Relay Station Blog

Have you seen the Chinese bullet trains? Or the new superhighways that curve through the mountains on their way to Tibet? Or that new airport in South Korea? 

Chinese highway

They’re dazzling. New infrastructure is being built all around the world. It’s the plumbing of commerce, the stuff you need to get your goods, services, and ideas in front of others faster. 

Online infrastructure is not that different. Is it time for you to rethink and rebuild yours?

We talk to plenty of organizations that don’t know what all the online tools are, how they fit together, and how they can be used. So let’s talk about your digital foundation. On the simplest level, there are three basic parts:

Website

Be honest. How old is your website? Was it a beautiful thing five or seven years ago? Is it an embarrassment to your staff, donors, or volunteers today?

An attractive, fully “socialized” website is the essential unit of your online program.  It needs to be loaded with graphics, able to download quickly, and include a blog that will serve as your megaphone. It must have social media follow and share features throughout. By that I mean not just hidden somewhere at the bottom, but prominently featured at the top of every page and at the top or bottom of all content. Why? So the content can easily be shared with your visitors’ own networks.

Your site must incorporate responsive web design. Heard of it? It means that no matter what the size of the screen, your website and its content needs to automatically change to provide the best viewing experience. Why? Because the online world is going mobile.  Tiny text and graphics are hard to read on a smartphone. (Full disclosure: all of our clients’ sites are built with responsive design. But after only two years, we’re rebuilding ours.)

Email

There was a time not long ago when some predicted that email would go the way of the fax. Not any longer. Email is quite simply the most powerful tool available to transform followers into evangelists. That’s why if you’re not building an email list, start now. 

High-speed-train-renderings_1024x768What about your Email Service Provider (ESP)? We’re constantly amazed at how many organizations we talk to use archaic, hard to operate ESPs that have few options for mobile sign up forms, list segmentation, analytics and so much more.

Email has also become a critical instrument for political and nonprofit fundraising. Activists of all ages have become increasingly comfortable with giving online. A small dollar online fundraising program for one of our clients has seen 80 percent of donations come from those that have never previously given to the organization.

Social Media

The third leg of your online tripod is social media. Once you select platforms appropriate for your audiences, you need to post regularly. How often is that? A rule of thumb is 1-3 times a day on Facebook, 3-8 times a day on Twitter, and at least once a day on LinkedIn. That’s for brand awareness and thought-leadership.

But social media is more than simply posting content. Its power comes from engaging others and building real relationships.

What’s Next?

Once you have upgraded your online infrastructure, you’re far from finished. Next, you need to focus on strategy. Michael E. Porter, a Harvard Professor known as the Father of Strategy, said “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”

But before you can make those advanced decisions, you first must have a solid foundation. 

 

Need help with your online program? Contact me right now at 202.630.8014 or email me at info@relaystationmedia.com for a free consultation.

We help companies, nonprofit associations, and other organizations communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, tactics, and training.

If you like this blog post, drop me a line on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and Like our Facebook page. SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS FEED. 

 

This is your brain in its filter bubble

I recently attended a Washington dinner about peace building and constructive dialogue. The organizations involved do great work in using dialoguing to bridge divides in many fields and the keynote was about using these methods to bring people together to help solve the daunting problems facing the U.S.

This made me both hopeful and pessimistic. The U.S. is indeed faced with existential problems set against a gridlocked and dysfunctional political system. Recent national embarrassments about the debt ceiling and sequestration rub this in our faces. The sequestration was in fact designed as a booby trap set up in order avoid a impasse over budget negotiations, and they couldn’t even avoid that. No matter which side of the political spectrum you’re on, the U.S.’s current debt financing is just not sustainable. A sudden rise in interest rates, or a pull back by our creditors would create an economic tsunami that could make 2008 seem like the 90’s. And this is just one of many challenges facing society.

Our political problems are I believe correctly attributed to the sharp partisan divide that is more operationally toxic than in any time in our history.

Discourse has become so bitterly divided that it’s hard to imagine that these people are talking about the same events. The Internet promised a leveling effect, replacing traditional media gatekeepers and hierarchical information dissemination systems with a peer-to-peer hyper-democratic world of universal information freedom and access that could lead to a more enlightened collective conscious. This clearly has not happened… yet.  

Staid old media gatekeepers have been supplanted by Internet conglomerate (read Facebook and Google) algorithms that control our newsfeeds and search results. These algorithms give us more of what we like based on previous behavior, creating filter bubbles that both reinforce our beliefs and filter out contrary information. 

Thus, to a large extent dialogue between factions is not happening on social media. Filter bubbles help to reinforce ideological tribalism as opposed to facilitating dialectic synthesis. This ideological tribalism has negated compromise and turned just about all politics into a zero sum game where a gain for one side is necessarily a loss for the other. Within this context, the constructive dialogue process and conflict resolution seem to hold out a rare ray of hope. The problem with this is the illusion of balance that is intrinsic in the assumptions of these methods.

The admirable goal of being fair and balanced, embraced by journalists as well as dialogue facilitators has been rendered quaint because one of our most vociferous ideological tribes rejects science, math, and reality in general, and scorns the legitimacy of those that disagree with them. It’s hard to roll up your sleeves, and sit down and dialog with those that mock “the reality based community.”

Global Climate Change

Take global climate change as an example. It’s is not really a problem unless you’re worried about the polar ice caps melting and global weather changes making vast areas of the planet uninhabitable. If you are concerned about those things, well then….Whether or not global warming is real or not and caused by human activity is also not a topic where there is legitimate debate within the scientific community.  “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities”. Recently National Geographic aired a documentary “Chasing Ice”, which presents concrete visual proof of glacier melting worldwide. If you haven’t seen this, please make it a priority. It is as visually stunning as it is disturbing.

This could well be the biggest challenge facing the world, and the solutions are well within reach, yet they will never happen as long as one branch of the U.S. government is at the mercy of a tribe of zealots that are seemingly immune to evidence. 

A similar polemic exists concerning vaccinations, which as it turns out do not in any way cause Autism. But thanks to the good work of the loud and the factually challenged, many people don’t get their children vaccinated because of the false Autism scare and similar shenanigans. This poses a threat to us all because of the epidemiology of infectious diseases, which are kept in check by vaccines. 

There’s another area in which the war on reality and its reinforcing filter bubbles are having rather interesting consequences, and that’s electoral politics. The conservative denial of math and polling may well have been more part of the cause of their across the board losses in 2012 than a result.

Many political junkies will remember the vicious attacks against Nate Silver, the brilliant NY Times statistician and author of the incredibly precise FiveThirtyEight blog. In the end, Silver accurately predicted the outcome of the presidential race accurately in all 50 states and his critics were left eating crow. 

The war on reality went even deeper than Nate Silver bashing. Republican pollsters weighted their numbers to better fit their own reality bubble. Kudos to Bruce Bartlett for breaking through my filter bubble with this incredible post from RedState.com, Campaign Sources: The Romney Campaign was a Consultant Con Job. The piece details how consultants cooked numbers to hide their incompetence. No matter the cause, it points helps to illustrate the considerable technological disadvantage the Romney camp faced and the consequences it paid:

Another source that closely studied the Obama campaigns GOTV efforts as compared to ORCA [the GOP GOTV technology] said bluntly that “the Obama training manuals made ORCA look like a drunken monkey slapped together a powerpoint” adding that we must duplicate and improve what they accomplished to have any hope for the 2014 & 2016 ground game.

….

The result of all of these false numbers and inaccurate ground reports is simple: Mitt Romney was ill-prepared for the actual numbers on election day and his false sense of confidence directly translated into how the campaign operated in the closing weeks. 

A culture that denies science and math is not going to produce an environment that fosters technological innovation as well as one that does.

As Mark Adonamis, a self-identifying conservative, lamented shortly after the election in Forbes

Without sounding too much like a concern troll, conservatives who are actually interested in winning elections, and not in offering endless recriminations after they’ve already been lost, urgently need to address the intellectual rot in their midst. If they want to compete and win conservatives need to very quickly re-learn how to deal with reality. The GOP will have every opportunity to win elections down the line unless it continues to wage war on basic and apolitical concepts like quantitative analysis and polling. 

Thus the war on reality may contain its own evolutionary cure. Let’s hope it’s the short-term one as opposed to the long term one! Truth is in fact an essential starting point in any endeavor. The perception of reality may be subjective, and true objectivity may be on some levels unattainable, but to quote Mr. Spock, “I am half-Vulcan. Vulcans do not speculate. I speak from pure logic. If I let go of a hammer on a planet that has a positive gravity, I need not see it fall to know that it has in fact fallen.” Similar logic applies to the melting glaciers. You can’t deny this no matter what your ideology says.

The extent to which the Internet reinforces misconceptions and filters out vigorous debates may itself debatable, but the toxic ideological tribalization of America is undeniable. It is my sincere hope that the Internet will increasingly generate dialogues and fulfill its promise of creating a more enlightened collective consciousness. We absolutely need to move beyond our political paralysis to take on the substantial challenges that we all face together.

Live long and prosper.

Originally posted on Truth is Cool

Access to broadband internet is vital for economic innovation and growth, therefore ensuring the highest levels of competition and access are key to the future of the economy. Recently several high profile studies have examined the state of broadband competition in the United States and reached different conclusions.

In light of the debate that current work encompasses, I organized a panel for the Washington DC Chapter of the Internet Society (ISOC-DC) to examine the state of broadband competition and the resulting policy prescriptions. The panel took place last Friday at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) here in Washington, D.C.

A cornerstone of the debate is focused on the question whether American consumers pay more money for slower speeds. On the public interest side of the aisle, the summary in the New American Foundation’s “The Cost of Connectivity Report” sums up the“American consumers pay higher prices for slower speeds” perspective pretty well.

On the “competition is pretty robust and U.S. consumers are getting a pretty good deal” side of the the question, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation’s (ITIF) The Whole Picture: Where America’s Broadband Networks Really Stand report counters the New America assumptions and paints a pretty rosy picture of American broadband competition.

Critics of U.S. ISPs can point to lower prices for broadband in most countries, especially in Europe where “Strong regulations and strong monitoring of anti-competitive behaviours are the key, as well as public money being invested in mutualized infrastructures” has led to more robust consumer choices.

Proponents of the industry-centric view, as articulated in the ITIF study counter the view that broadband is generally more expensive in the United States with two principle arguments. The first is that American geography is more vast with lower population density and the second that such studies don’t use valid numbers in their price and Internet connection speed comparisons.

Both arguments may have some validity. Connecting rural areas in the U.S. does cost more and because of the conflation of triple plays and byzantine pricing schemes, it can be difficult to compare apples to apples. However, the population density counter argument doesn’t explain city to city comparisons. Even with varying price points, common sense dictates that the OECD’s breakdown of prices/megabit/seconds of advertised speed is probably a good benchmark.

One of the chief policy tools to ensure competition is unbundling, or open access policies that require incumbent broadband providers offer to lease capacity on their networks to new entrants selling competing Internet services to consumers”. Unbundling policies were abandoned in the U.S. by the FCC almost ten years ago. Unbundling is predictably an issue that the public interest and industry-centric analysts vehemently disagree upon.

In order to facilitate a robust exchange of ideas between these perspectives, we invited the authors of the New America Study as well as the authors of the ITIF study. Originally both “sides” accepted and the event was to be held at the NAF, but sadly the New America Foundation team pulled out for specious reasons, which was really too bad because their report was a large part of the motivation for the event in the first place. As a public advocacy sympathizer I had really wanted to see them go toe to toe with top industry economists. The final panel included Robert D. Atkinson, the president of ITIF and author of its report, AEI economist Jeffrey Eisenach, a meat and potatoes deregulation, free market guy, and Robert C. Atkinson of Columbia University, the key author of the Broadband in America Report, as well as Jodie Griffin, a Staff Attorney at Public Knowledge and author of a powerful series of blog posts about “Five Fundamentals to guide the upgrade of our phone network to an IP-based infrastructure”. The panel was moderated by Dave Burstein, the Editor of DSL Prime. What ensued was an incredibly lively, albeit industry-centric discussion covering the state of broadband and what the objectives of policy should be. The video clips are below, they’re pretty impressive. I guarantee that you will learn something from them.

Video Clips

Robert C. Atkinson Robert D. Atkinson
Jeffrey Eisenach Jodie Griffin
Pricing Gigabit networks
Rural Broadand Low Income Access
Externalities Mesh Networks
Planning for the Future Unbundling

Originally posted on Truth Is Cool.

 

Last week before the Boston drama had played out, a friend’s post on Facebook piqued my interest. She described the logistics that the Boston marathon bombers would have to have taken into account and then commented, “Hate to say it, but there’s a very specific googling pattern here … Not that I’m promoting invasion of privacy, but since it’s already happening why not put it to good use.”   

Two days later CISPA, or The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection ACT (HR 624) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. The thing about CISPA is that it enhances what my Facebook friend described as already happening. More specifically, it enhances huge Internet companies’ (read Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter) ability share personally identifiable data with the feds.

CISPA passed Congress while you were distracted by the Boston Marathon bombing

CISPA is a cyber security bill purportedly in response to the massive hacking and various cyber attacks that have been made against U.S. based assets recently. These threats are real and substantial, and our government should be taking active and aggressive actions both offensive and defensive to combat them. However, CISPA provides a blank check of broad protections to companies that share your data with various government agencies. According the Electronic Frontier Foundation

It is written so broadly that it allows companies to hand over large swaths of personal information to the government with no judicial oversight—effectively creating a “cybersecurity” loophole in all existing privacy laws.

 …. 

CISPA is written broadly enough to permit your communications service providers to share your emails and text messages with the government, or your cloud storage company could share your stored files. 

CISPA V. SOPA 

Last year’s defeat of the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) was hailed as a great triumph for the cyber-activist forces of democracy. Along with well publicized blackouts outs of Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, and an estimated 7,000 other sites on January 18, 2012, millions participated in activism both on and offline, causing a tsunami of opposition that rendered the bill politically toxic. Heavily backed by the entertainment industry, SOPA sought to curb digital piracy and counterfeit and struck a deep nerve in the Internet consciousness because it could have given government the authority to interfere with ISP’s, DNS resolution, search engine listings and more – all in the name of protecting Hollywood and the music business. 

This time, industry has largely fallen inline. Last week an industry group Technet, that has “Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith” on it’s executive council, sent a letter to the bill’s sponsors to let them know that they were on board with “voluntary, bi-directional, real time sharing of actionable cyberthreat information to protect networks”. This time there will be no Google blackout.

The bill’s supporters, include “behemoths like the Chamber of Commerce, IBM, which sent nearly 200 executives to Capitol Hill Monday to advocate for passage. Also backing CISPA: major tech, telecom and financial companies, a Who’s Who of the biggest spenders on Washington lobbying”. These Washington special interests spent over $605 million from 2011 through the 3rd quarter of last year lobbying for CISPA compared to $2.7 million spent by civil liberties groups. 

Almost as troubling is the timing and how the bill’s supporters in the House leveraged the Boston Marathon bombing to pass the bill while the world was distracted. 

A privacy expert friend of mine commented to me on Facebook that most Americans think they’ve got nothing to hide. Let the government spy on me if it’ll “prevent another 9/11 or Boston.” We are in fact willing to give up our freedoms when we’re in a heightened state of fear from these attacks and the media spasm that necessarily bleeds forth from them. An entire city was in lock down for days to catch one kid (albeit a heavily armed kid). 

Boston need not have been locked down (you gotta read the post linked to here – did you know they kept the Dunkin Donuts open!) and the feds don’t need the authority to spider your email to stop Chinese hackers. In fact, the legendary Mandiant report that exposed Chinese hackers “is just one of many instances where companies have shared a great deal of useful threat information without authority beyond what is granted to them by current law.” 

The real danger is in passing anything that limits protections of privacy or civil liberties during the panic and media feeding frenzy following an attack like this. CISPA is dangerous because in its current form it removes due process from the total negation of these civil protections online. And it is exactly due process that delineates democracy from authoritarianism by preventing the arbitrary use or abuse of power. History teaches us that when political leaders leverage terrorist acts, violence, or fear to restrict individual liberties, the results are seldom good.

Originally posted on Truth Is Cool.

 

Two years ago I wrote about how Facebook was taking over the world. And back in August, I hedged and wrote that G+ will beat ‘em.

A recent development suggests that Google may be strategically leveraging its search dominance to make big gains in social media. A cornerstone of this is Author Rank

cartmanThe first signals I picked up were that a few of my social media guru friends were much more active on G+ than Facebook. This was happening about the same time that a new round of fairly meaty Author Rank blog posts started running post patterns on my Feedly.

Authorship, or Author Rank could well be the new Page Rank. As social media signals had become more and more important in search engine rankings, weighting influence, reputation, and credibly was an algorithm waiting to happen.

What You Need to Know About Author Rank

As it stands today Author Rank will inform and not supplant Page Rank, but it is not to difficult to imagine a landscape where social network profile/pages and web sites blur to the extent that social ranking could be more important that page ranking.

While there does appear to be a good amount of Matt Cutts, Google algorithm tea leave reading going on about Author Rank’s roll out, you don’t need worry about that. Personal author rankings based on history and reputation that are tied to social influence online are important with or without Author Rank. Besides that it will definitely happen.

Be Real and Use Google Plus

For those in the business who remember scrambling to get back search traffic after Panda and Penguin bites, this is different. When Author Rank is rolled out it won’t be as disruptive. The fact that people aren’t sure if they’re using it now in search rankings hints at that.

The diagnosis for web publishers is pretty much to keep it real and use Google Plus often.

Since Panda and Penguin, SEO authorities have stressed the importance of constantly generating good, original content (although it’s not as if they weren’t saying this all the time before Author Rank anyway). The shift that occurred was that sites were punished for contrived or spammy links. For a few of my sites, it meant taking down mash-up or feed generated news. Now everything needs to be curated by humans. The other implication was that social links may turn out to be the most important kind of links. And this segues directly and almost organically into the importance of social signals.

In 2010, Matt Cutts famously admitted that Google was factoring Facebook and Twitter links into search. So then the logical progression for Google became to figure out who’s got the good content from mountains of social data, and use that to deliver the good stuff in search results. 

The all or nothing integration of Google Plus into all of your Google tools makes sense in this light. It’s now apparent that the hub or platform that will be used to weigh Author Rank will certainly not be Facebook. 

There are a few things you can do to shine the spokes that roll out from out from this hub.  First use REL=author - for starters make sure you’ve got:

  • A link from your blog post or article to your author page using rel=”author”
  • A link from your author page to your Google profile page using rel=”me” 

David Vyorst Google Authorship is Confirmed!

Some Tips From the Experts

Here’s a great “Cheat Sheet” from Copyblogger: 

  • Implement the authorship markup — When Google first rolled out authorship markup, it was intimidating. I wrote a couple of guides for clients trying to explain the process and it wasn’t easy. Google simplified the process with their authorship sign-up tool. However, you can pull it off in just a couple minutes if you are using the Genesis Framework for WordPress. Make sure you associate it with your Google+ profile, use a good headshot, and check your status with therich snippet tool.
  • Boost activity on social sites — Put some quality time into interacting on social media sites, especially Google+. Focus on your top three. For example, for me that would be my blog, Twitter, and Google+. For you that might mean Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
  • Connect with influencers — Get in a habit of re-sharing content from your friends and thought leaders. “+1″ their posts and make intelligent comments. Write interesting posts on Google+ and quote these influencers by name. Build upon the content they’ve already created — add to or challenge their work in a re-share.
  • Continue to create and publish great content — This is what you will ultimately be judged upon, and is the core driver of the qualitative history of a writer that’s behind Author Rank. Keep writing and publishing those thoughtful, useful blog posts and building your authoritative bank of content. 

(I told you they’d say to keep writing great content. They always say that.)

@Mike_Arnesen gives a good daily checklist on SEO Moz

  1. Check your Google+ feed five times and interact.
  2. Chip away at your weekly blog post (you blog weekly already, right?).
  3. Read a post on a site you’ve targeted for guest blogging and leave a quality comment. Start building visibility (and/or a relationship) with the authors and editors.
  4. Look for two or three interesting people on Google+, circle them, and interact with something they’ve posted.

So the battle rages on. While Facebook is investing big money into figuring out how to make more and more of your online and mobile life live on Facebook, most notably with Open Graph Search and Facebook Home, Google is injecting its DNA deeper and deeper into social media. 

DAVID VYORST is Co-Founder of Relay Station Social Media LLC.

We help companies amplify their communications, build reputations, and expand business through unique communications strategies, integrated Internet marketing, social media, analytics, and training. 

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A funny thing happened on the way to last year’s elections. Using sophisticated online techniques that wedded advanced social media with emotional email marketing, huge amounts of money were raised.  

The success of those campaigns caused many nonprofit executives and boards to take another look at how–if at all– they raise money online. 

Donate Computer Key In Blue Showing Charity And FundraisingOnline giving to nonprofits soared 11% in 2012, according to the Blackbaud Index, which tracks approximately $8 billion in US-based charitable giving to nonprofits. Overall giving to nonprofits was up only 2%. 

Although digital fundraising still represents less than 10% of total giving, the trend is accelerating. Where only 4% of Americans gave online in 2002, in 2012 it rocketed to 65 % of the population.

No wonder a recent survey  of nonprofit leaders revealed that for almost half “rethinking revenue model & income generation” is a top priority.

Here’s why. According to Blackbaud’s 2012 Charitable Giving Report, medium-sized nonprofits saw a year-over-year increase in online donations of 14.3% in 2012, followed by small nonprofits (up 11.8%) and large organizations (up 7.2%) bringing up the rear. 

Online has also become the channel of choice for donors in response to natural disasters. The Salvation Army, for example, raised $3 million online to assist the victims of SuperStorm Sandy, out of a total take of $3.4 million.

In the Toolkit

Which of the many online tools do you need for a successful online fundraising effort? Here is a quick list of key elements.

  • An attractively designed, up-to-date website that is fully integrated with social media and incorporates Responsive Web Design that automatically adapts to a wide range of devices (desktop, smartphones, pads) for easy reading and navigation.
  • An email list of supporters. Most of your donations online will be generated by email solicitations. So, if you don’t have a quality list, then you need to start building one right away using social media petitions, call-outs and other techniques.
  • An email service provider (ESP). There’s a wide range of providers and choosing one depends upon your budget and the size of your list.
  • A double opt-in feature for new list members that require them to click on a link sent to their email box to provide consent and prevent spam.
  • Analytics to track and measure open rates, click-throughs, and actual giving. These measurements, along with a technique called A/B split testing, allow for detailed analysis of what works and what does not.

Art and Scienceart & science

Writing an email message is a combination of the science of testing and analytics, as well as the art of emotional appeal. Frequency and types of messages, and subject lines must be carefully considered.

As I’ve written before, social media works great for creating and building brand awareness through exposure, influence, and engagement at the top of the sales funnel.  But when it comes to building an enthusiastic base and making direct fundraising appeals, what works is email.

If you haven’t started a sophisticated digital fundraising program yet, what are you waiting for? By not focusing online, you’re leaving money on the table. 

 

Need help with your digital fundraising program? Contact me right now at 202.630.8014 or email me at info@relaystationmedia.com for a free consultation.

We help companies, nonprofit associations, and other organizations communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, tactics, and training.

Are you properly protecting your company from Internet criminals? Download our free Amplification Guide on Data Loss Prevention to learn what you can do now.

If you like this blog post, drop me a line on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and Like our Facebook page. SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS FEED. 

 

No matter what type of organization you work for, social media can play an important role in moving prospects down the sales funnel toward the goal of closing a deal. 

Sales-FunnelWhether that’s purchasing a product or service, signing up for membership in a nonprofit association, attending an event, making a contribution, or supporting a political candidate, it doesn’t matter.

Social media has become the critical tool at the top of the sales funnel. It creates an environment in which your business or campaign becomes recognized online and the sales process can really begin. If you’re focused only on ROI, you’re missing its value. Social media is about creating and building brand awareness through exposure, influence, and engagement. Analytical tools can measure success or motivate you to recalibrate. 

How Many Touches?

Recently, I spoke to a board member of a small association that sent out a single fundraising email at the end of the year. It didn’t work. She understood why.

Campaigns often need between seven and 12 touches. Social media is frequently a first, second, or even third touch before any other marketing technique.

Think you can simply share content from other sources? Sorry but you need your own content in the mix. That means original written or video blog posts that showcase your thought-leadership. Then you must disseminate the posts widely over social media, appropriate for your strategy, so they can be found and shared. Fresh, relevant, quality content is also one of the keys to a solid SEO strategy.

It’s unlikely that your audience has committed yet. You need to persuade them through your brilliant original content. Then, you need them to trust you enough to click on a call-to-action embedded in your blog or website to get that irresistible eBook, report, or ticket to an event in exchange for something of great  value to you—their email, phone number, and address.

Moving Closer to Closing

Obtaining that data moves them down your sales funnel. Usually, you’re not yet at the point of closing.  So now you bring other tactics to bear like a tele-prospecting and nurturing stream. That’s right—old fashion phone calls. Even direct mail for non-responders.

You could be lucky and make the sale. But with all these techniques, you still might be only half way to 12 touches. So, next:

  • Keep up the social media, creating a regular stream of content;
  • Conduct A/B testing to determine the best offer when someone clicks through to your landing page;
  • Test the landing pages, timing and frequency, too.
  • Analyze what gets the best response.

To get to prospective buyers, attendees, or voters before the competition and nurture the relationship, start with social media and build brand awareness through exposure, influence, and engagement. Then expand, grow, and win. 

 

Need help with your digital program? Contact me right now at 202.630.8014 or info@relaystationmedia.com for a free consultation.

We help companies, nonprofit associations, and others communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, tactics, and training.

Are you properly protecting your company from Internet criminals? Download our free Amplification Guide on Data Loss Prevention to learn what you can do now.

If you like this blog post, drop me a line on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn, and Like our Facebook page. SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS FEED. 

It’s back! Charles Schwab’s entertaining financial video series returned recently after a five month hiatus. It still features the deadpan humor of host Mike Cianfrocca, is shorter in length—a minute rather than 90 seconds—and is called Tweet of the Week rather than the old version’s 60 Seconds in Money. But these financial videos are still aimed straight at the heart of America’s largest—and untapped—generation, the Millennials.

The series is silly, but not really. The latest installment on December 14th was an update on Santa’s credit score. Says Cianfrocca: “Santa Claus shouldn’t have any trouble getting a loan this holiday season… Santa’s credit score is 777… For those of you who don’t have an army of elves to help you manage your credit, you’re in luck.”

At 36-seconds, a photo of jolly ol’ Santa appears, then a call-to-action overlay at the bottom of the screen that clicks through to another video. The second video reveals a more serious person, the head of the Schwab Foundation giving credit score tips.

Schwab does a lot of videos. Most are by serious executives that are watched only a small number of times. A recent video by Chief Investment Strategist Liz Ann Sonders about the Fiscal Cliff was seen by nearly 20,700.  But it’s hard to imagine your average 20-something ever clicking on any of them.

A recent study released by Prudential Retirement showed that Millennials are concerned about their future. The sample indicated a desire to allocate 17% of leftover monthly income to savings for retirement.

Schwab, like every other investment firm, wants Millennials to like them. The potential is a tidal wave of business. Born between 1980 and 2000, the Millennial Generation will account for 50% of the global workforce by 2020.

Prudential has a variety of unorganized videos. Merrill Lynch, CitiGroup, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, and Fidelity have YouTube channels with plenty of material, none aimed at 20-somethings. Wells Fargo has a well-developed channel with some highly produced, video documentaries of community nonprofits that are appealing. Vanguard has a couple of hip ones.

Yet no other major investment firm targets twenty-somethings using financial videos in such an intelligent and clever way as Charles Schwab.

Another Schwab video series was the Oh Chuck! I Blew My Cash Contest that ran earlier in 2012 and solicited videos from people who made stupid financial mistakes.  Yet despite television commercials and a Facebook contest to boost Oh Chuck!, the video submitted by the grand prize winner—a guy who spent $600 buying a bouncy house—was viewed only 1,230 times.

Well, okay. That’s not bad.

But considering the last installment before the rebranding of Cianfrocca’s 60 Seconds in Money was watched by almost 265,000, bouncy-bounce was far from breath-taking.

The Tweet of the Week series has yet to be really noticed with the Santa episode racking up only 130 views in the first five days. If Schwab sticks with it, I’ll bet those numbers will grow. 

 

Need help with your social media program? Contact Scott Peterson right now at 202.630.8014 or info@relaystationmedia.com for a free consultation.

We help companies, nonprofit associations, and others communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, tactics, and training.

Are you properly protecting your company from Internet criminals? Download our free Amplification Guide on Data Loss Prevention to learn what you can do now.

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I caught up with the Financial Planning Association’s Erica Spencer last weekend at a conference in Denver. Erica is the FPA’s web services manager and social media guru.

Spencer had more advice for companies and associations that had started a social media program, but are unwilling to devote the resources to make it work. It’s better to delete social media platforms if you’re not going to use them instead of allowing them to hang out in cyberspace abandoned. 

Financial Planning AssociationThe FPA’s online program proved its overall online sophistication earlier this year when it teamed up with the CFP Board and NAPFA to defeat FINRA’s attempt to become the self-regulatory organization for the investment advisory industry.

Of course, it was made easier by the fact that FINRA doesn’t have a comprehensive online presence. But that doesn’t take away from the trio’s campaign. 

I wrote about FPA’s social media network for members, FPA Connect, last year. I was skeptical at the time, warning how difficult it can be to start such a venture. But it appears to be working according to discussions I’ve had with FPA members. 

With Erica Spencer involved, I’d bet on its success. 

 

Need help with your program? Contact Scott Peterson right now at 202.630.8014 or info@relaystationmedia.com for a free consultation.

We help companies, nonprofit associations, and government communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, social media and Internet marketing, online video campaigns, website development, analytics, and training.

Are you properly protecting your company from Internet criminals? Download our free Amplification Guide on Data Loss Prevention to learn what you can do now.

If you like this blog post, drop us a line on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS FEED. 

Does your company still have a newsroom where your press releases grow old and die? There’s a better way. Turn it into a news blog.

If you are a publicly-traded company, you have an obligation to issue material news that could impact your share price in a way that is broadly disseminated to the public. Even if you’re not publicly traded, you may want to keep the option of distributing your most important news over a traditional news wire.

A Breakfast Routine

A financial reporter told me recently that every weekday morning, he sits down with his son and daughter at the breakfast table and, before they go to school, he deletes press releases. Dozens of them.

Anyone who has ever been in that position—either as a reporter, an editor or who works in media relations and sees what’s on the news wires—knows that the vast majority don’t rise to the level of importance that a news release demands.

Here are some reasons a news blog make sense.

  1. Reduce costs. Traditional news dissemination services are expensive. Anyone who has ever put out a press release or paid the invoices understands the per word charges that come after the contractual limit. Then, there are costs for wider distribution, graphics or embedded video, and advanced analytics. With a news blog, the post can be as long or short as you want. Do you want to add a video or photos? Go right ahead.
  2. Reporters troll online. When you post to a news blog, it’s simple to disseminate a link to the content over social media. Most reporters love Twitter. Nothing is faster. Advanced search enables you to find the ones you want and follow them. Place them in a list. Engage with them and work toward a phone call or a meeting.  It’s another way to grow your relationship.
  3. Improve your search engine ranking. Fresh, relevant, quality content is one of the keys to a solid SEO strategy, and your company’s news is just that! Most blog content management systems offer plug-ins to help you with SEO, meta descriptions, keywords, tags, and more. Even if your news blog is the second blog on your website, you will increase your chances of getting found on Google.
  4. Allow comments. By encouraging two-way communication, you are providing another opportunity to build relationships with partners, vendors, customers, and the public. Press releases don’t do that. A news blog does. 
  5. Social sharing features. At the top and bottom of each news blog post, you should have icons that allow visitors to share on social media and subscribe. Already allow for RSS subscription? What about email? You want to make it as easy as possible for others to share and subscribe.
  6. Better analytics. It’s hard to beat the analytics available for a blog. Google Analytics are free, as are most services at the freemium level. The costs can rise quickly, however, for larger programs. But you can achieve a remarkable level of understanding for not a lot of money. That allows you to repeat what works and change what doesn’t.

As the news industry continues to shrink, reporters have less time to develop sources than they did in the past. Issuing your announcements over a news blog doesn’t mean that you completely give up the old ways of media relations. For your most important news, post a summary to your blog with a link to the press release. You’ll still need to call up key reporters and bloggers and pitch your news over the phone.  

Need help with your program? Contact me right now at 202.630.8014 or info@relaystationmedia.com for a free consultation.

I’m SCOTT PETERSON, co-founder of Relay Station Social Media LLC. 

We help companies, nonprofit associations, and government communicate with more people, build reputations, and exceed objectives through digital strategy, social media and Internet marketing, online video campaigns, website development, analytics, and training.

Are you properly protecting your company from Internet criminals? Download our free Amplification Guide on Data Loss Prevention to learn what you can do now.

If you like this blog post, drop us a line on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG BY EMAIL OR RSS FEED.