Social media policy and employee disclosure

October 26, 2009 at 9:20 am (Uncategorized)

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the FTC passed new guidelines for social media earlier this month.  In my second post on the topic, I’d like to discuss the new requirements for employee disclosure.

The new guidelines state that employees must disclose the company they work for when discussing topics related to the business or industry they work in. CNET’s Caroline McCartney has the best example I’ve read about how this can occur innocently – yet still be in violation of the rules.

“Say for example, you work for Microsoft and become a fan of the company on Facebook or tweet about how much you love Windows 7. Now, what if you have not made it clear on your Facebook and Twitter profiles that you work for Microsoft? Some of your Facebook friends or Twitter followers might see your posts, and–knowing that you’re an expert in technology, but not necessarily that you work for Microsoft–take your Windows 7 endorsement at face value. You still might love Windows 7, but you haven’t made it clear that you’re receiving financial compensation as a Microsoft employee. Under the new FTC guidelines, you may have just crossed the line.”

It just goes to show how easy it could be to break the rules.  This is why it is important, now more than ever, that companies put a social media policy in place for employees.  These policies typically state that employees must identify themselves as an employee of the company.  They also restrict employees by stating that they cannot use the company name, logo or other trademarked materials on social media properties.  Additionally, many policies  inform employees that they cannot discuss customers, partners or other employees.

Once a policy is in place, it will help employees understand what is allowed and what is not allowed.  This will help reduce the overall liability of the company.

Click here for tips on things to include in your social media policy.

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Bloggers beware

October 25, 2009 at 7:15 pm (Uncategorized)

Earlier this month, the FTC passed new guidelines involving new media and disclosure.  It is critical that all marketers become familiar with these new rules, as many will affect the way we do business.   This entry is part one of two reviewing the guidelines.

The new rules mandate that if a blogger receives a product sample from a company and then choose to write a post – positive or negative – of that product, he or she must disclose that they received it from the company at no cost.

Although I respect the transparency inherent and mandated by this new medium, I think that requiring bloggers to inform readers that they received a product for free from a company in order to review it is treating them as if they are not real journalists.  After all, for years, editors at top magazines, television shows and dailies have gotten goods at no cost to review.  Yet, the FTC does not require their disclosure. Most bloggers see themselves as journalists and it is no surprise that bloggers are even given media credentials to major events – including the Democrat and Republican national conventions.  So, why are they not given the journalistic courtesy of writing an impartial review without the need to trace how and where they obtained the product they are reviewing?

I could completely understand the need for disclosure if they were being paid to write a blog about a product …similar to an advertorial.  However, an unbiased review should be spared.

I don’t think that the disclosure is that big of a deal for bloggers to add to their reviews … However, it is the double standard, more than anything, that seems unfair.  So, the big question is – will the FTC be revising the rules for traditional media and disclosure in the near future?

Click here to check out a release from the FTC on its new testimonial and endorsement guidelines.

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Consumer experience rules!

October 19, 2009 at 11:52 pm (Uncategorized)

There is no doubt about it – mobile marketing is fast becoming one of the hottest way for marketers to engage their audiences.  As more and more consumers make the switch to smart phones and devices with 3G capabilities, they become more accessible to marketing messages.   And, this audience is growing fast.  Recent data shows that the mobile Web audience nationwide grew 34 percent between July 2008 and July 2009. This usage will only increase.

As with any marketing tool, marketers need to find the best way to measure mobile’s success.  There are countless ways to go about measurement, including opt-ins, downloads, etc.  However, what is becoming the most critical measurement is consumer experience.

A recent Gomez study shows that the most important part of consumer experience in mobile is load time.  Slow load times were cited as the top performance issue as experienced by nearly 75 percent of the respondents.  Because mobile is an on the go device, people expect the information to be fast to download and quick to interpret.  In the study, 20 percent of the mobile consumers responding expect their sites to load in five seconds or less.

Of course, there is only so much of this that can be controlled by the brand.  Much of download time has to also do with the technology supplied by the mobile network.  However, marketers can do their best to not use flash, high resolution images and other elements that might extend load time.

Another important element of consumer experience is design.  First and foremost, the design needs to be engaging, yet direct in its purpose.  However, it also needs to be functional.  The Gomez study found that half of its respondents found mobile content was either too large or too small for their mobile phone’s screen.  Definitely not the right way to start a relationship with a potential customer!

So put yourself in the consumer’s shoes – what would engage you?  What would you find irritating?  What would you tolerate?  What would you enjoy?  Start and end your campaign with the consumer experience top of mind.  After all, consumer experience rules!

Looking for more ways to improve the speed of your mobile campaign?  Check out this article.

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The ROI of a fan

October 18, 2009 at 10:55 pm (Uncategorized)

With new, emerging media being introduced each day, measurement becomes more difficult.  With each new tactic comes the challenge of how to measure its effectiveness.  The more out-of-the box the idea is, the more challenging it can be to prove success.

Measuring online activity has its perks.  You can see what provokes click-thrus to your Web site, which pages a consumer visits while there and how much time they spend on the site.  You can also see what they download or share.  So in one respect what you can measure is limitless.

However, when it comes to measuring a company’s presence on a social network, it becomes a little more difficult.  After all, you may have 1,000 fans on your Facebook page, but what does that mean.  And, what is the measurement for success when it comes to positive interaction and conversations.  You may feel in your gut that you are doing well …but how do you prove it?

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association is trying to provide the industry with some best practices on the metrics and measurement tactics you can use in emerging media (specific to word of mouth efforts).  These include how to quantify the volume and sentiment of word of mouth, measure advocacy, determine what a brand-related conversation is worth to the brand’s bottom-line, and calculate the ROI of social media marketing initiatives.

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All of this is available in their Metrics Guidebook on the organization’s Web site.  Click here to download the contents.  Clearly this is just the start of forming a solid measurement strategy for these emerging media practices, however, there are more strides to be made.  You have to wonder, will emerging media ever be as measurable as traditional media like television or print?  Maybe someday….

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Virtual worlds — on the way in or out?

October 12, 2009 at 10:06 am (Uncategorized)

Virtual worlds, like Second Life, give companies a unique way to interact with their customers, especially the youth market.  Mostly because they are interacting in a make-believe world where users can do and be whatever or whoever they choose, giving the companies countless opportunities to connect.

However, despite entering virtual worlds with much mainstream media fanfare, companies like Sears, Sun Microsystems, Dell, Coca Cola, Reebok, Coldwell Banker, and Calvin Klein have so far failed to attract even 500 weekly visitors each — some of them far less.  Many brands, have abandoned efforts in virtual worlds to focus more heavily on the boom of social networking.

Although the verdict is still out on using virtual worlds to market brands, there are some companies who have had success.  One example is the Adidas store within Second Life.  The brand used the virtual world to launch its new shoes, the A3 Microride.

Second Life gave the company an opportunity to showcase the shoe’s key selling point – their bounce.  Besides the store itself, the Adidas complex includes a dome an orange “testing area” trampoline where avatars could try out the shoes bounciness.  One of the first companies to use Second Life for a brand campaign, Adidas successfully used the virtual experience to engage customers while also extending their understanding of the company’s latest product.

So, are virtual worlds a fad already on their way out?  It is hard to predict.  But, as marketers it is important that we recognize their value and how to properly leverage them to engage our customers.  Check out this article on the best ways to promote your brand using Second Life.

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A tweet to success

October 11, 2009 at 3:25 pm (Uncategorized)

Twitter can certainly help bring a brand to life… that is, if used it correctly. The micro-blogging tool gives companies a chance to interact with its customers one-on-one.  However, this relationship building opportunity can’t be all about the brand.  Instead, the company needs to offer value in order for customers to want to interact with it.  Therefore, the company needs to show its personality and offer information and solutions to everyday situations.  They must express their character and listen to what their customers are saying.  After all, people want to connect with people and brands they have a common interest with – not a faceless corporation.

One brand that has shown that Twitter can be a successful marketing tool is Zappos, a popular online shoe retailer.  The company began using Twitter in 2008 to help build more personal connections with its employees and customers.  Today, it has more than 198 employees tweeting about what they are doing at work and about interesting resources on and off the Zappos site. In addition, the company uses Twitter to do shoe giveaways and even setup twitter.zappos.com, which tracks mentions of Zappos on Twitter. In less than three months of its presence on Twitter, Zappos had already made it 94 on the Twitterholic charts.

Zappos

With 1,418,646, Tony Hsieh, Zappos CEO is the most followed employee on Twitter.  He epitomizes the appropriate way to use the tool – and that is simply by being himself.  Hsieh not only uses Twitter, but he does so passionately.  He sees value in it as a marketing tool, but as a personal tool, as well.  In fact, in a recent speech, Hseih talked about how he felt Twitter had helped him grow personally.  Check out more detail here.

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Corporate blogs can offer more than mumbo-jumbo

October 5, 2009 at 4:37 pm (Uncategorized)

Corporate blogging has come a long way over the years.  However, many companies are still using this fantastic tool in the wrong way.  In fact, a Forrester research study showed that two-thirds of corporate blogs hardly ever get any comments, 70% stick strictly to business topics, and worse 56% just republish press releases or already public news.  It is unfortunate, because when used appropriately, a corporate blog can be a big win for your business.

One example of a great corporate blog is Marriott.  Authored by company CEO Bill Marriott, the blog averages 6,000 visitors each week.  Additionally, the company claims to have earned $5 million in bookings due to the blog.  They base this on the number of people who click through to reservations from the blog page.

Marriott Blog

The Marriott blog is interesting because it doesn’t focus solely on the company.  Bill writes about places he’s been, motivational things his Grandfather said to him and just things that have happened to him in life.  He also does share interesting things about Marriott – but not just offers and breaking news.  Bill discusses the company’s commitment to the rainforest, issues and community giving.

All of these things help to make Bill approachable.  And, you don’t have to be a Marriott fanatic to relate to his blog.  His approach goes a long way in winning over even more new customers in the future.

And, that would be fitting.  After all, the whole reason he started the blog was to communicate with consumers.  Which is amusing because Bill is actually a self-professed technophobe who actually has his staff post his musings online!  But he certainly sees the value …and so do his readers.

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Catching on to viral video

October 4, 2009 at 10:56 pm (Uncategorized)

One effective way for marketers to spread their message is virally.  By leveraging the boom of online video, viral has become a “hot” tactic in the marketing toolbox.

There are tons of examples of viral videos online.  From recording flash mobs dancing at a central location or a guy in a lab coat blending iPods in blender, the ideas around creating videos that will travel online are limitless.  One video I think is particularly impressive is Quicksilver “Dynamite Surfing.”

This video uses a great soundtrack and a stunt to show what its audience will go through in order to catch a wave.  The group of teens head out and throw dynamite into a lake in order to create waves.  One of the teens then jumps in with his surf board and rides the wave to shore. With more than ten million views, “Dynamite Surfing” was a viral video hit for Quicksilver!

Other than a great idea that appeals to the audience, I think that this video’s quality helps make it realistic to the viewer.  So many advertisers are accustomed to high-quality television production which would make a video like this cost tens of thousands of dollars.  However, the YouTube phenomenon has made everyone a video producer – making low quality production the norm and a “creative” idea the winning element.

As the producer for “Dynamite Surfing” said, “these ads can be dead within 24 hours if people don’t like them.”  Marketers need to keep this in mind when thinking about how much money to invest in a video.  Spend more on coming up with an idea that will travel virally and less on expensive production.  Additionally, if you do have a larger budget, develop several videos.  After all, you never know what will become viral.  So, give yourself more than one shot at success!

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Making the most of mobile

September 28, 2009 at 8:42 pm (Uncategorized)

With mobile becoming such a critical way to reach consumers, it is important that you make the most of your campaigns.  Here are some tips to ensure your next mobile campaign is a success.

1.) Keep it useful: With today’s “on the go” lifestyle, consumers are looking for things that will make their lives easier.  Use your mobile campaign to provide your consumers with the information they need, whether it is the weather forecast, stock updates, game schedule for their NFL team or discounts to their favorite stores. Then, be sure to package it in a way that is manageable. For example, don’t expect your consumer to download your entire corporate Web site to find what they need.

2.) Support your initiative: Don’t go it alone when activating your mobile campaign, leverage a larger campaign that includes things like outdoor, TV and radio. All of those mediums can help push more consumers to your campaign.  Then, be sure to have different landing pages or text codes for each medium so that you can measure which was most successful.

3.) Entice them: Give an incentive to your consumers for participating in your campaign.  This could be something as simple as a coupon or discount.  It could even be relevant, useful information.  These incentives will help to increase your response rates and build consumer participation.

4.) Solid call-to-action: Make sure your consumers know what you want them to do.  Don’t just display short codes or domain names with no direction or explanation.  Engage them in a worthwhile interaction with your brand.

5.) Target your audience: A mobile phone is a very personal device.  Consumers can easily opt-out of your campaign if they do not feel that your brand is relevant to them.  So, be sure that you keep your specific target in mind and make sure you are using the right messaging that will get them to act and keep them engaged.

Check out more tips for mobile marketing success by clicking here.

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Ring…ring…

September 27, 2009 at 10:12 pm (Uncategorized)

The fact that six year olds have cell phones today amazes me!  I can remember the first cell phone I ever saw – it was so big that it was being carried in a large shoulder bag.  Soon after that, I got my first cell phone.   It was mounted in my car and had a microphone wired near the windshield incase I wanted to make a wireless call.  Similar to the Blackberry Storm and Ford SYNC system I have today?  Not really!

Mobile phones have taken off over the past 15 years.  In fact, worldwide cell phone subscriptions recently reached 3.3 billion!  I’m sure that it has a lot to do with the improving technology, making the phones smaller and more dynamic (with e-mail, cameras and Internet access).  Also, expanded coverage areas more than likely play a large role in the expansion of mobile.

So with everyone having a mobile phone in their possession, it has created the perfect, new marketing medium.  After all it is a personal device, which allows marketers to specifically create messages or even whole campaigns for its very unique audience.  Mobile tactics  include things like mobile games, ring tones, wallpaper, videos and applications.

I have participated in a few mobile campaigns.  One was with American Eagle Outfitters.  I opted in for the chance to win a trip to the Caribbean, after I noticed a poster for the program in their dressing room.  Once opted in I also was allowing the company to send me special store discounts and updates.

Another mobile program I took advantage of was with Jameson Whiskey.  I was given the chance to opt-in to receive Irish toasts via my phone leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.  One participant would also win a trip to Ireland.  After a little research, I was able to find that Jameson thought this mobile promotion was a great way to connect and reinforce the brand’s messages with current customers and prospects.

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These are just a few ways marketers are using mobile to interact with their audiences, click here to see some engaging ways brands are using mobile.

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