Monday, September 27, 2010

10 step checklist for small business starting in social media

I talk to small businesses everyday about social media.

They email me questions, ask for presentations, tutoring, help with setting up accounts, etc. The nuts and bolts can take a lot of time for small business, the services are always changing, and even once all the accounts are set up and integrated, they find themselves spending more and more time updating statuses and tweeting links with less and less satisfaction and results.

That’s one of the reasons I’m a big fan of strategy. Know what results you are expecting.

Know where you want to go. Sure, save all the usernames you can. That’s good advice. But you don’t have to populate them right now, or ever. Keep it simple. Blog only if you have time and your customers will value it. Tweet, definitely. Facebook page, absolutely. Maybe even add a coupon to Google places or foursquare if retail savings is your business forte. Make time to engage in key groups on Linked in if you’re a consultant.

Just keep it manageable.

Social media for small business needs to start somewhere, and starting small and making time to monitor results will help you judge your ROI. Here’s a 10-Step checklist for small business. If you’re a one or two person shop, realize that unless your business gets put on hold, putting these 10 steps into action can take 3-5 weeks. Because sometimes, well actually, all the time social media is less important than getting the work done, or going for coffee with a prospect, or sending a thank you note.

So if you’re ready to get started, here’s some suggestions. And if you need help, or want a strategy, give me a call or send me an email.

1. Ensure Google analytic tracking code is properly installed and functioning on web pages

2. Update locations and request reviews and recommendations on Google, Yelp etc.

3. Establish your foursquare account and offer a discount for anyone who checks in

4. Make your Facebook Page public with a username

5. Create your LinkedIn business page

6. Establish Twitter and Blog accounts

7. Write and post first content Blog then Integrate/Cross promote it by tweeting about it, posting on facebook

8. Add your new account addresses to your profile pages, emails, business cards, website

9. Update content on profile accounts, like your Chamber of Commerce and other site

10. Practise listening, creating and engaging strategies; monitor results!

If it was an 11 step checklist, #11 would be ... have fun! It’s called social for a reason.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A radio station isn't a radio station anymore, it's a website!

I can't believe it's been nearly two months since I last blogged. I just got word that an out of town client wants to delay my road trip this morning, so I've gained an hour or so early in my day. Still, rather than working on social media presentations this week for a Rotary and municipal groups, I have a greater interest in blogging at the moment.

We recently had a new radio station open up in our city and I wanted to track them down while travelling in my car via blackberry. No telephone directly listing-- they're a month old! They didn't show up on a google search; they have no listing. I couldn't reach them. And it got me to thinking....

Maybe, just maybe, the station isn't a station, but actually a front for a website! Think of it: A website that has a built-in, 24/7 promotion machine (the radio station). Now as an advertiser, wouldn't you want your business to be on that website? A commercial on the radio is hit and miss-- you only reach who's listening at the moment, (kind of like twitter), but if you're on their website and they're constantly driving your demographic to their website, now there's a measurable, marketing advantage for your company.

The mass media product becomes the source for driving customers to your landing pages, just a click or two away. Wouldn't it be fun to see those conversion rates? Could work for television, and newspaper too. Throw in the QR codes and you're really getting interactive and mobile.

Crazy way of thinking about broadcasters and publishers...or a new revenue-generating model for media? Their product (newspaper, tv shows, news coverage) becomes simply a way to send clients to their web sites where businesses are paying prime dollar for "above the fold" online pages. Lock in a good contract today--online real estate with proven ability to attract readers and consumers will be going up in price.

That's my Pinnacle Thought for today. Tell me what you think!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Newsletters, snoozeletters?

This week seems to be all about newsletters for my clients. Email marketing is great, but what if no one's reading it?

Businesses and organizations of all sizes need to make sure their resources are being expended to bring results. Sometimes we keep doing things because we always have and it's hard to remove a communications tactics once it's established. There is a fear that stopping could be detrimental. So what's a business to do?

First, do your homework. What is your newsletter readership? Who is reading it and what parts are they most interested in? Whether it's on-line or hard copy, finding out this information requires asking them and gathering data. Emailed newsletters make gathering some data a little easier because you can track click-through rates and readership. However, even if we know what people are/aren't reading, we still need to find out why readership isn't all that you're hoping for so ask them.

Surveys through Constant Contact and other providers can be used for free during a trial period, so even if you're not subscribing to that functionality of your E-newsletter, it's worth trying out over a test period. You can ask your readers about design, content quality, topics of interest, length of articles, use of photos, frequency, timeliness, etc and if they would prefer to receive info from you in a different way. Find out how many are using RSS Feeds, and Twitter for example.

Second, review your responses, analyze the trends, and consider what the options are. Basically there are two: do nothing, do something. In the do something category, you might consider changing the newsletter (design, content, frequency, format, functionality etc) or discontinuing the newsletter and replacing it with other tools.

Likely there is no consensus; that is, no one solution will meet all your readers' needs. Therefore a strategy for change is required. So, the third step is implementation. Come up with an organized approach to making changes or adding new products. Be sure to write down what results you're trying to achieve, how you will engage your audience, and when you know you're making progress.

If you've decided that your newsletter needs just a few adjustments, trying making them over the next couple of issues with just a portion of your readership (eg 900 subscribers, could be segmented into thirds), and follow-up on those new click-through rates to see if, for example, adding pictures, or changing headlines, or changing format, makes a difference to your readership levels. Research, learn, change and repeat.

If you decide that introducing some different tactics such as blogging and tweeting combinations, are required, start that in addition to continuing your newsletter. This approach gives time to develop your following on these social media platforms. You can use your newsletter to promote your new sites and communications tools.

As you prepare for changes: don't forget to consider if all content you need to share is open to the public, as that will help determine the best tools to use for each message type, or if your blog, for example, should be restricted to subscribers or if you need to adopt another strategy for more confidential or customized material to replace some newsletter content.

Time and time again, communications tools and tactics seem to get added and never taken away. If your organization is making significant changes, it is possible to completely revamp your communications and make significant changes. However in many cases, communications is an evolution, and establishing news tools and measuring effectiveness is important before removing any existing products.

The goal is not to produce a newsletter; it's to achieve your organization's goals through effective communications. There are ways to add new tools efficiently. For example, social media updates can be automated for posting across multiple platforms such as Twitter, Face book and LinkedIn.

The key to improving communication is to get started. Any new communications strategy takes time. Start with good research, develop your strategy, implement, and track for results. Oh, and have fun while doing it!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Looking for communications coordinator to join the team!

Pinnacle Communications & Media Inc is recruiting for a new position in our Vernon BC office. Get all the details
Posting closes July 14.

#RDtweetup Red Deer Tweet Up brings out crowds

Well, it was a small crowd, yet an enthusiastic crowd.

As one of the organizers, along with Dean Owen of, I was delighted to see those @twitterpeople greeting each other in-person; exchanging stories about the benefits of social media to their business, their personal and professional brand, and the opportunities for business promotion; and most of all sharing a lot of laughs. Sure, we tweeted the discussions, called up Internet pages on our netbooks, and shared our latest app finds and uses for new technology, but most importantly we met some fellow tweople and found some new followers.

The offers to host the next #rdtweetup were coming in before we'd even left the Capri Centre and so I'm sure it will be soon. Rumour has it will be hosted by Idea Market July 27. Search Twitter for our hashtag, join our facebook page, follow me @Loreleifc or @pinnaclecomms, and see you there!

Monday, June 7, 2010

4 ways to Improve Stakeholder Relations

While it's easy to define "Stakeholders" as individuals or groups affected by the actions or policies of an organization, identifying stakeholders is left up to the organizations preparing to communicate change. A recent project I worked on involved identifying a list of stakeholders for consultation purposes. Not every group of potential stakeholders was listed, nor was every listed group given consideration for participation in the consultation. That's ok, because the groups are all different and should have, and expect, different levels of engagement. In addition, though, not all groups or individuals were identified for consideration. This is where the challenge comes in for organizations.

When organizations responsible for communicating change, or seeking input, begin the process, they have to start somewhere, and it's usually with the list of traditional stakeholders. However, as online communities develop on forums, Facebook and Twitter for example, it becomes increasingly difficult for organizations to identify each group and plan effective communications strategies for them.

The elusiveness of online communities highlight what has been true all along: that corporate or government actions affect many people who are not part of formal, identifiable groups. But today, these less formal groups have more opportunity for becoming engaged. When spokespeople say, "We've consulted with stakeholders" we know not everyone who is affected or interested could have been consulted.

It's time that communications and consultation plans reduce their reliance on named stakeholders and start incorporating improved engagement opportunities for unidentified groups and the public. Individuals and groups are now more able to self-identify and to expect opportunities to engage and have input.

Whether a company is planning to build a new facility, or a municipality plans to introduce a new bus route, identifying key stakeholders is only part of good communications. It's no longer enough to post bulletins on telephone polls, stuff mailboxes in the neighbourhoods affected, or invite "stakeholders" to working sessions. Plans now must include outreach through a variety of channels to ensure inclusion of individuals, groups, and on-line communities that may not be readily identifiable.

As our world get smaller, more people are affected by seemingly far-away actions. For example, while enormous in scope, consider the gulf oil catastrophe or Iceland's recent volcano: it's nearly impossible to identify all the stakeholders and manage the message. The public must have opportunities to get information and provide their opinions and concerns.

Reducing the use of the term stakeholder relations is the first step in recognizing that communications plans, irregardless of their comprehensiveness, just cannot identify everyone who has a stake. Therefore, being specific about who has been identified by organizations is the first step in being more inclusive and looking for opportunities to engage others.

Concerted efforts must be made to reach out through all channels to identifiable and non-identified groups and individuals. A start in accomplishing this is to ensure that communications plans:
  1. List stakeholder groups by name
  2. Note the potential that some groups and individuals are not identifiable
  3. Prepare opportunities to involve and communicate to unnamed groups and individuals
  4. Provide specific messages to spokespeople about who has been engaged.
To be credible, organizations must be specific and honest about their efforts in "stakeholder engagement" and these four steps are a beginning.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Social Media Workshop

Registration is now open for my upcoming Social Media Strategy workshop to be held in the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce JA Room.
It's a hands-one all day session designed for business and organizations who want to get started developing their interactive on-line assets! Registration is limited, so don't delay. You will come away with finished product, and a workable strategy for your organization's approach to on-line interaction.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rearranging the Four-Quadrant Priority System

Somedays, the to-do lists are too full of random and uninspiring tasks. It becomes too easy to procrastinate. I've tried the four quadrant tactic -- the one that plots to-do activities on a matrix of important-to-less important and urgent-to-less urgent. And while I haven't given up on it yet, I always seem to do only what is urgent anyway.

So I've decided to try and motivate myself by getting rid of the important/less-important column and replace it with Fun/not-Fun. In addition to having more fun keeping the chart updated, it should be even easier to plot items using urgent and fun, rather than sorting the important from the urgent, which are too often the same! Now, if I can just discipline myself to do one Non-Fun task before each Fun item, I should double my productivity! Since not all work nor all personal tasks fall in once category, I'm hoping to have more fun getting more stuff done in all quadrants.

The new goal will be to have more fun items than not-fun items, so that when all the non-fun items are done, I can just do more fun things. That sounds rewarding.

However since blogging is decidedly fun, I'd better now go do something not quite as fun!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Using social media sends messages to employees and customers

What would a communicator’s blog be without a reference to Marshal McLuhan?

His famous pronouncement that “The Medium is the Message” is a consideration in all communications strategies. The medium (advertising, news conferences, newsletters, radio, events, websites, are just some examples of mediums) is as important as the timing, and whether live, in-person or virtual, the medium sends a message about more than simply the tool used.

Choosing interactive, on-line media says a lot about your business. Using social media tells prospective employees your business culture takes advantage of the latest technology and that a social media policy may be in effect. More critically, social media tells prospects, clients and partners they are important to your business because they are invited to be your fans on Facebook, to subscribe to e-newsletters, to respond to corporate blogs, to participate in product feedback, to engage on Twitter, and to connect one-to-one with your business in so many other ways.

When launching new products or announcing new services, media relations strategies are often teamed up with public and customer relations strategies. For example, Social Media Releases are being developed to include hyperlinks, standardized tags, media-rich content, and easily embedded postings. Now, companies who know their customers are engaged in online communities (who isn’t?) must incorporate social media strategies as part of their marketing and communications strategies.

Some companies are hesitant to get involved in social media in part because the term “social” conjures up images of out-of-control commenting, pictures not meant for the public eye, and misuse of company time and resources.

Changing the corporate mindset around social media could be as simple as renaming it as an Interactive On-line Media strategy. As part of a strategy, there becomes a business purpose for using these tools. And as any with medium, telephone, email, and letters as more traditional examples, policies and technologies can help business manage its reputation and presence in day-to-day as well as on-line interactions.