Facebook is a Fad

What does Spock see when he looks into the scanner?  Why Facebook of course!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vs2l38DoqsQ&feature=player_embedded#at=49[/youtube]

Is your business ready for the end of Facebook’s “fad of the moment” status?

If the thought of the fall of Facebook makes you nervous- if Facebook is acting as your sole web presence – it’s time for a reality check.

At best, Facebook should be one of many TOOLS in your social media marketing toolbox.  It should never be the ONLY way for consumers to find your business online.

If you think Facebook is forever -I’d like to remind you of a very popular social media site of  yesteryear – MySpace.

When Newscorp purchased MySpace back in 2005 – the site was at the height of its popularity.  Of course, the first order of business was to cash in – and cash in they did.  Unfortunately – the changes made to improve short term profits were made without regard to the site’s users.   As the user experience began to deteriorate at MySpace, Facebook opened it’s virtual doors to the general public and consumers fled-driving MySpace into obscurity.

User experience killed MySpace – and a similar fate awaits Facebook as well if they continue to ignore the “will” of consumers.

The biggest mistake any business owner can make is to build their business on the “free” internet real estate offered by Facebook.

Facebook’s greatest appeal has always been the fact that it’s free and it’s growth has been very “viral”.  One person recruits their friends and family to sign up… and those friends recruit their friends – and before you know it – over a half a billion people have created Facebook profiles.

It’s natural that business would want to have a presence on this popular site.  However, it’s important to remember that your business doesn’t own in any way, shape or form its Facebook page.  Heck, you’re not even paying to RENT to Facebook for this online real estate – which means your options are VERY limited should you find yourself in unknowing violation of Facebook’s ever changing TOS.

There have been more than a few internet pioneers who have discovered first hand that it SUCKS to build your internet marketing empire on internet real estate you do not own.

While Facebook is indeed a “fad” – social media is not.

Social media is more than just the sum of it’s parts.  Social media is bigger than Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube and the myriad of other mega social media sites combined.

The smart business owner will place his or her own “horse” in the social media race and maintain a business blog.  Then social media sites like Facebook, YouTube and Linked In can be leveraged to help bring readers (a.k.a. consumers) to the business owner’s blog. That same smart business owner will be watching the newest players on the social media scene to see if the businesses’ target customers are beginning to congregate at a new social media gathering place… like say Foursquare.

When you create and maintain a business blog – where prospective customers can find out more about the products and services you provide – you might discover that your business blog is the most profitable piece of your own marketing puzzle.

That’s better than a page full of “likes” any day!

Blog posts and building trust with prospective customers

In Blogging, Authority and Trust I talk about how in order to gain access to a prospective customer’s emotional triggers you have to engender a level of “trust” with a prospective customer or client.   That level of trust begins as “trust” and can grow into “authority” with time.

In “Trusting your Gut“I shared the word picture which illustrates how the whole process of building trust works. Now I’d like to illustrate the role trust plays in social media marketing by sharing a recent person experience on how a single blog post – and the comments approved on the post – worked to build – and then destroy – the elements of trust needed to make a sale.

I was searching for software which would automate a task I perform in my business.  Since I’m going to be asking this piece of software to eliminate the need to hire an employee – I know it’s not going to be freeware.   I entered the keywords to describe the software into Google and -not surprisingly – one of the first results returned was a WordPress blog post.  In the post, the author asked his readers to share what software solutions they had used to solve the same problem I’m having.  The blog post had almost 60 comments by the time I arrived and I had high hopes that I would quickly and easily discover the software I needed.

At this point, my trust account balance with this blogger is low.  However, I’m willing to give this blog author the opportunity to earn my trust.  After all – his post is appearing first in Google, it appears he talks about issues affecting my business.

The post itself was basically fluff  – asking readers to submit the solutions they had found. I didn’t mind this – as a matter of fact, I was happy to see it.  It’s great to see how others are solving this apparently common problem.

The first few comments were apparently authentic- each of which acted like a deposit into the newly opened trust account.  Most of the authentic comments on the blog post fell along the lines of “I still use pen and paper to perform this task.”  UGH!  That’s what I’m doing now.

Notice that these are what I call the authentic responses because it was obvious that these were real readers with real businesses.    Unfortunately,  there were only about a dozen “authentic” responses – followed by about four dozen “inauthentic” responses.

There were several comments which looked authentic at first glance.  They included a photo gravatar combined with a first name – like “John” – followed by a comment which went along the lines of “we looked long and hard for an easy to use, intuitive software program to handle these tasks and were delighted to find [insert software name here].”  The comment then went on to describe the software’s benefits in glowing terms.

The problem with “John’s” comment and many others began with a simple hyperlink.  See, one way a reader “gauges” the authenticity of a comment is by following the hyperlinks in the comment.  In the case of these inauthentic “shill” comments,  when you clicked on the link to see if you could “trust” the glowing recommendation.  – surprise surprise -you would find the hyper linked went directly to the website selling the software program described in the comment.

Congratulations “John” – you garnered some weak link juice and lost the opportunity for me to even download a trial version of your software.

John and several others were obviously shill posting as a satisfied customers promoting their software solution via this blog post. This may be what some people call “social media marketing” but it’s really just spamming the comments of blog posts by posing as a satisfied customer.   It’s yet another example of a blunder in online reputation management – one that can’t be easily erased.

The moral of this story is that several software developers who tried to promote their products via shill comments lost the valuable opportunity to be “authentic” and showcase their software product to a prospective customer who was actively researching a purchase.

Instead of leveraging the power of a blog post with a #1 SERP on a valuable – albeit long tail – keyword term to capture high quality sales leads by leaving an authentic blog comment – a surprising number of software developers settled for a link with very little SEO value and absolutely no potential for real customer engagement.

This experience illustrates a lot of “blogging truths”….

  1. Leaving thoughtful comments on other blogs which add value to the conversation are a great way to get new readers for your blog.
  2. Finding blog posts which use powerful keyword phrases and leaving authentic comments is a great way to promote your product or services.
  3. Trying to “game” social media is a waste of time and energy.
  4. Trust which is quickly earned is fragile – and must be earned over time to fully develop into authority.

The best social media marketing practices begin by recognizing that social media is transparent.  Unfortunately it’s relatively easy to “stand out” from the crowd by simply being honest and telling the truth. In the blog post mentioned above, one software developer was “authentic” in his comment – sharing that he was the developer  and asking for input about his software from readers.

The web is big – and often you’ve got a limited opportunity to engage with a prospective customer.  Why would you waste it by lying and pretending to be someone you’re not?

“insert name here” is not a good beginning….

Social media is about authenticity, transparency and making a real connection.   While we have a multitude of ways to connect and interact today, including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – the “original” internet tool for social networking was actually email.  In Social Media is Consumer Controlled Conversations I wrote:

About a decade ago, there was another bright shiny techno-bauble being lauded as the magic marketing technology anyone could use to effortlessly build their business – an online email newsletter.  Just because the hype has moved on doesn’t mean that any of these “past” beauty queens are not still lovely when viewed through the lens of creating marketing magic.  As a matter of fact, none of these technological tools ever officially ended their reign as valuable online marketing tools.   Smart business owners didn’t drop their email newsletter when social media came knocking – they used social media to build their list.

Ah – the email newsletter is still one of the most powerful “social media” tools you can use to build your business.    With that said – an email newsletter that arrives addressed to “insert_name_here” is a shining example of how NOT to run ANY social media marketing campaign.

What makes this even more amusing or sad – depending upon your point of view – is the fact that the email that arrived with that greeting went on to lament how poorly this particular organization’s social networking efforts were performing.

“I wrote a blog post today that expresses my frustration with the recent lack of involvement from our members. I encourage you all to read it as it is very important this message gets across.”

By the way, there was no LINK to the blog post in question within the email – only that we were all supposed to FLOCK to the organization’s blog.

I’m posting my reply here so that perhaps someone can learn from this social media marketer’s mistakes.

Dear Social Media Marketing Wannabe,

It’s sad to see that you are blaming the failure of your half- assed attempts at social media marketing on the members of your organization’s community.

Let’s limit this conversation to the most recent email sent by your organization. I have to tell you that “insert name here” is a terrible way to start a conversation – and that’s what social media is all about – conversation!

I can’t say I was surprised that the email message whichwas addressed to “insert name here” contained a message of frustration because of a lack of involvement from your organization’s community.

Community is more than subscriber numbers – whether it’s email newsletter subscriber numbers, RSS subscriber numbers or the number of Twitter followers you have.

Community means connectivity and conversation.   I know I speak on behalf of other members of the oranization when I say that we’re a busy group.  We need to be reminded that we’re part of your community.  While email communication via a newsletter is by nature one way – it can be a very effective way to remind us of the conversation going on over at the blog.  That’s why email newsletters and blogs go together like peanut butter and jelly – they compliment each other perfectly.

The salutation in this  email tells me everything I need to know about how you view  the members of your “community.”  We are obviously sheep to be herded, shorn and eventually slaughtered.  You’re obviously disappointed that we haven’t been “fruitful and multiplied” – doing the heavy lifting of marketing the organization without so much as an acknowledgment of our first name.

The problem lies in the fact that marketing is not a mindless task – and we’re not mindless sheep.   We’re people.  In your organization’s case, I have ignored your repeated attemtpts to “befriend” me via various social networks.  If you were paying attention – this should have been your first clue that your social media strategy wasn’t making a connection.  I have no idea what your “numbers” are like for the various social media sites – but I’m confident that even if they are impressive – that you’re only building the ILLUSION of community.

Your lack of ability accept responsibility for your obvious social media marketing mistakes is a sign that this blog post will be here long after your organization has closed it’s doors.  I won’t name your organization because I don”t want this blog post to serve as a lightning rod of discontent for your organization.

There’s no way I’d encourage anyone to join your organization.  I wish I hadn’t.

In the end, I’m sure you will blame your “stupid, inept, uninvolved” members for your organization’s eventual demise.   I’ll happily accept full blame.  It is my fault. You entrusted me to market your organization for you and I refused to do so.  I refused to put my reputation on the line for you and I can see my fears were well justified.

Sincerely,

Not just a mindless sheep or a faceless number

Social Media is Consumer Controlled Conversations

Ah the “buzz” around social media is burning like a wild fire out of control – it’s the bright shiny bauble of our time.  Everywhere you turn there’s another guru offering yet another “product” promising to provide everything you need to know to harness the power of social media and magically build your business.  The only problem is these programs often are guilting of forgetting what social media really is – it’s PEOPLE behind those screen names.

Promising a magic marketing with technology is nothing new.  About a decade ago, there was another bright shiny techno-bauble being lauded as the magic marketing technology anyone could use to effortlessly build their business – an online email newsletter.

Time passed and before long email marketing newsletters lost their shiny new appeal.  The “buzz” ceased and they were no longer lauded as the “fast, easy magically delicious” way to build your business online.  Just because the buzz has died doesn’t meant that email newsletters are no longer a powerful online marketing tool.  It just means that the “gurus” have moved on to the next “hot topic” – which is currently social media.   Want to use Twitter to sell more stuff?  There’s at least a dozen gurus offering webinars as you read this on how to sign up and use Twitter.  The darlings of the day these days are currently Facebook and Twitter – though 18 months ago it was Myspace.com and prior to that it was business blogs which are just now beginning to display the evidence of the promises made five years ago.

Just because the hype has moved on doesn’t mean that any of these “past” beauty queens are not still lovely when viewed through the lens of creating marketing magic.  As a matter of fact, none of these technological tools ever officially ended their reign as valuable online marketing tools.   Smart business owners didn’t drop their email newsletter when social media came knocking – they used social media to build their list.  In my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results, I talk about the phenomenon of email marketing newsletters and how those with a solid marketing strategy in place simply integrated this new tactic.  Just because a tactic is shiny and new doesn’t mean it’s valuable – or worthless.  A paintbrush in the RIGHT hands can create beauty –  Social media marketing tactics can also create beautiful bottom line figures when implemented within a solid marketing strategywhich is focused upon meeting your end consumers’ GDP – (Goals, Desires, Problems) –  email newsletters, business blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter all have the potential to grow your business.

I was recently afforded the opportunity to “listen in” on recording of an online sales training class being run by one of my clients.  She too preaches the “gospel” of “focus upon your customer’s GDP” to create a solid business base.  One gentleman on the call was nicknamed by his peers “The Load”.  He began the call with a description of how LOUSY his business had been over the past few years – living up to his nickname quite nicely. (My thought when listening to him – “Oh my goodness – he should NOT have a blog!!!  I think that’s why my client was sharing this call with me… but that’s another story!)   The Load introduced himself on the call by moaning and groaning  about how LOUSY business had been for the past few years.   Yet later in the class I heard him tell the story of how he’s changing his behavior.  He said, “I recently had a customer who was asking the sun moon and stars.  Before taking your class, I would have told them to get lost – we don’t DO THINGS like that around here.  Instead – because of your class – I listened to them and we focused upon meeting their needs.  We did a lot of extra work but we were well compensated.  They’re happy – and we made a lot of money on this sale so we’re happy as well.”

When The Load launched his business, delighting the customer was never a part of the plan.  When he delighted his first customer, only then did he begin building a foundation upon which a social media campaign could be launched.   If that customer tells their friends via Facebook or Twitter – that’s the beginning of social media marketing.  However, even if that customer is NOT using social media – yet – they still have connections where they can tell their story. There’s no limit to the bet I’d make that suddenly – everything in The Load’s business will start turning around.    His phone will begin ringing – and he’ll have the opportunity to delight more customers.

The Load addressed the unseen business killers at work in his business and began focusing upon the consumer.   If he keeps on track, soon he’ll be ready to begin to harness the power of consumer controlled conversations – a.k.a. social media- and put it to work building his business.

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.