for a smaller population and lower levels of social media engagement it’s clear that campaigns are failing to achieve what they should be doing. It’s difficult to tell if this is due to campaign mis-management, or simply voter apathy after recent political events.
August 17th, 2009.
Is social media a Fad? A lot of people believe it is. I hear countless times that Facebook will go the way of MySpace and that the Twitter bubble will burst. Maybe they’re right, or maybe they’re falling into the trap of believing that everyone uses the web in exactly the same way that they do.
When you actually break them down, the numbers and stats surrounding social media are truly staggering.
Some of my favourite social media stats……..
- 77% of active internet users read blogs
- 700 million pictures re added to Facebook monthly
- Digg attracts 236 million users per month
- 40 % of journalists use blogs to research their stories
- 13 HOURS of video is uploaded to YouTube every MINUTE
- Flickr contains more than 3.5 billion pictures. That’s one for every 2 people on the planet
- 5 billion minutes spent on Facebook each day
For many many more have a watch of this……
I attended the Online Marketing show at Olympia on Tuesday and listened to “How to implement a social media campaign” By Amelia Torcode, Partner and Head of Digital Strategy, VCCP.
VCCP and Amelia are now the darlings of the social media world following their successful Compare the Market/ Compare the Meerkat campaign. Anna picked up an NMA award last week for the campaign.
I’ve got to say that I was a little disappointed by the presentation, especially on behalf of the delegates who had actually gone along in order to learn about Social Media Marketing. All they got was a self indulgent “aren’t we wonderful” lecture on the Meerkat experience, along with a repeat of some of the adverts just in case you hadn’t quite got the message yet. The talk cost £40 to attend so you would hope to learn something in return apart from how wonderful VCCP are.
But my main beef with the whole thing was actually the question of whether this was in fact a successful Social Media Campaign at all. At its simplest VCCP came up with a cute idea, paid a huge amount to advertise it, set up a Twitter account and Facebook page and then encouraged the banter on these and other sites. This has created incredible awareness and has kept a lot of people happy. Site traffic has gone up 80%, but still way below Confused.com. Succesful quotes have gone up 20%.
But was this really a social media campaign in its truest sense? Could they have achieved a better result at a fraction of the price? Did they essentially miss the point of social marketing?
Social media is a method of generating discussion about your product or service within social network platforms seemingly without any effort being made by yourself. In short you start a story, others pick it up and pass it around because its either funny, interesting or useful If you get the story right you don’t need to spend any money because the “network” does the work for you. In VCCP’s case they (must have) spent a fortune on the development of a separate www.comparethemeerkat.com website and on the TV campaign, and in the process killing the average cost per conversion, although Anna claimed that this had come down by 21% but it was not clear that this took into account VCCP cost.
The point and beauty of social media is that you don’t need a TV campaign, the network does the work for you. The message is passed on because people feel the need to. And the number of people who link to your site ultimately help the Google rankings. The actual spike in traffic is an irrelevance compared to the long term effect on Google rankings
On the point of search engine rankings, in her talk Anna started off by saying that Google was the benchmark around which the whole campaign was based but then did not mention Google from that moment in. When I questioned her about the traffic from Google she was unable to answer as she had no stats and there was a separate agency altogether dealing with natural SEO. In fact any discussion about Google rankings or PPC had her flummoxed. I found this astounding.
I don’t want to knock Anna or the the meerkat campaign but it’s really interesting seeing the different approach that an Advertising agency can have to Social Media compared to a proper Online Marketing company. Advertising is all about brand awareness. SEO is all about driving sales via the website. As an SEO consultant myself I could not imagine implementing a campaign without keeping Google and other search stats at the forefront of any analysis of the campaign’s success.
Also I would have questioned a totally separate site, comparethemeerkat.com to be the backbone of the campaign. Any self respecting SEO will tell you that for a social media campaign to be successful is to get people to link to your client site voluntarily which in turns helps rankings and therefore sales. In this campaign as the majority of the new links will be pointed at the stand-alone Meerkat website. In my opinion this is a huge miss of the campaign. 1000’s of lovely links all going to the wrong website – how depressing!
The only solution would be to 301 the meerkat website one day when no one is looking, though this is a huge social media faux-pas and could potentially lose them a lot of trust and goodwill. Undoubtedly VCCP have been successful in raising awareness of CompareTheMarket but I am unconvinced about the benefits of the long term online presence.
If I was new to social media I would certainly have left none the wiser after this talk. If I had been giving the talk I would have attempted to reveal the theory behind succesful social media marketing, explained how stories got picked up and spun about the web, how a traffic spike in itself is not important but the links that it brings, how the ultimate prize is rankings. In short I would have talked less about myself and more about how to help others, especially if I was charging £40!
June 26th, 2009.
Christmas 09 is only 4 months away.Â No doubt you’llÂ already have your products organised and maybe some ideas on offline marketing butÂ what about online marketing.
Because online marketing can take 4-6 months to “kick in”Â thereâ€™s no time like the present to activate your Christmas strategy.Â Â So belowÂ areÂ 12Â timely remindersÂ on what needs to be in place to ensure that your site delivers this Christmas in a way that would make Santa Claus proud.
1. Blogging â€“ sounds similar to â€˜tobogganingâ€™ and is just as much fun
- Simply, unless you are willing to put the time into adding useful and interesting content on your site then there really is little chance that the search engines will bother ranking you for anything more than your domain name.Â You have to deserve to be number one.
2. Social Media â€“ itâ€™s time to get social (both online and off line) â€“ and we donâ€™t mean just churping along with the robins
- Marketing is no longer a one way monologue.Â It’s all about dialogue now and if you’re not up for a chat then users won’t listen.Â Â If youÂ say somethingÂ interesting then others will refer to it and pass it onto their friend – if it isn’t then they will talk about your competitors products instead.
3. Link Bait â€“ lay the foundations now and reap the rewards by Christmas
- How would you like say 500,000 more visitors to your site. Content will go viral ifÂ written properly – but before it goes viral make sure that your website can take the strain of the increase in visitor traffic.
4. Mouse tracking â€“ discover how your customers behave online and throw them a lump of cheese…
- Find outÂ where people are clicking on your site and where they are getting confused. You’ll be surprised by how quickly and easily people get lostÂ and moveÂ on elsewhere.Â Make sure buttons like “Add to Basket” are big and easy to find (and look like buttons)Â
5. Cross-selling â€“ if your customers have a basket, fill it!
- Seems pretty obvious thing to do but many companies still miss this easy opportunity to up the customers’ spend by 10% or so.Â Ask your web programmers to implemenet basket based offers.
6. Communications â€“ ensure your data management system is working for you and send glad tidings to all your customers
- I’m presuming you already have an email database.Â If not, why not?Â But continue to refine your database so that you can target relevant offers at different people.
7. Seven swans a-swimming â€“ (well we had to give some reference to the twelve days of Christmas) Will your customers be able to swim through your site without any hold ups?
- Should you really be making your customers register before purchase?Â Are you hiding your delivery charges? (Hidden delivery charges are the 2nd most cited reason for people abandoning a shopping cart). Is it obvious how to make the order?Â All these issues will effect conversion rates.Â Get friends to perform specific tasks on your site and see how they perform. You’ll be surprised.
8. Content management system â€“ check that your system will enable you to do everything you require. Weâ€™re still working on a turkey cooking programme but we are happy to cover off everything else.
- Got a great idea for a Christmas offer? Have you checked that your e-commerce software is capable of handling this type of offer.Â Find out now and don’t leave to last moment.
9. Reputation management â€“ discover if you are featuring on your customersâ€™ Christmas wish lists this year
- Find out what people are saying about you with Datadial’s reputation management software and then respond to these commentsÂ and start a dialogue.Â See how Love Film responded to a post I wrote about them – this was a classic bit of Reputation Management whereby they quashed my negative comment about them.
10. PPC â€“ Pretty Perfect Christmas?Â We believe Pay Per Click is the icing on the cake of an online marketing strategy (never the key ingredient)
- Multi channel marketing includes PPC as well as snail mail.Â PPC is expensive if implemented incorrectly.Â Get this sorted before the Christmas rush starts.Â Â Do all your experimenting with what works and what doesn’tÂ or else you’ll find all the money coming in one end is going out the other end.
11. Online PR â€“ You donâ€™t need to bring frankincense and myrrh but if you’re doing anything quirky orÂ different then let the blogosphere know about it
- Do not presume that your PR company can do online PR.Â Online PR is an entirely different science to Offline PR and most PR companies do not have a clue about how to create buzz on line.
12. Online optimisation â€“ creeping round every corner making sure everything is as â€˜friendlyâ€™ as possible
- This is the most important thing to get right – If your website is not optimised for search engines then it has no chance of being ranked for its keywords.Â Ask us to provide a website analysis for you.Â If you ask nicely we might even do it for free, seeing as it’s nearly Christmas!
If you’ve got it all covered then you can join our happy Santa on the beach
April 27th, 2009.
While playing around on Digg yesterday I began to notice a lot of stories in the upcoming section that were either from the BNP website, or were from blogs sympathetic to their cause.
For the uninitiated Digg is a social news site where people share interesting stories by submitting links and voting for stories that they find interesting. Digg has the potential to send huge amounts of traffic to links that prove popular, raising their profile considerably. For this reason many site owners try to ‘game’ Digg in order to increase the level of traffic to their websites.
The BNP (The British National Party) for those people unacquainted with their politics is a “far-right whites only political party based in the UK. (Paraphrased from Wikipedia)
While I don’t want to get into a political debate regarding political views, a study of the submissions being made to Digg read as a good study on how NOT to do social media.
After a little digging (no pun intended) it became clear that there has been a concerted effort to submit as many pages from the bnp.org.uk website as possible with little regard to their quality, topic or relevance. Some submissions for example are simply candidate profile pages or navigational pages with very little content. Submitting poor quality pages such as these are a sure sign ofÂ some form of suspicious voting activity.
The Digg search function makes it easy to isolate all articles being submitted from a specific domain – all submissions from bnp.org.uk can be viewed here.
Using date filtering it’s also possible to view when the articles are being submitted – over the past 12 months there have been an average of 212 submissions each month. Compare this to The Conservative Party with has 32 submissions from their website, and the Labour Party website which totals just 7 submissions during this entire 12 month period, the number of submissions is far above what you would expect from a political party. In fact, even The Sun, the UK’s highest circulation national newspaper has only 1000 more submissions over the time period.
Reading through some of the comments on the stories I found some postings by a couple of regular Digg users that indicate that I’m certainly not the first person to notice this unusual activity.
For anybody who doesn’t know, the BNP has recently made a big push into Digg and other social media sites, enlisting members to vote up their press releases on a daily basis.
Doing a search of BNP submissions I found the following comment:
“Operation BNP Outreach is proving to be a huge success – keep up the good work, comrades.
By 6 June, with lots more hardwork and a fair wind, we should have our first MEP!
VOTE BNP – you know it makes sense!”
This ‘Operation outreach’ seems to be what is causing the trouble.
Poor Submission Selection
This first lesson to learn is that topic is everything. Submitting poor quality stories will not get your submission onto the front page of the site. Of the 3036 submissions just 5 have received more than 100 votes. Compare this number to popular front pages submissions which frequently run into thousands of votes.
In all probability the BNP submissions will have minimal impact at Digg as on the whole users of the site tend to be at the opposite end of the political scale. During the US elections the user base was well known for ‘Digging up’ positive Obama submissions, with one entitled “Digg this if you voted for Obama” receiving a huge 38,443 votes. Submitting controversial far-right political material is unlikely to generate success as the majority user base will ‘bury’ articles far before they come close to reaching the front page.
The submission and voting tactics that are being used also arouse suspicion, with the same users submitting content from the site over and over again and voting on each other’s submissions – not always suspicious activity on its own, but when couple this is a distinct lack of submission and voting activity on other domains it begins to look more and more like a deliberate strategy to promote content from a specific domain – which incidentally is against the Digg terms of service.
What Can You Learn?
As a business ownerÂ social media is a powerful medium if used correctly.
- Create great content, give knowledge and expertise away for free. In social terms, content really is king.
- Make sure you choose the right audience. Write for your users and submit to sites that are consistent with these topics and demographics.
- Submissions from your readers are more powerful, getting your network of staff to submit everything on your site is easily noticed.
- Interact, get involved with real users of social sites. Network and communicate, you will find that relationships are what breeds social success.
- Don’t be tempted to cheat or get involved in schemes to promote your own stories. This kind of activity is almost always spotted.