All posts by Sharon A.M. MacLean

About Sharon A.M. MacLean

Communications strategist*publisher*fund developer driven by purpose & relationships for business & not-for-profits

Stephen Saber on Personas

The Secret to Personas and ROI

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

You’ve taken the time to identify your personas—a representation of your ideal customer—for online marketing.  “Now what?” you ask.

Let’s first take a step back. You thought deeply about what keeps your customers up at night. Maybe it’s the anxiety stemming from competitors poaching their clients…or the lack of funds to meet month-end payroll…how about sales messages that fall on deaf ears.

The analysis also revealed:

  • general personality traits of your customers and prospects;
  • personal values;
  • whether they have an affinity for doing business with you;
  • their capacity for doing business with you.

The next step is to figure out how you can help each Persona. We’re not talking about generic answers, either. It’s more than increasing customer service or helping them to become more efficient. You’re looking for more specific ideas to help your Personas solve their specific challenges.

“People go online for 2 reasons, says Stephen Saber pictured above, CEO of TPNI Engage and Pulse Network. “To be entertained or to be educated.” The Pulse Network and TPNI Engage offers state-of-the-art marketing systems that help small business and enterprise clients to leverage social media, book publishing, special event management, video and mobile marketing to attract and engage customers. Full disclosure: I am a satisfied client who uses their systems for automated email marketing, podcasts, landing pages and newsletters. To name a few services.

“Your customers need to solve a problem,” says Stephen. “They need to grow their business and drive traffic, leads and sales,” so they’re looking for answers online. Yes, they want to self-educate.

The 4 types of Personas

It is tempting to throw everyone you know into the same database and send identical messages to the entire group.

Instead, try using a simple grid to place your customers and prospects somewhere in a 4-quadrant grid. Each quadrant shows conversations unique to their Persona profile. It’s the same as having a face-to-face conversations; each dialogue is different depending on who you’re talking to.

Here’s Stephen’s 4-quadrant grid along with my additional comments: Existing Customers; Lapsed Customers; Referred Friends; Desired Customers.

Quadrant 1: Existing Customers. These are your best clients. Individuals who land in Quadrant 1 have a high capacity and high affinity for doing business with you. Can you increase the amount of products and services you’re offering to them? How about the frequency for making a purchase.

Since you also know a lot about your customers, you probably don’t need to spend too much on additional study. That is not to say they should be ignored, but the research may be redundant.

Type of message: The communication—in 10 words or less—is simple and straight forward that solves their current challenge.

Quadrant 2: Lapsed Customers. These former customers are sitting in your database and, lately, you’ve not engaged them. Personas in Quadrant 2 have high capacity and the potential for the highest ROI.

Type of message: Remind them of what you do best. Their communication differs from Existing Customers because you haven’t talked to them lately. It’s just like an old friend you haven’t seen in years: You want to jog their memories about the good feelings you shared.

Quadrant 3. Referred Friends. Personas in Quadrant 3 may have great affinity, but undetermined capacity. They are great prospects because of their strong connection with friends of your business.

Type of message: Refer to common ground with your mutual friend and realize their circumstances might be vastly different. Ask questions about their current challenges.

Quadrant 4: Desired Customers. These are people you’d like to know but you’re not yet doing business with them. “It’s a fresh conversation,” says Stephen.

You don’t know about the affinity or capacity for Quadrant 4 people. It is important to qualify them, if only to ensure that scarce resources are not spent in attempting to build relationships or to pitch them. Low cost strategies are warranted and you do need to monitor the investment.

Type of message: It’s a brand new discovery conversation. Learn as much as you can about their business and paint points before offering solutions.Also learn – early – about their capacity and affinity for doing business with you.

Finally, determine the frequency of your messages and the best channels that reflect the Personas in each of your 4 quadrants.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Big business helped small business..

No, it’s not because of their shiny new tools.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.

Rinnnnnng! “We’re registered for the big IBM conference at Las Vegas in six weeks and we don’t have a social profile,” said Blaine McGillivray with some urgency.  “Can you help us, Sharon?”

Blaine is Business Development Manager for Technology Concepts Group (www.gotgc.com) headquartered at Illinois. The IT firm specializes in computerized maintenance, facilities management, and Maximo for industry. Their new solution, Predictive Insights, is all about the “cognitive era”. That means complex mathematical models for analyzing data that help plant operators detect and prevent faults and outages before they occur.

Blaine organized a conference call with President Mark Rogers and Managing Partner Robert Januzik to help me understand their business challenge. “I didn’t really know where to go with it (social media)”, said Mark in debrief.  “I also hadn’t realized the time involved.”

An audit of TCG’s social footprint revealed accounts for LinkedIn and Twitter and a static website—functioning much like a brochure.  No blog.  I’ve seen similar medium-sized companies that want to catch up with digital marketing; nobody wants to risk getting left behind today. TCG was a solid enterprise in business for 16 years and the principals were respected armed forces veterans.

The important detail was that TCG had finished integrating Predictive Insights with Maximo for computerized maintenance and case management systems. Think big industry—chemical plants, oil gas refineries, even car manufacturers. The new service was being launched at IBM’s conference expected to draw 21,000 delegates with 200 breakout sessions, 13 keynotes and 3 general sessions. Seven TCG personnel were making the trip to host their booth and Blaine planned to present a session on Predictive Insights.

The special event meant a serious investment for TCG.  They had six weeks to create a brand presence and promote the session.

It’s not a great idea to launch a marketing strategy in zero to 60 for any company, let alone one with little or no profile.  The better idea is to establish brand presence over time and take advantage of special event opportunities along the way.

By the way, just having a social media presence—such as a LinkedIn account—isn’t actually a social media strategy. It’s a good idea to define a plan, and more importantly, execute that plan daily with your customers in mind as well as prospects and other interested parties.

So, the plan for TCG looked like this:

  1. Determine best platforms for speed-to- market;
  2. Discover relevant influencers and build relationships;
  3. Fill the sales funnel with potential prospects and existing customers;
  4. Acquire and create content to post on platforms;
  5. Capture names of prospects at the event to follow up after the show.

Here’s how we did it.

1. Best platforms for TCG: This was easy enough. The LinkedIn/Twitter combo provides business with the best customer intelligence available today. We needed to quickly build up lists for Mark, Robert, and Blaine, though—especially on Twitter which had no brand image or followers. We corrected that by immediately taking professional photos and creating a slick banner with a relevant message for Twitter. The bigger challenge: where and how do you find prospects?

2. Relevant influencers: IBM global marketers were brilliant. They identified important technical bloggers and provided introductions to the people that TCG needed to meet. We still needed to make the case for support, though. Influential media reps also were researched and contacted. All were followed on Twitter and LinkedIn and interviews arranged where possible.

3. Filling the funnel: There was no time to manually build a database for prospects, so we chose to automate. Of course, there are untold platforms that promise the world in social media. More come out every day. The key is to know which tools to engage and how to apply them for which mission. We chose Socedo. (This is not a paid commercial.)

Socedo is an automated system that matched our custom criteria in a search for prospects inside Twitter. Once we approved a contact, Socedo also searched for them on Linkedin and engaged with them automatically on both social networks. We estimated finding 200 prospects per day and we had 20 days left to build up and engage with those followers.

4. Acquire and create content. TCG did not have a blog and they had not created content on a regular basis. The content bank was virtually empty. However, Blaine did have the power point he created for the IBM session which led to the publication of his first blog. Of course, the social media challenge is to find followers who believe you’re worth their time. Fresh content is key.

The good news was that IBM did have many relevant blogs, and IBM gave us permission to re-purpose for TCG. We did not need permission but it was the respectful way to go.

A lineup of blogs, articles, infographics and videos was queued up using SocialOomph and we published all day long. People noticed and followed. They’re still following three weeks after the event including Veteran Radio.

5. Capture names at the event for follow up. TCG was clever here. They created a fish bowl to capture names of interested persons in their service. Not the free iphone draw but a free Data Analysis valued at $2,000. The complementary proof-of-concept shows how a maintenance plant can avoid catastrophe by spotting the problem in advance; qualified prospects put in their business cards.

For another occasion, TCG could take advantage of a strategy I like that works this way:

  • Identify serious prospects at an event;
  • Create urgency for prospects to sign up for services;
  • Automate the client’s payment process;
  • Build a mobile site for prospects;
  • Create customizable pricing packages to offer prospects;
  • Automatically re-bill customers and makes payments to a PayPal account.

What happened for the seven TCG people who attended the event? “There was not enough time to handle the line-up of visitors to their booth,” said Mark.

And, yes, there was positive ROI with respect to the TCG social media campaign and the IBM show.  “Absolutely,” replied Mark Rogers. “Especially the combination of LinkedIn and Twitter.” He was surprised by the “amount of followers we got so quickly.” He also was impressed with the willingness of people to talk about their needs.

And Blaine–the guy on the telephone? He recently recommended me to another client. Good ‘ol word-of-mouth. So, these are a few reasons that I’m a fan of IBM. They were authentic in their dealings…respectful of their small business partners…and they saw the bigger picture.

The human element was not forgotten among all those shiny new tools that IBM offers.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program xxxxxx

There's confusion in the social office

The 5 levels of skill for the social office

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

There’s confusion in the new social office.  And the boss thinks all SEO is spam.

Employers are assigning new responsibilities for online marketing to professionals not trained in social media…to sales representatives who hate writing content…and to younger administrators expected to know how to make friends in the networks because of their age.

There’s more to keeping up with pithy comments in the online world. The real quest is to determine beforehand which channels suit you best, set up relevant tracking sytems, and influence conversations that already are talking about your brand. Did anyone hear the word “strategy”?

Here’s 4 key questions to ask yourself:

  • Have you answered the “why” of your communications?
  • How much do you know about your audiences?
  • Are you being realistic about the ability to manage strategic initiatives?
  • What are realistic expectations for what you hope to accomplish?

Once you’ve answered the above questions, concentrate on these next 4 areas.

  1. Appraisal: Evaluate core communications for clarity and consistency across each channel you’ve researched. Of course, communicating by email is not the same as posting or networking on Twitter and LinkedIn. Be prepared to change styles for each platform.
  2. Capacity: Determine resources such as knowledge of leadership, staff and partners to to reach for success.
  3. Delivery cycle: Integrate online activities with offline happenings. I often discover that my clients have been hosting or attending offline events that are not coordinated with their online activities. These are missed opportunities.
  4. Leadership: Confirm that leadership is on board with strategies and the delivery cycle to ensure the plan has support.

Which level of skill applies to you?

There are 5 levels of performance  where each level represents higher categories of know-how.

Level One: Ad Hoc – Un-coordinated, unassigned, no resources

An ad hoc communications practice is not coordinated, assigned or organized; no resources are allocated for results. Success is based on the competence and efforts of the business owner and one or two staff. Yet, these informal and often seemingly chaotic practices can be quite successful. The questions become:

  • How much more successful might you be if you were intentional in planning, coordinating and managing strategic communications?
  • Could you be more cost effective, provide more quality and quantity with intentional practices over time among staff, partners, sectors and supporters?

Level Two: Planned – Deliberate/managed, resources allocated, assigned responsibilities

The practice is planned and deliberate as opposed to being spontaneous, reactive or on an “as needed” basis. Resources are allocated to the practice, responsibilities are assigned, and the process is managed. Activities do not occur regularly, however, and may still be performed by one or two individuals.

Level Three: Identified process – Regularly performed

Level three practices are a routine part of the “fabric.” The business has determined their ideal ways to approach formal communications; practices are well known and coordinated within the business and among partners, sectors and supporters.

Level Four: Evaluated – Progress tracked

Communications results are evaluated. Measures of performance and progress are collected and analyzed. Often a quantitative understanding of success is known and tracked, and the business has a better ability to predict or estimate outcomes.

Level Five: Optimized – Continuous improvement

Distinctions between levels one and two are based on the degree to which a company is reactive and disorganized (level one) versus purposeful and proactive (level two). At level three, the practice is performed regularly, consistently across channels, and has been performed enough that the organization has gained a certain level of proficiency at it.

At level four, the business has committed to tracking communications to better understand how to improve performance. The business is monitoring the quality of the practice. Level five demonstrates an even higher level of commitment to the practice as the company is committed to improving performance over time.

These 5 levels describe how prepared your company is to deliver on a communications marketing plan. It may be that you need to revisit the basics or take a refresher course.

SEO, by the way, means search engine optimization.The practice improves search engine rankings for content to help you find new customers faster.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Teresa Spinelli on Have you found your online champions

They have power, influence and business impact

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

We know now that creating content, especially blogs, tops the list of every how-to strategy for marketing online.

You’ve got a few choices: You can publish your own blog, infographic, video or podcast, to name a few methods. Or you can distribute content acquired from other sources.

Another option is to find people with influence to help share your story through the clout they’ve built up across the different platforms.

We call this influence marketing. It’s the practice of working with prominent people online to spread the word about your products and services through social media.

Recently, I analyzed my Tweets over the previous 12 months. The evaluation revealed the names of 5 powerful influencers I want to thank. Here they are:

  1. Stewart Harding 683K followers
  2. Norman Buffong 450K followers
  3. Kim Garst 400K followers
  4. Pam Moore 250K followers
  5. Phil Glutting 128K followers

Just last week, Kim Garst kindly tweeted out a blog for me with a reach of 1885 impressions, 11 engagements, and 4 retweets. She said, “Yes!” to sharing the LinkedIn blog titled, Who’s on 1st in the social media c-suite?

Wow, thanks, Kim.

Over the year, my impressions increased by 29.5%, profile visits improved by 35%, and mentions amplified by 9.5%. This shows it’s possible for a business person to increase their profile by diligently posting on their preferred networks; Twitter and LinkedIn in this case. My most popular blog? An earlier version of this topic on influencers.

A really important metric, though, deals with engagement. I found the highest interactions came from my local community with amazing people I’ve known over the years. Isn’t that like real life? We generally connect more with folks we know better than those we’re getting to know. Here, I’m talking about Teresa Spinelli known around Canada as a much-loved business tycoon in the grocery store business.

I also want to give a shout out to a new friend, Michael Kawula, CEO at Social Quant. His platform was responsible for my top share for the post co-written with Olivier Taupin titled, What are you doing with all your contacts?

Here’s how Kraft foods recently handled a promotion for Christmas. Kraft cherry-picked 180 bloggers with verified fans and readers who fit the right customer profile. Each influencer wrote an original recipe that featured a Kraft ingredient and each recipe drove readers to a redeemable coupon at Target.

The national brand spent $43,000 to generate nearly 760,000 blog post views from around 180 recipes. Kraft engaged a snappy new platform called TapInfluence and the campaign was less expensive than traditional advertising.

Small and medium-sized business can do the same thing with sweat equity on a smaller scale by building their own lists of bloggers and developing relationships with them.

Influencers help with everything from increasing sales to public education campaigns, event promotions, fundraising, and new product introductions.

Where do you begin to find influencers?

Start within your own networks and move out from there. Build a database to keep track of these elements:

  • Name of influencer
  • Preferred network
  • Audience size
  • Age group
  • Engagement: Clicks, comments, shares, likes, retweets, pins, re-pins
  • Advertisers represented
  • Notes from conversations to remember what you heard them last say

Of course, there are hundreds of directories for over 250 million bloggers on the planet. When you run out of names from your personal circles of influence, try expanding your search of these directories:

Be prepared to give ideas about your audience to prospective influencers, as well:

  1. Topics important to your audience
  2. Background information for your clients who are considering making a purchase
  3. Answers to questions that your customers have not  thought to ask
  4. Online sources that customers research for information on similar products and services

What flummoxed me, though, was a way to rank bloggers with whom to develop relationships. Below is what Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of www.pixlee.com pictured above, figured out. I love it.

 Influence = Audience reach (#of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers.

Here’s 8 more points to remember:

  1. Don’t confuse volume of contacts with influence.
  2. Set objectives: Know what you want to achieve and make sure that you reach your targets.
  3. Think long term. Invest your time, attention and interest in the other person. Be careful not to be seen as only making contact when you want something from an influencer.
  4. Spot opportunities. Are you able to introduce the blogger to people within your network? Do you see potential partnerships or sponsorships to involve the blogger?
  5. Don’t forget your “everyday” customers and brand advocates. More than celebrities in your niche, this type of influencer/follower can boost small no-name companies to higher profiles.
  6. Mention the blogger on your own website or blog.
  7. Link to them – both hyperlink and other social media channels. Follow them on Twitter and retweet their best tweets. Suggest involving them in other more interactive ways – e.g. interviews or video
  8. Remember that bloggers are legally required to disclose if they are being compensated much in the way that traditional media must identify advertorials as paid messages.

In addition, when a blogger writes about your story and receives compensation, it is deemed a “sponsored post”. This means any hyperlink must be classified as ‘no-follow’ links which means they are not counted by search engines when calculating page rank.

Establishing presence in the digital world can seem overwhelming. Publishing a blog and identifying 5 influential bloggers to form relationships is a good place to start.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program

Olivier Taupin on Who's on 1st in social media in the c-suite?

The CEO, the Executive Assistant or the Hired Help?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

It’s agreed: Social media is here to stay. Studies increasingly report that executives (76%) would rather work today for a social CEO. MBA Central also found that 3 in 4 customers say a company is more trustworthy if its high-level leadership participates in social media. The proviso is that clients don’t like brash business styles and that “controversial personal opinions can turn off consumers.”

How do you get started in social media? Find the “why” behind your professional brand and tell us what inspires you to do what you do. Digital pioneer Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media reminds us that Tom Peters introduced the concept of personal branding in 1997 – five years before LinkedIn was founded. Peters said, “Big companies understand the importance of brands. Today, in the age of the individual, you have to be your own brand.”

CEOs are being asked to write blogs that enhance their professional brand…frequent the company website…self-author posts on social networks. And, oh yes, please be authentic; no more company platitudes.

How do you manage these new demands on your time and resources? We’ve detailed a list of things-to-do but, first, here’s four general guidelines.

  1. Find your own way to express in words the company’s vision, mission, and culture. Nobody wants to hear slick and packaged slogans, anymore. “The ability to clarify your corporate culture,” emphasizes Oliver, “helps to synchronize external messages with internal communications.”
  2. Developing your online brand requires that you first build distribution networks while you create and publish content to engage with followers. It takes time to build trusted relationships in person – and online.
  3. Please don’t vent on social media…”You’re going to regret it later,” cautions Olivier.
  4. Avoid talking hard-core sales in the networks. You can talk positively about your product and services but don’t offer fans, followers, and contacts 20% off your products or get-rich-schemes in the networking platforms.

CEOs DO THIS

Start listening online to monitor your name and brand. You can gauge how often your company is discussed, the sentiment (positive and negative) and the reach. Terry Williamson of Boom! Social likes SocialMention, Hootsuite, and Topsy for these services.

  • Thoroughly complete your LinkedIn profile; reach for all-star status. By the way, your profile is not a resume emphasizes Olivier. You are not looking for employment. Also don’t forget: If you do get a new job, update your profile.
  • Ensure your headline serves your connections on LinkedIn, followers on Twitter and Google+. Think beyond the position title on your business card.
  • In your LinkedIn summary: Include the mission statement for your company in addition to describing the culture of the business. Remember that your website bio parallels your LinkedIn profile.
  • Read mentions about your company each week.
  • Set up your accounts on Twitter and Google+ or ask your EA for help here.
  • Grow your contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. You will probably want assistance here, as well, after the social media strategy is defined and approved.
  • Olivier is a strong believer in connecting with people who have viewed your profile but who also suit your purpose. It’s worth your time to pay attention to this strategist who founded over 100 groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million contacts. Be very careful that your connections reflect your strategic mission.
  • Write a blog in your voice. Sources of content for blogs are found in myriad places—either original or acquired to reflect your strategy. There are numerous tools to assist you with this task.
  • People helping with your social media will need to use your accounts and passwords. They should work under existing privacy policies or NDAs (non-disclosure agreements).

EXECUTIVE ASSISTANTS DO THIS

Your right-hand person understands your business, comprehends your mindset, is proficient in technology, and is able to write. It’s a good idea for EAs to be trained to post in the social networks, too, based on strategies designed to support your business goals.

  • Monitors your reputation using software such as Hootsuite or other social media management tool.
  • Helps grow distribution on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and FB, if applicable.
  • Manages your personal database and contributes to the company CRM for overall company database management.
  • Knows the optimum number of contacts for your network. Olivier suggests a relatively small organization could have 10,000 but a multi-national probably needs a million. Think quality over quantity.
  • Once a week, creates an event to report on Twitter or a Q&A with the CEO using the up-and-coming blab.im.
  • Sets up an information funnel from the management team.

DON’T HAVE AN EA…BUT YOU DO HAVE A SALES AND MARKETING MANAGER? 

The above duties also could be assigned to an individual in these departments. We are seeing sales and marketing working more closely together these days as departments join forces when it comes to social media.

  • Understands branding and storytelling.
  • Manages the company CRM.
  • Finds images, creates infographics, and writes ebooks to accompany posts.
  • Attends events and takes photos or video shorts.
  • Joins in the company sharing of social media content.
  • Content creators may be found throughout the company – from the receptionist to the CEO.

HIRED HELP DOES THIS

The above duties also may be hired out to a specialist, mabye even a team. A good content creator will be able to write blogs, create copy for better automated email opening rates, and manage event campaigns; another individual may know more about SEO. In addition:

  • Creates a plan.
  • Helps design social  media policies.
  • Defines personas to inform all forms of content published across channels.
  • Trains and educates the c-suite and employee groups.
  • Establishes an editorial calendar.
  • Recommends social media tools to speed up tasks.
  • Asks for an audit of all relevant content previously authored.
  • Posts, trains employees to post, or sub-contacts to social media posters. By the way, Twitter is like a radio station – tweeting once a day is not enough. LinkedIn is a different culture that benefits a great deal from group participation and management.

Did we say that social media takes time? Yet, easier to manage with time-saving tools and worth the effort in this age of the personal brand.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin on This Just In...CEOs are Going Social

Social change underway in the C-Suite

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

CEOs finally are deciding to engage online and in social media.

Much has transformed since last year when blogger/author and former high tech executive Steve Tobak decried C-level involvement in the digital world. He supported CEOs who avoided social media because they “had better things to do such as run their companies, make great products that beat the competition, make money, and negotiate with big customers.”

It’s old news. Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media who has coached C-suite executives on social media for the last 15 years, says, “Yes!” to the message that executives have better things to do with their time. Think competitor knowledge…product research…influencers who drive followers to your business… partnership deals…and expert status.

Tobak needn’t worry for CEOs concerned about the downside risk of saying something awkward in a public network. Astronaut Chris Hadfield defined risk management this way: “Knowing what the next thing is that might kill you” and taking action to mitigate that. Most CEOs have figured out social media.

CEOs engage in social media

Weber Shandwick, a leading global public relations firm, released 2015 survey results that asked 50 of the world’s largest companies about their attitudes to social media. The firm found that 80% of those chief executive officers today engage in digital media.

The PR firm is familiar to me and I trust their work. Suffice to say that Socializing Your CEO: From Marginal to Mainstream  reveals CEO sociability has more than doubled since 2010 when only 36% of CEOs were social. This is good news; we increasingly are looking for leaders to take responsibility for building respect online among customers, employees and investors. Weber Shandwick defined CEOs to be “social” if they did one of the following:

  • Opened a public and verifiable social network account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Weibo, or Mixi;
  • Engaged on the company website through messages, pictures, or video;
  • Appeared in a video on the company YouTube or YouKu channel;
  • Authored an external blog.

It stands to reason that forward-looking CEOS don’t want to get left behind. They typically enjoy inspiring others…have a clear vision for their company…are good communicators…and are focused on their customers.

Weber Shandwick’s research shows that CEOs say their social media presence makes them feel inspired (52%), technologically advanced (46%), and proud (41%). Sociability indicates a “leader is listening, open to engaging in two-way dialogue with stakeholders, and comfortable with change.” Social CEOs also help to attract and retain employees.

Online MBA reports almost half of a company’s reputation is attributed to how people view the CEO since half of all consumers believe that a leader engaged on social media is more in touch with customers. Eight out of 10 consumers stated they’d be more likely to trust a company whose CEO and team engaged on social media and they would be more likely to buy from a company whose leaders were involved in social media.

Why did it take CEOs so long to join this shift in culture? Probably because most decision makers wanted first to see social media ROI. Don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon; the 2015 CMO Survey reveals 41.8 % of marketers have a good qualitative sense but not a quantitative sense of social media impact on business.

Might be better to think of Return on Influence.

Mark Schaefer’s phrase, Return on Influence, is a logical measure for me.  “When companies such as Disney, Nike, and Microsoft are creating successful marketing efforts centered on people’s social influence scores,” said Schaefer, “as a business professional, you’d better take that seriously.” The more followers you have, the more influential you are to those looking into your niche.

Social media benchmark results

Still, marketers want to satisfy the boss when it comes to expectations. Webmarketng123 reports that Return on Investment continues to concern marketers in their 2015 State of Digital Marketing Survey of over 600 U.S. marketing professionals. They learned that revenue maintains top billing but proving ROI continues to pose a major challenge.

LinkedIn came in first when it came to answering the question for B2B: “Which of the following social media channels below have generated revenue for you?”

  • Facebook – 20%
  • LinkedIn – 37%
  • Pinterest – 3%
  • Twitter – 19%
  • Other – 12%
  • Not sure – 46%

How about the power combo of the blog and email marketing? Yes, 60% of B2B brands now blog, at least once a week. And email marketing remains the clear favourite at 93% among B2B marketers followed by social media (87%), SEO (78%) and paid search (56%).

Back to Weber Shandwick and my top 4 take-a-ways for CEOs.

  1. The company website is the top destination for executive  A no brainer here. This is a simple entry point for executives where messages are easily controlled.
  2. Corporate video is fast becoming the new normal for CEOs. Executives trained on camera for media interviews will be more comfortable appearing on video. As Weber Shandwick recommends, think about repurposing video clips of CEOs giving quarterly earnings presentations at industry-related events. Different videos may be created for customers.
  3. LinkedIn is considered a safe network for business. The rate of CEOs using LinkedIn nearly quadrupled to 22% from 4% since 2010. They are beginning to understand that LinkedIn is useful for purposes of research, networking, and business development – in addition to job recruitment.
  4. CEOs can help position companies in their respective niches by establishing themselves as a trustworthy leader. They also are able to identify and nurture other influencers from within their industry to drive attention and demand for their products and services.

Finally. The CEOs have arrived at the helm of social media.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

CEO Alert the courts want your Social Media Policy 2

Social media policy: Stern or lenient?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here. 

It’s relentless. You find stories every day on Google that announce how someone got fired for posting senseless comments on social media. We call that getting “dooced”.

Sometimes, the comments are intended; other times, not. Who can forget the Royal Bank of Scotland Chairman Rory Cullinan who did not mean to go public when he sent Snapchat messages to his daughter saying he was bored at work. Cullinan lost his job after his daughter posted them on Instagram. It’s almost unbelievable that people will broadcast their most risky thoughts in a public forum.

And yet, they do.

This blog is not for those idiots. It’s for the vast majority of human beings who are sensible, generally respectful, and who appreciate guidelines to avoid the “lack of common sense” that occasionally befalls all of us.

You’ve probably already been alerted to potential disputes such as these:

  • Are you legally exposed when it comes to the rights of employees who want to freely post on social networks?
  • Who is liable when a disgruntled employee tweets about getting passed over for a promotion?
  • What about a customer who complained on Facebook about their restaurant meal to a reporter. Do you respond?
  • Should you just ban all employees from accessing their social media sites at work completely?
  • What exactly is the proper way to go about sensitive issues?

Your company—big or small—needs a social media policy advises social media pioneer Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media. He’s the guy who originated group rules for LinkedIn managers. The degree of leniency is up to you and your management team to decide based on the structure of your company. By the way, if you don’t have a policy, your lawyer’s hands are tied when it comes to an employee suing for wrongful dismissal because they dissed your company online. You will have a difficult time winning in court because you never told employees they couldn’t do what they did.

Examples of social media policies

Social media policies that are too broad may lose the chance to help employees develop good habits. You might even miss finding great “brand ambassadors” for your brand message.

Zappos is an example of a company that’s created a brilliant social media culture. Their policy is seven words long: “Be Real and Use Your Best Judgment.” It’s too brief for my taste and the Zappos policy is not for everyone.

Policy wonks generally refer to three approaches when making rules of engagement. The first is evolutionary to see which slip-ups—and opportunities—present themselves more frequently before scripting instructions. A second way is to establish a clear policy from the outset which leads to a third hybrid option. This method starts with composing a strategy based on your culture before determining what needs to be adopted over time.

For example, you may prefer this stern approach to social media:

  • Employees who develop and update social media postings will only do so with the approval of the president or his/her designate;
  • Only employees that have been chosen as “official” social media representatives are allowed to contribute to the brand’s social media;
  • Social media is not allowed in the workplace at all.

Oracle’s social media policy has evolved over the years. This global enterprise with 130,000 employees that designs and manufactures IT networks previously regarded social  media as a “hindrance to productivity because it could lead to too much personal use.” The company now encourages “…all employees to share official company social posts and content on their own social channels.”

There’s evidence this change-of-heart recognizes that employees with a greater voice are a happier workforce, says Eric Siu in The Globe & Mail.  He’s referring to research from the University of Warwick on how happiness makes people 12 per cent more productive.

Personally, I don’t think harsh policies are relevant today. It’s a switch-up from “Old Style PR” designed to focus on things that employees cannot do rather than what they can do.

Olivier adds that stern policies will not work in the context of social media since employees do have a life outside their workplace.These narrow-minded policies will not prevent some of the most damageable posts: Those made in the privacy of their home on personal social media accounts where they’re speaking with their friends and followers.

Don’t forget sites like Glassdoor, either, cautions Olivier. They encourage anonymous and identified authors to post reviews of current and former employers and company executives.

I like the IBM method which allows employees to comment on behalf of the company while retaining some of their personality. Here’s an example: “Lead Development Representative for #cloud at @IBM#Bluemix #Softlayer – I like fashion and news. Tweets are my own opinion.” 

IBM’s last item in their policy cheekily reminds employees: “Don’t forget your day job. You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with performing your job responsibilities or commitments to customers.”

I also love this one from GAP when it comes to confidentiality: “Don’t even think about it. Talking about financial information, sales trends, strategies, forecasts, legal issues, future promotional activities.”

6 More Ideas for Your Social Media Policy 

When crafting guidelines, make are the 7 essential Must-Dos:

  1. Start Day One. Include briefing notes for new employees on policies in their employee handbook or however you hire a new person. Make sure that employees understand the policy is contractual and there are consequences for violating it. This early start sends the message that you’re serious about social media management.
  2. Update your Social Policy Regularly. Social Media is a fluid environment that reflects the laws governing the Internet. Expect your policies to change accordingly.You will need strategies in place as you learn this new marketing tool.
  3. Please use common sense. Yes, it seems everyone should know to resist sending a racial slur, demeaning or inflammatory comment. Yet, it’s a good idea to err on the side of caution and tell employees to be polite. Advise them to agree to disagree with others, especially on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, where things can go viral wrong very quickly.
  4. Create safe places. Have a genuine open-door policy. Organizational trainer David Meade says it’s the leader’s job to figure out how to help your workforce feel safe. Why? Because employees want to feel respected…listened to…and trained. So, if an employee has a grievance, encourage them to visit their supervisor before taking to social.
  5. Ask employees to amplify key messages. Social media more likely will pay dividends if employees are behind it. Give them access to content that framesss company positions and directions on key subjects. Ask them to share those messages. Also think about using social as a way to build buzz for upcoming products or services.
  6. Encourage Self-Monitoring. More and more HR departments are checking employee profiles and activities. Controversial? Yes, for good reasons. Informing employees they do not have reasonable expectation of privacy in their social media communication is often a good enough deterrent. But there is even a better one: Encourage employees to follow each other and invite managers to connect with them. The purpose is to create a team spirit, not a police state.
  7. Most important of all: Don’t stop training your employees after day one. Use the training sessions to update your workforce on policies and as strategies change.

Everyone wns.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

How CEOs Win at Social Enterprise

Before you invest in social media, read this post.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.  bit.ly/1JuaV8k  

A strong mindset for company leadership always begins in the C-Suite.

Except conviction is lagging among executives when it comes to how business benefits from social media as a corporate strategy. “Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social business. The path to 20% more revenue and 60% higher profit growth is being held up by the head honcho.

McKinsey and Company – named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders- says decision makers must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Social media visionary Olivier Taupin of Next Dimension Media is vexed by the gap in commitment in this Age of Knowledge. According to the New England Council for Educational Research, knowledge is defined, “Not for what it is, but for what it can do. It is produced, not by individual experts, but by ‘collectivising intelligence’ – that is, groups of people with complementary expertise who collaborate for specific purposes.”

Here are 4 vignettes we regularly come across when it comes to implementing social media for the benefit of most organizations. Recognize anyone?

The Pretender. This CEO saw a major sales initiative fail at his mid-sized manufacturing company. They needed a CRM installed to support lead generation and track sales engaged through social media. Management requested that he demonstrate strong support for the project and provide visible leadership. The CEO refused, saying: “I haven’t got the time. Who else is willing to take on this responsibility?” The CEO is a pretender. He reluctantly accepts the importance of social enterprise but would not make it a personal priority.

The Evangelist. This CEO believed the newly created infrastructure was not sufficiently integrated to handle business growth. She had a “gut feel” about personally selecting a third-party vendor to replace the infrastructure, and was dogmatic in her direction. She would not listen to her staff who had had done their due diligence. The project was over-ambitious and it failed.

The Pessimist. A CEO recognized that social media was increasingly central to his sales department. But he also was extremely cautious. “Don’t ask me to invest in training our employees; they can learn on their own time,” he would say. “I need to see ROI when it comes to social media.” Many CEOs appreciate this common-sense approach to such initiatives. Unfortunately, he concedes social media may be important but is not prepared to back his instincts.

The Champion. This CEO reviewed her competitors’ strategies. She found her rivals were all using social media in similar ways. For her, social media became a rallying point for employees. Over time, she espoused this belief in management meetings, seminars, and company conferences. This CEO had faith in social media as a source for competitive advantage and committed her time and attention to making it happen. She championed the move into social enterprise.

To reduce risk when it comes to rolling out your social media plan, consider these recommendations from Olivier:

1.Set priorities. Decide in favour of managing social media instead of controlling messages in the way of “Old School PR”. Traditional methods streamlined corporate messages through a single company spokesperson or the CEO.  All other comments by staff were forbidden for fear of dismissal.

There is an attitude adjustment about control that organizational psychologist Dr. Bill Crawford describes this way: “What if we decide that being clear, confident, creative, and caring are the qualities we want to be able to access, regardless of the situation, and that this is our highest purpose. The good news is that these qualities can be within our control, AND they will also help us become successful in achieving what we want.”

2. Review Like it or not, says Olivier, “Many of your employees are talking about your company on every platform.” Networks are changing fast and frequently which means that policies cannot be carved in stone and put on the shelf. “Why not collaborate with your employees?” encourages Olivier. “Connect with staff on the networks…teach them how to use the platforms…and give them good social media polices.”

3. Set aside quality time. Champion CEOs study rather than avoid change in the market place. They devote time to scanning new and emerging technologies while reflecting and talking extensively to others on how social enterprise might impact their own industry and business.

4. Train everyone. Educate employees on social media culture, language, and rules of engagement. “Would you rather have a trained or untrained employee?” when it comes to managing what’s being said about your company asks Sharon McIntosh in Empower Your Employees To Become Your Greatest Brand Ambassadors.

It is important for you to manage what employees are tweeting and posting, especially on issues that pertain to the workplace.

Will you be hampering their rights to freely post whatever content they see fit for their social networks? Should you just ban them from accessing their social media sites at work completely? What exactly is the proper way to go about this sensitive issue?

Next time, we’ll give you ideas for social media policies.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin on Vertical Markets

How to generate revenue from Vertical Markets

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.  bit.ly/1JuaV8k 

Vertical markets are irresistible for their direct connections. In the world of print publishing, some of our most successful editions came from creating special publications tightly focused on a specific industry.

Investopedia defines vertical markets this way: A group of companies that serve each other’s specialized needs and that do not serve a broader market. For example, a company that manufactures furniture would belong to a vertical market while a company that sells furniture  would be described as a horizontal market for its various target audiences.

Niche groups have been around from the time of trade magazines. The 21st century version of trade magazines is the vertical network. Of course, networks are much less expensive to operate than printing and distributing paper to reach industry members. I can tell you it’s a tantalising business model for former print publishers.

How to generate revenue in social networks

Yes, there’s money to be made in these social networks. Think about LinkedIn where brands pay for these opportunities:

  • Sponsorship;
  • Advertising;
  • Profile-matching to help identify potential job candidates.

According to Jon Reed, writing on Diginomica. “Company pages are OK, but it’s the topical groups that spur the most engagement… thousands of members, but more importantly, active, on-topic discussions…”

Brands have always wanted to get their message in front of audiences that align with their mission. Think how pharmaceutical companies have disappeared from mass advertising over recent years. Their names do appear, though, amidst conversations hosted by subject experts and contracted by the pharmaceuticals on matters of great medical concern to their groups. Think diabetes and Pfizer.

There are more than 2 million groups on LinkedIn notes David Sumner Smith of www.NextDimensionMedia.com. The vast majority are very small, with less than 100 members. Just over 200 groups (i.e. 0.01%) have more than 100,000 members. Forty groups have more than 250,000 members, while each of the top 10 have more than 500,000 members.

Sumner Smith and his partner, Olivier Taupin, remain committed to LinkedIn. After all, it was Olivier who founded LinkedIn:HR, the largest professional group on LinkedIn and the largest HR community worldwide with 975,000 members.

Yet, both gentlemen are captivated by the prospects that come with emerging Vertical Networks.

Sumner Smith likes to quote Ben Boyer who says, “LinkedIn groups represent a slight verticalisation of the horizontal network itself by allowing people to populate themselves into these defined buckets.” The managing director of Tenaya Capital couches his comments, though: “They are very different from Vertical Networks.”

Branded Vertical Networks own their IT platforms. They also serve a specific profession by offering tools, resources and information that is practically useful to members of that profession. For example, Spiceworks delivered a network management tool that is now used to manage 170 million hardware devices and more than 10 billion traditional and cloud-based application installations.

Here’s a few more examples.  Avvo.com is a U.S.-based network that connects lawyers to other lawyers, and also enables their customers – individuals or businesses – to obtain speedy online responses to legal questions.

Chef’s Roll is a global culinary community of professional chefs, food authors, and industry professionals. Their website recently posted an opportunity for brand ambassadors to represent their flavour smoke products.

The Alumni Advisory Council for my own alma mater, MacEwan University, is exploring the benefits of building a Vertical Network for graduates. The educational institute could align with potential sponsors who want to get their name in front of future job candidates and clients. Of course, such close alignment between vendor and audience is something that businesses handsomely support.

More ways to generate revenue in Vertical Markets

Sumner Smith describes two more ways for Vertical Networks to generate sales:

  • Revenue sharing of products sold through the network between vendor and network owner;
  • Tools provided by networks to help professionals do their job more easily. “Usually those tools (developed by the network owners) are provided for free,” says Sumner Smith. “But paid extensions can be made available, too.”

Olivier Taupin created a Business Directory of Vertical Professional Networks defining the more high profile Vertical Markets. He says that Academia.edu claims membership growth of 10% per month while Spiceworks states a high-growth revenue category of 20% year on year. Edmodo for educators says it’s averaging 5.5 million new users per year.

Here’s 4 more Vertical Networks

StratasysManufacturer of 3D printers and 3D production systems for office-based rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing solutions. It surprised the investment industry, since there were very well known suitors for the acquisition: Adobe and Autodesk.

GrabCAD (now Part of Stratasys)- A mechanical engineering community platform that connects mechanical engineers with manufacturers and product development companies. GrabCAD is leading the open engineering movement, helping engineers get products to market faster by connecting people, content and technology.

Edmodo operates a social network for education in the U.S. It enables teachers, students, and parents to connect, share content, and access homework, grades, and school notices. The company’s network enables teacher-to-teacher resource sharing, global professional development, and networking opportunities.

Doximity Doctors/Physicians Founded: 2010 Launched: March 2011 Headquarters: San Francisco, California Number of Employees: 105 (June 2015) Membership (Registered Users): Over 400,000 verified U.S. physicians (December 2014), which represents more than 50% of US Physicians.

It’s worth your time: Keep your eye on Vertical Networks.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.

Olivier Taupin on crappy content

The truth about crappy content

By Sharon A.M. MacLean who invites your comments following this blog.  You can also find more modern marketing strategies for business here.  bit.ly/1JuaV8k 

“You need articles for the website?” pressed the CEO. “Words are cheap; buy them from one of those content farms.” I instantly knew we would not be working together very long given such little regard for his corporate image or for the reputation of his employees, customers and partners. Including mine.

Irresistible content comes from knowing what you stand for and what makes you unique. The clarity that comes from truly understanding what you offer—and for whom—is the promise that informs everything you say, write, record, produce and post.

Content farms are websites that hire a large number of freelance writers, editors, and videographers to pump out dirt cheap content at $15 per article. You can spend as much time searching their enormous databases for possible writers than you will to research and write the piece yourself.

Don’t get me wrong. There are excellent services who hire experienced journalists such as www.TroyMedia.com and www.NewsCred.com that vet their editorial teams and supervise the editorial process from start to finish. (Full disclosure: I contribute to Troy Media which distributes to news desks primarily in Canada and the U.S.) As a former magazine publisher, I can tell you it takes time to become familiar with the strength and style of any writer to determine if they’re a match for your story. We want you to rise above the clutter in your industry by getting to the vision behind your mission and telling us what nobody else has bothered  to say.  You don’t get that from bad prose.

Olivier Taupin knows a thing or two about building communities in social media. He’s established over 100 groups on LinkedIn with 1.4 million members. Olivier sees a gulf, though: The community builder too often receives regurgitated crap from companies who won’t pay for quality content to keep their prospects’ attention. After all, you want these people to become your customers.

The social media strategist urges you to, “Think about creating rich content that is useful and intriguing to your audience. For example, Oliver would not share a product brochure on Internet security from a Telco but he would be happy to share a well-written white paper on how to protect your business from hackers from that same Telco.

He encourages you to, “Demonstrate your expertise and forget about pushing self-promotional brochures.”

Today’s budgets are gradually moving towards providing good content—just not enough. The seduction is to avoid creating original content by professional writers in favour of buying cheap material that everyone’s seen before somewhere on the ‘net. People are smarter than that and expect more.

Marketers rely on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to improve search rankings, website traffic and lead generation. In June 2015 research by Ascend2, 72% of marketers cited relevant content creation as the most effective SEO tactic.

So, what are you going to write about?

First, you need to find the “why” and how it relates to your audience. That will be easier to do after you’ve identified your personas to satisfy the ABCs+ for your company.

A customer persona is more than a description of a target market. In addition to the traditional demographics, each profile describes:

  • A day-in-the-life
  • What keeps them up at night
  • Criteria they use to make a decision
  • Purchase cycle: impulse vs considered purchase and one-time vs recurring
  • Timeframe for making a purchase
  • Websites they frequent
  • Social footprint

The ABCs+ for your content 

Think about classifying your content into these categories: Acquaintances, Best friends, Champions, and Community. Your challenge is to create a digital hub that includes content to share, like, comment and refer on the social platforms. When content attracts and informs customers, it drives leads and sales.

Acquaintances. The first thing to appreciate in this group is that you barely know the person who has visited your website. Please don’t presume they immediately want to know you or like your message enough to purchase your products or services. They are researching other websites, too, and generally want to see value before returning for a follow-up visit. If they are intrigued enough to leave their email address, ask them a few discovery questions in your own lingo to know them better such as:

  • Have you identified a problem that needs a solution?
  • Is there a sense of urgency?
  • Have you had previous experience dealing with the same problem?
  • What will be the key factors driving your decision on this project?

Invest in this content:

  • Well-written blog
  • Infographics
  • E-books combined with video, audio, and written text
  • Landing page with CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Case studies
  • White papers
  • Curated content from quality sites such as swayy.com

Best friends. Just like personal friends, your top customers are those you trust in the best–and the worst of times. These clients purchase your products and services while you help them to grow individually and professionally. You can feel comfortable asking your Best Friends in business for references and introductions to their networks.

Invest in this content:  

  • Live and on-demand video
  • Newsletters
  • Photo albums
  • Landing page with CTA (Call-to-action)
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Short videos
  • Open sessions with thought leaders

Champions. Business champions are your board members, investors and ideal customers as well as leaders of commerce and the community in the media and in politics. They take exceptional interest in your success and evangelizes your ideas within their networks.

Invest in this content:

  • Digital publications featuring your champions and their missions
  • Annual reports with a video message from the president
  • References in your blogs etc. to their efforts
  • Annual thank-you slideshow

Community members: Fever Bee, the people who study website communities, reports that technology has not made us better at building communities. The key is authenticity in your relationships…respect for your fans and followers… and recognition there’s a human being on the other end of a Tweet or website query. Communities can increase customer loyalty, buying behaviour, brand advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge while reducing the tendency to engage in negative behaviours.”

Invest in this content:

  • Weekly video updates
  • Groups discussons on LinkedIn with trained leaders
  • Webinar sessions on Facebook with trained speakers
  • Hangouts with subject experts on Google+

The list of ideas grows daily.  I like what Guo Guangchang had to say in a blog recently posted on LinkedIn. “An opportunity sustains an enterprise for a year; good management sustains an enterprise for a decade; good corporate culture sustains an enterprise for a century.” Guo is the chairman of Chinese conglomerate Fosun International with assets of $160 billion under management.

Lifelong communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for over 21 years for business people. She is certified in Integrated Online Strategies from the University of San Francisco and the Instant Customer Mastery Certified Professional Program.