The shape we are in – social media goes back to school.

September – what a great time to evaluate. Back to school and back to the desk we go. But what kind of shape are we in?

This morning I logged on to Twitter and I make no bones about it, I was looking for inspiration. As I flicked through the burbling of a thousand bored/busy people I felt a bit depressed by the lack of substance – what I really wanted was something fresh and insightful about the state of social media today. I wanted something to kick start my new term.  

Unable to find it I started to think for myself and this is what I came up with.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle is a great place to start because it doesn’t just tell us about where we are in the life-cycle of emerging technologies - peak of inflated expectations -slope of enlightenment etc it informs us about how we are actually feeling in relation to those technologies. I know a lot of bloggers who are stuck in the trough of disillusionment and it might really help them to point out that according to the Gartner curve we are about to emerge onto the slope of enlightenment and onward into the plateau of productivity – Hallelujiah!

Social Media journalism, like all journalism, loves a launch and will expend vast numbers of words on the next big thing. Pinterest and Instagram are the new Twitter and Facebook – Reddit is coming back -  bla de bla bla bla.  But we fetishise the new at the expense of evaluating the old at our peril. Getting into the nitty gritty of daily social media use is not glamorous, it doesn’t have the hot excitement of inflated expecation, but deflating our expectations a little won’t hurt – it is realistic and will help us get the job done.

So what am I taking forward into my new term then?

For a start, I think that every single social media user/client is different. Everyone needs a tailored approach using a different blend of tools. Some just need some great old fashioned marketing – you’d be amazed by how many people still aren’t able to point to a usable database they can send e-mails to. Some clients need to go away and develop a really good understanding of where their people are in order to engage with them there and we all need to think in terms of giving people a little of what they want before we can get them to take up what they need.

Think compelling headlines, lovely pictures, aspirational content, useful articles, invaluable advice.

Finally – keep re-evaluating. We need to have this back to school conversation at least 4 times a year if not more. Has our favoured social media fallen by the wayside are we talking to the same old people – have our people moved on – do they want something different? Reassessing the situation regularly will keep us on our toes and keep it fresh - after all we don’t want want to fall back into the slough of disillsuonment do we (it is acutally a trough but slough works well if you live in Berkshisre.)

What do you think?

Why can’t a woman be more like a man? Selling to women.

Women influence 80% of household spending. That was the stat that grabbed me this week and I can’t let it go.

As a professional woman who often finds herself selling to other women, this is something I need to think long and hard about and maybe you do too?

When it comes to pinning this down to specifics I can’t help but recall the appalling sales experience I had as a consumer at the hands of an all-male kitchen company, which I wrote about here.

If only they hadn’t treated me like a poor relation, patronized me, tried to get away with bad follow up care, and generally underestimated the power of my word of mouth!

So here you have it…

When selling to women, treat them as you want to be treated. Here are some of the ways…

  1. We are all people – never talk down to anyone, even if you don’t think they have purchasing  power.
  2. Create relationships not sales – the sales will follow. Go for the long term because women will revisit websites or come into the sales room over and over again if they need to, before making a decision.
  3. Remember that this woman in front of you will talk to her friends about her experience with you. If it is bad she will tell more people and probably put something up on social media, so don’t say anything you don’t want repeated back. (Remember the guy who told me that I wasn’t spending enough to give him a decent profit margin?)
  4. Do you present as trustworthy? Women hate shifty and are really not impressed by flash.
  5. Trying to sell a kitchen like it’s a car is not going to work. I am a strong professional woman but I still care a hell of a lot what colour my units are. Ask your customer what she needs, what she wants and what she is not prepared to compromise on.
  6. Return all communication promptly – even if I am not buying today I might have a meeting with someone later in the day who is.
  7. Don’t treat women like a mark – we can smell “I’m going to close you before you leave the door” a mile off. Most women who work in sales have probably had the same training. They can see the “tactic” and will write you off.
  8. Women like the way a good purchase feels –so make it feel good – we’re looking for a combination of  fine quality, good value and a great deal.

So whether you are a woman buying from a man, a man selling to a woman or a woman selling to other women – what more do you have to add ?

How to find the right audience for your Linkedin Group

How do you get on with LinkedIn groups?

Time was, when a LinkedIn group was in the top 4 weapons in your social media armoury, along with tweeting, blogging and Facebook. A ‘group’ brought people together around a subject so they could chat and share ideas in a non salesy way. I joined a handful about social media, and played a part in setting up several others for clients.

But now I have got stuck on a problem. My latest group is not growing. It is stunted and despite lots of tender ministrations and lovely high quality content, it is not finding an audience.

Are the days of a great group gone?

Well let’s look at the facts. The groups that work well for me are the ones where we are genuinely occupying a niche. The specialist recruitment group has hundreds of members and over the past 6 months by focussing on getting the content right, it has started to generate good levels of engagement from other group members. A success! Another even more niche group is to follow!

But over at my cloud computing group things are static. These are the problems;

  • The members all work in the computer industry and are primary LinkedIn contacts, rather than target audience, which is a different crowd altogether.
  • The content is aimed at people who work in a diverse range of professional services and want to learn about cloud computing, but don’t know much about it yet.    
  • Therefore the content is not finding the right audience. 

My suggested remedy is to change the group’s name so that it reflects the type of people I want to join, perhaps using the phrase ‘a beginners guide’ or ‘how to’ – then I need to line up some content that really matches the name change before setting to and publicising it.

I still have faith in LinkedIn groups, but I think it is harder to get an audience – especially in areas like computing where the competition is tough. What is your experience with Groups and do you think the strategy I have outlined above is going to do the trick?

Social media holiday planning.

Holidays play havoc with your schedule. It’s not that they’re not nice to have – dear Lord was I ever ready for mine – it’s just that you have to get so organised before you go and then even more organised when you get back. It would be nice to have a few days before hand to just bask in the idea that you’re off and then a few days afterwards to gently cajole yourself back into the swing.

But it was not to be. I got back at 3am and then woke up to business as ususal the next day, only with 200 e-mails in my inbox instead of 20.  

It was nice though – once the kids had left for school, to hop onto my client’s Facebook page to see that in my absence, my working self had been hard at it, putting up lovely posts on a daily basis together with some nice images and what’s more - they had gathered a number of likes and comments.

All down to the wonders of scheduling.

I know this is nothing new for devotees of Hootsuite, Tweetdeck et al, but I have never really got on with them. So I was delighted to discover the ease with which you can schedule a Facebook post. It all happens on the page and therefore feels much more reliable than anything I have tried before. You go into the status box and write your update complete with image etc, then click on the little clock at the bottom. It asks you to add a year, then month, day and time and you are ready to roll.  As all these Facebook posts are then fed through to Twitter it is job done and away you fly.

Worth a go I’d say. What do you do about social media when you go on holiday?

Have you put your social media manager in a box?

Woman in a box

Have you ever been tempted to get someone else to do your social media for you? After all, it is time-consuming, boring, (especially when you can’t think of what to say) and quite frankly – a complete pain.

You might expect me to say – great – I’ll do it for you then -another customer in the bag! But really? Honestly? I think you should do it yourself or at least get involved when someone else does it on your behalf.

The thing is, when a business hands over responsibility for its social media and just signs the cheques, then they don’t put anything of themselves into it. The stuff which comes out as a result is the product of your social media manager’s mind, the voice is hers and your chance to communicate with your ideal customer is lost.

The more you ‘give’ - the better your results. My favourite clients are the ones who start off at one remove and then get so enthused by the possibilities and the results that they start to ‘get’ it. When a client is fully on board and engaged the content starts to fly and the “likes” go crazy. It’s a positive circle.

If you told me you wanted to take over from me now and do it all yourself because it is so rewarding and such fun, then I would walk away like Mary Poppins knowing my work had been done. If you still have 1001 other things you need to do but want to work with me to make your social media ideas reality then we are in business. 

So if you have filed your social media manager away and told her to get on with it, think about taking the lid off her box and joining in for a bit – it’ll be worth it.

Image is courtesy of clarity mind.

Corporate hashtags – is big brother watching?

I was reading this article about whether hashtags  are useful and I knew you would find it interesting because we have talked about hashtags before – notably here.

And it put me in mind of a phenomenon I have come across recently -  the Big Brother hashtag. This is a corporate hashtag that allow enormous organisations to keep in touch – not as you might imagine, with what is being said by others about their brand – but with insiders, who work for or with them.

The very large company I am thinking of goes in for social media in a big way. All praise to the way they have embraced it and everything it can do to spread the message worldwide. Checking out their name on either Twitter or Facebook brings up not just one account, but literally dozens for each branch of the organisations work and each country where it operates. As someone who usually works in small business this is BIG.

So far so good. But the thing which worries me, is the suggestion that all arms of this spider, including the smaller partners, should tag their tweets with an array of tags which allows them to be tracked by the powers unseen. In some instances I have seen tweets laden down with hashtags including the company name, the product name and the name of a forum or conference they are attending. The result is something very unattractive, unreadable and un-re-tweetable!

My conclusion, as the rebel in the corner, is that social media has to be useful and when big corporations get involved sometimes clarity and simplicity go out of the window.

I would advocate getting that clarity and simplicity back. So let’s use the corporate hashtag in moderation and where appropriate. Big brother really does not need to see small partner companies shooting the breeze with new clients, although perhaps if they did, they would learn a few things about social media? 

 

E-mail header – where it all begins

We have been talking about headlines and hashtags on the blog recently and I have been thinking about how that works when we are creating and sending out newsletters/e-shots.

Good strong headlines compel people to read content - but if they don’t ever open the e-shot then it will all have been for nothing.

The e-mail header suddenly becomes even more important than the newsletter itself and the same goes for any kind of pitch, including press releases and blogger outreach. When you are calling on the phone you can charm the gatekeepers into putting you through or give them a compelling reason to do so, but with an e-mail e-shot you have only a handful of words to get the job done.

So it stands to reason that we really need to think about those words. I started by thinking long form – what is it that I wanted to say? Then bashing it down into as few words as possible. It is a great creative exercise!

But this wasn’t going to be enough to get the click. So then I thought about key words, as if I was working out the key triggers for optimising a piece of text. What gets me to open? Well I favour words like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn coupled with words like explained or common mistakes. Top twitter mistakes or new changes explained would probably get me every time!  So now I need to work out the triggers for my e-shot audience.

With the trigger words in mind I now move on to the final killer stage. I am going to list my e-shot content as a string of very short teasers. If I give them three then at least one will hit the spot! I won’t reveal all, but the words sales and secrets and top job may feature.

So how do you get people to open up? It would be great to share in your ideas.