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1. What are your favorite free or low-cost social media monitoring tools?
The truth is, there are tons and tons of great tools out there available at free or close to free. The only way to really know what will work well for you is to test them. I’ve long been a fan of SocialMention.com for getting a quick overview of the conversation and of Google Alerts for getting quick and easy updates on new spidered social content.
The problem is these still don’t give you a full picture. You need to also spend time learning about the tools that apply directly to your channels of choice. For instance, I’m currently a big fan of the service Pin Alert. This services allows you to get immediate (or digest) email alerts each time someone pins content from your domain to Pinterest. Even better, you can set up alerts for competitive sites, giving you the chance to see what content is playing well on those sites.
I’m also loving the new Facebook Insight data that allows you to see the organic, paid and viral reach of each of the posts from your Facebook Page. Being able to look at posts to see what percentage of your audience viewed them, and gaining an understanding of what is performing well is HUGE on that site and it doesn’t cost you a dime.
Finally, I think it’s very much worth the cost of investing in a tool like Trackur for reputation management. The chance to get a dashboard interface for keeping tabs on what’s being said about your company or brand is HUGE.
2. What things do you suggest to website owners to make their site appear more credible?
That’s an excellent question and one that’s really hard to answer in a concrete fashion. Clearly things like good design, solid usability and quality offerings are high on the “duh factor” list for this. From the social media side of things, it’s all about transparency and honesty. The best way to be credible in social media is to be transparent. Tell people who you are, tell them why you are talking about a topic, event or product and let them know the pros and the cons. People are looking for authenticity…and when they find it combined with a topic that interests them, they tend to embrace it.
3. What social signals should be most important to an SEO?
I’ve always looked at SEO from the “Pinocchio Effect” perspective. The basic premiss here is that search algorithms want to be “a real boy.” In other words, they want to judge content in the way a human being can. When we look at social signals from the human perspective, we value things content from within our social networks. We place more value on the opinion of the Twitter user who’s links we’ve clicked and enjoyed in the past. We have more interested in the updates coming from the Facebook brands we frequently engage with. We piggyback off the connections we’ve made in social media to reach new connections with shared interest. In my opinion, the search engines will continue to look for the ways to overlay our interest graphs with the social graph while factoring in links and semantic context. Whenever Google or Facebook figures out how to properly overlay all of that content to give us search results that are heavily (and accurately) influenced by our own social activities, we’re going to reach a very different stage of the search game. For now the best bet is to focus on quality content, building strong networks and reaching out to influential members of your vertical.
What’s the best ways to find the influential people in your vertical?
There are a few methods I really find to work well…but the biggest thing I can tell people is to learn how to Daisy Chain. Running advanced searches on Twitter, searching through blog posts on Google or Technorati, even searching through LinkedIn Groups or Pinterest Boards can work very well. So much of it really depends on what your vertical is. I’m going to hunt for an influential paper crafter in a very different way than I’m going to hunt down a research scientist. The starter methods vary wildly…but once you make first contact with a handful of people, it’s all about the Daisy Chain.
What I mean by this is influential people usually interact with other influential people. So once you find a few, it’s a matter of seeing who they blog about, who they tweet to, who they interact with on LinkedIn, who they pin, etc. If I can find 2-3 people “the hard way,” I can usually end up with a solid list of 15-20, even 50 people after using the daisy chain method.
What’s the best way to BECOME one of the top influencers in your vertical?
Be ready and committed to hard work, VERY hard work. It’s not just enough to really know what you’re talking about. It’s not even just enough to be a surpurb communicator who excels at sharing knowledge. You also have to be able to pull off being ubiquitous. That means long hours writing blog posts, researching content, sharing on social media channels and so on.
The most influential people you see on social media are the ones who are willing to put an extra 10,15 or even 20 hour a week in ON TOP of their standard work schedules. Very, VERY rare is the influencer who works a light week. There are benefits to being that influencer, but it’s also important to ask yourself WHY you want to be an influencer and what the time to benefit ratio looks like for you.
4. What elements are important to creating a credible outreach email to a blogger?
Oooh, this is one of my favorite topics…mostly because so many people do it SO very wrong. The single biggest mistake people make is sending out mass emails. I really don’t care if you try to personalize them with an automated email program. Any blogger or influencer worth their salt can spot an automated email a mile a way. Take the time to write a personalized message to a single person and send that. Make it clear the message is unique to them by being personal (but not creepy) in your wording. Ideally, you’ll have reached out to them via Twitter, their blog or on another social media channel and they’ll already recognize your name. Finally, make sure you are making a concrete request that benefits both you AND the person you are pitching. Simply asking someone to “check out my new blog when you get a chance” is not a way to get something done. Asking them to take a look at and consider sharing a new infographic you created, or inviting them to attend a webinar you are planning on Topic X is a concrete request. If pitched to the right person, it is also a request that can benefit the person you are pitching as much as yourself. What it really boils down to is respecting the person enough to invest time in them and ONLY reaching out when you can really offer something of value.
5. What tools or tactics would you suggest for proactively managing reputation online?
Tool wise, I think it’s always important to have a reputation monitoring solution in place. Whether that’s as simple as utilizing Google Alerts or as complex as using a paid service like Trackur or Radian6, it’s important for every brand to be able to get the heads up when someone is talking about them. Beyond that, it’s about fostering the right mindset within your company. Companies that are open to the idea that they can improve things tend to flourish when embracing social media. They see the conversation not as criticism from angry ranters, but as opportunity to correct things that might not be going as well as they could. When we see companies approaching social media from this standpoint, we see large and loyal hoards of evangelists rise up to follow them. Every company makes mistakes and most people understand this. Foster an environment where employees can (and do) fess up to mistakes and actively reach out to correct the situation. Then make sure your environment also allows you to figure out how to avoid the same problem in the future. People just want to be heard. It’s my belief that 95% of online rants could be almost immediately diffused with a genuine “Oh no! We’re so sorry that happened, let’s talk about how we can resolve the problem.”
You just wrote an excellent book on Pinterest – If you could sum up your most important takeaways from it for people what would you tell them?
Pinterest opens the doors to social media in a new way for companies. Most forms of social media require a company to focus on content creation. With Pinterest, there’s the potential to build a name for yourself (and even your products) as a content curator. Big difference there…less time, less expense, less staff…but still a great chance to really impact your business. (Taking a look at how greek yogurt brand Chobani utilizes Pinterest is a great example of this.)
If your niece or nephew graduated college with a marketing degree – what advice would you give them for a career in online marketing?
If you’d asked this five years ago, I probably would have said to scrap most of what you think you know and focus on getting a really great internship at a great online marketing agency so you can actually learn what you need to know. J
These days, I’m seeing more colleges and universities putting together great programs, so I think there’s much more potential for them to hit the ground running. That said, I think some of the best advice I ever heard for marketers was to always make sure you have a “hobby” site of your own to work on. There’s a very different perspective that comes with working on a project you are invested in, not to mention having your own site gives you a safe place to experiment without risking damage to a client site.
I’d also encourage them to walk the line between broad knowledge and specializing. Gone are the days where anyone can realistically be an expert in “all things social media” or “all things search related.” The playing field is just too large. What they CAN do is have a solid understanding of say SEO with a specialization in local search or have a solid understanding of social media with a specialization in reputation management or Facebook.
I’m not saying they can’t be an effective broad level marketer, I’m just saying it’s really important to add some really high knowledge focus to help give them a leg up over everyone else.
What sites do you read to maintain your understanding and expertise in social media?
There aren’t many sites that I visit on a frequent basis, I prefer to go hunting for specific details as I need them or checking out the links shared by sources I trust on Twitter and Facebook. That said, I do visit SearchEngineLand.com and MarketingLand.com on a fairly regular basis. I also check in to Mashable pretty frequently for high level news and to AllFacebook.com to keep up on the revolving door of changing features there.
Jennifer Evans Cario is founder and president of SugarSpun Marketing, Inc., a boutique social media agency helping small to mid size businesses develop and implement sustainable social media marketing and web analytics practices. She also serves as the Social Media Faculty Chair for Market Motive an as an Adjunct Professor for Rutgers University.
Jennifer specializes in small to mid-size social media strategy, blogger outreach, online reputation management, and corporate training designed to help businesses of all sizes learn how to engage in conversation with consumers.