When I discovered social media for the first time and saw its potential as a marketing medium to amplify content, spread stories and brand messages, I was excited.
Social media became my shiny new toy.
Four years later after logging onto Facebook for the first time, I am still as passionate as ever about social networks and the democratization to marketing and publishing that they bring.
Is Ignorance Bliss?
Many businesses are now discovering its potential. What still astounds me though is that many business owners and marketers still do not realize the marketing horsepower that social media provides that can accelerate their global brand discovery.
Maybe it is a generational issue or just plain ignorance and contentment with the status quo.
The challenge for the social media naysayer’s though is that new “upstarts” are disrupting their business models and threatening to put them out of business. A few years of ignorance could turn into a lifetime of business extinction.
This is an interview that I had recently with the print magazine “Search Marketing Standard” which was published in their summer edition.
It is now online here for tweeting, Google plussing and Facebook and LinkedIn sharing.
This interview content has now been set free to be powered by low friction sharing and accelerated by global social networks.
Your blog (at jeffbullas.com) has a very large following that you’ve built over the last two-plus years. Why did you choose to focus on social media instead of some other aspect of marketing online?
Answer: On discovering Facebook, then Twitter I realised that social media was topic that intrigued me and I then became passionate about social networks. I also felt that on seeing people’s obsession with the medium that it was something I couldn’t ignore and would be a game changer to marketing and online publishing.
You’ve grown your readership and following enormously. How about some details of your reach? And what would you say was the single most important thing you did to influence that growth?
Answer: Twitter has so far been my biggest social network to distribute my articles and content globally and I initially concentrated on Twitter and built up a targeted and focused following and today I have over 100,000 followers. I also use a Facebook page where I have nearly 10,000 fans.
After joining those 2 social networks, I then started my blog and today I have over 300,000 page views and 170,000 unique readers every month that read my blog posts.
I also use platforms such as Slideshare where I have over 130,000 views of my presentations that I have presented as keynotes to international events and conferences in countries including Turkey, Italy and New Zealand.
In January of this year, you made the Top 50 social media power influencers on Forbes.com, coming in at an impressive #14. I know Forbes used a complex formula (from PeekYou’s social pull metric) to figure out who should make the cut, but what do you personally think makes your content so appealing? What do you offer that other social media bloggers don’t?
Answer: It was an honour to be selected by Forbes and it was a pleasant surprise. I have worked hard at making my content helpful and relevant by listening to my readers to see what resonates and is shared the most.
One of the objectives I set out to achieve is to solve problems and provide a lot of “How to” articles. Also a very important key to make it appealing is to write headlines that make people click through to my articles as this is the first important step in the process of obtaining interest and readers.
Also 2 important elements that I address that is often different to other bloggers is that my content is very focused and about what my readers want and like and not about me.
You’re based in Australia, while most of our readers are located in North America. Can you give us a couple of examples of some social media campaigns in Australia that you found particularly impressive and influential?
Answer: One campaign that was very effective was the one run for Tourism Queensland. Titled “The Best Job in the World”
The results were impressive .
The concept was simple: post a one-minute video application on Tourism Queensland’s Web site explaining why you should be chosen as caretaker of Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef and you might get to blog and cam your way through a six-month gig that paid about $100K U.S. The story broke with a Reuters placement around sunrise in Australia on January 12, 2009. By breakfast time in London, AP was interviewing Tourism Queenslands’s UK director for a broadcast package that turned up on the morning shows in the U.S.
- Within two days there were 1,100 TV placements in the U.S. alone
- In 30 hours they had 400, oo0 new visitors. The goal was to get 400,000 new visitors to it’s website (www.islandreefjob.com) over the course of the one-year campaign
- One million hits on the second day
- The million hits crashed the site
- When they brought it back up it was hosted on 10 Web servers, the maximum number of servers possible
- Approximately 34,684 people from more than 200 countries applied for the job of Island Caretaker
The second one that impressed me was for the National Australia Bank
The NAB bank is one of the largest banks in Australia and they tweeted the following tweet that appeared to be a mistake by a junior community manager.
It was in fact part of an integrated social media and traditional marketing strategy to get people to break with their current bank and to create buzz about their new competitive pricing across a range of their banking products that they were offering to the market .
- Across the various social networks the Twitter campaign created 66% of all banking conversations online
- In three weeks they had a 20% increase in transaction accounts
- 50% increase in credit card applications
- 35% increase in mortgage enquiries
- 45% in mortgage re-finance applications
More reading: 10 Twitter Marketing Tips
As someone who started out blogging awhile back, do you think that blogging is in danger of becoming irrelevant? As more and more social media properties come onto the scene, is the audience getting fragmented by too many online properties trying to get their attention?
Answer: I don’t think blogging is becoming irrelevant but evolving. What we have now is a whole range of blogging options such as microblgging “Twitter” and social media platforms such as “Tumblr”. Creating a Facebook “Page” is also a blogging option now that is easy to use and very public and is multimedia rich.
Currently there are over 155 million blogs so I don’t think it is going away any time soon. You just have more options on what platform to use.
What about Google Plus? The recent redesign release seems to be pitting Google even more against Facebook than ever before, with an emphasis on the visual and a look that has a lot of similar features to Facebook. Do you think Google can steal the scene from Facebook?
Answer: The challenge for Google is that Facebook has become the defacto standard for a persons online identity and interaction. I think Google+ has placed healthy competition which has improved the entire social networking landscape and ecosystem and made Facebook improve its product. Don’t underestimate Google+ as it is firstly owned by Google wjho has very deep pockets and sees Google+ as “core” to its online strategy including search.
How do you think the increasing emphasis on the visual will mesh with the focus on original and useful content that is the cornerstone of Google’s notion of “authority” ranking?
It is obvious that the increasing popularity of the visual medium on the web will change how online platforms are designed and function. Google’s challenge is to remain relevant on an increasingly social web and the launch of Google+ (which cost over $500 million to design and develop) is evidence of how seriously Google is treating social. The integration of the +1 button that allows people to vote on the content and links will determine what content Google ranks high in search engines whether it be visual such as YouTube ( a Google property) or Picasa (a Google image and photo social media site). Google is treating the “social signals generated as core to its technology across all platforms.
Recent studies have shown that we don’t trust Facebook insofar as our privacy is concerned, much less understand its privacy settings, yet we continue to flock to it and increase our participation. Why are we ignoring this? Should people be expected to read and understand a mile-long TOS to avoid future problems with unexpected use of their data?
Answer: We ignore the privacy problem because social networks provide so many other benefits. People are now treating this type of communication as vital as a phone or texting. It is still early days and people will adapt to it’s the challenges and nuances over time. Technology is changing fast but humans are slow to change.
Do you have a prediction on the next big thing coming from a social media property?
Answer: I don’t know what it will look like but it will embrace two key elements. It will be highly “visual” and “mobile”. Instagram is maybe a hint of what is to come.
Now let’s turn to questions more closely related to businesses and social media.
In your opinion, does social media suit some business goals better than others? What should be the ultimate goal of social media participation for businesses? Is it to create awareness, drive traffic to your website, sell product, branding, or something entirely different?
Answer: Businesses have different goals they want from each element of marketing. It is no different for social media as it is just another marketing tool and medium. Marketing fundamentals still apply.
For some brand awareness is paramount for others it is increased sales. Any marketing strategy and the resulting tactics should keep in mind the 2 key fundamentals.
- The target audience
- The goals
Social media is not a magic bullet and should be used where appropriate just like Television, radio or email marketing
With so many different social media outlets demanding we interact with them for the sake of our businesses, how should a business owner decide which one(s) to should concentrate on?
Answer: Business should focus on what social media networks where their customers and prospects are engaging on. For a simple example Pinterest is highly used by women so fashion and cooking are relevant and appropriate.
If you had to identify just one benefit of participating in social media for the typical small business, what would it be and why?
Answer: The major benefit is and why social media so potent: It’s ability to amplify word-of-mouth effects.
Why is this important? Because it is efficient and effective channel and can lead to “cut through” of a brand on a crowded web of 550 million websites. Standing out and being everywhere is vital.
What is the biggest mistake you think small businesses make with social media?
Answer: The biggest mistake is not having a strategy or a plan with appropriate resources allocated. Just because it is social doesn’t mean it is free. Itg requires funding to resource it and run it just like any other proper marketing.
The new Facebook timeline is now reality. Do you see this as a positive move for businesses marketing themselves via Facebook? Or is it going to make it more difficult?
Answer: It’s still early days and some sites are reporting a lowering of engagement but I think that everyone is still working it out. I think the secret might may be to take advantage of its stronger visual design. That wil mean sourcing and using more compelling and shareable images and photos to communicate.
As a follow-up, how do you think Facebook is going to handle the dichotomy between people using it as a social network and those trying to do business via it? Is the boundary between the two going to further blur?
Answer: Facebook is trying to maintain a similar theme and common ecosystem between pages and profiles.
It is creating an ecosystem that has the ability for common functionality but allowing the outsourcing of app development for business and personal to provide a diverse and rich and evolving social networking and mobile ecosystem that works for both.
In your opinion, are companies making good use of the synergy between social, mobile, and local?
Answer: I think that the synergy between social, mobile and local (eg Foursqaure) is still at embryonic stage and yet to reach critical mass. So at this stage it is highly experimental.
With so many conflicting calls on time and money, should businesses be focusing more on one of these three (social, mobile, local) now? How does this fit with the volatile nature of social media, where it seems as if just as you begin to see some movement from your development of a particular social media property, another one eclipses it totally.
Answer: Social is where the focus should be currently as it is much more mature. Local and mobile marketing are not at a mature stage yet to warrant large marketing investment. They should be monitored though to ensure that as they develop you can take advantage of them.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for business in 2012 insofar as social media marketing is concerned? How does this answer differ for large corporations versus small ones?
The biggest challenge is finding people with enough experience and skill to know what to do. There are a lot of so called experts in social media that don’t really understand it but profess to.
A final question. If you had to choose just one social media product to integrate with a business today, which would it be? Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, something different?
Answer: Just choosing one social media product is not advisable. Multi channel marketing provides synergy and leverage that is more than the sum of the parts. Your target audience will prefer a range of different media and networks so that you can reach the largest audience. Some prefer watching a video on YouTube, others would rather read an article on your blog and a lot will want to access your content from Facebook. Don’t put all your social media eggs in one basket. Create and publish your content at your hub (website and blog) and distribute it out to your audience where they hangout (and each business is different). This includes the social network outposts of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Slideshare, Pinterest and LinkedIn to name the top six.
Image by jez.atkinson