What really impacts your audience?

What makes an impact on us today? Over the weekend, the email of an arts administrator I know went nuts bombarding me with the same email. That caught my attention. As of today, the head of a large former member company is now following us on Twitter (@sipaonline). That caught my attention. And a Reflections of a Newsosaur article on Friday slammed home the urgency of mobile—Alan Mutter writes that even if you aren’t fully aboard yet, you get a “rare do-over.” Just don’t miss it again.

“Because the mobile universe is largely a work in progress,” he writes, “there is time for legacy media companies to create transformational products to delight consumers and attract a host of advertising, subscription and transactional revenues.” That is also attention-catching.

A high-quality email provider. Social connections. And your mobile platform. Those are three areas that impact your audience each day. Here are the action items:

1. Integrate at least one form of social into everything you do. How am I best going to reach that CEO of a former member? By tweeting out these articles and other valuable information. But it can no longer be an if-I-have-time thing. It has to become part of the process. What is the social media that your audience is on the most? Starting this week, be there. [Read more...]

Crafting a blueprint for constant improvement

One reason for the success of Twitter, according to a recent article by D.T. Max in The New Yorker about one of its co-founders, Jack Dorsey, “is that its very basic interface lent itself to all sorts of purposes, many of them unforeseen by its designers.” Retweets, hashtags and the @-reply were created outside of the Twitter founders.

I thought about this when writing yesterday’s column about excelling at mobile in 2014. On Social Media Explorer, Tracey Parsons said that Generation Y—which she prefers calling the On-Demand Generation—wants to improve on and add to existing structures. So much of their life has been in real-time and participatory. They’re used to commenting, “like”ing, downloading and reinventing, rather than just observing.

Because of this, Parsons believes that businesses should build “responsive experiences, platforms, products, and brands…” and need better feedback loops. This generation is “going to want to not only engage with the products and services you’re offering, but they also want to impact their design and development. This group has more ideas than they know what to do with and they have been given tools to indulge that creativity.”

This theory begs two questions:
1) Are you opening new product development to your entire staff?
2) Are you designing your processes in an open-ended way?
It doesn’t make sense anymore to delay releasing new products until they’re perfect. Better in today’s world to get it out there, see what people think, and more importantly, see what they suggest to make it better. [Read more...]

Keys to your 2014 mobile initiative

How do your emails and website look on mobile platforms? Are they engaging, responsive? These questions are only going to get more poignant as we head into 2014. Standing on the subway platform this morning, I quickly glanced around and saw all 11 people looking at their phones. And I think we’re actually past the point of this being an age thing. Mobile is consumed by everyone now.

Here are 10 suggestions for improving your mobile delivery in 2014:

1. ‘Hour’ Town. Kevin Allen at SIPA member Ragan’s PR Daily reminds us that the first hour of when you post something is the most important. “Start asking yourself: Where is my audience going to be in the hour or so after we post this? Is there an opportunity to capture them where they are at that moment and inspire action or tap into an emotion that you know a large number of your fans are experiencing at that time?”

2. Easy Does It. Allen also notes that people don’t like traveling around from site to site as much on mobile. “Keep your posts simple and undeniably specific to your brand.”

3. Be Responsive. To deal with what Tracey Parsons on Social Media Explorer calls the On-Demand Generation, she advises you to build “responsive experiences, platforms, products, and brands…” She also says you’ll need better feedback loops. This [younger] generation is “going to want to not only engage with the products and services you’re offering, but they also want to impact their design and development. This group has more ideas than they know what to do with and they have been given tools to indulge that creativity.” [Read more...]

Social media rewards quality and effort, not what’s easy

“Realistic is a really big word,” Rachel Yeomans (pictured here), a principal at the SIPA member consulting firm Astek, told me this morning. “Being realistic about your resources, knowing what are your resources.”

The topic we were discussing was social media. I was looking at a chart that eMarketer posted this week on social media effectiveness. The chart shows a list of tactics with a percentage of the people who use them. Next to it is a percentage of “effectiveness.”

For instance, although about 75% of people put Facebook buttons and links on their website and marketing emails, only about 40% deem them effective. Whereas while only 34% publicly answer customer service questions on Facebook, 69% feel that it is effective. For Twitter, just 27% publicly answer customer service question but 60% deem it effective. It seems like one person’s question could be that of many, so being public with your answer could build engagement and loyalty. [Read more...]

SIPAlert Daily: Working backwards can be forward thinking

There’s a play now on Broadway called Betrayal starring Daniel Craig, his Oscar-winning wife Rachel Weisz and the British actor Rafe Spall. The play starts at the end of a seven-year affair and works its way back in time so you can see its undoing and doing. The last scene on stage is the first for the affair.

I thought of Betrayal this morning while reading an interview with Lisa Barone, vice president of strategy at Overit, an Albany, N.Y., web design and development company, on the exploreB2B site.

Asked the greatest SEO/SEM challenges we currently face, she replied: “…the biggest challenge for most business is prioritization, especially if you’re a small business. There’s so much to do and so much that you COULD do that it’s easy to get lost in the possibilities (or go broke trying everything). Everything you do to your site should be done with purpose and with a clear benefit in mind. Map out your site and business goals and work backwards to how you’re going to get there. If you’re doing something that doesn’t have a fat line leading back to its purpose, don’t do it.“

There is something illuminating to starting with your result—in this case a desired one—and then working back to see the steps involved. Like Betrayal, you know the ending; now it’s just a matter of plotting the scenes.

So if your desired result is a new vertical with a new product—let’s say a webinar—you would plot backwards something like this:

12. Carry out a well-attended new webinar.
11. Promote webinar on social media – “Blogs and social publishing platforms are access points to your customers,“ says Barone.
10. Blog about an aspect of the information from the webinar.
9. Announce the launch of a new webinar.
8. Create a powerful landing page for the webinar.
7. Build a social media community around your vertical – “We know that Google is using social signals as part of its ranking algorithm,“ says Barone.
6. Start a blog – “If you’re not blogging, you should be. And you should have started yesterday,“ Barone says.
5. Write valuable content using that research.
4. Do SEO and keyword research.
3. Get every department involved.
2. Build a website for that vertical.
1. Research your customer and subject data to develop a new vertical.

Maurice Ashley, a chess grandmaster, also spoke about this during his talk at TEDYouth 2012. He called it “retrograde analysis” which states that “in order to look ahead it pays to look backwards.” He said that chess players will examine their end games to see how they got to that point and what they can improve upon next time. He also posted this for the audience:

After reading this sentence, you will
realize that the the brain doesn’t recognize
a second the.

“There’s something about the human mind,” he said. “We’re very logical creatures. If you read this sentence backwards, you would automatically catch it. But forward…” He said that’s also a good reason to proofread backwards sometimes. (I’ve said that before as well, but my reason is that we get tired near the end. Someone should start reading fresh from the end.)

He also gave this example: 6 cards are face down on a desk with one of the numbers 1-6 on them. The idea is to pick the highest card. You pick a 2. I pick a card and ask you to trade. Should you trade your 2? At first, it seems logical to do so. But working backwards it doesn’t. (I wouldn’t trade a 6, 5, 4 or even 3, so I most likely want to trade a 1 .

Ashley said that “Retro-Analysis” is also used in law, science, medicine, insurance and investing. In other words, it’s good for the SIPA world.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline


Member Profile: Mary Harris Hoffman, Marketing Consultant, Birmingham, Ala.

 SIPA: Let’s start with social media. How do you treat it for the companies you work for?
MARY: As client-centric. I look closely at the client’s business and the specific marketing objectives they are trying to achieve. The key is finding the right social media “mix” that best suits a company. Facebook and Twitter aren’t always right for everyone. Maybe it’s just LinkedIn. So I really do approach it on an individual basis. To this day, I still have a few clients that I have to strongly persuade [to jump in]. If they don’t do it on a personal level, maybe it’s unknown territory. The other thing about social media discussions is that results are difficult to quantify, very soft. Reporting tends to be more qualitative and anecdotal, rather than quantitative.

Does email marketing still stand on top for you?
Yes, I’ve done a ton of it over my career, and it’s still very in-demand as a service. But I’m not a proponent of beating people over the head with too many efforts. I tell clients that it’s important to observe reasonable conventions and rules, because if we lose someone via an opt-out, we’ve lost them for good. So I generally don’t advocate multiple emails per week on the same topic. You have to have some really worthy content in order to justify that.

That goes back to content being king.
Yes, content is still king—that’s the key. It’s imperative to have information that’s absolutely valuable to the reader in some way. I have a client that I do an e-newsletter for. I made clear to her up front that we were going to need to build her newsletter around salient content, not just monthly “specials,” in order to engage and retain her audience. We want them to keep opening, keep reading. As a result, I’ve developed some really interesting and topical articles for her business, and she tells me she’s received a lot of positive feedback.

What’s your feeling on subject lines?
Direct, simple and as brief as possible while still conveying the message. Ideally, 60 characters max. I’m telling my age here [she laughs], but my first few years in the marketing business, I had to “write to count.” I’m grateful for that experience, because doing so forced me to hone my writing skills. In those days of print, it was impossible to “run on.” I had to really learn how to get down to it!

You just came back from a conference?
Yes, I’ve been working with [SIPA member] Robert Michel of the Dark Intelligence Group on two of his conferences, Lab Quality Confab and the Executive War College. We’ve been very pleased with the registration bumps that have been achieved.

What is the biggest strength that you bring?
Experience, of course, but also single-mindedness. I bring to a client the marketing focus that they simply don’t have time for. I started in the business as a writer, and over the years my career evolved into creative direction, then strategic planning and development. I’m skilled at taking a client’s disparate (or neglected!) marketing elements, and building upon them and pulling them all together into a successful marketing program.

Do you work on websites? What do you look for most in a site?
Yes, I develop small business websites for clients and myself. For larger sites, I work with the client’s preferred development team to get it done. I worked for Oakstone Publishing for 10 years and was instrumental in developing their web presence. When developing a site, I am most importantly looking for intelligent and appropriate navigation. The most attractive site is nothing without it.

How’s the consulting market these days?
Good. Because I have a heavy medical and allied health background, my business has seen an actual benefit from the increased focus on healthcare reform. I’ve also seen a bump in the need for senior care marketing services, from nonprofit as well as for-profit senior services groups. I predict that the marketing services demand in these areas will only grow.

And, of course, I have to ask if anything keeps you up at night. Too much work?
No! I’m fortunate enough to be excellent at something that I also love doing. Any insomnia revolves around the fact that I’m a perfectionist. VERY detail-oriented. I do sweat the small stuff and am always making sure that I keep the t’s crossed and i’s dotted for my clients.

To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline


SIPAlert Daily – The advantages of strategizing social media

In the past, we had our business life and our personal life—one email address for each, one phone number for each, etc. Today?

- After the Marketing Conference last year, I was friended on Facebook by a colleague I met from a now-former member company. I still get updates on his family’s scuba vacations, but really only want to urge him to rejoin SIPA.

- Here are two recent tweets from Louise White, a former SIPA UK board member: “…engagement riles me even more than paywalls. I prefer the honesty of ‘hits.’” “On way home to round 2 of the cat/child/armchair grudge match.”

- On LinkedIn I get requests to connect from friends and colleagues, some I barely even know. Do I say yes to everyone?

It seems as if any lines that used to exist on social media between work and personal have been washed away over the last couple years. Questions persist about whether this is a good thing, and that’s without getting into the legal ramifications of who owns Twitter lists when an employee leaves and what employers should and can do to prevent any “problems.” I put the quotes there because younger people—the Millennials—probably don’t see any potential problems from their mixing work and personal. And for the most part, they might be right.

Once upon a not-too-long time ago, marketing and editorial stood at opposite ends with a large moat in between—not too different from professional and personal. But the times they are a -changin’ fast. In fact, one of the best sessions at December’s Marketing Conference in Las Vegas will be “Your New Best Friend: The Editorial/Marketing Relationship.” Representatives from two of the largest SIPA members, Access Intelligence and CQ Roll Call, will be presenting success stories that probably couldn’t have happened five years ago.

On Friday, I spoke to Andy Swindler, president of Astek. He and Rachel Yeomans, his VP account strategy, are always among the thought leaders when it comes to issues such as this one. Andy was dealing with his own crisis—an office building with the water turned off—but he was kind enough to weigh in a bit for me.

“To some extent, like all networking, it’s not all about business,” he said. “Our personalities do come into play [in the professional world] especially with a company like ours that does creative consulting. You’ll see @aswindler at the bottom of my correspondences, both personal and professional. So along with the consulting I do you’ll see the burger I posted on Foursquare last week. Part of bringing social media into work is celebrating our personalities. We’re not all automotons sitting in a factory, It matters. That’s often how people decide who to work with, and [social media can be] a reflection of who we are.

“That being said, companies should have a social media policy that will define whether or not employees can use their personal channels to help build the brand. You want a series of guidelines on how you should do that.” By the way, Andy will be speaking in Vegas on keyword strategy, and during breaks on this and any other interesting topic that comes up.

As for most SIPA members, you get the feeling that social media is still not at the top of their agendas. The fact that you can’t really assign an ROI makes it difficult to put aside renewals and email marketing to work on. But it’s just too encompassing now to ignore.

Ragan Communications led me to a study that “shows that companies should focus more on managing employees as reputation builders and brand ambassadors” through social media. The thinking is that they’re going to be on social media anyway, so you might as well try to manage the process so it helps you.

Here’s part of a statement from one of the researchers: “We observe an increasing and consistent need to address the heightened role of employees in social media, regardless of whether the company has an official presence there. This need emerges from the fact that employees have a crucial role as active meaning makers and reputation builders in various social-media networks that include customers, colleagues and friends, and in which the boundaries between work and non-work roles begin to lose their sharp contours. Hence, the ways in which companies balance between managing work and private lives of their employees as well as openness and control becomes an issue that needs careful attention.”

Swindler also would like to see more SIPA members go from dipping their toe in the water to taking the plunge when it comes to social media. “Social networks are designed to amplify and grow the brand,” he said. “You can ask, how much individual personality is there in branding and marketing? But it’s people who make the business.”

Speaking of Ragan, Jenny Fukumoto, the marketing manager there and another thought leader on social media, will be leading a session on that topic in Las Vegas. You kind of get the feeling that a lot will be taking place there—business-wise, I mean. Though I’m sure that tweets from attendees that week will cover the gamut.

Oh, if you’d like to keep up with SIPA activities on social media, I tweet from @sipaonline, and Luis Hernandez, vice president of SIPA, tweets from @LuisinDC18.


To subscribe to the SIPAlert Daily, go to the SIIA website.

Ronn LevineRonn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline

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