• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • Duo Consulting
    Michael Silverman on October 15, 2014

    4 Reasons Drupal Is the Best Social CMS

    It turns out Drupal and Social Media are a match made in heaven. Because of Drupal’s system of modules, integration with external websites can be as easy as installing a module that fits your site’s needs. And once these modules are installed, you will have a central place to manage profile information and plug-in modules, such as follow and share buttons.
  • What's the difference between paid, owned, and earned media? If you're looking for easy-to-understand definitions, The Media Octopus has pulled together a great infographic that explains everything.

    In our fast-moving marketing and digital spaces, social media and online PR continue to gain more significance as the processes of budgeting, reporting and investing in media evolve to reach multi-channel audiences.

    As a result, it is becoming more important than ever for brands and businesses to distinguish between paid, earned and owned media, as well as understanding the individual parts they can play within a comprehensive marketing mix.

    We acknowledge that these types of media aren’t new but rather; the approach and prominence of owned and earned media has changed from a dominant focus on paid media with regards to traditional advertising.

    While all three are crucial for marketing activities, time, money and resources dedicated to each is determined by industry and target audience.

    Here we have highlighted the key differences between the media types, identifying how each can offer lucrative opportunities to influence customers and fit into your marketing activities, both on and offline:

    Paid, owned and earned media - Social Media

    This infographic was pulled together by the Digital Marketing Agency, The Media Octopus.

    It’s not enough these days just to have a website. Lots of people think that having a website equals online presence. You build it, they will come. Wrong!

    It’s not enough these days just to have a website. Lots of people think that having a website equals online presence. You build it, they will come.

    Wrong! An online presence is meaningful engagement with your internal and external stakeholders. Your site won’t even get near the right eyeballs on Google if you don’t consider content and social network engagement. Once the forbidden zone, social media is now front and centre in your marketing and PR plan.

    Before you start using social media for business purposes, do some groundwork first. You’ve got to put some serious thought into exactly what it is you want your efforts to achieve.  You might already have a personal Facebook profile, but you can’t apply the same principles to your business presence as you would for yourself. 

    Here’s a list of things to consider carefully before getting out there amongst it.

    1. What are your objectives?

    Many businesses start out on social media without having a clear idea of exactly what it is they want to achieve. As every social media platform can be used to serve different purposes, it is a good idea to understand what your objectives are in order to make the most out of the available platforms.

    Figure out what your objectives are (usually one of the following):

    • To position your organisation as an employer of choice
    • To drive more traffic to your website
    • Improve your reputation
    • Provide customer service
    • Generate more sales

    2. Know your audience

    Social media can be used as an incredibly powerful tool to directly target your existing and potential networks – if you know who (and where) they are. Spend some time figuring out who your target audience is and where to find them.

    3. Your presence on social media

    Once you have figured out the first two important items (Objectives and Audience), the next step is to figure out which platforms to use.

    With over a billion accounts, Facebook may be the biggest social network, but it may not be where your customers are. Now you know who your target audience is, it is important to pick the network where the greatest proportion of that audience is spending most of their time. 

    You can find statistics about who is using each social network at Socialbakers.

    4. Levels of engagement

    Decide on whether your business posts once a day or once a week. The more often you post relevant and timely content, the higher your levels of engagement. Like a person, a business positions itself online through its actions. A high level of intellectual and emotional commitment is required to engage effectively.

    A business’ level of engagement can be divided into groups:

    • Champions - those who know and care and like to be involved in conversations online
    • Loose Cannons - those that care but aren’t informed enough to have input
    • Bystanders - those who know but don’t care enough to contribute to online conversations
    • Weak Links - those who neither know enough to comment and don’t care.

    Click here to see a levels of engagement diagram.

    5. Resourcing

    A common reaction to resourcing social media channels is, “it takes so much time and we don’t have the resources”. However, the focus should be on outcomes. If social media communication can achieve business objectives, it is worth the investment, and choosing to use social media may mean redeployment of resources, not greater investment.

    Content planning drives efficiency.

    It is good practice to prepare a content calendar that identifies sources of information that your stakeholders will find interesting, and want to engage with. Build in key events within your business, and ways in which you will build up the promotion of these on your social media accounts.  

    Assessing the following will result in maximum efficiency:

    • Time vs. impact
    • Staff level of experience
    • Supporting tools (see below)
    • Content planning

    6. Online social media management tools

    There are many tools available online that will help you manage your social media accounts, saving time. These tools not only allow you to schedule content ahead of time, most of them contain basic analytics on your social media activity. Most of these are free to use, but the paid tools are quite cost effective at around $10 per month.

    Some useful online social media management tools:

    • HootSuite
    • Buffer
    • Social Flow
    • SproutSocial

    7. Timing

    Be aware of when your target audience is online. It is pointless to post meaningful and engaging content at times when no one is online to read it. Be sure to post in a timely fashion to ensure maximum impact.

    Experiment with what time of day you post and test content that results in higher interaction. Often, your target demographic is using social media on public transport on the way to or from work. Use this insight to plan your content schedule.

    8. Building a community

    It is easy to become focused on achieving ‘Likes’ rather than engagement and building a respected community of advisories and peers.

    Be discerning. It is better to have a small number of high quality followers than a large amount of superfluous ‘Likers’.

    Example: LinkedIn provides the option to make a group private. This enables the group administrator to act as a gateway and only permit those they feel would be valuable to the community to join the group. Use this to your advantage.

    9. Visual representation

    Remember that you are marketing your business using social media. Each platform must reflect the brand’s overall visual identity. As each platform is different, bespoke graphic representation must be created for each to create a visual flow across all online presence.

    10. Risk management

    A lot of social media content is about positive messaging, but you need to be prepared for the dark side. Take the time to develop internal social media guidelines and policy; a document that outlines what could go wrong and what action to take in the event of a social media meltdown.

    This strong set of social media guidelines should be provided to new employees and will help them understand how your business or organisation uses social media and how to uphold the values of company and express the brand when posting.

    11. Content decision making framework

    A simple content decision making framework assists in checking content before distribution.

    Ellis Jones - content decision making framework

    Image credit: Cameron Russell via Flickr Creative Commons

    There are two types of business owners in the corporate world. There is the business owner who focuses on building his individual brand, and there is the owner who focuses on building his business’s brand, entirely separate from himself. In this post, we explore which branding method is better to display on social media for small business owners.

    There are two types of business owners in the corporate world. There is the business owner who focuses on building his individual brand, and there is the owner who focuses on building his business’s brand, entirely separate from himself.

    Let’s look at two very different examples: Kim Kardashian and Muhtar Kent. When you hear the name Kim Kardashian, an abundance of information about the woman comes to mind. You’ve seen countless examples of her brand’s marketing, from her personal Instagram, to every episode of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ being available at the click of a button on YouTube. She is recognized for her socialite status, appearance in various commercials, and endorsements of assorted fashion entities- all regularly displayed in a manner that clearly states that the Kim Kardashian brand is, indeed, about Kim Kardashian. With every appearance she makes, Kardashian is steadily building her personal brand by the day, only causing her empire to grow.

    Then we have Muhtar Kent. Never heard of him? Maybe you’ve heard of his company: Coca Cola. Kent is of the CEO variety to focus on the brand of his company, rather than on his personal brand.  When you think of Coca Cola, a different set of ideas come to mind. You think of the target words the Coca Cola marketing zeroes in on: family, tradition, togetherness, nostalgia, friendship, etc. Watching any viral Coca Cola video, there is a clear absence of the brand’s heads. Coca Cola has become its own entity.  

    Two very large presences, Kardashian and Coca Cola, run very different ways to gain the success they have attained.

    So how does this translate to marketing for small business owners?

    Should you be marketing your business as its own brand, or as a part of yours? As you can see by looking at the two above examples, both work for different reasons. Although becoming successful purely off of a personal brand can be extremely challenging when starting from the bottom. Most successful personal brands spring into life after some initial success, such as with a prominent career as a fitness guru (Jillian Michaels) or chef (Gordon Ramsay). From both of their given professions, Michaels and Ramsay were able to spin their success into huge, personal empires.

    Though, as is the case for most small business owners, it is uncommon to start a new small business with any sort of fame to get things moving, thereby making it difficult to gain success purely as a personal brand. Applied to small business owners, branding is all about attaining the perfect balance between personal and business.

    How to implement the perfect balance and showcase it on social media:

    This isn’t to say that there should be no personal branding done. If people are searching your name on the internet, they’ll most likely end up at your website- and that’s the whole point of branding! You want to label yourself as an industry expert. Seek out interviews to participate in, get in on webinars, write press releases about events you’re speaking at, blog, blog, blog, and showcase them all on your company’s social outlets. If your customers see you being showcased as an expert everywhere they look on the internet, they’ll know they’ve chosen the right company to give their business to.

    Though showcasing interviews and articles you’ve been featured in is great for your personal brand (and therefore your business’s brand) that should be the extent of your personal branding. Leave the pictures of your family’s latest vacation off of the company’s Instagram. Showing a human side to your business is important, but it’s also important to draw a line of professionalism that’s appropriate for your individual business. Pictures of you and your employees on Facebook enjoying a catered lunch in honor of a birthday, graduation, or baby shower is a great way to show off the faces of your business without getting too personal. When posting a picture, video, status update, or tweet, ask yourself, “Will this gain me business?”  

    LinkedIn Company Pages once held a lot of promise, but their value has becoming increasingly limited over time. Most organizations can now probably either live without them or restrict their usage to a simple organizational profile. This article assesses the past and current state of the feature and offers guidance on the most practical ways to leverage it.

    Just about three years ago I extolled the virtues and potential value of LinkedIn Company Pages, referring to them as “an undervalued gem for organizations of all types.” I began that piece by writing:

    LinkedIn’s “company” management capability is an amazingly powerful and surprisingly underutilized feature of the platform. Other than the Careers functionality, the feature is free. And even though LinkedIn uses the term “company,” it’s a feature that can be used by organizations of all types, as well as organizations of any size (including solopreneurs).

    I went on to highlight some of the benefits of LinkedIn Company Pages, including how they enable organizations to:

    • Connect all employees on LinkedIn under a single employer identity
    • Promote the organizational brand, products and services
    • Communicate the employment brand and enhance recruiting efforts
    • Facilitate business development and other efforts to garner support from outside parties
    • Provide an easier mechanism for externally facing employees (e.g., business development, recruiting) to be found via LinkedIn
    • Connect LinkedIn users to their website and other internet presences

    Even as recently as a year ago, I heard a representative from LinkedIn promoting LinkedIn Company Pages in a Social Media Week presentation (see slides 17-23 in this deck).

    But much has changed in the past year, and the LinkedIn Company Pages feature has gotten stripped down to a few essential elements that don’t offer a lot of potential value for most organizations.

    What’s Gone from LinkedIn Company Pages

    Probably the biggest element that has been removed from LinkedIn Company Pages is the Products and Services tab, which was deactivated in April 2014. Organizations used to be able to create sub-pages for each of  their key offerings. These sub-pages included a description of each featured product or service (with or without a disclaimer), a related image and web page link, a designated contact, a YouTube video, and a special offer or promotion (which also appeared on the main page). The feature also enabled clients and other stakeholders to provide endorsements for specific products and services (via a virtual “thumbs up”), as well as testimonials. All of that is now gone.

    A number of related features on the main company page have been eliminated as well, including the ability to:

    • Create multiple versions of the page for different audiences and/or market segments
    • Add up to three linkable banners that will rotate through the page
    • Link to a YouTube video
    • Feature specific products and services
    • Include an RSS feed from a company blog
    • Incorporate a general disclaimer

    LinkedIn Company Pages: What Remains?

    Free Features. The basic profile aspect of LinkedIn Company Pages remains essentially unchanged. Organizations can provide a brief overview of who they are and what they do, identify specialties, link to a website, and share simple demographics like industry and company size. They can also list up to three featured LinkedIn groups on their profile.

    Group administrators can also use the company status update feature to link to blog posts, YouTube videos, SlideShare documents, and other created  and curated content. The feature can also be used to promote products and services, provide special offers, feature employees and clients, etc.

    In place of the Products and Services feature, LinkedIn enables organizations to create up to 10 showcase pages. Although these pages are “children” of the main parent page, they are treated as independent, which means they have their own profiles, followings and updates.

    And of course it’s still possible to have employees and contractors their individual profiles to the company page so visitors can see at a glance who’s currently affiliated with the organization and what their roles are.

    Premium Features. Any organization can post a job for 30 days (the rate I was just quoted for Chicago was $395) and have that job linked to their company profile. They can also pay for sponsored updates, which is effectively targeted advertising, using either a pay-per-click or pay-per-view pricing model. And of course it’s possible to add a Careers page to the company profile.

    LinkedIn Company Pages: What’s an Organization To Do?

    In addition to the fact that the features of LinkedIn Company Pages have been stripped down, gaining page followers (for both the main and showcase pages) requires a lot of effort. And even if an organization is able to acquire them, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to reach – let alone engage – them by providing status updates (at least not organically). Although The Denovati Group provides a status update almost daily, for example, our average organic reach is less than 30% and our average engagement is close to zero. I expect those results are typical.

    If an organization wants to reach and engage more people, from either a business development or a hiring perspective, it’s going to have to pay. That’s certainly fair – LinkedIn is, after all, a for-profit company – but it does raise important ROI questions.

    All things considered, are LinkedIn Company Pages still worthwhile? Perhaps, to an extent. Here are my thoughts for organizations of different sizes.

    Tiny: For sole proprietors, small partnerships, and organizations with fewer than 10 employees, a company page may not be worth the effort to try to maintain, and may even undermine the brand and the company’s goals and objectives. Leaders and other individuals in small organizations are probably better off developing robust LinkedIn profiles and using their individual status updates and the blog feature to promote their expertise, thought leadership, and brand(s), as well as their products and services.

    Kathy Caprino, the Founder of Ellia Communications, is a good case in point. Her company page has only 108 followers, but over 24,000 people follow her as an individual. Although she seems to have wisely put her energy into maintaining a strong individual presence on LinkedIn, and only has a basic company page, the anemic nature of that page may be doing her more harm than good. I would advise her to consider getting rid of it.

    Small to Medium: As an organization grows in size, there could be some value in having a basic company page, if for no other reason than to connect the individual profiles of employees. And if the resources are available, providing regular – or even occasional – status updates can be worthwhile. Although the reach and engagement may be low when the messages are posted, there can be some value in having these updates available to people who visit the page.

    Examples of small to medium organizations that take this approach include ViaForensics, YouEarnedIt, RightPoint, SWC Technology Partners and Varsity Tutors. Although they all provide (semi)regular status updates, none of them have either showcase pages or career pages, and only some of them have posted jobs.

    A word of caution: With a small amount of additional effort, you can customize status updates for LinkedIn Company Pages so they don’t look like bastardized tweets (e.g., by including hashtags and unnecessary abbreviations) or show a lack of care (e.g., not deleting the url for a link after the image and excerpt render).

    Large: LinkedIn Company Pages make the most sense for organizations that have both large employee populations and large followings. And of course they have the resources to both support and effectively leverage showcase pages, as well as premium features like job postings, sponsored updates, and careers pages. They are also able to connect the pages of various subsidiaries (e.g., Microsoft’s Yammer, Ford’s credit division).

    I looked at a number of LinkedIn Company Pages for large organizations, like Google, IBM, Microsoft, Waste Management, and the U.S. Department of State. Interestingly, although they had relatively large followings and used many of the advanced features of company pages, none of them provided frequent status updates. Curious…

    Also interesting is the fact that many large public sector organizations, like the cities of New York and Chicago, still have anemic LinkedIn Company Pages. Granted, there are also pages for specific units like the fire and health departments, but none of these pages are linked.

    Final Thoughts

    I’ve been thinking about the value of LinkedIn Company Pages ever since a recent digital coaching session in which I advised a “single-shingle” professional that it probably wasn’t worth her time or effort to create and maintain one. After giving her that advice, I’m still trying to decide whether we should continue to have one. We get almost no return on it, but our additional investment at this point is minimal (less than a minute per day to share an update), so for now I’ll stick with it.

    As always, I welcome your feedback. What questions has this piece raised for you? What would you add to, change, or delete from my assessments and recommendations?

    The big data privacy discussion is subtle, complex and complicated – and we each have a role to play. What’s yours going to be? This is my adapted version of the popular "Feathers in the Wind" tale attributed to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev.

    The big data privacy discussion is subtle, complex and complicated – and we each have a role to play. What’s yours going to be?

    It was 9:53 AM. Sarah was racing against the clock: she wanted to finish a long overdue email to a Canadian colleague before her team’s weekly 10:00 AM meeting. Just as she clicked the ‘Send’ button, her manager, Mason, appeared outside her cubicle. 

    “Are you headed to the meeting?” he asked her.

    “Yep, I was just heading over.”

    “Great. I’ll walk with you. I was wondering if you had time after the meeting to go talk with Angie in HR. I got a call from her this morning, and a situation has developed that she wants to talk to us about.”

    “What’s going on?” Sarah asked.

    “I don’t know. She wouldn’t tell me. She said she wanted to discuss it with the both of us at our earliest convenience.”

    “Well, I hope everything’s okay,” Sarah replied, trying not to think too much about it.

    It was 11:05 AM. Mason and Sarah sat down in the two chairs across from Angie in her office. “Thank you for meeting with me on such short notice,” Angie began. “I wanted to talk to you about the summer picnic your department had a week and a half ago.”

    Sarah remembered the event well. People were still talking about it and sharing the fun video she and her husband had put together and posted on YouTube. Even though the company didn’t sponsor the picnic, it wasn’t uncommon for employees to get together on their own time and their own dime.

    “Do you know Nick over in Tech Support?” Angie asked.

    “I know of him, but we’ve never met officially,” Sarah replied, and then she started smiling. “But we did get some great clips of him in the video we put together. That boy certainly knows how to party and have a good time!”

    Angie continued, “Well, it seems that Nick is in a little bit of trouble. Did you know that on his drive home with his family after the picnic that they got into an accident?”

    “Oh, wow. No, I didn’t!” Mason exclaimed. “What happened?”

    “From the reports, Nick was too drunk to drive. His blood alcohol level was 1.2. He’s now been charged with a DUI. And what made matters worse for him is that the police department found your video on YouTube. Those ‘fun’ clips you mentioned of Nick knowing how to party – well, the police seem to agree.”

    “Was anyone hurt?” Sarah asked, still trying to process everything she was hearing.

    “My understanding is that no one was seriously injured – just the cars. Thank goodness!” Angie replied.

    “I feel so bad. I know it wasn’t my fault, but the video that I’ve been so proud of going viral has just complicated things for Nick. I wish there was something I could do,” Sarah said.

    Angie looked at Sarah for a few seconds, and then asked, “Are you up for doing an experiment with me?” Sarah nodded. “Good. Do you have a feather pillow at home?”

    “I do.”

    “Bring it into work with you tomorrow and meet me back here at 9 AM tomorrow morning.” Sarah had no idea what was up, but she was curious.

    It was 9:00 AM the next morning. Sarah walked into Angie’s office with her pillow.

    “Good morning! Let’s go downstairs to the café, grab some coffee, and sit outside,” Angie said to Sarah. She then grabbed a pair of scissors out of her top drawer, and the two of them went downstairs.

    After buying their coffees, they found a nice table to sit at outside. Angie handed Sarah the scissors. “I want you to cut open your pillow and pile all the feathers on the table.”

    Sarah thought Angie was a bit nuts, but she did as she was told. With all the feathers now on the table, Angie started talking about the event again. Sarah tried to pay attention, but she was distracted by all the feathers blowing away off the table. After about 10 minutes, she looked around at the feather ‘storm’ that had hit the café. And the sidewalks. And the streets. “What a mess!” she thought to herself.

    Angie then told Sarah to gather all the feathers and stuff them back into the pillow case. Sarah knew now that Angie was indeed nuts.

    “What kind of experiment is this, anyway?” Sarah snapped back. “There’s no way I can get all the feathers back. They’re everywhere! Even if I could retrieve most of the feathers, the pillow will never be the same again.”

    “That’s exactly right, Sarah. And so it is when we share information on the internet. We could be sharing our own stories, or our kids’ stories, or even a 'harmless' video of employees having a good time. In today’s digital world,” Angie continued, “the lines between our professional and personal lives continue to blur. We need to be mindful of what we’re sharing. Because what happens on the internet stays on the internet. Forever.”

    Sarah knew what she needed to do. What do you think she did?

    Author’s note: This is my adapted version of the popular "Feathers in the Wind" tale attributed to Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. I presented this story during my big data privacy presentation at the Social Shake-Up conference on September 16, 2014.