Archive for March, 2012

Facebook Delves Deeper Into Search

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

On Feb. 1, a few hours after Facebook declared its intention to raise $5 billion in what will likely be the largest initial public offering in tech history, Mark Zuckerberg gave close followers of his company a potential clue to its future. On his Facebook profile, he uploaded a photograph of his desk and a large sign that read in big red letters, “Stay focused & keep shipping.” Yet it was the adjacent MacBook laptop in the image that drew the most attention. Visible on the computer’s screen was a blurry image of a Facebook page and, at the top, what seemed to be an unusually elongated white box. Web pundits speculated the image showed a prototype of a new Facebook search engine.

To date, Facebook hasn’t made search a priority, and it shows. The prominent white box at the top of each page is good at helping users find other members. It’ll also spit back Facebook pages for brands and locations, recent status updates from friends, and general Web search results powered by Microsoft’s (MSFT) Bing search engine. It’s a crude tool, however. Type in “Sonoma winery,” for example, and you get a disorganized assortment of wineries, people who work at wineries, unrelated banner ads, and a page for a wine-tasting iPhone app. In February, Facebook fielded 336 million search queries, according to ComScore—magnitudes fewer than Google (GOOG) and its closest competitors.

Searching the social network could get a lot better in the near future. About two dozen Facebook engineers, led by a former Google engineer named Lars Rasmussen, are working on an improved search engine, say two people familiar with the project who did not want to be named because the company is in a quiet period ahead of its IPO. The goal, they say, is to help users better sift through the volume of content that members create on the site, such as status updates, and the articles, videos, and other information across the Web that people “like” using Facebook’s omnipresent thumbs-up button.

The $15 billion search advertising market could be a huge opportunity for the company. It’s also a way to attack a chief rival, Google, which is moving in the opposite direction, from search to social, with its incipient Google+ network. With a more potent search engine, Facebook’s wine-loving users might be able to query the closest wineries that have been liked most often. That would give people one fewer reason to leave the site’s walled garden. Facebook could also follow the lead of companies such as Google and Microsoft and start selling relevant—and profitable—keyword ads alongside results. “Search is the best form of monetization on the Web by far, and they are leaving that on the table,” says Doug Leeds, chief executive officer of search engine Ask.com. “From a business perspective, you have to think about going into search.”

Facebook is unlikely to go toe-to-toe with Google for algorithmic supremacy. While Google controls 67 percent of the search market in the U.S. and has sophisticated technology to track a trillion Web pages, Facebook employs few, if any, traditional search engineers, who typically have deep expertise in fields such as information retrieval and natural language processing. But the company has a lot of social data it can apply to the problem of organizing information. Instead of crawling and ranking the whole Web, as Google does, Facebook already allows users to avidly flag the most interesting content, such as the best articles, recipes, and shopping deals. Improving Facebook search in some ways means just making more effective use of that data.

Google has recently attempted to integrate social data from Google+ into its results, but many critics consider it an awkward step that dilutes accuracy. Facebook may have more success, given its natural strengths in adding social elements to the Web. Gil Elbaz, CEO of data-crunching startup Factual and co-creator of the business that became Google’s highly profitable AdSense network, says Facebook’s data about its users and what they like could prove important. “Over time, this will let them build a powerful structured search engine,” he says.

Rasmussen, the Google veteran, is an interesting choice to help Facebook elevate its search game. A Danish computer scientist with a salt-and-pepper goatee, he co-founded mapping software company Where 2 Technologies, sold it to Google in 2004, and helped create Google Maps. Rasmussen later went on to build, with his brother Jens, the online communication and collaboration tool Google Wave, which was criticized for being too complex and was shuttered. Rasmussen jumped to Facebook in 2010 after a personal pitch from Zuckerberg. He told the Sydney Morning Herald that year, “I do think that social is a significantly less explored area still than search, and it is sort of the frontier of technology in many ways. But that doesn’t mean in any way that search is obsolete or even close to being obsolete.” Rasmussen’s brother remains at Google, adding a sibling rivalry twist to the competition between the tech giants.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment on what Rasmussen is working on. If the engineer is looking to make the search box on Facebook more useful, he will face plenty of obstacles. Users see and rate only a fraction of the Web’s content—mostly material that is new—so Facebook may have a difficult time including more obscure content in search results. The site also continues to work with Bing and has to avoid ruffling feathers there. Zuckerberg meets every few months with Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s online-services division, says a person familiar with the partnership, and in 2010 Bing began personalizing results based on what a user’s Facebook friends “like.”

Still, the search opportunity may prove irresistible. After Facebook goes public, likely in May, Zuckerberg will have to contend with investors who want him to cultivate new sources of revenue. Greg Sterling, a senior analyst at Opus Research, says Facebook could quickly become the second-most popular search engine if it tackles the problem in earnest. “There’s a huge amount of revenue waiting to be unlocked if they want to explore search-based pay-per-click advertising,” he says. “They can leverage the data and demographic information they already have.” Only then will that blurry photo of Facebook’s potential new search box come into focus.

The bottom line: Facebook is revamping its search engine, which could help it take a part of the $15 billion search advertising market.

Can Too Much SEO Be a Bad Thing?

Friday, March 30th, 2012

As a small business owner using the web to reach customers, you’ve surely been implementing search engine optimization tactics to make sure your site turns up high in web searches. But just when you might feel like you’re starting to get the hang of this SEO thing, it appears that search giant Google might start penalizing websites that are over-optimized.

At this year’s South by Southwest festival, Google spokesperson Matt Cutts hinted that such a penalty would weed out sites that focus too much on SEO and too little on providing a quality experience for their users.
So what factors might play a role in an over optimization penalty? Cutts outlined several signals that would qualify as too much SEO, such as “too many keywords on a page” and “exchange way too many links.”

The tricky part is determining what constitutes too many keywords or links. While the penalty has not yet been put in place, you can still take steps to make sure your business’s site doesn’t end up being labeled “overly optimized”:

1. Write content for people first and search engines second. Site content written specifically with SEO in mind is often clunky and difficult to read. Focus on providing content that’s useful to your readers and trust that links and search engine results will follow.

2. Focus on link quality over quantity. Just because you can buy 10,000 profile links for $10 from any number of link sellers doesn’t mean you should. Instead, redirect your efforts toward courting quality links that reflect well on your site.

3. Pay attention to Google’s ’23 Questions.’ Though these questions were released in conjunction with last year’s Panda update, there’s no doubt that these stated quality parameters are still in effect. Focus on getting your site in line with these principles to avoid over optimization penalties Google could release.

The Golden Triad Of Search Marketing: How To Leverage It For Massive Success

Friday, March 30th, 2012

John Doerr of KPCB calls it “SoLoMo“. Others call it by different names. I see it as the holy grail of our digital marketing future.

I’m talking about Social – Local – Mobile SEO/search marketing… the exciting golden triangle of unification and synergy created by billions of people armed with mobile computing devices who are seeking and finding instant gratification, wherever they are and wherever they go.

The business case for this evolution is clear. The writing is on the wall. And unless you, as a business owner, adapt quickly to this change, you’ll be leaving money on the table!

Mobile SEO that is focused locally and integrated socially will drive relevant, quality traffic that converts far better than any other option – and the volume of this traffic is set to grow exponentially in coming years.
Mobile Search Is Not About Technology

Mobile Internet devices have crossed 10 billion in 2010, with over 5 billion cellphones in use, 1.08 billion of them smartphones.

Expert predictions are that in 2014, mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop usage. Even today, over 50% of all online search activity happens from a mobile device. But…

It’s not enough to have a “sniffer” script detect your visitor’s Web browser and serve up a mobile version of your website. Mobile optimization is not just about presentation. It is about understanding the psychology of a visitor who discovers your site from a search performed on a mobile device.

This isn’t something new. Your prospect still wants pretty much the same things. What has changed is the tool or medium she now uses to find those solutions to a problem. And the behavior is reinforced by the ease with which she can not only find it, but also have it validated by her peers through the power of mobile social networking!

Imagine a young man who searches for a fancy gadget and finds an electronics shop nearby that stocks it.

Not only can he now step into the showroom, inspect the instrument, and test it out – he can also pick up his mobile phone and shoot out a question or comment about it to his mates on Facebook, Twitter or Google+and have their feedback on it instantly.

He can point his mobile phone’s camera as he tries out the gadget, and at the click of a button, have the video posted to YouTube – where others can comment, opine or advise him on what to do.

Collaborative decision-making, with expert and peer validation of a buying choice, has never been so instantly, globally and inexpensively available ever before.

Businesses that don’t understand this paradigm shift in buying behavior are at risk of being decimated by agile, social-savvy competitors.

When you know how mobile device users will interact with search engines to find what they are looking for, you’ll be able to design landing pages that engage and draw in your prospects by meeting them where they are, give them what they want, and (by intelligently analyzing the intent behind their keywords) push the appropriate psychological triggers that close a sale and boost your profits.

Ideally, optimized mobile landing pages will answer the unspoken questions inside your prospect’s mind as they surf the Web in search of solutions!

Focus On Intelligence, Not Technology
Only few online businesses are correctly making this shift. The vast majority are obsessed with investing millions into marketing methods and technologies that are doomed to deliver abysmal results.
Smart SEO strategies to exploit the “social-local-mobile” revolution is more about gaining better intelligence than focusing on cutting-edge technology.

Specifically, you need better keyword intel. Long-tail keywords used in mobile search can provide priceless information about ‘buyer intent‘. They leave clues about what you should provide them with on the landing page.

If a search phrase contains a generic word (like “hotel”) combined with a location name (like “Oslo”) then you’ll know what the searcher needs, the expectations from your site, and what hook will convince him/her to take the desired action.

Or if a searcher looks for an item of clothing (sweater, jeans, etc.) in a physical store, you can tell if they not only want to read about the product online, but also want to try it on for size – so you can then try and satisfy this desire promptly.

The hardest lesson to learn as a business owner is this. You don’t have control. You can’t demand that your customers act in a certain way. But you can watch, listen, and act.

That way, you can influence and persuade prospects to take the desired action (buying, signing up to your list, recommending you to others, sending referrals etc.). A flashy new “mobile store” won’t help with your conversion rate in the same way that “keyword intelligence” will.

Watching businesses neglect the importance of data driven marketing is painful (and bizarre). It is so simple and obvious to take a close look at what’s working and do more of it – while cutting down on what doesn’t work!

Yet why don’t more businesses cut out wasteful marketing? Why does search marketing get only a small fraction of the overall marketing budgets? Why do businesses slap on SEO at the end, rather than integrating it right from the beginning?

It’s almost as if business owners enjoy sabotaging their own chances of success, by constructing the edifice that’s their marketing strategy on a foundation of quicksand… where it will slowly but surely sink and die.

This is a good reason to have your SEO strategist involved right from the planning phase, and deeply engaged in structural and content based decisions about your Web presence.

Any winning SEO strategy today will incorporate local search, mobile and social marketing. If it doesn’t, you need a new strategy. SoLoMo is the future – at least for another 5 years. And on the Web, 5 years is an eternity!

Tools, Technology Or People?
What exactly does mobile and social optimization mean? Is it putting together a pixel-perfect website that loads fast and looks pretty? Not really.

Your role is to understand the needs of your prospects and visitors. To figure out their problems that your product or service can solve. To telegraph this message as soon as they hit your landing page.

That’s how SEO consultants can turn a 1% conversion rate into 20% or higher. If 98 out of 100 visitors to your site don’t do what you want them to, then obviously you don’t understand your audience’s needs.

At the very least, you’re not offering them a viable solution. That’s why they’re off to buy something from your competitor!

How can you keep them with you, convince them of the value you provide, and entice them into spending money with your business? It’s simple. Tap into the conversation that’s going on inside their head. Correctly identify what they want. And then provide them with it.

Say you’re an online newspaper, and one of your key performance indicators (KPI) is to get more page views. By analysis and observation of your audience’s behavior, you’ll be able to tell what they expect to find on your site.

Adding relevant content along the same lines, publishing related stories, and inviting readers to check them out, can drive more page views. Anything that detracts from this goal should be removed. It’s just “noise”.

Clear it up.
A confused prospect rarely buys. By giving visitors too many choices, you may end up confusing them too much, so they’ll simply leave.

Here’s where Web analytics data and conversion rate optimization come in. They’ll show you why even targeted traffic is not delivering on your KPIs – and point out the ‘leaks’ for you to plug.

This is not a one-time operation. It’s an ongoing task that involves constantly listening, learning and optimizing for incremental gains. No single tool or script or service can manage all of this out of the box.

Listen To Real Experts
Whenever a new shift happens in the marketing playground, you’ll hear the chatter grow louder as ‘pseudo-experts’ sprout like weeds in an untended garden, recommending that you implement the shiny new thing in your business.

It’s happening with local-mobile-social search also. Thousands, if not millions, have studied the “Top 10 Mobile Internet Trends” report from February 2011, and the earlier “Mobile Internet Report” (2,3 mb .pdf) from Morgan Stanley, and jumped to similar conclusions.

Their logic is simple. Everyone else is doing it. So you should too. After all, you can’t go wrong following the wisdom of the crowds (and if it doesn’t work, no one will blame you anyway!) That’s defensive obfuscation at its useless worst!

CMS vendors, called in by clients in the marketing and IT departments, rush to add a “optimized for SEO” or “mobile friendly” tag to their software platform – and it satisfies buyers who don’t want to buy “non-SEO friendly solutions” any more.

But the perception created by these vendors that SEO is a cookie-cutter solution is flawed and false. SEO is not a one-time install. While code and graphics do play an important role in overall SEO, just buying a specific CMS will not meet your needs, no matter how ‘optimized’ or ‘friendly’ it may be.

Similarly, CMS solutions that sniff user agents to deliver appropriate versions of your website to mobile devices doesn’t cover more than the basics of mobile SEO.

Now, it may seem that I’m against SEO-friendly CMS and mobile-friendly site design. That’s not true. Mobile friendly solutions are important.

What, however, is critical is what happens before the website is even presented to a viewer. And every expert SEO strategist is aware of this – while most (if not all) CMS vendors don’t even have a clue about it!
• Can your ideal prospect even find your website in the first place?
• If not, what value did the fancy mobile-friendly solution add to your business?
• When your offer doesn’t match their need, how useful are social sharing buttons?

That’s why you’re better off consulting with your SEO strategist before buying any new solution. SEO has grown incredibly complex, and components are interwoven in such an intricate fashion that everything impacts everything else – and a trivial twist that you thought was irrelevant may significantly impact your KPIs adversely.

It’s why SEO, social media marketing and communications departments need to collaborate and talk together before implementing changes… ideally even while conceptualizing your online presence.

Real SEO experts can make a big difference to your level of success. SEO is a specialized field. It is different from programming, Web design, Web analytics, and PR – though it’s a bit of them all, a hybrid version that ‘connects the dots’.

The biggest difficulty with effective SEO is that it is not formulaic. There is no “one size fits all” blueprint. It must be uniquely and individually customized for each and every business, depending upon the overall strategy. And it cannot be ‘set and forget’, but must be constantly tinkered with and tweaked.

SEO Strategists See Through The Smoke & Mirrors
Loud hype proclaims what’s happening as the ‘next coming’. But while the entrance path and the medium of consumption may be different, shifting from desktop personal computers to the mobile phone or tablet device, users’ “attitudes and actions” haven’t changed.

People still research before they buy. They flock to the ultimate resource of all information – the mighty search engines. They seek peer and expert feedback and recommendations before buying. That happens on social networks.

What is different?
Nothing, really.

There are minor variations. Search engines are constantly evolving, and keep on modifying their algorithms to distinguish the most relevant results for each keyword being searched by their users. They are using “social signals” as one such indicator.

Rich snippets are influencing search results. SEO strategists understand how this influences searchers, and can suggest constructive modifications that will leverage this shift to a business’ advantage.

Sure, you could save a little money by having a friend or cousin install an SEO friendly CMS. But without a deeper understanding of the psychology behind social-mobile-local search, this will create bigger problems for your business later on.

It won’t be obvious, and you may miss it for a long time – but eventually, you’ll have to wake up to the harsh reality of missed opportunities and declining impact in a brutally competitive marketplace.

If that doesn’t scare you, it should.
Mediocre results are the natural consequence of mediocre and short-sighted thinking and planning. You reap what you sow.

So understand that SEO is not a cost, it is an investment. An investment that can deliver sky-high returns by attracting relevant traffic and buying customers to your business, year after year – with little additional effort or expense.

Build Your Business To Last
Don’t be led astray by the loud clamor that’s drowning out the rare words of sense and wisdom. As a business owner, you owe it to yourself and your clients to adopt a strategy that brings you the highest ROI for the present – and the future.

Isn’t it remarkable how little of any marketing budget is being allocated to search marketing, even after experience has proven beyond doubt that Google organic and paid search brings the highest revenue, and is the most cost effective marketing strategy? Businesses keep spending money on less effective methods.

Why?
Why is your sales website the lowest paid “employee” in your company? It never stops working, never reports sick, never complains, always delivers value (quality leads and high conversion rates)… yet most businesses put their “best salesperson” into the closet, lock the door, and throw away the key! Isn’t that shocking?

I assume that it will take some time and intense education to bring about a change from the status quo. The sooner this happens, the better. Ignoring SEO can harm your business seriously.

In 2014, mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop internet usage. Already, more than 50% of all “local” searches are done from a mobile device. In the US, 9 in 10 people have a mobile phone.

A report from Infinite Research predicts that global Tablet shipments will increase from 16.1 million units in 2010 to 147.2 million units in 2015. Global mobile data traffic is expected to grow 26x over next 5 years. All of this means businesses are going to gear up for a massive boost in spending to attract this deluge of mobile search traffic.

Yet many are just investing in SEO (mobile, local) as an alibi – an excuse to show stakeholders that they’ve tried, rather than with a strategic plan to dominate their marketplace.

• Will stakeholders accept this for long?
• How soon will they start asking the leadership difficult questions?
• Why are business stewards leaving money on the table?
• When will the excuses stop working – and heads begin to roll?

Every marketing department should be aware of the critical role of SEO by now, and sales departments shouldn’t accept poor excuses, but instead focus on exploiting the rich potential with speed and energy.

Letting this window of opportunity slip away can be a costly mistake. You’ll not only miss out on sales, but also run the risk of not safeguarding your good name.

The Rising Star That Is Mobile + Social Search
As more and more searchers use Google and other services to locate businesses while they are on the move, an increasing percentage of your prospects will find you for the first time through mobile searches. This number is growing at an incredible rate.

About 70% of the world’s population now owns a mobile phone, with over 5 billion mobile subscribers globally. 3G subscriber penetration exceeded the “sweet spot” of 20% in 2010 and is expected to grow to over 40% by 2014. Much of this use is concentrated in developed nations (U.S. has overtaken Japan in 3G user base).
In addition, 91% of all mobile internet use is “social” related. 50% of the 200 million active Twitter users are on mobile devices, versus 25% last year. Some 200+ million (up from 50 million in 2009) access Facebook from a mobile device.

What’s great about this is that reviews and ratings that are available for many different services, products and business/brands.

The downside is that poor quality (or even an unintended bad experience) can get you voted down – and you’re not in control. Worse, there’s an inherent danger that unethical people could get you into trouble through ‘fake social voting’ and ‘manipulative reviews’.

With Google leaning towards social signals in weighting their organic search results, we’re seeing an impact from rich snippets, social mentions (+1s and Likes), and public ratings or reviews, all of which influence the decisions of a prospective buyer who is in pre-purchase research mode.

As with anything so powerful, there are opportunities here, as well as risks and dangerous minefields to navigate with caution.

But that alone isn’t what makes mobile search so exciting.

It’s also because:
• the individual is within a specific geographical area
• is using long tail keywords which are more likely to convert into sales
• the searcher’s intent is probably to seek instant gratification

All of this, combined with the massive social reach of mobile searchers, makes winning this race a high stakes battle for your customer’s mind. And there’s one way to stack the deck in your favor – know your visitor’s intent, understand their psychological drives, and give them exactly what they want!

6 Ways to Acquire New Customers via Social Media

Friday, March 30th, 2012

We all know social media is an important tool for brand awareness and customer acquisition — but how exactly are you supposed to convert random Twitter and Facebook users into real-life customers? Well, that depends.

Different brands have different challenges when it comes to customer acquisition: “If you’re our customer, you’ve signed up for a year-long service, unlike the Starbucks of the world, where you can be a customer by coming in for a cup of coffee one day,” says Lisa D’Aromando, social media community manager at Equinox. Whether you’re a clothing shop, a restaurant or a subscription service, you must tailor your strategy so that it makes sense for your brand. That said, there are a few universal ways to help your company attract new faces on the social web.

“I’m a big believer in creating and sharing meaningful content,” says Danni Snyder, co-founder and creative director at jewelry brand Dannijo. “Over time, that is every brand’s best bet for creating and sustaining a following that will grow their business.”

But what does it all entail? Mashable spoke with some super-social brands about how they find new customers and lock in their existing ones they have as repeat buyers.

1. Get Your Search On
There are 340 million tweets sent per day — odds are that a few of them are referencing your brand, though you may not realize it. “Just because chatter on social media channels isn’t mentioning your brand by handle or hashtag doesn’t mean it isn’t happening,” says McKee Floyd, director of brand development at Sweetgreen.
The key is to be proactive. For the company’s upcoming Sweetlife Festival, Floyd set up Twitter searches for “sweetlife” and “sweetlife festival” on TweetDeck, which pulls the tweets even if users didn’t include the hashtag. “As groups of friends have conversations back and forth on Twitter about whether or not they should buy tickets, we monitor and chime in with helpful info, answering logistical questions about the festival and hopefully swaying them towards choosing to attend.”

Geoff Alexander, managing partner at Chicago’s Wow Bao, says his team also uses TweetDeck to search for certain keywords — such as “wow bao,” “baomouth” and “hot Asian buns” — and they reply to any and all posts they find. Wow Bao initially got into social media because there wasn’t a budget for advertising, so the brand opted to spread the word by giving away buns. “@BaoMouth searches the Internet for ways to reward people — giving away bao, full meals or mobile money [for the food truck],” says Alexander.

But the search tactic works for more than just food concepts. Danni Snyder says she monitor mentions of Dannijo religiously and also searches Twitter for “jewelry.” Consuming social media buzz about jewelry — and not just Dannijo’s wares — helps the brand be “aware of what people are talking about, what they like and don’t like, etc.” says Snyder, which can help Dannijo cultivate a new audience with their next collection.

One tip for finding new customers is to see who’s engaging with your competitors — if someone just started following or tweeted at or checked in at another bakery in the neighborhood, you could tweet at the person to come check out your cupcakes. They customer will appreciate the shout-out and the fact that you handpicked them to be your customer. Get clever with searches that are relevant to your business and offerings to help you target potential customers — then reel them in by being charming and human, not salesy.

2. Use Images to Engage

A picture is worth a thousand words — photos drive twice as much engagement as text posts do on Facebook. So if you’re looking to attract some new fans, start snapping pics.

Snyder says Instagram is her favorite medium for connecting with fans. “You can subliminally market without annoying your customers because each post is capable of accomplishing a number of things,” she says. “In one post, we can showcase a new design available at Dannijo.com, thus driving traffic to our ecommerce site; show how we’d style the jewelry; mention a tastemaker friend like Questlove or ManRepeller and promote them while they’re wearing Dannijo; inspire discussion and engagement, gaining valuable customer feedback; and provide followers some visual inspiration and insight into your creative process.”

But the pics need not be product-focused. Dannijo posts photos of food and musicians that embody the Dannijo vibe. Similarly, Rent the Runway posts pictures of various style trends. “On Facebook, we try to use as much imagery as possible — not just promotional imagery of our dresses, but images that relate to pop-culture,” says Jenny Fleiss, president and co-founder of Rent the Runway. For example, in anticipation of the upcoming Great Gatsby movie, the RTR blog posted about Gatsby-inspired fashion trends.

3. Host a Competition

Nothing gets customers going like some swag, so contests are a great way to boost your followers and engagement. But be strategic about what you’re offering, or else you could attract the wrong followers.
ModCloth hosts monthly photo contests that garner hundreds of entries and thousands of votes. “Our most recent contest, Thrifted Treasures, asked our fans to share their favorite vintage finds, and our community could vote up their favorites,” explains Natasha Khan, ModCloth’s social media manager. “The social actions surrounding that event brought in thousands of new fans, which we otherwise would not have gained.”
Khan says contests and offers have been the most high impact customer generation events for ModCloth. But if you’re planning on hosting a contest, Khan has a few suggestions. First, build in actions that allow the fan to share to their social networks, as this will increase virality. Second, stay true to your brand. Third, tweak the contest to fit the platform on which you’re running it — “On Facebook that means sharing photography, on Twitter it means wordplay hashtags, and for Polyvore it means styling outfits,” says Khan.

“Quality is more important than quantity when it comes to Facebook fan growth. If your company product is clothing and your prize is free iPads, then you will gain followers that might not belong to your core demographic. Make sure the reward is something your customer will value, such as a gift card or grab bag of your products,” says Khan.

4. Spice Up The Platforms

With so many platforms to manage, be sure to have a distinct M.O. on each channel — and cross-pollinate sparingly. If a customer sees the same information and pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram andPinterest, she need only follow you on one of these platforms. Also, be wary of overpromotion. Nothing is more of a turnoff than a constant sales messaging — people easily can unfollow, and they will. Interestingly, many of Wow Bao’s posts have nothing to do with bao — @BaoMouth tweets during award shows and keeps a lively conversation going on a number of topics, winning people over with its spunky personality.

Of course, a big reason why you use various social media channels is to promote your product, so there are some things to keep in mind for the messaging when you are pushing your goods.

“Prove the value of being a Facebook fan. If you can find the same content and offers on other channels, there is no incentive to also follow the brand on Facebook,” Khan says. “Exclusive Facebook-only offers and original content reinforces our investment in the channel.” The same goes for every other social platform.
For Equinox, Facebook is for broadcasting of events and initiatives, like Cycle For Survival, Twitter is more conversation and geared toward responding to questions about membership, fitness routines and healthy eating, and Foursquare is the platform on which to find offers for Equinox’s spa and shop, which are open to the public. “Every Monday in March, we posted a different Foursquare check-in special for The Shop at all of our locations,” says D’Aromando. “Since you don’t have to necessarily be a member to go to The Shop or The Spa, these specials are accessible to everyone,” and can lure in potential customers into becoming Equinox members.

The company’s Q blog is another digital project where you’ll find awe-inspiring videos and original lifestyle content — a great way to add value for potential customers. “Q was launched to extend our brand and increase this word-of-mouth among our target audience. It gives people — members and nonmembers — topics and material from our Equinox experts to share with others,” says D’Aromando. “In lieu of promos, we create a different sort of currency: highly produced, branded content on Q with exclusives for our social media communities.”

5. Make It Personal

No one like a mass message — consumers like to feel as if they’re the only ones being spoken to. You should know your customers and speak to them in personal ways to establish touchpoints that build relationships and create loyalty.

“I like to make it very personable — if someone tweets a question I make sure to answer immediately,” says Steven Rojas, social media director at GrandLife Hotels. “Often I go as far as Googling that person to make sure I know as much as I can about them before reaching out. I want to humanize the brand so people don’t feel like they are speaking to a computer but to an actual person who cares about what they are saying. My obsession for all things digital never sleeps, so I make sure everyone gets what they need, when they need it.”

Live chats are another effective way to offer intimate interaction and engagement with fans. “It’s about having a conversation with your community, so we often do live chats with our stylists on Facebook to answer any styling questions customers may have,” says Fleiss. “These posts tend to elicit the most ‘Likes’ and comments.”

While you’re browsing sites for comments to respond to, don’t ignore negative feedback — addressing the complaint is an opportunity to convert an unhappy customer into an impressed brand ambassador.

“We’re very appreciative when someone takes the time to let us know about a bad experience or an issue because then we can help fix it,” says Jenny Danzi, a Mountain Dew brand manager. “Reply to every complaint to turn those consumers into advocates — even if you can not offer an instant fix, people appreciate getting a human response,” she adds. And don’t forget that even the littlest gesture can make a big difference. “Sometimes for us it can be as simple as letting consumers know where they can find our products,” says Danzi.

Wow Bao takes it to the next level, proactively finding ways to create touchpoints with consumers. “We comment on any and all posts mentioning people’s birthdays and pop culture,” says Alexander. “We even schedule posts for people’s birthdays, when people post something like, ‘My birthday is in 12 days’” — a very personalized tactic that can go a long way.

6. Let Your Customers Shine

Nothing makes a customer feel better than being acknowledged — or better yet, honored — by their favorite brand. Is there a way to offer kudos to your loyal fans? If so, make it happen.

Because women love to talk about what they’re wearing — and often wear RTR to social events such as weddings and cocktail parties — Rent the Runway strives to move these conversations online. “We have weekly style award contests on our blog and Facebook Page, and a section of our site called RTR Momentswhere women can share photos of themselves in RTR dresses,” says Fleiss.

For Mountain Dew, whose fan base is extremely young and active on social media, the “Diet Mountain Dew Supernova Spotter” is a great way to celebrate the return of the fan-chosen flavor in addition to highlighting the passion of the fans. “Dew drinkers can upload their photo of Diet Supernova, and on Friday we’ll open the entries up to public voting. Fifteen winners will each get a Diet Dew hoodie, and everyone who enters can easily share their Diet Supernova passion with friends,” Danzi says.

For Equinox, whose social media fan base is largely comprised of members, the goal isn’t as much to incentivize people to join (they already have), but to make them feel special for being members. “We have a Facebook app where members can refer friends directly, and if the friend joins, the member gets a referral bonus,” says D’Aromando. “We also just launched a program on Twitter where we’re rewarding our advocates by offering them private group fitness classes for them and their friends. This gives us a way to say ‘thanks’ to those who always post about us, and it gives them something to talk about with their friends — online and off.”

Five Tips for Better Text-Message Marketing

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Connecting with consumers when they’re on the go is more important than ever, and text messagemarketing (also referred to as SMS, or short message service marketing) can be a highly effective technique.

But the proliferation of mobile devices doesn’t guarantee marketing success. If your pitches don’t resonate with consumers and motivate them to act, then your efforts are for naught.

Here are five tips for writing marketing texts that get read and produce results:

1. Be brief and focused.
Your text message should be laser focused and succinct. There’s no room for fluff in mobile marketing. Know who your target audience is and speak directly to it. Leave out extraneous details and simply describe how to take advantage of your offer and its benefits.

2. Avoid hype, slang and abbreviations.
If your text message looks like spam, consumers will delete it without a second thought. It’s critical that you leave out anything that might seem too slick and promotional. That includes marketing hype like “amazing” offers, slang and text abbreviations, all of which cheapen the perception of your brand and can destroy your campaign.

3. Offer something of immediate value.
No one wants to receive texts from a company unless the messages offer something of immediate value. Because text messaging is an instantaneous medium, you should include real-time offers. Whether you’re providing information about a sale or a new product, the message should describe the benefits of acting now.

4. Identify yourself.
How often have you received a text that doesn’t identify the company or brand? Instead, you often see a phone number you don’t recognize and a vague message that could have come from any number of companies. And how often have you simply deleted those anonymous messages? It’s essential that you clearly identify your business or brand to avoid getting the spam treatment.

5. Make consumers feel special.
Don’t clutter consumers’ text message inboxes with offers and news they could easily get from your website or your brick-and-mortar locations. Instead, make recipients of your texts feel they’re special and have qualified for an exclusive promotion. Otherwise, they will most likely opt out of receiving any future texts from you.

Examples of Mobile Marketing Texts

Here are a few sample texts to help you avoid mistakes and write an effective marketing message:

Bad Example 1: Amazing prices at www.abcbags.com almost 2G2BT. Miss these prices AYOR.

Bad Example 2: Hey! Did you see this sale? www.abcbags.com. Gotta get your bag before it’s too late.

Both texts include the hype, abbreviations and slang that can hurt your campaign.

Now, look at some good examples:

Good Example 1: 50% off all leather laptop bags at www.abcbags.com for the next 48 hours only. Use coupon
code HALFOFFTEXT at checkout.

Good Example 2: ABC Bags 50% off leather laptop bags through 3/31/12. Show this message to store manager to get half off. Find a store: www.abcbags.com/locations.

Notice in each example that the offer is succinctly stated, with a clear call-to-action. Each text also provides a sense of value, timeliness and exclusivity. The messages create a sense of urgency, which people would expect from a text.

Remember that finding the right messages for your audience will take time and experimentation. But the tips and examples above should help you achieve your goals of getting noticed and making some sales.

Google About to Launch Its Next Attack on Facebook

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Google is about to launch a new commenting system that will tie into the search giant’s Google+ platform, web services and web search, a source close to the product’s development confirmed with The Next Web

Tech-WD blogger Saud Al-Hawawi also reported yesterday that several new Google features that have yet to be announced were discussed at the Google event G-Saudi Arabia, including the new commenting platform.

The Google comment system, which will almost certainly rival that of Facebook, will have deep links to Google’s network of services and websites, indexing comments in Google Search, and most significantly, the system will be available for use on third party sites.

You can’t go anywhere these days without running into a site that is using Facebook’s third-party comment platform, and it looks like Google wants in on the action.

A third party Google comment system would ensure that users are further plugged in to their Google accounts, and one step closer to Google+.

It certainly wouldn’t come as a surprise, as Google continues to push its social network further into the public sphere, and tie all of its products into that hard-to-miss black navigation bar at the top of every Google product page, with Play added just yesterday.

The question remains how this will affect services that are dedicated exclusively to providing a comment platform, like Disqus and Livefyre, who may struggle to compete against the likes of Facebook and Google down the line, each of wish enjoy a well-established user-base.

Another piece of news that Tech-WD came across is that Google+ will be rolling out vanity URLs – a much needed feature, but one which several third party apps already offers Google+ users. This feature has long been on Google’s to-dos, and it seems that it may finally be approaching the top of the list.

Social Media vs Search Marketing – How Do They Match Up? [INFOGRAPHIC]

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

As social media rapidly integrates itself into our everyday personal and business lives, it’s easy to forget that, while increasingly important, Twitter and Facebook aren’t everything, particularly when it comes to marketing.

Search, for example, is still of paramount importance to brands. For local business visibility, customers are far more likely to use search engines than they are social media. And while social media excels at brand awareness and consumer interactivity, search marketing has been shown to be more effective for lead generation.

So, we like social media, but we also like search marketing. But which is better? There’s only one way to find out.

This infographic from MDG Advertising looks at the pros and cons of social media and search marketing, concluding that marketers should double-team their efforts to maximize exposure and ROI.

Google Research: Even If You Rank #1 Organically, You Can Double Your Clicks With Paid Search

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

When marketers have scrutinized Google’s research on how organic and paid search results work together — the search giant concluded that nixing the paid ads would result in a 89% drop in clicks — it’s been clear there’s more to the story. What happens if your brand is the top organic result for the keyword? Surely the results would be different than if your organic result was on the second page?

“When we released the first paper, we had a lot of questions coming back, asking more more details around incrementality and under what situations can you expect different numbers?,” said David Chan, Google’s lead researcher for this study.

So, Chan set out to research more subtleties in the interaction between organic results and paid search ads, and today released new results.

Most Of The Time, There Are No Organic Result On Page One

The 89% number makes more sense now that the new results show that paid search ads appear without an accompanying organic search result on the page 81% of the time, on average. Only 9% of the time does a search ad show with an organic result in the top rank. An organic result appears in ranks 2 to 4 5% of the time, and in lower ranks (below 5), about 4% of the time.

Though the researchers didn’t specifically look at branded versus generic terms, Chan said,the ranking is a good proxy, in certain cases, for branded versus generic terms. In other words, the brand’s organic result is likely to appear higher, if it’s a branded term.

Even A #1 Ranking Can Benefit From An Accompanying Ad

Surprisingly, even when brands’ organic terms are ranked number one, they get 50% more clicks, on average, when there’s an accompanying paid search ad.

“It is a very surprising result, and, I think in some ways, it runs counter to what people would think but the data speaks for itself,” said Chan.

The study found that 82% of ad clicks are incremental when the associated organic result is ranked between 2 and 4, and 96% of clicks are incremental when the brand’s organic result was 5 or below.

Chan noted that there was a lot of variability from advertiser to advertiser and term to term, so he encouraged advertisers to do their own experimentation. Additionally, the study focused only on clicks and not conversions, so it’s not clear to what extent the incremental clicks led to a conversion event.

5 Predictions For Facebook Marketing This Year

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Metia Group outlines key predictions for brands on Facebook in the new year, based on the digital marketing company’s work with such powerhouse companies as Microsoft and AT&T. Here are the highlights.

More Engagement
Look for both brands and customers to engage more directly on Facebook. Brands are also embracing Facebook because that’s where their customers are; the top 10 consumer brands each have more than 18 million Facebook followers.

Seamless Integration
Expect brands to continue using effective social plug-ins, expanding upon the like button to add more open graph. Facebook’s own data shows that the plug-ins can increase web page referrals by an astounding 300 percent, on average.

More Investment
As metrics for measuring social media’s effectiveness improve, look for marketers to embrace Facebook’s touch points with customers over direct mail or traditional advertising. Metia says to watch for the increase in spending on social media.

Higher Rankings In Search Results
Metia expects search rankings to become more integrated with social media. Facebook makes it easier for customers to find what they are looking for based on friends’ recommendations, location-based information, and users’ preferences and activities. Facebook and other social media users will make the platform an integral part of their search behavior.

More Competition
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will compete more aggressively for users by enhancing features. For example, Metia says the introduction of Google Plus spurred Facebook to address security and privacy issues, as well as how photos and updates are shared. The timeline feature introduces a new way for brands to interact with consumers — expect the other social media sites to fine-tune their offerings in response.

15 Must Know Tips to Rock Your New Facebook Timeline Business Page

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

The best thing you can do is stop complaining and get to work. The new Facebook business page timeline is here to stay at least until they decide to make the next round of changes. Might as well get use to it and make the most of it!

Below are some must know tips as well as loads of Facebook reference urls at the bottom to hopefully save you some time in case you get stuck or have further questions.

Note, there are more changes than what I included in this blog post. For this post I tried to keep it specifically focused on the “need to know” changes.

15 Must Know Tips to Rock Your New Facebook Timeline Business Page

1. Know the dates.
The new Facebook timeline is set to launch on all business pages March 30, 2012. You can start playing with your new page now and see it in preview mode before actually pushing live. I encourage you to do this as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the last minute and then be stuck with a boring page that shows you were not prepared.

2. Create a new Facebook timeline cover image.
The cover image provides amazing opportunities for branding and to visually inspire and connect with your fans. The options are endless as long as you stay within the Facebook guidelines outlined in #3 below.
Create several different timeline covers so you can provide a fresh and inspiration experience for your timeline visitors!

3. Know the Facebook cover image content guidelines (rules).

Facebook has set pretty strict guidelines for what can and can’t be displayed and communicated on the new timeline cover image.
What you CAN do:
• Brand the heck out of your company, book or personal brand. This include brand images, logos, photos and any other visual marks.
• Inspire your audience with visually appealing graphics, colors and images.
• Use simple language that will help you inspire and connect with your fans.
What you can NOT do: (Per Facebook cover guidelines)
• Price or purchase information, such as “40% off” or “Download it at our website”
• Contact information, such as web address, email, mailing address or other information intended for your Page’s About section
• References to user interface elements, such as Like or Share, or any other Facebook site features
• Calls to action, such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends”
Basically the cover image is provided to inspire and connect with your fans. It is not meant for blatant self promotion or hard sales.
*Obviously make sure you have legal copyrights to all images and content.

4. No default landing tabs.
You can no longer set a tab as a default landing tab. Now before you go off on a wild rant about how terrible this is, remember this is a post designed to help you move forward and do good things with your new Facebook timeline. Got it? Okay, great! Now here are a few things you CAN do:
• Maximize use and space of cover image.
• Use the unique urls of apps to direct people directly to the app from pages outside of Facebook as well as posts, status updates within Facebook.
• Maximize use of the top apps shown underneath your cover photo.
• Use the apps for call to actions and to engage your fans.
• Use this as an excuse to get out of your box and focus on truly inspiring and connecting with your audience

5. Tabs are now Apps!
Apps are the new tabs. Although you can’t set one as a default landing tab for new visitors to your Facebook page, there are still many ways you can leverage apps.
• 4 apps are always on display underneath your Facebook cover image.
• You can utilize a max of 14 custom apps on your timeline.
• Create a custom thumbnail for your app.
• Apps have a unique url that can be used to drive traffic to a specific app

6. Use a unique url in place of landing tabs.
Although you can no longer set a default landing tab, you can still easily get around this. Since each app has it’s own unique url you can use the unique url to direct traffic from inside or outside of traffic to a specific app.

I suggest purchasing a unique url that you can use to drive traffic to your Facebook app of choice. For example, I purchased the domain www.pamsfanpage.com and use to use it to direct traffic directly to my default landing tab. Now I will use it to drive traffic to an app of my choice. The best part of using a domain that you own is that no matter how many times Facebook changes the apps, tabs, timelines, pages or other, you can stick to one or two urls that you use on a regular basis.

7. Create custom thumbnails for apps.
It is super easy to create a custom thumbnail image for each and every app. Note custom images can not be set for photos and likes.
a. Create an image that is 111 x 74 pixels.
b. Click on the arrow to the right of your timeline (underneath the cover image). It will show a number which represents the number of apps you are using.
c. Click on the arrow next to the image of the app you want to change.
d. Click on edit settings.
e. Click on change (for the image)
f. Upload the new image

8. Fans can now send you a private message.
You can not message your fans. The messsages are user (fan) initiated. Messages are a good way to encourage one to one communication if you have an interest in doing such with your fans.

9. Milestones
You can set milestones for your business for current, or past dates. This is a great way to highlight key events such as grand opening, ribbon cuttings, launch of new products, new partnerships, business milestones and achievements. Milestone images are 843 x 403 pixels.
a. Click Milesone in the sharing bar at the top of your page
b. Add a headline, date, location and details
c. Choose to add a photo
d. Click Save

10. Highlighted Posts.
You can set any post to be highlighted which means it will take up both sides of the page. I know, the name “highlight” just doesn’t make sense to me either. I expected to see some type of real highlight. This feature enables you to bring special attention to a particular post within the timeline.

11. Pinned Posts.
You can set a post to be pinned to the top of the page. Pinned posts will stay on top of your timeline for up to 7 days.If possible, try not to wait the full 7 days before you change out the post unless you have a very important message to share. Chances are you have repeat visitors coming to your page throughout the week. Give them something new and fresh to check out.

12. Like button and interest lists.
The like button will now show as “liked” for all fans who have already liked the page.
There are also new interest lists that can be accessed with a simple hover of the like / liked button. You can create your own list as well as subscribe to lists the page owner has created.
Users can also select if they want to see your posts in their timeline right from your Facebook timeline by hovering over the same like button.
I will do more research on these feature and provide further detail in a subsequent post.

13. Know the required image sizes.
No need to over complicate this. Note the required image sizes and jot them down on a sticky. Stick it to your computer monitor and you won’t have to look them up or worry about forgetting them.
• Cover photo: 851 x 315
• Profile picture: 180 x 180
• Thumbnail image for apps: 111 x 74
• Highlighted & milestone images: 843 x 403
• Images within wall posts display as 404 x 404.

14. It’s what happens after the “like” that matters most.
Don’t get too hung up on all these changes. If you are focusing on only “likes” then you have much bigger problems than the Facebook default tab going away.

15. Don’t freak out.
The worst thing you can do is go into “freak out” mode. If you are completely freaked out over these changes then you really need to do the “double think” on your online marketing strategy. Remember, you do not own Facebook. Facebook can make any changes they see fit, whenever they decide to do so. It is a free platform and although you may have put too much weight into the platform for the success of your business, use the anxiety you feel today as a positive to move at least a few eggs out of the Facebook basket. Putting all your eggs in one basket is never a good thing, particularly when it is a basket you do not own!