All posts by Nipa Shah

Online Marketing Blog: Fired Over a Tweet – Would You Do Differently?

The tweet was innocent enough, nothing like the recent fiasco of Congressman Anthony Weiner. All Vanessa Williams typed into her 140 characters is "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?"

However, it was this tweet that resulted in Ms. Williams loosing her job. What gets to people the most about the situation is how severely it was handled. Instead of reprimanding Ms. Williams, they fired her, and people are yelling foul!
 
But was it?

There is a reason why the term “reputation management” is around. The damage that can be done to a brand online is the worst kind. It often turns viral, and the result is instantaneous. But there are ways to minimize this damage or eliminate it entirely, making a flipside to the argument. As in, if the company knew more about social media, then they wouldn’t have been so hard on Ms. Williams.

So, what should have they done?

I, personally, wouldn’t have fired her. According to the news report, Ms. Williams was newly employed. And, I don’t know how you feel about new hires, but I never expect them to know right away how to manage their job.

To correct this particular situation, all I would require her to do is a digital clean up. She needed to inform the online community other details, such as explaining that the only time employees leave early is after they complete forty hours. This solves the problem without costing Ms. Williams her job, and it also saves me, as the employer, the hassle of finding someone new.

But if anything is to be learned here, a situation like this demonstrates the need of social media training. Perhaps Ms. Williams wouldn’t have written as she did if she had been taught otherwise. Simple steps, such as developing a code of rules for one’s employees, can often be the preventive measure.

In any case, it is unfortunate that the lack of such costs people like Ms. Williams their jobs. Hopefully, in the future, we will see less of stories like hers as people get smarter about what to say and what not to say on social media channels.

(Of course, you can always call us to set up a training session to teach this etiquette to your employees – 🙂 )

Online Marketing Blog: Who are you Marketing to Anymore? The Largest Growing Social Media Users are in their 50’s & 60’s?

If your business has decided not to use online networking because it’s just a kid’s toy, you might want to take another look at the facts. The largest growing group is actually the Baby Boomer generation, consisting of people in their 50s to their 60s. And this means one thing.

The money makers are now online.

If anything, you should be thinking that that’s a dramatic change in your demographic. As a business owner, you will have to take a step back and re-examine your marketing plan. After all, you will no longer be tweeting the latest to teens. You will be dealing with adults, and that’s a whole different ball field.

So, what should you do?

I would recommend dialogue management. When you think about this, it makes sense. As a person, you wouldn’t use the same language around your mother as you do your friends, right? Well, it’s the same online.

Words like “Yo” or phrases like “Check this out” are probably not going to cut it anymore. You need to start using language in your 140 tweets or Facebook posts that will appeal to all. And a big part of that is staying away from young slang or old terms.

The key in all this is to keep your wording simple. And that will make everything easier, whether you are dealing with ma, pop or the kids.

Online Marketing Blog: Social Media is Free, Right? Wrong!

Let’s face it; in today’s world, the idea that you can get something for nothing is absurd. So, if you aren’t paying for it, what are you giving up? When it comes to social media, the answer is time.

Whenever you are promoting your services or products online, you shouldn’t be surprised to find yourself spending a bit longer then you originally planned. Answering questions and interacting with customers is an time-consuming job. And if you are doing it yourself, guess how many billion tasks are you leaving undone?

On one hand, it is fun. You know what you are doing is working when people respond back and engage with you. That ripple effect is proof, if anything else. On the other, you find yourself being more and more a social media manager, and it makes you wonder how on earth you are supposed to do, well, everything.
 
And this is why several companies— ourselves included –are encouraging business owners to budget for their online marketing activities.

The idea is that if you want your website to appear in search results, to connect to more visitors or start more conversations, you need to spend an enormous amount of time promoting that. If you find throughout the year that you can’t do it yourself, this calls for hiring someone and having a budget in place will solve that hiccup.

Whether you choose to do this or not is entirely up to you, but we can’t pretend that social media is free. After all, there is a reason for the saying that time is money. And, as a business owner, you must determine how much your time is worth to you. 

Online Marketing Blog: Business Turnaround Strategies that Work!

Remaining a viable business is tough in this economy. Fundamental challenges include managing cash flow,etc.  while ensuring that the pipeline of prospects remains full. So how can a business remain viable?

In theory, the answer is very simple. Just get more sales, manage your overhead costs, provide the best customer service possible, hire the best individuals, and voila, you have nothing to worry about.

In practice however, how do you do all that when business development cycles last longer, overhead costs remain the same, and competition is tougher than ever?

Well, here are three Business Turnaround Strategies that can help:

Focus on business development: If you want to remain viable, one of your top priorities must be business development. Building and keeping the pipeline full is an important activity that should take up most of your time as a business owner. Many business owners are not comfortable with cold-call but cold-emailing is another strategy that can be effectively used to create new leads.  Referrals are nice to have but allocate a bulk of your time on a regular basis to conduct active solicitation of new business. Strategies could include cold-calling, cold-emailing, or buying appointments or leads through third-parties.

Delegate non-essential tasks: We all like to be do-it-yourselvers because it helps us save money. But remember, if you aren’t a plumber by trade, then trying to fix a broken pipe by yourself ends up costing a whole lot more and takes longer than it takes a plumber-by-trade to do it.
Spend your time wisely on those tasks that utilize your skills the most. As a business owner, focus on working on growing the business and let others work on fulfilling the tasks of the business. Put a dollar value on your time and be wise about where you spend it

Leverage technology: Small business owners must take advantage of advanced technology to create efficiency and manage their time better. Some areas where you should consider investing in technology include semi or fully manual order processing, office staff spending too much time on the phone, doing manual data entry from paper to computer, matching data between two systems or between a paper and a computer based system, etc. etc.
 
Implement these strategies and you will be sure to see a difference in how your business runs, how much new business you generate, and how much efficiency is created over time.

Online Marketing Blog: Small Business Owners & Social Media Marketing – Is it Even Optional Anymore?

To invest in social media marketing or not to!!!

That is a question that most small businesses face when thinking about social media. But social media usage has skyrocketed and so of course everyone must invest. But how and how much seems to be more of a question.

Studies show that a whopping 70 percent of companies say they use social media, however most of them feel like it is more of experiment than a strategy. While they know that the goal is to maintain an online image, how to do that seems to elude owners.

Still, for those who haven’t jumped on the social bandwagon, 41 percent say they plan to, leaving little room to doubt that using online media is no longer optional for business owners.

In my humble opinion, the reason social media continues to be an experiment rather than a strategy is because business owners don’t seem to understand the value of marketing. Most business owners only think in terms of sales or leads. They don’t place as much importance on branding, networking, and forming a trusted network which can result in sales and leads. Let’s face it, marketing is loosey-goosey; it’s intangible; it’s nothing you can put your hands on; it’s….ok you get my point, right?

However, marketing is an important strategy that requires effort, daily focus (not weekly or monthly), and a comprehensive strategy that is all encompassing. What I mean by all-encompassing is that marketing needs to be multi-channel, multi-faceted. More about that in a future blog….

But just to close out this one, let me emphasize that online marketing is no longer optional. You gotta do it!

Online Marketing Blog: France Bans Twitter & Facebook Mention – Fair or Not?

How many times have you told someone to find you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter? Countless, right? Because that’s how we communicate these days. It’s normal.

The idea that someone prohibited us from saying that is ridiculous. But that is exactly what the French government is doing its citizens. Because as of June 6, 2011 –the words “Twitter” and “Facebook” will be officially banned on French media.
 
Why? They say they are doing this to be fair. One spokeswoman for France’s Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA) said that all this usage of “Twitter” and “Facebook” has given the social networks an advantage against the millions of others sites that are struggling for recognition.
 
But when has preference stopped competitors from springing up? I pretty sure many of you reach for a tissue while simultaneously calling it a Kleenex. And, as far as I know, that hasn’t stopped the tissue industry from growing.

What I mean is that, whether one likes it or not, Twitter and Facebook are the big dogs and the trendsetters. If another network like Twitter appears, I guarantee we will still think of it as tweeting. They are intertwined in our lives like that.

Banning the words, regardless of what one thinks, won’t make Facebook and Twitter go away. Right? Right?

Online Marketing Blog: Social Media’s next victim – Congressman Anthony Weiner?

Thanks to New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, we now have WeinerGate. I’m referring to the tweet originating from Congressman Andrew Weiner's twitter account in which a photo of a man’s bulging gray underwear was tweeted to a woman follower and which was then retweeted to thousands of people.
 
Of course New York Congressman Anthony Weiner calls it a “prank”; he claims it resulted from someone hacking into his twitter account. Hmmm… convenient or truly a hacked twitter account????

Hacking IS a common issue on most social media sites. But was Congressman Weiner truly a victim of hacking? Or perhaps it wasn’t a hacked account that resulted in Weinergate. Perhaps he meant to share the photo privately with the one follower not thinking how easy it is for someone to just repurpose the information or retweet it. That’s the other problem with social media websites and putting things out there for others to see without thinking it through. Things can be taken out of context and there's not much you can do about it.

Talking about hacking, I can't underscore the importance of properly managing your online accounts. Hacking is a real issue and it can be prevented by regularly changing your password. Also, make sure that your password is a bit more complicated than your birth date, street address, or using common words like “password” as your password. Simple strategies like using characters such as $ or % in the password, using upper and lower case letters along with a number or two makes for a more sturdy password. The sturdier your password, the better protected your online activities.
 
Criminal activity on social media websites continues to grow. But then so does stupid behavior on social media websites. Why is it so difficult for people to curb the instinct to bare everything in public? Why do people not realize that once it’s out there, it’s out there???

Online Marketing Blog: Balancing Life and Social Media

As if it wasn’t difficult enough to balance work-life and family, now we have to balance work-life, family, and social networking. We are constantly “twitching” to share where we are, what we are doing, what we plan to do, etc. to our network. 
 
But all this sharing is creating havoc in many lives. People are getting fired for posting inappropriate information. We hear of robberies stemming from status updates announcing vacation plans. And although reports about Facebook causing divorces and death announcements made online through Twitter may be laughable to some of us, the reality is that this is the world we live in today.
 
As business owners, we find ourselves in an even more of a quandary. Do we focus on growing the business or do we spend time online, building larger networks to grow our visibility and branding?
 
Well, ideally, businesses should rely on marketing professionals to manage their social properties so that it can be done right and done in a comprehensive manner so as to generate the desired results. However, as a business owner, if you are in a chicken or an egg situation of whether to invest the money or the time doing it yourself, here are some baby steps to help you get started:

  • Create your personalized profile on no more than two or three social networks. I recommend two. You can choose from Facebook, Twitter,  LinkedIN, and Youtube.
  • Download Twitter and Facebook on your smart-phone (I assume you have a smart-phone. If not, get one pronto.)
  • Until you get into the habit of it, put down a recurring event on your calendar to post at least once or twice a day on Twitter and Facebook.
  • Make your posts count. It’s ok to announce “I’m at Starbucks” of course. But what’s the value of it? Why not post “Going to Starbucks to meet a prospective client” or “Getting coffee to wake me up before I get to work, anyone else feel like I do” is so much more interactive and enables engagement from others.
  • Create Google alerts for news items that are interesting and relevant to your business. Post those with a comment and you benefit by sharing ready-to-use content with others.
  • If sharing photos and videos, use the many tools that are available to do this sharing across multiple platforms through one single post.
  • Stay connected regularly through smart-phones to maintain the momentum. Out of sight IS out of mind when it comes to online marketing.

Social networking is here to stay. Sooner or later, you’ll have to get familiar and become engaged online. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of family and business.  Leverage smart-phones, apps, and other tools to remain connected without sacrificing too much of your family time. Hire experts to do your marketing so that you aren't spending your time tweeting and Facebooking when you should be spending it on business development and growth.

Social Media Blog: The Information Superhighway that Rivals the Billboards on the Freeway!

We'd all be on billboards seen on the major freeways in our town!

Yes, we would. If we could afford it that is.

Most of us smaller businesses can only dream of being on those big, beautiful billboards being visible to the millions of people driving down the major freeway. We all want everyone to know what we do, who we are, what we sell. Right?

But wait! There's another freeway known as the information superhighway or the Internet as we call it. It offers you Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites to make sure that you get an even better reach than that billboard you so covet.
 
Today’s online business world is all about creating a buzz around your brand and getting better connected with prospects and customers. By appealing to their interests and interacting with them, your company has a much greater chance of driving prospects to your site.

Stop casting a wide net of spam and advertisements that rarely provide the necessary Return on Investment (ROI). Use tools like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to shorten your sales cycle, build credibility, and convey what your customers want to hear. With just one 140 character tweet or with just one Facebook post, you can reach millions. Billboards on the other hand can only be seen by the few thousand who drive up and down that area each day.

Social media is here to stay. You can hide from it for a while, but you can't run from it forever. And if you haven't checked lately, check what your competition is doing online. If they've already leap-frogged you, there's your first worry. If they haven't, there's your first step. Call us either way and we'll make sure you stay abreast and get ahead of your competition!

It's time to get social. It's time to go gangbusters online. What are you waiting for again?

Social Media Marketing Blog: Is a Website a Cost or an Investment?

Small business owners are often faced with a number costs necessary to run their business. If these costs are not managed properly, the business and the owner(s) can be bankrupt before the business really gets off the ground. The biggest advantage a small business owner can have is an investment in a website to promote their product or service.

Reach Local or Global Customers
A quality website is the way to showcase your products and services. Regardless of whether your customers are local or global, your website is the best way to reach them. A well-created, aesthetically appealing, and functional website is especially important for small businesses because it is the most cost-effective marketing tool available to them.

Credibility and Visibility
Small businesses can maximize their business visibility with a comprehensive Internet strategy. Even if your services aren’t bought online, customers use the Internet to research what they are interested in buying. Regardless of the type of business you are in, your customers are researching and looking for you.

A well-designed and navigation-friendly website can also enhance your credibility. Customers can review testimonials, company information and your product or services portfolio to make an informed decision.

Brand awareness
By leveraging social networks like Facebook and Twitter, a company can gain brand awareness. Brand awareness results in more credibility for your company and will eventually drive leads and customers to you. By interacting with prospects with buy soundcloud plays agency and customers on social networks, you will build relationships that will also enhance your brand awareness.

When prospects tell me that they can’t “afford a website” or “can’t afford monthly marketing”, I wonder at their seriousness about being in business. Let’s face it. Digital (Internet) marketing is here to stay. You may hide but you can’t run from it. If you aren’t on social networks or marketing your website on search engines, how do you expect to remain viable? Look around you and check out your competitors online. Do they have a leg on you in terms of online visibility? If they don’t, that’s all the more reason to get online and leap-frog them by carving out your place in the big, competitive web world. If they do, what are you waiting for? You should’ve been online yesterday!

A website is an investment. Website marketing is “protecting your investment” and “growing your business”.