Larry BraunerWhile building my online presence and working on small client projects over a three year period, I devised, tested and evaluated a wide variety of web-based marketing, branding and communication strategies and techniques, and discussed them on Online Social Networking.

In November 2010, I seized an opportunity that arose to join a major luxury goods company and test my strategies and techniques in a competitive real-world environment. The results were outstanding. Not only was enormous buzz created, the business was able to dramatically increase its authority and credibility within the trade and with the media.

I credit just five very simple ideas with our success:

  1. Building a core group of websites around which the company’s entire web presence was built.
  2. Fully aligning web content with the company’s mission and message.
  3. Creating a great quantity of top quality, expertly edited and search engine optimized content.
  4. Using plenty of images and videos to enhance our written content.
  5. Leveraging numerous online and offline sources, such as SEO, social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, email, print ads and word-of-mouth, to generate a flood of targeted traffic to the company’s web content.

Of course the details of implementation were far from trivial. They needed to be worked out along the way, and yours will too.

I shall elaborate on these five web strategies in future articles.

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Larry BraunerAll media have the tendency to become over-saturated with intrusive commercial messages. There are too many television and radio ads, too much junk email and snail mail, too many billboards, and yes, too many Facebook notifications. When overload occurs, messages are perceived as noise, and people filter them or tune them out.

The most common reaction of marketers is to raise the volume in one way or another. Marketers send more messages or create snazzier headlines. Raising the volume can help, but only for a short time. On Facebook, when the noise gets too loud, the top social networking site acts to tone it down or turn it off. Behavior that was once unrestricted becomes restricted.

As examples, we used to blanket our friends with invitations to Facebook events, but now Facebook forces us to be selective. We used to add friends haphazardly if we wished, but now Facebook deters us from adding people we don’t know. Raising the volume on Facebook isn’t a satisfactory option.

Inviting to Facebook Events

FacebookIn response to Facebook Page Events Rock,  readers asked for a Facebook page event how-to. I’m not ready to write a comprehensive guide. However, I offer you here ten tips for successfully inviting people to your Facebook events:

  1. Create a Facebook event that people in your niche will naturally desire to attend. Provide a clear explanation and instructions.
  2. Line up influential supporters to help you promote the event.
  3. Give yourself enough lead time before the event to invite people and clear up unforeseen problems that arise in the process.
  4. If you plan to invite your Facebook friends, categorize your friends beforehand using Facebook friend lists.
  5. Only invite friends from relevant lists. Be prepared, in any case, for a disappointing number of responses. Not only are people overloaded with event and other types of notifications, many are also confused by Facebook and don’t get that they should read all the particulars and click on I’m Attending if they wish to RSVP.
  6. Post the event or an article that you write about it on your business page, your personal profile and in Facebook groups catering to your niche.
  7. Post your Facebook event related links several times during the period before your event and even during your event. Just don’t overdo it and become obnoxious.
  8. Promote your event on your blog and on social media sites such as Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
  9. If you have an email list, send one or more messages to your list inviting contacts to join you at the event. I like to use Green Wave Email Marketing, because they allow me to directly upload my contacts without requiring them to re-opt in.
  10. Last, but not least, send individual messages personally inviting Facebook friends to attend. No only does this work if done right, it can help build relationships.

The key isn’t raising the volume. The key is better targeting and better diversifying your contact methods.

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Comments are welcome. :-)

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Larry BraunerI would love to spend my entire workday blogging, social bookmarking and business networking. However, long ago I discovered that combining these activities with other outreach is both more efficient and more far reaching than relying on social media alone to build a web presence.

Not only social media but search engine optimization, press releases, email marketing — and even advertising — all figure in my web strategy.

Salvatore Ferragamo WatchesOur company represents luxury watch brand Ferragamo Timepieces in the US and Caribbean markets. Industry leader Paul Ziff was appointed US and Caribbean Ferragamo President, and I was responsible as Social Media Director for spreading the word about the appointment and about Ferragamo.

I had about a week to implement a plan and capitalize on the news before it became stale and irrelevant. Our company was ready to host numerous sales meetings in Las Vegas, and I needed to create adequate buzz before the start of the meetings.

The effort consisted of writing and publishing web content related to Paul Ziff and Ferragamo, distributing press releases about Paul’s appointment, and emailing the news to a very large list. We were able to impact several thousand people, thanks to excellent resources and superb teamwork:

  • Marketing expert, blogger and watch enthusiast, John Sealander, did a marvelous job writing all the web content. I merely added a few links and images.
  • Paul Ziff wrote the press release, which was effectively distributed by eRealeases — via PR Newswire — and through their own channels. Our story was picked up by several hundred news websites.
  • Our huge quantity of email messages were delivered and tracked by Green Wave Email Marketing, under the direction of software guru, David Alexander, my good friend of more than 40 years. I use Aweber to manage my blog subscribers, but I prefer Green Wave for my email marketing because David’s service provides greater flexibility and more personalized attention. In my opinion, Green Wave is more geared to mainstream business than Aweber.
  • I leveraged search and social strategies and techniques to drive additional traffic to John’s content on our company website and blogs.

Please subscribe to my blog and share ways in which you’re going beyond social media. :-)

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Larry BraunerIt would be useful if you could know which social media sources, social networking sites and search terms were contributing to your newsletter and blog subscriptions.

You can track newsletter and blog subscriptions to a large extent, although not fully, using web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or Clicky, my favorites, and a trick or two I’m going to share with you.

Accurate Subscription Tracking is Impossible

I asserted in Twitter Stats Defy Measurement that “everything defies measurement and tracking.” Why should subscriptions be exceptions? :)

I believe that some subscriptions methods, such as blog subscription via the RSS icon in the Firefox location bar, can not be tracked, since that icon is external to your site, and you can only track your site itself, since tracking relies on script placed internally within the site’s web pages.

Fortunately, the practical researchers that we are, we’ll draw conclusions about newsletter and blog subscription from whatever data we’re able to obtain. We can obtain tracking data for some RSS subscriptions and most web form email subscriptions.

How to Track RSS Subscriptions

The following four steps will help you track your RSS subscriptions:

  1. Use Feedburner to “burn” your blog’s RSS feed.
  2. Post Feedburner RSS icons prominently on your blog, so that visitors will find it easy click on those icons instead of their browser’s RSS icon. There’s no need to be subtle about your RSS icons.
  3. Use off-site link clicks to your Feedburner page to segment your subscribers within your web analytics program.
  4. Study the sources and behavior of that segment of subscribers.

It’s possible that some members of this RSS subscriber segment will not follow through with their subscription or that they were already your subscribers but didn’t remember. It’s not worth losing any sleep over it.

How to Track Web Form Email Subscriptions

59th Birthday Party and Promote-Yourself Event on FacebookThis one should be a piece of cake — speaking of which, Tuesday is my birthday and you’re invited to my social networking 59th birthday party on Facebook that runs from the 11th through the 20th.

The key to tracking web-form email subscriptions is to set the subscription thank-you page to a page on your blog that’s used only for this purpose and to segment your email subscribers as a result of their visiting the thank-you page. Some visitors who submit web form fail to confirm their subscriptions. Don’t let this issue ruffle your feathers either.

You can track visitors who do confirm by using a subscription confirmation welcome page on your blog. However, after their original tracking session has timed out, they can no longer be connected to their original tracking source, so you might not be any better off than simply tracking visits to your thank-you page.

I implement both thank-you and welcome pages as part of my sign-up process, not only so that I can keep my options open, but so that I can also bring the subscriber back to my blog twice instead of once.

Additional Remarks

I use Aweber for my email subscriptions, but you can use almost any good email contact service. I recommend that you not use Feedburner for your email subscribers, because Feedburner will not afford you sufficient control over your email list.

I sometimes use Google Analytics to merge the RSS and email subscribers into a single segment, but it can be interesting to study the two groups separately.

Now, one final question: How do you prefer to subscribe to this blog, by RSS or by email? ;-)

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Larry BraunerI’ve written about list building extensively in connection with social media.

It’s time to revisit social media list building once again. In this article, however, I focus more on where to build lists than how to build them. In other words, I focus on social media list building destinations.

A few remarks are in order before I address the where-to of list building.

Importance of List Building

In List Building Using Twitter, I discuss the importance of list building in marketing. List building is equally important in PR, CRM and other types of communication.

Reach is the quantity of people your message reaches, while frequency is the average number of times each person is reached.

Frequency builds trust and drives your message home. Advertising without frequency is rarely effective. Marketers rely on list building to repeatedly reach their audience and achieve their target frequency levels.

New List Building Paradigm

List Building DestinationsIn List Building Paradigm Shift, I discard the stereotype of list building as “a well-written lead capture page linked by a web form to an auto- responder” and redefine it as the process of acquiring and nurturing followers.

More precisely:

List building is the process of subscribing members of your target audience, in order to engage and nurture them and brand yourself and that which you represent.

This definition leaves plenty of room for creativity and customization of the list building process, yet it defines our objectives: engaging, nurturing and branding. Prescribing our objectives enables you to gauge the relative merits of each list building venue at your disposal.

List Building Destinations

These are my five favorite venues for list building. They are just as useful to owners of static websites as they are to bloggers.

I use all of them and let people choose for themselves which they prefer.

  1. Autoresponders - Reports of the death of email have been greatly exaggerated. Everybody receives email and knows how email works. Every website should provide email subscription. Emails sent to opt-in subscribers will have an open rate of about 30% and a click through rate of approximately 10%, which is excellent. The downside of email subscription in general is anonymity, lack of interactivity and changes of address. I use an autoresponder service to maintain my database and deliver my email. My service has a high delivery rate, many important features, good customer service, and it integrates with Google’s FeedBurner RSS if you have a blog.
  2. Ning Social Networks - You can connect with members of a Ning network, interact with them and broadcast messages to them as the site creator, as an administrator, as a group creator and as a friend. They all work. However, only as the site creator do you actually own their data. My primary Ning site is Small Business Network. Subscription through Ning can be powerful, but it takes much more work to join a Ning site than to opt into an email list. A big problem with Ning is that if somebody joins more than one site or group of yours, they can receive duplicate mail from you. If you’re already established on Ning, incorporate it in your list building strategy. If not, to Ning or not to Ning will not be an easy question to answer.
  3. Facebook - A Facebook fan page widget lets Facebook members register for your page with one click. Based on my experience, response to posts runs at around 5%, about half the rate of email, which is good. The quality of traffic is superb with high average time spent on site. Your posts on Facebook can promote interaction and draw comments themselves from the members of your page, which helps you brand yourself. The potential also exists with Facebook pages to benefit from viral effects.
  4. Twitter - Posts on Twitter, or tweets as they’re called, can easily be retweeted and spread virally throughout the site. In a future post, I might list the reasons why, not withstanding the viral effect, I like Twitter much less than I like Facebook for list building. Nevertheless, I’m very happy to make Twitter subscription available, and I love all the traffic it brings me. (I’m @larrybrauner.)
  5. Google Friend Connect - This is Google’s attempt to add a social element to every website.  I doubt that it’s very successful from a social perspective, but it’s from Google, so I’m in. If Google uses or will use GFC membership to assess the relevance of websites, I’m covered. One nice feature of GFC is its newsletters. Make sure you enable them and use them to email your GFC subscribers.

I also use RSS subscription for my blog, but it doesn’t support interaction, and I believe that the response rate from RSS is very low.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, please choose a destination and subscribe.

Your comments about list building or social media list building destinations are welcome. :-)

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Larry Brauner
I read an excellent article this afternoon in the Wall Street Journal by Jessica E. Vascellaro about the declining role of e-mail in our day-to-day communication, as services like Twitter, Facebook and lots of other social networking sites continue to grow in popularity.

According to Ms. Vascellaro, we obviously still use email. However, email was better suited to the way we used the Internet in the past, when we’d go online intermittently to read our messages.

“Now we are always connected, whether we are sitting at a desk or on a mobile phone. The always-on connection, in turn, has created a host of new ways to communicate that are much faster than email, and more fun.”

E-mail MarketingIf more of our attention is being directed toward social media and away from email, is there a future for email marketing?

The success of email marketing depends on our ability to efficiently reach our target markets via their email inboxes. As people increasingly turn to social media, and internet service providers apply more aggressive spam filtering, email marketing becomes less viable.

Just last night, a friend messaged me on Facebook saying that she was “shifting over from an e-newsletter to blogging,” and that she was looking for a little advice.

Email marketers want to know how to react to the trend toward social media and social marketing.

Advice for Email Marketers

Here are seven tips for coping with the decline in email communication:

  1. Act Now - Don’t sit on the sidelines like your old media friends. There are still plenty of newspaper publishers scratching their heads wondering what they’re going to do about their failing businesses.
  2. Diversify - Adopt a variety of new social marketing channels, but do not discontinue your email marketing campaigns. Build on your past successes.
  3. Stay Cool - Don’t overreact. Email communication isn’t going away any time soon. Gradually make adjustments and find the allocation of resources that delivers you the best ROI.
  4. Learn Social Media - There are many social marketing resources and a fairly steep social media learning curve. Either make social media training a priority for yourself and stick with it or find someone to whom you can delegate or outsource all or part of it.
  5. Learn SEO - Learn search engine optimization as well, or again, delegate or outsource it.
  6. Keep Testing - Just as you’d test different lists or advertising copy, test different social media venues and content to determine what works for you, and what doesn’t. Be flexible.
  7. Get Help - Even if you do decide to educate yourself, look to social media and web marketing experts for help along the way. Their guidance will save you much time and money in the long run.

I still use my email autoresponder to communicate with many of my blog subscribers. However, email accounts for only 2% of my total blog traffic. Google, Entrecard and Twitter combined account for about 80%, and all other sources add to the remaining 18%.

I will have more to say on email marketing and on list building in future articles. I suggest meanwhile that you read List Building Paradigm Shift which I wrote at the beginning of the year.

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