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How Businesses Can “Go Undercover” Using Social Media


I was flipping through the channels early today and landed on a show I had never heard of before called Undercover Boss. The concept is simple – someone high up in management at a large corporation goes undercover, posing as a new worker in an entry-level position. At the end, their co-workers are surprised with the truth and hard-working employees are given awesome rewards. The company gets the added benefit of learning a little something about about how their business workers at the basic level.

The episode that was airing had Don Fertman from Subway posing as a “sandwich artist” (aka, the person behind the counter who makes your sub) at four different locations. It was comical to see others get frustrated with him as a new employee and heartwarming to see him surprise four deserving people with awesome prizes, like scholarships and vacations, after revealing who he really was.

As a small business owner, or even a mid- to large-sized business owner, you might not have the ability to go undercover and learn about your business from the trenches, but you can “go undercover” in a sense – with social media!

One of the things I simultaneously love and hate about the Internet is that people are brutally honest. Most will speak their mind without a second thought because there’s the protection of the computer screen, which makes things seem more anonymous even though your name and picture could be right beside your comment. Brazen commenters can be a bit annoying, but as a business owner, you can also learn from them. Here are a few steps I recommend you take to go undercover online and find out what people really think about your company:

  • Read the tips on FourSquare and other location-based services.

Oh, the problems that could be solved if only the management would read the tips people give about their companies online! The other day, I checked into a small family restaurant and the top tip was that people should “get there early for dinner because the wait is really long.” Obviously, the person who left that comment still thinks the restaurant is worth visiting, and even getting there early…but that doesn’t mean you should consider it a victory if you’re the restaurant owner. If the top thing people have to say about your restaurant is that the wait is long, think about ways you could solve that. Could you add more tables? Hire more staff to handle the dinner rush? Offer a happy hour at the bar that people can enjoy while waiting? Even if people aren’t complaining doesn’t mean that you can’t improve.

  • Follow your employees on Twitter.

Some people lock their Twitter accounts, but most keep them public so others can see what they’re saying. Find your employees on there and follow them – under an anonymous name. If your employees see you following them, it may make them think twice before saying anything about their job or co-workers, so keep it on the down low and just see what they are saying. Do they think their boss is an idiot? Hopefully that isn’t you! Invite them into your office to talk about what they would do differently if in change. Do they promote your company even on their off hours? Reward them with an extra Christmas bonus. Do they tweet while at work? FIRE THEM! Just kidding – actually, take this as a criticism of how your workday is structured. Tons of tweets even though all the work is getting done might mean that your employee is bored working at a job below his ability level, for example.

  • Use search functions to see what your customers are saying.

You should definitely be doing this if you aren’t already. Monitor the conversation about your company and answer as many people as possible whenever you’re mentioned. It’s easiest to do this on Twitter, in my opinion, but you should also be responsive on Facebook and other sites that make sense for your niche. You can’t solve every problem, but you can show that you’re listening. And – this is important – actually listen. If a customer complains that the t-shirt your company sent was too small, the answer isn’t just to send him or her a refund. The answer is to send the refund and take a look at the sizing information on your website to see if it is accurate or post more information about your clothing running a little small in size. The point is not only to fix problems, but to avoid the same problems in the future.

How does your small business use social media to monitor the conversation and improve your products/services? I’d love to hear your tips in a comment below!

How Southwest Airlines Made Their Money Back From Sponsoring BlogWorld


… by Walt Ribeiro

Disclosure: I am not affiliated with BlogWorld or Southwest.

Back in 2009 I was asked to speak at BlogWorld, and I was immediately excited to present to other artists and entrepreneurs about how they can apply what I learned from growing my online presence. BlogWorld has a rich and well-informed online community, so I was speaking to a savvy and interested audience – a presenters dream.

But I live in New York City, and BlogWorld was in Las Vegas. So Southwest offered vouchers to presenters, and although I was unsure about flying a new airline, I wasn’t going to say no. As Southwest would find out, they made their money back ten-fold.

Bloggers – what Blogworld has that no other conference has:
Bloggers read a lot of blogs, podcaster listen to a lot of podcasters. And ultimately, the attendees at Blogworld have a collective audience of millions of followers.

If I promote a product in a newspaper, it gets seen by 20,000 people, and then the next day it’s as if it never existed. But if I promote my company through Blogworld, then it lives online – forever. That, and the fact that Bloggers will share, talk, tweet, blog, facebook, and praise the company to their community is huge, and creates a sharing ripple effect that traditional media can’t replicate.

Case in point – not only has Southwest made back their money on my purchases alone, but I tweeted about it and documented the entire experience for my followers.

Loss Leaders create new customers:
You can taste test a beer at a bar before you buy it, and you can testdrive a car before purchasing. But then how come you can’t test ride a plane? Or a train ride?

Loss leaders have been around since commerce has been around. Freemium models are a type of loss leader, where companies give intro features in hopes that you become a paying member for ‘pro’ features. Internships are loss leaders where employees hope to get their foot in the door and become a part of the full-time staff.

So when Southwest was offering me a free flight, it surely was an expensive loss leader. But the upside has been much greater – not only do I now use them exclusively since that day going forward, but I even became a credit card member of theirs.

So what does this mean? Should airlines give away free tickets to new customers? Wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s the only way I would have ever tried the product before paying. But one thing is for sure, you have to spend money before you make money – the difference is in where you spend that money, and in today’s online world it’s now cheaper, more viral, more fun, and trackable. That’s the power of social media’s biggest conference and of social media itself.

BlogWorld contributor Walt Ribeiro is founder of For Orchestra where he arranges pop and rock songs for orchestra every week – from Lady Gaga, Slayer, and more. He frequents many social media, tech, and music conferences, and spoke at BlogWorld in 2009 and 2010.

How to Market to the “Untouchables”


One of the BlogWorld presentations I caught was Maggie Fox‘s “Marketing to the Untouchables.” Who are the so-called “untouchables”? They aren’t people who aren’t affected by marketing. They aren’t people who don’t get online. In fact, they are extremely affected by marketing and spend as much time as possible online.

Maybe I shouldn’t say as much time as possible…they spend as much time online as their parents allow.

That’s right – the untouchables are kids – those under 13 who log online and use sites like Webkinz, Lego.com, and Disney’s Club Penguin. There are very strong FTC regulations about how you market to these users, and as Maggie pointed out, the discussion about marketing to children is extremely uncomfortable. Here are some of the key points from her presentation:

  • Kids’ experiences online are like honeycombs. There’s not a lot of social sharing possible, so while they’re online doing cool things, they’re in little walled spaces.
  • This is a long game. Kids have a lot of buying power by influencing their parents, but by building brand loyalty, a business can sell to them 10+ years down the road.
  • They don’t care about things that we care about like taglines, consistency in design, and brand messaging.
  • Everything has to be fun, their friends have to be doing it, and they have to get their parents’ okay.

Maggie also went into details about the three important aspects of marketing to kids:

  • “The Build” – an activity where you build something
  • The Reward – points, prizes, etc. that you get for logging online and participating
  • Integration – some kind of social object that’s taken offline and can be shared with friends in the real world (like a stuffed animal)

Again, this is an uncomfortable topic, but as long as you follow the rules, you can ethically market to kids and build your business.

Thank you, Maggie, for a wonderful presentation! Readers, check out more from Maggie at Social Media Group.

Writing and Distributing the ‘Social Media Release’


In researching press releases this morning I stumbled on the term ‘Social Media Release’ – something I’d never heard before but have definitely seen.

What is a Social Media Release:
It’s a press release that further takes advantage of social media – including links and multimedia elements to a traditional news press release. This makes it easier for journalists, bloggers, and readers to further explore the press release and easily find more information. The concept originated from Tom Foremski’s 2006 post, Die Press Release, Die Die Die. He called the traditional press release useless and challenged the PR industry to rethink its strategies.

Why A Social Media Release?
You use these for the same reasons as a traditional press release – to announce news and get attention for your business, website, or blog.

What’s the Difference Between a Social Media Release and a Traditional Press Release:

  • You will use links within your text to further direct your reader to areas of your website.
  • You will use bullet points lists (a clearer way to itemize content online, but something not common to the traditional press release).
  • You will use keyword optimization and a clear SEO rich title.
  • You will include your social media links as well as links to any social media bookmarking sites.
  • You will embed videos or other multimedia links.

How do You Distribute a Social Media Release?
Many people distribute them just as they would a traditional press release service online. If you do this, Serena Ehrlich of ZDNet suggests you include the following information in the release, right before the About Us section:

  • Downloadable, print quality photos available Here (and link to your Photobucket or Company Flickr account with logos and photos)
  • Videos available Here (and link to your Company Youtube page with training videos, interviews, etc)
  • Supporting materials and product specs available Here (and link to your page of document hosting).

Another option is to create your own page or blog post with your release, and encourage others to repost it or to contact you further. Or use a website like PitchEngine that encourages pitches over press releases!

For more information on Social Media Releases:

Ten Tactics to Drive B2B Sales with Social Media


Hello BlogWorld readers, and welcome to my new blog post series on how social media can drive your B2B sales. I’m pleased to be invited to contribute and look forward to interacting with all of you here.

I work with small and midsize B2B companies learning how to grow their business by making bigger sales to bigger customers. Most of my customers are new to the social media world and especially confused about how it can possibly relate to the B2B sales environment.

So thought I’d start by introducing the topic and giving you my list of the Top Ten tactics that will help you use social media to drive B2B sales. My Top Ten list also forms the topic list that I’ll be blogging about/hope you will add to it!

  1. Position your company as a thought leader/team of experts in your field. Invite several of your subject matter experts to create newsletters, blog posts, white papers, discussion board posts, slide decks and/or videos about their knowledge and expertise in your industry. Provide them with policy guidelines and training for creation and have a system for distribution.
  2. Develop a content strategy to add value to the customer experience. Learn how to leverage your website, blog, and social media sites to present content that your company produces and to share content from others that will be of interest to your customers.
  3. Learn how to use social media to generate high quality leads. For example, use social media tools to invite members of your target audience to attend a teleconference or webinar and give them high quality, relevant information. When they sign up and attend, you have a warm introduction and a reason to call them.
  4. Engage your prospects and customers in conversation about their needs and their desires. Social media platforms make it easy to conduct surveys, to ask simple questions, and to comment on your customers’ observations in real time.
  5. Request and publicize referrals and recommendations through social media. Ask your key employees to request Linked In recommendations from current and past customers, for example, and suddenly you’ll have 10 or 20 or 50 points of view about the quality and capabilities of your team.
  6. Conduct sales research about prospective companies and their key employees. The networking sites give you unprecedented access to information about people at work. Just keep in mind that your company will ‘get’ only as much as you ‘give,’ so encourage your team to be contributors.
  7. Build customer loyalty through multiple social media touch points. Wherever you find your customers on the Internet-and wherever they find you-be prepared to engage in a multi-channel conversation.
  8. Keep up with trends in social media and sales/understand sales 2.0. Lots of small business owners are still hoping it will all go away. But I believe we have hardly begun to tap the potential of the Internet and social media activity for B2B business engagement. The most successful companies will be those that intend to learn and grow with the phenomenon.
  9. Use your social media resource sites to find industry reports, data, and predictions that will interest your customers. Make great resources easy for them to find through you, and you’ll add great value to their experience.
  10. Connect with ravens and mavens. Ravens are guides and protectors of the whale hunters; they want you to win big sales. Mavens are passionate knowledge brokers who know what’s what and can advise you on the trends. Subscribe to their blogs, follow them, ‘friend’ them, ‘like’ them. Most of all, allow them to help guide you through the social media territory.

How are you using social media to support B2B sales? I look forward to your comments!

Online Marketers Take Note: Over 270k People Want a Petite Lap Giraffe!


Want to know if a product is going to sell before you even produce it? Get the product on a commercial, create a (fake) online component, and have fans sign up on the waiting list! At least that’s what Sokoblovsky Farms is offering with their Petite Lap Giraffe – and they’re going strong at over 270,000 interested customers.

Of course, you can’t tell if that number is truly accurate. A fan clicks on the button and doesn’t provide any further information! So, I’d suggest if you go this route, you actually have someone sign up 🙂

I’ve seen this website in my social media streams several times today, and I can see why. I’d certainly consider having an adorable mini giraffe in my house (actually I’d rather a mini panda I think). And it seems legitimate. The website has a streaming video (that appears to be on a loop) and some amazing photoshopped images of little giraffes in the palm of someone’s hand and in a bathtub. But the real kicker is the commercial.

The petite lap giraffe is featured in two commercials for DirectTV starring Timothy V. Murphy – and it seems there was such interest in the tiny sidekick, they decided to take the adorable running giraffe and add its own online component.

You never know what aspect of your marketing people are going to latch onto … so it’s always worth staying on top of your campaigns!

Using YouTube Moderator as a PR/Marketing Tool


Do you have your own YouTube channel? Have you used YouTube Moderator? If not, it may be worth checking out.

The tool, only available on channel pages, allows viewers to answer a question or participate in the conversation – with other viewers voting to push select comments to the top of the list.

Moderator allows any YouTube user to collect commentary, questions, or ideas on your YouTube channel and watch the best ones rise to the top. It’s easy – you bring a group of people together on a topic of your choice, and leverage their collective wisdom to vote on the best video and text submissions. You can respond to individual submissions, or the entire conversation, in a one-to-many dialogue.

You can use YouTube Moderator in a variety of ways as a PR/Marketing tool…

  • Gather comments/reviews on a new product/service. Create a video showcasing the product and ask for thoughts/inputs/ideas.
  • Gather questions for an interview. Obtain the most pressing questions for your executive staff or key personnel in your company.
  • Run a Contest. Create a contest based around creating slogans, taglines, asking the best question, and more.
  • Run a Promotion. Add a viral element to your promotion, enticing the audience to participate and vote.
  • Obtain New Content. Entice your followers to submit content, advice, or tips on your service.

How would you use YouTube Moderator?

March Madness: How Mobile and Social are Changing the Game


It’s that time of the year again. The opening rounds of the NCAA Men’s D1 Basketball Tournament are responsible for interoffice gambling, gut-wrenching defeats and a massive drop-off in work productivity. But March Madness also offers valuable insight into how major sports events are consumed by fans, particularly in regards to the effects of mobile and social on the game viewing experience.

The proliferation of mobile devices and social media usage has dramatically affected the way fans interact with and watch their favorite teams and athletes perform. This year’s NCAA tournament will find fans group-messaging by phone and reviewing their brackets on their laptop, all while watching the game at a sports bar. They will “check in” to the Final Four on Foursquare to unlock a badge, “Like” their favorite team’s Facebook page to show pride and even “trash tweet” some of the tournament’s players on Twitter. As social feeds and text messages continuously interrupt fans, networks and sponsors must fight and offer incremental value to keep the attention of their fickle viewers.

This can be a troublesome and confusing time for those looking to protect multi-year / multi-billion dollar broadcasting deals, who may be fearful to extend live streaming beyond broadcast television. However, CBS Sports and the NCAA have proven that making live broadcasts of major sporting events widely available via mobile devices and social media channels will not cannibalize your audience. In fact, it will likely drive more views, more engagement, and ultimately more revenue.

Access for Everyone
CBS is committed to making the NCAA Tournament available to anyone, anywhere for free. Rather than restrict live games to only appear on broadcast TV, March Madness on Demand (MMOD) allows fans to view every game on the web, iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. As a result, no other live sporting event comes close in terms of audience reach or time spent viewing online.

This open approach has led to tremendous success with both viewers and advertisers. In 2009, MMOD garnered 8.6 million total hours of live streaming video and audio, while pocketing an additional $30 million in online ad revenue. Last year saw a 36% growth in total viewing hours with 11.7 million and generated $37 million in online ad sales. All the while, broadcast figures have continued to grow steadily.

Credit CBS with realizing its online audience does not detract from its broadcast audience. Online and mobile viewers have proven additive as they tune in primarily during work hours and times when they are not able to get to a TV. During primetime hours, broadcast numbers dominate.

By making games available via web and mobile, it has only increased viewership. The constant access allows fans to stay connected and engaged with the action, which in turn motivates the socially-inclined to share emotional experiences related to March Madness with friends via text messages, status updates, tweets, or good old-fashioned word of mouth. So when your co-worker catches the latest buzzer beater live, he’s going to let you know about it at the office water cooler, or the digital equivalent (Facebook or Twitter).

Sports Fans are Social
It’s no surprise that social media will play a prominent role in March Madness, as was the case last year and is with any major sporting event these days. Research shows nearly one in four (23%) online Americans will use social media to follow the NCAA Tournament this year, according to a survey from IMRE Sports.

Brands are not so much interested in the fact that fans will use social media this March, but more so in which platforms and exactly how they plan to use it. These are the insights that will help shape marketing and advertising budgets over the next few years.

Of the 23% of online Americans who plan to use social media to follow March Madness, the research study revealed the following:

  • 50% will use social networking sites
  • 31% will specifically utilize YouTube
  • 27% will utilize a mobile application

Among those planning to use social media to follow the tournament, 62% will use it specifically to check the scores and 44% will use it to watch the games.

The survey also revealed that Facebook is the most popular social media channel for men’s college basketball fans to follow and interact with their favorite teams and players during the regular season. The Kansas Basketball Facebook page currently has over 80,000 “Likes” or fans, more than eight NBA teams. Additionally, the NCAA March Madness Facebook page has accumulated over 125,000 “Likes” and continues to grow rapidly.

These numbers indicate Facebook is becoming the “de facto” online destination for fan activity and conversation related to the NCAA Tournament and it should come as no surprise that brands have taken notice. K-Swiss partnered with Yahoo! Sports for its March Madness “Tournageddon” Brackett Challenge this year. The social media promotion spans across several platforms and is hosted by the larger-than-life HBO character, Kenny Powers, who has amassed over 200k Twitter followers and almost 1 million Facebook “Likes”.
This is just one example. Look for dozens of other corporate brands to “fish where the fish are” and try to catch a few new customers by tapping into the passion that March Madness evokes from its viewers.

What Does All This Mean?
When it comes to watching sports nothing replaces the live “in-stadium” experience, and fans will choose a 50-inch HD Plasma with surround sound any day of the week over an iPhone or laptop. Content owners understand that sports fans look to supplement their viewing experience, and not replace it, with mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

Advances in technology and social media have allowed networks and sponsors to engage fans far beyond the game itself. For example, MMOD offers fans countless hours of highlights, pre-game analysis, special camera replays and other unique content that simply cannot be broadcast on mainstream channels. This in turn feeds the digital fan’s desire for content and access that he/she can share via email, social media, text messaging and other activities inherent to these devices they use to compliment the viewing experience.

But all aside, it’s important not to forget the most important part of a major sporting event like March Madness, the Olympics or the World Cup is the live action itself. The cool behind-the-scenes footage and exclusive Twitter updates pale in comparison. So when and where fans cannot access the action on TV, they should be able to access it on the devices they carry with them 90% of the day. And more importantly, content and rights owners should understand this will only increase total viewership.

The NCAA Tournament and MMOD have proven that free content, available to anyone will not detract from the broadcast, but rather add value and views. Look to see more availability of major sports events as leagues, networks and advertisers grow more confident that this won’t eat into the primetime broadcast that pays the bills.

Steve Cobb and the social marketing agency he co-founded, Activ8Social, are at the forefront of sports marketing and social media. Steve led the planning and execution of several groundbreaking sponsor activations, featuring athletes such as Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics and Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints, that leveraged social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Stickybits to create real world fan experiences. His work has been featured on ESPN.com, Mashable, and InsideFacebook. Follow him on Twitter @Steve_Cobb

Building Trust Through Social Media


… by Susan Payton

Brands are quickly jumping on the bandwagon of social media, but unfortunately many of them don’t understand the ultimate goal: to build trust with consumers. That’s right: social media isn’t about getting new customers, sales or followers. It’s about showing that your brand is trustworthy and building a relationship with new and potential customers.

Misled Goals
Case in point: I was asking advice on Twitter. A guy representing his brand (I won’t mention him by name) responded with the answer, followed by a request to check out his company. I was instantly turned off. But rather than just ignore it, I decided to call him out.

I responded by telling him I appreciated his answer, but that it wasn’t cool Twittiquette to push his brand at me. He apologized, saying he was new at Twitter. I instantly forgave him and gave him a few tips for building trust on Twitter:

  • Offer links to interesting articles (not necessarily your own)
  • Answer people’s requests for help (he got that right)
  • Engage in and start conversations
  • Get off the topic of your industry and be human!

Now, had he instead answered my question and started a conversation with me, I would have looked up his Twitter profile. As it was, I never did.

Getting Your Priorities Straight
If you jumped into social media with the explicit goal of getting more business, you’re going to be disappointed. But if you are there to give your brand a voice in another channel (the more channels, the merrier), then you have a shot at building that trust. After all, you can’t get cast for the lead role if you’re not auditioning. Consider your presence a necessity, and an opportunity to get to know your potential customers.

Social media can be a great sounding board. Got a new product idea? See if it’ll sink or swim by tweeting out a survey on it. Ask people what they’d want in a product like yours. The point is to be there and use your social media time wisely. From here, you’ll see people turn to you for advice and purchases as you build that trust.

Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Public Relations, an Internet marketing firm specializing in blogger outreach, social media, and PR. She is also the blogger behind The Marketing Eggspert Blog and guest blogs on Mashable and Small Business Trends.

Image Source: SXC

Offer Fan-Gated Contests & Offers on Facebook With Offerpop!


Social media marketing software company Offerpop unveiled a new set of Facebook applications in January, including Tug of War, Photo Contest, and Exclusive. These tools are all focused on giving users the ability to share content, comment on a product, or share opinions through polls.

Tug of War: Allows for interactive games and two-way polls where users choose a “side” by commenting under their choice. The vote gets posted for other participants and their friends to see.

Photo Contest: Fans can share, review and vote on photo (again by commenting). It’s designed more for fan-sourcing content, talent searches and giveaways.

Exclusive: Gives marketers the chance o share fan-gated offers or content, or enable private sales for fans – all in a tab on their company’s fan page. When a user clicks “Like” they can unlock the offer!

And two new apps!

Fan Faves: Allows marketers to set up and run contests where fans vote for their favorite photo and/or YouTube videos from a list that they curate. Like other Offerpop apps, the campaign can be fan-gated and you can tie in products details or offers.

Sign Up: Makes it easy to set up a custom registration form that fans fill out and submit. Ideal for running sweepstakes, contest or giveaways where you want to capture user information, get more leads and email opt-ins. Reports include a downloadable excel spreadsheet with all form submission data.

One company that saw results using Offerpop with the first use of the Photo Contest app after launch, was Huddle for Haiti – a Canadian Football League Players, Association (CFLPA), WestJet and Oxfam Canada sponsored initiative that drives awareness and support for Haiti relief.

Huddle for Haiti organizers set up a Facebook fan page to act as the “hub” information that would inform audiences about their journey, drive awareness about the continuous need for aide, and engage people to share in the spirit of good will,” said organizer Tammy Robert.

The Huddle for Haiti team was looking for a new social marketing tool to engage and grow their Facebook fan base, and draw attention to the cause via a themed contest. Powered by Offerpop, the Get in the Huddle photo contest allowed fans to share their volunteer stories and photos, and then vote for their favorite entries simply by commenting. The contest was fan-gated, something that was important to the organizers and has helped to increase Huddle for Haiti’s fan numbers. Within 24 hours of launching the campaign, the fan base doubled, and within just four days the photo contest had generated over 1,000 votes from fans, and helped to boost traffic to the Huddle for Haiti page by 120%!

Do you have news to share, a social media tip, or exclusive scoop on a new website launch? Send us your information and/or press release to be considered!

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