I know you. You’re spending all of your social media marketing budget on promoting your brand, products, and services; that’s fine except you’ve either forgotten — or never knew — that social media is a two-way street. It is.
And, something you also didn’t know: social media is two-thirds defense and monitoring — listening — and only one-third promotion and publicity — speaking. Most marketing folks not only don’t get PR but they revile it; sadly, this is what social media is, no matter what you call it: public relations, all aspects of it: publicity, of course, but also crisis management!
A social media crisis almost always begins as a customer support call and generally escalates slowly and then exponentially, generally because a customer doesn’t feel heard, doesn’t feel responded to, doesn’t feel appreciate, or doesn’t feel respected. And the truth generally has nothing to do with any of those things (at first) though both sides can easily become very heated.
The truth most often has more to do with “not hearing the knock at the door,” “not hearing the phone ring,” — not noticing they’re there. And that Mr. Nobody, that real nowhere man, need not be a sniping, paranoid, lonely, nebbish, either. That person may very well be Chris-Frigging-Brogen himself!
Yesterday morning, Chris Brogan reported his terrible experience with NMTW Community Credit Union. Though now resolved, let me summarize: Chris lost track of an account at NMTW, one of his many bank accounts, which had drained and been empty or negative for only a couple weeks. NMTW automatically closes account after 15 days. Chris was a 20-year veteran of this bank and reached out via the info@ email and then took to Facebook.
You lost a 20-year member today. I emailed your info@ email address to forward the reason why to your president. Wishing you better in the future.
Long and short of it, he received a form mail:
NMTW takes pride in its member service and we strive to add value to everyone’s day. We regret that in your situation we were unable to assist you any further at the time of your branch visit. NMTW would like to thank you for bringing this to our attention and in doing so will prevent similar events in the future.
At first, Chris sent an email to the company using the only email he could find; then he reached out, gently, using the only other point of contact he had with his favorite community credit union, NMTW, because it mattered to him. Finally, a response! But not a response to his terse Facebook wall post, a copy-and-paste form response (rule one, never copy-and-paste responses, ever).
I didn’t ask Chris but I bet you he was pretty bemused by everything up to this point, though indignation has probably been building. What got him was the fact that the Facebook response was out of sync with what Chris wrote on Facebook — was completely deaf to his comment — but that he was shut down. That his comment reached a dead end.
What Chris expected — demanded — (and what I demand as well) is that Chris’ and my ping via email, form, Facebook, or Twitter actually goes somewhere. And, in this case, Chris was completely explicit as to where, “forward the reason why to your president.” He expected, rightly, that there was a direct path — a stovepipe — that runs from the social media dashboard that NMTW uses in their Social Media Command Center directly all the way up to El Presidente. Rightfully so.
Everyone who consumes social media expects that. We have been trained to. We don’t expect that when we call an 800 customer support line, but we do expect satisfaction when there — or can be — witnesses. On a phone, tarring-and-feathering and stocks in the village square aren’t even worth it, but on Facebook and Twitter, there’s nothing to lose. Every altercation can be a bona fide “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” moment!
So, if you’re going to dance with devil — with social media, naked and covered with tar and feather in stocks at the very center of the village square, you had better spend at least two-thirds of your time, resources, and respect making sure you’re not missing very important conversations — listening — while you’re spending way too much of your time pitching, selling, marketing, promoting, hawking — speaking — like some itinerant peddler.
You’re better than that. Right?
While neither marketing nor social media are sciences, one needs to use scientific principles to be most effective when it comes to both branding and prospecting online. It doesn’t take an Einstein to succeed in social media marketing, but to does take a scientist. Are you rigorously collecting metrics and data to see if what you’re doing is resulting in sales conversions or extending your brand or are you relying on things you’ve learned from The Secret? Is your social media marketing campaign relying too much on magical realism, the power of positive thinking, and general superstition?
Or, are you so confident in your social media marketing plan that you really don’t care what your experiment says? That no matter how little pick-up you get in the media or no matter how few followers you garner or how little engagement, it isn’t your fault but must be because the market’s not ready for you or because you knew that social media marketing wasn’t effective anyway.
Well, that’s just bad science. Don’t let your social media hypothesis dictate your conclusion
If you want to be an effective scientist, it is essential that you allow the results of your experiments — your observations — to speak for themselves. While having a hypothesis going into the lab is always part one, allowing the empirical data to realign or even contradict your initial predictions is essential. That said, it’s hard on the ego to see something fail. It’s even harder to take the data as it comes and turn it into something useful in the end. This is how innovation happens, of course; and this is how scientific breakthroughs happen, too: not incrementally but in finding order in the chaos of unpredicted results.
There is a lot of bad science in social media marketing. Even a long decade after the Cluetrain Manifesto brought us the 95 theses that taught us that markets are conversations and that brands don’t own their brands anymore — a hypothesis that has proven itself prophetic — there are still many brands that have adopted blogs and social networks simply as new broadcast channels and have simply used social media as a handy way of listening in on the rude thing that people are saying about them.
Science is about testing. Testing and retesting and being willing and able to cut loose any and all processes that prove ineffective and moving those resources into things that either work outright or show general promise. It is about not being attached to outcome. Finally, it is also about sticking to your guns and powering through on your commitment to seeing your experiments and your tests through. There are too many ghost towns littering social media that are the direct result of abandoned experiments, abandoned dreams — actually, more often, they succumbed to a crisis of faith.
The advertising industry has already adopted science and testing, but not because they wanted to. These were not men who had faith in science — they thought that advertising was an art. While early online marketing started to make advertising nervous, it wasn’t until Google launched AdWords that advertising began to evolve from art to science. The same thing is happening to direct marketing. From A/B testing to sophisticated engagement metrics, the science of advertising and marketing is becoming more de facto than fringe.
PR as the last bastion of magical thinking
PR is the last bastion of The Secret, the last bastion of superstition and magical thinking. The last business communication vocation that struggles against the harsh accountability of hard science, the cruel nakedness of quantitative metrics over the soft fuzzies of qualitative metrics.
Just because you’ve adopted social media doesn’t mean you’re modern. It is strangely possible to map your 19th century PR strategies onto a 21st century media platform without missing a beat. Take responsibility for your campaigns and do not let your hunches and experience dictate your successes and failures — let the data inform you and when it informs you that you’re just spinning your wheels, it is essential to do whatever it takes to adjust your campaign to maximize performance, amplify influence, and optimize for conversions.
Everything else is just doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, a sure sign of insanity — or so said none other than Albert Einstein.
Bloggers, site managers, and SEO specialists are always looking for new ways to boost traffic to their page and exposure for their business. They use social media platforms to market their website, they utilize backlinks and interactive features to maximize views and click-throughs, and they try to increase conversion rate with live chat software. Now, many of these people are looking to an old medium as the next frontier for online marketing and SEO: video. Continue reading
Last week, I wrote about how to succeed with B-list bloggers, but maybe some of you aren’t convinced.
So, this week, I want to draw an analogy to successful Google AdWords approaches so that you can see how to apply that same technique to blogger outreach. When it comes to reaching out to bloggers online, there’s a lot you can learn from Google AdWords. Long-tail blogger outreach is like long-tail Google AdWords advertising. Instead of putting all your money on the top 10 most expensive and popular keywords that everyone bids on, smart advertisers segment their markets and hyper-target their highest-performing keywords with their most compelling ads and content while always pruning away their worst performers.
The same should be done with blogger outreach. There will always be blogs that are out of your league and your target audience. Instead of hitting your head against the wall by trying to make it onto TechCrunch and Mashable, learn to segment your blogger list, target more precisely while expanding your pool of bloggers past the top most blogs that tend also to be the most exclusive and difficult to break into — out of your league — to blogs and bloggers who are just starting out, who blog more from passion than ad revenue, and who are naturally more receptive to your content and your message based on a natural affinity.
Affiliate marketers have learned that they can reliably make money by spending money on Google AdWords by finding keyword phrases with such low bids that they can make money from the relatively small commissions or bounty they get from converting the click throughs to sales. Millions in yearly profits cent by cent, dollar by dollar. A cascade of small sales made by people who were so well targeted to that they were almost powerless to resist.
The same thing can be done with blogger outreach. If you’re able to find yourself thousands of bloggers who have yet to be discovered by your all your competitors, you’ll be able to secure hundreds of earned media mentions. In concert, hundreds of earned media mentions both drown out a single post on TechCrunch and also do a better job or finding what you really want: sales.
All the most successful AdWords gurus, such as Adam Viener of imwave, realize that you can only make money in affiliate marketing with Google AdWords if you can make more money from your converted sales than you spend. You can’t do this unless you find the magic sweet spot where there aren’t many competing bidders who are bidding up the price of your keyword phrases so that you can both keep your spending low and also increase the likelihood that those who do stumble upon your ad will not only click through, costing you money, but also make a trackable major purchase, resulting in a commission–in commissions–that cover the costs of the ads and then some. This is not easy and the field fluctuates.
It takes expertise and vigilance, Adam tells me, and a mistake can be costly. One possibly apocryphal story reported that there was a very profitable keyword phrase that suddenly also became popular and the bids shot up without someone noticing, resulting in the equivalent of a Range Rover being lost in one day. Because of such high risks tantamount to the stock market, these folks are very good at discovering and milking the long tail, realizing that making a little bit here and there spread concurrently over hundreds and thousands of ads and keywords is more profitable, long term, than making a single big score.
If you’re loaded with cash and don’t really care about extracting value from your campaign, you can spend all your money on trying to get your ad copy at the top of every Google Search just to see it there but being constantly outbid by others, ultimately clearing out your budget or maxing your credit card; the same can be said with regards to blogger outreach: you can spend all your budgeted time and money pursuing the top bloggers while constantly being blocked by content from bigger, sexier, richer, more impressive national and global brands that have exclusive content and truckloads of valuable review products, better assets, and a promise of more and better traffic resulting in higher advertising revenue.
The most obvious thing you can learn is how easily it is to get outbid. Another thing you’ll learn is that AdWords can rapidly burn all your cash with nothing to show for it. Finally, you’ll learn that Google doesn’t wage a fair fight — they both play favorites as well as giving preference to quality of ad over quantity of bid.
What this means in Google AdWords ads is that you’re rewarded for the following: 1) Having lots of cash: a fool and his money are soon parted 2) Finding new markets: Being willing to hunt out holes in the market — keyword combinations that are not so obvious but are hyper-targeted to appeal to a new segment of visitors, bringing new opportunities for Google to make money 3) Creating an irresistible ad: no matter how much money you’re willing to spend, Google doesn’t make money unless visitors are compelled to click through 4) Becoming a long-term client: there are many cases where no amount or money and wit will claim you the top ad position on Google search, inline with organic search, because that spot almost always goes to the client who has made Google the most money, historically, over time.
These lessons map perfectly to blogger outreach.
The blogosphere rewards specialization and laser-targeting
The most desired, desirable, and “easy” keywords are like the top bloggers with the highest Alltop rankings and Klout scores are constantly being pursued. How realistic are you that you can even compete with all the others vying for their time and copy? If you’re Dell or Sony, you probably have the sort of brand recognition and respect to be able to get a blogger to schedule time to review your new gizmo pretty thoroughly. You’ll probably also have the sort of marketing budget that would allow you to offer a review product to everyone you engage.
You’ll probably have a graphic design department and a staff of copywriters who can develop an amusing and compelling pitch which could include press junkets and personal meet and greets. Finally, a company like Dell is able to commit the long-term time, staff, and expense account towards making sure their communications team developed and professional as well as personal relationship with as many online influencers and online journalists over time — to use Google AdWords parlance, they have learned how to appeal to Google on all levels.
How many levels are you able to compete on? If you’re unable to compete on any of these levels, you’ll go bankrupt trying. It’s not that A-List tech bloggers are corrupt, it’s just that they’re under pressure as well. They have only 24-hours/day and they’re heavily rewarded with traffic when they’re able to get exclusive content from a national player such as Dell. In the same way that Google AdWords rewards its clients for trying harder and digging deeper into the “long tail” in order to find new, under-served, markets, the blogosphere also rewards specialization and laser-targeting.
In a perfect world, one should only spend one’s AdWords budget on keywords phrases that display ads only to people who will convert into clients and customers. The better one knows one’s market and customer and the more time one spends finding out who and where they are and engaging them there, the more value you can extract from your sweat and cash.
Let’s say you’re preparing to launch your new book online and you want to use bloggers as an essential distribution channel, both great ideas. However, let’s think this through. Are you internationally famous crime fiction writer James Ellroy or are you an unknown first-time, self-published, crime fiction-writer? Do you have a huge war chest to fuel your promotional campaign or are you running on sweat equity? Do you have thousands of friends online who are already committed to buying your book because you have been developing your popularity online by sharing chapters and answering questions and giving free advice or have you been busily scribbling your work on yellow pads and consider your work protected by strict copyright and not something to dilute by giving it away?
Novice Google AdWords users waste a lot of money with limited results when they start out because they don’t understand how the competition works in contextual ad-buying: It’s an auction. A complicated auction.
In short, the way it works is that every keyword combination, such as “social media marketing,” competes with four things: the general popularity of the search, the quality of the keyword ad, the long-term success of the campaign, and how much money others are willing to bid for their ad based on their keyword choice, also dependent on their prior successes, ad spends, and long-term commitment. In shorter, while how much you’re willing to bid for a keyword phrase is important, it isn’t that simple.
With blogger outreach, you face the same odds as for paid search. If you are targeting only the top blogs, you’ll face immense competition and can easily be outgunned by bigger foes. If you target the long tail of bloggers, you can more easily land your targets and will build up success one blog at a time, rather than in one fell swoop.