April 5, 2011

Does "Be a fan on Facebook" undermine your email marketing efforts?

Despite the emergence of the social media channels over the past few years, there is no question promotion emails to house list remains the most cost effective tactic to grow revenue. Consequently, email marketers invest a great deal of money and time to maximize the roi of their email programs. However, most make a mistake of including links to their social media outlets such as “be a fan on Facebook” and “ follow us on twitter” on their email templates, driving subscribers away from the main call-to-action in promotional emails.

Putting links to these social media outlets presents two problems:

1) With these links, you are offering subscribers additional call-to-actions that don’t support the main objective of a particular email. Numerous studies/research show that online users get distracted when multiple choices/call-to-actions are presented on emails and landing pages. This results in lower conversation rates and revenue.
2) Most companies still don’t have a clear strategy on how/if their email and social media channels are integrated and they don’t do a good job defining the role of each channel for both internal and external customers. Linking away with the “follow us on facebook/twitter” buttons without thinking through the strategy, you might be growing your fan base at the expense of losing your email subscribers or even customers.

That being said, I still believe that promoting your social media presence through your existing digital channels is important. However, the key is to get users to “like” your Facebook page or to follow you on twitter after they take the desired actions on your promotional emails and landing pages.
Below are some ways to utilize non-promotional email communications to grow your fan base.

> Welcome emails: Inform your subscribers about your social media channels and their value after they sign up for your emails
> Thank You emails (and Thank you Pages): Ask your customers to join you in the social media space on emails you send out after your customers have signed up for a white paper, opened an account on your website, made a purchase etc.
> Confirmation emails (and Confirmation Pages): same as Thank You emails/pages
> Promotional emails
with a single focus of growing your fan base: This type of email works the best if the fan drive is tied to a promotion such as contest, sweepstakes and donation to a non-profit for each fan.

Simply including links to your social media outlets in your email templates distracts subscribers and diminishes your email marketing efforts. Focus on promoting those channels after your subscribers have taken the desired action on your emails and converted.

How do you integrate your social media and email efforts? Do you simply drive your subscribers away from by linking to your social media outlets? Let me know your thoughts.

March 8, 2011

4 benefits of leveraging customer reviews

While customer reviews are the most effective social media tactic for driving sales, it is one of the least utilized social media channel by marketers. There is no question that the underlying reason for the unpopularity of customer reviews is marketers’ fear of getting negative reviews. However, if you take a closer look, you will notice your customers’ opinions about your products and services are already all over the social web. Furthermore, your most influential customers are on Facebook influencing their friends and family and use Google Places, Yelp! and dozens of similar sites to express their opinions on local businesses. Today’s consumers want to make informed decisions, and they research and read what others say about your products/services on the Internet before they make a purchase online or offline.

The good news is most reviews are positive (Across all clients of Bazaar Voice, a leading social commerce provider, in 12 industry categories, 80% of customer reviews are 4 or 5 stars out of 5). And even negative ones have a positive impact because they build authenticity and show that you care about customer feedback. Additionally, a site full with positive reviews makes consumers skeptical.

So overcome your fears and provide your customers with a platform energizing them to 1) write customer reviews & ratings 2) testimonials and 3) share their stories to allow this social media channel to improve your bottom line by taking full advantages of the following benefits:

1. Reviews drive sales: Numerous studies prove that having some or even a small numer of reviews has a positive impact compared to having none. For example, a study conducted by the eTailing Group concludes that 11% of retailers saw a 20% or more overall increase in conversions as a result of adding reviews to their sites, 21% reported an 11% to 20% increase and 5% reported a 1% to 10% increase. And you won’t just be driving online sales/conversions. For every dollar spent online, at least $1.70 is spent offline after doing online research. (source:Bazaarvoice)

2. Reviews reduce product returns: Whether you sell online or offline or both, reducing product return rates is an imperative goal for any businesses. Customer reviews is one of the most effective tactic to do so by accurately setting expectations. By allowing reviews, customers can make better purchasing decisions since they get a clear picture of what product within your portfolio addresses their needs. As a result, you will drive higher levels of customer satisfaction, which will lead to more positive online reviews.

Leveraging reviews is also an effective way to decrease calls/emails to your customer service team as reviews might answer potential questions from your prospective customers.

3. Reviews improve products/services: Customer reviews provide valuable customer feedback and supplement your market research efforts. Negative reviews for your product or complaints about your services point out areas of improvements and can help you drive improvements in products/services you offer based on first-hand customer input.

4. Reviews enhance your brand and products’ search engine visibility: Reviews provide large volumes of unique, fresh and dynamic content that is full of relevant keywords. These elements help improve your website’s ranking in natural search results allowing consumers to find your website more frequently.

Online research is a key component to today’s consumers shopping behavior and whether you like it or not conversations around your brands and products are influencing purchasing decisions. By allowing consumers to share their opinions with others, you will not only show your customers that you care about their feedback but also improve your bottom line.

February 2, 2011

How to post targeted messages on Facebook

In November, I made a post highlighting some of the Facebook Page functionalities that are not widely utilized by marketers. Today, I want to give you more details on the “Custom Message” feature as it provides brands with the ability to communicate relevant, targeted messages with fans.

Facebook allows Page admins to customize messages through Wall Posts and Updates based on fans’ geographic and/or demographic information. This feature is particularly valuable for national or regional brands that communicate the following types of content to their audiences:

•    promotion of events to fans in targeted locations
•    announcement of store openings or new retail partners to fans, only in relevant markets
•    promotional messages with market-specific pricing and/or offers
•    promotional messages tailored to female or male only, and/or or certain age group
•    messages/updates that need to be communicated in multiple languages

Here are two ways to target your content to your fans:

1)    Customizing wall posts: Wall posts can be targeted based on A) geography (country/state/city) and/or or B) language. Please note that By State and By City options will appear when you type your country of choice in the Location field. Once you select targeted criteria, your wall post will only be visible to the selected group of fans. See the screenshots below for the placement of the feature and how to update it based on Location and Language.

2)    Targeting Updates: Updates are messages from Pages and stored in fans’ message box.  The visibility of Updates is much lower than Wall posts. However, some marketers recently reported higher clickthrough rates on Updates because of the recent design change of Facebook inbox.  Compared to the wall post custom feature, the Updates functionality provides more targeting options. In addition to geography, admins can target messages based on gender and/or age. Your Update will only go to those who fit your selection criteria.

One important thing to keep in mind that with these features, you won’t be able to reach those fans who have not included their geographic or demographic information on their Facebook profiles.

January 16, 2011

4 key digital marketing strategies for 2011

I believe digital marketers should focus on a few key areas in 2011 to gain a competitive advantage, make marketing and advertising budgets work harder and keep up with the ever-changing landscape of digital technologies and channels.

1) Set aside budget to test unproven/emerging channels and tactics

Mobile technologies and location-based services (LBS) such as Foursquare might have been the hottest topics last year but they are still in their infancy and don’t reach a large audience. According to Forrester Research, only 4% of US online adults have ever used location-based services, with only 1% using them more than once a week. 17% of Americans own a smart phone and just 1% of mobile phone owners have used a QR (Quick Response) code scanner in the past three months (source: Forrester Research).

While you cannot expect to reach a critical mass with these unproven channels/technologies, now is a great time to experiment and integrate these technologies in your marketing plan. By doing so, you will gain a competitive advantage and reach an influential audience (LBS users are more likely to write/read reviews and share their opinions with others). I suggest that you allocate 10-15% of your marketing budget for testing to establish initial benchmark metrics and data. Furthermore, learnings from test campaigns will allow you to understand the value of these channels for your business and make your case for a larger budget for 2012 as the adoption of these technologies and products continues to grow significantly.

2) Refocus on proven channels to make them work harder

There is no question that proven tactics such as SEO, paid search and email marketing will continue to make up a big portion of your budget in 2011. Although the positive outlook for the economy and consumer spending patterns might have generated a larger digital marketing budget for some of you, “efficiency” will still be the key theme in 2011. Marketers can get more out of their budgets and achieve efficiencies by executing following tactics: 

  • Develop synergies among channels: Start with a few key channels to develop integrated, efficient digital marketing programs – e.g., integration of content across social media and email marketing, and the development of more targeted display ads based on search behavior data.
  • Deploy testing scenarios to enhance the performance of your paid search and email marketing programs, which in turn will bring more leads and revenue. You will be surprised to find out that even small changes (e.g, changing the color or the text of a call-to-action button, testing different headlines on landing pages) can improve your key metrics considerably.

3) Decentralize social media across departments and measure beyond engagement metrics:

In the past few years, social media might have been mostly a function of your digital marketing and PR departments; however, almost all departments in your organization – from sales, customer service/support, event marketing and HR to product development, can leverage social media to support company objectives. As digital marketers are at the forefront of emerging and social media technologies, they can serve as the centralized resource to educate and support business units at companies. So with the support of your digital marketing team (and possibly PR team), empower employees across your organization to use social media.

In 2010, marketers continued to struggle to measure and show the ROI of social media. Because of lack of defined business objective/purpose, most companies are still not able to look beyond engagement metrics (number of followers, comments, fans, reviews etc.).  In 2011, I encourage companies to review existing social media efforts/metrics to make sure they are aligned with business metrics. In order to evaluate benefits of your initiatives, use Forrester’s social media marketing balanced scorecard focusing on metrics from four perspectives; financial, brand, risk management and digital. Also, check my previous blog posts that outline social media analytics based on social media objectives.

4) Apply advanced strategies for smarter display advertising

2010 was an interesting year for display advertising. As an advertiser, you finally have opportunities to buy online media based on consumer behavior – from remarketing to audience targeting and real-time bidding. 2011 is the year to improve the performance of your display media buy by taking advantages of new technologies and available consumer data. Rethink and advance your media strategy by;

  • focusing on  buying specific audiences rather than buying sites;
  • leveraging Ad Exchanges that bring advertisers transparency and efficiency in an auction-based model and deliver greater optimization opportunities by allowing you to cherry-pick impressions based on their value; and 
  • working with specialized demand side platforms (DSPs) such as Chango and Magnetic for search, Blue Akai for purchase-intent and 33Across and Media6degrees for social remarketing

I believe the above key strategies will help your company be wiser and more efficient in 2011.  What are some key strategies you plan to execute in 2011?

I hope you will find this post helpful, and I welcome your feedback.

December 20, 2010

Are you taking advantage of the Keyword Tool from Google?

Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite tools – Google’s Keyword Tool. Whether I am working on an SEO project, building a keyword list for a paid search campaign or working with a client to improve their local listing results, the tool helps me make strategic, data-informed decisions every day.

The free keyword tool provides keyword ideas based on actual Google search queries. It allows you to build extensive, relevant keyword lists by simply entering either a word or a phrase or a URL of a website/page in the interface. For example, if you put “office supplies” in the word or phrase text box (see the below screenshot), the tool returns the following list of keywords based on relevance (relevance is the default option). In addition to relevance, you can sort keywords by search volume (popularity), competition and CPC (cost per click) and filter out any irrelevant keyword categories.

In this example, "reliable office supplies" is almost as popular as "cheap or discount office supplies". So incorporating "reliable office supplies" into your content and your headline can be an effective way to drive qualified traffic. 

The tool is built as part of the Google Adwords platform to support paid search marketing specialists; however, interactive copywriters, SEO strategists, Public Relations specialists and even traditional copywriters can greatly benefit from it as well.

Regardless of your task (e.g, building a keyword list for your PPC campaign, writing content for a web page, putting  a press release together), start your project by performing keyword research. Use this tool is to determine what keywords and exact phrases people use when they look for information on a certain product or topic. And determine what variations of keywords are popular and relevant that can be used throughout your content, headline and meta tags. Remember optimizing your content with the most popular keyword(s) might not always be the best solution. It is harder for you to build visibility in search engines with the most popular keywords since it is difficult to compete with websites that already have achieved authority for those keywords. So do take time to analyze long tail keywords (keywords that are niche and less competitive).

Use case
SEO specialist
Use targeted keywords in meta tags including page title, description and keywords tags and make your content keyword-rich by including selected  keywords throughout your content

For YouTube videos, use the YouTube keyword tool to determine the most popular video queries. Incorporate targeted keywords in the title of your video, your video tags and description

Higher visibility on Google, Bing and Yahoo! Search

Higher visibility on YouTube.com
PR specialist
Place targeted keywords into your headlines and throughout your press releases

Higher visibility on Google and other news search sites
Creative Copywriter
If you are working on an ad or a direct mail piece, use this tool to understand search patterns around a topic and utilize popular keywords in your ad copy so that your ad may resonate with consumers better

Ads that are working harder to generate responses
Small business owner with Google Places Profile
Make your categories and your business description keyword-rich by including targeted, popular keywords
For more details, see my post about Google Places

Higher visibility on local search results
PPC specialist
Use this tool to generate keyword ideas, review traffic estimations, determine budget/CPC, understand competition and find long-tail keywords and potential negative keywords

More efficient paid search campaigns by including more targeted keywords and excluding irrelevant keywords

You can access the tool from https://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal. By performing keyword research and optimizing your content/video or building your paid search campaign accordingly, you can gain a competitive advantage and increase your search visibility, which in turn will increase your brand awareness and deliver more qualified leads.

November 30, 2010

Framework for developing a social media strategy - A summary

Developing a social media strategy for your organization can be an overwhelming task. As a small/medium business owner or a marketing professional seeking upper-level management buy-in, and successful implementation, you need to map out a clear and concise plan. The plan should do a great job outlining your vision for your company’s presence in the social media space overall and include the following components in detail:

•    how your objective can be achieved (strategy)
•    how your company can benefit from applying a specific strategy (what it means to your company)
•    technical, staffing and training needs (requirements)
•    metrics to measure/track for success

To help marketers develop their own social media plan in a systematic way, I developed a framework addressing all of the above components. The framework is based on the five social media objectives outlined in Groundswell, a must-read book written by Charlene Lei and Josh Bernoff: listening, talking, supporting, energizing and embracing. These are the most common objectives that are pursued by most of the companies today.

Over the past few months, I have covered these five media objectives in three blog posts. In this post, I have brought them all together as an executive summary and for easy access. I suggest that you go through all of them first before you start mapping out your plan so that you have a clear picture of what it takes to accomplish each objective and how you need to prioritize them.

1) Listening: Listening is the first step and the most important one in building your social media strategy.  It can support various business units at your organization from corporate communications to customer support/service and product development.  Data you collect through listening is a gold mine and that data will help inform your overarching social media plan. In addition to the components of a plan that I mentioned above (strategy, requirements, benefits and metrics), the post outlines an approach to keywords for monitoring/listening as well as frequency of reporting.

2) Talking: In order to create a dialogue with your customers and to spread the message about your product/service through social media, you need to start “talking” while listening.  It is critical that you first understand where your customers talk about your products/services and how they participate in social media activities. This post talks about how you can compile that type of data and three steps involved in building your “talking” strategy.

3) Supporting, energizing and embracing: Pursing energizing, supporting or embracing as an objective can make a powerful impact on your company. However, planning and executing those goals are usually more challenging than that of “listening” and “talking”. Read this post to learn about what each objective means and channels that you can leverage to pursue those goals.

I also developed the below chart to give you a high level view of channels that can be explored to achieve any of the objectives. Note that listening is placed separately on the side from all the other objectives since it should be the first step in developing your strategy and the knowledge and the insight you gained from listening will feed into and inform your other goals.

Social media objectives identified by Groundswell

I welcome your feedback and would love to hear if you’ve used the framework described on this blog to build your overarching social media plan or to execute one or two objectives. What were some of the obstacles you ran into? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section of this blog.

November 16, 2010

4 ways to boost your Facebook presence

Recently, I conducted an analysis to develop a roadmap for companies to build a successful Facebook presence. I was surprised to find out that a lot of companies don’t take advantage of some of the Facebook page functionalities and third-party applications that are very easy and relatively inexpensive to implement.

Below are some of those observations/best practices that you can easily apply to enhance your Facebook page.

1) Enlarge your profile picture to create a more powerful brand connection (and leverage the thumbnail version of your image): Use your profile picture to maximize your brand exposure. The size of the profile picture on your page can be as large as 180x540 pixels. Although, I don’t suggest that you make it that large, you can certainly create a powerful image within more reasonable sizes. Anthropologie does a great job utilizing this feature and in fact, they change up the image very frequently showcasing different products.

Some companies might be aware of this feature but choose not to use it because of the fear that Facebook will randomly crop the profile image to create a small version of it to be used around the site. However, Facebook allows you to decide what part of your profile picture serves as the thumbnail version of your profile picture by simply dragging the image. The thumbnail version is used around the site such as on users’ feeds. For example, Gap's logo is built into their profile picture and they use the logo part of the profile picture to serve as the thumbnail image to be used throughout the site.

To adjust/edit the thumbnail version of your image, mouse over your profile image and click on the pencil icon next to "Change Picture". From the drop down menu, pick "Edit Thumbnail" and drag the image to adjust.

2) Integrate your existing social media channels into your Facebook page: Companies like Involver, TabFusion and NorthSocial offer a wide range of options that can help you enhance your presence as well as grow your fan base on Facebook.

For example, free apps from Involver are an easy, simple way to incorporate other social media channels into your Facebook presence. Your YouTube videos, Twitter feed, Flickr photos and RSS feed of your blog posts, each can be under a dedicated tab on your Facebook Page. (note that they only allow 2 apps for free and there are some limitations regarding frequency of the updates etc.). Below is Jay-Z’s YouTube tab powered by Involver.

3)  Drive engagement and grow your fan base through coupons: According to a recent survey conducted by Exact Target, discounts are the primary reason consumers "Like" brands on Facebook and nearly 40% of Facebook users who become fans do so to receive discounts and promotions. With third-party apps like the Coupon Pro App by Involver, you can easily add coupons to your Facebook wall or in a dedicated custom tab. Coupons are printable and shareable, and you have an option to give access only to fans. By doing it so, you can encourage non-fans to become fans and reward existing fans. See the screenshots of the Overstock.com Facebook coupon tab before and after you “Like” the Page.  Note, the Coupon tab is the default landing page for non-fans.


4) Post relevant updates to your wall with the “Custom Message” feature: This is a great feature for international and national brands talking to their consumers in multiple languages. With this functionality, you can target your messages to a specific geographic audience in appropriate language.

By applying these simple best practices, you can give your brand a competitive advantage and build more engaging community for your fans.