Friday, 21 December 2012

Happy Holidays to All!


From all of us at ES Computer Training to all of our friends, clients and readers:

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!   

We wish you all the best for a truly wonderful holiday season and a happy & prosperous New Year!!

See you in 2013!!!


And, for you to enjoy, here’s a comical version of the classic, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”:

Politically Correct Santa


'Twas the night before Christmas and Santa's a wreck...                
How to live in a world that's politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to "Elves",
"Vertically Challenged" they were calling themselves.
 
And labor conditions at the north pole
Were alleged by the union to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,
Released to the wilds by the Humane Society.

And equal employment had made it quite clear
That Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
Were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;
The ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.
And people had started to call for the cops
When they heard sled noises on their roof-tops.

Second-hand smoke from his pipe had his workers quite frightened.
His fur trimmed red suit was called "Unenlightened."
And to show you the strangeness of life's ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose

And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,
Demanding millions in over-due compensation.
So, half of the reindeer were gone; and his wife,
Who suddenly said she'd enough of this life,

Joined a self-help group, packed, and left in a whiz,
Demanding from now on her title was Ms.
And as for the gifts, why, he'd ne'er had a notion
That making a choice could cause so much commotion.

Nothing of leather, nothing of fur,
Which meant nothing for him. And nothing for her.
Nothing that might be construed to pollute.
Nothing to aim. Nothing to shoot.

Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls. Or just for the boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific.
Nothing that's warlike or non-pacific.

No candy or sweets...they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish a truth.
And fairy tales, while not yet forbidden,
Were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden.

For they raised the hackles of those psychological
Who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football...someone could get hurt;
Besides, playing sports exposed kids to dirt.

Dolls were said to be sexist, and should be passe;
And Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, disheveled, perplexed;
He just could not figure out what to do next.

He tried to be merry, tried to be gay,
But you've got to be careful with that word today.
His sack was quite empty, limp to the ground;
Nothing fully acceptable was to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might
Give to all without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy, with no indecision,
Each group of people, every religion;

Every ethnicity, every hue,
Everyone, everywhere...even you.
So here is that gift, it's price beyond worth...
"May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on earth."

Notice:  This poem is copyright 1992 by Harvey Ehrlich.  It is free to
distribute, without changes, as long as this notice remains intact.
All follow-ups, requests, comments, questions, distribution rights, etc
should be made to  mduhan@husc.harvard.edu .  Happy Holidays!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

How NOT to Respond to Customer Complaints on Social Media


Okay, I read the following Facebook posts and after I stopped giggling like a 12 year old schoolgirl, I thought, “Oh, what perfect material for a blog topic regarding how not to respond when a customer complains about your services via social media.”  

So, without further ado, here’s a truly perfect example of what you shouldn't be doing…



Pretty much self-explanatory, right?  The reasoning for not talking to people in the manner illustrated above?  I know it can be tough to take criticism, and while the lady who wrote what she did in this post used all the tact of a raging bull, the chef at Pigalle Boston still, as a business owner, should never have responded as he did - so harshly and with such colorful language!

Even though you might not like what one or two people have to say, you should keep in mind the big picture, and remember once again, that what you post on Facebook (and other social media platforms) is there for the world to see - the world that includes clients and prospective clients.  Other than for the entertainment value, no one really wants to see callous, not-so-well-thought-out comments.  They’re not a great reflection of you and the way you do business.  When posting on social media for business purposes, it’s always best to maintain a sense of professional decorum.  Swearing and name-calling don’t really fall into that category, and while it might seem like a good idea at the time: Always think before you post!!!

So, you want to tell your critics to jump off a cliff - but how should you actually handle put-downs and negative criticism?  Simply let the person know that you are sorry to hear that they’re dissatisfied with the service.  Ask them how they feel you might make their experience better the next time.  Accept it as constructive criticism, and learn from it.  Bottom line:  You can’t please all of the people all of the time.  Just remember, do your best, and keep your customer care/service skills honed so that, even if you’re tempted to, you never respond to negative comments in the manner illustrated above!

Friday, 30 November 2012

The Incompetence of the United Parcel Service (And How it Ruined My Day)


I don’t often use my blog as a platform to air my personal (or business, as the case may be) grievances, but as I sit down to write today’s blog, I find myself distracted due to the gross incompetence of the United Parcel Service (UPS).  And, if you, my good readers, can relate to this experience, it is my hope that you can understand why I’m exercising my right to free speech here and, well, venting for all to see, about how UPS just ruined my day!!  Here’s the story:

We have a computer training course occurring in Ottawa this coming Monday.  So, to be diligent, I called UPS this past Tuesday (well in advance) to schedule a shipment (of our course material to our facilitator in Ottawa) to be picked up at our location on Wednesday and be delivered before close of business on Thursday.  UPS assured me that the driver would arrive here between 3:30 pm and 5:00 pm to pick up the package.  They never showed up!!

On Thursday morning, I called UPS to find out what the hell had happened.  They were apologetic and assured me that the driver would definitely show up today (Thursday).  I explained, however, that due to the fact that the shipment was now going out a day later, we would have to ship using their ‘Express’ service as opposed to their ‘Standard’ service.  As ‘Express’ service is more expensive, I asked that they compensate by not charging me the extra fee.  I was impressed when they offered the service completely free of charge, with a guarantee that the package would arrive the following day (today – Friday) by no later than 10:30 am.
I take it you know where I’m going with this…

At about 10:15 this morning, the recipient had not yet received the package, so I called UPS to track it.  They assured me that, yes, it was indeed on the truck for delivery and would be arriving in the next 15 minutes.  I was guardedly satisfied with that.  I hung up the phone and waited for the recipient to call to let me know that the package had arrived safely.  I waited until 10:45.  The phone rang.  It was Greg, but the news was not good!  UPS had in fact shown up at his apartment building, but for some reason that only the forces beyond will ever know, the driver, in his infinite wisdom, neglected to actually buzz Greg’s apartment, instead opting to simply leave a sticker on his mailbox, indicating that UPS had been to the building with the package.  

My question for UPS (when I called to find out what the hell!!) was, “How does this help us?”  They took all of my information yet again, including the tracking number, only to tell me that there had been an attempt at delivery.  I explained how that attempt had fallen short and that the bottom line still remained that the recipient did not have the package in hand.  The person I spoke with mumbled something about an entry code to the building and how it had not been included on the waybill.  I patiently explained that an entry code was not necessary – that the driver needed only to buzz the apartment number.  I also explained that we had shipped to this address about a gazillion times in the past, without incident.  

I requested that the driver go immediately back to the building – no harm done.  I was told that would be impossible.  I requested that the package be re-delivered sometime later in the day.  I was told that would be impossible.  I asked if the UPS depot in Ottawa was open on Saturday so that Greg at least could pick up the package himself.  I was told that, no, it was not open on Saturday.  After much kerfuffle (and quite some time on hold), I was informed that they could send the package to the UPS store, located on the other side of town, and that it could be picked up there, but only between the hours of 12:00 and 3:00.  When I explained to this person, with a sense of urgency, that the contents of this package were crucial for a meeting this afternoon (a little bit of shameless lying never hurt anybody) to see if I could light a fire under their collective asses, I was told still, that this was the best they could do.  When I then asked how UPS compensated their clients for these types of blunders (money lost, embarrassment at not having the required documents for a meeting, time lost, etc.), I was informed in no uncertain terms, that “UPS doesn’t do that.”  Now that’s customer service for ya’!

I could have really lost it, used my well-stocked four letter word vocabulary and been insufferable, but that would have only served to upset me more than them.  I simply thanked her for her time and let her know that my next call would be to Federal Express to set up my new account.  Without waiting for her reply, I hung up.
 
Anyone want to place bets on whether or not the package will be at the UPS store tomorrow as promised?  Well, we’re not taking any chances – we have put together another set of course material, packaged it up and will be making a trip to Ottawa this weekend!  Thank you so very much, UPS!!!

Friday, 16 November 2012

Want More Twitter Followers? Here’s What to Do!


I know that by now you’re all using Twitter as a means of branding and getting your business’ messages heard, right?  Good for you!  With Twitter now boasting a whopping 700 million + users worldwide, you’d be remiss in not implementing everyone’s favorite microblog site as an integral part of your social media marketing strategy.  So, how do you ensure that people will actually see and share your posts?  How do you garner a broad Twitter audience?  Read on!     

First and Foremost, Always Remember that Content is King

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again:  Engaging content is the single most important thing you will require to garner and retain a loyal Twitter audience.  It has to be interesting, informative and even entertaining.  It has to be unique, so be creative and keep coming up with fresh, engaging content.   How do you do that in 140 characters or less, you ask?  Make the short bursts (commonly known as Tweets) your teasers lines and include links to your pertinent blog posts or other interesting and relevant content that your readers will want to devour.  Why not make a game out of it – challenge users with trivia questions and even consider rewarding users who actively engage with recognition as some added incentive.

Post on a Regular Basis

If you want to retain and grow your Twitter audience, people have to know that they’ll always be able to count on you for fresh content.  By fresh, I don’t just mean innovative, but also regular and consistent.  Tweet often!  And, by often I don’t mean 60 times a day.  While you want to keep it interesting, you don’t want to inundate. 

Engage your Followers in Conversation

Literally.  A great way to do this is to ask questions.  People will respond and you can take it from there.  You can ask questions about your services or products to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not.  Encouraging people to talk (or tweet) favorably about your services and products creates brand ambassadors!  You can also sometimes ask questions completely unrelated to your business, for example about a film you’ve just seen or the NHL lockout – whatever interests you and whatever you feel might be of interest to your Twitter followers.  Encourage people to share their thoughts and opinions – most of us love to get the opportunity to do that!  Getting regular, intriguing conversations going is a great way to keep your Twitter followers coming back for more and a great way to garner more followers.  And, a very important thing to do:  Always respond to your followers when they ask you a question, or whenever they post something that warrants a response.  Never ignore your followers!

Make Use of Directories

Did you know that you can list your Twitter account in such directories as Twibes.com and Twellow.com?  Well, you can!  Why not entertain the idea of building lists on key communication streams, making it easier for prospective followers within your industry or with shared interests to find you. 

Make Good Use of Hashtags

Use Hashtags (#) to allow your tweets to be searchable, further enabling them to be seen by other users who share similar interests.  Just stick a Hashtag in front of any keywords within your tweet!

Follow to be Followed

It only stands to reason that the more users you follow, the more users will follow you. When you follow someone, they have the option to follow you.  Not everyone that you follow will want to follow you, but the more you follow, the more that will follow you!

Retweet Quality Content

Retweeting posts that are of interest to you will increase your visibility on Twitter.   People following those that you retweet will view you as someone who shares common interests.  Ensure that you include the @name when you refer to other users, as this will develop relationships.  And, other users who monitor themselves will be sure to notice your retweet!

Tweet at Optimal Times

Yes, there are better times to tweet than others.  For the full scoop, here’s a link to a previous post: http://escomputers.blogspot.ca/2012/01/why-timing-your-tweets-can-pay-off.html

Be Personal and Personable

I mentioned above that using Twitter for business doesn’t mean that all of your tweets have to be business related.  In fact, it’s actually a great idea to sometimes include content that has nothing to do with business.  You want to come off as personable and human, not as a goal-oriented machine.  No one likes to read only industry stuff; everyone likes to read entertaining content.  Don’t be afraid to crack a joke; don’t be afraid to post something controversial and thought-provoking.  But, most importantly – never use automated tweets!!  Oh, yes, people can tell when you do this and it makes you sound impersonal. 
The purpose of social media is to be warm and engaging – social, in fact!  So, be sure that your tweets come off this way and people will want to follow you.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Social Media and Hurricane Sandy and a Thank you


Everyone on the planet is now aware of the destructive storm that pummelled the Eastern Seaboard this past week.  Our hearts go out to all those who were affected by the devastation and it is our hope that you keep the strength to overcome.  For all of us who were blessedly unaffected (at least physically), we watched in shock and dismay as the events unfolded before us on our television screens and our computer monitors.  But, again, for those affected, televisions were a luxury to which most did not have access.  For some, the only method of communication was an iPhone or an iPad or a laptop, and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  For some, social media became lifelines through which they were able to connect with family and friends, find out what was going on outside of their immediate areas and, generally, just feel that they were still connected.  That is the power of social media and when harnessing that power with respect to posting, we must always keep in mind a sense of conscientiousness and responsibility. 

The takeaway that I got from reading posts was how thoroughly social media have penetrated our day to day.  A group of homeowners on Long Beach Island communicated through Twitter (@lbirecovery   @LBIrecovery  ) and Tumblr ( lbirecovery.tumblr.com  http://lbirecovery.tumblr.com/ ) .  Long Beach Island or LBI is one of the barrier Islands between Atlantic City, where the hurricane came inland, and New York City.  They shared photos and stories as the water rose, warnings and weather reports, anecdotes and personal incidents.   Having been a guest on that island numerous times, I watched with horror and hope as events unfolded, thankful for that connection to people and places I know and love.

I cannot imagine the world of the past, where I would worry, day after day, with only the general news and no specifics to go on.  Finding out that my loved ones were safe, their property sustained damage but was not obliterated; these were things to celebrate in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the wave of Social Media.  Thank you social media!

Friday, 19 October 2012

4 WAYS TO INCORPORATE HALLOWEEN INTO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING STRATEGY


Who doesn’t just love Halloween – horror movies, scary d├ęcor, trick or treating (and all that free candy…)!  I know some people (yes, adults) who go more nuts at Halloween than they do at Christmas.  According to Statistics Canada, we spent 331 million dollars on Halloween candy in 2009!  And, according to Value Village’s 2011 annual Halloween shopping survey, the average Canadian planned to spend $300.00 on this very special occasion last year!   

 
Think it might be time for you to scare up some social media marketing tactics to take advantage of this ‘spooktacular’ (sorry, I couldn’t resist) time of year??  Here are a few tricks and treats you might want to try:

1.  Post some Halloween related photos to get yourself and your fans into the spirit.  You can change your profile photos out for something Halloweenie, too, but try to still relate the photos  as much as possible to your business to keep up your branding efforts.  Change out your Facebook business page’s Timeline cover photo for maximum effect. 


2.  Hold a fun Halloween contest for all of your fans, employees and clients to enjoy.  You could have a “Best Costume” or “Wildest Jack-O-Lantern” contest, whereby you could have fans post photos of their costumes or jack-o-lanterns to your page and whoever has the best, wins a prize.  The prize could be anything from a big bag of treats to tickets to a horror movie.  This is a great way to engage with your network.


3.  Post a whole Halloween-related campaign.  A great example of this:   Mike’s Hard Lemonade’s  “Zombie of the Day” campaign.  They used a Facebook application called the “Zombifier”, with which users could upload photos of themselves, and transform themselves into zombies by choosing from a series of horrifying eyes, noses, mouths, wounds, scars and splatter, and clicking & dragging these features over their photos until the desired horrifying effect was achieved.  Every new zombie was featured in a photo gallery and the company posted a new and different “Zombie of the Day” each day. Very cool and so much fun.  And, very smart:  you had to “Like” their page in order to participate!!  


4.  Host a social, Halloween-themed event to network and generate buzz.  It could be a costume party or haunted-house tour.  Promote your event on Facebook and LinkedIn – it’s so easy to do.  Get a bunch of people in your network together and enjoy.   Another great way to engage, engage, engage!!

Friday, 5 October 2012

7 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE YOU POST ON FACEBOOK


Facebook is the medium of choice for many businesses when it comes to a social media marketing strategy.  Why?  Because Facebook has almost a billion users; it has become the social medium on which to connect and because, with its gazillion user-friendly features and apps, it’s just so damn cool!

Here are a few statistics and things (courtesy of consultant, Jeff Bullas, one of my favorite go-to guys for all things social media) you should know before using Facebook as a part of your business’ social media marketing campaign.

1. What Days of the Week are Best for Posting?  Although there’s nothing wrong with posting on Facebook any given day of the week, statistics show that the best days to post are Wednesdays and Sundays.                   

2. What Times of the Day are Best for Posting?  The best time to post on Facebook is between the hours of 8:00 PM and 7:00 AM.  Apparently posting between these hours garner 20% more user engagement.  So, if you want to increase traffic, “likes” and comments, analysis shows that it’s actually best to post during non-business hours, when users are not at work. 

3. How Many Posts a Day Should you Create?  Research dictates that it’s quality, not quantity, that matters most.  Accordingly, posting one or two times per day generates 40% more user engagement.

4. How Many Times a Week Should you Post?  By the same token, according to Bullas, you can, “Achieve maximum user engagement by not overcrowding users’ newsfeeds with too many Posts during the week.  Posting one to four times produces 71% higher user engagement than five or more Posts in a given week for retail brands.”
No one wants to have their News Feeds inundated with an over abundance of posts – especially not if they’re all from the same person or company.

5. What is the Optimal Length for a Post?  With respect to the length of posts, it would appear that more concise posts (posts between one and 40 characters in length) produce higher engagement than do longer posts.  The statistic is, “Posts with 80 characters or less receive 66% higher engagement.”

6. What Kind of Content Sparks Dialogue?  To get the dialogue ball rolling, ask questions of your fans.  If you really want to generate lots of comments, there’s no better way to do it.  If your objective is to really get fans talking, remember that, “question posts generate comment rates double that of “non-question” posts.”

7. What Keywords are Most Effective in Facebook Offer Posts?  People respond best to uncomplicated and undemanding offers.  Tell your fans what they’re getting in straightforward language.  Bullas claims that keywords like “$ Off” and “Coupons” generate the highest fan engagement.  On the flipside, keywords such as “Sale” and “% Off” receive the least fan engagement.

So, now that you’re armed with some of the best advice for posting on Facebook for business – get out there and get posting!!  For more information and to best optimize your social media endeavors, why not join one of our Social Networking for Business seminar/workshops and we’ll equip you with everything you need to know!  Just click on the link for a schedule of workshops in your area.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

HAPPY 14th BIRTHDAY TO GOOGLE!


Hard to believe it’s been 14 years since the inception of everyone’s favorite search engine.  Happy Birthday, Google!    

There are very few of us on the planet who have not, at one time or another – or every day, for that matter – used Google to find information, to get driving directions or to self-diagnose by plugging in our symptoms (my doctor just loves it when I do that!).  Personally speaking, I’d be lying if I said that Google isn’t a part of my everyday life.  We use it at home, we use it at work – we even use it as a verb!  Want to know about something – just ‘Google’ it!

Think for a moment how much easier life is with Google in it.  Want to see movie listings?  You no longer have to run out and buy a newspaper.  Want a recipe for German chocolate cake?  Look no further than your keyboard.  Want to translate a paragraph quickly from English to French?  Google Translate is arguably one of the coolest things on the planet!  Heck, I once received a comment on one of my blogs in Russian and, of course, had no idea what it said until I – yup, Google Translated it (now I’m making up my own verbs).

This morning, I Googled Google to research some background information.  Here’s what I found out:
 - From Wikipedia: 

“The company was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while both attended Stanford University. Together, Brin and Page own about 16 percent of the company's stake. Google was first incorporated as a privately held company on September 4, 1998, and its initial public offering followed on August 19, 2004. The company's mission statement from the outset was "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" and the company's unofficial slogan is “Don’t be evil”.  In 2006, the company moved to its current headquarters in Mountain View, California.”

And, did you know that Page and Brin named their project “Google” because Google is a play on the word "googol," or the "mathematical term for a 1 followed by 100 zeros”?   Cool stuff!

So, how are the Google team celebrating the 14th birthday of their phenomenon?  From Google’s Official Blog:

“As Google turns 14 this month, we’re celebrating this creative spirit and officially launching Google for Entrepreneurs, the umbrella for our several dozen programs and partnerships around the world that support startups and entrepreneurs.” 

All the best, guys!  And, Happy Birthday to you, Google!!

Friday, 14 September 2012

HOW TO WRITE A FACEBOOK POST WITH AN EFFECTIVE CALL TO ACTION


When using Facebook for business, strategy is everything.  The timing of your posts is relevant, what you post is relevant and how you post is relevant.  Sure, it’s okay to post here and there about the frivolities of life, even when posting for business purposes.  But, it’s also important to remember that your Facebook business page and its posts represent the identity of your business.  And, the end game of your strategy on Facebook is to generate productivity.   So, what’s the most important thing a Facebook post can do?  Provide a call to action, of course! 

Here are some tips on how to create an effective call to action within your posts:

1.  Outline the Benefits – In order for someone to complete a call to action, they should be given the incentive and the benefits to doing so.  Make it clear what your audience will get out of completing the call to action – for example, will your product or service solve a problem?  If so, identify that problem and display how your service or product can serve as a specific remedy.

2.  Don’t be a Bore – This one’s a no-brainer, but mention-worthy just the same.  Ensure that your posts are engaging and interesting to people.  You want to grab their attention and entice them to use your services and products.  So, make your posts fun to read!  And, it’s never a bad idea to add some visual stimulation – include photos wherever possible.  They can exponentially complement your posts.

3.  Keep it Encouraging and Optimistic – As with anything you post on Facebook, the idea again is to try to engage and even entertain.  Your posts should excite and inspire people to want to use your CTA (call to action).  Positive feelings will encourage users to share your posts!  More sharing = greater virality.

4.  Ask a Direct Question – An under-utilized tool when creating Facebook posts, asking questions encourages participation and engagement of your Facebook community.  People will be more inclined to respond by clicking a link or by commenting when asked a direct question – something that they really want to answer.  You can also ask a question that can be answered ‘yes’ when people ‘Like’ it.

5. Be Sure to Include a Link – Not each and every Facebook post requires a link, however, a post with a call to action should contain one (unless the only call to action you’re looking for is a ‘Like’ or a comment.  When your purpose is to direct people to other content, a link is definitely in order.

6.  Sweeten the Deal – There’s nothing like a little extra incentive to encourage people to complete a call to action.  You could, for example, offer a discount on your products or services; you could offer a free token gift (a T-shirt or a water bottle emblazoned with your logo would do).  People are generally more likely to respond when there’s something in it for them.

7.  Follow Through – Okay, so your call to action is effective and people are responding.  Now what happens?  It’s absolutely imperative that the rest of the process be as well laid out as the call to action itself.  The single most important thing to remember is to keep it relatively simple.  You don’t want to make people jump through hoops – don’t ask them to provide any more information than is necessary and don’t make it difficult to navigate once they’re there!

Your calls to action are one of the most vital components within your social media marketing strategy.  When created correctly within your Facebook posts, they can be a very effective means of maintaining a primary objective:  generating business for you!

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

HOW SOCIAL PROOF DRIVES SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING


Social Proof is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of any social media marketing campaign.  What is social proof, you ask?  A term coined by social psychologist, Robert Cialdini (in his work, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion), social proof stems from the psychology of compliance.  Essentially, people tend to do what they see other people doing.  It’s basically the concept that, ‘If everyone else is doing it, then I should be doing it, too.’  It’s all about conformity.  If you’re walking down the street and come upon a crowd of people looking up at the sky, your automatic reaction will be to look up at the sky as well.    


Cialdini delves into what “psychological principles influence the tendency to comply with a request”.  He terms these principles “weapons of influence”.  Social proof is a weapon of influence.  And, this is where “compliance professionals” come into play.  Compliance professionals are “those whose business it is to persuade us”. 

Can it not be said, therefore, that you, as a business professional, using social media as a means of marketing your brand, are, in effect, a compliance professional?  Your main objective is to influence people to use your services – you want to promote your brand – get it out there so as many people as possible are aware of what you can do for them.  You use social media as a means of doing so, and social media relies upon social proof as its very foundation.

How important, then, do you think it is to be as interactive with others as possible on each of your social networking platforms?  If the key is to drive as much attention as you can to your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your LinkedIn profile and your Blog, then it’s essential that you focus on the ways that each of these sites allows you to amp up the social proof factor.

Case in point: Facebook.  If you don’t already have one, it’s high time that you create a Facebook Fan page for your business.  Facebook makes it very easy for you to use your Fan page as social proof through the use of widgets.  Facebook provides you with numerous social widgets that you can install right on your website, and these widgets can be very useful in terms of letting you know, for example, how many people “Like” your site, or how many people have shared your content on Facebook recently.  And, it gets better!  Facebook ingeniously tailors the widgets specifically to the people who are visiting your web page.  Bottom line:  the social proof that the widgets provide makes it much more likely that people will stay on the site longer or perhaps even subscribe to and/or “Like” it.
Twitter can also be used in terms of social proof.  It has the capability to display follower counts & activity feeds, as well as the number of times content is retweeted.

With respect to your blog posts, ensure that you include a comments section so that anyone who wants to, can post.  The more comments your blog posts garner, the more influential you become – you become an expert in your industry and before you know it, everyone is looking to your blogs for advice – they develop a sense of trust in you.  Setting up a comments section on Blogger is easy – simply click on the “Comments” tab, then select “Show” and click “Save Settings”.  When the comments are enabled, more settings will appear:  Who can comment – “Only Registered Users”; “Anyone” or “Only Members of this Blog” – the choice is yours, however, bear in mind that you want as much traffic as possible here.  Choose all of your settings accordingly.

On your LinkedIn profile, you can easily add a Polls application so that you simply ask a question and LinkedIn will distribute it to your connections and virtually millions of other professionals who are on LinkedIn.  And, you can even share your Poll via the Facebook and Twitter integrations, or even embed the voting module on your website or blog.

Remember, social proof is imperative to any social media marketing campaign.  As Copyblogger’s Brian Clark puts it:   “… given the way social proof drives social media, the way you frame your initial message is critical. You want the momentum of social proof aligned with where you want to go, not with where things are.”  


Tuesday, 21 August 2012

9 TIPS FOR HEALTHIER TWEETING


It’s already been established that Twitter is where a vast number of your clients and prospects are and that you should be active on Twitter to engage and network with them.  And, just to encapsulate:  Twitter is a very powerful tool for conversation and broadcasting.  It’s crucial for you, as a business professional, to follow and be followed by industry leaders, clients, prospects and local people in your market area.  Here are some tips for healthy tweeting and a fully optimized Twitter account:                
1.  ENSURE THAT YOUR TWITTER BIO IS COMPLETE
Fill in as much detail as you can.  This is important especially when sending out follow requests.  Some users will not even respond to a follow request unless they can learn something about who is requesting.  Similarly, people who don’t know you might not want to follow you unless they have some information about you.  A detailed bio helps to let people gain trust in you and will definitely help you to garner more followers.
2.  MIX IT UP A BIT
Although Twitter is a great way to share company news and information, followers will also want to see you tweeting about other things.  You don’t want to bore people to death with your tweets.  Throw in some industry news (links to stories, blogs, etc.) as well as some fascinating market insights.  Ask questions, provoke conversations – be interesting.  And, every now and again a humorous one-liner wouldn’t hurt either.
3.  GET YOUR TWITTER ACCOUNT ‘OUT THERE’
Ensure that you include your @name (your Twitter handle) on your business cards, your email signature, your blog and your website contact info. 
4.  NEVER SPAM YOUR LOYAL FOLLOWERS
Whatever you do, do not repeat the same tweet over and over again.  Although more people will see the tweet, you will no doubt lose followers who don’t want to see the same message multiple times.  If something is worth repeating, at least wait a couple of days and try to re-word it a bit (see how adept you are with the 140-character thing!) and maybe let your followers know what a valuable piece of information that particular tweet contains.
5.  DON’T BE AFRAID TO RETWEET                  
Retweeting posts that are of interest to you will increase your visibility on Twitter.   People following those that you retweet will view you as someone who shares common interests.  Ensure that you include the @name when you refer to other users, as this will develop relationships.  And, other users who monitor themselves will be sure to notice your retweet!
6.  STAY ACTIVE IN YOUR TWITTER COMMUNITY
It’s important that you participate in the conversation.  Find your business community on Twitter.  Who are the leaders?  What content is being shared?  Check out what other industry professionals are tweeting.  Being an active part of your industry on Twitter will help you connect to a relevant audience.  Involving yourself in business-related discussions will further serve to draw attention to your industry expertise.
7. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR AUDIENCE
Know what your audience is talking about – what kind of questions they’re asking and what information they’re sourcing.  By providing tweets of substance, you will attract quality followers.  Ensure that you respond promptly to questions in order to build or maintain your status as a valuable resource.
8. MAKE USE OF #HASHTAGS
Hashtags allow people to easily find conversations / topics on Twitter.  If you want your Twitter topics found (and of course you do), simply place a hashtag before relevant key words in your tweets – e.g. #Palace for #sale in #Timbuktu
9.  FINALLY, AND VERY IMPORTANT:  HAVE FUN ON TWITTER
It really is a fun way to share info and to network.  It doesn’t take too much time and you can learn so much by just following others.  Not to mention, it’s a valuable way to promote your business.  Try it, you’ll like it!  And, have some fun with it.

Friday, 10 August 2012

6 Golden Rules to Keep In Mind When Blogging for Business


A business blog is a tool that more and more progressive companies are using as a part of their social media campaign strategies and branding tactics.  A business blog represents your company – it’s the voice of your business.  It’s essential that the tone of your blog therefore always be in keeping with your business’ overall brand message and that the content of each post be engaging and relevant to your company’s philosophies – not to mention its products and services.  There are a few important rules to keep in mind when blogging for business that will allow your blog to help, rather than hinder, your business’ online presence.  


1. Always Use Fresh, Engaging and Informative Content –  This is important because if you’re going to spend time writing blog posts on a daily, weekly or bi-weekly basis, the main idea is to attract readers and enhance your business’ reputation.  In order to do so, you have to be creative.  You have to capture people’s attention and make them want to come back to read your next post.  How do you do this?  Blog about what you know your readers will be interested in.  Think about what questions are most frequently asked about your business or your industry and answer them in blog posts.  Scour the daily online newspapers, find current articles and news that pertain to your business or industry and blog about them.  Stay current and keep your content fresh!


2. Keep Content PC and Business Oriented – Remember, there’s a substantial difference between blogging about one’s personal life, hobbies or pets, etc. and blogging for business.  In keeping with point number one above, it’s important to bear in mind that the target audience for your blog should be clients and prospective clients – people with whom you want to engage from a business perspective.  You want your audience to learn more about your business and what you can do for them.  You therefore want to keep your posts, at least for the most part, business oriented and relevant.  And, try to refrain from including anything that could be considered politically incorrect in today’s society within your posts.  People can be easily offended or put off and the last thing you want to do is alienate anyone!


3. Be Careful With What You Post – You’ve heard it before: Once you post something online, it’s out there and it’s potentially there to stay.  Sure, you can edit and delete your posts, but once you’ve hit the ‘publish’ button, always assume that someone, somewhere will potentially see what you’ve posted.  That being said, it’s imperative to ensure, before you hit the ‘publish’ button, that your post content is exactly what you want it to be.  Before publishing, proof read your material and proof read it again – for content discrepancies, typos and just to ensure that the words are exactly the words you want representing your business.


4. Never Blog About Company Strife – This one is pretty much a no-brainer, especially if you’re the business owner; however, if you’re an employee or an owner who delegates the blogging to someone else, it’s imperative to remember that company grievances are never appropriate content for blog posts.  In fact, it’s not rocket science to realize that blogging about such issues would be counter-productive!


5. Never Publish Clients’ Names or Specifics without Express Consent – Again, this one goes without saying, unless you want to be slapped with a lawsuit!   If you want to blog about specific examples pertaining to your services and do want to use someone’s name or details specific to them, always ensure that you obtain written consent first.


6. Be Inclusive with Your Audience – Within most blogging platforms, you are able to allow comments.  Do it!  What better way is there to learn about the wants and needs of your clients than to hear about them straight from the horse’s mouth. People’s comments are a valuable source of information and ideas for you and your business.  Take advantage of that.  But, keep in mind that it’s crucial to respond to comments and to do so promptly.  No one likes to be ignored and it’s not good business practice to ignore what people are saying to you.  Respond to complimentary comments with a polite “Thank you”.  Respond to negative comments with respect and diplomacy.  And, respond to all inquiries in a timely manner.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Just When You Thought LinkedIn Couldn’t Get Any Cooler: Targeted Status Updates Is Now Available to All!


With a gazillion cool features, LinkedIn is by far one of the finest tools for business networking.  And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any cooler – yet another brilliant feature:  Targeted Status Updates.  This feature essentially enhances the relevance of conversations between LinkedIn users and companies.  Originally launched in April, but only made available to a few companies, Targeted Status Updates is now open to all businesses that have LinkedIn Company Pages.  And, that’s over two million!


Targeted Status Updates facilitates the flow of pertinent information between users and the companies they follow.  In the words of LinkedIn project manager, Mike Grishaver, “...companies can now communicate with their followers in a very personalized way and provide content tailored to specific audiences.”

   
Now, when you follow a company on LinkedIn, information, news and updates (industry trends, job opportunities, product & service information, etc.) are sent to the activity stream.  And, the amount of relevant content that you receive is proportional to how much and how often you engage with a company. 
Businesses can target their status updates to users based on company size, industry, function, seniority and geography.  It streamlines the information that you receive and makes it much easier to follow companies.


Here’s how it works:




Log into your company’s LinkedIn page.  Type the content you want to share into the “Share an update” box.  Click on the dropdown menu beside “Share with: All followers”, then click on “Targeted audience”.



The next window you see will read, “Specify a target audience” at the top left.  Select the criteria for your target audience from the options listed across the top of the box:  “Company size”; “Industry”; “Function”; “Seniority” and “Geography”. 




It’s as simple as that!  Now, not only will your status update be visible on your company page, but it will appear on the homepages of followers whom you have targeted via the criteria you selected.

 
And, it doesn’t end there.  Analytics for each post are available following a twenty-four hour period.  The company page admin will be able to see these analytics, which include how many impressions the update received; how many clicks it garnered; how many times it was shared and the engagement percentage, underneath each post. Targeted Status Updates is a brilliant means of streamlining what and to whom you post on LinkedIn. 


According to an article on brandchannel.com, “LinkedIn found that 67% of members follow a company to gain industry insights, 61% for company news, and 49% for the peer community.” 

Targeted Status Updates is a brilliant means of streamlining what and to whom you post on LinkedIn.  Just another way that LinkedIn makes social media marketing a breeze!

Friday, 15 June 2012

HOW SOCIAL MEDIA ARE AFFECTING THE TRADITIONAL WEBSITE


I have heard a lot of people saying, over the past year or so, that they are spending more time and energy on their social media campaigns and less time on their websites.  Case in point:  several of my colleagues are using Facebook Business Pages as opposed to websites these days.  So, the question is:  Are social media displacing the traditional website we’ve all come to know and love?  
 
In our Social Networking for Business workshop, we advocate the use of social media in conjunction with what is already working for your business.  If you have a dynamite website set up for your business and it’s serving you well, why scrap it?  Your website stands for constancy and familiarity with your existing clients and it’s a great testament to what it is that you do, for prospective clients.  Plus, you can never have enough of an online presence if you want to maximize your SEO (search engine optimization).  But, what we definitely recommend is that no business be without a social media presence in today’s market.  That would just be counter-productive, especially given the ease with which social media can be used.

A social media campaign is absolutely essential to the success of a business’ growth right now.  The fact is, people are on social media sites like Facebook on a daily basis.  Facebook has become a primary source of information for a lot of us.  And, with Facebook’s user numbers expecting to shoot upwards of a billion before this year is up, if your business isn’t on Facebook, you stand to be in a position where you will not be as easily found when people are seeking information about the very products and services that you provide. 
The same goes for other social media platforms.  Each has its own special features that make it unique and essential from a business perspective.   I’ve discussed them all in detail throughout some of my other posts:  Twitter is great for getting short bursts of information out there in real time – updates, event information, links, etc.  Blogs are a wonderful way to position yourself as an expert in your industry – to share valuable information and your knowledge with people.  LinkedIn is the place to connect with like-minded business individuals and to network within a comprehensive business arena.

So, what are some of the fundamental differences between social media platforms and a website in terms of your business?  First and foremost, social media are just that – social.  A social media site is not a platform for overt advertising and hard-sell tactics.  Social media sites exist to help you connect with people – to inform and enlighten – to engage in two-way dialogue with clients and prospects.  A website, on the other hand, is a place where you can more aggressively peddle your wares, so to speak.  A website is static – updated and changed, for the most part, on a not-so-regular basis.  Social media business sites can be easily updated and altered on a daily basis, whenever necessary, in real time.  That’s important for any business.  Social media sites also provide you with an opportunity to take part in ‘live’ conversations with people through messaging and groups features. 

Bottom line, a social media presence is a necessity for your business in the current market.  Websites are still important, too.  And, no, it’s not redundant to incorporate both a social media presence and a website into your business’ marketing strategy.  It’s important, in fact, that the two co-exist and even feed off of each other to allow for maximized SEO and a well-structured presence on the web.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

About the LinkedIn Breach....Change Your Password, but Enough with the Fretting


There are so many dumb ideas out there about computer security and account security.

Yesterday’s news of a LinkedIn security breaching (of ~6.5M accounts) at 4 p.m. created panic amongst many of the 120 Million+ users (roughly 5% of users).  A day later, I am wondering at the big deal.  If someone logs into my LinkedIn or Facebook account, they can make friends with people I don’t want to know, draw a mustache on my photo.  In reality, there is very little that they could do that you or I wouldn’t notice.  The damage is minimal.  – My advice on social media passwords:  Use one for the social media sites you use, write it down on a piece of paper and put it in a desk and have it safe so you can remember it.  (Most breaches are digital, and not a result of the guy next door rummaging through your belongings.)

As I said, the damage from the LinkedIn breach is minimal.
--Unless of course, you use the same password for bank accounts or confidential information.  These passwords are a different matter.  I will concede, these must be
- changed regularly,
- include numbers and letters,
- not be the name of your dog or honey
- not be an obvious piece of information about you
- be kept in a safe and secure place (not digitally on your laptop).

All in all, take the time to change your LinkedIn password.  Remember though, your life isn’t in jeopardy like the media may have portrayed it,  and cheers to smarter security!

Friday, 25 May 2012

THE FINE LINE BETWEEN INFORMATION AND BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION WITHIN SOCIAL MEDIA (AND WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER CROSS IT!)


You’ve been warned before!   Even within some of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned how it’s never appropriate to blatantly self-promote or advertise “at” your audience while using social media platforms.  As we are now in an age of engagement, open communication and transparency, business success has less to do with advertising and everything to do with the quality of interaction with clients. People are not using social media to listen to others advertise their services and go on for posts and posts about how great they are at what they do.  But, when using social media for business, one of your main objectives is to seek out new clients and to garner repeat business, right?  So, where to draw the line?  How do you achieve that objective without self-promoting, advertising or spamming?

The solution is actually quite simple.  A fundamental thing to remember is that you need to be there for your clients.  You want them to know that you care about them and that your service commitment to them does not end once you’ve made the sale or completed a deal. 
Social media make this very easy to do.  It is in fact the very essence of social networking for business.  Always be available to your social networking community – let people know you’re there and that your online presence is customer-service driven.  


The best way to do this is to check in often on all of your social networking platforms.  If you’re connected on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s a good idea to check your accounts daily for activity.  You want to respond to any questions, comments or complaints in a timely manner.  Never tell them why they need you, just ensure that you post relevant, need-to-know information often – information that you know people want and require.  This can be anything from cutting edge industry news to an anecdotal story that will be of benefit to people.  


Clients and prospects need to trust you in order to do business with you.  And, what better way to gain their trust than to be indispensable to them – to be an industry leader, always ready with the answers and meaningful info! 

If you have created a group on either Facebook or LinkedIn, ensure that you adopt a no spamming policy that that it is adhered to strictly, or you’ll find you don’t have very many members.  The key to a successful group is enlightening discussion.  Again, ensure that people are able to learn useful information from the discussions – not listen to Joe Blow promote his insurance, real estate or mortgage business!   Spam and advertisements are of no value to the people in your social networking community.  If you’re unsure as to what, exactly, constitutes spam, the following definition by social media marketing blogger, Toby Marshall, sums it up nicely: “Any material posted on to a community (eg. Groups on LinkedIn) that is selling a product or service. This includes offers of free reports, free workshops, free videos etc. Extreme examples include multiple postings of the same sales material on multiple communities.”

I’ll add to that with: Any unsolicited and/or self-promoting advice or offers related to selling a product or service.

So, bottom line: Don’t be a nuisance on social media sites by being self-promoting or by spamming people with advertising. Do make sure that you provide a wealth of valuable information that people genuinely want to know on all of your social networking platforms. You’ll soon discover that this will go a long way toward lead generation and keeping your existing clients satisfied.

Friday, 18 May 2012

5 TIPS FOR A KILLER BLOG POST


Blogging is an effective way of keeping your name at the forefront of people’s minds when it comes to  industry news and relevant information.  Others are doing it, why not you?

Here are 5 tips that will help make your blog the one people keep coming back to read:    

1. Write with Intention:  People generally look to a blog post as a source of information.  You therefore want to ensure that your posts impart crucial news and enlightening info that people are sourcing out.  Keep it fresh, current and relevant.  But, be engaging (and entertaining where warranted) as well.  You don’t want your audience reading your posts as a sleep aid!  And, whatever you do, don’t use your blog as a press release or an advertising forum – people are not going to keep coming back to read blatant self-promotion.

The takeaway:  Make sure each post offers readers the illumination they’re looking for, but try to set forth a unique tone, a sense of personality (yours, of course!) as well.

2. Maintain a Sense of Cohesiveness:  Remember your grade 7 English Composition class?  Remember the rule about every piece of work having an introduction, a body and a conclusion?  Well, that applies here.   People aren’t going to stick around if they’re trying to make sense of a jumbled, pointless mess.  You want your introduction to hook your readers’ attention.  The first line or two should create intrigue and make people want to read on.  A little drama never hurt anyone. 

Transition smoothly into the body of your post – and this should be where you become a resource – a wealth of pertinent, need-to-know and up-to-the-minute information.  Keep paragraphs relatively short and engaging and keep it focused.  Go ahead and be creative – make use of your toolbar and incorporate style elements like numbered lists, bullet points, etc.

Your conclusion should briefly summarize the body content, but must also invoke a call-to-action.  Hopefully, this will be to contact you to either acquire more information or to hire you.  But, remember, no sales pitches!

The takeaway:  In order for your posts to be informative, they need to primarily make sense and to follow (at least some of) the rules of the written English word.

3. Maintain a Sense of Decorum:  You want to be engaging and entertaining in order to maintain your readers’ attention, but you also want to invoke in them a sense of trust in you.  It’s essential to therefore maintain a sense of professionalism.  This is not to say that you must steer away entirely from being a bit cutting edge, or even informal, but just remember that it is, after all, a business blog and you are a real estate professional.  As your mom would say:  Watch your language!

The takeaway:  You can go ahead and make em’ laugh, but just bear in mind your target audience and the purpose of your blog, and write accordingly.

4. Make Use of Visuals:  Yes, your post will be engaging and enlightening, but it never hurts to add a little visual enhancement.   Insert a relevant photo or two where pertinent and this just adds to the ‘keeping - their- attention’ factor. 

The takeaway:  Photos add an element of interest and help to break up the text.  People love pictures!

5. Brevity is Key:  Even though people are sourcing you out and wanting to read what you have to say, they won’t want to be reading the second coming of War and Peace.  You will only be able to maintain people’s attention for so long, therefore you want to get all of your most important points down in a well-paced manner.  If people don’t care to stick around to finish a blog post, chances are, they won’t be returning to check out your next one.  A good rule of thumb is to try not to let any post exceed 1000 words.  If you’re blogging on a popular topic that is worthy of more than 1000 words, consider breaking the post up into Parts I & II – a great way to keep people coming back for more!

The takeaway:  Keep it brief and you won’t run the risk of boring your audience!

Ready to start blogging?  By following the above strategic moves, you should be doing it like a pro in no time at all!!