Social Media and Babies—A Humorous Connection

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I have no reason to believe this beyond a hunch, but here goes.

Baby googleWe love social media for the same reason we love babies. When it’s an idea, or we just “play” around the edges, all we see is the joy. Post a Facebook comment and 30 people like it—easy, right? Babysit for a couple hours and what’s not to love? Kid gurgles, laughs, and is endlessly fascinated with you.

But when you’re really into social media, or are suddenly responsible for a child 24/7, the honeymoon period ends quickly. No need to elaborate on being a parent if you’re already one. You know what I’m talking about. If you aren’t, all I need to say is colic and lack of sleep—you’ll find out.

What gets us through those early days and sleepless nights? Those trying teenage years? Love, certainly. But also an understanding that you are nurturing and are responsible for a life.

Now, social media certainly isn’t a human life. But as with children, there is a brief honeymoon period in which we’re enthralled with the idea. But after taking the mantle, we quickly realize that this is a lot more difficult and aggravating than we imagined. Many people simply drop it. Some 40 percent of Twitter accounts, for example, have never sent a tweet.

Being the Adult

The online world is awash in grandiose promises about how easy and powerful social media is. And they’re right in one sense. It is easy (to start). And it is powerful (potentially). But ease and power do not necessarily follow one another.

Those who eventually realize results with social media are those who see past to honeymoon period to what can be—with a realistic eye.

Parents do the same. Very few don’t believe their child can be a leader at whatever they become. But they also know they haven’t failed (nor have their children) if instead of becoming President of the United States they enjoy a fruitful career in local politics, or if they don’t make the football Hall of Fame but do enjoy a long career as a high school coach.

With social media, you may never produce a campaign that “goes viral,” but you’ve hardly failed if your efforts yield improved communications and steady growth in contributions.

None of this is easy.

Building the Community

And because it’s hard, parents build huge networks around themselves and their children—family, friends, neighbors, schools, teachers, church, volunteer groups, and on and on—to help with nurturing the newborn.

Likewise in social media. Successfully handling it is not any one person’s job. It takes the entire team, and then some.

I’ve seen no one explain this better than Chris Dessi, in his article “The Anatomy of a Viral Facebook Post.” One line in the piece sums it up well: “It took us over a year of working closely with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to make our process seamless.”

A year—to produce one viral post that 17 million people saw. Intrigued? Read on and learn just how massive the effort was for that one moment.

1, 2, 3, Good Luck

We know all this, of course, but still we want to believe that somehow, social should be easy. A quick look at my Twitter page (less than 15 seconds) yielded the following articles:

  • 5 ways to score more Likes.
  • SEO, Social and email: 10 Best Practices
  • 5 Influencers You Should Follow Today

You get the idea. Do these 3 things (easy), and boom, success.

Sounds like those parenting magazines my wife and I received in the wake of our oldest child’s birth. “Three Steps to Ending Tantrums,” “Five Ways to Protect Your ‘Date Nights’, “Four Reasons Children Shouldn’t Change Your Love Life.”

My wife and I used to read, laugh at, and wonder aloud, who’s writing this stuff? Surely someone who’s never been a parent.

Hopefully, you’re laughing, too, at all the promises of cheap, quick success in social media.

It’s the surest path to getting serious about, and beginning to reap the benefits of, social media.

 

Thinking Anew About Being Liked

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As pervasive as social media has become, it’s easy to forget that it’s a tool still very much in its infancy. Likewise the American obsession with “metrics.” Though around longer than social media, the idea that nearly everything can be reduced to data remains relatively new.

Combine the new convert’s passion for social media and metrics, and you produce an intoxicating belief. With the information social media brings, and advanced data tools, business’s ability to understand customers, donors, etc., is virtually limitless.

This plays out in several ways in American business and nonprofits.

  • Intense scrutiny: Every dollar, every contact, every keystroke is scrutinized.
  • Soaring confidence: If we can count it, we can control it.
  • Customer access: As data is gained, so, too, our ability to reach customers 24/7.
  • Fundraising forecasting: Powerful new tools automating pipelines strengthen our hopes to gain funds.

Each of these rests upon high-end data collection. Business and nonprofits alike are either investing large sums of money to exploit this data, or looking for ways to tap into this data at a cost-point they can afford.

But many businesses and nonprofits are struggling to understand what all of this information means. And too often, it’s the easy data points people turn to. “Likes” on their Facebook page. “Followers” on their Twitter accounts. Consequently, to grow their reach, they put pressure on people to gather more followers and more likes.

digidayA recent piece at Digiday pulls the veil back on what many of us who work regularly with social media know. Most of those followers are worthless. And places like Facebook are fighting back with new algorithms that punish groups for trying to grow followers mindlessly. That’s all well in good, but it should lead to a greater wake-up call.

If not “Likes” and “Followers”, then what?

Here are three questions you can ask of your social media strategy to help you get a better grip on what’s going on.

  1. How Well Do You Know Your Followers? Pull a list of those who follow you on Facebook and Twitter, note who is sharing your information and who they are sharing it with. It requires some digging, but will tell you a great deal about whether your posts are affecting those your wish to reach in a way that benefits your organization, or is simply fodder for others’ benefit?
  2. What Percentage of Your Income Comes from Social Media? This is a metric that is probably harder to discern than most appreciate. One-to-one transactions (Campaign 1 yields X dollars) are easy to compute. But how do you compute Conversation A on Twitter that leads to referral B to client C who doesn’t buy but encourages others who do? Recognize the difficulties, don’t take simple approaches, but try to know what that number is.
  3. Are You Pushing, or Engaging? Examine your posts. Are you creating conversations or pushing product? The latter has short-term impact, but the former is how businesses and nonprofits grow reach and income. It requires more time, and doesn’t come easy, but it works. But patience is required.

So take a closer look at those likes and followers. How well do you really know them?

Getting Specific

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I am the father of two children on the autism spectrum–both with what is known as Asperger’s Syndrome. So it shouldn’t surprise that a recent article titled “How to Create an Autism-friendly Work Place” caught my eye.

What does surprise is how much of the article I found to be really good communications advice for any organization. Whether you’ve employed autistic folks or not, many of the traits that help them succeed help everyone succeed.

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Nota Bene: Autism is a very broad and highly complex condition that we are just beginning to understand. Rather than try and provide what would surely be a highly faulty general description, I point you to this excellent write up at Autism Speaks to learn more.

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Getting Real About Expectations

When we work with people, there are a million unspoken expectations we impose, whether we realize it or not. When you instruct someone to “answer phones” you assume they not only know how to be polite, but very often we assume they understand the particular way we prefer to have it done. When you ask someone to format a document, you assume that they know how to find your company’s format style and recreate it. These are big assumptions for people with autism.

And they are often big assumptions for non-autistic people you may work with. Hence, the first recommendation that we would all benefit in following:

Provide clear, written instructions. One of the most appreciated attributes of individuals with autism is their ability to take direction, but Pacelli warns instructions should be clear, without use of sarcastic language or metaphors. Instead of saying “Don’t be late,” for example, saying “Be at your desk ready to start working at 9” is a better way to deliver instructions to an individual with autism. Instructions given in writing is ideal, so they have something they can refer back to. Running by their desk and delivering a rapid message is more likely to result in misunderstanding and frustration for both parties.

The second recommendation in the article that could help us all deals with setting routines.

Provide structure. Autistic employees thrive on routine and structure. “They really like to know what to expect so they can plan out their day,” says Pacelli. Avoiding interruptions and changes in routine is ideal. Interruptions to routine, such as an impromptu meeting in the staff room to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday, being told to stay late 30 minutes before their shift is about to end, or having a meeting postponed at the last minute can be upsetting to an autistic employee. Giving them a heads up if there’s potential for a schedule change can help them to adjust.

Having hired and worked with a number of younger employees over my career, it often happened that friction emerged between myself and them when structural practices I took for granted everyone knew weren’t followed.

Consider the use of phones. Smart phones have become pervasive, and for older workers like myself, having a younger person enter a meeting with me having one ear on me and one ear filled with an ear bud grated on my nerves at first. Until I realized that the smart phone is not simply a tool, it’s an extension of their person and the way they do all of their work. It was as odd for him to talk to me without the phone, as it was for me to talk to him with it. The solution was simple, if I wanted him to talk with me without the phone, I simply said so. It kept him clear about procedures, and kept me from firing an extraordinary individual.

Carrying it Forward

The same principles apply in the world of social media. Especially the first point about clear instructions. Avoiding sarcasm or jokes when writing to the world at large is not only a good idea, it’s very reasonable. Sarcasm and jokes work best with people we know, and who know us and our ways. In short, keep inside jokes inside. Don’t assume that people will get your cute takes on issues, or your puns, or your jokes.

At one company I worked, we put out an April Fool’s newsletter every year. It ceased to be funny when 30-40 people took it seriously and we spent the next couple days soothing nerves.

This is not to say to never be funny, but be clear with your audience that humor is your intent.

Likewise, the principle of structure is also critical to your social media practice. Set a routine for your postings and stick to it–no matter how painful it is. (I write this realizing my own newsletter is a day late. We all have our days, but do try to keep them to a minimum.) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram–developing a routine is how you develop reliable communications with your followers.

Conclusion

It’s takes a village to make an individual. And it takes all kinds of individuals to make a village. Appreciating the talents that those who don’t always do things the “accepted” way bring to your organization, and adjusting to help them succeed, benefits us all.

And so, too, realizing that some things that help others can also help us all.

Happy communicating!

You Can’t Fix Stupid

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From April to October I live and die with the Washington Nationals. Died a little last year when the season started slow and never really gained momentum; died a lot in 2012 when the Nats blew a shot to go to the World Series.

Live or die, what animates baseball season is the give and take with my neighbor, also a Nats fan. Like Saturday, when the subject of Bryce Harper–the Nats’ boy phenom–came up. “I respect your opinion,” my neighbor began, “that Bryce is young and will get better. But …” he added, “I see it this way. Bryce plays stupid, and you can’t fix stupid.”

I won’t re-hash the baseball argument, but his comment got me thinking. When it comes to small business marketing, are there times I work “stupid”?

HarperThe answer, of course, is yes. We’ve all done it. We stick with things long after we should have let go for reasons that have nothing to do with reason, but emotion (this is the system I know) or flawed logic (I’ve poured $50,000 into this system, I’m not switching now).

Over the years, I’ve learned three lessons the hard way–and I’ve seen others learn them the hard way, as well. You may have your own list. But here’s where I’ve fallen down in the past, and it took realizing how unreasonable about it I had become before I finally learned to move on.

Allow me to share my “stupid moments” with you, and hope that you save yourself some pain by avoiding these mistakes.

1. Demanding Too Much, Too Soon: Everyone wants results. And sooner is always better than later. But sooner isn’t always possible. Growing new business, like growing anything, is a dance of seeding, nurturing, and harvesting. Plants seeds today and expect fresh watermelon in a week, you’ll be one unhappy person. Understand the time it really takes for any marketing approach to work, and give it the space and nurturing it needs to grow.

2. Trust Your Gut: In a hyper-competitive world, it’s very tempting to see what everyone else is doing and mimic it. And you don’t have to look far for examples–check the business book section of any bookstore. (For a good laugh, check out the business book section at your local used book store. Remember Lee Iaccoca and the K car?–Careful who you follow). Learn from leading lights, pay attention to what works, but trust your gut. If it doesn’t feel right for you, it probably isn’t. It’s tough to follow your gut when others are following Bill Gates’s. But remember, there was a time when Gates bucked the system, too, despite what everyone else was doing. Don’t sell out because everyone’s doing “it.”

3. Don’t Exchange People for Electrons: Social media has set the world on fire. And in marketing, it’s been a scorched earth assault, as companies have abandoned face-to-face interaction in favor of measuring consumer behavior via online data. This is great stuff and is here to stay. But don’t trade people for electrons. Especially for small businesses, your name and reputation rest heavily on you and your interactions with others. So get out there. People, people, and people remain the name of the game.

 

 

 

Social Media Blahs

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social media blah

Everyone’s dizzy these days about Facebook’s crashing organic search results.

Your Facebook Page’s Organic Search Is about to Plummet screams a headline from Social Media Today. 0% Organic Reach on Facebook–Will This Be You? says Social Media Fuze. And on and on.

Pardon SLC’s less-than-alarmed response.

Let’s see why.

What’s Organic Reach, Anyway?

What exactly is organic reach? According to Facebook, it’s “The number of unique people who saw your post in News Feed or on your Page, including people who saw it from a story shared by a friend when they liked, commented on or shared your post, answered a question or responded to an event

In short, Facebook is loading up your Facebook page with advertisements (or “Boosts”) because Facebook is in this game to make money. And Aunt Susie and Uncle Tommy’s pictures of the grandkids don’t pay the bills. Ads for Pampers, do.

Ad agencies and marketers are besides themselves. After all, many have invested years and lots of money to build “likes,” only now to learn that less than 1 in 10 people who like their pages ever see their posts.

Options, Please

So what are your choices? Well, one option is to start paying Facebook for ads.

Before you make that jump, stop and ask yourself this–if you’re feeling frustrated, think about how your customers are feeling.

The handwriting may be on the wall, and Facebook may, in fact, be “collapsing under its own weight.”

There Is a Better Way

Depending upon your business, it may be time to consider changing the way you think of social media. Facebook is trying to keep up with Twitter, Instagram, Vine (and most every other new social media channel that’s rolled out). It can’t.

Each of these services are leaner, more targeted, more visually appealing, and much easier to manage. And most important, they are designed to work well on mobile.

Of course, the same issues are there for you–“pushing” information will win you no friends. “Blasting” how great you are isn’t going to attract new clients.

Social media remains “social.” Meaning you have to spend time cultivating people, talking with them, and nurturing them.

Don’t lose yourself worrying about the drop in organic reach. Save that for worrying about things that will really make a difference–engaging your social customers in a genuine way. Whichever channels you choose.

Contact SLC to learn more about how you can significantly improve the way your social media channels are leveraged. Call us at 540-498-5994, or send us an email: mdavis@sacredlanguagecommunications.com.

 

Clean up Your Language for Success

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When talking small business marketing, it pays to be aware of how your competitors describe themselves. Are you describing yourself the same way?

In the work-a-day, search-a-day world of online marketing and real-life meet and greets, it’s the one or two words that don’t sound like everyone else in your industry that will grab attention. And in the case of online searches, enable people to find you at all.

Consider:

Let’s say they are looking for janitorial services. They may begin with a simple search for janitorial services. In my community, here’s what you see:

Janitorial

A lot of options. But how do you choose?

Very often, people will alter their search by adding a refining word that matches their needs. Perhaps “green,” or “office.” The difference? Well, compare the results above (search phrase: janitorial services) with the search terms “green janitorial services.”

green janitorial

And now with “office janitorial services.”

office janitorial

Again, totally different.

What you’re seeing is the power of differentiation.

Setting Yourself Apart

It’s the small details that spell the difference between success and failure in small business. And we’re not talking only about your success and failure online.

Online marketing and the way you present yourself in print and in person are closely connected.

Online, having those key words that define your business will improve your standing in Google search, making it easy for random customers to find you. In web design-speak, these are your meta-tags.

These same keywords are also critical for your print and personal presentations. Describe yourself as a caterer to someone at a social event, and within 30 seconds, you’re forgotten. But describe yourself as a wedding caterer, or children’s party caterer, etc., and you have positioned yourself more clearly in your contact’s mind.

Hard Work

Finding these keywords is hard work, so don’t short yourself on the effort. It’s worth the time and, if you feel it needed, the investment. At a minimum, here’s what you’ll want to do:

  1. Reviewing websites in your industry–paying attention to their language and not their design.
  2. Identify the most important hashtags in your industry and follow them–paying attention to what you do differently from those you read.
  3. Friend your enemies–paying attention to what they post and how well, or not so well, people react.
  4. Collect business cards–paying attention to the tag lines; are you saying the same thing about yourself?

In a world where photos are getting more and more attention, it’s still those keywords that are the difference between success and failure.

To learn more about how SLC can help you discover your differentiating keywords, contact Martin Davis.

Actionable Content, Actionable Data

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There’s a trend emerging around social media and small businesses that has marketers concerned. It involves the failure of social media to produce more business for companies that are turning to it in record numbers. The mega-marketing group Social Media Examiner noted the trend on Monday.

While marketers are dedicating more time and resources to social, they’re not 100% sure how effective it is in terms of ROI. Thirty-four percent believe they’re currently seeing ROI, while 52% believe their social media efforts will eventually produce ROI. This is not good.

Small business owners themselves are even less enamored of their efforts with social media. An April 2013 article in Forbe’s reveals that 55 percent of companies interviewed realized no ROI on social media marketing.

What’s going on here?

A big part of the problem is that too many social media marketing folks have been overselling social media’s power. Says social marketing guru Ted Rubin:ROI

[Small businesses are realizing ROI] because the small business community’s expectations of social media platforms, how they’re using them and the reality of the technology are simply way out of whack.

Out of whack in no small measure because people are wildly up-selling what social media will do, while de-emphasizing how much work it requires, and all the while charging reams of money to set up overly complicated systems that simply don’t work. (See “Free” Social Media for more on this.)

Your Mileage May Vary

Let’s be clear. Using social media for marketing works. It’s not a quick-fix, however, and quick-fixes are what are sold too often. Consider an ad I saw Monday (typical of those I see daily) promising near-instant success. It described helping one company go from “Zero to 30,000 customers in the first six months.” I’m not suggesting this didn’t happen. In fact, I’m quite confident it did. But as the old saying goes, Your mileage may vary.

You don’t know the fiscal size of the company the ad refers to. Nor staff size. Nor marketing budget. Nor how old the group was. Nor their per-annum sales. Nor their sales funnel. If you’re a small business just startin0-60g out (or struggling mightily) the promise of such growth is intoxicating. But don’t jump in expecting instant success. Successful social media requires patience, persistence, and two key elements:

  • Actionable content
  • Actionable data

Actionable Content

contentNo one understands your customers, and what you sell, better than you. So the information you deliver via social media and email needs to reflect that understanding. Content that is true to you and your customers, and content that moves them to action (a sale is the ultimate goal, but any action they take is a plus–it shows they are benefiting from what you offer), are central to your success in social media.

Sounds simple, but there are two complicating problems. The first is developing the content. It takes experience and a flair for writing to produce material that sings. Good writing comes naturally to almost no one, and it requires a commitment that many small businesses aren’t able to provide. There are many good writers–before investing in high-end social media tools, invest in writers.

The second problem is how to discern if the content you’re producing is working? The answer, it turns out, rests in actionable data.

Actionable Data

For those into the depths and minutiae of data analysis and development, I refer you to the article “Are You Being Sabotaged by Your Metrics?” For the rest of us, here’s the summary.

knotted upToo many people are tied up in knots about their data, and they’re tied up in knots about all the wrong things. What are the wrong things? Anything that doesn’t immediately help you better understand what is and is working for your sales.

Consider: You sell high-end coffee and want to promote your new brands, so you post a note on your Facebook page that says “We have a new range of coffees from Brazil–Brand A, Brand B, and Brand C!” You immediately receive 50 likes. You may feel good, but have you advanced your business goals?

Which brands do people like? You can’t know. Will people come and buy it? You can’t know. Your Facebook data is “Vanity data.” You feel good about it. But so what?

Now consider this. You write a blog post that you promote via e-newsletter celebrating the new range of Brazilian coffees in your shop. In your post, you describe each brand, provide a link to receive a coupon for 10 percent off each flavor, and advertise an after-hours tasting for e-newsletter readers.

This is actionable data. You will learn:

  • Which brand people are more likely to buy based on the coupons clicked.
  • Your customers who see your shop as a place to gather based on those who show up for the tasting
  • Which flavors of coffee people are more inclined to buy.

With this data, you can adjust your stock and target future offers and information to your list based on the response.

In the first example using Facebook, all you receive for your efforts is a number that you can’t relate to sales. In the second, the focus isn’t on the number, but on the results of your efforts, its connection to sales, and on intelligence you need to know which areas to push into. In short, in the second example, your data makes you stronger.

As you can see, then, Actionable Data and Actionable Content work hand in hand.

Fail-Fast, Succeed Strategically

Ideally, your content and your data will help you “fail-fast,” by identifying things your customers don’t want, and succeed strategically by sharpening your appreciation of what the do want. With every interaction, you grow smarter, make better decisions about your product and business, and adjust on-the-fly.

You may not go from 0 to 30,000 in six months, but you may realize a steady 10 percent growth per quarter. Perhaps more. It doesn’t make for blazing headlines; it does, however, make for successful business.

Sacred Language Communications takes the pain out of developing creating actionable data and actionable content–and then proving its value. Want to know more? Contact Us.