Social Marketing

9th December
written by Rena Bernstein

Call it what you want. Social Marketing. Viral marketing. Buzz marketing. Word of Mouth Marketing. They all have the same goal — to get people talking about a product or brand.  I just call it “C2C” which simply means Consumer to Consumer, or Customer to Customer marketing, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

whispersSetting a brand on fire

What makes viral and buzz marketing catch on is usually it’s association with something timely, extremely unique or otherwise memorable. In some way it touches people personally and specifically. It’s the way a brand solves a customer’s problem. For example it may be that a product was delivered faster than expected, the service rep went way above and beyond or the customer recognized greater value after the sale. C2C is simply providing your customers with a consistent brand image, value and experience that they appreciate and it is unique enough to talk about.

No Special Equipment Needed

There are no new strategies or tactics to talk about here, just basic marketing and business acumen. Good marketing and advertising brings value to the customer by providing information, entertainment or validation. 

Marketing in any form is still all about helping people solve their needs. Often “needs” they didn’t even know they had. Whether they “need” that hot new perfume, a cereal their kids will like, or a new computer system with brand new features, the customer has a need. Marketing should be all about creating a consistent brand message across marketing channels that customers associate with a solution to that need. That kind of marketing creates a more personal sort of recall and gets talked about in the form of social exchanges and recommendations both online and off. That’s C2C.

B2B is still about C

The immense popularity of social media, specifically B2B social media confirms what I’m saying here — people will talk about brands that interest them, inform them or entertain them. Selling to a business is still selling to people — the main difference is in the needs that they have and what makes them personal.

So while your looking at strategies and creative for B2B and B2C marketing, don’t forget about the C2C effect.


What do you think?

20th October
written by Rena Bernstein

Companies are in business for one reason only, and that’s to make money. Since methods for defining the true ROI of social media are still a bit fuzzy, some CEOs are getting frustrated at the time it takes to see results.

Social media has a reputation of requiring almost no investment to the point of being virtually “free”, but that’s not true at all. TIME is money. To give social media a real chance to succeed, it requires a substantial investment of time. Time to listen to the market, to develop strategies, to cultivate relationships to build trust and time to review incremental results and make adjustments. And we’re NOT talking about just days or weeks.

Social Media is a long term, ongoing process, not a project.

19th October
written by Rena Bernstein


I have read so many articles about the impact of Twitter on society and how it has “democratized media”, but I must say, I think that most of these guys have missed the big picture. As I speak to people that have tried Twitter only to walk away confused and  disappointed, I realize that Twitter’s greatest strength is lost on the masses.

Newbies open an account and begin following a few big media outlets, celebrities, or possibly a major brand or two. Many of these accounts are less personal and tend to “broadcast” instead of interact. These newbies often send out their first and sometimes only Tweet that says something like “OK, so I’m finally on Twitter. Now what?”. They hear nothing back and leave wondering “what the heck is everyone making such a fuss about”?

This “twit-nomenon” is reflected in a study by Sysomos Inc. (@sysomos) that revealed ” Only o.29% of all Twitter users follow more than 2,000 people, 92.4% follow less than 100 people and 93.6% of users have less than 100 followers”. What I take away is that people are treating Twitter like TV. They dial into a familiar channel (say the New York Times, Ashton Kutcher or maybe Barack Obama), then sit back and wait for a show.

The simple interface of Twitter is deceptive.

Twitter doesn’t easily give up the gold that lies beneath it’s surface. Finding this buried treasure takes some effort from the user and a little curiosity. What is interesting is that it’s first valuable asset has nothing to do with sending out Tweets or getting people to follow you. Yes, I love the interaction and two way communication aspect, but for a newbie, first there must be a sense of value.  Their initial Twitter experience should be about finding people worthy of following that offer personal value for them. They need to find and listen to the conversation before jumping into it. Then the value grows exponentially as you become involved, make friends, develop relationships, and share knowledge.

I’m a passionate sort of person and when I’m interested in a topic, I like hearing everything I can about it. I look for people that are both experienced in the subject as well as those that are new. Those that are the influencers, and those that are influenced. Of course there is much more to Twitter than listening.

One of the reasons people get caught up in this cycle is because of a  tool that’s overlooked: the unfollow button. Using it regularly keeps your stream clear of spam and annoying comments about who had what for lunch. I have seen how following fewer but more valuable Tweeple can dramatically improve a persons entire Twitter experience, leaving you much more time to interact with those you have chosen to keep.

Sure there are plenty of users with thousands of followers, automatically sending out hundreds of tweets a day, like the 5% of Twitter accounts that generate 75% of all tweets and racking up followers like trophies. But as far as I’m concerned, those folks have missed some of the best parts of Twitter.

Yes, Twitter is awesome for it’s two way interaction and communication abilities. But for me, the most priceless part is having an endless stream of customized and fresh material served to me, whenever I want it…..(now if only I could get my kitchen at home to do that for me).

Do you agree?

24th September
written by Rena Bernstein
Claude Hopkins - Scientific Advertising

Claude Hopkins

They say, “if you wait long enough, everything old is new again”. That’s certainly true of Social Marketing.

People are talking about Social Media Marketing as though it’s brand new. It seems that SMM and Inbound Marketing in it’s purist sense, dates back almost to the beginning of the study of advertising itself. In 1923, Claude Hopkins wrote “Scientific Advertising”, a highly regarded advertising how-to described by advertising notables like David Ogilvy and Gary Halbert as a “must read”.

So what’s the connection? While reading through “Scientific Advertising” I came across several stories of circa 1920′s salesmen and their door-to-door marketing tactics. They offered housewives free samples, gadgets and advice — and would not take any payment. That same salesman might visit again days later to ask the housewife about what she thought of the sample he left — still not selling anything or asking for payment, just being helpful.

Because the salesman had begun a relationship, and the housewife had the opportunity to develop some level of trust with the salesman, these prospects began ASKING to buy products and sales dramatically increased. As a matter of fact, Hopkins cites at least 3 examples of similar tactics where he says “such offers were reistless, and about nine in ten of the trials led to sales”.

Let me repeat that, “9 in 10 trials lead to sales”!

This 90% conversion rate is not nearly as surprising to me as the fact that these are the exact same basic principles that make Inbound Marketing so powerful today. By engaging with prospects in order to develop a simple relationship, the marketer was able to first create a level of trust, and create an interest or need where one may not have existed before, so when the prospect was ready to buy, there was no question about WHO she would buy from. The purchase decision was not about price, but about the relationship.

Now I ask you to imagine that story again, but now add in amazing reach and effectiveness of today’s social internet so your talking to thousands of these prospects at once, and combine it with the low cost of entry — like offering simple helpful information instead of actual free samples, and I think you’ll see why I was impressed.

I think the similarity to Inbound Marketing is unmistakable. It’s fascinating that while this proven marketing practice dates back to 1923, some marketers still think Social Media Marketing is a fad and deny it’s value as an effective marketing tactic.

8th September
written by Rena Bernstein

Go to the comments on almost any social media blog and you’ll find two opposing opinions emerging.

One says that to be truly “social” in social media, it’s inappropriate to even attempt to deliver any type of marketing message. Social media is all about being helpful, authentic and human and about people connecting on like-minded topics. It’s not about selling or marketing and corporate messages of any kind should be rejected.

On the other hand, since marketing is the beginning of the sales process and social media offers the perfect opportunity for any business to find, attract and inform new prospects, businesses naturally want to be involved to make sure their brands are part of the conversation. If the chatter about their brand turns negative, they want to be there to address the issue quickly.

Marketers know the social media creed: to be part of the conversation means they have to be honest, authentic and personal and not push any sales message — or risk the consequences. Most brands recognize the value in social media, are willing to forgo any sales push and play by the rules. Actually, most of the companies I have spoken to, embrace the honesty social media offers and feel it fits well with their own corporate philosphy. They benefit from the exposure, interaction, relationships and idea swapping they share with their community.

So why do some social media purists balk when the words “social media” and “marketing” are used in the same sentence, and then cringe at the thought of measuring it’s value? Don’t social media community members benefit from corporate involvement with the addition of trustworthy information, valued entertainment and worthwhile resources? How many social media venues would exist if not for corporate participation?

Even if a business does their SMM entirely in-house, it takes the investment of time, knowledge, overhead and creativity to do it well, and those things equate to money. So, despite what some may think, social media is not free and therefor from a business perspective, needs to be measured against return, just like traditional marketing.

So why do some social media purists still reject the notion that a business involved in social media, is actually doing social media marketing?

Tell me what you think. I’d like to know.

19th August
written by Rena Bernstein

marketing for small business
Social Media Marketing is easy.

As a small business owner, you may not be aware that you probably already know a lot about Social Marketing. You just haven’t been doing it online until now. Successful Social Marketing is all about being a good neighbor, being helpful and interacting. It’s not about direct selling. Most small businesses are already good at adding that “personal touch” and it’s one of the things that often makes them successful. Social Media is more about creating that “personal touch” than it is about the tactics.

Social Media Marketing is very inexpensive.
Because there is no cost for most of the media that is used in Social Media Marketing, people think of it as free. There are a bunch of costs to keep in mind and keep track of. Most importantly is the time it takes to maintain your online presence. It is far more involved than it looks and the hours add up quickly. The cost is more obvious if you are paying an employee to create content such as articles, images, videos etc., but even if you do it yourself, you still need to consider the time it takes as an expense. There is also the cost of setting up and maintaining your website and/or blog — an important component in Social Media Marketing. While SMM is still the most inexpensive type of marketing media I know, just remember, it’s not really free.

Social Media Marketing is very accessible.
If you have an internet connection, you already have the most important part. Unlike traditional media, Social Media transcends geography, economics and industry. It’s one of the simplest ways to identify a niche and find out who’s talking about your subject.

Let’s say you manufacture a certain material for use in the dental industry. You can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to travel around the world to participate in industry trade shows, so you could listen to and connect with people that by your product. Or, for the cost of your time, you could find where they have interests online and become part of their conversation. Just as you would if you were at a reception at the trade show itself.

Social Media Marketing lets you listen in.
If you have ever overheard a conversation between two customers when they talk about your category or product, then you know how valuable hearing a candid conversation like that can be. Understanding what your audience thinks and what is important to them lets you react effectively and in a timely manner.

Information gathered can include anything from how customers feel about your brand — or a weakness they see in your competitors. You could learn what they feel is lacking in the category or maybe discover a need you didn’t know existed.

Social Media Integrates well with other online and traditional advertising.
Social Media is as much a learning opportunity as it is a marketing vehicle. When integrated with traditional marketing in an comprehensive marketing plan, it can provide a wealth of information and research, immediate feedback, and additional support to drive traffic. On the other side, traditional advertising can help to drive traffic to an online location where you can create an ongoing and authentic interaction that leads to a committed and loyal customer.

So tell me what you think?

27th July
written by Rena Bernstein

While the call for marketers to jump on the social media and inbound marketing bandwagon is getting louder every day, will you know how to benefit from your participation in the community, without alienating it, once you find it?

It’s critical to remember that even though you are representing a brand, and your ultimate goal may involve increasing sales, social media is not the time or place for sales speak. Marketers must always remember that as participants in these conversations, they don’t and can’t control them. The goal is to engage in meaningful exchanges and develop honest relationships. Once you are engaged, here are a few questions to ask yourself to see if you are making the most of your social media efforts.

1- Do you know how to spot your online market?

To begin with, social media marketing can often be an overwhelming choice of continuously changing options. Because it’s usually easier to find your community than it is to create it, finding the right channels where your business and your audience’s interests meet are crucial to your success. Your audience may be found in or may be moving between popular social sites, blogs, social bookmarking sites, forums, CGM sites, mobile technology, application-based networks, and assorted types of vertical networks to name just a few. It’s always a difficult balancing act to know where to find and how to maintain a relationship with a continuously moving target.

2- Will you be able to recognize your community when it’s included within a larger group?

Are you sure you will know if you are in the right place, or are you passing by an opportunity because you didn’t recognize it? As the environment changes it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of this rapidly evolving landscape, and to be able to recognize your market, even when they are not talking about your brand or specific category.

3- Can you spot trends in sentiment of satisfaction, and advocacy for your brand — or your competition’s?

The ability to listen to the market is a key benefit of social marketing. It gives you the opportunity to understand what your brand, (or your competitor’s brand) actually means to the market, helps you find evangelists, gather information for the future, spot dissatisfaction and address issues before it publicly explodes into major problems. It is important to know how to decipher the information that you are gathering.

4- Is your audience spreading the word about your brand and have you given your audience something they find worthwhile to talk about?

An audience of passive listeners will not stick around long unless you openly share meaningful content to engage them. This is not the time for a free sample or a newsletter. In order for social marketing to be most effective, your relationship must have substance for everyone involved to stay engaged. Nobody wants to hear about your products or brand all of the time, but if you begin with an honest and authentic corporate culture then provide highly insightful and or entertaining content worth sharing— that has nothing specific to do with your brand — chatting with you and about you will become natural. This is an ongoing creative process that requires imagination, planning and participation from across your entire organization and often outside as well.

5- If you haven’t planned where your going, how will you know when you get there?

One of the most overlooked aspects of social media marketing is the strategy and plan. Just as in any other form of marketing, social media should be an intentional and planned marketing effort with specific goals and metrics to identify success. Despite the claim that social marketing is free, there is a significant time commitment (and associated cost) if you want it to be successful and productive. If your efforts aren’t planned, they can’t be measured. And without measuring your efforts and gains, you wont know what works and what doesn’t. A strategy with specific goals, tactics, and time estimates will help make sure you stay on track and provide a framework for achieving your goals

13th April
written by Rena Bernstein

First there were blogs. Then YouTube and Flickr created image-rich platforms where users could create visual journals, display creative works or promote their personal views and then exchange a list of their favorites with other users.

Next Twitter popularized micro-blogging, the social networking site limited to text-based posts or “tweets” not longer than 140 characters. The concept is to answer the simple question “What are you doing now?”, and since Twitter allows only 140 characters, it was a natural fit for texting.

At the same time, mobile-marketing began showing significant results in reaching and connecting with specific market segments.

It only makes sense to put together the best of all of these phenomenons: A “moblog” or Mobile blogging site is a place where the user can publish blog entries to the web, including images, right from a mobile phone. It’s a great idea for those addicted to blogging letting them post even when on the move.

Moblogging is a whole new type of short form blogging, that incorporates the best one-to-one benefits from blogs, the visual richness of Flickr and YouTube, and the social interaction and simplicity of Twitter.

26th March
written by Rena Bernstein

Marketers are all jumping into Social Marketing. Yes of course there are lots of great benefits associated with it: customer advocacy, brand recognition, social acceptance and we can’t forget the relative low cost. What some marketers don’t consider upfront, is that there can be a potential downside.

While no company wants bad press, smaller companies can often be seriously hurt if they don’t deal with bad buzz appropriately. Blogs have gone a long way to help give these mid-size companies a leg up, but a brand must remember to always stay active in their brand image. By opening up lines of communication between you and your customers, you may start to hear things you wish were not so public. It’s a critical part of your brand’s image to actively engage these customers to find out how they feel, keep interactions positive, and resolve any issues.

So what do you do if your brand’s buzz goes bust? A company’s response to negative buzz can have a bigger impact on the brand image then the initial bad review. Here are some simple things to keep in mind:

Don’t think about it too long.
Address negative buzz quickly and efficiently. Accept responsibility for mistakes and take action to correct them right away. This helps to slow down or stop the flow of negative buzz, and can turn it into a positive conversation about your brand’s integrity.

Stay active on public message boards.
Message boards are the most common venue that people use to complain about companies or brands they are unhappy with. Other members of the group then join in until the entire forum has a hostile view of the brand. Stay active on message boards related to your industry so you can help to offer resolutions quickly.

Say what you’ll deliver, deliver what you say.
Pete Blackshaw, a founding member of www.WOMMA.com said that “negative word of mouth is often created when a product’s advertising is not in sync with the consumer’s experience”. Simply put, stay true to your own marketing.

Being prepared is half the battle.
You can get in front of a problem by paying attention to customer feedback and responding quickly. If you’re repeatedly hearing the same issues, then by quickly dealing with the root cause and rectifying the problem will become the new conversation.

Fight buzz with buzz.
Use the same tools to turn negative comments back into a positive buzz. In addition to responding on blogs and monitoring message boards and forums, marketers can also look to websites such as Getsatisfaction to keep up with what the public is saying about them. Marketers can also listen in on Twitter conversations related to their brands so they can react quickly.

The basic elements of every effective social marketing campaign is the same: engage your customers and respond to their needs to help improve brand loyalty and customer satisfaction.

Rena Bernstein is Creative Director at Elektrik Ink, LLC, a full-service advertising and strategic design agency that specializes in the convergence of traditional advertising and digital marketing. Read more about Advertising, Social Marketing and Brand Identity at www.elektrik.com or call 212-675-1568.