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Learning from Meerkat: If You Don’t Understand the Social Graph, You Don’t Get Social Media Marketing

The Social Graph is About Relationships, Not Followers

Perhaps the most frequently asked question in the whole social media and online marketing arena is, “Where’s the ROI?” As Gary Vaynerchuk @garyvee points out in the animated, educational story that he tells in the video below, the true answer to this question requires thinking that goes deeper than a financial statement. To make his point, he ends up asking, “What’s the ROI of my mother?
Warning: If “the f-bomb” i.e. “foul” language offends you, you should NEVER listen to anything Gary says.

Of course, he’s right. There is a whole lot more to life, to business, and to marketing (in the social media-powered world) than trackable metrics. In other words, when you build authentic, sustainable long term relationships—not only with customers but with prospects—you are building an asset that has real long term value. That’s the true meaning behind the literal meaning of “the social graph.” That’s the point of this post. Please allow me to explain.

Missing the Point

Over and over, we miss the point about so many things. We think abundance is about money when, as we all know (I hope), there are much more important things in life. To me, these more important things are “true abundance.” And yet, we think social media marketing can be encapsulated by how many “Likes” we get on our Facebook page, or even by how many zeros there are at the end of the bottom line number at the bottom of this month’s revenue report.
In a similar way, we get impatient and dissatisfied with our online marketing efforts and miss the point regarding how amazing our world of innovative digital communications truly is. Gratitude really should be ruling the day. Louis C.K.’s famous video, “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” sets a nice tone for thinking differently about all this:

The Social Graph Defines Your Influence

I like to ask (presuming that you are doing some kind of social media marketing), “Are you building sustainable, long term relationships based on authentic human connections, or not?” (This subject is dear to my heart because it’s this kind of focus that puts the “humanity” in my calling myself a Humanistic Marketing Wizard.)

The “social graph” is the more geeky, technical term for your “tribe” or your network of influence which, in my view, is something that one builds by “leading with value” via social media and email marketing. Yet, we think the bottom line is the money, not the people. Wrong!

The bottom line, assuming you want to stay in business for the long term, is the real relationships that you are able to create and maintain. That’s why understanding the social graph is so important. In fact, it’s so important that, just last week, it become the leverage point in a high profile business kerfuffle between Twitter and the hottest app at SXSW, a live video streaming mobile app called Meerkat.

Twitter withheld social graph access from Meerkat thus underscoring the value of the graph.

What’s Meerkat Got to Do With It?

The Twitter vs. Meerkat story is an interesting business story because direct access to Twitter’s user base, i.e. its social graph is what Twitter withdrew from Meercat. They did that because Twitter’s social graph is one of its most crucial assets.
Likewise, so are your true followers, authentically engaged “fans,” and the email list subscribers, especially the ones who actually read and occasionally click on your emails. Their attention and TRUST are priceless/precious.
It’s a complex issue how we all access each other’s social graphs and it’s debatable what is appropriate use for a start up app. Along these lines, I really appreciated the thoughtful analysis of VC/entrepreneur Mark Suster @msuster in his blog post: “Some Perspective on Twitter vs. Meerkat.” I think he explains the business issues involved quite well.
In terms of authenticity, I also appreciate the fact that Suster is walking his talk, not only as a Meerkat user and venture capitalist, but also with how he thinks through this kind of issue. As he mentioned, “I have my social network in Twitter to thank for the public debate that clarified my thinking on this topic.”
And, that’s where the rubber really hits the road… not in terms of bottom line financials, but in terms of meaningful dialog, authentic give-and-take conversations where both parties listen as well as pontificate.
Straight-up social media communications like this not only make for more effective marketing and sustainable long term relationships, but more importantly, they make this a better world!
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“It’s a Wonderful Web” 2013!

cb-ipadThe first edition of our “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter for 2013 is out. It includes the following articles:

  • 2013: The Year of Anything is Possible
  • Special Offers!
  • Free 1-Hour Audio: Web Radio Interview
  • Luscious Links

If you’re not already a subscriber, click here to read it online.

Modern Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Advantages and Techniques

This Guest Post is by Tara Hornor of Creative Content Experts

There was a time when word of mouth marketing could only move at the speed of human speech. Business owners handed out stacks of business cards to customers for their referral program. Neighbors leaned over fences to discuss the finer points of various products and services. Life was about keeping up with the Joneses. Oh, how times have changed.

Radio and television sped up this marketing technique significantly. Word of mouth marketing grew exponentially as use of the Internet became more popular. Now word of mouth marketing moves at the speed of social media, which sometimes seems faster than the speed of light.

Consumers are more likely to make a purchase or use a service if the product or service has positive reviews from family members, friends, acquaintances, even fellow consumers who are otherwise strangers. While word-of-mouth marketing sometimes just happens, there are a few techniques you can employ to help encourage and speed up the process.

Here are a few of the advantages of Web and social media powered word-of-mouth marketing follow by some useful tips to help you get the most out of your efforts.

Can’t Avoid Word of Mouth Marketing

Studies confirm that word of mouth marketing drives 20-50 percent of purchase decisions. First time purchases are especially affected. Purchases that offer a higher risk benefit the most from word of mouth exposure because consumers have much more at stake. For example, if your company is new, try to get some reviews of your products. This acts as a word of mouth reference for peers.

Consumers trust friends more than ad campaigns. Of course, circles of trust now include virtual friends as well as real friends. Word of mouth marketing offers businesses a host of tangible benefits, including:

Stand Out in the Crowd

Consumers are faced with abundant choices. Everyone is competing to be heard. Word of mouth marketing silences the competitors more easily by using trusted recommendations. This is where reviews, Twitter tweets, and Facebook posts about your products and services are priceless.

Leverage Authorities

Savvy business owners who cultivate and nurture relationships with influential bloggers and commenters can leverage their authority. With the right tools and incentives, businesses can turn influencers into brand advocates. Having an influencer who authentically puts their weight behind your products and services can easily be the difference between a sale and a click away from your site.

Speed Up Sales

Word of mouth marketing enables consumers to decide faster. Input from trusted sources allows consumers to put aside any reservations and take a chance on a new product or service. Instead of “thinking about it” and maybe coming back to your site, with some word of mouth support an immediate sale is far more likely.

Modern Word of Mouth Advertising 101

The Internet offers an almost infinite number of hubs for virtual meetings to occur. Today’s version of the “fence out back” encompasses the entire world. Businesses can create virtual storefronts and communities for visitors to socialize in. The corner store has now housed itself in social media. Businesses can easily build brands by following a few simple word of mouth marketing techniques:

  • Put audience interests in the forefront by engaging them with interesting posts and updates.
  • Use photos and videos to show audiences, instead of telling.
  • Design all content around the interests of the target market, focus on their agenda, nor yours.
  • Show people using products, not just product still life images.
  • Integrate reviews, likes, shares, and tweets from various social media resources.
  • Encourage customers to write reviews on your site as well as via review sites such as Yelp.
  • Provide incentives for reviews, both negative and positive, such as a discount or free gift.
  • Make sure to include negative reviews with the positive, as this validates reviews.

Bonus resource: If you want more info on how to engage “influential talkers,” here’s a useful educational video via WordofMouth.org -> Ant’s Eye View’s Jake McKee on how to work with influential talkers

The typical social media user has an average audience of 100 or more. For the average person, that’s 4 times the immediate influence than in days gone by. Word travels much faster than it used to. Therefore, get customers excited about and involved in your company by engaging them on social media sites, your website, and blogs with interesting and helpful information.

Social media tools provide an excellent vehicle for businesses to connect with more consumers more efficiently. The modern water cooler conversation now takes place on social media sites and through product reviews. So get involved with your customers on these sites and be a part of the conversation. As the buzz around your business grows, keep an eye out for an increase in sales to increase alongside of your success with word of mouth marketing.


Tara Hornor has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, web and graphic design. She writes for PrintPlace.com, a company that offers online full color printing for business cards, catalogs, posters, brochures, and promotional postcards. Connect with @TaraHornor on Twitter.

NEW “Wonderful Web” ENews: “New is New Again”

The new edition of our “It’s a Wonderful Web” enewsletter is out. It includes the follow short stories:

  • It’s All About YOU (including Paul Simon quote)
  • New Marketing in Another New Era
  • Whipping Up Lower Cost Websites (fresh offer)
  • Make Your Marketing More Effective
  • New Custom-Designed Client WordPress Websites
  • Is Your WordPress Website Safe? (new services)
  • New News About NewMarU (update on our educational site)
  • Luscious Links: More Useful Info, Just a Click Away (valuable!)
  • Quick Hits: About the New Enews Format

If you’re not already a subscriber, you can read it online by clicking this link.

Social Media Goes Visual: Why Pinterest is More Than You Think

NextGen Social Media

Pinterest is much more than the latest and greatest “hot” new social network. Because of it’s visual nature, I believe that this upstart social network reflects the next generation of socially networked communication. In the current and coming stages of the evolution of the Web’s social revolution, the written word is no longer sufficient.

In case you haven’t tried it yet, Pinterest is essentially an online vision board. It lets people “pin” images that they find inspiring, useful or beautiful and then share their collections of images—called “Boards”—with others. When people “re-pin” the images, they are essentially “retweeting” or sharing visual communications in a state-of-the-art social media style.

This naturally compliments the ways that video and photo sharing have become majorly important. In fact, the array of visual communication innovation that we are seeing right now is indicative of the dawn of a new age. The web has quickly become a more dynamic visual medium. Text and hyperlinks were a foundation, but only a beginning. And we are still in the early stages.

Let’s Get Visual!

This trend isn’t new, but it does make a big difference. For example, Facebook power users know that when you share pictures, not just text updates, it fuels increased engagement in a big way. In other words, you get more “Likes” and comments when there’s a visual component to what you post.

Elsewhere, Tumblr has extended the Twitter-powered popularity of micro-blogging in a much more visual direction, and the popularity of using Instagram to share and talk about photographs is also surging (and is poised for major new expansion when the Android version of the Instagram app is released soon). ReadWriteWeb even reminds us that it is this mobile-phone-powered digital photography trend that slew the former photo corporate dragon: Death by Smartphone: How Mobile Photography Helped Kill Kodak.”

And then there’s YouTube which recently announced that 24 hours of video is uploaded to their site every twenty-four seconds. The video visual media explosion is so dramatic that YouTube itself produced this quick little 45-second video in an attempt to make its mind-boggling growth comprehendible:

If doesn’t clarify this explosion for you, Time Magazine recently ran an article, The Beast with a Billion Eyes, which characterizes YouTube as “the most rapidly growing force in human history.”

Blogger/consultant/author Jay Baer  says: 

“This is the year that photos challenge writing as the lingua franca of the social webIf you’re not taking and posting pictures to dedicated photo networks and cross-posting (when appropriate) to Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to grow your network and see the world through the eyes (or cell phone cameras) of thousands of new friends.”

The fact that the verb “pinning” has been showing up in conversations that aren’t even specific to Pinterest is a huge testament to the fact that people are captivated. If you think about how many times a day the verb to “google” is used to mean “search,” you can see that we’re on to something.

Why Is This Important for Business?

According to the Wall Street Journal, traffic to the Pinterest website has grown tenfold over the past six months. In January, the number of visitors on Pinterest was already almost a third of that on Twitter.

But Pinterest’s impact of web traffic may be even greater than Twitter’s. Based on a recent study conducted by Sharaholic, Pinterest drove more referral traffic to sites in January than Google+ (with 100 million users!), Reddit, YouTube, LinkedIn and MySpace all combined. Those are big-time numbers for the new kid on the block.

But, is there really room for another player in the social media VIP room? New York Times technology columnist David Pogue in his review, A Scrapbook on the Web Catches Fire, gives three good reasons why there definitely is:

  1. It’s clean. No ads, no pop ups, no blinking anything. It’s a pure and relatively simple rest for the eyes.
  2. It’s personal. Broadcasting isn’t the focus, rather your own interests take center stage in an authentic way.
  3. It’s humble. Pinterest Boards are about beauty, inspiration, information, passion, not self-absorbtion. It’s not, “Look at how great I am!” It’s, “Isn’t this GREAT!”

The blogger Beth Hayden sums it up well when she says Pinterest can  “…start making your social media strategy more beautiful, one little pin at a time.” When you add to this the fact that the early research seems to show that it will also make your social media marketing more engaging; and, when done appropriately, it will also help connect you to your constituencies at a deeper level: What’s not to like?

——

Our Other Pinterest Post:

Luscious Links to Unlock Pinterest: Free Resources Show How to Pin Your Marketing

Hits of the Week: Early July 2010

Welcome to a new feature of this blog. “Hits of the Week” (which we hope to offer weekly) will provide “linky goodness” i.e. valuable links posted to our ComBridges company Facebook page and Twitter feed. Here, we gather, in one place for your convenience, bunches of links to free PDF’s, articles and other resources. Please let us know if you find this service to be valuable. Thanks!

A Professional Research Perspective of Brand Engagement via Social Media
Highly recommended, Engagementdb is a very interesting resource, even for smaller companies who are interested in social media brand engagement. I especially recommend their excellent FREE PDF Report. It’s nice to see “engagement” made measureable at the highest level. Clearly, relationship/engagement is at least as important (and probably more important) than simply the gross number of “eyeballs”/visitors. The focus on these kinds of results is shifting appropriately from volume or quantity of “hits” to quality of engagement (at minimum, some kind of “conversion”). Are you tuned in to your organization’s quality of engagement? Click here to check it out.

Fast-paced Video Illuminating ROI for Social Media
Despite the annoying music, this video offers useful content if you still doubt the business-savvy economic value–in the vernacular, ROI (return on investment)–available from investing your time INTELLIGENTLY in social media.

A Peak Behind the Curtain of a Major Brand’s Social Media Command Center (VIDEO)
More mainstream social media… pretty cool music VIDEO too promoting Gatorade’s social media team, er, I mean “COMMAND CENTER”! Can your sports drink do this? Visit Gatorade’s Command Center to see more.

“It’s about the PEOPLE, silly.”
Via Seth Godin. As a business owner, I know that there is nothing more important than the highly capable, talented members of my team. Read valuable insights & perspective.

“Every company is now a media company.”
A great reminder, via Adam Ostrow & John Battelle

Great Graphics, Visual View of Social Media Today
You gotta love good Infographics. Especially when they tell a story. In this case, big companies are adopting social media. More are using Facebook and Twitter than blogs, but it’s a big majority who are involved. See what these charts tell you.

Influence vs Fame
I’d call it “Influence vs Eyeballs” but being clear about what it means to develop influence in today’s social media world makes this short ProBlogger piece well worth reading, IMHO. And in a related short blog post, Seth Godin reminds us that “If all you are doing is increasing number of digital spectators, you are unlikely to earn the conversion that you deserve.” Read more about “Fans, Participants and Spectators.”

Stay tuned and please comment and send feedback. Thanks!

Conan O’Brien Gets “The World Has Completely Changed.” Do You?

(Note: Read & scroll down please. Two [2] cool video clips below…)

I gotta love the fact that social media has become so powerful that a TV comedian like Conan O’Brien is having very tangible personal experiences that not only wake him up to the fact that “the world” as he says, “has completely changed.” But, as he illuminates in the video clip below from an interview at Google, his social media realization is in stark contrast to how far the execs at NBC apparently are from understanding how social media works (i.e. the audience has new powers). Duh. 😉

Of course, this is just one example of the fact that dramatic changes that are upon us due to the explosion of social media.  More video “evidence” is detailed in the 2nd video clip below.

Also, please note that when you click “play” on the Conan YouTube clip below, it is set up to play starting at the segment at 15:27 where he describes what happened to him because of Twitter (about 3+ minutes total) in the aftermath of his fall out with NBC when they gave “The Tonight Show” back to Jay Leno (“the other gentleman”). At some point, you may want to watch the whole 48-minute clip. It’s quite funny.

Now… especially if you are still wondering about the importance of social media—but probably, in any case— I highly recommend the following visually dynamic and informative YouTube video, “Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh)” from the authors of the book, “Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business.” This video is a freshingly-updated version of video that’s been around for a while. It’s packed with eye-opening statistics and relevant perspective, including, for example:

“Social Media is not a fad, but a fundamental shift in how we communicate.”
— Erik Qualman

Yes, the changes are that big.

Do you “get it” or are you still sitting on the edge of the social media “pool” thinking about jumping in?

Twitter Tools & How to Build More Consumption of Your Media

This Tuesday’s edition of TheTVNews.tv which is shown immediately below, features the links, tools and resources that can be found below the video. Enjoy!

Get a Grip on Internet Marketing: It’s a Process

Get a Grip on Internet Marketing: It's a Process(This commentary originally appeared in the Feb-March edition of ComBridges’ “It’s a Wonderful Web” e-newsletter.)

Many people think of Internet marketing as a “thing” or an event. It’s not. It’s a process… an adventure even.

Yes, of course, this process requires the generation of content. Whether your content is just what you say on your site, or if you get more vocal by writing blog posts, publishing e-newsletters (like this one), and/or tweeting on Twitter, there are things to do. But, what surprises us is not that people (including us sometimes) lack the discipline to write on a regular basis. What’s surprising is how short-sighted many people frequently are about the process.

What’s amazing about Internet marketing is the kinds of real world, actionable feedback that it makes available, for the first time. From the beginning of the web and e-commerce, we’ve loved the phrase “launch and learn.” Your website and all the associated opportunities to communicate with your consituencies is a low risk learning lab packed with valuable information, if you use it.

It works when you work it, but…

How many of you have Google Analytics (or some other analytics system) installed on your website, but fail to review those analytics on a regular basis? And as long as we mentioned “adventure,” how many of you actually go the extra step of testing new ideas, learning from the results, and then making appropriate adjustments? We’re guessing not many.

This is why ComBridges’ Internet marketing agreements now routinely include regular monthly coaching and consulting sessions as well as service deliverables. That way our work together can include monthly analytic reviews & recommendations as well as follow through on previous initiatives.

Internet marketing is a process, and we’d love to help you make yours more productive. Please contact us for more details.

Super Bowl Ads Still Lack Social Media Marketing Success (Mostly)

Thanks to everyone who participated in our live, interactive Super Bowl Commercial Rating Party in partnership with TheTVNews.tv, the TV industry’s only daily video newscast. (Watch this space and TheTVNews.tv for details on our Oscars Party.)

Reprise Media Search Marketing Scorecard on Super BowlBy way of follow up, Jeff and I did a segment on tomorrow, Wednesday 2/10’s show (my New Media / New Marketing starts at 2:50) discussing my view of the winner and loser Super Bowl advertisers in terms of social media marketing. We referenced Reprise Media’s Search Marketing Scorecard on the Super Bowl (a free PDF download) which points out a surprising fact: While 93% of the advertisers—who shelled out a reported average of $2.6 million for each spot—do have an official Facebook profile, (get this) only 5% promoted their social profiles in order to leverage or take better advantage of their massive investment (a.k.a. marketing expense).

The single biggest social media marketing loser was Denny’s. Here’s the link to Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion author, Gary Vaynerchuk’s rant about how Denny’s missed the boat with their multi-million dollar expense. Gary is totally right. Why not use an incentive like a free breakfast to capture customer information and build a platform for better engagement? Duh!

The viral marketing buzz winner was the Audi Green Police spot below which got the most Twitter buzz according to Trendrr (via a chart referenced in the Repris Media report):

Bonus Category: My “nominee” for the Super Bowl TV spot with “Best Script,” at least the script that hit closest to home for me had to be this creative “Man’s Last Stand” spot for Dodge Charger:

Too bad I don’t relate better to the product. 😉

Bonus Just for Fun Video Link: Business Insider’s 10 Best Tech Super Bowl Ads Ever

Bonus Link #2: USA Today’s Super Bowl “Ad Meter” (pretty slick, including green screen video intro)

As always, your comments, suggestions, rants, and any other insights you care to offer are welcome via the comments space below. I look forward to hearing from you.