Counting Your Contracts Before They Are Signed

badhireFor those of you are consultants or sole practitioners, you understand the need to balance your workload in order to provide superior customer service without stretching yourself too thin. I have run a “virtual agency” for a number of years – that means I have a database of contacts whom I can call on in a pinch to help with a last-minute client request or a new contract. The advantage of the virtual agency model is that you can scale your operation without maintaining unnecessary staff or overhead. And the clients still get your expertise instead of a handoff to a junior person; a failing I have identified with most large agencies who use the “bait and switch,” bringing in the senior team to close the contract and then the client never sees them again. Of course the challenge of consulting, or any business, is that you have to plan your workload to make best use of available resources.

That’s why I was frustrated this week by a flurry of new business activity that failed to pan out. I think it was a combination of miscommunication and expectations on both side. At the start of the week I had three new contracts pending; verbal agreements with commitments like “we are ready to go and need you now!” By the end of the week two of the three contracts faded away, despite the verbal commitments and the signing of NDAs. It seems the prospects’ priorities and budgets changed. I guess a handshake on a deal isn’t worth what it used to be.

My dilemma, or course, is that I had to find the resources to support the new work, which as a good consultant I did before committing to the contracts. Now I have the resources lined up and no work. It would be a bigger problem if I had staff waiting idle in the wings rather than other consultants awaiting instructions. But I still find it irksome that experienced executives from profitable companies can’t manage their operations more effectively. It’s not as though they are asking for a quote on a car or an estimate on a construction job – not once they have looked you in the eye and said “you’re hired.” If you have already written the proposal, given your best advice up front, and received a commitment from the prospect, there should be no question about moving forward.

Consultants aren’t protected by the same labor laws as employees, and there is always an element of risk with being self-employed. I have been stiffed by a client or two in the past 20 years, and often have had to renegotiate contracts to accommodate changing client needs and budgets. It’s never pleasant, but it’s a necessary part of consulting.

What can you do to protect yourself? Here are some thoughts based on my experience:

1. Discount for cash up front. If you need to close a deal, cash is king. I usually ask for a retainer when I take on a new client. If they are willing to put their cash down up front, then I know they are serious. And if they are willing to show me the money, then I am usually willing to give them a break and show them the discount. It’s a good way to set the ground rules and cement the relationship.

2. It’s all about expectation setting. You need to make sure the client knows what they are buying, which is not as obvious as it sounds. Provide a list of deliverables and, if you can, a timeline for delivery. Your best bet is to take the guesswork our of the contract, and they will commit.

3. “Pay me for process, pay me for results.” This is an adage that was passed on to me by one of my first clients, and I continue to live by it. You can pay me for process, like keeping timesheets and activity reports, or you can pay me to deliver the goods. If I can focus on the objective, you get more value in the end. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let process get in the way.

4. Set your terms up front. I always give my clients an escape clause. Most agencies I have worked with use 30-day termination clauses in their contracts, and I find that makes the uninitiated nervous. Be willing to compromise. Offer 10-day or 15-day out so they don’t feel trapped.

5. Know when to dump a bad client. The difference between hiring staff and hiring a consultant is like the difference between marriage and dating. If you hire staff to deal with your problem, it’s a much bigger commitment, since most staffers cost 150% percent of their salary when you add in benefits and overhead. By comparison, consultants are a cheap date, and if it’s a bad date, know enough to walk away. If you aren’t getting what you need or there is something that doesn’t feel right, it’s better to cut and run than hope it’s going to get better.

6. Stand up for yourself. Okay, consultants are easy targets. They are sole practitioners; hired guns with only expertise to sell. So when a client decides to stiff you and complains you didn’t deliver, it’s time to look inside and ask yourself, “is this a valid complaint, or are you getting stiffed?” Consultants seem to be fair game for unscrupulous companies who just don’t want to pay. You don’t have to take it. There are law firms our there that will work for you on contingency. I recall a client many years ago who claimed they were underserviced and wouldn’t pay. I had nothing to lose so I found a lawyer to sue them (out of state) and since my complaint held up an IPO, they paid at least two-thirds of what they owed, which was better than nothing. The bottom line was they expected me, as a consultant, to give up and go away. Don’t.

It would be nice to think that all clients are willing to honor their obligations on a handshake. They often don’t. So learn to protect yourself with solid contracts and well-defined deliverables and business practices that put you in control. Just because you choose to maintain a small business doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be mighty.

Please follow and like us:

Hiding Behind the Anonymity of the Web

My recent blog post about marketing professional who have lost the art of picking up the phone resonated with a lot of my peers on LinkedIn. A number of seasoned PR pros noted that the younger professionals seem to suffer from “phone fright,” and that Generation Y would rather send e-mail or text than pick up a phone. However, I think the anonymity of the web points to a larger issue.

I recently spotted a column on CNN written by sports writer Jeff Pearlman about his encounter with an online hater and how he tracked him down. Although the Internet detective story isn’t quite as exciting as The Cuckoo’s Egg, the confession of the online hater is revealing. After tracking him down, his online hate-monger confessed:

“You know what’s funny?” Andy says. “I enjoy your writing. But I disagreed with you [about Bagwell] and I got caught up in the moment. When you read something you think is bull—-, you’re gonna respond passionately. Was I appropriate? No. Am I proud? Not even a little. It’s embarrassing. But the internet got the best of me.”

Andy pauses. It’s an awkward few seconds. He is not happy I called, and later pleads, “Please don’t eviscerate me.” But, to his credit, he takes responsibility, and says this is something he needs to work on.

“All I can say is, I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m truly sorry.

So let’s consider how the anonymity of the web plays out in professional communications. It allows the upcoming generation of PR professionals to hide behind email or social media. As one of my PR peers noted, it’s one thing to acquire an email address from a database and throw a message into cyberspace in hopes of a reply. It’s another thing to actually network to make a connection so you can collect a mobile phone number or a Facebook invitation and then say, “Hey, I have a story idea for you.”

And the anonymity of email goes the other way as well. Sending an email pitch to a reporter makes it easy to ignore. You can craft the perfect story, be right on message, with supporting facts and a unique angle and, because it came in via email, it’s easy to ignore or file for later. If you get as much email as I do, it’s hard to sift the nuggets from the avalanche of spam so it’s no wonder that email pitches don’t get the attention they may or may not deserve.

Another of my colleagues commenting on the LinkedIn thread noted that he has talked to a number of reporters who admitted reading the email but they needed a personal call to cement the pitch. People want personal contact, and the ability to hide behind an email, or even a Twitter or Facebook update, undermines that contact. Not that social networking isn’t valuable, but it can’t replace the exchange of ideas promoted by a telephone call or a meeting.

Making a connection via LinkedIn or Facebook might make the connection more personal, but it’s still too easy to ignore. You need to reach out and make a personal contact via phone to cement a relationship. Once you’ve made contact you can have a meaningful dialogue that will yield real benefits.

Please follow and like us:

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?

Please follow and like us:

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….

Please follow and like us:

The Social Media Marketing Placebo

As I speak to clients more and more about social media strategies, it is clear that the potential power of social networking has almost everyone mesmerized. Social media offers the potential to interact with prospects and customers in new way that promotes peer-based marketing. Through the power of buzz, you can get your message in front of hundreds or even thousands of new people, who tell their friends, and they tell their friends. And how cool is that.

But most executives still don’t understand social media marketing. They think if they set up a Twitter feed or a blog their marketing woes are over. Or if they simply use Facebook and LinkedIn to spam their prospects with marketing messages they will fill their sales pipeline for the next six months.

As with any discipline, social media marketing has its own unique set of rules, and its own discipline. Anyone turning to social media as a panacea for their marketing woes is kidding themselves. Sure, adding social media can strengthen your marketing program, but it can’t do the whole job.

I recently spotted an article in Web 2.0 Journal outlining Five Misconceptions About Social Media Marketing, where SEO and Web marketing strategist Brace Rennels points out the biggest fallacies that most marketing execs have regarding social media:

1. Social media works as a standalone program – Social media doesn’t work without a foundation behind it. You can use social media to promote other aspects of your program, like a webinar, a white paper, or some other offering, but what you have to say has to have some value to your audience. There has to be real content behind the program.

2. You need a social media expert – Actually, you shouldn’t outsource your social media, although you can contract some help to guide you. The best programs are the one that find the internal experts, tap their knowledge and their passion, and then show them how to build their social network themselves. With social media the idea is to share your ideas with others, and there is no substitute for authenticity.

3. “If you build it they will come” – Just setting up a Facebook page or a Twitter feed won’t build a following. You have to have a plan that includes what your social media objectives are, who you want to attract, and how you can engage with those people in a compelling way. It takes time, thought, and commitment to build an online community, and you have to nurture online relationships to get your followers to keep coming back for fresh insights.

4. How do you stop the naysayers and the critics? – You don’t. The whole idea is to provide an open forum that welcomes critics as well as fans. If you try to shut down the naysayers or you can’t honestly engage with the critics, your social media program will backfire. By way of example, check out this week’s blog post on PR101 by Jeff Cole. He offers the example of Cook’s Source magazine, who used its social media forum to address a charge of copyright violation and the disastrous result until the editors took a deep breath and realized they were in the wrong. (It’s a great parable in the power of social media.)

5. You don’t have a social media presence – If you have employees, then you probably have some kind of social media presence whether you want one or not. Facebook now has 500 million active users, and Twitter has 190 million users tweeting 65 million times per day. Chances are someone is talking about you behind your back, and the best way to control the message about your company is to engage in the conversation.

When used effectively, social media can be a great tool to reinforce your brand and your brand message. I have one client that publishes a weekly report for the banking industry on deposit rates, and we use social media as part of a larger marketing program. In addition to an opt-in mailing list, we give these weekly reports a prominent place on the company web site. And we use the content in the company blog, which we use to feed conversations on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Over the past few months blog traffic has consistently doubled, and we are gaining a following among target readers and media outlets like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and CNBC, who regular report about my client’s research. Social media helps us expand our reach so followers can find the information they want in the format that best suits them, and then comment on the findings. However, the only reason this strategy works is because it’s part of a larger marketing program that we are continuing to refine.

So don’t be fooled by the placebo effect. Social media marketing is not a cure-all, but it can be an important extension of your marketing strategy. The key is to set your social media objectives, and make sure they mesh smoothly with the other elements of your marketing program.

Please follow and like us:

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.

Please follow and like us:

Finding the Right Tools for the PR Professional

imageI have just just completed my annual media list service evaluation, weighing the pros and cons of services such as Vocus and MyMediaInfo against my clients’ needs and my operating budget. Finding the right tools, both free and paid, to support client work is an ongoing challenge. I recently had a client ask me about one of the dozens of press release aggregation services that spam me every day and I had to do some digging to determine if it had any real value (it didn’t).

So how do you find your way through the jungle of competing PR support services? To date, I have relied heavily on my LinkedIn groups and professional contacts to provide guidance, but when I am looking for a new services, such as the best service to research speaking opportunities, I have had to rely heavily on web search. But now there is a new service that has just been launched to help PR professionals find the tools they need – The PR Service Bureau, aka JungleBuzz!

[Full disclosure – JungleBuzz is the brainchild of Gina Milani, a former co-worker and long-time associate and friend. She and I have discussed the need for this kind of service off and on for some time and I am delighted to see she finally launched it because I am certain that the market will benefit.]

JungleBuzz was designed for PR consultants by a PR consultant as a single source to help you find the tools you need for success. (Although it offers lots of benefits for larger PR firms as well):

“JungleBuzz is a communications ‘Tools of the Trade’ repository of traditional and social media tools designed for, or used widely by PR and communications professionals charged with influencing and monitoring public perception. With over 260 tools in 24 categories, it’s the first effort to identify and ‘corral’ the tools that are out in the PR jungle that can assist communications professionals.”

JungleBuzz gives you a market overview and lets you compare the latest tools available for your needs, including:

  • Media list development
  • Editorial calendar tracking
  • Awards and speaking opportunities
  • Clip services and media coverage
  • Video clipping and streaming media resources
  • Market research resources
  • Blog and social media tracking
  • And a variety of other tools

I signed on to JungleBuzz this week and have already found that it has saved a lot of time and trouble in researching essential PR resources. Check it out and see if it can help you expand your public relations services.

Please follow and like us:

Happy Customers Are Always Your Best Salespeople

Customer case studies  have been part of my job for longer than I have been doing media relations. When I started out as a trade journalist reporting for publications like Educational & Industrial Television and Video Trade News, end user stories were the mainstay of our editorial. Readers want to hear from peers who have “been there, done that,” which is why customer relations continues to be such an important part of any PR program.

Of course, customers aren’t always willing to talk, especially in high-tech. Trying to get a financial services company or insurance company to open up about the inner workings of their CRM system or their security systems can be challenging. Customer companies don’t usually have much inventive to share information about how they do what they do; there usually isn’t much in it for them. That’s why you want to enlist customers as allies, not just topics for case studies. You want to find incentives to help them with their own sales and marketing so they will help your clients by serving as case study candidates.

That’s part of the reason I was so pleased to place a profile of Stoops Freightliner in Heavy Duty Trucking this month for my client, FaceTime Communications. The story profiles how Stoops Freightliner is using FaceTime’s Unified Security Gateway to promote a secure social media marketing program to reach truck drivers across the Midwest. When I had an opportunity to place the story, I thought of Heavy Duty Trucking for a number of reasons:

  • Heavy Duty Trucking is one of the biggest titles reaching trucking executives and decision-makers.
  • A profile in Heavy Duty Trucking would help Stoops reach its customer base as well as new prospective customers for FaceTime – a win-win for everyone.
  • I have a soft spot for Heavy Duty Trucking since my dad sold advertising for them for a number of years.

The strategy worked. Not only did Stoops get a great profile of their social media success at work, the article also brought in a new prospect for FaceTime.

When I develop a customer relations program for a client, I like to develop an integrated program that benefits both my clients and their customers. As part of the sourcing process, I work with end users to determine what their marketing objectives are and how far we can carry their application story for mutual benefit. The result is, at minimum, a published case study with supporting sales collateral, content to feed social media outlets, anecdotal data for press briefings, and Web content. With a cooperative customer, you can extend the program to include webinars, speaking engagements, and more. The key is to make sure that all the participants come out ahead.

Please follow and like us:

How Social Media Really Makes Workers More Productive

If you follow social media trends while you surf the Web, then you will have noted that one of the biggest topics on social media sites is, naturally, the effectiveness of social media. I spotted an article last week on Mashable entitled How Social Media Can Make Us More Productive by T.A. McCann, CEO of Gist. As McCann points out, the lines between professional and personal social media use are blurring, particularly with the new Millennial workforce. Companies that are prepared to acknowledge the fact that their workers live and work online and find a way to embrace social media as part of their workflow will go farther recruiting the best and the brightest, but you still need to understand the best way to actually apply social media tools. As McCann says,

“The trick is to realize that it’s not about the tool itself, but your ability to step back and analyze the tool’s real value in helping you accomplish tasks. If you’re not evaluating the way that you’re using social media to get things done, then you’re probably becoming increasingly inefficient because of it.”

So I wanted to share some of his observations on how to get the most out of social media. These rules certainly apply in marketing and media relations, but they are also universal.

1. Scalable networking. Networking now takes on many forms. The old methods of meeting peers and prospects at trade shows, over lunch, at open houses, etc., still apply, but the advent of Web 2.0 makes the channels for connection global. As I have noted in this blog before, social media users tend to be tribal. so making connections with others through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media channel gives you a built-in sense of camaraderie; most people tend to respond to social media contacts before they will respond to email. You can use tweets, blog comments, Facebook comments, and other means to build online intimacy with a wider range of contacts. And the Web makes it possible to connect with thousands rather than dozens. The trick is to make those connections meaningful and respect the tribal connection, so you can uplevel the conversation when you need to.

2. Uncovering valuable, actionable information. McCann notes that information overload is nothing new, and tools like Twitter and Facebook can contribute to information overload if you fail to use them properly. The key is to filter the information, so you are getting pertinent, actionable information. Filter the feeds to distinguish between personal and professional data streams. Identify those data points relevant to your job and focus on them. McCann uses the analogy of stockbrokers filtering incoming data feeds from trusted friends and sources, gathering data in real-time for their clients. You need to set up social media data feeds that support your professional decision-making and push the rest aside as less irrelevant noise.

3. Social media is about collaboration. Web 2.0 levels the playing field when it comes to collaboration. It not only promotes collaboration, but it provides the tools to help you collaborate in the most productive fashion possible. As McCann points out, with Web 2.0 the medium doesn’t get in the way of the message. Social media helps make collaboration organic, without having to rely on proprietary software or platforms to achieve your goal.

4. It’s not what you use, but how you use social media tools. One of the biggest challenges with social media is the plethora of available channels. Don’t try to filter everything. Instead, identify those tools that make a real difference in your work life. McCann recommends ranking your social media tools in order of “must have.” Which social media tools do you really consider essential to your professional success, and which are really “nice to have” and not essential? This will help you optimize you social media flow and determine if you are getting the most from your online investment. Stay focused, and mine your most valuable channels more deeply rather than trying to use a shotgun approach.

So as with all tools, the efficacy of social media is in how you apply it to meet your professional needs. If you use social media sites to strict professional advantage, without distraction or fooling yourself that posting the latest kids’ soccer pictures or what you had for lunch will advance your professional standing. It’s largely a combination of savvy, focus, and discipline.

Please follow and like us:

Is Twitter Really Right for Your Marketing Strategy?

bad-twitter-300x212 I have been working on a social media strategy for a client whose target market is the banking industry – not consumers but professional bankers. So the question arises, do bankers use social media? The answer, of course, is yes and no. There certainly are LinkedIn forums that specialize in bank marketing and bank-related issues. But are Facebook and Twitter a logical extension of a social media campaign aimed at a narrow professional audience?

I recently read about a new study from Edison Research that debunks a lot of the conventional wisdom from other marketing experts about the power of Twitter. According to the article posted on Marketing Charts, while there is a high recognition level for Twitter, recognition does not necessarily turn into action:

“The Edison study doesn’t discount the popularity of Twitter – in fact it reports that 87% of respondents have heard of Twitter, compared to 88% who had heard of Facebook. The findings also suggest that Twitter users are hyper-aware of brands on Twitter. The study found that 42% learn about products and services via Twitter and 41% provide opinions about products/services. An additional 19% seek customer support. A grand total of 49% follow brands or companies….
“Here is the rub: the data also suggests that Twitter users do not necessarily convert brand awareness to usage, Social Media Today says. Although 87% of Americans have heard of Twitter – only 7% actually use it. Compare that to Facebook, where 88% have heard of it, and 41% have a profile, which is a conversion rate approaching 50%, Social Media Today notes.Clearly some companies belong on Twitter – namely brands that are seeking to shape consumers’ opinions and possibly engage them in a conversation.”

So Twitter is not a marketing panacea (but what is?). The study reveals that there are some companies that probably won’t benefit from a Twitter campaign, including:

  • Companies that don’t have a mobile strategy or presence. There is a strong correlation between Twitter and handheld devices (63 percent of Twitter users access the network from a mobile device, and 73 percent send SMS text messages).
  • Mass-market brands with well-known products will probably not benefit from a Twitter program. These consumers already have a well-formed opinion about such brands, and a Twitter discussion may create more opportunities to denigrate the brand rather than support it.
  • Small businesses that don’t have a strong online or social media presence. This seems like a no-brainer. If you haven’t created an online marketing foundation, then Twitter can’t help you build an online presence. As a micro-blogging tool, Twitter is an ideal extension of other promotional programs, giving y9ou another opportunity to drop online bread crumbs that lead back to home base. It doesn’t function well on its own, without a foundation.

I also have to wonder about the value of Twitter for targeted marketing programs aimed at a niche group, like bankers. My own research shows that bankers are using Twitter as part of their own programs to attract new depositors, which makers perfect sense. Banks and credit unions want to leverage social media to communicate directly with customers, but are bankers turning to Twitter to learn about banking trends and rates? It’s hard to say. However, if you can find a way to offer insightful, valuable information in 140 characters or less,  then you can build a strong Twitter following, or at least include Twitter as part of your strategy to get prospects to find the path to your online doorstep.

Please follow and like us: