web social marketing

Make Decent Videos 1

Kudos to you if video is already a component of your social marketing strategies. Goodness, some businesses successfully use video exclusively in their social marketing efforts. But nearly everyone promoting their businesses through social media can get a boost from video.

Amazingly, video need not be slick to be effective. In fact, there is a growing population of folks who prefer amateur productions over professional ones. The success of Youtube supports this contention.

Learn Video Recording Skills

When you’re ready to add video as one of your social marketing strategies, don’t get all hung up about equipment, and don’t run off and build a sound studio; you can do a good enough job with even modest equipment and locales.

On the other hand, please, please, please, take care with a few fundamentals of camera work. Overlooking these basics can reduce a perfectly adequate video to an annoying mess that does more harm to your marketing effort than it does good.

Did I say “a few fundamentals?” Forgive me. I’ve watched a lot of online videos and collected a lot of suggestions for improvement. This is part one of a series on shooting decent video.

Seven Things to fix BEFORE you Start Shooting Video

Use ample light. Video cameras are amazingly good at using whatever light is available. However, when there is less light on a scene, the camera can’t capture as many details as it can when there is more light. Especially when you shoot indoors, supplement a room’s normal lighting: turn on all the lights, add a clip-on spotlight pointed at your subject, or hang an extra set of fluorescents. It’s almost impossible to have too much light on a scene.

Manage the light source. Watch out for light sources behind your subject: a floor lamp, a bright window, even a mirror reflecting a light from behind the camera can cast your subject in shadow (the camera may adjust itself to reduce glare, darkening everything in the scene). Equally important: a bright light near the camera may cause people or animals to squint; make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of light hitting your face before you start recording.

Eliminate extreme contrasts. Your video camera’s automatic brightness control feature doesn’t know whether to emphasize a light subject against a dark background, or the dark background itself. With extreme contrast, your camera may turn a light subject into a bright patch of light. Conversely, a dark subject on a light background may become a black hole in your scene. If you plan to pan (move the camera from subject-to-subject while recording), the transition from a dark object to a light one can cause the camera to struggle and may result in a blotchy sequence in your video.

Remove clutter. Even a tidy office with houseplants, bookshelves, and knick-knacks in the background can be distracting from the main subject. But if you’re shooting in a messy living room, or in a cluttered kitchen, your audience may not focus well on your message. Video shot in your warehouse or customer support center ought to show your company in better shape than it might typically be.

Get decent sound levels. Most recorders have built-in microphones, while some let you plug in an external microphone that will stretch many feet from the camera. If you can’t use an external mic, don’t get so far from the camera that it can’t pick up your voice. Even then, make sure you don’t turn away from the camera and block your voice from reaching the onboard microphone. Finally, if you can’t be close to the camera, make sure you speak loudly and clearly so your viewers can understand what you say.

Control ambient noise. Is your video better or worse when the people in it are shouting over the noise of heavy machinery? Is it better when a dog bark or a honking horn momentarily drowns out real-time narration? Is it possible the high frequency hum from your power generator might bother viewers and make them leave the video early? One way to control ambient noise is to record video without narration. Then, edit the video and record narration in a quiet room with the doors closed. Even very simple video editing software lets you record sound while you’re playing back the video.

Modulate sound according to location. Huh? If you’re narrating while you record or if your video includes a conversation, location can have a profound effect on the sound level. Indoors in a modest room, sound bounces around so a camera’s microphone can pick up even very quiet speech. Outdoors, sound goes off in all directions so less makes it to the camera. What’s more, there tends to be ambient noise outdoors that simply doesn’t exist in most indoor settings. When you create video with audio outdoors (or in very large rooms), people may need to speak more loudly to get a good recording.

 

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Resistance to Social Media

When I ask people in Pennsylvania about their social marketing strategies, so many tell me that they don’t see any use for Facebook and Twitter. Some share that their companies block social media sites for various reasons not the least of which is that careless use of social media can let viruses through the firewall. Using social media also invites smooth, effective phishing that claims a lot of users’ log-in credentials. Considering the risks, it makes sense for companies to block access. Of course, companies in PA aren’t unique; resistence to social media is common in companies around the world.

I don’t advocate unbridled use of social media throughout a company, nor do I advocate against it. (In my company, we’d find a way to allow social media access to anyone using computers, but that doesn’t make it right for your company.) I do advocate responsible use of social media in your marketing activities. In fact, companies that don’t quickly develop social marketing strategies and put them in action are going to fall behind their competitors.

Who Should use Social Media?

Fine, your company blocks access to social media. But your company must not forbid the use of social media. Consider: your company probably doesn’t encourage employees to read newspapers during business hours. Still, your marketing department may use newspaper advertising as a marketing tactic. Or, more absurdly: your company may use forklifts in the warehouse and shipping areas, but it would be silly and potentially catastrophic to put a forklift in every office and cubicle.

Therein lies the foundation for responsible use of social media in marketing. Put social media in the hands of people who should have it: your marketing department. Get them up to speed on acceptable use, and have them build social marketing strategies that will advance your business.

The social marketing plan that results may (and almost certainly should) require participation from people beyond the marketing department. The marketing plan must define how all participants use social media, and it must lay down rules for what users can and can’t do.

I coach companies to allow no use of Facebook applications without approval from the marketing plan coordinator. I also insist that companies teach about phishing and present users with examples of phishing emails and tweets to inoculate them against giving up login credentials or other potentially damaging information.

As with any business tool, don’t simply hand social media to every person in your company and expect to benefit from it. Rather, create a plan, train the appropriate personnel, and provide access as-needed.

 

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Help Wanted Ad Reveals: No Social Marketing Strategies

While more and more companies adopt social marketing strategies to lower costs and improve the quality of their outreach, even more companies are completely missing the opportunity. I read a want ad recently placed by a continuing care facility, and it motivated me to write the following response. The ad made no mention at all that candidates for the advertised position should be familiar with web sites let alone with social media. My response applies as well to nearly every business looking for a marketing specialist:

HR Recruiter;

You have advertised a marketing position for a continuing care community. You’re looking for someone who is personable, creative, and flexible and who can represent your organization well. You ask for candidates having computer skills so they can produce advertising materials such as brochures, newsletters, and press releases. Wouldn’t you like to do better than that?

While traditional marketing approaches are still important, particularly for reaching a local audience, companies that are not developing on-line social marketing strategies are losing to their competitors. With 418 people joining Facebook every minute, people are getting to know companies through social networking before doing business with them. We’re quickly reaching a time when a company will not be effective at attracting customers if it doesn’t have a strong presence in online social media.

But, you object, people looking for continuing care facilities aren’t so computer-savvy; they’re not shopping on-line for a business like ours. This objection reflects your bias, but it doesn’t reflect reality. According to a recent Pew survey, the fastest-growing segment of Twitter users over a nine-month period was people aged 55 to 64. As you’re already aware, many aging Americans involve their offspring in making major life decisions… and those offspring rely increasingly on the Internet and their social networks for guidance.

From your ad, it seems as though on-line social marketing strategies are not in your thinking. That’s a shame. The continuing care facilities that hire social marketing strategists and get started on-line are going to thrive. Continuing care facilities who do not adopt social marketing strategies will struggle to understand why they can’t compete.

Best of luck!

Daniel Gasteiger

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Why Social Media Matter: Google

In central Pennsylvania, I’ve seen IT professionals, government representatives, and technology policy-makers express disinterest in social media. This troubles me because these leaders of local business and industry are the people who should be encouraging businesses to employ social marketing strategies.

Social media are very rapidly transforming the business world. To appreciate why this matters, consider one dramatic difference between business today and business ten years ago: Google.

Some Useful Information about Google

Ten years ago, when you lacked information on a subject of import, how did you acquire the information? Well… you might have checked Google, but chances are you didn’t find what you wanted; the Internet wasn’t particularly evolved ten year ago. It’s more likely you assigned someone the task of getting the information for you, and they made phone calls or visited the library to consult reference materials.

Today (and by today I mean on the day you read this), Google answered more than 300 million requests for information (I know this because I Googled it). Google has become the default starting point for finding information, and with a little practice nearly anyone can solve problems quickly if they have access to the Internet.

What Google has to do With Social Marketing Strategies

Of the 300 million Google searches requested today, how many of the results led to your company’s name or web site? Here’s where social marketing strategies enter the picture.

A Google search is not a social activity and it does not exploit social media. However, if you leverage social media properly, you’ll increase the frequency that Google searches lead to your company. That alone should matter to anyone wanting to succeed in business.

When you employ social media in a coordinated and responsible fashion, you extend your company’s representation throughout the Internet. Your company emerges as an industry expert, it develops a reputation as a problem-solver, and it encourages customers and prospective customers to become involved with your company’s products and services: to participate in your company’s mission.

Participating in social media may not be enough in itself to increase your visibility on Google. However, when you coordinate your social marketing strategies properly, you encourage Google to boost the ranking of your company web site. If you’re going to compete effectively in a world where Google fields 300 million questions a day, you need to make sure Google knows your company is the answer to some of those questions.

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Your Company Name on Social Networks

In an earlier post on Social Marketing Strategies, I encouraged you not to use your company name as a screen name for an on-line persona marketing your company to prospective customers. The whole point of incorporating social networking into your marketing activity is for you to engage people in conversation. Presumably, other participants on the network are there also to have conversations.

If I’m looking for someone interesting to chat with, I’m much more likely to focus on human names than I am to focus on company names. When I want to find a company by its name or commercial interest, I’m most likely to launch a search on Google… not on a social networking site.

Register your Company Name

Register your company name as a screen name on whatever social networks you plan to employ in your social marketing strategies. If you’ve registered with a human name on a network to build your reputation, you should register with your company name on the same network. Use this on-line persona to represent your company to the network.

Your company screen name can, and should be a miniature version of your company’s marketing activity. Make product announcements, share how-to tips, explain product features, describe upcoming events, tell about events recently-passed, make promotional offers, offer discounts… in short: make this an account that appeals to your customers and enthusiasts. If you have a product or service that has a life of its own, serve its users with a screen name for that product or service.

Differentiate your Company’s on-line Personas

Your company name screen name is the go-to guy for information about your company. If I sign up to follow your company name, I’m probably a customer, a journalist, an industry analyst, or a competitor. I’m following so I’ll know what’s going on with your products and services. If you register a company name screen name and you fail to keep me informed, it will reflect badly on your company; your company’s continued participation through social media will become an important factor in customer satisfaction.

Your human persona, clearly identifiable as an employee of your company, is the accessible, savvy insider who actually talks with outsiders and builds a reputation as being knowledgeable and helpful. Do not use this screen name to spew company propaganda. Rather, use it to join and start conversations on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, Youtube, and so on.

This screen name talks with followers about their interests. If your company supplies products for equestrians, this screen name chats about horse training, horse birthing, horse shows, horse diseases, horse equipment, horse feeding, and anything else horse that comes up in conversation with horse-lovers. When the conversation goes into unfamiliar territory, this screen name learns along with its followers.

Your human screen name—without pushing—invites followers to check out the company. It shouldn’t volunteer product information except when answering questions… and then, it shouldn’t sell, it should only inform. This means making such statements as:

Liniment should help. Of course, I’m partial to Beacher Equestrians’ Feral Horse Balm http://www.beacherhorse.com/balm

My company, Beacher Equestrians, is sponsoring a giveaway at http://www.beacherhorse.com/giveaway

It’s even reasonable occasionally to suggest:

You can keep up on my company’s products and events by following @BeacherHorse on Twitter.

(I must point out: if you think the domain name and screen name BeacherHorse is good for business, seek out a marketing course at your local Small Business Development Center.)

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Social Marketing Strategies for Picking Screen Names

One of the fundamental social marketing strategies is to create a persona by which the on-line community gets to know your company. You should plan to participate on many social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, YouTube, blogs, forums, bookmarking services (such as Stumbleupon, Digg, Reddit, and so on), and topic-specific social networks.

When you join these social networks, you establish a screen name for each of them. And, the more you participate on the networks, the more people get to know you by your screen name. If the point of participating is to let potential customers find you, then it’s a good idea to use the same screen name on every social network you join.

The 3 Biggest Screen Name Blunders

I’ve seen many screen names that instantly turn me away. I’ve seen at least as many that grab my attention. However, except in rare cases, the ones that are most successful leave me indifferent: I don’t care so much about your name as I care about what you have to say. Even the best screen name can get you in trouble if you abuse your on-line identity. Here are three common—and bad—screen name strategies:

1. Register with social media web sites and services using your company name.

This is a losing strategy simply because normal people don’t socialize with companies; they socialize with other people. When a company name follows me on Twitter, I expect the tweets from that user to be all about the company; I rarely bother to find out. When a person’s name follows me, I read the associated profile, 40 or so of the person’s recent tweets, and I even click through to the person’s web site if there’s one listed in the profile.

People representing your company should use their own names, but clearly broadcast their affiliation by including it in their profiles and by mentioning it openly when offering opinions during social discourse. It’s acceptable to register your company name as a user on a social network, but this should be as a rallying point for loyal customers; don’t expect prospects to flock to your company name and devour the message you feed through it.

2. Register a clever user-name that shouts your skill set or expertise at the world.

The screen names OnlineMarketingPro and AudiMasterMechanic are flashing neon lights that seem like fine marketing bling. However, such screen names may repulse a huge segment of your potential customers. If I’m not anxious about my Audi when I see your screen name, I’m likely to ignore you; I’m on a social network, not an experts-ready-to-pounce network. When I need one, I’m more likely to look for a mechanic in the yellow pages or in a local business directory. You’re better off registering your own name on the social network, then sharing your profession in your profile, and mentioning it at appropriate places in conversation.

3. Have a surrogate handle your social networking so you can ignore it… but don’t share the lie with your audience.

If you’re well-known in your industry—a television personality, a politician, a musician, or an industry expert, for example—you may simply not have time to keep up conversations on social networks. It’s perfectly acceptable to have your staff or an outside agency maintain an on-line presence for you. But be involved. Don’t let your staff lie to your followers and represent themselves as you. When someone discovers they’ve been duped, the social network you exploited will turn on you. The speed with which public sentiment changes in the age of social networking can be dizzying.

Your Social Marketing Identity

The simplest—and the least controversial—screen name you can use on a social network where your intention is social marketing, is your name. I’m most receptive to friend invitations from people’s names. After that, I’m more likely to pay attention to a word or word combination that either suggests a person’s interest or that’s busting with creativity. Two of my favorite screen names on Twitter are @kissmyaster and @thegerminatrix. These are both people who are heavy into gardening/landscaping; the names are fun and they (vaguely) suggest professional focus without threatening to deliver a stream of marketing drivel.

I don’t object to a screen name that associates a person with a company. For example, BillToffee_StreppoTires interests me much more than, simply, StreppoTires. As I said earlier: I’m not likely to follow a company unless I’m already a fan or a customer. I might very well follow a person… and knowing up front that he or she works for Streppo Tires saves one step in getting acquainted.

In upcoming posts, I’ll talk more about why you should establish a social networking persona using your company’s name… and I’ll explain responsible and strategic uses for that persona. However, in most cases, the social marketing screen name intended to attract new customers should not be your company name.

 

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Join the Conversation

If you’re looking for social marketing strategies, you probably already understand some advantages of social networking. Ask social marketing experts where to start, and you’ll get dozens of answers. Most of those answers are probably good ones, but don’t take any of them lightly.

While it’s a huge business blunder not to incorporate social media in your marketing plan, it’s an even bigger blunder to do social marketing badly… and there are plenty of bad ways to do social marketing. Even if your budget allows for only the tiniest initiative, you can find effective social marketing strategies.

The Fundamental Strategy

Whatever anyone tells you about social marketing, the single most important strategy to employ is this: Join the conversation. What conversation? It’s almost certain that somewhere on the Internet, people are talking about what you sell. They may not know they’re talking about it, but they are… and your business will benefit when you find those people and join their conversation.

If you can’t find a conversation in progress, you can start one yourself and, if you make the conversation interesting enough, people will join in.

Three ways to join a Conversation

Some places to start

Forums: Forums abound on the Internet. Some companies manage forums having very involved memberships. Check out Microsoft’s technical forums for a decent example of a well-managed corporate presence; if your business involves managing Microsoft products for others, you can get valuable exposure by visiting these forums and answering questions posted by other visitors. Check out Yahoo Groups for conversations about just about any topic.

Blogs: This is self-serving, but please visit my blog Your Small Kitchen Garden. It’s just a year old, but it gets a lot of traffic. Visitors are participating more and more by leaving comments and finding me on Twitter. It’s a reasonable example of a blog that encourages conversation while providing useful information for its participants.

Social Networking: If you’re not yet on a social network such as Facebook or Twitter, tread lightly. Go ahead and sign up, but spend some time lurking before you jump into the conversation. I’m very active on Twitter as @cityslipper, and I invite you to follow me. Understand that my use of twitter is one of my social marketing strategies to become established as a garden writer and foodie… most of my conversations on Twitter have to do with gardening.

Forums – Before there was Web 2.0 there were on-line forums. Once you join a forum, you converse by answering questions of other participants and by asking questions to which you don’t know the answers. By answering questions accurately and politely, you establish yourself as an expert, and participants may ask you for more information—or even for specific attention to their problems. To help people connect with you, most forums let you publish a link to your own web site, or at least include contact information in the messages you post.

Blogs – Precursors to Web 2.0, blogs are directed conversations: the blog owner sets the topic, and followers chime in with comments. Very animated exchanges can ensue in which the blogger responds to reader comments, readers respond to the blogger’s comments, and readers respond to each others’ comments. Of course, a blog’s owner typically becomes established as an expert on the blog’s topic… which suggests one great reason for a company to sponsor its own blog, but we’ll talk more about that in upcoming posts. For this discussion, the simplest social marketing strategy related to blogs is to read blogs that talk about the types of products or services you sell, and participate by leaving constructive comments.

Social Networking Sites – Look especially at Facebook and Twitter. Twitter provided a simple interface that lets people converse smoothly with selected friends and with the general population of Twitter users. Facebook has features that also make conversation easy, but it’s a bit more daunting to get started and use effectively. Twitter has a search feature that lets you find everything anyone tweets using specific words or phrases. Facebook isn’t so smooth, but it lets people organize into groups or create pages dedicated to specific topics.

Yes, there are other ways to join conversations on social networks. Learn a few and represent your company through social media. Upcoming posts will explore these and other social marketing strategies in greater depth. Please join this conversation: Leave a comment to tell me whether you found this post useful or to suggest specific topics you’d like me to address in upcoming blog posts.

I hope to hear from you.

 

 

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