Monday, May 31, 2010

Internet Privacy Concerns

Making the headlines of late is the issue of Internet privacy concerns, pushed to the forefront mostly by Facebook’s recent gaffes and the subsequent reorganization of its privacy settings. According to numerous surveys many users state they will curtail their sharing of personal information and a very small percentage will even quit Facebook altogether due to a lack of trust in the social network. This past week Facebook announced that it will offer simplified privacy control settings in response to public outcry regarding the social networks usage of personal data. After reading through the official verbiage, the social network is just reorganizing the controls and not offering any new settings. Sure the old version of the privacy settings was difficult to understand and navigate, but if users are truly that paranoid about their information they would spend the time to secure it.

Furthermore, it is not only Facebook that these concerned people should be focusing on. There are numerous other sites that aggregate information from public sources and offer a comprehensive view of an individual. Check out and see for yourself. We live in the information age and to the dismay of many it actually makes our lives easier (I won’t go into detail on this as it will be a future post). Whether we like it or not, our personal information is available for consumption by the masses. An individual can control what is posted online in the way of status updates, pictures, videos, etc. to maintain a certain level of privacy. No matter how hard companies try and prevent them, there are bound to be personal information data leaks either through error or network hacking.

It is the responsibility of the Internet firms to be upfront and honest when it comes to informing users about what information is stored and how it is used. Most of the time this detail can be found in the company’s privacy policy, which many users do not review (based upon a friends and family poll). If firms make it difficult to understand privacy procedures and data sharing practices, it might make sense to rethink your relationship with that firm if you have concerns about your information getting out.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Direct Mail and Social Media

Many marketers these days are trying to find the right balance between digitial channels and what I will call the "traditional" channels (direct mail in particular).  The proper mix depends on the specific offering and audience, requiring plenty of testing to find what works.  Marketers should include social media information along with direct mail (or print ad) efforts to notify the audience of their online presence.  A very small percentage of prospects typically respond immediately to direct mail campaigns.  This leaves a larger percentage of prospects who are interested, but can't respond right away for one reason or another.  These potential buyers are the ones that should be pushed to a marketer's social media efforts to stay in touch with the brand.

Invite this group of "will buy, but not right now" prospects to join a corporate Facebook page, follow the brand on Twitter or sign up for RSS news feeds on your website.  These potential buyers will continue to become familiar with the company's offering and expertise, hopefully, pushing them toward a purchase.

Another option is to consider using PURLs to boost response direct mail rates. A PURL (personalized URL) is a customized landing page for each mail piece recipient and can become your company’s custom entry site to an online relationship of frequent social contact and email.

By adding relevant data and PURLs to mail pieces, marketers can see response rates shoot up beyond the typical 2%.  Offering prospects a personalized URL allows marketers to track visits, collect additional data about interests, and direct them to new channels of communication.  Add links to the brand's social media accounts on the bottom of the personalized landing page. This will add legitimacy to a campaign and opens the door to a continued relationship.

When a prospect takes the effort to act from an offline direct mail piece to an online landing page form and then connects with the brand via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. a marketer is left with a very valuable potential customer.  These prospects have shown interest by taking action across channels.  This sequence of events is much more relevant to a brand than someone who liked a corporate Tweet and is now a follower or is simply a follower to stay current on the marketplace.

(Image: TN Media Solutions)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Twitter Tips for the Tweeting Novice

Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to get going on Twitter. Slowly I have been adding people to follow and promoting interesting content through various tweets. I know I am not getting the most out of my limited interaction with the micro-blogging site, so I went out to gather a list of tips from other users. Below is a compiled listing of Twitter tips gathered from friends, colleagues and my own experiences. I hope this helps other Twitter rookies looking to make the most of this potentially beneficial service.

  • Pick a memorable username.
  • Make your profile informative…Answer this question: “Why should I follow you?”
  • Use Twitter Search or WeFollow to find people to follow.
  • Develop clear objectives about what you want to achieve by using Twitter and stick to them.
  • Twitter allows you 140 characters, but if you use them all up you cannot be retweeted easily. Aim for tweets of 125 characters.
  • Retweet, Retweet, Retweet. It will benefit you in the long run as your followers will do the same for you.
  • Don’t go for the numbers. The quality of your followers is what really counts.
  • Use groups to segment tweets of the people you are following. This allows you to segment conversations and closely watch those of primary interest to you.
  • Add quality to the conversation with your Tweets.
  • Include topical keywords for an optimized headline in your tweet.
  • Try to tweet regularly so that people know you have an active presence.
  • Do not overtweet.
  • Include some personal information so that people know you’re a human being and not just an online merchant pushing links.
  • Be modest…say thanks for the follows, favors, retweets and help.
  • Monitor keywords and competitors.
  • Follow those following you, unless they are spammers.
  • Verify links before tweeting them. Be sure they’re not broken or misdirected.
  • Assume most of your followers will never respond to you. That’s the nature of most digital communities.
  • If you want all of your followers to see your public replies, never begin a tweet with the “@” character. This indicates “conversation” mode.
  • Click the star icon next to a tweet you like to add it to your Favorites.
  • After authenticating your Twitter account through LinkedIn, using #in at the end of a tweet will send it to your LinkedIn status.
  • The letter “d” placed at the beginning of a tweet will trigger a direct message to the username it precedes.
  • Instead of answering the question “What are you doing?”, answer the question “What has your attention?”
  • 3rd party clients like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Twhirl make it a lot easier to manage Twitter.
  • Use Twitter to promote fresh corporate content, upcoming events, etc.
  • Try to maintain a ratio of around 50% between original Tweets and re-Tweets. People appreciate original material and it‘s more likely to help maintain a loyal following.
  • You don’t have to read every tweet.
  • Don’t forget to have fun.
For additional information on building a Twitter presence and making the most out of this micro-blogging service, check out Mashable’s guide:

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Integration of SEO, SEM & Social Media

Recently I worked on a few SEO, SEM and Social Media projects providing me with the insight that these initiatives are all interdependent. Some organizations approach these online marketing activities separately and do not take a holistic approach, which will hinder their effectiveness. Brand awareness can be built through social media efforts and a subscriber base can be developed that is prone to share compelling information. Below are several insights for making SEO, SEM and Social Media work together to achieve online marketing success:

The published content that is shared will increase the amount of inbound links to the firm’s site. Search engines incorporate inbound links into their algorithms and earned organic links hold immense value.

Frequently publishing new content on the firm’s website and through social channels will help to drive more traffic from the search engines. People will continue to visit the site in anticipation of the new content and avoiding a static website increases the visits by search spiders leading to frequent indexing by the search engines.

Building a positive reputation through intelligent published content will build on itself over time. This requires the content to be compelling and fresh, which will lead to links and increasing attention.

Sustaining valuable content contributions to the community can eventually earn endorsement from community members with influence and build digital reputation.

Individuals looking for insightful content through social media channels show interest in finding the content and pose better odds of sharing it as well.

Enabling RSS syndication of content blogs on a firm’s website greatly increases the search engine indexing frequency and builds a subscriber base.

Website pages containing frequently published content need to be optimized so that the content can be found in search and drive traffic to the site. The content needs to be developed in a manner that search spiders accept and can index.

Incorporating valuable keywords into the social media content will enable the target audience to locate the content through search.

The relationship between Social Media and SEO/SEM is very strong and will continue to build. The keywords found in published content can help identify the content as being relevant to the social channel members as well as the search engines. SEO/SEM initiatives benefit from the content published for social media by providing targeted traffic to the website through much improved positions in search results pages.  Firms need to develop an online strategy thinking about how these three initiatives play off of eachother.  A great post about developing a roadmap for this strategy can be found on Mashable:

(Diagram courtesy of Sumolabs)