Here at Vertical Measures, we are gearing up for Jay Baer’s upcoming webinar which we are proudly hosting on Thursday, July 14th, 2011 at 8:30AM- 9:30AM PDT. He’ll demonstrate his 7 step process for cutting through the tools and technology and creating sound, effective social media strategies that are sustainable long-term on Thu, Jul 14, 2011 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM PDT. In preparation, I thought I’d strike up some conversation in the social media starting with today’s expert interview with Tina Wilson, the Director of Organic Search Practice at Mediative where her current passion is social media optimization; building community and brand awareness via services like Twitter, Digg, YouTube, Stumbleupon and Facebook.
Elise Redlin-Cook: For anyone who may be hesitant to get involved in social media – how would you describe the benefits of social media marketing?
Tina Wilson: Social Media can be a tough sell since many organizations are just beginning to seriously adopt traditional search engine marketing, but I would start by pointing out that a social media presence is not something you can control. You can choose not to have a website or not to engage in a search marketing campaign, but you may already have an active Social Media presence and not even know it. That’s not really a benefit, but it is a reality that organizations should be aware of.
As to the benefits of Social Media, there are many, but here are the most compelling:
- There is an organic search placement (SEO) advantage in a strong and well designed Social Media campaign
- Social Media offers an opportunity for direct customer engagement with both brand critics and brand advocates that can increase loyalty and trust; in some cases even the harshest critics can converted to strong brand advocates
- Social Media strengthens customer service efforts and has a humanizing effect on both brand and company
- Social Media acts as free and real time market research with the ability to easily track current online sentiment for your brand and for the competition
- Social Media can be used to bring immediate attention to products and offerings in a real-time, interactive format and within a more personalized environment
- Social Media is an immediate and effective tool for damage control when negative publicity rears its ugly head both online and offline
Elise: Great advice. So, how do you determine which social media channels are most important for a particular business?
Tina: In this sense Social Media is no different than any other marketing effort. When deciding which social platforms to focus on the first things to think about are target audience and market demographics. Sometimes Twitter should be monitored but not engaged with, LinkedIn is not for casual marketing of any kind, Groupon is more suitable for product or service oriented companies, FourSquare requires some real creativity and commitment as a marketing medium, and YouTube and Flickr don’t always make sense for an organization… even Facebook is not for everyone. Knowing your existing and target demographics helps narrow the field of focus.
The next thing to think about is investment, both in terms of time and money. Social Media doesn’t have to be expensive but some areas are cheaper to engage than others. Also, modifying your existing site to support your Social Media presence can have price tag. If the Social Media budget is small then you need to look at platforms that can make effective use of existing site content and collateral, or that can be easily integrated with other marketing efforts. If the time an organization can commit to managing their Social Media presence is low then you want to focus on platforms that require less frequent monitoring and interaction. It is important to remember that Social Media is not a “field of dreams” – you can’t just “build it and they will come” – in Social Media you have to actively play on the field to generate interest.
As important as which platform to adopt is whether or not an organization is ready to make a commitment to Social Media. Budget, ownership and access to content all need to be in place before jumping into Social Media. Social Media is an online culture built on interactivity and sharing content, if you don’t have content to promote, or the budget to create it, you may struggle in the space. Likewise, Social Media needs to be actively maintained meaning you need an in-house person or an agency tasked with owning your Social Media monitoring and interaction. Entering Social Media unprepared can be worse than not being there at all.
Elise: Can you think of any brands that are doing it right and that those of us with interest could follow to learn from?
Tina: This one is a matter of opinion but I like what Candies (the shoe company) is doing in the space right now. Candies is using Facebook to get its customer base to vote on their next ad campaign. It is simple and not too expensive but it encourages consumer engagement while acting as a free focus group, a great no-frills use of the space. They aren’t the first to use Facebook as a focus group, Dominos Pizza did it last year when it revamped its pizza recipe, and Ford did it when it released its 2011 Ford Explorer online rather than at a car show, but initiatives like these really speak to what Social Media is all about – positive engagement and creative interaction.
It is important to remember that Social Media is not a “field of dreams” – you can’t just “build it and they will come” – in Social Media you have to actively play on the field to generate interest.
My absolute favorite use of Facebook recently has been by companies giving money to charity. Southwest Airlines (Make a Wish), Kellogg’s (Feeding America), Kohl’s (20 US schools) and Target (St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital) all used Facebook pages to raise and distribute funding to needy charities.
I’m also a fan of what The Gap did with Groupon last year. I think it put Groupon on the map and it certainly earned The Gap some serious Social Media street-cred. The Gap’s early adoption of FourSquare to offer discounts to customers as soon as they checked into a store was also interesting. Even though it wasn’t innovative or new at the time they were among the first major brands to use location based marketing via Social Media.
Without a doubt the Old Spice campaign of 2010 was an amazing integrated use of traditional marketing and Social Media that went beyond viral. It used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube along with TV in a way that had not been seen before. That campaign was such a success that it even got attention from celebs like Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan, who jumped into the mix with their own video responses, and spawned countless YouTube spoofs. The custom YouTube video answers to fan tweets took the Old Spice campaign to an unprecedented level of Social Media marketing. We still see that first campaign mimicked today, for example the current Dairy Queen TV commercials (also on YouTube) have a definite Old Spice feel.
Of course, Zappos is an old favorite when pointing out how a company can do Twitter right, and CNN had a bit of PR coup in 2009 when it went up against avid-Twitterer Ashton Kutcher in a race to 1-million followers.
Elise: We often hear about brands that have taken social media by storm, but can you think of any instances of brands with major social media fails?
I’d rather not single any one company out with this; instead I’d prefer to comment on what not to do in Social Media:
- Don’t be argumentative; debate is fine, aggressive assertion is not
- Don’t be too reactive to negative comments or situations; on the flip side, don’t ignore major slip-ups hoping they will go away
- Don’t have a one-sided conversation, Social Media is not traditional soap-box advertising and interaction is key
- Don’t over-automate your presence, some automation is OK but you should not rely on a feed to keep your Social Media presence active
- Don’t try too hard and don’t go into it trying to orchestrate a viral campaign, things go viral naturally and content that is too contrived doesn’t do so well in Social Media
- Don’t be too repetitive; recycling the same 20 pieces of content just isn’t sustainable and savvy Social Media users will catch on fast
- Don’t leave your Social Media activity to just anybody in your organization, some of the biggest Social Media messes have been caused by people speaking out of turn on behalf of a company
- Don’t try to control the personal Social Media activities of employees but do have a Social Media policy in place where company expectations are known; the most you should do to control your brand among employees’ personal Social Media profiles is by limiting company association or comments
- The biggest don’t… Don’t underestimate the reach and power of Social Media. I use the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots as an example, even though that one is not about marketing, since it shows just how prevalent Social Media has become in daily life. In looking to identify people who broke the law during those riots Social Media rallied with Facebook groups and Tumblr streams and police collected 1-million photos and 1,000 hours of video – and those are just the images that were willingly handed over or mined from Social Media, there are probably many more that never made it to police. The lesson here, Social Media is everywhere and anything a person or a company does can easily end up in that sphere, often in real-time as it is happening (Just ask Jet Blue or Kevin Smith and Southwest Airlines)
Elise: We all have a favorite source or two of trusted information on different topics. Who are your sources for information on social media?
Tina: For information about Social Media I tend to go straight to the source… Social Media. I find my best information by scanning Twitter or from the Social Media focused groups I belong to on LinkedIn. I also like Mashable, Social Media Explorer, The Brand Builder Blog, and I read both Lee Odden’s Top Rank and Brian Solis’ blog religiously.
Elise: What role does social media optimization play in an overall SEO program?
Tina: An increasingly important one… Social Media is no longer just about brand exposure and consumer interaction, it now has an impact on search visibility. When Social Media first started catching on the SEO value was mostly indirect in that users shared links that may then be noted on blogs or articles across the web; in that sense Social Media used to be a link baiting technique. SEOs have suspected for some time that the search engines were using Social Media as an authority signal for organic rankings and in December 2010 both Google and Bing confirmed that Social Media did indeed have direct implications for SEO. Since then the SEO value of a Social Media presence has only increased. For one, we know that when Social Media users with “authority” share links via a platform like Twitter or Facebook the engines see this as verification of their value to web users and factor the signal into organic rankings. With additional information now being collected via Facebook and Google +1, and the concept of “social search” becoming more sophisticated and refined it is safe to say that the importance of Social Media to organic search marketing efforts will continue to grow.
Elise: What are some of your favorite tools for measuring the SEO impact of social media efforts?
Tina: I am curious to see how the new Google Analytics Social Engagement Reporting will work because I think that could be a great tool, but as it stands right now I can’t really say I have any favorites. I like to monitor Social Media manually wherever possible setting up a dashboard of sorts with bookmarks of advanced search pages and email alerts. For very large sites or for more in depth analysis this approach won’t work, in which case you need something more robust. Radian6 is like a Cadillac of Social Media monitoring tools but I really like the user-friendly interfaces of Webfluenz, Social Report, Viral Heat and Trackur.