The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott, A Book Review

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that was required reading for Quinnipiac University‘s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).

World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland
World Wide Rave Spotted In Ireland (Photo credit: Krishna De)

The premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system and has instead involved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

  • Marketing is more than just advertising
  • Public relations is for more than just a mainstream media audience
  • You are what you publish
  • People want authenticity, not spin
  • People want participation, not propaganda
  • Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it
  • Marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of underserved audiences via the web
  • Public relations is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyers seeing your company on the web
  • Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. It’s about your organization winning business
  • The Internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclusive focus on media
  • Companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content
  • Blogs, online video, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  • Social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn allow people all over the world to share content and connect with the people and companies they do business with
  • On the web, the lines between marketing and public relations have blurred

Customers are talking back.  Companies and their marketing departments had better start listening.

Rating

5/5

Optimize by Lee Odden, A Book Review

Optimize by Lee Odden

Optimize by Lee Odden was not an unfamiliar concept. I have read about search engine optimization on countless websites and in any number of books already.

Optimize by Lee Odden, A Book Review
Lee Odden presents on SEO through blogs and feeds (Photo credit: toprankonlinemarketing)

But I don’t think I ever truly understood it until now.  Lee Odden has taken an almost mysterious concept and made it comprehensible.

SEO

Google doesn’t have a lot of options for its spider bots when it comes to reading your content. It can read your text. And that’s about it. While there are, I am sure, plans to try to make it so that Google can read flash, PDFs, PowerPoint slides, Images, and Videos, the truth is, it’s currently pretty much all letters and numbers.  That will eventually change, but right now that’s it.

Optimize by Lee Odden, A Book Review
Judi Dench at the BAFTAs at the Royal Opera House in London. Français : Judi Dench photographiée lors de la soirée des British Academy Film Awards dans le Royal Opera House à Londres. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hence Google doesn’t know that the picture you added to your blog is an image of, say, Dame Judi Dench. It needs a caption. Sounds obvious, right? But I wasn’t doing that, not with this blog and not with my writing site or anywhere else.  Oops. And that caption should be obvious, in order to serve the search bots, and informative and conversational, in order to serve your human readers/audience.

Who or What Should You Optimize For? Bots or People?

Both. Fortunately, they don’t conflict. Hence if you add keywords, tags, or categories to your webpage, blog post, etc., then if you can reiterate the keywords, etc. within the content, you’ve got it made. And you need to look around wherever you are posting, and use every available square inch for your optimization efforts. This does not mean that you cover every single pixel!  Rather, it means that, if you have a space for a caption, use it. If you have a space for tags, write them. Blogs have categories. Make them meaningful, and use them. I finally feel I get it. And that is a wonderful feeling.

Avinash Kaushik’s Web Analytics 2.0, a Book Review

Avinash Kaushik‘s Web Analytics 2.0 – Yeah, I’m a Fan

I’d like to start sharing some of the information I’ve been getting as I feel it’s helpful not just to me but to others out there, whether you’re looking for social media work or if you’ve already got it.

I’ve been reading a lot of books lately and the first one that truly caught my eye and made a huge impression on me was Avinash Kaushik’s  Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity.

Avinash Kaushik's Web Analytics 2.0

As a (hopefully) former data person, I can relate to the idea of needing analytics. That is, these are measurements of how your website is doing. Why do you want to measure? Why, you need to see whether your message is actually going anywhere.

For e-commerce sites, the ultimate test is, naturally, whether you’re getting sales. But it’s hard to tell — particularly in a complex organization — whether it’s the website that’s driving sales or offline marketing efforts. Even measuring orders via these channels may not tell the entire story, as customers may see offline advertising and then come online to buy, or they may do the reverse and buy in-store after researching a product online. Or they could just be coming online to think about it and compare and mull it over and could convert to a paying customer days or weeks or months later. Or never.

And what about sites (such as my own) where nothing is offered for sale? My ultimate customer is, of course, someone to hire me, either permanently or temporarily, as a consultant or a partner or a founder or a director or whatever, but that might be months away. What’s happening in the meantime? I might be able to dope some of that out with SEO and seeing where I am in search engine rankings, but just because people can find my site doesn’t mean they’re going to convert into hiring me or are even in a position to do so. My mother (hi, Mom!) can find my site and read it, but she won’t be hiring me any time soon. Unless I want to come and clean the gutters or something.

How do you or I know what’s happening?

Enter analytics.

It is, admittedly, still an imperfect science. But Mr. Kaushik breaks it down and describes the reports that you need to understand what’s happening with your site. He talks about what is essentially a Trinity strategy: experience, behavior and outcomes.

 

It’s not enough to just track sales (outcomes). It’s also about user experience and behavior. This is much like in the offline world, if you think about it. Going to a restaurant is an experience and many of them are packaged as such. But it is a far different experience going to a McDonald’s or a Chik-Fil-A versus a Bertucci’s. And that experience differs from going to Legal Seafood‘s which in turn is different from Blue Ginger (celebrity chef Ming Tsai‘s restaurant). You can intake the same amount of calories. You might even be able to get in the same quality and types of nutrition. And you might enjoy a Big Mac as much as you enjoy one of Chef Tsai’s specialties. Aside from price, what are the differences?

 

When you go to a McDonald’s, a part of the price is wrapped up in the experience. For chain entities in particular, it’s about sameness and predictability. If you find yourself in rural Oshkosh and have never been there before, you see the golden arches and you realize what to expect. For Bertucci’s, even though it costs more and there’s table service, there’s a similar vibe. You go there because you can depend upon it to be a certain way. And Blue Ginger is also dependable in the sense that it’s very upscale so you know you are going to be treated a certain way and it will look a particular way and presumably the food will taste in a way that reflects that kind of investment, both by you and by Mr. Tsai and his team.

Mr. Kaushik shows how understanding analytics can help you to enhance user experience.  And this, ultimately, drives user behavior. While conversions (sales) are the ultimate in user behaviors, he doesn’t forget about other valid behaviors. For the e-commerce site, product research is a valid and valuable behavior. So is printing a map to a brick and mortar store. Or comparing prices. For a non-e-commerce venture (again, I’ll use myself as an example), valid user (reader) behaviors are things like reading my writings and getting to know me. I put myself out there in order to be known, because that’s a piece of the hiring puzzle (why are there interviews — it’s not to know about skills, which should already be known. It’s to see if there’s a personality and a culture fit). Plus it enhances networking. Know me, think I’m worthwhile (at least, I hope you do) and you might think of a place where they might need me, or someone I should meet. And I do the same, in turn, for you. And cosmic karma gets us both into better places.

But I digress. Let’s get back to the book.

The book is written in a lively, engaging style. It’s long but I sailed through it. Mr. Kaushik (who is very gracious and seems to be very approachable, by the way) is clearly having fun and loves what he does. It’s a refreshing joy to read a book where the author is constantly delighted.

Read his book. Learn about analytics. Make the web a better place.

May your bounce rate be low, and your conversion rate high!

Rating

5/5

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

The Power of Social Media (Neurotic Writers’ Edition)

Chicken Scratch

Neurotic Writers. I know aspiring writers.

You probably do, too. There are lots of people with a Neurotic Writersmanuscript out there … somewhere. Perhaps it’s just in a hard drive. Or maybe it’s been uploaded to a fiction site. Or perhaps it has gotten a little exposure by having a chapter or a tantalizing fragment tossed onto a forums site. It might take the form of a blog (Gee, I wonder if I’m doing that …?). There are some that are typed (Remember that?). Others are only in long hand. And still others are locked away in brain form only.

Neurotic Writers
Social Media Iceberg (Photo credit: Intersection Consulting)

Whatever form it has taken, there is one thing I have learned about aspiring writers (And this includes fan fiction writers, by the way. Don’t dis ’em; they care about what they do, too!). This may also be true of established writers as well. I’m not even so sure where “established” starts happening. If it starts when you’ve gotten a check for writing, then count me in the established camp. If not, well, then it might be that I am still waiting for my established writer card. But I digress. What have I learned about aspiring writers?

It’s that we are all attention monsters.

We all crave attention. But it’s more than just “Look at me! Look at me!” Instead, it’s more like, “Please oh please oh please read my stuff and leave detailed feedback so I know you really read it and don’t forget to tell me how kick-bun awesome I am!

Er, yeah.

Now, pretty much everyone on the planet is addicted to hugs and positive attention and love and happiness. For aspiring writers, though, it’s poured onto a page. The soul is naked, for all to poke at (Erm, that wasn’t meant to evoke an NC-17 image. Shame on you for thinking so. And now that’s all you can think of, am I right?). It is scary and it is daunting. And it is exhilarating when you get even a scrap of positive feedback.

Enter Social Media

For aspiring writers with a backbone and a somewhat thicker skin, social media can be a way to get some of that craved feedback.

How?

The first and probably most obvious method is to have a Twitter stream dedicated to your writing. I doubt that most people want to read about writer’s block, so you need to have something going on. Perhaps you could write about inspirations, or earlier works, or how things fit together in your universe.

Hence I am also talking about a blog. You can blog about writing. The creative process can be fascinating for people who are into it. Maybe you’d like to review your own work, and comment on what you’ve learned, and how you’ve grown as an author. Put both of these together, and you’ve got a pretty dynamic combination. You write, you blog about it and then you tweet about your blog posts and your writing.

Plus writing begets writing. Even blog writing (which is a rather different animal from book-writing) can help keep writer’s block at bay. It helps to exercise these muscles fairly regularly.

Another option is posting on social sites. For fan fiction, there is Fanfiction.net. For purely original stories, they have a sister site, Fiction Press. Plus there are plenty of more specialized fiction and fan fiction sites. Google is your friend! Be aware of scams; they do exist. Recognize that putting your work out there does not guarantee that you retain full rights to it, despite the laws in your own country. And understand that there’s a lot of plagiarism and downright theft out there. Be as cautious as you would be with any other information you put online. And understand, too, that if you’re going to submit to a traditional publisher, they almost never want you to have posted your story elsewhere beforehand. This has to do with the full rights to your product. Hence you might want to put out your smaller or less important works, and save your really big one, if you are ever planning to submit to a traditional publishing house.

Yet another option is competitions. Here’s one, at America’s Next Author. Truth be told, the inspiration from this blog post came from learning that a friend had a story in this competition. The competition is run as a pure social media experiment. Hence, while good story-telling and story-crafting are essential, so is publicity. Like with any other social media site, “likes”, comments and popularity all play a role. For my friend, and for others trying to make it, putting the link onto Facebook or Twitter is essential to getting the word out. Even this blog post is helpful (FYI, and just for the record, this post is my own idea and she did not request or suggest it).

The Reader End of Things

The community of aspiring writers is, truly, a community. And that means give and take. What kind of give and take? The kind that goes along with reviews and comments. For those who are trying to write for a living, commenting and reviewing should be a part of that. Constructive criticism, if it is desired, should also be readily and cheerfully provided.

Aspiring writers write in the hopes of being noticed. And often they are noticed by fellow aspirants. What better way to forge a sense of community than to read one another’s works, and comment thereon?

The Upshot of It All

For those of us who put it out there every day, who bare ourselves and our souls with prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction, fan or wholly original, short story or multi-novel series, we all have a major issue in common – we want to be known. We don’t even necessarily want to be famous, but we want to be the one at the fireside who spins a yarn as others sit, enraptured. And with social media, we hope, there just might be some people listening.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter, a Book Review

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter was recommended to me by Kevin Palmer as being a good read about the fundamentals of creating and perfecting online communities and social software.

Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

The book is less of a how-to and more of a why-to, if that makes sense. If you’re looking for code examples, look elsewhere. Instead, the book covers theory and explains how and why certain tasks need to be done.

Essentially, any social site, whether it’s in the shape of forums or something else, faces the following user hurdles:

  1. Pay attention – users need to have an idea that they want your software, product, services, etc.
  2. Decision to sign up
  3. Input personal information
  4. Pay money (if applicable)
  5. Decide for someone else (if applicable)
  6. Give up the old way of doing things

Frankly, there’s even one item before #1, call it #0 if you will: the potential user needs to understand that he or she has a need. And, hand in hand with that, the potential user also needs to decide to fulfill that need online. If a potential user, say, decides that they want support because they’ve just gotten a cancer diagnosis, but they further decide to only get their support via an in-person group and not an online board then, so far as you’re concerned, it’s game over. After all, not everyone “gets” the social aspect of the web.

Porter covers the handling of some of these basic hurdles, such as designing to favor signing up and hanging around. One main point he makes is: don’t make signing up too arduous a task. And its corollary: don’t ask for information you don’t need. Far too often, sites ask for what ends up being ludicrous levels of granularity of detail. After all, when was the last time that anyone, really, needed your middle name for you to apply for a job? Yet sites ask for this trivial piece of data. And, even if they don’t require it, that begs the question even further: why is the field even there in the first place if the site so openly acknowledges that it’s just plain unnecessary?

Porter makes the point all too forcefully: the decision to sign up for an online service is made in eight seconds. That’s an awfully short window of opportunity to convince a potential user that his or her time and attention should be paid to you and not your competition.

The book abounds with these kinds of helpful nuggets, and is also chockful of references to blogs and books to support the author’s recommendations. The generous sprinkling of citations was helpful as it was a clear signpost suggesting online readings. It can seem counterintuitive to learn about designing for the web by reading a completely offline book. Porter’s work bridges the gap back to the web and lets the reader in on where to find more information situated a lot closer to where the reader is going to be placing new social software or services.

The one quibble I had with Designing for the Social Web is that it does not seem to draw an overall conclusion. Rather, the book instead seems to simply run out of gas in the end, as if the author had run out of what to say. A final upshot or even some words of encouragement would have, I feel, been helpful. But that’s a small issue with an otherwise interesting and eminently practical work.

Rating

4/5

Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis, a Book Review

Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis

Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis is one of those O’Reilly books, so it’s got an animal on the cover. This one is some sort of lemur or monkey. Not that that has anything to do with the subject matter but it is nicer than the O’Reilly books with scary insects on their covers.

Cover of "Google Advertising Tools: Cashi...
Cover via Amazon

But I digress.

The book is about, unsurprisingly, Google AdWords and AdSense, but it’s also about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and driving traffic to a website. Davis dispenses with the idea of adding significant article marketing-type content and instead focuses in on getting your site onto directories.

Davis also covers affiliate programs (such as Amazon — if you check the link to purchase the book from this blog entry, you’ll see an affiliate link in action) and sponsored and contextual advertising.

Hence the book probably would have been better titled Advertising on the Internet, as it explains far more than Google’s offerings.

While this book was not strictly about Social Media, any Social Media Marketer worth his or her salt should at least understand online advertising, as optimizing sites for advertising often helps to optimize them for other purposes as well (e. g. driving traffic). Google Advertising Tools by Harold Davis is a worthy addition to the web developer’s library.

Rating

2/5

CLUMPS of SEO

CLUMPS of SEO

It is an ugly acronym and I apologize profusely for that. But if you want to build and promote a website and improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization), you should think in CLUMPS.

CLUMPS of SEO
A clump of day lilies

What are CLUMPS?

I will explain.

Content

C is for Content, and Content is King. Don’t believe me? Try looking at a site – any site (this one is fine) – and picture it instead as a framework with lorem ipsum written all over it. And that’s kinda silly.

How to Search Engine Optimization
How to Search Engine Optimization (Photo credit: SEOPlanter)

So, people need something to read. Or listen to. Or download. Or play. Or discuss. Or purchase. Or any other of a number of things that they would want to do with a website. And they need it from you! So make up your mind as to what you want. Plan your content and work on it. Brainstorm what you want to cover, and keep records of that. This is help for when the rubber really meets the road and you’re stumped.

For example, let’s say you want to create an episode guide for the old television show, Quantum Leap. The show aired 97 episodes. If you post a new episode every single day, you’ll be out of content in less than three and a half months. If you instead post twice per week, you’re set for 48 and a half weeks – almost a full year. Good, but what do you do after that?

There are a few options. One is to post less frequently. Another is to churn up the content and repost it. However, what you could also do is branch out. Post about the actors’ work before and since the show was on the air. Cover convention appearances. Add photographs. Post or critique fan fiction. Open up the floor for discussions of the show’s philosophy. Find a related show to write about, and compare it to the original. It doesn’t matter. Just, recognize that your content might have a finite end to it, so you’ll need to work on extending that.

It can also help to look around the online world. What are others saying about your topic? Make a Google Alert for your topic or, better yet, make several, with variations. Follow the news and see what you can comment on. Don’t copy others’ work outright, but commenting on it, linking to it, and expanding on it are all fair game. Always, always, always link back! Speaking of links ….

Links

L is for Links. You’ve got to get your link out there, and have it linked back to by other sites. Now is not the time to keep it to yourself.

This does not mean spamming! Rather, you need to launch a bit of a campaign. Find like-minded individuals and ask for them to link to you. Offer to link to them in return. Now, it’s better if you’re linked to by pages with good, large followings. How do you find these sites? One way is to do a search on the backlinks for your closest competition. Who’s linking to them? And target those sites.

Another option is directories. Some are, of course, better than others. Look for directories which match what you are attempting to accomplish. For our sample site about Quantum Leap, you could search for science fiction directories, television show directories, nostalgia directories or even directories about the actors, writers and other personnel responsible for the show.

And be patient! Rising in search results takes some time, although you can promote yourself by buying search, if you like, by using Google AdWords. But if you don’t have a budget to buy listings, don’t worry.You can still have good external visibility. What matters is not being number one. What does matter is getting onto somewhere on the top three pages of search results and then working from there. Of course, the higher the better. But the difference between page 100 and page 1000 of search results is a moot one.

Usability

U is for Usability. If people cannot find what they are looking for, if your site is slow and unresponsive, or you’re just missing too many vital things, people may come, but they will not stay.

Case in point. I spent some time a few years ago investigating linking certain nursing job sites to various places where backlinks would be welcome. Research was done, and of course nursing schools are a prime potential source of backlinks. However, for some colleges, finding the link to either their nursing school or their placement office was akin to searching a hay field for sewing implements. I had, more than once, to resort to searching on Google rather than inside a particular school’s own pages, in order to find what I wanted. Sometimes, the pages were poorly named or written (e. g. placement office pages which didn’t have the word “jobs” anywhere in sight). Others had too many unrelated or poorly related or obscure key words (e. g. referring to such an office as the painfully generic  “Student Services”). It would have been far better to make sure that these pages were dense with correct words that people would use when searching, such as jobs, placement, careers, employment or internships.

Other sites had what I wanted but were painfully slow (that was often a server issue). Or the web developer was so in love with flash that the site has pretty scrolling pictures but it was hard to find where I was actually supposed to be clicking.

So look over your site. Or, better yet, have others do so. And find out from them what works, and what doesn’t. It’s not an occasion for them to tear you down or give you unstinting praise. Rather, it’s an occasion for you to learn what works, and what doesn’t.

For formal investigations, try using A/B testing methodologies. A/B testing is essentially serving up one version of a site to one person, and another version to another. And then you check their click behaviors. If these are people you know, talk to them. The difference between the “A” and the “B” versions of a page can be as small as a new color for the background or a different location for the logo versus a complete site overhaul. But it’s the smallest changes that are the easiest to process. Make small changes before you commit to larger ones.

This also goes into the idea of keywords. Keyword stuffing is, of course, a black hat strategy, and it’s the last thing you want to do. But white hat strategy isn’t just setting up a site for the benefit of search engines – it’s also setting it up for the benefit of people.

Metrics

M is for Metrics. If you’re going to do A/B testing, or if you care about whether anyone is visiting your site, you need to start looking at all of that. The best and easiest to use such analytical site is Google Analytics. Google Analytics provides all sorts of data, everything from which is the most popular page on your site to how long users are hanging around. Like many other things, take a little time and get to know the program but also allow it to gather some data. You aren’t going to get a terribly good picture of your site in a month. You need to let this percolate for a while.

Promotions

P is for Promotions. Again, I am not advocating spamming. But I do suggest that you put your link out there via your own Twitter stream, your own Facebook account, via Reddit and Stumbleupon, etc. For this hypothetical Quantum Leap site, you might want to find like-minded tweeters using a service like Triberr. You could look up science fiction, or television nostalgia, etc. and join tribes (groups of tweeters) with similar interests who would be likely to retweet your content. Use Social Oomph or a Google Alert to run regular keyword searches on Twitter for various related terms. For people who are using those terms, they might have an affinity for what you’re doing. Perhaps you can follow them, and see if they will follow you back. And if they are reading your tweets, they are seeing your links. Look for reasonable hashtags and follow them, and start using them.

But check Google Analytics after a while, and budget your time accordingly. If most of your time and effort are going into Twitter, but you get most of your readers from Facebook, you may need to rethink your Twitter strategy. Or, you could even try dropping it for a while, and only concentrating on Facebook.

Again, this is an exercise in patience. These things do take time, particularly if you have a shoestring budget and are essentially only using free services. For not paying, you will need to, instead, invest time.

Shiny New Stuff

S is for Shiny New Stuff. What I mean is, sites that stay the same, year in, year out, are just not that interesting. Plus, things change. Development proceeds at a far rapider pace than most of us know. Take a look at what’s out there, and see if making some changes will help.

For me, I started off creating a site completely from scratch, using HTML. I wanted to learn the language as well as possible, on my own. However, one area where I certainly needed help was in aesthetics. This went on for a couple of years as I had a site with good content, I was working on promotions and garnering linkbacks, and I was keeping it usable and was checking metrics.

I eventually moved the site to WordPress, and used their templates (the content, of course, is wholly my own). The site looks better and functions better. It also gives it a newer look. Plus WordPress fixes a lot of issues with key words. So long as your post is on point and mentions the keywords you want to tout, those key words will be in the page, and will be searchable by Google’s spiders.

Upshot

It’s still a lousy acronym. But I hope you’ll find it continues to hold true. The way to get your site out there, noticed and loved, is to make it as good a site as possible. Consider the sites you love. What they look like, how they work, what content they deliver and how they keep things fresh and interesting. Follow the metrics for your own site but take a leaf from those other sites’ pages. Not to out and out copy, of course, but rather to be inspired. And you can make your own quantum leap to better SEO.

CLUMPS of SEO
Quantum Leap
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Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism

This post is a riff on Be careful who you hire to manage your business’ Twitter account, which is a post on Social Media Today.

Twitter, Social Media and Professionalism
Follow me on Twitter! @woofer_kyyiv (Photo credit: Slava Murava Kiss)

In the original article, the author talks about, essentially, how to tell whether a Twitter feed is being handled professionally, or not. Here are their “5 Points to consider before hiring a service to manage your Twitter account.”

1. Before you even look at the different tools for measuring a Tweeter’s level of influence (which can be misleading and in some cases manipulated) you firstly need to check the individual’s own Twitter stream.

  • What type of language are they using? – agreed. Branding involves, among other things, speeaking the language of your customers. Are you a hip hop record label? A travel agency catering to retirees? A diamond jeweler? All of these businesses are going to have different customer demographics. There is no “one size fits all” here. I am not saying that people cannot adapt to communicate properly with everyone they do business with (after all, you need not hire a child to market to children), but the Social Media Specialist needs to get the message across so that the target readership is receptive.
  • Are they SPAMMING their own followers by sending lazy Tweets for example? #FF @Tweeter1 @Tweeter2 etc. – I’m not so sure I call this spamming. I think, at times, it’s useful to do this. But overdoing it (and you’ll know it’s overkill if tweets like this – or quickie retweets – dominate the stream) is definitely not a good way to do business.
  • How are they using their own account, is it professional or sloppy? Are they Tweeting late into the night and have no professional boundaries. They are over mixing professional with personal Tweets. – agreed. And with useful tools such as Social Oomph, tweets can be scheduled. There’s no excuse for late night tweeting, and no need for it. If the stream is meant to engage internationally, it might be a good idea to split it up into more than one account, so that one stream is for North America and another for Asia.
  • Are their own Tweets all over the place so you are not able to pick up a clear message. – this is a good point, and not just when it comes to Twitter. A clear message is key – for the Robotics company where I work, the message is about sales, it’s about education and it’s about robots. NASA, for example, is only mentioned in the context of robotics, not in the context of space launches. There’s a lot of information out there. Consider it to be a bit like a garden – usually it needs weeding and thinning, as opposed to fertilizing.
  • Are they acknowledging where they are taking their material from or just duplicating what they see their competitors doing? – ah, this is big. It’s why the original source for this article is listed. And it is a big part of how the ‘net works, or at least is supposed to. You post a blog entry. A competitor sees it. If they riff on it and post it and give you a linkback. that’s good for you. And you thank them and do the same in reverse and yeah, they’re still a competitor, but you’ve got common ground and there are areas where you can cooperate. Or they don’t acknowledge you, and everybody digs their heels in and the world becomes a slightly more miserable place. Hey, you make the call, but I prefer cooperation pretty much every time, myself.
  • Do their Tweets make any sense to you or are they just full of self promotion they hold no real value other than grooming their own ego. – true, but I think sometimes this can come from Social Media marketing folk not being properly trained. If the marketing manager is unsure of how much promotion should be mixed in with information, the marketer might be similarly confused.
  • How much negativity comes across in their stream – not everything is or should be positive, but I do get this. The idea is, well, are you promoting to people who want to buy your company’s organic brownie mix, or are you just going to sound petulant and whiny? There is, though, I feel, a way to be too perky. But I think if there are errors in this area, they should probably fall on the side of more, rather than less, perk.

2. Ask to be given the name of one of the business accounts they are managing, go through this with a fine tooth comb. Keep an active eye on the account and monitor how they are managing the business’ online profile.

  • How many Tweets are there and what type are they sending? – it’s a quantity and a quality game on Twitter. You need to get across some seven views before people start to consider buying. And consider Twitter’s international, 24/7 appeal – people may be checking at 4 AM. This, by the way, goes against an earlier statement about the marketer not tweeting into the wee hours. No, they shouldn’t – but unfortunately, sometimes, that’s when the readers are online. After all, if you’re tweeting for people playing World of Warcraft, they’ll be on at 4 AM. As for quality, that goes along with the above statements as well – are the tweets worthwhile, or are they dull self-promotion?
  • How are they engaging with the client’s audience? – some of this is in the form of retweeting. I think that retweeting and replying have a place, as it is a give and take type of engagement, so long as the retweeting and replying don’t crowd out the original content.
  • How is the call-to-action placed and worded? – this is fairly self-explanatory. There is a difference between what looks like a hard sell, and what has more of a friendly “Hey, check this out” vibe. Does the marketer know the difference?
  • Are the articles relevant to the client’s industry and audience? – this harkens back to my NASA example above. Content is necessary, of course, but irrelevant content is worse than no content at all. Better that the marketer pump out less content if it’s not relevant, yes?
  • Are they adding any value? – the $64,000 question! Can you tell without having access to measurement tools?

3. Ask for a number of references and call them.

  • How has the business level of influence grown? For sure if they cannot achieve this for themselves, they are not going to be able to do it for the client. – try objective measurements if you can get them, like Google page rank, bounce rate, etc.
  • What have been the benefits? – only your industry will have the specifics for this. Increased sales may or may not be the actual benefit. After all, sometimes social media is used for damage control. If that can be performed more efficiently and inexpensively – that might be the benefit.
  • What difference has it made to your online brand? – again, this is a specific question.
  • How good is the level of communication? – hard to say what this means without context. After all, the car dealer and the online cancer support group are going to have different needs in this area.
  • What results has the business seen? – again, objective measurements are best, whatever you can get.

4. Ask what Twitter measuring tools are they using to provide their clients with monthly reports.

  • While there are some good free tools around they do not come close to paid analytical tools for managing Twitter accounts. – agreed, but sometimes that’s how things go, particularly if the Tweeter has been working for startups or nonprofits.
  • Ask what recommendations they have made to the client that have enabled the business to grow based on the findings. – these should be in whatever reports the Tweeter provides.

5. Ask how much time they intend to spend on your account over the week.

  • How will this time be managed with all their other projects? – this is a good question for any sort of a freelance or offsite working relationship.
  • What elements of account management does this breakdown in to? – again, this is not confined to social media; it’s a good question for any potential employee who’ll be working remotely, or not exclusively with you.
  • How will they keep you informed and up to date with relevant Tweets and conversations? – reports? Emails? What is manageable and relevant?

And now a few of my own.

  • What do the tweets look like? Are they interesting? Relevant? Grammatically correct within the character limit? Or are they just slight variations on a theme?
  • Do any provided links work, or do they go to dead ends? Do the links have any sort of measurement behind them, even if it’s just simple click metrics? Do they lead to generic pages, or to any custom pages for Twitter users?
  • What’s the follow/follower ratio? Does the person follow everyone, or are they, at least seemingly, a bit choosy in this area? We all know that there are junk follower accounts – does the Tweeter even follow those or seem to use auto-follow?
  • How often does the person tweet? Daily? Monthly? A monthly Twitter stream is barely this side of useful. Tweets need not come every five seconds, but it is a fluid, evolving medium and needs more attention than that.
  • And finally, and this is a question for the person (and you may not get an accurate answer, by the way), does the Tweeter actually like what he or she is doing? Do they have a passion for it? Or is it, like, Time to make the doughnuts? I’m not saying that we can (or should) always love what we do. But plenty of people love doing this. Why not hire someone who does?

You can get a professional, passionate Social Media person, to handle your Twitter stream, do your blogging, manage your online community, promote your Facebook page and more. We really are out there.

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Content Nation by John Blossom, A Book Review

Content Nation by John Blossom

For Quinnipiac University‘s Social Media Platform’s class (ICM 522), this book was assigned as required reading.

John Blossom, Author of Content Nation
John Blossom, Author of Content Nation (Photo credit: HowardGr)

Blossom sharply and compellingly puts forth his case – the Internet is becoming home to more and more content creators all the time.

And this is a very good thing indeed.

As publishing becomes push-button fast and friendly, publishers stop being gatekeepers. Suddenly, anyone with an idea and a connection can potentially become a publisher.

 

One of his most interesting takeaways is on page 136, where he lays out Content Nation Enterprise Rule #1: “Social media isn’t about technology; it’s about adapting to more effective patterns of communications being adopted by competitors.”

For Blossom, the key benefits are –

  • Effective social media tools enable people to choose who they want to be in their circle of communication
  • Effective social media tools make it easier to collect and organize communications from internal and external sources
  • Effective social media tools make it easier to collaborate internally and externally to build and update valuable knowledge more effectively.

I have to say that I agree with this. So much of what we read about social media is about the platforms. The technology seems to overrule everything else, including common sense. Blossom essentially disagrees with Marshall McLuhan.  The medium isn’t the message.

The message is the message.

 

4/5

My leap into a Social Media career

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