Tuesday, May 31, 2011

REALTORS®: Don't Let Social Media Put Your License in Jeopardy

There's no question that the real estate industry is among the largest benefactors of this thing known as the Internet.  I started developing websites back in early 1994.  My very first client was a RE/MAX real estate team in Wheat Ridge, Colorado... a suburb of Denver.  RE/MAX.com wouldn't be online for at least another year.  REALTOR.com and the up-and-comer Cyberhomes.com were still more than a year away.

It didn't take long before I found myself working with REALTORS® in other parts of the country.  It seemed I'd found my niche as word quickly spread throughout the real estate community that I was the one to talk to if you wanted to get your real estate business online.  I humbly and graciously accepted that and dug my heels in... making sure I understood what I needed to know in the world of online real estate marketing.

I've been noticing something over the years as Real Estate Brokers and Agents have embraced social networking tools to help promote themselves... and more importantly, their listings... and although laws vary from state to state... some basics still apply all across the U.S.  I'm talking about promoting your listings through Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc... and then forgetting about them.

I know that most REALTORS® are probably aware of this, however, I've seen enough examples to realize that not all are paying attention.  It's all well and good to post a listing on Facebook, include it in your Blog, or Tweet about a great property deal.  But it's NOT good to forget about it after it's been sold... and leave it out there for the world to find.

Because search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Ask scan pages, feeds, and information made available through social networking tools, those listings and posts can also find a home in search engines.

I've "Liked" over 200 real estate related pages on Facebook... and have a number of Facebook "Friends" who are in the real estate business.  I've found and read through real estate blogs.  As I look through these various pages and posts, I've seen many examples of the following:
  1. Listings which have been sold but are still visible on Blog pages and Facebook walls.
  2. Listings which have expired and sellers have given them to other REALTORS®, however they still show up on Blog pages and Facebook walls.
  3. The price of a listing has changed yet the original post or reference to the listing doesn't reflect that change.
For Facebook users... there's a better alternative to posting your listings in your "Status" and uploading a photo.  However, if you DO decide to promote listings in that manner... simply remember to delete the post after it's sold... or after it's no longer your listing.  DON'T forget about it!

The BETTER alternative to posting a listing in your "Status" is to present that listing in a Facebook "Note".  There are several reasons for this:
  1. Facebook "Notes" don't have any character limit constraints so you can actually create a listing as you would for any other online listing service.
  2. You can still include a photo.
  3. Facebook "Notes" still post to your wall and are visible in "News Feeds".
  4. You can edit your Facebook "Note" at any time.  This allows you to go back in and modify price, features, etc.  You can even keep the listing online after it's been sold.  Simply edit the note.  Include "SOLD" and even replace the photo with a similar one but add "SOLD" across the photo.
Facebook "Notes" are available on both "Personal Pages" and Facebook "Business Pages".
Where to find "Notes" on Facebook Personal Pages

Where to find "Notes" on Facebook Business Pages

Some of you may not see "Notes" in the menu items on the left side of your Facebook Business Page.  You'll need to activate "Notes".  This is done in four simple steps:
  1. Navigate to your Facebook Business Page and click "Edit Page" on the top right hand side of your business page.
  2. Click on "Apps" located in the menu on the left side of the page.
  3. Locate "Notes" from the list of Apps displayed on this page and click on "Edit Settings"
  4. When the pop-up window appears... Click on "Add" to add this "Tab" to your menu.
Now go back to your Facebook Business Page and you'll see "Notes" in the menu on the left side of your page.  You're good to go!

It's critical that you incorporate state real estate law, the NAR Code of Ethics, as well as the rules of your MLS and IDX services into your social media strategy.  With all of the things that you as a Broker and/or Agent are doing out there to market your real estate business and your listings... it's easy to get carried away, lose touch with, or forget completely the things you've done online.

I'd be happy to come and speak or provide a workshop for you and your agents on how to effectively use social networking tools in the world of real estate.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me:

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

QR Codes: A Beginner's Guide

I want to take a moment to weigh in on "QR Codes".  QR Codes or "Quick Response" codes aren't new.  They actually originated in Japan back in 1994.  Denso Wave, a subsidiary of Toyota, began using them to track automotive parts in vehicle manufacturing.  Over the past several years they've gained popularity as businesses and organizations have discovered unique ways to use them in their marketing, advertising, and promotional efforts.

So... what IS a "QR Code"?  It's that strange looking little symbol made up of black and white squares that you're beginning to see more frequently in magazines and newspapers, on brochures, business cards, posters, billboards, websites, and even television advertisements.  This two dimensional barcode image links offline content with online content via your Smartphone.  It can contain a message, a URL, a phone number, and even email and text messages.  By using the camera on your Smartphone, along with the appropriate software app, you can "scan" (snap a photo of) the QR Code and instantaneously you'll have access to the information embedded in that code.

I've created one.  Go ahead... try it.  It contains all of the elements associated with, what I consider to be, a correct use of QR Codes for small businesses and organizations.
You'll notice... it's a simple "mobile friendly" page containing a "Special Offer" message, social networking links allowing users to connect with me online if they choose, a way for me to track usage and ROI, and finally a phone number so users can, in a single click, contact me directly.  All of the content is viewable within the screen parameters... without scrolling, searching, etc...  I'll expound on additional uses in future articles.  For now, this is intended to be a starting point for beginners... and a guide for those who have tried to use QR Codes but still aren't recognizing any benefits.

With that said, I've compiled a list of some basic "Do's & Don'ts".

If you intend to use QR Codes... DO:
  1. Keep size and accessibility in mind.  I recommend no smaller than 1.0" by 1.0" for print ads.  Obviously larger is better.  For displays, signs, billboards, etc... consider how close you're going to allow me to get.  Is it on a billboard or a sign 45 feet above my head?  Is it on a display ad or poster 20 feet behind the counter?  QR Readers can be "picky".  Lighting, glare, flash, printed material, (ie: newsprint vs. glossy pages), Smartphone camera settings and quality, all play a factor in a user's ability to scan and read the code.
  2. Make sure your QR Code isn't too dense.  The smaller the dimensions and the more dense the code, the harder it will be for QR Readers to translate.
  3. Keep the information associated with the QR Code simple and concise!  A simple html page with mobile use in mind like the example above is a good start.  It ensures use on most, if not all mobile platforms.
  4. Make the experience worthwhile!  Users are expecting something for their effort.  This is your opportunity to obtain, engage, and keep anyone who takes the time to scan your code.
  5. Use a QR Code on every piece of offline marketing material that you can.  Your newspaper ad audience is different than your magazine ad audience which is different than the audience receiving your newsletter... your mailings... your business cards, etc...  Using my example above, you might consider a unique QR Code for each specific piece of advertising and marketing material.  This will go a long way in helping you recognize where your communication and traffic is coming from.
  6. Include a brief message near your code... "Scan this for..." and include whatever the fruit from that effort will be.  10% off your next meal.  Buy one, get one free.  $20 off event ticket price. You see the point.
  7. Test... test... and test again.  This can be somewhat challenging for some, however, I suggest you try it using a variety of phones and a variety of QR Readers.  Sure... it might work just fine on YOUR Smartphone... with the app YOU'VE chosen... but it would be good to have a second... and even a third opinion.  You'll probably find that you'll want to tweak your content a bit before you launch.
If you intend to use QR Codes... DON'T:
  1. DON'T send me straight to your website home page, Facebook Page, Twitter or LinkedIn account.  I'll scan your code once... and never scan another of your codes again.  Not everyone uses Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn… and for those who DO, not all of them use these on their phones or mobile devices.   I know that may sound harsh... but I'm expecting something... as is anyone else who recognizes QR Codes and uses them.  Wow me... make me want to interact with you... do business with you... or attend your event.
  2. DON'T send me directly to a video or mp3 file.  Not all smartphones can play all formats.  You're limiting your audience.
  3. DON'T use them just because you think everyone else is therefore you need to as well.  Put some thought and some simple creativity into its purpose and make it worthwhile for YOUR business and YOUR audience.
  4. DON'T bury your QR Code in a "busy" environment.  Keep a clean border around it and stay away from dark backgrounds.
  5. DON'T bother putting a QR Code on something posted in the window of your business if you're in an area with no mobile coverage.  If I come by and you're closed... it's not going to do me any good.  I've seen situations where people have left brochures or business cards outside in a display.  At least I can grab one and use it when I get back into mobile range.
There's definitely an endless variety of ways QR Codes can effectively be used... linking to map locations, RSS feeds, as part of a contest or an engaging promotional "scavenger hunt", on hats, shirts, etc... However, as a strong advocate of "baby steps"... this is a good start for small businesses and organizations who want to "dip their toe in the water", get a feel for it, and begin figuring out how best to strategically use this technology to their benefit.

QR Codes can be generated for free and take less than a minute to obtain.  The one above was created at Kaywa.com.  Another simple resource is quirify!  An additional resource offering some advanced options is delivr.com

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me:

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

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Story... A Path to Your Success

I want to start by thanking Frank J. Kenny for his brief article entitled "Use Story to Break Through the Social Media Marketing Clutter". It's a simple article that has inspired me to clarify and share with you what my business goal in life truly is.

I don't write articles, post comments, interact and share tweets to impress those businesses and organizations who are already working with someone and clearly have their act together. Sure, I may occasionally see flaws or shortcomings where some of their strategies are concerned.  But they're working with someone... and they'll figure it out... and if they have questions or want my input... they'll ask.

No... I write articles, post comments, interact and share tweets to appeal to those small businesses and organizations who have taken it upon themselves to try and figure all this out.  They hear the buzz words.  They know they should be using these tools... Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, LinkedIn, foursquare, YouTube. They don't know which ones are best for their business... or how everything should be linked together in a manner that is most effective for them.  They've been burned by friends and family members who, with good intentions, have "helped" because they can put a "Facebook Business Page" online and open a Twitter account... connect the two... and then they leave that person with the ill-fated "it's there... now they will come" line of thinking.  Quickly frustration sets in... and then those business owners start thinking "I'm too small.  This doesn't work for me.  It's only for the large companies".  This couldn't be further from the truth!

It pains me to receive a "Friend Request" via Facebook from a business owner who has set up a new page and wants me to help promote his/her business.  Of course I've written an article about this problem. Sure... it was originally aimed at Chambers... but it's absolutely applicable to all businesses!  I'm Sorry... I Can NOT be your "Friend" on your "Chamber of Commerce" Facebook Page.

It saddens me to see days, weeks and months pass while business owners struggle to "fit in" "Social Networking".  Experimenting with this... testing the waters with that.  As each of those days, weeks, and months pass, I know they're becoming more frustrated, getting further behind, and losing out on opportunities, customers, and clients.

Everything that I've done in life has led me to this point.  No... that's certainly not a profound statement.  Everyone can say that.  You'd be surprised at the number of people who don't see their life that way.  However, I do... which is why I know that my story... my path... is your path to success.

My path started with six years in "Corporate America" in my early 20's working for a sister company of IBM.  This taught me structure, communication, problem solving, and how to deal with people at various levels of corporate management.  This was followed by a few years serving as VP for a small business with nearly 60 offices scattered throughout the state of Florida.  I was responsible for and ran one of the offices.  This taught me leadership, discipline, introduced me to "accountability", trained me in marketing, and helped me learn how to deal with people OUTSIDE of "Corporate America".  By then, the Internet was starting to get noticed by the general public and in the early '90's, I like to say "I saw the wave and swam out to it".

I started teaching myself all things Internet.  The combination of leadership, structure, discipline, problem solving, marketing, and dealing with people at a variety of levels allowed me to "have what it takes" to start a business.  In 1993 I developed my first website for my first real paying client.  It happened to be a RE/MAX real estate team outside Denver.  Remax.com wasn't even born yet.  We'd never met face to face... and never would.  The Internet was revolutionizing how business was going to be done.  There were approximately 2000 to 3000 actual websites in existence.  No Ebay, Amazon, Realtor.com, Google. There were no schools for this back then.  There were no real "online tutorials".  It was like the wild west.  A free-for-all.   This stuff was being made up along the way.  During the next 18 years I immersed myself in and taught myself all things Internet while learning a great deal about small businesses... their wants... their needs.

I spent seven of those years working directly with a local county Chamber of Commerce.  I happily dedicated hundreds of hours of my time.  I, without regret, provided them with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of my services and my software.  I knew what they needed online.  I knew what their members wanted and expected.  They didn't have the monitory resources to reach the point where they needed to be... and that just didn't seem fair.  So I helped by redesigning their website.  I understood the ever changing "Search Engine Game".  They soon went from averaging five to six visitors a day to their website to well over 500 visitors per day.  They had top rankings, most often number one spots, in Google, Yahoo, Ask, and others when performing any variety of searches for information regarding that region.

Then the economy tanked.  Small businesses crashed and burned.  I lost nearly 50% of my client base as they decided to "cut costs" and try to ride the storm out.  At the same time, the Chamber found itself without a CEO.  The county I lived in had an 18.9% unemployment rate.  I tossed my hat in the ring along with countless others who were unemployed and looking for work.  The Board went through the normal ritual of screenings and interviews. and ultimately offered me the job.  I accepted... and, for the next two years, led that Chamber through what's now considered by many as the worst economic time since the "Great Depression".

During that time I introduced the Chamber to "Social Networking" and integrated it into our plan to help promote area businesses and organizations.  It was a new way to help focus on "member retention" and it provided us with a new set of tools to help obtain new members.

What I learned during those years while working with the Chamber and its members is so much more than I have the time to go into here.  I'll do that another time.  However, the experience DID help me decide what my main business goal is:  "To educate Chambers and small businesses in the area of Social Networking by familiarizing them with the tools and helping them select, integrate, and use a combination of these tools that is best for the success of their particular business or organization."

One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make is thinking that "just because I can set these up... it MUST mean I know how to use them!"  I've said it before... sure, I might be able to sell my own house but that doesn't make me a REALTOR®.  I can change the oil in my Yukon... but that doesn't make me a mechanic.  If you have enough time on your hands that you can try to figure all this out on your own... then you're not doing enough business to stay afloat.

Another big mistake is trying to copy someone else's strategy.  Just because something seems to be working for someone you know doesn't mean it's going to work for you!  In fact... odds are it won't!

My story has led me to this point... and I'm convinced that your business or organization will benefit from it.

Feel free to contact me:

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

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Date, Outback Steakhouse, and a Word to the Wise for Small Businesses

I'm going to tell you a story about last night. It involves my date... Social Networking... and Outback Steakhouse Corporate. ATTENTION SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS! Take note... because if you're not doing things like this, you're missing the whole point of Social Networking!

Last night I took my fiancée out to dinner. We chose "Outback Steakhouse" as it had been way too long since I'd enjoyed a "Bloomin' Onion".

So... as usual... I did my "Check-in" via "foursquare". Please allow me to take a moment to thank my fiancée for the patience she regularly shows as I whip out my BlackBerry and "check-in" to just about every place we go!

Quick side note regarding connecting social networking accounts: I'm a firm believer that you can "over-connect". I see it all the time. I prefer to use Twitter as my primary communication source. With that said, I've connected my Twitter account directly to my Facebook business page... and my "foursquare" account is connected only to Twitter. Yes... you can connect "foursquare" to both Facebook and Twitter, but there's no reason for me to do that. Once I "check-in" via foursquare, it'll post to Twitter and Twitter will do the rest of the work for me. In no way am I suggesting this is the correct method for everyone. You need to evaluate how you're doing business and connect your tools accordingly.

Now... back to the story.

I performed my "check-in" via "foursquare"... included "@Outback" in my "Shout" and resumed our date. Below is how my "check-in" posted to Twitter.

To my surprise... a few minutes later I received this Twitter response from "@Outback":

So naturally, I responded:

But it wasn't over yet. "@Outback" replied back:

Dinner resumed and I must say that our server was one of the best we've had in a long time. Friendly, fun, laughing it up with us... really appeared as though she loved her job! During the course of conversation with our server I learned she had her own Twitter account. After dinner, I replied one more time to "@Outback" taking the opportunity to respond to their last Tweet to me... and... knowing that servers seldom get the recognition they sometimes deserve... I threw in a good word for ours:

All in all... over the course of the evening... it took less than five minutes for this entire exchange to take place. Less than five minutes of... here it comes... the magic words... "Customer Service"! And you know what? I'm going back soon. I'll spend more money there. Why? Because the person behind their Twitter account made me feel like somebody. I wasn't just another number adding to their bottom line. And, I'll admit... I'm greedy. I want to see what they're going to give me once I become "Mayor".

Also... thanks to "@Outback" for becoming one of my "Followers" on Twitter after this exchange.  They have more than 7000 followers at the moment... and less than 1000 that they actually follow.  I consider it an honor that they've chosen to follow me.

You know... it frustrates and saddens me when I hear small business owners say "Oh... I'm too small. That only works for the big companies. It won't work with me."

Here's what I say to that. Today's Social Networking tools have helped level the playing field in a way that no other form of marketing and advertising has EVER been able to do! It's about communication with your customers and clients. It's about showing them appreciation. It's about giving them a reason to come back for more.

Funny thing is... your customers and clients are using these tools all the time... for their own personal reasons. Your audience is out there. If you're not using these tools... or if you are... and they don't seem to be working for you... it's time to start looking for help. The longer you wait the further behind you're going to get.

Feel free to contact me:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/businesssocialmedia
Twitter: http://twitter.com/WilliamWellsIII
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/williamhwellsiii
foursquare: https://foursquare.com/williamwellsiii
Blog: http://williamwellsiii.blogspot.com/
Web: http://www.wellswebgroup.com/socialmedia/

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

Friday, May 13, 2011

Social Media Expert... IS there such a thing?

I'm taking a moment to share my opinion on something.  An interesting discussion recently took place among fellow members of a LinkedIn Group that I'm a part of.  The question: "How legitimate is a Social Media Certificate?  Where will this lead?"  A variety of opinions were shared.  I read every single comment and every single person, whether "for" or "against", made valid points supporting their opinion.

Below is the opinion I shared on the topic... (*marks additions included specifically for this article*).

There's a distinct line between "arrogance" and "self confidence".  People often confuse the two. There's an element of "humility" associated with the latter.  I take the same approach when it comes to this field.  I'm absolutely NOT a "know-it-all"... however, I DO consider myself an "expert".

* Look up the definition of the word "expert"... although worded in a variety of ways depending on the source, they all include phrases like "possessing special skills in a particular area"... "extensive knowledge in a particular field"... one source defines it as "possessing special skill or knowledge; trained by practice"... while the Latin origin includes "a person wise through experience". *

Part of being an "expert" includes the ability to know how to get answers, advice, and opinions.  That's what environments like this are for.

When a client chooses to let me work with them, or when I'm speaking to a group, it's because they feel they know less about the topic than I do... and they're wanting guidance and direction.  I constantly tell them this is evolving... and will continue to evolve.

Their expectation?  That I stay on top of what's happening in this environment.  Steer them in a direction that is best for them... which ALSO involves understanding their business... their business model... and their audience.

Social networking tools FUNCTION the same way for all of us.  We ALL have the same access to the same capabilities these tools offer.  But not every business will need to use all the capabilities... nor will every business use these tools in the same manner.  Our "expertise" needs to include the ability to know how to incorporate these tools into their business model.  And it's not going to be the same for everyone.

None of us "knows it all" because tomorrow we'll be thrown a curve... see another change... something new will be introduced.  We'll discuss it... figure it out... and apply it in a manner that works best for us... and for our clients.

That's how I see our role as "experts".  We've chosen for this to be our life.  We learn every day.  We know what to watch.  We know where to go for answers and advice.  We share our experiences, observations, thoughts and opinions.  We adapt.

I've worked with the Internet on a DAILY basis since 1993.  Web development, SEO... it's been my business.  Mark Zuckerberg was 9 when I started.  I've watched things change, evolve, come and go.  I've had to change and evolve with it.  I've spent time learning things only to have it all disappear and become irrelevant soon after.  I've learned things every single day... and will continue to do so.  I'll continue to learn from people who have been involved in all this for far less time than I have.  This will not stop.

Example... during one of my "Social Media 101" seminars... I was toggling between my Facebook PowerPoint presentation and the web.  In the morning... all was good.  "Become a Fan" was the button to be clicked on a business page.  During lunch... Facebook rolled out a change.  To my surprise, I... and my audience... were introduced to the "Like" button that afternoon... along with some other new elements.  Blessing in disguise.  Proof to my audience that I wasn't lying when I said it's constantly evolving... and the afternoon continued on successfully.

"Certification" would be pointless.  Even if the founders of these organizations taught and signed off on them... they'd be worthless a week later.  Much of what we all share is "opinion based"... or something we've learned from someone who WE consider to be an "expert".

* I found it interesting that a few of the people who posted comments included the names of individuals who they  felt were influential to them... or who they considered experts.  Some names I recognized... others, I didn't.  I didn't include any names in my post... however, for purposes of this article, I'll take the liberty of sharing the names of a few I follow.  These are people I've learned from and have come to respect.  They're people who's articles, posts, and videos have influenced me... and, at times, given me food for thought and the ability to look at things from a different perspective.  Frank J. Kenny, Mari Smith, Pamela Hazelton, Jason Keath, Crystal Washington, & Pam Moore.   Of course, there are others.  Do these people think of themselves as "experts"?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  I'm not sure that really matters.  They know what they know... and I guarantee that the people they help look to them as such. *

My advice?  Be confident... allow ourselves to be considered "experts" while accepting the fact that we're not "know-it-alls".  At least that's what my people expect from me.

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

For Chambers... "foursquare" is a Gold Mine

Here we go again... yet another social networking tool to add to the mix. However, THIS tool is SO different and has SO much to offer to Chambers and your members.  Why do I say this?  Because I AM a former President & CEO of a county Chamber of Commerce... and I only WISH I would have had this available to me at the time.

Before I continue let me say that this tool, when used by Chambers, will be MOST effective when used in harmony with an already strong Facebook and Twitter presence. I would strongly recommend you have those in order first before including this in your social media strategy. As "foursquare" can be linked directly to Facebook and Twitter... it not becomes a powerful promotional tool but can be used as an incentive tool as well!

I've been actively using "foursquare" for a few weeks now (and yes... it's all lower case as they present themselves online). After just a couple of days I realized the potential for Chambers and your members.

Summarizing how "foursquare" works doesn't do it justice... but for the sake of keeping things short, here goes.  Basically, it uses geo-location technology, lists area businesses, shops, restaurants, diners, hotels, lakes, parks, etc... and provides users with the ability to "Check-In", provide tips, and leave comments. There's a point system, a game play element, a rewards system and more... and they have an app for just about every Smartphone out there. It's a tool that can be used in a variety of ways.  Correctly linked to Facebook and Twitter, in less than 30 seconds your "Check-In" can be promoted throughout your entire social network.

So... think outside the box for a minute. As a Chamber President, CEO, Director, Board Member, Ambassador, or Diplomat, you're constantly venturing out and visiting businesses. You hold meetings at member locations. You dine, golf, shop and spend money in your community. You stop by to pick up items for a silent auction... or drop off tickets to an upcoming event.  In less than 30 seconds your "Check-In" just promoted that member.  That's all it takes.  I've timed it.  You'd be surprised at the number of businesses that are listed.  And if they're NOT listed?  You can easily add them... in less than a minute... and you've just helped your member again.

What about your membership drives? Or your "Diplomat/Ambassador of the Month/Year" recognition? The point system can provide you with an additional competitive element while encouraging your representatives to visit more businesses in the community!  It's currently being used by progressive thinking business owners to reward customers and patrons.

I'm seriously just scratching the surface here.

I'd love to come and speak to you and your Board. I'd love to start helping you get your Chamber where it needs to be. I'd love to give a presentation to your members and show them how they can take advantage of the same technology to help their own business and work more closely with you and their Chamber!

Feel free to contact me:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/businesssocialmedia
Twitter: http://twitter.com/WilliamWellsIII
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/williamhwellsiii
foursquare: https://foursquare.com/williamwellsiii
Blog: http://williamwellsiii.blogspot.com/
Web: http://www.wellswebgroup.com/socialmedia/

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

I'm Sorry... I Can NOT be your "Friend" on your "Chamber of Commerce" Facebook page

Ok... before this gets out of hand and everyone gets the wrong idea... let me say that I'm, quite possibly, the friendliest guy I know.  So what do I mean?  I'm talking about your "Chamber of Commerce Facebook Page", and the simple method used to become an interactive part of it.  Actually, this is applicable to ALL businesses who have a presence on Facebook.

The question: Can I "Like" it?  Or do I have to click the "Add as Friend" button and wait for you to accept me? The difference is night and day... and can mean the difference between success and failure for your Facebook page.

I did a quick Facebook search for "chambers" and I stopped counting after I found more than 150 Chambers across the country with personal pages rather than Facebook Business pages.  Your next question is, "Why does it matter?  I'm on Facebook!"  Allow me to answer that.

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.

More importantly, here are a few key reasons why your Chamber needs a "Facebook Business Page":

  1. SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Business Pages are indexed by search engines.  Personal pages are not.  So here, you're missing out.  Do a "Google" search for "apple valley mn chamber of commerce".  Note that their website is #1, and their Facebook page is also further down the list on page one.  View Here   
    Now... do the same exercise for "destin fl chamber of commerce". Note that their website is the top listing, however, their Facebook page with more than 3,500 "friends" is nowhere to be seen. View Here

    I did a variety of searches for a variety of Chambers across the country.  In some cases, their website had a poor ranking, but their Chamber Facebook pages topped the list!  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 online visibility.
  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.  When I was CEO of a county Chamber of Commerce, I set up a business page for that Chamber.  I also set up a page for our annual "Women's Expo", our "Leadership" program, and a page for each of the individual communities within that county.  Within two months, those pages ALSO occupied listings on page one of the search engines.  At one point, that Chamber occupied the first seven spots on page one of Google when doing generic searches for a variety of information regarding that area.
  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?  How many people "Commented" on your posts?  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 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 your business directory right into your Facebook business page.  You could introduce an additional tab which might have printable coupons and special "Facebook Only" promotions.  This could be a tremendous source of additional "non-dues revenue" for your Chamber.  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 Chambers 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.

So the truth is, I'd MUCH rather "Like" your Chamber Facebook 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 both your Chamber AND your members!

I'd love to come and speak to you and your Board.  I'd love to start helping you get your Chamber where it needs to be.  I'd love to give a presentation to your members and show them how they can take advantage of the same technology to help their own business and work more closely with you and their Chamber!

Feel free to contact me:

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

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chambers: Use Social Media to Keep Your Members Coming Back Each Year!

I was privileged to have been the President & CEO of a county Chamber of Commerce in the 6th largest county of the 95 counties in Tennessee during the past couple of years.  I'd worked with this Chamber for nearly eight years.  Initially, I donated my business services, web site development, and search engine optimization expertise to get them on the virtual map.  This led to becoming more involved as a member of their "Diplomat & Ambassador" program for two years, which led to serving on the Board of Directors for another two years, and then ultimately accepting the position of President & CEO.

I'd accepted this position right as the economy officially crumbled.  Businesses were downsizing.  Small businesses were being forced to close their doors.  Those who remained in business were cutting back on everything... including Chamber membership.  Major industries and chamber supporters were cutting back  monetarily and being far less generous than they'd been in previous years.

But I had an "Ace" up my sleeve called "Social Media".  Immediately I started both a Facebook Fan Page (as it was called at the time) and a Twitter account for this Chamber.  I linked the two together.  I began posting anything and everything. I created photo albums for each business we did a ribbon cutting and grand opening for... which included contact info for that business and links to their websites and/or Facebook pages on each photo.  I shamelessly promoted our Facebook page and our Twitter presence.  Within the first few months we had more than 500 "fans" (as they were called at the time) on Facebook and nearly 600 followers on Twitter.

Later, I used the FBML tool and created addition "Tabs" to promote our member "Facebook Fan Pages".  During that first year we had numerous businesses come back as members after dropping off because, as they said, "The Chamber wasn't doing anything to help their business".  It was that type of "forward thinking" that helped us get through what's now considered one of the worst economic times since the Great Depression.  

But... you know what?  Despite sharing statistics and progress with the Board Members... several didn't seem to grasp the significance of this.  Why?  Because THEY weren't using it... and as I attended numerous conferences in my region and across the state, I started to realize that MANY don't get it!

Because I started working with the Internet back in 1993, developing my first website in 1994 when there were still only a few thousand websites in existence... well before Amazon, Ebay, Google, etc..., submitting my sites to search engines such as "Alta Vista", "Excite", "LookSmart", "Lycos", etc..., I consider myself an "expert".  Don't confuse that with a "know-it-all".  That, I'm not.  I've learned new things every single day since 1993... and expect to do the same from this point on.

However, that expertise, along with my years working with that Chamber has made me somewhat unique.  I know the financial struggles that Chambers face.  I know the hoops that Chamber CEO's and Directors must jump through to get things accomplished.  I understand the myths that people, in general, have when it comes to what a Chamber does and the purpose that it serves.  I know that a high percentage don't care or appreciate what the Chamber does to advocate on their behalf.  I know what businesses want.  And "Social Media" has now opened up a whole new set of doors.

Sure... you know the buzz words... however, you're probably overwhelmed because there's so much to pick from.  What to use... how to use it... etc...   Don't let that happen.

IF, as a Chamber, you're not using these five: "Facebook", "Twitter", "LinkedIn", "Foursquare", and "YouTube", you're letting your members down and, just as important, missing out on opportunities for addition "non-dues revenue"!

With any project I've undertaken, large or small, I've always been an advocate of "baby steps".  But before you start throwing things together and setting up your accounts, note:
  1. There's a proper order in which these should be set up.
  2. There's a correct way to put these pages and these accounts online so that they'll find top spots in the search engines.
  3. There's a proper way to link these together so you don't have to manage each one individually.
  4. Doing ANY of these things incorrectly will only result in frustration and failure.

Once this is done, you can start helping yourself and your members. How?
  1. Ever consider having a contest on Facebook?  I used recently placed "Civil War Trail Markers" in such a way.  Four "Civil War Trail Markers" had been erected throughout the county... in front of courthouses, downtown parks, businesses, etc... I teamed up with a Chamber member who offered to give away a free "Dinner for Two" to the winner.  The winner had to post the title of each marker along with a photo of each to prove they'd been there.  What did this do?  It created an environment of interaction.  It got them to drive around the county and explore the various communities.  It promoted one of the members who stepped up to be involved.  We posted a picture of the winner along with the restaurant owner online and in the local newspapers.  You know what?  Other members immediately contacted us wanting to be involved in the next contest.
  2. Use "foursquare" as a member "perk" or as an incentive/contest?  Most Chamber Executives, Board Members, staff, Diplomats & Ambassadors have smart phones.  Why aren't you using "foursquare" to "check in" when you dine out or shop?  Set up correctly, it will also promote that member's business to your Facebook & Twitter followers and you can have some fun within your organization!
  3. What about using these tools to achieve goals or as incentives during your "Membership Drives"?
  4. Why aren't you adding "Landing Pages" and additional tabs to your Facebook Page so you can start introducing some additional "non-dues" revenue scenarios?

I could go on... but I think you get the point.

I'd love to come and speak to you and your Board.  I'd love to start helping you get your Chamber where it needs to be.  I'd love to give a presentation to your members and show them how they can take advantage of the same technology to help their own business and work more closely with you and their Chamber!

Feel free to contact me:

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