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? 

Creative Ways To Use Your Facebook Timeline


For those of us who help create and manage social media campaigns across many platforms, changes to any social media channel’s format often present a host of challenges – and opportunities.  Once you’re past the angst of having to deal with an entirely new format, it’s time to think about ways you can leverage this new development to your advantage.  Here are just a few creative ways you can use Facebook’s new Timeline layout to elevate your brand:

Design Creative Cover Photos

Like an overpowering billboard, the new 851 x 351 pixel “cover photo” is up to you to plan and use effectively.  With a little creative elbow grease, you can transform this expansive area into something downright awesome.  Not everyone is capable of graphically designing with the complexity of the space provided in mind, let alone using the free online opportunity to their real advantage.

Yes…there are rules to using this space to Facebook’s specifications.  This is not a space for commercial use.  Inviting your visitors to like your website, or tell your friends about your business is not allowed.  Nor can you include such things as price or purchase locations – and don’t think this is a place for your business address and contact information.  But do think of it as a first impression to your brand’s overall image, a visual “hello” to old and new fans.

Don’t let that discourage you from promoting your business.  If you’re stumped, take a moment to review these examples of effective Facebook Timelines. 

There’s no reason you can’t use your timeline area to promote the benefits of your brand – and change the image out frequently to keep your Facebook audience interested and engaged in your ongoing progress.

Pin Or Star It For Emphasis

Some information on your page may be promotional in nature.  Pinning your posts to the top of your page will keep that one special post at the top of your timeline for an entire week (7 days).  If you’re running a business promotion or have a conversation that’s become extremely popular, pinning your post to the top is one way to control the content on your timeline page without the previous landing page options.

Pinning is easy:

On your Facebook fan page timeline, choose the post you wish to pin to the top.

Hover your mouse over the top right hand corner of the post and the pencil will appear with the options Edit or remove.

Click to Enlarge Image

Click the pencil.

The menu will now appear with the option to Pin to Top.

Select Pin to Top.

Another Timeline option Facebook as enabled is the ability to “star” posts – enabling them to be given preference in your timeline.  A starred post will expand to display across the full-page of your profile – a wide 403 pixels.  Consider starring messages that have great images of your brand, or even you, to emphasize its importance to your audience.   Here’s a great example that includes a video in the post – for a wider screen appeal:

Celebrate Your Brand’s History

Facebook’s Timeline features “milestones” – a great way for you to make special note of your brand’s development over time.  Did you start in a garage only to grow into an office?  We’re products or services added to your company mix that were new to your business sector?  Milestones are a great way to tell your brand’s story in historical order.  Don’t forget to  make note of any awards you’ve received, sales goals achieved, or new campaign launches that may have been memorable.

Here’s another good opportunity to engage your employees – and even your fans to help you identify which milestones they feel were most important in your development.  You might even be surprised by their answers and insights!

This tactic works especially well for older brands with rich histories that have been ingrained in our culture.  Take for example Ford and ESPN – both of whom share old television campaigns we may likely remember (if you’re old enough!).

    One consideration  here is to review all of the past content your brand has used, and integrate them into your timeline as historical milestones.

Create A Contest

One of the first and most talked about Facebook/Timeline contests has been from Red Bull.  The socially savvy used their own timeline as a platform to launch a well received scavenger hunt.  By searching through the brand’s timeline, and learning about their key milestones, clues were provided to win the contest.  A simple and effective way to both educate and engage a loyal following of growing fans.

Or, for example, take Coca-Cola – who has hidden clues and riddles in their posts on their Facebook page.  Once unlocked, it takes you to a third-party website; an easy way to track the promotions click-through rates to prizes.

There’s no doubt these are just the beginning of many creative applications to come from agencies and brands around the world.  As the administrator of your brand’s Facebook page, it’s time you started thinking about ways to creatively use it to your unique advantage.

How are you planning to use it for your brand’s page? 

4 Pinterest(ing) Reasons To Build Your Brand


(ING)

Unless you’ve been huddled under your own little social media rock without outside contact, you’ve probably heard of Pinterest by now.  Considering its staggering audience growth as the brand is exponentially building a following from today’s 7.2+ million active participants.  Launched in 2010, the Palo Alto based company has secured a solid place in today’s online marketing mix; especially for very specific, key demographics.

It would be impossible to review all the potential uses of the largely visual platform in one blog post, but suffice it to think there are some basically good reasons you should explore adding Pinterest to your social media marketing mix:

1. SEO Goodness:

With each image/photo you publish on Pinterest, you can link back to the image’s original online location, which in turn can help your search engine rankings.   Links back to your website on various boards do count toward your inbound link strategy.  Be sure to use easy keywords in your descriptions to aid in making it easy for others to locate you online.

2. A Viable Social Media Channel:

I know…we all agree…how many social media channels can one person, let alone business, keep in motion successfully?  The options without professional content help can feel overwhelming, to say the least.  But… it’s called social media marketing for a reason; with Pinterest now playing an increasingly important role for some brands to be visible, and connected to.  Unlike Facebook and Twitter, this channel takes little time to develop and maintain – and is simple to navigate and use.

3. Reach A Specific Target Audience:

Pinterest itself says it best: Redecorate your home! Plan a wedding! Find your style! and Save your inspirations!  Clearly – the main audience on this channel is female, and interested in sharing their many stages of lifestyles and dreams.  But that’s not the only audience on Pinterest, just the most prominent.  Your audience is likely there and just now developing into a cohesive chain of professionals and individuals with your specific likes as well.   The better news is, it’s viral.  Once you’ve been “repinned”, that audience is now connected to your visual identity or interest – and on your brand goes without much effort to like-minded/friendly potential followers.

4. Bonus Bennies

It’s easy to use. Known social contacts from other channels will join you and help spread your brand images (personal or professional) by “re-pinning” and sharing with their network of friends.  Although you do need to keep an eye on your Pinterest site(s), it’s much easier to simply pin images with brief notes and links than having to write a blog or maintain conversations and comments (like Facebook and Twitter).

Jump in to Pinterest, and start discovering your own path to the benefits of this free, new social channel. While you’re there, stop by and say hi.

Branding For Social Media


No matter what stage in your business or career you are currently in, social media can help you achieve some of your goals.  Establishing yourself as an expert with credible authority will help you gather a willing audience if you build and maintain a positive online reputation.

I ran across these five easy steps to consider that were originally posed in one of my favorite online resources – 30-Minute Social Media Marketing.  I think you’ll agree that they apply equally to your personal brand as well as your professional reputation.

I’m not going to revise or alter the original content because I think they are right on point:

1. Begin with Branding
The first step to joining the digital age and starting your journey on the social Web is to evaluate your own brand promise. How do you want to position yourself in the marketplace and in front of your target audience? A focused brand is a strong brand, so determine your niche and use it as your primary brand message and image.

Your audience needs to develop expectations for your brand in order to develop loyalty to it and feel secure enough in your brand message to talk about it with their own friends and connections, particularly across the social Web. You must meet customer (i.e., audience) expectations in every brand interaction or people will feel confused and turn away from your brand in search of another that does consistently meet their expectations. Don’t let your audience get away. Determine your brand promise and position and stick to it at all times.

2. Create Your Branded Online Destinations
Once you know how you want to position your brand in the minds of your audience, you can create your own branded online destinations. The destination you choose to start with is up to you and depends on the types of tools you enjoy using and feel like you can stick with for the long-term. Start a blog, create a Twitter account and get on Facebook, and then play with the features and get a feel for which tools you actually enjoy using. Those are the tools you should focus on using as your original branded online destinations.

Most importantly, choose one branded online destination to be your core branded online destination. This is the place where all of your online content and conversations will lead back to. It will be the central hub of your online presence and will become the go-to place for people to learn anything and everything about your brand and writing business.

I recommend a blog for a core branded online destination because blogs are so search engine friendly and flexible, but the choice is yours.  The most important factor is that your core branded online destination is kept fresh with new content that effectively represents your brand promise and invites interaction and sharing.

3. Find Your Best Audience
Who do you want to connect with online in order to build your business and/or career? You can engage with existing and potential clients, online influencers, experts, customers, and more on the social Web.  You simply need to determine who you want to talk to and go out and find them. Visit Google.com and type in the keywords your audience is likely to use to find brands, businesses, content and conversations like yours. Follow the links. Chances are you’ll end up finding multiple sites where your target audience already spends time.

When you find your target audiences’ online hangouts, spend some time listening to the conversations happening on those sites. What topics are important to them? What gets them excited? This type of information-gathering is extremely valuable and allows you to create your own content strategy to best meet your target audience’s existing wants and needs.

4. Join the Conversation
Look for social destinations such as blogs, Twitter profiles, Facebook pages, forums and so on where you can interact with other people by publishing comments, asking questions, and answering questions. However, you must avoid self-promotion. No one will want to engage with you if you spend all your time trying to sell your writing products and services.

Instead, apply the 80-20 rule of marketing to your activities, and make sure at least 80% of the time you spend on social media activities is not self-promotional and only 20% is self-promotional.

In time, those audiences will get to know you and develop expectations for your conversations. Eventually, you can lead them back to your own branded online destinations through links to related content. There you can deepen relationships. It’s this type of relationship-building that enables you to develop a band of brand advocates online who will talk about your brand and defend your brand against naysayers. There has never been a more powerful form of word-of-mouth marketing, and you can tap into it thanks to the social Web!

5. Publish Shareworthy Content

How do people find information in the 21st century? Do they pick up the printed Yellow Pages directory or go to the library? No. They log into their computers or pick up their smart phones and visit http://www.Google.com where they type in keywords related to the business, product or information they want to find. You need to be represented in search results when people search for keywords related to your business or area of expertise!

One way to make sure you’re effectively represented is by publishing amazing content that people want to talk about and share with their own connections. In time, you’ll benefit from what I call the compounding effect of social media. The more content you publish, the more entry points there are for Google to find, index and deliver in search results.

If your content is amazing, people will read it and talk about it on Twitter, their own blogs, and so on. This conversation not only boosts word-of-mouth buzz about you, but it also creates more incoming links to your content. More incoming links mean more ways for people to find your content across the web and higher search rankings from Google.

Coming Full Circle
Your social media participation cannot be one-sided.  You need to focus on building relationships, getting on people’s radar screens, and indirectly marketing yourself, your brand, and/or your business. Remember, quality trumps quantity, so don’t spread yourself too thin. Organic growth of quality followers will deliver the best long-term growth results. Every day that you wait to join the online conversation is a missed opportunity.

What do you think about these points to begin your mission to build a solid online brand?  What would you add, change or delete?

Where Are Your Customers?


I ran across a great post by Jacob Morgan with Chess Media Group  that was produced just a little over a month ago.   If I’m able to accurately convey his point, his approach to convincing prospects to engage social media goes something like this: 

“If I told you that a majority of your customers and prospects interacted  in the social media space, would you invest in having a presence there?”

“But what if I told you that you would never know you made a single direct dollar off of any of those customers and prospects, but you knew for a fact  that they were still there – would you still invest?”

Take a step back and imagine how you might really react.  Would you decide not to go into that space?  Of course not.

For small to medium-sized businesses, the sense of urgency continues to grow as social media spreads into many new sectors of communications (and our lives). But in comparison to the massive undertakings of large companies in the social sphere, how does anyone know where to begin to enter the same space successfully?

Here’s a disconnect.  Small businesses generally do not have internal marketing/pr/media departments.  And if they do, it’s often one employee that is trying to represent them all simultaneously.  Resources are more precious for the small business owner.  What will motivate the decision makers to integrate social media into every aspect of their departmental plans?

I’d be curious as to your experiences on how you’ve managed to really successfully help the small business owner use social media strategically – and affordably.  You insights will be helpful to many, so post away!

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!

%d bloggers like this: