Data Mining: Big Brother Is Watching

It’s no secret that marketers are tracking our every online move with powerful analytic tools, but how much do they really know about us, where does the information come from, and when does data mining cross the line?

Data Brokerage firms collect, store, analyze, and sell our personal information to other brokerage firms, advertisers, businesses, and even the Government, usually without our knowledge or permission (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014).

This isn’t a new phenomenon. Marketers have been gathering our information for years by tracking our credit card purchases, magazine subscriptions, and surveys we’ve filled out.  Today, however, with the amount of digital data available, the number of companies engaging in “data mining” has increased dramatically (United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 2013, p. 1). We use computers and mobile devices to make purchases and conduct research on a variety of topics including finance, health, vacations, etc. We engage with others over email and on social media sites. All of these activities are creating vast digital footprints of our daily routines (United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 2013, p. 2). In other words, our click paths are tracked to determine what our interests are and what types of purchases we might make (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014).

What is becoming increasingly unsettling is the amount of sensitive personal details these companies hold on each of us. In an interview that aired on the popular television news show 60 minutes, Tim Sparapini, a former privacy lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, remarked that “People would be stunned to learn what’s being compiled about them and sold, and might end up in their profiles; religion, ethnicity, political affiliations, user names, income, and family medical history, and that’s just for openers” (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014). Additional information being collected includes diseases, such as alcoholism, depression, psychiatric problems, genetic history, and sexual orientation (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014).

The 60 Minutes episode also identified several data brokers selling sensitive information online “We were able to go online and find all sorts of companies peddling sensitive personalized information. A Connecticut data broker called “Statlistics” advertises lists of gay and lesbian adults and “Response Solutions” — people suffering from bipolar disorder. “Paramount Lists” operates out of this building in Erie, Pa., and offers lists of people with alcohol, sexual and gambling addictions and people desperate to get out of debt. A Chicago company, “Exact Data,” is brokering the names of people who had a sexually transmitted disease, as well as lists of people who have purchased adult material and sex toys” (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014)

Quite literally, our every move is being monitored. Consumer location information is now being tracked through cell phones. Small sensors that ping Wi-Fi enabled phones are installed in business locations to track shoppers as they move about the store and the surrounding areas to gather information about their behavior and build shopper profiles (Dwoskin, 2014, n.p.). What’s even more alarming is that some of the Apps we download actually collect information from our cell phones to track our location, and then sell that information to other companies. In the 60 minute episode, Federal Trade Commissioner Julie Brill notes that “the iPhone app for Path Social, which was designed to help young people share photos and memories with friends, was caught sneaking into users’ digital address books and filching their contact information…like Facebook usernames, Twitter usernames, birth dates. So it can be fairly detailed in personal information that is contained within a contact list or address book.” (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014).

Data Brokers operate in the shadows to collect our personal information without our knowledge. In addition to privacy concerns, The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (2013) has identified other harmful ways data can be used:

  • Targeting consumers so narrowly that they are not provided with equal access to information, particularly online.
  • Websites displaying different pricing based on individual profiles.
  • Predatory businesses targeting vulnerable consumers.
  • The possibility of data breaches (p. 6-8).

The amount of information available about our every move is disturbing, and with so much available digitally today, data mining has crossed the line into stalking. The Federal Trade Commission recognizes this and is demanding more transparency and oversight of Data Brokers and a mechanism for consumers to opt out if they don’t want their data collected. The good news is legislation has been proposed by The Senate Commerce Committee for more regulation (Messick & Gavrilovic, 2014).

Do you think consumers should have more control over what information is collected and have the ability to opt-out?

References:

Messick, G. (Producer), & Gavrilovic, M (Producer). (2014, March 9). The data brokers. 60 Minutes [Video]. CBSnews.com.  Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-data-brokers-selling-your-personal-information/

Dwoskin, E. (2014, Jan 13). What secrets your phone is sharing about you. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303453004579290632128929194?cb=logged0.9833931447392257

United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation (2013, December 18).  A review of the data broker industry: Collection, use, and sale of consumer data for marketing purposes [pdf document]. Retrieved from http://www.commerce.senate.gov/public/?a=Files.Serve&File_id=0d2b3642-6221-4888-a631-08f2f255b577

Image purchased from Thinkstock.com

Posted in B2B Marketing, B2B Social Media Marketing, Consumer Privacy, Digital Communications, Internet Marketing, Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Importance of a Content Marketing Strategy

ContentGraphic400pxLet’s face it, traditional marketing methods are becoming less effective. “People are sick of being sold to, marketed to, and tricked into clicking on links to unwanted products” (Schaefer, 2012, p. 19). Customers are more empowered than ever. They are conducting research and finding solutions to their problems online. They are expressing opinions about products and services and sharing them with others. In other words: They want useful information. This is where content marketing enters the picture.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing refers to developing and publishing content that is valuable to your target audience and helps them make educated buying decisions. The goal is to attract customers by providing them with meaningful information. Doing so will help to position your business as a trusted resource and thought leader. By providing this great content, the hope is that people will spread your message by sharing it with their networks. In fact, Schaefer (2012) notes that “content is the currency of the social web, and sharing that content is the catalyst to new relationships and business benefits” (p. 16). To successfully create and supply this content, you need a content strategy.

What is Content Strategy?

Brenner (2012) describes a content strategy as “the mindset, culture and approach to delivering your customer’s information needs in all the places they are searching for it, across each stage of the buying process. It is a strategic approach to managing content as an asset, with a quantifiable ROI” (n.p.).

Why is a Content Strategy Important?

Today, anyone can publish content.  A strategic approach to content marketing is important because it lays out a plan for creating, delivering, and maintaining information relevant to the target audience.  A strategic approach also helps to keep content fresh, create awareness, extend reach, increase influence, and position your brand as a trusted resource (Southern New Hampshire University, 2013).  A content strategy, when aligned with the business strategy, also helps to achieve the overall business goals.

Watch this short video by Reload Media on the benefits of content marketing strategy

How to Implement a Content Strategy at the Campaign Level

First, you need to define your target audience and what problems they are experiencing that you can solve. Second, determine which social platforms they are participating in. Third, identify keywords your audience might search on. Fourth, create keyword rich content that will address problems your audience may be experiencing and offer solutions (Scott, 2011). An editorial calendar is the best tool to use to help you plan, manage, coordinate, and implement the content strategy (Southern New Hampshire University, 2013).

Recycled Content

When creating content, it’s a good idea to take a broader view and think about how to re-purpose it into many smaller chunks of information to share (Handley & Chapman, 2012). An example of recycled content would be to create a white paper, slide share, and several blog posts from one article. For a campaign, this content can be used as a call to action on digital advertisements, social posts, and blog articles to drive traffic to a website or landing page.

Can you offer other ways to implement a content strategy?

References:

Brenner, M. (2012, Sept 18). What is a content strategy and why do you need it? Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2012/09/18/what-is-a-content-strategy-and-why-do-you-need-it/

Handley, A., Chapman, C. (2012). Content rules. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Schaefer, M. (2012). The Tao explained. In The Tao of Twitter (p. 15-20). McGraw-Hill.

Scott, D. M. (2011). You are what you publish: Building your marketing and PR plan. In the new rules of marketing and PR. (3rd ed., p. 137-168). Hoboken, NJ:  John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Southern New Hampshire University (2014).  MKT-666 Module 5 Analyzing Content in a Social Media Marketing Campaign [pdf]. Southern New Hampshire University.

Posted in content marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Planning, Social Media Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Future Implications

Social Media Keyboard Image 2Social media is a collection of technologies that allow us to share information with each other, and these technologies are changing at a rapid pace. In fact, with respect to social media, change is now the norm.  Social media is the #1 activity on the web, and it has changed the way we interact with each other. To put things in perspective, it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, television 13 years, the internet 4 years, iPod 3 years, and Facebook only took 9 months to reach 100 million users (Qualman, 2013, n.p.)!

Consider these interesting statistics from Eric Qualman’s Social Media Revolution video:

  • LinkedIn is now used by 80% of companies to find employees.
  • 80% of Twitter use is conducted on mobile devices.
  • 200,000,000 blogs exist today and 54% of bloggers post or tweet every day.
  • 34% of bloggers post opinions on brands and products.
  • 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations and only 14% trust advertisements.
  • Newspapers are experiencing rapid circulation declines.
  • More than 1.5 million pieces of content are shared daily on Facebook.

What does this mean for businesses?  These statistics show that there has been a massive transference of power to the customer, and now more than ever, companies need to engage with their customers. Social media has transformed the way we connect with each other both personally and professionally. It allows us to share our thoughts, opinions, experiences, and ideas with the world. Customers are educating themselves and forming opinions about brands by listening to what others have to say. They are comparing prices, rating products, and writing reviews online about their experiences. Businesses can’t afford to ignore social media.

Is technology or human behavior responsible?

technolgyvshumanbehavior

This shift in power is due to a collaboration of both technology and human behavior. As humans, we have an inherent need to connect with each other.  Advances in technology have fueled this need and allowed us to connect instantaneously on a global basis. Li and Bernoff (2011) suggest, “The groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies. If you’re a company, this is a challenge” (p. xii).

What are the future implications for businesses with regard to social media?

Resource allocation

Social media relates to all business functions, and as more and more companies adopt it as a way to engage customers, they must allocate dedicated resources to ensure its integration with the overall business strategy and success.

Start with a plan

For a social media program to be successful, a strategy plan should be created. The social media strategy goals should align with the business objectives, and should be integrated into the company’s communications strategy.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Measuring return on investment (ROI) will become more important for businesses to understand the effectiveness of a social media program.  Measurement will also help businesses determine whether to allocate resources and learn which campaigns are successful and which are not. The key to successful measurement is to “be precise, and measure what matters. Start with your objectives and work your way back into metrics that support these objectives” (Blanchard, 2011, p. 196).

Continual assessment

Social media is changing at an alarming rate. Businesses must stay abreast of new tools and technologies to keep current. Continual assessment of strategy against goals and cusotmer needs is critical to success (Baruch, 2013, n.p.).

Employees as brand amabassadors

As social media becomes a more prominent force in communicating with customers, businesses will need to tap into and nurture the groundswell within their organization. Management and employees have one thing in common: the success of the business (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 234). Your employees are your brand ambassadors. Let them spread your message. For successful social media integration, businesses must train employees in all departments on how to engage with customers and enhance their experience. Zappos is a great example of a business taking a progressive approach to social media. Staying true to its commitment to empowered employees, Zappos encourages its employees to engage with customers through Twitter (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 205).  In fact, Bullas (2009) notes that “nearly 400 employees on Twitter help keep the company’s profile high and humanizes the folks behind the shoe sales” (n.p).

A crisis management plan is a must

Years ago businesses had a wider window to plan a response to a crisis. Today, social media has narrowed that response time from hours to minutes (Agresta & Bough, 2011, p. 106). Businesses can’t ignore the fact that crises are inevitable, whether it is due to a malfunctioning product, an employee posting an inappropriate comment or image, or a bad review.  They must have a disaster plan in place and be ready to deal with a crisis immediately.

Can you think of other implications businesses will face in the future relating to social media?

References:

Agresta, S., Bough, B. (2011). Perspectives on social media marketing. Boston, MA: Course Technology, a part of Cengage Learning.

Baruch, Y. (2013). Assessment and evaluation of social media strategy. [PDF document]. University of Southern New HampshireRetrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web Site: https://bb.snhu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1134013-dt-content-rid-1095373_1/xid-1095373_1

Blanchard, O. (2011). Social Media ROI. Indianapolis, IN: Que Publishing.

Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Posted in B2B Marketing, B2B Social Media Marketing, Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Planning, Social Media ROI, Social Media Strategy, The Future of Social Media | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Viral Marketing Initiatives

There is no recipe for success when it comes to viral marketing, but there are several factors which can contribute to a campaign’s success.

Li and Bernoff (2011) suggest that social media has contributed to the explosion of viral marketing because it “has enabled people to connect with each other instantaneously on a global basis” (p. 11). While no message is guaranteed to go viral, there are some things marketers can do to increase the chances:

  • 176565026targetaudienceA key factor in creating a successful campaign is to know who your audience is and what interests them.  You can then craft a message that will resonate with them.
  • Content2Create great content that your audience will find interesting enough to pass along.
  • 163539702loudspeakerGenerate awareness. The only way people are going to notice your message is if you promote it. Feature it on your website, post it on YouTube, submit it to social aggregator sites such as Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon, and cross promote it on social channels like  Facebook,  Twitter, and Google+.
  • Make it easy to share. Add RSS feeds and social buttons to your website and blog.  A popular sharing widget is AddThis which offers free social buttons, follow buttons, and recommended content.  You can also try a viral plug-in such as the ViralURL WordPress plugin which displays hidden content once shared. Another way to promote sharing is to encourage viewers to “like” the content and comment on it. Likes display on newsfeeds thus increasing visibility. Facebook Badges can also be used to share photos, profiles, and likes (Baruch, 2013).

Sharingbuttons

What prompts us to share content? We have an inherent need to connect with each other and share information. Certain content characteristics can increase the likelihood of sharing and the potential for a message to go viral. Below are five of these characteristics:

1The content is entertaining and fun. An example of this is The Gangnam Style video where Korean pop star Psy dances with celebrities to hypnotic music. The video has reached 1,828,880,477 views since being posted on July 15, 2012.  Psy had a following before the initial posting which helped spread the message.  Also, featuring popular entertainers attracted media attention. The video was reviewed by Gawker and Billboard which resulted in a high number of Facebook shares and likes and drove traffic to Youtube. This exposure led to appearances on the MTV music awards, the Today Show, and Ellen. Celebrity tweets continued the momentum leading to further searches, likes and tweets. (Edwards, 2012, n.p.).

2The message appeals to loyal fans who are passionate about the subject (Scott, 2008). Take for example, how Universal Orlando introduced the new attraction Wizarding World of Harry Potter at their Islands of Adventure Theme Park. Instead of spending millions on advertising, Cindy Gordon, the VP of Media Marketing at Universal relied on Harry Potter enthusiasts to spread the message. Gordon and her team told a small group of socially connected fans and invited them to participate in a webcast held at midnight on May 31, 2007.  Following the webcast, a microsite was launched and an email was deployed. The campaign spread to 350,000,000 people!

HarryPotter

3The subject is amazing, thrilling, and has never been done before. RedBull’s Stratos Jump involved Felix Baumgartner, an extreme sports athlete, who jumped out of a capsule 128,000 feet above Earth, reaching speeds of over 800 miles per hour. Baumgartner broke the world record for the longest free fall jump. Approximately 8 million people watched the jump live, and the YouTube video has been viewed over 30 million times. The jump was also broadcast on 40+ TV stations. The Facebook photo received over 210,000 likes, 10,000 comments, 29,000+ shares, and it was trending on Twitter worldwide (Sprung, 2012, n.p.).

4Another characteristic of viral messages is that the subject makes a statement that the audience identifies with, reinforces their views, and appeals to their sense of justice. An example is the Kony documentary created by Invisible Children about the need to capture and prosecute the Ugandan Warlord Joseph Kony for kidnapping children, abusing them, and forcing them to participate in his resistance army (Astle, 2010, n.p.). Since its posting on Youtube in March of 2010, the 30 minute film has been viewed 98,667,083 times, has 1,397,788 likes, and 263,965 subscribes. Celebrities including Oprah, Taylor Swift, P. Diddy, and Alec Baldwin spread the message over their social networks which led to a dramatic increase in Youtube views, Facebook likes and Twitter followers. By spreading the message, people felt empowered by participating in a cause (Choney, 2012, n.p.).

5The subject is cute. Who can resist watching something that provides a light moment in our otherwise hectic, stressful lives? The Surprised Kitty Video posted on Youtube resonated with animal lovers everywhere with over 72 million views, 300,000+ likes, 13,000 subscribers, and over 66,000 comments!

Can you identify other reasons why people share content?

Resources:

Astle, R. (2012, Mar 10). Kony 2012, viral videos, and documentary ethics. Retrieved from http://filmmakermagazine.com/42527-kony-2012-viral-videos-and-documentary-ethics/

Baruch, Y. (2013). Viral marketing and widgets [pdf]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Website: https://bb.snhu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1133993-dt-content-rid-1278862_1/xid-1278862_1

Choney, S. (2012, Mar 8). How a 30 minute documentary protesting an African world went viral. Retrieved from http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/how-30-minute-documentary-protesting-african-warlord-went-viral-376214

Edwards, L. (2012, Nov 7). How did Gangnam Style go viral? Retrieved from http://socialmediatoday.com/laurahelen/980476/how-did-gangnam-style-go-viral

Fame Foundry (2011, Mar 3). The Anatomy of Viral Marketing. Retrieved from http://www.famefoundry.com/5494/the-anatomy-of-viral-marketing/

Hepburn, A. (2011, Dec 5). Infographic: How content goes viral. Retrieved from http://www.digitalbuzzblog.com/infographic-how-does-content-go-viral-tips/

Scott, D. (2009). World wide rave. (p. 8- 11). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Sprung, R. (2012, Dec 17). 10 of the most memorable marketing campaigns of 2012.  Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33931/10-of-the-Most-Memorable-Marketing-Campaigns-of-2012.aspx

Posted in content marketing, Internet Marketing, Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Viral Marketing, Viral Videos | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Differentiation

Fitness has been a growth industry over the last 20 years. The number of fitness club memberships has grown to over 50 million in 2012, and the demand for clubs is expected to continue growing over the next five years as Americans become more health conscious (IHRSA, 2012, n.p.).

With our increasing emphasis on fitness, let’s examine how two of the leading fitness centers in the USA, LA Fitness and Gold’s Gym use social media to drive business, differentiate their brand, and help us get in shape.

Both Gyms maintain a multi-platform approach and employ best practices in terms of frequent, relevant posts to the target audience, and responding promptly to comments; but LA Fitness takes the lead when it comes to promoting other channels, encouraging sharing, and publishing content.

Gold’s Facebook page has 336,185 likes and 36,032 check ins. Regular posts offer interesting content on fitness tips, inspirational stories and contests that result in a multitude of likes and comments. Some of the posts are more engaging and ask for comments, such as “What Inspires you to get up early and go to the gym?”. The site also features contests, such as the recent Flex Photo Contest where fans submitted pictures of themselves in a Gold’s Gym shirt. Posts about the contest were featured regularly to maintain visibility. Most of Gold’s posts link to articles on external sites. A more effective strategy would be to link back to content on their own website.

GoldsFaceBookPosts1

GoldsPhotoContest2

The LA Fitness Facebook page has 251,913 likes, 4,112,896 check ins, and posts similar content to Gold’s.  What I like about the LA Fitness page is that the posts link back to the LAFitness blog, keeping the reader engaged instead of pointing them to another site. Also, LA Fitness does a good job promoting their other social sites such as Instagram and YouTube, and encourages viewers to like and share posts, a strategy Gold’s doesn’t use.

LAFITNSESS FbPosts

LAFItnessSharing

LAFItNESSYouTube

LA Fitness has a great blog containing posts about fitness, inspirational stories, and features an “Ask our Dietitian” section. Blogging is a great way to engage readers with useful content that they can share with their networks.  This rich content also enhances SEO. There are multiple places to subscribe called out in bold graphics. Readers can follow by email and/or grab an RSS feed. A like button and multiple share buttons are available on all posts, and easy navigation at the top allows readers to go to the website for class schedules and guest passes.

LAFitnessBlogPage2

Gold’s Twitter page has 41,641 followers. Regular tweets mirror those found on Facebook. This site is conversational with Gold’s responding to questions and comments. The photo stream consists mainly of images associated with posts without any links.

LA Fitness, on the other hand, has 54,260 followers and most of their tweets link to content on their website, blog, Youtube videos, or other social channels. The company also uses fun ways to entice readers to retweet. Many of LA Fitness’ Twitter Photos include links to their other social channels like Instagram and YouTube.

LAFitnessTweets

Gold’s YouTube channel offers videos on workout tips, success stories, and event highlights as does the LA Fitness channel. LA Fitness has a feature video in the top position about why viewers should subscribe to the LA Fitness YouTube and Google+ channels, and they offer links to their other social channels, website and blog in the about section. 

LAFitnessYouTubeExample2

On Google+, LA Fitness has 70,837+1s and 64,000+ have them in circles compared to Gold’s 1,728+1s and 844 circles. The posts are similar to the Facebook posts in terms of content. Again, I like LAFitness’ strategy of linking back to their blog or website and promoting other platforms.

Gold’s Pinterest page has 5 boards that touch on subjects like motivation, challenges, and inspiration but most link back to the same general page on Gold’s website, instead of content pertaining to the board. LA Fitness has a more robust pinterest presence with 14 boards that link back to relevant content on the website, blog, or YouTube.

On Instagram, Gold’s has 3,000+ followers and 42 posts on subjects found on the other channels. LA Fitness  has 16,000+ followers and 51 posts. LA Fitness does a good job asking for likes which seems to be working because their posts get hundreds of them.

In sum, LAFitness uses social media more effectively to differentiate the brand and drive business. By linking back to the blog which houses useful content about topics of interest to the target market, LA Fitness stands out as a thought leader and trusted resource. Sharing widgets allow users to pass on content to their networks, extending reach. Subscribe buttons and RSS feed links grow their email database and following. Their strategy of co-promoting social sites, asking for likes and retweets help to further increase their following, reach, and in turn, drive business.

Please take a moment to answer this poll:

Posted in Brand Differentiation, Social Media, Social Media Marketing, Social Media Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

What’s So Great About QR Codes?

Mobile QR codes are used by both business-to-consumer (B2C) as well as business-to-business (B2B) companies across many applications in a variety of industries, from retail to industrial manufacturing.  In this post, we’ll focus on how B2B companies can benefit from QR codes.

QR code use has risen dramatically. In fact, Marketingcharts.com (2012) reports that marketers say QR codes are the most popular mobile channel for customer engagement, surpassing mobile app creation, mobile commerce, and mobile emails. Likewise, the Scanbuy Trend Report (2013) reveals that “mobile users conducted more than 18 million scans of QR Codes and UPC mobile barcodes in Q1 2013. The month of March 2013 garnered more than 6.7 million scans alone, the highest-generating month registered since the report began in 2009”.

What is a QR code?

QR CodeA QR code is a 2D square matrix-like image consisting of small black and white squares and rectangles that stores information such as a hyperlink, and can be decoded by scanning with a smart phone via a QR code reader app.

How do I get a QR code?

QR codes can easily be generated free through sites such as Delivr.com. These sites also provide analytics to measure the performance of the QR code which we’ll discuss later.

How do I scan a QR Code?

You can scan a code and get the information you need in a snap with a QR Code Mobile Reader App.  Some phones are equipped with reader apps, but if yours doesn’t have one, simply download one of the numerous free QR code reader apps such as Scan QR Code and Barcode Reader or QuickScan QR Code Reader from the App Store, and you’re ready to begin scanning. Watch this video on how easy it is to scan a QR code.

What’s the benefit?

QR code readers are a convenient way to quick get information about a product or service from any location directly on your phone. This mobility is key for our fast paced, on-the-go life-styles. And, with a tap, you can share it with your friends.

How can B2B companies use QR codes to drive business?

  • Advertisements – As a call to action to obtain additional information, thus, driving  business. For example, the code can point to a website, shopping cart, an article/white paper download, video, a podcast, a blog, etc.
  • Business cards – Contacts can quickly get additional information about the company.
  • Products –  Customers can scan to purchase replacement parts as well as obtain installation, operation, and maintenance information.
  • Product packaging for warranty registration.
  • Marketing materials for customers to provide feedback or take a survey.
  • Tradeshows and events. People don’t want to carry a lot of information, particularly when at a tradeshow or conference. Using QR codes on graphics and posters allows customers to get the information they need without having to carry it with them.
  • Installation manuals and literature to access a live chat/customer support.
  • Printed material to direct customers to the company’s social media sites.
  • Can be used for special promotions to obtain coupons, discounts, free event tickets, product samples.

The graphic below shows how QR codes can be used:

QR CODE InfographicHow is success measured?

QR code generator sites provide detailed analytics on QR scans. For example, Delivr.com offers a dashboard where you can manage your campaigns and get real-time reporting on campaign activity including scans by country, state, city, zip code, hour, day, week, operating system, and URL trigger. By combining QR scan data with web site visits, downloads, form submissions, likes, follows, mentions, and purchases, businesses can get a detailed analysis on each campaign over several platforms.

The graphic below shows examples of reporting capability of Delivr.com.

Delivr.comAnalyticsReport

Does your business use QR codes?  How do you measure their success?

Posted in Advertising, B2B Marketing, B2B Social Media Marketing, Digital Communications, Internet Marketing, Marketing, QR Codes, Trade Show Advertising | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to Blog and Tweet More Effectively

This topic has been covered many times; however, it is beneficial to occasionally review best practices for blogging and using Twitter just to make sure you’re covering all of the bases.

Twitter_Blog_LogoFirst, let’s talk about some strategies that apply to both platforms.

Posting valuable content is one of the most important factors for social media success. In fact, Schaefer (2013) contends that “content is the currency of the social web, and sharing that content is the catalyst to new relationships and business benefits” (p. 16).  He goes on to say that “blogs and Twitter fit like a hand in a glove. Twitter is like the trailer to the blog’s movie” (p. 17). Thus, tweeting about the content on your blog will drive traffic to it.

Other best practices for blogging and tweeting include choosing the right person, knowing who your audience is, creating a plan, and being responsive.

It is important to appoint someone who is passionate about spreading your message. This is particularly important when it comes to blogging. Li and Bernoff (2011) note “blogging is too personal, and requires too much effort to be crammed down anybody’s throat. The result, inevitably, will look and feel lame, and it’s worse than not having a blog at all” (p. 115).

You also need to know who your audience is and what their needs are in order to craft the right message. Listening to conversations within your industry will help you gain an understanding of what their needs are and how you can contribute. Tools like Hootsuite are excellent for monitoring multiple platforms.

Have clear objectives defined, a messaging strategy, and a content calendar in place. This will help take the guesswork out of what to write and when.

Be sure to respond promptly to comments. If people take the time to read your blog and comment, thank them and respond. Be helpful by answering questions.  If you can’t answer a question, refer them to someone who can.

BLOG ICONHere are some additional best practices that relate specifically to blogging.

  • Determine a promotion strategy for your blog. Consider including a link to it on your email signature, promote it through your other social media sites, and send out an email announcement both internally and externally. Include widgets on your blog for readers to easily share it.
  • Craft a catchy, attention-getting headline.
  • Use tags and categories so your blog is classified under the right topics. This will make it easier to find.
  • Engage your readers by including a call to action. Ask a question, offer a white paper, share a link, a video, add a poll, etc.
  • Use keyword-rich content (terms that your audience will likely search on). This will improve your chances of ranking higher on relevant searches.
  • Posts should be kept to a minimum of 400 words and a maximum of 800 words.
  • Include links, particularly when citing online material.  Doing so will add dimension to your posts. Be sure to give proper credit when using others’ work.

Watch this short video by Maria Peagler of WillowRidgeMedia for additional blogging tips:

Tweet LogoNow let’s turn our focus to best practices for Twitter:

  • Quality is better than quantity. Share something meaningful like an interesting article, blog post, image, web link or video.
  • Be concise. You only have 140 characters to make your point.
  • Tweet regularly. For beginners, Schaefer (2013) recommends tweeting “at least once a day so people know you’re active” (p. 101).
  • Acknowledge people who mention you, and always thank anyone who retweets your tweet. If you’re trying to get someone to follow you, try retweeting some of their tweets.
  • Hashtags are helpful to improve your tweet’s visibility on Twitter searches.
  • Use a URL shortener such as Bitly.com. Doing so will help preserve characters.

Moth (2013) recognizes several B2B companies that use Twitter effectively including  Hubspot, GE , and Adobe. Hubspot produces great content and is considered a resource for digital marketers. General Electric focuses on innovation and technology, responds to customers, and creates great campaigns. Adobe focuses on its own products but also succeeds in offering a broad range of content, responds to customers and answers product questions (n.p).

Anderson’s (2012) top picks for B2B blogs include Intercom which offers a good mix of product and educational content; Deloitte which offers content in a number of formats; and Gild which focuses on a problem-solution format.

Can you offer some additional tips for blogging and tweeting?

References:

Anderson, M. (2012). 10 B2B Companies That Create Exceptional Content. Retrieved from http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33505/10-B2B-Companies-That-Create-Exceptional-Content.aspx

Baruch, Y. (2013). Blogging Best Practices [PDF document]. Retrieved from Course Project Guidelines Web site: https://bb.snhu.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-565446-dt-content-rid-332629_1/xid-332629_1

Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011) Talking with the Groundswell. In Groundswell. (p. 99-127). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Moth, D. (2013). Six Examples of B2B Companies that Shine on Twitter. Retrieved from http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/62692-six-examples-of-b2b-companies-that-shine-on-twitter

Schaefer, M. (2013). The Tao of Twitter. McGraw-Hill.

Posted in B2B Social Media Marketing, Marketing, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments