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Monetizing Social Media

What is the best way to integrate my email marketing campaigns with social media?

Here's an article I wrote for BtoB:

In November, StrongView Systems surveyed online more than 1,000 business executives across a variety of industries to determine their biggest digital marketing challenges in 2012 and their plans for 2013.

Of the executives surveyed, 65% plan to integrate email marketing with social media and 46% plan to increase email marketing spending on programs that drive social media-channel growth. Also, 56% of executives responding plan to increase their email marketing budget.

Social media paired with email as part of an overall strategy will be extremely effective, as integrating these two marketing tactics can provide a substantial ROI. There are a number of ways to make this happen—the two most significant are centered on data and content.

You can gather an amazing amount of data and insight into your audience in the social space. Being able to recognize in your email campaign the behaviors of your subscribers on your Facebook page or in reference to a Twitter reference is a savvy way to leverage social.

Additionally, including social content within the context of your email communications is another relevant and powerful way to add social flair to your email messaging. Highlighting such elements as Twitter feeds or Facebook comments, or even a view of your Facebook wall, provides the recipient with a succinct view into what is happening with your brand socially. If they are engaged in the channel it will provide recognition; if not, it may encourage the recipient to engage with your brand there as well.

  • Other ways to bring social into your email strategy include:
  • Adding social sharing buttons in emails;
  • Giving email subscribers a reason to share and connect by offering coupons, discounts or compelling imagery;
  • Cross-promoting email subscription in your social channels and vice versa;
  • Leveraging email and social together to create a powerful word-of-mouth referral program.

Clearly there are a number of ways that you can integrate. It is best to first determine what you are trying to accomplish and then build a plan that supports your defined goals and objectives.

Posted by: Kara Trivunovic at 9:38 AM
Categories: email marketing, social media, integration

How To Breathe New Life Into Your Emails

Here's an article I wrote for iMedia Connection:

It seems the admiration I have for movies is about as strong as my heartbeat's pulse for music. Just as there is a song to evoke every emotion, there's an equally captivating movie that visually illustrates most actions. Recently, I was multi-tasking while the tube was on in the background, and I overheard the memorable line from "The Sixth Sense," -- "I see dead people." The self-proclaimed nerd in me immediately thought, I've seen dead email programs -- but then I thought differently, putting things into perspective.

Email programs themselves don't necessarily become "dead" per se, just more or less going through the various stages of sleep. Allow me a moment, and I'll elaborate.

The multiple stages of email sleep

Stage one: The stage of sleep that is characterized as being light, drifting in and out, easily awakened.

In my opinion, many of the better engineered email programs in circulation will likely fall into this category. Marketers working in this stage of the game will be actively using one or more different levels of triggered messaging as they are actively moving email programs forward in an effort to quicken speed-to-market. Use of dynamic content during this stage will also be commonplace because production teams will have realized and acknowledged the benefits and efficiencies that can be gained, simply by implementing such a great practice.

Stage two: best characterized as the point at which eye movement stops and brain waves become slower.

Relative to email, this is very much how I'd describe batched or static emails. Take a moment and think about why batched emails even come into play: They're simple, uncomplicated, and a quick, easy way to get things done -- the most basic of common denominators, I'd say. The same goes for static emails. Think on a global scale for a moment, i.e. Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific -- very distinct audiences, obviously, and even more undoubtedly, different associated creative template elements. Due to a time crunch, or lack of bandwidth, a marketer that doesn't know any better may just as well go through the motions of developing multiple versions of templates. Not a very efficient process, now is it?

Stages three and four: Collectively, these stages lend no eye movement or muscle activity -- better known as deep sleep.

I usually like to refer to emails that fall into this category as the unintuitive. These emails fall short in a few notable ways:

They do not generate any level of curiosity
They contain no sense of urgency
More often than necessary they have no real relevance
They lack valuable content for the recipient
They do very little to drive engagement
This is like the marketing message a guy receives that is obviously meant for a woman. You know the one -- it features women's boots or dresses. If basic data is being collected from consumer segments, I can't imagine why a guy would receive such an email. A better experience would be to spice up the copy a bit, acknowledging that you know recipient is a guy, but saying something like, "Hey guys: wow your lady with this!" We should know more about our audiences to know better than that, right?

REM and what email dreams are made of

There is one final stage of sleep, REM. This stage is known when breathing becomes rapid, irregular, and shallow, eyes jerk rapidly, and limb muscles are temporarily paralyzed -- heart rate increases, blood pressure rises -- this is the time when most dreams occur, and if awakened, usually dreams can be remembered.

To continue with the sleep analogy, the future of email is chock full of the things that dreams are made of: progressive profiling (being able to be more relevant and behaviorally targeted as data is accumulated about recipients over a period of time), cross-channel retargeting (leveraging behaviors observed in other digital channels to drive targeting, segmentation, and content within email), and location-based messaging (using geo-tracking functionality at the time of open to drive real-time, relevant content to audiences).

We try to have as close to a 1:1 conversation with our targeted audiences as possible by telling stories. Like the various stages of sleep, email programs cycle through various stages at different times. It's not a science, and, because of that, it's a constant effort. It's a constant effort to keep things fresh, and an ever stronger effort to keep things relevant. What I have always loved about the channel is the ease of how readily measurable it is. Will all of our programs hit the mark out of the gate every time? Not likely -- but this is, in fact, how we optimize our efforts.

Email has been around for years, and the more passionate marketers will continue to capitalize on those emerging trends and technologies that create a level of thought-provoking dialogue.  They'll continue trying to push the envelope. These are the things that will ultimately drive engagement. I recommend doing a little more than just thinking right outside the box by thinking beyond the box. We've gotten beyond the era of when things were simpler. Our audiences are smarter, and they expect more of us. Wake up your programs.

Posted by: Jai Williams at 10:33 AM
Categories: Email marketing, email, sleep, stages

Boosting Your Sales Efforts With The “F” Factor- How Friends, Fans and Followers Impact Today’s Sales Teams

Here's an article I wrote for Tech Bubbles:

The structure of today’s sales force looks quite different than it did 10 years ago, and in another 10 years we can expect it to look different than it does today. There are some trends that we should pay attention to that will lead companies to evaluate the needs of the current “inside sales”/”outside sales” structure.

Inside sales teams are growing at rate of 15% each year and many of these folks are young, new to the work force, social media proficient, and inexpensive alternatives to the traditional two man sales team. It is expected that 85% of buyer-seller interactions will happen online through social media and video. Customers will not need a field salesperson to come on-site for a face to face, meaning that action items will be delivered digitally and/or virtually. The average cost of an outside B2B sales call is $215-$400 per call. An inside call, on the other hand, averages only $25-$75.

Also, will we have a need for a global workforce? Thomas Friedman told us…. The World Is Shrinking! Sales teams will not need to be set up by region anymore thanks to the ease of being able to work virtually and socially. Right now, Skype, web conferencing, and video are quickly catching on as a good alternative to traditional meetings.

Sales teams already maintain contact with prospects and customers through traditional channels such as phone and email, it just makes sense that social media will be weaved in. As business managers decide how to best leverage sales people for social media objectives, here are a few ideas on tactics to consider implemeting:

  • Monitor the social web for comments and conversations that indicate opportunities. IBM’s “Listen for Leads” program has uncovered millions of dollars in sales by monitoring social media sites for keywords that indicate prospects with questions or in the search phase. More and more consumers and B2B buyers will participate on the social web during the discovery and consideration phases of the buying cycle, and companies should be looking to tap into this powerful network.

 

  • Look for leads on the social web from posters who say, “I’ve got a guy.” Word-of-mouth is the most prized referral that sales teams strive for. Research shows a referred customer is a better customer. 65% of new business comes from referrals. And referred customers have a 25% higher profit margin than non-referred customers. Additionally, referred customers spend 33% more than new customers per purchases and are 18% less likely to abandon a brand within the first 2 years of the relationship. Don’t overlook the opportunity for scoring referrals from the social web.

 

  • Create a unique destination for social participation to serve as the hub for a salesperson’s social media activity. This is where social content is published, aggregated and curated. It’s also where calls to action, offers and invitations to engage on a more business level can be posted. This personalized platform can serve as a destination for other publishers and bloggers to link to and appear within search results. Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr are great places to start. Also, Nimble, which describes itself as a way to combine CRM features with sales teams’ social networks so they can leverage their influence for business growth, looks to be attempting to bridge this gap, as the tool of choice, from the more traditional sales rep to this new hybrid.



  • Create company best practices on the most effective uses of social media and networking sites for your sales teams. Companies can provide sales teams with templates, processes, and training plus regular internal networking opportunities to share best practices to help them succeed. It’s also important to provide ongoing education so salespeople know what it looks like to be too aggressive or forward with their social participation efforts (a subtlety that is often only learned the hard way). Continuously improved processes, new social tool evaluations and tactics evolution can improve sales force social media effectiveness and overall ability to create value and engage prospects.


As with all social media sales and marketing efforts, success measurement varies according to the target audience, industry, resources, and sales teams capabilities. There’s no doubt that strategy alone doesn’t sustain long-term social media marketing success. To help the sale force of yesterday become the sales force of NOW (and tomorrow), training and feedback will be essential.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 9:53 AM
Categories: social media, social media marketing, followers, trends

How can I use email to drive video views?

Here's an article I wrote for BtoB:

The data are clear: Video content is the fastest-growing segment of online advertising. According to eMarketer, more than 50% of the U.S. population views videos online. MediaPost reports the number of marketers that plan to use video in email campaigns skyrocketed fivefold between 2009 and 2011. And according to a 2009 Forrester report, incorporating video into emails improves click-through rates by two to three times.

These market trends are compelling enough to make almost any email marketer consider adding video to the content mix. So how can you leverage email to drive video views?

Most commonly, b2b companies are investing in customer and product videos to help drive sales and marketing efforts. These videos often highlight product features and function, success stories, testimonials from clients or upcoming events. Videos are a great way to add creative dimensionality to an otherwise flat piece of content or ad.

While most users won't be able to view videos within their email client, a simple screen shot (image) of an intriguing piece of video content coupled with a “play” button will add visual flavor to the email and entice users to click, taking them to the video that is often more engaging and effective than a static ad. Be sure to add a headline or piece of text that explains the video's content so users know what will happen when they click through.

Now that you have people watching video on your site, you will need to measure its effectiveness. Common key performance indicators include: tracking which email the user came from; how long the user was on your Web page before they watched the video; how long the user interacted with the video; whether the user reopened the video; whether they took the next logical action that you were driving; whether the sales lead originating from the video converted to the ultimate goal.

Considering the value that sight, sound and motion can bring to your product or service, video advertising is definitely something to keep on your radar. You may have some amazing customer success stories that might be best told in compelling videos. Or consider video to promote upcoming webinars or conferences. Don't be afraid to get your story out in fun ways. You may find video resonates well—and profitably—with your customers.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 10:19 AM
Categories: email. email marketing, video, video content

4 Tips to Better Understand Pinterest’s Potential

Here's an article I wrote for Multichannel Merchant:

It seems that everywhere you turn these days, the number one topic is Pinterest. Sure you’ve seen and heard all about the postives it has to offer, but here we’re going to talk about some key strategies that you may be missing out on.

Lately, the recommendations for using Pinterest that I’ve been reading seem to be very vague. It makes me wonder, are the people providing recommendations actually using Pinterest themselves? Do they have accounts, and are they frequently pinning to their boards?

I’m in Pinterest’s target market, being 25, female, recently married and a homeowner, and I would like to create the label for myself as a very active “Pinterester.” I’ve got a few recommendations that I would LOVE to see from companies on my most favorite social media channel.

These four tips and strategies mentioned hopefully have given you a better understanding of what Pinterest really has to offer, from a marketing strategist and avid Pinterester’s perspective.

If you've got a brand that is well suited for Pinterest's visual medium, here’s what you need to know:

Make sure your social media team knows everything about Pinterest
First, if you haven’t already, assign a social media team or hire the appropriate talent to establish relationships, monitor, and promote your brand on Pinterest. Having them pin products on Pinterest multiple times throughout the day will help gain visibility, reach and ultimately drive revenue to your brand in the end.

You also want your team to be actively engaging with the social media channels your company is using. Make sure your team knows the ins and outs of how Pinterest works and has their own personal account that they use on a regular basis. You want your talent to fully understand the social channels that you’re using, so you can be up to speed on what’s current.

It may seem pretty basic, but if you are not personally engaging with the social channel you’re using, you’ll never fully understand the capabilities it has to offer.

Marketing to Pinterest equals marketing to Facebook and Twitter, too
In order to create a Pinterest account, the user first needs to link their account to Facebook or Twitter to help find friends to follow their pins. They can also turn on a feature to share all of their boards to anyone on Pinterest, not just the people following them.

While Pinterest users do have the option to turn this feature “off,” most users do not. And, every time they log in through the Pinterest website, they are asked to sign in with their Facebook or Twitter account.

So, what does this mean? It means that the reach for a pin is not just limited to Pinterest. It means that Pinterest has found a seamless way to create multichannel reach with one medium.

If the Pinterester’s account is linked to their Facebook or Twitter account, every time they pin or repin something, it automatically appears on their Facebook wall. And, it appears on the newsfeed in Facebook and/or Twitter. So your brand’s pins are being seen by everyone that the Pinterester is friends with/follows them on Facebook or Twitter. In addition, their friends and follows on Facebook or Twitter can click the pinned/repinned image and go to your brand’s page.

No one is talking about the amazing reach capabilities and potential here, and I believe this is the most important thing your company needs to know. This is why your company’s pins need to be flawless.

Your captions do not matter
Do not spend too much time in developing what your captions say. If you start off with a great caption, guess what? It can be changed as soon as someone repins it.

Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer. If you start off with an image of a great dress with the caption, “$25.99 [at x store],” someone will repin that and change the caption to, “I LOVE this. Must own.” So, then your company is left with just an image of a great dress floating around. But don’t worry, there’s help on the way.

Your landing page is most-important
Captions may not matter, and images certainly matter a lot, but it’s the landing page that matters most. So, let’s walk you through it. The image of your dress gets pinned, your caption gets changed to, “I LOVE this. Must own,” and then the Pinterester clicks on the pinned image of your fabulous dress to find…?

Have you thought this far? If you are a fantastic Pinterester, you’ll want to find a landing page that opens to reveal the dress with an option to add to cart and purchase immediately.

Some companies like Jewlr.com have this process down. I went on their page, Jewrl.com gives the option to pin this ring, and when I click on my pinned ring from Jewlr.com in Pinterest, it goes directly to their purchase page every time.

Some retailers are pinning on Pinterest, but not giving users the ability to pin items on their website, and they should. That’s because your pin can stay on that Pinterester’s board forever (or until they delete it, but who deletes their pins?), and that Pinterester can easily go back and click to purchase that item at any time.

Think of Pinterest as a big wishlist of things they dream of purchasing. Now, go out there and link your product images/pins to your purchase page, please.

Posted by: Brittany Landenberger at 4:14 PM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing, social

Putting Out Facebook Fires - 3 Quick Tips

Here's an article I wrote for The eTail Blog:

Recently, brands like Oreo have been faced with public outcries on their Facebook pages. On Monday, the Kraft Foods brand posted a status update with a rainbow-hued version of its cookie with the caption, “Proudly support love!” and “June 25/Pride.” The update got a big response from the brand’s 26 million fans. While thousands of positive responses took note on Oreo’s page, the negative posts were astounding. Many people were threatening to never buy Oreo’s again.

When a brand gains thousands and, in some cases, millions of friends, it’s an accomplishment to be proud of. But, what happens if your public suddenly revolts on social media? What should your organization do if you “make a mistake?” And how do you know if it was, in fact a mistake, or if the positive reactions outweighed the negative?

In the unlikely, unwelcome event of a Facebook crisis, take note:

1. Plan Ahead.
Planning is everything, as they (whoever they is) say. Establish a company-wide social media policy. Outline rules for responsible administration. Appoint a Social Media Manager, team, department, or hire appropriate talent to be proactive about promoting your brand and reactive toward customer service issues. Have these individuals monitor all actions taking place on your page daily, and make it clear who should get involved should a fast reaction be necessary. If your organization is being proactive and knows the strategy for combating an issue, you’re already a step ahead.

2. Act FAST!
The faster you respond with a thoughtful, strategic response on handling the issue, the faster your negative comments will be pushed further down on your wall and out of view. If it’s a large enough crisis, (like in Oreo’s case) millions of people are reading/hearing/tweeting about the issue, then you need to act quickly. Assess the damage, because you’re not going to change policies over complaints. But, by stating that you respect their opinion and loyalty in an immediate matter, you show customers that their comments have been received and understood. It’s not always necessary to have an answer to each negative post. However, it’s important that your fan base know your company will have a resolution to the matter at hand.

3. Respond Publicly.
The worst thing you can do with your Facebook fans is make them feel like they’re engaged in a one-way conversation. Always respond to individuals publicly on your page. A private response makes your organization look like it has something to hide. A fan made a public post on your Facebook page, and you should respond with a public post back. Brands need to understand what their fans’ expectations are and be prepared to deal with any problems that arise. When you respond publicly, thousands of fans see that it was addressed, and it demonstrates that you care about your customers and appreciate their loyalty.

By taking these three precautions, your organization will be able to effectively and efficiently manage a problem, if a Facebook crisis ever should arise.

Posted by: Brittany Landenberger at 3:17 PM
Categories: social media, facebook, social media marketing, social

Pin down Pinterest's value

Here's an article I wrote for Direct Marketing News:

Every big social media platform that's attracted the eye of numerous businesses has a moment where it crosses the threshold from being something that companies sign on to out of curiosity, to a channel that becomes part of their overall business strategy. Is this Pinterest's moment? Certainly from all the buzz you would think so.

Pinterest is an easy-to-use platform that enables users to capture images from around the Web, or upload their own, and “pin” them to “boards” as a way of visually telling their community what they are doing and thinking about. Users can also follow the activity of fellow “pinners” and comment, “like,” tweet, and share pins in various ways across the social Web. But as we've seen from the failure of Facebook stores to gain much traction, engagement doesn't always translate into purchases. And even if they did, right now users can't purchase directly from Pinterest.

Currently, Pinterest has more than 20 million users, an impressive milestone given that it only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Interestingly, 83% of its domestic users are women, with 3% reporting an income above $100,000 annually. Specifically, Pinterest's sweet spot appears to be women ages 18 to 34, living in households with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000 per year. But while this may be where Pinterest is best at driving engagement and sharing, the platform does not yet have an e-commerce component on the site.

This is in contrast to another social competitor, The Fancy, which has taken a major step towards fusing and curating social media and commerce. The Fancy allows users to  purchase directly from the site, and it just recently announced that it will reward users whose recommendations result in purchases. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, as Pinterest already has something valuable in the social universe: millions of users.

I've looked at brands currently leveraging Pinterest, and two immediately caught my eye: Bergdorf Goodman and HGTV. Pins from the former are a mixture of products from bergdorfgoodman.com, as well as Web images chosen to appeal to its customer base. Images for the latter subscribe to HGTV's self-described pinning strategy of “creating a team atmosphere and being inspirational.”

Both brands seem to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach to retail that includes social platforms, and also that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. This is a good reason why businesses (especially those that have visually distinct products) should consider setting up a Pinterest account and getting involved at the entry level.

But, as I've said earlier, engagement and even intent to purchase doesn't always lead to a completed sale. The final piece of the puzzle that Bergdorf Goodman, HGTV, and others need to solve is: “How do we entice consumers to buy what they pin?” When that question does get answered, Pinterest could indeed prove to be an extremely valuable social channel.

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 2:55 PM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing

Combining Email Marketing with Social Media Marketing

In this Information Age where consumers are increasingly bypassing “old school” media like TV and print, it’s tempting to see “new school” media like social and email as completely separate. However, many successful marketing departments have discovered that email marketing and social media can complement and augment each other—driving significant revenue.

With social media channels like Facebook and Twitter attracting massive traffic, many marketers argue that companies must communicate through social media. At this rate it’s vital for companies to seriously assess the pros and cons of having a social media presence.

Success requires a thoughtful and well-executed strategy. The key is understanding that social media can fuel the success of email marketing and that email marketing can fuel the success of social media. Think of integration with other channels as a set of tactics in and of themselves.

Here are some ways to feed the respective fires.

1.    In emails, encourage customers to “Like” the company on Facebook and follow the company on Twitter. You can even go so far as to embed buttons in your emails to allow recipients to share the entire email or bits of content directly to their social networks. Invite email subscribers to leave comments on social!

2.    On Facebook, provide an incentive to your audience, through the content, to sign up for the email program.

3.    On Twitter, encourage followers to visit your webpage and if they like what they see, sign up to receive email updates. You can even auto Direct Message new Twitter followers to thank, and make aware, of your email programs.

4.    Maintain a coordinated calendar. Content themes and organizational priorities should be aligned, across all channels, to present a 360 experience for all users (email, social, web banners, etc).

Don’t make the mistake of keeping social media followers in a separate silo from the email marketing segment. Each can be leveraged to interact and communicate at both a strategic and tactical level. Don’t be afraid to cross-pollinate successes from one channel as tests in the other.  For example, take winning email subject lines and use them as copy in your social media posts. Or use email to give a heads up about an offer in another channel: “this amazing offer is only available through our Facebook page.”

As always, pay close attention to email and social media metrics and use testing to tweak the messaging accordingly. Most importantly, do not fall into the trap of looking at email and social media as independent marketing channels. The company that successfully integrates social media with email marketing—and other channels—can drive significant revenue.

Posted by: Amanda Hinkle at 11:19 AM
Categories: Email marketing, social media email, social media integration

Pinterest: do we have room for another social network in our lives?

Here's an article I wrote for Fresh Business Thinking:

Pinterest: What is it?

Pinterest is a hot topic of conversation these days. In April, it became the third most popular social network, behind Facebook and Twitter. But what is it, and do we have room for another social network in our lives?

Pinterest is picking up speed like a locomotive. Most insiders have already signed up. Probably because they are afraid to miss the next big thing. Those who have not, are probably afraid to ask the "what is Pinterest?" question aloud.

Pinterest is ultimately a virtual pin board where consumers can grab images from their web surfing activity and ‘pin’ them up on categorical boards that allow them to share and revisit the information as necessary. It is a channel that is visual in nature, currently draws a largely female audience, resonates topically with the home, fashion and food (amongst others) and is leveraged heavily for planning.

Facebook’s response to Pinterest - Mistakes that Facebook has made

A recent TechCrunch article looks at how a new Facebook app called 'Pinvolve' allows users and brands to add a Pinterest-style page to their Facebook presence. The app essentially pulls in all photo posts, along with any comments or likes. And the crazy thing is that the company that designed it, Bazaart, has been able to increase re-pins on its Facebook page by 150% - and so have many of the 1,000 users who have downloaded it.

Typically, when Facebook sees a new social platform as a viable threat to the amount of time people spend on their platform, they do one of two things: buy the startup, or quickly recreate the experience within Facebook before the challenger grows too big.

By supporting the Pinvolve app, it's clear that Facebook recognises the threat Pinterest poses for stealing audience time away from their platform, which it will if their users cannot get the same experience within Facebook. Interestingly, Google+ also seems to recognise this shortcoming in Facebook's default experience, as they have been recently positioning themselves in the media as a social platform for sharing images.

Pinterest for business/The disappearance of Facebook stores

As we see the gradual disappearance of more and more Facebook stores, and brands still struggle with figuring out how to tie engagement to purchase, that has to be the next logical question, right? In a recent survey of businesses that described themselves as "active" in the social space, when asked: Is your business using Pinterest?
They responded in the following manner:

•    No, and we’re not considering it - 40.38%
•    Yes - 30.77%
•    No, but we’re considering it - 28.85%

Currently, Pinterest has over 20 million users, which is an impressive milestone given that they only had 1 million users in July 2011. In fact, it surpassed the 10 million mark faster than any other social platform to date. Of those, domestically 83% are women and 3% report an income above 100K. Specifically, Pinterest’s sweet spot appears to be women aged 18 to 34.

The site has a very feminine look and feel about it. The opening page is predominantly wallpapered with images of women's outfits, DIY craft projects, recipes and wedding dresses. This is where the platform is strong at driving engagement and sharing; brands need to understand the importance of a coordinated cross-channel approach for retail within social and also understand that building brand affinity leads to intent to purchase. But a final piece of the puzzle needs to be solved: "Why should I buy what I Pin?"

The business angle

How should brands be using Pinterest right now? That depends on what their overall business objectives are. And while most brands may not admit to it, at the end of the day, social media platforms are a means to an end for them. That “end” is most likely Sales or Acquisition. What Pinterest and most social platforms do well for them though is personalising their brand and warming up sentiment, which should lead to earning the trust of consumers, and eventually opt-ins and transactions.

The unique capabilities of Pinterest allows it to achieve this in several ways:

your audience

Your audience is literally showing you what they Like! And what they Like will usually be what they want more of. So give it to them…

Brands can provide content that users will naturally share and be proud of

…Give it to them in the form of images that will evoke their emotions and prompt them to tell you how much they Like it and want to Share it. If they are passionate about your brand or product, and you’ve done a good job earning their trust along the way, they will be proud to tell the members of their social graph about you. And as we all know, there is NOTHING better for a marketer than a word-of-mouth referral.

But also, once you have identified these brand advocates as the potential loyal customers that they are ready to become, give it to them in the form of information and offers on how/where to acquire real world examples (product) of this imagery that they are so passionate about.

Join your community

This is Social Media for Brands 101. But it seems like some of you have forgotten. Users will join you on Pinterest because they want to look at visually appealing and inspiring images from you. However, think of the higher level of loyalty and advocacy that can be achieved by one of their favourite brands Liking, Sharing, or Commenting on one of their own photos.

Again, it personalises your brand and provides yet another unique touch point for your customers.

Convey a sense of urgency

Social media users need to have their behaviour conditioned, and Pinterest is no different. If you Pin something once per week, Followers will learn that they only need to check in with you once per week. If you Pin daily…. well you get the idea.

But don’t just always Pin for the sake of Pinning. A few ideas:

•Tie Pins to limited time offers.

•Brand different days of the week to have Pins that tap into different segments of your audiences’ passions (e.g. baking, golf, sailing, etc.).

•Pin “sneak peaks” of a new product. This will communicate to your Followers that you truly believe they are your best customers and are being rewarded.

In conclusion, as you may have suspected, most brands should not be ignoring Pinterest any longer. And if your brand has a large female demographic and/or offers a product or service that is visually appealing or aspirational you, CAN NOT be ignoring Pinterest. Right now, Pinterest has its flag in the ground and is making a strong case to own the “visual social platform” space. If your customers are there… be there with them!

Posted by: Dan Opallo at 9:28 AM
Categories: social media, pinterest, social media marketing

Successful Email Marketing: It's About Time

Here's an article I wrote for ClickZ:

The goal for every marketer is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. Ideally, if we had infinite resources and unlimited knowledge on our customers, we would optimize the experience for each customer. However, as marketers, we must make choices. When making the choice between delivering the right message or delivering at the right time, timely communication wins! Let me give a few examples.

Purchase confirmation. The goal of a purchase confirmation message is to validate the purchase, reinforce the brand, and open the conversation for additional products and services. Getting the message into the inbox within seconds is critical. With this message, you confirm the purchase, build additional brand equity, and begin a conversation with your customer. Ideally the message is relevant, but that is an optimization approach, not a must-have. Immediate arrival after purchase isn't just important for meeting customer expectations; it also helps avoid a costly customer service call to track down a missing message.

Abandon message. The goal of an abandon message is to course-correct the consumer and have them continue the buying process. Timing of this message is also critical. I'm not insinuating that all abandon campaigns should be real-time triggered. However, I firmly believe that optimizing your abandon campaign based on time will drive higher response than optimizing based on content.

Time zone segmentation. Email marketing teams are always segmenting their customer base. Understanding the customer time zone or best mail time can be as important as knowing whether the customer is a male or female. Getting the message into the inbox at just the right time works, even if the content is junk. AOL proved it long ago. AOL used to send third-party mail but only when its customer was in the AOL inbox. It was no surprise that these pieces of "junk mail" were opened at extraordinary rates. If you're not AOL, you can learn when your customers engage with email by looking at the email activity.

Sales. Of course, delivering messages in conjunction with the beginning of a sales event is a no-brainer. If you are having a time-based promotion, getting the messages into the inbox quick is much more important than tailoring the communication.

If you need to choose between relevance and speed, choose speed. Make sure you have solutions that are optimized for speed (and ideally relevance too), and your revenue goals will be much easier to achieve.

Posted by: Tal Nathan at 10:18 AM
Categories: email, email marketing