Levi.com: Uses Facebook to Create Social Brand Experiences

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

In yesterday’s article we discussed how Facebook’s new technology can help businesses create meaningful brand experiences. And we discovered today that businesses have already jumped on the social brand experience bandwagon and are strategizing to successfully use this channel. Today, Mashable revealed in an article how Levi’s (the clothing manufacturer) was one of the first businesses to successfully use Social Media and Facebook plugins to create a social brand experience.

A social brand experience adds a whole new dimension to online marketing and brand management. Previously, businesses could create online communities, websites, blogs, podcasts, have conversations online but now they can actually empower their customers to co-create meaningful brand experiences. By deploying successful online marketing strategies businesses can ‘be social’ and adopt practices which provide greater interaction between the brand and the customer. These channels provide opportunities for businesses to let their customers own the brand. Social brand experiences are a new and powerful way of creating brand loyalty and brand recognition quickly.

Levi’s provides a good example of a social brand experience. Through their website levi.com they are letting their customers show their likeness towards a product share it with their friends on facebook. Customers can do this simply by clicking the ‘like’ facebook plugin on the site and the image of the product will be displayed on their facebook profile. The new plugin links the site to facebook and allows customers to have dual interaction. This enables the brand to promote it’s products to millions to customers just by allowing users to share-in and co-create the brand experience.

 

Mashable quotes Jodi Bricker, Vice President of Digital for Levi’s® Americas as stating that, “We’re creating a new social shopping experience that will change the way people shop online and, frankly, make buying jeans more fun. We’re excited to pioneer this new technology and help our loyal fans connect with our brand and share their favorite Levi’s® products with friends.”

Social Web: Facebook Expands its Network

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

The web is dominated by social media and social networks. Each day a new technology is revealed or a new network is launched. This progress shows the growing change and use of innovation to connect people worldwide. Last week, Twitter revealed that there were 105,779,710 users that used the micro-blogging platform. Facebook on the other hand revealed that it was opening up the platform to partner sites.

Facebook Social WebToday, Facebook revealed further expansion strategies on it’s blog. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed that Facebook is going to partner with Microsoft Docs, Yelp and Pandora. Through this partnership Facebook will open the platform to include integration between the services offered by the chosen partners. Where this may raise privacy concerns with the users, it does provide multiple opportunities for businesses.

By adopting the social web mantra and opening up the platform, Facebook is giving businesses the opportunity to reach out to millions of its users and create individualized brand experiences. Mark Zuckerberg stated that, “This next version of Facebook Platform puts people at the center of the web. It lets you shape your experiences online and make them more social. For example, if you like a band on Pandora, that information can become part of the graph so that later if you visit a concert site, the site can tell you when the band you like is coming to your area. The power of the open graph is that it helps to create a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken.

We think that the future of the web will be filled with personalized experiences. We’ve worked with three pre-selected partners-Microsoft Docs, Yelp and Pandora-to give you a glimpse of this future, which you can access without having to login again or click to connect. For example, now if you’re logged into Facebook and go to Pandora for the first time, it can immediately start playing songs from bands you’ve liked across the web. And as you’re playing music, it can show you friends who also like the same songs as you, and then you can click to see other music they like.”

Facebook Social networks like Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Digg and Linkedin have changed the way we interact online. With these additional changes proposed by Facebook, the Social Web is going to become the hub of online interaction. It will enhance the interaction between businesses and their target audience. It will help brands create experiences that can be translated into social media. And it will enable them to share these experiences successfully with their target audience.

In another blog post from last week, Facebook enhanced the technology behind it’s pages. Now business pages can be connected to individual user profiles. By doing this Facebook enables businesses to monitor conversations about their brand closely. It also opens up a whole new level of interaction and lets businesses adopt strategies to capture the mind share of their target audience.

Promoted Tweets: Twitter Launches Twitter Ads

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

People have always asked two questions with relation to Twitter: How can Twitter make money? And can I promote my business on Twitter? Twitter Co-founder Biz Stone answered both these questions today and announced the official launch of “Promoted Tweets” – the paid advertising program by Twitter. “Promoted Tweets” has been launched to first display ads in search results and later in the feeds of individual user accounts. These ads will also be promoted on Twitter based third party sites like TweetDeck, twirl, TwitterBerry and Tweetie.

Co-founder of twitter Biz Stone announced that, “We are launching the first phase of our Promoted Tweets platform with a handful of innovative advertising partners that include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America — with more to come. Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets that businesses and organizations want to highlight to a wider group of users.”

Twitter has slowly become one of the most popular sites on the internet, in 2009 Twitter had 75 million users on its site. Currently, it has become one of the most talked about social networks and micro-blogging sites. From trends to news twitter leads the industry in many ways. Twitter’s paid advertising program has been launched just in time for the AdAge digital conference and the Chirp conference hosted by Twitter.

AdAge provides further insight into the launch of “Promoted Tweets” and gives a synopsis of Twitter’s Chief Operating Officer Dick Costolo’s statement. AdAge reveals that, “Unlike search ads on Google, Bing or Yahoo, there will only ever be one Twitter ad displayed at a time. Marketers will be able to use them to start conversations, such as Starbucks’ “Tell us something a barista did to make your day?” Starbucks could buy keywords to keep its question atop a search that turns up those results. Film studios could use promoted tweets to get the word out before opening weekend, and then to participate in the dialog about the film after opening night.

Twitter is rolling out promoted tweets slowly over the course of the year; initially on Twitter.com, and then to Twitter clients, which can include the ads and get a cut of the revenue. Ultimately, Twitter could syndicate results to Google or Bing, though no deal is close to making that happen.”

“Promoted Tweets” seems like a great opportunity for both businesses and consumers. With this new business model Twitter can help filter unnecessary and random tweets, giving businesses a chance to reach out to a greater audience. Before this both Facebook and Linkedin have individual paid advertising programs on their sites to help businesses get more exposure.

The Inbound Marketing Story: A Visit To Hubspot

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

Today, I met Mike Volpe (@mvolpe), VP Inbound Marketing at Hubspot and it was a very educational experience. Having moved here recently I have been trying to expand on my network of friends, colleagues, industry experts etc. Social media marketing is both an online and offline endeavor. It is all about forming that link, that connection with individuals whom you interact with daily in the online space.  And as I mentioned in my last article inbound marketing channels have helped me connect to many people, discuss industry specific issues and gain greater insight. Mike Volpe is one of those few individuals who have helped me expand on my knowledge of inbound marketing.

The reason I call this article ‘the inbound marketing story’ is that today’s meeting stemmed from online interaction with an industry expert. Having taken the inbound marketing exam in February, I started following a number of people from Hubspot on Twitter. One of them was Mike Volpe. Mike and I started discussing the latest in tech gadgets on twitter. The discussion went from iPad to HP netbooks to eee pcs to coffee.

I was very excited about meeting Mike as I had seen him on Hubspot TV, had read his articles on the hubspot blog and had been talking to him on twitter. He was this contact on my screen whom I loved sharing ideas with. Meeting him offline meant taking the whole online marketing experience to real life. And a part of me wasn’t sure how this experience would translate. After having waited two weeks I finally met him today. And I was impressed at how down to earth he was and with what ease he translated the whole inbound marketing experience from the online space to everyday life.

The important thing I gathered from today’s meeting was that inbound marketing ethos and guidelines need to be communicated and established across the board – from our online activities to our everyday life. There needs to be a point where it all comes in sync and reflects the same brand attitude. Come to think of it the ‘online space’ is just a channel where we can further our everyday activities and businesses. It provides us with opportunities to reach out to a wider audience. And helps us create platforms which enable us to interact without having to be physically present in the same room. But if someone was to ask what inbound marketing would like if moved from the online space to the real world? I would say it would very much look like the hub of activity at the Hubspot offices.

 

The Hubspot offices seemed like an interactive maze to me where everyone was busy communicating on some level or another. From an outsiders point of view this communication was very much in sync. Even though each individual was carrying out his/her own task yet it all came together under one umbrella. It was hard to set rigid boundaries around groups or to say that one part was different from another. To be honest it was reflective of how hubspot carries out their online activities. They may do different webinars, have different twitter accounts, write different blog posts but they all speak the same language – the language of inbound marketing. The culture at their corporate offices reflects this too. What was most amusing was that I saw copies of the ‘inbound marketing’ book by Brian and Dharmesh on the desks of their employees too.

Social Media: Connecting Us To The World

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

Two or three decades ago it would have seemed impossible for a local business to be seen global. Or to have an audience in a part of a world which you had never visited. True, the internet eased up communication for businesses but Social Media added a whole new dimension to it. It allowed businesses, marketers and entrepreneurs etc. to connect to customers, have conversations and close deals over platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin. I remember attending a webinar by Hubspot where they showed a case-study of how they had gotten a deal through Twitter.

 

I encountered something similar recently – an inquiry from a marketer in Asia who was interested in finding more about SEM. I was excited because we got to exchange so many ideas, talk about strategies and discuss issues specific to our regional industries.Social media helped us break the boundaries and limitations of traditional marketing and helped us connect.

 

I contribute to many different marketing groups on Linkedin and follow some interesting people on Twitter. Working on these platforms has enabled me to connect to ‘potential clients’ and build rapport with industry experts in the online marketing industry. Today, I am connected to people worldwide – in places like London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Korea, Pakistan, India, France, Italy, China, South Africa etc. I have never visited many of these places but each day I talk to many incredible people. We share a common interest and a common goal. We may live in different time zones, we may speak different languages but social media connects us in ways that were never possible before.

 

Social media has made us “globally social”. Sometimes we don’t realize the power of this medium, or the ease with which it allows us to form valuable connections. Connections that have slowly filtered in our everyday lives, connections that are very important and allow us to carry out business worldwide. In many ways social media has broken down cultural and national boundaries and united us all under a common umbrella. Social media allows businesses to experiment with innovative strategies and helps them extend their reach.

 

It’s particularly useful for businesses and allows them to market to a wider audience. One of my neighbors runs a salon for women in her house. She is quite successful and has a huge clientele. But what’s most interesting is the fact that all her clients are referrals from Social media networks. The only place where she markets her business is on different social networks. She tweets regularly, updates messages on her facebook page, gives tips on her blog and has fresh content on her site regularly. These inbound marketing channels help her reach out to hundreds of women weekly.

 

Many can argue that small businesses are most likely to benefit from Social Media Marketing. That’s not true – social media is all about being social and forming connections. It’s about building links (with humans and not websites). Social media marketing practices can be used by all types of businesses: small, medium to large and even multi-nationals. It’s all about knowing that you can connect to the world through social media. A good example being Kodak – a company that revamped its brand identity and leveraged success through Social Media. Now is the time when businesses need to realize the potential of Social Media and jump on the social media bandwagon. Your customer is out there you need to be there too.

 

Thanks to social media I have friends in every corner of the world. I learn something new each day – for instance today I read on the Google blog about the discovery of the rare humanoid fossil, I found out about launch of the new Adobe Creative Suite on Twitter and came across three new connections on Linkedin.

 

The world of Social media offers endless possibilities and through Social media we are creating a global culture that transcends the boundaries of race, color, creed, gender, religion etc.

301 redirects: the why, how and what of implementing redirects for your site

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

When a searcher types a query in a search engine, the search engines respond to the query by displaying URLs that best meet the searchers criteria. In simple words search engines index millions of sites (store them in a data pool) and pull up sites that have content that responds to specific search keywords. Sometimes a website can have two versions of the same page indexed by the search engine. Search engines treat http://yoursite.com and http://www.yoursite.com as two different websites, resulting in both URLs being indexed and traffic going to both separately. This could result in the sites search rankings being comprised and domain equity being divided. In such circumstances it becomes important to carry out a server side redirect commonly known as a “301 redirect”.

There are several other circumstances where having a 301 redirect becomes important. For instance, if you created a landing page that was no longer valid – it was generating a lot of traffic when created and had many inbound links (sites linking to it) but the offer on the page had expired and search engines were still sending traffic to that page. Instead of deleting the landing page you can 301 redirect it to another page on your site. This would ensure that the value and equity generated from that landing page stays in place. It also solves the problem of having redundant content on your site. The page could still be indexed by search engines but with a 301 redirect in place a searcher would be redirected to an active page on your site.

A 301 redirect is a way of re-directing or forwarding traffic from your site to another URL. With a 301 redirect you can direct traffic to your preferred URL (e.g. you want Search engines to treat http://yoursite.com and http://www.yoursite.com as one webpage thus, when you set up a 301 redirect, search engines will send traffic to your preferred URL).

It is particularly important for SEO purposes because: It is one of the most efficient and spider/search engine friendly strategies. It groups together your various sites and sends traffic to your preferred URL. It helps preserve your search engine rankings for a particular page.

 

Other scenarios where 301 redirects are very important include situations where you want to move your existing site to a new domain. Placing redirects allows old URLs to be “redirected” to the URL of your new site so that your visitors don’t get an HTTP 404 error (page not found message). Google Webmaster central explains the most useful circumstances for 301 redirects on its website and states that, “301 redirects are particularly useful in the following circumstances:

  • You’ve moved your site to a new domain, and you want to make the transition as seamless as possible.
  • People access your site through several different URLs. If, for example, your home page can be reached in multiple ways – for instance, http://example.com/home, http://home.example.com, or http://www.example.com – it’s a good idea to pick one of those URLs as your preferred (canonical) destination, and use 301 redirects to send traffic from the other URLs to your preferred URL.
  • You’re merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the correct pages.”

The kind of Web server you have dictates how your Webmaster will implement a 301 redirect. The most common Web server is Apache, for an Apache server the Webmaster will need to modify the .htaccess file. For implementing a 301 redirect on a Windows Server check out Bruce Clay Inc.’s post.

301 redirects are important for Search Engine Optimization purposes. They are placed to make sure that pages from your site are indexed properly, value from your old site is transferred to your new site and any content or page duplications are removed from your site.

You can place 301 redirects for any page of your site – product pages, landing pages, home page etc.

Successfully Marketing Your Brand On April Fools Day

Written for Wakefly.com in April 2010

Who said online marketing had to follow a formula and be dull and boring? Online Marketing or inbound marketing as many like to call it offers far more potential than traditional marketing did. It lets businesses explore techniques and implement strategies that were not possible before. It has enabled sinking businesses to get back on track and it has turned start ups into multi-billion dollar companies. The key is knowing your audience and delivering to their expectations. If it’s online it has to be interactive, it should focus on inclusion and participation and it has to be transparent. The key to successful online marketing is to create brand recognition by reaching out to the masses.

Brands like Google, Starbucks, Kodak etc. use online marketing effectively and have created strong brand recognition and brand love for their companies. The reason they are all successful in the online sphere is that they are not scared of experimenting and doing something different. The businesses themselves may be very serious but their online marketing tactics are very lighthearted, often humorous and human. These brands use every opportunity to successfully market their brand. They make use of all available online channels and promote in an exciting way. They are so invested in online marketing that they even use April Fools day to their advantage.

 

Google has always been “very serious” about seriously marketing on April Fools day. Each year they come up with a new prank or idea and have a hidden marketing message in it. For instance, this year Google decided to change its company name to Topeka for the day. Where this trick is amusing and has created a huge following online, it also serves a dual purpose. Through Topeka, Google is trying to promote its broadband fiber network – project 1100 cities. Currently, Topeka is the most popular news online. It is also being accessed by millions of searchers who search on Google.com. Through Topeka, Google is making the world aware of its 1100 cities network project and they deliver the message in a very light-hearted way – in a manner that is mostly likely to stay in the hearts and minds of people for long. Now this is called effective online marketing.

 

Starbucks employs similar tactics and makes the most of April Fools day. They have put up an online campaign showing that ‘Starbucks listens to its customers’. This campaign introduces two (fake) beverage sizes for customers in the U.S. and Canada. Where this campaign is humorous and takes a pun at serving sizes in the U.S. and Canada, it also projects Starbucks as a brand that ‘listens to’ and ‘cares about’ its customers. Again, this is a subtle message hidden in a humorous campaign and makes the most of the given occasion.

 

Kodak is another brand that has successfully used online marketing to reposition itself as an industry leader. With the introduction of digital cameras Kodak lost a great deal of its market share but marketing folks at Kodak decided to turn this misfortune around. They adopted online marketing techniques and marketed their brand successfully, resulting in record profit for Kodak last year. Like Google and Starbucks, Kodak has made the most of April Fools Day too.

They have introduced a campaign called ‘Kodak Aromatography, an unbelievable sensory experience’ – basically giving customers the ability to print pictures that have a smell. This campaign introduces a new innovative technology by Kodak called ‘Neuro-Optic-Nasal-Sense Imaging’ – a technique that lets you print a picture with its unique smell. Like the other two campaigns this campaign uses April Fools Day to its advantage. It projects the message that Kodak is always innovating and coming up with new ideas and products. It shows that they are always willing to go that extra mile to offer technologies that might not otherwise seem possible.

The three case studies above show the importance of making the most of online channels to market your brand. They also show how through good content one can reach out to millions of people online. It also helps you turn your corporate blog into an interactive platform. It is very important for businesses to focus their strategies to create online campaigns that strengthen the brand image without alienating their target audience.

 

Special occasions, holidays, events and celebrations are a great time to create effective campaigns that people can relate to. These campaigns can help strengthen your brand image and positioning in the market.

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