Blathering on Twitter or engaging your target audience?

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Chances are most people in the world fit into the 99%. In this case that would be the 99% of people who are doing social marketing wrong, barely or not at all. Though the argument could be made that not at all is better than wrong since wrong does damage. Hopefully you are doing some or at least researching it. To qualify I will say I am not always right – nobody is – for every person in every case. So let me default and try a little teaching and assignment so you can figure it out for yourself.

First the assignment. Just do it.

Somewhere either on your tablet or in your notebook or a Google doc create a table with 2 columns. On the left label that column YES and on the right label that column MAYBE. Now think about what it is you are marketing, selling, representing, or otherwise putting out. Now think about WHO you need to reach to consummate your transaction. This even works if you’re just trying to get more targeted followers.

Now we’re going to complete your YES column and your MAYBE column at the same time. Begin at the top of the table as you think about the WHO and begin writing NAMES or JOB TITLES. Almost every one of you can immediately think of at least 2 or 3 individuals who are good prospects for you. Start with those.

If the people who come to mind are really good targets put them in the left column under YES. If the person who comes to mind may not directly be a target but may be able to connect you with a target put them in the MAYBE column. If the person who comes to mind would likely not be a YES or a MAYBE don’t even include them.

I am using a fictitious landscaping company in small town USA. A small landscaping company. In fact just a husband and wife team from Anytown USA. My chart looks like yours should:

YES MAYBE
Steve (real estate manager) Pastor Dave
Mary (HOA president) School janitor
61 neighbors Mary (friend, builder)
East Retirement Center Dad (city councilman)
Homes for sale

Does that give you a good idea? Great! Because now you’re going to start specifically engaging THOSE PEOPLE in your YES column with a purpose and if the opportunity presents itself the people from the MAYBE column. To tell you how to engage and what to say would make this already long post even longer especially since these are local people. They are also people you may encounter on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media outlets.

Develop a plan to make sure you connect with these people on a business level within the social media realm. Now you get to do a lot more reading and studying about how and when to engage them without spamming or alienating them in the social sphere. I suggest trusting information with intense data studies and the best I can do for you on that right now is to say you need to subscribe here and listen to Social Media Edge Radio. All the old episodes since 2008 are available on iTunes.

Where are my Chrome cookies?!

Image: Paul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Shhh. It’s okay. We know where your cookies are. You probably don’t even realize how many cookies you have actually accumulated but you are about to know for sure. To find your cookies in Chrome just takes a few click from your stock browser. You do not need to download a cookie plugin and you do not need to dig around in your hard drive directories. Go get some milk and we will go get your cookies.

Cookies in Chrome live “Under the Hood”. To get there just follow these 6 simple steps;

  1. Open your Chrome browser
  2. Click on the little wrench icon in the upper right corner
  3. Click on the “Options” link
  4. On the left menu bar click “Under the Hood”
  5. In the “Privacy” section click on the button labeled “Content settings …”
  6. Click on the button labeled “All cookie and site data …”

There you go. There are your cookies. Now share some with your friends and leave some out for Santa!

You can now delete any or all of the cookies. You can also view the domain which placed them in your browser’s cache and you can view what is inside the cookie. Now I bet you have one from thekencook.com – sorry, I just couldn’t resist sharing one of my cookies with you.

When WordPress is the wrong solution …

Because WordPress is so simple to install and make minor changes to like header graphics, home page class, color scheme, and plugins used there are literally hundreds of people claiming to install “custom WordPress sites”. In reality they are doing nothing, or very little, any untrained person cannot do. It’s point and click for the most part.

custom landing pagesHere’s the really sad bit: since they are usually not developers but may be “designers lite” they don’t know how to listen to what you, as a client, really need. Furthermore if you told them what you want they likely would have no idea how to create it so they simply sell you on WordPress. Don’t get me wrong, I love WordPress. It’s a robust, out of the box solution for a lot of purposes and it is easily customized. It is, however, still an out of the box solution which means it comes with a lot of limitations and quite often a tremendous amount of overkill for many projects.

What makes WordPress attractive?

  • WordPress is easy to use by anyone who can send an email. Like with anything there is a learning curve but within a few uses almost anyone can be zinging with WordPress.
  • WordPress is free. People charge anywhere from $100 to thousands of dollars for “customization” but the application is free. In fact it comes free with many WordPress web hosting accounts.
  • WordPress is widely supported by an enormous community of developers of which I am proud to be a small part.
  • WordPress is constantly updated to close security holes, add new functionality and permit new ways of interacting with the core.

Like I said, I like WordPress … it just is not always the right solution as some would have you believe. If you are somewhat technically savvy in that you actually understand how functions interact with the loop, how theme elements control the presentation, how to create at least simple widgets and plugins then WordPress may be great for you even if you just want to do some small, non-blog tasks.

The flip side …

I just returned from an appointment with a prospective client here in Marietta who had requested the ability to be able to create his own custom landing pages. He hired a local “web development company” (I use the terms very lightly) who charged him $1500 to install WordPress with a handful of plugins and add his logo header. One of the plugins they installed was a plugin to let him “create his own” landing pages. So what’s the problem?

He didn’t get what he wanted. He got something anyone can have that only does what it is designed to do and is not custom tailored to fit his needs. He has a total of $2200 invested in the installation and, while he can create landing pages, none of the pages look like or do what he needs to do. He asked me if I could “fix it” to make it do what he wants. Of course I can. I can dive right in and rework the plugin and make it do what he wants it to do then at some future date when they change the core of WordPress it may or may not continue to work. Or I can code a completely custom solution for him to meet the specifications he just gave me and he will be able to do exactly what he just asked including the fairly powerful data interaction for roughly the same price.

This is not a rant. It is a lesson. With my custom solution:

  • The man want’s to be able to easily add video where he wants it. Check.
  • The man want’s to be able to easily track who signed up and when with a simple dashboard. Check.
  • The man wants to be able to change the welcome message by uploading a Word or other text file. Check.
  • The man wants the results page to be a printable copy of his PDF booklet. Check.
  • The man wants an IM sent to his phone whenever someone signs up. Check.
  • The man wants the system to verify the email address they entered and double opt-in to a mailing list. Check.

He wanted other things, too, but for me they were all checks and for the free, er um $2200, WordPress install … no checks.

Sometimes WordPress is the wrong solution.

5 tips to deal with inherited branding

I wish my parents had known more about SEO when they named me.

ken cook

Embrace the name!

Sometimes when we in the digital branding and marketing sphere take on a new employer or client we face a few “name” challenges. We really cannot do much about it because the company is already born and we’re late to the game. I understand. I mean my name is Ken Cook for Pete’s sake. Google me by name and you’ll have to dig way down to find me. On Google, in fact, I am currently 9th and 11th in raw search results and those are my Twitter and G+ accounts respectively! I feel as if I have no respect. But alas, it is my fault.

Say you inherit the reigns for SEO and social evangelism at a company already named. Say that company has been around for a while and they “just don’t get it” about the importance of a well designed and scientifically engineered name space. It happens. It happened to me – a few times. Remember your training, stick to the basics and don’t make any big, sweeping changes. Here are five bullets I use to win the name shoot-out:

Embrace the name – even if the company has a very unusual sounding or what you would consider negatively branded name. Like say, Toothpaste by Toilet or Plane of Death Airlines. While I’m not saying they should not immediately change names and carve their own eyes out with a broken toothpick that’s not our jobs as lowly brand engineers. Embrace the name as though it were your baby.

Keep with protocol – all marketers know there are times when marketing protocol collides with executive management desires. One thing I always keep in mind is if I and my current employer split up I still have to work with me and I do not want a bad name following me around. Trust me, I have work that I do not and will not refer too. One has to do with some Austrian crystals. So regardless of how badly your upper mucks want you to spam the planet – resist.

Buy space if you have to – and let’s face it, if the name of your company is Butt Cake you’re going to need a little help so share some wealth with your favorite ad agency. Or, if you are a DIYer get in there and buy some space – within reason of course.

Count small victories – I once had a client with a really badly chosen name for what they did. I can’t say it here but I was developing online custom apparel catalogs for some Fortune 1000 companies and the supplier had a particular name that was probably okay for Web2.0 but this was in 1997 and … well, it was one of those where you felt like you always had to explain what the company did. If it had been called Custom Corporate Apparel no problem. It wasn’t. So I counted small victories. Every time they acquired a new client that meant I got a new client, too. I had written all of the code for the eCommerce solution and even inventory control, fulfillment and every step in between. That meant every time they got a new client I put a new set of backlinks out there. I never got them to change their name but I finally got them to number one on Google!

Work for synonimity – you mean that’s not a word? How about synonymousness? Work to make your company’s name synonymous with the product or service. I know Mary Bell’s Nut Wax probably doesn’t sound like the best furniture polish name when you’re competing with Endust but look for creative ways to make your name the leader.

What is a Landing Page and why should anyone care?

I wrote a short article on landing pages over at ActiveRain this morning and thought I explained fairly well what a landing page is. I often take for granted that I live in a very techy sphere and I am surrounded mostly with people who eat, drink and birth tech. We’re the 2% ers in the real estate industry.

Simply defined a landing page is a single page designed for specific interaction on a specific topic with visitors. The goal is to encourage a transactional event and capture information from the visitor or illicit an order for a product or service.

People unfamiliar with the terminology should not be concerned. It seems as though in the digital age we just make up words and phrases by the minute to fit our conversational needs. The normal “landing page” people show me is generally either the stock home page that comes with their blog or website. While some of them have an amazing amount of functionality, and I am certain cost the owner a nice bit of coin, they are generally over loaded with information and inundate the visitor with choices indirectly relevant or completely irrelevant to their search. We can define the three major types of entry pages succinctly:

  • Home page (homepage) is the index page of your site. For this site it would be http://activerain.com which is easy to navigate, probably does weird things in the SEO realm and offers no explanation for what the page is about. Sorry guys, as a marketing and conversion tool your home page stinks (not saying mine don’t, just saying yours does ;)
  • Entry page is quite literally any page on your website. If you came straight to this post from your email, a link on another site or from Google you may have “landed” here but this is not designed as a landing page.
  • Landing page is a page which offers information very specific to an event, a call to action, a search result, an offer for transactional engagement, or something more valuable (to me) than simply giving away information like in this article.

Badly designed landing pages can help tarnish a reputation in a click. I once heard a presenter say, “Washington DC is where good ideas go to die and bad landing pages is where good clicks go to die.” Agreed – a bad landing page (or any entry page) can not only result in no interaction but can also result in a brand detrimental moment.

Let’s say you see an advertisement on TV for this awesome restaurant that seems to have everything you are looking for. Later you load of the car and head over for your meal but when you get there the place is not in order, you can’t find the door, once inside nobody greets you … what do you do? You leave. Worse yet you have a very bad impression of the place and likely will not only never return but if you hear about it from someone else give your very bad review.

Translate the above paragraph to online and the TV ad is the Google search or Facebook ad. The restaurant is your landing page. There is a science to the technology of the design and implementation of landing pages that work and that’s what I do. This is not a guessing game where first year interns who have amazing design skills throw out a bunch of fluff. All of my landing pages are designed on well researched data and very keyword specific language.

Suggested Video Toolbox – Equipment To Go On

What is the best video equipment for bloggers? I can answer that – from my perspective and experience. Whether you are brand new to social and web ready video or are ready to advance this is a well recommended tool kit for you. In fact today on Social Media Edge Radio we had a rapid fire, round table discussion of just which tools we use and recommend to other to use and we pretty much agreed on most points. Instead of a long how to article here’s the list:

 

To hear the replay of the show today with Jeremy Blanton, Mike Mueller, Randy Barnes, Jason Crouch and me (Ken Cook) visit Social Media Edge Radio.

While the question asked was “what is the best” that’s such a subjective question. We narrowed it down, pretty much, to these items. If you’re doing vlogging (video blogging) these will get you there. Can you buy more expensive equipment? You bet! Will you get a better result for your social media or blog? Unknown – sometimes the equipment can be “too good” for what you’re doing!

Here are some other recommendations to kick it up a notch:

Of course you can connect with any of us for video tutoring and possibly find is in a city near you for a session.

Welcome to Skype-rosoft: Microsoft Acquisition of Skype Completed

With the acceptance by the European Trade Commission of the Microsoft acquisition of Skype, at a cool $8.5 billion, the future of Skype just became a whole lot more uncertain. Uncertain because the software monopoly isn’t talking about what is going to happen with it. Assumptions far and wide is that this is another shot at search giant Google’s strong hold on users due, in part, to Google Voice.

The sale was approved in June by the US Federal Trade Commission but not until October 7 by its European counterpart.

More on this from International Business Times and a shorter article at Ziff Davis.

If I “Like” Your Page, What Is That Worth?

We’re all still exploring new territory. Oh I know there are some people who have offered concrete facts based on opinion alone – keep your eyes on them they’ll be re-adjusting their facts with time, they always do. Let’s talk for just a minute about the value of a Facebook “Like”. Fortunately I’ll be able to give you some data from a reputable study and I’ll accompany that with my normal advocacy for thinking like a small businessperson. See most studies follow enterprise corporations like the one I currently work for. After all how exciting is data from Mary Lou’s Nails and Curls? Well, for Mary Lou it’s not only exciting but crucial to her success.

Facebook likes buttons fans

What is a Facebook "Like" worth to small business?

Our example proves enterprise data to be more exciting because the target mark for this Vitrue study from 2010 uses a factor of 1,000,000 fans. If Mary Lou has that many fans I’m giving this report only to her and in a closed conference room. She ain’t got that many – she’s reading this because it’s free and that’s her budget for social support (or at least that’s what she thinks so far). You’re more like Mary Lou than the example company with a million fans. Still, let’s look at their projections.

Essentially, according to a report in AdWeek, Vitrue’s studies and calculations conclude that with 1,000,000 fans (likes) this “translates into at least $3.6 million in equivalent media over a year”. In other words with 1,000,000 fans you can save $3.6 million in online (PPC) advertising, theoretically. This happens because “Likes” are shared on users activity stream and is syndicated to their audiences in addition to yours. You just increased your reach because of something your fan did and that did not cost you a cent.

“Vitrue arrived at its $3.6 million figure by working off a $5 CPM, meaning a brand’s 1 million fans generate about $300,000 in media value each month. Using Vitrue’s calculation, Starbucks’ 6.5 million fan base — acquired in part with several big ad buys — is worth $23.4 million in media annually.” – AdWeek

Chances are if you are reading my little blog post you don’t have 1 million fans. Sorry, that’s just the way it is. We need to graduate you from me. My readers are more likely to have 10,000 or fewer fans with the exception of a few guests from Social Media Edge Radio who just happened to be interested enough to read. More than like you are in the 300 to 3,500 fan range so how do we calculate the value for you?

Simple but oh so complex:

  • Have a measurable strategy
  • Use landing pages with analytics turned on
  • Collect data or make a sale on your landing page
  • Compare your data at least weekly if not daily
    • Record your fans
    • Record your click-throughs from Facebook
    • Record the number of interactions/sales
    • Keep track of your spending for Facebook ads
  • Be prepared to make adjustment to your campaign but annotate your data as such
  • After 90 days check your numbers and make the comparison

(If you don’t know how to do this that’s what I do so call me.)

As I was writing this today I got a call from Jeff Belonger who had questions and comments about this exact issue. Jeff runs MyPhillieAlive on Facebook. He told me he has about 330 fans and has a post that was placed about 18 hours ago that already has over 600 impressions. If Jeff uses the technique above and draws people to his website or asks for interaction within the post he can then follow the data of impression to actions to consummations.

Think about a like. Imagine if you have 100 Facebook fans on your business page and you post an invitation to your next bake off. Chances are those first 100 fans are going to be friends, family and true fans. They are going to “Like” your post. Suppose only 10 of them like your post but on average those 10 have 500 Facebook friends. Your new potential market is 5100 eyes including their combined 5000 and your initial 100. If your subject matter is appealing to those who read it chances are you’re going to have a nicely increased amount of activity to your event.

Measuring traffic and consummations is key to knowing where your time is best spent. Facebook requires an understanding of the language most appealing to your fan base, regular (daily or more) interaction with your fans by posting to your fan page, and convincing them to convert to a financial transaction.

Image: watcharakun / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A $35 Android Tablet? It’s Real.

In fact the first 100,000 units will be distributed freely to students. The government then has ordered even more to close the digital divide and this is no sloucher. The unit features:

  • Android 2.2 (Froyo)
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • 32 GB storage
  • 2x USB ports
  • 7-inch screen 800×480 resolution
  • Memory slot
Heck, that almost beats my Xoom! Oh, there is a catch … this product is available only in India and is totally produced in the country in an effort to help the 1.2 billion Indian citizens and residents overcome the divide that separates the poor from the wealthy as has happened on other major, emerging markets.
Read more about it here or here.