Archive for March, 2010

Best Social Media Stats and Market Research of 2009

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Whether you need data to back up a proposal for investing in social media marketing for CFO, want to understand which online tactics work best for engaging with customers and prospects, or are just an analytics data junky, you’ll find a treasure trove of key insights and happy hour trivia in this collection of the best articles and blog posts on social media and other marketing research of the past year.

Best Market Research of 2009What are the latest trends in search? Which industry segments are most actively discussed in social media? Who’s really using which social media networks? Why are consumers following brands on Twitter and Facebook? Which social media tool do businesses find most effective at reaching their target audiences? What social media information source is used by 91% of b2b buyers? Do C-level executives really click on ads? What effect does social media marketing have on revenue? Read on for the answers to all of these questions and more.

Because these reports came disproportionately from one source (MediaPost), the articles and blog posts presented here are categorized by source. Each link is accompanied by a short illustrative snippet of the research findings. Learn and enjoy!

Market Research Findings from Around the Web

Searchers Using Longer Queries in 2009 by Small Business Search Marketing
Matt McGee
Single-word search queries declined from 24.5% of all searches in 2007 to 20.4% in 2009, while 4-word searches increased from 13.3% to 14.9% of all searches.

Twitter Demographics by Social Media Today
Jacob Morgan
20% of online adults age 25-34 have used twitter or something like it, compared to 10% of online adults age 35-44 and 5% of those aged 45-54.

Battle of the marketing sexes by iMedia Connection
Susan Kuchinskas
Does brain structure give women an edge in social media marketing abilities?

Predicting the Present with Google Trends by Google Research Blog
Hal Varian
How Google Trends data can help improve forecasts of the current level of activity for a number of different economic time series.

Top 10 Social Media Industry Segments by Sociable Blog
Kevin Stirtz
Which segments generate the most social media buzz? Web applications, media, software and autos are among the most-discussed industry segments in social media.

Twidiots: The Fact and Fiction of Social Media Demographics by Social Media Today
Augie Ray
Who’s really tweeting? The median Twitter user is 31, compared to 26 for Facebook and 40 for LinkedIn. Adults 25 to 54 over-index on Twitter compared to the general Internet population.

4 technologies that are killing the URL by iMedia Connection
Jonathan Richman
Eighty percent of all online sessions begin with search. Google alone has a 63.7 percent share of all searches, and the top three listings on a search engine results page account for approximately 63 percent of all clicks. Find out what other technologies visitors use to find websites without typing URLs.

Twitter Surpasses Facebook as Top Link in E-mail by ClickZ
Bill McCloskey
Companies with the highest level of social media activity increased revenue by 18 percent in the last 12 months, while companies that were the least active saw a 6 percent drop in sales.

20+ more mind-blowing social media statistics by Econsultancy
Jake Hird
*****5 Stars
Social networks and blogs are the 4th most popular online activities online, including beating personal email. 80% of companies use, (or are planning to use), LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees during the course of this year. 77% of all active internet users regularly read blogs. And there’s much more here.

Social Networks More Than 20 Percent of Online Ad Impressions by Inside Facebook
Eric Eldon
Social networks account for 21.1 percent of all online display advertising impressions in the US, with Facebook reaching the most unique visitors.

5 Must-Read Social Media Marketing Studies by Social Media Examiner
Amy Porterfield
*****5 Stars
26 million (1 in 7) U.S. adults use Twitter monthly. Americans spend 17% of their online time on social media sites. And 51% of business users say the most useful social media tool for reaching their audience is…blogs.

3 New Social Media Studies Worth Reading by Social Media Examiner
Amy Porterfield
In this follow up to the previous post, learn about the biggest challenges in social media for businesses, the percentage of people using social media as a discovery tool, and the speed of social media adoption by business (slow – just 9% of businesses used Twitter to market in the last 12 months).

B2B marketing awards: Beauty over brains by iMedia Connection
Robert Davis
91% of B2B buyers read blogs, view videos or listen to podcasts online, and word of mouth is ranked as the most powerful influence on B2B purchasing.

World Rankings and Records by Aneki.com
A wealth of trivia for data junkies: discover which countries have the highest health care expenditures, the most cocaine users, the safest (and most dangerous) roads, and much more.

Customer Engagement Survey Shows Twitter is King of ROI by Marketing Pilgrim
Andy Beal
For companies, email newsletters still rate as the tactic offering the highest tangible improvement (67%) but a whopping 44% – almost double the percentage from 2009 – have discovered that social networks helped increase their online customer engagement.

Research Findings from MediaPost Online Media Daily

SEO Investments Expected To Grow More Than 20%
Laurie Sullivan
Growth will decline for paid search from 15.9% in 2009 to 11.3% in 2013–while SEO growth will jump from 17.7% to 20.3%, respectively.

Fortune 500 Companies Fall Flat On Millions Paid For Keywords
Laurie Sullivan
Fortune 500 companies spend $51 million per day in aggregate on 88,792 keywords–yet only 20.82% rank in the top 100 of natural search results.

Defying Downturn, Marketers Plan To Boost Social Media Budgets
Mark Walsh
Despite the downturn, 53% of marketers plan to increase social media spending and 42% will keep it unchanged.

Facebook Users Growing Up Fast
Mark Walsh
Facebook’s fans are getting older. Ages 18 to 25 still make up the biggest proportion of users, at 35%. But people ages 26-44 now account for 41% of the Facebook audience. Women over 55 remain the fastest-growing demographic.

What iPhone Apps Are Used Most? Hint: Not Games
39% of iPhone users cited weather-related apps as one of the three kinds of applications they use most frequently. A quarter of iPhone users said Facebook’s was one of three apps they accessed most often, followed by game apps, at 20%.

Report: The Business of B2B Is Online
Gavin O’Malley
Of all business-to-business media categories, online revenue showed the strongest growth in 2008, increasing by 15.1%, while rising at a compound annual growth rate of 26.8% from 2006 to 2008. At the same time, magazine net ad revenue declined 10.2% in 2008 versus 2007.

Where Do The C-Level Execs See Advertisements?
Laurie Sullivan
53% of C-level execs say they prefer to search the Web and locate information themselves rather than delegating this. 86% said they occasionally or frequently click on linked words from Web articles and content, 58% click on paid search listings in search engine results, and 53% click on Web site banner ads.

Superconnected: 71 Percent Say They Can’t Live Without Facebook
Just 29% of Facebook and LinkedIn users say they could “probably do without” the popular networks, according to a new study. But 35% of social media users surveyed said they could do without MySpace, while a more modest 43% thought life still worth living without Twitter.

Study: Who’s On Which Social Nets
Laurie Sullivan
The average user logs into a social network account about four times daily, five days a week, and spends about one hour per day on the network. About 31.8% are business users; followed by 26.3%, fun seekers; 21.8%, social media mavens; and 10.1%, leisure followers.

Razorfish Study: Special Offers Drive Engagement In Social Media
Mark Walsh
Of those who follow a brand on Twitter, 44% said access to exclusive deals is the main reason. And on Facebook and MySpace, 37% cited special deals as the main reason they have “friended” a brand. But customer service is also important, with 33% friending a brand on Facebook and MySpace for that purpose, and 24% on Twitter.

Research from MediaPost Search Insider

Google Ups Share of Search To 72%; Yahoo, MSN and Ask Continue To Tank
Rob Garner
Google has posted a year-over-year increase of 8% in its share of U.S.-based search queries, for a total of 72.11% of all U.S. searches.

Bing’s Gain Will Be Yahoo’s Loss, While Actual Google Share Varies By Vertical
Rob Garner
Google accounts for 62% of searches in the financial services category, but Yahoo is referring financial traffic at a higher rate. In health care, 65% of search visitors came from Google, also significantly lower than the market average of 73%. But in high tech, 85% of search visitors come from Google.

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Social Media is Simpler Than You Think

Monday, March 29th, 2010

With the tidal wave of how-to articles, jargon and self-proclaimed “social media experts” hitting the online world, it’s easy for marketers and business executives to view social media as something akin to the unexplored regions of the earth as presented on medieval maps—”here be dragons.” Potentially fascinating, but dangerous, mysterious and scary.

Social Media Demystified

Here Be Dragons - Not Social MediaIn reality, social media marketing is simpler than you’ve probably been led to believe. At its core, social media is not about doing new things, but about doing things you’ve always done as a business person differently. Specifically, social media marketing involves five common, very traditional business activities. It provides a rich new toolset and set of techniques for carrying out these processes, but the processes themselves are familiar: listening, networking, interacting, information sharing, and promoting.

Social Media Listening

Think about “listening” in the broadest sense of the term, encompassing all of the things you do to keep abreast of what’s happening in your industry and your market. What are your competitors up to? What are the trends? What new products and services might help you operate your business more effectively and efficiently? What’s happening with prices? And most importantly: are your customers talking about you? And if so, what are they saying?

Business people have always had to do this, and have used a variety of tools: trade publications, direct conversations with vendors and customers, analyst reports, seminars and other events, trade associations newsletters and other sources. Social media doesn’t change the fact that you do this, but it does do two key things: it makes it easier for people to talk about your business, and it gives you new tools for listening to your market.

Social media reduces the friction of customer communications. Writing and mailing a letter to a company to complain about or praise their products or services is a lot of work. But expressing your opinion on Yelp, epinions, Twitter, Facebook or any social site is easy and takes only a few minutes—and your words reach a far larger audience.

Tools for social media monitoring (listening) range from free (Google Alerts, SM2 Freemium) to low-cost (uberVU) to sophisticated (Vocus, Cision). The brilliant Dan Schawbel of Mashable has written more about free social media monitoring tools and tools worth paying for.

Networking

From the dawn of commerce, business people have always used networking to meet new people and establish new relationships with suppliers, potential partners, industry experts, and most importantly sales prospects. Historically, most of this activity was done face-to-face, at trade shows, conferences, seminars and other industry events.

Business NetworkingPhysical networking at such events is still important. But social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo and tools like Twitter enable you to put this activity on steroids, building online relationships not only with people you’ve physically met but also with smart, interesting people literally across the globe who you’d unlikely ever meet in other contexts. The etiquette is similar (introduce yourself, ask questions, have something interesting to say, don’t immediately go into “hard sell” mode) but the tools are far more powerful and far-reaching than traditional networking.

Interacting

Interacting is simply the conversations that typically follow networking—following up, gathering more information, and asking and answering questions. Again, this is a traditional business activity that’s commonly been done by phone and for most of the last 20 years also via email. For confidential or highly specific communications, these mediums are still ideal.

But again, social media enables you to take interactions to an entirely new level. What about answering common customer or prospect questions? Social media makes it easy to answer such questions online not only for a specific prospect, or even all the prospects you’re aware of, but also for potential prospects not even yet on your radar. Your answer is not only available immediately to a larger group of people, but indexed and globally searchable (so you better have good answers!).

Social networking sites are among the key tools for social interaction, but such conversations can happen almost anywhere on the social web where people are talking about your brand, asking questions about products or services, or simply discussing what’s happening in your industry, including review sites, blogs, wikis and forums.

Information Sharing

Before the internet, sharing an interesting industry news article, how-to guide, coverage of a company or your own thought-leadership content was a tedious task involving copying and then physically mailing or faxing a document to selected recipients. Email made the process much easier, but distribution was still limited to known contacts.

As with listening and responding, social media has dramatically reduced the friction of such information sharing and dramatically expanded the audience. One can now post a link to and short description of interesting information to a LinkedIn group, Facebook page or Twitter stream in seconds and reach an audience of hundreds or thousands of interested individuals. Blog posts, news articles, product reviews, reports, images, videos, customer interviews, presentations and other information can be distributed to large groups with a few mouse clicks. And again, distribution isn’t limited to those you know, but also includes interested parties you’re not yet aware of—this enables prospective buyers to find you, exactly when they are looking for what you have to offer, instead of you having to use expensive, interruptive marketing techniques in the hope of hitting the right buyer at the right time.

Promoting

In terms of advertising, social media is much like other, more traditional online mediums. It’s as easy to place an ad on Facebook as on an industry publication website.

But the power of social media lies in its interactivity, in participation. In this respect, companies need to handle direct promotion carefully. While direct promotion through social media can work well for certain types of businesses (e.g. a restaurant owner tweeting about today’s lunch specials, or a retailer offering special discounts available only to fans on Facebook), it’s a delicate balance for most companies. Particularly in the b2b world, indirect promotion works best. That is, rather than trying use social media to tell people how wonderful your products and services are, it’s much more effective to demonstrate your knowledge by answering questions, sharing interesting and pertinent information, and highlighting third-party endorsements in the form of favorable reviews, blog coverage or customer comments.

Participation in social media is no longer optional for most companies. Customers, pundits and others are already talking about your industry and quite likely your company on these sites. Ignoring such conversations amounts to tacitly endorsing whatever is being said about your firm, your people, and your products or services. Understanding that social media doesn’t involve doing entirely new things as much as doing things you’ve always done, but in new and more powerful ways, should take some of the mystery and fear out of social media engagement.

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How to Use Article Marketing as Part of Your Social Media Strategy

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Guest post by Beth Hrusch

As you may know by now, article marketing is an effective way to gain credibility and establish yourself as an expert in your field.  By writing articles about topics of interest to your readers, and distributing them on article directories, you can give your content the kind of exposure that would be hard to get anywhere else.  But, what many people don’t realize is that article marketing isn’t just for directories anymore.

Article Writing for Content MarketingSocial media has become an effective vehicle for content distribution, and articles are no exception.  According to the Small Business Success Index, sponsored by Network Solutions (2010), one in five small businesses are now actively using social media.  About 75% of those surveyed have a company page on a social networking site.  What makes social media so effective for marketing purposes?  The simple answer is that it gives your content massive exposure across a wide range of platforms.

Articles can easily be distributed using social media news and bookmarking sites, for example.  Each of these sites has strengths and weaknesses, and some will suit certain goals better than others.  Here are 5 of the most popular:

1. Facebook- With over 250 million members, it’s got tremendous reach.  Generate interest with fans and friends by talking about topics related to your industry then link to your articles on your fan page.  Ping articles and blogs automatically, so your groups can see your latest posts.

2. Twitter- Similar to Facebook, Twitter allows you to market your articles automatically and in real time.  As a micro-blogging service, it allows businesses to communicate and share the latest information with customers, and link to articles and other content using a url shortener.

3. LinkedIn- For professional networking, setting up a profile in LinkedIn allows you to share your expertise with others in your group.  Market your articles by sending them to your account or have them pulled from another social media account, to show up under your updates.

4. Digg- A really popular news/bookmarking site that can bring your articles massive exposure.  Submitting your article to Digg takes interested readers directly to your article and your site, where they can also browse archived articles and check you out.

5. YouTube- What do videos have to do with article marketing?  Both are content, just in different formats.  Turn your articles into videos, using your text as a script.  This can be done inexpensively, so almost any budget can handle it.  YouTube is the 4th most popular website in the world, and videos consistently rank high in the search engines, so the potential to go viral is huge.

There are many more social media sites that lend themselves to article marketing.  Check out the handy chart put together by the folks at Seomoz.com for more tips on how to use each site to market your business.

Article marketing has the power to establish you as an authority and give interested consumers a way to access your business through links to your site.  Social media supercharges your articles by giving them wide and deep distribution throughout the web.  Together, they help you reach a large, targeted audience without the need for an expensive marketing campaign.  Be sure, though, that you research the social media sites- how they work and what their terms of service are.  Some will work better for you than others.

Also, remember that article marketing is only effective if you commit to creating and distributing fresh content every week or so.  Maintain both aspects of your marketing strategy and you’ll see results.

Beth Hrusch is Senior Editor at Interact Media, a content marketing software company.

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44 (of the) Best Twitter Articles and Blog Posts of 2009

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

There’s no doubt that Twitter is a phenomenon. It’s now the third-largest social network (behind Facebook and MySpace), the fastest-growing, and used by 75% of b2b companies. How can you optimize your organization’s use of Twitter? What are the best ways to search on this platform? How can you measure results? What are the best tools for increasing your effectiveness and efficiency on Twitter?

Best Twitter Articles and Blog Posts of 2009 - WebbiquityDiscover the answers to these questions and others in this collection of some of the best blog posts and articles about Twitter from the past year.

Twitter Tips & Tactics

The Twitter Guide Book by Mashable
????? 5 stars

How-To: Create a Unique Twitter Background (UPDATED) by Interactive Insights Group
Robin Broitman

Twenty-One Top Twitter Tips by Forbes
Daniel Adler

HOW TO: Get the Most Out of Twitter #Hashtags by Mashable
Ben Parr

How to score the coveted retweet by iMedia Connection
Reid Carr

Free Twitter Backgrounds: 26 Sites To Get Them by Web Resources Depot

Twitter, chat and text messaging abbreviations by SearchCRM

Find Local People on Twitter Using NearbyTweets by Flyte Blog
Rich Brooks

The Top Five Essentials for a Successful Company Twitterfeed by KaneCo conversations
Jennifer Kane

Top 10 Twitter Basics Questions Answered by Junta42
Joe Pulizzi

10 Ways To Grow Your Twitter Influence by Knowledge Enthusiast
Matthew Royse

Ten Things you Must Know before Using Twitter by Tech n’ Marketing
Hillel Fuld

9 Twitter Directories You Should Be Listed On by jasonyormark.com
Jason Yormark
????? 5 stars

Twitter Search

Twitter Search Queries You Should Know by Magicomm Blog

Twitter Search Tips For B2B Marketers by Search Engine Land
Galen DeYoung

Five More Search Tools You Should Know: Twitter Edition by Search Engine Land
Matt McGee

Twitter Metrics & Measurement

6 Ways to Measure Your Twitter Voice by iMedia Connection
Daniel Flamberg

Twitter Analytics: Five Practical, Lesser Known Free Tools for B2B Professionals by ScoopDog’s Blog
????? 5 stars

3 Ways to Track Your Rank on Twitter by ProgrammableWeb
Adam DuVander

Twitter Insights & Observations

Following on Twitter: Quality vs Quantity by Hasai

25 of the Best Designed Twitter Homepages by Design Reviver

10 Basic Rules Of Twitter (And How To Avoid Being A Twanker) by Social Media Today
Rohit Bhargava

Twitter’s hidden marketing superpowers by iMedia Connection
Madhuri Shekar

Best Practices for Corporate Twittering by Social Media Today
Tom Humbarger

10 People You Won’t See on Twitter Anymore by Mashable
Jennifer Van Grove

Visualizing Twitter Statistics x100 by Digital Buzz Blog
Aden Hepburn

The Marketing Power of the Retweet: An Interview With Dan Zarrella by Social Media Examiner
Michael Stelzner

5 Reasons to Use the New Twitter List Feature by Duct Tape Marketing
John Jantsch

The 14 Types of Twitter Personalities by Media Caffeine

Here’s Hard Data for Headlines that Spread on Twitter by Copyblogger
Dan Zarrella

6 Twitter Tips You Should Have Figured Out on Your Own by Tech n’ Marketing
Hillel Fuld

Twitter Tools

105 Twitter Applications for PR Professionals by Everything PR
Genesis Davies

TwitterAnalyzer

101 Twitter Tools – an insane list by marcmeyer’s posterous
Marc Meyer
????? 5 stars

The Ultimate List of Twitter Tools by The Social Media Guide
Matthew Tommasi
????? 5 stars

TweetMixx

10 essential Twitter apps for marketers by iMedia Connection
Tricia Despres

TwitBacks (tool for creating custom Twitter backgrounds)

6 Twitter Apps for Marketing Your Business by Quick Online Tips
Sourish Nath

Twitter Critiques & Skepticism

Why Twitter will soon become obsolete by iMedia Connection
Jason Clark
(Interesting that this article was written nine months ago, but this hasn’t happened yet.)

Why Twitter Needs Its Bottom Spanked by Social Media Today
Jason Baer

The Twitter Revolution For Business May Not Be Televised by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Drew Kerr

Twitter Brings Lower Quality Clicks by eLearning Technology
Tony Karrer

And Finally…

Why Twitter Will Endure by The New York Times
David Carr

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How to Get Coverage in Blogs – Really

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

B2b marketers and PR pros know that getting coverage in an industry-specific blog is highly beneficial. Blog links are valuable for SEO. Relevant blogs can drive targeted direct traffic from the blogger’s social media sphere of influence. And coverage from independent bloggers enhances a company’s reputation and credibility.

Numerous bloggers have  written about how to pitch blogs, such as B.L. Ochman, Christina Kerley, Cece Salomon-Lee and Laura Moncur. Such posts often take the form of “do’s” and “don’ts” for successful blogger outreach. Best practice recommendations generally say that you should:

  • • Personalize pitches with the blogger’s name, blog title, and some indication that you’ve read the blog;
  • • Explain why your topic is important to the blog’s readers;
  • • Keep pitches short and compelling;
  • • Include links to related media (video, photos, screen shots);
  • • Offer an interview with a company executive;
  • • Explain how you’ll promote the blogger’s coverage, if you get it; and
  • • Follow up after 3-4 days if you haven’t heard back.

These posts also frequently include guidance on practices to avoid when pitching bloggers. For example, don’t:

  • • Send out an impersonal mass mailing;
  • • Send only a press release, or a release with just a brief introductory note, and expect coverage;
  • • Take a “shotgun” approach, sending irrelevant announcements to a large number of bloggers; and don’t
  • • Ever, ever, EVER include a press release as an attachment (many bloggers will automatically delete unsolicited messages containing attachments).

All of this advice is as relevant today as it was two years ago. The problem is that it’s no longer enough.

As more PR firms have discovered the value of getting coverage in blogs for their clients, the practice of blogger outreach has spread exponentially and the volume of pitches has exploded. Based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience, as little as two years ago the “hit rate” for blog pitches was fairly respectable, at least among B-list and C-list bloggers, because these writers received few pitches and many were flattered by the attention suddenly being paid to them by PR firms. But in 2009, the volume of pitches began to rise dramatically. Today, it’s not unusual for a C-list blogger to receive several pitches per week, and B-list bloggers to get 10 or more per day. I can only speculate on how many pitches an A-list blogger like Chris Brogan, Brian Solis or Erick Schonfeld must receive.

The vast majority of bloggers write part-time, and there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to even respond to each pitch, much less write about each. Consequently, as the volume of outreach has risen, the hit rate has declined. What to do about this if you’re in PR, or a client seeking coverage in industry blogs?

First, recognize that the advice given above is focused on “cold” outreach, that is, where you or your client has had no previous contact with the blogger. The first step in increasing effectiveness is to shift to “warm” outreach, where you establish a relationship prior to pitching. This requires more time and effort, but can pay off in more coverage.

Follow your targeted bloggers on Twitter. Retweet some of their posts. Provide relevant and helpful comments on some of their blog posts. Help them promote their content through Twitter and other social media tools. Join the same LinkedIn groups they belong to. This will get their attention and establish a social, online relationship with them. Once you’ve done this, a well-crafted pitch, following the rules laid out above, will have a greater chance of cutting through the inbox clutter.

The most effective means to coverage, however, is to offer a guest post. Even TechCrunch accepts guest posts, though that isn’t the place to start. Begin by approaching C-list bloggers, the easiest place to get coverage. Provide true thought-leadership content (not thinly-disguised marketing collateral) that establishes your expertise in your industry. Use your presence on these blogs to build credibility with B-list bloggers, then move to the A-list.

Guest posts turn the idea of blog pitching on its head. Instead of asking a blogger to take time out of their busy schedule to write about your company, product or service, you’re offering to save them time by providing valuable, relevant content for the blog that he or she doesn’t have to write. It’s a win-win-win; you get your name and link on blogs, readers get a helpful and interesting post, and the blog authors get useful content plus a day off.

As the social media landscape continues to evolve, interactive PR practices must evolve along with it. Smart PR firms, and their clients, will focus less on “cold” pitches and more on establishing relationships and creating thoughtful content.

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