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Twouble comes to my blog

Posted on April 2, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

OK, much as I love social media and blogging, I’m still learning how to do pretty basic things – like embed a video in a post. So if this doesn’t work, it’s probably my fault. If it does work, stick around for a funny take on Twitter. For what it’s worth, I think Twitter has evolved from the inane status updates they are talking about… somewhat.

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Social Media Club – Higher Standards for a Growing Industry

Posted on April 1, 2009. Filed under: Social Media How-Tos, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

socialmediaclublogoLast night, I had the honour of being the speaker at the first meeting of the Social Media Club, Victoria Chapter.  I gave a short talk about how the Internet is really coming full circle, from collaborative groups on Usenets, through the static, brochure-type pages that every business put onto their websites in the rush to “go online”, and now back toward more open networks and interactivity.  Only with a price tag at the end of it, perhaps.  I hope people liked it – it’s easy enough to be the speaker when you helped organize the event!  Regardless, I didn’t start this post to toot my own horn.

I want to point out how useful and important it is to have a forum like Social Media Club for discussing strategies, tactics, “best practices”, smart solutions, slimy ones, product reviews, integration, aggregation, filtering and so on.

Go West, Young Marketer!
We’re at a juncture, it seems, in the social media “industry”.  The early adopters have cut a nice trail through the wilderness, and now the gold rush is on, with all the carpet-baggers, snake-oil salesmen, gurus, wide-eyed disciples and “best-kept secret” sellers jumping right in.    Or at least, that’s how the early adopters see many of the marketers that have appeared overnight on the major sites, especially Facebook and Twitter.

I’m a marketer, or a “connector” anyway, and my entry into this world was, frankly, because I followed the lead of other marketers.  In California, where Social Media Club started, the marketers were some of the first people to say “Hey, let’s meet and figure out some standards for how we work in helping our clients reach their customers using social media.”  They’ve been big advocates of the Social Media Club purpose.  And I am truly thankful, because the coder-ific early adopters are – to a certain extent – right.

LIONs and Tigers and Magpies?
Almost as soon as I landed in Twitter’s birdbath, I was asked if I wanted to “be a magpie” and sell 10% of my tweets (posts, or updates to the uninitiated) to people who want to pitch my followers.  Not long after that, I was told that I could get up to 20,000 “instant” followers by participating in some chain-letter-style Tweetergetter scheme,  if only I retweeted a certain little phrase.

For me, that crosses the boundary into unethical or ill-advised practice.  So does handing over your identity to a ghostwriting tweet – at least without disclosure that you are doing so.  But surely there are 100 wonderful, ethical ways to connect with people who want to buy stuff.  That’s why I’m excited about the Social Media Club.  I want a place to hash through these issues.  I want it to be local, as well as global.  I want the conversations to happen online and in person.   I want to learn, share, and connect.  And I want to take everything I learn and share it with business people, who are desperate to find better ways to listen to and serve their clients, more efficiently and cost-effectively than in traditional media.  (OK, the business people I want to work with are, anyway.  The rest won’t stay in business long anyway.)

So Kristie Wells and Chris Heuer, thank you for a great idea,  and for putting an excellent international framework together.  Rebecca Grant, thanks for being a terrific hostess and point-and-click facilitator.   Paul Holmes, thanks for grabbing my hand in this crazy crack-the-whip game of social media marketing.   Let’s all hold on tight and skate faster!

More Marketers Welcome
Oh, and if you are in communications, marketing, PR, social media, technology or just like this stuff, please join us in the David Strong building (room tba) the fourth Tuesday of each month.  We start promptly at 7 pm.  The coffee’s great.  The conversation even better.  And I really want the industry as a whole to get better, which means I don’t want to be the only marketer in the room.

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Social Media – The Wrong Place for a “Push” Campaign

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

DBU031Remember a few years back, right around dinnertime the phone would ring, you’d pick it up and you’d hear “Stay Tuned for this important announcement from [insert company name here]?” Then they’d put you on hold and expect you to hang around for the sales pitch?

Whose dorky idea was that??

I’ve tossed my land line, so I’m less likely to get those recorded announcements, but I suspect they have mostly gone to the Lousy Marketing Ideas graveyard anyway. Why were the recorded phone broadcasts so terrible, compared to getting ads in the newspaper, on TV and in the mail?

Here’s the reason: the telephone is an intimately interactive medium. It demands a speaker and a listener ON BOTH ENDS. Even when one side is carrying on the bulk of the conversation, it’s the job of the speaker to check in with the listener, who indicates their engagement with the “Yeah…uh huh” interlocution (now there’s a big linguistics word from my past) that we all come to expect on the phone. It’s why we tend to bristle at the automatic phone tree when we enter corporate telephone systems. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling that if I want to do business with a machine, I’ll use my computer. If I’m on the phone, I would really like to talk to a real person.

And guess what we are discovering on the social media networks, particularly Twitter? It, too, is an interactive medium, where we expect conversation, or at least a sense that the person sending the updates and the tweets is a real person, as interested in what you have to say as in what they have to say to you.

So is there room in the social media universe for a “recorded announcement”? Heaven knows, you can even set these up in advance with tools like HootSuite and Tweet Later. These are very fine tools if you don’t want to hang out in the Twittersphere all day just to be visible. You can actually automate some of your communications while you are away, getting work done.

The answer is yes, there is room – BUT you have to be very careful how you use your automatic tweets (and updates – this applies to places like Facebook and LinkedIn, too). It’s better if you are sending a bit of news or a helpful hint that your followers might actually like to hear. You can schedule these ahead of time if you like, but please mix it up with real-time conversations with the people whom you find interesting, and vice versa. I try to spend a short burst of time in the morning, mid-day and in the evening for my Twitter conversations.

More important, don’t let an autoresponder be your first interaction with a new person in your Twitter network. I tried this for about a month, and got rid of it. It sends the wrong message, even if that message isn’t all about you. Mine said “Thanks for following me. I’ll follow you back, and I look forward to your tweets”. Innocuous enough, but I actually got replies of “Thank You!” when I announced that I was shutting it off.

Everybody wants to feel appreciated. Social Media is a place for that appreciation and engagement. It’s not for the “push” marketing message.

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Social Media – as important to business as a telephone?

Posted on March 24, 2009. Filed under: Small business communications, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Which tools is more important to your business – social networking sites or a telephone?

retro telephone

Does it seem like a ridiculous question?

Up until this past year, I’m sure the standard answer would have been, “My telephone is an essential business tool.  Social networking – you mean Facebook? MySpace?  They’re a total waste of time, and I don’t let my employees use them at work.”

How things change, and yet remain the same. Think back to the tv series of old, where the boss says “Miss Smith, take a letter.”  That directive comes from a time when telephones were seen as a less-than-concrete way to do business.  If the order wasn’t in writing, then how could you be sure it happened?  Right through the 50s and 60s, telephones weren’t an obvious feature of every employee’s desk.  If everyone had access to a phone, then how could an employer be sure that Fred in accounting wasn’t spending precious working hours talking to his girlfriend?

Eventually, the business case for telephones trumped any fears, grounded or not, about their potential for misuse at work.  And this is the stage we are at with the adoption of social media tools for business right now.

Business owners know that people are spending less time in front of the TV, or at least being captive to the ads, and more time in front of the computer screen.  And that screen time is, more often than not, tied in some way to the Internet and the many interactive ways that we use it.   It’s where we go when it’s time to get a movie or a restaurant recommendation.  We log on increasingly to file our tax returns, to look up information on our children’s schooling and our parents’ aging.   The internet is the place where we spend our social time and do a ton of shopping.  And increasingly, we are sharing that information with friends, followers and connections on social networking sites.   If social networking sites are where customers are hanging out, then you can bet that business people looking to build relationships with their current and potential clients are going to want to meet them at those hangouts.

Put that way, it seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it?  As important to business as a telephone? That day may well be here.  But using social networking sites efficiently for business is an art, much like the business use of a phone.  More on that in my next post.

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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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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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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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3Rs of Social Media #2: be Respectful!

Posted on January 16, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

When I first decided that I was going to get serious in mastering the tools and tricks of social media, I took the advice of a real expert, Nancy Marmolejo, and joined up two applications: Twitter and Facebook.  This was an important move for productivity (now I can post once and appear multiple times), but as it turns out, it was even more important for another reason.

You see, I’ve had my Facebook account for a year and a half, and have gathered friends – real friends – from just about every period and every aspect of my life.  Do I want to risk alienating my real-life friends by yammering on about my business with every status update?  I don’t think so!  Turns out that my Twitter friends are no different.  Of course I can talk about my work, just as I would in real life.  And if I’m excited about a turn of events or something new I’m trying out, I’ll post it on Twitter (and by extension, myFacebook status).  But if I’m making my post all about me me me, and what I have to sell… my friends devolve into my customers, and my customers never become friends. 

No thank you.

It is possible, though, to post about what I’m up to in my business if it’s just one ingredient in a thoughtful, respectful and positive stream of tweets/status updates.  The other ingredients include actually being interested in what other people are saying, responding to the posts of others, passing on great information… but more about this in my next post, which is on being Reciprocal.

Oh, and guess what?  The 3Rs have now become the 4Rs because when I planned the outline for this series, I actually hadn’t factored today’s post in.  It just flew out of my head and onto the screen.  Call it the wonder of blogs…

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The 3 Rs of Social Media #1: Relationships

Posted on January 13, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Creating a successful presence on the Web involves looking at your posts from three different perspectives.  If you master the “3 Rs” as I lay them out here, you’ll build your Web following and your business.

The first R is for Relationships.  As in, building them online.  It’s an old adage that people do business with people that they know, like and trust… building relationships is all about that.  Offline, you have to build relationships one at a time, or perhaps pay for advertising or have some excellent PR strategy to get the word out to a wider audience.  With social media, you can really extend your reach.

Twitter, my online social medium of choice, as been compared to a very big meet and greet.  At traditional face-to-face gatherings, even in a room of 200, you can only talk to a couple of people at a time, unless you are the guest speaker.  Your voice won’t carry further, and you can only carry so many business cards.  With social media applications such as Twitter, the playing field is leveled.  Everyone can hear everyone else in the room.  It’s important, therefore, to secure your advantage by being a great relationship builder.

Let’s go back to those relationship-forming conditions – where people know, like, and trust you.  Looking at the “know” factor, how can others get to know you from your Facebook status or from your tweets?  It’s key to show your true self.  Let others know about your interests, your community activities, your committments, your family – even how you cope with the weather at your place can help people know more about the kind of person you are. 

From knowledge, others can determine whether or not they like you.  You can make that likeability factor a lot easier by putting forth a positive online personality.  140 characters or less is usually not enough to show off your witty sarcasm.  Unless you are Oscar Wilde, it probably won’t come across very well.  Instead, be positive.  Offer answers where people have questions.  Congratulate others on their victories and commiserate with their setbacks.  It’s here, in the “likeability” section, where givers really gain.

Finally, there’s the “trust” quotient.  This builds on the first two factors, and is a good reason why it’s important to build up personal rapport before you start cajoling people to buy your stuff.  Facebook friends, Twitter pals, even LinkedIn connections want to see that you are a person of integrity before they deal with you on anything more than a surface level.  Let the trust build up over time, just as you would if you were the new kid at the playground.  Because in fact, the rules online are very similar to the rules we all learned at school, even if the pace seems faster for being online.

Tomorrow, the second R – relevance!

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Twitter for Business? 5 Ways to Tweet

Posted on January 8, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , |

So you want to use Twitter in your business?  It’s easier than you think!  Here are five ways to use just a sentence or two to generate interest and add value to your followers:

  1. Let your followers see a bit about your life.  What is important to you? What are you reading?  Who inspires you?
  2. Share a quick fact about the work that you do.  Did your longest-standing customer just give you a phone call for another order?  Did you make a new relationship?  Let your people know.
  3. If you don’t have something personal, you can always give an industry statistic that will be useful to your followers.  eg: The number of Twitter users grew an amazing 26% last month.
  4. Along that same line, if someone you follow tweets about a good business-related news item, or an event that they are involved in that could be useful to your target market, “retweet” them by forwarding the message on to your followers. Good news travels fast, and spreads good karma too.
  5. Feel free to dish out your daily “trivia”, but make it meaningful. If you are going to share what you had for breakfast, see that you have a good reason to share it – for instance, you may be an athlete sharing what powers you through the day.  Or maybe that breakfast contained your first home-grown grapefruit, which lets people know that you have a green thumb and healthy habits. 

Here’s the bottom line:

Before pressing send, ask, “Is this going to help people know, like and trust me?”  Remember that Twitter is a very interactive, fast-paced medium.  People want to feel that they know you, and you want to put forth an attractive but authentic version of yourself.

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