Archive for February, 2011


10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

By Susan Gunelius at

Leveraging the power of content and social media marketing can help elevate your audience and customer base in a dramatic way. But getting started without any previous experience or insight could be challenging.

It’s vital that you understand social media marketing fundamentals. From maximizing quality to increasing your online entry points, abiding by these 10 laws will help build a foundation that will serve your customers, your brand and — perhaps most importantly — your bottom line.

1. The Law of Listening
Success with social media and content marketing requires more listening and less talking. Read your target audience’s online content and join discussions to learn what’s important to them. Only then can you create content and spark conversations that add value rather than clutter to their lives.

2. The Law of Focus
It’s better to specialize than to be a jack-of-all-trades. A highly-focused social media and content marketing strategy intended to build a strong brand has a better chance for success than a broad strategy that attempts to be all things to all people.

3. The Law of Quality
Quality trumps quantity. It’s better to have 1,000 online connections who read, share and talk about your content with their own audiences than 10,000 connections who disappear after connecting with you the first time.

4. The Law of Patience
Social media and content marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. While it’s possible to catch lightning in a bottle, it’s far more likely that you’ll need to commit to the long haul to achieve results.

5. The Law of Compounding
If you publish amazing, quality content and work to build your online audience of quality followers, they’ll share it with their own audiences on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, their own blogs and more.

This sharing and discussing of your content opens new entry points for search engines like Google to find it in keyword searches. Those entry points could grow to hundreds or thousands of more potential ways for people to find you online.

6. The Law of Influence
Spend time finding the online influencers in your market who have quality audiences and are likely to be interested in your products, services and business. Connect with those people and work to build relationships with them.

If you get on their radar as an authoritative, interesting source of useful information, they might share your content with their own followers, which could put you and your business in front of a huge new audience.

7. The Law of Value
If you spend all your time on the social Web directly promoting your products and services, people will stop listening. You must add value to the conversation. Focus less on conversions and more on creating amazing content and developing relationships with online influencers. In time, those people will become a powerful catalyst for word-of-mouth marketing for your business.

8. The Law of Acknowledgment
You wouldn’t ignore someone who reaches out to you in person so don’t ignore them online. Building relationships is one of the most important parts of social media marketing success, so always acknowledge every person who reaches out to you.

9. The Law of Accessibility
Don’t publish your content and then disappear. Be available to your audience. That means you need to consistently publish content and participate in conversations. Followers online can be fickle and they won’t hesitate to replace you if you disappear for weeks or months.

10. The Law of Reciprocity
You can’t expect others to share your content and talk about you if you don’t do the same for them. So, a portion of the time you spend on social media should be focused on sharing and talking about content published by others.


For alcohol brand-related social media issues

For alcohol brands, social media a stiff cocktail
by Caroline McCarthy

On a Monday morning late last month, at the headquarters of the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, the promotional vehicle for a vineyard-speckled region about four hours northwest of Manhattan, something was amiss with Foursquare.
Namely, the Corning, N.Y.-based tourism group’s account on the location-sharing social-media site was doing something funny: It was triggering friend requests. That’s not supposed to happen with a Foursquare account that’s set up as a brand or business page–users should be able to automatically follow the brand or company, rather than having to wait to have their requests approved individually, as would be the case with a regular personal profile. The switch seemed to indicate that Finger Lakes Wine Country’s brand page had been, in effect, demoted.
“My office manager, who handles all of our general e-mail inquiries, said, ‘Has there been a change to our Foursquare page? All of a sudden I’m getting all these friend requests’,” related Morgen McLaughlin, the president of the tourism group. “Then we received an e-mail from Foursquare that they had suspended the account because of the alcohol content.”
When some of the trendiest destinations for digital brand marketing and advertising are small social networks with limited resources, brands in restricted sectors like the alcohol industry–and those that might be on the periphery of it–start to run into these kinds of problems. Foursquare built a name for itself as a way for nightlife-happy 20-somethings to “check in” to bars in cities and let their friends know where they were throwing back brews. But because Foursquare does not at present have technology in place to effectively verify users’ ages, alcohol-related brands are currently barred from participating in its brand pages program.
Twitter, too, has been hesitant to permit the promotion or inclusion of alcohol in its Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends ad program, excluding them from it at first and now cautiously allowing a few very large companies. (It should be noted that Promoted Products are still restricted overall to a few hundred brands. None of the alcohol brands that have been permitted access have bought Twitter ads yet, according to a company spokesman.)

Advertising wine, or even activities that may be related to wine, can be tough on social-media sites like Foursquare and Twitter.
(Credit: CC: Flickr user umbrialovers)
Finger Lakes Wine Country managed to contact Foursquare to resolve the problem, and after explaining that it was a tourist group rather than an organization that actually sells wine, its brand page was reinstated. McLaughlin says she can see where Foursquare was coming from. “It absolutely makes sense, especially when you’re talking about specific businesses that sell and market alcohol. So, yeah, a winery should have its page restricted. Thirteen-year-olds or 15-year-olds probably shouldn’t be thinking about wineries and breweries,” she told CNET. “We’re not a wine marketing company, per se, we’re a destination, and so for some people, especially in legal, that becomes a very hard point of definition.”
Social-media companies like Foursquare do, of course, ask for users’ ages and can theoretically use that to gauge which users are of legal drinking age. But it’s not that easy, explains Ted Zeller, an attorney with law firm Norris McLaughlin and Marcus, P.A. who specializes in alcohol beverage law. “If you’re an alcohol brand, I know of no federal Internet law restrictions as far as advertisements go–the same would be applicable to TV advertisements,” Zeller said. “The problems that you run into are more state-based regulations.”
A few states, like Utah and Pennsylvania–where Zeller, who has represented the Yuengling brewing company in court, is based–have extremely stringent regulations that extend all the way up the alcohol industry’s chain of command from wholesalers to consumer marketing. Foursquare’s hurdle here would be that it would either need to abide by different laws for different states, or put in place overarching age verification and advertising regulations that adhere to even the strictest state laws. “That’s the difficulty,” Zeller said. “It’s a tremendous hurdle from a legal perspective.”
The irony is that social media, given the vast amount of personal information that users are prone to entering into profiles, ought to make things easier for an industry that needs to carefully target its advertising and marketing based on legal restrictions. But that information can be so vast and unverifiable, and a social-networking site’s reach so global, that it can instead get even more complex. Geolocation services like Foursquare, where an essential part of the experience is moving from place to place, crossing state or even international boundaries in the process, brings a whole new piece to the puzzle. In comparison, traditional advertisements–TV ads distributed based on a static television market, ensuring that billboard ads are kept the required distance from churches or schools based on state laws–seem far simpler.
The company that’s perhaps figured this out best is Facebook, which has fine-tuned its targeted display ads so meticulously that it’s been able to put forth a precise set of regulations for alcohol advertisers. Age-based restrictions are in place for multiple countries, as are some outright bans in countries like Egypt, Norway, and the United Arab Emirates, which prohibit alcohol advertising of any type. If a Facebook user has not filled out his or her profile extensively enough to determine age or location, that user will not see any alcohol-related ads. Access to alcohol-related “fan pages” can also be age-restricted.
And some alcohol-related brands have actually taken advantage of restrictions in order to create campaigns that give their brands an elite, “secret club” vibe. Tequila company Patron and beer brand Stella Artois have created, respectively, the “Patron Social Club” and “La Societe Stella Artois,” members-only networking communities that offer perks and promotions in exchange for top-of-the-line age verification.
But when it comes to the most basic and obvious uses of social media–a Foursquare brand page, a promoted tweet on Twitter–the roadblocks can be frustrating for companies ranging from a local winery or brewpub to a mass-market rum company looking to launch a spring break promotion.
“I feel sorry for a lot of these small start-up companies, because the percentage of usage growth is huge, so the companies don’t have the internal infrastructure to be able to deal with these things case by case,” Finger Lakes Wine Country’s Morgen McLaughlin said. “I remember in the beginning with Facebook, I actually got thrown off because I was posting about our new travel guide to too many friends.”
But in spite of the inherent red tape that comes from working with small start-ups in a rigid advertising environment–and the continual need to explain that, no, her company doesn’t sell liquor–social media is where McLaughlin plans to continue focusing. “In 2010, Facebook was the No. 1 Web referral to our Web site outside of organic search, by huge numbers,” she told CNET. “We’ve connected with major wine and travel writers on Twitter. Without those tools, our destination would not be nearly as visible.”


These Revolutions Are Not All Twitter

These Revolutions Are Not All Twitter
Published: February 1, 2011

The Middle East’s latest unrest has revived once again a tired debate about the power of social media.

Recent headlines gush about the arrival of the “Facebook Revolution” or “Twitter Diplomacy.” Critics like Evgeny Morozov respond by noting that the influence of new media has been exaggerated by a press enthralled with “techno-utopianism.” Social media enables fast coordination, critics say, not the narrative or resolve necessary to sustain a movement; flashmobs do not a political organization make.

But to state the obvious — that Facebook cannot replace good old-fashioned activism — is not to say much about what Facebook actually does in a place like Egypt. What does it do?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his recent critique of cyber-activism, argued that the problem with Facebook and its kin is that social networks are only good at certain small tasks that draw on weak social ties. You can easily get a million people to sign up for a cause — but that cause is just as likely to be “Save Darfur” as it is to be the “Foundation for the Protection of Swedish Underwear Models.” Social media tools cannot supplant the kind of organizing required by, say, the civil rights movement. Social media tools, Gladwell says, “are not a natural enemy of the status quo.”

But what if revealing the status quo is enough to change it?

Psychologists have long known about a phenomenon called pluralistic ignorance — situations in which people keep their true preferences private because they believe their peers do not or will not share their beliefs. In 1975, the sociologist Hubert O’Gorman showed that pluralistic ignorance was to blame for the false perception white Southerners had that their peers overwhelmingly supported segregation.

In such situations, rapid shifts in behavior can occur with the mere introduction of information about actual peer preferences. Acting on this authority — the authority of one’s peers — is a powerful phenomenon. Studies have shown that the extent to which we are willing to litter, or to lower our energy use, is tied to our perception of what our peers are doing. Merely knowing about social dynamics changes social dynamics.

Health experts have used this insight to fight binge drinking. Studies on the Princeton campus revealed that a majority of students did not like to binge drink, but they wrongly believed themselves to be in the minority. So rather than urge students not to binge drink, health officials revealed the fact that a majority of students do not like binge drinking — and they had college students convey the message. Information about peer preferences, conveyed by peers, is a powerful influence on our behavior.

In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak’s illegitimacy has long been the family secret. Few dared to speak out for fear that their peers would not show up.

Here, then, is the power of Facebook. Not only does social networking give demonstrators a tool for quick coordination, but it reveals important information about peer preferences. It offers a platform to say “you are not alone; see you in Tahrir Square.” And tipping points can be as tiny as a tweet. That small, silly act is what in politics we call solidarity. It is the basis for all social movements.

This is not to say that a Facebook-organized street protest — even one with thousands of members demanding revolution — is enough to overthrow a government, or that Facebook deserves all the credit for doing so. Political movements still require tight organization.

Nowhere was this more evident than in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, which was hailed as the first great social-media campaign, and also credited with the greatest command-and-control campaign discipline in recent memory. Social networks are supposed to be good at getting people to take little steps — pledges, small donations — not national revolutions. Yet, the Obama campaign put a black man in the White House. How can this be?

The answer is that his campaign organizers managed the relationship between the vertical and the horizontal. They relied on networks for what networks are — a messy, decentralized source of small donations and online pronouncements, which their campaign headquarters then harnessed for their political value. That meant letting the network speak for itself: millions of Americans tweeting “Yes We Can.”

Of course, great movements require great leaders. That’s why the leadership vacuum in the Middle East is so politically electric, and why Tunisia is still a mess.

The crucial question, in Egypt as in Yemen and Tunisia, has little to do with Twitter’s availability. It is whether a galvanizing figure will step forward and seize this opportunity to lead, or remain in the crowd, just another decentralized node in the network.

Andrew K. Woods is a Climenko Fellow at Harvard Law School and co-editor of the forthcoming book, “Understanding Social Action, Promoting Human Rights.”

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February 2011