Sunday, December 9, 2012

4 Tips to More Entertaining Social Media

 In his blog post The Social Content Conundrum , Oracle's Mike Stiles helped me synthesize a jumble of thoughts I have had rattling around in my head since my interview with an entertainment brand this week.  Mike's post is about the importance of being entertaining in content.

Many of you know I am a former comedian.  But in my corporate life, this is not something I integrated into my toolkit.  In fact, it was recommended by many that I remove it from my LinkedIn profile while searching for a new job.  I was glad I didn't.   I have made some contacts and had interviews as a result of it.

This week I interviewed for a position with a popular entertainment brand (think television, internet, events, products, and more.)  The VP I interviewed with was very different than the typical corporate VP.  He didn't nod and yes me to death. He really knew his stuff at the most detailed level.  And he gave me time.  He took more than an hour of his time with me to explore my fit for the position despite a family crisis going on that day and his own reservations about my fit for the company.  His biggest concern was that as a result of my post-comedy career in corporate America, I wouldn't know how to fail.  Yes.  His idea of the right candidate is someone who would go to the edge and fall off the edge if they had to. Imagine a job where your creativity is encouraged like that?

He's right. At my last job, failing wasn't an option.  So I racked up successes.  Sometimes that meant playing it safe.  I won't say I never pushed the envelope because many of my successes were due to thinking outside the box and approaching problems from a new angle, developing new ways of working to increase efficiency, improve results and reduce cost. That is what I was measured on.

When I moved into Social Media, I tried to push the edge a little bit.  In one example,  The Onion poked fun of a sophisticated technology marketed by the company.  The Onion piece was very funny.  It was not personal.  The Onion is an equal opportunity disparaging news source, and makes fun of every one of the company's competitors in other stories.  What makes The Onion piece so funny?  As with most humor, it was a magnification of a real perception and someone finally had the nerve to call it out.  It made clear to me what others hear when technology companies communicate.  It also received over 9K social likes and shares. The people likely to have shared or viewed the video would be those most interested in the technology because of the underlying truth that the company was communicating in buzzwords rather than in a way that was connecting with our target audience.  This piece would not have been funny to those outside of technology or those who do not purchase B2B technology solutions.

The Onion presented us with a giant opportunity to improve the perception that others had but weren't voicing and the Onion voicing it resonated with them.

My recommendation was to have our experts on the topic interview an onion about its experience with the technology and leverage the video.  I wrote a comical script in response.  It included the accurate information and message about the technology presented clearly without the corporate speak the Onion had rightly spotted and exaggerated in the video.  It included a strong call-to-action.  The Onion provided an opportunity for us to entertain and inform the right audience.  Responding as I suggested would have presented the company as much more bold, confident, helpful, and hip and likely have drawn a larger audience than we had seen in the B2B space.

Many who "get it" in terms of social media were very supportive of my idea.  But how do you take a giant corporation from playing it safe to hedging their bets on an entertainment factor?  How do you get executive buy-in from those who refuse to participate in social themselves and in fact see it as another communications channel to push messages through?  I let it drop.  I played it safe.

Safe doesn't go viral. So I have come up with four tips for social practitioners in getting out of the comfort zone when the right opportunity strikes.  I'll be ready next time, will you?

1. Do it now.  Apologize later.
2. You Snooze, You Lose.  Save for a Rainy Day.   Set aside some social budget for immediate action on an unknown opportunity that may present itself  - social is real time.
3. Monitor and Monetize.  If you go out on the ledge, you need to show the payoff  immediately.
4. Don't Launch Your Rockets Before They are Built.  Keep it quiet until it takes off successfully.  If you invite everyone to watch it fly, they will watch it explode if it doesn't work.

I almost included a Tip 5 "Have your resume ready" - but you will never need it.  If it doesn't work, no one is going to see it.   If it does work, no one is going to be holding you accountable. They will all be taking credit.

Have you ever taken a big risk in publishing something outside of the comfort zone for your organization?  Tell us about it in the comments below.  Are you still happier in the safety zone?  What makes you stay there? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

3 Steps to Better Lead Qualification for Marketers

Lead qualification is a skill only a few marketers seem to have mastered.  While seeking higher volume returns on their efforts, marketing campaigns become a numbers game where more is better. Like ice cream - more leads are only better temporarily.  Too much ice cream makes you fat and slows you down.  Trust me. I love ice cream.  Too many leads can have the same impact - especially too many of the wrong leads.

My first job after college was in sales - disguised as admissions - for a business skills/secretarial school.  My role was to go into high schools and deliver presentations on interviewing skills, writing resumes and choosing a career.  For this service, high schools allowed us to spend 5 minutes pitching the school, and have each student fill out a card with contact information.  Then we were supposed to throw the whole batch of cards at our telemarketing team to call that evening.

 Lead Qualification is More Important than Lead Generation
This whole process didn't make sense to me.  So I experimented.  I began asking students when filling out the cards to put a star on top of the card if they thought that the school I represented was something they were considering as a next step after high school graduation.  Each day I would bring in my stack of 150+ cards and put those that had a star on them at the top of the pile.  I would give them to one specific telemarketer who I trained in my system.  Her goal was to reach each of the stars and schedule them for an interview with me.  It didn't matter to me if she called any of the others - though she often had plenty of time to shake one or two additional appointments from my cards.

Within a year, I had tripled enrollments from my territory.  The telemarketers prioritized my leads.  I didn't waste their time calling leads that would never convert.  They had more success. They made more money.  Because I was considerate of their time - they always scheduled the most qualified interviews with me, and didn't waste my time.  I got better bonuses.

Over the next year I got more sophisticated and would leave 5 minutes at the end of class to allow students who were truly interested to gather as a smaller group and ask questions. I took notes and passed these on to the telemarketer.  Things like "money is a concern" or "no one in the family has ever gone beyond high school" or "parents really want this student to go to a 4 year school."  Then I began to develop strategies for common concerns.  We had a degree program that allowed you to transfer credits to a 4 year school and sometimes that was very helpful to parents who were having trouble convincing a student they should attend college at all.  Scholarships and financial aid were available through the school, but I would also contact the high school to find out what kind of options they had to support students in pursuit of higher education.  At the time, many schools had scholarship dollars available specifically targeted to students pursuing secretarial skills.  I helped students connect to these opportunities.  I had lots of extra time to do this because I wasn't spending time with students with no real interest in the school.

I also started spending more time where the right students spent their time.  When I visited high school, I visited classrooms with lots of students who would never be pursuing this type of education.  But there were many clubs and organizations that catered to this type of student.  So I became a judge at Distributive Education conferences or a speaker for Future Secretaries organizations.  I also spoke to groups of women who after raising families were ready to rejoin the workforce and needed to develop skills to make a successful transition.  This was a better use of my time than to spend hours speaking to classrooms full of ivy-bound students who took a couple of business courses to help with future term papers.

Gamification in 1985
Later I developed a game for students.  It was a board game and would take them from their first interview with me right through graduation - with lots of stops along the way - from meeting with financial aid, to high school graduation, to the day they sent in their enrollment fee, to their first job interview through the school's placement office, equipped with all the skills the school would help them develop over 1 or 2 years, to their first paycheck.    It worked.  What I gave them was a project plan with all the steps defined for their success.  I continued to place more students in the school than any other recruiter.  But more importantly, these were the right students.  They were the students who chose this path on their own. My job was only to help coach them through the steps to achieve their own dreams.  It wasn't selling. It was enabling them to get what they wanted.  They became the ideal graduates.  Loyal, happy customers provide many referrals.

Sales Enablement Means "Don't Waste the Valuable Time of Your Sales Force"
I was fortunate to experience marketing and sales in a single job early in my career.  It taught me that as marketers, our role is to enable our sales force to enable our future customers to realize their goals and become happy and loyal.  To be successful, you need to do 3 things:

1.  Identify the places you find the right prospects and spend your time there.
2.  Provide potential prospects with a clear call-to-action that further qualifies them by being specific and screens out the wrong prospects.
3. Provide the paths to enable your sales people to enable your prospects to become happy customers.

If you use this approach you will use your time more wisely, enable your sales force to convert leads to customers, and have a greater impact on your company's bottom line.

I'll try to write a future post on how this applies to social media.  I've seen social media practitioners get all excited about how many people took a call-to-action on a tweet that included a celebrity name. The celebrity had no connection with their target audience.  So, are people interested in the celebrity really leads? Wouldn't it have been better to have a fraction of those people who have a genuine interest in the product as responses?

How do you enable your sales force to convert more leads to happy customers?  Would love you to share your experience here so we can all learn from it.

Now off to Portland for me.  I am attending the Maine Internet Marketing Meetup.

Monday, November 19, 2012

6 Steps to Writing Great Titles to Help Readers Find Your Content

Writing a great title is arguably the most important part of content optimization.  You must make it obvious to your target audience that they will benefit from your content, or you will not ever get them to your call-to-action.

Whether you are write blog posts, articles, tweets, email, or post videos, photos, or presentations there are 6 criteria that, when used correctly, result in 4X improvement in views to your content.  With 4X the views you end up with more people to convert and - if you write titles correctly - more of the right people engaged with your content. I observe and test the characteristics of high and low performing blog posts.   In doing this, I hypothesized and tested some criteria that, when followed, showed an average of 4X higher page views than when the criteria were not present in a title.

The 6 steps are: 

  1. Customer problem focus
  2. Customer relevance
  3. Customer keyword
  4. Time-to-value proposition
  5. Specificity
  6. Use of a number when appropriate 

Step 1: Customer Problem Focus

If you were searching for tips on dental hygiene, which post would you be more likely to click on? 

  1. Big Smile Company has the Best Toothpaste for your Dental Health
  2. 5 Tips for Better Dental Checkups

If Big Smile Company wants you to read what they write, they would be much wiser to create a post with a title like #2.  At the bottom of that post or even somewhere within it they can include something like "Big Smile Company's toothpaste was named by the Big Dental Association to be the most effective at preventing tooth decay. Try some!"   They could even include a link to a coupon and to their website.  They will be more likely to have readers take them up on their offer when they can get people to open the content in the first place, by providing something of immediate value and including an offer to deeper engagement.

What does this mean for you?  There's more available content than ever before. You are competing for attention.  Help your customer identify with your content by relating it to what they are searching for.  If they want content about your company they will go right to your website and look up what they need.   When they search Google or thumb through Twitter feeds on a smart phone, they are more likely to read content relevant to a problem they are having than they are to read what you want to tell them.  Start with the customer problem, help them begin to solve it, and then they might stick around to find out how you can help solve their problem further with your products or services.
Step 2: Customer Relevance

Expanding on the Big Smile Company example above, let’s suppose the toothpaste is for people who have sensitive teeth.  We need to get that into the title, too.  Because if you have sensitive teeth and can choose between the following titles, which would you choose?

  1. 5 Tips for Better Dental Checkups
  2. 5 Tips for Better Dental Checkups for People with Sensitive Teeth

That's relevance.  What that will do is help to assure the people who read your post are more likely to benefit from the offer. That approach will improve your conversion rate, too.  Plus, it assures that the right customer, your target audience, will prioritize your post over the other search results on dental hygiene.

Personas are another good way to provide relevance.  If you consider the different audiences you are trying to reach and segment your content to reach each of them, you will help them connect to your content.  Here are a few examples of personas the Big Smile Company may want to address and how to reach them:

  • 3 Critical Tips Dental Hygienists Can Use to Improve Patient Dental Health
  • A Dentist's Guide to Treating Sensitive Teeth
  • Parents: 4 Ways to Help Your Children Develop Good Oral Hygiene

Each of these titles provides relevance both by addressing the persona and providing relevant information each persona might find within the post.  These titles signal the right audience and provide relevance to the specific customer it tries to address.

Step 3: Customer Keyword

If your blog post about dental hygiene has great content such as tips for when to floss and includes an embedded video to demonstrate the right angle to hold the toothbrush, you will be tempted to let everyone knows that Big Smile Company came up with this really great content.  Let your content do the talking for you and leave the company out of the title.  Choose keywords based on customer relevancy vs. company relevancy.

Which would you be more likely to view?

  1. Big Smile Company's Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth Brings You 5 Steps to Better Dental Checkups
  2. 5 Steps to Better Dental Checkups for People with Sensitive Teeth
If the title includes so much about the company and the specific toothpaste customers might think it is an advertisement.  I love my DVR.  I don't usually choose to watch ads except for Super Bowl Sunday when I might see something fun.  If I look at a web page and things flash at me or include a company name, my eyes have learned to avoid those items while I try to look for valuable information.  Marketers might like ads.  Not everyone shares that curiosity, particularly when they are at work and are busy. And not when there are so many content options available to them as digital communications channels now enable.

Maybe you hope that Big Smile Company is a frequently used keyword in search.  More likely, though, your potential customer is searching for something relevant to their problem.  If they wanted Big Smile Company, they would likely want to search and find your website and products rather than read your blog post about brushing and flossing. Your blog post is to attract those people whose problems you can solve but who aren’t necessarily looking for your company to solve them.  Your call-to-action can help them find your company and products as a solution to their problem.

Is the second title perfect?  It may need customer keyword tuning.  You can go to Google Adwords and look for relevant terms that people are searching for. Maybe there is a comparable term for Dental Checkups with less competition but not much less use.  Maybe that’s Dental Visits or Dental Hygiene. Using a tool like Google Adwords helps you find the best customer keywords.

If you use the words your customers are searching for rather than your brand name, your content will find its way into the right, most relevant search results. Strike a balance between search volume and competition.  Only use search terms that are a natural fit for what you are writing about.

Step 4: Time Value Proposition

This may be the most important criteria.  For videos or other content requiring more of a time investment it is by far the most important criteria. 

What is time value proposition?  Most readers, including you, calculate this without even knowing it.  There are triggers that tell us if content could be time consuming but not give us the answers we seek.  But sometimes we are willing to view content that appears a little less relevant if there are clues that it won’t be a big time suck. Other times, we will invest more time to content we perceive as having higher value and greater relevance to our needs.  You do this every day when you go to your email inbox.  Each of us has different ideas of what will have value based on our needs or the job we do.

Imagine being new at your job in content creation at The Big Smile Company.  Your job is to know what all the departments are doing and find great stories to tell for the company.  On your first day, you receive 500 emails.  You’ll never get through all of them.  So which of the following emails would you prioritize to read?

  • Update from the floss team
  • Floss Monthly Email: November, 2012
  • Today's 5 Top Stories About Floss

You may not be sure what #1 is about.  #2 might take a really long time to dig through, and content that could be a month old is potentially stale.  But #3 gives you subtle cues that this content is timely, relevant, valuable, and it provides a way for you to estimate your own time investment.  The fact they tell you there are 5 stories suggests to you that they have organized their thoughts and that the content might be easy to scan.  They have prioritized it for you.  The other titles might have the exact same content inside, or even more relevant content. The other titles do not let you know, before you open the content, that they have respected your time.

Time Value Propositions are important in all your communications.  If you master the art of time value proposition you will see improvements in engagement, not only in views to content that you title, but to your emails (from subject lines) and tweets.

When your customer scrolls through search results, blog posts or videos or twitter, your content will stand out if you provide a balance between value and time investment.
Think about the scales of justice.  If you have content that will be timely to consume, you have to have a killer value proposition to balance that scale.  If you have content with less of a value proposition, you need to provide signals that it will be very quick for your reader/viewer to digest.

Some examples of showing respect for a reader's time are listed below.  When customers see titles with these triggers, they know that you have done your best to organize the content into easy to consume chunks and they will be more willing to trade their time to absorb it. These triggers give readers a subconscious way put the time and value on opposite ends of the scale and determine if this is a must read or time bleed.

  • 3 Tips to Save/Avoid/Improve
  • 5 Steps to Better/Stronger/Faster
  • Pros and Cons/Guide to/How to
  • 3 Minutes to Improve/Increase/Learn
  • Increase Your X using 1 Easy Tool
  • Learn to Save X in 5 Minutes (or 5 Easy Steps)
Step 5: Specificity

Specificity looks a lot like Relevance and a little like Time Value Proposition.  But there are enough differences that Specificity is important to call out separately.  It acts like a second check for both of those criteria and potentially fills some gaps.  Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Weight Loss: Take the Steps You Need to Succeed
  2. Weight Loss: 5 Steps to Losing Baby Weight after Pregnancy
In both examples, “weight loss” is a relevant keyword and “steps” offers some time value indicator.  But in example #2 the specificity achieved by adding “baby weight” and “after pregnancy” lets the real target audience know this content is relevant to them.  Specifying the number of steps “5” helps improve the time value proposition.  

You don't want your title to be too broad.  Specificity increases relevancy and makes your content the right content for the right audience.  It helps them find you.  Here's an example likely to be relevant to those of you developing content.  If you were to see the three titles below appear in a search result, which would you choose to read?  Wouldn't you be disappointed to view #1 and find that it is all about improving how fast your web pages load? Specificity is what will get you to the right content for you.  And it will help you get the right readers to the content you publish.

  1. 3 ways to improve your website
  2. 3 ways to improve content on your website
  3. 3 ways to improve call-to-action conversion on your website

I recommend that you review once for Relevance, once for Time Value Proposition, and then again for Specificity.  See how close you can get your title for your true target audience.  If 20 people turn away and just 1 reads, you will already know you have the right one. The others will respect you for not wasting their time. Just watch your conversion rate improve.

 Step 6: Use of a Number

Search engines love them. They often indicate organization of thoughts.  Digits take up less space than the words that represent them. That’s all.

 Follow my blog (here to the left) or follow me on twitter @deniseburns to keep informed of my latest tips for optimizing your content.  

Do you need me to optimize for you or teach your team to optimize?  Check out my LinkedIn Profile – I’m available.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Why Do You Tweet? 6 Strategies for More Effective Tweets

Sometimes we are so eager to share information we just tweet.  Or something someone else posts is of interest to us and as content curators we share with our audience because we hope they will find it relevant.

How often do you audit your Twitter account?

  • Do you have too few followers, but lots of tweets?  This is a problem with Reach
  • Do you have plenty of followers, but not many re-tweets or mentions?  This is a problem with Influence.
  • Are you not tweeting enough to keep a following interested?  This is a problem with Frequency.
  • Do you only tweet when you want people to act?  This is a problem with Relationship.
  • Are you not getting anyone to click on your links?  This is a problem with Engagement and Conversion.
 I've identified 6 primary objectives for tweeting, and included some strategies you can apply to crafting tweets to meet each objective.

1.  Drive Traffic to Content (engage and convert):  Make sure your tweet includes a time/value proposition. What value will you be providing your reader for their investment in time.  If you are doing this and still not getting people to click, maybe the time/value balance is out of whack - too much time investment perceived for too little value.  Also consider where you place your link within the tweet. I have observed that when the link is at the end of the tweet, you are more likely to get high re-tweets but lower clicks.  Consider putting your link closer to the beginning of the tweet.  Also, make sure your selfish calls to action are limited to 1 in 4 tweets.  3 in 4 tweets can include links, but 2 of those must be generous links retweeting or sharing for others.

2. Grow Your Reach:  Move your link to the end of the tweet.  Consider using "Please Retweet" but avoid over-using it.  I would not use it more than 5% of the time.  So select the content with the highest value to your intended audience.  Spell out "Retweet"instead of " RT."  The results will be worth it.

3. Increase Your Influence:  You need to get mentioned.  Engage your audience. Ask their opinions.  Ask for feedback.  Ask for examples.  They will be more likely to mention you. This is also a good strategy for improving your reach.  When you are mentioned, their followers will see you and see the conversation taking place. They may decide to be part of that conversation and follow you.

4.  Network:  Are you looking to initiate new relationships?  Retweet people who don't follow you. And be sure to thank people who retweet or mention you.

5. Develop Relationships: If you look at the people who you follow and those that are following you, and you don't know who they are or what they are about, you need to do some more work.  Relationships are about 2-way communication and that means listening.  Spend time to scroll through tweets and develop an understanding of your following and those you follow. Then, interact!  Retweet them. Mention them. Thank them for the same. Mention them when you pass on content you truly believe they will be interested in based on earlier discussions (not content that you want them to be interested in - rather content that made you think of them)

6. Strengthen Relationships:  In his book It's Not Just Who You Know,  Tommy Spaulding  talks about "reactive syndrome" in today's business world where networking doesn't move beyond immediate need.  But he reflects on the strongest benchmarks of his success came from helping others.  I strongly recommend this book for all social media practitioners.  It captures not only the importance of building meaningful relationships, but strategies to enhance your relationship-building abilities.  That's what Social Media is all about.   Social Media increases your opportunity and ability to provide good service to customers, because you want to help them. That's what relationships are all about -  having people's best interest at heart, not when you need them - but when you have an opportunity to serve them.

Can you think of other strategies for tweets that may be missing from this post?  Please share them here in comments so we can all benefit from your expertise.  Follow/Subscribe to my posts for more Twitter and other social best practices to come.

Want to hire me to analyze and make strategic recommendations for your social media programs?  Check out Denise Burns on LinkedIn.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Social Media: You Might Be Listening. Are You Hearing?

I went to dinner with a bunch of my Mom's friends Saturday night .  They were here in Kennebunk for a "Quilters Weekend" and I really enjoy my visit with them each year.  We went to a couple of craft fairs and then had dinner at Lucas on 9.

These ladies are amazing.  Each of them has a project they are working on, often to help others. One of them makes fantastic hats for women who lose hair to cancer, another makes wonderful blankets to send home with newborns to needy families.  They make quilts to donate to charity raffles.  Each of them has different gifts but they have a common giant heart.

They are also retired.  Their ears aren't what they once were.  Here's a snip of conversation I caught from the table Saturday night.

Person A: The waitress is very busy.
Person B: Yes she's very pretty
Person C: It is! Very pretty in here with all the lights.

This made me think of the listening we do with Social Media.  There are multiple tools that help us listen- Radian6, Crimson Hexagon, eCairn and more.

But it really takes a human to validate accuracy and ensure that we hear the messages.

I've often heard "can't all this be automated?"  The answer is yes - and no.  We can automate the process of identifying conversations.  We can automate the categorizing of those conversations. 

But hearing and participating in or responding to conversations requires human intervention, judgement, and action.

The most interesting of the tools to me is one that I have not yet used but recently saw a demonstration set up by Kathleen Fetters, a Chief Listening Officer I have partnered with on several projects.

Crimson Hexagon allows  human intervention to teach the algorithmic intelligence how to understand and interpret your customers and your business. But the human will always be needed for interpretation at some level.

Think about categorizing certain words.  The word "sick" means "in poor health" to the quilting ladies.  Friday night I had dinner with my kids. To them, "sick" means "awesome!" 

Relationships fuel business.  Two-way communication fuels relationships.  Do you really want to completely automate something so critical to your business?  Use automation to improve your listening - absolutely.  But remember that communication is about relationships.  And relationships are between people.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jimmy Fallon Calls Viewers to Action for Hurricane Relief

Last night I donated $10 to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief.

Why? Because Jimmy Fallon asked me to.

OK - I love Jimmy Fallon. He's not only talented but he was raised right.  Back in the mid-90s I worked with him.  His Dad used to drive him to gigs.  I gave them a different way to drive home to shave an hour off their commute.  Jimmy sent me a Thank You note.  He was 16 and already writing crazy Thank You notes.  (I saved it)  Jimmy Fallon gives back.  He uses his success as a way to improve the world.  He remembers the way he was raised.  And he's funny and talented. What's not to love?

But two things had to align for me to act. 

1. I had to be motivated.  Jimmy Fallon asked me to (as a viewer, not as the lady who gave such great directions they warranted a thank you note) and I trust him and respect his own generousity as evident through years of watching him step up to do for others.
2. I had to have the immediate opportunity to act on my motivation.  Had Jimmy Fallon merely given me a web address or a mailing address, I may have jotted it down - or not. I may have acted - or not.  This work of looking for work keeps me very busy.  And fairly broke.  So I probably would have lost the impulse or reasoned or maybe I am giving myself too much credit. I would just forget about it.

The best calls to action have the following attributes:

1. Clear
2. Specific
3. Customer/Reader/Viewer focused
4. Drives to the right action
5. Delivers in the right format
6. Includes a link to a web page for more information
7. Has a balanced time/value proposition (the lower the value to the viewer/reader , the simpler and faster it must be to do)
8. Fosters a sense of urgency
9. Provides immediate opportunity.
10. Begin a relationship.

Jimmy Fallon briefly described NY after Hurricane Sandy and pointed out the contributions of so many fire, police, early responders, healthcare workers. (1,2,3)

I felt appropriately guilty and useless and in need of a way to feel better.(4)

Then he clearly articulated how those of us at home in our pajamas can do something.  He provided 2 options complete with a demonstration. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

For those of you I have made feel appropriately guilty and useless and in need of a way to feel better, take our your cell phone.

Now text the word Redcross to the number 90999.  Press send.  $10 will be added to your next phone bill and will be directed to the Red Cross. (10)

You will get a message asking you to confirm.  Type yes and hit send.

The best calls-to-action also inspire a continued relationship and that means participation.  If I tell you, and you tell 2 friends and they tell 2 friends, we not only re-enact the old Faberge shampoo commercial from the 70s, we raise a little bit of money for the American Red Cross to continue their Hurricane Relief efforts.

One more time:

Text the word Redcross to 90999. You will get a message asking you to confirm. Type yes and hit send.  What could be easier than that?  You'll barely notice the extra $10 on your phone bill.  But you will have done some good for someone else without having to get off your couch.

Are you looking for someone to come up with great calls-to-action for your organization or business?  I'm looking for a job!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Are You Stuck in the Loop? Develop Social Media and Content Strategies in Context of Past, Present and Future

Just went to see Looper.  If you haven't seen it and are hoping to soon, this post may be a mild spoiler alert - I won't give the ending but might give away some of the plot.  You will have to stop reading now and miss out on my golden nugget of an observation about how Looper relates to the impact of Social Media on your business.

In Looper, time travel has not yet been invented.  But it has been invented and abolished 40 years into the future.  As such, it is only used by mobsters. They use it to dispose of bodies.  Instead of burying them under the proverbial cement, they send them back in time to a specific location, and have employees called "Loopers" who are from the earlier time -  small time thugs who make a lot of money for each assignment.  The Loopers await the arrival of the body at a specific location and time and shoot them, and burn them leaving no evidence.  No trace is left of the victim (who may not yet be born so is it really a death?)

One day,  older versions of the loopers themselves start showing up to be killed by their younger selves.  This is called "closing the loop." (I could not figure out why they didn't give your old self to a different looper, but they always sent you yourself,  a danger of not examining data, interpreting it objectively, and realigning your process I suppose.)  When you "close your loop" you get a big payday and get to retire and just go live your life until you become that older self.  You are aware of when you will be killed because you remember being your younger self and killing your older self.

So our hero(s) Joe - played subtle and brilliant - by both Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (I love the diner scene between younger Joe and older Joe) - doesn't close his loop when he arrives.  The rest of the movie is a chase to basically kill himself while avoiding getting killed himself for failing the first time. 

But the real plot is about the dysfunctional choices he made in life and his career while "in the loop".  It also examines those moments where your choices can change everything, those few wake-up calls each of us is given to change the direction of our lives.  I kept wondering why he didn't prevent the future collision somewhere in his past.

It made me think about how in business we can get trapped in loops of dysfunction.  Our past dictates our future, our future traps us in our present. 

Data doesn't show us everything, but it can provide us a map. We have to ask our data questions - and these questions need to be contextual from multiple lenses.  The context needs to include questions about how the past and the future align in the present.  Instead of asking ourselves "Where does social media fit in the marcom mix or how does it contribute to the funnel" we should ask ourselves "What does our business look like now with social media as a way to amplify what we need to do? What is the new role of advertising? What is the new role of web? What is the new role of email?  What is the new role of support?" and most importantly "How does each role align in a new world?"

Keeping the Past in Perspective

Application to the present requires context.  Why do we do what we do?  What do we do that has value still?  What is the value to our customers?  How can we help to guide customers (problem solving content investigators) toward solutions for their problems?  What is inherently true?  What doesn't change while everything else evolves significantly? Why do we still exist?

For marketing communications, the answer is content.

Good content is good content - past, present and future - content should inform, educate, entertain, provoke and evoke.  It no longer should fight for attention from everyone. It should command attention from the right people.
Great content should be relevant and valuable to the intended demographic.  It should be presented in the best and fastest way for the intended absorber of the content.
Great marketing content should inspire an action and make a relationship available to build trust and for  nurturing.  Because great business is great relationships. Great marketing content is a map leading to a treasure.
Great marketers are people who build great relationships through content. This could not be a better time for great marketers because the tools are all available through web and social media to build excellent relationships through content.. Great relationships require trust.  Trust requires two-way communication.  Listening is critical in building trust and relationships.  Social Media provides the tools that support two-way conversations.

 New Social Media Tools Provide Challenges for the Present and Opportunities for the Future

Before smartphones,  I read anything available every down moment of the day. Cereal boxes, magazines in waiting rooms, newspapers strewn round coffee shops... When is the last time you did that?  When in a waiting room I am either laptop open or smartphone in hand catching up on twitter, facebook, googling movie times or searching for a new doctor with a shorter waiting time.

Digital content puts the content consumer in charge of everything he or she looks at.  It gives users immediate access to problem solving of every type.  Customers direct themselves using keywords. They have hundreds, thousands, millions, more options to connect. The content you are making available is just a tiny fraction of their options.

To compete in the present, you need to make every message you develop:

1. Findable
2. Obvious
3. Relevant
4. Specific
5. Helpful
6. Time Saving or Value Creating
7. Inspiring
8. Connected
9. Reactable

The savvy consumer's eyes have learned to avoid advertising.  Distaste flares when obvious copywritten catchy phrases assault them.  People seek content written by people, not by brands.   People have relationships with people.  The people they have relationships with may be part of a brand.  But it is the people that add up to the brand, not vice versa. A brand is a perception that occurs at the intersection between its products, partners, people and customers.  To do it well, you need to be there with more than just good content.  You need to be there ready to listen and build trust. 

To compete in the future, you need to be ready to create a relationship with your customers.

You can do this with a strong content, empowered people and social media strategy that is about your people developing relationships with people who are customers, future customers, influencers and sometimes innocent bystanders in a way that is reflective of your brand.

Do you need help making your content stand above the crowd or building a social media strategy?  I know just the person who can help.  Me!  You can view my LinkedIn profile here, or email me at

Fast Response from Time Warner Using Twitter for Support

Hurricane Sandy had me restless on Sunday night and early Monday morning.  Finally I turned on the TV.  Moments later I got the dreaded blasts from the Emergency Broadcast System that are usually followed by the promise that "This is only a test.  If this were a real emergency, the blasts would be followed by a message."  Only there was no message.  No declaration of an emergency.  No declaration of a test.  Only silence after the blasts.  Even my television programming was silenced.  For a long time.  I shut off the TV.  I was still restless. I turned the TV back on. Within a few minutes of doing so, again, the dreaded blasts.  Again, silence.  Again, no sound on my television program.  Call me Pavlov's pooch...but I tried again.  Same result.  Clearly the person conducting the test had fallen asleep mid-test or been abducted.  So I picked up my smartphone and started reading Twitter. 

That's when I saw it.  A tweet from Time Warner, my cable company, @TWCable_Neast, about the emergency preparation they were taking for Hurricane Sandy.  So, I sent them a tweet about the Emergency Broadcast System problem.  They responded to my tweet quickly.  About 10 minutes later sound came back to my television. 

So, I don't know if my tweet alerted the Emergency Broadcast System to the problem or not.  What I do know is that my cable company was responsive.  Very responsive.  I've watched their twitter stream over the past 2 days.  It is well managed.  It provides real-time response.  It provides updates about outages and keeps followers informed as to what they are working on to respond to problems resulting from the hurricane.

Are you using Twitter to communicate to your customers?  Or are you, like Time Warner, using Twitter to develop a dialogue with your customers?  If you are communicating to them without responding to them when they communicate to you, you are diminishing your brand.

Hats off to Time Warner for a job well done in terms of optimizing the brand through social media (not to mention to the ongoing response to the outages caused by Sandy.)

If you need help optimizing your brand through social media, I know someone who would be great at helping you develop a strategy.  Me!  Check out my LinkedIn profile or email me at

Friday, October 19, 2012

Looking for a Social/Web Analyst?

I love my job.   Or is it, loved. I was part of a large restructuring WFR on Monday.  My whole team was impacted and we were part of 43 positions in our organization gone.  I have never been without a job and never been a casualty of restructuring.  I expected to feel worse.  Instead, I feel optimistic, strong, enthusiastic, excited about what's next for me.  And right now, I am feeling a lot of love.

Here's what I love.

1.Collaborating with an incredible and talented bunch of social media ambassadors, editors, partners, vendors, consultants and business stakeholders. I've learned from my very talented colleagues every day of the past 13 years.

2. Making a difference.  Just over the past year, insights I've had and recommendations I've made using data and digging in to find cause/effect has allowed us to increase the impactfulness of our blogging program 7X.  We've been able to double coverage with only a 5% increase in resources by focusing on 10 key optimization criteria in blog posts that help measurably improve views, conversions and search optimization.

3. Social, Web, and Email as instruments for measurable (and thus instantly improveable) communications that offer instant response from targeted audience. Communication is instantly impactful when done right, and each successful (and unsuccessful) communication can studied for leverageable insights to be tested and adopted as best practice.  And I am experienced in making all 3 more impactful.

4. Current and former colleagues, old and new friends, and family who have reached out and created introductions, identified opportunties and been so incredibly supportive.  I am humbled and blessed.

5.  The Unknown. I always loved a good mystery.  Either I will land on my feet or grow wings and fly.  If not this, it will be better than this!

If you are aware of any positions that may be a good fit for me, email me at  Or check out my LinkedIn Profile.

Stay tuned. I will have some free time for blogging for a bit!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Social Media Best Practices for Editorial and Content Optimization

For the last several years I have been developing best practices for social media content optimization using data to identify and test specific criteria that drives better results from social media efforts.  I've decided to begin blogging about these best practices so that more social practitioners can benefit, and to hear your experiences and ideas.

Using some of the practices I've identified, the 200 bloggers supported by my program and other web content owners (my former role) have:
  • increased blog page views up to 7X
  • optimized web and social content to enhance SEO and in many cases received page 1 google placement
  • improved call-to-action conversions up to 5X
I've developed maps for tweeps to help them identify the purpose of the tweets they write and craft the tweet to meet the purpose.  The twitter accounts I have worked with have a combined following that now total over 150K have delivered over 7M twitter impressions on a single campaign.

The most recent campaign I worked on, visitors to the campaign landing page coming from blog posts we optimized drove 2X the conversions than other visitors to the site and spent 5X earned time on page than traffic from other sources.

On the personal side - I live in a beautiful coastal southern Maine community and have raised my 2 nephews now embarking on careers of their own.  I enjoy going to the gym, reading, writing, and travelling.

I'm a former stand-up comedian so I hope you'll be equally enlightened and entertained.  Looking forward to sharing and hearing from you about practices you are finding beneficial in optimizing content and measuring social media.