Tagged: Campaign

Will Social Media Kill the Marketing Industry? Spoiler Alert: No

ArmedTwitterI recently read an article on PolicyMic titled “Can Social Media Totally Kill the Marketing Industry?” and it got me thinking about the future of advertising. Apparently, PolicyMic is a “democratic online news platform,” which I have rather pessimistically interpreted to mean PolicyMic is a site where articles are written by people who want to share their opinions, as opposed to by people who actually have authority on the subject matter. This particular post was written by Cole Johnson, who raises an interesting question, but doesn’t really go on to answer it. He seems to imply that social media will undermine traditional marketing efforts and institutions, but never makes an argument as to why. In fact, Cole’s article actually ends up focusing more on the role technology plays in our world and how its use is influenced by age and other factors, but I’d like to discuss the question raised in the title.

Cole seems to suggest that because social media has been used by many companies – both large and small – to effectively market products and services, we’re on the road to the eradication of today’s marketing industry. And while I agree that we’ve seen a tremendous shift in the advertising industry over the last 5 years, I’m quite sure that the industry itself isn’t going anywhere. While the method of delivering advertisements and product information to consumers has changed considerably, there will always be a need for very creative and well-trained individuals who can create the images and copy to convey that information. Unfortunately, many companies have found out the hard way that putting a random employee in charge of the company Twitter account because they’re “good with computers” can be a pretty terrible idea. It’s not enough to sign up for a bunch of social accounts and start Tweeting about your products and services. There’s an art to crafting compelling messages and balancing self-promotion with providing value to your followers through the content you publish. This is the art of marketing.

In my opinion, social media has actually made the role of the marketer even more important. It’s like auto racing. The car is a piece of technology that the vast majority of Americans feel comfortable operating. Cars are part of our culture and driving one is something we often take for granted because we’ve been doing it for so long. So how come we’re not all trying our hand at the NASCAR circuit? We can all drive a car, right? If feeling comfortable with something and knowing how to operate it was the only requirement, then I should be the next Jeff Gordon. Much to my dismay, this will never be the case because a basic understanding and level of comfort with a piece of technology does not mean you are going to be good at using it. The use of social media at the highest level follows suit. Just because some employee signed up for Facebook in 2007, it doesn’t mean he or she is qualified to operate a Fortune 500 company’s Facebook Page. Just like with NASCAR, the creme of digital marketing rises to the top and they are the ones steering multi-million dollar social campaigns.

The stakes are so much higher now that social media has changed the game. If you released an offensive TV commercial in the 80s, you could pull the plug as soon as the calls started coming in and that would pretty much be the end of it. There might be some word-of-mouth damage done, but it would be relatively containable. These days, one errant Facebook post or rash Tweet in the heat of the moment can spell disaster for a brand’s reputation. Screenshots will be taken and the damage will spread like wildfire. Brands have spent months cleaning up 140 character messes made in a matter of seconds. The burden of creating a measurable ROI and not screwing things up in the process falls squarely on the shoulders of the marketing team or agency. And just because social media is at the fingertips of anyone who wants it, that doesn’t mean just anyone can use it to effectively sell goods or market a brand.

So is social media going to kill the marketing industry? In my mind, the definitive answer is “no.” If anything, social media is actually creating more opportunities for boutique firms like ours. As long as there are products and services to be sold, there will be a profession for people who excel at marketing these goods. The medium used to relate the information will definitely change over time, as we’ve seen with the introduction of social media, but the marketing industry is here to stay.

How has social media affected the way you market your business or are marketed to? Let me know in the comments!

5 Tips When Using Twitter for Business

TwitterforBizAs we have seen many times, using Twitter for your business can be a very useful tool or a headache waiting to happen. But rather than focusing on all the ways Twitter can sink your ship, I’d like to discuss 5 Twitter strategies you can begin using right now to increase your ROIoT (Return On Investment of Time).

1. Recalibrate your expectations

If you run a B2B company and you’re launching a new social media initiative in hopes of attracting 10,000 new followers during your two-week campaign, you’re most likely in for a world of disappointment. Simply put…it jus’ don’t work that way. Sure, Cinderella stories of a company’s Tweets going viral and skyrocketing their business do exist, but they are extremely rare and almost impossible to contrive. I once heard Twitter described as farming, rather than hunting. I thought this analogy was simple and perfect. Building a following is a slow process that takes time and effort. So whether you’re thinking about signing up or have been Tweeting for a while, make sure your expectations are reasonable.

2. Loosen up

Are you a stuffy person? Does your business have personality? If you had no bias regarding your own products or services, would you find them intriguing or interesting? These are all questions you should think about when developing your Twitter strategy. Successful businesses on Twitter provide value to their users. This can be in the form of sharing compelling news or information, contributing humor, or providing insights into products customers care about. If your business doesn’t have broad consumer appeal and you get too wrapped up in coming across as unprofessional, you might not find a lot of success on Twitter. It’s important to give your business personality or if you’re the CEO, you can even Tweet as yourself on behalf of your business. And when developing your voice, make sure you don’t come across as stuffy. If LinkedIn is your white, starched shirt, Twitter should be your Hawaiian party shirt.

3. Be a giver, not a taker

If the main objective of your Twitter strategy is to generate sales, chances are you won’t be successful. Twitter works best when your main objective is to provide interesting content or perspective, rather than market to a wide audience of potential customers. Generally, we follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your Tweets should be adding to the general “conversation” and 20% can be about your own products or services. But be careful to never get too salesy. Twitter users will spot rampant self-promotion from a mile away and will unfollow you so fast, it’ll make your head spin. And the truly egregious offenders stand to suffer a fate much worse: being torn to shreds in the Twittersphere by a mob of unimpressed and annoyed users. My condolences, your Twitter presence was just destroyed by a pack of angry micro-bloggers.

4. Use hashtags and create conversations

What’s more accurate, a sniper rifle or a shotgun? Now, without getting into semantics or a gun control debate, let me make my point: spraying scattered bits of information into an extremely large area is not a very effective way to hit your target. When using Twitter, your goal should be to create meaningful interactions with other users. Even if you have good information to share, it’s not enough to type out a 140-character factoid and hit “Tweet.” Use hashtags to help collate your input into relevant conversations and use @replies and mentions to begin a dialogue with specific users. This is a much more precise way to use Twitter and will greatly increase your chances of being retweeted or getting a response from someone and, ultimately, starting a meaningful interaction.

5. Have fun

At the end of the day, Twitter is a pretty fascinating place where a lot of very interesting/funny/exciting/uncomfortable/memorable conversations take place. Have a secret obsession with Kim Kardashian? Follow her. Geek out over anything “NASA?” Follow them and let your nerd flag fly. Make your Twitter presence sustainable by not only following people affiliated with your business or industry, but by keeping tabs on the things that you find fun and that help give your business personality. Don’t be afraid to get a little personal (but not this personal) and to show your followers insights into your business that they can’t get anywhere else. Be yourself (Unless you’re stuffy. In that case, see tip #2) and have fun with this component of your business outreach. There’s definitely a lot to be had.

Have any Twitter tips that have proven useful for you or your business? Share them with me! And if you are interested in a more personal assessment of your Twitter strategy, please contact me at tyler@sumseattle.com.

 

Knock, Knock. Who’s There? Oh, It’s Just our Hopes and Dreams

As I type this, Buddy is putting the final touches on the 5 remaining outreach boxes that we plan to ship out today. Packed with bright-orange filler paper, a Starbucks gift card, and our hopes and dreams, with any luck these boxes will find their intended recipients and the magic will ensue.

Let me back up.

It was sometime last December. SUM was doing well, but we were hungry for new projects and opportunities. The problem was, in the world of integrated marketing, it’s hard to just drum up business…I guess that’s hard at any company. Either way, we wanted to expand and were looking for a way to do so. Having been on the receiving end of many-a-cold call, we knew we weren’t going to help our case by picking up the phone and randomly calling companies we felt we could help. The question became: How do you meaningfully engage people in an age full of attention grabs and hyperbole? We began thinking about ways to differentiate our message and at least give what we had to say a shot of being heard.

The answer (at least what we determined to be the answer) was two-fold: Uniqueness and bribery. We felt that to get people’s attention, we would definitely have to stand out from other outreach messages they might have received in the past. Then we would have to somehow entice them to continue paying attention if we were to have a shot of consideration. We decided that hand-delivering some sort of package containing a hand-written note, messaging about SUM, and a Starbucks gift card stood a good chance of not landing in the trash. At least the recipient would give us a couple seconds of their time in exchange for a cup of coffee…right?

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We gathered all of the materials and started putting together the boxes. We printed up labels for the outside, hoping to neutralize any bomb-related thoughts that our recipients might have had upon receiving the mysterious package.

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We identified companies in the Seattle area that we felt we could truly help and wrote personalized notes introducing SUM and acknowledging the accompanying Starbucks card and company info. We finished putting together all the boxes and prepared for our date with destiny.

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A few weeks ago we set out across Seattle to hand-deliver our packages. Having put considerable time into planning a route and plan of attack, we managed to deliver 15 out of our 20 boxes in only a few hours. The 5 packages we couldn’t deliver were due to outdated address information online or no one being at the office to accept our delivery.

After that, we waited.

That brings us to today. To avoid being met by empty offices a second time, we decided to ship our remaining boxes to our target companies via USPS. Once those 5 boxes are out the door, our mission will be complete. In the few weeks since delivering our first set of boxes, we’ve had several responses from interested parties and have subsequently held a few meetings to discuss areas in which SUM could help. We were excited by the responses we got, despite the fact that we truly were cold-calling these companies.

The lesson? With a little bit of creativity, reaching out to potential clients doesn’t have to be a nasty or annoying business. Striking a friendly tone and giving the party you desire to engage a reason to pay attention can go a long way. Did we still get rejected? Sure. Did we hear back from everyone? No. But we did create some interest in our company without (hopefully) appearing sleazy and tarnishing our brand.

Have you had any similar experience, either being on the giving or receiving end of a cold call? Let us know in the comments!

Note from all of us: Many thanks to the companies that gave us the time of day and responded to our solicitation. We really appreciate you giving us a shot and we wish you continued success!

 

Mustaches and the Lessons They Teach Us

Before getting to the main post, I’d like to add a quick author’s note. I’ve come to realize that a blog can be a fickle creature – especially when writing one for your business. Write too seldom and you won’t attract many followers or much interest. Write too often and you risk committing a cardinal sin for a budding entrepreneur: mismanaging your time.

Over the past month – I’m ashamed to say – I’ve fallen into the first category and have failed to post anything week after week. Things have been quite busy around the SUM offices and, as a result, our poor, defenseless blog slipped further and further down the list of priorities and has landed where it rests at this very moment: shamefully outdated and teetering on the brink of obscurity.

This won’t do. This won’t do, at all.

To get the lifeblood pumping again, I decided to write about a project we recently undertook that was full of humour and misadventure, but one that also taught us valuable lessons about planning, the dangers of overcommitting, and rolling with the punches.

The client was a gentleman that was organizing Seattle’s first Mustache-themed fun run, the Mustache Dache. He found us through Facebook and after he contacted us and explained the event and what he was looking for, we immediately knew we wanted to be part of the project. Marketing mustaches and merriment? How could we say no?!

We began brainstorming marketing concepts for the event and one particular idea kept rising to the top of the list. It’s a new and somewhat unorthodox guerrilla marketing tactic known as reverse graffiti. We first saw it done in Europe and while it has slowly trickled over to the States, it remains far from mainstream.

Reverse graffiti involves using a stencil and a pressure washer to “clean” a message into a sidewalk or other concrete surface. The pressure washer lifts the grime of long-ignored sidewalks away where the stencil is cut out, but leaves the obstructed portions of the sidewalk untouched. The result is a unique, environmentally friendly, non-permanent design left on the sidewalk.

Reverse Graffiti

If done correctly, reverse graffiti can be an extremely effective marketing tool because it’s quite uncommon and does a very good job of catching the eyes of passersby. We had seen it done before and wanted to try it ourselves, but were waiting for a project that would be a good fit. Something as fun, progressive, and irreverent as the Mustache Dache was perfect.

Confident in our ability to iron out any wrinkles that came our way, we pitched the idea to our client. He fell in love with the concept and we were off to the races. Seattle grime, here we come!

What followed was one of the most stressful and challenging projects we have ever undertaken. Had we all the money in the world, this campaign could have been a cake walk. But the logistics of executing this task on a budget ended up being far more difficult than we had anticipated. After countless hours of research and brainstorming, we had finally come up with a game plan that we felt had a shot of working. Following a set of less than detailed directions from a blog post about some reverse graffiti that was done up in Vancouver, BC, we set out to make it happen.

Our journey of preparation took us places no team of marketers and graphic designers feels comfortable…

Jig

And after many of the instructions in the aforementioned blog post led to failure, we had scrapped plan A…and plan B, and had arrived at the poorly thought-out and tragically underwhelming plan C. With almost no hope left for success as it was originally envisioned, we were preparing to attack the Seattle sidewalks with concrete cleaner and scrubby brushes. Needless to say, we were a little disheartened.

But then we remembered that a client’s expectations were on the line and that settling for anything less than our most valiant effort at carrying out this task as it was meant to be done, would be unacceptable. So with a renewed vigor and a rekindled sense of hope, we set out on a cold Friday morning with a gas-powered pressure washer, 100 feet of hose, and a particle board mustache stencil. We had no idea where our water was coming from or if the sidewalks would be dirty enough to leave a discernable design, but we were determined to make it work.

What followed was an aligning of the stars that defied logic and led to, believe it or not, a successful reverse graffiti campaign. After procuring a water cover access key (keep that on the down-low), we fanned out across Seattle and cleaned our Mustachioed message into the city sidewalks. The result was a beautiful thing. We ended the day cold and tired, but satisfied with the results and excited to share the news of our success with our client.

Application

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RG Done

We had managed to squeak out a “win”, but our success was based more on good fortune than efficient preparation and experience. And despite things coming together, our journey had taught us a valuable lesson about committing to an untested service, at the risk of letting down a client. Had we been more prepared, we could have saved many hours of work and prevented a few headaches, both literal and proverbial. We had experienced success, but were dangerously close to failure, and when our reputation is on the line, this should not be the case. Luckily for us, lesson learned.

One Small Click for Man, One Giant Leap for…LinkedIn

Well, it took over 9,000 impressions, but SUM has finally received its first click on a LinkedIn ad! If you’re just joining us, I’m referring to the month-long saga that I wrote about here. Needless to say, we’re relieved that something has finally come from all of our efforts. 

So what made the difference? Well, we think it’s a couple of things. We were actually encouraged by one of our readers, Ellyce, to contact an account rep at LinkedIn to make sure there wasn’t anything technically wrong with our campaign. Thinking this to be an excellent suggestion, I reached out to the LinkedIn Customer Experience Team and led them through the experience we had been having with their ad service. I received a very prompt reply from an account representative named Julien, who was extremely friendly and helpful.

He began by offering up an apology for the experience we were having thus far (even though he knew LinkedIn hadn’t really done anything wrong) and continued by confirming that there wasn’t anything wrong with the campaign on the technical side. Obviously this was both relieving and disheartening.

He then offered up several suggestions for how we could improve our campaign. A lot of the ideas were slightly more detailed explanations of the LinkedIn advertising best practices that we had already found on their website, but he also provided some information that, in my opinion, proved to be the difference in the campaign, moving forward.

He let me know that, while our $2.13 bid per click was within LinkedIn’s suggested price range for the group we were targeting, it was at the lowest end of the spectrum and was affecting how many impressions we were receiving. He said that by increasing our bid by just a little, we would win more impressions on users’ profiles and should, therefore, receive more clicks. This suggestion seemed to once again confirm that online advertising is about playing the numbers and that more impressions will usually lead to more clicks.

So I took his advice and moved my bid up to $3.00 per click. Our impressions almost tripled within less than a week and we received our first click as a result. And the ad that did it? Believe it or not, it was the cat!

Cat Ad

Just goes to show that sometimes an out-of-the-box approach is required to grab attention on the internet.

And while a 0.019% Click Through Rate is still pretty atrocious, we are encouraged and content. After all, this is an experiment that we’re conducting for free with a $50 LinkedIn advertising credit, so the knowledge that we’re gaining more than makes up for a pitiful CTR.

Many thanks to Ellyce for suggesting we contact someone at LinkedIn and also to Julien for responding quickly and courteously, and for shedding a little light on the ins and outs of LinkedIn advertising.

Have any LinkedIn stories of your own? What do you like/dislike about this social giant? As always, let me know in the comments section!