Tag Archives: twitter

White Room

The white room

White Room

I once saw this design makeover show on HGTV where the designer tried to get the family who was in the house to think about all design possibilities. She started out by removing all the furniture and painting everything white. The theory, as she explained it, was to start off with a blank canvass to illustrate that anything and everything was possible.

As I predicted, the family froze in the sea of possibility and lack of direction. The designer ended up guiding them into color combinations, design choices, etc., until they could see how everything was fitting together. Then, they came alive and started participating in the design of their makeover.

Very few people can see possibilities when presented with a blank canvass. Yet this is what happens time and time again with web sites and social media channels.

“You need to create content,” says the social media expert who has created the company’s new Facebook page, blog, Twitter account and Google Plus channel. “Y’know, stuff like videos and photos. Graphic content is always hot.”

And the client tenses up as if he is staring into a white room.

Unless you are prepared and skilled to provide the script, shooting and storytelling for the video or the art direction and shooting for the photos or crafting the blog article framework (or actually writing them) you may want to steer clear of advising a company to get into social media.

Simply setting up the social media channels and walking away is just painting a room white.

How social media is failing social media… and business

Screen shot 2009-11-02 at 1.18.35 PM

The Center for Media Research sent out their email Research Brief today about how small business are not into social networks for leads. As a small businessman myself, I agree with them. Kinda. I can’t recall the last lead I got twittering out my latest status or a coupon deal or where I am going to be at a certain time if anyone wants to chat, etc.

But then I got to thinking about how all the ways I use social media networks and how we employ them for a lot of our clients and kinda changed my mind. The problem is not the social media networks not being effective, but the MARKETING of the social media networks not being effective.

For example, one particular client uses Twitter to send out job posts, facilitate responses back to the post which enables qualified applicants to reply very quickly and the listing client to fill the job quickly. This in turn enables them to schedule in-store work faster and drive their completion rates higher with their clients. Yet, if you asked the primary client if social media networks are helpful in generating any leads, they would say, “Not at all.” Mostly because the process is automated and invisible, but also because it is not marketed heavily. They know traffic is up dramatically and that jobs are being filled exponentially faster, but because they don’t have a direct hand in the process, it is taken for granted.

Moreover, since the client is also on a WordPress framework, their bi-weekly articles are now more “Google/Yahoo!/Bing-friendly,” which enables potential customers to find them more readily as SEO/SEM is easier to implement. Since all of this is invisible, again, their answer would be, “Not at all.”

Tools like RSS, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN are being used effectively by small business even if they are used invisibly. Just because the CEO doesn’t tweet doesn’t mean they are not using social media. Dig a little and you’ll find many probably are. They just don’t know it.

For small business, it is all about the return today for effort I put in yesterday. Market social media without the “engagement” and “conversation” hype and stick to the operational parts and only then will we see a rise in the “Very helpful” 3%.

How Twitter is going to drive up prices and reduce competition

Originally published on DogWalkBlog.

I was reading this blog post by Leah Jones. It is a thoughtful look at what happened with the #amazonfail twitterstorm and makes a case for journalism. I think it makes a stronger argument for why twitterstorms are going to drive up the cost of stuff and put small companies out of business. (it is long, but worth the read. I’ll wait for you..)

Read the part that starts with “Deep breath.” If you have never worked for a large company with deep pockets everyone wants a piece of, you probably can’t relate all that much, but trust me, Leah is dead-on accurate about what she describes. The legal opinions alone with no lead time on a weekend probably cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Consumers are demanding unlimited selection, lower prices, unlimited access to buy and increasingly, unlimited attention. Pay attention to me only when I want you to and then I want your full attention. For a large brand like Amazon, the cost to provide someone to monitor Twitter all day, every day and twice on weekends is an incremental cost on each product they sell, probably pennies. But for a small company who will eventually be held to the same standard, the cost is devastating. As anyone who has ever tried to compete against a Walmart knows, it is the crushing cost of customer demands that eventually puts you out of business.

Walmart is open 24/7, Joe’s hardware can’t afford to pay employees 24/7. Walmart has an unlimited selection of plumbing fittings; Joe’s hardware can’t buy in volume and has to special order parts. Eventually, the great service that customers rely on at Joe’s hardware is just not enough to compensate for Walmart’s convenience and low prices. Eventually, they are the only game in town. And prices rise; slightly, but nonetheless, they rise.

Twits are gleefully rubbing their hands at the awesome power they can unleash onto brands. Who wouldn’t get that rush! Media is eagerly reporting on how the new commerce puts the consumer in charge and the horrible brands are bending to their wills.

But, it is as fleeting as Twitter will eventually be. With each twitterstorm will come the tedium of reporting yet another uprising of rage with this group of consumer and that. Eventually, the media will get bored with it all, but not before Twits will have destroyed hard-working entrepreneurs and benevolent brands who are just trying to make their corner of the world a little brighter and cheaper.

Am I crazy? Really? How much do you know about Katrina? Darfur? Iraq? AIG? Yeah, we all got bored with those “twitterstorms in real life.”

The average Twit doesn’t care about any of this, but should. When companies are faced with possible litigation on what they perceive to be a cool product or service, a percentage of revenue goes toward legal fees and insurance. If Amazon perceives that every database change is going to bring about a twitterstorm, they will set aside money for legal and insurance. That won’t come from current revenue; that will come from processing fees or an increase in price.

Their insurance carrier will also probably look at their policy and rate the risk based on the volume and type of books they sell. If one author tends to create a larger twitterstorm than another, Amazon will either pay less in royalties or increase the price to offset the cost.

All sorts of secondary effects will be caused by twitterstorms. While consumers are smacking their lips in satisfaction that they have brought the mighty Amazon to it knees, they will eventually wake up to the fact that prices have gone up and competition has been put out of business.

And the media will not care because they will have moved on to something shinier. Twitterstorms are so 2009.

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Another way to think about social media ROI

 

Alexander Graham Bell probably got impatient with business owners asking for an ROI on his telephone invention

Alexander Graham Bell probably got impatient with business owners asking for an ROI on his telephone invention

When was the last time you asked the phone company to justify the cost of installing a telephone in your place of business? They would probably just laugh at you. It has probably been over 50 years since that question was last asked of a telephone sales rep by a shop owner.

 

On April 3, 1973 Motorola manager Martin Cooper placed a cellular phone call to Joel Engel, head of research at AT&T’s Bell Labs, signaling the demise of the land-line telephone. It will probably be several decades from now before the last wired telephone is deactivated, but chances are, it will happen. And sales reps for wireless phones are not probably not being asked for an ROI study prior to a company signing a cell phone contract.

So, why do companies ask for an ROI for the next wave of communication and conversation with their customers? Why do social media experts do it? When will a blog, Twitter account and a Facebook page turn the corner from an “investment” into an expense line item?

Probably at half the speed it took telephones. But, it will happen.

The next time someone asks you for an ROI study on social media, pick up the phone off their desk and ask them to give you the ROI the phone company gave them.

The ROI of “social networking”

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio

Soccer photo from the Mead Cup Soccer Tournament in Dayton, Ohio

I received a panic email from a graphic designer at a local city magazine yesterday who desperately needed some photos of a soccer tournament. “Anything you have showing local kids playing soccer!” she said. Since she was referred by someone who had faith that I would come through for her, it was hard to say no, even though I really didn’t have the extra time.

Fortunately, we had commissioned a photo shoot for TourneyCentral a few months back and the photos were still on my MacBook Pro. So, I opened the folder, pulled out a few dozen photos, threw them in a gallery using Photoshop, put them up on some Web space and sent her the link.

“Email me the file names of the ones you want, give the photographer credit,” I wrote back.

Within an hour, she had her local photos, I made another contact in the local publishing community who sent me back a huge “sigh of relief and gratitude” email (on a holiday week), reaffirmed my value with the local chamber contact who referred me, gave some more exposure to a local photographer, subtly plugged the Mead CUSA Cup Soccer Tournament and maybe created some business opportunity for myself later on down the line.

What I did not do was calculate an ROI for this act of networking.

Why didn’t I? I’m in business and the responsible thing to do — I’ve been told — is to have an ROI for everything I do. What was the return on my spending an hour of time and effort I did not really have to spare? How did your actions affect the bottom line of your business? You paid to have those photos taken; why did you just give them away to a publication? What is the ROI on spending another hour writing the blog post you are reading now? All of these things I heard in the back of my head as I was doing this act of kindness for this very desperate graphic designer who probably was behind schedule through no fault of her own.

Again, knowing all this, I did not calculate an ROI.

Is what I did considered social networking? Yeah, I think it is. It is no different than sending folks tweets on Twitter and helping out with requests for code or software recommendations or sharing a MacBook Pro power adapter when someone sends out a “help me” tweet. Nor is it any different than spending time commenting on a blog post that may not have examined all the facts entirely.

I propose a new standard for ROI on social networking: If you ask what the ROI is for social networking, you are already convinced emotionally that you need to do it. Go with that, jump in and tweet, blog and link in and the “financial ROI” will fall into place.

Originally published at: DogWalkBlog

Three things to help your Web site update process flow

Your Web site manager is a busy person and doesn’t have the time or patience to have a long back and forth with your Web site changes. Here are THREE things you can do to help the Web site update process flow smoothly.

THREE: Organize your request around the Web site you have, not the one you dream up
Quite often, we get a Word document with a note attached saying “post this to our Web site.” Aftering opening the document, we find ourselves saying things like, “where?” , “in what context does this belong?” and “has client even looked at their Web site?” We generally add a few colorful expletives as well.

Give us some indication as to where you want the content and how it flows with the rest of your site. We can’t read your mind and really do want to live up to your expectations. A URL and screenshots are always appreciated.

TWO: Involve the Web site team in the planning process early
Too often, we get a “fully formed” program, complete with sign up forms in Word, beginning with the following, “We had a meeting with the staff and have created this program…” or some like language. And, they want it up and running tomorrow as they are already selling the program.

Check with the mechanic before speeding down the track; the lugs nuts may not be tightened down! In short, your Web team is there to save you money, time and stress. A well-designed program that includes tools such as forms integrated to your back end database, cron jobs, automated emails, etc. are some of the features that a good Web team can bring to the table. If the Web team is the last one in the chain, most likely the program will have a feel of being attached to your Web site (and your organization) with duct tape and baling wire.

ONE: Write news releases that are Digg-able, Google-able and in general, shareable
Too often, we get news releases that are not written for the on-line world. Even if they are destined for a print publication, assume they will end up on line.

When writing a news release, use a title that grabs in no longer than 60 characters and then write a summary in 250 character or fewer, including the following: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Sound familiar? Those are the 5Ws that you learned in essay-writing in grade school. And they still apply. Even though the world went and got itself into a big ol’ hurry and digitized, news is still for people to read. And people want to know the 5Ws very quickly.

Why the character limits? Twitter is only 140 characters so you need a title that will fit along with a link and #hash reference. Most reposting services like Digg, Delicious, Linked In, etc have limits of 200-350 characters. And, when your news is picked up by sites like Alltop.com, you want the first paragraph to contain enough information to get the reader to read the whole release. In addition, most of adult America has some form of shortened attention span and will only spend time skimming. All the important stuff needs to be in the top paragraph.

And while you are writing, make sure to include a list of tags you want to include with your press release.

Your Web site is your front door
Your organization’s Web site is no longer something “over there.” It is the front door, the face of your organization. When prospective (or current) clients and members go looking for your services, you can bet they have already been to your Web site. If it is sloppy, unorganized, outdated, hosting too much information or has a feel that it has been “glued together,” they will notice and assume your organization is the same way. But, if it is tightened up and has a sense of purpose, direction and vision, they will turn the knob and come in.

A funeral dirge for trade shows?

maclogoApple announced today that will no longer participate in Macworld Expo, the largest annual show for Mac enthusiasts. In a press release, Apple says:

Apple is reaching more people in more ways than ever before, so like many companies, trade shows have become a very minor part of how Apple reaches its customers. The increasing popularity of Apple’s Retail Stores, which more than 3.5 million people visit every week, and the Apple.com website enable Apple to directly reach more than a hundred million customers around the world in innovative new ways.

Are trade shows becoming obsolete? Apple seems to think so.

At TourneyCentral, we’ve scaled back from a couple dozen local shows and two national shows (NSCAA and US Youth Soccer) to just one per year, the NSCAA. In short, much of the material was a repeat of the shows, the exhibitors — with the exception of the NSCAA — were treated like second-class citizens that were allowed to pay, but not participate.

Perhaps this was Apple’s experience, but most likely not because of their size and heft. But, for smaller companies who have other choices to reach their audiences, this sounds like “permission” to break away from the “must show” trade shows.

Yet there still exists that fundamental human need for touch. As trade shows become less and less attended, what will replace that? Tweetups? Webinars? Live TV shows? More likely, the answer will be some combination of all of these, initiated or complemented with Twitter, blog comments and posts.

With any luck, we’ll start meeting people again in laundromats, grocery stores, bars and dog parks. And, maybe we’ll even unplug the cell phone from our ears and turn to them and have a real conversation.

What do you think is the future of trade shows?

Originally posted at: DogWalkBlog.com