Social Media

Three Basic SMM Steps You Should Take

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The decade is almost over. Who knows where social media marketing will stand in 2019? Science fiction-style predictions are usually a little exaggerated, so we likely won’t yet be able to jack in to other bodies or a virtual reality world a la Avatar or The Matrix. Instead, the Internet will likely have continued its evolution into a hyper-connected social network of virtual communities, lifestyle-customized advertising, and real-time, mobile-accessible information.

But a journey of a decade begins with a month. Looking ahead to January 2010, there are three very basic steps your company can take to enter the world of social media.

Claim Your Name

Twitter and Facebook are currently the most popular social networking sites, though that may change in the next year or two. Even if you haven’t yet created a social media marketing strategy, take a few minutes to create an account with your company’s name on Twitter and a Facebook “vanity” URL with the same name. It’s free, it protects your business name in the social media sphere, and it’s ground zero for stepping into the future of Internet marketing.

Online video is likely to be an area of radical growth in the next few years, particularly “how to” videos that could show up in search engine results and thus bolster your search engine optimization efforts. Accordingly, you might also want to create a YouTube channel with your company name.

Create a Blog

It’s easy, and there are many free blog hosting services available if you’re technophobic. A blog is one of the most basic tools you’ll need for providing information to customers and starting a search engine optimization campaign. And if you’re no John Steinbeck or Toni Morrison, we offer content writing services that would help you to get started.

User-Generated Content

Company-created online communities are likely to become prominent in the years ahead. Multiple studies have shown that online retailers with websites that feature customer reviews enjoy higher conversion rates and lower product return rates. Even if the occasional customer posts something negative, it gives customers more trust in your authenticity and integrity. If it’s appropriate for the type of product or service you offer, consider adding a customer review feature to your website. User-generated content is beneficial not only for building customer loyalty, but also for SEO—there’s a reason that Amazon is almost always at the top of search results, and it’s not because they’re bribing Google.

Social Life and Social Media

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

There are both upsides and downsides to life in the social media world. On the down side, online anonymity and the freedom to customize your media gadgets, friends, and information sources can lead to self-indulgent behavior. On the plus side, social media opens up extraordinary possibilities for personal connection and intellectual and geographic discovery. Both sides are on full display in an interesting new white paper from Euro RSCG Worldwide titled “Social Life and Social Media.”

Euro RSCG found several noteworthy trends that have developed as a consequence of broader social media usage. The first is the rise of hyperlocalism, e.g. the ability to connect via community websites or more easily find local businesses. (Though relatively new to social media, local search has long been a facet of search engine optimization.) Another is a more intense emphasis on self as social networking enables greater customization or personalization of one’s online world. A related finding is that social media users are more willing to take risks or engage in daring behavior—both bad (posting Facebook photos that could lead to employment trouble) and good (feeling more empowered to meet new people or do something you’ve always wanted).

“Social Life and Social Media” provides four takeaways for companies that are currently involved in social media marketing:

• Embrace the trend, ride the fads

The benefits of social media are more important than particular technologies or social networking sites. Build your social media strategy using today’s most popular sites, but be prepared for tomorrow’s trends, such as mobile.

• Aim to participate, not dominate

Social media is about organic, consumer-driven communication. Unlike traditional marketing, companies and brands are on the periphery of the medium rather than in control. Creativity and authentic interaction are essential.

• Stop thinking online/offline; start thinking interaction

The theme of social interaction should trump marketing divisions such as online vs. offline or old media vs. new media. From senior executives on down, employees must be familiar with and understand the possibilities of social media.

• Pay attention to location-specific initiatives

In social media, Euro RSCG writes, “the most powerful interactions are those with ‘local,’ face-to-face qualities.” Rather than scale up, social media marketing challenges companies to scale down and meet the needs of individual, local consumers.

www.eurorscgprcampaign.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/EuroWhitePaper_SocialMedia.pdf

Companies Failing to Effectively Combine SEO & Social Media

Friday, November 20th, 2009

There are two new reports out this week that provide some statistical illumination on the present and future of social media use. The first, a white paper from 360i, indicates that many companies are failing to take advantage of the search engine optimization benefits of social media marketing. The other, a report from eMarketer, suggests that social networking is rapidly becoming a primary activity for mobile Internet users.

Titled “The State of Search,” 360i’s report included a brand SEO audit of the top 100 advertisers in the U.S. They found that marketing content accounted for only 23% of the YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook listings that appeared in the top 100 search results for these companies’ brand keywords. The report offered several suggestions on how companies could increase page listings and customer engagement, among them:

• Set up social media profiles on top destinations

• Cross-link owned domains and social media destinations

• Monitor the effect of news, image, social media, and other results on brand-related search results

The eMarketer report on mobile social networks found that social networking is one of the fastest-growing activities among mobile users and has become a significant driver of Internet usage on mobile devices. The 76 million worldwide mobile social network users in 2008 accounted for 19% of all mobile Internet users. In 2009, those figures grew to 141 million and 28%. In 2010, eMarketer predicts a total of 223 million mobile social network users—over one-third of all mobile Internet users. By 2014, nearly half of all mobile Internet users—45%—are expected to be social network users.

Listen and Learn: The Benefits of Social Media Monitoring

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

If there were a conversation taking place in the next room, within earshot, and it was about your company, would you listen to it? Or would you ignore it because they were speaking into microphones and your company wasn’t really interested in microphonic technology?

Many of today’s businesses are in that kind of a situation when it comes to social media marketing and social media monitoring. For some, the need is to start a conversation about their products and services. But with other companies, those unlistened-to conversations are already happening on blogs, social networking sites, and message boards all across the Internet.

There are many benefits to be gained from listening to and participating in these conversations, from brand reputation management to improved word-of-mouth networking. “Social media monitoring” might sound like something secretive, but it’s really just about listening to your current and potential customers, identifying their needs and concerns, and doing what you can to ensure that they have the information and support they need.

So where’s the best place to begin? It’s not necessarily a particular website or community. It’s determining what your long-term goals are and how social media can be used to complement your offline efforts and grow your business. That could mean training employees to represent your company online, or establishing a customer community that fosters greater interaction with online shoppers or service seekers.

At Molding Web, our primary goal is always the long-term, organic growth of our clients’ businesses. Instead of offering a one-size-fits-all social media solution, we work with you to determine the best approach for your client base and industry. Through Internet marketing services such as search engine optimization, content writing services, and pay-per-click management, we can help you to start an effective online conversation about your company, or to actively participate in a conversation that’s already begun.

Ford’s $1 Billion Profit: A Social Media Marketing Success Story?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Last month, Ford chief marketing executive James Farley said that by year’s end, the American car company will have spent a hefty 25% of its annual marketing budget on digital and social media. Today, Ford made a stunning announcement: a third-quarter net income of $997 million.

Coincidence? Maybe, but not likely. Ford has long been one of the most prominent “traditional” corporations in the social media marketing sphere. Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media, is a familiar face on television and YouTube, and a well-recognized blogger and tweeter. In May, a statistical analysis by Mashable.com found that Monty had succeeded in giving Ford a much stronger and more personal social media presence than that of other U.S. automakers.

Monty has also been involved in creative social media marketing campaigns that have yielded truly eye-catching results. The most notable example is the Fiesta Movement, in which 100 people were given Fiestas in exchange for sharing their experiences on blogs, video sites, and social networking sites. As of October, the campaign had made 11 million social networking impressions. And though the Ford Fiesta has yet to be released in the U.S., Ford surveys have found that Gen Y awareness of the car is already on par with other Ford models that have benefited from multi-million dollar traditional marketing campaigns.

Cost cutting and Cash for Clunkers undoubtedly had major roles in Ford’s third-quarter success. Monty himself modestly attributes the numbers to a strong transformation plan and solid products. But if the combination of a sizeable social media marketing budget and unexpected profits continues, other automakers will need to seriously rev up their social media efforts.

Why Do Small Businesses Ignore Social Media Marketing?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

In our last post, we looked at a few reasons why small businesses should be involved in social media marketing. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at why some small and mid-sized businesses have yet to embrace Internet marketing or social media.

An Internet marketing survey released last week by Merchant Circle found that there were two primary reasons for a lack of online engagement by SMBs: it’s too costly (26% of respondents), and there’s not enough time to do it well and still run a business (15.9% of respondents).

Excuse #1: It’s Too Costly

Of the survey’s respondents, 79% had marketing budgets of less than $5,000 per year and 44% of less than $1,000. In traditional marketing, that might be a pittance. But online, a dollar can go a lot further. For example, pay-per-click marketing allows you to set a tight budget and target specific keywords. Even something as simple and inexpensive as monthly blog writing services can have a huge impact on your online business. An August report by HubSpot found that small and medium-sized online businesses with blogs attracted 55% more website visitors, 97% more inbound links, and had 434% more indexed pages—a big boost to any search engine optimization campaign.

Excuse #2: There Just Isn’t Enough Time

This is where Molding Web can help. Our team has worked with some of the leading companies in the Internet marketing and search engine optimization industries. We founded Molding Web in order to take a more organic, collaborative approach to online marketing. We do the Internet marketing work that you don’t have time to do, and our number one goal is always the long-term growth of your business. We shape our social media and content writing services to your needs and budget, and are always ready to adapt as your circumstances and business needs change. To learn more, call us at 1-877-900-6932.

Small Businesses Can’t Afford to Ignore Social Media Marketing

Monday, October 12th, 2009

For most small businesses, social media remains uncharted—and potentially shark-infested—waters. Concerns ranging from worker productivity to legal liability have led small business owners to stick with what they know in the Internet marketing world—namely search engine optimization. This is ironic, considering that just a few years ago, SEO was still seen by many companies as only a few steps removed from those Nigerian email banking scams.

Social media marketing appears to be in a similar position today as SEO was in a few years ago. A recent survey of 500 small business executives across the U.S. by Citibank/GfK Roper found that the vast majority consider social media sites unhelpful and prefer to use search engines for finding information and their own company websites for generating sales.

What these executives may not realize is that the worlds of social media and search engine optimization are rapidly converging. The microblogging site Twitter is in talks with Google and Bing about allowing them to include Twitter’s 140-character posts in their search results. Already this year, Twitter has enhanced the ability of its users to get real-time search results. Google is also unveiling services such as Sidewiki that will allow anyone to comment on or add useful information next to any webpage. In short, search is going social.

The social media sphere is also where the customers are. August 2009 numbers from Nielsen show that 301.5 million people in the U.S. and several other major countries are using social media sites versus 229.2 million who are using email. Social media use is now happening in the most unexpected industries. A recent Fresno Bee article examined the growing use of Facebook, Twitter, and blogs among U.S. dairy farmers. Yep, dairy farmers. Milk, meet microblogging.

What all of this means is that Internet marketing is becoming a two-sided enterprise. Search engine optimization and content writing services will not lose their importance. But relying solely on familiar marketing techniques to build your business is like laying a foundation with one arm tied behind your back. As social media continues its remarkable growth, building an online business is going to require two strong and agile arms: SEO and SMM.

Jingle Bells, Shortened URLs

Monday, October 5th, 2009

It’s October, which means it’s Christmas—at least in the American retail world. After last year’s drop of 2.4% in holiday sales—the first decline in 40 years—companies are looking for creative ways to reach cash-strapped gift buyers, even as a report from Deloitte Services LP predicts a stagnant holiday shopping season.

However, Deloitte’s announcement concluded with a hopeful note: “The proliferation of mobile applications and social networks may yield new opportunities to pursue targeted advertising, build brand loyalty and measure campaign effectiveness.”

One example of how seasonal social media marketing might look is the new Christmas campaign from Best Buy. The consumer electronics retailer got a lot of attention back in July when it started its Twelpforce—customer service via Twitter. Best Buy is now supplementing its Twelpforce with a Facebook page that allows fans to share products with and get shopping advice from friends.

Even tiny URLs will be a part of Best Buy’s seasonal strategy (URL shortening sites make it easier for people to share links via social media networks). As Christmas ads, Best Buy will be recording videos of 25 Christmas songs reworded to offer gift ideas. Shortened URLs linking to the songs will then be shared via Facebook and Twitter.

Find out how creative social media marketing could benefit your company during the holidays. Contact Molding Web at 1-877-900-6932.

What’s Twitter Good For, Anyway?

Monday, September 28th, 2009

How long can the Twitter death knell ring before it gets remixed and turned into a dance track? New stats from Hitwise suggest that visits by Twitter users and first-time visitors have leveled off, but other vital signs for the microblogging website are stronger than ever. Exhibit A: 100 million dollars (somewhere, Dr. Evil’s pinky is twitching).

Yes, Twitter CEO Evan Williams officially confirmed today that the website has received a “significant” amount of venture capital funding from a group of investment firms that includes Insight Venture Partners, T. Rowe Price, and several others.

What Twitter will do with the money remains to be seen, but with such significant financial backing, Williams may soon be saying of the Hitwise numbers, a la Mark Twain, “This report of Twitter’s death was an exaggeration.”

So what’s Twitter good for, anyway? Well, one answer to that question would be another number: 20% (somewhere, Dr. Evil is scratching his head). Jim Jansen, a professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University, was part of a team of researchers that looked into the frequency of brand mentions in Twitter posts. The team’s findings were published in the Journal of the American Society for Information Sciences and Technology. According to their research, a brand is mentioned in about 20% of tweets.

“Tweets are about as close as one can get to the customer point of purchase for products and services,” Jansen told Penn State Live. Jansen predicts that Twitter will be around for a long time to come, because individuals and businesses are using it for creative social media marketing and are actually turning a profit. Brand awareness and customer relationships are also strengthened through online engagement.

Want to learn more about how social media marketing services, pay-per-click management, or search engine optimization could work for you? Contact Molding Web at 1-877-900-6932.

Broken Guitar = An Axe to Grind

Monday, July 13th, 2009

In the spring of 2008, the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based band Sons of Maxwell was seated aboard a United Airlines plane that was preparing to leave Chicago. A woman who was seated behind them watching the baggage handlers outside suddenly cried out, “My god they’re throwing guitars out there.” As it turned out, they’d wrecked a $3,500 Taylor guitar belonging to the band’s lead singer, Dave Carroll. After spending nine months trying to resolve the issue and get United to accept responsibility for the damages, Carroll finally vowed to create three songs about the event, as well as music videos that would be posted online. The first of these songs, “United Breaks Guitars,” has turned into a viral video sensation.
United Breaks Guitars

The lesson here is that social media marketing cuts both ways. Social media not only provides new avenues that companies can use to communicate or promote their brand, but it also gives a voice to customers whose complaints have not been given a proper hearing–something every customer service representative should bear in mind whenever they encounter a gracious Canadian musician with a legitimate grievance.

You can read the whole story here: http://www.davecarrollmusic.com/story/united-breaks-guitars.United Breaks Guitars

Social Media Marketing Comes to Broadway

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009
<strong>Shrek is part of Broadway's 'monster' transition to social media marketing.</strong>

Shrek is part of Broadway’s “monster” transition to social media marketing.

According to Variety.com, a growing number of Broadway producers and marketers are using sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to craft creative social media marketing campaigns for their shows. “Shrek the Musical” has launched its own social networking site (shrekster.com, known as “a place for theatreogres”), while the character-based online narrative created by the show “Next to Normal” (twitter.com/n2nbroadway) has attracted a following of more than 100,000 on Twitter. It’s all part of what one Broadway marketer refers to as “a monster transition in how shows are marketed.”

Social media sites are expanding the reach of Broadway ad agencies, but they can also be more time-consuming than traditional marketing methods. “It takes a lot of people and a lot of time to hit as many eyes as we used to,” Sara Fitzpatrick, director of interactive at SpotCo, told Variety.

At Molding Web, we specialize in assisting companies that are interested in social media marketing but hesitant to engage in it because of the time commitment that may be required. To find out more about how our Internet marketing services can help your company achieve its long-term business goals, call us at 1-877-900-6932.

Pew Research: U.S. College Grads In Their 30s & 40s Driving Social Media Growth

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

A major new study released last week by The Pew Research Center indicates that the proportion of college graduates and people aged 30 to 49 participating in online social networking has more than doubled over the past two years. The study, which is titled Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987­­-2009, features 11 sections on topics such as Religion and Social Values, Foreign Policy and Global Engagement, and Social Networking, Science and Civil Liberties.

social-networking-by-age-group1

Online social networking is “no longer just for the young,” according to Pew. Though the 18-29 demographic remains the best represented group on sites like Facebook and Twitter, with 70% of 18-29 year olds using social media sites, the greatest growth has occurred among those aged 30-39 and 40-49. As of April, 43% of 30-39 year olds use social networking sites, up from 21% in December 2007, and 29% of 40-49 year olds are networking online, up from 11% in December 2007.

Most of this growth is taking place among college graduates. In December 2007, only 20% of college grads were active on social networking sites. That figure now stands at 42%, surpassing both high school grads (39%) and those with some college education (24%).

social-networking-frequency

Pew also reports that online social networkers are “checking in daily, or more often” to their favorite social media sites. “Nearly one-in-five of those who use social networking sites (19%) say they visit these sites several times a day, while another 24% say they visit about once a day,” the study says.

At Molding Web, we believe this continued growth in daily online engagement can enable businesses to reach new customers and build stronger relationships with existing customers via social media marketing. We also offer search engine optimization, content writing, and other Internet marketing services that are designed to support the organic, long-term business goals of our clients.

Report: Americans Surviving Recession by Spending More Time on Social Networking Sites

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

A recently released report by Rockbridge Associates and the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland states that increased online social networking is one of the primary ways in which Americans have changed their priorities in response to the current recession. The study found that 33% of Americans are spending more time communicating with friends and family through social networking sites, second only to watching television (34%) as the primary lifestyle change versus one year ago. Cutting expenses, increasing savings, and stopping 401K contributions have been the major personal changes Americans have made in the economic sphere since last year, the report says.

The report’s conclusion? Relationships win. Though consumers have reduced their spending on products, sales of services have been affected to a lesser degree. The resilience of this “customer-relationship orientation” and the likelihood that social networking will outlast the economic downturn lead Rockbridge and UM to conclude that “continuing the relationship with customers is a key strategy for service providers.”

The way to do this, of course, is to go where the customers are. As user numbers continue to climb for sites like Facebook and Twitter, the social media marketing services we provide at Molding Web can help your business to connect with the growing number of Americans who are making use of these services.

Hospitals & Social Media Marketing

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Depending on which source one cites, there are anywhere from 5,000 to 7,500 hospitals in the United States. Of these, only about 240 are using social networking tools such as YouTube channels, Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts, and blogs, according to Ed Bennett, director of Web strategy at the University of Maryland Medical System. Bennett was quoted this week in a story that the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune ran about the Mayo Clinic and Lee Aase, Mayo’s manager for syndication and social media. Thanks to Aase, Mayo has been establishing a strong social media presence via YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and its blogs.

Internet marketing can provide very positive benefits for hospitals and the patients they serve. As we wrote about earlier this month, the St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s search engine optimization efforts helped make it the hospital of choice for a mother whose son has cerebral palsy. The Star Tribune’s story lists several examples of videos that have drawn viewer interest and attracted patients to the Mayo Clinic. And just last week, Ad-ology Research released a study which found that social media marketing has a significant impact on how patients choose a hospital or doctor.

If you’re employed at a hospital, medical clinic, or doctor’s office and are interested in establishing a stronger Internet presence, Molding Web’s Internet marketing and social media consulting services can help you to determine the right course to take, whether it be a blog, a forum, and/or social networking.

Nielsen Online’s Twitter “Retention” Claim: Irresponsible or Simply Ignorant?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Yesterday, Nielsen Online ran an entry on the Nielsen Wire blog titled Twitter Quitters Post Roadblock to Long-Term Growth. In it, David Martin, Nielsen Online’s Vice President of Primary Research, claimed that on a month-to-month basis Twitter fails to retain more than 60% of its users. Today, everyone from writers at Business Week, PC World, and The Christian Science Monitor to social media marketing bloggers trumpeted the story as proof that Twitter is nothing but hype. But upon closer inspection it appears that Nielsen Online’s post was either ignorant or irresponsible.

In the blog post, Martin provides no documented statistics to back up Nielsen’s claim, nor does he give any indication of Nielsen’s methodology. The term used, “audience retention,” suggests that Nielsen measured page views or site visits rather than actual use of the micro-blogging service. Martin then compounds this problem by comparing the Twitter retention rate “statistics” created by Nielsen to similar statistics for Facebook and MySpace when they were at an audience level similar to Twitter’s, and suggesting that Twitter has not succeeded at the same level as the two social networking sites.

But there’s an enormous problem both with this comparison and with Nielsen’s methodology: unlike MySpace and, until recently, Facebook (which announced an Open Stream API this week that allows users to access their feed information via third parties without going to the Facebook website), Twitter users don’t need to visit the Twitter website to engage with other users. In fact, according to the Twitter analytics service TwitStat, less than 1/3 of Twitter users access their accounts via Twitter’s web interface.

One of the unique things about Twitter—and a driving force behind its explosive popularity—has been its willingness to allow users to access their accounts via third-party applications such as Tweetdeck and TwitterFeed. According to TwitStat, Tweetdeck alone accounts for nearly 20% of all Twitter usage. In other words, judging by Nielsen’s post, a given Twitter user (such as Molding Web) that accesses his or her Twitter account via Twitter.com and then switches to using Tweetdeck would be included as a user that Twitter failed to retain. Such an assumption is not merely misleading; it displays a total ignorance of the fundamental appeal that Twitter has to smartphone users and other hyper-connected professionals.

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