Tag Archives: Brand

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.

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.

Kim Garst

Get real–or risk killing your brand

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

We hear the phrase “authentic behaviour” repeated everywhere today. It’s a contemporary expression heard in the media…at the office…and, this week, in a branding meeting for a university. Yet, I’m wondering who understands what being “authentic” really means.

Mature business people grew up knowing that advertising, promotions and public relations were not always authentic. Business leaders spent their entire lives positioning their company in the best possible light by omitting details that could harm a carefully constructed image. To move these agendas along, an entire generation of public relations people took on the–often unfair—handle of “spin doctor.” My own early career started here, as well.

Thankfully, change is afoot which Digiday regularly flags as a shift in attitude. It’s been serious enough for the Pulitzer-winning Guardian newspaper to run a headline that said, “The fastest way to kill your brand: inauthenticity.”

Hype vs help 

It’s a challenging hurdle for those who live on hype, over promise and under deliver, or hide behind walls of privacy.

I remember dealing with a very secretive tycoon at my business magazine a few years ago. Our columnist attended a heavily promoted opening-day reception where the writer asked the mogul a few pertinent questions about financing. The tycoon instructed the writer (read course language here) to back off and his PR gal later demanded to know how the reporter had the nerve to ask such a delicate question.

We’re clearly in an age of unprecedented consumer empowerment, where the reality of products and services is just a Google search and tweet away. That’s led to an influx of citizenry demanding business leaders to be “authentic.” Here’s how 3 executives define authentic.

Kyle Sherwin, vp of media, Sony Music: “The original “idea” of authenticity was essentially a way for corporations to attempt to not sound corporate in their marketing efforts — or at the very least to stay true to their essence.”

Rick Maynard, senior manager of public relations, KFC: “To us, being real means being honest, inclusive, boldly unapologetic, refreshingly to the point, insightful and occasionally, a little edgy. We steer clear of being artificial, judgmental, insecure, full of hot air, timid or gimmicky.”

Joe Barbagallo, social media manager, Volvo Cars US: “Authentic means being transparent. We know our audience knows us well, and so we have to be honest. You’ve got to be forthright, especially if consumers are asking you a question.”

The best insights I’ve come across on the topic of authenticity are from Kim Garst http://kimgarst.com/beyoubook. Her most recent title explains the movement: Will the Real You Please Stand Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media. Kim currently is ranked by Forbes as the #8 female social media power influencer in the world.

There is nothing disingenuous about Kim. What you see is what you get. Here’s how she defines business embedded in passion: “It’s not rooted in selfish gains or desires, but instead constantly looks for ways to make life easier for others. Unlike hype, it cannot be hyped.”

She adds: “CEOs and marketers who believe they are in control of the message of a brand in today’s social world will kill the authenticity of that brand…Today, consumers own the message. What they say about a brand carries more weight than what the brand says about itself.”

People today want to know what drives your passion. Because if you can drill down to the very essence of why you deliver your products and services, that clarity makes us care, too. It’s captivating—and makes us want to follow your parade.

Those who can’t express their vision in a short elevator pitch—the time it takes to go from one floor to the next—will have difficulty leading their sales teams and explaining what they can do for their customers.

Terry O’Reilly, http://www.cbc.ca/radio/undertheinfluence in his popular radio program, Under the Influence, says, “A clear and compelling elevator pitch says so much about the founder of the company…or the director of marketing and her campaign or the salesman and his product line or the politician and his vision.”

By the way, brand is more than a listing of your product features. The miscue happens when business leaders haven’t nailed their core values and vision for the company that attracts the emotions of customers. The snowball effect is that all marketing materials miss the boat, too.

Back to Kim Garst. These are my favourite 7 ways that she recommends to be authentic in this digital age.

  1. Choose sincerity over overblown hype. This ranges from product design to the follow-up customer experience.
  2. Recognize and respect your heritage. History is not to be ignored because of new CEOs who hope to make their mark or new competitors entering the market, or customers drifting away to new offerings. A solid foundation exists for good reason.
  3. Become useful to your customer. Can your customers live without you? Think about adding value and expert advice—and don’t be afraid of giving away too much information.
  4. Understand what your customers value. Those values will be all over the map but you will spot a trend to focus on.
  5. Express your passion. People can detect a fake most times. A dearth of passion leads to lack of aim, dull messages, and mistakes in direction.
  6. Hype leads to professional burnout. The lines between professional and personal life are blurred today. Can you show interest in what gets your customers excited outside the office, as well? Otherwise, you risk burnout.
  7. Connect with a community. By providing consumers with the ability to interact with one another in addition to the company, businesses can build new and deeper relationships with customers.

There’s much more delivered inside 170 pages of Will the Real You Please Stand Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media.

It’s worth your time.

                                                                  xxxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com.

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Dr. Donald Norman founded UX or user experience

Is your website losing money for your business?

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

I’m hearing this lately: “Our website isn’t performing…we don’t get any leads…prospects never contact us, let alone customers.”

The message hits close to home for many businesses. Website owners often think the conversion of site visitors to full-fledged customers happens automatically–just because they’ve hired a website designer to launch their digital property.

In 1997, my magazine’s first website performed much like a print brochure. Read: old school. After seven or eight iterations over the next 12 years, we had yet to publish a blog, link with Facebook or host a PayPal account. We weren’t able to accept advertising, register for special events, or engage subscribers; Twitter was eight years away from driving followers to the site.

Thank goodness we had the prescience to build and maintain a database of about 5,000 fans.

In those early days, ecommerce was in its infancy. Amazon had launched their first site on July 5, 1994, while retail giant Marks and Spencer was opening its online doors for the first time – becoming an early ‘bricks and mortar’ entry into the world of credit card commerce.

My own next big web experience came with an investor-backed portal that provided marketing services to wellness experts such as family physicians, dentists, psychologists, nutritionists, and personal trainers. The website drew on big talent from IT engineering, graphic design, social media, live streaming television, web radio, and content creation.

There was a lot of ‘making it up as we went along’ combined with tried-and-true methods for sales and marketing. The concept had merit, yet, we rarely tested copy and there was no time to ask about our visitors—what they liked and disliked, their online habits or purchasing behaviours. For example, Google analytics allowed us to track visitor activities but we did not know who they were and why they behaved as they did.

The missing piece was knowing more about the website’s user experience—affectionately known today as UX.

Those who work on UX (called UX designers) study and evaluate how visitors feel about your website. Such things as ease of use, perceived value of services offered, and efficiencies are tested along the way.

UX designers also look “under the hood”. For example, they might study the checkout process to see how easy—or frustrating—it is to make a purchase. They also pay close attention to Web forms.

UX is relatively new. The term “user experience” was coined by Dr. Donald Norman (pictured above) best known for his books on design, especially The Design of Everyday Things. His message? Systems that ask the user to carry out many tasks must be regarded as a walk in the park: pleasant and without potholes.

Business owners thinking about ecommerce websites risk big losses in revenue by neglecting the user experience. Please trust me on this one.

UX AND USABILITY DIFFER 

By the way, user experience and usability are not the same. UX tells us how a visitor feels about your website system. Did they love their experience? Usability is about how well the interface works.

Of course, usability is important. Yet, it’s the human considerations such as psychology, information architecture, and attractive design that also play major roles.

3 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT UX

There are often two types of website visitors today– those who know what they are looking for and those looking to be inspired. Like window shoppers. Here’s how UX contributes to both sides of the ledger: expense and revenue.

USER SURVEYS: A UX designer interviews existing and potential users of the system to gain insight into what would be the most effective design. Because the user’s experience is subjective, the best way to directly obtain information is by studying and interacting with users.

WIREFRAMES AND PROTOTYPES: Based on their findings, UX specialists might develop wireframes showing different layouts as well as prototypes presenting higher-fidelity devices. A nice touch, especially when you’re thinking about incorporating, say, expensive live streaming.

USER PROFILES AND PERSONAS: A thorough understanding of your audience enables UX specialists to develop experiences that reflect the voice and emotions of potential clients. In my estimation, this is the only safe way to go. Otherwise, the train you want to build won’t even even leave the station.

CAN YOU AFFORD UX?

Small and medium-sized businesses often carry out much of their own sales and marketing activities by themselves. If there’s a budget for their website, the focus is more on the build process and less on planning, research and analysis. Companies with small budgets will be driven more by the launch of the final product.

LARGER COMPANIES WITH MORE COMPLEX INITIATIVES–AND TIME

Digital designers can supply anyone with a website template–fast. Adding a new element to the process will extend the timeline. It’s the advance thought that benefits website owners by saving costs down the road in revision phases and missing the mark of delivering a good experience for their users.

A useful website caters to researchers as well as to window shoppers. We want clear navigational links, solid search tools, and stimulating content with  good images for clients and prospects to do business with you.

  xxxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Name(required)

Know your persona

Persona: The online version of your target market

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

Last week, I was asked by a young marketer about the word “persona”. He heard the term from an online gooroo who talked about personas when it came to finding more customers online.

Traditionally, the phrase, target market, was the default to identify groups of people we wanted to reach for almost any reason.  A target market identified those who might buy our products…register to attend a special event…read our books…or donate funds for a charitable cause.

Building a persona for digital media is different when compared to traditional marketing; it’s more detailed. As a publisher, I can tell you that understanding your personas will help you focus and save time by creating content that people care about.

You also save time by avoiding confusion. When you can truly see the individual you need to reach, you’ll create better content for your website and email campaigns, videos, blogs, and social media.

Here’s a complementary cheat sheet to define your persona: Strategic Who_5 Steps

Each persona describes the day-to-day life, his/her likes and dislikes, the type of vehicle they drive, where they live, their hobbies. Today, the big brands call it being “customer centric” which means they want to focus on their customers rather than on themselves.

There are multiple ways of developing personas. An easy method is to collect data from a customer survey. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  1. Goals
  2. Challenges
  3. Interests
  4. Preferred publications
  5. Content preferences
  6. Social media preferences

It’s also a good idea to keep track of the collected data in a database for future connections. For example, some people don’t like receiving newsletters; they like ebooks. Knowing their social media platforms is a good idea, too: Some will respond through LinkedIn more than Twitter. Others want to receive your messages through email. Probably the majority.

Below are a few example questions I would ask in a survey.

  1. How do you like to receive your online messages?
  • Articles from experts delivered by email once or twice a month
  • Bite-sized information delivered to you on a daily basis
  • Short videos (90 seconds to 4 minutes) emailed to your inbox once a month
  • By mobile phone
  • Through your social networks

 2. What type of content would you prefer?

  • Industry insights
  • Video tutorial
  • Podcast
  • Case study
  • Webinar
  • News
  • Opinion Article
  • Other

3. Please indicate which social media networks you prefer 

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • YouTube
  • Instagram
  1. The time of day you prefer to receive your messages?
  • 7 to 9 am
  • During the work day
  • After the work day

Here’s an example of a persona that I built for my company.

  • Name: Business Owner Bob
  • Company President
  • Age: 55
  • Location: Headquartered in Edmonton
  • With 5 branches in Alberta and B.C.
  • Annual Sales: $7.5 million

The scenario: Bob started his company 25 years ago.  He’s a commercial developer and owns five large facilities in Alberta and British Columbia. The native Edmontonian, married for 30 years, has three adult children, gives back to his community, and is contemplating buying property in Palm Springs for quick golf trips.

An A-type personality, Bob likes to feel in control; he grew his company from scratch. Bob’s a frugal man with strong work ethics carried on from his parent’s generation.

A savvy entrepreneur, Bob traditionally has done all the marketing himself. He invites clients to golf and dinner; came up with marketing strategies himself with friends who provided free advice; always buys local print advertising, maybe some radio; ran direct mail campaigns (too expensive); built a website (very pretty).

The needs: Bob likes to think of himself as a smart business man. However, he’s experienced 7% attrition in gross sales and worries about the numbers trending south. Bob and his company need help with online marketing because that’s where his customers now live. He’s willing and, in some cases, eager to learn how to proceed.

 xxxxxx

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

Don’t get left behind: Modernize your marketing in 2015

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Still not convinced that social enterprise adds to your bottom line? You’re not alone.

“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 social enterprise is being limited by a dearth of executive buy-in, says the research authority.

Too bad. CEOs might take social enterprise more seriously if they knew that modern marketers deliver on average 20% more revenue and 60% higher profit growth. McKinsey and Company-named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders says leaders must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Can you afford to be beaten to the bottom line by your competitors? 

HubSpot hands out these stats: 72% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it. That includes your competitors.

Here’s more evidence from these experts.

Melonie Dodaro: Over 55% of profiles on LinkedIn are incomplete. Translation: lost business. Optimize your online presence for both the company and for sales reps, says Dodaro.

I agree. Only a third of the contacts in my own list on LinkedIn have been completed properly. Very difficult to enjoy the fruits of social selling if the seeds have blown away.

Jesse Noyse, Kapost (pictured above): Marketers need to practice accountability and answer these questions:

  • Who creates content and what role will they play?
  • How will we prioritize topics?
  • What resources do we have to create content?
  • What resources will we need to add?
  • How do we get content out of the door?
  • What can we do to ensure our content gets seen externally and internally?
  • How do we measure return on investment?

Nick Johnson, Incite Marketing and Communications:Incite recently polled their network of big brand marketers on The Future of Content. Only 21% of respondents felt they were even close to approaching audience saturation. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

Nataly Kelly, MarketingProfs: Take some training. This may include social media boot camps to get your leadership team on the same song page.

Here’s one from my client files: In the case of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park, Sharon Romank and staff thought self storage was too boring for a newsletter topic.

That theory was disproved soon enough with open rates reaching 55%. The industry average for products and services: 16.4%.

How did we do it? Affordable agreed to revisit their vision and mission statements…get clear on customer personas for a tighter writing style…deliver relevant copy for their customers.

It’s time business leaders get onside with social selling. Yet, marketers also must be prepared to demonstrate results.

xxxxxx

Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

Jay Abraham

Email is your endgame in business– every time

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Last week’s blog confirmed that email isn’t going away anytime soon and blogs top the list of social selling tactics.

The findings arose from Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner when they surveyed 2800 marketers on how social media grows and promotes business. It’s vital to know when asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

This blog looks at your endgame: the email list.

Yes, social media is sexy today. Everywhere you turn, there are offers to sell you the latest shiny, new tool. Except, it’s easy to get caught up in the million-dollar promises without knowing the foundation of an effective marketing strategy. It’s like the small business owner I met last week who wanted to host a client appreciation night without knowing her clients other than their names, their vague buying habits, and that they had been her customers for over 15 years. She wanted a social media campaign–yet, to what end?

It’s important to know the facts on email:  By 2018, there will be 2.8 billion email users, up from 2.5 billion this year. This number compares to:

  • LinkedIn: 300 million
  • Facebook: 1.23 billion
  • Twitter: 271 million
  • YouTube: 1 billion
  • People send an average of 121 emails each day
  • Business sends 108 billion emails annually

Remember Jay Abraham? He’s the guy that best-selling authors Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, and Brian Tracy quote for his marketing genius. The business visionary is known for his strategies in direct response marketing from the 1970s that apply today to email marketing. I started using his counsel during my fundraising days in the 1980s which meant learning about the power of lifetime clients in three ways:

  • increasing the number of donors
  • growing the size of the donation
  • leveraging the frequency of contribution

The strategy applied to my businesses, too. We started with a well-designed list every time. The challenge we had growing the house list in those days was that we didn’t have great funnels from which to keep filling the pipeline. Our only sources were lists we bought, rented or traded from other like-minded organizations.

So, a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook following is good because the networking contributes to the email list where your lifelong clients live. The other reason for keeping an email list clean is when/if a network dies out like Myspace. E-mail will always be there and you won’t lose the list. That’s what’s so powerful about email.

By the way, when is it safe to buy lists? “NEVER buy an email list,” says the Email Experience Council in the U.S.  Lists that are available for purchase are full of dead addresses that ISPs use to identify spammers. “Sending to a bought list is a sure-fire way to get blacklisted by ISPs.” However, the Council doesn’t have a problem renting lists from reputable vendor. I say, “Don’t do it,” to be safe here, too.

Yet, according to a new report from Folio sponsored by Lyris, many publishers are still struggling with the basics of email marketing. The survey of 175 publishing professionals revealed the following pain points:

  • List growth (55%)
  • Dynamic content/personalization (42%)
  • List maintenance (41%)
  • Mobile optimization (33%)
  • Analytics (33%)
  • Segmentation (30%)
  • Content automation (29%).

Need good ideas to stay focused on your endgame? Here are 7 for you.

1. Start with clean-list-building practices. New anti-spam legislation reminds us to build lists with people who have expressed an interest in hearing about your product or service. When you have consent or the proper permission to send an email to someone, success rates and deliverability go way up. You want the sender to recognize you when you send them an email.

Build email sign-up opportunities into your website. Consider using a pop-up form to collect new subscribers and leverage loyal subscribers by including “send to a friend” or “refer to a colleague” options in outbound messaging.

2. Keep lists current. Clean your list regularly by sending a campaign at least every three months. Believe me, you don’t want to risk getting blacklisted or blocked. I’ve seen it take as long as nine months before the search engines allow a company back in business online. Not worth the risk.

3. Figure out your data fields. This is worth repeating: It’s always best to start with good habits when you’re building a list; otherwise, there’s much pain involved in cleaning it up. The Email Experience Council says those companies that keep their lists clean generate 7  times the number of inquiries and 4 times  the number of leads.

Try to clean up multiple titles for the same person. To create a solid foundation for effective email marketing, consider standardizing the title data by using the fields of “Function” and “Role” rather than highly variable fields like “Job Title.”

4. Segment your audience and define your personas. Segmenting is all about understanding your different customer groups. Separate the groups based on job function, buying habits, online preferences, and geography. Identifying your personas gives you an edge in crafting a blog, for example, that speaks comfortably to that specific group.

5. Create lots of content… as long as it’s relevant. Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than general e-blasts, according to Jupiter Research. Keep content simple with a good balance of text and images. Spammers don’t usually “waste” time doing so, whereas some marketers want to dazzle with too many images. Emails with JavaScript and attachments also send a red flag.

6. Welcoming email. An Experian study found that welcome emails have 4 times the open rate and 5 times the click rate of traditional newsletters.  A welcome email establishes trust and helps you establish a relationship with your customer.

7. Establish your online brand. Your logo, brand images, and positioning statements can be designed for each platform. Social networks differ slightly which means your artwork should be changed and sized to suit each audience.

8. Track performance over time. Gaining a window into your campaign’s open rates and click-through rates will help with tracking growth and success over time. This data helps you to get insights into what content and subject lines are successful and how to improve your approach

Email is your endgame. We’ll look at how you can save time with email automation next time.

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Need help with modern marketing? Co8ntact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

 

Jay Baer and Utility

Want to market online? Think like a publisher.

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

I can feel the agony on the part of my clients when it comes to marketing themselves online. Especially when I talk about the need for creating content. Many of them prefer a dentist’s drill to writing a regular blog or producing enough video to establish social authority.

It was the same reaction I received during my years as a magazine publisher covering business.  We had persistent offers from business people eager to see their name in 42 point bold. They were keen until I asked them to flesh out a calendar of 12 ideas for the upcoming year. That’s where we lost the eager beavers.

A few years later while working in the online world, the same unease surfaced as I read the 200 to 300-word blogs written by everyone who discovered how to click. They just weren’t worth the time.

The most common challenges reported in 2013 by respondents to a TechValidate survey of 213 marketing professionals were time, labour, and getting customers to talk. Compared to their last survey in 2011, lack of time and the cost of content creation were the two challenges that grew the most.

No kidding.

It takes time to research a subject, think about the context, and compose words combined with intriguing images that will make your audience stop to read your precious copy.

Here’s a few more stats that describe challenges that marketers face:

  • Time Intensive (61%)
  • Labour intensive (38%)
  • Can’t get customers to talk (38%)
  • Expensive (28%)
  • Lack the expertise (15%)
  • Can’t get specific stats/metrics (32%)
  • Need additional content types (35%)

People also like to read stories about a company and their products that come from customers. This underscores a common refrain says TechValidate that social proof lends a great deal of credibility to a company’s marketing message.  Read: they believe your customers’ testimonials more than your self-promotional twaddle.

Despite these comparisons, less than 10% of people surveyed said they were not using customer testimonials, case studies or product descriptions which represented their best return-on-investment.

On the topic of social media? At 94.5%, it’s wide spread because relevant platforms promote content. Otherwise, that same content is dead in the water.

LinkedIn and Twitter are the most used social platform for business, but others are close.

  •  LinkedIn 89.3%
  • Twitter 87.8%
  • Facebook 80.2%
  • YouTube 72.5%
  • Google+ 43.5%

I’m definitely a fan of blogging. Yet, I’ve also found different sources with polarized opinions.  TechValidate, for example, promotes testimonials and white papers over the  blog while Ian Cleary of RazorSocial and HubSpot advocate for the blog. Says HopSpot: “Blog frequency impacts customer acquisition. 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog. (HubSpot State of Inbound Marketing, 2012)

The other key to blogging, in my opinion, is they should contribute to your database. Your database is the only piece of real estate you own when it comes to connecting directly with your customers.

So, here are a few tips from experts in this field.

From Ian Cleary, RazorSocial

  1. Plan

-Build up a back-lock of ideas for posts

-Plan ahead for a list of good ideas

2.   Get longer life out of existing content

Write more evergreen content

-Promote older content to bring more life

Promote now…the same thing in 3 months’ time…and in 6 months’ time since less than 5% of people see your content at any given time

3.   Republish guest posts

-Write a guest post on a high authority site

-Get permission to republish

-Change the title and content

-Republish on your site

4.  Write great content

-make it really detailed

-research similar content

-get quotes

5.   Optimize your content

-Include keywords in the meta title

-meta descriptions

-related keywords

From Darren Rowse, founder of ProBlogger

Love the readers you already have. A lot of bloggers get quite obsessed with finding new readers – to the point that they ignore the ones they already have. Yes – do try to find new readers but spend time each day showing your current readers that you value them too and you’ll find that they will help you grow your blog.

From Neil Patel, founder of KISSmetrics

Consistency is one of the most important things that bloggers tend to forget. It’s much easier to lose your traffic than it is to build it up, so make sure you consistently blog.

A study by Hubspot showed that consistent blogging actually leads to higher subscriber growth rates.

From Jay Baer, author of Youtility

Over a two-month span, businesses that published blog entries on a regular basis (more than once a week) added subscribers over twice as fast as those companies that added content once a month.

Don’t be afraid to showcase what you know. Too many bloggers hold back the good stuff out of fear of giving away the “secret sauce.” There is no secret sauce in a world where everyone has high speed Internet access at all times. Today, you want to give away information snacks to sell knowledge meals.

Plan to invest in blogging for a long time before you see a return. The web is a big, noisy place and unless you’re willing to invest more over a greater period of time than others, you’ll find success nearly impossible. If you’re seeking short-term ROI, or a quick path to recognition, blogging is the wrong path. But if you can stick it out for years without results and constantly learn, iterate, and improve, you can achieve something remarkable.

From Rand Fishkin, CEO of Moz

No matter how great your content is, it won’t matter unless you have an amazing headline. People have a split second to decide if they should click on your post, and your headline will make them decide. The headline is also essential in making it easy and desirable for people to share your post. Keep your headlines SPUB: simple, powerful, useful and bold.

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Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: sharon@worldgatemedia.com. You can also pick up more ideas from my website: http://www.worldgatemedia.com

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Crisis communications

Crisis communications—online

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Many companies still struggle with social media strategies for their business and brands, especially when it comes to a crisis.  We’ve had our fair share of calamities over recent days in Alberta and around the world.

Traditionally, corporate communicators had well-practised systems in place to take control of events on the ground to ensure clear lines of communication. I met with one experience in my early career that I have never forgotten

A group-home emergency involving “negative behaviour management” of children led to a media maelstrom in Grande Prairie where I was working on a routine communications audit. Government personnel clearly were at fault and it made my stomach turn. Yet, as the go-to person, I was required to manage the media crisis through a telephone relay that involved Peace River, 2.5 hours north of  Grande Prairie where I was located, and Edmonton where wagons were circling around the minister’s office in the Legislature. Stressed employees later said they felt under siege by national media.

Today, the atrocity would have exploded online. Deservedly so.

It’s one thing to watch a video on YouTube go viral. It’s quite another thing to be motivated beyond clicking “Like” on Facebook to register shared outrage or re-tweeting a message without leaving the comfort of your computer—as in the case of BP’s Horizon disaster in 2010. The catastrophe has been described by media analyst, Metrica,  as “the first  new media and the first social media corporate environmental crisis.” Online activity saw the launch of an interactive website, an interactive pollution map, and the Instant Oil Spill interactive game by Cleaner Future.

In crisis communications, Ethical Corporation says, the volume, speed, and spread of opinions via social media can leave companies with a sense of being “outflanked, outpaced and overwhelmed.” Here are their recommendations combined with a few of my own to survive the instant flood of real-time reactions, comments and questions.

  1. The whole wide world: There is no option to contain a story to a local operations base. The addition of hashtags turned up the volume forever.
  2. Tell us now. Social media users won’t wait patiently until the corporate statement is worked out through an old school approval process. Leadership will appear aloof and arrogant.
  3. Tell us nicely. Users expect social media etiquette to be respected. That means being polite, humble, and transparent. Leaders who shun media interviews will alienate audiences and escalate the crisis.
  4. Get the story first. Gather as many facts early as possible from trusted sources—despite the craziness of many moving parts. The ability to separate fact from fantasy is served well by instincts like those of an investigative reporter.
  5. Citizen journalism. This element joins traditional reporting in the search for individual experiences with material that will find its way to a variety of channels in real time.
  6. Hoax sites. Another very real element that adds to all the confusion. Jump on those fast. 
  7. Credibility and influence. Credible third parties offer independent perspectives—driving hubs of conversation online and off. Best to become familiar with those influencers and their views about your brand—before a crisis hits. 
  8. Black out. Put a hold on all other messaging going out on a regular basis. It will seem insensitive. 
  9. Beware skeletons. This has ever been thus—and becomes even more relevant when it comes to online.

Since my earliest experience with crisis communications, I’ve come to believe that corporate communicators usually have good common sense. Company spokes people need not react to everything they hear. It’s a good idea, though, to listen first—before you engage and act.

 

Marketing for Crowdfunding

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

The idea of crowdfunding is irresistible.

Your potential investors want to see your wisdom packaged up and shared. And they want to receive that knowledge from people they know, like, and trust—not through a wall of interlopers who decide what they should like or not like.

Investor-Relations-auf-Facebook
Investor-Relations-auf-Facebook (Photo credit: koesteran)

Still, crowdfunding requires a marketing plan to take advantage of this new financing model.

 The good news is that companies don’t need to wait for someone else to control their destiny when investing in a crowdfunded proposal. Instead of buying media to get the message across, a business now owns all its media.

The solution is threefold:

1) Build a high-performing database called the Smart List—today’s new currency.
The Smart List can be segmented: the top 10 bloggers who have relevance to your enterprise in addition to reach; personal and professional champions who support your mission; circles of influence with people who can make a strong introduction.

2) Create quality content. Stakeholders invest after discovering they like your ideas–and are influenced by how you present key messages. Creating executive summaries, white papers, videos, blogs or podcasts is worth your time.

3) Publish across channels. Distribution has transformed and the rules have changed—massively. Publishing builds credibility, authority, and attracts fresh opportunity. Once a company has a clear framework of expressing thought leadership, investment follows.

Well-designed marketing informs everything said, written, posted, and produced by a passionate applicant. Crowdfunding levels the field.