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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