An adman’s journey into social media marketing 0

Posted on May 09, 2011 by Rob Petersen

Sometimes, the best person to tell your story is someone else.  At a recent PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) speaking engagement, a reporter, Maggie Caldwell, from the Greenwich Post just outside New York was in the audience. 

She wrote this story about my journey from adland into social media marketing.  Thank you Maggie. 


By Maggie Caldwell, Hersam Acorn Newspapers

Small business owners of the world take note: If you are a Twitter contrarian or Facebook foe, you are likely diluting your business’s potential by ignoring a major customer base.

So says Rob Petersen, founding partner and president of Barnraisers, a Wilton-based online marketing solutions company that builds brands primarily using social media. A veteran ad man who has been at the front lines of the changing advertising field, Mr. Petersen discussed trends, tactics and best practices in social media before a group of PR professionals and small business owners at the Hyatt Regency in Old Greenwich last month. The luncheon was sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America’s Westchester/Fairfield chapter.

“Social media is a different kind of marketing channel. It is based on a conversation, not a monologue,” Mr. Petersen said. “People access the Internet so much more. The capability to access your friends for recommendations, rather than listening to an ad is just the way you do it now.”

The Internet has changed consumer behavior, he explained, citing statistics that 90% of purchasing decisions now begin on the Internet, 75% of consumers shop online before they buy at the store, and 85% of consumers look for independent reviews.

“Consumers are now in control,” he said.

Mr. Petersen’s own foray into the world of social media came after he saw ad sales plummet as the recession set in in 2008. He says he is no “techno geek” but started blogging for his own company about trends in advertising. He later taught himself how to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media programs.

“I did it because I was scared,” he said. “I had clients and then the worst recession since the Great Depression happened.”

Through the experience of keeping a blog, Mr. Petersen became a self-taught expert on social media. It changed his whole course of thinking about advertising as he began to recognize the potential of this new platform. He noted that the way people buy products, which had been the same for decades, was shifting. He saw that once consumers bought a product, they wanted to share it, leading to purchase reviews.

His blog on its own became such a success, Rutgers University offered Mr. Petersen a job teaching classes on social media and digital branding. The university is now one of the first to offer a social-media specific MBA program.

“Traditional marketing strategy boiled down to one thing: Shout it out!” Mr. Petersen said. “If you want to grow, shout it louder. Now it’s changed… People don’t buy the way they used to. Now let’s listen to what people are saying.”

At his Web site,, Mr. Petersen lists a number of case studies about companies successfully using social media to their benefit.

“Social media is the difference between launching with many millions of dollars, versus many millions of fans,” Mr. Petersen said paraphrasing Chris Bruzzo, vice president brand, content and online at Starbucks, which launched a highly successful social media program called “My Starbucks Idea,” where consumers invent and then vote on new drink offerings at the coffee chain giant.

Trust factor

One of the major components of social media is that it imbues the consumer with a sense of trust, Mr. Petersen said. He cited the case of Foiled Cupcakes, a company launched by a Chicago woman who started baking in her home kitchen and selling her cupcakes for delivery online. The business has no storefront and relies almost entirely on social media to get the word out about her services.

“The value is in trust, engagement and timely responses,” Mr. Petersen said. The company created a blog and set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and created its own community of followers.

“People like to do business with people they know,” he said. “Social media offers more than a phone number or e-mail address… it gives a face to a product.”

Another company that ran a hugely successful campaign online was Blendtec, a manufacturer of industrial blenders that was looking to expand from the B2B (business-to-business) market to reaching everyday consumers.

The company launched a video series entitled “Will it blend?” in which the company’s founder, Tom Dickson, blends all sorts of household items, from golf balls to stuffed animals to glow sticks. Two videos of him blending an iPhone and an iPad received more than 10 million views each on YouTube.

“Blendtec had a product that you had to see in action to understand how good it is, and he found a medium for it,” said Mr. Petersen. “This was a campaign that probably cost less than $20,000 and in turn, the company’s sales increased by 700%.”

Social media budget

After going over some case studies, Mr. Petersen said it might behoove business owners who are either Internet shy, or too busy, to create a social media budget.

“At the end of the day, it is a time equation,” he said. “When you bring someone on, you have to ask how much time do you require to do this, and what is the compensation.”

In looking for the right “social media marketer,” as he termed the profession, Mr. Petersen advised people to seek out a person who will embrace the business, who has an interest in what they are promoting, and who has a proven track record that they can amplify the message.

He said it takes time to draw people to a new Web site or Blog, but there are proven methods to grow an audience online. These include searching for other people who are writing on a topic that has to do with the business and commenting on their site, or inviting them to view your own.

“Use the social networks to say ‘I have a blog out,’” Mr. Petersen said.

The worst mistake someone entering the world of social media could make, however, is to build an audience and then just stop Tweeting, Blogging, or interacting.

“People will wonder what happened,” he said. “You must make a dedication to this. At least three to six months to start.”

What the Top 20 words people use on Twitter tell us 3

Posted on March 29, 2011 by Rob Petersen

E.B. White said, “Use the smallest word that does the job.”  In looking at the Top 20 words people use on Twitter, it appears we listen to E.B.’s advice.  Because the Top 20 words, as reported by Hubspot, are usually no more than 3 to 4 letters.

Is it the 140 character limit?  Perhaps, but I don’t think so.  Because, in looking closer, what they share is more than a similar number of letters.  It’s a human desire in all of us to establish community and build strong relationships.

Here are the Top 20 words people use and what they tell me.  See for yourself if this is what they tell you.

  1. YOU: The #1 word reflects our desire to reach someone.
  2. TWITTER: It’s part of our DNA to talk about the brands we use with others.  And Twitter is a brand.  We like to share our brand experiences.
  3. PLEASE:  To make something happen, as we all know, it helps to start with a respect for one another.
  4. RETWEET: A primary use for Twitter is to amplify conversations.
  5. POST:  This word has a number of definitions, but here it means to announce something we”ve published or something someone else has and we think it’s worth passing along.
  6. BLOG:  Twitter is a micro-blogging service, which is how Wikepedia describes it.  It’s a short form bulletin board that serves as an invitation for longer form conversations.
  7. SOCIAL:  Many of the words in the Top 20 reflect participation, including this one.  It also describes the category Twitter is in.
  8. FREE: According to comScore, 28% of people on Twitter right now are searching for deals and another 25% have something to offer.  Twitter is a community, but we also use it as a marketplace.
  9. MEDIA:  People use Twitter as their media channel to connect with those who share similar interests.
  10. HELP:  On Twitter, we: 1)  Show our vulnerability and 2) reach out to support one another.  Glad this word is here and in the Top 10.
  11. GREAT:  For the most part, this word is used to acknowledge someone else’s tweet which is also gratifying to see.
  12. PLEASE RETWEET: See #3 and #4 and combine.
  13. SOCIAL MEDIA: See #7 and #9 and combine.
  14. 10:  We frequently give tips, advice or reasons to support what we hope will help others.  The number we give most often is 10.
  15. FOLLOW: Another key reason for being is to point people in the direction of those who share similar goals and passions.
  16. HOW TO: We use Twitter to teach others something new.
  17. TOP:  We like to know what others rank highly.  It helps to see if we’re like-minded.
  18. BLOG POST: Like I said earlier, Twitter is a micro-blogging service.
  19. CHECK OUT: We point out where there is something of others worth reading or looking at.
  20. NEW BLOG POST: As you know by now, Twitter is a micro-blogging service and, to many, a personal newspaper about topics that are highly relevant to us.

You can learn a lot by the words people use.  Since these are the words used most often, in addition to what we say, they indicate how we act.  I was encouraged to see these words as the Top 20.  They are the compilation of a huge amount of activity.  They show a desire to bond, guide, help one another and to find others with similar pursuits.

What do the Top 20 words tell you?

10 reasons Social Media RFP’s aren’t there yet 4

Posted on March 20, 2011 by Rob Petersen

I have great respect for the RFP (Request For Proposal) process.

At the early stage of the procurement process, it brings structure to decision making.  It allows risks and benefits to be clearly identified upfront.  It invites potential suppliers and service partners to discuss capabilities, points of view, activities and often bid.

Having spent many years at ad agencies, I’ve written more RFP’s than I can count.  To be able to write and respond well to an RFP is a valuable skill.  Now I receive Social Media RFP’s.  At first, I thought it was a coming of age for social media. I think we have a ways to go.

Since social media is a conversation, not a monologue, maybe we should scrap RFP’s for the time being.  Those looking for help would be better off just talking to potential partners.  After all, the people you engage are going to be talking not only to you, but your customers.

Here are 10 reasons Social Media RFP’s aren’t quite there yet.

  1. NO EQUIVALENT COSTS: As a means to bring structure, an RFP should be given with an understanding of what services costs. This doesn’t seem to have occurred yet.
  2. TOO MANY SOLICITATIONS: If someone has done their homework, they should be able to narrow their search down to about a half dozen options at most.  When someone sends out an RPF to a greater number than that, it usually means the company doesn’t know what they want.
  3. TOO LITTLE CONSENSUS:  To get a good response back, you have to ask good questions upfront; ones that reflect consensus among people in the organization, not the individual needs of many.
  4. NOT ENOUGH MARKETING INTEGRATION: You don’t need a social media strategy, you need a business strategy because the role of social media is to amplify it.  An RFP should be given out with mention of other programs in the marketing mix for integration.
  5. UNCLEAR BUSINESS EXPECTATIONS:  Social media should be expected to produce business results (e.g. increase sales, shorten sales cycle, generate leads, lowers internal costs, decrease customer complaints).  Otherwise, why else would you do it?  The liklihood of success is much greater if they are specificied.
  6. UNREALISTIC TIMELINES:  After explaining business goals, the timeframes for these results should be identified or a point of view on how to gage progress should be requested.
  7. LITTLE MENTION OF MEASUREMENTS:  If you don’t place a priority on measurements, you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t get the results you want.
  8. NOT MUCH THOUGHT ABOUT CONSUMER RESPONSE:  The best thing that can happen with your social media effort is consumers engage with your company or brand.  The worst thing that can happen is you don’t respond when they do and let potential customers pass.
  9. OVERLOOKING CUSTOMER TARGETTING: “Open source” social search tools can find people who share an interest in what you have to offer down to the town where they live and how frequently they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter.  If I were looking for a social media company, I’d be asking what social search tools are being used before I’d ask what social networks.
  10. NOT CONSIDERING TIME ALLOCATIONS WITH COSTS:  The resource (or commodity if you’re in procurement) for social media is people’s time.  So the cost variables are how much is required and how would it be allocated?  My own point of view is, for every hour, spend 20 minute targeting the people you want to attract; 20 minutes publishing content and 20 minutes responding when they engage.  After that, the only other question is how many hours are required by week, month and for the year.

But, like I said at outset, the answers are available in a conversation.  You don’t need an RFP.  Is your business ready to have one?

16 case studies that prove Social CRM 23

Posted on January 13, 2011 by Rob Petersen

Many expect Social CRM to be a hot phrase in 2011.  It should be because the three most influential factors a person uses to decide whether or not to do business with a company are:

  • Personal experience (98%)
  • Company’s reputation or brand (92%)
  • Recommendations from friends and family (88%)

Source:  Cone Business in Social Media Study, 2008

Since Social media amplifies all three, it makes sense the terms, “Social” and “CRM,” belong together.

I’m a big believer in Social CRM but I think the phrase is still being defined.  One reason is the graphic above.  It’s very good but it is shows Social CRM as a concept that requires visualization to be explained.  Another reason is  two very smart people, when asked, give different answers.

Paul Greenberg, author and leading authority on SCRM, stated that Social CRM is “…designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide a mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company response to the customer’s owning of the relationship.”

Michael Fauschette says: “Social CRM is the tools and processes that encourage better, more effective customer interaction and leverage the collective intelligence of the broader customer community with the intended result of increasing intimacy between an organization and its prospects and customers. The goal is to make the relationship with the customer more intimate and tied to the company by building a public ecosystem to better understand what they want and how they interact with the various company touchpoints like sales, customer service etc…”

I favor a more matter-of-fact definition: Social CRM = a 1-to-1 sales relationship that occurs through social media and is profitable, sustainable and built on trust.

To substantiate, here are 16 case studies that prove Social CRM.

  1. AFTER STEAZ: When an organic tea company started talking on Facebook and Twitter about why teas that are organic matter, consumer listened.  In fact they not only listened, they bought the product and sales doubled.  When downloadable coupons were then offered on these social networks, 250,000 were downloaded and 2,830 tweets were recorded in an hour.
  2. BARACK OBAMA: Social media campaign for the President on raised $30,000,000 from over 70,000 personal fund-raising pages, 400,000 blogs, 35,000 groups and 200,000 offline events. Based on approval ratings, it also was probably the time when trust in the President was highest.
  3. BEST BUY (Twelp Force) : Best Buy employee communities grew to 2,200 employees within 3 months and responded to over 13,000 customers on social networks answering public questions, concerns, and opinions. The Twitter feed @twelpforce now counts over 29,000 followers and the number of questions averages 100-125 per day and is considered a key value-add by customers and the company
  4. CLOROX: Launched online community,, with blog and Twitter effort on Labor Day weekend at the beginning of the school year.  Twitter page was among the Top 10 trending topics over Labor Day weekend and blog was recognized by the Marketing to Mom Coalition and mommy bloggers for excellence in terms of delivering trusted, sharable information.
  5. COMCAST: Started “Comcast Cares” Twitter customer service center and attracted 2,700 followers.  More important, from a Social CRM standpoint, many who were critics of the company changed to raving fan.  Quality of attention and dialogue now serves as model for the the company.
  6. DR. VAKSMAN: Local Dentist with five month old dental practice in San Francisco attracted 320 new clients through social media presence including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
  7. FISKARS: 300 year old Finnish company that makes fine cutting tool created online social community of crafting enthusiasts called  “Fiskateers” to built relationships with underutilized channel of small retailers for a 3X increase in company sales.
  8. FOILED CUPCAKES: A Chicago company that sells cupcakes has no store front, only a web site.  When the product was readay but the launch of the website was delayed, they relyed on Facebook and Twitter for CRM.  Social media generated 93% of its business through social media leads to surpass revenue target by +600%.  The reason: You can tweet all day long. You can update your Facebook page all day long. But are people listening? They’ll listen if they know you care about them. So my personal mandate is that I reply to every single tweet and make a comment on every single post to our Facebook page,” says owner Mari Luangrath.
  9. GENERAL MOTORS: Launched “FastLane,” one of the first blogs personally written by senior executives.  Customer feedback given through a blog saved the company $180,000/year versus traditional focus group research not to mention the enormous good will of company executives responding to consumers, not a focus group moderator
  10. GREEN BAY PACKERS: The Green Bay Packers Foundation is a philantrophic organization developed to give back to Green Bay’s Special Olympics, Pop Warner Football, Feed the Children and other community causes.  They do this through the player’s personal stories and the sales of 4,000 Packers signed merchandise items at auctions.  They’ve built a Facebook presence of 221, 843 fans and a Twitter following of 14,682.  More important, in 2009, they generated $248,000,000 in a town of 106,000 for an average sale of $2,340 per citizen.
  11. H&R BLOCK: Tax preparation is a highly seasonal business.  H&R used Facebook and Twitter to provide immediate access to a tax professional for Q&A in the “Get It Right” social media campaign.  The effort secured 1,500,000 unique visitors and answered 1,000,000 questions for a 15% lift in business versus the prior year when there was no social media “Get It Right” program
  12. HARLEY DAVIDSON (HD TALKING): Harley owners created website and social community totally funded by users and user-generated content.  Here, Harley owners trades photos, jokes, where to find hard to find parts, advice on Harley models and ownership plus there are at least 7 mechanics on-call at all times. now has 40,000+ members and cost to Harley is negligible.
  13. INDIUM: A company that manufactures special alloys isn’t sexy;  neither is convincing 14 of its engineers to start blogs.  But that exactly what the company does.  It increased leads, prospects, conversions and sales by double digits plus it gave customers the opportunity to know the company’s employees personally.
  14. JOHNSON & JOHNSON (BABYCENTER.COM): 8 year old online/social media community connected and engaged 8,000,000 new and expectant moms in the U.S. (78% of total) and another 16.5 million in 21 countries.  A major profit center for J&J and, in fact, a major social brand.
  15. QUICKEN: Launched social community and blogger outreach to build long-term relationships with future and potential customers and provided free credit reports/scores, home value report and mortgage recommendations. received over 425,000 visits and 70,000 accounts were created without a dollar spent in traditional advertising.
  16. TURBO TAX: TeamTurboTax launched Twitter campaign to respond and answer questions during key tax season and found  customers were 71% more likely to recommend TurboTax because of their interactions with the company through Twitter.

Regardless of how it is defined, do these 16 case studies prove Social CRM to you?

31 strategy tips for your blog in 2011 (thanks to #blogchat) 7

Posted on January 04, 2011 by Rob Petersen

If you want to know the value blogs have for a business, company, brand and your personal brand, consider these facts:

  • 95% report higher search rank due to their blog
  • 55% drive more viewers to their website
  • 45% see revenue from their blog
  • Positive company perception increase by +36% if their website has a blog
  • #1 social channel for gaining trust

(Source: comScore, Neilsen, eMarketer)

If you want to bring out the best in your blog in 2011, consider #blogchat.  For those  of you who don’t know, #blogchat is a Twitter Chat that occurs every Sunday at 9 PM ET.  It attracts some of the best bloggers in the country who, for an hour or more, share ideas, support and have fun with one another.  It’s the #1 Twitter Chat and one of the strongest communities in social media.

#blogchat is hosted by Mack Collier.  It doesn’t matter where you are in your blogging life cycle; Mack makes you feel welcome.  Whether you’re a newbie or someone who been blogging for years, thoughts and ideas are equally shared and appreciated.

Last Sunday night’s chat was a great case in point.  The topic was strategy and goals for your blog in 2011.

Here are 31 strategy tips for your blog in 2011 (by author) that came from that #blogchat.  They were thought valuable enough, they were shared (re-tweeted) multiple times in the hour.


  • The biggest Q you need to ask before you goal-set: Why am I doing this in the 1st Place? @Starbucker
  • To create a blog strategy, 1st know 1) why you blog 2) for who 3) what you want from it (income? conversation?) @tiasparkles
  • Success criteria for my blog? Simple. I hope I enjoy it as much then (12/31/11) as I do now. Purely subjective/qualitative @japhychron
  • Blogging is supposed 2 be personal otherwise it’s a website @moondustwriter
  • Consider why you blog: Are you a business owner with a blog, or a blogger who owns a business? Big difference @sueyoungmedia
  • Your blog should reflect 90-95% of your personal brand @dgupta5150
  • Most blogs fail because they never get started. Paralysis by over analysis @dgupta5150
  • When you ask yourself what really matters, goals + strategies become easy & clear @TiaSparkles


  • Ask your audience what they want to know!  There are an unlimited number of perfect blog topics waiting to be tapped @chrisgarrett
  • Spend a 1/3 of your time writing your own blogs and 2/3’s reading and recognizing others’ blogs @robpetersen
  • Those you make time for are more likely to make time for you (and your blog posts) @RobertPickstone
  • I have found commenting on related blogs is my best way to grow audience @GinaMarieWisdom
  • When seeking out other blogs…is it your goal just to comment or really read, connect, and build relationships? big difference @bobbyrettew


  • You may not be a “thought leader” but your experiences/expertise/knowledge can be huge value to others @sueyoungmedia
  • Keep a list of topics & just write them down everytime you have an idea @skooloflife
  • Remember, every post could be the first post of yours someone reads. Make it a goal for every post to be amazing @allison_boyer


  • Don’t care bout building numbers about building a community of readers that will ACTUALLY read my blog @ginamariewisdom
  • 100 who engage is better than 10,000 who don’t know you or care to @ArtseyC
  • I hope that by end of 2011 I have 10 – 15 blogger friends who all promote each other @SoloBizCoach
  • I think if you create a killer community, they will care enough to support you & spread the word about your services @sheneeh
  • Comments are 1) community 2) valuable feedback 3) source of insight 4) future blog topics 5) social proof @chrisgarrett


  • If you want your blog to generate business for you (directly on the blog, or indirectly) then WRITE THAT DOWN, then work backwards @mackcollier
  • Remember to make your business goals align with your personal ones or you have internal battle-> Excellent! Funny to still see folks say “Money is not my goal” wondering what world they live in so I can move there @prosperitygal
  • My strategy is to make money because of my blog not from my blog. I see it as very different @BillBoorman
  • Have two simple goals for my blog this year: 1) tell my story 2) tell my clients stories – that is it @bobbyrettew
  • Since when did making money equal a prob with integrity? Unless you’re all homeless, you’re making money, right? @chrisbrogan
  • If you just measure visitors, that won’t help you much, you dont want more visitors, you want more clients @mackcollier


  • Here the bottom line: Be useful be relevant be helpful be interesting focus on the people and forget about the numbers @amoyal
  • Not every reader is looking for community. Most want information. Be informative = attract reader @gigigriffis
  • Best way to make money is helping others achieve their goals @chrisgarrett
  • My rule of thumb: Seek to be helpful, first. If the post is doing that, hit the publish button @Ribeezie

These tips apply to blogs.  But they also apply to social media.  Maybe, they’re even a good approach to life.  Are they worth considering to you?

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