Author Archives: Guest

Franchisees & Social Media: Driving national brand standards to the local level

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Traditional wisdom says that consistency is the key to building a brand. But we’ve found that when it comes to franchising, maintaining consistency at the local level is an ongoing challenge.

True, in a national franchise model, there are many messages which just wouldn’t make sense coming from the brand at a national level, or from every affiliate in the network even at a local level. That is especially true in the real estate industry in which local market conditions drive the business.

But with the advent of social media, brands and franchisees have the best of both worlds, leveraging new platforms to deliver content that is both branded and local.

ERA Real Estate weighed in on this topic earlier this summer at the 2012 Consumer Business Relationship conference, which took place in Boston, Mass.  Historically an academic conference, this year the agenda featured a panel of practicing marketing professionals who brought to life many of the concepts studied and researched at the academic level.

The panel, which included ERA Real Estate’s brand and social media manager Carla Hayes, explored the dynamics of the consumer/brand relationship within a franchising model.  A portion of the discussion revolved around social media for its ability to amplify the brand experience at both the national and franchisee level.

In our experience, social media can help build brands because of its ability to penetrate at the hyper-local level with market-appropriate content, giving franchisees a chance to strengthen customer relationships, promote themselves as a local resource and establish their expertise. Consumers engage with information they need, on a platform that is accessible on their own time, and that maintains and increases brand loyalty by marrying the cache of a global franchise with the local expertise of our franchisees. 

So how do you get the right mix of brand and local content on individual franchise social media profiles? Providing brokers with access to a nationally managed content library as well as a scheduling tool that simplifies the process and saves time has allowed us to drive standards to a local level while giving brokers the chance to be unique to their local market.  We also have the ability to disseminate system-wide posts from the national office to augment local efforts and extend the brand into spaces we normally would not penetrate.

One of the great things about deploying a national social media strategy at ERA Real Estate is that social media by its very nature is consistent with the core values of the ERA community: from our founding, our franchisees have established a culture of collaboration like no other brand in the real estate industry. In addition to facilitating connections to customers, social media also allows our franchisees to connect and keep up with each other, further strengthening that which has served to distinguish us for more than 40 years.   From that perspective, what’s not to “Like”?

-Charlie Young, President & CEO, ERA Franchise Systems LLC

Facebook Comments Versus Likes

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Which is more powerful a Facebook Comment or Like?

Likes may be the most popular but comments hold much more weight reports a post, Facebook Comments Are Four Times the Value of Likes    All Facebook credits EdgeRank Checker for the following data:

An average Facebook post generates 1.103 clicks per like, 14.678 clicks per comment and .005 clicks per impression.

I suppose a comment requires more thought, time and is an interaction that reveals the commenter’s views which are then broadcast to friends – so this should not be surprising.

The key for businesses is to offer relevant content that engages and asks the opinions of its fans.


Customer Complaints On Social Media

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Social media is viral by definition – as we all know that can be good and well, that can be bad. 

There are many, many stories of a complaint going viral and the lack of attention or poor judgment in handling the comments.   Recently, Pfizer’s made news because they started deleting negative Facebook comments when some found a Chapstick ad offensive. 

So you would think that companies would be on top of responding to customer complaints across social media. 

Well apparently not.  E-marketer reports in How Well do Companies Respond to Customer Complaints that even when customers complain, some companies don’t think they do so online and almost 25% did not know whether their customers did so or not.  Hmm. 

The article goes on to state that 29% of companies never respond to feedback on Twitter while 17% said the same for Facebook.  E-marketer has reported research that clearly shows that consumers want attention on social media and sometimes even just the attention that a company pays can diffuse an issue before it gets out of control.

Are companies hiding their heads in the sand? 

What do you think?


Facebook Comments and Google

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Google spiders that crawl web pages are reading Facebook comments like any other text – and you can search the text of these comments using regular Google search. Amit Agarwal reports on this latest development on Digital Inspiration in Google Begins Indexing Facebook Comments 

Why is this important?  Because, now comments that would have previously been left out of Google Search because the spiders could not read them, can be picked up for SEO.

So, if you use Facebook Comments, the comments will show when you search by a relevant term.  Amit points out, you need to make sure you moderate carefully – Google could hold you in violation if inappropriate comments are picked up.

We think this could also increase the value of a Facebook fan too.  

2011 Mashable Awards

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Last year, Engage121 was proud to be on the short list for Mashable Awards, 5 Superior Social Media Management Tools .   Its time again for the Mashable Awards, and we are excited to enter for Digital Company of the Year and Up-and-Coming Social Service.  Read below for the category descriptions.  You can nominate one candidate once a day for each category (so if you like, you can nominate us for both categories once a day until November 18th.) We welcome your support so please nominate us through the following link

Here are some details on the categories which are a bit different this year.

Mashable describes the Up-And-Coming Social Service as:

This category honors the reader’s choice for the social media service that is currently experiencing major growth but has not yet received massive mainstream attention. Services nominated for this category are not necessarily full-fledged social networks but must include social media as a core feature.

And Mashable describes Digital Company of the Year as:

This category honors the reader’s choice for the top traditional (non-digital) company that has excelled in the digital space in 2011.

Don’t forget to vote!  Thank you.

Connect121 – Connect Socially to Team and Colleagues

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How do you communicate with your team and colleagues?  E-mail?  Phone?  Shout?  Or, has your company started using an internal social networking program? 

Along with many of our clients, we use Connect121, which is built into our social media management software, Engage121.  Connect121 is a private, internal micro-blog that allows users to share messages, create tasks and collaborate with colleagues and groups.  Users can also set up alerts that go directly to their mobile or email.

We use Connect121 in many ways.  Recently, it came in handy during Hurricane Irene as our application did not experience any disruptions (but our email did have issues) so those of us with Internet access could communicate through Connect121. 

Other ways we use Connect121 include:

  • Communicating new application updates and features
  • Announcing everything from a new client signing on to the latest birthday
  • Welcoming our new employees (our interns last week)
  • Coordinating teams and assigning tasks
  • Communicating miscellaneous news, traffic and whether or not the office is open or closed during blizzards, hurricanes and “Nor’Easters (and all of the rest of the East Coast weather we endure…).

In short, Connect121 is the most transparent way for everyone to know what is going on, and it is changing the way our clients – and how we work.  We would love to show you how it could help you.

Tell Me A Facebook Story

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Yesterday I attended the Advertising Week session, “Brands as Storytellers, The Art and Science of Capitalizing on Social Media.”  John Yi was on the panel from Facebook, and he had some interesting insights.  What I heard was further reinforced when I read the Facebook Developer blog

In short, Facebook continues to help brands and businesses think about – how do you approach consumers in this very personal space in a way that marries the personal with the commercial (in a way that does not feel too commercial).  How do you do it to your advantage? And, of course, how do you measure it so you can do it better?  

It has been a challenge since day one.  So this is not new.  But I like how Facebook is packaging the message and helping brands out by providing a metric.  It makes sense.

Here are some highlights from the blog and from the Advertising Week session along with my own thoughts:

  • When a brand or a person tells a story, they build connections.  Facebook is the perfect place to tell these stories and cultivate these connections.  The media is rich.  There is always an audience. 
  • People can tell stories by their posts – and also their actions.  So, when you “check-in” to a restaurant that may be part of a story.  Maybe it is your wedding anniversary and the fact that you chose a certain restaurant and maybe supplemented the “check-in” with some photos provides a pretty deep illustration of a very personal experience – it is also an endorsement of a business (even if you were not intending to endorse).
  • How do you measure viral?  You know it is powerful.  Facebook has come out with a measurement, “People Talking About This” which will appear on every Page under “Likes” to show the number of people having a conversation about the Page.  Not so sure about the name, but it sounds like Facebook may work on that…
  • In the end, these measures should help Page owners understand and measure the effectiveness of their communication, change accordingly and ultimately communicate better.  In the end, a better story making Facebook a better place for people and business brands.

For more details on the latest Facebook thinking and how to get started, visit the Facebook blog .

Hospitality and Social Media – More than Reviews

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Wake up travel and hospitality friends!  There is a big social world out there for you to conquer.

Let me explain.  At the moment, our travel and hospitality clients and prospects are obsessed with review sites.  We understand.  Reviews (good or bad) drive some big metrics: REVPAR, occupancy, restaurant covers etc. 

And we understand why they like to monitor and respond to 35+ review sites (including the biggies like Trip Advisor and Expedia) 24/7 through Engage121.  We built that feature just for them.  But we worry this focus, may be causing our clients to miss some other very big changes in social that could have an even bigger impact on their business.

We like what guest blogger, Travis Pittman, has to say about it in a recent post on TKnooz.  Read the entire article .  Here are a few highlights that struck us.

Facebook’s Open Graph will now let people share what they are doing and planning.  Travis outlines a trip to South Africa.  I imagined my own trip and what my friends would see on Facebook as something like:

“Mary booked her trip to Paris on Air France”

“Mary reserved the week at the George V”

“Mary read a review about the Prince de Galles.”

“Mary added five photos to her album, Dinner at the Guy Savoie”

(I am dreaming now…)

As Travis explains it, “As more businesses integrate the new frictionless sharing feature of the Open Graph to their websites and Fan Pages, there is an increased chance of friends being inspired by their friend’s activities during the planning phase and potentially joining them (or at the very least, telling them which sites their friends use in their travel planning).”

So in the above examples, my friends will know where I am staying, eating, flying – and I am guessing at the very least will want to come or possibly be inspired to do some planning of their own.

So, big changes are on the way for travel by way of social.

With 750 million active users, what is going on with Facebook may just get some attention from our review-obsessed friends.  We are here to help.

Why should a bank use social media?

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Engage121, Inc. will be a sponsor at the New England Financial Marketing Association (NEFMA) fall conference in Newport 10/6 – 10/7.  Engage121′s Steve Paster will be there, and he offers his thoughts below on how banks can use social media to drive business goals.

As I am preparing for my trip, I keep thinking about the question I expect to get the most: Why should a bank use social media?

My answer is straightforward but hard to accept: You should figure out your marketing goals and objectives, and determine how to leverage social media to achieve them. 

Here are some examples of how this can be done:

  • Differentiation:  One bank’s money is as green as the other, yes?  Well, how about differentiating the consumer’s experience with social media?  We have financial services clients who are creating vibrant Facebook communities – and seeing dramatic increases in fans translating to new accounts, retention and overall awareness.
  • Product Awareness:  Our financial services customers want greater product awareness.  Personally, I use about 10 different companies for my checking, savings, retirement, insurance, credit card, mortgage, and car loan.  I am sure there is an overlap of services among those companies, and each would love to have more of my business (I just took diversification too literally I guess).  These customers can get the word out through social.
  • Customer Growth and Retention:  Our clients monitor what their clients and prospects are saying in social media.  They can identify trends and join the conversation, in real time, where appropriate.  Other community banks realize that they have something in common with their clients, their community, and use social media to show support, promote upcoming events, and show their active community stance.  This helps drive new customers and keep the ones they have.

As for me, I don’t “like” my bank on Facebook.  Why?  They don’t even have a page!  In general, my personal sentiment towards them would be neutral.  That is, until I recently learned that they plan to charge a $5 monthly fee if I use my debit card.  There is outrage against them on Facebook and Twitter, yet they do little to protect themselves or insulate their brand. 

If a bank has an engagement application in place, now would be the time to interact with the upset customers of my bank, and entice them to try a better alternative.  

Banks also worry about compliance (maybe that is why my bank does not have a page). Engage121 can help with that as our product has built in approvals, permissions and archiving that let banks comply. 

I am looking forward to talking to NEFMA attendees about meeting their goals compliantly through social media.


Rolling with the Changes

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What do you think of the latest Facebook changes?  Engage121′s Jack Campisi weighs in -

We’ve seen this before. We log into Facebook one morning and our world is turned upside down. Things look different, things act different and I haven’t even had my coffee yet.

Every so often Facebook likes to pull the rug out from under us and change their interface. They usually do this right after everyone has finally gotten used to their last batch of changes.

As you probably saw, the reaction to this most recent series of changes was strong. From some of the negative backlash I saw on my Facebook feed, you’d think the world was about to end.

I saw a great post the day after the changes hit that summed it up well. It read: “I’m appalled that the free service that I am in no way obligated to use keeps making changes that mildly inconvenience me.”

For the next few weeks we’ll be seeing posts from various friends complaining about the new Facebook and a few people will even threaten to leave. But I doubt very many actually will. More likely, people will simply get used to it. And they just might even discover that they like some of the new features. Maybe even love them.

Have you heard about the new Timeline feature that’s due to be unveiled on Sept. 29th? I saw a sneak peak of it over a friend’s shoulder and it looked pretty cool. There’s already a buzz about it.

Facebook’s facelift seems to be in part a reaction to Google+, who’s “Circles” have  caused quite a stir in the social media world as a smart and easy way to organize your contacts and protect your privacy. But I don’t know a lot of people who want to migrate over there and start their social network over from scratch. If Facebook can mirror that kind of functionality, it will be a welcome change for those who like to pick and choose who sees what from their Facebook posts.

And I am sure there are a lot more things in store that we have not even seen yet. So my advice to everyone is to calm down, take a deep breath and don’t rush to judgment on the changes to Facebook. Give it a chance and wait to see everything that they have in store for us. I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road… that’s par for the course when you change anything.

Who knows? Eventually Facebook may need to add a “Love” button for all of these changes. And if not, remember, it’s a free service and you are not obligated to use it. In other words, don’t hold your breathe for a “Hate” button.