TwitterChat 101

This week I am hosting a twitter chat on the twittersphere on Thursday, May 20 at 5pm EST, 2pm PST.  I’ve actually been following #mrktchat for the last nine months since Milena Regos @milenaregos (Diamond Peak Resort, NV)  and Eric Hoffman @eric_hoffman (Park City Mountain, UT) got the ball rolling.  It has been very successful in bringing together people with similar Snowsports industry interests from across the US, overseas and Australia in a virtual roundtable atmosphere.  Just read below and then join us!

So what is a “TwitterChat”?
Picture an informal meeting with a facilitator and a topic.  Only difference is that this meeting only involves typing.  No phone calls, no videos, nothing complicated.  Just a good ‘ole use of words.  Like instant messenger or texting for a group.

The way the group finds each other is by the use of a hashtag (the number sign plus a keyword).  There are tens of thousands of groups out there.  You can find them here http://wthashtag.com.  The #mrktchat group I’ll host today focuses topics around travel and tourism marketing.  It is always available and open to anyone.  But, every Thursday people come together to discuss for an hour a specific topic or snowsports industry related issue.  Its a great way to connect and learn.  Its informal, but every week there’s been great topics and different facilitators.

What’s Needed?
Basically, two things.  First you need to join Twitter and have a username.  Second, you will need a computer and/or a cell phone to be able to connect, follow, and post.

There’s a few different ways to track and post to the chat.
1. You can either use a web page such as http://wthashtag.com/Mrktchat or http://tweetchat.com/room/mrktchat
2. Use twitter related software you can download to your computer or iphone.  I use Tweetdeck and set up a column using the search function for #mrktchat.  Actually if you use Tweetdeck, all you have to do is click on a tweet with the hashtag #mrktchat and it will automatically create a column for you.

How It Works
Ok, so what will happen at 5pm EST today?
a) First, I will welcome everyone to the “tweetchat”.  Anyone that’s online and following the #mrktchat will usually introduce themselves to say they are there.  I will then ask some questions and look for responses.
b) Once the topic is introduced, people to start asking questions and making comments using the regular twitter rules (limited to 140 characters).  Normally we try to stick with a topic for 5-10 minutes then I will bring up another question/topic.  This goes on for the hour.  Other people are also welcome to bring up topics or other related items.

So, if it is a topic you want to say something about, do it.  Or, if you want to clarify anything or respond to a particular person, go for it.  Just a few things to remember:
1. Keep the #mrktchat tag in all conversations you want to be seen in that area.
2. If you are responding to a person in particular, then, make sure to include their twitter name (ie @srufo) AND the #mrktchat tag.  That way that person knows something’s been mentioned on twitter and can respond if needed.
3. To respond to a person without the entire group seeing it but you want to let the rest of the twittersphere see then just reply using their twitter handle (ie. @srufo).
4. To respond privately, direct message them.  But, don’t forget, you can only direct message people that follow you on Twitter.
5. Keep in mind your responses are public.  And, there is no “delete” button on the Internet.
6. Want to sell something?  Don’t do it here.  That’s better done somewhere else.
7. Have fun!

Have more questions?  Just let me know.

Americans Trust Small Businesses–But Government Hasn’t Caught On

There’s some interesting new research from the PEW Research Center.  People view small businesses with more trust than even churches, colleges, labor unions and other groups.  The study also showed that Americans say small businesses don’t get enough attention from the federal government. “At a time when a lot of institutions are viewed negatively, small business is viewed very positively. What’s really interesting is that large corporations are viewed almost as negatively as Wall Street. The contrast between large corporations and small business is enormous,” said Pew Associate Director Carroll Dougherty.

Although most of the media seemed to pick up and run with the fact that Americans have lost their faith in government, what was overlooked is the positive that small business IS trusted.  Let’s take a look at some of the study findings:

pew public view of institutionspew govt attn

Of course, as a small business owner myself, I (as well as other small business owners) have very little government influence.  But, don’t count us out!  Although, we may not have the power or funds of big business to change government, we do have power to change our world. Because we create most of the new jobs (65 percent of all new jobs are created by small companies). We have the power to innovate. And we have the power to create good working environments for our employees.

Do you agree, disagree, or have other “powers” to add?

Social Media Networks an Inside Look

A few months ago, a question was asked in one of the social media groups I belong to on LinkedIn:

“How many social media profiles do you actively manage?”

To date there have been over 830 comments from at least 500 people.  It’s a pretty active discussion.  It made me start to think…what a great informal research project.  So, that’s what we did.  We went ahead and tabulated how many social media networks this group uses regularly and what the most important/popular networks that are being used.

Here’s what we found:

Social Media Accounts LinkedIn users Manage Regularly

Social Networks Usage from Study

I found it interesting that most people that contributed to this called LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook “The Big Three”.  From the results you can see that a good portion of the respondents used these three social networks as their primary focus.

One other thing we found from this Discussion Group was the preferred tools.  Here’s a listing of the “best” tools to help make social media more manageable:

Let me know your thoughts.  Do you agree with the results?  How often do you update your online profiles for work or personal thoughts?

Faulty Customer Assumptions

I was reading through some old seminar notes of mine today.  Back in 2005 I did a presentation about the need for marketers to embrace technology and use it to make customer’s lives easier.  Although the graphics in the presentation are old by today’s standards, the message was not.

Here’s a brief recap of six faulty customer assumptions that can trap a business:

  • They know about you
  • They inherently care
  • They will tolerate complexity
  • They will do as you wish/conform to your needs
  • They just want a complete list of what you offer (let them figure out which feature or benefit they need)
  • They are predisposed to your brand = loyal

Is your business customer friendly or are you guilty of some of the assumptions above?

Go Ahead, Bug Your Customers

What is a Viral Campaign?

Have you ever visited a website and found an article, a coupon, a special offer, or something else that impressed you so much that you immediately sent an email to a friend about it?  If you have, you’ve experienced “viral marketing”.

Viral marketing is a term to describe a low cost, highly effective way to “bug your customers” by marketing your products or services using the Internet.  This “word of mouse” method is like a bug or flu virus in humans.  Instead of replicating and propagating itself by human contact, it does so by computer contact (in a good way).  One minute nobody’s heard of it, next minute, it’s everywhere.  Viral marketing is so effective because it lets you capitalize on referrals from an unbiased third party—your consumer!  Let just one of your customers catch your “marketing bug” and they will happily spread it to everyone they know.

As you know, the power of a positive testimonial from a reliable source will add credibility to your organization.  Putting various viral marketing methods in place will give you a tremendous opportunity to help guide and influence people’s buying decisions without the use of costly advertising.

So what then is a viral campaign?

It’s a specific marketing promotion that focuses on something you do, NOT on who you are.  It is also not something malicious or under-handed.  Viral marketing is used by reputable companies trying to promote reputable products.  A viral campaign does not use spam or programs that force people to see or do things they do not want.

Instead, a viral campaign is something that is so cool, so exciting, or so creative that it gets people so excited; they can’t wait to share it with others.  It’s subtle, not forceful.  It’s uncontrollable.  The exposure you get from this MAY raise sales or otherwise help your company name recognition, but that’s actually the by-product.  That’s why it’s so effective if done correctly!

With a good viral campaign, people feel compelled to spread your word.  They can’t help themselves (just like sneezing when you pass a virus around).  The heart of a viral campaign is the content.  People don’t spread what you say or do because they love you, they spread it because they can’t help but adore your content.  Don’t forget!  They are not evangelists serving you, they are self-serving.

So, you better create a “bug” that sticks around.  All successful viral campaigns appeal to any one (or all three) of these basic human motivators: entertainment, greed, or charity.  Develop a theme around one of those and you may be able to create a full blown epidemic of sales.

What Makes Viral Marketing so cool?

People (read consumers) hate ads.  They will do anything to avoid them.  So, if you want to find a way to appeal to your consumers without offending and without spending huge dollars (another viral marketing perk) than going “viral” is something you should consider.

Despite (or perhaps because of) viral marketing still being relatively new, most people are confused about what viral ads are, how they work, what they should cost (loads of confusion there), how to measure results, etc.  It is still evolving.  However, there are three common forms being used:

1. Word of Mouth such as “Tell a Friend,” “Send this coupon to a friend,” or “Recommend this to a friend”.

2. Pass-It-On, where we receive an article, cool tool, funny video and then pass it on through email to a friend, family member, or associate.

3. Product or Service Based, where a free tool is used online and that tool includes an embedded marketing message, like Hotmail.

Word of Mouth

A good word-of-mouth viral marketing strategy enables a visitor to your website or a recipient of your email to share your site or email content with others with just a click of a button or link.

Amazon.com is a great example of a company that is using viral marketing throughout their website.  When you browse the products, you’ll notice invitations to “Tell a Friend” about this product.  Providing this automatic and easy to use feature, results in increased sales for Amazon products.  Yup, it’s that easy.

How can you do this?  Here are 8 tips to effectively use this strategy on your website:
•    Use tools that encourage people to visit your website more often such as coupons, newsletters, e-specials, contests, and fresh content.
•    Do things that are unique and grab attention.  I.e. cool button or graphic.
•    Provide a call to action by telling visitors what you want them to do.
•    Give clear instructions on how to participate; make it simple, intuitive, and easy.
•    Offer an incentive to encourage them to do what you want them to do: “Tell a friend and be included in a drawing for …”
•    Leverage, leverage, leverage!  “Tell five friends and get a free …”
•    Have your privacy policy posted.  Most people won’t consider giving out an email unless they know what you plan to do with it.
•    Make sure whatever technology you use works.  There’s nothing worse than offering something you can’t deliver on.

Pass-It-On Marketing

We all love to share a funny story, cool resource, or great deal.  When we find one, we usually send an email or “forward” it on to friends, family, or people we work with.  This old “they tell two friends and they in turn tell two friends” method is very effective online because of the ease and simplicity of reaching large groups of people.

Pass-It-On marketing can take many forms.  Including:
•    Articles-writing articles that can be distributed as content for newsletters or other websites.  The article should contain links to your website and include information on you, your company, and your website.  See myMarketingGuide.com for samples.
•   Fun videos or clips-nothing seems to spread faster on the web.  Fun to produce, but not a sure thing for results.  Worth noting—you’ll need extra help with this campaign—unlike games, email, and music which have long established pass-along tendencies, video is harder to spread the word about.  You may need to supplement this with paid advertising to make it successful.
•    Free software or templates-doing something your target market will be interested in, and will find handy and helpful.
•    Online Games or Quizzes-spread like wild fire.  Develop your own game or buy the rights to one.  Unlike common myths, the demographic that loves games and quizzes the most are…adult women.  Many marketers report game interaction time of up to 20 minutes per play.  That’s a lot of time for your brand to hover friendly-like in the background as a sponsor.  I.e. Murder mystery game for forensic scientists sponsored by a forensic tools maker.

Just make sure, whatever you choose, do it well.  For this type of viral marketing to be successful, you have to start with great content that the recipients will WANT to share with others.

Product or Service Based Viral Marketing

MSN.com was the true leader of service based viral marketing with its Hotmail service.  Hotmail is a free email service that is provided by MSN.com and is used by millions of people around the world.

How did they use a free email account as a viral technique?  They added a tagline to every email message sent through their system.  If you’ve ever received a Hotmail email message, you’ll notice a line of text at the bottom, “Join the world’s largest email service with MSN Hotmail…”  That message results in hundreds of new accounts each day on the Hotmail website.  This innovative and inexpensive technique creates massive exposure for MSN.com and the other products and services offered on their website.  Now that’s viral marketing at its finest!

Do you have a viral technique you’d like to share?

Comment Policy – play nice and no spam

It started simply enough…nice spam.  A few comments here, a few positive reviews there, then all of a sudden–lots of useless and seemingly spam links to sites I would never want to promote on my blog.  So, as of this first Monday in the New Year, I am announcing my personal war against comment spam.

Here’s just a few ways to get your comments removed from my blog:

  • Your name is a bunch of keywords that do not tell me who you are but what  you are pushing.
  • Comments that simply say “nice site” are not going to last long and may get your IP address banned.
  • Links in the body of the comment.
  • Signing off with a link.

How to post comments:

  • write something acceptable-whether you agree with me or not.
  • I have a comment form please use it to ask me questions unrelated to my post.
  • Please stay on topic.
  • Submitting lots of good comments over a period of time (not all at once) is a good way to get my attention and have me want to link to you.

Once again, thanks for reading and your support (for those that are actually reading and not spam bots).

10 Most Popular Tweets of 2009

2009 has been an interesting year for marketing.  Social media seems to have quickly created a place for itself, even while marketers are still trying to figure it out.  That’s why I thought it would be interesting to track just what topics received the most attention from my Twitter postings at http://www.twitter.com/srufo . Personally, I still love the “Martini Marketing” article.

Top 10 news stories clicked by Twitter readers in the past year.

1. Social media emerging as key to ski-industry marketing according to Mountain Travel Symposium. http://ow.ly/25Vs
2. MUST READ. MySpace becomes social-media “ghetto” http://ow.ly/uSJ5
3. Social media challenges social rules. Old social rules don’t seem to work online http://ow.ly/BTle
4. Can your loyalty be bought? Microsoft wants to pay publishers to leave Google. http://ow.ly/FeeX
5. Vail Resorts’ Top Exec Acknowledges Huge Decline in Ski Season. Retail & Ski School hardest hit. http://ow.ly/21mh
6. Martini Marketing. Brilliant! Why didn’t I think of this? http://ow.ly/4i0b
7. What do spa guests want in these uncertain economic times? Over 1,300 active spa-goers responded to this poll. http://ow.ly/FdHr
8. Good reminder. How to Not Go Out of Business – from BusinessWeek http://ow.ly/EjL1
9. VIDEO: Tapping marketing potential of your site’s press page http://ow.ly/4Deu
10. Did social networks kill Second Life? Anyone still using SL? http://ow.ly/HtQE

Text Message Campaign Ideas

Although text messaging campaigns for businesses may seem like the hottest new thing, I’ve been creating campaigns for almost 4 years now (wow time flies).  In that time, I’ve been lucky to be a part of some very successful promotions.  From giveaways to contests to interactive surveys. So, I thought in this post I would share some of my favorite (and more successful) promotion ideas:

Alerts, Offers, Contests and Coupons

Sending  a special offer text message is a great way to fill unsold or slow time slots. Then, keep customers coming back using follow up texts, plus increase sales in off-times. Send text alerts with special promotions or digital coupons to customers who have opted-in to receive them.  The software  can even pick a selected number of winners for a contest or sweepstakes.

Sports/Events Trivia Sweepstakes

Ask text message trivia questions for recipients to win prizes.  Just promote your keyword in your other advertising or even at live events.

Text for Lodging Deals

Offer customers upon arrival three days of special text offers.  Use this special feature to help cross sell different profit centers at your resort or other business for food service, spas, rentals, and more.

Text In Food & Beverage Orders

Make it fast and easy for customer’s to eat and drink.  Promote your keyword for people to text food and beverage orders from their seat or table, for delivery or pick-up.

Ok, so you might be ready to move past the basics.  If so, these advanced options might be something for you to consider.

Mobile Video

Develop mobile video teasers, trailers, viral video and more. Don’t forget to deliver video sized for users’ phones.

Mobile Images & Wallpaper

Offer your customers the added value of free wallpaper with your branded content and logo. Keep your imagery appropriate for your target audience.

Mobile Ringtones

Likewise, offer your customers added value of free ringtones, audio quotes from company spokesperson, radio DJs and more.

What about you?  Do you have mobile, text message, or SMS campaigns that worked for you that you would like to share?  Please do.  Or, if something here caught your eye and you would like to learn more, just let me know.

President of nxtConcepts, Ltd

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