Thursday, August 26, 2010

The 9 Secrets of Success with Social Video

Not another term that starts with the word “social”, please! Hear me out. This is not your average video story: we created a video, put it on YouTube and bang, thousands of people have viewed it.

This story is about how to make social part of the video experience from A to Z. It’s about engagement. It’s about interactions. The Worldwide Partner Organization at Cisco is a pioneer when it comes to interactive videos. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra Krasne (@Cisco_Channels) on the team’s highly successful video chat program. The goal of this event is to provide a place for Cisco Partners to connect live with Cisco executives and other guests regardless of their physical location. The results? As of today, the 8 video chats have collectively generated close to 50,000 live views with many replays. These are the secrets behind their success.

1. Give a cool name to a cool concept

Webcast is so…20th century. Video chat is hip and perfectly describes what it aims to accomplish: bring people into the conversation real time. The Cisco video chat pioneers call their live broadcast Channels Chat. Easy to remember, right? We’re all familiar with simulated live online events and “save your questions until the end of the presentation”-like webcasts. But that’s not video chat. Video chat encourages viewers to ask questions LIVE as the discussion progresses and enables presenters to answer them as they come in.

2. Create an exciting offer

Giving direct access to hard-to-reach experts in a live, interactive venue is without a doubt compelling. Add to that the fact that users can save money by participating in these sessions free from the comfort of their homes or offices and watch again the recording at their leisure. Luanne Tierney’s, Vice President, Worldwide Partner Marketing, show in June 2010 had about 10,000 live viewers and approximately 1,500 replays.

“Besides discussing important issues on these forums, the team feels strongly about giving something new to the audience to think about”, said Alexandra. “As much as we hope that our audience participates in the conversation, we also hope that they walk away from the video chat with new information.” So how does the team choose their topics?

3. Prep your presenters

The good thing about video chats is that they allow people to interact with each other live. The bad thing about video chats is that they allow people to interact with each other live.

“Panelists need to think quickly on their feet, therefore, they need to be trained on how to handle different and unexpected situations. You just never know what kind of questions they will get. Showing tricks and tips to them prior to the video chat will help them as well as your program become successful”, said Alexandra.

4. Deliver the experience on a social platform

Channels Chat started in April 2010 and was initially hosted on the Cisco Systems Ustream channel. Driven by the success of the first video chat, the team decided to launch its own channel. The location is a “jaw dropper” when it comes to social media integration. Ustream’s capabilities include social streaming, the feed can be embedded on Facebook or a blog, viewers can submit questions in real time via Twitter or Facebook, and the platform lets you use a hash tag so viewers can follow the conversation. These features help amplify sharing on the social web as well as enable viewers to interact with the panel.

5. Know who you’re targeting

The Channels team knows that they shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone. They carefully select their topics and audience for each show. They target their audience by their role within the Partner segment or by their segment focus. For example, the June 2010 show attracted marketing professionals from Cisco Partner accounts and this month’s broadcast put the partners serving SMBs in the spotlight.

6. Integrate social media into your topic search

The Channels team has been using Twitter creatively to help augment their topic selection process. It would be easy to simply reach out for input to those that are talking directly to the target audience and stop there, but Alexandra’s team has taken their outreach to the next level. They monitor what the Partners are saying on Twitter and what triggers the most retweets, and are using this information to come up with the framework for their discussions.

7. Be human. Be social. Be authentic

As you have probably picked up on it by now, the key driver behind a successful social video program is engagement. And when engaging, remember that we’re humans first and employees next. Just because we work in corporate America, it doesn’t mean we need to act like robots. A human tone with unscripted (or maybe just a little scripting to help get your key points across) delivery brings more color into and makes the experience more enjoyable for viewers.

The Channels team learned early on that engaging people at the beginning of the session and periodically reminding them during the event to submit their questions helps increase participant engagement. It is quite common for panelists to give a shoutout to the audience asking for their questions and thoughts. While each session has received many audience comments, the Vice President, Worldwide Partner Marketing, Luanne Tierney and Cisco CTO, Padmasree Warrior’s chats each generated dozens of audience questions.

8. Keep it short and sweet

Many marketers fall in the trap of doing 60-minute or even longer shows. With adult ADD and multi-tasking sky-rocketing, it is getting increasingly harder to keep people engaged. The team has found that sessions around 30 minutes work well with their audience.

9. Continue the engagement post event

The event is over, now what? “We create a summary after each show and post it to our blog, the Channels blog. Our blog is the key go-to platform before and after the show. This is where people can find information about our past and upcoming video chats along with other information, and this is also the place they can read our answers to those questions we were unable to address on Channels Chat”, said Alexandra. In other words, this team closes the loop with their audience: all questions are addressed one way or another – either during the broadcast or on the blog.

In closing, I asked Alexandra if she had any last words of wisdom for marketers. Her response was: “starting promotion too early is just as bad as starting it late. We found that starting communication a week prior to the show is good enough. People get fatigued if you start too early and keep bombarding them with information about your event.”

Intrigued by Channels Chat? Experience it for yourself. Sign up to follow this program to be alerted to new sessions and updates at

@petra1400 on #140Conf in 6 Points

I thought the 1-week anniversary of #140Conf in San Francisco was the perfect opportunity to follow up with some takeaways from the conference (that’s another way of saying I’m soooo late!). Being in high-tech corporate America, what I loved about this event is the wide range of perspectives presenters from different industries brought to the table. We heard stories from how the transportation segment in Helsinki is leveraging real-time data on the web to provide riders up-to-date status, urging us to demand making the same data available in the US to how an up-and-coming star in the music industry, Quincy Brown (@quincy) is harnessing the power of Twitter to increase his fan base. And of course, this roundup would not be complete without the secrets behind the Old Spice Campaign and some good legal advice. So what were the main points that spoke to me?

1. Engagement Is Critical for Success

There are two people at VirginAmerica that keep social media alive for the airline. Now, that’s commitment! A big shoutout to Jill Fletcher and her partner in crime (@VirginAmerica). They mentioned a funny story about Guy Kawasaki who was tweeting on his flight from his seat that he wanted a Coke. VirginAmerica tweeted back “"Guy, why don't you just ask the flight attendant for a Coke.”

Besides being funny, this example reveals another crucial point: use Twitter to connect and engage with people, not to constantly market to them.

2. Be personable. Be social

This is always a good reminder, especially if you work for a BtoB company. This tip actually came from HP’s Social Media Manager, Mia Dand (@MiaD). In the BtoB world, we have a tendency to push business content. Mia reminded attendees to embrace the personal side of social media by making only 80% of your content work related and 20% personal. It's ok to do so even if you're a business.

She also urged practitioners to move beyond listening and start responding to people. So be social on the social web.

3. Legal Issues in the Real-Time Web Are Real and Growing

I loved Franice Ward’s (@francineward) thoughts on the legal implications of your actions in social media. Obviously don’t post anything that can get you fired. “It’s not blogs that get people fired, it’s people that get people fired”, she said. It was also interesting to hear her mention the increasing number of copyright issues in social media. She cautioned the audience to only put out content that they’re ok with others sharing because whatever you put on the social web can be used by others without your prior approval. However, I should add that it’s good practice to give credit to the person you’re borrowing from.

4. Making money on and off the social web – you haven’t seen anything yet

My colleague Autumn Truong has put it nicely in her blog “There will be increasing ways to turn small amounts of data such as tweets on Twitter, to dollars. For more information, check out Dom Sagolla’s (@dom) book, “@thebook 140 Characters”

5. Women in Advertising: Women in Exec Positions vs. Making Purchase Decisions

Katherine M. Gordon (@katgordon) gave her thoughts on why she thinks many advertisements don’t work today. She pointed to an imbalance between the number of women executives in the advertising industry (3%) and the influence of women in making purchase decisions (80%). Therefore, she believes that encouraging women to climb the leadership ladder in the advertising industry is critical. To help with this effort, she has created “The 3% Conference” (@3percentconf). By the way, men are highly encouraged to attend this conference.

6. The Future of Commerce: Relationship Commerce

Ted Rubin (@tedrubin), the Chief Social Marketing Officer at #OpenSky talked about the shift from traditional online buying to a new online purchase model which 1) creates revenue sharing opportunities for bloggers and influencers that connect people with products and 2) helps eliminate middlemen. The basic idea is this: you often ask your friends and family for their advice before buying something. So why not have the people you trust become part of the value chain? In this model, bloggers identify products they like and want to let people know about and then connect with people they think would enjoy that product. In essence, they act as “referral agents”. Anyone can sign up to be a blogger or a vendor as deals are executed by the various people that come together to move products. Ted's famous last words were: “Social media should not be measured in terms of ROI. It should be measured in terms of Return on Relationships, or ROR.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Explore Social Bookmarking in 11 Questions and Answers

Social bookmarking is often considered the stepchild of social media. To a large extent, this is due to the fact that social bookmarking is not as flashy and hip as a game or a contest and many people don’t understand the benefits of this technique. It’s still an afterthought. However, when used properly and consistently, it can positively impact content consumption and SEO. Here are some things we’ve learned on our social bookmarking journey thanks to David Deans of Cisco Service Provider Marketing who has pioneered this initiative for us. Hey, I’m just one of the people who StumbleUpons David’s (and other) articles. But he is the man behind the scenes who makes this program happen time after time. Find out how he does it.

David, why are you using social bookmarking?
We have two essential goals, and both are related to content consumption. It enables us to attract new followers that are interested in the content that we produce and publish. It also positively impacts our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) objectives, by adding new backlinks to our Preferred Landing Pages (PLPs) and associated content assets on those Web pages.

Why did you get started with social bookmarking? What was your hypothesis?
We primarily were focused on improving the discovery of our content. Web analytics reports exposed that much of our content was rarely being viewed by site visitors. Many of our PLPs were not ranking well in SERPs for common search phrases. Our target stakeholders simply weren’t finding our content. In my experience, a systematic social bookmarking campaign is a key ingredient in a comprehensive plan of action -- to rectify those types of problems.

What platform(s) are you focusing on? Why and how did you pick those?
Primarily, as a team we use StumbleUpon on a regular basis. I also use Business Exchange and I’ve included LinkedIn Group link postings to my bookmarking routine. Our platform selection was based on extensive usage experimentation and then monitoring the results over time. We apply the tools that consistently improve the discovery of our content assets and also contribute to our SEO objectives. Periodically, I’ll try a beta platform to complement our efforts. I’m experimenting with Google Lists and a few other new tools.

How were you using social bookmarking when you started out?
My initial applications were very basic and were all intended to promote a new blog site that I created. I registered on about 15 of the most well known sites (Digg, Delicious, Reddit, etc) and discovered their strengths, and weaknesses. I learned the benefits of making your bookmark list “public” and which platforms didn’t handicap your links with No-Follow tags – which is very important for SEO.

What was the biggest challenge when you got started, and how did you overcome it?
In the beginning I didn’t realize that some platforms were much better at reaching my target stakeholders, than most others. By studying the available analytics reports I was able to identify trends. That experience made me more aware of the need to better monitor the outcome of my activity. Social bookmarking can be a very labor-intensive exercise; that is, until you’re able to focus your efforts on the activities that are proven to deliver the optimal results. I now use bookmarklets and browser plug-ins to save time and increase my productivity.

What challenges are you facing today?
Reporting on the meaningful results of these activities is problematic and incomplete. As an example, we have to aggregate reports from different platforms in order to gain all the insights we need to measure performance – the process is manual and time consuming. Also, I’d like to be able to track stakeholder influence and the resulting impact on sales related activities. That would require a sophisticated closed-loop scenario for data capture, where we can better identify the cause and effect of activities on sales-related outcomes.

How has your use of social bookmarking evolved since you started?
Well, in the beginning I was performing these tasks in isolation – the activity seemed like “busy work” to anyone who wasn’t informed about the inherent value. Now, more members of our team participate, so the positive impact is greater and typically achieved in less time. Of course, demonstrated results has given us the ammunition we needed to increase that overall momentum. That said, we could achieve so much more, if others were actively involved.

What has been the business impact to date?
Our online exposure and stakeholder influence has risen as a direct result of these activities. As an example, StumbleUpon is second only to Twitter in driving new visitors to our Cisco SP360 blog posts – it’s more effective than Facebook. Slowly, but surely, we’re also seeing improvements in SEO results for some of the keyword phrases that we previously identified. The majority of our new visitor traffic continues to come from Google keyword searches, so the fact that our bookmarking has (in aggregate) attracted more than a third of the overall volume is significant progress. We’ve gained many “followers” that have engaged with us and our content assets. Clearly, when we curate and expose the best content for those followers we’re providing a valuable service – that’s very gratifying.

Are there any side benefits of bookmarking that you didn’t anticipate?
Absolutely, there are several. The bookmark lists we create are helpful to our internal constituents – we use our own lists to find content assets quickly. Bookmark click-through results can help you identify trends – regarding the types of content that people are seeking most often. I didn’t expect people to reach out to me and thank us for making it easier to find content that’s of interest to them. I personally found people, that I’ve never met, that share common interests with me -- and so I now chose to follow them.

Did you have any a-ha moments? Something that really surprised you?
At first I was skeptical about the immediacy of the SEO benefits of bookmarking. Most search-savvy web site publishers will tell you that increasing the number of backlinks to their content is a constant challenge. Bookmark lists on public pages will improve your Page-Rank, sometimes I’ve seen results in a matter of weeks. Also, gaining influential followers and having them share your bookmarks (totally unsolicited) with others is a progressive form of content syndication that I hadn’t considered before. We refer to that phenomenon as Exponential Marketing.

If you were to give one piece of advice to marketers looking to get into social bookmarking or already using it, what would that be?
Invest the time to understand the needs of your target audience – the people who potentially will become your loyal followers, via these social bookmarking tools. The tools are merely a means to an end objective – don’t lose sight of that ultimate goal (since this activity can be a distraction if not used wisely).

And the final words of wisdom from David: "Find the time to experiment on a few new beta platforms – in an attempt to learn something new about this rapidly changing field. And, above all else, be prepared to earn the respect of online followers – lead by demonstrating that your ongoing bookmarking activity is worthy of their time and attention."

How are you using social bookmarking today?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

12 Tips to Get Noticed in Social Media: Let the World Know You're Out There

In early June, I posted a blog about how to add social media to your events. As a follow-on to that post, here are some tips on how to let the world know you're in social media. Seems easy, right? Even though it does, I'm finding that a lot of groups, in the B2B segment at least, are not yet fully connecting the dots and leaving some opportunities for publicizing their social media presence on the table. Many B2Bs out there still tend to think in silos: "this is the advertising team's job", "this falls under marcom", etc. But if we take a step back, we can quickly find some unturned stones that can make a difference with relatively little effort. This is only step 1 in our quest for social media proficiency. The next challenge is to maintain the momentum we've built here.

On a personal note, the Lost in Iceland T-shirt featured in the below presentation is real and is mine. I bought it in Iceland during my visit 2 years ago. My heart goes out to all the people in the country and I sincerely hope that mother nature will show more kindness to them. Best wishes to all.