The Power of Social Media is Community

As a business owner with clients all over the world who works out of a home office, there are plenty of times when my daily life can feel real isolated.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve come to appreciate social media so much. It’s allowed me to build connections, share projects, and develop friendships with people I might never otherwise have had the chance to get to know.

Yet, with one group of friends I met on Twitter in 2010, I co-authored a book called The Character-Based Leader.

Social media has also enabled me to stay in contact with audiences from past speaking engagements, as well as with clients.

Then, every once in a while, we share a need and it’s truly amazing to sit back and see the response we get.

Late Saturday evening, I launched my first crowdsourcing campaign to raise the funds necessary to publish and market my next book, entitled The Best is Yet to Come. Despite the hour, I sent the link out to my co-authors from the earlier book project, and about a dozen other friends on social media.

Less than 48 hours later, these friends are supporting me in reaching my goals so that I, in turn, can help others change their lives for the better.

I could never reach as many people by myself as this network of friends will reach. Yet, we’ve taken time to know and support one another over the years. That’s why I’m always telling my clients, if you want to harness the real power of social media, it’s got to be about the relationships. Marketing is secondary. Spend more time being authentically you, and sincerely trying to get to know those you connect with online.

It’s only when you generate enough social proof to show that you have something of value to offer that you can truly make the kind of difference you want to make.

Thank you to my friends who are supporting me in reaching my goals! May you each be as blessed to have friends such as these. Below are just a sampling of some of the posts being made, with more promised yet to come.

With a community that supports me like this, I can confidently say… The best is definitely yet to come.

Deb's_support

 

The Best Social Media Platform for Business

I’ve been asked many times before, “What’s your favorite social media platform for business?”

Many people think that if you’re in business, LinkedIn is the only place to be, and while LinkedIn has its many benefits and is a strong contender in my social media platform, my answer may be surprising to you.

My favorite social media platform, hands down, is Twitter.

I know. I know. I hear it all the time. You’re thinking “What? Twitter? I just don’t get all that tweeting stuff. All it is is stuff about what everyone had for breakfast!”

That’s where I’d jump up and down, pointing my finger at you and shouting “Wrong!” Well, maybe not so much jumping up and down… And probably not shouting. (It’s not my style.) I have no idea why I’d point a finger either…

But you’re definitely wrong. Sorry!

As simple as the site is, Twitter is the most powerful tool in my social media arsenal.

The Best Social Media Platform for Business

twitter

When I found out in 2009 that I was soon to be unemployed, Twitter was where my job search took root. It was where I was first exposed to the power of hashtags to find and sort content being shared on the internet.

I was a bit nervous at first about using Twitter. Was everyone a scam artist?

Then, I came across Steve Keating (@LeadToday) on Twitter. For some reason, his simple reassurance in his bio that he wasn’t selling anything on Twitter, only giving back, set my heart at ease. I started engaging with him a bit, and enjoying his nonsensical animal trivia on Saturday mornings. It reminded me of a book my kids and I enjoyed called 365 Days of Nature and Discovery: Things to Do and Learn for the Whole Family.

Our shared interest in leadership topics led me to discover the Lead Change Group (@leadchange and #leadchange) shortly after their Leader UnPalooza in early 2010, which sounded like a lot of fun. I struck up a friendship with Mike Henry Sr. (@mikehenrysr), the founder of the group, which led me to discover and make connections with many of the founding members of the Lead Change Group.

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Why Social Media Won’t Go Away

When home computers first came out, the general sentiment of many “experts” was that they would never catch on. Similar sentiments were expressed when the Internet started, and when e-mail was introduced into corporate life

There will always be naysayers when any significant change comes along that impacts the way we do business. But can you imagine your life today without computers? The Internet? E-mail? (I know some of us would like to imagine life without e-mail, but I know very few people who have managed to do away with it in their lives completely!)

The same is true of social media. It’s not just a fad. It’s not going away. And ignoring it won’t help!

How and Why Social Media Won’t Go Away

Social media is all about relationships. As with any relationship, it can have a different context for each connection. There are some people I’m friendly with, others I buy from, I have best friends, a support network, people I ask advice of and collaborate with, and others I learn from. That’s “in the real world,” but it’s true also on social media.

One of my books, The Character-Based Leader, was written with people I met on Twitter. I share ideas with other authors and entrepreneurs, and talk about social media with clients and prospects on Facebook. I have been hired multiple times for speaking engagements and project work by people who found me on LinkedIn and on my blog. Slideshare helps establish my expertise as hundreds of people have viewed my content, and hundreds more follow my Pinterest boards.

socialmedia

Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful form of marketing there is, and much of it takes place on the Internet these days.

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The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet [INFOGRAPHIC]

One of the challenges of keeping up with social media is to ensure that you have attractive and consistent branding across all of the various platforms. No sooner do you find the right size for Facebook than the same image changes on Google+ and you need to tweak your images again.

Doing the research to find all the right sizes was always a pain. Various sites had inconsistent (and even incorrect) information, making it difficult to know where to turn or who to trust.

Thankfully, LunaMetrics has stepped forward and volunteered to be the keeper of all such mundane information, providing social marketers with a single place to turn for all their sizing needs. Thank you, LunaMetrics!

The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet LunaMetrics

Brought to you by the LunaMetrics blog.

 

The Fun Side of Social Media

Tara Alemany, the Bubble Lady, having fun in TanzaniaYou know, the fun thing about social media, whether you are using it for business or for pleasure, is that it can be an awful lot of fun. There are online events intended simply to be silly, that take us out of our shell and allow us to feel like kids again for a little while.

For instance, on Friday nights at 11 PM ET, there’s the TweetChat #slumberparty hosted by the lovely @DabneyPorte. It is often accompanied by creative hospitality, pillow fights, stolen Diva jets, great music spun by Wayne, and general merriment.

But once a year, there is the annual International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19. This celebration is enjoyed by celebrities like Dave Barry, and everyday folks like you and me.

This year’s celebration is the 10th anniversary of International Talk Like a Pirate Day, otherwise known as “ITLAPD.” With over 82,000 likes on their Facebook page, this online party is a well-attended one.

Yet its popularity and extends beyond Facebook. Their website talklikeapirate.com has a Google page rank of 6 and an Alexa ranking of 259,871 worldwide and 37,696 in the US. The banter and merriment make people want to join in the fun, and this translates to traffic.

For the fact that the majority of their activity is limited to a couple of months a year in the lead up to September 19 each year, that’s an incredible accomplishment.

So as you think about your business, what kind of fun and merriment can you bring to it? This extends beyond contests and polls, which bring limited one-time traffic, into the realm of entertainment. Take for instance the Old Spice viral videos that came out a couple of years ago with the Old Spice Man. They were shared far and wide because of their humorous nature. Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself and create a fun environment. Take yourself too seriously and you’ll be considered an old fuddy-duddy. Nobody likes hanging out with a fuddy-duddy.

I know a new business that launched their YouTube video series with their blooper reel, instead of their commercials. They ended up generating a lot of interest in their YouTube channel before they ever put up a single commercial for their brand, simply because they were willing to laugh at themselves. Once they started putting their product commercials, they already had the attention of a rapt audience.

So in honor of making social media a bit more fun, here’s a brief video tutorial on how to change the language settings in Facebook to “English (Pirate).” The same technique can be used to change the Facebook language settings to anything else you choose as well.

So, give us an “Arr!” below, and scrawl somethin’ tellin’ us what your favorite way is to have fun with social media.

How to Really Listen

Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't. ~ Bill NyeI have a client, a winery, who is short-handed for the next month. Since I really enjoying going to this place, when they asked if there was anyway I could help them out by working there a couple of days a week for the next month, I said “sure.” It’s an exciting time of growth for this business, and I enjoy being a part of it.

Today, I was “manning the shop” all alone when an older couple came in for a wine tasting. Being an early Friday afternoon, the place was quiet, and I was able to simply enjoy engaging in conversation with them. Over the course of the next hour, we shared stories about our lives back and forth with each other.

As the husband went out to the car to load their purchases, the wife stayed a talked awhile longer. She confided how much she valued the time I had spent with them. Her daughter had just remarried, her grandson had gone to college and her granddaughter was starting a new job at a local hospital. They have been a close-knit family, living on the same property for years, in and out of each other’s homes on a daily basis, and now this grandmother was feeling “an empty nest, times three!” The sorrow and grief in her eyes was heart-wrenching, and I was grateful that we’d had that time alone to just enjoy one another’s company.

As I was thinking back on that experience this evening, it occurred to me that so few of us really know how to listen. There was a moment when this woman was leaving the winery where our eyes connected, no more words were spoken, but she knew that she had been heard, and her thoughts and feelings mattered to someone else.

In social media, where we don’t have the opportunity to make eye contact, and listening can echo back like an empty chasm if you don’t make your presence known, how do we let someone know we’re listening?

I had another instance earlier this week where I’d seen someone’s name flit through my Twitter feed whom I hadn’t spoken with in a long time. So, I reached out and sent her a tweet, asking her how she was doing. This led to a private (DM) conversation where she shared that Life had been rough of late.

The best way that I could show I was listening was to actively participate in the conversation, but always keeping the focus on her. It’s so easy to want to relate our own experiences with a topic. But sometimes a person just needs to be heard. When using social media, oftentimes it’s feedback (or the much-bantered word “engagement”) that let’s us know anyone is even listening.

Here are some tips on how to demonstrate active listening in social media:

  • When someone needs to talk, let the conversation be about whatever it is they need to talk about.
  • In real life, eye contact and touch show that we’re engaged. Online, substitute a private message or directed contact to let the person know you are there, you are listening and you care.
  • Don’t steer the conversation to yourself. Instead, be genuinely interested in what the other person is saying.  If you can’t be genuinely interested, perhaps it’s not the right person to be deepening a relationship with.

These tips aren’t for every conversation you have online. But it’s important people know you care about more than the product or service you are selling, and that you’re a real human being capable of engaging, feeling and being authentic.

Online friendships can remain at a superficial level for a long time. But when we take the opportunity to deepen those connections, perhaps even bringing them offline, it’s amazing what can happen. What tips do you have for connecting with individuals in real and authentic ways?

What’s Your Social Media Foundation?

Pam Moore - Marketing NutPam Moore at Marketing Nut published a blog post last week entitled “My Promise to You Social Media Friends.” In it, she related how the recent passing of her Granny made her reflect on how thankful she is for the relationships in her life, including those with her blog readers and social media friends.

She concludes the piece with a very revealing set of questions. I wonder how many of us ever truly consider them as we tweet, share, post and blog. They are:

What is your foundation for social media? What are your beliefs? What promises are you living or do you need to make to your social media friends?

If you’ve ever written a business or marketing plan, the answers to these questions should be a part of it. And those answers should be consistent with how you implement and use your social media accounts.

For me, both my company and my online interactions are guided by a biblical passage found in Ephesians 4:29.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

I believe that everyone of us has unique gifts and abilities. When we use our gifts to contribute to the world around us, the world becomes a better place to live in.

My particular gift is to take complex ideas and communicate them in ways that are easy to understand. I did that for over 20 years as a technical writer and trainer. I’m doing it now as a speaker and consultant. And that is why this blog will always be used to educate my readers, providing you with useful information that builds up your ability to market your product or service online.

I wholeheartedly believe in the old Chinese proverb:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

I know that a lot of my readers are do-it-yourself-type people, whether by nature or due to financial constraints. While Aleweb is here to serve your social marketing needs, we will always have a firm commitment to teaching you how to fish as well.

So, to echo Pam’s questions… What is your foundation for social media? What are your beliefs? What promises are you living or do you need to make to your social media friends? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Why Pinterest Should Interest You

We’ve all heard the saying that a picture’s worth a thousand words, right? Why is that? There’s just something visually engaging about an image that makes people want to interact with it. Bloggers know to add an image or video to their posts to increase engagement. Facebookers know that posts with images of some kind (previews, photos, etc.) receive more likes and comments.

Well, the new social network, Pinterest (still in beta release), takes that concept and blows it out of the water. Image a network that’s driven by imagery. Engagement explodes. People virally share, or “pin,” the images so that their own network sees them too. They can be embedded on blogs, like the one in this post. Or they can be shared on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter and even e-mailed!

What is Pinterest

But Pinterest is so much more than the image may lead you to believe. Each pinned item has a link leading back to the source, whether that’s a spot on your blog, a photo album, etc. Suddenly, Pinterest becomes a ready-made vehicle for broadcasting your message to a completely different audience than the one you already have. And since the “repinning” that takes place is focused around categorized topics, it’s easy to find others who share your same interests and are willing to spread the word to their followers!

Every user in Pinterest creates their own bulletin boards that they post images to. These are usually focused around categories like cars, kids, nature, pets, food, inspirational messages, books, music, travel, etc.

Whether you’re an author, photographer, realtor, chef, landscape architect, home organizer, interior decorator, builder, website designer, artist, social media maven or what-have-you, you should be using Pinterest. Create boards that are relevant to the audience you want to attract. Then start filling your boards with visual content (in this case, pictures and video).

Do you have a portfolio? Show it off on Pinterest. Are you an author? Share your book cover image, as well as photos, sketches or other drawings related to the setting of your book. Or take brief, inspiring excerpts and create an image from them to share (like the one above). Have video you want to get out there? Create a board of your videos as well. Have products you want to sell? Pin an image of your product with a link back to the site where they can purchase it, whether that’s on Etsy, your website, Amazon, eBay, or elsewhere. Are you a realtor? Create a board for each town you sell in, and post images and video from your listings. The options are only limited by your imagination.

Looking for new content or something to blog about? Find and follow other “Pinners” who inspire you. Join in the discussions taking place about each image. Share your thoughts and ideas, and engage authentically.

Oh! And did I mention that by default, your Pinterest activity is visible to the search engines? So, it’s yet another source of SEO for the sites that are being linked to…

But be warned! Pinterest is addictive! And keep in mind that Pinterest is not about self-promotion so much as it is another social network. As with any social platform, etiquette requires that you keep self-promotion to a minimum. Consider the audience you’re looking to attract and share the content that’s going to interest them. Not every pin should go back to your website. Share what others are pinning, and what you find elsewhere on the internet.

If you aren’t using the site yet and want an invitation to join (since it’s still in beta release), let me know and I’ll send one out to you. If you are using Pinterest already, be sure to follow me and say “hello!”

What do you think of Pinterest? Post your thoughts below, and feel free to share your favorite pin if you have one!

Book Review: Social Media Judo

Social Media Judo coverWhen I was offered the opportunity to review a book entitled “Social Media Judo” by Chris Aarons, Geoff Nelson, Nick White and Dan Zehr, I jumped at the chance. I was informed that the book was written by Ivy Worldwide, an award-winning agency for effectiveness, and revealed the secrets to revenue-driving social media campaigns.

Any effective social marketer knows that this is more than just collecting friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. There’s a real art and style that goes into effectively marketing on the internet, and cutting through the clutter of videos, social networks, blogs and more that clamor for the attention of a prospective consumer.

The book promised to give a deep insight into how top worldwide brands (such as HP, Lenovo, Microsoft) are having success with social media and how they are using it to drive sales and revenue. As a martial artist and a student of social marketing myself, I loved the idea of blending the philosophy and mindset of martial arts with the mechanics of word-of-mouth marketing to generate real results.

The style of martial arts that I study is a Korean form called Tang Soo Do (most closely related to Tae Kwon Do, and the same style that Chuck Norris studied prior to founding Chun Kuk Do). In it, there are 7 tenets that we highly value: Integrity, Concentration, Perseverance, Respect & Obedience, Self-Control, Humility, and Indomitable Spirit. As I waited for my copy of the book to arrive, I thought perhaps these were some of the topics that would be touched upon.

Instead, Social Media Judo focused on four, just-as-important pillars to judo and the philosophy of social marketing.

  1. Minimum effort and maximum efficiency – Tapping into the network of key influencers already in place to use their existing momentum to help spread your message.
  2. Mutual benefit – Crafting programs that generate a strong return for the company by also provide an equally beneficial outcome for the influences and partners with whom you work.
  3. Etiquette – Creating personal relationships with online content producers and influencers, rather than merely trying to exploit them when you need them.
  4. Physical education – Building a bridge between philosophy and practice. The judo mindset challenges the ways you think about and interact with your key influences, both on- and offline.

The book demonstrates, through real-world examples, how important it is to master the philosophy as well as the mechanics of these techniques. As the authors point out, “You can’t merely mimic the moves of a judo expert and expect to become a great fighter.”

As you read through the book, it also covers the importance of falling, and the view of it that students must learn to adopt in order to adapt. By learning about how to fall properly, companies can overcome their fear of failing with social media, and derive lessons from the experience that enable them to see the upside that’s possible, even in the risk of the downside. When these risks are mitigated through traditional marketing efforts and effective planning, the potential that exists is huge for any company! You’ll also learn the basics of marketing, along with strategies to maintain the balance between “going with the flow” and keeping your message intact.

Each of the examples that are given, and the analysis that goes into why they worked or didn’t work, is invaluable. By studying them, marketers can begin to develop their own plans to increase sales, cut marketing costs, and boost engagement, all while paying for themselves with real revenue!

If I had any real criticism of the book to offer, it’s that it neglects social networks beyond blogging. But the thought there is that it gives your key influences a larger platform that can ultimately be promoted using other social networks. So, they become a means to an end, instead of the destination themselves.

Overall, the book is well-written and useful! There’s something in it for both novice marketers and more experienced individuals, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you get something more out of it on subsequent readings. It’s definitely a book I’m happy to add to my Social Marketing bookshelf!

Do Your Customers Love You?

Relationships take time and effort, regardless of what kind they are. But did you know that there are tools that exist that can maximize the effect of your marketing efforts?

In the past, marketing was left to the venues of radio, TV and printed forms of media (newspapers, magazines, and junk mail). Then clever people created VCRs (followed by DVRs and TIVO) that allow us to tape our favorite programs and skip all the advertising. AM/FM broadcasting was abandoned for Syrius satellite, podcasts and BlogTalkRadio. Magazine and newspaper circulations continue to dwindle in favor of online news outlets.

We adapted and developed personal methods and techniques that allowed us to reduce the traditional advertising that bombarded us at every turn and, instead, sought to be engaged with our favorite brands in collaborative relationships. The brands that were open to partnering with their customers saw immediate, positive results. And the brands that resisted it suffered as a result.

Now, the internet enables us to broadcast our existence and highlight what sets us apart from our competition. Social media sites allow us to extend our network beyond what we ever could in the past. Unlimited text, mobile phones and VOIP make it easier to “reach out touch someone” than ever before!

So, I ask you this. How do you ensure that your customers know you care and that you value their business? Engagement is crucial. But it can’t be done on a mass-marketing level. For the engagement to be meaningful, it has to timely and personal. You have to prove to them that they can know, like and trust you one person at a time.

In my opinion, there are four items you should have in your everyday toolset.

  1. Any system that helps you to keep track of your clients, make notes of conversations, has filtering capabilities, and can generate reminders based on key pieces of data.
  2. An active, healthy, engaging social media profile (or multiple profiles).
  3. A great telephone provider.
  4. Easy access to your customer’s mail boxes (not inboxes).

Set up a routine that ensures that you connect by phone and postal service with a specific number of customers each week. The purpose of the contact should never be to sell them anything. Instead, it should be to let them know you appreciate their patronage, wish them a happy birthday or holiday, ask after their family, and to see what’s new in their lives. Use this time to find out their needs and do what you can to help them.

Be real. Get to know your clients. While this may not seem feasible for larger companies, it is for service managers, sales people, and others within the organization. So, don’t let the size of your business keep you from making this a priority.

As you employ this technique, you offer your Self to your customers and give them ample opportunity to get to know you, which ultimately leads to them deciding whether they like you or not. If they don’t like you, they’ll leave. But don’t worry! That person was never going to be a referral source for you anyway, so don’t mourn the loss. If they do like you, this open connection and relationship building will lead them to trust you, and ultimately refer you to others they know. And that person is priceless to you and your business!

So, is it worth your while to go through your customer list and start calling one or two of them each week, or sending four or five of them greeting cards each week? The calls would cost you 10-15 minutes of your time per week. And there are tools that enable you to send out those cards in mere minutes. (If you’re not familiar with it, check out SendOutCards. It’s my absolute favorite tool for making real, significant connections with clients. And the holidays are a great time of year to try it!)

So, ask yourself… Can you spare 20-30 minutes a week to create “forever clients?” More importantly, can you afford not to?