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7 How to Create a Social Media Command Center For Your Next Sale, Launch or Event

As more and more people adopt social media tools and get used to Tweeting, Liking and Checking In, smart marketers are employing a raft of tactics to get them to do more and more of just that.

Social media command centerOne of the most important reasons to promote and incentivize sharing on social networks is that it can multiply your message and carry just a hint of referral, albeit it very faint one.

Even small, local businesses can take a clue from large organizations, like Dell and national events like the MLB All-Star Game to create a “command center” approach to promoting a concentrated happening such as a new product launch, new store opening or seasonal sale. The key is to approach it as a very special event and not something you’re trying to maintain long-term.

You may, in fact, discover some elements do play long-term, but most businesses and their customer base can’t sustain something like this more than a days and couple of times a year.

Let’s take a common example that a local retailer might explore – Black Friday.

Black Friday has become a major shopping holiday in the U.S. as shoppers head out to snap up deals the day after Thanksgiving. (Between you and me, I prefer Small Business Saturday, but that’s another story.)

Many big box chains spend heavily in local markets in an attempt to lure local shoppers with loss leader pricing. Local shops generally can’t compete on price so they need to get creative and I think the command center could be the answer.

For this illustration you might create an “anti Black Friday” or “shop local” promotion and employ social media as your bullhorn.

A noteworthy assumption here is that you’ve been active on social media and have created at least some engagement and following. It’s tough to go “poof, I’m social.

The way to make this work is make it one person’s responsibility to create and monitor all of the moving parts. Think in terms of the technology, services, monitors, etc that your point person will need to keep tabs and keep promoting.

Choose one or all of the following to build social media buzz around your promotion.

  • Create logo for your theme! – a simple visual to use in all of your merchandising for the event can be a great tool when it comes to sharing on sites with images.
  • Decide on and check an event hashtag – choose a #hashtag that you will use throughout – make sure to check and see if it’s in use by some other cause or theme as you don’t want to find out mid-sale that your hashtag is also slang for a very naughty act in some Iowa subculture.
  • Claim your Facebook location for checkins – if you have not yet done so claim your location on Facebook and create ways for people to earn prizes by checking in on their Facebook page. (Check out Wildfire and North Social apps.)
  • Twitter hashtag tweets – Start tweeting using your hashtag a week prior and create in store posters, flyers and emails to publicize all of your social media activity during the event
  • Choose a local or related charity partner and donate so much per tweet or share during the day
  • Twitter search – Set up a number of twitter searches related to products and other aspects of your event and reach out to people tweeting before and during your event
  • Pinterest – Create a Pinterest account and start pinning images of products you are featuring during the event
  • Live Blog – Create a live blog on your WordPress blog with this plugin or use Tumblr and create updates throughout the day
  • Live Tweets – Assign someone in store to live tweet out hourly specials, giveaways and images of happy customers using the hashtag
  • Google Hangout Live to YouTube – Run hourly Google+Hangouts streamed live to YouTube and announce offerings, interview customers and create news like coverage
  • Foursquare checkins – Create Foursquare checkins particularly focused on swarm discounts
  • Hourly specials – Promote your hourly specials on every channel
  • Display real time stream – Use a tool like Postano to display real-time tweet and social stream in the event
  • Bring Facebook into the event – Install a camera station and let customers upload images to the Facebook pages for even more free stuff
  • Hide discount codes in YouTube videos – Create a series of YouTube videos featuring products on sale during the event and hide discount code in the videos and promote sharing the videos and codes
  • Facebook ads – Run tightly focused Facebook ads and promoted content ads focused on local and related brands – if you sell certain brands target any local fans of the brand or product category
  • Tweet branded messages to get early, early access – Create early, early bird access for people that fan, like, share and RT
  • Consider a street team – think about sending employees out into busy places throughout the day to surprise shoppers with free stuff for tweeting, Liking or sharing images.

Another benefit to all of this work is the momentum factor. Even if someone doesn’t veer off course on the given day of your sale, there’s a good chance that you’ve exposed a great number of people to your business and some of those might decide to check you out later.

I’m not suggesting this won’t take some work and planning, but hey, the little guy wins always wins when they outsmart and outhustle the big guy.

So, any ideas you care to add to the list?

6 Are You a Digital Nomad?

Dell just launched a pretty cool initiative called Digital Nomads. The idea is to create a content driven site that is focused on the growing numbers of people working and playing in a digital, no four walls around me, kind of way.

The content certainly features the occasional suggestion that a Dell laptop is the tool of choice for today’s digital nomad, but it’s shaping up to be so much more than that. In the spirit of full disclosure I’m providing content for the site as is Shel Holz and Phil Torrone of MakeBlog – a couple of pretty smart guys.

The site features tools and tips – I wrote this week about one of my new favorites, a Technology Enabled Jacket from SCOTTEVEST – basically a jacket with all kinds of pockets and a system for wiring things like my headphones, but then somehow still look cool.

If you like to discover hacks and gadgets to make your digital lifestyle more tuned in, check out Digital Nomads.

15 The small business market research challenge

Market research is a challenge for many small businesses. The data that you may need to conquer your corner of the world may not exist in a tidy database, yet marketing strategy should be well informed with real information.

One of the best methods of market research available to the small business in my opinion is the customer or prospect survey. Picking up the phone and calling your best customers from time to time to dig in and really understand what you do well, what you do that is unique, what you could do that no one else does is essential for creating a marketing strategy and message that has impact.

Further using free and low cost tools like Survey Monkey, Survey Gizmo or the survey feature from an email service like iContact is a great way to assess product viability, product features, product names, service names or any other aspect of your business. People like to be asked for their opinion and committing to gathering consistent feedback and research is a great way to move your business in the right direction and monitor the health of your customer relationships.

I spent a few minutes chatting with Barry Jennings, Market Research Guru for Dell. Dell has invested tremendous in recent years getting out and talking one on one with customers and doing very small businesslike research.

2 Everyone is talking about word of mouse but . . .

. . . few are actually doing much about it.

Mark Jarvis Dell CMOWord of mouth marketing and its online namesake – “word of mouse” (I stole that from Mark Jarvis, CMO of Dell, but I don’t know where he stole it from.) is all the rage in big company marketing departments and the corner table staff meeting at Starbuck’s alike.

And yet, I recently read that less than 5% of the Fortune 500 companies employ a blog or similar online new media tool and only 3% of the Inc 500. So, where’s the disconnect.

I sat down with Mark Jarvis, Dell’s CMO, and discussed online marketing, new media and community building in marketing as a whole and at Dell for a special “field version” of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

Jarvis talked about a “Generation Gap” that is epidemic in most large companies and the leading cause of a real lack of understanding and employing word of mouth at companies large and small.

See, my daughters – heading squarely into the prime marketing demographic – wouldn’t know what to do with a Yellow Pages directory if you handed one to them, don’t watch much TV (never watch network TV), and don’t really listen to radio – it’s more like they snack on it for about 25 seconds a song.

So what Jarvis is talking about and what Dell in my opinion is moving towards is not some trendy new cutting edge way of marketing it’s the future, it’s here now and it’s a game of survival. If you don’t figure this out, if you don’t tap the power of the Internet in smart, relevant, engaging and community building ways you will become last year’s phone book.

Dell is making the right noise, but noise only goes so far – during the conference where I met up with Jarvis an audiance participant asked if this new way of marketing was how Dell intended to market away some of its lingering customer service issues and to that Jarvis replied, “You don’t market your way out of customer service issues, you fix the issues.” We shall see.

Check out SB360, Idea Storm and Studio Dell – they keep getting better. (Disclaimer, I contribute some content to each, although I’m not sure that has anything to do with them getting better.)

1 Inc 500 companies I want to know more about

Inc 500 ConferenceI’m in Chicago this week and will be blogging while I attend the Inc.com 500 Conference

As you probably already know, Inc recognizes the top 500 fastest growing companies in America based on 3 year revenue growth. The conference, presented with OPEN from American Express, Principal Financial Group and Dell, is a celebration of entrepreneurship and recognition event for the 500 honorees.

Here are couple Inc 500 class of 2007 entries that look very interesting.

  • Bill Me Later – #6 – Bill Me Later is a convenient and secure new payment method designed for purchasing on the web or over the phone.
  • Zorch International – #28 – New approach to branded promotional products
  • Right Media – #46 – Interactive ad network now owned by Yahoo!
  • Wpromote – #62 – Search marketing firm
  • Vibes Media – #92 – Interactive mobile marketing – the phone’s the thing
  • Instinct Marketing – #199 – Doing some nice things with local search and CRM
  • AbsorbentInk – #216 – Another promotional products company
  • eROI – #402 – Lead generation firm using email and other e forms of marketing
  • DirectoryM – #458 – Local online directories

More to come!

1 Nice Play by Dell

So I’m minding my own business, watching the midsummer classic (All Star Game for my non-baseball fans) when a very nice ad from Dell pops up featuring a new slogan, “we believe,” and a new line of small business focused computers called Dell Vostro.

I took note but really got interested after I saw the ad in the 3rd, 5th, and 7th innings. Turns out this ad buy was only just the icing of a global small business brand launch in the works.

Now, before you start firing off the “Dell blah, blah, blah” I want you to take note of something they appear to have embraced – listening (okay maybe it took a while)

The primary features that make the Vostro line small businessish came from a lot of feedback posted through Dell’s Idea Storm project and Direct2Dell blog – most notably no trialware! Vostros ship without any trial programs at all and can be stripped clean of all software if you like.

Other things like network assistant for hooking to a network or print share resource, pc tune-up, 30 days money back, and included online data back-up are all steps in the right direction if you ask me and they are also pretty nimble responses to the market, something Dell was known for in the past.

Here’s a link to a town hall meeting in New York this week where the new line of computers and maybe a new line of thinking was announced by Michael Dell. (Registration required to view.)