Monday, March 24, 2014

The YouTube Blindspot: What Brands Like Dove Miss, But GoPRO Gets

 By Brendan Gahan
Earlier this month YouTube released the newest edition of its creator playbook for brands, the document which YouTube regularly releases to help inform creators about the best practices for how to be effective. Notably, this new version reflects YouTube’s evolving understanding of itself as a social network, heavily emphasizing the role of subscribers and community-building.

The problem is, most brands and digital marketers still don’t understand that YouTube is a social network, and thus fail to fully engage their audiences.

So why does this blindspot exist? Older demographics (i.e., those most likely to be marketers) tend to use Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, while younger users are preferring to use YouTube. As a result the voice in any boardroom is unlikely to truly be aligned with, or understand the nuances of user behaviors. Furthermore, for years the platform has been perceived through the lens of its role as serving viral content, and this narrative has dominated the industry.

Many brands wrongly focus on creating blockbuster viral hits instead of applying the same incremental, engagement strategy that they use Facebook and Twitter. This intersection of lack of use and perceived role of the platform has left marketers lagging behind independent content creators.

As I’ve outlined in the past, YouTube has a number of social media features, just like Twitter or Facebook. More importantly, the nature of the interaction between creators and subscribers on YouTube can lead to far deeper engagement than between “followers” and the followed.

A great example of this is the missed opportunities to engage the YouTube audience is Dove. It’s clear when looking at their Facebook or Twitter that responding and interacting with their community is a priority for the brand. They take the time to interact with thousands of comments and questions from customers. But on YouTube, with the launch of their Dove Real Beauty Sketches, the brand landed a themselves a viral hit, generating tens of millions of views, tons of press and blog pick ups and thousands of comments.

If Dove values interaction with its community, as reflected by its investment to do so on Facebook and Twitter, why not on YouTube as well where they received over 17,000 comments, many of which were incredibly thoughtful and articulate. But given current priorities, these are ignored.

It’s strange.

Commenting, a staple within any social network, has become a huge priority for the YouTube platform. Taking a page from Facebook’s policy, YouTube has pushed its users to shed their anonymity and use real names. The site has also rolled out a feature called Top Fans, “a set of tools to help YouTube creators identify, understand, and interact with their most engaged and influential viewers”—essentially, acting as a hub for influencer identification. In the latest YouTube Brand playbook, YouTube emphasizes how important interacting with these commenters are, noting that “part of what makes YouTube remarkable is that you can converse with your fans in real time.” Also, YouTube has aggregated and centralized comments for turnkey management.

Dove also missed an opportunity, by not incorporating any calls to action to subscribe or in video programming, to leverage the 60 million views it generated to convert viewers to subscribers, which would provide an evergreen distribution platform for all their video content to follow. The subscribe button serves the same purpose as a like or follow, with the homepage feed highlighting the latest subscriber actions such as uploads, updated playlists, comments, likes, etc. According to the YouTube Brand Playbook, subscribers also spend twice as much time watching a brand’s content than non-subscribers.

So who is doing YouTube right? Unlike most brands, which mistakenly perceive YouTube as a passive TV-style viewing experience and/or a place strictly for ‘viral’ videos. GoPro has been one of the few brands to take advantage of the social media features that YouTube provides, and they’ve reaped the benefit. Where Dove generated just over 7,000 subscriptions on their 60 million viewers, GoPro generated 15,000 off its 10 million viewers of the viral hit, Lions – The New Endangered Species.

With over 1.7mm+ subscribers on their main channel, GoPro has developed a built-in community it can engage with and distribute content to. Furthermore, they’ve swelled to the #4 most subscribed brand channel on YouTube, generating nearly half a billion views to date.

While GoPro has hours and hours of entertaining content on their channel, it’s clear that they’re embracing their community and interacting with them in near real time much in the same way most other brands would leverage Facebook or Twitter to respond to consumers evangelizing their brand. A cursory look at their activity feed shows a series of likes and comments across dozens of channels beyond their own.

GoPro has a kind of home court advantage thanks to the fact that the brand is creating a product that consumers are using to create their own YouTube videos—but any brand can take a page out of their playbook for engaging customers on the platform. Inviting community participation is something that I regularly recommend for my own clients. It’s simple enough to apply the same principles and practices of community management on Facebook and Twitter and carry them over to YouTube.

While many marketers and digital thought-leaders should be praised for their innovations in digital—playing an instrumental role in taking brands into the social media space—they’re now faced with the classic innovator’s dilemma (whether they know it or not).

It will be interesting to see how brands and social media agencies adapt to these changing platforms—both YouTube and beyond. As The Innovator’s Dilemma author Clayton Christensen noted, “Disruptive technologies typically enable new markets to emerge.” Will the marketers of today known for their digital innovation adapt or, will a new generation of marketers (myself included) step in to fill the gap? 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Startups Need to Blog (and what to talk about …)

by Mark Suster
(reposted from Techcrunch)

Blogs. We all read them to get a sense of what is going on in the world, peeling back layers of the old world in which media was too scripted.

By definition, if you are reading this you read blogs. But should you actually write one if you’re a startup, an industry figure (lawyer, banker) or VC? Absolutely.

This is a post to help you figure out why you should write and what you should talk about.

1.WhyIf you care about accessing customers, reaching an audience, communicating your vision, influencing people in your industry, marketing your services or just plain engaging in a dialog with others in your industry a blog is a great way to achieve this.

People often ask me why I started blogging. It really started simply enough. I was meeting regularly with entrepreneurs and offering (for better or for worse) advice on how to run a startup and how to raise venture capital from my experience in doing so at two companies. I was having the same conversations over-and-over again (JFDI, Don’t Roll Out the Red Carpet when Employees are on the Way Out the Door, Don’t Drink Your Own Kool Aid, etc) and I figured I might as well just write them up and make them available for future people who might be interested. I never really expected a big audience or ever thought about it.

I had been reading Brad Feld’s blog & Fred Wilson’s blog for a couple of years and found them very helpful to my thinking so I honestly just thought I was giving back to the community.

The results have been both unexpected and astounding. Within 2 years I was getting 400,000 views / month and had been voted the 2nd most respected VC in the country by an independent survey of entrepreneurs, The Funded and sentiment analysis. I know that I have not yet earned these kudos based on investment returns (although my partners have. GRP Partners last fund is the single best performing VC fund in the US (prequin data) for its vintage year). But it speaks volumes to what people want from our industry:
  • transparency
  • accessibility
  • authenticity
  • thought leadership
  • advice
I’ll bet your customers, business partners or suppliers would love similar.
2. What

I often get the question from people, “I’d like to blog, but I don’t really know what to talk about?” Or “I’m a new entrepreneur, why would I offer advice on how to run a startup?”
You wouldn’t. You shouldn’t.

Not only would it be less authentic but if you’re a startup it’s not immediately clear that other startup CEOs are your target market. They’re mine because I’m a VC. I care about having a steady stream of talented startup people who want to raise money thinking that they should talk to me in addition to the top others whom they’re targeting.

Whom do you want to target? Who are your customers, partners or suppliers?

My suggestion is to blog about your industry. Think In their early days they had an enormously effective blog on the topic of personal financial management. They created a reason for their customers to aggregate on their site on a regular basis. They became both a thought leader in the space as well as a beautifully designed product. They created inbound link juice on topics that drove more traffic to their site. Type “personal financial management” into Google. is the second result. Smart.

Think Magento. They are an open-source & SaaS provider of eCommerce solutions. They are the fastest growing player in the world in this space. They achieved all of this before they raised even a penny of venture capital. eCommerce is an enormously competitive search term. Yet type it into Google and the third result (behind the Wikipedia entry and is Magento. Magic. They did it by creating a blog, discussion board and hub for eCommerce advice and information.

So you developed a product for the mommy community? Blog on that topic. Do you have an application that helps mobile developers build HTML5 apps? You know your blog topic. Do you have sales productivity software? Obvious. Check out SalesCrunch posts. Blog to your community. Be a thought leader. Don’t blog to your friend (that might be a separate Tumblog or something) but blog to your community.

If you’re going to pump out regular content that is meaningful, you obviously need to blog about a topic in which you’re knowledgeable, thoughtful and passionate. If you’re not all three of these things in your industry then I guess you’ve got a broader problem. Honestly.

So my biggest recommendation of “what” to blog is a series of articles that will be helpful to your community. If you’re a lawyer, blog on a topic that would be helpful to potential customers. Show that you’re a thought leader. Scott Edward Walker does an excellent job at this. It’s the only reason I know who he is. I had seen his blog & his Tweets and then was interested to meet him IRL.
Do a brainstorming session and create a list of 40-50 topics that interest you. Write out the topic and maybe even the blog title. Keep the list electronically. .

Struggling to come up with enough topics? Take one topic and break it up into 10 bite-sized articles. It’s probably better that way anyways. I wanted to write about the top 10 attributes of an entrepreneur. I wrote it all in one sitting and then broke it up into 10 separate posts. It kept me busy for 3 weeks! Each one ended up taking on a life of its own as the comments flowed in for post 1 I had more thoughts to add to post 2 and so on.

3. Where
You need a blog. Duh. If you’re a company and if hanging it off of your company website makes sense for the link traffic – go for it. If you’re head of marketing at a company and keeping a more generalized blog (in addition to your company blog) so that you can influence brands & agencies – it can be separate.

I chose for my blog to be independent of my firm, GRP Partners.  The reason is that I wanted to be free to say what I was thinking independently of my partners. My views don’t always represent theirs and vice-versa even though we’re pretty like-minded (we’ve worked together for 10+ years).  I chose a title that represented a brand that I wanted to emphasize – Both Sides of the Table. I chose it because I thought it would represent who I am – mostly an entrepreneur but somebody with investment chops. I wanted to differentiate.

So. People keep asking me, “why would you write on TechCrunch?” I guess I would have thought it was obvious. Apparently not. People say, “aren’t you driving traffic away from your own blog?”

  • I don’t really care about total page views or uniques other than as a measure of whether I’m improving. I don’t sell ads.
  • I DO care about “share of mind,” which means that I want fish in the pond where the people whom I want to speak with hang out. I know a certain number hit my blog. But I’m not so arrogant (or successful) as to think they come all the time. So I take my show on the road. If I can write about a topic for which I’m passionate about and double or triple the number of people who read it – that’s gold dust. That’s why I never stopped anybody from taking my feed and republishing.
  • As it happens, since I began writing at TechCrunch my viewership has continued to go up, not down. I always publish on my own blog the day after it runs on TC. I want the historical post there. A large number of readers on my site get it from Feedburner or newsletter feed.
  • I also get a lot of inbound links from writing here. I try to make any inbound links to my blog authentic to the story. But each story has driven 1,000′s of views.
  • The majority of my traffic still comes from Twitter. TC posts = more Twitter followers = more conversion when I do write on my own blog = more Feedburner / newsletter subs = more traffic. It’s an ecosystem. Simple.
So once you have a blog, a voice and a small following – don’t be shy about writing some guest posts for target blogs. Remember – for you that’s likely not TC – it’s the place your community hangs out.

4. How
Be authentic. Don’t try to sound too smart or too funny.  Just be yourself.  People will see who you are in your words.  If you try to make everything too perfect you’ll never hit publish.  If you try to sound too intelligent you’ll likely be boring as shit.  Most blogs are.  I hate reading blow hards who try to sound like they’re smarter than the rest of us. Be open and transparent.  Get inside your reader’s minds.  Try to think about what they would want to know from you.  In fact, ask them!

Don’t be offensive – it’s never worth it to offend great masses of people.  But that doesn’t mean sitting on the fence.  I have a point of view and I’m sure sometimes it rankles.  But I try to be respectful about it.  Sitting on the fence on all issues is also pretty boring.  And don’t blog drunk.  Or at least don’t hit publish ;-) Mostly, have fun.  If you can’t do that you won’t last very long.

How do I get started? First, you’ll need a platform.  I use WordPress.  Some people swear by SquareSpace. There are the new tools like Tumblr and Posterous.  I’ve played with both and they’re pretty cool. They’re more light weight and easier to use. Importantly, they’re more social. It’s much easier to build an audience in social blogging platforms the way you do in Twitter or Facebook.  

Then  you need to decide whether to use the “hosted” version or the “installed” version.  At least that’s true in WordPress.  The advantage of the hosted version is that it’s easier to get started.  The disadvantage is that you can’t install a lot of additional tools that use Javascript. I started with the hosted version and then migrated to an installed version so I could use Google Analytics and some other products.

You then need a URL.  It’s true you can be something like but that’s kind of lame so I wouldn’t recommend it.  Just get a real URL.  I think it’s important to think about what image you want to portray when you pick your URL name.  It doesn’t need to be short.  You’re not trying to build a consumer website.  My website is a pretty long URL but people manage to find it.  Much of my traffic is through referring websites and/or social media. Some search. What are YOU trying to convey?  What will be your unique positioning?  Don’t just write a carbon copy of what somebody else is doing.  That’s boring.

So I wrote a post, now what? Don’t blow your load on your first post.  Slice it up enough to do many posts.  I think most blogs are between 600-1000 words / post.  Once you’re written a few posts don’t try to make the flood gates open at once.  Slowly build your audience.  Make it organic.  If you write good content and consistently you’ll build an audience over time.

The number one thing that kills 95% of blogs is that they do 5 or 6 posts in rapid succession and then peter out. It’s lame to go to a blog where this happens. And then 8 months later they do the obligatory post saying, “OK, I’m going to be more committed to blogging now!” and then another 4 months go by. If you’re really not going to write that often at least don’t put dates on your posts.

But if you write good stuff, but in an effort and keep going – it’s a marathon – you will see results over time.

How do I build an audience? If you build it, will they come? No. A blog post is just like a product. First it needs to be good. And then you need to market it. It doesn’t just happen. You should be subtle about how you market it, but market it nonetheless. If you’re too squeamish to ask for help in promoting it or to do so yourself then you’ll never build an audience (you’ll also likely not make it as an entrepreneur. Sorry. But that’s true.)

The obvious starting point is to email a few friends and let them know you have a new blog.  Don’t be overbearing – just an email saying, “wanted to let you know about my new blog.”  I also recommend you put a link to it under your email signature (in a color other than black).  You also should have it be what your Twitter bio links to.

Every time I write a post I send it out on Twitter.  I try to send out the Twitter link when more people are online.  Over time I’ve found out that I get better clicks at 8.30-9.30am Mon-Fri so that’s when I Tweet a lot of my stuff.  I’ll frequently send two Tweets – East Coast & West Coast. If you want to know why I’ve outlined it here.  Not everybody sees the first one.  Social media is ephemeral.

Because I’ve built my Twitter following slowly but steadily and authentically over time I get very high click-through rates (and thus a high Klout score – currently 74). I get about 4% CTR (click-through rate) on every Tweet in the AM) and it’s actually higher because if I assume only 33% of my followers on online the CTR is closer to 12%.  Interestingly if I had sent one Tweet at 5.30am (to get East Coast time) and another at 8.30am I get 4% CTR both times. So it’s hard to argue you shouldn’t Tweet twice if you have a geographically distributed following.

How do I know my stats? I use (disclosure, I’m an investor) which is the best tool I know of for tracking: each individual share behavior (it creates unique URLs for each Tweet) plus it also separates out Tweets from Facebook shares, from “Retweets” that come from somebody clicking on my blog, etc. It also tracks who Tweeted the link so you will know who your most influential social followers are.

Make sure your blog has Tweetmeme or similar to make it easier for readers to Retweet.  Also, make sure to sign up with Feedburner.  That way people who want to get your blog by RSS and/or email can do so. Make sure your blog also has a Follow Me on Twitter button so people who find you can easily follow you.

5. When
People often ask how I blog so much and don’t think they can do it themselves. If you write about something for which you’re both knowledgeable and passionate I’ll bet you can pump out more than you think.

I usually blog at 10pm or on airplane flights. I never blog at work. Like you, I don’t have the time. I have board meetings, company pitches, internal partner meetings, etc. Hell, I often can’t even get to email during the day. So it comes out of TV time, which means I’m not missing anything. Occasionally if I really want to blog and I have a date or too much work I just set my alarm for 5.30am. Yup. It’s not that hard if you make a commitment to it.

What would it mean to you and your business if you could: increase your inbound traffic, enhance your company & personal brand, meet new influential people who suddenly know who you are. If you want these things they are available to you for the cost of some time & effort.

If you plan out what you want to write about in advance (create topics then to headings to structure your article. You’ll notice on this one I started with mine … Why, What, Where, How and then I later added When & What Next) then it’s really about writing.  Structure helps enormously.  If you need some help with the creative process read this.

I write for about 45 minutes to an hour in the first pass.  I usually then re-read, edit, spell check and add links.  This usually takes another 20-30 minutes.  I then always add an image.  I think this is a nice touch.  Just staring at text is a bit boring and I find that the image can add humor and/or drive people in.

6. What Next?
Then there’s comments.  You HAVE TO respond to comments.  Do yourself a favor and install Disqus. It makes a huge difference in driving a comment community.  If you want the details on why I covered it here.

First, it’s the most fun part of blogging.  It’s addicting like Twitter.  It’s where you exchange ideas with other people.  It’s where your community gets to know you.  It’s where you build loyalty and relationships.  I have met many people in person who were first commenters on my blog.  I find it frustrating if I leave comments on somebody’s blog and they never respond.  If somebody found your blog and took the time to comment then they’re like a customer who should be cherished. Responses to them are like customer retention. It’s also where you’ll learn. People will tell you when you’re full of shit.

Appendix: Traffic Hacks:
  • Commenting on other blogs – you need to comment on other people’s blogs.  First, it is a place where your comment will often link back to your blog where it can drive traffic.  Occasionally, and not overtly, and only if relevant you can provide a comment with a link back to an article in your blog.  Don’t do this often, don’t be blatant and make sure it’s relevant.
  • Linking to other blogs – For example, many people know that I love VentureHacks because it’s a great resource for entrepreneurs and I think that Babak Nivi is a star.  Notice I’ve linked to his website.  If he tracks his blog (which I’m sure he does) he’ll see this link.  If he has a Google Alert on his name (everyone does) then he’ll also get that.  Don’t be over the top gushing and creepy.  Be subtle.  Don’t overtly tell everyone you link to, “I linked to you, check out my article!”  Assume that over time if you write compelling content they’ll eventually check you out.
  • Covering relevant people in your blog in an authentic way – If your blog covers topics in your industry it’s likely that you’ll be able to write about some people and companies that you want to be aware of your blog.  Don’t Tweet @ them telling them you covered them. Don’t email them saying you covered them. Just talk about their company. If you write good articles over time and do this often enough people will notice.
  • Tweet support - What I did in the early days was to enlist Tweet support.  I would occasionally ask people that I was close with to retweet my posts.  I tried to mix it up in order to not ask the same people often.  I would send out emails with the Tweet text already written so that they just had to cut-and-paste.  As my blog started getting authentic traffic I stopped asking for this help very often.
  • Guest authoring – Once you have a bit of credibility as a writer a great strategy to drive traffic is to write guest posts for relevant bloggers in your sphere of influence.   If you run BakeSpace and blog about food why not contact some of the local food blogs and see whether you could submit guest articles.  Most people are delighted to have the free content.  In return all you ask for are links back to your blog and to your Twitter account.  Slowly and surely these will add users, of which some will come back on a regular basis.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

HOW TO Build Influence in Social Media


by Rick Bakas
reposted from Bakas Media

One of the best perks of my job is getting to speak at conferences all over the country (and soon the world) about social media and how it applies to business—more specifically how it applies to the wine and food industry.  Over the past two years I’ve been able to speak at conferences like TWTRCON DC, #140conf in LA, SMASH in SF, TWTRCON SF, Unified in Sacramento and various other social media events.  My shtick usually has to do with branding, or “social branding”.

Each time I go to one of these, I come away thinking the same thing—out of all the important strategies to focus on in social media, building influence might be #1.  The social media conferences are a great place to hear the latest case studies from thought leaders, and they’re a great place to hob nob with new friends in the lobby.  Moreover, social media conferences are a good place to determine who is building influence online and offline.

It’s Not About Followers

When I sit down to coach someone on social media, we don’t talk about how to use Twitter or how to set up a Facebook page, we talk about how to position their brand (personal or corporate) for online synergy.  I’m not as concerned with which tools someone uses, I just want them to use the social tools they feel comfortable with to build influence.  We begin to translate influence to ROI over time.

Number of followers have very little to do with influence.  A better barometer is and your klout score.  Klout uses granular data from your online interactions to determine how engaged your online audience is.  The more engaged your audience, the more of their attention you can capture.  That’s really what building influence is about…it’s not just social currency, it’s attention currency.  Klout will help you determine where your brand is strong and where it needs attention.  The whole of your Klout score is a sum of the parts of ALL the things you do on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube (coming soon).  Your Klout score starts at zero and goes up from there, it’s not like grades in school.  The higher the score, the more you are able to capture attention.  And in the world of social media, attention span comes at a premium.  Where attention goes, money follows.


The Importance of Reach

In my book, Quick Bites, I have a chapter about building influence using this formula:

Getting back to the idea of number of followers.  While it’s true the number isn’t important, it is important to know your reach.  Klout tells you your ‘true reach’ or the size of your engaged audience.  The reach is multiplied by a mix of brand positioning, subject expertise and trust.  Since my background is brand management from eight years at NIKE, I fully geek out on getting a brand positioned correctly.  I’m amazed at how many personal and corporate brands I see online that aren’t positioned correctly because they use different avatars on different social sites.  The question people ask me the most is, “what’s the most important tip in Quick Bites?”  Answer: be consistent.  For brands online, be consistent with the image you use for the avatar.  An avatar is your online “logo”.  Use the same one everywhere like a NIKE swoosh.

Expertise comes through online conversation.  I suggest a brand “own” five subjects or less.  For me, everyone knows I’m going to talk online about wine, food, bacon or social media geekery.  There’s a level of expectation.  Because my audience knows what I’m going to talk about, and I do it they trust me.  I’ve delivered what was expected.  A brand can be defined as a promise to deliver.   Trust is earned through consistently delivering on what’s anticipated, that’s why quality content is king.

In the wine industry, patience is part of the business.  Waiting for grapes to grow on the vine, then age in the barrel can take years before the product is actually enjoyed.  When the bottle is opened, the vintage might be from 15 year ago, but when the wine delivers on the promise and expectation, that’s a quality brand experience.  Patience is also part of the online business.  It takes time for the influence formula to show results, but consistent application of that formula over time will help a brand grow their online influence.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

3 Flavors of Social Media Execution in a B2B Corporate Environment

by Marc Hausman
re-posted from Social Media Today

Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, Digg, Reddit…I love them all.  Yet, their value has been overstated.

These social networks are merely another channel to address the market, in many ways comparable to traditional forms of communication such direct mail, trade shows and events.

Now consider Web 2.0 offerings like BeFunky, PixxMe, Go!animate and Apture.  While they’re certainly cool, they are merely tools designed to dress up staid content.

It is encouraging that the adoption of social media in corporate environments has marched on at an accelerating pace.  However, executive buy-in and budget commitment has been dampened by the curious fascination that social practitioners have with online communities and tools, rather than the strategies and applications necessary to produce a measurable ROI.

During the past four years, Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) has designed, executed and evaluated nearly 40 social media campaigns for the world’s largest, fastest growing and most successful technology companies.  Our clients have included global brands such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems, EMC, Sun Microsystems, British Telecom, NeuStar, Monster and BearingPoint, as well as emerging vendors like Merchant Link, Cimcor, ePok and govWin.

While the practice and influence of social media can be applied across the organization, our experience teaches us there are primarily three high-value viable applications of social in a B2B environment.

Social Media for Public Relations
It’s no secret there has been a sustained shift in influence from traditional sources of credibility like trade publishers, market research firms and conferences to the conversations and debate that define social networks.  However, interest from and coverage by journalists and analysts still delivers much-needed awareness and third-party validation.

Plus, bloggers and social media power users now flex their influence with daily commentary, staking claim to their place in the public relations landscape.

Participation in online communities can deliver a direct channel to these high-value influencers, helping PR professionals cultivate relationships, present story ideas and participate in the news gathering process.

The practice and importance of public relations remains constant.  Social now overshadows the phone and Email as the preferred means of communication.

Social Media for Corporate Positioning
Canvas corporate sites on the Web and it’s apparent that most marketing departments are getting hip to audience demand for a Facebook fan page, LinkedIn profile and Twitter feed.  In fact, in some instances a company’s presence in an online community can eclipse the relevance of its own corporate Web site.

A defined strategy and appropriate benchmarks for success in areas such as market awareness and positioning are a must for an organization to experience a positive return from this corporate-driven social presence.

Equally important, corporations have begun to recognize that a lack of participation in popular online communities can be damaging.  Key audiences such as customers, partners and investors may stand perplexed and, in some instances, question the viability of an organization that fails to sport a Facebook logo on its Web site.

Social Media for Sales
Referred to at Strategic as the “last mile,” the ability to appropriately tap into online communities for lead generation, cultivation of prospect relationships and deal capture delivers the most meaningful ROI in a B2B environment.

Consider that a social network is merely a collection of individuals who have organized around a shared theme or topic of interest.  Participants in this community also self-identify, sharing with other members information about their professional responsibilities and areas of interest.

Plus, everyone in a social environment leaves a digital footprint -- who they follow, the discussions they participate in and the comments they provide.  All of this intelligence informs the astute marketer about what this individual deems important.

By publishing thought leadership content that enhances the value of participation for community members, a corporation can attract a loyal and engaged following.  It’s then a matter of presenting opportunities for those followers to choose to strike up a more intimate conversation.

When integrated with a socially-trained sales team, these conversations can be assessed, vetted and evaluated for their business potential.

The end result:  social media becomes a driver of high-value sales activity and opportunity.  The awareness, credibility and search engine optimization (SEO) resulting from participation in social networks becomes merely an unintended benefit.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

How to Become a Foursquare Power User

Reposted from Mashable
from Waggener Edstrom Worldwide's Digital Influencers Series

When Foursquare was starting up a little more than a year and a half ago, only a handful of people were checking in. It was pretty easy to hold down a healthy number of mayorships just by being one of the few people using the game. Today, it’s a different story.

Foursquare registered its four millionth member this past week. As the network has grown in popularity, it has evolved from a location-based game to a social media staple that has shown potential in civic engagement, education, and non-profits. It has also become much harder to beat out the competition for coveted mayorships and badge counts.

When IBM employee Eric Andersen took over the mayorship of a popular Boston ice cream shop, for instance, he had to stop in two to three times every week for ice cream or spiced butterscotch lattes (a Boston Globe reporter dubbed the not-so-painful battle the bloodless revolution). The mayor who ousted him checks in about 35 times every 60 days.

“One way to think of it is, for nearly every venue, whether it be a bar, a coffee shop, a laundromat, or a park, there is probably someone who owns a smartphone who is there almost daily,” Andersen says. “So as Foursquare adoption increases, mayorship battles will heat up as regular patrons of every location suddenly begin to adopt their new virtual status.”

When you find yourself in such a battle — or just want to get the most out of playing the game — you can rely on these five tips from Foursquare’s most accomplished players.

1. Make Foursquare a Habit 

 “I don’t know if I really have a strategy, but playing Foursquare has definitely changed my habits,” says Chris Preiss, who has checked into Foursquare more than 5,800 times, the third-most times of anyone on Foursquare according to “If I am in a mayorship battle, I will frequent that place a little more often. Or if there is a location that I know will help me earn a badge, I will go there.”

Adding Foursquare to your habits is a common theme among Foursquare champions. It seems obvious, but most people still don’t naturally check in when they arrive somewhere. Remembering to do so is a huge advantage, especially if you have a job like Preiss’s. His company provides CO2 to bars and restaurants, so he’s often in new places that he might not otherwise even know about.

2. Pick a Strategy

Gathering mayorships, badges, and checkins requires different and often conflicting strategies.
“In the past, many badges had clearly defined rules, and you could check venues’ tags to determine if a checkin there would help towards the badge,” explains Andersen, who currently has the second most number of checkins on Foursquare. “Now, most of the newer badges can’t easily be obtained by a concrete set of checkins. There are some sites like that can help guide you though – but these strategies typically involve checking in to new and different places, whereas something like [becoming] mayor involves going to the same place every day.”

In order to truly excel in a Foursquare power user category, it can be beneficial to define your strategy. Chris Radzinski decided to focus his efforts on badges.

“I am not a fan of going for mayorships — if you notice my account does not have many,” he says. “In terms of Foursquare, getting badges doesn’t really affect any other user specifically. But if I went around and had a thousand mayorships, some users would be irritated and would actually be affected.”

Radzinski is currently the Foursquare record holder with 131 badges. Those who wish to focus on badges, he says, should focus on the limited time badges first.

“Unlike mayorships, which can be taken, not everyone can say they have certain badges after they are inactive,” he says.

Preiss is less targeted. “For the most part, I just check in where I am and let the chips fall where they may,” he says. “Earning a badge unexpectedly can be more fun than working for one.”

3. Know the Rules and Decide What is Cheating

All checkins are not created equal. If you’re planning on being competitive, it’s important to know the rules.
“Many don’t realize that only checkins in the last 60 days count towards mayorship, or that only one checkin a day counts towards mayorship,” Andersen says. “Multiple checkins a day to a place aren’t necessarily mistakes, but someone might be doing it thinking it will help them become mayor more quickly.”

There are, of course, ways to bend the rules. You can check in on the mobile Foursquare website without actually being in a location, you can check in to a location as you pass it without ever actually going to it, and you can decide not to “share with friends” in order to unabashedly check in multiple times per visit to one location.

“I don’t really see the value in doing this more than a few times a day,” Andersen says about checking in off the grid. “You lose nearly all of Foursquare’s social benefits when you aren’t actually sharing anything with friends other than the fact that you’re accumulating points.”

Some people also consider employees who check in to their own business’s Foursquare page to be cheating.
But, as Preiss points out, “There aren’t really rules to the game, so cheating is kind of a touchy thing.”
Preiss says he considers checking in to places that he hasn’t actually visited to be cheating. He doesn’t do it, but, he says, “Foursquare hasn’t done anything to end this practice, so if they don’t have a problem with it, why should I?”

Foursquare has, in fact, made an attempt to stop rewarding armchair mayors. It continues to permit people to check in wherever they are, but, as Foursquare puts it, “We’re never going to NOT let you check-in –- you can checkin wherever you want, whenever you want — the idea is simply to not award points, mayorships, badges or venue specials if it looks like you didn’t really earn them.”

Before you get competitive, it’s good to set some boundaries for what you will count as fair play. Foursquare pride isn’t as much fun when accompanied by cheater guilt.

4. Use Twitter

Radzinski says Twitter gives him a competitive edge. “Following the right people is crucial because many of the badges are only valid for a few days if it is event based, and the news hits Twitter faster than anything,” he says.

These are some online resources the power users we interviewed recommended:
  • @aboutfoursquare: “Lots of updates on new badges and brands that are part of Foursquare,” says Preiss.
  • @4squareTips: Great for tips, how-tos, and swarm alerts
  • @mattersofgrey: General Internet news, but often reports on Foursquare. Great for badge lists.
  • @foursquare: Get Foursquare news directly from Foursquare
  • @getOsnapz: The Twitter feed of social media leader board site
  • @4squarebadges: Outlines the best strategies for earning specific badges.
  • @foursquarehelp: Get a guaranteed response to every Foursquare support issue.
  • Andersen keeps a Twitter list of “Foursquare gurus” that collectively span anything you would want to know about the platform.

5. Stay Social

Foursquare is intended to be a game. It can get competitive, but it should still be fun. Even the power users say the most important parts of the game are the social aspects.

“As a social person who works in a very social industry, it’s nice for friends to be able to see where and what is going on,” says Radzinski, who works as a general manager at a Cleveland Heights restaurant. “I can’t even tell you how many times someone has stopped at a place I am or texted to see how long I am staying at a bar or restaurant because they saw me checked in. The badges are just icing on the cake.”

Preiss says that the badges he’s most proud of are not those that were hardest to win, but those that remind him of good times. One of them he won at a friend’s birthday party while visiting New York. Another is the Jet Setter Badge, which he is proud of because it shows his passion for traveling.

What are your tips for becoming a Foursquare power user? Add them in the comments below.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How Much Are Social Media Shares Worth?

by Jennifer Van Grove
reposted from Mashable

Popular event ticketing site Eventbrite used its in-house social analytics tools to study the effects Facebook shares, tweets and other social sharing behaviors have on ticket purchases.

Looking at data from the past 12 weeks in aggregate, Evenbrite found that each social media share equates to $1.78 in ticket sales, with Facebook shares proving to be the most lucrative. As such, Eventbrite believes social commerce — or transactions driven through sharing on social platforms — to be the next big trend in online commerce.

Eventbrite’s data is especially telling; here’s the breakdown: one share on Facebook equals $2.52, a share on Twitter equals $0.43, a share on LinkedIn equals $0.90, and a share through e-mail equals $2.34 in sales. The easy takeaway is that Facebook shares are almost six times more effective than tweets and three times more rewarding than LinkedIn shares.

The report also details, “For Eventbrite, Facebook is now the #1 referring site for traffic to the company’s site, surpassing Google. Each Facebook share drives 11 visits back to”

Eventbrite’s data and social commerce findings are, of course, by all means singular to its ticket-selling business and recognized brand name. For most businesses, individual shares will not convert to as high of sales.

Still, Web services with online commerce components could learn a thing or two from the startup’s social integrations — Eventbrite excels at making it ridiculously simple for event organizers and RSVP’d guests to share events via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or e-mail.