The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Viral Marketing Campaigns

Ideas for Jumpstarting Your Viral Marketing CampaignsI’ve been having a lot of conversations about viral marketing recently and one question keeps popping up... “How do you give a viral campaign a jumpstart?” It’s a great question and one I wanted to address in this post. Although there’s not an exact formula for what type of content will go viral, you can definitely give your campaign a jumpstart by utilizing the following 5 techniques. And by the way, almost all of the techniques listed below cost nothing. That’s right…nada.

As a viral marketer, you definitely want to get your message in front of as many people as possible during your launch in order to see what sticks. Then, if you’ve crafted your campaign properly, your content has a chance to go viral. There are no guarantees with viral marketing, but your campaign just might have that hook… and if it does, then it could take on a life of its own! Let’s take a look at how to jumpstart your campaign…

5 Techniques for Giving Your Viral Campaign a Jolt:

1. Utilize Your In-House Email List
Worth its weight in gold, your in house email list can help you drive trusted visitors to your viral site extremely quickly. This is one of the easiest ways to get your content into the hands of people who already know you, have purchased from you, and hopefully receive ongoing email communications from you. The more people you can get to your campaign website during the launch, the greater chance you have of it going viral. Email marketing gives you the opportunity to clearly explain the campaign, provide details, visuals, and calls to action. And unlike some of the other methods listed below, email lets you craft your initial message. Now, what happens to that message after it starts getting passed around is a different story. :-) Last, email is inherently viral…you gave your list something to pass along (the actual email you sent!) Back to the launch…think about it, if you have an in-house list of 800,000 people and you have a click through rate of 4%, then you can start your campaign with 32,000 people hitting the site. That’s not a bad start.

2. Work with Your PR Agency or PR Department
You should definitely coordinate your viral campaign with your PR department or PR agency. You should have them craft several press releases to blast out during the first few weeks of the campaign. Chances are your PR department or agency has incredible contacts in your industry and can hopefully land you excellent coverage. In addition, using services like PRWeb can syndicate your releases across the web, helping you gain maximum exposure on blogs, forums, websites, etc. And, if you do start getting links on major blogs in the industry, they will pay off big time down the line for organic search. For example, maybe you end up landing several high Pagerank blogs linking to your campaign website. So don’t exclude PR!

3. Empower Your Employees
That’s right, your own employees can help you get the word out! This obviously has a greater effect if you are a larger organization with thousands of employees, but regardless, don’t overlook the power of your own people! You should craft an internal communication that gets people pumped up about the campaign. Make sure that the email you blast out to your employees contains all of the necessary information, including URL’s, visuals, a good breakdown of the campaign, etc. Let’s say you have 5,000 employees and they average 2.5 forwards per employee. Now you’ve got an additional 12,500 people to the site in a hurry. And since it was probably forwarded to friends at other companies, you have a chance that your link will get passed to many others. The link may go through several generations of forwarding. So don’t forget about your own employees. It’s fast, free, and can make an impact.

4. Social Media Marketing
Social Media sites are a great way to get the word out tens of thousands of people (or more). Websites like StumbleUpon, Mixx, Digg, Propeller, YouTube, and Twitter can provide a great way to gain serious exposure. There are many social media and social networking sites to choose from, and you need to find the ones that fit your specific style. Don’t be afraid, social media communities don’t bite…often. :-)

There is a catch…
you can’t just jump on these sites and expect to generate a lot of traffic. There’s a serious time commitment involved and you really need to provide value to the community in order to gain a following. I’ve seen quite a number of people hop on a social media site and post a link to their own website and then never come back. So, they didn’t really have any friends or contacts on the site, they didn’t provide any value to the community, and simply performed a “drive by submission”. I can guarantee you that their story received no votes and didn’t generate more than 10 visitors. On the flip side, if you do spend the time building a following, if you do participate and add value to the community, then you will reap great rewards (along with meeting lots of interesting people). So, don’t be a drive by submitter on any social media website. I’m telling you, it won’t work. :-) Now, let’s say you love YouTube, Twitter and StumbleUpon and have built up a nice following in each of these communities. You now can utilize these sites and leverage your following to get the word out about your campaign very quickly. And, many of the people using these social media sites have accounts at several other sites. Therefore, you might have one person repost your link on 3 or 4 other social media sites. Believe me when I tell you that you cannot overlook social media. If you do, then you are missing a HUGE opportunity.

5. Leverage Contacts in Your Industry
I’ll keep my last point brief, since it’s pretty simple! Don’t forget to reach out to everyone you know about your new viral campaign. This includes friends, family, people you’ve worked with in the past, bloggers you know, forum owners, the guy you met at SES last year, etc. You get the point. Just craft a professional email that briefly explains your campaign, provides the necessary links, visuals, and messaging. In my experience, this is a great way to get your site in front of people who are rooting for you. They may pass it along to 10 other people, or even better, they may forward it to their entire network of friends. And, if they blog, they may write an entire post about your campaign. This can open your site up to their entire readership. Then, maybe a few people that read their post end up writing about it on their own blogs. So on and so forth. Sounds fun, right?

Are You Ready to Go Viral?
So there you have it. 5 ways to give your viral marketing campaign a jolt. These 5 techniques are free, fast, and relatively easy to set up (other than the social media marketing piece). That can’t be started at the last minute... Re-read the section about social media marketing if you don’t understand what I mean. So, spend the time crafting some killer communications for your launch, leverage some of your strongest assets (that are right under your nose), and then use these 5 techniques to help launch your campaign.

So, have you used any other techniques to give your viral campaigns a jumpstart? If so, I’d love to hear about them.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

QuickTime Pro, A Powerful and Versatile Video Tool for Web Marketers

QuickTime Pro, the handy video tool from Apple.OK, hypothetical situation. You’re working on a tight deadline for a web video marketing campaign. You’re close to finalizing several creative elements for your client and you just received the final video clips on cd-rom (they unfortunately exported the clips for you). It ends up the person sending you the clips didn’t know the format you needed them in, so you’re left with a few files in varying formats and dimensions. None are optimal, by the way. What do you do?? Well, my hope is that you’ll know exactly what to do after reading this post! You’ll use QuickTime Pro to transcode those videos into a format you can use across marketing channels, whether that’s for uploading to YouTube, for use on mobile devices like iphones or blackberries, or for distribution via cd-rom or dvd-r. In my opinion, QuickTime Pro is a phenomenal tool to have in your web marketing arsenal. Sure, it doesn’t replace a full blown editing system like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere (by any stretch), but it’s fast, has some great features and can save you a lot of time. Let’s dig in.

What is QuickTime Pro?
I know you’ve all heard of QuickTime Player (QT), but Apple also provides a wealth of features bundled into their QuickTime Pro product. It’s only $29.99 and can really save you a lot of time (no, I didn't mean to rhyme that...) You just need to purchase a registration key and then enter that key into your QT Player (in your preferences). QuickTime Pro comes with a number of handy features that you’ll end up using all of the time (once you know that they are there!) You see, QT Pro is part of QuickTime Player, so you won’t find a unique application or interface for working with clips. Using QT Pro, you can convert clips to a number of formats, you can perform some minor editing, and you can even combine clips, creating a separate QT movie from the original you opened! You can encode clips using the H.264 and AAC codecs, which provide maximum quality at extremely small file sizes. More on this later… Even though most people would think that they are just in the standard QT Player while using QT Pro, looks can be deceiving… Let’s take a look at some of the most useful features of QuickTime Pro for web marketers.

Useful Features of QuickTime Pro:

Converting Video Clips to Other Formats (Transcoding Video Files)
So what can do with QuickTime Pro? The short answer is plenty! In my opinion, the most useful feature is its import and export capabilities. You can open a wide range of formats using QT Pro and then easily transcode them to other formats (convert them). Check out the technical specs page to learn more, but it’s a ridiculously handy tool to have around. You can easily convert your clips to a number of formats, including MPEG-4, AVI, QT Movies, DV Stream, etc. (See the screenshot listed below.)

Exporting video clips using QuickTime Pro (transcoding video).

The export feature is available for any format that QuickTime can open, and it can import quite a number of formats… So, if you needed a version of your video for mobile devices, for YouTube, for providing a downloadable version from your website, and on cd-rom, then QT Pro can help you… It can handle all of those tasks quickly and efficiently. Even though I have several professional level editing systems here, it’s sometimes easier to convert video in QT Pro. And yes, it's great for performing basic edits… On that note, let’s take a look at some of the basic editing features built into QuickTime Pro. Read on.

Basic Editing in QuickTime Pro:

Trimming Based on In and Out Points
Do you have 30 seconds of footage that you want to export from a 90 second clip? No problem, you can easily set the in and out points and then trim the clip. Just set the in and out points using sliders while in QT Pro (in the QT player) and then trim the clip by selecting Edit, Trim to Selection. You’re left with the 30 seconds you want to export… Then, export the clip in the various formats you require. Now, what about if you have two clips that you want to combine? Next feature please!

Trimming video clips using QuickTime Pro in and out sliders.

Combining Video Clips by Using Add to Movie
I actually just ran into this situation last week. I had 2 clips that I wanted to combine for a mobile version of a video. QT Pro lets you easily select the second clip and then add it to the first clip. Simply click Window, Show Movie Properties to bring up the Tracks Window. You can select the video and audio track and then click Extract. This will create a new movie containing the tracks you selected. Then click Edit, Select All. Then Edit, Copy. Go back to your original clip and set the playhead at the end of the clip. Then click Edit, Add to Movie and walla, the second clip has been added to the end of the first clip. Nice. Now you are ready to export the final combined clip to a number of formats. It’s a great feature, very simple but powerful.

Combining video clips using QuickTime Pro Add to Movie.

H.264 Video and AAC Audio
If you’ve dealt with video recently, you’ve probably heard of the H.264 codec. It’s an incredible video format (and part of the MPEG-4 standard), that gives you outstanding video quality at a low file sizes. H.264 can be used for web video, mobile video, cd-rom, etc. Whenever I need to upload a video to YouTube, I go with H.264 and I’m never disappointed. Simply open your clip, select File, Export. Then choose QuickTime Movie and select H.264 from the video codec menu. You can set the data rate, frame rate, frame size, etc. You can even add filters, deinterlace your video, etc. It’s fast and provides outstanding quality. You won’t be disappointed!

QuickTime Pro also let you encode your audio using the AAC codec, which also provides outstanding quality (rivaling uncompressed CD Audio) at small file sizes. It’s an extremely efficient audio codec and part of the MPEG-4 specification. As a side note, most of the music sold on the iTunes Music store is encoded using AAC. Enough said.

Back to Our Hypothetical Situation…
Let’s jump back to our hypothetical situation mentioned earlier to see how you would handle it with QuickTime Pro. Let’s say you were sent a 3 minute clip for your web video marketing project. You really just need 90 seconds of it. You will need a version for YouTube, a version for mobile devices, and a version for DVD-R for a presentation. It ends up that the clip was exported from Final Cut as a self contained QT movie. You open the clip in QT Pro and set the in and out points to the 90 seconds you want. You trim the clip by selecting Edit, Trim Selection. You are now left with just the 90 seconds you want. Next, click File, Export and you are presented with the Export Dialog Box. Let’s start with the H.264 version for YouTube. You want the highest quality file, so set the data rate, frames per second, and audio encoding properly (the actual settings depend on a number of factors. Maybe that's another post!) Select H.264 as the video encoder for video and AAC for audio. Export your clip to a directory on your hard drive.

Now let’s tackle the mobile version. Select export to iphone, which provides a great format for mobile. The file will be an .M4V and can easily be transferred to your iphone or blackberry. Now, let's say there was a 10 second video clip with a call to action edited late in the game. You just grabbed the 10 second clip and want to add it to the first clip, which will give you a final, 100 second video. No problem. QuickTime Pro to the rescue! Open the original clip and click View, Movie Properties. Select the video and audio tracks by control clicking each track in the window and click Extract. Go back to your first clip and position the playhead at the end of your video file. Then click File, Add to Movie. You’re done. Easy, right? Then export to whichever format you need…

QuickTime Pro Summary
In closing, although this post was just an introduction to QuickTime Pro, I hope you can see its power. It’s definitely a great weapon to have in your web marketing arsenal. It has saved me numerous times… Now, it won’t replace your editing software like Premiere or Final Cut, but it’s still a great tool to have around (especially at the $30 price point)! It does a great job for quick edits, opening several formats, and then exporting or transcoding to a number of other useful formats. It just may save your marketing campaign some day. :-)


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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Setting Up Your Google Maps Listing, Make Sure Your Business Shows Up In Google Local Search

Google Local Business Center, Google Maps ListingI don’t know about you, but I often find myself helping people with web marketing when I least expect it. This past Sunday was a good example. We went to buy my daughter a new mattress at a store located a few miles from our house. During the process of collecting my contact information, the salesperson (an older gentlemen), explained that they really want to advertise more in local neighborhoods, especially in a down economy. At this point, my wife knew a mini consulting session was going to take place. :-) So I told him what I do for a living and quickly explained some ideas for local marketing. One of the items that really piqued his curiosity was a Google Maps listing (using Google Local Business Center). Based on how excited he was to set that up and how many small business owners are confused with what a local listing actually is, I thought it would be a valuable blog post to tackle. And, here it is!

What is a Google Local Business Listing (or Google Maps Listing)?
When you search for a local business, Google may return a one box result listing up 10 local businesses along with a map. The title of that one box will read, “Local business results for {your search term} near {the location you entered}.” Please see the screenshot below based on a search for movers in Princeton, NJ. The 10 businesses you see listed were either entered by the business owners themselves or provided from external sources like various yellow page listings. You can click through to their websites or click the link for “more” or for “reviews” to access additional information about each business. When you click through to more information, you are actually taken to the Google Maps listing. Here, you can read reviews (if there are any), view an overview of the business, print a coupon (if the business set up any), view photos and video (more on this later), and view webpages associated with the business. And of course since you are in Google Maps, you can view a detailed map of the business location and get directions (just like you normally would in Google Maps.)

Google Local One Box Results

So you probably have one big question now…how do I get one of those listings? You’ll be happy to know that it’s both easy and free. Can you beat that?

Setting Up Your Google Local Business Center Account:
First, go to the Google Local Business Center and log in with a Google account. You will obviously want to add your first listing at this point by entering all of the required information. There are 5 tabs of information that Google will collect at this point. I highly recommend being as thorough as possible…this can only help you. A preview of your listing can be seen on the right side of the page. Note, if you have multiple locations and don’t want to add each by hand, then you can use a bulk upload to add all of your locations via a spreadsheet. This is a great way to go and can save you a lot of time. Now back to adding your first listing.

The 5 tabs are:

1. Required Information
This is your basic company information, including address, phone numbers, email addresses, website URL, and company description. Make sure you provide a detailed description.

2. Category
You can enter various categories that your business falls under. It’s important to target these categories as much as possible. Try and find categories that directly fit what you do. I know that sounds obvious, but I think people can rush through this step and not accurately tell Google what they do, which can affect their relevance to targeted searches.

3. Hours and Payment
Depending on your specific business, this may or may not be important. If you run a local business that has a storefront, then you can enter your hours Mon-Sun. Then you can enter the payment types you accept at your business.

4. Photos and Video
Let’s start with photos. Google Maps enables you to upload up to 10 photos for your business. As a small business owner, this is a great way to show off your storefront, yourself, and your employees. Think about it…many people searching for local businesses might ultimately have you come out to see them (plumbers, carpenters, landscapers, etc.) This is a great way to put them at ease… You can also provide up to 5 YouTube videos for your business. This is phenomenal way to speak directly to your prospective customers, show them what you do, provide customer testimonials, etc. Again, removing doubt from the minds of your potential customers. I highly recommend using both photos and video.

5. Custom Attributes
Google enables you to add custom attributes for information that doesn’t fall into one of the other tabs. For example, you can add “Areas Served”, “In Business Since”, “Specialties”, etc. You can also create your own attributes to fit your specific business.

Entering your business information in Google Local Business Center

Provide a Coupon
You can provide coupons in your Google Maps listing that customers can print out and bring to your business. Depending on your line of business, coupons are another great way to attract more customers. Google provides a form that you can fill out with the details of your offer and the coupon will show up within your local listing under the tab for “Coupons”. Easy enough!

Providing a coupon in your Google Maps listing.

Reviews and Ratings
Google aggregates content from a number of sources and you will find reviews from several websites. My recommendation is to reach out to your customer base and ask them to review your business. Google also enables customers to review a business right from your local listing. If you click the tab for “Reviews”, you will see a link for “Write a Review”. You can provide a title, a rating, and then your review. But like I said earlier, Google will also provide reviews from a number of third party websites. For example, I’m looking at a review from CitySearch now for a local pizza restaurant in my area.

Once You Submit Your Google Maps Listing…
You will need to verify that you are the owner of the business. You can do this in 2 ways (in the US). Google can either mail out a postcard to your business address or you can verify via phone. When I signed up a few years ago, I don’t believe that phone verification was available, but I would obviously choose that due to speed… The postcard will have a PIN that you will need to enter in your account to complete the verification process. There is also an SMS verification system, but at this point, it’s for non-US businesses. Once you are verified, your listing will be submitted and it will take a few weeks to show up in Google Local results. Note, Google says it can take up to 48 hours to show up after verification, but I don’t believe that I’ve seen it happen that fast. After your listing is live, any updates to your information can take 4-6 weeks (for example, if you needed to update any of the tabs in your listing).

How are the results ranked in Google Local?
First, Google isn’t going to give you the exact formula, but the listings are ranked by a combination of relevance to the search terms entered and proximity to the location searched for. Google’s algorithm determines which businesses rank highly for local searches (in their one box results and in Google Maps), so it’s not as simple as distance from the location searched for. For example, Google may rank a business higher that’s further away from the geo searched for if it finds that it’s more relevant to the search terms. Test it out…I’m sure you’ll find some interesting results. :-)

In closing,
I highly recommend you take control of your local listing in Google Maps. It’s free, can show up for targeted local searches, and enables you to provide a wealth of information about your business to prospective customers. With the ability to add photos and video, you’ve got a virtual salesperson working 24/7. Does anyone have a Google Local success story? I’d love to hear how a Google Maps listing has worked for your business.


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