In a F2F networking group recently, we talked about how it’s helpful to identify a highly specific target market for your business. One person, an insurance salesman, told about a colleague in his industry who works exclusively with dog trainers. By combining the sub-culture of dog trainers with the universal interest in insurance protections, he is able to reach a high degree of success in his business; and to build a loyal clientele who know and proclaim him as the go-to person for anything to do with insurance.
I loved that story because it shows how social media is supposed to work. Too many companies remain faceless, all-business, and always selling. They ignore the miracle of the internet, which allows us to be real people, with diverse interests and talents.
Online, the truest way to establish your brand is to show your humanity. No one is simply an insurance salesman. No one is just a bus driver or janitor or CEO. Everyone has a life, too.
Do you love dogs and also sell insurance? Do you play golf and also run a travel agency? Do you enjoy going to spas and you work as an accountant?
Tell us about it.
An article I read last week finally articulated something crucially important, at least in my comprehension of commerce in the 21st century. Esteban Kolsky outlined three areas where companies often fail vis-à-vis social media. His points are well taken; I highly recommend taking them all seriously. But I wish to mention here just one of them.
And if you’re still clinging to 20th century rules of marketing and PR, you’re not going to like it.
Here’s the crux of Kolsky’s argument:
“Social Media is a long-term, part-of-the-core-business investment you must make. Expecting a return on that investment is naïve – like expecting your purchase of a better telephone system to return your money.”
We make far too much of data collection and ROI regarding social media. Yes, you can definitely see financial returns from your online business presence, but that result is secondary to the greater value of web communications.
For all it may seem that technology has forced new practices upon us, the greater truth is that in a global economy, enterprise thrives when it is obviously, personally attentive to its market; and the internet is the most efficient way to achieve such transparency. Social media is infrastructure, not marketing.
Lately, we’re embarking on the fearsome path to purchase a new car. In the process of exploring dealerships, I’ve been thinking about social media. See, even in 2011, the car salesman is still an unsavory character by stereotype and also quite often in actual experience.
Selling cars is a job that attracts hustlers, and while we all want to be clever hustlers, we certainly don’t want to be hustled. My partner and I have gone to great lengths to avoid prolonged contact with these people, just because we expect to have to combat a hard sell from a greasy character.
What a shame. Surely the majority of car salespeople are fine upstanding folk. Their reputation probably does them injustice.
So if I was a car sales person, I would use social media to prove that I am a human being. I’d have a Facebook page for business contacts. I’d blog about the business. I’d collect email addresses and send newsletters full of useful info about cars but also other things besides cars. Advice for golfers, maybe, or travel tips.
I’d use the internet to become a real person, someone trustworthy, instead of a mere stereotype. Bet my sales would skyrocket.
A bird’s eye view of Phoenix or LA shows endless hives of houses and industries stretching as far as you can see.
I traveled to Los Angeles and back last week. I’ve made the trip often, but still the sheer crawling mass of humanity sprawling over this continent never ceases to amaze. We peeps are legion, slathering desert and shore with our stuff, no square mile untouched. We cum, we consume, we culminate in wastelands.
Makes me think of the individual struggle to stand out amongst the teeming hoards of websites and competing online brands. The internet’s size is unfathomable, scary.
How to negotiate beyond this threat?
Get clear on where you want to be. There’s the Valley and there’s Santa Monica. There’s About.com and there’s Wikipedia. Know the difference.
Establish an expense account. You get what you pay for, no surprise here.
Be ready and willing to jump on board. Are you ready to rev up into the freeway fast lane? If not, don’t even go there. Faking it won’t work.
Believe (and make believe). Hollywood, new age gurus, Jerry Brown. Faith is crucial.
Appreciate. LA’s June flowers and landscaping are beyond compare. Observe and love, and anything’s possible.
Tipped off by a savvy local business owner, I looked into QR the other day. If you’re not familiar with the technology, QR (Quick Response) is a barcode-like icon that can be ‘read’ by a smart phone, sending the visitor to a designated web page.
Home-bound geek that I am, I’m ignorant of most mobile technologies, which is why I missed the QR phenom. I don’t even own a smart phone. But it’s evident to me that the internet / real world interface that QR provides is more awesome than the average digital advance.
For the first time, with QR the brick and mortar street scene is blended seamlessly with internet data. A restaurant’s menus, specials, and reviews can be shown when the passerby scans a code affixed to the front window.
Or – how about this – your QR code printed on your business card lets the viewer instantly see your website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, or whatever you web page you want to show them.
Seems to me the QR function is a giant step to the future (though it’s been around since 1994, apparently!) Want a step-by-step tutorial? See this excellent video by my esteemed colleague, Janine Gregor.
There’s an ongoing trend in social media that is patently at cross-purposes to the best of digital communications.
The world of online marketing is divided in two: those who get it and those who game it.
There are those, for instance, who suddenly get in a snit about avalanches of spam on their Facebook accounts. Of course, they have indiscriminately added all takers as friends over the past couple of years, so that by now most updates are from total strangers.
Similarly, there are people who invite the world to connect with them on LinkedIn.
And people who use a service to write updates once and spread the same message across all platforms.
These folk are into quantity. They haven’t got the message that inbound marketing values the quality of your connections far more than their quantity.
It’s easy to get “followers” online; but what you want is leads, actual potential buyers, right?
The internet’s solution to that ancient quest is to drastically heighten the impact of branding. Instead of pursuing huge numbers of faceless followers, you seek only the most qualified leads.
Social media’s tools cover a broad range of uses. Do you manipulate them with savvy or greed?
When you launch your inbound marketing strategy, make sure you know the difference between content creation and marketing. The line between these departments in business is thin, so having a clear distinction in your mind will help keep you on an even keel.
Content creation is endless soul searching, intrepid adventure taking you to the very edge of your skills and gifts. Marketing is a step removed; it reflects on the content that’s been created; it sits in the spectator’s seat and cheers.
Because any update you post, or anything you publish online borders on serving as content creation, it’s easy to be doing marketing when you think you’re creating content, and vice versa.
Matter of fact, attraction marketing/ inbound marketing/ social media all encourage blurring the line. As long as it shows statistical growth, it’s money in the bank.
Okay, okay, but content is your bare soul and marketing is an echo. Content creation and marketing are polar opposites, really.
Don’t let your content degrade to mere marketing. Don’t allow the complements to converge, or you’ll end up empty handed.
Great content is your core. When building it, be sure you’re authentically creating, not just repeating.
We got a cool gift this New Year, and though it’s shaping up to be another time drain, it could become the social network of choice for many people. I’m talking about Quora.com. And it actually launched several months ago, but seems like now it’s suddenly taken center stage.
I can’t pretend to have mastered Quora’s system, but the basic idea is the asking and answering of questions, with the express goal of ‘making the site a great place for people who want to learn.’ More accessible and yet more multi-leveled than LinkedIn, Quora shares that site’s serious nature. This is not your accustomed Facebook and Twitter chit-chat.
You define your interactions on Quora by picking topics of interest, following people, browsing your home page, and answering or posing questions as you are so moved. The result: an opportunity to teach, learn, and display your expertise that is highly promising in its ease-of-use, clever design for visibility and content management, and potential benefits for you and your business. Every question gets its own page, and voting for an answer moves it up the ladder.
The software presents a powerful new way to collect and archive knowledge. Opportunities boggle the noggin.
Branding, like beauty, resides in the eye of the beholder. Your brand is how you are perceived by other people. You can control this only to a certain extent. You cannot dictate or command it.
Nonetheless, you can exercise a great deal more influence over your brand than many businesses realize. It’s sad to see many worthy enterprises fail to steer their branding. They advertise, they market, but they do not attend to branding.
What’s the difference?
When you brand you consider, first and foremost, your customer’s point of view. You define the ways you are meaningful to the actual lives of your clientele. You consciously work to influence the impression other people have of you.
- If you send me invitations to connect on LinkedIn and I’ve never heard of you before, you’re not taking care of your brand.
- If your Twitter profile shows just one tweet, or no bio, or a graphic instead of a person, your brand is adversely affected.
- If the videos you offer on your website are 98% selling, you’re oblivious to the ways this impacts your brand.
The web offers an unprecedented opportunity to powerfully brand. Are you taking full advantage?
As I understand it, the term social media originated in the use of the internet by friends who shared short messages in cyberspace. It was later that business chimed in, adapting social media to its purposes. (For businesses, though, the term morphed into social media marketing.)
That original use of the web for friendly social exchanges, even if for business, means the protocols of personal relationships continue to dominate web structures even now. Talking on Facebook about your family dinner last Sunday is also talking about your brand. Your LinkedIn profile mixes your true passions and your profession.
This is to say, the line between business and personal life has blurred considerably. We differentiate between personal and corporate branding, but the larger truth is that personal brand is paramount. Business, that is, can’t be impersonal. Much as we might want to cling to concepts of institutions stronger than the test of time, no construct will survive if people no longer support it. No enterprise can thrive apart from its human drivers. The web, especially, aligns with individuals, not corporations.
Before the internet, we considered ourselves pawns of the system. Now, though, we see how essentially the system depends on us.