Branding | Stephan Spencer

Branding Archives - Stephan Spencer

Social Media! Web 2.0! Twitter! Some other random buzzword!

By | Branding, Online PR, Social Networking | 4 Comments

I realized while writing my last post about press releases optimized for social media and SEO that “social media” may not mean anything to some readers and to others (particularly the early adopter types) it may mean the world. Some folks even react to the term with religious fervor.

But you know what, “social media” isn’t the greatest thing since sliced bread. Nor is Web 2.0. Nor is Twitter.

I know it’s what everyone in the blogosphere keeps buzzing about, and when you hear it enough it makes you want to get in on the action. But guess what? Most people in your target market I bet don’t have a clue what such buzz words mean, nor how to use them even if they did. The fact of the matter is, not every new thing will be right for your business.

So what I’m saying is: Don’t just get involved in something because everyone else is. If everyone else was jumping off a bridge, does that mean you should too? (with the exception of bungee jumping, of course! 😉 ) If you are going to get involved with a new technology, don’t just jump head first without taking the time to understand what you are about to get into.

For example… a lot, and I mean A LOT, of social media sites will start ranking for your name if you use them heavily and garner several links pointing to your profile pages. Because of this, it they can be used as great reputation management tools and push down some bad press. But at the same time you can inadvertently misuse them and end up putting a face of your business forward that you don’t want the public to see.

You’ve been warned.

YouTube and Video Optimization

By | Branding, Search Engines, Social Networking | 2 Comments

From a social media marketing standpoint, YouTube isn’t an ideal social site because of the way it hoards PageRank (video pages can’t have external links on them, and external links are nofollowed everywhere anyways, including on your user page), so it can’t be leveraged to increase your site’s rankings in the same way that a site like Digg can. That’s why a lot of SEOs and SMOs prefer submitting link bait articles to social news sites versus making videos for YouTube. When a video goes viral, it’s YouTube that tends to benefit in terms of inbound links rather than the original site. So, if the link juice and thus the search engine visibility benefits don’t transfer to your site, what’s the point you may ask?

True, YouTube limits your opportunities to add external links and then nofollows them. But you can be at peace with that fact. Instead, get the YouTube video itself to rank in the SERPs. Long live Google’s “universal search”!

With universal search, YouTube now wields a lot of power to rank in Google’s web search results — which means that getting into video is a good idea. Video blogging or trying to create something that has the potential to go viral can be a great thing for your business.

I especially love the “plus box” in universal search — the clickable plus sign in a YouTube video containing Google SERP that allows searchers to watch the video right there, without leaving the page. It’s a great opportunity to make a brand impression over a course of minutes, while the viewer watches your video.

So how do you optimize video content?

Obviously the spiders can’t see what you say in the video so how are these things going to rank? When you upload a video to YouTube, there are a few important areas to optimize are:

  • the title
  • the description
  • tags (keywords)
  • and your YouTube username

What you call your video, the words you use in the description, and what tags you assign it, will make a difference when it comes to its ranking in the SERPs and for which keywords.

Step 1: When coming up with a good title and description for your video, remember to use the words you are trying to rank for. This might sound obvious, but it’s just like if you were writing good titles and descriptions for a regular page on a site you were trying to optimize. Do not be too exact, but don’t be too broad either. YouTube has the ability to rank for some fairly competitive words especially if there are not many videos about it. At the same time, however, if you title your video “Sports video” you’re just wasting your time.

Make copious use of tags on your videos (assuming the tags are all relevant to the content), spread your tags out among your clips, use adjectives to make your videos more visible to folks searching based on their mood, have some category descriptor tags (bearing in mind that YouTube’s default search settings are Videos, Relevance and All Categories), match your title and description with your most important tags, and don’t use throwaway words like “and” or “to.”

Your YouTube username is an often neglected but important piece, because it can drive traffic to your site and help burn your brand in the viewer’s brain. Consider the famous “Will It Blend?” videos from Blendtec, where they blend iPods, rake handles, light bulbs and the like. Blendtec cleverly set their username to “” to promote their microsite. Granted, it’s not actually an external link (it still points to a YouTube user page), but it provides bloggers and journalists with a URL to use in their blog post or article besides (or in addition to) the YouTube video URL.

Read more on YouTube marketing in this article I wrote for MarketingProfs last year.

Manage Your Reputation Before It Gets Out of Control!

By | Branding | No Comments

With school teachers, employers, and even people you meet randomly in the bar “Googling” you, online reputation management has never been more important. All it takes is a couple uploaded drunken pictures to your MySpace or Facebook to have them rank for your name (provided you aren’t John Smith) and ruin your reputation to everyone who happens to look.

Listen up students and professionals alike: Who is going to hire someone who has all 200 pictures of them in various stages of undress or drunkenness? Not me, that’s for sure. It seems all in good fun at the time but do you really want everyone you ever meet who has heard of “Googling” to know how hard you used to party?

It seems hard at the time to censor your friends from posting pictures of you, but you CAN un-tag yourself. Sure you may come across as a “buzzkill” – but when your future is on the line…

Sergey Brin in a dressYour past escapades caught on camera can come back to haunt you, just ask billionaire co-founder of Google, Sergey Brin. On the first page of results in Google Images for “sergey brin” is this beauty of a photo:

My prediction in the next few years we will see a boom of “Online Reputation Managers” springing up. Sadly not all of them will be any good and some will take advantage of people who know less about the web.

My best advice would be to protect yourself while you can… And the next time you are thinking about posting that picture of you smoking and drinking… reconsider – or at least use an alias.

And don’t just assume that because your photos are marked “Private” you’re safe. Your friends still have access to these photos and they can leak your photos to public sites. And sites like Facebook aren’t as secure as you might think, when it comes to private photos.

Real Social Media Friends

By | Branding, Online PR, Social Networking | One Comment

Social networking is all about being social and networking – duh 😉 The question is: How do you do this; what does that mean? It means being active in the community; it’s saying thanks to people who vote your stories up; it’s responding to comments on your blog; it’s posting comments on other folks’ blogs. It’s starting topics of conversation and being a part of other conversations.

Be careful though, it is very easy to destroy your online reputation by being a jerk, so watch what you say. Don’t just go and type in your gut reaction to things like you would if you were having a conversation with someone. The same care and attention in crafting responses is required in social networks as in email, since the emotional cues that are present in in-person and over-the-phone interactions are missing in online communications. You have all the time in the world to make your communications and your online persona funny, witty, insightful, thoughtful, ingenious. So take that time. Ultimately, however, your true character is going to shine through – but this is a good thing!

Being honest and open with people is what will net you real friends – friends that if you happen to be in the same city will buy you a drink, show you around, or even put a good word in for you if you’re looking for a job. It’s these kind of real social media friends that will bend over backwards to help you out if they can. If you’re a freelancer or a business owner, they might even recommend you to people they know.

Just by being yourself in social networks you’ll find that you are making friends with people of similar interests and humor types – people with similar personalities that actually like YOU and not just your online presence.

Company names don’t always translate well to domain names

By | Branding, Online PR, Search Engines, Web Marketing | 7 Comments

Be careful when converting your company name / brand name into an (available) domain name; it can have embarrassing repercussions.

I was reminded of this fact recently when seeing an email in my inbox that was sent to multiple recipients, including myself. One of the recipients was someone at This domain name may appear rather ordinary to us Americans. But to those who speak “the Queen’s English” – including those in the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand – I bet they get a chuckle when they see it. I can imagine them thinking to themselves “Is this the company that put the “arse” in commerce?”. The company is ARS Ecommerce, not Arse Commerce.

Company names that work well in one context may not work so well in another. I remember a classic example of this from a hilarious piece in Business 2.0 magazine (circa 2001) called “Boo! And the 100 Other Dumbest Moments in e-Business History“. Here’s the money quote:

In October 1998, an e-commerce software vendor launches with the name Accompany, which, when said aloud, sounds exactly like “a company.” As in “Hi, I’m calling from Accompany.” “Which company?” “Accompany.” And so forth. It changes its name to MobShop in March 2000.

In my post on the blog titled “Eleven steps to buying a domain name that doesn’t suck, I give another classic example of a domain name faux pas: No, it’s a site for finding therapists, not rapists.

You also have to consider whether your choice of domain name will get you inadvertently blocked by email firewalls or the search engines’ adult filters.

Take for example this parts store – – hyphenating the two words would have been a good idea. Ditto for, an agency that represents celebrities.

Here are a few other examples of domain names gone horribly wrong:

  • for Cumbria Storage Systems, Ltd.
  • to travel in Spain, pain-free!
  • deals with modern architecture and engineering
  • is for a church in Cumming, Georgia

While these are pretty funny (and/or disturbing, depending upon your point-of-view), these are reputation management nightmares. Sadly, they were all preventable — usually with merely a well-placed hyphen or change in keywords. could have saved themselves a lot of embarrassment by choosing or instead.

Manage Your Reputation the Do-It-Yourself Way

By | Branding, Online Retail | No Comments

Reputation monitoring and management have become hot topics and will only continue to grow. These are becoming important areas for all businesses, large and small, to focus on as more and more people turn to the Web to communicate through blogs, their own Web sites, as well as the ever-growing opportunities for online consumer reviews and ratings.

The above quote was written in a CNet: Searchlight post about DIY Reputation Management. In that post, I take an in-depth look at this popular topic for businesses and professionals, and offer a ton of tips like: places to monitor your online reputation, what to do, what not to do, and some friendly reminders. I’d like to share with you one of my tips: set up Google and Yahoo! alerts for keywords, your brand name, or other things that relate to your reputation. By doing so, you can easily keep up with what kinds of content the search engines are serving up.

Swicki: A New Way to Look at Customizable Search for your Website

By | Branding | No Comments

I’m sure you’re probably aware that you can get free search engines for your website through Google’s Custom Search Engine (CSE) and Yahoo’s Search Builder. Have you heard about an up-and-coming customizable search engine/portal dubbed “Eurekster?”

Part search engine, part widget, a Swicki has enhanced features that you can customize creating a unique experience with SEO benefits. The company has its own search engine, and provides a customizable tag cloud that visually creates a unique look for users to build their brand. For an in-depth look at this awesome new search engine, visit my CNet:Searchlight blog.

Why Companies Should be Nice to Bloggers

By | Blogging, Branding, Online Advertising | No Comments

We all know that blogging can be a powerful tool for many reasons, and here’s another one to add to the list. Blog posts that praise a company’s excellent customer service, or denounce them for being horrid, can rank so well in the SERPs it falls right beneath a company’s website.

One story that comes to mind is Zappos, an online retailer of shoes, high heels, and handbags. One of their customers wasn’t able to return a pair of shoes due to the death of her mother. Not only did Zappos “break policy” by accepting the shoes, they arranged for pick-up and delivered a large bouquet of flowers. I Heart Zappos is a great post about this heart-warming story. There are other not-so-great examples as well, like a post entitled “Do Not Fly Spirit Airlines” currently ranked “3” beneath Spirit Airline’s brand name.

For more on this topic, you can read my full article here.

Wacky Viral Marketing

By | Branding, Web Marketing | 3 Comments

With the glut of online marketers and the holiday season gearing up, many businesses are having a hard time getting your attention. Enter the world of the weird, the wacky, and the downright crazy to make you go “Hmmm…”

Have you seen the “Mentos Intern”? You can order lunch, chat, watch a live feed while he works, schedule his work day, rate his efforts, and much, much more. The campaign is hilarious, and effective. The “Mentos Intern” grabs our attention simply because we can all relate to his predicament. Who hasn’t been a lackey, working for ‘The Man’ at some point in their life? The campaign also includes the best of the best for social media marketing; Trevor is accessible through Myspace, Facebook, Blogs, and gaming! He’s your friend, he’s your buddy…he’s the “Mentos Intern.” The best part about this site is, that it’s gone viral all across the web, and the “Mentos” name is tagging right along. What better way to promote your company (and your brand) than to take advantage of the net?

Mentos Intern

Here’s another one that has been sweeping across the web. Sling Media is a company that designs and markets technology to control (and access) your basic cable from anywhere. Their home page features an interactive salesperson with a catch. Sling Media knows that salespeople are annoying–and exploits them. Their home page has an interactive Flash-based site that gives you the opportunity to be as mean as you could possibly be to “The Sling Man.”

SlingMedia Interactive Options

While you may not know what SlingMedia does, this viral campaign drives traffic to their site because it piques your curiosity and is pretty darn funny. This is a good example of how wacky viral marketing can get attention to an unknown brand; beneath the “Sling Man” are some brand-and-product links that will help you understand what their flagship product, the Slingbox, is all about.

What kinds of wacky viral marketing campaigns have you seen on the web? Does it work for you?

Does your brand have what it takes to go viral on YouTube?

By | Branding, Social Networking | One Comment

Success on YouTube is as much about effectively tapping the social network as it is about the content. Brand-building viral videos such as the ones I blogged about recently only happen if the conditions are right.

If you don’t follow MarketingProfs, you may not have seen that my article “How to Market on YouTube” came out this week. For the article I had interviewed the marketing director at Blendtec about their famous “Will It Blend?” videos. “Will It Blend?” is one of my favorite examples of viral marketing on YouTube. It didn’t take a big budget and an ad agency to dream it up, but boy did it work wonders for their brand!

So what are the secret ingredients to going viral on YouTube? I guess you’ll have to read my article to find out! 😉