How not to engage in social media: A personal story

Coca-Cola North America does more marketing in a day than most of us do in years. And judging by the record, they do it extremely well. At the risk of seeming picayune, here’s some constructive criticism. Continue reading

The first job in email marketing: Build your list!

Do you have any tips for growing an email list? Please share them with us in the comments below.

A few days ago, I promised to talk about growing your email list. I think most businesses and organizations aren’t nearly as seriously as they should be about growing their list.Grow your email list

When I talk to clients who are considering email marketing, they’re so enthusiastic. And why not?  They imagine the professional look and branding, the efficiency, the easy tracking of opens and clicked links, the measurability – and all at such an unbelievably low price for the potential value.

But then the inconvenient question

What shape is your email list in?  Generally, I get blank stares.

Continue reading

HootSuite: The Twitter user’s essential tool

I wouldn’t call myself a Twitter guru, or even a fanatic. But I like it quite a bit, especially for promoting your content, networking and doing research. I don’t know how many times I’ve tweeted something like, “Any recommendations on a CRM system for a construction contractor? PLEASE RETWEET”, and gotten back tons of thoughtful responses.

So I always recommend small and midsize businesses give Twitter a try. Like anything else, it requires an investment in time (to do it yourself) or money (to pay your people to do it). Some people have money, some have time, some have neither. So you prioritize. Maybe Twitter isn’t a high priority with the time it requires.

But Twitter doesn’t have to take too much time, if you use a great tool like HootSuite.

I rarely go to anymore. I use HootSuite to review my lists and messages; and to compose, schedule and send tweets.

And now (drumroll please…): It looks like HootSuite just got better. Check out their new “Hootlet” auto-scheduling extension for Chrome and add-on for Firefox. It resides up there next to your address bar, and lets you quickly schedule link-share tweets, which are among the most retweeted. I think I’m going to like this.

11 business reasons to try Twitter

Twitter isn’t for everyone. But maybe it’s for you, and you just don’t know it yet.

Twitter isn't for everyone, but it may be for you

Twitter inspires love and hate

It may be hard to see what value you can get from 140 characters competing in a sea of incomprehensible tweets such as “RT @SuperBlogDude, yo!” and yawners like “I’m at Denny’s.” I was just as skeptical, not that long ago.

If you’re looking for a shortcut to sales, Twitter isn’t it (though there are exceptions). But I now swear by it.

Mirroring my own experience, here’s why you may want to keep your mind open to Twitter.

1. It’s a great platform for customer service. A couple of years ago, I was ambivalent about Twitter. Then I read a case study about a company few people knew about. Zappos, an online shoe seller, had racked up a billion dollars in annual sales. They had created a reputation – among people who buy lots of shoes – for service that surpassed even Nordstrom. Zappos’ main brand-building tool: Twitter. They used Twitter mainly for customer service. It helped them be so responsive and so transparent, they created a business case that will be studied for years.

The Zappos case proves there’s more to Twitter than you can tell from the 140-character entries.

2. It opens up an entire new world of information. I wanted to learn about newer marketing techniques. Twitter was like getting a college degree on an accelerated schedule. It helped me identify experts in the field, follow them, and get quick notification of their newest blog posts. I learned what they are talking about and doing, and where to turn for answers.

On Twitter, you can find fresh, leading-edge information, often from unusual yet authoritative sources.

3. Twitter tears down physical barriers to meeting people. In my old life as an ad agency creative, I met and worked with some impressive individuals. But it took years to build up my Rolodex. (You kids under 30, look that up.) With Twitter, I connected and interacted with leaders in digital/social and social marketing in a matter of weeks.

I now communicate regularly with smart folks on every continent. Ideas know no boundaries. Business opportunities know very few.

4. Meet people locally. An unexpected benefit, to me, is how many people I’ve connected with right here in my own town, Spokane. Pretty valuable to someone who hasn’t lived here all that long.

Combine Twitter with your in-person networking strategy. Locate people locally, engage them, and create strategic relationships.

5. Twitter gently encourages you to take positive business action. I’ve never been the world’s best self-starter, but Twitter has made me better. Twitter forces you to prove your worth. You’ll have to provide good content yourself – or you can organize and curate other people’s content. You learn to focus and strengthen your message, and how to interact effectively.

The fact that people are just one click away from you and your business encourages you to get your business in order. It shows you how you stack up against competition, locally and globally. There’s no hiding behind your Twitter handle.

6. Twitter helps you research almost anything. Twitter’s search function helps you learn about people, products, companies and more.

You don’t even need a Twitter account to us  Twitter Search. It’s a great resource. It’s especially useful for real-time trends and information. Monitor your competition, or your foreign counterparts.

7. Get quick, candid feedback. Be direct and ask your followers about anything. Or target specific users, whether they follow you or not.

I use Twitter to ask questions to people I want to emulate, do business with, who have specific expertise, or those I just plain admire. Amazingly, they usually answer.

8. Establish credibility and expertise. Respond to comments, especially on your specialty topics. Answer questions. Ask great questions in return. Start conversations. Expand your influence.

Twitter is great for conversation. It’s why they call it “social” media. The 140-character limit imposes discipline, and lets you drive traffic to your site.

9. Promote your promotions. You have a white paper, a video, a free software application, a contest, a great blog post, a limited-time low price? Tweet it. Add a Twitter sharing button to your online communications. See them go viral. If you develop the right community, and offer the right value, Twitter can drive traffic to your website or your storefront.

Twitter is a gateway drug to other social media. It’s a good source of traffic to my blog. And with a Twitter “share button” on my blog, the reverse is true as well.

10. Google likes Twitter. I just Googled my name. The third item comes from my Twitter account. And it’s current.

Twitter is a fast way to improve your search engine rank.

11. There’s no right and wrong way to use Twitter. Twitter is new. It’s simple. Once you’re handy with it – in days – you’ll think of ways to use it that are just right for your business. [Edit to add: Actually, there are some wrong ways to use Twitter, as with anything else. There’s poor etiquette and obnoxious behavior. But that’s another post altogether.]

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Twitter is a tool for letting people know, like and trust you. What you do with it is up to you.

Give twitter a chance to help your business. Even if it’s not your bag, you’ll learn if and where it belongs in your marketing plan.

What are your thoughts, questions, reservations, or personal experiences with Twitter?






HootSuite went down: Anger and gratitude

When HootSuite went down yesterday, I have to admit I was TO’ed. “What? My precious, witty, added value/value added tweets – lost in cyberspace for all time! THOSE BASTARDS!”

Really, I should have been grateful for the free service they provide. For the hundreds of new Twitter folks I’ve connected with, with HootSuite’s help. For the 99.99% of the time that they’re up and running and helping me expand my horizons. (You old-time telecom folks will notice that’s four, not five 9s of reliability.)

And it makes me think: How many free services would I be sunk without? Admittedly, not as many as some folks, but still… here’s a short list.

Yahoo mail
Google Analytics
Google Alerts
Google Reader
Google Docs
Dozens of WordPress plugins from generous folks around the world
Free WordPress themes from generous folks around the world
Social Mention (OK, I wouln’t be sunk, exactly)

Klout (OK, it’s actually a curse)
A hundred free resources from HubSpot

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That’s just off the top of my head. Amazing value there, isn’t it?

There are so many great services available at no cost beyond a computer and a connection. We all take them for granted, yet they help us get in business, compete, learn and just have a good time.

Which free services are you grateful for – and why?  And even more important, do we show enough gratitude for the hard work of so many people in the digital community?




No budget, no object to marketing a new business

This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time on marketing for new businesses, so I’m just going to post the link without much comment.

Startup Marketing: Tactical Tips From The Trenches

The link takes you to a blog post from Dharmesh Shah, co-founder of HubSpot, the marketing automation software company that coined the term inbound marketing. He knows a few things about startups and success. Here’s how he intros his list of 21 tips:

…I started making a list of all of the things I’d advise a new startup to do to get things kicked off with a limited budget.  As it turns out, there are a lot of tactical steps that individually don’t do much, but in aggregate start laying the foundation for much bigger things…This list is not intended to be a comprehensive “here are all the things you should do”, but more of a “if I were starting a company today, here’s what I would do in the first 10 days…”

That list includes:

– A name
– A simple website
– A Twitter account
– A “clean” Facebook URL
– A blog article about how you got to this point
– Setting up Google Alerts 

Of course, Mr. Shah goes into a bit of detail. But no so much as to overwhelm.

There’s a lot of marketing you can do without a budget. Click the link, then come back and tell me what you thought.


5 clues that a business needs to change

Change doesn’t come easily to most of us. Companies, individuals and even entire industries don’t easily change their practices, policies and worldview – even in the face of irrefutable evidence that customers are unhappy. See: airlines, banks, auto dealers, cell phone carriers, real estate brokers, mortgage brokers. Continue reading

When you use “borrowed interest,” what exactly are you borrowing?

Timothy Hutton's ill-fated Groupon commercial

Piggybacking on the Dali Lama didn't work

Sometimes when you’re trying to figure out what to talk about in your marketing communications, the temptation to “borrow interest” from a totally unrelated topic is too hard to pass up.

Maybe because it’s relatively easy to borrow interest from something or someone who is well-known. And relatively hard to perform the real work that’s often required to communicate real value.

But think twice before using someone else’s fame, reputation or notoriety to get attention for yourself. It can backfire. Continue reading

Inbound marketing: a primer

Darren would be even more confused today

He'd be even more confused today

I lost faith in the ability of traditional advertising to make a dent in most businesses years ago. The tipping point was probably when my boss strong-armed a client into producing a Super Bowl commercial. The client, an old beer brand, would have had better luck investing in the California Lotto. An entire year’s budget was blown in one fell swoop.

Traditional marketing used to work, no doubt. It was a decent enough trade-off at the time: You watch our awkward and often insulting and sometimes misleading messages, and we’ll subsidize your TV, radio and print content. New technologies — the remote control, 500 channel cable, DVDs, DVRs, MP3 players, caller ID, the Internet — all made these interruptions more unwanted, and more avoidable.

For the vast majority of businesses — mine, and probably yours — traditional interruption-based marketing just doesn’t work any more.

At some point, it became far more efficient simply to help the customer find you online, than for you to find the customer, interrupt him and seduce him. Continue reading

What if we listened to the naysayers?

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” – Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, 1895

“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” – Ken Olsen, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

The Wright Brothers fly

“The telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.” – Western Union internal memo, 1876

“The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?” – David Sarnoff’s associates, in response to his urgings for investment in radio in the 1920’s

“Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.” – New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work, 1921

“Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” – Harry M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899

“We’ll do social media after we get the ad campaign going.” – Countless folks who don’t get it, still today

Can your small business compete without huge marketing budgets?  With only social media and inbound marketing techniques, and a dedication to your customers’ success? Whatever you do, don’t listen to the naysayers.

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Credit where credit is due: The above quotes come from a wonderful web page at NOVA Online.