Thoughts on marketing, social media, and web strategy

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

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Social Media


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!

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?

Keeping Current with Social Media Netiquette

Wayne SuttonDo you find yourself struggling to keep up with the dos and don’ts in social media? You’re probably not alone. As more mainstream users enter the social media space, it’s only natural for confusion to erupt. Early adopters are used to signing up and using a multitude of different applications, but for the casual user it can all be quite overwhelming.

North Carolina’s Wayne Sutton sat down with FOX8 News earlier this week to talk about how he keeps connected and to share some tips for those who feel they may be drowning online.

How many profiles do I need?

Similar to Wayne, I have profiles on a host of different social media platforms, each with their own purpose and specialty. However, you can always hone in on MikeThoughts.com as the hub of my activity.

For more on Wayne and to see what he is up to, stop by SocialWayne.com. On his blog you’ll find links to all of his social media profiles and projects.

What questions do you have about social media netiquette?

Healthcare, Hospitals and Associations, Oh My!

Iowa Hospital AssociationAt the beginning of March I started a new job, leaving my role as Online Marketing Strategist at TMG and taking on my new position as the Director of Social Media and Web Strategies with the Iowa Hospital Association.

The Iowa Hospital Association is a voluntary membership organization representing hospital and health system interests to business, government and consumer audiences.

From Marketing to Government Relations

My position lives in the government relations department (another idea about where social media can live in an organization?), but was created  in order to facilitate participation in social media by our organization as a whole. The gov relations designation is simply because that’s where all of our other outbound communications are housed. I’ll be working closely with both our Director of Communications and Director of Grassroots Advocacy.

Making the Rules As We Go

Like any other position, I’ve got a job description outlining specific details and guidelines as to what my role entails, but a large portion of it will be determined ongoing as I learn more about our industry and the opportunities that exist for us as an organization.

The most exciting part of my job is that each day I get to prove how and why social media is an important part of business, not just for consumer-oriented companies, but for any business in existence. I’m also learning a lot about how other associations are using social media to benefit their members; check out the Association Social Media wiki for great examples.

Learning About Healthcare

In my two previous positions I operated first in construction and then in credit unions. Hospitals and healthcare are an entirely different world, but it’s a challenge I’m willing to take.

#hcsm trendingAlso, if you’ve been reading my tweets on Sunday night, you’ve probably noticed a flurry of them tagged with #hcsm between 8-9pm. Those tweets are all related to the “social media in healthcare” Twitter chats that take place every Sunday. Discussions are led by a moderator who asks questions of the group, then everyone jumps in with their responses. Each week our group continues to grow and tonight we were even a trending topic on Twitter (amidst both the Country Music Awards and Wrestlemania).

Taking the Next Step

It’s hard to believe this is my third full-time job since graduating from Iowa State just two years ago, but I’m very excited about where I’m at and the opportunities that have been presented to me. I’m looking forward to growing my experience, honing my skills and meeting new people. Keep an eye out for big things to come. :)

Why I'm Supporting Twestival (and Bringing Cleaning Water to Those in Need)

Twestival LogoIf you’re not on Twitter you probably haven’t heard of an internationally organized event taking place tomorrow night simultaneously in 175+ cities across the globe. The event is called Twestival and is being organized to bring together Twitter communities for an evening of fun and to raise money and awareness for charity: water.

charity: water is a non-profit that brings clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. The organization has been operating since 2006, but a global community of passionate microbloggers has propelled this group to gather worldwide recognition for its efforts.

In September 2008, a group of Twitterers based in London UK decided to organise an event where the local Twitter community could socialize offline; meet the faces behind the avatars, enjoy some entertainment, have a few drinks and tie this in with a food drive and fundraising effort for a local homeless charity.

The bulk of the event was organized in under two weeks, via Twitter and utilized the talents and financial support of the local Twittersphere to make this happen.

Around the world similar stories started appearing of local Twitter communities coming together and taking action for a great cause. Twestival was born out of the idea that if cities were able to collaborate on an international scale, but working from a local level, it could have a spectacular impact.

Seeing how these tight-knit local communities could gather together and tackle seemingly impossible feats in a short amount of time, charity:water saw the Twitter community as an opportunity to help raise awareness to the global crisis they seek to remedy.

People Will Rally Behind a Good Idea

First the idea was born, then volunteers started pouring in. Tony Scott set up Twestival.com and enabled each participating city to set up their own page. Amiando came on board to help event organizers with online RSVP tracking. Mashable partnered to promote the event worldwide. Tipjoy built widgets and organized a channel to raise donations.

The sheer number of people involved in this event and the heart and passion going into all of the planning, organizing and promotion have my jaw dropped on the floor. Many times in today’s society we are plagued with thoughts of how terrible most people are and the newsrooms of the world continue to pummel us with bad news, but the truth is that good-natured people with good intentions DO exist in the world. Twestival is being organized by those people.

Join Us Tomorrow Night and Support Twestival’s Cause

If you’d like to become part of this monumental fundraising event, stop by http://desmoines.twestival.com (or whichever city you are from) for more information. It’s not too late to donate a few bucks and help those in need.

I’ll be at Mars Cafe, 2318 University Ave tomorrow night (Thursday, February 12) and hope to see you there.

If you’re still not convinced, I’ll leave you with a video from the folks at Lava Row about why you should get involved: