Last night Racepoint Group hosted an event about social media and its return on investment (ROI). As social media continues to become a larger focal point in public relations and marketing campaigns, it’s critical to understand how to articulate it’s value to clients.
Last night’s event centered around a panel discussion with three social media experts: Larry Weber, Chairman of Racepoint Group, Erik Qualman, author of Socialnomics and Mike Volpe, VP of Inbound Marketing for HubSpot.
After Larry Weber’s opening remarks, Qualman shared how he first dipped his toe into the digital space by sending a company-wide email instead of the standard hard copy memo. View his story here:
Volpe was up next and shared with the group the origins of his marketing career and the way tracking and reporting on ROI is evolving. Watch him provide tips here:
The evening was full of tremendous ideas and recommendations. The five big takeaways from the panel were:
1) Social media is not about technology. It’s about human interaction. It’s about sharing information and making connections. People who are intimidated by the technology aspect of engaging in social media should not view the applications as a hurdle. It’s simply the current mechanism to maintain relationships and reach out to new people.
2) When it comes to tracking social media, its important to focus not only on the quantitative (number of followers, number of re-postings) but also the qualitative. We need to take into account engagement and tone. Qualman said, “If social media is so trackable, we should just have robots running things. The human element is necessary here.”
3) Everyone and anyone can be a content creator, a publisher, a media property. As we shift away from traditional print and broadcast media, both we and our clients have the opportunity to get innovative and create and distribute our own content. Additionally, content creation should not be isolated to the PR and marketing staff. Volpe shared that, “50% of HubSpot employees have written posts for the HubSpot blog.”
4) Although much of PR and marketing is based in the written word, we need to start thinking more visually. We need to tell stories through pictures and videos. We need to make our content more authentic and dynamic.
5) On a personal level, Volpe stated, “The new resume is what comes up in Google when I type in your name.” As digital and social media continue to play an increasingly vital role in our PR and marketing efforts, we too have a digital and social persona, and that is now what employers are most interested in.
Thank you to Erik Qualman and Mike Volpe for joining us at Racepoint Group last night and providing such pragmatic, realistic, useful and inspiring guidance on the social media ROI frontier. Be sure to follow @equalman and @mvolpe on Twitter for real time updates on their social media adventures. You can also view all the live commentary during the event with the #smroi hashtag here.
Performics study of 3,000 consumers, which was released at ad:tech New York last week, looked at how various segments of consumers use social networks in their daily lives, specifically in regard to finding out about different types of products and in relation to other media channels. Two specifically interesting points from their study, were:
30 % of respondents have learned about a new product, service or brand from a social networking site
28 % of respondents said messages about sales or special deal notifications resonate with them
Meanwhile, Razorfish’s report, which was based on a survey of 1,000 “connected consumers,” echoed the sentiment of consumers engaging with brands online, taking action (recommending / posting feedback) and ultimately purchasing – especially when deals are on the table.
Nearly 70 % of respondents have read blogs produced by products or brands (e.g., Nintendo) in some frequency
26 % have followed a brand on Twitter
40 % have “friended” a brand on Facebook or MySpace
73% of respondents post product or brand reviews on Web sites (e.g., Amazon, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
53% have blogged about a product, brand or service
70% have participated in a brand sponsored contest or sweepstakes online
With that data it’s obvious that engagement is continuing to increase, but why are they following? Similar to last week’s study, Razorfish found that the #1 reason for following or ‘friending’ a brand is simple. They want deals.
43% of those that follow a brand on Twitter, do so for exclusive deals or offers. This beat out ‘I am a current customer’ (24%) and for ‘interesting and entertaining content (23%)
Exclusive deals or offers were also the top reason for ‘friending’ brands on Facebook or MySpace
But perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Razorfish study was the data on how online influences (blogs, YouTube, Websites, online customer service, etc) can change brand opinion and ultimately purchase decisions.
65 % of respondents said an online experience has changed their opinion (either positively or negatively) about a brand or the products and services it offers
97% said that experience has influenced their future purchase decisions
In addition, 64% said they have made a first purchase from a brand based purely on a digital experience (e.g., a Website, micro-site, mobile coupon, blog, tweet, email, etc)
Many clients (brands) still look at press releases as marketing speak; heavy in product and service jargon that journalists covering the beat have a hard time understanding – let alone the typical consumer. As communications continues to shift towards direct-to-consumer interaction, press releases also need to adapt.
Of course, savvy clients are big fans of Google News so they should understand that the modern, digital press release is read by hundreds to thousands of consumers on the Web (including potential sale’s leads) in its original form (both on Google News and other news aggregator sites). So what is the best way to maximize the return on investment on digital releases today? Here’s a few basic tips.
Free is Good: Now more than ever, those of us within this industry need to focus on return on investment. Sometimes there just isn’t the prospective return there to pay for the distribution of a press release on a paid distribution wire. While it is still necessary in most cases to use pay-for wire services (i.e. BusinessWire and MarketWire) for major corporate (investor / financial) and product announcements, a large percentage of clicks on press releases come through Google. Social media distribution services like PitchEngine, which are free in their most basic form, also get picked-up on Google. While we still advise that clients use this tool as a supplement to pay-for wire services for major announcements, these free services can be used as alternatives to paid services for lesser announcements. In addition, although BusinessWire has added new tagging features within the last couple weeks, which includes Facebook and Twitter, PitchEngine and other social services tend to allow for better social sharing capability (or Re-tweet-ability) than their paid-for counterparts. Once the release is up, it’s important to make sure the release is shared across communities (i.e.: Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc).
Shorter Headlines: Given that we live in a 140-character world with the advent of Twitter, one would think that we would begin to shorten other aspects of our communications toolbox. It hasn’t really happened to date. Brands continue to spend too much money, with too many words, with the aforementioned pay services and headlines are continually wasted on Google News. Google news only supports 63 characters with its headlines, yet companies continue to make their headlines longer than most tweets. It’s important that companies not only shorten their headlines, but also include search keywords within the first 63 characters.
Hyperlinks or Anchor Text Up-front: In addition to allowing for easy click-throughs to corporate Websites or micro-sites, the use of hyperlinks (or anchor text) also weighs releases as more relevant in the eyes of Google’s search engine. Google’s search patents, which have been disclosed over the years, illustrate how and why Google’s engine ranks anchor text and hyperlinks so highly. Using anchor text with keywords (as part of an SEO strategy) in the opening of your release builds relevancy, leading to more link views and inevitably more clicks on the release, and your Website.
Using Hyperlinks, in Addition to Full Domain Names: Although Google continues to score anchor text (i.e. RaceTalk) higher than full domain names ( i.e. http://www.racetalkblog.com), consumers still click on full domain names. Press releases distributed through paid services are often likely to see Website click-throughs higher on full domain links than the hyper-linked alternative. It’s important that you include both within your release (especially for the corporate Website).
Market your Return: Once you’ve got the right service and the right format for your release, and the results that come with it, make sure to market the return on the release up the ladder. Free services like PitchEngine offer you click results on your release and paid services like BusinessWire offer you much more. BusinessWire offers paying customers full click-through results that tabulate which links viewers clicked on within the release, which site referred them and where (wire, Google News, etc) they viewed the release. It’s imperative that these results (especially the amount of traffic driven to a Website or product page) are shared with the client or up the ladder (for PR folks working in-house).
In an effort to further integrate two of its flagship media outlets, the New York Times Co. made the move Sunday to launch the new “Global Edition” online and in print, which absorbs the International Herald Tribune within the New York Times – as its global paper.
The online Global Edition, which combines the international reporting of the two Times Co. publications, “will provide readers with a 24/7 flow of geopolitical, business, sports and fashion coverage from a distinctly global perspective through the Website, mobile devices and online newsletters,” notes the new Website.
The print edition of the IHT “was also redesigned too look like The New York Times in all but its masthead logo,” reports PaidContent.
However, as Gawker notes, the Times “appears” to have made a massive error as part of the integration, in its effort to move its existing content from the IHT.com to the new Times’ Website:
“But the Times executed wrong. Instead of redirecting old iht.com links to the same stories on the new nytimes.com server, it simply redirected all content to the same new landing page. When you click through the landing page, you end up not on the story you were looking for, but on the general global.nytimes.com homepage.
So instead of having 993,000 IHT hits in Google, as the search engine now estimates, the Times will soon have just one. For example, a search on the word “paris” within iht.com brings up 588,000 hits; they all appear to end up on the same general homepage, and thus will be collapsed together by Google.”
While it appears to be a huge blunder, I have to believe that the Times’ brass strategically weighed the amount of time and resources (i.e. need to higher outside SEO / tech help) it would take to transfer the individualized content and links to the new Website, versus its desire to send the 2.3 million UV’s from IHT.com, along with additional Google traffic, to the generic landing page – which promotes the new Global Edition and alerts readers.
Even when we made the move to our new blog from our old destination, the decision to transfer existing content and links to the new site was weighed. So the idea that the Times completely overlooked the need to put in a 301 status code to divert to new links seems a bit far-fetched. As Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, Publisher of International Herald Tribune, acknowledges in his note to readers, the Times Co. wants everyone to know that it is a GLOBAL media enterprise, and is marketing this move to illustrate that (read: We’re going to continue to compete hard with the Wall Street Journal on global content) :
“This deepening integration improves the IHT’s competitive position, supports The Times’ award-winning international report and strengthens The New York Times Media Group as a global media enterprise.”
Still as Patrick at Blogstorm echoes Gawker, the weighed decision to kill all recurring traffic that occurs through existing (i.e. long-tail) content / links seems like a big risk for a company that has been complaining to Google about how its content is optimized within searches.
Well, they’re trying to. Anna Patterson and Tom Costello have launched a new search engine, Cuil (pronounced: cool), which they say searches more sites then any other search engine and knows how to analyze and sort its pages to get the most relevant results.
The problem is that people don’t just use Google for search. It’s used for Gmail, iGoogle, Google maps, Google images, Google news, Google blogs, Google shopping, Google video – should I continue? Google is not successful just because it’s a search engine – it’s successful because of every other feature it brings to the user.
Getting back to the first point, Cuil claims that they’re superior to Google because they can search three times as many pages and produce more relevant results. My question is how we can know these extra pages are relevant and not spam sites? When I’ve searched Google, I’ve always had a lot of success, and almost always found what I’m looking for in the first couple results, or somewhere on the first page.
Also, Cuil organizes their pages in a much different format then Google, which may take a lot of getting used to for some. Instead of creating a list, it has a paragraph on each site scattered around the page.
Tom Costello told The New York Times, “I think it will be better, but there is no question that the public has to decide.”
I had the opportunity to attend PRSA’s Digital Impact Conference the past few days in New York City, and discovered quite a few new resources that I wanted to pass along, as we all try to identify the best ways to make our digital and social media marks online. Check them out when you get a chance!
Search Rascal - Shows the sites that are ranked for use of one certain word, and how it changes over time
“Link:” on www.Google.com – If you type “link:” immediately followed by a domain name (ex: link:racepointgroup.com) into Google search, the results will show you which and how many sites are linking to that domain name
TweetScan – A real-time search engine for Twitter that lets you find the conversations on the topics you want.
Who Should i Follow - Enter in your Twitter username, and this tool will give you suggestions of people you might want to follow.
TweetWheel – A tool that shows you which of your Twitter friends know one another
TwitDer – A Twitter directory that shows you the most popularly followed people on Twitter, and the people that send the most updates
Icyou.com – Healthcare video community that brings you everything from late-breaking medical research videos to exercise tips