As many of you, I too had a year full of ups and downs. But in this creative space, I would like to take time to reflect on my own personal views of discoveries, failings, and more related to online marketing in 2010. Feel free to add your own favorites or #fail episodes.
Highlight #1-New Media Course: As many of you who may have discovered my blog or follow me online know, this past year I took a New Media course through Michigan State University. I now have my New Media Driver License which means I am certified in SEO, social media marketing & online strategy. This was definitely one of the top highlights of my year (Well, next to having my 1st child late last January) and even though I 4.0 the class and was featured as one of the top online strategists with national recognition on multiple social media-related posts, I still hesitate to use the word “expert”. I hesitate only because the digital world is constantly changing and without doing this as my full time job; I struggle to keep up with all of the latest tools and changes. But there are several of us out there in Greater Lansing & Michigan who now have the skills to help agencies and businesses with SEO and online marketing strategy. I highly recommend all marketing & PR students or professionals alike to consider taking MSU’s New Media class with Derek Mehraban. It is a life changer and you will be better equipped to navigate the various online marketing & monitoring channels, etc.
Highlight #2-Discovery of Animoto & other Video Sites: We all are probably familiar with YouTube and Vimeo, for visually sharing our content with the world. However this year, with the help of other social marketing professionals and my New Media class research, I discovered a wonderful program called Animoto. This program is VERY inexpensive and turns your business or personal photos into wonderful short videos put to music. Definitely check it out. I know an associate of mine uses Animoto for everything from customizable wedding videos for her family, to promoting her small business. I must also mention that there are some other video posting sites out there for true video that are on the heals of YouTube and Vimeo including VodPod and others. A necessary component of any marketing mix is to include photos or video to share your message and it is much cheaper than TV. Also, the power of online video could greatly enhance your ability to visually show all of the services they offer, show customer and partner testimonials, and “how-to’s” I am pleased that so many local businesses in Michigan beginning to effectively utilize some of these resources.
Highlight #3: Social Media Monitoring: As stated by Social Media Examiner blogger Brian Solis, to help your organization succeed you need to Engage or Die! But if you are engaged with your audience online, you need to be monitoring your message and what is being said about your brand. I recommend checking out Hootsuite, SocialMention.com, and of course Google Alerts and Google AdWords for effectively monitoring and measuring your presence online. Feel free to add others to the list of recommended tools
Highlight #4: Social Media in your Marketing Mix: My current employer introduced Facebook & Twitter pages to their audience, as are many other businesses and groups in Greater Lansing and Michigan. Congrats to everyone! However in order to make these pages effective, you need to integrate them into your overall marketing mix and not just create these accounts for the sake of having them. You need to feed your networks and share messages across the various mediums. Part of the recipe of success is the frequency of valuable content posts and finding the right balance of online and offline messaging outlets to better leverage your networks. Once you post valuable content and put out links to this content on your websites you allow your messages to be shared by others who “like” or Retweet, etc. By linking them and forming connections through all of these networks, you can reach thousands of people, create new partnerships, and reach a broader audience then they were previously able to reach. By posting valuable content frequently and linking them across all of the online networks, organizations will again be pushed higher in SEO rankings and Google searches.
Highlight #5:#Lovelansing & Hashtags Movements: As a lifelong Lansing resident and a member of the many teams promoting all that Lansing, MI has to offer-I had to highlight the power of great hashtags! The #Lovelansing hashtag movement continues to increase momentum and bring light to all the great things going on in our area. The power of valuable hashtags is not to be underestimated in terms of spreading your message to a broader audience.
Failing #1: Facebook Re-Design: I hesitated to put this on the fail list, because Facebook is surpassing Google as the top website this year. However, the recent Facebook re-design caused a public outcry both locally and nationally. I have read various blogs and tech reviews discussing the pro’s and cons of these changes, but as someone already strapped for time and resources for online marketing, the seemingly frequent changes in Facebook are both annoying & confusing and to me, feel unnecessary but as in all things, in time we will adjust and I know that Facebook made these changes for a reason. Plus, with Facebook’s climb to the top, these changes are obviously not affecting their popularity rankings.
Failing #2: Monitoring Your Online Presence: This section was covered in the highlights but also needs to be covered in the failings for many Michigan companies/organizations. Not only is it important to have an online presence but it is essential to monitor your brand and respond in the correct mediums where your business/group is being talked about! My own company falls under the failing category, not because we don’t monitor what is being said about us, but we have had a history of not responding in the correct mediums to our audience. Many local companies need to improve in this respect, so get out there and don’t be so afraid of the transparency. People are going to talk about your whether you participate or not, so be part of the discussion and show your community that you care enough to listen and respond-where the discussions are taking place! Don’t #fail!
Failing #3: Web Content: As pointed out by David Meerman Scott, so many organizations when looking at their marketing strategy need to look first at their websites. Many of us use our websites as the main informational tool for communicating our message! Lately all of our advertising and public outreach drives people to our website, so we want to make sure we are providing valuable content to our AUDIENCE and that we are found at the top of the search engine rankings. I capitalized audience because as I evaluate various company, non-profit, and other websites, the common finding is that their websites contain a lot of gobbledygook or technical language that they may understand or use internally. However much of the language or information means nothing to their audience. When developing or updating a website we must all take a step back and think about our potential users and what they will be looking for. Only then can we move forward with producing valuable information and keywords that will help answer our users’ questions and drive more business to our website, (keywords are so important) and increase our SEO.
Ok, so this concludes my review. I don’t want to be like many of our local print publications and only talk about the negative, so I will end here. We can all acknowledge that there are missed opportunities out there that companies and local organizations are not taking advantage of. Part of this may be due to fear and limitations on the executive end .or financial and resource constraints. Regardless of the reason, I encourage everyone to take time and evaluate their online strategies, research tools that will work for you, or hire local individual talent and agencies to do that analysis and strategizing for you if needed. In this day & age, my advice for the road ahead is to think broader and feed all networks. Act more like a publisher & socializer in order to exceed in this new world of marketing. The best routes are the ones that you drive yourself!!