The 12 Things I Learned From Blogging

‘Tis the season for sharing! Ten weeks ago I became an official blogger and I want to share with you my key takeaways from this experience.  Who knew that taking on the media revolution would be this challenging!  Blogging has been quite the journey as the weekly task of even coming up with a topic was often painful, but overall it’s been a great learning experience.

  1. Be focused – Before beginning your blog, outline your objective(s).  If you don’t have a purpose or a goal, blog topics can be about almost anything.  In the long-run, it will be a challenge to create a loyal following with posts that aren’t focused and all over the place.
  2. Identify your target audience – Write for who you are trying to speak to, but realize that in today’s social media world it will likely reach a much broader audience.  A blog must target your main audience, but be written in a way that ANYONE can understand.
  3. Develop a plan – Before blogging, create a plan for content.  It doesn’t mean that the content can’t change as a new idea comes to mind.  This will keep you on track for those times when you’re facing writer’s block and really just want to go to bed.
  4. Develop a schedule – Blogs should be written at least once a week and at the same time every week.  Experiment and find out what times drive the highest viewership and engagement. 
  5. Be flexible – What if a current event triggers an amazing idea for a post?  Write about it.  Maybe it’s not your regularly scheduled day for posting, but it’s the only day that makes sense given the event.   A plan and schedule are intact to help make the process easier for the writer and the experience consistent for the writer, but that doesn’t mean that the blog can’t change sometimes.
  6. Keep it concise – It’s not about length, it’s about sharing a clear message that readers can comprehend and take away with them easily.
  7. Review, review, review – We live in a world today, where your blog could be shared with anyone in the world.  Make sure your blog represents you, and how you want others to perceive you.  Reviewing doesn’t have to happen only prior to publishing a post.  Keep on revising as you see fit.
  8. Make the time or hire someone – Blogging is a time consuming task.  Before taking on the task, identify if you have the time to fully commit to both researching content the blog and writing it.  If you’re in a corporate function and don’t have the time to dedicate, hire someone to do it.  Your blog is only as good as what you put into it – and that takes time.
  9. Share your blog – No one can read your blog, if you don’t share it.  Determine what channels work best for you.  Try posting across social media sites.  Send an email to your contacts.  Comment on others blog posts.  Find other communications to incorporate the link to your blog.
  10. Tag your blog – In order for readers to navigate your blog easily, tag each post with keywords.  This will also help optimize search engine results.
  11. Test and learn – Experiment with different ways to share your blog and different tags.  See what time works best to share your blog with others.  Check your stats frequently to gain insight on what’s working and refine as you learn.
  12. And most importantly, have fun with it!

Happy Holidays, Happy New Year, and Happy Blogging!

 Blogging

http://www.campaignercrm.com/en/community/blog/crm/post/10-best-practices-for-corporate-blogging/

http://socialmediatoday.com/hishaman/1545026/how-to-blog

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What Social Media Sites Don’t Tell You

Have you ever been on Facebook and wondered why there were so many ads listed on the right-hand side that seemed liked they were almost made for you?   Today, marketers are collecting information from social media sites about user’s behaviors, their usage patterns and their location.  The data is then often used to segment consumers based upon patterns.  And what’s even more surprising is that users are giving marketer’s permission to access this information, however many didn’t realize they gave permission.

The underlying problem is that consumers don’t fully understand what social media sites are collecting and any disclaimers that might be associated with using them and social media platforms aren’t very transparent about sharing this information.

Pinterest

For instance, did you know that if you pin a photo on Pinterest that it’s the user’s responsibility to receive permission to pin that photo from the particular site?  The only way to pin a picture without violating the site’s terms of service and the picture owner’s copyright is to only pin pictures that you’ve taken yourself.  And did you know that if you ‘like’ a Facebook page about a health condition or treatment, an insurer might use this information against you?

While social media continues to grow in popularity, there is need for more transparency.  Marketers should be more forthright with consumers about how their interaction with social media is really being used.  While guidelines are currently being explored among agencies to monitor these sites, it should be the marketer’s responsibility to incorporate ethical measures upfront to ensure that consumers are well informed and well educated.  This will enable marketers to drive the change before agencies get too involved.  As a result, the media revolution will be one that all parties can feel good about.

http://mashable.com/2012/03/21/pinterest-copyright-legal-issues/

http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/consumer-reports-facebook-privacy-problems-are-rise-749990

Think Twice About Cutting your Search Budget

search

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) was foreign to me until a year ago.  We used it at work often; however I never truly understood all of the benefits it offered until recently.

So what is it? It’s Internet marketing at its finest.  Marketers can target consumers through natural search engine result page listings and paid advertising placement. When consumers seek out information, the results page shows websites that link to their search terms.

When paired with search engine optimization, which utilizes free techniques to refine website content in order to achieve a higher ranking in search engine results, marketers can pull together high quality metrics to evaluate campaigns.  These metrics offer many benefits, including:

  • Better understanding of customer behavior
  • Precise tracking of the effectiveness of specific ad campaigns
  • Positive cultural change to making decisions based upon factual data

And most importantly, it provides the ROI on a campaign so marketers know whether they should invest in a similar campaign in the future, or make tweaks based upon key learnings.

To check out some of the other benefits of search engine marketing, check out the video below.  When utilized with other new emerging media like social media, search engine marketing can be even more powerful.  It may not be perceived as ‘sexy’ as social media, but this video may convince you otherwise.

Many mediums don’t allow for this detailed type of measurement, which makes search engine marketing even more valuable.  When budgets are tight, utilizing search engine marketing with web analytics actually helps marketers to spend their budget more wisely.  While the budget may be more flexible than other mediums, search can help to identify whether it makes sense to focus on new areas for a campaign prior to spending more money on other mediums.  And the metrics can be delivered fast!

All in all, search engine marketing is here to stay and will only become more valuable as mobile marketing becomes more main stream.  Marketers need to join the media revolution and explore search engine marketing, optimize it, and use it in conjunction with other marketing efforts in order to maximize their campaign budgets.

Just because you can post it on Twitter, doesn’t mean it’s right

cartoon

Did you know that Adrian Peterson is the #1 most discussed NFL Fantasy Football Player for 2013?  And did you know that more than 61% of all public fantasy football conversation captured in a recent BrandWatch analysis took place on Twitter; while 18% of discussion took place on Facebook?  As someone who loves fantasy football, this doesn’t surprise me.  The inventor of fantasy football was innovative, and the marketers who’ve taken it to the next level are brilliant.  However, as more consumers play and more consumers talk about playing, the usage of social media platforms to facilitate these conversations have become more popular than ever.  Twitter has become the platform of choice for these conversations, likely because of the constant change taking place during the games.  Twitter offers immediacy and allows consumers to post about games and/or their fantasy football players at any time.  This is also true for marketers who are sharing news on the sport such as scores and stats.

Frequency of Player Mentions in Relation to Fantasy Football

fantasy football

While I’m a big fan of fantasy football and Twitter, I’m not a fan of the combination of the two together.  Over the past couple of years, Twitter feeds around fantasy football have brought out many negative aspects around using this social media platform to engage with consumers.  For example, Ray Rice the running back of the Baltimore Ravens was hurt during a game in early September 2013 and received multiple Tweets from fantasy football players about how he ruined their fantasy football game due to his low fantasy football score from leaving the game early.  In this situation, Ray Rice is a brand, a brand that didn’t even initiate a conversation, although receives both positive and negative feedback, due to a circumstance he had no control over.

With Twitter, there’s limited control over the conversation.  It’s no wonder the usage of Twitter is moving more towards sharing news rather than engaging consumers in conversation. If Twitter moved towards a model of solely sharing news rather than engagement, brands, athletes and people wouldn’t need to worry about not being able to control a discussion when receiving negative feedback.

Social media platforms are great for engaging in conversation with consumers.  However, when the lead to petty conversations like negative commentary about an athlete’s performance, I question whether Twitter is the right platform for engagement.  As we take on the media revolution, we must adapt our usage of social media platforms to leverage the strengths these platforms offer.  Or maybe we just need to start mandating social media etiquette classes in schools and in the workplace?

http://www.brandwatch.com/2013/09/social-media-predicts-top-fantasy-football-picks-for-2013/

‘Unofficial’ blogs, a win-win

comic

Search ‘creating an unofficial blog’ in Google and see the number of unofficial blogs that appear.  It’s amazing how many unofficial blogs are out there, and that doesn’t even account for the number of company sponsored blogs that exist.  Top brands such as Starbucks, Target, and Amazon have unofficial company blogs. For every company-sponsored blog, there seems to be several unofficial company blogs covering various topics around a brand.

So why should brands embrace these unofficial company blogs?  Well first of all, consumers embrace these unofficial company blogs.  In some circumstances, they may not even realize that they’re unofficial, and in other circumstances, they may not even care that they’re unofficial.  These types of blogs are viewed as coming from real people and as a result consumers are more likely to trust and engage with real people compared to brand marketers.  While consumers may not be engaging with your brand under your control, they’re still engaging with your brand.  And what they say about your brand is the perceived truth to consumers, regardless of whether or not marketers agree with it. Ultimately, unofficial bloggers drive brand consideration and brand engagement among consumers – and best of all – it’s free!  Now, it’s up to us to offer positive experiences for consumers so positive word of mouth spreads.

How can we insure consumers have positive experiences with our brands?  Well one way is to listen to consumers and make improvements based upon their feedback. This can be done through an unofficial company blogs.  Since these blogs enable consumers to share both positive and negative experiences, blogs are a great resource for customer learning.  Marketers can learn what consumers think about the brand, including opportunity areas for improvement as well as strengths.  This can be used as directional insight and also may offer new ideas for the brand to explore.  Brands can use this feedback to drive innovation, improve product development, develop communications, and improve service.  And did I mention that it’s free!

Unofficial blogs have a lot of potential to offer for the brands, as long as the feedback is positive.  As marketers, we may not have direct control over the unofficial company blog, but we do have the ability to impact the consumer experience with the brand and this will ultimately drive positive word of mouth.  We must embrace blogs as we conquer the media revolution as they’re a win-win for both brand marketers and the consumer.

Go viral, or go home

Have you ever seen a branded short film before?  You probably have, but may have not known it was a short film.  A branded short film is defined as any film that is less than forty-five minutes in length and is used for commercial purposes and entertainment – and is easily accessible.  Some of my favorites are BMW’s Bullet, Prada’s Therapy, and Burberry’s Kisses.  So what makes these films successful?  Well there are 5 key qualities a short film must have in order to achieve the ultimate end goal – to become viral.  The film must be:

  1. Focused, specific, and get straight to the point
  2. Fresh, pique our interest, and offer a surprise or two
  3. Conflicting.  Some type of conflict must occur over a key issue
  4. Engaging.  It must feel like a story similar to a film over an ad
  5. Structured.  It needs a beginning, middle and end

Before creating the short film, there is one critical step that a brand should take. First and foremost, marketers must plan the short film upfront building off of a key insight.  The brand must identify a strong insight to help form a story around.  If the key insight requires a solution, the brand must deliver the benefit by showing consumers the benefit versus telling consumers benefit. While it saddens me to show another appliance brand’s short film, I can’t help but highlight Samsung’s ‘Huge Bear Surprises’ as an engaging film that was created based upon a key insight.  The key insight here is that there is a perception among consumers that you can’t get clothes clean using a cold cycle.  To watch Samsung’s clever take on changing this perception among consumers, watch the video below.

Samsung’s storytelling in this film hits on the 5 key qualities too – it’s focused, fresh, conflicting, engaging, and structured.

 

If you want to jump on the media revolution, branded short films are worth exploring.  They can be leveraged across multiple channels including social media sites like You Tube and Facebook.  To be successful, a short film must be built off a key insight, tell a story and deliver on the 5 key qualities. This will lead to achieving the ultimate goal of going viral.

Maximizing Your Assets

piggy bank

Today, there are so many ways to advertise to consumers over the internet.  In some cases, it’s a marketers dream having so many options at our fingertips.  In other cases, this can be challenging to determine which media to use for advertising and what makes sense from a cost perspective.

Thankfully, there is an option out there that will allow marketers to get their feet wet and leverage more online media mediums than they may have though initially.  It’s all about maximizing digital assets.  Marketers can reuse content in different contexts and mediums.  This offers a few benefits such as:

  • A consistent look and feel
  • Broader reach
  • A consistent message
  • Cost-efficiencies

Let’s say a brand created a new consumer testimonial to be used on its website to inform consumers about a new product and its benefits.  That same testimonial could then be used in a variety of ways.  It could be used on social media outlets like You Tube and Twitter.  Marketers could also leverage it for banner ad video or flash layover allowing consumers to be exposed to the video, and then they can check out more by clicking the link.  There’s even potential to use it in mobile media, in an email or an e-newsletter for a brand, or even in-store.  The key is to plan upfront when developing content to ensure that you’re exploring all of the potential mediums you may want to use and then ensuring that you have enough coverage to be able to customize the creative assets across media.  One asset can go really go a long way.

In a world today where there are so many new emerging media options in front of us, it’s critical that marketers maximize their creative assets.  While it offers us more bang for our buck, it also gives us the opportunity to test new media that we may have not had the opportunity to test otherwise.  This allows marketers to be leaders of the media revolution, not followers.

Completing a full 360 brings success, whether you’re on or off a bike

In today’s society, it is critical for brands to deliver a fully integrated 360 program where each touch point along the continuum is executed flawlessly. Offering a strong website is not enough. Consumer experiences go beyond just their interaction with the website.  Brands must make sure that the elements incorporated into the website align with all other consumer experiences from pre-purchase to post-purchase.  If all experiences aren’t integrated and well executed, then brands run the risk of negative word of mouth and loss of customers.  Due to emerging media, one bad experience regardless of the consumer touch point can now be shared with many consumers.   As a result, creating positive experiences for consumers at all touch points is more important than its ever been.

One brand that is successfully executing at all touch points and offers a fully integrated 360 program is Flywheel Sports.  For those of you who are not familiar with Flywheel, it’s a fairly new brand that opened its first location in NYC in 2010.  It’s a company that offers competitive indoor cycling and barre classes.  I go to the one in Charlotte, NC and love it!  While the classes provide a constant challenge, they also offer an enjoyable experience – and that enjoyable experience is offered in every interaction with the brand, from pre-purchase to post-purchase.  Check out the video below to experience flywheel’s full 360 integration.

Here’s how Flywheel integrates its website with other consumer touch points along the 360 continuum:

  • Pre-purchase – On Flywheel’s website, consumers are able to view the class schedule and learn more about the instructors.  Beyond the website, Flywheel engages consumers in weekly emails informing them of events and when the new schedule is available for reservations.  In addition, Flywheel offers an interactive experience with its consumers on its Twitter and Facebook pages.
  • At- purchase – They go beyond just offering a website like many other fitness companies.  They also offer an e-commerce website where consumers can purchase credits for class.  Furthermore, consumers can reserve a specific bike for a class to ensure they don’t have to get their extra early to find a spot (like many other spin classes) as well as cancel a class – all online.  And it can be done on a laptop, tablet, or Smartphone.  When consumers get to class, they check in online to confirm their reservation.  During the actual class, consumers can see their results on their bike, and on a large TV screen that everyone in class can see if desired.  This links to the post-purchase experience.
  • Post-Purchase – Flywheel keeps its customers engaged.  After a ride, you can access the website to see your results for a class.  In addition, you can view how your results compare to others in your region.  And to take customer loyalty one step further, they offer a monthly incentive for reaching a specified goal and let you know where you stand towards achieving that goal throughout the month.

Flywheel is one company that executes a 360 integrated experience with consumers that goes beyond just the website.  They have embraced the media revolution and incorporated emerging media into their consumer experience.  It’s exciting to see brands take it to the next level, and coincidentally challenge other competitors to be better, which in return challenges them even further.  One can only imagine the consumer experiences with emerging media that will be offered years from now.

What other brands today execute a 360 experience flawlessly at all touch points and integrate emerging media?

Don’t miss the boat

By 2050, the U.S. will be a minority majority country.  According to Pew Research Center, non-Hispanics will comprise less than half of the U.S. population.   Today, minorities make up 37% of the population and minority newborns already make up the majority of newborns being born today.  That said, there will be a large shift in our demographic and cultural makeup over the next couple of decades.  Check out PBS’s video below to hear more details on this evolution.

What does this mean?  The marketing strategies that many brands have in place today will not be enough.  Brands will need to evolve.   It’s no longer a world where conducting research with just the general market will be sufficient.  As minority groups grow in size, the need for consumer insights across each of these segments will be critical in understanding and defining target audiences.  If brands continue to do what they’re doing today, they may miss the boat.  Brands don’t want to be playing catch-up when their competitors are already creating relationships with these segments and turning them into brand loyal customers.

With the emerging media that is available today, brands have even more opportunity to capture the hearts and wallets of minority segments because their online habits are changing and their usage is increasing.  For instance, Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of online consumers.  They are also early adopters, are more likely to use a wide range of devices to access the internet, and they crave interaction with others through online communications.   African Americans are highly engaged and place a high importance around using mobile phones, while Asian Americans over index on their technology usage.  If brands can do their homework and truly understand their target minority segments and then marry that with emerging media, it will be a recipe for success.   This is where the media revolution and demographic revolution meet. 

 

What do emerging media and football have in common?

Emerging media defined

Emerging media is not like the traditional media that many of us grew up with like television, print and radio.  It includes newer and what many may deem ‘cooler’ forms of media such as blogging and social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and YouTube).  Emerging media differs from traditional forms of media in who it’s delivered to, when it’s delivered, where it’s delivered, how it’s delivered and why it’s delivered.

Who – More individuals can receive the communication than traditional media, and have the ability to provide feedback on the communication.

When – Media is delivered in real-time and on-demand. A brand can deliver it whenever they want.  A consumer can choose when they want to receive it.

Where – Emerging media communications can be delivered anywhere – it’s not limited to specific geographies, it offers global reach. Believe it or not, 32% of consumers age 18 – 24 are even social networking in the bathroom!  (Nielsen Social Media Report).

How – It can be delivered and accessed using multiple tools – computers, tablets, mobile phones, internet-enabled TV, gaming consoles, and handheld music players.

Why – It should be used when a brand wants to develop a relationship with consumers, by creating awareness and promoting and facilitating word of mouth.

Why emerging media matters

Emerging media allows us to engage consumers in ways that we’ve never been able to before.  It has created an opportunity for brands to develop and build relationships that are much more personalized and interactive than traditional forms of media.  Emerging media allows brands to create and engage in conversations with consumers, inspire sharing, redirect negative comments towards brands, and drive brand recommendations.  As a result, emerging media is directly linked to changes in brand perception and sales.

And the most important thing to keep in mind about emerging media is that what we define as emerging media today will be something very different in the future.  Check out Corning’s video on the future of glass below.  It’s amazing to see the range of possibilities around how we may communicate and interact with media in the future as well as all of the different tools that may be utilized to help facilitate communication.  Can you imagine living in a world like this?

How we interact with emerging media today

If you take a step back and think of how we engage with emerging media on a daily basis, it’s very different than it was even a few years ago.  Today, we are more connected to the internet than ever before, and we’re spending longer hours on the internet than ever before.  It’s not just for conversation and networking anymore.  We’re using social networking sites and blogs throughout the entire consumer shopping process from researching, sharing discounts and coupons, to buying, providing rating and reviews, and solving customer service issues.  Plus, we’re multitasking while we use all of these different types of emerging media.  According to a Nielsen survey, 41% percent of tablet owners and 38 percent of Smartphone owners use their device while they’re in front of the TV.

I’ll provide an example of multitasking using emerging media that many (including myself) frequently engage in on Sundays.  I’m a big Buffalo Bills fan, and I watch the game every Sunday at home or I watch the game play-by-play in real-time on NFL.com when they’re not on TV or if I’m on a plane or out of the country.  During the game, I will also sign on to Facebook and Twitter, where I can always count on my social networking friends to post about how the Bills are playing and then I can engage in conversations with them. At the same time, I will play my favorite game (as well as many others), fantasy football , which may or may not change my mood depending on whether the Bills and/or my fantasy football team are winning (Fantasy Football Madness).  And when the Bills are winning, I may research new apparel and at least keep it in my shopping cart until I talk myself in or out of it buying it over the next week.

However, in the future, I could undergo a virtual experience where I attend the game virtually, find a shirt in the stands that I like, select it virtually, customize it online, try it on virtually, and then share it to get feedback – all before purchasing.

Engaging in all of these different types of emerging media at the same time, in real-time, from anywhere was not possible just a few years ago. The way we engage with media is changing.  A few years from now we will likely be blogging about many different experiences with media.  It’s a revolution – a media revolution.