Wondering Out Loud

Is Social Media a waste of money

According to Gordon Beattie of Beattie Communications, social media is a waste of time and money for many companies.For those on a limited budget, and who doesn’t claim that to be a reality, Beattie suggests they are better off:

getting their websites to the top of the search engines or grabbing the headlines in the press and media is going to give them a much better return than a social media marketing campaign. The truth is that the majority of companies are wasting valuable manpower and financial resources on social media. I come at it from the standpoint – if it does not drive sales and build a brand, it’s not worth doing.

There’s a lot to unpack in here.

First, I agree that SEO needs to be a priority – regardless of budget. But what Beattie is ignoring is the important role social media can play in turbocharging PR efforts, especially for companies that have limited budgets. In my world, limited budget is shorthand for small company, and I know very few small companies that are capable of “grabbing the headlines.”

Limited-budget companies that employ good social media practices of listening, responding and creating solid original content, are not only building brand, they’re laying the foundation for future PR efforts by establishing their subject matter expertise and credibility. I have always had more success with media when working from a foundation we, the company, built, than by working the traditional pitch model.

To be sure, there are companies that are wasting time and money in social media, but that stems more from poor execution than from not belonging in the space. Done right, social media can work for most any company B2B or B2C, and for Beattie to dismiss it as being a waste is shortsighted.

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , | 1 Comment

It’s hard to argue with Search Engine Land’s B2B Social Media tips

Every so often I run across an article that has me nodding in complete agreement, and this one from Search Engine Land had me doing exactly that. The article – while using the work “tips” – actually outlines four reasons B2B companies need to be involved in social media.

Putting aside tactics like Facebook, Twitter and blogging, SEL’s Strictly Business points to the four basic elements of why:

  1. Influence your online reputation
  2. Better position your brand
  3. Engage prospects & customers
  4. Improve customer service

If you’re not doing these things for your company, others will do it for you. And those others will include customers (happy and not so happy), competitors (looking to gain an edge), and media.

Not only does social media give us the power to monitor and comment on what others are saying, it also provides the opportunity to drive what is being said. It’s an offer that’s hard to refuse and one that can be accepted in 4 simple steps.

Isn’t it time to take the first step?

September 20, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | Leave a comment

Social Media: It’s easy to spell, but…

It’s the season of interns and entry-level hopefuls. Resumes are pouring in and I’m reviewing those who made the first cut. Like all good potential bosses, I’ve been surfing the web looking for LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages and blog and Twitter accounts. So far the results are less than impressive. I realize this whole social media thing is still relatively new, but, let’s face it, if you are going to put the words on your resume you had better have the digital footprint that proving you can do more than spell “Social Media.” All the pdf resumes I’ve seen to date do have a web-based counter part in a LinkedIn account, but, rather than painting a fuller picture of the applicant, the online profile is an exact copy of the document sitting in my inbox.

This leads me to ask a couple of questions:

  1. Am I expecting too much from today’s college juniors and seniors, especially those pursuing a career in social media?
  2. Should I be expecting ore from the career counselors who help students navigate the choppy employment waters?

I’d love to see your answers to both, but here are mine: No and Yes.

No: Today’s college students grew up on the web. Social networking is in their DNA and anyone who is looking to enter the job market – entry level or as in intern – needs to have, at the very least, a LinkedIn profile that is full and complete, including recommendations. If you have skeleton profile that is nothing more than a copy of your resume, you are wasting your time and the time of anyone who might be interested in learning more about you. If you are specifically interested in marketing and PR – where SM lives – the digital requirement is even more important.

Remember the good old days when the cry was: “Everyone wants someone with experience, but how can I get experience if no one will hire me.”? Web 2.o0 has given everyone – including my 15 year old son – what they need to gain as much experience as they want. Five years ago I advised a college freshman, planning to major in PR, to start a blog and write about her passion, early American authors. Doing so in 2005 would have put her well in front of her college peers and, today, she would have a robust presence to point potential employers to. Unfortunately she didn’t take my advice and is just another member of the pack looking for work.

Yes: Career counselors in colleges and universities are doing a doing students a disservice if they are not adding social media, in general and LinkeIn specifically to the list of activities their charges should be engaged in. I’ll go so far as to say they should be given LinkedIn training so they can help students make the most of the site. The paper resume – although still important – does not have the power it once did. While it has always been a snap shot of the individual, the resume loses a bit of luster when put against the dynamic nature of a LinkedIn, blog and Twitter.

Going digital is more than a recommendation, it is an imperative. Like investing for the future, the sooner you start the bigger the return you’ll realize. If you wait until your getting ready to graduate and look for that first “real” job, you’re starting too late.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Social media and pest control

Ever had a squirrel in your house?
 
Last week my wife called to tell me there were gnaw marks on a one of the windowsills in the living room. I suggest the 2 year old might be working on a molar, but that idea was scuttled when she told me the marks stretched for 2 feet and whatever did it had to be on the job for quite some time. That’s when I knew we had an unwanted visitor in the house. The only question was what type of visitor it was.

My bride – being a traditionalist at heart – went to the yellow pages looking for someone who could help eliminate the problem by whatever means necessary. She found Laughlin’s Pest Control and gave them a call. How the call unfolded is a textbook example of using social media tactics to build credibility and generate new business leads.
 
Raise your hands if you ask, answer, or even visit the discussion areas in LinkedIn. I’ll assume every hand is up. What you find there, is no different than what transpired on the phone between my wife and Laughlin’s Pest Control. She had a question and he took the time ask some questions of his own in an effort to answer hers. In the end he determined the varmint was a squirrel that was looking for a way out. His advice was to open the window and raise the screen to give the squirrel an exit. To entice the critter he suggested peanut butter – smooth, not crunchy – to lure the furry beast out of its hiding place (which I later found to be the smoke ledge in the fireplace). He also put the mother of my children at ease by telling her the squirrel would stay in hiding while people were around. A comforting thought when you have a 6, 4 and 2 year old in the house. The boys, 11 and 14, would have preferred taking it on in a head-to-head battle.

The people at Laughlin’s could have scheduled a service call ($150 for showing up), charged the hourly rate and gotten rid of Rocky themselves. But it would have been a short-term monetary gain at the expense of a potential long-term customer relationship.
 
In less than 15 minutes on the phone, our new friend at Laughlin’s had solved the problem and won a customer for life. I know who I’m calling if the moles return this summer.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Public Relations, Social Media | , , | Leave a comment

Politics meets NASCAR

UPDATE: A special thanks to Mike Keliher – of the one l variety – for pointing out my misspelling of Margaret Anderson Kelliher – of the two l variety. I shall not make the same mistake again.

Gubernatorial (dontcha just love that word) politics and NASCAR had a meet up on Reusse and Company on AM 1500 KSTP in the Twin Cities yesterday. I’m sure it’s happens all the time during campaign season, but Wednesday’s interview of Margaret Anderson Keliher - Speaker of the House in Minnesota and one of more than a dozen hoping to represent the DFL in November’s election – is one that made me stop what I was doing  so I could listen more closely. What struck me about the exchange came and went as fast as a lap at Daytona, but it got me thinking about how far politicians go to get all their talking points across.

If you’ve ever watched an interview with a NASCAR driver, they are magicians at working sponsor names into their answers. Jeff Gordon can’t go a sentence without mentioning his DuPont Chevrolet. Considering the mega bucks sponsors plop down for the privilege of having their logo speed along at over 100 mph, it makes sense to mention those names as often as possible. Keliher took a page from the NASCAR driver handbook and used the interview to inject all the necessary references to prove her Minnesota creds.

In no particular order she dropped in 4H, hockey, public schools, ice fishing and dairy princess in less than 30 seconds. A truly impressive performance. Now some will call me cynical for thinking Keliher was using well rehearsed talking points, but listen and you’ll hear her back track to clarify that her kids go to public school and, when asked when she last went ice fishing she deftly avoids answering the question. I am cynical, but I’m not drawing any conclusions…yet.

Here’s hoping her handlers haven’t told her she needs to sprinkle ice fishing and hockey references into every interview. If that’s the case, it will be a long campaign season.


February 4, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations | , , | 2 Comments

A social media question worth pondering

Earlier this week I met with a representative of an ad agency in Minneapolis. His work is primarily in the world of consumer packaged goods. We were discussing the agency’s exploration of social media and  whether it made business sense for them to go that direction. Why it would even be a question was a mystery until he commented that using SM tactics seemed a natural fit in the B2B space (where I’ve been for the better part of a decade), but not so in B2C.

In the past 12 months I’ve sat on panels dedicated to discussing the value of using social tactics in B2B and the starting point has always been that B2C is the natural.

Talk about your grass-is-always-greener moments.  

Having had the opportunity to give it more thought, I can see where new-found friend is coming from. The products he markets are ones you come across everyday at your local supermarket. If he can prove that a facebook fan will drive sales of butter he has a shot at getting the customer to take a look at it.

This is not to say I don’t think SM and B2C don’t mix. On the contrary, I think it they can live together quite nicely. However, in B2B the sales cycles are much different.

Unlike consumer products, most B2B sales are more complex and carry more risk – professional and personal – for the buyer. For this, and other reasons it is critical that the buyer believes the supplier is credible and trustworthy. Social media tactics are exceptionally well suited to do just that. But social tactics alone will not accomplish the goal. In fact, they are but one piece of a much larger marketing communications puzzle that one must build.

Don’t make the mistake of throwing traditional media out the window in favor of social media. Those who have are finding they regret the move and are scrambling to reassemble a media mix that will achieve their goals.

The new media mix – traditional + social – is an area that deserves deeper exploration and I plan to do exactly that in the coming weeks.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , | 3 Comments

Blogging in a regulated industry

Every time I participate in, or attend an event where social media is the topic there is always one – sometimes more – person in the audience representing a company from a highly regulated industry. Most often they are from the financial sector - banking, investments, etc. – and they all have the same question: How can we blog when everything we say needs to be run through an extensive approval process?

It’s a great question. To understand the significance of the question, one need only listen to the disclaimers at the end of any commercial inviting you to invest your money with a particular money manager: Actual results may vary, you could lose some or all of your money, and my personal favorite…you could lose more than you invested. Regardless of the industry there are ways to leverage the power of the web and here is one of my favorites.

In its simplest form there are two sides to the social media coin – join a conversation and start a conversation. For my purpose we’ll look at the second one.

There are two primary ways to start a conversation. The first is to react to an event that is happening in the industry now - President Obama’s jobs summit last week provided a golden opportunity for investment advisors to weigh in with their analysis of the event. When one works in a highly regulated industry there is a certain amount of risk that comes with reacting in real-time, but professionals in these industries can still start conversations with little or no risk to themselves or their companies by creating a calendar of conversations. All it takes is some planning and buy-in from your internal subject matter experts (SMEs).

The first step is to meet with your team and crate a list of issues that are relevant to your audience and that your SMEs can discuss credibly. The next step is to put those issues into an editorial calendar then create content to that calendar. Using this strategy for content creation gives enough time for all the appropriate parties to review and approve the content. Once approved, distribute as normal. Whether to a blog or a LinkedIn discussion page – I prefer both – you have joined the world of social media contributors and have done it with the blessing of your internal regulatory professionals. 

If you’d like to inject some digital steroids into the process take a look at the ed. cals. of the industry publications you are courting and design yours to mirror theirs –  minus a few months. If you can write credibly today about a subject one of the pubs will be covering a few months down the road, you can begin building a case for why your SMEs should be tapped for interviews when the article is being written. It’s a great way to build media relations and, if your offer of supplying expert analysis is rejected, you still have your own content to point your audience to.

I’ll tackle other issue in a later post – reacting as events happen. It can be problematic for any organization, but it can also be done by any.

December 10, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hold that Tiger

When, I must ask, will the celebrity class ever learn? When will they realize they are public figures and, no matter how hard they try, their dirty laundry will one day be aired for the entire world to see. The latest to forget the lessons learned by the many who came before is Tiger Woods.

We’ve all heard the story about his late night/early morning car crash. We’ve also been treated to an ongoing flow of speculation about what it is that drove him from his home at such as ungodly hour. But almost a week after the events unfolded only two people – Tiger and his wife, Elin – know exactly what happened on that moonlit night. And they aint talking.

Tiger has fallen into the same trap as other celebrities: Trying to keep private that which has become all too public. That he is doing so is understandable. Since turning pro, Tiger has always tried to maintain a life separate and distinct from the one played out on the golf course. Looking back one has to say he’s been very successful. Until recently he has not been the fodder for tabloids – broadcast, web or print – nor has he been known to venture to local clubs for a boys night out – before or since his marriage. By all accounts his private life was just that. In fact, he’s been known to jettison from his circle those who did not respect his privacy.

All that changed in the early morning hours of Friday, November 27.

With the single act of crashing his Cadillac Escalade Tiger Woods set in motion the raising of the curtain on his once-private life. If that isn’t bad enough, every decision he’s made since – with the input of advisors I’m sure – has only compounded the problem and added fuel to the fire of speculation. Speculation that, if not answered, will become fact in the public’s mind.

The single biggest mistake he can make is waiting until Spring – when he will be on the golf course again – to address the questions. While it’s true the public has a short attention span and moves quickly to the next story, when the most famous athlete on the face of the planet is at the core of the story it is certain to come to life when he re-emerges from his bunker.

C’mon Tiger. Take the questions, take the heat. The sooner you face the issue the sooner you and your wife can put it in the past and get on with your private lives.

December 1, 2009 Posted by | Public Relations | | Leave a comment

Social Media, Smocial Media

Ever shot yourself in the foot? I’m not talking about using a firearm to do the deed, I’m talking about using your mouth. If you’ve ever stood in front of an executive and spent precious time explaining why they needed be involved in social media you have.  

Let’s face it, there are still too many in the marketing field who belive social media will replace movable type as the most significant invention of all time and that we who use its power to benefit our businesses are turning digital water into digital wine. To those who fit this description I have simple message: Get over yourself.

What we’re doing with these blogs and podcasts and videos and social media press releases is taking advantage of a lot of work that was done by those who created the miracle that is the Internet. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. But when you stand up in front of Mr. and Ms. CwhateverO and begin to pontificate on the beauty of Web 2.0 and the wonders that flow from it, you deserve to be met with glassy stares because they didn’t invite you in to talk about blogging and podcasting and Twitter and the next shiny object. No, they invited you to tell them how you are going to differentiate their company from its competitors. They want strategy not tactics. And social media is not, repeat not a strategy.

All the elements that make up social media are simply ways of distributing your message – whatever that happens to be. Granted they are very powerful means of distribution, but let’s not lose site of what they are at the core. When we do is when we are in danger of taking to the top of the mount and preaching the glories of social media.

Keep it simple, talk strategy. Remember, it’s not about you it’s about them.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

Look who’s back

Been a while since I’ve been here. My last post dates back to October 1 and I’ve not been back since. I’ve had a very, well, to put it simply, changed filled few months.

The company I went to work for in January 2000, SoftBrands, announced an agreement to be acquired by Infor. Infor is a $2 billion enterprise software firm located in Alpharetta, GA. The deal was set to be closed during the dog days of August, but I figured I’d be better off if I started shopping my talents elsewhere…just in case. As luck, networking and self marketing would have it, in early September I was offered a position in the corporate communications. They wanted me to develop a global social media strategy. My summer went from “Oh no” to “yes” in the blink of an eye. But nothing stays the same now does it?

On November 2, I was notified that corp comm was being realigned to better serve the company and my role was being eliminated. I’ve lost a lot of colleagues over the years to workforce reductions and realignments, but this is my first time on the receiving end. I can’t say I like it much, but there are a couple of good here.

  1. I’m interviewing with some great companies for roles that will challenge me and help me grow personally and professionally.
  2. I get to spend a lot more time with my ladies – 6, 4 and 21 months – and my lads – 14, 11.
  3. I’m able to relieve some of the daily burden from my bride’s shoulders.

Now that I have some down time – when I’m not pushing out resumes and doing interviews – I hope to get back on the blogging bandwagon. I’ve been building up ideas for posts and It’s time I get them down on “paper.”

In the meantime, if you hear of anyone looking for an accomplished marketing communications professional, send ‘em my way.

Thanks.

November 13, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Marketing, Public Relations, Social Media | , | 1 Comment

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