What is your content worth to your audience?

How often do you like a page or follow a brand because a friend (or friend of a friend) has recommended/liked it? Or because you like to support local businesses? I do this a lot, as evidenced by the 1,007 likes I have on my personal Facebook profile. The same goes for businesses using Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. I connect with businesses on every platform.

However, I see that many businesses don’t understand how to engage or add value to their audience. Here are three ways to tell how your audience (potential customers!) will receive what you have to say.

1) The Value Test

Put yourself in their shoes : Imagine you are the customer and you are following your business. Would you want to read what you’re sharing? How is it solving a problem or offering helpful advice/tips? 

2) The Engagement Test

What is your call to action? Do you include some opening for your audience to respond? Is the content you’re sharing something your customer will want to share with friends/followers?

3) The Sell Test

Social media is about building relationships. By adding value and engaging, you begin to establish a rapport. That rapport leads to a relationship and can ultimately lead to referrals and sales. Start with a sales pitch and you’ll lose your audience fast.

The Bottom Line

Social media isn’t a magic bullet that will solve all your marketing worries. It takes time, effort and careful attention to get results. Put in the time and don’t resort to shortcuts.

What else would you say to a business whose content needs a value boost?

Sixty Second Social: Brand Campaigns

Last week I was innocently scrolling through my Twitter feed, chatting with friends, when I got a mention from someone I didn’t know. I checked to see if I was following them or if they were following me - I wasn’t and they weren’t.

It’s not all that unusual to get a tweet from someone who isn’t following me. All you have to do is mention one of approximately one million keywords for spammers and you’ll be inundated with tweets within seconds. But this tweet was different. It wasn’t from a traditional spammer - this was a real person claiming to be participating in a sponsored campaign. I say “claiming” because I can’t verify that the campaign is legitimate. The same day I noticed that I had been followed by someone else who was clearly involved in the same campaign. Similar tweets, hashtags and promotion - same brand.

I see three problems with this campaign:

  1. The brand has no social media presence. I have searched Twitter and Facebook - the two most important for this kind of brand. Nothing. How is anyone supposed to interact with them?

  2. The brand’s intent is unclear. Well, unclear outside of the obvious intent of trying to raise awareness, increase traffic to their site, and gain customers. How does a campaign for a brand that has no presence gain traction? What is the ultimate goal for that channel?The biggest problem with this campaign?

  3. The brand isn’t engaging users directly or through representatives. Last week I talked about engagement versus broadcast. What these individuals are tweeting on behalf of the brand is a sales pitch that’s in your face. No “Hi, how are you!?” No “What can I do for you?” No effort to get to know the people they target with their tweets (that I’ve seen).

I can’t figure out the benefit to running a campaign on a social network without having an actual presence. It  leads to confusion and could potentially cause problems with brand reputation.

What advice would you give to the brand in question?

Engagement isn't just something you do online - 5 tips for brands at conferences

In my professional life, engagement has been a buzz word for years for various reasons depending on the industry. Right now, I do a great deal of work in social media both personally and professionally and everybody talks about the importance of engagement. Not everyone understands how to do it well, though. This lack of understanding is particularly troublesome when you take the context of engagement "offline".

Source: CL Buchanan Photography

This past weekend, I attended Blissdom Canada, a writing and business conference that focuses on social media, marketing, public relations and blogging. Blissdom is geared toward females in this realm and, as such, attracts sponsors who gear their products toward females. Primarily food, travel, family vehicles, children's toys and household products. While I would personally love to see more tech industry brands represented, I recognize that there's a great divide between female-oriented conferences that always seem to be geared to the "mommy blogger" and other conferences that have a general audience. That's a discussion I could get into here, but I'll refrain for now. I have a few things I'd like to say to brands at conferences based on my first-hand experiences and second-hand stories (from a variety of conferences, not just Blissdom Canada).

1) Know what your goals are and why you're at the conference. When I walk up to you and say hello, I'd love to hear something from you. I'm not just walking by your booth to take what I can get. Now, if you had a stack of iPads, I might be tempted to grab and run but most of you don't have said iPads so get my attention another way. I happen to be a blogger who hasn't worked with brands very much and I don't seek out that relationship. So, why should I talk to you, try your product or potentially write about it? Having an awkward 20 seconds as I pass by on my way to the next booth means I'm going to forget about you even though you handed me a bag with your logo on it.

2) If you want to give away "swag", make it meaningful, useful and audience appropriate. There were several food companies at Blissdom Canada this year. Every last one of them showed and gave away products that are or can be controversial to various segments of the population, but most particularly among health-conscious mothers. Other brands handed a pile of paper or promotional items to visitors. All of this in the name of getting their name out there. To get noticed. To get exposure. I wonder how many of my fellow conference attendees made a generous addition to their recycling bin and the landfill today with these things they can't really use or don't want. (I vow here and now that the first brand I feel comfortable giving an endorsement and who does an eco-friendly promotion at a conference is getting a blog post from me - no strings attached to it.)

3) The Golden Rule is the best practice for booth staffing. I heard from countless people about a staffperson who was repeatedly rude or short with visitors. While I understand that a crowd around your booth can be overwhelming and your booth activity might be keeping you far busier than expected, staff should always be courteous to visitors and not treat them poorly. Here's why: I may not know that staffperson's name, but I know your brand name.

4) Social media conference engagement starts and ends online - before, during and after. Yes, you have a physical presence at the conference. Of course you're busy talking to the stream of people flooding your booth at all times of the day. Don't forget to check your twitter and facebook accounts. Attendees will interact with you during sessions and overnight when they have questions and comments. Be sure you have resources to stay just as engaged online as you are face-to-face.

5) Don't let the connection you made die: Follow-up. I've been the brand at conferences before. I know how busy it is when you get back to the office and work piled up while you're gone, in addition to all the new work generated by all the conversations you had at the conference. If you don't follow-up within the first two days after the conference, the adrenaline rush is going to fizzle out and your opportunity to engage potential influencers will vanish. When visitors finally get your email a week, two weeks, six months later it won't generate nearly the enthusiastic response you'd get if you sent it within the first two days to a week.

Reaching out to bloggers is an effective and efficient way to reach a targeted market with information about your product and services. As the marketing world catches on to just how valuable a relationship with bloggers can be, the brands who do that interaction right will stay ahead of the game in terms of their reach. The ones who don't will continue to rack up missed opportunities that will make them question the value of social media. The key to doing this right is to engage, engage, engage. It isn't about selling to your connections. It's about developing a relationship online and off.

Engage your audience: Dos and Don'ts for brands using social media

Source: stock.xchng

I love words. The dictionary is a constant companion. Even when I know a word's meaning, I'll look it up to help me form the thought I need to express. Often as I'm reading, certain words or concepts will jump out at me and trigger a response.

Today I found a common theme running through several posts. Let's go on a short blog tour:

The first post I read was by C.C. Chapman, who had some free (though very valuable) advice for a company that targeted him in a campaign. The implementation wasn't well thought out and was even insulting to the very audience that was targeted. Chris Brogan followed up with a tour of groceries tweeting examples of company accounts - the good, the bad, the ugly. Between these two posts I was shaking my head. From abandoned to spammy to RSS-feed-like to well-managed twitter accounts all in two posts. It was enough to make my brain spin.

Later, with thoughts of broadcast vs. engagement me floating through my head, I read this post from Mitch Joel and the three posts all came together for me.

The words that came to mind over and over today were:

  • Broadcast: to make something known widely; disseminate something ( Synonyms - advertise, announce, annunciate, blare, blazon, circulate, communicate, declare, disseminate, distribute, proclaim, promulgate, publish, report, sow, spread, strew, troll (, and

  • Engage: to attract and hold fast/to attract and please ( Synonyms - captivate, concern, consume, employ, engage, engross, fascinate, fill, hold, immerse, involve, monopolize, obsess, preoccupy, rivet (

I look at the definitions/synonyms and engage is infinitely more appealing. But there's an epidemic lack of understanding on how to engage as a brand. Brands are big companies who have products or services to sell. Many of them are stuck in the old broadcast mindset of being cut off from their customers, constantly having a one-way conversation.

So how do they change their mindset and engage?

  1. Stop thinking like a company and start thinking like humans.

  2. Stop trying to reach the masses and start connecting with individuals.

  3. Stop promoting your product and start to interact with the people who (may) use it.

The Bottom Line: BE REAL!
Will this take more time? Absolutely.
Will it be worth it? Yes, if it's done well.

The truth is, people will be interested in brands that engage them while the ones who are broadcasting will continue to fly by unnoticed in their timeline/newsfeed.

What are some examples of brands that are doing a good job using social media?

3 Steps to Recovering from Social Media Backlash

Controversial content can lead to huge pageviews and shares. When innocuous content goes viral, there are generally few worries about negative feedback. The story can be very different for content that goes viral merely because of a controversy that surrounds it.

How many companies - large and small - have posted content that led to a social media backlash? We can probably all think of several examples. It's easier than ever before to take individuals and entities to task for objectionable material. Therefore, it's important for social media content to be carefully considered before hitting the submit button. And if you're not prepared for the possibility of a negative reaction, then it maybe wisest to change course and go in a different direction.

What should you do when you've (inadvertently) stepped over the line?

1) Assess the situation.
How widespread is the negative feedback? Is it gaining momentum that will hurt you? Can it be dealt with on an individual basis or does it warrant a wider public response? The answers to these questions should help determine the appropriate steps to rectify the situation.

2) Respond genuinely and promptly in all forums.
If it's appropriate to modify or take the content down, then it's probably appropriate to issue an apology as well. Even if the intention of the piece was not to offend, make that clear and give an apology that addresses the concerns that have been expressed. Insincerity, defensiveness or avoidance of the real issue will be exposed and create a bigger backlash.

3) Turn it around to something good.
Want to show your followers that you mean what you say? Back it up with action. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to donate time, money and/or resources to raising awareness about the related issue.

Edgy, attention-grabbing content is the goal of every individual and entity active in social media today. But efforts to create a unique campaign that spreads can backfire easily if the content strikes the wrong chord with your audience. And if you've had fallout from a campaign once, the last thing you want is to repeat it in the future.

What are some examples of social media backlash? How was it handled? Was the response appropriate and effective?