Saturday, December 26, 2009

By any other name...Can you label yourself?

Last night, an aunt of mine told me she had been reviewing my "web site" -- did she mean my blog, my Twitter profile, my Facebook profile? I am still at a loss for which online presence to which she was referring. Regardless, she had one problem with my bio. After 30 minutes of discussion about what countries I have been to in 2009 and which ones I plan to fly out to in 2010, she said "Erin, you simply cannot call yourself a 'jet-setter.'" She informed me that it was perfectly acceptable and - in fact - honorable to be called a jet-setter by others, but to label one's self such a thing was a bit - I don't know, pretentious? I don't recall her exact adjective. I think, in fact, she avoided telling me that self-labeling was anything in particular. She simply implied that it was a massive faux-pas.

It immediately reminded me of how we are all falling into the same trap when we call ourselves a "social media guru" or "social media expert." How much can we label ourselves and get away with it? I used to be able to call myself an online marketing specialist or "online marketing consultant" and all was well. Now that I'm getting more specific with things, is there a threshold of, say, speaking appearances or consulting gigs I must land before I can call myself an expert in social media marketing? Is there a certain number of miles I must obtain - a la George Clooney in "Up in the Air" - before I can call myself a "jet setter?" Is being Platinum on American Airlines' Advantage program enough?

Is it really faux pas to label one's self? Where do we draw the lines?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How to deal with negative social media sentiment

At the Integrated Marketing Summit last week in downtown St. Louis, I attended a session called "Twitter Basics and Beyond Workshop" in which Mark Aaron Murnahan spoke about how to use Twitter to monitor brand mentions and engage followers. He did a pretty good job and took questions at the end.

One of my favorite moments of any marketing conference occurred at this point. An attendee raised her hand and asked: "What should we do if we're seeing a lot of negative comments about our product?"

Mark paused. He recommended that she take a customer service approach and reach out to each individual to see how she can help to improve their experience. Great response, except that...well...

"We can't," she responded. "We don't really have any control over the product. We can't make it...better," she said reluctantly. Everyone in the room had a puzzled face and turned to pay more attention to where this was going.

Mark asked her to tell us more about the product.

"Well..." she hesitated, "It's the St. Louis Rams."

While the room of attendees muffled their giggles, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach. Having attended quite a few home games this year, I know just how bad the "product" really is. She later called the team the "on field product" -- an important distinction actually, given that the brand consists of much more than just the current team's stats, which will be something to keep in mind later in this post.

So, Mark seemed a little stumped. I'm going to be honest. It could've been that he felt a little bit out of place being from the Kansas City area and now needing to address someone about St. Louis sports, but he's much more savvy than that. I think he was preparing his response when I jumped in with a thought. Raising my hand, I offered her a little bit of advice, and I'll elaborate on that point here.

She is right. There is nothing that she can do to make the on-field product better. When we take on roles in social media or marketing, we choose the product we're willing to promote day in and day out on the day we accept the job offer. Sometimes that product changes - getting a lot worse (St. Louis Rams) or a lot better (like MonsterCommerce, the online shopping cart software and its related services did from 2004 - 2007 while I worked there.) We take that risk.

Now, as marketers or public relations professionals (note: I believe social media marketing is turning a lot of "marketers" into PR folks by nature of the beast, but that's another post for another day), we are now responsible for monitoring brand mentions across all social media sites. And we now sleep even less than we did before because complaints, spur of the moment business opportunities, demands and customer needs can come flying across Twitter at any moment of the day. If your organization hasn't split social media roles into "customer service" and "marketing", then you have to be both reactive and proactive, taking care of customers on every whim as well as putting out great content, promotions and personality that compels and engages - building brand loyalty and affinity over time (not to mention leading to sales/leads).

This is our challenge. Working in social media for the Rams simply compounds the difficulty.

Often, reacting to negative sentiment such as what you see in this screen capture of a few tweets after the December 13th loss can risk adding fuel to the fire.

Instead, my primary recommendation is to find and focus on the positive influencers across Twitter for your brand. If your brand or product is popular enough to have a lot of people tweeting about how terrible it is, there have got to be some who like it. In the case of the St. Louis Rams, you have a sports team with an esteemed history of super bowl wins, all-star players like Kurt Warner, and a city that is not made up solely of fair-weather fans. St. Louis sports fans are pretty notorious for their loyalty to their teams. So, it didn't take me long to find someone on Twitter who not only created a St. Louis Rams "UNOFFICIAL" account on Twitter, decked out with a pretty solid-looking background. On top of that, this Twitter user seeks out any sports article with a positive spin about the Rams and polls his followers on their favorite players on the team.

He/she also has almost 3,000 followers, and the account owner engages with their followers regularly with @ mentions! That's a pretty significant and decently engaged voice in social media. Unfortunately, this person has not tweeted anything since November 29th, and yet the Rams have lost something like two games since then. Dear Rams Social Media Manager: It's time to get this person tweeting again by reaching out to them, find others just like this one (Another fan here is tweeting daily and has almost 5,000 followers), and get the positive conversations going. It doesn't mean you're going to keep people from tweeting "Rams suck" after each loss, but I firmly believe that in light of your lack of ability to change the product, empowering your fans to remain active is the only thing you can do. You can continue to tweet positive messages from the official Rams account, but we all know that third party endorsements are more effective.

I also recommend finding other "products" affiliated with the on-field product (the team) that will drive attendance, participation and positive brand sentiment (assuming those are some of the KPIs by which your job performance is measured). Examples would include talking about the awesome suites available at the Edward Jones dome, videos and content about the experience of attending the games - from the nice facility to the food and drink available to the kids entertainment and nearby restaurants. Essentially, you are event marketing - selling the experience (aside from the disappointment that inevitably comes at the end of the games). Also, find places online where people are talking about the charity involvement, past player awards, commemoratives, memorials, special pre-game events - anything at all that the organization is, in fact, investing their time and money in. Give these items a little boost with social media as well.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Twitter lists: Like link popularity, they help gauge relevance and popularity

I attended the Integrated Marketing Summit in St. Louis last week. I hung around afterward a while talking with David Siteman Garland (@TheRiseToTheTop)of The Rise to the Top fame, as well as quite a few other St. Louisans passionate about Social Media. The summit, although designed to address the integration of all channels and media in marketing, instead largely focused on Twitter and social media strategy. This makes sense given the current popularity of the industry but more importantly, from my perspective, the relative lack of understanding about how to leverage social media for business benefit.

My background is in SEO, so to understand the emerging rise in popularity of social media, I am often taken back to my early days in SEO. I consulted small businesses on "What SEO is" and what it takes to get top search engine rankings. At the time, explaining link popularity was one of the most complex concepts to address, but it was such a critical piece of SEO success. In order to show the search engines that your site is important and should be ranked highly for your desired search terms, you need to focus on obtaining as many links to your site as possible (quantity) as well as ensure that these sites are also as popular and as relevant to your industry as possible (quality). The more links you have, the more popular your site will be in the search engines.

In a very similar way, you can use lists to which Twitter users belong in order to determine the popularity, relevance and legitimacy of someone before you follow them, or when looking across your Twitter network to identify experts and influencers - for any purpose. Take, for example, David's Twitter account. He has been included on 215 lists! If I click on "listed" in the right column of any user's profile, I can see what those lists are, and Twitter even bolds the list title so that I can get an idea of what David is all about. As I browse just the first 15 or 20 list names, I can tell David is a "social media marketing" guy who knows "business finances" and is either a "entrepreneur" or works with entrepreneurs (both!). He is a "small business blogger" who "Tweets" and also lives in "St. Louis, MO". Oh, and if you've ever met David, you'd already know he's quite the "conversationalist!"

While a large portion of Twitter users continue to spam their way to as many followers as possible in order to look important, the rest of us might consider shifting our attention on the one thing that is more difficult to spam: Lists. You can add as many followers as possible to your account and assume a reasonable % will follow you back, but you can't as easily ask hundreds of people to add you to their lists. It's a much more natural gauge of popularity. Plus, it's a new enough feature on Twitter that I am certain this insight will change as the features, functionality and ever-organic and evolving use of Twitter by its users grows. Lists are something to keep your eye on.

Big thanks to @TheRisetotheTop for contributing to these insights about Twitter lists.

See also: How to Use Twitter Lists (Mashable)

Monday, November 23, 2009

How does the Internet see you? Mapping your digital history

Ever "Google yourself?" Aaron Zinman of MIT created a tool that analyzes all of the content surrounding your full name on the Internet and then tells you what "personas" you fit into. He makes the point on his site that "Digital histories are as important, if not more important, than oral histories." Wow, that's a pretty bold statement, but one that I'm starting to agree with more and more over time.

If you're not familiar with the concept of "personas" in marketing and user experience, here's a definition from Wikipedia:
Personas are fictional characters created to represent the different user types within a targeted demographic that might use a site or product. Personas are useful in considering the goals, desires, and limitations of the users in order to help to guide decisions about a product, such as features, interactions, and visual design.
Here's my persona profile generated by the tool. I have to say I agree mostly with the assessment.

You can get a lot more information on the MIT Personas Project here.

I imagine this tool works best on unique names, like mine. I think there's an Erin Eschen in Florida, but this one picked up on my content primarily. If your name is "John Smith," you're probably not going to get anything out of it. Additionally, if you're not one to put much out there publicly online, it isn't likely to give you much back.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Online and Social Media Marketing:A primer for Certified Public Accountants

I spoke at a CPA breakfast yesterday and wanted to share with you my slides. I recommended SEO and trying out Twitter, which would be my recommendation to all small businesses or independent professionals.

The focus of this presentation centered around three areas:
  1. Search engines >> index Web sites
  2. Local search directories >> index business listings
  3. Social media sites >> index conversations

Friday, November 6, 2009

Asked to present social media strategies at CPA Speaker Series in St. Louis next week

I received a call today from St. Louis Community College. They've asked me to present at a private breakfast for accountants in St. Louis. It's next Thursday.

I'll be presenting on how to leverage social media to grow your business as an independent professional-- a sort of "What is Twitter" or "How do I get a website?" type of presentation about the basics, but I want to make sure it provides real value, as this is a professional community in St. Louis for which I have a lot of respect and admiration. It will be tough to skim it down to 1 hour and accomplish that goal, but I certainly will try. I really enjoy speaking and educating about online marketing any chance I get.

From the info they sent me:
This series of breakfast lectures is designed to assist CPAs who are in private practice as well as those in corporate staff positions. The lectures will help CPAs achieve their required Continuing Professional (CPE) units. The topics will be relative to the interest and needs of CPAs and will be "taught by recognized experts."

-- Posted from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Call for Writers in St. Louis, MO - Opportunity to Build Your Portfolio

I recently began doing some work for REBUS - St. Louis, a division of the St. Louis Ad Club. I am their Online Communications Manager, and we are set up and ready to ramp up our social media presence and blog content. Here's a call I'm putting out to all writers in St. Louis, MO - especially young/green professionals looking to enhance their portfolio, build their reputation online, and learn from others.

Writers in St. Louis, MO: Are you looking to enhance your portfolio? Want to be a blogger without having to worry about growing a following? Want to write about what interests you in marketing, advertising, creative, social media, and the world of copy and messaging? REBUS St. Louis is a fast-growing network of young advertising professionals in St. Louis, MO, sponsored by the AdClub of St. Louis. We've recently launched a blog at that we will be promoting at monthly events and across social media outlets online. If you're passionate about your industry and want to grow your online professional reputation, become a blogger with REBUS. Please contact us. We have immediate openings available.

Additional details:
We currently do not pay for content, but the blog is lead by social media experts and online advertising gurus working at St. Louis agencies, and we're all looking forward to working with you to put out compelling and relevant content about local events, professional experiences and industry trends. We'll post your name and photo next to each of your posts and get links posted on Twitter, Facebook and other places where we have hundreds of followers. Get your name out there, and join our team!

To apply:
Email me with your name, phone number, email address, LinkedIn URL or resume, as well as 3+ writing samples by November 15th. We will be in touch shortly after we hear from you.

Get connected. Get Hired. Secure your next full time marketing or IT job

I just received an email this morning from a colleague who is looking for full-time employment. I've been getting contacted by friends and connections quite often lately looking for advice, a recommendation or a connection. I realized that my reply to this friend this morning may be beneficial to anyone in the St. Louis job market looking for a job - or possibly any market where the desired job is in online/social media, marketing management, search marketing, advertising, IT project management or similar (some of the areas in my professional background, as I can't speak to the others as much).

The email said:
Hey!  How goes it?  I enjoy following your tweets and it seems like you are in a good place lately. I'm actually looking for full time work, any ideas? I wasn't sure if there were opportunities where you work or if you know of anyone else in the industry looking for help. I figured you'd be a good person to ask.  Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

Here was my reply - abridged to protect the innocent:

  1. Get introduced to [people who I know that are very well-connected in St. Louis and enjoy helping companies find good talent and good talent find enjoyable jobs. I can name names privately, but I have to want to introduce you first.] ;-)

  2. Get the scoop on which companies in St. Louis are hiring in online marketing/advertising and internet jobs. There are quite a few agencies that I could name, but you can figure it out just by doing a job search. From my personal perspective, October/November is a great time to be looking for a job in our field in STL. For whatever reason, now that summer vacations are over and people are holed up in their offices away from the cold and rain -- what's with all this RAIN!? -- marketing/IT hiring managers are looking at year end forecasts and into 2010 and saying, "Where's my talent? I need new talent!" I have seriously heard this from multiple hiring managers in the past few weeks. Get out there. They're looking for you! Once you identify the companies that need talent like yours, start repeating the company's name to yourself day in and day out like a crazy person, and then follow these remaining steps...

  3. Update your resume and shoot me one so I can see all your skills and see if there's any way I can help. More importantly, get a professional's opinion on it. Find a recruiter in your field who doesn't mind spending 5-10 minutes giving you a critique, and if you respect this person, you'll do everything they say without hesitation.

  4. This should probably be number one on the entire list: Update your LinkedIn profile, and start asking for more recommendations. Get keywords galore into your profile. Add yourself to groups on LinkedIn that are geographically local and/or industry relevant. Follow posts on those group boards and comment back with insightful, professional opinions -- add value. (Shoot me a request for a recommendation, and if I've worked with you and think you worked hard, I'll probably write you one too.)

  5. If your goal is to work in social media or online marketing, or if you have a technological skill set that is very specific and valuable, start and maintain a personal blog. Post a minimum of 3 times per week (I know I am guilty of not meeting this requirement, but I'm not looking for a job), and make it clear from your LinkedIn and Twitter that on this blog, it's YOU providing the content/insights. Keep it professional and remember that every word you say will be seen by the recruiters and hiring managers making their decision later. Tweet your blog posts, engage with people on Twitter, and you may be surprised when someone reaches out to you on Twitter and says: "I really enjoy your blog posts and Twitter comments. I know someone looking to fill a position that you may be interested in..."

  6. Consider making a Google Profile and/or a Google Site all about your resume and experiences.

  7. Make it your new full-time job to conduct a new keyword search on job search engines (a minimum of and and make it your personal goal to find 3 new jobs per week that you'd really enjoy doing. There will be others you find that you'd grade a notch lower in desirability - and still apply to those! But every time you apply to the really desirable ones, check your LinkedIn network for anyone you know who knows someone who works there. Ask them to recommend you for the position.

  8. Send paper copies of your resume, always customize a cover letter, and make a reproduction of your personal portfolio to mail it to every job you really, really want. Put it all in a nice resume folder, and FEDEX it overnight to the hiring manager or recruiter the day you apply. If you do not customize your cover letters, I don't care how many people tell me that they don't read them or the fact that I barely scanned them myself when hiring 35 people in one summer a few years back (I reviewed upwards of 300+ resumes & cover letters in 3 months time), the point is, if you didn't write one and customize it to "moi" then you don't care enough. End of story.

  9. Make your own business cards if you don't have them already, and start going to local networking events and any other relevant club meetings in the area. Here are some I suggest:

Do you have additional ideas about how to find your next full-time, long-term career opportunity?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Teaching SEO & Social Media Marketing Courses at St. Louis Community College, Spring 2010

I have mentioned this to many friends and colleagues, but now I'm starting to nail down details and times for the classes I will be teaching at St. Louis Community College - St. Louis, Meramec Campus. The school is at Big Bend and Geyer in Chesterfield. The costs will be low and the courses are open for anyone to attend, since they are part of the Continuing Education program in conjunction with the college's Digital Arts & Technology Alliance.

Right now, the lesson plan, dates and times are under review, and once approved, I will teach 6 total classes, 2 per topic (you'll attend both for the topic if you register - the lesson is split over two week days). If registration is high and the classes go well, the school will work on placing them into their undergraduate credit course catalog for future semesters. The way I see it, anyone in St. Louis who is looking to increase their skills in SEO, social media marketing for business or email marketing (and would like to spend a few Spring evenings with me!) should take these classes. If you've worked with me in the past, I think you'll expect to see me deliver a comprehensive and strategic overview of each area along with valuable, actionable tips and tricks of the trade. Registration for these courses will be available very soon. Please contact me directly if you have any questions or if you want me to email you once registration is open.

Tentative Dates

Social Media Marketing: Mondays 2/22 and 3/1
Email Marketing: Wednesdays 2/17 and 2/24
Search Engine Optimization: Wednesdays 4/7 and 4/14

All classes will be 6:30 - 9:30 pm (also tentative).

Course Description:
Using Social Media Marketing to Promote Your Business Online
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have active communities where your potential customers and business partners are networking and sharing information. Many traditional methods of making deals or puchasing products have begun to happen online. Learn how you can use social media sites to join these conversations, build your brand, establish and maintain your company's reputation and ultimately get more leads or sell more products. Learn how to define a strategy that will work for your business and how to select the right resources to get involved in social media in an impactful and effective way.

- Blogs and unique web site content
- Twitter and micro-blogging
- Facebook and MySpace
- YouTube, online videos and photos
- Establishing a social media strategy: goals and objectives
- Defining a social media action plan and standards

Email Marketing Strategies for Successful Businesses
Discover best practices for effective email marketing (not spamming). Become more successful with your email marketing campaigns by learning how to select effective software, create compelling designs, and write pursuasive copy. Learn how to personalize email marketing campaigns, select the right days and times to send them, and ultimately increase the number of recipients who open your emails and the percent of those who click or take action. (You do not need to know HTML to attend this class, but some basic HTML concepts may be covered.)

- CANSPAM Email marketing laws and regulation
- Newsletters and marketing messages
- Building, selecting and segmenting lists
- Managing opt-ins and opt-outs
- When to send emalis
- Writing compelling copy
- Designing HTML emails

Optimize Your Small Business Website for Search Engine Rankings
To increase targeted traffic to your company's web site, you need high rankings in search engines like Google and Yahoo. Learn how major search engines read web sites and how they determine where to rank your site in search results. This class on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will cover a complete process for optimizing your site: selecting the right keywords, analyzing your competitors, writing optimized copy, optimizing code, submitting your site, and obtaining links. (You do not need to know HTML to attend this class, but some basic HTML concepts may be covered.)

- Analyzing Goals
- Selecting the right keywords
- Studying the Competition
- HTML and Technical Analysis
- Optimizing content
- Obtaining links to your site
- Ranking report software
- Web Analytics

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I need to spend more time on FriendFeed!

So, recently I've been posting in my blog about social media and then tweeting even more about it. As a result, my Twitter followers have climbed to surpass 600 (I was at something like 350 a few weeks ago), and I just took a look at my Feedburner stats over the past week. I have a "respectable" number of subscribers to this blog, and so I found the data to be pretty telling.

First off, the green line to the right is my number of subscribers. So you can truly see that this has jumped only in the recent past.

The blue line is "reach", which I have yet to look into with Feedburner, but I'll post more on that later.

Next up is Feedburner's analysis of the types of feed readers that my subscribers are using.

Wow! Shock to me. I had no idea that FriendFeed had an integration with Google's Blogger platform. Here's what happened:

My FriendFeed login is my Google account, and my Blogger blog is tied to that. So really, people are subscribing to my FriendFeed, and as a result they will "see" when I post a blog post because it will show up in my FriendFeed, but they are not necessarily subscribing to the blog content - to the blog's RSS feed - itself.

Anyone else out there spend much time on FriendFeed, or, more relevantly, do you have a Blogger account tied to your FriendFeed, and what are you seeing in your FeedBurner (or similar) analytics?

And by the way, what is PubSub? The site says it is "undergoing development"...then, how are people subscribing to my feed using it?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter, speaks at St. Louis' Webster University

I really enjoyed watching the live broadcast of Jack Dorsey's speech at Webster University. I typed out a lot of the quotes that really stuck with me and also took some additional notes of concepts below. I think these notes serve as a good recap of the event. Jack is simply a wealth of information and insight into many areas: mobile messaging, instant messaging, social behavior, product development, product management, product marketing, product support, user experience....Wow! (photo courtesy of friend, Jordan Koene, @jtkoene)
  • "If you have immediacy, it's a lot easier to inspire transparency."
  • "Health is the most precious thing we have as human beings....and it needs innovation."
  • "The greatest lesson that I learned in all of this is that you have to start." "Start now, start here, and start small. Keep it Simple."
  • "I am burdened every day by email. It is a nightmare. I will go back tonight to 500 emails which are, basically, TO DO's that I hvae to work through. This is an area where we've lost the idea of keeping a singular focus and a way to be effective. There are times that I have to give up because I can't keep up with it." 
  • "Twitter is one of those things that's easy to get into and also easy to get out's more of an information network...completely recipient controlled." Because it's 140 characters, you minimize the canvas size.
  • "Twitter doesn't make any money right now. In fact it has no revenue." But this is a risk because we're building a utility. "People build products on top of utilities. People build products on top of utilities." 
  • "We raise money to be patient enough so that we can recognize when there's a model that speaks to the entire network." 
  • "The company, right now, today, is trying a bunch of different models."
  • "Google also, for 5 or 6 years, had no revenue. It waited. It tried a bunch of things, and then it built a revenue model that spoke to what the product is doing, which is returning search results."
  • "We wanted to evoke a physical sensation with the name."

One of the times where immediacy has compelled him most was when Barack Obama gave his speech to Congress while legislators like Claire McCaskill tweeted the event. He said he has never felt more close to his own government.

He was able to get the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq on Twitter, and (more importantly) he updates 3 times per day. His updates were direct, frank and they connect people. It helped to solve the issue of the Iraqi people not trusting their government.
"If you're allowed to have communication with a head of state like that, and you feel that things are being taken care of, you can start taking risks." The Iraqi people can begin starting companies, going to school and doing more with their lives publicly and in trust with their government.

Because our government and the government of Iraq have adopted these technologies in the process of democracy, he feels this is one of the greatest things ever.

He said the two greatest industries that stand to benefit from micro-blogging and the immediacy and transparency of them are: 1) Health Care, and 2) Finance. He said there's too much ambiguity in finance (banking, etc.) that needs to be brought into the open. He said that the body is one of our most precious assets and that this massively complex and fragile system needs innovation.

Company name started as twitch because it was founded on SMS messaging - your phone would buzz when you got any tweet. Noah, one of the co-founders, searched the TW's in the dictionary as an inspiratoin from twitch.

The definition of "twitter" by Oxford English dictoinary at the time was a "short, inconsequential burst of information. Chirps from birds."

Follow: @jack | @websteru | @websteru_biz | @webstersoc

Monday, September 14, 2009

Following St. Louis events and restauarants on Twitter

One of the things I enjoy most about Twitter is when one of my connections tells me about something going on in St. Louis, MO that I might be interested in participating in - like a festival, concert, special event, even drink specials....and often they are at restaurants or in a hot spot like the Loop, Clayton, Mapelwood, Central West End or down on Washington Avenue - some of my favorite places in St. Louis.

Over time, I've found a few businesses who are tweeting, and I follow them. I often get early notice about deals, bands, or other events as a result. If you're like me, here's a list of those companies I recommend following. I am sure there are many more, so if you have any additions, please mention @erine in a Tweet or comment to this post.

Also, if anyone has any tips for me on whether it's best to search Twitter for #STL or #StLouis or #SaintLouis or otherwise in order to find events/comments about things going on in town, please give me a shout!


The Muny in Forest Park
Fox Theater

Local Restaurants:

The Crossing in Clayton
Schlafly Brewery
Caito's Pizza in Chesterfield and Glendale
Feraro's Pizza in Soulard
Nadoz Cafe (on Lindell or at the Boulevard)
Robust Wine Bar in Webster Groves
Pi (pizza restaurant across from the Pageant) in U. City
Wave Taco on Washington
CJ Muggs in Clayton and Webster Groves
Llywelyn's in Soulard
The Wine & Cheese Place (more of a shop...four locations in STL)
Kaldi's Coffee
Araka Restaurant in Clayton, near the Ritz Carlton
Cicero's in the Loop

The newly renovated Hyatt in downtown STL

Scene STL
St. Louis Business Alliance

St. Louis Post Dispatch
Other St. Louis Post Dispatch Twitter Accounts
St. Louis Post Dispatch's Weather Bird (believe it)

St. Louis Magazine
Fox 2 News
Riverfront Times

Special Events:
St. Louis area trivia nights
Citypulse_stl : They tweet about drink specials for a lot of St Louis bars/restaurants

Some Chain Restaurants:
Pei Wei

I gathered a lot of these through the STL Twitter Group on Ning, of which I am a member. (Thanks!)
Note: This post does not contain any St. Louis area people who tweet (who tweet often and well, to be specific). To find a good list of those, I actually use a "StLouis" tag search on WeFollow and get pretty good results. How do you find local Twitter users who would be useful for you to follow (aside from Follow Fridays and retweets you see from current connections...)?

I always appreciate when Web sites that I frequent often - whether personal blogs or company sites - have a call-out (an obvious blue bird in a bubble or a short feed of recent tweets) to call my attention to their Twitter account. That's probably the most common way that I grow my network of those I follow online. Sometimes it's enough for me to follow even if I've only visited the site once but I see a call-out -- I'm just interested in seeing what companies are doing (or attempting to do) with Twitter. Of course we all agree that having a Twitter account just to have one and not doing anything with it is the worst!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Catching fly balls at Busch Stadium

Wednesday night, my boyfriend came up with the great idea of inviting our families to a St. Louis Cardinals game. My grandfather was invited, and he had not yet been to the new Busch stadium despite the fact that he's an avid Cards fan. He watches almost every single game.

My grandfather is 93 years old.

Around the 4th inning, my little brother began to joke with him about catching a foul ball and how odd the chances would be that the ball would happen to head to our section, directly behind home plate. Sure enough, within a minute of the comment, I heard a loud THUNK and looked back to see my family scurrying to see what had happened around them, and then my grandfather held it up high - the ball had landed right in our section, and Grandpa didn't let go of the ball the rest of the night. The ball had broken the television in our box seats and landed right at his feet. On top of all of that, the Cards then beat the Astros 3-2. His first night at the new Busch Stadium turned into his most memorable ball game ever - and the first ball he gets to take home to remember it by. It meant a lot to him.

I thought I'd take a moment's break from my usual musings about social media and online marketing and instead share this short story and some charming photos from a night that I will never forget, simply because he won't. And it's all thanks to the thoughtfulness and generosity of friends and family.

All of this combined with my grandfather's regular expressions of excitement or pensiveness as he attentively followed every play of the game, says a lot to me about America's favorite pastime. Baseball seems to have a life of its own in its ability to solidify positive memories, a winning and hopeful spirit, and bring teams, families and friends together.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Digital Shift in Online Marketing Engagement

Recently I've gotten very attached to two different blogs that I highly recommend to anyone who is in the online marketing/media space or simply loves the Seth Godin or Malcolm Gladwell style of thinking:
  1. TippingPoint Labs (a firm with, ironically, the same name as a book by Gladwell)
  2. (he posts pretty much every day with great insights)
**I subscribe to many more blogs than these, but these two have gotten me thinking about a lot lately. If you have any other recommendations that are similar to these, please shoot them my way. I'm particularly impressed with those for which an individual has made a name for him/her-self as a blogger capable of thinking strategically while also having very tactical & technical understanding of the online marketing or social media space.

So, my point in mentioning these two is that I was particularly compelled by a post I read this morning by Scott Loring of TippingPoint Labs regarding the importance of rethinking the traditional marketing space and forcing yourself, as a marketing professional (and especially as a marketing leader), to consider carefully the digital shift going on right now - a shift toward online conversation and engagement about brands and experiences that presents an opportunity for marketers to capture markets and grow a more loyal customer base - if done correctly.

The post is chock full of sound bytes that I want to share with you so that you understand where my mind is as I progress in my career. It is simply fascinating for me to observe the transition and evolution of marketing into an interactive and social opportunity that is out there, waiting to be understood and capitalized on properly! I definitely recommend you read Scott's article in full, but I'll catalogue the highlights here, as they fit so well with my first post from last week.
  • "News travels faster than ever, and the general, known information about a product or service is more immediate — and often more accurate — than ever."
  • "The penalty for non- or limited participation, even insincere participation, represents a potential opportunity cost greater than the cost of comprehensive engagement."
  • "The only way to extract value from the endless conversation that is the internet is to openly and honestly interact with it. "
The post goes on to say that the two worst things you can be doing right now, as a marketer, are:
  1. assume your target market isn't interacting online
  2. get involved in social media just to post links to press releases

"Non-participation represents a missed opportunity to build extremely valuable relationships with consumers."

This is a massive opportunity cost that's just waiting to go to your competitors if you sleep through it.

Don't just broadcast your company's news. Stop talking about "us" and "what we do" or "what we sell," and instead, advertise what you or your firm are capable of by naturally engaging in the conversation that's already going on in the social media space.

And so, I give you Erin's (so far) rules for social media engagement:
  • Start a conversation.
  • Participate in a conversation.
  • Share opinions and ideas.
  • Engage with customers and potential customers.
  • Network - recommend talent for positions, and connect with valuable colleagues.
  • Build a reputation around yourself or your brand by suggesting new ideas or expounding on what you read and hear - and more importantly, what you experience.
  • Show interest in others.
  • Help others become more successful. Give tips and suggestions.
  • Listen - respond to complaints or concerns from customers and fix the issues.
  • Be human - share personal stories and thoughts. Laugh. Make people laugh.

These are tactics to keep in mind as you embark upon your social media strategy, but I still recommend putting together a solid social media marketing plan first. This would consist of treating this medium like any other in answering questions like:
  1. In what social media spaces is my target market interacting?
  2. How is my target market using social media? What are they talking about? What is most interesting to them? (Find others who are capturing a lot of subscribers and followers, and become a "thought leader".)
  3. How much of my time (team time, vendor resources, consultants) should I invest to get into this space and to engage with the market properly (see above). Be ready to admit to yourself that if you cannot do it correctly, you may need to hire someone who can.
  4. What is my goal? Try to make it quantifiable. From my perspective, you can gauge success by placing a value on a single follower. If a follower (on Twitter) or friend (Facebook) or subscriber (to your blog) is worth the same as a quality lead, what would you be willing to pay for that lead elsewhere? Secondly, and measured separately from a follower or lead, if you can track, via Web analytics tools, conversion from social media sources to your own site and through to your desired conversion event, you can more easily place a value on the initial follower.
I am interested in hearing more about how companies, firms, agencies, and individuals (contractors, bloggers, etc.) have seen a lift in their sales and business that they can attribute to social media strategy. I recently met someone who told me he is experiencing a quantifiable and trackable lift of an additional $40,000 per year for his consultancy business.

I try to follow companies and individuals out there who have embraced this sort of opportunity and are doing really cool things with it. I will soon be writing up a post about some success stories that are pretty fascinating. If you know of any that stand out to you, please comment here or email me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Three critical traits of a successful interactive strategist

This is my first post. I'm excited to begin blogging about all things online marketing.

This post is inspired by all the people I've been meeting lately who are really smart and creative, doing very big things at agencies and on the client-side at some pretty impressive companies here in St. Louis.

I had a conversation at a REBUS event last night regarding what makes up a strong interactive strategy leader (online marketing, digital, interactive...interchangeable terms in my opinion, depending on who you're talking to). So to be a strong leader on either the client or agency side, in a role in which you are asked to be able to add value and contribute to a company's growth in a creative, measurable and tangible way, you must have these certain, expected abilities -- if you have them, you're likely to go much farther than others within an organization and in your online marketing career. So what are these characteristics?

Here are three simple traits I am able to list as critical, from my own perspective. Obviously there are more, so if you have additional ideas/suggestions, please post a reply below.
  1. Strategic thinking
    Every single day, if you are lucky enough to be presented with new clients, new projects, new campaigns, new needs or opportunities, you should be able think on your feet. Ask the right questions. Get curious. Make mental or physical notes as you go. Scribble and sketch. Brainstorm. Research. All of this will lead you to, either personally or as a strong contributor with a team, formulate a strategy that looks honestly and deeply at the problems or opportunities at hand and then generate solutions or a series of tactics that will capitalize on those opportunities and lead to growth. These ideas must be sound because the client or your boss can see a return on the investment of implementing these tactics. You can illustrate (either through a business plan that is documented or a presentation or just your ability to talk through it) the results expected. You have thought through each potential pit-fall, you have solved each problem, and you have developed a strategy that is more creative or effective than other agencies or individuals would be able to do in the given situation.

    "A strategic thinker has a mental model of the complete end-to-end system of value creation, his or her role within it, and an understanding of the competencies it contains."
    - Liedtka, J.M. (1998), “Linking Strategic Thinking with Strategic Planning”

  2. A respect and understanding of IT as well as marketing and how they come together.
    You do not have to have been a developer (although development experience may help), but having the ability to work well with IT specialists who code either Web sites or applications or manage databases - you name it - will make you much more valuable. More and more these days, interactive projects require a technical implementation, and then you're faced with more challenges within organizations, such as release cycles, quality departments, compliance and legal processes -- all the things that combine to create red tape. If you are the type of person who can cut that red tape with a big pair of scissors that we'll call "calm and assertive" (a la Cesar Millan's 'Dog Whisperer'), and deliver a respectful curiosity and patient understanding to each individual you need to work with to get things done, you're going to go far. You need to understand the basics of platforms, coding languages, databases and servers. If marketing wants a project done next week, but IT says it can't be done for 3 months, you can play the role of the negotiator if you can talk the talk. Find opportunities to make things more efficient or to shorten the speed to release by working well with IT professionals. Even if the tech-jargon is too much for you, make friends with developers - play nice. Make sure they know you respect and admire the work they do, and they will respect you too. At the same time, you should be managing the expectations of the business owner (marketing, for example) up front. By doing this, you will find you can under-promise and over-deliver more often.

  3. Natural, personal interest and curiosity in emerging technologies and industry trends.
    If you don't find yourself online when you don't have to be, subscribing to TechCrunch, tweeting at least 3 - 10 times per week or more, subscribing to RSS feeds, or you're the type of person who says "I don't get Facebook", you're not going to be very good at this part. In fact, if you're definitely sure you are the "I just don't get this Facebook thing" kind of person, you should get out of online marketing today - right now. The fact of the matter is that if you are a marketing professional, the new marketing is online. It's similar to the evolution of music (being distributed online), e-commerce (all products available online, not just brick-and-mortar anymore for a long time now), news (distributed online as subscriptions to paper-and-ink plummet) and just about everything else. It doesn't mean that offline is dead, of course. It just means that you have to evolve along with emerging technologies and try to stay ahead of the curve as much as you possibly can in an era in which everything is happening faster than ever before.

    If you respect that a lot of extremely creative, dynamic, compelling and effective marketing happens online - and a hell of a lot of it - and you force yourself to sign up for a Twitter account and start posting on Facebook walls so that you will "get it", then good job. At least you're trying. And here's why this post is about "traits" and I didn't call them "skills" because traits are often those things which happen natually or are innate in you, while skills can be honed and developed: If you're like me and you got excited at the news that Facebook acquired FriendFeed this week and you already knew what FriendFeed is because you've been using it for a while now, then you're going to be the type of person a client is going to be thrilled to be able to turn to when they realize they need to be "tweeting". Obviously it goes far beyond just knowing that you "need to be on Twitter" or "should have some sort of company presence on Facebook" - you have to know how to use social media to drive business growth, get leads, get sales, enhance customer loyalty - you name it. And yes, it really is possible - but that's another blog post for another day.

    Regardless, whether it's social media (such a big, all encompassing term as it is) or the latest and greatest in web site user experience, design (Flash, CSS, etc.) techniques, webinars, podcasts, e-books, online video, or even SMS (texting), you should care. You should be subscribing to magazines and feeds online so that you can be alerted to news in the industry as it happens and read long, well-thought-out analyses of changes in the market. Get yourself invested in the future of the industry that you're making a career in, and if you love doing it naturally, follow me on Twitter and let's get to know one another!
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