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Social Media Reality Check

There’s a lot coming at us in 2012. From mobile marketing and social media, and from an election and poor economy. So we need to be prepared to make good use of our marketing and advertising dollars.

This week, we start with a social media reality check.

Yes, mobile phones and social media are growing presences in the marketplace. They are, however, no where near as big as the cow-pattie gurus want you to believe they are. The idea that you “must have” a Facebook Page or risk losing out to your competition is poppycock. And the numbers back me up – listen to the show and check my sources for yourself.

You can listen right away by streaming the audio, or click “Download” and take the show with you on your phone, tablet or MP3 player.

We also take a quick look at a company that’s doing social media very well. It’s Collective Bias, and their primary social media tool is blogging. All of their results are trackable, and highly profitable, so it’s worth paying attention to what they’re doing.

Then we take a look at the truth for what it takes to attract an audience.

Would you be willing to sit and watch a 45 minute video of two scientists discussing Systems Biology? Me neither, but Dr. Hidalgo has an audience of thousands. We take a look at how he has done it, and why you’re able to do the same thing for your business.

And we wrap up the show with how you can use technology trends to benefit your own business.

The Consumer Electronics Show – one of the largest consumer shows of during the year – ran from Jan 10 – 13. There were some decidedly non-tech companies at the show, and they were very smart to be there. You need to know why, and how to follow their example. So listen to this week’s show.

You can listen to right now by clicking the Play button, or hit “Download” and take the show with you on your laptop, phone or tablet.

And please do tell me what you think of the show. Is it entertaining and informative, or do you think I’m full of wind? Leave a comment here, or send me an e-mail at listeners@theconradhall.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

Social Media Success Formula

You’re doing everything the “gurus” say to get fans and followers, but no one is turning into a buying customer.

That’s because those cow-pattie-gurus want you focused on all the ACTION that’s taking place. Then you might not notice that there’s no PRODUCTIVITY happening.

Just pick your favourite guru and look at their Twitter account. They probably make a big deal out of the huge number of followers they have. But take a look at the number of people they’re following and ask yourself this:

  • Are they really paying attention to the thousands of people they’re following?
  • Is it even possible for them to be paying attention?
  • And if the gurus aren’t paying attention that means they’re teaching everyone else that it’s okay to not pay attention.

So it’s not your fault that you’re following their advice and no one is paying attention. That is, after all, what they teach.

Let’s have a look at what really does work in social media. And you can hear what I have to say on this week's Social Media: Cheap and Easy.

Since social media is also called Relationship Marketing, stay focused on relationships. Get people you know to connect with you.

You see, social media is different from “normal” life. We’ve all been taught the analogy that life is like a pond. The action you take is a stone dropped into the pond. The ripples reach out to impact everyone in your life.

Social media is more like a sandbox. The action you take drops in the sand and stops. Plop.

To get other people to pay attention to your action, you need friends to pick it and show it around. This is why you start with people you know, and who are interested in what you do. They already have an interest in YOU – what you do is less important.

Sure, they have an interest in knitting, car repair, or whatever it is you do. But they pay attention to you because you let your personality show through and you’re fun. More accurately, you’re entertaining.

When you put something into social media (whether that’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the thousands of other social media sites), your friends, patients, clients, and business colleagues pay attention because it’s entertaining. Things that are entertaining get and hold our interest. They can also be educational and useful (just think of educational TV).

Tell me if I'm hitting the mark with this week's radio show.

Here’s the secret ingredient to why you start with people you know: You ask, beg and plead for them to tell you whether what you’re putting into social media is entertaining.

Ask them to tell you if something you do whether something you do is good, bad, crappy, great, or most importantly – whether it’s boring. You can do something that’s completely corny. As long as it’s entertaining, people will pay attention.

Just think of comic strips. There are all different kinds of comic strips that are successful. Dilbert is very short and witty. For Better Or Worse is a longer comic that deals with everyday family life. Peanuts is about a boy and his dog.

Each is entertaining and has a fan base.

Make the people you know the beginning of your fan base. These are people you can call on the phone or send an e-mail to asking what they think. And if the answer is “I’m sorry. I haven’t had time to look.” Then you know you’re missing the entertainment goal.

Oh, and keep in mind that when you ask someone for feedback, you need to give them a reason to look.
Do something more than send an e-mail saying “Hey, look at my latest update, please.”

Tell people how you’re being entertaining. Tell them you posted a really cool video, or a link to something you know they’re going to be interested in. Show your friends what’s in it for them. Then you get their feedback on whether they liked it by asking about the resource of video.

So here’s the Social Media Success Formula in bullet points:

  • Connect with people you know first
  • Decide to be entertaining and useful when you post to social media
  • After you post, get people to pay attention by telling them how you’re being entertaining or useful
  • Get their feedback by asking about the content you gave
  • Gauge the success of your post by whether people pay attention to the content

We’ve had a lot of success with this, and I’d like to know how it works for you.

Come back and leave a message after you’ve tried it. You’re welcome to ask questions, and if you’re not sure your material is entertaining – just tell me where to find it. I’ll look and give you an unbiased opinion. And you're welcome to give your opinion of Social Media: Cheap and Easy.

Does Social Media Impact Retailers?

Consumers are starting to dislike Thanksgiving Sales.

More than one consumer is considering skipping the Thanksgiving Sales this year. That’s because, instead of starting at 4am Black Friday several retailers are planning to start their sales at midnight Thanksgiving Day.

As you might imagine, lots of folks are speaking up about this on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. They’re not happy, and they’re using social media to voice their displeasure.

Now, we all have to admit that big sales are somewhat less than social occasions. Sometimes they resemble mass riots or war zones. But Thanksgiving is definitely a social occasion (even if we’re not entirely thrilled with Uncle Fred or Aunt Edna). That’s what has a lot of dedicated Black Friday shoppers saying they're ready to throw in the shopping bag.

Target, Macy’s Best Buy and Kohl’s are planning to open at midnight Thanksgiving Day. Wal-Mart is planning to start some of their sales at 10pm.

These sales are a big deal. The shop-‘til-you-drop crowd often start lining up 3 or 4 hours before the stores open just to be in a good position when the sale starts. As recently as last year, shoppers could be at Toys “R” Us for the 10pm opening Thanksgiving Day, get to Wal-Mart for a wrist band at 2am (guaranteeing a spot for their 5am sales start), the hit Kohl’s at 3am, Target or Macy’s at 4, and wrap up with Best Buy after stopping off at Wal-Mart.

Now that all these stores are kicking off their sales at the same time, shoppers are going to have to pick and choose which sales to participate in. And that is going to have negative consequences. After all, shoppers who went to 5 stores last year simply can’t make all 5 this year. That means somebody has to lose sales.

And how does this fit in with social media and the impact it has on retailers?

The answer lies in a recent study from Market Tools.

Market Tools recently published the “Social Media and Customer Feedback” survey. They found that 44% of retailers surveyed believe we do not comment or complain about their products and services online. Another 22% don’t even care enough to have found out whether we’re complaining about them.

Based on those results, I was very surprised to read the rest of the survey and find a high percentage of companies responding to customers through Facebook and Twitter. According to the survey, 54% of retailers using Facebook always or often reply to out comments and complaints. That number falls a little to 42% on Twitter.

So on one hand we have 66% of surveyed retailers either not believing we talk about them, or just not caring whether we do. And on the other hand, of those that are paying attention, many are making an effort to respond and interact. So what is social media’s impact on retailers?

While we hear a lot of the cow-pattie gurus touting the praises of social media for business, it’s clear that businesses are quite a bit slower to accept social media as a credible source of information.

Wal-Mart is an excellent example. The New York Times presented them with evidence from Facebook, Twitter and blogs that customers are unhappy with sales starting Thanksgiving Day. Their response was “customers told us they would rather stay up late to shop than get up early.”

There’s no question that “social media” is here to stay. Heck, what we’re calling social media is only a technological progression of all the gossip, rumor-mongering and press that has been around for centuries. So far, very few individuals and companies are using it in a coordinated and effective fashion.

So far, the impact of social media on retailers is minimal. (As an interesting side note – even e-commerce accounts for only 1% of the world’s economy according to the CIA Factbook.)

Rather than pay attention to the squawking that’s going on in social media, retailers are going to pay attention to sales figures for Thanksgiving Day. After all, we know that most of the folks making a lot of noise now are still very likely to be standing in line for sales come Thanksgiving Day.

Actions count far louder than conversations.

So when you’re looking at how to incorporate social media into your marketing mix, take all the hype and hoopla with a grain of salt. While I certainly recommend making the effort to respond to customers who complain – regardless of whether it’s in person or through social media – always give more credence to what people do than what they say.

There is a distinct possibility that retailers are going to lose sales this year. But that loss will have very little to do with social media.

Last year, the sales started in staggered fashion. This allowed people to shop at multiple stores. Now most of the sales are starting at the same time - midnight Thanksgiving Day. So the retailers are going to lose because people simply can't be in two places at once, and there's an ingrained perception that a sale is only worthwhile when you get there at the beginning. This is why people line up four hours early for Black Friday sales.

And let's keep in mind that we're in a poor economy. Although some may not be able to participate in the sales the way they did before, most who can afford it will participate to an even greater extent. The stupendous bargains of Black Friday are an excellent way to stretch a dollar.

What we would all do well to listen to is the message that customers are displeased with two things:

  1. The change to cherished holiday shopping traditions. Waiting for sales to start is often a very social time.
  2. The inability to fully participate in the social nature of shopping because it now overlaps with Thanksgiving Day.

The retailers likely to come out on top this year are toy stores (because parents shop for their kids before themselves) and the J.C. Penny's. J.C. Penny is keeping its usual 4 a.m. opening time, so they're going to stand out from the crowd.

What do you think? Do you care when stores open for Black Friday sales? Should retailers immediately cave in to complaints, or wait to see what people do?

Facebook and Groupon Losing

Facebook and Groupon losing ground with the government and investors.

The FTC  has already reached agreements with Google and Twitter over privacy issues. Now they’re close to reaching a deal with Facebook.

Unfortunately, the privacy problems seem to run a little more deeply with Facebook. That might be why the New York Times article indicates part of the deal includes Facebook submitting to privacy audits for the next 20 years.

In a follow-up piece to last week’s anticipation of Groupon’s IPO, we take a look at what happened after day 1.

Although the IPO was a success for Groupon – and for the investment bankers who raked in $50 Million in fees – it has been somewhat tempered by losses starting on day 2.

And we wrap up the show with a look at how social media is impacting social media.

It begins with a look at how people are responding to the announcement that several retailers are intruding on our Thanksgiving by opening at midnight Thanksgiving Day. Then we look at a study published by Market Tools that shows most business owners are not listening to what we have to say through social media.

And that leads us back around to Facebook, and their persistent reluctance to listen to user dissatisfaction with their privacy policies.

Soup’s On – A Growing Naperville, IL Tradition

Imagine a fundraiser that goes from 0 to 2,000 attendees and over $100,000 in net proceeds in just 3 years.

That's the Soup's On event for The Rotary Club of Naperville.

This is something I've heard bits and pieces about for the last few weeks. Yesterday I had a chance to speak with Bill Garlough, the founder of Soup's On, and get some behind-the-scenes information. In fact, I got so wrapped up in what Bill showed me that I completely forgot to write anything yesterday. So let's make up for that today.

What caught my attention is how they're using social media. They're covering a lot of Continue reading

Social Media Experts – Day 8 of the 31 Day Challenge

Hi,

There has been a lot of talk lately on the subject of social media snake oil, and people calling themselves social media experts.

David Armano weighs in.

V Mary Abrahm sounds off.

And Dawn Foster gives some interesting advice.

By the way, today's exercise is actually about interlinking your posts. So I'm writing a post I think can be linked to others on my blog. (Two birds, one stone.)

Let's start by acknowledging everyone makes mistakes - even the biggest social media site in the world. Earlier this month, Facebook announced a partnership with Neilsen.

When it was announced, I took issue with Facebook for Continue reading

Twitter Updates for 2009-09-24

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  • @OracleFS Saw your report on banks & social media. Working on project with banks under CRA. Would like to talk more about your work. #

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