By Brian Blank, PepperDigital

Social media has become an integral part of business marketing strategy helping to keep you and your brand in front of current and future customers, promote your products and services, and manage customer service issues.

On top of the challenges of monitoring and engaging with hundreds or thousands of customers on a daily basis, it is also challenging to stay on top of the latest-and-greatest tools and trends. As Twitter is proving to be a great tool to monitor reactions in real-time, the deluge of tweets can overwhelm even the savviest tacticians.

Finding a few Twitter tools to make your job easier and recover a bit of time you can focus on finding more customers and driving deeper engagement.

1. Topsy

According to its website, Topsy is a real-time search engine powered by the Social Web. Unlike traditional web search engines, Topsy indexes and ranks search results based upon the most influential conversations millions of people are having every day about each specific term, topic, page or domain queried.

Topsy is a great way to find out what is trending on Twitter and find out where the hottest conversations are happening on a specific topic. Another great feature is the ability to search for experts on a particular subject. If you need to find out who are the top people talking about startups, Topsy can help you find who’s been the most active around that subject. The basic features are free with a more robust “Pro” model available as well.

2.TweetDeck

TweetDeck has been one of the most popular – and free – social media management platforms that was recently acquired by Twitter. With desktop and mobile versions available along with a Chrome app for the browser, getting access to and using TweetDeck is simple and straightforward. You can set up multiple Twitter and Facebook account and manage them all out of one platform. TweetDeck allows you to customize the platform with the most common features a few clicks away, plus there is the ability create custom searches of your own.  One of the most useful aspects of the platform is to schedule out messages.

3. Commun.it

Commun.it is an up-and-coming tool that allows you to keep track of your Twitter network in a smarter, more meaningful way. It displays the people you are influenced by and the ones you are influencing the most. You can also get and update about who is mentioning you and your brand outside your network. They have just launched out of private beta and offer its services free.

4. Tweriod

Finding out when your network is the most active will help you manage your time, energy and resources. Tweriod scans your followers for when they are most active and will give you some basic information on when you will get the most potential exposure for your tweets and a breakdown of when your followers are online the most. This information is even broken down into weekdays vs. weekends and allows you to see how activity changes for specific days of the week.  Tweriod offers basics insights for free along with a premium deeper dive for a nominal fee.

5. Buffer

Ever start browsing around and come across a great article or image online and think this would be a great thing to share on your social channels but just don’t want to flood your feed with five articles back-to-back? Then Buffer is the app for you. With browser and mobile apps, along with integration in the major news reader apps,  Buffer makes your life easier with a smarter way to schedule the great content you find. Just share the content with the Buffer app and it automatically posts them throughout the day. All you have to do is keep Buffer topped off with great content and the service will share it for you and give you a consistent social media presence all day round, all week long.

Of course, these are just a few of the great Twitter tools out there and a few I find useful and we are always on the lookout for nifty tools to make our jobs easier. What are some of your favorite Twitter tools?

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By Sam Ford, PepperDigital (originally for Fast Company)

“Transmedia storytelling” has become a common phrase in many media industries circles. But what does it look like for B2B?

The phrase “transmedia storytelling” has been widely adopted in media/entertainment circles in the past few years. Originally used by Marsha Kinder, the concept was explored in-depth by Henry Jenkins in his 2006 book, Convergence Culture, and subsequent work. In short, the concept looks at a connected story told over multiple media formats.

Originally, transmedia storytelling was most passionately studied and adopted in relation to entertainment properties. Jenkins explores franchises like The Matrix to illustrate it in Convergence Culture. As one of his graduate students at the time the book came out, I applied the concept to in-depth explorations of professional wrestling and soap operas. And a wide range of industry practitioners began to think about transmedia storytelling as a way to supplement the narratives of television shows and films, as a way to market the launch of a new story world, as a way to resurrect or keep alive a narrative between installments of primary texts or after its primary text has ended, and so on. By 2010, the Producers Guild of America had come to consider a “transmedia producer” a new official credit in the field.

Meanwhile, people started applying the “transmedia storytelling” approach to marketing and corporate communications, starting with Grant McCracken back in 2005. Meanwhile, Faris Yakob began mapping out what “transmedia planning” might look like in 2006. Today, there is no shortage of marketing conferences or conversations that end up with “transmedia” being woven in somehow.

In order to drive a more serious consideration of what transmedia storytelling means for marketing/advertising/public relations, the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California recently launched a new initiative called the Transmedia Branding Research Group. They kicked it off by bringing in more than 35 different people for a full day of brainstorming on what “transmedia branding” might mean.

We started the day talking and thinking primarily in terms of so-called “consumer brands.” But, as the day wore on, I joined Burghardt Tenderich and a few other colleagues to pose the question of what “transmedia” means for a professional services firm or other B2B company, where storytelling in the entertainment sense might not be a major focus but where relationships stretch across multiple media touchpoints already.

The Lab has decided to make transmedia storytelling for business-to-business brands one of their primary areas of focus, an endeavor in which I look forward to participating. As that effort gets underway, here are my initial thoughts about what “transmedia storytelling” in the B2B world really means. In short, I think B2B transmedia storytelling can be most powerful when it:

  • Is built on real-life relationships. Hill Holliday’s once suggested that the difference between B2B brands and B2C brands is that B2C brands typically have to use their storytelling to create the illusion of “brand personality” or of a relationship between the product/company behind the product and the customer. Meanwhile, the vast majority of B2B customer relationships are built on direct interaction between human beings at each company. The concept of “transmedia,” then, should often be focused on extending these relationships which already exist into new realms.
  • Has the advantage of having its story world “set” in the real world. Much like the world of professional wrestling unfolds 24/7 as a fictional story world within our “real” world, the “story” of B2B companies similarly unfolds in real-time: spanning across news releases and digital content from the company, coverage in the news media, experts from the company participating in industry events and in industry publications, those experts’ participation in social media, etc.
  • Focuses on the people behind the “brand” of a company. “Transmedia” for B2B companies gains power by focusing on how the company’s marketing, research, and products/services intersect with the experts who drive their business. Often, then, subject matter experts at the company become the key “characters” in the transmedia story of the B2B brand-which makes these representatives’ visibility especially important.
  • Demonstrates the thinking and expertise which inspires the company’s products and services. In building an overall narrative about a B2B company, the focus is on the expertise, not the products of that expertise. Situating the company’s commercial offerings within that passion and knowledge is key for telling a story beyond selling products.
  • Puts an emphasis on the importance of internal collaboration and external continuity. Of course, several of these types of activities have long been a major part of B2B marketing/communications, but thinking of them not only as “storytelling” but also as connected starts to reframe how the company thinks about its overall reputation and the way its communications connect to one another. It also helps connect parts of the company (HR, marketing, customer service, sales, investor relations, governmental relations, etc.) that might not regularly interact if the company’s various communications aren’t thought of from a “transmedia storytelling” standpoint.

I’m looking forward to playing some small role in brainstorming with the Annenberg Innovation Lab on these issues more deeply in 2013, but I feel the concept of “transmedia storytelling” holds much promise in helping B2B marketers think more deeply about how they connect their marketing and communications efforts and better serve the audiences they seek to reach in the process. And I look forward to thoughts from any readers as we further hash out what B2B transmedia storytelling means.

(For more on transmedia storytelling as a concept, see Jenkins’ and “Seven Myths about Transmedia Storytelling Debunked”.)

[Image: Flickr user Zach Rathore]

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By Alex Shippee, PepperDigital

“Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator” is a book I finished reading recently by media strategist and blogger, Ryan Holiday. Emblazoned on the cover is the quote, “A playbook for the dark arts of exploiting the media.” It’s a great read about the ecosystem of social media and the web and how to gain media attention, but I’m not sure it reaches the status of a ‘playbook.’

As you can expect from the title, many of Holiday’s strategies involve dishonest things like ‘leaking’ information from phony email addresses, sensationalizing article titles to stir up controversy, or even just outright lying. At the same time, his point isn’t that these are the best things to do, only that the web has evolved into a place where these strategies are effective.

And they are effective. He boasts of successes like his promotion of  the  movie tie-in of controversial author, Tucker Max: “Thousands more had eagerly gobbled up news about [his stunts] on multiple ads. Each time they did, views of the movie trailer spiked, book sales increased, and Tucker became more famous and more controversial (emphasis mine).” That potential for disruption is amazing, but I can only see myself using or recommending that kind of strategy for a smaller brand with nothing to lose in the fallout. (For instance, I gave a copy of the book to a friend of mine who’s been promoting his indie band. I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I think Holiday’s strategies will be right up his alley.)

At the same time, these methods are all reasonable for some of Holiday’s bigger, but already-controversial clients such as Tucker Max. They have something already taboo baked into them. But for companies that want to avoid these reputations, Holiday’s strategies are better left unused or only brought out amidst a crisis.

Instead, this book is worth reading for that ecosystem that these strategies take place in – bloggers skip fact checking in favor of posting their story quicker; fake events manufacture controversy that creates even MORE attention; intentionally sensationalized content reaches more people than intentionally accurate; iterative reporting occurs in piece meal without concern for the effect of an incomplete story…and on and on.

It’s good food for thought if you’re working in PR and great ammunition if you’re trying to understand that murky place where more traditional PR meets the web. In the end though, I found my appetite for the story of “This is How the Dark Side of the Media Works” completely filled. Next, I’d prefer to read something on how someone is achieving Holiday’s kind of success in an honest way. And to quote the final line of his book, “I confess all I have confessed in order to make that an option.”

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