All posts in “Social Media Fundamentals”

Webinar: Content Marketing That Works: Just-in-Time Vs. Planned

Join Maggie Fox on April 2nd at 12pm EST / 9am PST for an exclusive webinar  from Social Media Today titled Content Marketing That Works: Just-in-Time Vs. Planned.

You’ve heard that “content is king,” but you know that really, content needs to be both compelling and timely to earn its crown. What types of content fit that criteria as relates to your brand, and how do you go about getting ahold of it? Next, how does content alone become a successful marketing campaign?

Join us we dive into the nuances and best practices of content marketing in this webinar. We’ll look at how effective content gets developed and what works – or doesn’t – for various brands, as well as how to capitalize on real-time events with appropriate content, as brands like OREO were able to do within minutes during the Super Bowl blackout. We’ll discuss case studies on Tide and Hallmark, and much more:

  • Is your brand right for content marketing?
  • What expectations should you have for a content marketing campaign?
  • How do you resource an effective campaign?
  • How do you make sure your content stays consistent with your branding?
  • What are the best tools for different types of contents, and where are your customers going to consume your content?

Interested in joining the discussion? Register HERE!

Identity Theft…The Social Media Element

Wangari Kamande is a Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

I recently watched the movie “Identity Theft” with Jason Bateman and one of my favourite funny ladies Melissa McCarthy. It’s quite humorous and at times you forget the pain that the victim of identity theft is going through; threatened job loss,  financial loss and wasted time just to name a few. As I was watching the movie, I thought to myself, how frequently does this happen? What puts one at risk of identity theft aside from being gullible enough to give all your information to a random caller on the phone as Bateman’s character does?

So I started to look at some statistics surrounding this crime and here is what I found:

  • According to the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic in 2005 there were approximately 11,000 cases of identity theft in Canada alone leading to $9,000,000 in lost funds, these numbers continues to grow
  • In the US Javelin Strategy & Research found that in 2011, 11.6 million adults became victims of identity fraud
  • found that 65% of users do not set high privacy security settings in their social networking sites and 40% of respondents share their home address on these sites
  • Less than 10% of users review a website’s privacy policy before engaging in use

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Identity theft is growing and social media is said to be powering the rise of this crime. In fact, social networking sites are fertile ground for identity theft as they are built around self- selected networks of friends and colleagues; as such people tend to be more trusting of communication through the sites thereby putting themselves at greater risk of getting scammed. Below are some ways you can protect yourself, while these may not get you covered 100% of the time; they will make you a difficult target.

  1. Ensure your privacy security settings in your social networking sites are set so that you can share information with only people you choose
  2. Choose a password that cannot be easily deciphered, use numbers and a mix of capital and small letters
  3. Avoid sharing a lot of personal information on your social media profiles e.g. complete date of birth, address, phone number etc
  4. Install and update antivirus software to maximize protection against malware that is used for identity theft
  5. Ensure that your wireless  network connection is secure to avoid exposing personal information transmitted on the network
  6. Do not save your passwords on work or public computers. Many social media sites have the “remember my password” section selected by default, un-check that box
  7. Do not click on email links sent to you from your social media provider; instead go directly to the website to verify information. New and successful social media scams create emails that are tailor made to look like they are directly from a social media provider
  8. Unless you are willing to thoroughly review the terms and conditions of online applications and sites, avoid using them if they require access to your personal information

Given that we are in the digital age, how are you guarding yourself from identity theft?


Relevant Resources:

Identity Theft Quizzes

Personal Information Online: How Much is Too Much?

The Shared Experience: Live TV and Social Media


Ruth is the Director of Business Development at Social Media Group. You can follow her @rutbas.

Our family recently moved into a new house. My husband was lobbying hard to “lose the cable”. It would have been cheaper, but I resisted. You never know what’s going to happen I said. I may have felt differently if we had a fancy new TV set… but I’m still working with the TV we got when we first set up house, way back in the 90’s, so I held firm. I just suspected that there would be times when only live TV would do.

These last few weeks have been such a time.

We have all have snuggled around the TV to discuss the merits of Presidential candidates, marvel at how vulnerable “life as we know it” is with the onslaught of Sandy, and generally counted on the cast of characters across all the networks to guide us through the build up to election night. I still love that CNN map. And did you see Letterman do his show on the night of Sandy? I found it hilarious, and poignant all at once. OK, granted, I saw it on YouTube after the fact (Check it out)… but I love that Letterman went live with the show.

And nothing beats seeing those election results come in live. Loved it when Peter Mansbridge held up cue cards because the “number machine” was acting up, and was presenting everything backwards…

Granted, at any one time, all of my family members supplement live television viewing with various devices. It was very entertaining to watch the last set of Presidential debates while following Twitter. I’d never done that before, and I get the appeal. When Sandy hit I could track power outages via the Toronto Hydro Web site on my phone, and feel very on top of things. But the main event for us was still on that little box in the living room.

While we continue to have our shared experience with respect to media, around the television screen, families like ours are supplementing the experience with those various tweets, posts and conversations that clearly expand the “shared experience” outside of the household. My husband got thousands of views for one of his election posts one night. Sometimes, it’s just weird. It’s like we’re having this shared experience, and publishing it to the world at the same time. Or something like that. I hardly know what to call the emerging model- but I suspect it’s the new normal.

Check out the info-graphic below,  “TV Goes Social: The Rise of the Second Screen”  to see how radically our TV viewing habits are changing…  and integrating into the social media experience, whether watching the live version or canned version.

What has the experience in your household been in the last few weeks with regards to live TV viewing and social media?


Your Kids and their Digital Footprints: Take Control and Start Early!

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

How early should you start worrying about your kids’ digital footprint?

I think now is probably good.

As long time practitioners in the Internet space, both my husband and I started talking to our kids pretty early about how to handle themselves online. I have personally never been big on posting a lot of information about my kids, so there is theoretically not a lot out there now… but the kids are getting older, and are participating in the online environment in a very active way. It’s actually pretty sobering to think of how much of their young lives are supported by online activity.

From accessing calendars and assignments at school, playing games, homework research, movie watching and hours of YouTube fun, keeping in touch with friends and family… my kids are very much living a portion of their lives online. And they haven’t really started to engage in social media yet. That’s coming. My son came home the other day and said he wanted to set up a server for himself and some of his friends so that they could play an online game together in a closed network. He just turned 12.

This has suddenly become serious stuff, and I have started to look around at best practices, and guidelines for working with your children to not only ensure personal safety, but to also make sure that they learn how to be in control (as much as this is possible) over how their activities and profiles are portrayed online.

I also want my children to be able to maintain some semblance of personal privacy, and have some inkling as to how one might go about pursuing that objective, in an online world stacked against it.

Below you’ll find some of the articles and resources I’ve started collecting. Enjoy! And let me know if you have found anything particularly useful out there on this important topic.

Good Overview Resources on Topic

9 Tips for Managing Your Child’s Social Media Presence I really like this practical overview of sensible steps to take to help your kids establish a social media presence that they can have active management of from day one. This article aligns the closest to the approach we’re trying to take in our household.

“Kids and Tech: Parenting Tips for a Digital Age” Great interview with author Scott Steinberg, providing grounded, practical advice.

3 Ways to Keep Tabs of Your Kids Online Very hands on, for parents who want to take a more active approach to monitoring your teen’s activities on a variety of different devices.

Social Media, Social Life: How Teens View Their Digital Lives (this is a study). Look at the infographic,  or Download report from Common Sense Media. It’s a  good baseline look at teens behavior in a social media context in the US.

And finally, some solid advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the scary issue of “sexting”, and talking to your kids about it: Talking to Your Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting

How Is Your Personal Brand Doing In Social Media?

As personal branding continues to become increasingly important, so does the need to use new strategies and techniques such as leveraging social media tools to build your brand.

A social recruiting survey report published in July 2012 by jobvite, which is said to have become an industry benchmark, found that:

  • 92% of recruiters use social media for recruiting
  • 66% of recruiters are now using Facebook for their talent hunt
  • 55% of recruiters are now using Twitter for their talent search (watch what you tweet!)
  • 43% of recruiters who use social recruiting saw an increase in candidate quality
  • 73% have hired a candidate through social
  • 31% of recruiters using social have seen a sustained increase in employee referrals (reflective of the sharability of information via social channels – employees get to tell their friends when their company is hiring)

Ignoring social media as an extension of your personal brand is likely to limit the opportunities available to you. So, how do you create an impressionable personal brand that will put you in favour with those who may be poking around your social profiles validating if you are the right one for the job?

Branding Your Social Media Presence

In a recent interview on blogtalk radio entitled ”Polishing Your Personal Brand”, Joellyn Sargent pointed out that to create an engaging personal brand, the following should be considered:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you want to be
  3. How you see yourself
  4. What you want people to see
  5. What others perceive (how they receive your message)
  6. What they believe (what resonates, or sticks from your message.

What this really boils down to is two very important questions – What you are passionate about? and What makes you unique?

Tips to Build A Healthy Personal Brand in Social

At Social Media Group, part of the work we do is help to create social media guidelines for companies and their employees so that they can avoid or manage the reputational risk that comes with social media blunders. Your personal brand is not immune to this risk; here are some tips that can help you build a healthy personal social media brand presence:

  1. Create a strong tag line that represents your passion and what makes you unique
  2. Share interesting and engaging content that largely aligns with your audience
  3. Be careful with your language and tone and refrain from sharing your personal business (e.g., negative information about your employer—the internet does not forget, so keep it clean!)
  4. Pay attention to other people in your social community and engage with them on their profiles, this way they are likely to reciprocate and engage with you on yours
  5. Connect with groups, companies, people that  align with your passion and interests
  6. Keep your social profiles updated: your resume should match your LinkedIn profile as much as possible, the additional recommendations from teams you have worked with and managers that you worked for are a good edge
  7. Share your personality and not your privacy – keep personal details to a minimum to avoid identification theft

How has personal branding in social media impacted your career?

The Joy Of Discovery: A Good Starting Point in Planning Social Media Strategy

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

I come across a lot of business owners and marketers who are wondering how to tackle social media. I spoke last week to a group of women business owners at the Go for The Greens Business Development Conference at Walt Disney World last week, and next week I’m talking to a group of SME’s at The Financial Executives International Conference, “Leading Economic Growth” next week in Toronto. What I hear, is that while most companies instinctively know that they need to address social media in some way, it is still hard to know where to start.

In the immediate term, social media may or may not have an important impact on your business. It’s when you start looking at long term trends, and at the deep impact that social media is having on our fundamental communications infrastructure, that you start realizing that love it or hate it, you cannot ignore potential depth of social media on the way your clients and customers are going to live in the future, and interact with your business.

This is the place to start. Take the time to figure out how social media could potentially impact your clients and customers, as they connect and interact with your brand, products and services. How can you leverage this social interaction to move your business objectives forward?

We call this process “Discovery”. During our Discovery sessions with clients, we go through a number of exercises to look at this problem from a variety of perspectives- but one of the exercises I love the most, is called an “environmental scan”, where we go look at how the future could impact the client’s business, from a variety of different perspectives (demographic, technological, regulatory etc.). Discovery has become a key part of our planning process.

A 2012 comScore report, “Canada Digital Future in Focus” states “Social is quickly moving from a supporting role to a key pillar in monetizing digital.” It sounds like a platitude, until you start looking at the numbers.

According to the research in the report, Canadians on the whole spend an average 45 hours of time online a month, and lead the world in online engagement. Time spent on social networking has now surpassed the time spent on any other category of activity online. If you look at younger demographics, the 18-24 age range, you can see the strongest surge of time spent on social media quarter over quarter. Viewers under 35 also account for 57% of all videos viewed online. Smart phone penetration has reached 45 percent of the Canadian market.  If you’re not familiar with the report, I urge you to download it, and take a quick browse through.

The pace of change is wild. As a business owner or marketer, where do you start?

At the moment, according to a recent US based survey on “Social Software and Big Data Analytics in Business” by Mzinga, Teradata Aster, and The Center for Complexity in Business on how companies are using social media, 64% of companies are using it for marketing/brand experience, 47% for customer experience/service/support, 39% for employee collaboration and 27% for sales.

Those areas are likely baseline areas to get right first, and to use as a starting point to develop meaningful measures of success, that map to your business, and to your strategic business objectives.

In the same survey, 77% of companies said that they currently DO NOT measure the ROI of their social media programs, and 49% say they are not using social media to its full potential.

We are all only at the very beginning of all this. Engage in the “Joy of Discovery”, to make a sensible and manageable start to tackling long term planning, and determe what measures of success are going to be right for the future of your business. It’s a challenge for all organizations to determine what level of investment in social media is appropriate, but the question is no longer a “should I”, but is moving to a “how should I”.

Social Media and the Small Business: Heaven or Hell? (…and 5 tips to make it easier to cope!)

Ruth Bastedo is Director, Business Development at Social Media Group. Follow @rutbas

Last week, I was up in the Muskoka region, which around these parts is affectionately known as “cottage country”, talking to a sold out group of women business owners in the region. The event was organized by the Mukoka YWCA’s Women in Business program, and the topic was “Strategies for Success”- based on an article I did last March for the Globe and Mail on women entrepreneurs, “Ten Strategies for Achieving Success as an Entrepreneur“.

It was a fabulous evening, and it was great to get to know the group of 60+ women business owners, all of whom were keenly looking for ways to build and market their businesses in a smaller community.

The talk was not on social media. It wasn’t really about marketing. It was about how business owners set goals for success and put together the support structure required to reach them- but “dealing with social media” turned out to be a hot topic. I am always struck in these types of situations by the love/hate relationship that small business owners have with digital marketing in general, and social media as a sub-section of that.

Digital marketing is a necessity for all small businesses. Period. You ignore it at your peril. But many, many business owners (and I would put myself in that bucket, in my time as a business owner) have a huge challenge finding the time, resources, workflow and strategy to make it truly effective. Let’s face it, it can be a grind. That’s the hell part. And then all you feel is guilt for ignoring what you know can be an incredibly powerful, game changing exercise.

BUT, it doesn’t have to be this way. Really. It can be heavenly.

It took me a long time to find my groove in the social media space, and I’ve been in digital communications for 15 years. This is hard stuff to get your head around, but if you tweak your approach, and find that magic combination of channels, content, tools and workflow. It can be very easy to execute, and incorporate into a daily routine. Once I hit that right combination, I started seeing results immediately. My social media world is aligned, and for now, does what I need it to do.

Looking at this task from an non-marketer’s perspective, here are 5 tips that I think would be of huge benefit to any small business owner, looking to get a handle on “this social media thing”, with a minimum amount of pain.

1. Access “Social Media 101” content. There’s a ton of it around. One recent post that I thought was a good solid, up to date overview of the major channels is “Social Media 101: Getting Started on the Top Social Networks”. Pick one or two as a starting point for your company. It’s likely going to be Twitter and Faceboook, for consumer oriented companies, and Twitter and LinkedIn for business oriented companies.

2. Determine your marketing objectives. Do you want sales leads? Brand awareness? Do you want to reach out to your customers, and get them to refer other customers to you? Is your marketing effort local, regional or national? It could even be international. Be clear on what you’d like to get out of this time you invest in social media. How can social media integrate or support what you are already doing on the marketing front. Look at models out there that reflect your objectives.

3. Be clear about your target audience. Who are these people? What information is going to be most relevant to them? How are they going to use and engage in social media? In order to engage with your audience in a meaningful way, try making a list of all the ways your content can add value to their lives. This list should guide you in developing value add content.

4. Develop what we call a “content strategy”. This is developing a mechanism to create, curate, source or simply pass on content that is going to be relevant to your clients and customers. People are more likely to “follow” you if you are providing thoughtful content that is going to add value to them. You have to figure out where to find this content, and how often you are going to “share” it with them. Quite often, we develop “editorial” or “conversation” calendars ahead of time, so you know what themes you are going to focus on every week. Download the Social Media Group White Paper on Content Marketing for a good introduction.

5. Find a tool that works for you. There are lots out there, but a good tool makes all the difference in the world. A couple of months ago, I started using a tool from a local company called Get Elevate, which makes it easy to find content, curate it, and send it out via Twitter. There are some good lists out there- here’s the type of thing you should be looking for: 50 Mostly Free Social Media Tools You Can’t Live Without in 2012. Find something that you find intuitive, and easy for you and your staff to use, and that lines up to your marketing objectives.

As a small business, keep your scope small and focused, and before diving in, be clear on what you want to achieve with your social media investment. Test as you go… at least for the first little while. Get help if you have to, professional or otherwise- but social media can be a very valuable part of any marketing plan, but you have to at some point, just start somewhere.

Paid, Earned and Owned Are Dead

It’s absolutely perfect timing for this blog post (which I’ve been thinking about for the last month or so), hot on the heels of Altimeter Group’s report, released this week, titled, The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Will Combine Paid, Earned and Owned Media. It’s a great report that identifies and speaks to a trend we first saw emerge in 2009: the fact that multiple channels and multiple sources of content inevitably bring cross-pollination, which is an operational problem for most marketing and communications organizations (while you can download our recent whitepaper on the subject, we’ve been speaking and writing about this topic since 2010, here’s a post that references much of our own past thinking around the challenges of convergence in paid, earned and owned media, as well as a link to a whitepaper on the same subject we co-authored with Digg in early 2010). I strongly suggest you read the Altimeter report – Social Media Group will be contributing case studies from our own client work to Altimeter as they support their new research into this topic on the speaking circuit this Fall.

So what do I mean by “Paid, Earned and Owned are Dead”? Simply: the distinctions we have made about content based on its origins and delivery methods are rapidly becoming meaningless. As our own public communications channels have multiplied and diversified in ways unimaginable just ten years ago, so do our forms of content. I’ll give you a real-world example (click on the links to see the actual activity illustrating my point):

Company A creates and  publishes an original article on the paid Forbes AdVoice platform. The article is shared by employees of Company A via their personal Twitter accounts. The Twitter followers of those employees, who have no affiliation with Company A, start to share the content as well on multiple channels.

Is that original article paid, earned or owned? The answer is, confusingly, yes (it’s all of those things).

That’s what I mean by my somewhat controversial headline – we need to stop thinking about content (and channels) by our old, singular, labels (paid = mass advertising, earned = PR, owned = your website) and recognize that there are absolutely no boundaries between these types of content. In fact, what we’re looking at is a flexible, fluid publishing and sharing continuum; how the original work was created does not define it. Instead, what matters most is what happens to that content once it’s released. I would argue that our new set of labels should be about quality/interactions, rather than source, and that what content is can’t be defined until someone has engaged with it (or not). Ideally, a piece of content, like the Forbes AdVoice example used earlier, could be all (or most) of these things, though in no particular order: owned by origin, paid to scale, earned because of its quality.

This reminds me of a concept I spoke about first at the Society for New Communications Research Annual Symposium a few years ago, and which was covered not long afterwards by the Financial Post: as marketers, as communicators, you need to focus on one simple thing: and that is making your content (your messages) good enough to steal. What your content gets labelled as afterwards will tell you just how well you did.

[More on how to leverage paid media to scale and hypercharge earned media]

Dealing with the “Unfriend”, “Unfollow” & “Unlike” Factor

Wangari Kamande is Research Analyst at Social Media Group.

Lately, I have read status updates or heard friends say to me “I am going to ‘unfriend’ all these Facebook friends that I don’t really know or care about” or “I am tired of reading status updates that have no meaning or value for me.” This one was on one of my good friend’s status updates on Friday “…just spent the last 30 minutes “unfriend-ing” people from my Facebook & will continue doing so this weekend…I was getting tired of all the stupid status updates…The line had to be drawn somewhere :).” This sentiment also holds true with “un-liking” brands.

According to a recent study by NM Incite, the top reason cited for friend-ing someone on Facebook is not surprising – it’s knowing them in real life (82%). The same applies for brands – people “like” Facebook pages of brands they are aware of. On the other hand, offensive comments are the main reason for unfriend-ing (55%). According to the study, here are a few things you might be doing that will leave you wondering if the apocalypse happened and captured all your social media connections: updating too often, updating less frequently, lack of originality, too many salesy posts, irrelevant, posting repetitive and boring content, just to name a few.

The study further indicates that men are more likely to use social media for careers/networking and dating while women use social media as a creative outlet, to get coupons/ promos or to give positive feedback.


Source: NM Incite


So, this begs the question, how do we manage the number of social media ‘break ups’? I use the word “manage” because, truth be told, not all people will stick with you – in fact, an interesting statistic I recall hearing on TV went something like “25% of the people you meet won´t like you and never will; 25% won´t like you, but could be persuaded to; 25% will like you, but could be persuaded not to; and 25% will like you and stand by you no matter what.” With that in mind, how can we create a positively magnetic relationship and level of engagement with the people we value in social channels?

Whether this is for your personal brand, a.k.a. “YOU”, or a company brand, the following thoughts run true and are useful in getting you plugged in with those in your sphere of interest.

1. Who is your social audience?

While your entire target audience might not be actively engaged in social media, identify what your sub-targets and potentials are and determine their demographics, the social media channels they use and their interests. This can be achieved through a combination of some secondary research and if you want to really get to the core of your audience’s interests in social, performing a conversation scan using social media listening tools will provide you with a good picture of what is going on within your sphere of interest. Well-armed with the “who” you are looking to connect with, you can move on to the next step.

2. What is your brand’s intended social experience?

Determine the purpose that each social media channel will serve in reaching your audience. Along with that comes the underlying values of the brand, your brand’s voice—remember, social media is for sharing and engaging with others. Determine if your brand will be funny, serious or provocative. Overall, the motivations behind your social presence will be evident soon enough. If they serve the interest of your audience you will have a loyal following.

3. Win with your execution

Now that you have your audience and your social experience down pat, the content needs to captivate and match your audience needs. There are many articles that have been written on creating effective content, including on this blog. Do your research and package your brand with interesting content that will set up your social community for success.  A conversation calendar that is reviewed through the lens of the two steps above will help you get organized and ensure that you’re consistent and focused in your communication.

Keep in mind the best listeners make the best conversationalists. If you are looking to create and maintain a growing, fresh community in social media, you need to establish a listening framework to monitor your audience  and hopefully draw insights that would feed back into your social media strategy execution.


Digital Governance: You're Doing it Wrong

gov·ern·ance/ˈgəvərnəns/ Noun: 1. The action or manner of governing. 2. Sway; control.

But here’s the thing: it’s not really about control. It’s about persuasion, especially within large organizations, and especially as it relates to social media. With free platforms available in the cloud, all your people need is an Internet connection and a laptop to set up half a dozen accounts and add their voices to the proliferation of off-brand messaging screaming out on the web.

In other words, digital governance is often all carrot, no stick – you really can’t get people to do what you want, unless they want to.

So how do you?

1. Make it easy. Governance should be about creating an environment (that means tools, guidelines, resources, assets and a clear plan) that makes it really hard, almost foolish, to go off course. Clear the path and people will likely walk on it.

2. Think about why people are “going rogue”. I get that it’s bad, I get that it wastes resources and exposes the organization to risk. But the first question you need to ask yourself before issuing the big clampdown is, “Why?” Is there a problem with your infrastructure that makes creating social programs difficult? Is there not enough guidance? If you think you have set a clear path, but people are still not walking on it, you need to find out what’s in the way.

3. Culture eats strategy. This is now officially a cliche. It’s also true. Do you have an organizational culture that likes rules, or likes to break them? Have you truly gotten everyone on board who needs to be there? Are they on the path with you, or are you a lone voice, crying in the wilderness?

Trouble with digital governance? I challenge you think about how you’re approaching it; you can’t just issue a set of rules and expect people to follow them, especially if the rules don’t take their reality into account. Get curious.

I’d love to hear about your governance challenges in the comments below.