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social media, TaylorMade Solutions

How to Spot a Bad Social Media Practitioner

I had one of those moments this morning.

You know that exact moment when someone says something, or you read something and your jaw just drops. You can’t believe what you are hearing or reading! Thankfully I was alone when I had this reaction. Not a flattering look I am sure.  And, on top of that, I had some commentary that just slipped out without my filter being turned on. So what made me react this way? No, it was not travesty or injustice for human-kind. I am grateful for that. No, it was more related to my profession, and specifically using social media to communicate and market your product, service or region. So, this inspired me to write this post: How to Spot a Bad Social Media Practitioner.Social Media

Now, let me start by saying that I am sure that the person in question was only doing his job. I am sure that he has processes, procedures and protocols in place. Despite this however, what he was recommending went against everything I believe in, when it comes to communications. His recommendation to people – business people- was to use it in the same manner that people used advertising 15 years ago. It was all about push communications and not REAL communications. Needless to say, the end results, I suspect, will not net the results expected.

So, let;s turn around a negative and look at 5 ways to help you select a marketing/communications practitioner who can actually help you:

1.  Resist the Urge to hire the Person or Company Who Claims to be a Social Media Expert.

Like Malcolm Gladwell said, it takes at least 10,000 hours to become a master. Very few people consider themselves masters in social media, including me – despite having 10,000+ hours into it. Why? The answer is simple, there is more to using social media than meets the eye. Practitioners like myself know that there are many layers to doing it well. Each scenario is different and we have to draw upon many levels and years of experience to make it work.

2. Avoid a Person or persons Who Only Focus on Social Media

This is a recipe for disaster. Social media is not an means to an end. No, social media is tool in the toolkit. However, to effectively use that tool you need an overall integrated marketing/communications plan. Everything must work together to reach an overall goal and objectives that all align to your overall corporate objectives. That is why it is very important to hire either a full-time resource and/or consultant who understands that social media is not a stand-alone. Social media must be part of the larger integrated strategy.

3. Hire Based On Experience/Strategic Abilities – Not Age

I have written about this before. While I fully support hiring new graduates, you shouldn’t expect a new graduate to know how to develop strategies tied to business objectives. Remember, and this is very important, using social media for personal purposes is very, very different than using it for business purposes. If you want to build a quality team, hire a seasoned professional and then let that person build his or her team, which will likely include new graduates.

4. It’s Not About You! Remember That

More than a decade into social media and inbound marketing, I still encounter so many companies that only want to talk about themselves, who they are and what they do. Research, company case studies and results continue to indicate that customers and potential customers don’t really care about hearing about your awards, what your team did last weekend, etc. Your clients/customers and prospects want to be educated. They want to know that if they work with you, they will be getting value for their money and getting benefits from the relationship.

Your marketing, including your social media should not be about you. It should be about your clients/customers and prospects. And, with that in mind, you should be using the channels where they are, not where you want to be. Finally, communicate and engage with them. Your social media resource, whether full-time or a consultant should be encouraging you to engage, not just push messages.

5. Last But Certainly Not Least: Remember Your Audience

Based on all the above, you should always be focused on your audience. Who are you ultimately are you trying to influence? Your marketing resource should always be focused on your audience and doing what is right to reach the audience. A person with real expertise will always want you to focus on your audience. He or she will recommend that you have a persona exercise which will identify who your primary and secondary audiences are. Then you will know what channels to use to reach them and what tools to use  – from online, to traditional to web and everything in between when and where applicable.

For many of us who have been working with individuals and companies for years to build solid integrated marketing/communication strategies that include social and digital media strategies, I have to confess that we should be beyond discussing the need for implementing the basics, but we just aren’t there yet. However, when I work with clients who take the plunge and do a full integrated marketing strategy and start seeing the results, I get as excited as they do!

Want to learn more about integrated marketing strategies and how they can grow your business? Contact TaylorMade Solutions today!

 

Great leaders and all self-help management books tell us that in order to be good communicators, you need to first be a good listen

3 Social Media Mistakes You are Making & How to Fix Them Immediately

While social media is not the new kid on the block anymore, we are as a population still learning how to effectively leverage social media for business. For this reason alone, those of us who are PR/Marketing/Communications practitioners cringe when we hear people profess to be social media experts. Even after using the tools for more than a decade we are all still learning how to adjust to the changing world that we operate within. We know that there are no real experts. There are people with experience using social media.  Some of us even have thousands of hours using social media. In fact, there are many people with 10 years of social media under their belts.  Remember that Malcolm Gladwell claims that to be a master in something you need at least 10,000 hours. Combine that experience with PR/Marketing/Communications experience and these are the people who can help businesses better use the tools to effectively meet business objectives.

So, just what are the social media mistakes that I see most often? And, better yet, how do you fix them?

1. Failing to Know/Understand Your Audience

Far to0 often I see people using social media channels or tools in the same way that they use social for their personal communications. How you use social in your personal life is NOT how you should use it for your professional/business needs.  It is essential to know and understand your audience(s).

The Fix:  Here are some quick and easy questions to think about and answer:

  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What channels do they use?
  • How are they using the channels?
  • And, do they expect a business connecting/engaging with them through the channels?

These are just some questions that you should be able to answer. There are more of course and they depend on a number of strategies/tactics.  However, starting with these questions should lead you in the right direction. If in doubt, find a qualified professional to help you. This is an investment that will definitely have a quick ROI.

2. Thinking that Social Media is a Stand Alone Tactic or Strategy

It is not really surprising that 10 years into social media we are still doing this. After all there are more consultants selling social media as a stand alone option than not. I would caution managers however, to really pause and reflect about this. For example, if you are a sales manager, do you approach your sales plan in one of’s? Or, do you have an overall strategy for your product/services based on a number of variables that all fold up into one plan? It is the latter of course. Your sales plan is all about meeting corporate sales objectives. The same goes for your social media. It is NOT a stand alone.  Repeat after me: social media is not a stand alone tactic, tool or strategy. It is a part of the overall strategy and is but one tool or tactic to be used strategically to meet an overall objective or objectives. These objectives should be measured too, but that is another blog post.

The Fix: Don’t be fooled by wrong information:

If someone suggests that social media doesn’t link to the rest of your business: run! Run fast and run far. Gone are the days of silos. To effectively leverage social you need and integrated strategy. And, if someone tells you that can’t be done, well, you have the wrong person helping you. It really is that straight forward. When you hire a marketing strategist or a social media consultant, be sure that he or she is well rounded in terms of experience. Because someone has a Twitter account and a LinkedIn profile does not make them the right resource. What is their exact experience? Do they have PR, marketing, communication, business development and customer services experience? Has the person worked in social media in a number of capacities including but not limited to: community management, engagement, listening, playbook development, ads, analysis, research, etc. If the person can demonstrate that he or she has this experience, hire him or her immediately.

3.  Not Having a Social Media Playbook

A social media playbook can be a lifesaver. Imagine you and your company are going along your merry way sharing information on social when all of a sudden someone makes a very disparaging remark about your products, services or your company in general. The first comment is made on your Facebook page and you or your employee removes the comment. Good idea? Likely not. What could happen is the person who made the comment will repost and/or make it known that you delete unfavourable comments. This could very well result in a number of people calling your openness and transparency into question and filling your feed with unflattering comments. What then? What about if they are Tweeting about you? You can’t delete their Tweets? What if it is a blog post? What then?

The Fix: Have a Living Playbook:

Playbooks will vary according to your business and the level of listening and engagement that you do. At the very least you should have a plan about what you do and do not respond to, what you escalate and to whom. Having an up-to-date playbook can save you and your team a lot time and anguish. It sets the stage for how you operate. It gives everyone the same guidelines. It is your brand and you need consistency. For a sample of how to get started, here is an ebook that I wrote while I worked for Radian6 (a.k.a salesforce.com). This is just a starter to wet your appetite. I have worked with playbooks that have been five pages. I have worked with playbooks that have been 150 pages. It all depends on your business and how you use social. In any event, you need to be prepared!

If you have any questions on your social media plan and your overall integrated strategy, I would love to help. Feel free to follow me on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest marketing and communications best practices, news and insights.

The #1 Way to Build Your Sales (Hint: Hire A CMO)

Great companies stack their C-suite with the best people they can find to support the CEO and the objectives of the company.  Great companies also realize that in order to build their brand and ultimately sales, they make marketing an integral part of the overall strategy. Entrepreneur.com said it best: many current business battles are marketing battles.  “The CMO owns the marketing strategy–and that often includes the sales strategy–and oversees its implementation. The CMO will know (or learn) your industry inside out and helps you position your product, differentiate it from your competitors’ products, enlist distributors, and make sure customers learn to crave your product….If your business’ success depends on marketing, you need to hire a CMO.”  So, let’s look at #1 way to build your sales:  Hire a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) 

image courtesy of naturallyadvanced.wordpress.com

image courtesy of naturallyadvanced.wordpress.com

Many think that CMOs are for large enterprise organizations.  That thinking couldn’t be farther from the reality of today’s business world.  In fact, leading companies whether start-ups or small and medium businesses have realized that they need to have a CMO on the team as early as possible.  CMOs work with the rest of the C-suite to build the overall corporate strategy and then they lead the execution of that strategy.  CMOs understand how to establish an integrated marketing strategy and look at all pieces of the puzzle.  They look at everything from segmentation to pricing, packaging to audiences/channels, advertising to digital strategies and tactics.  A strategy that doesn’t include all aspects of traditional and digital marketing is a missed opportunity.

Still confused and uncertain?  If so, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Have you ever confused your customers or prospects with inconsistent messaging/advertising?  For example, if you are selling a specific lifestyle does all collateral including website, social channels, advertising, wording and imagery reflect that lifestyle?  If not, then you have confused your customers and prospects.
  2. Is your marketing department staffed with great people, but with no real marketing experience?
  3. Are you having to spend more time mentoring and guiding the marketing team to stay on track?
  4. Is your organization shifting gears, but still gravitating to old markets and/or practices that are no longer your core business?
  5. Do you have a burning platform, but don’t have the marketing team to build and/or execute upon an integrated marketing strategy?
  6. Do you desperately need a strategic business plan?
  7. Have you been attacking your marketing at a tactical level hoping that something will “stick”?
  8. Do you have partnerships with third party brands that have stringent branding requirements and implementation?
  9. Do you have a senior marketing strategist/practitioner onboard who can talk the talk with your branding partners?
  10. Have you implemented the tools of the trade or your competitors, but just aren’t seeing results?
  11. Do you need to build your  brand and protect that brand?
  12. Are you marketing and communicating in both traditional and new digital channels?
  13. Do you need to reach the right audiences to sell to?
  14. Do you know what evergreen content is, or even if you need it?
  15. Do you know how to develop and execute inbound marketing?
  16. Do you know what metrics you need to focus on?
image courtesy of contentmarketingup.com

image courtesy of contentmarketingup.com

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you need a CMO.  The second biggest mistake after not hiring a CMO is waiting to hire the CMO.  It is important to note that CMOs are strategic by nature.  Developing a strategy without the CMO should be done only as a last case scenario.  Developing the strategy and then hiring a CMO will likely result in hiring someone who is tactical only. Alternatively you might only attract someone who has experience in the areas identified. An integrated strategy will not exist and some important components may be totally missed.

So, summarizing entrepreneur.com, if your business depends on marketing, don’t wait.  Hire a CMO.

The Ostrich Effect

In my last blog posting I spoke of people, in general, having a fear of social media. The question is why?

The answer could be as simple as “it is human nature”, but that would be letting me, and you, off the hook way too easily! We need to dig a little deeper. For this posting, let’s look at the issue from the perspective of an organization or institution.

Thanks to research presented earlier this year by Nancy Bain, we know that 75% of all Canadians are now on-line, that there are some 18,620,000 Canadians on Facebook and that the time that we spend on Twitter is up 3700%.

These numbers can be daunting for businesses or institutions. These numbers are significant and it means that decisions makers have to take a hard look at actions that will involve the use of new communications’ tools, new technology and very open and public discussions. This is a frightening thought for many.

The questions that immediately come to mind are: how will we learn to use these tools effectively? Who will train us? Do we need training? What are the full ramifications if we choose to not use these tools and resources? What are the ramifications if we do? Do we need new policies? Do we need to staff 24/7? And most importantly, what if something unsavoury is said about my organization? What can I do? This last question is probably really what would keep managers awake at night. Earlier this year Eisner Amper conducted a survey of Boards of Directors asking them what they felt was the biggest threat to their respective organizations. The result was a clear and decisive statement – reputational risk!

So, we know that reputational risk is a huge concern. That being said, why exactly would so many decision makers choose to not engage in social media? The reason – is what I like to call the Ostrich Effect! If one chooses to bury his head in the sand and therefore cannot hear what is being said on social media, it doesn’t exist, right? Wrong!

The fact is that there are many communications professionals that can assist organizations and institutions navigate the social media waters and prepare a social media strategy that meets your specific organizational needs. We are just a click away! What are you waiting for? Organizations and institutions need to be proactive. Waiting for a crisis to emerge is not the answer.

In my next posting, I will look at crisis communications and how social media can work to your advantage.