Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jewerly Spakles this Holiday Season

The economic recession devastated the American luxury market, that’s no surprise. What is a surprise is the increased demand this season for perhaps the most quintessential luxury item: jewelry.

Some encouraging stats:

-The percentage of people who bought jewelry during “Black Friday Weekend”, Nov. 26-28, increased from 11.7 percent to 14.3 percent. That is close to a three percent increase.

-In a recent study from the National Retail Federation, the percentage of people saying they will be giving jewelry as gifts has increased from 18.4 percent to 20.3 percent.

-According to “Cotton Lifestyle Monitor” jewelry is ranked at number five as planned holiday gifts in 2010. Jewelry didn’t rank at all in 2009.

The jewelry industry may not draw out the 2 a.m. crowd on Black Friday, but the increase in jewelry sales this past weekend was felt immediately by both retailers and designers. It also helped spark optimism for the economy and retail sales in general.

“While Black Friday weekend is not always an indicator of holiday season performance, retailers should be encouraged that a focus on value and discretionary gifts has shoppers in the spirit to spend,” said Matthew Shay, National Retail Federation, president and CEO.

Looking at the bigger picture, the fact that people are looking at jewelry a lot more this holiday season could mean that American’s are ready to start spending on luxury items in general again. It might be possible that this is the first sign of the recession being a part of the past.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stich up the wounds left by surgical shoppers

It’s no surprise that the economy has changed how people spend their money. Everyone has been pinching pennies and in turn became smarter shoppers. People have been working overtime and getting second jobs. Who has time to browse shops? Who is going to fall for the impulse buy when money was strategically placed elsewhere? The Great Recession may officially be over, but the changes that people made to their spending habits may in fact be here to stay.

The new type of shopping is referred to as “surgical shopping” because the time spent shopping in stores and online has dropped drastically. No one is taking the time to wander stores and browse through websites to stockpile on clothing, necessities, etc. Instead, people know what they want and aren’t sticking around after buying it. Shoppers today visit an average of three stores during a trip to the mall, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago research firm that tracks sales and customer counts at more than 70,000 stores. That compares with an average of five stores in 2006. There is even evidence accounting for stores being messier due to people dumping most items right before the check out.

How are companies and brands adjusting to surgical shopping? Often, through the strategic use of social sites like Groupon.com. The site has attracted more than 25 million subscribers to “group” together to get the lowest price on an item. Subscribers are pitched local discount offers on restaurants, retailers, etc and if enough people take advantage of it, it takes effect. The Gap's recent Groupon offer of $25 off a $50 purchase was a blockbuster Gap’ sold 441,000 offers as part of a one-day only promotion in August, for a total of $11 million.

With this new type of shopper mentality, what’s the best way to get them in AND to leave with your product? To help capture their attention, this might be the time to step up your “social media” strategy beyond the typical Facebook and Twitter. Along with Groupon, foursquare is another great tool to utilize. Promotions through foursquare are coming up everywhere (more on foursquare). I myself came across a promotion while shopping in NYC. Walking into an H&M, there was sign on the door that said “Check-In here and receive a special discount!” With incentives like that, who wouldn’t check in? Companies like Wholefoods, Saks 5th Avenue and Starbucks have all partnered with foursquare as well.

The continued practice of surgical shopping is creating a new reality for brands. And websites like Groupon.com and foursquare are helping them embrace consumers’ new way of shopping.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

You are only as strong as your weakest tweet

Tweet, Re-Tweet. Are we friends on Facebook? These are terms that have become a part of our everyday life. With all the social media websites available now, which one works best for you personally? Or for your business? Truth be told, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can all be beneficial…if you understand how to use them correctly.

Recently, an editor at a B2B magazine wrote: “We still think Twitter is the dumbest thing ever.” Previous to this statement, Facebook and LinkedIn were praised for how successful they are as social media outlets. We were concerned to read such an unfortunate and misleading criticism of a tool that generates millions of dollars for companies who understand how to use it to its full potential. For businesses, Twitter can lead a new found success. Those 140-character statements can make a world of difference.

Here are just two success stories from using Twitter:

  • Computer-maker Dell, an early Twitter adopter, offers its “followers” easily tracked Twitter-only discounts. These have generated US$3 million in sales, $1 million in the past six months.
  • Blair Hirtle, sales coordinator for Fairmont Hotels, noted that the Fairmont Empress offered a special discounted room rate on Twitter. The result was “increased occupancy. Much more successful than any traditional ad buy and it cost minimal time and labor.” Now seven Fairmont hotels have Twitter accounts.

The secret to their successes? Using Twitter efficiently. Here are some tips to get yourself started in the right direction.

  • Twitter gives companies the opportunity to personalize themselves with society. Consumers today tend to connect with people rather than organizations. Putting a face on a company can make it more real and personable. On Facebook, company profiles are made and then spread by “liking” the page. This doesn’t give quite the same personal touch and interaction that tweeting can.
  • Listen. Twitter is not just about posting Tweets and walking away. What are people discussing? Who is mentioning your brand or category? Understand the conversation and participate in it.
  • Follow people! The more people follow you, the more they know what you’re about. This works on the basic product selling and marketing point. Twitter has turned into a place where companies research about potential employees and consumers research about potential purchases. So, your tweets are giving the world an opportunity to learn more about you, your products, your knowledge and your specialty.
  • As I mentioned before, sell your product, but your expertise. It is probably the most basic concept of the social media websites. Give useful information about what you do, your business specialty, and what you’re selling for all your followers to see.

As the most misunderstood of the social networking tools, Twitter is often the most criticized and ridiculed. But it is, conversely, also one of the most effective. The popularity of using Twitter correctly has spun off another website, twittergrader.com. Anyone with a Twitter account can check the grade of their account, be it 0-100. If your grade isn’t as high as you thought it would be, the site gives you tips on the bottom of the page on how to improve your Twitter grade. With the introduction of twittergrader.com it is even easier to turn your Twitter account into one of the “Twitter Elite” joining the ranks of The New York Times, Fox News and BBC World. Like they say, you are only as strong as your weakest tweet.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Look at How Social Media Reinvented NY Fashion Week

New York fashion week not only rallied fashion lovers to New York for a worthwhile showcase of some of the best collections by well-known designers, but Fashion Week left a footprint in the digital age: using social media to help promote and expose the week-long events and happenings.

It seemed that no stone was left unturned on the path of social media to New York. Even if you could not make it to the tents in Bryant Park, just about anyone with an internet connection could make it to the tents virtually, thanks to, either Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, YouTube and individual designer’s websites.

Between Thursday, September 9th and Thursday, the 16th more than 165,000 tweets were written about Fashion Week, making #nyfw a trending topic on September 10th, also the day when more then 34,000 tweets were sent out from individual users. Designers even saw an increase in followers. Diane Von Furstenberg, who received upbeat and prize worthy reviews in print and online media, had an increase of 3,000 followers on Twitter. Foursquare offered promotions and Facebook allowed users to comment on looks cascading down the runways and Youtube offered videos of shows.

Fashion’s Night Out, an event that was originally designed to boost New York’s economy last year, debuted again on September 8th in full force with social media. Livestream brought to life three different events including musical performances at Nine West and Ralph Lauren and a play-by-play of Juicy Couture’s designer Erin Fetherson styling tips to shoppers, all which could be viewed from laptops and desktops around the world. Some designers opted to integrate multimedia into their events. Diane Von Furstenberg, for instance, transformed her Washington Street location into DVF and HP interactive experience all designed by Refinery29 blog, offering the fashion community a chance to look at fashion favorites picked by Refinery29, which could be posted to Facebook by anyone in the store. Furthermore for the event, all fashionistas with an Iphone were able to download the LUSTR app, the official app for FNO. The application allowed users to navigate the event with an event directory with options of posting your locations thru your own personal Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare account.

The world of blogging also hit the Bryant Park tents hard this year. Not only were the seats filled with editors from the leading magazines, but bloggers even made their way to the front row. The evolution of blogging in the fashion sphere, really allows readers and fashion lovers alike to receive information about upcoming trends, the achievements and the downfalls of the week, which ultimately means that blogging is here to stay.

It seems like Fashion Week’s biggest trend was not on the runways this season but underneath everyone’s fingertips in the many sources of social media. Fashion Week’s integration of social media really opened up the doors for information exchange in this fast paced digital age. The versatility of social media left it marks on social media and it will be interesting to see the evolution of social media in the fashion and luxury market, from this point forward.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Learning to Master Crisis Communications

How important is effective public relations? Just ask (now former) BP CEO Tony Hayward.

Over the past couple of months we have seen a slew of events that have underscored the power of public relations. In light of these, crisis communication should now be on any business owner’s radar.

You have famed college basketball coach Rick Pitino, and his alleged ‘tryst’; Target versus the LGBT community; and finally, the event on everyone’s mind: the BP oil spill in the Gulf. In the latter case, Tony Hayward, the now former CEO has stepped down and will be replaced by Bob Dudley (who, might we say, has quite the task on his hands). A series of PR gaffes played a major role in Hayward’s downfall.

What every brand name and business owner needs to think about when following these events: what happened to BP can happen to you. Obviously, we are not talking oil spill/natural disaster stuff; we are talking about an event that challenges a company’s reputation and leadership.

So, what can we all learn from these public relations nightmares? In sum: you must have a crisis communications strategy so you can react quickly and efficiently. You’ll also want a knowledgeable PR pro on your side to represent and help guide you through these waters. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Remain readily accessible to the media. Be ready to answer questions, have a designated person to speak on behalf of the issue.
  • Streamline communication. Make sure all documents are clear, concise, pertinent.
  • Maintain information security. Be sure that company documents aren’t accessible to the public but, at the same time: that you are not hiding anything.
  • Support multi-channel communications. Send out press releases and take advantage of broadcast opportunities. Get savvy with a variety of communication tools like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Blogs.
  • Utilize Social Media. In this day and age, these tools can be your friend but also your worst enemy. Word to the Wise: never delete a nasty, harsh comment, it could do more harm then good. Instead, use the negative comment as an opportunity to explain your position; it allows you to engage the commenter to resolve their concerns.
  • Show empathy for the people involved Reach out to the public by making appearances. Find time to answer their questions.

Crisis communication is an important tool for all companies to have in their ‘toolbox for success.’ Crisis communication strategies have helped companies such as: Johnson & Johnson back in 1982 when they had the cyanide scare, Exxon Valdez in 1989 when an oil spill happened in Alaska, Intel’s Math Flaw in 1994 and Jetblue in 2007 when they left passengers stranded on a airport runway in an ice storm. While each faced a tidal wave of public backlash, their response helped keep their brands from drowning in the fury. A strong crisis communication strategy will do the same for you should the worst happen.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blogging Your Way To Success

Any ‘great’ company has one and any company that wants to be ‘successful’ has one. What is it, you ask? A blog (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog.) But why do we blog? What is the point of one? We’re often asked: if my brand is already well known, what can a blog additionally do for my company? Our answer: A LOT. A blog is not an advertising vehicle for your company; it is a tool of communication that shows readers ‘something extra’ about your services, personalizes your brand, and offers insight into your area of expertise.

For example, we here at Miamore love our blog and, while we do some really amazing work, we are not simply going to put up blog entries outlining our achievements, or how innovative our work is. Why? Because those sort of posts don’t generate interest or build relationships—the main goals of a blog or any social media. In sum: it won’t get us (or any company) anywhere.

Instead of being promotional, it is best to provide readers with information that is not only enjoyable, informative, and personal; but also something that establishes confidence in the brand. For example, Southwest Airlines built up a blog when sales were down and they wanted to hear from consumers about what they could improve upon. So, their blog began with the CEO of the company discussing trends in the industry and allowed followers to comment. Did anyone read that blog and immediately log on to buy an airline ticket from Southwest? Probably not. But, has the brand become a household name? Definitely. Thanks in part to the open communication and dialogue by Southwest on that successful blog, the company grew into something bigger and better.

Have a hard time relating to a brand as large as Southwest? Well, for small business owners, we offer up ourselves as an example. Last week, Miamore’s president, Carrie Soucy, attended a trade show in New York. In two days she heard from at least a half dozen people (the majority of whom she did not know) how much they enjoyed our blog. Many others simply recognized our brand—no doubt in thanks to our active blogging. For a company like ours, only a year old and based in a different city, to receive—without having ever spent a penny on traditional advertising or marketing—responses like: “Oh! Miamore Communications!”… well, that’s quite a statement.

So where do we go from here to make sure that all company blogs steer clear of becoming too promotional? Here are some tips:

1. 1 Designate one person to oversee the blog. (Preferably not a junior staff member; however, if they have a great writing skills and an eye for news, then by no means limit them)

2. Promote your blog by featuring it in newsletters, having a link to it via Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Linkedin or website.

3. Talk about stuff other then your services. Like trends in the industry, developments and newsworthy stuff.

4. Be fun and have a conversational tone.

5. Encourage comments and be sure to respond to any you receive.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Foursquare:The Newest & Hottest Kid on the Social Networking Block

You already know the benefits of the now-mainstream social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube--all phenomenal tools to engage clients and build a brand. But, if you're like many local businesses, you see the boost in engagement from those sites, but wonder: how do I translate it into actual foot traffic? Enter the newest (and hottest) kid on the social networking block: Foursquare. Why is this new tool growing so quickly? Mostly because it doesn't only drive traffic to your website, but actually drives customers to your doorstep.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking site that allows people to connect with friends and update their location via text message or by Smartphone. Teaming up with Twitter and Facebook (and now quite possibly Google, Microsoft and Yahoo- Creator Dennis Crowley is in talks with these search engine giants), this allows friends of foursquare users to be notified of their friend’s newest location (and in hopes that more friends will come and join). Foursquare not only promotes human interaction but also exploration of their surroundings. After checking in a certain number of times at a location, users earn badges and points for their location frequency or by discovering something new in their city. Users can find locations in the directory or from friends who are also on foursquare.

What separates Foursquare from Facebook, Twitter or Wikitravel, is that users are participating in a marketing game, by earning points and badges for their travels. This is where Foursquare gets interesting… Foursquare not only encourages people to wander through their neighborhoods, but with the help from local businesses they reward people for stopping in at their location. Business owners can use Foursquare to engage their clientele by offering specials, discounts and prizes for those who continue to update their location on Foursquare while at their venue. People who check-in to a particular location quite a bit are dubbed ‘mayors’ and are eligible to receive a discount, prize or special offer. Cool, right? An example: Cuban Revolution, a hip avant grade restaurant with two locations in Providence, R.I., gives a free sandwich and soda to all ‘mayors of Cuban Revolution’. The owners of business owners are not only being current and participating in a trend of pop culture, but they are also using Foursquare to track how their venue is performing over time due to venue analytics that are provided to business owners.
The best part: users who are checking into your location are doing some of the marketing and promotion for you to individuals who may never have even thought of visiting your store or restaurant. Talk about social networking.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Importance of Creative Thinking

In an increasingly competitive economy, it is vital for businesses to think creatively to grow and expand the reach of their brands. This is especially important in marketing efforts. Press releases, social media connections, standard promotions and advertisements are vital; but not enough. What to do? First: start thinking outside of the box.

Case in point, take the perfume company Fresh, who just released a set of fragrances and candles based on the best-selling novel Eat, Pray, Love, now a motion picture starring Julia Roberts which is set to be released next month. Fresh took the three sections of the book and made three scents inspired by three travel destinations in the book. The fragrances are set to release July 15th.

Another interesting method of expanding a brand? Twilight Makeup. Yes, a makeup brand inspired entirely on the blockbuster film series. The premise behind the company’s two Twilight makeup lines: vampires and true love. Luna Twilight is designed to artistically capture the love between Edward and Bella. The mission behind this line is for ‘ everyone from the Twilight enthusiast to women looking to highlight their inner radiance.’ Their Volutri line, is a much more dramatic, darker line highlighting the vampire elements of the movies. The makeup has been featured in eight different magazines, such as Allure, Elle and Lucky between 2009 and 2010.

Both of these companies are perfect examples of expanding a brand beyond their targeted consumers—in both cases by harnessing the power of pup culture. Fresh, whose target consumer is women, really hit the jackpot by using this book as an inspiration for their new line because as a New York Times best-selling novel, the fan-base is enormous--and expanding, with the movie due in a few weeks. Twilight beauty is not just targeting the Twihearts, but also, consumers looking to buy makeup for all ages as seen with its placement in eight nationally read magazines.

The point: remember that inspiration can come from anything and, with creative marketing and good pitch, anything is possible.

Friday, June 25, 2010

CASE STUDY: StyleWeek Providence, launching an upscale fashion week in a depressed economy

The Client:
StyleWeek Providence, a start-up non-profit with the goal of launching New England's first Fashion Week to showcase upscale fashion designers to an audience of regional and national buyers and media.

The Goal:
To support the establishment of StyleWeek Providence as an annual event by creating brand awareness, buzz and strong public sentiment via editorial placements and media attendance at the inaugural event.

The Challenge:
To launch a high-end fashion week amid the worst economic conditions in decades; specifically in a state (Rhode Island) that has been among the nation's top 5 in unemployment stats for more than a year. Also, to create excitement about and put the national spotlight on fashion in a region (New England) that has long carried the reputation of being one of the country's most traditional, conservative and staid.

Our Work:
Miamore Communications came on to launch StyleWeek Providence's public relations and social media outreach in late 2009. Understanding the market and anticipating media resistance, we began our work by implementing a viral social media campaign, supplemented by a launch event for press in February. From January 2010 until April 2010, StyleWeek Providence's Facebook following grew by 500%. While we continued our traditional press outreach during this time, as expected, media placements were slow in coming and consisted of blog placements (18,000 impressions) and one local television outlet (approximately 150,000 impressions).

In May, 2010, we began an aggressive media outreach to earn both pre-event placements and media attendance at shows. We created a message that played upon the history of design in Providence, R.I.; and formulated the key message that fashion = business for a city with such a depressed economy. This message helped StyleWeek Providence earn the recognition of city and state officials, and we were able to organize a state-wide press conference in conjunction with Providence's mayor, David Cicilline.

The results:
From May 1, 2010 until June 15, 2010; StyleWeek Providence had more than 26 million impressions in print, broadcast and online media. This included two front-page articles in the state's largest newspaper, the Providence Journal, and a special daily column on their website, projo.com; a placement in Amtrak's onboard magazine, Arrive; mentions on usatoday.com and msnbc.com; daily coverage throughout StyleWeek Providence on the state's morning news show, the Rhode Show; articles in Rhode Island's premiere lifestyle magazines, Rhode Island Monthly, Providence Monthly and the Newport Mercury; a cover placement on New England's regional lifestyle magazine, Soco Magazine; and coverage by the top fashion bloggers in New York, Boston, Connecticut and Rhode Island. A breakdown of those numbers:
  • 10.5 million broadcast/video impressions
  • 12.1 million online (non-blog) impressions
  • 100,000 impressions from blog coverage
  • 2.4 million print (newspaper and magazine) impressions
The outcome:
Media coverage has helped secure both overwhelming public support and key financial sponsors. In 2011, StyleWeek Providence will be a twice-annual event.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How well do you know your own brand?

If you think the answer is a no-brainer, I challenge you to think again. I’ll go so far as to bet the real answer is: not even close to well enough.

I see it time and again… and, as a business owner, I can personally relate. When you are living the day-to-day, it is nearly impossible to have a clear view of what outsiders (a.k.a. potential customers) think of your company or your brand. The bad news: you are likely too close to possibly have an unbiased view. The good news: oft-times, the public’s view of your brand is far better than what you imagine.

I am thinking about this concept in large part because Miamore Communications just wrapped up StyleWeek Providence. For those in Rhode Island or New England, you already know what this event was: the biggest fashion week the region has ever seen. For those outside of the Northeast: StyleWeek Providence was a year-long labor of love. The StyleWeek concept was founded by Miamore’s Senior Vice President Rosanna Ortiz Sinel last spring. Sinel and I met sometime around July, 2009; she told me the basic idea; I fell in love, and off we went… on a dream and a prayer and, most importantly, faith.

The result was a 7-day event that occurred last week, with 14 fashion runway shows for buyers and the press, and nightly after parties for the public. Each show was packed to capacity. The media came out in droves… 2 front page stories in the Providence Journal in one week, daily coverage on the Rhode Show (Rhode Island’s version of “Good Morning America”), an evening news hit on the state’s largest network affiliate, coverage in the region’s premiere business newspaper, and endless blog entries from Rhode Island, Boston, New York, Connecticut, and beyond.

Am I fluffing our own feathers? Perhaps a bit, but that’s not the reason for this post. The point: every time, in the past year, I mentioned the idea to my New York friends, they unanimously responded with something to the effect of: “Perfect! Providence is such a fantastic little city. So much culture! Such a design legacy! Great food! Fabulous places to see!” Those thoughts are precisely why Rosanna (most recently a Bostonian) and me (a long-time New Yorker) knew Providence was the perfect spot for a fashion week. Locally, however, when initially approaching local “bigwigs” and the regional press, we found, well, alternately crickets and “in our state? No. Way” as a response.

In the past week, however, we’ve seen not only the media but—most gratifying—local skeptics reeling. One Rhode Island resident posted on StyleWeek’s Facebook page about how proud she was now to live and work in Providence. Good stuff! Would this fashion/design aficionado have said that a year ago? I doubt it. Why? Because she was too close to it and didn’t understand the power of her own “brand” (in this scenario: her city), so she didn’t quite believe her town (or: brand) was what she’d hoped it could be.

And, so, I return to my original point… do you know your own brand? Do you know what "outsiders" think of it? Or are you so caught up in the mundane that you lose perspective? I’d wager most small businesses trend toward the latter answer (I know I do). So, I offer the StyleWeek Providence example as evidence of the importance of stepping back, looking at yourself with fresh eyes, and listening to the perspective of “outsiders”. Had Rosanna and the team, as Providence “outsiders” a year ago, not understood the potential of this great little city, we’d likely have given in to skeptics, abandoned the dream, and StyleWeek would never have happened.

So… what are the “outsiders” in your realm thinking about your brand? Please: stop and think about it. Ask around. Because, more often than not, it takes on “outsider’s” voice to make you hear what you always knew about your brand, but didn’t really believe.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Are We There Yet: How To Recognize When Social Media Marketing Is Working For You

Clearly the staggering numbers of users logging into Facebook, Twitter and various other social networking sites (around 250 million daily and over 405 million registered and active) creates a virtually untapped marketing gold mine for small businesses. Unfortunately, because this new method of communication is still so young, there are still a lot of unknowns… the largest one for small businesses being: how to accurately measure what social media marketing is doing to improve your business.

The most efficient way to begin to measure social media ROI is to begin measuring engagement and retention. Engagement is the first—and probably most exciting—indicator of your social media success. Seeing people comment, request and “retweet” your material (or just take an interest in what’s going on with your page) not only shows you what’s working, it’s also indicative of what content to add or change. For example, a large reason for this particular blog entry (besides the fact that it’s a popular topic in public relations) is a Miamore Communications’ reader’s question on the subject in our last post. What I’m doing is both gauging what matters to Miamore’s audience, and showing that reader that her interest is important enough to us that we’re striving to provide relevant feedback. This sort of engagement and communication is the very POINT of social media, so to achieve the ROI you seek—don’t miss these opportunities where available. Which leads to my next topic… customer/subscriber retention.

See, once you have content that brings people in, your next—and more important task—is keeping them interested in what you have to say. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you start to see a positive trend in the number of CONSISTENT followers/commentators. Unlike traditional marketing, advertising and PR, social media is fundamentally built on conversation. And conversation is built on two emotions: varying levels of satisfaction, and various levels of dissatisfaction. This is the most basic way to plan and measure social media marketing strategy. (Note, while we’d all like to be discussed favorably, be aware of the opportunity that lies even in negative social media publicity—i.e. a bad product review. This affords you a chance to disprove any negative comment and, most importantly, show in the public arena your commitment to service and your customers’ needs/concerns).

In sum, social media success is not about numbers, but about communicating and engaging. Seeking hard numbers, or direct sales, to measure social media ROI will only leave you behind. Because the success of social media marketing isn’t all that much unlike measuring ROI for public relations, advertising or other marketing initiatives. In essence, it is measured by the recognition that comes back to you. Will that lead to sales? Of course. Can you gauge social media by dollar measurements? Not at all.

Think, for example, of the millions spent in television advertising; an equally difficult medium to measure ROI. The big indicators of “success” are not only spikes in sales immediately after the launch of an ad but, equally important, resulting water cooler conversation that keeps a brand front of mind (“Did you see the Budweiser commercial last night?!”) The same standards should be applied to your social media outlets—keeping in mind that the rule of thumb for social or any marketing strategy is patience. Plan to invest at least 6 months to give it time to breathe and grow.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A New Perspective

For almost a year now, readers have frequented this blog to learn about PR and social media best practices from Miamore Communications and its founder Carrie Soucy. Being a new team member at Miamore, I read through the blog posts and found myself hard pressed to discover a topic that wasn't already covered, or a new perspective to add to an already dynamic conversation. Honestly, in my frustration, I became distracted and wandered off to those very tools we’ve discuss here: Facebook and Twitter. That's when it hit me: I may be relatively new to PR and Miamore, but I’m a consumer who KNOWS Facebook and Twitter. Carrie regularly bridges the gap between you (the business owner) and me (the consumer/"social media shark"). So what better way to start my new relationship with Miamore Communications and you readers than by laying out my fundamental insight and perspective.

Me, I represent the 20-somethings out there; The Gen Y group. What may surprise you: my priorities are less phones, mp3's, and liquor; than apparel, accessories, vacations and items that have more than a simple monetary value. The basis of my Facebook/Twitter/social media usage? To be more "in touch" with those I may or may not see frequently, and to solidify relationships… be they with actual friends, or with brands I patronize.

Everyone has a website these days. And any business at all savvy has a Facebook. Many businesses have that presence to reach me (or, rather, those in my demographic). Yet, despite their presence, they continue to struggle to figure out how to connect with me and my peers. So, what is the magic formula? Not really magic… First, we need to feel some sense of exclusivity; otherwise its not worth the clutter on my page. With the same fervor I check my phone for tagged photos of my weekend with friends, I should be running to your page for advance material (i.e. pics of new merchandise, release/event dates, contests /promotions etc.) that hasn't yet hit your website. Or better still, exclusive promotions to those who “fan” your page… those loyal customers such as myself.

I can't tell you how many tickets I've won, or chance meetings I've had with some of my favorite celebrities all afforded me by simply following a Facebook or Twitter feed. And, in each instance, it has made me a more die-hard fan.

The point: this may be a digital age, but people never lose that primal need for a sense of belonging. So, to businesses out there: if I can offer one fundamental insight into reaching Gen Y… it is this: capitalize on that need and make me (or “us”) feel a part of the team. YOUR team. The more genuine you make this feel, the more I'll fall in love with your brand. In sum: think of social media as the key to my heart… and the hearts of everyone in my generation… a generation that holds the future of your brand in its hands.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Social Media isn't just for kids... but so what if it was?

I had the honor and privilege of speaking to a group of dynamic, enthusiastic retailers on Saturday morning at the RJO conference program in Savannah, Ga. I came to Savannah armed with all my tips on implementing a social media marketing strategy for business, along with a whole chunk of demographic data to disprove any of the common "but Facebook is for kids" questions and objectives. I was thrilled that attendees spoke with me afterwards, telling me they were inspired to amp up their social networking efforts.

I, meanwhile, left Georgia enlightened by the comment of one retailer who shared her own experience...

This retail jeweler said she had initially joined Facebook out of curiosity, wondering why her college-aged children were so enthusiastic about it. (And, okay, as parents everywhere can relate: maybe to keep an eye on them!) Flash forward a few years and those college kids are now professionals. So, where does that leave her? In short: with a slew of fans in their 20s... all beginning their careers, getting married, and experiencing all those life changes that call for jewelry. And, guess who they feel connected with and loyal to? You got it... this retailer who has been in their (Facebook) world all along.

I loved this simple example, albeit coincidental, of thinking outside the box and investing in long-term growth. Small businesses are often so consumed by the present and making this year's numbers, that we don't think long-term in our marketing strategies. But, as this example proves, when you look at any new marketing idea (and especially in the realm of social media, where who knows what is right around the corner), remember it pays off to consider tomorrow... not just today.

Friday, January 8, 2010

PR and ROI: what is the dollar value of a reputation?

Being a small business owner, I clearly understand the value and necessity of "ROI" measurement. When we invest in something, we want to understand the returns on what we spend. While that is a simple concept to explain and understand, as a public relations agency, ROI measurement is a source of unending frustration and argument. I've conducted extensive research on PR ROI, discussed it with various colleagues, and (sometimes amusingly) scrolled through pages and pages of arguments among PR pros on online public relations discussion boards... forever in search of a clear way to scientifically measure something that is, at essence, an art. The ever-elusive prey: a firm measurement of ROI for a public relations (or social media) campaign.

Unlike advertising (with its simple "I pay x and I see x" ROI measurement), public relations--especially in the social media age--is entirely not scientific. We craft a message; we communicate a message to influence-makers; and we push that message out via social networking. In essence, we put a brand message in the public's mind. We lay the groundwork and ripen the fruit for plucking when it's time for the sale. But, with much of public relations being a subconscious impact... while incredibly powerful, it is equally incredibly difficult to ascertain. And nearly impossible to attach a dollar value to. We try, by measuring returns versus goals or, at a most basic level, monetarily converting the space allocated to an editorial placement into the cost for that ad space in a particular media. Both, however, fall short.

As humans in the 21st Century, we receive so many messages via so many mediums, how does one break down the value of each? For instance... I drive a Saab. I've never owned or driven a Mercedes. I've never (to my recollection) even been a passenger in one. Thus, Mercedes as a vehicle is entirely out of my personal experience. Yet, if a friend shopping for a luxury vehicle asked me to recommend a brand, Mercedes would be one of the first I would mention. Why? Their advertisements? Their editorial mentions? Their sponsorships like New York Fashion Week? How can I possibly measure?! And, if my recommendation resulted in the sale of a Mercedes, how would Mercedes' PR or ad agency monetarily measure that PR ROI?

Obviously, Miamore Communications works on a much smaller scale than Mercedes. And, yet, is the brand recognition we create for our clients, within their target markets, any less valuable to the clients themselves? Absolutely not. Is it just as difficult to measure? Absolutely!

Interestingly, as I pondered and researched public relations/social media ROI this week, I had two clients enjoy the power of Miamore's efforts. First, Lori Carr, CEO of long-time Miamore client Tomgirl Tours, was at an event and heard a stranger say "I LOVE Tomgirl Tours!" Second, a Miamore intern overheard a random conversation about how exciting it was that Providence was holding a fashion week this spring. Neither Tomgirl Tours nor StyleWeek Providence has invested a penny in advertising. In both cases, those enthusiastic word-of-mouth recommendations seemingly resulted entirely from effective PR messaging. So, my question: what is the dollar value on that??

While businesses ask for detailed measurement of ROI, and Miamore Communications (along with every other PR agency out there) scrambles to find some way to report success monetarily... I look at these two examples, scratch my head and wonder: how can one possibly determine a dollar value--or a scientific formula to calculate the monetary value--for a strong reputation and positive word of mouth?