Case Study: Brandon Mendelson – Mediocrity? I don’t think so!

mediocreBrandon Mendelson is a social media success story and guru.  Not what anyone expected from him…not at all.  As Brandon puts it, “I was functionally retarded until college.”  What Brandon did have was a lot of energy, great ideas and passion.  Plus, he saw something that others didn’t.

What he saw was a new way to communicate.  While he was a student at SUNY Potsdam, he started with what he calls “socail publishing”.  During his time there he created TV, radio and other online media.  He is also the architect of the High Five Tour. While piloting the High Five Tour concept, Brandon and his wife traveled America to promote the early detection and prevention of cancer, using social media to communicate and gather a following to promote their cause.  The result got Brandon listed as on Twitter’s Suggested User List (February 2009 to August 2009).  He was the first non-celebrity to gain over 1/2 million followers.

This is the point when Brandon realized his brand was worth something and that he could use it to do good.  “When we crossed 500,000 people following me on Twitter, I realized at that point that there was no going back and that, while I’m sure there’s a lot of spam and junk accounts in there, people were following us because we were helpful and trustworthy.”

Wow – being helpful and trustworthy?  What a terrific concept – novel, clever and so…unexpected.

“For our company, Earth’s Temporary Solution, it’s trust and usefulness. Our goal is to empower others to help those in need. In the not-for-profit world there’s a lot of mistrust and people looking to make a quick buck on willing, happy people, so as a for-profit, we want people to trust us and know we are providing them with the right tools to do the greatest good.”

With the success of A Million High Fives, Brandon expanded his focus and is now a columnist for The Huffington Post, the Albany Times Union, and  Not exactly what I call mediocre.

Is it worth it? The ROI of Social Media

MarketingSherpa - May 2010 (

The age old question – Is it worth it?  This question gets asked of all marketing program, each quarter, each year.  All companies do it – an annual budget plan.   Everyone wants to know which activities have earned a positive return on their investment (ROI).  Of course they do – you don’t want to continue throwing money into something that isn’t delivering results.

Social media is one of the newer additions to the marketing arsenal.  And as such, the jury is still out on the overal ROI of social media activities.  However, in a recent study conducted by MarketingSherpa (May 2010) perceptions of social media are trending positively when it comes to budget allocation.

Almost half of the respondents (mostly mid-large sized companies) viewed social media as a promising tactic and are planning to moderately increase budget allocation – good news!   A full 7% can measure a positive ROI resulting in a significant increase in spending – great news!  So when all is said and done, less than 1/3 are still questioning the value of social media – even better news for those of you looking for budget.

Normally, when there is a new technology or new approach to marketing, it takes the the money folks a long time to warm to the idea of actually spending money on something they believe is “unproven”.  However in these economic times, when a little money spent on social media can go a long way, it appears that those same money folks have finally come to grips with the fact that this stuff does work. Especially now that we have some measurable results to report.

Like other marketing activities, social media will only be effective and deliver the required results, when part of an overall strategy.  As I have often written in this blog, all good marketing starts with understanding your objectives.  What do you want to accomplish with social media?  What role does it play in your marketing mix?  How will you measure that success?  If you don’t have a target to shoot for – how do you know if you’ve hit the bulls-eye.

The next, and probably most important thing to understand, when investing in social media is your audience.  What type of social media do they use?  Where to they hang out? Who do they read?  Who do they go to for recommendations? Armed with this information you can develop an effective social media strategy and target the appropriate platforms.  You don’t want to put all your focus on LinkedIn, if you audience is really into FaceBook.

Now you are set up for success. You know what you want to accomplish, who you are targeting and which platforms are a god strategic fit.  Now it’s time to engage and get going.  social media is, well, inherently social.  A good presence is defined (according to me) as active, timely and authentic.  I can see that real people are behind the presence of the company – there is a name to go with the brand.  I see posts, updates and information on a regular basis and it is relevant to what is going on in the industry, my business, and the world. Plus, what is coming through has a voice, tone and intention that “feels” real (not like the PR agency is writing all the Tweets, or posting on the FanPage).

With you newly found social media busget, make sure to take sometime and think about what you want to accomplish, and how you’re going to measure it so that come next years busdget cycle you are armed with an ROI that will earn you a budget increase – probably the best news of all.

Book Excerpt: You don’t need a million friends

social_media_3dThe following is an excerpt from 42 Rules of Social Media for Small Business by Jennifer Jacobson.

Defining your goals is an important part of any business campaign, whether online or offline. It is important to define your social media goals and ask yourself if you want millions of online followers, or a select group of online friends who will gladly do business with you. While having millions of friends on your Facebook page or millions of followers on Twitter may sound appealing, it’s not always a realistic goal, and it may even be counterproductive to your business’s social media efforts.

Imagine you won the lottery and you could have any amount of cash you desired. How much money would you ask for? Chances are you’d want millions, possibly billions, of dollars. Considering the government bailouts that have recently been circulated, you might even ask for trillions. In reality, what we claim to want and what we would be comfortable with can be two very different things.

Let’s take a look at what can happen when we get what we wish for. An individual given millions of dollars suddenly has a new set of concerns and questions. Who will inherit the money when they die? How will they spend their money? Will they donate any of it to charity? How will they keep their money safe? Do people like them because they are rich or do they like them because of who they are? Sometimes, as many good stories teach, getting what you wish for isn’t
really in your best interest.

Social media is very much the same; while many people say they want
a million friends, it wouldn’t meet their business needs or goals. First of
all, if all of these friends decided to visit your company’s website, could
your servers handle a million hits? Second, real friendships are more
than a shout out. People who are the most valuable to your business’s
social media efforts are actively communicating, commenting, posting
pictures, and videos, and learning about your product with the intent of
doing business with you either now or in the future. Do you have the
capacity to communicate with a million people like this?

Take, for example, these thoughts on the importance of strategically
socializing, as opposed to the spray and pray spam method. Susan
Gunelis, President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc. says, “Social
media is the key to brand-building these days. People are online and
it’s the perfect place to connect with them. More people are influenced
by blogs and online relationships than by traditional media.”
“My favorite social media story comes from Universal Studios in
Orlando, Florida,” Susan says. “In 2007, with a virtually limitless
budget, the marketing exec at Universal was tasked with announcing
and promoting the new Harry Potter theme park that would open in the
coming years. To spread the word, she didn’t turn to traditional advertising.

At the risk of being fired for her out-of-the-box approach, she
announced a webcast to just seven people who were also popular
Harry Potter bloggers. The webcast required a password that only
those seven people had. During the webcast, she revealed the news
of the upcoming Harry Potter theme park and, within twenty-four hours,
there were hundreds of thousands of Web searches for the Harry
Potter theme park. From zero to nearly one million people within !
twenty-four hours. Now that’s the power of social media!”

Your social media efforts will be much more effective if you set goals.
Unless you’re selling ad space on your social media page, it doesn’t
matter if you have a million friends. It just matters that you have the
right friends; friends who will promote your brand, and do business with
you. For most small businesses, it is better and more realistic to
maintain the friends they have and look for qualified potential social
media friends. Try to connect with businesses and companies that you
have done business with and let your network grow from there.

FaceBook Groups and Joint Ventures

EXAMPLE - FaceBook Groups
EXAMPLE - FaceBook Groups

One of the most important Internet Marketing related features on FaceBook is Groups. This goes far beyond joining groups to find new contacts. It also includes creating groups of your own for the purpose of joint venturing – even if that joint venturing won’t take place until a future date.

The process to create your own group is extremely easy. Simply log in to your account then click on ‘groups’ in the navigation panel on the left. At the top of the next page, you will see a button that says ‘Create a New Group’. Click that button, and fill out the form. It’s just that simple and can be done in a matter of minutes.

The hard part is determining what type of group that you want to start. What is the groups focus? All groups must have a focus otherwise, they are essentially worthless.

Let’s say that the focus of your group is to joint venture with other Internet Marketers, but you aren’t sure exactly what type of joint venturing you want to do at this point – or how you could work with the potential members in the group for the purpose of joint venturing. In this case, you may want to start a mastermind group for Internet Marketers. This is very broad and it leaves joint venture possibilities wide open.

Now, you must consider who you want to be in your mastermind group, so that you can send out invitations. Mastermind groups are typically small – usually just ten to twenty people, so this shouldn’t be very hard. However, you must remember that you will eventually want to joint venture with these people in your group. Therefore, you want to be very selective with your invitations.

Think about joint venturing – outside of social networking. You obviously need someone who has products or the necessary skills to create quality products. You need someone who is great at copywriting. You may need a web designer. You obviously want people who have large opt-in lists, and/or large networks of people, or complementary services to yours.

You definitely want people who are active on FaceBook. You will invite people from your own circle of friends in most cases, but you can invite people who have the interests and skills that you require, who are not currently your friends as well, simply by searching for them from within the group interface and inviting them to join.

The next step is to get your group active and to get the members participating. Ask questions that require input from members. Offer information that you know the members will find useful.  Start showing them what you are made of and what you have to offer so that when the opportunity or need for a joint venture comes up, they know what you can bring to the table. At the same time, pay attention so that you know what they can bring to the table as well.

Make sure that all content that is being provided to the group is useful, valuable information. Don’t advertise to your group and don’t allow other members to advertise either.  Let information flow naturally and freely without the advertising. You will find that you and other group members are easily able to work your products and services into the conversations or articles that are being published to the group – as those products and services relate to the information.

Finally, if you are a bit unsure about how to operate a group or how to make it a highly effective group, consider joining another small group that is already set up and being operated by someone else. You must really pay attention to how the members interact with each other and the content that is delivered through the group. This will definitely give you some great ideas for your own group on FaceBook.

Ride The Wave – Create A Social Media Marketing Strategy

One of the things that media considers when they are deciding what to promote or talk about is what effect that subject will have on various social groups. The media does whatever it can to have some kind of impact on whatever market they are chasing after. The smart marketer will use that commotion to their advantage. They will ride the wave.
One of the hardest thing for any marketer to do, whether on-line or off, is to create a stir around what they are trying to offer..this is what is currently being referred to a “buzz”. You have to have some level of excitement surrounding your product or service for it to see any success at all. It can seem like you are beating your head against a wall many times as you try to get anyone to notice you and to get them to even care. I am sure that you think that you have something that is very important to offer people. Unless you can educate and convince them that it is important, they just won’t get it and you won’t get their business.

There is a way that you can get by without having to do all the work of trying to generate excitement and educate the people about your offering. That way is to let the larger media outlets do all the work. Create a marketing strategy that uses that work that the media does. Sometimes you will luck out and find that there is a big commotion related to something you are offering already and it will only take a little bit to get the social groups interested in what you have.

This was my strategy when I launched 42Rules for Working Moms. This was during the run-up to the Presidential elections. Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin were both “working moms” and all over the media. You couldn’t be awake and not know who these women were. Anyway, we connected the book to that story and landed a full feature placement on Oprah & Friends radio – The Peter Walsh Show. See how it works? Connecting to something that is already buzzing is a much more effective approach than to try and create buzz all by yourself.

Sometimes you will have to use your imagination and find a relationship between something big that is going on in the media that has a huge impact on social groups of one kind or another. Once you find that relationship, though, you can find a marketing strategy that can make that connection obvious. You will have to educate yourself and look at what is hot on television or on the Internet. Look for what are popular topics on the regular news media, what trends are hot in the world of finance, or what gossip is going on in social circles. What are the things that is popular? More than likely you are going to find something that your product or service can relate to.

On your own you will be trying hard to make waves about what you are trying to market but what you will end up making is a tiny ripple. A smart marketer will notice the tsunami’s being made by the larger media outlet and will use a marketing strategy that capitalizes on the huge splash they make on the bigger social groups laying on the beach.