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Finding Sponsors: Where Do I Start?

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Finding and attracting sponsors to your podcast, blog or web show is one of the most difficult, yet potentially most lucrative, aspects of your business. Business? Yes. If you’re looking to make money doing what you love, your content is a business.

To that point, it’s important to treat your content creation that way from the very beginning – professionally. You never know who may be listenin/watching/reading, and you won’t get another chance to make an initial impression on someone… especially someone who may be willing to spend their money to work with you.

But if you are thinking about working directly with advertisers and sponsors, here are a few things you’ll need to do to get ready and get started:

  1. Be Prepared… for when opportunity knocks –  “Do as I say, and not as I do.” Believe it or not, you don’t always have to seek out sponsors. Sometimes they’ll come to you. And if (and when) they do, you need to be ready. When a potential sponsor called me in 2005 about advertising on my show, I had no idea about what I could offer, or what I should charge. It’s (almost) 2013, and times, opinions and the economy has changed, so you need to be ready. Put together a simple media kit (read the NMX article “38 Brilliant Bloggers Talk About Media Kits” by Allison Boyer to find out how to create one. Be sure and know your audience – not just the stats and numbers, but who they are, what they want, and what may appeal to them.
  2. Be Careful – Speaking of your audience, don’t take money from anyone that is willing to throw it at you. Be prepared to say “No.” Why? Because anyone who sponsors you must be one that is organic and relevant. Your audience TRUSTS you. That is paramount, and if it’s lost, it’s often lost forever. Be sure who you partner with brings value to your listener/reader/viewer. They believe in what you say and who you endorse, and remember that anyone that advertises with you is ultimately a reflection on you. If something goes bad, your audience will turn to you.
  3. Be Creative – Podcasting and blogging is not enough. You need to be everywhere. Always. It’s work. REAL work. But but doing more in multiple mediums, including videos, livestreaming, events, newsletters, etc., you are creating more opportunities for your potential sponsors. More opportunities gives you more creativity to share and spread the sponsor’s messages, and thus ultimately more income.
  4. Be Convincing – Podcast advertising just works. Plain and simple. But you may need to convince a potential sponsor and back it up with real data. How? Don’t worry – some of the heavy lifting has been done for you already. You’ll need to gather your own listener statistics (your hosting provider, such as Blubrry.com or Libsyn.com, can provide this for you). Overall, though, podcast advertising is very effective. For example, according to Edison Research in a study conducted in 2009: 80% of surveyed podcast consumers surveyed agreed that they “prefer to buy products from companies that advertise on or sponsor” the podcasts they regularly enjoy. Ninety-percent of respondents had taken some kind of action as a result of podcast advertising or sponsorship, and over 40% reported purchasing behaviors, which indicates that they are receptive to the right message, in the right context,” according to Edison Research Vice President Tom Webster. Survey Methodology: Respondents in this online survey were recruited using audio/video messages embedded in podcasts from some of the leading aggregators of downloadable media, including NPR, Wizzard, RawVoice and Revison3, during the 4th quarter of 2009. Source: The 2012 State of Podcasting Report.
  5. Be Confident- But remember that you must convince them to buy into YOU. So you need to be prepared to show them what your value is to their brand, why your endorsement to your loyal, very targeted audience is so valuable, and why you being an influencer to that audience helps determine your rate.
    • Determining what to charge is often the most difficult question of all. And because most of us are coming from a background where we’re not salesmen (unless you really were a salesman), determining and standing by what you value your sponsorship opportunities to be worth can be extremely challenging. So, where so you start? I suggest looking at the sponsorship opportunities you’ve established and looking at what you can deliver in terms of not only traffic, but conversions. Your sponsor is not just looking to potentially build their brand, but sell a product or service. Some ways to help determine your value and sponsorship costs:
      • Get comps – Look at other sites and shows and see what their rates are and for what they are offering. How do you compare in terms of traffic, reach and audience loyalty? Now look to other mediums in your niche, especially ones that a potential sponsor may already be advertising in. Research the costs of magazine ads, TV and radio spots, and even billboards. Find out where else the sponsor is already spending their money. And be confident in being able to convince the sponsor that what you can deliver is not only much more targeted and valuable, but trackable, changeable, unique and proven.
      • Be confident in who YOU are – Keep in mind that when you have built a loyal audience of listeners, viewers, or readers (hopefully all three), that the trust your audience has placed in you carries a huge value. A brand may broadcast a message about why their restaurant is great, but when your audience hears a review and endorsement from you, it carries a much different and powerful weight to it.
  6. Be Patient- Being patient means not just being patient in terms of waiting to attract, find and sign a sponsor, but with the sponsor themselves. For many brands, advertising in online media is a new venture for them, and very much outside their comfort zone. You will undoubtedly have to teach (and convince) them about the mediums, their opportunities and benefits, and why THEY need to be patient as well. Why? Because often times, advertising is a marathon and not a sprint, and they may not see their returns on the first day, or even for the first few weeks or months. So be patient while waiting for them, then while working with them, and why they may need to be patient but confident as well.
  7. Be Amazing- When you do come to an agreement with a sponsor, you need to set reasonable expectations on both ends. You need to outline what you can provide, and what the sponsor expects in return. Then do more. My belief is simple – Underpromise and Overdeliver. WOW your sponsor and they will remain a loyal partner.The most important part of finding and working with sponsors is to continue to be true to yourself, your mission and your audience. Keep them in mind first and always, as you begin to move your content creation and monetization in a new direction. Be prepared for many learning opportunities along the way, as well as some disappointments. But also be ready to invest a great deal of time and effort, and for the benefits that sponsorship can bring you and your audience. For more help, check out some previous NMX posts and articles:

Working with Sponsors for your Podcast [Video Series] 

Introducing Our Brand New Free Ebook: The Ultimate Guide to Blog and Podcast Sponsorship

3 Ways to Monetize a Podcast

The Number One Mistake You’re Making if You Want Sponsors

What are YOUR biggest challenges in finding and/or working with sponsors? Please leave your comments below, and I look forward to meeting you at New Media Expo in January!

Editor’s Note: If you want to learn more from Lou about getting sponsors, check out his session “7 Ways to Find, Sign and Profit from Sponsors for your Brand” at NMX in Las Vegas.

How Social Media Changed the Culture of My Dental Practice

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Let’s see a show of hands out there.  How many of you have dentists who have content rich websites and are active on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest?  That’s what I thought.  Not too many of you.  Well, as a dentist, I am on a mission to change that.

Dentists and Marketing

Marketing has not been an easy journey for the healthcare industry. For a very long time, professionals in healthcare were discouraged, if not reprimanded, for advertising. About all you could do to “market” yourself was to have your name appear in the local phone book. The early adopters in attempting healthcare marketing were not well received and were, in fact, lambasted for their efforts.

“Classless” and “cheap” were words used to describe healthcare professionals’ small attempts at marketing and advertising.  Slowly, very slowly, this limiting attitude has changed. The healthcare industry has finally, if not reluctantly, taken the full plunge into the ocean of marketing and social media.

The Extremes

As with most things in life, there is a modulating process that needs to accompany change. Before that modulation occurs, typically you are going to see extremes. In healthcare, the extremes have been pretty obvious. There are the pharmaceutical, hospital, weight loss and dental implant companies that barrage us with promises of the best, the only, and the right options for our healthcare needs on radio and TV. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the general dental practice that sits quietly on Main Street USA hoping that “word of mouth” will continue to bring in new patients. While, just down the street, new dental offices are popping up every day providing more and more options for these same new patients.

The Reality

As “experts” in our respective fields, no matter what our business, the reality is that as a rule, every day when we go to work, we do basically the same thing as our competitors. So, in the field of dentistry specifically, most of my colleagues that are vying for the same patients that I am vying for do the same kinds of fillings, cleanings, x-rays, crowns and bridges. Some of us offer slightly different options but, for the most part, our days are very similar.

So then, how can we make ourselves appear “different” to potential patients?  What can we do to increase the traffic through our door instead of letting the dentist just down the street get the new patient?  That is the age old question!

The Answer

Think outside of the box. We already know what we’ve been trained to do as “experts” in our field. And we should always strive to do it better! But we can’t just rest on our laurels anymore. There are far too many other businesses like yours and mine out there and potential customers/clients/patients are getting more and more digitally-savvy all of the time. They are doing their homework and basing the decisions they make on their research. And to make ourselves show up in an enticing way, we need to think outside of the box. And one of those ways is social media.

Let’s Get Personal: My Story

Let me tell you how social media changed the culture of my dental practice. I’ve been a dentist for over 22 years and have owned my own practice for 16 of those years. I, like many of my colleagues (and other small businesses), tried many of the traditional forms of marketing including, but certainly not limited to the Yellow Pages, Dex Knows, church bulletin ads, local newspaper coupons and participation in local school events. In the early days, the only way of tracking my analytics was by keeping track of my results with a notebook and pen. And one by one, I eliminated ineffective and sometimes costly marketing efforts that had little to no ROI (return on investment).

I was conflicted because I still felt that there was value in the tried and true “word of mouth” method of growing a practice. But I knew that with new competition popping up at every corner, I was going to die as a business if I didn’t figure out how to create growth effectively and inexpensively. And then, one day, one of my awesome patients came up with the answer. The conversation began innocently enough. I was complimenting her on her oh-so-funny blog and asking her how she was able to promote her blog so successfully. She looked me straight in the eye and said “You can do it too. Just create a blog for your website and get a Twitter account and tweet about your practice”.

Say WHATTTT??

There is Value in Being Impetuous and Impressionable

That very day, I solicited the help of Heather Acton,  freelance WordPress developer extraordinaire and I started designing a new WordPress website that would allow me to blog directly from my business website. I also set up a Twitter account and created a Facebook page. I worked diligently on increasing my presence on social media. I played with many ideas and tossed out the ones that didn’t work and kept the ones that did. I began doing videos that were posted to both YouTube and my website that dealt with dental health issues. I started a regular feature called Ask the Dentist in which someone emails me a dental health related question that I post and answer on my website.

I began to post articles to local newspapers to increase awareness of my office’s presence. I attended functions, some with the clever name of “Tweet Ups,” in and around the city of Chicago so that the many people that I was communicating with in social media I could meet face to face IRL (in real life)!

The result was a measurable increase in my “new patient” numbers as a result of my presence on social media.

To be clear, I made many mistakes along the way and even allowed myself to get slightly addicted to social media. But, the lessons that I gleaned as I muddled through the myriad of information I was reading and experimenting with, grew my desire to share a best practices sort of approach with dentists wanting to use social media. The result was my site, Social Media DDS, which allows me to consult with and coach dental professionals in the art of social media strategy.

What I Have Learned

  1. Have an interactive website. By interactive, I mean, make sure that your site is content rich and content fresh. Create a space on your website modeled after traditional “blogs” from which you can provide information to your readers and they can communicate with you. Have a fully functional and user-friendly commenting platform integrated into your website and “blog” such as Livefyre that allows conversation-like communication to occur, encouraging readers to participate in dialogue with you and the community.
  2. Be regular and predictable in your posts.  As Marcus Sheridan, the awesome author of The Sales Lion, says in this video interview, blog with regularity. Let your audience know that you will be there for them. Listen to their needs and then…engage, engage, engage. Social media is, after all, social. Once you have established a solid “home base” with your website presence, consider expanding your social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and, yes, even Pinterest.

Don’t Have Time?

I happen to LOVE working the social media and marketing angle for my dental practice. But I understand and appreciate that not all owners of a business can find the time to put into growing their social media presence. One of my favorite go-to people in the dental, social media marketing world is Rita Zamora of Social Media & Relationship Marketing. She suggests finding a “champion” for your social media presence (regardless of the type of business you run).

Look to your staff and decide who would be a perfect fit for championing your business. Let them represent the business. Teach them how to be the “voice” of your company. Delegate wisely. And, always keep your “voice” consistent and authentic. Never succumb to the temptation of letting a third party company be your “voice.” Always understand that your “voice” is what makes digital “word of mouth” marketing work.

Wrapping It Up

I am passionate about the potential of social media as a powerful tool in a business’ marketing strategy. I am also passionate about my business. It seems pretty intuitive then that, when I combine the powerful forces of my business with social media, awesome goodness is going to be the result.

I can’t imagine a new business in any industry not wanting to make sure that their internet presence is felt and that the business consistently nurtures its online presence. There are countless examples of success using the power of social media to build a business. I love to tell people that if I, as an owner of a dental practice, can grow my business utilizing the power of social media, then anyone can grow a business using social media!

How have you used social media to grow your online presence?  Has it worked?  Do you have any tips that might help others as they take their first steps into social media?

Social Media Automation for Small Businesses: Is It Really For The Birds?

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is social media automation for the birds Is social media automation a good thing for small business owners? How can small business owners use social media quickly without it? This post covers what you need to know about automating your social media presence. It’s not all bad!

Putting social media on auto-pilot is like sending your customer complaint phone calls to voice mail. Sure, it might help some people who just want to vent or have specific questions answered by your recording, but it’s only going to tick off most people.

Yet, mastering social media takes time, and for a small business run by a handful of people, it can seem impossible to keep up with social media. Few small business owners have time to sit on Twitter all day.

I have good news: automation has a negative connotation, but all of your business practices should be automated sometime. You can’t scale if you do everything by hand. It’s just important to automate the right way. You wouldn’t stick a mannequin behind the counter but you also wouldn’t demand that your cashiers calculate everything by hand. With the proper tools, social media automation can help you run your social media accounts, even if you don’t have the money yet to hire a dedicated social media manager.

Things You Should Never Automate

First of all, let’s address the elephant in the room: the dark side of automation. Social media automation has a negative connotation for a reason — lots of people do it incorrectly. There are certain types of automation you should never do.

  • Never create an account and leave it 100% on autopilot. Any platform — Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. — requires your attention at least some of the time. You can’t just set things up and let them handle themselves.
  • Never automate customer service. You need to address problems and answer questions via social media if you’re going to have a presence there. Never leave customers to fend for themselves when an issue arises.
  • Never automate “from” live events. Bad stuff happens, all the time. If you schedule or otherwise automate tweets to look like you’re at an event, you could end up with mud on your face if things don’t go as planned. Look at this example of a tweet from LiveNation Ontario about a Radiohead concert that was canceled due to a stage collapse tragedy.

Depending on your business, there are other things you should never automate – but those are the big three that go for everyone.

Automation the Right Way

You can, however, automate some parts of the social media process to make things easier for you as a small business owner. The key is to make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. You shouldn’t automate everything. So, start with a single social network, get the process down pat there, and then branch out to the next network. This is a much more streamlined process than trying to start ten profiles at once. (I recommend starting with either Facebook or Twitter, depending on your industry. Go to the network where your customers are most active.)

Let’s look at a few ways you can automate your account:

  • Automate stats tracking.

There’s absolutely no reason to collect and study your data manually. You should track stats, but instead of spending time trying to make heads or tails of Facebook Analytics and other platform-specific reports, go with a single system. Check out this really comprehensive list of social media monitoring tools. Remember, you get what you pay for. I highly recommend opening your wallet and spending a little money on an all-inclusive, detailed monitoring service unless you have the time to analyze free reports.

  • Automate your tweets.

Not all of your tweets should be automated, and some may disagree with me on this point, but I believe that it is fine to schedule some of your tweets in advance, as well as automate the tweeting process if you have a company blog.

Twitterfeed is your friend. If you sign up for this service, you can add your blog’s RSS feed and you’ll automatically tweet every new post as it is published. Unless you can think of a reason why you’d not want to tweet your own links, I highly recommend doing this. It just doesn’t make sense to do it manually.

If you are going to schedule tweets, I have two tips for you:

  1. Don’t schedule too far in advance. You want to keep track of everything you have scheduled so you can cancel the tweets if you want.
  2. Don’t schedule anything that isn’t 100%. Yes, you can cancel scheduled tweets, but don’t rely on this function. Don’t schedule a tweet that you wouldn’t be okay with going out instantly.

I recommend scheduling tweets simply because you want to spread them out over the course of a day and this isn’t always possible, depending on your business. If you do have a business where you can constantly tweet via your phone or computer in real time, that’s usually the better option.

You can schedule updates for Facebook as well, though keep in mind that Facebook uses an algorithm called EdgeRank to determine how many people see your post. (Check out this great article from NMX speaker Rich Brooks about EdgeRank if you’ve never heard of it before.) Be aware that some forms of automation can affect how well your Facebook page performs, so it’s important to do things manually when possible.

  • Get notified! (But don’t rely on notifications.)

There are tons of mobile apps that will buzz every time you get a new mention or message or whatnot on your social media profile. If you’re on the go, this will alert you whenever you need to take care of something, rather than having to manually check you accounts several times per day.

You can also set up your preferences to get an email every time there’s an interaction on one of your social media accounts. I know, I know: no one wants more email. However, what you can do is set up a dummy email account just for your social media sites and sync that to your phone. That way, it doesn’t bog down your regular email and you don’t even have to check it (other than perhaps occasionally cleaning it out to free up some space), but your phone will still buzz whenever something needs your attention.

A word of caution however: don’t rely solely on automatic notifications. You should sign into every social media account you’ve create at least once per day (twice or more is recommended) to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

The bottom line? Not all social media automation is bad. You just have to learn to do thing the right way. Make sure to test every technique and be present whenever possible. Automation shouldn’t be the norm; it should simply be a way to add to real life presence via social media.

Want to learn more about using social media for your business? Register for the BusinessNext Social conference coming to Las Vegas this January!

The Most Important Ingredient in Your Social Strategy Recipe

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Good social media strategy is a recipe. When automation starts to get stale though, it’s time to mix up a recipe from scratch, starting with a base dough of promotion. Then you add in a cup or two or customer service and heaping tablespoon of retweets. Depending on your company, you might add other ingredients to the mix as well.

But many companies forget the most important ingredient of all.

In fact, anyone using social media to promote their content, products, or services need to add this important ingredient to their social strategy. Leaving it out is a disaster waiting to happen.

Scott Stratten at BlogWorld New York How Social Ranting Reminded Me of the Most Important Ingredient

I started writing this post in my head when listening to Scott Stratten rant about social media during his BlogWorld New York session, “7 Deadly Social Sins.” He admitted at the start of his talk that he would be ranting in this session about several social media practices that he sees all the time. These included linking Twitter with Facebook (and other accounts), being too stubborn to check out technology your audience is using just because you don’t personally like it, and trying to cover up mistakes instead of going with the flow. (You can hear his entire Super Session via the BWENY virtual ticket here.)

I’ve heard Scott speak several times, and what always strikes me about his sessions is that the audience does a lot of nodding and even applauding throughout. His talks aren’t typically about tools to use or how-to steps you should take or other specifics. They’re about broad ideas. He tells us what we already subconsciously know.

His sessions always seem to point out the most common ingredient that we often miss: common sense.

“Common” Sense?

When talking about social strategy, I’m constantly reminded of the saying, “There is nothing more uncommon than common sense,” which dates back to at least the 1800s. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in squeezing the ROI out of social media that we often forget that social isn’t some kind of fancy new thing in the business world. The technology is new, to be sure, but at its core, social is really just basic human interaction.

People think that because their is a computer screen they can act differently than they would face-to-face with consumers. But it should be common sense that the computer screen is not important. What is important? Treating your customers like human beings. When someone walks into your ice cream shop, you give them a spoonful of one of your flavors to taste. When someone walks into your wedding dress boutique, you pair them with a consultant who spends hours helping them try on gowns. When someone walks into your restaurant, your host or hostess puts on a huge smile and welcomes them. When someone walks into your bar on a Tuesday night like usual, you ask “the regular?” because you took the time to remember his or her favorite beer.

These are the things you should be doing on social media – giving your audience a taste, giving your audience help, giving your audience a warm welcome, and giving your audience that feeling of, “I’m special.” It’s common sense when you’re face to face with a customer. It should be common sense online too.

These are Not New Concepts

Let’s think about business back in the days before social media.

In the early to mid 90s, when you were the coolest kid in school if you had Internet access at home, you didn’t get online to like your favorite band on Facebook (though MySpace days were right around the corner). Bands didn’t have a way to personally connect with you like they do today through Facebook, but they did have the ability to send you cool stuff in the mail via their fan club. Some CDs of the day even came with trading cards, and reality shows like Making the Band and appearances on MTV gave listeners the chance to “get to know you.”

In other words, it was about connection. Usually, the bands who made it big were the ones out there connecting with fans as often as possible. Sounds a lot like good social media strategy doesn’t it?

Let’s go back even farther to, say, the 1930s. There was no Pinterest for women to share their favorite recipes with one another, and no way for a company like Betty Crocker to build their brand on this platform. But you know what Betty Crocker could do (and did do) back in those pre-Internet days? They could recognize that the housewives buying their products would also be interested in other kitchen items, so they began putting a coupon for Oneida Limited flatware in every bag of flour. It was such a hit the later introduced a whole catalog of items.

In other words, it was about promoting related products that would interest their community, not just slinging their own products. Sounds a lot like good social media strategy doesn’t it?

Even father back in history, let’s talk about the 1700s. If there were two blacksmiths in town and your horse needed new shoes, how did you decide between them? Well, you probably asked someone you trusted and they gave you a word of moth recommendation. If you were one of those competing blacksmiths, you probably tried to treat your customers like they were special to instill a sense of loyalty and get those word of mouth recommendations.

In other words, you treated your audience as valued customers, not just dollar signs. Sounds a lot like good social media strategy doesn’t it?

In his book, The Thank You Economy, Gary Vaynerchuk writes, “How do people decide they like each other? They talk. They exchange ideas. They listen to each other. And eventually, a relationship forms. This process is no different for building relationships with customers.” It’s an idea that goes back to well before the days of the pioneers. People do business with people they like. Just because social media is thrown in the mix today doesn’t change that.

Common Sense in Your Own Social Strategy Recipe

So how can you take the idea of adding common sense and make it a reality? Here are my tips:

  • Stop over-thinking things. Yes, you do need to have a strategy and putting social policies in place is a good idea. But hire people you trust and then actually trust them. When your social accounts are run by someone who “gets it” you don’t need to approve every tweet or analyze every word in a Facebook post. You just need to be real.
  • Think of this as a conversation tool, not a marketing tool. Social media can do wonders for marketing products, services, and content online. But if that’s all you’re doing, few people will care. Use social as a way to actually talk with people and help people. If you do that, they’ll naturally start sharing your links and promoting your business. You won’t have to coerce them.
  • If you wouldn’t say it to a person face-to-face, don’t say it online. I’ve seen more than one rude tweet from a professional account. It always mystifies me. Be as nice to customers online as you would be to them if they walked through the door. Yes, even if they are being difficult.
  • Make time for social if your audience is there. Not every business needs to spend 8 hours a day on Twitter. Not every business needs an active Google+ account. Not every business needs to be pinning stuff for their followers. But find out where your audience lives online and go there. Make time for it, because it’s as important as answering the telephone. It can be as simple as setting up your phone to alert you when you have a new comment on your Facebook page. You don’t have to sit in front of your computer all day to be really good at social media. Jonathan Fields is a good example of someone who limits his social media presence to make time for other projects, but still does social really well.
  • Be helpful. One of the ways Syed Balhki built his WordPress blog was to simply go on Twitter and help people who had WordPress questions. Being helpful about problems related to your products, services, and content is ten times the promotional tactic than tweeting out links or even offering coupons.

Above all, stay educated. This is the point of the post where I tell you to come to the Social Media Business Summit at New Media Expo to learn more about successful social media strategy for your business, but go beyond what we have to offer. No matter what your industry or niche, subscribe to blogs about social media like Social Media Examiner, pick up books like Scott’s UnMarketing and The NOW Revolution by Jay Baer and Amber Naslund, and yes, take the moment to go to events, classes, and seminars to learn how to be better at social. Common sense may be the most important ingredient, but staying educated about the other ingredients is important too.

5 Tips for Elevating Brand Preference via New Media

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MattGentile_HighRes

… by Matt Gentile, Director of PR and Social Media, Century 21 Real Estate LLC

If consumers are already aware of your brand, how do you take it to the next level?  What is necessary to develop a relationship where the consumer chooses your company as their preferred source for valuable information, research and knowledge to help them make an informed purchasing decision? At CENTURY 21, we’re leveraging new media to engage our target audience. Through sponsorships of events like BlogWorld & New Media Expo, Inman Real Estate Connect, and Agent Reboot, the CENTURY 21 Brand is reaching the next generation of home buyers, sellers, agents and entrepreneurs.

Business is about building and maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship. It involves the same types of decisions that we make every single day: WIFM – What’s In It for Me?  Whether consciously or sub-consciously, we are always evaluating what is best for ourselves. Today’s consumers, who often check location based services and rating sites like Yelp.com before reading the ‘About Us’ section of a company’s website, want to know more about the products and services they are using. It is important for consumers to know where a company stands on philanthropy and what type of value-add they are going to receive by establishing a relationship with a particular brand or product. Delivering valuable content via mobile and social channels enables the relationship between the brand and the consumer to grow over time.

For some products and services the value-added is easy to identify. For example, I know if I purchase and use an iPad I will be given entrée to an entire culture of like-minded users who are producing leading-edge applications that do everything from destroying building blocks on Angry Birds to informing me of traffic flow on Interstate 80. To ensure we are making the most of our opportunities to engage with the consumer about real estate, the CENTURY 21 System is engaging in a proactive mobile social media strategy through multiple platforms including century21.com, @C21 – Home Matters blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and mobile apps. In order to keep our brand value relevant, we follow these key tenants:

1) Listen – Use new media to listen to your target audience’s wants and needs. Respond where you can with timely, relevant resources and plan to share content via your corporate channels that address this feedback.

2) Keep it fresh – Share content each day that is new and topical. Consumers will come to regard your company as the sources for breaking news in your industry.

3) Make it local – If you live in New York, you don’t want to hear about what’s going on Boulder. Have local representatives and experts offer advice to their own, local communities through your channels.

4) Embrace the new – Did you ever think your company would have a mobile app? Or put QR codes on signs? Whether you planned for it or not, these are the technologies of the future and it’s critical to become educated on how best to offer these convenient upgrades to consumers.

5) Build relationships – Use new media to engage with consumers. Really get to know your audience and the individuals reaching out to you via these new types of media. Your best brand advocate might be a tweet away!

To learn more about how CENTURY 21 is using new media to reach the next generation of home buyers, sellers, agents and entrepreneurs, visit our website, blog, Facebook page or follow our tweets.

Matt Gentile directs public relations and social media content strategy for Century 21 Real Estate LLC, the world’s largest residential real estate sales organization.  In this role, he promotes approximately 7,900 independently owned and operated franchised brokerage offices and 119,000 sales associates in 68 countries and territories worldwide.

 

 

BlogWorld & New Media Expo Is Moving To Los Angeles

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We have been hinting at big news for weeks now and we are glad to finally be able to share it with you. BlogWorld & New Media Expo West will be held in Los Angeles at the Los Angeles Convention Center this November 3 – 5 2011.

For those interested in the long version of why we decided to move to Los Angeles and leave Las Vegas you can read more at the bottom of this post. In short we love Mandalay Bay and Las Vegas. We never thought we would leave but the folks at MB just did not have the space we needed to hold the show there this year so we had to look at other options.

We had two cities on our short list; San Diego and Los Angeles. Being born and raised in Americas Finest City, San Diego was my first choice. We saw the two cities having different distinct advantages. San Diego is the city everyone wants to visit, the downtown area is amazing, the convention center is right on the bay and the weather is always perfect. Another positive for San Diego was that it was close to LA.

LA on the other hand is the center of the Music, TV, and Film industries in North America, has a population of more than 10 million people and the largest population of bloggers, podcasters and other new media content creators in the country. It was the obvious logical choice from a business perspective. We have always attracted new media savvy individuals from traditional music, film and tv but by being in Los Angeles (and New York) we are going to see that participation increase significantly. That means more opportunities for content creators.

The drawback to Los Angeles was quite honestly the downtown LA area. At least that was our perception. Boy were we wrong!

We were blown away by our first site visit to Los Angeles. I have attended numerous events at the LA Convention Center including NAMM, E3 and the LA Auto Show. Honestly I always thought the convention center was great but there was nothing to do once you left the building. That has changed drastically! Downtown Los Angeles is being revitalized. The multi-billion dollar L.A. Live entertainment complex is directly adjacent to the convention center. Several of the downtown hotels have just undergone multi million dollar renovations in order to compete with the new J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels (they are beautiful btw). There are tons of new restaurants, shopping, parks and just cool city stuff that you (at least I) had never imagined of when I thought of Los Angeles. Oh and don’t forget the food trucks.

To sum it up we think all of you are going to find more business opportunities than ever and those of you unfamiliar with Los Angeles are in for a real pleasant surprise.

We would love to hear what you think of the news and welcome any suggestions you might have about how we can make this our best event yet.

Now if you want to know more about what led to this huge decision, read on.

It really started due to logistics. The space at Mandalay Bay was absolutely perfect. The conference sessions and exhibit space were conveniently located side by side, the space was the perfect size and Mandalay Bay is an amazing property. We knew we would need more space in 2011 and that meant we had to move to a different area inside Mandalay Bay. At first our friends at MB told us they didn’t have any space for us but they worked hard to try and accommodate us. They were able to offer us some space eventually but the conference rooms were far removed from the exhibit area. We tried to come up with a creative solution that would make this work for our attendees and exhibitors but simply couldn’t figure out a way to make it work.  Of course we looked at other venues in Las Vegas first but we still couldn’t find a workable combination of dates and space. So that made us ask ourselves, if we can’t hold the event here, where would the next BlogWorld be?

Why not San Francisco?

We have discussed San Francisco several times and we love the city but in the end we think San Francisco has the perception of being a technology city and if we were to ever move there, we would have to fight the perception that we were a technology conference and we are not. BlogWorld’s primary focus is content.

Authors Using Social Media to Generate Book Buzz

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In my “free time” outside of BlogWorld, I’m an author. I’ve written three young adult novels in the past two years and currently have one out on submission to publishers. As you can imagine, I spend a good amount of time networking with other authors, agents, editors, etc. Topics of interest include a variety of items – especially the use of social media to foster buzz for an author and their book.

I’ve seen several authors generate buzz using Twitter and their blogs – but the most successful ones are those that develop and foster their brand and voice with social media (in all age groups and genres). My favorite example is Kiersten White. For the weeks leading up to the launch of her debut novel, Paranormalcy, Kiersten used social media to showcase her humor, wit, and creativity – building an audience and buzz that took her to the New York Times Bestseller list the week that Paranormalcy hit store shelves!

So what are some examples of Kiersten’s social media efforts and writing style? For weeks prior to launch, Kiersten took to Twitter with tweets that centered on a hashtag she created (#everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy). Here are just a couple (but there were hundreds of them!)

#everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy a muggle-born kid gets accepted to Hogwarts.

#everytimeyoupreorderparanormalcy Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella grow a spine, save *themselves*, and head to college.

Kiersten also spent time on her blog – writing posts that featured her book, but also showcased her fun and self-deprecating humor (like this one and this one).

But did this voice translate over to Paranormalcy? Absolutely. And that’s why it worked. If Kiersten’s writing was dark and mysterious, her social media audience would’ve been rather stunned to expect humor and read twisted.

Lastly, Kiersten took time to respond to pretty much everyone who engaged in a conversation – whether it was on Twitter or comments on her blog. She was gracious and caring and never made a fan feel uncomfortable for contacting her.

So my tips for authors looking to use social media to generate buzz for their book: Be Honest, Be True to Your Voice, Be Original & Engage in Conversations

In last night’s #yalitchat (a weekly Twitter chat for the young adult writing industry) we also talked about social media and buzz. Some great tips and thoughts include:

  • @veela_valoom: Social media cannot just be used a “promo-media” should always be a conversation #yalitchat

  • @LauraKreitzer: I noticed that when the social media and reviewers went quiet, so did the sales.
  • @LM_PrestonBLOG TOURs Rock! They are powerful in starting buzz! I’ve bought tons of books from blog tours
  • @AlysonCGreene: ARCS might not sell books, but I think reviews & blog recs do. ARCS allow bloggers and reviewers to read and create buzz pre-pub

Other Related Articles:

How Bloggers can Use Location-Based Social Media

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I’ll be the first to admit that I thought the entire concept behind Foursquare was stupid when I first heard about it. In fact, I remember ranting to a friend of mine that it was creepy to tell people what you were doing and where you were going at every moment of the day, not to mention dangerous, since it means that stalkers can find you and thieves know when you’re not at home.

Maybe those things are still true, at least in some cases, but if you’re smart about it, location-based social media services can help you as a blogger. I think that over the next several months, we’ll continue to see an increase in the options available, as well as the number of users, and I have to admit…the mayorships and badges and such are growing on me. Yes, I am a huge dork and constantly try to overthrow my roommate as mayor of Red Robin.

I’m by no means an expert on location-based services, so I’ll give you the tips I’ve come across with my personal use, and hopefully you all can chime in as well with even more tips on how bloggers can use this kind of new media!

  • Building Your Brand

I’m a fan of the fact that you can link location apps directly to Facebook and Twitter, allowing you to spread the word about what you’re doing, even if people don’t use these services themselves. In fact, because of my paranoia about the creep factor, I don’t actually accept friend requests and the like on Foursquare itself. Maybe that will change in the future, but right now, I like being about to check in privately to earn discounts and free stuff, but publicize it to my Twitter account when and how I want. When you go places that make sense to your brand, it helps build that image on other social media sites. For example, if you’re a parenting blogger, it makes sense to check in when you’re shopping at Gymboree and if you’re a food blogger, it makes sense to check in when you’re out to eat or grocery shopping. Incorporating pictures is even better if you’re able to do so!

  • Earn Free Stuff

Like I said, sometimes, I’ll check in privately, without publicizing to Twitter, because I know that a location offers free stuff to those who check in or become mayors. Although I’m generally a lover of getting crap for free (fact.), this can also help your blog if you’re looking for products to review but don’t have tons of cash on hand to make purchases or the notoriety to get noticed by the big brands yet. For example, a few months ago, Gap was offering free jeans to the first several thousand people to check in at one of their locations, and that would be a perfect review product if you’re a fashion blogger.

  • Conference Connections

When I was at BlogWorld, location-based services were extremely helpful because I could see what my friends were doing and where people were without having to call or text anyone. For example, there was a party one night that I was on the fence about attending because I’m not a fan of huge crowds. I checked out the check-ins for that location on Foursuare and made the decision not to go based on the huge number of people already at that event. Oh, and while I was doing that, one of my friends popped up checking in somewhere else, and it looked like a much smaller event (it was), so I went and had a blast. At conferences, bloggers often don’t personally know tons of other people, so it can be weird to ask for a cell number. Check-ins allow you to find the people you want to meet without being a total creeper.

Ok, those are my favorite three tips for using location-based social networking if you’re a blogger. How do you use this form of new media?

Social Media’s Role in the Egyptian Protests

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Sometimes, I have to turn off the news.

Reporters around the world are talking about how social media played a role in initially organizing the Egyptian protests. Twitter and Facebook certainly gave people a voice, allowed the public to organically organize without a clear leader or any kind of secondary agenda. There are Muslim groups jumping on the bandwagon now, but I do not believe that they should get credit for this – this was truly organized by the people.

The Internet has since been silenced in Egypt, with the government first limiting access to social media sites and then essentially flipping the switch, shutting down the Internet completely. One reporter for MSNBC who is actually in Cairo right now has said that it doesn’t matter anymore. What started as isolated protests organized online has become a country-wide protest. If you want to join the crowd, all you have to do is go outside and find a group of protesters.

What is happening in Egypt right now certainly isn’t the first time that a world event has moved me to tears. I feel small and helpless, watching protesters who are younger than me fight for what they believe is right and not being able to do anything to help them. I feel ashamed that I have trouble wrapping my head around what is going on, that I’m not a more savvy about what is going on in the world today and what has happened historically in other countries. I feel worried that our government won’t make good decisions because maybe there are no good options to choose. I feel sad that people are resorting to violence, and that innocent people who wanted a peaceful protest are getting hurt.

Sometimes, I just feel overwhelmed and I have to turn off the news.

Yet, I can’t. Social media has made it impossible to bury our heads in the sand, impossible to turn away when things get uncomfortable.

And that’s what people aren’t talking about right now. Certainly, the role social media has played in organizing protesters is important, but what about the rest of us? For us, social media is playing a much different role.

Social media has become a way for us to connect, to keep this issue at the forefront of our day, to talk about what is happening. Social media makes it impossible to just shut off the rest of the world and focus on our own lives. Social media reminds us that our problems are small and our reach is far. When we feel like we can’t do anything, as is the case for many of us right now in regards to the unrest in Egypt, social media gives us a voice. And an ear.

And maybe that is something we can do, even as we feel helpless watching police cars burn and crowds get bombed with tear gas on the news. We can listen. We can listen to one another and exchange ideas and debate one another respectfully about not only Egypt, but about other important topics as well. Maybe we can’t make the Egyptian government listen to their people, but we can learn from what they are doing wrong and bring those lessons into our own lives. We can all try to be the best people we can possibly be, and encourage others to do the same. We can blog about the issues that are important to us, we can comment when other people blog about topics that move us, and we can share what we’ve learned through social media.

We can’t turn it off so easily anymore. We can’t so easily live in a bubble, concerned only with the events that happen in our own backyards. The Internet has made the world a smaller place, and also a much bigger place. It is up to us to make it a good thing, to use social media to listen.

Let’s make it a good thing.

You Are Not a Social Media Expert

Author:

This is your bubble, about to be burst....

Every day, I get a number of new followers on Twitter who all have something in common – they bill themselves as social media experts or gurus.

I’m here to tell you right now that you are not. Sorry to burst your bubble.

These “experts” come in a wide range of flavors, some worse than others. But one thing is certain…none of them are actually experts.

The Job Hunter

The first social media “expert” I see on Twitter is what I call the job hunter. These are people who have no real basis of calling themselves social media experts, but who, frankly, need work. So, they embrace social media, thinking that this is a job they can easily do at home to make money. They may have robust personal accounts, but rarely do they have any kind of professional experience with social media. They bill themselves as experts because they think social media is an easy way to make money.

The Marketer

Social media is a brand new avenue for traditional marketers, and I applaud those who are forward-thinking enough to embrace Twitter and other new media tools. That said, if you’re brand new to social media, you are not a social media expert, no matter how many years of experience you have in traditional marketing and advertising. These people are typically easy to pick out because they approach social media in a direct marketing type of way. They bill themselves as experts because they think social media is the same as traditional marketing tools that they use.

The Professional

Also common on Twitter is the “professional.” Note: just because you are paid to do something doesn’t mean that you are an expert at it. I think this is the problem with more social media “experts.” Really, what makes you an expert? Because you do it all day? Because you are successful at it? Because people pay you for your help? I don’t know that any of those things makes anyone an expert. It does make you a professional – and that’s awesome!

But the term “expert” makes me think that you know all there is to know about a subject. Or at least pretty close.

I would argue that no one – not a single person out there – is a social media expert. The field is too new. Everything in this field is changing really, really quickly. Just when you think you’re an expert, the world of social media changes, and you have roughly a billion new things to learn. So you can be a professional…but are you an expert? In my mind, no.

Some Closing Thoughts

Bottom line, if you’re trying to make money giving other people social media advice, if you’re “the job hunter,” get some experience under your belt before you start charging people for your services. And if you’re “the marketer” – take some time to learn new types of media before you start dishing out advice that doesn’t make sense in this new world.

And if you’re “the professional”? Keep doing what you do…but be careful. By calling yourself an expert, you set up expectations in people’s minds, and it is hard to be an expert of any sort in an industry that is so new. When you call yourself an expert, it makes me afraid that you think you know everything, that you’re not going to make an effort to learn anymore.

Before I close out this post, I did want to make a few more points that I see a lot of “experts” from all three of the above categories making:

  • You are not a social media expert if you follow me on Twitter and then unfollow me the next day, having never said anything to me at all, because I haven’t auto-followed you in return.
  • You are not a social media expert if you only have a dozen followers.
  • You are not a social media expert if you send me auto DMs about your services, your blog, or anything else – and you’re especially not a social media expert if you send me multiple auto DMs.
  • You are not a social media expert if your stream is all automated links, with no RTs, @ replies, or personal tweets in any way.

And remember, calling yourself a social media expert doesn’t make you one. I would much rather see proof of your expertise – show me results in terms of numbers, give me testimonials from your clients, and use Twitter in a way that proves you know how to use it.

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