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

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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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Monday, June 13, 2011

BRANDING: It's NOT About Your Logo... and it STARTS Offline

"Branding" is not about your company name, logo, and use of colors.  It's not about the "packaging" you present.  Don't get me wrong.  Your logo IS an important symbol and representation of your brand... however, your "Brand" is about how people perceive you.  What do they think when your name comes up?  What are their thoughts once a business transaction is complete?

Simply stated, "Branding" is about YOUR reputation.  That's where it starts.  A "Brand" is a promise.  One that guarantees quality,  consistency, dedication, and positive results.  If that's the first thing people think when they see your logo, or hear your name, then you are on your way to success.

Avoid 5 Common Branding Mistakes
Did you see those logos above?  What's your first thought as you see each one?  Great company?  Overrated?  Excellent customer service?  Too pricey?  Very tasty?  Never giving them your money again?

Guess what... the only right answer is YOUR answer.  Why?  Because that's the opinion you've formed based on your dealings with them, or perhaps, your inability to deal with them.

The word "branding" gets tossed around in conversation, however, it's a term often misused and misunderstood.  The term really means "creating an identifiable entity that makes a promise of value". It's creating a consciousness, an image, an awareness of your business. It's your company's personality. Many businesses try and many fail at creating a brand. Here are 5 common mistakes:

  1. Setting unrealistic expectations.  If your slogan says it, or you've written it or said it somewhere, then you better live up to it.  Too many business owners set themselves up for failure by "setting the bar too high".  Know your strengths and weaknesses through honest analysis of what you do best.  Fix what you want to fix, but don't boast about it until you can provide it.
  2. Trying too hard to be different.  Being different for the sake of being different is not branding. Yes, you may be noticed, but not necessarily in a way that is beneficial to your business.  Face the fact that most of your competitors do the same thing you do.  That's why you're competing.  Be different where it matters.  For example, provide better, faster, and more effective personal communication or customer service.
  3. Building an image in an effort to appease everyone. You will never be able to brand yourself in such a way that everyone will like you or need what you have to offer.  Don't try.  It's impossible.  Focus on the niche market for your product or service.
  4. Too much "talk" and not enough "walk".  Your customers and clients don't care what you say.  They care about what you do... for them.
  5. Not being consistent and maintaining focus. Change is not always good.  One problem with branding is the fact that you see your own marketing strategies or slogans over and over again and they quickly become repetitive and boring. It's easy to forget that your clients don’t see them near as often as you do.  They don't get bored with them. In fact, the more repetitious they seem, the more effectively they’re working in the marketplace.

Branding does not happen overnight.  It's not the result of a cool logo or slogan.  It's all about you.  It's about what you do, how you do it, and how others perceive it.  It takes work.  It takes dedication.  It's about making your clients and customers happy and giving them the kind of quality and service that they can't get anywhere else.  When they feel that way about you, then you have been positively "branded" and there's nowhere to go but up.

If you'd like to see an article on a specific topic, please feel free to make a suggestion.

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:

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