Google+: To Join or Not to Join

Google’s latest social media blitz is an all-inclusive “suite of networking tools” called Google+. Sending out a limited number of invitations employed the basic strategy of supply and demand, which helped the site reach approximately 5 million members in less than a month. But now as the dust has settled, users keep asking themselves “how do I use Google+ and what’s the value?”

The service itself integrates Google Profiles and Google Buzz while providing new features like Circles, Hangouts, and Sparks. In terms of functionality, it can be confusing, so here’s a breakdown of the main features that differentiate it from other sites (namely Facebook).

Key Features
Circles. According to Google, Circles are “The easiest way to share some things with college buddies, others with your parents, and almost nothing with your boss.” When you post links, pictures, and videos you also click the corresponding Circles who will have access to your post. In terms of control, Google+ has an edge over Facebook’s confusing privacy settings that appeared as an after-thought to compete with G+.

Hangouts. These live web chats immediately connect you with friends, family, and colleagues for a (digital) face-to-face interaction. In this respect, it can be a great tool to collaborate on projects. While Facebook is known as more of a personal social networking site that lets you stay in touch with friends, Google+ can be a great way to also share content and schedule meetings in your industry.

Sparks. We’ll resist the urge to break out into song, but Sparks is basically a feed of your favorite things. If you love fashion for example, click the Fashion category to read popular posts about Fashion Week, the latest trends and more. It’s the Google equivalent of Twitter’s hashtags and is especially helpful if your friends keep posting irrelevant articles to their feeds.

Should You Join?
Google+ is valuable for those who are looking for another outlet to communicate with friends, family and colleagues while retaining control over content. If you’re not quite sold, keep in mind that it’s a work in progress. According to Mashable: There’s a reason why Google “calls this a ‘project’ rather than a ‘product’ — they don’t want people to think of this as the final product, but as a constantly-evolving entity that permeates every corner of the Google empire.” Our best advice is to try it out and see if it works for you.

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The Impact of Social Networking

At first, it might have seemed like a fleeting trend, and while the specific outlets are constantly changing, one thing is for sure: social media is here to stay. After taking a critical eye to social networking, here’s how it has impacted businesses, individuals, and society in general:

On Businesses: Providing a new way to connect
–Social networking sites are allowing businesses to connect with clients, customers and other industry professionals on a more personal level.
–Customer service is improving thanks to Brand Monitoring—this describes the practice of large companies and financial institutions listening to what customers are saying about their brand on sites like Twitter and Facebook and responding immediately.
–Social networking sites are changing the way new businesses get off the ground. For example, Kickstarter.com lets you make a pitch for your business idea, while other users provide the funds to start it up.

On Individuals: Unparalleled Communication
–These sites have changed the way individuals interact with each other. Users are able to communicate, stay in touch and stay up-to-date on trends and events on a daily basis.

On Society: The Birth of a Revolution
–The recent revolution in Egypt used Facebook as a primary communication tool. Using this site as a way to organize protests, a group called “We Are All Khaled Saeed,” gained hundreds of thousands of followers and brought international attention to the civil unrest in Egypt.
–Social networking sites are providing scientists with data and statistics that have been unavailable until now. Facebook is being called “The Human Catalog” because it’s providing unparalleled insight on identity, trends and youth culture all over the world.

Fast Facts

  • Facebook has more than 500 million active users, and these users spend over 700 billion minutes per month on the website.
  • [Infographic] LinkedIn has recently surpassed 100 million users.
  • Phoenix is #34 on a list of top socially networked cities in the US.
  • Facebook overtook Google and became the most visited website in 2010.
  • This map shows the connectivity of 10 million Facebook users (roughly 2% of all users)

Additional Resources
Mashable
The Social Path
Social Networking Statistics
Impacts on Modern Business

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How To Be Terrible at Twitter

Twitter has been around for about five years, with a recent surge in popularity the last couple years. When the site first launched, we were a little confused about the value of this social networking tool, but then most of us started to catch on and realize the benefits.

I said most because not everyone has figured out how to use Twitter to its full potential. So if you notice your follower count is starting to dwindle, you might actually be alienating your audience. How can you tell? Check out this recent article by Mashable, it highlights the top 5 sites that let you track your lost followers.

The next step is realizing why you’re losing these followers. Based on my own experience, I’ve put together a few “Twitter Don’ts” that might steer you in the right direction:

Over-Tweeting. Would you email your colleagues 15 times in a row? Would you call your friends 25 times to let them know about upcoming events or great deals? Probably not. Your goal should be to reach out to your followers with valuable content— not to completely bombard them with it.

Solution: Twitter newbies who are developing their follower base should post around 3-5 tweets per day, while established individuals and businesses can post every few hours. But try not to post multiple tweets within an hour.

Exception: If you’re live tweeting updates from a special event, or responding to your followers via @replies, then feel free to tweet away!

Spamming Your Followers. If you’re anything like me, you get excited when you receive a new Direct Message (DM). The fastest way to turn that excitement into frustration is when I realize my new message is just spam. These messages usually follow the same format, “Hey [your user name here], thanks for the follow, do us a favor and check out our [website / Facebook page / blog].” Without establishing any kind of loyalty or trust, your readers might get annoyed when you immediately ask them for a favor.

Solution: Establish a relationship first. You can do that by opening some form of dialogue through @reply messages or by Retweeting their content. Once you’ve established a relationship, your followers will be more inclined to check out your links.

Repetitive Posts. This morning, I unfollowed someone because every post he shared was about Social Media. “Social Media: The Wave of the Future,” “Social Media and You!” “Social Media is the new Social Media.” You get the idea. Repetitive posts that lack diversification can be a good way to bore your followers. They’ll assume you don’t have any fresh content to provide, and they’ll follow people who do.

Solution: Make sure your tweets cover a variety of topics that switch between timely content, replies, Retweets and Direct Messages.

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How to Kick Start Your New Business

Picture yourself as a rosy-cheeked 10-year old. You have a curious spirit and an entrepreneurial drive. You take note that your neighbors have an affinity for lemonade, yet lemon trees only grow well on your soil. At the local block party, you make your pitch. “I will plant and grow two more lemon trees, harvest and juice the lemons, then build a lemonade stand where everyone can come and purchase my fine product. All I need from my neighbors are the funds to buy the trees and build the stand.”

Sound crazy? Meet Kickstarter.com. This is exactly the premise behind the website that’s been wildly successful. You make a pitch for your business idea, and other people kick in funds to start it up.

But surely there must be a financial benefit to investing in someone else’s business venture? Not really. This is not like purchasing stock in a company where an individual receives income from corporate revenue. In this case, the “stock” you buy into is simply knowing that you’ll be able to enjoy the exact product you want—be it a film, restaurant, or event.

Of course some projects offer incentives for your donation like, “Give $25 and get a cheese plate for two,” or “Donate $100 to the film and have your name appear in the credits.” But in general, the main purpose is to support creative endeavors and generate a consumer-driven marketplace.

This is part of the ongoing trend that’s shifting advertising into consumer hands. By now, most people are familiar with the Facebook model of advertising. Firstly, the ads attempt to be relevant to your interests. Secondly, if they’re not, you get to “X” them out. Similarly, on Hulu, in some cases the viewer can choose which ad (out of three choices) they prefer to see.

While these models have certainly been progressive, Kickstarter takes “advertising” a step further–or rather, a step back. The individual essentially gets to actively participate (by way of their wallet) in the very manufacturing of the culture/product/entertainment that they want to experience. In my humble opinion, it’s brilliant.

So what idea would you support? How far would you go to have your dream realized? Maybe you’ve always wanted to produce a feature film… or just build a simple lemonade stand. Big or small, there’s sure to be a patron out there who is willing to kick in.

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DMA Conference Day 3: Social Media Pros & Cons

Even though I attended two days of pre-conference events, day three of the Direct Marketing Association Conference is actually the first day for the majority of attendees. This being the “official” start of the conference, the DMA put on an impressive opening event with a media show, entertaining keynote speaker and celebrities.

Social media is a hot topic at the conference. There are definitely different points of view on the subject, and lots of uncertainty surrounding its place in everyone’s marketing mix. Today’s opening speakers suggested social media is not for every business. Others believe every business needs to be part of the conversation.

My morning workshop leader shared pros and cons of social media marketing:

Pros:
-Social media is a one-to-one marketing solution
-Customers can become direct sales people (if we’re lucky)

Cons:
-The marketer loses control
-Phony pitches become obvious
-Today’s hero can quickly become tomorrow’s bum

The afternoon’s Thought Leadership Series presenter gave a recent example that offered insight into how social media can help and hurt businesses. Here’s his story:

He was looking to purchase a new camera. So, being a social media junkie he tweeted it. Those in the know suggested – via Twitter — a certain camera to purchase. His next step was to find the cost, so he Googled the camera. He went to purchase it at Best Buy and found it to be hundreds of dollars more than at most places … so he tweeted that as well. Not good for Best Buy.

He received a tweet in return suggesting another place to purchase the camera … good for that retailer. Within minutes, the retailer tweeted they had the camera in stock and would be happy to assist him.

Now that’s good.

And so goes the discussion about social media as a marketing tool. I suspect it will continue long after the conference.

While we marketers contemplate the impact of social media, the folks here in San Francisco are celebrating their baseball team becoming division champs. Exciting times ahead.

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The World Cup is Buzzing Thanks to Social Media

And Thanks to Several Thousand Vuvuzelas

The FIFA World Cup in South Africa is well under way and for the first time in American history, it has broken into our mainstream media. In fact, over 17 million viewers tuned in to the USA and England game, making it the “most watched game in the history of American World Cup telecasts.” This is compared to 2006, when just 4 million viewers tuned in. So what has caused the World Cup’s recent surge in popularity in American culture?

The increase in popularity can be attributed mainly to social media. Here’s why:

We’re Sharing. With networking sites like Twitter and Facebook, the excitement of the World Cup games is being shared across the world — in an instant. When a team scores a goal, the contagious “oohs” and “aahs” of their fans are shared immediately on networking sites. And when a team’s goalkeeper misses the most rudimentary save (ahem, England), the Tweets and Facebook statuses instantly reflect that, too. Case in point, over the last couple weeks, the majority of the Trending Topics on Twitter mostly have been comprised of World Cup teams and players.

We’re Connected. Due to the time difference, a lot of the World Cup games are aired in the United States in the early morning, which you might think would decrease the amount of viewers. But a recent study shows 53% of people check their social media sites as soon as they wake up, which means we’re staying up to speed on these morning games using social media (and we don’t even have to flip on the TV).

And We’re Watching. Nike recently spent millions of dollars on an ad called “Write the Future,” and some marketing experts are calling it the best ad ever. Thanks to YouTube, this commercial has over 16.5 million views, and it’s exactly sites like this that allow us to share World Cup commercials, clips and more. And the ad itself features American pop-culture icons (including Kobe Bryant and Homer Simpson) along with popular soccer players, which helps integrate soccer into American pop-culture.

So while several other factors might have a role in the surge of popularity of the World Cup games, I am confident in saying social media is one of the key factors. Social media has given us the tools to be able to share, stay up to speed, and enjoy the videos that promote the most popular sporting event in the world. And thanks to the power of social media, Americans have finally started to join the rest of the world as passionate soccer fans.

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Google Yourself: The Future of Online Marketing

Since the term “Web 2.0” has already made the transition from buzzword to cliché, everyone is wondering, “what’s next?” In terms of social media, many are thinking in terms of speed, convenience and an expanded use of crowdsourcing. While these concepts are important, one of the key features in innovative marketing will be personalized marketing strategies.

A great example of this personalization is “The Google Job Experiment.” It shows how one man, in an effort to find a job, purchased inexpensive ad space that allowed his personal message to appear when company executives Googled themselves. What was the end result? Watch it to find out.

This new ability to personalize interactive media will become more widespread in the future, especially as businesses (and individuals) begin to recognize its potential as an innovative marketing tactic.

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What You Need to Know About Social Media Marketing

And why it’s not always the answer

We’ve all read hundreds of articles saying you need to start a Twitter account and there’s no way around it, Social Media is the wave of the future, jump aboard or get swept away. Don’t get me wrong, Social Media can be a beneficial, cost-effective supplement to your marketing methods; however, it’s not an all-inclusive replacement of a good, core-marketing strategy. In other words, your strategy should drive the method— not the other way around.

Social Media Breakdown
What is Social Media Marketing? More specific than Internet Marketing, Social Media Marketing uses networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to drive sales, promotions and products. And chances are, you already knew that.

In fact, you probably realize there’s just not enough time in the day to update your Twitter status, manage your company’s Facebook profile, check in on your LinkedIn, and watch the latest viral video on YouTube. But it’s time to take a deep breath, take a step back and realize all of these popular social networking tools are just that: tools. They are additional resources for you to use to help you get the job done, but they shouldn’t be the driving force of your campaign.

A Wrench in the Works
So what happens when you skip the strategy and jump headfirst into Social Media Marketing? You end up having an underdeveloped campaign that lacks the strength of old fashioned marketing. It equates to a huge blockbuster movie that makes a huge marketing push without having the plot to back it up. Can anyone remember the recent blockbuster bomb, Land of the Lost? Yeah me neither.

So when your planning leads to a campaign that’s strong enough to stand on its own, then it’s time to introduce Social Media Marketing as a supplement (not the other way around).

Back to the Basics
Sometimes it’s good to recall the basics of good, solid marketing communications. While tactics like Social Media can be beneficial, they may not be right for every business or every campaign. In other words, build every campaign on a foundation of solid strategy. (For more on this, read our recent blog, What Lady Gaga Can Teach You About Marketing).

The Moral of the Story
Without a doubt, Social Media is fun, new and exciting. But the individuality of your objectives will tell you what Social Media tool (if any) is the answer. Ask yourself:
• Who is the audience?
• What is the campaign strategy?
• What are my options?

Contact Sherri May & Company today to find out which marketing strategy is right for you at

602-547-7020 x 102.

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Listing Your Way to Success

blog_imgThe social network scene has exploded all across the Internet. From LinkedIn to Facebook to YouTube to MySpace to Couch Surfing—Internet users have more than their fair share of sites to choose from. A new site emerges from the masses called My Life ListTM and seeks to engage its users in a different way.

I’m wary about joining too many social networks. I don’t want to seem like I’ve got all this time to kill on the internet and I’ve found lately, I’m suckered in to checking multiple sites a day. But I simply could not pass up My Life List

The number one reason people do not achieve their goals is because they never write them down and visit the list on a daily basis. With My Life List, users register for free and write down their goals in different categories from Travel & Leisure, Lifestyle and Personal Growth. The site’s motto, “Create. Act. Celebrate.” serves as the networking portion of the site.

I began writing down attainable ones for this year (finishing War & Peace), a few years off (visiting my sculpture in Ireland) and 10+ ones (writing a humor book). But you don’t have to sit there coming up with all of these lists on your own.

My Life List 90 provides the top 90 life goals, which you can add to your list. Once you’ve got your goal list, you then create a plan to achieve the goals and engage users to support you. Support can come from your social circle or other users you connect with on the site. I’m turning to Martha from Minnesota who loved War & Peace to engage me in discussions every week, so I’m continually reading the chapters. Want to complete a marathon? Find someone on the site who also looks to complete a marathon and share training and eating tips with one another (act). When you achieve a goal, the site wants to hear your stories and photos (celebrate). By sharing your success with others, you in turn inspire another.

The site also serves as a game and lets you earn points to help inspire you to continue to move forward with your goals. Receive points for adding a friend to your network, making comments on other users’ stories and sharing your stories.

Use the private journal feature to capture your feelings and thoughts while on the path to achieving your goals. I’ve posted discussion questions for War & Peace in mine as well as topics to address in a book. The journal will never be made public and serves solely as motivation to for you.

With the popularity in social networking, it will only be a short while before this site takes off. And since only about 5 percent of the current population writes down their goals, it’s safe to say a lot more could be achieved this year.

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