Wednesday, May 23, 2012

5 Tips to Enhance Your Social Media Presence

After analyzing the presence of social media in more than 50 cooperate and non-profit organizations for my job at Northwestern Alumni Office, I feel a strong impulse to share my learning and give some advice. I know most people, no matter how much they are into the social media business, would not like to read almost each single post from 50 Facebook pages. My wild guess is…if you are not the person who writes every Facebook post or Twitter tweet of your company, you probably have never read all of these posts of your own business. OK. You can’t wait, can you? Here you go:

Post beautiful pictures about your products, animals who need to be adopted or your campus! Your posts are for humans, and humans are visual animals! (Don’t ask why Pinterest is getting popular anymore…) If you want your followers to know that your company has a new CSR initiative of helping children in the inner cities, please don’t post the first paragraph of your press release on your social media pages! Give your readers a picture of a smiling kid with an introduction of less than 140 characters (The Twitter rule applies to every social media platform). Trust me, the child’s smile would work much better than a bunch of rhetorical words.

Be personal. Again, Facebook is not somewhere to release your press release. It’s true that you represent an organization; it is also true that social media began with interpersonal communication. If you, as an organization, want to leverage social media magnetism, follow the rule and talk like a PERSON. If you are a fashion brand, “talk” like a young lady who tries to make herself beautiful everyday. If you are a college, “talk” about what college students care about: finals, commencement, or a new coffee shop where they would like to spend their afternoons.You’d better never talk like you are “offering” something great and your followers should pay for it with both money and gratitude. It’s you who should show gratitude for all the attention and followers you get. So, make your audience’s lives happier,prettier and easier with your posts.

Be consistent over your different social media platforms. I’ve seen organizations act like two totally different people on Facebook and Twitter: one is charming and intelligent, the other one is like a loser who has lost all  interest in life. Brands should always act like a woman in love, who tries to show the best side of her to her crush. So dress up for every occasion because you never know when your customers will be viewing your page. Don’t go out, or open your account on a new social media platform, if you are not ready to show your best side.

No more than 10 posts or tweets a day. Even if you are an attractive and sexy 20 something, do not walk around your secret crush’s window more than 10 times a day. It will lead to beauty fatigue and it only takes his one click on “unlike” or “unfollow”, and you are gone forever.  Less than 5 Facebook posts and 10 tweets is a good limit. After all, you don’t have so much information to share, do you? Too many posts or tweets are as annoying as spam emails.

Be a listener. There is a lot of advice telling you how to “talk” on social media platforms, but not how to “listen”.  If you go to some top brands’ Facebook or Twitter pages, you will find that they spent a lot of time answering questions or replying to posts from their followers. In a word, they listen. There was a famous case about how Chipotle avoided a PR disaster by quickly responding to a tweet about its failure to inform consumers about some of its ingredients. Don’t just re-tweet or “like” posts that mention you, please. When your followers bother to type your name in their posts, they don’t expect you to make them “famous” by retweeting their post; they did that to start a conversation with you, and you should feel grateful for their interest and efforts. If you are popular, like Starbucks, it may take you a long time to reply to every mention. So missing one or two may not matter too much for you. But it matters to that particular customer. 

     Some of my advice may not seem new to you; but this insight is generated from comprehensive research. As a Master’s student, who concentrates on Internet Marketing and Market Research, conclusion from data analysis is vital for me. I cannot accept people who just walk into the conference room and exclaim, “You know what? I am gonna trust my gut to initiate a new social media strategy and spend the 100,000 dollars!” Thanks to MedillIMC, who did a good job shape me from  a “free spirited” person to a data-driven, consumer centered marketing professional.

Katie Li is a current graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC marketing program, with 5 year work experience for Microsoft and Ogilvy in China. Katie decided to move to the U.S., when the death of her lifetime icon Michael Jackson revived her long-time dream of living in the U.S. Katie aims to find a job in the Internet Marketing and Global Marketing industries after graduation. She shares her learning, interest and passion towards her profession and life through @iamkatieli on Twitter and on LinkedIn. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

3 tips to get beyond your competitors in the new mobile-dominant world

By Youchin Lin

The smart phone penetration increased from 38% in 2011 to 50.4% in 2012, which makes mobile marketing become more attractive and also unavoidable. But, this is not the only thing that has changed. The scope mobile phone affects may be broader than you thought.  

78 million adults in the U.S. visited Facebook’s app or website through smartphones in March, according to ComScore’s first mobile media rankings. Facebook itself also reported that is has 488 million active users of its mobile products worldwide.  Those facts reveal that your current digital marketing strategy may need an overall review. Digital marketers, be ready to compete on a mobile-dominant world or you are in trouble.  If you still don’t have ideas about how to start, here are some easy tips for you to take advantage of mobile marketing.  

1. Be mobile friendly
Since an average of 12.6% site traffic are now from mobile device, you should really think about building a mobile website if you don’t have one (can you believe there is still 60% of companies do not have a mobile website?). And when you are developing your mobile website, put consumers in the center. Don’t just think about what you want to promote, but think about what your customers will need on the go. Company information, destination and social media are the most searched information on the mobile.

2. Renew your cross-platform content strategy
Plan your social media content with mobile usage in mind. U.S. mobile users spend an average of more than 7 hours a month on Facebook through mobile devices, which equivalent to 12% of all time spent on their phones. This percentage shows that users spend more mobile time on Facebook than on any other property, and that more and more people will browse your social media community on their phones rather than on computers. Remember that the smaller the screen the more hurried the consumer is. So give them concise and simple information and graphs on your social media community.   

3. Consider all mobile options and provide real time experience
Real time experience is what would let you surpass your competitors and monetize your mobile marketing effort. Consider all mobile options that may enable you to create relevant real-time experience for your customers such as website, location-based marketing (Proximity marketing), apps, and basic property such as email SMS and MMS. Be sure to integrate it with other media to maximize the impact. Just like many other media, Mobile can’t stand alone by itself.

Marketers who haven’t stepped into mobile marketing, don’t hesitate, do it at once! And if you are pioneer who already went through all the three steps, my suggestion is doing some tests on your mobile strategies to achieve a better ROI!

Youchin Lin is a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC marketing program and is specializing in digital marketing and retailer marketing. Youchin will be graduating in December 2012. Youchin can be reached on or on twitter using the handle @YouchinLin

*Findings are from a survey of 150 mobile phone users in July 2011, conducted jointly by Modapt Inc. and Morrissey & Company. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

People love to shop, so why are your online sales low?

By: Lamia Pardo Figueroa

“People are buying online, we need to sell online”, said a marketer to the IT department. After a few months, a website was implemented with a space for searching products, pictures, a menu of the categories and a tiny cart at the top right corner that keeps track of the purchase amount.  Does it sound familiar?

Sooner or later you’ll see the consequences. 

Yes, everyone buys online. In fact, 80% of Internet users have bought at least one product or service online. However, online sales just account for 4.6% of overall retail purchases. People are buying, but not shopping online. Buying is more functional and rational, while shopping is a pleasurable activity through which consumers are more likely to discover new products they like and spend more money. 

And this is not because people don’t have time in general. They actually don’t have time to go to a brick-and-mortar store so often, but they definitely have time in front of their laptops or mobile devices. This phenomenon is happening because marketers get excited about technology and forget about the experience. Most portals are designed to fulfill buying needs, but do not entice a pleasurable and irrational shopping journey. They require the consumer to already know what he/she wants in order to search it, have bad pictures inside rigid squares with white backgrounds and always remind he/she by how much the purchase amount keeps increasing with every additional product. That little cart at the top right corner has made me close many websites with incomplete orders.

But people still love to shop. 

The opportunity is there. Isn’t Pinterest a digital version of window-shopping? What if we could click on any product we like and get it delivered? What if we could go in a virtual tour through a supermarket and just click on whatever we want? There is a huge unexplored digital world of experiences.

So Make them shop! 

1. Work as a team with the IT department to develop the platform and switch the focus to the customers. Think of technology just as a key tool for implementation.
2. Study your current stores. What does people like about your store? Why are they really going there? How does your store look like? Think of every aspect and detail of their current shopping journey.
3. Focus on visual stimuli. Users cannot touch or smell the products, so make sure to transfer all the sensations through images and virtual interactions.
4. Improve the experience. Create new ways in which people could enjoy shopping online. For example, a supermarket could have a list of recipes with appealing pictures. By clicking on one of them, a list of required ingredients could be added to the cart.
5. Be careful with prices. Show the total purchase amount at the end so people do not rationalize about it before. Also, make sure you just charge for the items (no extra annoying fees).
6.  Ship fast. As fast as possible. It will pay off. 

If people are coming less to your store, take the store to the people. 

Lamia is a graduate student at Northwestern University's Medill School. She studies a MS Integrated Marketing Communications with concentrations in Brand Planning and Direct&Interactive Marketing. Follow her on LinkedIn (Lamia Pardo-Figueroa), Twitter (@LamiaPF) and/or Pinterest. 

Upgrade your search marketing: integration of social media and search

by Evana (Yi-Fan) Wu

Online marketers, it is time to upgrade your search marketing with an integration of social media. Increasing companies benefit by making their websites highly visible on search engine and social media friendly. The motivation is simple. As consumers are frequently switching between social media and search engine, brands that leverage the search engine and social media optimization will get the most. To win ahead of the social web trend, it really requires marketers to use both right brain and left brain well. 

Top search engines already changed their algorithm to catch this integration trend with social media. They know that when people search, they trust more with information comes from their social network. When you now search on Google, you can easily find sound bites from Facebook, twitter, or Google+, on paid search or organic search. Bing even creates the right-hand social column that includes results from social media or online influencers. The recent introduction of Google Knowledge Graph is another example worth watching.

We can think of integrating social media and search marketing in two related questions. First, how to increase social shares in your web strategy? Content optimization of your website that enables sharing and interaction is essential. Second question, how to optimize your social media campaign in the search results? Cross-channel syndication of keywords and strategic evaluation of social keywords can help. Understanding your social customers by doing Social CRM is another big step to take.
Here are three useful tips you can act on to upgrade your search marketing and social media strategies.

1.      Create socially enabled content
Consider the keyword relevance in your social campaign to optimize search. Read more here to understand how to create the optimized content that can easily travel between search and social. You will find that sharable and engagement is always vital to create socially enabled content.

2.      Think of syndication
Start to think of your syndication strategy in the social web. Sync keywords you use in your website and social media to optimize the search and social results. In addition, social sign-in is a good way for this track to get more information and social signals from your customers.

3.      Advance your measure and analytics
Successful and sustainable online strategies always depend on good measurement and analytics. Now you just need to think more social in search and more searching in social. 5 Social Media SEO & Analytics Tools Worth Checking Out is a good article that introduce some good tools.

Sounds easy and fun? Move forward to the integration of social and search to drive profitable traffic and links!

Evana (Yi-Fan) is a graduate student at Northwestern's Medill School, studying Integrated Marketing Communication. Specialized in digital marketing and data analytics, she is highly interested in working with the tech industries. Follow her @evanawu and connect with her on LinkedIn: Evana Wu.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How online marketers optimize your customer conversion and campaign ROI?

Let’s start with a true story about me. About one year ago, I was so happy when I knew that I was accepted by the IMC program at Northwestern University. Needless to say, my father was so impressed after I told him about the admission. Then he asked the logical next question: How much am I going to pay for this program? At that point, I felt embarrassed because I actually did not know the exact tuition.

How could I decide to take the admission without knowing how much I am going to pay for it?  How did I know whether I could afford it or not? What is ROI?

I know that the story is kind of silly, however, I find that marketers-particularly the folks in online marketing-do this all the time. They do endless hours of SEO, paid search and social media work, continuously increasing their website traffic and driving people to their websites, but then they fail to find out how many of those website visitors actually convert to customers. High site traffic is not your ultimate goal. Specifically, you should think of your business website as a funnel like the one in the image below.
Website visitors
Website visitors are at the top of the funnel, which is another indicator of website traffic. These are the people you have attracted to your site via media channel like your blog, social media and search engine optimization.

Leads are the website visitors who show interest in your product by summiting information on a landing page. Therefore, you have more information about them than you have about your website visitors. These people are your potential customers.

These are the people who purchase your products, thus tracking them should be your priority.

Customer conversion optimization

Step 1: Measure Conversion Rates
Conversion rate is the percentage of website visitors that converts to leads and the percentage of leads that converts to customers. It is important to know your conversion rate because you need to understand where in the funnel you can improve. One statistic that would always be on marketers’ mind is the conversion rates of their landing pages. If you're not measuring how effective your offers, calls to action and landing pages are at converting your website visitors into leads, then you're not giving yourself a knowledgeable way of improving.
Step2: Increase Conversion Rates
Attracting web visitors to the website is the first step, getting them to convert into a lead or business is the next.  Offering compelling content and clear calls-to-action will help to convert more of this traffic into leads and customers for the business. A/B testing with Landing pages and calls-to-action allow you to test which are converting at a higher average.  Determine which keywords are giving you the best top, middle, and bottom of the funnel leads.
Step3: Optimize customer segmentation 
To smart marketers, customer conversion is only the start of their optimization work.  Optimize customer segmentation is the next critical step. Since not all the customers are worth us to keep, we could go further, optimize converted customers by using web analytics tools to find out the right type of customer, those who buy more frequently, or make big purchases. 

Optimize Campaign ROI: Combine Campaign metrics with customer segments 
Depending on your campaign tracking tools and conversion page, you can optimize customer segmentation and have customer profiles of each customer segment. It is important to combine your campaign metrics with key customer attributes. These attributes may include customer ID number, existing or new customer, products ordered, geography or customer segment type. 
Step5: Optimize ROI Against Customer Value 
Once your have merged your campaign metrics and key customer attributes, the next step is to optimize ROI by optimizing your campaign keyword against customer value. By identifying the keywords, you will drive the best customers and maximize your campaign’s ROI.  
Sometimes, it is hard to match a keyword to a specific customer segment because it could deliver to multiple customer types. If in that case, you need to develop a model to calculate the value of a keyword by determining the percentage of conversions at each customer segment. 
In sum, for web marketers, if you have no knowledge about using web analytics to optimize customer conversion, segmentation and campaign ROI, you are in trouble!

Huan (Edison) Liu is a graduate student in the Northwestern Medill IMC integrated marketing program and is specializing in consulting with senior marketing professionals. Huan will be graduating in December 2012. Huan can be reached on twitter using the handle @EdisonLiuIMC.