The Blog

Using Twitter as part of your Social Media campaigns

I recently had a conversation with someone that doesn’t understand what Twitter could do for their business. Their comment was, “I really don’t care about seeing what someone is doing – and why would I want to tell the world that I just walked into Starbucks”. Of course, there are those that use Twitter for this…but there is far more to Twitter than updating in 140 characters exactly what you’re doing at that very moment. Tweets are a great tool to share stories, promote your business, offer promotions to your customers, break news about a big sale or a new product introduction, as well as to cheaply and effectively build your brand. So, based on that conversation, here’s what I told him makes Twitter an important part of a businesses social media marketing campaign.

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Build a network – Facebook and other social networking platforms are great for keeping in touch with people you already know, but when it comes to building out your network among those that don’t know you, Twitter is much more effective. With Twitter, you can find and follow those that have similar interests as you  – helping you to build clientele that you may not of otherwise been able to find.

Drive website and blog traffic – You’ve updated your website, or added a new blog post – now you have to hope people find it. With Twitter, you can redistribute that content – and drive them back to the full blog post or web update, improving your site traffic.

It’s a great PR tool – With Twitter’s Direct Messaging tools, you can target specific journalists that follow you on Twitter to pitch story ideas. Given the cost of retaining a PR firm for a small business, this can be a very cost effective way to get news about your company out to the press.

Understand how your brands are doing – With the ability within Twitter to keep track of “mentions”, you can not only see what is being said about your brands and your company, you’ll be in  a much better  position to deal with negative feedback and counter it quickly. And, it’s also a great tool for getting instant feedback – far quicker (and quicker) than focus groups. Just ask your followers for their opinion!

Link to other conversations that might be of interest to your customers – With Twitter, it’s easy to share those things that you might find to be of interest with your customers. Not only is this a bit easier than trying to figure out what to say every time you make a Twitter post, its an effective way to not only keep your name in  front of your clients, but also continue to on your reputation as being a more viable source of information than your competition.

Improve your knowledge & skills – For example, I started following a number of design companies that post on Twitter. From that, I’ve discovered things like sources for free fonts, CSS design tools, best-practices for print submissions that I was unaware of…tools that allow me to not only offer better services for my clients, but also help streamline the work I do.

Improve relationships in your existing networks – Rather than using instant messaging,  Twitter allows people to connect and message regardless of what IM network they may use. And, with TweetDeck’s (and other Twitter platforms) ability to easily allow you do either to group messages, direct message, and mentions, you have the ability to connect far easier than trying to manage IM message among multiple networks.

Find good employees – Try using Twitter to solicit your followers for references on people you might need to hire. Much more convenient (and cheaper) than using either classified ads, or online job search websites!

Find a job – In the same vein, if the economy has you downsized, or you’re having to downsize your own company, use Twitter to soliciti your followers to either find yourself new job opportunities, or aid your soon-to-be downsized people to find new employment.

Why you should use WordPress for your blogging platform

I first started working with WordPress about 2 years ago, when a client project I was working on required me to transfer their existing WordPress blog to a new hosting account. Which, required me to learn how easy it was to transfer the background MySQL database to the new host, change a few settings, and then test to make sure everything was working properly.

When I first started playing with that blog while testing things, I realized how much more impactful this platform was over other platforms like Blogger or Tumblr – and it all came down to the following:

1. Branding: The last thing you want when someone is at your website, is for the viewer to leave. You want to keep them there, rather than make them feel that they’ve gone “someplace else”. Sure, you can modify your template in other platforms to include your logo – but, with WordPress, you can have your web designer “reskin” the WordPress blog to look as though the viewer was actually still within your site. For example, this blog for The Design Foundry that you’re looking at is a WordPress blog, yet the rest of this website is a normal, PHP-based website.  Not to mention the issue of trying to come up with a URL name for a non-WordPress blog that matches your current URL!

2. Mobile: With the advent of the iPhone, more and more web-content, especially blogs, are now being looked at over a mobile platform. There is no guarantee of readability of your blog over mobile platforms if you’re using something like Tumblr or Blogger. Yet, with WordPress, you can download and install a free plug-in such as WP-Touch (which, allows your WordPress blog to appear in an iPhone friendly manner – but only on iPhones) – or the WordPress Mobile Edition plug in which I’ve now started using, which supports not only the iPhone, but also Android, Windows Mobile, and Blackberry platforms.

3. Plug-ins: I touched on this a moment ago under Mobile – but there are huge advantages to being able to install a plug-in for a specific need. Whether it’s to improve mobile viewing, search engine optimization, or other more specific needs – WordPress has a flexibility that other platforms are lacking in.

4. Search: First, if your current website is using Google Analytics, you can download a plug-in called Google Analyticator, that allows you to put in your Analytics code and it will track your blog under your current reporting. Second, you can download the plug-in called All-In-One-SEO – which allows you to add content for that specific blog posting making it more searchable – including Title / Description / Meta Tags. And, if your WordPress blog is part of your overall site, it may help your Google page-rank.

5. CMS: Also known as a Content Management System, a CMS is a website that you can constantly update and maintain – which is excellent for keeping things like an online calender, news & events page, or….your blog – updated easily! The WordPress platform has two parts – “Posts” (which are your regular blog entries), and “Pages” (which are basically web-pages”. If your under a tight budget constraint, or need to set up a micro-website – WordPress is a great way of doing this. With plenty of free or inexpensive “skins” (a.k.a. “Themes”) available from places like Template Monster, for around $50 – you can now have a small, inexpensive website!

6. You’re In Good Company: Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of small blogs out there using WordPress. But, some larger companies you might have heard of also use WordPress. Companies like Digg, Ford, General Electronic, Sony, People Magazine, Samsung, Playstation, New York Times,CNN, Flickr, eBay, Yahoo, and Wall Street Journal also use WordPress.

Keep in mind there are two versions of WordPress. There is the version that is like other blogs such as Blogger – that’s not what you’re looking for. You want the one where you download a file, and install it via FTP to your hosting account. You’ll also need to set up a MySQL database for WordPress on your hosting account, so you’ll want to make sure your hosting uses Linux, not Windows, and that your hosting package includes MySQL databases available. And, unless your the technical sort, you might want to have a web design company or your hosting company do your install.

Now, if you’re new to blogging, and all of this seems a bit daunting – not a problem. One of the other nice things about WordPress is it’s ability to import your content, including tags that you’ve used, when you do your first install. So, if you’re not ready to move to WordPress yet – you can either start or continue with your current platform until you’re ready, and depending on your current platform, have a very easy transition when your ready without loosing the content that you’ve already put out there.  And, feel free to contact The Design Foundry if you want to know more!

Happy Blogging!

Resources:

www.wordpress.org
www.templatemonster.com
www.semperfiwebdesign.com (All-In-One-SEO Plugin)
plugins.spiralwebconsulting.com/analyticator.html (Google Analyticator Plug-In)
crowdfavorite.com/wordpress (WordPress Mobile Edition Plug-In)

Getting started with Social Media

With all the buzz surrounding sites like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, the question remains – why is this important to my business? Well, it’s pretty simple. It could be detrimental to your business if you don’t.

First, let’s talk about how “Citizen Marketers”, as author Jackie Huba calls them / us, can have an impact. In his book, “What Would Google Do”, author Jeff Jarvis talks about his experience in June 2005 with Dell. In his now famous example, Jeff had a bad experience with a Dell purchase. In the past, he might have told a few people, who told a few people, and over an extended period of time, perhaps an extremely small segment of the population would have had avoided buying a Dell product.

But, with the advent of blogging, this changed the playing field. Jeff, who happens to be the proprietor of one of the Web’s most popular and respected blogs, Buzzmachine.com, blogged about it. Others read his blog, and they blogged about their bad experiences. And, it quickly had a significant impact on Dell’s reputation, and their sales.

Fortunately, in this case, Dell did the right thing. First, they started their own blog, and reached out to those bloggers that complained, basically saying “We’re Listening”. Then, they launched another blog called “IdeaStorm” – where customers could tell Dell what to do, discussing and voting on communities favorite ideas. Negative blog buzz dropped from 49% to 22% within a year.

Lesson – The customer knows best – and that the customer is boss – now we have to mean it. The customer is in control.

Getting involved in social media – joining the communities that people are involved in that impact your business – is how you can make sure that even though the customer is in control, that you are working with them, rather than against them, in growing your business.

So, the goal here is to understand what message is out there currently about your company, and then take steps to engage the community creating that message – and build relationships within that community. The best way to start is:

1. Google yourself and your company. Do it in Technorati, Icerocket, Blogpulse, YouTube, and Twitter.
2. Respond. Do it yourself. Be yourself. Find a problem. Fix it. Learn from it. Then tell people what you learned. Now, though, you’ll do it in public.
3. Do this by calling the person with the problem. Tell them you understand the problem and fix it and you’re grateful for his help.
4. Once fixed – encourage them to blog about the experience.
5. Start a blog yourself, and share the problems and solutions as they occur.

What you are doing here is creating relationships. Just like you do with your friends, family, and customers face-to-face. But now you are expanding far beyond your “core” group – you are also reaching out to those that you may not have ever thought of. Keep in mind that the people who say good things are important – they become your testimonials. But more important are those that aren’t happy. Think about it – they care about your business – why else would they take the time & effort to blog / post / tweet about it?

Next is to understand why things have developed like they have. From what I’ve experienced, Social Media has developed in the following stages:

Stage 1 –  Website: Basically an online brochure for the company. Little to no interaction between company and customer other than a “contact us” form.Stage 2 – Blogs: Gave companies an easy to use way to start building a relationship with their customers – and with “People” rather than “Companies” blogging, blogs quickly turned into communities. Citizens started to take control of the message – but with so many blogs covering similar topics, it became difficult for the customer to make sense of relevant information.

Stage 3 – Communities: With MySpace and Facebook, communities solidified among common interests  – i.e. “Friends”. Dissemination and sharing of information generated out of Stage 2 made it much easer to make sense of relevant information.

Stage 4 – Twitter: Combines best of Stage 2 & Stage 3 – with the 140 character mini-blog. With the ability to follow others & gain followers, sharing of information via “tiny links” ties back info from blogs & social networks back into the mainstream in a controlled fashion.

The Benefit: Engagement Correlates To Financial Performance
In a recent study by The Altimeter Group, they found that implementing a social medial strategy for your business has a quantifiable result on revenues. When they looked at the financial performance of brands, they found that those companies that engaged in social media grew their revenues 18% over the last 12 months, compared to the least engaged companies who on average, saw a 6% decline in revenue during the same period. As they put it, “For example, a company mindset that allows a company to be broadly engage with customers on the whole probably performs better because the company is more focused on companies than the competition.” |  ENGAGEMENTdb – Altimeter 20 July 2009

According to their study, 4 things stand out:

It’s about quality, not quantity.
Don’t just set up a blog or a Facebook profile and leave it out there – keep up with it. Keep your content fresh. Build a network of friends & followers. Get involved with  your audience.It’s everbody’s job.
Don’t just assign this to one person in your organization. Get everybody involved – if someone engages your suppliers and / or customers, those customer touch points are where your social media efforts need to target.

If you can’t do everything – do something.
Start now, or you’ll fall behind. Even if your customers aren’t doing it – eventually they will.

Find your sweet spot.
Test and see what works best – then do it well. Be the master of what works, rather than spread yourself thin and be a master of nothing.

How to Start:

  • Again, search about yourself – and your competitors. It’s free market research to better understand how customers perceive you.
  • Remember that you don’t control your brand. Your customer does. To influnce their perception, you have to build relationships with them.
  • Start with the basics. Start a blog. You can make a free online one at blogger.com, or WordPress.com.
  • Start a Facebook account. Keep it focused on your business.
  • Start a Twitter account. Search for, and follow, those that affect your business. Your suppliers. Your customers. Publications that influence your industry. Even your competitors.
  • Start a Friendfeed account – and link your blog, your Facebook account, and your Twitter account together – that’s what FriendFeed does.
  • Do it every day. Tell your friends, your employees, your customers – to log on and “tweet”. Get a smartphone and do it on the run. Just do it!
  • Remember that this is constantly changing – so don’t worry about knowing how to do everything at once. Just start slow – and to get an idea of how to post – read the posts of those you follow – both in blogs & Twitter. You’ll quickly get the hang of it!

This isn’t rocket science. And, it’s not something you can take lightly either. But keep in mind that by doing this right – and right now – you have the opportunity to not just learn about what your customer thinks about you today, you have the chance to have a positive impact on what they think tomorrow – and with the growth of online communities, you can impact the perceptions of everybody they are connected with as well!

Apture – Great website plug-in

Just found this plug-in for websites & blogs – Apture. Check it out at https://www.apture.com/simplified/ – I first saw it on FlightGlobal‘s site. I like the idea of being able to quicky embed content (including Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Wikipedia, etc. from within the site, and make it available without being obnoxious. And, for users who are registered Apture users, they can highight text, and have info pushed to them that’s relevant to what they just highlighted off your site’s content.

From their site’s explanation, “Automated tools or machines don’t know how to tell stories, people do. That’s why we give you the power to select the content you want from the most rich and diverse web media destinations. Express the story you want to tell with the most emotional impact.”

Gotta love modern technology!