What is social media?

January 28th, 2010 No Comments

Following up on my previous post about the ROI of social media, perhaps it’s worth explaining what social media is.

Social media is not so new. Even the technology is new and major social networks have been on for close to a decade. Facebook only started in 2004. Twitter in 2006. Blogger in 1999 and bought by Google in 2003, and WordPress also was first released in 2003. College seniors that opened up a Facebook profile in 2004 are now your 27- year old workers. Moreover, humans have been social since the first caveman shared pictures on the cave walls.

However, many so-called social media gurus like to focus on the new technology, instead of human’s nature to be social and communicate, in order to confuse you (probably to charge you more). Watch the video below, if you want to understand what social media is without being confused by Tweet this, Twibe that, RSS, ping, or other buzzwords. This explains social media – not for technology, but for ice cream.

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The ROI of Social Media

January 25th, 2010 1 Comment

Many people ask: “What is the ROI – return on investment – of social media?” Usually, they get two answers:

  1. Some people – usually those who ended up engaged in social media because they are young, use Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or whatever other channel in their personal life, but don’t work in marketing or strategic communications – respond that there is no ROI in social media. Those people – far too common in the fast growing field of social media – do businesses a disservice. Besides being wrong, this keeps busineses from hiring a firm that understands marketing. After all, why should a business invest in something without ROI?
  2. Others promise millions of customers and viral outreach. But this, too misleads.

Of course, there is an ROI of social media marketing, just as there is in any other marketing, advertising, public relations. Social media is a channel, a tool. It is a channel with unique rules, that requires specific marketing strategy, and that crosses disciplines – marketing, public relations, and even customer service, for example.

Instead of asking “What is the Return on Investment of Social Media?” perhaps companies need to be asking “What is the Return on Inaction?” or “What’s the Risk of Inaction?”

According to Forrester Research, “Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate.” So, if you’re inactive, your customers are still talking about you … with someone else.

Radian6 asks this question to many marketing gurus . See what the top marketers have to say.

Gary Vaynerchuk (my own favorite guru, since I’m also a big oenophile) says that he doesn’t care if companies are on social media – because those that don’t are dumb and should fail.

While I wouldn’t call you dumb, are you spending your time too worried about the ROI of social media to actually be engaging in social media marketing? To actually hire a professional marketing consultancy, with a background both in strategic marketing and web-savvy, social media marketing? Or are you letting the kid down the block who has a Facebook profile and may be on Twitter handling the future of your business?

Because, really, as Gary V would say, don’t be dumb.

Social media is changing business. It’s transforming and evolving processes, customer service, and communication as we know it. Exploring investment return for social media is valid and necessary within a business framework. But equally important is carefully assessing the price for not being involved.

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Social Media for Social Good

January 20th, 2010 No Comments

Social Media doesn’t just sell technology (although Dell claims that they’ve made over $1 million in sales due to their Twitter presence), or shoes (although Zappos has also been raking in the big bucks), but it also saves lives and does good.

Whether it’s a religious organization, charity fundraising campaign, or trade group, or promoting democracy, social media does good.

If you’ve been paying attention, social media has been recently saving lives in Haiti and promoting democracy in China and Iran. Ben Parr of Mashable has a new story posted on CNN about the social web.

According to Parr, “In all three cases — China, Haiti and Iran — social media has had an impact, especially as the course of events evolved. Real-time communication platforms like Twitter and Facebook have spread the word about what’s happening within these nations, long before the mainstream media prints the story. These tools have also created a level awareness we’ve never seen before.”

As of this writing, over $11 million has been raised – just via text messaging – for earthquake relief in Haiti. Google is highlighting ways to help – texting, online payment, or even Google Voice.

Twitter and Facebook are also being used to help raise funds for disaster relief.

Twitter is helping to promote individual country’s roles in the Haitian relief effort. The Israeli Defence Forces spokespersons office created a Twitter account at @IDFatHaiti to showcase that country’s role in helping Haiti..

How are you using social media for social good?

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Shift Happens

December 15th, 2009 1 Comment

Print is not the only platform today. Platforms have changed. Newspapers and journals are now online. That mean that your marketing and public relations efforts have to change. What worked in 2001 didn’t work in 2004. What worked in 2001 doesn’t work in 2010.

Here are some interesting statistics showing how the world has changed in the past few years:

• Newspaper circulation is down 7 million in the past 25 years, but in the last five years,unique readers of online newspapers are up 30 million.
• Traditional advertising is in steep decline, while digital advertising is growing rapidly.
• More video has been uploaded to YouTube in the last 2 months than if ABC, CBS, and NBC had been airing new content 24/7/365 since 1948 (when ABC started broadcasting)
• The average American teen sends 2,272 text messages a month. What are they saying about you?
• Dell earned over $3 million from Twitter since 2007.
• Barack Obama raised $55 million from online social networks in one month during the presidential campaign. How are you using social networking sites?
• The mobile device will be the world’s primary connection tool to the Internet in 2020
• The computer in your cell phone today is a million times cheaper, and a thousand times more powerful, and about a hundred times smaller than the one computer at MIT in 1965

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The Communication & Social Media Revolution

December 15th, 2009 No Comments

This video has been going on a lot over the past year – and previous versions for even longer — but it shows the enduring power of how the Internet and social media have changed the way we live and communicate.

It also emphasizes that “social media” is more than just having a Facebook page of Twitter account. It’s not the thing to do for fun, it’s the way we communicate in 2010.

Some facts:

• 1 out of 8 companies that married last year met via social media
• Facebook added 100 million users in less than 9 months. 52% of Facebook users in the US are between 18 and 34. By the way, the fastest growing group on Facebook: those over 45.
• There are more than 65 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
• 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices. Imagine what that means for bad customer experiences? Or good!
• YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world
• Wikipedia has over 13 milllion articles. Studies show it’s more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica. Does your company or organization have an accurate article on the site? In how many languages?
• There are over 200,000,000 blogs. Are they talking about you? Do you like what they are saying?
• 25% of search results for the World’s Top 20 largest brands are links to user generated content.
Social media isn’t a fad: It’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.

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Inbound Marketing and The New Age of Documentation

December 15th, 2009 No Comments

Since I recently received certification as an Inbound Marketing Certified Professional, as well as certification as a technical writer, the topic of how Inbound Marketing principles relate to technical documentation in the Web 2.0 age has been on my mind a lot lately.

What is Inbound Marketing? According to Answers.com:

Inbound marketing is a style of marketing that focuses on getting found by customers. This sense is related to relationship marketing and Seth Godin’s idea of permission marketing. David Meerman Scott recommends that marketers “publish their way in” (via blogs etc.)

So, wait, what does this have to do with technical communication? Documentation isn’t marketing, right?

When you have a problem with a software program or a hardware application, in today’s day, what do you do?

Do you grab a manual? Press F1? If you’re like me, the first thing you do is search Google!

According to the Pew Internet & American Life project, search is often the first place people – particularly Millenials — are going in order to find information (including support). “Millennials’ devotion to the internet has greatly shaped the way they approach research process. In many cases, they start projects by going online,” according to Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

All too frequently, however, your company’s help, knowledge base, support forum, or PDF manual doesn’t show up as the first result on Google. A principle of inbound marketing is that you need to create content to get found. One such type of content is documentation – whether it’s a manual, WebHelp, knowledgebase, or How To video on your company’s YouTube channel (you do have one, right?)

For example, if I want to learn about styles in Microsoft Word, does Microsoft control the message or does someone else’s content dominate?

It’s not a question of FrameMaker or RoboHelp. Google and other search engines can index PDFs, just as much as HTML output. Major webhelp authoring systems, such as Adobe RoboHelp and MadCap Flare, can create search engine optimized (SEO) web help. The current tools are adequate to create SEO optimized documentation. So, why is it not happening? Why is Microsoft #4 in Google — meaning their customers are going to get (possibly inaccurate) help from somewhere else?

My guess it that most companies and technical writers don’t yet understand the need for well written, properly-formatted, SEO-optimized help. Can your technical writer also do keyword research? Create a good metadescription and also write usable documentation?

Does your company understand SEO and SMO strategies to “get found”?

Even if you have the best written documentation, it’s not good enough if your customers aren’t finding it. And yes, they probably have one-click online help or the PDF manual, but that’s just not how people – particularly Millenials – find information today. If your customers are finding potentially inaccurate documentation or forum answers created by others, that’s not helping your bottom line … or your users.

Besides the most important components of excellent writing, formatting, and accuracy, so that it’s understandable and helpful to your users, today’s documentation needs to incorporate Inbound Marketing Principles such as SEO, so that it can get found by your users … just when they need it most.

Does your documentation institute Inbound Marketing principles? When your customers are looking for help, is your documentation the first results that appear in Google?

If not, why not?

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