Thursday, 25 October 2012

Care about your content!

Imagine this as a scenario:
You're thinking about how you market your company. You have a decision to make. Should you:

Take a little time and handpick the messages and content you send out?

Issue content that hasn't been vetted and is not certain to be relevant or good quality?

Most people would choose the first option.

Why then do many businesses rely on total automation for their social media marketing? Their feeds spit out regular updates only loosely associated with their business. It's bland, soulless - and ultimately ineffective. It's also quick, easy and cheap!

Companies brag that their feeds are fully automated and require "no contact time". To my mind it gives the impression that here is a business that doesn't want to take time to talk to or listen to its customers. They're saying that, as someone who spends money with us, you're not worth the effort it would take us to communicate with you.

I'm not totally against automation. Strategically scheduled updates can be very helpful - as long as the content is appropriate and well thought out.

Another question for you.

Would you use the same content for a local advertising paper as you would for a national newspaper? Would you then use exactly the same content in a glossy magazine, or in a parish newsletter?

Again, most people would want to at least modify the content so that it had a chance of appealing to each audience.

Why then would you duplicate the exact same update across multiple social media platforms? (Sometimes, it'll work, but not always by any means!)

The old axiom that "content is King" has never held truer than it does on social media.

A little effort pays huge dividends. Care about your content!

Friday, 14 September 2012

The new 4 Ps?

The 4 Ps of Marketing (product, place, price and promotion) have been drilled into most people that have read up on marketing, or attended courses. How about an updated version for the new world of social media?

Here are my suggestions:

Social media isn't instant. Like any networking, it takes time and planning to build good relationships that lead to business benefits. Playing "the long game" has distinct and long lasting benefits.

If you're playing the "long game" then stopping trying after a few weeks isn't going to get you the results you want. If you think it's not working, look at how you're coming across. Have you got the content and frequency right for your chosen platforms?

One of the great attractions of social media is that it allows people from all over the globe to see what you're saying and to interact with you. This is an amazing opportunity to show how fabulous you and your business are. It's also worth bearing in mind that any "bad behaviour" is very public too. Every time you post something be aware that anyone could read it. Think long and hard before posting in anger - or even in irritation.

Integrated communications is the way forward. Your online presence will encompass information, opinion, customer service, complaints, marketing, PR, sales... You may well do a reasonable job using social media and be happy with the results with no planning at all. Just imagine how much more you could achieve if you gave it some serious thought!

What would your suggestions be?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

You may not "like" it, but it's here to stay

"You can't beat picking up a phone and just talking to people." If only I had a penny for every time a social sceptic has said that to me!

There's a couple of issues here that are worth thinking about.

The first thing is that there have always been late adopters for any new technology (although social media can hardly be called "new" any more). I can remember companies declaring that they'd never use email as a letter was "far more personal" and that if they'd wanted to talk to someone they'd pick up the phone. Sound familiar?

Eventually, all new fangled technology either becomes mainstream or dies out. The problem for a business comes when there's a refusal to adopt "new" ideas that their customers consider mainstream. That mismatch of communication styles can be fatal for a company.

You don't have to like social media, but you do have to take it seriously. If you wait until your lack of engagement affects your bottom line then it may be too late to recover.

There are still a number people I meet when I'm out networking that only want to talk to people in person. This brings me on to my second issue...

Only using one form of communication severely limits your reach and influence. We all have our preferred methods whether that be face to face, phone, print, email or social media. However, to broaden our customer base then we need to have a presence on as many communication channels as we can manage effectively.

Of course social media won't replace meeting people in person, the telephone didn't do that either! What it does give you is a very powerful tool to use in your business that works with all your other activities.

Generation Y is growing up. They are your new customers. Make sure you're there to meet them on their own ground.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The Marketing Jigsaw - and why "off message" is OK

When I did "corporate" work I was often prompted to ensure that the marketing I was carrying out was on "on message" with central marketing strategy. I occasionally have the same reminder when working with some very traditional marketing agencies.

Marketing campaigns are targeted at specific demographics. That means that the look and feel of the marketing jigsaw needs to fit together seamlessly. The whole package of print, website, social media and face to face needs to give the same positive experience with no jarring when swapping platforms.


Social media isn't just about a demographic, it's about individuals too. Sometimes the people running the social media content need to have the flexibility to use their discretion. When you're dealing with an individual, the "standard" corporate approach isn't always appropriate. No matter how well thought out and planned your strategy is, it cannot fit everyone.

I always try and persuade managers that it's not only OK, but actually essential, to expect the social media person/team to occasionally veer "off message". I may have to start collecting pictures of the looks of alarm!

The objections are mostly down to a lack of trust in the abilities of the people delivering the content to judge the situation correctly. If you distrust their judgement that much then what on earth are they doing running your social media for you?

By all means issue pre-scripted responses to common problems, but trust the people you have put in charge of your online reputation to know when to be a human being. Better still, get someone to fix the problem so you don't have to keep addressing it.

Strategy is a necessary part of running a business, but sometimes you have to think outside of the jigsaw box!

Friday, 29 June 2012

Mind your manners

A curious phenomenon happens when some people communicate online. The perceived protection of the screen and keyboard seems to turn them into boorish louts and bullies. I'm not talking about anonymous trolling here. What I want to focus on is people who use their real names - or the name of their company - on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter. I'm also limiting my remarks to people represent their business or company on these channels.

I have no issues with having a spirited discussion as long as everyone is behaving professionally and calmly. Talking to people that don't share your views is a great way to learn, even if you end up agreeing to differ.

Generally, the intentions of businesses that engage in social media are to raise awareness of their business, generate leads and look after current customers. Building a digital footprint that is balanced and well populated takes time and effort. What you put on the 'net stays there for an awfully long time. (Even if you think you've deleted it)

If you're looking up a business on Google and you come across acrimonious exchanges online, what will your opinion of that business be? The main excuse I hear is that the individual representing the company believed they were "attacked" online and had to respond.

Now hang on just a minute! The defence that "they started it" should be left behind in the playground. It has no place in business. It takes two to make an online disaster. How you cope with complaints and negativity towards your business reflects on you. It can actually do you good.


Well, make absolutely sure your replies to a dissatisfied customer are courteous and helpful.  Even if the customer remains disaffected, you will be seen to have tried your best. Indeed, a particularly persistent and unreasonable online complaint (if handled well) can do you a great service by demonstrating how responsive, polite and "on the ball" you are.

Then there's the excuse that the other company "behaved badly". Oh please! Exactly how are you making things better by engaging in extended online acrimony? Behaving badly just because someone else does is unprofessional and will significantly damage your reputation.

There's still a misplaced perception amongst some business people that because online communication is virtual, it isn't "real". What you say online, and how you behave, is critical to the success of your business.

If you're angry or upset by something you read online, here are a few tips to help you cope:

  • Don't comment while you're still fuming. Calm down first.
  • Research the background of the incident. You need the whole story.
  • Do you actually need to reply? Sometimes silence is very powerful.
  • Move away from the screen for a few minutes. You won't calm down by staring at it.
  • Take into account the tone of voice that your reply will be read in - rather than the one you'll send it with.
  • Be courteous, however great the provocation.
  • If you are subjected to abuse stop interacting and block/report as required.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Three social media watchwords

Three little words that make all the difference...


Be yourself, even if you're representing a company. The occasional foray "off corporate script" to talk about everyday minutiae is a good thing - especially on Twitter and Facebook. Admitting you like chocolate spread on your toast isn't going to bring your business to it's knees! Chatting (being social) builds relationships, which is what social media is all about.


Plugging some RSS feeds into your account and then automating the content across all platforms is  - undoubtedly - quick and easy. It is also bland and without personality. Creating new, good quality content takes time. Whether you opt for blogging, YouTube, Flickr or Pinterest the content you create reflects on your business. This makes it a powerful way to build reputation and credibility.  On the other side of that statement, poor content reflects poorly. It's worth putting time and effort into this side of social media and getting it right.

If you're integrating your content with an SEO campaign then create interesting content that is then optimised. If people like what you put out, they'll look at it and share it far more than they will a generic keyword heavy offering.


Share other people's content. Offer assistance. Make supportive comments. In other words, do the things that you'd like people to do for you! My only proviso would be that you choose to share content that adds value to your social media community.

If you're selective with what you share, then your community will recognise your posts as being high quality and worth reading. Then when you post your own content, people are more likely to look at it.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sales are not the only metric

So if you're not measuring "bottom line sales" how else can you measure your social media?

Whilst it's interesting to know how many followers/likers/contacts you have it's not the best way of measuring how effective you are and what impact you're having. If you have 40,000 followers on Twitter the chances are you're all following each other because you all automatically follow back. There's no engagement, no reputation gain and even fewer sales. 

My advice is to keep it simple!

Try adding some of these to your metric mix and see what story they tell you about what you do.

Facebook Reach
This is available from your admin panel on your business page. It allows you to see the number of people that have had the opportunity to see each post you make. I find it really useful as it enables me to hone the content of a page so that it's interesting  - and therefore gets more likes and shares.

Twitter mentions
How many people have talked to you or about you? Personally I don't count automated content, such as the daily paper tweets, as they require no real time input from a human being.

Posts (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn)
How often have you posted each week? 
If you've altered your post frequency, how has it affected your statistics?
What do you need to do now?

Clickthroughs (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn)
What was the clickthrough on any links you posted? 
Where did you get most success? Even if the link wasn't to your site or blog, the content of the highest clicked links can inform you of  the type of content your community want to read.

Referrals (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn)
How many people recommended you this month? I don't mean in a bulk #followfriday on Twitter or a courtesy name check after networking. I'm not knocking these, but they are in the category of mentions rather than referrals.
Blog comments and followers
This is one area where the built in statistics package really is your friend. Blog hits are a good way of seeing how much you're being read, and where those readers found you. Monitor your content, see what sparks interest and write some more, or at least use the same style. Comments are, mostly, good news. Just make sure your spam comment filter is set up correctly.

There are so many different ways of measuring social media, these are just a few of my preferred metrics. I haven't even touched on evaluation by algorithm such as Klout or Kred. I don't use any of the sites that purport to measure "reach" and "influence" as I disagree with the way the algorithms are set up. Perhaps I should write my own...

Monday, 26 March 2012

Spring clean those profiles!

When is the last time you actually read your own profiles and bios?

Many businesses that have Facebook pages are currently transitioning to the new timeline format. There is much discussion online about cover pictures and other marvels. However, how many of you are taking the opportunity to review the original company information that you entered? If you've had a page running for a few years the wording will undoubtedly need a refresh!

How about Twitter? Does your bio still encapsulate you and your company?Just a hint here: try copying and pasting your bio into a word processor if your browser doesn't spell check. I've come across 3 people in the last week who have misspelled their county or town...

Linked In is another one to check. Does your description of your current role need a refresh? Could you make more use of your previous experience to enhance your credibility?

Finally - and perhaps most importantly - was the picture you're using taken relatively recently? Does it present you in the way you wish? Is it time to have some photographs taken by a professional?

Keeping profiles up to date is an important part of social media - so have a Spring clean!

Friday, 24 February 2012

You don't need to do everything!

Here's an exclusive industry secret for you. (Tongue firmly in cheek) You don't have to be on every social media platform going to get great results for your business!

  • Can't stand Facebook? Try the more "grown up" LinkedIn. 
  • LinkedIn too stuffy and formal? Try Twitter
  • Love visuals, hate writing? There's YouTube, Flickr and now Pinterest
  • Enjoy writing but don't have time to check what's going on? Blogging could be the answer.
  • Want to hang out with the cool kids? Have a go with Google+

You'll get far better results by doing one or two things really well, than having loads of platforms to update that you actively dislike. Your lack of enthusiasm for what you're doing will come through in your posts. Even worse, you may get fed up of the whole thing and stop doing any of it. Time is something we all need more of, so choose something that you want to do - or at least don't dislike!

Whatever platform you choose to engage on there are some "golden rules" to abide by:

Once you start, keep going!
Nothing looks worse on your social media footprint than an abandoned blog or an unresponsive Twitter feed. What impression does a static Facebook page give of your business?

Don't just sell
Remember to give back to the community you've joined. Be helpful, be pleasant, be informative and the rewards will start to flow for you.

Keeping it fresh
It takes time to create or source new content. Make sure you're willing to put the effort in before you get started. Recycled content gets very dull very quickly.

Remember you're a business
Social media is fun and more than a little addictive! You can get so caught up in the talk that you can easily forget that you're there to be a business, as well as an individual. Online behaviour is a very important part of your reputation. A momentary flash of irritation and a thoughtless comment can scupper all the good work you've put in.

Keep doing the other stuff too
Social media isn't a replacement for face to face conversation or traditional marketing. It works with, and enhances, your networking and promotional activities. You may even want to consider having a plan...

Monday, 30 January 2012

Self promotion or narcissism? Where's the line?

Let's start with self evident statement:
However chatty and interactive your social media presence may be, you're still promoting yourself and your  business.

If people are following you because they're interested in you and your business this shouldn't be a problem. Balance is essential in social media and a good mix of social interaction, interesting information and an occasional direct business post is sometimes tricky to achieve, but it's well worth the effort.

There is a model of self promotion on social media that I don't advocate. (Hence the title of this post) This is the overly insecure need to repost every mention  - even auto generated mentions from sites such as YouTube, Klout or Paper.Li.

If someone has said something truly exceptional about you then by all means repost it. (I'd suggest this is done in moderation and coupled with a thank you for the testimonial.) If it's something as generic as an auto-generated follow Friday on Twitter, ask yourself what value retweeting that will have to your followers.

So, how do you make capital out of your mentions on social media? Here's an example

If you get 7 notifications that someone has liked your YouTube video how about saying "good to see our video getting some likes" and link to it again. You've accomplished the self promotion aspect and directed people to your information without clogging up their feeds with 7 anodyne reposts.

Take a look at your last 50 tweets. (Some people will be back as far as yesterday, other will be back 6 weeks or more!) What does the balance of your Twitter output look like? Is there a good mix of content? Too much coffee and cats? (Guilty as charged!) Too much retweeting? Or, are you not talking to people enough?

Now look at your LinkedIn and Facebook pages. Do your posts encourage interaction, or are they "for information".

If you have a social media stream full of reposts about you then you're tending towards narcissism and it's time to change. It's all about adding value to the people that interact with you on social media. Quality - not quantity - is the key.