• 26Feb

    You have to love social networking. It’s not only a great way to keep up with friends and old classmates; it’s also a great way to get pearls of wisdom from former clients. Mitchell Savage works for a cool start-up company called Vidoop, which has an innovative approach to web and password security. (In the interest of disclosure, they’re not only a former client, but I am a daily user of MyVidoop.) Mitchell’s last blog post about joining the social media conversation seemed especially timely, and a topic I can readily relate to having finally convinced a long-time client to launch a social media program.

    As I’ve said in this blog in the past, one of the hardest things for marketing people to understand is that to become part of social media, you have to stop trying to control the message and just join the conversation. As Mitchell says,

    The reality is that people are talking about you, your organization, your products and services, and the complete experience of your company.  They’re doing it right now while you’re reading this.  So the question is not whether or not the conversation will take place.  The question is whether or not the conversation will have the benefit of including you.

    I sometimes have a similar argument with my clients about press coverage. Some say all press is good press, and other only want the good news and blame you when they see the bad news in print or online. In a sense, all press coverage is good coverage because at least you are being included in the conversation. You can’t address negative press if you don’t get any press at all.

    So if people are going to talk about you, then the least you can do is joint the conversation so you have some control over what they are saying. It’s not so much damage control as it is being proactive, being positive about promoting your brand message, and being seen.

    So what’s the best strategy for proactively joining the online conversation? Mitchell identifies the four cornerstones of effective social media:

    1. Listen – Before you engage, put our ear to the pavement. Listen to what they are saying about you. As Mitchell points out, social media is a great place to hear from your customers, for free. Most comments about companies are normally positive, so see how you fare in the ratings. Are your customers “yelping” about you? Is it good news or bad? The answer will help you form a response.
    2. Speak – Once you year the comments, good or bad, you can formulate an intelligent response. Show your customers that they have been heard and that you care, and you will get their loyalty for life.
    3. Provide value – Don’t just be defensive, be proactive and be positive. Don’t just cover your ass; promote your assets. Give away information, offer insider tips, give away freebies, be a mensch worth following. The more positive your contribution, the more positive the feedback and the more followers you can expect.
    4.  Build community – From the positive response of your followers, others will follow them. It’s a pied piper effect, or the same thing that happens when you stand in the middle of the street and look up. Everyone else will follow you to see what all the fuss is about. Take that positive feedback and share the love through multiple channels. Use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, Digg it – shout it from the rooftops and let people find you and follow along.

    You created your own brand image, and all your customers will do is share their experience as it is mirrored in that brand image. If you give them a positive customer experience, they will sing your praises and invite others to join the chorus. Social media is merely the amplifier that lets your customers sing louder than ever before. Don’t try to shut them up; help them. If they are going to talk about you anyway, then listen to your customers, hear them, and give them something good to shout about.

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  • 22Feb

    I saw a blog post last week from Marc Hausman, The Strategic Guy, about getting hip to sales. As a serial flack-for-hire who returns to consulting every few years, I understand the appeal of being your own boss and putting your own blood, sweat and tears into your job. As Marc points out, and as I hear consistently from the career coaches I interact with at NETSHARE, one of my clients who specializes in executive career management, the future of employment is in the work, not in the job. Companies are increasingly renting talent as consultants rather than hiring it, not only because of the cost savings but because it makes the best and the brightest available to deal with their immediate problems.

    And with the economic downturn, I have seen a flood seasoned professionals turn to consulting as a means to pay the bills. When the going gets tough and full-time jobs become scarce, creative executives rent their skills, at ths same time cultivating the connections they are looking for to land their next full-time gig. In the short-term, this means a glut on the consulting market, so rates adjust and work becomes harder to find.

    For those of us in PR and marketing who love our work, selling ourselves is an ongoing challenge. If you have a small consulting practice (read, party of one), then you are primarily focused on client service and getting the job done, which means business development too often takes a back seat. You need to make time to build your own marketing program.

    Build your marketing network. Use LinkedIn. Talk to your clients. (I get some of my best leads from existing clients.) Work the trade shows. Get yourself out there. Practice your own social media strategy, even though it’s hard to find the time to market your own services when you are working so hard for your clients.

    And in these times, Marc offers some sage advice about going about building your own business. You not only have to sell what you know, but you have to find buyers willing to pay for your services.  PR professionals, like freelance writers (since there are as many or more unemployed journalists as unemployed marketing professionals), tend to take the low bids in a tough market to get work coming in the door. It doesn’t take long until accepting those low bids starts to yield negative returns. It gets harder to make a livable wage because you are competing with the lowest common denominator.

    When bidding for contract work you need to not only find someone with the cash to pay the freight, but you need to stand firm on your rates. Sure, running your own business gives you the freedom to accept and turn down the work you want, and to set the rates and terms you want. However, discounting your services to land a contract that may offer bigger bucks later never works. Once you come in as the low bidder, you will never be able to sell your services for a premium, even when you know you are worth it.

    Don’t fall into the trap that many consultants indulge in – underselling yourself. There never is a payoff later, and those discounted or worse, free contracts seldom bring in new business. Loss leader contracts are just that, a loss, so stand your ground and stand behind your rates. And if you are using your network appropriately, you’ll know if your rates are out of line with the market.

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  • 11Feb

    I have been working on a video project for a client for some time now. The client had an opportunity to reach an influential part of its niche market through a proprietary video channel, so we set up a weekly video shoot to repackage the clients’ research and produce three-minute videos to post to the vertical channel. Research shows that videos have a very high impact on SEO and, when used properly, can have a huge impact on web visibility.

    Although we have been refining the quality of our web video productions and the content, we haven’t been able to get the viewership we want from YouTube, or our vertical video outlet. So it’s time to regroup and rethink our video strategy as an extension of our conventional social media program.

    This particular client has limited staff and resources (well, who doesn’t), and they service a very conservative market. Therefore they have been slow to adopt social media as part of their marketing program (despite my nagging). However, this new video program provides an ideal opportunity to jump-start their social media program, offering high-quality and informative content to targeted followers through multiple online channels.And there are some serious SEO advantages when you use video in the right way. I recently ran across an interesting presentation by Mark Robertson, CEO of ReelSEO, on how to optimize video for online search. Mark offers some interesting points. I’ve reposted his webinar presentation here for your edification.

    So what are the next steps for my client’s video program? Well, I plan to take some of Mark’s tips to heart and use our video productions as a focal point for our social media outreach. I do believe that video can be a great asset to any online marketing program, if you have great content and can use it properly. The challenge is to know when and how to apply it.

    How do you use video to promote your brand or your client’s brand? I’d like to know.

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  • 05Feb

    Twitter continues to gain momentum as a marketing and networking tool, and with that momentum comes a new set of rules. All social interaction has rules of etiquette, and since Twitter offers a new form of conversation, it comes with its own set of rules. We already touched on some of the “Twitter types” in the last blog post, but Twitter is a new medium, which means the rules are still being defined.

    Thanks to Guy Kawasaki for his addition to the Twitter conversationalist profiles. Kawasaki has identified six Twitter types  (as opposed to the four in our last post) and there is even a downloadable poster for easy reference. (Don’t you hate people who pigeonhole everything into categories?) The question is, which type are you?

    The Newbie – This is the novice who has decided to chronicle his or her life on Twitter. Those new to Twitter think it’s all about where you are having coffee or watching paint dry, and these types of Tweeters reinforce that notion. The Newbie has a choice: evolve to a higher level of conversation, or risk having your tweets left on the “block” list. Apply a little understanding here and see how they grow.

    The Brand – This Twitterer understands the power of Twitter to promote personal brand, so the dichotomy is how to balance self-promotion with conversation; how to promote yourself without baking it too obvious. Many of these Twitterers are worth watching.

    The Smore – The term is short for “social media whore.” This Tweeter is all about “what do I get out of this?” These Tweeters see Twitter as a self-promotional tool, nothing more. Some are obnoxious and others are personable, so tolerance is a good approach, if they aren’t too over the top.

    The Bitch – This is the Twitterer whose mating call is “kvetch!” Kawasaki calls them the “shock jocks” of Twitter, but basically they are bitter Twitterers who complain about people who have figured out social media. Block them!

    The Maven – This is the self-proclaimed expert in his or her field, and their Tweets offer real insight into their profession. If you are looking for gurus in your field to follow who can offer insight, then follow the Maven by all means.

    The Mensch – These types of Twitter birds are rare, but incredibly helpful. They offer assistance where needed.  These are the online altruists whose mission is to help their fellow followers. These are rare birds, but when you find one, follow and adore them.

    So consider your Twitter strategy and think about which Twitter type best fits your strategy. There is no one-size-fits-all (I told you the pigeonholes don’t work). But it’s interesting to consider different approaches to Twitter and how microblogging continues to evolve as a marketing and branding tool.

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