Archive for the ‘Best Practices and Workshops’

7 ways Facebook helped a town weather Hurricane Sandy 11

Posted on November 04, 2012 by Rob Petersen




Hurricane Sandy

The need to keep a community informed, connected and calm in a crisis has not been felt more this year than in mid-Atlantic and Northeast states devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

In the town of Connecticut where I live, roughly two years ago, a Facebook brand page was started: New Canaan Office of Emergency Management. It’s mission: “To protect the lives and property of the citizens; and prepare for emergencies, coordinate emergency response and recovery, and collect and disseminates emergency information.” Did they live up to their word?

Hurricane Sandy caused 68% in this mid-sized Connecticut town to be without power, 132 downed wires, 140 roads closed, serious electrical fires, one that trapped firefighters, and flooding. Then, there were reports of price gorging on water and gas by local merchants, scams and rogue FEMA agents.

Yet, during a time of hardship, anxiety and worry, “Likes” for the OEM went from 2054 to 2826. Why? Their demonstration of care and commitment replaced as atmosphere of chaos and crisis.

New Canaan Office of Emergency Management

How did they do it? Here are 7 ways Facebook was used by the OEM to weather Hurricane Sandy.

1. PUT TIMELINESS AS A FIRST PRIORITY: Every post to the OEM was answered within a short time even if it wasn’t the desired response.

Hurricane Sandy post

2, LET PICTURES TELL A 1000 WORDS: Photos were posted multiple times a day

OEM Hurricane Sandy pictures

3. USED APPS TO REPORT ON EVERY NEIGHBORHOOD: Google Maps App was a fixtures that showed what was going on every street. In this map, the red pins are downed wires on roads; the green pins are downed trees. This is the map 5 days after the hurricane. At first, it was much more dense with red and green pins as well as yellow pins for fires.

Google Maps

4. PUT A FACE TO THE POSTS: The name, Mike Handler, stood behind every post.

Mike Handler OEM Facebook Post

5. LOOKED OUT FOR ONE ANOTHER: When the underside of humanity showed up, the OEM quickly stepped in.

OEM Hurricane Sandy Post

6. PRODUCED CALM BY DEMONSTRATING CARE AND COMMITMENT. Gratitude started to be the subject of people’s posts.

OEM Hurricane Sandy Thanks

7. SOCIAL MEDIA PROVED FASTER THAN THE NEWS MEDIA: Every major news outlet in the area turned to the OEM for the latest activity and update. Their “news” was often what the OEM had already reported.

Many town  in New Jersey and Long Island endured much worse devastation but the hurricane hurt this town. It is equally clear the Office of Emergency Management helped this town and proved a “best practices” in crisis management of how it can be replicated by others.

By the way, that’s Mike with the real FEMA agents.

Could you use an OEM on Facebook in your community?

Mike Handler


7 best practices digital agencies should be doing 2

Posted on July 21, 2012 by Rob Petersen




If your business relies on advertising, did you know digital is the only media channel showing growth in this decade?

Ad Spending Trends

By next year according to Zenith Optimedia, digital is projected to be bigger than all media channels except television. This progress is tied to consumer buying behaviors where now:

  • 90% of all purchase decisions begin online
  • 75% of consumers shop online before they buy offline
  • 85% are looking for an independent review
  • 78% of people trust the recommendations of other people
  • 14% of people trust advertising
  • Only 18% of TV advertising campaign ever achieve a positive return on investment

(Source: eMarketer, comScore, WOMMA, webtrends)

These trends suggest a digital agency may be your most valuable business partner. Here are 7 best practices digital agencies should be doing.

1. DEFINE WHY YOUR WEBSITE EXISTS: A brand’s website is either a business asset or an expense. If it’s an asset, it exists for a business reason like: Generate sales, secure leads, increase trial, switch competitive users or identify key prospects. If the website has been created because “every brand has to have a website,” it’s an expense.

2. IDENTIFY KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS (KPI’S): “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” said Peter Drucker. Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are the actionable scorecard to keep your business strategy on track. They are selected measurements that provide visibility into the performance of a business. They enable decision makers to take action that achieve desired results. It’s not hard to measure or manage KPI’s. This brief video explains KPI’s and how to set up a scorecard for your business.

3. DETERMINE SEGMENTATION: For every business, a wide disparity exists between best and worst customers. Segmentation tells you what customers to spend time with and which ones not to waste time with. It can be based on sales-related behaviors or website behaviors (new vs. returning, time on site, key content viewed or take desired actions). Either way, audience segmentation helps accelerates business growth and makes your business more profitable

4. KNOW WHERE YOUR AUDIENCE COMES FROM: To drive people to your brand’s website, you’re going to have to spend money or time (or both) on paid media, paid search, search engine optimization and social media. Which ones work best? “Traffic Sources” and “Tags” tell you from an analytics tool like Google Analytics. They make it possible to determine Return on Ad Investment. Something you can improve upon and control.

5. LEARN FROM THE COMPETITION: Competitive analysis and intelligence presents opportunities in real time. For example, allergy products are a fiercely competitive category every Spring. Sales are heavy influenced by uncontrollable factors like the weather that varies geographically. Using competitive tracking tools like Compete and Alexa, a client of ours was able to measure website traffic of major allergy brands, understand their marketing and advertising strategy and use it to their brand’s advantage that Spring. A report from the television ad tracking service didn’t arrive until late Summer.

6. GAIN INSIGHTS THROUGH KEYWORDS: 80% of the traffic to a website begin with a search query. As a result, large lists of keywords are probably going to be generated for search volume and CPC (cost per click).  They’re valuable for media buying but lists don’t usually reveal insights.

Here’s one way to get to insights – show keyword trends. Since we’re on the subject of advertising, here is a charts from Google Insights. The blue line measures search volume for television marketing; the red is for digital advertising. If these keywords were relevant to your business, which one would you emphasize to better meet the needs of your audience.

Google Insights



7. LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF CONSUMERS: You or your digital agency can’t tell you what consumers want from your brand online. Only consumers can. So ask them regularly. Have simple survey on the site and, once a quarter, asks just a few questions like: Why did you come to this site? Did you find what you were looking for? What would make you visit again? It doesn’t have to be fancy, just actionable.

These 7 best practices have 1 thing in common; they’re all based on generating business growth. Are they practices your digital agency is doing?



21 stats/5 charts: Don’t do SEO/SEM without Social Media or visa versa 11

Posted on June 03, 2012 by Rob Petersen

Search and social media work togetherThe cornerstone of Search (both SEO (Organic) and SEM (Paid)) is relevant keywords; the cornerstone for Social Media is relevant content. Together, they make for a relationship of interactivity and interdependence, a yin and yang if ever there was one.

If you do business online, shouldn’t you use them together? Here are 21 stats + 5 charts that say: Don’t do SEO/SEM without Social Media and visa versa.

  1. 94% increase in CTR (Click-Thru-Rate) when search and social media are used together (eMarketer)
  2. 50% of consumers use a combination of search and social media to make purchase decisions (Inc)
  3. 46% who start with social media, then turn to search to help make their decision
  4. 40% who start with search then turn to social media (yin and yang?)
  5. 45% use search throughout the buying cycle
  6. 31% use social media during the purchase process to get other people’s opinions (GroupM)
  7. 30% say they use social media to eliminate brands from contention
  8. 28% say social media sites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook help them learn more about new brands and product
  9. At a ratio of 2-to-1, consumers cite quality and depth of information as reason they use search and social media together
  10. 30% of consumers rely on user reviews to aid in their purchase decision (eMarketer)
  11. 17% use Facebook
  12. 9%  use Twitter
  13. 74% of consumers use a Facebook brand page as the desired format for following a brand for future engagement (Search Engine Land)
  14. Consumers exposed to branded social media are 2.4 times more likely to click on an organic listing (comScore)
  15. Consumers exposed to a brand’s social media and paid search are 2.8x more likely to search for that brand’s products
  16. Consumers who use social media (vs. people who don’t) are 50% more likely to use search (srcibd)
  17. 50% CTR increase in paid search when consumers were exposed to both influenced social media and paid search
  18. Websites with a Google+ business page yield a 15% rise in search rank (Open Forum)
  19. 70 Facebook shares plus 50 “likes,” give rise to  7% rise in search ranking for websites
  20. 45% of consumers have no specific brand or business in mind when they begin their search on their desktop or smart phone (GroupM)
  21. “Once, it was a newspaper. It arrived neatly on your doorstep to satisfy information needs. Now, it is a web of information from the internet but with much deeper insights as to why we make the brand and buying decisions we do. Marketers are going to want these insights – Chris Copeland, CEO GroupM)

A valuable resource is the Group M and comScore study: The Virtuous Cycle: The role of search and social media in the purchase pathway (pdf).

Since pictures tell a 1000 words, some great picture have been created to show how search and social media work together. Here are 5, beginning with one of the most prolific advocates on this topic, Lee Odden and Top Rank Blog.

Lee Odden

Lee Odden/Top Rank Blogs


Triple Say

Triple Say

J6 Design

J6 Design

Blue Glass

Blue Glass

Rocket Academy

Rocket Academy

Would you ever do SEO/SEM without Social Media or visa versa?

25 reasons to write for your audience before search engines 8

Posted on April 21, 2012 by Rob Petersen

80% of people begin their journey to a website through the query on a search engine. Once they type in specific keywords, 46% click on the #1 website listed in organic search. To show you, here is a brief :30 clip.

In this controlled video test, called a “heat map,” people use keywords to search for an unmet need and then click on the website that best meets their need. The blue circles are the mouse movements of many individual searches and the hot colors represent where the most activity occurs.

Conclusions are: 1) Know the most relevant keywords for your business or brand and 2) get to a top position. But does that mean you should focus your attention on what might cause search engines to give you a top rank at the expense of writing for your audience? Never.

Here are 25 reasons to write for your audience before the search engines.

  1. Search engines are not mind readers
  2. Search engines can’t figure out who your target audience is
  3. Search engines don’t know where they spend time online
  4. Search engines can’t reach out to them
  5. Search engines don’t raise your rank until you start attracting an audience to your website
  6. Search engines can’t: 1) Be relevant, 2) educate and 3) persuade to increase your business as well as your rank
  7. Search engines are dumb. They don’t recognize what’s relevant. They recognize text patterns
  8. Search engines aren’t smart enough to know whether the text patterns are you talking to your audience or you talking to yourself
  9. Search engines don’t know if your text is written in a natural flow and reads well
  10. Search engines don’t know the difference between an introduction and a call to action
  11. Search engines can’t “link” your site with other influential sites to raise your rank by recognizing your website as an authority
  12. Search engine can’t ask your audiences for comments to more “links” and raise your rank
  13. Search engines can’t read your analytics to optimize the keywords and content that is raising your rank
  14. Search engines don’t recognize whether the audience coming to your site is there to: 1) research, 2) shop or 3) buy
  15. Search engines can’t share your content
  16. Search engines can’t speak your audience’s language or feel their pain
  17. Search engines can’t give your audience what they want
  18. Search engines can’t survey your audience so you keep improving your website and keep them coming back
  19. Search engines can’t install “breadcrumbs,” the  navigation aid used in user interfaces to allow users to keep track of their locations within programs or documents
  20. Search engines can’t keep your content fresh
  21. Search engines can’t add testimonials or reviews which is the language of your audience and is similar to those who might be searching for your site
  22. Search engine can’t create and keep a customer
  23. Search engines can’t recognize advocates
  24. Search engines can’t reward your loyal customer
  25. Search engines can’t make your personality shine through. Your personality counts because people like to do business with people they know

Of course, for digital marketing, the search engine play a critical role but they will never take the place of good research, high levels of involvement and strong, well-written content.

I am fortunate to be teaching a “hands on” Mini-MBA in SEO, SEM and Web Analytics through Rutgers University and with two colleagues, Mike Moran and Tim Peter. Creating a content strategy and writing great content are an area of focus. If this is of interest, here are the details.

Will you be writing for your audience before the search engines?


18 content marketers share their secrets for share-worthy content 3

Posted on January 02, 2012 by Rob Petersen

share-worthy contentForbes began this year with the prediction “2012 will be the year of content.”  They say “content marketing and social media marketing should be a part of every brand’s marketing plan.”

But is your content share-worthy? After all, what good is putting it out if it doesn’t create a community of advocates who help spread the word.

Here are steps 18 content marketers take to make their content share-worthy.

  1. FIND YOUR AUDIENCE: “Find your target audiences’ online hangouts, spend some time listening to the conversations happening on those sites. What topics are important to them? What gets them excited? This allows you to create your own content strategy to best meet your target audience’s existing wants and needs.” – Susan Gunelius, Forbes
  2. PROVIDE INSTANT GRATIFICATION: “Providing instant gratification is all about effectively delivering high-quality content in bite-sized pieces. It’s about making your blog readers’ lives easier. Take a look at Seth Godin’s blog. He’s the undisputed master of instantly gratifying, bite-sized blog content.” – Amy Porterfield, Social Media Examiner
  3. USE YOUR KEYWORDS: “Spend some time doing some research to find what people are typing into the search engines to find you. Use those words in your post titles and in your blog to make your content easier to find. Don’t over do this. Having easy to read posts trumps lots of keywords any day.” – Michele Scism, Social Media Coach and Speaker
  4. MAKE CONTENT A PART OF EVERYONE’S JOB: “Companies that really buy into content marketing are increasingly taking the “everyone” approach. Clearly, when the job is creating lots of content, it helps to have lots of contributors.” – Rebecca Lieb, Editor-in-Chief, ClickZ Network
  5. SEED STRATEGY: “The most effective seeding strategy when it comes to facilitating sharing behaviour is to distribute the content via social media itself. But most businesses lack a truly engaged audience within Twitter or Facebook. If this is the case, seed the content via more traditional channels. Linking to the content from your customer email newsletter is a great starting point.” – Jamie Duthie, SEO People
  6. RELEASE A LIST: “Every smart marketer knows that ‘top lists’ have the ability to generate a lot of buzz and traffic to your site because this type of content is highly shareable and linkable.” – Amanda Maksymiw, OpenView Venture Partners
  7. REWARD YOUR EXISTING FANS: “They’ll feel a deeper relationship with your brand and that will increase sales.” – Lauren Drell, Mashable
  8. RECAP YOUR MOST POPULAR SOCIAL CONTENT: “Include a list of your ‘best of’ content from your social channels. Include your most popular blog posts, your most re-tweeted tweets or your most commented Facebook posts. Whatever people find interesting in your social channels will likely spark the interest of your email recipients, so including popular social content in your emails can create additional interest.” – Adam Holden-Bache, Social Media B2B
  9. OPTIMIZE FOR RETWEETS: “Twitter is a very powerful platform for getting people to engage and share online. To encourage readers to share your content on a site like Twitter, try creating content targeted specifically for Twitter sharing. You can use a tool like the Most ReTweetable Words Finder to find words on any topic, and then include your favorite recommended word in the title of your post, video, or photo, or use it to retweet your own content.” – Tiffany Monhollon, Digital Content Manager, ReachCast (The chart below shows the click-through rate Twitter delivers to substantiate what Tiffany is talking about)
  10. MEASURE IT: “If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.” – Dan Zarella, HubSpot
  11. SHOW COURTESY: “Do you reply to your comments? Do you thank people for sharing your posts, tweeting them, and linking to them? Your sincere ‘you attitude’ makes you courteous—and it makes you likeable. Courtesy is politeness growing out of respect and concern for others. Be thoughtful, appreciative, helpful, and truly respectful to your readers. Remember you are building a community here, so you want to promote values that define you as a person.” – Darren Rowse, ProBlogger
  12. ADD MORE MULTIMEDIA TO YOUR PAGE: “By multimedia, I mean photos, images, videos, audio, infographics, slide shows and videos. Readers seem to prefer pages which combine text with one or more multimedia elements.Yes, they’ll appreciate your well-written, informative text. But they also like to watch video, browse through a slide show of images, study an infographic or listen to an audio interview.” – Nick Usborne, Author and Coach
  13. DO RESEARCH TO UNDERSTAND WHAT CONSUMERS ARE LOOKING FOR IN VIDEOS: “Many companies want the profits from viral videos. Unfortunately, very few companies do the research to understand exactly what consumers are looking for in videos online. As a result, companies often invest in videos without receiving much of a profit in return”  – Spencer Belko, Search Engine Journal (Here is a chart to show the types of video that are shared most often)
  14. YOUR GOAL SHOULD BE TO BECOME THE AUTHORITY: “This will increase your brand value and your reach. And in the same time the people who listen when you speak – publish content. This makes it easier to build relationships and to get long lasting business ties.” – Dragan Mestrovic, inBlurbs 
  15. FIND THE NEW: “News has never traveled faster than it does today through social media. Of course, following ‘unfolding events’ is one kind of ‘new.’ But there are of course other ways to think about content newness. For example, new can also mean a podcast that contains a unique way of looking at an old issue, or a post that -brings some novel insight to the fore, or a video that summarizes a complex topic in a way not done before.” – StrategicBit
  16. DO A SURVEY OF CURRENT CUSTOMERS: “Talk to the people on the front line – frequently” – Jeff Ogdon, HubSpot
  17. THINK LIKE A PUBLISHER. “Have a clear idea why you’re doing what you’re doing.” – Joe Puluzzi, Junta42 and Founder of the Content Marketing Institute 
  18. WRITE KILLER HEADLINES:  All of the writers in this list expressed this point. One emphasized it particularly well by saying: “Your headline is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective reader. Without a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.” – Brian Clark, Copyblogger

Will you be making the effort so your content is share-worthy? Do these steps point you in the right direction?

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