Tag : social-marketing

99: Who Should Manage Your Social Media Content?

Unknown Professional (iStockPhoto Purchase)Last month, I was sitting in the executive office of a company with 200 employees.  The chairman of the board asked me how I could help him offer social media solutions to his clients—how biplane productions could partner with his national firm.  I swallowed hard and then told him I wasn’t interested in such—even though his company’s clientele includes organizations for whom ad agencies would love to work.

Why?

Because social media content shouldn’t be outsourced.

Social media is sold every day to small business owners as the new secret weapon in marketing.  “Get your business in front of 800 million people on Facebook and over 300 million Twitter users!”  Never mind the fact that even Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga each have only a small fraction of either of those environments, advertisers think they’ll somehow gain a hoard of followers and fans, just by opening social media storefronts.

If these participatory environments were broadcast media, it would make sense to outsource the work to agencies like mine or those on Madison Avenue.  And for those who look at Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn as advertising channels, there’s software for agencies to manage the social streams of multiple clients.

The problem is that social media sites are relational environments—places to do online what we do offline, admittedly with both upgrades and drawbacks over in-person conversations.  In most situations you wouldn’t pay another company to go have conversations with people for you at social gatherings.  So, why would you pay a company to have your conversations with your prospects and peers online?

Does that mean that your company’s founder or president needs to spend their day hitting the like button and responding to Tweets?  No.  But the person doing the conversing needs to be someone who can speak for your company—someone who has bought into the culture and mission of your organization.  The same care you apply to determining who you hire to sell your goods and services to clients offline should be applied to those who represent you in online social settings.

Valuable qualification criteria for this role include:

  • Positive, optimistic personality
  • Understanding what constitutes your brand
  • Connection to sources of newsworthy content for market and industry trends
  • Professional decorum yet with a sense of humor
  • Personal social streams with lots of activity (illustrating environment experience)
  • Flexible spirit and commitment to be constantly learning
  • Good spelling and grammar skills
  • Access to company images
  • 30 or more minutes available per day for conversational interaction and measurement
  • Maybe even public relations training or background

In some organizations, multiple people are granted administrative access.  The main challenge of that is to make sure posts and responses are consistent from one administrator to another.  (Having pre-written guidelines and sample responses can help with this, especially for companies where social media environments are more for customer service and responding to complaints than brand building.)

The social media shepherd in your company doesn’t need to be someone in management or ownership.  But they should be someone you trust with the voice of your brand.  With rare exception, that isn’t someone on the other end of an invoice.
[tip]

I am embarrassingly weak when it comes to sharing my faith in interpersonal spaces.  I can throw some words up here on my blog or even on Facebook and Twitter.  But put me in a coffee shop or living room, and I don’t have much more than psychoanalytic questions and “Let me pray for you.”

The problem is that the stakes are too high to play the “good Christian kid” card all the time.  (My dad is a minister; so, I have a large box of those cards.)  There’s more on the line than whether someone goes to church or shares my beliefs.  The potential for pain redemption, spiritual wholeness, and worldview change are incredible additions to Christ’s offer of forgiveness, heaven, and purpose.

I’ve got to stop outsourcing these conversations to “professional” Christians and power evangelists.  The New Testament tells all believers—especially me—to “always [be] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”  That requires more time praying for people and more time inputting Truth into my memory.

It’s good to encourage other believers and love on those far from the Way.  But stopping there is dangerous for our eternal legacy and the futures of others.

 

[footer] Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

97: Putting a Price on Your Friends List

Dinner Party with Price Tags (combination of iStockPhoto purchases)Thanks to all the magazines to which I subscribe and to my line of work, on a regular basis I find advertisements in my mailbox for all kinds of business, design, and advertising conferences.  Most don’t interest me; a small number like this one do but wouldn’t be worth the time away from the office or the travel expenses to attend.

Then there’s the postcard I received tonight.  It made me feel icky.  Near the top of the list of headline seminars was one called “Make More $$$ Using Social Media.”

If I had a dollar for every time I saw or heard the words social media, my wife and I could go on an international vacation—and I don’t mean Canada.  I’m sure the same holds true for you.  Websites like Facebook and Twitter and YouTube are touted as marketing gold mines, the future of advertising, the magic answer for harvesting clients out of thin air.

I can understand the temptation.  Facebook is a global force, a community well more than double the population of my country.  Twitter has aided revolutions.  YouTube has changed the way we entertain each other.  Blogs have democratized the publishing industry.  Social media in most ways is all it’s been cracked up to be.  In the least, it’s where a lot of your friends are congregating.

That’s where “Make More $$$ Using Social Media” gets uncomfortable for me—at least for Facebook.  Facebook is a permission environment, a relational place.  The online equivalent of a chamber of commerce meeting, an alumni reunion, a church gathering, or the bleachers at a sporting event, Facebook centers on community.  In our offline community, we’re okay with commercial signs on the outfield wall, ads in special event programs, and sponsored arts presentations.  It’s an acceptable practice in our culture for companies to create corporate parade floats, to put their logos on the back of fundraising shirts, to have advertising on vehicles that employees drive home.

That’s why we understand ads around the periphery of our Facebook environment and company pages mixed into the entities that we can like and follow.

The social contract is broken, though, when the intent of social media use is to get friends to buy stuff.  You know that feeling, when someone invites you to a Juice Plus party or an Amway presentation.  And you know how your friendships with those multilevel marketers feel after those experiences.  There’s only so much Mary Kay items you can wear, only so much travel you can book through YTB, only so many ways you can pamper the chefs in your life.  And there’s only so much of your wallet to spend on friends’ wares.  There’s a pressure there, a pretense that often changes the nature of your relationship.

Facebook asks, “What’s on your mind?”  People in your offline life ask similar questions: “How are you?” and “What’s new?”  If you regularly answered in offline encounters, “ABSOLUTE AUCTION! I’m selling a 3BR, 2BA brick ranch in Parkland,” or “I’m having a sale on firearms,” what do you think the response would be?  Friends would suggest that your loved ones submit you to examination for potential psychological disorders.  In the least, acquaintances would start avoiding you and maybe even environments that you frequent.

When Facebook becomes a broadcast medium, an advertising channel—an environment in which you participate only for commercial reasons, you become the multilevel marketer who people cringe to invite to dinner parties and backyard barbecues.  If we don’t unfriend you, we unsubscribe from your posts or hide your updates from appearing in our feeds.

By all means, go to seminars on social media.  Actually, go to lots of them from multiple presenters—especially by those with Klout and PeerIndex scores higher than your own.  There are a range of diverse opinions, helpful expert specializations, and technological updates to consider in developing your strategy in these environments.  So, it’s good to absorb a range of recommendations in best practices while honing your online participation.

Just be wary of emphasis on monetization of relationships.  You would probably never attend a seminar about making money off bar mitzvahs, baby showers, or birthday parties (as a participant, not a vendor).  You might, however, read articles or watch videos on how to organize one of these social environments better or to know what’s appropriate to bring to them.  See the difference?  There are appropriate ways of talking about your work and promoting your business in social contexts.  The way we do it online needs to resemble the way we do it offline.
[tip]

I wish all my friends and family knew Jesus on a personal level, where they feel his pleasure and hear his promptings.  I wish everyone could experience the spiritual highs I have—to feel the supernatural.  Forgiveness, acceptance, love, hope . . . . at a core level.  Candidly, I even wish that they could feel the corrective convictions, the distance of disobedience, and the stretching challenges that have brought growth and shaped my walk.

Sometimes, though, I feel like a religious multi-level marketer.  The way Christianity is too often sold (when not yelled with ultimatums and jingoism) regularly has the same elements: trying to get people to buy into a system and then get their friends’ friends to buy into a system.  We even have the rallies for the ambitious sellers, the marketing bumper stickers, the prospecting home parties.  I’ve even seen churches offer incentives for bringing guests to church.  And we’ve all seen or heard of the promises that televangelists make for prosperity and the ambiguous “blessing.”

The line between evangelism and multilevel marketing for me, I guess, is the heart and its motivation.  Am I wanting someone to get counted as a person I led to Jesus, or do I love someone enough to change their eternal trajectory?  Am I trying to earn favor with a God (who can’t be earned), or am I trying to share a wonderful gift?  Am I trying to sell my church and grow my personal kingdom, or do I want more in heaven and more of heaven on earth?

In short: if I am I trying to sell real estate in the afterlife or peddle a religion, I am an idolator.  If I love truly love people, though, my evangelism will be shaped with compassion and patience, authenticity and tempered courage.

 

[footer]Stock images used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.[/footer]

87: Measuring Your Social Media Influence

Peer Index Graphs

When we were in high school, popularity was dependent on multiple factors: who your friends were, what your interests were, how many people knew your name (not to mention if you had money, played sports, drove a cool car, or were part of a band).

In some ways, social media environments like Facebook and Twitter have become the new places to determine social standing.  Through online social sharing, we are communicating many of the same markers used in our student years.

When you’re building your brand through social media, it’s good to visualize your standing and your progress.  Multiple companies are working to turn various, measurable data points into some form of comparable social score—some sort of official rank.  Rather than popularity, these scoring systems aim to determine how influential you are—how people interact with your online content.

Almost all of these scoring systems are still in beta stage, as they tinker with algorithms toward more accurate insights.  Because of this, don’t be shocked if your score fluctuates without a drastic change in your social media interaction.  Almost all of these scoring systems are Twitter-centric, because Twitter is more about broadcasting and getting your message to a broad audience—as opposed to Facebook and others, which are meant for sharing among friends and family.  Almost all of these scoring systems focus only on the last 30 to 120 days and appropriately so, as relevance is measured in the now.

Below you’ll find a non-exhaustive list of  some of the social media measurement tools I’ve consulted to see how my online brand is faring.

Klout Dashboard
Klout
If I could pick only one social measurement tool, Klout would have the tool box to itself.  Their site is fast—much faster than some of these other analytics sites.  Their service is free; and they currently allow you to connect up to ten different social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, FourSquare, Tumblr, Blogger, Last.fm, and Flickr.  (According to their website, Klout is also working to connect your Facebook Pages, YouTube, and Google+ streams.)  Klout shows you comparable social media users, including those you influence and those that influence you.  Klout not only shows your current ranking but also your trajectory.  It also offers web browser plugins that automatically show you other Tweeters’ scores next to their tweets.

Browser PluginsTwitalyzerPeer Index
Peer Index includes some of Klout’s capabilities but also maps the topics of your tweets on a graph of eight categories.  (It’s interesting to watch my topic map change over time into different shapes.)  The thinking behind this is that, typically—just as with blogging—the more topically-concentrated your posts are, the more likely you are to gain an interactive following.  Currently, Peer Index measures your influence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Quora, and your RSS-enabled blog.  Also like Klout, Peer Index offers web browser plugins that automatically show you other Tweeters’ scores next to their twitter handles—at Twitter.com (even if only mentioned in a tweet) or on any site where their Twitter handle is listed.
Twitalyzer
As the name implies, Twitalyzer measures only your Twitter activity.  Twitalyzer has maybe the largest selection of raw numbers amongst the Twitter analysis sites, but that’s in part to reporting both Klout and Peer Index scoring data with their other metrics.  You won’t find any fancy graphs here, but I really like that their scores are annotated to tell you your percentile for each number in the matrix.

Tweet Level AdviceTweetLevel
Also a Twitter-only measuring tool, TweetLevel has weak graphing and very little in terms of comparison with others on Twitter.  One thing I like about this site, though, is that it gives insightful recommendations for improving the various contributing factors to your score.

Crowdbooster
The main thrust of this Twitter measurement tool is currently to show you the best times to tweet content, based on mapping of your past tweets and the number of impressions they received.  At time of writing, uptime and score processing speed have been tremendously flaky, as the Crowdbooster team is adding to the site’s capabilities.
CrowdboosterTwentyFeet
If you’re a fan of graphs, you’ll like TwentyFeet.  Outside of Klout, this site tracks probably the second-most amount of social streams.  I’ve had a couple issues with its beta version in load times and in unintended, automatic tweeting of scores.  With ongoing maintenance, this site might move into the top tier of measurement systems.

MyWebCareer
This site leaves a lot to be desired.  It doesn’t explain scores or offer the robust reporting of other sites.  Unlike other sites, which measure in ratings from 1-100, MyWebCareer shows your score in similar fashion to a credit report.  MyWebCareer claims to rank your search engine results, too, though it doesn’t seem to lift the veil to see how it compiles such.
My Career Score
Facebook Analytics
Facebook’s “Insights” tool is what it claims to be: insightful.  Where this analytic tool excels in in measuring your audience demographically—something the aggregate sits don’t (and probably can’t) do.  The graphing is interactive, allowing adjustable timelines.  The only sizable drawbacks are (1) it’s available only for pages, not for profiles; (2) you can’t compare your scores to those of others; and (3) you can’t include your scores from other social media for a more holistic view of your online presence.

This list will probably look very different a year from now.  Several other entities, including Nielsen—yes, the folks who measure television audience—are working their way into the social measurement game with new measurement units and matrixes.  As with search engines and other website categories, natural selection will eventually create an oligarchy of reliable, standard players that prove to own both the most intuitive algorithms and the best user interfaces.  In the mean time, the measurement choices we have are entertaining at least and informative at best.

Social media analytics won’t tell you where to advertise your auctions.  They won’t tell you how many people are absorbing your message—only those who interact with it.  These sites don’t supplant the most important question to analyze your media outlays: “How did my bidders hear about my auction?”  But they can give you a more informed perspective of how you’re doing at building an interactive brand on the Internet.
[tip]

While many joke about the large amount of time I’m perceived to spend on social media, few know that I too often approach social media as a a competition.  It’s not a zero-sum game, but I work hard to make sure my brands—personal and professional—perform online at a high level, preferably at a level above those I teach & consult and against whom I or my clients compete in business.  (I check my Klout score daily, and that probably isn’t healthy.)

Where it becomes even more treacherous is when likes, comments, and retweets affect my choices of what to post.  The temptation is to post only the Ryan that my six years in social media have shown me is the most popular.  True, some of that is good sense—appropriateness, professionalism, etc.  But there’s a line between appealing to an audience and portraying an authentic personae.

That’s a challenge for all of us to varying degrees, both online and offline.  That’s why one of the scariest prayers for American Christians came from Israel’s King David: “Search me, and know my heart.  See if there be any wicked way in me.”

79: A Social Media Lesson from Socks

KISS Promotional EventI found a puffy envelope, addressed to my wife, in our mail box.  When she arrived home from her studio, she opened it to find a pair of white socks covered with red lip prints—socks neither of us had ordered, socks for which neither of us had paid.

My wife bubbled with joy and explained to me how and why this cotton footwear happened to arrive at our address.  Rather than recount all of that, I’ll let you read the three tweets that say it more succinctly:

@kissbooks
“As of yesterday, ALL Christmas orders for KISS have been shipped…early! We are still working on some other orders before our break.”
Dec 17

@crystalgeorge
“I’d like to thank @kissbooks for a fantastic year of albums and service.  You guys rock my socks off!”
Dec 18

@crystalgeorge
“LOL!  Told @kissbooks thanks for knocking my socks off.  So they sent me socks.  Cracking me up. 😀 http://instagr.am/p/zLz8/
Dec 31

KISS Books SocksThis episode illustrates the power of social media: the ability to engage your clients in conversation, the medium that can humanize your brand—and make your customers and friends want to introduce you to their customers and friends.  It’s both schmoozing and feedback, both customer service and brand building, both grassroots initiatives and guerrilla marketing.

Companies that treat Facebook, Twitter, etc. as broadcast channels are missing the mark.  Social media is not an advertising medium—even though powerful, successful marketing can be done there.  No, it’s a social environment.

Your status updates and photos, comments and likes, videos and links tell the stories that you would tell in person—if you could somehow converse with everyone in your collective social circle in one place at one time (of their respective convenience).  They are the advice and anecdotes you’d share at a chamber of commercial cocktail, in the bleachers at your child’s soccer game, in the foyer of your church, and around your living room.

KISS Books SocksIn this social space our lives engage and enrich each other’s lives.  In this space, entrepreneurs can build rapport a friend at a time—and turn friends into followers and followers into brand evangelists.

If you look at Facebook as just a line item in an advertising budget or Twitter as a free place to paste your auction line ads, you’ll be far less likely to get this kind of online street cred:

@crystalgeorge
“Wearing my kewl socks from @kissbooks to shoot my first wedding of 2011. http://instagr.am/p/0InU/
Jan 1

Join the conversation.  Don’t spam it.  You can keep your steady stream of auction announcements dripping into our news feeds, or you can contribute content and conversations that make your brand more contagious.
[tip]

Categorically, I’m an extrovert.  I have to work at listening and asking questions in conversations—at reigning my narcissism and tales of adventure.  I love my life and have to remind myself that others might not or might not want to hear about it, anyway.

Likewise, I have to remind myself that God likes two-sided conversations, too, even as he forebears the soliloquies I call prayers.  For God to be heard, I have to ask for his voice, read his letters to me, and interact with others who are actively pursuing his voice.

Because my spiritual pathway is nature, I can enrich the exchanges by heading out into God’s handiwork or even looking at pictures and articles about it.  It’s not easy to be still and listen—especially when I’m afraid of what he wants to say to me—but it’s necessary to keep our conversation and relational richness alive.

How ’bout you?  Have you ever heard from God?  What do you do, when it’s been a while since you heard from him?

[footer]Image credit.[/footer]

78: Take Your QR Codes to the Next Level

Microsoft Tag and the QR CodeYou know how it is.  After you buy a car, you see that make and model everywhere.

I’ve had the same thing happen with quick response (QR) codes.  After over a year of selling QR codes to my seminar and Facebook audiences, I now see them everywhere—on ads, signs, packages, and point of purchase displays—even on a car.

It’s about time, really.  It was 17 years ago that Denso-Wave (a subsidiary of Toyota†) created its “QR code,” their licensed name for a two-dimensional bar code that has since been made generic like Kleenex has for tissue.  Only in the past five years—with the rapid adoption of smart phones—have QR codes grown into the consumer market and then into advertising.

Go to Biplane's Facebook PAgeIn 2007, the same year that Apple released the first generation iPhone, Microsoft divulged it had taken the two-dimensional bar code to a new level with its “Microsoft Tag.”  Like QR code, Tag is Microsoft’s licensed name for their version of a “high capacity color bar code” (HCCB).  Just as the iPhone pushed the envelope for telephony user interface, the Tag changed the ways in which quick response codes could be used.

Despite spotting the QR code a 13-year head start, the Tag has grown in popularity; and multinational corporations are now implementing them—in lieu of QR codes—into their advertising.  As shown in this inset, biplane clients have been using both smart phone shortcuts next to each other on their mailer panels and larger ads.

Biplane Client SamplesWhy should you consider adding Microsoft Tags to your advertising?

Analytics
As with several QR code-generating sites, Microsoft enables its registered users to track how many times a particular Tag has been scanned.  It even charts it on a graph to show you which days during your marketing campaign were drawing the most use of the Tag (and supposedly even location of scans—haven’t tried that part yet).  Thus, the Tag provides just another way to track the effectiveness of your various media.

Scheduling
The Tag comes with programmable start and expiration dates.  You can set it to continue indefinitely or to end at a designated time after your event.  If you have special information that will be released at a specific time, you can set the code to work only after that time.  QR codes can do at least part of this, just not through all code-generating sites.  Unlike QR codes, the Tag will allow you to change your data source—the destination at the other end of the scan—during the campaign, conveniently allowing you to change your advertising message.

Colorful Presentation
While you can change the black portion of a QR code to any high-contrast color and even float it (without the white spaces) on solid-color backgrounds, it’s still a uniform color.  The Tag can be generated in four- or eight-color configurations, while still working in grayscale, too—for your newsprint advertising.  With some advanced tools, you can even give your Tag custom backgrounds (including logos and photos) and even custom scannable shapes.  It definitely will not be confused with other bar codes.

Impression
While most of your audience has probably yet to adopt either the QR code or the Tag, your use of them illustrates your position at the leading edge of marketing technology.  If you have room to use both, I’d recommend both.  Since the Tag requires Microsoft’s proprietary app, the two different codes won’t interfere with each other.  (The Tag requires some white margin around it; so, leave space in between it and your QR code.)

Scan me for a happy surprise!The QR code can currently be loaded with more kinds of information than a Tag—location services, social media connections, emails, Paypal “buy now” links, and even WiFi logins.  So, don’t replace your QR code with a Tag.  Instead, maybe have something different on the other end of each, using them to compliment each other.

The Microsoft Tag isn’t yet a must-have tool in your marketing toolbox, but it gives you another way to prove you’re a step ahead of your competition—or at least, that you’re more colorful.
[tip]
For the past several years, my favorite Bible study environment has been TruthWorks.  Not a class, not a service, it’s just a bunch of people from multiple stages of our collective spiritual journey—all of us circling tables in groups of three to seven people.

Right now, we’re wading through the book of Acts at a pace of roughly a chapter per week.  I took an entire semester of the same 28 chapters in college and didn’t see but a fraction of what we’ve found over the past few months.

It’s not that we’re trying to find grayscale out of the Bible’s black and white by searching for nuances that create differences and debates.  Theologians have been doing that for centuries; and Christianity, especially in our nation, has splintered far from the unity that God asks of the New Testament church.

No, what we’ve found is the color in the Bible—where it comes to life, where it interacts with our immediate circumstances.

I’ve heard over 5,000 sermons and Bible lessons in my life—many of which I’ve watched through the equivalent of a portable black and white television.  In TruthWorks, though, I’m exploring the Bible on a 1080p HD 60-inch display.  I’d love to tell you how we do it.  So, don’t hesitate to ask.

[footer]† Source: Wikipedia.
Stock image of elevator buttons used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

76: Taking a Page Out of the Ol’ (Face)Book

My wife recently moved her thriving photography business from our 180±sf guest bedroom to a 1,100+sf loft on Main Street downtown. Prior to that, we had props and furniture, electronics and supplies stuffed into closets and floor space on two floors of our house.

Gaining national notoriety from competition on a recent photography reality show, an appearance on a photography podcast, and features on local & regional wedding blogs, Crystal George Studios needed much more space to entertain clients, prospects, and wedding-industry mixers. (Crystal has now shot weddings in seven states, including ocean-front nuptials on both the Atlantic and Pacific.)

Virginia Beach Post Wedding Photo Shoot

Long before she physically separated her personal space from her professional space, Crystal separated her professional and personal Facebook personae—by creating what Facebook calls a page. While she often markets her talents through her Facebook profile, she has an online storefront where people outside of her personal social network can visit, stretch their legs, and meander through her content. By tagging brides, grooms, and even people from wedding parties in her photos, she constantly finds a stream of new people looking through her work and becoming fans.

I meet many auctioneers and other small business marketers, who are still operating out of the online equivalent of a spare bedroom. Some avoid social media altogether—at their own peril. Others dump a bunch of their business advertising into their personal Facebook streams or ignorantly create Facebook profiles for their businesses instead of Facebook pages.

“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. “Facebook is Facebook, isn’t it?”

In short: no.

As with many other tools in life, there are right and wrong, efficient and inefficient ways to use tools. Regular Facebook users can tell which companies know how to use Facebook’s tools—just by how those businesses interact with their respective audiences. A page comes with a lot of benefits you can’t find on a profile, benefits such as:

Personal Space
“Wait. I thought you said a Facebook page creates a partition between your business and your personal space.” Yes. And diverting the public to a business page helps that separation. Of the many people you’d welcome into your store or office, there’s probably only a fraction of those who you wouldn’t invite to your backyard barbecue or want trudging through your living room. You don’t want everyone in your online business audience to have access to your personal information and the content intended for your friends. While Facebook allows you to segment the pictures, videos, notes, links, and updates on your profile to specific and varying levels of privacy, it’s much safer and more convenient to separate your after-hours life from your nine-to-five one by using a business page.

Professional Voice
Just as having a business location often lends more credibility than solely a home office, a Facebook page can give your company a more corporate image; and it allows you to speak professionally without the distractions of your personal content. For example, it’s typically not a good idea to have your child’s birthday party pictures interspersed throughout your PowerPoint sales presentations; why would it be different online than it is offline?

The profile status update box answers the question, “What’s new with you?” The page status update box answers the question, “What’s new with your organization?” Another related benefit: the page allows multiple, authorized people to speak on behalf of your organization. This allows your business to keep interacting with the Facebook public, even when you are not doing so on a personal level; and it allows you to give the responsibility of maintaining a Facebook presence to someone else in your organization—taking it off your plate, if desired.

Virtual Storefront
Facebook has recently updated its page environment to include geographic mapping of your business. Customers, professional peers, and employees who use mobile location services (like Gowalla or Foursquare) can “check in” at your establishment. When they do this, their social streams get a free link’s worth of advertising for your business.

Your page also has an area for you to sell your services or products, as well as an area to list your hours of operation and contact information, including your website. Unlike your personal profile, this is an appropriate and beneficial place to advertise your items, services, auctions, and events. One of my clients has even made it possible to bid live online at his auctions from his company’s Facebook page.

Analytics
Unlike on the personal profile side, Facebook allows page administrators to see analytics regarding the entire page and even specific posts. It also generates demographic information, such as gender and age of visitors—because Facebook, unlike Google and most other analytics programs, has that information.

Biplane' Productions Analytics

Not only can you see these statistics illustrated on graphs, but you can also receive weekly updates via email regarding increases and/or decreases in various kinds of activity on your page. If you implement any ad campaigns, each different ad you submit comes with detailed analytics. You can even compare different ads against each other on the same graphs.

Ad Platform
Facebook’s display ad platform works seamlessly with its page infrastructure. You can have the ads link to your website or to your business’ Facebook page. With the comparative analytics built into the infrastructure, it’s easier to track your Facebook traffic right there in one place.

Content Factory and/or Distribution Center
To keep your name in front of your prospects, you can continually pay for advertising—or create free online content that regularly refreshes their memory of your brand image. Outside of adding sale items and occasional press releases, most small business websites don’t change often enough to invite return visits. (I can say that, as my about-to-be-replaced website changes even less often than most of my clients’ sites.) Thus, most small companies don’t take full advantage of “web 2.0,” let alone using social media to do the heavy lifting of their brand building and management.

On your business’ Facebook page, though, it’s easy to generate new content to stay in front of your market. You can quickly and regularly post links to articles, podcasts, and videos related to your field and/or your product(s). You can write how-to articles and post them as notes. You can display galleries of sale items, sold items, promotional pieces, event photos, etc. And you can gain feedback from and have conversations with your marketplace and make it easier for fans of your work to evangelize on your behalf to their online connections. All this is made easier and free with a Facebook page.

Any entrepreneur or marketer can jump into Facebook and advertise their wares. To increase efficiency and effectiveness, though, pursue your audience from a Facebook page instead of your personal profile.

[footer]Stock image of iPhone above purchased from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

[bump]

70: Getting Engaged on Your Birthday

InboxToday’s my birthday.

Apparently, it’s public knowledge.  This week, I got an email from Panera telling me that they put a surprise on the MyPanera card in my wallet.  I got another birthday email from NFL.com, showing my last name on a Ravens jersey—a nice touch.  I would be more impressed, if these actions and emails weren’t generated by a database sitting on a server in Nebraska somewhere; but I’ve got to tip my hat to these companies for putting something other than solicitations in my inbox.

It’s not just mail-merged birthday greetings I noticed this week.  Staples sent me advance notice coupons in Wednesday’s email.  (In the past, they’ve snail-mailed me invitations for Rewards-member-only store hours and sales.)  As they regularly do, American Express sent me an email with links to four articles for entrepreneurs; and Ink by Chase sent me an invitation to an upcoming small business conference.  The makers of MapMyRun, one of the few paid apps on my iPhone, emailed me articles related to health and wellness.

Birthday Emails
What these companies know is that our culture craves autonomy.  We want corporations to treat us like people, not numbers.  We’ve been burned by Enron and BP, Congress and Wall Street.  We want our voices and purchases to count.  We don’t want to be told by Madison Avenue mad men what to want.

That’s why Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites have seen unprecedented growth.  It probably explains why shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “American Idol”—shows to which we can contribute—trump the ratings of scripted shows.  Beyond self-expression and acceptance, we crave more personal interactions with people, not conglomerates.

So, the entities that engage relationally gain advantage over their peers.  It’s not just that they have a Facebook account, a Twitter feed, or a birthday list.  It’s what they do with them.  They invite conversation, respond to expressed concerns or praise, and give away products, services, and/or information for free.  Instead of a broadcast mentality, where emails and status updates are all sales pitches, they’ve found the social in social marketing, the 2 [way street] in Web 2.0.  They know the difference between radios and walkie talkies—and choose the latter.

So, how do you engage the individual in your marketing?  What special offers do you give your prospects or clients?  I’ve heard of auction companies offering MVP parking or seating, permanent bidder numbers, and bidder receptions.  What intellectual property or advice do you send their way?  Some auctioneers conduct free bidder seminars; others offer FAQ documents or how-to videos on their Web sites.  Do you have a blog or newsletter?  If so, is it solely horn-tooting; or does it contain practical content?

You don’t have to be the birthday fairy to build an interactive brand.  But if you want what you have to go viral, you have to get close enough to people—where they are—for them to catch your contagions.  Go to the events and environments where they congregate (both online and offline); authentically join the conversation.  Listen to needs, themes, trends.  And say something more than, “I’ve got something I want to sell you.”
[tip]

I’ve been in a Tuesday night study of the New Testament book of Acts, seeing things I never saw in a whole semester of Acts during college.  One of the truths that has jumped out of the narrative is how evangelism was conducted outside of the synagogue.  The apostles and disciples started with where each respective unbeliever was at that moment.  Peter and John told the lame beggar, “We don’t have money, but we have Jesus’ name to heal you.”  Philip asked the curious Ethiopian Eunuch, “Do you understand what you’re reading?”  Jesus asked a murderous Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”

Few people want to be converts, stars on a performance chart, or numbers at a “bring a guest” Sunday.  At a core level, we want to be known and understood, loved and respected.  If someone were to change your mind on faith—a deeply personal asset—what approach would most likely woo and convince you?  What would that process look like?

Knowing this, is that the approach you take to share the faith you hold dear?

[footer]Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010.[/footer]

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