Blogs - Splash Media

Social Media Marketing and Brand Journalism Power Cisco’s News “Network”

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Another big company has decided that when it comes to offering content, there’s no business like its own business.

Cisco Systems has launched The Network, a technology news website. Like Intel’s Free Press – covered in the Splash Media blog here – the company is covering any and all developments in its particular arena of the tech industry, whether or not it has anything to do with Cisco. The focus is on an editorial style that wouldn’t be out of place in a newspaper or on a journalistic tech news site.

As expected, the networking giant is featuring its resident geniuses and highlighting new products and services, while also providing lots of videos on general trends and themes that impact its business (video, data storage, etc.). But when warranted, it’s also isn’t shying away from mentions of competing products and companies in its coverage.

Unlike Intel Free Press, The Network is using contributions from tech journalists who used to write for outlets like the Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the Industry Standard. A recent story by former BusinessWeek columnist Steve Wildstrom that examines trends in data analytics doesn’t mention Cisco at all.

Yes, the mainstream media has abdicated serious technology coverage to a growing host of bloggers and specialty websites, and used all that as an excuse to jettison experienced journalists. But Cisco director of social media John Earnhardt told me that’s not the reason Cisco started The Network.

“It isn’t a reaction to traditional media, but the recognition that there are a lot of technology stories that we can tell that we think can be additive to the conversations we want to start and participate in on the topics we care most about,” Earnhardt said in an email. “Our focus is squarely on data center, core networking (including mobility and security), collaboration and video.  We want to use The Network to share stories about the impact of these technologies on business and everyday life.”

Splash Media quizzed Earnhardt for a SplashCast earlier this year – you can view that here – so we’re not surprised that the company’s Facebook, Twitter and Flickr feeds and comment streams are integrated well in the Network offering.

“Social media is critical to the success of The Network,” Earnhardt said. “We track how many times a piece has been viewed, but also how many times it has been shared.  Social media is about sharing.  We find sharing (or commenting) is the ultimate measure of success. As I said in my introductory blog post, a piece of content that is shared with a friend or friends or followers or the world is the ultimate measurement of its success.  That person is validating that the piece of content they are sharing was valuable enough, interesting enough or topical enough to share with one or with many.”

This news just in: companies don’t have to be tech giants like Cisco to position themselves as information resources and thought-leaders in their specific industries. Give them compelling content, be transparent about those times when they do include their own company’s offerings in their coverage, and listen to their audiences, and like any good news outlet, small and mid-size businesses can scoop the competition and earn their customers’ trust.

Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses: Stories You May Have Missed, June 24, 2011

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The temperatures get warmer, the days get longer and the kids get louder: must be summer in America. And while that usually means vacations and relaxation, it can also give local businesses that have wanted to experiment with social media a good excuse to start getting busy.

More young people on the loose with smartphones in malls means more chances to connect with them via Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. Families hitting the road to popular vacation destinations can be tempted with incentives and discounts for nearby restaurants, hotels and shops. The summer”s pop culture news can turn into prime opportunities to strike up social media-based conversations with customers: Who should win NBC”s “The Voice?” How do you feel about the end of the “Harry Potter” film saga? How “bout them Dallas Mavericks?

The dog days of summer don”t have to translate into a slowdown in creative thinking on the part of companies trying to keep the cash flowing in this economy. Summer is the time for taking chances; kids look at the high diving board at their neighborhood pool and wonder if they have in them to give it a try. Businesses should summon the same courage to take that first plunge into the social media waters.

Some help, guidance and (hopefully) valuable information to help business do just that may be found in the following stories:

Live, From (Your Business Here), It”s…A Live Event!

Duct Tape Marketing founder John Jantsch blogs in American Express Open Forum about the various tools available to help businesses and organizations add some social juice to grand openings, conference workshops or other live gatherings.

Reason No. 2.19 Billion For Why It”s Now Facebook”s World

Digital research firm eMarketer on U.S. display ad revenue estimates, and Facebook beats Yahoo! in the firm”s projections for who will be on top this year. (Splash Media chief learning officer Paul Slack will talk more about this point in an upcoming SplashCast.)

What Big Companies Can Do, Smaller Ones Can Do..Better?

Here”s a summer homework reading assignment for small businesses: check out Ogilvy executive Rohit Bhargava”s Influential Marketing Blog post on the recent Corporate Social Media Summit, and see which examples and lessons from big-name brands can be applied to the SMB side of the business spectrum. We”re partial to Southwest Airlines” takeaway: “Have fun and be human.”

In that spirit, we would enjoy reading your fun, human posts in our Comments section regarding other stories involving social media marketing from the week. Have a great weekend – and if your vacation is about to start, then have a relaxing time. We”ll be here when you get back!

Why The “Anti-Social Media Expert” Meme Is Officially Lame

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Hey kids! Want to generate lots of link-bait and page views within the social media realm? It’s as easy as writing a blog post that disses social media “experts.”

Of course, writing a nifty link-bait-worthy headline – hopefully, like the one above – helps. But at least we’re honest about it. (That’s called transparency, right?)

We at Splash Media have noticed that the technoverse is echoing with recent bashings of those who offer their social media expertise to businesses, claiming that said companies are overpaying for services that aren’t all that special. Two examples of this come courtesy of PR legend/Geek Factory founder Peter Shankman, titled “I Will Never Hire A ‘Social Media Expert,’ And Neither Should You,” and Revision 3 Internet Television CEO Jim Louderback‘s “Why You Should Replace Your Social Media Experts With Wild Animals.”

Shankman argues that what is called social media today is just another way of saying “marketing/customer service,” and the frenzy to hire Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn experts reminds him of the giddy dot-com boom days. Louderback, putting social media experts in the same category with “SEO-oil salesmen,” argues that we are all social animals, so why pay someone to do what everybody in your organization should be doing?

Full disclosure time: Shankman used to pitch Geek Factory clients to me when I was a tech reporter at CNBC during the aforementioned dot-com boom. One of his creations, the Help A Reporter Out (HARO) service, is a journalistic godsend. He’s good people – as is Louderback, who as an editor at Ziff-Davis’ tech magazines would help me out with product demonstrations when I covered Consumer Electronics Shows for CNN. You might say he offered himself as a gadget “expert.” (Sorry Jim, couldn’t resist.)

Both these guys have worked hard and created companies out of thin air, and they are justifiably bestowed influence. But as is apparent in the comments sections of their blog posts, they use an awfully wide brush to smear those who are actually using social media in ways they would both probably approve.

“We don’t ever proclaim social platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to be the be-all, end-all,” said Splash Media social media manager (not expert) Adam Robinson. “We take a holistic approach, paying attention to core marketing objectives and corporate objectives, and throwing all social/SEO muscle towards that goal. We aren’t just aimlessly tweeting and Facebooking. We are putting together a strategy, no matter the platform, to best meet objectives, reach a target audience and increase the bottom line.”

Robinson agrees that some “expert” bad apples have the potential to poison the social media marketing orchard, just like Louderback’s “SEO-oil salesmen.” However, “we are in line with the Google algorithm, not riding on top of it as those SEO folks did.

Shankman’s points regarding transparency, relevance, brevity and “knowing your customer?” Transparency = honesty; relevance = listening and researching; brevity = short/sweet content; knowing your customer = talking to customers. That’s what we do and practice here at Splash Media. And speaking of transparency; yes, we’re writing this post because we like it when companies pay us for our social media services. It helps fund our fancy smartphone addictions. But we also have a thick playbook filled with successful social media marketing campaigns that have moved the needle for small/mid-sized businesses and non-profits. This social media thing works, y’know?

Shankman and Louderback wear their provocateur hats well with these blog posts. But they’re using Seal Team Six weaponry to kill pickpockets – never mind any collateral damage. And despite their tech-heavy resumes’, their anti-social media expert rants make them sound a little like traditional media dinosaurs flailing in the tar pits.

Jimmy Arroyo Memorial Benefit a Success!

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Thanks to the help of a lot of fans, followers and friends, we are happy to announce that the June 5th Scion Rocks Car and Bike Show to Benefit Jimmy Arroyo was a huge success. “The family was very excited about the whole event and great turnout,” said the show coordinator, Jereme Schoemaker.

There were more than 200 cars at the show, which raised $10,000 for Jimmy’s family. More than 33 trophies were awarded as well. Twitter followers in attendance were encouraged to use the hashtag  #JimmyArroyo.

Pictures from the event are available at the Toyota of Irving Facebook page.

Toyota of Irving will be holding upcoming events to support this cause, including a bike run in October. Use social media to follow their upcoming events, promotions and news!

Join our community on Splash Media! Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to stay updated with the latest news in social media!

New Facebook Ads Manager Puts More Social Into Social Media Advertising

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Like a few other features on Facebook, its Ad Manager tool can be diplomatically described as a work in progress. After all, the social network wouldn’t allow some third-party vendors to offer up their own versions of ad management systems if the company’s developers hadn’t heard complaints from those running ad campaigns over the past three years.

But Facebook knows what’s at stake with its advertising platform and has been working on tweaks to get it to a point where businesses looking to manage their own social campaigns can do so simply, effectively and with laser-guided targeting. The latest version of Ad Manager gets a lot closer to that goal, according to Splash Media social media manager Adam Robinson.

“From the moment you use it, it provides you with step-by-step instruction on what every section means,” Robinson said. “It’s definitely more user-friendly and can be used by the average business person. You could literally go from someone who knows nothing about Facebook advertising and with some straightforward language prompts, you could instantly be a pro.”

The first thing social ad pros will notice in the new Ad Manager is inline ad management; click on an ad and a separate window containing that ad’s data opens within the same page, doing away with the need to zip back and forth to separate pages like an adolescent on a Red Bull binge. There’s also the addition of easy-to-decipher visuals that show you how your ad is performing in relation to your objectives for that campaign. “There’s a nicely color-coded pie chart to see if you’re reaching those you’re trying to target and if they’re socially connected to you,” Robinson said. “The larger the orange ring is, the better chance your ad is going to get more fans. It’s a good quick look visually at who you’re reaching effectively with your ads.”

Effective targeting is also a part of what may be the best improvement to Facebook Ad Manager: new audience and ad data that truly puts the “social” into social media advertising. Real-time, constantly-updated metrics on social reach (people who responded to an ad connected to their friends by “liking” it or using an app), data on how many people can be targeted with an ad or Facebook Sponsored Story, ad view frequency, and connections (those who liked, RSVP’d or used an app within a day of viewing it) are now seen on Ad Manager.

All of that is golden information for those who wonder if a Facebook ad campaign is having any kind of impact and should be adjusted according; hence the potential – and beauty – of social media vs. traditional marketing. “With Facebook, because it is social, it brings back more human relevance,” Robinson said. “If you’re a Toyota car dealership, you can easily, precisely target what people in your geographic area like, what pages they like and have your ad show up on their own Facebook pages. If you’re a Toyota dealer and you want to target ‘Corolla’ in, say, Seattle, you’re finding relevant people who already like your products based on referential things about your products.”

What about you? Are you using the new Facebook Ad Manager and finding it easier to manage your campaigns? Please tell us what you think in our Comments section.

Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses: Stories You May Have Missed, June 17, 2011

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Every new piece of data that appears regarding social media – age, gender and socio-economic factors of users, plus how they’re using it  – gives small businesses a few more options for their own social media playbooks.  The latest major research, “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives,” comes from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The Project findings – the summary of which can be found here – are the result of surveys done of 2,255 people from Oct. 20-Nov. 28, 2010. The key takeaways confirm social media’s impact and its adoption by more and more people: in 2008, 26 percent of those surveyed said they were using social media. That number jumped to 47 percent in 2010.

The average age of the social media also increased during the same time period, from 32 years to 38 years. Facebook and LinkedIn users are older while Twitter and MySpace users are in their early 30s. Women still outnumber men, 56-44%, with the notable exception of LinkedIn, which skews mostly male.

Business can take that demographic information and fine-tune their targeting regarding content and advertising, but the Pew survey’s real nuggets of information lie in how users spend their time on what is far and away the most popular social network, Facebook. More than half of its users check in at least once a day, and nearly a quarter of them comment on/”like” status updates and posts. Lesson for companies: customers are ready and willing to talk to companies that have compelling content, and that could lead to sales as the conversation goes on.

One final note: all those pundits who say social media keeps us from talking to one another in person? Pew says Facebook users have more close relationships, get more social support, are more trusting of others, join more outside groups and are more politically engaged.

So much for the stereotype of a lonely adolescent getting a computer monitor tan while updating his/her status and forgetting there is an outside world.

Other items from the week:

How Not To Use Twitter, Chapter 867

Relax: it’s not another Anthony Weiner-related link. This one from AdAge.com deals with a PR firm that threatened to punish journalists who panned the new “Duke Nukem” video game. The game’s publisher had its own “game over” message for the firm.

Social Media Conversation Ice-Breakers

We love this guest post on Hubspot by “Off The Hook Marketing” author Jeff Molander because it talks about lead generation on social media platforms, one of our strengths here at Splash. Getting to that sale begins with (wait for it) asking questions of customers.

The Facebook Strategies Behind “Mythbusters,” “Deadliest Catch” and Shark Week

Matt Wilson of Ragan.com goes behind-the-scenes at Discovery Communications to find out how each of the cable network’s 60 – count ‘em – 60 Facebook pages targets and communicates with fans of its popular shows.

Now it’s your turn: give us your nominations for the social media marketing highlights of the week. Have a great weekend, and if you can, give your dad a call on Father’s Day – and a shout-out on your favorite social network.

SplashCast: Using Social Media Marketing To Sell Dallas’ Charms

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If your job is to get people to come visit your city as tourists, or to attract conventions and trade shows, how can social media marketing help you roll out the welcome mat?

Facebook and Twitter are impacting small and large businesses, and they’re also transforming convention and visitors bureaus as they try to bring more business to their cities. That’s according to Veronica Torres, director of social media and community relations for the Dallas CVB, who adds that more needs to be done to take full advantage of social media.

In this SplashCast, Ms. Torres talks to host Renay San Miguel about how she’s using different social media platforms to help tell Dallas’ story to the world.

Google’s Les Paul Doodle Plays DigiTech’s Social Media Soundtrack

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Every once in a while, Google will acknowledge something/someone famous with a Google “doodle” – a special graphic representation of its logo that livens up its home page. Last year’s playable Pac-Man doodle was an especially lethal productivity killer, but last week’s tribute to guitar hero Les Paul provided some sweet social media marketing music for a Splash Media client, DigiTech.

A unit of famed audio/entertainment Harman International Industries, DigiTech makes guitar effects pedals, multi-effects boxes, amplifiers and accessories.  DigiTech’s executive team saw the community-building potential in how Google honored what would have been Paul’s 96th birthday: the search giant’s logo was transformed into a playable “guitar” with strings, with users able to strum with their cursor. A record button allowed them to capture their tunes.

DigiTech immediately set up a Facebook contest. DigiTech’s fans could send in their recorded doodle tunes via audio file or YouTube video to www.facebook.com/digitech, and the company would give away guitar pedals to three winners. “It was a great contest that the client themselves told me they wanted to run,” said Mouyyad Abdulhadi, Splash social media manager for the DigiTech account.

“There were 40 entries in a one-day contest and there were a lot of great entries – the Star-Spangled Banner, the ‘Peanuts’ theme, the ‘Star Wars’ them, ‘Ode To Joy.’ One guy actually used a DigiTech pedal” for his version of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” Abdulhadi said. The winner was a Google-fied version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream.”

Another winning voice, however, emerged from this chorus: DigiTech, for allowing its customers to show off their creativity, connect in a special way with their brand and provide a social media-based incentive for participation. “They (DigiTech) are thinking of social media and doing great things in getting their community engaged,” Abdulhadi said.

Social Media Marketing For Small Businesses: Stories You May Have Missed, June 10, 2011

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The late 1970s are back in vogue in movie theaters this weekend thanks to “Super 8,” an joint exercise in nostalgia from “Lost” creator J.J. Abrams and the father of the summer blockbuster, Steven Spielberg. But it was clever present-day marketing tactics – specifically tied to social media and Twitter – that helped “Super 8″ studio Paramount fill those theater seats a day before the film”s scheduled opening.

Paramount and Twitter partnered for a special hashtag, #Super8Secret, to promote Thursday sneak previews in selected cities. That hashtag would send movie fans to links for ticket sales, and those who acted fast enough would also get free popcorn with their sneak preview ticket.

Someone at Paramount does indeed “get” social media. This wasn”t the first time that the studio and Twitter had combined for a unique promotional effort for the film; in March, the movie”s first official long-form trailer had its premiere on the social network. But as we”ve discussed earlier here on the Splash Media blog, other studios are only now dipping their toes into the social media waters as a way to generate effective word-of-mouth marketing for their movies and perhaps get some key demographic data on their audiences in return.

You can expect to see more experiments in social media marketing by the movie studios as we get deeper into the summer blockbuster season. And the great thing about social media? Whatever a big media conglomerate can do with it, so can a small/mid-size business; social media levels playing fields as effectively as the monster in “Super 8″ can wreak its havoc.

Other social media marketing lessons from the week:

If You Build It, They Will Comment

Okay, so you”ve set up an online community for your business. Now what? Richard Millington, founder of online community management consultancy FeverBee Limited, writes to measure and how organizations can use the research within their blogs, comments and social network posts to learn more about their audiences.

Social Media Isn”t Taxing H&R Block

The tax return specialists are using Facebook, Twitter and blogs to ease tax-day stress for customers. H&R Block”s Jennifer Love itemized her company”s social media strategies at a recent BlogWell conference and Smart Blog On Social Media has the results.

How Not To Lose Face On Facebook

You are a small/mid-sized business and you”re already using traditional media to get your word out, but you”re looking to add but social media marketing to the mix. Behance CEO/co-founder Scott Belsky writes about three things to keep in mind in this American Express Open Forum post.

Join our community! Use the comments section below to tell us about any other news items you saw this week regarding social media and small businesses. And if you”re heading to “Super 8″ this weekend, a word to the wise: be sure to stay in your seat through the end credits. Enjoy the show and your weekend!

SplashCast: Gary Vaynerchuk in Dallas

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When the potential of e-commerce became crystal-clear to him, Gary Vaynerchuk used it to grow his family’s New Jersey-based retail wine business from $3 million to $45 million a year. Then Vaynerchuk blazed a trail in social media as one of the first notable producers of video blogs in content marketing with his Wine Library TV.

Now Vaynerchuk is a sought-after social media consultant and author of two books, the latest of which is “The Thank You Economy.” As part of the national tour for that book, Vaynerchuk recently stopped in Dallas where SplashCast host/Splash Media chief content officer Renay San Miguel had a chance to quiz him on whether businesses are using social media effectively and if most CEO’s now “get” the social media phenomenon. He also gave his reaction to a recent news article that cast doubt on social media’s impact on car sales.

(Note: In honor of the digital camcorder Vaynerchuk used for his early video blogging efforts, Renay used his own soon-to-be-obsolete Flip HD Mino video camera to record the interview. The video is 720p resolution and the audio is from the Flip’s external microphone.)