Archive for February, 2009

Social Media and that elusive ROI

Posted on February 27, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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A good laugh with my meeting makes it so much better...

Alright, here’s a provocative post written some months back by a man whose tag line is “Relationships Through Social Media Marketing”, Jacob Morgan.

There Is No ROI from Social Media

Go read it in a new window, and come right back.  Or if you don’t have time for that – here’s the recap:  you can’t put a dollar value on the relationships you create in any number of online communities.  It’s a quality thing, not a quantity thing.

Clearly Morgan believes in Social Media Marketing, or he wouldn’t use that tag line right at the top of his blog.  But if I’m interpreting him correctly, his message is that you can create Facebook pages, upload videos to YouTube, recommend others in LinkedIn and tweet all day – and none of those things will result in a direct monetary transaction.

Fair enough.  There is no “buy now” button in any of these venues, and thank goodness.  I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the long, long “squeeze page” online that tries to talk you into a purchase at first glance.  This is a long-standing form of internet marketing that builds on the AIDA model: attention, interest, desire, action.  It’s all there in one marathon sales pitch, and in that formula, it really doesn’t matter whether you like the product maker/service provider or not.  It’s all about features and benefits – if you want the benefits badly enough, you may read to the bottom and hit the “buy now” button. The formula has made multi-millions online, and I’ve written a couple, myself.

Social media, on the other hand, embraces a longer sales cycle – one that’s built on people coming to know, like and trust you.  Isn’t this the strongest basis for any business/customer relationship?  The results are much more difficult to quantify, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see any.   It’s just more indirect, and more like the way most of us have always chosen who we do business with.  It’s who you know, and who you know that cares about you.

That’s the route that I want to take as I bring my services online.  If I have to track the circuitous route for each of my clients from Twitter follower to email correspondent to proposal writer to contract signer to happy customer to loyal advocate and referral source, so be it.  The cycle starts at relationship.  That’s a sales cycle I’m quite happy to track, even if it is more difficult to quantify!

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Help for busy social media days

Posted on February 24, 2009. Filed under: Social Media How-Tos | Tags: , , , , , |

BIC040I’m starting the day with a list of “to-do’s” that fills a whole page in my notebook.  On one hand, it’s overwhelming, but it is also very exciting, because it’s clear from my list that people are looking for information and help when it comes to marketing and social media. In response, I’ve been saying “yes” whenever people ask for help, and staying open to whatever comes as a result.  Here’s what it looks like:

  1. Send follow-up social media package proposal, as requested, to client who won my Facebook Fan Page service
  2. Finish communications plan for local client.
  3. Email strategic partner about social media strategies for local tourism campaign
  4. Make follow-up phone calls from networking meeting (there are around 6 of them!)
  5. Talk to another strategic partner about writing services for his established internet marketing business
  6. Publicize local “pilot” workshop on social media
  7. Work some more on my own website
  8. Publish first e-newsletter

There’s a mix of preparation, implementation and communication in all of that work, and it’s important to get the balance right.  I also hope to pass on the results of some of the research I’ve been doing in the off-hours.  So what can I do to stay productive and on top of the “social media” scene at the same time?  I can use some cool tools.  Here are a few of my favourites:

Mozilla Firefox Browser: This is one powerful browser, and I’ve customized it with some helpful plug-ins, including Shareaholic, which lets me bookmark, tweet, or post some of my findings to Facebook, as I find them.  Now I’m researching and communicating at the same time!

TweetDeck: Frankly, I couldn’t manage Twitter without this incredibly useful tool from Adobe.  Now that I’ve got a Twitter community of hundreds – and that’s actually modest compared to some users who have been around longer and working it harder – I need a way to sort my “tweeple” into groups, keep track of important conversations and keywords that have my attention, and basically see what I need to see all on one screen.

Ping.fm: When I really don’t have time to get sucked into the social media vortex, but still want to touch base with my networks, Ping is incredibly helpful.  Add all your social media sites here.  Write your status update once, and show up all over the place.

TweetLater: I’m still in “courtship” mode with this service – I tend to be an “in the moment” type of person when it comes to Twitter, but I can completely understand the usefulness of planning ahead.  You can share some of your favourite resources with the Twitter community while you are offline, and be seen by a broader range of people than your usual “early morning” crowd, if that’s when you tend to be online.  Heck, people have parcelled out their little nuggets of wisdom many days and weeks in advance.  If you’ve got good content, and people are giving you positive feedback, then it’s a good idea.

Another feature of TweetLater, and one I am still toying with, is it can automate your follow-backs – that is, when someone follows you, you can add them to your own “following” list.  The advantage of this function is that Twitter rewards reciprocity.  The more people you follow, the more they let follow you. (Some people say there’s a 2000 follower limit – in fact, that doesn’t apply if you’ve got no more than a 10% gap between who you follow and who is following you. ) My worry with this function, though, is that it does leave you open to some spammers and ‘bots who are increasingly present on the system.  I may have to eventually block some of these people, and much prefer manually following (good feeling!) to manually unfollowing (bad feeling!)

Those are four that I like – in fact, there are dozens – no, hundreds – of tools on the Web that help you optimize your time using social media. Another time I’ll look in my “favourites” file on TweetDeck and post some of the articles that list more of them.

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Who is Managing Your Online Presence? (Trick question)

Posted on February 12, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Who speaks for you online?j01785951

Are you writing your own blogs (with the occasional guest post), creating your own Tweets, and updating your own status on Facebook? Is the person behind your profile picture really you – or have you given that job to someone else?

Looking for the Real McCoy
If you are a small business owner, or someone whose livelihood depends on sharing their expertise with the larger world, then I sure hope that the “you” appearing with your name, face and profile is the Real McCoy.

Why “Managed” Accounts Give Me the Willies
When I hear that colleagues in the still-developing social media field are “managing accounts for their clients”, I have to admit that my gut reaction is “uh-oh”. I get visions of the kind of status updates and Twitter posts that are all talk and no listen. You know – the spammy ones that promise you 5 ways to lose 7 lbs. by next week. The stream of quotes without saying anything in their own voice. The “I just want you to know about me” attitude.

“And Accepting the Oscar On Behalf Of…”
Here’s the thing: social media can certainly help you promote your business. But if you are giving it all to someone else to manage – well, it’s like sending your publicist to an important network event where people are looking for YOUR expertise. Sorry, at some point, YOU have to show up, and give value. You have to be present, and be willing to listen, to share, and to engage.

Social Media Builds Relationships In Real Time – With Real People
You If you put together a bunch of profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Plaxo and ignore them, or delegate their maintenance entirely to someone else, then perhaps social media is not for you. And that’s ok. Before I saw that I can be both my personal self and my business self on Facebook, I ignored the place for months at at a time. It was fun for contacting long-lost highschool friends, but apart from that, it seemed like a bit of a time waster.  I didn’t understand that it could an important tool for cultivating present-day relationships (including some that extend waaay back) both for personal growth and business development.

If you put together those accounts and then give them entirely to someone else to manage, you are missing out on some of the chief benefits of using social media in the first place, and those are:

  • to build relationships
  • to enhance your credibility
  • to help other people
  • to exchange ideas
  • to learn from others
  • to build more relationships
  • to promote your services (to be sure…)
  • did I mention to build relationships?

You Can Use Social Media and Still Have a Life
I use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as key marketing tools for my business – make no mistake. And I am happy help other people do so as well. I’ll point you to dozens of wonderful tools to help you be productive in your time online, and even automate some of what you do.  I’ll help you create knock-out profiles the tell the world how terrific you are.  I’ll edit your blog posts, if you give me the raw material.  I’ll even set things up for you so you can be “everywhere at once” with the push of a couple of buttons.

I Won’t Tweet For You – And Here’s Why
But I won’t Tweet for you.  I don’t want to pretend to be you.  And I hope you don’t want that either.  Because ultimately, one of the main benefits of social media is that you are building credibility and trust with people that you want in your life, both for business and for fun.  It’s hard to do that when you are not there in the first place. Even harder when you’re not being honest about who represents you.

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Entrepreneurial Women “Get” Social Media

Posted on February 11, 2009. Filed under: People to Follow, Small business communications | Tags: , , , , , |

I’ve just come back from a terrific eWomen Network meeting, head buzzing, and purse full of business cards given to me by people who want me to follow up with them.

Artemis Exec Unspins the Web
I’m thrilled, because I really have the guest speaker of the evening to thank.    Maggie Kerr-Southin, of Artemis PR and Design here in Victoria, was our guest speaker, and her topic was “Social Media: It’s Not Just Kid Stuff”.  Maggie, Kerry Slavens and their team at Artemis operate on a whole different plane than I do – they offer the whole package for companies wanting a comprehensive branding, design and PR package.  They have the experience and the staff to run entire campaigns, and they do it very well.  So when Maggie shares her knowledge, I drop what I’m doing and go listen.  (Yeah, and I paid the late fee too – this being a “kid week”, I didn’t think I was going to eWomen this month until I heard that Maggie was coming to talk about social media)

Maggie started by asking the crowd of  entrepreneurs from around 30 to 60 years old how many of us were using Facebook.  A good number of hands rose.  More for LinkedIn, a few for Flickr, quite a bit less for Twitter.  Social media is happening in fits and starts for this crowd, but hardly anyone has figured out how to make the most of it.  Our speaker didn’t ask who had experienced a boost in their business from their social media interactions, but if she had, I probably would have been one of just a few with my hand up. 

The Lights Go On
Thank heaven the focus of her talk was demystifying how to use some of the most popular social media platforms – I could “see the lights go on” around the room, as the audience started to understand the power of online presence, and of building rapport using social media. 

The Power of a Good Network
Here’s the thing: eWomen Network women are incredibly good at using the network to share ideas, to cultivate friendships, and to recommend favourite businesses – both inside and outside the membership.  These women are excellent at building a mutually supportive business community.  What the marketing and PR insiders are excited about with social media is basically the same as what happens around the dinner table at this women’s business meeting.  It’s about building rapport, giving first, supporting each other, and listening as well as speaking. I know that given the necessary tools and a nudge in the right direction, this crowd will be fantastic at bringing their business specialties to the online communities of their choice.  They just aren’t doing it – yet.

So Much To Do
It was clear though, from the response to Maggie Kerr-Southin’s talk, that the members of our group want to figure this stuff out, and they’d appreciate the support they could get from someone with experience in social media.  When these offline networking and community-building pros start to look at their online strategy, many of them will be looking for a guide.  I hope to be there and of service to as many of them as I am able.  And as I was saying to a fellow marketing and social media pro at the event – there’s plenty of work for all of us.

So thanks again, Maggie, for the terrific message.  Once I’ve posted these thoughts, you’ll have me subscribing to your blog AND following you on Twitter.  And thanks, lovely eWomen members, for building such a great network.  This is the way we all prosper.

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I Tweet in Real Life!

Posted on February 9, 2009. Filed under: In My Experience | Tags: , , |

dallas-road-seawallLast week, when the weather was giving us West Coasters a glimpse of spring, I went for a run along the Dallas Road Seawall. Of course, I wasn’t alone in my decision to enjoy the mild weather – many others came to enjoy the air, the sunshine and the view, bringing dogs and babies and cups of coffee.

Jogging past my strolling neighbours, I found myself chatting in tiny bursts: “Cute dog!” “I like your stick!” “Good afternoon” – and nearly all these little exchanges were marked with a smile back, or another comment. By the end of 40 minutes’ running, I had exchanged greetings with dozens of people – what’s more, I felt wonderful… connected, even.

I’ve been quite active on Twitter.com for a couple of months, and thinking about the nature of this communication medium: 140 characters to answer the question, as Chris Brogan says, “What has your attention?”. (While the twitter.com home page asks “What are you doing?”, Twitter seems to have evolved beyond the scope of that starting point, and attention is what it’s all about.) That’s just enough for a decent sentence, a quick response, or a kind comment. It’s an awful lot like greeting the folks you meet on the street, or on the seawall.

And to me, that similarity marks the return of something we’ve been in danger of losing – that casual but kind human contact. When we lived in smaller communities, the friendly greeting was commonplace. Everyone knew everyone else’s face, but didn’t necessarly want to become intimate friends with all their fellow citizens. It made sense to lubricate social interaction with a little small talk.

Now, with our big-box stores and freeways, we’ve lost that opportunity for the most part. Seawall friendliness is the exception rather than the rule. And that makes places like Twitter more important than you might imagine. It’s becoming the 21st-century equivalent of the village square, the promenade, the church social. We tweet because we’re human.

I’m not saying that we should all be updating our Facefook status and posting to Twitter multiple times a day. In fact, I’d promote the opposite – take the “listening” skills and the short communication that you learn online, and try applying it to the real world. Next time you are stuck in the grocery line-up, faced with catching up on the tabloid news headlines or choosing which package of gum to add to your purchase, try “tweeting” the person standing in line beside you. It can be something simple, like “wow, look how many magazine covers have the same people on them this week”, or even the classic comment about the weather. You might get a reply. You’ll certainly have made the world a slightly friendlier place.

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Connect With Your Clients – Create a Plan

Posted on February 3, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Are you a small business owner who wants more business?

I believe – as do 99% of marketing and sales professionals – that business is built on the strength of your client relationships.  Sure, there are strictly transactional sales processes, like when I pick up some gum at a random corner store, but they don’t sustain business for the long term.  (Hmmm, I’m sure there’s a post about the decline of the local corner store there.  Remind me.)

How do you want to connect?
That said, how do you build relationships with clients, or with the people that you hope to make your clients over the longer term?  By connecting with them in a variety of ways.  Let me give you an example:

Mind mapping my communications plan
This morning, I pulled out my roll of newsprint to get a handle on the many ways I want WordSpring to connect with my target market, and become a successful business.  In less than 10 minutes, I had a spider-webbed mind map of the various ways I want to interact with and provide service to my clients.  Some of them will bring in money, and some of them are simply smart ways to help them know, like and trust me.  I’ve included a picture of my handiwork – it’s not beautiful, like Christine Merkley’s drawings, but it is at least a framework for me to follow.
03-02-09_09421
Remember to include the other details
I can’t overemphasize how important that framework is, no matter the size or scope of your business.  My little web is going to form the basis of my communications plan, which I will write out in further detail and make a part of my business plan.  Here, I have mapped out the “what” of my plan.  As I convert it into a more detailed document, it will include the “why”, the “how often”, the “what method”, the”who is it for”. 

Communications plans work for EVERY business
These are the steps I go through with my clients as well, in preparing communications plans for them.  When it is done, you can actually figure out exactly how often you “touch” your client base, and for what purpose.  You’ll also know how much time and money you are spending on each activity, and be able to calculate the much-talked about Return on Investment. 

The advantage of diverse communications
You know what is the best part of a multi-faceted communications plan?  You are planning a diversity of relationship-building communications, and not restricting yourself to what comes naturally.  Your chances of making that crucial connection increase vastly because you are using a variety of formats.  Heaven knows, many people don’t read blogs at all, while others are happy to use Twitter, but couldn’t imagine stepping into a business networking meeting.  And yes, some people would probably rather get a nicely written note or even printed newsletter from you every so often than deal with anything on-line.

Obviously, my business lends itself naturally to this process.  What is marketing about, if not connecting?  But believe me, it is important as well for mechanics, chiropractors, and ink jet refillers.  Tell your people how you go about your work, why you are unique, and why they – as clients – are important to you.

You don’t have to do this alone
Perhaps you are so busy working in your business that you would rather delegate some of this communications planning work to someone with experience.  While the core information still has to come from you, the small business owner, most reputable PR and marketing professionals will work with you to create a communications strategy.  Certainly in larger companies, communications plans drive the marketing department activities, and marketing is in constant communication with the executive to make sure that their marketing efforts fit with the overall company strategy. 

Here’s your challenge: take 10 minutes and a big piece of paper.  Jot down all that you do to connect with your customers.  See if it forms a picture that you are happy with.  And why not send me a comment with your results?  I’d be happy to give you a hand, if you need it.

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