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This is a cross-post from my company blog. 

CNN has released the results of what I deem a very powerful study, making the connection between all  of the news-sharing madness happening across the social space, and how advertisers benefit. The global research study into the power of news and recommendation, called POWNAR, was pretty high-tech. According to CNN, it included: “a thorough semiotic analysis, neuro-marketing techniques, news tracking and an ad effectiveness survey to demonstrate that shared news drives global uplifts in brand metrics.”

Having worked at six news organizations, most recently WRAL, I am very familiar with the conversations surrounding the popularity of news sharing and the perplexities that have come with properly defining exactly how the news organizations, which create the content being shared, can capitalize on it all.

At first, the main area of concern was the fact that the content was moving beyond the news website to social networking sites. (“What, they’re taking our content and posting it on Facebook? My word!”)

News managers were finally able to move past that once everyone adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality, which brought in a flurry of “share this” widgets on pretty much every news story on mainstream news website.  These tools encourage sharing and have reduced it to a single click.

I sat in a number of meetings trying to convince the higher-ups that this sharing was a good thing and if the news organization actually got involved in these social networks and started communicating with viewers and readers directly, it would be a testament to the company’s ability to adapt in the new media space.  It would also further humanize the brand.

Another hurdle successfully cleared. I say this because I’m sure you’ve seen the hundreds of journalists on Twitter, heard the pleas from news anchors to “friend us on Facebook” and read the crawls underneath Larry King and Anderson Cooper’s  introductions to their  shows telling you to follow them on Twitter. I don’t need to convince you that news organizations have embraced the power their information yields across social media platforms.

But back to the point….

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It’s been a great year for me. I fell in love with blogging my heart out and have met some amazing people through this blog and and various other social media platforms. Not to mention the fact that I just landed a publishing contract!

At any rate, if you’ve just found my blog in the last week or even the last month, here is a list of the blogs that garnered the most interest this year. Enjoy!

Here are some of my top posts from 2008:

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In yesterday’s post, I expressed my dismay over the lack of advertising and marketing interest in online communities. I think it’s a big mistake and concluded that the main reason for this lack of participation must be time. They simply don’t have the time to invest in these communities to reap the benefits.
Yes, I know…it likely has everything to do with scale. Been there, heard that. Over it.

Peter Kim wrote an excellent post about social media marketing’s scalability problem back in August. And it is certainly an issue. I will acknowledge that.

But I’m also reading in countless blogs about how companies are now aware that it’s time to shift strategies, embrace social media and “join the conversation.” That conversation does exist beyond Facebook and twitter, and even a corporate blog, though some haven’t embraced those yet either.

Bryan Person listed what he calls some obvious reasons why marketers aren’t jumping into some of the conversations taking place in online communities, such as the one about Lasik eye surgery, that I mentioned in yesterday’s post. Here they are:

  1. They (or their PR reps) aren’t doing a good job of monitoring the social web, and they haven’t seen this conversation.
  2. They *are* monitoring, see the mentions, and it just takes time to respond.
  3. They *are* monitoring, see the mentions, and don’t know exactly how to respond.
  4. They *are* monitoring and see the mentions, but the high volume makes it impossible or unrealistic to jump into all conversations (for many brands, this is certainly the case.)
  5. They *are* monitoring, following the conversations, and simply choose not to respond.

I bet Bryan’s right, and all five of those instances certainly occur. Richard Millington agrees with Bryan. He chimed in with this:

I would add that too many companies focus on the macro sales rather than the micro sales. They don’t realize that the macro attempts nearly always push people away, whilst the micro always draws people closer to the company.

BINGO! Someone hand Richard the door prize! Micro sales. That’s it!

Now, if you’re a marketer, please tell me why the time investment isn’t worth it. And how do we make this paradigm shift from macro sales to micro sales?

It has to happen. And like I said yesterday, I’m going to help lead the charge.

I still don’t know how, but as long as we keep talking about it, we’ll figure it out.

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As the editor of an online community with more than 10,000 members, I see at least 5-10 really good opportunities for marketers and advertisers on a daily basis. They unfold before my very eyes and sometimes seem too good to be true. The conversations take place in blogs, on individual profiles and even on the comments sections of news stories.

What I can’t really figure out though, is why these opportunities are being missed. The only thing I can think of is time. Maybe they don’t want to invest the time it takes to get involved in an online community even if it is filled with thousands of local folks who could bring lots of business to those who do it right.

Just today, someone mentioned that they were seriously contemplating Lasik eye surgery and asked for advice. It came in droves. Two businesses were mentioned by name and several individual doctors were recommended. There was mention of bad experiences and some chimed in saying they too had been considering the surgery and wanted to find someone with a good reputation and satisfied patients.

Can you imagine what would have happened had anyone from those offices gotten involved in this conversation, perhaps offering a special, a consultation, expertise or even tips on how to select a doctor?

I saw a potential gold mine and an opportunity to recruit customers who would spread the word and bring in even more referrals. The cost: Zero. Well the real cost is time. I guess that price is just too high for some.

A sad state of affairs indeed.
But I’m going to help change it. I don’t know exactly how, but it’s coming.
Stay tuned…..

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My recent blog post about Peter Shankman’s press release prediction caused quite a conversation. In case you missed it, Shankman predicted that the press release would be dead in 36 months at a TIMA presentation in Raleigh last week.
So, I contacted Peter and asked him to respond to some of the comments left on the post. And he did.

Danny Brown wrote:

“With respect to Peter, I’d have to disagree. I would be more inclined to say that the press release will evolve and take advantage of the newer ways to communicate, but dead? I can’t see it, personally.”

Shankman’s response:

A press release on Twitter or on a Blog is as pointless as a press release itself. What good will it do? Give me information NOW, to the point, and how I want it. A three page press release, with each company blowing smoke up the other’s a__ about how great it is to merge is BS. “We merged with company ABC today to create company ABCD. This will give our customers more options, more sales, and more products. It’s good.” That’s what I need. If I want more, I’ll find it.

Johnnypr wrote:

“It’s certainly on life support but agree that it still has a chance to evolve, I just wish companies would avoid releases that start with the company name and how great they are.”

I asked Peter: “Does the press release have time to evolve?”

Shankman’s response:
Yes – The press release can evolve into NOT BEING A PRESS RELEASE. It can evolve into relevant information, when I need it, how I need it, and what I want it to be. End of story. Again, 3 pages of fluff doesn’t do it for me, or for the next generation.

Danny Brown also wrote:

“The press release is still one of the most useful mediums for recognized news sources. The newer social media release format will only encourage this, and used with a search engine optimized press release will be an incredibly powerful tool to reach as many outlets (media and otherwise) as possible.

I asked Peter: “Does this comment make you change your stance at all?”

Shankman’s response:

Useful and recognizable for who? I had a PR flack show me all the press he “got” for his client once. You know what he showed me? 35 pages of his PRESS RELEASE, REPRINTED on search engines. I literally drop-kicked him out the door.

And finally, Heleana Quartey wrote on her blog:

“One thing this argument does forget is there are still many niche trade publications that aren’t even online, and clients that don’t even read e-newsletters, never mind Twitter, so they don’t value ‘online coverage’.

I asked Peter: “What will happen to these people if they continue to stay offline?”

Shankman’s response:
Back in 1993, a Wall Street Journal reporter said to a mentor of mine, “Yeah, if this Internet thing ever goes mainstream, call me.”Enough said.
Alrighty then! Thanks Peter for sending me your responses.
Any more thoughts?

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If you have a product or service that you think most people or a large percentage of the people in an online community would find interesting, I think you should delve right in and give it a shot. After all, isn’t one of the goals behind marketing in online communities to essentially capitalize on the sheer numbers and niche topics?

If done right, it can be quite effective. If done wrong, as it most often is in my opinion, it can backfire in a way that can turn ugly fast. I’ve seen it time and time again. A well-intentioned individual joins the community and casually starts mentioning their travel site or automotive services complete with links in every post and the promise of a discount.

What often happens next is they receive a slew of comments from the natives about the community not being a place to sell their services and it’s all downhill from there.
I once saw a user upload 750 images of wristwatches. Seriously. It was his entire catalog. Need I say what happened to him?

I call it the scarlet letter, “S.” it stands for SPAM. It’s a word you don’t want to be associated with in an online community. Trust me. So, before you jump right in to the next community, here are five things you shouldn’t do. Remember, this isn’t the do list, it’s the don’t list.

Don’t:

  1. Add links to your website in every single blog and comment you post.
  2. Write blogs with titles like: “Great deals on travel” and only mention your organization. It’s the quickest way to illustrate a lack of genuine interest in the community.
  3. Start blogging about your product or service the minute you create a profile. It will be noticed.
  4. Misrepresent yourself as a satisfied customer, just to convince others to get on board.
  5. Disrespect the culture of the community. Take time to see how things work before you jump in and shake things up.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.

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