I still had a few questions to answer from the PRSA event. So, belatedly, here we go:
Q: How does a trackback work and is it annoying to other bloggers?
I answered this Q for one of my offline friends this week, too. Great example of a simple concept way over complicated by technology and specialists.
It's just a notice that someone is linking to or referencing one of your posts.
It's also called a linkback.
Short story: At the end of most posts on Wordpress and SixApart, there's a link called Trackback. If you click it, it gives you a special address. If you take that address and enter it on one of your own posts (there's a special field in the software) it pings the original post's server and the author gets an email that someone is referencing their post.
Basically a digital nod. One I believe is universally appreciated.
Q: What blogs and books do I read to stay on top of trends?
Well, I should say that 'staying on top of trends' is a pretty relative term these days. But, to stay somewhat aware of the cool stuff in my tiny area of addiction/interest, here are my top picks:
Q: Two questions condensed to one - how can I connect with doctors and moms online?
Honestly, I have no idea. I think the advice I gave in person was with docs it's probably a closed community of your most passionate users; for moms, it's probably real moms already in your organization, already talking online.
But, for more on-target advice, a few experts from my extended network:
Q: How do I avoid a 1000 new friends?
First, can I say - nice problem to have! If you start out in social media and garner 1000 quick followers, you're doing something right.
But, to handle it, it's a matter of managing your pipe. Do you want strangers to be able to 'be-friend' you in every medium? Or will you limit, say, FB to people you know in the flesh and LI to interested onlookers and professional contacts?
Also, boil up your communications. That's a big "why" social media was created. People are increasingly exhausted and overwhelmed by 1:1 email. Social media starts to solve that problem by letting us broadcast content to entire networks. And, pick up or ignore what we want.
So, if you're getting a lot of input, answer general topics via social media rather than returning a slew of emails. Use the tools to manage communications within the time / interest you have rather than letting them push you around.
Q: How do you pull together the group of brand enthusiasts to talk about your brand? It might seem easy to just contact those that are blogging about your brand but would that seem less "real"... recruited/corporate? Is it better to recruit from an existing list of folks that interact with your brand?
Short answer: There are a few companies that will do this for you. Set up and recruit to a closed community for ~$250k. But, I say if the Zappos CEO can stop for coffee with customers, we can probably be a little more organic than writing a check.
If it were me, I'd leverage my customer service data. People who email in. Good or bad. Especially problem solvers (I saw this was broken / here's how I'd fix it). If they took enough time to track down your email form, they're probably an engaged shopper (one way or the other). (P.S. All the more reason to bury your contact info, uh, Amazon :)
Q: How do you initially prioritize and engage the customer? A traditional focus group? How do you find and engage these customers?
Part of this question is answered in the above. But, there's also an element of segmentation here. How do you prioritize your customer types? I think that question gets kicked back to the statistics gurus, but is informed by social media. Yes, you want to know that your customer is x years old, watches these three television programs and has z number of kids. But, you also want to know what they do online. How they interact. What types of tools they use. How many people they talk to in a week. That will help you find the groups that CAN be targeted by WOM or social media marketing.
As for how you engage them, that's the toughest part. And it's different for every brand. The trick is to figure out what they'll want to participate in and deliver it. With a little luck, you can find an insight in the above (like the Mini example) that will help inform that.
Q: What are your thoughts about second life? The success of it seems limited to the academic arena.
At the conference, Billy Fischer asked how we know what the next big trend in social media will be. Truth is, unfortunately, we don't.
The best we can do is pay attention to what the leaders in the last new thing are trying or what big groups of previously unengaged people are engaging in and ... well, guess. Second LIfe - in my opinion - is the ultimate example of a bad guess.
A super high engagement "game" in a medium (Web) that traditionally inspires skimming and scanning ... eh, I was suspect from the beginning, but I understand why brands rushed in. Initial trial (signups) was high. Although actual adoption was low. And the environment itself gave agencies the chance to strut great new creative and strategy skills.
All that said, I think some brands made it work. Like Case Western. Recreating their campus in the medium and making it accessible to members and nonmembers alike.
Q: How do you have time for all this?
According to my co-workers, it's the time I save by not having babies, car pool or other offspring-related stress.