Too Much Social Media? Part 1

Is it possible for a company to engage in too much social media?

This is a tough question, but a simple answer would be, “yes.” A company can quickly spiral into a social media tailspin if proper planning and implementation isn’t done.  Off the top of my head I can name almost 10 popular social media outlets including: blogs, tumblr, posterous, facebook, twitter, youtube, linkedin, foursquare, gowalla, myspace (jk 😀 ), and there are plenty more.  One day this list will be completely out of date as new ideas shift and mold this new era of online advertising.

There is absolutely no practical reason for any company to engage in social media unless you have a war room with multiple bloggers and social media experts full time on staff.  If you’re a small business putting your foot in the water to see if its warm before jumping in, believe me when I say the water is warm and come on in.

Facebook

Your first step into social media for 2011 should be creating a facebook page for your business.  By doing this, you will reserve your name on facebook and even if you dont do anything with it for the time being, no other company can snatch this up.  Companies are grabbing up facebook names much quicker than companies were even grabbing domain names in the 90’s.  By reserving your name now, you can avoid worrying about it in the future.

Additionally, take a quick look at other forms of advertising.  more and more companies are referring customers to their facebook page in advertising before sending them to their home page. They want to be followed via facebook so they can push content to their customers in the future.  This is vital for your online marketing success.  If you were to go to a company website, there is no guarantee that you’ll ever return.  By becoming a fan or friend on facebook.  They gain access to being able to advertise in the future.

Add a facebook link to every page on your website (usually in the header or footer

In a nut shell, facebook is a non invasive way a business can engage potential and returning customers to help grow your business through many other forms of advertising.

Blog

Okay, so you have your facebook page reserved and your family and friends have started following you.. It’s now time to create a blog.  It is important to have the blog running through your domain.   After creating a blog, you can provide up to date content about your business. You can talk about local events, concerns, causes, etc. You can really do whatever you want with your blog. But you’re creating fresh content that will be featured on your website.  This will tell the search engines to keep coming back to see what has changed, and it will also provide content to start updating your facebook with updates about your company.  You are now using your blog and facebook in tandem and have made a big step into your social media presence.

It is very important to remember that once you create a blog, it is vital to continue to update your blog at least once a month no matter what. I recommend updating your blog at least once a week, but in the beginning you may not have enough time to do this on a regular basis.   If you don’t update at a minimum of once a month it is more beneficial to avoid having a blog all together.  Inconsistent, outdated, or rarely updated content is worse than no content at all.  Your website will look like an impractical unreliable ghost town, and can hurt your business prospects.

Add a Blog link next to your facebook links

Youtube

Okay, you have your blog and facebook.  People are following you and you’re updating content weekly.  You’re seeing growth of 1 to 2 followers a week and a couple people are ‘liking’ your posts. Now its time to go out and buy an inexpensive Video Camera and post some videos.  Videos are very very hot in the SEO and Social landscape right now.  Google loves videos and gives preferential treatment to this content and you can leverage Youtube as a social source for products.   I recommend creating a short video (60 – 90 seconds) once a month talking about a product, service, or anything your company offers.  Focus on value, and create a sense of expertise within your industry.  You can now edit these videos for free with included software on a mac or pc.  Do a couple takes, splice together a short spot and put it on youtube and link to if from both your blog and facebook.  It doesnt have to be perfect, but it will still get much more exposure than anything you’ve blogged thus far.   The followers will start flowing in.

If you have capital, I recommend going through a video production company. Spend a day and tape as many videos as possible 5-10 at least.  then update bi monthly or monthly and watch the visits start trickling in.

Add a youtube link next to your social links

I will discuss twitter and linkedin and some final strategies early next week!

What you measure depends on your business goals

I was listening to a podcast earlier today and unfortunately I forgot exactly which podcast it was, so if you know where this quote comes from please let me know. One of the hosts was discussing how online marketers and analysts are constantly measuring statistics through google analytics, omniture, or another web analytics tool.

This concept of measurement has become a convoluted dilemma as we march into 2011.  More and more companies are utilizing web tools such as Google Analytics, Omniture, and the fossilized urchin analytics to measure web traffic.  Some companies have even started tracking conversions, funnels, and other metrics within their chosen platforms to measure online success.

The real question is, what are your keys to internet success?

3 Questions you need to ask to be successful in online tracking

Are you trying to brand your website through internet marketing?

Are you trying to engage lead generation for your sales force?

Are you trying to offer customer service or special offers through your website and social strategies?

By asking yourself these simple questions, you can start to figure out what you need to be measuring, how it needs to be measured, and how you can gauge success in your online goals.  I plan on writing about this more, but make sure to take some time and ask yourself these questions.  I think you’ll be surprised about what you need to focus on vs. what you’re focusing on currently.

More to come soon.

Malachi Threadgill

For over a decade, I have been working with a variety of businesses on SEO, PPC, and other Inbound Marketing techniques. My goal has always been to accomplish marketing objectives by maintaining inbound marketing best practices while implementing cutting-edge technologies. By remaining vertical agnostic, I have honed my skill-sets across various industries and have a strong affinity for the art of conversion tracking and providing a measurable ROI for the companies I have helped.

After realizing that the odds of becoming an ‘imagineer’ for Disney were very low, I found a new passion Web and Graphics design. After finding my calling in inbound marketing, I have taken on many projects ranging from logos for small start-ups to being a project manager for a million dollar e-commerce web site.

I act as the primary Internet Marketing Consultant in terms of SEM, SEO, PPC, and social media on all projects with a focus on analytics and measurable quantitative results.

 

Specialties

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Pay-Per-Click Advertising (PPC)
SEO ROI and Business Intelligence
Google Analytics
Omniture Analytics
Webtrends and Usability
Search Engine Marketing (SEM),
HTML
CSS
Social Media Marketing
Lead Generation
Usability
User Experience (UX)

Search Engine Optimization Consulting – Dallas, TX

Consulting for search engine optimization (SEO) can be a daunting task.  In order to be a good consultant in any industry, you must first properly set expectations.  It is going to be a much healthier relationship with potential and recurring clients if your goals are outlined and well described from the outlet.

About 8 months ago I left SEO consulting behind here in Dallas.  I Decided to focus my efforts full time working for a telco at the INFOMART.  I have to say that this has been a very pleasurable experience and I hope to continue my relationship with this company for a long time to come.  By taking a risk and leaving my consulting role, I have learned many new skills outside of Search Engine Marketing and Optimization and have a much wider marketing skillset that has expanded in to print and media buys.  I love the challenge of learning something new, but my number one joy is still seeing the pages I create or help optimize showing up on the first page of a google SERP.

Remember when choosing the right SEO for your website or company to work with someone  you trust and can relate to.  Avoid blackhat shops or anyone who makes guarantees or sets unrealistic timetables.  SEO and SEM are quantitative processes that don’t change over night.  Patience with SEO and all business is a virtue.

I am also working on a couple new and exciting projects that I hope to discuss more in the future on this blog.  I want to see if some new techniques in SEO are favorable to the Google Instant search while still implementing long-tail.

Social Media Hangover and Optimization

I was listening to a podcast this morning and heard an interesting term referring to the Social Media Hangover that has been fatiguing customers engaging businesses through social marketing.

The marketer was discussing how the majority of marketers for business are utilizing brand and business social media including twitter, facebook, and flickr to spam brand related blogs and information into the sphere. Obviously, Businesses engaged in social media advertising are utilizing these efforts to increase branding and recognition – This is the goal of any marketing effort.

In order to be effectively engage customers through social media, businesses must figure out the magic mixture of education, promotion, and exposure. These three spices can be viewed as the soup of Social Media Optimization.

As a social media marketer, you need to educate potential and current customers about your brand while maintaining a value prop and staying noninvasive in your efforts.  How does one do this?  There is no real answer as every brand is different.

For the brands I maintain, I encourage marketers to tweet at least once a day, but no more than 5 times a day for a business with under 10,000 followers.  In those tweets you need to distinguish what content is most important to push into the space.

Customers want engaging content that adds value.  Make sure you offer something that readers will enjoy or you might loseWeight Exercise another follower.

Online SMB Reputation Management

Reputation Management is the practice of monitoring and managing the opinions and information that that are posted about your company on the Internet. It is a developing practice but vital for long-term success for online marketing. By utilizing available tools, companies have the ability to interact directly with what customers are saying about them and fix potential problems from the outset. Trendistic and Google Alerts are primary tools that can help cast a wide net for reputation management include.

Trendistic is a fantastic tool for monitoring communication on twitter. Many customer concerns and reviews are communicated on social networking sites like twitter. By utilizing Trendistic, companies can monitor everything posted about them immediately. By monitoring these posts, companies can react and respond immediately to the concerns of a disgruntled customer and generally change a potentially negative situation into a positive. This not only helps customer retention, but also assists in priceless branding that other customers and prospects will see.

Google Alerts is much more sophisticated and broader in scope. Google Alert lets you establish your search terms, frequency to receive reports and then it literally “Monitors the web for interesting new content related to your company name, products or even competitors.” This tool is invaluable for reputation management efforts. You can now monitor what is posted about a particular search term or set of terms on any website indexed by Google. Additionally, a direct link to the sites for responses is provided. By directly addressing the source, you can insure that your image or messaging is positioned properly. Google Alerts is particularly good for monitoring industries as a whole such as SIP Trunking, VoIP or IP Communications. You can track keywords like “Business VoIP”, “Hosted PBX” or “Broadvox” and receive daily updates to what is posted across the web.

By incorporating these tools to monitor what is posted about your company or products, you can then engage in communication to resolve negative hits to your online reputation. For example, if a customer has a bad experience or misunderstanding with a sales rep and posts a tweet or blog post online, you are quickly notified, and, by accessing the post, communicate directly with the disgruntled customer. Through Twitter, you can reply directly to tweets and open a dialogue to get situations resolved. You can respond and point the person who is upset in the right direction for resolution. For blogs, you can leave a comment or send an email to address any negative comments. And for larger corporate sites, you can usually contact the editor or publisher and work to influence a negative article or opinion. For the most part, publishers will not post negative information without contacting the business in question for a response, but it is still important to keep an eye on all websites to for the few surprises.

Remember, the majority of people only vocalize their opinions when they are negative. It is a lot more common for an upset customer to post comments than a satisfied one. By communicating directly with customers about their concerns, you may change a negative comment into a positive review. Broadvox has had success using these tools to correct information, address partner concerns and positively engage our customer base. Please add this effort to your SEO, SEM and GEO targeting efforts. It is through the integration of each of these efforts that you will gain the greatest benefit of Internet marketing.

Social Media for SMB

Social media has helped revolutionize the way people connect in unforeseeable ways. 10-15 years ago archaic chat boxes peppered AOL accounts as users began interacting with unknown counterparts in the online space. Today, users utilize their phones, laptops, or tablets, to give their friends and followers up to the second information from anywhere in the world. In other words “Social Media isn’t a fad, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.”

As Social Media has moved into the main stream, businesses have been finding ways to monetize these tools to increase retention and customer interaction. It is now desirable to have a presence on multiple social media services including Facebook, twitter, flickr, LinkedIn, and YouTube, in order to respond to opportunities and concerns that may arise from customers and partners. Broadvox has established presence on all of these sites to support our product offering and sales. These media services allow unobtrusive access to our clients to let them know the goings on of Broadvox and details pertaining to new products or updates without spamming their inbox with emails.

Our endeavor into the social landscape is still very experimental. We are continually testing new services and new ways to utilize these platforms to increase our advertising and market share. We have found that twitter, LinkedIn, andYouTube offer the best access to provide information about the company to our VARs and customers. These 3 websites provide a great avenue for information distribution and interaction. We have also seen success using Facebook, butFacebook is inherently geared to avoid the business to consumer interaction. I anticipate in the coming months that Facebook will make major changes to their platform in order to allow businesses greater access to their customer base. In order to compete with the upcoming Google me social media product, Facebook will have to find new ways to monetize their brand and customer interactions. By allowing businesses greater direct access to their database, they will be able to stay competitive with Google’s ambitious venture into social media.

Part of the new landscape for any online marketing plan has to have a substantial investment in time and energy for social media. It is the most direct way for you to reach your customers at a personal level.

SMB SEO – Search Engine Optimization

SEO

Over the last decade, broadband speeds have allowed businesses and consumers to connect in new unimaginable ways. With a simple search on Google, customers have gained unparalleled access to any information they are seeking – both good and bad. This week, I will take a step back from discussing IP communications and focus on the ever-expanding industry of online marketing.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of tweaking and adjusting content to make your website more “search engine friendly.” This capability set has been around for quite some time but has recently grown in importance as companies realize the value of high search rankings for related keywords. Showing up on the first page of a Google, Bing, or Yahoo search provides your company prime real estate to connect with potential customers. Additionally, by leveraging SEO GEO targeting tactics, businesses can target customers locally or regionally based upon their business presence.

Years ago, people viewed SEO as a secretive and manipulative process where individuals could game the “system” and implement questionable tactics to maneuver websites to the top of the rankings. This was a false perspective. Google and the other search engines actually encourage companies to use SEO best practices in website design. By implementing certain techniques, businesses help increase usability and standardize web search, which creates a better experience for anyone searching for information. A quick example of this includes using an alt=”” tag when placing an image online. The alt text for images enables a company to describe the image, which is important for text-based browsers or browser readers for the blind. Without the alt description tag, there would be no way for the search engine to know what the image is.

Finally, in the arena of SEO, Google is very important. Globally, Google has an 84.8% market share and 65% in the US. Bing is on the rise, but your best bet at achieving strong SEO results is to focus your efforts on Google.

PPC Marketing vs Search Engine Optimization

I recently wrote a series of blogs for the company I work for.  I have changed it up a little but, but the general post follows –

Pay Per Click Marketing, unlike Search Engine Optimization, is a paid approach to search engine advertising.Companies pay the major search engines for placement in the sponsored links sections typically on the top and right hand side of the search engine results pages (SERPs.)The placement of a company’s sponsored ad depends on a Quality Score derived by the search engines based on the quality of content on the company website, the context of the ad, and the amount a company is willing to pay per position. For the most part, the business model works well for the search engines, advertisers, and potential customers.Unfortunately, there are a couple of glaring issues with search engine marketing.

The first issue with PPC is that there is a 95 character limit on ads for paid search.It is nearly impossible to offer product differentiation from company to company when confined to 95 characters.This makes ad copywriting a very creative and difficult task, as you need to find a way to provide relevant information as well as your value prop in a very confined space.To add a little perspective, twitter, which some view as restrictive, allows a tweet to be up to 140 characters.

The second issue with PPC is the persistent rise in cost per lead acquisition. Many companies are competing for the same piece of the proverbial pie and offer very similar products.This competition especially in paid search is continually driving the cost per click higher on the top industry keywords.Over the past year, we have seen as much as a 50% increase in cost per click for higher converting keywords.This directly increases the cost per acquisition across the industry and as each company tries to spend more to outbid the opposition for better positioning, costs continue to increase.Unfortunately, there is no short term solution for this cyclical increase in online advertising.Unless each of the company’s marketing managers and directors get together and put a cap on online spending (hint, hint), advertising spend will continue to increase until the cost per lead and cost per click reach equilibrium and the model implodes.

Obviously, Google loves this type of competition.If the statistics are correct and Google receives 90% of their revenue from Paid Search advertising, then it is absolutely no surprise why they have a market cap of nearly 150 billion and growing.I see no end in sight as long as this type of advertising continues to be beneficial to both Google and the advertisers who are using their AdWords platform.

Even though Google is the alpha dog and has a commanding lead in search traffic across the board, we have seen success in utilizing Bing and yahoo for paid search advertising.Both secondary search engines have a substantially lower cost per click and still drive a considerable amount of traffic to our website.

Although there are major issues with PPC, this advertising platform isn’t all bad.The company I manage PPC for sees quality leads come through our paid search campaigns on a daily basis.You, too, should work to gain market share with online advertising, and try out various PPC techniques to increase your quality score and gain competitive advantage.