Author: Heidi Strom Moon

Heidi Strom Moon is Director of Marketing for CDG Interactive, joining CDG in 2002 and previously serving as a Project Manager and Director of Client Services. Prior to joining CDG, she was an Interactive Producer at IDEV in Silver Spring. Heidi has 12 years of experience in the interactive sector, working at agencies, non-profits and new media companies. She has served as steering committee chair and board member of DC Web Women, an online community for over 4,000 women in the Washington DC Metro area. She holds a BA in Communication from Tulane University.

Facebook_demosWhen it comes to choosing a social media platform to use for your business marketing, one of the considerations to make is its demographic profile. Does its audience match your target audience? After all, you want to spend your time & resources talking to your target audience, not a random group of folks on, say, Google+. It pays to take some time to investigate who is hanging out where in the socail media landscape.

And even after you’ve done the initial research, be sure to review those demographics periodically because the numbers are always changing. Where you find your audience today may not be where it is tomorrow—and your target market may have changed, too.

Here are 5 social media demographic stats for the U.S. you should know:

  1. You can reach more women on Facebook than on Pinterest. Although Pinterest’s users are more disproportionately female, the total audience on Facebook is greater: 70% of all female online users, according to a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project report.
  2. Older men love Google+. The user base of Google Plus is 71% male and half of them are over 45.
  3. Most Instagram users are under 29. The photo sharing service is used by 27% of internet users aged 18-29, but only 8% of those who are 30-49.
  4. More adults use LinkedIn than Twitter. Professional networking site LinkedIn has an audience of 20% of U.S. online adults; Twitter’s is 16%.
  5. The majority of YouTube’s global audience is female. Out of a total audience base of 800 million (that’s a lot of people watching “Gangnam Style”), 55% are female.

These numbers are just a portion of the social media demographic data that’s available, of course. To really dig in for the information that’s most relevant to your business, try these sources:

Still not sure which social media platforms are right for you? Review our information and tools at PowerUp Social, www.powerupsocial.com, or Contact CDG to craft a custom social media strategy plan for your business.

Kaz_sushi_googleNearly a year after launching Google+ pages for brands and businesses, the search giant continues to roll out changes to the way these pages work.

Two of the changes announced recently fulfill a long-standing request from brands—custom URLs—and a prediction we and others have made previously—merging of Google+ pages for local businesses with their Google Places listings.

Here’s what you need to know about these 2 changes to Google+ pages for your business.

Google+ Page Custom URLs

Currently, all Google+ pages (and profiles) have lengthy, impossible-to-remember URLs, such as this: https://plus.google.com/b/100984478133254575364/100984478133254575364/posts. (That’s the CDG Interactive Google+ page—circle us, won’t you?)

But Google has announced--in a post on its Plus page, appropriately—that it is beginning to roll out the ability for brand pages to select custom URLs, similar to the functionality currently available for Facebook pages.

However, in order to have access to this functionality when it’s made available to everyone, your Google+ page must first be verified.

There are two ways to do this.

First, you can request verification for a Google+ page via this form.

One major criteria to take note of: When you use this process, Google requires a “substantial” number of followers (i.e. people who have circled your page), although it does not define what that number is. Even if you meet all of the other criteria for a verified page, the verification request will be denied if your follower count is too low.

Alternately, if your page was created in the category of Local Business, you will see an Unverified marker at the top of your page. When you hover over that, you should see a Verify Now button. Click that to begin the verification process. (Full instructions for verifying a Local Business Google+ Page.)

(Not sure if your Google+ page is a Local page? Go to your page and click on the About tab. Local pages have addresses at the top of the information and a small Google Map of the location on the right side of the page.

Google+ Page and Places Merging

This brings us to the second change, the merging of Google+ Pages for local business (which Google calls Google+ Local) with their Google Maps Place listings, which began back in May.

According to Google, when the verification process described above is completed, “Existing listing information on Google Maps will now be merged with your new Google+ Local listing.”

Even if you don’t go through the verification process, if you have a Google Place, it will be converted to a  Google+ Local page automatically at some point this year.

Now what if you already have a Google+ Business Page but it isn’t a Google+ Local Page? (How’s that for confusing?) As of right now, there’s no way to join a non-Local page and Place together, but we expect this may change in the future as Google clearly wants to eliminate Places altogether.

Also unclear at the moment is what happens when a business has both a non-local Google+ Business Page and a Google+ Place. The Place listing will get converted to a Google+ Local page, but will that leave you with two Google+ Pages for your business, one local and one not?

Since this applies to us, we’ll be keeping an eye out for additional information on this particular scenario.

Help With Google+ Pages for Businesses

If you have any problems during the verification process or other functionality with Google+, try asking questions on the Google and Your Business product forum; they’re often answered by Google employees or other highly knowledgeable users.

Our social media for small business site, PowerUp Social, also has several articles on using Google+ to promote your business.

Update April 10, 2013: Google is rolling out a completely updated dashboard for Places that better integrates management of merged Google+ Local pages. The following articles provide additional detail:

For custom consulting on creating and using a Google+ Page or any other social media platform, Contact Us to find out how we can help you today.

LightningThe recent severe thunderstorm event (aka the derecho) that raced through a large swath of the Midwest and Northeast on June 29 left millions without power--and very unhappy about it. Many of them took to social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to express their displeasure with their utility companies. (Just check the accounts for @pepcoconnect or @domvapower for a sampling of customer sentiment.)

Responding to unhappy customers on social media is always challenging, but that challenge is magnified in a crisis or other severe event. Even if you’re not a major utility responding in times of natural disaster, any business would do well to be prepared to respond if a crisis hits. That’s why you need a crisis communications plan for your social media accounts.

Here are 5 tips for using social media platforms as part of a crisis communications plan.

  1. Respond quickly. If you wait too long after someone mentions you on Twitter or posts on your Facebook page, it looks like you aren’t paying attention or don’t care. No, you can’t spend 24 hours a day monitoring your account, but respond quickly when you are, and let followers know when the account will be unmonitored.
  2. Be authentic. Don’t just give the same canned response to negative comments; vary it so your account doesn’t seem like an unfeeling robot.
  3. Be polite. This can be a tough one, especially if thousands of people are venting virtual invective at you, but as with ordinary customer service, responding in kind will only escalate the communication. Keep it simple and keep it calm. “We understand you’re frustrated and we’re working quickly to resolve the situation.”
  4. Be transparent. Give us much detail as you can, as soon as you can. Once followers realize you aren’t trying to keep information from them, they’ll be more understanding.
  5. Have an end game. How will you continue communicating after the crisis passes? What will you share with customers to let them know how everything was resolved and what you plan to do to prevent or mitigate such an event in the future?

Remember, too, that your social media universe doesn’t just consist of Twitter and Facebook. If you have a YouTube channel, check for comments there. Ditto for other profiles your company has, such as on LinkedIn or Yelp. Don’t be afraid to call for help, either. If the level of response becomes too much for you or your team, augment your resources with a communications professional who can not only provide additional people power, but the experience to respond appropriately and quickly.

If you don’t know how you’d respond to a crisis, or who would be on your incident team, you need a social media crisis management plan. CDG Interactive can guide your brand through the process, from pre-incident preparation to response management and coordination to post-incident conclusion. Contact us today.

[Note: Some links lead to pages containing profanity and are Not Safe For Work (NSFW).]

Funnyjunk_letter
Image credit: theoatmeal.com

It might seem like outrageous comic website The Oatmeal, and online fund-raising for nonprofits have little in common. And they didn’t—until this week.

The result is a case study about for nonprofits on social media monitoring, message amplification and word-of-mouth-marketing. And what a colorful little case study it is!

It all started last year, when Matthew Inman, the comic artist behind The Oatmeal, wrote a blog post complaining about a website called FunnyJunk, that had been posting his original content without permission or attribution.

On Monday, The Oatmeal revealed that he'd received a cease-and-desist letter from a lawyer for FunnyJunk, indicating that he had defamed the website and used the blog post to boost his own search engine rankings. [Editorial comment: Huh? How exactly does that SEO strategy work?] The letter concluded by saying the Oatmeal would be sued unless he paid $20,000.

In typical irreverent fashion, The Oatmeal’s response was to instead start a campaign to raise an equivalent amount of money—and donate half to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and half to the American Cancer Society.

He created a fund-raising campaign on third-party site Indiegogo and alerted his 602,000 fans on Facebook and 275,747 followers on Twitter. The fund-raising page itself was shared by visitors through embedded social sharing links: 4,500 likes on Facebook and over 1,000 tweets on Twitter.

It raised the $20,000 in 64 minutes. Within 24 hours, the campaign had surpassed $100,000. At the time of this posting, donations are nearing $153,000.

It's an incredible show of support for Inman and his site and, of course, a nice windfall for the charities he chose to support. But what larger lessons can non-profits learn from the story? Here's what I think:

  • Social media is about listening, not just talking. This campaign is raising funds for two non-profits—neither of which were involved in its creation or even notified before it was launched. But the NWF paid attention and by the next day had posted grateful responses on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Your fans can amplify your message. Keep the story of your good work visible and fans will help you spread the word. Give them opportunities to share their participation with you with others. Stay top of mind and you may be the organization chosen to benefit from an independent fund-raising campaign.
  • New audiences can be found anywhere. The Oatmeal’s campaign was funded by over 7,000 contributors. Many of them may already have heard of the NWF and the American Cancer Society but some may have not. Another recent example comes from popular comedian Louis C.K. Last year, he independently released a downloadable concert video for $5 and contributed a portion of the profits to 5 charities, including The Fistula Foundation, a less well-known cause to which he had a personal connection, granting them one of the widest audiences they’d had to date.

Once the campaign concludes, the Oatmeal will no doubt post more updates, giving these charities further opportunities to interact with his thousands of fans.

You never know where the spotlight on your nonprofit may come from, but you can be prepared to shine when it does.

CDG Interactive provides social media strategy and management; Contact Us today to find out how we can craft your social media plan. Our training site, PowerUp Social, teaches small to medium businesses how to harness social media for marketing and promotion.

All non-profit organizations using social media share at least one goal: using these platforms to both reach and amplify their audience.Cdg-performing-arts-twitter

Whether you’re looking to increase awareness of your mission, gather signatures for a petition or drive online revenue—donations, tickets, sponsorships, membership—the more people you reach, the better.

This goal becomes complicated when your audience largely overlaps with (or is possibly even the same as) other organizations that share your mission.

It’s especially complicated for arts organizations whose audience is usually geographically constrained as well. The pie being sliced is an even smaller one.

So how should arts organizations interact with one another in social media?

If you follow other arts and culture organizations, even share their messages, are you sending potential ticket-buyers away to a competitor, or does amplifying the arts community overall grow the base of customers for everyone?

Chad Bauman, director of marketing and membership for the Smithsonian Associates, and formerly of DC’s Arena Stage Theater, has addressed these questions in posts both on his own blog (here and here) and for DC Theatre Scene.

In them, he argues for a collaborative effort for DC’s theater arts community in both production efforts and in marketing.

As he points out, it is only to the benefit of theaters to work together to expand the pool of audiences. More theatergoers overall means not only more individual ticket sales but more potential season subscribers, a theater’s most valuable customer.

For our part, we’ll be asking other DC area arts and culture organizations how they tackle these issues of competition and collaboration in our next PowerUp Social Media Roundtable this Wednesday, June 6, at 8:30 a.m.

If you’d like to join us for this morning of networking and shared learning, Contact Us to sign up.

We’ll be following up later this week with a blog post to share what our attendees had to say about leveraging social media in the DC performing arts community.

Harness the power of social media to promote your business or organization. Get started today at PowerUp Social, our online learning center for social media marketing.

Your Turn

  • How does your organization use social media to grow your customer base?
  • Does your industry foster collaboration or competition?

Social media pyramidSocial media can seem like a hungry beast, one that demands more care and feeding with each passing  day.

First you had to figure out how to add time in your daily marketing schedule to devote to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

But just when you felt like you’d gotten the hang of hashtags and retweeting and growing your fan base, along comes the next shiny thing in social media, like Pinterest or Tumblr or Google+, and you hadn’t even figured out your LinkedIn strategy yet.

What’s a small organization to do?

That’s where the idea of social media discernment comes in. Discernment simply means evaluating the options and making specific choices. Just as in other marketing programs, not all channels or platforms are equally appropriate for your organization. It’s OK to pick and choose.

Here’s how:

  • Know your goals. We say this every time we talk about social media strategy. Why are you using social media? What is the expected outcome? Each platform has different strengths and weaknesses; match the platform to the goal. (Need help differentiating? Use the Social Media Site Comparison tool at PowerUp Social).
  • Know your audience. A second crucial factor to use when determining which social media platforms are best for you is to know what audience you’re trying to reach. Pinterest, for example, heavily skews female. LinkedIn’s audience is predominantly college educated. Choose the platform your audience uses.
  • Look at your numbers. Past performance can also predict future success. If you need to make room in your schedule for a new platform, review your site analytics and evaluate the performance of the existing ones. If Twitter drives traffic but those visitors don’t convert, cut back 1 day a week and try Google+ on that day instead (or whichever new platform you’ve identified using steps 1 and 2 above).

Speaking of site analytics, you’ll want to keep a regular eye on them. Platform value can change over time. Are the existing accounts still performing? To what degree are the new ones succeeding or failing?

Based on the data, you can change the mix of your daily social media efforts.

Keep in mind, too, that you don’t have to spend the same amount of time everywhere. Again, based on performance data, you can weight some activities more heavily than others. (For a sample schedule of a social media “diet,” see the PowerUp Social Media Pyramid.)

Your Turn

  • How do you decide which platforms to use and how much time to spend on them?
  • How do you measure the success of your efforts?

Visit PowerUp Social to learn more about each social media platform and how to build them into your organization’s marketing plan. While you're there, sign up for the free 8-week course on social media marketing and strategy.

We’ve all seen it happen. You create a fantastic video for a marketing campaign and hope it goes viral. You set up an online donation page on your non-profit’s website and hope visitors will give money. You write a fascinating, helpful blog post and hope readers will comment on it, or share to their social networks.

But the video isn’t shared. The donations don’t come in. The blog post goes un-commented.

Why?

(We’ll assume that visitor traffic isn’t the problem; that’s a whole different solution!)

To understand what is happening (or not, as the case may be), you need to understand how your viewers and visitors and readers think.

Here are 3 things you need to understand about how people think if you want them to take action.

Continue reading "Persuasion Starts with Psychology: 3 Techniques to Convince People to Take Action" »

Cocacola-timeline-exampleIf you’ve been on Facebook recently, you know that the design and layout for individual profiles changed dramatically to what Facebook calls Timeline: wall posts, photos and other data is displayed to visitors in a reverse chronological order.

With the rollout to profiles complete, Facebook is now doing the same for business Pages. And it’s not optional.

You can implement your business Timeline anytime from now going forward. However, if you don’t do anything your Page layout will get updated automatically on March 30. That means you have about 2 weeks to take control of your Page’s Timeline layout and update before Facebook does it for you. Here are 3 big things you need to know before March 30:

  • No more landing tabs. If your Facebook Page employed a custom landing tab for visitors, that option will no longer exist. In fact, there are no tabs on Timeline at all. So what do you do? There is an “About” section of text that is permanently displayed at the top of the page; you could put a link to a custom landing page for Facebook fans there. Keep in mind that it will take them out of Facebook.
  • Thumbnails are replaced by a cover photo. Instead of 5 small photo thumbnails at the top of the page, there is now a large 960x530 pixel “cover photo.” That’s a pretty big image, so choose wisely or, better yet, have your designer create a custom image for this space.
  • You can add dates to your Timeline. Activity that has already taken place on your Page while it’s been in existence will automatically appear on your Timeline in its proper chronological order. But you can now add events from any time in the past, even before Facebook itself was born. Think about dates that are meaningful to your business—when it was founded, major milestones, product releases—and add them. Also, "Insights," Facebook’s metrics for Pages, will also change. Instead of being a link on the right of the page, it will be housed in an expandable panel at the top of your Timeline view.

The clock is ticking, so take some time to plan out your business’ timeline, and build in enough time to get supporting material—screenshots, photos, external links, etc.—all lined up before it launches. And of course, be sure to get buy-in and approval from your company’s leadership before the timeline goes live.(We're in the process of doing that at CDG right now—look for our timeline soon!)

Want to know more about Timeline for Facebook Business Pages? Here’s some additional reading:

Need help updating your business’s Facebook Page for the new Timeline layout, or with your larger social media strategy? Contact Us today.

Jcp_Flag_4c_AYou may have noticed from the recent blitz of advertising that JCPenney has begun a far-reaching transformation of its business, from its logo to the way it prices its products.

Why change now? Why change at all? As its new CEO, Ron Johnson—the mastermind behind the successful launch of the Apple stores—pointed out at the Jan. 25 launch event, there was no choice if the company wanted to evolve and exist in the 21st century.

Profit was good but sales were stagnant and competition was increasing from online and niche retailers. And the brand had come to represent your mother’s department store—or worse, your grandmother’s.

JCPenney had to change what the company and its brand meant to its audience of current and potential customers.

Changing a logo wasn’t enough. The company had to change the way it does business.

For JCPenney, that means its Fair and Square policy: three basic levels of pricing and returns accepted for any reason (a la Nordstrom).

Said Johnson in the press release accompanying the launch event, “Every initiative we pursue will be guided by our core value to treat customers as we would like to be treated - fair and square.”

Little did JCPenney know that it would be called on to put this into very public practice within days when its newly announced partnership with Ellen DeGeneres was attacked as being against “traditional values” by a group calling itself One Million Moms.

JCPenney consciously aligned itself with DeGeneres knowing it would help them reach her millions of viewers and followers on social media.

And Ellen isn’t just popular; lots of celebrities are popular. She and her show have gained such a large following by representing a new mainstream, one that appeals equally to grandmas and teens, red states and blue. JCPenney’s audience is—or they want it to be—Ellen’s audience.

When JCPenney immediately reaffirmed the choice of DeGeneres as a brand partner after the One Million Moms story broke, the company gained not just her potential audience but a now-outraged community of supporters who began leaving comments on Facebook, Ellen’s site and elsewhere proclaiming that they were going out of their way to shop at JCPenney in response to the criticism.

By treating Ellen “fair and square,” JCPenney was given the opportunity to live up to its new brand promise and thereby connect to its audience not just as consumers, but as part of a community.

What this means for you

  • A brand is more than a logo. It represents who your company and organization is and what it stands for. Go beyond the identity markings and think about your core values. Are you living them? Does your audience think you are?
  • Audiences are people. Don’t just treat your members or customers as one-time transactors. If they feel connected to who you are and what you stand for, they’ll come back.
  • You are part of your community. Your organization or business doesn’t stand alone. How are you connected to your community? How can you do so in a way that is in harmony with your brand’s values?

What you should do next

  • Revisit your mission statement. Is it accurate? Do all stakeholders agree? Is it aligned with the way you’re doing business?
  • Examine your brand. Does it make sense for who you are? What do your customers say? Have you asked them?
  • Prepare in advance. If you make significant changes, be prepared for the potential reactions from customers and the public; plan your response messages in advance. Be willing to own the changes you’ve made, especially if they’re sufficiently different, new or uncomfortable.
  • Live up to your brand’s new promise. Make sure your company’s choices and actions align with what you say your brand means now, from customer policies to the face you present to the world, whether it’s a logo, a spokesperson or both.
  • Get help. At CDG Interactive, we work with companies large and small, for profit and non-profit, to define their brands, create new identities, and develop a strategy for successfully implementing their brand and business. Contact us to get started with your brand.

Pinterest-growth-metrics-2011
With a phenomenal growth rate in the last 6 months to 3.3 million users and counting—and a mostly female user base—the young photo-based social network Pinterest has suddenly grabbed a lot of attention.

As a result, brands and businesses are wondering how (and whether) they can use Pinterest for marketing. Some initial case studies are showing the way.

But first: what the heck is Pinterest, anyway?

How Pinterest Works

An online version of a pinboard or wall corkboard, Pinterest allows users to organize photos into collections called boards, each of which can be categorized by type of image.

Photos are added to Pinterest either by uploading them or “pinning” them from a website using a browser bookmarklet (snippet of code).

As on all social networks, users on Pinterest can follow other users. The main page of Pinterest presents a feed of all of the images that have been pinned by users you follow, which you can then “like” or easily repin to one of your own boards. (This activity may feel familiar to users of Tumblr which has a similar ease-of-use for resharing content.)

Individual “pins” can also be commented on. When they’ve been pinned from an originating source, there’s a link from the image back to that website.

How to Use Pinterest to Market Your Business

There are a variety of specific ways to use Pinterest, from holding contests to conducting market research and creating boards of photos from a property for sale. (See the articles in the Further Reading section, below, to read some great case studies.)

No matter what specific use is best for your business, a few principles apply when marketing via Pinterest.

  • Don’t just promote yourself. This is a best practice for all social media, but it pays to remember it here. Pinterest provides a unique opportunity to build an image around your brand or business, so look for complementary pins that connote the same ideas as your business. Bergdorf Goodman’s pins both product images to trend boards and book covers to a board called “The Books on Our Shelves.”
  • Showcase your image content. Seems obvious right? But it’s not just about beautiful photography you took or of your products. NBC’s Today Show, for example, pins photos of travel destinations it has featured on the show.
  • Be strategic with your boards. Group pins in ways that appeal to your audience(s). Reaching moms? Have boards for kids’ items, parenting advice, mommy quotes or any other subject matter relevant to them, and to you.
  • Engage with users. Keep in mind that people on Pinterest may already be pinning images from your business. When you find them, comment on them, repin them to your own boards, and follow the users.
  • Show your process. Use Pinterest to brainstorm ideas with internal teams, letting followers (and potential customers) in on the process. They’ll be more invested in the final product you create at the end.

Further Reading About Pinterest

These articles provide a wealth of specific uses, individual use cases, and companies to follow on Pinterest once you join.

Your Turn

  • Are you on Pinterest yet?
  • How are you using it, and why?

Wondering if Pinterest is right for your business? CDG Interactive helps companies like yours choose the best social media channels to support their marketing strategies. Contact us today to get started.

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