Archive for the ‘Direct Marketing’ Category

A Swabbing Photo is Worth 668 Words

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

I don’t know Nevin very well. We are friends on Twitter and Facebook and I’ve read her posts on Tumblr, but we’ve never met face to face. She’s a wonderful person – smart, funny and warm, and because of her influence, I some day might be able to help save someone’s life. She’s the person who introduced me to the need for donating bone marrow. Because of her, I’ve signed up for the National Marrow Donor Program on Be the Match. I’m not the only one. Nevin shared her story and her need for a bone marrow transplant on the blogging site Tumblr and a significant number of people were moved to sign up with the registry.

Nevin’s story brings to light how Social Media has the ability to transform the way nonprofits and individuals can interact with donors and volunteers. Traditionally, these sources inundate us with communication that tells us that one person can make a difference. One person can make the world a better place. One person can save a life.

But we easily get lost in the numbers. The sheer number of requests and amount of time or money needed often removes the immediacy of need from the impact. We donate food at Thanksgiving and buy gifts for families at Christmas. We donate to victims of natural disasters. We are moved to act by stories of pain and suffering. Then once the cause drifts from the public eye, we don’t think about it again until the next news cycle or the next postcard in the mailbox. With social media, there’s immediacy to helping and an opportunity to keep the success stories fresh in the mind of people who’ve expressed interest in a cause.

After Nevin’s Tumblr post about her situation, people stepped up to be tested as potential bone marrow matches. What’s interesting is people didn’t just sign up for Be the Match. After completing their sign up packet, they posted pictures of their registration, or more comically, photos from swabbing their mouth for their sample. Every few days, there would be another picture and post to Tumblr of a new person signing up. So instead of reading a compelling post and maybe acting on it, or forgetting a day later, active Tumblr users were getting a weekly or sometimes a daily reminder of the importance of donating bone marrow.

Angela Helga shows off her Be The Match paperwork for Tumblr

Angela Helga, another person I’ve never met but am pleased to call a friend, responded to me when I reached out to ask people about the relationship with Tumblr and the National Marrow Donor Program. She said, “When she [Nevin] decided to use Tumblr as a forum to educate people about donating bone marrow, I thought it was so wonderful that a group of random internet people jumped right on it and registered.” Not only did they jump right on it, but people continued to sign up and continued to post their photos and messages on Tumblr. With a few minutes of effort, it becomes easy to keep the message alive and not contingent on a quarterly marketing cycle.

The ongoing immediacy of the interactions on Tumblr illustrates the value for nonprofits to be engaged with social media in a variety of ways. While the National Donor Program organization isn’t the one driving this on Tumblr, Nevin’s one post has helped to jump start a successful social media donor campaign.

One emotional and important story and some simple pictures posted on a blog site have created a compelling reminder that one person can do good. That one person can make a difference and save a life. This example stops the traditional cycle of marketing and allows for an ongoing message. In this situation we have a typical sense of urgency about how we can help, but it transcends the holiday stories or the quarterly mailer.

And that’s a great thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I just got my kit in the mail. I need to fill it out and post my picture to Tumblr.

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I See Dead Puppies

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Actually I don’t, but apparently I do talk to them on Twitter.

Yesterday, I was reading about the forever stamps being released this year by the USPS and came across the story of Owney the dog–who will be featured on a stamp in July. Owney was the unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail service from 1888 to 1897 where he rode the rails with postal workers. He even traveled around the world in 1895. You can learn more about Owney’s fascinating story at the National Postal Museum website. Today, Owney is stuffed and residing at the Postal Museum as a representative from that era of mail service.

After reading about Owney, I was compelled to post the following (somewhat humorous) remark on Twitter, “There’s a stuffed dog at the Smithsonian’s Postal Museum which is all the motivation my cat needs to do something noteworthy before death.”

Yes, I do tweet about my cat a little too much.

Much to my surprise, I received the following response just a little bit later.

Somewhere out in the interwebs an employee for the Postal Museum or the Smithsonian, is tracking these types of comments in Twitter. Looking for key words like “Smithsonian” or “Postal Museum” and commenting where appropriate. So a random joke like mine actually got the attention of an employee of the museum who responded as @OwneytheDog. It’s brilliant marketing if you think about it. A tiny gesture of goodwill from a stranger helps ensure that I’ll be looking for these stamps in July when they are released. For once, I’m not joking.

You read a lot about how to market on Twitter. Social Media Gurus use terms like “generating brand awareness” to sell the value of Twitter to their clients – or just to fill blog space. Either way, you don’t need a massive campaign to be successful at social media; it’s really the little things that count. The minimum required to be “good” at social media is to respond to customer inquiries and complaints, or seek out people to help generate interest. Yesterday, when the folks operating Owney’s Twitter account came across my silly little tweet and took thirty seconds to respond with two words, I doubt they anticipated a corporate blog from me in response.

Honestly though, isn’t that what people really want from Twitter? To know someone is listening to them and is willing to engage in a conversation.

This was so much more successful than the individuals that send you a message with cryptic text and a link to www.ifyouclickthislinkyourcomputerwillexplode.com.

Before I wrap this up, getting a tweet from a stuffed dog isn’t the strangest marketing I’ve received. Months ago I tweeted about throwing away single socks. I received a reply from an individual selling socks in packs of three. In other words, it ensured that if I lost a sock, I’d always have a backup. I replied asking how I’d know to buy an extra right or left sock. I never heard back.

To summarize, you can build a lot of goodwill with Twitter or Facebook by doing the little things right. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to impress people and get them on your side. It can be as simple as using the tools provided for the application you are working with, monitoring those tools and responding when appropriate. So if you find yourself at the Postal Museum, say hi to Owney for me. If you don’t find yourself there anytime soon, be sure to pick up his stamps in July.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make my cat a YouTube viral sensation.

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Alert: Twitter Mouseover Hack

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

If you’ve logged into Twitter today via their website, it might be a good idea to change your password. I’d also strongly recommend accessing Twitter through a third party client like Tweet Deck or another service. While surprisingly there isn’t anything on the Twitter Status Blog, it appears that Twitter has been hit by a “mouseover” hack that’s causing people to tweet and retweet the same hack over and over again. If you would like to read more about the hack Sophos has an article that explains the flaw.

In simple English, hackers have exploited a security flaw within Twitter that allows for mouse over commands in JavaScript that allows people who hover over the link to be redirected to other websites, or replicate the message. Interestingly, the tweet shows as a block of text, like information on a redacted document. Also, as I learned this morning, the current hack appears to put giant letters overtop of the Twitter interface.

I’m sure more folks will write better explanations of what is currently going on, but as of now it’s best to stay off the main Twitter site, or access it through a third party application which appears to block the mouseover hack. As irresistible as it may seem, please don’t click on any tweets blocked out with color, but if you do please use a third party client to change your password as soon as possible.

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We All Like A Feel Good Story

Monday, September 13th, 2010

It’s a pretty safe assumption everyone other than the crankiest of curmudgeons likes a feel-good story. I know that after being bombarded about news that makes me sad, or angry, or both, I like to hear about something good that happens to the deserving. I don’t think I am taking any risks with that premise. So when a small park 250 miles north of the Twin Cities, that features a bear and her cubs, is able to increase its annual budget by half and beat out some of the largest national parks in the United States for a $100,000 prize, this sounds like a story that is going to have a happy ending.

Lily is a black bear living in Bear’s Head Lake State Park near Ely, Minnesota. She also is probably the most popular living bear on Facebook with over 112,000 followers. Last year when Lily was pregnant, a webcam was placed in her den and the world was able to watch the birth of her cub, Hope. Soon after the webcam was set up, www.bear.org was overloaded with visitors to the site who wanted to catch a glimpse of Lily. Soon after, a Twitter feed and Facebook fan page were set up to disseminate quick updates regarding Lily and to provide educational information about American black bears. Many look to social media as a quick way to get the latest celebrity gossip, breaking popular news trends, or just to catch up with friends. Lily was able to transcend the traditional assumptions by being a conduit of knowledge for her followers. A look at Lily’s Facebook Page illustrates not only how people can keep up with their favorite Minnesotan black bears, but also how they can gain extensive knowledge from bear experts. Facebook is allowing interested individuals to learn from people they might never have been able to communicate with before and to learn more about bears than a watered-down TV special could provide.

So what does this mean? By putting up the webcam, and providing information through blogs, tweets and Facebook status updates and interacting with their followers, the research group working with Lily raised a significant amount of money to continue their work. Through direct donations and the sales of Lily-branded goods (like t-shirts), the North American Bear Center can continue to “advance the long-term survival of bears worldwide by replacing misconceptions with scientific facts about bears, their role in ecosystems, and their relations with humans” as they state on their website.

Just as exciting as the money coming into the North American Bear Center is this news for Bear Head Lake State Park. The park only has about 100,000 visitors a year, but this year had hundreds of thousands more virtual visitors. When you considered that 285 million people visited national parks in 2009, with the Great Smokey Mountains National Park garnering 9.5 million of those visitors (according to a USA Today article), the next piece of information should come as a shocking surprise. Coca-Cola’s LivePositively website’s contest for the most popular park in the United States, allowed voters to select Bear Head Lake State Park as the most popular park in the country. Out of the 5.7 million votes, the Minnesota park received 28 percent. So a park with an annual budget of only $230,000 gets another $100,000 from Coca-Cola to use on park improvements. How awesome is that?

I know in my last blog posting I had to walk a fine line when discussing the value of social media and email campaigns, in relation to traditional postal mail. I think in the case of Lily the Bear we had an extraordinary event, which helped to drive the success of social media campaign—Lily’s social media success wasn’t manufactured, instead it grew organically from the webcam, the expertise of the researchers, their willingness to share their knowledge, and people’s thirst to learn more about wild bears beyond what they saw in Yogi Bear cartoon. There’s a wealth of context to make Lily’s story interesting.

I understand this is unique. However, nearly every organization has something interesting to say and the ability to share it with their members, donors, customers or just the general public at large. Social Media should be fun, and engaging and *gasp* sometimes enlightening. That’s what makes it great. The North American Bear Center can determine its ROI from Lily because there would have been significantly less in donations without the bearcam. I highly doubt they were sending out tons of fundraising requests each year.

You might not be able to measure the value of your social media spending, but that doesn’t belittle its value. For small organizations, it can provide a lifeline to raising donations by finding an audience you might not have previously been able to access, or by reaching customers in a very niche market. Organizations and businesses shouldn’t feel a sense of entitlement when it comes to social media. Just because you have a Twitter account or a Facebook page, doesn’t mean people must follow you. Instead you have to be engaging and interactive and actually provide content people are interested in. If you do that, you may be able to reap significant rewards for your hard work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to look at some cute cub photos on Lily’s Facebook page and smile.

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Trying to be Young Again

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

If I don’t put my shopping lists into an Excel spreadsheet, I find myself mumbling at the store about not remembering what I went there to buy. I have not yet reached a point where I am telling hooligans to get off my lawn, but I have shifted ungracefully out of the 25-34 marketing age demographic. However, after looking at the results of a recent Epsilon marketing survey, I find that I may have more in common with today’s whippersnappers than I expected. Just like the college kid at the dinner table, I am tied to my Blackberry 24/7/365 looking at Twitter updates and reading my email. However, I am like the younger generation in a more unexpected way; like them, I am much more likely to read my monthly Microcenter paper advertisement than I am my daily TigerDirect email. Interestingly, last week a survey came out that might have explained why.

The survey, from Epsilon’s ICOM division, discovered that “fifty-three percent of all respondents say they pay closer attention to information they receive by postal mail, compared with email.” The study also suggests consumers in the 18-34 demographic prefer to receive and trust postal and newspaper marketing over online messages in the US and Canada by a 2-1 or whopping 3-1 margin based on various criteria in the study.

After sharing this information with my coworkers, quite a few of them were taken aback. I know that I too was surprised by these results. I’ve worked on some very successful email campaigns, and our organization is looking to social media as an avenue for future revenue growth. I’d have thought individuals who had something more technologically advanced than a Commodore 64 as their first computer would be more open to electronic communication as their primary source of receiving marketing information. Based on this study, I would have been wrong. It was then actually a conversation with The Wife that got me thinking about this and I have a couple of reasons I think this might be the case.

Too Much Email

Epsilon learned that “consumers are receiving more email than ever, and in many cases not opening it at all.” It didn’t occur to me, but this is absolutely true—especially for businesses where I have an existing relationship. This may be excessive but I have four email accounts: my work email, Gmail for personal use, Hotmail for paying the bills, and Yahoo for signing up for things. Without exaggeration I get hundreds of emails on a daily basis and I know I am not the only one. If all four of these accounts were synched to my Blackberry, that little red light of doom would never stop blinking at me. I check my Yahoo account roughly once a week and I always find at least seven emails each from TigerDirect, Borders, Amazon, Delta, Continental Airlines, Papa John’s and multiple Las Vegas casinos. Not to mention the emails about taking online courses, selling my valuable metals and government grants. Much like the historical perspective that all postal solicitations are junk mail, it’s really easy to bucket all email offers as spam.

This isn’t always the case though. Email can be a very successful avenue for marketing products and services. The key is to properly target your message, have a good offer, etc… Professional marketing managers know all of this already, but I think that sometimes gets forgotten when it comes to email campaigns. Timely isn’t a synonym for daily. Also, Delta Airlines, I already have your Amex (and you know it), stop asking me to sign up for one weekly.

Don’t Click This Link

The study also brought the following information to light regarding the reliability of information received through electronic communication, “blogs, Facebook and online forums each ranked with 8 percent, while YouTube, Twitter and other social media outlets had 7 and 6 percent, respectively. Email attracted 12 percent.” Email at 12 percent is rather low, and while I do think it is a very effective avenue for marketing when the message is accurate, it still has it challenges. When you consider the historical concerns of people in regard to phishing scams and other scamming techniques used in electronic communication, it can be a challenge to differentiate between a legitimate offer and an attempt to collect your personal information for nefarious purposes.

To do it right, social media marketing is a real challenge. Engaging your community while being entertaining and interesting is difficult. However, there are so many sources just pushing out the next white paper link to improve your business, make thousands of dollars from the comfort of your own home, or in the instance where I received an unsolicited offer to buy socks in threes instead of pairs, we are surrounded by the noise of inappropriate or unprofessional attempts to get us to click. Postal mail doesn’t have the same sense of noise. Since the cost of postal mail is consistently going up, we do get less marketing mail daily, so it gets more attention. Other than Discover, I don’t get weekly credit card solicitations anymore. Most of my mail now advertises local companies or unique services and typically people do take the time to look and examine the offers because quite simply, there are fewer of them.

Interestingly, “consumers who earn an annual income of less than $60,000, as well as shoppers aged 18-34, are more likely to say receiving direct mail from a company makes them feel like a valued customer.” There is a perceived effort involved in direct mail that may not have been apparent before the proliferation of online marketing and advertising. Beyond interesting copy and a good offer, the piece has to be printed and someone has to deliver it. With this sense of work involved (imagined or real), direct mail subconsciously gets priority over electronic communications.

Finally, the study proposes two things. The first being that “good relationships are built on trust, so it is not surprising that most consumers depend on flesh and blood over modems and monitors.” While I agree with this statement, organizations like Comcast have done an excellent job developing trust using platforms like Twitter and if an organization is utilizing social media effectively online, trust can be developed with a user community. The second is essential for any organization to understand. “The upshot is that regardless of the demographic, marketers need to employ a multichannel campaign for topmost customer engagement. Social media, like many forms of communication, should be incorporated as one component of a broader strategy.” In other words, email can be successful, social media can be successful, but without postal marketing you are probably missing out on your full audience.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head out to Denny’s for a Grand Slam breakfast for dinner.

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Don’t Give Us The Pickle

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

I’ve been railing against pickles since early this morning. I’ve been waving my hands in the air, wild-eyed, with my hair an absolute mess over something that really isn’t important. Pickles! Those vinegary cucumbers are the bane of my existence. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that knows me that I enjoy going to the local watering hole for a cold one with a burger and fries. I’ll pore over the menu carefully to ensure I get the appropriate vegetables and cheeses for the best possible dining experience. More importantly, I look to see if they serve a pickle with the burger, so I can ask them to hold it. I don’t even want one on the plate. When I go to an establishment and pickles aren’t on the menu, and yet one of those evil little things arrives on my plate, I am a little upset. You see, I know it sounds weird, but I can still taste them. Surprising me with a pickle isn’t a gift at all—instead, it is a source of frustration.

Of course, I am not really here to tell you about my strange dietary habits, but instead would like to touch on the recent behavior of many internet organizations to force us to opt-out of things we don’t want. I would assume that many, if not all of you are aware of Thursday’s change to the Google main web page. For me, I was visually assaulted with a bright contrast of colors before my first cup of coffee. I understand this isn’t some paramount issue, or a place to draw a line in the sand, but I think this illustrates a growing trend that is generating massive amounts of frustration in the user community. The trend is ‘the pickle on the plate,’ so to speak. We may or may not want new and exciting (or in this case, relatively mundane) features, but we do want to choose for ourselves if this is something we want. It isn’t the security damaging changes made to the privacy policies of Facebook, or the error laden launch of Google Buzz, but it shows a disconnect between application users and the people designing and rolling out these features. The fact that Google turned off the forced adoption of backgrounds to the main page after only a few hours, shows how they again misjudged their customers.

Another parallel for the office environment is how every single iteration of Microsoft Word gets significantly more complex. The added features may or may not be nice, but now that I need to click my mouse sixty times to double space a paper, I get a little annoyed.

*Deep Breath*

On one hand, this really isn’t something to get too worked up about. Maybe I am overreacting–just a hair. On the other hand, if we don’t complain about being forced to opt-out of every single service, every single day with some new company, then the practice will continue. When Twitter rolled out geo-location for tweets, they were nice enough to ask me if I wanted it included. While I decided against it, many of my friends decided to share where they were tweeting from. It’s cool to be able to actively make that choice, and not be part of the driving force on Google search trends for “remove Google background.”

So as you market your products and roll out new services, try to keep in mind there is apparently a very fine line between “value-add” and “value-annoy,” and forcing your customers to adopt something you think is “neat” may not be the best course of action. Now if you’ll excuse me while I send this pickle back to the kitchen.

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What do Rockets, Missiles and Cloud Services have in common?

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The answer is that they have each played a part in the history of the mailing industry.

February 23, 1936 – two rockets were launched in an attempt to transport mail 2,000 feet across a frozen lake. These rockets crash-landed on the ice and the postmaster had to drag the bags of mail across the frozen lake to the post office.

On June 8, 1959 – a navy submarine fired a guided missile carrying 3,000 letters towards a naval air station in Mayport, FL. At that time the postmaster general stated, “Before man reaches the moon mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California by guided missile.”

On January 7, 2010 – Lorton Data announced the release of “Aqua-Mailer”, a complete, on-demand suite of direct mail services. These “in the cloud” services enable direct mailers to streamline their processes and save on software costs therefore increasing their bottom line profit.

Mailing technology has come a long way………..the sky’s the limit!

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Social Influence of Social Media

Monday, April 19th, 2010

In response to Joel’s social media blog entitled Is Anyone Out There?, I just have to put in my two cents. If the available social and psychological research is correct, it is possible to change behavior by purposefully doing – just about anything! Not just one time, but first trying something, and then trying again, and then again, and before you are aware, that thing you are doing is something that you DO! The next step we take from this new habit is to influence others and we do this unwittingly most of the time.

I recall in the late 1980’s, yes, I am that old, when my husband got his first cell phone (size – 8″x2″x3″). I mean the thing was HUGE! This was the offspring of the car phone that stayed in the car but didn’t have to be connected to a cord – ingenious. Of course I looked at it as a leash, so refused my own for several years. I finally accepted the inevitable leash when my friends started getting them and were so excited about the benefits. I am sure my husband said the same things, but coming from him was I going to listen?? Today, I can’t even imagine my life without my phone, and I email people to let them know that I don’t have it if for some reason I leave it plugged in at home when I leave for work…far cry from the leash I was afraid of 20 years ago.

This isn’t just the stuff of social media, this influence ability is prevalent on every level of our communication with others, and it passes from people we know to people we don’t know through our life stream. Something like – Susie talks to Francine about her friend who just started taking yoga at a local center. Francine has been thinking about taking yoga for a long time, and this information about Susie’s friend in this conversation triggers that desire in Francine who convinces her husband and they both finally start taking yoga classes. Then Francine’s husband, over the water cooler, talks about how great the yoga class was and how much harder it was then he thought it would be. His colleague takes this information home, and a few weeks later, that couple decides to try this out as something they can do together where they are both getting the benefit of exercise along with spending some much needed time together. On the surface from any other point of view, Francine has been thinking about this for a long time, and the actual taking of classes was inevitable, but actually the tie to Susie’s friend, the social influence, was the impetus to take the desire from a thought to an action. And the link to the colleague and spouse/partner behavior could also be traced to Susie’s friend. From an article in Science News Magazine, Rachel Zelkowitz reviews the research of Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler. They propose “it is possible that … even strangers may impact how you live, love and, yes, gain weight.”

So, if these assertions can be translated to the use of social media, as we use blogs, tweets, Facebook connections as informational and educational and conversational platforms, some number of our connections will do the same. In turn, their connections will do the same, and the seemingly small network will grow appendages beyond our current comprehension. Just think of it now, with my two offspring grown to college age individuals, I communicate with them through the year almost entirely by text and email, and most recently, they have both allowed me to be friends on Facebook. I follow blogs and download podcasts of my favorite NPR programs, I listen to MPR on my iPhone when I take my dogs for walks, I contact people on LinkedIn or Facebook regularly, and I am a member of UrbanSpoon, among other social based programs that offer information that may help others when traveling, etc. In short, I just can’t imagine my life without my social media, and my expectation of others, either through work or private life, is that they feel the same. If they don’t, you can bet I will talk it up and hook them in!

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404 Email Not Found

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

The Wife and I got fancy new Blackberry phones this week and I am in love. I told The Wife that I still loved her more than our new phones, but it’s close. This type of positive reinforcement nearly had me sleeping on the couch in the basement for a few days, but there’s a TV, a beer fridge, a PS3 and my Rock Band gear down there, so it’s cool. Why do I love my new Blackberry so much? Integration! I now have direct access to my Hotmail, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and text messaging accounts all from a device that is smaller than an iPad! I know, y’all are thinking, “welcome to 2008 Joel, I already have a Droid that contributes processing power to the SETI project when I am not doing advanced calculus.” I had the Pearl for the last two years, and really, it just felt like a fancy-pants phone and not an integrated mobile communication device. I now have enough technology to transmit instructions to the Mars Rover. Huzzah!

As always the next question is; what the heck does this have to do with direct marketing and what not? I know you love your geek toys but why should I care? It’s simple. I’ve been working with a whole slew (if that’s the appropriate collective noun) of email marketing gurus on some customer campaigns and we’ve talked quite a bit about development and deployment and how something appears correct on one platform but can be completely off on another. You might make excellent copy for Outlook that comes out blank on Hotmail even though they are both from the same company. You might have something that looks awesome on an iPhone but just doesn’t work for the Blackberry. I cannot stress how important it is to understand that people interact with communication technologies differently and that it is essential to be as agnostic as possible when using email as a marketing tool.

Right before the tax deadline, the Wife and I signed up for a Roth IRA for 2009. Although we were under the gun to get it completed for taxes, we set it up online in minutes. It was really slick. Minutes later my phone buzzed with my email confirmation from the company managing our account. Header information is there, but the body of each note (there were two of them) was completely blank. On the hotmail account all the necessary information was there—but on ye olde Blackberry not a scrap of text—or even an image. In this scenario it isn’t a problem, but if you want to market to someone that accesses their email on a phone, you could have huge problems.

If you are renting a list and running a campaign to potential new customers, you really only have one shot to market to me via email and that is when I check my inbox. If I am sitting on the couch Monday night watching Chuck (please renew this show, NBC) and an email comes in, I am going to check it immediately—unless something cool is going on and then I’ll wait until the commercials. If that message is from someone I don’t have an existing relationship with and it’s blank, I am going to select “delete on handheld & mailbox” and it’s gone. Let’s be honest, does anyone really think “oh, I am curious what this blank advertisement is for, I had better head right over to a computer and see what it says.” So while you have spent money on acquiring a list, money on developing an enticing message and creative offer, and money for deployment, if you don’t understand deliverability you are going to lose customers right off the bat. It would be like sending a postcard mailer and not running NCOALink® on a file before mailing. A bunch of your customers just won’t get the message.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I gotta email this guy about a Nigerian wire transfer deal I just got on my phone.

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Is Anyone Out There?

Monday, April 5th, 2010

Someday soon someone will retweet one of my mildly coherent musings on Twitter and what an amazingly glorious day that will be. The birds will sing (and tweet ha-ha) and maybe even land on my shoulder as in a live-action Disney movie. I might even pop the top on that special bottle of Champagne (of beers) I’ve been saving for a very special occasion. It’s similar to the decibel breaking w00t I emit every time a real human being comments on the blog—there’s a call to action in that last statement people!

The other day I had a discussion with the boss about social media marketing, which stimulated my somewhat humbling comments above. Our talk focused the frustration business folks can feel with trying to implement a social media strategy for their organization and the perceived successes and failures of those actions. Be it a blog, Facebook. Twitter or LinkedIn, the expectation with Web 2.0 technology is that there should be an immediate response to information shared through these communication vehicles. The rub is that it takes time to build a community of followers and participants and, depending on how much time your organization wants to spend building that community, you’ll need to be patient as that online community develops. In other words, not only will your mileage vary with social media, the time it takes for people to start to interact with you can be lengthy as well.

Traditional direct marketing methods are well defined. Determine your market and develop your marketing contact list. Create a message with a specific offer and call to action. Mail your design piece and track the response and then measure your return on investment. If you got a 2% return rate on the mailing and it is profitable you can do a little happy dance before modifying your next campaign based on what worked and didn’t work with your current offer. In contrast, people are still trying to figure out how to measure ROI on social media. A company’s number of Facebook friends or hits to the blog doesn’t necessarily translate into hard factorable cash.

Let’s assume you have a blog. Weekly, you spend two hours putting together a post to share with your customers. Then when you post it, an undefined number of people read it. Nearly all of your readers won’t comment regardless of how compelling the writing or information is—that’s just the nature of blogs. However, if people are finding your blog and reading it, it is likely that it’s influencing them. Blogging or Tweeting is a lot more amorphous than using a promo code to track an offer, but it is likely you are having an impact. You just need time and focus to help build your community.

You also need time to build credibility. Just because some dude in business casual writes something and sticks it on the wide-wide-world-of-web does not make it gospel (I’m looking in a mirror right now), but over a period of time a collection of posts or tweets or rambling somewhat viable ideas can develop trust in your audience and/or customers. There’s an opportunity to prove yourself an expert through your body of work and allows you to develop a level of trust with current and potential customers. It isn’t a Field of Dreams, “if you post it, they will buy” scenario. You can’t just cut out a cornfield and expect new customers (but it would be pretty darn cool if you could). Instead it requires persistence and desire to be successful.

Personally, I’ll keep blogging until they pry the keyboard out of my rigid, firmly clutching fingers—or ask me nicely to stop. Eventually, I’ll reach that critical mass that illustrates there is a valuable return on investment. At some point, people will retweet my tweets (the fools!) and the time I’ve spent babbling will be worth it. My advice to any organization experiencing frustration while dipping their toes into the social media ocean is to hang in there. Measure the time investment you are putting into social media to see if what you are doing makes sense, adjust your commitments if necessary and understand that community building takes time. Now if you’ll excuse me while I go check my twitter account.

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