Thankful for the “Social” in Social Media Marketing

Photo of me with sign saying Thank You!Yes, it’s the week of Thanksgiving—a great time to reflect upon all that we are thankful for in life. Just the other day, I was thinking about the wonderful people I met through social media—through Twitter and Meetup.com.

If you’re interested in digital marketing, social media, podcasts, webcasts and even yoga, you’ll like meeting these people too.

Philly Marketing Labs graphicPhilly Marketing Labs—First, I met Skip Shuda and Bechara Jaoudeh (founders of Philly Marketing Labs) at their Main Line Internet & Social Media Marketing Meetup. A few months later, Skip asked me if I was interested in working with them, and a while later, I began working with them on a regular basis. These guys introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship (Bechara also owns BagelSpice), which really rejuvenated my career and opened up all sorts of options for me. They are SEO and digital marketing experts and they regularly share their knowledge with others. To them, I am forever grateful and I look forward to working with them again.

Through Philly Marketing Labs, I learned about and started volunteering with the nonprofit TechGirlz, which helps middle-school-aged girls get interested in and stay interested in tech. See founder Tracey Welson-Rossman’s recent interview for a quick look at the group.

I liked the Main Line Social Media group so much, I found another marketing meetup just starting up in Chester County a little over a year ago. The Chester County Marketing Group was run by Ryan Gerardi and Jeff Tincher, who immediately formed a core group of people (including me) to help keep the meetup group going.

Ryan has unending energy and works at HookLogic to help the automotive industry better use digital media marketing tools. He now lives in Michigan but still stays in touch. He also liked my blog, so we ended up working together as I wrote some posts for his websites: AutoConversion and AutoConverse. You’ll also see him still contributing on the Board of Advisors and as a Technology Coach with the Business Vision Network.

Jeff is a digital marketing know-it-all (in a good way!), who seems to be on top of every new trend and channel that appears in the digital space. The nice part is he is always so willing to share and help others get up to speed as well–see his 610 Digital site. Another cool thing is that you’ll see he always lists “Dad” as one of his key roles.

Carla Wilson is another fantastic person I met through the Chester County Marketing Meetup. She now co-organizes the group with Jeff, in addition to owning Wilson Media Services and being the president of the Delaware Valley Virtual Assistants Association. And she is a yoga teacher who recently put on the first Namas Day in Philadelphia. Check out the podcast/webcast she does with Mary Motz.

Philly Burbs WordPress Meetup logo designed by Liam DempseyI met Liam Dempsey through the Chester County Meetup too. He runs his own marketing and design firm and started the Philly ‘Burbs WordPress Meetup group with me helping. He’s smart, funny and works hard, but always has time to talk to others. Visit his Chicken-Monkey-Dog site and you’ll get a sense of his personality and sense of humor.

I have to mention Christina Strommer too—who, like me, just kind of stumbled upon these groups and keeps coming back. On Twitter, she’s @jamminpsu and describes herself as a “graphic designer/STEM advocate/gadget geek/literary junkie/music enthusiast. And a mom.” She is a friendly, interesting woman who is a NASA fanatic. I love learning from her too.

One of the reasons I decided to write this blog post this week is that these people, with whom I got together to talk marketing and how to further our own businesses while helping other people, have become friends of mine. Friends I really enjoy talking with and hanging out with. I am so thankful for their presence in my life.

Being connected with them has led me to all sorts of other fabulous connections, both meeting people in person and on Twitter. They’re too numerous to mention here, but I am so thankful for their friendship too. And I look forward to getting to know each one of them better in the new year.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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Personalization is Not About Data—It’s About People

Personalization, for e-commerce websites especially, is easy—at least, it should be. So why are so many sites so creepy in their tactics?

An online store is still a store. Too many business owners forget this.

Think about the way you’d treat a customer who walks into your store. Are you going to follow them and lurk around trying to overhear intimate details of their lives? Are you going to approach them in a loud and disingenuous way with a hard sell, sell, sell?

I hope not.

As a customer, don’t you love going into a store where the salespeople know your name? Where they can help you pick out things you like, with little effort because they’ve gotten to know your tastes and shopping habits so well?

This is the way online shopping should be. The technology is there now. The problem is owners are so focused on getting the right data, they forget there’s a human at the other end and that the goal is to build a relationship of sorts.

Am I simplifying this too much? I don’t think so, and Adobe’s 2012 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey results suggest I’m right. Lets take a look at some of their findings:

Most websites are designed to be relevant for a majority audience, but they are largely irrelevant to the individual visitor. Personalization technology enables marketers to understand the motivations and different interests of their audiences so that they can serve up the most relevant content and offers.

Most brick-and-mortar stores, especially big-box ones, are not relevant to the individual visitor—like websites. But the good ones make themselves relevant. The salespeople get to know the customers and are able to make their shopping experience more efficient and enjoyable so customers want to return.

Websites can do the same thing. Consider this next point from Adobe’s report:

Returning customers convert at higher rates when presented with targeted content that takes into account past purchases or browsing history. However, if the personalization is gimmicky or forced, then it can also disconnect those same consumers from the process.

Uh, duh. In person we’d react this way immediately, but online we somehow forget that we’re still dealing with the same customers—only the location has changed.

A customer walks back into a store after being there a few times, and the salesperson who has been paying attention during these previous visits says, “I have just the things for you. You’re going to love them.” And the salesperson gets the items and the customer likes them and gets out of there quicker. Plus, she refers her friends later.

Bloomingdales, Nordstrom’s, Amazon and Zappos. These are examples of stores that get it right. Emulate them.

Nordstrom Personal Shopper ad

You don’t want to be that cheesy stereotype of a salesperson and push your customer away with insincere sales-y slobber. And that’s often what happens on the web when you rely on data from another source.

Be patient. Gather organic data at your site and get to know your customer. If you’d like to hurry the process a bit, think about offering your customers a “serve you better” survey, in which you ask relevant questions about what types of decisions they make regarding products or services similar to yours. If you frame the survey as for their benefit rather than yours (which it is), more people will be willing to take it. (Just remember…be short and relevant.)

As Adobe says, “You can create the most relevant experience by leveraging expressed and implied information about an individual’s intent and interest that continues to evolve throughout a customer’s journey.”

What were the most important words in that quote?

If you didn’t say “relevant, evolve and journey,” go back and read this blog post again.