About Me

Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Len focuses on helping small and new businesses succeed through developing appropriate marketing and sales strategies. Len enjoys mentoring, relishes in getting both arms and feet wet in addressing technology, marketing and sales issues. He understands the drivers impacting business results for today and tomorrow including time-to-market, time-to-revenue, marketing, sales channels and social media.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Five Reasons Corporations Are Failing at Social Media

I have just read a blog from a young woman, Amy Mengel, whose musings on social networking are very much akin with mine. I share with you extracts from her most recent article bearing the above title.

Social media isn’t complicated. When you boil it down it’s about listening to your customers, being helpful by offering your knowledge and giving them interesting content to share and thereby advocate for you.

So why is it so difficult for so many companies to successfully integrate social media?

1. They can’t talk about anything broader than their own products

Citrix Online created the Workshifting community to address the rise of telecommuting and remote work. Sure, it ties in with Citrix’s GoToMeeting/Webinar/PC product line, but the blog isn’t a commercial for its products. The same holds true for Kodak’s photography blog. It’s about photography and creativity in general, not about Kodak cameras. Humana developed Freewheelin bicycle sharing communities with plenty of online and “real life” components to the program. Bicycles don’t have much to do with health insurance specifically, but they are about being healthy. If a company is only talking online about its specific products and not looking for ways to connect to the bigger picture, it’s pretty difficult for people to be engaged.

2. They listen to customers but don’t take any action

If you’re going to listen to your customers, you’d better be ready to do something about what you hear. If a company creates an online presence that’s open and allows customer feedback, it creates the expectation that the company is going to do something with that feedback. Worse than not being heard is being heard and then ignored. Southwest Airlines shared how a simple blog post stating the airline was considering assigned seating amassed tons of customer comments showing a lack of support for the idea. This feedback changed the direction of their internal debate and led to a new boarding procedure that maintained the open seating arrangement.

3. They aren’t calibrated internally with the technology

Many corporate Web sites are little more than online brochures. Customers expect interaction. Content creation is key to social media success, and every company should have a Web site with a content management system that allows for quick, easy content creation without the IT department needing to recode a Web site. Anyone in the organization should be able to publish via a CMS. And companies can’t expect to have a strong social media presence when social sites are blocked internally to employees.

4. They’re not framing risk accurately

A corporate blog has never been fatal to an organization. Often a company’s entry into social media is a clumsy, shotgun blast and that there’s an equal chance of looking foolish by having a ham-fisted marketing department launch a social media presence as there is if a rogue employee “goes off” on Twitter. The risk of social media is not abated by not participating. And really, while there have certainly been some hiccups and miscues along the way, social media has yet to be the undoing of any company.

5. Their internal culture isn’t aligned for social media success

The customer should be at the core of the brand. When policies, procedures, products and processes become more important than the customer, there’s no way social media efforts can be effective. When your employees are more concerned with what’s in or out of their job description than doing the right thing to help the customer, that’s not a culture that’s likely to build trust and advocacy for your brand. Zappos is cited time and again as a case study, but largely because it has a culture that makes social media work. All of its employees are focused on customer service at the core. The same holds true for Southwest Airlines.

These are great examples of simple, effective social media strategies that have humanized organizations and allowed them to build better relationships with customers. But time and again companies are either rejecting social media or participating in a way that defeats the purpose.

I encourage you to read more from Amy Mengel by visiting her blog or following her on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Social Marketing: Tying Social Networking to Personal and Business Goals

Public social networks are by their nature very poor marketing venues in the traditional sense. Click through rates on advertisements on sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are very low. So many small businesses see public social networks as too difficult and too time consuming to master. They are partially right in their conclusions.

Figuring out the "business angles" in social networking takes considerable time and practice. That's because public social networks are primarily "social." The business that works best on them is "social." The younger audiences that use them find traditional advertising hype to be intrusive and inappropriate. To them it's not cool to be on a social site and be thinking business.

Social marketing is not a new concept. According to Phil Kotler, who along with Gerald Zaltman, coined the expression in the 1970s, social marketing is defined as marketing that seeks to influence social behaviour, not for the benefit of the marketer, but to benefit a target audience or society in general. Since social networks are virtual societies it would seem that social marketing would be a good strategic approach for small business and individuals to engage these online communities.

There is nothing like a good cause or social purpose to find a community of common ground. How to do this effectively is a skill set worth acquiring. Nedra Weinreich, of
Weinreich Communications, offers courses including webinars on the subject of social marketing. Although Nedra's focus is on using social marketing to advance such health and social causes the principles and strategies she describes in her book, Hands-On Social Marketing: A Step-by-Step Guide and blog articles are applicable to any organization and any cause.

Here are some ideas to consider when addressing the social marketing potential of social networks:

1. If you currently have a social cause that you are drawn to and that you want to share with others in your business community, then make it part of your web presence and feature it on your business website. For example, I have a link to Kiva on my blog site and you will find it on my Facebook page as well. I don't do in-your-face promotion of Kiva on either site but I can come up with strategies that can make Kiva a shared conversation with prospective clients and existing customers.

2. Create an event around your cause. That event can be an activity that invites prospects and customers to an actual physical location with the purpose of raising awareness, and money, in support of the cause. If your cause is "cancer awareness," or another high-profile medical issue, plan to include other interested parties that can give your efforts further legitimacy. For example, you can consider affiliating your event with a larger campaign.

3. Build a cause site on your social network and link it to your website and your social network profile account. Make it graphic. If you are committed to raising money in your social cause put a graph on your site to show how well you are doing.

Large organizations have been doing this sort of community service for years. Having just called on Accenture, the management consulting firm in the last week, while waiting for my meeting, I picked up a glossy, four-colour 50 plus page publication focused on the company's social marketing.

And don't forget Guy Laliberte's recent International Space Station trip where he created a show from space involving actors and performers from all over the planet to promote his cause, clean water for all. Although that gambit cost him $35 million, one should recognize the essential strategy that Mr. Laliberte deployed, social marketing with a very specific social goal.

On a more modest level and as a method for getting exposure for you and your business, social marketing is the right strategy to engage the social networking community.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What is Appropriate Social Network Behaviour

In this latest article posted on Kiwi Commons I talk about the lure of posting information about you on social networking sites. What is appropriate? What is inappropriate?

If the axiom, "social media is all about communication with low expectation," then it is important for you to understand the audience that connects to you and your social networking profiles. Although your connections are referred to as "friends" on places like Facebook and MySpace, these are not friends in the conventional sense. In fact, if you invited them to a night out on the town, most would never show up even if they accepted your invitation. So that is one meaning of low expectation....l0w results.

But low expectation can mean something entirely different. It could reflect the fact that when you post you have low expectations about readership. Is anyone really looking at what you write? Does anyone look at the pictures you post?

Another meaning of low expectation.....is what you say about yourself evoking low expectation on the part of your readers? When they read your profile are they drawing a negative conclusion? If you are applying for an important job, or trying to make a good impression on someone important in your life, then what you say in about you on your profile may evoke much higher expectation in those who view it.

So please connect to the Kiwi Commons link and let me know your thoughts about appropriate social network behaviour.