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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Social Media Marketing's Rules Of Engagement

Rules Of Engagement originally uploaded by Lightblb.
Rules Of EngagementThe subject has come up multiple times in the past few weeks, and each time I realize that there's still quite a lot to teach about the rules of engagement for social media marketing. You see, they differ from those we are used to in traditional marketing.

Take the notion of how to address others in conversation.

Traditional marketing tends to shout, interrupt and force distinct notions on others. It doesn't listen very well - if at all - and certainly doesn't welcome other perspectives. Remember The Break Up? Not very social.

Traditional marketing is comfortable hiding behind a corporate wall, speaking in the third person and anonymously.

Social media marketing isn't; it prefers to speak in the first person, identifying who's talking and possibly even divulging a few human foibles that indicate accessibility and human-ness. It wants a dialogue, interaction and genuine interaction.

It's all part 'n parcel of being authentic, not pretending to be someone you're not, being transparent and open about associations, affiliations and possible conflicts of interest, and generally wanting to engage in conversation around a product, brand, service, subject matter that you feel really strongly about.

What I like about these rules of engagement is that they truly engage - both the content creator and the content consumer. They provide that element of realness and human-ness that enables someone who knows nothing about you to express curiosity and interest and then possibly start a relationship. How powerful! How engaging, and how grounding, too. You know what to expect and can react accordingly.

Rules of engagement take two forms: how you present yourself and commit yourself to behaving in your public forum [e.g., a blog] - how you plan to react to comments, the rules you expect others to abide by, words of caution about privacy and that your views are indeed your own personal views about things...

Rules of engagement also affect your own internal organization. They set the stage for employees to interact in this newly public and social environment so they generate positive momentum for the brand, product, service rather than real or perceived trouble.

The best guidelines I have come across are those created by SHIFT Communications in PR Squared's post titled Corporate Social Media Policy: Top 10 Guidelines in a document listing the Top 10 Guidelines for Social Media Participation at a Company. Read it, internalize it and then consider how to apply it to your company.

Other points of reference, based on Understanding Social Media Guidelines for Employees, are IBM and Intel.

What do you think of social media marketing's rules of engagement? Do they make sense? Do you see how they can benefit your business? What would you change?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wear-Dated Website Redesign: Case Study

Wear-Dated websiteOn June 1, 2008, we launched the redesigned, social-media friendly and dynamic Wear-Dated website. This case study explores the steps taken.

Our previous website hadn't been updated in three years. Because it was primarily flash based, we could neither update content nor our retailer database without expending significant resources. Furthermore, navigation was difficult and unintuitive; using the website to support activities in the marketplace wasn't possible; and the site had little organic visibility, depending heavily on PPC [Pay Per Click] campaigns.

We needed to update the website to reflect our new By The Foot marketing campaign and direct consumers to retailers selling carpet made with Wear-Dated carpet fiber.

The original website redesign concept consisted of updating the look/feel of the site and address the critical issues preventing timely retailer database updates. However, was more possible?

In January 2007, I attended Future Now's Online Copywriting seminar led by Holly Buchanan [during which I met Bryan Eisenberg, co-author of Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing]. The session included a review of our existing website which had me considering how to improve on it and make it more visitor friendly in tone, content and navigation. It also had me appreciating how a social media platform would improve organic search results. I realized that our brand would benefit from a different digital strategy than the one we were considering.

Based on that website review, I further analyzed our site, proposing a more dynamic website approach for the redesign, and volunteered to be part of the website redesign team. I envisioned a site more consumer friendly in its tone and approach, with content that truly demystified and simplified the carpet purchase process, an administrative interface that allowed frequent updates of content and data, and a blog platform for dynamic content about our brand, new carpet products and carpet retailer-specific consumer promotions.

The goal was a website that engaged consumers searching for carpet related information and connected them to Wear-Dated carpet styles available at specific carpet retailers that they could then purchase. The website should also offer robust carpet care content and resources.

Working with Integrity Corporation, our web developer, I shaped the new website vision, transforming the original static website brochure concept into a social media friendly, content rich, frequently updated, user administered, Google friendly site that educated consumers about carpet and connected them with product and retailers:
  • Registered visitors could both review and rank products and retailers, offering consumers more value. They would also receive our Newsletter with additional links and resources relevant to carpet.
  • Website content was written in consumer friendly and relevant language.
  • Robust search functionality supported the entire site.
  • Google maps functionality enhanced retailer information.
  • Visitors could easily share content.
Furthermore, we supported retailer promotional activities by featuring their carpet sales events in our Newsroom with appropriate keywords and tags, and carpet mills by featuring specific carpet styles made with Wear-Dated carpet fiber on the home page and search page on a rotating basis. We could also offer coupons and run contests.

The new website ranked high organically on specific search terms within a short period of launching, despite spending no marketing or advertising dollars to promote the site. More specifically, an August 2008 review of 2 months worth of data revealed improvements as follows over the old Wear-Dated website:

Google old site SERP
Google new site SERP
nylon carpet

nylon 6,6 carpet

nylon carpet fiber
#2 Feb 2009
buying carpet
#10 Feb 2009
branded carpet

carpet styles

Yahoo old site SERP
Yahoo new site SERP

nylon carpet

nylon 6,6 carpet

nylon carpet fiber

buying carpet

branded carpet

carpet styles

SERP = search engine ranking position
100* = listing was found, beyond 100

The new website was self-administered and we quickly realized significant savings by not having to rely on an IT department to upload changes and updates. We also discovered that the turnaround on updates was instantaneous, significantly improving content freshness and enabling us to quickly react to the kind of SERP results obtained above.

Interestingly, our dynamic website concept led us to build the site on a DotNetNuke platform with flexible modules rather than building a static rigid framework from scratch. For a comparable cost, we obtained far more flexibility of design and administration, with a strong social media friendly framework with a bloglike newsroom, that better enabled us to promote carpet mill products and carpet retailers and provide generally offer more value to all within our community. Here is the Sell Sheet developed for the Wear-Dated website.

Finally, we were able to make the Wear-Dated brand more visible and relevant to consumers learning about carpet, shopping for carpet or wanting to know more about caring for their carpet.

Further Reading:
A Wear-Dated Website Conversation With Integrity's John Simanowitz: Part I described what makes the new website different from the previous one, and why those differences matter.

A Wear-Dated Website Conversation With John Simanowitz - Part 2: Part II focuses on the social web, the benefit it represents for corporations and the importance of online social functionality.

From The Carpetology Blog:

Friday, August 21, 2009 Supports Simple Marketing

FindAnyFloor.comMany thanks to Damien Patton and my friends at for so graciously inviting me to share my story. The result is this post titled Floor Industry Marketing Simplified | Simple Marketing Now.

In it, I share information about myself, my blogs and my business.

I discuss how I first became involved in social media marketing and the 2006 launch of Flooring The Consumer.

If you aren't familiar with Flooring The Consumer, it's where I write about the customer retail experience and businesses who are passionate about meeting the needs of their consumers. In addition to sharing best practices or tips and advice relevant to retailers who truly want to connect with customers, I also include advice from some of the best practitioners of social media for connecting with customers in a series called Bridging New & Old.

Finally, I explain how I became a 'simplifier' with Simple Marketing Now and the Simple Marketing Blog, filled with articles describing social media tools, how to integrate them into your marketing strategy, practical marketing examples and other resources that highlight practical marketing and the spirit of simple.

I hope you'll read the article and let me know if you have burning questions and issues that you feel require simplifying.

Thank you, Damien!

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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marketing In A Recession - Strategy Series

Friederichsen, Whittemore, PerronWork continues feverishly on Marketing In A Recession 101, the Surfaces 2010 unlike-any-other, must-attend 3 hour workshop that the three brilliant marketers pictured here are presenting!

When last you heard from us in Connecting With Retail Consumers -- the first in our Marketing Strategy Series leading up to our 3 hour workshop at Surfaces 2010 -- Scott Perron from Big Bob's of America, Paul Friederichsen from BrandBiz, Inc. and I had just kicked off our first working session.

On Sunday, August 2nd, 2009 we got together in Atlanta for our second face-to-face meeting... It was intense!

Not only do we have a session title - Marketing In A Recession 101 - but also a description:
This packed 3-Part, 3-hour workshop takes the dealer through today’s real issues and offers real solutions for making marketing efforts and dollars work harder in today’s economy. Part One: Branding Basics – foundational to everything – from identity to positioning in the marketplace. Part Two: Advertising and Promotion – Sure fire strategies and tactics that you should know about and use. Part Three: Social Media – the hottest way to communicate and bond with your customers. Don’t miss this if you want to seize the opportunity to build your business in times like these.
The first few hours of this last working session focused on identifying goals for the workshop and then exploring the big ideas currently affecting consumers and retailers.

In terms of goals:

1. Simplify the complexity often associated with developing and implementing a marketing strategy.

2. Translate the concepts and framework into actionable and real life solutions by showing how a specific [yes, composite] retailer would apply and benefit from our suggestions.
Marketing Strategy in action
In terms of big ideas currently affecting the consumer marketplace that retailers need to pay attention to:

1. Retailers must focus on the customer

2. Consumers yearn for simplicity [eliminate confusion and Paradox of Choice]

3. To deliver a memorable retail and brand experience, consistency of effort matters: need to prioritize, delegate and make everyone accountable.

4. It's important to keep track of information

5. Don't forget about taking advantage of existing assets

6. Be female-friendly

7. Consumer shopping habits have changed radically: consumers start at an Internet search window which means that the Internet and digital visibility [especially with Google] matter; they are shopping more stores to obtain the best value. They trust others before they trust you.

Dave Foster, TalkFloorFor the second part of our afternoon, Dave Foster from TalkFloor joined us for an interview about the Surfaces Workshop.

The result: a five part TalkFloor TV series titled Whittemore, Friederichsen & Perron Preview Surfaces Workshop “Marketing in a Recession 101,” each approximately 10 minutes long.

In Part 1 he asked about our fictitious retailer, named Bob, a composite created from what many retailers are going through right now. We described the roles we would each play.

In Part 2, we focused on the opportunities available to retailers even in this environment. During the seminar, we plan on bringing fresh ideas and thinking to old problems, helping retailers get back to fundamentals and make better use of the new tools available. It's all about customers and relationship building. PS: Paul let out that there's a happy ending to our story!

In Part 3, Dave asked how to determine where to spend marketing dollars and what role online plays. Our response: think about the customer. What is it that she is trying to do? How do you help her? What is it that your brand represents, how do you integrate all of the elements of your strategy and how to you establish a relationship?

Our wisdom from Part 4: identify who your customer is and market to that customer. You cannot successfully be everything to everyone. We discuss the competition and urge retailers to engage with customers.

Finally, in Part 5, we encourage viewers to take advantage of the data already available on customers to create better marketing strategy and tactics.

Thank you, Dave!

Scott, Paul and I are next scheduled for a teleconference in September to walk through the first draft of our presentation.

I hope you plan on joining us at Surfaces 2010. The workshop - called Marketing In A Recession 101 - takes place Monday, February 1, 2010 from 9am to noon. Registration will start soon.

In the meantime, does this post trigger any other ideas?

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Practical Social Media Knowledge

Victorinox - Swiss Army Knife originally uploaded by Delox - Martin Deak
Victorinox - Swiss Army Knife
Back on Bastille Day 2009, I got to share Practical Social Media Knowledge with a room full of savvy professionals.

Inevitably, during these type presentations I am challenged with tough questions about social media and its worth -- all questions I love as they allow me to tell my story and demonstrate the value that these new and digital tools have to offer. I get to literally bridge from traditional approaches to new ones, and create meaning based on attendees' practical observations and insightful questions. I also get to to learn from my audience. Can you tell that I love these sessions?

In this case, participants came specifically to learn more about social media and how to use digital social tools to rebrand themselves and research companies, brands and market segments of interest.

My goal was to demystify and simplify using a practical approach so that - even if no one in the room decided to take say the blogging plunge - everyone would feel comfortable exploring, experimenting and appreciating how the various tools can help in the marketplace.

At the onset of the session, we identified why participants had come:
+ to understand marketing aspects of social media, especially personal vs. business
+ to get new ideas and embrace the unknown
+ to find out how to use social media for networking
+ to expand knowledge
+ to stand out
+ to understand how to use social media in business
+ to figure out how it fits in with corporations
+ to determine whether social media is useful or not and here to stay or not?
+ to figure out how to promote services to a younger customer base
+ to connect with the marketplace

Based on the feedback forms, everyone seemed to have left the session with a sound overview of what social media can offer and a few action items. Needless to say, I was thrilled to pieces and rather surprised when the 1:30 hour session [which turned into 2 hours] was over.

In case you find yourself in a similar situation, I share with you the resources we discussed as well as links for further exploration. If you have any additional questions, or see something missing, please do let me know!

During the session, I referred to:


Blog Resources:

Twitter Resources:
Useful Twitter Searches:
Near:City within:25mi
#eventname [to shorten URLs]
TweetDeck: download to desktop for Google like alerts - for pictures

My Twitter handle: @cbwhittemore

New Twitter Tip from @SocialMediaComm: Help others on Twitter. Start by answering questions. Do a Twitter search for: topic ? -filter:links

And, based on questions that attendees asked in the feedback form, here are additional resources:

More about Twitter and social media:
+ Blogs Are Now Mainstream Media
+ You Can No Longer Ignore Social Media
+ Practical Twitter Primer
+ Execunet Presentation: Social Media 101
+ SMUG, Social Media University Global
+ Twitter Power Tools For Health Activists [added 8/19/09]

Examples of how social media fits into the marketing mix:
+ Sandy Carter Integrates Social Media Into The Marketing Mix
+ Steven Berlin Johnson At MarketingProfs B2B Forum
+ DC Goodwill Fashion Blog: Simple Marketing In Action
+ Mayo Clinic's Lee Aase: Simple Marketing In Action

On setting up blogs:
+ Building A Blogger Toolbox
+ Blogger Must Haves: Backups And Tags

For advice on really good blog habits: A Mack Collier Blog Review

On how people have used social media to market themselves successfully, I suggest reading Dan Schawbel’s Personal Branding Blog. In the ‘about’ section, you’ll notice many resources listed. Although he approaches personal branding from the perspective of a millennial, Dan offers excellent and practical advice.

Many personal thanks to Marian for making this session possible, and many thanks to all of the session participants who made this such an interactive session. I had a blast!

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mayo Clinic's Lee Aase: Simple Marketing In Action

Mayo Clinic's Lee AaseIf you're curious about witnessing Simple Marketing in Action, and have one hour available, then definitely view this video rebroadcast of Mayo Clinic's Lee Aase from In it, he describes his journey using social media to generate word-of-mouth referrals and achieve results for the Mayo Clinic.

Lee Aase is Communications Manager for the Mayo Clinic. But, that's not all. He's also Chancellor of SMUG, Social Media University, Global where his passion for what social media tools make possible knows no limits! I encourage you to explore SMUG and discover more.

In listening to Lee, I quickly realized that he is a kindred practical marketer. He even titled his presentation "The $4-a-week Newsroom and Other MacGyver Tips" [here is a pdf of Lee Aase's 8/4/09 presentation slides] - wouldn't you agree that MacGyver is as practical as they come?

[Here is a slideshare of Lee's 8/13/09 LifeScience Alley presentation: "Leveraging Social Media to Reach Customers and Improve Organizational Effectiveness: The Mayo Clinic Perspective" with similar information, but additional references].

I particularly admire how he and the Mayo Clinic have made such good use of a gem of a tool - the Flip Camcorder - to easily capture and showcase Mayo Clinic researchers' and physicians' expertise and share it via social media platforms. Mayo Clinic uses video as a key ingredient of its content and communication strategy.

Lee touched on the following:

+ Get comfortable with social media tools. Figure out how they work. These are low cost tools and, if used effectively, can help you achieve results.

+ Word-of-mouth represents an important source of referrals for the Mayo Clinic. Social media combines the reach of traditional news with the power of personal recommendation to reach users directly.

+ It costs little to nothing to use social media platforms, but you do need to develop expertise and experience to use those tools effectively.

+ Don't [just] pitch the media, BE the media.

The Mayo Clinic's first foray into social media was with a short podcast in September 2005. It was a great success. Next, it experimented with longer podcasts [see the wealth of topics that Mayo Clinic podcasts address]. It set up a Facebook page in November 2007, a YouTube Channel and then Twitter - at first purely as a defensive move with an RSS feed of news releases and as a more interactive and engaging platform in 2/2009 when Lee discovered TweetDeck [I agree wholeheartedly that TweetDeck radically altered my Twitter experience and appreciation for the platform.]

Mayo Clinic has a Newsroom where it can pitch content on a password-protected basis to journals prior to releasing news on key research, and a multitude of blogs to communicate with. For example, is where the Mayo Clinic can feature stories about and by patients and employees. One video, created by a patient, features a 90 year old couple performing a piano duet from the Mayo Clinic Atrium; it recently went viral and I bet many of you will recognize it [Subscribers, click on this link to see Mayo Clinic atrium piano, charming older couple...]:

Final words of wisdom: Social media represents a vehicle for taking advantage of opportunities. You don't need to be a genius and it's not hard to do. The tools are easy to use and they make current work more effective. Leverage media relations. Get personal hands-on experience. Understand what the tools do, gain confidence, and then do it.

Related articles:
+ Social Media Interview: Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic
+ How to Use Social Media: An Interview with Lee Aase of Mayo Clinic
Guy Kawasaki (How to Change the World) Jun 23, 2009

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ignite Consumer-Dealer Sales On MarketingProfs Daily Fix

Ignite Your SalesMaximizing cooperative advertising resources so they actually lead to measurable consumer-dealer sales is, to me, the Holy Grail in business. Imagine, then, discovering Dealer Ignition, an organization delivering the next best thing! What I learned is the subject of my latest MarketingProfs Daily Fix article. It's titled Ignite Your Consumer-Dealer Sales with Dealer Ignition's Dealer Promotion Network.

In my previous life at Solutia, both with Wear-Dated upholstery fabrics and Wear-Dated carpet fiber, cooperative advertising support played an important role in motivating retailers to support our brand.

As effective as coop was, it wasn't perfect: we could suggest when to run a promotion, but the dealer ultimately made the decision. Measurement, analysis and improvement were near impossible [I remember sifting through mounds of spreadsheets trying to glean actionable purchase patterns and insights]. And, corrections couldn't be implemented until the next promotion -- and even then success was limited. Do you remember how those bad logo files managed to stay in the system for what seemed like forever?

Change, though, is in the air. Dealer Ignition, based in Greenville, SC, has developed a robust framework - a Dealer Promotion Network - for digitally connecting a brand with its dealers.

The connection means that brand promotions can be seamlessly distributed and uploaded to individual dealer websites. It includes analytics for intelligent tweaking, testing and improvement, and it connects consumers searching online with the right information so they can purchase that branded product in a local store.

Really cool!

Read my article. Visit the Dealer Ignition website - definitely check out the resources page, including the video on the future of Internet marketing; view Connie Berry's testimonial about how Dealer Ignition delivered results for Karastan; you might even register for webinars that demonstrate what Dealer Ignition does...

For the record, I have no relationship with Dealer Ignition other than having had a fascinating discussion with Steven Wagner, CEO and Chief Ignitor, being delighted that my friend Connie was featured in the testimonial video, and generally admiring a practical and elegant solution to a marketing tool that we always considered a necessary evil because we were never able to measure it, improve it or deploy it in an integrated and coordinated fashion.

The only enhancement I would suggest is adding a social element...

Would you let me know what you think?

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Listening To Customers With Twitter

My Listening Ears originally uploaded by niclindh
My Listening EarsAsk any social media practitioner how to get started and "Listen" is what each will tell you. By listening, you begin to 'hear' what's going on, what's being said and how it's being said. That, then, enables you to take part in a conversation and identify how to offer value. A social media listening tool that has been front and center lately is Twitter.

Take this WSJ online article titled "For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert PR Mess" with examples from Ford, Coke, Pepsi and Southwest Airlines.

Now, a dose of reality doesn't hurt at this point. Despite the hype, the entire world isn't on Twitter. In fact, many of your core customers may not even have heard about it let alone issued a Tweet of any significance. That's a point that Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace, makes in this AdAge article titled "Using Social Media To Listen To Customers" [registration required].

However, learning how to listen to customers is critical, and social media platforms like Twitter make listening much easier than standing around crowds trying to absorb the messages being exchanged. Twitter represents a listening post, one that might offer unexpected and valuable insight. And one that teaches you how to listen across other social media platforms.

As Ms. Hessan states: "Listening doesn't mean getting one small piece of data and taking action.... Sometimes it means getting a piece of data and probing further."

In many companies, the official listening post is the responsibility of customer service -- although some have realized that listening is everyone's responsibility and opportunity. This Mashable post - HOW TO: Use Twitter for Customer Service - summarizes how best to go about using Twitter for listening to customers:

1. Understand why Twitter is an ideal customer service platform
2. Track the ENTIRE conversation around your brand
3. Make customers aware of your presence
4. Respond quickly and transparently
5. Be engaged in the conversations
6. Be authentic

Be sure to read the full post to understand the nuances and opportunities.

Now that you've been cautioned and guided, inspire yourself with Diva Marketing's post about Before There Was Social Media There Were Customer Service Reps and then explore the companies listed in Kevin O'Keefe's Real Lawyers Have Blogs and his post about Major companies who use Twitter for customer service.

A few wonderful [and practical] resources to share with you from Matt Dickman:
Twitter, the ultimate customer service tool
Twitter and customer service; how to listen
Twitter and customer service; the big picture

And, as it relates to listening to customers, you might enjoy Read 16 Social Media Tips Relating To Listening.

What other methods have you used to listen to customers?

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