Jul 29, 2011

Social Media Strategy I Think Everyone Can Agree To

A friend of mine tweeted a link to an article today called Five Truths about Social Media Marketing. The article claims the five truths are:
1. Size Matters
2. The Medium is the Message
3. Social Media Gurus Really Do Exist
4. Social Media is New Media
5. Social media can be effectively outsourced to a PR firm

The article was a response to another article called Five Lies About Social Media Marketing. I swear I'm not making this up, here are the five lies according to the article:
1. Size Matters
2. The Medium is the Message
3. Social Media Gurus Really Do Exist
4. Social Media is New Media
5. Social media can be effectively outsourced to a PR firm

My friend who tweeted the "5 Truths" article seemed to agree with it, while I sided more with the "5 Lies" article. Who's right? Well, it's my blog so obviously me. But seriously, neither are going to be truths or lies for every situation. You see my friend works for a PR firm and I do social media in house for a B2B eCommerce business and in the past did social media in house for a B2C liquor store franchise. All three have vastly different business goals, customers, and marketing needs. So all three are going to see success differently on social media and have different audiences.

I'm going to try to come up with some "truths" about social media I hope apply to everyone here. And by truths, I really mean opinions.

1. Set measurable goals for social media and track them.

I believe almost any goal you have for social media can be numerically numbered. Followers are good to track, but try being more creative. I personally like to track incoming traffic from social media to my sites and click through rates on shared content. If your focus isn't on cold hard numbers and more abstract concepts, like customer interaction or reputation management, try figuring out a way to quantify it and measure it. Track the number of interactions you have weekly or daily. You could also categorize the nature of interactions on a likert scale (1. very negative 2. negative 3. neutral 4. positive 5. very positive). If you're all about the bottom line, track sales that can be attributed to social media or estimate a value for the traffic brought in through social media.

2. Find Your Niche and Stick To It.

No one can be all things to everyone. There are plenty of people trying and failing on social media. If you're a sports reporter on twitter, talk about sports. If you're a fishing store, talk about fishing. If you're a political pundit, be obnoxious and talk out of your @$$. There's a lot of noise in social media. You don't need to stand out from the crowd. You need to avoid the crowd. Certain organizations just are not going to compete with brands like Nike, Google, or Coke on social media. It's better to focus your efforts on people who want to know more about your field and will find value in what you have to say. People will tolerate random thoughts or opinions from Justin Beiber of Charlie Sheen, they will not for a company. If you're measuring your efforts well, you'll start to see which types of messages tend to be more successful and which aren't.

3. Keep measuring.

Seriously, it's important.

I think if you follow these three tips you'll find some kind of success on social media. Set reasonable expectations and goals. You'll never be Lady Gaga, so don't use her or other celebrities and large brands techniques for your business, organization, or personal social media efforts.

Apr 21, 2011

How To Get More Website Traffic Using Social Media

Traffic from social media and social networks to your website is a metric that I think is good to follow. It's also a good way to show your boss the worth of social marketing. The best way to drive more traffic is to use social media platforms regularly and experiment, find out what works and what doesn't, and what the users of the platform are like and how they behave. This post will give you an introduction on how to create better content for social media, and how to use social networking to get traffic to that content.

Start with Better Content

I find the simplest way to publish content and distribute it is with a business blog. If you don't have one, stop reading this and start one right now! It's 2011 already. This may seem obvious, but fill that content with cool pictures and videos. This makes your content look better, and makes it more interesting when pushed out into social media. Again this may seem obvious, but make it interesting content. Keep in the back of your head that lots of people on social media are looking to kill time with short interesting content (like a picture or short video), news, or articles on niche topics (like how to get more social media traffic). Also come up with a good, specific title. The title is the only thing most people are going to see about your content in social media.

Know Your Platforms

This shows you the traffic the top social media sites got last year (2010). Everyone knows to post to Facebook and Twitter, but are you also posting on Stumbleupon, Reddit, Linkedin, and YouTube? A wider net means more traffic! (You can post to Digg and Myspace if you really want to too). Each of these platforms are different, with different users, norms, and interfaces. Let's go through some of the more popular platforms and go over some tips for creating more popular content on each for effective social media strategies.

Facebook ranks content by chronology and popularity. Users can sort their feed strictly by "most recent" or "top news", which combines time factors and the number of interactions. A post that has many likes and comments stays higher in feeds. The longer one of you links stays in feeds, the more chances of getting a click through. So, if you want comments, creating engaging content. Perhaps ask people's opinion when you share a link, like encouraging people to share their opinion on the matter.

Tweets can be found in three ways. It can appear in your followers' feeds, it can be found through search, or your followers can retweet it to their followers. Play on all three levels and you'll increase your chances of getting more traffic. Write a tweet that will make people want to click on your link. Be specific about what the link is, and make it sound worth clicking through. To be seen by your followers, time your tweets well. Take some measurements of when you get the highest CTR (time of day and day of week). You may find your followers are not very active on weekends, or after a certain time. To get retweeted, make your content worth sharing. To have your content found in search, make sure to include good keywords in your tweet and include a hashtag if possible.

It may be the best for B2B marketing.  Your audience is professionals, and generally not people looking to waste time or wanting to know what's up with Justin Beiber or Charlie Sheen.  Create a company page and sync it up with your blog.  (I'd recommend not syncing your Twitter to Linkedin because you will send out too many updates.)  The best way to reach niche audiences in Linkedin is through groups.  Find ones relevant to your business, join them, and post your content there.

Probably the easiest to use, and a great source of traffic, but Stumbleupon is a lot like channel surfing. People on Stumbleupon will be suggested a page to view based on their interests and previous stumbling patterns. If they don't want to read more or are bored, they "stumble" to the next page. This is why I told you earlier that your content should have lots of pretty pictures and videos. Users can also vote if they like or dislike a site, so the more likes you get, the more frequently your site will appear.

Reddit's a little confusing at first. The interface is extremely simple (which for some reason always makes things more complicated). You submit a link, and people can up or down vote it. When people log into reddit, they see the highest voted links, which consequently get the most traffic. If you use reddit, you know the top rated links often are about libertarians, atheism, or a funny/stupid picture.  It's not the best place to post a business article. Reddit also limits how often you can post, so don't waste a post on something that won't get lots of up votes.  There are subreddits, which cater to niche audiences. They don't get nearly as many views as the main reddit, but will be more likely to get traffic from your target audiences. This is where I post most links.


The secret to all good social media marketing is good measurements, metrics, and analysis. Hook up Google analytics to your site and monitor your incoming web traffic. See what posts got more traffic, and which were duds. Monitor things like where the traffic is coming from, when you post, and what the content is that was posted. Keep making adjustments based on your data and you'll see your website traffic rise.

Apr 4, 2011

Making Social Media Sales

I've seen many sales attempts over social media and many different techniques used.  About 99% of these techniques can be called spam.  You've probably seen these a lot too in the forms of automated direct messages and mentions on twitter.  If you're a legitimate business with a reputation to consider, social media spam is not for you.  Many businesses get on social media thinking there is money to be made.  If you're the social media manager, make it clear to your business that ROI and sales are not good metrics for determining social media success and should not drive your social media strategy.

This article is title making social media sales, but sales can be substituted for any organization's goal that requires consumer or public action including joining a mailing list, signing a petition, donating to a cause, etc.  Not including spam, most businesses you find on social media are taking a passive approach to gaining customers.  Their strategy is to build up a good number of followers and post about their business with links to products or services on their websites.  The idea is that you will see the tweet about a product, click the link to the site, and buy the product.  Now ask yourself, how likely are you to buy a product because you saw tweet or Facebook message?

Businesses that use this kind of strategy do not realize that in the world of social media, consumers are in control.  They expect businesses to cater to them more personally in both sales and service.  When they complain about a business, they expect the business to respond.  When they are looking to buy a product, they likewise expect businesses to respond.  Say you own a website (123printers.com) that sells printers.  If a social media savvy customer has a problem with your company, she will tweet "@123printers sucks, don't buy from them" and expect 123printsers.com to see her tweet and fix her problem.  How does this relate to sales?  The social media savvy customer will also expect businesses to respond to them when they are looking to buy.

Rather than searching Twitter and Facebook to see what businesses are saying about themselves, the customer may tweet out "Looking for a new printer. Anyone know of a good place?" or "My printer just broke last night."  These are the opportunities 123printers.com should be looking for if they want to make sales over social media.  It could send a response like "Maybe we can help.  Here are some models with rush delivery we can have at your house in 24 hours. 123printers.com/rush."

If you want your sales pitches to be taken seriously, do not automate.  Anyone who's been on Twitter long enough has received an automated message.  They are obvious and are much less likely to be considered by the receiver.  Make sure your messages don't look automated by showing you have actually read the person's tweet you are responding too.  Besides how they come off to the receiver, if someone goes to your Twitter page, she will see all the same automated message filling up your entire feed.  This will leave no doubt that you are a spammer.

Feb 26, 2011

How Popular Content Can Hurt SEO

In my last SEO post, I talked about how having content unrelated to a business on a website can hurt its SEO (search engine optimization) in general terms.  In this post I'm going to show you a real example of this on the web.

I was looking to create a QR code when I came across this website: http://qrcode.kaywa.com/.  It's the number one result on Google for most QR code related searches.  Most would assume that's a good thing, right?  This website must be doing something right if it gets a page number two on a keyword like "QR code."  Let's dig deeper.  I went to the homepage - http://www.kaywa.com/ - and found that this company sells mobile marketing solutions to companies.  From what I gathered, Kaywa's main business is taking company's web content and making it cell phone accessible.  This is slightly related to creating QR codes, but it's not the company's main focus.

I then looked up the site on Alexa.  Here's its top search queries and percentage of search traffic:

Kaywa wants people to come to its website that are looking for mobile marketing services, but most of the people who are coming across Kaywa are just looking for a free QR code.  There's a disconnect in how Kawya appears to search engines, and what Kaywa is.  If I was running this company, I would want to see terms like "cell phone marketing" and "mobile marketing solutions" as top searches.

This is an example of how popular content can still hurt you.  SEO and internet marketing are not about getting the most traffic all the time, they're about getting the right traffic.  Millions of people a year coming to the site to get a free QR code and then bouncing doesn't help Kaywa's business.  Kaywa can still leverage this high ranking content to help it.  One thing it should do is move it off its main domain.  Then it should link the QR site to it's homepage with anchor text more specific to its core business.

To avoid similar situations on your website, I recommend doing similar search research.  Use Google analytics to find out what the most popular content is on your site and what the most popular search queries are.  If your results don't align with your core business, consider changing or removing the content.

Feb 8, 2011

Doing SEO Well and Applying It Outside Search

If you do any internet work, especially if you do internet marketing, you have to be aware of SEO (search engine optimization) and know the fundamentals.  This post is not by any means going to be an in-depth explanation of what SEO is.  I just want to give my take on why I think everyone should know it, even if they don't work in search.

The Basics of SEO

SEO is the process of making a website perform better in search engine results pages (SERPs).  The ultimate goal is to get your website #1 on Google for your keywords.  This is done by programming your website to be search engine friendly (having the right tags, sitemaps, etc.), having optimized content on your site (words and phrases matching high volume search queries), and having quality and numerous outside content linking to your site.

Driving the Right Traffic to Your Site

Let's say you own a nice Italian restaurant, but the building used to be a McDonalds and still looks like it.  You're in a great part of town, with lots of car traffic and foot traffic.  Lots of people come into your restraint, but many are expecting a McDonalds and leave quickly.  You're getting lots of people coming into the store but not a lot of business.  If you switched up the exterior to look more like a fancy Italian restaurant, more people looking for Italian food would stop in your store and less hamburger seekers.

The same is true for SEO.  Good SEO doesn't just increase traffic, it increases quality visits to your site.  Many sites have content that isn't about their core business.  If you post an interesting article about sneakers on your computer selling website, you might get some traffic from people searching for shoes, but those people ultimately are not looking for a computer and are going to leave your site right away.  If you want to sell computers, create content that would come up in a search someone looking to buy a new computer might conduct.

Applying SEO to Web 2.0

Search is everywhere on the internet.  We tend to think of SEO only in terms of Google or Yahoo, but the principles of it can and should apply to anything you build on the internet, including social media.  Everyone wants more Twitter followers.  People think about getting more followers by running promotions or following other people.  Those work, but some aspects of SEO can help too.  Keep your target customer in mind.  Again using the example of a computer selling website, you want people to follow you who are looking to buy a computer.  You could tweet about trending things, and you're sure to get a lot of people to see your tweets in twitter searches, but will someone who's searching for Justin Beiber be interested in following a computer selling twitter account?  Probably not.  Your tweets may not get seen as often if you tweet about duo core processors, but you'll get seen by the right people for you.  Think about the kind of person you would get some benefit from his follow on twitter, and then tweet about things that person would look for.

If you want to learn more about SEO check out these other sites:
http://www.bluehatseo.com/ (advanced stuff)
http://guides.seomoz.org/beginners-guide-to-search-engine-optimization (beginners guide)

Jan 15, 2011

Calls To Action in Email Marketing

I took a persuasion theory class in college.  What I took away from the class was that there are lots of different ways to persuade someone, but they rarely are effective.  One method that stuck with me was what my professor referred to as "the power of suggestion."  In marketing, we might call it a "call to action."

Email marketers may be surprised just how effective a call to action in emails can be.  If you want email receivers to do something, ask them.  I get emails in my inbox every day from companies and organizations wanting me to buy something, attend an event, visit a website, or donate to a cause.  I don't always get emails with a clear call to action.  It probably seems obvious to the writers of the emails what the desired action of the reader is.  That's a bad assumption to make.  It won't hurt your email to include some simple text like "Click here to buy now" or "Visit our site for more information" or "Follow us on twitter and facebook."

Here's a real life example.  A business I did email marketing for did weekly deals through email.  We thought people would forward the emails to their friends because they were pretty good deals and the products had universal appeal.  To my surprise, very few people forwarded the emails.   One of my coworkers suggested I include some text telling people to forward the emails to friends.  It was so simple I didn't think it would work.  I was wrong, forwards skyrocketed. 

I made the mistake of assuming people would know to forward the email on their own, and just didn't want to.  Maybe they didn't think the deal was open to non-email subscribers; maybe it just never crossed their minds to forward the email.  The lesson I learned was to never assume the receiver of your message will know how you want them to act unless you tell them.  Calls to action are so simple, and so effective, you have no reason not to include them.

Jan 11, 2011

Why Should an Organization use Social Media?

If you want a business to start using social media, be prepared to answer this question. Even if your boss is behind it (or you are the boss), people in your organization may still be skeptical of the benefits. There are many answers to this question, but every situation and organization is different. Here are a couple of reasons I’ve given in the past:

1. Stay ahead of your Competitors

Imagine 5 years ago if you’re company didn’t have a website. You would be at a significant disadvantage to all your competitors that did have a website. Now imagine if your company had a website 15 years ago. It wasn’t vital for businesses to be on the web in 1995, but if you were, you were ahead of the curve. As the internet evolved, you were able to evolve with it. Your business had already taken its first digital steps, so by the 2000s, when your competitors were just starting to walk, you were running on the web. Most businesses are in those first step stages still with social media, so if you don’t get on now, you’re going to be walking while everyone else is running. Then when the next big thing in marketing comes around, your competitors will be able to start using that while you’re still figuring out social media.

2. Stay ahead of your Customers

Over the holidays my uncle, who’s an old school marketing guy, told me he thought social media was a great tool for communicating with customers, but didn’t think it benefited a company’s bottom line much. Today, he’s probably not far off. There’s probably a very small percentage of people who use Twitter/Facebook as a primary decision making tool. That percentage will grow, and will grow quickly. A few years from now there’s no telling just how extensively consumers will use social media, and how much they will expect from companies on social media. If you can’t meet the social media savvy consumers’ expectations and needs, they’ll find someone else who can. There’s business to be had right now on social media, and that’s only going to grow.

3. Social Search

Social media can help your SEO (search engine optimization) right now, and all signs point to it being crucial in coming years. Search engines already factor Facebook and Twitter conversations into SERPs. In the future, people may start using Facebook and Twitter as their primary search engines over Google (or at least cut into Google’s share of searches). Just like if you don’t have a website, you won’t show up in Google, if you don’t have a social media presence, you probably won’t show up in social searches.

These are just a couple of reasons every business should start using social media (or maybe take their current efforts more seriously). Social media is still in its infancy. Businesses and consumers will most definitely continue to find more uses for it, giving you more reasons to be on it every day.

Jan 5, 2011


Hi, I'm Ryan Wilson. Welcome to my blog. I just graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in public relations, and am now embarking on a career in internet marketing. My current areas of focus are social media, email, and search. I hope it becomes of some value for others who currently are internet marketers, or who are looking to go into the field. I plan on sharing my experiences as I start my life as a marketing professional, what I find to work well and what doesn't work so well. For fellow young professionals, I want this to be a place where you can follow along on my journey and maybe share experiences. For seasoned pros, I hope this is a place you can find insight from the next generation of marketers. For students, I want to share with you the things I think will give you an advantage when you enter the job market, the stuff that hasn't made it into your textbooks yet.