Is The Social Media Hype Over In 2010?

My job is social media so why would I even bring this up? The reason that I am and the reason that I believe the hype is over is because social media is no longer a buzzword. Instead, it is and should be accepted as an integral part of any marketing strategy.

Looking back at 2009, it is truly amazing how fast the media world changed, and how many new tools and exciting opportunities arose from the transformation. A lot of the new tools are digital and range from Iphone Apps to Ning Communities. These tools are all fun and have been the reason for some interesting and controversial campaigns.

As you transition into a new year (and many of us do our best to surface from this recession), think about what is important to your marketing efforts.

Here are some thoughts:

Accept Social Media – It is here to stay and is a big part of modern media.

Protect Your Brand – Everyone is talking, even your employees. Put together a social media guidelines sheet to protect your brand and your employees (We have one at Mason, Inc.).

Spread Your Budget – There is value in other mediums, social media should just be a part of your strategy.

Public Relations Matters – You and your employees donated $XXX to a local charity. Let a PR firm spread the word; don’t build your profile to always “toot your own horn”. By the way, who is monitoring what is being said about you and looking for articles that can establish your brand in your industry?

Go Viral – Online and offline, creating a campaign with the ultimate goal of going viral is key to your success. I recently read that “content is no longer king”; “customers are king (or queen)” now.

Don’t Waste Anymore Time – Before you know it, January will have come and gone and you are still debating whether or not you want to reach your customers and establish your brand. Don’t waste time; get the ball rolling immediately even if that means getting on the phone with someone that works in this industry!

I want to wish you the best of luck in this New Year. Some people look at 2009 as a tough year. It was, but it is over! So let’s look at the many great tools 2009 gave us, and let’s make the most of 2010!

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Small Businesses: Show Customer Appreciation by Recognizing Your Customers Online

Showing appreciation for clients and customers comes in many forms.  Some industries have it figured out, and instead of getting creative, they just follow trends. 

For example, large retail outlets have, “Customer Appreciation Days” that give customers up to 20 percent or 30 percent off their purchases.  Restaurants have customer loyalty cards that give you a free sandwich (after you have already bought say 10).  To most people, these seem like great deals, and in many cases, they are.  If you are a regular at a certain restaurant, then the free sandwich is fun to work towards.  Or if you have had your eye on a specific product that you can now purchase thanks to a double-digit discount, then it is truly helpful.

But what about small to mid-size companies that don’t have the funds to give away free product, or are working on such small margins that a reasonable percentage discount would leave them with almost no profit at all? 

These are the companies that need to take advantage of the network they have built online.

What it means to recognize your customers online.

You can recognize your customers any number of ways online.  These methods include the Twitter “shout out“, an interview that you post on your blog, or even a link on your Facebook Fan Page.  If you are in the B-to-B world, you can write a short note or post about what the client does and link to their site.

They will appreciate it.

Being acknowledged online is an important part of any social media strategy.  The more mentions you get, the more links that go to your blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account, the more followers you will get and the bigger your network becomes.

Give and thou shall receive.

Ever heard of #FollowFriday or #FF?  If not, then check out the top-trending topics on Twitter any Friday, and those will be right near the top.  It’s a lot of people giving shout outs to others that they think are interesting or to repay them because they got a shout out first.  Acknowledging your clients will have a similar result.  They will appreciate that you recognized them, and they will let their network know where to look and find their name.

Recognize your customers online regularly- not just when you are trying to push a product or launch a new campaign.  Build relationships with your customers and your fans online, watch how much your engagement increases, and you will begin to realize how beneficial social media really is.

The Hidden Benefits of Building Your Brand Through Social Media: (Passive) Recruiting

Over the last year the big discussions were around company layoffs. The layoffs were obviously newsworthy and mirrored the state of the economy, and the recession we are in.  During this same time period however, an issue that was not as given as much attention was the implementation of hiring freezes. Though it was most prevalent in the school systems, hiring freezes were occurring across the board, and many companies (even ones that I worked with) had a hiring freeze in place.

It is a frustrating thing, not only for the potential employee, but also for the company. When you stop hiring, you stop aggressively recruiting, and in doing so, you can tarnish your brand’s image.  That is where social media comes into place and can be extremely beneficial to your brand and your recruiting efforts. 

This is a great time for companies to revert back to their social media strategy and goals in order to identify where they need to gain awareness and encourage engagement.  If your main goal was to increase traffic to a landing page that offered promotions and sold a product, you should consider sending people to a landing page that talks about the benefits of working for your company. 

I am not saying you should get people’s hopes up, and claim that you have many open positions, instead I am saying that you should point out the reasons your company is a great place to work.  Talking to people honestly, discussing the fact that you are not hiring right now but in the (near) future you will be, will build confidence in your brand and your company’s image.  While doing this you should ask people to submit a resume and their contact information so that you may contact them when you are hiring again.

Instead of losing the traction your recruiting strategy had gained, you are continuing to build a list of potential candidates that you have connected with on a personal level, and you can reach out to when the hiring freeze is over.

What do you tell “PR101” students today?

As I look over my past presentation as I prepare to talk with a local college class today, I have to make some major revisions.  It’s kind of nice to see predictions come true.  Amazing what a year or two will do.

While the Cutlip definition of public relations still holds up, and what is under the public relations umbrella is still relevant, a focus on brand and brand development rises to the top of the list.

A public relations professional’s job today is to help an organization first realize what is true and authentic to its brand, and second, ensure that the organization is aligned internally and externally to deliver the proper brand experience, and third, communicate or deliver the brand message using the best channels.

Which brings me to my final point:  what is the best channel today?  More and more, it is not through earned media.  While media relations will continue to be a valuable tactic for public relations pros to spread company news, it’s not the best channel to reach an organization’s diverse stakeholder base especially if your goal is to communicate organizational values and long-term goals.

Of course, the best solution is an integrated approach that blends direct communication with paid and earned media.  And, at the heart of direct communication is social networking and the opportunities it offers for us to listen, learn and interact as we “establish and maintain mutually beneficial relationships between our client organizations and the publics on whom our/their success and failure depends.”

Don’t Rock the Boat

I’m all for change, but I’m a big believer that if something is working well for you, why rock the boat? Such is the case for Tropicana. We all know and love the Tropicana logo with the nice big orange and the straw sticking out of it. It’s refreshing and it makes you want a big glass of OJ, doesn’t it?

It took 24 years, but PepsiCo decided to change the entire look of one of its flagship products, Tropicana. Back in January 2009 a new packaging design for Tropicana was introduced, but fast forward to late February and things have changed. Customers bombarded PepsiCo with emails, phone calls and letters complaining about the change and demanded a return to the old packaging. The outcome? The new packaging is going bye-bye and the Tropicana look Americans know and love is coming back.

To me, things like this make me smile. If customers are at the center of your brand, then listen to them. I bet there’s a whole lot of happy Tropicana drinkers out there now.

Welcome back! The Tropicana we all know and love returns.

Putting the Brakes on Decaf

Starbucks recently announced that in an effort to reduce costs, they will stop brewing decafinated coffee after 12:00 noon. They’re projecting a savings in the millions of dollars and a huge reduction in waste. But it gets tricky. They will brew it if a customer asks for it, but it won’t be widely available. From their Twitter page:

Decaf available in the morning … the new policy only applies to after noon

If you ask me, this only creates confusion and from a public relations standpoint, it’s a tough message to manage. Throw in an extra wait time of 4 minutes and you may have a few agitated coffee lovers, who should be drinking decaf in …

Coming Soon to a Brand Near You: Obama Fever!

I mentioned it in an earlier blog post, but I’ll say it again. I have never seen so much attention on a single presidential election since who knows when… maybe John F. Kennedy? But I wasn’t even alive back then, so who knows. With all of the excitement surrounding President Barack Obama, it sure makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, and in a time like this I suppose that’s not a bad thing…

Quick to jump on trends, “warm & fuzzy” feelings or any national movement are brands, right? You bet. Last night the NBC Nightly News closed its broadcast with a story on selling the “Obama brand”. What’s that? Well, a lot of major brands and advertisers have got “Obama fever” and they’re tagging along for the ride. Major brands like Pepsi and Starbucks have Barack’s message of hope and optimism throughout their campaigns that appear in their ads, billboards, bus wraps, you name it.

So what’s this all about? Will attaching onto Obama’s messages and themes actually help increase product sales? Publicity? Brand awareness? And talk about the power of publicity. After seeing Sasha and Milia in J.Crew attire during the inauguration, so many people visited the J.Crew website that it crashed due to millions of hits. By the way, the outfits were specifically designed for the inauguration festivities and they won’t be available until 2010, although there are reports that the company may roll them out in 2009. Smart move to do it earlier, if you ask me. Who knows if consumer demand and interest will hang on for another year.

Which brings me back to my main point. By tagging along with our new President, will brands increase their bottom line? Something to think about… and now, here’s the NBC piece. Enjoy it- it’s a goodie!

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