Social Media

What's the Business Value of a Facebook "Like"?

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When I logged into Facebook this morning, Facebook suggested that I “like” Walmart and Samsung because some of my friends “like” them. This got me wondering about the business value of a Facebook “like.”

If you “like” a company’s page, its content then appears in your stream. There’s certainly some value in this arrangement for the company: they get to advertise directly to you. But what do you get out of it? Do you benefit from this arrangement?

For the most part, I’m not so sure you do. Most companies’ Facebook updates are just ads and self promotion. In other words, they’re simply electronic versions of the paper junk mail that has long plagued our mailboxes. Just as most junk mail goes straight into the recycling bin with hardly a second glance, most corporate announcements on Facebook are similarly unnoticed by their target audiences. In both cases, a company pays an intermediary (for junk mail, it’s the printer and the post office; for Facebook updates, it’s Facebook) to broadcast its message to a wide and fairly undifferentiated audience.

And in both cases, the message often misses the mark. Although Facebook is still going strong, its dominance in the field of corporate social-media messaging is fading. As more and more people become aware of—and annoyed by—the deluge of electronic corporate messaging being “pushed” to them, they increasingly become “numb” to those forms of advertising. When that happens, they “unlike” companies on Facebook or turn to totally different media outlets altogether. And then the companies whose business plans include reliance on Facebook for messaging find themselves without an audience.

When you log into your personal Facebook account, do you pay attention to the corporate self-promotion that appears in your stream? Probably not. And if you’re not noticing what other companies post, what makes you think that people will notice what your company posts?

If you want to maintain a competitive edge in your market, you need to stay on top of current advertising trends—and innovate beyond them. Take the observations you gain as a social media user yourself and apply them to your business practices. Think about the way you like to be engaged by marketers. Do you prefer suggestions based on what your “friends” “like”? Or, do you prefer suggestions based on what you’re reading or searching for?

Sure, go ahead and maintain a Facebook page for your company. But don’t invest huge amounts of money or effort into it and don’t expect it to pull in tons of new business. Instead, think of it as a means to connect a bit with people who are already interested in your product or service, and then look for other ways to build connections with people who aren’t already interested in your company—but should be. 

Google

Cut through the Noise!

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When you were a child, did you ever visit the ice-cream shop and have a hard time selecting just one flavor from the many delicious options displayed in the freezer case? As an adult, you have probably experienced a similar “option paralysis” when flipping through restaurant menus the size of books. You want to order your food and enjoy your meal, but at the same time you don’t want to miss out on anything noteworthy. With so many choices, how do you decide which dish is worthy of your attention?

Today’s companies find themselves in a similar situation regarding social media. Instead of food menus, though, they’re lost in a sea of content marketing with blogs, tweets, and status updates flooding them with information.

Now that social media is a major marketing tool (with more companies coming on board each day), consider the impact its increasing popularity has on the companies you’re trying to reach.

For example, if you and your four closest competitors each tweet three times per day, post two Facebook updates daily, and write one weekly blog post, the five of you are flooding your followers with 720 unique messages each month. When you combine this with social media updates from the hundreds of other friends and companies trying to get your audience’s attention, you can quickly get a sense of the staggering amount of data directed to them each day. Eventually, those messages all start to the look the same—and your audience won’t know where to direct its attention.

Under these circumstances, how can you be confident that your messages delivered via social media actually reach their intended audience? In short, you can’t.

But what you can do is deliver your message by other means as well. Social media is an effective marketing tool, but when the messages are flying by at a mile a minute, it’s hard for them to catch someone’s eye.  One proven solution: augment your messaging toolkit with high-quality, beautifully designed, engaging print media that recipients will want to keep on their desks and share in the physical world.

Branded magazines let you conduct a highly targeted print campaign that distinguishes you from the masses that depend only on online platforms for outreach. By packaging your branding in printed form with information that’s relevant and useful to your audience, you create a messaging product with tremendous staying power—both on your clients’ minds and on their desks—that helps you stay ahead of your competition.

Google

An Old Friend in the New Media Marketplace

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Most business owners and marketing professionals agree: content marketing is one of the keys to success in today’s economy. However, while the bulk of the world is on the digital bandwagon—producing online content that leverages pull marketing that drives online viewers to their products—there’s another way of delivering branded content that will help you stand out from the pack. 

And it’s in print. Yes, you read that right. I’m talking about “new school” content marketing delivered in a decidedly “old school” medium: printed magazines.

How do you deliver content to the audience you’re targeting? If you currently use blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, e-mail, and the like, you’re definitely on the right track. Nearly every marketing consultant on Earth will agree that if you’re not doing a combination of social media, content marketing, and SEO, your business may end up lost in the sea of competition.

What many marketing consultants forget, however, is that we live in a tactile world. Consumers subconsciously desire both visual and tactile feedback when they turn through pages and pages of content. We like to hold and manipulate things. We prefer the look and feel of printed paper to a backlit screen. That’s why the best digital providers mimic the printed page as often as possible. (Don’t believe me? Take a look at iBooks, Flipboard, and other digital content delivery apps that read and “flip” like printed material.)

All of this means that print will never die as a viable means of delivering effective content marketing.

Consider the following:

  • “Print is becoming the fresh marketing tool as we get more and more inundated with tweets, e-mails, and blogs.”1

  • “Individuals have a better ability to recall after viewing materials in print rather than on screen. Brand-name recall was substantially lower for screen respondents.”2

  • “I don’t believe print will ever go away. It is tangible, you hold it, your eyes roam around the page, you place it somewhere as a reminder and view over and over again. I find I respond to an RSVP with print more than I do online.”3

  • Consumers go online more in response to magazines than to any other medium. Direct mail, blogs, social media, Internet advertising—none of those holds a candle to magazines at effectively prompting people to do online searches.4

  • “It is special receiving a well-designed printed piece in the mail or on my desk; it cuts through the online noise like nothing else. I expect to see more of that in the future.”5

  • “Magazines and social media go hand-in-hand. Sixty-nine percent of readers have posted a magazine article on Facebook, and more than six in ten have shared magazine content while chatting with friends on Facebook.”6

In this data, I see opportunity—a chance to stand out and get noticed. Add value and show your clients that you’re committed to becoming a true partner instead of a chance connection initiated by an online pull marketing campaign. 

As I pointed out in my post on using a multifaceted marketing plan to stay top-of-mind, print media isn’t the end-all tool: it’s a differentiator. Digital marketing is alive and well and is clearly here to stay. Although there are a few dinosaurs who still aren’t on board with digital marketing, nearly everyone else is. Even if you hire the best consultants in the industry, it’s tough to create SEO-optimized content, Twitter communities, Facebook pages, and other digital content that will truly separate you from the ten other companies doing the same thing with the same value proposition right in your own backyard. So how do you stand out from the crowd?

Print is the answer. The marketing principles we currently use online can easily be incorporated into the print world. New technology allows us to leverage variable-data messaging in a printed publication such as a magazine, which enables you to grab—and maintain—the attention of your audience and build a loyal following.

Imagine having the ability to vary the messaging throughout a magazine according to your audience. You could have versions of introductory letters that target different readers, for example (after all, your clients and your prospects are audiences with different needs and interests). One issue’s cover art could vary based on the recipient’s organizational role or demographic. Or content can be tailored based on geography (clients in California might see healthcare reform updates different from those seen by clients in Massachusetts, for instance).

As you can see, the possibilities for customizing a print product are endless. Why not seize the opportunity to make your organization stand out from the crowd? Ask me how you can cast your net wider than theirs by adding branded publishing to your toolkit—and start reaping the rewards that come from taking an “old school” approach to “new school” messaging.

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1 Quoted in: Kaye, Gordon. 2012. Print Is Getting Smarter: And 11 Other Things Learned from Our Annual Survey. Graphic Design USA (June): 37–62.

2 Jones, Marily Y., Robin Pentecost, and Gabrielle Requena. 2005. Memory for advertising and information content: Comparing the printed page to the computer screen. Psychology & Marketing 22 (8): 623–648.

3Kaye, 2012.

4 See a breakdown of the numbers here: The Association of Magazine Media. 2012. The Magazine and Media Factbook 2012/2013.

5Kaye, 2012.

6 The Association of Magazine Media, 2012.

Google

A Primer on Marketing through Social Media

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At first glance, the social media landscape seems overwhelming: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblr … I’ve even heard that MySpace might be making a comeback! As you survey this list, you may find yourself thinking, “So many choices, so little time!” In your B2B marketing and communication efforts, though, you’ll need to make your choices and find the time, because an effective social media strategy is a must-have for any successful marketing campaign.

Having a presence on ten different sites is worthless if you don’t have the time, knowledge, and motivation to manage your messaging. So before you rush out and set up accounts on multiple sites, take a look at this three-step guide. It will help you maximize your results and accomplish your objectives—all while showing you how to maintain a balance between your marketing efforts and the demands of the other professional hats you wear.

Step 1: Define your goals.

If you want a social media marketing plan to be effective, it must have clear goals, such as (among others) personal branding, customer acquisition, customer service, thought leadership, community building, or the humanization of your company. The goals you choose will shape the type of content you create for your blog, the people you follow on Twitter, the pictures you post on Facebook, and what you include in your company profile on LinkedIn.

Step 2: Choose your platforms and learn how to leverage them.

The social-media landscape is vast, and if you’re just getting started (or even if you’re looking to refine your strategy) it’s best to stick to no more than three platforms. The following list is far from exhaustive, but it describes the top platforms companies are using today:

Blogs give you a customizable platform for building your brand and creating your online reputation—both of which are necessary to position yourself (and your firm) as a thought leader when selling to more sophisticated buyers. Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, and Wordpress are just a few of the many free blogging platforms available.

Facebook is a crowded space filled with countless photos of your friends’ cute kids and updates on what Aunt Jane had for dessert. However, with nearly one billion users, it’s also the king of the social networks—and it can be much more than an outlet for friends and family when leveraged as a tool to help humanize your business. Funny or interesting pictures you post there, for example, can spread quickly through “likes” and shares, leading viewers back to your business or services and providing free advertising for your company.

Twitter is densely populated with industry professionals, which makes it the perfect platform for B2B marketing. To get the most out of Twitter, use it for multiple types of communication: sharing relevant and valuable tweets (with your own added insight) from the people you follow, and tying in the messaging from your blog and other social media channels.

Unlike most other social media outlets, LinkedIn was designed primarily to facilitate social networking rather than idea sharing. The most powerful part of LinkedIn isn’t your company page—it’s the connections shared by you and your team members. Encourage your employees to join and share relevant updates with their network.

As you’ve no doubt seen in many places online, people love to share pictures with each other. Pinterest, a relative newcomer to the social media field, taps into this desire by being entirely image based. Since its launch it has quickly carved out a unique niche among the social media networks as an ideal place to post images of products, infographics, book and magazine covers, data, charts, and cartoons.

Google Plus is another new kid on the block that has been making big waves since it entered the scene, especially among entrepreneurs and tech-oriented businesses. One of the most important features of Google Plus is the +1 button, and I would not be surprised if the largest search engine on Earth adjusts your search placement based on the number of +1s attached to your page or posts.

Step 3: Use automation as a tool, not a strategy.

Now that you’ve set some goals and chosen the best platforms for connecting with your audience, I highly recommend using automation to help you build your social-media presence and develop your online relationships. Buffer, TweetDeck, and HootSuite are just three of the many great options that let you schedule your posts and tweets. After all, it’s great to keep the content flowing as much as possible, but you still need to fulfill your other professional responsibilities—and get to bed at a decent hour! Proceed with caution when applying automation, though: too much will leave you sounding like a robot and drive away your audience.

There’s a difference between using social media and using social media wisely. If you do the first, you’re just part of the crowd. If you do the second, though, you can build relationships that transform your audience into raving fans.

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