16 Nov

Role of Design and Social Media

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A frequent question I’ve been asked lately is what is the value (beyond visual design) that designers offer to social media in terms of management. With the challenge for many companies remains knowing how to innovate, designers can offer a unique perspective to identifying and solving problems that might normally be overlooked. Designers typically translate and communicate what they understand and use that knowledge to create solutions that provide value to the business and consumer. Designers have an ability to empathize on a level that positions their solutions inline with customer needs. They are able to sift through complexity and synthesize what looks good with what works well. This means designers can inspire the business side while also connecting with customers.

Sounds to me like skills a social media manager would need.

The ability to multi-task while remaining connected to consumer needs and supporting corporate initiatives has design all over it. Finding meaning and value by analyzing the implications of their development on the path to implementation. This enables the individual to be responsive and forward-thinking, much like an entrepreneur.

This is just a brief thought that I’ll elaborate on in another post. Until then…. What do you think?

11 Feb

Social media for business and college students

There appears to be the impression among some business owners that the way to add social media to their marketing mix is to hire a college student. There’s an assumption that college students, because they’ve grown up with social media, possess the knowledge and understanding of how to use it and therefore offer a cheap alternative to working on something that is thought to be a pretty easy job.

As an adjunct professor, I can tell you that this couldn’t be further from reality.

Last month, I was introduced to a man at an event by a client of mine who mentioned the social media work I’d done for the company in the introduction. The man I was bring introduced to quickly and proudly shared that several months ago he hired a college student to “do his Facebook”. I instantly pulled out my iPhone and searched for his Facebook page (this in itself was a challenge as it was hard to find) to see how his brilliant student has done. He had 153 likes, no one was commenting on the page and the last post was a week prior.

While this was certainly nothing to be proud of and I went on to explain why what struck me as our conversation ended was the fact the he had such blind faith in the ability of his college student to manage something that could truly be an effective tool for his business. If I felt his view was unique I would not have decided to write this post- it’s not.

My students (the class is Social Media: PR and branding at Canisius College) are knowledgeable in using Facebook (some Twitter) and yes they did grow up with the digital world but most of them are by no means ready to manage social tools for a business without guidance. Here are a few reasons why:

1. For the most part, these students learn in a traditional environment. Meaning, they read, take notes, do assignments and participate in class. They do group assignments however, much of the kind of work they do does not teach the kind of accountability necessary for creating, coordinating and managing a social media campaign on multiple platforms.

2. Their knowledge in using social media is limited. My students come from the business, marketing and communications departments but many if them did not have Twitter accounts much less Google+ and YouTube.

3. They use Facebook and Twitter to talk to friends so their understanding is null as to how to use it for a business and they’ll likely default to posting push messages (unless they take a class like mine if course :))

4. They’ll likely have no idea about analytics so don’t expect to garner many stats.

I’m not putting down the students or finishing their value or potential contributions, but here’s my suggestion. If you want to save money, at least have a professional develop a strategy for you and make sure the student you have can manage the program. The professional can train your student and work in an advisory capacity to oversee the project to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. Whatever you do, don’t assume the generation that grew up on technology can run your social media campaign properly or effectively.

24 Jul

Google+ and the evolution of social media

If you haven’t heard about Google+ yet, you must either be on vacation or not in marketing.

Otherwise known as G+, the newest social media toy to play with has certainly caught my attention. I know, you’re thinking…not another social media tool to sign up for!…right? Wrong. While I realize G+ is a virtual infant and too early to announce the impact it might have on other platforms, I will say it’s blend of Facebook and Twitter make social networking more collaborative. In short, I like it and can see the potential uses for business, consumers and recreation alike.

Imagine that you could create groups of friends based on your interests or life experiences on Facebook that would enable you to communicate with just those groups so that your posts wouldn’t have to be viewed by everyone. On G+ these groups are called “circles” and you can post to one or all of your circles and beyond if you so choose. You can also choose do what’s called a “huddle” or a group text conversation. You can attend a “hangout” where you can invite your circles to a video chat. There’s a stream where you can post links or comments and create conversations (similar to wall updates). Lastly, you can search for content by topic in what G+ calls “sparks”.

While business pages are not yet allowed, people are biting at the chomps to use this tool for their companies. Personally, I can see the potential for great collaborative opportunities.

What Google essentially did was identify the key features of existing social media platforms and try to create one finely tuned social media engine. This did not happen without previous flops. Their effort This go-round was right on. From the initial launch (only by invite initially to heavy social media users who in turn created buzz and excitement about it) to a killer feedback/comment system.

An example to all businesses to keep watching your competition…what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. There are always opportunities to improve, to add more value or service. It’s critical to thoroughly plan your strategy, your launch and to anticipate response- regardless of your product or industry. Like Google, you may not be successful on first attempt, but it you’re listening to your market and your target audience, you’ll significantly increase your chances for success. Planning is key!

While Google+ might be great for now or in the near future… If they don’t continue to listen and further improve and develop- something new will eventually come along that might be even better.

03 Jun

Life Lessons and Sports

When you think about sports, there’s no denying the valuable life lessons that kids can learn. You don’t need to be a great athlete to gain the benefits.

In my own life, sports gave me confidence, drive and the physical ability to work and achieve. I learned dedication, persistence, will and how to overcome obstacles. I learned camaraderie, hope and how to cope with failure as well as relishing in the victory of success.

Several months ago, Tracy Evans, 3 time Olympic aerial skier contacted me to help her to market her non-profit, Kids Play Intl. I created brochures, business cards, did a PR campaign, created a short video and worked on branding with her. When she spoke of her upcoming trip to Rwanda where she would work to teach children in orphanages about sports, I never imagined it would be somewhere I would go or something I would do…but guess what?… My flight leaves on Monday!

Over the next 2 weeks, please follow my journey (at the Raising Boys World blog) as I build a sports room, work with the children and even go on a gorilla trek in Rwanda. There will be 8 of us traveling, including 4 Olympic athletes; Tracy the aerial skier, a 2006 bronze medal winning women’s ice hockey player, a luger and a silver medalist in 400 meter track & field from Senegal (who is now the President of the African Olympics Association) and a film team that’s working on a documentary. I’ll introduce you to everyone  as my adventure takes shape.

So here’s the very coincidental thing that happened in this experience, a few days ago at an event I attended, I met a young lady who came to the US from Rwanda with her mother when she was 4 (she’s now 15). I learned that there’s a connection between where I live and Rwanda as many people made Buffalo, NY their home after escaping the 1994 genocide. Tomorrow morning, my family is coming with me to this girl’s house to have breakfast and talk about my trip. She still has family near Kivu in Rwanda – which also happens to be near where I will be. So, I will likely meet her family and bring photos and necessary items for them from their family.

As I’ve prepared for this journey, I’ve shared with my boys where I’m going, with whom and why. They’re excited to learn and I think their awareness of the world around them is critical is developing their own compassion and future philanthropic outreach. I’ve heard them talking to their friends about my trip and I can hear the pride in their voices in knowing that I’ll be working with kids their age. I think it sends a message of strength to  them that I’m doing something on my own that’s going to make a difference to someone – even though they’re far away. The only thing they’ve been upset about is that I will be away for my 40th and my son’s 8th birthdays.

As most parents spend countless hours in ice arenas, on soccer fields and in gymnastics centers, we know first-hand the time and dedication required to participate in sports. In our country, we’re fortunate that even the poorest children in our community have access. Elsewhere in the world this access is simply not available…until now that Olympians like Tracy have made it their focus to bring sports to kids everywhere so that all children use the confidence they gain to help make their dreams turn reality.

Click here if you would like to donate to Kids Play Intl.

Tracy and Jerry Rice: chosen by the United Athletes Foundation as this year's Male and Female Athlete Philanthropist of the Year

27 May

Creative Meets Clarity

I’ve talked about the need for any representation of your business to be easy to understand. Clear and concise. While this may seem obvious, it’s obvious by what I’ve noticed around me, that it’s not. That said, I want to move onto another equally important issue…design.

While what you are putting out may be appealing, is it clearly understood by your target audience? I have found several instances where the design was unique and eye-catching, but the message was unclear and the intended target audience didn’t seem appropriate either.

There’s certainly value in creativity. I absolutely love anything that gets my attention and makes me want to know more, but not at the cost of clarity.

Every business is different and likewise, so is every message. As you work to create a look that communicates your brand, you must see the process as a complete package. You need the structure (which might comes from a plan, with goals and objectives aimed at your specific target audience), the message (that will likely involve some call to action), and it should all be “wrapped” with visual elements that blend with the message and the goals of the brand. of course, there’s research that goes into all of this that should also be part of the design and word-smithing process.

I guess my reason for posting on this is simply to remind you to be thorough, well-researched and careful not to overlook basics. Oftentimes, I seems that businesses can get caught up in the specific elements and forget about the big picture.

19 May

Are my customer service expectations too high?

20110519-091817.jpgWhile I don’t travel a tremendous amount, I travel enough that I’m a fairly savvy traveler but not nearly as much as my husband who I’m pretty sure has earned million mile+ status on American.

Stuck in Chicago O’Hare for a 3+ hour layover, I remembered that hubby has an Admiral’s Club membership so I decided to make my way over to enjoy more comfortable digs.

Of course I had no idea of his membership number, but since the lobby was empty I was glad to receive the help in locating account information. The lady helping me was pleasant. Then the travelers started trickling in. There were two attendants at the desk. The lady helping me began to get noticeably frustrated as she couldn’t locate my info and the line was growing.

It’s awkward being in that situation. You feel a little uncomfortable causing the line to form. It makes you feel like you don’t belong there even though you might.

A good customer service representative will prevent these feelings of discomfort from happening, not make you feel more uneasy.

I wasn’t sure if I was on the account (turns out I’m not) but I thought I had every right to find out before either paying for a day pass or adding my name to the account. I had no way of knowing that it would be a time-consuming challenge to retrieve my information.

But the woman started sighing and rolling her eyes. She was visibly annoyed that I was asking her to get this information. Before locating it, she suggested I just buy a $50 day pass. The line was growing…

I felt like everyone in line was looking at me, wondering why I was holding them up!

Finally, she located my info and as I mentioned I’m not on the account. That’s fine, I’m ok with that. I didn’t want to add myself (for an extra $325) without talking to hubby and I was so annoyed by the situation that I didn’t really want to pay the $50. So I didn’t. I felt like I left, walking past the enormous line with my tail between my legs.

What did I expect? I guess I expect not to feel uncomfortable in a customer service transaction. There are plenty of things she could have done to prevent me from feeling this way. Not huffing, puffing and rolling her eyes at me or commenting on how large the line is getting is the first thing that comes to mind.

While I didn’t expect to waltz in there because my husband has so many miles with American or because he is a paying member, I didn’t expect to feel like my inquiry was causing an inconvenience.

I think this woman should look at her job a little closer… It’s to make people feel valued, not like a the police trying to prevent people from trying to sneak into some posh club!