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Working with influencers has been a hot topic in the PR and marketing community for a number of years, yet it still feels like a mysterious topic and “nut to crack” for many companies. In fact, it’s the number one topic people want to chat about when they ask to meet up with me for coffee – how to find influencers who might be interested in their brand and how to actually build meaningful relationships with them. As someone who works with clients to build influencer campaigns, and as a blogger myself, this is a topic I’m very passionate about and love exploring.

At WCG, we work with global brands to identify influencers who are relevant to their business and engage with them in a meaningful way. Key word = meaningful. One of the biggest keys to working with influencers is to think of building long-term relationships, rather than a quick way to get someone to mention your product or company online.

This means doing your homework to find the right people who might want to engage with you, study them and get on their radar (begin building that relationship) before you pitch them. Do they talk about topics relevant to your brand? Search for your company name or product within their blog to see if they’ve covered your company or anything like it before.

influencer define 2We look at the Reach, Relevance and Resonance of online influencers to determine if they are appropriate for a specific brand. Most people start and end with reach – how many people follow the influencer? But that’s just the beginning. If they aren’t talking about topics relevant to your brand, then they likely aren’t a good influencer for you. Resonance is how often their content is shared – do people engage with and respond to the influencer? You want to work with someone who has a passionate following who will help spread the word.

Once you’ve identified your target influencers, it’s important to study them for some time and get to know them before you ask them to do anything. Engage with them online – “like” a tweet here or there. Ask a sincere question about something they’ve written. Retweet them from your personal and/or brand accounts if you genuinely feel it’s good content and will appeal to your readers.

The most important question to consider before reaching out to any influencer is, “What’s in it for them.” Unlike journalists who are constantly looking for news topics to cover, bloggers are typically only interested in talking about topics they are truly interested in and passionate about. This requires a lot of thought on the brand’s part – discover how your company aligns with the blogger’s passions and then connect the dots for them.

Here is a link to a presentation on SlideShare I recently created which delves deeper into this topic and shares some specific tools and best practices.

Interested in talking more about your influencer goals? Feel free to reach out to me via email or on twitter @MissyVoronyak.

On February 16th, W2O Group had the pleasure of sponsoring/speaking at the Holmes Report’s 3rd Annual In2 Summit in San Francisco. The event focused on bringing together “the industry’s most innovative minds to explore the future of influence and engagement.” [You can read our agency-wide recap here.]

At this years’ event, BrewLife was honored with the In2 SABRE Award for “Use of Social Media or Analytics for Audience Insights or Influencer Targeting” for our Tejava Tea social media campaign – an award we are extremely proud to receive.

BrewLife partnered with Crystal Geyser’s Tejava Tea last summer to help raise awareness and increase sales for their summer tour in LA. Tejava would be giving out samples at outdoor concerts and along the Santa Monica Pier, sponsoring events, and running billboard and radio ads throughout the area over a six week period. Our agency was tasked with developing a cohesive and consistent voice across all of Tejava social media platforms, which included Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Lifestyle ChangersWe kicked off the project the way we always like to: by tapping the W2O Analytics team to help identify Tejava’s target audience in the LA area. This was done through a SocialGraphics analysis, a proprietary analytics tool that identifies key interests and affinities, demographics, and the most important product features to our target persona. After looking at the results, we deemed our target segment the “Lifestyle Changers,” people looking to make healthier life choices – like switching from soda to Tejava’s zero-calorie, unsweetened tea.

We then completed a conversation-based analysis which highlighted all of the conversations “Lifestyle Changers” were having on social media over the past year. The results allowed us to identify groups with common characteristics, which we could then target throughout the campaign.

We used Tejava’s unique spin on unsweetened tea and all-natural elements to come up with the #PerfectNothing campaign, celebrating the moments of “nothing” in life. Our creative team showcased the #PerfectNothing lifestyle through candid posts showcasing the simplicity of Tejava’s unique fans’ healthy lifestyles.

Social PostsFor two weeks leading up to the LA tour and then six weeks throughout the tour, we posted 2-3 social posts per week. Once the campaign was underway, we tracked performance and adjusted our strategy to optimize each post. For example, analysis showed active imagery and group shots performed better so we adapted the creative to maximize on these insights.

Additionally, we worked with our Analytics team to identify social influencers and place paid ads to target them specifically. Our SocialGraphics and conversation-based analysis allowed us to place ads and use social influencers that would come in contact with “Lifestyle Changers” through common page likes, conversation topics, and more. This was a great way to increase awareness as well as visibility across social channels.

This award means a lot to us because it demonstrates the added value of working with BrewLife, a W2O Company. Not only do clients get the insights and intelligence of the BrewLife team, but they also get the input and analytical capabilities from our long hallway at W2O. The Tejava #PerfectNothing campaign is a great example of how collaboration across various teams allowed us to create and launch a successful (and award winning) campaign!

Social media enables celebrities to have intimate and frequent contact with fans. In particular, Instagram has served to give us a glimpse inside the daily lives of our favorite stars. Social media has also given birth to an entirely new breed of celebrities, YouTube “content creators,” who have a huge impact among tweens and teens.

When a celebrity endorses a product via TV commercial or infomercial it’s obvious that it’s an advertisement. Now the lines are blurred. In order to protect the general public and ensure that online influencers are transparent about payment and gifts, in 2009 the Federal Trade Commission issued Endorsement Guides. The FTC clearly explains the rules and makes it easy to accomplish by simply using #ad, #paid, #sponsored or #promoted in a post.

Beyonce 7

Beyonce is Crazy in Love with Airbnb

After the Super Bowl, Beyonce shared on Facebook a photo with the caption, “It was a Super weekend Airbnb” with a link to the Airbnb Facebook page. Neither the superstar nor the company will confirm if she was paid for the endorsement or comped the accommodation. If this was the case, then Beyonce would need to disclose that on the post.

Another example is Reese Witherspoon who has started a company, Draper James, and on Instagram frequently shares images of herself wearing the clothing. None of these indicate that she has a financial involvement in the company.

Best FDA Letter Ever

In August 2015, Kim Kardashian and Duchesnay admitted that she was paid for her endorsement of morning sickness medication, Diclegis, via Instagram. The post initially received attention for resulting in a letter from the Food and Drug Administration regarding her lack of fair balance in the post. Kardashian also did not note that there was a paid relationship.

Will the FTC Respond?

These are only the most popular examples, but a few months ago Jezebel identified many more personalities who are ignoring the FTC guidelines. Beyonce, Kardashian and Witherspoon are extremely sophisticated marketers with carefully curated social feeds, so it surprises me that they haven’t been made aware of the potential issues with the FTC. Perhaps it will take the FTC going after a high profile personality to make others compliant.

Eileen OBrien Blog Post
Nash Grier and one of his 31M fans

If reality TV has redefined the concept of celebrity, social media has taken it to a whole new level. A recent survey found that 8 out of the 10 celebrities that matter most to teens are YouTube personalities – the other two were Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars. Many of these “celebrities” don’t even have a discernable talent, such as singing or dancing, and (like the Kardashians) they are famous for being themselves. But tweens and teens are responding to their genuineness and the ability to potentially connect with them via social media channels.

Many of these social sensations look like the kid bagging your groceries. In fact, if that kid bagging your groceries is Alex From Target then he is “famous” and you can talk to his agent about a product endorsement fee. Variety calls them Famechangers: “Teens’ emotional attachment to YouTube stars is as much as seven times greater than that toward a traditional celebrity; and YouTube stars are perceived as 17 times more engaging, and 11 times more extraordinary, than mainstream stars.”

I witnessed this firsthand at DigiFest in New York City where about 1,000 screaming fans paid to see these personalities in real life. I talked to 17-year-old Nash Grier who has more than 31M followers aggregated across different social channels. Grier explained the dynamic, “It feels like a family – every single one of my followers, we kind of have a relationship. I always try to find some time in the day to tweet some people back to see their support and love.” I guess the definition of the word relationship is different when you are talking about 31M followers, but both the fans and personalities appear to earnestly believe this.

Grier prefers to call himself a “content creator” and notes that only adults distinguish between media and social media. He was very polite, and smiled and posed for multiple photos with all the young girls that tentatively, and sometimes tearfully, approached him. My colleague, Angel Hakim, wrote also wrote about this topic, Influencers vs. Creators: How the Landscape is Changing.

What constitutes authenticity?

These social media celebs call themselves brands and, very astutely, understand the value of their audience to potential sponsors. However, they don’t perceive themselves as spokespeople or advertisers. “I’m really mad at commercials because they are so whack,” said Grier. “I feel like kids are just fed all this stuff and they are supposed to buy it. There should be some content behind it. There should be an incentive to make them want something.”

The idea of native advertising and using content – or celebrities – to sell products isn’t new or unique to this age strata. However, I find the constant reference to authenticity among this group ironic. “One old piece of slang that has not survived is ‘selling out.’ …Frontline asked a group of teenagers what the phrase meant to them. Nothing, they replied. Yesterday’s sellouts, mocked for their contracts, are today’s brand ambassadors, admired for their hustle,” wrote Amanda Hess in The New York Times.

It will be interesting to see how this evolves as today’s tweens/teens and YouTube personalities grow up. What do you think?

 

 

 

Twitter’s milestones over the past nine years are nothing short of remarkable. Now Twitter can add another feather to brag about, again changing up the media landscape.

You’ve likely heard (from a little bird?) that Twitter has eliminated the 140 character limit on direct messages (DM). For some, this isn’t a surprise. The social media powerhouse made an announcement via their blog in early June, and public relations (PR) pros couldn’t wait to see what kind of impact this would have for media outreach. This may appear to be a “whoop-de-doo” kind of announcement, but take note: this opens up a whole new method of communication with journalists and influencers alike.

More often than not, journalists will tell you (very adamantly, actually) that email is the preferred channel of communication. But, on occasion, we like to ruffle feathers and change it up. Here are three ways this impacts the game:

Communication with Journalists

Many media professionals are on social media—for both personal and professional reasons. And even a nice ‘I love you note’ will garner some replies on Twitter. But what about a pitching a story idea via DM? Go for it. This new DM format also allows for better, more substantial communication. Being in a “chat” format has opened up more opportunities to engage genuinely.

A key thing to remember is that we’re all human – don’t be afraid to engage in something outside of “work” tweets. Who doesn’t like getting a retweet or two?

Reaching Influencers

Here’s an example: a client wanted to reach fitness influencers (not necessarily individuals who blog), who were heavy Twitter users. Armed with large amounts of followers, these Tweeter’s didn’t have to have a traditional blog or news site to make a big impact on the world of fitness. The challenge? Actually communicating with these individuals, all through their go-to channel, Twitter. The team carefully crafted a DM, getting creative to stay under 140 characters or sending separate messages, and hoped for the best. Those days are long over.

Pushing the Boundaries of Communication

An item to consider: Just because you can, should you? Even if your close friend sends you a 500 character DM on Twitter, chances are you will text him “what gives bro?” Just like a traditional email pitch, if you can’t be clear, concise and to the point, rethink your story.

Look for the changes on Android and iOS apps, twitter.com, TweetDeck and Twitter for Mac. The new format will continue to roll out over the next few weeks. Happy Tweeting!

Screenshot_2015-08-21-09-32-36

Andrea Kramer and Christiana Pascale

We look at the market through the lens of the 1:9:90 audience framework. We didn’t create this model, but we have perfected it over the last seven years in activating influencer programs and the model has proven to be true across all verticals and industries.

facebook live

The “1%” drive the market based on their actions – what they write, what they tweet about or what they say at events and interviews. They are influencers and are seen as subject matter experts for a specific topic. Our algorithms show that there are never more than 50 people who drive the majority of share of conversation for a brand or a topic in a given country or language.

The “9%” are highly active online. They recommend, share, sign up, download, comment and take other actions that let their community of peers know what they think about certain topics. In many respects, this group serves as the “trust filter” for a the rest of the market.

The “90%” are the great majority of any market. They lurk and learn. This group is satisfied with using search for discovering new products or consuming the content of their peers. They decide how compelling the 1% and the 9% really are in telling your brand’s story based on their purchase behavior.

Facebook ‘Live’ is one way to activate the 1%. The social network announced a new feature that enables public figures (athletes, celebrities, influencers, etc.) with verified Pages to share real-time video with their Facebook audience. This new tool allows for authentic conversation from influencer to the online community, in which public figures can share ‘behind the scenes’ moments, photo shoots, at-home activities, etc. to help raise awareness of an experience and/or a branded opportunity. The 9% of active users who see these videos, can like, comment and share the material and set the trust for the 90%. Brands should consider ‘Live’ when partnering with influencers to help reach new audiences, encourage community engagement and promote branded opportunities.

You can learn more about Facebook ‘Live’ here or the below Slideshare.

Let this soak in: U.S. teens trust online talent more than Hollywood stars. In fact, a Variety survey found 8 of the top 10 stars that matter most to teens are YouTube personalities.

The rationale for their stardom (and flocks of fans) is simple: these icons are authentic. According to the Variety survey, which was talked up and displayed at every angle during VidCon 2015, YouTubers are 90% more genuine to the every day American. And, before you write them off as fluff, bear this in mind: their followers don’t just follow. They listen to them. A YouTuber’s average engagement is 6.7%, compared to an average engagement of 1% for brands. As one enthusiast on-site at VidCon said, “I trust YouTube’s recommendations over magazines. I will make a list of products they mention and buy them.”

Chances are, you’ve worked on or alongside a campaign that includes influencer partnerships. Taking a look at these impactful stats, it’s time to truly understand this landscape and how these partnerships can be the most beneficial for your brands.

Know Who You’re Working With 

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, when it comes to talent.

  • A creator consists of individuals who produces content for YouTube, although it should be noted platforms like Vessel are beginning to take off and spurring their own set of creators. In addition to being the on-camera talent, they produce, edit and promote their videos across their social platforms, which typically see a very high reach.
  • An influencer consists of bloggers and individuals with social specialties (e.g. Instagram, Snapchat, Vine) that may not have a YouTube presence. (It should be noted that just because they are not creators does not make them any less valuable!)

Knowing “social talent” is not a category anymore is also important. Many creators have gone offline to garner book deals, television roles and cosmetic lines.

Think Bigger Than “One and Done”

With so many brands tapping into this space, brand deals are thrown to this genre of talent left and right. More and more, creators are maintaining a defensiveness about their content and what they love. Being approached by so many brands, they reserve the right to do what is most authentic, and are able to truly tell a story versus a one-off opportunity. When strategizing the best programming for your client(s), think about the ways these creators can work beyond video integration.

Creating with the Creators

Talent, whether it’s a Hollywood actor or creator with 3 million followers, ultimately aims to do one thing: tell a story. Creators are in a unique position to break the barrier between themselves and their audience, whereas traditional celebs are much more unattainable. Experimentation is key to unlocking success with creator programming. Overheard at VidCon, creators underscored the importance of working with brands that allow them to be themselves while organically incorporating brands. Creators don’t just share a product review, for example: they may do an unconventional road test, take it on the streets or do a comedy bit about it. It’s their voice that makes their followers listen, so it is in a brand’s best interest to work with the creators, not direct them.

Where do influencers fit into it all? They absolutely still have a role in marketing success, but, like with creators, it’s time to refresh the approach. Several bloggers, for example, have been churning out content for longer than some YouTube channels have existed; and in their right, they deserve the same respect. As platforms like Snapchat and Vine have become an integral part of many social media portfolios, it’s advised to keep an eye on the top performers spanning those channels. But it’s never a one-size-fits-all approach, so the first question must be, “What are we trying to accomplish?” From there, consider new ways to partner and create.

Online video is succeeding, and with other platforms on the horizon, it shows no signs of stopping. For marketing professionals, accepting the power of creators is the best approach. And it’s okay to admit you watch Jenna Marbles videos before you go to sleep.

In the one second that passed while I was writing this blog post, there were 100,181 YouTube videos viewed, 2,045 Instagram photos uploaded and 9,109 Tweets. Whether we like it or not, we are constantly bombarded by all types of media and the fight for attention will continue to increase as digital technology enables our 24/7 consumption of content.

Standing out is hard, but building trust is harder.

Rising above the crowd is a tough order today. Marketing by interruption only gets you a few seconds of attention and if there is nothing relevant at that exact moment to engage your audience, you can be sure they have probably already moved on to something else. The fallout from a failed interruptive marketing execution is that the technique starts to get a bad reputation. Just like how I can’t wait to click away any banners that takeover my screen (Where is that clickable X?).

What does this mean for companies? For non-profit organizations? For us personally?

It means that if you are trying to influence anyone, sell anything, or say anything at all, it has to be relevant to your target audience. The message has to be delivered at the right time and be educational or entertaining, or better yet both. To build long-term relationships, your audience needs to trust you and in this world of social media, there is no escape.

You cannot run and you cannot hide in today’s marketplace.

Organizations are made up of people and people leave digital footprints whether we like it or not. Today more than ever, customers interact with companies and organizations at so many levels there is really no desk to hide behind. In fact, the prevailing strategy that seems so obvious but becomes so scary for most is to embrace transparency and utilize it to build your reputation. As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz stated, “The currency of leadership is transparency”. How companies choose to use this currency determines the fate of their brand.

We need to seek permission through continuous authenticity.

To seek permission from your audience is to establish trust in your relationship. Seth Godin coined the term “permission marketing” years ago, but the concept is more relevant now than ever. He proposed that “Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers.” This idea rings true in the newfound popularity of content marketing and is also the core to Gary Vaynerchuk’s book on social media marketing titled “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”. Establish trust through a stream of relevant content before you offer up a product or service.

Authenticity begins by looking within.

Prophetic, isn’t it? But how do you gain permission by building trust? How do you know what to say? How do you avoid your audience sniffing out your misalignment? You need to start from the core. Branding. Branding is not an icon, it’s not a font, and it’s not a website. It’s the culmination of every touch point between your organization and your audience. And these touch points expose who you truly are. That’s the essence of your brand.

Don’t leave your brand to chance by letting your audience tell you (and others) who you really are through ruthless reviews or buying decisions. Instead, embark on a brand insights process to methodically architect your touch points. Even if your brand is not in your hands, developing a brand strategy is more predictable and infinitely smarter.

Ultimately, a brand needs to align externally.

A winning brand sells more products, services, and ideas. Nothing matters if the brand essence does not translate to a brand promise that is relevant to your audience. Delivering upon that promise every single day is what makes a strong and trusted brand.

Below is a typical process that reveals, builds, and protects your brand. It is comprised of three phases: Self-Discovery, Internal and External Alignment, and Interface Architecture. Some guiding questions are provided to kick start your creative juices.

(1) Self-Discovery

  • Who are you?
  • Why do you do what you do?
  • How are you different?

(2) Internal and External Alignment

  • What is the best way for you to be presented to your target audience?
  • What will you look like?
  • What would you say?
  • How will you say it?

(3) Interface Architecture

  • When are all the times you will interface with your audience?
  • What are the assets, capabilities and systems needed to consistently reflect your brand?
    • Assets
      • What content or materials do you need?
      • What channels will you use?
    • Capabilities
      • What competencies do you need to tell your story over and over?
      • What tools will you need to optimize the experience?
    • Systems
      • How will you measure your success?
      • What processes do you need to automate a consistent experience?
      • How will you incentivize a culture to support your brand?

The next time you find yourself loving a brand, you will instantly understand that it is no coincidence. Each and every touch point is painstakingly orchestrated for you to feel that way. Now the questions is: Is your brand worth caring for?

We are excited to be participating in the NewCo tour and welcome folks into our offices to share a deeper look into who we are, what we practice and our philosophy. Bob will be sharing insights on trends within the digital marketing industry and how we fit into the ever-changing landscape. Below are some high level takeaways which he will discuss in more detail at the event.

Aaron: When building a website, we regularly hear how important “responsive design” or a “multi-device friendly approach to design” is. What is your view on how clients should approach “responsive design or responsive experience” for their owned content and web properties?

Bob: Most content today is consumed by mobile phone. This will only increase in importance, so our first impression matters more than ever. As a result, we are shifting from responsive design, which is old school, to responsive experience. We need to provide the right content the first time to the customer visiting our site, based on what we know about them pre-visit.

Aaron: You’ve talked a lot recently about the fact that “influencer relationship management is more important than traditional CRM to shape markets”….can you expand on that a bit more?

Bob: You could have two million customers in a CRM database, but does this matter? What we are finding is that understanding who drives your audience (the 1% and the 9% of the 1,9,90 model) is the key to influencer relationship management. Volume isn’t the answer to gain the right reach. Precision of who you reach leads to the right volume/penetration of the market. A very simple and profound change in how we market is happening.

Aaron: The last trend emphasizes how one of our new processes – the creation of deeper audience insights through something we call audience architecture. Can you explain that a bit?

Bob: Audience architecture relates to how we identify and then listen to the right audience to understand what content we share, what keywords we use and what time of day we share content by channel. If we are tracking the right audience online, they will teach us what to do. The clues to success are right in front of us.

Aaron: Can you share an example of how audience architecture works?

Bob: Let’s say you want to find health conscious customers who are millennials, live in 15 specific cities and like to have an occasional burger. We can build a profile that leads to a panel of representative people online matching this group. We then watch what they do and say and can develop a highly targeted strategy. Basically, we’re starting to evolve how media planning and engagement occur.

Thanks for your time Bob. We look forward to hearing about these four insights and more at the upcoming event on Friday, May 29th 12:30-1:30.

 

These days, with so many brands focused on developing content for shared properties like official company pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram and more, it’s easy to marginalize corporate blogs. In my view,  blogging still matters. While I think lots of companies still agree with that thinking, I see a bigger problem that decreases the effectiveness of corporate blogs: a lack of content organization.

This problem tends to affect large companies that have been blogging for quite a while. Once a company has some level of success with a blog, there is a natural tendency to expand beyond a centralized single blog into additional blogs. In those cases, brands often segment those blogs by business unit, or some sort of structure that resembles how the company itself is organized. One problem with that strategy is that customers aren’t interested in a brand’s organizational structure. They tend to be interested in specific topics. The other problem is customers won’t waste time looking for content on your blog, especially if you make it a confusing mess. The end result is that companies spend time and resources producing content that not many customers never see.

So, what can brands do about this? Besides building an operational model for content marketing, I recommend a technical solution like a Content Hub. Our digital team can build a hub on a platform like WordPress or Drupal. Visually, the Content Hub can be made to look like your blog or you company’s website, or it can have a distinct look and feel. While I’m focusing mainly on blog posts, a Content Hub can also include other content items you would typically see in a news center section of a site, like press releases, white papers, reports or other articles. Think of Content Hub as a content front end or customized portal that pulls in content from a brand’s entire network of external blogs(or other sources) and displays that content based on which posts are getting the most engagement. In my mind, engagement is a mix of the following factors:

  1. The # of inbound links a piece of content gets
  2. The # of shares on social networks
  3. The # of comments
  4. The # of page views

Surfacing content on a landing page this way ensures that readers will see your brand’s most popular content regardless of how many different blogs are aggregated into it. This will eventually translate to a wider readership for blog authors who contribute to blogs with less visibility. The engagement factors I mention above can also be weighted more heavily to things like number of inbound links or number of shares as well. In the mockup below, we show content by most popular authors, but it could also be used to show content by topic (think of sites like GigaOM, The Verge or Buzzfeed.com). Here’s a wireframe of what a Content Hub could look like: LionelGeek Blog Hub wireframe

There’s additional benefits than broader visibility as well. From an editorial perspective, this data makes it easy to see what content resonates with your readers (and what doesn’t). Tracking inbound links gives you a way to see what external influencers your teams should be connecting with. Tracking the number of shares will give you solid insight into the kind of content your employees your customers and influencers like to share. All can be used to shape your subsequent content strategy.

There’s other work that would go into getting a Content Hub up and running (deciding which blogs or sites to pull content in from, defining the category taxonomy, deciding whether to display the full post or to redirect to the existing site where the content originated, determining a paid strategy to help get traction to the hub, etc). I’ll blog in more detail about those things in future posts.

Blogging does still matter, but these days it requires more than just producing solid content.

The web is a big, noisy place.  Lots of brands I talk to want to engage the right people with their social media efforts. In my view, that starts with finding the right people and media outlets to follow according to topic areas. If this was easy, more folks would do it. That said, there are some free tools to make this process easier. For me, that begins with search, Twitter lists and curated RSS feeds. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about how to find the right people to create Twitter lists and RSS feeds around.

Speaking of free tools, in the technology space, I’ve used Techmeme.com for years. Scanning the front page, you can easily see which articles and blog posts are driving news cycles, and the Discussion section highlights the main related stories and tweets. Mediagazer is a sister site that works like Techmeme, but it tends to be more focused on traditional media. Both sites are a great place to start.

Now onto searches. I start with Google for news searches and Google is also a good place to start to find top people to follow on Twitter. These days, because of its ubiquity, it’s easy to take Google for granted. But, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see that Google searches can help you uncover lots of sources that are worth reading on a regular basis.

Don’t overlook the depth of Google Search

If I do a Google search for Android, I can easily click on the News tab to see results listed that way. Also, finding Blogs is a couple of clicks away (you’ll see Blogs under the More section). Regardless of how you filter the Search results, clicking on the Search Tools button will let you easily look filter for the Last 24 Hours, or other time period see image below).

Android Search

But, even more interesting than that, Google Alerts now make it easy to make RSS feeds from Google searches. To get started, just go to Google.com/Alerts. The example below is my Android RSS feed. You can easily filter for News, blogs or other items before you create the alert itself, and it’s easy to edit your feed alerts after the fact.

Google Alert RSS feed for Android

Twitter Searches and Twitter Lists

While Google searches are great for finding news and media sources, I find that Twitter is great for finding individuals. Recent numbers show the service has over 200 million active users.  Sites like Twitter Counter make it easy to see the Top 100 Most Followed accounts both globally and in regions. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s often a good idea to start with a Google search to find top Twitter lists to look through. Doing a search for Top Twitter for Cloud Computing will give you a few different list of folks to sift through. Looking up individuals manually is time-consuming, but most bloggers will include their blog URLs in their Twitter bios.

There are a few Twitter list-related services out there. Listatlas is a site that aggregates and tracks Twitter lists in a few different ways. Years ago, I used Listorious, which ultimately became part of muckrack.com. Muckrack is a great service that makes it easy to follow journalists on Twitter. Little Bird is a paid service that I’ve been intrigued by… part of its usefulness lies in the ability to create both Twitter lists and RSS feeds of individual influencers by topic. Any other Twitter list-related services out there that any of you use on a regular basis? I’d love to know in the comments.

Since making lists on Twitter is a semi-tedious process, I recommend that you start by looking at profiles of folks who provide a lot of value to you on a given topic. Clicking on Lists from their profile page will let you see all Public lists they’ve created, as well as any lists they’ve subscribed to. You can subscribe to any of those lists by clicking on that list and clicking the Subscribe to this List button. You can also use Google searches to find useful Twitter lists… two that turn up pretty quickly are Mashable’s Social Media list and @Scobleizer’s Most Influential in Tech list.

If you do want to create your own list, it’s pretty easy to do. First, go to the Me tab on your Twitter profile. Then click the Lists link. From there, click the Create list button. You’ll see this dialog box:

Create a New Twitter List

From there, you can name the list, type a description, either make it Public so anyone can see it, or Private so that only you can access it. After you create the list, you can go to any Twitter member’s profile page, click on the drop down menu by the Follow button, choose Add or remove from lists, then choose the list you want to add them to. Below is a screenshot from @Scobleizer’s account as an example:

Add @Scobleizer to a Twitter list

Use an RSS client like Feedly to manage your RSS feeds

Feedly was probably the biggest beneficiary of the Google Reader shut down. Lots of users who were upset about Google Reader’s demise exported their RSS lists into Feedly for good reason in my opinion. Feedly has grown into a really flexible tool that I check several times a day to keep up with things. Feedly makes it easy to create sections and to add RSS feeds to a given section. It’s easy to navigate sources within sections and you can also easily search for items in Feedly overall or in sections. Feedly also makes it easy for me to mark any post to read later by automatically adding it to a Read Later section.

I also really like the Android and iOS mobile clients for Feedly. Besides making it easy to manage and group feeds, I love that it offers a Flipboard-like experience. That’s the main reason I use Feedly on my Nexus 7 tablet every day. I can quickly read through lots of feeds in a short time by flipping through my feeds on a daily basis.  It offers all kind of versatility in terms of how it displays those feeds. For example, here’s the List View of the Techmeme RSS feed:

Techmeme - Feedly List View

And here’s the Card View of the Techmeme RSS feed:

Techmeme - Feedly Card View

Though finding the right people to follow takes some work in the beginning, it’s well worth the effort in my opinion. Once you have appropriate Twitter lists and RSS feeds set up, you can spend a few minutes each day reading the articles and blog posts that matter to you and your area of expertise.

The first step to engaging influencers is knowing who they are and being familiar with the work they produce. If you don’t take this first step, building strategic media and blogger relationships will be much more difficult.

We all have to eat, however food consumption is far more socially significant than mere survival. Going out to eat is social, dining is an experience, and whether you’re grabbing a quick lunch or a 5-course meal, individual tastes and preferences are diverse. Those specific tastes have amassed a collection of people to whom blogging, pinning, posting, tweeting, checking in and reviewing cuisine in their cities is debatably more significant than the actual act of eating. It’s a part of who they are, a very public expression of their foodie tribe, and to some extent most of us participate.

Today’s food and beverage climate is much transformed, similar to big business, experiencing its own changes as strategy, culture and conduct are all vastly more transparent in the court of public opinion. This increasing demand for authenticity has become an expectation in most (if not all) industries.

Only a few years ago Zagat was known as the “burgundy bible” in New York. Gastronomic enthusiasts would pour over its reviews of restaurants and traditionally trained chefs. The Zagat of the recent past wasn’t the interactive website it is now.

The significance is more important than the transition from paper to computer screen for a number of reasons.

1. Platforms like Yelp and Foursquare put opinions shared by any motivated diner at the hungry masses’ fingertips.

Everyday foodies are the new experts and restaurants have taken note. In cities like Seattle, in 2009 only about 5% of local restaurants were listed in the Seattle Times.  Cut to 2012 and right around 70% of them were listed on Yelp. These channels aren’t just limited to dining either. Just two years ago Yelp’s biggest category was shopping. Friends check-in on Foursquare everywhere from hiking trails to their offices.

2. Organic social is trusted messaging and it’s becoming significant in business communications and reputation management.

Last year, Yelp.com was averaging 78 million visitors a month, with 40% accessing it from their mobile devices. Foursquare has a community of over 30 million users worldwide with over 3 billion check-ins. Over a million businesses use its merchant platform. A resentful employee, an ignored blogger or a disgruntled client now share power over your brand value with more traditional media. The numbers tell the story with Nielson reporting that 92% of consumers trust WOM (word of mouth) and 70% trust unsponsored organic online messaging.

3. The social landscape is changing influencers, but the ultimate goal is real-world action.

The shift in consumption of media has made diners savvier, utilizing user-curated reviews as resources that often impact their dining decisions.  Influence is transitioning from only traditional media food reviews to shared spaces with legitimized blogs like Eater or the New York Times’ Grub Street. Bloggers, traditional reviewers and diners alike have become trusted resources. If that isn’t enough reason for business owners to care about online review sites like Yelp, a recent Harvard Business study shows that a single star improvement in an independent restaurant’s ratings on Yelp translates into a 5-9% increase in revenue.

4. Influencers are democratizing food.

Foodie is a term that can be applied to culinary explorers in a much larger inclusion of ages, budgets and lifestyles. Only a short while ago, it was an elite term reserved for those who could afford fine cuisine. Now, food trucks serve up delicious morsels. Respect in the industry is now shared alike between Michelin Star restaurants and mobile eatery enterprises done well, both receiving equal attention.

What does it all mean for big business?

Big business can acknowledge the changes and adapt, or be sidelined by younger, more innovative companies that understand the new landscape and how to utilize it to their advantage. There are real, bottom-line results in identifying and measuring the activity of influencers who are just at the conception of utilizing WOM online. Businesses across industries need to assess their online presence to determine authenticity and real-world value. Reputation is now shaped, in large part, by shared and earned media and public perception effects revenue.  Cultural communities such as foodies demonstrate trends and evolutions that provide valuable insight. Big business should be asking how it can create its own tribe, and whether it’s fully leveraging WOM across channels, online and offline.

W2O Group recently introduced Okta as our Enterprise Identity management (EIM) system to enable Single Sign-on (SSO) via Microsoft Active Directory integration and license governance for our internal and SaaS delivered applications and services. Say what?!?

Cutting through the techno-speak, Okta makes it very easy, efficient, and cost-effective for I.T. to enable Single Sign-on for internal and SaaS applications. Okta also makes it very easy and efficient to track license utilization, ensuring we are using the licenses we have purchased and letting us know when we need to acquire more licenses. Most importantly, Okta helps increase our security profile:

  • With SSO enabled, you only need to remember one username and password to access your company applications and services
  • It’s easier for you to comply with a corporate password policy because the same password is used across all your applications
  • Any change you make to your password – typically required on a regular basis by a corporate password policy – is automatically synced to Okta and your applications
  • Okta is available on your mobile device for seamless access to all your applications
  • Helps I.T. ensure that people have access to the applications and services they should and none they should not

Okta’s features, efficiency, ease-of-use, security, and cost-effectiveness made the decision to purchase a no-brainer. Okta’s excellent customer service, a pleasant surprise, has made me a huge fan.

So…how did Okta get me to start promoting the product for them? Gamification.

Recently, I received an email from Okta inviting me to join an “exclusive new customer advocacy hub called the Okta O-zone.” Generally speaking, when I see the word “exclusive” in an email, I usually hit the delete button – if it’s exclusive why are you sending me the email equivalent of a form letter? Just before clicking the delete button, the word “game-ified” caught my attention and long story short, I ended up joining the Okta O-zone because:

  1. Clearly, I do think Okta is a great product and represents the future of Enterprise Identity management
  2. I really wanted to learn how they were gamifying influence

Once you complete the sign-up process, you’re taken to the O-zone portal (aptly named because an Okta is a unit of measurement used to describe cloud cover) where you are presented with a series of challenges, e.g., Tweeting Okta marketing messages, Facebook posts, conducting reference calls, etc., to complete. Each challenge you complete earns you points which can be redeemed for Okta gear (t-shirts, etc.) and progressively cooler rewards. You also have the opportunity to interact with other Okta influencers/evangelists and network.

Well, I’m hooked on the O-zone and here’s why:

  1. I know what the company gets from me when I promote on its behalf, now I know exactly what I get from the company and what I have to do for it
  2. I like the competition
  3. It’s dead easy – click a button and the tweet goes out, click a button and Facebook gets a post – and doesn’t require a lot of my time to participate

Over the past few days, I have completed challenges and earned points which I plan to spend on a great, big…charitable donation. Yep, a donation to the charity of my choice through Okta’s partnership with FirstGiving.com. I’m not looking for kudos here, I just thought it was cool that I could contribute $100 to a charity on a regular basis for what amounts to 30 mins. of my time a month. Kudos to Okta for making charitable contribution an option.

You know a company is doing something right when one of their customers – an I.T. decision maker – finds their product and gamification of influence exciting and innovative enough to write a blog post.

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Earlier this week, Yammer announced Klout would become one of its 60 integration Yammerpartners, allowing employees to publish public Klout scores and areas of expertise to their profiles, and admins to set up internal scores based on employee activity. This is arguably the most visible announcement connecting social media influence and organizational communications. As such, there’s been a lot of speculation and discussion (the Mashable article alone has almost 2,000 shares).

Personally, I am not the biggest fan of Klout’s methodology in determining influence, as complete automation has significant limitations (fair disclosure: digital analytics is a WCG core competency, particularly influencer identification). But if this new feature gains significant traction, organizations wKloutill have to turn their ambassador/influencer programs inward on themselves, and realize the true value of analytics for internal communications.

So as Yammer nears 8 million registered users, the WCG Corporate & Strategy team proposed a few benefits, limitations, possibilities, concerns and questions surrounding the partnership between Yammer and Klout:

  • Group Director Vicky Lewko – The benefits depend on how companies roll out this new functionality, and the context that they provide. We work with companies measuring their employees’ social footprint as part of job performance metrics. It isn’t that far of a leap to see internal functions doing that as well.
  • Manager Stephen Yoon – This kind of high-profile partnership could be useful in shifting opinions of communicators to look toward analytics in internal comms, realizing something like this can be useful when developing internal engagement programs. That being said, I feel Klout scores have gaps and lack perspective, particularly around connections, and have the ability to be gamed by sheer volume. But the identification of subject matter expertise could prove valuable.
  • Director Jack LeMenager – Will the presence of Klout and employee awareness of it encourage or discourage involvement in internal social media? In some minds, it can impart the feel of Big Brother.
  • Associate Blair Mikels – I’m playing the healthy skeptic. To me, tweaking motivation to align purely with some sort of “score” isn’t promoting the quality of engagement between teams and individuals, just the quantity. I fear employees may begin posting just to keep themselves on the organization’s radar.
  • Managing Director Nancy Fitzsimmons – I think corporations and employees may see this as a double-edged sword. On one hand, an organization now has a lens into often hidden workforce interests and expertise. More cynically, many corporations remain fearful of how employees use social networks, and this could result in a rash of new policies and guidelines intended to protect the corporation, but having the unintended consequence of limiting employee speech and privacy.
  • Director Molly Rabinovitz – At first, employees may think: Why should I care about my Klout score … what does this do for me if it rises? But that’s not the issue. It’s culture. Companies need to drive the use of any desired platform through cultural change, helping employees recognize its value for their daily lives and business.
  • Global Analytics Director Andrew Tucker – Diplomatically speaking, increasing organizational awareness for the benefits of internal analytics to achieve business goals is a good thing – Klout notwithstanding.
  • Finally, Practice Leader Gary Grates posed the underlying question being considered by communicators everywhere: Will this new functionality help unlock the restraints currently placed on employees participating in social spaces? Will it allow for a whole new level of engagement, recognition and contribution?

What are your thoughts about the Yammer/Klout partnership? What kind of impact do you think it could have – positive or negative? Let us know in the comments.

Now, to sign off in the Yammer tradition: “I’m Adam Pedowitz. Today my Klout Score is 51. I’m influential about Social Media, Public Relations, Analytics and Beer.”

We are excited to be partnering with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to present a five part webinar series on social media and some of the key topics (blogging, mobile, content creation, influencer outreach) that support it. A recap, recording and slides from the first webinar on Getting Started with Social Media can be found here. You can also access the recording and slides from the second, Blogging 101 — Helping You Get Started, and third, Creating Content and Engagement for Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, webinars via the links to those posts.

Yesterday’s webinar on Managing and Connecting with your Influencers was an hour long with the first 50 minutes spent addressing key trends, best practices on techniques for identifying and engaging with a company’s influencers. The last ten minutes were spent answering questions. To that end, I’ve included answers to three more questions from the webinar at the bottom of this post.

During the presentation, I (Aaron Strout) was joined by influencer and Syracuse professor, Dr. William Ward. Dr. Ward is a professor of social media at the prestigious Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse.

As promised, the full recording of the webinar is embedded below. You can also click through to see the video on Youtube.

In addition, you can access slides from the webinar on Slideshare here.

We also mentioned that we would answer some of the questions that we didn’t have a chance to cover during the webinar here. Three more questions and answers from the webinar are here:

  1. Is there one application to help me manage al these tools for the sake of time management?
    Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet when it comes to identifying and managing your influencers. However, if you do test some of the light (and free) social influence tools like Kred and SocialMention to identify your influencers, tools like Hootsuite make it easy to follow and track interactions with your influencers across multiple social networks.
  2. Is networking a great way to build your brand?
    Yes, offline and online networking are closely related activities. And if you are doing a good job networking, you should have an easier time identifying and connecting with your influencers. Doing this well will inevitably lead to better brand building.
  3. Can you elaborate on how to identify your influencers?
    Identifying your influencers starts with creating a list of key words (the same words that you might use to optimize your website for search engine optimization or that you might be purchasing as part of a paid search campaign). Try searching on these keywords in places like Kred and even on social networks like Twitter to find people that seem to be relevant and possess some level of reach (reach isn’t synonymous with followers as some people can game the system but often influencers will have a decent number of followers AND a high level of engagement like retweets, comments, shares and likes).

All of us think about the health of ourselves and our families every day, whether it is to exercise more to lose a few pounds or to valiantly fight stage IV cancer.

It is part of life.

And it doesn’t need to be this hard.

In the past, technology wasn’t advanced enough for us to reach our families effectively, so we did big advertising campaigns to generate awareness or drove people in mass to 800 numbers or we sent out emails to millions of people, hoping that a portion of the people we would reach would benefit.

Wow, is that wasteful.  It’s the equivalent of being 100 pounds overweight.  You know what you are doing isn’t working, but you keep doing it.  You know there is a better way.

Well, technology is now allowing us to go on a diet, one that ensures that our future outreach efforts will be highly efficient and targeted to the right people at the right time with the right message.

As a firm, we have built a significant expertise in analytics with more than 50 people 100% focused on how to provide insights for our clients every day.  We have added in big data expertise with the acquisition of Ravel earlier this year, so there is no amount of data too large to analyze.  We’ll look at three years of data or an entire retail footprint or all of the physicians in the U.S.  to find our answers.

One thing we have noticed is that no one in the healthcare industry knows how to build disease pathway models that can show the exact online habits and influence of people at each stage of a disease or disorder.  After all, we know that as a disease progresses, so does our need for knowledge.  We search differently, look to different influencers, interact with different members of our family and much more.

This is why we are all excited at W2O Group to partner with LiquidGrids.

We are going to build the world’s first disease pathway models that show what is happening during each stage of disease.  We are going to make it easy for doctors, patients, families and industry to work on one outcome together – our health.

When we work late at night or on the weekends, our team doesn’t get too concerned.  We’re working to transform health for your family and ours.

We’ll go as fast as we can.

Bob Pearson & Jim Weiss

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_mJBOdllX8&feature=youtu.be[/youtube]

In public relations, like just about every other field, we like sorting things into buckets, an exercise that is especially pronounced when we engage in media relations. There are all kinds of ways that we categorize the journalists and writers we deal with: by beat, by geography, by readership, but — most often — we sort by medium.

There are good reasons to view different media differently (and to treat them differently). Television relies on visuals; effective pitching requires b-roll or on-camera interview opportunities. Wire services rely on speed, meaning that the embargo system is hugely important. Magazines bank on design and depth. And so on.

But the revolution of publishing over the past 10 years is turning on its head the idea that format dictates content. While we still try to group writers in the online space — this one is a blogger, we’ll say; this one is active on YouTube; this one is a Wikipedian — those are increasingly meaningless distinctions. The New York Times“Prescriptions” blog is a totally different animal than Len Lichtenfeld’s blog at the American Cancer Society or Kerri Sparling’s “Six Until Me.” All have top-quality content, but each has a radically different approach to information. Lumping them all together as “blogs,” does a subtle disservice to all of them.

The future of media relations, then, needs to focused a lot less on the media, and a lot more on the personalities that use the media. It used to be, if you had a list of newspaper science writers, you didn’t have to do a ton a homework. You could pull a few clips and have a decent idea what they covered and what they needed. Now, if you get a list of bloggers or other “online influencers,” the work only begins. There is a tremendous amount of read and research needed to drill down and understand what makes each author click.

It’s an exhaustive process, and the inability to automate media relations — even in this era of automation — means that the practitioners of the future will have to be more broadly read and more nimble. Ignorance will be harder and harder to hide. Sorting writers in certain, predictive buckets will be less and less effective (and spamming huge groups of reporters with the same pitch, which was never a good idea, will become more of an evil). Putting Kerri Sparling in a “blogger” bucket is a lot less useful than putting her in the “Kerri” bucket.

* I realize that Marshall McLuhan’s concept of “the media is the message” is a good deal more subtle than I make it out to be in this post and that I may have bastardized the general concept. To McLuhan fans: I apologize.

Leonard Lichtenfeld

Analytics: The longer-than-four-letter word that is on the mind of most PR professionals, especially those in the online world, on a daily basis. Despite the progress that the industry has made in the past decade, the Internet in general and blogs specifically are still considered largely a wild frontier as we define and redefine a standard set of metrics which determine success.

As many reading this post know, various metrics such as unique monthly views, page views, Twitter followers and Klout scores have been used to show that social media campaigns are worth their budget in eyeballs. Among these measurement tools, one metric that is consistently overlooked is the measurement of community.

Why is community important? An online community is no different than an offline community. Members talk, share stories, support and advise each other. According to this study by Nielsen, 90% of online consumers relay on opinions posted online.

Let’s take a moment let that sink-in. A brand may think that Twitter, Facebook and blogs are silly and a waste of ad-dollars, but that’s mistaken. Ninety percent of online consumers rely on those outlets for reviews, tips and advice on what to buy.

These relationships, these bonds, have formed some extremely strong and influential communities for virtually every niche imaginable from the general (Mom bloggers, fashion bloggers, tech bloggers) to the specific (bicycle race enthusiasts and ferret lovers).

This past month, a prominent member of the food blogging community, Jennifer Perillo, of In Jennie’s Kitchen suffered a heartbreaking loss when her husband of nearly 20 years,  died very suddenly of a massive heart attack.

The food-blogger community response has been breathtaking. Condolence tweets, blog comments and Facebook posts aside, Jennie asked that her readers, followers, fans, family and friends alike make a Peanut Butter Cream Pie on Friday, August 12th in honor of her late husband – it was his favorite. The hashtag (#apieformikey) received over 1,500 mentions in a week. A Google search indicates that the hashtag has been mentioned nearly 25,000 times.

Even large outlets such as CNN and Food Network have mentioned the tribute. A local, NYC eatery has added it to their menu. Numerous prominent food, mom and other influencers have helped to drive the effort – an effort that crossed the barrier from the food blogger community to touch many other communities. As a result, what started as a tribute for a man who loved Peanut Butter Cream Pie, has turned into thousands of digital hugs so that Jennie feels a little less alone in her grief.

What does this mean for brands? It’s the community, silly!

Communities are the next frontier of influence for brands and bloggers alike. Remember that 90% of consumers who receive their product information online? There’s no doubt that they’re actively participating in communities and building relationships with other, equally influential community members. These communities are the sweet spot for brands, however, to properly tap into these communities it’s important for a brand to be genuinely interested and engaged in issues that are near and dear to the community.

Let’s talk about the what a genuine community interaction looks like: The NYC eatery who added Peanut Butter Cream Pie to their menu in honor of Jennie and her husband will definitely benefit from this in the form of good word-of-mouth, foot traffic and potentially, sales. At the very least, they will have the respect and admiration of a close-knit community that is their exact target.

However, there is no doubt that in offering to include the tribute on their menu that their interest was based in compassion and caring about something that is extremely important to a member of their community. So while their sales might not spike through the roof tomorrow, they have created a strong bond with a an important community, which is something that cannot be bought, paid for or otherwise gained by any means other than genuine community engagement.

 

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Last week, I wrote about how the new Pew Internet and American Life stats showed that — for all the Internet hype — patients still overwhelmingly turned to their doctors, not the web, for critical clinical information. But this leads to another, significant question: in today’s wired world, where are doctors going online to get information?

A recent report from Oncology Business Review gives some insight. According to ImpactRx, which surveyed nearly 500 oncologists for OBR, the site most likely to be visited by oncologists is medscape.com. Medscape was followed by research-summarizing site mdlinx.com, nih.gov, nccn.org, asco.org, uptodate.com, sermo.com, ascopubs.com, epocrates.com and cancer.gov.

That’s not a collection of high-profile sites; only NIH.gov ranks in the top 1,000 for web traffic. And with the exception of Medscape, few of those resources have traditionally been targets for communications outreach. They get ignored because the editorial structures are too difficult to discern, or the focus is too narrow (or the information too complex), or they’re password-protected and un-indexed by Google. It’s easier just to focus on the trade press or some easy-to-find Twitter users and be done with it.

But we disregard those sites at our peril. As Pew made clear, if we’re not communicating with health care professionals, we’re forfeiting the ability to help inform important discussions between providers and patients. And if we’re not reading those outlets, we’re blind to how the news of the day is being presented to — and perceived by — some of the most crucial players in the delivery of health care.

We live in an era in which the reflex is to value easily-obtainable information over information that is – more objectively – more important. This is why the much-reviled content farms do so well: Huffington Post or eHow or Associated Content show up early and often on searchers, making them seem more central to the informatione ecosystem than they actually are. The OBR survey points in a different direction: the sites that really make a difference aren’t Google-topping household names, at least to the general public.

But those sites are top-of-mind for those making life-and-death decisions about how to treat cancer. That means they are — or should be — top-of-mind for communicators, too.

This last month, The National Institute of Health partnered with Google to launch a new series of medication information pages for pharmaceuticals and many over-the-counter drugs. These “Medication Search” pages are now the first result (after sponsored links) to appear in Google when a person searches for a branded or generic drug name. A blue and red pill icon to the left of the result distinguish it from the natural search results that follow below.

Accounting for 85% of all spam, pharmaceuticals are the most spammed products on the Web. Understandably, the government is concerned with ensuring that accurate information is always available to the consumer.

What does this mean for the health care industry? The first Google result is estimated to be clicked by 47% of viewers. The second, by only 12%. For any given brand moved to the #2 slot, this could equal an average of 35% fewer visitors through organic search.

Online health care industry blogs are abuzz with the natural speculation that companies will combat this with increased investment in paid search results. But aside from the obvious, here are three things that you should begin doing today.

1. Ensure your properties are speaking the language of your consumer. The new NIH pages are poorly designed and lack consumer appeal. They can also be a bit confusing to consumers unfamiliar with generic drug names. All of these factors could potentially lead to consumers quickly clicking back to their initial search results looking for better information. If a Brand.com site speaks directly to the consumer’s questions and concerns, it will more likely be preferred as the property for valuable, digestible drug information. In doing this, make sure you understand how your consumers talk and search about their medical condition and your drug online. The NIH pages do not come up for long tail searches when specific drug information is being sought.For example, if one types “Viagra side effects” or “Boniva dosing” the NIH page is not a listed result. The primary results for your brand’s primary search term is now out of your reach, but there are dozens of long tail terms to turn your attention to.

2. Syndicate your branded content across all online areas of influence. Facebook is now rivaling Google in driving the most traffic to other portals. Google now aggregates relevant YouTube videos into its top results. Additionally, Google will display the most recent Twitter results. Losing your spot as the #1  Google search result further elevates the need to ensure your brand has exposure – in the language of your customer – across the social Web. As an added bonus, your organic search visibility will be raised as a results of taking your content beyond the silos of your controlled properties.

3. Know who really influences your brand online and build the relationship. Patient blogger Kelly Young, community moderator Pam Flores, and avid Twitter user Amy Tenderich. You know they’re out there. It’s time to know who they are, how much influence they have on your brand and most important, how to build relationships. If your media list doesn’t identify and rank non-traditional influencers, it’s time for a new media list.

Google search may be the front entrance to how consumers find a brand, but it’s not where they live and it’s not necessarily what they trust. A study published last year by Nielsen showed that 70% of consumers have some level of trust in branded websites. What do you think? Can brands find ways to successfully compensate for the loss of the coveted #1 Google result?