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Milind Mody of eBrandz on social and search marketing

Milind Mody, the CEO of eBrandz, Inc., was kind enough to grant me an e-mail interview where he answered at length about some of the most interesting topics around (at least to me): social media marketing, reputation monitoring, and search marketing. He offers good advice all around, but I especially liked his cut-rate method for keeping track of the conversation about you. I think that most of you know about how to use Google Alerts, but Milind had a few other free tips that might be news to you. Anyway, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Me: Tell me more about your role at eBrandz. How long have you been doing that?
MM: I currently look after business expansion. This includes starting offices in different regions, partnering with other digital agencies, and also talking to press and media. I have been doing this for last five years.
Me: How did you get that job? Tell me more about your background and how you think it prepared you for what you are doing now.
MM: I started eBrandz in September 2003. Before starting eBrandz, I had a couple of years experience in Search Engine Optimization. I had a GNIIT degree from National Institute of Information Technology after which I helped one of my friends create a website. I was interested in how to market this Web site and this is when I realized that there was an industry called “Search Engine Optimization”. Since my background was programming, I could easily understand problems in Web site crawling and indexing. I could also offer multiple solutions to our clients for any “programming errors” on their Web site.
Me: What do you advise clients to do to keep up with all the conversations out there on the Internet? Should they try respond to all the chatter out there? How can someone do that?
MM: Not only clients, but many journalists have asked me this question. We ask our clients to:

  • Follow Google Alerts on their company name and key company executives.
  • Track first page of Google, Yahoo and MSN for their company name and “company name” + “review” or “company name” + “ratings” keyword.
  • Track RSS feed on their company name in Technorati.
  • Follow conversations about their company on Twitter, FriendFeed, and Boardtracker.

If there is negative chatter on any of the above, then we advice our clients to respond to it.
Me: How should a company develop a strategy for social media? Are there different strategies for B2C vs. B2B?
MM: A company should remember “Social Media is not about technology. It’s about people.” Corporate Blogs should be at top of their list. But companies should avoid marketing jargon or sales pitches in blogs, and start genuine conversations. Apart from blogs, I would recommend creating profiles and communities on Facebook and MySpace. Viral videos (on YouTube) also help in generating curiosity about a brand. I also recommend companies to have a professional profile on LinkedIn. Follow Digg or any similar website in their industry. For bookmarking, Delicious and StumbleUpon. There are tons of social media Web sites out there—each of them has a particular type of audience. If your product or service fits that audience and if the website has significant traffic, you should be present there.
The difference in B2C vs. B2B strategy is that B2C is product driven, wants to maximize value of transaction and has a larger target market. B2B is relationship driven, wants to maximize value of relationship and generally has small focused target market.
But one size does not fit all. Each campaign (be it B2B or B2C) needs to have its own unique strategy.
Me: What kind of metrics do you use to judge your success in the Web 2.0 world?
MM: Social media metrics is a moving target. But the success of the campaign should be judged not only on quantity but also on the quality of engagement. The quality part should be measured by asking these questions:

  • Are we able to take part in conversations about our company and its products?
  • Are we able to build better relationships with our audience?
  • How are we perceived vs. our competitors?

As for measuring statistics, for blogs (hosted on your own servers) use analytics to measure page views and unique visitors. Also include blog comments in your final analysis. For communities and profiles on Myspace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, look at the number of members in a community and number of conversations initiated in the community. If videos are an essential part of your social media engagement, then use a service like TubeMogul and track authority sites like Technorati and Digg. Also track microblogging sites like Twitter. And overall see how much traffic each of these social media website is sending to your corporate or product website.
Me: How do search marketing and social media fit together?
MM: With more and more search engines showing blended search results, social media now forms an important part of overall search marketing campaign. One of our clients is a laser surgeon. We have uploaded one of his surgeries online on YouTube. Not only has this video attracted lot of views, but it’s also ranking well for important keywords in Google search results. However, the primary objective of a search marketing campaign is to use social media content to rank well in search engines and get traffic from them.
Me: With all the emphasis on social responsibility, what can clients do to show off their responsible side? How do you think companies need to approach social responsibility today as opposed to ten or twenty years ago?
MM: Social media is a great platform to initiate “one on one” and community discussions on corporate social responsibility. Clients can ask the community to initiate ideas on social responsibility (which might apply to their company). After taking this feedback, they can do a poll on few short listed ideas and gauge community response. After they start their CSR program, they can start sharing their experience with the community. Press releases should also be an important part of showing off corporate social responsibility.
Difference in approach: Public Relations was (and still is?) a major part of corporate social responsibility. However, social media changes the game, as you don’t need a PR agency to get the word out to public. You can directly initiate conversations with your audience. This means that CSR is not restricted by a company’s ability to hire a PR agency. Hence any company, big or small, has to think about its social responsibility. Just as lawyers and doctors do pro bono work, companies have to be alert to their corporate social responsibility.
Me: Is there a particular social media tactic that is hyped beyond what you see as its value?
MM: Viral marketing on Second Life is the first thing that comes to mind. Especially when you consider the amount of time and money one needs to spend on marketing on Second Life. In terms of generic tactics, I think link baiting has been overly hyped. It worked well when people were clueless. It still works in a community. But gone are the days when you became famous using link baiting.
Me: Some people are beginning to see the Internet as a new force to encourage good behavior, just as government and the media have been. Do you see companies making different decisions today than they did just a few years ago, now that everything companies do are in public?
MM: Call me a cynic, but I see the Internet as the new age press and media. No doubt the Internet is a force in itself and companies can no longer get away with poor products or services as everything is out in the open. I see a lot of new age companies being conscious of decisions they make and their repercussions in the online medium. But I still see a lot of older companies (companies who are not “clued in” about the Internet and social media) continuing with poor service and customer support. And their response to bad online reputation is to hire online reputation management consultants (just like hiring a PR agency to manage crisis in an offline world).
Of course with more and more companies coming online with many of them burning their hands few times and learning from their mistakes, I do see companies making different decisions in future.
Me: Thanks, Milind. I am sure my readers learned a lot.

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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