Monday, December 28, 2009

Local Communities: The Last Frontier

By Andy Santamaria

Just like the Gold Rush in 1800's, we had a similar rush to seize certain markets online at the turn of the century. Out of the dust emerged giants like Google, Wikipedia, and Facebook. Then we started to see smaller markets/niches being grabbed and expanding exponentially. If you were the first person to start a blog on technology and gadgets, you got a little attention. If you were very good and didn't sleep, you may have made a name for yourself like Gizmodo or Engadget.

The mass land grab is over.
Starting a blog is extremely hard now. Getting noticed by the masses for your niche is laughable. Steve Rubel explains why here. Want to start a blog/video podcast on wine? Gary will crush you. How about giving presentations? That's pretty unique, right? Nope, Garr Reynolds is the best voice of authority and he got a book deal out of it. Ok, so maybe you want to do something extremely obscure like being a professional home-office organizer? Yeah, no. Brandi Kajino has already tapped that niche and has aligned herself with great startups like Evernote.

You aren't going to beat Gary at wine podcasting. What if you live in a great area for local brewing? Though I don't know much about brewing, I'd argue that The Midwest is a great area for it. And so we begin, what may be, one of the final onlne land-grabs.

Revenge of the Local Celebrity.
Find a niche that is significant to your community. What if you had a blog/podcast where you interviewed, tasted, and reviewed ONLY local breweries in Minnesota (OK, maybe Wisconsin too..)? I'd be that if you had the right motivation, talent, and persistance, you could quickly become the voice of reason in Minneapolis. Bars and breweries would flock to your site and beg you to drink their beer. Doesn't sound that bad, right?

Get Going.
What's even better is that Minneapolis is virtually untouched right now for powerful online niches. It's not like you're in SF or NYC where they already have caught on to this. Now is the best time to start something that you've always wanted. Involve your community and be ready for the long road ahead. I've got a few projects that I'm starting where I plan to do exactly what I've described above.

I'm not going to give out that many examples because they are easy to come up with. What are you into? What do you read for fun? What's your favorite type of show? Find the big fish that has a national audience and make your own version significant to Minnesota, or better yet, Minneapolis.

How about you? Are you going to start the next design blog that critiques local artists? The next bakery blog that covers the best and freshest bread in the city? I'd love to know. Email me.

Andy Santamaria is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota. His blog mainly covers creative businesses in the Twin Cities. He also writes about new media, advertising and technology. Follow him on Twitter, @andysantamaria

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 21, 2009

Social Media: How to Lose a Customer in 10 Days

By Philip Wocken

So you and your company have decided to embrace social media as a marketing medium. Congratulations! What do you do next? In this post, we’ll learn what not to do next as we follow Ralph, the marketing manager at (the names and companies have been changed to protect those involved).
Day 1: Ralph has decided that today was the day that jumped into social media. Ralph had heard about Twitter, his daughter has one of those Facebook accounts and he’d heard about all of those websites with names that he couldn’t pronounce and that weren’t even spelled correctly. Nevertheless, rather than seek help or advice from someone—anyone—who had some experience with social media, he decided that he would learn about social media as he went along.

Day 2: Today, Ralph wanted to focus on getting a large Twitter following. He logged on and spent all day “following” every user he could. By 4:00, he was following 1300 people and only 45 people were following him back (they have adjusted their settings to automatically follow back anyone who follows them). He had yet to send out a tweet.

Day 3: Since he wanted to learn about social media as he went along, he has decided that he doesn’t want to be tied down by a plan. He heard someone mention something about creating a content plan, but he concluded that he will update his content as he thinks of new topics. After all, he considers himself to be a pretty smart guy.

Day 4: Somehow, even though he hadn’t sent out any tweets, Ralph was getting followers on Twitter. Remembering that he got a lot of Direct Messages from people when he followed them, he thought that it would be a great idea to send out those messages to those who follow Unfortunately, he has decided to make the distribution of these messages so that they will automatically be sent out 10 hours after someone decided to follow At 4:00 pm, Mary followed At 2:00 am, she was rudely awakened by Ralph’s Direct Message. Mary was intelligent enough to figure out that what was thinly veiled as a personal and attentive message was nothing more than an artificially personalized advertisement. Mary, and everyone else who wanted to follow, undoubtedly felt insulted that Ralph was so artificial in his attempt to build a relationship with them. “Gosh,” Mary thinks, “ [’s main competitor] actually reached out to me and made a genuine connection. I’ll remember that!”

Day 5-9: Under the impression that he was really getting the hang of “this social media thing,” Ralph abandoned all of his other marketing activities/channels and decided to send out his first tweet: “ is your #1 source for all things widgets! Check us out on the web at!” He spends the next four days sending out tweets that sound like this every 20 minutes. He changed a couple of words here and there, but the message was still the same. Sick of being bombarded with advertisements and due to the lack of genuine, interesting content, the small following that Ralph has built up in the first few days immediately abandoned ship. On Day 9, Ralph now has 12 followers (those 12 never login to Twitter, so that haven’t been bombarded...yet).

Day 10: Somehow, Ralph stumbled across a blog and forum community that was setup specifically to smear They ridiculed Ralph’s social media “strategy” and a couple of user even started some false rumors about the company. Ralph, determined to set the record straight, logged on and scolded the site for allowing false statements to fester. Met with a defensive group of users, the conversation quickly escalated to a nasty argument. Within hours, Ralph’s comments were sent all over the web and were picked up by a couple of dozen blogs. The reputation of his company is now dangerously tarnished. Furious, Ralph concluded that “this social media thing is all just a bunch of hype.”
Don’t be like Ralph. While it may be an extreme example, it happens every day. If you’ve decided to incorporate social media into your marketing mix, I think that you have made a very wise decision. Use this opportunity to talk to someone who knows a thing or two about this ever-changing industry before you dive in. Or, at the very least, educate yourself so that you can avoid making the same mistakes as Ralph. No customer wants to do business with a guy like Ralph.
Have you, or someone you know, had an experience similar to Ralph’s (no names please!)? How do you learn about social media? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please enter them in the comment box below.
Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached on Twitter @BuzzBrains or email him at

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 14, 2009

Geek Girls Recap from MN AMA Annual Conference

By Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker, Geek Girls
During our recent presentation at the MN-AMA's Get in the Game Conference, we focused on giving people a solid foundation of 101-level social media knowledge. First, we defined social media as the sites and applications we use to connect, have conversations and share content with each other. Now -- in that spirit -- we'd like to share more content with you, and maybe even open up a conversation.
Where to Start
After defining social media, we assumed everyone in the room had two basic objectives: to establish and manage a social presence, and to define and implement a monitoring and response process.
The steps we suggest for social media success are:
- Define goals
- Set benchmarks
- Educate internal audiences
- Create processes and policies to manage content and conversation
Thinking about social media as a conversation is vital, and "conversation" is a new mindset for many marketers. Social media is not a strictly push tactic. It's about listening, connecting, and participating. These conversations and connections can be a powerful way to connect with your audiences (both internal and external), but you need to teach internal audiences how to behave this way. Companies, organizations and brands are not used to having two-way conversations with their audiences. They are often structured such that one department "talks" and another department "listens" -- and sometimes those two departments barely talk to one another!
Define Goals
When you consider your goals it's also important to think about the goals of the audience with whom you are trying to connect.
Keep in mind when defining your goals it's hard to measure ROI in the ways that you are used to. Often there is no clear call-to-action with social media, and you might have to do some listening before you can make clear goals.
In many cases, old measurement models don't quite fit. Luckily, lots of new ways of thinking about how to measure social media are beginning to emerge.
Set Benchmarks
It's never a good idea to jump into the internet with no strategy or direction in mind, and it's important to set benchmarks and checkpoints to compare to in the future. Sounds familiar, right? It's not like this approach is new, but because social media is "The Next Big Thing!" far too many marketers seem to be jumping into the tactics without enough strategic forethought.
At the very least, you can start listening to what's being said in a variety of social networks to gauge the overall number of conversations and get a sense of whether the energy is bad or good.
Initially, the idea of monitoring Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. can seem overwhelming. The good news is that for most brands it doesn't have to be! There are many free tools like Twitter Search, Google Alerts, and RSS feeds and, for many brands, it's possible to start with a homegrown monitoring solution. (Later, as you start getting more comfortable with social media monitoring, you might consider a paid service or agency.)
Below are some guides on how to set up and use different monitoring services:
As a company, you should also be thinking about implementing a social media policy so employees have a clear understanding around what is okay to share, and what the "voice" of the company or brand in the social media space is. A great way to get internal audiences involved is to host a bootcamp or workshop to educate employees about their role in representing the company or brand.
Separating The Personal & The Professional Online
Create Processes & Procedures
In addition to educating audiences, you need to make sure that your company has some sort of internal process for responding to conversations in social spaces. Once you start listening, you're going to want to talk! So, who approves those responses? How do you handle any possible legal issues? What do you respond to, and what do you ignore? What is the voice and tone of your company or brand?
Again, depending on the size of your organization, these processes don't have to be overly complicated. But, it's good to think through the questions before you dive in. Here's a wonderfully simple example of a local restaurant doing social media "right."
Get in the Game
The last thing to remember is that you're not alone: there are plenty of other companies and professionals out there trying these tools for the first time, and there are lots of resources and people out there to help you. Our goal, as the Geek Girls, is for everyone to feel like no question is stupid when you're trying something new. Drop us a line and let us know what you think! We'd love to hear from you.
Thanks for having us!
Nancy Lyons, President and CEO, and Meghan Wilker, Managing Director, work for Clockwork Active Media Systems. In 2008, Lyons and Wilker launched the Geek Girls Guide blog to demystify technology and publish their perspectives on the interactive industry. Visit our blog at or follow us on Twitter: Nancy (@nylons), Meghan (@irishgirl) or @geekgirlsguide.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, December 7, 2009

Building Your Marketing Tool Kit

By Emily Jasper

I may not be able to speak for most marketing executives, but in my experience, there are some attributes your team needs to have to be successful. Some of these may be no brainers, but you should always be looking at your team to determine if it’s the best it can be. For example, it probably makes sense for your team to have these qualities distributed across the group instead of all in one person. It’s the same idea as not to leave all of your eggs in one basket. Your golden boy could leave and you’re left with a low-performing team.

Innovation: I want to point out that innovation and creativity can be treated differently. Creative people can take something and give it a fabulous new look or use. Innovative people help make that something to begin with. If your group has been tasked with lots of new development, you really need innovative people to keep you going. Having at least one person who wants to build from beginning-to-end gives your creative team something to gnaw on.

Organization: At least one person should get excited about spreadsheets and project plans. Someone who likes structured boundaries will help keep the group on task. Being an Organizing nut also means challenging the group, playing devil’s advocate and making the group think beyond the boundaries. As I always tell my colleagues, I can think outside the box, but I need a box to begin with.

Youth: Including a young twenty-something on your team can keep you in tune to a part of the world you aren’t used to. Trust me, there are still many marketing professionals who have no idea how to leverage Twitter. If you say Interweb, there’s a small panic that goes through the room. Young employees not only bring some background understanding of the new Web, but also another challenging mind. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t good enough for this generation (and the ones to come).

Speed: If you ask someone in the world what they think of when you say Marketing Department, you’ll get an answer similar to this, “Those flashy New York people running the halls in stilettos and wearing expensive suits.” Sure, there are those who may have personal experience with their own organization’s department and have quite a different opinion, but the media world presents marketing departments in companies just like the large Marketing firms. Which means your company expects you to be like those high-profile New York firms. You should have speed and a pulse on what’s going on in the world. Part of your speed should also include agility: being able to shift priorities and resources on a dime.

Patience: Since your company expects agility, you also need patience for numerous and insane requests. Even if you try to manage expectations, there’s always someone mad because you made it difficult to carry out their last minute request. Patience and grace will keep your team functioning well with each other, and with the rest of the organization.

While many more attributes could be added to this list, these can help you build a tool kit for a successful team. You know how hard it is to hang a picture with a hammer and no nails. At the end of the day, you care about the tool kit, but your organization cares about getting that picture hung up.

Emily Jasper is a Corporate Marketing Manager with PDI Ninth House. In addition to marketing, Emily has sales and PR experience from previous roles. Currently, she writes a blog, "From the Gen Y Perspective," and can be followed on Twitter at

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 30, 2009

Going Beyond Social Media at the MN AMA 2009 Annual Conference

By John Olson

My November 10 presentation at the MN American Marketing Association 2009 Annual Conference advertised that it would go “beyond” social media. Beyond would refer not to the next hot trend but to an ancient ideal: Connection is the heart and soul of our species. In fact, I brought examples of how so-called social media can prove to be antisocial in the extreme, with companies parodying the online memorial format, or creating anonymous blogs to deceive shareholders.

Rather than touting emerging technologies, we talked about the Great Leap Forward of some 70,000 years ago when our species used the nascent tools of community—fire, language, social structure, —and ritual to become a civilized race. It was connection and not aggression that allowed our earliest ancestors to flourish (organized warfare didn’t appear until about 16,000 years ago). Harvard researchers posit that there are four human drives: to learn, to acquire, to defend and to connect. Of these, connection is the defining gene. It is the urge to connect that suppresses destructive impulses and allows collaboration and social structure to arise.

Much of what we’re discovering about great civilizations is the power of connection, and much is contrary to what we thought we knew. For example, archeologists now believe the tens of thousands of Fellahin who built the pyramids were not slaves but paid laborers, workers with specialized roles in construction. The great civilizations that followed were marked by sustainable behaviors, most notably, joining and belonging. The United States in the mid-20th century was the most connected country in history, with citizens active in everything from bridge clubs to political groups to the Kiwanis.

At OLSON, we developed an anthropological approach to brand building—we call it the “science of social circles”—a decade ago, before the advent of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Craigslist. From this vantage point, we can use media of every kind to create a sense of connection to brands. What’s the next “beyond”? The rapidly changing field of ROI measures for brands, employing state-of-the-art metrics, data and technology. Thanks to the MN AMA for putting together a successful conference in such a volatile era.

John Olson, Founder and CEO of OLSON. Follow John on Twitter @OLSONagency

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 23, 2009

With SEO you too can lose that extra 5 pounds!

I was throwing around tips and tricks with some SEO pros the other day when the conversation lulled. One of the old hands, a self described reformed black-hat search engine optimizer, remarked wistfully, “When it comes down to it the only thing that matters over the long haul is content and links.” After some smiles and nods from his audience he continued, “You can try all the tricks and schemes, but Google eventually catches on and changes the game and then you’re back to what works anyway.”

It reminded me of people who after years of struggling with the diet-of-the-month game finally give up the shenanigans and start eating better and exercising. Losing weight is not easy to accomplish, but the formula is simple. Getting good search results is much the same: publish good content often, get good links, and (eventually) you’ll show up high on Google.

It is often the case that companies have to become ok with publishing information about themselves, their products and their industry. Many fear competitive leaching, breaches of etiquette, or are just plain shy. This is a new age of media and business and companies must engage online. So how does a company who has never published more than a website-on-a-stick and occasional press releases get started publishing valuable content online?

I recommend starting with a blog. I know, blogs seem almost pedestrian now-a-days. But you have to start somewhere and the act of putting thoughts into a post and clicking the PUBLISH button can start the ball rolling. I also recommend using WordPress. Sometimes a good tool can be a motivator. Anyone who can use Microsoft Word can learn how to publish a post in WordPress with a 10 minute tutorial. And WordPress takes care of most of the search engine optimization out of the box. Add a few plug-ins and you are golden.

Now, what to write about? If you’re entrenched in your business like most folks, you probably take for granted what other people don’t know about your business. Ask your customer service people what they get asked about and write a new FAQ as a series of articles. Talk to your salespeople, they know what questions people have about your company. Start a one way conversation. If all goes as planned, it will turn into a two way conversation and then you’re really on to something.

Getting links isn’t complicated – just publish content that people want to link to. It will take time for your audience to find you, so you have to reach out and participate in the online community, pointing people back to your site and blog. There are plenty of professionals who can help on this front, and their job will be much easier if they have strong content to work with.

Like any lifestyle change the beginning is hard, the initial results are motivating, and the goal is worth the effort. Start today.

Scott DeToffol is a Minneapolis based online marketer and technologist helping clients connect and convert at LYNX Interactive Marketing. Contact Scott at or via Twitter: @scottdeto

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Mosaic of MN AMA Annual Conference Reflections

Did you go to the conference this year? If you did not get a chance to attend the annual conference, take a look at what some of the attendees had to say about it. Over 300 came and we have a small handful of participants who offered their reflections below. We invite you to add your opinion- good, bad or indifference. Add your comments or reflections to this post now.

Rob McChane said, “Being a first-time attendee to the Annual Conference, I was really impressed with the quality and caliber of the guest speakers. They seemed genuinely interested in sharing their knowledge which created a level of interaction with attendees that I haven't seen at other events like this. I also really enjoyed the social media element of the conference. It’s nice to see the MN AMA promoting professional development in these new areas of marketing to help its membership stay ahead of the curve."

Barrie Berquist said, “This was my first time attending the MN AMA annual conference and I was excited to see what it was all about. Since I am currently in job transition, I was hoping to network with marketing professionals and take home new marketing-related information that would help me in my job search. I was also excited to hear presentations from marketing leaders from a diverse range of companies on the challenges and successes they have experienced, especially in this unstable economy. The MN AMA annual conference turned out to be everything I hoped it would be and I will definitely be returning next year.”

Ken Gregory commented, "The MN AMA 2009 Annual Conference was a big success. In a one-day event, it gave me an incredible opportunity to connect with so many leaders and marketing professionals, and gain amazing insights from the keynotes and track sessions. There was a great deal of variety with the track sessions and speakers, and I liked having the option to choose the sessions that I was most interested in. I also enjoyed working at the MN AMA booth - watching the 'Lovemarks' book fly off the table and listening to the tweet traffic throughout the day."

Kristi Kottschade said, "This has been my fourth year attending the MN AMA Annual Conference and every year I have been impressed with the speakers. They all do a fantastic job and provide some good information that I can use in my job. The volunteers really put a lot of hard work into making it a success. Looking forward to next year's annual conference. I will be there!"

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Introduction to Social Media News Releases - Part 2

By Mike Keliher

This is the second post in my little two-part series on social media news releases. In my first post, I offered an introduction to what social media news releases are and how they're different from traditional news releases. In today's post, I'll share some thoughts on why you'd want to use a social media release, what exactly you do with one, and ideas for how you might gauge its value.

By now you should at least have some vague idea of what a social media news release is and what they might look like, and you're probably starting to get a sense for how you'd put one together. To get a better understanding of what you should put into your social media news releases, let's talk a bit about why and how you'd use one of these fancy things.

In most cases, when I publish a social media release, I'm also paying a company like Marketwire, BusinessWire or PR Newswire to distribute a traditional news release at the same time. Write a traditional release -- you need some client-approved language to use in the social media release anyway -- to send out over the wire for the sake of reaching some mainstream media newsrooms and, perhaps more importantly for most news releases, getting a nice little bump in your search rankings.

Include in that traditional release a link to your social media release, which complements your traditional release with whatever photos, videos and other Web content you have -- content that would cost you an arm and a leg (maybe two legs) to distribute via one of those wire services. Then, when it comes time to send pitches to your carefully selected list of media folks, include a link to your fancy, multimedia-stocked social media release instead of your boring, plain-text traditional release.

Once you get in the habit of sharing photos of your products, events and the like, or publishing videos on YouTube, you'll quickly find yourself thinking, "Boy, I wish I could easily show this reporter our photo set, and our videos, and our news release, and give her links to our Twitter profile and our Facebook page..."

That's what social media releases are for. And trust me, if that "Boy, I wish..." sentence sounds odd, just wait. You'll get there.

To gauge whether your social media release was effective, consider these questions:

- Think about how you gauge the success of your traditional news releases. Did your social media release help with any of those metrics?

- Did it increase the quantity or improve the quality of coverage you received? Did reporters or bloggers use any of the photos or videos you shared? Did they pick up any of your key "news facts"?

- Did it save you money? Were you considering paying a news release distribution service to host some photos or videos for you? If so, using a social media release platform like probably just saved you anywhere from $50 to a couple of thousand dollars. Seriously.

- Does the social media release show up one the first page or two of Google search results for a couple of your key phrases? Keep in mind, if you paid to distribute a traditional release via PR Newswire or the like, those are probably more likely to show up higher than your social media release.

- Did it make your job any easier? Was it helpful to have just one place to point people for all of those photos, videos, links and release text?

- Did a reporter or blogger tell you, "Hey, that's cool"? Did he say it made his job easier?

- Did you get your money's worth? This is sort of a trick question, as many methods for creating and publishing these things we call social media news releases are free of charge.

I hope that helps. If you have more questions, let's hash it out in the comments section below, or you can e-mail me [].

Mike Keliher is a Client Relationship Manager for Minneapolis marketing firm Fast Horse and blogger at The Same Rowdy Crowd and Unjournalism.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where ROI Hides When Growth Stalls

By Steve McKee

In 2002, my advertising agency was named to the Inc. 500 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. It was quite an honor, and very exciting for a company that was only in its fifth year of existence. My business partner and I made plans to attend the Inc. 500 gala in Palm Springs and take our bows with the other 499 fast-growth companies.

There was just one problem. In the months leading up to the conference our growth stalled. We went from stellar returns to sagging revenues almost overnight, and we had no idea why. It was disconcerting, to say the least, and the conference ended up being less a celebration than a reminder of our ineptitude.

Necessity being the mother of invention, after months of soul-searching we made the difficult decision to spend some of our limited resources on a comprehensive study of corporations that had been named to the Inc. 500 list over the previous two decades. We wanted to see if we could unlock the secrets of those that had remained successful, and perhaps uncover other organizations that, like ours, had been tripped up. We wanted to learn from their experiences, both good and bad.

It was an eye-opening exercise. The first—and perhaps most comforting—thing we learned is that we were not alone. We learned that in any normal year, some 15 percent of companies experience flat or negative revenue growth, and over the course of a decade half of all companies do. (In 2009, some estimates suggest up to 90 percent of all companies are struggling with flat or negative revenue. Stunning.)

The reason most often blamed for stalled growth is, unsurprisingly, the economy. Other external events include aggressive competition and changing industry dynamics, such as the introduction of technological advances that change the playing field. But what we found is that external events, while significant, are not the real story; after all, every company has to deal with them. We wanted to know why some companies successfully navigate their way through difficult circumstances while others do not.

Our research told us why: When growth stalls, the real challenges come from within struggling organizations. We identified four internal, psychological factors that tend to do their damage by stealth, catching most corporate leaders unprepared. They include a lack of consensus within the management team, a loss of focus in the marketplace, a loss of nerve (as fear takes the place of good judgment) and inconsistency of execution.

Making matters worse is how these four internal dynamics tend to play off one another, creating a vicious negative feedback loop. If company leaders are unwilling or unable to look within, face facts and address these destructive internal dynamics, a return to healthy ROI may remain a dream long after the economy returns to health. When growth stalls, our research found, it’s what’s inside that counts. Leaders of struggling companies ignore that at their peril.

Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, a columnist for and the author of When Growth Stalls: How It Happens, Why You’re Stuck & What to Do About It.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 26, 2009

Tweet Your Way to "Get in the Game"

The 2009 Annual Conference is just weeks away. We have an impressive line-up of speakers, and we are still busy planning what should be one of our best conferences yet. You don't want to miss this one. And we don't want you to miss it, either. That's why we're giving away a free pass, a $399 value, to one of our Twitter followers. Additionally, we’re offering $150 off of the standard registration price for three of our followers and $75 off the standard registration price for five other followers.

The rules are simple. First, follow @MNAMA on Twitter if you aren't already doing so. Then tell us why you'd like to attend this year's Annual Conference. Check out the conference Web site to see what's in store for this year. Then decide... Which of the sessions would you like to attend the most? Which speaker would you like to see in action? Why do you deserve to win this contest? Be honest. Be creative. All you have to do is tweet your reason(s). Tweet as much as you'd like- just be sure to mark it with the conference hashtag: #mnama09. *

Still haven't jumped on the Twitter bandwagon? It's easy to sign up. Set up your account, then participate. Don't want to join Twitter? Sorry... you'll have to pay your way to Get in the Game.

The contest will begin at 8:00 AM on Tuesday, October 27 and run until noon on Wednesday, November 4. Any tweets submitted before or after these dates/times will not be considered. The winner will be announced at 5:00 P.M. on Wednesday, November 4. Note that the conference is on November 10 at the Saint Paul RiverCentre, so please be sure you are able to attend! We promise it will be worth clearing your schedule for.

Questions? Feel free to leave a comment here or reach us via Twitter @MNAMA. Good luck, and spread the word!

*Tweets that do not contain the hashtag #mnama09 will not be considered in this contest.

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Introduction to Social Media News Releases

By Mike Keliher

In this two-part series, I'm going to start with an introduction to what social media news releases are and how they're different from traditional news releases. In the follow-up post, I'll share some thoughts on why you'd want to use a social media release, what exactly you do with one, and ideas for how you might gauge its value.

Maybe you've heard of social media news releases, but do you really know what that phrase means, how these social media releases are different than traditional releases, or what you'd ever do with one of these things? If you're wondering about these things, you're in good company, but let's shine some light on the subject.

Bottom line: The biggest difference between a traditional news release and a social media news release is the format -- the structure of it, the look and feel. Whereas a traditional news release usually resembles that lead-setup-quote, inverted pyramid format they teach in journalism school, social media news releases generally put an emphasis on telling the story a variety of ways: with some combination of traditional narrative writing, bullet point-style "news facts," photos, videos, links to other online resources.

Ultimately, social media news releases can help you tell your story more effectively by busting up that traditional, linear narrative and giving you a chance to let the story shine in whatever format and level of detail serves it best.

If you've spent any amount of time doing media relations work, you'll remember how you often mentioned at the end of a traditional release or in a pitch e-mail "Photos available upon request" because you didn't want to clog up a reporter's inbox with attachments they might not even want. Well, part of the beauty of a social media release is that those photos are right there in the release, ready to be grabbed and placed in a story. They usually have captions right along with them, too. Videos are right there, too, ready for the grabbing and embedding elsewhere.

Want to get a better idea of what they're like? Visit, one of the leading social media release-building tools, and take a look at those real-life social media releases. But be warned: some are terrible. Look at several and get a feel for what marketers are doing with this fancy new concept.

Mike Keliher is a Client Relationship Manager for Minneapolis marketing firm Fast Horse and blogger at The Same Rowdy Crowd and Unjournalism.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 12, 2009

Five Tips on How to Be an Effective Freelance Marketer

By Philip Wocken

“You mean freelance design, right?” Nope, you heard me right. No longer is freelancing exclusive to creatives. With marketing budgets getting slashed left and right, more companies are looking at cost-effective ways to outsource their marketing needs and many times a freelancer/consultant is more economical than a firm. The expansion of the Internet means that opportunities are plentiful for those willing to test the waters of entrepreneurship. More and more marketers (and other professionals) are launching their own consulting and freelancing companies for a variety of reasons. Some are entrepreneurs at heart and will only be satisfied by being their own boss. Other professionals freelance as a secondary source of income. And there are those that get thrown into the world of freelancing because of a downsizing at work or another situation beyond their control. So maybe you fit into one of these categories, maybe you’ve dabbled in a little bit of freelancing or maybe you’ve considered as much? With a couple of pointers, you may be surprised at the possibilities. Some things to keep in mind:

1. Know where to look. The web is an easy place to start building a client base. No longer are you bound to the confines of your geographic region. Email, conference calls and video calling (via Skype) means that a client in London is as close as a client in Minneapolis. The marketplace is global and the need for freelance marketers is ever-present. Freelance websites will match employers with freelancers and usually charge a subscription fee, project percentage or both. Freelancers then have the ability to bid on projects as they become available. Some websites will cater exclusively to design freelancers and others will cater to many different types of freelancers (including marketing/advertising freelancers), so you just have to find the website that you feel most comfortable with. I prefer to use because that is the website that best fits my needs. But like I said, the marketplace is global. There is a lot of work available to be bid on and with a lot of other freelancers looking for work, you have to be smart about how you position yourself.

2. Carve out a niche. I know that it seems silly for me to sit here and tell a fellow marketer that they have to find a specialty and they have to find a niche where their skill set is marketable, but it needs to be said. Take it from my experience. I thought I could win every project that I bid on and that I was a perfect match for each project. Unfortunately, I learned this lesson the hard way. There is simply too much competition and not enough time. Because I bid on every project that was available, I was missing out on the niche that I should have been focusing on the whole time. If you excel at writing up marketing plans, focus on those projects. If you’re a PR powerhouse, focus on promoting an author’s book. Are you a social media junkie? Try focusing on social media management projects. You get the idea.

3. Diversify. Not to contradict the previous statement, diversification is a must in freelancing. While you may only bid on the projects that fit your main skill sets, you have to be multi-faceted to meet the needs of your clients. If you win a project to draft a marketing plan for a client, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to provide some of the additional services that you suggest in the action plan? If the marketing plan calls for a new brand identity, a social media push and a PR campaign, consider diversifying yourself so that you’re able to capture that extra revenue. Look into taking a couple of design classes at a local community college (or teach yourself), pick up some design software (like Adobe Design Suite), learn everything you can about social media strategies/tools/best practices/etc and brush up on your copywriting skills. It’s always been said that it is much easier to increase revenue by selling to your current customer base rather than selling to prospective/new customers.

4. Portray a professional image. Yes, you’re a freelancer, but consider calling yourself a consultant instead. Get a website. There are countless website templates that you can buy and easily customize to fit your brand. Heck, you can get a full Flash website for under $70 at Get a business name, a simple logo and some economical business cards VistaPrint is a good bet. Yes, you may be a solo act and your clients may understand that, but there are a lot of freelancers that run a sloppy, rinky-dink operation. You don’t want to compete with them. If you’re the complete package you can charge a reasonable rate, build their trust and retain their business.

5. Be accountable, flexible and stay focused. These tie in with the professionalism mentioned above. Your clients will expect that you will complete your projects correctly, on time and under pressure. It may require late-night work and inconvenient hours, but that’s all part of the job description. The best thing about coordinating your own schedule is that you can work from home, you can work from the road and pretty much anywhere you want. BUT, you have to make sure are able to stay on task. It’s easy to get distracted when you work on your own. Turn off the TV, create a playlist of easy listening music on Pandora and put your nose to the grindstone. If you treat it like a job, you’ll have better luck staying on task and you’ll able to build your client list even faster.

Now you’re prepared with the tools you’ll need to venture into the world of freelancing (I’m sorry) consulting. Still nervous about it? Give it a shot, within a project or two you’ll already have your start-up expenses paid for. Good luck!

Philip Wocken is an inventive marketing manager specializing in Online Marketing techniques. He can be reached on Twitter @BuzzBrains and at buzzbrains [AT] live [DOT] com.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 5, 2009

B2B Marketing - Online Tactics to Nurture Prospects into Sales

By Brian Carroll

Most marketers today realize how important long-term relationships are to their lead generation process. However, they struggle to find ways to engage their most viable leads. If companies can learn how to leverage tools like blogging, social media, webinars and e-mail campaigns, they can easily demonstrate “thought leadership” while enhancing the company’s unique value proposition to its prospects and target audience.

In order to achieve this, marketers must commit to creating content in conjunction with clearly-defined objectives that are part of a long-term plan. These consistent content marketing programs must be relevant to their prospects and customers while giving them valuable information that helps them build their knowledge or helps them solve their issues.

This communication can be calibrated to the level of “sales readiness” of prospective customer bases by leveraging existing investments already made in other marketing tactics such as content from events, white papers or contributed articles. Third-party resources and content can also be effectively utilized to bring an aspect of credibility through the halo effect. Once marketers learn how to use this valuable information, they can set themselves up as trusted advisors, and create relevant, long-term fruitful relationships.

To learn more about how to use content for cultivating relationships, register for MN AMA’s “B2B Marketing - Online Tactics to Nurture Prospects into Sales.” During this event, I will discuss how to use content to develop a lead-nurturing process that really works while recapturing lost leads and opportunities. Meet me Tuesday, October 13 from 7:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. at the Minneapolis campus of the University of St.Thomas. The meeting costs $25 for AMA members and $50 for non-members. Hope to see you there.

Brian Carroll is CEO of InTouch and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale (McGraw-Hill) and the B2B Lead Generation Blog with expertise related to B2B marketing, lead generation and complex sales.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 28, 2009

Marketing in China in 2009

By Rodney Hiel

Writing this on a mid-September day from the vibrant city of Shanghai, China, there are a multitude of opportunities this market provides. So if your company is experiencing a difficult time in the throes of the western recession, why not try China? With the upcoming 60th anniversary celebration of the PRC in Beijing, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai starting in May and drawing over 75 million people over a six month period, these events, among a variety of others, bring a multitude of reasons to be selling in China today.

With a 2009 national GDP growth rate expected to be around 8%, there are local markets such as Liaoning province that still today exceed double digits. In provinces that are focused on domestic production and consumption, these activities continue driving high growth rates and consumers of high end products such as McDonald’s and Starbucks have not faltered. Real estate continues to thrive in these areas, driving sales of a variety of industrial goods and building supplies. And by following these economic indicators, this will open many opportunities for downstream sales. In short, especially for small and mid size companies, targeting these tier 2 and 3 markets may provide quicker results and a calmer marketing environment. In addition, for a small company with limited capacity or inability to provide the demand output of the larger markets, targeting these markets may optimize your current manufacturing conditions without significant restructuring.

With the higher cost, highly competitive and noisy environment of the largest tier 1 cities of Shanghai, Beijing, or Guang Zhou, marketing your products in these conditions requires a precise and targeted message to penetrate the landscape of these markets. Although demographics here may signal a large market opportunity for your products, the cost of access to these markets may be more expensive and prohibitive. Therefore, a company should consider in its market entry strategy many of the large tier 2 and 3 cities which are the capitol cities in outlying provinces and have considerable disposable income that may generate immediate results at an acceptable cost.

With China having over 1.3 billion people, for B2B selling it only takes a few hundred customers, and for B2C selling it only takes a few hundred thousand units sold to significantly impact your bottom line. Why not target your customers that cost you the least to acquire? This provides the key to increasing your sales during this recession and a good foundation for future growth. Good luck!

Rodney Hiel is the Managing Director for Asia Business Consulting. Minnesota based Asia Business Consulting strategically researches, develops, and tactically executes a proven process to create cost effective strategies for market entry in today’s Southeast Asia and China.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is Marketing Going Back to the Basics?

By Sabera Kapasi-Photographer

The recent months have seen changes in marketing practices that we have all been reading about. The economic situation seems to be driving a huge change in the way people are consuming brands and products. People are re-evaluating their purchases and are trying to garner higher value for every dollar spent. National brands are changing long-used tactics to appeal to a discerning customer. It may seem as though a new era in marketing is emerging.

What, in my opinion, is occurring in some cases, is that marketing going ‘back to the basics.’ A few things that lead me to believe so:

1. Higher sales of private label brands - Back in the day, grocers packaged loose goods and branded them with their store label, and people paid for the convenience and value this practice offered. Retailers now are cashing in on the mood, offering prices that are 25% - 50% lesser than name brands. Consumers are lapping up store brands and benefiting from better value for their buck.

2. Localization of services and community building – Historically, neighborhood bars and bakeries were trusted sources of daily events and gave people a sense of community. Amid falling sales and rising costs, Starbucks is cashing in on this very sentiment, and last month launched a pilot store in Seattle that will sell drinks without the Starbucks logo, feature live music and even serve alcohol. The name of the store is a street name, aimed to position itself as a neighborhood store.

3. Credit strapped retailers and manufacturers cutting back on brand and product variety – Long gone are the days when it was a simple task for people to pick a box of cereal at the grocery store. In light of the crisis, brands are finding financial merit in stocking fewer brands and cleaning up the clutter, all to the advantage of a budget conscious customer.

4. Customer Service taking a new meaning – It was as easy as walking down to your local grocer to talk about a grievance or a complaint before it became necessary to navigate through a maze of customer service representatives to get yourself heard. Technology has duplicated the former, via powerful tools such as Twitter. We’re all seeing how brands like Comcast and Zappos are using social media to fortify their brand, enhance the customer experience and understand their audience, all in real time.

It appears that in most of these cases, the behavior is a reaction to effects of the recession. Brands are getting back to personalized, relatable and compact service formats in a quest to clamp down on falling consumer spending and brand loyalty. If this is what it is then- a tactic to keep their heads above water- is it really going back to the basics? Will these practices revert back to the ones that worked in a better economy? Or will smaller brands emulate the actions of these large ones to change the marketing landscape for a new era of ‘going back to the basics?’ What do you think?

Sabera Kapasi-Photographer is a Marketing Communications professional with diverse experience in Marketing Analysis & Advertising Campaign management. She can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter: @sabera

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 14, 2009

Marketing to the Medium

by Scott Baird

So many people these days associate marketing in the world of social media with getting a business Twitter account or a Facebook page and advertising from those portals. Unfortunately this will get you about as far in social media as yelling about yourself to a group of people that don't know you. The actual applications (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) are nothing but tools that allow you to connect much in the same way the post office allows you to send and receive letters. The real potential of social media is within the plan that you develop to engage with your audience.

Marketing has always played a crucial element in print, online and telephone communications. It is present in social media but in most cases it hasn't been modified for the medium. In order to truly engage an audience, the marketing has to be designed to remain non-obtrusive. What this means is that you have to increase the potential for people to like or want to follow you by talking about things other than your business. This is the first crucial change that needs to occur in social media marketing mentality.

The second change that needs to occur is the actual engagement of your audience. Most businesses are used to sending out their message and crossing their fingers, but with social media this all changes. You now have the opportunity to listen to your target audience and what they like, want and need. Equally important are the things they don't like. So take advantage of this opportunity because if you aren't listening your competitors may be.

What I'm saying is that for the first time in quite a long time, you now have the opportunity to be ground level with your audience truly improving your business and product. I would just hate to see this medium wasted by companies only interested in the sound of their own voices. If we all take a moment to listen, just imagine the potential.

Scott Baird is the Creative/Integrated Media Director for Sterling Cross Communications. You can follow him on Twitter or read more from him on his blog.

Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 7, 2009

SMS Marketing: Start Simple

By Drew Dahms

Okay, you’re a tech savvy marketer who is immersed in traditional and digital media to promote your business or your clients’ business. You’re using all the tools available. But now mobile marketing is the new kid on the block. You’re hearing more about it and seeing more brands using it. Maybe your clients are even asking how you plan to integrate mobile into their strategy.

Mobile marketing---like the proverbial camel sticking its head in the tent---is here to stay and can’t be ignored any longer. You’re excited about making the leap but unsure about what sort of mobile strategy to implement--SMS, MMS, WAP, mobisites, iPhone apps, IR, 2Dbarcode, Bluetooth. Yikes-it’s enough to make your head spin!

My advice is to start simple. Success will hinge on launching a mobile program that is 1) simple to manage and 2) simple for your audience.

Text message (SMS) marketing is the place to start. It’s a simple, low cost point of entry for most marketers and businesses. Think of SMS campaigns as snack size bits of time sensitive information that your audience receives almost real-time on their mobile device. Everybody gets texting and every mobile device can receive them. And text messaging is affordable unlike many sophisticated options. For less than a few hundred dollars a month a business can own—yes own-- all the tools needed to launch and manage effective SMS campaigns.

Don’t think of mobile as a stand-alone channel but rather as another “spoke” in your marketing wheel. You’ve already been crafting marketing strategies that play across multiple channels. But SMS offers distinct advantages over the others: messages are received almost real-time and read rates are 95%. This makes SMS perfect for sending time sensitive, relevant information & alerts that invite the recipient to respond in some way. Get an SMS call-to-action into all of your media, POP signage, newspapers, magazines, TV, website, direct mail, email campaigns, billboards, and social media sites. Invite the consumer to opt-in to your program. This takes time, so be patient.

Who is using SMS? Business owners send out alerts about upcoming promotions, sales, and special offers. They like the real-time & personal connection it gives them with their customers. Organizations, associations and venues use SMS to communicate special events, schedule changes or last minute alerts. Political candidates are also using SMS to connect with supporters and volunteers. President Obama used texting extensively during his campaign with great success. Marty Siefert is using text alerts in his Minnesota gubernatorial campaign.

So how do you start? Partner with a mobile marketing company who can provide the short codes, SMS gateway, easy-to-use campaign management tools and flexible messaging plans. Make sure they have a track record, credentials and a local representative who can provide support and expertise. Start with SMS, build your list and keep it simple.

Drew Dahms is a Relationship Manager with Sumotext. They provide short codes and SMS campaign solutions for marketers and business owners, and are a member of the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 31, 2009

Volunteering To Keep You Going

By Emily Jasper

Not everyone had the luxury of knowing at the age of 18 that you wanted to be a marketing professional and chose a business major in college. In fact, many people fall into marketing through analytics, operations, HR, and so forth. Throw in liberal arts majors with backgrounds as diverse as the people themselves, and the path to marketing has drastically changed. So if you want to progress, what do you do?

The answer I always hear is: Get a MBA.

Okay, sure, grad school. You get experience, knowledge, networking, and some excellent exposure over the X number of years it takes to finish. But there’s a problem: The Recession. This very real recession has made funding difficult (many companies have stopped tuition assistance), loans can be hard to come by, and admissions are more competitive since so many people have turned to these programs to get them out of their professional rut. And while the degree will eventually pay for itself, you have to make ends meet now. Taking on thousands in education debt when you’re taking on credit card debt to feed your family may not sit right with the family budget.

So what do you do?

Get the experience elsewhere until you are in a position to get the degree. Volunteering is the best thing you can do to get diverse practice in an area you are currently exploring. Plus, you get the warm fuzzy feeling of doing something philanthropic for a group. There are many places that need your assistance right now because they don’t have a budget to hire anyone either.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Obviously, any chapter of the American Marketing Association needs volunteers. These chapters need contributors on any scale, from being a blogger (like me) to President.
  • Your place of worship will take marketing volunteers to help drive membership. Did the AC break in your chapel? Well, membership money goes to getting that fixed. Marketing professionals can help with attracting new members, in addition to fundraising with current ones.
  • Local businesses can use any help you can provide. Especially if someone is just getting started, you can lend a hand with the website, doing some heavy-lifting at events, or even advising on growth strategy. You, in turn, can learn something about being an entrepreneur in a specific market.

The beauty of volunteering is that you can commit the time you have available and try something new. What if you want to drastically change your career path? There may not be anyone hiring right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t volunteer. It’s like a trial period to see if you even like this new path.

All this volunteer work should go on your resume just as your job would. At the same time, you have the benefit of creating a portfolio (of print and online projects) to further yourself in your career.

Because at the end of the day, experience is experience and you can always get more.

Emily Jasper is a Marketing Manager for Technology Alliances with PDI Ninth House. In addition to marketing, Emily has sales and PR experience from previous roles. She currently writes a blog, "From the Gen Y Perspective," and can be followed on Twitter at

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 24, 2009

You Have Now Entered... The Twilight Zone

By Dave Folkens

No, not the wonderful and innovative sci-fi/horror show from the late 1950’s that made Rod Serling famous, but rather that hazy realm of where marketing, sales, pr, and communications all meet. It may be on a new initiative or perhaps when a tactic crosses over existing department boundaries like an organization making the leap into social media. Or perhaps there is a celebrity that mentions your product in a positive manner and you need to identify how to capitalize on that momentum. Is that a marketing effort? PR/communications? Perhaps the sales team wants the lead?

How should organizations handle this zone? Much like the old show, you better be ready as often times strange things take place in the Twilight Zone. It’s a realm where a misstep with a response to a customer or prospect can result in lost opportunity and create internal clashes and finger pointing. These missteps can stress, and break, relationships that organizations depend on to succeed.

Do responses to these types of issues have to depend on a mandated relationship or can all these groups work together with slightly different skills to get the job done? I believe the answer will indeed vary from company to company, as it should, but the key in determining the right mix needs to be based on the skills to meet the challenges rather than seniority or title.

In an environment where brand reputations are on the line in real-time, organizations should spend some time while not in a critical situation to evaluate the talent they have available to understand where they are strong and where they are vulnerable. You may be better off having a great salesperson that listens to concerns very well work directly with a customer on a complaint instead of a customer relations manager that doesn’t see the problem in a particular case.

Seek out those with strong skills in understanding the simple question of “what’s in it for me” from the end user perspective. Focus on the right fit for each situation. It may not be as easy as it once was but your customers expect that personal responses be, well, personal.

Do customers really care who responds to them or do they care more about how you respond to them?

I’d love to hear more about how you handle the Twilight Zone and your thoughts.

Dave Folkens is the Director of Communications for Minnesota Aids Project. Follow him on Twitter @dfolkens or contact him by e-mail at

Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mind Your Knitting: Establishing an Effective Social Media Presence

By Meghan Wilker and Nancy Lyons

Two of the first, and most important, steps toward establishing a successful social media presence have nothing to do with social media. If you want to get any value from the world of social media, you'll have to do a little bit of homework first.

Mind Your Knitting
The first step in developing an effective social media strategy is to look first at your home base. For most people, this is their corporate web site. Or perhaps a microsite. All the tweeting and Facebooking in the world cannot help you if your web site presents a broken experience, if your product offering is terrible or if you can't provide decent customer service to the people who find you online.

In Nancy's words, "mind your knitting."

Assuming all of that is in order, you've got to figure out your content strategy:
  • Why are you getting involved in social media? What is your goal? (reach more people, build awareness)
    Note: If the answer is, "To sell more stuff," stop now. Social networks are not a direct marketing channel and if you treat them as such, you are destined to fail. To succeed in the social media, you must be willing to be social. To build relationships with customers who matter to you.
  • What will your Friends, Fans and Followers get out of it (customer service, special offers, inside information)?
  • How are you monitoring and responding to the networks?
  • Who is responsible for updating content? How often is it updated?

Grab a piece of paper and draw a box for every place your company exists online: websites. YouTube. Facebook. Twitter. Make note of what the purpose of each site or presence is. As an example, at Clockwork (our "day job"), we break our sites out this way:
Next, draw arrows to show how -- and if -- those things are connected to each other. In the Clockwork example, we have accounts on Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter, Delicious and many others. Our diagram shows all those places, what type of content we focus on at each location, how often we try to update it and who is responsible for doing so.

This is a work in progress. Make one diagram that shows where you are today. Make another that shows where you want to go. And then figure out how you can take incremental steps to get there. Start small to ensure you can manage it, and add components over time. In other words, baby steps.

Listen First, Talk Later
Visit and enter in the terms you'd like to keep an eye on. Do this one term at a time. The search box works a lot like Google (put quotation marks around words or phrases that you want to do an exact search on -- to monitor for Geek Girls Guide, I enter "geek girls guide").

Rinse, lather and repeat for all the different words and phrases you want to keep track of. Start with as many as you can think of and see what's good and what's not. (For example, we get a lot of value from "geek girls guide" but much less for "geek girls".)

To monitor URLs (as opposed to keywords), try Enter any URL (your own, your competitors, etc.), and you're in business.

As you comb through these search results, listen to them. I mean, really listen. You'll start to get a sense of how people feel about your brand, your company or your industry. Use what you gain from that listening to help inform that strategy diagram you're creating. Really hearing what people are saying will help you figure out what your company can bring to the social media party. Because the value you get from it is a result of the value you put into it.

Nancy Lyons, President and CEO, and Meghan Wilker, Managing Director, work for Clockwork Active Media Systems. In 2008, Lyons and Wilker launched the Geek Girls Guide blog to demystify technology and publish their perspectives on the interactive industry.

Nancy and Meghan will be speaking at the 2009 MN AMA Annual Conference. Please visit the new conference web site and register today.

Bookmark and Share