The cross-training approach to social media marketing

Your forays into social media should be designed to enhance rather than undermine your overall performance.

I’m hearing from a lot of businesses that don’t really want to use Twitter, Facebook communities, blogging, SEO and all the shiny new online social media tools for marketing, but feel that they must take the plunge to “keep up.” A few of these folks are marketing newbies, but most have solid, successful backgrounds in traditional marketing programs.

Solid. Successful.

Let’s look at it this way: If you were a standout basketball or soccer player, would you suddenly want to devote all your energies to learning extreme mountain climbing? Not only is it the latest fad, but, because it is a fad, the mountains are now crowded with other newbies. They’re slowing down the paths and often plummeting to bad endings in crevasses. The sherpas are now charging premium prices to guide you (and schlep your expensive stuff) up the slopes.

Instead of putting all your energy into trying to catch up with the current fad, take the cross-training approach. Get into it strategically and make sure what you do is strongly integrated with and complements your current exercise (or marketing) program. In other words, what you do online should mesh with your existing, successful, use of brochures, ads, trade shows, signage, white papers, and other marketing channels. (This not only conserves your resources, it will make sense to your customer base.)

Consider this: If your competitors are sweating their way up the slopes of online marketing like lemmings, chance are they aren’t paying as much attention as they should to traditional marketing channels. What areas of opportunity are they now leaving wide open for you to take advantage of?

This is a great time to take a look at your users, buyers, and decision makers. It may be the time to do more speaking at conferences, take out a series of eye-catching magazine ads, sponsor events, ramp up sales calls, or use good old email to offer prospects a nice, substantive white paper. The point, after all, is to show customers that you do more for them and do it better (rather than you do pretty much the same thing as the other guys). Plus, those real-world activities will give you plenty to blog or tweet about as you ease your way into social media.

You can’t afford to ignore the impact of online marketing tools — but, like cross training, your forays into social media should be designed to enhance rather than undermine your overall performance.

Corporate bloggers: Stop competing against Perez Hilton

Stop competing against Perez Hilton. Instead, start using the power of a corporate blog to compete against your actual competition.

There’s blogging…and there’s corporate blogging. Today I’m going to talk about the difference.

Individuals, news organizations, and political groups blog for blogging’s sake. And those blogs live and die by their content: Quality of writing; freshness of information; originality (or outrageousness) of ideas.

Quick — name three individual blogs, news blogs, or political blogs.

Easy: Huffington Post. Robert Scoble. The Unofficial Apple Weblog. Perez Hilton. Gizmodo.

Now name three corporate blogs.


Not so easy.

Just because they aren’t wildly popular doesn’t mean that corporate blogs don’t have their place. Done properly, they can be extremely powerful tools to drive traffic, drive sales, and enhance recognition of a brand, products, or services.

What’s difficult to grasp is that, unlike non-corporate blogs, corporate blogs don’t accomplish these things through great writing, fresh information, or original or outrageous ideas.  They accomplish these results through hard work and smart SEO. Here’s how:

1. They consistently put fresh content on the top tier of the company’s website (which improves search rank for the whole site).

2. They use carefully researched keywords and keyword phrases in headlines, blog text, links, and excerpts. This eventually positions the company near the top of search results for those frequently searched keywords.

3. They link appropriately to other highly ranked websites.

4. They harness WordPress or other user-friendly blogging software to automatically send (keyworded) excerpts with links (think of them as teasers) to the company’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. This makes the resources invested in the blog post go much further.

For reasons too complex and varied to go into here, few companies are willing to admit that their blogs are simply a tool. And, as a result, they miss out on the powerful results that tool can accomplish.

There’s no way that the carefully screened, days-old corporate information or flattering customer stories that make up corporate blog posts can compete with Perez Hilton or Engadget for readership. Few people read them; all people will ever see of those posts is excerpts on Twitter or on a page of Google search results. (And yet, properly written and keyworded, those excerpts can be very effective in conveying a company’s branding to thousands of viewers.)

To make the situation even worse, many companies fail to invest in the sort of professional SEO analyses that would tell them which keywords to use in their blogs (and on their websites). Instead, they guess about keywords — and often end up emphasizing keywords they already “own” via Google (such as the unique names of their products) rather than the phrases prospective customers are using to try to find their products and services. In the non-intuitive world of keywording, it can even be beneficial to violate the old taboo against mentioning the competition. By mentioning your competition or a competing product on a webpage or blog, you can end up with visitors who started off looking for the competitor’s product but got search results that lured them into viewing your product, on your site, instead. (Chances are your competition is already doing this.)

Bottom line: Stop trying to compete against Perez Hilton! Instead, start using the power of a corporate blog to compete — against your actual competition.