Getting Started with Social Media

19 01 2009

Getting started with social media can be intimidating. There are thousands of social media tools and networks, and it’s hard to know where to start. And more social media sites are popping up everyday.

I think the best thing to do is start with the basics to get your feet wet and see how it goes. Set up a Facebook page for your business. Get on Twitter. Start a Digg account. All of these take only moments to set up. The real time investment comes in figuring out how to use them to best support your business.

But you have to learn by doing. Watch what other people do, and take notice of other social sites they may mention. Then start to get involved in those if you think they would benefit your business.

Once you learn to navigate those sites, you have to start listening to what people have to say about your company. SmartBlog on Social Media says that the three basic steps for anyone starting out in social media are to listen, respond and initiate your own conversations.

It seems simple enough, but it really does take time and effort to learn about social media and make it work for you business.

-Abbey
aswank@igpr.com





My Favorite Web Projects of 2008

24 12 2008

More and more of what we do here at The Impact Group involves the web – web site development, social media marketing, video email, web video. Here are a few of the projects I had the privilege of working on this past year:

www.GetItFacts.org – A web site created for the Teen Wellness Initiative through the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. We were able to have some fun in the design because the audience was younger, a little more edgy.

www.TrinityPension.com – We were able to take a company that lives in an industry that’s not too flashy…and make their site flashy by integrating video. Administering retirement plans is not an easy thing to explain; but, using video allowed Trinity Pension Consultants to present this information in an easy-to-understand way.

www.O-LineAcademy.com – Just a couple months ago we launched the web site for O-Line Academy, an offensive line training academy created by former Ohio State University o-line star, LeCharles Bentley. Not only was it fun working with LeCharles, but we were able to present O-Line Academy as THE place for offensive linemen to take their game to the next level using video and creative design.

www.ohiolife.org – Ohio Right to Life made a major jump from it’s former online presence (which was very old-school) to a dynamic, video-driven, up-to-date web site. In addition to the updated web site, we also helped Ohio Right to Life kick off a new e-mail outreach campaign this summer.

www.igpr.com – While the cobler’s son always goes without shoes (or however that phrase goes), we DID finally upgrade our own site in 2008. Although it took longer than most of our clients’ sites to develop, it did turn out well. We were able to integrate much of what we’re telling our clients to do in our own sites – web video, dynamic content, e-newsletter, blogging, and social media (we recently added a Facebook group, too – check it out).

There were many others, but these were just some of the highlights. 2009 looks to be another year where the Web plays a powerful role in growing our clients’ business, as well as our own. The online environment is changing daily, so we’ll be keeping on top of the latest trends and technologies to ensure we’re able to implement the most effective tactics for our clients.

Looking forward to 2009!

Matt
mwhite@igpr.com





10 Ways to impact growth in 2009

15 12 2008

I can’t imagine a single educated person in a position of influence that hasn’t been affected by the negative news of late. Market volatility, political changes, bailouts and an overall uneasiness of stability has defined 2008. How will YOU prepare for a better 2009?

Things are no different here at The Impact Group. We are a full service marketing communications agency in Hudson, Ohio. We are experiencing clients and prospects that are taking a longer time to make decisions, shrinking budgets, disappearing cash flow.

The time is now to create a better growth strategy. Exclusively using the same marketing methods of the past and not incorporating “new media” will be a major mistake for organizations trying to thrive in this time of survival.

Understanding the shifts in the way people obtain and share information will be a critical component of marketing success in 2009. Being able to quickly apply that understanding into marketing outreach campaigns (social media marketing, online publicity, online marketing) that complement past / current methods (print materials, web, advertising, direct mail) is THE challenge for marketers in 2009.

The Impact Group has come up with 10 points to think about for a solid growth strategy in 2009.

1. Redesign your brand. What does a new car, new outfit, new haircut or a new coat of paint do to the psyche? The same thing a fresh corporate identity make-over can do to an organization. Even a modest change to an organization’s look can provide new energy to employees, media opportunities, excitement to current customers and new business opportunities. Check out some samples: Portfolio of work

2. Video Video Video!!! With the advances of video compression technology, video has never been easier to use for marketing purposes. Video is 5 times more effective than print for someone to remember your message, so throw away the print and replace it with video wherever possible. Use a video spokesperson to explain your website as people visit your homepage. (Sample: www.igpr.com) Incorporate video email for your sales and marketing outreach. Post video explanations and commercials of your products and services on your website (podcasts) and on sources like youtube. (Sample: www.trinitypension.com) 2009 will be the year direct mail will take a back seat to video email campaigns in cost efficiency and effectiveness. Get started before your competitors figure it out! More info on the effectiveness of video – http://www.vidpro.org/videomkt.htm

3. Listen to your customers. I can’t think of a better way to recalibrate your marketing message for 2009 than the recommendations from the customers buying your product in 2008. Do you have a simple print survey that can go in your invoices? How about an online survey that when completed, provides a coupon? We encourage gathering satisfaction data and recommendations year round. There are more comprehensive methods like focus groups, surveys, polls that can provide statistical certainty to strategic directions. I recommend starting with getting into your car to visit a few of your best customers, wish them a happy holiday, tell them why you appreciate their business and ask them for advice on how you might be able to grow into next year. Free marketing advice from the people that already buy your product can give you some good ideas for your 2009 growth strategy.

4. Social media marketing! The major trend in successful marketing is moving from the high impression factors of the past (one Super Bowl commercial brings 50 million + impressions on a broad audience for a 1 outreach : 50,000,000 target ratio) to the PERSONAL impression factor (1 personal trusted message : one target). This trend of one to one marketing can be most effectively done through online social networks. With the rapidly growing use of MySpace and Facebook and the ability to publicly follow a person or organization on Twitter, one to one marketing is ready for the savvy marketer to make an immediate and powerful impact. Read more on Social media marketing – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_media_marketing and Social Media Marketing

5. Blog. 2008 was a year of exploring how blogging could impact an organization’s marketing efforts. Blogging (if done effectively) showed a powerful marketing ability to drive relevant traffic on a website, influence credibility for a product or service, grab mainstream media attention, and shape consumer behaviors. Blogging is providing the ability for the smaller company to have a louder voice. Read more on Blogging – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog

6. Online publicity. The web has provided small and large organizations alike a wonderful medium for disseminating news. Public relations, which used to be reserved for mainstream media, is now more effective when implemented through online channels – called Online Publicity. Not only do the major media receive notice of your news, but individuals and organizations can receive info directly to their inbox through things like GoogleAlerts and RSS feeds. Getting your news online – through your website, blogs, news sites, social media, and others – can make a huge impact in 2009.

7. Hire experts. Most organizations trust a CPA for their tax filings, attorneys for legal issues and doctors for medical matters. The problem with “expert” marketers is that there isn’t a universal accepted and measured accreditation like the previously mentioned professions. Most marketing firms are a few folks that took a couple design courses and now lay claim to most marketing capabilities. On the other end of the spectrum are the extremely expensive large agencies that need their invoices to match their high rent and huge payrolls. Check out this article on small vs large agencies for some thoughts. http://adage.com/smallagency/post?article_id=111233  Marketing techniques have gotten very complex due to the reliance of new technology and the critical timing of delivery. The right marketing group will help you create and implement a growth strategy for your organization and allow you to streamline resources. How to select an agency – www.ehow.com/how_2052377_select-right-marketing-firm.html  Start your agency search – www.igpr.com

8. Redefine your marketing message. Is your marketing message brief, simple to understand, interesting and able to distinguish you from your competition? Is it easy for someone interested in your product or service to get information in order to make a buying decision? What are the sound bytes? Everyone is too busy and you are competing against a world of information being thrown at your potential next customer. Your message must be able to cut through and motivate specific action.

9. Rebuild your web site. Most web sites are now outdated in information, technology and appearance. With the low costs of web technologies and the high value a good site brings to an organization, your website has to be a top priority in 2009. The ability for your products and services to show up on the top of the search engines is so important for growth. Your website appearance and relevance will be one of the main factors of establishing credibility in your future customers. Your website should be the centerpiece of the way you market.

10. Get your story told in the news. I’ve already talked about getting your news on the web. But, print and broadcast PR opportunities still exist in a big way. There are niche magazines for just about every industry in the world. And, while most news in a down economy is doom and gloom, media outlets are looking for positive, uplifting stories to tell. Getting the word out about that new client you landed, the product launching or the new hire…all these things are welcomed good news to the media, AND your prospects, clients and employees!

2009 has the potential to be a banner year, if you approach it with enthusiasm and knowledge. Take these points to heart. And, let us know how we can help. www.igpr.com

Don
dpolyak@igpr.com





Don’t Stop the Marketing

5 11 2008

We all know the economy is not doing so well right now, and many businesses are cutting back on expenses in order to stay afloat.

One thing companies should not cut, if at all possible, is marketing, advertising or public relations and the agencies that do it.

PR-Squared has a great post about the reasons you should keep your agency, including the fact that an agency is cheaper than in-house PR. And it has been shown in the past that companies that stay in the public eye during a down economy benefit in the long run. Companies like Kraft and Jiff. Check out this article for results of studies that have been done about companies that continue to market in times like these.

Regardless of the studies, not everyone can afford to keep marketing. And that is where social media comes in. One of the beauties of social media marketing is that it is inexpensive to do in most cases.

Anyone can start a blog. You don’t have to pay someone to do it. All it takes is a little bit of your time each week to make it happen. And blogging is big. It’s a great way to reach your audience and have them reach back.

Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and MySpace are also excellent, free tools to use when communicating with your audience.

So, if you absolutely have to cut back on your public relations, marketing or advertising (we hope you don’t), keep social media in mind. You can still connect with your audience without spending a lot to do it.

Abbey
aswank@igpr.com





Getting Past the Fear

2 07 2008

Well, I did it. I joined the millions on Facebookjust last week. I have researched it, told people about it, even sold it to clients that they MUST be on Facebook…but I was still afraid of joining personally! Why? Because when you join the social network of Facebook, (or any other social network) you open yourself up to be seen, contacted, judged, mocked, exposed…as well as promoted, connected, joined together again!

I don’t think I stand alone in this “fear” of exposure. A friend of mine who is very heavily involved in social media, search engine optimization and other web related tactics shared with me a story of a small comment he made on Twitter that was basically intended for the small group of folks he regularly connects with – it wasn’t anything “bad,” just not something he expected the world to see. He then found out a day or two later when someone did a search on his name that this particular comment came up second or third on the search results!

The fact of the matter is that we really do need to join in on the conversation – connecting with other people, businesses and the online community, in general. But, we can’t be stupid about it. It’s not that we need to be hypocritical about who we are (or what our business is/does), but we just need to be aware of the fact that ANYTHING we write on a Facebook page or blog somewhere or whatever can and will be seen by people all over the Internet.

I don’t know if it’s been determined as legal or not, but potential employers will search for you and your name out there. Potential mothers-in-law will do the same! (or worse yet, fathers-in-law!) So, whether personal or professional, when you finally take the step into online social networking (or if you already have), be smart. The world is watching!

Matt White
mwhite@igpr.com