Mobile Marketing for the Masses

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With all this snore-inducing iAd talk and endless battles for smart phone ad space, it’s easy to get discouraged by the prospect of mobile marketing. After all, it looks expensive, time consuming and not very effective. Many people pooh-pooh the whole notion and move on. Well, Negative Nancy, mobile marketing is something small businesses can do without loads of money, time or stress. And the secret weapon for you, my small-business-owning friend, is plain old SMS text messages.

As it turns out , SMS could be the next big old/new thing in mobile marketing because of its effectiveness and affordability. Primarily used by companies for sweepstakes or one-time deals, SMS marketing is ready for new innovations from small business. Pulling from your already massive client contact resources, text can be used to simply reach out. After all, studies prove that most people are more apt to answer a text than they are an e-mail or call. Personalized SMS messages like “Hey Claudia! We got some new jeans in that you would love,” or “Alex, we haven’t seen you in forever! Mention this text and receive 20% off of your next order” are great ways to use text to invite folks back into your business. I recently listened with a bit of jealousy to friends talking about a chic Santa Monica bakery that sends out text messages to let clients know about special cookie tastings.

Why not take it a step further? A friend of mine in the art supply business recently created a text and photo treasure hunt for loyal customers. Folks on the e-mail and phone list received a list of things to look for and snap pictures of. The winner received a $100 gift certificate while the promotion itself ended up in local papers. SMS also is a great addition to Facebook pages when it comes to promoting special events like store openings or parties. Texting clients with deep pockets or fabulous entourages to remind them of your event is another personalized way to reach out to special audiences. And why should the big guys get to have all the fun with contests? Anybody can run a text-based giveaway using trivia or rapid response. Engage your customers in a battle of the wits or text savvy with a DIY contest that promotes your awesome goods and services.

Right or wrong, we live in times where all of us are constantly checking our phones. As marketers, we’d be foolish to not try a homespun version of mobile marketing that reaches our clients where we know they’ll always pick up.

The 5 Things You Might Have Missed List

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Ah, long holiday weekends. You eat a few hot dogs. You watch some stuff explode in the sky. You completely shut your brain off from all things business. Then you return to your desk and – wham! All sorts of online marketing and social media headlines have piled up faster than bad Nike World Cup commercials. Friends, have no fear: Brandsplat is here. We’ve sifted through the mother load of media and marketing headlines and put the gold nuggets in a new weekly feature entitled The 5 Things You Might Have Missed List. So without any further ado, let’s get to it.

1.) Time Magazine’s Best Blogs of 2010 A list on top of a list? Insanity, you say? Under normal circumstances, perhaps, but Time’s article is so worth a read, I’ll risk being called crazy. This comprehensive list covers the merits of Gawker to Ebert to ZenHabits and beyond. It is an inspirational push for blogs big and small to stay relevant, well-written and timely.

2.) A Major Plug For Social Media Marketing: The latest ringing endorsement came from everybody’s favorite paper to read on the airplane, USA Today. Sure, snicker at USA Today’s goofy pie charts and tame celeb interviews, but the paper remains the most read daily in the country so an article on social media is big stuff. Columnist Steve Strauss outlines the hows and whys of social media marketing and its importance to small business. Strauss emphasizes that social media isn’t going anywhere and gives tips on how to make the most of it.

3.) iPhone 4 Update: Right here in this little blog, we had some harsh words about how Steve Jobs & Co. handled the PR for faulty iPhone 4s. Now, we don’t want to take all the credit, but mere hours after we posted our critique, this little story emerged. Apple now will be fixing the antenna issue. It’s still a band-aid for perhaps a larger problem, but Apple did make an effort”¦ which is better than its previous response. So no hard feelings, Steve-O.

4.) Playgrounds Go KaBoom!: Nothing blowing up here except community involvement, thanks in large part to social media. KaBoom is a non-profit that helps build clean and safe playgrounds for kids across the country. With the help of Twitter and Facebook, the organization whipped up some 200 volunteers last week to build a playground in Wilmington, N.C. KaBoom operates nearly entirely through online marketing and word of mouth. Even Michelle Obama rolled up her sleeves with KaBoom last year in San Francisco. And we think that’s pretty awesome.

5.) Starburst’s Musical Mash-ups: To promote its “juicy contradiction” tag-line, Starburst has teamed up with Billboard to present a series of web videos featuring artists performing songs you might not expect. Seen on YouTube, the Starburst site and, of course, the brand’s Facebook page, these performances are a fun way to promote the candy as well as good time killers. See Neon Trees covering Justin Beiber (no, really!) for further evidence.

Okay readers, your turn: What’s on your hot list these days? Holler in the comments section underneath.

Candy-coated Kindness

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We at Brandsplat like to applaud brands of all sizes that do nice stuff for people while rocking social media marketing and online branding. So when we learned about the Skittles Mob the Rainbow campaign, we had to do a little investigating. Skittles, a product of M&M/Mars Inc., has undergone the same hip makeover as many of the company’s other products. “Taste the Rainbow” long has been the brand’s tagline; over the years, it has taken on many interpretations, from silly to surreal to strange.

Mob the Rainbow is a twist on the classic tagline featuring a call to action for Skittles fans. Although it is executed with a heavy dose of ha-ha and snark, the real power of the campaign is its underlying sincerity. Skittles launched its Facebook fans into action to help a nice guy named James. James, from Anderson, Ind., needed money to attend a college for bowling industry management. (Yes, such a thing actually exists.) James needed to get his fancy bowling degree to get one step closer to his dream of one day opening his own bowling center. His story is the kind of thing big-city folk could laugh at (and, to be fair, Skittles has fun gently ribbing the guy in the campaign’s web videos). Yet the brand ultimately delivers.

The plan was simple. Skittles asked for 100,000 likes on its Mob the Rainbow Facebook page. After reaching the goal, Skittles delivered a check for $10,000 to James. Using social media to get the word out (Skittles posted campaign videos on Facebook and YouTube) is nothing short of genius. Plus it’s the kind of story that people want to hear. Watch the video here and just try to resist smiling. I dare you. This venture accomplished a little goodwill while staying true to the brand’s tongue-in-cheek marketing tone already established.

Previous Mob the Rainbow campaigns involved sending valentines to a beleaguered parking enforcement attendant and a user-created poll to decide what the mob would do next. And now it’s your turn, readers. How can your company use social media to do good things while creating some good marketing juju? Please enlighten us in the comment section below!

The iPhone PR Disaster is A Good Lesson

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Venus Williams might retire? Tom Cruise has a big-time flop? Apple’s latest and greatest is a hunk of junk? What the funk is happening?!? This week delivered a triple scoop of public relations travesties that offer valuable lessons for us all – particularly the iPhone incident.

Earlier this week, thanks to phony tweets from a fake Steve Jobs, the world panicked for a brief few hours when the Daily Mail ran a story saying that the iPhone 4 may be recalled. The Mail pulled the story after realizing the whole deal was a sham; Apple rolled its eyes in typical fashion and then moved on. But what the company failed to address is the phone’s very real reception issues. Apparently, the über-snazzy gadget has one tiny, little issue: two antennas built into the band that wraps around the phone, causing poor signal strength depending on where your hand is at any given moment.

Apple’s response? Just don’t hold it that way and you’ll be fine. In other words, thanks for the $400 bucks and we’re sorry that it doesn’t work but you’re the problem, not the phone. Eww. With a million of the phones sold in less than a week, the very least Apple could have done is issued a video on correct usage of the phone or tweeted downloadable instructions for proper phone use.

For a company that rolls out a new item with mucho fanfare several times a year, a little grace and helpfulness doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. This is a public relations foul. The populous won’t put up with a “buy it and shut up” attitude for long before moving on. In the age of micro-blogging and instant PR remedies, we’ve seen a little personalized attention and amends go a long way. After all, it’s not as if Steve Jobs and Co. don’t have the resources to quickly address their customers concerns. Heck, even hip little Hollywood gelato places hop on Twitter to apologize for running out of a flavor.

Bottom line: Marketers and small business owners can’t afford to shrug off customer concerns. We know this, and that’s why we rush to our laptops and get busy trying to fix PR train-wrecks. So this faux pas is a reminder to keep fighting the good fight.

But let’s hear from you kids. Is this whole iPhone drama much ado about nothing? Or does it leave a bad taste in your mouth? Share with the rest of the class below!

Staying Away From SEO Poison Apples

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) poisoning is like the online marketer’s version of the swine flu – everybody’s heard of it, but no one’s really sure what it is. After doing some online digging, I found a plethora of articles explaining SEO poisoning, how to avoid it and what big companies are trying to do to stop it.

Evil Spamming Empires use SEO techniques to pump up the rankings of their websites, therefore pushing them higher and higher in your search results. It looks like there’s a billion good sites on the first page related to your search, but according to Neil Rubeking of PCMAG.COM, SEO poisoning pushes bogus and malicious sites front and center while leaving what you’re really looking for back a couple of pages. Forbes points out that SEO poisoning is linked to phishing scams whose main goal is to trick users into clicking. Instead of manufacturing original content, SEO poison writers ride the coattails of existing content, making the whole venture extremely affordable and all the more devious. The worst part is that many phony SEO “experts” are popping up online and charging clients boatloads of money, only to wind up poisoning search engines.

This brings us to the next problem with poisoning. How do businesses looking for SEO experts avoid becoming Google polluters? Research, research, research. Turn the tables on your SEO firm and Google their handiwork. It will speak volumes about what you can expect from them. Also, push them on their content policies. Do they use mostly original content or do they recycle and re-purpose to a fault? Who are their staff writers and will they work for your company? Ask for samples like any good shopper would. And while you’re at it, get some references from other small businesses.

The SEO poisoning issue has shown up all over this month on the tech and marketing blogs. Google, for its part, is beefing up security; many believe it may be the answer to stopping clogged search engines. Encrypted searches are said to be a repellent for SEO-poisoned content. Encrypted searches thwart of pages and pages of lame results, leaving only what the user was looking for. As Microsoft, Google and the other tech superheroes look for solutions to stop SEO poisoning, the little guys can stay safe by watching where we click and with whom we trust our SEO needs.