Social Media Mistake #3: Forgetting what it is…

social media marketing

Probably the most common social media mistake made by both business owners and individuals is not having a clear understanding of what social media is.  When you forget (or don’t know) what social media is  – that is the time when the biggest mistakes are made.  So what is social media –

Social media is conversation!

True – it’s a unique – technology aided means of communication – but when you strip away the shiny metal surface – social media is simply communication between people who are not face to face with each other.

Because it is conversation – the typical rules of making polite conversation apply.  With the way some people treat social media – I wonder how many dinner party invitations they receive – because their manners online are atrocious.

Of course, those with the worst manners are those who are trying to “game” the system.  These boorish oafs are akin to the person who shows up at the party and starts barging in on conversations, telling anyone who will listen about this GREAT MLM opportunity.  The only reason this type of person ACCEPTS a party invitation is to build his or her “down line.”  There is no room for relationships – only rubes.

The real “problem” most businesses have with social media is that their previous relationships with their customers were strictly one way.  The company spoke via television ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, etc.  The customer responded by whipping out his/her credit card and making a purchase.  There is little opportunity for feedback in that kind of “relationship” – and quite honestly it – it made it MUCH easier on the business when the communication was strictly one way.

Instead of dealing with REAL customer feedback – the business could simply speculate on what consumers thought.  They could sit in meeting rooms – drinking coffee and pouring over spread sheets and try to interpret the WHY behind their consumers behavior. In the days BEFORE social media – the only other way to gain this valuable data was to resort to focus groups.  Focus groups are where people are brought into an artificial setting and asked about their opinions.   It’s phony – it’s forced – but a decade ago it was the best way to figure out what was going on inside a consumer’s mind.

That was then – and this is now.

Now we have a more “advanced” tool for gaining access to what’s going on inside consumer’s minds.  However, there are those who will try to tell you that [insert social media tool here] is the short- cut to marketing success.  Just set up a Facebook Fan Page – or a blog – or begin Tweeting – and you’ll be amazed as you watch your business revenues skyrocket with throngs of customers hungry for your product or service.

Don’t get me wrong – that certainly CAN happen.  There’s nothing better than working with a client who has a clear vision of their customer’s GDP (Goals, Desires, Problems) who wants to get involved in social media marketing.   On the flip side – there’s nothing worse than trying to work with someone whose social media marketing goal is revenue without relationships.

There are many ways to communicate with your customers and potential customers.  The biggest difference between social media marketing and “traditional” marketing methods is that the prospective customers can – and WILL – let you know what they think.

Come to think of it – consumers are doing the same thing via social media when it comes to traditional marketing methods such as television advertising as well. So when you think about it – there really is no escaping the fact that social media will be shaping your business whether you like it or not.  You can make the biggest mistake of all which is ignoring social media – or you can try to manipulate social media when you don’t like what your customers are saying – but in the end, remember that social media is merely communication aided and abetted by technology – and nothing more.

Any “magic” you find in using social media for marketing is definitely provided by YOU!

Social Media Mistake #1: Ignore it

social-media-marketingOne of the most toxic social media mistakes a business owner can make is to adopt a “ignore it and hope it goes away” type of attitude.

This head in the sand tactic is employed on many levels.  Some business owners want to ignore social media in general – hoping it’s a fad which will quickly fade away. Unfortunately, for some businesses and brands – their first foray into the wild and wonderful world of social media is when they discover a social media shit storm has erupted and their brand is at the epicenter.

It’s important for business owners to recognize that conversations are already happening about your business and your brand.   While it’s infinitely easier to ignore these social media rumblings – ignoring these critical conversations and hoping they’ll go away is the worst thing you as a business owner or brand manager can do.

There’s a reason for the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”  Except on the web – ignorance is anything BUT bliss.

If you think social media is magic – think again.  Social media is simply people communicating via the web. The web has always been about communication and in the old days, that communication was restricted to those who “spoke” the language.  In the earliest days, that language was HTML.  The big “fuss” began when people who didn’t speak “HTML” could communicate using the web via blogs and eventually other social media sites such asMySpace.com and Facebook.

This free and easy communication cut two ways for businesses.    On the plus side, businesses could easily communicate with not only current customers but prospective customers as well.  Since these conversations were happening on the web – they are digital footprints left in cement rather than sand.   In some ways, these conversations are better for business – because we as business owners can “eavesdrop” on the conversations going on about our brand.

However, on the flip side – there’s a business axiom that proclaims a happy customer will tell 3 people – an unhappy one will tell 16.  This axiom is from the days before social media – and those figures should probably be amplified exponentially to reflect the changes happening thanks to social media.  This means, the conversations that are happening about your business or brand online are more than likely going to be negative.

The biggest reason business owners and brand managers seek out a social media consultant is because they’ve recently discovered the negative conversations going on online about their brand.

Their first request – almost without exception – is to ask for the consultant to remove the negative conversations – to erase them from existence.  As a result, the first conversation most social media consultants have with new clients is to explain that REMOVING these negative conversations is impossible.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that  it is possible to MOVE the negative conversations off the first pages of search and replace those negative conversations with positive ones.

However, remember – people are much more likely to “bitch and moan” than they are to rant and rave about your business.  That’s why businesses need to be proactive in encouraging and nurturing positive conversations online – because these positive conversations don’t happen “naturally”.

In a freshly tilled garden, weeds always seem to grow faster and easier than the desired plants.  Whether you want your garden to yield beautiful flowers or tasty vegetables and fruit – you can’t simply plant some seeds in freshly tilled soil and hope for the best.

The same is true of social media. If you’re not actively nurturing your social media presence – then chances are the “weeds” are taking over.

Ignorance is  anything but bliss when it comes to social media.  The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to social media is to ignore it.

Who’s afraid of the FTC’s new guidelines?

social media's magic ingredientAnswer – ” Not you if you’re operating under an authentic business model.”

Social media is all about information flowing freely and easily.    When a company engages in questionable business activities – social media is there, allowing customers to share what it’s like to do business with someone.  However, there have always been business owners who don’t want to play by the rules.  Instead of gathering authentic testimonials – they resort to crafting lies to promote their product or service.   They create “faux blogs” to promote their products – complete with fake testimonials.  They hire celebrities whom you trust, banking on that trust being transitive.   Well, the US government (via the FTC ) has been receiving complaints and is about to join the game.  They are in the process of crafting some new “rules” for the game of doing business – both off line and online!

The FTC stands for the Federal Trade Commission- a US government agency which is charged with the protection of American Consumers. The FTC was founded in 1914 – in the era of “trust building and trust busting.”  Since then, the agency’s powers have been enhanced to include all “unfair and deceptive business acts or practice.”  The most recent (1980)  guidelines are receiving a “face lift” for the new millennium – and may be a cause for concern for those who have been operating outside the bounds of “authentic” marketing and business building.

It’s not just brick and mortar businesses that have to worry about the new guidelines. Bloggers and internet marketers are definitely affected by the latest FTC guidelines that ban deceptive or unfair business practices.  If you’ve embraced my 3 step  authentic business success secrets formula – then you’ll probably welcome the relief offered by these new guidelines -written with social media marketing in mind.

New guidelines are being drafted which in their current state would allow the FTC to go after bloggers for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.   The current draft of the guidelines also allows the FTC to go after the companies who partner with bloggers as well.

By the way, this same language also applies to celebrities who endorse products.  It looks like those D list celebrities who endorse such products as Cash 4 Gold had better take a good hard look at the reputation of the company who wants to hire them.

So, if you’ve written a glowing testimonial for a product you’ve never used – you might find yourself in as much hot water as the person for whom you wrote the testimonial.

If you’ve written a glowing review of a product you received  for free and you failed to disclose that you received the product for free –  again, you might find yourself in the same hot water.

Mary Engle of the FTC tells why in this video:

It  appears that the FTC is joining in the effort to keep the communication going on via social media “clean” and free from manipulation.

If you’re running an authentic business model – you have little to fear with the new guidelines.

If the testimonials you feature on your blog or web site are real – both the ones from your customers and the ones you have written for other bloggers and internet marketers – then your compliance with the guidelines will be easy peasy lemon squeazy.

For most ethical business people and bloggers, you may need to disclose the fact that the links in your blog post are affiliate links – but other than that – the new rules shouldn’t cause most authentic and ethical business owners and bloggers much concern.

If however, you’ve been less than authentic in your marketing communications – then you may have a serious problem on your hands when the guidelines are finalized – expected some time in 2010.

Business Building Strategy: The most important question of all…

business-building-strategyWhen you’re building a business – there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.  Dr. Jean Murray says there are 10,000 questions you’ll have to answer as you start your business.  While I never stopped to count them all – I think she’s definitely in the ball park with that estimate.

Some of those start up questions are easy – and when a question is easily answered it’s usually answered quickly.  Some questions are hard – and it takes time to discover the answer.

There is one word which can drive your business towards success more quickly than any other word.  While this word can stand alone as a question – when it’s part of larger question – it’s presence signals that the question at hand is one of the most important you’ll ask over the course of your business.

This powerful word is easy to say – and easy to spell.

This mystical magical word is the word – WHY.

Why ask why?

Why is a powerful question to answer as you build your business.  In Business Building Strategy: What will you do to get their money?, I talk about a common business problem – those idiot customers and their stupid requests.  (If you don’t know me or haven’t spoken with me – you might not know that my tongue is FIRMLY in my cheek when I wrote the previous sentence.)  Often – when you’re tempted to “label” a customer as “stupid” or an “idiot” – it’s often because you don’t understand thy “why” which is driving the customer’s behavior.

For example,  “Those idiot customers keep calling to get directions to our store, even though we have a map on our web site!”

Ask “why” and suddenly the view of the situation changes.  Asking why helps to move the view of  from a customer problem – to a web site problem.

When you apply the “why word” to the questions raised – the questions suddenly take on an elevated level of importance.  You can even add this mystical magical word to a simple statement to turn it into a thought provoking important business building question.

Take this “complaint” – “My [insert advertising media here] is driving visitors to my web site – but it isn’t generating any new business.”  Adding the word “why”takes a complaint and turns it into an essential business building question.

Sometimes  answering this question is easy.  Sometimes it’s hard – but the reason it’s hard is not that it’s like solving a complex math problem hard – but rather it’s a “we’re going to have to do something that’s outside of our comfort zone.”

“Because I said so” is a LOUSY answer when someone -anyone – asks you why.   If you’re tempted to give that answer – take a moment to think.  Often, that answer is often a sign that you just aren’t willing to dig in and answer the real question – “why?”

Asking why often leads to discovering business problems which lie outside of your comfort zone.  For that reason alone – knowing the answer to “why” is essential.  The “why” can help you take that first scary step through the Looking Glass – which is known in MBA speak as “thinking outside of the box”.

The impact of social media…

social-media-marketingI’m beginning to wonder if the rise of social media may be playing an unseen and unmeasured  role in the US economic crisis.

This thought train began a few months ago while watching Mad Money.  Jim Cramer was talking about Nokia and Dell – two companies who were blaming dismal sales on the state of the economy. Cramer correctly pointed out that if it’s “raining” for one business then it should be “raining” on everyone in the neighborhood.  So while both these companies were complaining about the dismal economy and how it’s the reason for their suffering sales, both these companies have competitors who are:

a) kicking their respective asses with better products and better customer service

b) doing great in sectors with strong growth despite the “dismal” economy.

Which made me wonder -are Nokia and Dell’s sales figures victims of social media? After all, if there were ever going to be two products heavily affected by negative buzz in social media circles, two sectors which would be appropriate “canaries” would be the mobile phone and computers.

Is is possible social media is responsible for slowly killing these giant companies?

Social Media – it’s a moral imperative

Social media makes communication easy, fun but most importantly PERMANENT!

There was a time – when your advertising and other marketing messages didn’t live forever, easily accessed by the search engines.

That was then – this is now.

Disappoint customers today and they’ll take to the tools of social media to share their experience with others. Those disparaging remarks will live on – and if you’re not on top of your online reputation’s SERPS – those customer complaints may end up being featured front and center.

The consequences of disappointing your customers can be more severe than just a negative rating on a single website. Disappointed customers who feel strongly can now easily, post a Tweet, create a video – create a Facebook Fan Pages – or worse yet – blog about your current customer service.

I’m working on a Dell computer.  Well, it’s a Dell wearing an Alienware mask.  I was sold on Alienware – not from an ad in a magazine but from personal recommendations from other Alienware users. I purchased my Alienware shortly after they were acquired by Dell.  In short, I spent $2500 on a freaking POS Dell computer with a souped up power supply and a glowing alien face.  I bought the BS being spread that Dell wouldn’t impose their shitty quality upon the Alienware line.

To say I’ve been disappointed with my Dell purchase would be an understatement.  Let’s just say – tears were shed, threats were issued and I was loading up my Sunpass for a trip to Miami to visit the Alienware headquarters to voice my displeasure in person.  When I heard Dell’s earning suck – my thought was  “GOOD!!! If they’re still in business – their earnings don’t suck enough!!!!”

Is it possible that the Dell “economic slow down” is really just the result of information flowing freely online? Is it possible Dell’s woes are not rooted in poor economic conditions but rather the fact that they sell crappy computers?   Is it possible their users are WARNING others via social media?

Which got me to thinking… is it possible that Betsy Wuebker’s post WELLS FARGO DUMPS ON A GRIEVING MOTHER is joining forces with literally hundreds of other Wells Fargo customer service horror stories?  Is it possible that these individual blog posts could eventually create a tsunami for Wells Fargo?

Which brings up the question…

Is social media already making a real economic impact on businesses?

Jim Cramer only stated that poorly run companies often blame their poor performance on the market instead of upon management where it belongs.  However, as Cramer  talks about products that don’t perform – I keep thinking of blog posts which have “outed” those products long ago and still linger online today.

How many blog posts does it take to bring down a corporate giant?  Has social media as a medium reached the point of being capable of taking down a company of any size?

I don’t believe that we’ve reached that “critical mass” yet – but I believe that day is coming.  Stay tuned!