Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

Don’t Be the Restaurant No One Wants to Eat At Because It Is Empty
June 6, 2011

You are walking around an unfamiliar neighborhood with a couple of friends. You are on your way to a party or perhaps just a movie. But you have a bit of time and decide to stop to eat dinner first. You can’t be too choosy, but it appears you have two options. From the outside both look clean and well maintained.  The lights are working. From the menus posted in the windows, both seem to offer some appetizing choices. And neither you nor your friends are opposed to either due to personal tastes. But, there seems to be something off about one of them. You can’t quite put your finger on it at first, but then you realize what it is. One of them appears, for all practical purposes, to be empty, save the one out-of-place guy in the corner you see while peering through the window, while the other is overflowing with patrons waiting to be seated. Which do you choose?

Unless you are really short on time, you choose the one overflowing with people. Why? Social proof. You assume that the place with more people is probably better, while the place with no people is in some way deficient, even if the deficiency is not easily discerned from outward appearances. You assume if so many people like something, there must be something about it to like. You assume that if so few people like something, there must be a reason why.

Social proof is one of the six principles of influence professor of psychology and marketing, Robert Cialdini, wrote about in his popular book Influence, and he covers it there much more extensively than I can here. But, given the attention I have seen it getting recently in social media circles, felt it might be worth a brief discussion.

In an article I wrote up on Constant Contact’s recent “Get Down to Business” seminar, I wrote of how one of the points I took away, or at least felt was worth reiterating after it was reiterated to me, was the following:

“People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through you social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.”

But, how do you get such displays of social proof on your social media page? Well, to begin, have you asked for a recommendation from one of your connections on LinkedIn? If so, assuming the person you asked provided it, then you already have attained some level of social proof through social media. But, the social proof you can get through social media does not end there. No, on LinkedIn you can get similar recommendations for your company pages. And, technically speaking, just having a large number of Facebook friends/fans, Twitter followers, or LinkedIn connections can serve as social proof as well. High levels of activity on a Facebook page or blog is even better. And, fully fledged recommendations or thank you by satisfied customers on your Facebook page are even more beneficial. Going back to the restaurant analogy, if both restaurants were equally well populated, having such a recommendation from a friend (or from Yelp) might make you choose one over the other, or maybe even go to the less populated one in the original example if the recommendation was strong enough or from the right person.

Yet, now you ask how do you get such recommendations on various social media sites beyond LinkedIn which already has recommendations as a built in feature you’re required to use if you want to get you profile to 100%?

Simple, you ask. When you have a satisfied customer or client who sends you a private email or tells you in person how much they appreciate what you have done for them, you thank them, but ask if they could post it on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter or write a review on Yelp. None of these take much time or effort on their parts, but can be greatly beneficial to you. And, if you have a very satisfied customer, you might even ask if they’d be willing to give a video testimonial for YouTube and your website.

Getting Down to Business with Constant Contact, Social Media, and Daniel Nuccio
May 31, 2011

Last month I had the opportunity to attend Constant Contact’s “Get Down to Business” seminar in Chicago.  Not only was I able to meet with a variety of people working in social media, or at least implementing it for their businesses, as well as see presentations from several top people in the industry, but I was also able to attend a special lunch with Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and a small handful of respected guests and loyal Constant Contact customers.

Now, trying to sum up a morning-long seminar with about half a dozen speakers, followed by an hour and a half lunch in only four to eight hundred words would be a bit of a challenge, and I know I surely would have to leave a number of things out. Therefore I will just present some highlights, and interesting pieces of information I learned, or had reiterated to me, that I believe may be beneficial to those I share them with. Some are deserving of full length blog posts, which, if you are one of our loyal readers, you may see in the future, while others are just small golden nuggets.

Everyone’s doing it…or at least soon will be. The numbers show that more than 160 million people are tweeting while 500 million people actively use Facebook. And, according to Sprout Social’s Justyn Howard, in the near future, more small businesses will have a Facebook page than a website. Similar numbers Howard presented at the seminar indicated that in 2005 marketing efforts typically consisted of TV commercials, emails, phone calls, and face to face contact, whereas today, many of those older forms of marketing are being overshadowed tweets, check-ins, and Facebook status updates

Get involved where your clients, prospects, and potential customers are involved.  If you do not know where they are involved, ask. There is no point in using LinkedIn if everyone you either have or want to have a business relationship with is on Twitter, and vice versa.

Social bookmarking sites are dead…or at least soon will be. The only people who still use them are diehard social bookmarking site users. Unless you know your clients or prospects are diehard social bookmarking site users, don’t waste your time on Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, or the others.

When you do get involved, be a concierge, not a salesman. There is a commonly used analogy in social media circles that going on Facebook or Twitter or any other social media site is like going to a cocktail party. When you arrive, you do not go to a bunch of random people saying “My name is Mr. X.  I sell Y. This is why Y is so great. Would you like to buy Y?” Instead, you mingle with people. You join the conversations already going on. Many of these conversations may have nothing to do with business. But, while you are mingling with people, you are building a certain level of rapport with them, and, when they need Y, or know someone who needs why, they will be more likely to think of you.

Social Media is not a quick fix! If your business is failing or has a bad business plan or has an ill developed sales process, social media probably can’t save you. Implementing social media takes time. Again, it is about relationship building, not selling!

People trust third party recommendations more than they trust you! There is a lot to be said for the idea of social proof. But, put simply, when you say good things about you, you come off as a salesman who will say what he has to make a sale. When others say good things about you, such as those you have been building rapport with through your social media tools over a period of time, they come off as satisfied customers, and are seen as more trustworthy, or at least less biased.

People are terrible at measuring the indirect effects of social media…probably partly because doing so can be difficult…if not near impossible. I am aware of how this sounds…It sounds like an easy out for any social media consultant not doing their job properly or investor in a bad social media tool trying to convince others things aren’t so bad, and unfortunately the above can be used this way. But, at the same time, simply taking a look at whether your business is doing better now compared to before you implemented a social media program may not necessarily give a clear answer given the myriad of factors that can influence success or failure. Now, I suppose an experiment or quasi-experiment can be done, things like the number of retweets you get or the level of activity on a Facebook page can be measured, and new clients/customers, can be asked or surveyed about how they found you, but, at the end of the day, activity on a social media page is not always converted into new business and even when asked, your new client/customer may not be able to tell you that they received your contact info after a friend recommended you after checking out your website after seeing a tweet of yours retweeted by a different friend.

There are no social media experts…just people who might know a little more and have a little more experience. Everyone who works in social media knows this. Anyone who says differently is likely doing so either due to ignorance or deceit. Now, again, this is not to say that there are not people who know more or have more experience, and if you are hiring someone to help you with social media you should be able to reasonably expect (or demand) that they have a certain level of familiarity with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, that they know which sites are being phased out, and that they know how to use some of the more prominent social media management tools like Hootsuite and TweetDeck, but, that said, there are changes being made to all the major social media sites quite frequently, and new social media sites, management tools, and other various instruments to make any number of social media related tasks easier are being developed everyday, and even people like Steve Robinson, Gail Goodman, and Justyn Howard, among countless others, will admit that there is always more to learn.

Social Media for the Intermediate User
March 22, 2011

Not too long ago I attended a social media seminar hosted by Constant Contact and presented by their regional director for Illinois, Steve Robinson at an Ing Direct Cafe in Downtown Chicago. Despite spending a little time brushing up on some basics, this was not Social Media 101, but an interactive discussion for intermediate users on how to use social media the right way.

At the event we talked about how many social media sites can be, and are being used as places of commerce, and as tools to market ones products and services. According to Constant Contact’s statistics, 51% of small businesses use Facebook, 29% use blogs, 27% use LinkedIn, 26% use Twitter, and 16% use YouTube. But, as any social media consultant will tell you, it is not enough to just use them. No, what is important is that you use them well.

You cannot have a static social media page. In fact, you really shouldn’t even have a static website any more. No, you need to have a social media page where you actively connect with, converse with, and disseminate valuable information and content to others while building and strengthening relationships with them. Through these pages you can reach out to fans, customers, and prospects, and build your network by sharing relevant, valuable content, and reaching out to and engaging more people. By doing this you can increase repeat business, as well as online referrals in the form of others sharing your content making online endorsements.

Unfortunately many people will never really get involved. Why? They psych themselves out knowing they’ll never have millions or even thousands of followers. They are unmotivated or uninterested in writing thought leadership articles. They think they will never have the dedicated staff to do it right. Or they feel they don’t have the time to stay current.

But what these people forget is that it is not about the quantity of your followers, but the quality. And, for those who feel unmotivated to write thought leadership articles or feel they lack the staff, ability, or time to do social media well, they may wish to consider hiring a consultant or content manager.

That said, if you do get involved, you may wonder how you decide which tools to use. Well, fist ask yourself where your customers, partners, suppliers, and competitors are. If you do not know, in most cases you can simply ask them. Also, use different media’s together.

Now, once you are setting up your pages, be sure to look professional, to take advantage of all the features each site has to offer (or at least the free ones), and to make sure that you properly brand your pages. Also, post some starter content to drive people to your pages or at least to make the pages look active. This can consist of company information, tips, practical advice, opinions, links to archived newsletters, polls, event announcements, blogs reviews of your products or services, articles, discussions, etc. Then, once your pages are up and your starter content is in place, announce your presence with an email with a strong call to action, ideally using an email marketing service such as Constant Contact. And, once you get going, be sure to be an expert, trade useful information, offer valuable insights, and engage your audience.

6 Reasons 2 Use an Email Marketing Service
January 15, 2011

  1. You can professionally brand your emails with your company colors, images, logo, etc..
  2. You do not share your contact lists with everyone on your contact list.
  3. The odds of your message being mistaken for spam are greatly decreased.
  4. You can send your message to thousands of people at once.
  5. Doing so automatically puts you in compliance with at least two mandates of the Canned Spam Act by providing an opt-out option and making you provide a physical address.
  6. Greetings can be automatically personalized for your recipients by including their name in the greeting.

 

7 Touches and 3 Emails: 2 Important Numbers for Every Email Marketing Campaign
January 14, 2011

Last week I attended a presentation on Constant Contact given by Steve Robinson. Much of it was a refresher. Much of it clarified things I was a bit fuzzy on. However there were two numbers that really stuck out for me. The first was that it takes about seven touches with a prospect before a sale will occur, ideally through a combination of mediums including social media, email marketing, sales calls, advertisements, face to face meetings, and so on. The second number was that when contacting people through an email marketing service like Constant Contact, you only get two or three opportunities to prove the value of your newsletter before a contact will stop opening it, opt-out, or, worst of all, mark you as a spammer.

So how do you avoid such a fate for your emails? How do you increase the likelihood your contacts will not only open them, but deem them valuable?

The short answer, you have to provide value. For the longer answer you have to first ask what your contacts find valuable. That may not necessarily be the same as what you find valuable.

The email you send is not about you, but what you know and what you can offer. This means you want to educate your audience about what you know and what you can offer. To do this, provide them with information, hints, and expert tips though articles highlighting your knowledge, case studies highlighting the services you provide, and a featured employee section highlighting the experience and ability of those who work for you. In doing this, you are promoting your business and building relationships.

This said, no matter how valuable the information you provide may be, it will not matter if your email ends up in a spam folder or is not recognized as coming from you.

To avoid the spam folder avoid excessive capitalization and punctuation, as well as certain key words like “SALE”.

As for getting your company the recognition it deserves, this is where branding comes in. Doing this through Outlook or your personal email account is typically not possible. But, it is a major feature of the major email marketing services like Constant Contact which allow you to use or modify existing templates, or create templates of your own, so that the email you send is recognized by your company colors, logo, and whatever other personal touches you may wish to include.

Here We Are
December 1, 2010

Here we are…at the beginning of the 12th month of the calendar. Boy has 2010 flown by. It seems like just yesterday when I was writing about the start of a new decade (which is actually this year, but I’m not going to start that conversation again). So much has happened in our world and in the world over the past 11 months. It seems as though the economy has taken a turn for the better, thanks in large part to many of my friends who own small to mid-sized businesses. To paraphrase George Bailey from my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, it is the small to mid sized business who does most of the living and working and purchasing and dying in this world. We didn’t need a bailout, we just needed our entrepreneurial spirit to help us continue to grow in tougher times.

Of course, I did mention that it is the beginning of the 12th month on our calendar, not the end of it. We at Randolph Sterling are very busy with new projects starting every day, and we are seeing clients busier and busier throughout the month of December. Working smarter has definitely prevailed.

Speaking of working smarter, every Monday, we have an internal sales meeting with our inside sales team. We discuss the projects we are all working on and discuss how we can help each other to provide the best possible experience for our clients. We ask our clients to tell us what makes them different from their competition and how can we use that to help find more of the people they should be working with. We also look at the responses we receive in the rather lengthy conversations we have with prospects to see what they are telling us about what they are looking for and how our clients can help them. We are all about developing relationships for our clients, but it needs to be relationships of value to them.

Working smarter does include an amount of fun, as our resident social media expert, Daniel Nuccio, found time to develop two contests this December, one asking you about your favorite holiday song and another trivia contest from the previously mentioned It’s a Wonderful Life. Between developing budgets for next year and making those last few sales of the year, be sure to check them out!

 

Let the Holiday Season, and Games, Begin!!!
November 30, 2010

The Holiday season seems to come earlier every year.  There was a time when you typically didn’t see Christmas displays at stores, or hear songs about sleigh bells playing at Starbucks, or catch a commercial starring Santa until right around Thanksgiving , but now it seems like the stores are putting up decorated pine trees and garland the same day they take down the spider webs and Jack O’Lanterns.

Yet, regardless of when it starts, the Holiday season always brings with it pleasant memories that are often associated with particular songs or movies or foods. For example, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life always reminds me of being a little kid and staying up late to watch it for the first time with my dad when I couldn’t sleep, or another year when we went to pick up Italian pastries on Christmas Eve and realized that while they were calling B-54, we were E-73, so we played It’s a Wonderful Life trivia for two hours while we waited (here’s an easy one…what was George’s wife’s maiden name?)

And the trip down memory lane is endless when it comes to Christmas songs. Just think, where were you when you first heard songs like Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and, well practically anything by Trans Siberian Orchestra or Manheim Steamroller? How about David Bowie and the late, great Bing Crosby singing “Little Drummer Boy?” Can you find an odder pairing this side of Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper, but they make it work into one of the most beautiful Christmas songs out there. How about the “old time classics” like Gene Autry doing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” or Burl Ives crooning about “Holly Jolly Christmas?”

The only Christmas song I really can’t stand is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (If you clicked on the link, did you see how bad it was?). Now, I wasn’t traumatized as a child by waking up one Christmas morning seeing mommy kissing Santa Claus, but for some reason no matter what artist plays this song, I just have a problem with it. Seriously, who decided it was good to write a song about a little kid seeing his mom kissing Santa? Isn’t life confusing enough for kids already? Back in the day, all we had to worry about was whose house we were going to play at or trying to figure out how our parents somehow walked to and from school uphill in the worst weather climate possible, even worse than last winter’s February Fury. Now we have to add in concerns that our mom might be fooling around with Santa?

“What a laugh it would have been, if daddy had walked on in…” are you kidding me? A laugh, really? Where are our values? If I someday meet Miss Right and she becomes Mrs. Burghgraef, and we have kids, I really hope one day I don’t come home from a long day’s work to have Junior come up to me and say… “Hey dad, you will never guess what happened today. I came downstairs and saw Mom smooching with a guy in a red suit, grey beard, and about 50 lbs. of extra weight.” What are we teaching our kids?

That’s why I stick with the simple songs. Bruce asking “The Big Man,” Clarence Clemons, if Santa is going to bring him a new saxophone; and then later in the song you hear him laugh as he belts out “Santa Claus is Coming to Town!” I hope it is because he is having a great time doing the song and not because he just caught his wife kissing Santa (see, I just can’t get over that!)

Now, before I begin to sound anymore like a 3:00am informercial for a Time Life Classics special, let me get to the point. This year Randolph Sterling will be holding not one, but two Holiday contests, one on the Randolph Sterling Facebook Fan Page, and on my personal Facebook Page. Here’s what you need to know!

Contest 1: Did You See Mommy Kissing Santa Claus?

Hopefully not! As you know, I‘m not a fan. And I will give a $25 restaurant gift card to one lucky winner who can find a better Holiday song and tell me why it’s great. Just post a link and a message on our Randolph Sterling Facebook Fan Page between December 1st and December 24th . Our winner will be announced in early January.

Contest 2:  What Is, “It’s a Wonderful Life?”

Our second contest is a trivia contest to test your knowledge about one of my favorite Christmas movies, Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. Every business day at 10:00am EST from December 1st through December 24th, I will post a trivia question about It’s a Wonderful Life on my personal Facebook page. Answers will be posted Saturday morning. The person to correctly answer the most questions will be declared the winner and receive a $25 restaurant gift card in January of next year.

So, let the games, and the Holidays, begin!

So Now We Have Video Blogs
November 12, 2010

After months of listening to our social media director speak of the value of having them, FINALLY Randolph Sterling, Inc. has produced some videos for the website and our blogs. There has been much discussion as to how to do these videos and at what expense. Do we do them ourselves or do we hire a professional video production company to do it for us? Our feeling was that we would start with the flip cam, knowing that there are definitely better quality options out there but at least getting us involved in the media rather than taking what would have been months to interview video production guys, etc.

We also chose to have topics for discussion based on frequently asked questions and things that we know people want to ask, or maybe wonder about but don’t actually ask. We did not script it out simply because I (who was in all of the videos, but this will change as we will have other members of the team speaking on their particular areas of expertise as well) generally do better just talking about my thoughts on subjects rather than scripting it out. The conversational style is also how we develop talking points for our inside sales projects so my thought is if it is good enough for us to recommend to our clients for best results, it is good enough for us to use ourselves.

[videos will be back up once website maintenance is complete 02/10/11]

“The Accidental Billionaires”: The True Story of the Founding of Facebook?
November 8, 2010

Ben Mezrich’s The Accidental Billionaires: The Founders of Facebook reads like a novel, but allegedly tells the “true story” of Facebook’s early years. It covers much of the same territory as David Fincher’s film, The Social Network, for which it served as source material, but goes into more detail about things like what exactly is a Harvard Final Club, why it was better for Facebook to take money from VCs early on rather than sell advertising space, what made Facebook different from MySpace and Friendster and The Harvard Connection/ConnectU, and what was in the contracts Mark Zuckerberg’s former partner signed that resulted in him losing his share of the company.

With that said, many of the more contentious details from the film, such as Zuckerberg trying to use his invention to impress a former girlfriend, were absent, but, perhaps more importantly, many were still there. In the book Zuckerberg and his partner still picked up a pair of Facebook groupies at a Bill Gates lecture and subsequently hooked up with them in adjacent men’s room stalls, the application process for Facebook’s first summer internship still involved hacking while drunk, and Zuckerberg still came off as a socially awkward jerk, albeit without his dialogue provided by Aaron Sorkin, leaving questions of how true was the “true story” found in the book.  These details, among others have been highly contested and largely denied.

Sorkin and Fincher have responded by admitting to changing some things in the interest of making a better film, and this is acceptable given that they never claimed to have made anything other than a film, a work of fiction. This was actually to be expected on their parts. But Mezrich’s book is different because Mezrich does hold his work up to be a work of non-fiction, a work of narrative non-fiction for which he admits to condensing events and inventing dialogue and some locations, but a work of non-fiction nonetheless. But, if Mezrich invented so much that these more contentious details are false, then Mezrich’s work is simply a work of fiction  − a work of fiction with a rather simple style and without any real literary flare, making it simply an entertaining work of pop fiction but nothing more.

However, before completely discounting Mezrich and The Accidental Billionaires, there are a few other things worth considering. First, Mezrich’s work of narrative non-fiction seems to rely heavily on interviews, seemingly from sources that have unresolved issues with Zuckerberg or were only loosely connected to him. Second, Zuckerberg had denied Mezrich’s interview requests on multiple occasions, and it appears that those currently on more amicable terms with Zuckerberg did not agree to be interviewed either, leaving Mezrich with only more hostile and more distant sources (This is not to say Zuckerberg or his friends were under any obligation to cooperate with Mezrich, but they now do have the misfortune of his book being as popular as it is and having been used as the primary source material for the film). And third, even if those who currently know Zuckerberg have come forward and vouched that neither the book nor the film accurately portray his character, that is not to say that those portrayals are completely incongruent with how he may have been perceived by people from 2003-2005.

“Catfish”…the Other Facebook Movie
October 18, 2010

Most of us when we think of “The Facebook Movie,” likely think of David Fincher’s The Social Network, based on the controversial book, The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich. It spent two weeks at the top of the box office, and has generated a considerable amount of Oscar buzz, and rightfully so.

However, there is another Facebook film  out there as well which has stirred up some controversy of its own. The film I speak of is Catfish, a recent documentary that has left many asking “What did I just see? Was that real?”

For those unacquainted  with it, Catfish follows a young photographer whose two buddies begin documenting his online relationship with an eight year old art prodigy, her mother, and her nineteen year old sister who he may have been beginning to fall in love with. However, after certain point certain details about the lives of the subject’s long distance friends begin to not add up, leading the photographer and his buddies on a road trip to confront his Facebook friends that leads to a series of twists and turns that are first weird, then creepy, and ultimately Hitchcockian, exploitative, or heartbreaking depending on your interpretation.

Initially the general consensus was that this was all a hoax, even leading the likes of David Fincher and Zack Galifinakis to pat its creators on the back for their mass deception. But the filmmakers insist it was true, and emerging evidence seems to concur. Yet, regardless, it is an interesting journey, and reveals a side to Facebook far darker than the legal battles, shattered friendships, and clashing egos found in The Social Network.