Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Canned Blog Content = Disaster

I recently heard about a couple "blog services" that attempt to translate the concept of syndicated (i.e., canned) print products into the social media realm. Because the same exact content is used by multiple businesses, the cost is low. An easy, inexpensive way for a busy small business owner to have a “social” presence, say those who offer the services. Great idea, right?
Wrong. Very, very, very wrong.
I don’t care how cheap the service is; posting the same blog content as dozens of other businesses is an enormously costly mistake. It is a mistake that will not only harm your brand's public perception, but one that is in violation of Google’s duplicate content policy and will kill your Google ranking. Add to that: when this “cheap” fix inevitably fails, it could deter you from trusting blogging and social media as a marketing tool… which would ultimately have a devastating effect on your business growth and revenue.
Unlike syndicated print, blogs are not produced only for a local market. While the reader of a local syndicated print product is unlikely to see the same print content from a competitor 1,000 miles away, a blog reader can (and probably will) search a subject, finding results in real time from around the globe. A blog is also, fundamentally, social. And social means—first and foremost—authentic and engaging.  A blog is personal for your business—a place to share your unique expertise, your unique product or services, and your unique point of view in a way that engages potential customers. If your company blog, instead, has canned content and the same posts as dozens of other businesses, it defies the very purpose of a blog and, worse, defines you to your potential clients as inauthentic… the kiss of death in a social world (online or otherwise).
Since I started consulting on social media three years ago, I’ve found that the most effective way to explain the ins and outs of this “new” digital form of communication is to show how it is so very similar to the age-old form of communication: in-person networking. So, first, imagine the blogosphere as a giant cocktail party where your key potential clients are mingling. Now, here's the equivalent of what happens when you have "canned" blog content:
  1. You (a.k.a your blog) introduce yourself to someone you’ve wanted to meet. As with all networking, you have only a very short window of time to connect with her, show your personality and let her know how and why your products or services are perfect for her. 
  2. You have a great dialogue (blog post) and walk away quite pleased. 
  3. She, in turn, walks away (surfs online) and meets another professional (aka another blog) in your same field. 
  4. That other professional introduces himself to your potential client… then proceeds to have exactly the same conversation (syndicated blog post) you just did. Verbatim. The exact same words, the exact same mannerisms, the exact same smiles and nods; all at exactly the same points in the conversation. “Creepy,” is her likely response, right? 
  5. Then, when she moves on and it happens three more times (syndicated blog posts), she’s likely to go running from the room, not trusting one word that any of you said. 
  6. A month later, when she needs expertise or wants to purchase the goods and services you offer, what is she going to do? Easy: she’s going to seek out someone authentic and genuine. Someone she can trust.
As a small business owner, you’re busy, so hiring someone to represent you is a great way to conduct business development. But it’s a pretty basic requirement that whomever you hire must understand your brand and services, and can represent them in a personal, genuine manner. You wouldn’t send a representative into a key trade show or networking event if he couldn’t speak personally about your business… or worse, if he was representing dozens of other businesses at the same time and simply regurgitating the same script about others as he is about you. The same standards must hold true for whomever you contract as a ghostwriter for your blog or other social media profiles.
The bottom line: networking in the digital realm isn’t something new, it’s just an online extension of networking in the “real” world. So, the same age-old rules apply: there’s the easy way of doing things. And then there’s the right way.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Weekly Round-up: January 30, 2012

McDonalds big fail; Jean Paul Gaultier's tribute through Couture; five skills for mastering the web; China's happy New Year and a luxurious read.  Here are some of the past week's top news stories concering PR, social media, and the luxury market.

Not all publicity is good publicity
McDonalds made headlines on Twitter for what is now being referred to as the "McFail." Originally intended as a positive marketing move, the company purchased #McDstories as the promoted trending topic on the twitter homepage. Unfortunately, twitter users had more negative stories to share than positive ones. I guess these people were not lovin' it.

A surprise ending in Paris
The 2012 Paris Couture fashion show debuted last week, and ended with a Jean Paul Gaultier collection inspired by Amy Winehouse, who died just 6 months prior.  Models rocked the late singer's signature 'bee-hive' hairstyle while walking to a live a capella version of Amy's very popular 'rehab' song.

Mastering PR
If you want to become "technologically savvy" dominating these 5 skills will guarantee to make you a more effective and efficient in public relations.

Year of the Dragon
The WLA - World Luxury Association - announced the top 100 most luxurious brands for 2012.  With this also came news of 2012's largest luxury market -- China. Quite the way to ring in the Chinese New Year.

The Pursuit of happiness
Magazine readers, look out for the newest addition to the Bloomberg family. It was announced that the company is launching a magazine dedicated to the luxury market.  A spin-off of Bloomberg market, Bloomberg Pursuits will focus on the best of the best in luxury -- everything from shoes to home decor. Editor for new magazine, Vince Bielski, commented on the magazines loyal readers and the enjoyment of life's finer things:
“Our readers don’t just own and appreciate luxury. They have a command and mastery of their toys”

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Wine Industry and the Digital Grapevine

Perhaps it was all the libations we enjoyed over the holiday stretch, or maybe even this beautiful 55-degree weather we’re experiencing in New England that’s made us take a quick mental vacation, but either way, we’ve got wine on the mind (Is it Friday yet?). This was the segue to our discussion of Rhode Island’s bountiful variety of vineyards… but why is it that we so rarely hear from them during the winter months? So we got to drinking, thinking… “How has the wine industry approached the realm of social media?”

For many wine enthusiasts, there is no greater pleasure than enjoying a vintage selection that has been aged to perfection. However, unlike the wine itself, there is no faux pas greater than a winery having a digital presence lay untouched over a long period of time.

If your internet curiosity has brought you this far, you need no explanation as to the potential power and reach of social media. A simple “if we build it, they will come” attitude toward your online presence does not a successful business make in the world of wine or any lifestyle category. A strategic balance of presence, participation & promotion has proven to be a successful business model for many wineries and vineyards, who, despite turbulent economic conditions, have remained on top of the industry.

Nationally, Duckhorn Vineyards and J. Lohr are a couple great examples, but you need not be a major brand to successfully utilize social media and digital marketing. Among our local wineries here in New England, we love Greenvale Vineyards. This small, family-owned winery in Rhode Island has a vibrant blog and engaging social media presence.

The true benefit of social media is its potential to create awareness of your brand, and do so in a way that enables prospective or existing consumers to engage and interact with it. Social media is about being social and—from wine enthusiasts sharing great finds to novices seeking out advice—the subject of wine is inherently social. We’ve seen this first-hand in working with French Wine Explorers—a boutique travel firm that specializes in luxury wine tours to France. Check out their Facebook page and blog to witness how the company uses social media to engage potential customers not only on their specific tours, but on the subject of wine in general.

A recent survey by winebusiness.com showed that the majority (59%) of visitors to wineries relied on word of mouth in planning their itinerary.

“Tapping into the “word of mouth” aspect of social media can be beneficial.”
- wine business

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow savvy wine industry businesses to not only promote their wines, vineyards or tours, but also to illustrate and share their expertise, thereby tapping into and forming relationships with a new, more extensive world of potential clients.

How do you interact with your current and potential? If you knew then what you know now, how would you restructure your digital presence?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Luxury market and sales strong for savvy high-end brands

Today, like every day after New Years for the past decade, I started the work year by researching luxury holiday sales. After a 2011 that overflowed with mind-numbing negativity in the media and among many high-end companies, I’m thrilled to report to the luxury industry: the sky may be a different shade of blue than you’ve seen before, but it most certainly is not falling.
As you’ve probably already heard, retail sales for the 2011 holiday season increased more than analysts anticipated. While the final numbers aren’t yet in, the increase is expected to be around 3.5% over the 2010 holiday season.
One of the strongest categories cited again and again in media reports? Luxury goods. Indeed, affluent American consumers (those with the top 10% of household incomes), who represent 35 percent of overall retail sales, are spending.
  • According to ABC News, luxury is on fire. They quote Howard Davidowitz, chairman of retail consulting and investment banking firm Davidowitz & Associates: "When we look at luxury sales on a national level, we see they're doing just fantastic. Saks and Neiman's, they're terrific. Coach is fine, Nordstrom is fine. Bulgari and Tiffany, tremendous." 
  • MSN, meanwhile reports: "'Twas the season when wealthy people unscrewed the vice clamps that had been on their wallets and decided to stimulate the economy. Tiffany and Coach were among the winners this holiday season, according to Jason Asaeda, retail analyst at S&P Capital IQ. He rates both as "strong buys" and points out that wealthy consumers are attracted to the exclusive merchandise being sold by department stores.”
  • NBC reports that luxury retailers like Chanel and Gucci reported better than brisk business this holiday season; Neiman Marcus sold out of the ten 2012 Ferrari sports cars it offered in its Christmas book of fantasy gifts for a whopping $395,000 each; and Saks Fifth Avenue reported a resurgence in full-priced selling. 
  • In a post holiday report, National Jeweler says that, for some independent fine jewelers, the end of the holiday season was strong enough to draw comparisons with post-recession seasons, while others reported that they saw fewer customers but that those who did come in made bigger purchases. 
  • In November, high-end department store sales rose 6.5 percent over the same period in 2010, compared to a 0.3 percent loss for mid-tier department stores, according to Bloomberg data.
  • According to Reuters, Wall Street analysts expect higher-end chains like Saks and Nordstrom to report strong seasonal sales, helped by the continued recovery of high end spending and a stock market that rebounded after swooning earlier in the fall.
So, while luxury shoppers are clearly not in hibernation, they are shopping differently than they traditionally have. For starters, online shopping hit a record a record $35.27 billion this holiday season, up 15 percent versus the corresponding period last year, according to comScore. This season also saw 10 days in which online sales surpassed $1 billion in one day. And, according to USA Today successful luxury goods firms are utilizing social media and digital marketing techniques to drive traffic and, ultimately, sales. 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Business of Blogging

While I’m not big on traditional New Year's Resolutions, like many business owners, the start of a new year is a time for planning and, well, resolving to make my business more efficient and prosperous during the 366 days ahead. At Miamore Communications, we often get so focused on our clients’ marketing plans that we let our own flounder. One way I intend to maintain our own marketing is with a 2012 Miamore formal blogging calendar. I encourage you to do the same with your business blog—whether you operate B2B or B2C.
B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads/month than those that don't.
B2B companies that blog get 76% more leads/month than those that don't.*
Not surprisingly, from 2009 - 2011, the percentage rate of businesses that have a blog increased from 48% to 65%. A total of 85% of businesses consider their company blogs as useful and important to their business, and 27% of those who blog rated their blogs as critical to their business, according to WebSwagger.

Why are blogs so critical? For starters, they drive sales:
57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired leads directly from their blogs.

72% of companies that blogged on a weekly basis found that they had received new business directly from their blog.*
Potential leads that convert into sales are the key incentive to blog, which leads us to our next point: An up-to-date blog also plays a key role in boosting that ever-elusive yet much sought SEO for companies.
Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors.*
This is because websites with blogs:
  • Show up in more search results for a wider range of queries/keyword searches
  • Attract more links: Inbound links raise the "SEO value" of your website
  • Attract social signals: "Share signals," such as Facebook Likes, Tweets, and Google pluses, indicate the popularity of a document to search engines, and they can boost rankings. 
Keeping all this in mind, now is the time to not just make a vague resolution to keep your blog fresh throughout 2012, but to create concrete plan to ensure its success, (even if your other resolutions fall into the 88% failure rate for New Years Resolutions!). That plan should include:
  • A proper place and format for your blog
    • Build your blog into your website to maximize SEO.
    • Incorporate your social media profiles into the blog
    • Provide readers tools to follow your blog, and to share your posts via email and social media
    • Create a format that illustrates your business: for example, if you are a designer, your blog should be highly visual
  • A schedule of blog days
    • Make blogging part of your weekly calendar to ensure that posts aren’t missed and content remains fresh
    • A calendar of blog post themes to include a variety of content that:
      • explains what you do
      • humanizes your work
      • avoids repetition
      • incorporates everything within your 2012 marketing plan
      • includes photos, graphs, or other visuals
  • The allocation of resources
    • Do you (or a key person on your staff) write well, understand how to write effective posts and—most importantly—have the time every week to write posts, maintain the blog, and respond in a timely way to comments?
    • Do you need a consultant/ghostwriter to create, execute and promote effective posts regularly, and to monitor the blog for comments and feedback?
  • A strategy to market your blog
    • Every blog post should be promoted via your other social media profiles (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
    • Incorporate your blog into your email marketing
    • Include your blog url in your email signature
Have your own experiences with business blogging? Please share them here. If you need more help with your 2012 blogging plan, contact me directly.

*research by Hubspot