Finding And Selecting The Right Influencer

What most of us forget is that at the end of the day, social media is merely a platform we’ve all recently jumped onto for marketing purposes. Yes, it’s a powerful one at that, but again: it’s still just a platform. The success of our online-hinged campaigns still heavily relies on the strategies we apply on the social Web and our adaptability to every new technology and trend that comes our way. And so, online marketers need to find ways to optimize social media to create buzz around their brands and grab the opportunities as they come. It will help with your site"s SEO because trend and number of visits it will generate will increase the ranking of your site.

One of the many popular ways to go about this is by leveraging on influencer marketing. However, as anyone who’s ever tried, it can tell you, it’s much more than just getting into an influencer’s good graces. Here are a handful of best practices you can use as a guide to help get the ball rolling and hit your goals.

Your Eye On The Prize.

The first thing you should do is identify what your goals are for even delving into influencer marketing, and list them down on paper. These include the most obvious ones like spreading the word about your brand, attracting people into your fold, increasing product revenues, etc. Organize them according to priority and constantly refer to that list every step of your campaign as draw up strategies. That list will be your constant guide to keep you focused on achieving those goals as your campaign progresses.

Finding Influencers.

Either for a general demographic or for a specific niche, you must identify the influencers and measure their level of influence, the depth of their engagements with their followers and many other factors that should align with your overall goals. This helps you keep your head in the game no matter the amount of noise online. Using social monitoring tools like Technorati, Klout,  SocialMention or Topsy can help you sniff out the right influencers for your brand on sites like Twitter and Facebook. They also display online impressions and sentiments on each personality.

The Screening Process.

Always remember that just like traditional marketing’s celebrity-fronted advertisements, the influencer you chose will also be, in a manner of speaking, representing your brand. You may also have to backread their previous tweets, status updates and/or the multimedia contents they shared to get your answers though. The broader their network, the better SEO it will provide to your website. Find as many potential influencers as you can and then just narrow down your list with these few questions to evaluate each one.

1. How many people are following them and how many are they follow back?
2. How often are they blogging, posting updates or tweeting?
3. Do they personally engage with the people in their network of followers? How diligent are they in responding to their followers’ queries or comments?
4. Do they share (or retweet) their follower’s messages? Are they articulate enough to carry out your message/s?
5. How involved are they in their respective tribes? Do their followers respond to their posts?
6. How do they fare on the search engine results pages when you do a Google search for the keyword phrases related to their market/niche?
7. Are their followers the right people you want to target marketing-wise?
8. What are their thoughts about your general field of business? How about your brand/products/services?
9. How passionate are these people regarding their beliefs?
10. Do their opinions and beliefs clash with the ideals you and your company lives by? Is their general public image apt for the personality you want your brand to embody?

Related Video:

Elements to optimize your blog’s sidebar

A blog’s sidebar practically summarizes the content and all the features offered by the blog. In essence, it showcases what you have to offer in one or two neat, unobtrusive columns, depending on your chosen blog layout or template. It plays a large part in upping a blog’s usability, improving the user experience to give your visitors easy access to different sections of your blog without having to navigate their browsers away from your domain.

Since its very existence is integral to a blog’s navigation, it’s crucial to optimize its functionalities by embedding useful elements like widgets and tools. This also indirectly helps with SEO since it will help the customer stay on your website. From looking at blogs online, both popular and upstarts in their niches, you may notice that they employ different elements. Many are standard components to guide the visitors around your blog and to related offsite locations, while others use other widgets that are more twee than functional. Here are a few sidebar components your blog’s sidebar should have.

Search Box

Search boxes make it easy for your readers to find blog posts based on keywords and topics. Most sites put their search boxes within the sidebar, while others inject them at the top of the page next to the masthead. If you’re using blog publishing services like WordPress or Blogger, the search box comes as a default component. But if you’re building a blog from scratch or would prefer to employ other search boxes, you can just copy and post readily crafted search box codes onto your blog’s HTML structure from Yahoo, Bing or Google.

Short Bio

Letting your readers, especially new visitors to your site, know who you can help introduce you to your community. This can be used as a trajectory for both social engagements and for establishing your site as an authority in your slice of the blogosphere. For this, include a short bio at the very top of the sidebar about you or your brand. And by “short” we mean one to three sentences that give a gist of who you are, what you intend to achievement with the blog, and what you’re offering. Include a link to your blog’s About Us page at the bottom of the bio to direct your readers to your fully furnished profile page.

Contact Details

Provide your contact details in your blog’s sidebar to give your readers ways to reach you. Include the URLs to your other Web sites, your e-mail address/es, IM username, Skype contacts and if necessary, your phone number/s. But if you are trying to save precious sidebar real estate, you can instead have a link to your Contact Us page right underneath your short bio containing these details.

Subscriptions Methods

Give your readers a way to keep updated on the latest news about your brand, the products and service you offer, and your new posts by including ways to subscribe to your blog. Subscriptions can generate a good list of contacts for possible online marketing strategies and will help you better target your demographic. This can be done by having an RSS link to let them subscribe to your feeds, which conveniently gets sifted through their feed reader of choice. And if you have an e-mail newsletter, you can have a text field where they can enter their e-mail addresses to sign up and receive regular news from you.

Social Profile Buttons

The goal in social media marketing is to build a genuine rapport with the people in your demographic, so it’s crucial to connect with them outside your Web site or blog. The site"s SEO will be benefited from those links and connection. As such, in your sidebar, it’s important to include links to your social networking sites so they can establish a link with you and your brand by adding you to their social media contacts. You can line up the buttons to link your readers to your Twitter and Facebook profiles, or you can craft your own.

Related Video:

4 reasons why your brand should create its own APIs

There are countless ways in which brands can use APIs. In Silicon Valley, open APIs have long been a staple of how tech companies do business. Twitter has an API. Facebook and Yahoo! have APIs. Google kick-started the API phenomenon with the Google Maps API. eBay and Amazon.com pioneered APIs as a lucrative business model.

A location-based mashup uses APIs to plot YouTube videos about the World Cup on a global map using geotagging.

Now an increasing number of brands are getting in on the action: Best Buy, Sears, MasterCard, MTV and Rhapsody now sport APIs alongside upstarts like HotUKDeals, Zappos and Wine.com.

At last week’s Content Marketing Strategies conference in Berkeley, Calif., Lori H. Schwartz, chief technology catalyst for McCann WorldGroup, said that smart brands are increasingly turning to APIs as a way to entice would-be partners to take your data stream. Then reuse it in the burgeoning number of different media environments: mobile, Internet-enabled TV, the real-time Web and other places where customers are increasingly hanging out.

A quick primer for readers who aren’t familiar with APIs. An API, short for application programming interface, is simply a set of rules and protocols that allow websites and apps to work with each other. A typical API pulls data from a source – say, pricing data or inventory – and performs a function, such as parsing the content and displaying it in a new way – say, a nicely formatted row of Flickr photos, or text that appears larger for the vision-impaired.

APIs let businesses plug into the social Web

Businesses large and small are now catching on, as brands are evolving into social media platforms rather than stand-alone destination sites.
“The monolithic brands of the industrial age are giving way to the distributed, participative and democratized brands of the digital age — free-flowing from the bottom-up, rather than dictated from the top down.”

The North Face and REI have released skiing apps that display snow conditions at dozens of resorts along with forecasts, trail maps and more. Real-time weather data is pulled into the apps through APIs. Etsy, an online retailer of handmade merchandise, has cultivated a distributed network of developers who used the Etsy API to create apps like Etsy On Sale and SoopSee. Best Buy recently released a new AP: I that not only lets you browse its vast catalog of merchandise but lets you take part in an end-to-end transaction on a third party site.

As brand strategist Brian Phipps writes: “The monolithic brands of the industrial age are giving way to the distributed, participative and democratized brands of the digital age. The forward strength of brands will be free-flowing from the bottom-up, rather than dictated and manipulated from the top down.”

Here are four reasons why your brand should consider creating its APIs:

1. Increased sales

Depending on what you’re selling on your destination website, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to drive additional sales by deputizing bloggers, affiliate retailers, and online boutique shops into becoming part of the sales process. Make it easy for e-commerce allies to grab relevant data and present it to the world using their interface but adhering to your standards. If you’re lucky, a Web service developed by a third party could generate new sources of revenue.

2. Increased innovation

What if the community built new products and services on top of your brand’s foundation? The magic of APIs is that your development team and contractors don’t have to create solutions for every possible use of your product or service in the marketplace. You do know that you can’t possibly handle every imaginable use case and build for every platform and media format, don’t you? In a sense, APIs are the ultimate form of crowdsourcing. By releasing an open API with specific terms of use, you turn the community into developers and co-collaborators for your brand – at almost zero cost. By building out an external developer ecosystem, you’re essentially adding outside expertise and novel insights to your R&D process.

3. Synergy with new partners

The chances are that the marketplace holds potential partners for your brand that you’re not even aware of. APIs enable business-to-business interactions by opening data and processes to partners, either freely or through a commercial license. [[you need to reach them through surrogates acting on your behalf, armed with useful APIs.]] APIs can target specific communities or networks – say if Johnson & Johnson created an API offering discounted baby merchandise to mommy bloggers on BlogHer.

4. Increased customer satisfaction

We live in a social media world now. Customers are increasingly expecting brands to be social – to listen to conversations and embrace community input instead of just pushing out marketing messages. APIs let clever outsiders experiment with finding out what customers want – and giving it to them. If your name is BevMo, the chances are that your customers don’t just want to know which wines Wilfred Wong recommends – they’d like suggestions from their favorite experts, or perhaps from fellow wine lovers.

Have a question about APIs? Want to discuss how your brand might use this approach? Post a comment or contact me. And please share your insights below.

Related Video:

5 cool startups at the first Launch conference

With a crowded conference space for the launch of new startups — DEMOspring, DEMOfall, TechCrunch Disrupt — is there room for another springboard for interesting start-ups?

Yep. The first Launch conference, held Wednesday and today at the San Francisco Design Concourse, showed off a wealth of entrepreneurial talent — and proved to be entertaining at the same time. Thanks to the conference prowess of founder Jason Calacanis and the on-stage cleverness of judges such as VCs Dave McClure, Yossi Vardi, and actor Kevin Pollak, who instructed startup founders to target “the C- to B+ students” who have grown up to become the vast midsection of U.S. consumer culture.

About 1,300 attendees turned out, and more than 100 startups competed for one of the prized placements on stage.

Here are a few of the startups I found interesting, both on the stage and of the demo pit:

Groupin: Organize your work & personal lives

Appconomy’s Groupin is a mobile app that lets you organize your work and personal life into “the groups and people that matter to you” and across the channels you already use. By simplifying group communications across multiple channels, including private in-app messaging, e-mail, SMS, phone Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more, Groupin makes working in groups easy, efficient and fun. It looked pretty cool to me, though the judges seemed unimpressed.

Give2Gether: Democratized social fund-raising

Anyone can instantly raise funds for a cause with give2gether, a welcome addition to the good social space. CEO/co-founder Amon Shafir gave me a deep dive into the service, which appears to be much more effective than efforts like Facebook Causes. While the average donor on Causes gives 70 cents for each cause he joins, the average person on Give2Gether has given $75 — about 100 times more — during the early going (about 30 projects). The trick is in sharing causes with your social contacts and monitoring the results in your dashboard. Says the site: “Think of it as the Twitter of philanthropy — a tailored, self-service SaaS platform helping non-profits monetize social interactions. Give2Gether turns strangers into friends, friends into donors and donors into fundraisers, at one-third of the traditional cost.”

News 360: News & multimedia on your iPad

In the demo pit, I met Nina Grigorieva, CEO of Moscow-based News360, who showed off its marvelous capabilities on an iPad. (I’m waiting for version 2 of the iPad before buying one.) It has the same elegance as Flipboard and, unlike News Corp.’s The Daily, it’s completely free and has some nice social sharing features. It aggregates thousands of news sources, tracks your favorite news sources, creates personalized news feeds by topic and lets you share interesting stories with your friends. If you own an iPad, you’ll want this app.

Brand-Yourself: Manage your reputation

Presented on Day 2, Brand-Yourself is a way for regular people to monitor and manage their online identity and reputation. The Web-based platform helps non-techies brand yourself or brand your business. Grow your online reputation by building positive content around your name that shows up high in Google, “bury” existing Google results, promote yourself to the right people on social media and monitor your progress as you build your brand.

DARfm: A DVR for radio

DAR lets you record, play and pauses your favorite radio programs, including talk radio, sports, news, music and another programming. The startup is founded by Michael Robertson, founder of MP3.com and Lindows.com.

Other startups worth a look

See the full list of demo pit startups. There were plenty of other startups worth keeping an eye on as well:

• Hashable helps you build and track relationships that matter. It’s on the iPhone now, and an Android version is coming soon.
• LawPivot is a legal Q&A website enabling companies–especially startups–to confidentially receive crowdsourced legal answers from highly qualified lawyers for a fraction of the cost. Currently, open only to California lawyers and companies.
• TaleSpring allows authors and storytellers to create animated, interactive books that can be published to mobile devices such as the iPad, iPhone and Android phones and tablets.
• Room 77 is “the world’s first hotel room database and search engine. Find the perfect room with personalized room recommendations at top hotels.”
• GreenGoose greengoose.com is a lifestyle app with gaming elements.
• Pen.io is a super fast way to publish content online, designed as an alternative to blogs.

Jason should be commended for the low cost of entry — DEMO charges about $20,000 I think, and TechCrunch Disrupt nearly $1,000. Quality, not entry fees, is what should matter when presenting best-of-breed startups to the public, and Jason nails that. Watch archives of the sessions on Launchconf’s YouTube channel.

Suggestion to Jason: Someone on your team should have been updating the website with information about each of the featured startups as they were presenting. It’s difficult — especially from home — to keep track of the names and URLs of the startups making presentations.

The second suggestion to Jason: Zero women among 15 grand jury members? What about Debbie Landa, Jasmine Antonick, Christine Herron, Kim Polese, Esther Dyson, Susan Mernit, or a few dozen other possibilities? You guys should make it a priority.

All in all, Launch is a fantastic addition to the conference circuit and a valuable new way in which startups can gain visibility and traction.

Check our other articles for more SEO and marketing related information.

Related Video: