Removing the Cat Turds from the Social Media Sandbox

socialmediasandboxDid you have a sandbox as a kid?  I did and it was place where I could play and be as creative and constructive as my heart desired.

It was GREAT fun to play in my sandbox until the fateful day when I realized that my play area had become a port-a-pot for the neighborhood cats.

I remember trying to clean up my sandbox so I could enjoy it again, but once the neighborhood cats found my little patch of sand in the backyard

-there was no going back.

Years later, when I had children of my own, imagine my delight to discover that some other entrepreneurial soul had come up with a solution – a sandbox WITH A COVER!  I bought the first one I saw for my kids.

The catch?

Once the kids were done playing, they had to put the cover back on the sandbox before they came inside.  Being kids – my kids specifically – the practice of placing the cover over the top of the sandbox stopped after – oh, say the third day.  It wasn’t long before I heard the wails as my children discovered – the hard way – the consequences of not covering their beloved sandbox.

The Social Media Sandbox

A blog is a tool in the social media sandbox… just like the pink pail in the image above.  Fill the pail with dry sand and when you turn the bucket over – the sand will pour out into a shapeless pile.

There’s not much fun in that.

However, when you add a little H2O to the sand-  suddenly the sand retains it shape! The addition of a little water creates a literally endless array of possibilities for creativity and construction!

When we first moved to Florida, I purchased an book on building sand sculptures.  It was fascinating, but I realized that I really didn’t want to work that hard when I went to the beach.  However, I learned that scooping wet sand into a bucket and overturning it isn’t the ONLY way to build a sand castle.

If you’ve wondered why your blog hasn’t been delivering the results you wanted to see from it – it’s because:

  1. You haven’t been adding water to the sand.
  2. You haven’t been adding the right amount of water to the sand.
  3. You not using your bucket correctly.

If you’ve ever gone to the beach and begun an ambitious sand castle project, you’ll notice that the further along you get in the construction of your sand castle – the more “interest” you’ll get from passers by.

Sit on the beach and dump dry sand out of your bucket for hours on end, and all you’ll get is a few pitying glances.

On the other hand, when you begin an ambitious sand castle building project – well, at first you won’t get much attention either.

However, as you build it and it become apparent that you’re building something big – people will start to notice.   People will start to gather – curious to watch the process.   You may find you actually get volunteers who want to help become a part of what you’re building.

Social Media Marketing is just like Building Sandcastles

  1. You have to start with the end in mind.  If you don’t have a strategy in place when you begin using social media, you can’t expect social media to yield results.
  2. At first, no one will notice – or care what you’re doing.  Most people can’t “see” it with their mind before they see it with their eyes.  It’s not until your sand castle starts to take shape that people begin to notice.
  3. Even when there are lots of people on the beach – very few of them are building sand castles.  Most people at the beach are lying in the sun.  More people are reading books than building sand castles.

Sandcastles and sandboxes are a great analogy for social media.

If you don’t have the right “strategy” (knowing what to do – a.k.a. adding water and knowing the end result – a.k.a. “a plan”) you’ll just find yourself scooping sand and pouring dry sand.  Playing like that in the sandbox loses its appeal quickly and when the cats arrive, well – it makes it easy to abandon the sandbox for good.

The key to creating a work of art sandcastle includes knowing WHAT you want to build.  Once you know what you want to build, then the techniques for achieving the desired results are actually quite simple.  The same it true for blogging – and every other tool in the social media marketing toolbox.

Social media can be a GREAT sandbox – one with unlimited opportunities for creativity and construction – the rub is you need to make certain you have a social media strategy in place so you can create beautiful sandcastles.  Even if you’re miles away from the closest beach – you can still add water and have fun creating your own sandcastles in your backyard – even if you’re miles from the closest beach.

Please don’t make me explain this to you…

branding boo boosDespite the fact that I am definitely NOT your typical LOGO channel viewer, I recently discovered the reality television series RuPaul’s Drag Race.  It’s Project Runway meets America’s Next Top Model except RuPaul is everything Tyra should EVER hope to aspire to be!  (meow!)

I discovered the show at about the fourth episode and fortunately, LOGO is loving this show as much as I am, so the entire season has been replayed LIBERALLY and quickly filled up my DVR when I set it to “record all episodes at any time on this channel.”

In what may qualify as child abuse in the Midwest (but not in Florida where bestiality is still legal -as long as the animal in question doesn’t exhibit distress over the violation), I allowed my 14 year old son to watch the Drag on a Dime episode with me.

My two older children remember exactly where they were the first time they saw RuPaul in all her glory.  Somehow, my youngest didn’t know who this 6’4″ supermodel of the world was until he joined me in watching the show.

Thus the title of this blog post… because my son had a REALLY hard time wrapping his brain around exactly WHAT RuPaul and the other lovely drag queens were all about.

One question was, “Do they wish they were born with women’s bodies?”

My answer, “No, sweetie.  There is definitely the “change the make and model” option via surgery which is covered in GRAPHIC detail in an episode of South Park – but I’m pretty sure than none of these gentleman WANTS to be a woman all day, every day.”

This brings us to the branding/marketing portion of the program.

Branding Lessons from America’s Favorite Drag Queen

The RuPaul “brand” is a study in authenticity which is kind of ironic if you think about it.  I mean, I’m touting a DRAG QUEEN as a study in authenticity – but RuPaul has never claimed to be what he appears to be on stage.  He admits that he’s a master of illusion!

Because he is such a master of presentation (e.g. hair and makeup) and most importantly “illusion”, he became a spokesperson for MAC cosmetics in 1995.  Who better to demonstrate the transformational powers of the right make up than a drag queen?

However, there are several essential branding lessons every business owner can learn from RuPaul – but I think the most important one is:

Be consistent in your presentation and representation of your brand.

RuPaul has NEVER denied being a man in a drag.  Love it – hate it – he is what he is.

He’s a 6’4″ tall black drag queen sporting a platinum wig.  Take one look at him and you won’t be surprised when he opens his mouth and out spills something outrageous!  Mac cosmetics didn’t have to wonder if he would appeal to the middle aged housewife in the Midwest when they chose him as their spokeswoman – because that wasn’t the audience with whom he was supposed to connect!  He was voted Queen of Manhattan in 1990.  Mac wanted the ultimate urban socialite and they saw that in RuPaul.

As you peruse RuPaul’s site (click on the image above- it goes there) – you’ll notice that MOST of the time, RuPaul is in character and most of the time he’s in character, he’s sporting a platinum blond wig.  He may be wearing some of the most AMAZING fashions  – but his “look” never deviates.

Since the “real” RuPaul is bald, I don’t know his natural hair color but I’m pretty sure from his complexion that platinum blond is NOT what grows out of his head (or any other part) naturally.  He has complete control over his hair color – yet he almost always chooses to portray his character with platinum blond hair.

RuPaul COULD choose to appear with a dazzling and ever changing array of hair colors -yet  he chooses only one most of the time.  RuPaul has found a look that “works” and he’s stuck with it.

By choosing a look and sticking with it, RuPaul doesn’t have to “explain” himself and his brand over and over!

A HUGE problem many business owners encounter when it comes to “branding” and “advertising” is that they often get tired of a campaign at precisely the moment when the brand or the campaign is starting to make an impact on their audience.

If RuPaul were following the path of America’s largest retailer – he would have traded in his blond wig (a.k.a. fired his ad agency) of 20 years and “revamped” his image.  In my opinion, RuPaul trading in his platinum wig for a more sensible “brunette” is the moral equivalent of Walmart dumping the little smiley face guy.

RuPaul could choose a new hair color –  WHY WOULD HE?

The blond wig WORKS so why change it?

The same question can be asked of companies large and small.  Walmart isn’t the only huge company to suffer from this affliction.  From “new Coke” to the “new US Army” – why oh why change something that is WORKING?

If you follow local advertising – you’ll see examples of local businesses who change their branding on an almost daily basis – to the point of not HAVING a single cohesive branding thread upon which to hang a marketing message.

In the end, RuPaul has been very deliberate and equally consistent in crafting and delivering his own unique “brand” of entertainment.    The clothes change, but the character doesn’t.

If a drag queen who can change her hair color as quickly and easily as she changes her shoes can stick with a consistent hair color for more than 2 decades – why would your business want to change it’s branding essentials?

If your branding is broken – fix it!  However, just because you “can” doesn’t mean you SHOULD.  It could be that what’s broken is NOT the marketing – but something else.

Find out BEFORE you start fixing something that used to work!

Halloween Humor and an Object Lesson on Trust and Marketing

I talk a LOT here about the importance trust plays in marketing your product or services.  Establishing trust with your marketing is especially essential if you’re selling “nothing but air” a.k.a. making an intangible major sale.

Trust is hard to win and easy to lose. In the world of Web 2.0, transparency is the key.  For example, In the “old days” (pre-web), if a business owner got a reputation for lying and ripping of his/her customer,  he or she could always pick up and start anew in a new location.  However, in the world of Web 2.0, your reputation can follow you ALL over the world!

Here’s a bit of Halloween Humor making the rounds these days which offers a thinly veiled object lesson on trust and marketing.

A cabbie picks up a  Nun.  She gets into the cab, and notices that the VERY handsome cab  driver won’t stop staring at her. She asks him why he is  staring.  He replies: ‘I have a question to ask, but I don’t want to  offend you.’

She answers, “My son, you  cannot offend me.  When you’ have been a nun as  long as I have, you get a chance to see and hear just about  everything.  I’m sure that there’s nothing you could say or ask that  I would find offensive.'”

“Well, I’ve always had a  fantasy to make out with a nun.”

The nun responds, “Well, I could probably oblige you under two conditions.  First, you have to be single and second, you must be Catholic.”

The cab driver blurts out, ‘HOT DOG!!!  Yes,  I’m single and Catholic!’

The nun says.   ‘Pull into the next alley.’

The make out scene that followed in that alley would make a hooker blush.

When they get back on  the road, the cab driver starts crying.

‘Why is wrong?” the nun asked.

‘Forgive me but I’ve  sinned.  I lied and I must confess; I’m married and I’m Baptist.’

The nun replies, ‘That’s  OK.  My name is Kevin and I’m going to a Halloween  party.”

It’s a beautiful thing when a liar gets taken by a con artist.

It’s not a beautiful thing when good people get taken by “gurus” and “experts” who don’t know enough to know they don’t know anything!

That’s why I’m a REAL fan of blogging.  See, there’s no better vehicle to build trust than with a blog.  It’s hard to fake expertise over the course of a couple hundred blog posts!

If you’re here and you’re offering “real deal” services, then get a blog.   There’s no better way to demonstrate the breadth and depth of your knowledge!

If it ain’t broken, PLEASE don’t fix it!

I am seething with rage right now and the object of loathing is Gmail!!! Recently, the Google gods decided to “improve” Gmail – and right now, I’m regretting using the service.

I don’t know who I’m more angry with at the moment – Gmail for “fixing” something that wasn’t broken or my stupidity (and blatant disregard of my own “standards”) for expecting something of value for nothing.

The new Gmail interface – to put it politely – SUCKS!!!!

I’ve composed the same email THREE TIMES over the past 90 minutes.  I’ll be in the middle of composing this same email and suddenly the screen will “refresh” and my reply will be GONE!!! Admittedly, I’m multi-tasking.  I’ve got 5 other things going at once so the reply is happening in “spurts” –  but still – COME ON GMAIL!!!

The first two times it happened, I tried to tell myself that my Higher Power wanted me to revise this email.  Maybe that’s still the case. I’d love to hear your two cents on this situation.

Is this my Higher Power protecting me from myself?

Here’s the deal: I’m actively seeking guest blog posts for a new blog I’ve launched: Divorce Recovery Advice.

(If you’re a coach who specializes in divorce recovery,  consider yourself invited to guest post on the blog.)

The blog is REALLY new and yet it’s already getting some nice SERPS on a couple of desirable keyword terms.

Today I got a GREAT post from a divorce coach.  This woman is a NATURAL born communicator and in the course of just one blog post, she had no trouble gaining my trust.  She knows her stuff and it SHOWS!  It’s a GREAT guest post – so, I head over to her website to grab a head shot to include in her author’s bio box. (This guest post is scheduled to appear later in the month – thanks to WordPress’ ability to schedule posts to publish in the future!)

[Sound Effects] BRAKES SCREECHING!  CARS CRASHING!!!

Oh my – what a DISASTER!  Her website F-UGLY.  However, the good news is that according to Alexa – no one is seeing it anyway.

Remember – my first impression of this woman was her guest post.  Her guest blog post was great – and her website is BAD!

Here’s my dilemma –

I can help and she obviously NEEDS my help.  However, she didn’t ASK for my assistance.

It was the email to her to tell her when her guest blog post will “air” on the blog that I have lost 3 times.

On the one hand, I could invite her to be a repeat guest poster  to my blog.  She would be building content on my blog and putting Adsense money in my pocket.  I could tell myself that she would benefit because my blog after 6 weeks is doing MUCH better traffic wise than her website.  However, if someone clicks through, they’re not going to stick around.

On the other, I could offer to help her.   Which is the horns of my dillemma.  She didn’t ASK for my help – and I’m afraid that offering to help might cast my invitation to guest blog as a filthy marketing whore tactic.

What would you do?

The Name of the Game is Trust

Lately, I’ve been talking a LOT about the importance of TRUST as an essential element of your marketing efforts.  Here’s a word picture to help you “visualize” how the whole “trust building” process works.

Think of trust like you would a bank account.  When you first meet someone, the balance of the “trust” account is zero.  Then, as you interact with this other person, deposits are being made into the trust account.  To borrow from Tom Volkar’s blog – when you honor your agreements, explicit AND implicit, you’re making deposits into the trust account. When you don’t honor those commitments,  you are debiting the trust account.

You do this all the time with friends, family and other people you come into contact with during the course of your daily life – including the “entities” with which you do business!

In the case of your trust relationship with business “entities”, when it comes time for real MONEY to change hands,  when it’s time to write the the check for legal tender, you’ll make a quick mental check of the balance of the “trust” account.    Unfortunately, there’s not a way to “log in to” the trust account to check the balance.   When you’re trying to establish with a new client, you’ll know you haven’t accumulated enough “trust” in the account if you ask for the sale and the potential client “balks”.

This is the word picture in my mind as I read a recent post over at David Airey’s blog.  In his post,  A Conversation About Spec Work“, David shares a somewhat heated exchange between a prospective client and a designer over working on spec.  In case you didn’t know, the BANE of a graphic artist’s existence – SPEC WORK!  (If you don’t get why a graphic artist might be upset over the prospect of working for “free”, check out Jacob Cass’ post, Why logo design does not cost $5.00)

All I could see in the exchange was a battle of two individuals whose trust accounts were empty when the trust checks were presented for payment.

Jacob makes a point in the comments section of David’s post where he points out that you don’t expect your dentist to work on spec.  (OUCH!  That illustration really “hit home” with me thanks to my little “dental drama” of late and the ensuing anti-word of mouth marketing campaign.)

However, Jacob is only partially correct.  While it’s true that ESTABLISHED dentists don’t offer to work on spec, it’s a different story for new dentist.

When you see an incredibly low cost initial appointment advertised by a dentist, it’s actually another version of working on spec.  While the dentist IS charging a small fee, the advertised price that doesn’t BEGIN to cover the variable costs associated with the exam let alone the fixed costs of running the practice!  If that’s not working on spec, I don’t know what is!

Working on spec is nothing new to anyone who is in the business of selling “nothing but air“.  Service based businesses usually have to do a LOT of spec work in the beginning!  Chiropractors, attorneys, coaches and consultants are just a few of the other professionals who are selling their expertise who must establish a significant level of trust with their potential clients.  I personally created a LOT of web sites in the beginning for minimal cost to build my practice.

However, as the service professional continues to build trust with an ever expanding circle of clients – then the need for spec work decreases.  Not only do you begin to get client referrals, but you can also share client testimonials to help build trust.

David Airey has openly credited his blog with building his business from a local business to one with an international scope.  David’s blog is acting as a GREAT vehicle for building trust with potential clients.

Not only can you feature client testimonials on your blog, but you can also share your expertise freely – which has the effect of making HUGE deposits in your trust account with your blog’s readers.

Building your service based business is a catch 22 type of deal.  In order to gain the trust of potential clients you have to have testimonials/referrals which you can’t get until you get clients!!!

That’s the reason for working on spec.  However, the good news is that  blogs are GREAT for building trust with prospective clients.  They can help you to build trust for your service based business.