The Danger of Automatic Feeds in Social Media

January 31, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North. See Brad’s bio at the end of the article.

Participating in social media is time consuming, so it’s only natural that people look for shortcuts. However, some shortcuts become disastrous detours, and this is often what happens when a company relies on automation for significant portions of its social updating.

Automatic feeds come in two flavors. Fully automatic feeds publish to a social media platform without any human intervention. An example of this is setting up your Twitter updates to automatically feed into your Facebook company page.  Semi-automatic feeds require intervention. For example, my HootSuite social media interface allows me to publish the same message simultaneously on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and soon, Google+.

Why to Avoid Automatic Feeds

The catch is, while automation is tempting for publishers, it is often annoying to readers. The following three consequences of overfeeding are why you should avoid automation, or at the very least use it judiciously.

1. Stream clogging. Automation encourages publishers to over communicate. If you overload any given platform with updates, your connections will either mentally tune you out, or physically tune you out by removing you from their stream (think Facebook) or disconnecting from you altogether (think Twitter). Most social platforms enable users to finely tune and personalize their incoming content, dooming any type of mass merchandising effort. And even though you can’t stop your mail to prevent junk mail, social media users can and do stop messaging they regard as spam.

2.Redundancy. Publishers sometimes lose sight of how many of their connections frequent multiple platforms. When I see the same update on three platforms, I remember it, but not in a good way. My assumption is the sender either doesn’t understand me or doesn’t mind bombarding me. Either way, the sender is not inspiring me to interact or do business.

3. Inappropriate style. The composition of a tweet, which is limited to 140 characters, does not lend itself to doubling as an effective Facebook post. Conversely, updates from other networks feeding into Twitter may be severely truncated, rendering them cryptic or entirely incomprehensible. Each platform has its own stylistic conventions that encourage conversation and action. Ignoring them only renders your social media activity less effective.

How to Avoid Automatic Feeds

Why do companies use this sort of indiscriminate messaging? Besides the convenience factor, I believe many companies simply don’t have a clear and distinct communication strategy for each social platforms on which they engage.

For example, a B2C firm might use …

  • Twitter to announce daily Twitter-only promotions
  • Facebook as a place for customers to upload photos of themselves using the product
  • LinkedIn for business updates relevant to employees and stakeholders

A B2B firm might use …

  • Twitter to distribute industry news and analysis highly relevant to its customer base
  • Facebook to provide in-depth information on its products and solicit feedback
  • LinkedIn as a recruiting channel

You’ll notice that each example necessitates targeting a particular audience segment and then theming the message to appeal to that segment.

Putting a purpose behind social communication not only eliminates the temptation to use automatic feeds, it allows companies to give audience segments a clear and persuasive reason to connect and much more important, stay connected and engaged. A constant barrage of thematically unconnected updates might accomplish the former, but never the latter.

Any business in social media for the long haul needs a strategy that employs something other than convenience as the linchpin.

 

About the author:

 Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, an Internet marketing, Chicago-based agency. They specialize in niche, middle market B2B industries such as flame resistant apparel and thermoplastic injection molding. Follow @bradshorr on Twitter for non-automated discussion of all things marketing.


Proven Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic

January 26, 2012

Thanks to Christopher S. Penn and his newsletter I read this amazing post by SEOmoz on “21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic“. It not only validates some of my personal beliefs but also gave me additional tactics to apply to my own blog as well as companies I work with.

The tactics discussed in the article are:

  1. Target Your Content to an Audience Likely to Share
  2. Participate in the Communities Where Your Audience Already Gathers
  3. Make Your Blog’s Content SEO-Friendly
  4. Use Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to Share Your Posts & Find New Connections
  5. Install Analytics and Pay Attention to the Results
  6. Add Graphics, Photos and Illustrations (with link-back licensing)
  7. Conduct Keyword Research While Writing Your Posts
  8. Frequently Reference Your Own Posts and Those of Others
  9. Participate in Social Sharing Communities Like Reddit + StumbleUpon
  10. Guest Blog (and Accept the Guest Posts of Others)
  11. Incorporate Great Design Into Your Site
  12. Interact on Other Blogs’ Comments
  13. Participate in Q+A Sites
  14. Enable Subscriptions via Feed + Email (and track them!)
  15. Attend and Host Events
  16. Use Your Email Connections (and Signature) to Promote Your Blog
  17. Survey Your Readers
  18. Add Value to a Popular Conversation
  19. Aggregate the Best of Your Niche
  20. Connect Your Web Profiles and Content to Your Blog
  21. Uncover the Links of Your Fellow Bloggers (and Nab ’em!)
  22. (Bonus) Be Consistent and Don’t Give Up

While I was indeed doing most of what they suggest, there were a couple of good tactics I had either neglected completely or kept postponing (yeah, I procrastinate sometimes… ask my wife!).

Your Checklist for Increasing Blog Traffic

Take the list above, make it into a checklist format, print it and place it somewhere next to you (like, on the wall right in front of you!). Then, make a point of every week to review it and plan your tactic for the coming week. It’s a lot to do but if you break it down into weekly tactics, dedicating 1 hour or so for a handful of them, you will see great improvement in your blog traffic.

You know what? Let me help you out. Here’s the list in a PDF format ready for you to print and use. It includes a few extra blank lines for you to add your own tactics based on your company’s goals and specific industry opportunities.

Oh, and don’t be like me. Download it now and start doing it today! 🙂


Your Content Marketing Mandate: Just Do It!

January 24, 2012

I’ve heard a few times now from companies that want to get their content marketing engine cranking but haven’t put anything out there yet because of one of the following reasons:

  1. We don’t have a marketing person or department
  2. We don’t have enough time to create content
  3. Our website sucks, we want to fix it first
  4. We are still researching topics for our blog posts
  5. We don’t know where to start

Any other typical reasons I missed? You have probably heard (or thought yourself) a few more, I bet.

A Simple Content Marketing Strategy

Yes, creating content is difficult. Creating blog posts, writing articles, shooting videos take time and effort. BUT (a big but for sure) you’ve gotta start somewhere!

So here’s my suggestion for those still on the fence or trying to climb what seems like a very tall content-marketing-fence: Just Do It! (sorry Nike!, don’t sue me for copyright infringement please)

That’s right, just type something and let it fly. Don’t waste time reviewing 5 times before hitting “publish”. Don’t wait three days for your team to give their feedback. Stop having second thoughts of whether anyone will like it.

You know why? Because if you are not producing any content now, anything (yes, anything!) you produce will be better than what you have today.

Yes, it’s that simple

Sure, you don’t want to publish crappy stuff. But you know what? If you add too much stress, too much “process” and too much thinking behind content creation you will set yourself for failure. Small companies or small marketing departments can’t afford to spend too much time on content marketing, I know that for a fact. There are lead generation programs, the new email marketing system being implemented, and something the sales department asked you to do (don’t they always?) a few times already.

So make your life easy and just start writing (or recording, if you will) and publishing. With time, you will be able to put more processes in place, get a good review and approval workflow, whatever you think is necessary to create quality content at your company. But, start simple. Unless you start creating something NOW you will regret not having done it sooner.


Listening to Your Customers In the Digital Age

January 19, 2012

“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new” – Steve Jobs

What do customers want?

Let’s do a focus group and find out. This tried-and-true approach to innovation leading to brand extensions, new product categories, and new marketing approaches has and continues to be used as a cornerstone of market research efforts.

In an interesting BusinessWeek article dating back to 2005, titled “Shoot the Focus Group”, the author states that although there are plenty of examples and ample evidence that Focus Groups fail time and again, companies keep using them.

“The old-fashioned focus group still has its believers even with fiascoes like Pepsi Edge and a decades-long new-product failure rate of about 90%.” – BusinessWeek

You probably know the famous examples of the failure of Chrysler’s Aztek car and the surprising success of PT Cruiser, Coca Cola’s “New Coke”, Ford Edsel, and plenty of others horror stories of focus groups gone wrong.

And why is that? I like Gerald Zaltman’s explanation that “The correlation between stated intent and actual behavior is usually low and negative” which also reminds me of an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper chastises a hired researcher to do a focus group for one of their clients, see below.

Excerpt from Mad Men, Season 4. “The Rejected”.

Faye: Well, I’ve done everything but finish the report.

Don: How’d we do?

Faye: Well, it turns out the hypothesis was rejected. I’d recommend a strategy that links pond’s cold cream to matrimony– a veiled promise.

Don: Hello, 1925. I’m not gonna do that, so what are we gonna tell the client?

Faye: I can’t change the truth.

Don: How do you know that’s the truth? A new idea is something they don’t know yet, so of course it’s not gonna come up as an option. Put my campaign on tv for a year, then hold your group again, maybe it’ll show up.

Faye: Well, I tried everything. I said “routine”, I tried “ritual”… all they care about is a husband. You were there. I’ll show you the transcripts.

Don: You can’t tell how people are going to behave based on how they have behaved.

So, what’s the problem with focus groups?

In a Harvard Business Review article, Turn Customer Input into Innovation, Anthony Ulwick says “companies go about listening to customers all wrong”. Customers are asked to offer a solution to a problem but they aren’t informed enough, aren’t experts in the field and have a limited frame of reference.

“The problem, when there is one, is simple: Companies ask their customers what they want.” – Anthony Ulwick

The solution, according to Ulwick, is to focus on outcomes. This means that instead of asking for customers to submit solutions to a particular problem, they should focus on understanding what customers value most.

Leveraging Social Media for Market Research

But how about using social media? I strongly believe that traditional marketing tactics can be greatly enhanced by using digital tools and when it comes to market research, social media channels should be top of mind. That includes paying attention to comments on your blog, using your Facebook Fan Base to test new ideas, monitoring Twitter feeds, and more.

“I’ll take the status update that someone wrote from the couch in the comfort of their own home as more accurate than the comment they made in a focus group room when they are given a $100 gift card to show up.” – Mike Volpe, CMO at HubSpot

Whether social media will replace traditional market research is up to debate, the active use of social media to complement market research can dramatically improve a company’s success ratio for new product launches and maybe take away some of that bad rap focus groups have.

Additional Reading

Here are some interesting articles if you’d like to dig deeper into this topic:

Note: Mad Men is Copyright of American Movie Classics Company LLC.


The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing

January 17, 2012

Note: This is a guest post by Lior Levin. See Lior’s bio at the end.

The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing is one of ProBlogger’s newest ebooks, written by the Web Marketing Ninja. ProbBlogger was started by Darren Rowse, who wrote the most popular of the ProBlogger products, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.
Written specifically for bloggers, this online marketing guide features yet another set of 31 steps intended to help bloggers start making money with their blogs. Many bloggers go years and years without seeing readership increase or any revenue at all. This practical guide is intended to change all of that.For Those Who Want the Next Level

For me, one of the things that separates this guide from the (seemingly) thousands of others is that it’s advanced, while still maintaining the tried and true step-by-step style Problogger is known for. So many products, selling from a dollar to over $100, seem to focus on just one thing: starting a blog. Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re well past the point of starting a blog. Now you want to see it actually DO something for you.

My biggest takeaway is that there is so much more to blogging for profit than great content. Yep, content is King, but even kings have armies, a staff, and a whole bunch of other things in place to make sure everything works out. We spend so much time creating great content that sits and earns nothing because we do not understand basic, but still largely misunderstood business practices. Something that occurred to me was that even SEO and design seem quite small when you take a step back and really look at what you are trying to accomplish – a real money-making business.

Blogging well is a feat all on its own. But once that is mastered, there is the bigger task of turning a blog into a viable business – which it can be.

But trying to figure out exactly how to make money blogging isn’t easy, unfortunately. And there is a lot of trial and error – without some sort of navigational guide. You could end up spinning your wheels, getting burned out, and giving it up altogether. I have personally been down that road more than once with blogging.

Advertising revenue has always been a money-making vehicle, but all too often, only pennies are generated even when a blog has thousands and thousands of visitors per month.Along came the idea of products – and selling them via blogs. Monetizing a blog with products that are developed and sold by the blogger is becoming more and more popular, and one of the best ways to make money blogging. But there is still a lot of confusion around developing products that people want, selling them the right way, for the right price, and to the right group of people.

So in true ProBlogger style, The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing includes practical, step-by-step tips. Rather than just an overview of things you’ve heard before, this guide is based in theory and logic and then followed up by simple things to do to start to see the steps work.

As so many successful bloggers will admit, making money from blogging truly is like building a house, and there are foundational elements and then others that you build on top of them. It’s important to get things in order.

Features and Freebies

The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing includes 31 chapters of blog and business building insight, including chapters such as

  • Understand the competition
  • Conduct the “three second” test
  • Understand your monetization options (how you make money)
  • Organize and plan products
  • Survey your customers
  • Know when to stop marketing

The guide also includes “more than 21 documents, templates, worksheets, and examples to help you put the Ninja’s advice into practice immediately.” These include the all-important things like examples of good, effective sales pages, and email templates. They are huge time savers and also put the steps into perspective.

Read more about The Blogger’s Guide to Online Marketing here, including a complete list of chapters and information about the authors.

This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing advisor for a shipment company that offers Pre shipment inspections, and who also advises for the Tel Aviv University’s department of ma in security.


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