Thank You, Virgin America, for Getting Us (and sorry about the device rule change)

Virgin America Safety

It isn’t often that an airline safety video gets over 2 million YouTube views in two days, but Virgin America isn’t your standard airline. They “get” us in ways that most other airlines just seem to fail at miserably.

The good news – their safetytainment video is a hit, surely making travelers smile before take-off and exposing the company to the social media world as the forward-thinking company that they are. The bad news for them is good news to us. The rules are changing about turning off electronic devices, so that part of the video may be obsolete soon.

No matter. Mission accomplished. They win once again in the uber-competitive airline arena. Here’s their video:

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Is Your Firm’s Social Media Strategy Effective?

Social Media Strategy

Does your company have a social media presence? If your answer is no, stop reading this and read this article to understand why it’s important and how to begin building a social media profile. If you do have a presence, how well does your social media strategy deliver results?  How have you defined success?

Whimsical tweeting and posting company updates and news to your profiles consumes your time and generally doesn’t yield much benefit.  However, with a strategic approach to social media you can rise above the noise, find new prospects and influencers, engage them in meaningful conversation and one day call them customers.

Let’s start with what makes good conversation in social media, and on which networks. An effective social media strategy pinpoints where audiences are online and what they care about, so that you can join the discussion. The discussion is happening. You need to find it and then be part of it.

Now, let’s look at how other companies apply social media to their marketing efforts.

 

How Do High Growth Firms Use Social?

In a recent study, 500 CEOs, executives and marketers from professional services firms were asked to rate the effectiveness of social media as a part of their digital marketing strategy. The answers were compared between high growth and average growth firms in the figure below.

Effectiveness of Social Media

The results showed that the fastest growing companies found social media tools to be much more effective for marketing online than the average growth companies, and they were using social media more often. If you want to follow suit, take a similar approach.

 

A Breakdown of the Tools

Now that we know the benefits of social media, which social media tools are right for your social media strategy? In the same study, some of the most popular social media tools were ranked in order of effectiveness:

  1. LinkedIn
  2. Twitter
  3. Facebook
  4. YouTube

If these results seem surprising to you, let’s look at each social network and how it could benefit your firm. LinkedIn exists as a purely professional network. And while many people use it solely for networking, building a company profile and joining groups, discussions, and sharing content can have a major impact on your online marketing. Since people using LinkedIn are already thinking professionally, it is an effective place to market your services. Explore the many groups on LinkedIn – there are some for every industry.

Twitter comes in second place and is a great network to share content – both your own and external content – and to engage with your audience on a personal level. There are tools to help you find Twitter followers in your specialty (follow them, and most will follow you, too).  Sure, some will be competitors, but many are also buyers in need of solutions.

Facebook and YouTube round out the most effective social media tools, largely because while the numbers of users are vast, they have less of a focus than LinkedIn and Twitter.

 

What Do the Experts Say?

In our research, experts in online marketing and social media were asked to rank the effectiveness of these social media networks as well. The results show that companies are not taking full advantage of the tools available online.

What Experts Say

Not surprisingly, the experts rated LinkedIn and Twitter as the most effective, but they rated the networks’ effectiveness even higher than the high growth firms. There is even more to be leveraged from these networks than even some of the most successful marketers know.

The experts rated YouTube significantly more effective than high growth firms. Video is often an untapped, but effective component of online marketing. Taking a good look at how your firm is using video could produce great results.

Unexpectedly, the experts rated Facebook less effective than the high growth companies. Many are under the impression that Facebook provides more benefit for marketing online than it really does. While this is likely bad news for Facebook, it is important for firms to know so that they can focus their social efforts appropriately.

Social media isn’t just for personal use anymore. Your company’s target audiences are online and participating in social networking. And in order to drive growth and higher profitability, take a closer look at how your company is approaching social media to get the best results possible.

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Recording Blog Posts is a Way to Find a Different Audience

Mic

It’s not for everyone. Some people just don’t like to hear their voices played on audio or video. I know. I used to be one of them.

If you can get over that fear and if you want to get your YouTube channel some watches while helping to get your content seen and heard, it’s a quick and easy way to kill a couple of birds with a single stone. The concept is pretty simple. Write a blog post, then read it off while recording a video. Attach the video to the story and now you have an easy way for people to either read your blog post or watch it.

Perhaps more importantly, it takes the art of writing and allows you to get creative in the fastest growing medium. Remember, everything is going mobile. While it can be annoying trying to read a blog post on a smartphone, listening to it on YouTube is often much easier. If you get good at recording the audio from the posts and applying it to either a visual of yourself reading it, a slideshow, a scrolling transcript, or other images that are pertinent to the video itself, you can make for an alternative experience for your content.

Some people are readers. Others are listening. There’s even a few people that like to do both. I tend to listen to a video or podcast playing in the background while reading something else. Here’s an example:

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Knowing Why Google Embraced Social Will Help You Understand How It Works

Orkut

For the last 7 years, I’ve been watching Google very closely. Sure, they are in the news all the time so it’s not something that’s exactly hard. What has been more challenging is keeping up with their long-standing obsession with social media and understanding why it’s so.

They have some big wins (YouTube, Google+) as well as dozens of losses (Orkut and just about everything else that they’ve touched that smells social). They looked at Facebook before Microsoft jumped on first. They took a long, hard look at Digg during the social news site’s heyday, then suddenly bailed out the moment they opened the books and saw the duct tape coding underlying the site.

Google knows two things very well about social media:

  1. If they have any chance of truly transcending beyond technology to gain a true understanding of intent and desires, they need to get a ton of social data.
  2. They haven’t been able to crack into the type of data that Facebook has about people.

Google+ is similar to people, but does not hold the attention of its users. It will get there. It has to. It’s Google’s last, best hope for getting this data.

The reason they want it so badly is because just about everything they rely upon (search, advertising dollars, fulfilling the hopes and expectations of their customers, just to name a few) as a company would be exponentially improved by understanding true sentiment. They have all of the data that people want. They just don’t have an easy way to perfect the delivery and usage of this data.

With this understanding, it’s much easier to anticipate what Google will do with their advertising platform as well as their search engine. They are close to perfecting the latter, believe it or not. Most will point to the rapid pace in which Google makes changes to their search algorithm, but that’s not an accurate characterization. They made major changes with Panda and Penguin. They made a minor (and completely overblown) change with their recent Hummingbird update. What we see now is close to the end game. Now, all they need to do is tweak it and wait for the next breakthrough.

They have achieved at plateau. Rather than major algorithm changes, they are now in the mode of perfecting the results by turning knobs rather than making the major changes that have hit every year since 2007. The holistic view of Google search that allows optimization to be broken down into the three major components (content, inbound links, and social signals) will not change until the reach a tipping point of understanding social data.

What’s the point of all this? That part is harder to explain. For years, I’ve been reading and experimenting the best ways to market on Google. Now that they’ve reached a plateau, the anticipation game has changed. Those of us who try to stay on top of current algorithm trends while looking ahead to the changes can sit back for a while. What we see is what we’re going to get for a while. It’s all about the three components. However, there is one thing that hasn’t manifested itself yet that technically changes everything.

The primary reason that Google wants to understand social data and personal sentiment is because they are on a quest for quality beyond the empirical data itself. The data is as good as it’s going to get through pure technology. They cannot advance the understanding of sentiment any further until a breakthrough.  Today, the great search marketer will be doing two things:

  1. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals to improve rankings today.
  2. Put out quality content with the proper mix of high-quality inbound links and social signals with the understanding that once they achieve their goal of understanding sentiment, the quality component will make the search rankings soar.

As you can see, it’s an approach that will kill two birds with one stone. There are challenges with the data that Google cannot reconcile today. For example, if someone wants to find a phone number for a business, they might search, click through to a website, find the number, and leave. This takes seconds and technically from Google’s current perspective this wasn’t a successful endeavor, especially if the searcher then clicks back to the search results and goes to a different site. Even though the mission was accomplished by the searcher, Google will count this as a bounce and a short time on site.

On the other hand, someone might be looking for something in particular, land on a page from a Google search, click around trying to find what they wanted, get frustrated when they can’t find it, and leave. From Google’s perspective, this was a good visit. From the searcher’s perspective, it was an utter failure.

This is the type of sentiment that Google wants to understand. They want to know if you like what they presented to you. They want to know if their information was useful to you. They want to know if a website they “recommended” by having it listed first in the search engine helped you achieve a goal. Today, they can only guess. Tomorrow, they may be able to find out with a near certainty. At that point, we’ll see the next major upgrade in search. One might even call it “quantum search” since it would probably take a quantum computer for them to make sense of all that data.

Thankfully for them, they’re building a quantum computer right now.

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