Would Sarah Palin Be Your Nightmare Public Relations Client?

In my last blog post, I posed the question, “Would Sarah Palin be your dream public relations client?” Based on another blog post by freelance writer Carol Tice, I noted that Palin has a lot of the qualities you would want in a PR client: she loves the publicity, isn’t afraid to speak her mind, she stays on message, and she makes an impression. I posed the same question to some of my PR peers on LinkedIn and got a divergent set of responses. Putting politics aside, I think the vehemence of some of the responses and the wide range of observations and their tone is a testament to the power of the Palin brand. As a number of my fellow PR pros pointed out, “She’s famous for being famous,” but does that mean she would make a good PR client?

There were some interesting observations that I want to share here. The real issue for me is trying to ascertain what goes into a good client? I have a few of my own criteria:

– I always want to work with senior executives; the decision-makers. I find that working with marketing managers, communications directors, and middle managers who have to clear strategy and messaging with the C-level suite makes it really hard to do your job. After all, the news business moves quickly, and if you have to run an interview opportunity or quote through a committee to get approval you’ll never get in the story. It also makes PR counsel more valuable because you can work with C-staff to determine what their market objectives are and how you can help them realize those objectives.

– I also like working with senior executives who believe in what they are selling. My late father was a consummate salesman with very high integrity, and what he taught me was you can’t sell a product you don’t believe in. You can’t fake passion. And if an executive is passionate about his company and his product or services, that comes through in an interview every time.

– I like clients with an ego (or at least a personality). Long ago I adopted an approach that a previous agency employer called “executive as brand.” Let’s face it; companies are boring but people are interesting. So it’s usually up to the CEO to carry the corporate brand. After all, where would Virgin be without Richard Branson, or Apple without Steve Jobs, or Google without Sergey Brin and Larry Page?

– And I like working with clients who have a good story to tell that addresses a real need. After working in high-tech for many years, I have run across a number of “Field of Dreams” clients who believe, “If you build it, they will come.” If you can tell a story about something that solves a real-world problem that people identify with, then you have a winner.

So why would Sarah Palin be your worst nightmare as a PR client? The LinkedIn crew has spoken. Here are some of their observations:

“The job of the PR person would be bag-carrier/firefighter not consultant or advisor.”

“No, just cause I’d be constantly having to put out her PR fires.”

“Why would anyone want a client who just wants to famous? Do you really believe she has any political inclinations? She’s no Kennedy. No social conscious, whatsoever. Besides, how can you take anyone serious who decides to push family onto reality programs? Not worth the effort!”

“Sarah Palin does not appear to be a team player . . . and PR is definitely a team sport. At the end of the day, and despite hard work and strategy, I believe that for the PR professional there would be that lurking dark cloud. You know . . . the one that threatens to force "the team" right back where they started. The thought of it makes me shutter.”

“I think Palin gets media attention, at least 9 times out of 10, for the wrong reasons. It’s almost always a gaffe, followed by back-pedaling and retractions. Not an ideal client at all.”

It would be a fun ride, and a smart PR person would keep very good notes on the entire ordeal and have the book deal – "I Chased Sarah’s Mouth" as the exit strategy. Better than an IRA for retirement.”

What do you think? What characteristics do you want in your ideal client?

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Would Sarah Palin Be Your Dream Public Relations Client?

imageI love seeing what my fellow professionals are writing about. I turn up lots of interesting tidbits and ideas from my fellow writers and marketeers, and I like to follow a number of bloggers who manage to serve up with fresh content on a regular basis. One of my favorite bloggers is Carol Tice, an accomplished freelance writer who is not only good at her craft, but good at promoting herself.

I now want to take a moment to share my admiration for successful freelance writers. The first freelancer I ever met was my Uncle Ed, who was very prolific and successful. In the age before the Internet, he would hear a new joke and mail it to Playboy or come up with a new story idea to sell to the New Yorker or Field and Stream. Uncle Ed was creative and a good marketer, able to sell a story idea to a wide range of magazines. Early in my career, when I was working as a magazine editor in Idaho, one of my good freelancer friends, Hank Nuwer, taught me about the discipline of freelance writing. Hank would rise early in the morning, around 3:00, and spend the next eight hours writing, whether the words would flow or not (which left the afternoon free for trout fishing). It’s that kind of focus and discipline that makes a successful freelancer.

And as I have been following Carol Tice’s blog, I can see she has the same creativity and commitment to her craft as a freelance writer. Her latest blog post about Sarah Palin inspired me, because the lessons she offers to freelance writers to help them promote themselves can be just as easily applied to any public relations endeavor. Her basic point is that Palin has figured out how to get attention, and keep getting attention. Whether you agree with her views or her politics doesn’t matter, she’s a good self-promoter. I have not seen her new reality television show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” but it has been getting a lot of attention and a fan following. My wife mentioned the show to me over dinner this evening, and even though she is not a fan of Palin’s politics, she said her views of Palin have changed since she saw a couple of episodes of the show. Palin has the promoter’s gene, like Buffalo Bill and P.T. Barnum – she knows how to pack ‘em in and remember why they came.

And I wish some of my clients could learn from their example. I have been preaching social media to my clients for some time, and the problem most of them have is they are not interesting in being social. They don’t want to invest the energy in promoting their personal brand as an extension of their corporate brand. They lack that promoter gene.

So here is a quick recap from some of Carol Tice’s tips for freelancers, and why freelance writers or anyone seeking publicity can learn from the Sarah Palin promotional example:

  1. Palin is fearless. She makes a mistake or gets called on some error she makes in a speech and it doesn’t phase her. She just keeps rolling on. I think many PR programs fail largely because of fear of failure. You have to be willing to get out there and take a risk.
  2. Palin loves the limelight. Clearly, she is a believer in the adage that all publicity is good publicity, and she is willing to get other there and mingle to be known.
  3. Palin is not easily embarrassed. She ignores the elephant in the room, like her daughter having a child of out wedlock while she’s running as vice president, and just sticks to her message. None of my clients would be able to show that kind of tenacity in a tough interview.
  4. Palin has a game plan. She is not interested in abandoning the plan just because it didn’t work the first time. She’s refining her strategy and is determined to get elected to higher office.
  5. Palin is clearly different. She is not like most politicians and clearly stands out in a crowd, which makes her easier to promote. And, of course….
  6. Palin is memorable! She makes outrageous comments, challenges her critics head on, and leaves a lasting impression. If I could get more of my clients to use memorable quotes, anecdotes, and sayings that would make them memorable, they would be quoted more often. Too bad we can’t see Russia from Silicon Valley.

Love her or hate her, you have to admire Sarah Palin’s ability to effectively promote her own brand. She knows how to get the attention she wants and how to stay on message. I wonder who is brave enough to do her media training?

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The Science of Branding – Marketing Meets Physics

I have been talking to a number of clients about branding lately – what goes into a brand, how personal branding ties to corporate brand, how to think of social media and branding, etc. These discussions let me to one of my old standby texts on branding by Al and Laura Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. And I began to consider how exact is the science of branding? Can you really define a brand using scientific terms?

One of the more active discussions on one of my LinkedIn marketing communications groups asks the question, “Define ‘a brand’ in a single sentence.” The responses are quite diverse (all 750 of them) and range from “a slogan” or “a promise delivered” to “the emotional relationship between a company, a product or a service and a purchaser” or a “reputation.” The fact that this question elicited so many different replies just shows that it is challenging to define a brand. However you define it, a brand is subject to specific rules.

Which is why I was fascinated to run across this presentation on TED by Dan Cobley, who offers a new perspective on the science of branding. Apparently, the laws of physics also can be applied to marketing and brand management. Cobley makes some interesting parallels:

  • Newton’s second law of motion – Force = Mass x Acceleration. The more massive a brand, the more force you need to change its positioning or direction.
  • Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – The act of measuring a particle changes the measurement, just as the act of observing consumers changes their behavior. (Think of that the next time you set up a focus group.)
  • The Scientific Method – You cannot prove a hypothesis by observation, you can only disprove it. The same is true of brands; they fulfill their expected promise,until they don’t and let you down. A single brand disaster, such as the Toyota recall, is enough to destroy the brand.
  • Increasing Entropy – The measure of the disorder of a system will always increase. In today’s world of social media, the stronger your brand image, the more you will lose control of it to digital comment and social media as you brand becomes dispersed.

Some interesting ideas about the “science” of branding and and how physical laws can serve as marketing metaphors. The floor is now open to comments….

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Shopping for a Social Media Consultant – What You Need to Look for in the Man Behind the Curtain

What does it take to launch an effective social media program? What kind of help do you look for? Finding a good social media consultant is a lot like hiring any consultant – you have to understand what you need and find a resource who has the skills that match your needs. It’s curious that a lot of marketing professionals and CEOs forget the basic rules of hiring subcontractors, and they look for a consultant with mystical powers who can help them tame this unknown monster called Social Media.

I was gratified to see a recent blog post on this topic that offers a lot of common sense advice about hiring social media help. The basics include:

1. Determine your objectives. You need to understand what you want to get out of your social media campaign. That doesn’t mean producing the next killer viral video or getting your corporate blog off the ground. It really means what you expect to gain from adding social media to your marketing mix. Why do you need it and how do you want to measure success?

2. Does your consultants have the chops? Has he or she got the right expertise, and can they deliver what you need? You need to assess their metrics of success for other clients. What have they done and how do you know they know their stuff. Don’t be fooled by the names of high-profile clients they list on their web site. And don’t be put off by social  media mumbo jumbo. A social media marketing program has the same measurable results as any other program, so don’t let the newness of the medium get in the way of the metrics.

3. What can this consultant do for me? You need to match your prospective consultant’s capabilities to your marketing needs. Ask for samples. And ask questions about how what they offer maps to your objectives. How does it matter to your brand, and how will they make a difference.

As I talk to prospective clients about their social media needs, I encounter a lot of confusion and uncertainty. SMBs in particular understand the power of social media, but aren’t sure (or sometimes aren’t completely convinced) that social media can help them. That’s when we get into discussing the tough questions, like what are their real social media objectives, and do they have the resources to really sustain a social media campaign.You have to identify their real points of pain before you can determine if a social media program can relieve some of that pain. If the consultant is good, they will be able to map the use of social media tools to the prospects’ marketing goals. If they overpromise or say that social media is the cure for all their marketing ills, there is definitely something amiss.

For many companies, the real pain is usually pretty basic – it’s lack of resources. They want to embrace social media, but they can’t make it a natural extension of their internal marketing program. They don’t have the time to Tweet or post to Facebook, and senior managers are too busy running their business to talk about it. And many companies are rightly concerned about losing control of their messaging and their brand if they turn social media over to junior staffers (the social media channels are clogged with examples of poor representation of corporate brands). These companies want to outsource social media because they don’t have the time and staff to deal with it internally.

The challenge for the social media consultant is to provide value and support the client’s program objectives without overpromising. The client needs to be willing to give you the time to build a following. They also need to understand that while you can help them facilitate a social media program, the real value of social media is personal engagement. Social media is primarily social, and it’s tough to outsource authenticity and personal interaction. (We need to leave a discussion of the ethics of ghost-tweeting and ghost-blogging for another discussion.)

In those situations, I find the greatest value for clients is helping them mine their brand intelligence and package their brand insights in a way that makes it easer to feed the social media machine. As part of any social media program, you have to inventory your content and what internal intelligence is worth sharing with your contacts. A consultant can help you gather your content, repackage it to highlight your brand and its value, and show you where to cast the bread upon the social media waters so it will do the most good. And they can help you define ways to measure social media success.

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The Specter Behind the Tweet – Ghost Writing, Authenticity, and Social Media

Halloween seems an appropriate time to talk about ghost-tweeting. I have been following a very lively discussion thread on one of my LinkedIn groups about the ethics of ghost-tweeting. In the world of social media, it’s all about authenticity. And with a microblogging forum like Twitter, should we expect the voice/tweeter on the other end of the social media discussion to be the person he or she says they are?

The concept of ghostwriters has been around for as long as man has been putting ideas down on paper, papyrus, or clay tablets. It has become accepted practice that when a celebrity or politician write his or her memoirs that, more likely than not, there is a ghost in the background, whether credited or not. It’s expected. But in the world of social media, the idea is to engage, not just post. I have seen a number of social media experts (myself included upon occasion) who forget the rules of social engagement in favor of posting social media spam – self-promotional content that may, or may not be of interest but is certainly not posted to stimulate discussion. Clearly, these posters are striving to tap the good will of the social media machine. And if they are busy executives or celebrities or politicians, they will probably outsource their tweets.

What makes the ghost-tweeting concept challenging is the authenticity question. As a number of my peers have noted, social media is all about engagement and being “real.” If you are engaging in a threaded conversation, you should be able to assume that the party on the other end of the post is whom he or she says they are. Whether you are Joe Schmoe or the CEO of Acme Inc., if you are engaging in a conversation, then you don’t need a ghost. If, however, you are providing a news or information thread and the data is flowing one-way, then it’s all about the brand and not about the conversation, but does that make ghost-tweeting acceptable?

The Twitter phenomenon has presented some new challenges for communications professionals. Some argue that we have been ghost-writing speeches, articles, and other content for clients for years, and social media is just another channel. Others argue that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets, but their very nature, demand a more personal approach for the sake of authentic interaction, and ghosting social media is unacceptable. Still other are struggling with a hybrid approach, where the ghost is identified by some kind of tag or initials.

Some organizations seem to have figured out how to deal with Twitter with sincerity, and without compromising the spirit of engagement. Two examples offered from a colleague in the LinkedIn thread are @StateFarm and @TMobile. In both cases the identifier cites the twitter feed as that sanctioned by the brand, and the State Farm feed even goes so far as to identify the agency serving as the ghost in the machine. Full disclosure, but the posts all seem genuine and in the first person.

I seem to find myself talking to more and more clients who need help supporting their social media strategy. It’s usually not so much that they need help understanding the approach, but they lack the time, resources, and content to launch an effective social media campaign. As communications professionals, we are experts at creating content. How we deliver it, and with what voice and degree of authenticity seems to be the real challenge.

So how do you approach ghost-tweeting for your clients? Of course we know that not all Twitterers are authentic and there is someone at work behind the curtain. Just ask @Jesus, @SantaClaus, @HomerSimpson who ghosts for them on Twitter. But does that mean it’s okay to ghost for your client or company without proper disclosure? How do you exorcize the ghost in the social media machine?

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Journalism is Dead, Long Live the Blog – the Birth of Blogvertising

The Web has been bending our understanding of traditional journalism for some time. The United States is one of the only countries in the world that guarantees freedom of the press as a constitutional right. Part of the basis of that freedom is the implicit understanding that advertising does not affect editorial. To maintain journalistic integrity, your editorial opinion cannot be bought by advertising dollars. Those of us who have worked as journalists refer to the separation of advertising and editorial as the metaphorical separation of church and state.

Forbes just broke that model with the acquisition of True/Slant. According to the profile story this week in Advertising Age, with the acquisition, editor Lewis Dvorkin returns to Forbes with a new editorial model where staff writers, contributors, and even paid advertisers are given a Forbes-branded blog forum; a model that Dvorkin has labeled a “much more scalable content-creation model.” To quote from AdAge:

This isn’t the “sponsored post” of yore; rather, it is giving advocacy groups or corporations such as Ford or Pfizer the same voice and same distribution tools as Forbes staffers, not to mention the Forbes brand…

“In this case the marketer or advertiser is part of the Forbes environment, the news environment,” Mr. DVorkin said in an interview at an empty restaurant across Fifth Avenue from the historic headquarters of the 93-year-old magazine.

The product itself is called AdVoice, and the notion is that in a world of social media, corporations have to become participants and, in a sense, their own media companies. Corporations these days also have to face the practical problem of fewer business reporters left to pitch. “There’s fewer ways to get your message out, because there are fewer reporters, and that’s a fact,” he said.

Granted, in the world of social media content is king, but to give paid advertisers equal access seems to be going a bit far. It wasn’t that long ago that the influence of bloggers granted them access to the press room. Although we PR pros are continually reminded that “bloggers are different” and “read their content and approach them gently,” the blogtocracy have been granted the same privileges as card-carrying journalists, even though they aren’t constrained by the same rules of ethics. In the blogosphere, opinion rules and facts, well they are sometimes nice to have as well.

So with this new shift in Forbes editorial direction, the rules haven’t just changed, but the entire rule book has been thrown out the window. Granted, there are fewer traditional news vehicles than ever before, and we are moving into a brave new world of online journalism. But that doesn’t mean we should abandon the lessons of the past. Early on in this blog, I commented on the important role of pamphleteers and citizen journalists. What differentiates the citizen journalist from the Dvorkin model is avarice – pimping the Forbes brand to give advertisers space in the blogosphere seems to be a violation of the rules to me.

One of the first rules of social media is disclosure – tell them where you are coming from and which side of the ax you are grinding. Disclosure does not excuse bad reporting or bad behavior, but at least the reader is forewarned. This new model that Forbes is experimenting with seems just plain wrong. It not only blurs the lines of legitimate journalism, it erases them completely. As the article states:

Consumer marketers such as P&G and Johnson & Johnson have years of experience creating branded entertainment, and many have arms dedicated to creating entertainment properties. But the motivations have broadened in an age of social media. There’s an ongoing conversation about corporations — not always nice, as BP or Toyota could tell you — and corporations feel they must participate.

The changes at Forbes since it bought True/Slant and brought Mr. DVorkin back have gone beyond strategy. They’ve also included an exodus of top-level editors, two of whom declined to comment for this story.

So where does online entertainment end and dispassionate reporting begin, or vice versa? In a world where everyone becomes a news source, all sources become suspect. As so-called “legitimate” news vehicles struggle to survive in a world where information is available at the click of a mouse, other news groups like Forbes decide to turn the old journalistic values on their heads for the sake of profit cloaked as participation in the online conversation. It’s becoming increasingly clear that we need a journalistic touchstone to tell the real news sources from the emerging online imposters.

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Don’t Forget to Back Up Your Life

I am writing this blog entry on a shiny new Toshiba laptop computer, having struggled to keep my trusty old Dell laptop afloat for the past few weeks. Since I am an aspiring literati as well as a marketing guy, I am really poor at doing my own IT, and my old computer kept deteriorating after replacing the second hard driveand recovering from a nasty virus, so it was time for an upgrade. This brings me to the topic of backups.

Since I run my entire business on my computer, I have become a fanatic about redundancy. Backups are our friends, and I learn that lesson again and again on a regular basis. (The latest fiasco was spending days trying to recover from a corrupted Outlook .PST file, but that’s a story for a different forum and a different audience.) Backup files can save you when you really need them, and with more consumer cloud computing tools emerging, there’s almost no excuse not to keep a backup handy. I have become a recent advocate of Carbonite, not because it does a better backup job or is less expensive than any other package (how hard is it to store bits and bytes and provide web access?), but because I can access Carbonite backup files from my iPhone. I already have been saved on more than one occasion because I was able to immediate send a profile sheet or press release from a backup when I didn’t have my laptop handy.

But what about your social media persona? Do you back up your online brand? Clearly you should. What if someone hacks your life? It’s very common to have your Facebook account hacked, but if you lost control of your online identity would you be able to recover? I recently ran across a blog post on the Gray Matter Minute that provides tips and a list of social media backup tools including Backupify, Tweetake, and Socialware Sync, all designed to archive your online activities for later recovery.

Of course, it may not be important for you to keep a record of every Tweet or every Facebook exchange. But keeping track of your online activities is becoming increasingly important for legal considerations. Through my work with client FaceTime Communications, I am learning more about regulated industries like banking, financial services, energy trading, and others that have to archive every electronic conversation, including social media exchanges. Bodies such as FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, are issuing new guidelines that define postings on Facebook and other social media sites as advertising or soliciting potential clients, which means conversations need to be stored and searchable in case of an audit. Having a reliable backup of your online activity could save an enormous amount of time and expense.

So consider backing up your online life. Having an archive your online activities is not a bad idea, especially if you have to justify what you may or may not have said later. You never know when you might be dragged into some kind of legal action for something you said online. And you never know when you may have to produce evidence to your best friend or your spouse if you ever get into a tit-for-tat argument about something allegedly shared online. You just never know.

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Web Marketing is About Creating Links to Your Passions

I am inspired by Catherine Mohr. Of course, you probably have not heard of Catherine Mohr. She is a self-professed “geek” who designs surgical robots by day and worries about the environment and building a green house in her spare time. I first encountered Catherine Mohr through a TED presentation, where she talked about her environmental concerns and her desire to build a green house. Like most people of my generation, I am concerned about the environment, so I watched the video and thought, “Wow! there’s some very insightful stuff here.”

Now here is where things get interesting and the Web comes into play. I decided I wanted to learn more about this medical technologist/environmentalist/geek, so I “Googled” her. What I uncovered was a rich online persona, including a LinkedIn profile, Facebook profile, and other online tidbits that would tell me more about this woman and her passions. And then I ran across a KALW-FM interview. KALW is one of my favorite Bay Area NPR affiliates, and I was intrigued to see she had been interviewed for the Crosscurrents news program. Now I had a chance to hear the professional side of Catherine Mohr, and learn more about surgical spiders and her other passion, developing surgical robots that can go where no human surgeon can.

And I knew I wanted to blog about this woman because what she is doing is interesting and important. My stepdaughter has taught me a lot about environmentalism and eco-responsibility, and Mohr’s green construction presentation was quite thought-provoking. And the geekier aspects of designing surgical robots appealed to my own inner geek. But what would make Catherine Mohr a suitable topic for a blog about public relations and online marketing?

The answer, of course, was the way that I discovered her and the effective way she has built an online brand that provides a fairly complete portrait that spans both her personal and professional personas. Whether she intended it or not, Catherine Mohr had created an integrated marketing campaign that builds awareness for her personal and professional passions, and drives awareness for Intuitive Surgical and the DaVinci Surgical System. If I hadn’t run across her TED presentation on green building practice I would never have uncovered Intuitive Surgical.

The threaded connections of the Web are diverse and deep, and the blog entry you post today could help promote your latest professional triumph, or lead to your last online embarrassment. So be proactive and be positive. Understand that every move you make online reflects not only on you, but your employer, your family, and everyone to whom you are connected. If you understand the power of the web, you can tap it to build connections and a personal brand that will follow you and promote your passions, no matter what they are.

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Incorporating Social Media into Your Marketing Game Plan

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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The Numbers Don’t Lie – Social Media is Producing for Small Business

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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