To our dear clients, partners, employees, and fans,
It has been quite a ride. It’s hard to believe that Kendra and I founded Neovia Solutions just two-and-a-half years ago. It’s even harder to believe the state of the social media landscape at that time, especially in our mid-sized city. It was August 2009, and we could see that social media wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, it was only becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives. And we knew that this meant businesses would need help navigating the new digital landscape.
That is what we’ve done ever since.
We’ve worked with large corporations and solopreneurs. We’ve set up 500+ locations on Foursquare in one go, and we’ve launched first websites for growing companies. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with clients who we believe in, from non-profits to politicians to hardworking small businesses. Perhaps what we’ve loved most is seeing the spark of recognition in our clients’ eyes when they realize that they can do this by themselves. After all, that was always our goal – to teach our clients how to take the wheel once we got the ball rolling.
When my cofounder Kendra departed Neovia this summer to focus her efforts on her other business ventures, me and my team of awesome (Adriana Oliva and Martha Castro, interns extraordinaire) steamed forward. 2011 was another smashing year for Neovia, and I couldn’t be more proud.
2012 will bring the biggest client of my life to the table – a child. And so, my first baby – Neovia Solutions – will take a backseat this year as I prepare for this little bundle of life change.
We don’t expect you to wait for us to open our doors again, so if you need a new website, logo/design work, search engine optimization or help with social media strategy/build-out/training, we’ve included our recommendations. We’ve partnered with these companies, and they are tried and true.
If I may say so on behalf of the entire Neovia Solutions team, it’s been a helluva ride and we hope to see you all again next year!
We’re up for our first SXSWi panel this year (!!!). If you don’t know anything about SXSW Interactive, it’s kind of the end-all, be-all for social media and interactive conferences. At least, it’s grown to be that way. Last year, something like 20,000 people attended officially, and god only knows how many went “badgeless.”
Help Us Get There
The conference is five days, centered around panel sessions led by industry peers. In 2012, I hope to be one of those peers. We’ve made it past the first round, but now we need your help to get past the second round. This week is the last week of voting for our panel using the SXSW Panel Picker. If you have 60 seconds, please click this link and vote for our panel.
What’s This Panel All About?
It’s called Humans + Robots: SEO & Social-Friendly Content. (SXSW is all about the cool panel names, by the way.) What we want to do is bring two SEO Humans and two Social Strategy Humans together to talk about what social search is, why search engine algorithm changes matter for content marketing, and how to create a strategy that will help you develop content that will make humans and robots happy.
Who’s On It?
Our own Holly Hoffman is one of the Social Strategy Humans, as you might’ve guessed. Tiffany Monhollon of ReachLocal is the human who came up with this bright idea, and she’s the moderator. The other Social Strategy Human is Jenn Pedde of 2tor. The SEO Humans are my pal Matthew Egan of Image Freedom and Mike King of Publicis Modem.
What Will Attendees Get Out of This?
Key takeaways include: 1) An understanding of social search and why both SEO and social engagement matter for your content and blogging strategy. 2) How to write a social-friendly, keyword-rich headline that gets shared and indexed. 3) Tips on how to write engaging, share-worthy SEO copy that humans and robots both love.
What to know more about what we’re doing? Check out the following:
Many of our clients have asked us about the effectiveness of working with sites like Groupon and Living Social. While we don’t have any personal experience with these sites for our business, we know that many companies are skeptical and that some have said “never again.”
A few new studies haven’t cleared the matter up much. A MerchantCircle survey found that 58% of businesses liked daily deals as a means of customer acquisition, but 42% listed ineffectiveness of customer acquisition as their number one reason for not using such sites again.
A Rice University study offers conflicting data, however, where businesses who used daily deal sites said 77% of those who took a daily deal were new customers, with 20% of them becoming repeat customers.
It looks like our answer to this question remains the same. If you are wondering if you should use a daily deals site like Groupon or Living Social, ask yourself what kind of return you would need to make it worthwhile.
Here are a few ideas to help you ask the right questions.
Do Some Research
Look for case studies of businesses in your industry that have had a good return on these sites. Conversely, find businesses who were not successful and ask them what went wrong. Was it the deal, the industry, or the public that didn’t work?
Do the Math
Figure out how much such a deal would cost, and compare the investment and potential return to other marketing and advertising options. Is this the hardest that dollar amount can work? Would it be better to take that money to print advertising, social media marketing, or promotional give-aways, like t-shirts, to your already loyal customers?
Don’t Expect a Silver Bullet
There’s no one thing that’s going to solve all of your marketing problems. We’ve found that the best approach is multifaceted and integrated, using relationship marketing tactics, social media, and even traditional media, in a strategic fashion to achieve a specific business goal, like brand awareness or customer acquisition. (If you need help creating such a strategy, we can help.) Go into a daily deals offer knowing what to expect.
If you’ve had experiences with a daily deals site like Groupon or LivingSocial, please share them with us and other readers in the comments.
Everybody’s got their social media platform of preference, none necessarily better than the other. Ultimately, the success of your campaign rests less in your tools than in your use of those tools. So this week we tackle one of them–one that was around long before Facebook, Twitter, or what we now consider the big players in social media: blogs.
Blogs are particularly effective for establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field, but different types of blogs need to be managed in different ways. So below we offer you a variety of recent articles covering the advantages and techniques of the blog form. Enter the blogosphere!
7 Ways Guest Posting Can Boost Your Reputation. You don’t have to do all your blogging yourself. In fact, having someone else take over the job for you every so often is one of the best ways to establish your position as among a group of thought leaders and expand your audience. This article focuses on reputation building through getting other bloggers in your field to guest post.
The PR Pro’s Guide To Blogging. This is a PR Pro’s guide to begin blogging. Most PR strategies these days even require a blog component, so if you’re not savvy where do you start and where do you go?
5 Techniques to Create Raving Loyal Fans. If social media is about community building, what better reward could you have than having a passionate, engaged community? These techniques are not for the conservative of mind–they urge you to step up, be overt and honest, to make the risk of offending people. This brand of blogging achieved a particular goal, so it will be up to you to decide if this is where you want to go with your blog campaign.
Really, does Old Spice ever do it wrong? In the spirit of great things, we’ve provided you with a plethora of advice from the best in practical form. I would like to note the tremendously fantastic use of video throughout these links (and the above, to be sure), so that’s a nudge in a direction we think you might be thankful for. Got questions about video? Let us know. Enjoy these highly entertaining, highly inspiring examples of organizations and businesses that just got it right. Now, it’s your turn. We believe in you!
5 Smart Social PR Campaigns to Learn From. While turning a profit or just being helpful is still prevalent in this domain, social PR is about a bit more, and these campaigns do some really fantastic things to make their relationships intimate, meaningful, and genuine.
20 Awesome Facebook Fan Pages. Lip balm, candles, coffee, cupcakes, music, science. I mean, really. Take a look. There’s a lot to learn here, with a focus on doing fan pages right.
And one of our clients sent me a direct message that hinted – well, downright stated – that it didn’t inspire confidence in our clients. I could see where they were coming from, especially since they had recently signed a contract for a customized Facebook fan page from us.
I messaged them back that it had the #devilsadvocate hashtag for a reason, that I used Twitter as an industry sounding board, etc. but still, it nagged at me.
A few weeks later, one of our interns emailed me about an article I told him to post to our blog, fan page and Twitter account. It reported that only one out of every 10 Facebook posts gets noticed. He wasn’t sure we should post something like that. Maybe it would undermine our services.
Should we put blind faith in our tools?
I think as good marketers we should question our tools. Our clients and fans trust us to point them in the right direction, to guide their social media efforts in the most effective manner possible, and to be the voice of reason in a very noisy industry.
If every one out of 10 Facebook posts goes unnoticed, our clients and fans need to know so that they can adjust their strategies accordingly. I don’t think our clients should be walking around thinking that each and every one of their status updates is cherished and honored when it’s not the truth. It doesn’t make Facebook a lesser marketing tool. People continue to buy television advertising knowing full well that most people don’t see them. They adjust their strategy, and purchase in bulk, cycles, and with the idea that they will repeat, repeat, repeat.
Social media isn’t a magic bullet. It’s not different from traditional marketing in that sense. Do you have a better shot at reaching people? We think so, especially if you are working within the framework of being helpful, resourceful, and useful to your target audience. But what if it still isn’t working? Something’s broke, and you have to find out where the breakdown is occuring. Sometimes it’s you, sometimes it’s the target, and sometimes it’s the platform.
Questions Lead to Answers (Hopefully)
If I’m having a hard time increasing engagement on any platform, I’m going to question it’s usefulness for our own clients. In questioning we find answers. To shut our eyes and ears off to what we see happening is to be blind-sided in a few months or a year.
Literally days after I sent that tweet, Facebook made sweeping changes to fan pages. They now allow fan pages to comment on other fan pages, which dramatically changes any given fan page’s effectiveness in drawing fans there. Fan page administrators now have the ability to do outreach to other areas of Facebook and draw in new users.
That makes me think that my initial concern was right on, and that I wasn’t alone in questioning it’s effectiveness. Facebook must’ve known this as well, or they wouldn’t have made the changes that they did.
The reality is that social media marketing is all still very new, and will remain a moving target for marketers as the platforms upgrade, change, and shift. The only way to avoid falling into the trap of putting all our eggs in one basket is to continue to ask questions, play devil’s advocate, and keep our eyes open to the limitations and capabilities of our tools.
This piece was originally a guest post on advertising blog AdPulp. AdPulp describes itself as “an online trade rag written by industry insiders.” We were pleased to contribute to a blog we’ve been reading for years. Our thanks to David Burn for reaching out.
There was a lot of talk this year about brand journalism and brands as publishers at SXSW. As a matter of fact, I happened to unwittingly attend three panels in a row on that very topic. Imagine my surprise when attending a Core Conversation on Marketing in the Moment (my favorite variety of SXSW panel, by the way – they’re always highly engaging and contain no Power Points) to find that the speaker picking up where my last panel on Brands as Publishers had left off.
Rob Garner, our Marketing in the Moment presenter and Vice President of Strategy at iCrossing, set the tone by saying that your brand is only as good (in the social media and content space, presumably) as what it is doing right now. Not what it plans to do in a few months, and not what it did a few months ago, but what it is doing right at this moment.
Lack of Agility and the Channelization of Social
The problem with enterprise brands, Garner argued, is that they are passive, as opposed to be being active and agile in their marketing. Brands take months, even years to update or redesign their website… actually, they take months or years to redesign even a portion of their website.
Contrast this passive, slow-moving process to today’s rate of information dissemination. An idea that resonates with consumers, customers and clients can travel very quickly now. The social media space is like a digital organism. If an idea hits a nerve, it will travel. Marketers and brands are fixated on hitting as many people as possible in order to spread their message. But this isn’t necessarily the best way to do it. You can aim for one bird, and you might engage the whole flock, if your idea resonates with that first one.
Aside from the problem of agility with big brands, there is a larger issue—channelization of social media. The evolution of social networks isn’t about a medium; it’s about society being networked at a level it never has been before. Social media marketers, interestingly enough, are guilty of “channelizing” themselves. Our bottlenecks, make it okay for big brands to do the same thing.
Brands Are Excluded From the Conversation
Marketing in the moment means being present and alive in the space through conversation and discussion, says Garner. Brands have not engaged in the space in a way that can be successful. They usually aren’t a part of the conversation about their brand, or even the general discussion that happens around their brand or industry (think home renovation discussions for a Home Depot or Lowe’s). Monitoring isn’t enough. It’s too late to respond when you’re just passively monitoring the social media space.
A lot of this exclusion from conversation and discussion is actually self-imposed by the brands themselves. Legal departments, social media policies, blocking networks in the workplace, siloing social media into one department (or worse, one person) all combine to exclude brands from the network.
Brand Advocates & Content Creation
To achieve inclusiveness in the network, locate the spirited voices within your organization, and externally? Embrace your audience by bringing people in from the community to be your brand advocates.
A brand’s identity is embodied in the spirit of its audience now more than ever before. Use a variety of market research methodologies to know what your target audience is searching for. You can set up forums and listen to what they are saying, do keyword research and talk to them personality. Market research is an obligation. It’s time for brands to listen and hear where people are coming from.
People inside the organization are also a critical part of the audience brands need to reach. Your internal people are acting on behalf of your brand on a daily basis, so you need to have a place to use internal people for engagement. You need a strategy to utilize these important voices.
Getting Swatted By Your Own Tail
Most brands start shaking in their legal department boots at this point. “How will we control the message?” is the eye-rolling-inducing refrain we as social media marketers have heard repeatedly. The brands that think they control the message are the very ones who get swatted by their own tails. Bad business practices will be apparent in social media, and so maybe some brands are right to shake as they do.
For the rest of us, some advice for overcoming the most common of internal roadblocks is simply to let go. Companies would do well to empower people to communicate without over-managing. You can’t talk when someone is editing your voice. You can’t have a conversation like that. Nothing gets by Zappos, for example, in the social space and that’s because their team doesn’t have a ton of obstacles to keep them from engaging with their audience. (As a matter of fact, when I tweeted this observation during the panel, a Zappos team member replied to me.)
Need a Baby Step?
An easy way for brands to join the conversation and be active ongoing participants, is to simply extend the things that are already publishing like news articles, and press releases out into the network. Even brands in highly regulated industries can be active participants, marketing in the moment, just by remaining factual and generous with their information.
Marketing in the moment is about letting go of internal obligations, being personal, treating social as a network or digital organism (as opposed to another channel or medium), and participating in the conversations the audience is having, whether the brand is are at the center of them or not.
On its surface, it seems ridiculous. What could we possibly have to learn from a self-proclaimed cocaine addict, a possible wife abuser, and guy who waves a machete on his roof all wrapped into one?
On a personal level, probably not much. But on a professional level, Charlie Sheen has really done something interesting with social media. And all without a Facebook page.
Below we have one of the videos that started it all and had everyone asking, is he crazy? Has he lost it? Is he coked out? Or is he a genius?
But after a while people stopped caring so much about what brought on this sudden outburst from the actor we’ve known so long, and started #winning, throwing a #fastball, and discovering their #tigerblood. The simple word “winning” has gone from a cool thing that might get you a few Facebook likes from friends to “Just scored the last jelly donut at work. #WINNING” and puts you in touch with the wave of millions of Charlie Sheen fans all stoked on their fortune, all part of the most twisted and accidental motivational campaign the internet’s ever seen. And even the ironists are taking part in the trend in Chuck Norris-Joke fashion, which is just as much absurd as it is peculiarly self-satisfying. Like Sheen says,
“Admit it folks, the whole winning thing, you just feel better when you say it.”
But how’s he doing it? First, the video went viral. But how do you sustain it? He took some cues from Conan O’Brien, creating his Team Sheen, and with a Twitter the world could get as much Charlie as their smartphone put out.
No matter what’s behind the outing of Charlie Sheen’s new public game face–a hugely successful publicity stunt, a comedian that never was, whatever; as long as you’re #winning right?–there’s no doubt it’s been tremendously successful. So here are five things we can learn about social media from Charlie Sheen.
(1) Video, Video, Video.
Here is the viral video that started it all (apologies, it wasn’t embeddable). We’re not recommending you do this–or anything else Sheen mentions in the video–with your business or with your self, but there’s something to be said for (1) standing out from your competition, (2) breaking the rules, (3) being fearless, (4) having crazy intense catch phrases rolling out of your mouth every five seconds.
But that’s not all. Sheen also does live Ustream shows for his fans. It’s called Sheen’s Korner. Branding branding. Some of this stuff is really amazing writing, and we doubt it’s all Sheen. But after all, it is Charlie.
(2) Twitter Is Powerful For Personalities
This is the link to the official Charlie Sheen Twitter. It’ll speak for itself. But here we have a mind that millions of people want to get inside of, and Twitter is the perfect platform for that. Look at the extreme use of personality to drive people to this Twitter. And also, we’re cheating here, but another lesson—Never Understimate Humor. If people couldn’t laugh with Sheen (and remember Sheen is laughing too), they wouldn’t be following him.
Just a few hours ago an article was published “revealing the secret” behind Charlie Sheen’s tweets. Surprise surprise, it’s not all him. But we can safely assume it’s mostly him, and he’s been using this to promote his “My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat is Not An Option Show”. Want to talk ROI? Now here’s some tangible, monetary ROI.
(3) There Are Some Important Considerations In Getting An Intern
There’s been a big fuss recently about last week’s tweet from Charlie Sheen saying he’s looking for an intern. The particular fuss is that once people know that Sheen’s totally removed from his tweets, people will lose interest. They want the #warlock. So there’s some good discussion on what makes a good intern. Your scale of social media probably isn’t Sheen-sized, but if your business doesn’t depend solely on your personality (or even if it does), do some serious thinking about who your intern will be and how your intern will operate within your social media goals.
(4) If People Like You, The Street Team Will Form Organically
Not everyone is so lucky to have a last name that sounds a lot like “team”, but you can get creative. If you’ve stood out from your competitor’s in an important, bold, and assertive way, people will appreciate that and promote your distinction all on their own. Word of mouth is one thing, but if your breakfast taco is “twice the power of the normal taco”, the idea is so absurd and funny that people are likely to take it upon themselves to promote it how they can. We seem to be in an age that appreciates they hyperbolic, the exaggerated, the ridiculous. Capitalize on this and find your quirk. People will want to talk about you and promote you.
(5) It Is, Always Has Been, and Always Will Be About People
Sure, we can talk about online conversion and merchandising—Charlie Sheen is making big bucks off of all this. With catch phrases like “Dyin’s For Fools” and “I only know one speed–Go!”, who wouldn’t want a shirt that says that? But in the end, no one is stoked on Coca-Cola, or Disney World, or XYZ Donuts. People really follow people. So perhaps the most important lesson from all of this is, for better or worse, be a real person, be fearless, and be yourself.
You can bet Holly's Healthy Morning Muffins will make an appearance. The question is, where?
I love to bake. It’s therapeutic when it’s been a long day, and business owners are always on the hunt for a good stress-reliever. Whenever I bake something particularly pretty, I’ll take a picture of it and post it to my Facebook album “Cookin’ With Good Lookin’” inadvertently driving my Facebook friends nuts with hunger. So when I began to joke with Alan Weinkrantz about leaving baskets of my freshly-baked muffins all over the SXSW Interactive conference, he convinced me that we were, in all seriousness, onto something.
We are excited to announce that while all you SXSW party animals are karaoking your lungs out and rubbing elbows with Robert Scoble, the Neovia Solutions team will be cranking out a batch of made-from-scratch muffins to leave at various spots in the conference center every morning, like little geeky spring elves. That’s right. Every morning.
Here’s the catch: We’re not going to tell you where they are until right before we drop them off at the location in the morning.
Wanna be the first to know? Follow @neoviasolutions on Twitter, and watch the #sxswmuffins hashtag every morning between 9:30 – 10 a.m. And if you see one of our muffin-baking duo, give them a hug. Or maybe a cup of coffee. Because we’ll need it.