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Top 5 tips on how to get more Twitter followers

Sorry.

Sorry.

Sorry…for the all-too-obvious SEO- and Huffington Post-inspired headline.  This post has little to do with getting more followers on Twitter. Could be worse.  I could’ve named it: “Is Twitter more important than the Wall Street Journal?”

The first lady can Double Dutch

Social media, especially Twitter, is a global 24/7 session of Double Dutch.  Only it’s with 500 million+ jump ropes none of which will slow down to let you in even though you just laced on a shiny new pair of Nikes and are carrying a swanky-fun handle.

Like Double Dutch you don’t run into the fray with your mouth open unless you want a 20-gauge rubber rope behind your bicuspids. You wait. You find the rhythm of the conversation then jump in prepared to be part of it.

Based on using Twitter in corporate communications and on building a company on the Twitter API, I’ve learned two things:

  1. Before you start tweeting: Shut up and listen!
  2. Never build a company on the Twitter API.  (Another story for different day.)

By listening for a bit you’ll get a sense what the language and conversation is on Twitter and you’ll see what gets the most interest in whatever topic you’re keen on. No matter what subject, I think you’ll see that people who have a constructive point of view get the most engagement on Twitter.  So when you do want to start opening your mouth, think back to the way back days of TechCrunch (circa when we thought Friendster was the big ticket).  Michael Arrington made that blog more influential than mainstream papers by having a point of view.

So, if you get stuck on finding a voice for your next tweet or post, ask yourself – what would  @arrington do?

Then when you’re jusssst about to hit send on your 11th tweet stop, drop and roll. Take a look at the first ten tweets and count how many of those are about: A) broad topic of conversation that we all care about, B) dialogue with other tweeps, and C) how wonderful you are.

If more than two are focused on category C, put the mirror down and remember this guiding principle:

As @louhoffman reminded me last week no one you first meet at a cocktail party wants to hear a commercial about how wonderful you are.  They want to engage with you about new and common areas of interest. And, they’ll stay for a full cocktail or maybe two if you’re a smidge entertaining.

New rule is the old rule:  50/30/20

Spend 50% of your time talking about broader subjects on Twitter.  Then, 30% actively engaged with other people. And, just a wee 20% woofing about your parents’ progeny.

I lied. I’m giving you some tips. The last one is: Who you are on Twitter is somewhat reflective of who you are following. Follow wisely.

If you want to be seen and served up in the Twitter “Who to follow” engine as a global leader in M&A but are following 1,500 skateboarders . . . then odds are Twitter thinks you’re more like Tony Hawke than Larry Ellison.

- Jose Mallabo

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If fashion is never finished…

. . . then entrepreneurship is forever.

Like Batman only with way cooler jeans and tee shirts.

The last few weeks have been very difficult for me and my team at Tweetalicious. But it’s interesting to look at what we’ve been doing since deciding to dissolve the company and shut down Mosaic. We broke up the band but have been out talking to other entrepreneurs to see how we can help or join forces with them to re-focus on the next next thing.

Even if that doesn’t happen, I have no doubt we’ll be back at it. Someday.

It’s only been a week but I miss the fight to build something out of nothing. I miss the heated discussions with my team. I even miss people telling us we were out of minds. It was a great ride and I’m proud of my co-founders for getting as far as we did with the MVP of Mosaic.

Onward.

 

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Most visited tiles on Mosaic

In the few weeks since we put Mosaic into beta testing at DiscoverMosaic.com it’s easy to see our user base has a palate for visual curation and design. The most visited tiles on the site are:

  • Alexandra Spencer (@4THANDBLEEKER)
  • Miranda Kerr (@MirandaKerr)
  • Dolce & Gabbana (@DolceGabbana)

We curate content from three major areas: brands, fashion influencers and celebrities — and Alexandra is clearly a fashionable celebrity with influence.

So, what does this tell you about consumers and social content? Great visuals matter. The days of 140 text characters are dead like the Boston Red Sox. And I’d be willing to bet that if I looked at the least visited tiles on Mosaic – they’d all look like what happens when you cat stands on your keyboard.

Take a look at each of these handles and you’ll see commonalities. All of them create a steady flow of content often times posting updates five to 10 times a day. At least half of these tweets are pictures or videos. But what’s probably most important is that these are taken from a personal perspective. Even Dolce & Gabbana, obviously a company handle, pushes tweets out in a voice that makes it feel like a personal conversation. It’s an approach every social media pro aspires but often gets lost in execution.

Corporate speak: Boo. Personalized visual content: Bring it.

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What if Twitter accounts = active users?

I left LinkedIn about 18 months ago and remember marveling at the insane growth Twitter was experiencing at the time. They hit 50 million tweets per day so quickly and had driven so much activity within LinkedIn. That figure is now 340 million tweets per day driven by 140 million active members.

About a year ago Twitter reported that close to 500,000 new accounts were being opened each day. That’s about 180 million accounts on an annual basis, right? Or about 500 million registered users today.

Hmm.

The lesson here is that accounts do not equal people.  A lot of those accounts are machines but a lot of those accounts also are dormant users who don’t do much once they create an account — because the pace on Twitter is impossible to follow and there are few tools built for consumers to help manage and consume it.

The reality is that a small fraction of people actually create content on Twitter.  But people say that like it’s a bad thing. A lot has been written about how these above vanity numbers are just that — hype.  The comparison to Facebook’s staggering growth and engagement rates are natural and daunting and only feeds the sentiment that no one is really using Twitter.

Not so fast you Nancy Naysayers!

Mass media — namely that little ol’ thing we media researchers like to call the ‘most influential medium in the history of mankind’ or simply ‘television’ — lends a great example of how Twitter content is used by the masses. People watch and consume content, not necessarily create it.

Think about it. If you’re old enough to rent a car in the U.S. odds are you averaged somewhere between 3 to 5 hours a day of TV consumption for a good chunk of your life.  How many times did you create TV programming or call or write NBC, HBO, Cinemax or any other programmer to comment on their content? Answer:  Zero times in the last (pick any number) years.

What if there was a tool to consume Tweets the way people consume TV programming? What would you call those ‘dormant’ Twitter accounts?

I’d call it an opportunity. Here I come.

- Jose Mallabo

 

 

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Social media complements search and email marketing (for now)

Looking at this Forrester post almost a year later feels a lot like going back to high school after your first year in college. You thought it was a good idea to visit but then you realize by the end of it — not so much.

The blog post’s conclusion is to draw your own conclusion about social media’s impact on holiday purchasing. The post meanders from having an opinion that the ForeSee research was limited to having no point of view whatsoever. How am I going to join a conversation or rebut your point of view if you don’t have one?

While there are no official rules to blogging – the universal and unspoken rule is to have an opinion.

Here’s mine: The idea of social commerce (buying stuff on Facebook) is still a pipe dream. Rather, social media can drive brand, product and deal awareness and therefore serve as a complement to a retailer’s larger search and email marketing programs.

Since this post in late 2010, LinkedIn and Groupon have gone public. Facebook’s IPO has been delayed – but will be the biggest one in the history of ever. The point being, these companies are all well capitalized, have hundreds of millions of subscribers and are not going anywhere. So industry pundits and luddites alike need to bite down on the reality that marketers will continue to throw marketing dollars at them to hock their wares regardless of whether we have any proof of a causal relationship between the social media consumption and clicking the “buy” button on a shopping site.

At 2.9% e-commerce conversion rates there is no proof needed.

While this question of “Was social media a big factor in holiday purchases?” will come up again and again over the next few weeks and months, I encourage marketers and PR people to do one thing:   challenge the question.

As Augie Ray correctly points out social media is a mere infant and it will take time to prove its correlation with purchasing behavior. In the meantime it serves a lot of other organizational needs that are no less important than shopping cart clicks. Don’t get suckered into the conversation about social media and its impact on transactions because you’ve got more to attend to with your 2012 social and media dollars such as:

  • Reputation management
  • Product and corporate branding
  • Influencer relations
  • Partner relations
  • Customer service
  • SEO
  • Issues management and crisis communications
  • Recruitment and workforce engagement

While the analyst community continues to look under the hood for purchase conversion evidence, what they’re missing is that the owners of these social media programs may not at all be focused on driving holiday (or non-holiday for that matter) transactions.

Pause.

Bite down. Chew. Gulp.

And therefore, there might be some reason why the transactional or purchase conversion evidence is not to be found.

In fact, most brands and retailers I know are still investing more in tried and true search and email marketing initiatives to drive transactions and conversion online and in stores –- while using Facebook and Twitter as complements to those initiatives and for all of the other communications objectives listed above. That explains why search and promotional email remain the primary drivers for purchasing behavior for the holidays.

There. I said it.

Don’t go back to high school. But do take my poll on LinkedIn

-Jose Mallabo

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Which is more influential TechCrunch or Mashable?

Take my poll on LinkedIn.

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Has social media already won?

Everyone wants to be on the winning team. It just takes longer for some people to see the winning.

I remember walking my first Bay to Breakers race about a decade ago.  I had a very broken arm and lugged around a cast that ran from my fist to my armpit. An hour into the 7 mile race someone with a bullhorn was yelling to the masses: “The Kenyans have already won. Go home!” I laughed and limped along with the thousands of others — appreciative of the update.

Social media isn’t too different. The early adopters have been claiming victory over traditional marketing channels since Facebook and Twitter were mere puppies. Search, email and general multi-media marketing/advertising might have a few things to say about that.  But if you just look at the growth of Facebook and Twitter memberships over the past year — they’re signing up more people now than they were two or three years ago — you can start to see the not-so-early-adopters getting on the bandwagon.

And that’s OK. We all can’t be died-in-the-wool Yankees, Patriots, Red Sox or Phillies fans. Someone has to get on the bus last. So grab your licensed apparel and get on the social media express. But to the newcomers to social, I’d caution you from drinking solely from the awareness pitcher. Check that box and skip ahead to finding out how social media can drive lead generation and business development — because that’s the Kool Aid pitcher the cool kids are filling up from.

It can look a little like this one that I know was used in generating ~$200 million on software/solutions business leads for an enterprise facing company with a big blue logo.


Not as sexy as a Facebook page with videos of the trendy people at your company doing fun things in skinny jeans.  But it works.  And it will take this kind of coordinated approach to driving business for social media to run with the Kenyans.

-Jose Mallabo

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I quit Facebook

Hi, my name is Jose. I make a living on social media and doing PR in the e-commerce segment. And, I just quit Facebook.

Someone light my cigarette.

Back when I was working at LinkedIn and really driving my social network activity into a professional realm, I was itching to bail on Facebook.  I joined to re-connect with high school friends just before our 20th year reunion but since then had been wavering on my activity there.  It just felt too icky too often. The first ick moment came when a former boss asked me about something I posted on my Facebook profile. She was lurking me.

Ick. Double ick.Two years later, 98% of my personal social networking activity is on LinkedIn, Twitter and this blog. And professionally, I manage the GSI Commerce blog as part of my job.

Reconnect with high school pals? Done.

Ongoing Facebook purpose? Unclear.

But what really tipped me over was this quote from this 2-year old Newsweek article: “When I think about all the hours I wasted this past year on Facebook, and imagine the good I could have done instead, it depresses me.”  It’s basic macroeconomic theory applied to social networking. The opportunity cost of clicking through pictures of people in wonderful “look at me you’re not here” places is less time from things that matter.

I’m off Facebook. And off to spend more time on iFoster.org as a board member, other business ventures . . . and throwing baseballs to my nephew who wants to be the next Jose Reyes.  If I throw enough fly balls to him maybe he’ll be the next Torii Hunter instead. Either way, last I checked I can’t throw batting practice on Facebook.

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E-Mail Commerce: An Old School Beast

Look at this.

Source: Forrester

Not only is e-commerce growing – projected to hit almost $300 billion by 2015 – it is growing as a percentage of overall retail.

How? The easy and obvious answer is that people are finding shopping online easier and more convenient than going to the store.

The same analyst firm that projected this growth also did a study recently (with my current employer GSI Commerce) looking at holiday 2010 shopping data from 15 online retailers representing about $1 billion in gross merchandise sales.

One of the primary takeaways is that email and search remain the most influential channel to moving shoppers from browsing to buying.  Yes, you read that right – old school e-mail can still bring it.

Source: Forrester

That inflamed a huge tidal wave of boos from the Mashable and social media faithful (I consider myself both) – but when you really dig into the numbers, study and where we are as a social media using country it really makes sense.  Think about it.  Most people who are the breadwinners and decision makers on discretionary spending in the U.S. have been on e-mail for 15 to 20 years.   The early adopters of that group mayyyybe have been on social media networks for a 2-3 years.   When you factor in the difference in dynamics between these two mediums it really makes a lot of common sense why email is still more powerful in e-commerce than social.

E-mail is very private.  It’s a true 1:1 medium that we’ve been conditioned for most of our adult lives to keep to ourselves and guard with legal disclaimers like “this transmission is meant solely for the recipient and is confidential” blah, blah, blah.  Email has spent the greater part of the last generation becoming the closest thing to our digital identity or our virtual Social Security Number.  So, if a retailer can get to me there – odds are I’m primed to buy from them.

Social networks on the other hand are very public.  Every major social network’s product settings are defaulted to share everything you do on the network.  Most people rarely ever switch those settings to something other than that.  So, while finding and sharing good deals on underwear, vacations and massages is great fun.  It doesn’t seem likely that people like my father or middle aged buddies would show the world they’re buying these things.

This is my semi-professional opinion.  I live in e-commerce and make a living as a social media guy.  But kick my tires.  Walk across the building in your office and show a total stranger your Facebook wall.  Then hand the him your BlackBerry or iPhone and ask him to thumb through your email.

It’s this sense of intimacy with our emails that explains why Groupon and LivingSocial are growing so fast while true social networks like Facebook and Twitter are still finding their legs in e-commerce.  I get into cold sweat at just the idea of even my mother reading my emails.  Groupon and LivingSocial aren’t so much social commerce companies but at their core are email marketing geniuses that buy and sell local deals with the leverage of their members (that’s the social part) to push down prices for the individual consumer.

E-mail commerce.  Maybe it’s not a popular headline, but email still works and will likely remain a big part of that $300 billion market.  It’s no wonder why all favorite social networking sites update me on new features, product news and privacy updates on my email.  I still read them.

- Jose Mallabo

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Why hasn’t PR made measurement core to its function? Q&A with Forrest Anderson

I’ve been kicking around the idea of doing a post about research and measurement in PR for some time. Namely, I really want to ask why PR hasn’t done a better job making this core to the function when there are scads of resources on the subject.  Frankly, I’m not the expert on this subject as I’ve spent more of my career creating content than measuring how it impacts the audiences its intended for.  Despite having an advanced degree in this area, I’m guilty as charged.   Instead I reached out to my former colleague — Forrest W. Anderson who is not just a measurement expert but one of the sharpest communications strategists I’ve been around in my career.

Below is an un-edited Q&A I had with him this week.  My questions.  His answers.  My parenthetical interjections.

Q: What is the single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of communications programs?

A: The single most important thing people need to remember when looking to measure the impact of a communications program is their definition of impact, which should come from the initial, measurable objectives of the program.  If you’re trying to change behavior (increase sales, reduce employee turnover, etc.) you should try to measure that change in behavior.  If you’re trying to change awareness and/or attitudes, you should measure changes in awareness and/or attitudes.  Most likely you would do this with a pre- and post-program survey.  If you’re trying to increase media coverage, then you might measure clips.  If you’re trying to increase positive media coverage, then you need not only to count clips but assess the tone of the content in those clips.

Q: What is the most common mistake you see companies making in buying measurement and research?

A: To me, the most common mistake I see companies make when they do invest in measurement and research is they focus more on evaluation (or measurement) and less on the research they should do to plan the program. The first step in any program should be to articulate a measurable objective.  The next step should be to do research on the target audiences and the business environment so you know what kinds of messages and concepts will appeal to the target audience, which media reach the target audience and what’s going on in the world that might affect the way your target audience will react to your intended messages.  The evaluation piece is fairly straightforward, if you’ve created a solid measurable objective for the program.

The measurable objective is a big stumbling point.  Without one, you cannot evaluate.  This is why so many companies that invest in media evaluation systems that use online data bases are disappointed after a year of using the service.  Neither the client organization nor the evaluation system vendor thinks out what the measurable objectives should be for any given program.  It frequently turns out, then, that there is a mismatch between what the tool measures and what the organization wants to achieve.

Q: Communications research has been around a long time, why haven’t PR people done a better job making it core to their programs and the industry?

A: I think there are a number of reasons.

  • In the past it has been expensive relative to the investment in the program, so there was a question regarding whether you should spend the money trying to get more results or measuring what you achieved.  The online systems have made clip analysis less expensive than in the past, and we can also do surveys online for much less than in the past.
  • Some communications professionals are afraid of what they will find out if they measure.  An agency, for example, might not want its client to learn that a program had not achieved the goals the client requested or the agency promised.  This is a very unprofessional point of view because there is no way anyone can improve as a professional if they do not measure the effectiveness of what they do, learn from it and try to do better.  The same situation exists for some internal communications departments, with organizational executives taking the client role and the communications departments acting like agencies.  Again this is too bad.  There is a fair amount of anecdotal and some scholarly evidence that communications departments that do evaluate are more highly thought of by the CEOs of their companies than are those that do not evaluate.
  • Last, but certainly not least, I believe many people go into public relations to avoid having to deal with numbers and numerical analysis.

(So true. I’ve lost count how many PR people have said to me “I’m not good with numbers.” Cop out.  Reading cross tabs isn’t that hard. And who hasn’t had a client that was BS-ing his boss about results?)

Q: CEO’s often just want to pay for clippings and see their names in headlines, how do you get past this?

A: If a CEO is that shallow, you’re going to have a number of operational problems in the organization that probably will outweigh communications issues.  These will only be the tip of the ice berg.  That said, the best way I know to influence CEOs is with data.  If a senior communications person believes the organization should be doing something, he or she should look for data that supports their point of view and present it to the CEO.  For example, if our communications executive (CE) believes the main competitor is winning partly because of the good media coverage it is getting vs. the poor media coverage the CE’s company is getting, a quantitative report demonstrating this would be more likely to sway the CEO than just saying “I think we should do this.”

I once did a $200,000 communications audit for the U.S. subsidiary of a European owned company.  The whole purpose of the audit was to demonstrate to the European owner that the U.S. subsidiary needed to invest in public relations.  The study made the case and HQ supported a major increase in PR funding.

Q: Is social media helping or hurting research and measurement in communications?

A: I would say social media is confusing research and measurement in communications.  What it is helping is dialog. In the past, there were very few direct communications channels open between an organization and its stakeholders, so market research gave management insight into who comprised a stakeholder group, what they cared about, what they thought, etc.  However, with social media, organizations can actually communicate directly with stakeholders, assuming stakeholders wish to communicate with the organization.  This is great!

The danger comes when an organization begins to believe that a handful of active users of social media users represent the entire stakeholder group.  There can be a big difference between what a few vocal individuals think and what most the population thinks. So, I believe social media is a wonderful way to get some insight into stakeholder groups, but I also think we need to be very careful about extrapolating that insight to larger populations.  I do not believe social media is a replacement for research.

(I agree with that. And think the hype and sex appeal of social has done a lot to distract companies from focusing on the basics — like research and measurement. People are off building Facebook pages when they haven’t even studied their core audiences to see how they interact with existing PR content and programs.)

Q: Is agenda setting theory still valid?

A: Unless I misunderstand your question, the agenda setting theory is based on the idea that the media sets the news agenda by choosing which topics to cover.  Thus the news media exerts great influence over not only the topics its audience thinks about but also how the audience thinks about those topics.  I’m not sure I ever completely bought into this theory, because I believe good journalists tried to choose topics that were of interest to their audiences and did some research with their audiences to determine what these topics were.  So, the influencers were influenced by those they influenced.

Whether this last bit was true in the past or not, it is certainly true now.  Anyone with access to the Internet can publish now, and very many do.  Tools such as Twitter’s “Trending” will tell you which topics (or key words) are being discussed the most at any given time, and journalists can and do use those kinds of tools to choose the topics they cover.  I would say the influenced are influencing the influencers more than ever before.  However, this is just a theory.  I don’t have data on this.

Q: If you could build a strategic communications program for Facebook, what would it look like?

A: This sounds like what should be a paying gig.

I told you he was sharp.  It really should be a paying gig.

-Jose Mallabo

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