Top 6 Free Social Marketing Technologies for E-Commerce Success

                              

I am often asked by friends who have ecommerce sites what they can do to improve sales. They have noticed current E-Commerce tools like SEO and Pay-Per-Click advertising are no longer delivering the bang they once did. And my friends also know that “social marketing” has become a valuable marketing tool, but they are not sure what terms like word of mouth, grass roots, and viral marketing even mean – much less what they can do to drive business.

 

So I recently posted an article on HostReview on my top 6 free social marketing technologies for E-Commerce. http://www.hostreview.com/icontent/the-blog/top-6-free-social-marketing-technologies-e-commerce-success

 

As I wrote in the article, these tools are … “all free … all powerful … to help drive your business.”

 

1) Create an online community.
Why is an online community important for E-Commerce? It allows a company to utilize their customers as evangelists; enlisting them to advocate your brand to potential customers. Additionally, this expands your ability to engage with existing or potential customers. For example, take a look at a case study put together by Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) about how
customer recommendations influence buying products and services.

 

Myspace offer online networking and Paltalk offers free, on-site communal chat rooms that can include webcam chat.

 

2) Stay abreast of your category by subscribing to Google Alerts.
This is a totally free service that allows a business owner to track trends in their industry. Simply list which keywords you are interested in, and Google will send you news, blogs, web pages, etc…that include those words.

 

Why is this important? It’s because social marketing is about participating in the conversation. Once you see which articles and reporters are relevant to your category, you can participate – and in a meaningful way.

 

3) Deploy a Customer Feedback platform
E-merchants can also take advantage of free customer feedback platforms. One such platform is UserTrust offered by Comodo, a leading provider in online verification and security infrastructure services. UserTrust is a
free tool which allows online merchants to gather customer feedback. Just as important, site visitors can see other user’s real experiences. These testimonials provide one of the most powerful social marketing technologies available on the market.

 

4) Utilize free digital PR
In order to create additional SEO rich content, online merchants can create press releases and distribute them using free digital PR sites such as
i-Newswire.com, PR-inside.com, PRLog.org, Free-Press-Release.com and 24-7pressrelease.com. Don’t be intimidated to write these releases yourself – they need not be brilliant works of literary art. Your press releases should reflect news that your customers or prospects care about (even if the NYTimes will not). You can announce a new product or a big customer win or even a great review.

 

The point is that this tactic is mainly about driving improved SEO rankings and ultimately traffic to your site.

 

5) Blog it
Creating and regularly posting on a blog is another good way to increase SEO value. WordPress.com is a free platform that lets users quickly and easily create a blog.

 

6) “Birds of a feather” affinity marketing
It’s useful to know what your customer profile looks like, not to mention those of your competitors. Quantcast is a
free service that gives you a demographic profile of a website’s visitors. Their reports also include a fair amount of detail on what your audience likes and even other sites they visit. This information can be invaluable in helping businesses identify opportunities.

 

So there you have it – my top 6. I will keep adding to this list as I uncover new tools that really work. If you have had great success with a social marketing technology – I’d love to hear about it. Share the knowledge –

 

Judy Shapiro

Untapped potential – the Susan Boyle phenom

                                                          

I admit it – I am probably one of the only people on the planet who does not like American Idol (or Britain’s Got Talent version). It requires too much of the entertainment value to come from the inevitable humiliation that hopefuls are willing to subject themselves to.

 

But Susan Boyle gave me a reason to believe in human potential again and it was a breathtaking moment. Her triumph was the vicarious triumph of anyone who was written off just because of how they looked or because of who their parents were. 

 

It was a moment of triumph for many of us. This is where the social media shows its true power and influence. Within minutes, uTube had the footage. Within hours, there were blogs posts and interviews and Susan Boyle became an overnight digital brand.

 

Astonishing was the speed of her rise. Astonishing was the speed of her broad reach. Most astonishing still, was the desire so many people had to relive and share her amazing experience. And the new digital social media … from Twitter to Paltalk to uTube …  lets us share more broadly and more spontaneously than ever before.

 

Now that’s tapping the biggest source of potential – the human sprit.

 

Judy Shapiro

Let’s schedule our lives – including when we fall in love.

I am working and out of my peripheral attention vision, I hear an eHarmony commercial telling me in an affirmative tone to,  “Make 2008 the year you fall in love.”

According to the commercial, we can summon on queue that which usually seems beyond our ability to summon. Many of us think of falling in love as something that just “happens”, something we can’t control. Yet this commercial challenges that notion. It asks in effect, can one “summon” things to happen in our lives on demand? Is there is some secret to getting what you want?

Actually I don’t think it is a secret – but rather more of an observation. It seems to me that most people in fact do get the things they ask for. Unfortunately, most people are not very discriminating about what they want.

And if there is a secret- that’s it. The old cliché, “Be careful what you wish for”. got it right – but it’s actually quite hard to really commit yourself to that disciplined way of thinking. People “want” all sorts of things. But unless you really think about you really want within the context of your life – the “want” list just becomes a jumbled, meaningless set of “stuff” – no punch and no energy.

But if you construct a well considered “want” list, then you do get what you want because the list reflects the reality of your world. Your world – perhaps at its most optimistic sense – but you’re world nonetheless.

And oh – BTW – once you really really get this (and to be honest most people probably don’t) – don’t be surprise if people around don’t believe you when you’re quite certain about your “wants”. I remember, a while back I had a discussion with a friend about how much would it take for me to be satisfied. I said $10 million. My companion shot back – “you would not be satisfied. Once you had that you would want more”. I tried to convince him that I really really do not want more. I failed. I could see he did not believe me and I could also see I would never convince him. He did not understand that I understood the consequences of what I wanted. I have learned to be was very very careful in what I ask for because I know if I want it enough it will come to me – one way or another. He didn’t believe me then – but I suspect one day he will.

So go ahead, “Make this the year you…” – Just consider your “wants” well.

Judy Shapiro  


 

           

Top Ten Marketing Disappointments for 2007

 

How quickly 2007 seems to have blitz’d through my visual frame. One minute I am just throwing out the New Cards joyfully wishing me a great 2007 and hark – here’s the new crop of cards for 2008! Time to take stock and recount what started as promising marketing approaches that either fizzled or were badly executed.

So here new years revelers is my top ten list of marketing disappointments for 2007.   

1) Beware the Google machine – are you scared yet? They are into radio buying, TV ad space, wireless, software and what next? Companies that get too big too quick implode. Think Time Warner/ AOL.  Everywhere I turn I bump into them – feels like invasion of the Google machine. I am getting scared.  

2) A second life for Second life? Typical. People thought it was the next “big” thing and next thing you know – people start dissing it. Advertisers cry – “is no one there?” and start back peddling. Oh grow up. New ideas take time to jel – learn how it works and use it right and well. 

 

3) A rose by another name is still called affinity marketing. Ok – today it is called viral marketing a.k.a. social media a.k.a. community marketing and on and on. Let’s remind ourselves – that this is just a new name for what 15 years ago we called affinity marketing – described as “birds of a feather flock together”. Today, the basic “birds of feather flock together” concept has not changed but the ways we can deliver the message has increased substantially. The good news is that now we can reach an affinity group cheaper with a lot less lead time or fuss. The better news – you can start this type of program with just a little smarts and even less cash. The best news – it is interactive. The “many to many” model is an engagement model that is ongoing and can be sustained over time. A marketers dream, but don’t let the buzz of “viral marketing” scare you. You can do this type of marketing yourself – and don’t let any social media agency tell you otherwise. 

 

4) SEO can’t get no respect. SEO is one of those unsung heros of the marketing world. But it is often overlooked and underappreciated. Why? Because it is so misunderstood and worse lots of folks out there selling the digital version of snake oil. “Get to first page ranking – guaranteed in 30 days”. We’ve all seen that ad. But find a credible technology provider and you’ll see real results. Better yet. Read up on it yourself. You won’t have to do it – but you’ll know better what to expect. 

 

5) Mobile marketing – like trying to catch a cloud in your hand. I worked on 802.11 back when wireless penetration was barely at 40%. Now that there is near virtual wireless penetration – everyone and his brother (I think I mean that literally) is doing wireless marketing – pushing content, ads whatever to people on their phones. Enough already!!! The backlash will surely hit hard and heavy. Worse – many of these ventures doing wireless marketing are not well developed. If you want to play in wireless marketing – watch your step – 

 

6) Blogging is no silver bullet. Hey I love blogging (ya think J) but don’t think it is a silver bullet to replace good marketing strategy and execution. It is seductive to put all your eggs in the bloggin basket. Resist the temptation. Blogging is a tactic that should be part of a well developed plan.

 

7) Public Relations activities still stuck. PR agencies are stuck somewhere in the 1980’s. They still think that their main goal is to get NYTimes coverage. That’s nice but it does not actually build business anymore. It is far more productive to evolve how PR works. A few “big” announcements deserve to get news pick up but far more often you should focus on what’s news to your prospective customers who can generate revenue. If you plan these two levels of PR – you can get the front page of BusinessWeek and more revenue from customers. That’s the way to unstick your PR.  

 

8 ) Is the shine coming off the PPC model? It is true dear friends and if Google could hear me now they would no doubt disagree. The Google PPC machine has peaked and now is the time to understand how to minimize costs while optimizing revenue. Try this experiment. Reduce PPC by 10% – and track if you see a difference. I bet you won’t. You may even be able to reduce by 20% before you see some drop off.  I suggest you use some of the new tactics to augment what was your PPC budget. You may even see more revenue. 

 

9) eMail marketing – don’t open till you see the whites of their eyes. This is a tough one but email marketing effectiveness is harder and harder to achieve. Between fear of fraud emails, SPAM filters and all else – emails have even less of a chance of getting through. Stick to emails that are to your own customers with real offers. That works better than ever before and focus on other tactics to gain new customers.

 

10) Security in digital marketing. It is a battle many are losing and it is sad to report that even if a site has all the security in the world it does no good if a user’s PC has been compromised. The key is to help your customer stay safe online. If you can, offer them digital safety tips. Better yet – you can offer them great free security software – like Comodo Firewall. It’s free, it works and your customers will appreciate the tip. They stay safe and you can be assured that they will remain secure customers.

 

So here’s my wish to you all for 2008 – may your marketing be fruitful and frugal – and to all a good night.   

Judy Shapiro

Ten Marketing Heresies You Should Start Believing In

 

Heresy is a loaded word – evoking in equal measure poor souls suffering some unspeakable death for the sake of an idea and the visionaries whose ideas were so ahead of their time that it often took decades or centuries for it to be proven true.

So when a friend recently said that an idea I had mentioned was “heresy” – I was taken aback. Strong language indeed.  And if something is declared as heresy the intention is to snuff out its spread for it may actually be true.

That got me thinking about all the marketing heresies I actually believe and much to my surprise, I have developed a fairly extensive list of these “heresies”. When I think about my start in marketing at an advertising agency working on Procter & Gamble or AT&T businesses, I also realized I was well trained (even maybe a little indoctrinated) in the well established marketing principles.

But that was in the 1980’s when generating awareness was based on large advertising budgets and large advertising agency expense budgets. Today, the goal is the same – getting broad awareness or “brand buzz” – but we must adapt our thinking and in some ways accept what would have been considered marketing heresies even just a few years ago.

So here is my list of marketing “heresies” … heresies that help build business if you can believe in their truths.

1)  World class marketing does not necessarily require an agency or consultant.

This one was particularly hard for me to accept as my heritage lies in the agency world, but is true nonetheless. Agencies largely can not bring innovation to clients because their business model is not geared toward that. Agencies do well in executing established programs that do not require a high level of non billable research investment. Often new programs require agencies to first get up the learning curve and they can’t bill for that. That means they usually stick to what they know – they make more money that way.  

2) “Hands on” experience is better than having consultants or agencies do the work for you.

Related to the above, and to be honest, I was not eager to believe this one  – but it is true nonetheless. And it is particularly true when working with the newer marketing tactics.  Since agencies are often not the innovators, in order for you to direct agencies well, you have to have hands on experience. Without that “hands on experience”, it is more difficult to get accountability.

“C’mon”, I hear you say, “how practical is that? Certainly, an ad executive can not get bogged down in implementing lots of programs.” I understand. I was used to an organized, compartmentalized marketing world – the copywriter wrote copy, PR agencies did the PR, the promotional folks managed emails. Doing it myself seems almost sacrilegious.

But it was not until I started to do the work, that I learned the most and I credit the CEO of my company for making me to do it (over my constant and eminently annoying objections  I might add). So take it from someone who had to learn the hard way, marketing is about staying current and being able to understand how people will respond your programs. Working the work yourself (as much as you can) really helps improve the quality of the work. And then you can begin to demand better quality from your agencies. 

3) Stop chasing measurement of specific marketing programs — but do measure all of marketing.

Sorry Virginia – but it’s time to put this long held holy grail to rest. Not every marketing program can be measured. Perhaps in some future time when we can measure what a person is actually thinking can we measure each marketing program.  The best we can do is measure an action that a marketing program may have generated – but that’s about it. The goal rather should be to measure marketing as an organic whole. 

Make sure you are looking at the right metrics. Of course – revenue is important, but I find volume metrics are also very important and a more sensitive measure to monitor marketing effectiveness. Increased sales revenue is often a function of price increases and/ or new product introductions. But to see if marketing is working efficiently, measure the order volume of a product from one year to the next. The volume measure is blind to changes that price increases could mask. If revenue has grown, but not volume, take a deeper look to see what can be done to improve this. 

4) Generating “brand buzz” is no longer a function of money.

The P&G model worked in its day. Buy GRP’s (Gross Rating Points) on TV, then awareness would go up and with it sales. Pretty straight forward and agencies marched right along. Large budgets drove large fees. It was a symbiotic relationship. But now the model is different. Creating awareness is a function of public relations, viral marketing and SEO programs. All of which are relatively low cost. PR agencies don’t understand viral marketing much and social media agencies don’t understand PR at all. None of them have a clue about SEO. So creating brand buzz means creating a new model that is not dependent on cash – but dependent on smarts.  

The recipe therefore is to integrate viral relations with public relations and SEO to drive search volumes. Then the more people will search for you the better your chances of getting them as customers.   

5) “Free” can build business – but it needs to be a real deal.

How many emails do we all get that claim free iPod or free this or that. These emails do seem to generate response but it has a dark side. The “free” deal is often tainted and that is worse than doing nothing at all. In a drive to generate revenue, keep free as it was intended – really free – not partially free or free if you buy this or that.

If you are making a free claim – really mean it (and be sure you can afford it) Then you’ll make money.

6) Search volume is highly manageable by marketers.   

Really truly. Stop thinking about search volumes that happens in a detached way from what you are doing. You can manage it, increase it. Tune it like you would an engine and your volumes will go up. 

7) Develop a refined sense of “roughly right”.

In today’s lightening fast world, perfection is not an asset anymore. It is far more useful to have a keen sense of “good enough” and get programs out there than to continue to work a program until it is perfect. Mind you, this heresy does not apply to all marketing tactics – but certainly to any tactics that lives in the online world. It is far more productive to get something out and refine it over time than to wait 9 months to get it perfect. If a program can get out “roughly right” in 4 months and generate some revenue, isn’t that far better than waiting nine months. I bet the extra measure of perfection does not compensate for the lost months of revenue. (I should add – I still struggle with this one – but hey – I’m still learning).

 

8 ) Letting customers openly voice thier opinions – good and bad – is a powerful brand building tool.   

 

I was having a conversation with a friend who runs the marketing for a manufacturing company and they wanted to create a user forum but decided against it because he said, “one bad opinion could really do damage.”  Well I heartily disagreed by explaining that bad feedback is going to happen anyway – but by creating a venue where you can manage the feedback, that gives you tremendous opportunities to turn that around. So don’t be scared of what customers may say within a forum you create – be more scared of what they say about you without you ever knowing. 

9) There is never one way to solve a marketing problem.

I tend to have strong opinions (you wouldn’t have ever guessed that – right :)) and believe that I am mostly right most of the time. I still believe that but now I know that others could be as right as me because there is always more than one way to skin a cat. So while I may be attached to my way – I can now whole heartedly follow other ways because they will deliver results too.

10) Last and perhaps more important — passion sells.

The corporate tone with a measured approach rarely makes anyone take notice. Rather, for marketing to work, you should be passionate about it because then it comes through in the work.

Resist the urge to think about another product launch as just more work. Get excited about the product. Learn why the developer designed the product the way they did. Too many times we become blasé about what we are doing and evaluate a new product through the lens of the product gaps. I am fortunate to work at an Internet security company with a CEO who is as passionate about every new product as though it is his first. That kind of passion is contagious and permeates everything. Try to turn yourself on when doing this type of work. It keeps the work fresh for your market and exciting for you. It doesn’t get better than that – does it?

Now do you believe?

Judy Shapiro

To blog or not to blog … or the seven rules of blogging etiquette

 

Life is so full of interesting nuggents that it is hard not to be tempted to share it. What colleagues or relatives or friends say and think always has something interesting that longs to be shared. Yet there is a delicate balance that must be struck — not to divulge confidential stuff but yet not to feel censored either.

And this provides a valuable lesson on how to think about the boundaries when doing social media. Corporate boardrooms have long worried about the uncensored proliferation of opinions and gossip that make its way to the blog-o-sphere and the wider social media world.

So to guide all you budding bloggers – here are the seven basic rules for achieving the optimum balance.

1)     Never put anything in writing you would not or could not say to your colleagues directly.

2)     Play the role reverse game – if you recounting what you think is a funny anecdote about your Uncle Bill, read it again as though you are Uncle Bill. Would it sound so amusing to you?

3)     Be careful about including business details – one may slip in that could be more telling than you intend. Always keep it vague.

4)     Always, always be respectful of others feelings. Do not use your blog to vent or even a score. It will come back to haunt you – guaranteed.

5)     Always assume that who you write about will read it so censor yourself accordingly.

6)      Let your creative juices flow – but before you publish anything (particularly if you are recounting a funny anecdote about a co-worker) put it aside for a couple of hours. When you read it again “fresh” you will be in a good position to assess the “embarrassment” factor.

7)     Finally – always always be honest in your entries. Then you should have nothing to apologize for.

 

Let the fun begin. 

Judy Shapiro

The Zen of Business Creativity (or why social media has become the new “in” thing)

 

Our CEO is fond of saying, “Logic has one way” and I politely smile and agree. Logic is useful for project and process management.  But that has little to do with how life or even business really proceeds. Innovation in medicine and science is rarely linear or even logical. Innovation, like life, weaves and bobs and turns back on itself like a tenuous road trying to make its way over a rough mountain terrain. The road must follow the contours of the natural topology. And so it is with business – it must follow the contours of creativity and imagination and intuition.  

Great businesses are born in the moments where you begin to harness the power of the blink decision in the way we humans make decisions about what we buy and where we buy it. And only after we have decided what we want to do, do we then look to rationalize those blink decisions with facts.

And this why, I believe, social media seems to have exploded onto the business psyche. It is the subtle perhaps even unconscious recognition by business to harness the power of the blink business. While logic based marketing is the foundation of most marketing programs – it is limited. Sure business executives like facts and logic – but it can be misused as a crunch for making decision. When asked to rationalize their decisions, they can pull out a presentation and very easily explain their decisions. To most business leaders intuition based decisions seem too risky to trust (note the irony in that – logic feels good and intuitive decision are uncomfortable).

And yet I notice what separates the visionary CEOs from the pack is the ability to appreciate blink thinking that is expressed by customers in their forums, communities and social networks. . Visionary CEO make intuitive decisions and then back it up with facts whereas most other CEO look for facts to help them make decisions and then they try and make themselves feel good about the decisions.

A simple example. Comodo makes available for free a slew of desktop solutions including an award winning firewall. Lots of time and development resources were spent on this initiative. Many people wondered, “Why do it? Where’s the money in it?” All logical questions — well aimed. Yet the CEO kept saying, “We are doing this to grow our business. People will know us for our free products and then they will buy from us.” Logical hardly, visionary you bet. And you know what he was right. Our brand is now more searched than the some of our biggest competitors.  And this was because he understood how to use social media at its best. Promote a great free product and word of mouth stimulated our whole business.

So next time you are tempted to make business decisions with logic and facts, think again – better yet – feel again.  Look to social media to help guide how you feel your way through business decisions. Answers are in the social networks – in the blink moments that are expressed in there. And yes, sometimes following creative business leaders is hard on the team around them. These CEOs often look like they on the edge of falling off the deep end. It is hard not to try to get them off that damn ledge. But this is where faith and intuition again asserts itself. You have to believe that their instincts are well honed.

But if you can endure the ride, the rewards mean the difference between a “just so” business and one that flies. I, for one, like life in the heights. The view is much more fun.

Judy Shapiro

The Six Step Plan to Claim Your 15 Minutes of Fame

 

Thanksgiving is here and with that the frenzy of holiday marketing truly explodes around us.  Everyone selling just about anything is vying for a piece of your mind and ultimately a piece of your pocketbook. And if you are like many businesses, the holiday season accounts for a big part of your yearly business – one way or another. 

So friends, here is a six step plan to make your name better known out there – (OK – maybe it won’t be a household name – but it will get you noticed.)

1) If you have a blog – flaunt it. Post regularly if you can – and be sure to sign your name to end of the post. You’ll be surprise how quickly the name will get picked up by Google. If you’re in the service business this is especially helpful.

2) Register your blog with Technorati and other directories.   Costs nothing to do and will beging to get you some traction.

3) Get your friends and family to cross link to your blog or site.  Yep – this is where networking helps. Ideally, get as many links into your site as possible – that is a key measure of importance to Google.

4) Don’t be afraid to give something away for free.  It may sound counter-intuitive – but giving something of value for free does generate business. People appreciate honest value and they will reward you with their business. But be straight in your offer – no hidden clauses or surprise fees. That will turn them off faster than a bulb gone dead.

5) Promote any brand recognition you can.  If you have won any awards or competitions that have branded cache, do a press release and send it out. You can send our press releases for free. Some of the biggest distributors are http://www.free-press-release.com http://www.prleap.com

6) Participate in the conversation.   Or, become an expert by responding to articles and other people’s blog. You will definitely see an uptick in your recognition.

Some things I mentioned are quick hits and others take time. But follows these steps and soon when someone Google’s your name, they will see exactly what you want them to see.

Happy faming.

Judy Shapiro

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