Twitter Success Story?

We resell the hosting services of a company called HostGator. We have used them for a couple of years and generally have found them to be quite good. We also talk about how to use Twitter for reputation management and customer satisfaction. So it was no surprise that I was following @hostgator on Twitter.

We recently finished a larger site that gets a lot of traffic and makes numerous calls to the database with each visit. For the first month, the site ran like a charm, with no errors. Then suddenly about three weeks ago, I came to work on a Monday and had an upset customer because none of the images were showing up. So I went to HostGator, they “resolved” the problem and, because of my questions and concerns, assured me it wouldn’t happen again.

And it didn’t happen again. Until the next weekend. On Monday I had a customer getting less patient with us. I turned to the HostGator online chat again and after they resolved the issue again “Oh, it was a different issue this time but we have definitely resolved it.” I was told. And it stayed resolved. Until the next weekend and on Monday, as I was going through the online chat, I also sent a tweet about my unhappiness with hostgator.

Soon I had a Twitter reply from @hostgator asking if they could be of assistance. After a couple of exchanges with @hostgator, I sent my ticket number. Within an hour I had both an email and a phone call from a level 3 technician at HostGator. He quickly helped me identify that the problem had not been resolved and that it was a coding issue that I needed to fix. I had asked, in each of my three chats with HostGator, if there was a problem on my end and had been assured that there was nothing I could or should do. Once I knew there was something I could do, I did it and had the issue fixed within a day.

This is definitely a Twitter success story. When working through normal channels I was not able to get my problem resolved. A few tweets later I was talking to someone who could actually identify the problem and point me towards a solution. Twitter is awesome and this is another example of how any company can use Twitter to monitor and maintain their reputation. But I have to say that HostGator let me down. I shouldn’t have had to start tweeting about this in the first place and I find it odd that I couldn’t get the support I needed from HostGator through their normal channels. Yet when I sent out a tweet, I was able to cut through the red tape and get right to the solution.

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4 Steps for Twitter Beginners

We’re going to skip over the what is Twitter questions and all the theory and get right down to how to do it.

1.       Create an account at optical amplifierhttp://twitter.com. This will only take a few minutes. You’ll need a username. I recommend using your name like firstnamelastname all run together. Alternatively you could use your company name like we do at http://twitter.com/educyber. You’ll also need your Full Name. That’s what folks will see. You don’t really need to use your name. I do for my personal account but I also added SMM so that other folks who do social media marketing can find and connect with me.

2.       Once you’ve created your account, make sure you are logged in and click on Settings. Set your Time zone, enter your web site (this is where people will go to learn more about you) and in your one line bio, be sure to use key words / key phrases that will help people of similar interests find you when they search. Some folks put goofy answers I the Location box. Resist the temptation and put your location. I went very specific and said Wheat Ridge, Colorado. I could have gone with Denver, Colorado and been just fine. Click Save.

3.        Make sure you have a good picture of your self ready to go and click on the Picture tab under Settings. Browse to the picture and save it. This might take a bit of tweaking to get the right size. Putting up a real picture of yourself helps people determine whether to follow you or not. “Is the Brian I met? Oh yes, I see his picture and it is.”

4.       Go to http://search.twitter.com and search for key phrases that interest you. Look through the results and click on the profiles of people that sound interesting. Once you’re on their profile, click the follow button if you’d like to follow them.

Don’t worry about following everybody that follows you. You don’t have to but you certainly can if you want (you’ll get an email from Twitter every time someone follows you unless you turn off this notification).

Follow people you know or are interested in knowing. I like to listen first and then join in once I understand what’s happening. I recommend that with Social Media like Twitter as well.

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Privacy and Protection on the Internet

Are you safe? In the “olden days” before the Internet, we often worried about Big Brother (our government) snooping on our every action and word. Now, in these modern times, we joyfully, willingly share, even sometimes in excruciating detail, our personal lives on Social Media networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

I had to dial things back a bit when a younger friend and his wife began tweeting about their successes and failures in potty training their infant son.  That was going a bit too far – I can’t think of anyone, including Grandpa and Grandma, that would want to hear about that. Recently I’ve been asked a lot about protecting oneself and one’s identity while online. The first time it came up, I thought “Why would you not want to share?” The second time though, I began to realize that there were very real concerns.

Facebook is definitely sensitive to security concerns. In the privacy settings area, you have a very granular control over who can see what information. For example, if someone tags you in a photo, you can determine from four default choices who should see it OR you can customize the setting to meet your specific needs, even going so far as to detail which friends can access certain information about you. If you have agreed to use or install any Facebook applications, you can also go in and customize the privacy settings for each of them. If you don’t want people to be able to find you in a global Facebook search, you can either turn it off or change the settings as well.

LinkedIn also provides you with tools giving you a high degree of control over your privacy and what is available to the public at large and to you connections. They have seven different main links under Privacy settings alone that let you control what information others can view about you and your profile.

What we are faced with in 2009 is that Social Media networks are a fantastic way to communicate with others about your business or passion. We each have to determine how and what is appropriate to share in different circumstances and in different networks. Remember that they are SOCIAL media networks so it is important to share something a bit personal about you but that doesn’t mean you need to share every part of your life or even share everything with everyone to the same degree.

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Social Media Marketing Sites as Databases

The other day I was giving a seminar on Social Media Marketing. We went through three different sites, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook as a part of the presentation. In the middle of the LinkedIn presentation, one participant got completely confused and needed to come up for air. Why?

The Internet is one vast database. Each of these sites is a huge database. The cool part about having a database is being able to retrieve information from that database that interests you. Because that is the cool part, those who create these databases have ways to interface or pull information and even re-arrange it or reformat it to meet your needs. These are called apps or applications.

That part is pretty easy to understand. That is the theory side of it. The part that begins to get confusing is the implementation side. Because if I am involved in, for example, both LinkedIn and Twitter, I might think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool to pull information from Twitter and embed it in LinkedIn?” You bet it would.

But we went the first to think of it. Actually the folks at LinkedIn thought of it and created an app called Company Buzz. So right in the middle of my LinkedIn presentation, as I was demonstrating Company Buzz and how it lets me see what people are saying about my company and, for that matter, about any other company or key word that I want, this participant asked if I was speaking about LinkedIn or Twitter.

Yes was my reply. Company Buzz is just one example of how applications can pull (or even push) information from more than one database to show you the information you want.

OK, I gave her more than a Yes. I took the time to explain pretty much what I just blogged about.

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Social Media Marketing Explodes

Whew! I actually have been so busy I haven’t posted on my blog in awhile. But I have been busy with social media. Have you been keeping up? It’s no surprise if you haven’t. Social Media has literally exploded.

Twitter grew by 131% in March. Yes, in the month of March. Not January through March and not in 2008 but just in the month of March.  In the last six weeks I’ve gone from about 100 followers to nearly a 1000 and growing rapidly.

Facebook continues its incredible pace of growth as well, adding 23 MILLION new users just in the United States this year.  And the numbers are interesting in that people aged 26 to 44 are the fast growing segment of Facebook users in the US, according to Facebook’s own numbers.

LinkedIn also is growing rapidly, doubling in size last year and reaching nearly 16 million users in the US.

Three quick observations:

  1. A few years ago, companies felt obligated to have a web site because, well, because everyone else had one and it was needed for competitive reasons. The same is rapidly becoming true for companies on social media sites.
  2. These social media sites are fun. No doubt about it. But if you’re doing it for business reasons, identify what those reasons are and then proceed accordingly. This will keep you from getting bogged down in areas that aren’t helpful for your business.
  3. When you create an account or profile, by all means jump in head first. But remember to listen first then speak. If you barge into the middle of a group and start “spraying” your wisdom around without first understanding where everyone is coming from, you might actually hurt your reputation.
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10 Key Social Media Tools for Small Business

Social Media Marketing, promoting your business through internet social media, is a good idea for any business. One of the questions I’m asked most often is “How much time does it take?” and the companion complaint I hear is “I don’t have time for that.”
My response to that is, what business is doing so well they don’t have to take time to market themselves? So, if you’ve made the decision to spend the time, here are 10 tools you will find quite helpful:

  1. Twitter: Found at twitter.com it is called a Microblogging web site. You have 140 characters per message (the message is called a tweet).  You can follow anyone and anyone can follow you. It’s a great way to connect with people in your industry, in your neighborhood, or even to see what the competition is up to.
  2. TweetDeck: Once you get into twitter, the twitter.com interface won’t be robust enough to manage the people you’re following. TweetDeck lets you categorize and segregate people you follow and makes it easy to reply, forward, or send direct messages.
  3. Facebook: Facebook.com started as a way for college students to connect but it has become big business and is a great way to connect with friends, colleagues, and potential clients. You can create a page for your business and collect “fans”. This provides a great way to communicate with “your” community.
  4. LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com started as a way to connect with others in a business environment and has rapidly begun to grow into a site that lets you form business groups and connect with people in different ways.
  5. StumbleUpon: StumbleUpon.com is a great way to track and share web sites that you come across. Instead of bookmarking them with your browser, bookmark them with StumbleUpon and you can access them from any browser. It’s unique point is being able to “stumble upon” sites that others with your interests have found.
  6. Digg: Another social bookmarking site, Digg is more focused on news kind of things but is a great way to share your sites and find out what others are “Digging”
  7. FriendFeed: Much like dogpile.com brings results from different search engines together in one interface, FriendFeed.com lets you bring all your social media sites into one feed.  You can also take your feed and import it into your accounts – I get facebook comments on my tweets because FriendFeed pulls them into my account.
  8. YouTube: I’m so keyed into the written word that I sometimes overlook the visual. But when we were not having good luck repairing my son’s iPod, he looked on YouTube and got step by step instructions. And that is why businesses can benefit – show step by step instructions on how to use your goods or services.
  9. MySpace.com: As sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn morphed to fit the changing needs of its members, myspace has grown into a “big boys” site with networking opportunities and connections similar to their more business-like counterparts.
  10. Craigslist: OK, its not really a social networking site but it is a key site to find or advertise things on and it’s pretty simple to figure out and use.
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Are you Linked In online?

LinkedIn is one of the largest business networking sites out there. Based on the premise that if I have 10 connections (people I know and network with) and each of those has 10 connections, I’m only one relationship away from 100 people.  If you have 100 connections and they have 100 connections each, well, you do the math.

So what all can you do on LinkedIn? You can connect with people, join virtual groups, many times they are virtual versions of physical networking groups. So this can be a great way to communicate between physical meetings. You can send or post reminders, share announcements and more. The benefit of doing this online is that you can reach a wider audience that might otherwise not know of your group.

If you’re looking for work, LinkedIn can be a great way to find the right job for you. There are hundreds of jobs posted but also by working your LinkedIn network, you can find opportunities that you would never know about through other ways. Through recommendations you can also let or encourage others brag about you.

Speaking of recommendations, this is another way to promote your business. Why “toot your own horn” when you have friends, customers and colleagues who are often more than happy to tout your benefits or service or value. Let word of mouth marketing work for you.

Spend a few minutes a day – literally just a few minutes, and you can build your network over a couple of weeks to the point where it can start working for you.

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Social Media Buzz

So you’re trying to grow your business and you keep hearing about Social Media and how you ought to be using it. But how? And how much time will it take? And what kind of results will you get?

Like most things in life, you get out of it what you put into it.  But let’s back up and talk about what Social Media is.  Essentially, Social Media is all about networking but doing it online instead of face to face. With that simple definition, you can see how things like blogs and forums can be classified as Social Media. But there is a classification of web site that is dedicated to this online networking amongst which we find sites such as: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even CraigsList.

Over the next several blogs we’ll take a look at these four and how you can use them for your business. Let’s start with one of my current favorites, Facebook. With Facebook you can build and maintain your brand. One easy way to do that is to create a Facebook Page for your business.  You can invite customers and potential customers to interact with you on your page. If you have any kind of event, you can invite others to the event all right through Facebook. Just like you have a physical brand with a sign or a logo, you can foster that brand through your own page on Facebook.

One of the major goals of any online campaign is to drive people to your web site. Once there, no matter what reason they clicked through to your site, you have the opportunity to connect them with a service or product that meets their needs. Since we’ve begun helping our customers with social media marketing, we’ve also “practiced what we preached” and are seeing a large increase in traffic to our site which translates to more business for us. Through Facebook you can send more people to your web site, reaching an audience that might not have know of you without Facebook. And this is true even for people that are right in your area.

One of the most exciting and amazing things is how you can connect and reconnect with others on the Internet. I might want to meet your accountant, for example, but not know that she is YOUR accountant.  We could know each other for a long time and that would never come up. But on the Internet I can click on your friends and see who they are and either ask you for the introduction or just connect with them directly. To some that sounds a bit scary. But it’s not. Its how social networking works.

So get started at Facebook. Looking for someone to connect with? I’ll be your friend. Look me up at http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-DeLaet/1133345182

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Understanding Social Media

Social Media: What is it?

One of the biggest “buzzes” in the internet right now is Social Media. But what is this phenomenon known as social media? It’s simple really.

When the Internet was in its infancy, web pages were pretty much static. That is, they didn’t change. The code on the page was hard coded and everyone who came to visit saw the same thing. The media of the day decried that the Internet would just drive us each into our own worlds, drive us away from each other.

Then people began to see how databases could be harnessed to provide live data and even to interact with each other. Larger businesses began to provide database connectivity to share information with their customers and visitors. People found this to be very useful and started to get more “into” it.

Then the Internet left its infancy. I would say it is still in its adolescence but at this time it is changing and growing in all kinds of unexpected ways. The naysayers often say a new technology is going to drive us away from each other but there is a deep need in every human to connect with others.

Social Media web sites provide this kind of connection. MySpace was the first social oriented web site to grab the attention of pretty much the whole Internet. While it still is an important site that is used by a wide variety of people, it is viewed by many to be the site where garage bands and their groupies meet. This, by the way is inaccurate as the average age of users in the mid 30’s.

A site that has really captured the attention of people young and old is Facebook. Facebook started as a way for college students to connect and get to know one another but rapidly moved from college to high school to anyone over the age of 13. It is now used by people all over to engage in both fun and business. This election season there were all kinds of groups created by people who favor one candidate over another, one issue over another or one cause over another.

I even spent the better part of an hour this afternoon catching up with an old friend who created a Facebook account and happened to be on Facebook at the same time I was – yes there is a chat feature on Facebook that lets people communicate in real time. I’ve also connected with an old flame from college – just to touch base mind you, and reconnected with some high school friends.

But Facebook is more than a social network. It is also a way to find partners, employees, work and customers. As a technology professional, I belong to a couple of networks through Facebook that are specifically for technology and entrepreneurs. One of the nicest parts about the web is that we aren’t limited by geography. I can connect with people in Asia, Europe, California, across town or just down the street.

Another very useful social networking site is LinkedIn. LinkedIn is designed for business. Business people sign up for an account and can connect with other business people. The LinkedIn concept is based on the premise that if I have, for example, 30 contacts in my network and each of my contacts also has around 30 people in their network, I suddenly have access to 900 people and that is just within one degree or one contact away. Move out two or three more degrees and you find yourself with 1000s of people within your network and it only takes an invitation or introduction to find the person you want to contact.

As social media has grown up, Facebook has morphed into an application that lets you do business, have fun, or get involved. And LinkedIn has grown into an application that lets you connect with classmates from long ago (or right now) and get involved in affinity groups not having anything to do with business.

Businesses and individuals alike should look into how they can leverage social media networks to improve their business or expand their prospects.

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