Articles by Anya

You are currently browsing Anya’s articles.

Ahh, the yearly round-up. Something about the coming New Years bash makes everyone sit down and write up summaries of 2009 and predictions for 2010. Reflection is always a good thing to start with before launching into another year, so I sat down to think over a few things I learned about marketing and social media in 2009. Here are my thoughts:

1) Measurement is essential, and really hard.

We blog about the importance of measurement frequently, and tell all of our clients how important measurement is to the success of their marketing and social media efforts. But despite the use of myriad tools and the delivery of hundreds of reports, measurement remains a hurdle. Not because we don’t have a lot of metrics and measurements in place or because the numbers are hard to calculate, but because the overall results, despite measurement, can often be a more qualitative sense of success then a quantitative and proven win. Brand perception, awareness and accessibility are not, at the end of the day, easily measured in strict numbers. So while we feel our work has helped clients make great strides, it is often hard to prove that in black and white without a shadow of a doubt. Marketing has always had this hard to pin down side, but with all the numbers that ARE available now, it is harder to say that in fact there really are some things we still can’t measure.

2) Personal branding is time consuming but very effective.

This observation comes both from personal experience and observation as well as from a good degree of reading and writing about personal branding and reputation management throughout 2009. Good personal branding involves work across many online channels as well as a lot of in-person efforts. By the time you factor in blogging regularly, keeping up with twitter, updating your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, attending Tweet-ups and other local networking events, applying for and preparing for speaking engagements, hosting networking events and following up with contacts, your personal branding efforts can quickly become a full time job. Managing your time effectively so as to allow time for these efforts is essential though, as a good faith effort in all these areas can decidedly pay off. There is no doubt that if you’re looking for work or clients and you spend time each week working on your personal brand, that you won’t at least make some lasting and great contacts who will help you develop professionally.

3) The age barrier to social media adoption is basically gone.

For the last few years, social media and online tools as well as mobile technology have all been discussed as they relate to the younger generations. But in my experience this year, I would argue that is no longer the case. Baby boomers and even the 60-75 year-old crowd is adopting social media in droves, using mobile devices to connect and networking in places like LinkedIn and Facebook more than the teen group early adopters. While their full understanding of how each tool works may not be at quite the level of early adopters, they are using these technologies as much as younger people. This is an essential fact to know for 2010, as marketers consider what tools and technologies to address, don’t assume that the older age groups are still lagging behind.

Academics hear it all the time, it’s a mantra of sorts. Publish or die. Publish research, books, articles, etc. in order to maintain your career and keep your job. As a tenured professor, you’re expected to be creating new content on a regular basis.

While publish or die has been a long standing expectation in academia, it is quickly becoming a mantra for public relations, marketing and communications professionals as well. Content creation has rapidly become a foundation for successful marketing campaigns across any and all industries. From universities to tech companies, law offices to start-ups, small businesses to international corporations, content creation is often at the core of the marketing plan.

Between blogging, twittering, updating Facebook pages, sharing on delicious, uploading to YouTube or Flickr or maintaining websites, content creation has become the mainstay of communications. In addition to being great content creators, marketers have to be creative and tech savvy, developing not only print materials and website copy, but good design standards, easy-to-use web sites and other online outposts, and video and audio content as well.

Being a good marketer is no longer simply about being a good writer and strategist. It’s about being a prolific, reliable and engaging content producer. As many marketing managers can attest, publish or die can easily be applied to our positions in any industry. I do think that in many cases, especially in higher ed programs that teach communications and marketing, this publish or die concept is rarely addressed. The focus is on more traditional and high-level marketing skills, but the core skills needed to use the new tools of online marketing are rarely taught. We should not assume that correct and effective use of these tools or the understanding of the new publish or die mantra is understood by online-savvy students. Instead, we should focus on educating a new generation of marketers who understand these tools both from a technical standpoint and from a strategic standpoint.

For example, content creation has a significant impact on SEO, and every marketer will be expected to measure and report on web traffic. When is the last time you saw a core course in SEO and SEM, google analytics and web traffic management in a marketing program at the undergraduate or graduate level? We need to teach students about publish or die standards in order for them to be successful contributors to the marketing community.

Consumer industries are in the thick of it now… for the most part companies selling direct to consumer have recognized the need for some kind of interaction in social media and have made at least some inroads in putting together a plan and a presence in relevant circles.

But B2B companies still struggle with the question of how relevant social media is to their marketing and pubic relations programs and whether or not social media really has an kind of impact on their bottom line. Think that’s a tough nut to crack? Enter an even more challenging question: what about regulated industries?

We often note that B2B companies have some specific challenges when moving into the social media space, but regulated industries have it even harder. Financial, medical, pharmaceutical and other industries are all required to play by very specific rules that have a significant impact on how “social” their marketing programs can be.

This week’s article in AdWeek takes a look at recent forays into the social media realm by a  number of pharmaceutical companies, and examines some of the opportunities and challenges regulated industries face in trying to stay up to date on the latest in marketing and communications tactics.

In many cases, pharmaceutical companies and others in regulated industries have addressed these challenges by developing a presence in social media networks, and then eliminating or strictly limiting the actual “social” aspect of their page. While this provides a band-aid for problems they face in allowing for more two-way communications with consumers, taking the social out of social marketing isn’t really a viable long-term solution.

What’s the solution? In some cases we imagine the burgeoning demand for better interaction directly with consumers may actually have an impact on regulations. But barring those kinds of sweeping changes, we argue that in most cases many of the concerns regulated industries have about using social media are largely unfounded. As the AdWeek article noted, many concerns about problems arising online are either extremely rare and unlikely in reality, or do not have the kind of adverse effects many companies assume.

Rather than fear the implications of the unknown, social media can be an opportunity for these companies to spend some time researching ways they can interact in social circles, because in many cases the assumption that they cannot and should not prevents these organizations from even considering or attempting a program in these spaces. Social marketing tactics come in many shapes and sizes, the real challenge is to not try to force existing models to work for regulated industries, but instead to take a creative new approach that addresses the challenges those industries face while still allowing for more two-way conversation to develop.

Every marketer struggles with this idea; if they don’t then they should. How do we know what our target audiences would respond to? What if we have multiple target audiences, how do we engage each without alienating the others? In what cases do we really need to step back and rethink the way we communicate with our constituents?

I came across a great example of this earlier this week when Andy Shaindlin of alumni futures did a quick look at what people on twitter were saying about alumni offices. And let’s just say, the results were not great. My favorite quote was: “Alumni associations are worse than telemarketers.”

This got me thinking. Why do colleges still have telethons? I get called by my alma maters with relative consistency, always at awkward times, and always from some poor undergraduate who has been instructed to not let me get off the phone without basically begging me for $10 on a Sunday evening. The alumni association then follows up with mailings and invitations to local events. There are a number of problems with this picture, so let’s start with a brief list:

- I am not really in a great group to begin soliciting for money, due primarily to fact that I still have a considerable amount of student loan debt.

- I hate phone calls. I’ve never given information or money over the phone before, and I don’t plan to start now with an alumni donation.

-  I would rather give online. You’d be much more likely to have success in getting me to donate small sums if you made it drop dead simple and easy, online.

- I don’t need to paper mailings either. I throw them out. I feel bad when I do it because I know how many resources go into those mailings, but they simply don’t work to get me to act.

- I don’t golf or go to meetings at 7:30 am. For years my alumni association has been baiting me with getting more involved with the school through one of three options: Golf, ridiculously early networking events, or “young alumni” gatherings at bars I would NEVER go to.

You get the picture. The overall theme here is that the college is using number of techniques that they’ve used for years to try to solicit funds, but not much thought has been given to audience. For example, I happen to know that a lot of thought goes into whether or not people will be home to receive the phone call at a given time. And yet no one ever asks “should we even be calling these people?” Often the answer is that the telethon at least brings in SOME funding, so we should keep going even though the actual percentage of people who give vs. hang up, get mad, refuse, tell you to never call again, etc. is quite low.

Which brings us back to the original question. Are you really thinking about your audience before you start a particular marketing program? Sure you might think that because someone attended the university they have a greater feeling of association to the institution than, say, a car insurance company. That does NOT mean they want to get a phone call from you. The feeling of rapport with the institution is not aided by what most people have blocked from their phone lines: unexpected and unsolicited phone calls asking for money.

Thinking about your audience then is not just about the content of what you’re trying to communicate (the callers from the university are usually very nice and loaded with tidbits of info on how far the school has come and how my tiny gift could help.) No, in fact, the method of delivery is JUST as important, if not more so. Getting to know your audience is as much about context as it is content, and paying attention to that will allow your campaigns to be much more effective.

I’m going old school this week to rant about something I actually haven’t faced in awhile but that is beginning to crop up again and drives me nuts. Meetings. Meetings about meetings. Being in meetings and having someone suggest, maybe we should schedule a meeting to discuss this. Really? We’re already IN a meeting! We’ve been in it for an hour and half! How could we possibly need more meetings?

(Insert various expletives and, as my mother would say, using the Lord’s name in vain) Meetings are the bane of productivity. Ok, correction, SOME meetings are the bane of productivity. Meetings can, and should, be great opportunities for idea creation and collaboration. But for the most part, meetings easily become a colossal waste of time.

What’s interesting to me is that having worked in the consulting world for the last two years, I haven’t had to suffer the unending meetings in awhile. There are plenty of things that drive me crazy about consulting vs. in-house work, but one thing we get right is the limit on meetings. Because we bill hourly and our clients are very conscious of how they use our time, we’re rarely subjected to the needless number of meetings. There are exceptions, and things can get out of hand, but when reminded how much those three phone calls a week are costing, most clients lock it down.

But they continue to have meetings without us AND they continue to waste time! The last two weeks I’ve had a first hand look at the inside story, the sheer number of meetings that can accumulate, and more than that, WHY they happen and what can be done to stop this nonsense! So I’ll share a few thoughts on managing meeting madness.

The biggest culprit is the planning meeting. It can also be known by other names, like “brainstorming session.” I can’t stress this enough, seriously. Do NOT, unless absolutely necessary, schedule a “planning meeting” and expect to get anything done without some preliminary work. I’ve sat in so many meetings where everyone came to the meeting to hatch a plan, but no one came WITH a plan. Not even the beginnings of a plan. A meeting should never be a way to start something from scratch. Instead, have key players draft a plan or make a list of priorities. Or assign one person to put together an outline of the plan, then use the meeting to expand on or provide more detail for the plan.

Another good one is the weekly meeting. These get to be routine so people don’t feel the need to prepare. Bad plan! Weekly meetings need structure, or you’ll end up sitting around for hours discussing the sun and the moon. Put together a bulleted list of topics to discuss each week. The list should NOT be a comprehensive look at everything that needs to get done in the next month. You won’t get to everything on the list during the meeting, so why bother? Pick five core items that are pressing. And stay on topic. Encourage the team to weigh in on meeting topics ahead of time. Send the agenda the day before and request that everyone review topics for discussion, add any others they want to address, and come PREPARED. If your colleagues show up at the meeting with other items, encourage them to add it to next week’s agenda. The five bullet points should, as much as possible, be the limit to what you discuss that week.

My third and final piece of advice (for now!) is to not involve the group in a discussion on something that one person or two can handle. Meetings easily digress into needless debates and banter about a task that at the end of the day one person is going to go away, research, complete, and then present to the group. Let your individual team members do their jobs. You’ll save time and the task will be much more efficient without the opinions of team members who are not involved in actual implementation.

Ok… one more, I can’t help myself. Assign someone to run the meeting. And I don’t mean the highest ranking person in the room, though that person could do it. Pick the person who will be most likely to move things along and not be afraid to jump in and say great, take that conversation offline after the meeting, let’s get to the next topic. With someone in charge of getting things going, the meeting is more likely to be efficient and SHORTER!

PR agencies, consultants, industry experts and your board of directors are all talking about it. Thought leadership! The latest industry buzzword, the serious business’s way of talking about social media and a more stoic way of saying “we’re gonna make you a star!”

What B2B company CEO doesn’t want to be considered a thought leader? Who doesn’t want the rest of their niche industry flocking to them for visionary ideas and insightful analysis of trends? In reality, most companies and CEOs have been striving for this for years. The marketing team didn’t invent a new concept, they’ve just re-packaged it and sold it based on the use of new tools and techniques to (try) to accomplish it.

But not every thought leadership program is a success, in fact there are probably a lot more failures than successes, and I think that’s because a lot of people don’t understand what it really means and what it’s really going to take in order to achieve “leadership” status. So here are a few things I argue need to be taken into account before you go down the thought leadership path:

1) You are going to have to stick your neck out.

Being a thought LEADER means you’re ahead of the pack. In many cases, that means making bold statements about the future, disagreeing with other major industry voices, and having a strong and consistent point of view that is DIFFERENT from everything else around you. A lot of people feel like they want to get involved in the industry conversation, but they don’t want to ruffle any feathers (and there are a lot of feathers to ruffle… customers, clients, partners, analysts, reporters, employees, the board, etc.) If you’re not willing to stick your neck out, then you’re going to be seen as a leader, you’re just another voice saying the same things already being said in other circles. Boring. No one is going to listen.

2) You can’t be an expert on everything.

You probably can’t even be an expert on everything your company does, unless you only have one product and it’s very niche. Sure, you have a business intelligence software company. But there are a lot of BI experts. Niche out. Pick a particular aspect of BI that is new, on the forefront, or that your company and you yourself are particularly good at and knowledgeable about. You can link your thoughts on this niche back to the whole, but the point it, if you’re a generalist, then you’re not an expert. You’ll spread yourself too thin.

3) You can’t use your boardroom voice.

Please. Don’t do it. Don’t decide you’re going to start creating content and positioning yourself as a thought leader, and then insist on a buttoned-up suit and tie voice and attitude. Relax. Let your passion, frustration and knowledge show through. In any situation in which you are positioning yourself as a thought leader, being the boardroom voice is not the way to go. Just think about the last conference you attended. Who was the best speaker there? Chances are, it was the guy who talked off his corporate powerpoint the whole time and never cracked a smile or got fired up.

4) You can’t be lazy.

You’re not lazy, I know. But establishing yourself as a thought leader can be a full time job, so it takes a lot of commitment. You need to constantly stay up to date on industry news and trends, and you need to adhere to a strict schedule of producing content and communicating with your audience. You also need to stick to these things even if at first you’re not seeing huge results. Building a program like this takes time, so you need to make sure you’re in it for the long haul… before your start.

5) You need to share the love.

Everybody wants a voice. So if you’ve got a platform, invite them to share their voice on your territory. This can apply in any number of situations, including asking a customer to contribute, or a partner, or a board member. Encourage an ongoing discussion where you become a leader AND a facilitator. Share the pulpit, and you’ll widen your reach and expand your list of loyal supporters.

Make sure you consider these factors before investing time, money and energy into a full-blown thought leadership program. Not every company is cut out to be THE leader, sometimes it’s best to focus on offering a great core product and communicate well with customers and potential customers, not striving to become the go-to industry guru.

We hear it all the time. From clients, from fellow marketers, from our peers: Content creation is great, and there are so many people in our organizations and institutions who have a great story to tell, and want to tell it. The challenge is getting those people to sit down and contribute content in a meaningful and timely manner.

This is understandable. A discussion sprang up this week about why we don’t see more college presidents twittering. My first reaction? They’re already insanely busy, what college president has TIME for that? The same has happened time and again… the CEO of one of our clients wants to blog, and he’d be great at it, but we can never get him to sit down and write.

As marketers, this has become an interesting new challenge. We used to play the role of content creator ourselves. But with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube established as important communications channels, we’ve taken on a larger role of content aggregator and distributor, and even more important, content instigator.

I may be going down the road of coining yet another term for something someone has already named, but I think this is an important distinction to make. In order to get the right content in the right place with the right voice at the right time, we’ve got to have authenticity. And authenticity comes from having the actual person write, record, perform etc. Or as close to that as possible. We spend a lot of time worrying about what we’re going to create (a video, a podcast, a blog post, a newsletter article??)  and where we’re going to put it (on the website, on the blog, on youtube, on twitter, on facebook, everywhere??)

But how much time do we spend chasing down the content itself? I would argue that many marketers would respond — A LOT! A major role that gets lost in the shuffle of our many varied new marketing responsibilities is that of content instigator.

Instigator might be too nice. Nag, badger, bait, heckle, hound, cajole, bribe, beg! I’m sure most marketers have been reduced to some or all of these methods when attempting to get individuals to contribute to content marketing efforts. We’re learning every day what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to trying to get the content creation process to go smoothly and work for all the different parties involved.

In a future post I’ll talk about some ways we’ve been successful in doing so, but my point here is that it’s something we don’t often talk about but that is crucial in many marketing efforts today. We hope you’ll share some of your experiences with content instigation issues, and we’ll continue to talk about it in new ways.

School is back in session, and for Washington, that has meant more than a return to politics and the end of vacation.

In addition to President Obama’s well-publicized back-to-school speech, VP Joe Biden traveled to Syracuse University with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to discuss college tuition and  how to make higher ed more affordable for everyone.

The event featured discussion of financial aid and community college options, and occurred in conjunction with the White House release of three reports, one on financial aid simplification, one on 529 savings plans and the third on the major barriers to a college education.

The basic jist? We’re continuing to see major change expected in higher ed, both on the institutional front in how classes are structured and paid for, but also on the federal front, in how education is supported and funded. Why does this matter? Because universities and colleges now have a unique opportunity to take advantage of new funding, new technologies and new ideas to shape how higher ed will be administered in years to come.

Check out the video of the town hall meeting on Syracuse’s campus this week which we’ve included below. We’ll be tracking how this all unfolds, and would love to hear some of yours thoughts!

White House Taskforce on Middle Class Families

Kate just posted over on B2B Voices on adding the use of video to your B2B online marketing program.

In the B2B space, online marketing channels are gaining a lot of traction because of their lower delivery costs and higher response rates, as well as the potential for greater ROI than can be seen in traditional mediums like print. Meanwhile, video is said to be one of the most important decision influencers in buying decisions. It’s also the fastest growing content channel “in the history of the world.”

To me, this means it should be, at the very least, considered as a marketing option.

It can be easy to implement, it’s visual – which is one of the most appealing forms of content – and can be consumed quickly and easily, it builds awareness, and allows for an inside glimpse into your company, which may not happen a lot in the B2B setting.

You can read more about things to think about when using video in your B2B organization, and a few ideas to get started.

Mashable wrote a piece last week that is getting a lot of attention in the higher ed space. The writer focused on ten ways universities are engaging alumni in social media, a topic that we’ve discussed around here before. The post discussed both the successes and failures universities are experiencing in attempting to connect with alumni on social media.

It also discussed two separate tracks: those that are engaging with alums on social media for the purposes of fundraising, and those who are focused more on connecting alums with the school and with each other after graduation, maintaining a better and more up-to-date database of where alumni are and what they are doing.

We work with universities to help them get more out of their alumni networks, and so I have a couple thoughts on the article I’d like to share.

First, building your own social network is really hard, takes a lot of resources, and is rarely successful.

I don’t want to be a downer here, so let’s think about it this way: For every hugely successful social network that has been built in the last ten years, commercially speaking, there are probably at least 20 or more that failed. It’s really hard to build the right system, harder to keep it up-to-date and constantly evolving, and even harder to get people to use it. Even for companies that are dedicated to only that product. You shouldn’t feel like you HAVE to build your own network, there are other, better options to consider.

Universities should think about ways to leverage existing social networks to their benefit. For example, huge populations of current seniors and recent grads are on Facebook. Meet them on their turf, don’t make them come to you. You’ll spend a fraction of the resources you’d need to build an internal network, you won’t take on nearly the upkeep cost, and you’ll have a ready-built audience. That doesn’t mean your Facebook efforts can’t direct people back to you site, or provide content exclusively to your alums, you CAN do that, but doing it through and already-successful platform will bring you much greater success.

And you don’t have to just focus on Facebook either. The Mashable article notes universities that are using Flickr, Google Maps, LinkedIn, etc. The point here is to go where your audience is.

Second, make sure you have a specific goal in mind when you begin working on these social media projects.

I can’t stress this enough, especially when you’re devoting a lot of time and resources to building a network and creating an infrastructure. If your goal in connecting with alumni is raise money, then you need to focus on the ways you are going to encourage them to do that. So for example, the Mashable article calls out the success of a University of Texas Austin program that encourages alums to post pictures of themselves giving the hand signal of the school, and fill out a profile when they do.

That’s a creative plan, and one that has been fairly successful for them so far in terms of the number of people who have participated. But their goal going into it was to get people more connected with the school and see what alums are up to. It’s NOT meant to make money. Yes you’ll now have their contact information, but this social media effort is not going to have any direct relationship with donations. If your school is asking you to support and increase donations using social media, you are going to have to think differently about how you engage with the audience.

Take Emory for example, and their giving campaign efforts that they managed and updated through Facebook, Twitter and other media, or Colgate, where donors could make a donation and then share that information with their networks through Facebook. All these are examples of how schools are beginning (and I say beginning because in each of the examples I just gave, a lot more could have been done) to think about how social media can have a major impact on fundraising efforts.

The point is, read the Mashable article. But don’t get so excited about what one school or another is doing that you just try to apply it to yours. Each group of alumni is unique, each school has different goals, and each social media program should tie back to your institution’s communications and fundraising goals. There is so much untapped opportunity in connecting with alumni on social media, you just have to find the program that is best for you.

« Older entries

Bad Behavior has blocked 251 access attempts in the last 7 days.