Is social media worth it for business?

 

That is a question with many answers but, in general, yes … IF done the right way. Over 97% of people shopping for goods and services go to the Internet to get purchasing info, and often turn to social media as part of that research. The problem is that too many businesses dive into social media head first without a plan or goals or even firm ideas about what they’ll say. Just as you plan for each quarter’s sales, you have to plan your social media.

Sure, it’s fun to get on Facebook or Twitter and chat about something funny that happened, or mention a famous person you just met, but does that show a customer or client how they’ll benefit by doing business with you? (Continued below graphic.)

 Photo: Easy Social Media Marketing, New Zealand

The Social Media Prism
Can you cover it?

To be successful you must do two things without fail: 1. Be consistent about your posting and responding to comments and questions, and; 2. Find things to post that benefit your customers. Sure, personal anecdotes are fun but, unless you are blessed with one of the earth’s most unusual lives and have outstanding stories to offer each week, you’ll soon find that you’re not getting the traffic you expect. That means you must read, research, gather and distill content that holds reader’s attention and offers them information they want and can use.

The one place that folks get tripped up the most is not having an idea about how much time it takes to consistently find, write and post social media content. How much time can you honestly afford to spend on it each week? Doing it right and getting real results takes at least a few hours a week. Larger companies hire one or more people full-time to create strategy, find and post content and measure the results to ensure that every dollar spent has an appropriate return.

If you know it will help your business, but don’t have the time to do it right, think about hiring someone (like me) to help you. Again, done right, it shows real returns on your investment
So, yes, it generates business and garners new customers. If you’d like to talk about ways to do it more successfully, drop me a line at fcl.info(at)frankcomlex.com (use the @  sign instead of (at) when emailing – that helps keep spammers away when you post things, a handy tip to remember).

Your Business’ Social Media Rocks? Maybe Not.

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There are many posts on this blog about social media and your business. It’s a great thing and, when properly implemented, shows you great long-term results – the key phrase being, “when properly implemented.” I often hear people say, “Ah, social media is a crock and it didn’t help us.” After asking the usual questions, it almost always comes down to: A. No goals; B. No strategy; C. No “voice”, and; D. No idea … .

In D, above, the ellipsis says there’s more, and there is much more. No idea about: What to say, what to ask for, what to expect, what to offer, what to avoid, what timetable, and on and on. To help you, and because social media is powerful IF you plan and execute well, here are some common reasons people get lackluster results:

1. The person handling it doesn’t get it, or your business: “Susie is twenty-five, and she’s on Facebook. She can do our social media.” Susie knows nothing about advertising, marketing, branding, public relations, writing or, worst of all, your business. Getting the “Social Media Queen” title might seem like a motivator, but initiative without training or direction usually has a sad ending. Just as you wouldn’t ask her to handle all your advertising, neither should she handle your social media.

2. The execution is scattershot: Let’s say you have a good plan, firm goals, expertise on staff, etc., but you are all over the map with timing, content and other factors. Just as with any advertising, consistency is crucial – your plan and its timing must be your rudder.

3. Your corporate branding is invisible: If you’ve been doing the yeoman’s work on your marketing and advertising, your branding makes you distinct from the competition. That work must be evident on your social media pages. Your brand and all it’s elements – look, “feel,” sound, etc. – must be unmistakable on your pages.

4. Facebook isn’t always the answer: There are countless social media sites and new ones pop up daily, including sites with a narrower topic, like fishing, gardening, cooking, cars and so on. Focusing on one really popular social media site isn’t bad, but it’s like wearing a tux without the bow tie or shiny shoes: You’re missing some big things. Look for avenues that speak directly to folks who want or need what you offer.

5. You “hear” followers, but don’t respond: It’s called “engagement,” meaning you interact with people on social media. People get happy when you speak positively to them in front of a crowd. Other folks on the page think, “Wow, I wish that was me,” and know you care about page visitors, which is more powerful than you can imagine. Engage frequent visitors and speak broadly to patterns of sentiment you see on the page such as, “We wish you would make (X) again,” or, “That tasted awful,” or, “We really liked when you … .” It’s like talking to customers on your floor or on the phone – you are personally engaging them.

6. You say negative things: Don’t speak ill of competitors. People want to hear good things, so tell them of the good things you see. There are billions of topics that help and inform people, so stick with them.

7. You stray into unrelated or controversial subjects: Talking about issues that arouse emotions (politics, religion, etc.) and have nothing to do with your business hurt you. While you might build loyalty with customers on one point, you can lose them on another; if you lose someone, they’ll never know if there’s anything else they’d agree with. If you must talk about those things, do it on a personal page, not your business page.

Like anything else in marketing, advertising and public relations, there is much more when you scratch the surface. I’m here, ready to help you go deep with this and see a great return on your effort. Drop me a line and let’s get started.

What kind of social networker are you?

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People are very busy these days trying to figure out who’s doing what online, how to capture them as customers and measuring whether your customers can influence others to do business with you. The ranking sites like Kred, PeerIndex and Klout have their own top-secret algorithms to figure out how to rank you in the millions of social media users, and then sell that data to advertisers so that they can: A. Figure out what people in general are thinking and saying, or; B. Find out how to pinpoint you and folks just like you as a potential customers. Users are getting cataloged measured and courted. Given that folks are looking online first for most everything, and since they’re toting the Internet around on their phones and tablets, it is what you have to do in today’s market.

There are lots of interpretations of these categories. While Klout lists sixteen (sixteen???) types of social networkers, the list below is one that I’ve seen that makes much sense. I think five categories are enough for the average business person. They are:

  • The networker (Social Butterfly): one who has the biggest contact list and found on all platforms. He or she who knows everybody and everybody knows him or her.
  • The opinion leader (Thought Leader): one who can become the best ambassador of a brand. He or she has built a strong authority in his or her field by based on credibility. Their messages are most often commented on and retweeted.
  • The discoverer (Trendsetter): one who is always the first to use a new platform. Constantly on the lookout for new trends, they become the “hub” in the sector.
  • The sharer (Reporter): one who distributes information to the bloggers to journalists through the specialized webzines. He or she usually amplify messages.
  • The user (Everyday Customer): one that represents the regular customer. He or she does not have a network as large as the networker, but his or her network remains equally important.

By knowing a bit about you, a company can match you or your customer to a product, or give you insight on how to tailor your advertising to be more appealing to them. By the same token, lots of folks want to be big-time social media stars. To do that, they must understand where the folks are that they want to court, and how to bring them in to their world. Given how many places there are on the Internet, and that new ones pop up every day, it’s a bit like playing Whack-a-Mole.

Social media fun?

Looking at the graphic, to be really big in social media and get the big numbers from the ranking sites, you have to cover much of what you see in the graph, and you have to do it a lot. That’s a lot of ground to cover, wouldn’t you agree? The simple fact is that you can only be in so many places at once, and there are only so many audiences that you can actually converse with.

Now, the question you must ask is, “What difference does it make?” If you aspire to be a media darling, be prepared to spend a large amount of time. If you really work it hard and go largely unnoticed, don’t be surprised. That is more the norm than the exception. For instance, can you name the top ten people on Twitter either by reach or influence? Well, if you can, you’re probably wrong because there’s a lot of churn in that list. Not only that, it depends on whose list you use for reference. The three ranking sites list different people.

The point is, approach it for business like you would any other process: Plan it, measure it, tweak it, measure it, review it, tweak it, measure it, and on and on. If you have dreams of being a political blogger or tech guru, same thing. It takes time to get a following and you must decide what is a good number of  followers. If you have 100 loyal and faithful followers who never miss a thing you say, that might well be enough. Put another way, if you’re a local business, you first must capture your own “back yard.”

The key is to have it reflect what matters to you. This doesn’t mean putting all your personal info out there; it does mean letting folks know what your business is about and how a customer can expect to be treated. There are a million reasons and ways to enjoy it. Just make sure you have a goal to measure by if you decide to REALLY get into it. Otherwise, you’ll just be wasting time, and time is money.

Your life is about to change forever: 3-D Printing

makerbot.GIFI’m absolutely fascinated by 3-D printing and how quickly it’s progressing – it will change our lives. I’ve put some pictures below of amazing things that they’re already doing in this nascent industry. What is more fascinating is how it will disrupt current systems of commerce. It could put pressure on an already shaky US manufacturing industry, or it could open up thousands of new jobs by creating manufacturing everywhere instead of at a limited number of plants.

It’s interesting that one name is “additive manufacturing,” which in effect means that you manufacture what you want, where you want by addingring.GIF the features you want by adding materials. What it also means that, as we’ve been rushing to produce the latest electronic gizmo as a testament to creativity, we now have people who are switching from designing things for electrons and moving to creating with atoms.

bunny.GIFConsider that the MakerBot Indusries ”printer” printer (shown above left) goes for around $1,700 and uses simple, solid materials; it made all of the things you see. There are printers that sinter material with lasers and can even use titanium, or can sinter nylon to make clothing (see the Continuum Fashion products shown below). There are other technologies, too, and each allows you to use different materials to create specific items. Considering that some patents will be coming to market soon, home printing will get better, and likely cheaper (doesn’t it always?) within the next three-to-five years.

While there are a million considerations, here are some that I find most fascinating:

  • Consider that the cost and size of 3-D printers is coming down as rapidly as new materials to print with are appearing. This means the adoption rate should be quite rapid; perhaps one of the most rapid markets ever to be developed.
  • Mass manufacturing can be shifted to smaller plants closer to the end user. This could lead to regional and local designs and styles, such aschurchkey.GIF New York-style dinnerware or Miami beach chairs. At the least, large pieces (a refrigerator’s body) will be shipped with the “guts” being made on site.
  • Items that are too complex, large or that need wiring, plumbing, etc., to function (think washers, dryers, television) will still benefit. Smaller sub-assemblies could be trucked in and the remaining pieces are “printed” and assembled in a regional plant. That way, energy costs go down as trucking them 100 miles from a regional plant instead of 500 or 1,000 or 5,000 from another country reduces their carbon footprint.
  • Since the machines are surprisingly low power, the large-scale use of electricity in manufacturing will decrease.
  • Manufacturing typically uses a considerable amount of water; home manufacturing will reduce that need, as will 3-D manufacturing in plants as more things are “dry printed.”
  • People will be empowered “makers” with the ability to modify designs and create truly original things. Just as people have modified housezep.GIF plans, radios, cars and thousands of other things, you will have the ability to use 3-D software to modify the things you create. Want a new case for your cell phone? Download the design, customize it, put whatever logos, patterns and colors you like, and you have a one-of-a-kind item.
  • Just as people have created their own phone apps, they’ll be able to create their own thing apps. Want a crazy fold up table for your backpack? If you have a vision, you can create all the prototypes you want.
  • Manufacturers of base materials will pave the way for new, earth-friendly materials. Before, you had to meet a few manufacturers and the governments requirements for sustainability; now you have to satisfy millions of earth-conscious consumers who will demand that their made things don’t go to the landfill. More things will be made that can upcycle, recycle or simply disappear when they’re used up, broken or outdated.
  • Many of the materials should be formulated to be ground up and re-used to make something new. Once you’ve bought the powder to make things with, you can do the ultimate in recycling by using it over and over to make new things. Old items never go to the landfill, or at least not for a longer time.
  • Car part designs can be downloaded and printed at the garage. If you break down on the Interstate, you’ll have a better chance of getting home that night. Since they’re making clothing, why not a fan belt or a hose, or a drive shaft for that matter?
  • For items too big to print in a single pass, the plans can be created to allow you to make all the pieces and then assemble them. Since they can all be made to snap, slip or screw together, you can assemble them and even have small markers to ensure that A goes into B and then they snap into C – you wouldn’t need instructions. You’ve got Ikea in your den or basement.
  • Prototyping of new products with 3-D printing is already widely used. Let’s say you want to make a necklace or ring or wrench. You cangyroid.GIF now prototype and test it for tiny fractions of the cost.
  • Let’s say you have something that you want to sell, but not sure it will do well. Create two or five and see how orders go. You can make on-demand production changes and not worry about demand nearly as much. Since the printers will be widely available, you strike a deal with a nearby company (or person) to help you handle a large influx of orders.
  • Companies (or persons) won’t be hamstrung if a product doesn’t do well. Make what you need without worrying about thousands of unsold items in storage that you have to dump for pennies on the dollar.
  • Manufacturing in foreign markets will decrease, which could wreak havoc on international trade. Wouldn’t it be interesting if, say, China made millions of printing machines instead of the things their machines make now?
  • For that matter, machines can make other machines – how much would we need foreign manufacturing?
  • A large question is, what will this do to mining and the harvesting of natural resources? Will it help or hurt?
  • Some markets, like personal luxury goods, will see change, too: It will be easier to create counterfeits; people will choose to make their own completely unique items that no one else has; customizing a Chanel, for instance, will allow highly personalized luxury items.
  • You can custom design personal articles like belts or shoes. Let’s say you like a shoe, but it’s too tall or short, or you want the sole thicker or thinner, or you want a strappy design or a square toe. You could create it anyway you like down to the color and texture. There are alreadyskull.GIF companies that will scan your feet with over 10,000 measurements, and then 3-D print shoes to your foot’s individual contours and in fashions you like. Beyond that you can see it on your foot through modeling and decide if you like it, then change what you don’t before you actually make it.
  • A whole new economy of makers is already underway. Sites like Etsy that have let crafters sell their handcrafted goods (Kindle cases, knit sweaters, etc.) have been joined by 3-D sites like Shapeways that let you make and sell your own 3-D products (some items here are from their site and are for sale, like the skull at right, or the complex and very beautiful shape above it).
  • Hospitals can make many of the instruments that they’ve been buying for years. Theoretically, that should create cheaper devices that are more sterile (materials being zapped by a high-temp laser should kill most or all alien organisms). Both will contribute to lowering medical costs if for no other reason than a reduction in infection-based lawsuits due to cleaner operating room devices.

The darkest side to all of this becomes product liability. In the end, you’ll buy a pair of shoes, a wind chime, chair or whatever and, before you do, you’ll sign a waiver saying that you understand that any damage from it is not the maker’s fault. Maybe this will lead to fewer lawsuits manufactured in our courts by crafty people.

Check out Gotham Smith and Shulogique for some very cool things..

The next three images are from Continuum Fashion:

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Why Apple’s victory is about emotion

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Speaking as a marketing guy and someone with a high geek factor, Apple has a very important ace: Market cachet. To the average consumer – particularly ones not adept in tech, and they are legion – “cool” is very often more important than the tech. This is often because the customer doesn’t know enough about tech to care; they respond to emotional qualities first and, for many, that’s as far as they get. For instance, there are many cars that are outright dogs, yet they sold well because of the design. Not all Cuisinart products are good quality, but folks proudly display them.

A mass of designers and engineers can change the game, but Apple is the de facto winner among artists and celebrities, and those in the creative side of media. So long as they stay in the Apple camp, folks will want Apples because that’s what the “cool” people are using. For instance, to enroll in Full Sail University’s classes, you must have a Mac. (Note: I am not endorsing FSU by any means.) Voluntary product placement by celebrities buoys Apple (e.g., Jimmy Fallon’s MacBook on his desk every night). After all, if you know anything about tech, you can immediately spot Apple products at a hundred paces, giving them a huge passive advertising advantage.

As one who’s worked at a printer manufacturer and spent thousands of hours with engineers, few are good at the emotional qualities because their job is to live and die by the specs. This isn’t a cut against them, it’s simply the truth. I also worked training customer support people around the globe and the biggest complaint they hear from customers is, “This thing makes no sense.” Apple has excellent UI (user interface) and UX (user experience) factors.

There are companies that have gobbled huge chunks of market share through promotion, price and manufacturing efficiencies; Apple is rare in that, while their tech is quite good, and they have created a system that is simple and fairly seamless to use, much of their success is due to emotional qualities. Many users don’t care about chipsets or other tech aspects, but Apple consistently ranks first in customer satisfaction polls, and that creates a huge pool of fuel for marketing and sales. Happy users spread the word, and that is the most powerful sales tool … period.

The other side of it is the aftermarket vendors. There are SO many pieces of add-on, plug-and-play tech built for iPhones, and iPads: Many magazines offer only iPad versions; Wal-Mart is chock-full of Apple-compatible speaker towers, clock radios, keyboards and so on. Each new device built to dock an iOS product is advertising for Apple, and the shelves are full of them. It also gives weight to the brand by showing their popularity, which appeals to the herd effect to which we are all susceptible.

When you’re dealing with a juggernaut like Apple, no matter how huge your claim against them, you have to deal with the product and brand inertia. iOS devices have a projected 17% market share in 2012, vs. Android’s 68% across all vendors and Windows Mobile’s paltry 4.1%*. That alone provides sufficient capital to battle any and all competitors when you consider that Android vendors have to battle Apple and every other vendor; Apple builds one market strategy and defense, and their competitors must battle Apple and every other vendor selling a mobile product. Overcoming that chasm is almost impossible in the short term, and perhaps Sisyphean in the long-term. Only an out-of-the-blue, Hail Mary, game-changing, Oh-my-God-gotta-have-that product development can quickly narrow that gap; those do happen, but very, very rarely.

As a note, Android is gaining market share but, is it due to increases in overall mobile devices, or because Android is their preference? The projected IDC figures in the Washington Post article (link below) show that, Android will finish 2012 with 68% this year vs. 47% for 2011, and Apple will have 17% vs. 2011′s 19%. I suggest you compare figures, to see what you think. 

Technology aside, when you put dollars and emotion to the equation, it would seem Apple has lots of latitude to keep their market dominance. Their legal victory only puts more distance between them and highlights why they’re so successful in the first place: They get what users love, and they give it to them in wrapped in simplicity.

*Washington Post, 8/24/12, “Worldwide market share for smartphones, a market dominated by Apple and Android 

Engadget, 8/14, “Gartner: worldwide mobile phone sales dipped 2.3 percent while users wait for next iPhone,“ 

Social media is killing your business softly

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The Roberta Flack song, “Killing Me Softly,” always reminded me of how you’re supposed to “humanely” cook a lobster by dropping them in a cold pot on the stove, and then turn up the heat so that they get hotter and hotter until they “swoon.” (Side note: Swooning, to me, is what the ladies did in Gone With the Wind; they’d put the back of their hand to their forehead and collapse on a day bed. When I heard that you’re supposed to make lobsters swoon, I pictured a lobster holding a claw over its tiny forehead and, with a southern accent saying, “Oh, my, it’ so hot in heah, I think I might jus’ suh-woon,” but that’s probably just me.) So, you dive into the social media cook pot and it gets hotter and hotter until you swoon.

What do I mean by that? First, let’s see how the heat rises in the pot. Businesses often tackle social media by doing the following:

A. They get panicky and say, “Oh, well, we’d better get a Facebook account. Jenny, you’re the youngest on staff, so you must know the most about it. Get us a Facebook page.” Jenny, who has no writing skills or knows nothing about social media, marketing or public relations, is now in charge of the company’s public image.

B.  They hire a so-called “guru,” “social media professional” or ad agency who professes to have a social media wizard and let them handle it. Sometimes that works, but often not. Why? Cookie cutter strategies, or because they simply don’t understand their client.

C. One of the top executives will decide they want to handle it since no one knows their business better than they do. While they sometimes have social media experience, they run it like they would their personal page and tell everyone all kinds of personal business, or use it for a place to fling opinions, or post lots of pictures of cute cats, or (worst of all) put lots of off-color content out there. To justify this they say, “But that’s what I see all the time.”

D. They constantly post ads and pleas for folks to call them for an estimate or a free consultation or the like.

E. Earline the office manager gets pegged to do social media because she actually knows something about it. The problem is, she is already overworked and doesn’t have time to do it the right way, so the results are mixed at best, if there is any success at all.

These are the five most common scenarios in my experience – any sound familiar? Probably you or someone you know has been through this. They flailed and thrashed as the pot got hotter and hotter, so it seemed useless and they walked away saying, “Ah, social media is a bunch of crap and it was a complete waste of time for us.” The trouble is, given that they didn’t have a plan, they’re probably right. So, what’s the answer? A strategy and some important considerations.

Social media is a big part of business today and it’s only going to be a larger part as time goes by. It will most likely morph into other forms but make no mistake: It’s here to stay and will get stronger as the penetration of tablets and Internet-connected phones continues to proliferate.

What’s the answer? It’s these items and much more:

1. Strategy – What will you do, when and for how long? You must have goals for it just like any program. “Getting people in the door” isn’t enough.

2. Resources – Who will handle it for you? It takes time, thought, preparation and effort to do it right (just like anything else in your business).

3. Audience – Whom do you want to talk with (not talk to – social media is interactive), how often and in what tone?

4. Persona – When folks see your social media, who is speaking to them from your side? Who does your audience think it is? What are they like? Why would people like them?  Do people have a positive image when they read your posts?

5. Budget – Yes, it takes money just like anything else you do in business. The big hit is payroll because someone has to do the work.

6. Tracking – Just like any advertising you might do, you must track you social media activity and the results. If you don’t, how can you be sure you’re doing it right or getting the results you desire?

Okay, the pitch: Yes, I can help you with this, and would love to do so. Am I the ultimate expert? No, and no one is. Every company is different and, to do it right and get accomplish the goals you set out to achieve, a cookie cutter approach doesn’t hack it. Drop me a line and let’s get your program moving.
Click here to contact me.

4 Signs an SEO Firm is a Fraud

magnifying_glass.jpgThis is a great article. I’m on a real rant lately and I’m tired of guys who can barely cobble a decent website together telling folks, “Oh, hell yeah, I’m an SEO expert!” I see their work and feel sorry for the poor suckers whose money they took. Sure, anything is better than nothing, but not when you’re paying too much.

This gent has an interesting site, too, and seems to share my ire at sham web folks. He’s outed a couple of really good examples of folks who are hucksters and drug their stuff into the light of day.

Before I go any further, let me say that I am competent with SEO and SEM, but do not bill myself as a total expert or the best in the business. There are many times I get help because your success is more important that my ego. As to SEO and SEM, I can tell what’s good wine and what’s not, but I’m not a vintner. There are lots of things I don’t know, but I know when someone has a rudimentary knowledge and is puffing their story waaaay up. I see it far too often and I’m pretty sick of it.

Again, most folks don’t know what’s real and what’s not, so I’m not blaming them. I am asking all you folks out there who have websites, are getting one or are updating theirs to do your research. Find out what it’s about. It’s not that hard to get the basics yourself. You don’t have to be an expert, but you do need to know something. It’s like when you go to a doctor and they say you need surgery. Most folks get a second opinion, so do the same with this. The life of your website – and maybe your business – rest in this knowledge.

http://www.portent.com/blog/seo/4-signs-an-seo-firm-a-fraud.htm

The major reason people get identity theft

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One of THE most important things you can do to avoid identity theft, viruses and other computer calamities it simply this: Use a different password on each place that needs one. Not doing so has been the cause of more computer and mobile device woes than you can imagine, and it’s a problem on personal files and corporate sites as well. It can be a breeze to make unique passwords for each site, more on that in a minute.

Why so many passwords? If you only use two passwords and a hacker gets one, then they’ll have access to all the places you use it. If each site has a different password and they only get one of them, then they can only touch that one online site. Dropbox was recently hacked because an employee reused a password and a few customers got a lot of spam.

Don’t say, “I can’t remember that many,” or, “I could never keep up with them all.” You can because there are plenty of encrypted password vault programs available, and many are free. Not only that, most of them will enter your user name and password with a single click on most websites; mine uses a right click of the mouse to fill in the two fields and get me in. It takes a fraction of the time to log in with my password manager.

Using the method below, it’s easy to enter them once and have them available anywhere. Here’s how it works:

A. Download and install a password vault program (examples below) that works with your operating system (Windows, Apple OS, etc) and the operating systems of any portable devices you have (namely, smart phones and tablets). Write your master password for the vault program on two or three pieces of paper and put them in safe places. The master encrypts your file that contains all your other passwords – lose it and you might be starting all over, hence having it in several places. Make it at least twelve characters long and use punctuation marks, too.

B. Get an online storage account (see diagram for four of them); most are free for small accounts. Make sure there is a module/program for the service that works with your portable devices. (E.g., Dropbox works on Apples, Windows, Android and Linux devices of all types.)

C. Enter some passwords in the vault program and save the master file to your online/cloud account. (Most cloud/online storage sites let you save files on both your device and in the cloud so, even if you can’t get online, it’s already on the device.)

D. Install the same password vault program to your phone, tablet, laptop, etc..

E. Open the vault program on any other device and use the file in the cloud program on that device.

Voila! All devices share the same encrypted password master file so that, if you enter one on any of them, they all get the update – you don’t have to enter a password on each device.

Let’s say you’re stuck somewhere and have to use a public terminal, like at the library. No problem since they’re online and you can get to the cloud storage anywhere. Some of the programs will run from a USB thumbdrive and don’t have to be installed on the machine to run. Just be sure to change the master password as soon as you can since public machines can have key loggers which capture your keystrokes (they’re like a virus). That little bit of inconvenience is far outweighed by having your passwords secure and accessible almost anywhere. Plus, if the program is entering it, no one can see what was typed.

The real advantage is that, since you don’t have to remember them, you can make long, nearly unbreakable passwords, and that adds a very thick layer of protection.

I’ve been doing this for years and, after you’ve done it a little while, it becomes automatic. You’ll keep using it because you don’t have to worry about it anymore.

As a note, don’t use the password managers built into browsers (Firefox, IE, etc.). Most are easily hacked and easy to find on your system should you get a virus.

Password Managers:

1Password: Mac, PC and Android. $

LastPass: Mac, PC and Android. Free

KeePass: PC, Android; Linux and Mac versions require a bit of work. Can be run from a USB memory stick as no installation is required. Free.

Dashlane: Mac, PC. Free

There are many others. While it takes a little bit to set them up, after you’ve used them for awhile, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it earlier.

The Formula for Maximum Social Exposure

megaphone-modern.pngI’ve figured out how to get the most likes on Facebook. You either: A. Go as far in one direction as you can politically, as in, far left wing or far right wing, totally for or against same-sex unions, etc., or; B. Post something very, very religious, which gets lots of “Amens” or “nut job (fill in a religion here).”

Not judging here by any means, but merely observing behavior as someone who works with folks on social media for business. So, to get big-time social media status, fill in the blanks and post to your page or tweet for a really effective social media rant. Again, do this on YOUR page, not mine.:

“I’m so (happy because of/tired of/puzzled by/offended by) (Christians/Atheists/Muslims) and the (wonderful/horrible/crazy/mean/offensive) ways they act. They should all be (knighted/banned/killed/deported/made to wear a patch/given money).”

Or: “(Obama/Romney/Bush/Clinton) is so (conservative/liberal/smart/stupid/lost/crooked/oversexed) that he should be (strung up/re-elected/elected/castrated/made to wear a patch).”

Feeling really creative? Here’s a do-it-yourself template: “
“I am so (happy for/sick of/angry at/bewildered by/disgusted by) ________ that I want to _________ and see (them/it/her/him/us) __________ and ____________. Then I can (live/die) happy. (Screw them/Praise them) all.”

Klout? PeerIndex? Go for social value instead

k-pi_rank_number.pngAdvising folks on social media is part of my job, and I’ve been playing with Klout and PeerIndex for about six months now; reading articles, trying to figure their algorithms, seeing reactions from across the country. After all this, I’ve come to a conclusion: It means little and probably should be avoided.

Justin Bieber has a 100 on Klout,  and got that “score” because he’s got millions of followers hanging on his every word. I think he’s the only person in the world with a 100. My Klout score runs between 50 and 60 depending on how diligent my posting is. As a comparison, Guy Kawasaki, who tweets and posts almost constantly (he must have a staff doing it), has an 83.

I can move it around in that ten point range fairly easily within a week or two despite their admonitions that getting to 20 is  so much easier than getting to 40, and going from 40 to 60 or above is a Herculean effort. PeerIndex is another rating service and it often seems that my score there drops when it goes up in Klout, and vice versa. I’m sometimes scored (judged?) on what I post about topics that I rarely cover (e.g. agriculture … really?); sometimes they give lots of weight to a single topic with one post that got a lot of likes or shares or whatever – and that’s relevant?

So what does it mean? A high score seems to mean one of three things:
A. You’re a celebrity, like “The Biebs”
B. You’re posting obsessively or compulsively or both, and that’s an addiction of sorts
C. You’ve learned to “game” the systems

There are folks who’ve got a score of zero, and got theirs by raising hell and threatening Klout with law suits. Why the fuss? They found out that Klout was trolling their kids and kids’ friend’s activity to get the parent’s ratings – that is a bit scary. (Klout has changed, or so they say.) There are also folks who’ve been passed over for jobs because their Klout score wasn’t high enough, which is so very wrong for so many reasons, whether or not managing corporate social media assets is your job.

Having a blog with 1,000 readers is nice, but 50 or 100 very faithful readers is good; having 1,000 social media “friends” seems impressive but, in the end, you probably actively communicate with 50 or less. If you’re after celebrity in the social media world, good luck because it comes and goes in a heartbeat. In the end, what counts are meaningful conversations and interactions with people whom you like, value or find interesting. As always, seek wisdom, knowledge and meaning, not popularity.

Think you know branding? Think again.

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There’s a good chance that branding isn’t exactly what you’re thinking it is. First, let’s start with some definitions of branding:

Branding: (1) The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products; (2) The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme; (3) Establishing a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.

What’s above is the functional beginnings of a brand, but nowhere near what the customer is concerned with. For instance, take number three: A “significant and differentiated presence in the market” isn’t what gets you success — it gets their attention, but is not what keeps it. A brand is so much more than your product, logo, slogan, signage, storefront, uniforms and so on – it’s all of those things and much, much more.

Now, here is my definition: “A brand is the promise of continued delightful experiences based on a history of delightful experiences; it is trust in a positive total experience with a business.” This means the definition of your brand rests with your customers, and it’s different for each one of them. The first three are a few of the many definitions of “brand,” but they don’t address the fact that you do NOT own your brand — it belongs to your customers (or clients, patients, etc.). Most importantly, it’s what your customers remember and love about you, and their gut feelings about your product, service and organization. In short, it’s your promise to your customer.

While the first three definitions are classically and technically correct — and you must deal with these functional things — they don’t deal with consumer sentiment nearly enough. A logo signifies your business, but your customer’s sentiments define it; your store’s colors and interior differentiate it, but your customer’s reaction to them are what’s important.

I tell my clients to remember one thing: Everything about your business matters – everything. If a customer sees a dirty, rusted truck pull up, they feel doubt. If the counter person is sloppy and rude, that can send them away forever. If service is slow and there is no apology for their inconvenience, that becomes part of their picture of you. All of these and much more define your brand in their minds.

Experience has shown me that a major component of branding is trust. If your brand is strong, it means that customers have been delighted, told the truth, treated well and got what your advertising and marketing promised every time, and probably a bit more. That means trust — yet another feeling — is a major component of your brand. Take Coca-Cola: Do you ever doubt what’s in the bottle when you drink one? No, because it’s always the same thing and evokes the same positive feelings.

I like this formula for trust in marketing and commerce: T(rust) = R(eliability) + D(elight). So, do you have delighted, trusting customers? If not, perhaps we should talk.

You want customers to be clients

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People use the words “client” and “customer” interchangeably – they’re not quite the same, and the differences are important.

Dictionary.com defines a client as: “A person or group that uses the professional advice or services of (a professional); a person depending on another’s patronage; a customer.” They define customer as: “A person who buys; a person with whom one has dealings.” It’s interesting that the definition for client includes customer, but customer doesn’t include client, and that suggests that a client is bit above customer.

Most people I know do their best to cultivate a professional image and lasting relationships with the folks who come to their business. They want to be counted on for goods, services and expert advice – we all want to be regarded as a knowledgeable professional, just as a doctor or lawyer would, but within our field.

It makes sense, then, that you would want to be seen as more than a vendor but, instead as a trusted advisor and partner in their success. Lawyers, doctors, therapists and many other folks have clients, but stores say customers. So, even if you run a grocery store, think of them as clients with whom you want to develop a longer-lasting relationship.

Don’t freak when you get the bill – it’s about the time

invoice-french1.jpgI like my clients a lot. I really do, and there’s something that happens over and over, and that’s constant tweaking on projects. Folks should get what they want, to be sure, but there’s a point where changes are “gilding the lily,” as they say. Just like eating, there comes a point where you have to push away from the table. 

Logos are particularly touchy because folks have an idea of what they want in their head, but they often fail to realize that to get it juuuuuust right takes time. The more changes you make the more billable minutes tick away and often the changes wind up being useless. When the person you hire says, “That’ll take me about thirty minutes to fix,” think to yourself, “I just asked him/her to make my bill larger.” We’re not trying to run up the bill, just make you happy; by the same token, don’t go cheap as that’s worse. It comes down to being reasonable about what you want want us to do and the cost to do it.

We have to eat, too, and our time is valuable. By saying we’re charging too much, you are saying that our work is worth less than the results we give you, or that you think we should be better at our jobs, meaning faster. It takes what it takes just as your job does.

Let’s say you’ve recently gotten an update on the costs you’ve incurred. Even if we give you the current total, one afternoon’s work can push that number a couple hundred dollars higher. I’ve warned clients, “This is going to take (an hour, a few hours, etc.),” and they still act aghast when they get the bill.

To give you an example, I was working with a client last summer who was constantly tweaking the project. Despite keeping her abreast of totals, when told that we were over budget and by how much she got pretty upset and demanded an accounting of the time. When she saw that she was responsible for the overage, that it could have been avoided and was advised all along (phone calls, emails, etc.), she acted offended despite earlier saying it was “brilliant” work.

What got to me was that earlier in the summer, she’d bragged about a set of golf clubs she’d bought that cost almost twice what we charged. That was a little hard to swallow to think that sporting goods were more valuable to her than our services.

I’m always committed to getting clients what they want and, despite my best efforts, they often seem shocked when they see how much time it takes to do these things. Even though I use a computer to do most of my work, I’m still sitting there building and writing and tweaking and smoothing and aligning and so on. We want the best for you, so please remember that this is an investment.

If you hire a graphic artist or web designer or writer or any other creative person, help them help you to not freak out when you get your bill: Be decisive. If you do make a lot of little changes – and even tiny changes can take an hour or two sometimes – don’t freak out at the bill because we’re only doing what you ask us to do.

Please remember, we’re helping you make your image and “pitch” more persuasive and memorable. We’re offering you experience and expertise that others don’t have and that make a difference in your success. We’re on your side, really.

20,000 Bottle Rockets – Is this your marketing?

I stumbled across a video showing 20,000 bottle rockets being launched. You light one and it catches the next one, then another three light, then ten and, soon, it’s a blazing platform with the rockets going everywhere. Pretty impressive, really, but there’s one problem: After the fiery crescendo, it dies quickly.

So, when you’re doing marketing, do you go for the big launch only to see your budget flame out? Your sales probably do, too. The key to advertising and marketing is consistency – go for the long haul, not the short, bright flame. When you do social media for your business, have a long-term strategy with definite goals and outcomes. Blogging for your business? Do it every week.

I’ve said this to a hundred people: If marketing and advertising isn’t a firm, not-to-be-touched line item in your budget, you’re cheating yourself and possibly sending yourself down the drain.  To make my point very clear, here’s that bottle rocket video. Like most things, it starts slowly, but things light up fast once it gets going.