Monthly Archives: April 2013

Tips to Gain Brand Loyalty

So you want people to get to know and love your brand. Creating a reason to be loyal is the first step. Traditionally, PR and Advertising have carried this load but the internet has brought a new dimension of contact and influence with online marketing and outreach via social media. We all want to know how to get a big slice of that pie, don’t we? Creating brand loyalty is a giant step towards getting help from your following. Some keys to this are trust and confidence in you and your brand.

 

  •  Do some research to find out where your ambassadors are. Where are people talking about you and what are they saying? This will give you an idea of what motivates them. Ask them about their interests.
  • Encourage your community to give input and state opinions on posts and shared information. Make it relevant to their lives and they will continue to return for more interactions.
  • Find interesting topics for them to interact with each other. This will help in building relationships within the community. We all like to hang out “where everybody knows our name“.
  • Be a part of the action, reply to comments and encourage members to engage.

 

Value by alshepmcr

 

Words of wisdom from Britt Michaelian  – “when the facilitator of the community is thoughtful about making the community about the group and not their own need for a “flock”, the group will respond to the space that the community leader creates for each member of the community to flourish.” This just plain makes sense! Think of your own experiences in an online community and I am sure you will relate to this. Don’t you value being heard and acknowledged, I know I do.

Loyalty comes from a feeling of connection.” [BM]

As the community grows, you will easily identify frequent commentator, brand advocates that are destine to become ambassadors for your brand. These are people that talk to others in the community and out of the community. You will hear and see them on other platforms singing your brands praises and sharing that love with all the world. These are the people you want to recognize and reward. Be sure to thank them publicly and frequently. They will be engaging with other community members (or members to be) and you want them to to nothing but good to say about your brand. You can also have offline meetups where the relationships can grow and the community will become more connected with these vocal brand advocates/ambassadors.

brand ambassador

Find brand ambassadors within your community is one way to get the word out, but there are others. Connecting with communities that share a common interest is another. Take time to chat in be interested in their community and they may very well look into yours. You can also recruit people that blog or write for online publications to become brand ambassadors after you have spent time creating a relationship and finding a fit for both of you. Most importantly, don’t forget the rewards. Rewards don’t need to be extravagant, but they should be meaningful.

 

rewards str8 ahead

 

Be a giver to your community. Offer meaningful rewards and watch your community respond.  Here are some suggestions for rewards:

  • Offer free tickets to an upcoming event that you are having
  • Offer a badge after they recommend people to your community.
  • Create an “ambassador” program that has special events of chats by invitation only
  • Create a points system for referrals to the community

There are many ways to reward you brand ambassadors, just be as creative as you can. If you need more reasons to do this take a look at what this article has to say. Remember, communities are all about relationships. Be yourself, introduce interesting topics and interact with with everyone who comments on your post. This is a sure way to create the experience you and your community are looking for.

Class Hangout Review – Midterm paper feedback and fun

Unfortunately, I missed class last week due to other priorities I had at work in Pittsford, NY. I reviewed the recorded hangout and noticed that I missed a great discussion on the midterm paper, analytics and blogger outreach. Overall, the hangout seemed to generate a lot of useful discussion about content generation and what techniques Community Managers may use to keep their members interested.

The Power of Un-popular

The Power of Un-popular

The Mid-term Paper…

For my midterm paper, I chose to write about the book, “The Power of Unpopular” by Erika Napoletano. I approached the project by first creating a general outline of what I wanted to cover with the paper. Once I began reading the book, I kept modifying the outline to include specific information about the subject matter and what I thought of the featured concepts.

Generally, I found the book to be enlightening and quite entertaining. Material was presented in a unique fashion that wasn’t dry and kept the reader interested in what they were reading. After reading several business-related books, I found Erika to be honest and upfront without using a massive amount of jargon to make her point. Her advice was well received by me and I will definitely take her comments to heart when pursuing a new business venture.

I’m unpopular… and I’m okay with that!

Blogger Outreach

Last week we studied blogger outreach and how it can be used to expand a community’s audience. Based on the readings and discussion that occurred on Google+, I found that successful blogger outreach is done by knowing the blog, its purpose, and the author prior to developing a pitch.  Any marketer can create a generic advertisement in an attempt to get a blogger’s attention, but generally a more personal interaction is needed.

Bloggers are experts in their field and have their own audience. Getting a blogger to write for your community can expand your audience, expose you to new partnerships and add value through the knowledge they bring to the discussion. Along with the potential for expanding the audience, a blogger can drive the conversation within your community in a new direction that you may haven’t thought of before, thus making it more interesting for your active participants.

Brand Managers

Another topic that was discussed this past week was brand management – the idea of establishing a voice/personality for your company (or community). There was some discussion about using customers as one of the main ways to promote your brand and the various concerns with this approach. I’m generally on the side of using customers as your main marketing tool because they have the loudest voice.

Overall, great week and I’m looking forward to next week!

Blogger Outreach Done Right – 5 Tips

Bloggers have become almost “God-like” in world of social media. The power of the internet has an immense impact on they way we communicate and bloggers have learned to harness it. They know how to reach a large audience (some across the globe) and are masters at promoting something they believe in. So it makes sense that other bloggers want to connect/link with them and businesses want them to promote their product or service. All of this is good stuff, but there are ways to reach out to bloggers,some are wrong some are right. Lets look at the right ways!

 

global presence

Tip #1- Blogs are Earned Media

  • Bloggers have done a lot of work to build their community, respect that
  • They have earned the respect of others online and need yours when approaching them (you must earn their respect)
  • Bloggers relationships with community and others is “all important”

Blogger outreach is not a quick win. You will need to invest time, effort, and patience. Spend time to get to know the bloggers and what they represent. Check them out on other social media channels to make sure they are a fit for you and you are a fit for them. You can know they are a fit after you determine who your target audience is, what their interests are and where they “hang out”. Remember, trust and respect are everything as you start to build your your relationship.

community manager orange

 Tip #2 – Help To Promote the Bloggers

  • Subscribe to their blog
  • Promote them on your Facebook page or Google+ and follow them on Twitter and re-tweet their best tweets
  • Offer them an interview or promote them to someone who will value their interview
  • Talk to colleagues about them and mention them in speaking engagements

Bloggers are looking to grow their own audience so they will value the fact that you have helped to promote them. This will also help you to build a transparent relationship with them that is based on mutual trust and engagement. This collaboration will serve both of you well.

blogging

 Tip #3 – Make It Easy for the Blogger to Write

  •  Give them the details in a short, concise manner and make it easy to read
  • Feed them an angle to make the story more interesting
  • Supply appropriate images and links to website

By making the writing an easier task, you will help the blogger, create a stronger relationship and give the blogger a reason to continue to work with them. Relationships are the most important issue in this world of social media, so do everything you can to maintain and grow yours with the bloggers. Making their life easier will certainly go far to help this process.

King Content

Tip #4 – Content is King

  • Make sure your content is relevant to the bloggers audience
  • Keep your message fresh, entertaining, and interesting
  • Be sure to be informative but DO NOT try to give a sales pitch ( do some impactful storytelling instead)

Quality is everything when approaching a blogger. The content you provide must be the most current information and should be shared in the context of a good story rather than a sales pitch. Keep it interesting and use humor when possible. Don’t forget to use relevant keywords and hyperlinks to get the best SEO posible.

 

track and measure

Tip #5 – Track and Measure

  • Once your story is featured have the blogger notify you so you can see the comments and interact with the community
  • Promote the post through your own social media channels and track levels of engagement
  • Measure what matters – use free or low cost tool to measure your predetermined objectives
  • Create a report weekly to see the progress

Always set your objectives for the campaign ahead of time. This will help you to determine what metrics to measure. Be sure to set up an automated system to keep track of the progress in case you get tied up. Use tools that you can become comfortable with – Google Alerts, Trackur, Inkybee, Viralheat are few to take a look at.

It is important to treat your potential brand manager as a partner  not a faceless tool. Be thankful for their help and don’t bombard them. Make them feel special! I hope you gained some insightful information and your time reading was well spent. I would love you to share some tools that you use for tracking and measuring as I am always on the lookout for improvements.

Until next time -“Happy Trails”!

 

How to Create a Brand Ambassador Program by Selecting the Right Brand Ambassadors

Brand ambassador programs are the ice cream to apple pie, the free movie on a transatlantic flight, the t-shirt gun to sporting events. None of these items are necessary for the functionality of the actual events themselves, but their existence makes them that much better. A brand ambassador program, though not crucial to a company’s functionality, can significantly enhance the experience offered by the company.

In his post 10 Things To Remember When Creating a Brand Ambassador Program, Mack Collier explores the most important factors of creating and maintaining an ambassador program to add that special spice of experience into what the company has to offer. These ten items consist of:

1 – Spread the word internally as well as externally.

2 – Research, research, research.

3 – Start small, grow big.

4 – Make membership exclusive.

5 – Connect with your advocates and create ways for them to connect with each other.

6 – Pay your ambassadors.

7 – Give your advocates direct access to the brand.

8 – Create a feedback loop between the brand ambassadors, and the brand.

9 – Give your ambassadors the tools to create something amazing.

10 – Transfer ownership of the program from the brand, to its ambassadors.

Concentrating on items 7-10, the importance of the actual brand ambassadors over the program itself is incredibly apparent. A company could create the best brand ambassador program this side of Pluto, but without exceptional brand ambassadors to breathe life into that program, it might as well not exist.

In the post What to Look for in the Best Brand Ambassadors, Shelly Justice examines some of the qualities that a company should look for in its attempt to “staff” its exceptional brand ambassador program. Some of the qualities expressed by Justice are particularly apt to satisfying terms 7-10 explored by Collier.

First and foremost, a brand ambassador should “share the company’s philosophy”. While this may seem like a given, its importance cannot be understated. In order for someone to appropriately act as an ambassador for a company, he or she should be breathing the same brand-filled air as the company itself, enthralled by the purpose of the brand, obsessive about its exceptional products. To convey a love for a brand online, the passion for it in real life should be 10x as big.

Second, they should “embrace innovation”. Brand ambassadors will be tasked with cutting through the thick fog of stuff on the internet to convey a message to select groups of people. As is true now, and will become increasingly important over time, this skill will take a bit of innovation and creativity on part of the brand ambassador. Is the ambassador capable of harnessing emerging technologies to better spread the word? Can he or she identify new ways of using old technologies to create an exceptional brand experience for customers and advocates of the brand everywhere? These are considerable topics to be explored when selecting brand ambassadors.

The last item of the list that I’d like to explore is that the brand ambassadors “are passionate and have a strong personality”. In order to discuss the brand and brand promotion with the company, other brand ambassadors, and consumers and advocates alike, brand ambassadors must have strong personalities. This trait, in tandem with the two aforementioned from Justice’s list, rounds out the necessary components of a brand ambassador by stressing the importance of the enthusiasm and capability in conveying that enthusiasm in a brand ambassador.

In order for a company to give its advocates direct access to the brand, create a feedback look between the company and the brand ambassadors, give ambassadors the tools to create something, and transfer ownership of the program to the ambassadors, these traits, among others, are absolutely necessary.

#CMGRclass Moderator: Ambassador Programs

photo

 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/paulbrigham/8596883041/)

This week I was the moderator for the #cmgrclass Google+ community. It was my duty to generate discussion among the group as it pertains to class material. The first example I presented to the class dealt with crisis management. It found it to be fitting because one thing we’ve learned this week is that in recruiting advocates, you must “cultivate authentic relationships.” Wegmans took a risk when the company decided to create a hash tag during the time of Hurricane Sandy to stay connected with its audience. Carol Kelly said she felt, “it was effective for Wegmans. I think they did a good job of keeping the customers appraised of the situation which gave their customers confidence in them.”

I tackled the issue of what to avoid when establishing a brand ambassador program. I also, with other articles, communicate how to spot a brand ambassador program and how to see value in existing programs. I also provided examples of popular brand ambassador programs, which seemed to resonate with the class. Through providing examples, my classmates were to identify programs they’ve witnessed on campus or elsewhere and express how they, too, have been involved in advocating for a brand.

Something I found to be important was understanding how to launch a successful brand ambassador program for small businesses and start-up companies. Sonny Gold mentioned that, “[it was a] great article that outlines great steps for setting up an ambassador program. I think creating a lifestyle is huge, your brand truly has to be a lifestyle in order for it to be successful.” I found this article to be particularly helpful to someone like me who comes from an entry-level point-of-view.

I encouraged the class to seek outside examples to answer the chosen questions. I know I personally had a difficult time identifying a brand ambassador program and explaining the importance of what it was until I began researching for this assignment. I did expect the group to be more responsive, but I understand at this point in the semester it’s crunch time.  I found that people were more interested in making individual posts rather than contributing to class discussion.

I feel my take away message is that brand ambassador programs are an essential and significant component of commercial success. Without the implementation of brand advocates, the brand has to rely on digital platforms to stay connected with its members. Brands are for people, and the more we invest in our audience, the more our audience will have faith in what CMs do and be more inclined to commit!

The Power of Relationship Blogging Partnerships

blogging partner

Photo by eliselovesprada

According to Dictionary.com the definition of a blog is “a web site containing the writer’s experience, observation, opinion, etc., and often images and links to other Web sites.”  But in today’s blogosphere many people and organizations are taking the ideas and benefits around blogging a little deeper by expanding their blogging reach through incorporating the concept of Relationship Blogging.  In the article 5 golden rules for relationship blogging the author sites that relationship blogging is a method of blog marketing by which positive relationships are created.  He goes on to explain that it is all about building good “social” relationships that can help increase trust and build credibility for your website.

So how does one build great Relationship Blogging Partnerships?

In the article Nine Tips for Better Blogging Partnerships the author explains his ideas around developing a collaborative blogging enterprise.

The flowing are some of his tips:

  • Edit each others work…if one is looking for quality…this is a must
  • Form a Publishing Schedule…always a good idea, and partners help keep each other on track
  • Social media times two…the social media component is a key to Relationship Blogging
  • Respect each others opinions…remember, the concept of writing about one’s opinion is the cornerstone of blogging

While this author works in close proximity with his blogging partner, the fact is that many blogging partners may never meet in person.  Therefore, it is of even greater importance that there are goals set directly regarding the idea of building a strong relationship foundation that is based on trust and honesty.  The author of the article How to start a blog partnership suggests that it is wise to make  a point of actually speaking to blogging partners and always taking the relationship slow.

Mutually Beneficial Relationships

Soglammedia states that there are over 1.5 million new blog posts each day, and 77% of active internet users today read blogs.  They see business owners and PR firms reaching out to more and more influential bloggers to promote products and services.  That is precisely why relationship blogging partnerships have the ability to offer everyone benefits,  for example, gaining a larger audience.  The blogging space is large and filled with people interested in sharing their expertise.  This creates an avenue to generate real, tangible value for organizations looking to capitalize on the marketing side of blogs.

Creating blogging relationships sounds like a smart idea to me.  It is a solid way to help increase brand awareness and capitalize on social media exposure in a more dynamic way.  After all, two heads, (or more) are better than one!

We talked about the positive aspects of a blogging partnership, but what problems can you for see with this type of relationship?

Micro Approach Best in the Macro Blog World

Santheo/Flickr-CC

Santheo/Flickr-CC

The blogger world may be macro in terms of the scope of topics and the number of blog outlets, but the best way to reach out to bloggers is on a micro scale.

That is one of the key takeaways of “A Best Practice Guide for Effective Blogger Outreach,” a guidebook to effective methods to gain advocacy, publicity, and social sharing for a brand, product, company or campaign. The guide is published by InkyBee.com.

As there once were myriad journalists, there now are millions of bloggers, the guide reports. Regardless, a mass approach to reaching them may mean a massive failure. When it comes to conducting outreach, the best way to advance an initiative is to make relationships first – then with established connections, address bloggers in individualized, specific, and precise ways which relate to their interests, topics, and audience, the guide says.

The “old school” style of public relation is all wrong now, says the guide.  That concept is confirmed by Jenn Pedde, community manager for 2U, in her slide presentation on the subject. These too-direct tactics are bad form as blogger outreach, she says:

Jeffrey Doonan/Flickr-CC

Jeffrey Doonan/Flickr-CC

  • Sending announcements and press releases
  • Cold calling (blog style)
  • Lying
  • Pitching your service/product/company
  • “Write About Me, Write About Me” requests

The guide says bloggers are willing to be pitched, but only:

  • If you do so with integrity
  • If you have relevant, quality ideas that offer value to the blogger’s audience
  • If you have first matched your outreach to the blogger’s specific interests
  • If you have made your content easy to read through and share through embedded links, graphics, and SEO optimized words.

Of course, you shouldn’t attempt to pitch   a blogger before you’ve done the requisite research, assessing the relevance of the blog to your subject matter, the potential audience for your story, the degree of audience engagement with the blog/blogger, and functional details, such as the frequency of publication. While bloggers may not have the same restrictions as traditional journalists, they will have a set of standards. Don’t assume that because they are independent, they don’t approach their work like journalists do. A post from journalism blogger Jim Romenesko illustrates how a pushy pitch fell really flat because of the PR person’s poor-form approach.

TheKarenD/Flickr-CC

TheKarenD/Flickr-CC

I’ve got some personal experience with and context for these asssertions and affirmations.

  • I’ve worked as a daily news journalist who was pitched (badly) by gushing PR types.
  • I’ve been a PR type who knew better than to gushingly pitch reporters.
  •  I’ve lived and worked through the transition from old news to the modern journalism, to the world of blogging and opinion-based online information purveyors.

    Little-Orange-Chow/Flickr-CC

    Little-Orange-Chow/Flickr-CC

Today, I’m still pitching the media, but I’m doing it through social channels such as Facebook, twitter, and other means to build connections with, and then later coordinate recommendations and coverage, with media, news commentators and columnists, online content producers, bloggers, and news editors.

It’s a one-to-one world now. While the individualized approach takes longer and requiresmore up-front legwork, it’s well worth the effort when positive outcomes are achieved.

Blogger outreach and the establishment of community

According to Jenn Pedde’s presentation, blogger outreach is the act of extending services or benefits to the author of an online log, which contains their own observations, experiences, or knowledge relevant to a specific topic. Bloggers are generally considered to be experts in their field and have an established audience relevant to their topic(s). There are various advantages to engaging bloggers to be an active member of your community which include:

  • Additional Traffic from Their own Established Fan base
  • Potential ad revenue from additional traffic
  • Increase in social media exposure
  • Targeted audience

2971658475_e27d08f561_m[1]What NOT to do while reaching external bloggers

As Community Managers, we have a responsibility to represent our established community in a professional and respectful manner. While reaching out to any external parties, especially experienced bloggers, you need to ensure that you understand their goals and audience. Without understanding the author of the blog, you cannot relate to them and it often results in inaccurate communications being sent to them.

I used to run my own blog that centered on IT-related topics, such as software development, IT training, and business process improvement. During the time my blog was online, I received several e-mails from other reps from various online communities. These representatives sent generic e-mails requesting my participation for their .com, which generally involved adding my insights to their customer forums. The problems with these generic solicitations was that they were, in fact, “generic” meaning that they had no idea what I was doing with my own blog.

Why is this a bad thing? This is an easy question to answer… I knew that they had no investment in my blog, nor did they care about my success as a blogger in my field. A generic template being sent to a massive e-mail distribution list doesn’t help my enthusiasm with the Community Manager’s belief in my blog’s purpose.  Community Managers must read the blog and know what the author is attempting to achieve, all of which can assist with their “sell” of a bloggers participation in the community.

What should community managers do?

Community Managers need to invest time into researching a blogger’s material. Once the manager knows what a blogger is doing, they can reach out to them personally via e-mail. Making a personal connection with the author can achieve their buy-in to your community therefore enabling you to reap the benefits of the relationship.

Overall, reaching out to bloggers is a great way to further promote a community and can enable you access to a new audience. Relationships with the bloggers themselves are key to ensure their buy-in and active participation in your community.

Nailing the Pitch From a Blogger’s Perspective

I’ll admit up front that I’m not a very serious blogger, and I operate in a fairly niche environment. I’ve also never followed through with promoted content on my site, but I have received plenty of bad pitches in my time. Combined with our readings this week about pitching bloggers, I thought I might contribute my perspective with tips that would work for my blog.

I write about coffee, plain and simple. I’ve been a coffee enthusiast for years, I’ve started a few side projects around coffee, and I regularly inundate myself in the world and industry of coffee. As such, my writing is tailored to people who are also interested in specialty coffee, though they may have more or less experience than I do.

Coffee, being as large and varied a topic as it is, comes with its drawbacks. Even though I’d never in a million years review Keurig K-cups for a promoted post, that hasn’t stopped two separate requests from arriving in my inbox. I’ve gotten bulk e-mail pitches that were obviously not targeted to me or my audience, but were vaguely related to coffee so of course I must be interested. The only good one I’ve ever gotten was a product review for a monthly coffee sample subscription – which started as a “try us out then write what you think” pitch, but I negotiated to only write something if I actually thought the product was worthwhile. Well, I never wrote anything about them, but I did appreciate that I was treated like a human being.

Bad pitches make me Hulk out.

Bad pitches make me rage.

Here’s the thing about these pitches: not one of them seemed to be familiar with my blog at all. They may, at best, have seen that I write blog posts, and the keyword “coffee” shows up in them. But I don’t review products, nor do I make great attempts to expand my audience – I mostly write for me, and I write about other people or local events more often than I write about a company or a product. Every pitch I’ve received has automatically triggered my SPAM alarm, because they’re written for some other blogger, surely, but not for me. The one product pitch I chose to entertain was because these people had found me on Twitter first, then found my blog, so they knew more about me when they approached. They seemed to think they could be my first product review, which would be exciting for me and my readers, but I wasn’t so ecstatic about taking orders, so I made sure I was the one who laid the ground rules. In the end, my lack of coverage was better for them and for me than my writing a negative review.

So how do you reach somebody like me? For one, know the platform. You can’t reach out to somebody writing about their most passionate subject and not know what you’re talking about. You can’t come to a coffee enthusiast who roasts their own beans at home and ask them to review your stale pre-ground capsules, you’re in the totally wrong market.

If we can both benefit, sell me on it!

If we can both benefit, sell me on it!

Second, just as InkyBee suggests, take some time to make it personal. If you think this blogger relationship is really worth it, then you’ve got to show them it’s a mutually beneficial situation, and you’re not out to reap your reward and cast them aside. This is an alley-oop, it needs cooperation and understanding to be successful for both parties. You’ve got to make your intentions known right out of the gate, and work with them to make sure you’re both on board and compatible. If you wouldn’t hang out with this blogger over a few beers to talk business, you’re better off moving on.

Are you a blogger? What are the best ways to reach you with a pitch?