Friday, December 30, 2011

foursquare: New Burnsville, MN Restaurant Doing it Right

It’s not often that I take the time to promote a particular business because of something that has impressed me… however, in this case, I have to.  Not because of the food… because I haven’t had a chance to try it yet… not to mention I’m not a professional food critic.
What DOES impress me is something I’ve seen them do online as it applies to the use of social media.  As I work with businesses and organizations, I find that most business owners and non-profit executives overlook an important social media tool.  Most often it’s because they’re unaware.  Sometimes it’s because they minimize the significance or feel that, for some reason, the tool just isn’t for them.  In ALL cases… it’s simply a lack of understanding and education.  This business gets it.  The social media tool?  foursquare.  The business?  Ernies Pub & Grille in Burnsville, MN.
Ernie's Pub & Grille in Burnsville, MNA recent article in the Burnsville Patch announced the opening of this new dining establishment… so, as a Social Media Coach and Speaker, the first thing I was compelled to do was take a look at their online presence.  Needless to say… I was immediately impressed.  I don’t often see new businesses start off with their “i’s” already dotted and their “t’s” already crossed.  Not only does their website clearly, yet subtly make visitors aware that they have a “Facebook Page” and a “Twitter” presence… but what surprised me the most was seeing their“foursquare” icon… and THAT was what prompted me to write this article.
First order of business… just WHAT is “foursquare”?  It’s easiest just to use foursquare’s own words.  “Foursquare makes the real world easier to use. We build tools that help you keep up with friends, discover what’s nearby, save money and unlock deals. Whether you’re setting off on a trip around the world, coordinating a night out with friends, or trying to pick out the best dish at your local restaurant, foursquare is the perfect companion.”
“foursquare” was established in 2007 and officially launched in 2009.  There are currently 15 million users worldwide and over 500,000 businesses actively using this platform to promote their businesses, organizations, and events.
WHY should you, as a business owner, be using foursquare?  Simply put… it’s yet another way to promote your business or organization to an audience who otherwise wouldn’t know that your business or organization exists.
HOW you should be using foursquare depends on the type of business you have or the type of organization you represent.  ”foursquare” gives you the ability to create a variety of special “check-in” offers which can be used to entice people to do business with you, come into your establishment and shop, or take advantage of whatever services you have to offer.  Don’t have something tangible to give those who “check-in”?  Use it as an opportunity to build relationships with businesses around you who DO have something to offer.  The opportunities are endless.
Using my “foursquare” iPhone app… I performed a simple search for “restaurants”.  Look at the screen shot.  Which establishment catches your eye?  Seasoned “foursquare” users will immediately notice the orange “SPECIAL” next to “Ernie’s Pub & Grille”.  The user will instinctively be curious and tap it to see what the offer is.  If the offer is enticing enough, “Ernie’s Pub & Grille” will soon be serving that person and whoever he/she happens to be bringing along!
I can’t tell you exactly how many customers “Ernie’s Pub & Grille” has served since opening two months ago on Oct. 24th.  I CAN tell you that as of the writing of this article, at least 78 of those individual customers have “checked-in”.  I can also tell you that they’ve had a total of 109 “check-ins”… which indicates that they’ve had a number of repeat customers just from those 78 “foursquare” users.  This isn’t secret or confidential information.  You don’t need a “foursquare” account to see it.  Click on the photo and see for yourself.
Here’s the thing.  Depending on the type of business you have, there’s a strong possibility it’s already listed in “foursquare”.  If it is, there a good chance that, unbeknownst to you, people have been “checking-in” all along!  If you’re not using “foursquare” you’re missing out on some golden opportunities for your business.
Might I have some observations and recommendations?  Of course I might… wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t.  However, I’d encourage business owners to take note.  ”Ernie’s Pub & Grill” serves as an excellent example of the type of thinking that business owners need to start embracing.  Social media is here to stay.  It’s not just a fad.  It’s going to grow and will continue to play an integral part of doing business today and in the future.  If, as a business owner, you refuse to embrace it and grow with it, you’ll only be hurting yourself… AND your business.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Media: Can’t Be a Pilot Without Education

I’ve always had a passion for flying.  Years ago I even began pursuing a “Private Pilot’s License”… although certain circumstances required me to adjust my priorities and I was unable to continue with that dream.  Perhaps someday.  I did, however, learn quite a bit and recently found myself recognizing a correlation between piloting a plane and watching small business owners try to use social media.

Even without aviation training, we’ve watched enough movies… perhaps even played a “Flight Simulator” or two… so we know some of the basic terms and the names of a few gauges, buttons, switches, and levers.  Altimeter, Airspeed Indicator, Vertical Speed Indicator, Attitude, Transponder, Ceiling, Yaw, Vector, VOR, Flaps, Rudder, to name a few.  There are probably some things mentioned that you haven’t heard of.

So… you’re sitting in the cockpit now.  You see all the gauges, buttons, switches and levers.  Go ahead… fly!  Hmm… not feeling quite ready yet?  It’s understandable.  There’s quite a bit of education necessary before you’re ready to take that step.

The same holds true when it comes to social media.  We’ve heard the names and some of the basic terminology.  Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Blog, LinkedIn, Like, Follow, Engage, Status, Post, Share, Circle, Check-In, Hashtag, Mention, Trend, Klout, to name a few.  There are probably some things mentioned that you haven’t heard of.

So… you’re sitting in the cockpit now.  You think you see all the platforms.  You may even have a Facebook page, Twitter account, or LinkedIn profile.  Go ahead… fly!  Hmm… not feeling quite ready yet?  It’s understandable.  There’s quite a bit of education necessary before you’re ready to take that step.

Answer the following questions:
  • Do you know the difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook Profile?
  • Do you know when to “Use Facebook As…”?
  • Do you know who you should “Like” or “Follow” to get the best exposure for your business or organization?
  • Do you know the most effective way for YOU to link social media accounts?
  • Do you know when you should be “Tweeting” rather than “Posting”?  Or “Sharing” rather than “Commenting”?
  • Do you use “Mentions” when you “Check-In” to Foursquare?
  • Did you know you can claim your “Foursquare” venue?  Do you know WHY you should do that?
  • Do you know how to make effective use of “LinkedIn Groups”?
These are just a very few of the many questions you should know the answers to before you start piloting your social media plane.

It’s OK to admit that you don’t understand social media.  Nowhere is it written that you’re supposed to know it all.  It’s NOT OK to start using social media without an understanding of the “What”, “Why”, and “How” as it applies to you, your business or organization, and your potential customers, clients, and donors.    Not only will you waste your valuable time and energy… you could potentially do irreversible damage to your brand and your reputation.  These are things I KNOW you can’t afford.

Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook for Social Media updates, news, tips, and more!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Three Keys to Social Media Success

I see it every day.  Real Estate Agents and Brokers, Chamber of Commerce organizations, restaurants, diners, craft shops, spas, health clubs, you name it.  They’ll be so excited because they just started a Facebook page, activated a Twitter account, put their profile up on LinkedIn, etc…  They’ll post a few spam type advertising or sales messages, they’ll beg people to “Like” their Facebook page, to follow them on Twitter, only to be disappointed in a very short time and conclude that social media is not effective for them.  And they’re right.  It certainly wasn’t effective.  Why?  Because of a lack of education, limited understanding, and no planning.
Although there are many elements associated with the successful use of social media in your business or organization… there are three key elements which, when understood and exercised, will go a long way in contributing to that success.
  1. Strategy: You CAN’T just start using social media tools without a plan!  Winston Churchill said (during World War II), “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”.  If there’s ever been an element of business where this holds true… it’s with the use of social media!  Countless business owners, Chamber Presidents, and Non-Profit Organization Executives recognize the fact that social media is a critical part of doing business today… so the next thing they do is “just start”.  This will only lead to frustration and guaranteed failure.

    Developing and implementing a successful strategy involves:
    - Defining goals and objectives.
    - Determining the purpose for your use of social media.
    - Understanding the social media tools available to you.
    - Understanding, and in some cases, modifying your habits.
    - Integrating elements of your strategy into your offline and online efforts.
  2. Consistency: Your efforts are doomed to fail without this!  The worst thing you can do is set up your various social media accounts and “get to them when you have time”.  You’ll get out of it what you put in.  How often you “post”, “tweet”, “comment”, “share”, introduce an article into your blog, involve yourself with a LinkedIn group, etc… should be determined while developing your strategy.   The time you devote to your social media efforts will be based on:
    - The purpose for your use of social media.
    - The tools you’ve chosen to use.
    - How you’ve chosen to connect the tools you’re using.
    - Your habits.This will change over time… however, without a starting point, you won’t know what changes and modifications you’ll need to make in order to fine tune your efforts and become more efficient and effective.
  3. PATIENCE!  I CAN NOT emphasize this enough!  We live in a fast paced society.
    - Fast Food.
    - Fast Coffee.
    - Fast Information.
    - Fast Delivery.
    - Fast Customer Service.
    - Fast Checkout.
    - Fast Banking.

    I think you get it.Let me remind you.  The use of “Social Media” is NOT about selling your products or services online!  It’s about “Social Networking”.  It’s about building relationships.  It’s about establishing “trust”.  We all know that networking takes time… strong, solid relationships aren’t built overnight and trust isn’t built in a week, month, or even a year!   The same holds true when it comes to social media.  You’re not going to see immediate results for your efforts.  An effective and successful social media presence takes time.  There’s no way around it.
Sure… the social media tools may be free… to sign up for.  However, as the saying goes… you get what you pay for.  If you’re anticipating getting something from your social media efforts in exchange for little or nothing, your results will be the same… little or nothing.
Did you know…
  • …that the times when you SHOULD be posting information, sharing, and engaging may differ from the times you THINK are best for you?
  • …that the primary platform you THINK you should be using may not be the best one for you?  You may THINK it’s Facebook… however, it might be LinkedIn… it could be Twitter.  It might even be a platform you’re not currently aware of.
  • …that part of the relationship building process includes engaging with those who may never be become a customer, client, or donor themselves however, they may be able to play a key role in helping you find connect with future customers, clients, or donors.  Do you know who these people are?
  • …that the most critical element to a successful social media presence revolves around “listening”?  Do you know how to do that?
It’s time to stop treating social media like a “toy” or a “hobby”.  Not only will you waste your valuable time… but it can also result in serious damage to your brand and reputation… neither of which you can afford.

Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook for Social Media updates, news, tips, and more!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Facebook Business Pages: 7 Signs That You Don’t “Get It”
I see it every day. Business owners and non-profit executives KNOW they need to use social media. So they do… and they start with the obvious first choice… Facebook. Good decision… but then it goes downhill from there.

I regularly review and analyze “Facebook Business Pages” and see the same common mistakes made over and over again. That old adage “If you’re going to do something, do it right… or don’t do it at all” is SO applicable to the use of social media. If you’re using social media and you’re not using it right, you can be doing more harm than good to your business, organization, brand, and reputation.

It’s prompted me to put together a list of seven telltale signs that you don’t understand the “What”, “Why”, and “How” when it comes to your “Facebook Business Page”. Don’t get me wrong… there are certainly more than just seven… however, these seven are the most obvious.

  1. Incorrect or Inappropriate “Name” or Title
    The “Name” or title of your Facebook business page is one of the most critical elements of a successful Facebook business page. Naming your page correctly involves understanding people’s search habits and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and how Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others analyze Facebook business pages in order to rank them in search results.
    So… now for some “Bad News/Worse News”. The bad news? An incorrect “Name” or title will do irreversible damage making it impossible for your Facebook business page to ever be found in the search engines. The worse news? After 100 people have chosen to “Like” your Facebook Business Page you can no longer change the “Name”.
  1. No “Username” (also referred to as a “Vanity URL) or the “Username” you’ve chosen is incorrect or inappropriate

    Facebook allows you to create a “Username” otherwise known as a “Vanity URL”. This means you have an opportunity to change your Facebook URL from a complex “” to a simpler “".
    It’s important to note that you can only create your “Vanity URL” after 25 people have chosen to “Like” your page. Facebook did this intentionally to prevent name squatting as was done with domain names in the early days. It’s even MORE IMPORTANT to note that once you choose your “Vanity URL” you CAN’T change it again… so getting it right the first time is critical!
    For the same reasons as mentioned in the first point, selecting the right “Vanity URL” is critical. Again… an understanding of people’s search habits and SEO is important in selecting the right “Vanity URL”.
  1. Not filling out all of the fields available in the “Info” section

    You’ll find a variety of additional fields under the “Basic Information” section of your Facebook business page. Depending on the type of page you’ve selected, along with the category, your “Basic Information” fields will vary. How you fill these out can help provide your followers and new visitors with critical pieces of information about you and your business. Again… an understanding of people’s search habits and SEO will help you select the proper verbiage to place in some of these fields.
  1. Posts and Interactions are few and far between

    The last thing anyone wants to see is a Facebook business page where the last post was five days ago… and the one before that was two weeks ago… and the next one on the list was a month before that. This can give followers and new visitors the impression that you’re inconstant and that you don’t “follow through”.
  1. Automating your posts 
    I get it. Efficiency in business is important… however, using social media automation tools such as “”, “SocialOomph”, “TweetDeck”, “Hootsuite” to post for you can send the wrong message to followers and visitors to your page. It’s cold, impersonal, and can say “I’m lazy” or “I like to take shortcuts”. Finding the right balance can be challenging. You need to be “personal” and engaging. Think about those oh-so-personal automated phone calls you get from political candidates when there’s an upcoming election. It’s the same thing.
  1. Posts are nothing more than advertising and promotion
    Let me as a question. Are you going to go home after a hard day at work… sit in your favorite chair… grab the remote control and look for the “All Commercials! All Day! 24×7 Commercials!” channel? I’m guessing not. The same goes with social media. Using Facebook to do nothing but advertise will help you lose followers quickly.
    Social Media is about “networking”… building relationships and trust. Social media is about being “engaging”. Share news stories… sports stories… human interest stories… interesting photos… funny things… sad things… etc… Get people to interact with you via your posts.
  1. Not using “Apps” and creating additional “Tabs”

    There are an abundance of “Apps” which allow you to do some pretty incredible things with your Facebook business page. The absence of these on your Facebook Business Page is a sure sign that you don’t “get it”. ”Apps” can be used for “Landing Pages”, to integrate your YouTube channel, Twitter account, Blogs, RSS feeds and more. There are apps for contests, sweepstakes, polls, and any number of things which can help in creating an engaging Facebook business page.

    Which ones are good? Which ones aren’t? A little guidance can go a long way in making sure you spin your wheels and waste your valuable time trying to determine that yourself.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article… there are plenty more signs. People are becoming more and more savvy every day. First impressions will make or break you, your business, or your organization… and as we all know… negative first impressions are extremely difficult, if not impossible, to overcome.

What do people see when they visit your Facebook business page? What level of professionalism, comfort, and trust do they come away with after visiting your page? It’ll mean the difference between success and failure where your social media efforts are concerned.

Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook for Social Media updates, news, tips, and more!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Unlikely Industry Embraces Technology – QR Codes for Customer Service

With more than 80 million smartphone subscribers currently in the U.S., more and more companies are recognizing this as significant where doing business is concerned.  One business in Houston, TX has embraced technology and has figured out a way to use it to improve customer service.

CRT Industrial Equipment, Inc. is a distributor for industrial sweepers and scrubbers.  Not only do they sell equipment for two major manufacturers... Advance and Factory Cat, they also rent, service, and repair equipment for all manufacturer makes and models.  So when CRTIE President Tim Wells approached me with an idea for using QR Codes, it didn't take me long to realize that it was a brilliant idea.  That's when the fun started.

The idea was simple.  CRT Industrial Equipment, Inc. wanted to be more proactive in making equipment information available to those who purchase, own and operate industrial sweepers and scrubbers.  Could QR Codes be the solution?

To understand the significance of this idea, one must understand a little about the industrial sweeper and scrubber industry.  Industrial sweepers and scrubbers range in price from $6000 to $100,000.  Most pieces of equipment come with a variety of options that can make each one unique to the customer who has purchased it.  They're often used by a variety of operators in environments that take them away from the main office or shop where the owners manuals, operator manuals, parts manuals, etc... are filed away, stored, and often forgotten about.  Like any machine or piece of equipment, they're not immune to "acting up", breaking down, and needing service.  They have a common list of what's referred to as "wear items" that need to be replaced such as brushes, brooms, squeegees, etc...  How could CRTIE, Inc make this information more readily available?  QR Codes were the perfect solution.

How does it work?  A "Mobile Website" was created for each individual piece of equipment.  These sites are personalized for each customer to include information specific to the machine(s) they've purchased.  A unique QR Code is generated for each piece of equipment and is placed in an area where the operator or anyone else can easily have access to it.  Scanning a code takes less than 10 seconds.

  • Machine starts acting up? Scan the code and review the "Maintenance Manual".
  • New Operator? Scan the code and review the "Operator's Manual".
  • Want to extend the life of the machine? Scan the code and review the "Pre and Post Operator's Checklist".
  • Machine breaks down on the 5th level of the parking structure? Scan the code and immediately request a service call.
  • Need to order replacement parts? Scan the code and immediately place your order.
  • Need to ask the service tech a question? Scan the code and immediately call CRTIE.
Try it using the photo below.  This is one of CRTIE's "Demo" machines.  The code in this photo works on most desktop monitors and laptop screens.  Or... if you're reading this on a mobile device... click the picture and it will take you there.

Not only is CRTIE, Inc. using these codes on new equipment, but they also use them on equipment they've been contracted to repair and service.

Future applications will include the ability for a CRTIE, Inc. service tech to scan the code and have immediate access to the history of the machine.  Because the tech may not be the same one who serviced the machine the last time, a simple scan of the code will immediately bring the new service tech up to speed on any service call info, parts replacements, and more.

Customer service is still one of the most critical aspects of successful business.   Using technology to help with... (note... I said "HELP WITH"... not "REPLACE")  customer communication and service is key as technology continues to evolve and change the scope of how business is done.  CRT Industrial Equipment, Inc. has found a way to use technology to speed up their internal process, provide a more efficient method of communication with their customer and easily deal with the day to day inconveniences associated with the industrial sweeper and scrubber industry.

There will always be a debate where the use of QR Codes are concerned.  Will they stay?  Will they go?  Are they a fad?  Should I be using them in MY business?  Smartphone use is only going to increase... soon to replace the traditional computer in daily use.

QR Codes are not going away any time soon.  To use them effectively you need to think outside the box.  Stop using them on websites.  Stop using them because you think they're "cool" and because everyone else is using them.  Stop thinking that they're just for "promotional" use.  I wrote an article earlier in the year on "QR Code Do's and Don'ts" which I'm sure you'll find interesting.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oh wait… I AM!  And she’s the most wonderful woman on the planet!  But obviously I’m not talking about THAT type of engagement.  I’m talking about engagement where social media is concerned.
Did you know that nearly 90% of the people who “Like” your Facebook page will NEVER return on their own?  Did you also know that your links and posts have a “share life”?
What’s a “share life” you ask?  Basically, I’ll call it the average amount of time your post or link has before it’s lost forever due to lack of interest.  For Twitter?  Approximately 2.5 hrs.  Facebook?  An estimated 3.5 hours.  YouTube?  A whopping 7.5 hours!  These are rough estimates based on a number of different studies and reports available out there.  The point is… you have VERY LITTLE time to get my attention and one false move can kill our relationship altogether!
Here’s one of those false moves you can do away with and I promise you it will go a long way in helping you retain your online relationships with your fans and followers.  Quit trying to “SELL! SELL! SELL!”Nothing is more annoying and nothing will help you lose your fans and followers faster than trying to push your product or service down their throats.  Would you turn on your television and go watch the “ALL COMMERCIALS! ALL DAY! 24 x7 x 365!” (or 366 in a “leap year”) channel if there was such a thing?   Don’t know anyone who would.  So why do you think that your fans and followers want the same from you?  Guess what… they don’t.
Here’s what they want.  They want to be “engaged”.  They want to feel like they’re part of something… like they matter… like they’re someone special.  They want to see the face behind the Facebook page, Twitter account, or Blog.  They want to feel comfortable, safe, and NOT like all you’re after is what’s in their wallet.
So how do you accomplish this?  How do you engage your fans and followers?
  1. Get to KNOW your fans and followers. Make the effort to look at EVERY SINGLE PROFILE for anyone who has clicked “Like” on your Facebook page, “Follow” on your Twitter account, or has commented on your Blog.  You’d be surprised at how much information you can actually see.  What are THEIR interests?  Who do THEY follow?  What do THEY write about?Consider what you do as you network in person.  Introductions are made.  Business cards are exchanged.  Conversations take place regarding what they do… what you do… what their interests are… what your interests are, etc… It should be no different online.
  2. Lose the “It’s All About Me” attitude and make it about THEM. Publicly thank your new fans and followers.  When appropriate, share their business information on your page.  Post links to their websites, profiles, or other public information they’ve made available.  EVEN… yes EVEN if they’re in the same line of work!   I do it all the time.There are a great many “social media professionals” out there.  I constantly share their articles, content, videos, etc…  And you know what?  They do the same with my articles, content, videos, etc…  I don’t expect it.  But they do it.  And when they do, I’m humbled… and flattered.  And by doing this we are increasing our “social circle”.
  3. LISTEN! And Listen Effectively! Have you ever read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?  If not… I suggest you do.  If you have, you’ll recall that Dr. Stephen R. Covey devotes all of Habit 5 to the fact that we have twice as many ears as we have mouths, and that we should consider this fact. Listen. Hear. Understand. That’s the big secret transition point inside the 7 Habits. The same applies to social media.What do THEY talk about?  What do THEY share?  Go ahead and post random questions.  Balance it between business related questions and non-business related questions.  Get them to respond and comment.  Allow them to vent.  Listen, understand, and learn from what they have to say.  Try asking “Good Experiences/Bad Experiences” questions where your particular business or industry is concerned.  Ask questions that have absolutely nothing to do with your business at all.
    Green Mill Restaurant and Bar, headquartered in St. Paul, MN with 28 locations in 4 states, is an excellent example of this.  And no… I don’t get anything for mentioning them.  It’s just that as I watch their approach to the use of social media, it’s an EXCELLENT example of how it’s supposed to be used!
    For example, as recent as today, Green Mill asked this question on their Facebook page: “Just finished watching Heroes on DVD. If you had a super power what would it be? Ready. Set. Go!”  Here’s another question they asked a few days ago: “Hey sports fans, you can only watch one sport for the rest of your life…football, baseball or hockey?”   These posts and questions show up in the news feeds of their followers.  Green Mill engages their followers.  They get their followers to comment and interact.  They have fun!
    I’ll tell you… it works.  Sure I know that Green Mill exists.  There’s an abundance of restaurants that exist where I live.  None of them stay first and foremost in my mind.  One day, while working, my fiance’ asked about lunch.  At the same moment I happened to notice my Facebook news feed update itself on one of my monitors.  Included in those posts was a random post from Green Mill.   I don’t even remember what it said… except that is was about an upcoming ball game or something.  All I know is that I’d instantly decided where we were going for lunch.  I posted a response about indicating such and I received an immediate response back reminding me to “Print out our coupons and we’ll make sure you have a great meal and an enjoyable time!”
    I remember thinking to myself, “They really have their act together!”  They “personalized” the experience with just a few words.  This is how you use social media effectively.
  4. Share interesting content that is unrelated to your business. Remember my first point about getting to know your fans and followers?  One of the reasons why this is important is so you can pass along content that will be of interest to THEM and will “engage” them.Do some of your followers enjoy NASCAR?  Hunting?  Fishing?  Sailboats?  Italian food?  Go find interesting articles, videos, or posts about those topics and share them on your wall or in a “tweet”.  So you don’t share the same interests?  Remember… this is about THEM… not you.
    By posting content that is of interest to your fans and followers, you’ll keep them engaged, bring them back to your Facebook page or your Twitter account and when the time comes and they’re ready to do business, who do you think they’re going to remember?
There’s a reason people have chosen to “Like” your Facebook page, “Follow” you on Twitter, or taken the time to comment on your Blog.  Don’t blow that opportunity.  Nurture the relationships you’re building online.  Listen.  Be sincere, honest, approachable, and available.  You’re trying to build trust in a cold, faceless, environment.  Be real.  The rest will eventually fall into place.

Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook for Social Media updates, news, tips, and more!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Going Social - It's ALL About Relationships... and Trust

Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter 8 from my new book entitled “Going Social – Business Success is at Your Fingertips”

It’s ALL About Relationships...  and Trust

By now, you probably have a good idea that social networking is NOT about “Sell! Sell! Sell!”  Unlike traditional advertising, social networking is more about building and maintaining relationships.  This is referred to as “engaging” your followers.  It’s about strengthening your reputation, improving your brand awareness, and building trust.  Whether it’s online or offline, building trust is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging aspects of business.
I think we’ll all agree that building trust offline is much easier than it is online.  Sure, it may take a few face to face meetings and some phone calls but eventually that trust is built, that person becomes a customer, client, or donor, and the relationship has been formed.
Building trust online can prove to be a bit more of a struggle, although it’s not impossible.  There are several things you can do to help in this area.
  1. Put a face to the name. It’s very common to want to show your logo, your products, your store, your show room, etc…  Avoid this if at all possible.  The first point of contact should always include a friendly face.  It will go a long way in helping build a rapport with your followers and future customers, clients, and donors.
  2. Make yourself accessible. Completely fill out all areas of your various profiles and include a variety of ways for people to contact you.  The quicker someone can access your contact information, the more inclined they’ll be to communicate with you.
  3. Respond… and respond QUICKLY! Not responding in a timely manner or not responding at all will quickly damage your online reputation and set you back in the “trust” department.  This is your golden moment.  This is your opportunity to engage and “personalize” the relationship.  Don’t blow it by failing to acknowledge or by responding with an obvious “sales pitch”.
  4. Be honest and sincere. Don’t be afraid to admit that you don’t immediately have an answer to a question or a response to a request.  Respond immediately anyway.  Acknowledge them and let them know you’ll get back to them with a response or an answer once you’ve obtained it.
  5. Be helpful. Now this may throw some of you for a loop and have many of you scratching your heads, but pay attention.  It works.  BE HELPFUL.  Do NOT be afraid to share the information of others.  This includes your “competition”.  Of course you should use a little common sense.  Obviously you’re not going to post links sending your visitors elsewhere to purchase something if you can provide it for them.  On the other hand, consider doing this if you can’t meet their needs.  Believe me… they’ll remember you and will not stop attempting to do business with you.
I will often post links in response to questions which take my followers to articles others in my profession have written on a particular topic.  And you know what?  My “competitors” do the same in return.  This helps build trust.  We’re human.  We’re not “know-it-alls”.  People get it and they’ll respect us for our honesty.
Remember you’re building a reputation and trust in a “faceless” environment.  Often the approach you take online needs to be a little different.

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Going Social - Refuse to be Overwhelmed

Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter 5 from my new book entitled “Going Social – Business Success is at Your Fingertips”

Refuse to be Overwhelmed

It’s easy to allow yourself to get carried away as you research, read articles, and converse with others on this topic.  You’re inundated with websites and buzzwords.  You’re advised to “Like” this, “Tweet” that, “Share” here, and “Connect” there.

Today, there are more than 200 websites that fall under the category of Social Media.  This does NOT include online dating or gaming websites.

So where do you start?  This is where it can get a little tricky and overwhelming.  That’s where you’re going to find yourself torn in a number of different directions depending on who you talk to.  Your decisions, direction, implementation, integration, and launch are all going to be dependent upon your business, your audience, your habits, and your overall goals.  There’s no “one size fits all” template for this.

There ARE some basic rules and fundamentals that are applicable to everybody.  From there, it’s going to be as unique as a fingerprint.

That’s why you’d be doing yourself a disservice by listening to the advice of a novice, or trying to copy what your competition is doing. Large corporations make the mistake of turning their social media efforts over to a “part-timer” or an intern.  WHY in the world would you want to put some of the most important marketing and customer service tools in the hands of someone who’s just learning it themselves or who won’t be there for the long haul?

Perform an Internet search for “social media for business articles”.  Read five or six different articles.  You’re going to get five or six different opinions on what you should do and the direction you should take.  Are you really qualified to determine which one of those opinions is going to be best for YOUR business?

That’s why I believe it’s so crucial to get a professional involved.  You need the help of someone with a successful history in the internet marketing industry.  You need guidance from someone who has an in-depth understanding of all the tools out there and can help you select the right ones for you and your business.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always been an advocate of “baby steps”.  If there’s ever been an environment where I feel it’s necessary, this would be it.  You can’t do it all at once.  It’s impossible.  You can’t spread yourself too thin.  You also have a business to tend to… remember?

Rather than become frustrated and allow yourself to be overwhelmed because you feel like you’re behind, simply make the decision to start.  It’s not too late.  Remember this… every day that you wait you’re losing ground.

Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook for Social Media updates, news, tips, and more!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Going Social – But MOM! Everybody’s Doing It!

Here’s a sneak peek at Chapter 4 from my new book entitled “Going Social – Business Success is at Your Fingertips”

But MOM! Everybody’s Doing It!

Remember when we were kids? We’d want something, or we’d want to go somewhere, be part of the “in crowd” or participate in whatever the “fad” was at the time. If mom or dad said “no” or “not right now”, a typical response from us would be “But EVERYBODY’S doing it!” And a typical reply from the parent would be “If everybody wanted to jump off the Empire State Building, would you?”

Obviously I’m not here to encourage jumping off the Empire State Building. And, generally speaking, the fact that everyone else was doing something wasn’t necessarily a good indicator that we, as kids, should be doing it too. However, where Social Networking is concerned, I AM here to encourage you to take seriously the fact that EVERYBODY’S DOING IT!

Don’t fool yourself. I can assure you, with a near 100% degree of certainty, that your competitor or someone with a business or organization similar to yours is out there using Social Networking tools for their business.

I’ve heard ALL of the excuses and I hear the new ones as they emerge.
  • I don’t use computers. Well, THAT excuse has its own set of issues. Yes folks, believe it or not, in some parts of the country this remains a fact. I’ve witnessed it first hand and have simply scratched my head. However, to those of you who have made this decision, you need to realize one important fact. Although YOU have decided, for whatever reason, NOT to use a computer or embrace technology, the majority of your audience, your potential customers and clients DO! They’re using smartphones, smartbooks, tablets, laptops, and other devices to search for your products and services. Young and old alike are embracing technology at a rapid pace. Don’t believe me? See the chart on page 47 if you need more convincing.

    So, what’s your solution? I strongly recommend finding a professional to handle your social networking for you. Not your high school child or your young niece or nephew who “knows” Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or the other tools being used today. You need to enlist the help of someone who understands business and marketing. You can choose to never use a computer during your entire lifetime. Your business doesn’t need to suffer because of your personal preference and decision.

  • MY business is different. Using these tools won’t benefit me. Most everyone likes to think that their business is so unique, so special, their audience so “niche” the simple fact that the business exists is enough. The people will see it and they will come. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that thinking is a recipe for disaster.

    Isn’t business all about people? Relationships? Networking? Of course it is! From consumers, clients, and donors to vendors, wholesalers, resellers, etc… No matter how you slice it, you’re working with people in some, way, shape, or form. You know what? Social Networking is all about people, relationships, and networking. Whether you choose to use them as sales and promotional tools, customer service tools, or employee recruitment and retention tools, your business is not so unique that it can’t benefit from using these tools in some way.

  • I don’t know HOW to use them. I don’t have time to learn. I call this the “I don’t know it, I don’t need it” attitude and it can, quite possibly, be one of the most detrimental to your business. Nowhere is it written that you’re supposed to know everything.

    Don’t you consult with an accountant to handle some of the monetary issues surrounding your business? Don’t you utilize the services of an attorney regarding some of the legal issues where your business is concerned? This is no different.One of the worst mistakes business owners made in the old days was thinking THEY had to develop, design, and launch their own websites. They would take a great deal of time out of their day to day schedules to “play with” one of the most important marketing tools of the day! They didn’t understand nor did they comprehend some of the key elements associated with the process and their efforts were futile. The result? A great deal of wasted time and money.

    I can change the oil in my truck but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. I can sell my own home but that doesn’t make me a REALTOR®. Find a professional. As I mentioned earlier, this really is NOT an environment to “dabble in” or experiment with. Shouldn’t your business or organization, your reputation and your brand be more important to you than that?

  • It’s just for youngsters and kids. Look closely at the chart below. More specifically, look at the lower section in all green. Note the increase in use by the older generation. Enough said.
    Helping Chambers & Small Businesses Understand and Use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, YouTube and other Social Networking Tools.
There are certainly plenty more excuses and justifications to be heard out there. As long as you keep coming up with them and using them, the more damage you’ll be doing to your business or organization. The more you resist, the further behind you fall. In this type of environment, days and weeks of procrastination can result in months and years of playing “catch-up”.

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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Social Media and Social Networking: What's the Difference?

Over the years in my day to day interactions, I often find myself explaining the difference between "Social Media" and "Social Networking".  The phrases are haphazardly tossed around and can be a dead giveaway to the level of understanding one might have where all this is concerned.
For those who may not know... I'm a handgun enthusiast.  I wouldn't consider myself a handgun expert, however, I cringe while in the company of other self-proclaimed "handgun experts" who, while discussing firearms, make comments such as: "I emptied my clip into that target", or "I have to go reload my clip".  Um... hmm... not impressed.  Even I know the proper term is "magazine".  May not seem like a big deal... but it quickly helps define the level of "expertise".  The same goes for this topic.
And no... I'm not the first person to write about this... and I won't be the last.   It's important to note that I'm addressing the two terms as they are most often used in business and by small business owners today.  One can, and rightfully so, suggest that there's a distinction between "Social Networking" and "Business Networking",  or recognize that "Social Networking" is a practice both online AND offline, however, as the "101 Guy", and a huge advocate of "baby steps" (the whole crawl before you walk thing) I find that defining these terms AS THEY ARE COMMONLY BEING USED IN BUSINESS TODAY is an important first step as I work with Chamber of Commerce organizations and small businesses to help them move forward. 
The easiest way to understand the difference is to take a quick look at the definitions of the words involved. (Anyone wanting to do this can go to to find the same thing)
  • Social: pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations: a social club, tending to form cooperative and interdependent relationships.
  • Media: the means of communication, as radio and television, newspapers, and magazines, that reach or influence people widely.
  • Networking: a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest.
So... the "101" definitions for "Social Media" and "Social Networking" in my own words would be:
  • Social Media: The TOOLS, or "means of communication" allowing one to broadcast, reach and influence people widely.  These tools would include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs, YouTube, Foursquare, etc... as these tools "reach or influence people widely".
    Now... I'll probably catch some flack for including "LinkedIn" in the list above, however, for puposes of distinction between "social media" and "social networking"... as "LinkedIn" DOES allow one to network... I consider it to be a "tool".
  • Social Networking: The USE of "social media tools" to interact and communicate directly with people you're already connected with or wish to be connected with.
You know... as a society we tend to adapt and adjust with the times.  How many words and phrases meant one thing 20 years ago... and have now been accepted across the board to mean something completely different today?
To me, "social media" and "social networking" fall in that category.  They've become universally accepted as business terms.  Are there alternatives?  Some out there in the business (myself included) are using the term "Business Social Media" to describe the services they provide... which is really more appropriate.  However, at this stage, I think it's the tomato... tomato (yeah... that last one is "tom-ahh-to") thing.  I think too many businesses and organizations already have "social media" and "social networking" ingrained in their minds, see those as something they need embrace for their business, and that's the way it will remain as we move forward.

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REALTORS®! QR Codes: STOP using them WRONG already!

You know... there are times when I wonder why I feel the urge to write some of the articles I choose to write.  I mean... really? Must I?  But then... it's like good comedy.  Good comedians don't have to make stuff up.  They just look at what's going on around them and simply elaborate on the comical and/or ridiculousness of the situation in a way that makes us say... "Wow... now THAT'S funny!" I write the articles I write because I look around and say "Really? I DIDN'T just see a small business owner do THAT, did I?!!?" 
Fair warning... I have a tendency to be cynical and sarcastic at times.   You may see some of that here.
Today, I choose to pick on REALTORS®... and some of the ways I see them using QR Codes.  I recently wrote an article entitled "QR Codes: A Beginner's Guide".  Great info for the "newbie".
Over the years I've had (and still do have) the privilege of working with a great many real estate brokers and agents across the country... dating back to 1994 when I developed my very first website for a RE/MAX real estate team in Denver.  RE/MAX wasn't even online yet. REALTORS® have always tried to be on the cutting edge where technology is concerned.  That's all well and good... if it's being used effectively.
This brings me to my question.  WHY am I seeing Real Estate Brokers and Agents putting QR Codes on real estate websites and online listings??  And WHY do I see them boasting about this and wasting their time advertising and promoting it?  Because there's a lack of understanding as to what they are, what they do, and how they should effectively be used.
Here's the thing... if I happen to be on my computer and I'm visiting your website... give me a link.  I don't want to have to dig out my phone... grab the app... take a picture... and see what you want me to see... which will ultimately take me to information ONLINE!  Just let me "CLICK" and see it already.  On the other hand... if I AM on my phone and I'm visiting your website... I can't use your QR Code anyway!  I suppose I could grab my other phone and try to take a picture of it... but I won't.  Adding a QR Code to your real estate website and online listings is a waste of your time, will produce little if any results, and it conveys the fact that you just don't "get" technology.
So... how DO you use them correctly and effectively?  Anywhere and everywhere possible... OFFLINE!
  • Business Cards: Create a QR Code containing your website URL... or better yet... your MOBILE website URL (and if you don't have a mobile website... we really DO need to talk).  You're handing out business cards all day long.  People who DO use QR Code readers (and there's more out there than you think) will recognize this and you'll stand a much better chance of staying connected with them.  Include a short line of text such as: "Scan this to view and search property listings".

    Why didn't I suggest making your QR Code go to some sweet online sales video that you have somewhere online?  Two reasons:
    1) You'll lose people.  Too many video formats... and not all phones have the capabilities to view all videos.  Great for those who CAN see it... unimpressive for those who can't.
    2) People want to interact.  Take them to your mobile website.  Once they have the ability to search and view listings as a result of your business card... there's a strong possibility they're yours for life... or at least until they've purchased a home from you.
    Ok... I know... I just got done saying that QR Codes are pointless on websites.  You have to know the rules before you know which ones you can bend.  For example sake, I've included one here (which appears on the back of my own business cards).  Go ahead... try it.  If you don't already have a QR Code Reader app on your phone, go to your App Store and download one... (they're available for free and should take less than a minute to find and install).  Then use it here.  Don't worry... you'll start using it other places as well.  If you don't want to do that now... click here.  It will take you to the mobile website for Susan Paris - Broker & Associates, CRS, GRI - Twiane Harte, CA.

Scan this to view my Mobile Website!Search and View Property Listings!

  • Listing Flyers: See... home buyers are out there driving around looking for homes.  They see one of yours and grab the flyer from the box or tube.  They recognize the QR Code and bada bing... bada boom... you've just taken them to that online listing with more details and more photos... or perhaps, even a virtual tour... (use caution with the virtual tour thing for the same reason I mentioned above regarding your sweet online sales video).  At any rate... now they're parked outside the home... looking at more information about that home right on their phone... with the ability to contact you instantly if they have any questions.  Here's a sample listing.  Go ahead... try it.  Or... if you don't want to... you can view the listing here.

Scan this to see more details and photos for this listing!
  • Listing Ads in Newspapers and Publications: People grab those from grocery stores, Chamber of Commerce offices, and anywhere else they're available.  They're thumbing through... they see a listing with a QR Code... and I can almost, with 99.9% certainty, guarantee you that users of QR Code readers will take the few seconds to see what more that home has to offer!
There are many other ways that QR Codes can be effectively be used by real estate brokers and agents.  Those mentioned above are just the most obvious methods.  I've seen them used on yard signs, sales literature and other offline marketing material.
So... I gave you a few ways to use them effectively.  Here are just a few things to stay away from.  I say this... because I've seen it.
  • DON'T send them directly to your Facebook page.  Believe it or not... not everyone uses Facebook.
  • DON'T send them directly to your Twitter account.  Same reason as above.  Even less use Twitter.
  • DON'T send them directly to your Linkedin profile or your blog.
  • DON'T send them directly to your YouTube channel.  The "video" thing?  Remember?
  • DON'T put a QR Code with a link to a listing on something that is permanent and will be around longer than you... such as a hat, coffee mug, shirt, note pad, etc... (Remember... I say this because I've seen it).  And yes... I'll need to watch this article over time because she'll sell that property one day and the listing link in that above sample QR Code will expire.  I'll toss up another when that day comes.
  • DON'T send them to a website that is NOT mobile friendly.
  • DON'T put them on yard signs if those listings are in an area that doesn't have cell service.  QR Code Readers need service to be able to process.  They don't "save the code" for future reference.  DO put them on those listing flyers because people will take those and can always scan them once they get back into cell phone range.
Remember... by using QR Codes EFFECTIVELY, you're not only connecting yourself with potential buyers... but you now have another set of reasons to entice sellers into picking YOU to sell their home. 
If you're going to take the time to use them... it's best to make sure you're using them as effectively as possible.  I just had the need to say that again.  If you want to know more... or wish to find out where to generate your own QR Codes, my original article will help.  QR Codes: A Beginner's Guide

Make sure to "Like" us on Facebook for Social Media updates, news, tips, and more!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Your Facebook "Friend Requests": Bad for Business... Annoying to Me!

Alright... let's get the "Annoying to Me!" part out of the way first.  I am sent numerous Facebook "Friend Requests" and Facebook "Friend Suggestions" every week.  That's NOT annoying to me.  What IS annoying to me is when I get these requests from businesses and organizations.   A business or an organization shouldn't be wasting time sending Facebook "Friend Requests" to try and get people on board.  This is a clear sign that, as a business owner or head of an organization, you've been misinformed, misguided, or simply haven't done your homework when it comes to planning your business marketing strategy.   This is where the "Bad for Business..." part starts.  You're shooting from the hip... and you don't even know your gun is empty. 
I did a quick Facebook search using a variety of terms including "restaurant", "restaraunt" (yes...  it's intentional... I did a spell check...  there are many Facebook pages with the name of their own business spelled incorrectly), "dining", "cafe", "eatery", "grill", etc...  and I stopped counting after I found more than 300 establishments with Facebook "Personal Pages" rather than Facebook "Business Pages".
Your next question is, "Why does this matter?  I'm on Facebook!  Isn't that what really counts?"  Allow me to answer that.  NO!  If your business matters to you... and you're going to take the time to put your business on Facebook... then THIS should matter to you.   The REAL question is: Can people "Like" your page?  Or do they have to click the "Add as Friend" button and wait for you to accept them?  The difference is night and day... and can mean the difference between success and failure for your Facebook page... and your business.
First of all, Facebook personal pages or "Profiles" are intended for people... not businesses.  Technically it's against the rules where Facebook's privacy policy is concerned although they don't appear to be cracking down on this at the moment.
Secondly, you should WANT people to "Like" your business page without you having to spend your valuable time administrating that aspect of your Facebook page.  Do you really want to spend an hour of your time filtering through "Friend Requests", sifting through personal messages and notifications, removing  "Bejeweled Blitz" score posts and other unnecessary garbage on your wall?  Wouldn't you rather spend 30 minutes of your time posting valuable information to your audience about special deals, what's coming down the pike, and engaging your audience in a meaningful way?
More importantly, here are a few key reasons why your business or organization needs a "Facebook BUSINESS Page":
  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Facebook Business Pages are indexed by search engines.  Personal pages... not so much.   In this day and age, with the unfathomable amount of pages and websites on the Internet, you need to be doing everything possible to improve your online visibility.  A well constructed and engaging "Facebook Business Page" will go a long way in helping make up for what your website is not currently doing for you.
  2. "Friends" verses "Likes"... or "Fans": There is NO limit on the number of fans... or people who can "Like" your Facebook business page. However, there's a cap on the number of "Friends" you can have on a profile page.  That cap is 5,000. Do you really want to set limitations like that?
  3. One "Profile"... many "Business Pages": You can have multiple business pages... however, you can have only one profile page.  Why is this important?  Think outside the box for a moment.  What if you're a Real Estate Agent by day... and you're a Karaoke Deejay by night.  Nope... didn't make that example up!   Or perhaps you own a small Bed & Breakfast, but you also own a consignment shop in town.  Didn't make that one up either.  Point is... you can manage multiple, yet individual, Facebook Business pages... all within one Facebook account.
  4. Statistics and Monitoring Activity: Everyone loves statistics... hits... visits... etc.  Facebook Business Pages have such a thing.  It's called "Insights".  These powerful statistics display in a graph format and include "Page Overview", "User", and "Interactions".  How many people viewed your posts?  How many people "Liked" your posts, photos, or videos?  How many people have "Liked" or  "Commented" on those?  How many people "Liked" your page on a certain day?  And much more!  This information is invaluable when it comes to making your Facebook Business page more useful, engaging, and successful!  There's no such information available on a profile page.
  5. "Landing Pages" and additional "Tabs": Technology exists now for you to turn a Facebook business page into a mini website.  For example, you could integrate an interactive business directory or events calendar right into your Facebook business page.  You could introduce an additional tab which might have printable coupons and special "Facebook Only" promotions.   This is impossible with a personal page.
I've really only touched on a few of the key reasons as to why it's important to be using Facebook the right way.  There are more.  The reality is... you're spending time on your Facebook presence.  This is good.  There are still many businesses out there who haven't even started.  But are you getting everything you possibly can out of it?  If it's a personal profile page, you're not even close.
I don't want to visit your page to find out who your "friends" would date or dump, if they're kissing you, if they think you're hot, done something stupid, or listen to country.  I don't care how sexy your friends think you are of if they need corn, crops, chickens, or any other items for "Frontierville" or "Farmville".  (See below... these are excerpts from a page for a "Bar and Grill" with more than 3000 "friends"!  I forced myself to scroll through over 150 of these types of posts just to see if they even had any specials.  Found one.  Nobody will do that in real life!)
So the truth is, I'd MUCH rather "Like" your Facebook Business Page than become one of your "Friends"... because I hate to see you limit yourself while knowing that the same efforts you're putting forth now could be so much more fruitful and lead to so much more success for your business or organization.

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