Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - More Than Just Picnics & Barbecues

Happy Memorial Day! Memorial Day has extra special meaning for me since I have two younger siblings who are officers in the Navy (one is a medical doctor) and are stationed overseas. Military life is tough and I respect and honor their military careers and the sacrifices they've made. My sister may be shipping off to the Middle East and my other brother served a few months in Afghanistan this past year so Memorial Day hits closer to home.  

I also have an older brother who is a vet (both Marines and Army) and served a tour in Afghanistan. I have family members (a great-uncle) who received a Purple Heart during WWII and an uncle who is a Vietnam War vet - a long line of military in my family. 

I dedicate today's blog post to all the brave men and women who lost their lives serving our country. May we never forget. I salute those in the Armed Forces who continue to fight and serve our country. 

I found this fantastic op-ed piece that shows that Memorial Day goes beyond just a holiday on the calendar. Ms. Gavin details her experiences serving on a NPR panel with a retired Army captain and the social media advisor for the U.S. Army. They discuss what Memorial Day really means and share stories about those who have given their life protecting our freedoms.  

Please take time out from your family activities, picnics and barbecues to remember that today is more than just an extra day off from work.

I leave you with this quote:

“Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valor of the brave.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Customer Loyalty: Moving Beyond Just The Transaction

Each year I co-celebrate my birthday with a dear friend who I worked with many years ago at a trade association. She has a meeting planning business, and also sells promotional products to large trade assocations. She's a seasoned, savvy entrepreneur who's been in business for years. Over lunch, we chatted about our businesses and our projects. She mentioned that she doesn't market her business and has a very loyal client base, and she landed two new clients this year. What's the secret to her success? She gives her customers what they want and always goes the extra mile for them. She's worked with many of the same clients over the years and built a strong loyalty around her 'personal brand'.

As I drove home yesterday after our lunch, I thought about how she could easily NOT give her customers what they want. She plans time-consuming trade association conferences AND sells promotional products (and these aren't paltry orders either!) She doesn't have to special order a t-shirt for her client that desperately needs one for their new employee (at the last minute), and fight crazy traffic and parking to hand-deliver their t-shirt BUT she does.

Normally, I would gasp when a business owner tells me they don't actively market their company. However, her customer service speaks for itself as she's developed a strong rapport with her customers and has perfected what many companies have lost these days - excellent customer service.  She could easily be a transactional-based business based on the kinds of products she sells, but she knows where her bread and butter are - customer loyalty. In this competitive market where you can buy anything and everything online, she is the first person they call.

Don't treat your customers and clients like a 'transaction'. A transactional-based interaction is not a fun experience. I've been on the receiving end and it made me feel like a number in a sea of thousands. As a result, I never bought their product again or returned to that business. If you have loyal customers who choose your business over your competition, thank them for their business. Go that extra mile to personally hand-deliver their products. Add in an extra bonus with their services as a way to thank them for their continued business.

Without your customers and clients, you wouldn't be in business so remember to move beyond the transactional attitude towards customers. If you haven't thanked your customers/clients lately, send them a hand-written note or pick up the phone. A personal thank you speaks volumes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How To Get Podcast Listeners to Tune Into Your Brand

I'm a big fan of podcasts and online radio stations, and one of my goals is to create a podcast down the road. Podcasts and radio shows are an effective way to reach millions of people across the world, and is an effective social media marketing tool to further enhance your brand. Even if you aren't interested in creating a podcast show, a podcast interview is still a great way to spread the word about your brand. 

If you have considered creating a podcast, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Like blogging, podcasting requires a consistent time commitment for it to be successful. Your goal is to grow your listeners. If you don't have the time to dedicate to a podcast, I wouldn't recommend starting a podcast. 

2. The same rules apply to podcasting as it does for social media: target your audience; keep them entertained by presenting solid, helpful (and timely) content. 

3. Stick to one topic. Podcast listeners are more likely to listen and download your podcast if you focus on one specific topic. This is a good idea for newbie podcasters. If your topic is vague, you won't capture people's attention quickly.

4. Make it easy for listeners to find you. Before your podcast ends, make sure you pass along a website or blog link to your listeners. If you use your podcast to market your company or services, it's important to let listeners know how to find you. Include a direct call to action and let your listeners know exactly what you want them do (i.e. visit your website, call you, etc.) 

5. Think about time length when creating your content. Podcasts that run past thirty minutes (dependendent upon your topic and target audience) have a tendency to lose your listeners' attention span. Think about what people do when they listen to your podcast - my guess is they listen at the gym or during their work commute. Take that into consideration and ask yourself: what key topic points can I pack into a thirty minute segment or less?

Check out these additional sites that show you how to set up your own podcast:





Friday, May 20, 2011

Social Media's Rapture - The Last Word Before May 21

I scouted around this morning searching for social media's take on May 21 - the supposed End of the World aka Judgement Day. I live in northern California so the billboards have been around awhile now advertisting the big event. I have a feeling they're going to be disappointed that they spent a lot of money on those signs.

Social media users have taken advantage of the media hype, and have created some interesting events and posts centered around tomorrow's 'big day'. These two men started a tongue-in-cheek post-Rapture 'looting event' on Facebook which has received national attention (I found their link included in a CNN story).

Twitter has been buzzing about tomorrow's Rapture. This social media article lists the skeptics' end of the world tweets and some are quite amusing. I stumbled upon another article that gave end of the world social media tips including how to send your farewell message.

For those who take the big day seriously, the church who's behind the Judgement Day campaign has their own website. End of the world survivalists have also created their own websites and blogs counting down until the big day. Some have even opened up online survivalist stores where you can purchase gear and supplies.

Whether you believe or not, you can expect social media users to keep us updated on Saturday - let the countdown buzz begin. 

Monday, May 16, 2011

How to Write Blog Posts That Don't Backfire

Last week I pointed out the damage control I did on my blog, and bloggers who mislead their audiences with erroneous information. Today a fellow colleague pointed out an article that caught her eye - and not in a good way. This marketing blogger included the slang word 'sucks' in his headline and his topic was ''why your blog content sucks.'

By using the word 'sucks', it gives the post a negative connotation. His audience is savvy marketing professionals. Why would you use the word 'sucks' in a headline talking about how to write professional blog content? That's an oxymoron and as the reader, I didn't take his message seriously. I was disappointed with his word usage - not to mention the headline was insulting  to me as a professional marketer. His tone implies that all business professionals churn out bad content. 

It doesn't matter whether he included helpful tips or not in his blog, he set a negative tone from the very beginning with the word 'sucks' in his headline. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about the social media blogger who used the word 'funnest' in her post. The same rule applies - pay attention to your language and think about your readers.

I know what you're thinking - why am I being so picky about language when blogs are supposed to be casual and informal? It's one thing to write in a casual way, but it's another to use inappropriate language that doesn't resonate with your audience. Words have energy and create a life of their own. There's enough negativity in this world without using words that speak down to and insult your readers (which equates to turning off your target markets and possible clients).

Take the time to re-read your blog posts - review the following questions before you hit the publish button: 

1. Could I offend or insult my audience with the words, language, jargon, etc. that I include in my post?

2. Is my tone preachy or condescending?

3. Does my headline grab people's attention in a positive way? 

4. Is my content relevant, timely and appropriate for my audience? 

5. Have I researched and checked my facts, sources, interviews, etc thoroughly? Do I have enough knowledge and past experience under my belt to write about this particular topic? 

It doesn't take much for your blog to backfire on you, so make sure to re-read and edit your posts before you publish them. 


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Expertise & Ethics - Where Do We Draw The Line?

Yesterday a fellow colleague shared an enlightening story with me about a consultant who touts herself as a social media 'expert'. The reason this person uses the word 'expert' when describing herself is that a national media publication bestowed her the title of social media 'expert'. Ok, I can buy that...until I read her articles touting her social media knowledge. She got her facts wrong - glaringly wrong.

I don't claim expertise or perfection as an Internet marketing consultant and copywriter, but I can admit when I make a mistake. Last week I was called on the carpet about misinformation I posted on my blog, which I immediately followed up with a correction. I do my best to present correct facts so I dug around and conducted further research. This was a good lesson for me, and reminded me that business professionals actually READ my words (which is a good thing). 

In the case of this social media expert, she presented confusing and misleading social media information that was way off base. She was steering business professionals down the wrong path which could negatively impact their marketing strategies - and ultimately, their bottom line (not good). 

Where does that leave you, the reader, when shifting and sorting out information? Reader beware? I'm not downplaying the ethical industry professionals out there. There are amazing consultants who write stellar industry articles packed with meaty information. However, slapping on the title of 'expert' next to your name doesn't make it so. 

The Internet has blurred the ethical lines of fact versus fiction. Expert is an overused word in the professional world and people have grown wary of the 'e' word. By the valuable information you present, you set yourself up for success. As a result, your industry knowledge speaks volumes about your brand. You want people to trust and respect you, but you don't earn that trust by screaming to the world that you're an expert. You have to earn that trust, and you have a responsibility to your readers to present well-researched, factual information (as I was reminded last week by my blog readers).

If you have an online business presence, your reputation management needs to be a top priority and word-of-mouth travels fast! Before you add the word 'expert' to your LinkedIn profile or business card, you might want to think twice and consider a different word. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why Taking a Breather Does Your Business Good

I just returned from a mini-trip and spent time with family and my adorable 6 month-old niece. I also spent time with a good friend and we had fun sharing laughs and conversation over delicious wine and cheese. It made me realize that it's these special moments with family and friends that make all the difference in the world. 

Like everyone else who is self-employed and runs a business, I tend to go non-stop with my tunnel vision work mode. The past few months have been hectic and it's been awhile since I took a 'me' break. Don't get me wrong, this year has definitely been productive, but I could feel my wheels starting to sluggishly turn and definitely needed a break. 

Yes, I know - gas is expensive and with the economy, you can't spare the expense or time to get away to the ocean or mountains for a few days. Even if you can't spare an extended holiday away from your business, it helps to take a breather... even if it's only a mini-break.

You also don't have to spend money to take that much-needed breather either. Sit on your deck and enjoy the sunshine with a glass of iced tea, or take your dog for a walk or spend time with your kids or grandkids. 

When you take the time out of your busy schedule to relax (and have FUN), you refresh that tired noggin and are more productve. After my break, I feel rejuvenated and am motivated and ready to tackle new projects. My yoga teacher brought up a very good point in my last class. Bring out your inner child and play with him or her, and IF you promise to do something fun with your inner child don't let that inner child down. Kids become disappointed when you promise them a fun activity and don't make good on your promise - don't let YOURSELF down! 

I wrote a post last month about why it's important to stay present in the moment and how to lighten your load by dumping clients and projects that waste your time and energy.  That's the first step in the right direction. Why add more stress and frustration onto your plate by taking on the world? 

Here are 3 mini-breathers to add to your work day - and remember don't let yourself down. You'll be more productive and happier as a result.

1. Read or watch an inspirational book or short film.  Don't pick up a business book. Read a few pages a day for pleasure or watch a short video. I highly recommend The Butterfly Circus - a short inspirational film (only takes 20 minutes!) - a beautiful story!

2. Take a walk or do chair yoga for five to ten minutes. Sitting all day isn't good for you and makes both the body and mind stagnant. Get up and move - even if you only have five minutes to spare. 

3. Laugh and don't take yourself or others seriously 24,7. We are business professionals who take what we do seriously, but we don't need to be SERIOUS every minute of the day. Laughter is really the best medicine. I'm a fan of satire and have a friend who always sends me hilarious email forwards and funny texts. Make it a point to read a funny article or joke a day. If you belong to an online discussion forum or social media networking group, lighten up the mood. There's a time and a place to be professional, but don't be afraid to inject humor or share a funny link (remember to keep it clean and appropriate on professional networking groups such as LinkedIn). You don't want to offend people, but you don't have to be a stick in the mud either! 

If you are long overdue for a vacation and your spouse is giving you the evil eye, don't wait until tomorrow or next month. Your business won't crumble if you take a breather. You deserve it - so what are you waiting for? 


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Do You Have a Social Media Crisis Plan?

Online reputation management is one of my favorite social media marketing topics. Companies need to take proactive steps just in case a social media attack happens. However, most people wait until the last minute and take the 'knee jerk' approach to their online reputation. They also don't have a full grasp on what their followers, customers and clients really say about their brand.

Don't wait until the last minute to throw together a plan. If you don't have a social media crisis plan in place, here are 3 easy steps you can implement today to protect your online reputation:

1. Don't delegate your social media campaign to an inexperienced intern or employee - Many companies make the mistake of handing over the social media reigns to a younger 'Gen X' intern or employee. If you are a one-person team, take charge of your social media or hire a social media consultant to manage your campaign. If you work for a larger company, delegate social media campaigns to your marketing or communciations manager. Implement strategies to build solid relationships with followers and implement a social media editorial calendar. It's important to stay on top of your campaign and be consistent with posts and updates. 

2. Practice social media 'fire drills' - Sit down and create a step-by-step social media crisis plan. For example, what if your company was attacked by a disgruntled customer and blasted your blog, Facebook, Twitter, website, etc. with nasty comments about your company? Don't live in fear, but remember to forge key relationships with customers and industry leaders. It helps your reputation if you have followers on your side who can publicly defend your brand. 

3. Beware of Facebook page 'hijacking' - There's a nasty trick that's running rampant on Facebook pages. Competitors are sneaking onto company Facebook pages and overrunning them with negative comments. This is commonly seen with social cause campaigns - the equivalent to a virtual sit-in/protest. Check your Facebook page on a regular basis, get rid of spam comments (spam runs rampant on Facebook pages as well) and respond to attacks in a professional, courteous manner. If a customer becomes over the top and makes threatening comments against you or your employees, make sure you have your lawyer's number handy. Don't hesitate to seek legal counsel if you aren't sure how to handle defamatory comments.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Correction to Original Post - Update on Sohaib Athar's Osama Bin Laden Tweets

Correction May 4, 2011: I want to clarify misinformation that I included in Monday's post. After further research and investigation (thank you to those who included their feedback and input on my LinkedIn group), it is still up in the air whether or not Mr. Athar's tweets are truly legitimate. There are rumors floating around cyberspace that he is a 'CIA plant'. Draw your own conclusion.

Whether you believe Mr. Athar's tweets are legitimate or false, he caused quite a stir on social media nonetheless.  He has turned into quite a global celebrity because of these tweets. Who knows? Maybe it was a publicity stunt. I'll leave that up to my readers to decide. The point behind my original Monday blog post was how these tweets caused quite a stir and shows just how powerful social media can be.

For more information, refer to the following links that give more detail about Mr. Athar's tweets.

Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

Content Writing & Marketing Tips ** Online Buzz Branding

** Digital & Social Media Strategies