Social Media: For PR Pros or Marketing Mavens?

social-media-tug-of-war

As more and more brands venture into the social media world, it can be a struggle on which team members “own” those accounts. Should social media live under your brand’s public relations (PR) team or should it stay under the marketing and advertising umbrella? While the answer may be easier to find for some brands/companies than others, in my opinion, it should be a team effort.

How can this happen? Start by breaking down department silos and recognizing each others’ strengths. It’s better to collaborate than repeat work or work against one another.

The Role of PR

Public or media relations has changed over the last few years, with the establishment of social media. It used to be that reporters were confined to their Rolodex and making phone calls and PR pros only pitched stories to traditional media outlets. Now journalists can reach out to sources in several different ways. A PR team needs to make sure it is following reporters and media outlets on social networks that may be influential to the brand. Social media allows brands to build real relationships over time, which PR professionals have always tried to develop, but now its much more accessible via social media.

Since we can follow certain journalists or influencers, it can help make pitches more relevant and less time consuming. It can also anticipate the reach of a potential pitch, by tracking that individuals followers and connections. Social media also helps PR teams eliminate the “middle man” and talk directly with consumers. It’s a great way for your brand to connect directly with a target audience. Instead of letting a reporter tell your story, tell it yourself. This can position your brand as a “friend” rather than a typical salesman.

Your PR team probably already has a good handle of the “pulse” of your audience, knowing what they like to hear about and what products or services resonate the best. PR professionals also know how to manage crisis situations and deal with damage control. We all know opening up a brand on social media can bring about positive relationships, but it can also open up your company to negative feedback. With social media’s real-time dialogue, the environment lends itself well for PR pros to do damage control and stay on message with a diverse group to deliver a consistent brand message. This is why listening and monitoring mentions can be beneficial to your brand staying in front of a PR crisis.

The Marketing Role

But before your brand hands everything social media-related off to the PR team, there is also a role for your marketing team to be involved. Social media is an environment that can be used to help sell and inform your target audience about your brand. While many people may initially “like” or follow your brand, it is the promotions, products, and developments that can keep them engaged. While your PR team can be listening for “mentions”, this is only useful if consumers are actually talking about your brand. You need to give them something to talk about. This is where targeted marketing efforts can come in handy.

As investment in social media increases, return on investment (ROI) is becoming an increasingly important metric for many companies. So, brands need to closely align product news and promotional offers to drive success. The mentions that the PR team is watching can help the marketing team develop future messaging  and campaigns, and again allow your brand to connect with consumers on a more personal level.

A Team Effort

Each brand is different. That being said I think most can benefit from using a team effort on social media, with both PR and marketing professionals. The best way to determine each role is to have clear guidelines and goals for your social networks. Are these accounts to share conversations, create buzz, monitor influencers? Or are the accounts to generate sales? Either way, both teams should be involved in the communications and messaging of your brand. If you limit your social media team to one sub-specialty or the other, you’re ultimately limiting your brand.

Questions to Consider:

Who manages social media at your organization? Do you think it’s working or does it need to change? If you don’t currently work for an organization, do you agree with me that it should be a team effort? Why or why not?

What suggestions would you have for PR and marketing teams to work together better when it comes to social media?

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The Value of Social Media

social-media-roi

Despite the popularity of social media worldwide, many businesses still wonder about its value from a brand standpoint.

Why should my company invest in social media? What’s the return on investment (ROI) for social media?

As a social media marketer, these are question I face all the time. The truth is like any form of advertising, social media is a unique platform. But that doesn’t mean you can’t measure successes and failures (but let’s focus on the positives here!).

One-Size-Does-NOT-Fit-AllIt’s Not One Size Fits All

Understanding the value of social media is a challenge. It’s not one size fits all for businesses and marketing strategies. Especially if your company only focuses on the financial aspects of investment and return. What companies need to focus on is the non-monetary economic value. This doesn’t mean finances shouldn’t be a factor, it just means it shouldn’t be the focus. By non-monetary economic value, I’m referring to value that can travel throughout the social media world. Companies aren’t just having conversations with one customer, on social media they are having conversations with that customer and everyone connected to their social networks, as well.

Before launching a social media marketing initiative your business should have a specific goal. By “specific” I mean not just a generic business goal, something that is unique to your brand. Once you’ve developed that goal, social media can help:

  • Increase brand exposure
  • Increase traffic to your website or a physical location
  • Develop brand advocates (I’ll talk more about these a little later)
  • Improve organic search traffic
  • Create new business partnerships
  • Reduce marketing expenses (What employer doesn’t love this!)
  • Increase sales

Relationships Build ROI

It’s important to remember, in today’s “social” world, your business should be forming  “R.E.A.L.” relationships: Reciprocal, Empathetic, Authentic, and Long-Lasting. Brands should realize experiences over social media aren’t happening with the network, but with the public at large. This can create both positive and negative conversations, but hopefully will lead to countless purchasing decisions in the future (Remember, we’re focusing on the positive here!). It also gives you the platform to right those negative conversations. Your goal on social media should always include “doing right by the consumer.”

When building relationships it’s important to start with your loyal customers. These advocates or influencers can help broaden your marketing reach. This group of customers probably won’t have a problem getting the word out about an initiative and new customers may respond to “people like them” passing along a message, rather than a business. With 52% of U.S. consumers using the Internet as their primary purchasing tool, it’s an area brands can’t afford to ignore.  By actively engaging with consumers via social media, you will keep your brand relevant.

Fundraising

A great way to build brand awareness and ultimately drive ROI is to get involved with fundraising. But remember…

“Social Media platforms aren’t necessarily fundraising engines, it’s the people using them that are.”

People love a good cause and they love hearing from individuals who benefit from a fundraiser. They do not want a brand pushing a cause on them. Social media allows your business to support a cause, but not necessarily push it on people.

When it comes to a fundraising effort, tell the story–either yourself or through someone else. This can be done with a video (we know people love visuals on social media) uploaded to YouTube or shorter platforms like Vine and Instagram. If people can see who or what their donation will be helping, they’ll probably be more inclined to give.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 9.56.01 PMAlways include a call to action, but be specific. It’s also important to use active language (Click, Share, Donate Now). People are more apt to take action right away, rather than come back and do it later. Along the same lines, make it easy for people to take action. No one wants to fill out a long form. Fortunately there are platforms, such as Givver.com, Fundly.com, or Snowball.com can help your business’ fundraising efforts reach a higher level.

Once an initiative is underway, always make sure to thank donors, partners, and volunteers. This again goes back to showcasing real relationships. Publicly celebrate success, but remember to be authentic. Maybe you’re not the one thanking donors, but the child who received tuition to school or the disabled mom who received a new mini-van, etc, can post a video testimonial about how the donations helped them.

A personal example I can share right now is this month in support of Breast Cancer Awareness, my organization recently partnered with Member One Federal Credit Union to raise money for our Breast Care Center. Both businesses promoted the sale of “pink hoodies” on our social media sites multiple ways, including links to purchase the hoodies, pictures of employees wearing the hoodies, and promoting sales at community events. So far, it’s been a success and we hope to utilize more of these partnerships in the future to raise awareness for causes that support our mission: Inspiring better health in the communities we serve.

Bottom Line

Social media give companies opportunities for growth, if used for more than mass marketing agendas. By allowing brands to connect on more personal levels, businesses can begin measuring ROI in no time.

Questions:

Have you ever been part of a social media fundraising effort? Share your experience and if it was a success.

What do you think is the most important aspect of social media value?

SEO: What it is and How Your Business Should be Using it

SEO

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a shifting landscape. There is no easy formula or magic bullet to showing up as the No. 1 search result, but there are some things every business should be doing in order to improve their visibility on the web, and ultimately drive traffic back to their website.

Did you know? Websites listed on the first page of search results generate 91.5% of all web traffic on average. Think about it. How often do you go to the second or third pages of a google search? I know, I’ve very rarely ventured out of the top five results. Ayaz Ninji provides some more insight into the value of being at the top of search results in this article.

I am by no means an SEO expert, but I’ve read a lot about the benefits and here are some of the tips/information I’ve taken away as most important.

SEO Tips:

  • Add a sitemap to help Google index relevant pages. A sitemap is similar to the index or table of content of a book. It makes it easier to find information and for Google this is all to important.
  • Clean up links. Make sure your website doesn’t have any “bad” or old links, and for the links that are current make sure the helpful ones are visible and less relevant ones are hidden.
    seo-image
  • Quality content is more important than the quantity of content. Focus on important keywords and phrases, but don’t overload your content with these, so that it doesn’t make sense. Your content should not only be quality, but you should have a schedule to regular keep it updated.
  • Choose keywords wisely. I mentioned it in the above point, but focus on specific keywords. Google Analytics has a tool that can help you select the right keywords for your
    website.
  • Optimize images and videos. Make sure to use keywords in images and videos, as well as, always fill out the alt tag and titles.
  • Write quality titles. When formulating the title of a webpage, blog post, image, or video, always use the most important keywords in the beginning rather than the end of a title. SEO weighs the beginning of a title more than the end.
  • Share your content on Google+. I actually recently did a project on Google+ for my other class and talked a lot about the importance of SEO on Google+. Check it out!

Google-Analytics1Google Analytics

Once you implement using SEO on your website, you need to monitor and analyze the results. Google Analytics is a great tool to utilize. Here’s a brief introduction to how the service works and why it’s important. When it comes to analyzing the metrics, as a business, you should be looking to learn who is returning to your site. How often are they “stopping by” and how long are they staying.

You also want to keep track with how many visitors are engaged on your site. I know at my organization we pay a lot of attention to bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. You want to keep visitors on your site by keeping the engaged. Google Analytics can help you track this, along with how many pages the average user usually visits, and how long they are spending on each page.

The best part of Google Analytics: It’s free! Well for most of us. If you receive 10 million or fewer web hits a month it’s free. So, you should routinely monitor Google Analytics and try and make strategic changes to your website accordingly.

Questions to Consider:

What do you think is the most important aspect of SEO? Keywords? Links? Content? And why do you think it’s so important?

What are your thoughts on Google Analytics? Have you used it a lot? What are the best features when it comes to measuring and tracking SEO?

Other Resources:

10 SEO Tips for 2013

How To Move Your Blog Post Up in Search Results

7 Ways to Use Google Webmaster Tools to Increase Traffic To Your Website

How to use Google Analytics to Measure Engagement on Your blog

Analyze This

social-analyticsAs more and more businesses turn to social media to reach consumers, it’s inevitable that they’ll want to be able to track how well strategies are working. Moving beyond page likes or the number of followers, businesses need to take a serious look at social analytics. There are a ton of platforms out there, so it’s best to do some research and learn which ones will best serve your business. Here are three social media analytics tools I find helpful.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is mainly known as a social media management tool or dashboard, but within Hootsuite are analytics. If your business has more than one social network (which it should), I would suggest using Hootsuite from a management perspective. When it comes to analytics, Hootsuite allows you to create customized reports for all your social networks. It provides for a comprehensive picture of who is visiting your networks and which posts are performing well. I’ve included some screen shots below from my employer, Carilion Clinic’s analytics. These reports allow you to see which days and posts performed the best.

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Besides posts, the reports also allow you to track your fan or follower growth. This is helpful if you are trying to track whether engagement rose during a specific campaign or during targeted posts.

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The Twitter report also provides you with a list of the “Most Popular Links.” This information is helpful in tracking whether your business should continue posting certain links or about certain topics.

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Hootsuite is free for up to five accounts, after that you need to sign up for a Pro account, which also provides for more detailed reports. A Pro account will run about $10/month.

KloutScreen Shot 2013-10-13 at 8.27.45 PM

Klout measures a user’s influence across a range of social networks. The score, 1 through 100, is based on how many people interact with your posts and will go up and down depending on your social media activity. It provides a +K feature, where others can endorse your influence and also boost your ranking. Graphs can show how your score has changed over time (90-day increments), as well as, show which sites your influence comes from.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is aimed more toward businesses rather than individual users. It enables you to analyze followers by various demographic measures and can help you determine the best times to post on social media profiles. It also has the ability to monitor keywords across all social media. After a free trial, it costs approximately $39/month.

There are tons of other social media analytics tools you can use, including:

13 Social Media Software Tools for Marketing Your Company or Clients

Best Social Media Analytics Tools: 8 of the Best to Use

Link Tracking

Another aspect of monitoring your social media analytics is tracking links. We post links in our social media posts because we are trying to engage with our audience and maybe attract new consumers, right? So, we should probably keep track of where people are clicking on these links and which links are simply, the best. By knowing what traffic is generated for a specific link we can determine how popular the link is and which channel is most effective for your links.

  • For Twitter, Tweeterspy is a great way to track “influencers” who are users that are sharing your links. Tweeterspy not only allows you to track who has shared your link, but also how many times someone then clicked on your link that was shared.
  • Google has a URL builder, which after filling out a short form can provide you with a personalized, shortened url that is tracked.
  • Oktopost is a service integrated with Google Analytics that automatically adds tracking codes to links.
  •  Bit.ly, a url shortener, allows for tracking. You can see which links were clicked on and then who shared those links.

Don’t Get Overwhelmed

While there are a lot of tools out there, and a lot of things to consider when talking about social media analytics, the important thing to remember is not to get overwhelmed. Determine what your business wants or needs to track when it comes to social media and then determine which tool will work best for you and your budget.

Here’s an interesting case study that may help put social media analytics into perspective.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What does your company track when it comes to social media engagement? Is the focus on general numbers (i.e. likes and followers) or do you have specific targets when it comes to engagement?
  2. Which tool do you find the best when it comes to bang for your buck? Do free services make the cut? Or should you budget for a monthly service?

Why Content Goes Viral

Going-Viral

We’ve all seen them. We’ve all talked about them. And we’ve all probably shared them. I’m talking about viral videos. “Viral” is a common term now and as marketers we can only dream of one day creating content that “goes viral.” While videos stand out, not all viral content is video.

Like with all marketing strategy, brands need to focus on target audiences. What is the best way to attract the attention of your target audience? Is it a video? Is it an infographic? Is it a billboard? Is it a long article. Any piece of content can go viral. Of course, not all great content goes viral, but content that does go viral is great.

While there is no easy formula, I’ve compiled a list of tips to consider when creating content you’d like to see go viral.

  1. Inspire strong emotions. Research shows if users feel an emotional connection to content they are more apt to share it. To be more specific, positive emotions outweigh negative emotions when it comes to sharing content. And digging even deeper, content that creates awe, anxiety, or anger often generates the most engagement.
  2. Provide content that serves practical uses. If users believe the information will be useful to them, they are more apt to want to share and pass along to their followers or friends.
  3. Make sure the content is well-suited for the audience. If the content isn’t interesting to your audience, they won’t share it. Chances are they are following your brand because they are already loyal consumers, keep them engaged and informed by providing them with valuable content.
  4. Easy to share. Make whatever content you’ve created easy to share by utilizing sharing buttons to all social networks. Don’t make your audience work.
  5. Create unique, easy-to-consume content. If users feel like they are being providing with a unique, one-of-a-kind experience, that they understand, chances are they’ll be more willing to share it.

Jonah Berger, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, probably says it best:

“There’s not 100% certainty that a given product or concept will go viral. It’s like a batting average in baseball; no one hits a home run every time. But it’s also not luck. By understanding the science of word of mouth, you improve your average.”

Berger makes a good point about word-of-mouth. When it comes down to it, even if it’s someone clicking “like” or “share” they are still creating buzz or word-of-mouth marketing around certain content. If you can get people “talking” in person or online, your content is more apt to go viral.

Be prepared to fail for a long time. When it comes to creating viral content there is no easy step-by-step process. In fact, many argue it’s more of an art than a science, but that doesn’t mean it’s a mystery. Like with any content, it’s about knowing your audience and keeping their interest. It really doesn’t matter what you’re trying to market, anything can go viral.

Has your company ever produced viral content? If so, what was your strategy. If not, is your company actively trying to create viral content? Should it be?

What’s your favorite piece of viral content and why?

Just for fun…

My top five viral videos:

1. Charlie Bit My Finger

2. Dramatic Prairie Dog

3. Leprechaun in Mobile, Alabama

4. Antoine Dodson

5. Sweet Brown

Other Resources:

The Secret Recipe for Viral Content Marketing Success

Oops, I Ruined the Facebook IPO!

How to Create Viral Content

5 Key Elements of Viral Content [Infographic]

Is Your Business on YouTube and Pinterest? It should be.

As a social media manager at my employer, I get requests all the time from different service areas and departments wanting Facebook pages. “But everyone has one.” Is what I often hear after saying “no.” The truth is not everyone needs a Facebook page. I could argue every business should have a page, but breaking off into sub-groups within one business can prove not only time consuming, but often not generate quality engagement.

But should every business be on YouTube and Pinterest? Yes. Why? We know that social media users are drawn to visuals and both these platforms were created to showcase visuals.  Users want to see how something works or see someone using a product, this can happen on YouTube and Pinterest.

Does your company have a plan in place to create more visual content? It should. In fact, many businesses are increasing video budgets by as much as 30 percent.
I enjoy lists and infographics, so below are the reasons I think both YouTube and Pinterest should be part of your company’s social media marketing mix.

YouTube:

  1. YouTube allows for your content to be found or discovered by people searching for information. Did you know YouTube is currently the No. 2 search engine? Users are searching for content through search engines, not by logging onto your specific website. Having a presence on YouTube means more people will find your videos easily, especially with features like “related videos” available.
  2. Name and claim your channel. Having a channel on YouTube is important for any business, because it can become a hub for all of your products, services, and information, while still linking back to your website. Make sure the visual branding is consistent with your company’s standards, the description is accurate, and you use keywords. Remember, it’s all about being discoverable.
  3. Use auto-play. Gone are the days of people being annoyed when videos begin playing unprompted. Well, I should clarify. I mean, if they are on a video-sharing site, like YouTube, chances are you’re planning to watching a video, so having a video auto-play on your channel may help keep users engaged.
  4. Take advantage of YouTube advertising. It’s generally cheaper than Google text ads and Facebook ads. Plus, remember it’s the No. 2 search engine, so you’ll probably have a better chance of catching a user’s attention on YouTube.

“It’s important for YouTube to be everywhere.” – Shiva Rajaraman, director of product management, YouTube

Pinterest:

pinterest-infographic

  1. With 48.7 million users and counting, Pinterest users spend more time on Pinterest than on Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn combined. Another interesting fact, 43 percent of Pinterest users interact with retailers or brands versus 23 percent on Facebook.
  2. Pinterest drives massive quality traffic to your website, and is a perfect complement to SEO, email marketing, and blogging.
  3. It’s easy to share content with your followers without having to write a lengthy post.
  4. It’s the best social network for sharing business product images/videos compared to Twitter or Facebook

About two years ago, I convinced my bosses to allow me to start a Pinterest page for our company. We started with a few basic boards, highlighting our services and facilities. Now we have 17 boards. Our most popular boards are ones that deal with health and wellness. Our “Healthy Foods” board, which features weekly recipes, gets the most repins on our page and our “Patient Stories” board also seems to get significant engagement. It’s our hope that while these boards are what draw people in, maybe they’ll stay and click around to some of our other boards.

Pinterest is now the third most popular social network in the U.S. in terms of traffic and users spend an average of 98 minutes on Pinterest per month. YouTube boosts four billion hours of viewership a month. So, have I convinced you it’s worth it yet? I hope so.

As social media continues to develop and evolve one thing is for sure, users enjoy visual content. YouTube and Pinterest play into this need perfectly and can showcase your business in ways a website and other social network can’t. Both of these networks also make it extremely easy to share content on other social networks. This way you can create content that can filter out to several platforms. As you think about your marketing mix, remember social media should now be a big part of it, and YouTube and Pinterest should be part of the plan, as well.

I’m by no means the best expert in this field, but I this strategy and information has world well for the organization where I work, and I hope it’ll benefit you as well. Happy posting and pinning!

How does your company currently use YouTube and Pinterest? Do you have plans to use both social networks more in the future?

Connect with me on Pinterest!

pinterest-icon

It’s All About a Catchy Headline…

Good. I hope I got your attention. Whether it’s a newspaper article, a blog post, or a billboard, headlines are what initially grab consumers’ attention. This is no different on the professional social networking site LinkedIn.

Do you have a profile? Are you a professional? Then you should. But when was the last time you updated your profile? If it’s been awhile you may want to log in and make some updates. The social network has undergone some changes and users should make sure their profile is the best it can be.

For a longtime people didn’t view LinkedIn as a valuable social network, as compared to networks like Facebook and Twitter. But the site has steadily grown and is now valued at over $18 billion. With over 200 million members, LinkedIn continues to put its stamp on the working world.

JobHuntingInfographicDid you know social media helps 1 in 6 job seekers land a job? And 93% of recruiters now use LinkedIn to find potential employees. And many of the jobs recruiters are looking to fill are higher level jobs that pay well. Just the other day I was talking with two human resources professionals at my company and they said the last two senior vice president positions they filled came via LinkedIn. It shocked me at first because I hadn’t really thought about online recruitment for management level positions, but it really is a great way to learn about someone professionally before spending a lot of money to recruit them via traditional methods. The moral here is make sure your LinkedIn profile is good because you never know which potential employers may contact you.

Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. As I said, it’s all about the headline. Make sure it’s catchy, yet informative and accurate.
  2. Get personal. While LinkedIn is a professional network, make sure your profile includes some personal information about your interests, hobbies, etc. These types of attributes can also attract potential employers.
  3. Spell check. There is really no excuse for misspelled words and bad grammar. Read, re-read, and then read again.
  4. Provide a call to action. Make it easy for people to learn more about you or how to contact you.
  5. Include information about education, awards, and recommendations. This will help build your personal brand and help you be seen as an authority in certain industries.
  6. Add keywords. Think about what people may be searching for on LinkedIn or on search engines like Google. If your profile has significant references to key terms, your profile is more likely to populate in searches.
  7. Stand out. With so many users, profiles can become monotonous. Remember, to keep it professional but look for different and creative ways to stand out from other profiles. Circling back to No. 1 a catchy headline may just do the trick.

In this multimedia world, it seems like common sense to keep personal and professional networking separate. But there are many people who don’t and make mistakes that can have a big impact on their careers. Here are some mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn:

  1. Not using a picture. People want to see you. They are more likely to pass on profiles without pictures than those with pictures. Remember, keep it professional though. Save the cute pet and kid pictures for other social networks!
  2. Post status updates. Potential employers want to see active profiles. Share information about yourself, the industry you work in, and maybe other knowledge you think will set yourself up to look like an expert.
  3. Using the default connection request. Personalize any connection request you send. Again, it’ll help you stand out more on a crowded network (I’m guilty of doing this, so looks like I need to keep my own advice in mind!).
  4. Include past jobs and volunteer work. Your profile should portray you as well-rounded. Include as much professional information as possible and the organizations you associate with. You never know what could peak a potential employers interest. It may be where you volunteer rather than what’s listed on your traditional resume,
  5. Don’t neglect privacy settings. If you’re looking for a new job, you may not want your current employer to see that your revamping your LinkedIn profile. Just something to keep in mind.

I’ll admit my LinkedIn profile isn’t the best. It’s a work in progress and that’s how you should feel about your own profile. Constantly be thinking about ways to improve it or utilize the network to connect with other professionals.

Connect with me on LinkedIn!

Questions to Consider:

What do you think is the most important aspect of a LinkedIn profile? What grabs your attention?

Have you ever been contacted via LinkedIn about a job and wound up taking/getting it?

If you’ve hired someone via LinkedIn, what grabbed your attention on their profile at first?

Other Resources:

Five Mistakes Journalists Make on LinkedIn

How to Protect Yourself on LinkedIn

Preparing for the New LinkedIn Design: How to Optimize Your Page and Profile