What’s your Twitter handle?

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Perhaps you don’t have a good handle on what Twitter really is and all the ways to use it?  (it’s ok really…we are all still learning).


Twitter is above all else a communications tool, a vehicle for any business or person to build buzz, discuss topics of interest with like-minded people, a place to engage in a conversation with your customers and colleagues, a customer service tool – and a way to increase reach much quicker than traditional media.

Unlike Facebook and other Social media channels, Twitter is about forming new connections with people you don’t necessarily know (or will ever know) in person.

Twitter can be used to push out content (new blog posts, articles of interest, photos and videos), to stay up to date on trends, and to drive awareness to brands and businesses, and most importantly – the people behind the brands.

Twitter’s greatest power, once you have developed a twitter tone, a good following – and you have figured out how to provide your followers with valuable, engaging content – is its ability to communicate quickly to large numbers of people.

Twitter is a great tool for crisis communications, live event, or CRM, for extending customer service online, and above all, a great tool for building brand personality and credibility.

Not a place for pushed out marketing messages, Twitter allows you to communicate and engage with your target audiences. Use twitter to draw attention to other places where your brand lives such as a company website, or Blog, or even your company Facebook page where there is more room for expanded messages.

You will need time and resources to set up and manage a good twitter account, and not having a Twitter strategy will certainly lead to poor ROI and possibly some mishaps along the way.

Twitter Tips:

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Make sure your Twitter handle – your Twitter name – mine is @Alicia_Whalen_  is reflective of your brand, and ensure the bio is more personalized to the Tweeter

Pick the right image for your profile pic.  This becomes how other Tweeter’s will recognize you in the newsfeed.  Brands should use Logo’s.

Be strategic when developing your tone – be conversational and add value to the ecosystem

Share and RT (re-tweet) newsworthy or quality content. It is a good practice to “return the favour” with re-tweets and thank those who RT your content

Use @username (the Twitter handle!) when referencing another person in Twitter


Mark positive feedback as “Favorites” by clicking the heart in Twitter, and retweet (RT) good content.

• In general, follow people who follow you – but not always. It is not about how many followers you have on Twitter – tweeters will look to who you follow as an indication of who you are.

Tweet interesting news and info related to your company and industry, and follow colleagues, industry associations and even competitors.

Twitter lists allow you to categorize Tweeps (Twitter people) and better organize how you follow their content

Use Hashtags # to index and label your content in Twitter. ie. #TwitterTips and #Socialmedia for this Blog post will ensure that this content will appear in a Twitter stream of content related to using Twitter – and may then be seen by more people

Set-up scheduled updates and manage your Social Media postings through tools like www.hootsuite.com or Sprout Social – or even through the Twitter APP.  You can manage comments and messages directed to you on the go easily with the Twitter App.

Monitor. Use tools like Sprout Social and Hootsuite.com – Twitter also now has analytics that show you the reach of your posts.  Deeper analytics are available for Ad posts or promoted posts within Twitter.

Twitter takes time and commitment but can open you up to brand fans, brand champions, and new customers far beyond traditional marketing communications channels.


Be authentic, show some personality, don’t sell, make sure to drive traffic back to your transaction point (your website, a phone number, email sign up, Blog etc) use Twitter as a part of your overall marketing communications strategy – and have fun – it is ‘social’ media after all!



Alicia Whalen  is a Speaker, Blogger, Entrepreneur  and Co-Founder of Hashtagio.com – The platform that harnesses the power of social and user- generated social content.  


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Wanted: Social Media Marketing Coordinator Paid Internship

We are looking for a ‘peep in training’ (student currently completing or enrolled in post secondary studies, with focus on Online Marketing and Communications) to join our team this summer as a Social Media Marketing Coordinator:


  • Fun loving
  • Open to new experiences
  • Not commitment phobic
  • Possess writing skills significantly greater than just the ability to send a text in under 10 seconds, in complete sentences
  • Resourceful at utilizing the Internet to find more than the latest update on Survivor
  • Independent. Not clingy or seeking that special someone to hand hold you all day
  • Would eagerly anticipate that a team call will include discussion on the latest YouTube rage
  • Recognize politics are best left to politicians and not the water cooler
  • Appreciate that the board room can sometimes be poolside


  • Ooze fun times while working hard
  • Believe all relationships should have learning’s
  • Able to offer a valuable experience to prepare you for after our time together is over
  • Respected for our ability to deliver the goods for our clients
  • Encourage growth and development to assist you on your career path
  • Recognized by industry associations with shiny awards that say we’re a company of our word and good at what we do
  • Possibly open to making this a long term arrangement if we all get along
  • Appreciate that the board room isn’t always poolside

Responsibilities include:

Facilitating updates to company and client social media sites, assistance in building social media communities on various social media sites, researching topics for company blog, and quarterly newsletter, assistance in writing blog topics with experience in SEO, web writing etc.

The not so fun administrative work may include:
Document task assignments from client work back schedules, and management of content in internal systems.  You might also have to make Coffee (it’s a Tassimo – no training required).

No Filing – we are a virtual company! (Bonus)

This internship will be paid, and you will be required to work out of Chick headquarters in Port Credit (Mississauga).  Not a bad place to spend the summer!  If you think you’re the kind of person who can excel in this environment then we’re a match made in heaven.

Please contact us via email with your resume and tell us why you are the one for us! We’re waiting to hear from you!

The Role of Social Media in Building a Business

I was recently invited to deliver the closing keynote at a Conference in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, dedicated to empowering women in business to use Social Networking to build their networks.

It occurred to me that although the purpose of the conference was to educate about how online networks like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook can help you build customers, build brand visibility and generate sales – the most effective way to really build your network is the good old fashion way – the handshake.

Conference attendees included Real-Estate Agents, Accountants, and Entrepreneurs with businesses ranging from Design and Marketing firm catering to small to mid size business, to a small business that has hit it big with ‘Snappy Socks’ – recently seen on the TV show Dragan’s Den.

I found it surprising that although all were from Swift Current Saskatchewan, and surrounding rural areas, many of them had never met in person, or were aware that there were others like them out there in the community.

As I and some of the day’s panelists told of our successes in using social media to connect, to build loyal customers – and to reach markets outside of our backyard’s, I was reminded that Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are really just tools that enable us to extend the handshake into conversation – online and off.

Social media allows us to start the conversation (before meeting), to continue the conversation (after meeting), and to ensure we are credible as business people.

During my presentation, I reviewed the story of A Couple of Chicks, a virtual Digital Marketing firm, specializing in marketing tourism online, developed a team of people, who are virtually located around North America – and have worked with hundreds of businesses over 6 years to develop their digital and web assets.

The reality is, it was not the social networks and the Google Rankings that lead us to where we are today, (Facebook was only a bunch of code on Mark Z’s desktop at the time), but it was the human connections that built this business.

Visibility and Fans/Followers in Social media channels, and success in achieving high search engine rankings merely solidify a person, or business’s credibility – much like published word in newspapers and articles did before there was the internet.

Real networking and sales will always be a combination of online and offline interaction with your target consumers – especially in a B2B business. What social networking has done is open up a more direct communications channel for B2C businesses who can use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others to deliver better customer service, and have a wider reach to new customers than ever before.

With our new digital world, ‘Snappy Socks’ (how brilliant are these! A snap to hold them together so you will never lose them again!) can be purchased and enjoyed by customers all over the world, who love not only the socks but the brand personality behind it.

I was inspired by the organizers of the event  who had the vision to bring this group together, provide them with the opportunity to network, share stories and feel part of a community, so that they could feel empowered to start building and extending their networks online. I wish them happy tweeting and liking and I am looking forward to hearing the success stories that come out of the inaugural event.

QR codes and Mobile Apps: What can they do for Destination Marketing?

First I must define yet another acronym and piece of digital technology that has been sprung upon us as of late to “help” us as marketers connect with our customers.  Help it will – if properly adopted as a technology to achieve conversion – and not simply a cool thing to add to a travel guide just because we should

By definition according to Wikipedia, a QR code or “Quick Response” Code is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. Simple enough right?

A QR bar code looks like this:

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Users scan the code into a smartphone (QR code readers are either built in or are a free app download) and they are taken to a web based landing page or mobile app.

As a marketer, the worst thing you can do is to simply send a QR code link directly to a website – and even worse, a website that is not mobile friendly.

(ok so the QR code example above when scanned goes directly to the acoupleofchicks.com website…we did that on purpose to show you what NOT to do…and we had a contest page that was out of date but you get the point).

QR codes will certainly revolutionize what we can do as marketers to reach customers – but must be used at the point of consumption, or close to the end of the travel buying cycle.

Why? By asking a prospective customer to scan a code that you have placed in a print Ad, on a window storefront, or on a brochure – you are asking them to engage with your brand – and you had better have something unique to say or offer.

A customer now has so many choices about how to consume content and marketing messages that it’s critical for travel marketers to give them something valuable, especially if you want to continue the dialogue (and don’t we all!). Smart phones and other mobile devices have made it so that consumers expect instant results all of the time whether they are looking for a nearby restaurant or a particular product or service.

So how do travel destinations use this to their advantage?

The Destination Marketing organization has always been the “official” point of reference for travellers. DMO’s and VCB’s small and large are funded and organized very differently, but all are in place to achieve the following primary objectives:

A. Encourage visitation to their Destination
B. Ensure stakeholders receive the benefits of Tourism
C. To act as the official voice or guide to the destination for consumers

Marketing efforts such as digital display and pay per click advertising, social media marketing, traditional print and television etc. all ensure that the destination is visible to its target audiences when consumers are in the travel dreaming and planning stages.

Beyond the visitor centres and visitor guides that are usually associated with a destination VCB or DMO, how do these organizations provide value to stakeholders and consumers beyond drawing consumers to the destination?

Enter Mobile.

Destination marketers can now use innovative mobile marketing vehicles such as mobile Apps and QR codes to continue the engagement with consumers while they are in market and experiencing travel. As well, mobile plays an important role in the post travel time where consumers are likely to share their experiences via review sites and social media. If a destination can effectively engage a visitor while they are in market, and act as the guide throughout their experience and post experience – they are taking the role of the DMO to a new level.

Mobile devices such as the smart phone and tablets have given us the opportunity to do just that. The travel buying funnel starts with online research, word of mouth (via online review sites, social media and face to face accounts), and continues with conversations both online and offline. That buying funnel for a destination should also extend throughout the travel experience to ensure that stakeholders are being seen while visitors are in market, that consumers are feeling guided – and that they are willing to talk about their experiences – and to visit again.

How can destination marketers use mobile devices, Apps and QR codes to achieve this?

1. At the very least, a destination marketing organization needs to have a mobile version of the website:
Travellers are now relying on smartphones and tablets and do not typically browse websites from mobile devices.

2. Provide a Destination App that gives value to the consumer:
Users will only download an App that provides value. Offer mapping functionality or unique travel experiences with walking routes to your destination app. Give them a reason to use your App while they are visiting and encourage consumers to share experiences while they are in the destination.

3. Use QR codes to offer consumers value and to drive visitors to stakeholder products and services:
A QR code marketing campaign must be specifically designed to assist visitors when they are in market.  The QR code could send consumers to a page offering them special offers from restaurants and stores – with codes visibly displayed for scanning from their mobile devices in travel guides, websites and on storefronts – used to assist visitors while they are experiencing the destination will ensure consumers actually engage with the brand. This will also encourage consumption of stakeholder products and services. A campaign such as this will also allow the DMO to continue to act as the official “guide” to the destination while consumers are in market.

So what can a DMO do to ensure that I as an avid traveler am engaged throughout the buying cycle?

A destination can provide me with a useful mobile app (love this one from Tourism Australia) to download before I visit; one that may help me with directions and other tips to making my experience easy and more fun.  (I am guessing that the app cannot ensure that I will be on time for my flight – but you never know…)

A DMO might also want to promote on their website, and on their social media sites that they have a useful App available so that I can download it in advance and can plan how I will use in while I am travelling.

While I am in the destination, a DMO could invite me to scan a QR code (from a travel guide or on a storefront sign – or from Times Square for that matter!) using my blackberry – taking me to a page that shows me that I am steps away from half price lunch at a quaint sushi bar, and that there is a big sale at the shoe store located in the shopping district known only to locals!  Heaven…

I will then tweet that I love this place and upload a photo to Facebook of my new shoes!

Can the internet get full?

ORC2011A valid question posed at the most recent Online Revealed Canada Conference, held March 8-9 in Toronto.  From an opening keynote delivered by the inventor of Google maps, Michael T. Jones, who spoke about everything from how he and his colleges invented Google Maps at his dining room table, now used by more than 1,000,000,000 worldwide, to an interactive workshop presented by Alfredo Tan from Facebook Canada, which allowed for an intimate discussion about the inner workings of Facebook – this year’s Online Revealed Canada Conference hit a new level.

When I was preparing conference recap “sound bites,” which are traditionally delivered by myself, and conference co-chairs Patricia Brusha and Edward Perry at the end of the 2 day event, I was overwhelmed by the concepts and success stories that were shared, and the amount of information that we had to summarize.

This year, Online Revealed was presented in association with the Hotel Investment Conference and the new Canadian Tourism Marketing Summit.  The three events brought together the who’s who in the hospitality industry in Canada and beyond, culminating with the Google e-Tourism awards presented at a special luncheon, which featured such digital marketing success stories as….Newfoundland Labrador and National Capital Commission – Mosaika – what really stood out to me more than anything was the pride we had in our industry, and in each other for the work we have done in marketing Canada, and Canadian destinations, to a very global audience online.

Six years ago, the first Online Revealed Conference was held in Ottawa, where a group of 150 attendees gathered to share and learn about how to market ourselves in an new online world.  This year in Toronto a packed house of over 550 attendees gathered to learn, collaborate and share the many successes in digital marketing we have had in this industry over the past 6 years.

Back then, we were just starting to discuss the impact of the internet on selling tourism online, with concepts such as  search engine optimization, and building quality website content. Now, we are discussing concepts (then unheard of) such as mobile marketing and managing online reputation in a saturated online review-osphere that extends beyond Tripadvisor to include Blogs, OTA reviews, and niche social websites, where consumers are spending more time interacting online than actually viewing websites or even searching in search engines.

Who could imagine six years ago that in 2011 we would be discussing concepts like Google maps, a technology that is literally mapping out our planet?!

Our marketing reality is now a complex online ecosystem consisting of search engines, online intermediaries, review sites, social networks, news portals, niche discount sites, destination portals, brand portals – all of which are now being consumed on various platforms including mobile smart phones, tablets, laptops and beyond.  This digital evolution represents the largest shift in media consumption that we have seen since Television, and it does not seem to be slowing down.

In addition to the pride I felt in being part of an industry that has grown together and learned together to master this ever-changing online medium, and through the various highs and lows of the past six years including SARS, a world-wide recession and a Canadian Olympics to name only a few, it was overwhelming to once again see how coming together at an event like this, with a community of people willing to share and learn from each other makes a difference in how brave the new media world moving forward.

Thank you to all that shared in this year’s Online Revealed Canada, and those who have contributed to doing innovative things to market Canadian tourism.  As an industry we are doing amazing things, we are reaching our consumers in new ways and interacting with them in the digital places where they are living.  We are also doing what we have always done, and that is to tell stories and to share with the world the Canadian experience.

By the way, the answer to “can the internet get full” (according to Google’s Michael T. Jones) is No.

YouTube Strategy Tips from A Couple of Chicks

The online buying process is shifting rapidly with consumers in general spending more of their online time on Facebook then on Google, still stopping at review sites, social networking sites, blogs and forums, and now YouTube to round out the buying funnel – and in many cases starting the buying process.

YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google itself, which means that a properly defined YouTube marketing strategy with the goals of engaging consumers, drive them to continue the research process towards other brand content on social media sites, review sites etc. – and finally leading them to conversion or purchase is a must.

With expanded marketing opportunities such as customized YouTube channels, promoted videos and display Ads, and in-stream advertising – there is a huge opportunity to position ad content around rich media – which is more emotive and “real” than descriptive content on a website or photos and reviews on Tripadvisor. This is especially relevant to marketers of travel and tourism as travel research and buying is an emotive process.

YouTube Strategy Basics:

1. Tag content with proper keywords – According to Google, approximately 1/3 of all videos watched on YouTube use search to be found, this means tagging the content and understanding your target keyword market just, like we do with the SEO for websites, is crucial for any marketer utilizing video content.

2. Consider placing ads alongside content from well known brand channels targeted to specific niche end users (like Home and Garden Television for example) or run Ads against competitor content and user generated video’s that have been tagged to be found for the keywords your audience would likely use to research travel.

Example: A search in You Tube for “Bay of Fundy” serves up video content such as this Local Tourism associations or hotels and Resorts could position Ads appearing on the content and guide the interested consumer towards making travel plans.

These are examples illustrate how effective YouTube advertising can be in leading your customer to transact. These types of ads are available as overlays or in-stream, and can click to a website or a YouTube Brand Channel.

Tip: When setting up a YouTube campaign such as this, ensure that there is a strong call-to-action and a relevant landing page to send your traffic to as opposed to simply sending the click to a home page.

YouTube Beyond the Basics:

1. Promoted Videos: The Ad message and target keywords are tagged to the video. The video then appears on results pages for contextually relevant searches, and alongside other relevant videos. This is a pay-per-click model much like Google Adwords, where the advertiser pays only when a user watches the video.

2. TrueView’ Video Ads: These ads appear in-stream pre or mid-roll, as an option to choose one ad, or as regular commercial breaks.

3. Mobile Youtube Roadblock: For an entire day, all visitors to m.youtube.com will receive the advertisers marketing message, in a variety formats. This tactic would require a large marketing spend and would be effective for targeting a specific niche audience or for overall brand marketing efforts.

4. YouTube Brand Channel: A brand channel or destination page is a customizable interface between your business and users on the YouTube platform. Users click on video’s that have been uploaded and live on a brand channel and the content will play in the brand channel, and the surrounding videos and links belong to that brand only (not other advertisers can place ads against this content).

This is a great way of keeping users involved with your content longer, and to ensure that they are not jumping off your content to a competitor who is buying your brand terms.

YouTube brand channels also allow for in depth tracking and for content from the channel to be embedded into a site or ad. Advertising products available to brand channel advertisers include; Homepage 24 hour Roadblocks and Masthead placements, which allow brands to deliver a creative message to enormous audiences. A brand channel is not for every business and requires substantial budgets to maintain – but it is also incredibly targeted and measurable and a must for large well-known consumer brands at this stage of the game.

With 100 million unique monthly users, YouTube has become an important consideration for marketers. For more on developing a YouTube strategy or to receive the full version of this article, contact The Chicks – and of course you can check us out on YouTube too!

Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness

You have settled into 2011 and gearing up to implement the marketing plan you completed in 2010. But hold on! The Internet has changed again!

This is a fast paced digital world we live in – but perhaps we need to take a queue from Don Draper, our favorite MadMen Ad exec when he says “Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.”

Why is this relevant now in the age of an exploding online medium?  Let’s just take a breath, re-group and bring it back to basics. There is content coming at us fast and furious – whether its Mobile Apps and Tablet Marketing, or Viral Video’s, or Facebook, Twitter – and what about YouTube and Foursquare? How do we really make consumers happy now?  Is it still as simple as delivering on a promise and providing a product or service that makes your customers happy?

If so – how do we engage with consumers who are changing their online user behavior as quickly as Facebook changes its profile layouts?  I have had numerous conversations with clients who are second-guessing where they allocated their marketing dollars because of the following:

FEAR of missing the next big thing.
RESOURCES – both financial and human.
CONFUSION about what tactics to focus on as the online world shifts again – and again – and again.

My advice? Bring it Back to Basics:

1. Know Your Customer (and make them Happy)

• Check your website analytics for top referral traffic and focus on building on them and building more target referral traffic.
• Use a social media monitoring tool like Radian 6 , Revinate or free tools like Google Alerts, Twitter Advanced Search or others to listen to your customers and understand how to make them happy.
• Allocate time and resources to understand changes in how your target audiences are researching and transacting online.  Read and educate yourself about digital marketing tactics that work.
• Most importantly, if you’re taking the time to ‘listen’ to your customer’s online behavior – be sure you act on that information. Simply monitoring the conversation without adjusting your strategy will not help you understand how your consumer wants to receive your messages now and in the future.

2. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Understand Your Objectives

• Are you looking to increase sales? To build a new audience? Launch a new brand? Increase brand engagement?
• With all of the new tactics available to marketers today, it is more important than ever to set specific and measurable objectives for campaigns. (It makes me nostalgic for the Mad Men days really)

3. Stick With What Works
• If you have already developed an active Twitter following and you’re seeing ROI (in sales and or website traffic etc) keep going!
• Roll it out across your other brands, build a team of Tweeters to help in building and engaging your audience further – think about what would take a successful campaign to the next level.
• If Google AdWords campaigns worked well last year to drive targeted traffic during need times, or to sell specific packages or products – build on it and do it again with a new twist, or put more dollars towards it perhaps instead of a tactic that did not perform as well.

4. Don’t Forget About Search

• Although Facebook has surpassed Google in user time spent online, the World Wide Web is a complex Ecosystem that is constantly growing and changing.
• Focus on making sure you have a strong web presence across all online channels that help to guide your consumers to transact.
• Ensure you have taken care of the basics like search engine optimization, good creative and content, Google Places optimization, a good mobile version of your website etc. and then you can focus on other channels to build your traffic.

5. Integrate. Integrate. Integrate.

• Make sure you integrate your campaigns online and offline.
• Your brand’s digital footprint should have a consistent tone, creative brand message, and should always drive your target consumers to transact.
• A Facebook page with 2,000 followers is only successful if it allows you to drive transactions and build engaged followers. Consider a contest through a customized tab, or a strong call to action or offer for your Facebook community only.

5. Measure + Measure + Measure and then Adjust

• Measure against successes from 2010. Make sure you have defined Key Measurables in place (such as increases in unique visitors, increases in time on site and pages visited or increased sales.)
• Did you launch a new Blog that has increased traffic by 20%? How do you grow it from here or how do you encourage more transactions on the website as a result of the Blog traffic?
• Have your efforts on LinkedIn increased leads to your sales department?
• What can you do to ensure you grow these successful marketing channels?
• Do the tactics outlined in your Marketing Plan work to build on what you have already started? (Perhaps you have allocated budget to building a linkedIn Company page or display advertising campaign to further grow and engage your base of followers, or you have allocated more resources to Blog more frequently.)

Keep it simple – stick to the tactics that will help you achieve your objectives and don’t worry about all the noise.

It can get overwhelming to look at all the marketing tools and tactics that are available to us today. If you execute marketing programs efficiently, with the proper focus on measurement of ROI, (very do-able in the age of digital marketing) you may have the confidence and extra resources to be able to adjust and try new things.

To take a lesson from Mad Man, Don Draper – Budget + target demographic + medium = time for a scotch.  Just make them Happy!

managing your digital assets from your phone

I am about to present a workshop to small to medium sized businesses about how to grow your business using smartphone technology..specifically Blackberry. In creating my presentation, I realized how much I have taken for granted the role my smartphone has played in growing our reach online.
Later today, I will post my presentation to Slideshare and link from my Blog…all from my smartphone.
My Blog post will then populate the Chicks Facebook page, LinkedIn company page and my own profile, I will then Tweet a link and comment – and within minutes the content will be distributed to thousands of people within minutes.
In addition, our team is entirely virtual and yet with tools like Skype, blackberry messenger, and other tools technology has enabled us to be ‘together’ in our virtual office every day.
Technology is our business, but as I have stopped to put together my presentation – technology has also enabled our business to grow from just 2 chicks to 14 in just 5 years.
Chicks also really dig shiny technical objects…but that is another blog post.

The Buck (Doesn`t) Stop Here

Guest Post by Patti Ellis

Surviving Today`s Online Wilderness
They say opposites attract, and in this case, it couldn’t be more true.  I’m geekaliciously nerdy with a fond appreciation for any type of electronic gadget that is connected to the Internet.  I love to travel, and have a penchant for room service and fine wine.  My husband, on the other hand, would actually prefer to be wearing camo and living outside several hundred miles from civilization; living off the land as it were, cooking on an open fire whilst sharing tales of yesteryear with his hunting and fishing buddies and enjoying a brewski or two…

It’s deer hunting season here in Nova Scotia, and I received a rare invitation to spend this past weekend in a dilapidated camp in, well, I’m not sure where really, as I was blindfolded and permitted entry only after consuming several shots of Zambuca and successfully passing a hazing exercise that I am to never speak of again.

Let me set the scene for you, and relay to you why I feel this story is even remotely related to being worthy of a Chick blog post…

The hunters in this area have been hunting there for 20-30 years.  For many, it’s generational.  Their grandfathers, fathers and now their sons – and a few wives and daughters – now participate in the experience.  It’s competitive and very strategic, they tell me.   And, now it’s all about the technology.

In a very Sopranos-esque type of sit-down, they meet at the end of the day and compare their notes and discuss at great length any sightings, tracks or scrapings.  Then, they whip out their daily-collected SD cards and view them on laptops or digital cameras to see who visited what, where and at what time, and to check lineage (something to do with antlers and points).  They use high tech walkie talkies to communicate while they are out and about, and they use their GPS to keep track of landmarks, and their Blackberries to check the wind, weather conditions and temperature.  And, they drive big, expensive four wheelers that have names like “The Grizz” which ironically sounds very much like my first car, which was a muffler-less Chevette and very similar in size, I might add.

And, yet, with all of these tools, the elusive buck manages to sneak in unseen and unheard.  He has a six-course meal of apple after apple all the while seemingly knowing and not caring that every movement is being flashed at and recorded by high-definition game cameras.  He’s smart, selective and he’s been around the block a few times.

I *had* to interject myself into the conversation at this point, much to the group’s delight.  I suggested to this pack of Survivormen that they consider changing their strategies as they all hunt, nap and eat at the same time every day. Any self-respecting deer could easily figure their schedule out; perhaps offer something else up for dinner? Maybe some carrots or a Hosta side-salad would do the trick; afterall, isn’t using apples for bait the same as using direct mail?

Ok, perhaps I lost them with that last point, but what struck me is the similarity with which they were doing the tried and true albeit with the latest in technology.  We as Internet marketers, do the same thing only our tools are websites, mobile phones, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Consumers are getting smarter, and not only do we need to use technology in innovative new ways, we also need to ensure we’re actually reaching the consumer (i.e. that they’re actually eating a mixture of apples, carrots or the Hosta side-salad).

So, where do we invest our 2011 marketing dollars?  Download our 11 Tips for Budgeting in 2011 to learn how to get the most, ummmmm, bang for your buck.

Crisis Communications in 140 characters or less

Ink on your fingers from reading the daily newspaper and CNN as the source for all breaking news is almost a distant memory, as news comes to us now via Twitter and other Social Media channels almost instantaneously – and not through the same media filters of the past.

As events take place in real time, Twitterers are commenting, re-tweeting and sharing images making the Twitterverse the place to have access to the real story, or perhaps just commentary without the accuracy of old traditional media (although that could be debated I am sure).

News junkies, and the media themselves are getting their fix faster than ever, which means that when disaster happens, everyone will know about instantly – as it happens, leaving brands little time to send in the PR team to handle official statements and manage the messages.

So what happens when an emergency occurs that demands that a brand respond and or participate in ongoing commentary to help neutralize negative information, and help shape a more positive spin on events as they occur, and immediately after, without an active digital component to their PR strategy?

Those in the travel and tourism industry (and any industry for that matter) need to be ready and on stand-by to deal with emergencies from both a customer-service perspective as well as a media relations best practice. Specifically if you have a Social media presence – especially on Twitter – you need to be ready to use the channel to directly respond to media and customers or risk losing control of the message – or worse.

Take the recent emergency landing of an Emirates Airline to JFK airport in New York City. The plane originating from Dubai was escorted by the national guard back to the airport under suspicion that it was carrying explosives (this according to Twitter) Specifically it was reported via Twitter that:

@NYCAviation Emirates Jet lands safely in New York amid global Terror Alerts. This and about 4 other tweets per second we being shared within seconds of the jet landing.

Communications and PR professionals need to have a plan in place as to how to respond if they are actively using Twitter as a communications medium, and they need to be able to issue a statement in 140 characters or less. The reality is that any company that operates in the public eye needs to monitor and manage their online reputation on an ongoing basis.

Specifically if they are using Twitter, there needs to be a plan in place to use the channel as a brand voice, consumer response channel, and as a means to manage the now instantaneous news coverage that is now our media reality.

Whether it’s a natural disaster like flooding or an earthquake, or a threat of terrorism, corporations need to include in their emergency preparedness plans how they will use their official voice in social media to counteract, as well as inform the public as to the status of the situation at hand.

This brings us to a discussion that is on the minds of every brand CEO, and should be…who manages Social Media and what kind of resources should be allocated? Is Twitter the job of Marketing, Public Relations or Technology?

If you are a brand like Emirates Airlines, and you are going Twitter as the brand, you will need to ensure that the Tweeter or Tweeters have access to senior level executives or a PR team that can jump in to help craft the messages required at a time of crisis. Emirates had not as of October 29th when the JFK incident took place tweeted since early January of 2010, amidst hundreds of Tweets per minute trending around the incident.

The danger in having a Twitter account, without proper management or strategy, is that when a crisis occurs and the Twitterverse is a buzz with comments about the incident (including those who are actually on site of the incident, media and the general public), the brand can be seen as non responsive – and this in the PR world is not a good thing.

Some suggestions for Emirates and all brands to consider in the future when under fire (I guess literally in this situation):
1. Prepare a statement consistent with other company official statements provided by the PR team that uses positive language such as “safe” and safety measures – and be sure to thank the authorities for handling the situation. Anything to neutralize the situation. These official tweets will then be re-tweeted and be visible as the “official” voice in all of the clutter on Twitter. Media also fact find using Twitter first using Tweeters with authority or official Twitter accounts as credible sources for information.
2. Monitor the Twitterverse through the crisis and on an ongoing basis to ensure that you can correct any facts, respond to direct twitter questions and address the media – directly via Twitter. A simple way to monitor a situation such at this one would be to go to Twitter Search and type in the word Emirates. All related tweets will appear in real time. (a more robust form of measurement is recommended as a long term strategy)
3. Communicate with the PR/Communications teams to ensure the message is consistent across all mediums.
4. Establish and use Hash Tags (such as #Emirates) to insert the official brand voice into conversation.
5. Respond to Tweets that are posing a question as the official source so that negative buzz can be minimized, or to correct information that is incorrect.

Having a Twitter presence without a defined strategy and an active brand voice to support it is a disaster waiting to happen. In the new media space, there is only minutes to craft a response in 140 characters or less and hope that by engaging in the discussion there will be a positive PR spin on the story as it unfolds.

Consider using this example who is Tweeting as the official voice of your brand, and make sure that if you are actively engaged in social media as a method of marketing and communications, that you have considered what resources you need to fully support your tweeters. They could make the difference between a positive or negative spin that may effect your brand reputation for years to come.

social media strategist vs social media enthusiast

I am an enthusiast of many things. Although I can appreciate a fine wine, and perhaps even describe the ‘nose’ of a good chardonnay – I dare say that I could lead a wine tasting session, or describe the process of oak aging or barrel fermenting.

I would say however that I am both an “enthusiast” and a “strategist” of Social Media. (and perhaps an evangelist and even a connoisseur of a good tweet).

Social media is as most would agree the new ‘medium’ in digital marketing. There are many out there trying to decipher how to…how much…and where to start in creating a social media “strategy” to attract a target consumer to engage and transact.

There lies the difference between a social media ‘Enthusiast” and a social media “Strategist” – it’s in the strategy (not just in the enthusiasm!) Wow – so that’s not rocket science!

Allow me to explain.

We must begin with what constitutes a good Social Media strategy.

1. Develop a good plan.
Sounds simple enough right? Start with who you are trying to reach and what social media channels they are likely frequenting. Decide what you are trying to achieve (ie. traffic back to a website, building an email database, an increase in brand awareness etc), chose the correct channels to populate (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Flickr or all of the above), populate with content and build a community of followers.

Once you have decided on what social channels to include in your campaign, develop a plan to build a community – with an editorial or content strategy to support your goals.

For example: If you are primarily going to use viral video’s with the goal of driving traffic to a transaction – make sure that the YouTube channel you create has many points of reference and links back to your website.

Make sure that you have optimized your video’s properly to be found in search engines – and have populated other places with the video (like your website and Facebook page) and that you have added social media sharing tools to encourage more pass along distribution.

Also – ensure that all of your campaign elements are integrated and talk to each other.

2. Ensure that you have enough of a budget and resources (time, expertise, dollars) to not only plan, but execute the strategy.

This is the tricky part. How do I know what resources I will need after the campaign ‘shelf life’ is up?

Social Media channels like a Twitter account for example typically do not exist in isolation. Typically, a Tweeter is representing a brand voice, or has a Blog associated with it – or a transactional website in which to drive traffic to.

If you are going to engage in social media marketing, you should plan for it to be part of your long term marketing strategy.

4. Measure and assign key performance measurables

Use social monitoring tools (there are many) as well as website tracking tools like Google Analytics to see how the campaign has impacted your campaign goals. Is Facebook now a top referrer of traffic to your website after launching an aggressive Facebook brand page?

How has the time and resources spent on Twitter affected the traffic increases in traffic to your company Blog?

5. Learn and Continue Building
This is a key point as many social media ‘enthusiasts’ may not pay enough attention to the fact that the foundation built in the beginning stages has a big impact on future social media successes. An isolated brand Twitter page with no integration into any other parts of a company’s marketing mix – no matter how many followers it has – will not result in long term success.

In addition, those who live in the social communities such as Facebook, Twiiter and beyond expect transparency, commitment, and for you to add value to the social media ecosystem.

A one off viral video campaign will most likely not work to create any spectacular results without a long-term plan about how to leverage the traffic it has generated, or to engage that audience enough to act.

Social media enthusiasts are passionate about what social media can do – and they make excellent community manager’s and community developers. Just because an enthusiast has a large list of followers on Twitter does not necessarily mean that they can map out a good long-term strategy and help guide the set up and execution of a successful social media marketing campaign.

Always engage with a true Social Media Strategist – one that has proven case studies and speaks to the points above if you are looking for a long term or even short term results…it will pay off in achieving brand ‘mavens’ and not just ‘followers’ who you may never see again.

If you are a connoisseur of a good discussion about social media marketing…I invite you to RT (Re-Tweet) this blog post and share your idea’s of what it takes to be a true strategist.

Social Media Marketing Case Study: George Bernard Shaw Goes Social

Like George Bernard Shaw?

Over 5000 people “Like” him on Facebook – over 700 are following and having conversations with the deceased playwright daily on Twitter all resulting in record number online ticket sales.

Social Media Marketing Campaign Objectives:

To increase direct online sales by growing traffic to the website www.shawfest.com, and by engaging new audiences outside of the traditional target demographics for the theatre company.

The primary objective was to present the Shaw Festival, and each individual Play to a wider group of would-be theatre goers who may have not otherwise considered attending, or had preconceived ideas about the theatre, or the specific productions for the season.

The overall objective in developing the social media strategy was to engage the growing fan base who are actively living online by providing them with insight to the Shaw Festival (with a behind-the-scenes focus), regular special offers (ensuring fans are driven to the special offers page regularly when offers are available), customer service (answering questions about the ticketing process and travel to the area), George Bernard Shaw quotes and information about the plays to generate interest, and useful information for those visiting (events, festivals, Niagara-on-the-Lake visitor info).

The theatre company, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, produces ten plays each year and is a key tourism driver for Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Niagara region as a whole.

The multi-channel digital strategy launched Summer 2009, and was created by online marketing firm A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing, and managed in co-ordination with the Shaw Festival in-house Marketing Communications team with the overall goals of increased online ticket sales and new audience development.

The Strategy:

To develop a way to impact and talk directly to Shaw’s audiences in places they are comfortable interacting, as well as to encourage viral distribution of the Shaw and its productions online.

Developing a voice and tone for each community, building out content such as comments about the productions, backstage photos, video’s, images – and developing a strong engagement level with this audience was the focus in the early growth stages for the campaign.

A unique strategy was developed for each social channel.

Once Shaw himself started tweeting quotes and responding to comments and questions (from the grave of course), and the Facebook page for the theatre grew to include commentaries, discussions and more – followers began flocking to the Facebook community, the Twitter page, the YouTube channel, the theatre Blog – and back to the main web asset www.shawfest.com to transact via a communities page that brought all of the social channels together in one place.

The campaign was also supported with Google Adwords campaigns as well as optimized Press Releases, website content development, and ongoing Search Engine Optimization.

The Challenges:

1. Ensuring that the social media communities were not only large in number, but also actively engaged. It was uncertain if the target audience would move from discussing and browsing to buying.

2. Determining an accurate ROI on each tactic.
Tracking was put in place to ensure that sales conversions could be measured back to the specific social media efforts. Facebook only offers were also created.

3. Building up the community base for a niche theatre with different plays targeted to different audiences. Considerations included determining how to build followers who were within drive-in radius (the traditional core market) and to ensure Facebook and Twitter audiences moved to transact by creating the proper user path that encouraged click thru to the website.

Campaign Tactics:

Facebook Fan page, Facebook Tab Development, Twitter community development and strategy, Theatre Blog (featuring behind the scenes), YouTube channel and Flickr photo page development – brought together within a Social Communities page entitled “Stay Connected”.

Campaigns within each community included Facebook specific Ticket offers, contests, behind-the-scenes videos, Blogs written by members of the company, videos with candid conversations with the actors and directors – all integrated into the larger marketing campaign messages. The campaign was measured using conversion tracking in Google Analytics as well as through campaign specific ticket rate codes.

The Blog:    http://blogs.shawfest.com/

The blog serves a dual purpose, generating content for consumers – and generating content that can be indexed in the search engines. The Blog can be easily integrated with other social media efforts and vice versa.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shawfestival

Engages and builds a new fan base by providing insight to the Shaw Festival (behind-the-scenes focus), regular special offers (ensuring fans are driven to the special offers page regularly when offers are available), customer service (answering questions about the ticketing process), Shaw quotes and information about the plays to generate interest, and useful information for those visiting (events, festivals, NOTL info).

This was supported by a Facebook Ad campaign to build the initial Fan Base and to push specific offers to a targeted audience.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/shawtheatre

The strategy behind Twitter was primarily brand development and a key to engaging the audience;  it also serves as a customer service tool and a PR monitoring/growth mechanism to correspond with media. Twitter maintains the “voice” of Shaw himself with commentaries about the plays, politics and other musings.

Shaw Festival Theatre

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/theshawfestival

YouTube.com was used to grow multimedia content and house video content where it can be sourced from other social media venues, and add to overall online distribution of the Shaw brand. Back of the house video’s, Shaw commercials and other video’s were added to engage the audience.

George Bernard Shaw goes Social

Go behind the scenes at the Shaw Festival Theatre

‘Stay Connected’ Communities Page: http://www.shawfest.com/Home/Stay-Connected

The website was updated with a ‘Stay Connected’ communities page to offer a central portal for all things social media. The community’s page drives traffic to the various social media outlets in which Shaw participates and serves as the landing page from social media into the site – and to the online ticket box office.

Results Summary:

With Social Media as an evolving advertising medium, the Social Media Marketing Strategy was extremely successful in generating buzz, traffic to the main website and sales. The campaign was featured in the Globe and Mail, and used as a best practice case study at a leading Canadian Online Marketing Conference. The campaign also successfully built a platform that will continue to evolve and drive targeted traffic and sales moving forward.

By growing connections (fan base, followers), aggressively distributing content, and building the level of engagement with new core audiences outside of the typical target audiences, the Shaw Festival was successful in expanding brand awareness with new audiences, and increasing ticket sales online by 25%.

As a result of the digital marketing efforts, Shaw Festival has experienced significant e-commerce sales growth:

• The Spring 2010 season (April 2009 to June 2010) was 7,000 tickets ahead of Spring 2009, selling almost 50% more tickets for the April launch of the season than the April 2009 season.

• Year to Date 27% of sales are online and currently sales are $325,000 over the Year to Date total last year at this time.

Traffic to the website increased by 17% over the same time in 2009.

Other Campaign Highlights:

Year over year increase in Website traffic reaching a peak at almost 4,000 unique visits in one day.

• Increases Engagement with website users visiting over 9 pages per visit and spending over 5 minutes on the site.

• Referring sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other social channels provided more search engine visibility as well as more Referring traffic back to the transactional website shawfest.com.

The Social Media Marketing campaign and Web Marketing efforts were also supported and integrated into an aggressive offline campaign that included traditional marketing vehicles such as print and radio – and resulted in growth of new audiences and record attendance.

The Shaw Festival is currently planning for the 2011 season and for the 50th anniversary celebrations.  George Bernard Shaw continues his musings on Twitter “often quoting himself…as it adds spice to the conversation”

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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