Monthly Archives: September 2010

Efficient Marketing Through Outsourcing – Become More Effective Today

When it comes to using social media to market products and services, too many people focus all their attention on the strategy and don’t consider the necessary tactics involved in maintaining and using these tools day-to-day. I’ve seen many businesses create beautiful strategies, but failure to implement and execute the tactics and develop objectives, leave these businesses at step one.

There’s something to be said for jumping in and getting your feet wet. After all, we all have to start somewhere, right? That’s where outsourcing can help you. There seems to be some sort of connotation it’s bad for business to outsource social media marketing. I’m here to tell you, that connotation is wrong.

Why do I say that?

1. Time is money and your time is better spent engaging prospects and customers.

2. You will be able to focus on the overall strategy rather than performing constant maintenance.
(Remember, if you’re using social media the right way, you’ll have a myriad of tools to maintain.)

3. Your “inbox” is always full. Without assistance, that inbox, literally and figuratively, is now spilling over. An assistant expertly trims down your inbox for you.

4. A social media assistant will get your message into additional channels you don’t have time for or don’t know about.

When you think about social media in the business context, the analogies of why to outsource and hire a social media assistant are very apparent. Most organizations have a customer service department and personnel to handle customer service issues. Many organizations hire an outside agency to develop their advertising. Mike Rowe (Discovery Channel) doesn’t work for Ford and the E*Trade baby wasn’t created by someone at E*Trade. Hiring the right personnel to manage the details saves both time and money; however, it also helps your organization bring in more money. It really comes down to communication.

The problem business owners and organizations have with outsourcing social media is the need for control. Successful use of social media marketing is not about control. The only thing you control is the message. If your message is great, your prospects and customers will respond and your focus will need to be on engagement, not filtering SPAM, managing applications or the time consuming aspects of maintaining a social profile.

In upcoming blogs, I’ll expand on this notion of control, maintenance and communication. Taking the time to get the right people doing the right things, makes everything more efficient.

The Key To Success Is Communication

One of the biggest constructive arguments that I have heard against outsourcing social media tactics is a concern that a Social Media Virtual Assistant might make mistakes in the online world because he or she does not understand the business. It seems like too great of a risk to lose complete control over the brand message.

Yet, in having complete control, we actually lose more control. We become so mired in managing the little details, taking away our ability to engage in conversation, research and understand our customers. The need for control actually removes our ability to be efficient and understand the wants and needs of those that pay our bills every month.

In any organization this risk of having someone make a mistake will be present. A customer service rep, salesperson or even a secretary can say the wrong thing or send the wrong message. Typically, it is not the fault of said employee, but rather a lack of communication between employer and employee. And any new hire takes a little amount of time to get to know the business and its culture. Thus, in reality this is a perception issue and a need for control.

The key to being in the social media realm and having a Social Media Virtual Assistant, just like any other employee, is communication. The better we as employers communicate with our staff and align our communications with goals for serving our customers, the more profitable we all become.

BREAKING NEWS: It’s Word Of Web. Be there!

In the early days of the Internet, when we were excited just to have a 56k Modem and giggled like small children when a crusty old looking (by today’s standards) webpage downloaded, while in the meantime you made a three course breakfast; in those days social communities existed next to the water cooler. Creation of brand awareness back then was supported by the high cost media machine in magazines, radio and television.

All hail technology! The first forums started springing up not so long after more and more people had access to dial-up Internet. In these forums, people talked about anything and everything. As humans, we naturally segmented ourselves into groups based on interests. Star Wars fans with fascinations about the Wampa Ice Creature probably had a forum and could get their rocks off talking about the creatures predatory inner workings. Online forums became more and more widespread and we increasingly found venues for our interests.

One of the original terms for social media and the idea that referrals might result in better brand awareness, was “word-of-web”. The ability to find and talk online about products and services that people like is not new. The new part is that “word-of-web” has permeated the consumer landscape like a fast growing wildfire. The good news? This is not some flash in the pan way of business, as some pundits might suggest. Word-of-web is not going away any time soon. The best part about it: the resistance from traditionalists in business and marketing. More on that later.

In the meantime…your customers aren’t at the water cooler. They are online…word-of-web. Go get em!

When Do You Know You’re Ready

So, you’ve decided you want to help others in the social media arena, but you’re still not sure if you’re ready. Before you go to the large corporations, try answering these questions:

* Do you have a presence online? Via social media?
* How will you be able to help this corporation?
* Do you have your script in place?
* What questions will you ask them?
* Are you prepared for the questions they will ask you?

Once you are comfortable with the knowledge base of social media and are up to date with the ever changing rules, then you are ready. Will you have all the answers? Probably not, but don’t ever let them see you sweat. You must go in confident in your skills and knowledge. After all, you are there to help them.

You main goal should be that of the client and how you can help them increase or at least create an online presence. Once you have that confidence and the conviction behind your words, the client will sense that and want to work with you. Ask for the business and be ready to hear a yes.

The question of whether you’re ready to take on the social media management world is truly up to you. Are you ready? No? Keep learning, perfecting your approach, increasing your skills. Remember that even once you have the skills you may still feel some fear. The trick is to jump out there. Just go for it!

If your answer is “yes I’m ready”, why are you still here reading a blog post? Go get some clients and get to work!

Now is the time to be a Social Media Manager

You’ve heard all the hype about social media. Most people get that social media is changing the way business happens. Many, though, aren’t sure what it means to their particular business. They wonder if they should use Twitter or LinkedIn, or maybe both. They aren’t sure if they need to have a blog or if a Facebook fan page is enough. The choices can be confusing!

Think about the traditional way companies have tried to reach their customers. Many of those tricks are old, tired, and not effective anymore. Gone are the days when we rely on flipping through the yellow pages or an actual printed newspaper to get our fix of news and information. Sure, people still read the paper (I do!) but it’s no longer the only – or the best – option. Some people would argue it never was, but that’s a different post for another day.

For you, the social media manager, here’s the deal. This hot mess of social media confusion and change for businesses is your chance to grab opportunity. It makes now the best time to develop a social media management company. Listen up on why I think that’s true.

Lots of businesses know they should jump on board the social media bandwagon but they aren’t sure which social media platforms and strategies are best for their company. They just know an amazing wave of social media is catching on quickly and they need to do something before that wave crashes down on them.. With the right training and skills, you could help them surf that wave instead of getting crushed under it (and make money and have fun on the way).

All businesses, including offline and small local based businesses, typically have some kind of marketing budget, and this is essential for you as a social media manager. It is up to you to approach the companies and let them know how you can help them increase their visibility, especially online. Local businesses and larger corporations do not have the time necessary to promote their business or products online via social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook. This is the perfect opportunity for you to step in and help.

When you explain how many of the big dog corporations like Pepsi are pulling out of the usual marketing venues and turning to social media, their ears will perk up. Instead of using their marketing budget on the old-school methods, show them the advantages of using social media. It’s cost effective, can be created to meet their unique customer needs, and, let’s face it – it’s not going away.

Before you can help them, you should create your online presence first. Learn the ropes of social media, develop a following or community so when you approach the larger companies they will be able to easily find you online. If you have a prominent online presence, they will be more likely convinced that you can help them. Once you have developed your online presence with a website full of valuable content and have a strong presence on the different social media platforms, then you can more easily promote yourself and develop a company of your own. Pretty straighforward, right?

Keep reading the blog to get more details on how you can become a successful social media manager and how you can help local businesses in your area. The need is out there and they are waiting for you to pump up the volume of their online presence through social media. So go all Nike why don’t you and just do it?

Developing Your Brand

You’ve crafted your story, chosen your color scheme, and decided your brand. Here are the next steps to continue developing your brand online.

1. Pick your domain name – this can be tricky, because what you first think up might be taken. Don’t lose hope though, just use your imagination and determine how you will make it work. Be sure you choose a name that is easy to remember, and spell and stay away from initials that don’t make sense. Search online and confirm if the name you’d like is available and then purchase it at a site like GoDaddy.com.

2. Check to see if your name is available on the social networks – when searching your domain, be sure to also check the various social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Linkedin to confirm your name is available. You can go to http://twitter.com/ and add the name you’d like to search. You can also check http://facebook.com/usernamesearch to determine if your brand name is available. You can do the same for the other social networks to search.

3. Once your brand is secured across the social networks – your next step is to purchase website hosting for your new site. I recommend using the free software WordPress (available at WordPress.org) and have it installed on your site. Most hosting companies have an easy 1-2-3 WordPress install as part of even their most basic hosting packages, so look for that. WordPress is one of the easiest platforms and if you have questions about this, let me know.

4. You will then begin to build your site and start sharing your thoughts and information to connect with your target market.

Some thoughts to keep in mind:

- If you have found that your domain name or branding name is taken then simply be creative. Perhaps change the spelling a bit or shorten for the social platforms. Remove some words such as ‘the’ to make it work for you.

- Don’t get discouraged! Do your research and before deciding on a particular domain name and/or brand name; be sure that it is available to make your branding journey a bit easier.

Finding Those Important Connections

Once you have your site up with some killer posts that reflect you and what you do, as well as your profiles, logo, and brand decided, it is time. What time? Time to start making those important connections. After all, this entire process of developing your site and profiles was great practice for you to move on to help others do the same. But where do you start?

Some great places to find your connections on Twitter are wefollow and twellow. I highly suggest you start searching by your hometown, finding local businesses or connections. Starting local is a wonderful start to building your social media management business. Why local? Because you have one thing in common from the start; you both live in the same place or area. This common bond will help you create a relationship quicker than trying to connect with someone from a different state. Having things in common smooths the process.

Another way to search is by type, business type. Maybe you’re interested in the health field, but more specifically massage therapists. Search for those in your area and see how you can help them. Maybe you’re into gardening, then you would search landscaping. Your interest in their field will help them in building their business. Of course, you don’t have to go local, because it is possible to have clients all over the world. However it is really nice to start locally and build a local reputation and of course the commonality always helps.

The way to find people or connections on Facebook or Linkedin is by using system generated suggestions. Use the suggestions you’re given as new ways to connect. For example, when you first set up your profile on these networks, you will be offered the option to connect with the people already in your email contact lists. Perhaps you’ve simply connected with your neighbors on email through your child’s school or sports and didn’t realize they had more to offer. Connecting with these contacts on different platforms can be amazing. It can create a professional relationship and let you share what you do and how you can help them. Be sure to view your ‘friends’ connections and connect with some other interesting people in that manner too.

The entire purpose here is to get out of your comfort zone and start making connections. You must go out and seek them, they will not simply find you. Sure, when they do find you and ask for your help, it is awesome. But more often then not, they will not know you exist unless you reach out to them. So, what ways will you go to make those connections? Go do it now!

Convert a Hashtag Search to a Twitter List

I often find myself in the predicament of not having a tool that I need — it either doesn’t exist or it doesn’t exist in the exact way I need it to work.

Ever happened to you?  If you’ve spent much time working with social tools, you hear what I’m screaming!

Today, I saw a tweet from fellow community manager Jenna Langer:

Does anyone know of a tool that creates a Twitter list of users that tweet with a specific hashtag? Would be great for #cmgrchat

I offered up BlastFollow (which allows you to follow users of a certain hashtag)*** and we also tossed out Formulists, an application with a robust suite of List functions (which blows the Conversationlist app way outta the water!) that I am VERY excited about!

Of course, while we’re on the subject of twitter lists, how could we forget TweepML?

You’d think with all of these solutions, there’d be at least ONE that collected users of a particular hashtag and converted them to a twitter list, right? WRONG!

This is about the time I had a thought and went to work to see if I could make it happen! Here’s how I did it (and for the record, it worked!):

1) I went to What The Hashtag and searched for #cmgrchat http://wthashtag.com/Cmgrchat

2) Click View Transcript, and Export as HTML

3) Created a new list on TweepML, and in the “Find users on this link” field, I entered the URL from the What the Hashtag transcript.

Still following me right? It was about now that I was getting ready to give up, and almost tweeted that, but after having done that much work, how could I?

4) a.  Because I was doing this as a test, and didn’t want to use my twitter account, I created new twitter account for the cmgrchat test.

4) b. I followed everyone on the TweepML list from the new twitter account.

5) I created the cmgrchat list and added each person to that list.

(This last step, was the only manual part, but was still fairly quick.)

For other chats looking to do this – and in particular to keep it up from week-to-week, I think someone would need to repeat steps 1-3. Obviously, you can skip 4a.

In step 4b, you will still follow all in the list (of course, TweepML will skip anyone you are already following). When the following is done, you just need to go back and add each new person to the list. The first time this was time intensive, but in future updates, it should be quick to just add the new folks to the list.

The only real issues I see here are for larger chats the initial set up could be time consuming (this took me about 10 minutes for a chat of 115) and when the chat list reaches 500 people, you won’t be able to add anyone else to the twitter list. However, I’m thinking that creating the new twitter account to “host” the lists is a great solution to this problem because then you could simply create a new list (like cmgrchat2) and take up too many of your available lists on your personal account for your chat list.

PHEW!

That outta tide you over until someone fixes this problem… and STAT!

***UPDATE 9/9/10: Blastfollow.com no longer works.