#b#Social Marketing Is Not for Everyone#/b#

According to Paul Schindel, founder of Three Bears LLC at 20 Nassau Street, marketing was a lot simpler for merchants when they could run an ad in the newspaper or on the radio, or send a message via the mail, and everyone would know the business and what it offered. “Now we have this overwhelming and seemingly oppressive range of choices,” he says. “Sifting through those and understanding them is mindboggling for many people.”

The explosion of choice in marketing options raises many questions for businesses. “Many options are seemingly very attractive from a cost standpoint because you can set up a Facebook page or a Twitter presence for free,” says Schindel. “But what do you do with that? And are you setting it up in the most advantageous ways? How do you build your Facebook audience or your Twitter followers? Should you be spending money in the Yellow Pages? These are all the questions that marketers need to address with budgets that are always limited.”

For instance, Facebook is not as free as it seems. Such outlets as Facebook are too hastily labeled free, according to Schindel. The amount of time required to build a good Facebook presence is considerable. “It’s not simply a matter of saying, be a fan of Three Bears on Facebook,” he says. “It’s a matter of building a community and conducting a conversation over a period of time that ultimately you want to turn into a commitment by your company to its customers. And from your customers to your company.”

Schindel says companies should strive to build a bond that makes customers think of their company when they need a product or service. It is a matter of earning a customer’s trust over a period of time by being smart and by putting out good messages that make sense to the customer. “In effect,” he says, “the sale is made before the customer walks in the door.”

#b#The Yellow Pages are still useful for some#/b#. Schindel says the Yellow Pages are still a great place to be for certain businesses, but not all. “If you’re in the banking business, for example, you probably need to have some presence in the Yellow Pages,” he says. “But competing there is not necessarily a worthwhile thing. People still go very regularly to the Yellow Pages to find attorneys, but if you are the local grocery store, the Yellow Pages aren’t really going to do you very much good. There is no one size fits all answer to what a business do.”

#b#People still read newspapers#/b#. In a similar vein, Schindel believes locally focused newspapers are excellent vehicles for certain businesses, but not worthwhile for others. “Three Bears has clients who advertise in the papers, but we also have clients for whom it’s simply not right and not worth the dollar investment to put money into XYZ newspaper because your audience isn’t there or isn’t turning to that medium for that information,” he says.

#b#Local businesses do best by marketing in local newspapers#/b#. “Professional practices, physicians, dentists, attorneys, and accountants can score a lot of points by building a reputation and building their brands through frequency in local papers,” he says. “The same goes for a lot of retail businesses, essentially storefronts up and down Nassau Street or any other business district.

“On the web the news is instant but it’s gone in an instant. If you need to put out more information or have a bigger visual impact than a line of text on a screen or a posting in Facebook, then an ad in a newspaper is often a good way to go, especially for things like events.”

#b#A happy mix#/b#. Schindel emphasizes the importance of mixed marketing. “You wouldn’t want to do just one thing,” he says. “Balancing the time and dollars with the reach and impact is the holy grail of marketing.”

#b#Pay attention to the information your clients are looking for#/b#. With increased means of reaching potential clients, some businesses now have to take care to not cross the line of annoying the people they are trying to attract. It’s by the instant nature of the digital media that you run into trouble,” he says.

“If you are seeing a post from some business, generally speaking more than once a day, it’s probably too much.”

He cited the Princeton Record Exchange as an example of a business that handles its social media well. “When they had their anniversary they did a promotion with a record sale day,” he says. “On that day they posted several times. They were having an event and their fans knew that this was a here-and-now, get-it-while-you-can kind of moment. They managed that accordingly. If they were to post more than once a day every day, people would just shut them out. It’s too much.”

E-mail is another method of marketing that offers excellent, low-cost outreach, but where businesses need to tread carefully. “Too much of a good thing is not a good thing,” he says. “Your unsubscribe rate will go through the roof if you hit a threshold where people are saying, ‘I don’t have time, enough of this.’”

Schindel described how he unsubscribed from a bicycle products company that he purchased from once or twice a year over a period of several years. “I was getting E-mails from them, sometimes more than once a week, with today’s special, tomorrow’s special, and the next day’s special. They were not sensitive to my buying patterns in a way that made it suitable for me — knowing, for example, that I would buy winter clothing in the fall and I would buy a new seat in the spring. They kept bombarding me with things that were not of interest.”

–- J. Lee Jacobson,

Reprinted from the May 12, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper

#b#Social or Anti-Social Networking at Work#/b#

Social media is no longer child’s play. With a few simple clicks, adults are establishing a massive online presence and taking over the Internet with Facebook pages, LinkedIn profiles, and Twitter accounts.

That’s good news for companies looking for alternative ways to create and connect to a customer base, says Leonard Nuara of intellectual property law firm Greenberg Traurig of Florham Park. However, he says, before logging on to social networking sites, companies must be fully aware of what they are really getting themselves into. One bad tweet, one malicious post, one questionable status update could damage a company’s credibility. It could compromise private customer information and badly affect the bottom line.

“You can’t ignore social media websites, but you have to recognize they’re not just bulletin boards where people post information,” he says. “They represent the good and the bad about society. They’re an opportunity and a threat.”

A nationally recognized author and lecturer, Nuara has worked in technology law for 25 years. He handles disputes involving Internet businesses, IT system failures, and IP infringement. He also advises companies on legal matters related to computer technology, including protecting content on mobile platforms, creating enforceable electronic agreements, and building secure social networks.

#b#Defining social media#/b#. Social media fosters social interaction and creates online communities, a perfect combination for companies looking for inexpensive ways to promote their products and simultaneously interact with consumers.

“People think social media is just for children, but they’re not really focusing on how many adults also use social media,” Nuara says. “Facebook has 300 million active users. It would be one of the biggest nations in the world if it was a unified entity.”

#b#Virtual opportunities#/b#. With social networking, companies can create an online presence that’s more hip than their formal webpage, where nuts-and-bolts information is provided. So if websites are like a business’s brick-and-mortar store, social networking is like hosting a 24/7 store event that all customers want to attend, Nuara says.

“Twitter shows the lighter side of the business, the fun things that you want to promote, just like a store event brings in customers so you can connect with them in a fun way,” he says. “Social media allow immediate feedback in a fun atmosphere. They are interactive, and that puts a personal face on what is often a bland corporate existence. You can build a connection with a customer base that’s much more personal, much more timely, and much more relevant.”

#b#But …#/b# Social networking is like traveling to Los Angeles or New York. The environment can be exciting and full of opportunities. But it can also be dangerous if you are not aware of your surroundings. Leave your guard down, Naura says, and you or your company could become an easy target.

The immediate, unregulated, and often anonymous access — part of the appeal of social networking websites — can also lead to common threats including hacking, hate speech, cyberbullying, and theft of personal information. Companies must be aware of these risks and remain on high alert to avoid damage to their brand or customer base, says Nuara. He suggests creating a terms-of-use agreement, establishing log-in mechanisms, or restricting users.

“For many of these sites, it’s simple because they are so readily updateable and changeable,” he says. “Information doesn’t always go through the typical corporate channels.”

But beware — it might not go through the legal or communications departments before being posted. “You might have a ‘Tell Us What You Think About Us’ forum and someone is using it to trash your company,” Naura says. “You have to be aware of that so you can address it.”

–- Kristin Boyd,

Reprinted from the February 3, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper

#b#Social Media: It’s Ubiquitous#/b#

In the olden days, when people got annoyed with their dentists, passionately embraced a new restaurant, or found a new electronic gadget impossible to use, they would share their feelings with a few friends or maybe with a customer service representative.

With the ubiquity of social networking, they can now share their feelings, positive or negative, with millions around the world in an instant. “Your voice of satisfaction and dissatisfaction is now amplified,” says Lee Mikles, CEO of the Archer Group, a Delaware-based Internet marketing company. “Businesses have an opportunity to reach a consumer not through a press release or a 30-second ad, but directly.”

This gives businesses unique opportunities to listen to what their customers are saying and to build relationships with them. “They are able to start conversations with consumers and hear what they are thinking while they are thinking it, and not wait for a survey to come back, culled through by a market research company,” he says.

#b#Social networking is not just marketing#/b#. It’s not just an ad that used to run on television or radio cut down to 140 characters, says Mikles. To move a business beyond the limits of face-to-face (or ear-to-ear) interaction to social networking, Mikles offers a few suggestions:

#b#Listen#/b#. Listen to online conversations about your product or service, competitors’ products, and your industry. “Imagine going to a cocktail party with people you haven’t met before,” says Mikles. “A circle of people are talking, and one way to join the group is to jump in with a business card and start talking about yourself — that’s the old way of marketing, and no one wants to talk to you.” The way to join in successfully is to listen to the conversation.

#b#Determine how to add value for your customer#/b#. The trick is to figure out how to participate in online conversations in a way that makes people want to listen to you in return. To do so, you need to figure out people’s concerns and offer them something of value that addresses those concerns.

Suppose the product you are selling is a school backpack. You might go to search.twitter.com and type “backpacks” or “school supplies” or even “school lunches” or “nutrition,” to learn what people’s concerns are for their children returning to school. Parents, for example, may be despairing about how to fit all of their children’s books into their backpacks. Or perhaps they are worried that the backpacks are not sufficiently sturdy.

#b#Set up a social networking team and get into a conversation#/b#. Businesses should avoid the temptation to turn over social networking to an intern or a young person fresh out of college. This function is best handled by people who really know the brand. The team should include representatives from marketing, customer service, and communications.

Mikles cautions that all conversations with customers, whoever initiates them, must be dialogues, where the business is asking customers questions and learning from them. Conversations should also be top-heavy on value offerings. “You should offer 12 things of value before one message of your own,” says Mikles.

#b#Put together a crisis response plan#/b#. Sometimes customers can be very angry and make negative comments online. That’s when everyone needs to know who will respond and how, and what the escalation process will be. “When customers get negative, you have to know what the plan is for dealing with bad comments,” says Mikles. “It can be a real moment to shine, or, if all your employees are attacking the person, it can come back and hurt you.”

-– Michele Alperin,

Reprinted from the September 15, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

#b#Optimize Your Website With SEO#/b#

Just throwing together a website without careful attention to the details may not be worth the effort. Lance Bachmann, president of Local Internet Traffic, explains that if a website does not appear on the first page of an Internet search, its chance of attracting visitors is drastically reduced.

“Ninety percent of all traffic goes to the first pages of Google, Yahoo, and Bing,” says Bachmann, who is based in Oakford, Pa. “If you go to the seventh or eighth page, you’re going to get no traffic so you might as well not even be there.” To move up in the ranking, a website must be optimized.

Keywords. Keywords are the words users enter in a search engine to find the information they need. Keywords vary in how competitive they need to be to achieve a high search engine ranking.

“Every single keyword has a certain amount of competitiveness in terms of how many people are competing for it,” says Bachmann. Since there are more lawyers than roofers in Philadelphia, for example, it is more difficult and more expensive for lawyers to get top billing. Similarly, insurance is more competitive than mattresses or new furniture.

To determine how competitive particular keywords are and to select keywords, Bachmann suggests checking out Google AdWords, Market Samurai, and Web CEO.

#b#Metadescription#/b#. This is a list of keywords ranging from 75 to 105 characters used to rank the website. The metadescription does not include the company name and appears in the back end of the website in a markup language like html. “It is what allows the search engines to understand what you’re trying to do, what keywords you’re trying to rank for on the first page of the search engine,” says Bachmann. “It should be what your website is about.”

An example of a metadescription might be “plumbing company Philadelphia, plumbing supply company Philadelphia, plumbing supply company New Jersey.”

#b#Page titles#/b#. Make sure that the title is different on each page of the website. The title of an individual page should be the main keyword people are likely to use to find it. A title for a home page should begin with this keyword and be followed by the name of the firm and its location; an example is “Personal Injury Lawyer, ABC Associates, Trenton, NJ.”

#b#Keyword density#/b#. Make sure that five to seven percent of the content on every page of the website is made up of the keywords used on the back end.

#b#Link building#/b#. To boost the ranking of a website, a company must create backlinks to its website. That is, it must link from other credible websites. “These back links,” says Bachmann, “must say that you are an authority on the subject matter.”

Creating relevant links that point to your site can be accomplished by way of articles, blogs, and press releases and by exchanging links with other companies.

#b#Page rank#/b#. Once effectively optimized, a website’s page rank should improve. Google assigns a number from 0 to 10 to every website. The higher the number, the better. Website owners can find out a website’s ranking using Google’s website grader, which also offers some opportunities for improving the assigned rank.

#b#Legitimate content#/b#. Follow the rules and make sure all content makes sense. Sometimes people try to sneak information like lists of towns and keywords onto a webpage by using “invisible text.” Bachmann advises strongly against this. “If you get caught doing that, your website will be banned,” he says. “Once you are banned from Google, Yahoo, and Bing, who are you going to complain to? They own the companies, and if you don’t play by their rules, they don’t care.”

-– Michele Alperin,

Reprinted from the March 31, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

#b#The Ins and Outs of Going Live Online#/b#

Advertising a business may be less expensive than it used to be, but the multitude of choices and the complexities of technology mean that the savvy business person must either spend a lot of time learning to be a marketing expert for his particular business, or he must still hire an expert. Or two.

Do you, for example, know the difference between inbound and outbound marketing? Inbound marketing is drawing potential customers in to your website, while outbound marketing is the message you want those customers to hear, says Pamela Abbazia, a member of the technical services team at Digital Brand Expressions, a website design and marketing company based in Kingston.

Abbazia is responsible for developing customized search engine optimization (SEO) and social media strategies. A journalism graduate from Rowan University in 2005, she was one of the first-generation users of Facebook.

Letting customers find you. Many of the older advertising tools involved “casting a wide net to search for your customers,” says Abbazia. Today, however, SEO and social networking means it makes more sense to “allow your customers to tune in to you. The best tools for this approach are optimization, keyword bidding, and social media.

#b#Search Engine Optimization#/b#. SEO is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site or a webpage from search engines. The higher the ranking your website receives on a search engine, the more likely it is that a customer will click on your site. SEO uses a variety of “organic” or “free” techniques to improve search engine ranking.

These include using keywords strategically within your site, linking to other related sites, and using social media sites to increase your presence on the Internet.

#b#AdWord marketing#/b#. AdWord marketing involves searching for the most precise and targeted key words that your customers use when they search for information, products or services that you provide. You then pay only when your word is typed into a search engine such as Google or Yahoo. “There is not a lot of overhead involved in this kind of advertising, plus with the analytics available on the web it is easy to see what is working and what is not,” she says.

She recommends Google Analytics as one of the best sites to track your Internet advertising progress.

“You can see exactly how many people have visited your site, how long they stayed there, what they purchased. You can set it up so you can see which products are selling best and whether certain pictures or copy are more attractive to your customers.”

#b#Social media for businesses#/b#. Social media is all the rage right now and every business owner is sure that they need to be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every other networking site available.

Not so, says Abbazia. “When someone tells me they need a Twitter profile, I ask them why. What do they want to get out of it?”

The first mistake most business owners make with social media is not planning a strategy. She believes in the “POST” strategy. Define the people you are looking for, develop an objective, or what you want them to do, develop a strategy to target those people, then look at the best technology to accomplish the goal.

#b#A look at the future#/b#. Abbazia has her own theories about where social networking for businesses will move in the next few years. “Things will become even more specialized through Geo-Social tools,” she says. Geo-Social networking involves adding geographic services and capabilities such as geo-coding and geo-tagging to social networking sites to develop ever more specific niche communities.

–- Karen Hodges Miller,

Reprinted from the June 9, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

#b#Are You On YouTube? You Really Should Be#/b#

If you think YouTube is just for kids, you’re making a big mistake. It wasn’t just the under-30 set that boosted the video-hosting site to a new milestone of 2 billion hits a day in mid-May.

“What’s interesting is that some days YouTube gets more traffic than Google,” says Ed Andriessen of Business Training Resource in Hamilton. “It’s the 800-pound gorilla in the search engine world.” But fear not for Google. It owns YouTube.

Much of YouTube’s usage is due to its entertainment value: clips from television shows, songs from concerts, even kids’ dance recitals. But people are discovering that YouTube is also useful for research, especially if you want to learn how to do something — how to make a blog post on WordPress, how to fire someone. Or even how to make a YouTube video.

Of course, videos are also useful tools for marketing your business and educating your customers on how to use a product or service too. With the help of YouTube and some free or inexpensive tools, you can create videos, and post them for the world to see. Then you can either send your customers a link or use a bit of computer code that YouTube provides that will allow people to view the video on your website.

And all of this is free to you, because YouTube makes its money from ads placed to the right of your video; these advertise products and services that may interest the same population that has selected to view your video.

#b#Create your own video channel#/b#. A channel is your personal page on YouTube, where you can post videos related to your business. These comprise not only the videos you have created, but others on YouTube that you think are related to your business or service.

#b#Figure out your strategy#/b#. Your strategy may involve E-mail blitzes, making use of informational videos that already exist, or combining videos with a blog, and other related activities.

Suppose, for example, you own a sporting goods store and have a backlog of Shimano fishing reels that you want to get rid of. How could you best use YouTube to further your aim?

First, you might want to search for videos that review the reels you want to sell (to get an idea of what kinds of videos are available, go to YouTube and search for “Shimano reels”). Then you might create a short video about how a customer can order reels from you.

After posting all of these videos on your YouTube channel (which is comparable to a Facebook page), you can send E-mails to your customers and to those likely to be interested in rods and reels, such as subscribers to “Field and Stream” magazine.

#b#Make it quick#/b#. Create one or more very brief videos of no more than two or three minutes.

First create a script or storyboard. “Winging it doesn’t work that well,” says Andriessen. If a video is not scripted and practiced, the inevitable result is numerous takes. You will also need to purchase an inexpensive webcam or a Flip video cam to shoot your video. Many cameras even have software to automatically upload videos to YouTube.

Next, edit the video. “You can put up the video raw, but I usually like to have a little bit of editing,” says Andriessen. He often uses Windows Movie Maker to add opening and closing slides.

Finally, upload the video. Just Click on YouTube’s “upload my video” button to begin the process. Andriessen estimates that a two-minute video will take about 10 minutes to upload. YouTube will convert your video to a format that can be viewed on YouTube.

#b#Be content with your content#/b#. When companies express worry about where they will get enough content for a video channel, Andriessen suggests content that is out there on the Web. Relevant YouTube videos and written pieces from article directories like ezinearticles.com (which allows people to use the content as long as they include a link to the person who wrote the article) work well.

–- Michele Alperin,

Reprinted from the July 7, 2010, issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper

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