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Building brand awareness through content creation and community engagement.

October 29th, 2012

Voce Monday Morning Five: 10/29/12

Put together while hoping all East Coast Vocians/clients/partners and everyone else stay safe this week.

  • Twitter Users Who Mention Top Brands Have An Increasingly Amplified Voice: Consumer behavior around brands online continues to shift. The drop in tweets with a link is most interesting since, as the report suggests, it means there are more actual conversations going on as opposed to just “This is cool (link)” updates.
  • Blog Frequency Produces Real Traffic, Lead Gen Results: This simply reinforces the existing advice that the more you increase your digital footprint – the more connection points you create for people to latch on to – the better. There’s a line, of course, at which it becomes too much but few companies running their own publishing programs run into that problem.
  • On Twitter Brand Retweets Are Up but Original Posts Are Down: This is mixed good news for brand marketers since it shows that people are increasingly more likely to amplify a brand-approved message than they are to say something original. But on the downside it shows that more and more passive behavior is taking over, something that could mean declines in the number of people taking a desired call to action like clicking through.
  • Why the “Want” Button Doesn’t Work for Social Commerce: It’s not as simple as just presenting a pretty picture for people, you have to move them. Interestingly this moving of “both levers” seems to be what Facebook’s Collections testing seems to be about achieving.
  • Content – 2013 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends: The study shows that the bigger the B2B company the more tactics are in use, which shouldn’t be surprising but which also underlines the idea that it may not be a lack of interest in a content strategy restricting its usage, it may just be a lack of resources.

Filed in Blogging, Microblogging, Publishing Programs

October 22nd, 2012

Voce Monday Morning Five: 10/22/12

Filed in Marketing, Media, Publishing Programs, Social Networks

October 18th, 2012

Twitter Lists Are Greater Than Media Lists

What’s the value of a media list?

They provide access to email addresses and phone numbers of journalists and influencers who cover the industries our clients operate in. Media lists are a necessity for PR people, yes, but they’re largely glorified phone books. Stagnant spreadsheets filled with contact information. As soon as they’re created we’re immediately asking when the last time they’ve been updated was.

What I’ve realized over the course of the past few years is that a well kept Twitter list can be more valuable to a PR person than a well kept media list.

On a daily basis, what do you look at more often: Twitter or a media list? I’m going to go out on a wide limb two feet high and say, Twitter.

Twitter tells you what’s going on, and media lists tell you how to get in touch with people that you want to talk with about what’s going on. They work hand in hand, and with a properly pruned Twitter list of influencers in your client’s industry and market you’re not going to need to access that media list as much as you should.

For each client, I try and create a corresponding Twitter list for all the media and influencers included on our media lists. What it does is give life and perspective to an Excel spreadsheet. And no information saved within the cells of a spreadsheet will allow me to relate the sentiment of a media contact to my client in real time the way being able to access their immediate, in the moment thoughts on Twitter can.

If you’re ever asked to relay media sentiment immediately following a news announcement you’re going to be late to the game without a well kept Twitter list.

 

Before most journalists put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard – to file a story they’ll be live-Tweeting their perspective on your client’s news in real time.

With a robust Twitter list you’ll essentially be able to get a sense of what your media contacts think about your announcement before they ever publish their stories.

Either softening the blow of imminent dissatisfaction, or justifying an early toast with celebratory beers, well kept Twitter lists give you the insight that’s almost required in today’s real time news cycle.

Filed in Media

October 16th, 2012

The Importance of Owning Your Platform

If you ask most people who have actually put together a solid, sustainable corporate publishing program you’ll find that most of them adhere closely to the hub-and-spoke model. There is one core asset – in most cases an on-domain blog – that constitutes the program’s home, where most of the attention is focused. Material from there is then distributed, usually in the form of links, on networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and whatever else makes sense for that particular program and its audience.

But if you follow the developments in the world of social publishing tools you’ll see trends are straying farther and farther from this model, with people being encouraged to use X service for this purpose, Y platform for something else and so on and so forth. All the new players that are emerging or gaining prominence want to own a particular slice of people’s online publishing time and an increasing number of them don’t fit in nicely with the hub/spoke model.

More than that, even, the trend clearly shows that the concept of owning your platform may be falling out of favor. While social publishing did largely start out with an unowned model (Blogger, Typepad and other early publishing tools were all hosted and managed outside of the control of the publisher) the rise of self-installed WordPress and MovableType sites started to change that and people/companies took on ownership of their publishing outlets, giving them more control over speed, uptime and trouble-shooting.

Over the last couple years though the “shiny object” crowd has drawn attention to a variety of platforms and services that are all hosted remotely (I refuse to use the term “cloud” here) and over which the person or company who’s actually doing the publishing has little control. Don’t like the way Pinterest handles links?? Tough. Don’t care for how Quora displays information? Too bad. Want to reach the growing and influential audience on Tumblr? Go for it, but don’t expect to be able to archive those conversations.

Many of these sites and services are great and since each has its own unique type of audience (there is some overlap obviously) that requires its own unique strategy it’s important that due diligence be done to see if any given one warrants inclusion in a publishing program. But folding them in to an existing program also brings with it risks:

  • Each outpost represents its own time commitment. If you can’t make that commitment don’t get involved.
  • Each one represents its own security risk. Because these are all hosted by another party with their own idea of what constitutes adequate protection from hacking each password you put out there is another opportunity for someone to steal it.
  • Any given one may not be around in six months. While X service may be the toast of the town now doesn’t mean it’s in for the long-haul. The “shiny object” crowd isn’t often concerned with business model.
  • Not every new site allows for the exporting of content. If you can’t take it with you when it folds, what’s the backup plan?
  • It can be hard to stick to a single objective (ie increase online sales) if you’re spreading material so thin.

Publishing models that take the “spray and pray” approach – putting little nuggets of content on all sorts of networks but owning nothing and not focusing on a single hub – are hard to keep focused and are even harder to sustain. With so much attention being paid to going everywhere and trying to be all things to all people there’s a necessarily attendant lack of attention to any one platform, something that’s immediately apparent to anyone who’s actually paying attention.

While new platforms and tools should always be evaluated – Andrew Stoltzfus wrote a great post earlier this year on just that topic - it’s also incredibly important that programs be focused around a central pillar in order for program managers to make sure the program is always speaking with a consistent voice, is always hitting important beats and that there is a clear path the audience is expected to take as they come with you on this content journey. It’s even more important that the central pillar be one that’s owned and managed in-house or the program may fall victim to any number of potential dangers inherent when you don’t own where you live.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs

October 10th, 2012

How Not to Embarrass Your Brand (and Yourself) on Twitter

In college, I majored in radio. Back then, in the days vinyl still ruled, the common nightmare was not being able to put the needle on the record, much like the victim in the horror movie who couldn’t get the car keys to work. The resulting dead air may well have been a bloody death. Another waking dread was leaving the microphone on and saying one of George Carlin’s Seven Words.

Why do I bring this up? The new nightmare for brand marketers is putting the wrong message over social media. Worse than dead air, the misguided and often offensive message is what keeps many of us Tweeters and Facebookers up at night.

There is no shortage of examples:

HPIM6387Add to that two high-profile examples from the past week or so:

Each case is different, and the reactions – and consequences – have also been different. Since I am someone who helps brands manage their online social media presence, I have my own waking nightmares of having this happen. Thus, I have a few thoughts:

  • Most of these problems happen with Twitter. That is not an absolute, but Twitter is especially dangerous due to its ephemeral nature. Many times we publish and move on, and it’s easy to make a mistake. In the early days of Twitter I had the occasional private direct message go public due to a simple mistake. I survived, but as these brand issues show that can be a matter of luck or circumstance.
  • I use Tweetdeck as my personal social publishing tool. I use it largely for Twitter and Facebook, but under no circumstances do I add client accounts. I know myself too well, hilarity would not ensue.
  • I use separate browsers when logging in to a client or corporate social account. The best side effect of the Browser Wars is that I can have my own accounts on Google Chrome, and client’s in, say, Safari or Firefox- think of it as using separate kitchens to bake cookies due to peanut allergy. Actually, that’s a stretch, but that’s the best analogy you’re going to get when I write on a Monday night.
  • Always log out. What’s a bigger pain, logging in anew for each session or explaining how that offensive Tweet got on the corporate account? I’d let you think about it but if you have to think about it I don’t want you in charge.
  • Don’t be profane in your personal accounts. You will rarely see me swear in my public social media posts. I may get edgy here and there, but the fewer F-bombs I drop, the fewer F-bombs that have a chance of slipping into the wrong social media stream. It’s a personal choice with which others will differ, but I like to take down the odds (metrics!)
  • Are you still hiring “interns” to do your social media? A lot of this, outside of the mechanical mistakes, is relying ont he judgment of someone representing your brand. I’m not going to say a 25-year-old can’t manage your social media (and people on our teams fall into that age group – I exempt all of them as they wouldn’t be with us if they couldn’t handle it), but I will say that maturity, regardless, of age, is an absolute requirement.

What’s it going to be? Are you going to be careful with your brand? I’m entertained by the mistakes for the most part, but these things are keeping a lot of us up at night. Put the needle on the record, make sure the mic is off and avoid dead air – or worse.

Original version posted at DougHaslam.com
Flickr photo credit: jennconspiracy

About the Author
Doug Haslam is a Supervisor on the Voce Connect Client Services team, managing client programs and developing strategy. In addition to Voce Nation, Doug writes his own personal blog and you can find him on Twitter as @dough.

Filed in Publishing Programs

October 8th, 2012

Voce Monday Morning Five: 10/08/12

  • Twitter Says More Than Half Its Users Follow Six Or More Brands: While the presentation in question was directed at potential advertisers it provides an important insight into user behavior and what people are doing on Twitter.
  • KitchenAid Tweet Shows, Yet Again, Why Social Needs Mature Talent: Social media is as much a professional practice as traditional marketing, PR or advertising and should not be left to rookies or people whose judgment hasn’t been proven. On top of that it’s another reminder not to use just one tool but instead break them apart by account so the chances of posting personal opinion to a corporate/client profile happening are as low as possible.
  • Guardian and Tumblr to ‘live-GIF’ presidential debates: The format of live-giffing is gaining steam as a way to immediately supply the community with assets that fuel their conversation and sharing about a live event.
  • More Mobile News Consumers Choosing Web Over Apps: Using the web rather than apps is up sharply among mobile users – this could be partly due to the evolution of some of these browser-based news experiences as adaptive and truly mobile-friendly. The last fifteen years have shown how hard it is to get consumers to pay for content on websites or pay attention to ads there. In the app environment, all that was going to be different. And so it is.
  • Delving deeper into social data: Some good advice in here about focusing monitoring efforts – don’t cast too wide a net or the results become unmanageable – as well as the recommendation to get out of a reactive mindset and into one that is more in line with business goals.

Filed in Media, Publishing Programs, Social Networks

September 27th, 2012

Emotion Increases Engagement

According to a new study by LinkedIn, engagement on social networks goes up when the entity doing the publishing shows some emotion whether that’s an individual or a brand.

As with most studies this one likely falls victim to the curse of generality, the idea that one finding can be applicable to all situations. But putting that aside it does stand to reinforce a central tenet of social media marketing:

While your company is not and never will be a person, that doesn’t mean what’s published under the brand’s name has to be impersonal.

Keep in mind, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean making emotional appeals. What it does mean is that you know your audience, you’ve done the research to know what kinds of messages are resonating with them specifically, are executing accordingly and aren’t treating social channels like they’re push marketing outlets but instead part of a conversational strategy.

As usual the primary purpose of these sorts of studies is to remind you to check in on your own program, both from an analytical point of view and just from a gut-check point of view. How are things going? How are people responding? What are the pain points that are showing up? These are all valuable questions to ask on a regular basis and anytime you hear someone talking about what does or doesn’t work on social media it’s an opportunity to do just that.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Publishing Programs, Social Networks

September 20th, 2012

Tumblr’s Continued Growth Makes It a Search Factor

Has Tumblr become a part of your corporate publishing strategy? At one point, as Twitter and Facebook took off, it seemed that this “blog-network” platform (my term for something that isn’t as full-featured as WordPress or other software but definitely more feature-filled than a true social network) was going to be overshadowed by those ascendant networks. But in the last year or so Tumblr has staged a remarkable comeback, despite – maybe even because of – a handful of direct competitors that sought to fill the “just let me post something quickly to my friends” space.

comScore recently released a study showing total unique visitors to Tumblr.com have grown significantly in the last year while the growth on mobile, which is a big way people consume and interact with those they follow, has grown even more sharply. And the number of clicks to Tumblr sites that are happening through search is even greater.

The comScore post mentions one solid reason why brand should be paying attention to Tumblr: Search. That goes not just for evaluating their own publishing programs but also for monitoring since the footprint that Tumblr posts now occupy in search results is increasingly significant. And that’s true – Just as we all kept saying in 2003, if you’re not paying attention to the front page of search results for your brand/product name(s) and seeing where it is that people are talking about you you’re not doing your job.

The flipside of that coin is, of course, what are the brands themselves doing to impact (in an absolutely legitimate way and without resorting to any black-hat tactics) the kinds of results on that front page? As always the best way to do that is a combination of good customer service based on that listening program and a proactive publishing program that gives people something to talk about. So how does Tumblr fit into that?

Just as with every other publishing platform, regardless of size, there are four questions to ask:

What’s the story we’re trying to tell?

Who are we telling it to?

How are we tailoring our story to effectively reach them?

What conversations are they already having that we can be (respectfully) part of?

There are always a ton of good corporate reasons to add a new platform to an existing publishing program. Those only get you so far, though, and often don’t add up to a sustainable or successful addition. Instead it’s important to know the answers to the above questions – and there are more that need to be answered that get into specific tactics, of course – before deciding that something has to be done because hey everyone is talking about it and wow, the kids are there. If it doesn’t serve a purpose, isn’t measurable (or won’t have a measurable impact) and doesn’t appear to fit within an existing community then what might be a great idea needs to be stripped back down and rebuilt so it can become an executable idea.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Microblogging, Publishing Programs

September 11th, 2012

Bigger Companies Use Big Tools: Corporate Blog Usage Rises in Fortune 500

The University of Massachusetts Darthmouth is out with its latest study on social media usage by companies in the Fortune 500. I’ve discussed previous UMD studies on this topic here and here in the past year or so.

This study, as in the past, focuses on public-facing blogs at the corporate level, acknowledging that blogs may exist at the divisional level or be only for internal consumption that won’t, then, be included in these numbers.

The study found that the number of companies with public-facing blogs grew from 23% in 2011 to 28% in 2012. Compare that with the most recent study of blog adoption by the Inc. 500, which found that blog use was actually dropping and you can safely conclude bigger, more mature companies are opting for bigger, more mature tools while smaller, growing companies are instead choosing smaller, growing tools.

Unsurprisingly, the percentage of companies with official, corporate-based Twitter and Facebook profiles is much higher, 73% and 66% respectively. This is indicative of how these profiles are more agile, allow for smaller content (and therefore are less time/resource-intensive to source content for) and are focused on interaction with customers, though obviously not everyone takes advantage of that to the same level.

For the first time this study looked at specialty platforms, meaning blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages devoted to a singular purpose such as recruitment, CSR or other topics that still were being managed at the corporate level.

It also found that 2% of the Fortune 500 companies are participating on Pinterest. Unsurprisingly, especially if you’ve been paying attention to the handful of case studies that have eschewed over-enthusiastic hype, most of those are companies with not only strong visual components but also strong ties between those visuals and a retail experience.

So what does this all mean? The increasing number of companies who are using tools of any size or weight – blogs at the bigger, heavier end and nearly pure curation sites like Pinterest on the other – shows that more companies realize there’s a story to tell. It might not be a big story but it’s a story and anyone who ever said there was a one-size fits all method to brand publishing was likely trying to sell you something.

Along with that there are, presumably, structural changes that have happened within those companies to accommodate the publishing program, whatever level it exists at. Material needs to be sourced, vetted, written (or created in some manner), approved and published. When you think about the fact that this isn’t just a “Oh hey, let’s start a Facebook page) decision that was made (or if it was it hopefully wasn’t long before someone came along with a reality check) but one that required substantive changes to be made to the organization. That’s a deeper story that lies under these numbers.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

Filed in Blogging, Publishing Programs

August 2nd, 2012

Voce’s Platform Team Partners with Automattic’s WordPress.com VIP Program

In 2001, Voce’s Platforms team came together to do one thing – build great web experiences upon great content platforms. Since then, the team has delivered products across a myriad of platforms while always in search of the best platforms that could deliver for our programs. In 2006, we had the opportunity to build the Sony PlayStation Blog and it was that point that we decided to test the WordPress platform for our team.

So, over six years the PlayStation Blog has grown from WordPress version 2.1 and we have grown to use WordPress not just as a solution for blogs, but a full-featured content management system (CMS) for some of the largest companies in the world. It’s no secret, we are firm believers in not only WordPress’s capabilities, but the community supporting it.

When delivering projects of this scale, we’ve had the good fortune of working very closely with the folks at Automattic (the company behind WordPress.com) to deliver the best solutions possible for programs of this scale — and today that relationship gets a little closer in the launch of their VIP Service Partner program.

Paul Maiorana talks more about the program on the WordPress.com VIP Blog, but for me, involvement in this program is a testament to the work this team delivers day in and day out. We’ve been diligent in building a team focused on great user experience, development talent and customer service for the most demanding programs today.

We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to WordPress’s potential and this relationship with Automattic really has us all excited for where this takes us. If you’re a passionate developer and you’d love to join us, learn more.

About the Author
Nick Gernert leads the Platform Services team that's part of Voce Connect and oversees all web development efforts as well as making sure all those efforts are strategically sound. He is on Twitter as @nickgernert.

Filed in Development, WordPress

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