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.

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!

12 May

Choose your words wisely

I didn’t realize how much time had passed since my last post! Ruby has been incredibly busy, so my time for blog posts was non-existent. Thanks to your emails, I’m re-focusing on the blog and providing you with helpful content.

Speaking of content, I was reading a brochure at a doctor’s office yesterday that prompted me to write this post. The office seems very well run, the overall feel is favorable, yet their materials were awful. Not only visually, as they were designed completely out of sync with the feel of the office. The office feels calm and relaxing, the materials could have been designed for a nightclub. Dark colors and few if any photos, a complete disconnect.

Add to that, the writing quality in the piece was not bad in the sense of poor grammar or riddled with errors, but rather not the right writing style for the intended reader. I find that this is a very common error for businesses. I’m not sure if the problem stems from business owners who micro-manage the process of creating materials and try to control the content the way they see fit or simply that some content is difficult to write in an easy-to-understand manner.

When a business is a bit more technical than the customer’s knowledge, it’s imperative to write copy that explains complicated terms and details in a way that people understand.

A rule of thumb I suggest is write your copy, then ask a few people to review it and provide feedback on:
– grammar
– clarity
– flow
– take-away message

Ask a combination of people to read this. Someone that’s familiar with your business (an employee) and someone who is not. You’ll be amazed hoe valuable this feedback will be for creating a more effective end product.

Happy writing!


30 Mar

More Auto DM Smackdown

I know I see things differently than say a new Twitter user might. Perhaps I’m jaded by what I see now as insincere and disingenuous but as a new Twitter user could be perceived as thoughtful or kind.

I started thinking more about my (and most of the #usguys crew I roll with) strong dislike for Auto DMs as several of us have posted recently on this topic. Then it dawned on me… when a baby is born it doesn’t really matter who the baby is being held by, as long as it’s in the warm arms of someone. That sense of being cared for and feeling love and comfort is what’s important. A nurse vs. the mother or a relative. In those early days, a baby wants to feel the connection to someone.

I think that for the newcomers to Twitter, Auto DM’s are kind of the same. A newbie is so excited when someone they’ve followed sends them a reply (an Auto DM) perhaps not even realizing that the message was sent to every other person who follows that person. Since they don’t know that it’s not genuine – they do think it’s personal and might even think – wow, how nice of that person to DM me. In essence, they feel loved and connected.

Eventually, the baby wises up and wants only mommy (or daddy). When another caregiver tries to step in, of course, things can get hairy because baby is smart enough to know better.

Like the Auto DM… once the newbie is no longer new to Twitter, he realizes that all these sweet replies are really a pile of crap and that the sender could care less who he is anyway. Then bitter-ness creeps in and a jaded attitude shifts into gear…soon you’re like the rest of us rolling your eyes at each Auto DM. So unless you can specifically target newbie Twitter users, Auto DM’s are not recommended.

Another Auto DM-related thing I’ve been raging about lately are these ridiculous people who feel it’s ok to take my information (since I’ve decided to follow them) and interpret that as to mean that I want to receive there silly little emails, newsletters and announcements…I don’t. I have found this happening especially on LinkedIn a lot lately. It’s not a good thing to do. When I choose to follow you, it doesn’t mean I’m ready to take our relationship to the next level…assuming that is a huge mistake and frankly is best tactic used for getting people to unfollow you.