Tag : social-media

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203: Two (Misguided) Questions Auctioneers Ask About Facebook Advertising

At the end of July, a Wall Street selloff knocked $119,400,000 off Facebook’s market capitalization. Over two days, the Silicon Valley giant lost almost 20% of its estimated value (though only back to its stock price as of April). Hunted by European litigators and questioned by the United States senate, the company has spent the summer rebuilding its brand.

Facebook stock price

With the largest social media platform in the news almost every day this summer, I’ve seen auctioneers asking two questions:
• What are you doing to ensure you don’t have all your eggs in the Facebook basket?
• Where will you advertise if/when Facebook goes away?

Facebook Market Cap

As someone who spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on Facebook advertising and makes a third of my income from Facebook marketing services, you’d think I’d be asking these questions, too. I’m not. Here’s why.

Facebook isn’t going away any time soon.

Even with the big drop, Facebook is still one of the wealthiest, most profitable companies on the planet. This isn’t a MySpace situation. For one thing, even a fraction of Facebook’s market share would make it the most robust platform on which to pursue clients. LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, and Twitter combined have only as many users as Instagram, Facebook’s secondary platform. 1 Almost one out of every three people on Earth have a Facebook account. That’s amazing by itself but even moreso when you consider that only 54% of the world’s population uses the Internet. 2 In the United States, more adults check Facebook each day than read all American newspapers—combined—during the course of a week.

Facebook comparison

The next thing will be easy to spot.

There’s a case to be made that social media as a media category might decline someday when people grow tired of the comparison game it represents. Facebook, being the biggest player, would probably take the biggest hit. Nothing happens in a vacuum, though. If you remove social media from daily practice, something new will grow to fill that space. What won’t occupy that space is traditional media. It definitely won’t be newspaper, as the American attention span continues to shrink. Nobody confidently knows what’s next or when it will get here, but it will require at least as much adaptation and intuition to operate there as Facebook demands now. Whatever moves into that space will approach with lots of buzz and probably fanfare much like Facebook did more than a decade ago.

Facebook isn’t monolithic.

Facebook isn’t just Facebook. It’s not just Instagram and WhatsApp and Messenger, either. Facebook’s Audience Network spans scores of the prominent news and entertainment sites on the Internet. Like Google’s display ad network, Facebook ads appear all over the web to visitors with Facebook accounts. So, even if someone deletes the Facebook and Instagram apps from their phone or just never uses them, they can still be targeted by Facebook’s ads. In fact, on a per-ad basis, Facebook daily analyzes from which of its platforms people are most efficiently coming to your website and adjusts your daily spend proportionally. If you’re eggs are all in one Facebook basket, it’s a lot bigger basket than you might realize.

Facebook isn’t the only go-to pitch now, anyway.

There are some rare auctions where I advise a campaign to have at least 90% of the budget allocated to Facebook, but those represent the exception and not the rule. What you’re selling, where you’re selling it, and how you’re selling it influence the media mix. This is also true of the resources available to you like (1) email subscribers and (2) past bidder registrations for the same asset category being advertised. Sometimes, a public relations campaign does your heavy lifting on a truly unique auction. Sometimes, a purchased mailing list is the most targeted tool available. There are even a handful of newsprint outlets I still recommend. Often, media choices aren’t based on efficiency or efficacy but on assumptions and perceptions the seller has to feel like you covered all of your bases. If you are avidly tracking all media individually in Google Analytics for every auction, you’ll know what media you use for buyers & sellers and which ones you use for branding or showmanship. You’ll also be able to see trends as they happen.

When I look at the Facebook accounts of the auctioneers asking these questions, I typically find people who aren’t well-versed in Facebook advertising. I wonder if they are hoping for the seemingly-complicated reality of Facebook’s paid advertising to go away so they can get back to the set-it-and-forget-it nature of traditional media. If they got the efficient results my clients do on Facebook, I’m not sure they’d wish for this strike-out pitch to disappear. Even if their wish came true, though, it would be a long, slow decline.

The more important questions to ask are:
• How am I adapting to the changing buying culture?
• What have my experimentation and analytics shown me recently?

Marketers who don’t continually ask themselves those questions will eventually be replaced by those in companies who do. That should worry every auctioneer far more than the future of Facebook.

1 “Top 15 Most Popular Social Media Sites and Apps [August 2018]” by Priit Kallas, Dreamgrow.com, August 2018.

2 “Internet Users in the World by Regions” by Internet World Stats.com, December 21, 2017.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com. All other images linked to their respective sources.

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189: Are You Gambling With Your Future Commissions?

Last Monday morning, I released a controversial take on the firearms portion of Facebook’s advertising guidelines. Several in the auction industry wrote it off as a Chicken Little screech, a tinfoil-hat projection. Others wrote to tell me how they had found my assessment true for them.

The potential of that post didn’t wait any longer than the following Tuesday night. I arrived home around 10:30 to find my Ads Manager on lockdown. My advertising account had been shuttered without warning and with no explanation. All of my clients’ ads had been paused.

Facebook shutdown

This was bigger than an ad not being approved. This was a total inability to advertise on Facebook without creating a new user account, getting all of my clients to update their access permissions, and re-creating all of the custom audiences I’ve made. From what I read online by others who had suffered this fate, even those steps were sometimes not enough to get back up and running, as Facebook has measures in place to protect against serial offenders.

One Facebook advertising vendor wrote a detailed article specifically on this situation, noting that even the appeals process was a long shot. Apparently, many advertisers don’t even get specific explanations of what caused their account closure. The appeals process could take days just to get a response, let alone resolution.

The worst case scenarios would’ve cost me significant time and money. I was looking at losing the fastest-growing segment of my business, the only cost-effective tool I have for some auctions. I stood to lose confidence from my clients, prospects, and the professionals in my continuing education classes.

The exceptions from the horror stories I was reading came to those with a long track record with Facebook advertising, large Facebook spends, and a humble appeal. Thankfully, all of those criteria applied to me. My appeal email also explained how I had recently written a blog post to exhort others to comply with their advertising guidelines.

I went to bed at 1:30 Wednesday morning, anticipating tough conversations and difficult work when I returned to the office. Five hours later, I awoke for some urgent pro bono work before breakfast. Before I got out of bed I checked my Facebook Ads app on my phone to discover that—miraculously—not only had my account been reinstated, but my clients’ ads had all resumed.

I jogged upstairs to my office. My inbox held two emails from Facebook: one welcoming me back to good standing and the other explaining why my account had been shuttered. I kid you not: firearms violations.

Ironic, right? I still don’t know what post or ad triggered the closure. It might have even been my unpromoted post of last Monday’s article. Apparently, the situation struck Facebook’s evaluators as bigger than just an unapproved ad, which I’ve encountered multiple times for clients. My activity was unacceptable behavior.

So, hear me again. Putting firearms in your farm, estate, and liquidation auction catalogs has the very real potential of hijacking your Facebook advertising for your non-firearm assets.

If you believe in Facebook as a marketing tool, consider playing by their rules. If you acknowledge that culture is moving away from newsprint to digital media, understand that adaptation is more than just a format issue. If you want to keep cost-efficient mass promotion in the tool box, consider how you use your tools.

While my company will gladly still design direct mail, newsprint ads, and banner ads for auctions with firearms, I will no longer create Facebook advertising for auctions with guns in the catalog. The stakes are too high for me. Take time to evaluate whether they are for you, too.

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171: The 5 Ways to Outsource Your Facebook Advertising

Over the past two years, I’ve become an editor or administrator of more than 40 different Facebook pages for businesses across the country. Recently, that quantity has been changing almost weekly, as more and more auction companies are hiring me to manage at least a portion of their Facebook advertising.

As a vendor, I’ve learned the advantages and disadvantages of the five different ways you can outsource your Facebook marketing. I’ve assembled a brief overview of each here, in case you’re wondering which option is right for your business.

Business Manager Editor Access

Using the Business Manager interface, companies can assign different levels of access to both employees and vendors contributing to their social media. In business manager, the Facebook pixel and billing are tied to the page’s account rather than to the personal account of each individual who places ads.

PRO: This is the most secure way of the five for bringing in additional marketers. You keep Facebook pixel stability, regardless of turnover. Billing is direct to your company credit card (especially beneficial if you collect credit card points). All admins and editors can see analytics.

CON: A bit more work to set up (more steps and more technical prowess required).

Additional Admin or Editor Access

This is the solution most of my clients choose. After you create your page, you can add employees or vendors as admins or editors under Page Roles, which is under Settings on your business’ Facebook page. Using Ads Manager, anyone on the team can place ads, use a Facebook pixel, create a custom or lookalike audience, etc.

PRO: It’s literally only four clicks to add a marketer to your Facebook team. You have all of the same advertising options as Business Manager. There’s still some control/access differentiation between admins and editors.

CON: All admins and editors need to install their Facebook pixels on your website for ubiquitous use.

Primary Admin Access

Some of my clients didn’t have a Facebook business page before hiring my services. They outsourced creation of their Facebook business page and asked me to add them as admins, so that they would get notifications on page activity and could answer inquiries via Facebook Messenger. Once everything is up and running, the back end works and looks the same as the previous option. Some gymnastics need to be done for the person who founded the page to demote themselves to editor and give you the only admin access, but it’s not difficult.

PRO: You don’t have to set up your Facebook page. You get notifications of page and advertising activity without needing to place the ads or even know how to navigate Ads Manager. You have all of the same advertising options as Business Manager.

CON: You are giving someone else complete control of your brand on the platform with more daily users than any other on the planet. All admins and editors need to install their Facebook pixel on your website for ubiquitous use. Billing is tied to individual users. Only the person who scheduled the ads can see the analytics natively (without screen capture or similar sharing)

Third Party Branding

I don’t offer this as a service, but a bunch of companies inside and outside the auction industry do. Instead of creating a Facebook page for your business and tying your advertising to it, another company places the ads through their page.

PRO: You don’t have to set up a Facebook page or handle your own Facebook advertising.

CON: Your sellers’ assets are being sold by another brand, which builds their interface—instead of your website—as a marketplace. Sometimes the ads are linked to your website; often, though, they are linked to your listing on that vendor’s website instead. To use any Facebook pixel advertising (if even offered), you have to give another company access to your web traffic.

Account Takeover

This is stupid—nothing short of unwise. I mention this option only because I’ve had three different entrepreneurs request this over the past year. This is where you give a vendor your personal Facebook login information to create a business page in your name, make you the admin, and then place ads on behalf of your brand.

PRO: You don’t have to set up your Facebook page. You get to see notifications and analytics in your Ads Manager without placing your ads.

CON: Your vendor could ruin your reputation and put your brand in hot water. They could commandeer not only your Facebook business page but also your personal Facebook profile. They can post as you, message as you, comment as you. They could change your password and lock you out of your own account.

Right now, Facebook offers the most targeted marketing to the largest audiences in the world. Your brand, your assets, and your services need to be there. Outsourcing isn’t always the best option. (In fact, some of my clients only outsource a portion of their Facebook advertising.) When an outside vendor can add value or ease your workload, though, now you’ll know how best to engage them.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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170: The Oddest Objection I Get When Consulting

I get a really odd response when I recommend that Facebook receive a sizable chunk of a marketing budget.

“Not everyone’s on Facebook, though.”

I’ve never heard a client declare, “Not everyone gets the newspaper, though.”

I’ve never heard an auctioneer say, “But not everybody opens their mail.”

The irony in my clients’ rebuttals is that Facebook is the most dominant channel in any medium in our country. As of August of 2015, 62% of the adult population and 72% of adults in the country who use the Internet are on Facebook.1 Two thirds of those Facebook users visit the site every day.2

By contrast, the most watched show on TV last year (Sunday Night Football) garnered 6.6% of the nation’s population.3 That’s 10% of Facebook’s daily reach, and it’s available only 17 nights a year. Plus, advertising to that small fraction of people would cost you just short of a firstborn child.

“But older folks aren’t on Facebook.”

64% of Internet users ages 55 to 64 use Facebook.1 Only 44% of Americans ages 55-64 read a newspaper.4 It’s safe to assume the percentage of adults who look through the classifieds of those newspapers would be significantly smaller still.

Not only is the quantity of newspaper subscribers shrinking (7% for daily papers and 4% for Sunday papers—last year alone), so is the quantity of newspapers themselves. A net of 118 U.S. newspapers closed their doors between 2004 and 2014.5 Multiple times in the past couple years, I’ve had to email a client to let them know that a newspaper they requested is no longer in print.

In contrast, the number of mailboxes in America isn’t shrinking; and neither is Facebook’s user base.

“Well, professionals and investors [rich people] aren’t on Facebook.”

2015 Facebook Users78% of on Internet users with household incomes above $75,000 are on Facebook.1 That happens to be the highest percentage of any income bracket.

Facebook will let you filter audiences by income, by net worth, by liquid assets, and by number of lines of credit. I regularly target lists of millionaires and multimillionaires on Facebook and get tons of traffic to my clients’ websites—for both commercial and luxury residential properties.

One of my clients auctioned a medical office building earlier this year. We had a direct mail campaign and ads deployed in local and business newspapers. At the first open house, every single prospect touring the property came from Facebook. They weren’t teenagers or minimum wage workers.

Am I saying advertising budgets should be almost all Facebook?

Absolutely not. No media saturates 100% of your prospect base. It’s good to cover as many bases as you can afford.

What this data should determine, though, is the priority order in your advertising budget. Actually, that hierarchy should be determined more by your internal data than by user statistics and audience size. If you’re polling your bidders at every auction and then tracking your offline & online media in Google Analytics, you’ll be able to tell which media work best for specific asset types in specific geographical locations.

I recently bet a client that, if their winning bidder came from one of a selection of out-of-state newspapers, I’d rebate all of my design fees. I wasn’t promising a bidder from Facebook. I just knew we could reach far more people and a much more targeted audience on the same spend, and I prefer efficient advertising over hail Mary throws. (They agreed.)

Most of the small business folks who object to my bullish stance on Facebook don’t have data to refute my assertions. They’re working off assumptions, anecdotal recollections, and their personal habits. (“I never get on my Facebook.”) Auctioneers who do test and measure and analyze have been moving more money to Facebook, Google, direct mail, and signs—away from newsprint.

I’m not telling you how or where to spend your money. I’m just letting you know that neither you nor I can trust our assumptions.

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com
Chart linked to source.

1 “The Demographics of Social Media Users
Maeve Duggan, Pew Research Center. August 19, 2015.

2. “Facebook Passes 1.65 Billion Monthly Active Users, 54% Access the Service Only on Mobile
Emil Protalinski, Venture Beat.April 27, 2016.

3 “Here’s How Much Ad Time in NFL Games Costs Marketers This Season
Anthony Crupii, AdAge. September 15, 2015.

4 “Newspapers: Sunday Readership by Age
Pew Research Center

5 “Newspaper Fact Sheet
Michael Barthel, Pew Research Center, June, 2016.

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169: 2 Adaptive Advertising Technologies Auctioneers Can Afford

In my lifetime, the change in advertising technology has been incredible.

• Desktop publishing allowed auction companies to design their own advertising, and it pushed newspaper deadlines back a day or two.

• Digital printing shortened direct mail production by literally a week.

• The Internet afforded auction marketers the ability to update advertising information on their website with far less lead time than was needed for signs, newsprint, and direct mail.

• Email added the ability to quickly alert subscribers of news or changes.

• LED billboards made outdoor advertising faster to implement and less expensive to use.

• Social media offered the most targeted advertising in the history of the planet.

And now, advertising can literally change itself to adapt to its viewer. Two of these adaptive technologies are very approachable, and my auctioneer clients are regularly using both.

Facebook Ads (Not Boosted Posts)

One of the options for Facebook sponsored content is an ad that shows a single image to the viewer. The advertiser can actually load up to six different images into that photo’s spot. Facebook displays all of the photo iterations of the ad pretty much evenly to viewers the first day and measures which ones got the most interactions. The next day, it adapts how the images show to the public and weights how it serves them accordingly. On day three, it adapts again after considering how the public interacted with the previous days’ mix of images. This process continues until the end of your campaign.

Adaptive Facebook samplesWith some extra elbow grease, Facebook will also do this with other content in an ad set—switching out types of ads (video, slide show, single image, etc.) for the type that’s best performing.

Best of all, this adaptive capability comes with no additional Facebook charge. It’s in Facebook’s best interest for ads to appeal to its users, and they want advertising to be as effective as possible—to keep getting advertising revenue from advertisers.

By the way, I’ve regularly been surprised by which image got the most traction. On campaigns where I’ve targeted different ads to different target audiences, it’s interesting to see how each audience gravitates to different images or content.

Variable Data Printing

I’ve blogged about this technology before, but few of my clients leverage this tool. Rather than using plates on a traditional printing press to imprint a static design for an entire print run, each piece is imprinted digitally and customized according to the address printed on the piece. There can be as few as two versions of the piece; or maybe there can be a multitude of variations, depending on the database setup.

The basic premise is that different people on your mailing list get different versions of the postcard or brochure—versions tied to their interests. So, if you have a multi-property auction, the property closest to them might be featured on the mail panel. If you’re selling real estate and personal property, people on your real estate list will get a different version than people on your personal property list. If you have an ag equipment list and a construction equipment list, the catalog mailed to both lists can have the same guts but a different cover and mailing panel.

Setup for this technology runs anywhere from $35 to $50 at the print shop and a little extra on the design end. Depending on the size of your mailing, the cost difference can be inconsequential. The value it adds, though—with people getting mail their more likely to read—is very much noticeable.

With each new technological capability, auctioneers have needed to fit more tools into their marketing tool boxes, but they’ve also gained more and better ways to find motivated buyers and sellers. Is your advertising updating itself after you cut it loose? Is it adapting to buyer interests? If not, how much of a head start are you willing to give your competition while their marketing is?

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com

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165: 5 Reasons to be Wary of Automated Marketing

Most of the folks that attend my seminars represent sole proprietorships or family-size businesses. Based on the feedback I get before and after my talks, I sense that many auctioneers feel unable to keep up with the growing media landscape. In particular, they tell me they don’t have the time, energy, or expertise to manage their companies’ accounts for Facebook and other social media.

Auctioneers aren’t alone in this. Many small business folks struggle with this important part of the operation.

To capitalize on that great need, a bevy of startups and major corporations have created automated marketing tools and programs. Constant Contact will post your email content on Facebook. Hootsuite will publish free to up to five of your social streams with one click of the Autoschedule button. ZipRecruiter promises to reach hundreds of sites and post to social media for you—with one click.

These automated services deliver on their promise of ease but can’t and usually don’t promise efficacy. They’re wise not to promise that, too. The current social media landscape makes robo-posting incredibly less valuable than native interactions.

1. Organic reach is a thing of the past.

Most automation tools focus on posting on your behalf and assume that your followers will engage because they follow your brand. That assumption is optimistic at best, especially on Facebook where less than 5% of your Facebook fans see your unpromoted posts. Just posting isn’t enough anymore.

2. Each media has its own culture.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube, and email each operate in different ecosystems with different formats, different purposes, and different audiences. Savvy marketers leverage the unique characteristics of each medium and adapt their messages to each. They know that the same statement auto-translated in all languages at once will inevitably cause part of your message to get lost in translation.

3. Targeting and measurement is platform-dependent.

Automated posts can’t be targeted, tracked, or analyzed like native posts can. Almost every business needs to reach new customers—people who have not yet done business with them or engaged with their social media accounts. To reach those people and to more efficiently interact with more of your ideal customers, you need the native platform tools.

4. Authenticity is more attractive.

The best social media marketing is less about broadcasting and more about providing something for the viewer. That could be entertainment, a solution to a problem, or something for their wish list. Social media users can tell when a message is generated for multiple platforms at once, and that content looks less organic, less personal.

5. Customer service can’t be automated.

While immediate responses can be set up with autoresponders, full problem resolution typically works only with communication between two humans. With Facebook’s immutable rating system and with hashtags making social media instantly searchable for negative reviews, it’s more important than ever to monitor and address the concerns from social media in person.

You have to go where your customers are.

When auctioneers and small business people used to tell me they don’t have time for social media, I told them to just skip it altogether. I can’t do that anymore. 78% of American adults are on social media. Infodocket claims that one out of every five page views on the Internet are on Facebook. With lookalike audiences and tracking pixels—both of which are free tools—small businesses can find new customers like no time in human history.

Statistic of Facebook Users

Take advantage of education.

So, the bad news is that you need humans running your social media. The good news is that there are fantastic resources to train you or your staff how to do it—not just to make sense of it but to thrive with it. You can find a lot of tutorials for free or cheap online. You can find education tailored to the auction industry in the Auction Marketing Management designation, too. I volunteer to teach in that environment (and pay my own travel expenses), because I strongly believe that targeted marketing and adapting to cultural trends is what will keep my clients and companies just like them in business—if not thriving in their marketplace for years to come.

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154: Are You Throwing Away Income on Facebook?

Football Player Lego MinifigureIn the National Football League, commentators use a term to describe why players don’t make specific plays that would significantly increase their risk of injury. The announcers usually say it with a bit of smirk in their voice.

“He made a business decision.”

The player in question could have attempted a tackle or dove for a first down, but the long-term ability to make plays wasn’t worth the short-term opportunity of a single play. I’ve rarely heard a football player criticized for making that split-second decision. In fact, usually quarterbacks are criticized for getting hurt because they didn’t process this kind of situation quickly and wisely.

During this heated political season and the social unrest of the past few years, auctioneers and entrepreneurs have been inadvertently making business decisions. They’ve taken risky shots on social media. They’ve not processed the long-term ramifications of short-term humor and rhetoric. They’ve invested their personal brand into memes and rants and extra exclamation marks.

Political Teams

Whether we root for team donkey, team elephant, team buffalo, team porcupine, or none of the above, a short scroll through our social connections will tell us that we aren’t all on the same team. That’s actually a good thing. At least it can be. Diversity of opinions widens culture’s horizons and sometimes even leads to idealogical dialogue. Well, it theoretically has the potential for that.

Those conversations have merit in proper forums, most of which are offline. In contrast, social media tends to oversimplify nuanced topics and polarize communities through antagonism. The stock photos are either grandiose or intentionally crass. Often, the statistics are fictional or out of context. Rarely do we check multiple sources to verify a post before it’s shared, liked, or referenced.

The risks for this kind of engagement looms larger than potential egg on the face or estrangement from social connections. As small business owners or sales reps, we can actually reduce future income. See, potential clients—including auction sellers—are going to type a vendor’s name into the Facebook search bar. Unless we’re very careful with your privacy settings, they’re going to see our posts. Those playing on different political teams or even just different sides of a specific issue will now mark a mental strike against us. The opposing position might even unconsciously predispose them to disagree with our business suggestions. It’s a risk that rises proportional to the level of acidity or distastefulness they find.

This doesn’t mean that we abandon unpopular opinions or that we avoid sharing them. It just means that we express them differently. Proselytizing or personal growth is more likely within the contexts of face-to-face conversations, book club discussions, thoughtful letters, careful essays, well-researched & sourced infographics, etc. Raise a hand if a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram post has ever changed your political stance on anything. If they’ve never worked on us, what hubris or ignorance does it take to assume they’ll sway others?

For each of us, some issues might be worth losing business to defend. How and when we defend them, though, can determine the amount of personal credence and professional respect we lose in the process. It is possible to respectfully disagree.

Multiple writers have attributed a quote to Michael Jordan that he actually didn’t say, but the invented statement holds a lot of merit. The global sports icon has (after retirement) endorsed and financially supported Democratic Party candidates including President Barrack Obama. Initially, though, he chose brand building over political involvement. The reason was summarized in this famous fictional line:

“Republicans buy sneakers, too.”

Stock image purchased from iStockPhoto.com.

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125: 3 Words That Will Change Your Marketing Strategy

Back in April, MINI USA brought me to the 2014 New York International Auto Show to answer media questions about what it was like filming a Final Test Test Drive video. The night prior to the first media day, another winner and I were treated to dinner by Peppercomm, the public relations firm coordinating our interviews.

After we finished eating, the Peppercomm consultants walked us through helpful advice on how to interact with the reporters that we would meet the next day. Fifteen years removed from public relations classes in college, I was thankful for their insight; and I’ll be keeping their instructional packet for future reference.

What struck me most from the entire session, though, was the tag line under the Peppercomm logo.

“Listen. Engage. Repeat.”

That’s great advice for both public relations and interpersonal relationships like marriage, parenting, and mentorships. Because of its inherent truth, it’s also probably the best advice I’ve ever heard for social media and company promotion, too.

For almost half a decade, I’ve been telling auctioneers to stop treating social media like a broadcast channel—another line item in an advertising budget. For many entrepreneurs and marketers, Facebook, Twitter, email, and blogs are just additional fields into which they’ll copy and paste their advertising headlines. In reality, though, social media are just online environments for the kind of conversations we have offline. The attributes of successful conversations are the same for successful social media.

NYIAS Media DayListen first. Interact with your conversation partners (even if just a small slice of your audience). Engage—just like you would in an offline social event. Ask questions that let them know you’re paying attention. If possible, affirm what’s interesting or good within their content. Then, just as in-person conversations, add content where it builds upon the foundation of what they’ve expressed. Only then, talk about the services or assets your business brings to market.

If you’ve given away knowledge (or inspiration or entertainment) for free, your audience will probably have already investigated what is that you do and sell. If they haven’t, starting with conversations and interesting posts will at least make your next sales pitch more of a soft sell.

The same principle holds true for your company promotion. Before you start a new marketing campaign, first interview your past clients. Listen to their answers to questions like, “How did you hear about us?” and “Why did you do business with us?” Those answers will tell you the solutions you provide and the media (or environments) where similar prospects likely congregate. Build your initiative around those answers, and then interact with your next round of clients. If the answers are the same, keep up the good work. If the answers are different, evaluate why; and adjust your next campaign accordingly.

Listen. Engage. Repeat. Most of us are really good at the repeat part. We like doing the same thing over and over again, because it’s easier. It’s the first two that entrepreneurs and marketers—me included—struggle to implement. And those are the most important two legs of the tripod.

Taking It Personally

Church attendance as a percentage has been declining across the United States. Pundits attribute this to multiple factors, but I would posit that Peppercomm’s three-stage advice could explain a lot of that drop. So much of American evangelism misses the listen and engage parts of successful communication. Organized religion is good at protecting tradition, repeating the clichés, and putting the same verses on protest placards. We can broadcast a lot better than we listen or engage.

If we ever want to attract unchurched people to our lifestyle, we have to close our mouths and open our minds. We need to spend more time conversing and less time blogging. We need to remove the bumper stickers and add friends from different social groups. It’s not that we are trying to hide the truth we believe or even rebrand it. God doesn’t need us to sell anything for him. We can, though, make it more approachable and personal by having authentic conversations with people who don’t do church.

116: Where Are Our Marketing Jet Packs?

Photo purchased form iStockPhoto.comOn March 6 at 8:36pm, one of my auctioneer friends posted on Facebook, “Anyone got anything new to share? Any new marketing ideas this week? Any good success to share? What’s working, what’s not?”

Two of his words grabbed my attention: “this week.”

In the age of Moore’s law, there’s this belief by marketers that eventually we’ll find some advertising silver bullet, that some new media will make all others obsolete. In a competitive marketplace, the hungry and aggressive are hoping to find it first—to dominate it after early adoption.

Someone’s got to tell all of the companies sending me email that social media replaced it in 2008. I guess it’s good that email hasn’t been replaced because, twenty years into it, we’re all still waiting for it to make direct mail obsolete. Eighty years into TV, commercial radio is still selling hours of advertising a day—despite it’s other heralded replacements (satellite radio, streaming services, and MP3’s) offering commercial-free music. Sure, we have fewer newspapers; but we actually have more specialty magazines.

Jetson Food MachineWe don’t have the Jetsons’ food machine yet, and we definitely don’t have our own jet packs. What we do have is an evolving media landscape that keeps adding more ways to do the same thing. Whether you’re using Google AdWords or outdoor signage, the marketing strategy is the same:

  1. Determine the people who might want what you’re selling.
  2. Go to where they are—their preferred media and/or geographic locations.
  3. Show them what they want to see—first and only (not what you want to show).
  4. Tell them how to get what they want.
  5. Analyze the results and interactions to tweak for next time.

Let me drill down one more layer to the auction community for which I’ve worked the past 14 years. After developing more than 15 hours of seminars, I’m annually asked to write and design new ones on new topics. For the last couple of years, I’ve debated turning that request down; but those seminars are the primary way that I introduce potential clients to my value as a vendor.

Candidly, I don’t think there’s a lot more out there that I’m comfortable teaching. With hundreds of auctioneers ignoring what I’ve taught in the past, I wonder what’s the point of creating more content to be ignored. I’m not talking about artistic, subjective suggestions; I’m talking about hard and fast rules to guide advertising, regardless of industry.

As an industry, we struggle to get the basics right.

To the public, we’re still selling events instead of assets. To sellers, we’re still selling auctions instead of marketing; and we’re talking about our method rather than our asset analysis and customized plan. (I know, because I read the proposals.) We are still crowding advertising with tertiary or redundant information that should wait online. We don’t put information in order of audience needs or wants. Readability looks like an afterthought. We’re still treating social media like broadcast outlets instead of conversation environments. We don’t segment our in-house mailing lists by asset category—let alone spend levels or time since last bid registration. We’re still not recording polling data from every auction to determine which media worked best for us in each asset and geographic market. We still don’t understand that the best branding is more consistent than it is creative—and that our brand is more than our colors or logo.

I say “we,” because I’m preaching to myself, the choir, and whoever’s still in the pews this far into this post.

I don’t know a lot of people—me included—who are ready for the next thing, because we’re not doing the things we should already know. “This week” or any week.
[tip]

As a preacher’s son who attended four church services a week and then a Bible college that required an average of 12 Bible-teaching environments (and four prayer circles) per week, I’ve heard my fair share of Bible verses and applications. I know a lot of Jesus’ instructions, and I still disobey them somewhere between hourly and daily. From what I hear, that’s not exclusive to me.

So, it’s interesting to me that so many of us, me included, “want to hear something fresh from God.” I like what my pastors say about this: “Why would God give us new instructions, when we aren’t saying ‘Yes’ to the ones he already gave us?”

That doesn’t mean that we withdraw ourselves from teaching or that we stop trying to grow in new environments. It just means that we can’t always expect to get our dessert before we finish our vegetables.

[footer]Photo purchased form iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

100: The Pinterest Effect

My Current Pinterest BoardsI take notice, when I hear a question over and over again.  And one question I’ve heard a lot lately is, “What is ‘Pinterest’?”

In short, it’s a social media environment that pulls inspiration from the bulletin board at your local coffee shop or the pin board in your college dorm room.  It’s a live stream of images—called “pins”— pulled from other websites and categorized topically both by the website administrators and again separately by its users.  Each image comes with three optional interactions: like, comment, and re-pin (to your board of pins).

Whereas other social media are based on users generating their own content, Pinterest‘s ease of use and popularity is mostly because its users don’t create the original content.  In fact, approximately 80% of posts are re-pins.†  To avoid copyright violation, the pictures are almost all linked back to their originating sites—be they travel, lifestyle, or entertainment websites.

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

One of my (4) Sisters' Pinterest Boards

Women typically account for a higher percentage of users than men do on social media*, and they account for anywhere from 68% to 90% of the activity on Pinterest—depending on where you get your stats.  Most posts are often associated with fashion, decor, cooking, crafts, and inventive solutions for household organization.

Pinterest Board: Inspiration for Biplane's New OfficeUnlike Facebook, it’s not intended for conversations.  Pinterest has grown so much and so quickly that Friendsheet.com, a site that makes your Facebook stream look like Pinterest, has garnered the favor of Mark Zuckerburg††—and might someday be a native Facebook option.  Unlike Twitter, it’s not intended to keep users updated on current events.  Unlike YouTube, it’s exclusive.  You can curate your own pin boards and list of followers only if you are invited by someone who is already a Pinterest member.  Unlike Google+, it’s growing like a weed both in number of users and the amount of time those users spend on the site (more than four times longer than Twitter users per month and almost 30 times as long as Google+ users average per month***)—exponentially expanding to over a million average daily visitors.*

So, why do we need yet another social media site?  And what does Pinterest have that we can’t get anywhere else?

Visual simplicity.

Facebook has images.  Twitter is succinct and sortable, too.  Pinterest, though, simplifies everything to one thing: pictures.  No profiles to manage for its content creators and little, if any, reading required by its consumers.  It lets our short attention spans be satiated quickly—or drawn into the bowels of online daydreaming.

If Pinterest were running for president, it’s campaign supervisor would be explaining its surge in the polls emphatically: “It’s the photos, stupid!”

Facebook, the major social media player with more average minutes of use per month than Pinterest understands our culture’s draw to images, as it sees 70% of its users’ activity centers around its photos.**  But that pales to the photo-centricity of Pinterest, which by default, has pictures at just under 100% of activity.

There’s a lesson there for every marketer.  What makes content quickly absorbable is compelling imagery, imagery which Pinterest users tend to pull from predominantly-commercial websites.  Words—even headlines—are secondary.  As a culture, we don’t’ care about explanations and slogans, if we aren’t drawn to them through the picture(s) they accompany.  As a marketer who helps other marketers, I can tell you that if the design of our marketing media centers around large, singular imagery—and those images are professionally staged and captured—our advertising will be far more effective than the current average of small business advertising media.  That goes for small business at large and the auction industry, which I serve, in particular.

Message is important.  And honing your message is crucial.  But Andre Aggassi was right: image is everything.  And, last time I checked, advertising is part of everything.  If the first thing your media recipients and viewers sees is text—no matter how large or bold or colorful—chances are good that you’re doing advertising wrong.  If they see a solid background with a collage of pictures, we are making them work harder (than if we had used one big, full-bleed image) and, in many cases, watering down the primary draw.  Look at advertising for Apple, Nike, Ford, TNT, and BOSE.  They get it.  So should we.

If potential buyers don’t like what they see in the primary image, what makes any retailer, wholesaler, or auctioneer think potential buyers would care what other pictures we have or what the advertisement has to say?
[tip]

The Bible says we humans were created in God’s image (one of the ways homo sapiens were differentiated from the rest of creation).  As believers of The Way, we are to be pictures of Jesus in our culture.  While we are wrapped in individual personalities and exclusive physical containers, the essence from the new core of our souls should shine through those translucent shells.

In contrast, the entropy and temptation for us all is to talk religious words, add Jesus stickers or fabric on the outside, and gather with those who codify and police exterior criteria the way we do.  That’s lazy and destructive.  Jesus didn’t come so that we could shine through the filter of him—or worse: the filters of religion, church, and spirituality.  He came to give us life, to change our core, to change the lightbulb—not the lamp shade—in the fixture.  He wants his truth and love and other attributes to radiate from us.

If today were a snapshot of who you are, and you handed that snapshot to a stranger, what would they see?  If you had to hand it to Jesus as a photo illustration of him, what would you have changed about your day before taking that picture?

[footer]
†” Why Is Pinterest So Addictive?” by Stephanie Buck, Mashable.com. March 24, 2012.
http://mashable.com/2012/03/20/why-is-pinterest-so-addictive/

†† “Friendsheet: The Zuck-Approved Pinterest-Style Facebook Photo Browser” by Josh Constine, Techcrunch.com.
http://techcrunch.com/2012/03/07/friendsheet-the-zuck-approved-pinterest-style-facebook-photo-browser/

* “A Very (P)interesting [infographic]” by Tim, DailyInfographic.com. March 9, 2012.
http://dailyinfographic.com/a-very-pinteresting-infographic

** “In Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy” by Chas Edwards, Adage.com. March 15, 2012.
http://adage.com/article/digitalnext/age-pinterest-instagram-marketers-image-strategy/233270/?utm_source=digital_email&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=adage

*** “The Mounting Minuses at Google+” by Amir Efrati, Wall Street Journal. February 28, 2012.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204653604577249341403742390.html?mod=dist_smartbrief
[/footer]

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.”

86: 7 Valuable Social Media Shortcuts

Social Media Shortcut insetThe most common response to my social media articles and seminars usually goes like this: “I should probably get my business on Facebook, but it’s finding the time I struggle with,” or “I can barely keep up with my Facebook.  I don’t know how you find time to be on Twitter.”

Granted, I’m a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram junkie.  I can easily feed my addiction, seeing as my office is a flight of stairs below my living room; and my bedroom at night typically alternates between the glow of one or more of two laptops and two iPhones.

You, however, don’t need to earn an invitation to the social media wing of the Betty Ford Clinic to improve your personal or business brand on Facebook and Twitter.  Here are seven free or cheap ways to keep your time commitment to a minimum, while connecting with prospects, clients, and peers in these environments.  The first shortcut will make your distribution more efficient and practical; the next six shortcuts will help you more easily develop a constant stream of material to reinforce your expert brand.

HootSuite
What if I told you you could do all of your social media posts for a week or month all at one time and in one place?  You can!  With HootSuite, you can pre-schedule Facebook and Twitter posts, even those with links or pictures.  The free version of HootSuite will allow you to choose from up to five different Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles, and/or Facebook pages on which to post.  If you post both for your business and for yourself, this tool is invaluable; and it makes it easier not to accidentally post a personal post in your business’ stream and vice versa.

HootSuite Bar

HootSuite iPhone AppIf you don’t want to keep HootSuite open in your web browser, you can install a free browser button that will open a small HootSuite window already loaded with the URL of the page you’re wanting to share—which you can schedule for later, if you’d like.  Both Android and iPhone have a HootSuite app, so that you can post (or schedule one for later) in any or all of those same five destinations right from your phone.

Every few weeks, I spend 30 to 90 minutes on an evening or weekend, setting up tweets and status updates to post during work hours.  This frees me to work on billable projects (and meet deadlines) during the times of weekdays when people are most likely to check their social streams—rather than on weekends, when people are less likely to interact with the content.  This is important, because content in Twitter and Facebook streams has a shelf life measured in minutes or hours; so, you want your content to hit in prime viewing times.

Scheduled Status Update

SmartBrief
SmartBrief is a free clearinghouse of salient current news, sifted by interests and industries.  Here’s how SmartBrief describes itself: “We deliver need-to-know news in 100+ e-mail newsletters to 4 mil[ion]+ readers.  We read everything.  You get what matters.”  You can register to receive any single one or any number of their newsletters, each of which is delivered daily with a series of headlines and brief overviews of the top stories along a particular topic.

MobileRSSRSS Feeds
Most blogs, humor sites, and news sources now make their content subscribable via RSS feed.  If you’re not familiar with RSS, it’s a tool that aggregates stories from as many websites as you choose into one place for reading.  It saves you time, and you don’t have remind yourself to check each respective site to see what’s new.  I use Google Reader as my RSS reader—the place where all these posts collect.

Don’t have time to check your RSS feed on your computer?  Quickly access it on your smart phone.  Free or cheap apps like MobileRSS enable you to scroll through the headlines and blog titles from your RSS feed, much like you would scroll through Twitter or Facebook posts—right from your mobile device.

Google Alerts
This free service by Google allows you to receive email updates every week or every day with new pages on the Internet that mention terms of your choosing.  I regularly implement these for the weeks or months before writing articles or building seminars.  You can plug in words or word combinations related to your industry, asset specialty, or news trend.  Think of it as Googling something once but getting new Google search results emailed to you for as long as you’d like.  If you don’t want these results pouring into your email inbox, you can also set them to collect in your RSS feed.

OPEN Forum
One of the many perks of carrying an American Express charge card is their OPEN Forum articles, delivered via email.  These articles are written by and for entrepreneurs and small business executives, exclusively for American Express customers.  Don’t have a Centurion in your wallet?  No problem.  They post links on their Twitter stream to similar articles aggregated from other online sources.

Magazines.com
I still subscribe to a couple handfuls of print magazines, even magazines I follow on Twitter and Facebook.  Fast Company and Wired are gold mines of sharable content.  If you’re going to subscribe to magazines, go through wholesale distributors like Magazines.com.  You’ll save enough money to literally multiply the number of magazines you can get for the same price.  I also like Magazine.com’s clearinghouse of free magazines and newsletters, where I’ve gotten free subscriptions to magazines like Exhibitor.  I regularly cut out pages from my magazines for articles I want to post later on Facebook and/or Twitter.  (Usually, magazines will post the content from the current print issue on their respective websites after the next print issue distributes—sometimes sooner.)

Twitter
In an interview with Hemispheres Magazine, Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, said, “I would describe [Twitter] as a personalized news service.  It gives up-to-date information on whatever you care about that’s happening in the world.”  Twitter’s become that “personalized news service” for me.  I ended my subscription to our local newspaper, and I couldn’t’ tell you what’s on the evening television news.  Instead, I follow Lynchburg’s The News & Advance and various national and international news sources on Twitter.

For one thing, I save a lot of time by engaging with only the content that interests me—on my time table.  Secondly, it’s easier to share the stories with people who might also be interested in them.  As with Facebook, you can sort your Twitter stream into categories (called “lists”), if you want to see only certain groups of people/entities you follow at a given time.  So, if you want to see updates only from family and friends or only from other people in your industry or only from news sources, that’s easy to do.

There are two halves to social media: sharing and interacting.  While you can’t schedule your likes, comments, and other responses in advance, you can simplify the manner in which you collect and distribute the content you want to share.  By uploading more than status updates, you can show your audience that you are a source—or at least a distributor—of engaging knowledge.  Then, when you share updates about your business, these posts will have more credence and smell less like spam.

You do have time for online social networking, if you use your time wisely.
[tip]

Martin Luther is quoted as saying, “Work, work, from morning until late at night.  In fact, I have so much to do that I shall have to spend the first three hours in prayer.”  In other words, he was not too busy to spend time with God.  On the contrary, he saw his busyness as reason to spend more time with God.

For various reasons, I really struggle to spend meaningful time alone with God, when I’ve got a lot on my plate and even when I don’t.  My spiritual pathway is nature, and I have to get out into the wild to disconnect from the things that interfere with my connection with him.  Some of the moments I’ve felt closest to my Creator have come where cell phones have no bars.

How ’bout you?  Where and when and how do you feel closest to God?  Maybe reading books or watching videos about him and his work.  Maybe singing or dancing or soaking in others doing those things.  Maybe absorbing podcasts, conferences, or retreats from gifted Bible teachers. Maybe serving people or participating in a cause.  Maybe journaling or speaking to him out loud in a quiet place.

Whatever makes God feel closer to you and you to him, build and prioritize that into your life.  Nurture it.

As for me, tomorrow I’ll be spending my second straight Friday night sleeping on top of a mountain under his stars.

 

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

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]

77: Your Brand, Charlie Sheen, and President Obama

Photo credit: http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Horizons/2010/0813/With-Tweet-Button-Twitter-looks-outwardSeveral weeks ago, one of my college friends posted on Facebook that she had closed her Twitter account after not using it and not understanding what the appeal was.

Whether you’ve investigated Twitter or not, you may have the same impression: “What’s the big deal about Twitter? I don’t get it.”

With literally hundreds (if not thousands) of social media sites out there, it’s valid to question the importance of different environments. And it’s beneficial to explore the advantages and disadvantages of each. None of us have time for them all; so we must each determine why we use the sites we do and how to achieve the maximum benefit from them.

Next to Facebook AppSo, what about Twitter?

Let’s start with what Twitter is not. Twitter is not just text messaging the nation. Twitter is not just the playground of Charlie Sheen, teens, and Silicon Valley geeks. And Twitter is not Facebook or a direct Facebook competitor.

Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, told Hemispheres Inflight Magazine that Twitter and Facebook have different purposes. “We’re trying to deliver on the idea that Twitter has information about what’s going on in the world that you care about, and that’s different from Facebook’s value proposition, which is a way to stay in touch with people you know . . . I would describe it as a personalized news service. It gives up-to-date information on whatever you care about that’s happening in the world . . . We want people to understand that you don’t have to tweet to use Twitter, any more than you have to create a web page to use the web.”

If you only remember three words from that last paragraph, make them personalized news service. Twitter is an environment where people go to get quick snapshots of what interests them, be it international news, jokes from their favorite comedians, or the events in their friends’ respective days.

Twitter as News SourceMark Cuban titled a 2008 blog post, “If the news is that important, it will find me.” While there are multiple channels for news to get to us, Twitter is growing as a primary way that its users keep tabs on their surroundings. It’s certainly true in my life. I follow my local newspaper, CNN, ESPN, Wired, Wall Street Journal, and several tech blogs on Twitter and usually find hot headlines from these Twitter feeds before or in lieu of their more established formats. Twitter is both direct feed and word of mouth, rolled into one.

For the consumer, Twitter’s primary benefit is its shortcut to the world.

For the marketer, Twitter offers a chance for their brand to be a newsmaker. Whether you are posting informative links, company news, special offers, or customer service responses, Twitter helps you keep your brand in constant public awareness—without paying for advertising. Depending on the content in your posts (called “tweets”), Twitter can even help you establish an aura of expertise. If your tweets regularly contain links to helpful stories with specific market insight, you can build a public trust in your knowledge and experience base. This is important, because we all prefer in most situations to hire experts over general practitioners.

But doesn’t a Facebook business page accomplish many of these same objectives?

In many ways, yes. Twitter, though, streamlines a constant stream of outside knowledge (rather than that from social circles); so, you’ll find it easier there to collect, sort, process, and redistribute large amounts of information. Twitter is designed for a large quantity of posts; but it’s simplified for immediacy and geared for short encounters, since most of its users access their feeds through their mobile devices. Twitter’s text-based system is built for fast download with links for the people who want to expand a specific tweet beyond a quick thumb-scroll. Each tweet holds a maximum of 140 characters with which to entertain, converse, inform, or direct to more information.

So, Twitter favors the pithy, the succinct, and the connected.

And while most Twitter followers also own a Facebook account, the opposite is true of the percentage of Facebook users regularly engaging with a Twitter feed. In that way, Twitter offers a unique audience—typically a tech-savvy, culturally-connected one.

Over the past couple years, Facebook has incorporated popular Twitter features (like status mentions) into its system. And Facebook publishes its news on Twitter. If Facebook thinks it’s important to set up shop there, you might want to think about it, too.

If that’s not reason enough, know that a bunch of us use Twitter to post the things we hide from you and the rest of Facebook.
[tip]

For at least a decade, I found good news to be a watered-down synonym for gospel. I mean, good news can be anything from hearing your son is arriving home from Iraq tonight to learning that you can download a song you like for free on iTunes. Over the past few years, though, I’ve learned the weight inherent in this good news.

News isn’t history. News isn’t distant past. News is, “That just happened!” or “This is happening right now!”

If our view of the gospel is exclusively a historical list of verses in Romans, we fall short of its full intent and maybe even its power. In Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, we are shown lives that explain the eternal significance of Jesus’ substitution AND that share what the Holy Spirit is blossoming in their lives.

We can sell our catechisms and doctrines to a secular culture, but they need to see an alive faith and how it impacts our current daily existence. That means we can’t just obtain our hell insurance and check our luggage all the way to heaven’s baggage claim. We have to be constantly changing, growing—becoming more alive. If the gospel isn’t constantly making news in those of us who’ve found its goodness, why would we expect it to be regularly making news in the lives we touch?

[footer]Photo credit for Twitter Bird Image.
Screen capture images purchased from iStockPhoto.com[/footer]

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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]

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73: New Years Advertising Resolutions

Mayan ProphetIf the Mayans are right, and 2012 is the end of the world as we know it, you’ll want to make 2011 count. To ensure your company goes out with a bang, permit me to suggest some constructive advertising twists to the most popular New Year’s resolutions.

Lose Some Weight
Take a lot of the unnecessary bulk out of your first impression pieces—ads, direct mail, and signs—and free those pictures and headlines to sell your message. Let your Web site be a glutton for information, but keep your teaser media to just the necessary facts and photographic sizzle. With some exceptions (like farm sales), if the buyer won’t spend the energy to go to the Internet for more information, they’re probably not going to participate in bidding, either.

Get More Organized
Be ready for those red line deadlines by establishing templates and style sheets for each size of direct mail you might use and the typical print & online ad sizes you’ll be using. Not only will design happen more efficiently, but you’ll be building your brand the way Fortune 500 companies do: strict consistency.

Stop Smoking
Habits are comfortable, even the unhealthy ones. We start to see the world through the lenses of our personal traditions and rhythms. The auction culture and rhythm might be all you’ve known but foreign to the person who will pay the most for the asset next up on the block. Make 2011 the year you look at your advertising from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about auctions and cares only about buying what you’re selling. Also, make this the year you see social Web sites as conversation environments, not broadcast channels.

Get on a Budget
Talk to your direct mail printer to create a price grid of your common brochure and postcard sizes and quantities; get prices in advance that you can use to more quickly and dependably insert into your proposed budgets. [If your printer won’t do this, know that several of my print shops do; and I’ll be happy to connect you with them.] Create a spreadsheet of your market’s newspapers’ respective pricing, column widths, and deadlines. You can also take this spreadsheet with you to client meetings. Being able to make knowledgeable adjustments on the fly will impress your sellers.

Further Your Education
Few of us are the source of brand new human knowledge, but we can all be conduits. People who get to knowledge early give the impression of expertise, maybe even inside information. People hire experts; so, find an area where you can be a knowledge collector and dispenser. Subscribe to RSS feeds, email newsletters, social media streams, Google alerts of key terms & topics, and (yes, even still) magazines. Share your links with commentary on your company Web site and/or through social media. Be the person people want to know and follow.

None of us are beyond growth, but we can grow beyond our own momentum. Surprise 2012 by showing up ahead of expectations.
[tip]

Spiritually, we’re all conduits of what God is doing in the world. We’re porous pipes, though, in that God lets us absorb what he’s doing and feel his movement through our lives.

We can’t give others what we aren’t receiving. And we can’t receive more from God, if we aren’t dispensing what he’s already given us. When my spiritual gauges are blinking with red lights—either empty or overheated—I typically find remedy by serving others and/or taking a break from my busy, draining world to just absorb God’s truth and presence (usually heading out into nature).

How about you? How do you know when you’re in a spiritual sweet spot? And what do you do, when you feel outside of that sweet spot?

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

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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]

67: Eight Lessons From the Rear View Mirror

Birthday Cake CandleNormally, AdverRyting posts are reserved for singularly-focused articles related to small business marketing.  But it just so happens that today is the eighth anniversary of the day biplane productions opened its doors (in the guest bedroom of a second-floor apartment), designing advertising for an auction in Central Michigan.  It seems like forever and somehow yesterday—maybe because of all the all-nighters I’ve pulled that blur the days.

I’ve learned a lot about life & people, business management & customer relations, accounting & planning, faith & government, efficiency & profitability, auctions & media.  I couldn’t sum all of that in a book, let alone an email.  So, I decided to tell you eight of the top things I’ve learned about auction marketing.

Marketing Without Measurement Is a Gamble
If you can’t prove why you do/don’t use specific media in your marketing mix (and in the proportion that you do), why should your sellers trust your “experience”?  When budgets are tight, you will benefit from knowing which media are the most efficient at getting bidders to your sales.

Advertising Mixes Will Be Constantly in Flux
There will always be new ways to reach prospective buyers, because the makeup of communities and the media landscape changes faster than a Cirque de Soleil performer between sets.  Auction budgets will regularly be adding line item expenditures, even if the bottom lines remain similar.

Consistency Trumps Creativity
Every advertising piece you produce is telling the marketplace either that you work with precision—and thereby reliability—or that you’re too cheap to deliver predictable service and/or quality product.  Creativity gets short-term attention; consistency builds long-term brands.

If You Want to Compete With the Big Boys, Brand Like They Do
Small companies trust their name.  Fortune 500 companies trust their branding.  Look at the national industry leaders.  It’s not an accident they grew larger and more quickly than you, when their advertising looks better than yours.  Perception trumps reality in our culture.

Social Media Is For Conversations, Not Broadcasting
Join the conversation, or be considered the annoying, interrupting commercial.  Be interesting; but even more so, be interested in those in those environments.  Put the “interact” in “interactive media.”  Build relationships, and you’ll build a following.

Photography Is the Barometer of Your Marketing
While I enhance a large percentage of the images sent to me for media, there is a ceiling for dark, cluttered, blurred, and haphazard images.  Low-resolution images snagged from the Internet will handcuff your designer—and the attractiveness of what you’re selling.  Professional design will put your images in their best light; professional images will put what you’re selling in its best light.

Advertising is For the Buyer, Not the Auctioneer
You only have a few seconds to hook a buyer.  Lead your advertising with what’s important to them: the asset and the benefit of that asset.  Sales method and date and directions are secondary or tertiary information.  Estate names are for the fine print, unless people will buy their items predominantly because of who owned them.

Auctions Can Be Made or Broken Before the Opening Bid
If the right people aren’t in the seats, your auction will not achieve its highest potential.  Work on honing your marketing prowess more than your chant and crowd management.  Sometimes, it takes partnering with someone from another company (or network of companies) to give your client the best marketing.

I look forward to learning and growing—with you—in this next year.  I would love to hear from you the top things you’ve learned in your career!

Image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com ©2010

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