Social Media

The Internet Is Like a High School Cafeteria

I’ve been thinking a lot about content lately and how that relates to buyer personas. Mostly what I’ve been considering is this: How does a company with several buyer personas (some of whom would be interested in us for very different and completely unrelated reasons) access different people with content?

Lately I’ve been feeling like the internet isn’t just one echochamber – it’s a bunch of little echochambers. There are bloggers who blog about blogging and go to conferences about blogging with other bloggers. Craft bloggers talk to other craft bloggers. Recipe bloggers talk to other recipe bloggers. Personal finance bloggers talk to other personal finance bloggers. There’s so much content being created and shared and curated that there’s little choice other than to join an echochamber in order to handle it as a consumer. But what do you do if you’re a marketer who needs to appeal to multiple… well…echochambers?

Is there a way to cover every topic of the relevant echochambers that matter to your business, but do it in a way that maintains a consistent theme so you don’t seem unfocused and confuse your audience?

Discovery vs. Sharing

Every so often I don’t know if I should publish something on the Shareaholic blog or if I should publish it over here. On this one, it’s very much written from my personal opinion and point of view so I thought I’d throw it over here.

We’re starting to publish more data we get on how people share content and how that sharing leads to website traffic. Our two latest reports:

February Referral Traffic Report – Pinterest is killing it and actually outpaced Twitter for referral traffic in February.

Next, we published our top sharing platforms for February in Marketing Charts. The data shows that people actually share more to Facebook than they do other sites, including Pinterest.

So… wtf, right? How come Pinterest ranks so high for referral traffic but not for shares? The difference, as pointed out to me by my boss Jay, is discovery vs. sharing. Some social networks are more popular for sharing, while others are more popular for discovery.

Think about the number of people who upload video to YouTube vs the (much larger) number of people who watch YouTube videos. It’s unclear what the first number is (YouTube says 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute) but they say around 4 billion videos are viewed each day. I think Pinterest is along the same vein. It appears to me that while many people are pinning, they are discovering content and clicking through on it even more. It is also worth noting that re-pins can’t be included in our statistics as we count original shares from our plugin and browser extension.

Furthermore, what could this mean for marketers who use Pinterest? It seems like a smaller percentage of people are driving the original Pins (sharing) while many others are discovering, re-pinning, and clicking through on those images. Do I hear “Pinterest influencers” in our future? Roll your eyes (I did as I typed that) but yes. I think so.

Does the discovery vs. sharing thing make sense to you? Am I crazy? Let me know in the comments.

Social Rant’s New Spring Outfit

I don’t do it often, but this weekend I finally got around to giving the blog a slightly different look. I’m considering a background and a header image, but for right now I was happy to get a happier looking layout going on the blog. Each time I do this I discover a few favorite plugin to help me, so I wanted to share the new one.

The Google Fonts plugin easily allows you to add fonts from the Google Fonts Directory to your blog. So if you’re not the most technically inclined like myself and tend to forget to dot your i’s and cross your t’s in CSS stylesheets, this is a good match for you. It let’s you select the exact text (H1, H2) you want to customize and pick the font you want to change it too. They also give you a little CSS box for you to put any additional stuff in – like bolded or uppercase styling.

Google fonts plugin

I wish they showed an actual preview of the font in the WP admin panel so I would know what I was selecting without having to keep an additional tab open for the Google Fonts Directory. But still, it made the font selection process a whole lot easier than it has been before so I’m happy with it.

This was a very good, basic blogging reminder for me: if there is something you want to do with your blog with design or widgets or features, there’s probably a plugin that will take care of it for you! Don’t work hard, work smart. And get back to blogging. 🙂

How to: Decide When to Pay for Social Media Monitoring

This post originally appeared on the oneforty blog. It’s being reposted here as part of my blogging portfolio.

Often times, people are hesistant to invest in a social media monitoring tool of any kind. This is understandable: When you are unsure of the value of social media, it’s hard to justify throwing money at it. This is why measurement is important. But therein lies a catch 22: paid monitoring tools offer better metrics.

In his recent blog post, Jeremiah Owyang recommends that organizations invest in social business tools and talent based on market research and scale investment by their experience with social media. On page seven of his report he offers a quiz that’ll help you bench mark your social business maturity and then see where you should be investing.

There are plenty of free and cheap ways to monitor mentions of your brand in social media.  You can set up search terms in Tweetdeck, Seesmic or Hootsuite for your brand, competitors and industry keywords and track Twitter conversations that are relevant to your company. You can use this monitoring for lead generation by responding to those conversations. Try Twilerts for an email digest of these search terms, or Tweet Alarm to get notifications so you don’t have to constantly be watching Twitter for these mentions. To track news of these search terms, set up Google Alerts and subscribe to an RSS or email digest of your searches through Social Mention. For local searches, use Twitter’s Advanced search. Want to hack together a free monitoring dashboard of your own? Add an RSS feed of your Twitter searches to iGoogle.

Ultimately, though, these really are only temporary solutions. Eventually you are going to want to crank up the volume on your monitoring and get a solution that offers deeper analytics, more integrations and more versatility.  Here are some indicators that you have reached that point:

1. You aren’t just doing Twitter anymore.

Maybe you aren’t just managing a Twitter account, but you are also managing a Facebook page for your business. Or, you also have a blog or are tracking keywords for SEO. Upgrading to a tool like Raven Tools can consolidate your efforts all in one place. This can save you time and help you close the loop between all of your online marketing efforts. Integrate the keywords you are trying to rank for into your Tweets and blog post headlines, compare your mentions on Facebook to your mentions on Twitter. Raven Tools offers three pricing plans, $19/month, $99/month and $249/month.

2. You want to keep track of the interactions you have with Twitter followers.

If you are doing all of this work to monitor keywords on Twitter and engage with prospects, all of that lead generation is going to waste if you aren’t keeping record of the conversations you are having. A CRM tool has contact management features to help you take notes and add tasks to your Twitter contacts. BlueCamroo has a Social Network Scout feature included at all pricing levels that searches for leads on Twitter according to the search terms that you set up. It them loads them into a prospect form for you to follow up with. BlueCamroo also has some pretty sophisticated email marketing features ingrained to help keep your web leads engaged in your pipeline. That’s a lot more than a little old Twitter client to offer for just $24/month to $149/month. Other options to look at? Social CRM tool Nimble, which is in private beta. Also consider how your company’s Twitter account can help with your support tickets and sales pipeline – look for tools with Zendesk and Salesforce integration like CoTweet (Enterprise level), Hootsuite Pro and Radian 6.

3. There is more than one person running your company’s Twitter account.

You may get a lot of Twitter followers or start to get a lot of mentions. Running your company’s Twitter account could become a time-consuming thing, and it may not just be a task for one person any more. Tools like Hootsuite Pro or CoTweet‘s Enterprise version offer Tweet assigning features that ensure your community is attended to and that all questions are answered by the right person. Plus, the right monitoring dashboard will keep track of your conversations with each customers so you have a record of that relationship.

4. There is more than one Twitter account for your company.

Perhaps your CEO now has a Twitter account, or you have a Twitter account wholly-dedicated to PR.  Maybe you have a Twitter account for support questions. There comes a time when you need to select a social media dashboard that everyone can work off of. Create unity in your organization so that everyone is on the same page with what your social media policy is. Your technology should enable someone from the marketing team to assign a Tweet to the support team if it is a question that pertains to them, and vice versa. This is what the challenge of being a social media strategist and evangelizing social media in an organization to establish a social business means. Investing in the right tool and getting internal buy-in is a huge process.

5. You want to measure more than just Bit.ly clicks.

For free, you can get Facebook Insights. You can also sync your Bit.ly links with most clients and track how many people are clicking on your links. You can get some analytics for free. Tweetreach is free for up to 50 Tweets. As you know, that’s not a ton of Tweets. To get really good measurement of your efforts, you’re going to have to pay a little bit. Tweetreach is a great tool for measuring your Twitter account, and it offers several pricing plans from $84.00/month to $899.00/month. First, decide what you want to measure, and that will help you choose a tool that best delivers those metrics. Ubervu is one lower-cost ($49/month, $179/month, $399/month) social media monitoring tool that offers competitive and sentiment analysis. Argyle Social tracks conversions from your Twitter and Facebook campaigns so you can track real ROI from your social media efforts. Argyle Social offers three plans: $149/month, $199/month or $499/month.

What other things should a company consider when it is taking the leap into a paid social media monitoring tool? What were the first tools that your company invested in? I would love your thoughts in the comments.

What Social Media Metrics Matter?

This post originally appeared on the oneforty blog. It’s being reposted here as part of my blogging portfolio.

I really enjoyed this recent post from @Forrester Research in which Nate Elliot previews his latest report on social media metrics. Specifically, the focus is on assigning social media marketing measurement within an organization. In the post, Elliot smartly points out that if you are defining success by “fans and followers” you’re doing it wrong. Social media measurement is most successful when it is tied to actual business goals.

Elliot’s breakdown of the metrics are very simliar to Jeremiah Owyang’s ROI Pyramid that we’ve previously explored. Community managers and social media strategists focus on “digital metrics” like clicks, fans, followers. Marketing and business executives focus on awareness and share of voice. Finally c-level executives focus on “business metrics” like revenue – aka dolla dolla bills ya’ll.

Here are the two charts:

Jeremiah Owyang’s breakdown of metrics

Forrester’s breakdown of metrics

I like comparing and contrasting both of the breakdowns. I think the recommendations for frequency on Forrester’s analysis aren’t what I’d do. Daily check-ups on number of followers doesn’t seem like the right use of time to me – I think personally think weekly is more scalable. (Perhaps he means daily or hourly check-ups on comments though.) On the contrary, to me it doesn’t seem like an annual analysis of conversions is frequent enough for the c-suite. Quarterly tracking of this at the least makes sense to me. After all, social media really is still new. Not all of us who live in this social media echo chamber and chug the Koolaid remember that sometimes, but it’s true! We’re still testing what campaigns work, and you manage what you measure.

Something I’d love to see discussed more in these reports and in blogs (maybe it doesn’t exist yet) is measurement of the money you save with social media. That to me demonstrates positive return on investment. Can businesses measure x amount of dollars they saved on support phone calls by taking care of customer service via Twitter? Can businesses save on recruiting costs by having their employees share job postings with their networks on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter? Can companies measure the time they save and increased productivity by using Yammer and having their employees communicate through instant message? (Hence, enabling the social employee with a tool like that versus them walking to the other end of the office to ask that question and getting distracted by the coffee room, the water cooler, their friend is the sales department along the way…)

It’s a can of worms to dive into, but I like to ponder it because that relates to measuring social media’s value beyond fans and followers and beyond the marketing department. That’s what a social business is: social media delivering value throughout an entire organization.

Another thing I’d like to see researched is how organizations are coordinating measurement between their agencies. Your PR agency is delivering you metrics like media value each month, then maybe you have a separate social media agency delivering another set of metrics like impressions and share of voice. How are these things being considered together to give a complete view of competitive analysis across not only social media but also with media placements?

Another thing worth exploring: There is a whole set of companies sometimes called Listening Service Providers that are a “tool + consulting” combination. The thing is, some tools and the analytics they provide have a steep learning curve. You have this new interface to work with, then you need to understand what all these graphs mean and then you need to get actionable insight from those metrics. Companies like Synthesio, Cymphony and NM Incite are a few examples where they offer not only the social media monitoring tool but also the team of consultants that analyze the data and offer recommendations to your team. Which organizations are using these and which team members are they reporting to? Also, how are the insights that these companies provide used in combination with agencies?

I’d love to open up the comments to you folks to let me know how you assign measurement on your team. Do you measure your social media marketing at all, and if so, what metrics matter to you?

5 Common Blogging Mistakes and How to Fix Them

This post originally appeared on the oneforty blog. It’s being reposted here as part of my blogging portfolio.

Whether your company is just getting going in social media or you’ve been at it for a while, there are some common mistakes people do every day with blogging that makes for a missed opportunity. Luckily, there’s typically a simple tool or tactic you can use to do more with your blog and fix whatever you are doing.

1. Blogging All About You

When all you blog about is you – your product, your service, your achievements etc – you don’t teach your community anything about your industry. You don’t have any sort of thought leadership or real takeaways. When people Google for information about your industry or when they’re asking questions like “how to ___” related to your industry, you won’t have any articles that explain that.  It’s only when the Google specifically you, that you’ll come up. That’s a missed opportunity.

HOW TO FIX: Monitor your industry. Read blogs and set up Google Alerts for relevant search terms and your competitors. Use Twilerts and set up search terms in a Twitter client like Tweetdeck for Twitter searches related to your product or service. See what people are talking about. What are their pain points? What are their questions? Blog about that.

2. Blogging About… Wait, What Exactly ARE You Blogging About?

When you blog about random or off-topic things, you draw in the wrong audience and therefore the wrong leads for your business. It’s inconsistent branding and you rank for the wrong keywords on Google. Subject matter counts, and by not focusing your content you are missing an opportunity to show your thought leadership in a specific space.

HOW TO FIX:

Find relevant people in your industry to follow with tools like Listorious. Use Cadmus to find the most popular articles that they are sharing and use that as an indicator of the types of subject matter you should blog about. Also try Twoolr and see what words are already used in conjunction with your brand on Twitter.

3. Ignoring Your Blog Comments

When people swing by your blog to engage in conversation with you, make sure you are being responsive! They came by to comment, and responding to what they have to say is a good way to build a community around your content. If you respond, they are more likely to remember you and subscribe to your blog and come back again.

HOW TO FIX: Use a commenting platform like Disqus or LiveFyre that makes it easy for people to comment on your blog and makes it easy for you to moderate and respond to comments.

4. Focusing on the Wrong Blog Features

I’ve seen some businesses pour a ton of time into dressing up the look and feel of their blogs. They get their graphic designer to make a sexy blog header, they’ve got sparkly fonts and custom this and that. This is important. You want to look official, professional and have consistant branding with the rest of your website. But don’t ignore the social sharing and subscription features that will get your content in front of your audience.

HOW TO FIX: Pick a simple theme and make sure your blog has these features before you get too caught up in the look and feel of your site.

  • Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn share options
  • RSS and email subscription options

5. Blogging Infrequently

If you’re going to do social media, you need to jump in with both feet to reap the benefits. Your audience will be more consistent and your community will grow and share your content if your content is there for them on a predictable basis. That might not be daily for your company at the onset, but if it’s less than weekly you might not see the benefits of your blog. And why waste your time if you aren’t going to commit to this?

HOW TO FIX: Create an editorial calendar and assign which blog posts will be written by which member of your team. You can use something as simple as Google calendar for this. Schedule Tweets and Facebook posts promoting your content with a tool like Hootsuite or CoTweet.

These are just a few common blogging mishaps we see out there in social media. Any other ones you see? Let me know in the comments.

4 Twitter Tips for Engaging Your Community

It’s simple enough to get started on Twitter for your business or client. Using tools like Listorious and Mashable’s Twitter Lists you can find people to follow on Twitter according to topics they Tweet about. Using a client like Tweetdeck or Seesmic, you can set up search terms for your company and for keywords related to your industry.

But what about the less tangible, “human” elements of running a Twitter account? The words you say and how you interact with the people you talk to? Here are five tips to help:

1. Be Responsive

Be sure to set up a search term for your brand on Twitter as well as monitor your @mentions. If your company has just signed up, a perfect way to “stake your claim” on Twitter and define your presence is to start responding to those mentions. This means:

  • Answering questions and offering suggestions – You can also answer questions not just about your particular product, but about your industry. Think of Twitter as a cocktail party. Use a human voice and mingle.
  • Apologizing – This is the not-so-fun part. But, did you guys mess up? Respond to unhappy customers. You only have 140 characters, so there isn’t space for any of that “We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused you” garbage. A genuine, first person, “I’m sorry” is a better way to go. Plus, I’ve personally found that the people who take the time to complain are the people who take the time to advocate for your when you handle the situation well.

2. Be Gracious

Are you creating content to draw people to your blog? Do you see people sharing your ebooks, blog post or webinars? Engage them and say thank you. I think one company that does a fantastic job with this is social media monitoring company Radian6. If you share their blog post or ebook, you can expect a friendly Tweet back saying thank you with a little smile.

The nice thing is that the way Twitter is built, only your followers who follow the person you are thanking via @reply will see these Tweets. So you don’t have to worry about clogging people’s streams with tons of “Thank you!! 🙂 ” Tweets. Figure out a way to work these aspect of engagement into your Tweeting in a way that scales for your team.

3. Be consistent

Once you start in social media, you have to keep it up and stay committed. If you build up an expectation of responsiveness and then you let it fall off the wayside, your community will look to you on Twitter with their questions and they will go ignored – which will only alienate them more than if you hadn’t engaged in the first place. How can you remain consistent?

  • Be on call – Is managing a community a 24/7 job? Well, it’s important to at least keep an eye on things. You’ll need a mobile app on your phone for when you’re away from your desk to at least monitor brand mentions. If anything major comes up, you should respond. On vacation? Make sure someone covers you.
  • Put “hours of operation” in your Twitter bio – This could be helpful, although I’m sure you still obviously get questions after 5pm. At least you are setting expectations properly at have a way to switch a conversation with a community member to email or phone if need be.
  • Scale your Tweeting – What is your goal? Are you promoting your blog posts and answering questions through your Twitter account? Maybe scheduling Tweets of your blog posts is a way to save you time. Being efficient will help you be consistent.

4. Use a Personal Tone

Some companies are not certain how to go about running a Twitter account and are afraid to allow their employees to Tweet on behalf of their brand – and with good reason! There have been a handful of well-documented “face/palm” moments in social media where an employee sent out a bad Tweet on a company Twitter account and didn’t represent the brand well. However, I think playing it safe with an overly corporate and cautious tone isn’t the always the right approach. Pick a tone that is consistent with your brand. Keep in mind: People like talking to people. Show human things with your words like personality and excitement and gratitude, just like you would on your own Twitter account – but be consistent and responsible and balance that with representing your brand.

Why the Twitter vs. Facebook Marketing Catfight is Dumb

This post originally appeared on the oneforty blog. It’s being reposted here as part of my blogging portfolio.

There’s been a consistent thread in the blogs and news recently where people are calling into question the true value of Facebook pages for businesses.

  • Forrester Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru says Facebook will never become a powerful eCommerce platform. Mulpuru’s study found that the average Facebook metrics are a 1% click-through rate and a 2% conversion rate. Comparatively, e-mail marketing offers an 11% click-through rate and a 4% average conversion rate.
  • Gawker offered a sassier recount of the study, delivering this takeaway: “The main problem is that Facebook treats brands a lot like people. So when you “like” a brand’s Facebook page, your newsfeed fills up with corporate adspeak, drowning out important news of what childhood friends’ babies are up to and resulting in an uneasy sense of foreboding: It’s disconcerting to see “Ford Motor Company” congratulate random people on their marriage in your newsfeed; did Henry Ford rise from the grave and bless their union, or the board of directors, or what?
  • People say don’t waste time with Facebook for your startup.

But then again…

Some food for thought:

Researchers don’t know your business or your goals

You need to have some idea of what you want to do on these platforms, use them in a way that gets the most value and scale your time accordingly. (A social media strategist can help.) Before you write of an entire platform altogether, consider that.

Here’s an example: If I was a small, local, photography business, I’d want more people in my area to see my awesome photos and hire me to take photos of their engagements and weddings and babies. I’d most definitely be cranking away at a Facebook page and leveraging the connections of my customers who were in the photos I took. Spreading awareness for that business happens to lend itself to two really popular features of Facebook – photos and tagging. I wouldn’t ignore Twitter, but I might just use it slightly differently (maybe Tweet about what photo sessions I was going to that day (@mentioning my customers of course) and Tweet links to our photo blog.) I might join other LinkedIn groups for professional photographers to learn about best practices etc, but I honestly wouldn’t make one for my business.

On the contrary, oneforty for example is a different kind of business than that. We get a ton of engagement from our LinkedIn group, but we actually get more traffic from Facebook from people sharing our blog posts there. Twitter, however, spanks both traffic source-wise.

Know Your Audience. Tools Can Help.

This is why listening in social media is so important. Find where your current and potential customers are online and really invest your time in building a presence where you see the most value for the goals you have for your business. Monitoring with Facebook is admittedly trickier. Even paid social media monitoring tools like Sysomos that pull brand mentions from Facebook can only pull from public Facebook wall posts (many users have private Facebook walls.) Kurrently is a free tool monitors your public mentions.

Paying attention to your referring sites (under Traffic Sources in Google Analytics) is another good way for you to pay attention to how people are discovering your website and see where you are getting the most value – Twitter or Facebook. Traffic is traffic, though. What are people actually doing when they get to your site? Think a little deeper about what kinds of activities people who come from Twitter or Facebook are doing. What platform offers the most value for your time spent?

Using Argyle Social, you can track how many people perform a conversion (like registering for an event, making a profile or buying something) on your website from Twitter and Facebook campaigns using in-page analytics on your website.

In conclusion, keep up on the reports and social media news regarding the value of Facebook. Read the blogs, but don’t be afraid to be skeptical about said findings. Most importantly, when your boss asks – or when you question yourself – about your presence on Facebook or any other social media platform, I think your own metrics and business goals should be the major focus of the conversation as opposed to an article you saw ReTweeted a bunch.

Using Social Media in Regulated Industries

This post originally appeared on the oneforty blog. It’s being reposted here as part of my blogging portfolio.

Think selling social media to your boss is difficult? Try being a marketer in a regulated industry. You know what the benefits of social media are. Listening to customer conversations on Twitter and Facebook means engaging with and learning from current and potential customers, defining your brand and tapping into a major market research opportunity. However, there are significant restrictions with what you can communicate online.

What are some regulated industries?

  • Publicly traded companies
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Spirits

For those of you working in these regulated industries, the first step in your social media strategy should be to understand what restrictions apply to you. Here is a brief overview and some examples of how some other companies are still getting involved in the conversation while complying with these important guidelines.

Publicly Traded Companies

Is your company publicly traded? You need to keep these restrictions in mind, including anything that applies specifically to your industry. The Regulations Fair Disclosure policy states that publicly traded companies release material information to investors and the public at the same time. If you don’t comply, charges of insider trading or selective disclosure could result.  Publicly traded companies should be mindful about about providing forward-looking statements.

A clearly-communicated social media policy for employees is essential for these companies.

For a few examples of social media policies at companies, read:

Finance

Promotions on social media from financial institutions have to be fair, clear and not misleading. Most of the regulations have to do with full disclosure of terms and features or availability of products and services (including pricing, rates, rewards, eligibility). Financial companies have to follow advertising rules pertaining to truth-in-lending and truth-in-savings and overdraft protection. This could affect how their social media strategy works.

Financial organizations must be careful of how they handle confidential information. Because of the risk of identity theft or phishing, financial companies should not use social media to collect personal information from customers or prospects.

Bank of America takes on the challenge of participating on Twitter as part of a regulated industry. If you look at their customer service account, @BofA_help , you’ll see they respectfully request that their customers not share account information via Twitter.

Bank of America asks their community not to share account numbers via Twitter.

Citizens Bank has a disclaimer in their Twitter background regarding this topic. Bank of America does as well.

Citizens Bank includes a disclaimer in their Twitter background about sharing account numbers on Twitter.

The risk for identity theft or phishing is all the more reason for these types of companies to be responsibly involved. Claiming their brand names on social media sites and making sure that they – not the scammers – are engaging with customers and defining their brands with great customer service (and not a PR backlash from a scam) is important.

Financial institutions are also usually required to keep copies of customer conversations. If there was ever a case for social CRM – this is it. Being able to connect Twitter conversations to customer profiles in an offline database with account numbers would be especially beneficial for this industry.

An especially helpful tool for these professionals would be Backupify – a social media and cloud data archiving tool. This would keep record of customer conversations from Twitter and Facebook.

Pharmaceuticals

Pharmaceutical companies are in a tricky spot. The FDA requires that all reports of adverse effects communicated to a manufacturer are reported to the FDA.Comments made on social media accounts could count as adverse effects notifications that need to be reported.

You’ll notice that Pfizer’s Twitter account is mostly used for outbound news messages from the company. Communication of adverse effects could be a reason why.

pfizer Twitter

Likewise, Pfizer uses its Facebook page to share news with its audience, but the public is not able to comment or post anything on the wall.

Pfizer Facebook

There are some very logical reasons why adverse effect reporting isn’t as big of a threat as it may first appear. However, that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t be prepared with a plan of how to handle it. If there ever was a need for social business maturity – all departments of an organization buying into social media, from marketing to safety to research and development to legal – this would be a situation that calls for collaboration.

Marketing directly to consumers is tricky, but some drug companies are choosing online and digital marketing to supplement or replace their face-to-face sales efforts when marketing directly to physicians. AstraZeneca uses AZ Touchpoints to engage physicians. Novo Nordisk, which sells insulin and diabetes products, offers medical professionals an insulin measurement app in the iTunes app store. Sanofi-Aventis, Merck, Pfizer, Glazxo Smith Cline and Novartis AG all offer medical-related iPhone and iPad apps to market to doctors.

Insurance Companies

Health insurance

Healthcare companies need to be sure they are not disclosing personal information through social media communications. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) ensures that medical information is kept confidential and protects the privacy of patients. According to Jason Fall’sarticle “Leveraging Social Media in Regulated Industries,” there is a strict, government-mandated approval system for communications with the public. In his post, he points to one social media professional for an insurance company who is taking on the challenge with an innovation approach: Anticipating common questions, she wrote Tweets to be pre-approved by compliance officials so she could still communicate with people in real-time on Twitter.

Insurance (non-health)

Each state has different laws for home, auto, life and other insurance policies. For this reason, insurance brokers can only give out advice to people in the state in which they are licensed.

GEICO and Statefarm Insurance are both very active on Twitter and Facebook engaging with customers. A lot of their Twitter communication focuses on thanking customers for becoming/being a customer or answering questions. With its customer service account, @GEICO_Service , GEICO appears to reply directly to people Tweeting about accidents or flat tires and asking if they should follow up about their claims. I noticed several times they ask for the customers state. They also try to take the conversation offline with an email or phone call.

Geico customer service Twitter
GEICO helps people with their car insurance via its customer service account.

Spirits

The most important rule that alcohol companies must follow is that they only market to customers of the legal purchasing age, which as we all know, is 21.This is particularly challenging in social media because Twitter, Facebook, YouTube etc. are global platforms. When marketing on your company’s own website, it’s a little easier: You can at least cover yourself on this rule by requiring that visitors fill in a birthdate form. Twitter and Facebook for these businesses are a little more challenging as there isn’t this kind of control.

Maker’s Mark navigates this rule in a way that is responsible and yet fun and consistent with its brand. The phrase: “We’ve never been much for following the rules, but this one’s a must! You must be of legal drinking age to peruse this page” is found on their Facebook page and Twitter.

Makers Mark Twitter“We’ve never been much for following the rules, but this one’s a must! You must be of legal drinking age to follow us on Twitter!”
Maker's Mark Facebook page
Maker’s Mark marketing responsibly on Facebook.

Does this guarantee that all of their fans or followers are 21? Probably not. But just like the aforementioned industries, it’s their way of putting a disclaimer out there that complies with the market they are in.

How to Engage in Social Media as a Regulated Industry

Knowing these rules for your business or client before you establish a social media strategy is key. They aren’t reasons not to participate in social media, just all the more reason to have an experienced strategist guiding you. Some overaching takeaways for several industries seem to be:

1. Take conversations offline – For things like finance, healthcare or insurance, communicating with customers who have questions on Twitter is a great way to be helpful, especially if they are upset. Retaining a customer is, after all, less expensive than getting a new one, and social media is great for this. However, social media isn’t the best for having some public conversations that could involve private information like medical records or bank account numbers. When customer service representatives can take the conversation to another format like a phone call, that’s when they can best resolve any issues.

2. Have a clear-cut social media policy for employees – Zappos is well-known for it’s simple policy of “Be Smart!” Admittedly, that’s our policy at oneforty as well. When more intricate legal implications are involved, you may need something that covers more bases than that for your company. SHIFT Communications offers this PDF template for a social media policy guidelines builder to get you started.

What recommendations do you have for social media professionals in regulated industries? What companies do you see doing this well? Would love your ideas in the comments.

How To: Use Social Media To Promote Your Gaming Site

Many continue to be hesistant when having to invest in social media marketing, not to mention independent monitoring tools and other means of measurement and improvement of their social media efforts. The fact you are constantly unsure concerning the value of social media, it’s not easy finding justification for investing money into it. It is hence critical to measure its success, but preventing failure should present even more interest to you.

Harnessing The Power Of Social Media While Promoting Games Online

Why? Because your goal is to use the potential of your game marketing endeavor to the maximum. And for this, there is nothing more inspired than harnessing the absolute power social media can have on your campaign. For example, Twitter is an amazing hot spot for young people, the ideal gaming targeted audience. Use it as your primary means of targeting your new poker and other side casino games you have just released. Create top-notch content, along with eye-catching images and your exposure figures will go through the roof. Insert short presentation videos to add even more excitement to your new game or gaming platform and absolute success is just a few more steps away.

If you specialize in various variants of the popular Texas Holdem game or your site is similar to the Ladbrokes Poker approach, you should have no problem promoting it via social media. These fellows have been on the market for many years and their accumulated experience has taught them never to undermine the power of social mediums for promotion purposes. This is why you can currently find them on Facebook and Twitter, keeping their fans entertained and newcomers bombarded with news the second their decide to follow.

Stay Away From Fake Followers

You need the real ones to make your strategy work; take a look at popular poker rooms offline and online and try to follow their lead. See what their visiting card on social media sites looks like and try to imitate their quality content and intriguing media content. Fake followers are prone to drive regular followers away if your content will not rise to their expectations. So focus on it and find your inspiration in all places you can think of. Start with the big actors in the industry; the Ladbrokes brand is one particular alternative you can pay close attention to. They’ve been around since 1886 when they started out as a horse race betting business led by two men and evolved into the gambling and gaming giant they are known as today. Their Poker web site is one of the most lucrative of all of their products, and the recent introduction of the mobile poker app for Android and Apple users is one of the signs they know how to keep up with the evolution of technologies and players’ needs. People using social media usually do it via apps they have installed on their smart devices, and they thus make for the ideal targeted audience for your mobile gaming apps as well. Keep the retweets going and generate Facebook conversation and sharing and keep in mind Twitter brings in a priority in search results that rely on account size.