To webmasters and ordinary people hooked on social media sites, it’s pretty obvious how advantageous social media sites can be. Users can communicate and interact with others instantly, from any place and at any time. Many businesses have recognized the marketing advantages of social media sites as these platforms allow businesses to showcase their products and services as well as engage with customers. One particular industry that’s taking notice of the benefits of social media sites is the restaurant business.

According to research from the National Restaurant Association, more restaurateurs are joining the social media bandwagon and using these sites as a marketing strategy in addition to other common forms of marketing such as television commercials and print advertisements. Of the respondents in the study, 87% said that social media is an effective way for businesses to communicate with customers.

While traditional forms of marketing may still be effective for reaching audiences, they lack the continuous customer engagement that social media sites provide. The social media world virtually never sleeps with users interacting every second. This is the perfect opportunity for businesses to engage with customers and build a strong social bond. Also, traditional forms of advertising can become repetitive and old, losing customer interest. Remember, customers crave the latest news, technology or event currently taking place.

Social media sites not only allow users to write posts, but they can also share pictures and videos, which web audiences love. Audiences not only want to learn about a restaurant’s latest dish, but they want to see it. Show your customers the latest dish that has left countless other customers drooling for more. Do your chefs have hidden talent of juggling cooking utensils while stirring up something tasty? That’s what web audiences want to see on video. Show them that your chefs can do more with a knife and fork than just chop some meat.

A major benefit to social media sites that customers can take advantage of and businesses can utilize is customers can provide their feedback. This allows restaurants the opportunity to understand how their customers feel and learn what they should change or improve upon to keep customers happy. While a positive tweet is a good sign, don’t neglect unhappy customers. Now is your chance to show customers that you truly do care about them.

So, if you’re a restaurant owner looking for a way to help your business gain more exposure, now is the time to enter the social media world.

In yesterday’s post, I opened the discussion of Twitter’s varied use by non-marketers and covered two interesting and innovative applications of the technology. The first is that of Francis Kariuki (@Chiefkariuki), the Kenyan administrative chief that uses twitter to get important messages out to his community members. Secondly, we looked at the twitter bot named Where’s My Bus (@whensmybus) which offers travelers real-time London bus information.

Next, let’s turn our attention to auto racing. NASCAR on Fox, the emmy-award winning programming for NASCAR coverage on Fox Sports has recently made the shift to include Twitter in its coverage of the events. Viewers can track comments and get updates from commentators and “track-side” reporters by following certain handles and tracking specifc (#)hashtags. This allows greater engagement with fans and offers added value and insight to the broadcast. They are not the only channel to offer such functionality in their broadcasting, but they are the channel that is potentially the most aggressive in its consistent use of Twitter.

Businesses and Their Twitter Accounts
The two cases from yesterday and the auto racing example above offer innovative applications of Twitter that provide a cause for re-evaluation. Businesses need to be mindful of their twitter presence continuously reassessing what they do and must avoid falling into a rut. They need to push to engage with their followers in new and meaningful ways. Additionally:

  • Company twitter accounts should be purpose-driven in that they deliver on a goal consistently, whether that is supplying interesting and insightful content to followers or engaging in a more compelling way, or both. Chief Kariuki’s followers know what they get from him and a company wants to have that same consistent presence and follower expectation of what they will get (and it is on the company to then make it worth the followers’ while).
  • Businesses should leverage twitter by finding ways to get the tweets seen by more and more people beyond only those that have twitter accounts. Chief Kariuki’s example illustrates this well by getting the content of tweets out via text messages. The implementation of this in an ICT developed markets does not exactly parallel the example, but the point remains. Businesses should leverage twitter content by profiling it on other social platforms, interactively linking it to a Pinterest account for example, blog posts, loyal or interested customer emails, or other channels that are well established with their customer base.
  • Businesses should use Twitter as a two-way tool that motivates followers to respond and engage as more of a give and take conversation than a one-off message.
  • When the company achieves successes or achievements are made on the platform…companies should tweet about it and make it known to their followers.
  • Lastly, the auto racing example illustrates the use of Twitter to track the progression  of an event in real-time. Companies can cover relevant industry events or their own via their handle or initiate a new one for that event and have interested parties track it via a hashtag search. Tracking it this way rather than through the handle can avoid overwhelming followers with too many tweets risking their un-follow click and their subsequent forgetting to follow again once the event finishes.

For more information regarding how your business can purposefully use Twitter or how an SEO company can help you better navigate the social landscape and establish more quality engagement, connect with me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com and @ryanwbudd.

Twitter, the most popular microblogging site on the internet, offers instantaneous communication and unique engagement opportunities for businesses to connect with members of their audience. Twitter indeed offers two-way communication, but a recent study by Conversocial shows that many big businesses, within retail clothing in this case, do not engage in two-way communication with their customers, and if they do it is limited. On social platforms other than Twitter, customers can message businesses directly, comment, and reach other in other ways.

But with Twitter, it can be much easier to connect with them – if the retailers see it, and choose to respond that is. @mentions of the brands are simply made by customers but appear in complaint messages many times effectively blasting a message of customer dissatisfaction that can harm the reputation and image of the brand and if not resolved, can result in a potentially lost customer. These oft-missed @mentions present opportunities for businesses to respond to customers in productive two-way communication.

Social Customer Service; An Opportunity to Engage
The study from Conversocial entitled “Top US Clothing  Retailers on their Customer Service Response Times on Twitter” tracked more than 8,000 @mentions of 10 large clothing brands during the last week of January into February. 13% of customer complaints were responded to by brands and they were slow in initiating this return communication.  Further, 50% of the retailers didn’t respond to complaints voiced on Twitter. 48% of customer service issues were questions customers had which means they were looking for a response, as only 9% were negative mentions that didn’t request a response. As such, the majority of mentions are genuine customer service queries that should be addressed by company marketers to protect the brand and satisfy customers.

In an interview with The Next Web, Conversocial CEO Joshua March points out that this splits customer service and marketing as the few social media marketers that companies have on board are not equipped to handle customer service issues and marketing techniques are lacking in the skills et of customer service representative. As such, cross-trained staff should be utilized to track @mentions, engage with customers, and resolve issues – and in significant numbers to keep up with the volume of @mentions.

Essential Takeaways for Business Marketers
This insight is significant for companies that have a social presence. Simply put, businesses and the SEO companies partnered with them to strategize their social actions can take this information as a moment for pause to reconsider how they use the mediums.

  • First and foremost, marketers need to see Twitter as a two-way communication tool. This may be a bit of a paradigm shift, or at least a shift in the perceived purpose of the medium. Rather than solely sending out promotional and marketing messages constantly, take the time to purposefully engage customers, responding to them. This represents a transition away from quantity and towards quality communication with followers – this is more strategic and will likely yield better customer loyalty in the long-run.
  • Marketers must engage on the personal level, add some personality to the handle and various accounts, and most importantly, track and engage with those that are reaching out to the company (in the case of twitter, creating @mentions of the brand).
  • If customer service is a vital part of your business/industry, then invest in the staffing to adequately address as many complaints and queries across social platforms (especially Twitter) as possible. Stress the importance of quick turnarounds in response time as often queries are initiated via mobile while in-store and quick responses can be very beneficial.
  • For companies operating in international markets, they need to identify which platforms are most used by the customers/followers in each market and meet them on the preferred platform. Check out this Casual Friday video that discusses social media in different countries.

Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com if you have any questions regarding how your business can utilize social media more purposefully and constructively engage with your customer-base.

Athletic and cultural giant Nike had a significant misstep last week when they named a limited edition shoe after the drink known in this country as a “Black & Tan,” a layered combination of a stout and lager beer. The company was doing so to honor Ireland in the run-up to St. Patrick’s Day, however, the gesture was received as an insensitive and somewhat confusing insult. Nike did not fully understand the significance of the “Black & Tan” phrase in Ireland.

The “Black & Tan” is, yes, a layered drink of stout and lager, but the drink itself is more common in the US than in Ireland where the phrase is associated with the paramilitary Royal Irish Constabulary Reserve Force used to suppress revolution in Ireland particularly from 1920-192 during the last two years of the Irish War of Independence. The group was nicknamed the “Black & Tans” for the colors of their improvised uniforms and had a reputation for attacks on Irish civilians, thus, Irish sentiment towards the phrase, even the word “Tan” remains very negative. It represents a painful time in the nation’s history and old tensions with Britain, making the mention of “Black & Tan” in marketing efforts simply puzzling. Such a case has clear PR and Marketing implications.

Cater to the Context
“Cater to the context” is becoming a mantra of this blog and my writing, but the Nike case is proof that such mistakes do happen and that cultures DEMANDS our attention. Nike had the best of intentions, but unfortunately that is lost because of their failure to do the necessary research on their message and its appropriateness for the given context and target audience. When involving any culture (usually one other than your own), the culture needs to be analyzed and understood before action is taken. The extent of the action or campaign dictates the level of cultural understanding and analysis required, and there is always some required.

This misstep was significant not necessarily because of the amount of PR backlash received or the possibility that Nike will not be able to recover (which is not the case), but because of how easily it could have been avoided. The amount of research that was required was a simple Google search, small-scale market research/focus groups (really one conversation with someone from Ireland would have sufficed), or a look at the use of the phrase in past marketing efforts (Ben & Jerry’s made a similar mistake in 2006 using the phrase in the name of an ice cream flavor). The marketing message was based on assumptions that Nike decision-makers and marketers had on what the phrase meant, seemingly assuming it had the same significance both in the US and in Ireland.  Now, the extra public relations, SEO, and reputation management work to replace the negative story with the resulting apology far outweigh any work on the front-end to avoid the situation.

In sum, marketers should take from this case:

  • Local research should be done to establish a deeper understanding of the cultures involved.
  • Determine if company perceptions or assumptions match the reality of the local context, no matter how seemingly simple the involvement with the culture in question appears.
  • Proactively seeking to avoid such situations is better than trying to fix the damage they cause after.

Connect with me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com,  on Twitter @ryanwbudd, with any thoughts on this case or how culture and internet marketing impact your business. Also, check out Anthony Pensabene’s blog today, just below, some great info on language, terms, and culture – what is “Culturomics” and is there really an SEO name debate?

The results of a marketing study that Facebook conducted in collaboration with Forrester Research were recently published. They reveal some very interesting and significant changes in the world of marketing, and how professionals in the field now approach the task of promoting brands and products to consumers. The final verdict is that social media has produced great changes in the landscape of marketing. It has established its place on the list of primary mediums through which businesses now carry out their SEO and other marketing campaigns.

The article on Mashable that discusses this study features two interesting diagrams of how marketers used to format their purchase funnels in the TV-dominated era, and how they do so now in a social media-influenced time. The first process could be best described as a pyramidal structure with five steps. These are 1) Awareness; 2) Consideration; 3) Purchase; 4) Preference; 5) Loyalty.

What exactly do these steps outline? The first refers to how, in the past, consumers were usually made aware of a product through television or print advertisements. They then thought about the product before deciding to purchase it. After doing so, they would evaluate and determine how much they liked the product. If they liked it, they became “loyal” re-purchasers.

The new paradigm, however, is a huge change from the old one. It is no longer a pyramid, but a circle. It expresses how today’s consumer creates a world of connections via social media around him, so that when a product is presented to him, he simultaneously engages in four processes in order to evaluate it before purchasing it. These processes are: learn, investigate, purchase, and interact. The consumer makes use of all of his social media networks to engage in these activities, checking Facebook and Twitter accounts of both friends and companies to obtain a well-rounded view of the product.

Facebook and Forrester Research go on to propose a new plan to businesses for building their brands in a social media world. This plan involves meeting six points: articulate, connect, engage, influence, integrate, and rejuvenate. Several examples are listed in the Mashable article of how companies like Coca Cola, American Express, Sephora and more are forming creative ways of meeting these points using social media.

As this research shows, social media is well on its way to becoming an integral component of many business’s SEO marketing campaigns.

 

How did you find this post?  Is WebiMax doing a good job branding? (You knew to come straight to the site).  Did you come from one of the search engines?  “SEO company” (as well as related derivations) is a WebiMax keyword, meaning we assume you use the term to find our services on the Web.  Is that the case?  Guess what?  We help in multiple ways regarding social media, Web design, public relations, reputation management, etc.  Take a look at our services.  Do we consider it all marketing?  Is it all SEO?  Is it all branding?  What do YOU think?

Rand Fishkin posted on SEOmoz today, regarding branding SEO and how “we” (on the inside) refer to the industry as well as (your) public perception of search engine optimization.  I’m glad he posted because it’s a conversation those “in” the industry can benefit from.  What is your perception of the industry?

The Problem
“Time may change me…”  The industry is going through some growing pains.   We don’t need Alan Thicke to counsel us through the process; we just need to ease our anxieties regarding how you, those seeking our services, refer to us.

Technology and broadened-business opportunities have changed the ‘landscape’ of the field from the ‘inside’ out.

Two, great observations about the change:

Gianluca Fiorelli

Michael King

I get it; you’re probably not like me (being outside the industry and within your own respective field).  (Maybe) you don’t regularly read industry literature.  I do.  Guess what?  It’s my responsibility to provide YOU with info from the inside; so, service seekers better understand how a range of services can help them.

Solution
Just as I typed, it’s our responsibility to educate our target market, our consumers.  I invite every business reader to please be diligent in realizing the change.  It’s happened; it’s happening; it will continue.  Be a good consumer as we endeavor at being good providers; read about old, new, and evolving services.  Do you have a question?  Please ask someone.  Don’t harbor confused, dated, or limited views.  You’re doing our industry and your business a huge disservice.  We’re here (people in SEO) to help you build your brand; but before that, we must ensure you completely understand who we are and what we do.

 

Ask...

 

...and you shall better understand.

 

I’ve learned to be a humble guy; I’ve been a brat in my time.  I often ‘catch’ myself employing assumptions, making an Equus asinus asinus out of myself.  I can admit it.  You’re all wiser than me; I know B2B consumers are savvy.  Your business is important.  Your reputation is important.  You would not partner with questionable providers or practices, those who harm the industry and YOU as consumers, those who deviate from informing and applying best practices, those who helped engineer SEO ‘folklore’ and misunderstandings.

I’m asking you to help us so we can better help Y.O.U.  Please participate.