“Godfather, be my friend,” a man pleads as he kisses Don Vito’s hand.  The former was really asking of a favor.  The Godfather knew.  It’s VERY LIKELY those on your ‘let’s be pals’ radar know your immediate intentions too.  It’s okay; be aware of their awareness and proceed…naturally.

I’ve been pretty successful in making friends throughout my life. I’m actually pretty cool; but, that’s for me to know and others to notice.  In social life, I can be a bit lax, allowing things to happen at a gradual pace.  I’m a tough sell.  I’m not going to ‘be down’ with just anyone.  In my professional life, things are a bit different, warranting a mixture of friendly and professional sentiments; but, I’m very similar to other professionals in that regard too.  I’m not going to be ‘cool’ with just anyone.  If I did want to begin a relationship, I would go about it in the following manner.

The Elephant in the Room
Have you ever engaged someone in conversation, knowing there is an ulterior motive for the union, yet it goes ‘unpublished’ in conversation.  It makes for an awkward guessing game of what the other person is thinking.  Be honest whenever approaching or PR pitching another professional.  Would you like their help?  Would you like them to read your blog?  Would you like to be considered as a source in an article?  All of these ‘selfish’ desires are acceptable; however, don’t ‘beat around the bush.’  Just be direct.  Being direct doesn’t guarantee a disarming welcome; but, it does let the other person know you’re a straight shooter, honest, and not wasting their time.

Some time ago, I wanted to guest post on Mike King’s blog.  I hit him up in an email; and, though may have been a bit complimentary in the opening, I was succinct in my intentions.  I wanted a social media post on ipullrank’s blog; however, it was important to offer something to Mike’s readers too. Why else would he accept if I wasn’t creating some sort of value?  Mike posted on the wrong and right way to ask for a guest post.

Creating Value
My mom thinks I’m special; that goes along with the job.  I know.  Do others?  Perhaps, but it’s because I earned their respect.  I did; I inspired; I worked; I expressed; I did a number of things to openly demonstrate (out in the practical, wide-open world) I can offer some sort of value.  Think of other professionals as active musicians.  By adding your presence, does their professional world become more harmonious?  If not, they’re likely to want you to ‘sit this number out.’  Maybe you can try-out again when you have something of value to offer.

Value is subjective; but, the need to offer ‘something’ is an objective reality.  What can you offer?

-          Humor (maybe you make them laugh with your take on the industry)

-          Research (maybe you’ve crunched a lot of data, elucidating a new trend or previously unseen ‘truth’)

-          Exposure (maybe you have a high number of followers and can introduce a personality to a new pool of subscribers and vice versa)

-          Guidance (perhaps you have experience in a particular area and can offer insight)

Think about what you can add.  It’s a delicate dance of give and take.  If you’re not offering anything valuable, there’s no reason for professionals to jump at the chance to ‘make friends.’  Many will question why you thought a union with them was apropos in the first place.  Have you researched?

Do Research
I recently read a great explanation of why doing your homework in a respective vertical is important.  You see, it’s not about ‘just getting exposure.’  It’s about finding the right fit; it’s about making the right kind of relationships.  I’m a writer.  Is making a contact with NASA the right fit though NASA is an incredibly respected entity?  Unless NASA wants me to help them with content marketing, the relationship is ill fitting.  I’d be better off finding better niches, befitting to my networking wishes.

Check out Chris Dyson’s post on chasing footprints for linkbuilding.  Knowing the right paths to venture is crucial.  Next, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the personality of interest.  That’s how you would normally go about making relations and conversation, right?  Consider the alternative:

Heather Lloyd-Martin   Heather Lloyd-Martin ‏ @heatherlloyd
If you are going to pitch me, at least check out my freakin’ site first. Otherwise, I just hit the “delete” button. Sheesh! :)

Relation Building
You’ve heard of link building, the reason why many people approach others for immediate connections.  Awesome, you’ve made a connection and got a valuable link.  The link is good in and out itself; but, I liken the process as getting the opportunity to shake the Dali Lama’s hand but not engaging him in conversation.

The reason it’s so important to research relations above, is because like online marketing, relations take time to build momentum and strength.  What’s better, getting one guest post link or cultivating a relationship, resulting in future guest spots, insight and guidance, introduction to other ‘doors’ of opportunity and personalities, etc?  Lightning storms are pretty and exciting; but, the excitement is short-lived.  I’d rather invest in my time in building lasting weather patterns.

Pro tip:  PR (I think of it as peer relations) is not for everyone.  Are you stuck in a connection rut?  Do you wonder why you and yours are shunned by others?  Something is off; you’re doing something wrong.

Do you see relationships merely as a means to an end?  If so, PR is not for you.  You don’t ‘get it.’  No matter how much work you put in, you’re likely missing an integral piece of the puzzle.  PR is a practice for the genuine and forthright.  You can roll your eyes all you want at these sentiments.  Go ahead and try to prove me wrong.  The following video is for those interested in building real relations with peers.  All others need not apply.

  

Which camp does your approach fall under?  I can tell (I’m just nice about openly id-ing the former group.)  Don’t be foolish.  Others, who are PR savvy, can ‘see’ your approach too.

 

 

 

The internet has not only become a tool for people to conveniently search for products or services online, but a dominant source to learn about businesses. With the various online review sites available, customers can read reviews about businesses as well as provide their own review. And ‘word on the internet’ spreads like wildfire. But, does everyone really trust online reviews?

According to results from the Local Consumer Review Survey (2012), roughly 72% of the consumers surveyed trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations. Of those who read online reviews, 65% of consumers read 2-10 reviews. Of course reputation management is essential in operating a business, in which 58% of consumers stated that they trust a business with positive online reviews.

It’s no doubt that positive reviews about a business will turn a visitor into a consumer. If a business has a negative review, how likely is it that you would trust them?

Also, more people are utilizing the internet to obtain information about a business because of the convenience. Whether from a laptop or cell phone, people can quickly search online for reviews about a business. And because so many people are turning to online reviews, they are becoming more valuable.

Let’s also not forget that online reviews make their way into the social media world. Whenever I receive excellent service from a business, my positive experience with that business makes its way onto my Facebook page for my friends to read and I send a tweet as well for my followers. Positive reviews are especially beneficial for businesses involved in social media as they help a business gain more online attention.

Nothing means success to a business like a positive review from a customer.

 

Have you ever chatted with someone who presents a story to you that sounds familiar, except for some minor-to-major details, which have been shifted, embellished, and distorted?  It’s common in the world of gossip and akin to playing the game, whisper down the lane.

I used to teach in high school, where cliques wax poetic about gossip just as much (or more) as tweed-jacketed English teachers speak Shakespeare.  The interests and cliques of teens can be capricious and fickle; yet teachers, those in authority, need to relay consistency.  One of the best pieces of advice received from older peers regarded consistency, being ‘who you say you are’ and doing ‘what you said you would.’

The dynamic between a student and teacher is a bit different from that of a consumer and brand; however, the need for consistency remains integral to facilitate good relations.  Mixed signals and contradiction, purveyed by a brand, is recognized by consumers.  It frustrates and alienates the latter party.

Over the weekend, I read a post on forming a corporate identity manual.  A brand does not need to be huge to host a manual; a brand consisting of one employee may benefit from a manual.  Why?  It addresses a brand’s character; it provides the ‘blue prints’ for a brand’s personality.  Secondly, it serves as a graphic reminder (a ‘post-it’ note), mentally nudging all brand players about the importance of the brand’s identity and the consistency of expressing it.

Example 1
Those practicing online marketing often get perplexed by Google; it must be very intimidating for those outside of the industry.  A brief time ago, Google introduced privacy setting changes, creating a mass of confusion, with many expressing their frustration with the brand.  Google’s engine is the most popular method of search; a communicative blunder (even of large proportions) is not likely to sink the brand; but, Google champions itself on creating the best user experience; being tongue-tied about mass-rolled-out changes is not consistent with its intended identity.  This is not good for consumers and definitely not good for Google.

Example 2
I own a phone powered by a popular mobile brand.  I recently had a billing question, pointing out the disparity between written text on their Web site, what was explained to me while signing a contract, and what was relayed to me by a representative on the phone.  My real frustration with the brand culminated in the feeling of helplessness; I can’t find a theme of consistency with the brand’s processes.  I shouldn’t have to sleuth and elucidate contradictions.  Before the brand takes my money, accepting me as an ongoing consumer, it should definitively engineer its policies, ensuring a consistent identity.

In the first example, Google did a poor job of ‘being who it says’ – a provider of the best user experience.  In the second example, the brand did a poor job of ‘doing what it said it would’ in regard to the billing process.

Does This Hit Home?
The way I branded myself as a person of authority in the classroom was important.  I needed to ensure a level of consistency; because, if I didn’t, I would be ‘called’ on it.

“Hey, Mr. P, can I have an extension on that project due on Friday?”

“No, sorry, I can’t budge on that.”

“Why did you tell Tommy in 4th period he could have one!?”

See what would happen if I was inconsistent with my branding?  I would alienate some consumers.

“Hey class, I know I said I would give all of you some free time to do your homework at the end of class; but, I changed my mind.”

(Chaos and Mr. P voo-doo dolling ensues)

Do you have children?  Did they ever ask a question at different times or to different parents, attempting to elicit a different response?  High school teens do the same with teachers; they can be crafty.  I did it when I was in school.  Does your brand respond consistently to its consumers?

Solution
Branding myself and my methods was important before I started teaching.  In the above article, the branding strategist maintains a graphic organizer with a signed ‘contract’ by the owner, the ‘contract’ enforcing the corporate identity.

Before teaching, I presented a graphic contract, ‘Mr. P’s structural bookends,’ having each student and aligned parent sign it.  This way, all consumers and related associates had a clear understanding of my ‘brand,’ who I was, what I expected, and what they could expect regarding my instruction.

The author of the corporate identity article endorses the formation and regular revisiting of a company-wide identity manual.  Have you considered such a process? Do all team members act uniformly toward consumers?  Is each piece of content, produced by your brand, released with your brand’s intended, consistent message?  Ensure all involved with your brand are on the same branding page.

 

The world of one-sided marketing has faded.  It’s more about…engagement (the magical buzzword).  Marketing has become more dynamic and personable.  It may take a little while for us to fully wrap our heads around what social media did and continues to do to marketing.

Once there was a time when dissatisfied customers only had those within earshot to discuss brand experience with.  Now, customers can hop on Twitter and express their distaste in real time, directly to the brand, with the potential of thousands seeing it.

It makes for interesting marketing.  It leads me to champion the process of branding more than ever.  I think branding is inseparable from reputation management; and, a company that is mindful of branding can make maintaining reputation easier, standing tall, even through times of sporadic consumer dissatisfaction.  Obviously, branding requires creating associations and…engagement is one way to create positive ones.

There are a number of brands that do a great job of creating, promoting, and maintaining a community, a fan base.  It’s hard to replicate character and unique personalities; but, you don’t have to model others exactly; just be mindful of some options.  It’s pretty much the same with all forms of marketing; the process is unique to each brand though many use similar methods and platforms.  What I’m saying is you can’t expect to get the exact same engagement results as others; but, through the process of engagement, you can create your own community.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

Free/Savings:  I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say people enjoy free things as well as saving money on things.  Is there a way to offer social media followers immediate savings on your product/services?  Is there a chance you can giving something away free, even if just a mug or t-shirt?  Maybe a white paper from the industry?  Think of creating a reason to ‘get people in the door.’

Attention:  If someone is following your brand, they have made positive associations.  In short, they like you.  However, reciprocity is a factor in real life, which spills over to the Web.  Even if people like you, if you continuously neglect giving them attention, they’re likely to start ‘liking’ other brands.  In all sincerity, ask your brand this question:  Do we donate enough attention to subscribers, social media followers, or regular blog readers?  A little attention can go a long way, especially when it’s likely some of your competition is being lax in this department.  You could donate more attention by:

-More outbound re-tweeting and tweeting of others’ content

-Ask followers how their day is going.  I know crazy, right?

-Feature a customer using your product/service on your site weekly

-Ask questions for feedback and then publicly thank those who participated

-Come up with some theme for the days of the week, asking followers to participate (Example:  each Monday, your handle sporadically quotes from movies while followers guess the films.)

 

What kind of twitter personality do you leverage?  Are you extraverted or an introverted handler?  I tweet as a live; I’m a bona fide introvert.  I’m a quiet man in most off and online settings; but, just because this isn’t constantly running (points to mouth), doesn’t mean this isn’t (points to head).

I started my Twitter account several months ago but have tweeted almost 1,000 times; surely I have some things to express; but, is it always apropos to pull the Twitter trigger?  In surveying the social media platform (within the last few months), I’ve noticed some people have a capricious Twitter finger; maybe it would be best to ponder…to tweet or not to tweet.

Just Tweet It
Twitter is a social platform.  Obviously it’s there for socializing and spreading in-brand information.  Let’s consider good examples of socializing.

Spreading information

I enjoy the benefit of an endless stream of industry information due to my Twitter account.  Tweets are streaming at all hours of the day.  NYC doesn’t sleep, neither do the tweople on social media platforms.  There’s a mighty chance you missed something or someone else did.  But you can be helpful, aligning personalities with potential resources of interest.

Example:  I’m writing, inspired by a Psychology Today post, tweeted to me by a WebiMax cohort, Candice Scheets.  Candice knows I have an interest in Psych and is ‘looking out.’  Are you doing the same for your team members, industry cohorts, and clients?  Why not?

Candice A. Scheets Candice A. Scheets ‏ @CandiceScheets

How to thrive quietly in your Batcave… #Socialmedia is an introverts best friend…http://bit.ly/GZCtEN #SEO #SMM @content_muse

Comment on Links

Guess what?  Writers enjoy others reading their words!  I know!  People comment on blogs all the time, expressing views and celebrating the writing of the author.  Your comments are limited, using Twitter; but, you can still express interest and views by tweeting thoughts aligned with the associated post.

Survey how I describe Bill Slawski’s post, taking a comment from within:

Anthony Pensabene Anthony Pensabene ‏ @content_muse

“reputation scores…could influence search rankings in social search and Web search” G comment patent @bill_slawskihttp://bit.ly/HZdWOZ

Internal Communication

I work remotely and can’t afford the benefit of regularly seeing cohorts.  Decades ago, the scenario would be unique; but, distant team members are not such a rarity these days.  While cohorts can use a variety of tools to facilitate communication, email, instant message, phone calls, etc, I like the idea of communicating on a social platform; the process further enhances branding.  ‘Outsiders’ perceive internal communication when it’s performed via social media.  If you have a great team synergy, why not let other people know about it?  I see a lot of positive, in-brand synergy going on; it’s a testament to the brand.  Happy employees usually indicate a brand that makes clients happy too!

Example: We added another member to the internal marketing team, Jillian Johnson.  I could send her an email, but shouting at her on Twitter expresses a sense of team unity.

Anthony Pensabene  Anthony Pensabene ‏ @content_muse

@MissWritey thanks for making the team stronger, Jillian – welcome

Tweep it Inside
We’re all people, prone to mistakes, emotional reactions, poor short-term decisions, etc.  However, I suggest taking a breather, a moment to reflect before hitting the tweet button.  I’ve seen a lot of positive tweets and I’ve seen some nasty ones too.  I don’t want to give examples; but, I’m sure readers have observed real-life examples of the following:

-          Engaging in an argument with a peer.  Agree to disagree and move on; people are watching and judging you and your brand based on a few moments of disagreement.

The world already has 'Angry Birds.' Keep your tweeting positive.

-          Engaging in argument with client.  The customer is not right all the time, but focus on their concerns and not your excuses.  Address their issues like you would a disgruntled in-store consumer.  There’s no ‘safety of distance.’  Many people engage in road rage because they feel ‘safe,’ privately enraged in their car.  It’s not ‘safe’ to create negative associations to your brand…ever.

-          Making comments with the purpose of lessening a personality in the eyes of the viewing public.  Do you have a philosophical issue with another personality?  Don’t lower them, raise yourself.  Write an insightful post, focusing upon and illustrating your beliefs.  The process benefits you a lot more than engaging in online nonsense.

 

Search engine optimization and online marketing is about increasing exposure, right?  Wrong.  I think that’s only a part of the ‘movie’; it’s a part of the buildup.  The real ‘piece de resistance’ is what comes after your brand has paddled out into the ocean of online marketing.

Don’t just look my way; I’m just a newb; however, seasoned-vet, Joanna Lord of SEOmoz, entertains similar sentiments, showcasing them in her White-Board Friday video on new on-page optimization considerations.   Watch the video; there is a lot in there to consider and take into brand-respective account.

Who is Your Brand?
One expression I appreciated in Joanna’s video is her emphasis on engagement.  SEO is not only about getting noticed.  It’s about engaging consumers, building a community once you’re in the waters.

If they're not engaged, consumers will respond to your "I'm --" with a "Who cares?!"

Ensure you implement social cues and sentiments of a brand-construction site in progress.  Being visually available isn’t cutting it in modern-day marketing.  You have to express your brand’s commitment to building authority and a community.  Remember Dr. Pete’s 2 SEO Metrics that Matter post?  He showed how being visually present isn’t enough; without further cues of engagement and community value, many browsers bounce off the page, seeking other brands.

Don’t Get Comfortable
Have you done any A/B testing of your on-site page’s success?  Anthony, why mess with a good thing?  Hmm…perhaps so you could make it even better?  Don’t get too comfortable.  Jump out of your comfort zone, exploring better opportunities.

"You're about to jump out a perfectly good airplane Jonny, how do you feel about that?" - Feel confident to explore new opportunity.

Joanna urges listeners to rethink brand goals as well as connect with other team members for input and effective, ongoing branding.  Depending on the nature of your vertical, new technologies and trends may shape the style and voice of your brand.  As suggested, “test all truths.”  Ensure your brand evolves with consumers, trends, and the landscape of your respective industry.  I remember reading about the Manischewitz brand switching up its style after 123 years!

Consumers Window Shop
Good news for designers and on-site enthusiasts; you’re valued now more than ever.  Online marketing is reaching its tween years; a lot of verticals and brands are regularly present online.  That means even niche brands must focus on consumer perception.  Great-looking designs and advanced functionality of a site is no longer an augmentation; they’re commonplace elements, expected by brand shoppers.

"That's, ahh... that's a surfboard all right! Looks like a '57 Chevy I used to have." Brand pages and designs aren't pulling rank with I the retro look. Get into 'the now' designs.

As Joanna directs, consumers bring high-brand expectations with them online.  Brands aren’t just searching for quality; they expect your brand to look the part from the very first visual impression.  Don’t start surfing the online waves without the proper, updated gear.  Consumers are watching and weighing in on your visual style and immediate appeal.

Be Persistently Brand Consistent
Uniformity is essential.  While it’s advantageous to consider change, ensure all brand properties are consistent, allowing all points of contact to amplify brand messages.  I referenced the BlueGlass brand a few posts back; I like how they brand team members with BlueGlass avatars, which parlay onto their site, blog posts, and social media interactions.

"I've been to every city in Mexico. I came across an unclaimed piece of meat in Baja, turned out to be Rosie. I guessed he picked a knife fight with somebody better. Found one of your passports to Sumatra, I missed you by about a week at Fiji. But, I knew you wouldn't miss the fifty year storm, Bodhi." - Johnny Utah employed persistence to get his man, how's your brand doing?

Don’t de-emphasize the power of branding, especially regarding long-term traction.  It takes planning and strategic implementation to get people to start noticing your brand; once they do, branding and continual consumer engagement makes huge waves after the initial online point break.