Define and Align: A Manageable Content and Social Media Marketing Process

In our experience, we’ve discovered that we usually have to ease our clients into the realities of organic web marketing. They can get behind the groundwork of SEO easily enough; user experience and integrating the right keywords: these are not totally alien concepts to anyone who’s been around the marketing scene for more than three seconds.

But when we get into the truth of how much time and effort goes into the actual work of raising their web visibility–that it’s an ongoing process that will require them to generate content and build relationships–we often see some reluctance.

To combat that reluctance, we’ve put a lot of thought into how we conduct and explain our particular version of content marketing.

Defining our Terms

Before we get into that, a quick note about said version of content marketing. In general, we understand that content marketing is usually considered different from social media marketing. Content marketing is about drawing attention to the content on your website; social media marketing is about encouraging engagement on the various social media forums out there in cyberspace.

When we work with clients on their web marketing, we tend to blur that line between content and social media marketing. Every strategy we develop includes both. Valuable content–blog posts, infographics, videos, whatever content type aligns with the client’s goals–forms the foundation of any web marketing effort. Once we’ve got the value, we utilize social media to get the word out, engage, build relationships, and ultimately brand awareness. See the blurring?

To us, the label matters less than having a deliberate and intentional strategy to provide something of value on an ongoing basis, because content and social media marketing ultimately work together to build:

  • Value in your company or organization (or on behalf of your client)
  • A personality and brand that people know and trust
  • Sustainable relationships
  • A supportive online community
  • Domain authority and desired rankings

The Solution

So, when our clients consistently had a tough time grasping what it takes to raise their visibility on the web, we decided that something had to be done.

To that end we’ve developed an approach that clearly explains and delineates the process, step-by-step. It spells out who does what and when and how and just, in general, makes the whole thing both more manageable and more palatable to our hesitant clients.

We always start out by explaining that our organic web marketing process includes three stages:

  • Stage One
    SEO & Local Search (research & implementation)
  • Stage Two
    Link Building & Social Media Strategies (research & development)
  • Stage Three
    Ongoing Implementation & Measurement (which never, ever ends)

This graphic depicts Stages Two and Three. It is the process that we use to develop and implement content and social media marketing strategies for our clients:

Content Marketing & the Social Process

By the time we get to this part of our (almost painfully) well-defined process, two things have come to pass:

[1] Stage One Has Been Completed
Way back at the beginning of Stage One, the clients completed a data collection questionnaire that provides us with a general understanding of the following:

  • design preferences & assets
  • logins (website, analytics, social)
  • competition (top 3)
  • target audience (and level of expertise)
  • website (most important pages, most significant tasks)
  • calendar (highs and lows, significant events, holidays, roadblocks)
  • team (point of contact)
  • marketing efforts (print, social, SEO, email marketing)
  • goals & expectations (SEO, social media)

We have reviewed these findings and worked through all of the necessary website and SEO efforts that are part of Stage One of the project (site audit, navigation development, user experience, keyword research, on-page optimization, local search integration, etc.). 

Stage One lays the groundwork so that the website is optimized and ready for all the targeted traffic we’re going to generate. We’ve also discovered the keywords that we will be integrating into both their link building and content/social media marketing strategy so that we are building links to the right pages on the website once we get to Stage Three.

[2] We Have Defined & Aligned Everyone’s Expectations & Responsibilities
Every client has different budgets and expectations of participation. Some clients have a large internal team that can dedicate the time to ongoing content generation and strategy implementation. Other clients really need to lean on our knowledge, expertise, and resources, so at that level we act as their third party web marketing team and carry most of the load for them.

No matter what level we are working with a client, we always make it very clear what it takes to achieve desired results and who will be held accountable for achieving these results. If a client asks us to assist them with research, analysis, and strategy development, but they want their internal team to do the ongoing implementation, we cannot be held accountable if our recommendations are not carried through. It’s really important to establish these guidelines with a client even before you go under contract. It will certainly make for a more successful and long lasting consulting partnership.

All that being said, here’s how content marketing and the social process breaks down:

Step One: Analyze & ObserveStep One: Analyze & Observe

In this first step of the process, you’ve got to get a really strong understanding of the the social climate. Analyze what the client is currently doing (or not doing) with their social on their website, blog, and print marketing efforts. Do the same for their competitors. Get a solid understanding of what is going on in their industry, focusing on the social space.

Your goal with this analysis is to put together a list of general observations: what are the common threads between the client and their competitors? What could be done better? Note the gaps in content and where gains can be made. We record these observations on a chart so that we can integrate them into the analysis and recommendations that we provide the client. These observations will also be very helpful when you begin developing the strategy and calendar in Step Three below.

Build Your Online CommunityStep Two: Build Your Online Community

In Step Two, you will be establishing the foundation for the online community. At this point, the goal is simply to get acclimated to the social spaces where the client will be following, reading, engaging, and at some point, providing valuable content.

So, based on what you discovered from the data collection findings about the target audience(s), current efforts, and goals, which social media outlets seem like a match?

Let’s say you’re going to recommend Twitter and Google+ as targets in their content marketing and social strategy. Find the thought leaders in their industry on Twitter and Google+ and follow/circle them. Read the content they’re passing around, engage with them where appropriate, add the people that they are following to your list. Start to get a feel for how the online community operates (posting frequency, content type, tone, etc.) and get acclimated. Take it slow.

Reminding clients that social media is a tool and not a strategy helps them to understand that it’s important to have a plan in place. It’s not about being on every social media outlet. It’s about being on the right social media outlets and customizing the content to the target audience. This will ultimately build the best online community and bring your client desired results.

Developing an online community is an important and ongoing process that is worth a great deal of dedicated time and effort. This community is going to help you carry the load. If the community trusts and values you, they will help to do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to getting the word out (marketing your content). More on this in Step Five.

Develop You Strategy & CalendarStep Three: Develop Your Strategy & Calendar

As mentioned, at the beginning of a project, we ask our clients to define their goals and expectations. This allows them to communicate their desires, and it gives us an understanding of whether their expectations are realistic.

If there are any red flags (i.e. wants a too-quick turn-around: 15,000 followers in six months with no budget to fund large campaigns), then certainly we address any concerns at the beginning of the project.

Before we begin developing the strategy and calendar, we outline a list of realistic goals and how we are going to work toward them. Again, we integrate this chart into the analysis and recommendations that we provide the client so that they have an understanding of what we are going to be accountable for.

Goal Setting Chart

These goals and action items are just the precursor to their strategy. The analysis and recommendations that we provide the client includes a very detailed, step-by-step breakdown of their strategy (all the stuff we’re going to help them do or do for them).

As you’ve probably guessed, every strategy we develop includes content generation on an on-going basis. But we also include targeted strategies and ideas for whatever is necessary to meet their unique goals, things like apps, contests, events.

Our strategies are detailed and very specific. We provide step-by-step instructions for every campaign (i.e. what to do prior to the contest to ramp up, what to do during the contest, what to do after the contest), so that the strategy can be easily followed by the client’s internal team (in case we’re not handling the implementation). And, hey, if their budget allows us to do the work, then these details make it easy for our team to execute.

The narrative of the social strategy is also accompanied by a digital calendar that includes all actions to be taken and who is responsible for completing them. We make sure the calendar allows plenty of time for first-draft content reviews and revisions prior to launch/implementation.

Google Social Media Calendar

Our clients prefer that we provide some guidance, so each of these calendar items includes a brief description of the task. If you click on one of the calendar items, there is some detail so that whoever the task is assigned to, they know exactly what is expected of them. Because the calendar is digital and everyone on the team has access, when we make changes to their schedule or strategy, everyone is alerted.

Google Social Media Calendar Details

When you’re developing the content and social media marketing strategy, make sure that you are aligning all efforts (SEO, link building, social media, email marketing, etc.). Everything, from print to web, should be integrated and leveraged. You can then determine which tools and methods you will use for measurement (we love Raven, SEOmoz, Google Analytics, and Sprout Social) so that you can show the client the progress that is being made.

Create the ValueStep Four: Create the Value

Once the strategy is ready, it’s time to create the content. Clearly this is an ongoing effort, but having a strategy to follow will ensure that content is being generated on a regular basis and that it is working towards meeting the goals that have been outlined. It will also keep everyone involved organized and focused so that you’re not heading towards burn out.

On a side note: we like to encourage clients to integrate links to other valuable content (articles, video, infographics, etc) in their posts. This helps to provide a more engaging user experience and it also gives the opportunity for link and egobait. You can always publish a post and alert the author that you liked one of their articles and mentioned it in your post.

Get the Word OutStep Five: Get the Word Out

The content has been created, so now comes the fun part. When getting the word out, you have two main goals:

First, provide something of value.

Second, be authentic (and make sure that you’re consistent with voice).

Every social media outlet is different and your approach should reflect that. Don’t use the same teaser for Facebook as you use on Twitter. Not only are the formats of these outlets different, but so are the audiences, their behaviors, and their expectations. Take the time to customize your messages and you’ll get better results. You can then measure and analyze these efforts in Step Seven and determine if you need to try a different day of the week, time of day, reduce/increase frequency, or a whole different approach altogether.

Monitor & EngageStep Six: Monitor & Engage

Once the content is out, you will want to be hands on, so get ready to monitor and engage. If you’re not getting bites on your content (re-tweets, mentions, etc.) try some direct engagement. Tweet, use other social outlets, or even email people directly to encourage some action.

As we’ve said, depending on budget, we may do some or all of this work for the client. We always define specific tasks that the client is responsible for and specific tasks that we are responsible for (and they are always noted on the calendar). Joint tasks usually include things like daily review of the online community and social media outlets, as well as responding and engaging.

Even if we are not engaging on behalf of the client, we are always monitoring the client’s efforts. This provides the client with useful feedback that will help them to learn, improve, and ultimately be successful. Certainly we are always monitoring data, and we provide a series of reports analyzing and explaining their metrics in the next step, Measure & Analyze, below.

Measure & AnalyzeStep Seven: Measure & Analyze

Accountability is really important, especially because clients will always be concerned with ROI which can be difficult to quantify with content and social media marketing.

We continually communicate with the client and provide bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports that all serve specific purposes.

The bi-weekly report is meant for a quick look. It’s a short, 1-2 page report that we email to the client that includes a ‘Way to Go’ section (things they’re doing well), a ‘Some Reminders’ section (things they need to remember to do to keep them aligned with the strategy), a ‘Benchmark’ (current state of social efforts), and a ‘Looking Forward’ section (actions required). It’s a quick accountability report that provides the client with an understanding of what we’ve been working on (and perhaps what they need to be working on).

The monthly report is the month at a glance, including significant social media activity (increase in following, furthering reach, etc.), trends we’re seeing, and other things to look out for (there may be some link building or SEO items to point out here). We include screen shots from both Sprout Social and Raven, as well as any screenshots of analytics specific to the social media outlet (i.e. Facebook).

The quarterly report is the most in-depth as it includes a look at the global picture. This report illustrates the progress of everything we are working on for the client: SEO, link building, content marketing, and social media. Clearly we are monitoring, analyzing, and taking action on these pieces throughout the quarter, but this reporting session is meant to really dig in, analyze the data over a longer period of time, and make the necessary improvements in all areas (SEO, link building, and social media). This meeting is always a sit down, face-to-face (if possible) with the client. We may make changes to the strategy in this meeting or address new work that the client would like us to take care of.

Rinse & RepeatStep Eight: Rinse & Repeat

Once you’ve completed this process, you can start over with a new idea, a new goal, and a new strategy. Follow the same steps and customize the process for the work you do with your clients.

Along the way, don’t forget to celebrate the little victories. We get really excited about getting re-tweets, targeted links, and engaging with thought leaders. We teach our clients to bask in the excitement of even the smallest accomplishment. It helps them to understand how hard we work for them (with them) every day.


So, that’s how we do it. For now, anyway. We are continually working on shaping our systems and processes so that we can provide our clients with the most value (and get them desired results). You can certainly use this process as a guideline, but keep in mind that every client and project is going to be unique and will require customization at some level. And, of course, as content and social media marketing evolves, this process will require adjustment.

We’ve discovered that spelling things out, dissecting and cataloguing the entire process, severely reduces the terror that our clients experience in the face of the alien world of content marketing (just like Area 51 does it). And it makes sure everything runs smoothly for us as we implement as well.

So, how about you? How do you convince your more timid clients to commit to the real deal? And, since we are always striving for improvement, we’d welcome your thoughts on how we do it, too.



12 Hardcore Social Media Tactics from #SMX Advanced in Seattle

OK. I have a confession to make. I’ve mislead you. I don’t have 12 Hardcore Social Media Tactics to share. I just have 7.

The reason why I said I had 12 for you in the title will become apparent if you read the rest of this post and get to number 7.

I promise.


This morning I’ve been at SMX Advanced. The brain child of Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman, the event in Seattle this week helps seasoned marketers get to grips with the latest tips, tricks and what’s next in search and social media.

As I run social media for Microsoft Advertising, I made a beeline for the hardcore session kicking off the conference that featured Vince Blackham, Director of Social Media at 97th Floor, Brent Csutoras, Social Media Consultant / Entrepreneur at Kairay Media, Monique Pouget, Director of Content Marketing at Thunder SEO and the fabulous Marty Weintraub, CEO of aimClear.

In a whirlwind tour of various platforms and tools, Pinterest featured highly as the panellists agreed that “visual content is king” when pinning, but also on other networks like Facebook, where Weintraub suggested having the correct Open Graph tags on your site to give you more control over what image appears on your page feed.

For SEO, the written word obviously affects ranking in a more dominant way, but for many social destinations a picture can tell a thousand things about what you’re trying to say. This advice is backed up by research the Bing team did a few years back which stated that the human brain can process the information in an image forty times quickerthan text.

In a session peppered with other sites to think about – StumbleUpon, reddit and – there were notable absences like LinkedIn and Google+ (which the panellists suggested was inextricably linked to Google rankings so you’d be advised to tread carefully).

For me, Brent Csutoras’ advice leapt up and got my attention as he said as everything is moving towards social signals, content marketing is now more important than ever.

This all goes back to our mantra of making content discoverable and shareable i.e. writing in such a way that search engines will index it and people can find it, but also in a way that people will feel compelled to share and make that content discoverable on other social networks to like-minded audiences.

In his presentation, Brent talked about “being prepared to succeed”:

  • Have a plan! Social media marketing isn’t just about writing a blog post, programming a couple of Tweets and Facebook updates and leaving them to do their thing. They won’t. You need to nurture your network and community and, to be efficient, you need to have a plan!
  • Have a dedicated person! See above. It isn’t a job someone can do in their spare time to be effective. Find someone who can live and breath your community, someone with a good likeability factor who is swift to respond and engaging. Social media is a discipline. It’s an on-going relationship with your customers and potential customers. You can’t do it part time.
  • Understand targeted communities! It’s important to realise that different communities want different things, act in different ways and respond differently to different triggers. You need to understand the playing fields you’re operating on. Strike the wrong tone and you can do difficult-to-repair damage. Design personas for each community and stick to refined outreach based on your research.
  • Establish accounts! Make sure you have established accounts on all the major networks. Be an early adopter of others and build up followings and relationships based on the bullet above.
  • Plan for when you do succeed! Brent didn’t mean take a bow either. He meant be quick to capitalise on those successes. Find more opportunities through those positive occasions and build for the future.
  • Never know what will succeed or fail! Sometimes the biggest surprises happen where you least expect them to. Be open to things going right or wrong in the most un-obvious of places and be quick to resolve any conflicts. If something good has happened, then see the bullet above!
  • Oh, and 12 is optimal for lists in social media says Vince Blackham. His research says 10 is too little and 15 is too many for good virility, hence this post’s title.

Was he right?


Where Our Social Media Efforts Are Best Served

For many small businesses, their ability to make a profit or keep their heads just above water hinges on being able to successfully promote their companies.

In today’s day and age, part of those promotional efforts revolve around social media and the ability to interact with both current and potential customers.

As many of us that immerse ourselves in social media on a daily basis know, SM is a relatively free and informative means by which to get one’s message out to the masses. That then begs the question, is a better to do social media promotion in-house or outsource it to agencies that specialize in it?

In the event your small business finds itself dealing with this question, consider a number of factors prior to making any decisions.

Among the things to look at for having your social media promotions staying inside the company would be:

  • Familiarization – It only stands to reason that your in-house team, be in the marketing or public relations folks, have more of a clue as to what is going on inside your business than someone on the outside. If you keep the social media efforts inside the company, you also have greater control as to when the items will run and on what venues;
  • Saving money – If you decide to outsource your social media efforts to a company that specializes in such work, expect to pay for it. If you stop and think about it, promoting social media is not the most time consuming task in the world. If you have it in your budget to spend the funds for social media promotion that is fine, but if you find yourself scrutinizing each and every task your company does, it would make more sense to do the work yourself;
  • One more oversight responsibility – Should you decide to outsource your company’s social media efforts, it only stands to reason that you will do your homework and look for a social media specialist. While you trust them to do the work correctly, this is one more area that you will need to at least periodically oversee, having a line of communication set up for any issues. When you keep the social media efforts in-house, the answers to any questions and/or problems will come much quicker.

Among the things to look at for having your social media promotions going outside the company would be:

  • Professionalism – Not to say that you do not have an individual or team on your staff to handle social media, but outsourcing it to an agency that does this for a living takes some of the pressure off of you. As long as you have done your research and found a reliable agency, you can rest easier knowing that it is being professionally handled on a daily basis. This important responsibility can be taken off of your hands so that you can focus on other vital tasks;
  • Money well spent – While all companies want to hold the line on spending, having your social media efforts done outside the company can be money well spent. You are getting an unbiased opinion and approach to your social media needs, and  not from those within your company that will likely agree with whatever approach you take to promoting your company via social media;
  • One less oversight responsibility – Having an outside agency to oversee your social media tasks allows you to have the employee or employees that would have been directed for the assignment to focus elsewhere. With additional companies in today’s trying economy attempting to do more with less, outsourcing social media takes one more responsibility off your employees’ to do list.

At the end of the day, whether you outsource or keep your social media efforts in-house, the goal is to properly determine how social media will assist in growing your business.

Until you are able to answer that question, keep all your options on the table, or in this case, your computer.


Social Video Marketing: A New Competitive Advantage

What do businesses mean when they say they do “social video”? Is it just about creating an interesting video and distributing it on YouTube and other social networks? Or is there more to it? Let’s explore what makes a video for business truly social, the special relationship between social video and search marketing, and tips for search marketers on starting to use social video in business today.

Social Is An Evolution In Marketing … And Doing Business

To best describe social video marketing, we first need to consider what it means to be social in business in today’s market. We recently moved from a sales culture built around one-way content and top-down advertising to a search culture where consumers find information and solutions relevant to their needs via computers. Now we are evolving more into a social culture built around sharing with our peers and a sense of community with brands themselves.

Social tools and technologies have helped us mature in how we choose to engage with other people online. Those who reap the biggest business rewards choose to participate in social media rather than stand on the sidelines. YouTube and other video hosting and sharing sites — along with blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Yelp, etc. — have empowered brands and consumers to better interact with each other and build meaningful relationships based on dialogue, service, and feedback.

Social is simply about how we choose to engage with other people, and it has forced many brands to start respecting their customers as online equals. From this comes a definition of social video as the blending of video with human relationships for the co-creation of value.

The 3 Cs Of Social Video Marketing: Content + Conversations + Community

Social video marketing (SVM) is the use of tools and technologies that support social activity around a given video — by businesses for business purposes. This can be done with video content creation, distribution, and sharing tools such as blogs, social networks, and support communities.

As Wikipedia’s page on social video marketing aptly states: “In a successful social video marketing campaign, the content, distribution strategy and consumer self expression tools combine to allow an individual to ‘add their voice’ or co-create value to a piece of content — then further propagating it out to their social circles.”

Social video marketing has helped many brands improve their quality of customer service. Whether it’s responding to audience/consumer questions (such as Google Webmaster Central’s YouTube channel or, or even reserving a consumer video platform (such as Zappo’s YouTube channel exclusively for consumer feedback, or for brokering video reviews of brand-name products), what we are witnessing is a shift to a co-dependent relationship between brands and consumers.

Video with social media has greatly increased the power that consumers have, requiring brands to treat them as equals in the business relationship — sharing each other’s content, ideas, and support toward building and growing an actual community. All of which can be summarized in the easy-to-remember 3 Cs formula for social video marketing today of Content + Conversations + Community.

How Social Video Impacts Video SEO

“Social has become a huge driving force now — not only for SEO, but for video,” says Mark Robertson, founder of ReelSEO. “Take for example, YouTube. It’s the second largest search engine, which people are searching non-stop on, and heavily indexed in in Google’s own search results (along with an increasing number of popular video sharing sites). Now, in order to rank well on YouTube, it’s important to describe your video properly, to have a good title. But more than that, it’s about making sure that there are comments going up, people are sharing that video, and that there are a lot of thumbs up,” says Mark. It also means responding to any negative comments quickly and completely. In short, engagement is key.

Social video marketing is not only about distributing video content to video destination platforms like YouTube (which we would argue is a social network). Social networks, which are starting to drive a lot more traffic to video, also need to be considered. These include destinations like Facebook, Twitter, and of course, blogs.

“Basically, social video marketing is about marketing a message through video, in the best way that you possibly can. In order to do that you need to disseminate your message to the largest audience (and most targeted audience) that you possibly can.” says Mark. “Video marketing is just that, and video SEO is one component of that. It turns out that while SEO is still a very strong component of video marketing, social is quickly becoming just as strong of a component.” Mark continues.

Here’s more proof of how SEO and social are coming closer together. Last December, SEOmoz’s Rand Fishkin reported on Google and Bing confirming that Twitter and Facebook both influence SEO. This involves Facebook “likes” and Twitter “retweets” influencing ranking in organic search. Videos on Facebook and Twitter are also being indexed by search engines and appear prominently in search results, which speaks volumes to the great impact of sharing video across social media. For that reason alone, search marketers need to be involved in social video if they expect to stay relevant in this business in the long term.

Adopt A Social Mentality With All Your Video Marketing

It’s very easy to get caught up in the technological advances around online video, especially concerning social media marketing. This makes it especially important to develop a proper mindset around what your specific social video marketing strategy needs to consider in your own business. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1.  It’s about real people — Social video is more about featuring real people behind your campaign. and your company sharing real stories, than hired celebrities giving paid endorsements or commercials with no real personal attachment to the brand.

2.  It’s about service — Social video shouldn’t feel like an ad, no matter how entertaining and well-produced it may be. An ad by its very nature is intended first and foremost to sell something. Social video, on the other hand, is initially about building relationships, so that anything that does get purchased feels like something natural to the customer, with no feeling of pressure.

3.  It’s about dialogue — Social video is not about talking at people; it’s about talking with people.You use it to engage with your audience on a direct, equal level with the corporate barrier removed — or at least minimized.

4.  It’s about conversations — Social video should involve you paying attention, and responding, to people engaging with your video. It should serve as a conduit for showing you’re paying attention to your customers, you’re listening to what they’re saying, and that you’re responding in a way that helps them out.

5.  It’s about quality of engagement — Social video isn’t about the number of views you get. It’s about the quality and enthusiasm of the feedback you get.

6.  It’s about participation — Social video isn’t just about “seeding” interesting content. It’s about participating with others in their own content and conversations.

7.  It’s about community — Social requires ongoing engagement with consumers and colleagues, where self-interest takes a backseat to group interest. A mindset of everybody benefitting results, because everyone in the community is more apt to share.

Adapting To The New Social Video Landscape

Search marketers need to adapt to the social media landscape if they are to stay relevant with audiences and in business. This means optimizing for people first, and search engine algorithms second. Audiences are spending more time engaging with video content and communities revolving around them, across many social media channels. That is exactly why SEM professionals can no long wait. They need to start learning how to put together interesting videos — or collaborate with video professionals who know how and have had success doing so. The videos need to actually help people out and make them want to share them with their peers, and build conversations around those videos. Then and only then, can one evolve from a search-only marketer into a search-and-social-video marketer.

Social video marketing is what will make search marketers spend less time obsessing over Google’s latest search engine algorithm, and more time on something much more personally rewarding — optimizing themselves and their businesses.


Demand Media: eHow Hasn’t Been Affected By Panda Since July

I think it’s safe to say that Demand Media has survived the Panda update. The company put out its Q4/full-year 2011 earnings report today, including a 5% quarterly increase in revenue for its content/media business and a 15% year-over-year increase. Considering the Panda update first launched just about a year ago, it hasn’t hurt Demand Media too much.

On the company’s conference call, CEO Richard Rosenblatt said Demand Media’s first year a s public company was “more turbulent than many of us expected.”

Still, it looks like they came out ok, even on the content side.

“Demand Media’s record 2011 financial performance, while navigating early year search algorithm challenges, underscores the strength of our complementary advertising and subscription businesses,” said CFO Charles Hilliard. “Importantly, our fourth quarter results delivered both growth and significant free cash flow, reflecting the value of our long-lived content library as well as our disciplined investment approach.”

Rosenblatt said on the call, that the last algorithm update to affect eHow was in July. There was in fact, a Panda update on or around July 23.

Rosenblatt says search is still an importan traffic channel, but that social, mobile and video are growing in importance.

He also pointed out that the company reduced eHow content production in Q4, and traffic and engagement is increasing.

eHow’s mobile audience is up to 10 million uniques. eHow is the 19th largest web domain in the U.S., the company says, citing comScore data. Meanwhile, they emphasize that there will be a great deal of focus on monetizing Cracked and this year.

Demand Media’s properties are getting 100 million visitors per month, according to the company.


Need a Cheat Sheet for Social Media?

Well, Flowtown made a fantastic one and we want to share it with you. Now obviously many of us do not need this cheat sheet, but there are plenty of people that do! Like clients and parents. I have emailed this to many this morning. I also like the representation of audience sizes for clients. So take a peak at the infographic below and enjoy (and email to those people that keep asking you what “this is” or “that is” and what “this means”).


10 Things the FBI Knows About Social Media Monitoring You Can Use to Generate Leads and Close Deals

The following post comes from our Inbound Marketing Channel sponsor HubSpot.

The FBI recently posted a Request for Information (RFI) for a “social media application.” But, it was really a request for a social media monitoring application. Why? Because the FBI recognizes what many inbound marketers already know and many others are discovering: There’s gold in them thar social media data.

You can use the same social media monitoring attributes the FBI wants to use to catch bad guys to generate and nurture leads, identify hot spots (good and bad), and close more deals.

  1. Catch problems early – Social media, the Bureau says, is a “primary source of intelligence because it has become the premier first response to key events. By monitoring the conversations about your brand and products in social cyberspace, you can discover problems before they mushroom into reputation-damaging situations. That’s what Crave America restaurants did using a tool fromnewBrandAnalytics. Monitoring the conversation about their new Sweet Heat cocktail, they quickly picked up consumers’ opinions that the drink was too hot and adjusted the recipe by giving bartenders the leeway to mix the drink per consumers’ personal tastes.
  2. Geo-location Capabilities –  Social media have geolocation tools baked into the applications or devices delivering the applications. Using social media monitoring tools, such as the one in MarketMe Suite, you can identify geo-target opportunities or nip regional issues in the bud.
  3. Be a Fly-on-the-Wall – Using social media monitoring tools, you can candidly listen in on conversations the way Dell Computers will in its new Social Media Listening Command Center using tools from Radian6, something which the company claims has allowed them to convert one-third of critics into fans.
  4. Multiple Touchpoints – The FBI’s RFI is requesting the application allow users to search across myriad parameters. This will give them—and you—the ability to gain multidimensional views of your customers and prospects, allowing you to develop pinpoint offers based on people’s interests, actions, and opinions.
  5. Real-Time Rules – The dialogue in social media moves so quickly that any social media monitoring tool needs the capability to search, gather, and analyze the conversation in real time. The FBI will use it to detect serious threats to national security. You’ll use it to strike while the iron is hot and reach out to customers and prospects while you are top of mind. Tools like TwitSprout update stats hourly.
  6. Curation Counts – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, foursquare, Tumblr, and on and on. The number of posts, tweets, messages, and more in social media is in the gazillions. Choose a social media monitoring tool that can summarize data the way you need it in order to maximize the time you spend monitoring social media.
  7. Nothing Beats Social Media – The FBI’s research has determined that a “geospatial and analysis mapping application” (that’s Bureaus-speak for a social media monitoring tool) is “the best known solution for attaining and disseminating real time open source intelligence and improving… situational awareness.” And, situational awareness in real time is what every marketer needs to hunt down leads, act intelligently on them, and move them down the sales funnel.
  8. You Gotta Speak Tweet – One of the requirements in the FBI’s RFI includes providing a glossary of “Tweet lingo.” Twitter’s 140-character limit has spawned its own language. Tools like Klout can help marketers learn to speak and translate Tweet-speak to make the most of the conversations captured, maximizing leads found and nurtured.
  9. Flex Your Teamwork – A good social media monitoring tool provides the means for users to define the parameters of their monitoring, to easily create templates, and to quickly and easily share the information across your team.
  10. Improved Decision-Making  – Social media monitoring tools, says the FBI, provide enhanced strategic, operational, and tactical information for improved decision-making. And, nothing improves your lead management ROI or your leads-to-sales ratio like improved decision-making.