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.

18 Feb

Spring fever and your customers

I woke up yesterday morning, and heard birds chirping outside for the first time in months! It’s been a very long, cold, and dreary winter (not especially dreary, I have to admit, I just say this every year). I’m tired of lumpy sweaters and ugly snow boots, and the return of birds, combined with a sunny day, sent me into an early spring fever.  Another reason for this spring fever? One of my favorite boutiques in the area had recently embraced social media by the way of Facebook.

In the coldest, dreariest months, the last thing on my mind was to go out and shop for pretty clothes since all I wanted to wear were parkas and long-johns, and woolen hats and scarves.  I’ve basically swept this little boutique from my mind, and have not given them a thought until recently when I became a fan of their FB page and started receiving regular updates from the store.  Everyday, they entice me with pictures of gorgeous spring dresses and romantic scarves.  It was too much to resist, and the first day the sun came out, I was there, buying a summer dress I’ve been eyeing on their FB page for days.

One thing that surprised me when I entered the store for the first time in months, was seeing all the beautiful sweaters and cardigans they had leftover from winter.  They were my taste, and I would wear them in a heartbeat.  I had no idea they had these, since I usually only shop there in the summer.  If I had known, I probably would have went in for these sweaters during one of my mid-winter ruts – either to treat myself to something pretty, or to buy them as gifts.

The moral of the story: As a customer, I may not always know you have what I want, or even, at times, I may not remember that you exist.  Especially true in the luxury market, you are not necessarily selling me something I need, so it’s not very likely that I would go out of my way to seek you out.  This is why it is so important to be in contact with your customers, if you want to keep driving traffic to your business, you’ll want to gently (not harass) remind your customers that you’re still on the face of the planet and that you’re still providing a wonderful shopping experience and selection.

Speaking of which, I am currently eyeing a beautiful, embroidered sweater/wrap I saw at the store.  Scratch what I had said earlier about “need” vs “want”…I believe I may need it.

See…you never know what a customer might want until they find it… Make sure they come to you for their needs by staying in touch and letting them know about what you have.

31 Jan

Match Made Online – Beyond Dating

If you’re using social media effectively, it feels a little like dating.

Several of my friends have met, dated and married men they met online. In speaking with them on this topic, it became clear how similar dating relationships are with effective business relationships online.

Therefore, if you want to take your business to the next level using social media, you need to imagine your business is like a single person, and the customer like a prospective mate. If you aren’t seeing business relationships like this, you’ll never capture her heart let alone ever make a sale.

Online dating affords an opportunity to find a potential audience of like-minded individuals that you can interact with. Using social networking sites like Twitter, you can do the same with identifying and targeting the exact audience you want to communicate with. If you’re business sells kitchen supplies to restaurants, you can easily find restaurants and chef’s online. The process makes it easier to remove the unnecessary clutter around you and focus on the prospects that you have something in common with.

If you imagine that you’re dating these connections, it might help you to edit what you type in such a way that won’t scare anyone away. For example, if you were developing a new relationship with a potential partner, do you think constant communication about how fabulous you are, how pretty or how much you paid for a suit would be appealing?

Probably not a good conversation starter.

On the other hand, if you find potential dates and ask or answer questions, to truly get to know the person, you’ll likely develop a deeper connection which may or may not result in a match…but it’s a good start.

If however the match seems like a good fit, you’ll probably next want to call the person, chat on Skype or meet for a drink. This is the same with non-romantic online relationships. I can tell you from experience that many of the guys (and gals) I communicate in the #usguys Twitter stream have turned into friends. I can’t wait to connect with them in person and meet them. We’ve Skyped and exchanged texts and phone calls. When I need a service one of them offers or has expertise on – I will contact them first.

In business, once you develop a relationship with someone online, you’ll likely think about stopping by to introduce yourself and say hello when you’re nearby. Or, you’ll remember them the next time you need the service they provide.

Imagine your online dating relationship started out great, you made a nice connection and even spoke on the phone a few times but then somehow the comments started to change. They turned from someone who wanted to get to know you to someone who wants to get you in bed and unless that’s what you want too, it would likely feel like it’s moving too fast or that it’s not genuine. Your reaction, assuming you weren’t interested in this pace, would be to either confront or ignore the person.

In business when you develop a relationship online it’s not any different. If suddenly you start sending updates on promotions or new products, the relationship may begin to take a turn. If you start pushing your goods and services to someone who was supposed to be a genuine friend and every post turns into something about your business…your posts will provide less and less value – ultimately just getting ignored.

In the case of one friend who’s now engaged to a guy she met online, the first time they met in person was charged with a physical connection. The time they spent online enabled them to develop a richer, deeper connection that made it seem like they’d known one another for ages. Isn’t this the type of relationship you want with your customers? Someone who comes to working with you feeling completely confident that you’re the right person for the job, so much so that they wouldn’t need to go elsewhere.

10 Jan

5 Bad Social Media Marketing Habits to Recognize and Fix

We’re into the second week of the New Year. I’ve posted both my personal and professional goals (or resolutions – depending on which term you prefer) so now it’s time to focus on you. What are your New Years resolutions / goals for your business?

If you’re thinking of or have recently attempted to jump into using social media for your business, I’ve compiled 5 bad social media marketing habits that would be worth your time to recognize & fix…before you get too deep into it.

Bad habit #1: Using social media as though it’s the same as traditional media.

By this I mean using it to communicate 1-way messages. For example, Stop by for our big sale… or Check out our new selection…1-way. Instead, try communicating (2-way conversation). Social media, is by it’s very nature, more effective when social. So try posting messages that are informative while encouraging feedback.

Bad Habit #2: Junk posts – the new version of old spam.

Remember when you first used email and it was so much fun to receive a message? You felt loved and wanted. Then the junk started arriving in the old inbox and before you realized it, all that love was really spam and you started to disregard all those messages as junk and delete them. With social media it’s not much different. If you’re posting content that has little or no value to your audience – personally – it’ll start to just become clutter and eventually ignored. They don’t need to visit your Facebook page or follow you if it’s not worth it to them. And they won’t or they’ll just ignore you.

Bad Habit #3: Jumping into social media half-assed.

In my world, I really work to do whatever I do as best as I can. I can’t imagine why anybody would take the time and effort to set up a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account and post once every month or so. Why? Do you honestly feel that has the potential to be effective or are you just doing it half-assed?

Bad Habit #4: Relationships with benefits

Like in the real world, there’s all types of people online. Some with good intentions and some with a desire to satisfy their personal goals or sales. Relationships should not be viewed as a means to get the benefit of a sale. I really feel that transparency and authenticity is a key element in social media because true relationships build trust. If someone trusts you and knows what you do, you might even be able to help them when they need your service. If they feel that you’re only friendly because you want something from them, they won’t trust you and likely not use your service.

Bad Habit #5: It’s not all about you

There are a lot of egos out there. Everyone’s an expert and a guru in social media, which is incredible since it’s only been an official term for a few years. We’re all on this ride together. Social media is about people, bringing them together, learning and growing. In real life would you talk to anyone with any regularity who only wanted to talk about him or herself? So what makes social media any different? I guess this goes back to the point about having a two-way conversation and getting to know people…not to sell your wares, but to make quality connections with people you have something in common with.

Good things will come, but it all takes work and time (and a little strategy) but at the core, you need to be embracing these platforms with good intentions, an open mind and an interest in meeting new people.

05 Jan

Twitteritis

I’m self-diagnosing..I have Twitteritis. It’s not a bad thing if identified in the early stages so don’t worry, but beware; you might get it too. The condition is worsened by increased development of relationships on Twitter and can result in a time vacuum it not handled properly. If unmanaged, twitteritis can actually be damaging to personal relationships, work and hobbies, so seek time away from Twitter if the condition develops into an acute state. Note: If you use Twitter and have not yet developed symptoms; you’re not using Twitter properly and require a deeper understanding of how to use social media (see previous Twitter How-to articles for more information).

Symptoms:

  • In the initial phase of the disease, one might find their blood pressure rise upon receipt of a DM, RT or Mention.
  • Downloading a Twitter mobile app can exacerbate the condition.
  • Tweeting while exercising, moving the lawn, at playgrounds, movies and grocery stores indicate the condition has worsened.
  • Checking your Klout score repeatedly shows that your condition has moved to the next phase and might require attention.
  • Do not attempt to tweet while running, driving, bicycling or while operating heavy machinery.
  • It is not recommended to tweet under the influence of alcohol.
  • Tweeting at work should be limited both in terms of time allocation and content.

Funny how in many circles, people still haven’t tapped into Twitter. I was at the gym a few days ago, on the bike…tweeting of course…and the guy next to me made some comment about my focus on my phone while exercising. He was an older guy so I had to be nice.

I told him I was tweeting the amazing people I’ve met on Twitter. He then wanted to talk to me – which is frankly not what I wanted. I was pretty engaged in my conversation with my #usguys friends. Well, he persisted and I had a few more minutes to I decided not to get up and move to another piece of equipment.

So the guy told me he has a Twitter account (and Facebook – oh and I suggested I friend him – of course! Like that’ll happen). He went on to tell me that he quickly became tired of all of the useless babble on Twitter. Like when people announce that they’re at their favorite grocery store.  To be honest, I actually think he might have been following me because I frequently tweet about Wegman’s – the greatest grocery store out there!

Anyways, he just wasn’t into it and has abandoned it. This is not the first time I’ve had the same conversation. Twitter is not for everyone, I realize that. But, if you run a business or are just a social person, it might be for you. If you’re using it they way you should be – you will start to like it, see the benefit, meet amazing people and maybe even have a few good laughs with new friends.

Don’t be shy to give it a try!