To Blog or Not To Blog. That is the Question.

As I mentioned in my About Me section, I really like to be a resource to help others and share knowledge that propels individuals and organizations to the next level. This blogging experience for IMC 619 – Emerging Media and The Market has inspired me to share some of the best blogging platforms available now, as well as tips on how start your own blog. I’ll include some key information on platforms such as Blogger (Google), WordPress, and Tumblr and as well as some pricing and feature comparisons to get you started. When I started my blog just a few weeks ago, I had the benefit of an already determined platform – WordPress and a great example of what to do and how to do it well from professor. I’ve included here a great article to walk you through the set up process and help you start off with a solid foundation.

It’s important to determine the type of blog you want to write and what you want to share and gain from the experience. Finding your niche and a willingness to be authentic are good starting points. Will this be just a hobby? Do you want to establish yourself as serious contender in the content marketing  or business space? Will it be an extension of or connected to other social media platforms and a website? A springboard to greater opportunities? Once you’ve made these key determinations, you’re well on your way.

Now that you’ve decided that you want to be a real blogger and you’ve chosen key details such as your platform, domain name, blog focus, you’ll need to build a schedule using a tool such as CoSchedule or a good old DIY Excel sheet for your content writing. If it is a visual/creative blog – you’ll need to earmark time for creative concept building, photography and or video creation. Building your creative muscle is important, because some days the ideas won’t flow as freely as the day before. You’ll need some techniques to push through and create ‘out of thin air’. Next up you’ll want to utilize your platforms analytics capabilities or if you have an owned site that you develop, look at options such as Google Analytics. Lastly, you’ll want to create a visually-appealing aesthetic, provide consistent posts so that you can build a following, and an easy to navigate site that people want to visit often. Here’s a few template suggestions to get you started. Good luck and please leave me comment with your new blog link and tell me how it’s going!

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These Are A Few Of My Favorite (And Not So) Favorite Things

My graduate study, particularly my coursework in Emerging Media, has provided me with exposure to so many platforms, apps, and social marketing content. There’s a saying – ‘there’s an app’ for that! These last 8 weeks have definitely confirmed that for me. For every individual, business, academic institution, entrepreneur there is some form of media that will help expand your reach, grow your business or elevate your marketing strategy. I’ve seen how the YouTube platform can take an independent artist from online concerts to Grammy nominations. I’ve been exposed to the impact Twitter and Instagram can have on raising awareness and funding for health disparities by leading groups. Additionally, I found a blog with substantial content for everything from creative work to content that speaks to association/non-profit executives. If you want it, you can find it because someone/organization has utilized emerging platforms to provide a solution or content that you are seeking.

I’ve loved the evolution of Snapchat and Periscope. I’m impressed by the growth of both of these platforms from startups to viable platforms in the expansive social media world. I absolutely love Instagram because of its dual nature. On the one-hand, serious advocacy and business promotion happens there. However if you scroll down a bit, you’ll see a funny meme or video that simply express the authenticity of a person or brand and how that fits into amazingly large universe of unique people. I am absolutely better for the insights shared by my IMC 619 classmates via their blog posts and our spirited discussion board! These are just a few of my favorite things.

My not so favorite thing was the impact of IoT and the privacy and legal implications of mobile tracking on our devices. While the IoT has positive contributions to how we work and will expand our capabilities beyond what we’ve done before, it comes at a cost. All of this connectedness puts our information at great risk as said data bounces from interface to interface. The tracking of our mobile by retailers and the ability for officials to access data in the evaluation of legal matters without a sound legal framework to evaluate such use is troublesome at best. Just a few of my not so favorite things.

All in all, I think my learning experience was very balanced, intellectually stimulating and down right fun. Having all of this technology at my fingertips and the ability to execute new ideas and content is exhilarating. I’m looking forward to using everything I learned in my professional experience, as well as, building my personal brand.

Brand24: Managing Your Online Brand

Brand24

Managing your organization’s online brand is serious business. Organizations must have resources that provide them with real-time insights on how their brands are positively or negatively mentioned in social media. There are numerous social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube to name a few, as well as, sites like Yelp that give consumers options to review experiences at venues, restaurants, and most importantly, their experience with products and brands.  Despite having a strong social media strategy and an aggressive social media strategist, it’s still impossible to monitor every brand mention on millions of sites across the Internet. Enter Brand24, a social media monitoring platform, that provides intel via email, Internet, a dashboard, or via mobile app for iOS or Android on brand mentions – positive, negative, and neutral from millions of sites.

Brand24_APP

Offering a one-stop platform for social media monitoring, Brand24 compiles data from missions of sources. The platform is primarily designed to help brands keep track of their online reputation. In addition to giving data on the quality of the mentions, the app allows organizations to  gain information first, which then allows them to defuse negative comment escalation and provide real-time customer support around various issues. The platform is also designed to provide data that helps to increase sales and measure marketing campaign impact. The Brand 24 blog is a key part of the services offered and provides additional access to case studies and resources on how to use the data compiled in monitoring to create more impactful content marketing initiatives. In addition to providing the compilation data, the platform also allows user to segment data mentions by positive, negative and neutral categories. Additionally, users can identify key influencers by the influencer score feature. Organizations can start the initial evaluation of the program via a free trial. Pricing begins at $49 per month for the kickstart package and going to the premium of $349 for the professional max package.

I think this is pretty amazing option for those forward-thinking organizations that want a secret weapon in their social media strategy. Take a look at their YouTube videoreviews and Brand 24’s Twitter and Facebook pages, and let me know your thoughts.

The ‘New’ Fundraising. Crowdfunding for Charitable Causes.

IndiegogoOne of the frontrunners in the crowdfunding world was the site GoFundMe. Launched in 2010 and lauded on it’s website as the “world’s #1 personal fundraising site”, GoFundMe highlights the fact that over 2 billion plus dollars has been raised this year alone. Used for everything from fundraising for personal trips to college expenses to charitable causes like assisting needy families in disaster and large scale relief initiatives, such as Flint (MI) water crisis, the platform has evolved tremendously in just 6 years! It was most certainly one of the front runners to online crowdfunding campaigns and now is one of the most accessible means of fundraising for easily searchable projects like memorial funds, start-up company fundraising and creative projects from films to festivals to dance trip fundraisers. Sites such as indiegogo.com – the largest crowdfunding site, offer similar fundraising project options, as well Kickstarter, a platform mainly focused on funding creative projects,  that has received 2.3 billion in pledges from 11 million backers. Some crowdfunding sites are even more specific to industry, such as CrowdStreet, which funds real estate projects.

FullSizeRenderAs I researched crowdfunding and its use in raising substantial capital for various creative, personal and business projects, I wanted see how this same concept is being used for large scale philanthropic initiatives and fundraising. As a Huffington Post article indicated, organizations and charitable groups that have traditionally relied on donor contributions via checks, large event ticket sales, etc are now embracing the idea of social fundraising. This new idea of fundraising levels the playing field so to speak and provides the opportunity to involve more than the usual key stakeholders – fundraising team/committee and donors. Now, volunteers and contributors to similar causes, can promote and push your shareable online fundraising platform to larger target audiences, thus garnering more support. Today, colleges and universities are using crowdfunding to raise money for specific organizational projects and event-centric crowdfunding to execute 24-hour fundraisers around a specific goal. Similar to non-profit fundraisers, these online fundraising platforms reduce the expenses associated with venues and events, allow more participants to give a varying levels, and provide an opportunity to highlight the cause and team-oriented fundraising strategy.

Crowdfunding

Personally, I’m excited to see organizations, academic institutions and non-profits utilizing social media to engage their supporters on shareable platforms. I believe this provides an opportunity to not only raise capital but to positively influence and grow brand image and perception among potential and current supporters.

 

Live streaming and content marketing

We all knew it was coming. The moment when major brands started using the ‘cook kids’ app to engage it’s customer base. One day it’s being launched as up and coming at one of the year’s top tech like SXSW Interactive, with a promising starter base. The next thing you know it’s being touted as the app to watch for [insert year here]. Beyond live-streaming for individual life events, I wanted to look at how businesses have latched on to the live-streaming phenomenon to really push content. I found that numerous brands from cosmetic companies such as Benefit, automotive industry giants like BMW, and fast-food leader Wendy’s are using live streaming to cut through all of the clutter and talk to their audiences.

Some of the creative campaigns that I came across include Wendy’s Sip Me Up campaign, paired social media influencers Rhett and Link in a YouTube campaign that allowed Wendy’s to engage it’s customers on-line in real-time with questions regarding their preferences on everything from their favorite color to music and food. Benefit Cosmetics hosted on-air product demonstrations to provide tips in real-time on to apply and get the most from their products. BMW used Periscope to debut it’s new M2 Coupe last October which provided potential customers with a means of ‘experiencing’ the test drive via modern technology. A number of other brands across various industries like Nestlé, Addidas, Red Bull, General Electric are using live stream marketing effectively to engage very different audiences.

It’s important to note that though the live stream options offer many pros, chief among them – the ability to get right to your customer, there are some considerations. Real-time is real-time meaning there is little to no room for error. Live means it is happening, so brands and/or marketers need a vetted contingency plan that can quickly turn things around if they experience any technical issues. Additionally, presenting live stream content has legal considerations. It’s important to make sure you have releases signed for persons appearing in videos, that you have specifically mapped out and framed your shooting locations to avoid including another brands promotional property in your shot. In other words, you’ll need to dot all of your I’s and cross all the T’s you would in creating in other kind of video content.

With the growth of live streaming platforms such as Hang w/, Stringwire and the continued growth of Periscope, I think we’ll see more and more inclusion of live stream content marketing in integrated marketing campaigns of the future.

The Social Media Entrepreneur

I’m always fascinated by individuals that take passion, talent and untapped business acumen to create a blueprint for success. Gone are the days, when you have to wait for large organizations to recognize a special talent or idea for it to see the light of day. Now thanks to a myriad of communication tools, a fast moving social media landscape, and virtual training opportunities to master just about anything you would need to launch a venture – people are taking the plunge. This  entrepreneurial path is extremely prevalent in social media, where individuals and even organizations are leveraging their online presence to generate revenue. It’s great to build a solid legion of followers, be able to track ‘likes’ and follows, but how do you channel the momentum to capitalize on your virtual popularity for actual revenue? There are numerous benefits to social media marketing and and many examples of successful entrepreneurs who were able successful businesses around their interests and monetize their brand presence.

I follow a number of blogs, YouTube channels, as well as Twitter, Vevo and Facebook pages.   Personally, I enjoy getting insights from everyday people who started under modest circumstances and grew their ideas and passions into large scale, profitable entities. Among the some of the social media entrepreneur success stories that stand out, none is quite like the story of Tori Kelly.  Tori Kelly is a Grammy-nominated artist who started a channel on YouTube in 2006. From this humble beginning, Tori Kelly secured partnerships, tours, a loyal underground following, independent music release and a major label record deal with Capitol records in 2013. She currently has over one million followers on YouTube alone and has parlayed an underground musician presence on ONE media channel into a full-fledged career as a major label recording artist.

Similarly, lifestyle, makeup and fashion expert Missy Lynn has turned a passion for makeup into lucrative career. She started with a blog in the late 2000’s and moved to YouTube in 2010. She has launched a career as a makeup and fashion influencer that spans partnerships with major retailers such as JCPenney, Maybelline, signature event series ‘Mimosas and Mascara’, and a major product collaboration with beauty company, BH Cosmetics. Both of these examples in two different industries, demonstrate  how effective marketing, mastery of initiatives that convert followers to supporters and consumers of a product you create can help you turn social media into profit.

 

Using a blog for extended organizational outreach.

This week our class, IMC 619 focused on following a non-profit for 48 hours using our mobile devices (smartphone, iPad, tablet) exclusively. We were to share our experiences in a succinct report at week’s end. My research led to the blog site of the March of Dimes, which is the non-profit I chose for the paper. Viewing an organizational blog got me to thinking about how for profit businesses, non-profit entities, individuals and influencers can use blogs as extensions of their marketing activities to ramp up sales, engage with clients and influence consumers to gain positive brand reputation. One key article by Corey Wainwright, spelled out succinctly some of the great benefits of organizational blogs. Chief among the benefits is the traffic, a well-written blog can drive to your website.  More traffic and more sharable content = quality leads that could generate revenue. Additionally, blogging allows for quicker updates about your organization to be published and shared. This solves one of the key issues around website updates. You gain more control over when and how your content is updated and how often you can engage with your customers without the constraints that complicated web design and update cycles can present. To that end, blogging also helps to establish relationship with your clients/customers and invites them to be apart of the conversation. Blogs can include community forums, video and exclusive content that isn’t found anywhere else.

In some cases, businesses use blogs as an extension of their brand or website. However some businesses and groups use blogging to focus on one key initiative or area of business. In the case of the March of Dimes, their blog is devoted essentially to their signature fundraiser – March for Babies. The March for Babies blog provides extremely valuable content around the mission of the organization, stories of triumph after premature birth events, finding a walk in your area and successful tools and tips for March of Babies fundraising. This is a scenario where an organization has taken a channel and dedicated it to engaging its constituent base around one issue for the greatest impact. While this may not be an effective strategy for all businesses, profit or non-profit or individuals with advocacy platforms, it can work and has been successful for one of the largest non-profit organizations.