140 characters. A couple of years ago, this phrase would have been meaningless. But in today’s world of fast news, direct customer outreach and explosive social media, every PR professional knows what this means and how important it is to a social media program. When we are limited to what we can say on Twitter, beggars can’t be choosers, and message delivery needs to be punchy and impactful. Enter URL shorteners, allowing us to go beyond 140 characters and extend our message to the web, videos, client blogs and more.
There’s no short list for URL shorteners. Bit.ly, TinyURL, is.gd and even awe.sm (yes, believe it or not, that is a real service) are all tools PR professionals are using daily to link to content and effectively communicate with their audience. But how do we take advantage of URL shorteners to make the content valuable to the audience and deliverable to the client?
Several URL shorteners provide users the option to create a username and track over time how many click-throughs their links receive. What do your followers care most about? What are they reading? Measurement provides us with the ability to analyze what our readers actually care about and gives us the opportunity to refine our message and provide actionable content. Here is a real-life example of a client’s Bit.ly statistics, giving us insight to what works and what doesn’t.
With URL shorteners, we can even measure the level of visibility the competition is receiving. Curious to see how many people are clicking your client’s bit.ly’s in comparison to their competitors? Adding a “+” to the end of a bit.ly URL allows us to view how popular any bit.ly is and gives us the option to not only report to the client statistics of their social media program, but statistics of their competitor’s as well. Tracking these statistics can be a valuable long-term deliverable, measuring how visibility and social media traction has increased over a finite period of time.
Certain URL shorteners, like Bit.ly, also provide users with the option to customize their links. Let’s face it, if I were to link to Schwartz Communications’ homepage, the link http://bit.ly/SchwartZ is a lot more attractive than http://bit.ly/aZdm2u. Not to mention, customizable links allow you to highlight company products and ideas in your tweet.
In communications, URL shorteners clearly provide value, but some people are still on the fence. In 2009, TechCrunch called URL shorteners a “necessary evil,” and much of their audience agreed, with over 57% of poll respondents echoing similar sentiments.
So what’s the fuss about? As TechCrunch points out, random links can be opaque and cause spam concerns when users are unaware what they are clicking, and yes, some click-throughs can be attributed to bots, applications and browser plug-ins.
Still, when all is said and done, URL shorteners allow for more compelling and targeting messaging. In social media, our job is simple: relate to the public and encourage target audiences to take action. Whether that action be clicking a link, taking a poll or anything in between, URL shorteners are outstanding tools to encourage and begin to measure audience activity, and for that, I’m all for them.
, Social Media
, URL shortening
Posted by Bill Bode on September 30, 2010 at 7:34 AM
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What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
This excerpt from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet came to mind when I read a recent blog post on socialmediatoday.com by Dave Fleet, “Is ‘Social Media’ Hurting Social Media?”
The quote means that what matters is what something is, not what it is called. Dave suggests upgrading the term ‘social media’ to ‘online networking,’ as social media should be more interactive and long-term and not a short, one-way street. He writes:
What changes if we use that term?
• YouTube: “Videos with comments” becomes engaging people in a story, or enabling other people to tell your story as they see it
• Blog: “Text with sharing” becomes a genuine conversation, where you solicit and respond to feedback from your stakeholders
• Twitter: “Tweets of links to stories about you” becomes an opportunity to engage in real-time conversations with people
I think Dave has an excellent point. Although social media isn’t a new concept, its use is getting broader and deeper by the day. It seems that we can never quite catch up with new social media strategies. Things are moving so rapidly so we really shouldn't get caught up in nomenclature vs. understanding how a social approach fits into a broader corporate strategy.
In order to get the most out of online networking and getting your messages out at any one time or period of time, you will want to know four things:
1. Who are the leaders and media influencers in your industry?
2. What are the big trends and issues in your industry?
3. Where do your customers go for information?
4. What are your customers, partners, employees and the media saying about you?
One place to find the leaders in the technology arena is Technorati, which offers both a topics directory and keyword search to find blogs in a particular topic area. Technorati also provides an “Authority Rating” on each blog to give you a rough idea of the blog’s influence. And while you’re at it, see if you can find out about a blog’s author to see where he or she is participating. This will help you determine your industry’s thought leaders.
Another neat tool is Twiangulate, which analyzes connections between competitors, friends, followers and industry leaders on Twitter. Twiangulate helps you find out who you should care about reading on Twitter. Pick any two or three Twitter users and then use Twiangulate to find which friends or followers they have in common. Twiangulate shows the overlap between your social graph and any two other people on Twitter. It shows the resulting names as a list or an interactive social map.
Here is an example of three technology tweeps with 13 people in common of 1153 total tweeps followed.
In this graph, we see that some people who follow Scott Kirsner also follow Jason Meserve. And some people who follow GigaOm also follow Jason. So, if someone is following Jason and finds value in his tweets, that person may also want to follow Scott and Om. By the same token, those who are following Scott might consider following Jason.
This exercise will lead you to people are talking about your industry, whether it be blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook pages and so on. Take note of their conversations on Twitter and Facebook. Are they interacting with people? Only promoting their wares? Offering valuable industry information? They might also let you know where they’ll be, which can tip you to an in-person meeting.
What are the big trends and issues in your industry?
Based on the results of the influencer analysis above, you should choose a few blogs from the posts and articles that industry leaders are tweeting. This will be a dynamic list, which you will add to and delete from as you fine tune your marketing campaign. By following the right people, it will lead you to the right content, enabling you to stay apprised of news and happenings in the industry and locate other influencers. An RSS feed is a great way to aggregate the sites and keep them in one place.
A great RSS tool is Google Reader, and if you’re already a Gmail user, it’s an easy step to take.
With RSS, you’ll stay updated whenever the blogs have new content. After reading through these feeds, you will be more informed about your interest area.
1. Google Alerts – I can’t get over how easy and helpful this is. In a few clicks, you can have new search results (from the web, news, blogs, etc.) delivered to your email.
2. Summize – Searches within Twitter conversation. After performing a search, click “Feed for this query.”
3. Technorati Advanced Search – Allows subscribing to specific blog tags, which can be much more specific than searching for that as a Google Alert term (for example, the category productivity would be useful, but Google results for the word productivity would be all over the chart). After performing a search, click the “Subscribe” button on the upper right corner.
4. Blogdigger – Searches blogs, but has a fair amount of overlap with Google Alerts. After performing a search, click the RSS icon in the upper right corner.
Stay tuned for "What Do Shakespeare and Social Media Have in Common? Part Deux," where we'll discuss how to find out where your target audience is getting information, and how you can find out what are your audiences saying about you.
, Google Alerts
, Google reader
, keyword search
, social media
, topics directory
Posted by Davida Dinerman on September 29, 2010 at 9:08 AM
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MarketingProfs has a nice summary of a Booz & Co. B2B Marketing Survey. I thought the numbers were useful, so here they are.
The survey includes feedback from 132 marketing executives across several industries. Not a huge number of respondents, but okay, so let's see what they say.
Looking at expected marketing budget allocations over the next two or three years, 67% of respondents expect to spend more on social media. Digital comes in second at 64% and PR at 61%.
I'm not sure how marketers separate those three things in their minds--social media, PR and digital are very much intertwined these days. For example, I don't think most companies view social media as totally distinct from PR anymore. But you get the idea--these are three areas of anticipated growth.
TV and radio will continue to take a hit, it seems, with 74% of marketers cutting budgets. It makes sense if you consider that social and digital can be more carefully targeted toward desired audiences and that PR is increasingly measurable and more of a precision instrument than it was even just a few years ago.
Looking at the question of digital marketing, Booz finds that 87% of those surveyed want to build deeper insights into their client bases. (I'm not exactly sure what the other 13% would like to do--presumably distancing themselves from their clients isn't part of the overall game plan.) Developing custom content is important to 82% of those surveyed and to fully 90% of those classified as "marketing leaders."
It seems that content has quietly but quickly asserted itself as core to the marketing mix. Companies have obviously figured out that they have to be self-sufficient when it comes to telling their stories--they can't really count on anyone else doing it for them and it's necessary fuel for many a social media program.
We all like to think of ourselves as "marketing leaders," right? So how do these numbers compare to what you've got planned?
The image above is copyrighted by Kev Griffin and covered by a Creative Commons Licence.
Tags: B2B marketing
, B2B PR
, content marketing
, digital content
, social media
Posted by Laura Kempke on September 17, 2010 at 5:12 PM
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Recently in the "You're the Boss" blog on NYTimes.com, Jennifer Walzer, CEO of entrepreneurial tech company Backup My Info!, documented her change of heart when it comes to hiring outside public relations help.
To me, a PR person, this post was fascinating and I give Ms. Walzer a lot of credit for sharing her thought process on a topic that many people make a show of dismissing outright. ("You don't need PR! Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Those people invariably work for companies that I've absolutely never heard of, but that's okay, right? I'm sure they're big in their own worlds.)
Ms. Walzer writes: "You may remember one of my posts from last year in which I talked about not needing a public relations firm because we were getting plenty of media coverage organically. Well, as I looked back on that coverage recently, I realized that it was more focused on me as a business owner than on the company and the team. And right now, I'm so busy building the company, training new employees, and managing my pregnancy that I haven't had time to seek speaking and interview opportunities."
This situation, in which an entrepreneur has had some PR success but needs to devote more time to running the business and to life in general, is a common one for many Schwartz clients. Or maybe something's happened--a competitor is starting to become more visible in the marketplace, the firm is about to achieve a substantial milestone and is ready to talk to a broader audience or industry analysts are telling the company that they're referring it to their own clients, who respond that they've "never heard of them"--and it becomes clear that they need to step it up on the PR front.
Social networking has obviously greased the skids for many smaller companies because it can allow them to attain a decent level of visibility by working through friends, and friends of friends. I've had CEOs tell me that they know it's time to hire a professional because they've tapped out their personal networks.
Have you seen the movie "Finding Nemo"? If so, you'll remember the last scene, in which a group of tropical fish have greatly exerted themselves to get out of their aquarium and make it to the ocean. Each has rolled its way across a busy street protected by a water-filled plastic bag and plopped into the ocean. Nice escape! Yet they're still in their bags, bobbing around. "Now what?" one asks.
The company that's worked hard to handle PR on its own, doing what it can when it can, seeing what's possible and being tantalized by it, but really not knowing what to do next, is a good candidate for hiring an external PR firm.
Ms. Walzer came to the decision that now's the time, but was worried about "shelling out money without any guarantee of performance." If I were her, I'd wonder about results, too--any executive would. In her case, she chose to evaluate the number of speaking engagements or media interviews her agency secured over a relatively short period of time. Some of the people who commented on the Times' blog entry noted that a PR person with a decent amount of experience in the client's industry can simply call in favors or work through established contacts to nail those numbers.
Of course they can. The real value of that project is helping the client get a feel for whether they work well with the PR team. Many companies can achieve a certain set of initial results from any number of firms, but stick around because they feel confident in their team over time--they become "sold" on the people and their ability to answer the "now what?" question, not just schedule a few interviews.
Once the PR team is past that "getting to know you" period and has established some confidence in their skills in generating an initial volley of whatever flavor of results the company is looking for, the question becomes "how extensive is your repertoire?" Just as the entrepreneur worked through her network and then hit a wall, will the PR team stop producing once past those first few months?
PR success over the long term rides on a number of factors and the effort that the PR team puts forth on your company's behalf to hit those initial metrics is only one of them. Here are just a few that come to mind for me:
1. PR team's ability to tell a great story--Running a solid PR program requires that you understand where your company fits against the much broader backdrop of your industry, as well as knowing what stories journalists want to tell. The New York Times did not give a small company an opportunity to talk about data backup; they gave a CEO the chance to explain how she changed her mind about an important business decision. Understanding that those are two totally different stories, but that both lead Times readers to http://www.backupmyinfo.com, is the PR person's job.
2. Willingness of your customers to validate your company's claims--The VP of marketing for a tech company is not, unfortunately, a highly credible media source. But his customers are, so the challenge is to get those customers to tell your company's story for you.
3. Nature of your technology--The tech industry goes through phases, as we're all well aware, and when a technology is hot, the PR team is going to have more tools at its disposal. Without a doubt, it's their job to help mundane technologies seem interesting, but that's a tall order when you're selling something like OEM components. PR success for that OEM is simply going to look different than PR success for other firms. Setting expectations properly is critical.
4. Client's ability to deliver--Even companies with a hot technology and enthusiastic customers can flub PR if they don't respond to their PR team in a timely manner. Any delay--whether it's getting a journalist information they've asked for, delivering products on time, producing a knowledgeable spokesperson for commentary or rising above internal politics and making a decision--causes the program to lose momentum. Many companies fail to appreciate how integral their active participation is to PR success.
5. PR agency's understanding of industry changes--PR, like every profession, evolves. I'd say that we're in the midst of what might, at some point in the future, appear to be a lurch forward brought about by changes in the media world and by the use of social technologies. If you remember your geology or evolutionary biology classes, you know about punctuated equilibrium--the theory that change happens slowly, but then the rate speeds up for a period of time. It's pretty clear that PR is changing quickly right now and your agency's ability to keep up with or lead it can play a part in your success.
What items have you found to be important over the long term when handling PR internally or working with an agency?
, PR agencies
, PR firms
, public relations
, technology PR
Posted by Laura Kempke on September 9, 2010 at 7:19 PM
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With all of the recent talk of a potential double-dip recession, start-ups and later stage companies seeking funding may be asking themselves whether the already-cautious VCs are about to become even more cautious. A recent survey by the Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project confirms that some VCs and angel investors are indeed becoming more risk averse and looking to put more money into existing portfolio companies rather than test the waters with an unfamiliar start-up. This doesn't mean that companies seeking funding should abandon all hope, however. First of all, it should be pointed out that the double-dip recession may not even happen, as Hale Stewart explains in his recent blog post. Second of all, there are positive signs in the investment community, such as some data released by VentureDeal showing that many sectors saw increased funding in Q2 over Q1.
In situations like these, it's sometimes nice to put aside the survey data and statistics for a minute and just listen to real people, in this case VCs, discussing what they think. We had the chance to talk to some leading VCs, CEOs and start-up gurus at the AlwaysOn VentureSummit this summer, to ask them their thoughts on the economy. While these conversations also happened before the recent scare about a "double-dip," what you'll hear in their answers is a generally positive attitude about things to come. What you'll also hear as a bonus is how these industry leaders answered our question about which online video they most recently watched - something members of the digital group here at Schwartz are always interested in hearing.
, venture capital
Posted by Matt Duffy on September 8, 2010 at 4:45 PM
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This morning a crack member of the Schwartz Research team (Bill Bode) brought the recent Mike Wise kerfuffle to my attention. Basically, Mike Wise, a reporter for the Washington Post, was suspended for one month because he made up a story about Pittsburgh Steelers Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and tweeted it out. Some media outlets ran the story and some people retweeted it.
According to the Huffington Post, he claimed he did it to
- See which news outlets would pick up his report, and
- Show the inaccuracy of social media reporting.
Wise is missing one key thing. As a proven sports columnist for the Washington Post he has both authority and experience. For years, people have believed what Mike Wise wrote. People also put their trust in the Washington Post.
What he truly showed is how if a credible source wants to spread disinformation, they can have some success the first time, but will then destroy their reputation. This isn’t limited to social media. If an analyst put out a false report, people would use the data, until the analyst was exposed.
This problem goes back to well before the dawn of social media. Remember Janet Cooke (also of the Washington Post) who had her Pulitzer Prize winning story “Jimmy’s World” exposed as fabrication? This was also showcased on WKRP in Cincinnati with Bailey Quarters and Les Nessman in the “Dear Liar” episode in Season four.
If I tweeted about Ben Roethlisberger and cited an inside source I knew at the NFL, no one would retweet it. Why?
- I am not a sports reporter or blogger, and
- Schwartz has great experience with technology, healthcare and green companies, but our football experience deals primarily with luminescent paper for championship game tickets – not with NFL headquarters.
So yes, Wise showed things can spread on Twitter and some folks don’t check their sources. But he is in actuality a better poster child for how someone with respect and authority can abuse their power, be caught and damage their reputation.
Tags: best practice
, crisis communications
, mike wise
, social media
, washington post
Posted by Mark McClennan on September 1, 2010 at 9:49 AM
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