Using Social Media To Weather The Recession

One of the most adverse domino effects of our current economic situation has to be the distressing troubles currently afflicting the advertising and marketing industries. Because of companies’ fiscal obligations and their deteriorating bottom lines, executives have shown little restraint in slashing their ad budgets and downsizing any of their prior plans for monumental, traditional campaigns.

 

The situation is incredibly dreary for most marketing professionals, who are now left with the difficult tasks of justifying their worth to their clients by developing, or pitching, campaigns that are explicitly responsible and cost-effective. 

 

So…how should marketers weather the recession? 

 

The answer is quite clear; move the pivotal focus of your campaign onto the web and harness the power of social media.  Social media, particularly over the past year, has proven to be an inexpensive, but lucrative tool for online lead generation, providing a positive return on your client’s investments. Amidst the current market, and with marketing budgets slimming to a shoe string, social media presents a more personal and engaging option that can correctly target the proper demographics and audiences in a word-of-mouth fashion.

 

Tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs allow users to connect and share and publish their most personal ideas, thoughts and opinions with old friends or even perfect strangers. The beauty of these interactions lies in the implicitness of the information to appear creditable because of its word-of-mouth nature. Social media users recognize the messages they receive to be more relevant and natural, and not stretched or warped by the stigma of paid advertisements.

 

But social media users still need to gain the trusts of their peers. Once this goal is attained, the passing along of communications becomes socially accepted as useful, helpful and credible.

 

The power to share information on these sites can help to bolster a company’s profile, if it is accomplished in a responsible and trustful way. By managing many of the social media channels that they have at their disposal by dedicating the right resources and employees, corporations will recognize the ability of social media to serve as a next-generational inbound marketing tool. Over time, connections made, like in the real world, can generate new leads, clients, and revenue without any of the costs of more traditional business lead generation methods.

Looking For Leads? Play Ball!

A successful inbound marketing campaign, one that provides a higher ROI for clients than traditional marketing communications plans, has a lot of similarities to a winning baseball club. In order to win consistently in baseball, you need to be able to take the lead by scoring more runs then your opponent. To maintain the lead, you need quality defensive play and pitching.

 

Inbound marketing, also known as “non-interruption” based marketing, blends similar fundamentals into one winning strategy. Toting a core “lineup” of developed products or service offerings, backed by defined messaging, effective inbound marketing strategists get on the “offensive” by engaging with prospects in a meaningful and targeted way. The professional inbound marketer, like a .300 hitter, knows his/her prospects better than his opponents do. He is familiar with the specific channels that his prospects are using to communicate online and offline, and then implements the tactics (search marketing, social media marketing and public relations) that establish the “connection” needed to deliver more qualified new business leads. These tactics and strategies are more effective than old marketing standards like cold calling and traditional advertising. More often than not, these techniques merely manifest as wild swings-and-misses.

 

And like any successful baseball team, an inbound marketing program needs to be managed with exceptional scrutiny. An effective offensive strategy develops the appropriate web platforms, including an optimized and web 2.0 friendly website, and measures traffic and lead capture on a daily basis. When spikes and other issues arise, adjustments are made, like managers culling through their dugout and bullpen to see what other tools they have at their disposal. Company blogs can be developed to proactively spread the company’s message, public relations tactics can be employed to seed the internet with on-message editorial content, and other social media channels are identified and utilized to interact with prospects on an opt-in basis. The ROI of all tactics are tracked through statistics such as conversions, back links and traffic. If something is not working, it returns to the bench.

 

Quality defensive play alongside excellent starting and relief pitching helps to maintain all runs scored by a potent offense. Likewise, any good inbound marketing campaign leverages the appropriate techniques to cultivate a new lead, and hold on to it through sale. Search engine optimization techniques can help a company “defend” against negative news and information on the web, while other social media monitoring tools enable the quick identification of current client issues that could damage a future relationship with a prospect. Even traditional public relations tactics, such as crisis communications, blend well with a defensive strategy that focuses on maintaining the lead without starting a new conversation. To nurture those leads, provide your prospects with the content they can’t live without to ensure they remain engaged; accessible white papers, frequently updated blogs, a steady stream of search optimized press announcements, and an open dialogue across all social media platforms. Like any good set-up man in baseball, an inbound marketing campaign holds the door open for the closer to seal the deal.

 

Here at 451 Marketing we play ball for our clients everyday in a way that generates leads by keeping our eye on the ball and making the appropriate contact. Let us know if you’re ready to know more about following our team to victory – www.451Marketing.com

Hail To The CMS

On this historic day of the inauguration of Barack Obama, I can not think of a more fitting topic to write about than content management systems. What, you can’t see the parallel?

Ok, in all seriousness, when was the last time you updated the content on your website? 3 months? 6 months? Is this because you don’t have anyone in-house that knows how to update content on the website?

Right now we are in the digital age where content is king and having the same old, stale content on your site for months on end will not win you any repeat visitors. If this sounds familiar, then you are a prime candidate for a content management system (CMS), which allows non-technically proficient people to manage and update content on a website.

There certainly isn’t any shortage of content management solutions out there in the marketplace today, but how can you be sure which solution is best for your company’s needs? The trend seems to be moving towards open-source CMS options like Drupal and Joomla. These are attractive for a variety of reasons, one of the biggest being cost! Because there is no actual cost for the program (with traditional CMS solutions you will most likely pay licensing fees) your only costs are for customization and integration to the website. Also, since these are open-source solutions, there are thousands of developers across the world continually working on ways to make the system better. Think of all that techie brainpower collaborating!

We at 451 Marketing have found that with Drupal, the knowledge base out there on the web at our fingertips is extremely extensive. More than 300,000 user accounts have been created on Drupal.org, and over 2,000 people have signed up for developer accounts. Having this extremely large user base makes it much easier to get help and support when needed. Just Google “Drupal” and you will get millions of results for blogs and other resources.

Drupal isn’t always the best solution for every website. Sometimes it’s more cost effective for a company to have a custom built system that may only manage a couple portions of a website. This may include Career Opportunities, News, Company Bios, among others. This will give them control of areas of the website that would change most frequently without having to implement and customize a system that would control the entire site.

A great resource for comparing CMS features side by side can be found here: http://www.cmsmatrix.org. This includes open-source as well as traditional systems.

So take back control of your website, and take down that press release from 2002 on your homepage!

Building Your Brand In 2009 – Are You The Next Clint Eastwood?

A recent viewing of Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “Gran Torino,” got me thinking about a lot more than just the final scenes of the movie and its excellent screenplay. I actually began to think long and hard about Clint Eastwood, his performance, his career path, and even, his image.

In this particular film, part “Unforgiven”-style modern day case study of the impact of violence and vengeance, and part “Million Dollar Baby” examination of the potential for connectivity between very dissimilar people, Eastwood’s machismo drives every line and every scene. But upon reflection, I started thinking more about 78-year-old Clint Eastwood “the man,” or more specifically, Clint Eastwood “the brand.”

Eastwood has utilized the medium of film over the past 50 years to create a brand for himself that is so unequivocally his own; tough-minded, shrewd, battle-tested, just, arrogant, and private. Eastwood’s brand does not necessarily personify the man or even every single role he plays as an actor or director (see “Bridges of Madison County”), but it’s strong enough to typify a likeness that has persisted over time. In essence, film allowed Eastwood to both launch his brand and maintain it over the years. But it wasn’t easy. Despite beginning his movie career in 1955, it wasn’t until 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars” when Eastwood truly broke into the mainstream, and it was 1971’s “Dirty Harry” that officially signaled his ability to transcend genres with his brand; from spaghetti western’s to modern day examinations of violence and its consequences.

But more importantly, Eastwood’s brand consistency on the big screen ignited my thinking about how new media allows us all to create, maintain, and adjust our own brand image. Today, any average Joe can now use tools like Facebook or Myspace to develop (read: launch) their own brand profile by uploading all the relevant photos, videos, music, personality descriptions, etc. Without the power of film or television, internet users can create an image for themselves that personifies who they are (or who they want people to think they are), and they can even identify and attract their own audience. Sometimes finding this audience is as easy as a simple “friend request,” or as is the case with digital channels like Twitter and LinkedIn, the more attractive the profile (or online brand), the more likely the audience will grow. It’s simple brand marketing.

And unlike an actor, launching and maintaining your brand online can be free and easy. Without the startup costs, unexpectedly controversial or unconventional roles (or “off-brand” roles like “Bridges”), studio pressures or very public negative reviews, individuals can build and manage their brand on their own terms. And with the proliferation of new media into various channels, individuals can modify their image to please and engage different audiences (think of a LinkedIn profile as an individual’s attempt at creating their “Oscar Winning Brand”).

And the beauty of it, these same channels are just as useful for corporations, organizations, philanthropies, and all sorts of other groups looking to build or even recreate their brand.

New media, giving voices to the masses. Building your online brand would make Clint proud.

Go ahead, make his day.

It’s Not (Just) Your Kid’s Facebook Anymore!

I recently reconnected on Facebook with the majority of my 6th Grade classmates from P.S. 114 in Belle Harbor, NYC. I graduated from Mr. Domingo’s class in 1986 and, for the most part, have not spoken to these people since then. Facebook has illuminated old faces and rekindled a whole mess of great memories that had been filed away in the far recesses of my mind. We’ve now posted funny stories on each other’s walls, shared old photos, and simply caught up on where life has taken us since we last spoke. There is no way this would ever have happened if it wasn’t for Facebook.

What started out as a place for college kids to share drunken party photos has become a real-time reunion for 30, 40 & even 50-somethings. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook over the past year is the 35 to 54 age group. This segment has created profiles six times as fast as the 13 to 34 group and now represents roughly one-fifth of the site’s 120 million users and rising.

Technically I still fall into that…ahem…younger demographic, but while I was an early adopter because of the business I’m in, it wasn’t until this past year that I fully realized the power that Facebook has for enabling the reconnection of old friends.

As more and more of my old acquaintances join, the more people I receive “friend requests” from and vice versa. Over this past year I have reconnected with people from every period of my life – grade-school & high school classmates from New York, guys I played football with in college in New Hampshire, and old rugby buddies living around the world in England, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. It’s been a phenomenal experience. In some cases I’ve discovered that old friends are in the same business that I’m in – including publicists & reporters. I even recently placed a story in the Nashua Telegraph for a client, which was written by an old college buddy I reconnected with through Facebook

pscfootball931
1993 Plymouth State College Football Team

The best part of reconnecting via Facebook is the non-committal aspect of it all. You can decide the level of reconnection that you want and you can do it when it’s convenient. The worst part of high school & college reunions is the fact that you wind up telling your “life after school” story over and over again and feel compelled to talk to everyone in the room, when maybe you really just want to hang out with your close friends or an old flame. On Facebook, you can catch up with people on different levels – it can be simply accepting a “Friend Request” or posting a note on a friend’s “Wall”. If it’s someone you were close with, you can send them a personal message and maybe plan a time to grab a beer when you’re both in the same town (Facebook will never replace a hug an a handshake).

While Facebook will always be a place for teenagers to share party pics and plan road trips, the real power of the application is people staying connected with everyone they have met along the way. Never again will Jack opine, “I wonder what Jill is up to these days?” He will already have pictures of Jill’s kids climbing up the same hill they climbed when they were kids.