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. 


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. 

 [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 

[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? 


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?


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?

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.