Category Archives: social media

Business Development 2.0

In The Three Keys to Social Media Marketing, Hugh MacLeod talks about developing his business based on the concept of gift-giving. Every business day he sends out a new cartoon to the people on his email list. He does this to provide value, or gifts, before the sale.

Hugh writes:

If enough people like the gift, it’ll build up goodwill, they’ll tell their friends, and the list will grow. The more the list grows, the more people discover the trail of breadcrumbs that leads back to the work I actually get paid for.

Bob Pearson uses the term Pre-Commerce to describe the need for businesses to build business relationships in new ways before the actual sale in Why Pre-Commerce is the Next Frontier. As Bob points out, it’s a huge opportunity for businesses to transform their business models from waiting for customers to come to you into actively interacting with consumers prior to the sale and integrating it into your traditional ecommerce website.

To mix these ideas, I think big businesses, and not just independent entrepreneurs, need to consider gift giving as part of their business development plans. However, as Hugh points out, when you do it, it really needs to come across as a gift.

Here are 4 business development 2.0 gifts that companies should consider:

1. informational/educational products — Many entrepreneurs these days are offering informational products in the form of free ebooks. One of the popular informational products on is Bumper-to-Bumper Basics. The tool has interactive video guides that can help people learn more about insurance. It’s two years old now, and while it’s still effective and I’d say enjoyable to use, maybe a new iteration of the tool could combine it with Chat, or the ability for users to add comments to make it more “social” and truly interactive media.

2. casual games — On Vehicle Vibes (Allstate automotive blog) we have four different games that people can play. Within each one is a small call to action to get a quote when users are done playing. The games are fun to play. I’m addicted to Spider Solitare right now.

3. entertaining videos — With YouTube being the second most popular search engine, I think companies need to consider doing more fun and entertaining videos. This past summer I did some fun quiz show type casual videos, called Car Smarts. However, I think the Coca-Cola Happiness Machine is fantastic if you’ve got some budget dollars to play with.

4. Twitter posts — Even if you don’t have budget dollars to work with, all is not lost. One easy way to start small is to use Twitter as a community building tool. Even if you don’t have a blog or content to share, you can still provide small little gifts in the form of links to content that your followers would find useful. In that way, you’re providing value far in advance of when you might ask for something in return.

What do you think? What are additional cost-effective ways that businesses can provide gifts to consumers in advance of the traditional sale?

Big Brands in Social Media

Organizations that can bring humanity and flexibility to their interactions with other human beings will thrive.

Seth Godin, Linchpin

I really believe what Godin is saying in the above quote, and I’ve tried to put it into action in the work that I’ve done. From responding in a personal voice on Twitter, to doing man/woman-on-the-street video interviews myself, to hosting a weekly Internet radio show, these are all projects in which I’ve tried to bring a personal face and greater level of connection to a very conservative Fortune 100 brand. If you work for a large business, then you know that we usually hire out creatives for these types of things. So from that perspective, I’ve also taken risks in my career by doing more creative projects than simply managing the project or content that is produced.

In fact, I think more Fortune 500 brand social media managers, directors, and executives need to actually “do” social media for the reason Godin states, rather than delegating it to agencies or entry-level employees. However, that is not to say I’m recommending that big brands to abandon all caution and do something like the new TV show Undercover Boss, which I think is too risky for most brands, especially those that are already very risk-averse.

Below are 3 ways simple ways the people working for big brands can show a little humanity in the social media world without freaking out their more conservative colleagues.

1. small group events – There are several variations on this theme that start with bringing a small group of people together, treating them well, and asking for their help, opinions, and feedback. I’d also recommend doing social media PR around the event to generate word of mouth conversations in social networks. Also, don’t forget to follow-up with attendees to further build those relationships.

2. conference sponsorships – you don’t have to drop huge sums of money here, and yet you can show up in small but very visible ways that leave social media footprints. One of my favorite sponsorships from last year was at BlogWorldExpo. We sponsored the conference programs every day and I gave out a fixed number of Starbucks gift cards to attendees who found me and shared driving safety tips with my radio show listeners.

3. shoot casual video – One of the first social media projects I managed was back in 2008. We shot a series of eight informational videos that are more casual and friendly than the usual scripted ways we show up in regular TV advertising. It was a small but cautious step forward – we still had a video crew and scripts, but there were no suit and ties nor contrived set. We shot at a crew member’s house in their driveway. I know the customary advice is to interview employees about new programs or products, but inside a big corporation, it could likely involve multiple departments and a more lengthy approval process. If you go with more conservative video, then you also have the option of choosing less conventional distribution options — say on websites where you don’t traditionally appear or even on Facebook.

These are just a few ideas. There are lots of ways conservative big brands can show up in social media. If you’re working for a conservative brand, I’d recommend taking it one small step at a time. You can still find ways to put on a human face and create flexibility for the brand.

Social Media Success for Businesses

keysWhether you have a small or large business, creating a sound social media strategy to meet business objectives is important. In a recent post, Shel Holtz points out that Chaos is Not a Strategy. He outlines three types of social media: organic, programmatic, and campaign-based.

I’d like to expand on these three categories and offer possible success metrics for each.

Organic social media — This type of social media originates from dedicated fans or employees and is focused on building relationships. Success metrics should be based on level of engagement and participation.

I think organic social media can also cross over into programmatic or campaign-based when you ask employees to share particular offers or information to their fans or followers at particular times.

Programmatic social media — it’s a specified activity to meet business results. It’s not just creating a Twitter account to build fans, but creating an account like @DellOutlet to increase sales. Or, it’s using Twitter as part of your overall customer service response strategy because your goal is to serve customers where they are. Success metrics should be aligned with the business objective. For example, if the goal of your strategy is to increase brand visibility, then one metric I would include is organic branded-term search results.

RSS Feeds or content that is syndicated can be considered a type of programmatic social media. Often, the success metric associated with this type of social media is number of subscribers or reach. However, if you have the type of company that offers location-based deals, then part of your social media strategy to increase sales could be to provide geo-targeted content that includes location-specific offerings via RSS feeds. It’s not necessarily sexy, but you could be providing information to your customers the way they want to receive it because they are opt-ing in to receive it.

Campaign-based social media — For example, back in 2008 we created a series of 8 educational and entertaining podcasts that were syndicated on various media channels for a set period of time. Success metrics for this type of social media should have some aspect of participation or engagement measurement (after all, anything else would more closely resemble a banner campaign), but when working with traditional media companies, impressions and click-throughs will still be some part of the success metrics and likely determine the cost of the campaign.

I’d argue that any best-in-class social media program needs all three types of social media, but as Shel states, any social media strategy needs to have people who are coordinating efforts. A few dedicated employees can bring more visibility and necessary protocols to a program, and a paid-campaign can help launch a program with well-defined success criteria. However, that’s not to say that programmatic social media will automatically be successful if you bring enough organic attention or paid campaign-based activity to it.

Yet, all of the different types of social media can, and should, have specific success metrics associated with it. Otherwise, you’ve just a bunch of keys without knowing which devices they go with.

Large Business Social Media Plans

NutshellBased on what I’ve learned from working within a large organization, there are many suggestions I have for managers in marketing, communications, or public relations before they leap into the social media space.

While I truly believe that large corporations need to learn how to act like small, local businesses again in order to be more successful in the social media space, large corporations that are just now considering their social media strategies face their own unique challenges.

In addition to feeling pressure that they’re behind the adoption curve, leaders in these organizations may face additional challenges than those faced by small businesses [see Small Business Social Media Starting Points]. However, I would suggest the following four broad strategies.

1. Do your research. Find out what your competition is doing and where your target consumers are already participating. You can learn a great deal from the conversations that are already taking place.

2. Bring legal on board. Find out what questions and concerns they have and alleviate those pain points. In all likelihood, they are only trying to protect you from litigation, not stonewall you completely. Remember, they are the ones that will likely have to sign off on all of the content you publish so it’s important to preview your plans and get their buy-in before you get too far down the road.

3. Start with established platforms. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube offer established networks from which to build a social media presence. Building your own site means more internal politics to negotiate. Plus, you may not have enough content to start your own blog or have the best product for a community, so plan accordingly. If you can only dip your toes in the water, maybe Twitter is the place to start by participating at 140 characters at a time. Or, perhaps you have a stellar website that just lacks ratings and reviews to connect with your huge fan base. Existing sites also have moderation options to aid you protecting/managing your corporate reputation. Key here would be to build from your strengths or start with what’s easiest or most cost effective and go from there.

4. Be prepared to tell your story.Operating at a best-in-class level according to innovators in the space takes time, budget, and headcount. There will always be new vendors and social media “experts” who come along and tell you how you can do it better, cheaper, or faster. Or, on the flip side, try and sell you a myriad of tactics that look interactive and engaging for your users, but cost a million and don’t deliver much long-term value for the price. Just remember — there are different criteria for success. Plan in advance to make sure you have enough data to illustrate how and why you’re participating in the ways you are. For example, because of budget and headcount limitations, your social strategy may need to rely more on optimizing for organic search, rather than on seeding your efforts with paid advertising that would bring in larger quantities of traffic. Because of time constraints, you may be limited to how many sites you can manage and listen in at the same time. Figure out what’s feasible and most important to the organization.

In a nutshell, you need to do your research, develop your strategy, plan your tactics, and communicate effectively. If you had to focus the advice you’d give large businesses into 3-4 broad tips, what would you suggest?

Small Business Social Media Starting Points

stopwatchAre you ready take your business into social media?
If you’re at the research stage and trying to figure out if social media is the place for you, then the following three tips are something to consider as you evaluate whether to get your business into social media.

Because, let’s face it — not every small business owner is ready to start a blog, Facebook Fan page, YouTube channel, or community site. Before you consider establishing a handful, or even one, social media site for your business, you may want to check the following 3 items off your list.

1. Clean up your website. Does your main website represent you in the way that it should? Do you have a professional design? Can users find the information they need or do you have a bunch of broken links that you need to fix? You’ll want to spruce up your main site because this is where you’ll be pointing the new traffic you generate in social media.

2. Evaluate your schedule and interests. Managing multiple sites and showing up online in meaningful ways takes time and creative energy. Is having conversations and marketing yourself online something you would enjoy? It will be a lot easier to maintain your presence in one or multiple social communities, if you can make time in your schedule and would enjoy the process.

3. Consider your content sources. Do you have an opinion or something to say? It can be a challenge to generate enough text, audio, images, or video to keep a site going. Perhaps you can manage 140 characters, but not a blog post every day. Offering enough entertaining, educational, or informative content to keep your fans, followers and subscribers coming back regularly is key, so think about how much you can publish on a regular basis.

In my next post, I’ll offer some tips for large organizations that are trying to figure out where to start in social media. For now, what tips or suggestions would you share with small business owners who have limited time and resources? What should they consider before they hit the start button on their social media plans?

Customer Service and Social Media

Dennis Haysbert and Marcia HansenLast year, I won a customer service award because of how I acted proactively to assist customers on Twitter. I was one of about 50 employees invited to a special luncheon with Dennis Haysbert. I didn’t know about the special lunch ahead of time. I just did what I thought needed to be done, and the award was a surprise that came out of no where after the fact.

As I think about my plans for this year and how I can again go above and beyond, I happened to read a post on Nuts About Southwest, Seriously. This *really* is what we do, and who we are. If you click through, you can read about Southest Airlines employees, who on their own time, did a home renovation for someone who lives in one of their employee’s communities. Talk about customer service above and beyond!

Ally bank is another brand that I think is getting customer service and support right. If you visit the ally website, you’ll see:

1) In the top right corner, they publish their phone number and the current wait time in the queue. Not only does this signal that they welcome consumers’ calls, but it also shows they value our time by publishing how long we might have to wait in the queue.

2) Ally also offers additional features at exactly the right time. When I clicked on a term to learn more and then closed the window, the site offered a secure chat option, with the question, Want to learn more?

3. Lastly, Ally’s twitter channel (@AllyBank) advises they are “always open” and I can chat with an actual person any time I want. Love it! I can talk to a real person, and not an automated service, at any time. Now I think that’s good service.

What are other brands to do?

Is it time for more brands to offer 24/7, “Always Open” customer service and support on Twitter?

Should Twitter be seen as a regular customer service channel, with staffing coverage during the times our customers are shopping, not necessarily just during business hours where our branch or headquarters is located? If so, brands would need to staff for that.

As I look at what I can accomplish, I know I can help make every person I help on Twitter feel like they’re getting the star treatment. But let’s face it, that should be just standard operating procedure. I’m looking to take it to the next level.