Archive for Social Networks

What The Heck Is Onffline Networking?

We all want to build our businesses and we know that networking with other professionals and business owners is a great way to ‘get the word out’.

You’ve heard of online networking i.e. using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so many others. You’ve heard of offline networking i.e. face to face networking. The kind you get through joining networking groups, chambers of commerce, and attending formal networking meetings or business conventions.

As with most things, there are pros and cons to each.

With online networking you have access to a huge number of individuals. I have found that LinkedIn is one of the best resources for professional online networking. You can locate people within a specific line of business, in a certain demographic, in a particular geographic location, with a specific skill-set, etc. You can connect with them and develop relationships that can lead to improving both your and your connections’ career and/or business. The main problem with online networking is that it takes longer to reach that ‘comfort level’ with another person because it’s done primarily online through messaging and email.

With offline networking, you meet people face-to-face. You shake their hand. You look them in the eye and you can get that warm and fuzzy comfort level much more quickly. The problem with this approach is that your access to these individuals is limited to the groups and events that you attend, and the people you are associated with.

Onffline networking is a combination of both online and offline networking. You look for someone online that meets your preferred criteria. You connect with them however that particular network allows. In the case of LinkedIn, you connect through an associate, send a direct connection request, send an in-mail, or join a common group. Once connected, you get better acquainted initially through email or even a phone call and then, when it makes sense, you set up a time to share a cup of coffee and take the online ‘connection’ offline. This provides the best of both approaches, giving you access to the broad spectrum of people, as well as the warm and fuzzy feeling you get with a face-to-face meeting. This approach is not without its shortfall though. In order to take advantage of this technique, you are typically restricted to only those individuals that are in traveling distance from you. However, it does open the door to many more face-to-face meetings than you could probably arrange through only offline means.

You don’t have to stop connecting the traditional online or offline ways, but add this to your networking approach. Try it and see for yourself if it works for you. It’s worth the effort.

But I Don’t Have Time for Social Media

I can’t tell you how many times we have heard someone say “I don’t have time for social media, I’m too busy”. Everyone is busy, but when you actually sit down and think about it, are you really?

Do you have 20 minutes every day or every other day to spend on something that could improve your business? In the past, we have helped clients put together organized and well-branded social media programs and trained them on their use only to see them wither and die on the vine from lack of attention.

Remember the old saying

“You can lead a horse to water…”

Would you attend a networking event and choose to sit alone and say nothing? Probably not. That would be a waste of your time and money.

Social media is not an attempt to add more to your already full plate. Online marketing is the way of the world today, and using social media to promote your business has become not just a good thing to do but a required component. When you think you don’t have the time, ask yourself if what you really mean is that you feel uncomfortable with social media, or that you consider other activities more critical than social media, or that you would just “prefer” to do other tasks.

There are some things that you can call a professional and get help with;

  1. Setting up social media profiles
  2. Branding your presence for a professional look
  3. Linking the proper sites such as your website
  4. Training you on the best practices of using the particular channel(s) you’ve decided to use
  5. Social Media Management Services (posting, monitoring, etc.)

We tell our clients that once they have a well-designed presence and know how to use the tools, the only thing left is to just do it. We recommend putting an appointment on your calendar just as you would for a business meeting and when that time arrives, DON’T BLOW OFF THE MEETING. Sit down and do it. Once you get into a regular routine, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier.

If you have problems, don’t give up. Consult a professional for guidance or training.

Using social media for business today is as important as using email for business was 10 years ago. Everybody wants to expose their products and services to a larger audience. The more people who are aware of your business, the greater the chance you have of turning those connections into referral sources, leads or even paying clients. Remember though, first things first. Be social. Don’t oversell. Opportunities to promote your business will follow in due time.

Why Use a Single Service Provider for Marketing and Branding

An integrated marketing strategy is something most businesses would say they want because it sounds good. However, many are not really sure what that is, what it looks like or why you need one.

The Approach

An integrated marketing strategy is an approach that delivers a consistent message across all marketing channels. Its objective is to insure that your target market receives the same brand image and message about your goods or services, no matter where they see it.

Here are examples of marketing and branding a business might use:

  1. Business Logo
  2. Letterhead/Stationary
  3. Business Cards
  4. Promotional Brochures and/or Flyers
  5. E-Newsletter
  6. Website
  7. Blog
  8. Online Business Directories
  9. Social Media Sites
    1. Facebook
    2. LinkedIn
    3. Twitter
    4. YouTube
    5. Google+
  10. Magazine/Newspaper/TV/Radio/ ads

And this list can go on, and on depending on the business…

In theory, it sounds pretty simple. In practice, it can be surprisingly difficult. Especially if your implementation is fragmented and different people/vendors complete various components. Consistency in colors, fonts, text, graphic styles and message are more difficult to integrate.

The Single Service Provider

The right service provider requires a diverse set of skills. These include web design, graphic design, branding, search engine optimization and social media marketing, just to name a few. Working with the right firm provides the opportunity to develop a branding and marketing strategy that is consistent across all marketing channels before you begin. To find the right service provider, make sure to research your options. Look at their past work, look for reviews or comments on the quality of their work and ask questions.

The Vision

Start with a common vision of what you are trying to achieve. Whether your organization is large, medium or small, the key is to make sure that all decision makers share and agree upon a similar vision of what you are trying to accomplish and why.

The Process

Identify your current position. Quite often, a business will already have one, two or more of these components in place. This requires analyzing the quality of the existing components/materials and determining whether they can be integrated with the overall vision or whether they need to be altered or replaced.

The How

Identify the channels you will use to communicate with your target market. Where will you need to be so that wherever your potential customers look, you are there with a consistent brand appearance and message? This doesn’t mean that you need to be everywhere, or be all things to all people, it just means that you should prioritize your efforts so that the largest part of your target market gets your message.

The Team

Plan for the resources you will need. An integrated marketing approach needs to be worked consistently and across all channels which requires coordination and effort. When you look at failed marketing strategies, as we often do, you find that a top reason they fail is due to a lack of priority. Other factors come into play taking focus away from the plan. Consistency is not easy. One approach many clients use, especially smaller ones with limited resources, is to outsource part or all of the program. This not only brings additional resources to the table, but also objectivity/accountability and specialized skillsets.

The Monitoring

Consistent monitoring and occasional tweaking are necessary. We continually refer to the old adage “if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Successful programs always monitor their implementation, measure their success, and make “tweaks” as necessary. Marketing is never a “set it, and forget it” proposition.

The Conclusion

The bottom line is that working with a single qualified service provider to guide you through this maze of tools and techniques is more cost effective, more consistent, you have a single point of contact which reduces confusion and finger pointing, and it typically results in a more cohesive approach with better outcomes.

So I’m on Facebook, Now What Do I Do?

If you are a small to mid-sized business that started up a Facebook account because, well, that’s what all the “in” companies are doing these days, then this post is for you. Good for you for choosing this high-impact, popular social media option as part of your brand identity and communication strategy. Of course it’s only strategic if you implement and operate it well. Here are a few guidelines to help increase your impact and improve your returns on Facebook.

Who Are You?

With the advent of the “Timeline,” Facebook pushed businesses to become more human. Now a company is expected to act more like people. The focus on building relationships has grown from there and now it is likely that a place of business will add pictures from the company picnic or party to the timeline, and perhaps both informational and entertaining links to other websites. Facebook offers a big chance to build a relationship with your customers. You’ve probably heard or seen this quote:

“People will forget what you said
People will forget what you did
But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~ Maya Angelou

You can’t “feel” a machined product, a technology, a building, a telephone wire, a baked good, or whatever your business. Ask yourself “what would I look like on this Facebook page if they took away my product?” What remains is exactly what you talk about the most. Your ability to inspire, connect, communicate and build real relationships. Now you don’t want to be completely devoid of shop talk, but this deeper approach allows you to present your products and services by way of your unique, personal bond that you develop with the audience member.

Think, “How does my product/service connect with the reader to make their life better? How does my company’s existence enhance life for somebody out there; what do we do to make things better in the world?” Rather than opening with “here’s what’s interesting about ME,” let your customer know, “We understand our customers…,” “We are motivated to create the blah blah blah because of these specific things our customers need,” Talk about how connected you are with your readers. On top of that, maybe you donate something, or recycle on a large scale, or fund some kind of research or aid education. Perhaps you are involved in some way that stretches beyond the scope of your product or service. Whatever it is, it is part of your values and says something about who you are. All of these connections are important building blocks between you and your customers. Talk about it and get them talking about it.

Focus on Value or Forget it.

When it comes to online content, keeping customers engaged and wanting more is a balancing act with a focus on quality. Is specific attention placed on high-value content based on serving your customers’ needs? Or are you primarily collecting “likes?” Research shows that 98% of folks who click the “like” button do not return to the Facebook page again*. In the digital marketing game it is critical that a business maintains a high value paradigm or not even bother. To push idle chit chat and fun games is okay for a coffee break, and certainly not every Facebook page has to be too restrained. But if value-driven take-aways are not the priority, your audience will move on to some else’s page where their needs are king. According to Moore, if you are not investing in long-term value relationships by providing content your audience trusts you just might be short for the digital world of business.

Is Facebook Enough?

Be watchful when planning your social media strategy. While employing Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn makes for wise marketing moves, you are playing by someone else’s rules. Absolutely take advantage of the reach and impact these sites offer, but be certain that your website is up-to-date too. The company website, if well-designed and well maintained is the one online marketing source that you own and control in this mix. No one knows what happens to your Facebook page in 6 months. Would your readers seek you out if Facebook ceased to exist and a new social media site went up suddenly? How can you ensure this? It always comes down to building trust, offering relevant high value, and creating strong relationships. Also be sure to point all of your social media messaging to your website where you have complete control of your representation of your brand and values.

So long as you keep your communication efforts aligned with building trust and long-term relationships, you will be likely to make good choices for your online content. Be sure to keep writing and stay on top of your news and information. An up-to-date source of information is much more likely to garner trust and better business. The bottom line, make Facebook, other social media, and your website work for you – and not the other way around.

5 Simple Steps to Online Success: What Every Small to Mid-Size Business Must Know

If you are a small to mid-size business with more energy than cash to get started in the online arena, this is for you. These actionable tips can be done on a reasonable budget and are the bottom line necessities for any small to mid-size business today. This article is stripped of heavy techno-lingo and allows most anyone a jumping off point whether they go it alone or are about to meet with their agency and need a guideline of must-do’s.

  1. Have a Website. While you might have a Facebook page, and that is important, it is not a substitute for a Website. Your website must be well-constructed and up-to-date (see step 4). It is important that your website is visited (see the rest of the steps) and visitors stay once they find it.
  2. Be on Social Media. Though it takes time, getting known and building “social” relationships builds a solid market where once there was none – and you can drive those followers to your blog or website to build even more activity for your business. I suggest Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And to manage your time, try Buffer, which allows you to delay your links and other information to be posted to each of your social spaces when your readers are most likely online for the best impact.
  3. Be Graceful. All of your actions should not be self-promoting. Take time to promote others’ work and business as well. Link to others. They will notice and be more likely to treat you well in return. Also be sure to provide superior customer service to keep everyone talking about you.
  4. Blog and Create Content. You’ll keep your website higher on results pages with updated blogs because search engines tend to pick up the quality content found in blogs. Moreover, because your blog regularly changes, you have an excellent way of keeping your website fresh and up-to-date. No time to blog? Ask your staff to submit short articles, or hire a writer specifically for this task.
  5. Connect Your Way to Success. Your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever social channels you choose, must connect to one another. Don’t forget to point your offline and online marketing efforts to each other as well. These connections make up the smartest, most effective way to impact your market.

As you apply this information, keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Be certain that your information is not only compelling, but that it is clear. Have someone outside of your business try out your website for ease of use and clarity. Be sure your customers are getting the best care you can offer. Here’s to your success and be sure to share this with someone you know.

(Parts of this article from 5 Tips for Boosting Your SEO on a Tight BudgetBusiness 2 Community by Ken Mueller)