Is Social Media Right For Your Business?

I recently consulted with a business regarding their various marketing needs.  One of the topics we discussed was social media.  After our initial consultation, they decided to hold-off on moving forward with social media for a few reasons/concerns.  I hear these a lot, so I thought I’d share them (and my opinion) with my readers.

“I’m not sure I’ll do it correctly.”  While it’s not super-complicated, there is a marketing science (and etiquette) to using social media correctly.  In a nutshell . . . you need to determine if your customers are using social media, what platforms they engage in and what their expectations are.  You need to determine goals and objectives for your social media and create a strategy/plan to meet those objectives.  You’ll also need to determine what metrics you’ll use to evaluate your strategy.

“I’m not sure it will pay off.”  If you’re expecting an immediate and significant boost in sales by suddenly engaging in social media, you will likely be disappointed.  Social media is more about relationship and community building, interacting with customers and a gradual build.  It’s about sharing and providing something of value.  It’s about the art of attraction.  It’s not a soapbox to promote your business with 90%+ of your posts.

“I’m not sure I’ll be able to generate content.”  Don’t let that stop you! Chances are, if you Google the product or service you sell, you’ll find millions of hits on that search.  Which is a good article?  Which is a trusted source?  Use your industry knowledge and experience to become an information filter for your audience.  That filtering of quality information provides value, builds trust and attracts others.  Over time, it positions you as someone with subject matter expertise.

Is social media right for your business?  It can be, if you use it correctly (or hire someone who does).

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Happy 1st Birthday!

First Birthday of Arthur Catalanello Consulting's Blog

October 3, 2011 was when I officially launched my blog.  Today is the one year anniversary of that first post, so I’d like to mark the occasion with some cake!  Actually, I’d like to devote this post to sharing a few statistics and thanking those who have helped and inspired me over the past year.

As of this writing, my site has received over 7,800 visits in the past year.  My most popular post has been 6 Ways To A More Contact-Friendly LinkedIn Profile (Part 1).  My post on The Lost Art of the Thank You has generated the most comments to date (so, thank you!).  I’m still on a quest to have the country visits map completely filled in.  I’ve had readers from 86 different countries visit my site at least once since February 2012 (when this metric became available).

When I first launched my consultancy business, several people recommended that I blog as a way to demonstrate my expertise.  I’d like to sincerely thank Greg Taylor, Chris Bigelow, Dorothy Johnson, Bill Griffin, Kelly Mullaney, Luis Martinez, Rob Ewanow, Fred Kopp, Ed Ritter and Deb Mourey for their advice and encouragement to start blogging.  I’m sure there are others who provided similar sage advice who I’m inadvertently leaving out (my apologies to you if I did).

I’d like to thank those who have subscribed to my blog.  There are literally millions of blogs out there, so the fact that you find mine worthy to subscribe to is both flattering and inspirational to me.  I’d also like to thank those who have shared my posts along the way via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and via email.  Thank you to those who have taken the time to comment on one or more of my posts.

Last but not least . . . I’d like to thank my wife, who is my confidant, cheerleader and proofreader when it comes to my blog.  I regularly run ideas and draft posts past her for feedback.  Her suggestions for improvements and corrections are always spot-on.  Without her support and help, my blog would be half of what it is.

Thank you all for a great first year of blogging!  I look forward to year two and hope you’ll continue to join me each week!

10 Ways to Increase Blog Comments

A friend recently asked for my advice on increasing comments for her blog.  That’s not necessarily an easy question to answer. In general, it’s a lot of little things working together that help increase blog comments.  Here’s a quick list of 10 tips:

  1. Write something that can be read quickly and easily. People are busy and tend to want something they can “digest.” If the topic is worthy of a lengthy post, consider splitting it into 2 or 3 parts.
  2. Try to end the blog post with a call to action. Ask a question that cannot be answered with just a “yes” or “no” response.
  3. When people comment, thank them for taking the time to read and comment. Depending on what they write, see if you can engage them further (via the commenting section) by asking a follow-up question, or having them explain something in greater detail, etc.
  4. Entertain and enlighten. I try to make sure that I’m doing at least one of those and preferably both. You’ll get repeat visitors if you can accomplish both often. Over time, they might become more comfortable commenting.
  5. Make sure you promote your blog heavily via social media channels. I’ve found LinkedIn Groups to be a great source, although I do get visitors from Twitter, Facebook, my LinkedIn status update, and Google+ too. Some LinkedIn groups are completely open and will allow you to post without joining the group. It’s a way to extend your reach beyond the 50 groups you’re limited in joining.  Better promotion can bring new readers.  If you’re getting the same response (or lack thereof) from your regular readers, new readers could bring a new response.
  6. Don’t expect instant results. Readership is a gradual build. Even your most loyal readers may not read all of your posts, nor find all of them relevant. To borrow from the movie Field of Dreams, write it and they will come.
  7. Sometimes the comments aren’t where you’d like them to be. When you promote via social media, sometimes the comments are made in social media rather than on your blog page where it “counts.” That’s okay – still thank them for taking the time to read and comment.
  8. Try to follow a regular posting schedule. Whether it’s 1x/week or 1x/month, try to communicate your schedule and follow it so people begin to expect it. It then helps build a relationship with your audience.
  9. Try to avoid controversial subjects.  If “spun” properly, it could generate comments as people might take one side vs. the other because controversy breeds attention and passion. But, it could also backfire if people feel alienated or afraid to comment on something controversial.  For me (a personal decision), I avoid it.
  10. Comment on others’ blog posts and “like” their posts if that’s an option. Blogging is very much a social media platform. There are many who will “return the favor” after you’ve liked and/or commented on their posts.

Fellow bloggers, what tips or suggestions did I miss that you can add?

Social Media Experiment Results

In my post last week, I asked for your help in conducting a social media experiment to see if I could get blog/site views from specific countries for the first time.  I was hoping readers would share their favorite post of mine via social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+) and try to target some of the countries listed.

Immediately after publishing that post, one of the subscribers to my blog was kind enough to tweet it and reference some countries using hashtags.

In less than an hour, someone from Iceland had visited!  My excitement grew at the idea that the map would quickly fill.  I scheduled a few more tweets for the next few days with countries listed, paying attention to the time difference so the tweet would launch during business hours in those countries.  However, no new countries had visited and my tweets weren’t being re-tweeted.

I took to Google+ and tried to get some additional country views using that platform.  While it did bring in some additional views and was on-par with my normal quantity of visits, they weren’t from any of the “missing” countries I had specifically listed/identified.  I changed my LinkedIn status to see if anyone in my network could help.

So with Mike’s comment on my update, I set my sites solely on Greenland, perhaps the largest country missing from my map (land size).  Tweets referencing Greenland weren’t working as quickly as I hoped.  With a promised update for this week’s blog, time was running out.  I took a more strategic marketing approach and searched LinkedIn Groups using “Greenland” as a keyword.  I further narrowed the search to “open groups” plus English-speaking and found a few I could post a discussion thread to without first joining the group.  I decided to post one of my more popular blogs to date, The Lost Art of the Thank You.

Within a day, I had two site visits from Greenland!  Buoyed by the success of this new approach, I tried something similar with China, South Africa, Finland/Scandinavia and a few other countries.

I’m happy to report with just a tiny bit of extra effort this week, I’ve added 9 new countries to my map (many I specifically targeted):  Panama, South Africa, Greenland, Japan, Iceland, Hong Kong, Pakistan, Mongolia and Slovakia.

The biggest lessons learned?  Be targeted, provide something of value, be timely, monitor your progress and be willing to adapt/alter course as needed.

Big Lessons From A Mini Contest

This past weekend I was selected as the second winner of Dorschel Automotive’s #winsmall contest.  I won a free weekend-long test drive of a Mini Cooper and now have a 1-in-12 chance to win a free 2-year lease of a Mini.  It was a great experience to trade in my Mini Van for a Mini Cooper, even if just for 3 days.

Their contest had 3 great components which could be applied to many marketing campaigns.  Learn more about them in my first video blog!

Social Media Abandonment

Most people involved with social media, even casual users, have likely come across an account that’s been inactive for weeks, months or even years.  I’m sure they were originally created with the best of intentions yet for one or more reasons, they’ve been abandoned or forgotten about.

For some, the account may have been abandoned because the goal was attained (perhaps he used social media to increase visibility with his job search and was hired).  For others, maintaining the account was possibly a sacrifice that was made due to time constraints.  Maybe others didn’t meet their objectives and decided to discontinue their social media efforts because it failed in their eyes.

There are a few problems abandoned accounts can cause the active user.  The first is having to determine whether or not an account you’re initially interested in following is active.  It’s an unfortunate part of the process.  Another is that some abandoned accounts have coveted user names.  Freeing coveted-yet-abandoned user names could be beneficial for marketing purposes (professional and/or personal).  Lastly there’s the image problem abandoned accounts create, but that’s a problem they’ve brought upon themselves. 

In the world of social media, what do you think can be done to clean up abandoned accounts?  Should accounts that have been inactive for a lengthy period of time be suspended or deleted in an effort to “protect” active accounts and improve the experience for active users?

But what if the account was abandoned for a more serious reason?  I read an article this past weekend which described a grieving mother whose son died in a motorcycle accident.  She wished to access his Facebook site in hopes of interacting with his friends to keep his memory alive.  The article raised a great question as to whether or not your digital footprint can be considered part of your estate.  I’ll be honest – I’ve never thought about what would happen to my social media sites and email accounts if something tragic should happen to me.

What are your thoughts on abandoned accounts?  Do you have a different opinion when the cause of abandonment is one of neglect versus one of tragedy?

Hackers and Scams and Spammers, Oh My!

A few months ago, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek post about the lame attempts email spammers had made to trick me into revealing personal information and/or downloading some virus-infected software program.  They haven’t improved much.

However, a friend of mine was recently hacked and had his email accounts compromised.  The hackers sent out an email to his address book that basically said, “I’m stranded overseas, please wire me a ton of money so I can get home.”  This is a common and known scam, but if you didn’t know any better, your first instinct might be to help a friend in need and wire him some money.  Obviously, your friend wouldn’t get the money, the scammers would.

This is someone who is very well-respected in the industry.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to any of us.  So what can you do?  The experts will tell you to avoid these common passwords, change your passwords often, have different passwords for different sites, use a mix of upper case and lower case as well as numbers and special characters, and the longer the password the better.  If you have an easy to remember password, why not tack-on just 2 more characters to strengthen it?

Scams are sometimes easy to spot but sometimes they’re very convincing.  Generally, if it’s too good to be true, it is.  Do yourself a favor and look at this visual post about a recent Starbucks scam on Pinterest.  Besides looking professional, the scammers programmed the site effectively enough to fool most.  It’s quite impressive.

It’s easy to forget that social media can be just as dangerous as websites when it comes to scams.  Perhaps, social media is even more dangerous because people tend to let their guard down when they’re interacting with friends, family & co-workers.  That should be repeated:  scams exist in social media and are perhaps easier to fall for than those you’d find on websites.

So before you inadvertently share false information (or worse, a scam) with someone you care about, do a little homework.  Here are 7 sites you can bookmark for future searches (plus there’s always Google):

  1. Urban Legends:  http://urbanlegends.about.com/
  2. Museum of Hoaxes:  http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/
  3. Snopes:  http://www.snopes.com/
  4. Hoax Slayer:  http://www.hoax-slayer.com/
  5. Facecrooks:  http://facecrooks.com/
  6. That’s Nonsense:  http://www.thatsnonsense.com
  7. Hoax Busters:  http://www.hoaxbusters.org/

So here’s your chance to make social media a better place for you and those you care about.  Bookmark the above sites.  Some even have social media accounts you can follow on Facebook and/or Twitter.  The next time you see something that’s suspicious and/or too good to be true, take 3-5 minutes to do a little research before you circulate it to your online network.

Super Social Bowl

Did you watch Super Bowl XLVI?  As a fan of the New York Giants, I was certainly glued to the television until the very last play.  The game set records not only for television viewership, but for social media activity as well.

Being in the marketing industry, I’ve always paid close attention to the advertising during the game.  As social media integration and proliferation continues to increase, it was interesting to see how it changed the advertising this year.  The biggest change I noticed was how many of the ads were “leaked” in advance.  This helped generate buzz and social media conversations ahead of, during, and after the game.  But, the big question is, did it work?

According to analysis reported in Advertising Age, here are the top 10 according to the quantity of social media comments generated:

Super Bowl XLVI Top Commercials by Social Media Comments

My personal observation is that most of the pre-event social media buzz on Super Bowl commercials centered around the Honda CRV Commercial featuring Matthew Broderick with references to his Ferris Bueller character.  Interestingly, that ad (which was leaked in advance) didn’t crack the top 10 in the Bluefin Labs analysis.

Since social media tends to have more of a long-term ROI, it may take quite some time to determine which strategy worked (leaked vs. not).  The immediate impact is that social media helped spread out the cost-per-impression, because it helped extend the reach beyond the televised spot.  While I “unplugged” from social media to concentrate on the game, many viewers did not as the 2012 Super Bowl set records for tweets per second and total social media comments generated.

As to my personal favorites, my top 5 were:

  1. Mars/M&Ms – “Just My Shell”
  2. Chrysler – “Halftime in America”
  3. Volkswagen – “The Dog Strikes Back”
  4. Anheuser Bush/Bud Light – “Rescue Dog”
  5. PepsiCo./Doritos – “Sling Baby”

Which were your favorite/most memorable commercials from this year’s Super Bowl?  Did you “unplug” from social media during the game as well, or were you actively engaged in social media?