Thoughts on marketing, social media, and web strategy

Mike Templeton is an experienced marketer with a history in building community on the web.

For Mike's reactions to what others are writing about social media, visit Mike Memos.

To get up-to-the-minute resources on marketing and social media, follow @miketempleton on Twitter.

Social Media Begins With Listening

Five Things About Social Media SuccessThis past weekend I had the honor of being featured with a “Five Things” story in the Des Moines Register’s business section. In the article, titled “Five things about social media success,” I described some of the basic tenants I’ve come to believe about garnering success in social media.

  1. Listening never ceases.
  2. Be relevant.
  3. Accountability is key.
  4. Embrace your personality.
  5. Results take time.

Head over to the newly redesigned Des Moines Register website for the full article, penned by the always wonderful to work with Kayla Craig.

A little more about listening

The act of monitoring conversations (or “listening” as it has been so trendily named) is something we’ve been doing forever. Companies monitor phone calls for quality assurance. Store clerks monitor customer conversations to gauge satisfaction. Teachers monitor the classroom for students acting out of line. The consistent outcome from all of these activities is learning, and that’s what social listening is about too.

If you’re looking at social media with the right mindset, you’ll constantly be gathering new information and learning about how to improve what you’re doing to better serve your customers. Once you stop listening, you stop learning. When you stop learning, you stop improving. And when you stop improving, thus leading to complacency, you lose your customers. That’s why you should never stop listening, especially with social media.

Did I miss anything in my list? What else is a must-have for social media success?

Also, I owe big thanks to the editors at SmartBrief, who picked up the Des Moines Register article and included it in yesterday’s SmartBrief on Social Media email newsletter. The inclusion (my first time in SmartBrief) definitely gave me and my employer some wonderful exposure across the industry. Thanks SmartBrief!

Buying Black Friday Buzz on Twitter

While catching up on tweets after a hefty Thanksgiving meal, I noticed something unusual about the day’s trending topics. What wasn’t unusual was that a promoted topic (#ShackFriday) sat proudly atop the trending list – a common occurrence since Twitter launched the feature. The thing that surprised me was the fact that another brand was also trending (Wal-Mart), and it had happened organically.

Though retailers have caught my attention with promotions earlier and earlier each year, this year is the first I’ve paid attention to brand buzz on Twitter. Consumers are bombarded with ads on TV and can get the scoop on the best deals from Black Friday bloggers, but I hadn’t thought about the impact that Twitter could have on sale-savvy shoppers.

RadioShack laid the right track, but are consumers on board?

RadioShack has been moving at full-steam this season, rolling out a comprehensive multi-channel strategy that includes TV, print, foursquare (Innovative? Perhaps.), and Twitter. For Twitter, they’ve paid to promote #ShackFriday, which seems to be garnering mixed responses when you dig into the hashtag search results. Some people are seeing the connection to RadioShack, while others have absolutely no idea why the topic is trending. On the other side of the equation, Walmart has produced a naturally occurring trend on Twitter because LOTS of people are actually talking about their Black Friday deals.

Twitter isn’t a typical broadcast platform

When marketers look at Twitter’s Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts, I think they’re seeing a traditional push option: taking well-crafted creative and pushing it out to their audience. However, what they don’t realize is that people don’t like that type of advertising. It’s the epitome of why consumers have shifted attention to social media. It seems RadioShack has yet to figure that out, but Walmart isn’t any closer either – they just have better deals.

Have you noticed strange Promoted Trends? Do you pay attention to online conversations that have been sponsored?

Online Civility is the Internet’s Golden Rule

We all know the golden rule: treat others as you would like to be treated. However, many people forget about it when they get online. They don’t think twice before updating their status on Facebook or tweeting about their bad experience. That hurts people – both online and in real life. In fact, businesses now employ folks just to track and manage their online reputation. Who’d have thought this would be such a big deal?

Be respectful as a digital citizen

There’s a great pop culture reference in The Social Network movie, where Mark Zuckerberg’s character is seen typing up a scathing blog post about a relationship breakup. He eventually bumps into the former girlfriend, prompting a confrontation. “The internet isn’t written in pencil Mark, it’s written in ink,” she comments. That’s the concept people seem to be missing.

As the social web becomes a larger part of our lives, we should all be prepared as digital citizens to uphold our integrity,  in online conversations and in our face-to-face interactions. It’s easy to manage how you are viewed by others at home, in the workplace, or in your community, but on the internet your persona is shaped for you – by millions of indexed search results.

Join Character Counts in promoting online civility

With so many impervious to the impact of their online activity, one local group is doing something to educate the public. Character Counts in Iowa, an organization that strives to help Iowans practice good character, has partnered with Social Media Club Des Moines to discuss the topic of Online Civility at an event on October 28 at Jasper Winery. The event is part of Character Count’s Reveal Your Character initiative and will act as a kick off for their campaign. You can download the press release.

By now you’re probably thinking, “This sounds like a good mantra. I like this whole ‘online civility’ thing. But what now?” The best thing for you to do is to tell someone else about it. Whether you tweet it (use the #RYC hashtag), Facebook it, or write a blog post of your own, your mission is to keep the wheel turning.

Also, take a look at what others in the community are saying about this initiative:

Stop Planning and Start Doing

I’m a planner. Not in any sort of official capacity (though I do write lots of plans at work), but more-so in my personality and work ethic. From my perspective, it comes from having a marketing background.

Everything I ever learned about marketing in school revolved around documentation and planning. Before you engage in research, you need to have a plan. Before you launch a campaign, you need to have a plan. What I’ve found after operating out in the world is that sometimes the best plan is action itself.

We are what we habitually do

Earlier today I was reading a blog post from Adam Carroll discussing the fact that we are what we habitually do. The line is actually a quote from Aristotle, saying “We are what we habitually do. Excellence then is a habit not an act.” While we can plan to be a better person, a better salesman, or a more-engaged employee, it’s what we actually do that determines our true course.

I’ve been planning to do more blogging since I started this blog a few years ago; I’ve even made it part of a New Year’s resolution. But the reality is that even with all the planning in the world, those plans aren’t going to publish new posts on my blog.

Take action, start doing

As of today, I’m going to start blogging more. I won’t set a limit or a goal or an objective (much to my own dismay), but rather will just focus on doing. Period.

What things have you been putting off because you don’t have the right plan in place? What could you start doing now?

Three Leading Social Media Agencies Acquired – A Sign of Things to Come?

The big news today is that the Austin-based branded community provider Powered Inc. has acquired three other social media agencies.

As social media becomes a larger focus for brands and organizations, and we get past the experimental phase and into the operational stage of social media, I believe this will continue to happen. With more consumers and money shifting to social media, traditional agencies are doing everything they can to get up to speed, but it’s likely they’ll buy their way there instead of building it.

Even within the social media industry, acquisitions and partnerships are already being made. Ant’s Eye View expanded their colony by acquiring popular business authors and renowned bloggers Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. Dachis Group crossed the Atlantic through it’s acquisition of Headshift. And the Altimeter Group tripled in size when Jeremiah Owyang, Deb Schultz, and Ray Wang announced they were joining Charlene Li’s venture.

Build it or buy it?

Today’s big deal puts another tally in the acquisition corner, but it’s not a surprise. We’ve even seen these tactics being employed by Des Moines -based Meredith Corporation. Their interactive division (now Meredith 360°) has been scooping up service providers left and right over the past few years.

Also, as Aaron Strout discusses in his blog post about today’s acquisition, Powered feels this situation is the solution that businesses and marketers are looking for:

“We felt like it was important to take this approach because up until now, marketers have lacked a “go to” resource that could meet all of their social needs.”

Is a consolidated marketplace inevitable?

With the seemingly high number of companies looking to address the social media space in Des Moines, how long will it be before businesses start being assimilated into larger companies? Or are traditional agencies content with trying to develop these skills in-house? Or is there still room for more people to do social media consulting?

In the fast-paced, cut-throat world that we are all doing business in, I think acquisition is a very likely scenario for agencies, just like brands themselves are bringing talent inside their organization.

Will there be a fallout of social media companies in Des Moines? Can more be achieved through a united front and working together?

If Content is King, What is Purchased Content?

Working in social media for the last few years, I can hardly imagine a scenario where content was discussed without hearing the lauded, “Content is king,” adage. Content is still talked about in that context because it is true, especially in social media. If you don’t have the content, there is little basis for interaction, sharing, or conversation.

What do you do if you don’t have content? You create it. However, one company I came across recently has a different way of going about creating content. They’ll let you pay them to create it for you.

Content is content, right?

Reading through Paid Content earlier this week I was presented with a banner ad for AcquireContent, a content solution from Gale. AcquireContent has two main solutions for businesses that need content: custom creation of content and licensed or shared content.

In most situations, exchanging a fee for services rendered by a provider is nothing out of the ordinary. People and businesses do this every day. Where things start to get questionable is when you look at this situation in various contexts. For example, if you are a business looking for custom content to keep your site fresh and visible in search engines, you might rely on AcquireContent to create that. In fact, they are happy to create “effective, original material, delivered on time and to your specifications” that you can use. If you are using the generated article as something for a topical newsletter, it may be fine. But what if you were using it as a blog post? Is that still ok?

Your content defines you – make it your own

Though there are many ways to create content, think long and hard before you outsource the work – especially when it will be used in social media. When you are building relationships based on the content and information you are sharing, it is important that it truly reflects you or your business. And if you are having someone else develop it, at least make it part of your disclosure (like guest blog posts).

Is it ok to pay someone else to create content for you? Would you feel misled if you discovered a business was leveraging the talents of someone else and sharing it as their own?

redbox Adapts to Social Media, Makes Changes to Free Rentals

Find a redbox This automated DVD rental retailer has made great strides in recent years, practically turning the video rental (and post-theater) industry on its head. In fact, redbox is so popular and growing so quickly that even some of the largest Hollywood studios are feeling threatened by its value proposition in the space.

Though the success of the service itself is reason enough for little red machines to keep popping up on every corner, social media also seems to be playing into the strengths of the DVD rental company.

Getting started in social media

Last summer redbox started its “Free Movie Mondays,” a promotion where an alphanumeric code was distributed on Monday afternoons that could be used to redeem a free rental. Because the same code was used for everyone, fans of the service did whatever they could to spread the word about redbox’s great deal—posting codes on Facebook, tweeting them to friends, and even putting sticky notes on the rental machines themselves. One technologist in Kansas City even went so far as to set up a Twitter account for redbox that would automatically tweet the new code on Mondays.

As the promotion succeeded and more people learned about redbox, it didn’t take long for the company to rethink its strategy. redbox eventually went on to take over the redbox Twitter account (discontinuing the practice of tweeting codes), plus they started a blog where they could directly engage with fans: the redblog. This is the stage that many companies are in today; they are just beginning to test the waters of social media and are doing lots of experimentation. redbox posts regular reviews of upcoming and released titles, but also uses it as a platform to highlight and promote its fans.

redbox-redblog

Adapting to the real-time world

While redbox is doing a great job with supporting its community through social media, it seems as though redbox underestimated how much fans really loved their service. While the “Free Movie Mondays” used to occur on every Monday, redbox recently scaled the promo back to the first Monday of the month only—likely a business decision more than anything (can you imagine how much they lose in rental fees by offering a free night?). And even more recently, redbox made another update to its free rental SMS campaign, stating that all SMS users would now be receiving their own unique codes. The move to less frequent and unique codes says to me that social media did its job too well: allowing friends to share information (including rental codes) with one another in real-time.

While social media has allowed their business to grow and to provide an effective means for friends to share their love of the service, it also served as a tool that would undermine its core business model: getting people to pay for DVD rentals.

With the recent changes to the free rental promotion and redbox’s continued community efforts in social media, this company is likely to continue growing for a long time.

Have you seen situations where social media worked so harmoniously that it was viewed as working too well? How would you advise redbox to leverage social media to the benefit of their business?

Blogs Bring Bloggers Together

Photo courtesy of Joe Hobot

For over two years now, Central Iowa has played host to a monthly event called Central Iowa Bloggers. The gatherings started with just a handful of area bloggers getting together for a morning coffee, attempting to better connect in person with those they interacted with online.

I still remember the Business Record article I read in 2007 introducing Mike Sansone and the blogonostra, once a group of strangers that met online, but now a tight knit group of laptop-wielding, business-blogging individuals. It was shortly after I saw that article that I attended my first event and started this blog, hoping to share my own thoughts on marketing as a recent college grad living in a digital world.

Two years later, I have connected to more individuals and business professionals than I could have ever imagined—all because of a slathering of words on the internet and a local Panera Bread bakery. Some of us blog about politics, some about education, others on business and internet law, and still more about marketing, branding, public relations, conversations, web strategy, and millennials.

As time has passed the group has grown, bringing in more people that want to connect with this buzzing group. Many of the newcomers don’t have blogs, but they still find value in the Central Iowa Bloggers meetings because of the sense of community and the way the group helps one another out.

On the first Friday of every month I get to spend a few hours over coffee and a breakfast sandwich with some of the brightest, most helpful, most talented, and friendliest people I know—and it all started with a few bloggers blogging.

As everyone—including myself—have gotten caught up in social media and Shiny New Object syndrome, I’m setting a goal for myself to get back to my roots and back to blogging. This is where it started and this is where it will continue.

Have you ever been to a Central Iowa Bloggers event? What do you take away from those gatherings? And if you’re a blogger, what keeps you coming back to blogging?

[Photo courtesy of Joe Hobot]

Still No One Playing Foursquare in Des Moines

Today Foursquare announced the launch of their service in 15 new cities. Among them were Des Moines neighbors to the south and west – Omaha, NE and Kansas City, MO. Foursquare is a place-based social networking game that allows users to check in at locations, post to-do items for friends and earn points for visiting places.

foursquare_logo_boy

To recommend a city (like Des Moines!) to be added to the Foursquare service, add your request here.

From the Foursquare post on Tumblr, the team confirms that the additional cities were driven by fans:

Just so you know, we choose which cities to launch based on the feedback we get from users. [I]f your hometown didn’t make the list this time, stay tuned… we’re just getting warmed up over here.

For now Des Moines area users are still marooned among several surrounding cities, including Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, IL (in addition to Omaha and Kansas City).

When do you think the online userbase of Des Moines will grow large enough that we get included in initial launches of sites like this? What does that number look like?

Also, Silicon Prairie News grabbed a video interview with Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley.

Old Technology Libraries Becoming New Technology Hubs

I remember my hometown library fondly. It was a place I went each week during my early years of school to check out new books and materials. I even remember accessing the sophisticated-for-its-time computer systems that were slowly eroding the index card files. However, all other memories aside, the defining characteristic about the library was that it was a place for old technology. It was a place that let you borrow books, VHS tapes and casettes, and certainly not a center of innovation. Today all that is changing.

Changing needs, changing technologies

As the internet has become increasingly more accessible over the years, many would say that the reliance on printed materials has decreased. Being that libraries are run by groups of smart people, they’ve been able to stay ahead of the game and grow their available services to cater to the changing needs of patrons. Now when I visit my local library (Kirkendall Public Library), I’m greeted by much more than books. They’ve got walls of CDs and DVDs, plus an entire quadrant of computers, all ready for use by visitors.

Same game, new tools

The concept of the library is still the same – a place with an expert staff managing a wealth of reference materials – but the tools and technology have changed. One example of this change is the recent surge in use of social media by libraries across the country. In fact, the Daily Herald recently wrote about a number of libraries around Chicago that are taking up residence online in order to better connect with their patrons and their peers. And they’re not just connecting with their audience, but they’re also teaching their audience how to use the tools themselves.

The best part of the Herald article is that they don’t paint the libraries’ involvement in social media as part of a fad. The story mentions that some got started out of a need to maintain relevancy, but the core driving factor was to support the needs and capabilities of their patrons.

Connecting is at the core of social media

Michael Stephens, assistant professor of library and information science at Dominican University in River Forest, tells his students to remember that “while these social networks are a technology, their prime value is allowing humans to connect with each other.

This simple concept is something that so many entering social media today get wrong. Social media is not about repainting an old message and throwing it back into the marketplace. Social media is about communicating and connecting with others through a medium that levels the playing field.

If age-old libraries are learning to adjust and leverage these new modes of communication, what is your excuse?