Matthew T Grant

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Tall Guy. Glasses.

The Long and Short of the Digital Marketing Mixer

tallshortNote: I’m cross-posting this on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog, but they have an elaborate and painful approval process so I wanted to get it up here in the interest of time. – Matt.

It’s a week ago today that I departed Boston for Chicago in order to attend, and blog upon, Marketingprofs’ Digital Mixer.

While I live-blogged a number of sessions – on creating effective webinar programs; on developing corporate social media policies; on using Facebook for brand recognition; on deepening customer relationships with Twitter; on SEO plus Social Media; and on the exceedingly clear thoughts of Dr. BJ Fogg – I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of the grander themes or gaudier threads that I noticed running through the event.

1. It’s the humans, stupid

Again and again I heard people talking about “personalizing” or “humanizing” social media efforts, which makes sense to me since I’ve always viewed blogs and such as “personal genres.” This humanization needs to take place both at the organizational level, by creating social media policies which encourage participation on the part of employees and other stakeholders, as well as on the tactical level. There needs to be a living person behind your blog or Twitter stream or what-have-you who will take the time to listen and respond to folks looking to interact with your brand or organization.

2. Personal Brand vs. Professional Brand

Of course, if you are asking people to put themselves into social media efforts, there is always the possibility that they will develop relationships with customers or recognition within a community that begins to outshine the connection to the brand. While many people raised questions concerning the proper mix of personal and professional in brand-related social media activities, the bigger fear seemed to be about retention. Specifically, they asked, “What happens when someone becomes so associated with the brand via social media that their departure leaves a gaping hole in your company’s online presence?”

3. Social Media is Growing Up

There was a palpable dearth of 101-type sessions on social media and its application to business. Instead, we were treated to a lot of pithy studies describing what real companies – Best Buy, Intel, Hansen’s Natural Soda, Pitney Bowes, SAS, etc. – have really done with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare, blogs, podcasts, etc. Yes, Dell, Comcast, and Zappos all got mentioned, but it was clear that emerging social media technologies have not only entered the cultural mainstream but have become a permanent and rapidly maturing part of the commercial landscape.

4. SEO = Great Content + Grunt Work.

I got into a rather lively conversation by asserting in a loud, boorish tone that “SEO is a scam,” a conversation in which I was duly schooled but which also clarified my understanding of how optimization happens. In fairness to me, there were plenty of folks who were warning attendees against “SEO snake oil,” but they contrasted such efforts with the legit, white-hat things that people can, should, and must do to optimize their content for, as Liana E. Evans sagely pointed out, “Optimized content is king.”

That being said, I discovered that there are certain link-building activities – directory submissions, Digg-ing, even blogging – that approach data entry in terms of complexity (ie., “not very) and labor intensivity (i.e, “very”). Hiring an intern or “some guys in India” to do this for you isn’t scammy, at the end of the day, but it’s not brain surgery either and reminded me that search engine rank not only reflects quality of content but also quantity of effort.

5. States Rights

Finally. while discussing the assassination of President Lincoln with Apogee’s Bill Leake, I considered for the first time the effect that the 17th Amendment had on states’ rights. This amendment “… restates the first paragraph of Article I, section 3 of the Constitution and provides for the election of senators by replacing the phrase ‘chosen by the Legislature thereof’ with ‘elected by the people thereof.’” (read more). The result of this shift, which made senators beholden to their constituents rather than state governments, was the further consolidation of federal power at the expense of the states insofar as senators no longer needed to concern themselves with pleasing their respective state legislatures and could focus on perpetuating their own careers through the maintenance of voting blocks representing diverse local and private interests.

I never really thought about that before. But then again, I’m a damn Yankee.

Image Courtesy of MarketingProfs Live.

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The Final Session at MarketingProfs Digital Mixer

Photo 555

I write this with very mixed feelings (and a slightly upset stomach).

I’m at the last session of the Mixer and the Mixologists are laying on us a bunch of idears that folks can take back to their real lives and implement. I’m trying to listen, but tears choke my ears. Still, I’m going to be strong and share with you what I’m hearing….

Note: I started writing this one way, but it was too scattered, fragmented, and incoherent. So I started again. If you’d like to read the first attempt, please scroll down.

Here’s by hyper-boiled down version of the boiled down takeaways offered up by the Mixologists:

- HUMANIZE! The social media are personal genres. Make your efforts personal. Let your people speak and participate. As Michael said of Dell’s Twitter stream, “To me, Richard Binhammer is the brand.”

- ORGANIZE! You need to structure your company internally in a way that will allow you to do what you want to do externally. Don’t create barriers in your organization that prevent you from maximizing the potential of emerging technologies and,  more importantly, emerging behaviors on the part of your audience or customers.

- TRY & TEST! Whatever you are doing, don’t assume that you know what is going to work and what won’t work. Try stuff and test, test, test.

- MEASURE! Along the same lines, look for measurable results in what you are doing, which generally means: have a concrete goal and be ready to say whether you achieved that goal or not.

- OPTIMIZE! Yes, content has to be killer and you have to be “offering something of value,” but you need to be as savvy and informed as possible about making sure that people can actually find what you want them to find where you want them to find it.

This is what I wrote at first:

I just heard Stephanie Miller say something about “using down-funnel data,” I’m sure she was quoting Bill Leake of Apogee, but I’m not entirely sure what that means. I must focus. FOCUS!

Jason Baer sez it has to be about passion first, and position second when it comes to recruiting people internally to produce content or represent you on social media. Jason’s main takeaways were summed up by Stephanie as, “We as marketers need to market our marketing.”

Michael Brito sez that his track, “Engaging with Customers,” rocked. People relate to people, not to logos or companies, so the main way to be engaging in your marketing activities is to lead with your humans.

He echoed what Jason said about getting the passionate people involved in social media marketing and community engagement, rather than “celebrities in the organization.”

Similar themes were sounded by Beth Harte when reporting on the Peer-to-peer sessions: Make your business blog/social media presence personal: hand over control of community to the members of the community; don’t hesitate to educate your organization and its leadership – they want you to do this.

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“Think Clearly and Run Many Trials” Dr. BJ Fogg’s MarketingProfs Digital Mixer Keynote

Photo 553Gonna make this quick.

1. Placing hot triggers in the path of users is the key to changing behavior.

2. Humans are fairly predictable so you can use a systematic approach to thinking about persuasion and behavioral change.

2a. Effective persuasion involves: Motivation – Ability – Trigger.

2b. You increase ability by simplifying, not by training.

3. Everything big started small. If you want to innovate, start with something small/light weight. If it works, build on it. If it doesn’t, try something else.

3a. Everything that started big, complicated, and feature-rich, has failed.

4. The winning rituals of today become the platforms of tomorrow.

4a. You can attach your behaviors to somebody else’s rituals.

What did I miss?

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SEO and Social: A Live Blog Experience from MarketingProfs Digital Mixer

Photo 552SEO has become a recurring theme for me at this conference so I was very curious to check out Li Evans of Serengeti Communications’ presentation on search and social. I’m glad I did. Here’s what I learned. I hope you find it helpful.

First learning: Search is not JUST about text. Current Google search results, for “charleston dance,” for example, include images, video, etc. as well as static, text-based pages. “It’s not just your ten blue links.” This also means that Google is giving you access to content within the search results themselves.

I asked a follow-up question around this because, while Google will not only return text-based results, search is still driven by spiders which do better with text (meta tags, content, etc.) than with pictures. In other words, from a machine perspective, search is still text.

Li said, “Sort of. Spiders are very infantile. They won’t go past things that they don’t understand (Flash, Javascript pop-ups). They can’t see what’s in a picture or a video, yet, but they are getting there.”

Second learning: Search is not just taking place on search engines. People search on YouTube (beating out Yahoo!), craigslist, eBay, and so on.

Third learning: Google is using the Google Toolbar and Chrome in order to gather ever more data about your online habits and behaviors and this data increasingly influences search (while also providing good content fodder if you follow the trends and create content accordingly).

Fourth learning: SEO isn’t just for the few, it’s for everyone and it’s not magic. There are very specific, knowable things that you can do to optimize your content for search. “Content is not king, OPTIMIZED content is king.”

Fifth learning: Google knows you through your accounts and will show you results based on your behaviors, your location, etc. NO ONE can guarantee you a top 10 ranking because Google is personalizing results to fit YOU.

Sixth learning: THEREFORE, you need to understand your audience and optimize towards that. How do they search (which engines, what devices, etc.)? How do they consume media? What lingo (vernacular) do they use (i.e., do they say “commode,” “john,” or “toilet”)? How do they prefer their content served (video, audio, maps, etc.)? Are they national? Local? Global?

Seventh learning: It’s not about the technology, the engine, the platform, or any of that. It’s about being found. To get found, you need to optimize around keywords, the way people really search for you, and the way they are talking about the things that are relevant and valuable to them.

Eighth learning: “Other people make it easier to find you, not just search engines.” Make your content valuable, shareable, and actively engage with the online community that plays where you play.

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Developing Customer Relationships with Twitter: Another Live Blog Experience from MarketingProfs’ Digital Mixer

Photo 549I’ve tried to write this in a more “real-time” way than in the previous Live Blog experiences so, just like reality, it’s a little scattered, disordered, and lurches violently back and forth between the trivial and profound. – Matt

So I was trying to figure out which session to attend this morning and settled on this Twitter one. The moderator, Leigh Duncan-Durst (apparently “Duncan” is her maiden name) got things started by introducing the other panelists, which I found entirely appropriate, except that the first person she introduced was Ann Handley, who like everyone knows because she like has some job with MarketingProfs or something, and then she moved on to Monique Trulson from Brady People ID, who she first referred to as a “smart cookie” but then added that she was a “dinosaur” cuz she’ been on the Interwebs since the mid-90′s, but that got me thinking about “dinosaur cookies,” which I’m not sure what those might be, and, finally, she introduced John Bernier from Best Buy who recently accepted the DMA’s Marketer of the Year on Best Buy’s behalf (oddly enough, John used the word “behalf” about 10 seconds after I typed that word).

John started things off by describing Best Buy’s various feeds (such as Twelpforce) and the technology he uses to push various kinds of messages through them such as when he was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a seat-filler and tweeted about seeing Metallica on stage and then added that the purpose of these various Twitter streams was to give people a look behind the curtain at Best Buy.

Monique is talking right now. At her prior company (Hello Direct, if I’m not mistaken) she used Twitter to pass along promotions as well as to address customer service issues she came across by monitoring Twitter using Tweetdeck (which I use as well, fyi) and then when she got to Brady she quickly became involved in establishing new social media usage policies and is heading up efforts to educate upper management on the power and benefits of social media.

Now Ann Handley is talking. I can’t believe that she actually dropped Jeremiah Owyang’s name (“Well, I was talking with Jeremiah….”), though I shouldn’t be surprised because she mentioned just the other night that Guy Kawasaki emails her every now and again. Apparently, when she first got on Twitter, she was “literally screwing around under the radar,” whatever that means. Just so you know, Ann is wearing a charcoal grey suit with a royal blue blouse – very regal. She uses Twitter as a listening device, as a promotional tool, and as an editor interested in finding out what people are talking about.

In response to a question about “pushing” message through Twitter, John explained that around 95% of the Twelpforce feed consists of @-replies because the focus there is responding to questions. Monique also mentioned that she has used Twitter for “push,” but that she prefers to provide followers with valuable information or answers and when she does pass along information it is usually in the form of a link that people are free to click on or not.

Ann raised hackles by saying that she didn’t like the word “push,” which Leigh explained that she used in order to be “irritating.” Instead, Ann prefers to think of the her Twitter activity as “sharing” or “recommending.” Who is she kidding, really?

John told a story of a consumer in Korea interacting with the Twelpforce stream (he was having trouble charging his cellphone or something like that) and used this experience to remind us that the online community is “location agnostic” and ideally gives you an opportunity to participate in the “hive mind.”

Ann told a story of complaining about Comcast on Twitter and then got such an overwhelming response on the Comcast Cares front that she started to think, “Comcast cares TOO MUCH!”

While talking about Hello Direct’s social media effort, Monique sagely opined, “If you don’t have a specific goal, how do you know if you achieved it.”

On the goal front, John too mentioned Jeremiah Owyang (who is that, anyway?), but then went on to talk about Best Buy’s high-level goal to provide customers with “Dream Support” but on a more immediate level to be relevant to people. “Be relevant” is how Best Buy hopes to answer the question, “Why would anyone want to be a fan of Best Buy on Facebook or follow them on Twitter?” To that end, he said that Best Buy is trying to empower employees to use Twitter across the organization because, frankly, things happening locally are going to be more relevant to folks than things happening at the national brand level.

When asked about Best Buy’s policies governing social media engagement on the part of employees, John said something very smart, methinks, which I shall liberally render here, “You have to trust your employees. Someone thought highly enough of that person to hire them. If they go online and say inappropriate or stupid things, that’s not a problem with the medium or the program, it’s a problem with hiring practices and HR. Frankly, the goal is to help people feel comfortable using these tools and if you become too draconian or micro-managing with your guidelines, you run the risk of scaring people off.”

In terms of encouraging employees to participate, Monique pointed out that she needs help doing this stuff so she needs to evangelize within her organization because, at the end of the day, she needs help. In other words, whatever policies you come up with need to have the result of getting more people involved, not discouraging them therefrom.

Of course, when people become active and even become a large part of your Twitter (or other online) presence, there is the risk that, when they leave, they may leave a “hole” in your presence that needs to be filled which means that you may need to think about succession planning both nationally and locally.

Again, if you begin micromanaging the feed and asking people to filter the personal out of the professional, then you will drive people away from the medium. At the end of the day, Twitter can help put a human face on a giant corporation and that human face requires personal details. As Monique says, “There IS a human factor here” and tells senior management, “Don’t be scared of this.” She also said (echoing Dave Thomas from yesterday), when setting up a program, bringing in the people (legal, MarCom, HR, etc.) who are most likely to kick and scream about your efforts and work with them to allay their fears.

Whatever policies you come up with, Heidi Ob’Bayi added, you need to treat as a living document that will be revisited on a regular basis and amended as needed. John said that’s exactly how Best Buy handles it while highlighting that you need to maintain a sense of “True North” (“We just want to be relevant”) as you help provide people with guidelines and hand-rails that will keep people on track.

I was trying to get a picture together for this post and so was only paying distracted attention to the conversation and only tuned back in when Ann said, “I listen to people who are bitching more than anyone else.” I think what she was saying is that when people are critical of you online or are complaining about your service you need to pay close attention because there are offering you an opportunity to learn about yourself and how you and your organization can get better (John echoed this sentiment with a humorous anecdote about responding to a critic who had suggested that Best Buy do something that was both vulgar and physically impossible.)

Good, interesting, informed session.

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Using Facebook for Brand Recognition: A Live Blogging Experience from MarketingProfs’ Digital Mixer

Photo 546I’m at the Facebook sesh featuring “the Pied Piper of Social Media,” Mari Smith. If you’d like to see her presentation, you can find it here at marismith.com.

Mari started with some facts and stats about Facebook and the real eye-opener for me was that Fan Pages are the only feature within Facebook fully indexed by Google. I did not know that.

So far, the presentation has been very nuts-and-bolts about various apps that people can use to manage their social media presence, connect the various properties that they are cultivating, and, of  course, optimize Facebook. The main takeaway for this section was: be strategic and take full advantage of the technology.

Mari then asked Amy Porterfield to talk about some of the things that she has done to help her clients, such as T. Harv Eker and the Alan Shafran Group, build out their Facebook presence and, most importantly, engage fans through contests, event promotion, and emerging Facebook apps.

Mari is very knowledgeable about the Facebook universe and offered a treasure trove of highly technical suggestions about how people could effectively make the most of this medium.

However, I was somewhat unsettled by the undercurrent of themes from the life coaching, “secrets of wealth,” internet marketing scene, such as when Mari said, towards the outset, that the goal of social media strategy is to create “profitable relationships.”

Is it ok if I focus on building meaningful relationships and leave profitability to the fat cats on Wall Street?

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How to Reap Benefit for Your Company from Social Media, A Live Blog Report from MarketingProfs Digital Mixer

socialmediapolHere’s my attempt to truly “live blog” a Digital Mixer session. In this case, the participants were Aneta Hall from Pitney Bowes, David B. Thomas from SAS, Heidi Ob’bayi from PEMCO Insurance, and the session was moderated by Sean McDonald, Ant’s Eye View.

I’ve tried to capture the discussion as it unfolded but, I must admit, it got away from me at times. The key takeaway I got was this: Because employees are already doing this, and because they are often your best brand ambassadors, you should allow and encourage them to participate in social media BUT make sure that you provide them with guidelines, training, and ongoing feedback. As Aneta said, getting your organization involved in social media and creating policies around this involvement will have a lasting, long-term impact and it will pay to go about this in the right way: with a strategy, an organizational structure, and executive sponsorhip

First idea was that putting a social media policy in place is the first hurdle to overcome when preparing your company to reap the aforementioned benefits. For his part at SAS, Dave started by getting a bunch of people (HR, R&D, marketing, etc.) in a room to discuss the types of policies they wanted to formulate and how they were going to do that. When this group, called the Marketing 2.0 Council, reached decisions it lent an authority to the policies they ultimately devised (the fact that the group consisted of senior managers and stakeholders was the source of this authority). He also said that it was very useful to seek out people with specific objections, talk to them, and see how these objections can be resolved.

During the process of creating policy, Aneta Hall pointed out that you cannot shy away from talking to the C-level executives in order to gauge their appetite for social media, how far they are willing to go, and who among them may be willing to support or sponsor your efforts to create social media policies and strategy. Your role is to help them as a strategist, so you’ve got to do that. She also strongly recommended that you get the leaders of your international business involved or else you will spend a lot of time addressing the legitimate issues and concerns they will inevitably raise.

“Not having a policy IS having a policy,” added Heidi, emphasizing that employees are already active in social media and the organization needs to catch up. With “We lead with trust” as their brand motto, she said, they really needed to lead by example.

Of course, policy is one thing, governance and making sure that your organization is agile enough to respond and engage with social media is quite another. The organizational model adopted by Pitney Bowes, for example, was that of “hub and spoke,” where the “spokes” are employees certified to participate in social media on the company’s behalf and the “hub” is that group responsible for monitoring, capturing, and demonstrating value of the overall effort. Aneta called it, in part, “picking out the social media jewels” which show what is working.

She added that the epiphany comes when you realize that it is not sustainable to try and limit social media participation to a handful of people, hence the importance of training. As far as allowing or even encouraging employees to get involved with social media, as opposed to limiting their ability to do so, Dave pointed out that it’s much easier to find people who are enthusiastic and already ready to talk about your company and train them, then it is to identify “thought leaders” and convincing them to blog or participate when they aren’t necessarily into it.

People had a lot of questions about coming up with policies for industries that are heavily regulated, on the one hand, and for industries where you have a number of employees who may not be particularly media savvy or even loyal to the company. These questions seemed to boil down to, “How do you create guidelines that prevent people from breaking the law or doing stupid things?”

The answer seemed to be, “Keep it simple, even painfully so.” It can be as simple as saying, “Don’t be stupid,” or “Don’t do anything in social media you wouldn’t do at work,” and reminding them, “If you do something inappropriate or illegal in social media, you could get fired.”

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“Campaigns, Not Events” – Effective Webinaring (Live Report from MarketingProfs Digital Mixer)

3251824818_37d3bd7010_mMy first session at the Mixer featured Todd Davison of Bulldog Solutions, Michael Hickey from Hoovers, and Jen Moeller of Humana. The main message of this session can be summed up in the soon-to-be-immortal [corrected: good catch, Paul!] words of Michael Hickey, “Think: Campaigns, not events.”

As the session moderator, Todd Davison kicked things off by emphasizing that webinars offer a continual opportunity to engage with potential customers and, more importantly, to gather data so that you can more effectively segment, target, and score the leads that your efforts generate.

Broadly speaking, this approach will allow you to use your webinar campaigns to create richly detailed customer personas. More tactically, and depending on whether or not you have the requisite technology in place, this approach should also provide you with behavioral data on specific prospects giving you an effective method for filtering the leads generated so that you are only handing the most qualified to your sales folk.

There were a number of very specific recommendations made by the panelists – such as Jen Moeller’s suggestion that you use video on your invitation landing page to supplement or further explain the benefit of the session; Michael’s suggestion that you explore your technical options and consider incorporating a live Twitter feed into the webinar itself so that participants can follow the ongoing commentary of others; or Todd’s suggestion that, when deciding on webinar themes, you seek out topics which are  interesting to your audience while remaining particularly relevant to your offerings or services – but I keep coming back to main point:

Webinars are most effective when managed as campaigns containing multiple touch-points (invitation email, invitation landing page, follow-up reminders prior to the event, post-event reminder, post-event landing page containing recorded event plus supplementary material and calls to action, etc.) and when they are integrated into your overall marketing mix, meaning that you are promoting them through your blogs, email newsletters, websites, and, most importantly, the actions of your sales team.

Image Courtesy of jon_a_ross.

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MarketingProfs Digital Mixer, Here I Come!

MP_DMM_BloggerBadgeI’m off to MarketingProfs’ Digital Mixer in Chicago this morning and I’m practically giddy.

Look, I’m a people person and if there is one thing that conferences like this have, it’s people. The bonus is that in this case, I’ve actually met some of them before and am very much looking forward to reconnecting with Paul Chaney, Amber Naslund, Beth Harte, Jason Baer, Mack Collier, as well as all the great folks from MarketingProfs proper.

The super-bonus is that there’s gonna be folks there whom I haven’t yet met but, having met them, will find my life utterly transformed and the world full of bright, ever-expanding horizons. Or at least I’ll get their business card.

I must admit, however, that, aside from meeting people, “deepening relationships,” and “participating in the conversation,” I have another goal in attending the MarketingProfs Digital Mixer: atonement.

You see, at a MarketingProfs event last June, I moderated a panel on content strategy. At the beginning of the session, I asked people to put away their laptops and refrain from Tweeting unless prior to doing so they could honestly and earnestly say to themselves, “The world must know!” It was not surprising that, for doing so, I was called, by Greg Verdino among other people, a “douche.”

I don’t know if the mustache I’m growing will really help me live down my reputation as “douchey,” but, heck, I’m gonna do my darnedest to make up for this egregious social media faux pas and show everybody that I’ve drunk the Kool Aid, that I’ve gotten with the program, and that I can play well with others.

And much like my conscious decision to grow a mustache, in spite of its many perils, that last sentence was written in the complete absence of any inner sense of irony or sarcasm. See ya there!

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First Principles

2887146373_6fbdd76fc9_mChaos is our mother.

The entire history of the universe unwinds in the transition of diverse high energy state into a single low energy state. When the universal stuff has achieved a uniform temperature, it will be completely and chaotically disordered. When the energy gradient has disappeared entirely, there will be no identifiable things. “No thing-ness” awaits the universe at and as its end.

The amount of time we spend consciously dwelling on the Earth is vanishingly brief compared to the time it will take for all the energy generated (released?) at the time of the Big Bang to dissipate entropically and, for all intents and purposes, vanish. For this reason, I say that we always find ourselves in the middle of time.

“You can’t miss what you can’t measure.” For something to exist the way that things exist, you must be able to measure it. Does it make sense to speak of a thing that does not exist?

If the existence of something cannot be proven logically or demonstrated scientifically it is irrational to insist that it exists. In other words, it may exist, but only irrationally.

Dynamic referentiality. Our language does not refer to some central lexicon to be used or understood. Instead, it refers to the multidimensional history of its own usage. Read the rest of this entry »

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