9:10pm. Late by my standards. The cell rang. Unplugged. That was the name I’d given the weekend. The ring was insistent, strident, demanding. Reluctantly I reached for the phone and got the surprise of my life.
“I know it’s late,” Clare began. “I thought you might enjoy the replay of the Leonard Cohen concert on PBS this evening. It just started. I didn’t realize until I read your Facebook profile the other day that you were a fan.”
Thanks to her phone call, I enjoyed a great wrap up for my lazy, unplugged weekend.
As you complete your social media profile, you build connection opportunities with acquaintances and potential customers. Experts encourage you to be yourself. Words like transparency and authenticity pepper their recommendations. It sounds easy.
Ultimately, it’s not about you and your profile. Remember the old saying, “What’s in it for me?” How can you make someone else’s profile work for you?
Until Sunday’s call, I’d not given a lot of thought to my Facebook profile. Facebook simply required daily consideration because more people than ever before use it instead of email. The importance of considering information impact is now etched more clearly in my mind. Clare found something about me and used it to make my evening better.
Clare took the time to not only read my profile, but internalize the information and risk using it to make our connection even stronger. Eighteen hours later I’m amazed at my appreciation of such a special gesture.
No, I’m not suggesting that you call and suggest music programs for friends to watch. That would be too easy. Instead, look more carefully at the profiles of those with whom you connect. How can you make your connection stronger? What element from a contact’s Facebook profile would showcase your consideration?
- The continuing saga of a business owner with a less-than-perfect website that doesn’t get better on its own;
- Ongoing reports from a client who is getting ready to approve and release copy for a brochure;
- A not-for-profit board with no money whose members discuss the future expenditures with which they’re confronted;
- A volunteer who complains about the lack of appreciation as she continues the thankless job of organizing information;
- Discussions about lack of communication due to vanishing targets: people who suddenly don’t respond to voicemail or email;
So, it’s hardly a surprise that a newsletter from Early to Rise caught my attention. When you have an ongoing problem, the root cause may be your “elephant tether” according to Bob Cox.
Did you know that elephants are trained to stay where they are by tying a rope around one of their massive legs and attaching it to a peg in the ground? Can the peg and rope really hold back an elephant? Absolutely not!
Then why does it work? Because elephants grow up believing it will. Maybe they tried pulling away when they were young with no success. Maybe they were injured by their action. After enough failures, they stop trying. They no longer test the restraint, and confine themselves when tethered to the rope.
During the course of my life and career I have run into many people (and no doubt will run into many more) who are holding themselves captive with their own “elephant tether.”
I’m reminded of the adage: are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Which do you choose? Or, did you even see the elephant in the kitchen?
Before I could answer, my luncheon partner added, “You know, I don’t really know what exactly you do. Does your company even address these kind of questions? I’d like to pick your brain on some marketing questions.”
Because more small business owners are asking, I took real questions from a recent sales call and detailed them here for you.
Can social media serve a regional pet food company?
Yes. For example, you could use Facebook to announce special events. Or, a tool like Twitter could provide information about pet food to dog owners across the country. A blog could feature product information or stories from pet owners who’d used your product. You could discuss your product and how it compares to other similar products. We’re speculating here. There are dozens of social media channels or outlets. Using any of them requires a strategy. What is it you want to achieve?
Could I promote a taste event for dogs?
Sure, why not? Take a flip cam with you to the event and film the dogs enjoying your product. That kind of fun can go a long ways towards generating enthusiasm for the product. Let the public see the natural reaction of pets to your food.
By the way, plan to take a model release form with you and get the pet owners to sign off on your rights to use that film in the promotion of your product. Video is one of the hottest items out there right now. Your video from a special tasting event could be used on your own website as well as posted on YouTube or Vimeo or dozens of other sites that might be appropriate. Still pictures, for example could be posted on Flickr.
What if, for example, you used a flip cam to talk with store owners about product experiences. You could post those videos on the web and begin to tell your product story in a different way. (Remember, when you say it, it’s a claim. When the customer says it, it’s fact.) Recent sales research shows potential customers prefer this type of sharing to blatant advertising. Social media can help with that goal.
Couldn’t I develop something in social media and not have to worry about my website?
That strategy may not serve you well long-term. When you post information on Facebook, it’s not the same as posting it on your website. Facebook owns their application. If you violate Facebook rules, your postings, fan page, or any other information could potentially be disallowed and then your hard work would be lost.
So do I need to think about making use of social media or is it just for the big companies?
Social media could start a grassroots buzz about your product, regardless of your company size. It won’t happen without careful planning. Think it through. Strategize. Your social media success will be in direct proportion to the effort you put into it.
Okay. Rather than winging it, take the time to answer some specific questions about your target and long term goals. We’ll talk more about those – and how they apply to social media – in future postings.
After weeks of immersion in social media, days of national Twitter and Facebook headlines, and ongoing news of yet more changes in print publications, no one was more surprised than me when a local newspaper requested a news release from a client. What a great reminder to stay in touch on all levels.
If you run a local, brick-and-mortar business consider keeping local media updated on your firm’s activities with a news release. Here’s a ‘baker’s dozen’ practical tips straight from handbook of “this just happened.”
- Keep an updated list of local publications, their contacts and their deadlines. Some weekly and monthly publications welcome your content and will simply reprint good information for their readers if it’s appropriate. Timeliness require pre-planning.
- Send an announcement to the local press when you have an event – a seminar, a new product release, an information product based on customer research, a change in business hours, a change in location.
- Submit calendar items to appropriate news organizations or online news sites.
- Look for online opportunities to extend media coverage. Some local papers offer online headlines and stories that expand on items in the print version. So, you might get a calendar-only mention in print and a full-blown story online.
- Include a graphic such as a new logo or a picture of your new product in online materials and offer high resolution versions to the media.
- Mesh print information with online opportunities. Add your news release to your website, for example. If an online service carries your story, comment on it, if possible. (NOTE: If the service is not interactive, at least thank the person responsible for publishing your story.)
- Include employees in your information downline. Make sure employees are aware of the news opportunity and provide them with core facts they can share on their individual networks.
- Appoint a contact. Put a specific person in charge of communication related to the event; let them be the point person rather than coordinating through a committee. (For example, in a situation with two partners, make one partner the chief communicator or contact person for media.) Put this person’s name, including cell number and email information, on news releases.
- Quote the highest ranking person in the company. Make that quote available to the person who answers the phone, the those who visit the website and include it in the news release.
- Develop a standard “About Our Company” paragraph and include it at the end of your news item.
- Send an email update to customers and include a link for more information.
- Ask customers to share with a simple ‘thumbs up’ (such as Facebook’s Like This).
- Keep social media current. Update blog posts and various profiles. By all means, if you have a Facebook Fan page for your company, put the information there.
The opportunity for any business becomes a blend of new media into the traditional press release. No choice has to be made. Instead of being completely immersed in urgent details, take a few minutes to think through your plan to generate visibility in your community.