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 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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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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How I Use Social Networking Sites

I wouldn’t start a blog called Online Social Networking if I didn’t like social networking sites.

Let’s look at some of the ways that I use social networking sites to meet my business networking objectives.

Casting a Wide Net

I join a wide range of social networking sites. I know that even if I will not be active at a particular social site, the profile I set up there will add to my online presence. So if I like the site, I’ll become part of the community. If I don’t, there’s no harm. My profile will remain there as long as the site continues to operate.

When you Google me, you’ll find page after page of results that are me. What happens when people Google you?

Joining a bunch of social networking sites should jump start your web presence. It’ll give you some Google juice. Why not join some of my favorite social networking sites featured on my blog’s sidebar? As a plus, in most cases we’ll automatically be connected as “friends”.

Building Large Targeted Lists

When I like a social networking site, I settle in and become part of the community.

A winning strategy on nearly all social networking sites is to build a large targeted list of friends or contacts, generally the larger the better. Thousands are better than hundreds.

For some sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Yuwie there are friend adders, but I don’t like to use them. I prefer the personal touch, and I don’t want to risk losing my profile for suspected spamming. I spend a modest amount of time each day requesting new friends on each of my favorite social networking sites.

There are two ways that I target my requests.

On sites that allow profile browsing by specific demographics such as age, gender, geographic location, marital status, and parental status, I browse to find people to add.

On sites that have groups or clubs I browse the groups that are likely to attract the people I’m looking for.

I tend to accept nearly all add requests from others. I reject blatant spammers, men masquerading as women in order to attract favorable attention, and crazies.

Networking and Attraction Marketing

Social networking sites are meant for online social networking and not for advertising or spamming. They’re a great place to get to know people. You get to know people by asking them questions.

Please visit or revisit my earlier post, Social Networking vs. Advertising, for a full explanation of this absolutely crucial concept.

Social networking sites are also great from attraction marketing. Be the type of person you want to attract, and that person will be attracted to you.

Videos of you presenting useful information or explaining an important idea, not making a sales pitch, can showcase you as the knowledgeable leader you are.

Blogging is a big part of my branding strategy, so when I network online, I invite people to visit my blog, read, comment and register or subscribe. And many do.

I invite people I like on one social networking site to connect with me on another site. I don’t want to lose track of them if the first site closes down or if one of us happens to have his or her profile deleted. And yes, many do… connect that is.

At Direct Matches, I invite people to visit my profile page where I have a subscription form, and people can sign up for my training newsletter. And again, many do.

Every time people go along with my request, they’re opting in another time to our relationship. It’s sort of like dating.

Branding Yourself

Social networking sites, video sites and blogs are great for personal branding. In fact, your whole online presence can serve as a branding mechanism.

Craft your personal branding strategy and develop a web presence that is consistent with your strategy.

Being Consistent and Following Through

Possibly the most important online social networking strategy is to be consistent and follow through, not to expect instant results.

First you need to build your list, and then you need to gain credibility with the people on it.

When I’ve tried to push things, people sensed it. When I’ve been patient, people have often come to me, and what could be better than that?

Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to my RSS feed or by e-mail. Also, visit my About, Services, Media Buzz and Connect pages to learn about me and my social media and web marketing services.

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