30 Days Out: Things I Wish Google+ Would Do

August 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Google, Online Marketing, Social Media, Social Networking

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Google+Despite starting conservatively with my personal Google+ use, I’ve had quite a few people ask me what I thought of G+ and when we’d write a post about it here on TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog.  With all the hype and past track record with Google’s social media tests, I decided to wait.  I’ve been a bit more active on Google+ as of late and strangely enough, nearly 6,000 people have decided this was worth a Circle inclusion. You can find me here: Lee Odden G+.

Rather than focus on yet another “Top Tips for G+ Power Users” post, I thought I’d write about what Google Plus doesn’t do. Or rather, what is it that I’d like a social application like Google+ to do. Maybe you’ll relate to some of these “wishes” and an interesting discussion will follow. I’m pretty reasonable on some of these, but certainly more “pie in the sky” on others. It’s Google after all, and the bar is/and should be high.

Business Pages – I know, I know, “Business Pages are coming“.  But not having a business component built into the platform of Google+ whether it’s still in beta or whether it makes sense to build a user base before opening the doors for business participation is baloney.  At a minimum, you’d think they’d be able to employ some kind of business validation and offer later migration to whatever new and officially sanctioned business offering Google+ will have to offer.    Is it really a lack of planning? Is it a ploy to create anticipation for business users?

If it was a start-up, such an oversight would be explainable, but this is GOOGLE people, with 28,000 employees and somewhere around 500 people working on Google+ specifically, I just had higher expectations.

Taking my rant hat off, I can see that Google, as a data driven company, will be able to create a more meaningful business offering based on data analysis of individual users over this first month. They can collect information about user behaviors such as discovery, consumption and sharing preferences plus ideas on monetization that simply would have been a crapshoot had a formal business offering been live from the start.

I can definitely see Google+ as a potentially valuable information distribution and engagement channel for business and am looking forward to what the business offering will look like.

As a user, I find Google+ to be a good discovery and interaction tool. It tends to slant more business than personal. It does take away time from Twitter and Facebook, but I don’t see it replacing them exactly. The user experience on Google+ is very good and the filtering as well. The segmentation of circles is really useful, but I don’t find myself using circles as much as I thought I would. I like the idea of “Facebook for personal, LinkedIn for business” more than using one platform for a mix. I guess we’ll see.  I continue to be optimistic about Google+, seeing good referring traffic from it and substantially greater time on site from G+ referrals than from Twitter or Facebook.

G+ Access for Google Apps Users – Time to get the rant hat back on. When Google Plus first launched and I had invites to share, I sent them to several members of my team. At our Online Marketing agency we use Google Apps for our email. But if you have a Google App powered email, you can’t have a Google Profile. And if you don’t have a Google Profile, you can’t participate in Google Plus. You can’t even use the multi-account login feature.

Someone, please tell me why a paying Google customer cannot access another free service from the same company? Look at your Google account and the myriad other Google services one can sign up for, all under one account. But not Google Plus. This really makes no sense to me at all. At least not while I have my rant hat on.

At least allow Google Apps administrators the ability to turn profiles and Google Plus on or off as a service like you can with all the other Google services and apps.

Social Monitoring,  Analytics & Reporting - Right now you get “notifications” when some one +1′s your activity or adds you to a circle on Google+. But what about all the other content interactions Google knows about?

Imagine something like Google Alerts notifications or Google+ social media monitoring for the social web at large and Google’s ability to detect others’ social interactions with you, your content or participation within social data and filter it according to your own preferences like topics, relevance, authority and recency?

In other words, a special folder in Gmail or Google+ that extends beyond notifications, to a list of interactions with social content across the web, organized, filtered and sorted, learning preferences  for continued improvement. For such off-Google engagement tracking, the recent Google acquisition of PostRank comes to mind.

Maybe Google doesn’t want to get into the social media monitoring and management business, but social media monitoring tools at their core, are essentially search engines.  The biggest problem with many social media monitoring tools is that they suck at filtering out duplicate content and spam – resulting in false positives. Google is a master at doing that  kind of filtering.

I get that Google wants to keep you on Google.com or a Google web property, but there’s simply no way one company’s offerings will be able to do and be everything we need.  On top of this sort of social media monitoring at the individual level, I’m thinking there would be reporting that show trends over time.  This kind of information trend presentation is available for administrators of Google Apps so at there’s at least some kind of reference point.  Understandably, I can’t imagine a lot of casual users being interested in this, but maybe they would. I certainly would be.

Would it be creepy for Google to have all of this data? I think they already do. The opportunity is to give users access to functionality, tools and feedback so they can get more value out of the Google Plus experience. More satisfied users stay longer, share more, create more and provide Google with useful data that they can use in the context of monetization.  Certainly there are many more things we could wish for with Google+, especially when it comes to video and image sharing, but these are just a few things that have come to mind for me personally.

What do you wish Google+ would do?


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Social Media Super Bowl – Overhyped & Underperformed

February 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Social Media, Social Networking

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Super Bowl Ads, Social Media, Online Marketing, YouTube, TwitterAt a reported $3 million per 30 second spot, Super Bowl advertising is big business. For a multimillion dollar investment, brands should be maximizing every opportunity to reach potential customers. Which advertisers took advantage of a customer base actively engaged in the big game to extend the conversation? Not too many.

In the much-hyped ads airing during the Super Bowl, big brands primarily went with small printed web addresses at the end of the commercials as a next step for viewers. They lacked direct calls to action and didn’t leverage the fact that many viewers are online while watching television. A well executed ad with a specific call to action to send a tweet with a particular branded tag would be a logical fit.

Rather than a passive mention of a Facebook fan page, companies should consider how a strategic  promotion driving viewers to just released content might play. Social media marketing is an opportunity to identify and program directly to customer needs. More can be done with social media and over time more brands will become increasingly creative with integration in the ads. However, some brands are at least working to bring social marketing into the fold.

Audi made a direct Twitter reference in its ‘Release the Hounds’ ad featuring the hashtag #ProgressIs to enter a contest to win “Old Luxury” prizes and support charity. Users submit what progress is to them and Audi will share the top entries. It’s a smart start but would have been stronger with greater prominence or context versus a passing glance.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Another luxury brand decided to advertise for the first time at the big game with Mercedes jumping in following a creative “Tweet Race” contest fueled by social media. The campaign utilized both Twitter and Facebook to support celebrity led teams on a race to the Super Bowl. The campaign allowed Mercedes to get more than just an ad out of its marketing dollars but greater social marketing could have helped the ad.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The big hit in terms of a memorable ad was Volkswagen. Blending humor, creativity and a good use of YouTube to promo an ad titled ‘The Force’, the company is now sitting on a hit. VW teased the ad in advance of the Super Bowl, showing just enough to pique curiosity and asked for feedback on Facebook and Twitter.  Over 16 million views later, Darth Vader and Volkswagen will forever be linked.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Overall, there were some interesting ads but far too many brands that made no real attempt to connect campaigns to any call to action. Gaining greater marketing value by campaigns leading up to the Super Bowl ads is a good start but advertisers need to establish a clear follow-up social media marketing strategy to continue the momentum online after the game is over.

From a marketing perspective, what were your favorites? Hits? Misses? And do you believe we will see better execution by the time Super Bowl 46 rolls around?

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5 Tips for Individuals to Help Companies Get More Out of LinkedIn

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linkedin marketing tipsLinkedIn officially launched on May 5, 2003 with a total of 4,500 members in the first month. Known mostly as a business social network, LinkedIn has been adopted globally with nearly 2 billion people searches in 2010 and over 90 million users in January 2011. To top it off, a forthcoming IPO will raise even more money for expansion.

Yet amongst many business professionals, LinkedIn seems to fight perception that it is strictly a site to visit when you need a job.

With new features added regularly and all of the Fortune 500 represented, LinkedIn is a valuable source of data and connections that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’re not a regular LinkedIn user, I encourage you to look beyond the basics and see the opportunities for businesses to showcase their productsadvertise in and out of network, and content sharing/syndication.

Here are 5 tips for individuals to help companies get more out of LinkedIn:

1. Use Your Profile as a Destination In an informal check of LinkedIn search strength, I did a Google search of 20 contacts. In every case, regardless of how visible they are on the web, LinkedIn profiles appeared on the first page with the vast majority appearing in the first five results. Keep your profile current to highlight your experience and expertise at all times. It can serve as a great way to share your history not only with other LinkedIn members but anyone online given the strength of search results.

2. Linking Content via Applications As the site has evolved in the past few years it now offers a number of opportunities to share content from the site directly. Your LinkedIn network should be a strong source of support for your news and updates as your contacts are likely connected to your industry. By utilizing the available tools to link to your blog, twitter feed, or to create polls you can share helpful information with this network that may be passed along further to create new connection opportunities for you or your business.

3. Connect with New Contacts in Groups and Answers LinkedIn Groups are a great way to identify other users with similar interests and needs. In addition to the inherent benefits of learning from others, Groups offer a number of benefits for each user. You are able to view other members contact information and participation in a group or the LinkedIn Answers section allows you to highlight your ideas and insight. By providing useful information to others you will improve your own reputation as an expert resource on select topics. The creation of Open Groups is of benefit in a broader sense as well since discussions can be viewed by anyone on the web and picked up by search engines.

4. Research Potential Most LinkedIn users are familiar and comfortable with the people search capabilities of the site to find potential connections. Don’t forget to utilize other search tools on the site though as there is extensive data available to you. A very simple search of “public relations” provided over 11,000 listings nationally and indicates where I have a direct or indirect connection to that company. LinkedIn Marketing Using the search tools available it’s easy to track current openings, identify key leaders at the organizations, and recent additions or departures. Are these helpful for job seekers? Absolutely, but this information is of tremendous value for a new business discussion or a sales inquiry as well. Perhaps you have a contact from a prior project now on the inside.

5. Recommendations As either an employee or a business, a recommendation can carry a great deal of weight in the eyes of future customers. By essentially collecting success stories in advance you have the ability to create a testimonial page on a highly-trafficked, well-established site that can lead to future opportunities based on your work appearing in searches for specific keywords by others.  These provide concrete examples of a (hopefully) good experience with you in a personal manner. It’s word of mouth promotion in a neighborhood of 90 million professionals. Not a bad target audience for most and one that shouldn’t be missed.

With a rich set of data available to you at no cost (these features are all available without having to go with the premium membership), LinkedIn should be a part of your networking and online marketing mix.

Do you have a great business success or a unique personal story based on your use of LinkedIn? Perhaps an unusual connection that highlights the full reach of tiered networks?

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5 Tips: Content Sharing Beyond Facebook

Alright, you’ve just come up with a brilliant and revolutionary idea that will forever change the face of your industry. So what do you do now?

If you’re like a lot of people, you run to Facebook and share it with your friends, colleagues, and anyone that will listen. Is that a bad strategy? Not necessarily, as Facebook and Twitter can be great places to reach large audiences. In fact, Facebook continued to grow even stronger in its use as a sharing site in 2010.

However, you can’t safely assume that Facebook is the only or best method of content distribution. Social media is a hot market right now and use of these channels are not a bad thing. Though a strategy of a few tweets and a fan page update will not get you to your goals. Ultimately there is no singular model that is always the ideal for any company but a few points to consider include:

Audience - I lead with this one as it should always be the first step in creating any marketing or communications plan. Who are you trying to reach and where are they? If you want customers that are highly engaged on mobile devices then Facebook could be a good fit with over 200 million people accessing the social media giant via their mobiles. If you’re seeking long-term content placement that might be reviewed in-depth, consider SlideShare where the demographics indicate  81 percent medium to heavy internet users and eight minutes spent on the site looking at content.

Influencers - After establishing your target audience you should move to identifying who has the ear of the audience you want to reach.  Spend some time researching terms and keywords that connect to your topic. Take advantage of the many tools out there like Google blog search, Alltop, PostRank and see who shapes the views of your audience.

Blogs – The benefits of a blog as a central hub of content are quite well established in terms of SEO for companies. Yet another benefit of a blog for many organizations is the simplicity of updates which can be made easily. Use your blog as a point of entry for beginning a dialogue. Engage here and you’ll begin to identify the content that your audience is actually seeking. Use it as a research tool to understand your audience further: check out the sites of those that leave comments on your blog, review your analytics to identify changes in referral sources, and offer opportunities for readers to share their questions with you.

Email – Don’t forget about a core (if not as sexy) tool that works well and is still a top source of content sharing. Develop an email newsletter to communicate with prospects and others interested in your content. The content you create for your email newsletter can be a jumping off point to create interesting blog posts, which can then include surveys or interactive content to transform a single piece of content into a discussion between you and your audience. In concert with other tools, it facilitates a continual cycle of engagement with your audience.

Syndication – Services that offer the potential of extended reach and content syndication are excellent resources that are often being too easily dismissed in my opinion due to the alleged “death of the press release.” Aside from the use of services like PRWeb (a TopRank client) for trying to reach journalists, syndication will improve your reach to end-users and potentially appear in a number of locations and offers a number of share options for well written content that is relevant to your target audience. With the syndication you also have the opportunity to get your site in front of potential customers with anchor text links back to your own pages.

Consumers, across industries, expect greater personalization than ever before. Any singular content distribution channel will ultimately miss an important part of your target market. Take advantage of the communication tools available to create an experience that each user feels was made for them by taking the time to understand them and offer a variety of channels that fit their needs.

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