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.

Use Social Media

Social-Media-LogosSocial Media is a topic I blog about quite frequently. FaceBook, LinkedIn and Twitter are the top 3 social media platforms.  Social media isn’t for everyone.  It can take time to get started, but if your target audience uses social media, then you should too.  The great thing is that with social media you open yourself and your business up to new opportunities, new people and new possibilities.

Social media marketing covers everything from the top three, to YouTube, blogs, podcasts, webcasts.  Basically any online media where viewers can comment or share are really social media.  And that’s the whole point – that people can offer ideas, others can comment and a discussion can follow.
And that’s the biggest benefit to social media marketing.  It gives you the chance to have a conversation with your customers and prospective customers.

You can ask them questions, test new ideas, get feedback, learn from them and share your expertise with them.  Plus, it’s free.  How cool is that?  To learn more about the specifics of social media – I have created 3 webcasts – LinkedIn, FaceBook and Twitter.  I’ve also developed two e-books, one on FaceBook and one on Twitter, which you can get on my website.  All the links will be in my follow-up email.

You can actually manage Twitter

The biggest problem with the standard Twitter web application is that you only see the main Tweetstream.  In order to get the mosst out of Twitter, you need to keep an eagle eye on your replies and Direct Messages as those are the direct conversations with your followers.  This is where the value of Twitter lies. What are the Tweeple to do?  Are we forever stuck with the limited features of  Of course not.  There are a tone of client applications that will help you actually manage Twitter.

Your TweetStream - To start with, download TweetDeck.   TweetDeck is a client application that helps you sort all your incoming tweets into columns so you can see what’s going on.  You can sort by Direct Messages, Mentions, Hashtags (#) and now with LinkedIn and FaceBook feeds as well.  Plus it keeps the last 500 tweets in each column so you have a longer running history.  The screen has a continuous right hand scroll, so you can set up different groups and their tweets will appear in that column. You might have a group called “best friends” and another for “gardeners” for instance.  That way you don’t miss important tweets from people who are more important to you than others. At the time of writing, Tweetdeck is probably the most widely used application for Twitter and I would highly recommend it to you.

Your Tweets - Start getting some tweets into the system now. On the Twitter home page, it asks What You Are Doing?  Quite frankly many people don’t care until you have built a relationship with them as a result of following.  If you’re just getting started try some of these ideas to get things rolling.

Start by tweeting links to interesting blogs posts (either yours or someone elses) with a link to the post. For example: “Interesting post on pest control in tomatos. Link”. Make sure you always include http:// in the link and not just www so the link is clickable in the Tweetstream.  If it’s a long link, Tweetdeck has a facility to shorten it to a small url.  Tweet a link to an article in an online newspaper – the WSJ or NYT have great stuff and are easy to link to.

Another good way of starting out tweeting is with quotes.   Here’s one I just found in the Tweetstream as an example: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle.  There are thousands of these all over the internet that you can use, but use these sparingly as they can become repetitive if all you do is tweet quotes.

Whatever you do, at no stage of your Twitter career start posting sales tweet after sales tweet.  Your career will be shortlived if you do and people will unfollow you very quickly.  Twitter is about engagement, value and a social experience. A constant flow of sales links is just not cool.  By all means post links to your products or sites, but keep them to around 5% of your total tweets at the most.

Another good idea with your tweeting is to keep religion and politics out of them. These subjects can only alienate followers and you can lose them.

Replies – You can reply to someone’s Tweet simply by putting the @symbol in front of their name. This makes the tweet stand out to them as it appears in their reply column or page instead of in the general Tweetstream. It is a very useful way of starting conversations with people in order to build relationships. Simply comment on one of their tweets. TweetDeck has a feature when you hover over the user’s avatar to put their name and reply symbol straight into the posting area.

Retweeting – People appreciate retweets and it is a good way to get noticed by others.  All you do is put RT in front of the @username. Using TweetDeck, hover over the user’s avatar and it will put the whole thing in the posting area. Separate their tweet from your comment if you have one.  I usually put two pipes, which is holding down the Shift key on the character.  This will produce “||” which clearly shows the end of the other person’s tweet and your reply or comment.

If other people retweet your tweets, make it a habit to thank them.  It’s common courtesy. Simply tweet @username Thanks for RT :-) and send. After all, it’s all about making connections, building relationships and learning more about people.

What’s a Tweet?

The most common question I get about Twitter is “What is it?”  Here’s the scoop…my definition of Twitter is “Blogging for people twitterwith ADD”.  Seriously, twitter is great for people with short attention spans. It is a fast and easy way to push a message to tons of people all at once.  Twitter let’s you send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are posts of up to 140 characters that appear on your profile – known as your “tweet feed”.  Twitter has a language all its own…posts are tweets, the action of posting is called “tweeting”, people who tweet are called “tweeps” (not Twits) and it goes on and on.  Language aside…Twitter has grown like crazy and provides an interesting opportunity for businesses.

Because of its growth, Twitter is a great place to network, build your brand and go prospecting for new clients.  You can actually have a very intelligent conversation in 140 characters or less…plus, people find you and check out your profile, decide to follow-you and you don’t even know it.  They just think you’re interesting, or are interested in the same stuff they are, so they follow you.  The question is how to make yourself stand out from the zillions of other businesses pushing their message.

The thing is, in order for Twitter to work, to get yourself to stand out, it is a significant investment of time.  When you’re first starting out, it takes a while to build a following, to follow the right people yourself, and to make yourself known in the right groups.  Now some of you wanted to know how to do this social media stuff without adding more things to your to do list.  The short answer is that you can’t.  It is another thing to do.  However, if you know that it is going to attract customers and generate revenue then maybe you can trade off some of the other things you’re doing that aren’t helping you reach new customers, or generate revenue.  It is a trade-off, and that is why knowing your objectives and understanding your audience up front is so important.

Anyway, here is how to get started:

When you setup your profile – think carefully about your username, especially if you are struggling with the “My name or my Company name” thing.  If you’re an independent professional then you might want to use your name.  Use your company name if you want to build your brand and you have others representing you.  Your profile on Twitter is completely search engine indexed, which means that all the words you use are very important.  Think of each word as a keyword and make sure it matters to the audience you’re targeting.

My favorite feature of Twitter is definitely the Chats.  Now Chats are not a traditional “feature” but they are the most beneficial aspect of the platform for most business owners and entrepreneurs. This is how you make yourself stand out – get yourself known by your target audience. The way to prospect and network is to go where your prospects hang out…remember?  There are chats on Twitter about every topic you can think of.  They are usually hosted by someone who is an acknowledged expert on the topic on Twitter, they are usually at a scheduled time.  To find the different chats – a great list has been created.  I’ll include the link in the follow-up email.  Chatters track their conversations using hashtags (#) followed by the name of the chat, for example #smallbizchat.

At a specific time, folks start tweeting using the # and then you can follow the discussion by searching on the #word.  These discussions are a great place to build yor credibility, and to make an impression with your target audience.  Anpther warning…on Twitter you have to be part of the conversation or it won’t work.  You have to post tweets that are interesting.  You need to respond to other peoples tweets by either replying or retweeting.  The difference between a reply and a retweet is that when you reply to someone’s tweet – their followers see it along with yours – a great way to get added visibility.  If you retweet – you’re giving that person visibility to your followers – it is a compliment to be retweeted.  You should Reply and Retweet frequently so that you are part of the conversation.

Please remember, not everyone needs to be on Twitter.  If you know that a large group of your target audience is active on Twitter, jump on and start tweeting.  If you target a group that is not active on Twitter, then why on earth would you spend time even thinking about it, unless you’re trying to expand your audience – which brings us back to your business objective once again.