Thursday, July 17, 2014

Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, Oh My! [Navigating Social Media Channels]


Marketing has changed. Gone are the days of one-way advertising, and here are the days of socially driven two-way conversations. 

But does every business need a Facebook page and Twitter account? What about LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, YouTube, FourSquare, Flickr, Tumblr, Vimeo, SlideShare, Vine, Snapchat, social bookmarking, review sites, blogging...and the hundreds of regional and industry specific social media channels? 

First, the question becomes whether you [or your business] has the time and resources to devote to each social media channel and how much time/how many resources you plan on putting towards your social media endeavors. Without an entire full-time staff of social media experts, you won’t make every account successful. 

Once you know and understand your resources, you have to decide which channels are best for your business. Each social media channel provides different types of interactions, different content you can share, and different audiences. 

The key to filtering through all the social media channels is two-fold: 
  1. Where do your customers live online? What channels do they use the most? 
  2. What platforms are most conducive to your business? 

Finding out where your customers live online can be a tough task. Each social media channel has its own demographics, and each customer may use a different mixture of the channels. As much as we can pour over the data to help us find the right channels, these are generic stereotypes: age, men vs. women, etc. Your customers may be different. For example, a non-profit I sit on the board for has a 3:1 ratio of women followers on Facebook, whereas Facebook as a whole has almost a 1:1 split. 

If you know your customers well, you may already have an idea of what social media channels they use. You can also ask. A simple poll [maybe with a coupon incentive] of your customers could lead to some surprising results your assumptions didn’t expect. 

The second filter for choosing your social media channels is more straightforward, but takes some thought. 

What platforms are most conducive to your business? If you are a tax software company, you probably won’t have many beautiful images for picture-based social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Flickr - so don’t focus on these. Using the LinkedIn publishing functionality can help position the company as an industry expert. 

However, sometimes out-of-the-box thinking will give you a venue your competition isn’t using. Take plumber Bob. Although he doesn’t have beautiful imagery, Bob could create short “how to” videos to post on YouTube for common household repairs and maintenance. The videos help build trust with consumers that Bob is knowledgeable in the field. If Bob wants to take it a step further, quirky and comical imagery that links to these videos could be popular on Pinterest. 

A company who provides extensive customer service and follow-up may find Twitter useful for quickly providing help.The list could go on with examples. 

Once you understand the potential options you have at your disposal, plus the channels that will give you the most reach with your customers, it will be easy to determine the best spots to focus your energy. 

Remember, you don’t have to have a presence on every channel. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your social media strategy won’t be either. Starting where you will get the most return, you will be able to build out your presence over time. 

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Photo Credit: Yoel Ben-Avraham on flickr  

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Hidden Agenda [Leadership vs. Management]


Here is a tough question to ask yourself every morning: do you lead or do you manage?

Leadership and Management are often used interchangeably in today’s buzzword-filled society. However, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the root verbs are very different. 

lead 
 [lēd] verb 

: to guide on a way especially by going in advance 
: to direct on a course or in a direction 
: to serve as a channel for 

manage 
[ma-nij] verb 

: to have control of 
: to take care of and make decisions about 
: to direct the professional career of 

If you review those definitions, a common theme plainly stands out: 
Leadership looks to guide employees. 
 Management looks to accomplish the job. 

Before you get up in arms, I have to state that I don’t believe one quality [leadership or management] stands above the other in value. They are simply different, and we should treat them as such. 

I have known great leaders whose employees would follow them to the ends of the Earth, but the team produces very little.

And, I have know great managers whose goals are always met, but their employees would rather work for someone else. 

Very rarely do you find an amazing leader and manager in a single person. 

But as leaders and managers, each employee interaction we have, each project we work through today, we should be asking ourselves: are we leading or managing, and how can we do a better job at both? 

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Type "A" Unplugged [How I Balance Life]


We all know the old adages of Type A personalities: Work Hard; Play Harder. Workaholic. Perfectionist. Overachiever. 

But the truth is, even Type A personalities need to unplug once in a while. 

I had a large realization a few Fridays ago, sitting on a restaurant patio enjoying the gorgeous weather with my husband and a best friend: I am HUGELY protective over my personal time. 

Annoyed. Who calls "office" employees at 8:30pm on a Friday? 
While sitting on the patio, enjoying summer and discussing life, my cell phone rang with a local number I did not recognize. I simply never answer if I don't know who is calling. They can leave a message; it weeds out solicitors quickly. 

That, however, was not the case. There was a voicemail message from the head of an association our company belongs to, ranting at me because she thought one of our employees didn't show up to an event and that I must get back with her immediately. 

Annoyance turns to frustration. First, ask yourself if this "emergency" is really an emergency? 
The event the CEO was ranting about ended at 9:00pm. Even if one of our employees didn't show, by 8:30pm, the event was winding down, and "emergency" wouldn't even begin to enter my vocabulary. But, being a bit Type A, I felt I needed to follow up. 

Frustration transfers to raging mad. Personal is personal. 
To help me unplug and shut down, I actually keep two cell phones - a personal and a work. Not even our receptionist has my personal number for "emergencies". This particular association head had my work contact information. We had actually just talked that week about the best way to contact me. But, she had called me on my personal cell phone number. 

Because I came straight from work, I had my work cell with me. I slid my work cell out and looked. No email from this CEO. No missed phone call. 

My blood started to boil as I realized that not only had the voicemail interrupted some very important, relaxing and personal time, but she had foregone the proper communication channels assuming [correctly] I would not be accessible there at 8:30pm on a Friday evening. She also would have had to work at finding my personal cell phone number. It is not listed at work, nor listed on any of my public profiles. 

Unplugging is Okay 
That evening, after my dinner and personal time, [and once I had calmed down], I sent the CEO a professional yet firm email explaining the ways I could be contacted, to please not use my personal cell phone, and that I would not be available over the weekend. 

Yes, I will admit, I failed that night at unplugging. I still allowed work to interrupt my personal time. 

But that night helped me realize how protective I am over my personal time. If I do not set hard boundaries for myself - and others, I naturally work 24/7. I have been teased in the past for carrying two phones, but I realize that is my best defense against myself. 

That night also helped reinforce my beliefs when working with others and being mindful of their personal time. Because I am protective over my down time, I am of others’ time as well. Most urgent matters aren’t actually emergencies. Often, there is someone else on duty who could take care of the issue. And, more times than not, it can wait until tomorrow. Vacations are sacred, so unless a building is burning down, I don’t contact people when I know they are on vacation. 

It’s an on-going battle to unplug, but I work at giving myself down time everyday. 

How do you unplug your Type A persona?

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Improving Your Book of Business [10 LinkedIn User Tips]


LinkedIn is the social media solution for professionals. Most people reading this article will already understand the basics of how to set up a great professional profile

But, as social media continues to evolve the way we network and do business, there are many things you can do to up the ante on your social branding and business. Here are my top ten ways to improve how you use LinkedIn. 

LinkedIn As a Resource
  • One of the most useful aspects of LinkedIn is finding who you need to find within a company. From hiring managers to decision makers and purchasers, the Advanced Search option, combined with what you can find out on a company page and Google, is a powerful tool. 
  • Expanding your network the right way. LinkedIn makes it incredibly easy to ask to connect with virtually any other person on the social media channel. However, you will get a much better response if you personalize the message of why you want to connect, and if you don’t try to sell someone on the first email. Want to connect with an influencer in your community? Don’t just send the standard, “I would like to add you to my professional network.” Send an individualized message about how impressed you were with his or her latest endeavor, and that you would like to connect to keep up on the progress of project XXX. You’ll be surprised at the results.  
  • Most people join LinkedIn to improve their network and push business. Many forget about the learning opportunities! Industry groups, the ability to message your network, and conversation threads are all great ways to reach out to like-minded professionals for answers to your questions, professional opinions and new strategies. And, you can prove your worth by helping others with their questions. But don’t be greedy and simply self-promoting. Truly use LinkedIn as a resource to help others, and let others help you. You’ll get further. [Tip, see #10

Profile Tweaks to Make Your Peers Jealous
  • Your LinkedIn Headline is the first thing people see when searching. It is your first impression. The standard headline is your current job title, but you can and should change it. There are tons of articles out there on the hows and whys, like this, this, and this article. The simple fact is if your headline is just your job title, people will assume you don’t use LinkedIn much, or don’t focus on your personal brand. Make yourself stand out with your first impression. 
  • Rich media links are a fairly new addition to LinkedIn profiles. By adding rich media links and files, you can showcase your talents in a great, visually interesting way. Pinterest and instagram are huge for a reason - people like visual content. So, whether it is a white paper you have written, photographs of a speaking engagement you had, or the results of a project you helped build, you can add the links to your profile and transform your profile from a resume to a beautiful portfolio that is interesting and engaging.  
  • Projects and Publications are another rich media section you can add to your profile. They work in much the same way as the standard rich media. What makes these categories special for your LinkedIn profile then? You can add collaborators! Social Media 101: the more connections you make within your posts, the more your post gets seen. The same holds true here. By adding a project, and tagging the people you collaborated with, not only do your connections see the work, but all of the connections of your collaborators see the work too! It’s a great leap in expanding your network and your personal brand. 
  • Did you know you can reorganize the content chunks in your LinkedIn profile, to make your profile as appeasing as possible? Remember when you first graduated, the best part of your resume was your degree? At that point, it made sense to showcase Education towards the top of any resume or profile. Fifteen years into a position, where degrees don’t matter much anymore? Shift Education down, and showcase your winning strategies and current projects. With the short attention spans of adults today, it is imperative to show your assets as close to the top as possible. When you edit your profile, there is a two-way up/down arrow near the top of each section [and also one within job positions]. Simply click on the arrow, hold the mouse button down, and drag each section to where you prefer in your profile! Don’t forget to save.

Settings to Save Your Reputation
  • Whether you are simply adding new projects, or are tuning up your profile to start the job hunt again, it is wise to turn off notifications before you start editing your profile. Why? If you are searching for a new job, you may not want to alert your current employer. If you are just adding in new projects and descriptions? Every time you hit save, your network sees a “profile updated” notification from you. If you are like me, and click save often, this can get annoying to your network. Good etiquette is not to annoy your network! See help here for turning off notifications when updating your profile.
  • Take the time to turn on or off what people can see when you view their profiles. Reviewing a job applicant? You probably don’t want him to see that you viewed his profile, incase you decide not to interview him. Scouting the competition? Same thoughts. However, I wouldn’t always leave this “off”. People are naturally curious. I love seeing who has viewed my profile, and am often curious who they are. By allowing others to see that you viewed their profiles, you open the door a little wider for a new connection. 
  • Consciously pick what is public on your profile, and what isn’t. Everyone has a different opinion about how much information is too much information, for privacy and security. That being said, your LinkedIn profile is your professional portfolio. If you lock everything down and don’t allow the public to see anything, you will never get found. On the other hand, if you give everything away, people lose the incentive to connect with you and you run a higher risk of identity theft. I say tease them with enough information that they can tell that your profile is really you, but leave them wanting more [you will have to decide for yourself where that line is]. 

These ten tips have helped up the ante for my networking. How about you? What tips do you have for improving your LinkedIn profile?

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Image by Lindsey Garrett

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Breaking In [How to Get a Marketing Job]


It is already July. Kids are on break or have graduated from college and the ominous job search is in full battle mode. Whether it for a great internship or the first "real" job post-education, there are many candidates out there searching and trying to break into the marketing field. 

The fact of the matter is marketing is a tough and small field. As a fictitious example, for every 10-15 sales positions, there may be one marketing position. So a company with a sales force of 50 positions may employ 3-5 full time marketing positions. For a company that size, there isn't a ton of potential marketing positions. 

I have talked to countless people through my career who struggled with finding a marketing position and have asked how I got to where I am. 

Here is a dirty little secret [okay, maybe I wear it as a badge of honor], I have a degree in Art Education. I never took a PR, advertising or business class in college. 

But I worked my butt off creating opportunity for myself. 

Getting into many fields such as healthcare, education or IT there is a hierarchy to the process. You must have degrees and certifications. You must have school-approved internships. You must take tests and earn credentials. 

Marketing is different. There is no road map and there are no set standards to break into the field. 

That being said, there are a few key things that helped me get ahead in the field.

First, I became a lifelong learner. 
Just because I didn’t take a class on advertising doesn’t mean I didn’t spend hours researching and teaching myself the basic set-up of a classic magazine ad, the “rules” of billboard advertising, the lingo of print houses, and how to write a radio ad script. I did. I do everyday. 

I ran my own business from the age of 16 [with a lot of support from my parents]. 
I started painting Christmas ornaments for family members, and with my parents’ encouragement, realized I could sell ornaments for a profit. My parents helped guide me, but ultimately, I had to learn to run, and market my own business. At 16 [and at 18 and 21...], there are stumbling blocks. But if you can run a successful business, you can market, sell and book-keep successfully. Future employers realized this. 

I had the self-confidence to walk into an interview for job A, and convince the employer I would be better suited at job B, a marketing job they didn’t even know they wanted. 
This happened twice in college. I found the company’s pain and showed them how I could help. [Liz Ryan with the Human Workplace has some great posts on how to understand a company’s pain and how to fill their need.] 

The first was a summer data entry job at a larger company [700+ employees]. I walked in for the interview, showcased the skills I had above and beyond entering data, and talked about my aspirations and willingness to work from the ground up. The hiring manager went to get the Marketing Manager. She hired me on the spot for a summer marketing internship. 

The second internship started out as an interview for a part time receptionist position. A local tech start-up needed someone answering their phones. They had no marketing department and no marketing plan. I offered the company an opportunity to have not only have their phones answered, but to help guide and start their marketing efforts. That summer I learned what a 50 hour work week felt like, how to put on a 500+ person event and gained the confidence in myself that I could take on any marketing department with success. 

Now, when I interview others for marketing positions, I could care less what their degree is, or if they have a higher level degree. I want to see what experience candidates have, that they have more than the requisite experience for their degree, how they do out-of-the-box and how they are planning to help change our company for the better. 

The best advice I can give those just starting in marketing, or trying to get a break in the field is this: 
Go beyond the requisite. Get better internships. Learn through more internships. Run a successful small business.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Bright Shiny! [Facebook's New Company Pages]


The NEW Facebook pages layout rolled out today, June 6, 2014. By June 20 [per Facebook's claim], if you haven't chosen to adapt the new format, Facebook will automatically update it for you. 

For those that have spent a few years in social media, you get used to the ever changing layouts Facebook and others decide to impose upon us. But it still takes time to learn where all of your tools that you used to use now live within the page.

Here are the biggest changes I see today:

  1. A single column look. Personal profiles went the way of a single column look months ago. Facebook today is rolling this out to pages. All posts will now be in a single, right-hand column [when visiting a page on a computer screen], while likes, apps, photos, etc. will be on the left.
  2. Apps have become subtle. There had been rumors that apps were completely going away. This is not the case, but now at the top of your page [under the cover photo], only one app name will show. There is a drop-down "More" menu that shows the others, but the emphasis on apps has definitely gone down. The App icons will now show in the left column below the fold [meaning, you must scroll to see them]. For pages that emphasize apps, this could hurt some business, but at least they have not completely gone away. Also, if you click on the More > Manage Tabs drop down, you can drag and drop to edit the order of your apps easily. "About" and "Photos" must stay on the top, but you get to choose which app you would like to highlight on the top of your page, and what order they appear in the left column.
  3. Left Column Priorities. Like deciding which apps should take priority, you can now edit the order of the left column information blocks. People will always stay first, and the About section second, but then you can reorder the rest of the blocks based upon what information you want to emphasize with your audiences. Simply click the pencil near the top of the People section, and highlight "Manage Sections".
  4. Website URL is highlighted. Now, in the About section, your company's website URL will always show, and is even highlighted a bit with some white space. What is even better news is this is a clickable link automatically.
  5. Posts to Page take a back seat. Posts to Page now are showing up well below the fold on the left column. Although this is slightly better than the previous version of pages to show what others are posting on your company page, I think the new design does a disservice to businesses. For businesses that do reciprocal B2B postings [tagging other companies in your posts, other companies tagging you in their posts], these will no longer show up in your right column feed for your viewers. They are only showing up in the well-below-the-fold left column "Posts to Page", and are not showing images until you click the pop-up window to see all Posts to Page.
  6. "This Week" Stats Counter. There is a new "This Week" statistics snapshot now to the right of your page for administrators. It's a great way to quickly see how many new likes, post reach and notifications you have for the past week.
  7. Better Settings Menu. The noise and lack of organization of old admin view sometimes made it tough to figure out where to go to manage various aspects of a page. The new settings menu breaks things down cleanly with Page, Activity, Insights and Settings. Activity allows you to see notifications and direct messages from one menu. The Insights sub-menu hasn't changed much. Settings, now allows you to see all of your settings, activity log, apps, suggested edits and users from one menu.
  8. User Audiences Expanded? The Banned User section in Settings should really be called "Users", not just "Banned Users". Within the Banned Users sub-menu of Settings, there is now a drop down with People Who Like This, Pages that Like This, Subscribers, Admins, Banned, Valuable and Irrelevant. People/Pages allow you to see your audiences. Admins and Banned are fairly self-explanatory. Subscribers, Valuable and Irrelevant are new. There is no word yet on what these are or how they will be used, but I image they will allow pages to label audiences who are most influential and irrelevant to help with Ads and Promoted Posts. We are all waiting to see though.
These are the most drastic changes I have seen so far in the new Facebook pages layout. Have you seen or heard more about the updates? Please share in the comments!

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Top Image Credit: mkhmarketing on flickr
Screen shots provided by Lindsey Garrett.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Be the King [10 Content Generation Resources]

Content is king in marketing, right? The marketing data analysts, direct marketers, brand marketers, market researchers, etc. may not always agree to this, but I think we can all agree that when it comes to social media, quality content is not only king, it is highly consumable.

With each person's "feed" on each social media channel moving at a constant pace, there is only a small percentage of your companies "viewers" who are going to even see your content. [At my current company, our organic Facebook page posts average just under 10% viewership of our entire following.] And of those that do actually see your content, only a percentage will be interested in what you have to say.

If you want to increase the virility of your content, you must have good, relevant, interesting content that will resonate with your following. But where do you find this content? How do you create enough content to satisfy?

For my current company, I base our content in multiple categories: industry articles, current events, local news, company updates and humorous/fun/offbeat posts. Much of the content is self-generated. But to position your company as an industry expert, you also need to find third-party articles that back the message you are trying to promote. 

If you are posting regularly to multiple social media channels, you may need 50+ content pieces per week, equaling out to thousands of pieces of information a year. For individuals, small businesses, and small marketing departments, that is a daunting task.

So, to help, here are my top ten resources I use to find quality content to post or re-post.

  1. Your Competition. Seriously. Follow your competition on every blog, social media channel and news station around. See what they are talking about. Chances are, it is relevant to you. And, even if you don't want to be the late one to the party of posting on a topic, often their content will give you ideas for new content you can generate. Plus, it's just good business to know what your competition is up to!
  2. Your Own Employees. Most marketing professionals have a pulse on every department within their companies. It is part of marketing. But, that does not mean we have visibility to everything happening.  Promoting and relying on employees to help generate content with expand your voice. From industry articles I may have missed, to customer selfies past on to me, to employee congratulations for life events, the content my company's employees send me is priceless. It puts a human voice to our corporate accounts.
  3. Industry Magazines Online...and Their E-Blasts. I have found that many of the leading industry magazines I subscribe to have not only online versions, but email digests. Yes, these can clutter your inbox. But when you are looking for the latest, greatest articles, the daily digests [with email rules to put them in a folder for later viewing], can help you grab content quickly and efficiently that is also highly relevant.
  4. "Categories" on the Major News Networks. You own a business in the financial industry? Find the finance section of the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo News, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. Sometimes, it takes a little digging within a site to get to the "top page" for whichever topic you need. Once you find it though, you are set. Bookmark those section pages. I organize my bookmarks into folders within my browser. It doesn't give me instant access, but having a folder called "News Sites - XXX Industry" helps me focus on those specific sources I need quickly. 
  5. Newsle.com. If you want to build your relationships, this site is awesome. You must authorize Newsle to have access to your social media accounts. Although I am usually leery of this, once it does, Newsle scours the web for mentions of any of your contacts across your social media channels. It will show you articles published on the web by your contacts, mentioning your contacts, and about your contacts. There is a simple share tool within Newsle itself so you can broadcast kudos to those in your network. What a way to win brownie points with your network, and you'll never miss important spotlights!
  6. Google + Circles. Okay, we can all admit that Google + did not take the social media industry by storm. But there are tons of companies and individuals out there posting. And, with the power of Google search behind it, you can narrow in on content that is relevant to you and your company. Using the native Circles inside Google +, I have created focused feeds for myself based on the different industries and types of posts I like to use for content. Using a tool like HootSuite, you can take these Circles, and generate feed lists that help me quickly navigate the noise to the articles I need.
  7. Twitter Lists. If Google Plus has noise, Twitter is utter chaos. That is, until you create or follow lists. These "lists" allow you to only see posts from the Twitter accounts you have on that specific list. Carefully crafted lists can help you quickly scan and find the right resources in a very loud social media arena.
  8. Klout Create. Klout recently renovated their site. As part of the new Klout, there is a "Create" section. You can add topics and it pulls content based on what's freshest [Hot Off the Press], most relevant [On Target], what is trending for sharing [On the Rise], and little known posts that fall within the topics you ask for [Hidden Gem]. You can even share and schedule the content from inside Klout. Initially, I brushed this off, but with Klout sourcing everyone else on social media, they tend to get articles that I'm getting great reactions from posting.
  9. LinkedIn Pulse. It was called "LinkedIn Today", then moved to Pulse. It started with media articles, added Influencers, and now is rolling out publishing to the entire LinkedIn community. Like Twitter, I feel that Pulse is getting quite loud. However, being the professional social media channel, content is generally high quality here. I value my Pulse Daily Digest email everyday with the 7 articles I must read. And, did you know there is now an app? Having a world of articles, sorted by the topics I need, at my fingertips, in my email, and on my computer has been a wonderful plus to this social media channel.
  10. Buzzsumo.com. Need to find the best performing content for a topic? Or to go on a specific social media channel? Buzzsumo analyzes the content out there and gives you the ratings. You can also filter by time frame, type of post, topic, and/or domain. Fairly new, you can also find the influencers on topics. A great way to find, follow and curate content!
These are my top ten go-to's when I need to generate content. I don't make it to every source every day, but if I am sitting down to generate content for a few days, these are the first places I check. What about you? What are your most valuable content generation tools?

Oh, and as an aside, as I researched for this post, I came across this article. It is a great list of 130+ different kinds of marketing. Being a marketer for small business, I have to wear many hats...seeing how many hats there are was highly entertaining to me [so I thought it might be to you too!].

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Image created by Lindsey Garrett. 
Stock Photos Used in Compilation by:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Just Stop [Social Media Isn't for Every Business]

social media doesn't work everywhere

Here comes the backlash. But I'm prepared. 

I was recently corresponding with a graphic designer on LinkedIn. Because he saw that I consult on social media and spend quite a bit of my time working on improving companies' social media endeavors, he was cautious about telling me his thoughts about social media. But, he eventually wrote this:
"As for social media being a great tool and one that makes some businesses a lot of money, I've never seen it. I'd welcome any education on that subject because, frankly, I get kind of tired being the only person on the planet who feels otherwise. I've just never seen social media used in a way that was even effective, let alone a money generator. Mostly I've seen company Facebook pages that post pics of employees at BBQs, playing ping pong and things like that. I've only seen once a company that posted relevant articles about things that could help educate their clients. But even then, I couldn't imagine how that would translate into making anyone money."

I have to agree to a certain extent. As someone submerged in social media every day, I can honestly say social media ISN'T for every business, and the gentleman above was right - a lot of small businesses do social media poorly. Fortune 500 companies aside, with their entire social media teams working 24/7, for most small to medium businesses it is incredibly tough to use social media properly and even tougher to measure ROI. 

The Time Investment
Social media takes time. It takes tons of time to do it right - and most businesses fail because they don't put in the time. I have actually talked to a company that received a phone call asking if they were still in business, because the person calling had found a Facebook page that hadn't been updated in six months.

Many traditional avenues in marketing, like billboards, magazine ads, commercials and more are "set it and forget it" marketing tools. Social media though, is a living, breathing, ever-changing medium. 

To do social media right, a company has to have eyes on their social channels daily. They have to be willing to put in the time to learn how to post, discover what niche they can fill, to monitor what is being said, and to provide a new venue for customer service. 

When companies cannot commit to that kind of timely investment from someone who knows the entire company [not just a high school intern that doesn't have the maturity to respond to customer complaints], I actually believe the company is better off staying away from social media. 

Doing social media poorly reflects on your brand as much as a marker-written, typo-filled sign in your window does. Why tarnish your brand more?

Soft Results
When time is put in to make business' social media channels social [fun, personable, informative, etc. Insert best practices here that are better left for another post] though, there are a few things that grow: 
  1. Branding. Like billboards that often don't have a direct ROI correlation and are just for branding purposes, a lot of social media work is to build a good brand, positive reviews, and position the company as an "industry expert" in whatever market that company competes.
  2. Driving business to the company's website. Again, without expensive marketing software, it is hard to measure concrete ROI from the social media channel to the website to final sale. Setting up tracking cookies, and definitively tracking leads to sales can help, but it is an extensive task. If a company values their website, and upper management is behind the concept that the website traffic does influence sales, then it is a bit simpler to show how much of that traffic comes from social media. I can tell you a large portion of my main company's website views come directly from social media. So, if you look at the top of the sales funnel [leads coming in], you can grow the top of the lead funnel and land more business on your website from social media.
  3. Providing customer service. We are starting to see a TON of this at my current company. People are out on social sites all day. To them, it's easier to message/tweet/post a question than to pick up the phone and call. Being "out there" on these channels gives a lower barrier of entry for people to ask questions. This means customers will ask more, engage more, and you will give a better experience. 
    @Delta [Twitter] does a great job of this. Last year, I had a typo on a plane ticket that my company set up for me. I tweeted privately with @Delta and got it worked out in under 15 minutes, without having to sit on hold on the phone, or talking to someone that I had a hard time understanding. Their great customer service there has actually prompted me to personally start using them whenever I can [vs. my normal airline choice of the past]. 
These are the "softer" results of social media. I believe too many companies look for the direct ROI, and because that is an enormous task that isn't clear cut, they abandon their social media efforts in favor of other marketing tactics that measure easier. They forget that the "softer" results, in the long run, can provide stronger relationships, which do lead to more sales.

Enter ROI
You can get direct ROI from social media, but it has to be little more targeted/specific and within the greater campaign of above. Will posting on social channels with company BBQ pictures drive more business? Probably not. If you directly publish to sell, without a larger campaign, will it work? Maybe in the short term, but not as a long-term social media strategy.

As many successful social media campaigns have found, the bright side is with the right mix, there are opportunities for direct ROI and ROI tracking. 

For example, my current company builds and sells residential homes. We started running Facebook ads this year for open houses. It took us a few tries to dial in the perfect ad, but on the last open house we did, I spent $50 targeting ads to the right people in the right locations. We got 6 highly qualified/interested families through the door specifically from Facebook [there were others that said they found us "on the internet"...which I presume to be Facebook ads, but we can't say with certainty]. So, for about $8 a lead, we got some awesome traction. If just 1 of those 6 buys a home [which our statistics/odds are higher], we would be getting 900% return on our ad. Yes, that's nine hundred percent, calculated at pure profits divided by $50 for the total ad cost. That, to me, makes social media 100% worth our time!

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Photo Credit: fcl1971 on freeimages

Thursday, May 15, 2014

There Is No Secret Sauce [Social Media Strategies]


Just like planning the perfect European vacation, there is no secret sauce to social media strategies. What works for the corner deli might not work for the local real estate office.

However, like planning a vacation there are certain aspects to your social media campaigns you can plan...and there are other things you need to learn along the way.

Image planning your first trip to a new country. You need to do your research and learn about the difference in cultures. If you are going to Italy, you need to learn how to order a meal, how much to tip, and what cities you are going to want to visit. But the nuances that are Italy [like the lack of forming any sort of line, or how to figure out switching trains when yours was cancelled in Italian, and you have a major language barrier with everyone around you], you can't learn in a book. You learn by experiencing them.

Much of the same is true for social media.

Things You Can Learn from a Book [or Blog]
  1. Culture. Just like every country has its own culture, every social media channel has its own culture. Learning and understanding the differences between Facebook [hashtags are laughed at], Twitter [hashtags are a must], and LinkedIn [no funny cat pictures please] can make or break your chances at successful social media marketing.
  2. Rules to Posting. If you start a Tweet with @SomeonesName, it isn't going to show up in everyone's feed - just the person you mentioned. On Facebook, you can edit the preview of a link, including the short description, to your benefit. There are basic rules to every venue. Learning these from the help sections within each site, and from experts in the field, like Social Media Examiner, you will have a better chance of reaching your audience.
  3. Profile Basics. Understanding how your profile looks to outside followers, how to edit images to fit into each area of the profile, what parts of your profile are searchable, and how to make certain elements private or a limited audience are all things you can learn from a book, or a basic Google search.
  4. Advertising. If you plan to spend some cash and advertise on social media, there is quite a bit out there on rules, restrictions, and limits to the advertising. How to write great copy is not part of the book, but the basics to run and analyze your ads are.

Things You Must Experience to Learn
  1. What Works in Your Posts. Images may skyrocket your virility on Facebook, but not get great interactions on Twitter. Posting your ice cream flavors of the day may be the most important thing for your followers. It all depends on your business, your audience and your goals. The only way to learn what works for your company in your posts is to try different things - and more than once. Try, and study the results. It is the trial-by-error process, that when studied, tweaked, tried again, and studied more that will hone your strategy for social media.
  2. Who Your Audience Is. You may want to target certain demographics with your social media. However, you will likely be surprised by who does and doesn't follow/interact with you. When you start to build an audience, it may be with your targeted demographics. But as you grow, others will follow. Paying attention to the buckets of people that most interact with you will help you develop your content. And you may find surprising audiences there. For example, my day job is marketing for a residential home builder. Our "target" audiences have always been prospects, current homeowners, and Realtors. An audience I didn't see coming though was our trade partners (construction workers, electricians, etc.). But by paying attention, we can now add valuable content for a new audience as well.
  3. Timing of Posts. Like the content within your posts, learning how to time your posts is a trial and learn process. Yes, there are tons of articles out there about the "best times to post to...". But, if you are a night club targeting a college crowd, I'm going to guess your best times to post are not the same as a commercial insurance company trying to target medium sized business owners. Study your audiences, use the analytic tools, and simply test different posting times. 
  4. Where "Being Social" and "Being Professional" Collide. Social media is exactly that, social. As a company posting, every post is a part of your brand. So, how do you balance the social, human voice with the professional industry expert? It is up to each individual company to determine how much human voice is necessary, and where the breaking point is where it starts to ruin your brand. Down with Detroit is a cheeky t-shirt company based in Detroit. They tend to swing to the extremely social side of things, posting everything from Detroit sports team updates, to hilarious region-specific jokes. But, the company's shirts are just as cheeky and regional, so their "buddy at the bar" voice only enhances their brand. American Express deals with your money everyday. So although their voice can be human, you would probably start to lose trust in the brand if they had a "buddy at the bar" voice. Finding the balance is unique to each company's brand.
  5. How to Make Your Social Media Successful. There is a science to studying the analytics of your social media and improving results, but finding what works for your company exactly is more art form and time. No "How To Become Successful on Social Media" book is ever going to hold all of the answers for your specific business and audience.

Social media is a powerful tool for many businesses, but unfortunately, there is no secret sauce to success. Ultimately, the most successful companies on social media spend the time learning, analyzing and testing what works for their unique company.

What have you learned about social media that doesn't fit into a book?

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Photo Credit: mkhmarketing via photopin cc

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Life Altering Views [from a Decade in Marketing]



As kids, I don't think most of us think, "I want to go into marketing when I grow up!" The go-to jobs are doctors and lawyers, ballerinas, teachers and police. The list could go on. 

But at some point, each person whom has fought his or her way into the marketing sphere - and stuck it out for a decade or more - fell in love with the career. I honestly believe to truly excel in marketing, you have to love marketing for marketing's sake. Whether you are marketing to raise funds for children in a non-profit, or selling software to accountants, you have to love what you do. 

When you love marketing and make it your life's work, it changes you. Maybe it's the new quantity of grey hairs sprouting from my head, but recently I started to reflect on how a life of marketing has altered my views and actions. Here are my top marketing-induced life altering views:
  1. I publish more positive reviews for companies in my personal life. We all know it is easy to post a review when you are scathing mad, but takes more work to post a shining review when something makes you happy. Great reviews help brand management, and can make my day. Seeing a new review come in raving about our team sets my day a glow with rose tinted shades. Understanding what it does for me, I now have sympathy for fellow marketers and have grown to post as many positive reviews as I can to hopefully help make some other marketer's day. 
  2. When something does go wrong, I have poor customer service, or a product fails, I know how to push the right buttons. Okay, internally in my company, people joke about this with me. When we talk about our customer service and how we handle issues, the executive team always likes to point out, "If this had happened to Lindsey, you know she'd be all over our Facebook page and telling all of her friends." We can debate the morals of this later, but truth be told, every good marketer understands how and where to approach any company to get the best outcome. You learn from the haters of your own work what motivates a company to change your outcome, and what gets tossed in the circular file. 
  3. I take a LOT more surveys. Before I started my career in marketing, I thought all of those customer-satisfaction surveys were a farce; no one actually read them and no one cared, so why take them? Being on the flip side of the coin, I now appreciate every survey request I get. I'm naturally inclined to pause, decide if I have time, and try to give honest feedback to each survey I can. 
  4. I love technology, and I have to love it. Okay, so maybe I have always been a closet techie geek, but learning HTML, staying on top of the latest in mobile, understanding the nuances between Apple, PC and Android are vital to the success of my career. And really, who learns and retains anything they don't love or find interesting? 
  5. I'm good at crisis-mode. Now, I know a lot of other careers would like to jump in here. Marketing is not a high-pressure-life-or-death job. It isn't even a high-pressure-commission-only-sell-or-starve career. The beauty of a career in marketing is it changes everyday, and every minute of everyday. It isn't mundane. But the catch-22 there is that it isn't mundane. Everyone comes at you in a "top-urgency-you-must-put-out-this-fire" way. Technology, trends and strategies are constantly changing and need to be changed on the fly. Marketers have to wear a lot of hat and be able to change quickly, while putting out fifteen other fires. 
  6. Even the most obscure jobs can fall to marketing, and that is a good thing. We need new uniforms? Oh, that's marketing's job. The server crashed and website imploded? Call marketing first. President of the company needs a presentation for his kid's career day at school? Marketing can help. When I first started into marketing, I was bitter and cynical about the odd jobs requested of marketing that I thought were below the position. Now, I wear it as a badge of honor that so many people within a company think the marketing department is so talented, we can do everything. 
  7. I read as many billboards as I can. Okay, so maybe this is to dissect what works and what doesn't, and to help with new creative ideas, but what I used to view as obnoxious clutter on the highways, I now study like a college lit class. 
  8. I take notes on the commercials in the Superbowl. That's right. I actually take notes now on every commercial that airs during the Superbowl. I'm a soccer/hockey fan and could care less about football. Many years I'm not even sure who is going to be in the Superbowl. But I drudge through the game [I never used to watch] to get to the commercials. 
  9. What you don't know can hurt you. We may not be in the service department, but marketers touch every aspect of a company. We are on the front lines of customer service, maintaining our brand reputation. We have to know what changes are coming within the company to plan, campaign and broadcast. We have to know employee sentiments, what departments are succeeding and which are failing. We have to understand the customer experience from first meeting until final purchase. To do this, I have learned you have to make friends in every department, you have to actually know your customers, and you have to have a "pulse" on your company which goes beyond public knowledge. Without that deeper understanding and reading between the lines, you can get blindsided quickly. 
  10. Much of marketing is more art than science, but I have to embrace the science. There is no golden rule to the correct way to market. Success often comes from intuitive moves and being an "artist" of the field. But, most people don't really get marketing. They don't understand what I do everyday or why certain projects take so long. Skeptics abound. Budgets and costs are misunderstood. My work is questioned. And, that simple fact is why I learned to embrace the science. Statistical data, case studies, focus groups, reporting and tracking are the ways you prove your worth and your marketing budget. I may love the intuitive, on-the-fly approach, but if I don't embrace the reports that track my success, no one else will embrace my marketing. 
Marketing, to me, is so much more than a job. It's a passion and a lifestyle; one I did not expect when I was a child, but can't imagine any other way now. 

 What life altering views do you have from years in marketing? 

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 photo credit: anissat on morgueFile

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Worth a Thousand Words [6 Image Resources]

With such a focus on social media and content marketing in today's marketing portfolio, commercially licensed images, infographics and other visual aides have become a high-demand necessity. 

The Giants 
There are many stock photograph sites out there like iStock Photo, Dreamstime, Fotolia, and Shutterstock. These stock photo giants have great search engines and amazing quality photographs. But purchasing photographs from these companies that are licensed for commercial use can get expensive when you are constantly generating content. 
As a side note, when using any photographs for a business use, you should always use images that are commercially royalty-free licensed, and have read/understood the license. Just because an image is available in a Google search does not mean it is yours for the taking! Please don't forget the attribution. These photographers put their images out there for you to use for free on the sites below. Return the generosity - even when it is not required.
The Grass is Always Greener... 
Like many small businesses, if you don't have the budget to pay hundreds of dollars each month for stock photography, there are other options. There is a balance and trade off between paid and unpaid images. If you want cheaper [or free] images, you are going to have to work harder and search more for quality content. The age old debate between time and money rings very true in stock photos. 

Top Resources 
If your budget, or natural inclination is towards the less expensive options, here is a run down of my top six resources, cultivated through years of trying every site designer bloggers mentioned.  
  1. Canva.com - This is a new tool that launched last year and is starting to get a lot of attention. It is an online "lite" creative software - with numerous templates.
    For those that think Photoshop and Illustrator are too daunting to learn [or too expensive], Canva is a simple, intuitive cloud application. Most content is free and the paid options usually only cost $1.00 [USD] each. This site is great for quick promotional flyers, creating infographics, and generating blog and social media images. You can also upload your own photographs to use within the templates. I have found it very useful, fun, and easy. 
  2. FreeImages.com - Formerly known as the Stock Exchange (sxc.hu), Free Images has one of the best category searches I have found. You can search by your key words or browse categories and drill down from there. The site does require you to create a free account to download high resolution photographs. All photographs are commercially licensed and hi-resolution. Some require attribution, others do not. Word of caution: the site does partner with iStock, so you will see paid iStock photographs above the free ones, and they blend in well. But as long as you are aware, it's easy to skip over these and get to the good content. This is my #1 site to visit for stock images. 
  3. MorgueFile.com - No, we are not talking about where dead bodies are kept. A morgue file is a name for where archived news clippings were kept.
    That being said, this site is intriguing. The licensing is slightly different on many images, in that they cannot be used stand alone. The site tends not to have great model photographs, but for everything else [even the unique/ weird/ uncommon requests], you can usually find it here. Morgue File also has tabs at the top of your search, so you can flip between Morgue File photographs and a handful of the paid sites - great for a quick comparison! This has been one of the longest running free stock sites, and old habits die hard. 
  4. StockFreeImages.com - Stock Free Images has almost one million free photographs and illustrations. The site started in 2012 and is run by Dreamstime. For those staged, have-to-be-perfect, marketing photographs, this is the site to use. The quality of photographs here is outstanding. They are sometimes a little too perfect of photographs for some items I design, but on a whole, a wonderful site. Again, a free account is required. 
  5. PhotoPin.com - This tool I just recently came across. It searches Creative Commons licensed photographs within Flickr. The search functionality seems to be fairly spot-on, and you can filter easily to commercial use photos. Of course, you are searching Flickr, so you get the professional with the unprofessional. When other sources fail me, I can usually find something here. 
  6. Free Sections - If you are simply try to build your library of stock photographs, most of the paid giants have free photographs, illustrations, etc. of the week. This varies site to site, but is worth perusing weekly to pick up items for your library. Here are the links to the free sections of the paid sites I use: iStock Free Images (highlighted just above the fold on the right side of the page), Fotolia Free Images, and Dreamstime Free Image Library

There are my "top picks" for graphic content and my constant go-to's. 

What are your favorite resources for generating image-based content? 


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 photo credits: Green Meadow by Zuen on Free Images 
 Brook by FidlerJan on MorgueFile