Mastering social media one bite at a time the past few years was an effective strategy for me, as the needs of my small number of clients were modest enough.

That’s changing, as I’ve been engaged as social media and web strategist by the Gevril Group in Valley Cottage, NY, luxury watch distributor, a forward-thinking business with ambitious marketing goals.

A one-bite-at-a-time social media marketing approach for Gevril would be way too laid-back and totally unrealistic.

Gevril’s Social Media and Web Marketing Plan

Gevril Group Luxury WatchesI’ve crafted for Gevril a multi-faceted web marketing plan that matches the company’s far-reaching objectives.

All parts of my plan are to be managed and executed concurrently:

  • Community and List Building - Developing a community and building a subscriber base are impacted by nearly all social media and web marketing functions.
  • Content Creation - The story of each Gevril Group brand needs to be told, and articles, newsletters and press releases need to be written, as well.
  • Web Sites - Ivo Jackson and I are designing GevrilGroup.com. The Gevril Group website will be the hub of the Gevril web presence and a key resource for contact list building.
  • Blogging - Blogs will be used to post fresh content, such as news and product information. We’ve launched several Gevril Group blogs: Watch Brands and Luxury Watches and Men’s Watches.
  • Search Engine Optimization - SEO and social media complement each other very nicely. About 50% of my blog’s traffic comes from searches. Whenever new content is created, SEO needs to be applied. The free Google Keyword Tool is my favorite SEO resource.
  • Email Marketing - We’ll email press releases, and news about products and events to our email marketing lists.
  • Facebook - I’ve set up a facebook.com/GevrilGroup on Facebook, a social networking site I’m quite comfortable with. I hope to build an active community of watch enthusiasts around Gevril’s Facebook page.
  • Twitter - I’ve set up @GevrilGroup on Twitter and will use Tweet Adder to manage the Gevril account and build a targeted following.
  • LinkedIn - While still working on a strategy for LinkedIn, I’ve already joined many relevant LinkedIn groups. I will next create a Gevril company page.
  • Social Bookmarking Sites - I’ve lately received a lot of quality blog traffic from Business Exchange, so I created a Business Exchange topic for the watch industry. I’ll also use Digg, StumbleUpon and other social bookmarking sites.
  • Niche Social Networks - Social networking sites and forums catering to watches or luxury will help Gevril connect with watch enthusiasts.
  • Group Buying - I’ve ruled out Groupon and similar sites as potential marketing channels, but very much like GroupGain, a new website with a new group buying concept that has yet to launch.

Gevril Men's 5101 Rose Gold Avenue of Americas Automatic Date WatchThe ultimate goal of Gevril’s marketing initiatives is to increase sales by enlisting vendors and by creating more consumer demand.

Therefore, every aspect of Gevril’s social media and web marketing plan must contribute directly or indirectly to an increase in Gevril’s sales.

Please visit and follow the Gevril Group on Facebook and Twitter. I hope to see you there. ;-)

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Larry BraunerFacebook custom tabs are mini web pages within Facebook business pages that can be programmed, somewhat like one would program a regular website. You can use custom tabs to provide information, brand your business page or invite new visitors to “like” your Facebook business page.

Facebook Custom Tabs

Major brands, such as Coke and Macy’s, sport elegant Facebook pages and custom tabs that are visually coordinated with their corporate branding. There’s very little that’s generic about their Facebook pages. However, you have the option of creating your Facebook page and custom tabs on a modest budget, much as I’ve been doing.

My quite primitive but useful custom About tab offers information about me and at the same time functions as a landing page for new visitors.

Facebook Custom Tabs Using FBML

FacebookI created my custom tab using a Facebook application called Static FBML, i.e., Static Facebook Markup Language.

As indicated in Facebook Changes Are a Pane for Many, Facebook will phase out Static FBML but, as of this moment, you can still create your custom tabs using Static FBML, and Facebook will “grandfather” your custom tabs in. The newer method for creating custom tabs may be more difficult to use than the present one.

The Static FBML application works fine using very basic HTML. If you know a little HTML, you’re ready to create custom tabs — as long as you already have your own Facebook page. If you don’t know any HTML, you should seek help.

Go to the Static FBML application and create several new blank custom FBML tabs while you still can. ;-)

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Larry BraunerBusiness networking sites enable you to make business connections, and through their networking and marketing tools, business networks also facilitate personal branding and online business marketing.

This article discusses features of Ning networks. However, many Ning features are also available on other business networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.

Ning Social NetworksThe following are 10 facilities of Ning networks that used in concert will help you build a powerful personal brand and effectively market your business:

  1. Your Ning Profile - Your profile is your mini web page on social and business networks. It ought to portray you in the best possible light as explained in How Important is Making a Good First Impression Online? Therefore, carefully complete your profile info and include a smart looking personal photo. It boggles my mind the number of networkers who barely fill in their network profiles. For an example of a simple complete profile, view mine at the Small Business Network.
  2. Business Networking - The single best way to network both offline and online is to check people out and ask them to tell you more about themselves. Never spam them! The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel is a brief and excellent business networking guide.
  3. Blogs - Using blogs, you publicly express your views, stake claims to keywords and interact with readers via comments. When you blog on Ning networks, readers on-site don’t have far to go to find your posts, and because your content is aggregated by search engines with related content on the site, it’s easier for you and others to rank well on top keywords. To succeed blogging, post original search engine optimized articles that link to off-site and on-site sources. Don’t post snippets and don’t post articles that read like ads.
  4. Discussions - Discussion forums encourage people to share ideas in response to a simple question or statement. You can use discussions to get conversations going without writing whole articles. Be creative.
  5. Groups - Used correctly, groups are the most powerful branding and marketing tool on Ning networks. Group owners build communities and engage members through both discussions and newsletters — a bit like Facebook pages and Facebook groups combined. Before starting a Ning group, be ready to recruit off-site colleagues and use blogs and discussions to attract site members. I notice many starting groups and waiting for people to join with limited or no success.
  6. Events - Offline and online events are mini calls to action that can build and sustain momentum. Ning allows you to post events and members to respond. Share your events both on-site and off-site for optimal results.
  7. Comments - Your participation through commenting on others’ content and joining in conversations has a strong branding effect. People can get to know you through your comments. You have lots of time to compose your comments. Use that time wisely!
  8. Embedded Videos - Videos add a valuable dimension to your content on Ning and off Ning, as well. With a little practice you can quickly embed them in your blogs and discussions.
  9. Uploaded Photos - A picture is worth a thousand words. Upload pictures and label them so that people can appreciate them.
  10. Status Updates - Status updates are still a half-baked Ning feature, but use them anyway, since you never know who might be reading them.

I created and moderate the Small Business Network Ning site, Open Networking and Lifetime Learning for Small Business Owners and Their Clientele. Please join me there.

I also moderate a group at the My Linking Power Forum Ning network, It’s About Linking Power!

If you’re new to this blog, I invite you to subscribe. :-)

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Larry BraunerSocial media critics are quick to point out that social media marketing isn’t really free.

Using social media requires a considerable time investment, typically by people whose time is quite valuable. Once time is factored into the cost of using social media — as it ought to be — not only isn’t it free to use, it’s expensive to use.

The High Cost of Using Digital Media

High Cost of Social MediaTo say that I’m enthusiastic about using  social media for branding, building a web presence, and online social networking would be an understatement. Yet, I do not contest the critics’ claims that social media is expensive. It is costly, and so are website development and search engine optimization.

Nevertheless, if executed properly according to a sound digital media plan, website development, search engine optimization and social media will be worth more than their cost in the long run.

The High Cost of Using Traditional Media

Buy traditional media and you’ll pay to reach your audience. You’ll invest time to develop your ad campaign and than pay for the price of the media on top of that. The more select your audience, the larger your audience, and the more frequently you intend to reach them, the more you’ll have to pay.

Your Giant Interactive Billboard

Last May I wrote The Long Tail and Social Media. The simple idea is that your website and social media content have value to you long after you’ve put them online. Search engines and social media channels provide you with constant exposure 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, like a giant billboard on a super highway.  Your billboard, however, is interactive and could be worth a fortune to you.

Primary and Secondary Target Audience

Your primary target audience consists of your potential customers or people who care very much about your cause. Your secondary target audience is everybody else who appreciates your content or uses your website. They can spread your message or click through your ads.

The way traditional advertising is priced, it probably won’t be feasible to reach out to your secondary audience. The return on investment would be too small. However, digital media, which has little or no incremental cost, enables you to cast a wide net and reach both your primary and secondary target audiences.

Digital Media Replacing Traditional Media

So far I’ve assumed that you have a choice about digital media, but you don’t. Traditional media is declining and is gradually being replaced by its digital counterpart. The question is no longer which but when. When will you jump on the bandwagon?

Please take a minute or two to leave a comment below and to subscribe.

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Larry BraunerIt isn’t too late for entrepreneurs to become early adopters of social media. Use of the social web is still trying to find its way into mainstream business culture.

I first learned about Web 2.0 from Time Magazine’s historic December 2006 cover story, Time’s Person of the Year: You. Then, after much preparation, I launched Online Social Networking in November 2007.

Social Media One Bite at a TimeLooking back and recounting my earlier discovery, I wrote in a March 2009 article, Social Media One Bite at a Time, that “I saw that while I could no longer be one of the earliest adopters of social media, it wasn’t at all too late to position myself at the forefront of an enormous trend.”

I now realize that I was one of the earliest social media adopters, especially within business circles. Entrepreneurs have been very slow to embrace the new media.

Consider two stories both appearing this week in established publications. Entrepreneurs Question Value of Social Media appeared in the Wall Street Journal, and Is Social Media Worth Your Time? appeared in Inc.

These articles are indications that skepticism and misunderstanding remain pervasive, particularly among small business owners. The key concerns seem to be ROI and the time burden imposed by social media.

I’m not going to confront those issues in this blog post. Instead, I’m helping you see an opportunity. If you’re already sold on the long-term potential of branding yourself and your business using social media, you can get a good head start on most of your competition.

If you’re not already sold, read the two books I mentioned in Are You Building Your Personal Brand and Future Around Your Passion?Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel. Before you finish both books, I predict you’ll be a firm believer.

If you’re on your way, or if something is holding you back, in either case, I’d love to hear about it.

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Larry BraunerI’ll share one of my idiosyncrasies with you, but promise you won’t laugh: Most people go to the library to find books — not me. When I accompany my kids to the library, I take my own books with me to read while waiting for them to finish.

Think that’s peculiar? I can assure you that there’s a totally rational explanation: It’s rare to find the trendy business books I like to read at a library. I’m much more likely to find them at a bookstore.

Still, my kids like to tease me about this seemingly odd behavior.

Looking for Trendy Business Books at the LibraryImagine my surprise when on a recent library visit, I found both Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk and Six Pixels of Separation by Mitch Joel in the new arrivals section. Finding these books was a fluke, but nevertheless, I do plan to check back in that section in the future. ;-)

I read and thoroughly enjoyed Crush It!. The words of @garyvee helped to reinforce and refine my personal approach to business and social media branding. (I’m still in the middle of Six Pixels of Separation and liking it so far.)

Business developers are starting to approach me to explore joint ventures. They tell me how successful they are and then talk to me about changing my path, building a giant email list and making videos.

Gary, on the other hand, talks about building your personal brand through social media by being authentic and “delivering your content by video, podcast, or blog.” Being authentic guarantees to “differentiate you from everybody else, including those who share your niche or business model.”

Gary’s whole book resonated with me. However, his emphasis on building a personal brand around one’s passion got me to stop and reflect for several days about my own passion.

I realized that while I love social media, the web, and data crunching, I have a greater passion for helping people solve difficult problems. Throughout my career, I’ve been happiest when solving business problems has been at the core of my work.

Gary Vaynerchuk writes that loving your family, working super hard and living your passion are the keys to success. What’s your passion, and are you building your personal brand and future around that passion?

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Larry BraunerOur website promotion event and social media party was an enormous success. Hundreds actively participated, introducing their web sites, engaging in dialog and making new connections.

Fortunately, the time frame for the networking phase of the event is open-ended, so drop by my Facebook page any time to meet some new people and check out what they’re up to. I’ll be busy working on the page for a few more days, reviewing web sites I haven’t yet visited.

Self PromotionOur four-day event was in part an experiment, as Tom Woolf pointed out. A key takeaway for me is that many people are promoting their products, services, companies interests and causes but not sufficiently promoting them- selves.

Keeping a low profile may occasionally be appropriate. However, in general, self-promotion is integral to social media marketing and public relations.

These are eight reasons why self-promotion and injecting yourself into your content are very important:

  1. You transcend your interests.  No interest or group of interests, no matter how passionate you are about them, can fully define you as a person. Admittedly, this point is too existential, so…
  2. Your subject matter might lose relevance. For example, your product can be discontinued or your company can go out of business. Your content will become irrelevant with no residual benefit from the effort you put into creating and promoting it. However…
  3. You’re always relevant as a person. You have inherent value, and you’re completely portable from one venue to another.
  4. You and I are unique. People aren’t interchangeable, but products, services and organizations tend to be.
  5. You and I are memorable. People will come to remember us and our faces once they see us a few times.
  6. People prefer to do business with people they know, like and trust. It has always been that way, even before Al Gore allegedly invented the Internet. You and I can relate to people and build solid social capital.
  7. Synergy. Our diverse interests and content work to build a bigger and more insightful picture of us.
  8. Social media is uhh, social. You and I are social. Our jewelry and weight loss products merely facilitate social interaction. People relate to people, and their relationships are ongoing.

More about promoting yourself and personal branding in upcoming articles.

At this time, you can probably suggest additional reasons for keeping it social, and I expect that you will. ;-)

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Larry Brauner
As a business community, are we obsessed with return on investment? Is our preoccupation with measuring social media ROI counterproductive?

In this article I look at social media from what might be a novel perspective. I hope to convince you that social media use need not impact the bottom line over the short term, and that our belief that it ought to is impeding our progress.

I expect to provide a few other takeaways as well.

Are Marketing and PR Merging?

I was speaking with Jeffrey Cole, the marketing PR expert behind JJC Communications LLC, an agency using both social media and traditional public relations to achieve clients’ goals. Jeff authors the blog PR 101.

I asked Jeff whether he agreed with me that marketing and public relations were converging. He said he agreed, and that he believed advertising was converging with them as well.

Can You Put a Value on Reputation?

I saw a video and article posted by Chris Boyer, creator of the Hospital Online Marketing Education site on Ning and online marketing consultant at Healthgrades. Chris was discussing social media and the importance of his four R’s:

  1. Reach
  2. Relationship
  3. Reputation
  4. Return on investment

Regarding return on investment, Chris pointed out that measuring the ROI of social media was like trying to measure the ROI of a friendship.

I agreed with Chris’ assessment of social media, but let me ask you this question: What about measuring the ROI of your reputation? Could you possibly place a value on your reputation? I say no. Your reputation is invaluable.

Public Relations

Defining PR, the Public Relations Society of America states that PR “helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

The PRSA definition of PR implies relationship, Chris Boyer’s 2nd R of social media. Even the term itself, public relations, suggests relationship. The key word is relations. According to the Council of Public Relations Firms, public relations also:

  • “Builds and protects reputations.” Reputation is Chris’ 3rd R.
  • “Extends reach, frequency and the message of an advertising campaign.” Reach is Chris’ 1st R.

Marketing tends to revolve around cost per acquisition and ROI.  However, public relations relies on softer metrics, and since reputation is invaluable, PR almost never requires ROI justification.

Public relations and social media are a perfect pairing according to Chris’ four R’s.

Marketing

According to the American Marketing Association, “Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

The key word in this definition is offerings. Nothing is mentioned about reputation, although communicating and exchanging seem to correspond to reach and relationship.

Given marketing’s basic orientation toward advertising offerings, an activity in conflict with social media, and that it tends to revolve around cost per acquisition and return on investment, marketing and social media might be incompatible.

There are marketing-related activities that are obvious exceptions.

Customer Relationship Management

Although customer relationship management and customer service are marketing functions, they differ from marketing conceptually.

CRM and customer service focus on relationships more than offerings and are tracked using soft metrics such as time to answer call, call length, first call resolution, sales, saves, etc.

Many attempts to interact with customers on Twitter and to broadcast limited-time offers to them have been successful.

Selling

Selling, according to Wikipedia, is “persuading someone to buy one’s product or service,” i.e., to buy one’s offerings, and relationship is certainly essential for selling success. However, the key word here is persuading.

Social networking sites such as LinkedIn can support the sales process and replace much less convenient offline meetings.

Social media prospecting, if done well, can open doors which have been closed until now. Perhaps though, the persuading part of selling will go more smoothly if taken offline.

One-to-one selling using business networking sites to make connections is working for many people.

Image Advertising

As I said above, marketing almost always requires ROI justification.

There are some marketing efforts that don’t directly increase sales. Big companies can advertise their brands like Coke and Pepsi in order to maintain parity and to create economic barriers to entry into their markets.

These marketing campaigns are brand and reputation centric, and as such the public relations function could presumably conduct the very same campaigns just as effectively.

Social Media Marketing

If social media is largely a public relations tool, then what is social media marketing or social marketing?

Social marketing is web PR as practiced by marketing people who hope (pray?) that their social media outreach will eventually spill over into sales and justify their efforts.

We as marketers find it difficult to admit to ourselves and to others that we’re engaged in PR, but we are.

Do our companies really need more PR?

Marketers have long understood the importance of listening to customers. Today social media facilitates useful dialogue with and understanding of both customers and prospects.

The Long Tail of Social Media

The Long Tail of Social MediaSocial media is an investment with a very long tail. The content we create and the relationships we build can continue to bring a return far into the future. The revenue in the ROI equation is the present value of future dividends arising from our social media investment.

Social media used wisely ought to pay off. We can’t yet say exactly how-so nor how-much-so, but we’ll never find out unless we remove the impediment to progress, our obsession with social media ROI.

I found 35 social media KPIs to help measure engagement on the web and think that you’ll like it. I’m regularly researching and bookmarking new articles for you on my new Bookmarks page.

Keep the faith.. and leave me your comment. ;-)

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Larry BraunerSocial media marketing requires a markedly different mindset than traditional print, broadcast and direct mail marketing — or even PPC or e-zine marketing that use online media.

Marketing Paradigm Shift

Social marketing is not so much about lead development and customer acquisition as it is about brand development, relationship and community building.

Of course social marketers want to generate sales. That’s a given. However, the social marketing medium requires a new and more social approach to the whole marketing process.

Social Media Marketing Flow

Social marketing has its own characteristic flow. Strangers gradually become followers, friends and fans looking to engage with you.

They become increasingly receptive to your ideas and messages. Many eventually sell themselves on your products and services without your intervention. Others may require a little gentle persuasion.

Social media marketing is the art and science of using social media sites to create and nurture social marketing flow.

At the Core of Social Marketing

Social media sites offer the enabling technologies and infrastructure that define the social media marketing platform, but social marketing is centered around people, not around websites.

Furthermore, in social marketing it’s not companies but real people who communicate with people.

Personality, thought leadership, sensitivity, protocol and well-written content are social factors that foster relationship with your market and community participation. Think of social media marketing as charisma marketing.

A community in social media can be built around a blog, a group you start on a social site, or an independent online social network that you create.

The key is to use your personality and your content to give people in your target market compelling reasons to follow you online and to subscribe to your blogs or join your social networking sites.

Then you can speak to your new friends as a group as if they were sitting in your living room and leaning forward to make sure they catch your every word. You won’t need to use old media to yell.

Are you leaning forward?

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Larry Brauner

I’m not asking who owns social media content, although that’s an interesting question.

I am asking who’s responsible for your social media strategy and policy? Who determines your overall social media agenda?

If you’re on your own, and you’re promoting yourself, your ideas or your business, you presumably own your social media. The buck stops with you.

However, if you don’t don’t have a plan, perhaps your social media owns you. Your social media can own you whether you’re a one person show, or whether you’re a large enterprise employing many people.

Ownership is more than simply calling the shots. It’s setting objectives, formulating strategies, devising plans and implementing them. Neglect taking responsibility for these activities, and the likely outcome will be total chaos.

If you’re on your own, you now know that you must develop a sound plan, but what if you’re a large organization? Who will own social media in your organization? Who else will participate in social media?

Here are some possibilities:

  • Marketing is a likely choice for social media ownership, since marketing typically owns traditional media and is the department most likely to turn social media into a money making proposition. In addition, social media is a good branding tool, and marketing ought to understand and own the branding process.
  • Public Relations is another possibility, since PR regularly uses media to communicate with shareholders and the general public. In a business that does little marketing through media, such as one that sells only to government agencies, PR might be a good choice to guide social media strategy and policy.
  • Human Resources can use social media to communicate with employees and must help enforce internal social media policy.
  • Information Technology can use social media to collaborate and manage work flow. Moreover, social media use can expose the company network to additional risks.  IT maintains network security and protects both the company and individual computer users from hackers, viruses and malware.
  • Knowledge Management, and Engineering can use social media to compile knowledge, collaborate and manage work flow.
  • Legal must help Marketing, PR and HR determine what they can and cannot say on websites and in other communications.

I’ve discussed the basic issues surrounding social media ownership. However, I’ve purposely ignored such factors as inexperience, skepticism, company politics, red tape, inertia, denial and whatever else may get in the way of implementing a successful social media plan.

An article that covered these issues in any detail would be too long and much too depressing for both of us, but please do read Top 10 Social Marketing Challenges.

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