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I’ve said it two years ago, repeated it last year and, at the risk of being redundant, feel compelled to say it again. Oh hold it – Alder Yarrow just said it on his wonderful Vinography blog post and why fuss with perfection. If your eyeballs have yet to stick to his ‘Social Media and the Wine Industry – A New Era’ post, it’s a must read:

[ brain activate finger - click here - and get ready to focus ]

My point, and his shared view, is fundamentally simple: if you’re not using social media to market and sell your wine you simply won’t market as well or sell as much as those who are. What’s not so simple however is how to do it right and, if you can’t get it right, you’re spinning your wheels.

If you don’t get social media and you don’t get how to integrate it into your strategic marketing plan and you don’t get how to leverage its power and reach, hire someone who does. There’s plenty of people out there who specialize in helping wineries figure it all out. Make sure however that they know how to repurpose the content you’ve already developed for your more traditional channels for the web so you can do more with less. The longer you wait to not only embrace it but figure out how to really do it right, the more money you’re leaving on the table for your competitors to slurp up.

The most efficient and the most cost effective way to build brand awareness, consideration and demand is to smartly execute social media in an integrated and systematic fashion. But, please do look before you jump. For optimal results, you need a rock-solid social media strategy that dovetails with and feeds into your content marketing and organic SEO strategies.

Don’t set up yet another social media profile — yes, I can hear you thinking ‘oh what’s this Pinterest thing?’ —  without first putting on your thinking cap. Good news is it’s not rocket science but it does require a considerable amount of strategic thinking. If you’re more of a doer than a thinker, consider hiring someone who is left brained to work with you.

My next blog posts will explore the key building blocks in constructing a rock-solid online marketing foundation for your brand. In the interim, if you’re an impatient type, I invite you to visit our partner site, Building a Sound Foundation and lay your eyeballs on  the ‘You Need a Strategy Dammit not Another Social Media Profile’ blog post.

In the words of a mighty smart fella, Abraham Lincoln, if you give me 6 hours to chop down a tree, I will spend 4 hours sharpening the axe. Let the sharpening begin.

 

“For a civilization to flourish, man must plant trees under whose shade he will never sit.” ~ ancient Greek proverb

To successfully build an online community of adoring fans for your brand, you must not only plant seeds in social media — whether it be commenting on Facebook customer posts, responding to a tweet about your brand, or engaging with your prospects and customers by posting original compelling and magnetic content that is not self-promoting — but you must also adopt practices that generate good karma.  Too often I see wineries making a fatal blunder on their Facebook pages, posting only content about their brands, wine scores, upcoming events, etc. and not responding to comments and posts made by others, whether prospects or existing customers.  Is this because wineries are understaffed and too busy or is it because they just don’t get the entire concept of online engagement?  Regardless of the answer, by neglecting to engage wineries are leaving money on the table and not leveraging the true power of social media to extend their customer reach and retention.

So how does one go about getting good karma, you know that give a little, get a little concept of what goes around comes around?  The good news is the answer is very simple: you seek to make a difference by giving back and helping others.

A personal story best illustrates this point.  A few weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post a friend had shared on MyWineWords, a social media forum for winos like myself.  Intrigued, I checked out the website, loved the fluid integration with social media platforms, and signed up as a member using my Facebook credentials (all of this is free btw).  I was anxious to share this great site with my other wino buds, so I tried to send them an invite using MyWineWord’s “invite your friends” functionality.  Not sure if it was me or the fact that I was drinking tad too much good Buttonwood Cab Franc that night, but I ran into trouble inviting folks so I sent MyWineWord’s founder, Allie Merrick, a ‘help’ email at 9 p.m. She immediately responded — even though on east coast — with instructions for my ole soggy brain on how to use invite and invite I did!  But the story doesn’t end there.

Being a woman business owner, I tend to gravitate to helping others who are in my same boat.  I also dig the creative process developing 1st-to-market innovative ideas that have landing gears as well as wings.  Allie and I struck up a virtual conversation about ways in which she could build out her mywinewords.com site and I gave her my 2 cents regarding a vision I had for building online Wine Lounges for wine club members to sip, savor and share. Long story short — albeit may be bit late for that! — Allie and I have now struck up not only a collaborative business partnership but also a virtual friendship.  And I attribute this newly discovered opportunity to good karma, as I planted a tree at MyWineWords even though, at the time, I was not envisioning sitting under its shade.

In a recent article in Fast Company’s new column, Life in Beta, author Anya Kamenetz provocatively writes on the case for generosity and the Internet’s potential to unlock our natural impulse to share goals and on a new global economy built on the kindness of strangers.  She describes how the Internet and social media are changing human relationships and maybe even human nature but not in a bad way, rather in a positive one.  I agree with her that the Internet can indeed unleash acts of generosity and true connection. And, the truth that anyone who goes online takes advantage of the kindness of strangers.

Sociologists attribute the desire to contribute to online communities to a ‘reputation economy’ in which people gain self-esteem and standing by giving away their time and opinion.  Indeed, information is the thing people will share most readily, followed by time, followed by goods.  A slew of new innovative websites are being cultivated to facilitate the giving away of goods and services, with these hubs translating the principles of sharing from the virtual to the real world.  See for example couchsurfing.org, giftflow.org, ourgoods.org, sparked.com, thredup.com, blog.p2pfoundation.net and collaborativeconsumption.com.

Today it’s easier that ever to give away something that’s of little value to you but perhaps of considerable value to someone else wherever in the world that person might be and thereby generate good karma! For me, just knowing that this is possible because I have lived it makes me more likely to dive into the reputation economy, to continue giving back and to really make a difference. Isn’t that what life is all about?

What motivates people to work hard and make a difference?

Forget everything you know about how to motivate people – whether at work, at school, at home. According to Daniel H. Pink, the author of the New York Time’s bestselling book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, we’ve got it all wrong.  In his new and paradigm shifting book, Pink explains that the secret to high performance and satisfaction in today’s world is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on 4 decades of scientific research on human behavior, the author exposes the mismatch between what sciences knows and what business does — and how that affects every aspect of our lives.  Per the Kindle Book preview, Pink demonstrates that while the old-fashioned carrot-and-stick approach worked successfully in the 20th century, it’s precisely the wrong way to motivate people for today’s challenges.  In Drive, he reveals the 3 elements of motivation:

  1. Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives,
  2. Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters, and
  3. Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.

Drive is bursting with big ideas, a rare book that will change how you think and transform how you live. Check out this YouTube video, a lively RSAnimate, adapted from Dan Pink’s talk at the RSA, that beautifully illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us.

I stumbled on this BizNik post this morning and felt it well worth sharing. And, I must confess, I’m not sure I could have penned a more thorough and useful description of social media trends in 2011 even though I am an ardent follower of all things social media. So since I couldn’t have done it better and because I wholeheartedly agree with her conclusions, courtesy of Sue Cartwright, Director of Unisey Ltd and founder of The Unisey Hub, please read on.

“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”Erik Qualman

A Future Perspective

Having spent the last year fully absorbed in social media practice and keeping my ear to the ground to capture emerging trends, I still firmly believe that for most of us, 2011 is the year for developing practical social media strategies that will help us to sustain and improve our return on investment . However, knowing that there is much more to it than that, you might like to jump ahead and try out some of these new ideas, concepts and gizmos.

Social Media Strategy

If 2011 is all about strategy and how we justify and benefit from our time spent on social media, strategists who claim to help us towards that end will need to concentrate on more practical tasks such as identifying and piloting new tools, integrating social marketing with PR, marketing, advertising and customer service, developing protocols and measuring the right things. A key objective will be to effectively educate and integrate social-based thinking into business processes and culture.

With more users on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, more videos, apps and devices, a growing number of organisations will go beyond using social channels merely for building awareness and providing support.

It’s a question of thinking less about technology and more about what social media can do, what the real risks are and how our new-found connectivity can be used to shape the future in the most beneficial way.

Listening to People

The ability to make informed decisions is a natural gift of social media.  Rather than searching for ideas on Google, new thought-leaders such as bloggers and those who dominate social networks will become key influences in our decision-making process.

With 78% of consumers trusting peer reviews when only 14% trust advertisements, it is essential to be involved in your online community, to build a good reputation and know what people are saying about you. To do this effectively you need to engage in conversations, monitor the outcomes, join the debate, help others and show customers you care as a means to building a loyal network.

Social media dashboards or keyword-alert services such as Radian6 and Objective Marketer and free management sites such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck allow users to monitor and participate in live conversations.  Setting up Google Alerts is a good starting point to find out if people are talking about you and/or your business.

Empowering Employees

Supporting employees to understand social networking from a business perspective, and encouraging them to find their voice and demonstrate their passion for a business and brand, is a key trend for forward thinking organisations. It’s a fantastic approach, placing trust in employees, teaching them well and allowing them to get on with it.  As organisations understand the power of collaborating in this way with their employees and customers, they will use things like crowdsourcing as a way to create new ideas, address issues and pool suggestions for improvement.

On the downside, boardrooms will continue to block the use of social media platforms even though employees are using them on their mobile phones, in their own time.  Board members will worry about staff speaking out of turn and will need to understand how to deal with these issues by assigning and trusting authorised social media users.

With this in mind, true social media knowledge will have a high value in 2011.  There will be a rise of people who do it right and do it well and organisations will need them. Any fakers who get it wrong will be exposed and there will be a growing divide between those who get it right and those who get it wrong.

Redefining Return on Investment (ROI)

Despite 2010 being a year filled with ROI discussions and some strong case studies, many companies still don’t know how to meaningfully measure ROI. However, as brands move towards using social media more effectively, ROI metrics will evolve beyond counting followers, likes and comments.

Companies who hire social media strategists with proven marketing analytics backgrounds and business strategy experience will have the upper hand and will place first in the race to cracking the ROI code.

Location-Based Marketing

Applications such as FoursquareFacebookPlaces and Gowalla will help to better target prospects’ likes and interests, stimulate interest and influence purchase decisions by offering discounts, promotions or giveaways when they ‘check in’ to your business.

Location services will grow in popularity as people get more comfortable with finding and checking into a business from their mobile phones. This will be the result of enhanced safety features such as privacy options that block locations from public view and the development of ever more enticing brand offers.

Mobile Marketing

Last year for the first time, smartphone sales overpowered the sales of desktops and laptops with iPhone and iPad applications downloaded more than 7 billion times.  In 2011, mobile users will interact with content, companies and the internet more on their phones and iPads than on their computers.

As the mobile arena grows, small businesses will continue to move marketing campaigns to mobile phones with text messaging sites like Cellit and Enowit offering tiered levels of service and free demo accounts that allow you to test a mobile-marketing campaign.  This service will be improved with the new 4G mobile phone speed that allows marketers to get their message out faster with quicker download times. It’s a good idea to jump on this early and incorporate it into your 2011 marketing plan.

Video Platforms

YouTube might be one of the largest user-generated video-sharing sites on the Internet today, but other more business-focused platforms are beginning to surface that make it easier to market videos.  Sites like ViddlerVimeo and Dailymotion will gain momentum with a stronger focus on live streaming such as the interactive broadcasting platform Ustream or streaming from blogs.

Video engagement is continuously increasing and in October 2010, 5.4 billion videos were viewed, 2 billion of which were on Facebook. Brands and consumers rely on video to provide information that can shape people’s perception about companies and each other.

Presentation Platforms

As tele-seminars become overused and tired, interactive web seminar platforms will step in to fill market demands. New presentation platforms such as SlideRocket.com and Prezi.com are incorporating easy-to-build presentation tools with social media, live feeds and video.  People online want to see their presenter, not just listen over a phone line.

QR Matrix Bar Codes

QR codes can be printed on your business card and literature to add interactivity and trackability to traditionally un-trackable print and outdoor media.  They are poised to grow exponentially in the US, given that 51% of all Americans will be carrying smartphones in 2011.  A number of companies are experimenting with (or betting their business on) QR codes and there will be a great deal more development in QR in 2011.

WordPress-Based Websites

Open source publishing application WordPress will become the blogging platform of choice because it makes it easier for websites to implement search-engine optimisation at little or no cost with plug-ins adding specific capabilities to software applications.  To stay competitive, consider moving your website to a WordPress platform.  These sites are user-friendly and do not require knowledge of HTML code.

Review Sites

Websites dedicated to customer reviews will dominate the social media landscape. Consumers want to be heard and want answers. Sites such as Groubal.com will achieve this by consolidating common complaints and presenting petitions to businesses, demanding answers for any wrong-doings. Consumers are even creating blogs to teach people how to complain effectively.

This is another reason to monitor conversations about your products and services online. Moving into 2011, make sure you have a plan for how to respond to positive and negative reviews. Remember to respond immediately as reviews will start to spread like wildfire across these sites.

Q&A Sites

Whether we like it or not, people are beginning to make real decisions based on recommendations from their virtual friends. Sites such as JustAnswer allow people to ask a question and get answers from real people. The marketing possibilities become endless because data will be collected from groups of people instead of one customer at a time.

Another Q&A site positioned to be bigger and better than Twitter is Quora, a continually improving collection of questions and answers that are created, edited and organised by everyone who uses it. Sites like these will enable users to position themselves as experts on a range of subjects to gain exposure and credibility with a wider audience.

A Means to an End

The fact that this is an extremely long post, trimmed down by a few pages having left some things out, it goes to show that we can’t ignore the fact that social media has become an integral part of the world we live in. With 600 million Facebook users, it has already won.

The thing to remember is that social media platforms are purely a means to an end, a route to greater connectivity, a think-tank of interconnected minds, an infinite and free opportunity to find your voice, raise your profile and communicate with people you want to know and do business with. I would suggest this should be our key priority for 2011 and the years to come.

Without a doubt!  I received the post below from Hubspot today, my fav inbound marketing company, and I wanted to elaborate on this topic and also bring their blog to your busy eyeballs. I’ve been doing research on this because a few of my clients have been asking for help with search engine optimization (SEO).  The goal of SEO has always been that we have to place high in keyword search.  Now, it seems that Google has changed its algorithm (albeit I hold no grudges because, as is evident in past blogs and on my website, IMHO Google Apps is a no-brainer IT solution and those not leveraging Google are spending too much time and $ on IT but I digress …).

Here’s the big news:  Google announced yesterday that is has upgraded its search engine to include social results for users signed into their Google accounts. This means that people will start seeing search results from their friends on Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc.  Ironic that this all comes on the heels of Facebook also rolling out a major upgrade.

Anyhoo, this is going to be really really big.  I’ve already seen Facebook pages rank high in organic search results for my clients and not only on Google but also Yahoo and Bing and I’ve managed to sneak smaller fish into the big pond because we’ve nabbed a keyword and used that in our Facebook user-friendly URL.  BTW, if you haven’t already gotten a user-friendly Facebook URL (e.g., www.facebook.com/NextGenVITConsulting) you should jump on this ASAP and – FREE SEO HINT HEREuse your targeted keyword in your URL before your competition does.  Note you need 25 LIKES on your page before this option becomes available in your Facebook account manager.

And here’s Hubspot’s 2 cents:

Rank Doesn’t Matter Anymore
With this latest update from Google, rank officially died as a metric for businesses to obsess over. It now doesn’t matter if you rank in the top slot for a certain keyword, because Google is quickly scaling personalized and social search. This means that everyone who searches will see a different page of results, based on their location, search history and their connections across the social web.

Marketing Takeaway
Stop obsessing over rank and keyword stuffing. Instead, focus your time and effort on creating amazing blog content and distributing it through social media. Develop strategies and prioritize engagement on each social platform to help build reach that brings organic search traffic to your website.

For a full understanding of these new changes, watch the new video explaining social search improvements from Google on the link below.

Read more: http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/9778/Google-Launches-A-More-Social-Search.aspx#ixzz1EKOal0Pe

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