• 25Mar

    Over the years, I have worked with a number of companies in the technology security sector. In fact, I am currently working on a project for FaceTime Communications to launch a new software product to secure, track, and archive conversations on enterprise networks, including conversations sent over public IM networks. FaceTime has products that help corporate users secure Web 2.0 conversations on the enterprise, so when you log in to your Facebook or Twitter page from your office computer, you know that Big Brother in the IT department is watching.

    And there is good reason for these Web 2.0 watchdogs. Government regulations are driving corporate paranoia, and legal counsel , CFOs, and others are telling IT they have to keep track of ALL online conversations and data exchanges so they are prepared in case the company is audited for compliance with HIPAA, SOX, FINRA, or whatever regulatory agency matters to you. So private corporations are becoming increasingly concerned about threats from public networks, such as the introduction of some kind of malware, or more likely, some kind of data leak or employee malfeasance that puts the company at legal risk.

    But what if there was a free exchange of web information? What if organizations became less concerned about locking up their corporate data and more concerned with contributing to the greater pool of human knowledge and understanding. What is fascinating about the Internet and the World Wide Web is that is an open, self-policing entity. The reason that Wikipedia works, for example, is that people are inherently seekers of truth and will correct each other’s errors. The Web is a giant experiment in the democratization of data. There is an inherent faith that for every malicious rumor or deliberate lie posted on the Web, there will be hundreds of other posts with opposing views and accurate information, and the truth will find its way to the top of the search engines.

    Which is why I was fascinated by this latest report from the godfather of the web, Tim Berners Lee, who is calling for an open exchange of data between governments, scientists, and institutions. Just as the Web has the power to serve up more accurate information through democratization, by making more information public, there is an even greater opportunity for smart people to combine information to uncover new revelations and greater truths.

    Check out the video and tell me, is it better to lock the data vault and hide the key, or should we be less concerned about data security and more concerned about finding ways to share information in ways that will lead to new revelations, new solutions, and new ultimate truths?

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  • 18Mar

    YouTube Preview ImageErin go bragh! It’s Saint Patrick’s Day, which means we are all wearing green and dishing out the blarney. And one of the ongoing bits of blarney that continues to amuse me is the prospective clients who offer promises of untold riches and recognition, but no money. I sometimes think of these prospects as being like Popeye’s pal Wimpy, “I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a promotion program today.” Today is a day to remember that it’s all about the green.

    I use service providers all the time, and I respect what they do, and the fees that they charge. Whether they are doctors, lawyers, accountants, or Indian chiefs, you discuss their fees in advance and come to an understanding – you pay for their services. Even if you ultimately feel their service was inferior, if they fulfilled their contract, they need to be paid.

    Which is why it constantly perplexes me when people approach me and offer a piece of the gate or to share in the profits. I’ve had two such offers in two weeks. Clearly, the power of public relations and online marketing is proven, otherwise these types of companies wouldn’t seek out marketing communications assistance, no matter what the price. Naturally, you don’t want to overcharge for your services, but you also can’t work for free.

    So stop offering us a piece of your dream or promises of riches to come (assuming you get your funding, or the sales team meets their quota, or the market doesn’t tank, or there isn’t some form of fire, flood, or pestilence). Be prepared to pay a fair rate for quality work. If you are concerned about quality or performance, then check the references. In today’s online world you can learn almost anything about a prospective contractor. Use your resources, and trust your instincts. That’ s what I do before taking on a new client – I check them out to make sure they are worth representing. (Oh, yes, this game is played both ways.)

    If you need professional help to market your company or products, then prepare to pay the going rate. You wouldn’t ask a doctor to discount his fees, especially if he is getting ready to conduct surgery. So why trust your marcomm campaign to a hack for hire? Find the right resource and pay the fee. That’s the best way to assure you get quality attention and service.

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  • 15Mar

    The biggest problem most organizations face when they decide to enter the social media arena is lack of a game plan. They start dabbling with blogging, create a Facebook page, start using a Twitter account, but since they lack focus and commitment, they don’t develop the following and they lose interest. Social media is cheap, but it does require an investment of time and resources to succeed as an extension of your marketing program. More important than hard work, social media success requires a strategy. You need a game plan.

    Once again, I have to thank Paul Gillen for sharing his words of wisdom as to how to develop an effective social media strategy. In a recent blog post, Gillen outlines A Guide to Choosing Social Media Tools, which offers a four-step process that will increase your chances of social media success.

    1. Define the Objective: You have to start with a destination before you start out. Understand what you want to accomplish and work backwards. Are you trying to drive brand awareness? Build sales? Extend customer support? As Paul notes, you will probably need both online and offline tools to meet your business objectives. You have to understand what success looks like before you can measure social media results.
    2. Identify Metrics: Which brings us to the second point; you need a way to measure success. The beauty of social media is that it is easy to measure. You can measure the number of followers you acquire, the number of mentions, retweets, etc., but are these metrics of any real value? Consider other, more concrete metrics for ROI, such as increased number of sales, change in number of requests to speak or comment, number of media mentions, etc. Your best strategy is choosing three or four meaningful metrics. Be sure to check periodically to see if you reached your metric goals, then reassess and reset your metrics.
    3. Define Your Tactics: Social media can be really valuable, but it is not a magic bullet. Define your tactics, both online and offline, to assure you can reach your goals. For example, if your objective is lead generation, you may want to support your social media campaign with direct mail or other marketing tactics. If you are looking to build brand awareness, consider supplementing social media with advertising, direct marketing, speaking engagements, and similar strategies.
    4. Choose Your Tools: There are different tools in your social media arsenal, and each serves a different purpose. Twitter is a good news feed, for example. Facebook provides a location where you can interact with customers and others and get feedback in the form of comments. A blog is a good place to articulate your personal brand and package information that you can use to feed other channels. Use the right tools for the right purpose.

    I have been working with my clients to build social media into the marketing mix, but as an extension of existing marketing strategies, not as a standalone program. The value of social media has been proven and it’s certainly here to stay, but don’t sacrifice other tried and true programs in favor of a social media campaign. Online social marketing is just another part of the program.

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  • 09Mar

    I often get interesting tidbits from clients and professional contacts. My associates at Gumas Advertising recently sent me an interesting item from MediaPost that shows that social media is on the rise with small and medium-sized businesses. This from an interesting research post on “Social Media Adoption Yields New Customers For Small Businesses”:

    “The third wave of the Small Business Success Index, by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, reports social media adoption by small businesses has doubled from 12% to 24% in the last year. Small businesses are increasingly investing in applications including blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.”

    Social media is working for everyone looking to expand their business. Key findings from this latest survey include:

    • 75% surveyed have a company page on a social networking site
    • 61% use social media for identifying and attracting new customers
    • 57% have built a network through a site like LinkedIn
    • 45% expect social media to be profitable in the next 12 months

    Businesses are finding that they can cost-effectively prospect for new customers through social media outlets (61%), and they can expand brand awareness without breaking their budget. And social media is a great way to interact with customers.

    Of course, there are downsides as well. Half of those surveyed said that social media takes more time than expected. And 17% suffer from what I call Yelp! Syndrome and are afraid that social media leaves them open to public criticism; and 6% feel social media has actually hurt their businesses more than helping build business.

    Still, social media continues to be the new driver for businesses of all shapes and sizes. It’s cost-effective, and has proven itself as a means to promote customer loyalty and bring in new customers. And that’s good news for consultants. As Janet Wagner, director of the Center for Excellence in Service at the University of Maryland who is quoted in the research, says that “Social media levels the playing field for small businesses… ” And it provides new areas of opportunity for those of us who can help businesses harness social media.

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  • 02Mar

    This marks my 67th blog post for the PRagmatist, and I realize I am only a neophyte in the world of social media. I started this blog because I recognized that to preach the power of social media, you have to practice it. And I have had some success over the last six months. I have just launched a new social media campaign for a client after talking to them for over a year about using Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets to promote their research.

     We know social media works, but as with so many things, we often don’t pursue those things we know are good for us because they take work. The number of blogs abandoned along the information highway is growing at an astronomical rate, mostly because the bloggers lack the fortitude, insight, and drive to maintain them. And the problem is compounded in a corporate setting because now you are dealing with group processes. You need to get different departments and stakeholders involved, and make them accountable as part of their MBOs or other responsibilities. But people get busy, priorities change, coming up with new topics is hard, and another blog bites the dust.

    Which is why I was gratified to see a practical and pragmatic approach to blogging offered by Page One Public Relations out of Silicon Valley. While I question whether their ghostblogging strategy is in the true spirit of social media, their basic methodology has merit. Maintaining a corporate blog as part of your social media strategy is not rocket science, but it requires procedures and protocols to keep the content fresh every week, and Page One has identified the big three to start:

    1. Be a reporter, or perhaps more accurately, an observer. I maintain an electronic clipboard (thank you Microsoft for thinking of OneNote), and as I run across interesting tidbits in e-mail or on the web, I clip them for my blog. As a web commentator, you run into interesting items every day. Record them, revisit them, and blog about them.
    2. Be an editor, and offer a vision for your blog. As with all such projects, someone needs to be in charge. You need an editor to impose editorial rule and make sure content is clean and consistent, and deadlines are being met. In a corporate blog, you will have multiple voices, but someone needs to conduct to make sure they all sing from the same corporate script.
    3. Promote, promote, promote. Once you get your blog up and running, promote it. Seek feedback. Call for comments. And get the word out there. Post everywhere you can think of – Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Twitter, you name it. Consider using multimedia to spice things up and leverage YouTube (videos do well in search rankings). Cultivate an audience and keep them engaged. Talk to your followers.

    The real challenge for corporate bloggers isn’t so much keeping it fresh, bit keeping it interesting. Don’t sell, converse. Talk about issues, not products. Engage with customers and prospects about topics that are important and universal, and don’t get mired in your own market speak.

    And if you run into difficulties, we professionals are here to help you get it sorted.

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