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What I Learned From Writing Camp

This post was originally published on Edelman.com.

Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop: a week of writing boot camp, lectures and roundtables with some of the best literary minds in the U.S. My particular section was new: Literary Hybrid/Book Arts – a combination of nonfiction, poetry, fiction and visual arts through bookmaking.

I wrote, I painted and I learned from academics, stay-at-home moms and professional writers about their approaches to creating and communicating.

In short, the course was an offline, artistic version of a media cloverleaf boot camp.

As I gear up to teach an Edelman Learning Institute course to my colleagues in the Silicon Valley office, here’s what I learned from my week in charming Gambier, Ohio.

1) Good writing = good business

Communication methods may change rapidly, but one tenet remains constant: clear, effective writing leads to change. Writing is a skill that will never be a non-asset – and cultivating that skill through continuing education and practice will always benefit you. Reading helps too – and plenty of resources exist to facilitate consumption of good writing.

Websites like Medium, apps like McSweeney’s and the original mobile technology, the book, are inexpensive, portable and should be part of your daily routine.

2) Displacement = recalibration

Routine, though integral to creating healthy habits and improving skills, can stifle creativity within. Every once in a while – weekly, monthly, quarterly – jostle your day-to-day. Instead of writing something in an email, take a colleague to coffee. Hand write a first draft of a pitch. Travel. Get your hands dirty with paint, clay or glue. Schedule time to meditate and play away from your comfort zone.

Displacement brings out new ideas, relationships and ways of thinking: a recalibration of the creative mind.

3) Communicate in more than just one dimension

My biggest takeaway from this workshop was to think multi-dimensionally. As someone who self-identifies as a writer and attended journalism school, I take comfort in the use of words. In this workshop, we wrote responses to prompts, discussed assignments and approaches, constructed visual vessels for our work, performed pieces in readings and also displayed our books in a final interactive exhibition. We saw people touch our work, read and react – and they often dismantled and interacted with each piece differently than we envisioned. Like great art, we must think about experiential elements as we craft creative campaigns.

4) You are your own product

In the throes of account work, we PR practitioners can forget that clients don’t just look for well-trimmed media lists or stellar media results. They also look for a counselor that they can relate to and confide in – much the same way that a class of writers travels to a workshop to seek guidance and feedback on their art. Your work is your fingerprint, no matter how far removed – be conscious of that and embrace it.

You never know how a past experience or a personal story can be leveraged into an insight, a good story or a new relationship.

Below, take a quick video tour of my exhibition space, which featured interactive art pieces, handmade books and a collection of written pieces.

Image credit: jjpacres

CNN and BuzzFeed Unite: Should Brands Follow Their Lead?

Last week BuzzFeed announced a partnership with CNN to create a new YouTube channel for exclusive content that will utilize the CNN archive to create videos that appeal to a younger demographic. With over 60 million unique monthly visitors, BuzzFeed has built a sizable audience with 70% of its traffic coming from social and 50% being viewed on mobile. This mutually beneficial deal helps further establish BuzzFeed’s place within mainstream media while also delivering the young audience CNN needs to evolve its offering.  Better known for cat memes and over-the-top list videos that people love to share,  BuzzFeed believes it can apply their successful approach to the news to create compelling content that entertains as much as it informs. In conjunction they have opened a “social video studio” in Los Angeles that will be headquarters to a staff that will grow to 30 this year.

What does this mean for brands?

A joint venture like this illustrates the shifting landscape of online video and its role within what brands are trying to achieve through their digital strategies. CNN’s decision to align with BuzzFeed is not simply establishing another channel of distribution, but an acknowledgment that the approach needs to fit the platform. Too often brands will simply use their YouTube channels as a repository for media created for other platforms (often their TV commercials) and wonder why that content actually performs very poorly from an earned media standpoint.  With the right amount of paid media, any video can achieve tons of views.

By tailoring the content for an audience that voraciously consumes and shares online video, BuzzFeed has demonstrated how to organically grow its audience. As the CNN/BuzzFeed experiment unfolds in the coming months it will be interesting to see how well this approach ports to more traditional news done in a new way. Given their track record in the social video space, they will likely do very well for CNN and pull in that coveted younger audience. A win like that could really open the eyes of so many brands that have yet to really redefine their social approach when thinking about online video and more specifically YouTube.

If such an established and trusted brand like CNN can find success with this social video approach and still maintain its prestige, more and more brands will likely follow.  As of today there are less than a handful of brands on the Top 100 Most Subscribed YouTube channels.  Certainly the challenges to compete in a space dominated by individual personalities make it a tough sell to brands to invest heavily in their YouTube presence. But that also means there is a tremendous opportunity for growth and a chance to be the first to carve out success. CNN has thrown its hat in the ring and is doing what all brands need to do to survive: adapt. Hopefully more will follow.

The Thin Blue (Digital) Line

This post was originally published on Edelman.com.

With the release of its social media policy, the New York City Police Department has made its attempt to grapple with how its officers comport themselves in a digital world. Like the impetus for many such policies, this policy apparently owes to the past online behavior of both New York City’s police and fire departments. The headline in New York Magazine puts it bluntly: “NYPD Orders Cops Not to Be Racist on Social Media.” Newsday asks “What Took Them So Long?”

Many people ask “Why have a social media policy in the first place?” pointing to the fact that employees are already supplied with a company handbook on their first day. Indeed, look at the items referenced in the NYPD policy (e.g., that it’s a bad idea to publish unprofessional content, leak photos of a crime scene, speak on behalf of the department, be friends with lawyers/witnesses/suspects, etc.). It’s hard to imagine that those rules aren’t already codified somewhere. In fact, most may think that it’s an inch-high curb to translate the inadvisability of those activities to the digital world.

The short answer to such critics is that the consequences of breaking some of these rules come a lot faster, hit a lot harder, and last a lot longer online. Given that, though, this NYPD case is very different from the typical case at the intersection of employee behavior and online communities—and the difference is a very important one. In this particular instance, these are public employees or, to put it more finely, people technically employed by… “us.” These are people taxpayers pay to keep them safe and maintain order. In other words, everybody has an interest in how this plays out, especially since it’s possible that many other public safety departments are even now relying on these recent NYC developments to help guide their own decisions.

Though it’s easy to understand and support the need for online behavior policies, the NYPD’s policy risks criticism for painting with too broad a brush. For example, a prohibition against posting photos of oneself while in uniform not only prevents officers from displaying pride in their chosen calling as NYPD officers, but may run afoul of free speech and labor laws should the department go on strike and take to the Internet.

A balance must be achieved here. One could argue that there is a very strong incentive to know as much as possible about those paid to protect us. So, we should want members of law enforcement to be online as much as is practical, so long as it doesn’t interfere with their duties or compromise loved ones. A policy, if too-broadly drawn, may have a chilling effect at precisely the time when citizens desire more transparency from their government.

On the other hand, NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly says “One of the issues in a complex business like this is that people say they’re part of an organization, this organization, and make a statement that the public can interpret as policy. You can’t run an organization like that.”

In a pervasively digital world, both law enforcement and civilians will continue to grapple with the following question: “Exactly how much is either group really entitled to know about the other?”

Image credit: damselfly58

Facebook Unveils Graph Search

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled their newest product and it’s a search engine, called Graph Search. This new tool is a friend-based search engine that connects users all over Facebook via friend recommendations and activity. Graph search is currently in beta, but users can sign up to try it here. The sign up is at the bottom of the page.

The product itself is a live search bar that allows users to discover what their friends have liked or recommended, interacted with, visited…even photos of friends. This has generally been done manually in the past by going through individual friend pages and looking at their activities and pages they’ve fanned or tagged. The new search allows you to search for nearly anything your friends have interacted with on Facebook by simply giving social context to your queries. For example, people can discover music, movies, and other interests popular within their friend networks by simply typing in “Shows my friends like”. This will not only display your friend’s pages and the pages of shows your friends like, but clips, and activity associated with those results as well.

Essentially, it is the ability to leverage Facebook’s Open Graph to provide social context for any question you have and search results are unique to each user because, after all, you’re most likely to care about the recommendations and interests of YOUR friends rather than a stranger’s. Whereas you’d normally search for “restaurants in Paris” and inevitably click the Yelp link, Facebook is hoping you’ll just do that from within their site and instead of Yelp, you’ll trust your friend recommendations. Facebook has access to information that isn’t public; this is them leveraging it as a public search tool. All the targeting data you’ve used to create ads can now be used to search for brands, products, photos, people, and more.

Some sample searches you could use include:

  • “friends who live in my city”
  • “software engineers who live in San Francisco and like skiing”
  • ”photos of my friends before 1998”
  • “restaurants visited by my friends from Philadelphia”
  • “books read by people who read books I like”
  • “movies liked by Edelman employees”

Why this is important: Facebook has entered the search game and should be approached with the same importance we give Bing and Google. Whereas a web search is designed for you to search terms across the web, Graph Search is designed to combine phrases with your searches (i.e. “my friends in Los Angeles who listen to Spin Doctors”) to provide social context and, in turn, a higher likelihood of interaction and conversion. This is a tremendously powerful tool.

Functionality wise, this is very much the same as what Yelp does, only with a lot more data, a lot more customization, and a lot more users. Users will likely start by looking for recommendations from those nearby or in their friend networks, and eventually feel comfortable with searches on a wider scale. This will very likely involve some sort of larger paid results product later on. Since sponsored stories already make connections to brands from our friends more prevalent to us, this will likely be the same concept but on search. It is important to note that the way Graph Search is used is different than how one would search on Google or Bing. Users are used to typing in keywords for their searches and Facebook is banking on a behavioral shift that would see users asking questions or inputting phrases into their searches. It remains to be seen how that will turn out.

In the short term, this means increased importance on active communities, complete profiles, and relevant content. There is definitely a renewed importance on fan counts as a larger reach for a brand leads to a higher likelihood of being seen in Graph Search. This, along with Facebook’s recent announcement about making offsite links more prevalent in the news feed means even more importance in making sure content from your website is optimized for Facebook and all social platforms (i.e. meta data, preview images, etc.). Since search results will bring up content links that people interact with, offsite links and content items will play a big part in this as it develops. Over time and as this product expands, the amount of data that can be accessed will likely only increase as developers start integration current applications to work with Graph Search. As Facebook continues to index more data and make this accessible for apps, we’ll be able to see new technologies being powered by what’s available on graph search.

From a content standpoint, this opens up the ability for brands to tailor content specifically to different audiences. You can now search for those connected to one brand and a specific city, gain insights, and use this in your content development. Think about how you could develop customized content based on knowing that the most popular artist amongst fans of your brand is Neil Diamond or whatever else this social search tells you. Encouraging your fans to use the search to connect with “friends in the area who like cheese” could help spur advocacy programs within your community.

Obviously, the ability to search by profession could be something useful for influencer targeting and executive outreach (when used correctly). The Graph Search tool allows you to identify connections in a LinkedIn-type way where you could find someone just outside your network and engage them directly – possibly even with the $1 messaging charge that Facebook recently rolled out for those outside of your network. A strategy like that obviously needs some finessing but the pieces are all there to increase direct outreach and targeting via Facebook.

More information is available on Facebook’s newsroom page.

The Verb May Still be ‘To Google’, but the Search will Happen on Bing

In an effort to deliver the most relevant search results possible to its users, Bing* has begun incorporating social related content from a number of sources into its search results (primarily Facebook, but also Twitter, LinkedIn*, Quora, Foursquare, and Google+, among others). Although similar in concept to Google’s Search Plus Your World, in which Google pulls in relevant content primarily from Google+, Bing has taken a slightly different approach to how the information is displayed on the search engine results page (SERP). This social integration represents an incredible opportunity for Bing’s growth and user adoption going forward.

Social Results Now on Bing – So What’s Different?

Unlike Google’s ‘Search Plus Your World’, Bing does not combine social content directly into the organic listings. Google has received a fair amount of push back from users who feel that search results are too ‘cluttered’ now that social signals are packed into the Google SERP. Instead, Bing keeps the social content separate and displays three different areas of content on the SERP, so that users can find the answer that is right for them.

Traditional Organic Results

Bing isn’t changing the traditional organic results. Bing explained on its search blog that the new SERP layout is “…designed to help you take action and interact with friends and experts without compromising the core search experience.”

Snapshot area

The Snapshot area is to the right of the search results and is designed to provide useful and relevant information about specific queries, such as restaurant phone numbers, maps, and hours of operation. Bing has integrated with companies like Open Table and Yelp, so reservations and reviews can also show up here.

Social Sidebar

The Social Sidebar is on the far right and is where Bing will pull in its social results from a number of sources including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Quora, Skype, and yes, Google+. The Social Sidebar is divided into four different parts:

  • Ask Friends – Pose questions to your friends via notifications and get their opinion on what you are searching for and what listings Bing displays (perhaps a movie review or restaurant pick).
  • Friends Who Might Know – This will show you a list of people that may be able to provide a recommendation or give advice based on information in their public profile (where they’ve lived, photos they’ve been tagged in, etc.).
  • People Who Know – This section has experts and influencers who have blogged or tweeted about the topic you have searched for.
  • Activity – In this section you can see status updates in real time, like Facebook posts, and answer friends’ questions.

Why is this important to Brands?

Bing currently has 15.4% market share of search, which is no small amount of potential customers who will now be exposed to brands’ Facebook content. Community managers for brands will have to keep this in mind for everything they publish through Facebook going forward because it will have the potential to show up in search. Brands will also have to start paying more attention to Bing because of the data that will be available around the correlation between social content and users’ search queries. The opportunity to mine it and strike customer insight gold is too big to ignore. For example, trends will start to emerge around which types of content or commentary on Facebook, blogs, etc. have a higher likelihood of getting pulled into the social side bar (under ‘Friends Who Might Know’, but more important for companies under ‘People Who Know’). This can help inform the creation of content that has a good chance of being viewed in Bing’s eyes as authoritative in a given space.

Edelman’s POV

Why now?

It’s no fluke that Bing has chosen to roll out its social integration with search now. At the core, increasing trust and relevancy is the primary driver. Nonetheless, the timing of the rollout was a calculated play. It served as a return volley to Google’s announcement of the Knowledge Graph, as well as some certainly appreciated positive media for Facebook that coincided with the timing of the IPO.

Advantage, Bing

Bing’s integration with Facebook certainly gives it a leg up on the competition. Expect them to have a short-term opportunity to steal search market share from Google if played correctly. Could this serve as the long awaited catalyst that pushes Bing into the forefront? Possibly, but only if Bing invests in owning social search as a differentiator and not just another feature. Bing’s partnership with Facebook (read Facebook, 900+ million users) is a huge advantage that Bing must leverage to make it happen. In addition, Bing can integrate and pull in content from multiple social channels and doesn’t have to rely primarily on Google+ (170+ million users). Google’s Search Plus Your World was a huge step forward for social search but it hasn’t made a lasting mark on consumers, as many are still trying to grasp the concept and benefits to them. If Bing can own and educate consumers around the importance of social search and trusted results, it will have a good shot of making a step forward on usage. Even though Google technically led the charge on ‘social search’, Bing is well positioned to introduce and engage a much greater number of people to the concept. If done well, consumers will quickly forget who got there first.

What’s to Come?

Expect the adoption rate for Bing’s social search to be a gradual, long-term shift. Consumers will need time to understand how best to leverage the new features. Consumers will also change their sharing habits over time as they realize that social content is now impacting search results and buying choices.

Also, still unclear are Facebook’s plans for search. Obviously it’s needed; both for making Facebook content easier to find and also for driving revenue. Remember that there was a conversation over a year ago between Microsoft and Facebook about the acquisition of Bing. Though less likely, Yahoo is technically an option as well. Facebook also has dropped hints of an internal play.

Whichever direction Facebook decides, it will push into the search space, potentially making the partnership with Bing a short term one. Bing will need to move quickly if it wants to stay ahead and leverage the current opportunity.

Competitive Landscape for Social Search

Google hasn’t stayed quiet during the Bing announcement and Facebook IPO. Last week, Google launched its knowledge graph, which has huge implications on Search relevancy. However, without an impactful social play, Google will be left out. So, expect a continued push to drive adoption of Google+ (which has grown 88% in the number users since February of this year) and look for Google to start integrating additional social platforms, especially Pinterest, as a means of increasing exposure to Search Plus Your World. Also, expect Google to address concerns over social data showing up in the search rankings. The backlash has been loud enough from consumers and Bing seems to have the answer, but not the following. Google will look to tweak its SERP to get social data to play better with search results.

Big changes are no doubt on the horizon in the search landscape. In the next round of the fight for users’ search queries, expect to see more haymakers than jabs.

Further Reading

This post was compiled by Craig Kronenberger, Adam Westin and Analise Siciliano.

*Microsoft and LinkedIn are Edelman clients.

Image Credit: bpedro

Connecting with Today’s (And Tomorrow’s) Workforce

This perspective was originally published by Edelman Employee Engagement on Scribd.

How does your company treat its employees? The answer matters. According to the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer, an organization’s reputation as an employer is critical to its overall trustworthiness: “Treating employees well” is the third-most important action a company can take to build public trust, behind only listening to customers and offering quality products. Indeed, a track record as a trustworthy employer bolsters a company’s broader corporate reputation with audiences beyond current and prospective employees.

To that end, companies often ask us what they should do to make any number of “best places to work” listings. The reality is that there’s no quick ticket to the top: A company’s employer brand develops over time and reflects the overall relationship employees have with your organization. If your company is serious about building its reputation as an employer, first take an honest look at your organization’s employee experience:

  • Are there specific things that need to be addressed before your company deserves a spot on an employer of choice list?
  • How strong are the connections you’re forging – between leaders and employees, between employees and their peers and between employees and customers?
  • What data do you have, such as engagement surveys or exit interviews, that indicate areas to improve or amplify?

Once your company is confident its reputation as an employer is solid, seek out external recognition frequently and proactively. Here are six actions you can take, starting with your own employees:

1. Initiate a Conversation About What Makes Your Workplace Unique

Ask your own employees what brought them to your company – and what has kept them there. Ask managers to nominate employees who aren’t afraid to speak up– they’ll know who they are– and tap participants in leadership development programs or solicit input openly on your intranet or an internal social media platform such as Yammer. Such stories make powerful proof points when seeking external visibility. Conversely, should your company experience challenges in the future, these stories can serve as “reasons to believe,” small nuggets of evidence that the organization can stick it out and succeed. Think about interesting ways to communicate these anecdotes – what about asking employees to submit videos of their kids explaining what Mom or Dad does at work, or having employees post “why I work here” to the company’s Twitter feed in under 150 characters?

On a related note, know what people are saying about your company’s employee experience online via job-rating sites (Glassdoor, Hallway, Jobitorial, Vault, CareerBliss, Indeed) and social sites, including industry-specific forums such as CafePharma, FinBox or AbovetheLaw. You may uncover misperceptions that will shape the story you tell about your company’s work environment. And be sure to align your employer brand story with overall corporate positioning so that the face you present externally is consistent.

2. Tap Employees as Ambassadors

The Trust Barometer clearly indicates regular employees (especially those with technical expertise) are among acompany’s most trusted spokespeople. Seek out volunteers to serve as company advocates: Certify them to advocate appropriately via social media, offer them shareable, compelling content to post and feature them in your recruiting materials. Many companies make ambassadors available to chat with job candidates via the company’s recruiting Twitter feed or LinkedIn group. Others encourage employees to provide a “day in the life of” view into the company by posting photos, status updates and videos that illustrate their experience. Furthermore, from a reactive standpoint, ambassadors can step up and help defend the company from detractors.

Companies typically embark on such programs by first understanding the risks of encouraging employees to talk about the company online, then mitigating those concerns by introducing online behavior policies that ambassadors can easily comprehend and apply. Sometimes training (on company positioning, communication skills or online engagement) is helpful. From there, it’s a matter of equipping ambassadors with authentic, relatable content that they feel comfortable sharing with friends, be it on Facebook or at the store.

3. Establish Your Online Presence in the Places Job-Seekers Go

Yes, it’s important for a company to tell a compelling story on its own websites and channels. But increasingly, candidates are seeking information from a wider array of venues, including social networks, employer rating sites and the forums mentioned above. Make sure your employer brand shows up in all these places through a combination of paid advertising, employee ambassador outreach and multimedia storytelling that illustrates what working at your organization is all about. And don’t forget to reflect your brand in job descriptions, which often end up forwarded or posted on sites other than your own. Reading a position description may be the first experience a candidate has with your company, so seize the opportunity to convey your company’s employee experience, not just to list job requirements.

4. Don’t Forget About Media

New communication channels seem to emerge almost daily, yet traditional media is still highly influential. In our experience, employee of choice recognition alone is not enough to make a story outside of trade announcements. But such recognition can serve as a timely news hook to bolster an overall strategic media plan with key business media, HR trades and relevant local media.

Moreover, the employee stories you collect in pursuit of employer of choice awards or for your overall brand story can make for great local media coverage, particularly when it comes to job creation stories. What about the manager of your company’s local plant who started as a line operator and worked her way up? Or a group of young employees hired via a diversity recruiting partnership with an area university?

Similarly, if you’re prepping your CEO for a media interview, make sure he or she is equipped to at least make mention of the company’s employee experience – after all, your employer brand is inextricably linked to your organization’s overall reputation. Employer of choice positioning is also valuable when developing third-party advocates, particularly community leaders who want to know how your company is creating local jobs.

5. Meet Prospective Employees Where They Congregate

Just as you should connect with employees via online destinations they’re already visiting, seek to attend the events your prospects do, irrespective of industry. For example, in an age where many employers are looking to hire talent with strong digital chops, participating in premier digital events like SXSW Interactive can be incredibly valuable. To maximize your presence at such venues, incorporate your employee experience into speaking engagements, influencer meetings and conversations with other attendees. This effort should complement your company’s executive visibility and corporate reputation strategy.

6. Selectively Seek Out Employer of Choice Recognition

Naturally, many companies covet a spot on Fortune’s annual Best Places to Work For list, the U.S.’s most prominent such honor. Yet many other recognition programs may prove more achievable and effective in connecting your organization with the kinds of employees you need most.

Go after the awards that support your company’s recruiting and retention goals: Expanding your presence in a particular market? Apply for location-based awards (such as Chicago Tribune’s Best Places to Work in Chicago.) If you’re in an industry where the war for talent is especially fierce or need to recruit employees with specific skills, seek out sector-specific programs (such as ComputerWorld’s Best Places to Work in IT.) If you’re looking to diversify your workforce, aim for awards that appeal to the type of employee you need to recruit, such as Working Mother’s Best Companies for Multicultural Women or BusinessWeek’s Best Places to Launch a Career.

About Us

Edelman’s Employee Engagement Practice helps organizations accelerate business performance, delivered by highly engaged and trusted employees. We do this by making meaningful, trust-building connections — connecting employees with the company, connecting employees with each other, and connecting employees with the outside world. We have a global network of employee engagement specialists who can develop engagement strategy; deploy the tools and processes to deliver it; create the multimedia channels and content that support it; and design the insight mechanisms to measure it.

Great Stories Matter with StoryLab

This post was originally published on Edelman Canada’s Ideas blog.

Robyn Adelson recently talked about Edelman Toronto’s first-ever StoryLab – a day-long workshop to celebrate the art of storytelling.

Given our focus on transmedia storytelling, we wanted to inspire our employees to start telling stories differently. Here’s my take on the day and why it was so important.

Optimizing Your Brand’s Google+ Page for Search Engines

The following article is Part 1 in a two part series exploring the optimization strategies for branded pages on Google+. Part 2 will analyze the implications Google+ brings when it comes to brand visibility.

Google’s getting to know you better. Rolling out a slew of social-focused capabilities over the past year, the launch of Search Plus Your World, an indexing of Facebook comments and the growing rumble surrounding Google+, Google has made its desire to find deeper roots in social well-known.

Not surprising, Google appears to be somewhat favoring its own network, Google+, in newly personalized as well as general search results. While Google+ does not quite have the adoption of Facebook, it is rapidly growing (170 MM users, up 174% since December 2011). More important than that for brands right now, however, are the huge implications with Google+ from a search rankings perspective. The opportunity that brands have with Google+, especially in the short term, to capture passionate and influential audiences through increased visibility in Google’s search results, can’t be overstated.

Optimizing Opportunity

In line with general best practices for social community management and public engagement, consistency and relevance are of greatest importance. Google’s index of Google+ content is well aligned with its crawl of any other type of content on the web- credible, relevant content is given preference.

There are four critical areas for optimizing a Google+ account, branded or otherwise, for Search:

1. Optimize your Google+ profile

Keep your profile name simple. Avoid the temptation to do any keyword stuffing in your profile name because it will appear with all of your posts. For your profile image, use a good quality version of your logo that fills as much of white space given as possible. Additionally, be sure to optimize the use of the five images at the top of your profile. Get creative with image content to encourage people to engage with your page. You could use five standalone photos, create a panoramic photo board, or even upload animated gifs.

*

When describing your business in the About section of your profile, be sure to use target keywords based on keyword research. Taking the time to do keyword research will help provide an informed optimization strategy for your profile. Simply put, if you want to be found, use keywords that will help people find you. Be sure to state keywords exactly how they appear in keyword research, even if they are not grammatically correct, to ensure that your content is reaching the greatest number of people. This includes the short, one-line description called your Tagline. The Tagline is essentially the page’s meta description and appears in the search results with your listing. It also appears in the Google+ feed when users hover over the brand name.

Internal linking within the About section is another important factor in building out an optimized profile. The Recommended Links section is the perfect area to link to your owned web properties including other social platforms and your company site. Make sure that you only include relevant links, so as not to send mixed signals to Google about the content of your page.

2. Optimizing your Circles

Creating Circles around target keywords is especially effective for driving search rankings. When creating new Circles, make sure to properly promote the Circles once they go live. As a general rule, you should publicly announce any new Circles when they are created. Again, use target keywords in all promotions to increase search rankings.

The Circle membership of those who put you in their Circles is incredibly important as well. Simply put – by capturing the attention of users with high authority, a brand can build equity and catapult engagement on their own pages. As a rule of thumb, seek to secure relationships with users of high authority and influence to build equity. Comment on, share, and interact with content on these pages to capture their followers. The more high-quality people in the brand’s Circle that link back to the profile, the better. Focus on producing engaging content as a way to grab the attention of Google+ users because a brand cannot add someone to a Circle unless that person has added the brand to their own first.

3. Create compelling content

Content. Content. Content. It’s the third component in the symbiotic relationship with search and social. Content is key to attracting a following and establishing a page. To create Google+ posts that attract attention, gain followers and rank in search, there are a few basic considerations:

- Continue to develop fresh content. Inactivity will lead to a drop off in search rank, despite quality content and high Circle membership. Don’t let more than 72 hours pass between posts. Creating a content schedule is helpful.

- Share engaging videos and photos.

- Post frequently. Studies have shown that even pages generating fewer +1′s per post, reshares, replies or Circle membership can find their way into the organic rankings by posting frequently, (observed in research as about three to four times as often as competitors). Brands assuming this strategy must proceed with caution, however, as Google will still look for quality and penalize content considered spam. Post as often as possible, but maintain quality.

- Avoid trademark use when possible. Google does not read trademarks or other intellectual property symbols.  In fact, using unknown symbols can push your page lower in the search rankings.

4. Share compelling content

Fostering engagement on posts is important and can aide in expanding your Circles and influence, but the end goal should be capturing +1s to influence SEO.

Find more information with step by step instructions on optimization throughout your Google+ account in the presentation below.

Measuring Success

Website analytics data can be utilized to show how content is being shared across multiple channels and where that content is driving traffic to your website. For example, should you share a full blog entry on your website, and then on Google+, at this point, if the content is “shareworthy,” it will most likely be shared across Facebook and Twitter as well. The website analytics will provide clear indicators of which channels are driving the most traffic to your website, but cross-analyzing this with Facebook Analytics and Google+ Ripples, will help a brand better understand the true viral nature of the post / content.

Your World

Finally, something to consider is an audit of the brand’s current content and strategies on websites and other social media platforms.  As we’ve seen, Google Search Plus Your World aims to direct Google search results to relevant content on Google+ when possible. In fact, when the same content is posted both on Google+ and on a company’s blog, the Google+ data has been known to rank higher in organic search due to the +1s and engagement the content has garnered in the past. Transferring website / blog content to Google+ could be an easy strategic move to optimize content and your Google+ profile.

Ongoing innovation and the launch of the Search Plus Your World personalization continues Google on a path towards better enabling the searcher to find relevant and useful information. Participating in Google+ vastly increases the opportunity for your page to appear in relevant search results. A brand’s active participation in Google+ and optimizing its profile and content is today’s best recommendation.

*PepsiCo is an Edelman client.

Image credit: west.m

Community Manager UNconference: Making Social Media Social

With social networks becoming an important driver of both sales and site traffic these days, community management and the role of a community manager are two hot topics. I was able to participate on a panel at the Community Manager UNconference last month where we discussed the role of a community manager and the future of the job. While everyone seemed to have a different take on the role of a community manager, all of us were in agreement that community managers aren’t going anywhere.

A Community of Managers

Each community manager on the panel represented a unique online community with a much different community management experience than mine. Many of the panelists are visibly connected to the brand and the community they manage, which is common for in-house community managers. Their name and personality become the public facing voice of the brand they represent.

In House Community Managers

One of the panelists, Sarah, manages Eventbrite Chicago’s Twitter handle is “Eventbrite’s Chicago Event Evangelist.” Her face and name are displayed on the Twitter profile and she embodies the personality and voice of Eventbrite on Twitter.

The Agency Perspective

While each panelist spoke on behalf of one specific brand or community, I was able to offer the perspective of an agency community manager who oversees and interacts with a few vastly different communities (from turkeys to toilet cleaners!). Because I manage communities for several clients at once, I need to constantly keep in mind the brand voice and the audience as I engage and develop content. This is common practice for all community managers, but I think becomes more challenging when you have multiple communities and brand personalities to represent.

All community managers must have their finger on the pulse of the community in order to build meaningful connections with consumers online. If the community manager isn’t the public face of the brand online, it is crucial that they perfect the brand voice and personality in all communication. As an agency community manager, I believe voice and engagement style are some of the most important factors in shaping a cohesive brand personality online.

A successful community manager is able to personalize a brand, harness advocates and shift perceptions and sentiment. While each of our community manager roles is diverse, the unifying factor between all of the panelists is a shared passion for what we do.

Take the Community Offline

The day following the panel, I attended the Community Manager UNconference, which was a fantastic event and unlike any I’d ever experienced before. An UNconference is a participant-driven meeting where anyone can deliver a session and attendees are strongly encouraged to join the discussion. I liked the set up of this type of conference because you get out of it what you put in – much like an online community.

The idea of taking the online community, offline is a notion often overlooked because many companies are focused on growing their social presence online. Fans and consumers follow a brand because they like it, but most want to follow a brand to connect in a more exclusive and personal way. Community members are looking for that behind-the-scenes connection with a brand, so give them the opportunity to connect offline. There is nothing more personal than face to face engagement, and for that reason, the Community Manager UNconference was the perfect setting for all types and levels of community managers to get together and share insights offline.

Community Managers and Social Business

I learned a lot about community management through the various sessions, and the conference reinforced my appreciation for the role of a community manager in the socialization of business. Whether it’s engaging with fans, offering customer support, driving traffic and sales, and reporting insights and feedback from the community to the brand, the role of a community manager is a versatile one that will only grow as social business evolves.

Like I said earlier – community managers aren’t going anywhere! As long as there is a community that’s interacting, there’s a need for a community manager. If you’re interested in attending the next Community Manager UNconference, it will be held in Toronto, Canada on June 29, 2012.

Growing Trust in the Italian Media: Traditional, Online and Social

Presented on January 31, 2012 by the Edelman Trust Barometer 2012 Italy. Originally posted by Edelman Italy. Please visit the blog of Edelman Italy to download the presentation.

Italy remains a country with a generally high level of trust in Europe. Only the Netherlands, with 61%, shows higher trust in the government, media, businesses and NGOs. Italy was 56% last year and remains at 56% this year, while France slipped to 40%, Spain 37%. Japan falls from 51% to 34% due to the nuclear disaster. The United Kingdom remains low at 41% and the United States at measures at 46%.

Political and Financial Chaos of 2011

Most of the 25 countries examined, governments collected an index of trust below 50%. In France, Spain, Brazil, China, Russia and Japan, as well as in six other countries, trust in government has fallen by over 10 percentage points. Even in Italy the fall of trust in government has been remarkable, but since the survey was conducted between October 12 and November 15, it took into consideration the Berlusconi government (disastrous score: 38%) and not the new government with Monti.

“Today, companies are more credible,” said Fiorella Passoni, CEO of Edelman Italy, “and can lead a general recovery of trust, trying to be perceived as a force for progress and a source of wealth, not for profit organizations “.

Most trust in business is without trust in the CEO. Trust in the CEO dropped by 12 percentage points in Europe on average (the largest slip in 9 years). Instead, back in vogue is the trust in “people like me”, in equals and colleagues, now preceded only by academics and experts.

Implications for Italy and Europe

But Italy is particularly significant in the new-found trust in the media, which rose from 40 to 59%, and in social media, up 19%. Today, social networking, micro-blogging, content sharing sites and information sources are equally reliable as traditional media, and certainly much more than advertising.

“The media did an outstanding job last year to explain the financial problems throughout Europe,” said Alan VanderMolen, President and CEO of Global Business Practices and Insights, Edelman Diversified. “They have been able to offer a wide range of reports and opinions.”

Academics, business experts and technicians are always at the top of the trust in Italy and around the world; they are considered the more reliable than the representatives of NGOs. This perhaps explains why the government led by Mario Monti, who is a famous “academic”, allows Italy to obtain a better level of trust.

Trust Abroad

Japan’s earthquake last March, and the subsequent nuclear disaster have undermined public trust. The government lost 26 points, the media 12, and the NGO’s 21 points. The energy industry has collapsed 46 points; the banks: 20. In contrast, China is now in first place in the world for overall trust (76%), and the only country to register a significant increase in trust the companies, from 61 to 71%.

Post translated by Sergio Veneziani of Edelman Milan.

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