River Pools and Spas is one of the largest in ground pool construction companies in the country. Their main offices are located in Maryland and Virginia. In 2008, the company’s CEO Marcus Sheridan felt as though his company had lost control of their marketing as a company, because the company had little to no web presence.
Sheridan had no prior experience running a website, but when he stumbled upon Hubspot, a marketing software platform, he began to learn about inbound marketing and the process of creating valuable content.
He created a blog and decided that it was important to share meaningful content that would be beneficial to his customers. He didn’t focus so much on trying to sell swimming pools. Instead, he created content that would be helpful to people who wanted to invest in a pool.
He was able to identify high-quality leads by taking advantage of Hubspot’s marketing analytics tool. This helped him to find and target the customers that were most interested in closing a deal.
By using Hobspot, Sheridan was able to:
Increased organic traffic 120% in three months
Reduced PPC (pay per click) spending 50% compared to 2009
Expanded blog readership to over 6,400 visitors and 260 subscribers in just one year
“It is unbelievable what happens when a business owner, who knows his business better than anybody, can start to let their creative juices just flow. That is what happened to me and that has all been because I finally had the keys to my business,” Sheridan said.
Launched in 2010, Crowdmap is the creation of Ushahidi, Inc., a non-profit software company based out of Nairobi, Kenya. This application evolved out of the Ushahidi platform which was created during the aftermath of the Kenyan crisis of 2007-2008. The original Ushahidi platform is a tool that allows users to crowdsource across multiple channels such as Twitter, text messages and emails. With Crowdmap, users can now set up personal deployments of the Ushahidi platform and begin mapping events and visualizing information in real time.
Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing a task to an outside group of people. In this case, that group of people is the general public. Through crowdsourcing, a company or organization can broadcast an issue to a wide range of people, allowing for an equally wide range of solutions. In many cases, crowdsourcers are able to keep internal costs down while still managing to find solutions to their problems. The crowd might be compensated for their input, but more often than not, they offer their time and ideas freely.
Ushahidi means “testimony” or “witness” in Swahili, making it an appropriate name for the platform that allows people all over the world to set up their own interactive map and share their experiences.
The first example of this came about during the Kenyan crisis that surrounded the 2007 presidential election. The election was heavily disputed and many instances of violence and riots broke out. The platform was created as a way for the people to map out any reports of violence. Ushahidi was very successful at reporting acts of violence as they happened, and the information collected was more reliable than the mainstream media’s.
Crowdmap in Action
Crowdmap has long since evolved from the original Ushahidi platform. Now users can use the application for keep up with local events and news reports, crisis communications, political elections and public affairs.
Crowdmap was used during the 2010 November elections in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. A local news source created a deployment and then voters reported to the Crowdmap site via Twitter and text. Users were able to follow the election in real time and report on different incidences that took place throughout the area. This is just one example of Crowdmap’s news-friendly benefits. News sources can use this application to manage and receive real time updates on important news events, which allows for better reporting and more comprehensive news coverage.
The applications was also used during the massive flooding that took place in Ann Arbor Michigan in May 2011. Users were able to report specific damages throughout the Ann Arbor area such as storm water flooding, gas main leak and power outages. Through Crowdsouce, the public was able to better navigate the situation because they had access to an interactive map showing the types of damage taking place and where.
If you would like to create your own deployment, check out Crowdmap.com and get started.
For our this third and final nuggets assignment, Jordan and I researched Buffer.com to discover what it is, how it works, what people are saying about it, and how it compares to similar social media platforms.
What is Buffer?
Released December 2010
“Buffer makes your life easier with a smarter way to schedule the great content you find. Fill up your Buffer at one time in the day and Buffer automagically posts them for you through the day. Simply keep that Buffer topped up to have a consistent social media presence all day round, all week long.”
Been called “The Siri of Social Media” and “your social media assistant”
Allows you to schedule content posts in advance
Excellent content management tool
Offers an optional toolbar add-on that allows you to post directly from another website
helping you create an authentic and honest appearance on social media
offers a personal and efficient solution to handle sharing on social media
How It Works
Who’s Using Buffer?
Avid Bloggers – A blogger may be finding lots of great content that she constantly wants to share with her friends and followers, but she doesn’t want to overload them with too much stuff at one time, especially since that makes them less likely to read what she’s posting. By using Buffer her content can be spaced out at posted at times when followers are more likely to interact.
Businesses – Businesses want to keep their fans/clients/followers happy and satisfied with what content – and especially how often – they’re posting. But when a lot of time can’t be dedicated to the posting of content and optimal times, Buffer saves the day. A business can spend a few minutes filling up their Buffer and then spend the rest of the day focusing on other things.
Non-profit organizations – For people who have dedicated a lot of their time to non-profit organizations, Buffer saves them from having to spend hours and hours sharing content and being social media savvy for each organization. They can fill up their buffer for each organization with content their followers need to be aware of and then spend time doing hands-on things and getting involved in other ways. They can also add different team members to lots of different accounts so that the sharing can be divided up from person to person.
What Are People Saying About Buffer?
Michael Gray, Graywolf’s SEO Blog says: “I like the idea of this product. I really think it has a lot of potential. However, at this point, I think there are several aspects that aren’t fully developed yet.” http://www.wolf-howl.com/reviews/bufferapp-review/
How Does Buffer Compare to Hootsuite and TweetDeck?
Like Buffer, Hootsuite offers a way to schedule content in advance. The difference is that Hootsuite focuses on posting tweets and Facebooks posts, whereas Buffer allows you to post any content as a tweet or Facebook post. Buffer is all about scheduling, whereas Hootsuite allows you to schedule, post, monitor, and stay updated on your content (Hootsuite is more of a dashboard).
Buffer and TweetDeck are similar in that – like Buffer and HootSuite – you can schedule content, but TweetDeck only allows you to schedule tweets in advance, and only posted to your Twitter account. A shortcoming of TweetDeck is that if you don’t have your computer on, connected to the internet, and running TweetDeck, your scheduled tweets won’t go out. Hootsuite doesn’t have this problem because scheduled content goes to a server that’s up-and-running, even if you’re not.
For this second project, DuBose and I researched Facebook’s newest, interactive way for companies and pages to gain exposure and connect friends at the same time: Sponsored Stories
Let’s take a look at what Facebook is saying:
Facebook implemented “Sponsored Stories” early in 2011. Simply put, “Sponsored Stories” works like “word of mouth”. If a Facebook user likes your page as a company, uses your app, or checks in at one of your locations, then that story will appear on the news feed. Unfortunately, there is so much content that the information will often be overlooked. “Sponsored Stories” tries to increase visibility of these particular stories by placing them on the right-hand side of your screen. Facebook also has seven different types of Sponsored Stories for companies to choose from, and allows a new aspect to Facebook mobile called “check-in stories”. Sponsored Stories also allows companies to consistently edit their target audience and criteria, however only the friends of the individual who has liked your company page can see the story on the newsfeed. This creates a level of trustworthiness between the company and the potential client because the Facebook user trusts the friend of liked the company.
What type of Facebook interactions can be turned into Sponsored Stories?
Facebook Turns Friend Activity Into New Ad Format by Ben Parr
Basically, Facebook has taken activity that already goes on with Facebook profiles and news feeds and is not using it to bring in revenue. According to Jim Squires – Facebook Product Marketing Lead – Sponsored Stories are “a way for marketers to sponsor activities that happen throughout the News Feed.” Businesses can now pay to have x percent of the specified activities show up in the right-hand section of the Facebook News Feed.
“Sponsored Stories has a lot of similarities to Twitter Promoted Tweets. Both are trying to use content from within their networks and turn them into advertising dollars. There is one key difference between Sponsored Stories and Promoted Tweets, though: The user defines the advertised content in Facebook’s format, not the advertiser.”
– Ben Parr, Mashable.com
What’s the difference between Sponsored Stories and Ads?
How much do Sponsored Stories cost?
Companies/businesses can set a daily budget that Sponsored Stories are not to exceed. They then choose how they want their Sponsored Stories to be viewed, and this depends on three things:
Pay for Impressions (CPM)
Pay for clicks (CPC)
Facebook Sponsored Stories have proven to be almost 50% more effective than Facebook Ads. They have taken everyday interactions among users – likes, check-ins, custom application usage, and page posts – and turned them into a way to promote companies and businesses. Although some people fear that these stories will become too intrusive of News Feeds, the stories have been successful thus far.
Tully Taylor and I researched and analyzed how the wave of positivity about Pinterest was affecting small business owners, and we found that the lines were clearly drawn. They either love it, or they hate it. So, we decided to present you with the facts and decide for yourself: Is Pinterest a pro or a con for small businesses?
1) It’s easy to use. You simply create an account and start pinning! Its also easy to install the “Pin It” button to make sharing from other sites easy and legal.
Small business owners ranging from niche companies to commonly used products had only positive things to say about their experiences on Pinterest. For example, Carl Christensen, a photographer, in New Hope, PA, reluctantly joined social media at the request of his wife, but he now boasts 50% of revenue from online sales. Similarly, freelancer Allena Tapia suggests making Pinterest a working tool for any company (such as using pin boards for marketing meetings, office decor/remodeling etc) to engage and interact with your audience in every aspect of life.
BONUS: Hubspot even offered an ebook to show businesses how to better use Pinterest for profit.
2) It’s cheap, visually appealing to customers, and allows businesses to engage with their audiences. Nina Hendy, of Start Up Smart, wrote that a main benefit of Pinterest was, “… like the established social media platforms, Pinterest is ideal as a marketing tool for start-ups given that it’s low cost and relatively hassle-free.” She went on to back up the praises for Pinterest saying, “Early research backs this up. Content sharing firm Shareaholic says user numbers prove that Pinterest is experiencing a phenomenal take-up, already driving more referral traffic than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.”
3) It’s working for small business owners in nearly every market. Fox Small Business Center reports, “‘Pinterest has generated 6% of our total referrals,’ said company owner Sam Delijani. ‘Whereas Facebook generated only 2% of our referrals in the same month.’ While the last thing an entrepreneur may need is to manage yet another social media site, some have easily incorporated a Pinterest strategy into their marketing plan.”
On the other hand, not everyone believes that Pinterest is helpful for small business marketing.
1) Flickr banned the “pin it” function to better protect copyright and ownership of original work. Could other larger companies be next? Terms of service need to be followed in order to prevent copyright infringement and possible repercussions for you and your company. (If you don’t give credit, you could end up in a nasty legal battle costing you and your company money.)
2) It’s difficult to make your brand visible in the mass amounts of pins/material being generated daily. Jason Keith, of The Small Business Blog, warns, “Like every other social network, there is a tremendous amount of clutter being shared. The trick is getting content to be shared quickly and frequently, thus increasing the chances of someone acting on it. The first step is assessing whether or not you have the type of website that can handle e-commerce.” He continues saying, “While sharing content can be effective, if there isn’t a “impulse buy” tied to it, you likely won’t see the return on the effort.”
BUT even Keith’s bottom line stated, “At the very least, Pinterest is worth checking out. Hit the site, poke around and see what it’s all about. Like every social networking site, it never hurts to have a familiarity with it and how it works. Whether or not it will drive traffic or revenue is another story and a decision best left to each individual business.”
In the end, decide for yourself if your small business is the type that can benefit from visually stimulating your customers, and the devote time accordingly.
Here are some tidbits I took away from David’s lecture:
People coming out of college are held to an extremely high standard with social media. It’s likely that you’ll be in a social media position where you’ll be in over your head, but that’s ok to admit to your supervisor. However, be prepared and know how to effectively use social media in business.
A lot of times, social media is viewed as its own entity. This should not be the case. Social media is always part of a larger whole, and it should not be separate from other digital content.
Strategy and planning are two very important concepts for good social media. In a nutshell, strategy gives you a long-term, consistent vision, and planning allows you to execute that vision, adjusting as you see fit from day-to-day.
On Facebook, comments are 14 times more valuable than likes.
Avoid the urge to replicate what’s already worked for you or for someone else. Improve, evolve, and experiment to create original content.
Above all, remain enthusiastic about social media, and don’t get burnt out. Stay motivated. Stay excited. Stay curious.