Cultivating Customer Relationships Online

One of the most difficult things for most of us to wrap our minds around is that the cyber world of Social Media Marketing works very much the same as the physical world of marketing. Relationships rule. Cultivating relationships online is not really all that different than cultivating relationships in the physical world.

We like to be remembered. We like to hear our name mentioned. We like the personal touch.

But because, in the cyber world, things CAN be automated, many people do so. I have left my Twitter direct message notification on (I get an email when someone direct messages me). Many of the people that I follow have an auto-responder on. Some of these can even capture my real name and send me a response. But the response is general and impersonal enough that I’m turned off by most.

What would be a good response? “Hey Brian, read your latest blog post. Interesting read.” That tells me you’re taking time on our relationship. I confess that I don’t do this often enough but it is taking time for REAL genuine interaction that engages people, lets them know you care, and leads to building a relationship that can turn into business.
How can you cultivate relationships online?

On Facebook:

  • Interact with fans / likers (FB has new ways they are rolling out where, they say, the Fan Page will be able to interact with users just like users can – making comments and liking other’s posts)
  • Accept friend requests and then browse through their friends to see if you have common acquaintances that you might not have connected with yet

On Twitter:

  • Take enough time to respond to followers – this is obviously important for potential customers – in a meaningful way. “Nice Tweet” isn’t particularly meaningful.
  • Follow those who follow you. I actually take time to click through to my followers profile to see who they are and what they tweet about. This would be a good time to retweet something good they’ve said, reply to a tweet or direct message them with a genuine message.

On LinkedIn:

  • If you have a good experience with someone, right a recommendation – everyone likes to have their praises sung to others.
  • Find a good group to join in – one where you can ask questions and learn and then contribute.
  • If there isn’t a group (look around first, there probably is) create your own group and invite connections to join you.

On Social Media:

  • Keep in mind that Social Media is two way communication
  • Keep in mind that folks might be hesitant to interact with your brand at first. Find creative ways to get them to start – ask your physical network to help get this started by making a comment or responding to a quiz.
  • Provide value. That means providing real content that you have created – not sharing someone else’s or simply copying other’s content (this is usually illegal as well).
  • Search out people you want to connect with – movers and shakers or even potential clients – and, once again, interact with them genuinely. Be honest about why you want to connect (I’ve been following your work / blog / Facebook page, etc and would like to connect directly).
  • Provide original content – I know I just said this but a lot of folks get hung up on this point. “I don’t have time.” “There’s nothing new in my industry” etc. I disagree. There is something unique about you as a company or individual that provides your unique selling proposition. Turn that into original content.

And I would be less than authentic if I didn’t tell you that EduCyber provides these kinds of services, whether it is helping you create a plan (Social Media Marketing Plan), setting up your accounts (Basic SMM setup), or actually implementing your Social Media Marketing plan, we can help. Give us a call at (303) 268-2245 ext. 4.
 

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Does Social Media Drive You?

I came across an article on Mashable from back in November talking about how B2B social media is on the rise.

They make some interesting points that I consistently make with clients and in presentations. Basically the point is “Create a Plan” followed by “Do some exploring to find out what works for your business”.

While there are some interesting statistics and good analysis I must disagree with the quote that says “Why not use free social media tools?” There is no such thing as a free lunch and there sure isn’t any such thing as a free tool. There is a real cost to these social media tools. That cost can be measured in time and should also be measured in $$.

It really takes a professional to make sure your Social is done right. That doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t be engaged in their own Social Media Marketing either. I don’t change the oil on my car but I do drive it. I don’t rotate the tires on my car but I know how to change a flat when it happens. I even took Auto Shop in high school. I know enough to know I should let the experts handle my car.

In the same way, companies should rely on their Social Media Marketing company to get them set up (I don’t build cars), start the processes going (I don’t work on my car) and then show you how to “drive” (I took Driver’s Ed back in the day): what to look for, where to turn, and what to do when something doesn’t go as planned.

Setting up Social Media is easy. Just like putting a new engine in your car is easy – as long as you know where the connections go and can connect them together in just the right way. Do it wrong on your car and it won’t start or won’t run right. Do it wrong on your Social Media and you might not get any followers or actually drive people away instead of attracting them. Groupon experienced a very red face after their super bowl commercial. They were trying to attract people and instead, because they belittled the struggles of the Tibetan people, drove people away. View the ad at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vXGYK1eP_wo

Of course there are different levels of Social Media Marketing as well, just like some folks drive Hyundai, some drive Fords, some drive Mercedes and others are driven around in Rolls Royces. If your company is in high gear, you might need somebody to “drive you around” in your Social Media Marketing – and there are businesses that can help you out with social media from A to Z.

And now it’s time for a little plug. EduCyber can help you whether you need help developing the plan, implementing the plan, or running the whole thing. Give us a call at 303 268-2245 to get started today.

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Cheating on the Internet

No I’m not talking about high school or college students copying papers from the Internet. I am talking about unethical and unscrupulous individuals and businesses that are cheating to get ahead. Some of this cheating is pointless but some of it is very pointed.

I started thinking about cheating when someone who has never walked through the doors of office became the “Mayor” of EduCyber on Foursquare. This is annoying but only to me. Who else would care? Yet I can’t figure out what gratification this person is getting from “checking in” at our office without every coming in.

But the more insidious cheating is that in which businesses are lying and cheating to get more traffic coming to their web site. At the end of December Adrianne Jeffries explained how unethical businesses are getting ranked at the top of Google Maps. Since local search is so incredibly important for most businesses – you wouldn’t want to find a plumber in NYC if you live in Seattle – the pressure is on to get the top listing in Google Local, Google Maps or Google Places. Because if you do, you could make a lot of money. Just like you can make a lot of money in a Ponzi scheme. It works – at least for a while – but it is illegal and you have to lie to make it work.

In essence a company can use a real phone number (or multiple numbers), create a fake address and get listed. Why does that help them? Let’s take a fictitious example for the Denver metro area. If Acme Plumbing, based in Lakewood, wants to get more business in Denver, Golden and Littleton, and perhaps they’re already at the top of the list for people in Lakewood, they create a fake address in each of the other municipalities and get the top listing. If I live in Denver and need a plumber, I’m not going to drive to their shop. I’ll do my Google search and call the top listing. I don’t care where they’re based as long as they can make my leak go away.

Last week I attended a meeting of search professionals and the presenter, from Findability Group, blatantly encouraged those in attendance to break the Terms of Service for Facebook if it helps clients get more business. I was shocked. She justified this by painting Facebook as a giant evil draconian HOA. While I disagree with the terms that Facebook has, it is their right as a private company to set the terms the way they want. It is unethical for Findability Group, or any company, to knowingly and intentionally break those terms to get an unfair advantage for their client.

Want to work with an ethical company that can help you get the traffic and exposure you want? Call us at 303 268-2245. We’ll help you grow AND you’ll be able to sleep at night.

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Change Drives the Internet

The way the Internet works today, in January of 2011, is different from the way it worked in January of 2010 and so completely different from the way it worked in January of 2001 as to be completely unrecognizable.

One of our clients made the comment “I hate old-fashioned web sites” the other day.

And then we all laughed. But it’s true.

Take a look at these shots of the Amazon Web Site

Circa January 2001:

Amazon2001

Note how text heavy the site was. Since most folks were still dialing up to the Internet, it was important to have only a few pictures. Even the navigation was text heavy and designed to get you to a category quickly. Notice also the prominent search box in the upper left hand corner – some things haven’t change and the value and importance of search was well understood even back then.

Circa January 2010:
Amazon2009

Now we’ve got a lot more and larger graphics in order to showcase the products. Now the search bar is considerably longer. In all likelihood in the 10 years ago site, I would have only typed in one or two words. Now I’m comfortable typing in the whole title of a book or model of an item that I’m looking for and can see the whole thing in the search bar.

Amazon2011January 2011:

Looks pretty similar doesn’t it? Even the Kindle is prominently featured. Notice in both last year and this year how the immediacy of an experience things are. You can see what other customers are looking at RIGHT NOW. While there is more “stuff” in this year’s page, there is still a good use of white space to focus attention – that Kindle really stands out. Amazon has figured out though how to add more advertising on the right without overwhelming the page and they have tightened up the navigation on the left opting for pop-out menus instead of a longer listing of categories.

So what does this mean for you and your site?

First it means that if you haven’t changed your site in a few years, the time has come. It needs to be refreshed. Like your logo? Keep it. But consider what you want your site to do and then look at it and ask yourself if it is helping you do that? How can it be done better? Have you changed your services or products? Do you have something you should be featuring as prominently as Amazon features their Kindle?

Next it means you need to stay on top of (but not necessarily on the bleeding edge of) change. What is happening that will affect your business and your web site. When the automobile was first invented, how many blacksmith’s thought it was a passing fad? When the computer was invented how many typewriter makers thought it was just a flash in the pan? Don’t be left behind because you’re not staying on top of change.

It also means that some of the things you try might not work. Over the years Microsoft has had some spectacular failures (anyone remember Microsoft Bob?) but they continue to be a very powerful force because they try new things. Right now social media marketing is all the rage. Passing fancy? Who knows? The one thing I do know is that 100s of millions of users are out there so we’re engaging because that’s where our potential customers are.

If you want help changing your site, call EduCyber at 303 268-2245.

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A Look Back, A Look Ahead

What did you measure this year? All of us measure the bottom line but what else? Did you measure the number of new customers / clients? What about number of leads and number of those leads that converted into clients? Number of sales online? Number of new newsletter signups? Number of fans or followers on social media?

How did your numbers measure up? Some interesting things we noticed in our numbers: With the year not yet finished, we’ve already had 16% more visitors to our site this year over last. An online store we manage has had a 5 fold increase in sales and a lot more traffic.

For our site our traffic from search engines is actually down a bit over last year but that is because we’ve been focusing on our customer’s campaigns more than our own so we’re not too upset over that one.

Whatever you measure, make sure it adds to your marketing goals. If our goal was to get a lot of traffic from the search engines, you can be sure we would have paid a lot more attention and performed a whole lot better.

For the year ahead (don’t give up on this one yet though – there are still almost three weeks left) take time to set out your Internet Marketing goals. Start with your web site itself. If it conversion optimized? That is, is your site ready to convert visitors into customers? If you want to measure newsletter signups, for example, is the site geared towards getting visitors to do that? Are there barriers that you may have inadvertently put in place (such as asking for a physical address when all you need is an email address)?

Typically you want to have a conversion and a micro-conversion. If they aren’t ready to buy from you or ask you for a quote, perhaps they’ll sign up for your newsletter so they can stay in touch. Asking for a quote would be the conversion and the newsletter signup, the micro-conversion.

Once your site is ready, you can look at other marketing venues. Do you need Pay Per Click? Would a local search campaign make sense for you? How does social media marketing fit into the picture? Should you be tweeting? Do you need to claim your business on Foursquare? Will using QR codes help you reach your goals?

If you’re not thinking about these questions, I would suggest that you ought to be. If you’re not but feel like you should, give EduCyber a call at 303 268-2245. We can help you plan for a fantastic year.

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If the Queen can do it, so Should You

It really is time for you to get your business on to Facebook. How do I know this? The Queen of England now has her own Facebook page. Actually it is the British Monarchy but for all intents and purposes, that is the Queen.

You can do some of the many things the Queen is doing:

  • Show the world whatever you want about yourself – and being the British Monarchy, they don’t share a lot but what they do is out there for all to see.
  • Link to your Youtube account – who knew there was a Youtube account for the Queen? – and embed your videos in your Facebook page.
  • Link to your Twitter account – boy these stuffy royals sure know their Internet marketing
  • Link to your Flickr account so you can show off your pictures
  • Link to the prince’s web site. OK, so maybe there aren’t any princes associated with your business but you could link to key partners / vendors – in fact if this is done well it helps them and makes them look more kindly towards you.

If a “business” run by an 84 year old lady can get this engaged in Social Media in order to facilitate relationships and build up a public image, why shouldn’t you?

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36 Ways to Market Your Web Site

  1. Put your web site on business card
  2. Incorporate your domain name into your letterhead
  3. Buy an ad in other ezines or email newsletters
  4. Engage in online communities and make sure you include your domain where appropriate (like in your signature)
  5. Include a link to your web site in your email signature
  6. Build a corporate Facebook page and post interesting information that links back to your site.
  7. Include a link to your site in your Twitter profile
  8. Include a link to your site in your Facebook profile
  9. Include a link to your site in your LinkedIn profile
  10. Include links to your site in your Tweets where appropriate
  11. Exchange links with a related site
  12. Develop an affiliate network where others get paid to market your site.
  13. Create press releases for anything new: staff, location, service, product, etc. Be    sure to mention the web site as the source for more information
  14. Write on your blog regularly (if your blog isn’t on your web site, include links to your site in each blog entry)
  15. Create an informercial video about something relevant to your company. Upload it to video sites like YouTube. Make sure the video finished with a link to the site and that the site is mentioned in the description.
  16. Create a podcast on a relevant topic and don’t forget to mention your web site in the audio.
  17. Use email marketing (like iContact or Aweber) to regularly communicate with your customers. Include links back to your web site
  18. Write guest blogs for other sites with links in the bio back to your site.
  19. Buy an ad in the local newspaper with your domain name as a prominent part of the ad
  20. Create a TV commercial and buy some spots on local TV. Include your URL in the ad.
  21. Run a radio ad that mentions your URL
  22. Create an amusing video that highlights how your company solves problems and make sure the video links to your site. Upload it to Youtube.
  23. Share company videos that you’ve uploaded on Twitter.
  24. Share company videos that you’ve uploaded on Facebook.
  25. Create a PowerPoint presentation about something your company is good at. Include your URL. Upload this file to a site like SlideShare.
  26. Create a new award like “Best <your industry service or product> in <your area>”. Advertise it on your web site asking for submissions / nominations.
  27. Create a press release to go with this new award and send it out to news organizations, pointing them to your site for more information.
  28. Use an email blast to all your subscribers to announce the new award and point them to the site for details.
  29. Read other blogs. Engage in that community by leaving comments (with a link back to your site)
  30. Devote time to write a really good white paper on a hot topic in your industry. Provide this as an incentive on your web site for users to sign up for your newsletter.
  31. Advertise this white paper on social media sites.
  32. Post the white paper download info on sites you have access to – don’t neglect chambers of commerce and other business organizations. They’ll often share your info for free.
  33. Offer a free seminar on a popular or useful topic. Post the details on your site and then refer people to the site for details.
  34. Use social media to promote your seminar and direct people to your site.
  35. Engage in or start a group on LinkedIn regarding your industry (better to engage in existing groups) or area of expertise. Establish yourself as an authority and regularly link back from the group to a pertinent part of your web site.
  36. Blog about current events and tie them back into your topic.

 

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Setting Rules for Social Networking

There was a very good article on setting rules for social networking in the Denver Business Journal earlier this month. David Schachter, the author notes how seemingly easy it is to reach “billions of people instanteously” from your mobile device.

Approaching the topic from a legal perspective – he is a lawyer after all – he addresses key areas like Privacy, Authorized Corporate Communications and how not to get in trouble by dissing people on the Internet. That is all good stuff.

The point that most intrigued me though is the importance for companies to maintain an official site and direct / require employees who engage in social media marketing (smm) to reference the official site. One of the most critical issues for business in smm is AUTHENTICITY. What better way to be authentic than to identify yourself and your company and especially the company’s web site?

Often I speak with those new to social media that somehow want to “jimmy” the system. One way people want to do that is by having staff or relatives create rave reviews under false names. Who would catch you anyway? Seems to be the thought process. If you’re thinking like that, stop. You will get caught. And it will hurt.

Businesses large and small have been caught doing this and suffered the consequences – everything from the embarrassment of having to apologize to the world at large to, gasp, loss of revenue. But by being authentic, by telling people who you are and where the company web site can be found, you show that you are engaged and people will listen, even if you are the corporate mouthpiece.

So don’t be afraid to be you and to let people know who you are. Show them the company site and engage.

I do have to disagree on one point David made though. On the topic of blogging he makes the comment “blogging may be unavoidable” which, as I told David, would be like McDonald’s saying “running TV ads may be unavoidable”. Blogging isn’t something you should want to avoid if you want to grow and prosper. Blogging continues to drive a lot of traffic to our site and the way we have integrated our blog into the rest of our social media, it drives even more.

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3 Reasons to Invest in your Web Presence in a Down Economy

What’s happening in your financial world? If you’re like most folks, you’re not sure whether we’re headed up or down or what is around the next corner.

In uncertain times it can be difficult to see a way forward and spending money is the last thing many business owners want to do. Yet here I am telling you to invest in your web site. What gives?

Here are THREE reasons you want to invest in your site now:

  1. Get better efficiency. There are several ways to accomplish this: Put more information on your web site so you spend less time answering the same questions over and over again; Qualify your customers better through your site so that those you contact are ready to do business; Reduce or eliminate your store front and sell more from the web site. These are just a few of the ways you can be more efficient with an investment in your site.
  2. While your competitors are giving up and going away, you can establish a firm or firmer foundation now on your web site without having to build a new building or sign an expensive new lease. Your site should look professional (good design), be functional (easy for customers to do what you want them to do) and be search-friendly (search engine optimization)
  3. Get more customers. Beat the rest of the crowd that is still stuck on search engine optimization – which means driving more traffic to your web site – and get started on conversion optimization – which means getting the folks who visit your web site to buy, register, signup, or whatever your call to action is. If you have any degree of traffic you should look at what those visitors are doing and if they aren’t contacting you to do business, optimize the process to make it smoother for them to do business with you.
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Social Media Marketing Made Easy

Everybody wants to do it quickly. “How much time does it take?” is the number one question I’m asked. It can be fast and it can be easy. But first you have to invest in a plan. That can be investing time or investing money or both. Without a plan then your “investment” is about as solid as investing in the crap tables in Vegas. With a plan you are investing in the growth of your business.

What does a social media marketing plan look like? That depends on what you want to accomplish and on what social media is doing when you create the plan. Remember that this technology or medium is very much in its infancy so what works in August of 2010 might not work come November. It really does change that quickly.

So what is the easy part of all this?

The most crucial part of your plan is to decide what action or actions you want people to take. A good starting action is getting people to LIKE you. On Facebook this means to click the like button. In the olden days (April of 2010 for example) you wanted people to become a fan but it changed, just that quickly. Now you want them to LIKE you.

So folks say liking isn’t enough. I say that depends on your plan. Once they’ve liked you, you can communicate with them more directly. If your company or purpose is based on a particular event such as a charity run, then getting them to click the like button might be enough because now you can share information with them about the event.

Other actions that could help you get what you want out of social media:

  • Fill out the form to sign up for your newsletter (now these can be put right into facebook)
  • Click through to your web site
  • Click a link to a coupon or social media only special
  • Call you directly from info on your profile
  • Make a comment on your posting
  • “LIKE” a particular post
  • Start a new conversation
  • Respond to a poll question
  • Post a picture
  • Post a video
  • And the list goes on and on . . .

Now we’re to the easy part. Once you’ve got your goals and your desired actions, engage your friends / fans / followers accordingly. It really doesn’t take much time with a plan – or if it does take a lot of time, it does so because it’s paying off for you.

But don’t forget to measure the results. If they aren’t turning out as desired, then it’s time to revisit the plan.

Want help? That’s what we do. Call 303 368-2245 ext. 4 to get started.

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