Repost of 2010 topic that continues to be relevant
The Landscape of Perception

Brand recognition is a vital concern in our ever changing global market. Social networking is now completely interwoven with any serious marketing effort. In 2010 a company does not have a competitive marketing campaign unless they are adhering to SEO and social media ‘best practices’.

SEO is touted as being the end all of customer attraction. An SEO consultant will say your ability to generate a buzz around your brand is moot, that the path to enlightenment requires you establish a strong foundation of search directory submissions and a thick enterprise level Pay Per Click budget so you can watch your pennies tick away with a daily Dashboard report of tangible results. Find one of the countless companies ready to set your marketing budget ablaze with promises of landing your website on the prized first page of Google. This is the nature of perception: an ever changing environment of claims and promises.

Yet SEO is a status quo, not a saving grace. The time a web developer spends optimizing website code and creating social media profiles like Twitter and Facebook is unfortunately just the first tier of your efforts. These actions will not guarantee you land the top of Google, Yahoo or Bing. In most cases your keyword saturation alone won’t produce enough visibility to display in the second or even third page of search results. This is just the cold hard reality.

Realities

With no uncertainty all of the above is the bare minimum a company must do to stay relevant and searchable to potential customers. To put it simply, SEO will not takeover, supersede, or replace your traditional marketing efforts. Taking these steps will not be the panacea your company needs; however not adhering to basic SEO readiness could have disastrous affects on your brand’s searchability.

But what is effective? How can this be done correctly? What is an efficient use of campaign time? There are many excellent tutorials for learning about social media and SEO that can get any fledgling optimization guru started on the right foot. The next step centers on understanding, engaging, and knowing what preparations and interaction a brand needs in order to create a climate of interest and appeal. This new era of marketing focuses on the web and is dubbed “Pull” marketing.

As the term eludes, this rich media driven paradigm is about generating a buzz that willingly engages your audience and in turn lures them closer to viewing your services. This does not mean that your customers are wandering open arms through your front door with a signed order form in hand. What you are working to achieve is the opportunity. This engagement shapes the platform that your new business relationships are built on.

Tug, Don’t Pull

Your marketing team’s creative energy should go into creating the circumstances of success – a comfortable environment for customers who want to go looking for your services. Pull marketing is like throwing a party at your house. Are people going to show up because you’ve given them a personal interest in what you are doing? Is it well publicized with users making positive comments about your brand? Or maybe you’re just popular and get lucky. This can be the case for large companies with iconic brand names, but to most businesses a lot of public relations work is necessary and nobody likes being begged through the doorway.

The marketing team must know the value of your benefits. If they do not know, your customers may be stretching their imaginations to realize them for you. The buzz around your brand should do everything to accent your benefits. Each one of your products and services is a billboard waiting to bolster the selling power of your brand. A bullet point list of features is no better than a textbook with all its facts and principles locked away amidst 500 pages of text. The real life advantages of your products are more than the features you offer, they are ideals that reflect you benefits.

There is no solution written in gold to win the social network relay race. It is not a step by step (though you will find many claims) method to building your campaign. There are generalities that should be adhered and where this seems an aimless one sided effort, it also leaves room for plenty of flexible innovation. We are seeing advertising campaigns with more creativity and engagement with users. “User-centric” is the stance of your marketing materials because people are the goal.

Like a Neighbor…

Your brand should be viewed as a good friend your customers can count on and turn to both when pleased and dissatisfied. Your company should be personable, always by the phone answering questions or concerns. If the scale of your company is too big to fully support this ideal it should still be a goal and a perspective the company puts effort into maintaining. These are the expectations customers have and now more than ever by applying buying power and the “viral” opinion base users are able to voice their cheers and jeers easier than ever with far reaching impact toward the perception countless other customers will develop toward your brand. It is not what you have done, or what you do, or what clients think you do – it is all of these things.

Rich media is what people are looking for. Whether booking on a travel site, seeking humor on Youtube or artistic photography on Flickr. Your ability to engage may be most limited to your ability to attract. Where the advertising workhorse of old was signage and loud attention grabbing commercials touting deals of a lifetime; buyers today coil up and hide from these tactics. Customers are exhausted from decades of being shouted at and more resistant than ever to the wall of noise advertising has created.

How much time should be spent on your social networking and rich media? Once setup these profiles or campaigns will exist and continue to serve a purpose without interaction and engagement. But you can also let a car drive down the highway without someone behind the wheel and equally stay on the road for a while. But are you being effective? Are you making use of the foundation you have built? These principles are vital to your company, but just like any trend in marketing it is not going to glaze over and fix all of your problems. Without factoring regular updates into your marketing campaign much of your effort may be in vain. Just as with any relationship, without attention it will soon coast to a stop.

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