Friday, July 30, 2010

Tips on Taking Advantage of The YouTube Juggernaut

Do you even remember what the Internet was like before YouTube? That was in Feb. 2005, and if you're reading this, you can, of course, think back past 2005, back to an era before all those videos of dancing cats were just a click away -- when the only way to see embarrassing wedding videos and stupid stunts was on America's Funniest Home Videos (now available on YouTube, of course). Do you remember -- if you saw a really funny video, you couldn't share it with your friends and colleagues. (You had to find other ways to goof off at work, like sending long, unfunny jokes by emails.)

Hard to remember -- right?

These days, more than 13 hours of video are uploaded every minute to YouTube. And now, YouTube is the second largest search engine, behind Google. ($1.65 billion seemed like a lot of money for YouTube in Oct. 2006, but seems to have been something of a bargain.)

Larry Weber devotes an entire chapter in "Sticks and Stones" to "The YouTube Juggernaut," and I think it's one of the most important chapters of the book. Weber writes, that YouTube, "the largest of the video sites by far, will be at the core of everybody's video reputation for years to come."

And yet a lot of companies still don't take advantage of online video.

Here are some steps to consider to take advantage of YouTube:
  1. Create a YouTube Channel: Establishing a YouTube channel is pretty easy -- you just need to have a YouTube account and some videos. YouTube provides some customization, including your logo and description. There are, of course, videos on YouTube about creating your own YouTube Channel.
  2. Establish benchmarks for success: these can include the number of times a video has been downloaded, embedded or linked to, commented upon as well as the number of subscriptions to your channel. You might even generate video responses to your video, as Old Spice did with its videos. Here's a good article about some metrics Old Spice tracked from its YouTube channel. YouTube also offers
  3. Be prepared that people may comment on the videos. You should monitor the comments because if you post videos that demonstrate your product,viewers may have questions about the product or demo, and you'll want to respond. There may be negative comments, too, and you'll want to consider how to respond to address legitimate concerns.
  4. Link back from your YouTube Channel videos to your site because that's important from an SEO perspective. This goes for any user-generated video you like. In the case of one of our clients, we found a lot of user-generated how-to videos about their product, and we recommended linking to them from the corporate site.
  5. Start thinking about how to use video. Moving from a text-based focus on content to one that includes video requires a culture change because it means you've got to start thinking about the visual aspects of your news, perspectives and thought leadership. It also requires additional planning and budgeting to get video ready. For example, you can take a podcast and add slides to it or a video demo, and now that can be a video -- one that's searchable on the second largest search website.
  6. Involve your customers. In an example from "Sticks and Stones," Weber cites the SanDisk Point & Shoot Film Festival, with the top 200 entrants winning large-capacity SunDisk cards. There's even a website that tacks online video competitions,
  7. Don't expect every video you produce will go viral. There was a time when many prospective clients asked about getting onto "Oprah," and now lots ask about viral videos. With the exception of Blendtec's WillItBlend, most companies should not expect their videos will go viral.
  8. Take the time to produce good video -- make sure it addresses the needs of your particular target audiences or they won't watch. And in an era of Flip cameras, the video production doesn't have to be expensive, slick or super-professional, but you don't want it to be careless, sloppy, hard to hear or see. And it's okay to experiment because that's the best way to find out what works. Weber says they gounf the best time to launch a video on YouTube is Sunday night at 9pm (ET) so the video will be up when European viewers can watch before going to work and for US viewers to watch before winding down their weekends.
  9. Promote the videos on Twitter and other social media.
  10. Keep in mind some of the best practices cited by Weber in his book:
  • Create content with value for your target viewers -- it can't be just a sales pitch or a commercial.
  • Keep videos short. Google just extended the 10-minute limit of videos you can upload to 15 minutes, a 50% increase. But just because you can upload a 15-minute video doesn't mean you should. This is particularly important as people watch videos on mobile devices, while waiting in line somewhere.
  • Develop a plan in case your video does go viral.
  • Tag video content carefully to maximize search results.
  • Aim to provoke dialog with your video, to get other people to want to watch it and respond to it.
  • Be ready to respond quickly to negative videos -- especially like one (that Weber cites) of a rat-infested Taco Bell in Manhattan.
  • Develop a strategy for building your online video library.
  • Mobile is massive -- so check out how your video looks on mobile screens, including iPads.
Let me know if you have other tips. Meanwhile check out "Sticks and Stones," particularly the "YouTube Juggernaut" chapter.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Business Books Need to Be eBooks

I like old fashioned paper-based books, but I've known for a while that they will be supplanted by eBooks.

After all, on a trip, you can pack several books for vacation in the form factor the size of one. Of course, it currently is harder to share those books. And I still think it will be easier to remember what you've read when you see the book on your shelve than when you see the title in a long list of other books you've downloaded. And I've heard that students remember information better in textbooks because they also remember the basic placement on the page of the information they're looking for -- and that really doesn't happen with ebooks.

Still, in the area of business books, with such rapid change, ebooks can be a great advantage.

First, they can be published, distributed much faster than traditional print publication so these books can be more timely than ever.

Second, they can be updated after the fact.

Take, for example, "Sticks and Stones: How Digital Reputations Are Created Over Time and Lost in a Click" by Larry Weber. He's a smart, accomplished PR executive, and his book does a good job explaining the importance of building and protecting your reputation -- something that is more important than ever for businesses in the social media era. After all, there a so many different ways and platforms that people can share their positive and negative experiences.

This is important because a lot of companies still are leery of social media. They may not understand it or they may not understand how to justify it or they think it's a fad and a timewaster that doesn't live up to its hype.

Or it may take them time to get support or the resources within the organization; for example, Brooks Brothers announced today a Facebook page today, and asks its customers to "join the conversation." The fact is, as Weber might say, it's actually Brooks Brothers that's joining the conversation -- its customers have probably been talking for years before the store launched its Facebook page.

Weber makes the case that there's a significant value to using social media if only as a brand building initiative, and says that PR and marketing are converging. (In the early 90's, there were a lot of MarComm directors until that went away for a bit, and PR was kept separate and reported to marketing. This convergence, which I agree with, is another example of back-to-the-future thinking.

But "Sticks and Stones," which was published July 14, 2009, is already partly out-of-date in terms of some of its examples.

Or perhaps, the changes prove Weber's point about losing reputation in a click.

As examples of companies that have spent a lot of time building their reputations online, and were benefiting from their investments, Weber points to BP and Toyota.

Both companies, of course, have experienced serious problems since July 2009. And the downfall of these two companies did not have much to do with social media because they were impacted by significant off-line problems (even as the comments, video, etc. available on social media have made things worse).

So, to stick to the point of this post's headline, if I had the ebook version of "Sticks and Stones," perhaps Weber could send out an updated version to put the latest developments into perspective. In so doing, many business books would remain relevant for longer, and it would be easier to publish 1.1 version of the book or a 2.0 revision, as necessary -- just as with software.

Meanwhile, I've got a bunch of old business books that are just taking up space -- some as far back just about anything from before 2005 don't feel relevant anymore.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Note to Direct Marketers: Ominous Statements Do Not Work

The Small Business division of Verizon really wants my company to upgrade our service with them.

I know this because it seems like not a week goes in which I don't get a letter from Verizon asking me to call them about their new "upgraded service options."

Recently, the envelopes have new language on them:
"Service Update: Second Notice."
Today's was at least the third time I've received such a letter from Verizon.

I keep looking at the envelope, and then tossing the letter without opening it.

Does Verizon truly think that sending letters that look and sound (from the outside) like their dunning me for past-due payment is a good way to entice me to purchase more services for them?

I'm sure the letter promises great improvements on my service options -- whatever those are. And that these new, wonderful and useful service options will provide some sort of benefit to my business.

But just think: I get these letters marked "Second Notice" from Verizon, and I haven't even signed up for more services. If this is what I can expect when they want me to upgrade, what kind of tone and language can I expect if I actually do sign up?

I don't need Verizon to nag me. Especially when I take care of what I would think is more important to them: paying their invoices on time.

Yeah, I may be missing out on new service upgrades that will unlock the key to the universe (which Bruce Springsteen once said he found in the engine of an old parked car).

But in this economy, I think you want to be associated with something positive and aspirational. These repeated letters from Verizon -- which, among other things, shows they can't count, because it's been at least seven notices over all -- are tone deaf and offensive at a time when so many people and businesses face economic difficulties. Would a gym send a letter to customers to get them to increase their membership levels, addressed "Dear Fatty?"

Then why send a letter that basically conveys, "Dear Deadbeat"?

Does Verizon really think that this is a way to get more customers to upgrade? As Don Rickles might say, "Hello, Dummy!"

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review: "No Time Marketing" Can Help Startups Start Their PR & Marketing Campaigns

Everyone's looking for signs of a sustained recovery -- and it's certainly not the stock market.

What I've seen is an increase in the confidence among CEOs and COOs of startup companies that I've been meeting. CEOs and founders of startups always have a lot of passion for their companies -- if not, they shouldn't be running the company.

What's different is that these executives aren't just focused on developing their products -- they're also very interested in providing marketing and PR support for their products. We haven't really seen that in a few years.

The challenge, however, is that they still need to budget and staff their marketing and PR functions at a time when their investors and board members may be reluctant, still, to fund PR.

That's where No Time Marketing may be able to help. Written by Alyssa Dver, a former chief marketing officer, No Time Marketing is a short book (just 115 pages) that does a great job of capturing the essentials of marketing for busy executives, providing tips and actionable questions that can help startups develop a marketing plan.

Chapter 2 contains a very good marketing inventory, designed to help companies figure out what they have and what they need in order to make sure they're targeting the right customers with appropriate messages and materials.

In the course of meeting with potential investors and customers, many executives may have already asked themselves some of these marketing-oriented questions, but I bet they haven't thought through all the questions Dver offers or as systematically, looking at prospects and customers, the buying process, marketing channels, competition and market. The No Time Marketing inventory is a good list, but even with 30 questions it doesn't feel overwhelming. That's important because too many questions covering every possibility (such as does the management team for your tech company agree on how to pronounce its mashup-type name) would make the exercise less effective.

In fact, the book is designed so that every step or exercise can be completed in 30 minutes or less. That's really important for a busy startup executive who does not have the time or staff to handle marketing.

The inventory leads to a good chapter on getting to know your customers better followed by a brief chapter on how to position your company. Even if startups have developed a compelling investor presentation about the needs the company seeks to fill, they still may have overlooked how to describe their business. (I recently met a CEO who, when asked for his elevator pitch, realized he didn't have one even though he has angel investors, a beta product and beta customers; it took him five minutes to explain what the company does -- at which time he realized they needed to work on their positioning.)

The rest of the book addresses pricing, acquiring leads and fostering leads. Chapter 6 on acquiring leads provides a good list of lead generation methods that includes
  • Advertising
  • Direct mail
  • Email and newsletters
  • PR
  • Trade shows, conferences and association meetings
  • Face-to-face seminars
  • Webinars and teleseminars
  • Telemarketing
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Customer loyalty programs
  • Referral programs
She also provides some templates to set goals and measure success -- an important element that can sometimes be overlooked.

The book also includes 10 marketing truths. The most important may be the first:
"Marketing is as much an art as it is a science. Plan, test, execute, and measure, but never be surprised by uncertainty and change."
No Time Marketing can help startups looking for a no-nonsense guide to conducting marketing -- helpful even if they decide to work with an agency.

Readers of this blog can save 15% on the purchase of No Time Marketing. Click here to order and use the coupon: birnbach

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

To Tweet or Not To Tweet?

In an interview in June's Entrepreneur, Seth Godin, who has more than 50,000 followers on Twitter, says that Twitter can become "a very unhealthy and distracting addiction."

In an interview for the article, "Twitter: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?," Godin says, "I don't see a way to use Twitter properly and still do the work I do at the level I'd like to do it. So rather than use it halfway, I decided not to use it at all."

I think that a lot of companies that have not yet embarked on social media feel the same way as Godin does. PR functions within organizations or their PR agencies have to evaluate what the company could gain -- or lose -- by not participating in social media.

Don't forget: Godin engages in a lot of other social media activities, including blogging and podcasts.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Should Search Engine Results Drive Media Coverage

While the shift to online-only news has been a big shift, there are implications for PR functions beyond the diminishing number of print outlets.

The degree to which people access news by search engine is significant. And the rise of pay walls, limiting content to actual paying subscribers, will be see news by search engine (nbse) help boost the users of smaller news sites that have lower brand recognition but offer the value of not (yet) charging readers.

According to a New York Times article, "At Yahoo, Using Searches to Steer News Coverage," Yahoo's blog, The Upshot, which launches today, will "create content based on common words, phrases and tpics that are popular among users across its vast online network." In other words, content based on what people are searching about. By way of example, the Times cited a lot of questions asked about why Olympic divers shower after their dives (to keep their muscles warm and limber), and that Yahoo developed a story that no one else was covering based on readers' queries. And that that story got lots of hits.

Upshot is designed to fill in the gaps in the coverage of other media outlets. The Upshot is not trying to focus on breadth of coverage but on developing a niche.

Traditional journalists are concerned that Yahoo's approach will mean that what gets covered may be popular but will prevent news outlets from covering important news.

That's a claim that broadcast news has been dealing with for years -- with it "If it bleeds, it leads" approach, in which a local car accident shutting down a major artery gets more prominent coverage than economic news or some international development.

Yahoo says its search engine algorithm will be used to supplement coverage, not drive it. On the other hand, at some point, the question will be, according to Ken Doctor, author of Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get, "Why produce all this stuff that doesn't make money. Just produce the stuff that sells."

So PR functions should look at what sort of content the Upshot is reporting on, and develop story angles that play off those concerns. News by Search Engine is definitely going to impact editorial decisions.