Why Content Creation is Critical to Driving Prospects, Lead Generation and Sales

Content Marketing for Lead Generation

Want to build a better sales funnel? Many businesses and marketers question why “Content Really is King” to driving quality traffic, lead generation and sales in today”s mobile consumption era. To help shed some light on the content vs tactic dilemma,  this infographic covers the different benefits of why informative, relevant, targeted and engaging content creation are the ingredients to driving prospects lead generation and sales in today”s digital age. (Graphic courtesy of Heintz Marketing)

Content Marketing for Lead Generation

How Social Media Merges With SEO

SEO, Social Media
SEO, Social Media

Social Media, Content Marketing and SEO Integration.

People no longer blindly trust everything they see or hear. They want “social proof” and validation of their choices.

In today’s age of ubiquitous connectivity, many businesses have implemented a variety of online marketing efforts to attract new customers and increase overall sales. Unfortunately, results can vary significantly because tools are only as good as the expertise of the person using them.

The lure of the “next big thing” can create online marketing inefficiencies when companies try to be a marketing “jack of all trades and master to none”.

Consider These Social Network Growth Statistics:

  • Google sites handle about 100 billion searches each month (Search Engine Land)
  • YouTube hosts nearly 14 billion videos (comScore)
  • Facebook is now over 1 billion users (Facebook)
  • Google has over 500 million users (Google)
  • Twitter has over 550 million accounts (Twitter)
  • LinkedIn is at 225 million users (LinkedIn)
  • Pinterest grew 4,377% in 2012 and continues to expand with 25 million users (TechCrunch)

Evolution Just Sped Up

Not only do you have to evolve and adapt, you’ve got to do it quickly. The way people communicate, socialize, discover and purchase has changed dramatically. The ability to solve problems and enrich lives is now within the reach of any business who cares to grab this chance…and they will also make a lot of money in the process.

But you need to be aware of the ways in which social signals can influence search engine rankings. While no one but Google’s programmers knows for sure, we can state with reasonable certainty that there’s a strong link between the two.

Google serves a huge client base successfully because they have gained trust and maintained it over the years. People come back to Google because they find answers to their questions. For free.

The minute people lose trust in Google and find another, more trusted search engine, Google’s financial backbone will be broken. That’s why Google’s management team is obsessed with one thing above all else: users’ ability to find what they came for, regardless of where they are or how they access the Web.

That’s a complex task. How do they manage it? Relevancy.

Google listens carefully to users. Observes what they do. Learns from their interactions and conversations on social sites. By understanding user intent, they can serve up the most relevant solutions.

Keywords in text can be indicators of relevancy. Links to a page can be signs of popularity. But the signals that emanate from social media interactions allow Google to understand relevancy and popularity on a whole new level.

It’s a SEO Social Media PR win.

When you synchronize your social marketing campaigns with your most important keywords, your audience will use those words to research your business, find you on the top of Google, see other social signals (like PR articles, news stories, social media profiles, ratings and more)… and begin to trust you.

Today’s approach must change to survive tomorrow’s major economic changes.

So what’s a business owner or marketer to do?

Key Takeaways for Businesses and Marketers

  1. Build trust with your customers and offer quality services and products.
  2. Focus on “people building.” Develop a network of fans who are active on social media and spread word about you and your brand.
  3. Make your content relevant and fascinating to your audience. Being mediocre will get you nowhere.
  4. Quality content is King!  This is content marketing 101; write content that solves your audiences’ problems and pain points, and they will keep coming back for more.
  5. Get people to engage and share (recommend) you. That provides links and will be a better long term strategy because of the social signals generated.
  6. Appeal to logic. Draw upon statistics, credible sources, reasonable arguments and inherent rationale of a situation to get more people to buy in.
  7. Go viral. Get many shares on social media. Make news about your brand spread — fast.

One of the biggest imperatives for business owners is to evolve our way of doing business to fit tomorrow’s altered digital ecosystem. Offering a better service and content, integrating your online and offline strategy, and harnessing the power of social media and PR to the tested and proven power of SEO can bring the best results.

This applies equally to large and small businesses. In the long run, how big you are will not matter as much as how rapidly you can evolve.

A key element of evolution within a digital ecosystem like ours is building rich, vibrant networks of friends, fans, followers and customers.

Evolve…Get on Top…Stay Relevant

The Great Social Media Customer Service Race

Software Advice, a research advisory firm that offers software reviews and comparisons, recently conducted “The Great Social Customer Service Race” to evaluate how efficiently the nation’s top brands provide consumer support on Twitter. The objective was to identify what kinds of tweets received a response, and how quickly. This is a guest post by Ashley Verrill with Software Advice.

social-customer-service-Grow Social Marketing

Social media communities have always been a place where conversations, networking and relationship building flourish; a place for engagement. Unfortunately for businesses, this can be difficult to scale. So many companies succumb to using the social media strictly for racking up fans and blasting promotions.

But times have changed. Customers now expect businesses to respond when they send messages, tweets or wall posts. It’s up to each business to take advantage of new technologies that help prioritize, route and address these messages efficiently.

Recently, I conducted an experiment to assess whether 14 of the nation’s top brands employ such technologies to achieve social media responsiveness. The test – dubbed The Great Social Customer Service Race – involved sending 280 tweets from four personal accounts, during a four-week period.

We analyzed the percent of total tweets each brand responded to, as well as the time it took them to write back when they did respond. We designed questions that tested specific listening technology features, as well as social response best practices.

Here’s a few lessons we learned from the race that you can use to improve your own social media response.

Listening Technology Should Catch @, no @ and #BrandName

One of the most striking results was the overwhelming lack of response for tweets that did not include the @ symbol and the company”s Twitter handle.

Even though the customer might not be specifically addressing the brand if they don’t use their handle, these messages sometimes present a chance to surprise and delight the customer. Think of it this way: you either capitalize on an opportunity to create a brand advocate, or you risk a negative message traveling further, faster in the wrong hands.

Consider this tweet that didn’t receive a response:

This left a bad impression on me and my followers. Not only that, but competitors could be listening for your brand and capitalize on negative messages about you. Consider this response to a tweet I sent about Bank of America.

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

For large companies, it”s impossible to expect that they respond to everything. But overall, these brands only replied to about 14 percent of the messages we sent. This is frighteningly low. To tackle this challenge, companies should utilize technology that identifies the most important messages and moves them to the front of the response queue.

This is done primarily through prioritization rules that can be customized and programmed into your listening technology. This should include priority triggers such as “thank you,” “angry,” “mad,” “switching,” “buying” and so on. Your team should also spend time finding other keywords that might be more specific to your industry or company.

McDonalds demonstrated during the race that its team was listening for thank you. This tweet received a response in just 13 minutes:

Tweet 3

While these important interactions went unnoticed:

Tweet 4

Tweet 5

Tweet 6Responses Should Be Tracked

It’s critical your team have a process for tracking responses once they are prioritized and routed. At one point during the race, we received two responses to the same tweet, one day apart. The first response seemed robotic, and the second didn’t address the question.

Tweet 7

A customer service ticketing-type application is one way to achieve this kind of tracking. When a message is received, it becomes a response ticket that is instantly prioritized and routed. Then once it receives a response, it’s removed from the response queue. This is also helpful if the responder that receives the message is busy. Many social listening technologies can instantly re-route the message if it isn”t touched after a certain amount of time.

Customer Clout Should Be Considered

A customer’s social activity level or purchase history might be another measure to consider when prioritizing your response. During the race, each of our four Twitter users tweeted the same brand name as many as seven times during the four-week experiment. One goal was to see if any of the brands would identify us as active socializers and improve their response time. Not one of the 14 brands did.

To do this:

1)     Ensure your CRM software records every Twitter interaction with your brand in the corresponding customer’s profile. This allows the next responding agent to quickly see if that customer is a brand advocate or tweeted negatively in the past.

2)     Program socially integrated ticketing software to increase response priority if a user emerges as an active socializer.

Really Listening

Customers social media response expectations will only continue to increase. Now is the time to get a handle on your engagement process with the right technology, used in the right way.

What do you think?  How actively is your brand engaging, listening and responding?  Share your comments and best practice advice below!

Does your business need help?  Contact Grow Social Marketing today for a complimentary consultation and let’s get your brand leading the Social Customer Service Race!

Download Infographic: Grow Social Marketing-Social-Customer-Service-Race

Using Social Media and Content Marketing for Product Launches

product marketing launch

When launching a new product, one of the greatest challenges business owners face centers on marketing.  As a Social Marketing Consultant, one of the primary questions I get asked from business owners is, “We have a great product, but how do we get people to buy it?”

Product Marketing Launch

With a solid product and business plan, content marketing should be your primary focus.  Start by telling the story.  Your website, blog, and social media communities are the places to fuel and funnel that content through.

When considering how to communicate to a market about a new product or service, there are several important questions that social media can help solve for a business owner:

  1. Who is talking about the problem your product solves?
  2. Where are they talking about it and what language are they using?
  3. Who are the influencers actively able to affect product awareness and product use?

To help answer those key questions, here are four ways business owners can use social media to gain insight, grow awareness, and optimize their online marketing:

  1. Listen for Insight – Social media monitoring is an ongoing effort to assess online interest trends and for hits about a particular topic during a given moment in time. Leverage social listening  tools like Hootsuite or Trackur, or more robust platforms like Radian6 or Hubspot, to uncover conversations from real customers as they discuss their favorite products, where to find them, what they like, and what they don’t like. Social listening can help uncover other key insights that could fuel social media outreach, content, and engagement to drive relevant awareness of your product.
  2. Social media research and listening are also useful for identifying topically relevant influencers. In any given online community, there are people who make recommendations that others really listen to and act on. In combination with community participation, the social listening tools above, and influence tracking services like Klout, Kred, Traackr or Followerwonk, you can find centers of influence in your target audience communities.
  3. Awesome Content is the (Search) Engine of Marketing – Social content for marketing should start with your blog.  You can talk about the story of your product and how it solves important problems in the marketplace. Your blog can also serve as a communication channel with other blogs in the industry, the media, customers, and communities; online and locally.

If your company doesn’t have a blog, start one!  Start blogging by writing about your new product and highlighting the product innovation, key features and most importantly, the problems it solves.  Gather customer testimonials and welcome conversations with customers and product fans in general. The blog could serve as a living FAQ repository and as a hub to other social participation channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Blogs are also excellent marketing resources to attract new customers actively looking for products and services through search. What better time to be easy to find than when customers are actively looking? Fresh, findable, sharable and relevant content makes the social web social.  We all know word of mouth advertising is not only the best form of advertising, it’s free!

4. Monitor, Measure and Refine – Social media analytics and optimization is a growing trend for successful businesses, and taps into marketing performance data and web analytics to reveal insights into the success of specific messages, media, and offers. Those data-driven insights can provide direction for optimizing social media marketing efforts for better performance, whether it is different topics for blog posts, words used in tweets, or types of images shared on Pinterest. Google Analytics is a must have for business owners because of the free cost and robust features, including some social media-tracking integration.

The sheer volume of information created and promoted on the social web can be overwhelming. With the right questions and tools, business marketers with companies of any size can leverage that data and the connections between people the information represents to better understand the digital marketplace, the voice of the customers, who can influence sales, and insights to optimize marketing performance.

If you’re a business owner, how have you leveraged social media to launch a new product or service? What was some of the best (and worst) advice you received?

How to Use Social Media Monitoring to Keep Tabs on Your Competition

social media monitoring

By now, most savvy companies have launched blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages, mindful that actively engaging online audiences is essential to the survival of any business. But social media offers a major benefit that is too often ignored: the ability to monitor the online space to glean information about your customers, your competition, and even your own company. Effectively using social media monitoring, the information you gain from listening will be just what you need to keep abreast of conversations in real time.

Twitter, for example, allows businesses to quickly detect a problem with a service or product before that problem turns into a full-blown crisis. But social media monitoring is not limited to keeping a lookout for sudden online developments. It also involves tracking data that are both quantifiable (the number of times your information is shared or retweeted) and qualitative (the tone of the conversation surrounding your brand). 

Here are My Top 5 Reasons Why Social Media Monitoring Must be a Key Part of Your Marketing Strategy:

1. Develop insight into how your brand is perceived.

No matter how you feel about your company, the perception that the market has of it — the only perception that matters — may well be different. Social media monitoring can help you to gain some real perspective on how others see your company and how passionate they are (or are not) about your service or product. It is a great way to take the pulse of your audience and identify your brand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats

2. Scout Your Competition.

Companies sometimes divulge information on their social networking pages that provide insights into their priorities. The information may be as simple as your competitor’s online fans and followers. But sometimes the information can be more telling than that — like photos and names of your rival’s investors on, say, a Facebook page. By monitoring the social media space, you can learn as much about your competitors’ weakness as you can about their strengths.

3. Improve Customer Service.

Social media monitoring provides another platform for you to have a direct one-on-one exchange with the customer. That kind of responsiveness is not only a way to earn brand loyalty. It also gives you an opportunity to turn satisfied customers into brand ambassadors. A study conducted by Maritz Research shows that customers who received responses after tweeting about a company improved their perception of that company 83 percent of the time.

4. Achieve a Competitive Advantage.

Any avid social media user can tell you that online audiences are enthusiastic critics of everything, from service at a restaurant to the usefulness of a new product. This kind of constant appraisal and feedback can be valuable to business owners trying to assess the strengths of their own company or industry. Indeed, the conversations occurring online could shine a light on potential voids your company might be able to fill, thus providing a competitive advantage.

5. Manage Your Online Reputation.

Social media monitoring enables businesses to manage their online reputation in real time. That is important because social media can serve as a kind of echo chamber for consumer opinion, both good and bad. It is essential that you react quickly to any opinion that undercuts or distorts your brand before that opinion spreads suddenly.

So how do you do it?  The good news is, if you are utilizing Marketing Automation software (such as Hootsuite Pro, Hubspot or Radian6, the monitoring tool is built in.  If not, there are a host of free tools available.

Here are Four of My Favorite Free Social Media Monitoring Tools:

Google Alerts

Google Alerts are email updates of the latest relevant Google results (blogs, news, etc.) based on your searches. Enter the topic you wish to monitor, then click preview to see the type of results you’ll receive. Some handy uses of Google Alerts include: monitoring a developing news story and keeping current on what’s being said on your business, a competitor or industry.

Social Mention

Same as Google Alerts, but for social media communities.

WhosTalkin.com

WhosTalkin.com is a social media search tool that allows users to search for conversations surrounding the topics that they care about most. Their goal is to deliver the most and current conversations happening in the world of social media.  This tool covers 60 social media gateways.

BoardReader

Not all forums and message boards are indexed by Google. BoardReader is a community search engine that crawls forums, blog posts, images and micro blogs. It’ll also let you know when a new forum starts specifically to discuss your brand or organization.  It purports to crawl 50,000 online communities!

These days, many of the free monitoring tools have either gone by the wayside (defunct), been acquired by bigger companies, or have developed into rich, integrated platforms and are no longer free.   To that point, the bottom line, your brands’ reputation is important, knowing what your competitors are doing is important and knowing what’s being said about both are critical.  Being at the forefront of those conversations is the key to taking responsive action.

What tools are you using to manage your online reputation?  Leave your comments below.  We’d love to hear them!

Using Digital Data to Create Customer Profiles and Optimize the Customer Experience

digital channels

A friend mentioned the other day that she had recently made a furniture purchase online with a large retailer, and the next week she received an email from the same retailer promoting the product for $300 less than what she’d paid for it. She then called their customer service department and asked for the discount. The retailer complied (which made her happy), but it made us wonder: what if she never knew about the discount? How many other customers have had that same experience after the purchase?  What did her actions cost the company, beyond rebating $300?

This is a common scenario for countless brands because they do not have a 360° view of their customers across all digital channels, Digital Ecosystem and therefore, are lacking an understanding of their customers’ behaviors. If the retailer was able to identify who my friend was across all channels and recognize that she had already made the furniture purchase, wouldn’t it have made more sense to send her an offer for something else, which would complement her furniture purchase?  Or, at the very least, not market to her a discounted price on the item she’d just purchased? What if that retailer was able to connect her purchase to their customer database and make the distinction before the email went out?  An email thanking her for her purchase along with products that would complement her initial purchase would have made much more sense; and she would have appreciated the follow up and understanding of her needs.

Brands today face unprecedented challenges when it comes to creating and maintaining a holistic view of their customers across their marketing ecosystem. It seems that customer interaction points, particularly in the digital channel world, continue to multiply on a daily basis: email, social, mobile and more. Add in the pressure of today’s empowered customers expecting highly relevant and seamless communications when and where they want them, and the business goals of increasing the lifetime value of each customer, and it equates to an increasingly difficult environment in which brands must operate.  Finding, consolidating and analyzing data to achieve optimal customer interaction has never been further from us — and yet has never been so close. With a plethora of tools available, brands can reach their customers through emails, mobile devices, online profiles, loyalty programs, social media network profiles and more. What hasn’t been readily available is the ability to link these digital profiles together, reducing duplication in marketing databases, giving marketers a clear understanding of active and inactive customers, plus who is buying from them, where they are shopping and how they want to be interacted with.

The ability to aggregate and compile and integrate this kind of customer information to create customer identity profiles can be a profoundly difficult challenge. This isn’t about appending data; it’s about using the data a company already has, housed in multiple databases, and linking it all together through sophisticated matching algorithms that leverage a rich repository of referential data.

To make an integrated marketing strategy work, you need to be able to:

1. Validate contact data in real time, as it is entered online, in-store and over the phone

2. Create linkage of disparate identities and data sets, using merely a single piece of personally identifiable information for any customer

3. Enhance your data with a 360-degree view of your customers

4. Cleanse your data to remove duplicates or inaccurate information

5. Profile your best customers and understand how they want to be reached: mobile, email, catalog, social and more

6. Identify more customers like your best customers

Organizations can build this infrastructure in-house, however the process necessitates an investment in technology and resources. In addition, the ability to resolve identities is limited to the pieces of information that can be collected by the organization. One solution is to work with experienced Digital Strategists such as Grow Social Marketing.  We partner with your company to resolve your customer and prospect identities across mediums in accordance with your budget.  By doing so, your brand can create consistent and coordinated messaging strategies, understand the optimal path to purchase activities, maximize return on marketing investment and create “wow” experiences for customers.  And those are the experiences which get amplified through word-of-mouth (WOM.  That, my friends, is the best form of advertising to have in building your brand and reputation.

The ROI of Social Media

social media ROI funnel

As a Social Media Consultant, how to determine the ROI of Social Media is the #1 question that I get asked, from large, industry leading companies to small companies.  As a matter of fact, how to determine the ROI of social media is a topic of debate and contention, amongst business owners and marketers alike.  When asked this question, my answer is a resounding YES.  You can determine the ROI of your companies’ social media marketing efforts and here is how:

  1. Invest in a Social Media Management Platform.  Assuming your brand is set up in some or all of the top social media communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google , Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, you need to be measuring, monitoring and calculating your marketing efforts.  This is the first step in understanding and determining the ROI of social.  However, you need to take it a step further and understand how to analyze, interpret and report on data to senior management at your company.  Data doesn’t lie and with Senior Management at any company, being able to understand and interpret data while presenting will gain buy-in to your efforts. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
  2. Social Media Management Software Varies Widely in Price.  For big brands, my favorites are Hubspot, Radian6 and Webtrends.  These platforms are costly, so it only makes sense if your brand has a significant social media presence, CRM system and budget to support.  One of the key reasons why I love these platforms is the integration with your CRM platform. On the lower end of price, I recommend Hootsuite.  Hootsuite is awesome! I recommend signing up for the Pro plan instead of the free plan, which is $9.95/month and includes advanced analytics, apps and more social communities.  Investing in the right Social Media Management platform for your company is critical to understanding the ROI of Social Media.
  3. Understand How to Set-up, Analyze and Communicate Data with Google Analytics.  Google Analytics has overhauled their platform, integrating social monitoring into the mix.  Here is an example, let’s say you are conducting a Facebook Advertising campaign and you decide to do an A/B split. You set-up and run an advertising campaign with half of your budget to increase your Facebook “likes” and the other half to a landing page that you’ve set up on your website, specifically for this campaign.  Within your Google Analytics you can set up the Facebook campaign so you can measure and determine the ROI of the Like campaign vs. your websites” landing page campaign, as well as the lifecycle of site visitors after they leave your landing page and the time spent on your website.
  4. Utilize your Social Media Insights and Reporting analytics.  For the above example, Facebook has improved their Page Insights tool, to provide you with a deep understanding of the demographics that make up your target audience, fan base, “reach” and other statistics.
  5. Set-up and Implement KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and Benchmarks.  These should be set-up at the beginning of your campaigns, so you can analyze the before, during and after of your social media efforts.  KPIs should clearly link to the strategic objectives of your overall marketing strategy and therefore help monitor the campaign execution. Think of benchmarks as incremental goals that you aim to meet during your marketing campaigns. A benchmark example can be increasing your fan base by 10% or increasing your email newsletter signups by 15%, over a specific time period.  If you don’t set up KPIs and benchmarks at the beginning of your social marketing efforts, you won’t be able to measure and support the time that you are spending in the social media stratosphere to your manager.  Time is part of the ROI equation.
  6. Engaging Your Customers Across Multiple platforms Infuses Your Brand and Products into Your Potential Customer”s Life on a Regular Basis. Regularity leads to familiarity and therefore, comfort with a brand, product, or idea. Managed properly, this will drive lead generation, conversions, sales and ROI. A comprehensive strategy with a clear purpose will do just that. Moreover, by using the same branding message across multiple channels, you can create a more interactive experience for the consumer.
  7. Funnel Everything Said About your Brand Into One Message Directed at the Appropriate Audience Demographic for Your Company.  Depending on your style of campaign, you might not have the diversity in customers you were going for originally with a campaign spread across multiple advertising mediums, but your ROI will be greater, and your business will grow more efficiently into additional markets. And after all, isn’t growing your business what it is all about?
  8. Using the Above Techniques as well as the standard ROI equation calculation, you will be able to understand, interpret and communicate the ROI of your social marketing efforts.

Social Media Has Captured the World by Storm.  Social Media Marketing can be incredibly effective if properly managed; even more so than traditional marketing efforts.  However, it takes time, a thoughtful strategy and plan.

Don’t Worry About Being Behind the Curve in Understanding the Massive Value of Social Media.  According to a recent post by Inc.com, mid-sized businesses are suffering in the social media gap.  I.e., they are not integrating social media into their marketing strategies, nor do they have a well-thought out plan for how to engage, drive lead generation and sales through the social media stratosphere.  The various data this article discusses indicates that you and your company have about a three-year window to get ahead of your rivals in social media.

So what are you waiting for? Let’s get your business started!  Contact Grow Social Marketing today.

Don’t Be Anti-Social

Social media anti-social

In today”s day, it is no longer enough to be “active” in social media.  You must learn how to best engage your customers, both where and when they want to be engaged.  This means turning on its head what you”ve thought about social media in the past and rethinking your organization”s strategy.  With so many channels available, where do you start?  Should you sacrifice old media for Twitter? How do you get something to go viral?  What is Content Marketing? What”s all the buzz about Pinterest?  How can you run a Social Campaign?  Talk with Grow Social Marketing about where your business is at and where you want to go.  We take a consultative approach and will help you reconsider your strategy or validate your approach.  Contact us today for a complimentary initial consultation and let”s make a plan to grow and promote your business!

How and Why Your Professional Association Should Use Social Media

Why is it that with the majority of Professional Associations, it seems as if the clocks in the room have been turned back eight years since before the advent of social media?  Although there are always some savvy users of social media, the Associations themselves are usually using the same antiquated medium to promote themselves, both internally and externally: a pre-historic website and email newsletter blasts.

Yet these organizations exist to support, educate and provide resources for professionals in a particular industry or profession.

 I always say that social media is about the convergence of information and communication. Isn’t this the mission of every Professional Association: to inform their members and communicate regularly to increase the networking (and business) opportunities for their members? Then why don’t more Professional Associations embrace and strategically leverage all that social media has to offer, and in doing so also help increase Association membership while retaining existing members?

 The answer to this is that, based on my own experience, most Associations are either:

  • Managed by their own business or
  • Outsource their marketing and other management affairs to companies or firms that
    do not understand social media themselves.

For a primer on some easy ways that Professional Associations can maximize their social presence, here’s a list of six checklist items for your Association to confirm your current state in social media:

1. Create and Encourage Engagement in a Robust .

With a closed LinkedIn Group that is moderated and only open to Association members, you can achieve what you do at your in-person events, 24/7 online and without local boundaries. Many Associations have LinkedIn Groups but haven’t really encouraged engagement inside them. It is the perfect place to share information, generate discussions, and even share job openings that your company might have. If there is any social media website made for Associations, it is undoubtedly LinkedIn. Take advantage of it and leverage it as an important supplement for everything that your Association does at your in-person events.

There are so many ways your Association can create a thriving, active LinkedIn Group.  You can start discussions and promote your events – before, during and after in real time!  I belong to  several LinkedIn Groups however, I participate in less than five Groups.

A few reasons why:

  1. The best LinkedIn Group rules are stated up front.  For example, after recently joining a LinkedIn Group, I received a welcome email containing the Group rules:
    • “We encourage all members of the Cleveland Professionals LinkedIn Group to make the most of this Group. Post your thoughts, discussion, questions and the like which pertain to business development and networking.
    • “Posts that serve only to sell one”s services/products are not acceptable. Posts looking for jobs are not acceptable. Posts announcing job openings are not acceptable. Postings such as these will be delete and the poster may be blocked from the Group.”
    • “We apologize for this hard-line stance, but we strive to keep this Group as pure as possible, focusing on business development and networking.”

2. The Group discussions are really interesting!  Participating in Group discussions is a great way to network and meet like minded people within the Group. The Group moderators and members should pose discussions that are focused on all topics relative to the Group; encourage thought leadership and the sharing of ideas amongst the Group members.
3. The topics can be broad in nature, but always have the core focus of the Group in mind.

      • For example, a recent Group discussion from one of my favorite LinkedIn Groups, Search Engine Land, posed a great discussion relative to any Sales Employee: Should Sales Folks Use LinkedIn or Facebook Account or a Corporate Login?  The topic is relative to the core nature of the Group, and poses a question that Group members in a sales position must contend with in today’s digital marketplace.  This encourages an active discussion.
      • Good LinkedIn Groups ban “spammy” discussions.  i.e . Group members starting a discussion related to promoting a blog post they wrote, their company, products or services.

These same principles can be applied to any online business community, such as COSE, and through their online portal such as COSE Mindspring.com.

Another route would be to build your online community as part of an ecommerce “member only” marketplace your Association has created.

  •  Southwest Airlines is a great example of having a robust online travel community.  There are numerous conversations taking place in real time, giving members the opportunity of voice and the sharing of experiences.

2. Sharing Your Information with the World through Blogging

Sharing information encourages current members to keep informed as well as helps introduce your Association to potential new members through the power of your content. Instead of taking a walled garden approach to protecting your content to only be accessible to members, strategically summarize your internal information for the outside world to showcase your leadership within your industry and encourage others to join. Blogging has the additional benefit of aiding your professional Association’s website to ensure greater search engine optimization (SEO) benefits as well.

3. Social Media Promotion of Your Association Events

Obviously, social as a promotional channel is well known by most Associations. But how many Associations actually go through the hassle of not only creating a LinkedIn Event  and even a Facebook Event for each meeting they have; but also encouraging members to RSVP through these social media channels to help spread the word about the event? The viral nature of social media will only work for the benefit of your promotion if you get your members to spend a few seconds to actually RSVP in social media to help spread the word to their networks. For that reason, point #5 below regarding social media education is equally important.

4. Social Media Promotion During Your Association Events

Anyone who has gone to any professional event is probably familiar with the notion that there are always one or two people in the audience who are updating their Twitter followers through tweeting out quotes and other information shared at the event. Why aren’t more professional Associations proactively doing this? By sharing quotes, information, photos and even video from your events, it will go a long way to help promote your Association – and inform those members who couldn’t make it to the event. Even if you don’t use Twitter, you can do this from your social presence on other platforms.

5. Teach Your Association Members Social Media

Social is a tool that is beginning to permeate every discipline within an organization and transcend every industry that exists. Most Association members are asking their leadership for more information about social media because they need it for their own workplace. More importantly, teaching your members about social media will not only ensure that your Association members will become better equipped to handle social media-related issues at their own company, but it will also make them more willing participants in everything your Association does with regards to social media. It is the “secret sauce” that will ensure positive ROI in your social efforts – and a more satisfied and engaged community of Association members.

6. Rebrand Your Presence from an Analog, Static one to a Digital, Social One

Just as adopting social will undoubtedly change the culture of companies as they slowly evolve into a “social brand,” the same will happen to your professional Association. The information sharing and communication that occurs will become much more dynamic and social; and it will be evident in a very short time that your own branding on your digital properties needs to be revised to better reflect this.  Becoming a digital and truly social professional Association will require you to look and potentially revise many visual elements that are associated with your Association, including your website; as well as prompt you to include more social elements into your digital presence in a creative way to help further foster dialogue and community engagement.

What do you think? What are your thoughts and tips on building and maintaining a thriving LinkedIn Group?  I’d love to hear them below.

Advice From the Experts: Six Tips for Social Media Marketing Success

Social Media Training

Even the best B2B marketers and business owners can use a little advice—and new ideas—every now and then. With that in mind, we are sharing six secrets to social media marketing success:

  • Start with the Right Strategy
    Align with the goals of your department. That”s a good starting place. In most cases your department strategy should also align to a larger corporate strategy. We don”t want a communication strategy that is at odds with our service strategy.
  • Know Your Objectives
    Tie your social media activities to existing objectives, such as increasing online sales, driving web traffic or boosting attendance at your next webinar or offline event. Set a reasonable target, see what happens and use it as a benchmark for future campaigns.
  • Deliver Relevant Content
    Deliver the right content, at the right time, in the right channel to the right customer (or partner). Relevant content happens as a result of listening, thought leadership, Google insights, and community sentiment.
  • Develop Meaningful Relationships
    Use social media as a platform for developing relationships. Show your thought leadership by answering questions on LinkedIn and Quora—it could lead to new contacts and leads.
  • Integrate into Your Marketing Mix
    Don”t leave opportunities on the table; explore how you can extend your marketing effort by integrating social elements into your PR, events and customer support activities.
  • Measure What Matters
    Distill social media measurement down to core metrics that your company is already measuring that have history behind them. When you show what social media is or isn”t delivering there is a conversation that can take place.

Want more advice like this? Grow Social Marketing offers social media training sessions at your office, via Skype, online or phone.  Our expert presenters will provide your business with everything needed to get your brand vested in social media.  New ideas that you can implement immediately to improve your social communications—and bottom line results.

Contact Us today and let”s get started!