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Dear #hashtag user,

I’ve noticed recently that you are quite the fan of this clever linking device. However, I think that you misunderstood its purpose of functionality. You see, the hashtag was created as a method to “tag” tweets, essentially adding organization to the clutter that consumes the Twitter-sphere.

For example, if I were hoping to connect with people in the fashion industry, I could search #fashion and, immediately, thousands of tweets would show up that include the same hashtag. By searching #Obamacare, I can access the opinion and news results of all who are discussing the controversial matter.

Upon conception, the hashtag was (and still is) a brilliant piece of digital creation.

However, I have noticed that you, Mr./Mrs. hashtag user, have used this tool completely out of context. The hashtag is no longer a method of organization, but is now a form of language that is substituting complete thoughts.

Examples include:

“Looking forward to my trip to the Bahamas. Is Friday here yet!? #excited #cantwait”


“This weather is killing me! All I want to do it go for a run, but I can’t in this rain. #RainRainGoAway”

What, on Earth, has the use of these hashtags accomplished? Personally, I am a fan of how GIZMODO phrased its frustration, stating, “But at their most annoying, the colloquial hashtag has burst out of its use as a sorting tool and become a linguistic tumor—a tic more irritating than any banal link or lazy image meme.”

Now, I’m not calling you lazy. No, this annoying use of the English language is not lazy. However, these simple misapplications of a hashtag have turned into a much larger infraction.

Recently, you have begun using hashtags as a way to self promote, hoping that the more hashtags you use in a post, the more likely you will acquire new followers. Your thought is similar to the practices of SEO – use key words and hopefully show up in search results.

A word to the wise? When you do this – people like me will ignore your post completely.

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This is merely a desperate attempt at being seen. Seriously? How many people are searching the hashtags #orange or #thegreatpumpkin?

So, I beg of you, Mr. or Mrs. hashtag user. Think before you # it.

Don’t believe me? Then check out this video of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon. They have no qualms about showing you how stupid you sound when misusing hashtags.

Retailers are constantly working to stay ahead of the social marketing curve. Whether they’re using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram (to name a few), they are thinking of new ways for their products to get in front of a large audience. Better yet? To get in front of a large audience at minimal cost.

Over the years, Facebook has proven to be a productive way of referring customers to your website.

The formula: Interesting Images + Engaging content + Links = Increased Web Traffic

However, there is a limitation to what Facebook provides. Once the platform introduced the People Talking About This metric (PTAT), it shortly became no secret that when a brand page posts something, only a small percentage of its fans will see the post. You are required to solicit engagement from your fans, or actually pay money, to reach a more reasonable percentage of your followers.

Oh, bah humbug!

But, wait! That’s the beauty behind Pinterest. It’s a visually stimulating and free website that allows you to promote your products to thousands of people. Not to mention, that people who are using it are searching for ways to be inspired.


Don’t believe me? A recent research study conducted by BloomReach showed that Pinterest traffic spent 60% more than traffic coming from Facebook and converted to a sale 22% more than Facebook.

We recently put the numbers to the test for one of our retail clients by working with a popular fashion blogger. She simply took a picture of a cute monogrammed tumbler, posted it to her social channels, and allowed us to also use the image for promotional purposes.

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The key to success was not that we simply used Pinterest – but that we partnered with an influential women in the blogging/Pinterest space. Through this partnership, we were able to reach people who were our client’s target customers, but may have never heard of our client’s brand.

Here are some top line results from the Pinterest/Blogger partnership:

  • The image was repinned 1,100 times in a two week period
  • Referral traffic accounted for 50% of total website traffic
  • In a 30 day period, 49,940 website visits came from Pinterest
  • The product pictured above received 65,633 page views in that same 30 day period
  • The client received the highest monthly website traffic in the store’s history

Wow! Those results obviously made for a very happy client.

Curious at how Facebook compared to the Pinterest giant? Through posting the same exact image on our client’s Facebook account, we were able to garner just over 1,000 website visits. Hm, seems pretty obvious to me that Pinterest won this battle.

Game. Set. Match.

goods-60-rewards-pop_5728Earlier this year, Marriott International, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, Starwood and Delta – among others – effectively devalued their customer loyalty programs. They now require more points, and sometimes more cash, in order to obtain a reward room.

As a result, customers have reacted negatively. Surprised?

Consumers view loyalty rewards as ‘bought’ or ‘earned.’ Certainly, not a reward. And, companies are increasingly analyzing the return on such programs and determining the investment is not there. So, they reduce the benefits and their customers become more disenfranchised. Exactly the opposite reaction desired of a ‘reward.’

Zealotry Marketing flips the concept of loyalty. Instead of discounts or rewards following frequent purchases, consider the benefits of engaging the consumer in more collaborative, meaningful and personalized ways that enrich their experience and deepen their understanding of your brand. Examples? Tastings; behind the scenes tours; exclusive seminars/discussions; advance previews; sampling; private communities.

Savvy media types have long understood the value of “advance staging” – of cultivating a smaller, but fervent group to ‘leak news’ and be positive ‘plants in the audience.’

Delight your Zealots in advance, instead of trying to buy their continued loyalty. The investment is less and the return is greater.

Let’s be honest with one another – Facebook has never been known for its search capabilities. With such poor results, it’s inevitable that marketers have questioned if social media advertising is truly the best option, especially when it comes to ROI.

On average, Google reaches 90 percent of Internet users, while Facebook only reaches 51 percent. On top of that, Google has an average of 0.4 percent click through rate, Facebook only .051 percent.

However, advertisers need to fret no more!

Facebook has announced Graph Search, which Mark Zuckerberg has claimed will be “a great leap forward for search.” Hoping to overtake Google, LinkedIn and, users will soon be able to ask Facebook for their friends’ preferences before making decisions on restaurants, vacations, career choices, and maybe even life partners.

Some analysts are saying that Graph Search has the potential to close the gap between Google and Facebook by creating a feedback loop between advertisers and Facebook users. For example, if a business has the most “likes” it could ultimately be at the top of search results. With this being a criteria for higher search rankings, Facebook is hoping that advertisers seeking greater Graph Search results will purchase more ads.

Facebook has yet to release any advertising products that Graph Search will provide down the road, but what they are promising to its users is in-depth personalization and an ability to solve questions to answers that you would not expect the internet to solve for you.

So if you asked me, I would simply tell you that the ability to accurately microtarget in an advertising campaign could possibly result in some of the greatest opportunities companies have ever seen. Good move, Facebook. Let’s see what you do with this brilliant platform.

Curious at how your nonprofit organization stands up against the rest when it comes to online messaging, fundraising and social media?

Thankfully M+R Strategic Services and the Nonprofit Technology Network have analyzed 44 nonprofit data sets to analyze the average performance in 2011, measuring email messaging, list size, fundraising, advocacy, social media and mobile programs. The results were compiled into the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study.

However, we realize that many of you are way too busy to sit down and analyze graph after graph or even understand the significance of the findings.

Here at Guest Relations Marketing we have interpreted the data for you. Over the next few days we will roll out important takeaways from the study and explain what is means for nonprofit organizations.

Today, we discuss email messaging!

Courtesy of 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway # 1 

When sending emails, advocacy messages had the highest open rates, click-through rates and response rates – as well as the lowest unsubscribe rates. In contrast, fundraising emails have the lowest open rates and highest unsubscribe rates.

What this means for you

On average people don’t enjoy being asked for money, even if they are a Zealot for your organization’s cause. Keep this in mind and consider providing fundraising news within other email messaging.

Want to put a heavy emphasis on the fundraiser? Then be sure to use a crafty subject and headline that will capture the recipient’s attention. Directly stating that your email is requesting they contribute could send their cursors directly to the delete button.

Courtesy of 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway #2 

With only a few exceptions, almost every organization in the study saw their email subscriber list grow from 2010 to 2011, though the increase in growth rate appears to be slowing (environmental groups grew their lists at the highest rates).

What this means for you

Remember that every day people’s inboxes are flooded with random emails that most consider spam. It’s easy for an individual to get frustrated at the constant stream and quickly hit the unsubscribe button. More relevant to this topic, it is easy to assume that many people are hesitant to even sign up for email newsletters out of fear of how their inbox will be filled.

Finding a solution to this problem on the surface is two-fold.

First, whatever the cause that your organization is working for, it is important to make it relevant and trendy to the general public. Environmental concerns has been a general growing topic of interest over the last few years and it can be assumed that this would have a direct correlation to the large increase in email subscribers.

Second, you must provide incentive for people to want to receive emails from your organization. Maybe this is subscriber only updates, or behind the scenes looks. Whatever the news, make it clear for people that the only way they will get certain information is by signing up for your email newsletters.

Courtesy of 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Takeaway # 3

Between 2010 and 2011, the email fundraising response rate held steady at 0.08%, with a negligible growth of 2%.

What this means for you

Online fundraising has steadily increased in popularity for nonprofit organizations. This should not be news to you. However, what is important to take note of is that email fundraising rates are generally low and should not be the only way your organization pushes to raise money.

Interested in what other methods generally show success at fundraising? Then tune into our post tomorrow where we will highlight some of the study’s findings of online fundraising.

A recent survey by noted that for more than 80% of respondents, free Wi-Fi in-room is a make-or-break decision for online bookings. Surprised? Shouldn’t be. Free Wi-Fi is now becoming ubiquitous. As it is offered in one location, consumers don’t understand why it is not available – for free – in another spot.

How does this impact hotels? Well, it is one of those somewhat hidden add-on charges.  An additional profit center. And, for major chains, it is a major hit to their bottom line to decide to remove a daily $10 charge from thousands of rooms in hundreds of locations.

But, from a consumer perspective, it has become a given that a certain level of establishment, or hotel, offers complimentary Wi-Fi. Why pay $10 a day at the hotel I’m paying to stay at, when I can walk next door to the diner or Starbucks and get the Internet for free? It is a component of the overall experience.

The Zealotry Marketing lesson? Value is not a fixed position or asset. The marketplace, consumers’ needs, and competition all change. Thus, it makes sense that value points of a business would also change. Logical and simple enough. But, how often is your product, operational delivery, or marketing program significantly examined and adjusted on the basis of aligning with what is perceived as value today?

In this example, the solution is simple. Guests want Wi-Fi for free. Or really, what they are saying is that it is a fundamental need. Not an “add-on.” Hotels need to drop the add-on fee. The cost is a part of the room rate and a part of doing business.

Value is transparent. Now it’s time to figure out how to package and market it.

From the continuing series, What is Zealotry Marketing

Guest Relations Marketing has become known for three things: Zealotry Marketing; brand restage; social media programs. These seemingly unconnected concepts actually connect nicely for successful brands.

Almost always, the starting point with a prospect introduction or a new client is one of two things: either they have a fundamental change in the business (new product line; acquisition; new sales territory) or sales have stagnated.

Either way, the discussion always leads back one of target definition. The root issue is always about identifying and accurately defining the correct target. In our worldview, Zealots are the top priority for targeting any change in marketing approach. Why? They are already receptive and a fervent supporter of the brand. It is logical (and empirical) that they are going to be most likely to embrace any new direction or offering. And, they have a track record of helping get the word out – create organic referral.

Typically, in aligning messaging and core value points against referral, it becomes apparent that some partial or full brand restage needs to take place.  Thus, the connection of “Zealotry Marketing” with brand restage – the need to get messaging right and consistent to leverage the impact of your most passionate followers – your Zealots!

Social media? It is where the Zealots play. Social Media is the media of referral.

Zealots = long-term brand profitability.
Brand restage = alignment to Zealotry messaging and values.
Social media = Zealotry (referral) media.

Next issue – we expose the myth of social media.

“Zealotry Marketing” is about creating programs that have a primary goal of generating referral. If referral is the best indicator of long-term profitability, then it made sense to us to use that as the starting point for creating marketing programs. Not merely looking at referral as an indirect end result.

This has led us to a revolutionary perspective on blending the classic marketing principles with today’s hot social media. And, heresy for old-school practitioners – the idea that the most effective marketing may well come from operations and service delivery.

This is the story of Zealotry Marketing: where loyalty begins with a company exceeding a customer’s expectation. An approach that can be engaged through any company and doesn’t require so-called marketing pros. It does require a sensitivity and commitment to exceeding customer expectations. Guest Relations Marketing believes Zealotry Marketing transforms the traditional loyalty equation.

What are you doing to create Zealots?

There is lots of marketing talk related to loyalty, customer retention and how to leverage new media for fantastic results.  But, in reality, most loyalty and traditional frequency programs have dubious payouts for companies. They may trigger initial response and traffic, but most fall woefully short when analyzed against the overall return against costs.

Instead, the same things that have driven people for hundreds of years still hold true today for great brands. That is “word of mouth” or referral.

The best brands have the most effective marketing vehicle ever invented or discovered – their own Zealots! Zealots, as defined in marketing terms, are passionate followers or customers.

In a compilation of research, Harvard Busness Review determined the number one indicator of long-term brand profitabilty is the likelihood of a company’s customers to recommend their product or service to others. Referral. The higher the percentage of “Zealotry” customers, the higher the company was in the black. More referral = more profits.

So, that is the aegis of why Guest Relations is about building more Zealots for our clients. It’s about creating more profits.

If you follow Guest Relations Marketing, you know we are usually discussing three things: how to build brands; finding and developing more Zealots for your brand; and how to build Zealotry actions through Social Media. While those three things may seem a little odd and not well connected, they all fit nicely (at least in our minds) under this umbrella concept called Zealotry Marketing.

Our term is Zealots. Others may refer to these select customers as advocates, referral agents or extremists. We prefer Zealots. The word Zealot has an edge. There is an energy – a passion – that we believe more accurately fits the notion.

Our definition of Zealots: those who are passionate about a brand’s products or services, enough to freely share their enthusiasm and experience without provocation or compensation. In marketing terms, Zealots are willing to participate, often at their own expense, to further the brand because of their belief in what it stands for.

Because Zealots are the most authentic form of referral, it is only logical to build marketing programs from their perspectives.

Doing so is simply more profitable.

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