For almost every company, a website is a standard component of their public presence and a part of their marketing mix. New web-based services like weblogs and YouTube have experienced record growth for non-business and personal uses, but most businesses have not adopted these technologies as quickly. Nevertheless, some Wilmington area companies have begun to experiment with marketing through these social media services and have found them to be a successful way to communicate with potential and existing clients.
In contrast to a traditional website, information posted to weblogs or “blogs” is written in a less formal tone, organized into categories and sorted by publication date. A weblog can serve as an effective way for potential clients to learn more about a company or vendor and to become familiar with a business or services provided. “Social media is an exciting new frontier for the marketing industry,” said Debbie Elliott, President of Talk PR, a local public relations and marketing firm. “We are constantly exploring new ways to expand our clients’ exposure online, and what better way to sharpen our expertise than to experiment with our own brand? Since launching the Talk blog, we have recommended the use of blogs to many of our clients as an effective way to communicate with their various audiences.” Talk PR’s weblog was created in 2005 with Google’s Blogger platform and can be found at talkincblog.com. In May, Talk PR transitioned the site to WordPress to add more customizable, interactive features such as polls, a roll of staff members’ favorite blogs and websites and social networking bookmarks.
Eddie Yates, a certified life coach and fitness trainer in Wilmington, said that a potential client from Rhode Island came across his weblog at usinmotion.com and informed him that she “all ready felt like she knew him” from reading the postings. Yates reports that he “posts to his weblog when something really strikes [him], but may go a week or so without something worth mentioning.” Yates believes that the weblog is an important part of his site because it allows readers to understand his business and philosophy, and because it changes regularly, it keeps people coming back to his website.
In the Wilmington, weblogs written by Realtors account for a high percentage of the business weblogs. A Google search for “Wilmington, NC Blog” returns a majority real estate-related weblogs. Most of the topics discussed on Wilmington real estate blogs include the current market conditions, new developments and sales techniques. “I have gotten a few leads from my blog and I am currently working with a customer that read my blog [post] about Short Sales” said Exit Realty’s Michelle Roberts. Roberts also can be contacted via SMS message from her website and uses the microblogging platform Twitter. Twitter allows users to post 140-character messages, called “Tweets,” from a website, mobile device or via instant messaging to a central website. These updates then can be then included in weblogs or subscribed to by other users called “followers.” Twitter’s popularity is expanding rapidly and the site is currently used by a number of Wilmington graphic designers, realtors and local churches, in addition to a wide range of personal users. While Roberts has not seen any leads from Twitter yet, she admits that she is just starting to use it.
Talk PR also uses Twitter to put out updates on projects and connect with customers. Twitter allows Talk PR to quickly update its “followers” on events or news happenings within the company, providing a window into a day in the life of Talk PR. Interested visitors to Talk PR’s blog can click on the Twitter feed in the side bar to view the updates.
In addition to weblogs and other text-based social networking site like Twitter, video sharing sites such as YouTube are becoming a popular way to connect with customers. Wilmington, New Bern and Smithfield’s KOA campground each have a YouTube channel with videos produced by the campground staff. Local marketing firm Signal envisioned the YouTube project at KOA. “We created YouTube channels for each of the three campgrounds and provided instructions on how to optimize the content and keywords to help with their search engine optimization efforts. The campground managers shoot a new video every month. We then update the web site and include the video in a monthly e-newsletter that we produce,” said Bryan Kristof, Signal’s Director of Marketing. While these videos have a smaller reach than the majority of viral marketing sensations, some of KOA’s videos have had over a thousand views as of the time of this article.
Publishing weblogs and other social media is not without its risks. According to Nathan Snell, a recent UNCW graduate who blogs about social media at www.thesnell.com, authenticity is critical to the successful implementation of a business weblog. “Inauthenticity is the probably one of the greatest things for a company to avoid when using social media properties (blogs, youtube, social networks, etc) or even when planning to engage with others on said properties. For example, a company who uses a blog strictly to promote products, events, and so forth is missing the purpose of social media,” said Snell. Just like using “reply all” in an email, quick postings to Twitter or weblogs can lead to embarrassment if they are not thought out completely. “On Twitter people accidentally send what was supposed to be a direct message as a tweet to everyone all the time,” said Snell.
In related news, Verizon Wireless recently completed a study comparing the monthly use of text messaging by their clients between 2006 and 2008. The study found that this April, Wilmington-based Verizon customers sent or received 6,334,002 text messages compared to 112,405 in the same period in 2006. Charlotte earned the number one spot across the state as the ‘textiest city’ with customers accounting for over 103 million text messages in April of 2008 compared to just fifteen million texts sent and received in April of 2006. “The Big City Wireless Use study offers North Carolinians an interesting snapshot of how they have come to rely on their cell phones every day to do much more than make phone calls,” said Jerry Fountain, Verizon Wireless President for the Carolinas/Tennessee region. “This study proves text messaging is a phenomenal way to communicate information quickly and efficiently to stay connected with family and friends, wherever they may be.”