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.

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.

Online Brand Management And Domain Names

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twittir_logoDoes online brand management include domain names? It has been an interesting argument for a long time with many domains proving to be successful despite not including their brand in their domain name. The argument becomes lost when it can be pointed out that the domain name itself has become a brand. There are dangers lurking when you do have a highly successful business built around your domain name.

Take as an example, Twitter.com. Mention the word Twitter and almost everyone who is online will know who you are talking about. Or do they? Yes, Twitter is a highly recognized name. But so too is twitter.co.uk; yet they are not connected.

The UK branded Twitter has possibly brought more grief to Twitter.com than good. There was a period where the British twitter.co.uk was in dispute with twitter.com. The dispute even made it to the British press. Free publicity for both but since twitter.com appeared to be in the wrong, everyone sided with twitter.co.uk.

Ask someone in the UK about Twitter and the response may well be — “which one?”  You now have brand confusion. Twitter has developed their name and their domain name as a brand that many are familiar with. A similar domain name in the UK has now lead to brand confusion. There is similar domain name in Australia too: twitter.com.au. This could mean even more brand confusion in Australia.

It’s a difficult situation to be in. All three Twitter’s will no doubt survive and twitter.com has not suffered unduly”¦ yet. There is always the potential down the track.

Including your brand in your domain name, or branding your domain name is a good idea. However, if you intend to build a global business, consider buying regional domains as well. It may set you back several hundred dollars to buy these domain names, but in the long run they may also prevent any situations where brand confusion creeps. This is why online brand management looks beyond today and tries to position a business for all outcomes.

Is Online Brand Management Viable For Small Businesses?

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Having a strong brand awareness is essential to the success of any business.  As a small business owner you may wonder how viable it is to employ an online brand management specialist. One of the upsides of the online world is that it’s a great equalizer. Whether you’re a small business or a large corporation makes no difference to the opportunities available. What may be different is the way each individual business allocates their marketing dollars.

Return on investment (R.O.I.) is the only thing that an finance person is interested in. For the business owner, growth and profitability is the bottom line. For marketers, looking at the short,  medium and long term gain is equally important. This then becomes the clash between the finance department and the marketing department at some businesses. For Marketing managers, the R.O.I. is there and if undertaken successfully, the return can be much higher than other forms of online promotion.

There is a perception that online brand management is expensive. This may or may not be true depending on your strategy. For example, if you as a business owner shoot video footage, a brand management team can promote that video in all the right places. If you are part of a large business, you may use a professional team to create a video as well. However, and this is the great equalizer, the two videos are more often than not promoted in the same multimedia websites.

The opportunities for both are almost equal. What is different is how the video is promoted and whether or not the video has the content that others will recommend. Create a video that is different, a video that is funny  or in some way memorable and you’re well on the way. Video is just one example.

Small business not only can, but are, competing against larger business with a lot of success. Is online brand management a viable way to spend your budget? For most businesses it has to be. If you are considering spending any money on advertising or some form of promotion, speak to an online brand management specialist first. Your advertising budget stretches a lot further than you realize if a little time is spent promoting your brand online.

Hey pal, can you spare a whuffie?

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New and exciting things are popping up everywhere at TechCrunch50 One of the coolest is The Whuffie Bank. According to the company,

“The Whuffie Bank is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building a new currency based on reputation that could be redeemed for real and virtual products and services. The higher your reputation, the wealthier you are.”

Pretty simple idea. Currently supported by Twitter, the The Whuffie Bank  plans to offer access via Facebook, FriendFeed, Digg and any other reputation driven online tool. So how does it work? You’re encouraged to communicate via your social media many times a day. But make sure your tweets are relevant, because your peers can thumbs up you or send your Whuffie Bank account into the red. To build up your account, build a good online reputation. Here is how your Whuffie worth is calculated by a fancy algorithm that:

1.  Detects Public Endorsements – Each time a message you put on Twitter gets retweeted or a Facebook post gets liked by others, that’s considered a positive endorsement for you.

2. Measures Level of Influence – A person that’s constantly retweeting others will be spreading the impact of his influence among many people. On the other side, if a person retweets a message once in a while, that will have a bigger impact.

3. Considers Existing Reputation of Members – Being endorsed by a Whuffie-rich person will have a stronger impact than being endorsed by an average user.

4. Analyzes Content of Messages – A message with a link that gets retweeted usually it’s because of the content in a website rather than the person sharing it in the first place. So when someone gets retweeted for something they exclusively said, that will have a bigger impact on the algorithm.

What’s really cool is that they actually plan on printing (or minting) real Whuffie currency that you can use around the world. I want a Whuffie! I promise I will use it only for good. So how do these guys make money? Well, for now they are a self-proclaimed non-profit.  How fresh! Maybe one day the greenback will be replaced by the Whuffie and we will all get along. But then will the Whuffie become the root of all evil just like other currencies? Let’s hope not. To start building your Whuffie empire, check out the The Whuffie Bank homepage.