There's a lot of talk about the power of social networking for business. Take a look at some of the most eye-watering stats in this video. What's clear is that social networking is no longer becoming mainstream, it is mainstream.
But are people getting the results they want and need? Well, research we've just conducted would suggest a resounding NO. This is not necessarily bad news. In fact, it means that there is plenty of opportunity to resolve problems and stop making mistakes. Clearly, social media is still in its infancy. But with 50M+ people registered on Twitter and five times that number on Facebook, it's a force which should be reckoned with today (not tomorrow). How are you finding it? What do you think? Feel free to grab this video off YouTube and embed it. Let's get more businesses interacting and getting results on social platforms. Ultimately, that will be better for all of us.
I have to admit I find Yahoo one of the most frustrating online companies I have ever encountered. However, I also consider it the biggest innovator, and that’s the frustration. The labs division of the company produces many fantastic products and services, yet only a small percentage of these ever get air time.
The latest product to come from the Silicon Valley beast is Yahoo Neighbors, a mashup between local search and social networking. Currently only available in the States, Neighbors is in effect a message board for local communities. If implemented correctly, this will provide a fantastic real time view of “the word on the street” to Yahoo searchers. I think a good description for this is “the conversation layer”.
Having spent some time playing with Neighbors I have to say it’s brilliant. Its contents are categorised into sections that really matter locally, such as business recommendations, education and even restaurant reviews. While we may discuss how social networks and presence management are essential for business (and they are), often the same thinking doesn’t translate for local businesses. This is where Neighbors could potentially help. Small businesses could exploit the service in numerous ways, from basic exposure, to the creation of a “linked-in” style authority status, but at a local level.
Yahoo Neighbors is pretty awesome, and the concept of the conversation layer doesn’t just apply to the larger and more web savvy businesses. This is a service that seems to bridge that gap between large and small extremely well.
I just hope it’s not another bright idea that gets stifled due to lack of business support from the big Purple. Oh, and I also hope that it eventually finds its way over the pond to us!
So, you’ve agreed to sponsor an exciting initiative.
You can now expect a logo or mention on the sponsored party’s website, marketing materials and at the event, and you might even get a mention in press coverage. Fantastic exposure.
At this point, you might start seeking coverage in your own industry’s ‘trade publications’, but here’s a warning:
In most cases, the media simply don't view sponsorships themselves as newsworthy.
For example, if you’re a legal firm sponsoring a craft festival, the legal press is very unlikely to cover it. There’s simply no story there, and no amount of padding will change that.
In fact, unless you have hard evidence that the sponsorship generated such success for your business that others in your industry could learn from it, the media probably won’t touch it. Worse still, if you try to PR it anyway, you risk causing long-term damage.
Editors receive literally hundreds of press releases a day, and a weak story could have them reaching for the delete key for every future press release you put out – even ones that deserve attention.
If you want to bring your company's achievements into the spotlight, by all means engage a PR professional, but keep in mind that while a well thought out approach may take longer to get up and running, it will yield much better results in the long term.
Of course, with a crack team of creatives and an unlimited budget, it could be argued that anything is possible, but as a rule: no story = no PR.
In a downturn, it isn’t just small businesses that look to make their pennies stretch further or spend more time investing time resources into ‘free’ marketing opportunities but they certainly have a greater opportunity to do such things. If trade is down and money is tight, things might look bleak and the marketing resources cupboard somewhat bare.
One way that you may choose to keep on top of your marketing activities, even if the budget has run out, is to try out something that requires little or no money (beyond buying a computer and internet connection). Social Networking or online media resources are a great way to make use of your time in an inexpensive manner in order to drum up trade and to make sure your business is ‘out there.’
If you are unfortunate enough to have less footfall than you are accustomed to in headier times, you may be in a position to spend more time on Twitter, Facebook and any of the hundreds of online community sites where you can promote, network, converse or establish your brand and make real connections. If you do this well you may see that trade picks up again and so you have less time to commit to online activities as you are dealing with fantastic customers making purchases. When trade does pick up once again, does online marketing through social networking have to give?
I believe in the cliché that tough times make us stronger but beyond that I anticipate that this recession has rewritten the rules of small business marketing and the online marketing model of the future will see social networking as a standard practice in advertising for small firms. When the tills are ringing again and the ‘R’ word is but a distant memory, try and set aside short and frequent bursts of online marketing activity, be it Twitter, Blogging or Facebook, for great results long-term.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter will know that I'm quite a keen gardener. Last summer, I pretty much managed to grow all our vegetables throughout the summer, and I was looking forward to this year being no different. To add to that I've recently been very interested in growing my own cut flowers, and had enthusiastically gone out and dug up a few new bits of lawn to create a cutting garden. I had big dreams of trugs full of vegetables and armfuls of cut flowers to give to friends as presents.
I started out the year enthusiastically, but to be honest, with a new baby, a business to run, a book to write and everything else us working mums have to contend with, I haven't been out there as much as I should. My little gems have bolted, the beets aren't doing well and the whole garden looks a bit of a mess. And it suddenly dawned on me today that gardening is a lot like marketing.
Every week I just need to do a little bit to my garden to keep the whole thing looking beautiful and becoming productive. I need to keep on top of the weeds, but I also need to thin out, harvest and plant new seed.
As Stephen Covey states, nature is a perpetual cycle that you can't cheat. You've got to do little bits in stages or you get this feast and famine effect. So it seems ludicrous that although we recognise that in gardening you need to do little and often, we expect quick fixes when it comes to our marketing.
Marketing, just as with your garden, has a process that takes time to make work. You've got to generate leads, build relationships, look after the clients you have and make sure you harvest – i.e. close the deal as well. It's really not rocket science, you just need to put in a small amount of effort on a regular basis and you really will reap the rewards.
Visit Fiona Humberstone’s Marvellous Monthly Marketing Tips blog for marketing and branding tips.
Guest post by Tom Albrighton
Modern marketing is a lot like a party. Work the room right and you’ll attract interest and new contacts. Fail to shine and you’ll be going home alone. Here are the ten marketing partygoers you never want to meet – or be.
1. The counsellor is full of unwelcome ‘why don’t you’ advice for everyone she meets – she’s the answer to a question nobody asked. Marketing moral: expertise is becoming devalued; cultivating strong personal connections may work better than positioning yourself as an expert.
2. The egotist holds forth interminably on his favourite topic: himself. Marketing moral: focus on the customer, not yourself. (See this post for more.)
3. The wallflower stands shyly on the sidelines even though her best friend could be introducing her to plenty of guests if asked. Marketing moral: proactively cultivate and request referrals and testimonials.
4. The geek batters you into submission with an enthusiastic but crashingly dull monologue about his phone, computer or other gadget. Marketing moral: don’t confuse technical features with customer benefits.
5. The clown keeps the jokes coming even if they’re not appreciated, appropriate or even funny. Marketing moral: Humour doesn’t travel and should be used with care – can you guarantee the reaction you’re hoping for?
6. The miser brings Liebfraumilch but drinks Moët. Marketing moral: In modern marketing, particularly social media, you have to give something (of yourself) before you receive.
7. The butterfly is always looking around the room for someone more interesting to talk to. Marketing moral: don’t neglect here-and-now customer needs in the quest for new connections or business.
8. The gatecrasher shouldn’t even be here at all but he never misses the chance to party, even if he doesn’t know anyone. Marketing moral: don’t waste time and money making a big splash when you really need focused exposure.
9. The nervous hostess flits between conversations, asking everyone if they’re enjoying themselves (and the vol-au-vents). Marketing moral: don’t over-regulate the conversation about your brand or content; allowing criticism shows strength and confirms authenticity.
10. The chatterbox just won’t shut up! Marketing moral: We can’t talk and listen at the same time; make time for learning as well as pushing out content.