Tag Archives: Business

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 to sell your businss

How to sell your $million business & retire: A case study

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

“Did you have a plan in place when you decided to sell?” I asked newly retired business owner Sharon Romank.  We were musing over the recent sale of her multi-million dollar self-storage company.

The veteran entrepreneur winked at me across the dinner table and smiled. “Yes, I did.”

Full disclosure here: Sharon and I have been lifelong friends. We attended high school together and I watched the budding entrepreneur open her first start-up during university. It was a roller skating rental business during the days when the sport was hot. After picking up a degree in home economics, she travelled the world with a knap sack, articled at a management consulting firm, and worked as a show researcher for a local Martha-Stewart-type radio personality. Her MBA came later.

The idea for a new company sprang in 1988 when a property manager noticed the lack of storage in downtown Edmonton.  It wasn’t long before an old warehouse was spruced up and the Affordable Storage sign displayed prominently on the four-storey brick building. They provided space for files, equipment, commercial inventories, and household goods. The enterprise grew to include five facilities with a reputation for excellent service, trained staff, cleanliness, and top-notch security. Sharon wanted to change the way self-storage was offered to home owners and business clients by “delighting” them with a new type of experience that was spotless and felt safe.

She raised a family of three children through those years and nurtured a long history of giving back to her community, primarily through Rotary. But her marriage also ended. Sharon kept ownership of two sites after the divorce including the state-of-the art Sherwood Park property. https://www.affordable-storage.ca Fifteen years after the facility was built on vacant land, Sherwood Park found itself in a premium location and ready for sale. Sharon wanted to retire from the demanding life of business ownership.

Successful women in business

Sharon belongs to that too rare assemblage of women in business who made the jump from small home-based initiative to a corporation with distinction.  I believe we need to celebrate and encourage this type of achievement. So, I celebrate Sharon and take delight in knowing that she realized her exit strategy. This new stage allows her to assist Rotary with their annual medical missions, and to spend more time with family and new husband.

How did she plan for the sale?

1. Budget. The entrepreneur first prepared with a major renovation of the 2.8 acre facility with 480 units and retail store. She developed a financial plan to refurbish the reception area, new office space, security system, mechanical systems, landscaping, and site elements such as driveways, parking, and walkways. Sharon got the place in shape.

2. Solid management: Sometimes a decision to sell must look beyond spreadsheets and databases to people. All the ideas in the world won’t make it off the ground with indifferent employees. The owner treated her general manager and staff with understanding and a sense of fair play, offered employee training and coaching, and she always said, “Thank you.” Leadership pays dividends.

3. Good management begets well-organized books. Sharon excelled where financials, policies and operations were tracked on many levels. Buyers will do their own due diligence to understand the potential for the purchase and this type of knowledge helps to facilitate negotiations with buyers.

4. A marketing SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats). This is where I came into the picture.

Sharon had defined her Vision and Mission statements 15 years earlier. Her vision had never really changed–yet, her current employees were not privy to her original thoughts. So, we peeled back her purpose to reveal short- and long-term sales and marketing objectives for the company. This process helped everyone to gain clarity of expectations, understand their personas (updated target markets for digital marketing) and drill down to the consistent messages for posting to the various mediums relevant to the company.

Here’s how it evolved:

Vivid Vision with owner and staff. Digging a bit deeper into surface-level questions went a long way towards creation of an effective and authentic communications marketing strategy. Since Affordable did not need to bolster its sales, the focus settled on deepening relationships with businesses in the ‘hood and the wider community.

Company values. As a contributor to the world, the values of Sharon and staff needed to be embedded into the foundation of the sales and marketing plan. Staff researched potential relationships with local nonprofits while Sharon maintained her efforts on behalf of global charities. Giving back contributes to overall wellness on the part of employees as well as to staff retention.

Defined personas.This was an early first step to define the characteristics of their clients. We wanted to know about customer attitudes towards the company; tangible and intangible rewards that customers believed they received from Affordable; knowledge of websites that customers preferred to visit before making a decision to join Affordable Storage.

Enhanced internal communications with existing customers/increased external communications with the community. A newsletter delivered by an automated email system kept customers conversant on seasonal improvements to the site; offered a chance to recognize customers and partners through story telling; promoted company events such as a new Community Garage Sale initiated by staff.

Editorial plan for postings across channels. In addition to the newsletter, content was repurposed for the company’s social media platforms which included Twitter and Facebook. Sharon understood that all of these efforts meant nothing if they were not made known to customers as well as to the wider community—and to potential buyers.

Close eye on measurements. There wasn’t any sales or marketing component that escaped scrutiny. A red alarm system was esablished for everyone to take immediate action if sales dropped below a pre-determined level…open rates for the newsletter were monitored and celebrated, especially when they hit 49%…and staff were rewarded when conditions exceeded expectations.

Here’s to a successful retirement, Sharon!



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.

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.


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.

Mad Men

Forget Mad Men: Here’s the new office setup

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You’ve finally decided to take the plunge.

It’s time to update your company marketing using digital strategies and tactics. Where do you begin; even the job titles are confusing.

What’s a content manager, anyway? Does that person also refresh your website built five years ago? Does the IT techy handle social media? Who looks after the website once it’s created and hosted among the other 876 million websites in cyberspace?

You’re not even sure if a website contributes to your sales funnel, anyway.

Frustrated executives

I’ve spoken with five business executives this week, alone, who are frustrated with knowing how to invest in modern marketing. Let alone understand why they’re doing it.

It becomes a vicious cycle. Most don’t know what to expect from digital marketing. Business owners know it’s a good thing to post comments, pictures and video somewherel; they often relegate that role to people without much experience. Once hired, those assigned to the task don’t have experience showing results.

“The truth must be told,” replied veteran communicator and published author Les Brost in reply to my prospecting email. “There are more social marketers, networking specialists and web designers than there are store clerks imaginable!”

Les was right. By 2020 there will be nearly one and a half million open jobs in the tech sector (in the U.S. alone). Those skills are 20 of the top 25 most sought after skills by employers on LinkedIn, and all 10 of the fastest growing keywords in job listings are tech related.

Here’s more confusion: employers are lumping in new roles for marketing with IT engineers, web designers, and technicians. Home-office workers posting 140 characters to social media sites, who don’t have any experience at all in marketing, also call themselves social media marketers. These posting services are sometimes called content farms and they often are located in the Philippines and India. There’s also heavy recruitment going on now in Canada and the U.S. for the same role—no experience required.

This cycle of confusion will cost you in nonperforming websites, budget overruns, and lost sales.

Whether you’re a business owner who needs to upgrade your website or hire a social media manager to market what you’ve already built, keep on reading. As ever, when it comes to marketing for small business, solopreneurs must do for themselves; larger businesses want their digital marketing mangager to do it all; bigger business have full-scaled operations.

Here’s a list of job descriptions drawn from Skills Crunch with my editorial comments thrown in for good measure.

Digital marketing manager: This role is intended to understand customers, the stories they tell, and determine how to find them online. Instead of magazine ads and radio commercials, digital marketing managers advertise on new media platforms like social networks, handle email, blogs, assemble newsletters, establish editorial calendars, and measure their success with hard data.

The digital manager gets the ball rolling by helping to define personas, create/curate content, understand email marketing, SEO and web analytics, branding and storytelling, and A/B testing. Of course, each of these categories have specialists who deliver best practices in each category. An email marketer, for example, knows about automated systems, writes copy for better opening rates, and manages event campaigns.

Content Creator:  We used to call them writers, editors, photographers, videographers and graphic designers. The difference is that the new breed also knows the technical tools used in digital marketing.

Content makes the search engines go ‘round. Even if you have dedicated blogger and ebook writers, that material still needs to be adapted to each social network.  This includes positioning content in under 140 characters, creating images to accompany posts, creating variations of posts for each piece of content. 

Content creators and social media coordinators are like reporters; they need to have their eyes and ears open to what’s changing on social networks and in the industry. A successful content creator will be able to find new opportunities for the company by keeping a pulse on the industry.

Graphics Designer, Photographer, Videographer, Podcaster: Some content creators are able to use the tools that create online banners, flyers and infographics. Others are able to whip out their phones to capture images, video, and podcasts to publish on websites and across channels. It’s important to know when it’s time to engage the professionals, though, and have them produce materials for either traditional print or digital requirements. They are not the same. Please repeat.

Subject Matter Expert: The go-to person in their respective field. They have in-depth knowledge and access to information about the business including products, billing issues, customer data, or industry trends. So, they might not be actively monitoring social media, but there will be times they’ll need to get involved in social conversations.

Choose a title: Funnel Marketing Manager or Social Media Manager: Funnel marketing expands the reach of your content, attracts visitors to your website, generates leads, and nurtures them to become customers.

They need to share content that generates leads, and run new campaigns to find the best ways to do lead generation via social media. This person also engages one-on-one with potential customers who are considering your product or service, or simply need your help. Social media is particularly effective as a lead nurturing tool because prospects use multiple media (not just email) to consume information and social channels allow you to engage in a timelier manner.

In order to do all of this effectively, social media managers need to have a strong understanding of sales and marketing which leads to moving prospects  to the next stage in the process.

Database manager: I believe the database manager is a key ingredient in the whole enchilada. A good database is the only real estate you own when it comes to managing your existing customers and attracting new ones. Other platforms can disappear and take names of your contacts with them. This person can also help tag photos and keep your files backed up. Databases can be managed by a virtual assistant using a good automated marketing system, in an excel spread sheet, in the sales department, or by IT.

This all brings me to whether you have a CRM platorm and have people trained in analytics research to bridge marketing with website activities, as well.

These next position descriptions are for the people who build your website and are more IT related. Don’t let the number of positions scare you off; they typically are managed through the website builder you contract.

Front-end designer: Front-end designers can do a lot of different jobs, from seeing designs through prototyping to implementing to focusing on coding existing designs.

The main responsibilities of a front-end designer are to transform mock-ups into web pages, create and optimize graphics for the web.  

Information architects create site maps and user flows, define data flows/delivery, and research concept and usability testing. They spend time with web analytics, organize information, and translate user behaviour into site structures. Think about a WordPress expert in this category, too.

Make sure to ask your website developer who handles DevOps to bridge between developer, quality, and technology teams. This role helps them understand each other’s tasks and situations so that they can work together to get the best results.

By the way, what experience has your website team in developing ecommerce with proper security certificates in place?

UX Designer: A relatively recent addition to the website scene, user experience designers spend more time testing copy, design and work flow to discover visitor habits and improve traction to the site. It cost extra but the additional effort translates to a more productive website, especially when it comes to ecommerce.

Mobile Developer: It’s become increasingly important for websites to be  turned into apps. You want a mobile developer to optimize code for mobile, take designs from prototype to code, and test and analyze code for mobile.

Security Specialist: It goes without saying how important security is in tech nowadays.

Investing in  the digital space may sound daunting to business leaders with more experience within traditional marketing. Still, understanding the most common mistakes made when going digital, and how to avoid them, will help you tremendously during the planning stage. Remember, you want to produce the highest quality content and reach the widest possible audience—don’t let easily avoidable misunderstandings cost you money and time.


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.

Troy Media Publisher Gary Slywchuk

Build an editorial experience for digital media

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

It’s been five years since I sold my print magazine.  I’m excited to get back in the game with a weekly Digital Marketing column for Troy Media, an innovator in the journalism marketplace.  You can read my first column here. http://bit.ly/1E1piPf

Other publishers haven’t been so lucky.

For example, Calgary’s Fast Forward closed its doors last month after a 20-year run. Understandably, there’s some grief and, maybe, bitterness attributed to the publication’s demise. The popular weekly joined the obits of the Montreal Mirror (1985-2012), Boston Phoenix (1965-2013), Victoria’s Monday Magazine (1975-2013), and Knoxville’s Metro Pulse (1991-2014). My magazine, Edmontonians, lived for 21 years. Postmedia—the company that swallowed up Sun Media last year—is expected to further slash operating costs.

Of course, it’s advertising that fuels all media and traditional media continues to suffer for the lack of it. The 2014 Pew Report suggests that the journalism marketplace is still struggling to identify revenue streams to sufficiently sustain an industry reeling from the sharp declines in print advertising. Television isn’t doing much better.

Digital advertising is expected to grow, says the Pew Report, though not nearly fast enough to keep pace with declines in legacy ad formats.

So, why am I still enthusiastic despite the bad news?

The last five years of learning and working in the digital world has opened my eyes to a world of new opportunities for everyone with a story to tell. Troy Media provides non-partisan editorial content to over 1,800 print and online media outlets within Canada and around the world. Publisher Gary Slywchuk (pictured above) figured out a business model that combines legacy newsrooms (in print, television and radio) with their more nimble digital counterparts .He uses digital-first strategies ranging from audience engagement to free content, and he’s been evolving the model for 10 years. It’s working.

The need to deliver content by all organizations—not just media outlets–has reached into the stratosphere. Everyone wants to create or acquire content to satisfy the algorithms that keep their story on the first page of search engines.

Some media entities are displaying exceptional dexterity. I applaud those visionaries and other leaders of commerce who jumped on the bullet train early.

NewsCred is another good example. This growing service matches companies which need content to feed the dragon of (dis) content with words, images, audio and video. It’s another option for larger organizations to turn their branded messages  into editorial experiences. Services like Troy Media and NewsCred provide an extra layer of expertise for day-to-day publishing by curating articles and images, leading custom content brainstorms and assisting with story development and writer selection.

Building a story vs telling a story 

Speaking of storytelling, in 2015, stories are no longer being told, they are being built for followers. Story-based pages are becoming much more interactive, incorporating rich images, embedded video, enhanced infographics, and personalized content based on user data.

Keep these tips in mind while building your editorial experience.

Creating content is more complex today. Good content for websites, social platforms or email is written specifically for different categories of your visitors. For example:

  • How many different channels are available to present your content?
  • What are their information needs?
  • How do they want to receive their content?
  • Is written text preferred over video?

Here’s the process to follow:

  • Identify what type of content needs to be written.
  • Get clear on the personas for whom you write.
  • Review and edit content to ensure consistency across all pages.
  • Load content into selected platforms.

Search engines don’t see content like humans do. To achieve naturally high rankings with Google, you need to structure and format your content so search engines can find it. This is where key words and phrases come into the mix.

“The creation and growth of Troy Media Marketplace has been an absolutely terrific addition to Canada’s marketplace of ideas,” says The Vancouver Province. “While we publish material from a host of sources, I find we rely on Troy Media on at least a weekly basis for columns.”

Yes, I’m glad to be back in the biz—alongside these new journalism innovators.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Teresa Spinelli

Teresa Spinelli: Business tycoon (with heart)

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Grocery store tycoon Teresa Spinelli is a role model for women in business–- men, too.

I remember meeting Teresa for the first time nearly 13 years ago in the summer of 2002. We sat for coffee outside her famous Italian food store on the sidewalk and talked about business. She stole my heart that day because the business leader was so open about her challenges, yet, animated about possibilities for the future. It was surprising to me that we shared so many insights despite the largesse of her enterprise. Teresa had inherited the responsibility for running the Italian Centre Shop after the passing two years earlier of her legendary father, Frank. Her brother passed away in 1996 and it was left up to Teresa to carry on the family legacy.

Still, it was a bequest wrapped up in male machismo and tradition centered squarely in Edmonton’s Little Italy. Could a woman even stand a small chance of carrying on her thriving domain?

It’s not been an easy road for a daughter born with entrepreneurial DNA. Except, Teresa makes it sound like a breezy trip through the Tuscany Valley sipping a bottle of Chianti. Her long-time employees and father’s compatriots were accustomed to the old and trusted ways of doing business; they challenged her every step of the way.

This was Frank Spinelli’s daughter, though. Teresa Spinelli was intent on applying updated business techniques to a 40-year-old regime…re-inventing a management style to empower 370 employees from the ground up…reviewing merchandising practices that felt like they were engraved in stone…taking her marketing messages online for a new generation of shoppers…and taking financial risks that drove an old guard to criticize the female progeny of their hero.

It was obvious these men had missed how young Teresa kept up with her father’s quick pace on early buying trips. Father and daughter met suppliers together and she watched while Frank cut deals all day and night. Not to mention learning how to personally handle the sale of grape shipments for wine makers.

My respect for this woman in business runs deep—not least because she’s built a powerhouse enterprise.  Maybe more for her continued openness, delight, and awe of the human spirit.

Today, the Italian Centre Shop boasts over $44 million in revenues per annum— nearly tripled in 10 years—by adding two grocery stores and a restaurant into the mix in Edmonton. A Calgary store is next to open during the summer of 2015 with her crackerjack team alongside. Here’s the link to her website.  www.italiancentreshop.com

Yes, numerous laudatory stories have been written about Teresa Spinelli over the years. She’s been recognized for her business prowess by organizations throughout Canada, and she’s been feted by the food industry for championing Italian food and wine in various countries.

You think she might hold airs. Not Teresa. She can still be seen cashing at the register on a busy day or greeting long-time patrons with their first names in any of her coffee shops. And guess who’s cooking dinner for 50 members of her extended family and neighbours at the lake on Family Day. You got it.

Teresa doesn’t usually give advice—unless she’s asked. So, I probed her for some counsel on building a successful business. Here’s 3 tips for you:

  1. If you are working too hard IN your business, you have no time to work ON your business. If you want your business to grow, work ON your business;
  2. You cannot do it ALL.  You have to ask for help;
  3. People, people, people. It is all about the people.  Internal customers (otherwise known as staff) are as important as external customers.

Here’s a bonus tip from Mr. Frank Spinelli quoted 15 years after his passing at the 2015 Chamber of Commerce luncheon:

“It’s what you do in the good times that determine how well you perform in the bad times.”

Teresa says this about her father: “He was the best example I know of ‘the more you give, the more you get’”. She is her father’s daugher: I am a first-hand witness of how she keeps an eye on the inner-city kids in her neighbourhood. Those kids don’t always get a meal at home every night but they may get a warm dinner at Teresa’s place with her husband, Mike, and son, Massimo.

Luscious grapes don’t fall that far from the vine. They just transform into delicious wine. Like my friend, Teresa.

Thanks, Frank.


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.

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.


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.