WebiMax headquarters is located in South Jersey. This is our first day back in the office following Hurricane Sandy. Luckily, we have power and we did not experience the same levels of damage that the NJ Shore, Newark, and parts of Delaware, New York, and New England endured. Our thoughts are with those who lost their homes or worse – their lives. Among all of the chaos and destruction are brave and generous people who are stepping up to help each other everywhere we look – from neighbors helping to clean each others’ yards to people opening their homes and their hearts all over our Facebook news feeds.

There’s no doubt about it – Sandy was a unique storm on many different levels. Not only did she produce once-in-a-lifetime coastal flooding, 80 mph sustained winds, and wide-spread power outages, but social media played an unprecedented part in spreading safety tips, news, photos, and personal updates in real-time by those who were affected as well as by public safety organizations, major news outlets, and even local politicians.

While millions of people kept in touch and joined the conversation on various social media sites, there is one person who stood out to me on my Twitter feed throughout the ordeal: Cory Booker. The Newark Mayor has always had an impressive Twitter presence, but superstorm Sandy proved that Booker is just as in touch with the power of social media as he is with the community he serves.

Since the storm hit, Booker has been driving around with supplies, making house calls to those in need. Here’s is just one example from last night:

Two hours later, this appeared on his Twitter feed:

 

And this is the Newark resident’s current Twitter profile picture, with Cory Booker during the house call (with the toy car he gave her nephew):

When it comes to tragedies, including natural disasters, many people try to find the silver lining or a lesson that can be learned. In this case, one of the lessons is that social sites are communication tools powerful enough to save lives.

Sandy showed us that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have much more to offer than photos of what your second-cousin-once-removed is eating for dinner (filet and baked beans, in case you’re wondering…); over the past few days, they’ve offered updates to people who are unsure if their homes are still standing, peace of mind to those worried about their loved ones, and hand-delivered diapers to a toddler in Newark, NJ by his Mayor, Cory Booker.

Thank you, @corybooker, and best wishes to everyone in the Northeast in the coming days and weeks.

Recently, Facebook achieved one of its most significant milestones since its launch in 2004 when the company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the social network reached one billion users on September 14th.  For Facebook, attaining a user base that consists of 1/7 of the world’s entire population is a major accomplishment.  However, many of the small businesses which utilize Facebook as an online marketing and advertising outlet are still skeptical of the network’s ability to enhance their revenues despite having the most massive user base on the Web.

Small business owners are not the only ones concerned with Facebook’s performance as an ad revenue-driven organization.  The company’s stock value remains unimpressive and many investors are reluctant to add Facebook to their portfolios, regardless of the brand’s ever-increasing visibility.  While the announcement has undoubtedly granted the world’s largest social network substantial bragging rights, it has seemingly done little to really enhance the company or its profitability.

However, a more interesting statistic has also been revealed by Facebook as of late that may prove beneficial to their brand.  As of April 2012, the network’s monthly user growth had fallen to 1.74%, the lowest it has been since its 2004 debut.  Today, Facebook claims it has reached 2.04% monthly growth.  This marks the first increase the network has seen in over 13 months and could help to restore investor confidence in the brand going forward.

Although it is critical for Facebook to increase their viability to investors and improve their company’s waning stock values, it is just as important to build consumer confidence.  As a business driven almost entirely by advertising revenue, Facebook must take greater measures to attract advertisers, particularly small to mid-sized businesses which account for a large percentage of online advertising revenue.

Facebook’s audience is clearly larger than ever before and maintains the greatest potential as an advertising and marketing platform; but the company should begin to investigate other revenue streams in order to grow from a fiscal perspective.

E-Commerce is the most likely route and could put Facebook in direct competition with online retailer, Amazon.  The development of a “Facebook Store” could position the company as a formidable competitor and drive up share prices, while simultaneously making Facebook more attractive to advertisers.  Additions of features such as the “Promote” button and the soon-to-be-released “Want” button are definitely steps in the right direction, but a more comprehensive strategy may be necessary.

For now, Facebook’s popularity may be unparalleled, but its profitability is minimal at best.  Business owners have yet to see any discernable benefits from the network’s growth to upwards of 1 billion users and an investment in long-term revenue enhancement should be considered an essential component of Facebook’s business model.  If the network is able to successfully expand its offerings beyond its current capabilities, the future of Facebook will not only be secure, but beneficial to small business owners, as well.

Most marketers, I hope, are familiar with traditional push-pull strategies.  But, me being me, I don’t like to assume things–we all know what happens when you do that.

If you’re unfamiliar with push and pull marketing, here’s the gist of it:

  • Push marketing aggressively seeks out the consumer, often incentivizing them with discounts and special offerings.  This strategy touts, or pushes, these deals to customers so they’ll buy.
  • Pull marketing generates brand awareness, essentially pulling the customer in because they want to learn more.

Not clear enough? Let’s look at some examples.

Traditional Push Example

Anything that urges you to strike while the iron is hot or claims to offer an unbeatable deal is typically a push strategy.  Think “limited time hotel deals” and the “McDonald’s Dollar Menu.”

Traditional Pull Example

Unlike push strategies which tend to be rather blunt, pull strategies are much more subtle.  They don’t simply use low prices to market their product.  They aim to build brand awareness.  Think Apple and Red Bull.

Apple rarely pushes their products onto their customers via special offers.  Innovative advertising and word-of-mouth pulls customers in.  Red Bull, which also uses innovative advertising, uses sponsorships–X Games, Formula 1, etc.– as well to rope people in.

While some companies lean heavily on the push and some heavily on the pull, most companies try to strike a balance between the two.  After all, it’s tough to generate awareness without putting your name out there.

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about traditional marketing.  How does this tie into what you’re really here to learn about, online marketing?

A New Push-Pull Strategy for Online Marketing

Make no mistake about it–online marketing is still marketing.  All the general principles still apply.  And with Panda, Penguin, and any future cuddly updates, online marketers are being forced to get back to basics.

That being said, the Internet is a relatively new medium for marketers.  With social networks popping up left and right, the people, the customers, are out there. We’re no longer marketing to “Internet users.”  We’re marketing to people with faces, with online profiles full of information.

With those customers at our finger tips, it puts marketers in a unique position.  They have the ability to push products (*cough* spamming *cough*) but they also have the ability to study their customers and develop ways to pull them in.

Websites and blogs are pull strategies.  By fine-tuning them with on-site search engine optimization tactics, we’re improving that pull strategy.  Your website and your blog are your brand and you need to build that.  Even your company’s social media profiles, which may seem like push strategies on the surface, can in fact be pull strategies.  If used properly, they build brand awareness.

That brings me to content marketing, currently the industry’s biggest buzzword.  Companies are now their own publishers.  They create what they believe to be useful content for their customers and publish it on the web.  However, with customers so close to us on social media networks, it’s easy to push when we mean to be pulling–just think of all those “social profiles” who simply pump out articles and blogs without any real commentary.

In the end, you’re likely to see more long-term success through pull marketing online.  Of course, like I said before, though, some push is needed to help you get off the ground.  For example, an e-mail campaign, which can be effective if done correctly and sparingly, is a push strategy that I encourage you to employ.  You can also push certain offers through your social media profiles as long as that’s not all you’re using it for.

Marketing certainly isn’t anything new.  The Internet and how it’s used today is though.  That means we need to adapt our traditional strategies for the web while maintaining a healthy balance between pushing and pulling.

 

The popularity of blogging continues to grow with countless new blogs created each year and massive spikes of traffic making its way to blogs. Businesses have also recognized the many benefits that a blog provides their business. A blog allows businesses to easily and quickly reach a large online audience. Blogs not only help generate traffic, but also give a business more online exposure and increase a business’s credibility. Also, online audiences favor blog content because it delivers a more personal message to readers in which readers feel connected and valued.

Great blog content is what heavily attracts online audiences. Through blogs, businesses can provide information and their thoughts on their latest product or service, and inform readers about the latest news in the industry or their business. However, while business may produce stellar content, there are other important elements that a blog should consist of to make it stand out. While blogging is nothing new, competition is still alive and fierce with businesses trying to capture the interest of online audiences.

If you want your business blog to stand out, here are three things your blog needs:

  1. About us page
    What if, after reading your blog, audiences want to learn more about your business? Unless you write a blog post discussing your business, audiences won’t learn about your business. To help readers learn about your business, your blog should include an “About us” page. You can discuss when your business was created, your company’s mission, and step into some detail about what your business does, and your products and/or services. Another page you may want to include is a “Contact us” page should readers have any questions or want to learn more.
  2. Comments section
    Nothing turns away online readers easier than the inability to voice their opinion or comment on a blog post. Allowing online audiences to comment helps them feel appreciated and valued. Also, don’t just let comments sit there; respond back to them. If you end up receiving a myriad of comments, in order to respond to all, create a blog post that answers their questions and responds to their comments.
  3. Social media engagement
    In order to give your blog more online exposure and help online audiences become more familiar with your business, make sure your blog has your social media sites on it that readers can easily click on and be directed to your social media sites. Also, be sure your posts have share buttons so that readers can share your posts via social media.

As the Democratic National Convention begins with the Republican National Convention finished, social media will continue to keep people from across the country tuned in on the action. Regardless of what political party you support, with the use of social media those from all angles of the political spectrum can catch all the action, cast their opinion on speakers, reflect on current issues, and show support for their party.

Since social media took center stage in the 2008 Presidential election, it has become a viable means of connecting voters with candidates. Social media sites help improve campaign engagement by sparking online interest. This year, a sharp use of Twitter and YouTube during the RNC occurred, with an already expected high use of these sites to follow during the DNC.

Within the RNC’s three-day long period, over 4 million tweets posted with 14,743 tweets popping up per minute. This is a drastic increase in comparison to the 2008 convention, in which only a mere 360,000 tweets were tweeted during the two week timespan of both conventions. This year’s trends included the official GOP hashtag of #GOP2012 with the hashtag #RNC also highly used. While the DNC occurs, users can expect to see the official Democratic hashtag of #DNC2012, as well as #DNC to trend. While listening to speakers, Twitter users can reflect on speeches, argue their points on issues discussed, and you can expect to see a lot of quotes by Presidential candidates and speakers.

YouTube pages are especially hot spots for social media users to watch and stay tuned in on convention activities. This year’s RNC saw more than 2.5 million YouTube views, with over 300,000 hours of video streaming, and a view time of more than 30 minutes. In addition to listening to speakers, YouTube offers infographics and social data to keep online audiences informed of the latest numbers.

Regardless of what social media site you’re on, you can expect the conventions to be a highlight, especially with the 2012 Presidential election rolling around the corner.

Following the recent appointment of new CEO, Hubert Joly, Best Buy is now beginning its turnaround and attempting to return to its former profitability.  While the retailer initiates its restructuring plan, both Best Buy and Joly remain prominently featured in news headlines, blogs and throughout social media.  Although the public response to Best Buy’s management changes has provided the brand with enhanced visibility on the Web, the company must now take measures to monitor and manage its reputation in order to maintain a positive brand image.

Some companies struggle with terms such as “complaints”, “reviews”, “scams” and “rip-offs”, however, those may not be the biggest adversary for a company with the worldwide identity that Best Buy has forged for itself as a leading retailer.  Instead, the primary focus for Best Buy’s marketing division should be terms such as “Hubert Joly” and “Best Buy CEO”.  These keywords are expected to have a high search volume and any negativity associated with them must be neutralized using reputation management techniques.

An effective strategy for Best Buy to remain reputable during this transitional phase would be the development of a customer engagement plan.  Encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive feedback and reviews on their website, blogs and on social networks will boost the brand within the SERPs and help to suppress any potential negativity.

It is essential that the company maintains a positive reputation in the months ahead and a proactive approach is necessary.  Best Buy must implement a “call-to-action” to keep its satisfied consumers while also remaining focused on gaining valuable market share online.

Do you think reputation management will be a key component of Best Buy’s restructuring efforts?  Send me your thoughts via email at brymshaw@webimax.com or follow me on Twitter: @brwebimax.