All Over the Internet

One of my clients depends on online sales -- they have no external sales force and do almost no print advertising. In addition to google ad words and a little bit of online banner advertising, they actively maintain a presence, as individuals and as a company, on:

Google Profile

And these are just the sites I know about.  They also have multiple websites, with urls and landing pages that are distinct for each of their major markets. Keeping their content fresh on all these channels is a full time job for their marketing department.

Apparently it is worth it the effort as their business keeps growing.  How about yours?

NPR's Social Media Policy is Worth Emulating

NPR has been gracious enough to make its Social Media Policy available online. While much of it is centered around ethical journalism, building product manufacturers would do well to examine it. As more and more relationship-building happens online, companies need to participate, and to do so wisely.

Increasingly, lines between employees' business and personal lives are blurred, and social media is an especially blurry place. One case study, entitled "There is No Privacy on the Web", illustrates any company's nightmare:

Imagine, if you will, an NPR legal correspondent named Sue Zemencourt. She’s a huge fan of Enormous University’s basketball team and loves to chat online about EU. She posts comments on blogs under the screen name “enormous1.” One day, an equally rabid fan of Gigormous State (“gigormous1”) posts obnoxious comments about EU.
Sue snaps. Expletives and insults fly from her fingers on to the webpage. They’re so out-of-line that the blog blocks her from submitting any more comments — and discovers that her i.p. address leads back to NPR. The blog’s host posts that “someone at NPR is using language that the FCC definitely would not approve of” and describes what was said. Things go viral.
The basically good person that she is, Sue publicly acknowledges and apologizes for her mistake. But that doesn’t stop The Daily Show from satirizing about the “NPRNormous Explosion.”
Damage done.
Be circumspect about your behavior, even when the exchange feels private or anonymous. Even an email to a trusted recipient can be made public, with or without the recipient’s knowledge or consent.
In fact, a big part of the chapter on "Honesty" is, in fact, the putting on and taking off of the work identity. Because many NPR employees use their real names on the radio, they're encouraged to use screen names that don't identify them in the personal realm.  And when they're off duty and they find themselves working, they must put their work identity back on.
If in their personal lives NPR journalists join online forums and social media sites, they may follow the conventions of those outlets and use screen names that do not identify who they are. But we do not use information gathered from our interactions on such sites in our reports for NPR. If we get ideas for stories, we treat the information just as we would anything we see in the “real world” — as a starting point that needs to be followed by open, honest reporting.
Your business, even if it's far less public, may wish to explore policies about how employees present themselves in their off-work interactions. For instance, American Widget Co. may decide to allow its product reps to use their real names online in private, but ask that they not identify their employer in their Facebook or other profiles. Or, they may simply prohibit the use of AmWidget or AWC in screen names except for social media used for business. By the same token, when representing Widget, employees should make that clear in their profile names and follow the company's communication policies.

The best part of NPR's guidelines, in my opinion, is their understanding that social media conduct continues to be a moving target. Even if a manufacturing company's policy is far simpler, NPR's review process is worth emulating:
We rely on the contributions of every NPR journalist to ensure this handbook remains current and relevant to the situations you face each day. If you encounter decisions for which you feel the guidance in this book is inadequate, have questions about interpreting what you read here, or suggestions for how to improve the handbook, we encourage you to send a note to Ethics.
Twice a year, the Standards and Practices Editor will convene an ethics advisory group to consider all suggestions, review the Handbook, and make any additions or revisions necessary.
How do you want to be seen online? Take a look at your company through this lens and see if you're inspired to make any changes to your social media policies.

Facebook and Twitter: Major Impact on Purchase Decisions

New study shows that those who are fans or followers of a brand on Facebook or Twitter, respectively, are significantly more likely to buy products and services or recommend the brand to a friend.

Specifically, the study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that consumers are 67% more likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter, and 51% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Facebook. Moreover, they’re 79% more likely to recommend their Twitter follows to a friend, and 60% more likely to do the same on Facebook:

Of course, those findings might be a bit overstated — many people actively seek out the brands they’re already fans of and follow or fan them on Twitter and Facebook. Moreover, the research was conducted among ordinary consumers, not construction industry specifiers or buyers. But there’s still much to be said for the mindshare that engaging those existing brand enthusiasts on social media sites creates, in turn keeping them active. Plus, the study also found that many consumers across a wide variety of demographics have negative perceptions of brands that aren’t using social media.

Overall, the study is another sign that social media is becoming a competitive advantage for those that are participating, and an increasingly major weakness for those that aren’t.

[via eMarketer]

Use landing pages on your Facebook page

Landing pages are useful tools on websites because they take visitors to the informative, useful, targeted entry page you choose, rather some random, potentially out of date, non-applicable page. The DreamGrow blog makes an excellent case for doing the same on your Facebook page.
Number one annoyance was the fact that when you land on the wall you don’t understand immediately where you are. Is it a page created by fans, employees or some random guy who just created a placeholder. The brands with a landing page stood out. Make people understand that this is the right pace, the official page...

Even if you don’t have anything else create a landing tab for your Facebook page!
Facebook landing tab should answer two [sic] questions:

  • Where am I?
  • What can I do here?
  • Why should I click “like”?
The post also includes brief tips on how to set up the landing tab, which is a fairly simple process if you already understand how to set up and customize your page.

The "Other" Inbox

Like AOL before it, Facebook has outgrown its walled garden. Last year they started previewing "@Facebook.com". Their blog is careful to point out this is not e-mail; rather, it is a way to communicate with all your friends, wherever they may be, on their preferred messaging system.

One of the new features introduced in the "Messages" program that's currently getting a lot of attention in digital marketing circles is the Social Inbox. From the blog:

It seems wrong that an email message from your best friend gets sandwiched between a bill and a bank statement. It's not that those other messages aren't important, but one of them is more meaningful. With new Messages, your Inbox will only contain messages from your friends and their friends. All other messages will go into an Other folder where you can look at them separately.

If someone you know isn't on Facebook, that person's email will initially go into the Other folder. You can easily move that conversation into the Inbox, and all the future conversations with that friend will show up there.
The basic idea is very cool: separate out the "important" messages so you see them sooner. It's the second paragraph that has marketers worried.

Assume that Messages will be successful; given the number of Facebook users, if only 1% use Messages it will have a huge user base. The way Facebook sees it, the "@Facebook.com" address will stay with you for life. Soon you will have people at trade shows give you Facebook email addresses for your mailing list. Because they opted-in, your newsletter will get past their Spam filter...

...and get stuck in the Other inbox. Which they will check less often, if at all.

Other services have introduced similar plans, such as Google's "Priority Inbox", leading to what some are starting to call a "Double Opt-In" obstacle: someone that wants your newsletter must voluntarily sign up AND move you to their "Friend" list. Many people will not do this, or will not know how, meaning that even prospects interested in hearing what you have to say might not see your emails.

So how do we adapt to this? Sadly, it is too soon to say for sure. We have not had time to develop best practices, other than remind subscribers to add you to the Social Inbox. For many companies this will be an added incentive to use Facebook for business, so their prospects and clients can also be their Friends.

For now, be aware this is a coming issue. Keep doing Spam-free email, and try to diversify your media channels so that Facebook users that miss your email can still find you on YouTube or Twitter.

Facebook for Building Product Sales

CSI Product Representative Practice Group Meeting
These online meetings are a great way for sales reps to stay in touch with evolving practice concerns.

May 4, 2-3 pm ET

Topic: Facebook: How to plan for and develop a successful business page
Presenters: Matthew Fochs and Stirling Morris, CSI, CDT
Group Leader: Alana Sunness Griffith, FCSI, CCPR

Since it's infancy in 2004, Facebook has grown to become one of (if not the) largest networks of people across the globe. Over the past seven years, many iterations of Facebook have come and gone and with each change, businesses have tried to find a way to connect with the nearly 615,000,000 users that visit the site. From profiles to groups to pages, navigating the different ways that Facebook can connect with people can be both confusing and time consuming. Looking specifically at Facebook pages as a platform for promoting, marketing and sharing your products with users across the globe, this month's presentation will not only show you the step-by-step process for getting started but also walk you through some of the tricks and pitfalls of Facebook marketing.

Learning Objectives:
- Learn the Who, What, Where, Why and How of Facebook Pages
- Investigate the import question that many companies forget to ask, "Why Facebook and Why Now?"
- Understand the resources (money, personnel, and content) needed to develop and maintain a Facebook Page - Come away with the knowledge to start your own Facebook Page in one afternoon, but get the knowledge to keep it going for years.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees
Required: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server

Macintosh®-based attendees
Required: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

Click to Register

Turn your Facebook profile into a business page

Visit the Facebook Pages...page
Facebook recently made it easier for users to change existing personal profiles into business pages. The move is irreversible; your friends become "Fans", your account changes to a business account, and the list of available features changes.

The strongest reason to make the change, or to choose a business account if you are just getting started, is compliance with Facebook's terms of use agreement. Technically, you're not allowed to use personal pages for business. I have not heard many stories of people getting banned for violating this rule, but it is a possibility. An even stronger one now that they offer this option.

This is probably good news for anyone whose "personal" account has been moonlighting as the company page, especially if you are only using the network for marketing and advertising purposes, and not to keep track of college buddy's recent fishing trip. Your profile also will not turn up in user searches. This is a good thing; it means not having to constantly reject friend requests from family members, or having pictures from last weekend's party accidentally show up on your work account. People looking for companies will still find you, though, and that's who you need.

This should also make it easier to have a company-owned account. Ownership of a Facebook page cannot be transfered; this makes it problematic when starting a company page. If an employee starts and maintains your company page, and then leaves the company, they can take the page with them. This new option makes it easier to start a company-owned account, and give employees admin privileges as needed.

Are "Likes" more valuable than "Tweets"?

According to a new study, getting your event "Likes" on Facebook can be 67% more profitable than having the same event Tweeted. The study, published by ticket seller Eventbrite, demonstrated how messages on each site contributed to increased ticket sales:
[Eventbrite] announced Wednesday that an average tweet about an event drove 80 cents in ticket sales during the past six months, whereas an average Facebook Like drove $1.34.
At first glance it is unsurprising that Facebook generated more ticket sales, if for no other reason than it has more members. But it is remarkable that each "Like" generated proportionately so much more.

I suspect this is because Facebook is more strongly focused on "Friends". A lot of that has to do with the undifferentiated nature of Twitter traffic - I frequently miss posts from my friends amidst the tide of information - versus Facebook's stronger focus on "Friends". More than that, though, Facebook feels more like a personal recommendation while Twitter is just "information".

It is also worth noting that the strongest results came from post-purchase Likes. In other words, it has more impact if your friend has bought ticket and is attending, as opposed to just sharing the webpage of an interesting event.

What does this mean to building product manufacturers?
This demonstrates that social media word of mouth is still a powerful force. Twitter is great at generating traffic, but those are often short, high bounce rate visits that do not convert to sales. Facebook's Likes are more than just link-sharing, though. They are personal endorsements, especially if they follow purchases or interactions with a product.

To take advantage of this, put a Like button on the order confirmation page of your site, if you offer online purchasing. If not, consider following each purchase with a "Thank You" email that contains the Like button. Similarly, reach out to people involved with the project that used your material; encourage them to share their experience, even if they were not the one that made the selection and purchase. QR codes may be a good way to reach on-site users; create a QR code that links directly to a Like button, and put it on your packaging so contractors can share their enjoyment of your product.

Who's posting pictures on Facebook?

According to data released by Pixable, age is no longer a strong indicator of who posts pictures to Facebook. The difference between 26-year-olds (most photos) and 46-year-olds was only 30%. Still a significant gap, but that's still over 400 photos per user in the over-40 demographic.

As notable, it is estimated there will be over 100 billion photos on Facebook by Summer 2011.

Most building product manufacturers will likely never have or need substantial galleries on Facebook or similar social networks, but this new data points to two important conclusions:

1. The people making purchasing decisions about your product are on Facebook, and are accustomed to viewing and commenting on photos there.

2. Facebook photos have become part of the new default landscape, and should be considered part of your baseline marketing mix.

What does this mean for you? If you do not already have a Facebook page for your company and/or products, consider this further evidence that you need one (even if it's minimalist and rarely updated). If you do have a Facebook page, be sure you have at least a small collection of good photos. I recommend a mix of product and project shots, with a couple installation pics if available.

There continues to be some debate about who owns photos posted to Facebook. Err on the side of caution; post good pictures, but not your best, indispensable ones. Assume that you will loose control of, and possibly ownership to, whatever pictures you post, and select accordingly.

(Pixable is a new online company with services that give Facebook users more options for accessing and cataloging their friends' pictures, and the study sample size was only 100,000, so take these findings with an appropriate grain of salt. You can see the full infographic here.)

Should you buy your friends?

In the lead-up to World of Concrete 2011, Wacker Neuson ran a fairly aggressive (and judging by their Twitter traffic, successful) campaign to increase their pool of Facebook friends. In short: they bribed them. This tactic can be very successful, but for most small to medium-sized manufacturers I recommend against it.

The plan was simple: take your picture at their booth, upload it to their Facebook page, and win (potentially) an iPad! There was also a related campaign encoura- ging Twitter users to retweet announce- ments about the contest, again by offering an iPad.

This is an impressively well designed cross-platform campaign; it was set to drive traffic to their Facebook page, Twitter stream, and World of Concrete booth; not bad for marketing synergy! The landing page is well designed; it is clear, clean, uncluttered, easy to read, and has prominent subscription and retweet buttons. I would go so far as to say that, in the B2B construction market, this is about the best you could do a campaign of this nature. (Also, check out their YouTube channel; this company really understands social media!)

Here's the problem: unless your company is the size of Wacker Neuson, you probably cannot afford to do this.

Start with the basics: can your company currently afford to buy several iPads just to give away? This tactic is the equivalent of making friends in school by throwing great parties; everyone will come for a free trip to Disneyland, but few will come for microwaved pizza and DVDs. Likewise, as the cost of the giveaway decreases, you see sharply diminishing returns on the campaign. iPads are cool enough and expensive enough that tons of people will jump through hoops to get one; substantially fewer people would take the effort for a $25 gift certificate. This makes finding an effective value-priced incentive extremely difficult.

More importantly, the friends this will make you are not friends you will keep. Like the school party, again, everyone will be your friend until the party is over. If that is the only reason they like you, though, you only keep them as long as you keep throwing parties. I guarantee Wacker Neuson will have a huge boost in Facebook followers during and immediately after the show, and I guarantee that, barring some amazing follow-up campaign, most of them will un-follow or go dormant within a month.

For a company like Wacker Neuson that is probably ok; their social media strategy seems based on TV marketing, meaning they want eyeballs and brand recognition, not an enduring, engaged community. And that brand recognition is probably all they need.

For most manufacturers, though, that is not enough. The construction industry is big enough and varied enough that almost every product is a niche product (granted, some have very large niches). Short-term engagement will not produce the long-term brand recognition that you need, because there are not enough people using your product often enough. For you, social media campaigns need to be about engagement and long-term relationship building, so when the day comes that they need your product, they remember your name.

As in real life, buying online friends is a great strategy if you can afford it. Most of us, though, make friends by being interesting, polite, helpful, and social. And that strategy will help just as much online.

Recession Changes Where Designers Work

One result of the recession may be a further decentralization of architectural practice. This will create new challenges for sales reps wishing to make calls on design offices.

I began reflecting on this after receiving the following email from an architect that had closed his small office after 25 years of practice at the same location. While his direct impetus was a downturn in workload, he points out the shifting nature of practice as follows:
"We have seen the tools of the trade evolve from Phones, Pencils, Parallel Rules and Paper - to black and white computers, fax machines, and pagers - to color computers and mobile phones the size of bricks - to 3D CAD drawings, remote access, and multi-media cell phones. Over the past several years, staff and I have taken advantage of this technology to work more and more from homes where we have ready access to our server and speedy graphic communications. So we have now moved our operations into our home offices."
Another friend, a construction specifier, opened a home-based consulting practice after being laid off by a large A/E firm. After getting use to more flexible hours and being more available to her children, I doubt she will ever again take a job that requires her to commute into the city.

These two examples are being replicated throughout the country. The recession is accelerating a fundamental shift in design. More online bandwidth allows easier and speedier collaboration among far-flung project teams. Even as the recession recedes, it is likely that corporate offices will remain leaner while more employees work from the field or from home.

In the past, a rep could visit four or five design offices in a day and potentially see dozens of architects and specifiers at each. It would be a challenge to have as many face-to-face contacts with people working out of home offices or remote locations.

Unless, that is, the sales rep embraces the same communication technologies that designers are using: email, social media, file transfer protocols, webinars, computer-to-computer video links, mobile applications, and the rest.

The other response available to a sales rep is to take advantage of professional society meetings and other events that attract large numbers of designers.

Happy Hunting!

Social Media and the Paradox of Choice

On the way to work this morning I was listening to a 2008 episode of Radio Lab about choice. The lead story had Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, discussing that for most people decision-making capability drops sharply when they are confronted by more than seven options. Listening to him as I walked, I realized this could also explain one of the major obstacles to social media adoption: there are too many channels for businesses to make effective decisions about which to use. And if there are too many options for businesses, what is that doing to our customers?

The answer is not to limit choice, but to sharpen focus.
A new client recently asked me what I considered "essential social media" for a B2B company. Off the top of my head, I listed (in no particular order):
  • Blog
  • Twitter stream
  • Facebook fan page
  • LinkedIn profile for key executives and company
  • Email newsletter
  • YouTube channel
  • Online photo gallery
  • Website optimization
  • Wikipedia editing
  • Mobile landing page
...and then I paused to take a breath. Is it any wonder my client felt overwhelmed? Seeing the panic on his face, I considered the list and refocused. The first thing we did was narrow the list down by combining similar items:
  1. Website overhaul (which includes blog, mobile page, and SEO review)
  2. Online media gallery
  3. Social networking
  4. Email marketing
  5. Online brand monitoring
Suddenly we had a manageable list.  Sure, creating an "online media gallery strategy" takes more work than starting a YouTube channel, but it made it easier to see the full picture and start our next step: prioritizing.

We began with goal setting; what was the purpose of this online campaign? The client's experience showed that their existing sales network was very effective; the major needs were brand awareness, education, and maintaining customer loyalty. That suggested a single technology to me: email newsletters.

E-newsletters can be very effective at keeping your brand top-of-mind for both new prospects, who need education and awareness, and existing customers, who are reminded of past positive experiences. With the right set-up it is even easy to send multiple versions of your newsletter at once, each customized for a particular audience. Better yet, all of the other online options we discussed suddenly became part of a single project by contributing content to the newsletter, building awareness of it, and building a subscriber base.

It is also important to remember that no company can be successful in every social media venue, so it is always acceptable - encouraged even - to pick the few you want to focus on and ignore the rest. Redesigning the social media mix is fairly simple, so there is little opportunity cost involved. Still, this experience with my client was a good example of how asking the right questions and focusing on goals can change a seemingly impossible list of options into a single manageable project.

QR News: Surveys, Real Estate, & Certification Programs

QR codes have arrived. While they are still gaining mass recognition and acceptance, they are now used in enough places and creative applications that they will be a "must-use" technology within the next few years. Having opened my eyes to them, I see them everywhere; in the grocery store, on my mail, on billboards, and in industry magazines. Here's two sightings of innovative QR programs:


TwitterMoms QR Code Seal of Approval

The TwitterMoms Seal of Approval is a social media-based guerrilla version of Consumer Reports; 25+ moms evaluate the product, and post their reviews. It uses the high perceived trustworthiness of peer review and word-of-mouth to create a program untainted by "pay-to-play" certifications or "sterile lab conditions" instead of real-world testing.

Sound like something that could exist in the construction world?

The seal now
uses a QR code to link to online information and reviews. As Roger at 2D Codes puts it:
The TwitterMoms Seal of Approval...is using a QR Code to enable users to scan and read detailed ratings and feedback from the TwitterMoms review process. Enabling the reading of comprehensive product reviews at the point of sale combined with the wisdom of the TwitterMoms crowd just has to be good news for consumers.
Again, the value of a program like this in the construction industry would be incredible. Most architects don't think point-of-purchase, but contractors do. And having one-click access on phone or laptop to safety instructions, installation videos, warranty info, and much more would be a huge benefit to them. And architects would still benefit from the reviews, especially those from other architects that have used the product and can give insights the product literature does not. Combined with an online spec writing program, this could become a one-click "Scan here to specify!" Linking the QR code to LEED calculators, GreenFormat listings, or other online databases also fulfills the "Rule Three" criteria of making the content valuable to the user at the moment they scan it. 

QR Code Survey System

Recommendi links QR codes to customer surveys, creating an opportunity for on-the-spot feedback. Their gallery showcases uses in restaurants, posters in store windows, and on invoices and receipts. I am constantly getting receipts at restaurants and stores asking me to call or visit their webpage to take a brief survey; the ones that don't go straight in the trash get used as bookmarks. But using the QR code makes it easier for me to respond in the moment, and more likely that I'll actually take the time.
Where would you want instant feedback from your customer? On the sales literature your rep leaves behind? In your trade show booth? On the customized technical drawings you just sent them? How about user surveys from building occupants, "Scan here to tell us what you think of our lighting!"

Transforming Static "For Sale" Signs

Clikbrix uses QR codes on "For Sale" signs outside properties to link to online information. From their website:
Imagine a house hunter spotting a Clikbrix QR Code on your ‘For Sale’ sign, agency window or any of your printed, promotional materials... from bus shelters to business cards. She simply opens the QR Code reader on her...mobile device...then points and scans to instantly connect to your Mobile-friendly Professional Profile webpage, paired with robust details of the relative property including stunning photos—she also gets the inside story on the neighborhood, from the best schools to hot restaurants, shops and more. The prospective buyer loves what she sees and is delighted she can e-mail the detailed Property Listing page to her friends; she even shares it on Facebook and Twitter.
Point-and-scan access to information about your company on a jobsite sign? That sure sounds valuable, especially when it can be paired with information about how your product is being used on that job, why it was chosen, and an automatically-generated email to your local representative.

Now obviously none of these directly impact construction, or are aimed at building product manufacturers, but they are proof-of-concept about what can be done within our industry. There is a wealth of information about your product online - both pieces you posted and user-generated content. The easier you can make it for architects to access that information, the more confident they will be in using your products.

What innovative uses of QR codes have you seen? Tell us in the comments!

Social Networking Use Doubles Among Older Internet Users

According to a new Pew Internet & American Life Project report:
While social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.
What does this mean to building product marketers? A few things.

First, it continues the trend of adoption. People comfortable navigating social networks for their personal life will be more willing and able to use them at work. Developing the habit of sharing favorite pictures with family and friends also prepares them to share your content with co-workers.

Second, it's another nail in the coffin of the "Digital Native" myth that the youngest person in the office is the one most likely to use the internet at work. The day when heads of architecture and construction firms will have their own Facebook profiles isn't some distant future event; it's already here.

Third, keep this in mind as you design your shiny new website and Facebook fan page. There are important generational differences in how users navigate through a page and find information (for example, younger users are better able to adapt to non-standard navigational schemes), so designing exclusively for one audience may alienate an important demographic from your audience.

I would assume that this trend also means "older users" are increasingly willing to experiment with other new media, such as podcasts and phone apps. We considered and rejected a podcast idea a while back because the audience demographics didn't match our target audience well enough, but it may be time to reconsider that.

Frederic on ReadWriteWeb also notes that, according to the report:
No matter the growing popularity of social networking services among older users, email and online news sites are still far more popular than Facebook and Twitter among this age group. Overall, 92% of all older adults and 89% of all seniors send or read email daily. With regards to online news gathering, 76% of older adults get their news online and 42% say they do so daily. Among seniors, about 62% look for news online and 34% say that they do so daily.

H/T ReadWriteWeb
In other words, even with increased cross-generational adoption, it's still important to match your medium to your audience. 

Remember the Convention?

Mark Kalin, FCSI, FAIA, CCS, SCIP, a leading specification writer, reminds us that good old-fashioned tradeshows are still an important part of your marketing mix.

"I don’t tweet, have instant messaging, nor a Facebook page. Visits to blogs are a rarity and if I could take a video with my phone, I wouldn’t know how to upload it to YouTube.

The best way for me to stay connected is to attend CSI Convention! My ‘human library’ is there to answer questions, and I can ‘feel the pulse’ of the industry.

The trade show was much reduced in size, but I’m using three products in current specs that I didn’t know about before the show. And old-fashioned me – I like to see people smile in person rather than on skype or a webinar.

We didn’t solve the problems in the economy, couldn’t completely abolish the 5-digit section numbers, nor find enough elbow room in the social at the pump house – but we saw and were seen, and I’ll be back next year! (It’s still the future that counts you know.)"

This is edited from Mark's article in the August 2010 issue of Fellows newsletter published by the College of Fellows of the Construction Specifications Institute.

How to Hold a Contest on Twitter, Facebook, or a Blog

Building Product Manufacturers can learn how to shape up their marketing strategies by using some mainstream consumer marketing campaign techniques.

If you are on Twitter, Facebook, or are a frequent blog reader, you're probably following someone or are a fan of a brand that you like.  So that means you are obviously already a fan of Chusid Associates, BuildingProductMarketing.com, and are following @ChusidAssociate on Twitter.  You may even be the lucky winner of a prize or two due to the contests your favorite companies have held (like me! -- I recently won a trip from Southwest and Marriott Napa and a TBD surprise from Burke Williams Spa).  I have been a contestant in many other contests but wasn't as lucky.

                                 This is an example of a contest that I did not win but wish I did. It was done
                                 via Twitter, Facebook, and having customers join their email newsletter lists. 

More and more companies are starting to hold contests via Twitter, Facebook, and their blogs in order to drive traffic to their websites, gain brand ambassadors, and to establish their reputations as passion brands who care about their customers.

As soon as you create a decent-sized social media audience for your company, it's time to keep them coming back. What does everyone love? Free stuff.  What better way is there to keep people coming back to your site? That's right, give them a free window, or door, or 75% off an order and free shipping!

Step 1: What type of contest should I have?   

A) Frequent vs. Less Frequent Contests
-Frequent contests will drive more web traffic to your sites since you invite people to come back for more competitions on a weekly or semi-weekly basis.
-Less frequent contests are more spread out and usually involve more expensive prizes.
-Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to have the highest web traffic. If you plan to have a frequent contest, hold your first competition on a high traffic day so that customers actually participate. You can change the schedule after you've gained followers, but try to remain consistent so your customers know when to return to your site and can even set a weekly calendar reminder.
-For frequent contests, some companies will hold competitions on their off days (such as a Sunday) so that they get more web traffic on a day that they don't usually post anything and also so people who can't get onto social media sites during regular M-F business hours can participate.
-As I mentioned above, remain consistent. For frequent contests, consistency is key so that people remember what day your competition is on (try to stray from holding a competition at the same time/day as your competitors).
-For either contest type, publicize the event on all of your social media sites.

B) What do I ask my customers/contestants to do?
-Some companies will ask 3 trivia questions that relate to their products or services and the first person to answer all 3 correct in the comments field below or Twitter feed will win the prize.
-Other companies may choose a winner at random. They may give certain guidelines for the contestant pool such as they need to be a fan of the company on Twitter, Facebook, and they need to join their email newsletter list.  They may also say you have to post updates to your friends on Facebook or Twitter.
-Photo contests and creativity contests are always fun, but the judging is more subjective and might upset some contestants or make them feel that the contest may have been rigged (solve this by having the customers do the voting). The contests will become more interactive and get you more web traffic if you have your customers vote to determine the winner.

Step 2: Drive traffic to your website.
-A lot of companies that use the trivia method tend to ask questions that the contestants can only find on the companys' websites. For example, ask them a detail about your newest product and why it's so innovative. Then maybe have them define the science behind your product or look for an answer that involves a term you've coined.
-This helps increase the company's web traffic and therefore may turn into an asset when trying to get advertisers for the company's site.
-Make being your company's follower on Twitter, your fan on Facebook, and entering their name onto your email newsletter list a part of the winning criteria. If you don't want them to feel forced into doing all three, at least tell them they will increase their chances with each new way they connect to you.

Step 3: Give them the prize on time.
-In a recent contest I won, the prize still hasn't arrived and it's been over 2 months. This might be a glitch in the mailing system but they claimed to have re-sent the prize and I still haven't received it.  I am a nice person so I'm not going to go bash the company and post all over their online sites, but other people may not be so nice.
-Social media is a great tool that can be used to your advantage, but can also be used against your brand if you don't meet the customers' expectations.
-If you do send them their prize on time, they will most likely announce it to all of their friends on social media sites, granting you more publicity.  They may also take pictures of the prize or experience and post those. Both of these benefits should drive fresh prospects to your site.
I'm sure I haven't covered all aspects of how to hold a social media contest, so feel free to read a similar article here.

See my recent post about a photo contest idea a roofing company held here.

Social Media tips from Joy Davis, CSI

Joy Davis, CSI recently presented the following slide show about social media at the Construct 2010 convention in Philadelphia.  Look for our newsletter on slide 19.

Follow Joy at CSIConstruction (Twitter), LinkedIn or Facebook 
Read CSI's blog here.

Is the internet private?

The one fact everyone knows about lockpicking, gleaned from years of action movies and police-procedural tv shows, is that any lock can be picked; it's just a matter of time. I just finished listening to a podcast from South by Southwest, one of the major social media conferences, that reminded me the same is true of internet privacy.

Recently Facebook has been in the news again for privacy issues; some of you may even have observed Quit Facebook Day, a coordinated effort to get users to leave Facebook in protest of its new privacy policies. At the root of the issue is that most users don't even know they can change their privacy settings, let alone that they need or might want to. There is an assumption of privacy that is just plain wrong; the default settings share almost everything with the entire internet.

Michael and I presented a course on ethics for the San Diego CSI chapter last week, and group discussion focused strongly on the ethics of social media and internet technologies in the construction industry. Privacy issues will be a major part of this over the next few years, as we deal with issues of who is responsible for protecting specific information, who is allowed to release it, and who is liable when privacy is breached. Whether your company is fully immersed in social media or still using your original webpage design, these are issues you need to address now to stay ahead of the curve.

The issue of internet privacy keeps coming back to one simple concept: if you put it on the internet, it's not private. Think of it as a conversation on a crowded subway train; there's so much noise it will be hard for someone to eavesdrop, and if no one on the train knows you it's unlikely they will even care enough to try. Regardless, you just had a conversation in front of dozens of people, anyone of whom could have listened or recorded what you said. This is the privacy of the internet.

Facebook and Twitter Have a High Influence on Purchase Decisions

New study shows that those who are fans or followers of a brand on Facebook or Twitter, respectively, are significantly more likely to buy products and services or recommend the brand to a friend.

Specifically, the study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that consumers are 67% more likely to buy from the brands they follow on Twitter, and 51% more likely to buy from a brand they follow on Facebook. Moreover, they’re 79% more likely to recommend their Twitter follows to a friend, and 60% more likely to do the same on Facebook.

Of course, those findings might be a bit overstated — many people actively seek out the brands they’re already fans of and follow or fan them on Twitter and Facebook. But there’s still much to be said for the mindshare that engaging those existing brand enthusiasts on social media sites creates, in turn keeping them active. Plus, the study also found that many consumers across a wide variety of demographics have negative perceptions of brands that aren’t using social media.

Overall, the study is another sign that social media is becoming a competitive advantage for those that are participating, and an increasingly major weakness for those that aren’t. -Adam Ostrow

[via eMarketer] View full article here.

For all you skeptical building product manufacturers out there- adding your brand to Facebook or Twitter could get you just the right amount of exposure to increase your sales! Why not try?

"Scriptio Continua" Online Addresses

When telling someone about this website, I explain the address is, "building product marketing dot com, written as one word without spaces or punctuation."

"Written as one word without spaces or punctuation" has become common in daily language as we exchange e-mail and website addresses. To my ear and tongue, the phrase sounds and feels clumsy and inefficient.

Fortunately, there is a more elegant way to say, "written as one word without spaces or punctuation," and that is the Latin phrase "scriptio continua."

"Scriptio continua" means "continuous script" and is a writing style used in ancient Greek, Latin, and other languages. For example,


(This is written in scriptio continua.)

I believe it its time to bring back the term. It allows me to say, simply and concisely, "Visit my website at building product marketing dot com, scriptio continua."

My proposal will not work, however, if I have to explain "scriptio continua" every time I use the phrase. One person, alone, cannot change the language or reinvigorate an archaic term. But working together, it can happen very quickly.

If you feel my proposal has any merit, I invite you to embrace and use "scriptio continua" in your spoken communications. More importantly, please use the power of social media to spread the word about "scriptio continua."

Repost this on your blogs and facebook page, twit it, digg it, share it with the other tools of cybermedia to make "scriptio continua" part of our common language.


P.S. A Google search on "scriptio continua" today returns about 24,300 hits. I will report changes in this result from time to time on this blog.