I'm putting this blog to the side now and concentrating my efforts to keep our blog updated at Propeller. There, I'm sharing similar insights on search marketing, SEO, social media marketing, custom website development, responsive web design, and online marketing for resorts and brands of all flavor.
Google Plus's [+1] button is finding its way onto web pages quicker now and with good reason. The button has two cool functions when logged into Google. The first click is simply a vote endorsing the page. Then the button expands and allows you to say something about that page and share the link with an individual, a Circle of friends, or the Public on G+.
On January 10, 2012, Google moved the SEO goal posts yet again with the introduction of "Search, plus your world"... ie Social Search.Google now lets searchers see page results endorsed by people in their G+ network, which puts serious value on the [+1] button and G+ in general. Google is essentially adding human intelligence to their search engine as it builds its own social graph.
So what is the impact on SEO? Google hasn't directly declared what the effect is yet, however marketers are seeing that pages that receive many +1s are performing better (more from Ian Lurie at Conversion Marketing for more). In general, there does seem to be a correlation between links shared on social networks and their resulting search rank according to SEOmoz. The nuance here is that the improved rank is related to Click-Through-Rate... simply that the page is getting more traffic, which effects pagerank. Not a direct link to the actual action of a user hitting the [+1] button.
How do marketers impact it? Do we just need to hire a room full of button pushers to hit our [+1] buttons? No, that won't affect anything because its not about the number, its about the [+1] vote of people in a user's network primarily. I say "primarily" because when I look at my social search results, I'll just see +1 G+ comments from people in my G+ network. Secondarily however, I'll also be able to see the total number of people world-wide who have given a page a +1, which might also influence my decision whether to click or not.
Still it seems that good SEO comes back to creating engaging content and then using every means possible to share that content. Google's [+1] button is a new tool for getting that content out... if the content is worth the +1 endorsement.
Very recently, the Four Seasons launched a new site that generated buzz about their focus on digital marketing, social marketing, and specifically their embrace of customer reviews. That's been hot on my mind this week, and I've posted quite a bit on it (follow my Google Plus).
I can't say that I am crazy about the site. The entry photos are captivating but overall its a bit cluttered. One thing that did catch my eye was a promo for Social Buzz - "read what others are saying".
Do I care what the brand has to say about themselves? No. Do I care what customers have to say? Yes. So I clicked.
Here is why resorts especially care. Four Season’s VP Marketing Susan Helstab explains in this recent USA Today artcile: “In a Four Seasons survey, 33% of guests rate TripAdvisor “very to extremely influential” in their selection of a luxury hotel. In its research, the Toronto-based hotel operator also cites these stats from consulting firm e-tailing group: 92% of internet users read product reviews and 89% say that reviews influence their booking decision.”
On their Guest Reviews page I found a nifty module powered by Revinate.Using the tool, the resort selects favorable reviews to display. I dug a bit deeper into the tool and found that its a pretty powerful reputation management tool for managing these many points where people are talking about the resort. The visitor doesn't really know that these were carefully selected, though they may suspect. The company partnered with TripAdvisor so they get top billing at the top, but there is also access to see all other reviews by other sources such as Yelp, Hotels.com, Travelocity, Google, etc.
The emphasis on reviews carries over to their Facebook page as well.
They use Evinate's Social Buzz app to provide access to guest reviews. Here they're not displaying any, and I'm not sure whether this is a limitation of the app, or oversight on their part. Key is users do have the access to guest reviews. Overall, Terranea's Facebook page provides a case study model for how a resort can make the most of Facebook. All their paths to conversion are all there - book rooms, golf tee times, spa treatments, etc. Very smart... but that's for another post.
Though brands always fear those "angry reviews", studies show that a strong majority of reviews tend to be positive. If you offer a solid product at a fair price, customers will tell others and nothing is stronger than that word of mouth endorsement!
Another key reason that I forgot to mention is SEO. Particularly with Google Place reviews. Review ranks don't affect placement, but volume does.
I was recently asked by a client to help justify the cost for acquiring Facebook Fans. ROI is what CXOs like to focus on and it presents a daunting challenge for marketers engaging in social media.
Typically, my response to this common question is to ask what you think the value of someone sharing stories, videos and photos of their awesome vacation at your resort to room filled with friends, family and colleagues. Facebook's last stat on average numeber of Friends is 130, but this statistic is over a year old... who do you know that has only 130 Friends? Regardless of what the multiplier exactly is, its alot, and the value of that Word-of-Mouth endorsement is high.
How high? I wish I knew… I can only point out some of the benefits, and below a few articles that claim to quantify value of a fan.
- Implied Endorsement : This is very much the core of the value of a Fan. The Word-of-Mouth value of a one person Liking your brand and broadcasting that to all their friends, is strong. Countless studies reinforce that nothing influences purchase decisions more than endorsements from people we know.
- Advertising on Two Levels :
- Targeted Display Ads: The level of pin-point targeted advertising is phenonemal. Design visuals and message for each segment: women riders, women skiers, male riders, male skier and then combine with unique offers for different geographic regions... is all very easy and cheap!
- Sponsored Stories Ads: One of the most effective ad types that Facebook offers is the “Sponsored Story”, which reaches out to Fan’s Friends with the very simple message of “Jane Doe Likes Brand X”. I've seen this simple type of ad tends to outperform the display ads and at a lower cost per click.
- Customer Retention : Keeping the love alive is not easy. Email can be difficult to penetrate spam filters, and people change their emails from time to time. The Like creates a connection for on-going engagement.
- Maximizing Revenue : With this communication channel open and alive, a resort then has the opportunity to inform and influence customers to buy more from your ancillary revenue centers such as food & beverage, retail, rental, ski school, hotel, spa, performances, etc.
Here is what some others think:
My buddy Joe Mescher (aka Social Media Commando) posted his thoughts on this (compelling photography as well... from a certain point of view).
A study came out in November 2011 which put the number at about $10, but there is much more to the story.
Ultimately in business, there are some things that you need hard numbers for. Others, you just don't. There are two companies that are truely killing it. Google and Facebook. These are the two properties where users engage more heavily with than any other. Bottom line, be there or be square.
Last Update: January 31, 2012
Google Plus may not rock yet, but it will. The combination of revenue potential, resources, brand involvement, influence on search, mobile, and Facebook's disregard for privacy and customer satisfaction will all combine to make Google Plus a powerful and popular social network.
Soon after it launched however, the G+ party was declared a bust. It looked to be just a bunch of geeks standing around a keg of warm stale beer. The calls went out from myself and others that Google + was dead.
Google Plus turns out to be far from dead, and I'm happy to now eat my words. According to Hitwise, in December 2011 G+ topped 65M users and saw traffic rise 55% over November, and Paul Allen of Google predicts hitting the 400M mark by the end of 2012. What changed? Why am I and many others predicting success for G+?
Follow the Ad Dollars
You can always find the truth when you follow the money. PC Magazine recently reported, that while Google and Facebook are very close in the race for Unique Visits, Facebook crushes all when it comes to Time On Site. Time On Site reflects where people really Live online. Advertisers will pay more to be where people Live than where people Visit. Google gets that essential point, and even though they may be late to the party, they have the minds, means, and motivation to rock it once they show up.
Brands Are Invited Now
In November 2011, Google + invited Brands to join the party. Brands are quickly giving the network new juice by promoting the social network through placement of the G+ icon along side the Like button everywhere. December’s 55% bump over November may reflect this. Looking ahead, Brands will essentially bring the beer by delivering games and new forms of interaction through custom apps.
Why do brands care? Advertisers are trending away from mass broadcasting and toward more targeted advertising and engagement. Here they will also find a less crowded party with less competition to connect with customers. Another big reason is Search.
SEO & Social Search
The SEO play is obvious: Google + pages turn up in search engine results and the combination of Google Places (map) with Google Plus will enhance those results.
Social Search is a shift toward incorporating the influence of people in our networks into the search results algorithm. As an example your friend hits the +1 for your local bakery. When you search for sticky buns, that bakery will be given more weight.
>Update 1/10/12 > Today Google begins rolling out Social Search - such that it will incorporate stories and conversations that people in your circles share that relate to your search. As published today on Mashable: "Type in a topic of interest, like “Rome,” and along with maps, travel info, historical references, you’ll find a post your friend wrote in Google+ about a recent trip to Rome. That post, though, will only appear if it’s been shared with you or if the post is public."
A key differentiator between G+ and Facebook is privacy. This could mark when Facebook’s brazen disregard for the privacy comes back to haunt them. In contrast, Google gets privacy and G+ is more oriented towards managing the flow of inbound and outbound communication (Circles) to control who sees what.
Google’s new mobile operating system, Android 4, is designed to integrate with G+. New device owners are encouraged to connect/signup for G+ when they setup the device. The first device coming out on the new platform is Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, and if you pay attention to their ads, you’ll see that they’re featuring its G+ integration as a key feature. Droid is dominating the smartphone/tablet market with about 50% market share.
Apps & APIs
Google will be opening the doors this year for other developers get in and create new functionality for Brands and their customers. APIs are side doors that allow developers to plug in their own apps and extend the functionality of the system. Think games, contests, and other custom applications that engage (this is the cold beer).
The concept has to do with value of a service/product, and that in cases such as the fax machine, the value of the product grows as more people use it. A social network only has value once adoption reaches critical mass. There seems to be no question now that G+ is approaching that tipping point.
Facebook’s Customer Dissatisfaction
Facebook may be popular, but it isn’t loved. In fact, this summer’s American Customer Satisfaction Index report revealed Facebook to be one of the least loved – it ranks at the very bottom along with airlines and credit card companies. Why? I’d speculate that the serious disregard for privacy has hurt Facebook along with the constant changes and feature bloating that irritate users.
In contrast, Google scored very well. I’d suggest that while Google may not be as un-evil as it claims, they do understand the value of customer trust. Their search engine and associated ad platform that delivers billions is based on that trust.
Segmented Broadcasting and Aggregation
Circles *easily* allows you to segment who you broadcast to and who you listen to. Yes, you can create groups in Twitter and Facebook, but they don't let you choose which group you want to broadcasts to ... easily, and certainly not on a per post level. On G+ I can share an article about ski resorts just to my ski resort segment AND I can listen and only hear what those ski resorts are broadcasting. This type of segmentation makes this a great tool for those that currently jump between LinkedIn and Facebook, or those that are uncomfortable with their Facebook mashup of professional and personal friends.
Biggest Challenge: Social Network Fatigue
If the party isn’t awesome, it’s going to be difficult to pull people away from Facebook’s. They may not love it, but it’s where their friends are. It’s a hassle to create a new profile, learn its idiosyncrasies, and build your network. People are sheep and until more friends adopt G+, they’ll follow the heard.
Google may not be putting on a killer party yet, but they’re figuring it out and lots of cold beer is on the way. Remember, Google Plus doesn’t need to beat Facebook to be a major social network player, and worth the time of consumers and brands. They can and will present a compelling offering that will be worth the time first for consumers and second for brands. They really must if they want to provide advertisers with placement where people Live versus Visit online.
- Want to learn more about Google Plus? Checkout Mashable's Guide to Google +
- Wired Article 1/12/12 Is Too Much Plus a Minus for Google?
- Slopefillers 1/16/12 Gregg reviews "shared circles" tactic to grow followers
- G+ Demographic Statistics - dynamically updated - I've filtered it for US only, but you can adjust that to see all stats.
- SocialStats - pulling data from 91K G+ users - see trends on what's hot.
- Wordtracker: How to setup a Busines Page
With the recent updates to Facebook, the relevancy of the Sponsored Story ads continue to increase - especially as they show such gains over Facebook's Standard Ads. This is part of a broader strategy to increase ad performance and value, which Facebook has long been criticized for.
The results are speaking for themselves as ad performance for Facebook's Sponsored Story ads are both cheaper and out-perform (CTR) Facebook's Standard ads by a long shot. FastCompany claims by 50%, and Facebook Ads API service provider TBG Digital's study revealed a 46% performance gain.
In a nutshell, what you have here are "implied endoresements" - a nuance of word of mouth marketing, that Facebook knows so very well.
Understanding the concept may take a few run-throughs (at least it has for me). For a long time, having someone Like your Page pretty much guaranteed an initial shot of having that action reach that person's friends, as well as providing an open channel for Page posts to reach Fans's News Feed. Well, the News Feed became a torent which has reduced the window for exposure.
Facebook introduced Sponsored Story ad units back in January this year to help fill the gap.. and then some. These ads provide a deeper anchor to keep the brand on the News Feed page (to the right under "Sponsored"), and then (wait for it) extend also to friends of that Fan with these "implied endorsement" ads. These ads now allow advertisers to extend their reach to a user's entire friend network each time they Checkin, Like a product, Like a Page (become a Fan), Comment on a Story, Like an App, Comment on an App, etc. etc...
Here's the breakdown.
I've begun using these with a strategy of first concentrating ad resources to build Likes/Fans. Then to remarket through these Fans via Sponsored Stories. It works very well.
Here are some good resources for going deeper into the 7 different types of sponsored stories and how to set them up.
- Facebook - General Overview and Pitch
- All Facebook - Overview
- Facebook - Deeper conceptual explanations and Type breakdowns
Traditionally lawyers got business from yellow page ads and word-of-mouth recommendations. Today, lawyers are quickly learning of the word-of-mouth power of social networks. The number of lawyers using social media has jumped from 15% in 2008 to In 2008, to 56% in 2010 as surveyed by the American Bar Association last year.
Of course, what lawyers choose to discuss and the words they use need to be thoughtful. Here is one post that describes a number of incidents where lawyers got burned - not by social media itself, but by how they used it and the words they chose.
In many firms, lawyers are more or less responsible for developing their own clientelle and many of these lawyers are discovering how efficient and effective social media can be for promoting themselves and their firms.
Some tips for those lawyers interested in engaging in social media to broaden their networks and increase leads.
First, lets start with the a set of tools to consider.
- Blog: There are many software and service options. Of the many, WordPress offers many customizable templates and is by far the most popular blogging platform.
- Twitter: Enables you to broadcast short comments and to share articles broadly. Also a great tool to listen with.
- LinkedIn: The defacto social network for the broad business community. Within LinkedIn are groups for organizations and common interests/professions. Important tool for building and maintaining connections, and for sharing expertise.
- Ratings & Review sites: These are growing in importance as customers use them more when selecting service providers. Presence and ratings also influence organic search rankings (SEO).
- Google Places: This business service establishes both a pin on the all-important google map, and enables customers to post reviews with ratings. Since most potential clients start here, it becomes very important to have a presence and healthy reviews. Sites with good ranks do score better placement, so its worth encouraging happy customers to post reviews.
- Avvo: This is a review and rating site that is specific to doctors and lawyers.
- Broadcasting & Listening tools: These tools enable you to publish out to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, and to listen to networks and topics.
- HootSuite: This is my favorite. It is web-based and allows you to publish to multiple accounts, and to schedule your posts in advance. Verical search columns allow you to also segment the groups and topics you want to listen to.
- TweetDeck: Very similar, but it runs as software that you download. It was acquired by Twitter in May 2011, so its likely we'll see the tool grow.
With the tools in hand, here are some methods to consider.
- Listen. I list this first for good reason. Use Google Alerts to track mentions of your name, your company, your competitors and topics (keywords) of interest and opportunity.
- Contribute. Establish your thought leadership by blogging and tweeting on topics you know and are passionate about. Feel free to expand beyond your professional interests and reveal broader interests such as sports and travel. In doing so, you can find other common interests with others.
- Promote. When you write a blog post, share it through each of your networks.
- Be generous. Search out posts and articles. Share what you find and be sure to link back and credit authors. On Twitter, retweet other's posts. Be polite and thank those that follow you.
- Connect. On Twitter and LinkedIn, see who your colleagues are following and follow those that publish useful content. Post polite comments on other's blogs, and you'll find bloggers and their readers will return the favor.
As a general guide to the culture of social media that will yeild greatest success, be nice avoid engaging in the negative. Share useful content, not just volume. Give and you'll recieve. Do onto others.
- Blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn Boost Lawyers’ Avenues for Marketing - by Troy May, For Business First
- 15 Million Lawyers Using LinkedIn - by Carolyn Mumby
What is that sound of cheers and fireworks? Yes, it is Friday. Yes, its beer o'clock. But its also the sound of developers spinning in their wheely chairs and doing railslides with their keyboards.
Google recently announced that they will only support "modern browsers" starting in August 2011. Across the industry, backward compatibility has been a real issue. Not only can it be close to impossible to deliver consistent user experiences, but users with older browsers also open up considerable security risks. The din of all web developers is the dreaded IE6.
Many web development shops have abandoned IE6 support for quite some time. At Propeller, we charge a premium to get sites to render consistently on the browser. But we small development shops have had no power to push consumers - and businesses to upgrade. My guess is that its less about lazy consumers than it is IT managers who avoid painful projects like updating fleets of computurs to new versions. Whether its laziness or not, not upgrading opens a lot of risk.... security and the sanity of developers world wide.
Risk aside, forcing the backward compatiblity hamstrings efforts to move ahead with new technologies like HTML5. There is considerable force being applied across many players to move quicker to adopt HTML5. All the players are pushing it hard - and that is about delivering rich experiences through mobile, and moving to a more standardized code base.
So huge props out to Google for stepping up and flexing some muscle here. Speaking for all web geeks, we thank you.
Yeah. They did it again.... and they'll keep doing it. I hope so.
This is what I love about Facebook. Its constantly evolving as new features emerge and users react or adapt in ways Facebook can never really predict. Users are always the variable. Before I slide into pontification, all I'm here to say is that I've posted a summary review of Facebook's update to brand Pages.
While its worth checking out, there is nothing super crazy awesome in this upgrade. Kind of boring actually.
Many thanks for those that joined us for my February 17 webinar The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Thanks also to ISPA for hosting the event.
- The world of marketing is changing and the influence of consumers upon both other consumers and brands themselves is growing rapidly through their use of blogs and social networks.
- Brands with Awesomeness are best poised to benefit... and Spas are awesome.
- Identify influencers to build a fan base
- Provide incentives for fans to engage and share through their social networks
- Turn that fan base into a community of people that interact organically with each other. Doing so increases loyalty (repeat business), and expands that brand reach.
- Focus on Influencers
- Focus on Mobile Social : Check-ins (Foursquare, Facebook Places, Google Places)