Larry BraunerYou want to market on the web and take advantage of the vast potential of social media. You start your blog, create your Twitter account, launch your Facebook fan page, and you’re ready to go.

Or are you? Have you missed any crucial first steps?

Sandy Abrams, begins her new book, Your Idea, Inc., with words that have been attributed to Mark Twain:

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

This quotation presents three problems, which I believe ought to have troubled Samuel Clemens:

  1. Isn’t “breaking down your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks” itself a step in the process?
  2. Aren’t understanding your needs and clearly defining your objectives vital preparatory steps as well?
  3. How do we determine the optimal sequence in which to execute all the small manageable tasks?

Neglected Stepchild of Social Media MarketingThese are three aspects of planning.

Planning is not popular, which explains the all too common lack of direction and focus in social media work.

Lack of direction and focus impedes progress and can cause frustration.

Your Social Media Plan

Before you jump into social media, devise your social media marketing and PR plan. Here are 16 key areas that might factor into your social media plan:

  1. Understand your business and objectives.
  2. Think about your products and services, what makes each special and their respective market segments.
  3. Develop positioning strategies for each market or program.
  4. Compile a list of your online competitors for each market.
  5. Identify suitable social media, such as social networking sites and social bookmarking sites, for both your vertical and horizontal campaigns.
  6. Identify desirable directories and other sites that might link to your content.
  7. Research and evaluate the extent and quality of industry-specific online content.
  8. Devise strategies and techniques for developing and promoting your content.
  9. Define a policy for governing your employees’ interactions with the public through social media.
  10. Study the online methodology of competitors and identify their search engine keywords.
  11. Analyze and critique your existing web presence.
  12. Gauge your competitors’ online success based upon their standing in search engines, the number and quality of links to their site, and estimated traffic.
  13. Identify opportunities to outmaneuver your competitors.
  14. Use a process called keyword discovery to develop a potentially useful vocabulary that will attract targeted search engine traffic to your content through SEO.
  15. Analyze keywords to determine which ones ought to be emphasized, based on the frequency of search and the amount of competition for each keyword phrase.
  16. Create a lexicon as an output of your keyword research and as an aid to your content development.

Action is Everything

You need not be concerned about every one of these areas. Use your judgment, since these are more suggestions than requirements. Certainly, do not use the length of my list as an excuse not to take action.

Action is everything. However, action begins with planning.

What are your thoughts?

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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 BraunerA few days into 2010, I launched a major publicity event in connection with my upcoming 58th birthday. The event will take place right on my Facebook fan page.

This event’s premise is that each guest will post a link on my Facebook fan page, visible for all to see. They may link to a blog, a website or even a profile on one of the major social networking sites. I agreed to follow their link with the intention of commenting, sharing the link, or submitting it to social bookmarking sites.

When I undertook this unusual event, I was aware that I would be busy with it for weeks. I planned it very carefully with seven key objectives in mind:

  1. Win Win - I wanted each event participant to benefit, not only me.
  2. Interaction - I wanted to interact with each participant and start or nurture relationships. Community engagement is always a challenge.
  3. Meeting People - I wanted to expand my network and connect with new people.
  4. Collaboration - I wanted to share my expertise and influence. I believed that a good number of participants would want to do the same. Collaboration is a primary theme for me in 2010.
  5. Branding - I wanted to demonstrate that I could conceptualize and implement a creative and meaningful social media event as part of my overall walking the walk strategy.
  6. Leverage - In 2009 I reached out to many people. I wanted to do something that would include them and permit them to support me.
  7. Momentum - After a slow 2009 holiday season, I wanted to build new momentum. Last year’s momentum was sustained by the articles I wrote and the growth of my network. This year’s momentum will be sustained by community-oriented projects as well.

The initial reaction to my event on Facebook, Twitter and blogs has been very encouraging.

  • Tom Woolf, author of The PRagmatist, was enthusiastic: “I want to give Larry Brauner a nod for trying a different kind of social media experiment.”
  • W. James Wright in Tweet it Toronto lamented “This is one for the ‘Wish I Woulda Thoughta That File.’”
  • Rachel McAlpine in Contented Blog said “How quickly the shiny- new Facebook became boring-boring same-old same-old. I’m happy to say that Larry’s virtual party has already seeded my brain with other social marketing ideas.”

As I prepare to publish this article, 260 people have indicated that they’re “Attending” and 165 that they’re “Maybe Attending.” Entries will be accepted until the end of the event on January 14. I cover the details in 4+ Day Blog and Website Promotion Event and Social Media Party. It would help greatly if you could tweet that article (using this pre-formatted link).

If you could Digg this article and share it with acquaintances in the media, you’d be doing me an enormous favor.

Before I go, I must not forget to mention that there will be door prizes. The prizes and the winners will be announced some time after the completion of the event. Also, in case you’re new here and wondering, subscribing and commenting are the accepted norms. ;-)

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Larry BraunerTo start off a year of greater collaboration and celebrate my 58th birthday, I’m hosting a unique four-day blog and web site promotion event and social media party on my Facebook fan page.

What’s truly unique about this event is that I plan to check out every link posted on my page and comment, share the link, and submit it to social bookmarking sites, as I deem appropriate.

Over a hundred people have registered so far, and many more are expected to sign up for this free event.

Everybody may participate. It’s not necessary to have a blog or other website.

If you’d like to donate a door prize such as an info product or a coaching session, please connect with me as quickly as possible.

Here are answers to 19 or 20 infrequently asked questions:

  1. How do I register for this event? Visit the event page and click on Attending. If you’re not a Facebook member, join Facebook first.
  2. When does this event take place? From January 11-14 according to the date wherever you are. EXTENDED UNTIL JANUARY 15, NOON EST. NO DEADLINE FOR NETWORKING AND COMMENTING ON POSTS.
  3. Do I have to be awake and online for 96 hours? Not unless you want to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.
  4. Can I click on Maybe? You can, but why would you? The party is four days long. Either you’re going to stop by or you’re not.
  5. In what ways can I participate? You can post a link to your blog or website on my Facebook page along with a brief non-hypey introduction. You can network (see below) with other people and check out their links. You can even be a fly on the wall (no pun intended) and just chill.
  6. What if I don’t have a blog or other website? Post a link to your Facebook page or profile, to your Twitter profile, LinkedIn profile, etc.
  7. What am I not permitted to promote? No porn or hate content. No predominantly religious content. (I was careful not to include them all in the same sentence.)
  8. How many links may I post during the event? One with an exception…
  9. What if you don’t get to me? If I don’t get to acknowledge your post within seven days, you may post a new link or re-post the old one.
  10. Can I network with other participants? You are encouraged to network, but please do so in a professional manner to avoid being cast into the snake and scorpion infested dungeon.
  11. When will you be hosting another event like this one? I don’t know. It depends on how this one goes. If I must hire bouncers, that won’t be a good sign.
  12. What happens if I don’t attend this one? You’ll have to live with a guilty conscience for all eternity.
  13. Will dessert be served? Yes. Chocolate cyber cake and virtual vanilla ice cream. Yum!
  14. This bullet point intentionally left blank.
  15. Do I need to bring a birthday present? No, but you can help promote this event.
  16. How can I help promote this event? You can link to this article, share it on FB, tweet it (using this handy link), Stumble it, Digg it, or print copies and mail them to all your friends, family and colleagues.
  17. Is this some kind of April Fools joke? Only if you’re reading this on April 1st.
  18. What if I think 58 is old? Keep your opinion to yourself.
  19. What if I don’t think any of this is very funny? Get a life.
  20. What if you haven’t answered my question? You can ask your question below in a comment. I’ll answer it, if it makes sense to me.

Note that I reserve the right to modify the rules and conditions of this event arbitrarily and capriciously with or without prior or subsequent notice.

Don’t hesitate to subscribe, leave a comment, or join my Facebook Fan page. ;-)

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Larry Brauner

In the past week, social media hype and the competency of  social media consultants have been analyzed from different vantage points by prominent writers.

ClickZ published an article, Here Come the Social Media Carpetbaggers by Rebecca Lieb.

Social Media Carpetbaggers

Rebecca pointed out that a combination of the recession, the decline of traditional media, and the nearly zero cost and barrier-to-entry into social media has spawned 21st century “social media carpetbaggers, in all flavors and colors of the rainbow.”

Which carpetbaggers?

It’s reputable marketers who have built deservedly strong reputations in other digital disciplines: branding, creative, strategy, search, media, and a host of other specialties, who are suddenly labeling themselves “social.”

These carpetbaggers are anxious to get their piece of social media marketing, and their dog-and-pony shows and social media clichés substitute for real experience, competence and substance.

Social Media Snake Oil

Social Media Snake OilBusiness Week published Beware Social Media Snake Oil by Stephen Baker which portrayed social media consulting as sizzle more than steak.

Stephen criticized rigidity, conflicts of interest, reliance on soft metrics, and in the worst of cases, pure hype:

“It’s a bit of a Wild West scenario,” blogs David Armano, a consultant with the Dachis Group of Austin, Texas. Without naming names, he compares some consultants to “snake oil salesmen.”

Beyond Social Media Snake Oil

The David Armano just cited added to the discussion in a subsequent article on his blog, Life After Social Media Snake Oil. David made some astute comparisons between the social media “hype and fuzzy metrics” and the denial surrounding the dot com bubble.

David ended his article by connecting the past and the future:

The true believers who stuck with the Web even when the bubble burst became the people you wanted to work with. If there is a shakeout in the social space, the same will happen. The true believers will remain, while others flock to the next hot field.

Social Media in Perspective

Mark Evans also picked up on the Business Week piece. Mark concludes that we need more perspective:

All the hype surrounding social media and tools such as Twitter and Facebook overshadow the fact that effective marketing and communications will continue to include a variety of tools. To counter all the happy talk from social media consultants about what could be, the biggest thing needed right now is perspective.

My Comments on What I’ve Read

I have several comments to make on the articles I’ve read:

  • Not only social media, but web development, and website, social media and search engine optimization all have more than enough carpetbaggers and snake oil salesmen. In all these areas, service providers, and even their completed work, are difficult to evaluate. Licensing isn’t required either, so they can easily hang up shingles and start practices. Sadly, they’re practicing on your company.
  • In the case of Rebecca Lieb’s marketing firm turned social media carpetbagger, it’s unfortunate that they haven’t yet developed the strategic alliances they will need to compensate for a lack of experience that cannot be otherwise mitigated in the short run.
  • Measuring ROI and developing other hard metrics was a concern shared by several authors. I protested already in my article, The Social Media ROI Obsession, that much of social media marketing is really public relations, and that the use of softer metrics may be appropriate in such a case.
  • While the absence of clear financial justification may cause the social media marketing bubble to burst, I expect that public and customer relations, as well as B2B prospecting will continue to make good use of social media.

And now, it’s your turn to comment on another hot topic. :-)

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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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