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Why, Social Media, Why?

From the Forward of “YOUtility Why Smart Marketing is about Help Not Hype” by [Jay Baer] of [Convince and Convert] (with permission)

I was officially scared to death. It was November 2008. The stock market was in a terrible nose dive. Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama debated what should be done about failing banks and financial institutions. To say the U.S. economy was in a tailspin would be an understatement, and consumer confidence was suddenly, almost overnight, shaken to the core.

Within days of the market collapse I had four customers withdraw their deposits. More would follow in the coming weeks. What had appeared to be a healthy late spring and winter for my business was becoming a nightmare.

I was a “pool guy,” as homeowners often call us. Along with my two business partners I had owned River Pools and Spas in Warsaw, Virginia, since 2001. We started with a beat-up pickup truck, three guys, and a dream. By 2008 we had become a formidable in-ground swimming pool construction company with more than seventy fiberglass pool installations a year in Virginia and Maryland.

Going into 2008 I was oozing with confidence. Our brand was expanding, and we were pushing growth as hard as we possibly could. Finally, after years of physical, mental, and emotional sacrifice we were going to experience the fruits of our labors. But no amount of sacrifice or experience could have prepared us for the economic collapse. The faucet that had been flowing wide open during the previous decade suddenly refused to allow even a drop to fall.

By January 2009, our company was on the brink of complete financial ruin. The phone simply wasn’t ringing. It stood to reason; one thing consumers rarely do in the worst economic times since the 1930s is sit around the dinner table and decide to purchase a swimming pool. Even in the rare circumstances when there were interested customers, banks had made luxury-lending nearly impossible with the tightening of credit and the evaporation of home equity due to the collapse of the real estate market. We had almost no projects for the foreseeable future. Our credit lines were maxed out, our sixteen employees were sitting at home with nothing to do, and our bank accounts were overdrawn for three consecutive weeks.

I was depressed, scared and out of ideas. I found myself turning to the one place we seem to go to find the answers we’re looking for – the Internet. Since I certainly wasn’t installing pools, I had plenty of time to research new marketing and business concepts; as I did, concepts like “blogging,” “inbound marketing,” content marketing,” and “social media” kept coming up again and again.

Like most of us I had an inherent sense that business and marketing were shifting to the web, but, as a not particularly computer-savvy guy, it wasn’t something that had ever seemed applicable to my business. But, I’d never been more ready to try something new. Unless we figured out a way to generate more leads and sales without spending money on advertising, we were going to close our doors, and my business partners and I would lose our homes.

It was time to sink or swim.

What I discovered first, and what will become exceptionally clear in this book, is that consumers of all types expect to find answers on the Internet now, and companies that can best provide that information garner trust and sales and loyalty. Success flows to organizations that inform, not organizations that promote. It’s a fundamental change in how I think about business, and you’ll think differently too, after reading Youtility.

So this one’s going out to all you small business owners out there. You’re my people. You’re the ones that have everything to lose by remaining stagnant. You might have thoughts similar to those of Jay’s at the time… feeling technically inept. There is more than a sufficient supply of contractors out there who can teach you. If you fear you’re just not teachable when it comes to technology – maybe you’re right. In that case, find a contractor to take care of your efforts for you. I’ve said multiple times on this blog that you absolutely must know what your strengths and weaknesses are. If you don’t – chances are you’re wasting YOUR time and energy (which equals cash by the way… YOUR cash) that could be focused where you excel.

I have two clients that are older gentlemen. One in his mid-sixties – the other in his mid-seventies. The gentleman in his mid-sixties is like a bag full of ADD mixed with good intentions. He is insanely good at what he does – working with animals. He is insanely bad at anything technically related. Instead of trying to figure it all out, he hired me. He gets to spend his time doing what he loves, I get to take care of what he doesn’t excel at. Likewise with the 75 year old. While he can’t afford to have someone take over his entire social media presence (which I can appreciate), he can pay me to meet with him once a month to fine tune his SM strategy, and while he has to take care of all logistics himself, we take out all the guess work of what needs to be done, when and how, with setting monthly goals and creating a plan for him to follow. This works great!

My rule of thumb is this: If I have to sell  you on the fact that as a business, you NEED a Social Media presence (and a strong one at that) – I likely won’t take you on as a client. Why? ‘Cuz ain’t nobody got time for that! ;) My time needs to be focused on coming up with content for my current clients, not spent on trying to reassure you (after two days) that SM is a valid and vital form of marketing. One of my friends says this in regards to finding clients: “If you get a potential client that wants to see immediate results….. RUN. They need to understand that Social Media Marketing is not a sprint. It’s a marathon.” Oh how right she is. This beast is all about building relationships. I don’t know about you, but if there is a man who is interested in me – if he tries to go from 0-60 in 3.2 seconds, he’s going to scare me off. Why? Because as a (somewhat) rational human being – I understand that solid relationships take time to build if they’re going to be sustainable. Friendships are the same way. If I just met you and all of a sudden you want to spend every waking moment together – it’s quite likely that this is going to be a turn-n-burn friendship – which I quite honestly have no time for. Social media is the same way. Take the time you need to build rapport with your audience. Make it your job to care about what they care about. Be genuine.

What I DO have time for is what Jay talks about a bit later in his book – spending time on MY content. Coming up with content that makes me an expert in my field so that I’ll be the resource everyone wants to come to. My number one client is me. It has to be. Why? Because if I’m not consistently staying up on what’s happening in social media – my clients suffer. If you take time to blink in this field, you’re behind your game. If you’re looking for a Social Media professional – I’ll leave you with this – make sure you ask them this question: “What client do you spend the most time on?” You might be surprised at the answer you get.

Until next time – where I’ll be reviewing more of YOUtility – You can get your own copy of the NY Times Bestseller ——>HERE<——-

The Marriage of PR and Marketing

I skimmed through an article today about the importance of making sure your social media team is also well versed in public relations.  My first thought was, “Well, crap. Someone else got to it before I did.”  It’s alright though.  It just lit the fire under my butt to write it myself.  Every person’s experience is different, right?  Right.

Names and company names will be changed (or eliminated) here to protect the…. less than innocent.

I offer my social media services in different ways.  I can be the person who hovers over your different social media platforms and pats you on the back when you do something great.  I will also tell you when you’re wrong.  But in this role – I’m pretty much hands off.  Merely a consultant.

Then there are the clients that I do everything for.  All of their marketing.  I look for trade shows that would be good for them.  I’m the voice at the end of their client’s line.  I do all of their social media, including engagement, etc…

Well – I do all of it until they decide they want to muck things up a bit. And here’s where the fun begins.  Social media is…. well… it’s social.  And so, it involves many things – one of which is emotion.  There’s something to be said for being transparent (some of the time.)  However, when being attacked by what seems to have been coined as “haters” – you HAVE to let that slide (to a certain extent.)  There’s a lot of ambiguity in the last two sentences so let me clarify by using an example.

One of my clients was recently targeted by a group of people.  They claimed his business practices were less than ethical.  Let me start by saying I wouldn’t work for such a client.  While he may not always be the brightest crayon in the box (hey, I keep it real) – he’s not morally or ethically inept.

So let’s call my client “Bob” – because that seems to be what I like to call my clients  (ADD moment:  All clients, male or female, from this point forward – will be called Bob. I like Office Space.  What can I say?)  Bob used to do business with another entity – a not-for-profit.  This group and he parted ways in one of the least amicable ways possible.  I knew things would blow up – and they did.  An anti-Bob Facebook page was started.  The anti-Bobs started harassing the Bob fans on his Facebook page.  Bob was called a thief, a liar, all sorts of nonsense.  It was a PR disaster.  It got so bad that it warranted being addressed, in a non-emotional, only the facts, ma’am sort of way, on his Facebook page.  And so, I did.  I gathered the facts and I wrote the letter.  I knew Bob was far too emotional to do so himself.  The letter was working exactly as it was supposed to.  It had a reach of over 15,000 people by the time it was all said and done. His following, at the time, was only around 4,500. About 95% of the comments that came as a result to that letter were positive, uplifting messages about how Bob helped them or someone they knew. Woo-hoo! Success!!

And then Bob’s family and marriage started coming under (written) attack from the anti-Bobs.  Keep in mind, this whole time, Bob was replying back to their hateful posts, then I’d call him and tell him to take them down.  Down they came.  Next day – same thing.  It was like babysitting a toddler for a week and a half of my life.  “Bob, ignore them.  They’re trying to get a response out of you and you keep feeding them exactly what they want.”  “Ok, Amber.  You’re right.”  Next day – any guesses?  Yes.  Same game.  I was one worn out shit storm stopper by the end of that week.

After a long conversation with Bob about what PR is and how his fans were viewing him because of his emotional outbursts toward the anti-Bobs – he chilled.  He got it.  Finally!

If I had been someone else, say just a Facebook poster… this story would have a much different ending. He’s called and thanked me more times than I can count – telling me that if it weren’t for me, he’d be out of business. Thirteen plus years in Marketing AND PR prepared me for what I handled.  If you’ve hired someone that can post on Facebook and Twitter and make it look nice, but doesn’t have any sort of background in marketing or PR, please… PLEASE…. for the love of….. well, Bob….. think about switching it up.  It’s not all about the posts.  It’s about being knowledgeable, implementation, engagement, staying one step ahead of the game – and if worst comes to worst – putting out fires.

Signed,

Fire Marshal Amber…. “Let me show ya something.”

Tarantula Tarantella

Ohhh boy.  Woke up yesterday morning knowing that I had to do a fear blog because…. well… today is Friday!  I had no clue what to do.  I have enough fears, I suppose.  But none of them (except for one) are paralyzing fears.

My friends who have known me for at least a couple of years – or those who have had the privilege of living with me – know this fear to be my biggest.  Their funniest, but my absolute nightmare.

I think I developed this fear when I was around 12 or 13 years old.  The movie Arachnophobia came out.  My neighbor was scared senseless.  I was bound and determined that i was going to show her what I was made of.  I was one brave chick!  So I watched it over…. and over…. and over… and over again.  Until I fully understood EXACTLY why she was so afraid.  And it stuck.

So yesterday morning, I decided.  I know my fears may be puny – but these silly Friday blogs aren’t really just about me.  They’re also about my readers.  I want you guys and gals to take steps outside of your comfort zone to meet your fears .

In my case, last night wasn’t so much about overcoming any fear because I think a fear of spiders is something of a rational fear.  In this case, it’s more about not letting anything  get in the way of your dreams and your passion.  Not a little spider, not a big snake, not fear of failure and not even yourself.

You’ll have to excuse my appearance. My hair had been under a scrub cap all day and I had to consume 2 glasses of wine and eat a Rice Krispie ® Treat the size of Texas before I even worked up the gumption to walk out the door.  When I got to the place (which will remain nameless due to their less than ethical purchasing strategies… hey, it’s the only place around that had a tarantula.  Back off. I didn’t buy anything.) the associate was with another customer and I had another 30 minutes of pure hell waiting around to hold a creature that I’m fairly certain was spewed from the mouth of Satan himself.  My. Nerves. Were. Shot.

I told the associate of my plight to face my fear of spiders.  I told him I wanted to hold one of the tarantulas at which he said, “on one condition. When I put this on you, you can NOT throw it if you get freaked out.”  Done.  The mission had begun.  I began to feel my nerves actually calm knowing this venture was coming to a close.  That is, until he opened the first container and said, “Ummm no.  That one won’t work.  Any time they pull their fangs up like that – I’m not messing with them.”  I’m sorry… THEIR WHAT?!  It’s ok.  It’s clearly for the best that I didn’t do proper research before I had an 8-legged hairy monster crawling on my arm.

The second monster seems less peeved.  Up and over… and…. ohmygoditsonmyarm!!!!!!!!!!!  Breathing.  Be very still.  Don’t let the monster know you’re scared.  They sense fear.  They like the taste of fear.  The monster most surely is going to bite me.  Ok, you may now remove the monster from my arm.

As it turns out, the monster liked me.  It’s when it had to trade hands to the associate that it decided to bite… him.  Poor sucka. :-)

spiders2 copy

 

Go do something that makes you grow!!!

How Do I Find The Time to Blog?

If you aren’t blogging, would you please tell me why?  Probably the #1 issue is time if you’re like most small business owners.  I usually find myself rush, rush, rushing through my day, doing all the “must dos” and then right before bed (no matter how late) – I find my inspiration… and I write.

You have an audience whether you can see them or not.  That audience has a need for information that YOU canprovide.  There are creative ways to work around the time issue.
Posting on Facebook and Twitter is good.  No mistake about it.  But blogging is less about you and more about your end users.  It’s about taking care of them.  Find things that interest them or relate to them.  If you own a club, you have an all adult audience.  Post events that are coming up in the community that relate to them.  Run a family eatery?  Blog about anything family related.  It doesn’t have to be about food.

Now comes the time issue.  We’re all well aware of the time crunch.  Do you have employees?  Do you value them and what they have to say?  Some of them will likely have creative writing talents, maybe some paint, some may be in bands.  Have them volunteer to do more for the business.  Maybe some have music they would be willing to have you share in the restaurant.  Perhaps the artist would like his or her work displayed on your walls.  And that writer – maybe they would like to be scheduled an extra hour a week to come in and do your weekly or bi-weekly blog.  Let them know that you’re particularly looking to start paying your blog more attention and are looking to hand that responsibility over.  Do a writing audition.  Maybe more than one employee gets the part.

Give your blogger an assignment once a week or once a month.  Give them specific parameters that you’d like them to blog about and let them work their magic.  Make sure you give them the credit!  Involving employees in different parts of your business not only builds strong morale among your employees, but it also lets your customers know each one of your staff members a little bit better.

What are you waiting for?  Don’t you have some writing to do?? Go, write.  But have fun with it!