The Internet has made it easy for companies from anywhere in the world to address the global market. In theory, they all can sell to whoever is willing to buy their product or in need of their services. All they have to do is have an online presence. As the Internet became more of a conversation, companies moved in the social media world and started engaging their fans through all these dialogue-driven channels. But are businesses really reaching all their potential customers that are avid users of social networks?

Not really. English company profiles only reach about half of them in a best case scenarios and it’s even less for other languages. That is why ComTranslations launched SociaLingo, a near real-time social media translation service that allows companies to address their multilingual audiences in 140 different languages.

Multicultural social media marketing is suddenly something they can easily achieve – just create their Facebook updates, their Tweets, their Google+ messages, their pins on Pinterest or LinkedIn postings and have a team of native translators localize them and have them posted in all the languages they select. As this is a human-powered social media translation service, it’s not exactly instantaneous, but it prevents most of the hiccups using automatic translation software or services might generate.

SociaLingo comes to share the online promotion efforts of 93% of marketers currently using social media channels to target potential customers. It helps non-English speaking company reps reach the massive audience communicating in this language and it helps companies from English-speaking markets to reach the other half of social media users engaging in different languages. Simple and efficient multilingual social media marketing, to sum it up in a few words.

Public relations, if done right, has measurable ROI, which makes it a smart and cost effective investment. But cost effective does not mean a company gets tons of results fast, cheap and with very little work. PR efforts usually mean a comprehensive strategy, a certain timeline to have results and sustained work to keep bringing in results. You cannot just show up, post three messages on a channel and expect everyone in the world to read them, love them and buy everything you are selling.

A lot of companies look to hire PR help that is cheap, effective and fast. Which means that, in a perfect and mythical world, they would pay a few hundred dollars and in return, in a month tops, they will have every media outlet of any and all importance write about them, they will see their sales triple or quadruple, people would become long lasting fans and they will have no future worries in what brand awareness, loyalty and sales are concerned.

It would be great if it would work like that, but it doesn’t.

Effective vs. little effort

An effective PR campaign is usually a smart one. A custom tailored strategy that’s then implemented and yields results. It means you invest the right amount of resources to get the best outcome. It does not mean you invest close to nothing, use a few voodoo words, and miraculously, over night, everything you have ever dreamed of becomes reality.

Cost effective vs. cheap

Cost effective is not the same as cheap, ever. The cost effective choice is not always the cheapest. Something becomes a smart investment when the return on that investment is satisfying. If you have no PR budget but want to get some result for 100 US dollars, that might happen. You would get a very limited number of hours in consultancy which might set you on the right track. It is however not enough to book a PR agency and get them to work their magic for a few weeks and point thousand of people your way.

Fast results vs. lasting results

Fast does not always mean lasting. Not if after seeing the first results, you stop your effort altogether. Communities, loyalty, brand recognition, positioning as an expert in a field, all these take a little to be established and properly developed. But once they start growing, if done right, they increase exponentially, and all the time, money and effort you have invested in them pays off.

In conclusion, PR can and will be a worthwhile investment, and a cost effective way to boost your business. But it won’t be cheap, quick and effective if you want it all rushed, with no investment whatsoever and  to somehow turn the world into one where not having your product and service would bring the end of days. When it comes to business, every miracle has smart people, tons of effort and a wise investment behind it.

When it comes to email marketing, every expert in the field will tell you to only add people that actually express interest in your content to your lists. An opt-in newsletter is the best approach and having a subscription confirmed is even better. But after doing your best to make sure you only reach people with a genuine interest in what you are emailing them, you are still not entirely protected from the damaging “spammer” label.

A new  report by Return Path shows that email deliverability rates have dropped about 5% in the second half of 2011, reaching a 76.5% rate, after keeping steady at over 80% for years. While ISPs have done their best to keep their customers spam-clear, their improved email security is not the only cause for the drop. It is actually consumers themselves, who are unclear on opt-out policies and end up damaging email marketers’ and brands’ reputations. (more…)

After a couple of months of planning, writing and tweaking, seasoned with  a few Twitter and Facebook hints, The Social Media Newbie’s Guide to Twitter for Businesses ebook, a simple guide to get businesses and individuals with a business focus started on Twitter, is now published, launched and ready to be bought!

I got the idea for the ebook while browsing new followers on Twitter (many of them businesses or professionals) and while checking out the streams of people I follow. I noticed that while the number of business accounts is growing, few have the right mindset and the right approach that would lead to their Twitter success.  To help them get started and make the best out of their Twitter presence,  I first wrote a few articles that became quite popular and then realized a more comprehensive guide was in order.

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Out of pure whim or based on a smart business strategy, hotels are ever more present in the online world. From websites to blogs and Twitter stream, they are trying it all, with more or less success. While establishing an online presence might not seem hard – just install a blogging platform, publish a Facebook page or create a Twitter account – making the best out of it is not as easy. Blogs need updating with interesting and relevant content, and your Facebook fans and Twitter followers expect the same.

There is the ever present topic of special offers, discounts and events organized at the hotel, but is that enough? Seeing as the instances where you are the only hotel in the area are limited to small towns and far away regions, there’s usually tough competition to worry about. They also have special offers that they promote online. What else is there to write and talk about?

All the topics you need are within reach. Just think of your customers – why do they come to the city or region your hotel is in? What do they do there? What information do they need and what customized offers will catch their eye? Following this stream of  needs and wants, here are some topics to cover: (more…)

How a company treats employees is what forges a great business relationship in any field. But when it comes to industries where service is what customers perceive first and most during their experience, it id not just important, it is everything. And that is true particularly for restaurants, where the interaction between employees and customers is an ongoing one, starting from the moment they enter and going on till they close the door behind them. Or even longer if they provide valet parking!

The hostess greeting guest at the door and taking them to their table, their waiter, other waiters and the way they act, the bartender serving them drinks while they wait for their table to be prepared for them, everyone interacts with restaurant customers and the impression they last tends to stick around. (more…)

Any sales, marketing or public relations specialist can tell that for certain companies targeting the business to business segment, getting a booth at a trade show or conference is highly overrated and very often a waste of money. When you have a product with a significant price tag attached, that needs to be tested and compared to others in its branch, which cannot be implemented without a solid and comprehensive support contract, an implementation plan or without quite a few technical discussions, and no one will buy it at a trade show, out of a strong and uncontrollable impulse. There are certain cases where the decision to buy was made prior to the event, and the actual purchase happens due to certain discounts made for the trade show. But in most cases, the event, be it conference, exhibition or seminar, is merely a meeting place to discuss details and then finalize the transaction back at the headquarters.

Given all this, what can the booth actually do for you? There are some benefits: better brand exposure, a certain privileged status, the possibility your package includes a list with the name of all those who have visited the exhibition and so on. But when comparing these benefits against the costs a booth entails and the issues it can generate, is it really worth it? First of all, booths do cost a lot – sometimes setting one up (adding your furniture, branding it, printing literature) costs as much as the whole trip there, your accommodation and a sponsored presentation.

Other than that, someone must always be in the booth. So if your team is there to also attend interesting tracks at the conference, they will take turns in missing what is really important to them. If you were planning to send just one employee, you can forget about it! You need at least two. And instead of having your team freely schedule meetings, fist they have to stop and negotiate who’s stranded in the both and for how long.

What happens when a very important prospect can only meet with your sales rep at the same time your PR officer has a crucial meeting with an influential journalist? Let’s hope you have a third employee over there!

What other possibilities are there?

You either have your team attend the event as visitors, not exhibitors, or you get very lucky and are invited to speak at the conference free of charge, or you think of other, more effective, sponsorship opportunities: a sponsored educational track where to speak, a lunch or a breakfast, a sponsored panel discussion, an entertaining activity in the evening and other such opportunities. Whatever you do, remember that being invited to speak is great, but never guaranteed, so you cannot build your strategy around it, unless you’re invited every year. And even then, things might change.

Why is booth still as important? In some cases, it depends on the company’s policy, in others, event organizers’ policy is the cause. I have, for example, attended, together with a colleague, an IT even in Chicago, USA, where you could not sponsor anything unless you were an exhibitor as well. Pretty smart tactic, as I am sure organizers knew the intrest in booths was on a descending trend. In this particular case, forcing booths on sponsors was not enough, and a B2B event turned into a weird mix of B2B and B2C. And the intended audience companies had come for was hard to come across.

What should you keep in mind to make sure you get maximum return from attending an event?

  • Before deciding if you’re going or not, try to get some relevant opinions about it from people who have attended the event in the past. You can use existing contacts of ask a question on a business social network, such as LinkedIn. This is a crucial issue, as all the Power Points and details from those organizing the event won’t help you have a clear image of the event. If you cannot reach anyone who’s attended, the event might be important enough for you to take a chance. But if you can find out more, you definitely should.
  • After deciding you’re going, analyze every detail of the event: does it require you to set up a booth and/or sponsor the event? Is it better to just attend it as a visitor? What networking opportunities are there? Which status (visitor or exhibitor) offers you more possibilities to meet potential partners, clients and the press?
  • Can you sponsor the event without exhibiting? And if you can, are you getting all the benefits granted to exhibitors (attendance list, list of journalists and bloggers covering the event, a complete list of exhibitors and sponsors)?
  • Are we going there with a team that will share booth duty and also complete their other tasks at the event? Or do we include a member whose only task is to be in the booth?

Whatever you decide, the important thing is to have a clear strategy, supported by solid prior research. Otherwise, if priorities and responsibilities are debated on at the event, you risk having your team caught in complete chaos and waste valuable time that would be better spent on getting more business.

Article originally published in Romanian or PRwave.ro.