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Are You Afraid of Social Media

You know the world of communications has changed. You know it’s about more than having a static web page that you only update every six months. You know your customers, family and friends are all “on Facebook and Twitter.” You know your company should be engaged with people using these mechanisms. But you’re afraid. At least that’s what’s being reported on eMarketer.

But fears still abound. Online retailers remain worried about their own competence at using social media and losing control of their brand.

Their concerns also showed that retailers understand the importance of social media: One of their biggest fears was that customers would abandon their site in favor of one that was more socially engaging. Using social media might be scary, but avoiding it is becoming less of an option.

The primary social media goal of the retailers surveyed was to increase customer engagement, followed by boosting brand loyalty and spurring word-of-mouth among brand advocates.

But I say, “Be Not Afraid.” If you don’t have the expertise to utilize social media then look to your staff or a company like ours to outsource your “engagement practices.” I’m not sure how you would lose control of your brand. Are you sure you have control now? Your customers or members are going to talk about you (online and person to person) and say whatever they want. You don’t have control of that. That’s what social media is all about. People communicating with other people. You need to be there. So get with the program!

New Media Reading Assignment

Six Pixels Of SeparationAfter writing about how marketers anguish over web numbers I came across this book and highly recommend it. Perhaps it will help you and your boss better understand what this “new media thing” is all about. It’s Mitch Joel’s “Six Pixels Of Separation.” I got it yesterday and believe it will help those of you who are over concerned about numbers and ROI of new media. Get it and let’s read it together.

We no longer live in the world of Six Degrees of Separation. We’re down to Six Pixels of Separation. Everyone is a simple Google search away.

We are all intrinsically connected. Mitch Joel unravels the fascinating world of new media and how it is changing business as we know it. Written in business language for business people, Six Pixels of Separation is a book about why these changes happened and what you can do about them to make your business grow. If everyone around you is asking what you’re doing on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and you’re still concerned about that newspaper ad you will be running next week, this book is the perfect business primer for you.

Measuring Web Analytics In The New/Social Media World

Does web analytics give you a headache? Do you have anyone on your staff who has training in how to understand web analytics? If you don’t then you’re not unusual. A story today on eMarketer provides some survey results about what marketers are thinking on this subject.

To prove the success of their campaigns, marketers need analytics. But many report frustration with understanding and using the Web analytics tools necessary to prove their success to management, according to “The Web Analytics War Reader Survey” by Unica.

The biggest challenge for marketers was integrating Web analytics with other marketing solutions, cited by 46% of respondents. Verifying the accuracy of data was a problem for 41% of marketers, while 32% reported trouble with analytics that were not comprehensive and 29% complained of budgets that were too small.

I take exception to the statement above about analytics proving success. If by analytics they mean just web analytics. By this I mean that just because I can deliver a ton of impressions (visits, visitors, clicks, click throughs, etc.) it doesn’t mean the company sold anything. But how often does an agency or marcomm staff member justify an investment by providing a report that says, “We spent X$’s and got a story that aired on 200 radio stations, a feature in a publication with 100,000 “subscribers” and a web banner or post that had 10,000 visitors.” Wow. Sounds good. But what was the result? Did they sell more? Did that story actually air on those stations? Who listened? Did every subscriber read the feature in that magazine? Did every web visitor see and/or click through on the banner or post? How often do you get that much detail? Ever?

I want to find out how you agrimarketers are tackling this issue. What metrics do you want from the web? What is meaningful? What form do you want it in? Are there certain services or software you prefer? If you place a banner ad, what do you want reported to you? How often do you need to see information? What do you consider reasonable?

This is a very important issue in today’s new media world and one that I have spent countless hours researching and discussing. As ZimmComm has developed online communities that revolve around a blog I don’t think reporting unique website visitors is very helpful for you in evaluating an investment in an advertising order. Why? Because there are over 12 other measurements that have nothing to do with website visitors that need to be considered. Here’s an example:

Let’s look at one day’s traffic on our AgWired site. It can be as high as 1,000 unique visitors. If I post your story does that mean that only 1,000 people saw it? No way!!!!! Consider that there are almost 1,000 subscribers to the AgWired RSS feed. They may not visit the site. That’s part of the value of the RSS feed. Consider that every post goes to my Twitter account with almost 1,600 followers and that every time one of my tweets is re-tweeted, it is seen by their followers. Consider that Twitter feeds my Facebook profile where I have 350 friends. Consider that this also updates my FriendFeed. Consider that the images or video I’m using in the story may be included in my Flickr or YouTube account. Consider that there are over 40 other websites that have installed the AgWired widget which displays homepage posts on their website. I’m not even counting the other less used social networking mechanisms I’m utilizing like Posterous, MySpace, etc.

But even beyond the above, what about the search engine aspect of all those places on the web that I have posted/distributed content that are now showing up in key word search results or key word news alerts? What about all the people who are re-publishing my information or sending it to their friends, neighbors and colleagues? Of course now you’ll ask the question, “Who are these visitors?” That’s a topic for another post.

Yeah. It adds up and all the sudden the total number of impressions for that one post could grow from the initial 1,000 unique visitor impressions to as many as 5,000 impressions. In fact, this number may only be good for just that one day or point in time. All our stories are archived. We never delete them. How much higher will that number grow within the next week, month and year?

This is what I’m talking about. This is what we do and excel at. This is what we preach and this is what can help grow your brand.

ZimmComm Update

I’ve been holding off on new posts here on ZimmComm.biz while we decide about some major changes to the site. Those are in the process of being developed and I decided it’s time to provide some updates about what’s going on in the ZimmComm world.

To start with, we can’t say enough good about our relationship with Dave Larson and Larson Enterprises. In just a few months, with Dave’s assistance, we have obtained a number of new clients who are utilizing our services and websites. He’s keeping us busier than ever and our schedule is filling up for the next few months.

I’ll start more regular posting here and bring you more up to date on ZimmComm activities in coming days.

Larson Enterprises Represents ZimmComm New Media

Dave LarsonHey ZimmComm fans. We’ve got some big news for you today. Let’s just call it one small step for new media, one giant leap for ZimmComm.

Today we’re happy to announce a partnership with Dave Larson of Larson Enterprises as official sales representative for ZimmComm’s on-line publications and services, including Agwired.com, DomesticFuel.com, WorldDairyDiary.com and PrecisionPays.com.

Many of you know Dave and for those who don’t I recorded a conversation with him yesterday about our new deal. In it you can learn more about his background and what our plans are. Listen here:

After five years of growth, our company is now at the point where it makes sense to retain the services of an established media representative to market our products/services. Dave will help us more effectively serve our many clients in the agribusiness industry.

Larson Enterprises is a full service advertising, marketing and consulting firm located in West Des Moines, Iowa. Dave has over 25 years of advertising, marketing, public relations and public policy experience with both public and private sector clients including national and international trade associations in food safety, agriculture, recreation and legal fields.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to assist ZimmComm in representing the targeted advertising, marketing and media opportunities provided through their network of sites,” says Larson. “This truly is a unique opportunity of future growth for advertisers in reaching their key target markets. As a part of this new opportunity we will be offering new packages and schedule opportunities for those reserving advertising placements prior to July 15.”

So if you’re looking for a great new media deal Dave is your man. You can contact him via email or 515-440-2810.

A Look At The Podcast Consumer

Edison ADM Podcast SlideI missed the Association for Downloadable Media’s webcast titled, “The Podcast Consumer Revealed.” The session was conducted by Tom Webster, Edison Research. The audience for podcasting just keeps growing. The main reasons people watch or listen to podcasts is so they can do so whenever and wherever they want. Here are some key points from the session.

* 1 in 5 Americans (22%) have listened to a podcast.
* 59% men 41% women, 18-44 demo = 60% of podcast users.
* Most downloadable media is consumed via desktop, mobile growing.
* Podcast users are very active on social networks – mainly Myspace and Facebook
* 24% of podcast consumers feel “emotional connection” with their favorite podcasts.
* Podcast consumers are more receptive to advertisers heard in podcast vs heard via internet radio.
* Producers need to do a better job of selling the portable aspects.

If you’d like to know more then feel free to watch the recorded presentation here.

Don’t Depend on Your Website As A Destination

Several times in the last couple years I’ve written about the concept of “community” in online communications/marketing. By that I mean the fact that employing today’s new and social media tools allows us to connect and interact with our customers and members in ways we never could before. Using my AgWired as an example, I don’t just reach readers who think, “I’ll visit AgWired.com to see what’s new.” I reach them in Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, email and in all the ways those people re-post or pass along or tell their connections. So for you marketers who just look at website visitors, you’re missing a lot of the story.

I still find so many in corporate communications who can’t wrap their mind around this concept. Granted there are a lot of control freaks out there who fear loss of the control they’ve enjoyed for so many years. It’s a mentality that says “I’ll build what I want them to see and give them the choices I want them to make.” But those days are coming to an end.

Today’s consumer (any kind, farmers included) not only want and demand freedom of choice but they’re just creating their own destinations and touch points. They’re leaving the old destination websites behind. I was prompted to write this after reading Steve Rubel’s post on Micropersuasion, “The End of the Destination Web Era.”

After years of erosion it now it appears the destination web era is drawing to a close. This a trend that digital thinkers like Om Malik have long noted. In fact, the numbers prove it.

In March the average American visited a mere 111 domains and 2,500 web pages, according to Nielsen Online. What’s worse, our attention across these pages is highly fragmented. The average time spent per page is a mere 56 seconds. Portals and search engines dominate, capturing approximately 12 of the 75 hours spent online in March. However, people-powered sites like Wikipedia, Facebook and YouTube are not far behind, snagging nearly 4.5 hours of our monthly attention.

He points to an article by ARAnet in conjunction with Opinion Research Corporation that talks about what you can do to break through the clutter. The answer doesn’t include fancy pop up ads.

Long-shunned pop-up ads remained the least favorable option for every audience segment, regardless of age, race, income, sex, region or size of household: 87% of respondents said they were not very likely or not at all likely to read and respond to them.

Their conclusion is that brand mentions in articles is one of the best ways to reach consumers. I would call that “meaningful content” that is posted into social networking locations and on highly search engine optimized websites (blogs). That’s why public relations folks are trying to figure out ways to present information to bloggers now. We’re not your ordinary msm journalists!

Do you get it? Are you willing to venture out into the online conversation or are you going to stay inside your “safe” online house and hope someone comes to visit?

WSJ Mostly Clueless Article on Blogging

The Wall Street Journal has a Microtrends article about blogging that has some interesting points. However, like most mainstream media reporting on “new media” you can see their blinders clearly. When I see statements like, “Already more Americans are making their primary income from posting their opinions . . . ” I know they just don’t get it. These traditional journalists see blogging as only about someone posting their opinion. It isn’t. I can show you lots of examples of the opposite, of blogs being used to post facts and figures for example, or even “news.”

For some reason mainstream media want to position blogs as something other than a communications tool that effectively reaches niche audiences, something they can’t do and don’t want to do. They’re all about reaching a huge mass audience and charging a fortune to advertisers to reach it even though the advertiser really only needs to reach a small segment of that audience. I think they’re jealous and scared to death of those of us who have figured out we don’t need them any more. Why should I pay huge sums of money to reach an audience I only need about 2% of? Why not invest in my own medium and reach my own customers/members? I’ll save money and have direct interaction with my audience. No more relying on some gatekeeper to deliver my message for me.

This WSJ article is so full of misinformation it’s ridiculous. Here’s another item that shows where this writer’s head is at, “It takes about 100,000 unique visitors a month to generate an income of $75,000 a year.” Say what? Can you over generalize any more? There are lots of examples of people with small audiences making very good money blogging. It’s not about how many but “who.” If I reach 100 people you want to reach then I have a valuable audience that you might be willing to pay me to get exposure to. It’s happening all over the place.

The id who wrote this article even refers to unions and bloggers working long hours of up to 60 hours a week. Must be a union member I would guess. The article also says that bloggers are overwhelmingly happy with their work but that may change if they lose work and don’t have unemployment insurance, yadda, yadda. I guess it’s hard for a non-motivated anti-entrepreneurial 8-5er to understand people who value their independence and who don’t need to rely on unions and the government to care for them.

Full time bloggers I know, me included, don’t want or need the safety net this reporter obviously relies on. I highly recommend starting a blog and with it your own business. It’s working for a lot of people. This article shows me why so many are no longer employed by newspapers today.

More Podcast Growth Data

Podcast Research Edison AbritronEdison Research and Arbitron have produced some very interesting new data (pdf) on media usage. Some tidbits that stood out for me include:

  • 43% of Americans are aware of podcasts and 20% have listened to them
  • Internet access from any location is now approaching 9 in 10 Americans
  • Dial-up is down to less than 1 in 6 homes with internet access
  • Growth of iPod/portable MP3 players continues in 35-64 age demo
  • Digital radio audience continues to listen to AM/FM radio

Americans are increasingly enhancing their use of traditional media with new ways to control how, when and where they consume information and entertainment

Use of online radio, online video, podcasting, and iPod/MP3 players are on the rise

Consumers say flexibility, control and variety drive their use of online and portable media options

Social Media Good Choice In Recession

According to Forrester via Podcasting News more marketers are looking online for investing dollars these days.

During a recession, marketers are often forced to reduce budgets, in fact, it’s often one of the first buckets to get trimmed. In our latest research: Social Media Playtime is Over, we found that 53% of marketers are determined to increase their social media budget during a recession, and 42% will keep it the same, a total of 95% of marketers bullish on social media marketing. Why? The reasons are obvious to some, it’s inexpensive and the opportunity to benefit from cost-effective word-of-mouth, are promising.

I’ll be presenting a breakout session at the upcoming National Agri-Marketing Conference titled, “Social Media DOES Fit in Your Marketing Decision – Moving Beyond This Decision.” Sounds like we’ll need to point to this article on Forrester.