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CONNECTED CULTURE Blog by Jerry Allocca

Now, more than ever, we're all connected. What does it mean to be part of the Connected Culture? Share your thoughts and ideas here!
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How Businesses are Stacking the Deck with Pinterest – and Why

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As if trying to keep track of multiple social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn wasn’t enough, now marketers are trying to figure out how to use Pinterest for business.

Organizations of all sizes are already gaining traction with the new social platform, and it’s raising some questions about the different ways that Pinterest can drive targeted traffic to a website.

Getting a Handle on Pinterest

The new social media service, driven by communities of people who flock to the site and share their findings, has reportedly reached over 10 million users faster than any site before it in history – including Facebook.  But what is this site all about?

Simply put, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard similar to something you’d have in your home for tacking or “pinning” up images and messages.  When a user creates their own pinboards they can organize and share “all the beautiful things (they) find around the web”.  From a business perspective, that doesn’t really spell out how you can benefit from it.

Why Marketers Should Care About Pinterest

This visual bookmarking extravaganza is like a browser bookmarklet, making it easy to share things from around the web.  For a business, particularly those involved in retail and the direct sale of products, it’s a formidable source of targeted traffic.  The slick user interface makes it easy for a retail business to get their products – optimized by product category and product type – right in the face of users.

While there’s no direct mechanism for your potential customers to purchase products from you directly, consider the marketing potential:  If you post popular images relevant to your industry (or products) which link back to the original source (your site), those images can get repinned by hundreds or thousands of other users on their boards.

What’s the main draw to Pinterest?

The site is easy to use.  Everyone has a board where they pin images, all of the same size.  Hana Abaza, the co-founder and CEO of Wedding Republic, says “it’s best to mimic Pinterest’s uncluttered aesthetic.” To do that she takes the time to develop Pinterest boards that maintain a clean, almost elegant appearance.

When she pins photos, they link back to her site.  One click takes you to the pin page; another click links the user back to her site. According to Abaza, her use of Pinterest created a dramatic boost in page views and a 75% increase in traffic – with most of that coming from Pinterest.

Stepping Away From Promotion with Pinterest

It might be tempting to only post images of things you sell, and to get on the promotional bandwagon, but if you want to be successful you need to treat Pinterest like any other form of social media and content marketing; focus on providing value.  Giselle Gonzalez, a promoter for Cakestyle (a company that makes wardrobe suggestions for women), says that the key to connecting with your audience is to provide value.  Tips, tidbits of information, and even products from other companies.

When you’re sharing content, regardless of the platform, you need to remember that your customers and others on the web are savvier than many businesses give them credit for.  They can quickly spot self-serving content.

Go Where the Big Hitters Go

It’s not just marketers working through Pinterest to see how it can benefit them.  Even big names are getting into the image sharing and pinboard “fun”.  Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Facebook has a number of boards ranging from movies and products to “most notable companies of the month” – is it any surprise that Facebook is on that board?

Hubspot is even getting in on the Pinterest ride.  “It’s half the goal to showcase our own work, but really just collect others as well,” said HubSpot’s Rebecca Corliss. “Our board could be the best resource for marketing infographics. It’s all about having the best board, not just promoting your own stuff.”

Beyond Marketing with Pinterest

Many individuals, from marketers to business owners to executives, frequently turn to social media not for directly boosting sales but instead for branding.  Pinterest offers another platform – this time visual – that allows marketers to expand their networking opportunities, improve brand visibility, and customer engagement by providing relevant content their audience will love.

Like other social networks, followers on Pinterest can see what their contacts share or “pin”, so like all forms of content marketing, it pays to provide value if you want your personal or professional brand to spread.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Pinterest

Avoid the costly mistakes and increase your chance of success with The Do’s and Don’ts of Making Your Mark With Pinterest.

Question:

What is your favorite pinboard, and why? Leave a reply with a URL so we can all check them out. And follow me on Pinterest to see my ultimate car collection.

 

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Google+ versus Facebook: Pluses and Minuses

Despite its invite only beta phase and recent launch, Google Plus (Google+) is punching through with more than twenty million users and growing.  While that beta phase saw Google wiping business pages off the map and shutting many down, they did permit some of them to remain (such as Mashable) where those branded pages could be transferred back to an individual.  That allowed those brands to trudge around in beta and get their feet wet while exploring the features of Google+

It wouldn’t be the first time Google played a little favoritism with brands that had pull on the web.

With the title showdown in place between Google+ and Facebook, a lot of brands are wondering if they should get involved with the new social media platform or stick with the current giant and their already-branded Facebook pages.  As with any new platform you can expect there to be pros and cons, with strong arguments in each corner.

Why Google+ Matters For Brands

Trying to manage multiple online profiles and engagement channels can be a drain on resources. We frequently tell brand managers, marketers and business owners to focus their efforts on a few social channels – otherwise you spread yourself too thin and you’re ultimately spending more to be less effective.  With that in mind, is it wise to invest in Google Plus this early on?  Is it just another channel for engagement?  Here are some things to consider, starting with a great infographic from Technobomb.

facebook vs google plus

Question:

What would you add, change or take away from this infographic?

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What makes social media different from traditional media?

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You are now in the driver’s seat

You create the media. You create the conversations, the words, pictures, videos and audio. You create the message and get it out―not the TV stations, or the radio stations, or the newspaper publishers. The control is now in your hands, and it’s easier than ever.

Thanks to the interactive nature of social media, conversations are always possible between you and your perspective and existing customers. You can listen and respond to your customers anytime, anywhere.

Traditional media –vs– Social media

The amount of time and money put into traditional media and social media are what sets these methods apart. With traditional media, it costs a lot of money, but very little time to run your ad. All you have to do is pick up the phone and “reorder” another flight on TV, or more space in the newspaper. Once your ad or commercial is created, it takes very little time to continue advertising.

With social media, the cost is very low, or free in some cases. But you have to spend a lot of time. And whether you spend the time yourself, have an employee spend the time, or outsource to someone else to spend the time, time is the key.

Develop a strategic plan

Social media is easy to use, but it’s how you use the technology that matters. I hear people say, “just hire a kid to do your social media marketing”. And while “a kid” may be able to use the technology, what do they really know about how to market your organization or sell your products and services? Social media marketing requires a very soft sell, great curiosity-based questions and the creation of value for your audience. Would you really trust a kid to do all that?

Remember your reputation is at stake. Don’t leave your reputation in the hands of just anybody.

Question:

How are you using social media to your advantage?

 

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Make customer complaints work for you

Make Customer Complaints Work For YouOrganizations often ask, “what if a customer complains on my blog or facebook page, and it’s out there for all the world to see?” Customer complaints are a gift. They allow organizations to “fix” the problem, make it “right,” in full view of the world. And if your customer has a problem isn’t it better to know about it, then not? The ideal is to know about it, make it better and build trust.

Allowing negative comments to be seen in your online marketing world also shows transparency. When customers see the good and the bad, they know that you’re real. Remember: your customers are talking about your brand whether you hear it or not. Isn’t it better to encourage these conversations in an atmosphere where you’re actively engaged and can respond?

Social media provides a platform for encouraging customer feedback, both good and bad, and allows your organization to show your commitment in improving your customer’s experience.

Make a Commitment

One of the important aspects of social media is to remain committed to your audience. Organizations that gather a following on social media sites should not make the mistake of abandoning their audience. When there is a problem or complaint, don’t just sweep it under the rug. Be transparent and address questions or concerns through messages in the appropriate manner.

Do you have any stories of how you made a customer complaint work for you? Please share by leaving a reply below.

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Are you listening to your audience?

Listening to your audience | Connected Culture BlogUsing social media for marketing is a tough balance. First you need to understand what is important to your audience.  We all know that content is king. However, if your content tends to change subjects often or try to sell, you will only drive people away. The secret of using social media successfully is to concentrate on reaching the right audience with relevant communication. To engage your customers with one on one conversations.

Listening to your audience online

While your content does the talking, you should be listening as well. On most social media sites, readers have the option of posting comments. This is where you need to be listening. Many buyers will provide feedback of your product or service through these comments, thereby, making you more customer-conscious. Having a participatory approach will help you build a better image. Moreover, this will help you transform your organization, in order to meet customers’ needs.

Listening to your industry and competitors

Social media lets you closely monitor your industry and competitors. This is the best way for them to remain updated and obtain valuable feedback as well. Listen in on positive as well as negative comments about your competitors’ brands. Keeping track of these conversations gives you a valuable edge and lets you compare your organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Answering your audience

This is your opportunity to have meaningful interactions with your customers. Respond to them, engage them, thank them and, perhaps most important, let them know you are listening.

How are you listening to your audience? Let us know by leaving comments below.

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Seek first to help, then be helped

Seek first to help | Connected Culture BlogBusiness networking site LinkedIn has a slogan, “Relationships Matter”.  Those two words sum up our lives, whether we’re referring to relationships with our friends or family, or in the case of LinkedIn, relationships with CEO’s and business professionals.  Relationships are all about connections, and very few know about connections on LinkedIn better than Steven Burda.

Relationships on LinkedIn are based around connections and recommendations. Steven Burda has over 38,000 connections and almost 3,000 recommendations. He is the most recommended person on LinkedIn, and is the person with the 4th largest number of connections. He holds an MBA and is also pursuing a doctoral degree. He says he has found personal development and growth through the connections he has made. He enjoys the opportunities to meet and to connect with people of various professions that he otherwise may not have had the opportunity to encounter.

On LinkedIn, Burda is considered an open networker. As an open networker, Burda connects with as many people as possible and will give anyone a chance. If you are connected with Steven Burda and you would like an introduction to someone else on LinkedIn, chances are Burda can make that introduction happen. And if he can, he definitely will. In fact, he writes on his LinkedIn profile: “All you have to do is ask… I will help you if I can.” He is more than willing to help others with their networking needs and will provide his contacts with a digital introduction. Burda merely seeks to help others. It makes him happy – he expects nothing in return. He is just trying to use his connections and recommendations to pay it forward. In the long run, though, he has been provided with many opportunities that he wouldn’t have otherwise received. That’s Karma for you. What comes around goes around. Keep spreading the good.

Relationships do matter, and this “pay it forward” concept of helping should be prevalent in your networking and relationship building endeavors. In Connected Culture you will find the quote “Seek first to help, then be helped,” These are words to live by – extend a hand to help others, and you will get help in return. This is the very heart of networking, online and offline. Start helping others, and you will get that help returned to you.

Share your story of how you paid it forward by entering your comments below.

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Schedule time in your calendar for social media

2011 CalendarWhether for personal reasons or business reasons, maintaining a schedule is a vital part of keeping our day to day lives organized and on track. Throughout our days we schedule meetings, phone calls and lunch appointments. If you are trying to increase business for your organization or communicate with the Connected Culture, add social media participation into your schedule, too.

Social media is social interaction and that takes time. It comes in many different flavors, including blogging, microblogging, networking, videos, photos, news and bookmarking. These mediums are all designed to encourage discussion and communication. When I say add social media to your schedule, I don’t mean make time to play Farmville with your friends on Facebook. Make time to have meaningful conversations with your business peers on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn provides an online networking meeting place, and just like face to face meetings, you should schedule time in your day to meet with other business professionals. Let’s face it, nobody ever has time, but you make time for things that are important to you. And I’ve found that if you don’t put something in your calendar, it usually doesn’t get done. Make the time to connect with other business professionals and continue your networking after the face to face events are over.

Adding social media time to your schedule is the best way to ensure that you make time to get noticed. The great thing about social media is that there are no time restrictions. You can participate when it is convenient for you. Plan your social media time around your schedule. It doesn’t have to be a huge block of time, but you do need to plan it into your day. Plan it for 30 minutes of your lunch hour. Or perhaps instead of watching that show on TV at night, you could have an online conversation. When you commit the time, you will build relationships. Start planning this time now.

According to a story in InformationWeek, social media use is up 230% since 2007.  Don’t be left out. Be a part of the Connected Culture.

How many of you actually schedule time in your calendar to network online? How many just wing it and get to it when you are less busy? Share your stories; we want to hear from you!

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