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Fishing on Facebook

A common question I’m asked by small business owners is: “Should I use ‘bright shiny object of the month’ to market my business?

Lately, the question tends to be asked in the context of Facebook, but quite frankly, the answer is the same regardless of the magic solution you’re asking about.

As always, the answer is “Fish where the fish are.”

You’d never fish for westslope cutthroat trout in a midwest farm pond. Or at least…you’d never catch any cuts if you did try to fish there.

But..back to Facebook

In the context of Facebook, we’re still talking about people who care about the product or service you provide.

Let me rephrase that: What they really care about is what your product/service does for THEM; caring about you is way down the food chain.

And while it really doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Facebook or the Weekly World News, I’ll continue in the context of Facebook because there are a few Facebook-specific things to consider.

Ask yourself…

You have to ask yourself a series of questions about the pond you want to fish in.

Can I specifically identify the kind of prospective customers I want to meet? (No is not a valid answer – no matter what you sell)

Do those prospective customers hang out on Facebook?

A question you might not have considered…are your customers mostly women? And are they mostly women in their prime buying years?

If you take a look at the demographics of Facebook users (here, here, here and here), you’ll find that (currently) about 55% of Facebook users are women and the biggest group of women on Facebook are 35-55 years young (Tom Peters would be yelling at you not to ignore this market if he were here).

BUT…the key point is still “Are they actively using Facebook and having a conversation that involves what you do?”

Joining the conversation

Is your product or service the sort of thing that people tend to talk about around the water cooler, the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game or similar? That’s the same kind of conversation that occurs on Facebook.

If your Tribe meets on Facebook, you should be there and join the conversation.

If you were on the sidelines of a kids’ soccer game and the conversation turned to a topic that you are an expert on, would you ignore the people having the conversation or would you join in?

I’m guessing you’d gently find a way to join the conversation.

If you were at a Chamber luncheon and some business owners at your table were discussing a problem that your business’ product and/or service is great at resolving, wouldn’t you find a way to join the discussion in a way that doesn’t impose on the table?

Sure you would.

So…If there’s a conversation on Facebook, how is that different from these two situations?

You’re right. It isn’t different at all.

Finding them on Facebook

So..your next task is to create a Facebook account and search for people having conversations that you can offer value to.

You need to look at Facebook groups. There are groups for every conceivable topic. Some of them are sponsored by industry associations or leading vendors.

You might also look for Facebook “pages” (which normally represent a business) that you have something in common with. Interact when it makes sense.

Your goal is not to carpet bomb Facebook with “buy my stuff, visit my website”. Your goal is to join conversations, deliver value and thus establish your positioning as an expert.

In order to avoid spending all day on it AND to avoid blowing it off, treat it like any other work: Schedule it. If you don’t schedule it, you won’t take it seriously.

If it isn’t right for you: Two ways to say “I don’t use Facebook”

Almost every day, I hear business people saying “I don’t waste my time on Facebook.”

That’s one way to say “I don’t use Facebook.”

I suggest this instead: “I looked on Facebook to see if there was a community of people who need what I sell and found none, so I don’t use it for business. I still check in every few months to see if that has changed.”

That thought process shouldn’t be limited to Facebook.

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Did you Google them first?

That person you’ll be meeting shortly.

The prospective employee.

The vendor you can’t get an answer from.

Your kid’s new soccer coach.

That school board candidate.

Those persistent salespeople you’re thinking about giving an appointment.

The people who live next door to that dream house you have your eye on.

Who are they… *really*?

Did you Google them?

Why would you do such a thing? Same reason that 79% of employers do it before an interview.

Maybe to protect yourself and find out a little reputational info about the person, but how about to continue the conversation with something more meaningful than the weather.

Seems like a really obvious thing, but too few do it. If they did, what will they learn about you? What will they find interesting and ask you about?

Probably something you might never mention on your own, even though you care about it.

If you find some less than flattering information, you might just let someone know that they need to think a little harder about what they do, how they do it or at least how much they post about it on Facebook.

Worst case, you might just make a really solid connection with someone over an obscure piece of info you might never have known, and make a *real* connection.

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Pardon the asterisks, but social media’s kinda important

It’s Friday and I’m on my way back from Scout camp and on the way to the Montana Western Divisional Swim Meet. That means you get a guest post of sorts.

But I wouldn’t let you down with just any old guest post. This one has some serious stick-between-your-teeth to it. I suggest you click the “View on Slideshare” button on the lower right corner, as some of the text is really small – and it’s important enough to see.

Are you paying attention to this stuff yet? You should be.

Social media is how big, sometimes-faceless, global businesses can pretend to be just like your little carriage-trade business.

Are you going to let them get away with that?

Facebook and Twitter friends were treated to this last week – here on the blog, it had to go into the queue.

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Are you wearing Old Spice this morning?

Old spice
Creative Commons License photo credit: blvesboy

There was lots of noise this week when those clever folks managing the Old Spice social media campaign started making dozens of videos for a couple of days.

Old Spice’s team responded to Twitter posts, to Facebook posts, blogs and more, whether the posts came from celebrities or not.

The quickly made videos were funny and appeared to gag YouTube for a bit (might’ve been a coincidence). At any rate, it was a clever campaign to get some buzz about the product.

The other shoe

But did anyone buy Old Spice as a result?

Remember, that’s presumably the goal of running an advertising campaign, regardless of the media used.

What concerns me about actions like this – even though I tell you to have fun in your marketing – is that when a global company like Proctor and Gamble uses social media like this, I’m guessing that someone, somewhere wants to see ROI.

If they don’t, then we’ll have a global corporation (and their ad agency, potentially) pronouncing that “social media doesnt work” to anyone who will listen.

Bottom line: They want to see Old Spice fly off the shelves.

Will P&G be able to tie increased sales (over what period) to this campaign and ONLY this campaign?

I just don’t know, but I doubt it.

Unlike the Will-It-Blend campaign, which demonstrated the toughness of Blendtec’s blenders (essential for the market they serve), this campaign only shows that P&G’s marketing firm is smart, clever and fast on their feet – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

However…It doesn’t prove they know how to sell deodorant, body wash etc.

Don’t fall into that trap, no matter how clever you are.

REQUIRE that your marketing campaigns return a trackable ROI, no matter what the media.

Update: This morning’s article in Fast Company (online, of course) discusses a little of the behind-the-scenes for these videos as well as addressing the question I discussed here today – translating all of this into sales:

One of the questions that keeps coming up is people saying, “Ok, this is great, but will it make me buy more Old Spice?” If you look at the comments that are publicly saying, “I’m going to go and try Old Spice after this, I’m going to wear more Old Spice,” the groundswell of people saying that they are going to consume more Old Spice, I don’t know whether that is true or not, if people are actually going to go to the pharmacy and buy Old Spice, but I bet a whole load of them are going to go into the aisle and take the top off an Old Spice and smell it.

Update: Mashable comes up with some hard numbers related to the videos…but no sales info.

I’m still following this. We’ll see if they have devised a means of bringing this home to the cash register.

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What’s Your Swagger Wagon?

Nothing could be better than a mom and dad rappin’, right?

Ok, maybe there are things better. Still, today’s guest post is this awesome, fun video from Toyota which has managed to get 3.8 million views as of mid-June 2010.

The point? To have a little fun with your marketing – while still getting your point across. Toyota stays on message for the Sienna product, rap or not.

PS: Yes, I meant to post this for Father’s Day.

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Who I follow on Twitter (and why) for June 2010

Happy Mother's Day
Creative Commons License photo credit: emma.kate

It’s #FF (follow Friday) again, which means it’s time to point you at a few folks that I find interesting on Twitter.

If you love bacon, or unique gift soaps and the like, give @SweetSoaps a follow. Their #1 product was spawned from a Twitter conversation. Yes, people *really do* use Twitter to make a living.

Simply by joining the conversation and prodding me a bit, @StoryBlox helped me past a bit of a mental block I was having, trying to find an allegory (or some such) for a community economic development project I’m working on.

@julien just makes you think. If you aren’t interested in thinking, don’t follow him.

Finally, for a little adventure, check out Ryan Jordan at @bigskyry. Ryan’s the publisher of Backpacking Light magazine and routinely runs around the Bob Marshall Wilderness with (or without Scouts) with a pack lighter than 20 lbs (usually *much* lighter).

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Marrying Facebook, or just dating?

I‘ve heard a lot of talk about “Facebook taking over” the web lately.

It’ll only take over the web if you let it.

I realize there’s a lot of noise out there about new F8 (Facebook app) platform, which includes the like and share buttons that you see here on my blog.

Those buttons are important not because they drive traffic to Facebook (just the reverse, in fact), but because they allow YOU (my readers) to *quickly and easily* share a blog post with a friend on Facebook. No cutting, no pasting, almost no effort. Making it easy for you to share is the ONLY reason why the buttons are there.

If you have a web site and don’t have those buttons integrated, do so soon. Make it easy for folks to share what you do with their friends, family and co-workers via their Facebook wall.

Facebok is not a web host

I’ll bet you’ve seen a lot of ads in major media that promote a vendor’s Facebook page rather than their primary website.

Hopefully they have some metrics on that, but on the surface I just can’t recommend it. If you’re investing in a major media buy and can plaster one website address in your print/video/radio ad, why in the world would you send it to Facebook.com/YourFanPage rather than your own site?

I just don’t see the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely agree that you should have a fan/group page at Facebook, but I really have to caution you against using a Facebook fan page as your primary (or only) website.

Even if your business is consumer-based (which means that Facebook is a natural for it – especially if you focus on products of interest to women), you need to really think hard about what’s going to happen if Facebook changes their terms of service and for whatever reason they decide that your fan page is no longer acceptable.

Whatever the reason might be, there’s there have been many instances where systems like this have just disappeared, have gotten bought out or have had changes in terms of service. Sometimes these events are very difficult to recover from.

B-to-B

If Facebook is used for your main website and you’re in a business-to-business market (where your clients are other businesses), it’s entirely possible that your clients will have no access to Facebook – and thus, to your website. It’s quite common for the network administration staff to block access to all social media sites, especially in larger businesses (especially big corporates with lots of worrying attorneys).

In some cases, even laptops that travel with outside employees will block sites like Facebook.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s OK to have a Facebook page for your business.

In many cases, it’s a great idea – particularly to provide another source for promotions and customer service access – but DON’T depend on a Facebook (or MySpace etc) page to be your only website.

Worst case scenarios

What happens if Facebook goes under, or has some catastrophe that brings their site down for a week? What if you start doing something that they don’t like? It doesn’t matter what that is.

Might not be a big deal today, might not be a big deal next week but at some point in the game the possibility could occur that you could get your Facebook fan page turned off overnight.

Do you want to come in tomorrow and find that all of the links on the ‘net that point to your “site” on Facebook are suddenly pointing to Facebook’s 404 page – or worse – to a Facebook ad page that lists your competitors?

It could happen.

It’s OK if some of the links out on the net point to your fan page, but you want them to get to your main site: a site you have complete control over. Bringing them to Facebook is one thing, leaving them there is entirely different and downright risky.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about the new Facebook advertising features that have prompted all the privacy complaints – and we’ll talk about why these are mostly good for yo, both as a consumer and a business owner.

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Taking yourself out of context

Google recently released a video demonstrating how speedy the new build of their Chrome browser runs.

You *still* get the idea that Chrome is fast, but you are far from bored to tears as they demonstrate that.

If they showed a spreadsheet or graph documenting the speed of Chrome as compared to Internet Explorer, Firefox or Opera, you’d surely click on and move to something else.

Instead, they got creative and made something that’s both marketing and interesting/fun to watch.

Now it’s your turn.

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A conversation in the hall of your business day

Lots of small business owners struggle to get a blog going.

There are some technical challenges: geek stuff is huge for some and tiny for others.

But in almost every case, the tech stuff isn’t the hard part.

When it comes to business owners, almost every conversation about blogging tends to start with “What do I write about?”

It’s not a bad question, really.

The root of the problem is usually how owners perceive their blog.

If you view it as a formal trade publication (or a series of emotionless whitepapers written in corporate-speak), you’ll likely struggle to find meaningful topics to write about.

When you have to produce a formal article, suddenly that 2 minute conversation with your client doesn’t seem “worthy” of your blog.

I don’t see it that way at all.

Conversations

For me, the blog is an informal business conversation. It’s as if we met in the hall at your office or sat down somewhere for coffee.

If you approach it in that context, I’ll bet you can find lots of things to write about.

Fact is, that’s what shows people that you’re someone they’d actually want to do business with.

Think about the last 5-10-20 or 100 conversations you had with clients in your store, restaurant, on the phone, via email etc. Think about the questions you answered, the issues you discussed, the advice you gave, and the challenges you dissected.

Every single one of those could should be a blog post.

Finding your voice

Some days you might get a feel like I’m talking to you one-on-one.

Many times, I have picked out a client as my apparent conversation partner that day and I write as if I’m talking to them. Occasionally, I’m doing just that – sending them a public (yet private) signal that they need to do something.

Other times, it may sound as if I’m speaking to a small group of business owners, like at a “brown bag business lunch” or chamber seminar.

That’s completely intentional.

When we meet, I want our conversation to feel like the conversation we have here. I talk here (mostly) like we would in person. I do that so that there isn’t a shocking change in our relationship when we start working together.

Wouldn’t it drive you nuts to read my blog and then meet me in person only to find that you’re talking to a guy who spouts corporate-speak?

You need to make the same decision about how your blog “sounds”.

Stiff upper lips

One thing that is important when writing posts is not to talk in stiff, boring whitepaper-ese or corporate-speak – unless that’s really how you talk (ugh).

A blog is not a research paper or a doctoral thesis. It doesn’t have to pass muster with the United Guild of Boring Writers.

Its a conversation in the hallway of your business day. Not necessarily about American Idol, but in a friendly, collegial way.

Once you find your blogging voice, I think you’ll find it a lot easier to to find topics and have conversations.

I know it’s in there. Just be the person you are when you’re helping someone.

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iPads for business? Yes. Start now.

Trust me on this. Your business needs an iPad.

I know what you’re thinking. It goes something like this:

Why does this Apple fanboy think I need this thing? It’s just like a dinky little laptop with no keyboard. I can’t even plug my USB thumb drive into it. There’s no camera.

I hear you, but I ask that you think forward a bit. The iPad available today will seem like a lukewarm joke in 5 years. Your kids won’t even touch it.

If you wait 5 years until “the space is ready”, you’re gonna be 5 years behind – maybe more.

Maybe the winner in 5 years will be an Android-based GooglePad. Maybe it’ll be a Windows-based GatesPad. Maybe it’ll be one of the tablets from the folks at CES this summer. But…

IT. DOESNT. MATTER.

What matters is that you shift your thinking.

This stuff is going to impact your business and your life (and the lives of your clients) – and I can say that not knowing what you do for a living.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

First off, don’t worry about what it won’t do. Focus on what it *can* do for you instead.

There are at least five areas that need some strategic thought on your part:

  • How your staff will use the iPad
  • How your customers will use the iPad (and iPhone/iTouch)
  • How a phone-enabled, GPS-enabled tablet (generally speaking) will change your work, your clients’ work, your clients’ personal lives and so on.
  • How this “intelligent”, connected form factor will change how people consume information – which includes information that brings them to your business.

Note: The same things will apply to the HP Slate and other touch devices already in the pipeline.

Portable, connected – and finally, capable – touch-based interface devices are here to stay. You can either take advantage of them or watch someone else and then whine about the competition.

Answer this 27 part question

The iPad gives you a way to show your clients and prospects touch-navigable information that is *already available* but often poorly presented. That info is rarely displayed in context with anything else.

That’s gonna change.

Here’s an example:

“Show me a map with the locations of the three best italian restaurants on the way to the bed and breakfast we’re staying at tonight (it’s just outside Glacier Park). Include an overall rating from previous reviews, an option to read those reviews, directions to each restaurant, menu items with photos of the food, prices and eliminate the ones that don’t have a table for six at 7:00pm. Oh and a photo of the front of the place so we don’t drive past it.”

27 phone calls or visits to websites later, you *might* have a decent answer. That’s one of the simple, easy to understand examples. There are a TON more. If you’re a client, ask me how you can take advantage of it.

The difference with the pad isn’t just the always-on internet and the GPS/location-enabled functionality. Those are huge, sure.

What changes things is that you get a touch interface that a 5 year old can operate. Don’t discount the impact that has. Most people don’t truly understand it until they use it – I had the same gap in experience with the iPhone/iTouch, despite being a geeky, computer-toolhead kinda guy. This time, I know better.

I have so many ideas about this thing, my head is spinning (some might say it did that before the iPad).

If yours isn’t, think a little harder.