Social Media Niche Management

Niche Knowledge

Fall 2010 may go down in digital media history as a major turning point in the mass media landscape. Searching online and separately noting today’s Washington Women in PR’s luncheon speaker insights about the use of social media as integral to marketing strategy brought back memories of the “dialectic” theory of historical events. The theory requires that major historical trends interact with “visionaries” or “individual actors” who understand and capitalize upon these trends to transform society, conventional thinking or business practices.

Dialectic theory seemed to emerge this week with the occurrence of two events–a presentation and a conference. Ironically, the sources of our knowledge are so technology-centered and diverse that many of us flock to “live” presentations to help us digest and sort out our Information Age overload. That’s exactly what was so powerful about Webb Media Group’s tech talk for Washington Women in PR over lunch today. In about an hour, WG’s Principal Amy Webb creatively outlined how marketing/PR executives could better sort out how to use social media applications for audience engagement, brand awareness and customer conversion.

Three focal points helped simplify Webb’s message for both novice and experienced social media marketers. The first was function, that is, what “utility” does a social media application perform? Webb identified seven social media platform trends that provide utilitarian niches for marketers to customize for specific campaign or communications analysis needs.

Her other focal points were strategic in nature: Are communicators engaging target audiences by using social media in ways that are habit-forming/effective and comprehensive?

As Amy posed those questions in Washington, digital media marketing executives in Boston presented case studies about products and causes that answered the questions raised in Washington. But they also posed new ones, about social media marketing and metrics, the next generation of digital marketers and more.

The two meetings clearly show that the so-called “changing media landscape” has reached the tipping point. The Brave New World of Digital Communications is our reality. Clearly, it’s a world in which–through social media–the individual can wield as much power (and sometimes more) as the amorphous brand. As communicators in uncharted territory, our best bet is making sure we understand social media and how to deploy it for our clients’ best advantage.

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Hootsuite is Heaven

It’s been almost six months since Kenneth Piner, a video producer and Northwestern alumnus, advised me about the merits of using Hootsuite to manage my social media properties. Try it, you’ll like it, was the gist of his message. It was advice I filed away for later use.

As in advertising, sometimes you have to hear advice a few times—from different sources–before taking action on it.  Even we media gurus are human. So it was with me and Hootsuite. But this week, I took the plunge. But not before doing a bit of due diligence. As a business, Hootsuite appears to be in a sweet social media spot.  The “eyeballs” that all media covet are in the driver’s seat and publishers of all ilk can’t quite predict where they will be found to cluster next. We know they are scarce for print media, which has led to layoffs of newspaper and magazine journalists nationwide. It’s all part of the so-called changing media landscape.

With social media and other online platforms commanding impressive views, Hootsuite is capitalizing on the commodity of time that its software saves by using a dashboard approach to monitoring activity across several platforms.  Like most upstart media technology companies, Hootsuite also is leveraging its “free” following by offering premium services as a business model.  Targeted to businesses, Hootsuite understands that it’s in a position to advance while the gears of traditional media are “seizing up” as Hootsuite’s CEO put it.

At my level, I’m just happy to have the order of having my social media universe, both personal and business, in one online garage. Now that I’ve tested the waters of Hootsuite, I am a true believer. When it comes to contracting my social media schedule, it’s like heaven.

Social Media, No Small Business

National Small Business Week Logo

Cynical readers would be correct to retort under their breath “no kidding” about the widely known fact that social media is no small business. After all, this was the week Time magazine put Facebook center stage with its in-depth look at the mega social media platform’s privacy transgressions. But my focus this Tuesday was the Social Media Forum at the National Small Business Week Conference at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Southwest DC. I went because I always learn some new insight when I attend these free social media forums and webinars. Besides that, I believed that I might gain new insights that could assist with a start-up Webcomics website marketing plan that primarily uses social media to create buzz before its launch this summer. The panel and the small businesses in the audience delivered much more than expected.

Here are the social media insights for marketing small businesses I mined from the forum’s panel:

Think of social media investments to gain customer loyalty and promote transparency in terms of not just ROI, but ROTI (return on time invested.)” –Brian Moran, President, Veracle Media, and moderator for the forum

The bricks to clicks social media platform Yelp is the preferred social media platform for most retail businesses across the country. Businesses on average are spending about $3.60 per fan a year with Yelp.
-–Luther Lowe, business outreach manager for Yelp

Don’t just leave it to the interns. They may not know any more than you do. There was much discussion from the panel and audience about assuming that social media is a young professional’s province. Rather, the consensus was that social media marketing success requires a progressive learning curve from anyone who embraces it, at any age. Social media should be managed as part of a small business’ overall strategic marketing mix. This resonated, especially given anecdotal testimony from one company that adopting social media helped grow business by 30 percent.

Intuit is researching cloud analytics and integration into business ledgers. That means Intuit may soon help businesses analyze how much direct revenue comes as a result of email and other social media campaigns, according to panelist Angus Thomson, head of Intuit’s new social media division. Intuit’s entry into the business analytics side of social media portends social media’s share of the business marketing mix could be huge in short order. (Another sign: Microsoft’s big footprint, integrating social media into Outlook 2010.)

Young consumers are more tolerant of interruptions. That research tidbit from Small Business columnist Rieva Lesonsky indicates online entertainment businesses (like my client’s) may find success with intermittent ads and/or donation offers, especially among younger fans accustomed to mobile communication venues.

Outside of these social media info nuggets, small businesses made clear most are struggling to survive and keenly exploring how creatively they can use the new network of platforms that encompass social media to pull them through.