Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Blogging: Not for the faint of heart   4 comments

I am struggling. My fledgling blog is now more than four months old. I have lots of ideas for blog posts. I’ve been invited to guest blog on more than one occasion. Readership is low, but I occasionally get attention from unexpected places. So what’s the problem?

I’m exhausted. Of course, as with most moms who are working full-time, exhaustion is a normal state of existence. Every week I end up writing late at night to make my arbitrary, self-imposed editorial deadline.

It’s not all fun. I enjoy thinking and writing. I do not enjoy digging up a suitable, Creative Commons-blessed photo to accompany every post (which is why I skipped it on vacation). While I occasionally break this rule I try not to as people tend to feel more engaged when there’s a photo.

I know I can do better. I am certainly not writing to my full potential or my own editorial standards (which I admit are higher than most), which is highly frustrating.

So why bother with the blog?

It’s calming. My world allows me few creative outlets these days so this is one medium that allows me to clear my head of many of the thoughts that are rattling around.

It’s a point of pride.  Seeing that list of completed posts grow each month is a very satisfying feeling and as is being able to count myself as a blogger (albeit a newbie one)

Professional growth. Writing the blog forces me to sit and really think about the topics of the day. What DO I think about Google+? It helps me focus my thoughts and form opinions that might otherwise have remained mostly dormant.

To compromise between my desire to express myself and my desire to salvage what’s left of my sanity I am changing this to a bi-weekly or even monthly blog. We shall see. I have decided that blogging is great, but living my real life is better. So is sleep.

Image credit: viralbus via Flickr

My#FollowFriday favorites: Top 3 PR/Marketing/Comm bloggers   Leave a comment

This week I am doing you a favor. Rather than pour out my usual drivel I thought I would share with you some of my favorite bloggers/Twitter personalities. I admit, I don’t keep up with my blog reading as much as I should or want to, but when I do these are the people I go to.

These folks are brilliant, talented, and charming to boot. They are bona fide experts in communication particularly when it comes to public relations, social media and marketing. If you want to learn how to communicate well these are the people you need to know. Consider this one big #FollowFriday shout-out (in no particular order).

  1. Shonali Burke
    Sole proprietor (and sole employee) of Shonali Burke Consulting, Shonali hosts the popular #measurepr chat on Twitter and is the driving force behind the blog Waxing UnLyrical. I am also pleased to say I have met Shonali as she was the guest of honor at the very first Tweetup I attended, here in San Diego.
  2. Jay Baer
    A renowned social media consultant, Jay Baer is also an author and speaker (if I read books anymore I would definitely read “The NOW Revolution,” his book with Amber Naslund). His site/blog, www.ConvinceAndConvert.com has a ton of great info and tools you can use to plan your social media campaign.
  3. Gini Dietrich
    Founder and CEO of ArmentDietrich and author of the Spin Sucks blog, Gini Dietrich provides excellent tips and food for thought.

There you have it. There are MANY more talented folks out there, so I encourage you to scour the list of people I’m following on Twitter if you want to find more people I find influential and educational.

Who are your favorite bloggers and communicators?

“To thine own self be true” when choosing a social network   Leave a comment

Shakespeare had it right when he said, “To thine own self be true.” Bust of Shakespeare

Why choose one social platform over another? Why Facebook instead of Twitter or LinkedIn instead of Google+? It all depends on two things: your needs and how well each one addresses those needs.

Sarah Kessler and Emily Caufield have created an interesting infographic  (hot items these days) that essentially charts the top five social networks and how each one stacks up on certain criteria. View the infographic here. It is not without its flaws, but it highlights a key factor in choosing a social network: we join social networks that give us what we need.

For example:

On paper (or screen) Google+ really does kick arse. The only thing that it seems to lack is a built-in ability to do event planning. However, in the last several weeks I have been on Facebook and LinkedIn multiple times per day and Twitter every couple of days.

Google+? At  best once a week.

Right now Google+ doesn’t give me what I need. I need support and interaction with friends and family and out of the social networks Facebook is the one that best meets those needs.

What else do I need? Professional development. So I go to Twitter and LinkedIn to see what my colleagues are talking about and read articles on topics pertinent to my business. I could do that on Google+ as there is a flourishing community of my peers on there. However, that brings me to another need: time. I need something that is quick and easy and LinkedIn and Twitter provide me with that since I’ve already done the hard work to set up the networks. Google+ does not meet my needs because I don’t have time to set it up properly yet.

This all boils down to one quick reminder that goes for all the things we do: know what you want to get out of something before you start putting something (time, effort, money) into it.

The mighty QR code and its new rival: NFC   Leave a comment

The quick response (“QR”) code is just hitting its stride now. I admit that I was not an early adopter and had to be convinced of the value of these odd, square bar codes popping up everywhere in the U.S. (they’ve been in Japan for a while). You’ve probably seen one and wondered why on Earth anyone would put a weird thing like that on a sign or flyer. Well here’s why: a QR code provides a cheap and easy way to–among other things–get consumers to a specific webpage.

The Beauty of QR codes
So what? Isn’t that what the “www” address is for? Well, sure. But what if that www address isn’t so neat and tidy? For example, let’s say the local Islands* restaurant wants to send out a postcard that directs people to info on their specific location.

They could do it with this web address: http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/locations/info.aspx?l=5&r=26

Not so easy to remember or type into a computer, eh?

Or they could put one of these:

QR Code for info on local Islands restaurant

QR Code for info on local Islands restaurant

For those of us with a smartphone who have downloaded a QR code reader app, this code, once scanned, will take you directly to the address listed above (http://www.islandsrestaurants.com/locations/info.aspx?l=5&r=26). Aside from the initial download of the app (not a barrier for most of us) it’s a much easier way to get people to complicated and hard to remember (and therefore easy to forget) web addresses. But this is a very simple example. QR codes can do much more than access a website. Sending a text message or email or transferring someone’s contact info to your phone and downloading files are also possible . For a complete QR code primer check this out.

New Kid on the Block: NFC
Just when QR codes thought they had things locked up a younger, hotter model emerged. Near Field Communication (NFC) serves many of the same functions without the hassle of having to scan a code. If you come across a sign/business card/promo item embedded with a NFC chip AND your phone has an embedded NFC scanner then just wave one next to the other and voila! Information downloaded, webpage opened, bill paid, etc. But that’s a lot of ifs that only a handful of companies have control over. And that’s why QR codes will continue to serve an important function.

QR Codes are Egalitarian
I make two big assumptions for my next argument: you have a web-enabled smartphone and you have Internet access outside of your phone. If you don’t have these things then this blog post is entirely academic for you and you’re not my target audience anyway. Why are you here? (KIDDING! Hi, Dad!)

So given my aforementioned assumptions, QR codes are egalitarian because ANYONE can download a QR code reader to their phone and ANYONE can go online and create QR code for free (you don’t think I paid for that example from Kaywa above, do you?). Free is worth a lot. NFC on the other hand is dependent on getting your hands on the chips in some form and in having a phone that can read them. The former is likely to start getting a lot cheaper (but that still doesn’t beat free!). The latter, if you’re in the market for a new phone, is going to get a lot easier with most major phone manufacturers working to include NFC in their phones.

NFC and QR Codes Living in Harmony
It’s true that NFC can do much more than a QR code. Securely processing payments, transferring files between phones and other slick tricks go far beyond the reaches of a simple bar code scan. NFCs are definitely the future. After all Google is going all-in with NFC. Some excellent posts on the subject are here and here.

But don’t discount the (now) underdog. Whereas with NFC you have to obtain a chip and incorporate it into your marketing collateral and POP items, with QR codes you can instantly create as many as you want and have them on a flyer and out the door in minutes. Want to promote a new web link? No problem! Just type it in and get a new, free code in seconds. They are cheap, easy and effective which means they will continue to have their place in the marketing mix for some time to come. Some great discussion around this is happening here.

Do you think there’s still a place in the marketing mix for QR codes or will they be gone in 6 months? Leave your comments below!

*This is not an endorsement, I didn’t receive anything from them for this mention, etc., etc. They just provided an easy example to prove my point.

Posted August 5, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Branding, Business, Internet, Marketing

Google+ isn’t going to kill anyone (but it could make everyone stronger).   2 comments

Let’s get right to the point: Is Google+ a Facebook killer? In a word, no.

To borrow from a famous movie,  you don’t get to 750 million friends without knowing a thing or two. And you don’t lose 500 million friends overnight. The “social” in social media means that most people will stay where their friends are and right now their friends are on Facebook.

So what will it do? Google+ will definitely do some damage to Facebook, but it will take some time (case in point: they have temporarily stopped allowing new people to join). And in the meantime Facebook will be able to revise its site and develop new features to keep people there (Zuckerberg ain’t no fool–he’s the most followed account on Google+ and you can bet he’s doing his research). Facebook has already launched a new feature: video chatting with Skype. (Though Google+ Hangouts is still better.)

What Google+ will really do is motivate Facebook to improve its service and broaden its offerings. Make it easier to group people and send updates to certain people and not others. And while Facebook is working on that, those of us who are attracted to the new and shiny when it comes to technology will begin using Google+ until it eventually goes mainstream. How long that will take and what either site will look like once this happens is anyone’s guess. Google+ is still in its infancy so I expect it to evolve rapidly in the coming weeks and months.

Let’s not forget there are other sites affected by Google+ besides Facebook. Twitter, for example. While Google would like to make Google+ a Twitter replacement they are a long way from being able to do this. Where Google holds the power is in search rankings. If Google starts giving Google+ updates more weight than Twitter updates then companies have a serious incentive to interact with people on Google+ because it means they are more likely to place higher in search engine rankings. A great analysis and example of this is here. And Google also has Twitter beat on ease of use and slick design. So there is more potential for Google to do serious damage to Twitter than to Facebook. Twitter may be the best known provider, but its service is easily replicated and improved upon. They had better hustle to find new ways to engage with visitors or they could see a serious decline in use.

Finally, let’s talk about LinkedIn. What is LinkedIn? A place to post your resume, connect with colleagues, post updates, get info on companies and, as of recently, see news about your field. All right let’s break this down into its parts and review through Google+ eyes:

  • Post your resume – It’s rudimentary in Google+, but do-able
  • Connect with colleagues – Check!
  • Post updates – Check!
  • Get info on companies, including job posts – Coming soon
  • Read news about your field – Check! (See Sparks on your Google+ account)

So with only a few minor upgrades you could do most of your LinkedIn activities on Google+. The main thing missing is to be able to see who in your network works at a particular company or with certain other people. Until that feature is added LinkedIn remains a valuable tool.

The key takeaway from all this is that Google+ changes the landscape by providing a viable alternative to each of the three major social networks. However, there is still time while Google+ grows and develops for the other players to learn from Google’s growing pains and improve themselves. I’ll be curious to see if they do.

Image credit: RHW-Photography via Flickr

Posted July 7, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Internet, Marketing, Social Media

First Thoughts on the Google+ Project   2 comments

Google bread manIntriguing.

That is my first impression after reviewing some of the features of the new Google+ project. I’m still willing to give Google the benefit of the doubt (even after the Wave, which I have yet to be given a compelling reason to understand or appreciate) and there is a lot of potential with the new toys. The concepts are simple, yet elegant. The design is friendly and usable. However, the adoption of Google+ will all depend on the usability of the final execution. Check out this article from Wired.com for a full write-up from people with far more insider knowledge than I have.

Circles
Similar to your Facebook friends, Circles allows you to group contacts into “Circles” that you name. Unlike Facebook, this appears to have a very user-friendly interface that allows you to easily drag and drop contacts into those circles. Early descriptions of this functionality seem like a cross between Facebook and Twitter: you can designate which circles receive certain updates, or you can make them public to the entire world like a tweet. Apparently you can even include contacts in groups who are not using the system, so family members can still receive your photos even if they haven’t “friended” you. While you can send non-Facebook using contacts links to photo albums it’s not an easy or convenient process which this has the potential to be.

This has been my biggest issue with Facebook. With the privacy settings being so complicated,  how can I be sure that my colleagues won’t see my vacation photos? I do, after all, have multiple online personas for a reason! I generally refrain from typing anything that could be the list bit embarrassing onto any site, but I’m human and my personality shines through at times. I need a site that protects me from those moments! Perhaps Circles will be it.

Hangout
One of the most fascinating features is the new Hangout. This TechCrunch article gives an apt analogy: “If your neighbor is sitting there, you know that they’ll likely be interested in striking up a conversation. In fact, it would be rude for you to walk by and not say anything.” The idea is that if you’re online, surfing the Web, but none of your friends are on at the moment, you can tell them you’re ready and waiting to video chat should they hop online and feel interested. This would almost replace my need for Skype and my constant texting with my parents to figure out when we are both available.

Other Features
The other features of Google+ seem very interesting, but are less ground-breaking. Sparks simply reminds me of LinkedIn Today, but with more varied categories of information. Instant Upload and Huddle are cool, but I have other ways to accomplish the same things (though of course in other sites). This could be a good way to combine all these tasks in one.

My Early Assessment
I predict this product will be successful. Not Facebook successful, but better than Wave anyway. It is unique and user-friendly.I plan to try it out as soon as I can and I hope you’ll join me as I experiment with it as soon as I can get my hands on it it!

Image credit: DannySullivan via Flickr

Marketers are manipulative? Nope, think problem-solvers.   Leave a comment

Let me set the record straight: I love marketing. I have a marketing degree, I continue to study marketing in my free time and I genuinely enjoy the practice of it–when it’s done WELL. These facts do not make me a lying, manipulative attention-hog (though I admit to occasionally being a bit of a ham). What I hate is the reputation marketing gets because of people who do it poorly, or claim that it is something that it isn’t.

Marketing Does NOT Equal Sales
Pet peeve numero uno in my marketing book are sales people who call themselves marketers. Marketing is not sales any more than a logo is your brand. These are two different roles requiring very different skill sets. Typically extroverts make good salespeople, whereas I am most definitely an introvert (an outgoing one, but still an introvert). I prefer to focus on the why and how rather than the who, what, etc.

Pet peeve number two is when people think marketing is flyers. Or postcards. Or emails. Or any number of other tactics. These are tools used to implement marketing, but they themselves are not marketing.

So What IS Marketing?
My favorite class in college was “Consumer Behavior.” I enjoy studying the way people think and why they do the things they do. To me, marketing is the combination of psychology and business. The study of people and what makes them tick–and how to put that information to good use for your business. Some people see this as manipulative, but to us honest folks that’s not the goal.

The goal is find people who have a problem and solve it. Make people’s lives better through your product or service. Clearly I am rather idealistic in this sense and many companies are not like this. But the good ones are. Here’s a high-level overview of how this works.

How To Be A Problem-solver
Before you can do anything you must first know your product/service, your company, your industry, and your competition inside and out. That information, when analyzed properly, will tell you who your target audience is. The people who need what you have to offer (I’m assuming you’ve established that there is a need prior to launching  your company!).

Once you know that, you can start learning about that audience and how they work, where they get their information, what drives them. Ask “Why?” a lot. You then write copy that shows your target audience the benefits of what you have to offer in light of their needs (your audience wants to know “What’s In It For Me?” so be sure to tell them). You use the tactics (electronic, direct mail, flyers, etc.) that will most effectively get that message in front of that target audience. This entire process, among many other things, is marketing.

I’ve simplified this to a ridiculous degree. There so much more nuance to this than I can express here, but rest assured it will be addressed in future blog posts.

Photo: antwerpenr via Flickr

Posted June 22, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Business, Marketing