Archive for January, 2010

What Makes An Effective Corporate Video?

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video on your website worth?

Plenty more. Or a lot less.

It depends on the video. And the website.

If you’re an individual “citizen” blogger, you may be fine with something that has a homemade look. People will often give you a pass. They’ll accept that you’re not a big operation with deep pockets to invest in high-end video.

The quality of your video reflects on your entire company

If you’re a business, people may still give you a pass. Only in a different way. They’ll think, “Gee, how unprofessional. I wonder if the rest of the company is up to snuff.” So they pass you by and head to a competitor’s site.

A slapdash video is a poor reflection of your entire company.

Interview with video pro: Melissa Shusterman, director, D4 Digital

Melissa Shusterman, director of digital video and web communications at D4 Digital, a division of the Philadelphia-based D4 Creative agency, knows how to create professional internet videos that communicate your value proposition in engaging fashion.  Formerly a producer who’s worked with MTV, VH1 and FX, she’s also noted as an innovator of episodic web video.

Melissa and I recently had a nice chat. Here are excerpts from our conversation.

Use of video online is getting a lot more popular. How do you see that trend going forward?

Melissa: YouTube is the fastest growing audience online. And its audience is far beyond the under-21 age group… Yet YouTube is filled with crap. There’s a lot of nonsense. You’re seeing a dog sit, or a baby cry, or a person rant. It’s amazing because people watch it. The power of receiving your information through someone’s mouth, or moving pictures, is incredible.

Why is that?

Melissa: Because we are human and we like to feel like we are spoken to directly and that we’re connecting with someone’s body language. Their eyes. Their opinion. It almost feels like a conversation, even in a video that doesn’t have a person looking right at you. Take that guy who talks about wine but screams at you. He’s a prime example. Why would people want to listen to that? Because instead of reading a PDF about the top four wines with a picture of a wine bottle, which is highly impersonal; you suddenly got to connect with a person who is as passionate about wine as you are.

Many businesses don’t see the need for video. They have a website and they think that’s enough. How do you convince them otherwise?

Melissa: Well, one of our clients, a media company… I told them, “I just Googled your company and looked you up on YouTube, and … there was something that came up with someone cursing with your company name associated with it. It looks like you’re not thinking about that world. But other people are posting about you in that world. So do you want your company to be perceived like that? Because maybe you’re not Googling or YouTubing, but millions of other people are.

So they say… “We already have plenty of video. Why don’t we take the video we have now and stick that up on the web?” Well, that’s for broadcast. We need to film things specifically for internet use.

With certain clients you advocate the use webisodes; a series of short episodic videos. How does the impact of that differ from a TV commercial?

Melissa: With a commercial you have the constraints of 15, 30 or 60 seconds. It’s a more traditional medium to convey a very specific message. When you have webisodes, it’s organic. It can be a continual message that can be woven into something that’s entertaining and informative.

When you watch a commercial it’s an assault at you. They’re great and some are highly entertaining, but they’re very quick. Sometimes you don’t even really know what you are seeing.

When you have a personality, or a character, or a storyline, that’s in two-minute increments for 10 days; or a lifetime; you are getting to know the brand better, You are getting the added value of a longer format and the information that can unfold.

Companies often go with a “talking head” approach on their homepage. Do you think that can still be effective?

Melissa: In the past you would have a talking head and it was about two inches wide and one inch tall.  The players are much broader today. So now maybe it’s taking up a third of the homepage and it’s taking away some the space you used to have for your messages. So instead of having the CEO speak, that video should encompass your messages.

The CEO could tell the messages. What’s the difference with what you’re referring to?

Melissa: Graphic pictures, voiceover and music can convey a compelling message and it can guide people further into your website. Video messaging is now multi-layered and engaging… I can talk about this for hours but the simple thing is, people Google your company. They land on your page. Do they understand what you do, or do they go to the competition?

It’s one of the components of integrated media that’s going to be essential for being current. People do not read. People watch… If it’s people’s first impression of your company, the message doesn’t have to be long. But there should be entertainment value and it needs to be authentic… Pick a genre that fits your company. Possibly documentary style. Or like a sitcom. Whatever fits your clientele.

Are there any common mistakes that you can identify with corporate videos?

Not being up-to-date. You’ve got to stay current. It’s like wearing a bad pair of jeans. When you’re current it shows you’re investing in the future and you’re moving forward as a company. So it’s not something that you just do once.

Anything else?

Things that are too long. People are busy. Keep it short. Even if it’s got humor, because after someone laughs they’re ready to move on.

It’s always about the consumer or the potential consumer. It’s not necessarily about the company. That’s true of all good marketing.

What if a company says they’ll just repurpose commercials? They’re short. What would you tell them?

Melissa: Don’t repackage what you do for broadcast for the internet. People are savvy. The minute they know it’s a commercial you’ve made a mistake. You’ve turned them off… You have a captive audience. If someone is sitting at their computer it’s different than watching TV where they may be on the phone. Walking around. Feeding the kids. Doing sit-ups.  They’re half listening. When someone opens up something and it’s speaking directly to them and you haven’t captured the audience, shame on you.

– Deni Kasrel

What do YOU think of Melissa’s thoughts on what makes for an effective corporate video? Comments welcome.

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Top 6 Usability Tips For Website Design

Posted on January 26, 2010. Filed under: Web User Experience | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a guest post by Ruben Reyes, President of Lyquix, Inc. a Philadelphia-based  IT and web development company. Ruben works hard to help prevent poorly designed websites from ever seeing the light of day and I’m pleased he was kind enough to write this article outlining six important usability tips. Read up and learn from someone who deals with these types of matters on a daily basis.

1. You Are Not The Typical User

This is the first thing you should acknowledge and embrace. Usually, designers, marketing managers, and business owners make design decisions based on their own taste and browsing style. The end result is a website that works well for the person that made the decisions but not necessarily for the audience at large.

The answer is testing. You don’t need to spend a lot of money or make it super scientific. Just find people that have absolutely no interest in your project, like your neighbor who doesn’t understand what your company does, or your aunt. If they look at your website and they don’t get it, you’ve got a sign that it is not evident enough. Ask questions about what people think and LISTEN, don’t be defensive or try to explain. Ask them to perform some simple task; like find out who is the Operations Manager, or how long has the company been in business or what is the phone number, and OBSERVE if the process is smooth or cumbersome.

2. Understand How Users Behave

Users don’t like to read. When presented with a crowded page, or a long article, people just scan it quickly looking for that tiny piece of information or the next link.

Users won’t even scan the whole page: as they read through text they are evaluating if a particular sentence or link seems good enough, and take it. What this means is that people don’t make optimal choices, they just pick the first “good enough” option they find along the way. So if there is a better option a few lines after one that is just “good enough,” they are not going to get to the better option (at least not on the first try).

Users don’t understand how things work or are intended to be used. They just stick to whatever works for them. When I said that they don’t like to read, that includes instructions. You might be surprised how people use your website in ways you never intended it. Have you seen people that type the address of a website in the Google or Yahoo search box? Or that double-click on links? Or that make 10 clicks to get to a page that they can reach in one click?

3. Make Things Obvious

Have you been to a website looking for the company office address and find a link that says “Global Presence”? It makes you wonder if that is the page you are looking for. When something is obvious you don’t have to think to understand it and decide if that is what you want or not. The more people have to think to understand your website, the higher the energy, frustration and time required for them. The principle is simple: if something is difficult to use people will avoid using it.

For this reason you should avoid using fancy terms to denote simple things. Avoid acronyms, especially the ones created by your company. Avoid technical terms that people outside of your profession will not understand. Make buttons look like buttons, and links look like links.

4. Visually Prioritize and Organize

In some cases you need to have pages with lots of information and options. Usually that’s the case for the Home page since it is the entry point of your website. Here is where a GOOD graphic designer can help. Use graphic elements to ensure that there are clear priorities: what is the most important, what is navigation, what is secondary information. Font size, colors, images and movement are tools that can be used to draw the attention of the user to an area of the page. But be aware: you don’t want to get too creative – after so many years people have grown accustomed to expect certain things to be placed in specific locations or look in certain ways. If you put your menu on the right and start underlining text just to be original you will confuse visitors.

5. Avoid Unnecessary Words

If users only scan, don’t want to think, don’t make optimal choices and have very little tolerance to anything that seems difficult or time consuming, then why would you present them with long and useless copy? Avoid unnecessary words in each sentence, avoid unnecessary sentences in each paragraph. Eliminate all the flashy and self-congratulatory language and get straight to the point.

6. “You Are Here”

Websites can be an ocean of pages and information. Unlike in the physical world, we cannot associate things that are located right or left, or 1 mile down the road. However, it is still possible to organize your website in a way that makes sense to the user and enables them to draw a mental map of connections that they can use to navigate easily.

For every single page, make sure that users can easily understand where they are standing. Show the title of the page, highlight in what section you are located, make links to parent pages or the sequence of pages you followed to get there (breadcrumbs), and of course, have links to related pages.

Additional resources

If you want to learn more about usability, here are some great resources:

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition, by Steve Krug

Designing Web Usability, by Jakob Nielsen

AlertBox, www.useit.com/alertbox/, a newsletter on web usability by Jakob Nielsen

So what do you think of Ruben’s top 6 usability tips? Do you have tips of your own to share? Comments welcome.

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Why The Future Of Technology Is Simplicity

Posted on January 21, 2010. Filed under: Mobile Technology, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Do you enjoy trendspotting?

I sure do.

Hence those two recent blog posts: Communications Trends For 2010, Part 1 and Part 2.

It’s time to move on to other topics. But before doing so, I wanted to share one more thought about what’s next.

People who are not technologically inclined will determine the future of technology

This golden nugget was mined during a conversation with Avi Joseph. I was gathering fodder for Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 1). We were discussing how social mobile web applications — geo-tagging, for example — will become more prominent in the coming year. Avi offered this intriguing idea, which really got me thinking:

“If you want to imagine more, just ask a friend who is not so technical what they would like to see in a mobile phone, and like that, you will see the future. When you ask me, it’s not so accurate because we [you and I] are technologic people. What we are using my younger brother is not using… It’s better to ask him, ‘What would you like included in a phone that you don’t have today?’… You need to ask regular people.”

Avi asserted the future of mobile lies in the ability to make its technology easier to use. “People see all the icons and they are afraid. They wonder, ‘If I click on that what will happen?’ ”

It’s not how cool the tool is, but how easy it is to use

I admittedly had my doubts about that last one. I recently got an iPhone and was happy to poke around to discover all the neat stuff it could do.

Then I was enjoying dinner with a friend and mentioned my shiny new gadget. My friend asked to see the iPhone, and when I handed it to him a look of intimidation flashed across his face. Right away, he wondered out loud, “Wow, what are all these buttons for?”

My friend — who happens to be a child of the ‘60s, as we are so-called — uses a computer on a daily basis. He does Facebook, too; so the guy’s not a total technophobe. Still, the iPhone’s interface struck him as daunting.

This incident reminds me of Clay Shirky’s comment about how “technology only becomes socially interesting when it becomes technologically boring.” The idea being, it’s not how cool a tool is that determines whether it permeates society, but rather how simple that tool is to use.

Simple is in the eye of the beholder

On the other hand, I was chatting with my brother the other day and he mentioned his five year-old son was playing music on an iPod touch.

Ah kids, they do grow up digital these days.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you agree that the future of technology lies in simplicity? Or is it something else? Please share your thoughts. Comments welcome.

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Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 2)

Posted on January 19, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Trends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

January is prime time for crystal ball gazing. You know, looking into the future.

And while we can’t predict all that’s yet to come, we can expect exciting times ahead.

My previous post, Communications Trends For 2010 (Part 1), featured forecasts from several individuals whose ideas and opinions I greatly admire. They’re all deep thinkers who understand communications on many different levels.

A couple other pals were kind enough to offer their two-cents regarding where communications are headed in the coming year, and because these seers sent in lengthier responses, they warrant a separate post.

Here it is, part two of Communications Trends For 2010:

On social media, mobile technology and transparency

From: Jason Spector, a creative and crowdsourcing consultant standing at the crossroads of user experience, community, design and social media. Blog: Jason Spector. Twitter @JasonSpector

Dashboard tools accelerate social media usage

“We’re going to see a more seamless integration of the various communication channels. Going forward, I see a standard communication tool like email or social dashboard providing much of this information pulling from the various sites, like a social/communication profile dashboard. Web clients will probably come first followed by desktop apps. This will lead to a wider acceptance and usage of social media overall.”

Social media permeates the business space

“Businesses of all sizes will get serious about social media. Companies that are still ignoring it are going to be driven into it or truly left behind. Companies that are already involved with it are going to dedicate resources, plan for it and attach an ROI. It’s going to become a major part of marketing and customer engagement initiatives (if they’re not already) and not as much of a secondary effort.”

Mobile plays a much bigger role

“This is an obvious one, but I think the software and hardware of upcoming mobile devices will focus even more on communications, such as AR [augmented reality], gaming, photo, video, file viewing/sharing, conferencing and collaboration. Businesses are also going to focus more on mobile as a viable interactive device for their branding and marketing, such as virtual promotions.”

Transparency is no longer optional

“Consumers are going to demand more transparency from the companies they engage with. They have a huge amount of tools at their fingertips to learn about a company, talk about them and communication with them. It’s no longer just user reviews on sites. Social tools allow for instant support or criticism. The businesses that are honest and open will be accepted (and promoted) while ones perceived as “hiding something” will be seen negatively whether it’s true or not.”

Real-time, Twitter and the ideal integrity profile

From: Autom Tagsa, business communicator, web marketer, corporate specialist and pensive technophile. Blog: autom8. Twitter @autom8

The push for real-time will add complexity but drive other opportunities

“We’ve seen this wave engulf the online stream throughout the latter half of this year. As Google, Microsoft and other major players fiercely compete to secure market share in real-time search, it leaves one wondering just how this flurry of immediacy impacts the day-to-day user: How are they expected to (a) understand/appreciate the technological advancement, and, if they don’t care, how are they (b) expected to effectively filter the barrage of information. Also, as other leading start ups introduce more sophisticated tools that aim to better monetize online ads in real-time, this may well create opportunities that the online advertising industry sorely needs.”

Twitter’s broader penetration will bring us to the next level

“Twitter-r-us. Need I say more? I have long postulated that Twitter will be the driving force that reshapes certain existing and traditional forms of communications. Beyond democratization and paving level playing fields, it is fast becoming a recognized, universal channel (not necessarily for accurate nor meaningful info) but nonetheless ‘the go-to channel’. I’ve already seen ‘follow me on twitter’ embedded as a standard icon on many a communicator’s or company’s online vehicle. Why not on press releases, biz cards, signs, ads, etc. — “follow me” is the new calling card. As I have said many times before ‘Twitter is the iconic face of social media so it’s certainly become prime time and will be more so in 2010 as it begins to penetrate the business environment with upcoming biz-oriented tools.”

Synthesis of the corporate and personal brand will be a market differentiator

“What’s become apparent this year is how loud and clear we all heard chatter surrounding integrity, transparency and one’s corporate or organizational face online. Many struggle to reconcile with the notion of personal brand versus corporate brand, ghost writing/tweeting, etc. as discussions surrounding both ethical and best practice implications begin to colour what we perceive as effective communication versus credible communication and why the “ideal integrity profile” really ought to embody both aspects.

The ones who will secure a trusted following and an attentive audience are those who are able to successfully meld their personal brand with their corporate identity. It will give them a kind of passionate voice behind a stoic product or service. This is purely a visceral interpretation on my part but I think it merits closer attention. We’ll see more and more of that synthesis happening.”

And in conclusion…

All that sure gives us plenty to ponder, eh? Jason and Autom, thanks so much for your two-cents; although I really think your thoughts are worth a lot more.

And readers, follow these gents on Twitter to keep up with what’s on their minds in real-time.

– Deni Kasrel

What do you think of Jason and Autom’s trend predictions for 2010? Have some of ideas your own? Please share. Comments welcome.

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Communications Trends for 2010 (Part 1)

Posted on January 13, 2010. Filed under: Marketing and Public Relations, Trends, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Does the start of a new year inspire you to think about the future?

Me too.

And what about those resolutions? Now comes the time to see if we really intend to keep them.

Per my recent post, Why You Should Make A New Year’s Social Media Resolution, one of my goals is to be more engaged with cyber pals, through real conversation, and perhaps meeting up in person.

Also, I plan to step up commenting on other blogs and share more space on my blog for people whose ideas and opinions I admire.

To get the latter resolution rolling, I asked several Twitter pals for thoughts on what they foresee as top communications trends for 2010. My friends could respond however they liked, and this included our speaking via Skype.

All brought up good points to ponder. Ideas offered cover various dimensions of the communication continuum. So much so, I’m breaking things up into two posts. Here’s Part 1:

One-way communication continues to fall by the wayside

The rise of social media continues to rock advertising, marketing, and public relations. Foundations that have stood for decades are quaking, as channels shift more decisively from monologue to dialogue. Here are forecasts from people in the thick of it.

Marketers must build trust and relationships

John Lichtenberger, publisher of Advertising Compliance Service, a reference service for attorneys and advertisers. Twitter: @AdvertisingLaw

“One trend that I expect will accelerate in 2010 and beyond is the continuing paradigm shift away from delivering one-way advertising/marketing messages to using social media to promote a company and its products. Marketers will continue to find out that it is much more effective to establish dialogue and relationships than it is to attract attention in the old way – via traditional advertising. In fact, they will probably have no other choice but to embrace this new medium. Consumers are spending more and more of their time on social media – old-school advertising simply is going to miss out on reaching them.

As we enter this new decade, marketers will need to learn how to effectively use social media to communicate trust first – and worry about sales later. It is not a medium that is at all conducive to the “hard sell”. Some marketers will find this fact out the hard way. But many more will surely learn how to become more adept at using social media effectively. It will be interesting to see the evolution of how businesses will use social media to communicate their company message in the months and years ahead.”

Wider and deeper engagement is essential for marketing and PR

Valeria Maltoni, professional marketer and brand strategist. Blog: Conversation Agent. Twitter: @ConversationAge

Direction for all communicators (marketers, PR people) in 2010.

“You will need to become actively involved in facilitating the active participation of the whole organization to the company’s branding efforts. If you’re not already, it’s time to become engaged with curating industry conversations and analysis to provide senior leadership with insights about market and customer demands.

From learning about what to listen for, to figuring out how the company needs to engage in the knowledge flows, you will need to have sharp focus to zero into what matters and soft eyes to see the big picture. Because customers, prospects, partners, and employees are spending more time online, you will need to become adept at observing and synthesizing trends, building community, and translating that information into action plans.

Communication is the exchange of information that connects to common goals. From multimedia content creation and story telling to value creation through context and calls to action, you will need to become the most adept at spotting opportunity, digging deeper, and bringing the right people to engage in the dialogue and deliver results – as outcomes and contribution to the bottom line.

Time to step off the comfortable side lines and get in the game. You will be accountable at every step of the way. That is good.”

Power to the people: PR goes back to its origins

Beth Harte, Community Manager at MarketingProfs. Blog: The Harte Of Marketing. Twitter: @BethHarte

“In 2010, public relations will revert back to its origins and there will be less focus on media relations (i.e. publicity). The origins of PR include building mutually beneficial relationships with the publics that can make or break an organization’s business and brands. With more publics using online tools as a mechanism for word of mouth (positive and negative), networking with like-minded people, and product/service/organization information it’s imperative for organizations to focus their attention to building those important relationships. Public relations will include things like: online community relations, proactive issues management, and less pitching and more strategic placement of content.”

Searching and sorting through content on the web

A growing number of tools enable us to publish content, to include blog posts, videos, photos and more. We have many ways to project our voices and engage in virtual conversation with any number of participants. Consequently, it’s getting mighty crowded out there on the web. Which brings us to these next few trends, which by the way, were conveyed in conversation over Skype:

New ways to manage and search content

Avi Joseph, web sociologist/strategist. Founder of SC Media, Twitter: @Avinio

“Mobile will be much more like a laptop and in the end it won’t be just a social web but a social mobile strategy. It will be a little bit different…. Geotagging is a step that we are beginning to see slowly entering… You will see much more news and social sharing by mobile.

We will see the boost of social network search. It will be less important to be on the first page of Google results, but it’s going to be more important to be on the first page among your community, your social circle.

You can see already that Google recognizes this. Google has the power to collect information for all social networks… I think what Google will do is when you open a Google profile account, and then every time you open an account on a social network you add it to your Goggle profile, Google will collect the information from there and will show it on your social results.”

Tamping down the fire hose: knowledge curation

Bill Ives, consultant and writer who helps firms and individuals with their blogs and other social media. Blog: Portals and KM. Twitter: @BillIves

“People are overburdened with information overload… It’s definitely a fire hose. The amount of content has grown exponentially and a lot of that content is just crap and you need to sift through to find the gems.

That’s where tools that enable us to filter, and human filters, like you and me for each other, can help. So I see knowledge curation as a trend, both the need and the tools for doing it. And if there is a tool that you can put in the hands of the average user… so that’s it’s as easy to use as Twitter or Facebook, I think it will be hugely successful. The need to make sense of an ever-increasing amount of content will continue for business and the individual consumer.”

Many thanks to John, Valeria, Beth, Avi and Bill for offering your insights. And readers, I recommend you follow these folks on Twitter. Each one is a great source of information and conversation.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you agree with these thoughts on communications trends for 2010? What other trends do you see for the coming year? Please share. Comments welcome.

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8 Great Blogs All About WordPress

Posted on January 7, 2010. Filed under: Blogs/Blogging | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Ask a blogger what’s his/her favorite blog platform and the answer is probably whatever one he/she happens to use.

I use WordPress — guess what my favorite is?

Seeing as there are currently in excess of 18 million WordPress bloggers, I’m in good company.

This bountiful user base makes for a nice target audience, so it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of websites devoted to all things WordPress. Some focus on a particular aspect, such as coding, while others are more broad-based.

Here are my favorites — and seeing as I’m a non-geek, most are geared to non-techies:

Just Another WordPress Weblog

Might as well start at the source, right? Just  Another... is the place for news from WordPress.com and the WordPress Community. You get info straight from the people responsible for this powerful platform, as well as from folks who make apps, and other interested parties.

Lorelle on WordPress

Lorelle VanFossen calls herself a “blog evangelist” — here she spreads the good word on WordPress.  She’s got the inside skinny, and in fact helped write and develop WordPress.org Codex. Aside from being a primo source for WordPress tips and techniques Lorelle offers general blogging advice, and she has her ear to the ground — if there’s a WP alert, Lorelle is on the case.

ThemeLab

Looking for a free theme? Be sure to take a gander at this site, which has in excess of 100 selections to choose from. Should you prefer a one-of-a kind deal, the site offers a fee-based custom theme service. There’s also easy to digest step-by-step how-to articles.

We Love WP

We Love WP’s tagline is: “Showcasing WordPress powered sites.” That says it all. The site presents homepages with links to blogs built on the WordPress platform. A super source for design ideas and inspiration.

wpbeginner

If you’re new to the game wpbeginner is a goldmine of information on everything you need to know to get up and running with WordPress. Once you’ve figure that out, dig into articles about plugins and peruse a stash of educational posts.

WPCandy

WPCandy contains a deep cache of information on the latest themes and plugins as well as plenty of useful tips and tutorials. The gents behind it have also launched two related sites: WPCoder for developers, and WPInspiration (which like We Love WP, showcases blogs from around the internet).

WPShout

A design development blog by Alex Denning, who has created a number of WordPress themes. The content runs from beginner to advanced levels while the writing style is friendly and down-to-earth.

WordPress.TV

A bevy of of how-to advice, presentations, interviews, tutorials and support videos from WordPress.org.

– Deni Kasrel

Do you have a favorite blog devoted to WordPress? What’s missing? Comments welcome.

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The State of Social Media Marketing

Posted on January 4, 2010. Filed under: Communications Strategy, Marketing and Public Relations, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

With so many social media tools and tactics to choose from how do you know what’s best to promote your brand?

You’re not looking to simply follow the hype, right?

Better to go with well-researched data regarding the reality of the many social media options. Learn about true-life success stories (and failures, to avoid making those same mistakes). Figure out what fits your situation and use that information as a guide.

Ah, but where to begin?

Well, for starters, there’s a new report by MarketingProfs called The State of Social Media Marketing. Based on survey results from 5,000+ professionals, it covers a lot of ground, to include budgets, benchmarks, metrics, trends and most/least effective strategies. The 242-page report comes chock full of graphs and charts. It’ll keep you busy for a nice while.

Meantime, I asked Tim McAtee, MarketingProf’s director of research, to provide a little peek under the covers. He most graciously obliged with this illuminating Q&A interview, which hits on a number of key areas addressed in the report.

There are plenty of marketing surveys out there, yet you claim yours is different and is more nuanced. Can you elaborate?

Tim: There are three big differences:

  1. We have a much bigger sample than other studies, which means aggregate trends are more likely to be accurate, and there are enough respondents to look at really specific smaller cuts of the data and still have projectable findings.
  2. We acknowledge that there is a difference in voice when it comes to social media—the voice of “the corporation”, “the worker”, and “the person”.  We all put on different hats at different times and use social technology very differently depending on which of these voices we’re using at the time.  It’s really important to acknowledge that and to structure survey questions to allow for that difference to be shown in the data.
  3. Because social media is a very human endeavor, we tried to think about it in very human terms.  For example, we looked at personality types and corporate culture to see if there was correlation between these and social media usage and success (there was).  Also, instead of just asking about social media budgets, we asked about time-spent with social media.

Can you explain the methodology – how was the survey conducted?

Tim: The core of the study is a survey sampling our base of 300,000+ MarketingProfs members.  Most studies go out trying to find social media users, then ask them about usage.  This creates an imbalance in the data from the start.  It’s all numerator, no denominator.  We survey as many marketers as possible regardless of social media use to get a better sense of who is not using social media, and why, in addition to who is.  Out of the 5,140 marketers we asked, about 70% are using social media for work purposes.  In addition to this survey data, we pull in outside panel data to look at consumer usage of media and technology.  For this study, we turned to ComScore for up-to-date numbers on usage of a variety of social websites and tools both in the US and globally.

You surveyed the relationship between corporate culture and social media success — what did you find to be the most and least ideal type of culture for social media support and success?

Tim: The one consistently negatively correlating corporate culture across all types of success metrics was “prefers to maintain the status quo”.  On the positive side, a willingness to have “honest internal dialogue about marketing successes and failures” was often key.  However, it’s not quite that simple.  Companies with nothing to hide did well with more open marketing tactics like unrestricted employee blogging, while highly secretive companies did well with more controlled tactics like PR and managed communities.  In other words, companies should be fitting the right tactics to their culture, not revamping their culture to keep up with irrelevant tactics.

What about B2B vs. B2C – what are the major differences as to how these two market sectors are approaching social media? Why do you think this is so?

Tim: I think the difference is really just one of reach and target audience size.  Consumer-facing companies tend to favor direct communication with large numbers of people, while business-facing companies focus more on the quality of a short list of contacts.  The tactics you use to promote building the size of your lists vs. nurturing a small list are very different.  The one thing both do well is to use social media to listen.

Spending for social media is growing. Where do you see the biggest increase – what aspect is getting the most attention expense-wise?

Tim: Expense-wise, the biggest cost has to be employee time.  After that, probably analytics.  Automating the listening and customer-service aspects of social media is key to scaling up corporate usage of these platforms.

What did you find out about the true cost of social media?

Tim: There’s kind of a gray-market of social media work going on.  60% of marketers using social media at work for work purposes aren’t actually paid to do so—it’s not “technically” part of their job.  I think the true cost of social media is hidden.

Are companies now creating new roles specific to social media, or is it still more an add-on to other responsibilities?

Tim: It’s more of an add-on responsibility at present.  Who does what depends largely on role.  CEOs are often staying late to blog and tweet and generally maintain the thought-leadership aspects of social media, while PR people and customer service people are suddenly trying to handle complaints on Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.  Ideally, companies should be creating roles and guidelines regarding who does what when it comes to social media to ensure that strategic goals are being met and employee time is spent wisely.  In other words, the CEO shouldn’t be handling complaints on Twitter, and some junior PR person probably shouldn’t be blogging on behalf of the corporation.

If it’s more an add-on, does that short-change social media efforts?  Or is this indicative of how social media needs to be integrated into marketing, as opposed to being seen as something separate?

Tim: All media is becoming social.  It’s inextricable.  Smart people need to figure out how to make the best of it.  The hard part will be sorting the signal from the noise.  That’s why it’s so important to have analytical systems in place.  Are three crazy people complaining about your product on Twitter or is this a groundswell you need to pay attention to before it develops into a mass-media news story that does lasting damage?  Should you route information coming from consumers to your R&D department, your customer service department, or your PR department?  As these new channels open up, companies need to adapt their existing internal communication systems to handle input from unexpected sources.

You have a section devoted to “Most and Least Effective Social Media Tactics and Strategies” – can you give a top level overview of these findings?

Tim: Listening works very well, broadcasting often doesn’t.  Targeting niche groups with highly relevant information is much easier and effective when you know who you’re talking to.

I loved the question: “What are some commonly used but counterproductive social media tactics.” Can you offer some insight about the most telling responses?

Tim: Counter-productive tactics mostly have to do with using social media platforms like broadcast platforms. Dialogue is a lot more work than monologue and most marketers aren’t prepared for that. They present their broadcast message which either falls on deaf ears because no one cares, or people do care, respond, and the marketer is suddenly swamped with thousands of responses they can’t handle.

A section of the report covers the topic: “Do Social Media Workers Think Differently? Differences found in the values and personalities of social media workers.” That one sounds fascinating. When you say differently, how do you mean– different from what? And then, what did you find out about how social media workers’ personalities and other characteristics may differ from other marketers (or maybe they’re the same, after all).

Tim: We looked at Meyers-Briggs types and values statements, then compared them to social media usage to see where differences arise.  We found that there were more similarities than differences, but that those most involved in social media professionally do indeed over-index on very specific personality traits, such as the desire to mix their work and personal lives.  Based on some spikes in the data, Intuitive Extroverts that are not perfectionists, but will “roll with the punches” seem to be the best fit for social media marketing, especially when they are already doing a job that involves a lot of writing.

Did any of the results surprise you? Anything that stood out and made you think “wow” now that’s really something?

Tim: What surprised me the most was how complicated the results were.  There are really few trends that apply to all types of people or all types of companies.  The learning curve for figuring out how to incorporate and take advantage of social media at the corporate level is much steeper than I expected.

If you had to narrow it down to two big takeaways from this report, what would they be?

Tim:

  1. Social media seems inevitable, so every company needs to be adapting their current business operations to factor in these channels of communication, including paying people to work them.
  2. Figuring out your social media strategy is far more important than immediately enacting a bunch of social media marketing tactics.  Don’t listen to anyone advocating one-size-fits-all social media tactics, with the exception of using social channels to listen—everyone can benefit from that.  Instead, map tactics back to an over-arching strategy that makes sense for your company and your customers.

-Deni Kasrel

How do YOU see the state of social media marketing? Does it fit what you read about here, or is it different? Please share your thoughts and experience.

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