You are the Face of Social Media

Ok kids, time to lose the egg and the faceless profiles. The first word in social media is SOCIAL. How about we get a little personal here and start humanizing the digital experience? No matter the reason you engage in social media activity, either for personal or professional reasons you did so to meet new people, learn, share, network and build relationships.

No Face on Social Media

photo credit: Masked-Bob via photopin cc

Would you walk up to a prospect in person with your face covered up? What about wearing a logo mask over your head? That would be a bit awkward, don’t you think?

Technology is great, social media rocks. Mobile is cool and people are still people. While technology has changed the vehicles we use  the game is still the same, people want to do business with other people. Just because we use technology to help us run more efficiently, it doesn’t mean we should become completely impersonal.

It is well documented on this site the value of social media, from marketing to promotions, networking and referral traffic the list goes on and on. Social media does a lot. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it. After all, this experience is all about YOU.  So go ahead and share a little about yourself.

Whether you are using social networks as an individual or as a brand, make it human. Humanize yourself and your brand by including a picture and a name. Make it clear with whom your audience is engaging with.

How do we go about doing this you ask? You can start by answering these questions about you and/or your brand?

1. Start with yourself.

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • What are your interests?
  • What makes you special, unique or different?
  • What is your role and relationship to your business?

2. Now for your business.

  • What business are you in?
  • How can you help?
  • Where do you operate?
  • Where can I find out more info? i.e. Include companies URL
  • Who are we engaging with (answer posts)?

Why is it important to attach a face to social media?

  1. Social Media is a great platform for networking but your goal should be to migrate the conversation and relationship into the “Real World”. In Real Life (IRL), we have names and faces that go along with our knowledge and personalities. Wouldn’t you rather have a conversation with a person’s name instead of a brand name or a logo?
  2. People want to follow and engage with real people. By not including a picture, you will affect the number of people who follow or connect with you. No one wants to follow an egg on twitter. Nor do they want to network or connect with a faceless profile on LinkedIn.
  3. Social is all about sharing and building relationships. When it comes to Social Media, you have to give in-order to receive. The easiest way to give is to share, start by sharing something about yourself. Like a picture, where you live, what you like or what interests you. The easiest part of social media should be sharing information about you. There is no right or wrong answer, no trick question. Just be personal and be yourself, you know… be social.

How do you feel about profiles that don’t include a picture? Do you think spam or being are missing the point? Please leave a comment below!

 

Choosing The Right Social Network For You

So, exactly how many social networks are there? Ok, I’ll admit there is no shortage of options when it comes to choosing a social network. While new social networks pop-up daily, there still remains a handful of major players.

social networkLet’s review them:

Facebook still holds the title as The Big Kid On The Block with over 1 Billion users.

The texting inspired network, Twitter is over 140 Million user strong, communicating in 140 characters or less.

With over 166 Million users, LinkedIn is a great way to build your professional contacts while sharing career highlights and accomplishments.

While kids from an Ivy League school did not start Google+ it was started by the world’s largest search engine, Google.

Also owned by Google, YouTube serves as the second largest search engine it actual classifies itself as a social network with 490 Million users.

Pinterest is a highly visual network that uses virtual pin boards to share interests, projects and pictures with their 20 Million users.

The location-based social network Foursquare has 20 million users checking-in and sharing their activity with friends.

Instagram currently holds the title as media darling; the mobile-based picture-sharing network with over 80 Million registered users is a rising star especially among young adults.

Tumblr is a little bit of everything rolled into one, this combination of text, image, video and audio content heavy blogging network has more than 50 Million users.

How do you know which one is right for you?

I am often asked by clients which social network should they be on? As any good strategist should tell you, that depends on your goals. By the way, who said you should limit yourself to JUST one?

Below are questions you should ask yourself before choosing a social network.

  1. What is your desired goal?
  2. How comfortable are you with sharing?
  3. Do you blog or have interest in blogging?
  4. Does your employer use social media?
  5. Are you looking for new career opportunities?
  6. Do you have a product or service to promote?
  7. Do you have a specific niche or target audience you desire to communicate with?
  8. Is your interest personal or professional?
  9. Do you enjoy people and have an interest in learning and growing as a person?
  10. And, are you ready to have lots of fun?
Ready to move forward with finding the right social network for you?

Professionally, if you are a small business owner then check out this post that shares thoughts from Steamfeed authors on tips to getting started.

Some thoughts on how to narrow down the choices for personal use:

  1. If you are a recent graduate, looking for your first job, a new job or wanting to change careers, I highly recommend LinkedIn.
  2. If you want to reconnect with old friends, family or classmates then Facebook might be the social network for you.
  3. If you enjoy crafts, home projects, recipes and you prefer pictures to words then I’d say go with Pinterest.
  4. If you fancy yourself as an amateur photographer, enjoy playing with camera filters and your smartphone is never more than 3 feet from you, you are all about Instagram.
  5. Do you enjoy creating content and have an interest in blogging but you have not yet committed to a style, take Tumblr out for a spin.
  6. Do you work for Google, use Gmail or are you passionate about technology? Google+ may be right up your ally.
  7. Do you like sharing your movement around town, are into checking-in and recording your whereabouts? Give Foursquare a shot.
  8. If you are into making, watching or sharing videos then you need to check out Youtube.
  9. If you can communicate in 140 characters or less, like meeting people with similar interest and you have content to share then you my friend need to head over to Twitter.

As an advocate for social media, my first goal is to make clients comfortable with the medium. I want my clients to value the benefits social networks offer both individuals and businesses.  I can only encourage usage so much; at some point you either love it or leave it. Here’s to you finding the right network(s).

What is your favorite social network and why do you love it so? Please leave a comment below!

Social Media’s Spin on PR

I am not old enough to remember when PR first came about, however it seems to me those that do still think PR is about control.

News Flash: Publications no longer own the flow of media. Breaking news is no longer delivered via newspapers that arrive on your doorstep a day after the event. News breaks on Twitter; news is shared and discussed on Facebook, not the water cooler.

Just to clarify, when I say PR I am referring to Public Relations. Hmm, that word “public” what do you suppose that means? Is that like the general public, like you and I?

Old School PR used to be about control, PR agencies guarded their (1) Media Contacts as if they were the last spec of food on earth. To them, it was all about access. PR professional have writing skills, tried and true from writing (2) Press Releases to share at just the right moment. Wait for it… sharing news, events, and new product launches, takeovers, etc. all things that are now shared instantly on the web. When I was in advertising we would partner with PR agencies to handle (3) Crisis Management, this was back in the day when companies had days and weeks to craft a response. Today, companies now have minutes and seconds to respond before the public shares their thoughts.

As you can see, the role of PR has evolved much like the world of marketing, advertising and communications in general. So, what does this mean for you and your business?

It means you now have the ability with social media to handle your own PR. I will demonstrate how you can use social media to handle 3 of the above outlined roles of old school PR agencies.

(1) Connections are no longer just made (IRL) in-person; they can start and be forged by way of social media. Who hasn’t reunited with an old acquaintance, friend or relative via Facebook? Our networks go way beyond a Rolodex or black book; we can now utilize LinkedIn or Twitter to isolate professionals with similar interests and experiences. Here’s the biggest change, it’s about sharing and spreading the word as fast as possible to as many people as possible. It’s not about waiting for the right time to share news. Remember the control is in the hands of the masses; it’s no longer with publications looking for exclusivity. Exclusivity is old news.

Resource: How To Build Powerful Social Media Connections

(2) With the ease and popularity of blogging and social media, companies both big and small can create and share their own content. What does this mean? Brands have the resources and ability to promote (share) all aspects of their business from their culture, product lines, events and updates to just name a few. Besides that fact that this helps you build relationships with your customers, it allows you to influence what the public sees and hears about your brand. Public Relations was and is still about assisting a company to represent themselves in the best possible light in the eyes of the public, especially the companies target market. The web has drastically changed the way consumers gather information, as a society we have all become accustomed to deciding when and where we find our information. Search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo are often the first places consumers turn to find out more about an individual, a company or a product. By creating a steady flow of content, between blogs, social media posts, website updates, videos, pictures and more, you will be influencing what results your prospects stumble upon organically. Breaking News: Content is king.

Resource: Invest Long-Term In Your Brand

(3) Now how about monitoring what people are saying about your brand? I remember the days when interns used to gather local and national papers to comb them for mentions of clients. There has got to be a better way, don’t you think? Of course there’s Google’s free resources ranging from good old fashion search results to Google Alerts. In fact monitoring your brand has never been easier; I mean the results literally come to your inbox. As for social media monitoring, each network has its tools as well as 3rd party apps such as Hootsuite (my personal preference). All of these tools allow you to be aware of what your customer and the general public are saying about your brand. The best way to avoid a crisis is to not be blindsided, make sure you are monitoring both the web and social media. Try and  make this a daily habit.

Resource: How To Set Up Your Hootsuite Dashboard So You’re Always Listening

Now, what about Relation(ships)?

The art of Public Relations is about building relationships, worldwide and locally. From a business and brand’s perspective, I cannot think of another medium that allows big and small brands to interact and relate to their customers 1-on-1 the way social media does. What other medium allows you to reach masses all the while talking and listening to individuals? Yeah, so I think this social media thing is a game changer. #justsaying

Take-Away: Is PR still relevant today? Sure, they can play a part just like anyone else. But I want you to understand that you have options, and ability as an individual to handle PR for yourself and your company through the use of social media. This time the control is in your hands.

I’d love to hear how you use social media for PR purposes.

Should I Be Cross-Promoting?

Marketing is about promoting your brand. Whether you are promoting your business or yourself the goal should remain the same… to maximize your exposure. If you want to help people learn who you are, what you sell or what your story is, then why wouldn’t you cross-promote?

Let’s clarify what I mean by Cross-Promoting.

Think back 10-15 years ago, remember when you were deciding if you should include your email address or your website on your business cards and on marketing collateral? Are you still debating the need for email or websites on those printed pieces?

Now, are you promoting your social media on printed collateral? How about on TV or Radio? What about those business cards or your website?

One of the many challenges that marketing mangers face is where to advertise, and which medium is right for their target audience?

We all know the old saying… fish where the fish are. That means you better be promoting on all the places customers and prospects can find you.  If the web has taught us anything it’s that we better be in as many places as possible. Before you freak out, I am not saying BE EVERYWHERE. But if you have a presence somewhere, share that information. Make sure that you promote your social media networks on your website, in print media and on radio. And, don’t forget to include it on your printed collateral.

Here is some more unsolicited advice. A HUGE pet peeve of mine is when companies hide their social icon links at the bottom of a website. To me, that is a sure sign of a company that doesn’t get social media.

Remember we talked about the goal of marketing? That’s right to maximize your exposure. If you are investing in social media your goal should be to build a relationship with your customer. So, make it easy for your customer to like, follow or connect with you.

BTW, I am talking to you designers. Don’t hide a companies present and future communication link at the bottom of a website.

Let’s recap:

Cross-Promote Across All Mediums

1. Include (ACTIVE) social media icons on your website, traditional media, direct mail and all printed collateral.

2. On social profiles include your website, phone number and business address. When possible share links to other social networks and an email address where customers can get assistance or more info.

3. When posting on social media, promote other ACTIVE social networks.

EX: On Twitter let people know that they can learn tips by liking your Facebook page. On Facebook let fans know that they should follow you on Twitter for breaking news, specials or fun facts. The same goes for Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.

4. Since I know you all are blogging, be sure to post your new blog posts across your social networks and of course on your website.  You should also share them via eblast or include them in eNewsletters. Remember, maximize your exposure.

BONUS: Include social icon links on your blog post so first time readers can learn more about your brand and connect with you.

5. Last but not least, make sure you are also promoting in-store. Add a sticker on your storefront window declaring your social media network of choice. If you are a restaurant include those popular icons on your menu, to-go bags or signage. Just like you display your phone numbers, address or website. Considering adding them to tall customer touch points.

Make it easy for you audience to find you, and to learn about you no matter what their preferred medium is. The more places the better.

Invest Long-Term in Your Brand

Anyone running a business knows how tight money is. Every brand decision has to be analyzed, looked at and weighed.

  • Risk versus reward
  • Long-term versus Short-term
  • Immediate need versus “Are you serious? We have bigger things to worry about”.

Marketing is no different.  We have all heard about the 3 dreaded letters – ROI.  Let’s leave that for another discussion on another day.  Today, we are talking about investing in the future of your brand and how to maximize the long-term effectiveness of your marketing dollars.

I am not anti-paid media. Any solid media plan and marketing strategy should include a mix of traditional and “newer” media. However, I do think that traditional paid media is under attack and for good reason. Traditional media tactics are very successful, usually for the ones creating or selling the media. If you are a big brand, with huge marketing budgets that have enough to spread around to every type of media from TV, Radio, Print, etc, then keep on spending!

Do you stay awake at night wondering if your target audience saw or heard your advertising message?

If you are a small business or one that has a modest marketing budget to work with, I suggest you look hard at investing in digital. One of my favorite arguments for digital is that your investment can pay dividends months if not years down the line.  When you run a print ad in a newspaper, where do those ad dollars go after the day that ad runs? What about after that radio spot runs its rotation and the media buy expires?

It’s all about Search Engines

With an optimized website, blogging and social media engagement you have the ability to reap the rewards of your time and investment well after the day that content is shared with on the web. Thanks in part to search engines such as Google and Bing, your content can and will be found for those looking for what it is you are selling, promoting or talking about. Understand that I am not over simplifying this process. It requires what I call sweat equity, strategy and a strong digital foundation.

Make Yourself Search-able

5 steps to get you started:

  1. Build an SEO friendly, optimized website. I am a fan of WordPress myself. Stay Away from Flash! – it’s bad for search and it’s not mobile friendly.
  2. Use Google’s resources; Google Ad Words, Google Alerts, Google Analytics and even Google+. Go ahead and play in Google’s sand box, you will be rewarded with better search results.
  3. Be Targeted and Consistent with your content, use key words consistently to tie together your content and website.
  4. Start a Blog to help your customers understand who you are, what you do and how they can benefit as a customer.
  5. Get active in Social – set-up profiles to build RELATIONSHIPS with your audience.

Bonus: Read this helpful post about Bare Minimum SEO: 3 Things You Must Do

Analyze and Adjust

One of the things that I love best about marketing by way of new media is that you have the opportunity to adjust and evolve. This is the real beauty of the social web and digital media. Brands are living, breathing things and like all living things brands need to continue to grow. Sometimes that means changing how they communicate.  Unlike that TV spot or that billboard, it is much easier to edit and tweak digital content.

Create Your Own Content

Yes, creating your own content takes time, but so does coming up with your next advertising campaign. When brands create their own content, they provide the PR message for Sociable Butterflies, Brand Ambassadors and Loyal Fans to share to their audience as Brand Influencers. This is what the new marketing machine looks like. Who better to talk on your behalf than your own loyal customer? This is about giving a brand a voice and letting that voice to share your story.

Today, consumers trust peer recommendations before they trust advertising. Have you ever searched for a brand or company to learn more about hem or see what people are saying about hem? You are not alone. This is the world we live in, so you might as well plan for the future.

If you haven’t already invested in a strong digital foundation, the time is now to get started.

How do you use the digital space for your brand? Please leave a comment below!

Courtesy Is Contagious

I would like to think that at the core people are simple. We have many wants, but if we are honest with ourselves just a handful of true “needs”.  We obviously need food, water, rest, shelter, etc. We may crave more, in fact we crave a lot more but one simple craving that is often ignored is appreciation.

CourtesyAppreciation can mean many different things to individuals, for this discussion let’s assume that appreciation and gratitude are one in the same.

Ask yourself, how hard is it to say Thank you?

It’s rather simple. It’s doesn’t take much thought, preparation or experience. In fact, I bet most toddlers know how to say thank you in at least two foreign languages. Why is it then that you suppose most brands do such a poor job of thanking their customers for their business?

I firmly believe that a brand requires consistent attention and two-way communication to be successful. No matter how good your product or service is consumers want more from their restaurant, shop keep, service provider or vendor.

We all like to feel special, don’t we? At the very least we would all like to be recognized. As a brand consultant I am always monitoring how brands interact with their customers and target audience both off-line and on-line.

I don’t like to admit this but I am shocked how often I make a purchase and I am not thanked for my business. I am not expecting a grandiose gesture, where they sing my praises from the rooftop. Simple recognition and a thank you is just good, simple business tactic.

I am simply looking for the common courtesy of a thank you.

Here’s the thing, when you fail to thank someone IRL (in real life), you may only insult that one customer. But when you fail to thank or recognize a customer in the digital arena you are failing on a larger stage.  You have missed on an opportunity to demonstrate your appreciation to your followers, their followers and potentially the world at large.

If you are new to social media or not sure how to build relationships with your current and future audience here are a 5 common sense courtesies that need to become SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) immediately.

  1. Thank you – A simple thank you can go a long way. This holds true in person and on-line. If someone makes a comment on a blog or Facebook, ReTweets a post on Twitter or simply re-pins an image on Pinterest… say thank you at the very least. These days it is so easy to monitor mentions on social networks, so don’t use that as an excuse. You can have email notifications sent to you, use 3rd party apps like Hootsuite or simply push notifications on your smartphone.
  2. Courtesy is Contagious – this was a lesson I learned from my mother, thank you Mom. Pass it on, it feels good to both give and receive.
  3. Share and Be Shared – Who doesn’t like a compliment? In the world of Social Media a compliment can come in many forms, the easiest of which is sharing, liking and RT’ing.
  4. Be Present – We all have busy lives. But if you are going to make the commitment to use Social Media as a marketing medium, (and I strongly suggest you do) stay on top of your efforts. If you cannot make the full commitment, then don’t commit at all. The worst thing I see is when a brand decides to start a brand page or create a twitter handle and never checks or engages on the profile they created. If time is limited, there are wonderful resources to economize your time. If you interested in recommendations, leave a comment below.
  5. Start with a Simple Plan – Take things easy in the beginning, get your feet wet and test the waters. Play around with different social networks to see which best matches your brand personality.  Keep in mind where your target audience is most active. A simple plan can start with:
  • Sharing information about your products and services
  • Offering suggestions of how to use the product or service for best results
  • Share news and updates
  • Most important please thank your fans, friends, followers and customers

Sometimes it is the simplest act that goes the longest way. 

What are some simple and successful courtesies that you see brands doing that you find effective? Do you think higher of a brand that cares enough to thank their customers?