Google+: The Resurrection

Somewhat surprising news emerged recently in the social media world. According to Global Web Index, Google+ has surpassed Twitter to become the second largest social network in the world.

Here’s how the numbers break out: Facebook still holds the top spot with 693 million active users, Google+ has 343 million actives and Twitter comes in at 288 million.

Google+ has had quite a journey over its short history. It started with a bang and millions joined in droves. Then, it went through a period of diminished use and got labeled a “ghost town.” But the site has been steadily gaining interest and traction to get to where it is today.

I’ve always liked Google+. Some have unfairly overly compared it to Facebook, and although it does have some  similarities, it’s a very different site with differing strengths and appeal. G+ users aren’t subjected to advertising. It also offers a cleaner and simpler user experience, not to mention that it’s a great site to connect and engage on a deeper level with others that have similar interests.

A couple recent innovations that I think have helped G+ dramatically include the introduction of Communities and allowing brand pages to more easily connect with consumers. Both moves allow finding and connecting with others to be a much easier and enjoyable exercise.

It’s great to see where G+ has landed. Of course, with the competitiveness of social networks, things can change in a matter of months.

Converged Media Imperative

Converged media has been a hot topic the last two years and is picking up speed in 2013. This concept represents a blurring of the lines between the three types of media: paid, earned and owned.

I don’t think there are many who would disagree that this is happening and will continue. But another important issue is: What type of marketing professional will flourish in this environment and bring added value to his or her brand?

A word that comes to mind to describe this professional is: diverse. Fluency only in a single area, be it advertising, public relations, social media, branding or others is career and brand limiting. The value add comes from multi-disciplinary professionals who understand all of the converging types of media at the strategic and tactical levels and can fit them into a bigger, more seamless picture.

The disciplinary silos must come down. They should be replaced collaborative, cross-functional teams that can work together across the media spectrum.

All of this doesn’t mean specialization has no place. It simply means marketers must adapt and grow in their understanding of media, and work together more effectively. Converged media demands it.

Are Marketing Execs Falling Behind When it Comes to Digital?

Are marketing execs falling behind when it comes to digital?

It’s a digital horse race and marketing execs aren’t running.

Here’s an interesting post from Mark Schaefer that would indicate that perhaps marketing execs still don’t place the same level of importance on digital marketing when compared to more traditional marketing channels.

Schaefer’s post is based on a Harvard Business Review report that stated only nine companies in the Fortune 500 would be regarded as having a “highly digital” orientation.

Couple this finding with reports that digital media spending still significantly trails traditional spending and it would cause one to wonder how much importance marketing execs place on digital. And this is given the fact that digital media channels are growing much more rapidly than traditional.

A couple factors could be hindering digital growth in the marketing world: 1.) The reluctance of some execs to change and 2.) The need for a better demonstration of ROI from digital media.

I think everyone agrees that digital will move forward. The question is how quickly will it grow in the marketing world?

22 Key Takeaways from the Program “New Social Media Marketing Tools and Rules”

I had the privilege of attending the Chicago American Marketing Association’s “New Social Media Marketing Tools and Rules” on Wednesday. Speakers for the program were Adam Lilly, Brand Director at Goose Island Beer Company and Nader Ali-Hassan, Associate Director, Social Media at Razorfish. It was an afternoon filled with actionable social media information, including the following key takeaways:

Adam Lilly shared:

  • Make time to connect with people on social media.
  • Generate new and fresh content; don’t say the same things over and over.
  • Social media is a destination. Participate in the conversation.
  • Enable others to talk about your brand.
  • Practice timely storytelling.
  • Social must be a commitment and ingrained in the culture of the brand.
  • Good brand social media frontline employees are good storytellers.
  • Metrics are not as important as engagement.
  • Share in a creative and meaningful way.
  • Weekly digital content meetings can help generate ideas.
  • Encourage widespread use of social media by employees.

Nader Ali-Hassan shared:

  • The story and how you tell it is important.
  • Social media is about creating and connecting.
  • People don’t want to connect to a brand, but the people behind it.
  • Think about utility: providing value to the consumer.
  • Have a consistent brand voice across platforms.
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel; take advantage of the technologies that are available.
  • Think about social as a paid, earned and owned proposition.
  • Always plan ease and sharability into your content.
  • Trust your gut: If the shiny object doesn’t feel right, don’t use it.
  • Be willing to cede control of the brand to others.
  • Include social media in the overall marketing mix.

What would you add?

To Blog or Not to Blog

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for blogging, or business blogging at least.

First came the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth study that delivered these findings, among others:

  • Blogging declines for the first time among the Inc. 500.  Fifty percent of the 2010 Inc. 500 had a corporate blog, up from 45% in 2009 and 39% in 2008.  In this new 2011 study, the use of blogging dropped to 37%.  Companies in the Advertising/Marketing industry are most likely to blog while companies in Government Services and Construction make very little use of this tool. This decline mirrors a trend in other sectors as this mature tool evolves into other forms or is replaced by communication through Facebook or Twitter.
  • New tools replace older ones.  Facebook and LinkedIn lead the way. The platform most utilized by the 2011 Inc. 500 is Facebook with 74% of companies using it.  Virtually tied at 73% is the adoption of the professional network, LinkedIn.  Twenty-five and 24% respectively report that Facebook or LinkedIn is the single most effective social networking platform they use. Texting, downloadable mobile applications, and Foursquare are being utilized by 13%-15% of the 2011 Inc. 500.

The study was followed by a Digiday post by Jack Marshall that indicated creative agencies are ditching their blogs as well. Here’s the quote that sums up the gist of the post:

“Nobody reads agency blogs, and there are so many out there it’s impossible for people to keep up anyway,” said Sam Weston, director of communications at digital agency Huge. “We put ours on hiatus while we figure out what we want to do with it. We do use Facebook and Twitter. We’ve figured out what works for us there.”

Marshall’s Digiday post caught the attention (or ire) of popular bloggers Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and Shel Holtz.

From Joel:

Here’s a dirty little secret: I hope more agencies stop blogging. I could also name some bloggers that I’d like to see stop. Why? Am I being mean? Absolutely not. I see too many agencies and bloggers struggle with their blogs. It’s both obvious and painful to watch. They wind up spending too much time writing about themselves or covering the same areas of interest that everyone else is talking about. They’re afraid to have an opinion, step into a territory that they’re uncomfortable with and – most of all – they’re afraid to go “off brand.”

From Brogan:

I’ll tell you without even having to look why nobody reads a blog: because it’s boring. Because it’s poorly written. Because it’s utterly self-referential.

Nobody has time to read junk. Why would you? There’s so much great material out there.

From Holtz:

The assertion that nobody reads agency blogs came as a surprise to Niall Cook, one of the architects of Hill & Knowlton‘s blogging initiative. Cook left H&K last year to start his own consultancy—Sociagility—but says that by the time he left, the agency’s blogs “were generating more traffic and higher search engine rankings than the corporate website.” The website, he says, cost considerably more than the few thousand dollars invested in getting the blogs up and running.

“Even today, there are way more links to blogs.hillandknowlton.com than to http://www.hillandknowlton.com or http://www.hkstrategies.com,” Cook says. His new company’s blog covers topics like why there will never be a standardized social media ROI metric. There isn’t a new-hire or we-won-an-award post to be seen.

In fact, those self-promoting blogs Marshall seems to think characterize agency efforts don’t represent the best agency blogging. Agency blogs that produce the kinds of results H&K has achieved spotlight thought leadership, not awards and new-hires. The ain’t-we-great style of blog—whether from an agency or a company—never appealed to anybody, a fact reinforced by Forrester research that dates back 3-1/2 years.

It could be, given the data from the Dartmouth study and at least the appearance of a decline in blogging among agencies, that businesses overall are coming to the conclusion that blogging isn’t for them, and that’s okay.

I’m pro blogging from a marketing standpoint and feel there can be numerous benefits to the tactic. Not every business, however, fully understands blogging and how to execute it successfully. Or, it could simply be that these businesses have found other channels that yield increased ROI and choose to focus on those. That’s perfectly fine.

The idea that businesses must blog or that blogging is some kind of silver bullet holds no truth. Blogging, like other forms of marketing requires strategy, commitment and hard work. Even then, in most cases business blogs take time to mature.

So, choose wisely. Blogging holds great promise, but should be undertaken with great care and planning. If that’s not the right approach (for your business), the marketing world has many other avenues to choose from.

What do you think? Do you feel business blogging is on the decline?

Who Should Manage Social Media for an Organization?

Since many organizations lack the resources to hire dedicated social media professionals, I see this question quite frequently. I don’t think the answer is as straightforward as some would say, but for sure there at least are several guiding principles to consider for anyone making this decision.

Internal vs. External

First and foremost, if at all possible, the best case scenario would be to have the organization’s social media channels managed internally. In the case of a small business, this might not always be an option. Time constraints or unfamiliarity with the different social platforms can seem daunting. Eventually, managing social media internally would be a great goal to set. After all, nobody knows an organization like its employees. They should be able to represent the brand with the most enthusiasm, authenticity and efficiency.

If internal management just isn’t an option, an established digital or social media agency can help. The agency selection process should be entered into with the goal of developing a long-term relationship so that the agency personnel can fully learn the business and represent it most effectively.

Marketing vs. Public Relations

If an organization has marketing and PR professionals, which group should manage social media? Many organizations have professionals that have both marketing and PR responsibilities. If so, these would be the ones to take on social media as well.

What about larger organizations with separate marketing and PR departments? Generally professionals with PR backgrounds would be better suited to manage the social media activities. Their training and experience in communicating with various publics in many different types of situations would serve the organization well in its social media communications.

Introvert vs. Extrovert

Neither one would necessarily be the “ideal” personality type. The person or people should however have a desire to be social, have an understanding of the platforms and how to use them effectively, along with a desire to be pleasant, helpful and committed to representing the organization well through social media.

Let me know what you think. Anything you would add?

Blogging Lessons from Year One

Time really does fly, doesn’t it? It seems hard to believe that it’s been well over a year since I started this blog. It’s been a fun and rewarding experience. If you’re a blogger I’m sure you can relate to my sentiment.

I certainly have learned a lot about blogs and blogging over the course of the last year. The focus of this post is on personal blogging. Business blogging has somewhat different considerations. So, in no particular order, here are some of my key takeaways from blogging year one:

  1. Choosing a good blogging platform is important. I’ve been extremely happy with WordPress. There are other good platforms out there, but that don’t really offer the full functionality and theme options that WordPress brings to the table. This being said, find a blogging platform that works for you so that you can make your posts quickly and effortlessly.
  2. Blogging has to be personal. It should be first and foremost about what you want to share and write about, your area of expertise or passion. This is what keeps motivation high.
  3. Write for yourself, but so that others can learn and benefit. Think about how add value when someone stops by to read your post.
  4. Frequency in posting is somewhat important. This depends on your blog goals, but once a week is a good guideline to follow. The main benefit of weekly posting is that it keeps you disciplined. It also helps to grow the blog’s followers. If your goal is to dramatically increase readership then that would necessitate more frequent posting.
  5. Post length isn’t overly important. What is important is to provide clear and helpful information to the reader, whether it’s in 100 or 1,000 words.
  6. Learning from other bloggers is important. It gives us new perspectives and ideas.
  7. Learning from other bloggers is not important. Sometimes, being too focused on what others are doing compels us to try and be like them. See number 2 above.
  8. Commit to quality content. It’s better to post less frequently than produce poor or unhelpful content. Good content attracts, bad content repels.
  9. Trying new things adds life to your blog. No one wants to see the same old topics and format over and over again. Try something new and see how it goes, such as new topics, interviews, videos, images, guest posts and more. The opportunities are limitless. Keep exploring to keep things interesting for everyone.

Your turn bloggers. What has your experience been? What bit of wisdom would you offer?