Sunday, August 29, 2010

Social Media Strategy in Eight Easy Steps – Introducing the 8 P’s

At the heart of every successful business there is a vital ingredient - the ability to effectively communicate with your staff, your customers and your community.

Using Social Media to enhance and extend your communications potential is achievable for all types and sizes of business but first you need to know what platforms are available, which of these will work best for you, and how to make them an integrated part of your daily business. For this to happen there needs to be careful consideration and some effective planning.

Without planning there is the potential to waste a lot of time and become frustrated or worse create a negative image of your brand and your product through poor and inconsistent information management. As in any business planning process your strategy provides the big picture that shows why and how all the individual activities are coordinated to achieve a desired end result.

Given that the online communications landscape is still evolving and changing, albeit at a rapid pace, it is not necessary to develop and elaborate and detailed long term plan. Better to have something accessible, that can be reviewed regularly and modified to meet that demand and changes expected of this new era of online communications and social engagement.

It is important to be focused on what it is you need from this environment. It is an effective mechanism to find out what your customers and clients are thinking.  With this information you can quickly modify your product and service to meet demand and keep your networks up to date and current with what you are doing and where you are heading.  This works just as effectively with your staff, shareholders, investors, existing clients or potential clients.

Introducing the 8 P’s.

We have identified eight headings to assist you in formulating a structured plan. This step by step process helps you align emerging Social Media opportunities with your strategic intentions and the realities of your day to day business. These include:

  1. Planning (Who is responsible for what)
  2. Purpose (Be specific on what you are trying to achieve)
  3. Product (What products or services are you promoting)
  4. People (Who are you targeting)
  5. Profiles (Keep your branding and communications consistent)
  6. Platforms (What Social Media sites are you using)
  7. Promotions (What is going to get you noticed)
  8. Performance (Measure your effectiveness, ROI)
For more detail and an easy to follow action plan download our free 16 page paper “Introducing the 8 P’s” (500kb PDF File) (Press the Ctrl Key when you click the link if it doesn't open)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Foursquare – Thinking outside the square

Many, especially in the business realm, are still struggling to come to terms with Twitter so the location based check-in platform Foursquare may still be that leap too far, having said that a number of enterprising NZ businesses are already taking advantage of it.

I have been using Foursquare for just a few days and instantly grasped its potential. I suspect that this will take some time to catch on in New Zealand given our propensity to value and protect our individual privacy at all costs. It may be worth taking a moment to get better acquainted with this emerging platform before you start being a doubting Thomas.

Twitter has been around for over three years and conceptually about as basic as any communication platform could be - build a community and share your thoughts, ideas and resources with them. Foursquare is a little more complex, has a game play element to it and requires notifying people to your exact location. Despite any initial reservations or preconceived anxieties it has some interesting promotional applications for any business prepared to think outside the square.

Foursquare makes use of the geo-location (A-GPS) functionality of the smartphones like iPhone, Blackberry and Android, much like the one in your in-car navigation system.  Now link this location based function with your social network, add the ability to get and give comments, tips and feedback with a few incentive bonus points thrown in and this starts making sense. Like most other Social platforms you invite and build a list of friends. As you travel around to destinations like malls, cafes, restaurants and bars you “check in”. You are given the option of doing this privately or posting your whereabouts to your selected Foursquare friends list. For those wanting to be a little more public the location and a custom message can also be added to your Twitter and Facebook sites at the same time.

Points are awarded to you for adding venues not currently on the Foursquare listing as are points and awards for every time you check in or reach certain milestones. Where Foursquare starts giving some real value back apart from being able to locate friends for a quick meet up whether at a café, concert or conference is you are able to leave comments, tips and advice to those that check-in to the same spot later. This could be a recommendation of a great meal, nice wine on their list or making people aware of price special. This point tally is accumulated over a week and can be compared to that of your list of friends.

Another feature that gives incentive for repeat venue visitation is becoming “Mayor”. This is awarded to the individual that makes the most return visits to any location (not on the same day). This is where businesses like Giapo Gelato, the online savvy gelato store on Queen Street in Auckland are starting to make it work for them. They offer a free Waffle cone every day to the current reining Mayor. Other business like cafes might offer free coffee, are you getting the idea? At current count Giapo Gelato have had 1468 check-ins with the reigning Mayor “Peter C” having checked-in 39 times (little doubt having sampled many of the great flavours).

It is worth mentioning that this is not the first application of its type, and certainly won’t be the last. BrightKite is one example that some claim has all the same features and better functionality. Like any innovation, (think back to the Beta vs. VHS video battle) it’s not always the best platform that wins, it’s were the most users are. On that basis Foursquare seems to be leading the charge. Facebook have recently launched their new app “Places” which has taken all the best features of Foursquare. With the weight of numbers backing it up Facebook have the potential of grinding others into insignificance so it will be interesting to see the uptake when it is accessible from NZ.

The application for the phone can be downloaded from

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Why your customers are turning to Social Media.

You may have noticed the way we communicate and engage with each other has changed. In no small part it is because of technology, though it’s less of a technology revolution and more of a communications evolution.

Better computers and high speed broadband connectivity has had a big influence on how we access the Internet. As if being wired wasn’t enough we have stepped into the science fiction realms of our own lifetime and taken broadband with ubiquitous wireless and digital cellular to the streets and beyond, it’s gone mobile. Smart phones and
iPads are not only communications devices they give us access to email and internet, are entertainment centres, video recorders, cameras, satellite navigation systems, music players, word processors, and that’s just some of the features of the basic mobile phone. Try an iPhone on for size - 225,000 applications available and counting.

We have discovered in recent years getting information from online sources increasingly convenient because it was faster and reached further with a little help from a search engine known as Google. We expected more from this resource and it didn’t disappoint so we have made the World Wide Web integral to both our personal and business lives. No longer the domain of the technical elite and “other life” geeks it is now something that all the family regard as a must have rather than just a fashion accessory or passing fad.

We now use video and discussion forums, we share our experiences and concerns in real time and voice our opinions for all to see in a very public and global online community in an activity labelled as Social Networking. This shift in the way we think and use the
internet is known as Web 2.0, the platforms like Twitter and Facebook are household names and known collectively as Social Media.

Social Media is redefining the way we share ideas, build trust and make our purchasing decisions. These rapidly expanding online platforms are able to provide users with a forum to get and to give real time feedback. Reviews and recommendations are fed instantaneously to our communities of influence, tribes, friends, fans and followers via Social Media platforms like
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Wiki’s, YouTube and Blogs. Because of this high level of interactivity, real time information sharing and self-publishing of video, images and blogs which are now considered mainstream media, there will be - and can be - no looking back.

Our customers are no longer relying on traditional methods of broadcast marketing to be influenced; they are listening to each other and to engage as businesses or brands you have to be part of this conversation. Not engaging in Social Media for fear that someone may criticise your product, complain about your service or copy your ideas is counterproductive. If they have a complaint they will be complaining anyway, you just won’t know it, and worse can do little about it. If you don’t want your ideas heard and discussed, by not engaging you will get your wish, they won’t. Your customers will move on to those that have open dialogues, share their expertise and ultimately with whom they form a trusted relationship. As businesses trying to compete in an increasingly competitive and global marketplace we either keep pace with these changes, or we will become irrelevant to our existing and potential customers forever.

No-one said this was going to be easy. This article cannot create a one size fits all explanation because there just isn’t one; no form of human interaction and idea exchange could, or should be that straight forward. What we need to do as business people is plan. Many businesses have done too little planning as it is, so if nothing else this is a great excuse to start the ball rolling. It’s time to think seriously about whom we want to reach and for what purpose and engage all our team from senior management to the shop floor in the process.

What Social Media is not is a mechanism to sell or to broadcast, if used badly it does have the potential to create a negative impact on your brand, product or service. We must rethink how we are to communicate and how we will engage and how to encourage our customers to talk about us, as advocates and ambassadors. It is only then that the true value and potential of Social Media will be apparent.

It’s almost unimaginable how far we have advanced with communications technology alone in the past century. Yet philosophically we have almost come full circle since Napoleon Hill gathered the thoughts and ideas of the great business minds of his time and wrote the now legendary book “Think and Grow Rich”. Published in 1937 at the time of the great depression he talked about the importance of values, of knowing your customer and having a meaningful relationship. It also emphasised the importance of planning and setting achievable goals. It’s good to know that some things haven’t changed.

Use Social Media to communicate and build trust with your target market. Apply some strategic planning with common sense, and getting some professional help to better understand the technical and strategic implications before taking things too far would be highly recommended. Apply the same rules to your online engagements that you would to any real-life conversation and relationship and you are on the right track to transferring the return on engagement to a return on investment.

P.S. To help you get some experience and better understand these tools I invite you to join my networks here and start your journey by using the tools in a safe and trusted environment. No-one can know too much or too little, we are all here to learn and share our thoughts, ideas and experience. 

Twitter: (Join the conversation)
LinkedIn Group (Join the discussion)
Facebook Page: (Join the community)