Archive for August, 2010

Should a Blog be Part of Your Corporate Website or Stand on Its Own?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Okay, so you understand the benefits of business blogs, and you’re ready to make the commitment to developing and maintaining a blog for the long haul. The next question is: where should I put the blog?

There are five common options:

Most Popular Free Blogging PlatformsFree hosting on a blogging platform site. The URL would look something like mycompanyblog.wordpress.com or mycompanyblog.blogspot.com. This option should never be used for a corporate or business blog. Free blogging platforms are fine for hosting personal blogs where there is no justification for spending money and no expectation of generating any business leads, sales or income. For business however, such platforms are an unprofessional setting, offer limited functionality, and provide very little SEO benefit.

Hosting on a corporate website using the site’s CMS tool. Many corporate websites are built on content management system (CMS) platforms such as Joomla, Drupal or DotNetNuke. These and several other open source and commercial CMS platforms offer built-in blog creation functionality. The advantages of this approach are:

  • • All SEO authority (via inbound links) accrues to your corporate website, because the blog is just another section of the site. This is valuable because blog posts are often more effective “link bait” than typical website copy (“About Us,” product/service descriptions, etc.).
  • • Your internal (or agency) staff, who may at different times write content for both the company blog and corporate website, have only one content creation tool to learn.
  • • The blog has the same “look and feel” as the rest of the site, supporting corporate branding.
  • • Whether viewing the blog or regular product/service content, visitors never leave your site.
  • • Most CMS plaforms will easily accommodate multiple-author corporate blogs. They can also support multiple blogs (e.g. a widget industry blog and a widget maintenance blog)—though the common look/feel and top-level domain name make it difficult to clearly separate these.

The primary disadvantages of the CMS approach are that the blog is very clearly “the corporate blog”—it has no independence or personality of its own—and that CMS tools often lack the rich functionality and plugins that blogging platforms such as WordPress offer (e.g. subscribe to posts by email, quick polls, automatic XML sitemap maintenance, etc.).

Hosting on an existing corporate site using WordPress. This option assumes that your corporate website is built in something other than WordPress (e.g. on an open source, commercial or proprietary web CMS platform), and that you’ll be installing WordPress just to power the blog. This approach shares many of the advantages of using the underlying CMS to build the blog (SEO links, visitor are kept on the site, multi-author blogs are supported) and does away with some of the shortcomings: first, since the blog template is separate from the website template, it’s easy to give the blog its own personality, consistent with but separate from the rest of the corporate site. Second, unlike most CMS platforms, WordPress has an active developer community contributing special-purpose plugins to continually expand and enhance its functionality.

However, this approach has its own drawbacks. For one, it requires installation and setup of the WordPress blogging and MySQL database management software–not a terribly difficult task, but not one for technophobic to be sure. Where this really becomes complicated is in a multi-blog scenario (again, such as separate industry news and technical / how-to blogs), since each blog requires its own WordPress and MySQL installation. For another, functions that are often provided seamlessly by a dedicated WordPress host (see the separate blog and website hosting option below), such as nightly database backups and WordPress version upgrades, have to configured separately for a self-hosted WordPress installation. In other words, you’ll definitely need knowledgeable IT support for this option.

Hosting both a blog and website on WordPress. This is definitely an option to consider if you are just developing the website for a new organization or rebuilding the website for an existing enterprise. It offers all of the advantages of a WordPress blog while giving IT only a single platform to manage and users only a single CMS tool to learn. Though originally developed as a blogging platform, WordPress has evolved over the years into a respectably capable full CMS option for relatively small, simple websites–with or without a blog.

The downside is that WordPress isn’t suitable for large, complex websites or those requiring customer web application functionality, at least not without some highly involved development effort. For midsize to large enterprise sites, or even smaller company sites requiring specialized functionality, it’s often simpler to develop the non-blog portions of the website using another tool and treating the blog separately. Which brings us to the final option:

Separate blog and website hosting. With this alternative, a blog is treated completely separately from the main company website development platform, hosting arrangements and underlying technology. Regardless of how or where the main website is hosted, the blog is generally hosted with a dedicated WordPress host such as HostGator, Bluehost or JustHost. (Disclosure: I do use JustHost for my personal blog hosting, but I have absolutely no financial relationship with any of these companies.) The advantages of this approach are:

  • • The blog can not only have its own “personality” separate from the corporate website, but even its own search-friendly domain name (e.g. widget-industry-news.com).
  • • Related to the point above, your company can potentially get an extra spot on the first page of the search engines for specific core search terms. The search engines will generally display any specific website no more than twice (e.g. the home page and one interior page) on the first page of search results. Having a related blog with a separate top-level domain name gives you the opportunity to snare a third spot on the home page for certain search phrases very closely aligned with your business.
  • • The blog can easily have its own look and feel, carrying over selected elements of corporate branding (e.g. colors, logo) without having exactly the same look and navigation structure.
  • • There’s no burden on the corporate IT group. Setup is easy and maintenance is usually handled automatically by the host for a nominal annual fee. This frees your IT group to focus on more important things, and it means you don’t have to wait for or rely on IT to install new features, add authors, add new pages or perform pretty much any other function on the blog.
  • • Authors can write blog posts, add comments, install or update plugins, and perform virtually any other function on the blog from any Internet connection. This may or not be true for your corporate website, depending on the platform used and security settings. In large companies (and many midsized organizations as well), a VPN connection or other software is often needed for corporate site editing access.
  • • Separate hosting supports both a single blog with multiple authors and multi-blog scenarios. Managing multiple external blogs will increase costs (though many hosts offer discounts for multi-site hosting packages) but also provide more opportunity for search presence (e.g. in addition to your corporate site, you may own blogs like widget-industry-news.com, widget-maintenance-tips.com, etc.).

Disadvantages:

  • • You’ll incur extra hosting and domain name registration fees, generally running $80-120 per year per blog. That’s not a huge outlay, but something to consider.
  • • Your SEO authority will be split, with one set of links pointing to your corporate website and a different set pointing to your blog.

In the final analysis, there is no single perfect answer for all organizations to the question posed in the title of this post. There are benefits and drawbacks to each approach. The best advice is: consider the specifics of your situation and relative advantages and disadvantages of each approach before deciding on the optimal hosting arrangement for your blog.

Other helpful information on this topic:

Location? Location? Location? by SEO Inc Blog

Business Blog: separate domain or on your website by Better Business Blogging

Blog: On Site vs. Off Site – SEO Advantages by WebProWorld (forum)

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35 (of the) Best Guides to Facebook Marketing, Advertising, Search and More of 2010 (So Far)

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Facebook is an extraordinary phenomenon. Depending on the day, it’s either the #1 or #2 most-visited site on the web. It’s inspired a movie. It has half a billion adherents. And it’s become an imperative point of presence for businesses (or has it?).

Best Facebook Marketing Guides and Tips of 2010 (So Far)Whether you’re anxious to get started marketing on Facebook, already there but looking for better results, or not sure if Facebook is right for your company (despite the eye-popping audience numbers), you’ll find guidance here in some of the best posts on Facebook marketing so far in 2010: tips, tactics and best practices for building Facebook pages, growing your fan (or “like”) base, advertising, optimizing for search, using Facebook apps and tools, and more, from experts like Mari Smith, Lisa Barone, Ching Ya, John Haydon, Brian Carter, Marty Weintraub and Shel Holtz. Also included are a few posts from Facebook proponents, and skeptics, to help you determine if you even really need to be concerned with any of this — or if your social media marketing efforts might be best directed elsewhere.

Facebook Marketing Tips and Tactics

How to set up a Facebook fan page that works by Direct Creative Blog

Dean Rieck shares his top 10 tips for creating a managing a successful business Facebook page, from using FBML to create a landing page to promoting your page through email and your company blog.

How to Better Engage Facebook Fan Page ‘Fans’ by Social Media Examiner

As Mari Smith explains, “There are two primary components to Facebook fan page engagement: 1) Sharing quality, relevant content and 2) inciting comments. In this article I’ll tell you how to best engage with Facebook fans.”  Tactics include tying your post frequency to number of fans, creating an editorial calendar and varying the types of content posted.

Facebook Marketing Tips: Make the Most of Your Fan Page by TopRank Online Marketing Blog

Michelle Bowles offers five tips for “making the most of your fan page” such as keeping content fresh, encouraging interaction and offering discounts, promotions or information not available anywhere else.

How to Create a Campaign to Get More Facebook Followers by Proimpact7

Jan Petrovic presents a case study on how Lands’ End used a creative incentive campaign to draw 25,000 additional fans to its page.

5 Fantastic Facebook Fan Page Ideas to Learn From by OPEN Forum

Matt Silverman shares five examples of brands stretching the boundaries of Facebook to provide a unique experience including Baby Gap and Adidas.

10 Secrets of a Winning Facebook Fan Page by Palmer Web Marketing

Justin Palmer suggests 10 “must-do’s” for Facebook marketing success, like responding to every comment, strategically timing your updates and leveraging your fans to attract more fans.

10 Secrets To Creating Your Brand’s Facebook Presence by All Facebook

In another “10 secrets” post, Christopher Parr shares his tips for brand success on Facebook, such as talking like a friend (not a company), adding value through content, and doing some housekeeping (e.g. keeping your page free of “clutter, profanity, and MafiaWars spammy links”).

Creating Facebook Pages Customers Will Want To Join by Outspoken Media

Opening up with “most fan pages ARE vomit-inducing…but it doesn’t have to be that way!,” the prolific Lisa Barone details four ways to make your customers and prospects on Facebook feel like they are part of something — not just following a self-promoting brand.

9 Ways to Enhance Your Facebook Fan Page by Social Media Examiner

Noting that “Facebook fan pages number among the few social media channels that allow page customization for users,” Ching Ya shares nine great ideas for creating a unique and vibrant Facebook presence. An excellent “what to do” post though a bit light on the “how.”

10 Ways to Grow Your Facebook Page Following by Social Media Examiner

In the sequel to her post above, Ching Ya provides recommendations such as rewarding loyal supporters, leveraging your other social networks and integrating Facebook social plugins with your website in order to build a Facebook fan base.

10 Ways to Create a More Engaging Facebook Page by TopRank Online Marketing Blog

“The average user is connected to 60 pages, groups and events. This means that aside from all the other Facebook friend activity that goes on, your page is one of 60 trying to grab attention a fan’s attention.” How do you do it? This post offers 10 helpful ideas such as using a custom landing page, tagging fans in photos, using contests, and most importantly – persevering.

Facebook’s new functions (and how to leverage them) by iMedia Connection

Doug Akin previews six new features (as of May 2010) in Facebook that enable brands to expand the functionality and engagement potential of their Facebook pages. “If you only look at Facebook as a place to have a fan page, you are missing the greater offering and will likely be sitting on the sidelines when the future arrives.”

The Changing Face of Facebook Marketing – 5 Things you MUST Know by Social Media Today

Shama Hyder writes that “It seems like every day we wake up, Facebook has implemented a new policy or added a new dimension overnight.” Hell for companies and users, heaven for Facebook consultants. But given this environment, Shama outlines the “top five things you need to know about Facebook marketing” about fan pages, ecommerce, ads, apps and other subjects.

Facebook Tabs: What They Are & How to Use Them by ReadWriteWeb

In yet another post about keeping up with Facebook’s continual interface and function changes, Richard MacManus explains the difference between application tabs and boxes, why Facebook made this change, and how to effectively add and use tabs.

11 ways to promote your Facebook Page outside Facebook by John Haydon

Since, and John Haydon notes here, “Most likely, your current presence is much bigger outside of Facebook – especially if your Page is new,” you may want to take advantage of some of the ideas here to promote your Facebook presence elsewhere, such as adding your Facebook page link to your email template, answering webinar follow-up questions on your Facebook wall, and placing a LikeBox on your website.

13 Facebook Page features that will make your day by Socialbrite

***** 5 stars
It’s John Haydon again, this time in video form, answering 13 common yet vexing questions about Facebook like how to edit your thumbnail, how to set up a custom view for new visitors, and how to easily create a custom URL for your Facebook page.

4 Tips for B2B Marketing on Facebook by Mashable

While acknowledging that Facebook may have limited use in b2b marketing, Leyl Master Black nevertheless offers “tips for creating a powerful presence on Facebook that will engage a business audience” such as becoming an industry resource by sharing blog and webinar content, expanding beyond your wall using ecommerce or lead generation promotions, and “lightening up” through the use of humor, quizzes and polls.

Facebook Marketing: Ultimate Guide by SEOmoz

***** 5 stars
Tim Soulo has compiled a fantastic guide filled with best practices and tips for Facebook marketing success, starting with setting up the profile of your “brand ambassador” and progressing through your creating your avatar and adding applications, and ending with using other social media services to promote your presence on Facebook.

Facebook 101 for Business: Your Complete Guide by Social Media Examiner

***** 5 stars
Mari Smith ambitiously provides a “comprehensive guide to using Facebook” from setting up your profile (including Facebook’s mysterious and frequently-changing privacy settings) to making Friend lists to a six-step for building a Facebook business page.

Facebook Advertising

Pay Per Face: 52 Facebook Advertising Tips & Best Practices by Search Engine Journal

Brian Carter uses this post along with a white paper and video to share more than four dozen tips and best practices for Facebook advertising, which he describes as a combination of “AdWords’ copywriting and analytics with image-oriented linkbait.” Among his tips: use CPM bidding, change ads frequently, and “Always test multiple ads. Always. Always.”

10 Tips for Advertising on Facebook by PPC Hero

Christine Laubenstein recommends getting familiar with Facebook’s advertising guidelines, understanding the different ways to target users, and using Facebook’s bid estimator to help you set your bid before diving into advertising on Facebook.

Facebook SEO

How To Rank #1 In Facebook Search In 60 Seconds For Any Term by All Facebook

***** 5 stars
Dennis Yu provides an outstanding tutorial on how Facebook search works, what factors are most important, what to do (and what not to do) to rank highly in Facebook search, and what changes are likely coming to the search algorithm.

Facebook SEO Ranking Factors, 2010 Study Results by aimClear

Marty Weintraub explains, in exhaustive detail, the top ranking factors for “Suggest,” All Results, Pages, Groups, Apps and more. His aside on the Adult Filter in Facebook is NOT safe for work but is quite amusing in a completely inappropriate way.

Facebook Apps and Tools

15 Applications For A Better Facebook Fan Page by Interactive Online

Lucas Cobb lists his favorite tools for boosting the popularity of your brand’s Facebook presence including Static FBML, SlideShare, Reviews and Notes.

12 Applications to Make Your Facebook Page More Engaging by Social Media Today

Sarah Hartshorn recommends Twitter for Pages, Page Maps, Eventbrite and other apps to help “dress up your Page and make it more interesting and fun for your ‘likers’.”

How to Customize Your Facebook Page Using Static FBML by Social Media Examiner

***** 5 stars
As Nick Shin notes, “Maybe you’ve seen those really attractive Facebook pages and wondered, ‘How’d they do that?’” The answer is frequently Static FBML, a uniquely powerful and popular Twitter app, and in this helpful post, Nick walks through how to use it to achieve a variety of effects and accomplish different tasks.

How To Get Traffic from Facebook Social Plugins by Daily Blog Tips

Chris Webb explains how to use the Like Button (for blogs) and Like Box (for Facebook pages) to generate more Facebook traffic.

15 Simple Ways to Integrate Facebook into Your Website by appstorm

Contending that “There are umpteen number of ways to plug websites of any shape & kind into Facebook thereby nurturing a community, encouraging conversations, improving user engagement and increasing page views,” Justin Stravarius presents 15 such options including the Like Box, Echo, Fotobook and Facebook Connect Wizard.

Facebook Marketing Strategy

Ensuring A Successful Corporate Facebook Presence by MediaPost Online Media Daily

Aaron Strout presents what he terms the “four golden rules of creating a successful Facebook presence,” and supports these using Dunkin’ Donuts as an example of Facebook marketing success.

Six questions to ask before launching a Facebook fan page by a shel of my former self

The legendary Shel Holtz proposes half a dozen questions companies should ask before plunging into Facebook in order to avoid looking “lame and clueless to all but the least sophisticated Facebook users.”

Facebook Fans

Why You Can Say Facebook Is Worth $35 Billion With A Straight Face by Business Insider

Jay Yarow uses the theory of cognitive dissonance to explain why “Facebook pages are the best ads in social media.” Facebook pages are ranked against six other ad types such as banners, enewsletters and widgets based on their effects in driving recommendations and purchases.

Facebook Facts The Numbers Are Insane! by PRUnderground

500 million users, 3rd-largest “country” on earth, yeah we’ve all heard the numbers. But sometimes it helps to see them. Alex Miranda presents an infographic of Facebook facts, figures and myths.

Facebook Skeptics

Why Businesses Should Think Twice Before Investing Money or Time in a Facebook Page by Social Media Today

Given Facebook’s never ending stream of changes (many of which seem to break or eliminate earlier features) and ultimate control over all content on the site (no matter how much a business has invested in developing that content), Maggie McGary questions whether it’s really advisable for companies to rely too heavily on this platform.

Does Facebook Work? by iMedia Connection

Noting that “While 49% of marketers surveyed by MarketingSherpa think Facebook is very effective at brand awareness only 12% think it increases sales revenue,” Daniel Flamberg presents statistics and real-world results from leading brands suggesting that whatever the benefits of Facebook marketing, it generally isn’t producing “the kind of results the reach, usage and loyalty of Facebook would otherwise suggest.”

“Does Anything Other Than Facebook Really Matter?” by iMedia Connection

Taddy Hall does such an awesome job of chilling down Facebook fever with the cold water of reality that I’d like to just republish his entire post here, but will limit duplication of his brilliant content to this: “When it comes to how we (marketers) approach Social Media, I’m reminded of the drunk looking for his car keys beneath the street light because the light is better than in the dark alley where he last saw his keys. Sometimes doing what’s easy trumps common sense…Facebook is not just another broadcast media outlet where marketers can buy inventory and interrupt consumers. As P&G’s General Manager for Interactive Marketing and Innovation, Ted McConnell, remarked with characteristic flair, ‘what in heaven’s name made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?’” Yes, Facebook works quite well for some companies (particularly large consumer brands), but it’s not always the ideal venue. Do your research (particularly for b2b marketing) and pursue audience quality over quantity.

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The Ultimate Social Media Information Destination: Social Media Informer Launches

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest social media news and thought-leadership commentary without visiting a gazillion different sites, relying on an RSS feed (or someone else’s filter) that inevitably misses important news, or following aggregation sites that regurgitate the same over-exposed content from a handful of popular sites?

Now you can, at Social Media Informer, a social media content hub launched today. SMI was developed by some of the same people as the popular B2B Marketing Zone b2b marketing portal. It also uses the same underlying Browse My Stuff technology, which enables publishers, PR agencies, corporations and other enterprises to efficiently SEO-friendly build branded content aggregation hubs.

Social Media Informer - Social Media Content HubFor readers, SMI will aggregate high quality content; make it easy to navigate based on topic, source or date; and expose valuable niche content that might otherwise be overlooked.

For contributing bloggers, SMI provides exposure, traffic (only content snippets are posted, not complete posts) and simplicity (no requirement to write exclusive content).

The site also offers newsletter options making it easy to keep up with latest and most popular posts.

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The Social Media ROI Debate

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Can the financial return on expenditures for social media business activities– in marketing, PR, customer support, HR, product development or other areas — be accurately measured? Can social media costs be justified on the P&L, so that as belts get ever tighter in this stagnant economy, these projects and tasks can be spared the budget axe?

Social Media ROI Debate? Not ExactlyAmong social media pundits, the debate rages on. The “yes” crowd argues that of course social media can be measured, and must be in order to demonstrate value to the business. You wouldn’t buy a new machine tool or enterprise software application without an ROI analysis, so why should social media be any different? Executives don’t care about shiny sparkly things or the latest fads or buzzwords; you’d better know what you want to accomplish, be able to quantify both expenses and revenue, and have the analytics in place to track results before even murmuring the words “social media” in the presence of C-level types.

The “no” group will counter that the metrics and tools haven’t yet matured, or that social media is too amorphous to even be measurable, or that it is rapidly becoming simply part of the plumbing or wiring of a modern organization, making ROI immaterial.

My own thoughts (for what they’re worth) on the matter are that:

  • • It’s challenging to measure the true ROI of social media activities with any precision because social media is as much (if not more) about influence than direct action. For example, if John Doe clicks through to your website from a tweet and buys something, that’s easy to measure. But if John Doe is influenced to buy from you based a tweet—but completes the purchase through another unrelated channel—there’s no way to assign the value of that sale to Twitter.
  • • That said, there are many aspects of social media that can and should be measured, both to show results and to help guide future activities (e.g. determining which topics generate the highest traffic and comment activity on a company blog, what time of day is most productive for tweeting, etc.). In other words, the statement “ROI is challenging to measure accurately” shouldn’t be confused with “don’t bother trying measure anything.”
  • • Metrics can be useful to help determine what to do more of, less of, or differently, but should not as the basis for whether or not to engage in social media. At this point, the adoption of social media tools is so widespread as to constitute just another communication channel. It makes no more sense for a business to shun social media until ROI can be demonstrated than it does to demand an ROI analysis for installing phone lines or email.

So much for my thoughts. What do other pundits have to say? Below are summaries of a variety of posts on the topic of social media ROI measurement from luminaries such as Danny Brown, Brian Solis, Erik Qualman, Michelle Golden and Sharlyn Lauby divided into their respective camps: yes, no, and maybe.

Is social media ROI measurable? Yes.

The Real Cost of Social Media by Danny Brown

This isn’t strictly speaking an ROI article, but Danny does dive into the “I” part of that measure, detailing the true costs (investment) of social media participation.

20 Metrics To Effectively Track Social Media Campaigns by Search Engine Land

Chris Bennett lays out the list of metrics he uses to analyze, track and “prove ROI’ from social media marketing. Compelling piece except for his use of the phrase social media campaign (argh).

Social Media ROI – How 3 B2B Technology Companies Are Achieving Revenue Results by MarCom Ink

Kim Cornwall Malseed summarizes the social media wisdom and ROI results gleaned from a panel of b2b marketing pros including Holger Schulze of SafeNet, Frank Strong of Vocus and Susan Cato of CompTIA. She reports on the revenue achieved, social media strategies used and measurement systems employed for tracking.

ROI: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media by Social Media Today

In this long but worthwhile post, Brian Solis reviews the evolution of social media measurement forms (e.g. “return on engagement”), the disconnect between social media marketers (most of whom can’t measure ROI) and CMOs (most of whom expect it), then offers his recommendations for improving the measurement of business objectives from social media.

Sexy Numbers: Measuring ROI in Social Media Campaigns by ReveNews

While acknowledging that tight precision is impossible because the same measures from different tools rarely match exactly (and multiple tools are still needed to end-to-end social media tracking), Angel Djambazov nevertheless makes a strong case for developing ROI metrics for social media campaigns. Quoting Brian Solis and others, Angel points out that particularly in this economy, even great ideas without a hard-number rationale are likely to get slashed; ROI measurements are needed because CMOs demand them. The post also includes some strategies, tactics and tools to assist in social media measurement.

Social Media Monitoring Techniques by WebFadds

Scott Frangos presents a concise but clear outline of basic social media ROI measurement objectives, tools and analytics.

Counterpoint: Why you can calculate an ROI in social media – and why you should do it by iMedia Connection

Uwe Hook responds to the post from Ben Cathers (in the “No” section below) on why social media ROI can’t be measured, laying out a roadmap using metrics such as frequency, yield, sentiment analysis, NetPromoter score and customer lifetime value.

Socialnomics: What Social Media Success Looks Like by Fuel Lines

Michael Gass shares a social media ROI argument in video format. “Socialnomics: Social Media ROI showcases what social media success looks like. Social Media ROI: Socialnomics is by Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business author Erik Qualman. This video highlights several Social Media ROI examples along with other effective Social Media Strategies.” Though a few of the examples are vague or misleading, most are compelling. However, after showcasing companies that have achieved remarkable, quantifiable results through social media, Qualman provocatively asks, “Why are we trying to measure social media like a traditional channel anyway? Social media touches every facet of business and more an extension of good business ethics…When I’m asked about the ROI of Social Media sometimes the appropriate response is…What’s the ROI of your phone?” He seems to suggest that while ROI is measurable, it’s immaterial. Hmm. You can find more of Eric’s insights on his Socialnomics blog.

Making sense of social-media ROI with Olivier Blanchard by SmartBlog on Social Media

Rob Birgfeld talks with Olivier Blanchard, introduced as “perhaps the most sought-after expert for those looking to connect the dots between social media and return-on-investment.” Perhaps. Blanchard contends that most self-proclaimed social media “experts” have difficulty articulating ROI because they have no business management background (agreed, I’ve seen these types — which is why our agency has an MBA who helps clients with social media). With that background, he argues that “the question can be answered in about three minutes. All it takes is someone on the social-media side of the table who understands how to plug new communications into a business from the C-suite’s perspective.” He also makes the case that being able to prove social media ROI is essential. The post just doesn’t specify how to do this.

Social Media ROI — No.

Social media (finally) returns value by The Communicator

Peter Schram doesn’t come right out and say that social media ROI can’t be measured, but rather that organizations should “focus on five key areas where social media will create actual value” that aren’t strictly about sales ROI, including corporate reputation, employee engagement and customer service.

“What’s the ROI of Social Media?” Is the Wrong Question by Golden Practices Blog

Michelle Golden makes a compelling argument that ROI calculations apply only to discrete projects with a beginning, middle and end, such as a direct mail campaign. Social media is a tool, not an event, so such calculations don’t apply.

5 Problems With Measuring Social Marketing by Web Worker Daily

Aliza Sherman articulates some of the frustrations with any social media measurement, much less something as precise as ROI, including the fact that the term “social media” is nebulous and that many traditional marketing concepts (e.g., “reach,” “promotions” and “campaigns”) simply don’t apply to social media –and the industry hasn’t yet developed widely accepted new measures (though Daniel Flamberg attempted to answer this last challenge in 4 Social Media Mining Metrics).

Why you can’t calculate an ROI in social media – and that’s okay by iMedia Connection

Ben Cathers argues that, because the advanced analytics tools that would be required for such measurement have not yet been developed, “In many forms of digital media, you can spend 1 dollar knowing you will earn 1.30…Unfortunately, you cannot do the same in social media, just yet.” He suggests instead that marketers estimate the payback on social media by assigning a value to metrics they can track, such as each follower, each retweet, each “like” of an item, etc.

CEOs Love Pie: The B2B Social Media Case Study, Part 2 by iMedia Connection

In this follow-up post to Conversations that Aren’t about Mel Gibson: the B2B Social Media Case Study, Part 1, Eric Anderson writes that “today you can’t throw a virtual rock without hitting five blog posts about how we all need to simmer down about ROI,” and places himself firmly in the “simmer down” camp. He recommends instead serving them pie, as in pie charts showing measures like “the proportion of their paid impressions that can be replaced or augmented with free impressions. PR agencies have long been selling the value of this pie as earned media or ‘ad equivalency value,’ so CEOs are used to seeing it. They get it. Once you’ve done your social media market analysis, it’s relatively easy to project how big that social media pie wedge will be.”

Social Media ROI…Maybe.

Quantifying Social Results by eMarketer

eMarketer reports that while marketing pros generally agree that quantifying the benefit of social media marketing is important, they are split on whether it is possible. Measuring certain types of activity or behavior is easy; translating those measures into ROI, not so much. As this article notes, “There is a leap, however, between finding appropriate metrics and monitoring them on the one hand, and quantifying results on the other. Marketers must tie the social metrics they settle on directly to business goals, such as increased sales and leads, before social media return on investment can be quantified.”

A call for more accountable social media marketing by iMedia Connection

After acknowledging that “ROI is difficult, if not impossible, to measure with social media. An astounding majority of professionals do not even try to take it into account.  According to a survey late last year from Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club, 72 percent of CMOs did not attach revenue assumptions to social media in 2009,” Jerry McLaughlin goes on to say that marketers must do it anyway. For example, one of his recommendations is to “reach specific social media goals with a tangible ROI, such as tracked discounts or coupons.” While that’s certainly not a bad suggestion, it covers only one very limited aspect of what social media marketing can do.

5 Ways To Set Goals & Measure Social Media Marketing Success by Smart Insights

Danyl Bosomworth summarizes a Jason Falls presentation on various ways to measure social media outcomes. While the post seems to suggest that measuring ROI is easy (measurement #5 casually includes “generation of sales and leads from blog visitors and from social interactions”), it also points out several other benefits that unquestionably have value (e.g., product innovation, branding and awareness, links for SEO benefit), though that value may be difficult to quantify. The message seems to be that if you can directly measure sales and leads then by all means do so, but recognize that social media can provide many other important though less quantifiable rewards.

Marketers Use Varying ROI for Social Media by Marketing Charts

According to a new study from King Fish Media, Hubspot and Junta 42 summarized in this post, most marketers perform some type of social media measurement (e.g., website visits from social media referral sites, new fans/followers, number of links shared, etc.). However, nearly half (43%) admit that they aren’t even trying to measure ROI. And only 29% say “they will have to show positive ROI to continue their social media programs.”

How CEOs are Using Social Media for Real Results by Mashable

Though Sharlyn Lauby shares numbers here from two CEOs able to correlate hard sales data with their social media efforts, she also points out that “even when there might not be data supporting a direct relationship between social media activity and sales, sometimes other metrics point to the connection” such as exposure, branding, customer satisfaction, recommendations, even employee recruiting. The conclusion seems to be that ROI may or may not be measurable, depending on a company’s specific circumstances — or at least that not all of the benefits of social media can be captured in precise sales and ROI figures.

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Book Review: SNAP Selling

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Don’t you love it when you pick up a book and realize in just the first few pages that the author really gets it? Even better, they don’t just get “it,” but offer a fresh and compelling approach to dealing with the specific problem, situation, condition of modern life, etc.?

Well, SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today’s Frazzled Customers by Jill Konrath is that kind of book. As Jill notes in the book’s introduction, today’s buyers are crazy busy. She brilliantly describes the life of the modern business worker this way:

Before even fully awake, “you’re on the computer checking what seems like an endless stream of email. When you look at your to-do list, you wonder how you’ll be able to get everything done. You have a dozen people to follow up with on the phone, three meetings, and a proposal that needs to be finished…Rather than take a break for lunch, you grab a quick sandwich at the vending machine and eat it at your desk. That way you can update your files and take care of paperwork that needs to be processed. Then you head out for that presentation that you wish you’d had more time to prepare for. After the presentation, you have a ton of questions that now need to get answered before the end of the week…By the time you get home, you’re tired. But rather than turning in for the day, you work on a proposal for a while, then finish up by checking your email one last time. The next day you get up and do it all over again.”

People are reluctant to add anything more to their frenetic schedules, least of all spending time listening to a sales pitch. No matter how compelling the value proposition for the product or service, it involves change, more work, and more time out of an already overburdened schedule. As Jill notes, for sales (and marketing) people in this environment, “what worked before doesn’t work anymore…the advice of many ‘traditional’ sales gurus is now hopelessly outdated…(and) things are never going to to go back to the way they used to be.” SNAP Selling is Jill’s answer to how to market and sell in this overworked and overstressed modern world of business.

SNAP Selling by Jill KonrathAccording to Jill, today’s buyers make three distinct decisions that sales pros need to aware of. The first is when they evaluate your approach and determine whether it’s even worth their time to meet with you. Once past that hurdle, their next decision is determining if making the change required is worth the cost, time and effort required. Finally, the third decision is, having committed to making a change, selecting the best product / service / vendor for their company.

Jill describes the SNAP selling process as:

Simple (eliminate as much complexity and effort as possible from the decision-making process)

iNvaluable (products and services can be copied; your expertise can’t)

Aligned (it’s crucial to be relevant — always)

Priority (maintain a sense of urgency)

Before delving into the detail behind the SNAP model, Jill notes that “Knowing as much as you can about your targeted prospect is more important than your knowledge of your own product, service, or solution. Most sellers don’t realize this, but it’s true…(but by implementing SNAP selling processes) you won’t have to work as hard as your today to achieve significantly better results.” Now that’s a compelling value proposition!

After describing the SNAP method in more detail, the book walks you through the application of these principals and practices to achieve success in each of the three major decisions (and all of the smaller decisions involved in keeping the buying process moving forward).

Though written primarily for sales professionals, SNAP Selling is equally valuable to b2b marketers who support their sales teams. In the most successful organizations, the efforts of the sales and marketing teams are closely aligned. While the detailed work of implementing SNAP processes will fall on sales, marketing groups can certainly help in areas like research, development of content to support the SNAP process (such as industry-specific white papers and case studies), and even tools to help the sales team execute at specific points in the process. This teamwork is more challenging and rewarding for both the marketing and sales teams that simple mass lead generation and follow up.

In short, SNAP Selling is an invaluable guide to effectively marketing and selling to today’s stressed out, overworked and time-starved business buyers, and beating the competition, by providing relevant and compelling business value at a personal level.

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