Does humor belong in business?

Folks, business is serious business!

I’ve worked for too many companies who took themselves way too seriously.  And why not be serious – its important work bringing great products to consumers, right?

Wrong!  Given the growth of social media and its ability to put a human face on your companies business, its time to have some fun.  There are so many great options for you these days to inject a little humor into your business (caveat: be real and genuine) with Facebook, Youtube, blogs, etc.

I know I have spoken about them before, but one company I work with, The Fresh Diet is ALL about fun.  Their Facebook page is constantly holding contests, many of which are designed just to be engaging and fun.

Last week we upped the ante on their fun level and created a video spoof of the show Undercover Boss for our customers and fans.  It took us a half a day of shooting and another half a day to edit it (yes we used a professional video company).  The feedback from our customers and fans on Facebook has been great.  We even plan on doing other spoof videos in the future and turning this into a regular event.

So I wanted to share it with you here.  I hope it sparks something for you that you can use with your customers and fans.

On another note, I want to wish each and every one of you a happy and safe holiday!  Speak to you soon!

Easy, Cost Effective Internet Video Part 2 – Video search optimization and a bonus content tip

This week I continue my primer on internet video and how it can benefit your company. Picking up where I left off, here are some more opportunities to use video on your website.

(To read part 1 of this series, click here.)

One of the reasons infomercials are so successful is their demonstration factor. People love to see things in action. If you have a product that lends itself to demonstration, put it online. For example, say you sell radio-controlled cars; show them in action. If yours is a multichannel clothing company, model your line via video. These are just two of countless examples. Think about your products and what you can shoot.

Video Options
With today’s high-quality video cameras that shoot in high definition at 1080i, you don’t need to spend a ton of money for quality video. You can go high definition for less than $1,000. Of course, depending on your capabilities and budgets, you may want to bring in professionals. You have many choices available to you at any budget.

The key is to have a solid strategy and script in place before any shoot takes place, even with your camcorder. As for postproduction and editing, again, you can choose to do it yourself or go to a professional editing company.

Video Promotions
Once your video’s shot and edited, create your own channel on YouTube, and promote your videos on your website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter and more. Create even more videos by asking your customers to video themselves using your products, and distribute those videos via the same channels. Better yet, as I said last week regarding testimonials, hold a video contest asking your customers to show themselves using your products. Remember, social media is about engagement.

The Search Engine Factor
Online video can also drive search engine results. Since I’m by no means a search expert, I reached out to Khrysti Nazzaro, director of optimized services at the search engine marketing firm MoreVisibility, for some advice. Here are her thoughts on online video:

Online video has many possible benefits for companies, she says. From informational content, demonstrations and testimonials to self-spoofs, general humor and link bait, adding video to your site can draw traffic and business. Videos can be powerful tools for ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) if your site’s pages are well-optimized for them.

Consider creating a custom-designed YouTube channel, uploading your videos there with keyword-rich titles and descriptive content, and embedding them on relevant pages of your site. YouTube videos appear with great frequency in Google’s universal search results. Make sure your channel is well-branded and displays your domain prominently so those who find your video content via search can trace it back to your company’s site.

You can also submit a “Video Sitemap” via Google Webmaster Tools for video content that lives on your website. This will assist Google in identifying all of the URLs on your site that have videos, and thus increase your potential for getting more video content listed in universal search results.

To demonstrate clear keyword relevance for video content, include targeted keywords in tags, file and page tittles, and any available descriptive or on-page content. Transcripts of videos featured on the page may also help the content rank in the SERPs.

So, are you using video online? Let us know by posting your comments below. And don’t forget to include links to your videos. Speak to you next week.

Social Media and the United Breaks Guitars Video – A Cautionary Tale for ALL marketers

With more than 5.3 million people having already watched it, Dave Carroll’s  “United Breaks Guitars” video has become an internet social media phenomenon.  I first saw the video posted on Facebook by a friend.

For the last year I’ve been saying — screaming actually — that companies better have their acts together, otherwise they’re sitting ducks in this new age of customer centricity. If your customer service, products and brand image aren’t all buttoned up, you risk getting skewered on the internet, i.e., the people’s media.

The video I’m referring to is really amazing to see. Here’s the story behind it: United Airline’s baggage handlers break a passenger’s guitar, and the next thing you know 5.3 million people hear about it in a catchy, four-minute ditty on YouTube. Viralocity at its finest (and scariest).

The song has gone so mainstream that you can now buy it on iTunes. For just 99 cents, you too can help spread negative publicity about an airline. I hate to admit it, but I actually feel sorry for United. Well, to a point anyway.

As a marketer and consultant, I’ve seen every variation of apathetic customer service and crappy products sold by spin and hype alone. As a 30-year student of marketing and advertising — and, of course, firsthand experience — I’ve witnessed brands whose positionings were so far divergent from their actual customer experiences that you have to wonder what the C-level execs were thinking when they were sold hook, line and sinker on some overzealous, over-researched agencies’ campaigns. I can just hear it now: “Well, our market research says that if you … ”

But none of that scares me more than the internet and social media, and their power to kill your brand dead with a song, tweet, Facebook status update, blog post, thumbs down, etc.

You should be terrified, too. If you’re reading this column, let it be a call to action for you. Let my words galvanize you into looking into how your customers and prospects experience  — I’ll say it again — your customer service, products and brand image. I know I sound preachy, but how would you like a song written and gone viral about your company?

I strongly urge you to get together with your key staff members to pick apart every one of your company’s touchpoints to ensure every contact in every touchpoint is handled in a pristine manner.

To close out my sermon for the week, I want to leave you with a personal recollection from my early days in direct marketing. In the ’80s I was selling direct marketing media, and to hone my craft I read a book called “How to Sell Anything to Anybody,” written by a car salesman named Joe Girard. Girard had this rule, the rule of 250, which basically stated that any person you come into contact with knew and could influence 250 other people — positively or negatively. That one rule both terrified and inspired me. Here it is expressed mathematically: 1:250.

Thanks to social media, Joe’s rule has expanded just a little, I’d say. Take the United Airlines case, for instance, and do the math. It’s 1:5,322,806.

Oh, and by the way, check out the sequel to “United Breaks Guitars” here. It takes square aim at United’s policies and people who refused to pay for the guitar to be fixed. It’s already climbing the charts.