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5 Steps for Building Your Holiday Marketing Strategy

As hard as it is to believe, the holiday season is upon us. Christmas trees and other decorations are already gracing homes, stores and places of business. Though a busy time of year, it holds excitement as well as opportunity, if businesses embrace it. The following steps should help your business effectively take advantage of the holiday season this year.

1) Develop a Strategy

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, businesses, first of all, need to develop a campaign strategy. While some strategies will carry over from year to year, each season offers new ideas and trends. It’s also important to think about how your holiday campaign will tie into your overall marketing strategy. In other words, even if you come up with a really creative idea, you don’t want consumers to know you only for your Christmas campaign. For this reason, it’s very important to look at the big picture.

What do you want to accomplish this holiday season? Are you going to target one specific holiday or the season in general? Although the focus is typically on December 25th, businesses could actually utilize Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day, as well as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Are the ideas flowing yet? These questions and thoughts should get you thinking about what your needs and goals are, and this is the perfect starting point for creating a strategy.

2) Create a Theme & Stick with It

After you’ve developed your strategy, you’ll need to choose a theme. For instance, if you send out marketing materials and other promotional items, they should contain a common theme. The content you create, and we strongly encourage an aggressive content marketing approach, should also share this theme. It’s understood that most consumers are looking for coupons and discounts during the holiday season. But, if you can create content around why a particular product or service is exclusive, priced a certain way, or is something that provides value, you have the opportunity to stand out.

Also, as you select a theme, it’s important to understand what your target audience is paying attention to. How are they engaging with your brand? Are they gravitating toward images, video, etc.? These answers will play a vital role in theming your campaign.

3) Utilize Social Media

Just as with your other marketing strategies, social media is a must. Remember the genius OfficeMax Elf Yourself campaign? This came out several years ago but continues to receive incredible responses each year. So often, marketers get caught up in the “all about business” mode. The holiday season is the perfect opportunity to break free from this and incorporate some creativity and holiday spirit.

What social channels is your audience using the most? If it’s Pinterest, for example, then look at what they’re pinning and tailor content to match it. Whatever channel that you use, provide meaningful content that your audience will want to engage with.

In addition, with social media, it’s important to stay “in the know.” By doing this, you have the opportunity to jump on the latest trends and even boost them for your own benefit. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to launch a Snapchat campaign, but it does mean you should pay attention to the trends your audience is embracing and adapt your strategy accordingly.

4) Don’t Forget to Be Accessible

As you roll out your campaign, remember that, in the digital age, you have to comply with where your audience may be interacting with you. Is it social media? Is it through a traditional advertising channel such as television? It may even be on a mobile device.

As you plan your strategy, create content that you can distribute across multiple platforms and channels to ensure simple accessibility. This step again allows you to embrace your creative juices. For instance, if your audience mostly connects on social media but your message is long, write a blog post with all the details but tease the content on social media in the form of an image or video. Even if your audience is active on social, no one has time for a long message.

In summary, be accessible by practicing smart marketing.

5) Share Holiday Cheer Too!

In all the hustle and bustle that is the noise around the holidays, it seems that the little things mean the most. When you go the extra mile by sending a card, offering candy at your brick and mortar, and other thoughtful shout-outs and merry treats, the impact is felt.

Online, brands can extend this cheer too by offering coupons, opening up and sharing an inward view of holiday traditions like a holiday luncheon, as well as many other tactics to showcase your brand’s personality. All these little acts of kindness reinforce that there are humans behind your brand. It strengthens relationships too, which in turn, often results in building influencers and brand advocates.

If you want to go beyond these steps, Marketing Land has a preparation guide outlining 28 helpful tips that could be very beneficial to your holiday efforts.

Regardless of what your holiday campaign involves, remember that it is the holiday season. I say this because, just as people often neglect the social side of social media, the fun and cheery part of the holidays is often an afterthought. This, however, is what makes the holidays exciting, even for marketers. So, take advantage and enjoy! 🙂

 

Marketing to Millennials: 4 Tips for Your Brand

It’s hard to believe how drastically social networks like Facebook have evolved since their debut. I’m dating myself here, but, when I first created an account on Facebook, it was only designed for college students. In fact, not every college or university was even involved at that time. We all know how the network has transformed itself to include multiple generations today. However, as the demographic gets “grayer,” the youngsters are less involved.

According to eMarketer, the 65+ demographic will increase more than any other demographic on Facebook through 2016. Interestingly, as this trend happens, the 18-24 crowd will decrease on Facebook. Intriguing data, huh? This chart from Sprout Social shares even more insights into Facebook’s demographics:

Sprout Social Chart

What’s happening is the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is getting their social media desires filled on other networks. Pew Research defines this age group as the 18-34 group. Some of this shift is probably due to the fact that their parents and grandparents haven’t made it to these new channels yet.

Still, these trends pose quite the challenge for marketers, especially since activities of the upper and lower ends of the millennial group are likely very different. Some marketers may think they’re in the clear and that they don’t need to reach this crowd since their products and services are for older age groups. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but in a few years, this millennial crowd will be your target audience, so it’s important to do your homework and be ready to capitalize when the time is right. Otherwise, negativity could be associated with your brand leaving you with even bigger problems.

It’s a competitive game, but connection and engagement are possible. The following tips should help:

1. Think before You Speak

A prominent characteristic of the millennial crowd is its strong ability to be heard. For the past ten years or so, we’ve been hearing how blogs, forums, and social networks are outlets for ALL voices. Marketers have embraced and encouraged a two-way communication channel in order to engage, gather feedback, and ultimately, be better marketers.

But, these voices mean that we, as marketers, have to be on our A game. Hasty doesn’t work. Somewhat relevant content will not do you any favors. And complete misses will be damaging. These reasons are why it is of the utmost importance to take a breath and think through what you’re posting before you hit “Enter.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t piggyback on a relevant newsy trend, but it does mean that you have to apply smart marketing. If you don’t, the voices could come back to haunt you.

2. Don’t Be a Friend Instead of a Parent

Who remembers a parent in school that tried too hard to be a friend? It doesn’t work, does it? You can be a cool parent without crossing over that line. The same logic applies to brands connecting with the millennial crowd on social media. Don’t be the brand that uses “wicked” methodologies to try to connect with your audience, because it won’t work.

A brand can be relevant and current without forcing it. By being true to your brand, you show credibility and consistency. If you do this, the lingo and pop culture reference will happen naturally.

3. Be Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Do you ever wish for a simpler life? I’ll admit that I do. Unfortunately, for the majority, life has us on the fast track. In other words, you have very little time, if any, beyond fulfilling your needs and maybe dabbling into your wants. This means that, even when you have a minute to play on social media, you don’t want to take the time to read a paragraph from a brand or watch a 10-minute video. You want something quick and easy to digest that provides a solution, answers a question, or that is just helpful information.

This is where marketing skills really come into play. If you have a lot of information to share, tease it. Give your audience a reason to dig further, which is what you want anyway.

4. Don’t Lump Millennials Together

This is a serious mistake that marketers tend to make since the millennial age group covers quite the range of ages. At the lower end, this group includes people still college. And at the upper end, it could include people who are married, with children, and with a decade+ experience in their careers. Simply put, you need more in your toolbox than just emojis.

It requires you to do market research and segment within this audience. There will be times that there will be crossover, which will make your job a little easier, but often, the content will need to vary and be customized per segment.

In summary, marketing with social media channels was never easy, but it has definitely gotten more challenging as society, businesses and consumers have evolved. Today, consumers, especially millennials, are complex. Yes, this means marketing is tough, really tough. But, it’s not impossible. Brands like Ford, Pepsi, Doritos and more are doing it wonderfully.

If you think about this evolution, that many of us marketers advocated by the way, the expectations of millennials are not surprising. Millennials want more than a logo, they want human elements, and they want to be part of your brand experience. Isn’t this what marketers preach all the time? Sounds like we need to step up our game to practice what we preach.

Should You Outsource Marketing Services?

In the last 10 years, social media marketing has become a huge opportunity for businesses of all sizes. From mom and pop shops to Fortune 500 companies, marketing strategies are turning more and more to social media. In fact, it was projected that 70 percent of companies would increase their digital marketing budget in 2015. This trend is expected to increase in coming years.

One of the downsides to social media, however, is the amount of time needed to maintain a presence. This means more work for you and your team. The question is, should you keep it in-house or should you outsource marketing services? As with most decisions, there are pros and cons to both sides. At SugarSpun Marketing, we get it – we’ve worked with all types and sizes of companies. No one company is exactly the same as the next. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve put together some facts and tips you’ll want to keep in mind as you plan your marketing strategy and budget.

Outsourcing Infographic-01

SugarSpun: Ice Cream and Content Management – What Not to Do

What feelings do the words “summer” and “ice cream” invoke for you? For me, it’s hot summer days traipsing to the ice cream store down the street in the middle of the day, money clutched in my sweaty, little hands. That first feel of the cool ice cream cone on my palm was perhaps my first experience with a foodgasm, even if the taste itself was blah. Those rainbow sprinkles (or jimmies, as they’re known in southwestern Pennsylvania) were just extras to the actual main attraction – the delicious shock of cold on my tongue and down my parched throat as I savored every last lick of summer in a cone. Even the brain freeze it induced wasn’t enough to detract from the amazing feeling of a blazing hot sun on my head and the giggling rush to lick up the cold ice cream before it melted down the sides.

As sprinkles and cones gave way to Haagen Dazs and Ben and Jerry’s, the convenience of ice cream behind those freezer doors in the store were a life saver. Cold goodness at my finger tips with just the flick of a freezer door any time I wanted.

And then I tried Jen’s homemade ice cream.

I was ruined for life.

Suddenly Haagen Dazs meant nothing and Breyers tasted empty. Even Ben and Jerry’s didn’t have the same je ne sais quoi that had once made many a late night gas station runs worth it. I was tainted by the creamy goodness that was laced with whatever homemade fillings Jen got into her head to create. There was, quite simply, no going back to regular life after that. 

Maybe part of the mystique of it was that, with her two hands (and an ice cream maker), she could sprinkle in a few ingredients and wallah! sugary dairy heaven was created. She’d dip a spoon in while the machine was still working, taste-testing as she went, then hand a spoon over for me to sample.

It seemed a relatively simple process. Create the base, let it cool and then throw it into the ice cream maker with a few choice ingredients. I could do that, right?

It’s the end of summer – the last hurrah before temperatures cool, and we break out the sweaters and boots to watch the leaves change colors while we see our breath in the air. But, I was determined to salute the last (ridiculously) humid days of summer with my own homemade ice cream.

To add to my ambitious notion, the last two weeks of work have been particularly crazy with shifting schedules and more projects coming due. In other words, finding time and energy to make ice cream was a challenge. Even more challenging was the fact I decided to take flavor requests from each team member in the office. As I’ve mentioned previously, when it comes to cooking I am excellent at experiencing what not to do. In fact, I have a whole personal website and blog planned around that theme on my someday list. When my work as a content manager and ice cream maker collided, I began to compile a list of what not to do:

1) Skimp on the details

I have this habit of looking over the ingredient list and substituting random things to match what I have in my pantry. I have a 70 percent success rate of maintaining the integrity of the recipe with substitutions, by the way. My mantra “fake it ’til you make it” doesn’t always work when it comes to cooking. Other times, I fail to take into account the prep time needed when scheduling things out, which can mean throwing off the rest of the plans. For instance, those 12 eggs I had to separate when I doubled the ice cream recipe took much longer than planned without the proper utensils. I often forget it’s the prep time that takes longer than the actual cooking.

Creating content calendars requires the same attention to little details. Who is available to write when is just as important as the content. Sometimes, it isn’t feasible to write long, involved blogs back-to-back. Sometimes, strategically placing lighter pieces in between is just plain smart, especially when you’re a smaller company with less resources to rely on.

2) Plan at the last minute

Let’s face it. There are times when planning comes down to the wire. That’s life. It doesn’t have to be like that all the time, however. Proper planning can minimize the last minute rushing around. That’s why evergreen material is so important to have on stand-by just in case someone isn’t able to make a blog deadline – it always serves as a back up.

For me, because I hadn’t counted on how long it would take to prep everything and include the fillings, I ran short on time.

3) Rigid planning

The ice cream (absolutely, amazingly delicious and deserving of it’s own blog and drink recipe) in liquid form was made and cooled in the refrigerator. It was ready to be made into ice cream. What wasn’t ready, however, was the filling, these five different fillings I had so brilliantly thought of. While I had figured in the timing of one type of ice cream filling, I had failed to multiply the time to create such masterpieces by 5. I foolishly pictured something akin to Cold Stone, where the ice cream base is already created. They simply scoop out a specific amount, add one or two fixings, and mix it right there on the counter. Please take note that the key words here are “already created.” As in, what my liquid ice cream and fillings weren’t. And I had no time to finish it. With work commitments and other projects, it simply wasn’t going to happen. I had to come up with a new strategy.

Content calendars are often just as fluid. One of our clients is experiencing a significant amount of fluidity, creating a chance for our team to learn better communication and flexibility. The general rule is to stick as close to the calendar as possible, but there are times when going with the flow will produce far better results than the rigidity of a concrete plan.

4) Accept subpar results

It’s tempting to go with blurred details. Let the little things fall by the wayside and let your customers have less than the best. There is a need for flexibility, absolutely. But not at the expense of your standards. I started out with such a fantastic base for the ice cream and found I wasn’t willing to scrap my plans completely, but I definitely needed more time to develop them.

Instead of rushing things to get subpar results, give yourself time and space to improve what needs to be done. I promise you, you’ll get a better response with higher quality than if you rush to get out mediocrity, much like my ice cream project.

In the end, there is nothing to be gained in rushing homemade ice cream or content management – the wait for both is well worth it!

Stay tuned for more ice cream recipes. In the meantime, here is the recipe for the base – a delicious ice cream all on its own.

Amazing Brown Butter Ice Cream
(Adapted from Jen’s previous blog, A Flexible Life)

  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 6 T butter
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 2 c heavy cream
  • 2 c whole milk
  • 1 t vanilla

In a heat safe bowl, whisk together egg yolks until well blended. Set aside.

In a thick bottomed pan over medium heat, melt butter, stirring, until it begins to brown. As soon as the color shifts to brown, add brown sugar and 1/4 t salt. Stir until sugar begins to dissolve. At first, the brown sugar and butter will mix up, but after awhile, the butter will start to “weep” back out of the brown sugar. Don’t worry, this is totally normal.

Once the butter has started to “weep,” add some of the mixture to the milk, tempering it. Then pour all of the milk into the pan. It will spatter, so watch out. Chances are high that your sugar will turn into big crackly chunks when the cold milk hits it. Don’t worry about it. Just keep stirring until the sugar fully dissolves again.

DO NOT BOIL.

Pour about 1/4 of the milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Once the egg yolks have tempered, pour the eggs into the milk mixture. Continue cooking and stirring over medium heat for 5-7 minutes. The mixture is done when it passes the “back of the spoon” test.

For those of you who don’t know, that just means to take the spoon out of the liquid and quickly run a finger through the coating on the spoon. If the coating stays separated after you run your finger through it, it’s done. If it runs together, it’s not done.

Pour custard into a large bowl containing the cream and add the vanilla. Whisk until well mixed. Pour the mixture into a one gallon Ziplock freezer bag and submerge in an ice water bath until cold. (Generally 30-45 minutes.)

Pour into ice cream maker and freeze according to directions.

Are There Too Many Voices on Social Media?

When social networks like Facebook really started to emerge, circa 2006 and 2007, one of the primary success drivers was the voice it gave to those who previously struggled to be heard. This phenomenon really began with bloggers since blogs and free platforms like WordPress gave them an outlet to share their ideas and opinions.

The Golden Age of Social Media

Some of these bloggers looked at this new form of media as a hobby or something lighthearted. They began compiling recipes or created a persona online. Others looked at it as their opportunity to be included with the big boys. For instance, websites such as Mashable began as a blog, but now are viewed as a news source like so many other traditional media players.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that many of those bloggers that began as a hobby have now created their own business venture out of it. Ree Drummond, also known as the Pioneer Woman, is a perfect example of this. Her blog became exceedingly popular, and as a result, the Food Network added her to its roster by giving her a show!

Social Media Growing Pains

As this was happening on blogs, social media networks like Facebook and Twitter helped these blogs to go viral, which created, yet again, a new type of voice and even more opportunities to be heard. Social networks also allowed grassroots groups to be empowered to advocate change. Some of this chatter, however, began to become mindless. Twitter was known as the network for telling the world what you had for breakfast.

The discussions on social networks weren’t all like this though. Businesses began jumping on board because this now allowed the mom and pop shops to compete with household brands. Anyone remember this happy place?

We’re not trying to be negative, but the fact of the matter is, social media has greatly expanded since the aforementioned large emergence in 2006. Though this growth has brought many new opportunities that weren’t possible back then, it’s also created some new challenges. The mindless chatter, for example, has overly saturated many networks. As this has happened, the audacity factor has risen. In other words, the need to be heard has become so great that people will say almost anything to feed this urge.

At first, an offensive situation would arise and people would take to social media. Brands would get a wakeup call and, in some cases, take action. For example, if someone felt an ad was offensive and took their position to social media, some brands have responded and corrected their ads or clarified their points. But today, with so many people are sharing their voice, is anyone actually being heard?

We’ve all seen this happen with our personal accounts with those friends that feel the need to share absolutely everything. The irony is that these are the very people that frequently contemplate deleting their accounts or ask for the drama to be removed!

Jon Ronson recently gave a compelling TED talk on this issue. Check it out:

As he explains the demise of a PR professional, he noted:

“Twitter is basically a mutual approval machine. We surround ourselves with people who feel the same way we do, and we approve each other, and that’s a really good feeling. And if somebody gets in the way, we screen them out. And do you know what that’s the opposite of? It’s the opposite of democracy.”

He summarized his talk with this profound statement:

“Maybe there’s two types of people in the world: those people who favor humans over ideology, and those people who favor ideology over humans. I favor humans over ideology, but right now, the ideologues are winning, and they’re creating a stage for constant artificial high dramas where everybody’s either a magnificent hero or a sickening villain, even though we know that’s not true about our fellow humans. What’s true is that we are clever and stupid; what’s true is that we’re grey areas. The great thing about social media was how it gave a voice to voiceless people. But we’re now creating a surveillance society where the smartest way to survive is to go back to being voiceless.” (Emphasis added)

Though not to this extreme, thank goodness, the same mentality is happening with businesses as well. Sometimes it’s a hasty move on behalf of the social media manager in an attempt to be funny or associate with a trend, but whatever the case, it can dramatically hurt a brand’s image. Many brands such as LG and American Apparel have had to overcome such challenges.

What Can Marketers Do?

This is a lot of information to swallow, especially coming from a social media firm. To be clear, we are NOT recommending that businesses jump the social media ship. But it is very important to understand where we all are on this social media journey and how it began. In the TED talk above, it’s imperative to note that Ronson is referring to individuals, not businesses. He’s right about the surveillance society that has risen upon social media. Still, this doesn’t mean brands should shy away. There are just too many opportunities that brands would miss if social media were removed from their toolbox. It does, however, mean that brands should be extremely careful with how they portray themselves on social networks.

It’s true that the game of social media has gotten much harder as social networks have grown. Since so many businesses are competing for the same consumers’ time, their options are to:

  1. Provide really great content
  2. Utilize targeted advertising
  3. Be outlandish

Not surprisingly, we recommend going with the first two options. Positive voices are still very effective on social media. It takes skill and caution, but social media for businesses continues to be a strong marketing asset for small and large brands.

If you’d like to learn how we can help your brand and its social media efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

 

The Best Way To Use Colors in Marketing (Infographic)

for blog cover-01What do colors really mean? Did you know they could actually play to your emotions? What’s more, they can even make you hungry! This is why they are critical to marketers. Businesses take careful consideration when designing their logos, websites and other marketing materials. Check out this infographic we put together to gain a better understanding of the depth of colors and the impact they have on marketing efforts.

Color Psych

3 Social Media Lessons Every Marketer Should Keep Close

With a vast amount of available information on social media, society as a whole, and especially marketers, sometimes forget just how young these platforms are. Now, we know that social media dates back to the days before Facebook and Twitter to forums and other chat rooms, but still, the social media industry is very young.

On one hand, the youth is positive because it brings energy, excitement and a new perspective. However, the flip side of this understands that the platforms are continuously evolving. In other words, a marketer can’t rely on the same strategy and tactics for 5 years or more. For instance, just this week, Twitter began experimenting with showing “favorites” directly in user feeds. While great for marketers in getting possibly more eyes on particular tweets, the change may go away, especially with users complaining.

This is why marketers have to stay on top of their game and evolve with social platforms. Otherwise, their marketing efforts would be obsolete and very ineffective. Marketing with social media is really a constant learning curve, which is why we all have to regularly remind ourselves of certain lessons.

A Quiet Audience

In most cases, when it’s been a while since you’ve received a comment, reply, message, retweet, it can be more than discouraging. In fact, some marketers will even want to stop everything they’re doing a start from scratch. But, even though you may not always hear from your audience, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there and that they’re not listening.

When we talk about listening as a marketing activity, we put great emphasis on quietly listening before taking action. This gives you the opportunity to observe, watch other reactions and prepare for when it is time for you to act. So, why should it be any different for our own audiences? Well, it’s not. Sometimes our audiences are just taking in the information we feed them, and it’s okay.

Excitement Spreads – Utilize It

There is no disputing that word-of-mouth takes on a whole new level with social media. For instance, think about the recent news of Robin Williams’ death, which spread like wildfire. Where did you see it? It’s likely safe to say that it was on some form of social media. Once this new is distributed to the masses, it’s really difficult to go back and change it.

While Robin Williams’ passing was sad news, good news also spreads quickly across social media. Simply put, don’t put any secrets out on social media. But, for marketers, this can be used to your advantage. You have the opportunity to tap into that news by producing an article that ties it in, making a related spoof video, a related meme or any number of other tactics.

As a word of caution, marketers do have to be careful of being respectful and tactful on certain news items. For example, it would have been distasteful to create a meme related to Robin Williams’ death. Unfortunately, some brands have made this mistake and have faced backlash as a result.

Marketers should utilize trends on social media even related #MondayMotivation, #ThrowbackThursday, or #FridayFunnies. Users love this type of content and will share your inspiration and excitement.

Social Was Made To Be Social

A recent study from Harvard neuroscientists shows that it is rewarding for humans to share information about themselves. Interestingly, talking about ourselves is just as appealing as food and money are to us.

Bragging reaction on brainFor anyone who’s on social media this news should come as no surprise. Yet, in marketing, we should know that we can’t talk about ourselves. We have to produce content that adds value to our audience.

A good rule of thumb to apply is what has become known as the 4-1-1 rule that was initially equated to Twitter. This says: Tweet 4 pieces of relevant original content from others and re-tweet 1 relevant tweet for every 1 self-promoting tweet.

4-1-1 Rule for Social Media

Ultimately, by making your story about your audience, it will subtly benefit you more than any piece of self-promotion could have. Social media was meant to be social, so please be human and social.

It’s these types of lessons that we sometimes neglect but that are critical in moving our marketing efforts in social media forward.

Reputation Management: Why Credible Influence Always Wins

Woman Shouting into Megaphone

Trust is an interesting concept online, isn’t it? The Internet has quickly become the most desirable resource for information. We, as consumers, depend on websites, stranger reviews and much, much more for answers and tips ranging from sickness to brand recommendations.

Remember the “French Model” State Farm commercial from a couple of years ago? We all laugh when we see it, but do we really believe that “They can’t put anything on the Internet that isn’t true”?

Today, with so much information online, discerning the credible and the non-credible can be quite the challenge, which is why reputation management plays such a vital role. What are people saying about you and your business? Is it accurate? Unfortunately, a lot of the information online is not.

What’s even more unfortunate is the fact that a lot of misinformation is done in the name of marketing! Now, there are marketing tactics that can be done to build a reputation online. But, these are very different from the culprits behind the fake reputation builders, also known as crowdturfers. These fake reputation builders on social media have grown similar to the content farms that plagued the search industry a few years back.

Buying Twitter Followers Fiverr

A paper was released recently that outlines this behavior. In partial support from Google, researchers from Utah State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Texas A&M University came together to not only shed light on the serious matter that it is, but to also offer solutions for detecting this behavior.

“Automatically detecting crowdturfing gigs is an important task because it allows us to remove the gigs before buyers can purchase them, and eventually, it will allow us to prohibit sellers from posting these gigs,” the paper reads. “To detect crowdturfing gigs, we built machine-learned models using the manually labeled 1,550 gig dataset.”

While these fast reputation-building techniques may be tempting, they don’t win. Especially since this new research shows how to detect them, they will be even less effective. In order to truly win in this game, you must build a viable reputation the old-fashioned way – through hard work. While it is hard work, it’s not as difficult as you may think. In all honesty, building reputation and influence in today’s digital world can actually happen rather quickly.

Do your research

For starters, you have to know what’s already out there. Conduct market research. Google yourself and your brand. Do you like what you find? Are your public profiles up to date and consistent? This is the logical starting place to understand what needs improving before you start making changes. Otherwise, your efforts could be ineffective.

Identify what you want to be known for

As you do your research, see if there is a particular theme. Does one part stand out across the board? This could be anything from customer service to a quality such as speed or reliability. Whatever this theme may be, combine it with your own goals. Everyone sets expectations for themselves and their businesses that they would like to achieve. Now is the time to identify what it is that you want to be influential about.

Be influential, trustworthy, social, human, etc.

From this point on, the fun begins. This is where you actually get to implement and act on who you are. For instance, if you want to be known for transparency, be transparent! You can’t fake this characteristic. If this is who you are, then it will come naturally.

Furthermore, as you’ve identified your theme, make sure that you are distributing this focus across your social media channels. Participate in conversations about relevant topics, publish content and more to reinforce your niche.

As you push this message out, remember to be human and social. You may have a remarkable niche, but if you’re not distributing it in a “real” way, it could harm your reputation. You should have a strategy, but don’t get too caught up in corporate speak. If you do, you may have trouble building trust. This is the fun part, so keep it exciting.

Monitor!

Lastly, you must monitor your efforts. Monitoring is one of the biggest parts of reputation management. With real-time communication, a reputation could be damaged in a matter of seconds. After all the hard work you put into this, a less than stellar reputation is not what you want, so monitor.

There are multiple tools both free and paid that help in this area as well. Also, Andy Beal and the Marketing Pilgrim team are always producing helpful content for reputation management and particularly monitoring.

Google+: To Be or Not to Be – That Is the Big Question

 

Will-ferrell-i-didnt-want-google-i-said-it-4-times

Can you believe it’s been 3 years since Google introduced its social media platform Google+? In its 3-year lifespan, Google has put tremendous priority on its social hope. Before Google+, the search giant pushed other social players including Orkut and Google Buzz. There were also brief moments with Dodgeball and Latitude. However, none of them could quite reach the competitive level of Facebook.

Though Google+ was initially thought by many to be a threat to Facebook, new reports and events question its livelihood. What do you think? Do you use Google+? Does it benefit you and your business?

In the early days, Google+ appeared to hold viability. Respected social media personality Chris Brogan advocated the platform and even wrote the book, Google+ for Business. Google really put a strong emphasis on it with CEO Larry Page tying employee bonuses to the success of the company’s social platform in 2011.

While it’s been clear that Google saw vast potential in Google+, the company appears to have been somewhat overly confident. Google released some misleading statistics and received a backlash for fudging its growth numbers.

More recently, Google began embedding Google+ into each of its products making it nearly impossible to use services such as Gmail and YouTube without adopting the social network. We wrote about this last year and pointed out some user concerns:

Many people feel that Google+ has been forced onto them for Google’s benefit and not their own. This is why Google+ numbers have been somewhat skewed in the past as well. Google+ has also recently faced scrutiny for integrating Google+ further into YouTube… Now, users comment using their Google+ profiles, a.k.a., their real names in most cases.

In April, the platform faced another blow when the network’s leader Vic Gundotra left the company. Known as the father of Google+, questions started arising as to whether he was giving up on the social service. The recent birthday has only given people more of a reason to raise questions. Some reports have speculated that Google has plans to reorganize Google+ and break it down into separate services such as video chatting, instant messaging and photo storage.

Another event that raised even more questions was the fact that Google+ had no mention at the recent annual Google developer’s conference.

Earlier this year, Google told The New York Times it had 540 million monthly active users. Whether more or less now, this number still doesn’t compare to the more than 1 billion users Facebook has. Simply put, Google+ lacks the traction it needs to compete with the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

Businesses and particularly marketers have been hesitant to dismiss Google+ due to the parent company of Google. This is significant given Google’s prominence in the search and advertising market. Search marketers have specifically put emphasis on Google+ in relation to Authorship and search ranking purposes.

So, where does this leave you?

At this point, marketers aren’t abandoning Google+. But, it’s not for the social benefit it brings. It’s for the search advantage. Again, candidly put, marketers want to do everything they can to stay in Google’s good graces in terms of search ranking.

Still, this is not to say that Google+ will step up to a Facebook level. Just in the past couple of weeks, Google announced that it was dropping profile photos and Google+ circle count from authorship in search results, which could largely impact how the search marketing community reacts to Google+ moving forward.

In spite of all the criticism, Larry Page continues to maintain Google+’s momentum. He recently spoke to The New York Times and indicated high hopes.

Q. Is “social” as important to you now as it was two years ago?

 A. Mr. Page: Yes, if anything, probably more important. We have a very excited, dedicated community. People forget we’re able to make our services better by understanding your relationships, making sharing work and understanding identity. These are deep and important things for us as a company.

When people ask about Google Plus they think about it as, “I’m going to the stream.” For us, Google Play reviews are part of Google Plus, too. We see all those things growing and being important for us.

Ultimately, the verdict is still out for Google+. Not all the signs look promising, but before you completely discount it, remember Google’s search and advertising influence. Most importantly, look at your current analytics. Are you getting referrals from Google+? Is it helping your ranking? If not, then you probably should look to other channels that you are benefiting from and invest more time there.

 Image courtesy of imgace.com.