I read a lot, well no I take that back, I scan a lot…a lot of industry and food newsletters, RSS feeds and blogs, some of which I do actually read! Recently I was asked what social media platforms have we launched on behalf of our food clients and I was pleased to be able to answer “all” – including mobile web sites, micro sites, blogs, YouTube channels, digital apps and of course Facebook and Twitter. I’ve no doubt there are a couple of abandoned MySpace pages out there too! These tools are implicit components of our communications tool kit and we use them in a variety of ways to create strategic 360 degree campaigns. Even when our teams are not responsible for actual social media postings, we still provide the content so all campaign elements are fully integrated. What makes it all so interesting is that no two brands/products are alike and what can work for one may not work for another, thankfully, social media is flexible. While it’s not exactly ol’ hat, social media has certainly lost some of its glossy new shine. Therefore, why is it that I still see lots of articles about the need to adopt social media and tips on how to get started. Seriously? Today’s challenge is not how to get on board but how to maximize and leverage the popularity of these platforms without getting distracted or drowning in the chatter. The key to social media is being ‘social’ which means engaging in conversations and not just standing on the side lines shouting out your branded messages. Interaction is key. If every Facebook post or tweet is about your brand, you will sound like a self-absorbed teenager and people will get bored quickly. They may not un-like or stop following you, but they will simply ignore you. You will be irrelevant. Adam Singer put it very well, “Conversations are a currency of the web…those who continuously start conversations in a niche become referential for the rest of that niche.” While you want to be a conversation starter, you also need to listen, people like good listeners both on- and off-line. There is nothing wrong with sharing ideas and responding to other conversation threads, but the trick is to add to the conversation, not just repeat it. Comments and honest feedback prompt engagement and that in turn attracts more to your conversations. That’s why I read (and scan) through so many blogs and articles. I want to identify the current culinary influencers who useCFA Level 1 study materials, understand their opinions and know their passions. I want to know their numbers as well, along with their level and type of engagement with their audiences, that’s the business side, but more importantly I want to learn and be a good friend. The whole “the web is a conversation” thing is nothing new. It’s all about building relationships – a virtual ‘How to be a Human 101’ exercise! We are social animals after all!
A recent study suggests that perhaps hospitals aren’t using social media to its full advantage. Of 120 hospitals on Facebook, less than 40 percent posted daily. In addition, less than half used Facebook’s event calendar, and 58 percent had fewer than 1,000 fans. Perhaps most importantly, a staggering 80 percent did not use Facebook’s discussion board, an important feature for connecting with real people. Facebook provides hospitals an opportunity to refocus on building relationships, and when it comes to making friends, it’s the little things that count. Starting with a simple five-minute fix, hospitals can turn the tide. Here are three suggestions for boosting activity in a flash: Say Hi Social media is only as effective as the activity of the user. Orlando Health does a great job not only posting daily, but integrating multiple forums for visitors to become more involved with the organization. Take five minutes to open your discussion board and invite some conversation. Post Photos For the first time, people can be recognized as individuals rather than a demographic group. Hospitals have the opportunity to build a community where people share and connect as individuals. Start your effort by sharing photos of real people. Scour your newsletter, annual report and website to post your existing photos to Facebook. Connecting with people is what Facebook is all about, and your page should reflect that. Give It Grounding While Facebook has many interesting functions, it cannot stand alone. As with all marketing tools, hospitals need to take an integrated approach to using social media. Add a link your hospital’s Facebook page from your homepage, or include the Facebook stamp in an ad. When you’re backed by a solid strategy, the difference between a good social media campaign and a great one is five minute activities like these. Social media can make a huge difference for hospitals if they employ the tools to their potential.
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THE BOOZE BIN To the delight of Googlers everywhere, the leading search engine Googleannounced a shiny new algorithm last Friday, which promised “to reduce rankings for low-quality” content farm sites, and “provide better rankings for high-quality…sites with original content and information.” Using SEO to their advantage, content farms not only hire droves of writers to increase their reader page views, but also aggregate and republish an endless flow of original content from other sites (without permission). This strategy lands them on page one of a Google search, whereas the original author/website is sequestered to page two or three. Google’s announcement spoke of reducing low-quality site rankings and maintaining a “healthy web ecosystem” with a greater emphasis on original content. Their definition of low quality, “sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful,” beckons the question: how does the algorithm decide what is and isn’t useful? When I Google terms like “wine” and “social media,” would the search engine rank the Wikipedia definition as the most useful, or Wine Enthusiast magazine’s most recent article on the subject? ZDNet tech blogger, Larry Dignan fears “there’s a slippery slope here where Google acts as the Web’s judge and jury.” While bloggers and online writers are likely ecstatic about this news, big business content aggregators, such as the ever-popular Huffington Postand Demand Media are not exactly breaking open the bubbly. Bottom line, content farming is big business, with high ranking and page views increasing sites’ advertising revenues. According to The Washington Post, “Demand Media fetched$1.9 billion in its initial public offering, and the Huffington Post’s aptitude for SEO-driven programming–much more so than its stable of A-list bloggers or its original reporting–explains why AOL is paying $315 million for the site.” Stirrings about Google’s official announcement have reached as far as the wine industry, and the new algorithm will possibly effect one of the most popular and highly ranked wine review site, Snooth. One of the most popular wine blogs, Dr. Vino, reported yesterday on Google’s announcement, wondering “what would happened to Snooth.com, the wine web site that seems to be a champion of SEO, ranking high in the organic search results yet providing so little useful information that they were found to be scraping cellartracker.com content since 2007 to populate some pages.” While Dr. Vino reports Snooth’s page views have declined somewhat, they still appear at the top of the Google charts for wine searches. It seems some sites were more affected than others, so perhaps not all sites are created equal when it comes to how Google now defines high and low-quality sites. To find out how this affects your site, here’s a good article and way to track the changes. Photos courtesy of Smackdown, and Hudson Horizons.
Consumers Increasingly Use Search + Social to Make Buying Decisions A new report from GroupM and comScore indicates that search engine marketing and social media combined has a huge impact on consumers’ purchasing decision online. It’s worth reading the entire report to understand how SEO and social are interdependent in driving conversion rates. GroupM and comScore looked at consumer behavior associated with purchase decisions in the electronics/telecommunications and consumer packaged goods categories. While a whopping 86 percent of consumers say search engines are very important in their buying process, social media plays an equally critical role in influencing their decision. Some key findings from the report that you might want to consider include:
- Forty percent of consumers who use search in their path to purchase are motivated to use social media to further their decision making process.
- More than a quarter of those surveyed (28 percent) said sites such asYouTube, Facebook, and Twitter help them learn about new brands and products.
- Thirty percent said they used social media to eliminate brands from contention.
- Two most important influentials in social media affecting purchases are user reviews and category blogs, rather than Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
- Fifty one percent of consumers use search alone in their buying process
- Forty eight percent combine search and social in the buying process
- Only one percent of conversions are made purely through social media without search. This suggests that social media is not yet a stand-alone conduit for consumer’s decision-making process.
- Another key observation is that only 24 percent started their buying with a brand site.
- 64 percent of consumers are likely to follow a brand after a purchase.
- Furthermore, 74 percent of consumers use a Facebook brand page as the desired format for following a brand for future engagement.
- Consumers prefer to stay engaged with content in the form of videos and tweets about and from the brand.
- Earned social media (user reviews, blog comments) plays an important role in the effort for brands to foster consumer loyalty.
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