Constant Contact: Great Company, Great Products

Anyone heard of Constant Contact? Over the past few years, they’ve been touted as a leader in E-Mail Marketing, however they also offer services ranging from Online Surveys, Event Marketing and now applications intertwining E-Mail with Social Media.

I received an invitation last week to attend a free seminar, given by them and sponsored by a local design firm. The presenter, Corissa St. Laurent, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for the Northeast, gave a phenomenal presentation, engaging the audience which consisted of mainly small business owners within the Providence, Rhode Island region.

The seminar was intriguing and portrayed how incredibly professional the company is. St. Laurent mentioned a few features within Constant Contact, mentioned below, that can be really beneficial for those involved in marketing and communications (whether for personal or professional reasons):

  • Nutshell Mail – tracks your brand’s social media activity and delivers a summary to your email inbox on your schedule. And, the best part? It’s FREE!
  • Learning Center – allows users to learn about upcoming features, benefits, how to’s
  • Local Seminars – you can attend these seminars, most often for free, and you learn a TON. Just when you think you might know everything about the latest and greatest, think again!

Overall, I can’t say enough about the company. Looking forward to utilizing their great product(s) in the near future.

What new Social Media products / software / applications do you find most useful?

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HootSuite: A Huge Social Media Timesaver

HootSuite: the web-based social media client, which measures performance of social networks like Twitter and Facebook announced today a new customer analytics platform called Social Analytics. The newest feature includes a completely new interface and the ability to create custom reports that include everything from link click-throughs, to Twitter follower growth, to the demographics behind the Facebook Likes – all in one reporting mechanism.  Reports can be customized with logos and skins and can be shared with any registered HootSuite user. The only drawback to the upgrade? For the users who favor the link shortener bit.ly (Number 8 does!), the new analytics platform doesn’t provide an integrated API solution. Unfortunately, users are stuck with utilizing Hootsuite’s own Ow.ly shortener for now until HootSuite upgrades in the future.

To see the new platform in action, check out the HootSuite video at this page: http://blog.hootsuite.com/social-analytics-reports/

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Capitalizing on Facebook Landing Pages

It seems that all companies, brands, musicians, actors, etc. have their own Facebook Fan Pages, with more growing daily. What people are now capitalizing on are Facebook Welcome Pages. These Pages have the ability to handle almost what an entire website can handle: content, images, video, e-mail newsletter sign-ups, even eCommerce!

Sure, anyone can build a fan page in under 10 minutes, and some big brands may even attract fans without any real effort. But even if you have a million fans, if the extent of their involvement with your brand is that at one point they “became a fan,” is that really branding your company or engaging with the fans? The trick with social media is that you want to involve a community. The “fans” have “liked” your page for a reason, now it’s your responsibility to engage with them: have creative content, two-way communication, fun promotions, active discussion boards, images / videos…not to mention having a fun and casual tone.

The larger companies are certainly capitalizing on Social Media (and making it a large chunk of the current year’s marketing budget), however there are some smaller companies utilizing Social Media in creative ways that outperform the large guys. Check out a few of these companies and see that creativity goes a long way:

  • Moosejaw: This outdoor apparel and gear retailer created a sweepstakes campaign (through a FB Landing Page) that was promoted through Facebook, Twitter, email and text messaging in advance of Christmas. Called “20 Days of Decent Giveaways,” the retailer gave away merchandise, a couple of quirky prizes like a wooden squirrel, and a $1000 shopping spree as a grand prize. To enter, the contestant had to forward, “like,” or “retweet” the company’s messages. Result: The company increased Facebook fans by 31%, Twitter followers by 45%, and increased sales of the merchandise offered as prizes by 10-15%.
  • New Belguim Brewing Company, Ft. Collins, Colorado: This craft brewery used Facebook to introduce a new India Pale Ale, a style of beer that was outside what customers would expect from a Belgian brewer.  The company used some fun interactive tools on its Facebook page, and a strategy that incorporated local events. Result: They surpassed their 3-month sales goal within the first 3 weeks after product launch.

Social Media, though still in its infancy stage, has the potential to open wide doors for small businesses, if given attention, strategy and a tad bit of creativity.

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Social Media: Lead Generation for Business Owners

The marketing atmosphere and day-to-day communication methods are changing everyday. The traditional marketing methods, such as radio, tv, and print advertising are still used as proven methods, however Social Media is gaining ground at record speed. An interesting article, published by Mashable.com a few months ago states how companies, in particular small business owners, can gather leads utilizing Social Media. The article states a few ways of gathering the leads, including:

  • Continuously pointing users to your content
  • Promoting Your Social Presence with Your Social Links (here is a company that does it well)
  • Monitor Conversations About Your Brand and Competitors (see article here about a recent Comcast incident)
  • Respond to Customer Questions and Feedback (see YouTube business owner advice here

Of course, utilizing offline methods such as networking and face-to-face meetings are still important, Social Media is fast, efficient and hopefully will save time and money for small business owners going forward.

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The K.I.S.S. Philosophy: Keep It Simple Stupid

I learned this phrase while attending Central Connecticut State University, pursuing a degree in Graphic Design. The professor used the term all the time and upon further research, was coined by a lead engineer for airplanes, named Kelly Johnson. The principle most likely finds its origins in similar concepts, such as Occam’s razor, and Albert Einstein’s maxim that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”. Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”, or Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s “It seems that perfection is reached not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”.

With the vast amounts of information pummeling the public on a daily basis, we are often overwhelmed with what to look at first, what to pay attention to, what’s important? Without getting too scientific, our brains can only process so much information at once. That is why, especially in advertising, the message needs to be simple. Clear. Concise. Effective.

Some recent ads that came out accomplish their task wonderfully. Accenture, the large consulting giant, recently replaced Tiger Woods with an elephant. The most recent ad portrays the elephant surfing with the tagline: “Who Says You Can’t Be Big and Nimble?” Graphic, humorous, and an immediate recognition with the reader.

Another good ad campaign was in 2008 for the World Wildlife Fund promoting the conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment. They used animals in each of their advertisements and portrayed the message from the animal’s perspective, how the animal FEELS in their environment. The outcome, hopefully, will be that an onlooker will donate to the cause because they empathize with the animals. Again, a graphic image, intermixed with concise ad copy, with a call to action towards the bottom.

There are also ineffective advertisements. Those that don’t either: a) elicit a direct response, 2) have an emotional connection with the reader or 3) both. Of course, bad advertisements (or even good ones) are subjective and are held in the eye of the beholder, however if the above points aren’t met, the ad will most likely be misinterpreted, ineffective or disregarded.

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Facebook: the social media phenomenon

When it first began, Facebook was primarily utilized for personal use, getting back in touch with old friends, updating family members with pictures and memories. Over the past few years, social media, and in particular Facebook, has become much more popular within the commercial sector. In fact, businesses are seeing their exposure to the general audience, and hence their sales, increase dramatically. Here’s a good blog article that states the top ten reasons why you start a page. Whether you’re looking to establish a personal page or commercial page for your business, below is a brief breakdown of establishment, including the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Profile Page: A Facebook profile page is your personal page. This is where everyone begins. Fill in all the fields with your information, post pictures and interact with your friends.

Advantages

Disadvantages:

  • Limited to 5,000 friends (I have yet to see anyone with even close to this many friends however)

Fan Page: DJs and other public figures can sign up for a fan page.

Advantages

  • There is no fan limit
  • Can send your updates to your fans
  • Can target your updates by city, state, sex and age
  • Is indexed by search engines
  • Provides some useful statistics
  • Pay-per-click campaigns available
  • Can setup a username i.e. http://facebook.com/maura.beaudreault

Disadvantages:

  • Updates go into a fans “update” box, not their inbox
  • Less interaction with fans/friends and is not as personal
  • No notification when fans post to your wall

Groups: You can create a group and invite people to be members. Here’s an example of it done extremely well: http://www.facebook.com/DunkinDonuts

Advantages

  • Mass e-mail directly to your members’ inbox
  • Pay-per-click campaigns available
  • You can have several groups for different purposes

Disadvantages:

  • Limited to 5,000 members
  • No notification when members post to your wall
  • Not indexed by search engines
  • Can not target messages to members

More tips for promoting and managing your page(s)

  • Embrace your friends and fans, do not ignore them
  • Try to respond to everyone who e-mails you or posts to your wall
  • Continue to update your pages by adding content (photos, video, discussion)
  • Add links to your page(s) in your e-mail signature and print on business cards
  • Create a “username” to shorten links
  • Connect your page to other social networking sites that you use like Twitter
  • Use other third party sites like SoundCloud to post mixes and track and link to them on FaceBook
  • Be sure to “suggest” your group/fan page to your current friends
  • Create events from the fan page instead of your personal profile so that you keep them connected to your fan page, target your updates and have a more professional appeal
  • Send out promotions using your group so that the event info will show in their “inboxes”
  • As you ad friends to your profile page create friend lists and categorize them by city (or whatever works for you) for targeting your interactions and/or promotions and contacts to specific groups of people
  • You may want to check your settings to turn off the public friend lists if you don’t want others to see it
  • Use the left box that says “write something about yourself” to list your upcoming shows
  • In the left “information box” list your other websites
  • Create tabs at the top so that people can easily access your photos, video, events, and any other details
  • Use professional photos for your default picture, especially on your fan page
  • Keep your pages clean of junk/spam others may post to your page
  • Your friends/fans love to be tagged by you in your photos and video
  • Wish people happy birthday on FaceBook, it’s just a nice thing to do
  • Always try to stay positive in your posts and comments

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