There’s an ongoing trend in social media that is patently at cross-purposes to the best of digital communications.
The world of online marketing is divided in two: those who get it and those who game it.
There are those, for instance, who suddenly get in a snit about avalanches of spam on their Facebook accounts. Of course, they have indiscriminately added all takers as friends over the past couple of years, so that by now most updates are from total strangers.
Similarly, there are people who invite the world to connect with them on LinkedIn.
And people who use a service to write updates once and spread the same message across all platforms.
These folk are into quantity. They haven’t got the message that inbound marketing values the quality of your connections far more than their quantity.
It’s easy to get “followers” online; but what you want is leads, actual potential buyers, right?
The internet’s solution to that ancient quest is to drastically heighten the impact of branding. Instead of pursuing huge numbers of faceless followers, you seek only the most qualified leads.
Social media’s tools cover a broad range of uses. Do you manipulate them with savvy or greed?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you social media returns can’t be measured, because any inbound marketing specialist can show you multiple ways to measure the effectiveness of your tweets and facebook updates, your ads, blog posts, and article submissions. The challenge of social media is more complex: yes, we can track the numbers, but what do they mean? Is it always true that a spike in website traffic means a spike in sales? Not even close, right? Is it true that a great score from twittergrader.com means your website traffic has increased? Hardly, as we all know.
In a way, there are so many tools for measuring your inbound marketing efforts that they get in each other’s way and tend to confuse us. Deciding which indicator to work with is, in itself, a daunting task. What tells you most accurately how your brand is performing: productivity, comments, stats, traffic, conversions … ?
Is there always a direct correlation between business success and marketing returns? Not necessarily, right? You can be popular without profiting monetarily from it.
The internet lets us pretend that we can measure communications. But we shouldn’t let that illusion fool us into thinking the stats don’t lie.
One thing about the web and social media: you have to continuously be ready to try new things.
Dealing with changes has become a challenge for my old bones. Still, I know flexibility is of the essence. (Yoga is a great way to stay in shape for it, by the way.)
Participating with the likes of Facebook will drive you straight to hell’s precipice in terms of adapting to change. Not to mention endless innovations at any site you frequent, or tool you use, search engine technology, or whatever, will keep you spinning.
Building websites is especially demanding of your flexibility factor. Can you instantly comprehend your client’s tastes, needs, and options, making intelligent recommendations in those areas based on your client’s completely individual situation juxtaposed upon the immense array of available resources?
It’s all about being nimble, and light, refining your practice into increasingly skilled listening, so that your product on behalf of the client can be efficiently created and targeted.
The internet challenges us, big time. Not everyone is up to its demands, and no one is up to its demands all the time. Sigh. No sense trying to be perfect, I guess. Just go with the flow.
So what do you think of Facebook’s switch to narrower tab pages? Heretofore, we could use a 700+ pixel-wide table and our tabs showed as simple pages without sidebars. As of next Monday, sidebars will show on either side of every 520 pixel-wide tab page.
Facebook mumbles something about how this will make navigation easier, but obviously it’s to increase their available ad space, right? I’m wondering why this isn’t being discussed; perhaps you can enlighten me.
Fact is, it’s a little disturbing that Facebook feels compelled to change the rules on us so often. I’m not opposed to change, but from a marketing and public relations standpoint, I’m beginning to think Facebook is dangerously pushing their luck.
The news lately has talked about a phenomenon in corporate economics in which an organization is too big to fail. Does Facebook count itself amongst these behemoths?
Certainly, reputation loudly proclaims that the company – particularly its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg – couldn’t care less about the software’s users. Considering that we pay nary a cent for using it, we can hardly complain. And Facebook substitutes are not easy to imagine.
It’s fascinating how the tail is wagging the dog, don’t you think?
I don’t profess to understand this, entirely, but I suspect it’s essential information and good guidance. Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota, urges us to protect our rights of free speech by enforcing net neutrality.
As Franken says, ” … telecommunications companies want to be able to set up a special high-speed lane just for the corporations that can pay for it. You won’t know why the internet retail behemoth loads faster than the mom-and-pop shop, but after a while you may get frustrated and do all of your shopping at the faster site.”
He concludes with, “Net neutrality may sound like a technical issue, but it’s the key to preserving the internet as we know it … ”
If this seems speculative and unlikely, consider another couple of news items from the past two days. The FBI is freaking out because their logo appears on Wikipedia.com. It’s illegal, they say, to duplicate their logo without their permission.
And then how about this story, in which the Saudis are blocking Blackberry service because it’s too permissive and could facilitate threats to reigning powers.
So, maybe it is necessary to defend our internet liberties. At least, let’s not take them for granted.
A solid definition of your ideal client is essential to online business success. But creating that definition is no slide. Nonetheless, lately I’ve been on the brink of progress in that department.
Identifying your niche market, recognizing the sort of person who most relates to you and your business can be tricky. You might think your market is busy moms or people with dogs or investment bankers. But to be actually useful in marketing, your definition has to be far more specific.
And not just predictably specific. It’s not busy moms who live in Peoria and are under the age of 30. That stuff’s important, but not the key. The key is that your busy moms need a shoulder to cry on, or they need affordable diapers, or they need care for their aging parents.
Who they are is of interest, but what they need is bankable.
For me, the ideal client picture has been fuzzy. When I started in this biz, I thought it was okay to focus on ‘small businesses.’ So it’s been a long road from there. You get closer, over time, to a good working definition.
But it’s what you learn about yourself that’s mind blowing.
The two are so closely related that it’s hard to distinguish between them, sometimes. But actually, they differ in important ways. Important, that is, if you’re wondering how to sell your products / services online.
Social media is a sub-set of inbound marketing. It’s much easier to understand and manipulate than inbound marketing. Social media is to inbound marketing what a rowboat is to an ocean vessel.
It’s like writing a letter, versus developing an entire postal service.
What you consider to be social media may range from a narrow perspective, in which only the networks of Twitter-Facebook-LinkedIn and such are included, to a broad definition inclusive of almost anything about your business that exists on the internet.
Social media is a set of tools.
Inbound marketing is a state of mind.
Inbound marketing is about moving beyond a competitive economy to a branded one, where value is derived from observed behaviors and relationships that are relatively personal.
(Traditional business values subliminal seduction through mass communications.)
Social media’s easy. Inbound marketing’s hard. It’s tough to teach: it begs intuitive understanding.
More to come on this.
Inbound marketing is a complex subject, and includes endless technical variables as well as a few shifts in fundamental thought patterns. It’s no wonder that adopting the internet as a primary vehicle for marketing communications is no quick process. No wonder that the vast majority of small businesses haven’t harnessed the cyber winds profitably – yet. Very few think they can afford the time to learn these new systems.
But we recognize that learning internet processes has to take place sooner or later. We know the internet saves money and time. And we like the idea of a much larger pool of potential, even qualified customers.
To help small businesses get started laying claim to their online glories, I’ve published a quick’n'easy-to-read ebook entitled, DIY Social Media Marketing Plan: A Beginner’s Guide.
It’s free for the taking on my website. It’s partly a workbook, with fill-in-the-blanks exercises to help you define your best internet practices. It’s short and to the point. If you’re new to internet marketing and don’t know where to begin, download this book.
Inbound marketing is complex, but getting started doesn’t have to be so hard!
Oh, and please let me know if you find it useful.
The common response to the very mention of Twitter, amongst many a circle of professionals, is disdain. The What I Had For Lunch Myth never seems to die.
When I tell them in solemn tones the kind of response a business actually can reap from steady Twitter involvement, their eyes widen, their jaws drop.
There was a very good post by a fellow copywriter – Victoria Ipri – in one of my LinkedIn groups yesterday. While extolling ” … the opportunity to use natural, social strategies of communicating, connecting and collaborating to build your online visibility …” she also admits it’s best to maintain a narrow focus in your internet marketing activities.
The opportunities are endless, but success lies in not getting distracted.
Yes, Twitter is a fantastic tool, as are all of the top-name social media platforms. But they only work well if they’re worked hard, frequently, and regularly. Funny thing: a tool is useless unless it’s used.
Do you have just ten minutes a day to devote to social media marketing? Exactly how you spend that time makes all the difference. If you use it with intention and fierce focus, the results, as Ipri says, can be astounding.
What is required if you want to take full advantage of marketing opportunities for your company on the web?
Not many businesses have figured this out. Most have no idea where to start, and so can’t begin to plan. Those with enough staff may send them to seminars on internet or social media marketing. The company’s web presence accumulates haphazardly, with new bits and pieces patched in as the learning curve steepens.
Executives are beginning to understand that the internet is not going away, and that they must take it seriously. Their efforts so far are certainly not wasted. But creating a comprehensive strategy remains problematic. No one proven guideline exists that will equally satisfy everyone’s questions:
- What can we appropriately expect from internet branding?
- What elements need to be included in our internet marketing plan?
- How do we measure progress?
- How will internet strategies affect other aspects of our operations?
- Should we hire a staffer?
- Should we outsource?
- What is the range of appropriate cost for internet branding?
There’s no one method for online participation: all strategies are customized.
What can the web profit you? Only your hairdresser knows for sure! *
* To Be Continued