Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’


Empowered Ideas Featured on UNC TV

Excerpt originally posted on May 28, 2012 via Empowered Ideas’ Marketing & Communications Blog

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 (Raleigh, NC) — Empowered Ideas Co-Founder & Managing Partner, James C. Wong, had the honor of being invited as a guest speaker on the topic of Social Media for UNC TV’s Black Issues Forum.

James Wong has been a life-long supporter of diversity in leadership and knowledge in North Carolina, even accepting his now second term position as the Marketing Chair for the Triangle Association of Black Journalists (TABJ).


Potential Employers Asking for Facebook Passwords, An Invasion of Privacy?

My two cents on applicants being asked by potential employers for their Facebook passwords

It’s a pure invasion of privacy. If your HR managers can’t find any questionable content on the internet about an applicant, it’s fair to assume they are at least smart enough to not put their dirt on the internet, and just as safe to assume that if hired, they won’t put your company’s dirt online.

Applicants, if faced with this dilemma, I suggest that you ask the CEO for their FB pwd. See what happens, LOL.



Digital Healthcare Marketing

Article originally submitted to the iContact Blog on February 8th, 2012
By James C. Wong, iContact Marketing Manager

As both the current President of the Triangle Interactive Marketing Association (TIMA), and the Marketing Communications Manager at iContact, interesting topics and emerging industry trends are always on my radar in terms of interactive. TIMA has always been an organization focusing heavily on changes in the interactive space, and while healthcare has been a hot topic of discussion for quite a while, what isn’t being talked about is the surprising lack of resources allocated by pharmaceutical (“pharma”) and healthcare providers towards digital marketing initiatives. In fact, only about 5% of marketing dollars in pharma are being utilized to support consumer marketing via digital. In 2012, analysts are predicting that consumers will continue transitioning from TV and radio, to online sources as their preferred method of research and news.  Not surprisingly, medical doctors and other industry professionals are also following suit, with a reported 70% of M.D.’s preferring online courses over classroom continuing education.

TIMA President, James Wong; Executive Director of WebMD, Richard Schwartz; and TIMA Director of Strategic Partnerships, Janet Kennedy.

On Wednesday, February 8th, TIMA hosted a lunch and learn discussion panel in downtown Raleigh, NC called “Healthcare Marketing: The Interactive Impact, ” moderated by Richard Schwartz, the Executive Director of WebMD, and accompanied by Jeff Hill, Director of Digital Strategy and Technology for MedThink Communications; Dave Harrell, Owner of Dave Harrell Advertising; and Andre Blackman, Director of Digital Communications and New Media for the American Heart Association. The primary focus during the discussion revolved around the fact that given the move to more digital media, how can healthcare marketers effectively engage consumers, while balancing tight budgets, industry skepticism and the over looming topic of patient privacy?

Richard Schwartz of WebMD opened the session with an interesting point:

“eMarketer estimates ‘US online ad spending will reach nearly 40 billion in 2012… pushing it ahead of total spending on print newspapers and magazines,’ but only 5% of marketing dollars are spent on digital consumer marketing, with another 2% targeting medical professionals.”

This simple yet terrifying fact highlights the single most important aspect of healthcare marketing today — while more and more consumers are adopting digital media, healthcare organizations are cutting back or maintaining the status quo on overall marketing budgets, while allocating unrealistic budgets to digital initiatives.

What healthcare marketers are beginning to realize, is that usage trends are changing. It’s reported that three quarters of the US population has performed online research related to their own personal health, while 82% of doctors refer to the internet as essential. has seen traffic trends in the past that showed usage trends starting high in the mornings, then dip rather low in the mid-afternoon and back up after work hours, as dinner and family obligations lessen.  According to today’s internet usage statistics on WebMD, they are now seeing a steady amount of traffic across the entire day, as more and more patients and doctors log onto the website for reference data and research both at work and at home. The panelists all agreed that there are potential opportunities to being able to serve customized messaging and products/services in a manner that preserves the anonymity of the visiting patients and doctors, especially through electronic medical records (EMR) systems, a form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) known to industries outside of healthcare.

But in light of such trends and current consumer behaviors, why are healthcare organizations still reluctant to invest in digital? The answer is more common than you think, and yet makes little sense to digital marketers.  It’s all about “status quo” and perception.  While traditional radio, TV and sales representatives are visibly seen by consumers and patients alike, the industry is used to and comfortable with the qualitative aspect of measurement over quantitative.  Meaning, that while it’s harder to measure the return-on-investment (ROI) of a TV ad, it ultimately was seen (marketers call this an “impression”). This is no different from Coke placing billboards at a sporting event or on the highway.  Coke knows you won’t turn your car around and buy a coke at that very moment, but they assume you at least saw the advertisement and may want a Coke later.

Healthcare marketing managers are tasked with building digital marketing strategies with extremely limited marketing spend, a drastic contrast to most other industries adopting digital media. Healthcare executives are less adept to invest in a medium where regulations have not kept up with the latest digital technologies.  So instead of leading the way, many healthcare organizations are playing it safe and only “testing the waters” in limited ways. The entire panel agreed in consensus that while there aren’t any more regulations governing the healthcare industry via digital media, the fact that digital involves a two-way channel rather than a traditional “push and forget” channel — horrifies most healthcare executives.

So what do the panelists suggest?  It’s quite simple actually.  As a healthcare marketer, it’s critical to understand that the patient is now in charge, and that organizations should strive to always be relevant, simple and transparent. Through the use of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, online communities and email marketing, healthcare marketers can educate, engage and evangelize supporters through much more cost effective and measurable methods via digital. It was stated best, when a panelist mentioned that “everything in digital is measureable, but why would you want to measure it if it’s not relevant?”

In regards to negative feedback, brand managers and digital marketers shouldn’t be afraid of such feedback either, as they should use the feedback as cost-effective channels for case studies to further improve their products and services. In fact, one of my most popular tweets during the session summarized this point best in that, “[online] brand reputation is about engagement, not rainbows.”

Obviously, the discussion could have gone for hours, days and even weeks since healthcare is such a broad and all encompassing topic. We were fortunate to have such a top notch panel of experts at the session, and we look forward to the future as digital media continues to evolve every industry and field. After spending several hours with Richard, Jeff, Dave and Andre for dinner the night before, and an hour glued to their discussions, I’ve gained some valuable insights into how other industries handle their marketing strategies, and so leave you with these simple questions to ponder about your own strategies:

  • Regardless of your industry, are you providing relevant value to your target audience?
  • According to your strategy, who’s actually in control — you or the consumers?
  • Are you educating, engaging and empowering your audience? Or just pushing content to them?
  • Is your digital strategy robust and holistic enough to navigate your organization through the digital landscape?

Outside of my responsibilities at iContact and TIMA, I volunteer heavily in the field of alcohol and drug abuse prevention. The nonprofits, communities and coalitions that I work with are in fact specific forms of healthcare providers, and the state of North Carolina is at the forefront of the digital marketing evolution within the field. Through their use of email marketing, optimized website design and social media integration, many of our state’s top prevention and treatment agencies are leading the way in digital marketing, while maintaining a very simple set of goals for success: provide relevant information, educate the public and engage their patients and advocates. It is my sincerest hope that more and more healthcare providers begin to loosen their reigns, increase their budgets for, and begin to engage through social media channels, because in the end, we all win.



Greatest Opportunity for Email Marketers Today

Article from The iContact Blog, Written By:
James Wong, iContact Communications Manager

In a world of highly integrated, yet segmented internet usage and behavior, today’s email marketers must be more in tune with their email contacts than ever before. This of course presents an all too real problem for most marketing teams, because email is a channel that has received much negative publicity in regards to spam.

However, email remains nonetheless, one of the most viable and critical communication channels for today’s marketing professional.

Why and How Has Email Remained So Popular?

With the advent of new communications technologies focused around social media interactions like Twitter and Facebook, many internet users have flocked to these various channels to receive and distribute bite-sized bits of information. The information exchanged is much more concentrated and distributed in snapshots, as compared to emailed content.

Regardless of which communication channels your contacts choose to utilize, one fact remains strong among all of those networks – they all require a valid email address to sign up.

Besides being a low-level security verification channel, email has become more than just a simple communication channel, but has matured into a hub that connects all of a person’s social media activities. Through email notifications, a user’s email inbox notifies the individual of Facebook message, comment, and friend requests. It notifies the individual of Twitter activity and requests, and replicates the same resource to hundreds of thousands of various online social networks and communities. Ultimately, all of that data gets redirected into an individual’s inbox. Not to mention the simple fact that you can’t send attachments via any other “social media” channel.

What Email Marketers Should Be Doing

Marketing professionals should be tapping into the wealth of data waiting just beyond their email lists. Each of their email contacts could potentially be a member of various online social networks, and in today’s inter-connected world, it’s vital that marketers discover to which networks and communities their members belong.

Using simple email surveys can reveal a flood of information about their contact’s behavior, interest and communications habits. Analyzing this data will identify key networks and communities that you should be targeting, and which networks you could be leveraging for your marketing efforts.

The key is that every social network and community has its own unique niche. Researching and understanding why your contacts are on certain networks over others will provide you with insight into their interests and behaviors, which may prove to impact their buying behaviors as well.

Email marketers should view email as a two-way communications channel, and start listening to their contacts. Marketers need to document and respond to feedback, and be as transparent as possible. Collecting contact behavior and network preference data will better prepare marketers to engage in meaningful and educated discussions with their contacts.


Old Practices Haunt the Triangle’s Bar Industry

Durham, NCBralie’s Sports Bar has been a staple in Durham’s nightlife for years, and while some knew it as Arnie’s, many more have always known it as Bralie’s.

Bralie’s Sports Bar, named after a combination of the sibling owners (Brad & Leslie), is primarily run by Leslie Crabtree who is a local Durham, NC resident.

Recently, Ms. Crabtree came under heavy scrutiny by local media outlets for failing to abide by the newly effective North Carolina Tobacco Ban that prohibits the use of smoke producing tobacco products within all North Carolina businesses; only excluding non-profits and venues in which tobacco sales produce a majority of the transactions.

The complainant against Leslie Crabtree is Dan Richardson, the owner of Sunset Grille in Durham, which is a bar and grille establishment within proximity of Bralie’s Sports Bar.

Regardless of the validity of the claims pending against Bralie’s Sports Bar, which are completely based on a second-hand complaint, the fundamental key lesson I wish my readers to take away from this recent media fiasco is not whether or not Bralie’s was in violation of the North Carolina Smoking Ban; but the fact that regardless of what industry your business is inherently in, Social Media and Online Reputation Management can fundamentally change the desired outcome to one which may be the opposite intended.

The Bar Business is a Cut-Throat Industry

Bars have traditionally used such cut-throat tactics to put pressure on competitors. Typically, certain local area bar and club owners have been known to bring to light certain infractions regarding fire codes/regulations, Alcohol Law Enforcement regulations, marketing/copyright infringements, and other tactics which utilize tax payer resources to investigate complaints against competitors.

Why Should Businesses Reconsider Cut-Throat Tactics?

In today’s ever increasingly internet connected society, a fundamental lesson is becoming blatantly clear. Due to the increasing acceptance of Social Media technologies and Communities, businesses can no longer simply view their industry rivals as competitors, they must also consider the effects of their actions on their own clientele.

When Dan Richardson performed what is considered a “public service” by notifying the Health Department, it may have been a better course of action to have done it anonymously. One could assume that by blowing the proverbial “whistle,” that Sunset Grille may have gotten some positive press for helping the Health Department.

However, as it turns out the audience that frequents Sunset Grille was less than enthusiastic about the complaint. This is not to say that Mr. Richardson did anything wrong. In fact he did indeed do what any concerned citizen should have d0ne, but what Mr. Richardson failed to do was to adequately engage and understand his own clientele.

The North Carolina Smoking Ban is a highly controversial topic which remains fresh in the minds of many North Carolinians, especially since North Carolina was built upon the tobacco industry.

However, those that frequent nightlife venues such as Bralie’s Sports Bar and Sunset Grille are also a unique group of patrons. Many nightlife venue owners can validate the fact that is it often difficult to gauge how their patrons may react to even the littlest of things.

The Sunset Grille Case Study

In Mr. Richardson’s case, his public complaint against Bralie’s Sports Bar did in fact cause some patrons to reconsider their loyalties concerning his establishment. Social Media and the internet have made traditional practices within the bar industry finally come to light, and for their patrons to decide whether or not the tactics deployed by their favorite pub should be commended or reprimanded.

As of currently, various news organizations have picked up the story since Friday, January 8th, including ABC, NBC, and the Herald Sun. The articles were quite neutral regarding Mr. Richardson’s involvement in the complaint, however, comments from the readers (and on other online communities) were less than neutral.

“Dear Sunset, Great publicity for Bralie’s. Fail! Love, Former Sunset Customer”

“The complaints coming from another “local bar” are just a joke. Sunset Grille, as a now former regular Customer, your childish “snitching” just lost you a regular Customer.”

“Boy, what a way to “Level the Playing Field”, Never have been to The Sunset and now will never Go. BOYCOT THE SUNSET GRILLE, What a Doorknob.”

Lesson Learned, the Take Away…

The emergence and general adoption of social media trends over the past three years have brought to light a very important lesson which business owners must take into account. Now more than ever, it’s the PEOPLE that business owners must focus on, and less on their competitors. Social Media has changed the dynamics of businesses and marketing.

Today, businesses are no longer what they TELL their customers they are, but what their customers SAY that they are. Meaning that it’s not enough to promote how wonderful your business is anymore. Businesses must win over their customers, and convert them into brand evangelists. Customers are more likely to trust a business due to a personal recommendation, than from any marketing collateral they may stumble across.

If businesses don’t start focusing more on their own clientele, their needs, their wants, and turning them into brand evangelists, they will find that their customer base will shift to competitors that do.

Cut-throat business tactics are no longer in the shadows, and regardless of whether or not a rule or newly effective law was broken, the way a business conducts itself can result in hugely different reactions from their own clientele.

I’ve frequented both establishments and the service and environments of both venues is commendable, but public bickering and cut-throat tactics could easily sway my own personal venue selection, and while I am obviously a vocal clientele, I can guarantee that I am not the only one in the area.

Some situations require a certain level of anonymity and tolerance, while other situations should be brought to light. This entire situation between Bralie’s Sports Bar and Sunset Grille should have been handled with a little professional courtesy; a simple email or call to say “I just wanted to give you a heads up that smoking isn’t allowed in venues anymore. I’d hate for the Health Department to issue you a fine…” would’ve been a positive outcome for everyone involved.

So in closing, if you’re a bar owner (or owner of any business that deals with clients in person and online), please focus your energies on positive customer experience, engagement, and building brand evangelists; and please leave out the archaic cut-throat tactics, the people are watching, listening, and speaking…