Reno Rallies Through Social Media


Courtesy of Gary Weinhiemer

In a blazing display of community engagement and social media support, Reno’s Veterans Guest House was recently presented with a check for $250,000.00  from The Home Depot Foundation’sAprons In Action” Facebook contest.

During the Aprons in Action Contest, which began in April 2011, The Home Depot Foundation’s Facebook page served as a platform for 44 non-profit organizations to earn funds totaling $1 million through Facebook votes and to generate further awareness of their community efforts.

Through Aprons in Action, each nonprofit heightened its visibility both locally and nationally.  As a result, the nonprofits have been able to establish new community partnerships; have experienced an increase in volunteers lining up to help; and have seen exponential growth in Facebook fans and followers.

As Noreen Leary, C.O.O. of the Veteran’s Guest House noted: “We went from 325 likes on our Facebook page on 2/1 to 1540 likes today. Wow!!! Engagement unbelievable. Those 1500 have 340,000 friends. So the viral reach is amazing.”

While fundraising through social media isn’t anything new, this specific achievement is an important development from several perspectives:

First, and perhaps most notably, the local non-profit received 75% more votes in comparison with other much larger communities like Detroit, New Orleans and  Salt Lake City.  Think about that: Reno is a community of approximately 220,000 people who didn’t just beat, but crushed the engagement of cities like Detroit with 920,000 – four times its size.

While Reno had suffered years of poor brand image and perception, and has endured a tragic year of natural and man-made disasters, the community rallied online to support a small non-profit at its core.  Not only did the northern Nevada residents become daily participants in this contest, media support was unrivaled with television, radio and news channels seeking even greater community support.

Secondly, Facebook’s power to connect community and focus attention on a hyper-local basis has become a centerpiece of fundraising for nonprofits of all types.  Who can deny the potential to engage community donors in an effort that simply requires a moment a day to participate?  How many new individuals and supporters did the Veteran’s Guest House gain from this contest – and how will that affect their long-term fundraising strategy?

Finally,the benefit to Home Depot for engaging their online community through charitable support positions them as a “caring brand”, who increases their online reach and broadcast range into much deeper, more meaningful ways.  While their mission is to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home, they’ve committed nearly $30 million dollars over three years, in addition to the volunteer skills of thousands of Home Depot associates to activate their individual communities.

Clearly, Home Depot has a winning campaign through the Aprons In Action social media contest.  More importantly, they have established their brand as a community builder and donor – a uniquely engaged position that their competition can not compete with or claim.

In today’s ever competitive brand marketing arena – positioning your brand as an engaged community donor and supporter may be the key differentiation that leads to greater acceptance and awareness.  That alone is worth every penny donated (and tax deducted) from your business.

Isn’t it time you considered a charitable donor strategy for your business?  How can you go about creating a similar impact like Home Depot’s contest? 

It’s Time To Take Your Social Media Seriously


No doubt, nearly every brand of all sizes have taken to using social media to promote their products or services.  Few, however, really take this marketing opportunity seriously.

“Wait a minute”…you say… “we take Facebook very seriously!”  Maybe you do.  Consider this:

If your goal is to get a specific number of followers on Facebook as your measure of success – you’re not taking social media seriously. Creating a fan page to use as a broadcast channel is not taking it seriously.  Launching social games and giveaways to attract new fans without following through on their real interest is not taking it seriously.

It’s important to remember – participation is not engagement.  Social media isn’t about the exploitation of the technology, but rather a vehicle to enable you to be a service to the community.

At this time of year, it’s a good time to take a look at your social media outreach and ask yourself if you’re really serious about it – or just using it (and your audience).  But how can you change your thinking and actions toward opportunities like Facebook and still capitalize on its potential and impact?  Here’s a few ways:

1. Quit thinking of, and treating your friends and followers as customers.  Think of them as human beings that are searching for meaning and relationships.

2. No one owes you any brand loyalty just because you happen to have achieved fame.  Trust is difficult to earn, and even harder to maintain.

3. Listen.  Listen to what your community is saying.  When they’re asking you a question, they are also telling you something.

4. Focus on long-term results, not short-term gains.  Like any relationship, the lasting ones take time to develop and nurture.

5. We want to know who you really are – so tell us. We don’t care what your brand produces, but more about how it can help us.  Don’t forget that people want to know “why” even before they know “what”.

6. You’re likely an amateur – accept it. No matter what your place in the market is, it’s likely to be challenged and changed over time as technology changes.  And it will change quickly.

7. Make your technology human.  We exchange emotions via social media – use that to your advantage.

10. Be Real.  Say what you mean, and mean what you say.  Transparency and authenticity are the cornerstones to lasting social media results.

Still, many brands will dismiss social media as a trending hype.  But the ability to connect with new people in an instant, sharing their lives through words, photos and video is a new paradigm in brand marketing.  It can transform the way you do business – and the way you’re perceived.  Don’t let it slip past you.

How will you use social media in the year ahead?  Do you have a plan?  We want to hear about it!

Should You Try Geo-locating Your Brand?


Along with the adoption of social media in many businesses marketing strategy, Geo location has become an increasingly popular (and effective) way to attract and keep new business. There are more and more services that enable geo location through social media channels including FoursquareFacebook Places, LooptGowalla, GeoAPI, , SimpleGeo, Google Places, Rally and other emerging systems.

So what is geo location basically about?  It’s fairly simple in concept: geo location is content that has been tagged with geographic data such as GPS coordinates or a street address. You can geo locate a video, a blog post, a Twitter tweet, a news story – or just about anything in your life, or your business. Geo locating is driving a host of social media channels to prompt you whenever you check in, which in turn can let your friends and followers know where you are – which may prompt them to action.  Perhaps they’ll meet you if you’re close – or create a new conversation about your location or business. But there’s much, much more to geo location on the horizon.

As new people engage in geolocating their lives, the issue of privacy becomes an even more important aspect of the systems and channels they chose to use.  Privacy is, and will always remain a critical aspect and concern in all social media, and geo location is no different.  But I believe that the value of using location-based tools will eventually become more and more secure, and far outweigh the privacy concerns that many early adopters have at this first stage of use.  For businesses, that means that those who adopt and use geo location for the their brand may well take a lead in a cost-effective, interactive channel to build their business following – and increase sales.

Once you get oriented to one or more geo location services, there are many ways you can use them to your advantage.  Starting a customer loyalty program is just the start – rewarding your business followers who engage with you in this social space will not only drive more loyalty, but create a competitive social drive to your door.  Consider a promotion that starts when only a certain number of customers check-in to your location, or even provide your check-in customers points that build to levels of discounts or special offers on your products or services.

There are many, many new ways that business is now using social geo location to build both brand awareness, and physical visits.  I think you’ll agree that we’re just getting started with this new way of marketing your business brand to an emerging, growing community of loyal followers.

I’ll be covering this topic in more detail in the months ahead, including the implications for entrepreneurs, “green” businesses, and sustainability.

How have you used social geo location for your business?  What types of promotions have you seen that you think are most effective.  What do you think of this trend overall?  I’m always more interested in your thoughts than my own opinions – and I appreciate your comments!

Have you plugged into the power of YouTube yet?


YouTube is often the “forgotten child” in a social media marketing campaign. Today’s focus on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn is based on the immediate access to text based systems, and the ease of response and dialogue. In fact, YouTube may be one of the most powerful players in your social media strategy team – especially in light of the more recent technology and related costs to produce high quality, creative video for your product or service.

Consider a few interesting statistics: just over 75% of the social media audience in the US reports that they have, and will continue to view online videos. You could extrapolate this to an estimate of over 558 million (yes, MILLION) hours of online video watching – every month. The channel appeals to a broad range of demographics. Ages of users range 18-55, and are evenly divided between males and females – spanning all geographies.

According to the company’s reported user statistics, fifty-one percent of users go to YouTube weekly or more often, and 52 percent of 18-34 year-olds share videos often with friends and colleagues. YouTube truly does offer something for everyone.

With that broad of a range of users, and their frequency, you’re missing out on innovative and creative marketing strategies if you’re not engaged on the YouTube experience now.

So… how can you effectively use YouTube to market your service or product?  Here are a few suggestions:

First, consider leveraging the many channels offered specifically for your product or service category:

  • Autos and Vehicles
  • Comedy
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Film and Animation
  • Gaming
  • How-to and Style
  • Nonprofit and Activism
  • People and Blogs
  • Pets and Animals
  • Science and Technology
  • Sports
  • Travel and Events

Your first step is to decide what category your products or services fit into. Bear in mind that uploading a commercial isn’t the goal, but rather to create an interesting conversation around your product or service through your posting.  Ask yourself what kind of video might be the most interactive?  Commercials, unless their engaging on a national level, might get easily lost and overlooked in the hundreds of thousands of posting on YouTube each day.  Creativity is key.

Rather than a self-involved commercial, what about a “how-to” video that provide real value to your prospects and community?  Consider sharing other podcasts that are both informative and entertaining to your group of followers – and be judicious about promoting yourself all the time.  After all…it’s called YOUTube…not MEtube!

Your second step might be to establish your own brand channel:

While this may be more advertising than social media in nature, the investment to establish one for your brand might well be worth the investment.  Take this action only after you’ve given it careful consideration for your specific strategy.

For your investment in time and money, YouTube can be an effective way to share your brand’s values, and begin conversations with over 78.3 million users. Counter that potential with the fact that over 150,000 videos are uploaded every day, the challenge is to create and promote content that attracts, and keeps attention to your brand.

No matter what your social media strategy may be, you can can fun doing it.  Engaging your community on YouTube is just one way to round-out a truly effective social media campaign.

I’ll be investigating other topics that are YouTube related in anticipation of my presentation at the SM@RT Social Media Conference in Reno-Tahoe this December.

If you have any specific questions about how to integrate YouTube into your brand communication strategy, I’d love to hear about it!

Branding Is Marketing’s Foundation


As a branding collaborative, we get more than our share of calls to “design our logo…you know…our brand”.  That’s usually when the conversation turns to business topics that are far more important to think about before a logo is created – the foundation of the positioning and messaging – your brand.

Branding is much more about business design and the creation of a foundation from which marketing can do its work. Branding is about creating the unique positioning of your company. Marketing is about getting the word out.

When approached with the intent to determine a unique brand, we set the stage for being meaningful, unique, relevant and most importantly, memorable. It’s about having a unique story or purpose that unifies those that matter most – you, your staff, and your clients.

Your Brand Promise
Branding is not simply the expected features and benefits of your product or service. Branding is uncovering (and sometimes creating) your distinctive difference.  Your individual “thumbprint” in the market place.  It’s what sets you apart from all other competitors. It is what motivates you, your people and untimately, excites your clients to choose you over another similar product or service.

Delivering On Your Brand Promise
Once you have a clear understanding of your unique positioning in today’s competitive market, you must then be organized and ready to deliver on your promise. Every action, every initiative, every plan must be intimately and obviously linked to the delivery of your unique brand promise.

Your Brand Means Everything
More than just a logo, your brand image is the sum of all your tangible and intangible traits — the ideas, beliefs, values, prejudices, interests, features and history that make you unique. Brand image may be the best, single marketable investment a company can make.

Does your brand image communicate your promise and competitive difference clearly to your customers?  Are you clear about how to best communicate your unique position in comparison to your competitors?  Who do you think has a strong brand platform…and why?

Will “Social Media” Phrase Peak In 2012?


According to a post by Justin Kistner, Social Evangelist at web analytics company Webtrends, social media will peak in 2012 – just in time for the Mayan calendar to end and the world as we know it. Mr. Kistner also noted today that the current era of social media “is Facebook’s game to lose.”

Some interesting data Google Trends (below) suggests that the term ‘Web 2.0’ became popular in 2005 and peaked in mid-2007.  How was this measured?  Google use, of course. . You see that the term “social media” started to become popular in 2008, and then took a sharp turn upwards in usage n 2009.


I’ll side with to Kistner’s assessment that we have a year or two more of growth with the use of the term “social media”.  If the trending proves similar to other semantic trends,  2012 would be a reasonable year for it to peak.

Do you think the term “social media” could last longer in the venacular than “web 2.0”?  What might the next popular phrase for this communication sector be if not?

The Social Media Hype For Restaurants


courtesy of GRDine.com

As with many trends, there’s always an axis in the bell curve of popularity.  So it goes with social media; although that axis has yet to appear.  When it first arrived on the marketing scene, social media was seen as a “God send” for the struggling restaurant industry.  From the biggest to the smallest, restaurant chains to mobile food trucks embraced social media like no other market sector.

But has it really worked?

Here’s an interesting review of the effectiveness for social media from Nation’s Restaurant News. The publication asked both restaurants and consumers about their engagement in social media.  The magazine basically focused on Facebook and Twitter – the two most commonly used social media platforms in the industry today.  What they discovered was more than enlightening.

  • Although 61% of restaurants said they were actively on Facebook, only 8% of consumers said they ever follow restaurants via Facebook.
  • 78% of restaurants planned to use Facebook even more in the next 6 months to market themselves, but a mere 15% of consumers said they planned to “like” and follow restaurants.
  • Although 53% of restaurants say they currently use Twitter to market themselves, only 3% of consumers say they  follow any restaurants on Twitter.
  • While 66% of restaurants say they plan to use Twitter more in the next 6 months, just 9% of consumers say they will use Twitter more to follow restaurants.

So the trend here is that restaurants may see social media as an inexpensive, effective way to market themselves, but the market they seek may not be there.  What may be most concerning in this trend is that, even in these difficult economic conditions, restaurant owners may not be investigating other affordable alternatives to their marketing mix – with hopes that social media will “save the day”.  Clearly, they may be betting on a trend that may not prove effective for them in the long run.

I believe that in time, social media’s wild enthusiasm will give way to the hysteria – and we’ll return to a more balanced perspective of how to find, engage, and attract consumers for restaurants – and other brands.

Perhaps, just in time for the iAd craze to start.

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