Thursday, May 28, 2009

For Those Who Doubt: Obama’s 'Renewable Energy Revolution' Speech

Recently, some have questioned the President's commitment to confronting climate change. People like Greenpeace's US executive director Phil Radford have gone as far as saying that the President is "missing in action" on global warming. A May 18 Time magazine article asked the question, "Is Obama's Environmental Agenda Losing Out?" and a June 1 article is entitled "Is the President Green Enough?"

Many critics do not seem to understand the limitations of presidential power. With this in mind here is a brief primer on some of the President's relevant responsibilities. The President is chief guardian of the economy, in this role he is concerned with the general prosperity of the country. But as the chief of his party he is also tasked with helping Democrats get (re)elected, so as he lays out the nation's economic priorities the President must be sensitive to the concerns of his party member's constituencies.

The President is a living symbol of the nation and an inspiring example of a chief of state, but as Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson said, "the law comes from Congress." Although the President cannot enact legislation, within the realm of his authority, he has shown strong support for environmental initiatives. He is providing funding for renewable energy as part of the recovery act and he regularly communicates his support for a broad range of environmental actions including the proposed climate change bill that will impose much needed cap-and-trade legislation.

Yesterday, Wednesday, May 27, 2009 President Obama delivered a speech at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas where he once again reaffirmed his administration's leadership on alternative energy. What follows is an abridged transcript of the highlights.

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Like millions of other Americans, we come to this beautiful city for the sights and for the sounds -- and today we come for the sun.

Because right now, we're standing near the largest solar electric plant of its kind in the entire Western Hemisphere -- the entire Western Hemisphere. More than 72,000 solar panels built on part of an old landfill provide 25 percent of the electricity for the 12,000 people who live and work here at Nellis. That's the equivalent of powering about 13,200 homes during the day.

It's a project that took about half a year to complete, created 200 jobs, and will save the United States Air Force, which is the largest consumer of energy in the federal government, nearly $1 million -- $1 million a year. It will also reduce harmful carbon pollution by 24,000 tons per year, which is the equivalent of removing 4,000 cars from our roads. Most importantly, this base serves as a shining example of what's possible when we harness the power of clean, renewable energy to build a new, firmer foundation for economic growth.

Now, that's the kind of foundation we're trying to build all across America. One hundred days ago, in the midst of the worst economic crisis in half a century, we passed the most sweeping economic recovery act in history -- a plan designed to save jobs, create new ones, and put money in people's pockets. It's a plan designed not only to revive the economy in the short term, but to rebuild the economy over the long term.

And 100 days later, we're already seeing results. And today, we're releasing a report that details the progress that we've made in every region of the country.

In these last few months, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has saved or created nearly 150,000 jobs -- jobs building solar panels and wind turbines, making homes and buildings more energy efficient. They're the jobs of teachers and police officers and nurses who have not been laid off as a consequence of this Recovery Act. They're the jobs fixing roads and bridges, jobs at start-ups and small businesses, and jobs that will put thousands of young Americans to work this summer.

For the thousands of families whose homes have been made more energy efficient, it's also saved them about $350 on their energy bills. Other Americans saved thousands by taking advantage of the tax credits the Recovery Act has provided for the purchase of a new home, or a new fuel-efficient car, or energy-efficient cooling and heating systems, windows, and insulation. And all of this has helped to fuel demand that is helping businesses put more Americans back to work.

But this is just the beginning. There are still too many Americans out of work, and too many who still worry that their job may be next. There are still too many families struggling to pay the bills, and too many businesses struggling to keep their doors open. And that's why we will continue to implement the Recovery Act as quickly and effectively as possible over the next two years. We're just at the start of this Recovery Act. We are going to keep on going through this year and into next year, because we are going to make sure that not only are we putting people back to work, but we're laying the foundation for a better economy. And that's why my administration will continue an unrelenting, day-by-day effort to fight for economic recovery on all fronts.

Now, I just want to emphasize, even as we clear away some of the wreckage and debris of this extraordinary recession, I've also said that our next task is making sure that this doesn't happen again. We can't return to the same bubble-and-bust economy, borrow-and-spend economy based on maxed-out credit cards and overleveraged banks and financial profits that were only real on paper -- see, that young lady agrees with me. (Laughter.) We have to lay a new foundation for prosperity -- a foundation constructed on the pillars that will grow our economy and help America compete in the 21st century.

And a renewable energy revolution is one of those pillars. We know the cost of our oil addiction all too well. It's the cost measured by the billions of dollars we send to nations with unstable or unfriendly regimes. We help to fund both sides of the war on terror because of our addiction to oil. It's the cost of our vulnerability to the volatility of the oil markets. It's the cost we feel in shifting weather patterns that are already causing unprecedented droughts and more intense storms. It's a cost we can't bear any longer.

Today, projects like the one at Nellis are still the exception to the rule, unfortunately. America produces less than 3 percent of our electricity through renewable sources of energy like wind and solar -- less than 3 percent. In contrast, Denmark produces 20 percent of their electricity through wind. We pioneered solar technology, but we've fallen behind countries like Germany and Japan in generating it, even though they get less sun than we do. They certainly get less sun than Nevada. (Laughter.)

So we've got a choice. We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, sending our money and our wealth away, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy. We can hand over the jobs of the future to our competitors, or we can confront what they've already recognized as the great opportunity of our time: The nation that leads the world in creating new sources of clean energy will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy. And that's the nation I want America to be and I know that's the nation you want America to be. (Applause.)

Already, we've made more progress on this front in the last four months than we have in the last three decades. Last week, I brought auto executives, labor unions, environmental groups, Democrats, and Republicans together to set the toughest-ever national fuel-efficiency standard for our cars and trucks -- a standard that will save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of the vehicles sold in the next five years.

In Congress, leaders like Harry Reid are also working to pass a historic energy plan that will help end our dependence on foreign oil while preventing the worst consequences of climate change. It's a system -- it's a plan that will create a system of clean energy incentives that will create good, American jobs and crack down on polluters who pollute the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Finally, by the end of the next two years, the Recovery Act will have enabled a doubling of our nation's capacity to generate renewable energy by investing in projects just like the one on this Air Force base. And today, I'm announcing the availability of funding for two Recovery Act programs that will help us reach that goal.

The first is a solar energy technologies program that will help replicate the success of the Nellis project in cities and states across America -- because in this case, what happens in Vegas should not stay in Vegas. (Laughter and applause.) We want everybody to know what we're doing here in Vegas. (Applause.) We'll invest in the development and deployment of solar technology wherever it can thrive and we'll find the best ways to integrate solar power into our electric grid.

The second program I'm announcing will help develop the use of geothermal energy in America. As many of you in Nevada know, geothermal energy is literally defined as "heat from the earth." This heat can then be harnessed as a clean, affordable, and reliable source of energy. And already, Nevada has 17 industrial scale geothermal plants, and your capacity to generate this type of power is expected to increase in the next few years. The program we're announcing will help accelerate this process -- here, and across America. So this is something that we expect will -- (applause.) -- this will create more jobs, it will create more businesses, and more affordable electricity for the American people.

Now, from where we stand today, the road to economic recovery is still long. We've got a lot of work to do. There are a lot of folks who are still hurting out there. And the road to a new, clean energy economy is even longer. We're not going to do it overnight. But after four months of this administration and 100 days of this Recovery Act, we have carved out a path toward progress. It's a path that begins in places just like this Air Force base, where ordinary citizens tap into their sense of innovation and ingenuity to reinvent the world around them.

This base has been known as "The Home of the Fighter Pilot." Now it's the home of the largest solar energy installation of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. (Applause.) And by the way, the two concepts are connected because it is good for our national security if we've got more control over our own energy use. And that's the story that will be told all across America, in cities and towns, where a shuttered factory reopens to build wind turbines; where a hospital treats patients with new technology and pulls up their history with new electronic records; where a young entrepreneur with a nest egg and a good idea starts a business and creates more jobs.

That's how we move America forward. This is how we've always moved forward. It happens slowly, in fits and starts, but it always happens surely when we are dedicated to bringing about change. It happens not by chance or by luck, but because the American people keep pushing ahead -- persevering through hardship, growing through challenge, building something firmer and stronger in place of what was. That's the work we've begun in these last few months, and with your help, this is the work we will continue to do in the days and months ahead.

For all of you who are serving in our armed forces, we want to make sure that our civilians are mobilizing and working on behalf of this country just as ably as you are. We salute you, we thank you. Thank you, everybody. God bless you, God bless the United States of America. Thank you. (Applause.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Social Media and ROI

Return on Investment (ROI) is a resource-allocation tool and measure of performance. The widely employed formula for ROI is Profit/Investment. Although social media is a promising new marketing channel, efforts to measure social media's ROI are fraught with confusion. In this article you will find tips, technology, and important questions to help you measure social media's ROI for your business.

In a May 19, 2009 Marketing Profs article, Sharan Jagpal, PhD, the president of Strategic Management & Marketing Consultants and a professor of marketing at Rutgers Business School, asked will the pursuit of ROI lead you to rags or riches? As he point out, the "unwillingness to replace old business models, strategies, and metrics with new ones is causing some companies hardship and leading many others to their deaths."

As Jagpal explains "an overarching truth about business: The best marketing strategies, those that yield long-term value, are based not on trends, anecdotal evidence, or past "success stories" but on new scientific methods and metrics explicitly developed for analyzing often-imprecise data."

With today's fragmented audiences, and the mix of traditional and new media, you need to work much harder to stay on the radar and gain share of mind. To reach your audience you need to integrate traditional and new media, likewise your research needs to include both data culled from social technologies and more conventional research. However when social media and conventional marketing are integrated, it can add to the challenge of measuring ROI.

With 150 million blogs, Facebook's nearly 200 million users, LinkedIn's 30 million subscribers, and tens of millions of daily tweets, few businesses can afford to ignore the reach of social media. According to an article entitled Why Social Media is Worth Your Time, "[t]hat spells significant opportunity—whether your customers live around the world or across the street, you can find a lot of them online."

Getting the most for your marketing dollar is important, particularly in a serious downturn and although social media can be a powerful and cost effective part of an effective marketing strategy, many are struggling to find ways to measure its efficacy.

Difficulties Measuring Social Media's ROI

Despite the opportunities associated with social media, there are numerous issues that confound and overwhelm, and this is particularly true for the small business owner trying to manage his own marketing.

A recent eModeration article reviewed the arguments associated with social media, and as this article reiterates, measuring ROI in social metrics is not without controversy. The article quotes a MarketingProfs article in which David Alston describes the major difficulty, “adapting traditional metrics to fit social media [is] akin to sticking a square peg in a round hole.” And as reported in the same article, a recent MarketingSherpa poll indicated that the inability to measure ROI is, "one of the most significant barriers to the adoption of social media tactics."

"The number of people and hours we invest in [social media] is huge," Mainardo de Nardis, the new global CEO of Omnicom Group's OMD Global, said. "The revenue is small but we can't afford not to do it but can't afford to do it. There's an imbalance and we have to find a way to rebalance it."

Either because the ROI is hard to measure or because it is too time consuming, many small businesses shy away from social media. One of the main problems is that online marketers are more familiar with traditional quantitative metrics and social media marketing often requires qualitative measurement.

As pointed out in eModeration article, "Measuring the impact of online advertising used to be relatively easy. It was all about analytics: Unique Visitors, Page Views, Cost per Clicks: lovely, measurable, safe, defined metrics. But those engaged in social media must now attempt a way of measuring not just the online advertising within social media, but the framework surrounding that advertising."

What To Measure

Social media's ROI can be calculated using the standard methods used to measure conventional PR initiatives. However, this approach needs to be to supplemented with more dynamic assessments. According to Connie Benson "Web Analytics provide traditional attributes of page views, unique site visitors, etc. This alone isn’t adequate anymore because customers are talking to each other. It’s about engagement with your customers, your potential customers, and your critics, at every level of social interaction that modern communication has to offer." That is why online marketing efforts are increasingly geared towards new metrics that are following what is happening in social networks.

Barbara Bix explains that marketers measure the ROI of their social media investments, in most cases, "using many of the same metrics they do today, such as the cost of moving prospects to the next level at every stage of the buying process—and the speed at which prospects move. What will change most are the processes and tools that marketers use to capture, analyze, and report data. As with email marketing and search, expect social media developers to bundle in platform-specific features to accomplish these important tasks."

Three years ago Jeremiah Owyang provided an excellent guide on how to measure your social media programme. He recommends measuring the following attributes:

Activity: Web Analytics
Tone: (Sentiment) opinion
Velocity: (Distance/Time) speed your message is traveling over a given time.
Attention: (Duration on site)
Participation (Interaction) click comments, trackbacks, embed.
Qualitative attributes (comments, what did they say, what did they mean)

eModeration suggests the following chronological approach:

Listen, understand the conversation, then participate
Measure the number of conversations
Monitor the percentage increase of conversations over time
Measure the reduced buying cycle & reduce support costs by encouraging self-support
Increased sales due to increased customer satisfaction in product due to involving them in product development cycle
Increased efficiency in developing products due to customer feedback at various stages
Minimize brand damage by responding quickly to customer’s concerns online

They further suggest the following monthly reports:

Ongoing definition of objectives
Web analytics
Interaction - Trends in members, topics, discovery of new communities
Qualitative Quotes - helpful for feedback & marketing
Recommendations - Based on interactions with the customers
Benchmark based on previous report

An AdAge.com article reviews the results of a new social media ROI metric that combines the ComScore and Dunnhumby panels into a single-source database. According to their recent research, even relatively small outlays on social networks by package-goods brands can result in offline sales impact and deliver positive return on investment. This method holds promise for more-accurately measuring many smaller efforts.

As far as blogs are concerned, a post entitled The Customer Collective, suggests three qualities to consider when assessing a blog's ROI: Reach, Relevance, and Credibility. Although you can determine Reach and Relevance with quantitative measures, Credibility is a more qualitative assessment.

The multidisciplinary research of Sharan Jagpal stresses the importance of the marketing-finance interface. In Jagpal's view, "the standard ROI criterion is likely to lead to poor decision making, because it fails to consider the tradeoff between risk and return. It is essential to compare strategies using the risk-adjusted ROI, since different marketing policies involve different combinations of risk and return. Depending on the magnitude of the uncertainties involved, after comparing risk and return, many companies could well find that it may be better for them to focus on marketing strategies with lower, not higher, average profits...[Even] examining your risk-adjusted ROI will not always be enough.... consider whether audience duplication would boost or reduce its media productivity."

According to Jagpal, "when key players go beyond conventional metrics (e.g., ROI) and work together to apply new concepts and metrics to measure marketing productivity, your company can seize the hour."

New Technology

Thankfully some new technologies are being developed that make it easier to follow social media. eModeration reviews some very useful tools that will help you to obtain the best ROI. IAB’s ‘Social Media Ad Metrics Definitions’ provide a clear framework and metrics to help advertisers measure their ad effectiveness in three main social media areas.

Social media sites: Unique Visitors, Cost per unique visitor, Page views, Visits, Return Visits, Interaction rate, Time spent, Video installs, Relevant actions taken.

Blogs: Conversation size (no. of sites, links and reach of a conversation whose content includes conversation phrases relevant to the client), Site relevance (Conversation density, Author credibility, Content freshness and relevance)

Widgets and Social Media Applications – Installs (no. Applications), Active Users, Audience Profile, Unique User Reach, Growth, Influence, Installs – (no. installed per User)

There are a number of other technological solutions available that monitor discussion of your brand online and options to track & create custom reports. Tools for social media monitoring include Techrigy SM2 and Tinker, they are examples of efficient tools that measure brand presence, brand perception, opinion & tone. And they also help to identify the conversations that the brand should be engaging.

For a review of 67 social media/web/reputation management tools and sites see Social Media Today.

Questions

Embarking on social media marketing may be efficient, but it augers a lot of questions. An article written by Pete Blackshaw, exec VP of Neilson Online Digital Strategic Services, suggests ten critical questions we need to be asking to effectively leverage earned media marketing:

What is the primary source of earned media, advertising campaigns or brand experience (e.g., product meeting expectations, customer service fulfilling needs)?

What role does trust and authenticity play in the earned-media equation, and what steps must we take to keep the end product as credible and persuasive as possible?

What is the role of what we might call "spurned media," or earned media that goes negative?

What specific brand issues or experiences have the highest likelihood of triggering earned media? Product performance? Customer service? Employee?

How do we develop norms and benchmarks for appreciating the degree to which traditional (even offline) media feeds earned media?

How much of an "earned-media multiplier" do we need?

How do we reframe the operational mind-set to nurture longer-term earned media?

Should media- or marketing-mix planners invest as much time calculating how much budget goes to call centers or employee retention programs as to paid-media gross rating points?

How do we organize marketing -- how do we reconcile our silos -- in an earned media landscape?

Can a house divided long endure?

Conclusion

According to eModeration, three camps have emerged in response to the issue of measuring social media's ROI. Some are resistant to any attempt to measure social media, others just want to see the click through rate. Still others believe that measuring social media's ROI is an important part of trying to get a complete picture of people’s reactions to and interactions with their brand.

Marketing strategies are driven by return on investment and social media is no different in this respect. They have to make business sense, but when it comes to implementation of social media, particularly when paired with sustainable offerings, added attention must be given to ensure transparency.

Social media tools can track effectiveness or sequester capture information about interested parties. And although Mr Blackshaw has noted that, "just showing evidence that you care about what the consumer says incubates earned media," to successfully leverage social media's full power requires a more substantial effort.

One of the greatest challenges to social media researchers is finding and compiling relevant data online. However, thanks to new search technologies this task is now easier, quicker, and less expensive to accomplish. For the small business, the cost of listening in on social media can be very high and/or very time consuming, but this new technology should significantly decrease the cost and time investment associated with market-data acquisition.

As far as listening in to social networks is concerned, new technologies provide greater efficiencies because they give you quicker access to more data in real time. And you can mine data online because digital data is often available in archives. When it comes to communicating your message, these technologies may also provide better ROI, because it's quicker and easier to create brief messages than whole communications.

Despite difficulties associated with measuring ROI, social media is simply too efficient to ignore. Mr Blackshaw quotes, Fred Wilson who makes the case for earned versus paid media. Wilson suggests the media universe comes down to a blend of paid media and earned media, and in his words, "earned media, can be had a lot less expensively." But as he is quick to point out, "there are still a lot of marketers out there buying their media when they could earn it, and earn it a lot less expensively."

Social media is part of the tremendous wave of innovation we are seeing on the Web. Social media is an ever more powerful marketing channel, particularly when paired with ROI assessment tools in the form of new technologies like those that enhance search capabilities. Social media employing web analytics, buzz monitoring and community management listening can help to zero-in on your target demographic, hone your message and preempt (or at least manage) customer dissatisfaction.

To assess the ROI on your social media investment you must define your goal and establish benchmarks. Perhaps most importantly engaging social media involves reevaluating your customer in the context of social networks. Social media exponentially amplifies the fact that a satisfied customer is priceless while an unhappy customer can prove disastrous.

But the new metrics can go much deeper than addressing a complaint or logging a glowing testimonial. The new metrics not only monitor discussion around topics relevant to your brand, you can also find the number of people talking about it and their level of passion. A further advantage of new social media metrics is that they can measure not only whether people are engaged, but how they are engaging.

Social media not only measures what your audience is saying, effective communications can shape how your audience thinks. New technologies are helping to improve ROI measurement for social media, but as reviewed above, properly adapting and implementing metrics involves studying relevant attributes and answering important questions.

If used correctly, new technologies can help to level the playing field by making it possible for small businesses to leverage the reach, and assess the efficacy of social media.

Related Articles

Twitter for Small Business
Shortening Your Sales Cycle With Social Media
Small Business Guide to Social Media
The Power of Social Media and the Importance of Market Segmentation
Social Media and Sustainability
Digital Marketing for the Young and Not so Young
Digital Marketing Will Thrive in a Downturn
Digital Marketing: Making the Most of Your Marketing in a Downturn
The Growth of Digital Marketing
The Green Market's Series on Mobile Marketing

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twitter for Small Business

Led by Twitter, microblogging is big and growing every day. Twitter allows members to talk about literally anything, provided they communicate in allotments of no more than 140 characters. There are millions of people who currently use Twitter, by some people's estimates 5% of people with a computer are on Twitter, the majority of whom use the service to communicate information about their life.

Participants vary greatly in their frequency of use and popularity. The President has more than one million followers, Ashton, Oprah and most recently Eminem are all Twitter superstars. Although using cryptic Tweets to promote the latest hip-hop release to Millenials makes perfect sense, there appears to be some confusion about how to make Twitter work for small business. Here are a few steps to help Twitter neophytes put the power of Twitter to work for small business.

Registering

Complete the Twitter profile page and make sure that it contains all the right information (ie fill out your profile section and post a good picture). Register all the variations of your names with Twitter. (as with domain names if you don't register the name someone else can).

Finding People and Listening

Find and follow people who are related to your business. Find people who are talking about topics that are relevant to your business and start following those people. If you wade through all the noise, listening in on microbloggers can provide a candid snapshot of what consumers are thinking in real time. This information can enable you to manage and even preempt consumer concerns.

Bad news travels fast through viral networks, and addressing complaints as they emerge can go a long way to protect your company's reputation. You can address a negative comment directly with the person who made the post, or you can post on your company's site.

There are many free tools that you can use to monitor what people are saying about your business, (Google Alerts, Google News, Yahoo Alerts, Technorati.com, BlogPulse.com). BoardTracker.com measures the world of online forums, Keotag.com monitors what's going on in the social arena and there are numerous paid services are also available.

Frequency of Messages (Tweets)

Post your message through Twitter's web site, or a host of mobile and computer applications. Begin with something like basic information on a new product. Tweet at least once per day and up to 3 or 4 times per day, be active enough so that your followers do not forget who you are but not so active that they begin to ignore your tweets.

Simple Marketing Techniques

Content is key, Tweet interesting or informative information, talk about what you do, provide general tips and helpful information. Include things like trade shows you plan to attend, good news about your company, promotions, or even offering discount codes for your products. The idea behind using Twitter to promote your business, so share things people would want to know.

To get noticed by search engines, use your company and product names in your Tweets. Use RT (retweet something that someone else tweeted). RT will help you to get noticed because people like to see their posts retweeted. Send an auto direct message to welcome your new followers but always remember to communicate with people and not at them. Occasionally post links, but always try to make it relevant to your audience. Use tweets to highlight a blog post or link to an interesting article, make sure to indicate a brief summary of what the article is about.

An analysis of 3651 random Twitter accounts suggested that to get more followers for your business you should have a Bio (82.3% of unsuccessful Twitter accounts have their biography information missing). You should also try to provide more than 3 links per 20 tweets and post more than 0.960 updates per day. If you are unable to provide more than 3 links per 20 tweets, then try to post more than 5.857 updates per day. Finally this analysis suggests you will need more than 222.5 days of usage to get an adequate amount of followers.

Twitter can be both an effective listening tool and a medium to communicate with customers. Twitter enables businesses to recruit followers and disseminate messages, it is also a great way to create urgency. As a social network, Twitter not only involves listening it is also about communicating. Interact with people, reply to people, be personable. This is a social network, get to know others and let others get to know the person behind the business. Despite the informality, never use unprofessional language. Remember Twitter is a public record, be sure that whatever you tweet will not tarnish you or your businesses reputation.

Twitter is not without challenges and problems. To add followers and communicate effectively requires the right message. Ultimately the goal of any business is to drive sales and driving sales involves using the right Tweets. Tweets are by definition very short communications, therefore the challenge is to include both the message and a call to action within the allotted space of 140 characters.

According to a recent AdAge.com interview with online developer Matt Mayer, "the main problem is the nature of Twitter itself, which, of course, fosters "discussions" that are by definition piecemeal, and are therefore often opaque to those joining the discussion late, or just attempting to eavesdrop."

To address this problem, Matt Mayer created a clever new site called What the Trend, it crowd-sources brief explanations of Twitter trends, Wikipedia-style. Perhaps the most glaring problem for Twitter is that even though they are now 3 years old, they do not have a revenue model. However as Mr. Mayer's site illustrates, "the whole community of developers out there [is] making huge numbers of tools and clients to interact with Twitter, they can just sit there and see these other people effectively build extra value for them. So while obviously everyone knows that Twitter doesn't really have a business model at the moment, they are certainly building an impressive system."

Celebrities are leveraging Twitter to the max. For musicians Twitter is a great means of engaging fans. AdAge reports that Eminem's album is the most highly anticipated hip hop release of the year, thanks in part to his marketing team's use of Twitter.

Dennis Dennehy, head of marketing and publicity at Interscope, said Twitter has been the perfect platform for Eminem. "By the nature of the way the information came out, you've had a trail of breadcrumbs to the album." Eminem's use of Twitter has yielded impressive results. Eminem.com reached 113,868 unique visitors during April, and at least 41,704 people within just one week, he was also the most-talked-about artist on Twitter the week before the album's release. Elliott Wilson, founder and CEO of RapRadar.com, said, "To me, he is taking album marketing to a whole new level," he added. "It truly is an event." And Eminem is not alone, Trent Reznor's marketing people developed their own cryptic Twitter strategy.

What these promotional efforts demonstrate is that Twitter can build anticipation as part of a holistic promotion. Brands need to diversify and use different tactics for different purposes and microblogging is an increasingly important part of the mix. However, despite it's popularity, Twitter will not magically increase your sales overnight.

Stars like Eminem can capitalize on their celebrity, but for small businesses, search is the key to making microblogging work. Twitter continues to improve their search engine, it can now crawl the links people add in their tweets, not just the text they tweet and it will sort search results by Twitter users' reputation, not just by chronology. Even though the Twitter search feature allows you to search for anything in the millions of Tweets posted every day, scanning keywords related to your business can be a highly time consuming task.

But as reported in AdAge.com, a recently launched technology will make search manageable by enabling businesses to cull information from amidst billions of tweets. Developed by Glam Media, its called Tinker and where Twitter is based on following people, Tinker is about following events. This system can automatically find, aggregate and display positive Twitter chatter about your brand. It can also filter out almost anything including profanity and competitors. Tinker is the place to go to see what events people are Tweeting about. It collects all of your brand chatter and assembles all the conversations on your brand in real time.

Twitter is a great way to communicate messages like the launch of a new product, or a sales event. And with its ability to instantly put together all the chatter about your company, Tinker makes the task of microblog monitoring and tweeting much more manageable.

Peter Hershberg, managing partner at Reprise Media said, "It's like 2000 all over again and we're going to look back in 10 years and laugh at how people viewed Twitter and others -- and laugh at how they were blind to the bigger picture."

Microblogging and other social media are fast becoming fixtures, learning to work with these tools will help your company to stay current in the rapidly changing marketing landscape. Small business owners really have no choice, because if you do not control the message, somebody else will.

Next: Social Media and ROI

Related Articles:

Shortening Your Sales Cycle With Social Media
Small Business Guide to Social Media
The Power of Social Media and the Importance of Market Segmentation
Social Media and Sustainability
Digital Marketing for the Young and Not so Young
Digital Marketing Will Thrive in a Downturn
Digital Marketing: Making the Most of Your Marketing in a Downturn
The Growth of Digital Marketing
The Green Market's Series on Mobile Marketing

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Shortening Your Sales Cycle with Social Media

Incorporating social media into an integrated marketing campaign can drive traffic and shorten the buying cycle. Social media is a powerful new way of reaching and connecting with people online. However, as with any new marketing channel there is a sharp learning curve to adapt the new media to your company's individual needs.

As we transition towards the inclusion of these new marketing channels, some small business owners are understandably weary of the unknowns associated with the new media. Periods of transition are often difficult, as explained in a recent AdAge article, "It involves chipping away at and evolving complex business practices carried over from the 20th Century." The reach of social media ensures that there is no turning away from this new marketing channel.

With the proliferation of interest in social media, small business cannot afford this powerful marketing channel. With so many marketing channels and such a fractured audience, the challenge of effective marketing is to create a campaign that is effective and consistent across media platforms. "Integration has long been talked about as the holy grail of brand communications. Socialization of media warrants finding it, and fast."

Integrated Marketing Communications implies a holistic approach to marketing. It aims to ensure consistency of message and the complementary use of media. The concept includes online and offline marketing channels. Online marketing channels include any e-marketing campaigns or programs, from search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click, affiliate, email, banner to latest web related channels for webinar, blog, micro-blogging, RSS, podcast, and Internet TV. Offline marketing channels are traditional print (newspaper, magazine), mail order, public relations, industry relations, billboard, radio, and television. A company develops its integrated marketing communication program using all the elements of the marketing mix (product, price, place, and promotion).

In a recent Marketing Profs article, Barbara Bix shows us how businesses can use social media to shorten the sales cycle. According to Ms. Bix, "shortening the sales cycle—and accelerating revenue—begins with shrinking the buying process."

Finding & Listening to Your Audience: Determine who needs your capabilities most using conventional marketing-research tactics (e.g., mining internal sales and service data, buying reports from industry analysts, and interviewing prospects and customers). Find online communities that contain your audience. If you cannot find an appropriate discussion, create a discussion of your own. Listen to what prospects are saying on these social-networking sites.

Help Your Audience to Recognize Need and Your Solution: After identifying the target audience and pinpointing the most-promising prospects, foster a trusting environment in which you can share advice, shape relevant discussions and help your prospects to recognize that your solution will address their needs. Develop a "drip campaign" involving repeated attempts and multiple communications to change perceptions. Market through public relations or when you know who you want to reach deploy a more cost-effective direct-marketing techniques. (Most conventional mail has shifted online, largely to reduce costs associated with production and distribution).

Getting Your Audience Ready To Buy: Create urgency through microblog communications and leveraging the social community. Create buzz about your solution that prospective users just can't live without. Use testimonials and case studies to raise awareness of the benefits prospects are missing (prospects often find unsolicited customer reviews, and spontaneous comments in chat rooms compelling).

Let Your Audience Know You Exist: Social media will supplement conventional PR channels when it comes to helping prospective buyers find your company. A prospect will search for articles and buyers' guides in conventional media both online as well as in print. These channels will help them identify search terms, or connect to links that will help them build their knowledge about options. Prospects will also hear about your company at a social network where your target audience congregates. Seed the conversation by identifying key influencers and communicating with them in advance.

Let Your Audience Know That You Meet Their Needs: Prospects must come to associate your company with all the solutions they may need rather than just the one they became aware of first. Participate in multiple conversations on multiple topics so you can reference the different solutions you offer and the unique benefits you provide to the audience you are addressing.

Communicate Frequently so Your Audience Thinks of You When Needs Arise: Stay high on your prospects' radar through regular updates. Frequent communications elevate your messages above the clutter. As broadcast media is giving way to narrowcasting, publish in multiple venues.

Make Sure You Have What Your Audience Wants: After listening online to get ideas, deepen your insights by employing secondary research to size markets and qualitative research to rank requirements.

Make Sure The Price is Right: Set prices commensurate with value. Through social networking sites listen to get a sense for how badly prospects need your solutions. Pay attention to what prospects say about the limitations of current solutions and what benefits they could derive if they could find an alternative that addressed shortcomings. Use this information to set prices and formulate the value propositions for your marketing messages.

Be Everywhere to Uncover Obstacles and Make it Easy for Your Audience to Buy: Online information speeds up prospects' buying processes, but it is important to make it easy for your audience to buy. Uncover buying obstacles through discussions on social networks and traditional approaches like customer interviews or interviews with service personnel and sales people. Either to position your brand or take corrective action in the event of misinformation, maximize your online presence by being active on all forums where relevant conversations are taking place. Remember, "it takes multiple impressions to make an impact and even more to build the credibility required to win a prospect's business."

By adding social media to your marketing mix you can enhance brand awareness, drive traffic and shorten the sales cycle. Social media can level the playing field for small business, however, as Ms. Bix astutely points out, the key is to "successfully integrate social media with conventional marketing at every stage of the buying process."

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Next: Twitter / Social Media and ROI


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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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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

SunPower News: Share Offering and Convertible Debentures

Over the past couple of months prior to this week, SunPower's SPWRA class A stock has been hovering just a few dollars above it's 52 week low of just over $18 a share. Over the coarse of the last two months It has consistently under performed compared to the rest of The Green Market's solar stock picks.

There are a lot of good reasons why, even in today's economy, solar is attractive to investors. Early in the year, The Green Market ignored the pundits and benefited from SPWRA's advances through market timing that capitalized on the Obama Effect. However as predicted by The Green Market, the recession has caused volatility even amongst solar's strongest players. None of The Green Market's solar stock picks have been impacted more than SPWRA. As of last week SPWRA was down 32.3 percent for the year making it the biggest loser amongst The Green Market's solar stock.

The last couple of months have been interesting for the solar sector and SPWRA has seen even more erratic movement than it's solar peers. For the week ending on March 7 SPWRA led losses in The Green Market's solar stock and declined by 16 percent. Even when stocks were up, SPWRA showed the smallest increases. For example, for the week ending on March 14 when the stock market was experiencing its best week since November 2008, as all the Green Market Stock were seeing double digit advances (led by ESLR's 37 percent), SunPower posted the smallest gains of only 4 percent.

On April 23, 2009 SunPower reported a $4.8 million loss in the first quarter, as demand was hurt by the credit crunch and the weak economy. It also cut its earnings outlook for the year. These results were well below Wall Street expectations and this sent shares down 7 percent in after-hours trading.

As the firms CEO, Tom Werner in a statement, "The first quarter of 2009 was the most challenging quarter we've seen since SunPower went public in 2005. We have responded to current market conditions by moving to a demand-driven manufacturing model and reducing our planned operating expenses to align with our adjusted revenue outlook."

Mehdi Hosseini of Friedman Billings Ramsey wrote, "continued weakness in end-market demand, uncertainties associated with the business model for both SPWRA and First Solar and increased downside risk to company management guidance/consensus estimates are keeping us on the sidelines and actually have us incrementally more cautious into Q1 earnings."

In a bid to raise capital, SunPower Offered shares of class A common stock and senior convertible debentures last Tuesday, April 28. Convertible debentures are equity shares issued at a premium on the present value in the future. SunPower intends to use the proceeds for general corporate purposes, operational expenses (e.g. debt repayment) and working capital. This includes acquisitions and strategic transactions of business, technologies, or products.

Convertible debentures can enable a company to secure capital less expensively. Convertible debentures can also offer a security measure from erroneous risk analysis and extenuate difficulties related to financing.

SunPower's public offerings of shares and debentures closed yesterday, Monday, May 4. In a statement, SunPower said it received $417.6 million from the offerings of 10.35 million shares of class A common stock and $230 million of 4.75 percent senior convertible debentures due 2014.

From the issuers perspective the key benefit of raising money by selling convertible bonds is a reduced cash interest payment however in exchange for the reduced benefit of interest payments the value of shareholders equity is reduced to the stock dilution when bond holders convert their bonds into shares. Yesterday SunPower announced that the offering of common stock and sale of convertible debentures will reduce the company's 2009 earnings per share by about 10 percent from its most recent forecast.

In this recession, financing is important to everyone in the solar industry, it is also vital for SunPower to maintain economies of scale. Other solar firms like SunTech (STP) are managing growth and their solar panels are now price competitive with SunPower. To remain competitive SunPower Corp. had to find ways to finance large scale projects and acquisitions.

Raising capital will only enhance SunPower's staying power in this difficult market. Although we may not yet be out of the woods of recession, two months of growth in the stock market indicate that this is more than a rally in a bear market. Although more volatility can be expected, increasing oil prices should help the solar sector. As of the opening of markets today, SPWRA was over $30 dollars a share.