• 30Sep

    The challenge with being in a service business is, well, providing the best customer service. And providing the best service often means doing what’s best for your business and not necessarily what the client wants. After all, as a consultant you are the expert in your field, and the client is paying you for your expertise. In essence, they are paying you to disagree with them when necessary, and that is not always pleasant.AliceTeaPartyClose

    During my years working with different PR agencies I have worked with a number of difficult clients. My agency bosses always emphasized to me that the client is always right, even when they are wrong, and there have been many instances when I have been put in an uncomfortable situation because the client asked for six impossible things before breakfast, and the agency bosses were too concerned about losing the account to say “no.” (Note that this is not universally true, and that I have had some wonderful bosses in my day who would never ask me to compromise my professional integrity.) However, one of the advantages of running your own business is you get to say “no” when you want to, and you get to decide what’s impossible, what’s not, and what can be delivered before breakfast.

    The truth is, you run your business, your clients’ don’t. Granted, your clients pay the bills and keeping them happy keeps the lights on, but if you have a client who asks you to do something unethical or illegal, or even unpleasant, then you have to ask yourself how far you are willing to go to keep the customers satisfied.

    I have been following a lot of commentary these past two weeks about Netflix decision to split its streaming and DVD businesses, and the backlash over the latest changes to the Facebook interface. These changes have created a number of pissed off customers, which has generated a lot of negative traffic on the Web. As Eric Brown noted, however, in a recent blog post for Social Media Explorer entitled “Always Listening to the Customer is a Race to Mediocrity”:

    Perhaps we can all do a better job delivering news, however no one knows or sees what that Entrepreneur, CEO, or Business Owner sees. No one has the information he or she has to know why they made the decision they made. And here is another dirty little secret, your customers haven’t a clue about what your the next innovation or product release should be. Even the best evangelist, if they really exist don’t know the next answer, otherwise they would be the Entrepreneur.

    Your customers don’t have your best interests in mind, and they actually don’t really care if you stay in business, no matter how loyal they are. You have to determine your own future, which means you often have to make tough decisions to protect your business. You have to assess whether a client relationship is going to cost you more in the long run than it’s worth to you. And there are different ways to assess costs, whether the client is not respectful of your time which means you can’t service other clients; whether they aren’t respectful of your ethics which could damage your reputation; or they are just too hard to work with which will cost you your sanity.

    If you give your client your best counsel and they choose to reject it, that doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. But you don’t have to watch a train wreck either just to have the satisfaction of saying, “I told you so”; that won’t help your professional reputation. And you don’t have to be a slave to your clients, or let them abuse your professional relationship by demanding more than you are willing to commit to, or they are willing to actually pay for. It’s still your business, and sometimes you just have to just say “no!”

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  • 21Sep

    With this week’s changes to Facebook, there has been a rebellion among Facebook users. Facebook fans have turned in their rock concert lighters for torches are marching upon Mark Zuckerberg’s castle. However, despite the hoopla and gnashing of teeth, I don’t think there will be a mass exodus from Facebook any time soon. Facebook fans will continue to complain to their friends about what’s wrong with the new Facebook interface, and they inevitably will use Facebook to lodge their complaints.

    Do you see the logic here? Facebook is popular, extremely popular with a current populace of 750 million active users spending over 700 billion minutes per month on the service. People are not going to abandon Facebook, which is why it continues to be one of the most important online locations for your personal brand.facebooktraffic

    How do you turn traffic into repeat visitors? That’s the big question. The short answer is, “be interesting.” However, that’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s one thing to post baby pictures for your friends or the latest stupid video from YouTube. But it’s something completely different if you are a company trying to build a brand following. You need to keep the content interesting and relevant.

    The problem with social media is that it’s voracious and requires a steady diet of interesting material. So how do you keep it fresh?

    Here are a few ideas I spotted earlier today in a post from HubSpot on Facebook Page Ideas You Haven’t Tried Yet. I plan to try some of these for my own corporate fan page to see if going to experiment with these and see how they work. Rather than posting all 25, I want to share some of my favorites. I’d love to hear what works for you?

    • Don’t link to your Twitter feed. As the article notes, Twitter and Facebook are very different, and a Twitter feed will clutter your wall with junk that will cost you followers.
    • Use comments and “like” buttons to promote interest. Show that you are following others, and they will follow you in turn.
    • Ask for ideas. What should be your next topic, or product, or book, or whatever. Open the floor to outsiders to share.
    • Pose an open-ended question. Let followers fill in the blank or answer an open-ended question that has universal appeal.
    • Post teasers. Post partial entries or interesting insights from your blog or corporate news to promote traffic.\
    • Tag real people in your photos. It will call attention to those photographed and all their friends.
    • Post a mystery photo. Ask for identifiers or captions or guess a location or something about the photo – think Where’s Waldo?
    • Share photos from a local meet up or meeting. People like to see themselves online, and this will tie the photos to your brand.
    • Post pictures of interviewees and industry experts. If you are talking to industry pundits, use their photos to drive traffic to an interview or insights posted on your blog or web site.
    • Use infographics. More infographics are being used to explain ideas (like the map above showing Facebook traffic). The right infographic can be eye-catching and compelling and tell an interesting story.

    These are just a few of the ways to keep your Facebook content fresh and drive traffic. Be sure to keep your content relevant as well as interesting, and use whatever you post to promote your brand. Your followers or audience should know what to expect from your brand experience, and that extends to their social media interaction with your brand as well.

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  • 11Sep

    An interesting discovery came to light this week that may give all those self-proclaimed social media gurus pause. According to new research conducted by URL-shortening service bitly, the average shelf life of a social media post is about about three hours. I originally spotted this tidbit in a repost from HubSpot, which offered its own insights:

    By calculating what bitly is calling the link’s ‘half life’ (the time it takes a link to receive half the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak), bitly evaluated the persistence of 1,000 popular bitly links, and found some strikingly similar results.

    Half Life Research Results

    • The mean half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours.
    • The mean half life of a link on Facebook is 3.2 hours.
    • The mean half life of a link via ‘direct’ sources such as email or instant messaging clients is 3.4 hours.
    • The mean half life of a link on YouTube is 7.4 hours….

    image

    From this, bitly concludes that when it comes to the lifespan of a link (if you exclude YouTube from the equation), it’s not where the link is shared that matters; instead, it’s more important what the link shares (the content) that has the potential to attract more clicks and engagement.

    So what does this mean for marketers? HubSpot’s conclusion is that you need better quality content to promote engagement. That’s only part of the equation.

    I think of successful social media engagement as encompassing the three C’s: Content, Conversion, Community. The quality of the content drives conversion to build a following. It’s no surprise that social media content is short-lived. That’s the idea, and I often counsel my clients that social media content is highly perishable, so while it is important to think before you post, agonizing over the perfect tweet or a Pulitzer-worthy blog post can run counter to the purpose of social media – to provide easily digestible sound bites that add to the online conversation while promoting your perspective, i.e. your brand. The trick is to give those sound bites enough impact to promote resonance.

    So with this new revelation from the bitly research, marketers need to rethink their online activity in light of the three C’s:

    1. Content – The quality of the material does promote interest and engagement, so be sure you post quality information in order to gain the trust of your audience and give them something they can share with their own social media followers.

    2. Conversion – Whenever possible, give followers an ongoing reason to engage. If your material is consistently informative or entertaining, or particularly poignant about a specific topic, you will be able to convert readers into followers. Which leads to the third “C.”

    3. Community – If you can build an audience then they will share the wealth, and as a byproduct promote your brand. You want to build a loyal following who is willing to engage with you and spread the word.

    So even though your specific social media efforts have a relatively short half-life, the lasting impact should be felt through resonance. Whatever stone you choose to throw into the social media pond should produce ripples that will be felt long after the original post has been archived.

    And, of course, there are more tangible benefits, such as searchability. Everything posted on the web is discoverable, and even when the immediate echoes of a social media post fade away, that original content is still there to be rediscovered either by search or happenstance. The Internet has a long memory, and social media just feeds the discoverable archive, so even if the shelf-life of a post is an average of a few hours, that post still becomes part of the discoverable web, so you never know when some Internet archaeologist will uncover you post for some future purpose.

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  • 02Sep

    Here’s a short post in honor of Casual Friday and Labor Day. I have been working in and around Silicon Valley for 20 years and I have watched the dress code evolve. In the world of high tech, suits are considered evil and khaki slacks have become the common dress code. I wear khaki’s and polo shirts almost daily, but I still keep the suit and tie in reserve for business meetings because I believe in dressing for the client as a means of demonstrating respect. It’s part of knowing how to dress for success.Casual

    I actually was talking to a client yesterday who makes it a point of hiring retirees and older workers, and he recently hired an energetic young woman to manage the group. She is enthusiastic, and like many of her generation, shows the marks of her tribe – hair colored a shade nature never intended, facial piercings, and a few tattoos. I asked “How is she doing?” and the response from my client was that he had a frank conversation with her about her performance, including the recommendation to “lose the hardware” as a sign of respect for those she was managing. The oldsters don’t respect the piercings. I agree.

    It’s not that I am adverse to freedom of expression, or that you shouldn’t be allowed to dress as you like. However, if you want to earn respect in business, it has to start with your attire. I have worked with countless techies who show up for meetings in T-shirts, shorts, and Birkenstocks to outwardly celebrate their inner nerd. Okay, I get it, but it’s harder to accept strategic input from someone who dresses like my teenage stepson. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to dress seriously.

    I want to share a graphic and video from Entrepreneur.com that I spotted earlier today. The blog post, contributed by Ross McCammon, is entitled “How to Dress as an Entrepreneur,” and offers some interesting insights into the concept of dressing for success:

    Because clothes represent propriety. When you present yourself, your clothes connote either thoughtfulness or thoughtlessness. When you overdress, you have a better chance of ending up on the right side of propriety. Early on at least, your clothes are your agent. If your agent is a jackass, you still might get the gig, but why give yourself so much to overcome?

    Like managing up, I also believe in the concept of “dressing up.” You have to assume the attire of the role you wish to play, even if it feels like a costume. If you want to run with the chief executives, you have to assume the trappings of their tribe in order to fit in. It makes them feel more comfortable about you and your capabilities, and makes it easier to find what you have to say worth listening to.

    Happy Labor Day!

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