Monthly Archives: September 2010

Consensual SM: Or Why We Need Standards in Social Media

Oh dear, I’m either a pervert or I’m getting on my high horse here – possibly both. What we’re talking about is Social Media and the whole question of consent.

Why? Because there are sharks out there and it’s worth looking at our own standards to make sure we’re not becoming like them.

I  have just deleted someone I was following on Twitter because they re-tweeted a link to a company offering to sell followers. I personally don’t think you should buy followers but it’s worth thinking through why.

 You could say, “Well, it’s disgusting isn’t it? It’s a betrayal of everything that social media stands for. They’re charlatans.”

But that wouldn’t get you very far.

We need to ask, why. Is it so hideous that a new business thinks social media offers lots of opportunities. Don’t we think that too?

What is wrong with giving yourself a head start by purchasing the names of people who have an interest in your product area. Don’t respected retailers already swap and sell e-mail lists amongst themselves?

These are all valid points.

I happen to think that social media only really works well when we remember the social bit. E-mail sales letters come into your in-box instead of your letter box but that doesn’t make either of them social.

But Social media can be tricky because it blurs the line between a sales relationship – in which in the worst case, the punter is the mark and can be bought by the dozen – and a social relationship – where the individuals are friends, colleagues and networking acquaintances.

If a mate of mine revealed that we became friends only after she had bought my name from a company selling friends I would be a bit miffed, but then people use dating services and that is the buying and selling of potential friendships.

The difference is whether or not it is consensual.

I admit that this is a tricky relationship to get right and Men with Pens were discussing it over on their blog a short while ago. You like to think of your blogging community as friends, people have built up a rapport with you over many months and years, but actually you are still hoping that at some point they will buy.

This could seem like a terribly cynical way of viewing life but we are talking about consensual marketing which is a far healthier state of affairs than  non consensual, which is spam.

A blogger will nurture a community for many reasons, but one of them will be that if ever their reader needs a to hire a copywriter, builder, plumber, or whatever, it is you they will hire and not the other fella.

So what I’m saying, is that buying my name from a Twitter wholesaler and then spamming me with sales messages, is disrespectful. 

Now that is far too much from me. What do you think – it is not as easy to work through these issues as you’d imagine is it?

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My Mission Statement

You may have noticed over the past couple of posts that I was building up to something with thoughts about change and self-promotion.

Well, after blogging here for a year I think it is time to make some tweaks. I have had such a great time over the past 12 months that there is no way I am giving up now. I have deepened existing friendships, made new ones and got to know stacks of interesting people whose thoughts and opinions I value.

Excitingly I have also gained new professional opportunities which means I am going to have to set aside Monday mornings for hard graft. From today I will be posting on Tuesdays and Thursdays, giving you longer to read my stuff, think about it, comment and converse with me! 

I get more time to look into ideas I want to share with you and I think there will be a lot to say. This is going to be an important year for social media, with a lot of the early ideals being swept away by a tide of new users adapting the tools for their own purpose. We need to decide how we are going to respond to that and to re-examine why we use social media in the first place, what it means for conventional marketing and how traditional media is responding and coping with all this change.

My primary aim is still to help you get your message heard, whether that is working with you directly on a PR Boost or just chatting over the best way to utilise all the ‘do it yourself’ options out there.  (There you go, that’s my Mission Statement for Lucythorpe’sblog as we move into Year 2).

So I will see you on Thursday with some controversial thoughts on social media in the future and in the mean time I will crack on with some work.

Lucy

P.S. For more information about the PR Boost click on About Me and I’ll explain how you can get a one-off shot in the arm to promote your business.

A Change Is Going To Come. The Question Is, What Are You Going To Do About It?

Loads of us hate change. It can be unsettling. It disrupts the comfortable rhythm of the expected. If you think you are going to get one thing and you get another, it feels all wrong.

My first reaction to change is usually horror. Mad isn’t it, because change can be brilliant! But I usually come round to it pretty quickly once I have absorbed what the change actually  means.

To give you an example, yesterday I got a holiday brochure through the post from Dorset Seaside Holidays. I am used to dealing with Dorset Coastal Cottages, but not this lot. “Who are they?” I thought, and what has happened to the company that I know and love?

It seemed to be an offshoot of the original company but it irritated me that they had changed their brochure. Instead of charming line drawings there were now colour photos, which instead of filling me with joy, actually made me cross!

I threw it to one side, but after a while I picked it up again and read the letter that went with it. It turns out that the company is keeping its old cottage brochure but is now offering a sister collection alongside, featuring a wider range of properties and locations. Once I understood what they were doing I stopped feeling irritated and started to feel included again.

Apart from a rather frightening insight into my psyche this teaches us that any change we might want to make needs to be communicated effectively. Loyal customers, worth so much to any business, must be kept onside. The longer we’ve been using a service (I have been going to Dorset for over ten years now), the more we resent and fear change. In any workplace, for example, it is always the old stagers who claim that we’re going to hell in a handcart.

We all need to make changes from time to time, whether it’s a small tweak to your blog or a more fundamental business adjustment but we do need to remember to take our followers with us. A blog or a newsletter is  a great way to give your fans as much information about that change as possible. Your most loyal customers will have an emotional investment in your brand and deserve to be kept onside.

How Much Self-Promotion is Too Much?

I think it might be time for a rant! Sorry but this has really got to me and I’m going to share it with you because it raises questions for us all;

How much self-promotion is too much?

I un-subscribed to a blog this morning and I did it with a heavy heart. I wanted to like it, I really did. This blog is run by a successful blog-writing company, so it should be brilliant and to begin with I liked their style – the verve and pizzazz – I found it inspiring.

But as time went by and I got to know the blog, I was put off by the level of self-promotion. I am quite bad at self-promotion myself and have vowed to get better so maybe I am over sensitive. I will admit to having an About Me page which I use to highlight special offers, but in general I believe a blog to be somewhere where we talk and pass on tips and add value to each others lives, not a giant advert.

Surely the blog in question could make their offers via a newsletter and keep the blog for information on why blogging is such a great promotional tool? (if this seems ironic I mean promotion through sharing expertise not money off coupons.)

Most of the blogs I love are not shy to promote their services but they make sure it is in exchange for quality advice, information and discussion. Their  promotion is mainly around the edges, using a box or a PS at the end. I don’t mind this because if I rate them highly then I want them to get new business and do well.

You may say if I don’t like the blog in question then don’t read it. Well I don’t anymore. Rant over.

What do you think –  do you manage your self promotion with a light touch or do you think using a blog to sell is the whole point?

The Secret Behind Every Buying Decision We Ever Make.

Have you seen the new Ikea ad? I opened the double page spread in my  newspaper at the weekend and thought – yes, that is the secret – the reason behind every buying decision we ever make.

The ad shows a single red table lamp. It has a shiny glass base and a blood-red shade. A white cat rubs her face against the material with a  far away look of sublime pleasure. The strap line says;

Home. The most important thing is how it makes you feel.

At nearly 35 pounds this  lamp is not the cheapest  Ikea have ever produced, but the message is clear, it’s not about price this time, it’s about the way this purchase makes you feel on the inside. I don’t know if this is Ikea trying to educate its customers away from the expectation of very low prices but they are certainly tapping into the sensual nature of making a purchase.

The process of browsing, choosing, handling and buying goods involves all our senses. It’s not just the products themselves but the way they are displayed, the ambience in the shop,the rustle of paper as they’re wrapped.  When you buy something super-expensive you don’t necessarily get a product which is 20x better than something cheaper, but you do get to feel what it’s like to be the kind of person who buys luxury goods – J-Lo for a day or for a few minutes anyway.

Creating an atmosphere that makes the customer feel good about a purchase is something  everyone can do – you don’t need to have a shop or even a physical product.  Website design and catalogue styling are all about tapping into your target customer’s aspirations and desires. It doesn’t have to be all about luxury, maybe your customer is motivated by value or gets excited by a bargain.

So for the take-away message from today’s post;

  • Know your customer and what motivates them.
  • Appeal to their senses – all of them, everywhere,all the time. (Think copywriting, design, colour choices, packaging.)   

Who do you think does the sensual thing really well? I’ll kick off with Cath Kidston- her stuff makes me feel as though I’ve just baked a blackberry and apple crumble. 

 

Is it Time For The Return of The Telephone?

I got a call in Sainsbury’s the other day asking me if I would like to apply for a job. I was at the checkout and it took me by surprise, I could hardly hear and I didn’t know what to say. I said no in the end but I wondered if the odd circumstances had effected my decision.

Back at my desk, I decided that I would actually like a few more calls out of the blue. Things are so quiet now everything’s being done online. I could do with some conversation in between  bursts of frenetic activity!

Which brings me to my question today. Is it time to bring back the telephone or is it an annoying disruption?

Debate rages about the best way to construct an e-mail but maybe we should forget that and try a phone call instead? It’s far harder to be rude to someone on the phone(although some will try!)

This blog post sets out the case for the phone, and when you get to the comments you’ll see that I agree, even though I’m shy and find the phone a bit of a trial.

So, is e-mail a genuinely better choice or is it just an excuse not to talk to each other? What do you think?

Bang on Trend:Do Small Businesses Need to Follow Fashion?

Fashion – it’s a here today, gone tomorrow, throw away kind of thing. You can’t base business decisions on it can you? Unless you are in the fashion industry of course.

No, long-term trends are the things you need to look out for; those slow, steady changes in  the way people consume, dress, holiday and behave.  

Companies who are not overtly fashionable still look at trends for marketing opportunities and ideas.

The clothing company Boden decided to go to Camp Bestival this year, tapping into the fashion for family friendly festivals and posh camping. But it’s not enough just to show up, they made sure their tent was full of interactive fun that fitted the mood, rather than simply setting up a shop on site. By all accounts it paid off.      

Camping is a trend that shows no sign of disappearing and the way is still open for entrepreneurs hoping to develop products and services around it. On a big camping trip this summer involving over 20 families we got the supermarket to deliver our BBQ right onto the field – a great tv ad yet to be made and I even suggested an app to tell you the location of the nearest micro brewery when you run out of beer, but apparently something like that has already been done!   

Camping fits with the gloomy economic outlook which means Staycations aren’t over yet either and nor is our love affair with locally sourced,  premium quality food. I’ve long argued for joint promotions between holiday lets and local food suppliers. People are happy to spend money on holiday and what better way to treat yourself when you are self catering – a wonderful leg of Welsh lamb and some local wine and cheese? Perfect. 

Dogs are big news. After after the babies come the pets and all sorts of products and services are being punted at the new dog owners. I wrote about that here.

I have even heard that there is a trend for parental outsourcing – that’s tutoring, sports coaching and household chores to you and me. My lovely friends in the concierge business will be pleased!

So keep watching the trends for gaps in the market and new ways to promote your existing offerings. You may not be a dedicated follower of fashion but you will be bang on trend.