Monday, August 13, 2012

How to become a social business

With 75% of businesses planning to increase social media spend this year, there is no doubt that more and more companies understand the need to capitalize on what has become an increasingly critical part of online marketing – becoming a social business.

But what does that actually mean?

Fresh Networks describes ‘social business’ as the implementation of the unique communicative properties of social media across all levels of a business.”

This means that it’s not just about one area of your company being prominent on social networks, but about ensuring that every employee is educated in social practices (communication, transparency, being responsive), and these are practiced both internally and externally. 

Edelman Digital created this fantastic graphic to show the internal/external areas of a social business

Here’s what that means for your company and a few ways you can go about implementing best practices.

Implementing social business

1.      Internally

Open up the channels of communication and educate employees in the part they can play to help you become a social business.

For example, who at your company is responsible for Facebook? Is it marketing? Sales? PR? Customer service? In truth, they all have a role. Lines of communication internally need to be open and effective in order to collaborate successfully.

A great case study is Dell, who sends any employees who wants to engage – regardless of their role – through social media training. This program, known as the Social Media And Community University (SMACU), teaches that “it’s not about controlling the message, but making sure that everyone in the organization…can be a part of the message which, in effect, controls it.”

Such a program means that all employees are educated to go out and use social media to represent the company. That could mean contributing to a blog, getting involved in Twitter or using experience from their own role to improve the overall strategy. Ensuring that everyone at your company truly understands what social media is about, the benefits it can provide and the risks it entails results in more valuable, collaborative and reliable social media efforts.

Educate, communicate and collaborate internally. Consider how each department can be a part of your online presence, and the effect they can have by interacting and engaging with consumers. Also, think about how you could use social media internally to communicate, train, educate, facilitate and share information among your team.

2. Externally

Companies are in the public eye on a daily basis, and conversation will happen about their product, with or without them. So the question really, is how can you use tailor this conversation to your advantage?

Social channels are all about discussion, which provide the perfect environment to get feedback and listen. Use social monitoring tools such as Twitter Advanced Search, Social Bro and Radian6, to find out what people are saying, how they feel, and consider how you can shape their attitudes towards your brand through your reactions.

JELL-O pudding exemplified this back in 2011, when they ran a campaign which cheered up unhappy Twitter users by giving away free pudding. They monitored Twitter for happy and sad emoticons, using the JELL-O Pudding Face Mood Meter to gage the mood of the country. When the mood dipped, they started to offer free pudding to users who had included a sad emoticon in their tweet, to bring the collective mood back up again.

JELL-O listened to the public and responded appropriately, turning something bad (a sad emoticon), into something positive (a happy emoticon). The popularity and publicity they received from this campaign was incredible, and one of the most successful social campaigns to-date, as measured by brand interaction and social mentions. This huge benefit to them came from one simple process - listening, socializing, providing value and driving engagement.

Becoming a social business is not an easy transition, particularly for organizations that have become comfortable in their traditional roots. Nonetheless, it’s an important step to take and will drive considerable benefit in the long run as online becomes a more and more important part of all of our day-to-day activities as individuals and as businesses.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tips and specifications for effective pre-roll video ads

Praetorian Group has always aimed to lead the way when it comes to new ways to reach the public safety audience online, so we’re excited to introduce pre-roll video ads to our inventory and thought we’d share our experience and the parameters we’ve developed.

Pre-roll video ads are one of the strongest online ad formats available. A 2008 study by the Interactive Advertising Bureau found that pre-roll ad placements perform particularly well for unaided brand awareness, online ad awareness and tagline association.

In our initial tests, we’ve seen much stronger clickthrough rates (CTRs) than static banner image placements. For example, our most basic banners average .2 to .5 percent click through rates, whereas our preroll video ads have been 1.60 to 2.63 percent – in other words they can be literally more than 10 times as effective in terms of CTRs.

When it comes to length, we strongly recommend 15-second units, which were found in the study to be the optimal length for brand association, ease of understanding and most efficient with the highest level of engagement.

“In the pre-roll placement, the 15-second unit performed optimally not only managing to increase awareness measures over control but also impacting positive brand associations,” the IAB study found. “While the 30-second creative performed well, in a pre-roll placement it actually deterred viewers from shopping and distanced them from the key communication. In other words, good creative was hurt by bad placement.”

Based on our research, testing and player setup, we recommend advertisers follow these specs for their pre-roll videos:

File format:
 Quicktime (.mov, .gt, .mp4, .3gp), MPEG (.mpg, .mpeg, .mp2), Window Media (.wmv), AVI (.avi)

Aspect ratio:

Spot Length:
 15 seconds or less

Bit rate:
 Greater than 2Mbps

Clickthrough URL:
 Provide the URL which users will be redirected to upon clicking on the video screen.

In addition, we recommend advertisers consider using a call to action in their video to direct users to click on the video screen as not all users may be aware of this functionality.

With studies singing praises of online video boosting purchase intentrecall levels and effectiveness over banner ads, it’s easy to see why advertisers in the online space are moving more of their budgets into video advertising.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jumpstarting Your Media Business in Tough Economic Times

Many media companies are struggling to grow their businesses and maximize revenue in today’s tough economic environment. This past November, I was asked to present the Praetorian story at the InfoCommerce InfoData 2011 Conference in Philadelphia. My objective was to outline lessons from our experience in the public safety market that other companies might use to jumpstart their businesses. Core to my presentation was our experience launching our grant assistance business which has connected 100s of police and fire departments with millions of dollars in federal, state and foundation grant funding to purchase equipment. The case study serves as an instructive example of how to use an online business model combining content, community and data to solve business problems. 

On a side note, I'd like to extend a special thanks to the InfoCommerce team for a great conference and the opportunity to present. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

How to measure marketing ROI on Facebook and why you shouldn’t get too excited about your fan count

Most of the companies we talk to focus exclusively on how many fans they have on their Facebook page when measuring social media success. But the ‘like’ has always been a crude and limited metric in evaluating overall effectiveness, and we’ve long questioned the value of a Facebook fan and asking how companies should measure ROI.

Ever since the EdgeRank algorithm was introduced, the number of fans a page has acquired has become secondary to how engaged their fan base actually is. After all, what would you rather have – 1 million fans who don’t care about your product, or 100 fans who are advocates and lifelong customers? Top brands are taking notice and if your company is spending time on social media marketing, you should as well.

In addition, last month, Facebook published a new insights platform that should make all brands sit up and take notice. One aspect of the platform is a new metric called ‘People Talking About This’. This number is displayed below the fan count on a Facebook fan page, and should now be considered as the go-to metric for how to value a fan page and measure ROI and engagement.

What’s significant about this metric is that it is completely public – which means there’s no place for poorly performing pages to hide regardless of the number of likes they’ve amassed. The reality is that only a small percentage of fans actually see a page’s content, so using the fan count as a measure of a page’s value is misleading. With this new metric, you can see (as can your competitors, clients and the entire online community) how many people are actually engaging with your brand on Facebook.

So what does ‘People Talking About This’ actually mean?
Unlike many other social media metrics, this metric is calculated based not on the page’s content, but how users interact with it and how often. Over a rolling 7 day period, likes, shares, comments, wall posts, mentions, new fans and check-ins all factor into this calculation. Put simply, it identifies quality over quantity. It rightly implies that it’s not about how many fans you have or how much content you post, but about how many people think your page (and your brand) is worth listening to and engaging with.

Rise Interactive states that the new metric is “one singular rating intended to tell users how compelling and interesting a page’s content is” – and they are spot on in this assessment. So next time you’re looking at a Facebook fan page - whether it be your own, a competitor’s or a potential client’s - look past how many people “like this”, and instead focus on how many people are “talking about this”. That’s the number that provides transparency and validity into the power and value of a Facebook fan page. Bottom line: It’s time to stop measuring your Facebook by likes and get serious about engagement. Taking note of the ‘talking about’ metric is a great place to start.

Here's a related article from Mashable that expands on this subject : 3 Metrics that Will Change the Way You Market on Facebook

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11, Remembrance and Praetorian

As our nation commemorates 9/11, mourning those we lost, celebrating acts of heroism and considering how our country has changed, I wanted to take a moment and encourage everyone to reflect on that tragic day. As CEO of an online media company dedicated to keeping first responders informed, I want remind all of us to remember those who lost their lives and those who made the ultimate sacrifice – many of them police officers, firefighters and paramedics - to save others. I encourage you to review the amazing coverage and stories of sacrifice we have posted on each of our sites:
You may be wondering how 9/11 affected the Praetorian Group as a company. When I think about 9/11, I can’t help but consider the formative impact that day had on our mission and future as a company. At the time, we had 5 employees and were struggling to find our way and make ends meet. Praetorian’s future was uncertain. But overnight, 9/11 changed everything. All of a sudden, the 70,000 law enforcement members on at the time as well as departments across the country had an urgent need to stay informed. They turned to the Internet and to us. I’ll never forget the day shortly after 9/11 when one of our members who was a chief of a small department called to ask for help. The only way he found out that his department was on alert was when he arrived home and his wife told him (she had seen it on CNN).

Correspondingly, we created site sections and newsletters as well as an email and text messaging alert service to disseminate information. PoliceOne became a ‘must have’ tool to help spread the news of terrorism threats and educate law enforcement on tactics and best practices to prevent terrorism. Our membership grew by 100% in less than 12 months. At the same time, 9/11 energized our company and fueled our resolve to keep pushing forward in a time of significant uncertainty. It crystalized our role in the community and brought us closer to the first responders we serve, strengthening our mission and commitment.

Ten years later, that energy and commitment is still strong and continues to ignite our mission. We count 700,000 first responders as members and a significant portion of our nations’ public safety community relies on us daily to provide them the information they need to stay informed. As I consider 9/11 and the state of Praetorian, I’m confident that we’re not only helping first responders everywhere better prepare for 9/11 related threats, but as importantly address the tragedy, challenges and threats they face on a day to day basis.

As part of a company dedicated to first responders, 9/11 has significant meaning for our members, our customers and each of our employees. Let us take a moment to reflect upon the tragedy of 9/11 and the examples of heroism and sacrifice we saw that day and how the first responders we serve – whether they be police officers, firefighters or paramedics – make sacrifices and risk their lives every day to keep us all safe.

In remembrance.

Alex Ford
CEO and Founder
Praetorian Group