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social media marketing

We all know the power of moms and their ability to change the world we live in on a day-to-day basis, but did you know moms are now changing the world through social media?

A recent survey conducted by Burst Media sought to uncover deeper insights regarding audience interaction and uses with social media, as well as how blogs and bloggers can influence the purchasing decisions made by their readers.  The survey found that not only are moms highly active with social media; they also have the largest presence throughout the social web.

Three out of five moms visit their favorite social media sites at least a few times throughout any given day.  Moms are now engaging with family and friends through social media more than ever.

When it comes to “liking” or following their favorite content on social media, the survey showed that moms are the heaviest users of this feature with 70.6% frequently or occasionally liking a brand or product. So, what is the reason for such high numbers? Moms use this feature to gather and share content with their family and friends. They also want to be heard by the brand; therefore 33.3% say they follow brands on social media to share their opinions or comments towards the content.

With such strong statistics showing mom interaction with social media, it should come as no surprise to you that 3 out of 4 moms, or 74.4%, of moms who follow blogs say the mention or promotion of a brand within the context of a blog influences their purchasing decisions.

Moms and their opinions are now more valuable than ever to any given brand. This survey brings a new meaning to the saying, “Mom approved”.

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We’ve all sat in a movie theater as the same car floats around the screen. There’s that moment, “is this product placement?” You almost have a moment of, “am I being duped?” I am guilty of playing the guessing game as I watch TV and movies wondering where the product placement was.

 At the heart of the issue of disclosure remains the audience.

Content creators and the institutions who work with them all owe it to their audience to be transparent. For centuries the newspaper industry has built its reputation with a high amount of integrity. Household names are built through continued consistency, dedication to honest journalism and a high amount of ethical regard.

There’s a trust the reader puts into the hands of the writer that the facts being delivered are really facts, and that the separation between advertising and news was that of church and state.

So now as we watch the journalism industry change, we need to ensure we are operating at the highest levels of ethical standards–the same standards that made names The New York Times, Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle great. At the same time, bloggers and community leaders need to keep their coffee mugs filled up and the lights on in their home offices.

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Where all around us technology has blurred lines, we need more honesty, sincerity and process when it comes to blogger disclosure so we can all sleep better at night. As more of our life moves online, as a society we need to ensure that we continue to respect our readers and the people who trust us. What’s shocking are reports that there are quite a few advertisers and agencies out there who are asking bloggers to violate FTC guidelines. One-off examples of corruption among brands, agencies and bloggers can tarnish the entire industry.

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Let’s take a lesson from Louis Gray who encourages, “Being genuine, transparent and truthful, despite any perceived bias, will always win. Being honest and direct and over-disclosing to the point of amusement, is always better than having to disclose after the fact.” Here are two great examples of bloggers who’ve used creative disclosures that get the message across and feel truly bright and authentic.

1. Tim Ferris, author of The Four Hour Work Week has his own style created some handy visuals [with Louis Gray] for his posts. They are in the style of Tim Ferris, and while this isn’t the best example for every blogger, for Tim it suits him, and his readership. Tim Ferris is known for being different. He inspires creativity–and it makes sense that he would do something a little funky with his FTC disclosure. He provides a great way to disclose without losing his sense of personality and individuality.Tim Ferris is known for being different. He inspires creativity–and it makes sense that he would do something a little funky with his FTC disclosure. He provides a great way to disclose without losing his sense of personality and individuality.

2. The Handmade Home + Green Works. Here at Linqia we help brands share their stories and content with really influential community leaders. One of our group leaders Ashley Malone Mills of The Handmade Home participated in a campaign with Clorox Green Worksto create awareness and spark discussion around the Graffiti Gallery story. We were so impressed with Ashley’s work who did an incredible job with her campaign.

This genuine disclaimer is clearly written in the voice of the community leader Ashley. It’s short and sweet. You can sense the trust Ashley has with her readers. As a blogger or community leader it’s important to decide what you stand for before you set out to publish. Make a checklist for yourself every time you post, and make sure you set your boundaries beforehand with the brand or agency you are working with.  It will help both you and the brand to have clear boundaries, and make for a better piece of content.

Disclosure tools include AddPost and CMP.LY highlighted by blogger Michael Hyatt. If you use wordpress you can leverage a plugin called AddPost to automate some of the process while also tailoring your messaging for your particular post. A new site called CMP.LY helps advertisers and bloggers easily comply with FTC guidelines. There are a ton of resources to help make it easy for you to disclose. And honesty makes for happy bloggers, community leaders, brands and readers. Good relationships, even the one the media has with its audience, are built on trust. Always.

Research continues to tell us we’re in the golden age of digital media. The brands that reap the benefits understand how to create knock-your-socks off content and stories, engage relevant influencers to share their stories, and nurture the fans they accrue.

However there are still a lot of questions around the right way for brands to approach and engage influencers, and what success looks like.

The tech industry has had some very valuable conversations throughout the last two decades about CRM [customer relationship management], but not about IRM [influencer relationship management].

Call us old fashioned but we believe there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage influencers, and we feel Emily Post is on our side here. Below are nine tips we feel will set you in the right direction on your influencer relationship management journey.

Nine tips to engage influencers:

 1. If you see Oprah at Starbucks, stay cool.

In the off chance that Oprah is hanging out at your neighborhood Starbucks in an intimate conversation with Stedman or Gayle, would you interrupt her latte to tell her about your new product that would just be perfect on the O’s favorite things list? We hope not because we fear you’d experience the wrath of Oprah, the most famous influencer in the world who values her privacy. While we might be eager to get in front of the right people, respecting the privacy of the right people is really important.

2. Engagements should be channel specific.

In light of tip number one, if you do approach Oprah in the right venue and she does like your product it is highly likely she will have a special channel in mind. She probably won’t want to share this on her personal Facebook page. Brands need to be mindful that influencers don’t necessarily want to share specific pieces of content in all channels. We need to respect their privacy and the channels that aren’t relevant to us.

3. When in Rome.

They say when in Rome, do as the Romans. If your influencers are brewery officionados, engage them at or about their favorite local brewery. Go where they hang out, and speak their language. Spend the time to do your homework, and show them you’ve done your research. Rather than doing 20 one size fits all letters, you’ll write one strong letter, or have one meeting and get some powerful results.

4. Take your time.

Relationships–solid ones–can take years to build. Create a rolodex of these influencers and don’t just learn their area of expertise, but understand who they are on a personal level. Today the first step to learning about your contact is some initial Googling. It’s very easy, and incredibly critical.

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5. Don’t only target the most popular influencers.

Many times the second tier of influencers will be just as or equally powerful as the first tier of influencers. They’ll also be more responsive to your request. Many times the most powerful influencers have the least amount of time, and won’t work as hard on your campaign as the mid-tier influencers who are grateful you reached out to them.

6. Make it about them.

If you’re writing an email or making a cold call, your first few sentences should focus on the influencer. Don’t spend the first portion of your outreach on what your brand sells. On that note, if you listen more than you talk, you’re different than everyone else.

7. Nurture your relationships with your influencers.

Your influence shouldn’t only consist of emails. Get to know influencers through phone calls, and even meals if you are in the same city. Go to meet ups, tweet ups and their events. Understand who they are on a variety of levels, not just how big their reach is and what they can do for you.

8. Less is more.

When you write an email, think about how much content you want to read. Do you like lengthy paragraphs, or do you prefer to read small chunks of information? Think about the fact that no one ever said, wow that speech, movie, blog or contract was too short. In a time-strapped society, influencers appreciate your brevity.

9. Collaborate, don’t preach.

Often, especially when it comes to content, the influencer knows better than the brand. Co-creating collateral or content will be more powerful than if the brand were to dictate this themselves. This comes back to the power of listening.

Your relationships are everything. If you nurture your relationships, over time they will be your most competitive advantage. Get started on your IRM [influencer relationship management] today!

Linqia matches brands with influential community leaders who share authentic digital content and meaningful stories among targeted groups of people. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Google + and YouTube.

How does a brand even start their thinking re: creating conversations that make sense in the Social Media space?

Two guys are standing at the water cooler on a Monday morning. Jack needs new training shoes. His Nike trainers are well over their 6 months changeover date. Next to Jack stands Pete, an avid runner, and he’s commenting on how great his third pair of ASICS Kayanos are. He wouldn’t change them for all the Power Bars in New York. Suddenly Stu (a marketer from downstairs) runs into the conversation yelling something about 15% off all BBQs at Wal-Mart for this week only. Stu blinks at them and then stares blankly. He then repeats the 15% offer. Continued silence from Jack and Pete. Jack and Pete keep talking for a while and then leave Stu, who still hasn’t clicked they are not interested.

Sadly, this is how brands have behaved since the invention of the newspaper, television and radio. With the emergence of social media this scenario is slowly changing, the communication structure is flattening and ‘engagement’ is becoming the new metric to ROI.

This post looks at the world of conversational marketing online and asks the question “How does a brand spark relevant conversations online authentically, where the conversations are already happening?” Being a part of conversations that are relevant to a brand increases engagement and interaction with that brand and is the new marketing nirvana that can lead to increased sales. But how do brands achieve this beyond the banner (widget or VDO unit) and into the conversation?

We first need to start with a simple 3 step process where brands 1) listen 2) engage 3) monitor.

Listening & monitoring. It would be hard not to notice the endless hype around twitter, facebook and a host of other platforms. With over 2,000 social networks, 160 million groups and 750 million people globally engaging in some kind of conversation, brands are listening to what is being said about their products, services, competitors and future offerings through monitoring tools (see 20 top buzz monitoring tools).

Engaging means brands for the very first time are experimenting with sparing conversations amongst pockets of interested and diverse groups of people. The results are organic and eye opening for many. Leading brands such as Nestle, Virgin, McDonalds & evening highly controversial tobacco companies have the approach of ‘test and learn’. Traditionally, brands would engage market research firms and spend countless months and extremely high budgets to ask people all sorts of questions. The outcome? Sterile and, in most cases, totally ineffective.

To work through a real example of your brand and see how you would approach a conversation using Social Media, you need to start from a place of knowing who you are ‘Who are you? = Brand’ + ‘What do you stand for = Brand pillars’

The next step is to expand out into what type of positive conversation you intend to engage in.Think of the types of positive conversations you have day to day.There are many elements to them, and in general, they have one or all of the following broad elements:

1.They make me laugh = Entertain

2.They tell me something I didn’t know before = Inform

3.They open my eyes that little bit more because of the opportunity/possibility they communicate = Inspire

4.They give me an added boost and make me feel good in what I am doing = Encourage and Support

Of course, there are many other elements in conversation, however these are typically negative and do not create a YES + AND conversational space where people want to contribute and grow.

The BIGGEST and best point to keep in mind is this:Picture you are the conversation you want to have and you are at a dinner party with a table of strangers.If you are tasked with engaging the people around the table, how would you normally do this?Before you say ‘I am going to say it like this or offer them this’ think about yourself at the dinner party again and ask ‘What reaction would I likely receive if I was to do/say that in the real world’.Now multiply that reaction by a million (as this is the online world) and then decide if you still want to share/converse as you had planned, or if you will try a different approach.

There are some gems in the 95 Theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto to assist in this thinking process. While we won’t list them all, here are the most relevant to keep in mind as you work through this exercise:

1. Markets are conversations.

2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.

11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.

14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.

21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.

38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.

And so, what might the outcome look like? Well, taking the above framework in mind, we undertook this approach for a brand you may know, IKEA. The following questions lead us to the diagram below. It is merely one possible outcome, however it ended with a framework of online conversational starters and approaches that would be at least authentic for the brand.

Key questions to ask:

1. Who am I? Your brand. The central point you want to converse about

2. What do stand for? What does your brand have a right to talk about? IKEA and DIY = yes. IKEA and None of your friends will have this = No.

3. How can I share this to…? Choose the type of positive conversation that you want to have. Think about your conversational objectives. Where do you want the person you are conversing with to be because of the conversation? i.e. happier, better informed, inspired, encouraged?

4. What elements do I share to spark and maintain this? The right digital elements to share and support this conversation need to be thought about. It does not necessarily need to be a full blown widget, it could be as simple as a series of images, some text and a link (it is most likely NOT a banner ad though).

5. What would I say to kick this off? What is the ice breaker? What do you say first? How can you start this in a way which is the most engaging and creates the most open space for discourse?

The only thing now is….how do you find and reach into the right spaces online to have this conversations?! That will need to wait until our next post. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Linqia works with leading global brands to drive social media marketing results through an online marketplace by connecting brands deep into the conversations of online groups and social networks.

This article was co-authored by Maria Sipka (Founder and CEO of Linqia.com) and Piero Poli (VP of Business Development and Strategy at Linqia.com)

Over the past 3 months, our team has interviewed over 120 social networks and online communities across the globe. The number 1 challenge they’re all facing is monetization. Banner ads don’t work – CPM rates have plummeted – in some cases from €20 to €2, members aren’t paying any attention to ads and there’s not enough inventory to service the combined billions of page views across these sites. Sites doing well generate revenue through selling virtual currencies, member subscriptions and integrating partnerships.

Whilst we estimate there exists over 2,000 social networks and online communities, there are over 80 million groups created by members, organizations and companies.

So how do you monetize groups?

Similar to social networks, some platform allow groups to embed advertising – such as Ning. The most common form of monetization is through affiliate links and direct partnerships.

I group I belong to on LinkedIN is the 30,000+ member Social Media Marketing group lead by Michael Crosson. Michael is a LinkedIN member passionate about social media and engaging members in a variety of discussions around this topic. It’s the largest group on LinkedIn for this topic and serves a ‘go to’ place to connect with people interesting in social media marketing and learning more about this.

Michael has been smart and started integrating affiliate partners into his group. With a reach of 30,000+ people, he’s able to blast a message to all of his members guaranteeing a high percentage of attention and ‘eye balls’. This type of marketing is very different to adsense or embedded affiliate opportunities. Firstly – most if not all of the offers may not be something the members are proactively searching for now – therefor receiving a message from a trusted person addresses people are not searching. Secondly, whilst the group has 30,000+ registered members, they don’t necessarily visit the group on a regular basis – meaning that any ads or offers presented won’t be seen. The most effective form of distributing any message or offer is through email – from somebody the group members trust and will pay attention to.

Below, you will see the message I received this morning from Michael – which I spent 30 seconds reviewing:

Six key ingredients to effectively presenting opportunities to members in your group:

  1. Source opportunities or offers which are highly relevant to your members. State why the opportunity is interesting.
  2. The message must not be scripted or written in a commercial way. Write like you’re sitting around a table with your members and sharing something exciting you came across that would be relevant to them.
  3. Be transparent. If you’re receiving a commission or kickback – make this obvious
  4. Your message should not only be commercial in nature. Deliver some value at the beginning of the message – sharing some news, an article or something interesting. Append commercial opportunities or partners at the end of your message.
  5. Plan the frequency of how often you will communicate with your members. Depending on the affinity you have developed with your members, if you send too many messages you will start to loose their interest. A very close knit group
  6. Track how many people click on the links. For larger groups (1,000+) ideally you want 10% of members clicking on the links. For smaller groups 20% is healthy and indicative that you’re delivering value.

What not to do:

  1. Make it obvious that it’s an affiliate link – Michael has included the link in it’s entirety including his affiliate code. I would suggest that you shortern or disguise the URL. Whilst it’s important to disclose that the links are commercial in nature you can avoid posting lengthy URL’s

There are 100’s of affiliate programs you can access. Many groups have embedded the Amazon affiliate program, LinkShare, commission junction, tradedoubler, adjug, adroll and so on.

It’s worth testing and even speaking to members within your group to find the right balance.

The key for any advertiser getting started in a group campaign is to acknowledge that they don’t know what they don’t know. Advertisers don’t know groups.

Sure they’ve spent a fortune on garnering demographics and compiling an impressive stack of statistics, but numbers alone don’t reveal the nuances of individual experience and they can’t accurately predict how a group will react to their advertising content.

To begin to really understand what motivates an individual to contribute to group discussion, advertisers must turn to the Group Leader.The Group Leader better than anyone else can reveal a long history of engagement.

Advertisers must learn to appreciate what a unique vantage point the Group Leader has. He (or she) can anticipate what his members will like, dislike, be passionate about or even revolt against.

He knows what kind of content gets the most clicks, what discussions are most likely to generate heat or cause infectious laughter, spirited debate, thoughtfulness, creativity, insight, empathy or knowledge.

Group Leaders have bought together hundreds and thousands of people; all bought together by common interest, cause or experience.Usually the Group Leader themselves shares this in common.

For example, the Group Leader of a weight-loss community may well have undergone a personal weight-loss journey of their own and created a community to share and encourage others on the same journey.

Sharing with a group is often cathartic. Groups offer a sense of camaraderie and the opportunity to genuinely connect. Therefore the most active, vibrant groups are bound together by trust and openness, and more often than not, it’s the Group Leader that leads by example.

So how does a Group Leader introduce an advertiser into his or her group?

He needs to continue to communicate openly with his group. Any pending advertising campaign must be made transparent. The advertising campaign might be a product trial, a competition entry or simply a question to answer.

Therefore the Group Leader may post an introduction on the community noticeboard or the community blog. They might send out a direct email invitation to participate or inform group members.

What language they use; what tone they set is entirely up to them. They communicate with their members, day in day out. They know what to say and how to say it.

Typically clear and concise is best. For example:

“I’d like to welcome [Advertiser X] to our community.

[Advertiser X] will be running a social media content campaign within our group for the next month. What is a social media content campaign?Well, [Advertiser X] would like us to contribute to their campaign. They would appreciate it if we could …”

Advertisers might ask group members to trial a product; answer a question; share knowledge; provide feedback or apply creativity. The Group Leader may then elaborate and sign off with something like the following, for example;

“[Advertiser X] has offered us an assortment of content to download into the group. You may wish to view, comment, share, like, dislike, reject or embrace. It’s entirely up to you. I’ll be on hand to hear your thoughts. Get in touch.”

The message is simple and to the point. Of course the anticipated upshot of a social media content campaign is to encourage or entrench advertiser-consumer relationships.

Branded content is distributed into online groups to spark conversation-led advertising campaigns. However unlike traditional advertising, conversation-led campaigns welcome the entire spectrum of consumer reactions.

The Group Leader downloads whatever content he feels will add the most value to his community and at what time and where within the site they feel it’s best suited. The Group Leader needs to provide a specific place to post reactions and garner activity around content.

For example, if the first piece of content prompt a good number of posts, the Group Leader may suggest it’s best to let the conversation continue rather than to try and “hijack” attention to another piece of content.

But what happens when an advertiser wishes to participate in group conversation?

Again the key is transparency. Beyond speaking with the Group Leader to understand what tone and language they might use to post comments and ask questions, it’s also a good idea for the advertiser to spend some time in the community beforehand.

Spending time in the community, observing the tone and nature of the conversation is a practical start to any social media campaign.

If an advertiser doesn’t possess the expertise to post on a particular subject, then the advertiser shouldn’t position themselves as an expert. Group members will inevitably see right through it and consequently they may feel deceived.

Better to bring in experts or pool employee resources to answer specialised questions rather than try and position themselves as an expert.

Finally the advertiser needs to collaborate with the Group Leader and listen to what group members have to say. Ultimately, everyone involved in an online group endeavour to foster the natural ebb and flow of human engagement.