Archive for "Social Media"

How to Censor Your Social Media and Still Thrive at Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Online Marketing, Social Action, Social Media Aug 15, 2015 No Comments

Twitter, Facebook and Social Change

Recently we’ve shared some posts focused on how inventive marketers are using social media channels as a method to effect social change and generate awareness for cause-related efforts. Examples of these uses of Twitter and Facebook are numerous, read CreativeBurn posts How Twitter and Tats Will Change the World and Nikki Reed and MTV Want You to “Give-A-___” (some people don’t like us using the “S” word…).

But with the ongoing UK riots continuing, the discussion of how to control social media channels during times of civil unrest has once again been raised again; this time in Parliament. Which causes us to ponder the results of censorship activities in our social communities.

To Blackout Twitter or Not to Blackout?

English Prime Minister David Cameron recently raised the generally uncomfortable specter of censorship when he suggested that social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and mobile messaging systems could be faced with restrictions or blackouts during times of civil unrest when it has been determined that demonstrators were using such channels to communicate and organize. A few weeks ago, here in Chicago, it was reported that mobs of teenagers were allegedly using Twitter and other instant messaging apps to organize and coordinate en masse attacks on random citizens at high-visibility, high-traffic locations like the Michigan Avenue shipping district and the Chicago lakefront, the latter causing police to forcible close several Chicago beaches.

Social Commentary vs. the Common Good

The topic of censorship is that forever-cliched “slippery slope” to most in Western society where any talk of restricting individual rights is generally met with opposition. But where do we draw the line between the use of social media channels and potential censorship of our online communities? Is there a place where the so-called “common good” takes precedence over the passions of change seekers? Do we want to nurture communities while restricting the free exchange of negative ideas?

Is it Time to Censor Social Media?

While it’s not our intention to discuss politics, this idea of online community censorship is something worth talking about. As creative brand chaperones, social media gurus and community managers, our agency is keenly aware of the issues surrounding word-of-mouth marketing. And as such, we think it’s necessary to address the topic of censoring social media channels, while defining what this means when it comes to subjects of law, the general order of things, our society and our online communities.

Community Management is Not for the Weak of Heart

The concept of moderating communities isn’t a new one to anyone interacting with customers via either open social media channels or private online consumer communities. The potential for consumers to openly post unrestricted, unmoderated, unobstructed feedback strikes fear in even the most capable community manager. Grey Matter has worked on many social initiatives directly for our own clients as well as those of our strategic partners. And the decision whether or not to moderate — generally considered a “politically-correct” term for censorship — comes up often.

The threat of having potentially negative feedback posted by community members for all the world to see, is often a tough pill to swallow for those unfamiliar with social media. When discussing topics of negative feedback, we’ve seen the color drain from the faces of jittery clients and trained marketing professionals alike. Our professional counsel has always been to focus on the primary goal of the community. What is the true intent of your social media marketing initiatives? This should always be to champion open, honest and genuine interaction with members wherever you find them.

Censorship is Never Good Practice, Much Less Best Practice

There’s nothing that sinks the heart of a brand manager more quickly than reading a scathing review on Yelp or a brand-killing report of a customer service experience gone wrong on Google Places. No matter the situation you find yourself in, the most successful approach is to tackle the negativity head-on, in an open forum and resolve the issue to the best of your ability. As a general rule, we never encourage the censoring of member posts.

Negative reviews, less-than-positive commentary or other potentially damaging feedback should be viewed as an opportunity to change opinions about your brand. When members see you’re involved, that you engage unflattering issues directly and are actually working on real solutions, your respect level increases exponentially.

Negativity will happen. But never ever ignore this feedback or remove these posts, even if you have the ability to do so. There’s nothing worse than having an unflattering post languish unanswered; this is your opportunity to effect your own version of change. Even worse than that is having members read a negative post one day, then have it been silently “disappeared” the next. Don’t run your communities like a banana republic dictator. Such activities will kill your efforts faster than ice melting on pavement in Tucson in July.

Establish Rules of Engagement

Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. Some include your taking action on personal attacks aimed at community members, or the use of highly inappropriate language, or the posting of patently objectionable or illegal material. A good rule of thumb in these instances is to ensure you handle these situations appropriately, while adequately explaining your actions to remove offensive materials or squash personal attacks. The more open you are with your members, and the more honesty you share, the more they will ultimately respect you.

Best practice to effectively manage a private community is to develop and post rules governing acceptable behavior. And outline the results or penalties for breaking the rules. Most people welcome these guidelines, and will likely help you police inappropriate activity. Everyone wants a safe, drama-free environment in which gather. It’s your role as community manager to give them the tools to do so.

If the Goal for Your Community is to Fail, then Go Ahead and Censor Member Feedback. You Won’t be Around to Have the Problem for Very Long

Long story short. For any brand seeking committed open, honest and genuine communication, negative feedback should be viewed as an opportunity rather than a deal breaker. While negative comments will happen, this is your chance to resolve any issues. Your community will see that you’re as invested in them as they are in you. Embrace the unflattering. And never ever ever ever censor your members.

So, to answer the question: How can you censor your social media channels and thrive at your word of mouth marketing efforts? You can’t. And you won’t. Choosing this plan will seal your fate, sooner than you ever expected.

A Crash Course in Social Media that’s Both Fast and Free!

Online Marketing, Social Media Aug 01, 2015 3 Comments

Figuring it All Out

Feel like the “Love Train” of Social Media has left you at the station?
Did the “Magic Bus” pass you by on the Information Superhighway?
Is Social Media just too much “Mystery Machine” for you to figure out?

Well, as you might expect, the Interwebs ain’t Al Gore’s Internet anymore. But, here’s a crash course on what you should be doing to understand Social Media Marketing today.

Beware the “Experts”

There are lots of agencies, organizations, “gurus,” “experts” and more that offer Social Media classes for a fee. Some are better than others. And, you can probably get the basics from these sources, if you want to part with some money. However, we’d recommend you turning first to the Internet where you can get the same info for free. Only invest in pay-for resources once you’ve decided the direction you want to take your brand.

1. Graduate from Hubspot’s Inbound Marketing University

While not exactly for those seeking immediate gratification, the Hubspot Inbound Marketing courses will take some investment — time. Sixteen hours of courses that provide the fundamentals of Social Media marketing and a basic understanding of all you need to get started. The course includes classes on social media, SEO, landing pages, design, and a whole lot more. Best of all, a degree from Hubspot University is 100% Free!

2. Read the Best Social Media Blogs

Take some time and poke around the old standbys like Mashable, Social Media Examiner and Techcrunch. (We like them so much they’re in our Blogroll over there on the right. —>) There’s going to be a lot of content on each of these blogs that may make some newbie heads swim. But if you can keep from drowning in info overload, let the more heady stuff wash over you’re more familiar with what you’re doing. Just keep digging. You’ll find loads of invaluable information that will get you on your way.

3. Watch All the YouTube Videos You Can

Yep. That’s right. Just sit back, relax and watch some videos. YouTube is a great source for commentary and opinion on what you should be doing. Again, watch out for the “experts.” There are lot of ‘em on YouTube. Use the social power of the site itself and stick with the highest rated videos. And you’ll be well on your way.

How to Monitor Your Social Media Campaigns in 30 Minutes or Less

Social Media Jul 15, 2015 1 Comment

A Little Time Takes You a Long Way

Social media monitoring as part of your marketing mix has never been more important. And it’s not going away. The sooner you realize your brand needs to be in this arena, the better off you’re going to be.

As with all your marketing efforts, you’ll first need a plan. Carve out as little as 30 minutes a day to accomplish social media tasks.

Here are our recommendations to make your social media monitoring quick and painless.

1. Determine Where Your Brand Should Be

There are lots of networks, some more appropriate for your business than others. Once you choose where you need to be, make sure you set up your profiles consistently. Include consistent branding, links to your company website and a short, general overview of your product or service.

2. Engage, Engage, Engage

Your brand needs to remain active on all your networks. This includes providing news updates, responding to questions or concerns about your company and your industry in general, offering feedback, giving praise for positive comments, and immediately handling anything negative that you find. Never let a negative comment go unanswered.

3. Monitor Both Your Brand and Your Competition

You need to know what your competitors are doing and what their customers are saying. This is your chance to capitalize on negative comments lodged against your competition. But do so in a human way. Social media followers respect open, honest communication. Brand-speak is generally frowned upon. Just be yourself while being true to your brand.

4. Twenty Minutes is All it Takes

Break up monitoring of your four primary networks into 5-minute segments each day. Facebook and Twitter will likely be on your list. Take 5 minutes to scan your Facebook wall, providing thoughtful comment and feedback. Take another 5 minutes to review and respond to pertinent Tweets about you and your competitors. Then split the remaining 10 minutes between your next most important networks. Monitoring your online presence can be done in as little as 20 minutes a day. But do this every day of the week.

5. Ten Minutes More Keeps You on Top

For our clients with limited internal resources and small budgets who choose to handle social media monitoring internally, we recommend spending an additional 10 minutes to review RSS feeds and pertinent blog posts. Staying on top of how you’re being talked about online is critical to your brand’s social game.

Choose Your Partners Carefully

For those brands needing more direction, there are hundreds of groups, including Grey Matter, that provide additional strategy and complete community management. When selecting an external vendor to manage your brand socially, make sure you find one that truly understands your brand. There’s nothing worse than paying an agency to run your social game into the ground.

Social Media: Welcome to the Hotel California. You Can Never Leave.

Online Marketing, Social Media Jun 30, 2014 No Comments

When Good Brands Do Bad Things

Why is it that so many brands do such a bad job with their Social Media campaigns? I believe it’s STILL primarily due to a fundamental lack of understanding of the medium as well as the lack of available internal resources.

The best way to ensure your Social Media campaign will fail is to jump in without a plan.

Make a Plan

Social Media, oftentimes considered to be a “Free” form of marketing, takes a lot more time and energy to do properly than most companies expect. Sometimes considered “fun” or perhaps even frivolous, as we know Social Media (when done right) can be a very powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. But it’s a tool that requires a great deal of attention. This is primarily why most small to mid-size brands fail at their own Social Media campaigns — so much to do, with so little time, and with the responsibility for social efforts falling to someone in the organization who’s already wearing too many hats.

Look Before You Leap

Many of our clients look to us for insights and direction on their Social Media campaigns. Sometimes they’re convinced they just ‘need to be doing something’, but they just don’t know what it is. Other times they just ‘want to get in as they don’t want to get left behind.’ It’s the “Everybody’s Doing It” (EDI) Syndrome. A small bit of wisdom shared by my grandmother multiple times as I was growing up (and perhaps by yours as well), was the question: “Would you jump off a bridge just because every one else was?”

The answer was obvious to me at the time. That was before I learned about bungee cords and base diving. But, I think grandma’s words of wisdom still apply today for some brands considering Social Media as a strategy.

Quality Takes Time

When it comes to Social Media and our clients, our advice is yes, you probably should be doing it.  And that it should be based on your marketing goals and a number of other factors, not simply because of you’ve got EDI (remember grandma from above?).  But if you’re not going to do it, you need to be doing it right or you probably shouldn’t be doing it at all. (Which is probably something else my grandmother told me. I learned a lot from that woman…)

Many brands think they’ll just start Tweeting tomorrow.  Posting Facebook updates and getting new “likes” immediately.  Or that they’ll check in with everyone everywhere via FourSquare.  And it’ll be great fun.  And who knows, it very well may.

The “Fun” Doesn’t Last Long

Some brand managers may even try this themselves for a couple weeks, until the Real World of their day-to-day interrupts and the tasks are handed off to Gloria the admin. Generally this strategy works more or less for about six months.  It’s about that time when it becomes painfully obvious that Gloria isn’t doing her own job or she’s spending too much time tracking down answers from absent executives to questions that all your new-found followers are asking. It’s around the 180-day mark when reality sets in.  When clients come to the conclusion that this Social Media thing is not all the “fun and frivolity” they thought it cracked up to be.  And that it requires way more time and resources than they’d ever expected. That’s when my phone rings again and we step in to help them out with the management of their communities.

Own Your Own Brand Online

As I always say, it’s not simply about taking ownership of your brand online by securing your company name and those of your products at any one of the 100s of social sites currently running. (And there are more springing up daily.) Of course, you do need to take steps to get full ownership of your brand. This means establishing accounts at top social sites.  But you also have to maintain these accounts. Once you decide to get in you need to have a clear plan for your activities that extends beyond your honeymoon with Social Media.

There is No Checkout Time

Social Media marketing. A virtual Hotel California. Once you check in you must stay engaged with your customers, keeping messaging and involvement consistent. They are going to expect it. So, before you decide to make your Social Media reservations, make sure you have the ability to handle (either internally, externally, or more likely a combination of both) whatever comes. With Social Media done right, you can live it up with your competition; there’s plenty of room. :)


How Keywords Can Ruin Your Blog

Blogging, Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media Aug 11, 2013 No Comments

It May be Hard to Believe, but Keywords Can Hurt You

There’s lots of talk about when, where, why and how to include search engine keywords and key phrases in your blog posts. You’ve read post after post on this exact topic; they’re all over the Interwebs. Including keywords into blog posts is done, as we know, primarily in an effort to get search engines to rank the non-branded content of your website higher than that of someone (if not everyone) else’s website.

But when does the obsession with keywords reach the point of diminishing returns? There is one.

Use Your Words Wisely

Those of us with backgrounds in journalism, public relations, advertising and digital marketing completely understand the value and power of the written (or…in this case…typed) word. However, it’s likely that each of these professions will have a completely different take on the subject of words and how they are and/or should be used whenever and wherever they are used. It’s kind of like the English language; there are always plenty of exceptions to all of the rules.

Be Aware of Keywords

Words have and always will be a critical factor that affects everything that we do as an agency. And to ensure proper SEO and increase inbound links to your site, yes, every blogger should be aware of the need to, every now and then, include just that right sequence of these powerful little things when stringing together blog posts. However, you should never become obsessed with keywords over quality. The incessant desire to embed every possible search engine targeting phrase into your posts is going to hurt you in the end. Once you let this giant “Keyword Monster” control the flavor of your writing, you’ve lost the battle, David. Yes, that was a biblical reference for effect.

Only You Have the Power to Retain Readers

When it comes down to it, people reading your blog want informative, insightful and useful content. It’s the power of your knowledge, expertise, and honesty, combined with your ability to collect all these things together into a cohesive story that attracts readers to your blog, keeps them interested and keeps them coming back. The overall success of your blog posts are going to be based more on the quality of your writing and what you have to say. Once you start down the road of endlessly massaging your words merely to insert search engine friendly keywords so the robots find your site, your information is bound to suffer.

Keyword Obsession

Making a long story short, or perhaps even slightly longer…

Are keywords important to your blog posts? Yes.

Should you ruin the value of the information you offer on your blog with the obsessive editing of your thoughts merely to include a string of keywords so Google will rank you higher? No.

Editorial Quality Over Keyword Fanaticism

Make sure that you retain the quality of your information over the fanatical desire to include that just-right set of keywords. It’s the genuine quality of your posts that’s going to ensure you retain readers and gain the new ones you’re looking for.

Just write. Let the (key)words come naturally, and you’ll be better off.