Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

SEO–With A Human Touch   Leave a comment

Magnifying glass searchSearch engine optimization (SEO) is a tricky thing to say the least. Obviously you want your website/blog/Facebook page/fill-in-the-blank to be found by as many people who are searching for your content as possible. (I say “searching for your content” because just having as many visitors as possible isn’t important if those people weren’t looking for what you’re offering.) And there are many very legitimate and helpful ways of making your content as findable as possible. Putting the main keywords from your content in meta-tags is one way. Linking to your own webpages from your other webpages is another. For the truly technical the list can go on and on. However, it’s important not to lose site of the point of doing all this: you want to connect with the people who are interested in what you have to offer and–let’s be honest here–sell them your wares. And SEO isn’t necessarily a panacea for accomplishing this.

I was reminded of this recently when discussing microsites with a respected colleague trained in SEO. We had the common goal of making this microsite as effective as possible for the office we were building it for. This office is in a location that neither of us knew much about so we were reliant on the associates in the office to provide the details about their customers and what those customers needed. My colleague was very concerned about the title we were giving the site because her SEO statistics were showing that those weren’t the right keywords to use. According to her data the people in that area were using other terms when searching for an office in that area.

After discussing the issue with that office I came to realize something. The main use of their microsite wasn’t to attract new customers–it was to service their existing ones. This is a somewhat rural area and the majority of their web visitors find them because our associates told them about the site and showed them how to conduct business on the site. New customers finding them from an Internet search were rare. That’s not to say we should have ignored the data and we didn’t. But if we had relied solely on the data we would have turned off a number of their existing customers because the focus of the site and the verbiage used would have shifted and the office would have appeared to be ignoring regional concerns in favor of corporate ones.

All of this just provides a cautionary tale. When you’re neck-deep in data, trying to make sense of it all and use the information to create strategies, don’t forget to pick your head up and talk to the people you are trying to service. You always want a complete picture of what you are trying to accomplish and that should include a human side. There is most definitely a proper way to use SEO to reach your target audience, but it is only one more tool in your belt when it comes to building relationships and accomplishing your ultimate goal: making the sale.

Image: Jeffrey Beall via Flickr

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Posted June 1, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Business, Internet, Marketing

Want to generate buzz? Get your employees buzzing.   Leave a comment

What’s better than having someone talk about your company online? What about having lots of someones talk about your company online? “Ummm…yeah. Isn’t that the whole point of social media? To get people talking about your company online?” Well, yes. But I’m talking about something else. Something more intrinsic. Imagine if those people knew your company inside and out and were promoting your company just by being them. I’m talking about your EMPLOYEES!

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“But I don’t want all of my people tweeting or giving their views to the world. I don’t always like what they say.” If you think most of your employees aren’t already using social media in some way then I’d like you to pull your head out of the sand. Wouldn’t it be better to corral that activity into productive efforts for the benefit of the company? Not everyone is going to be interested. But for those who are, why not channel that passion and drive into something beneficial.

In my last post I illustrated how important it is to take control of your reputation through participation in social media. While it’s important to have at least one person coordinating those efforts, there’s only so much one person can do. Amplify those efforts by educating your employees and sending them out into the online world on the company’s behalf. There are two aspects to this education: education on the company’s social media policy and education on best practices for using social media.

“What do you mean, ‘social media policy?'” Oh, you don’t have one? Never fear! As you are not the first and certainly not the last company to go through these growing pains there are plenty of resources out there to help you. First, think of it less as a “policy” and more like “guidelines” (think of the pirates’ code in “Pirates of the Caribbean”). You want to direct, not dictate. With that in mind, here is a repository of sample guidelines. IBM, Dell and Intuit are three companies that stand out as leaders in this field. And don’t forget these “10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy.” Mariam Cook provides additional excellent resources and examples in this post.

So you have your policy…ahem…GUIDELINES. Think a company memo with the document attached is sufficient training? Not so fast. Hopefully you got input from your team as you were creating these guidelines so they are not news to anyone. Within reason this document should be discussed with managers so that they understand the why (if not the how). The document should be emailed out by you or a superior, possibly even printed (gasp!), and live presentations or webinars should be given so that employees have the opportunity to ask questions. This document deserves a roll-out worthy of any communication plan.

The other side of education is training any newbies on what social media is, how to use the various tools effectively and what corporate presence (if any) your company has that they can get involved in. Many people are probably using social media to check out pics of the grandkids, but if they are interested you can help them take that interest a step further to become a brand ambassador. (If they’re not interested, leave them be. The only thing worse than no voice is a negative voice.) What does that training look like? That will have to be a post for another time!

The more people talking about your company, the better. If those people are upbeat, intelligent and know your company inside and out then your company is better for it. The buzz will come!

Image: Andy Hay via Flickr

Posted May 25, 2011 by Lindsay N. Ball in Branding, Business, Marketing, Social Media

Don’t let other people hijack your reputation   6 comments

In my last post I described a scenario in which unwitting employees, after checking into Foursquare during a weekend of debauchery, taint your company’s reputation by using Foursquare to check into work on Monday morning. This forever  links your company to all of their online activities (since we all know by now that nothing that is said online is ever entirely gone). Conversation

You have a right to be concerned–after all, you don’t want your company’s reputation to suffer. On the other hand you don’t want to have to implement (and enforce) draconian rules that will sap morale and perhaps cause defections. What’s a leader to do? You can relax. There are manageable things you can do to protect your company’s reputation.

Want to know the easiest way to protect your company’s reputation online? I alluded to it in the conclusion of my last post. Need a hint? Here’s the key statement: “In the absence of other social media activity, Foursquare updates can define your company online.” Still not sure? Okay, I’ll tell you:

The number one thing a person or a company can do to protect an online reputation is to PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA.

Other people can dictate your reputation in the absence of your own activity. But if you actively engage in social media and take control of your online reputation you will drown out or otherwise discredit negative publicity. Those random Foursquare updates disappear in a sea of updates if you are actively engaging in social media on any platform.

That’s not to say that you want to bombard people with constant, meaningless drivel (i.e. your latest press release). The idea is to build relationships so that those random tweets, when they are seen, are viewed in a larger context and, we hope, dismissed as the mindless rantings they are. Do you think Zappos worries about employee Foursquare check-ins? Unless it’s from a competitor’s office I daresay not. There  is so much else being said about and by them and they are so busy otherwise engaging customers in meaningful dialogue that a rogue tweet isn’t going to matter much.

If your reputation is not as established as a company’s like Zappos then it is even more important for you to begin the work of establishing your presence online. Whether you start tweeting, creating a Facebook page, writing a blog or joining forums, the point is to get started doing SOMETHING. Google loves fresh content so the more you’re talking the more you’re being found.

In future posts I’ll tackle other ways to help your company (like providing social media education to employees) and provide tips on establishing a social media program at your company (Hint: Don’t just leave it to the interns and part-timers!).

Photo from Search Engine People Blog via Flickr

Tainted Love: Foursquare’s Unintended Side Effects   1 comment

What if your employees’ personal lives and “off the record” opinions defined your company? Not how they perform at work. Not just senior management. Any employee, going about their normal life. If your employees are avid users of social media and your company is not, then there’s a good chance they are the ones defining your company online–perhaps without even realizing it. Even employees who love their company may unintentionally taint its reputation.

Recently I was researching a couple of companies online in order to provide friends with some social media tips. These companies have minimal “official” social media presences, but one thing in particular jumped out at me: their employees are using Foursquare. Often. And the picture it paints is not always pretty.

So why pick on Foursquare? What makes it different?Foursquare Badges If an employee is blogging, or even micro-blogging, they are conscious of what they’re writing and the online presence they are creating. However, when they check into a place on Foursquare they are more likely to be “in the moment” and less likely to be thinking of the business implications of those check-ins. They might include an off-hand comment that suits the moment, such as checking into their favorite bar on a Friday night and commenting, “Epic party! Buying the next round of shots!” If their Foursquare account is linked to their Twitter account, and many of them are, then the entire Twitterverse is now privy to their fun.

“What employees do on their own time is their business,” you might say. “As long as they’re not identifying themselves as an employee or sending inappropriate messages on behalf of the company it’s not a problem.” This is where Foursquare closes the loop and your reputation takes a hit. What I found when researching these companies is that those same employees who partied on Friday night were using Foursquare to check into work come Monday morning.  Now your company name is attached to that person and any other activities they publish. When someone does a search for your company in the social media sphere those Foursquare updates can come up big and bold. Depending on the strength of your company’s official online presence, those check-ins may appear in a simple Google search of your company.

The other thing I was shocked to find during my research was employees using Foursquare to check into work–and writing disparaging comments about work when checking in! Unhappy employees were casually venting their frustration to Foursquare and, by extension, Twitter and the rest of the Internet.

Is this the branding kiss of death? Of course not. Might it make some people think twice about working with or for you? Maybe. We all fight night and day for a piece of the customer’s pie and none of us need to put speed bumps or road blocks in their way.

The moral of the story?

In the absence of other social media activity, Foursquare updates can define your company online.

Stay tuned for future posts with recommendations on how to minimize the impact of these activities on your company and keep your employees’ love from tainting your online reputation. (Here’s a hint: Banning the use of social media by employees is NOT the answer!)


Photo credit: Nan Palmero via Flickr