The Evolution of Social: Search, CRM and Data

24 Aug

[Originally published on Digithoughts)

Right now is a good time to be a social media startup. With a growing emphasis on social ROI and keen interest from all industries in harnessing the power of social influencers, big companies are taking notice and quickly snatching up social media startups.

In 2011, Salesforce acquired social media platform Radian6. Earlier this year, Oracle acquired social marketing platform Vitrue and Google acquired Wildfire, a social marketing software developer. Just last week, search engine optimization giant SEOmoz announced their acquisition of Followerwonk, a social tool that measures influence of Twitter users, continuing the trend.

Moral of the story: Companies like Google and Oracle know that the future of social is search, CRM and data.

Beyond these acquisitions, we are already witnessing the effect of social’s growing importance in search. Hubspot’s Dan Zarrella recently released a study in conjunction with SEOmoz that revealed a correlation between social sharing of URLs and inbound links pointing to them. Whether this has a direct or major impact on search result rankings is still unclear, but some in the industry have their suspicions.

“I don’t think anyone really knows exactly how trending topics on social sites impact rankings – however, we’ve seen strong correlations between organic rankings and social signals, such as likes and shares,” Larry Kim, founder of WordStream, told MediaPost last week. “Whenever we have a new article with a decent amount of social interaction, it seems to catapult the page to the first page of results for keyword searches directly related to the post.”

And now, with search engine updates, like Bing’s social integration with Facebook and Twitter, and Google’s “Your World” results from Google+, search and social have grown increasingly dependent on who is doing the sharing. Enter the CRM function of social.

Platforms like Followerwonk and Klout are tools that help people identify influence in the social realm. Though not yet perfect, these tools give marketers the opportunity to find people who have the ability to get the social network buzzing (which, as mentioned earlier, could boost search rankings).

But aside from the possible SEO implications, what this type of software really gives a brand is the opportunity to build strong relationships with a target market. When Salesforce bought Radian6 for $326 million, they recognized the value of social conversations and saw the future importance of cultivating and monitoring these conversations. For example, studies show that 60 percent of brand followers on Twitter are more likely to recommend that brand, while 50 percent are more likely to actually buy that brand. We can expect to see more integration of CRM with social in the future, especially from Salesforce and Oracle, which will no doubt continue to buy out social startups.

Value must be quantified,  of course, which is why the data and analytics function of these social media tools have become so important. CMOs are increasingly spending more and more budget on social media each year. In fact, within the next five years, marketers expect to spend almost 20 percent of their budget on social media — nearly three times the current amount. With the increase in spending, CMOs are going to be hard-pressed to show ROI. Link tracking, change in customer sentiment and increase in engagement will become even more important; I suspect that companies are already trying to figure out how to make these more quantifiable.

The big questions now become: How will all these companies end up integrating the social startups into their platforms? How will these moves affect the way social campaigns are run in the future? We may find out sooner than later if the buy-out trend continues.

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Hard Work Pays Off: A lesson in work ethic and finding balance

6 Aug

I thought I would take a break from social media and public relations today to offer up a mantra that has kept me going these past few years–“Hard work pays off.”

When I began working two jobs for a total of 40+ hours a week this summer, many people told me to take it easy, “You work too hard,” they told me. Maybe its just the old-school work ethic instilled in me by my hard-working parents, or maybe I am simply an idealist, but whenever someone says that I am working too hard, I have to shake my head. “No,” I say, “I am not working hard enough.”

Thousands of college students graduate each spring, looking for a way into the workforce. The reality is, less than half of them will actually find jobs right out of college, and many others will be forced to take internships before they can find full-time employment. Receiving a college degree no longer guarantees that you will find employment–those days are long gone.

In order to find a good job today, we need to work harder than ever before to get good experience and make those crucial network connections while still in school. We need to have more than one internship on our resume, prove to our employers that we can handle anything they throw at us and stand out from other applicants by demonstrating ability and dedication to succeed in the workforce.

So, what does it take to “work hard” and still have a life?

  • Discipline: The ability to delegate time to multiple tasks is very important in public relations and marketing. If you are working at a firm, you will sometimes be responsible for more than four or five clients at one time, which means you need to figure out how to accomplish everything asked of you by your deadlines.
  • Understanding your limits and how you work: Knowing when to give yourself a break and call it a night is important to the quality of work
  • Saying ‘Yes’ more often than not. The way I see it, saying ‘no’ to your employes is a luxury. You have to put in your time and pay your dues before you can even think that word. This means that sometimes weekends need to be sacrificed when clients move up deadlines.
  • Above all, Balance: If you value the personal relationships in your life, you will need to understand how to balance your work load with your personal life. Sometimes it can be tricky, and I can personally attest to the fact that it is not always easy, but it is extremely necessary.  Remember to take a weekend off once in a while, see your family, hang out with your friends, spend some quality time with your significant other. The way I see it, success means nothing if you don’t have people in your life to share it with.

When things get tough and you feel you are running out of steam, stop. Take a breath. And remind yourself, “Hard work DOES pay off.”

Kickstarter Tips for Success

26 Jul

(Disclaimer: I originally wrote this blog post for Olive PR Solutions, Inc.)

Need money fast? Turn to the crowd! Crowdfunding platform Kickstarter again takes center stage in the press with a creative and impressively successful campaign by Penny Arcade. With the promise of an ad-free site, Penny Arcade raised $200,000 in two days and hopes to reach $1 million by mid-August.

While this type of wild success is rare, plenty have played the odds. Out of more than 64,000 Kickstarter projects to date, approximately 44 percent were funded, according to a recent CNN article.

SOLO Eyewear, a San Diego sunglasses startup that donates a pair of prescription glasses or sight-saving eye surgery for every pair of shades sold, is part of the lucky minority that has had a successful campaign with Kickstarter. Exceeding its original goal, SOLO Eyewear ended up raising more than $30,000 in one month.

So, how do you up your chances for a successful campaign like SOLO Eyewear or Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter campaign?

The first thing you need is enticing rewards. The key to offering awesome rewards is knowing your audience and matching their wants with what you can realistically give for their contribution. Penny Arcade is offering rewards that surely have the web comic’s readers digging in their couches for loose change. The list of rewards for Kickstarter backers includes being immortalized in a new video game, to hanging out with the Penny Arcade crew for a night.

SOLO Eyewear cleverly used their Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell their summer collection of sunglasses. By offering sunglasses and swag at different levels, SOLO effectively mobilized their fan base and gave them the motivation to give money, get shades and change lives.

The second factor that plays into a successful Kickstarter campaign is timing. Penny Arcade launched right before Comic Con. They even campaigned a bit at the conference, according to CNN Money. Before you launch, think about the timeline of the campaign. Are there any big conferences that pertain to your company that you can plan around? Are there any holidays or special events that you can hook into to advertise your campaign? Strategy is key in any crowdfunding campaign.

And on the topic of strategy, one of the most valuable components to a Kickstarter campaign is publicity. Penny Arcade’s Kickstarter campaign has no doubt been helped by the fact that CNN, Mashable, Geekwire, and many other national and industry-specific publications have covered it.

For lesser known companies like SOLO Eyewear, social media plays a huge role in building that awareness aspect for a successful crowdfunding campaign. SOLO Eyewear used Facebook to reach out beyond its immediate circle by appealing to existing fans and followers to spread the word about their Kickstarter campaign. By providing frequent campaign progress updates and enticing followers to help reach the next level of funding with promises of style and color reveals, SOLO Eyewear drew significant traffic to its Kickstarter page from Facebook.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Be strategic, be creative and plan ahead, and your Kickstarter campaign could be just as successful as that of Penny Arcade and SOLO Eyewear.

Want a job? Get on Social Media

12 Jul

Social media recruiting is becoming common practice for human resource departments across the U.S., according to a recent study by Jobvite.

With 92 percent of respondents indicating that they plan to use or are using social media to find and hire job candidates this year, its safe to say that if you want a job its time to get social. But where are these employers looking, you may ask?

  • 93 percent turn to LinkedIn (89 percent have made a hire)
  • 66 percent are using Facebook (26 percent have made a hire)
  • 54 percent are using Twitter (15 percent have made a hire)

Before you rush to their Facebook pages and tear down the photos from Saturday nights pub crawl, you may be interested in what recruiters are really peeved about. While 47 percent of respondents indicated a negative reaction to alcohol consumption on an applicants social media profile, 54 percent of respondents indicated that bad grammar and spelling mistakes were even larger hiring deterrents.

But that’s not to say that if you use proper grammar in your Facebook statuses and then post a picture of yourself in a bikini that you’re in the clear. In fact, you may want to think twice before posting those Vegas photos.

  • 78 percent of recruiters had a negative reaction to illegal drug references
  • 67 percent were turned off by posts of a sexual nature

Moral of the story? If you’re looking for a job, you need to clean up your social footprint right now. There is a 92 percent chance that your future employer is looking for you right now on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.

For more results from Jobvite study fill out a quick request form on the company website.

Social Media Mistakes Your Company Is Making

1 Jul

Companies know that in order to do marketing right, it has to be social. Huge companies like Coca Cola and tiny companies like your local mom and pop are all on social. But are they all doing it right? Not really. Better question: Is your company doing it right? If your company isn’t doing the following, it may be time for a social media strategy overhaul:

1. It’s Called Social for a Reason. Many brands are “active” on social, but few of them are really using it correctly. Social media is not a broadcast station. If your company is just posting without communication, it’s doing social all wrong. Social media is an open door between brand and stakeholder, a two-way communication tool. The true value of the medium is having the ability to speak directly to the customer, taking them from casual buyer to brand advocate. Engage with people, assign a community manager to your profiles to monitor conversations.

Caution: If your company isn’t ready to hear what stakeholders have to say about it, your not ready for social. Don’t believe me? Just ask Chapstick.

2. New + Traditional = Perfect. Simply creating a social media profile does not bring the likes/followers to you. I often have to explain to people that if they want their Facebook followers to jump from 10 to 1,000 in a month, they need to take the marketing offline (or invest in advertising). Use traditional forms of marketing to draw traffic to your social media profiles. Advertising should include a hashtag and Twitter handle or a Facebook page URL. Use those marketing dollars offline to get customers to engage online. Take for instance Petflow.com’s campaign that encourages customers to go to Facebook and share photos of their pets. The company uses its packaging to create awareness about their social media presence, and then follow up with a call to action to entice customers to act. From the looks of it, it has been a pretty successful campaign.

3. Combine with PR.  Think of social media as the gateway to all of the world’s influencers. Whether your company’s focus is in consumer goods or B2B, there are journalists, bloggers and business owners/ industry leaders who are actively influencing people on social media. Engage with the influencers of the world for an RT, mention, Facebook post shout out, re-pin, etc. to boost your company’s rapport and reputation.

Likewise, thought leadership is a great way to position your company as an expert in your space. Publish blog articles about thought provoking topics and new ideas. Ask influencers engaging questions to get people really talking about topics in your respective industry. These things combined with the #4 below are extremely effective in social.

4. Everything with a message.  While some brands are just broadcasting their marketing message, others are engaging quite a lot, but are not including a message in their conversations at all. A company must find a happy medium with these. Every single post, tweet, video or pin that your company publishes on its social media profiles should be informed by branding and messaging. Brand messaging combined with lifestyle and related topics creates a genuine yet targeted marketing approach in social media. Create a set of key messages for your brand and ensure that they are subtly weaved through every piece of content that is published. Emphasis on the subtle. (Reread #1 if you don’t understand).

If your company keeps these four things in mind it will be a lot more effective in marketing on social media. It may even see an ROI.

Samantha Afetian is a senior at San Diego State University graduating this December with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in public relations. She can be contacted at @SamAfetian or SamAfetian at gmail.com. Find out more at www.samanthaafetian.com.

“They Can’t Pay Me” and Other Myths Interns Believe

15 Apr

Dear interns,

        It is time for a wake-up call. Everything you do has value.

Credit: Jason Arias and Erin Perfect via TheDailyBeast.com

“They Can’t Pay Me” and Other Myths Interns Believe

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Networking Challenge: One a month until graduation

3 Mar

I have recently embarked on a self-imposed networking challenge. 

With the realization that college is over in less than a year, I decided it is about time that I start growing my network here in San Diego. Outside of my current internship, I have set myself the goal of meeting at least one (ideally two) public relations/marketing professionals in San Diego per month until I graduate in December. 

So far, the San Diego community has responded with enthusiasm. By the end of next week, I will have already met with three professionals this month alone. Everyone I meet with is extremely receptive to setting aside some time to sit down and chat with me. We talk about the general aspects of public relations, my aspirations and how I can accomplish my goals for the future.

As of now I can say that this quest has been extremely beneficial to me in terms of figuring out what steps I need to take between now and graduation in order to land a job in December. There truly is no better way to learn about a field than from professionals who spend their lives in it. This experience so far has been absolutely invaluable to my professional education.

Students: Try this out for yourself. The student card is an extremely valuable asset. Once you graduate from college, people are not going to be as receptive to sitting down with you to talk about your future career path. Get out there and meet the people who have been in your shoes and have lived to tell the tale!

Professionals: If you are interested in meeting with me and imparting some of your knowledge on willing ears, feel free to contact me at Samafetian@gmail.com or tweet me @SamAfetian. My goal is to talk to everyone and anyone who will talk to me. I believe you all have something to teach me and I want to learn it as soon as possible.