As days go by: blogging matters

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Blogging can be fun; it can be tedious. It’s a task for an intern, or for everyone to share. No matter how you look at it, what you say online is crucial to growing your business while also demonstrating your expertise. Let me explain…

We’ll start by exploring a little thing called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). People who know and use your business can get to your website whenever they want by entering your URL into their web browser.

What about growth, though? When new customers or clients are searching for the product or service you offer, you want them to find your website first. That is what SEO does. You can make sure that your website is clear and informative, stating exactly what it is you do; relevant information helps your website appear higher on the list of results when certain terms are searched. You can even pay for advertising around the keywords that people are typing in to increase the position in which your website appears.

But all of that applies only to your relatively static website. Each time you create a blog post, you create a new web address with relevant content for the audience you want to reach. You’re gaining credibility by talking about what you know best, and you’re stretching your online presence by providing new information for clients and customers to find when they search for a service like yours online. So now, instead of appearing in search results only once, each blog post has the potential to appear as a separate site, increasing your online presence dramatically.

What happens after you blog? Does that post disappear deep into the archives of your website? Nope! Hubspot, an inbound marketing company, explains the idea of “compounding posts,” which basically means that you may get 100 views on the first day you publish your post, but over the next few months, a good post will continue to generate traffic to your website, sometimes exponentially.

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From a PR perspective, contacts generated and credibility gained are really going to make the difference. By blogging regularly, you gain a captive audience that will now see your press releases as soon as they’re posted, while we’re still in close contact with other news sources that will reach the rest of the population you’re hoping to target. You put yourself a step ahead of the game, so as days go by, it’s bigger growth for your company.

Getting started, or ramping it up (if you’re already blogging)

As far as content for blog posts, write about what you know best—piece of cake! Images make a post more attractive, so don’t forget to include one or two. Social Marketing Writing has some stats that will improve your blogging performance. My top three favorites include:

  • Once you accumulate 51 posts, blog traffic increases by 53%, goes up by 3 times when you hit 100 posts, and by 4.5 times after 200 posts. Posting more often will help you get there!
  • Blogs get the highest traffic on Monday mornings, so at the least, plan to have a post published every Monday morning.
  • Posts published on Thursdays get the most social shares.

Blogging is a low-cost way to keep in touch with your clients and grow your business. We think it’s an essential part of any company’s marketing and PR strategy.

To find out more about how we can help you achieve results through blogging, contact us today!

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Ignorance Is Not a Brand Attribute

Media outlets everywhere have covered Groupon's Presidents' Day marketing stunt. The question is if this hurts or helps the brand in the long term.

Many media outlets, like the Chicago Tribune, have covered Groupon’s President’s Day marketing stunt. The question is if this stunt hurts or helps the brand in the long term.

As marketing tools, sometimes stunts work. They get the media’s attention. They take your brand “viral.” They get people talking about you. They create “buzz.”

When activists delivered a 13-foot tall gluten-free cake to Capital Hill in May 2011 to advocate that the Food and Drug Administration enforce gluten-free labeling standards, the stunt worked. There was plenty of media coverage. It supported the mission to which the activists were committed. It alerted consumers to issues surrounding the food they eat.

However, Groupon’s latest stunt – calling Alexander Hamilton “undeniably one of our greatest presidents” to promote a Presidents’ Day special – will not serve the brand well.

Sure, Groupon is quirky. Some might say it’s quirky to the point of being ridiculous. I’ll also grant you the Groupon stunt is getting buzz. There’s plenty of media coverage (heck, it prompted me to write this spiffy blog post).

But this stunt also gives the impression Groupon doesn’t know the facts (e.g., Hamilton was U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, not President). In trying to look too cool for school, Groupon instead comes across as out of touch with details – something that might make consumers wary. Thoughtful consumers might at first be amused. But on reflection, will they trust leaving their credit card information with a company that portrays ignorance as an attribute?

Hamilton’s briefly mistaken moment in U.S. presidential history won’t sink Groupon – assuming people are still using it. In fact, in the short run, it will have everyone talking about Groupon. That is what stunts do; they create buzz.

It’s the long run that is a problem. How does Hamilton fit the brand? More importantly, how does portraying a fundamental misunderstanding of history convince consumers to spend their Hamiltons, and Washingtons and Lincolns with Groupon?

Any good public relations professional will tell you buzz doesn’t always last and stunts like this don’t help the long term reputation of Groupon with consumers.

Mr. Hamilton would not be amused or impressed by Groupon’s stunt. Those using his likeness shouldn’t be either.

 

 

9 Tips To Make Social Media Work For You At Conventions

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

There is nothing wrong with an awkward selfie when used to promote a brand or to let the world know you just discovered amazing pepper jelly.

Last week (Sept. 25-28) more than 1,200 vendors attended Natural Products Expo East to attract the attention of retailers and bloggers while also winning some valued name recognition for their brands.

Surprisingly, only a handful of vendors used social media to truly maximize their advantage.

I’ve attended many conferences and conventions and I follow some simple social media steps for events.  I urge many of the brands I met with at Expo East to review the following tips and plan to incorporate them next September in Baltimore or in March 2014 in Anaheim for Expo West. Because of its profound reach, extensive use in business and dexterity of messaging, these tips focus on using Twitter, but could be adapted for Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, Pinterest and others.

Twitter Screen Shot

1. Tell the World Where You’ll Be

About 45 days before the show, tweet from your company Twitter handle that you will be in attendance. Use the show’s hashtag (usually #ExpoEast or #ExpoWest; other shows will include this info. in registration materials), your booth number and invite people to visit your booth at the show. For example: We’re thrilled to be attending #ExpoWest in Anaheim in March. You can find us at Booth #3100.

2. Make a Social Media Plan for the Show

Conference attendees cling to their smartphones. Task someone to monitor, post and respond to social media during the show in real-time. Either on the floor or back at the home office, participating on social media will help garner attention for you long after the tradeshow floor closes.

3. Give Followers a Behind the Scenes Look

Tweet behind-the-scenes pictures and video of your team preparing for the show, traveling to the show and setting up your booth. People like to get to know the brands they love, and feel included. Be sure to include show hashtags and your booth number.

4. Give Attendees a Reason To Seek You Out

Entice attendees to visit you by offering samples, raffles or exclusive news on upcoming brand news. Make it worth attendees’ time to find your booth in the crowd. And, of course, use the show hashtag and your booth number. For example: If you’re attending #ExpoWest, stop by Booth #3100 for free samples of our new mango and coffee-flavored smoothies.

5. Recruit Attendees to Be Your Ambassadors

People share content in which they are featured. Invite interested attendees to take a photo with you and your booth. Then you can tweet the picture, with the attendee’s Twitter handle and the show’s hashtag with a “Thanks for stopping by” or other conversation-relevant comment. Retailers might not partake, but bloggers and brand enthusiasts will – and they share!

6. Comment on Show Happenings

You’re at the convention. Make sure you are aware of educational and training sessions taking place, who the guest speakers are, and what events attendees are talking about most. Tweet content related to each – with images where possible. For example: Willy Wonka’s talk on the health benefits of sugar at #ExpoWest has fired attendees up. What’s the most interesting seminar you’ve attended today?

7. Respond To Those Who Tweet About/To You

It’s just like a conversation. You wouldn’t ignore someone who said hello to your or complimented you, so don’t do it on social media. If someone tweets at or about you, tweet them back with a tailored thank you (i.e., don’t just say ‘Thanks’).

8. Spelling Counts

Proper spelling is key, especially for people’s names and Twitter handles. It demonstrates professionalism as well as being able to react correctly to real-time events with aplomb.

9. If It Goes Badly, Get It Offline

If someone tweets a complaint or comments negatively about your product, let them know you are sorry they are unhappy, and that you would like to speak with them (by email, cell phone or in person) right away to try to help. Do not engage in a back-and-forth dialogue via social media. Get the conversation off of social media as quickly as possible. For example: We’re sorry you had a bad experience. Email willy@willywonka.com and let us help or stop by booth #3100 & give us a chance to make it right.

There is a lot of good that can come from live social media posts at a conference or convention. Retailers search the related hashtags to see what brands are trending, and what attendees liked and didn’t like. And whether you use social media or not, if you are a vendor at a show like Natural Products Expo, you are being talked about on social media. So make sure you are taking an active role to help shape that conversation.

If you have questions or would like to create a social media plan for Anaheim or Baltimore in 2014, email me at rhughes@kimballpr.com to learn how the team at Kimball Communications can help. Or tweet us at @KimballPR.

Marketing on the 9/11 Anniversary? Don’t

“When in doubt, leave it out.”

This was the sage advice of one of my first journalism professors in college. It served me well in everything from sussing out facts for news stories to drawing up guest lists for family parties. It’s also good advice for brands and organizations to consider as part of their social media policies, and their approach to anniversaries of remembrance like Sept. 11.

This week – 12 years from the attacks of Sept. 11 – we saw far too many businesses using social media to remember the fallen while also making sure you remember their products.

On The Crisis Show, which aired on the anniversary of 9/11, I joined Shel Holtz and host Rich Klein to discuss these efforts. We highlighted some of the more thoughtless attempts to newsjack the 9/11 anniversary, as well as the reactions those efforts engendered. It’s a cautionary tale of how even the best intentions on social media can fail without sound strategy, planning and a crisis response plan.

What we saw on social media on this anniversary was how tone deaf some brands can be, and how few plan for all potential outcomes. The list of offending brands – both exploitative in their efforts and those just trying to mark the day as best they could while failing in the attempt – is too long to include here.

The best advice I can share is beautifully summarized in a short online article in The Atlantic. The writer, Derek Thompson, took a page from my journalism professor’s book and offered one simple rule for advertising on 9/11: Don’t. This rule applies equally well to marketers, social media practitioners and PR pros.

The events of that day still haunt us as a nation. So brands should consider honoring the day with a moment of silence, time off for employees to participate in the National Day of Service Congress called for in 2009 or by making a charitable donation. But don’t market such efforts or your products and services. Those who mourn don’t need to hear from brands on this day.

Next year, when we mark the 13th anniversary of our national loss, I encourage brand managers everywhere to follow the prescient advice of my old professor: When in doubt, leave it out.

When to Hop Off the Facebook Bandwagon

Jump Off

via Flickr user psmithy

In my internal life as a secret pundit, I hold strong, unpopular opinions on a wide range of topics. I’ll spare you my monologue on the proper storage of tomatoes, but let’s discuss my wildly unfashionable opinions on Facebook, which are probably more relevant to your interests.

Here’s a radical thought: Facebook doesn’t work that well for some brands, particularly small B2B service providers. Yes, that Facebook—the stuff of marketing mavens’ dreams. For many, it turns into a marketing nightmare; after devoting time and energy to creating and curating a brand page, a chorus of crickets greets you instead of legions of grateful fans.

Many self-proclaimed social media experts will suggest that you are doing it wrong. That is true in some cases, but not all. If Facebook isn’t working for you, I think there are a few reasons it is more than okay to stop using your brand page.

It’s cost prohibitive

Contrary to popular belief, using Facebook as a PR and marketing tool is far from free. It is time-intensive, no matter what strategies and tools you use. It’s cliche but true: at work, time is money.

To get the most out of a Facebook brand page, you should spend time and money not only perusing and posting, but also creating videos and custom visual content like infographics, memes and quality photos. Last time I checked, graphic designers don’t work for free. Plus, paid ads, contests and promoted posts are often the only way to get any semblance of a noticeable boost in fans and engagement. This could be time and money well-spent, but not if you don’t see results.

Your content never meets its mark    

When I say engagement, I’m not speaking in abstract jargon. What I mean is people seeing, liking, commenting beneath and clicking thru to your content. On Twitter, engagement defined this way is possible any time someone logs on and scrolls through their feed. On Facebook, what someone sees on their News Feed depends on a number of factors analyzed by the company’s EdgeRank algorithm, which you can read more about here.

From a personal user’s perspective, there are advantages to EdgeRank and otherwise being in control of your News Feed. For example, with a few clicks, you can hide future posts from your Facebook-addicted auntie and never again be subjected to her semi-literate rants on the tyranny of everyday objects.

However, the same tool may prevent a user from being exposed to your brand’s content, even if s/he would like to see it—which s/he presumably does, since s/he “likes” you. Users rarely return to a brand’s Facebook page after they have liked it, so they won’t see your pithy posts there. And if you don’t share a photo, it is unlikely that they will see a post in their News Feed. As many have lamented, EdgeRank prefers gimics over content that is relevant to your audience. If you provide B2B services, or something that is equally ill-matched to meme-ing or Harlem Shaking, you just may never stand out.

There are other options    

Should you want to stand out on Facebook? This question nags me. For companies that provide consumer products or entertainment, the Facebook News Feed is a natural fit. You want to be (and often are) an integral part of your customers’ personal lives, so you fit in snugly between a cousin’s baby pictures and political rants from college friends.

For most other kind of brand, the Facebook News Feed is an awkward fit, like trying to wear the clothes you thought were cool at age 15. No one thinks you look cool in those JNCOs, and no one wants to hear about some esoteric corporate service while they are perusing their iPad on the couch.

In the wide world of digital marketing and PR, there exist many more agreeable options. If you are struggling with Facebook and don’t even enjoy the medium, maybe it’s time to redirect your efforts elsewhere. Perhaps your time and energy could be better spent on Twitter, LinkedIn or a blog. Read case studies, ask around and give a new network a try.

I’m far from the first person to suggest Facebook isn’t the social media marketing magic bullet, but I don’t think many take action in response. Has anyone out there abandoned their Facebook strategy? Tell us about it in the comments.

Think Digital First: Podcast

Video

Gary follows up his recent column in Best’s Review with a Best’s Day podcast. Listen below.

Gary on Insurance PR in Best’s Review

There’s a familiar face next to the “Top 5” insurance marketing column in April’s Best Review.

Gary shared his top-line insurance communications rules for the social media age, including best newsroom practices and the importance of a social media strategy.  Download the PDF of the column to read more — and let us know what you think.