Sunday, May 17, 2009

Small Business Guide to Social Media

Dell is a leader in social media and a good example of the trend towards increased corporate environmental stewardship. Like many other firms, Dell has been hit hard by the global recession. However, despite a halving of profits, Dell's commitment to the environment represents the kind of positioning that can help many companies to weather this historic downturn.

Dell's environmental programs, "conserve product energy consumption, reduce or eliminate materials for disposal, prolong product life span and provide effective and convenient equipment recovery solutions. By streamlining business steps and processes to be as efficient as possible, Dell helps minimize stress on the environment while achieving speed, responsiveness and cost savings that are passed along to customers."

Based on Dell's conversations with customers, they have created a series of social media guides. Each guide includes an overview of the approach, the opportunity, tips for getting started, examples of best practices and case studies.

1. Listening to customers, prospects and influencers is the foundation of all successful social media programs. By listening to online conversations happening in blogs, forums and social networks, you can bring the voices of your customers directly into your organizations.



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2. Many people equate "PR" to "digital PR" or "digital influencer relations." While they are similar in many ways, there are some important nuances to consider. Most importantly, online conversations are much more direct and personal, requiring the highest level of transparency and candor.



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3. Twitter is fairly new to the social media scene, but many companies have already found ways to use it for business, from announcing new products to helping out customers in need.



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4. Crowdsourcing is the process of enabling your customers to play an active role in creating a new product or service, or in some cases, solving a business challenge for your company. Let's face it – our customers know what they want and need better than anyone.



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5. Facebook is the fastest growing social network in the world with more than 100 million active members. Facebook offers a variety of solutions for small businesses to connect with customers and prospects more deeply and leverage the huge, viral potential of this community.



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6. Photos and videos can engage customers and convey more about a company and its people, products and services than text alone. Today, new technologies and Web sites like Flickr and YouTube have made it easier than ever for businesses to produce and share multi-media content.



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7. It's important to understand how a social media program is performing against specific business objectives in order to maximize the impact and justify further investment. The beauty of social media is that it is highly measurable using tools like Google Analytics.



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By following these guides you can use social media to grow your businesses and better serve your customers.
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Next: Shortening Your Sales Cycle With Social Media / Twitter / Social Media and ROI


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Power of Social Media and the Importance of Market Segmentation

Social media is a great way to reach a growing audience, particularly if you factor the ways in which this market is segmented. Social media is part of the vast and growing arena of interactive digital marketing. The social media audience is large and loyal and with hundreds of millions of visitors and countless billions of videos being viewed online, it has even more massive appeal than traditional mediums like television.

Traditional marketing approaches are increasingly being complimented by novel online experiences. Although search engine optimization remains important, social media optimization is emerging as an important way to engage a huge audience that is seeking a more dynamic Internet experience.

Jim Carroll, a well-known speaker, author and columnist said in a recent article,"ecological spending will continue to drive growth markets." In the same article he cites some numbers that illustrate why social media is changing the marketing landscape, "147 million people interact globally on social networks via their mobile phones...that number could very well be 1 billion within five years!"

For more informaton on mobile marketing see The Green Market's 7 part series, "Making Mobile Marketing Work for Your Business," which includes Researching Your Target, Design Tips, Presentation Tips, Understanding the Differences Between Mobile and Online Marketing, Interactive Digital Marketing For the Young and the Not So Young, Summary of Key Points (For The Green Market's extensive series of mobile marketing posts see related posts at the bottom of this page).

As explained in an article entitled The Ever Expanding World Of Small Business and Social Media Optimization, "the web is being rapidly transformed from simply being an informational monologue into an exciting interactive and socially enriching platform, social networking sites are gaining greater power and prominence in the online media community. So it is because of this major shift that small business owners are being forced, in their media planning, to start including these websites as part of their plan for posting compelling online advertisements, writing articles for this media while also using audio and video to capture their target market share. Social media is becoming an extremely powerful tool for creating marketing leverage through persuasive communication - whereby customers can share their insights, their perspectives, and their opinions. Customers want to engage, and this media is providing them the perfect platform for that end. [And] small business clients are [also] demanding to be heard in an ever-increasing manner."

Social media is increasingly important for the small business community. Although social media may be a relatively new marketing channel, it is an integral part of the future of communications. In a recent AdAge article, Chris Perry, exec VP-digital strategy and operations at Weber Shandwick said, "within all companies every function will become more digitized, socialized and, dare I say, integrated. Social and digital communications practices are being applied to every traditional function across the enterprise."

As explained in an article entitled Reaching Generation Y Through Social Media Marketing, "We now live amongst a diverse arrangement of new and different generations where change is happening by the second. And in order to be on the cutting edge of all things marketing, small business owners will need to be more and more aware of the changing demographics and learn how to best communicate with the ever growing field of different buyers who are joining the market place every single hour."

Understanding the social media audience is key to successfully using this rapidly growing marketing channel. Millennials, or Generation Y, are a high value audience for business, this group of young online spenders was born between 1980 and 1996. This segment understands the environmental consequences of their actions and they have the social awareness to act. Even if Millennials are not part of your company's core demographic, by driving traffic and enhancing your social media profile they play a pivotal role in social media optimization.

Millennials are also know as the Internet generation and as explained in a CSR Wire article, this group does not know a world without the Internet. "The Next Generation defined by those born between 1997 and 2015, won’t know a world where social media and sustainability aren’t part of everyday life." The implication is that social media (and sustainability) will continue to grow as successive generations engage user generated content as a organic extension of their social networks.

Millennials want change and marketers are addressing their concerns. With 42 percent of marketers reporting that they are keen to experiment with social computing, the change agenda of Millennials is already impacting marketing communications. Going forward, Millennials will drive economic growth and reshape the fundamentals of every industry in the process.

A recent AdAge study, reaffirmed the fact that Millenials are the single most environmentally aware generation. The study revealed that:

- 69% of Millenials surveyed expressed genuine interest in the environment
- 79% of Millennials glean most of their information from the web
- 76% of Millennials emphasized the importance of brands being ecologically conscious
- 64% of Millennials in the 18 to 29 age group said they would be willing to pay more for a product that supports an environmental cause.

Although the older segment of Millennials were more likely to choose Green and even pay more for a Green product or service, this did not hold true for the 13-17 age group. The study suggests that teenagers are sensitive about the price point.

Teens today are much more tech savvy, confident and culturally diverse, they want to be listened to and have their needs and expectations addressed. Millennials are more tuned into media than previous generations and although they are aware of the importance of the environment, they are not sure how to get involved.

Forward looking companies can support Millenials as they transition from knowing why the environment is important to actual sustainable living. Social media is an ideal medium to help get this group involved in environmental efforts that will deepen eco-awareness and foster consumer loyalty.

This is part of the reason why Web Pro News refers to social media as, "the holy grail for advertisers on the Internet: a mass-concentrated U.S. audience reach similar to television." But to make the most of social media you need to incorporate Millenial attitudes into your marketing strategy.

According to the AdAge study cited above, Green adds credibility to a company's brand, but the evidence also indicates that Green marketing strategies should not be universal across all age groups. Different Green marketing efforts need to be adapted for the different segments. Further, companies seeking to market to teenagers should be sure to offer competitive pricing.

Teens apparent reticence towards Green may be due to their need for immediate gratification. To reach teens, marketers need to be innovative in the ways they link Green interests with more immediate observable results. By encouraging Millennials to take action on the environment, social media can play a vital role helping this generation to lead us toward a healthier planet.

Social media is a powerful marketing tool that is easily accessed by small business, but as Chris Perry explains, there are still many unknowns associated with social media advertising, particularly in the current economic climate. "No one owns [social media]. No one company, no one specialty, no one individual has all the answers to address the fundamental changes taking place. The changes are too sweeping, too fast moving, too complex for anyone to talk in absolutes. We're still in the early stages of a media disruption that impacts marketing communications in ways [that are] yet be fully understood."

For those pioneers willing to brave the unknown, social media provides an opportunity for businesses to communicate with their consumers in a fresh and dynamic fashion. With hundred of millions of loyal participants, social media has the unparalleled ability to quickly reach a huge audience. However, you cannot unlock the power of social media without understanding Millennials.
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Next: Small Business Guide to Social Media / Shortening Your Sales Cycle With Social Media / Twitter / Social Media and ROI


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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Social Media and Sustainability

Social media, also known as user-generated content, is an organic marketing channel and an effective conduit for Green messages. This is the first in a series of four articles designed to help Green small business owners and eco-entrepreneurs leverage the power of social media to communicate their Green offerings.

Social media is defined by Wikipedia as "information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content. It's a fusion of sociology and technology, transforming monologue (one to many) into dialog (many to many) and is the democratization of information, transforming people from content readers into publishers. Social media has become extremely popular because it allows people to connect in the online world to form [personal and business] relationships."

Social media is about collaboration and information sharing and sustainability is about responsible social and environmental economic development. Despite apparent differences, social media and sustainability are convergent trends that compliment each other.

Even though we are confronted with a global recession, a recent MediaPost report indicates that a majority of consumers remain loyal to Green products. According to "The Conscious Consumer Report" (2009), 67 percent of consumers surveyed agreed with the statement: "Even in tough economic times, it is important to purchase products with social and environmental benefits." Although 66 percent said price is "very important," Fifty-one percent said they were willing to pay more for these products.

The report also indicates that skeptical consumers are actively looking for information that verifies Green claims beyond ads and packaging. The report supports the importance of communicating Green messages through multiple venues, including social media networks. Further, when compared to traditional media like print, social media's digital presence is less harmful to the environment.

According to Rob Reed, a social media and marketing specialist who helps companies to engage stakeholders through the social web, "social media and sustainability present the same set of issues when integrating these new practices into a company’s DNA and core values. The truth is that social media and sustainability can be integrated and adopted at every level."

As Mr Reed explained in an article in 2008, there are many ways that the trends of social media and sustainability intersect as well as align. Together, sustainability and social media are "changing the world for the better."

"Barack Obama has changed political elections forever. Just as Kennedy used televised debates to his advantage in 1960, Obama has used the social web. It’s partly a function of his brand and overwhelming appeal with younger voters, but it’s also a clear sign of the times." As of 2008 several members of Congress were 'tweeting,' including then Vice-Presidential candidate Biden. And President Obama has used a broad range of social media to communicate his vision of a new energy economy that emphasizes renewable energy.

Al Gore is well known for his film "The Inconvenient Truth," he is also co-founder of the socially driven Current.com. This "duality of focus and investment is playing out throughout Silicon Valley and the entire VC community. These are smart bets being made on a smart future that’s both green and social."

By definition, social media has democratized information. "The social web has decentralized the production and distribution of content." Social media puts "control in the hands of people…the people formerly known as the audience"

There are also a diverse range of job opportunities in social media and sustainability that are emerging. Green-collar jobs and new jobs in social media mean new roles and responsibilities in marketing, public relations, and customer service.

"The era of cheap oil has lead to an unsustainable system where it is (was) economically viable to ship goods...all across the globe...With this era coming to an end, the principles of sustainability dictate that we source our food and other goods as close to home as possible...This parallels the decentralization of information that’s been driven by social media and the ability to produce (grow) our own content and to become active participants in media as opposed to passive consumers....The Internet did for communication what cheap oil did for consumer goods. It brought the world seemingly close together."

Social media and sustainability started as grassroots movements. Now sustainability is an increasingly important part of government policy and corporate culture. President Obama's Green vision for America and the sustainable initiatives of companies like Wal-Mart illustrate the convergence of social media and a Green message. For governments and companies alike, social media is an increasingly integral component of their communications efforts.

Social media and sustainability are still relatively new as mainstream trends, and as such, examples of abuse and exploitation abound, but "we look forward to the day when green and social can be taken for granted. When all media is social and all products and energy are green."

Together social media and sustainability have forever changed business, politics, and culture. Social media not only enables people to find one another, it is also a powerful tool enabling business to more effectively target their audience.
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Next: The Power of Social Media & the Importance of Market Segmentation / Small Business Guide to Social Media / Shortening Your Sales Cycle With Social Media / Twitter / Social Media and ROI


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