Is your blog a happiness machine?

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I came across this really cool advertising stunt by Coca-Cola. The marketing geniuses responsible for the event rigged a Coca-cola vending machine to gave out extra goodies to college students who put their hard earned college coinage into the machine.  Students who visited the machine got a bevy of freebees designed to make people smile: free bottles of Coke, a pizza, a bouquet of sunflowers, even a very large sub. Imagine if your blog, website or social media campaign followed this same format. Instead of just regurgitating the same stuff over and over, what if a blog or a website or a social media campaign gave you doses of happiness. Okay, you don’t have to spread happiness, but you should strive to make people feel something. Whether you make them laugh, cry or get angry, you are doing what the Coke Machine is doing. You are getting people to engage with your brand. When people come to your site, blog or Facebook page expecting the same-old stuff and you give them a dose of something more…. bonus! And what do you get in return? You get loyalty, readership, engagement and possibly one more person out there who likes you. It’s a simple yet powerful lesson, one that i will aspire to practice as a marketer. So what have you done to spread the good stuff around?

Intelligent brand marketing through press releases

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Intelligent brand marketing should get a boost through the introduction of real-time search results in the major search engines. Old marketing tactics such as press releases will gain a new lease on life especially if combined with a carefully planned social media campaign. And don’t think that press releases are only for big businesses either – any size business can gain a boost using a carefully crafted press release rich in relevant keywords.

If you follow these basic press release guides you should see an increase in search rankings.

  • Incorporate SEO fundamentals in the press release. This includes optimized titles, keywords and internal links to your own web pages
  • Publishing your press release on your own site with a prominent link to it on your home page
  • Having your press release distributed through a quality distribution agency or having it appear with a reputable news outlet
  • Tweeting links to your press release. Don’t limit this to the link on your own site. Tweet the links to other areas where the press release has been published. Search engines will follow that link.
  • Talk about your press release on any social pages you engage on

Press releases now have long shelf lives. They appear in search results months after their first publication and not only deliver new visitors to your site, they also provide SEO benefits.

Intelligent brand marketing is all about marketing your brand using multiple resources and platforms. The press release is one more tool that is worth considering especially now that real time search is making such inroads.

Social media connects us in troubled times

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Harrowing firsthand accounts of this weeks earthquake in Haiti weren’t  first delivered by Katie Couric or Anderson Cooper. Instead, locals and visitors like  hotel manager Richard Morse used social media sites to provide a glimpse into the devastation around them. According to CNN.com, Morse described the aftermath of the 7.5 earthquake via Twitter. Other Haitians communicated through text messages, Facebook, video chat, and even a popular local online entertainment program. As the reports began to roll in from the traditional media, social networking sites were already abuzz with information about where to donate and how to contact loved ones. We still rely on the big news outlets to bring us in-depth and hopefully honest coverage of the day’s important stories. Still, the power of average people giving a name and face to worldwide news can no longer be ignored, thanks in large part to social media.

This is not to say that one should substitute Myspace for, say, NPR in their news diet. Mainly, social networking sites stay true to their primary purpose of telling you where P. Diddy is eating a burrito and what bikini your high school class president chose to wear on her vacation.  Undoubtedly, silly tweets from reality stars and dancing hamster videos provide their own sort of escapist relief.  Therefore, the power of the message whether it be for news purposes or for entertainment can’t be ignored.

Harnessing this power for social media marketing is where it gets tricky. On one hand, social media is a quick and easy way to give customers updates on the latest happenings at your company. On the other hand, too many rambling infomercial like posts can quickly cause a “de-friending” epidemic. Using a first-hand style of reporting can be a perfect way to achieve balance.  Stories like Richard Morse’s are powerful because they belong to someone real. Nobody enjoys receiving messages that feel like they’ve been churned out by an anonymous robot. True passion, humor, and information are easier to convey when the person composing the posts has distinct language and unique thoughts. Conversely, an honest dialogue with clients opens the conversation for an equal exchange of ideas rather than just a cold, calculated advertisement. People don’t mind being sold things, but they want to be acknowledged and appreciated.

Social media continues to grow and change. The messages transmitted  by these sites truly run the gamut from poignant to mundane. And there are still many who argue that social media is little more than a creative way to kill time.  However, when sites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter are at their best, they are able to connect us to people we might not otherwise know, to give us a front row seat to world events, to make us laugh, and to slowly make our differences seem smaller.

NBC’s lessons on what not to do

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The train wreck in slow motion that is the NBC finally came to a head this week as Jay Leno’s prime time experiment was yanked from the network’s schedule. While the falling axe on Leno was known to be coming from media watchers for weeks, what happened next can only be described as shocking. In an effort to fill holes in their Swiss-cheese like schedule, The Peacock hoped to move Leno after the news in a half hour format while pushing the time slots of both the Tonight Show and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon back another half an hour. On Tuesday, Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien politely issued a “thanks, but no thanks” statement to the networks proposal. O’Brien stated that to toy with the Tonight Show name and reputation was a bad idea. NBC is back at square one and scrambling for yet another plan b.

This colossal mess, like most messes, contains some excellent lessons. For starters, O’Brien was dead on when he rejected a timeslot change for the Tonight Show. For forty years, The Tonight Show has occupied the same cozy little broadcast time located right after the news and right before bed. To change this would be dangerous especially for a network that seems to be coming closer to going out of business every day. Online marketing for small businesses can be put in the same predicament as NBC by toying with already successful strategies. If a strong emphasis has been placed on social networking to get the brand’s name out, for example, then it is vital to keep up with the schedule, staffing and budget issues be damned. In short, NBC attempted to violate the age old wisdom of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Also, the network stumbled by wrongly assuming that viewers wanted three hours of the same type of program. NBC stopped listening to their audience and stopped evolving. Time and time again in this climate we’ve seen businesses make the same mistakes with marketing. This can be avoided by branching out in new online marketing techniques that will help expand the brand while avoiding complacency.

Finally, the biggest lesson that NBC can teach businesses of all sizes is that a lack of identity can be fatal. Since the post-Friends era NBC has been struggling to find their own persoanlity. Are they the network known for sports? Are they the network known for cop shows at 10pm? Are they the home of more Jay Leno than anybody ever wanted? Who knows. And this is a big problem. Small companies without the giant corporate parachute that NBC has quickly disappear from the radar if they don’t truly know who they are. Constant care and creativity need to be utilized in order to secure a brand’s identity. Employing a “leave no stone unturned” philosophy while presenting a strong, consistent image gives consumers the message that your business is stable yet evolving to the client’s ever changing needs.

While there is little doubt that late night talk shows will go the way of the dinosaur any time soon, the rest of us can take NBC’s mistakes to heart and learn from them. Being too comfortable, too cocky or too confused in online marketing is a luxury most businesses just don’t have.

Best Supporting Blog

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While the rest of the planet scrapes ice from windshields and shovels snow off of driveways, the people of Los Angeles gear up for awards season. It is a special time of year where  the spirit of self congratulation sweeps nearly every industry in the city. Naturally, bloggers have gotten in on the act. Celebrating 10 years,  The Webblog Awards or “The Bloggies” as they are commonly known will announce nominations for the best blogs online later this month. The prestigious Pulitzer Prize committee will hand out an award for best online content for the second year in a row with many blogs in contention.  And for the first time ever, a film based on a book based on a blog, Julie and Julia has been nominated for several Golden Globes and seems like a sure-thing at The Academy Awards in February. The point is that well written blogs are gaining the recognition of television, film, and publishing. So what makes a blog truly award-worthy?

1.) A Fresh and Original Voice– In a radio world full of Britneys and Beyonces, standing apart from the pack like Lady Gaga helps an artist get noticed. The same thing goes for blogging. Granted composing your blog in fake blood while wearing mirror ball pants may not be the best idea, but creating content that isn’t simply regurgitated or rehashed from other sites will certainly get you noticed. The days of using a blog to simply link readers to stories from other sites are over. Today’s standout blogs have an individual perspective paired with one-of-a-kind content. Writing from your own perspective automatically sets your blog apart from the pack. Can’t seem to find your own voice? Try using a writer for your blog whose ideas and thoughts are a creative match made in heaven with your own.

2.) New and Cutting Edge Content – Talked about blogs like the Huffington Post have taught us that frequently updated blogs float to the top of the must read stack. Yet a blog doesn’t need a flock of writers and advertisers to stay current. Small businesses can beef up their blogs with daily videos, links, and personal twists on the day’s breaking stories.

3.) Catering to the Right Audience – Collecting the shiny awards and accolades means very little if no one reads your blog. Luckily, blockbuster audiences can be lured in with great keywords and specialized copy. Readers in search of a specific blog topic should be able to find their desired blog with little or no effort. Carefully chosen and used keywords can elevate a blog from the bottom of a search to the top. Specialized copy is another blog writing secret weapon that brings in the right readers. If a blog author is passionate about their topic, the audiences will come. In short, it doesn’t matter if you write about cats and drier lint. If there’s fire behind the copy, people will read and talk about it.

While awards season only lasts a few months here in Los Angeles, blogs live on forever. Using a few easy tricks, though, a blog can be memorable for all the right reasons and even award worthy.

Using social media as a business idea incubator

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Social media has a lot of uses – it can also be a time drain if your not careful. In the past, before the internet came along, if we had a business idea we would run it past our friends and families. Of course many of them would rubbish the idea, others would come up with useless suggestions, and just occasionally, you would win a lot of support and a wealth of positive suggestions.

The internet has extended our circle of family and friends. If you have a business idea you may want to use social media as incubator for your idea.  What can social media do for your idea?

Problem solving – forums can be great places to discuss business ideas. Other business owners never hesitate to offer advice particularly when it comes to the pitfalls that need to be avoided.

Product ideas – sites like Facebook and Myspace can be used to discuss products with a wider audience. People are always willing to provide opinions on what they like and what they dislike. Colors, prices, distribution methods – these can all be discussed. You can even also take advantage of polls to gain feedback.

Blogs – blogs have been around for a long time now and once you have a reasonable flow of traffic you can utilize  opinions of your readers to develop your ideas. But be clear of your expectations; make sure to ask your readers what they think and to respond.

Using social media to incubate ideas prior to a launch can be an effective and affordable way to get market research. Once you have people talking about your business, they will be eager to test the waters once you launch your business, or if it’s a new product, once the product has been launched. Incubating a business idea through social media could be the first step to a successful social media marketing campaign.

The online brand building wheel.

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If you’re a savvy digital marketer, it’s not enough to have a great website. That’s a given. The name of the game today is expanding your reach beyond your main site. If you start to think of your main site as a hub, and other digital assets like Facebook fan pages, blogs, email campaigns, etc. as spokes or offshoots from the hub, then you’re on the right track. Like a spoke, the additional digital property should be robust enough to support the hub, or your main site. The more spokes you have, the more marketing muscle. If you think of it, digital assets like Facebook and Twitter can cross-over in many areas thus offering a double-whammie. For example, you can automatically send your tweets to your Facebook fan site to keep your fans in the loop. You can also take content like blog entries and post them on your facebook site. In effect, your spokes are can and should cross each other to add support to your hub. Why do this? Here are a couple of reasons:

1) Multiple Entry Points. Some people are on Facebook all day long and consider Twitter a waste of time. The converse is true too. So why limit yourself to one or the other? By spreading your content across multiple platforms, you make it easier for people to interact with your brand.

2) Spreadable Content. If you have a great blog post, why not share it with your closest followers on Twitter or Facebook. Be careful though, you don’t want to bombard your friends with shameless self promotion. As long as your content is good enough, people will be open to a link to your blog. So spread away.

3) Cross-Promote. Let’s say you just created a great YouTube video about the latest widget your company just created on a shoe string budget. Why just use the YouTube platform to promote it? Announcing your opus on Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc., may expose your video to an entirely new audience that would have never come across it. It’s a no brainer.

Having your content spread across multiple platforms can help SEO and can make it easier for people to find you. It can also establish a lasting digital footprint across the web and on search engines. As long as you are creating killer content, why not roll it out in more than one way. Get it? Roll it out. Wheel. Never mind.

Live blogging media of choice for timely news

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Yesterday the Google Android phone, named Google Nexus One, was unveiled to a drooling public. In the days of yore, a press conference would be the only way to get the skinny on new products and services, or, at a trade show. But in the age of the intertubes, anyone can get up-to-date information by tuning into any number of online outlets. Many of us who were following the event chose to check out live blogging sites. Live blogging is the process of taking notes, photos, audio recordings, video etc., at an event and quickly posting it up to your blog as the event unfolds. Many companies hire blog content writers or reporters to do this for them so they can focus on the event. Some examples of live blogging are the Matt Cutts live blog and the one I followed on TechCrunch. Live blogging can be a great way to widen your audience when unveiling a new product or service or when your company is having an event. If you want to get really fancy, consider doing a live video-stream so that you can point a camera at your event and broadcast it across the world instantly. Live video-streaming can be costly, because you have to have massive server space and there are technical issues when streaming live data. In fact, I was viewing a live stream (I won’t mention the name here) of the Nexus One event and it went down due pressure put on the server. But live blogging costs nothing but time and having someone who can type fast and report on the event in an interesting way. Live blogging is a great solution for any size company looking to shine the spotlight on new wares or services. Have you ever used live blogging to report on your company events?