Bacon!

Perhaps I’m overly critical, having spent nearly 20 years analyzing the effectiveness of nearly 200,000 advertisements.  As a result, I find most ads to be quite ineffective, actually.  When something catches my critical eye as being the exception to (my) rule, I can’t wait to share it.

Oscar Mayer recently launched an ad campaign that I thought is pretty clever.  And if I had to guess, I expect it will be successful too.  It’s called “Bacon Barter” and it’s about a man travelling across the U.S. (12 cities) with 3,000 pounds of bacon who will trade that bacon for everything he needs, including food, gas, lodging and entertainment.  Here’s why I think it will work . . .

1)  Most Americans love bacon!  Bacon is delicious…enough said.  🙂

2)  The campaign will capitalize on regional/local promotions as the barterer travels across the country.  Even though the campaign is national, it will incorporate valuable local/regional publicity as it progresses.

3)  It incorporates humor.  Traditionally, humor works (just watch the Super Bowl, although Super Bowl spots have gone down-hill in recent years in my opinion).

4)  It incorporates social media.  As of September 12th, @baconbarter already has over 1,800 followers on Twitter.  Want to barter?  You can tweet your barter offer using the hashtag #baconbarter!  The Oscar Mayer page on Facebook already has 734,000+ likes (granted, not all due to this campaign).  They’re using Instagram too.

5)  The campaign feeds on (pardon the pun) Americans’ sense of travel and adventure.

6)  Americans love a good deal, so you can follow all of the barter deals he makes on their website and/or social media accounts.

But, Oscar Mayer better closely monitor the social media aspect of this campaign. Quite a few companies have had their seemingly clever campaign backfire in the social media world.  One recent example is McDonald’s, who asked fans to tweet about their favorite fond memories of Happy Meals using the hashtag #McDStories. Instead, Twitter was flooded with McDonald’s horror stories using that same hashtag.  If they’re not careful, I can see this account getting barter offers for all sorts of illegal products/services and that hashtag could quickly slide down-hill.

All of this writing is making me hungry!  Bacon, anyone?

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Authenticity in Social Media

I intentionally try to avoid traditionally controversial subjects in my blog such as politics and religion to name a few.  I have other things I’d rather write about and want to keep my blog on more of a professional level than personal level.  I’d also rather not add fuel to the fire of a rumor.  So, it’s with some hesitation that I write this post.

I read an article on The Hill about Mitt Romney’s Twitter account that I thought was rather interesting.  Presidential candidates seemingly have everything scrutinized with a magnifying glass these days.  Someone noticed that Romney’s account, which had been averaging 3,000-4,000 new followers daily had suddenly picked up almost 100,000 followers in a two-day period.  And, this increase occurred without any significant change in his engagement with followers.  Immediately the speculation was that his campaign was buying Twitter followers.

This certainly is not very newsworthy, especially since it’s speculation at this point.  But fact or fiction, it is a great example of the importance that authenticity plays in social media.  In a previous post that still generates weekly views, I offered 3 reasons why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.

The number one reason I listed in that post is that when fans/followers can be bought, your authenticity comes into question.  Whether it’s a politician or a consumer brand, most people won’t tolerate a fake.  Engagement cannot happen with fans/followers who do not have a true interest, let alone may not exist in the first place.

Don’t just take my word for it.  A recent research study from About.com demonstrated that activity (i.e., engagement) on a Facebook page was a better indicator of trust than the number of “likes” a page had.  In fact, 84% said that being trustworthy is a requirement before interacting with a page or info source.

Again, fact or fiction, here’s a current reminder why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.  What are your thoughts when it comes to authenticity in social media?

The Twitter-LinkedIn Breakup

I took the week of July 4th off for a family vacation, so my apologies for this post on week-old news.  In late June, I received the following email from LinkedIn:

LinkedIn's Letter on Sharing with Twitter

What does this mean?  Basically, you can no longer have a post that originates on Twitter automatically be shared to your LinkedIn account (Twitter’s decision).  But, you can continue to originate a post on LinkedIn and have it shared to your Twitter feed (LinkedIn’s decision).

A big part of effective social media is about sharing content, so strike one against Twitter.  LinkedIn’s note to its users is a great PR move, especially when it suggests you originate your message on LinkedIn.  Strike two against Twitter.  Twitter recently updated their Facebook app, allowing users to post their tweets to Facebook.  So Twitter gets a third strike for being hypocritical and inconsistent with their policy.

Are they “out?”  Not so fast.  My initial reaction to Twitter’s decision was somewhat positive because it will force people to be more strategic with their social media usage.  In my very first post, I gave three reasons why you should not auto-synchronize your postings across your social media accounts.  Social media postings should be more strategic, taking into account the audience you’re interacting with and the different etiquette and style of the social media platform.  Unfortunately, many auto-synchronize out of laziness, poor planning and/or a lack of marketing fundamentals.

Be sure to check out your network updates, if you’re on LinkedIn and haven’t checked it since July 1st.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised that the quality of the postings are better.  Your network updates should be less cluttered with postings that were appropriate for Twitter but less-so for LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts on Twitter’s policy change?  Is this a strikeout or a home-run for social media users?

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.

Social Media Experiment

Most bloggers get a thrill out of knowing that their posts have been read and have made a difference with their readers.  Truth be told, I’m not very different.  And, having a background in marketing research, I do pay attention to the analytics of my blog.  I watch site views, which sites bring in views (referring sites), blog post “likes” and comments.

One of the site stats I find most interesting is WordPress’ “Views By Country.”  I’m proud to share that my blog has been read by people in 49 different countries!  Each time my site is visited by someone in a country for the first time, that country gets colored in on a world map.  Here’s what it looks like at the present time:

Since late February, my site has been visited by every continent on the map (Antarctica not included)!  As of a few weeks ago, the most glaring omissions (by land size) were Australia, Greenland and China.  A few strategic tweets to promote my blog specifically mentioned that I would love for views from those countries.  Perhaps it was coincidence, but soon after Australia was on the board.

Are you game for a social media experiment?  I’d love to see if I could get some of the remaining larger land masses filled in on the map!

  • I’m missing all of Central America:  Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
  • In South America I’m missing Peru, Bolivia and Paraguay (as well as a few others).
  • I’m missing most of Africa, but the biggest omissions appear to be South Africa and Madagascar.
  • In Asia, the largest countries that are missing include China, Japan, Mongolia and Kazakhstan.
  • In Europe, I would love site views from Finland, Poland, Belarus and Austria.
  • And, Greenland and Iceland are still missing too.

Are you connected on LinkedIn, Google+ or Facebook with anyone in the countries I listed?  If so, could you promote your favorite post (among the 28 I’ve written so far) to them?  If you’re on Twitter, could you do the same and mention one of the countries in your tweet?  I’m curious to see what the power of an online network and social media can accomplish when it comes to marketing and promotion.

I thank you in advance for your help and assistance and I’ll report back in a week with the results to see what we were able to accomplish together!

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.

3 Reasons Why Quality is More Important than Quantity

Quality vs. QuantityA friend recently shared a story about a client who gave him the sole directive of increasing fans/followers in social media, specifically the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers.  In fact, this client wanted to structure his consulting fee strictly around the quantity of fans/followers.

Fortunately for this business, my friend has ethics and attempted to illustrate the error with that kind of thinking.  Here are 3 reasons why quality is more important than quantity when it comes to social media.

  1. Fans/Followers can be bought.  Services exist that allow you to purchase fans/followers to make your social media presence seem important and popular.  While that might fool some who give your site a cursory look, it doesn’t take much digging beneath the surface to uncover the house of cards your social media popularity is built on.  If your following can be bought, how authentic is it?  If your business is mostly local, odds are purchased fans will not be, so how will that be of any value?
  2. Real fans are more likely to interact.  Engagement has been the buzz word in social media for some time, and rightly so.  Which would you rather have?  50 fans who are truly fans and would not hesitate to recommend you to family and friends?  Or, 100 fans who will never visit your site, never try your product/service, or never recommend you to family and friends?  Real fans, engaged fans, are brand ambassadors.
  3. Social media is meant to have a conversational element.  When you concentrate on quantity over quality, the conversational element will likely suffer.  If the quality of the conversation is there from day one, your fan base will grow at a natural rate, and you’ll increase quantity without sacrificing quality.  It’s difficult, if not impossible, to build relationships with followers who don’t care and are not engaged.

Think about your own involvement in social media.  Think about the sites you’ve willingly followed.  Has there been a site you’ve recommended to others?  Why?  It goes beyond brand loyalty, doesn’t it?  Chances are, it’s a two-way street.  You value the content on the site and the business values you as a fan/follower/customer.

When that two-way street becomes one-way, it’s the equivalent of a dead-end road.  Consumers don’t want to waste their time on a dead-end, and neither do (most) businesses that know what they’re doing with social media.

What are some of your favorite sites to follow, and what makes them so special to you?