Timing Is A Critical Success Factor for Blog Posts

The success of your blogs and it’s post is as much about the timing of your article as it is about the content.  We often get caught up in trying to have the right message or idea and take for granted that when we post our readers are ready to hear it.  Thought leaders are ahead of the curve in their ideas and have been spinning a story for some time.  The posts can be eye-opening, but readers may not be ready to implement on those ideas.  Relevance of the content takes on two aspects – it addresses a need, and the need is for an imminent event.

If you’ve taken the advice of blogging often, building a network or readers, and put SEO to good use, there comes an ‘aha’ moment when it actually works for you not only to get your voice heard, but to be available at the right time when a reader is ready.  I found this out recently after several months of blogging.

One my my very first posts discussed leveraging social media tools in schools to better connect educators, students, and parents.  That was back in February.  As soon as I posted it, I groaned, as at the end of the day I felt it was too niche and not quite in the writing style that I wanted.  Results were lack luster, and while a big part of that was that this blog was new, I also felt it was because it was a bad post.  So, as time when on, it was further buried in my blog archive where I thanked the blog gods that it would be too old and deep for anyone to actually read it.

Low and behold, the end of the school year came.  I logged into my stats tracker expecting dismal numbers as my posts have been few of late since I began working at an interactive agency.  To my surprise, traffic for the day had reached the second highest number of direct visitors ever.  What did it?  The blog on social media tools for schools.  Why?  It was right at the time that teachers were stepping back from the everyday activities of teaching and having the time to consider how to improve for the next school year.

Looking at my long tail search and traffic trends I’ve found the aspect of timing to be key.  My blogs on metrics spike at times when people are planning or at quarterly transitions.  When iPhone begins leaking information on upcoming products or features, the couple of posts on my obsession with my iPhone go up.  I also find that posts that aren’t big on particular days, seem to be consistently pulling in traffic and I’m thinking this also has to do with the readiness of readers to address the blog topic, like mobile opportunity in Latin America.

It took me a while to figure out why some blog posts did better than others as they would be of such diverse topics and depth.  I’m beginning to think the perfect marketing and advertising has to do with TIME.

Social Media Truth: You Are Who You Are

I frequently read, as I’m sure you have, all the blog posts on the various social media personalities.  In most cases they are how-to-not guides in interaction; a witty, snarky, and way to insightful magnifying glass on how we behave, and behave badly in our online and publicity world.  I’ve actually been a bit of a party to this in early posts of social media ettiquette, I mean it is so easy to, right?

It is, of course, our nature to read these personality descriptions and say, “No way.  That isn’t me.  Not even close.  I never do that.  And, even if I do I have very good reason to!”  Well, unfortunately, it is exactly you, me, them.  Even the best, the leaders in social media (you and they know who they are), are navel gazers, voyeurs, and self promoters.  At the end of the day, social media is a  bit creepy.  It is creating new personality disorders.  Feeling a bit like Sybil?

Rather than getting too serious about whether I fit a personality and if I am “doing it right”, I tend to take these lists for what they are, self deprecating humor.

Here is a list of those that I like:

There is really only one rule – there are no rules.  Bring your authentic self to the table.  It makes things so much more interesting.  If people don’t like it, they’ll ignore you.

What lists do you like?  Who are you?

Is Twitter an Effective Direct Marketing Tool?

There are many uses for Twitter, but a significant use is to share content.  So, if you are a marketer and trying to get reach and conversion by feeding your blogs, white papers, and event invites through Twitter, what is the click-through rate?  How does it compare to email and direct mail?  Just how effective is it?

Pear Analytics just released a post looking at just that.  Their conclusion is that Twitter only provided a  click-through rate equivalent to direct mail.

… [A] “useful” tweet has the following characteristics:

-a shelf life of about 1 hr 15 min, and then it “dies”
-1 to 2% click-through rate on links

Which means that this is not a whole lot different than direct mail for example, without out the cost of course.

Ouch!  Alright, so it didn’t cost anything except manpower, but it is supposed to be better than direct mail and even email due to the ‘viral’ aspect of being within a social network.  That’s the hype.  That’s what the creative gurus are telling us.

The issue with Twitter as a direct marketing tool has more to do with the fact that you cannot manage your list.  You may be able to manage your own follower and following list, but ultimately you are relying on the good will of others in the network to get out the message.  The way you manage your Twitter list is different than others manage theirs.

A big factor of success in direct marketing is the ability to slice, dice, and segment for a targeted approach.  It is surgical and scientific.  Even when you purchase lists you account for quality and alignment to your purpose, message, and content.  This simply is not manageable in Twitter if your follower’s networks are built for size rather than quality.  You can at least have negotiate money back if lists your purchase from vendors have quality issues.  But, Twitter lists are free.

Social networks like Twitter are great to keep high quality leads and customers close and then leverage to build your databases through early stage outreach.    When new leads do come into your social network, check for quality as this will tell you if your viral channel is high quality as well.  Then, If social network connections meet a threshold for quality, migrate to your central marketing database for lead nurturing.

B2B Social Media is Not One-Size-Fits-All Part 1

Social media opens up a wide array of possibilities for marketers as well as cost savings.  However, how or if it is used for marketing will look entirely different depending on the company, industry, and products and solutions sold.  Social media marketing is not “one-size-fits-all”.

The hype of late has really told the story of social media marketing within the consumer arena.  The picture is quite different in business-to-business.  When Forrester talks about 50% of marketers increasing their spend in social media, take out business-to-consumer and you get a very different perspective.  Supporting this, agencies see the big push in social media spending is really still from consumer focused companies.

In a recent Q&A session on LinkedIn, I asked marketers what percentage of marketing spend was for social media marketing and what that number was last year.  So, even if everyone said they were increasing spend, this could provide a perspective on how committed they were.  One reply provided an article from from eMarketer and included a graphic on social network advertising spend.  To my surprise, the biggest increase of spend was not this year (2009) 17% but last year (2008) 46%. No wonder all the hype over the past year.

But, this still doesn’t show what is happening in B2B.  That came from responses from marketing and business developmentThe B2B social media marketing spend answer: no marketing spend.  None. Zero.However, that doesn’t mean that no effort is spent on social media marketing.  Dani Lee, Director of Marketing at Copanion says, “(This) is partly due to the fact that our B2B SMB target audience has low adoption of social networking. However, from a time perspective, we definitely spend more time on social networking this year compared to almost no time last year. We drive content to our social networking sites with the goal of creating more engagement with our audience over various channels.”  Another contributor doesn’t see that social media makes sense in highly complex solution sales.

The big question is, what does social media marketing do for B2B?  Or, is there also a factor that social media marketing as it is defined today does not represent B2B marketing perspectives for marketing overall.

Where social media marketing and advertising is focused on the consumer, the engagement is much more relaxed and, well, social.  In B2B, there is a lot of vested interest on both sides of the deal. Sending tweets to customers may not be the answer to relationship building.  There also may not be an audience to connect to through social networks and communities.  B2B is going to have to figure out what the conversation looks like from their perspective and map to social media outlets.  It all boils down to conversational preference.

You can watch the Q&A session on LinkedIn by going to http://www.linkedin.com/answers/marketing-sales/advertising-promotion/internet-marketing/MAR_ADP_INM/443710-575533?searchIdx=0&sik=1237987444226&goback=%2Easr_1_1237987444226

Also, if you would like to participate in a survey on budget and resource allocation, you can go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9ccwmeJJoa_2f_2fcSl_2bwgr_2fDA_3d_3d

Part 2

Has Apple and iTunes Missed the Mark?

For all that Apple has done to transform mobile devices and personal computing, has it missed the real market opportunity?  Hampered by ip and copywrite protections of content, it seems that iTunes has limited itself to just a delivery model.  At the end of the day, iTunes appears to be content as another Amazon.

Here’s the thing, iTunes started out as this really cool way to grab music, videos, movies, and podcasts.  It had some capability to show you what people and staff liked best, and pair your selections and purchases to other things you might like.  With the release of the iPhone, you get a plethora of mobile applications. Yet, Apple seems stalled on iTunes as an e-store and electonic delivery service.

In the end, I think iTunes could be a nexus for social media and networking.  If they could overcome limitations of sharing (can I at least pass over a playlist that syncs to another music library or encourages the purchase of a song?) and provide a social network interface that allows you to connect to other iTunes users, there could be some real power behind this app.  Think Facebook meets YouTube, meets iTunes.

Here is what I see as major factors that are and can diminish iTunes as a broader player in the market.

  • Apps will deliver content – think Netflix streaming films on-demand to your phone.  Twitter already circumvents SMS.
  • Direct sourcing of podcasts/v-casts from providers – already happening through browser.
  • Greater ability to share and discuss media in other venues – Facebook
  • Ad dollars are going to the application developers

iPhone’s newness and apps are probably the biggest drivers of customer loyalty today.  But, Apple’s crowd is a trendy one.  While there are loyal cult followers (I admit it, I’m part of the cult), there is a significant segment that is always looking to be at the forfront and social media is where they are today.  Apple hasn’t always been the first, but it has been the best.  Staying the best could get harder when they heavily rely on is hardware and delivery.

If Apple got it right, iTunes could expand into the social media arena consolidating social networks, content, and services in an interactive manner versus today as only a distributor.  There may be money in the transaction, but that is an easy point to be squeezed.  Apple’s proprietary perspective on its assets and constraints of contracts with media companies may be too restricting.  As more and more companies thrive on an opensource model, that competitive agility could leave Apple in a lurch.

In the end, I’m thinking about myself.  I love my iPhone.  I love my MacBook.  But, what gets me thinking about this is I rarely use iTunes anymore except as a music player, a way to get my apps, and to sync my phone to my laptop.  There are cooler, better things, and better ways to get my communications, media, and appliations.  I’m not typically at the front of the pack.  So, that leaves me wondering where the rest of those iTunes users are.

I’ll ask you, do you think Apple missed the mark?

By the way, here is some news that Apple may be thinking about streaming media.   But, is this just a service delivery enhancement?

Social Media Mature or Hype

For 2-3 years the buzz around social media is so heightened that there may not be much more to say, much less be gained  Or, is there?

Marketing Sherpa released it’s findings on barriers to social media adoption.  In December, marketers reported that lack of knowledge and the ability to see ROI from social marketing efforts kept social media from mainstream adoptions.  If social media is so mature, surely adoption rates would be higher.

Barriers to Social Media AdoptionIn a previous post I talked about barriers in B2B due to lack of trust in the medium for personal use, thus translating to lack of trust for business use.  But, I think there may be something more here.  Leveraging social media for marketing is not for the faint at heart.  There are real complexities to creating a customer experience and building relationships.  Companies struggle with this with their own known customers.  Even with emails and reach customer history, it is challenging to engage with relevance and consistency.  Now, try this with a decentralized and dynamic market where you cannot always control the message.

There are certainly ways to try out social media marketing. Nicky Jameson recently provided great 7 Tips to get your feet wet.  But, how do you get your arms around what social media is beyond the buzz and hype?

So, here are some definitions to de-mystify social media.

Social media is…

  1. Another outlet for PR tactics.
  2. A mode to converse with contacts outside of email, events, or your website
  3. A vehicle to hear what you customers think and have to say.
  4. A segmented community with traits that make it easy to align your products and services

ROI is another issue altogether.  It’s the “so what” factor.  With marketing budgets lean and mean, why would you want to take a risk on something that you have no idea it will work? Exactly because you know that other tactics in the social media definition work.  The only issue now is figuring out how to measure it.  But, that isnt’ all that different from any other marketing tactic and PR effort.  You already know how to measure it!

Tips to Align Social Media to Business Outcomes

  1. Compare similarities of traditional actions and outcomes to social media marketing actions.  If you are able to show how press mentions impact business outcomes, you should be able to incorporate blog mentions, re-blogging, etc. into this equation.
  2. Trace social network interactions as they begin to funnel into your lead management processes.  Social media marketing shouldn’t completely stand on its own.  Your social network pages, micro-sites, and other social media assets eventually need strong calls to action to your website and lead generation processes.
  3. Integrate social media marketing tactics with traditional tactics.  If you track emails response then any social media marketing you connect to the email will track.

I’ll pose this on ROI for social media.  Marketing’s responsibility is to drive business strategy and outcomes through market/customer interactions.  The real measure of success is alignment with the C-Suite on what the “return” is on investment.  This may not necessarily be monetary but rather value of marketing’s ability to support business strategy and customer interaction.

  • Can you show through social media that the message you want to get out about your company and position is happening?
  • Do you see a lift in customer interactions through the introduction of social media marketing?
  • Is there a tangible value to social media interactions that is directly/indirectly influencing marketing’s ability to contribute to business outcomes?

Don’t get hung up on the dollar figure.  Investment is as much about reducing customer churn or the marketing adopting your thought leadership position as it is a direct bottom line result.  Your real task is ensure your marketing strategy is aligned to business strategy.  How you get there is through traditional marketing know how and the help and integration of social media marketing.

Social Media for B2B? You’ve got to be kidding.

Could it be that social media lags in B2B because marketers don’t see value in it for themselves?

I’ve been talking to friends and colleagues about their perception of social media.  To be honest, I’m typically talking to the over 35 crowd.  But hey, these are the senior marketers and decision makers.  The ones that approve plans and dole out the budgets.  So, it has to be said that if you can’t convince them, how can social media succeed in B2B, at least today.

First, the idea of Facebook or MySpace is just plain frightening to them.  They can’t understand the urge to put your life out on the web.  This is way too risky and often frightening.  Here are the barriers.

  • When they consider hiring someone, they check out their pages and if their personal life doesn’t conform to a respectable life, an offer is unlikely to go out.
  • Anything you put up on the web stays there – FOREVER!
  • Their personal life is personal.
  • Social media is for teenagers and college kids.
  • It is too much time and effort and they have busy lives.
  • They just don’t need to know every detail about you – too much information

Social media may be the latest and greatest thing.  There’s a thinking out there that if you aren’t catching the wave, you are going to be caught in it and drown.  To a point it may be true.  It is certainly changing the dynamic of connecting people to people and companies to customers.  As a leading edge B2B marketer just dying to jump in and leverage this new paradigm, how can you convince the powers that be?

Tip 1:  Design a framework of your messaging architecture to social media venues.  Executives will understand better how and why you are entering this space when you show where you are going, what you are saying, and who you are engaging with.  You’ll be speaking their language.
Tip 2:  Don’t assume you need a huge budget, or any.  Re-use and re-purpose content.  Shift time spent from less effective communication avenues.
Tip 3:  Leverage your company or product evangelist.  Utilize their expertise the same way you would if you conducted a webinar, keynote, or by-line. Re-use these assets as video and podcast content.  Interview them and post the discussion of media.
Tip 4:  Participate yourself in discussions and blogging.
Tip 5:  Formulate ways to capture outcomes from social media interactions and report on these.  As with any communication, consider a call to action.  If your purpose is primarily awareness and to evangelize then incorporate tracking into your general PR watch.
Tip 6:  Create a relationship between your executives and experts in your industry that have a strong online presence.  Use classic PR strategy to have them evangelize for you.  This builds your executive’s network, yours, and your company’s.

The biggest point to get across is that your company has most likely been involved in social media.  Your company is already interacting with industry groups attending events, participating in discussions, speaking at events, and leveraging online discussions.  Social media for B2B is not the personal world of Facebook and MySpace.  It is the professional networks, industry venues, and media outlets that have evolved to expand the possibilities to interact with customers.

Do the work, show the results.  Your executives will praise your successes and be gently brought into the social web not even realizing it.