Archive for the ‘Guest Blog’ Category

Guest Post by Jess Greco. Similar Version found in her column at the PR Breakfast Club (PRBC).

Jess Greco

As I get ready to leave the job that I’m currently at and embark on a new and incredibly exciting opportunity, I’ve decided to do a little bit of reflection at the suggestion of David, one of my closest friends and social media mentors. When I took a position as an “intern” at the small NJ agency that I worked at during my senior year of college, I had no idea how much I would learn.  Since it was my responsibility to teach the rest of the company about it, I had no choice but to throw myself head-first into the world of social media.  It’s a good thing I ended up becoming a shameless Twitter addict who reads Mashable in its entirety, every morning (not that these things alone make someone a social media fanatic, but you know where I’m coming from).  As I think about all my experiences since then, I realize how many lessons I’ve learned since my love affair with social media began.  I can say with confidence that these lessons have allowed me to become a better professional overall.

So here they are, some of the most valuable social media lessons I’ve learned (and as obvious as some of them might be for you, believe me, they’re not for other people):

Social Media Takes Time and Effort

For those of you who really understand social media, this one is a big DUH.  Unfortunately, I’ve encountered far too many people who think social media is a quick fix, especially because it’s so simple to use.  And I’m not even just talking about clients who don’t understand how it works and therefore end up making your life hell.  I mean all sorts of professionals who have ventured into the space hoping to enhance their personal brand and businesses. If you think that your time is far too valuable to dedicate some of it towards actively participating in social media and interacting with fellow industry thought-leaders, then you might as well not even try.  Having your assistant update your status and ignoring the people who @ reply you makes me question why you’re even using Twitter at all (and the same goes for any other platform).  If you decide that you’re interested in embracing social media, make sure that you realize the investment it takes to be successful- or be prepared to fail.

There Is No Such Thing As a Social Media “Expert”

Whenever a new industry springs up that looks like it has the potential to be great, it’s inevitable that there will be a rush of people who jump on the bandwagon in hopes of becoming a big name in the business.  Social media, because of its overwhelming trendiness, has produced far too many of these people.  As a young person who was just starting to learn about this world, I was tricked by more people than I care to admit- and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  I now know to take these “expert” claims with a grain of salt.  I also understand the importance of really getting to know a person’s work before making them someone I look up to for advice and new ideas.

Social Media Needs to Be Customized

When I first started using social media for my clients, I unsuccessfully tried to use the same program for every one.  After some experimentation, I realized that each product or service benefited from different things.  Blogger outreach proved to be really successful in creating buzz for one client, while it totally fell flat for another.  It’s very simple when you think about it- if every company or person is different, shouldn’t their strategy be too?  Unfortunately for those looking for something fast and easy, social media is not a cookie cutter.

Social Media Can Get You a Job

Networking through social media is the greatest thing since Jersey Shore (OK, so social media came first, but still).  Social media is like a 24/7 networking event- you will always be able to find people in your industry to talk to and get help from.  It also allows you to showcase your resume and experience and show people the way that you think (through LinkedIn, a blog/website, etc.).  I was fortunate enough to get my last job, as well as the one I’ll be starting next week, through people who got to know me through Twitter.  I love telling that to people who think Twitter is completely useless.  A cohesive online personal brand can do wonders.

Knowing Social Media Can Get You Far

It’s difficult to realize this, because if you’re anything like me, you live in a bubble with people who live and breathe it.  However, many companies out there understand the value of social media but just don’t know how to use it.  If you’re a person that DOES, you could be a huge asset to one of those companies.  Make it your job to read industry blogs and websites, experiment with it, and talk about it with other people.  Believe me, it sets you apart in job interviews.  You could be one of those hip, young kids that an old company hires to make themselves modern 😉

Social Media Can Make You Some Great Friends

This is my cheesy way of signing off.  But it’s completely true.  Some of the people that I’ve met through social media have become the people that I go to on a daily basis for laughs, advice, and a place to vent.  And most of this was completely by accident, so keep yourself open to it.

I’m sure that I’ll continue to learn more social media lessons throughout my career.  What lessons have you learned?

A Quick Preface:

For Those Of You Who Have Yet To Hear The Good News – Through Me Or The Grapevine That Is Twitter – I Have Left 5W Public Relations & Have Taken On The Role Of Social Media Manager at McCann Erickson New York. After Spending The Last Year Experimenting With, And Studying, Social Media, From The Boutique PR Perspective, I’m really looking forward toward seeing the same world through the lens of a Global, Corporate, Advertising Agency. And…As Always, I Plan on Sharing Everything I Learn With You, Or As Much I’m Legally Permitted 🙂 – I Hope It Proves Helpful!

The Job Transition Has Been The Primary Reason For My Lack Of New Content Here At The Legends Of Aerocles. Which Is Why, As I Get Settled In & Acclimate To My New Role & Environment, I’ll Be Putting Up A Number Of Guest Posts. If You’d Like To Submit A Post On Anything Social Media, PR, Advertising, Marketing, etc. – Just Email Me at David@Aerocles.com.

Without Further Ado…

A Guest Post By @rustyspeidel

Convene Not Control


So I love the TED Talks on iTunes…I learn something after every one. I just watched one from Clay Shirky entitled How social media can make history in which he told a couple of excellent social media stories about the China earthquake last year and MyBarackObama.com. The details are familiar to all of us, but one thing REALLY stuck out to me, and that was the difference between CONVENING your audience versus CONTROLLING your audience.

Social tools have enabled conversations between media consumers in such a way that the ability to control media has been greatly compromised. In China, for example, when disaster struck that remote province in China last year, news of the earthquake STARTED with local citizens, as opposed to the standard government news outlets. Something that in the past would have been suppressed and dealt with quietly (and in a sub-standard way, most likely) was quickly made public knowledge across multiple media channels, leaving the authorities no choice but to handle it with kid gloves, and very transparently.

In the mybarackobama.com example, the opposite happened. Rather than fret over the shifting control point from centralized media producers to the consumer, Obama’s team embraced that reality, setting up issue groups where dissent was not only encouraged but taken into account where votes on issues were concerned. This engendered goodwill and understanding, even if Obama might have voted counter to the wishes of his constituents on the issues presented.

As everyone scrambles to figure social media out, one thing is clear: those who are confident in their voice and values, like Obama, can convene large audiences without controlling them. Those less confident, like China, tightly control access to the internet or even shut down tools like Twitter altogether.

What kind of company is yours? At Rowdy, we try to be confident, and I think it works better.

Rusty Speidel is a long-time technology and media professional with over 20 years conceiving, creating, and managing user experiences. He has held various leadership roles in the interactive television, e-commerce, online gaming, and sports marketing industries. He is currently the VP of Social Media and User Experience for Rowdy.com, a NASCAR-oriented social network, where he is responsible for defining and implementing Rowdy’s social media strategy, motivating Rowdy’s online community, and managing the creative and technology teams that keep Rowdy.com running smoothly. He also edits Rowdy’s daily podcast from time to time and has been instrumental in the implementation of social media measurement and production techniques throughout the organization.

He is an occasional speaker on social media strategy and when he’s not networked to some device, he’s out riding his bike, playing guitar with his band, or watching his kids play lacrosse.

A Guest Post By Alex Aizenberg

First, a definition and origin, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage stemming from an old Chinese proverb, popularized by several 1920’s articles from Fred R. Barnard in the advertising trade journal Printers’ Ink, promoting the effectiveness of images and graphics in advertising, a campaign that also appeared on the sides of streetcars.

What jumps off the page for me is the word “OLD,” and it is the age of the phrase that leads me to this conclusion: the further away we get from the present, the more impressive pictures, as an idea, become… today however, the phrase is growing more stale with each day.

Whether looking at timeline of art (from sharp focus of renaissance pieces, to nearly moving impressionists subjects, all the way to modern art’s avant garde ideas) or broadcast technologies (from telegraphs, to radios, TVs and the internet), pictures as a novelty have been losing steam while words have steadily been reclaiming their rightful place on top. This makes all the more sense today, given the fact that the ‘content currency’ of the social networking and social media catharsis that is Twitter, is built off of verbal descriptions of activity or initiatives (visual or otherwise), truncated to 140 characters or less.

Even still, this shift back to words does not deter visual search offerings – like ambitious www.searchme.com, or inclusive http://spezify.com and cutesy http://visibletweets.com/, among many others – from emerging. As a tool though, visual search is entertaining more so than useful, and often kitschy. The condensed forum of Twitter however, provides the ability to mine real people’s verbalized conversations and opinions for direct feedback (read: 6 Reasons Why Twitter is the Future of Search). Words, and character limitation, gives everyone the same modus operandi of driving content creation; add ‘real time’ and you have a boondoggle of information begging to be sourced… nearly all of it is words.

Of course, pictures still reign under certain circumstances. Take this powerful image of an Iranian protester… it was pictures, videos and other continuous chatter like this, via the #iranelection hashtag, which triggered a U.S. State Department call for Twitter to delay scheduled maintenance during the protests, to keep the information flow going.

The more time I spend on Twitter, the more I think of pictures as being very finite without as much as a caption attached to them, it’s almost as if you can’t say that much with just a picture anymore. I’ve always said that I’m in PR because “I can make words dance,” and now because of Twitter’s mandate of editing for conciseness, we all have to learn to tango.

So, is a picture worth those 1000 words… or at most 100 characters and a link?

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Guest Post By Amanda Fontaine

As someone who works on social media for a B2B company, I often find myself daydreaming about how much “easier” it would be work on social media for a consumer product.  Consumer companies seem to “get it” when it comes to social media and in my daydreams, there is no battle to convince leadership that social media is crucial to the business, everyone just sits around Twittering the day away.

Well I finally woke up! Social media is just starting to pick up steam in the B2B industry and there is huge opportunity to be trailblazers to build a brand and drive sales. Yes B2B initiatives may be a little more…. dry.  Who am I kidding, some products are just mind numbingly boring, but who cares? Not your customers.  Your customers only care about their business problems and how to solve them, and even the most seemingly boring product plays a vital role in something, or it wouldn’t exist.  It’s the B2B companies that are helping solve critical business challenges and social media is a great way to highlight this.  Your hands may be tied when it comes to your corporate web site (which is usually marketing speak to the max), but your Facebook Business Page or Twitter account is a more informal, relaxed way to have a dialogue about industry trends, pain points and when appropriate highlight a solution.  Your customers will appreciate the opportunity to talk with you and not be “talked at.”

B2B marketers also have the luxury of having a more engaged audience.  General consumers are fickle.  Brand loyalty does play a role in decision making, but let’s face it, in these economic times, I’m buying the dish detergent that is on sale.  B2B sales, whether its software or industrial equipment, is usually a significant investment for companies and requires installation or training of some kind, and these companies aren’t likely to jump from vendor to vendor on a whim. Giving customers another outlet to communicate with your company directly helps build the relationship and gives the marketing and sales team information that you maybe wouldn’t have access to without this channel of communication.

It may be easier to make the connection on how consumer brands can leverage social media, but there is a huge opportunity for those in the B2B space to do great things to help build the brand and drive sales.

Amanda Is A PR/Marketing Specialist in the Greater Boston Area.  She’s a Fan of Social Media, PR, and Marketing Strategies that Make Sense.

*When You’re Done Reading…Please Feel Free to Add to the List in the Comments Section! Thanks – @Aerocles*

Guest Post By Amanda Fontaine – @afontaine16

Social media is new and it can be scary to some people, especially to those working within larger organizations where everything must be tightly controlled. Below are some of the stupidest arguments I heard against starting a social media program.

1. Our competitors don’t have a Facebook page.

Now, do you wait until your competitor comes out with a cutting edge product before your launch your own? No! You need to beat your competitors out of the gate and prove what a dynamic business you are.

2.  Our customers don’t care about social media.

How do you know? Granted, some of your customers might not care about social media, but a simple search will most likely reveal a lot of them do. Using social media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, which are all free by the way, to generate interesting content they can’t get anywhere else will make most people care about your social media program.

3. We need to control our message very closely and if we participate we will lose control.

The answer is bordering on cliché but you never had control of your message. I bet the gist of your message is that your product or service is the best thing since sliced bread.  Guess what, every company says that and if all you care about is “talking at” your customer and putting out carefully crafted marketing speak you are missing a huge opportunity.

4. I’m afraid of negative criticism.

If you have a dissatisfied customer they are sharing their distaste for your product or service whether you are involved in social media or not.  Taking advantage of all the free tools available to monitor discussion about your company or products allows you to identify anything negative quickly and rectify it before it grows exponentially.

5. I don’t think we should be doing anything groundbreaking.  Let’s stick to what we know, print advertising and press releases.

I didn’t make this up.  This was actually said by someone and I have no response to it.  Stick to what you know while everyone else passes you by.  Doesn’t make much sense does it?

I’m sure there are a lot more stupid reasons people do not want to engage in social media, but remember, if you hear any of these they come out of fear.  Don’t give up! Keep pushing for it.  Start small and with a specific measurable goal and see what happens from there. Keep track of companies who are making a big splash in social media and share it with your team with examples of what your company could do to get the same effect.  It’s worth the effort!

Amanda Is A PR/Marketing Specialist in the Greater Boston Area.  She’s a Fan of Social Media, PR, and Marketing Strategies that Make Sense.

By Mike Schaffer

Before every NBA playoff game, all of the TV and radio analysts discuss their “Keys to Winning” that night’s game…and it’s usually sponsored by a car manufacturer.  While that is a nice little sponsorship tie-in, the basic premise of knowing what you need to do going into a new venture, be it a playoff game or a social media campaign, is rock-solid.

With millions of Tweeters and Blippers and Facebookers and Diggers crawling around the Web, they provide tantalizing prospects for us publicists.  However, there are two things you must have for your social network to be beneficial for you as a PR pro or for your clients.  In honor of those gimmicky NBA playoff rants, here are The Two C’s To A Winning Social Networking Campaign!

1)      Connections – If your client gives $1 million to charity and you don’t send out a news release or even a photo of the check presentation, nobody will know about it (in theory).  Much like building a media list, each social networking tool you use has to have an audience, or connections.   These are the lifeblood of any social network…the people paying attention to you!

One of my clients, California Tortilla, started a customer e-mail newsletter about 10 years ago, so when they opened a Facebook account four years ago, launched a YouTube campaign (www.youtube.com/caltorthq) and started on Twitter in the Fall (www.twitter.com/caltort), they were prepared.  They had a vast network of 80,000 loyal customers already paying attention.  They went from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 very easily, with just a few e-mails encouraging customers to follow them in new ways.

You need to maximize relevant connections, as well.  If you are a one-store clothing shop in Baltimore, you want to have as many potential customers in your geographic area following you online.  That’s not to say a real estate agent from Germany won’t one day purchase your products, but you should spend the majority of your time connecting with people who are or will be consumers.

Here is a great link on resources to help you grow your network: http://twittersecrets.blogspot.com/2009/04/building-your-network-on-twitter.html

2)      Content – You are what you eat post.  Posts to your network, be it Twitter, YouTube, Facebook or any other medium, should be:

1)      Entertaining

2)      Educational

3)      Interactive

4)      Or a combination

If you Tweet “I’m walking to the bathroom,” that’s not particularly entertainment or educational at all (and thankfully not interactive!).  However, if you Tweet “I just heard about a hot new club called XXXXX opening downtown next week.  Who wants to do the Cupid Shuffle with me??” that has some entertainment value (funny at the end), some educational value (information about new club) and some interaction (promoting discussion).

You don’t need all of these to have an effective post.

Entertainment: A friend shared this link with me last week, and I made sure to send it to my network: http://playhimoffkeyboardcat.com/.  Nothing but entertainment there, but it quickly spread across the Internet, garnering mainstream publicity.  Same goes for the “2 Girls, 1 Sub” parody video from Quiznos.

Educational: When the Swine Flu pandemic was sending us into a downward spiral of panic, government agencies like the CDC used social networking to spread information.  It became a fast, effective way of getting the word out in a…no pun intended…viral fashion.

Interactive: There is something strange in our DNA that makes us want to voice our opinion on just about any topic (hence, the advent of online social networking!).  We can’t resist answering a question asked of us.  After the Preakness, I asked the women in my network if they felt any female empowerment because Rachel Alexandra, a female horse, won the race.  It sparked a hot debate that encompassed many people and several points-of-view.

Try to incorporate as many of those characteristics as possible into your posts and see what happens!

This new frontier of social networking is growing and evolving every single day.  More and more people are signing-up for the ride—especially in the PR world—even if they aren’t as tech-savvy as those of us who have more accounts than we can maintain.  They know that this is the next step in marketing – creating a boutique media outlet of your own.

While those NBA analysts suggest how a team can win a game, the actual outcome of a Game 7 is fairly unpredictable.  However, applying these two basic concepts to your growing social network will help you and your clients win in online marketing.

Mike Schaffer is a Senior Account Executive, Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications

www.bwfcom.com

By Debra Yemenijian

Marketers need not be baseball savants to recognize the expression, “If you build it, they will come.” For the past 20 years, executives in board rooms across America have proposed countless ventures by utilizing this maxim, which originally emanated from Ray Kinsella’s cornfield in “Field of Dreams.”

The success of a company’s marketing enterprises is only as great as the number of prospects that see them. This is especially true for the corporate blog, notably one of the most challenging marketing ventures for which to attract an audience.

Blogging is a challenge that companies are not handling well, according to a 2008 Forrester Research report. The study, which reviewed 90 business-to-business (B2B) blogs, determined that most blogs are uninspiring, and almost three-quarters of them don’t receive comments because they don’t engage readers. Further, more than 70 percent of B2B bloggers do not imbue any personal insight or experience in what they write.

Those are only the first three strikes against corporate blogs. Fortunately, with the expertise of an outside B2B marketing agency, blogs can hit a homerun.

While a business shouldn’t entirely outsource its blog to an agency, a company can rely on its outside marketing team to play a vital part in developing and maintaining the blog. From strategy and competitive research to feeding content and monitoring results, an agency can recommend the right elements to keep a company’s blog in line with its brand.

Stepping up to the plate

Undoubtedly, blogging is a great means for building a corporate brand online. Devising a format and design for the blog is the first step. Any marketing agency worth its weight in salt will coach business executives to ensure the blog’s design doesn’t depart from the company’s corporate identity and make certain that the blog’s name resonates with the core business, products and services.

With so much free and low-cost blog software and hosting sites available, it’s no wonder B2B blogging is more widespread than it was 10 years ago. But while those pre-existing sites may be easy on the corporate bottom line, they come at the cost of control and design limitations. Companies should not cut corners on blog design if it prevents the blog from reflecting corporate identity or readers from easily navigating the site.

Connecting a blog to the company Web site is a sure way to keep the look and feel of the brand in check. This should not just be a hyperlink to a blog hosted on an outside platform. Marketing experts can recommend a blog platform such as WordPress or TypePad that will allow a company to host its blog alongside its corporate Web site.

The marketing team can customize the page design beyond what the pre-set software templates allow. Tag clouds, about us pages and library archives are just a few custom features an agency can design and create for the blog.

Taking a swing

Creating content that meets the needs of a company’s target market is the next step. Each B2B blog is a venue for showcasing a company’s unique expertise in its industry niche. Blogging builds corporate and personal credibility, positioning a company as having few credible substitutes in the marketplace. Blogs also provide a glimpse of what it may be like to work with a company, which helps reduce perceived risk in the minds of prospective buyers.

At first, breathing life into a blog requires little more than jotting down observations about company life and product innovations, and responding to what’s happening in the marketplace. But that’s not always easy. Busy executives will say that they barely have time to answer e-mails, let alone trawl the Internet for what customers and competitors have to say. The advantage of having an agency dedicated to blog management is that it can aid in reading outside blogs and following trends to provide B2B bloggers with palatable topics.

The agency also can help the company get into the practice of blog-rolling, or creating a list of other valuable Web sites and blogs that relate to the industry. When combined with fresh content, blog-rolling encourages communication between multiple sites. When bloggers ruminate about what others have to say and link back to them, it helps make a bigger splash in the blogosphere.

ERA: Earned Reader Average

Top-notch blogging — the kind that keeps readers coming back — should not just spew marketing jargon. Further, each blogger must present a fresh perspective and not rehash what others in the blogosphere have written. The more compelling and relevant the content, the more likely it is that the blog will support the corporate branding effort.

The Forrester report indicated that more than half of corporate blogs repurpose company news rather than provide thought leadership by company experts who can share their knowledge on a particular topic. Unfortunately, if the blog content isn’t original, no one will care. Nothing will make a reader remove a blog from his or her RSS feed faster than a blog that hasn’t been updated in months.

People who read blogs look to them as a form of daily information, and that means customers and prospects will perceive the blog as a source of industry knowledge. This does not mean the blog requires a daily update; posting at least three entries each week is a good start. Plus, it gives the opportunity to explore different topics and weed out subjects of less interest to readers.

Blogging about relevant topics is paramount to capturing a reader’s attention. In a 2008 article in Slate, Michael Agger had this to say about how people read online: “You, my dear user, pluck the low-hanging fruit. When you arrive on a page, you don’t actually deign to read it. You scan. If you don’t see what you need, you’re gone.”

So, each blog post should be packaged in a way that grabs readers and entices them to read more. (See sidebar.)

The marketing agency can keep track of which entries receive the most attention and direct corporate bloggers to focus on those topics. Along those same lines, the agency can monitor the amount and quality of traffic the blog receives. If Web hits are down, bloggers can vary their subjects to boost interest. They just need to watch out that they don’t stray too far from their expertise or industry niche.

It’s also important to encourage readers to interact with the blog by leaving it open to comments. Leaving the commenting function turned on allows readers to engage in conversation, which is one of the key reasons for creating a business blog. For those worried about collecting spam, the marketing team can help manage comments separate the credible messages from junk messages if the problem arises. Also, blog software can be set to hold comments for review, which further prevents spam messages from appearing online in real-time.

That’s the game

Successful business blogging is not a one player game. The company team should remember to stay focused because the industry isn’t seeking generalities about the marketplace. At the same time, they need to keep an ear to the ground to discover what their blog audience wants to hear.

There is a wealth of information available to customers and prospects online. With the coaching of a knowledgeable marketing team, companies can draw readers to their little corner of the Internet.

So, if you build it, they will come. Just be sure to give visitors what they came to see.

Debra Yemenijian is a public relations executive at Schubert Communications Inc., a full-service business-to-business marketing communications agency in Downingtown, Pa.

SIDEBAR

Homerun Headlines

Eye-catching headlines aren’t just for newspapers anymore. Because Web site visitors have short attention spans, a great title should make someone stop to read a blog. Here are some suggestions to hook readers.

  • How-to: Prospects will want to know for what applications a product is used, and returning customers may be looking for other uses. Draw readers in by telling them in the title that you’ll show them how it’s done.
  • Benefits, benefits, benefits: Any marketer worth his or her weight in salt knows the key to success is showing the benefits or a product or service up front. Corporate blogs can use benefit-driven headlines to attract prospects by determining the most compelling product benefit and using it here.
  • Now we’re curious: Thought-provoking titles are more likely to get readers to click through to the blog than those that state the obvious.
  • Ask a question: Often, posing a question will prompt a reader to answer it in his or her head and then continue reading to see what the blogger has to say.
  • Why ask why?: While clicking through the Web quickly, readers may only stop to read a blog if there’s something in it for them. A headline can simply answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” and get a prospect to engage in blog content.

PULLOUT BOX

Top ways a B2B marketing agency can support corporate blogs

  • Design, name and launch the corporate blog.
  • Work with executives to designate one or more employees as bloggers who will contribute regularly.
  • Educate bloggers about best practices for blogging.
  • Keep abreast of industry trends and provide bloggers with food for thought.
  • Consult on ways to increase blog traffic and search engine optimization.
  • Retain administrative rights and handle deleting spam.