Monday, November 05, 2012

TEDxRochester 2012 - a review


Just wow.

This is my reaction for attending TEDxRochester today.  This is the 4th year of the local TED event but it was my first time.  I had no idea that all the speakers and performers were going to be local Rochester people.  That made the event even better, it's eye opening to find out the talent of people around you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

2 things you must do for a successful Social Media Strategy

I spoke at an event yesterday for the Rochester Chapter of the American Marketing Association at One Restaurant and Nightclub.  They had tables and chairs set up on the dance floor which I thought was a great metaphor for the type of event being held.  You see it was sort of a speed dating meets networking meets free consulting type of deal where there was an expert at each table talking about some specific aspect of the online/digital landscape.  I felt like I was dancing and everyone was watching, except my feet were still and it was my words that moved(and no one moved away from me while staring at me awkwardly).

I had a table and my topic was Social Networking Strategy.  This phrase alone evokes fear and loathing in many executives mind because its probably the one thing they always point back to when denouncing Social Media as a "waste of time."  Usually most social media channels get abandoned because there was never a larger picture painted to let the entire organization know that if you want to be social, things will need to change around here.  They call it a lack of strategy.  I call it a lack of understanding.

Overall most of the advice I ended up giving was focused around two things:

  • Integration: Don't treat social media channels as a separate project.  They are the same as the discussions you have around what trade shows to attend, what ads to put in what magazines, etc.  Every time there is a meeting about how your company is engaging with its customers/prospects, social media is involved.

    If you put social media over there in its own box and don't connect it to anything else significant in your organization then it will simply fail.  If you are currently "on your own" in your company and doing social media, what do you hope to accomplish?  Is it really a part of the culture of the company or is it the round peg being shoved into the square hole?
  • Know your audience needs: who are you talking with and what do they want?  Figure out those two answers and build content to support it.
Did you attend the event?  What would you have asked if you did?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

How to keep meetings from wasting your time

I came across this great Inc. article "Don't let meetings suck your time" and it inspired me to write some of my own thoughts on those dreaded meetings we all attend.

Sometimes I find myself in a meeting and realize that we have just covered the exact same topic about 10 times in a row without moving the issue forward.  I imagine these scenarios often play themselves out in asylums across the country where people slowly bang their heads against a wall muttering the same question over and over.  It takes everything I have not to yell out "stop repeating yourself!" and "stop drooling."

So what do you do when this happens?  Ask this question out loud: Now that we understand the problem what are the next steps to resolve this issue and who will take them?  Then you will most likely hear crickets but don't let that stop you from your goal.  Start naming names.  Make people jump.

Don't settle into the routine of unproductive meetings, your time is more valuable than that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Two easy ways to learn the language of your customers

Too often people in marketing roles write to "sell" instead of writing to match the intended readers buying process.  In some circles this form of writing is technically referred to as "crap." 

So how do you know what your customer is thinking?  Google offers two valuable tools that offer insight into the very phrases that they are typing into the search engine.

Google Trends - you can type in words or phrases here and find out their popularity(or lack thereof) over time.  If someone tells you that some topic is "hot" you can prove them right or wrong with this tool.

Google Adwords keyword tool - you can get trends with Google Trends but this tool give you hard numbers on the amount of times a term is searched on in Google.  This also pulls up alternatives to the phrases you type in so you get a better sense of how real people are referring to things.  Its an eye opening looking into real world data and can be used to settle many arguments over how some marketing people think the world works vs how it really works.  

The bottom line is match your language to your audience and your writing will get more traffic.

photo credit: larskflem via photo pin cc

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Give it away for free

Every time anyone asks me how to prove thought leadership online I always say the same thing:

"Create interesting, valuable, share-able, entertaining content that can truly teach someone something, and do it all for free.
...and then do it again and again."

Maybe in years past its been enough to run all your advertising in such a way that gave the perception that your company was the "thought leader" in a given field but those days are long gone.  When a perspective customer is out there searching for a solution they may find your company but your web presence can either make or break your claims.

For example, if you are out there saying you are the #1 company in the field of solutions for office furniture you better back that up with some free tools that can help me out right now, for free. Give me some ideas right off your homepage that I can implement without much hassle.  When I follow your Twitter account I want links to helpful content, not only to things that your company created, but anything I may find useful.

It's really easy for a company to show they are clueless in today's marketplace with barren websites devoid of any useful information or no social media accounts that let me interact with you and ask questions.

Spend some time in content development and you will get more customers and not just the "tire-kickers" to your site.

Friday, June 29, 2012

How to Make a Viral Video - 5 tips from TED Talks

Anyone that knows me knows I hate the term "viral video" essentially because it describes something that does not actually exist.  It's really bad when someone claims they will be creating a viral video since that makes them a fortune teller a.k.a. a scam artist.

The truth is that you create content online in the hope that it can get spread and shared enough to get that elusive label of "viral." (On a side note isn't it funny how the word viral online is this holy grail for most companies but offline its association is with sickness and death?)

There are tons of tips from people out there on how to make your video content more likely to go viral.  I watched the below video from one of the people behind the successful TED Talks and she does an excellent job outlining how TED created their video content to increase their chances of being spread.

In case you don't have time to watch the whole thing here is the top points she makes:
  • Think like a filmmaker
  • Film for the super small screen(think tight shots)
  • Start strong
  • Evoke contagious emotions
  • Don't forget to tell a story

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Social Media Crisis Management 101

Everybody has a different definition of a crisis.  For some people a crisis could be a slow barista as Starbucks, for others it could be sending out a tweet to everyone instead of a DM.

If you are responsible for your companies social media then crisis management will inevitably come up.  It does not have to be a daunting task to handle.  Here is a simple framework to start with:
  1. Listening - ensure you are getting all mentions of your brand/products from the web coming into someone in your org.  That person has to manage the flow and be able to spot issues soon after they arise.  There are free tools like Google Alerts and paid ones like Radian6 that handle this.
  2. Escalation - there should be a direct line from first notice(the Listener) all the way to CEO if needed.  These people need to be informed and trained to understand what a crisis looks like.  An example tactic here would be to have a designated subject line for a crisis like ATTN: CUSTOMER NEEDS HELP ASAP ON TWITTER so when that e-mail comes in they know they need to act fast.
  3. Actions - who is responsible for responding?  It may not be the person with the best knowledge to address the crisis but this person can ankle bite the right people to get the right response.  Without a person designated with the task of sending a tweet or writing a Facebook post this whole process can grind to a halt.
I present the above as a mental framework for social media crisis management.  You should then flesh this out with specifics that suite your company size and needs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What you want vs what your audience wants

If you've owned a business for more than 10 seconds you know the urge.  The unshakable feeling that is driving your every move to convince as many people as possible that whatever it is you are selling is the right solution for them.

You believe this deep into your bones.  If you could just have 5 minutes face to face with that prospect you could show them how wonderful your widget/service/etc is.  All they have to do is fill out that simple form on your website and they will understand!

Oh that thing I just mentioned, filling out that form?  There is the hard part.  In fact its the hardest thing your website will ever do and the most important.  The form could be to buy something on the spot or to speak with a sales rep, either way that conversion is the Holy Grail of your entire web presence.

Why is this such a problem?  On a good day 95% of the people who visit your site don't take a measurable action(buy something, fill out a form etc).

There is no way to get everyone to always convert but if you understand one thing about your audience it should be this:

How does your audience decide to buy what you are selling?

Match your site to the buying process not the selling process.  This doesn't just go for your website but for all digital content you create(Facebook updates, YouTube videos, etc).

Ask yourself how anything you create online matching the stages of the users buying process.  It could be high level or something close to the sale itself.  If you don't know how your content fits into the your customers mindset then they will probably ignore it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is PR the anti-social media?

I was recently a guest speaker at an RIT PR class discussing Social Media.  I went through my usual talking points about the relationship that Social Media has today for corporations, about being an authentic voice in a sea of "spin."

Then I got an interesting question from one of the students, he asked:

"When looking at a resume for a Social Media position, does it hurt to have PR experience/classes on there given what you said about the authentic voice?"

So what would lead him to believe that PR would hurt his chances of getting hired?  Is it that everything he learns in PR courses goes against the fundamental social media concept of an authentic voice?

I don't want to throw everything that a student learns about PR these days under the bus but it was a really good question given all that I had said until that point.  It makes me wonder what the future of the PR profession is since everyone knows the goals of PR is spin, its creation and control and Social Media is anti-spin and lack of control.

This is what got me thinking, is PR the anti-social media?  If everything about PR; spin, media seeding, guiding the press, etc. is the opposite of successful social media practices then where does it fit into the current mix?

How much will PR pros have to change in order to work in this new world?  In my opinion, a lot.  The traditional PR cycle and practices still has its place but some old walls are crumbling.  There is an entire conversation happening that PR has no control over.

How are the next generation of PR pros learning to adapt to social media?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Empire Ave Verification


Just have to do this to verify that this is my blog on Empire Avenue.