What’s In A Word?

Words Quote

You ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?”  That is never more true than on the internet.  With everyone trying to get a retweet, encourage a like, spawn fan interaction, or drive viral content–it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the very mechanics of customer engagement.  Recently, an infographic released by Quicksprout revealed some of the magic words of the internet and shared them with the rest of us!  The findings were really interesting and frankly say more about the ways in which people perceive themselves than the ways in which traditional marketing strategy is packaged.  For instance:

1. Facebook users like happy words and appeals.  Word like “inspires”, “amuses”, “tell us”, “comment”, “submit”, and “post” all have a significant impact on user engagement.

2. Twitter users want it in plain (polite) language.  Tweets that get the most engagement usually include “help”, “free”, “follow”, “you”, “please”, and “retweet.”

3. LinkedIn users think of themselves as innovative and resourceful yet humble.  The most popular LinkedIn buzzwords are “increased”, “accomplished”, “under budget”, “improved”, and “developed.” Avoid words like “strategic”, “creative”, “innovative” (hey, you can think it but you can’t say it), “analytical”, and “patient”–these words will tank your interactions faster than any others.

4. Google+ users (probably) work at Google.  Way out there in center field, Google + users (all 10 of them) seem to think they’re all Google employees (probably not a coincidence) and respond best to words like “discover”, “create”, “share”, and “promote”.

If you want to discover the graphic for yourself (see what I did there?) then you can check it out here.  And always keep in mind that the best strategy for consumer engagement is offering honest, reliable, and original content that meets a customer’s need.  If you can do that, then everything else is just gravy.

Why You (Yes You) Need Social Media

From Flickr user Ben Grey http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_grey/

From Flickr user Ben Grey http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_grey/

Working in social media marketing allows me to interact with a range of clients.  Some are tech savvy computer whizzes who know exactly what they want from me and can communicate objectives and milestones without difficulty; these clients can already do what I do, but need someone else to do it while they focus on things that need their attention more, like the product.  Others have dabbled in social media, maybe they have a Facebook or know a little about Twitter, and although they might not know everything about social media, they also have a clear grasp of what a campaign might entail and are often really excited to work alongside me and learn; these clients are great to work with and often after six months to a year of working together, they find they can manage the social media on their own take over.  The final kind of client I work with is the techno-phobe; someone who has had little or no experience with social media, doesn’t spend much time on their computer at all (just email usually) and prefers face-to-face interaction over virtual; these clients sometimes have unrealistic expectations about the scope and breadth of the work that I do and are easily frustrated by the lack of immediate gratification.  To this third group that I address the following:

Why Social Media Marketing is not the same as Sales

1. Sales is about closing a deal; social media marketing is about forming a relationship.  Although social media marketing can pave the way for sales and encourage brand loyalty you will never see a 1:1 relationship between follows and purchases – it just doesn’t work that way.

2. In sales, it’s appropriate to push the client towards a purchase; in social media marketing, engagement is key but being pushy is a turn-off.  This ties back to No. 1 in that the end goal of selling versus relationship building is very different and thus, from a psychological point of view, the approved tactics differ.  If you pressure people in a store it can make the difference between a purchase and a regret (for both you and the customer), but if you pressure people online it makes you seem like an out-of-touch bully who is more interested in money than people which is a big no in social media marketing.

3. In sales, the conversation should always be focused on you; in social media, it should be on the customer/client.  This might seem like a no-brainer, but you wouldn’t believe how many clients push me to post promotional announcement after promotional announcement.  People enter your store because they are interested in your product (a website would be the online equivalent) and in that environment it’s appropriate to keep the discussion on you and your wares.  But if you think of social media marketing like a giant conversation, then consider that no one likes the guy who just keeps shouting “buy my stuff”!  It’s important to prove to the customer/client that you’re worth the precious space on their feed or dashboard by creating what’s called a ‘value add’.  Whether it’s a silly video, an engaging conversation, or a product giveaway, it’s important to be dynamic and engaging – never boring.

4. Sales measures effectiveness in dollars; Social media marketing measures effectiveness in follows/likes/shares.  This is perhaps the hardest thing to teach clients.  No, follows aren’t going to be a direct correlation to sales, and no, being popular online doesn’t guarantee your success as a company; but social media marketing is a long game.  More follows means more potential for shares, which means more potential follows – it’s a cyclical relationship.  If one of every ten follows clicks on your website, you might see an increase in sales, and if 100 people share the video you made, you might see a really large increase in sales; or you might not.  Like everything in business, the market is fickle and success isn’t guaranteed.

So, if I can’t promise success, and social media marketing isn’t really about selling things, then why do it?  The long and short answer is: because you have to.  A vast majority of today’s purchasing power (from college kids getting apartments to young families looking for personal trainers to writers peddling their wares) is online.  This generation does everything online, and relies on the convenience, the accuracy (1000 bad yelp reviews can’t be wrong), and the immediacy of those interactions.  To neglect an online presence today is to relegate your business to it’s geography, which arguably undervalues your product and your market.

Today’s consumers want more than ever before, and those that are best able to meet the consumers where they are with what they want will be in a much better position than those who belittle the importance of social media marketing and the consumer engagement experience.

How do you define the consumer engagement experience?

The Secret to Success

I am, for most intents and purposes, your quintessential Type A personality.  I can be controlling, I always want to be right, and I strive for perfection in everything that I do.  These tendencies impact every area of my life, and I’m often forced to choose between putting out a product that doesn’t meet my ridiculously high standards or putting off the deadline and devoting untold hours to a single piece (i.e. this blog post).  When I was younger, I would push myself harder and faster and usually succeeded in being the biggest fish in a small pond, but as I got older, it quickly became apparent that a) I was never going to be the biggest fish in my pond-turned-lake-turned-ocean of competitors and b) that even being the best at something didn’t guarantee either my success or my happiness.  After years of struggling to ‘be the best’ I was struck with an epiphany in my late 20’s:

Perfection ≠ Success

Just because a product, a song, a book, or a person is perfect, does not mean that it/he/she will be successful.  People aren’t looking for the most perfectly made computer, or the most insanely competent personal assistant; what they want is something that meets their needs, something that they’re compatible with, and something that they can grow with.  People are willing to select an inferior product (or person) if they find things about it that they love, and they will overlook a superior product/person in a heartbeat if they cannot find a connection.

It’s so much more important to get your product (or yourself) out into the hands of potential buyers and employers than it is to shelve it for years trying to get it ‘just right’.  That need to be perfect is a reflection of a fear of failure inside you, and if you can find it within yourself to let go and allow forces beyond your control to take over, you will find that a lot less time will be wasted, and the results will ultimately lead you to success.  Getting immediate feedback and generating buzz around your product will do more to improve it than your perspective alone could anyhow, and if your product (or you) doesn’t work, then you can go back to the drawing board and start on a new approach before wasting all that time on something that was never going to succeed in the first place.

Courtesy of Flickr User @LyndaSanchez

Courtesy of Flickr User @LyndaSanchez

In the end, success is about trust, confidence, and tenacity.  If you can trust in the universe, show confidence in yourself and your product, and stand behind your ideas with a fierce tenacity – you will realize your vision and achieve success.

Of course, my experience isn’t universal.  What are your suggestions for success?

SEO 101

It can be embarrassing for a small business or an entrepreneur to admit that they don’t understand what SEO or Search Engine Optimization is.  In fact, I have been in more than one meeting where a business owner pretended to understand just so they wouldn’t seem out of touch.  But here’s the thing; I would never presume to know how to do your business or provide the service in the same way you do – there’s no judgment if you don’t know what I know because it’s my job to not only work alongside you but also to educate!

SEO can seem complicated, but in the simplest sense it’s just about making your business easier to find, similar to moving a sign for your business closer to the road or getting better placement in the phone book.  Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use complicated algorithms (aka math) to determine who ranks more highly on a given search.  Lots of things help move your business closer to the promised land (first or second page), and you don’t necessarily need to know everything, but here are some basic pointers to get you started:

  1. Be everywhere.  This doesn’t mean you have to be active everywhere, it just means that the more profiles you have (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Foursquare, Yelp, G+, etc.) the more pervasive you become online and your rankings reflect that.
  2. Create content.  I firmly believe that the key to social media/branding success is content creation.  This is especially true from an SEO standpoint because additional content makes you seem more authoritative, increases the chance of virality (it’s a thing), and again makes you more visible online which in turn boosts your ranking.
  3. Crossover.  So you’ve set up everywhere, and you’re creating content – now what?  Now you need to start networking with others and gain some cross platform exposure.  Whether you’re a blogger, photographer, insurance salesman, or personal trainer, getting featured by others in your chosen industry is like internet gold.  Not only does this add a tremendous amount of legitimacy to your online presence, it also makes you immediately visible to a whole new group of potential customers.  Doing this once every month or two can still make a big difference.
  4. Don’t be creepy/spammy.  No one likes a creep, so don’t be that business that emails people constantly, tries to get 1000 followers overnight, or makes people give you all their personal information the first time they try to interact with you.  Not only are those huge turnoffs for customers, they’re also red flags for search engines.  Spam-like behavior can harm your rankings and get you closed out of accounts across the internet.  Don’t be that guy/girl.

And there you have it – the bare bones, most basic approach to SEO.  Of course, there are many more strategies to employ that will increase your visibility (tagging, paid ad placement, backlinks, keywords, etc.) but doing some of these basic things can help you make a big difference in your ranking, exposure, and (hopefully) sales!

Why I Love Social Media

There’s an online dating site that asks you to list, among other things, the “6 things you can’t live without”. Double negative aside, it’s incredibly interesting to see what people select as their top 6. Some list family, smart phones, transportation, or food, but my list always includes the internet. Although I’m old enough to remember a time before mainstream adoption of the internet, I honestly cannot imagine what my life today would be like without it.

The truth is that the internet has changed all of our lives. There are the obvious examples: Google, Facebook, e-mail; but underneath the apps, interfaces, and programs, there is also evidence of a more subtle shift in the ways that we think, communicate, and act. For better or worse, we are now fundamentally different thanks to the connectivity and accessibility of the internet, the very essence of which is harnessed via social media.

Jump on the social media bandwagon

Source: Matt Hamm, Flickr

But I don’t love social media simply because it’s proliferate or because it’s changed the way I interact with others; I love social media because, in a concrete and indisputable way it has leveled the playing field. Small businesses and entrepreneurs that can harness the power of social media (which is for the most part free) can see incredible impact in their relationship with consumers/fans/community almost overnight, and large businesses are forced to use the same tools to reach their audience, lest they be left out in the cold and deemed irrelevant.

With the right amount of effort and engagement, a small business can make a much more significant impact on consumers (and thus drive sales) via new media than with all other old media (t.v., radio, cold calling, ad inserts) combined! The consumers of today are on Facebook checking up on friends, they’re on Twitter finding out about what’s happening around them, they’re on Tumblr figuring out what’s cool, on YouTube trying to see who’s next – the list is endless. The audience is out there if you only reach out and grab them, regardless of your capital, global market shares, or quarterly profits.

As a consumer, I love social media because it gives me the power to ask more from the places where I choose to spend my money, to share the things I love (and the things I don’t) with others, and to feel like I’m part of the engagement process – my feelings, preferences, and needs matter on a scale never before possible.

As a marketing/PR professional, I love social media because I am constantly in touch with what others think/feel/need around my brand, I can more easily network with potential customers and even competitors in the interest of creating a more complete consumer experience, and I can engage the community in a very real way that cuts past the flashy neon-fakeness that often comes with marketing and gets straight through to basic human connections and providing products and services that move because they add value, not because I have more money to throw behind a campaign.

How do you feel about the internet? Are you a different consumer/marketer than you would be without it?