small business

How to Annoy Fans and Lose Followers

As you can imagine, I spend A LOT of time online. The internet is a vast universe and I enjoy studying companies, large and small, to see what they are doing with their social media. How active are they? How consistent? Are they posting content that is relevant to their audience? Is it not just relevant – but quality? It’s not hard to see when content is merely slapped on a social media outlet just to say it’s been done.

Consumers these days are smarter than ever. They expect quality and anything less than that is going to alienate them. They also don’t want to be bombarded with the same boring message.

In the words of Jay Baer, from his book YOUtility (used with permission)

Top-of-mind awareness requires companies to send messages consistently, but today’s consumers are besieged with every company of every type, size, and description jostling for attention, making pleas to friend, follow, subscribe, read, watch and click. Unimaginative marketers attempt to stand out with message frequency, or by exchanging bribes for attention (resulting in an explosion of Facebook contests and giveaways, among other tactics.)

But sending messages too often can have unintended consequences. Exact Target’s 2012 United Kingdom version of “The Social Breakup” study found that the most often cited reason consumers “unlike” a company on Facebook is that they felt “bombarded by messages.” And, as noted by Jeff Rohrs, Exact Target’s vice president of Marketing Research and Education, all consumers “have to do is just ignore the messages over a period of time, and they slowly get suppressed by Facebook. You simply won’t show up anymore, even if your brand is technically “liked.”

And there it is, my friends in small business. While your intentions, I’m certain, were to build your following and build relationships – one of my life mottos is “All things in moderation.” There are some social media professionals that will tell you there are specific times to post – be it to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform. They’ll also tell you there’s a magic number as to how many times you post in a day. I personally think that’s a bit bogus. It’s not about how MUCH you post anymore. It’s about how CONSISTENT you are.

Sure, analytics can tell us when the majority of our audience is online – however – you need to keep your eyes open. Watch what you post. Pay attention to the content, the reaction of your followers, amount of engagement. Idle posts get you nowhere. Once people start seeing others talking – they’re going to want to be heard as well – and YOU need to listen. No computer can replace human contact, interaction… relationship building. This is all dependent upon you, someone who knows you and your business or someone you trust can learn it.

Moral of the story – Is marketing via social media a science?  Of sorts – but the truth is that there isn’t a cookie cutter approach to it. Each business is different as its audience is different from one to another. Audience = people. As we each are different, our businesses must cater to that uniqueness. This is the joy of relationship building, therefore, the joy of social media.

What Does The Fox Say? YouTube and Your Business

I’ve heard the question asked over and over again.  Why would I want to use YouTube as a channel to market my business?  I’m going to take the unconventional approach here.  I might get my throat figuratively slit by a few social media gurus when I say this.  You don’t necessarily have to.  Now wait.  I didn’t say you SHOULDN’T.  I said you don’t necessarily have to.

Lemme ‘splain myself.  If you’re a social media professional and your target clients are tech based, gamers, musicians, artists, etc… Then yes.  You should absolutely have a YouTube channel and you should actively use it to market your business.  Maybe you should consider that – even before you should consider blogging.

My target client is altogether different though.  My focus is on the mom and pops.  The small, home-grown, local businesses of Indianapolis and the surrounding towns/cities.  They don’t spend copious amounts of time browsing YouTube for Flula’s latest misunderstood colloquialism or Hannah Hart’s latest episode of My Drunk Kitchen – although they’re both two favorites of mine.  They’re busy making sure that stack of bills dwindles to zero, only to watch them stack back up tomorrow.  MY clients are on Facebook.  Why?  Let’s be honest:  They have little to no time to maintain relationships with people face to face.  Sometimes, this is all they’ve got.  Small business takes a TON of time to manage and run.

Now… ALL that being said:  If you do, indeed, find yourself with a little spare time on your hands, that time would be wisely spent on YouTube.  Here’s why.  What’s the #1 search engine in the world?  You betcha.  Google, baby.  So popular it’s now a verb.  “Google it.”  What’s #2?  Any guesses??  Most people don’t consider YouTube a search engine because of the content it displays – but it is.  YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world.  Now I’m going to weave a tapestry of mind-blowing goodness.  Who owns YouTube?….. (It’s ok, I’ll wait for you to Google it.)…………. (hint, hint.)

Yep – GOOGLE owns YouTube.  So what does that mean?  Adding your videos from YouTube to your website (of course with proper tags, etc…) is perceived integrity in the eyes of Google. Perceived integrity then moves you up in the rankings of google (aka – SEO – Search Engine Optimization)  In other words, this gets you one step closer to being on the front page of Google when people search for your product or service.

Then of course – there’s the opportunity for your video to go viral. And let’s be honest. We all know what the fox says, right? :-/

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.”

#HashTagCampaign

^^Clever, no?  Haha – sometimes I amuse me.

I’ve covered it before, but I feel like I should again.  What is a hashtag and why should I use it?  Well, here’s the [definiton].  Why should you use them?  Well, a number of reasons, really. They can boost your [SEO], target your audience with better precision, make it easier for your potential clients to find your content… and the list goes on.  Use them – but do so wisely.  Whatever you do, please don’t hashtag every word in your post.  That’s going to land you a spot in [Hashtag Hell].

Now on to the title of this blog – a Hashtag Campaign.  You’ve seen them before and may not have even realized it.  On Twitter, specifically, hashtag campaigns have become one of the most effective marketing tools a company can use.  For Nike, however, their #MakeItCount campaign was used through Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest.  Their campaign started in 2012 and was so successful that it continued into 2013. After watching this video – maybe you’ll understand why.

So what are the rules for this hashtag campaign?  Make it easy to remember and most importantly – make it something that is intimately related to your business.  Maybe your business’ tagline?  Be creative, but wise when choosing.  If you’re doing product promotion or a short term promotion, make it something unique (that’s key), catchy – and something your audience will be excited to promote.

If you’re looking for further examples to help get those creative juices flowing – here are a hand full to help out.  [Hashtag Campaigns via Mashable.]  As always, collaborate with other great minds.  I have no doubt you’ll wind up on the road to #success <—- See what I did there?

Who’s the Hero? NOT You!

Well hello fellow Social Mediaites.  I just made that up – feel free to make it your own.

Today is NOT about you.  Neither was yesterday, but yesterday you didn’t know it yet – so starting today – it is no longer about you.  What the HELL is this woman talking about??

I’m talking about how you market to your clients.  I’ve stated it many times before – your relationship with your clients is….. ???  That’s RIGHT!  It’s a relationship.  Think back to one of your worst dates ever.  You know – where the guy/gal on the other end of the table was all like, “me me this, and me me that, oh and also there was this one time where I, I , I and me me me …….” And oh. my. GOD will the endless droning ever stop??

Well it did stop and I hope you never called him/her back because they need a wake up call.  Maybe a wake up call a little like this one.  Your business as a marketing professional should not start and end with you.  Should you be mentioned?  Absolutely.  Not to do so would be equally asinine.  While your current pitch to get Social Media work might sound a little like this:

“I’m a marketing professional that has worked with the likes of ___(fill in the blank)____.  I took over his marketing efforts in June of 2010 and have single handedly grown his business 10-fold.”

When it should sound more like this:

“As a marketing professional, I was given the opportunity to work with ___(fill in the blank)____.  In 12 months time, his business grew 10-fold. If you’re interested, I can walk you through the steps he followed to make that happen.”

It’s amazing what results come from someone who really knows what they’re talking about – with a side of humility. Give your client their due – it’ll come back in your favor every time.

Effective SMM Strategy Part II

Watch For Trends

 

So now that branding is out of the way (see here), another integral part of an effective social media strategy is to make sure you’re monitoring trends that happen with your end users.  Why is that important?  Well, as previously mentioned, my specialty is in working with small businesses.  In the ocean of the business world – small businesses are the dinghies.  The Fortune 500 companies have seemingly limitless resources (people included) at their fingertips.  They’re more like the freight liners and can keep trucking through those seas through even the biggest storms. Often they won’t even realize they’ve hit a wave, let alone been in a storm.  To a small business, that same storm may mean your poor little dinghy is toast and there you are, left floating in the ocean with (maybe) a lifesaver, praying for someone to come rescue you.

That illustration is exactly why you need to prepare.  Your goal as a small business is to stay one step ahead of the storm.  If you see that times are tough(financially) for your clients, it may be time to consider other inventory options that are still quality, but more cost effective for you – and your client.  If you ignore the trend, chances are – you’re going to end up with expensive inventory just sitting on your shelves that you’re going to have to discount anyway.  Win for your consumer – lose for you.

Other things you’ll want to pay close attention to:  Cultural happenings.  Maybe your business supports the Indiana HJR-6 amendment or maybe it opposes it.  You have the choice of making your opinion known or staying neutral on the matter.  If you’re vocal either way, it’s likely to have an impact on your business.  It also may produce or take away service or merchandise opportunities – both of which are very important to your business.

In this case, the above mentioned goes hand in hand with what’s next – and that is government changes or potential changes.  It seems there’s nothing we like to complain about more than our government.  Everyone has an opinion – regardless of whether they voice it or not.  Truth is though – a good majority have no qualms about telling it how it is when it comes to government related issues.  Keep an eye out for that.  It could be tax changes, a lawsuit that will have an impact on how your company does business, increase in minimum wage (is any of this sounding familiar?)

So how do you keep track of what’s trending?  I’m happy you asked.  I’m even happier that someone else has done the work of tracking down all these tools for me!  Shout out to Social Media Today for making my work today a little easier.

[Click Here] to find your list of tools.  Use them.  That’s what they’re for. :-)

Effective SMM Strategy Part I

Promote your brand

As a business, your social media strategy can and should be customized for you.  However, there are a few tips that blanket most businesses.  This blog is the first in a multi-part series about effective social media marketing.

First, let’s start with the definition of brand.  [Entrepreneur.com] defines branding as this:  “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”

Having said that, if you’re trying to build your brand, starting with something visual like a name, logo or design, it goes without saying that that symbol needs to be consistent through all of your marketing.  Social media is no exception.  If your twitter handle is @MakeMeLaugh, that should be your handle across social media as well – or as close to it as possible.  The interwebs have done their part to make it easier on you too.  Wasn’t that nice of them?  Check out www.knowem.com.  You simply type in the handle you want to use, universally, across all social media platforms and it tells you at which ones it’s available.

Promoting your brand is also about good PR.  Yes, PR happens via social media now too – although not exclusively of course.  What do I mean?  Your company should be a tool (not the urban dictionary definition) to their audience.  Your social media should provide valuable information, it should entertain and it should be engaging.  Ineffective social media involves doing posts and walking away from your computer.  If your audience has questions, answer them.  If they have a problem with your product, resolve it.  Make them laugh, make them cry.  Make them love you.  In return, they’ll develop trust in not just you, but in your product or service.

Finally, follow yourself.  No, I don’t mean chase your own tail.  What I mean is that you want to know what your public is saying about your brand.  If there are issues, you absolutely need to know about them and should want to fix them.  Also, your following knows what they want from you.  You never  know what ideas they could be posting for you that you’ll miss if you’re not tracking what people are saying about you.  There are multiple free resources out there that do the tracking for you for free.  [Trackur] is just one.  Do your research and see which works best for your company.

Stay tuned for part II!!  See you soon!

 

Pickles and Customer Service

If you didn’t know before – now you do:  I’m an avid local supporter.  I absolutely adore seeing small, local business soar.  That’s the reason I decided to go full time into marketing.  I have no desire to work for a large advertising company or marketing firm.  My intention is to take my experience to the mom and pops of the world and help them soar.

I just moved this past weekend.  As most of you are aware – this is no minor task.  Thank God I have amazing friends and family that gave up their Saturday and risked their digits to frigid Midwest temps to get the job done.  After it was all said and done, I rewarded them with a trip to our local watering hole, [The Stacked Pickle] in West Carmel.

When we walked in, we were promptly greeted and seated.  Immediately after, our server cheerfully took our orders and we cheerfully accepted our drinks in return.  Hey – they were well deserved.  We placed our order for food – and literally within 5 minutes, it was placed in front of us to snack on.  My cousin, Stacey, decided she wanted something different so she placed an order for some nachos.  Two minutes later – BOOM!  Right in front of us.

A couple of rounds into it, my cousin (Joe) had to make a bathroom run.  A little background on Joe.  Not only is he a trained chef, but he also has his degree in business.  He’s every restaurant manager’s dream (and of course also potential nightmare).  As he passed the kitchen, he felt compelled to let the kitchen staff know what an incredible job they’d been doing that night.  He busted open the kitchen doors and did just that.  Just so happened, the manager of the joint heard his little speech and was delighted.

He and Joe apparently chatted for a couple of minutes, then Bryce (the manager) stopped by our table. He knew we’d been moving all day and was honored that we’d chosen his establishment to visit after a hard day.  He offered us a shot on the house and spent a few minutes getting to know us better. The entire evening was an overwhelmingly positive experience and needless to say if anyone ever asks for a place to grab food and a drink up on the north-side, you know that the Stacked Pickle is always going to be on my list of suggestions.

The lesson here is three-fold.  If you’re a manager of a small business, please understand that customers love personal attention – even a small gesture can go a long way to make your clients feel special.  Lesson two: When you’re in the role of the customer instead of the business owner, remember that recognizing good service helps to reinforce it and keeps the positive loop going. Lesson three is the power of social media in its rawest form that you’re witnessing through this blog post.  Do well – you’ll be recognized for it.  Do poorly, you’ll hear about it.  And so will 15000 other people.

Next time you’re in West Carmel – I expect you to pay this guy a visit.  They do parties as well.  Call Bryce Gerlitz at 317.876.0981

Even Spielberg Got Rejected

Did you just say you don’t have a fear of rejection?  Don’t believe you.  I mean – there must be a few of you out there that are fearless, but let’s face it.  The one thing that freezes most of us in our tracks is fear of a two-letter-word.

NO!

This video is very clear – we’re all (regardless of our social status or level of success) going to be rejected at some point in our life.  Here’s the thing though:  You don’t know that you’ll be rejected unless you ask.  The fear of the two-letter-word stops most of us in our tracks.

  • “If I ask for that raise, my boss won’t give it to me – so why bother?”
  • “If I ask him out, he’ll say no.  Then I’ll be embarrassed.”
  • “If I go after that promotion, someone more qualified will get the job.”
  • “I can’t go after that big name client. I’m not a big name, myself.”

Stop it!

  • If you ask for that raise – what if your boss says yes?!  You have better quality of life with just one question.  Plus, you come off as someone who is confident – which certainly isn’t a bad thing come time for that promotion.
  • Is it possible that he’ll say no?  Sure – on to the next one.  Why would you be embarrassed?  Are you so arrogant to think that you are a match for everyone?  Let me clear that up for you.  You’re not – so brush your shoulders off and on to the next one.
  • If you go after that promotion – could you get passed up?  Sure!  If you do get passed up, you’ve gained interviewing experience (which is never bad) in case you get the opportunity to interview there again.  It shows you’re interested in growing with the company.  If you decide you don’t want to give it another shot with your current employer – it gives you the interview experience to take to interviews with potential new employers.
  • If you go after that big name client – sure…. They could go with another firm that’s larger and well known.  Worst that could happen?  You’re a name in their mind.  I guarantee that smaller businesses follow that company.  Maybe your name comes up with them.  Or best case – they hire YOU because, let’s be honest.  Sometimes clients buy not just experience or brand.  Sometimes they buy YOU.  Your character.  Your confidence.

More than any of that, being told no isn’t the end of your world.  Every time you get knocked down, you have to use that mental muscle to pull yourself back up.  It makes you stronger.

Your homework?  Do one thing this week that puts you in this zone.  Ask the guy or girl out that you’ve been wanting to (if they’re single.)  Ask for that raise at work.  The worse that can happen is that you end up stronger for it in the end.  I’m going to do the same.  Have to practice what I preach, right??

“As actors, we deal with rejection so much more than any other business. So I don’t care how much of a genius you are, if you don’t have the propensity to be able to get back up every time you get knocked down, then you’re not going to survive.” – Ryan Kwanten