Do It Yourself!

The other day on our radio broadcast, Insight on Business the News Hour, we talked about DIY for social media and why that works better than hiring somebody to do the work it takes to engage consumers...your consumers. Don't get us wrong, there are lots and lots of very Keep Calm and DIYtalented people out there who will Tweet, Facebook and Blog for you but...they will never be as good as you.

The push back we get is, "I don't have time to write a 300 word post every week" or "I don't have time to Tweet ten or twelve times a day". The fact is...you do. Let me help you break it down.

If you are spending time with an outside contractor telling them your story, telling them about the impact you had on consumers last week telling them what is hot in your business then you've got time to write it down. It's not that you "don't have time" it's that you simply don't believe in the tools of social media and consumer engagement so you don't MAKE TIME.

I can share, from years of experience and collecting fees for doing social media for others, it is often painful. While we can write and communicate we are not as invested or know the details you know about your business. That is unless we have daily or weekly conversations and then we simply parrot back what you've already shared with us.

So, yes, you have the time.

So let's get started with the a simple three step process to get you to engage your customers in your business blog:

  • What is your Competitive Advantage? - Don't write stuff that doesn't matter to your customers...write down why your customers do business with you. Take fifteen minutes and think of the reasons they have built a relationship with you. Forget about "fast" and "free" focus on how you have built value into the business transaction; 
  • No Weeds - Don't get caught up in selling the steak...sell the sizzle. Far too often business wants to list out the details...all the details. You are miles ahead if you keep it simple and direct;
  • Solve Problems First - What is it that your business does to make your customers or clients life easier, less complicated more enjoyable. You, after all, are the expert in what you do. Now go and share those stories with others who have the same business or life issues. 

Three topics and fifteen to thirty minutes a week and you're in business. DIY Social Media is real and important to consumers they would love to hear from you. Once you've got this down then it is on to the tools that make organic social media work better.  That's next.

Thanks for reading...


It's Called SOCIAL Media Because...

It happens more often than not. When business people talk about social media they tend to think it's their personal broadcast station used Man Confused to push out only what THEY think is important.  And, that is exactly why so many fail to harness the true power of this media platform.

Consider this: ESPN broadcasts sports. All kinds of sports. Not just baseball or football or (my personal favorite) curling. OK, not really but you get my point. They broadcast what is in the interest of their viewers. How do they know? Because the network spends millions listening to the general public and then it spoon feeds us what we tell them we want. Which is why you don't see Monday Night Curling.

I get it, you don't have "millions" but you do know your consumer base...right? What is it that motivates them? What is it that gets your customer to nod their head in agreement? What trigger is it that, when pulled, launches engagement? If you don't know then please stop using social media because you will not be pleased with the results and you will consider it all a waste of time.

But...if you understand that your social media platform is more about THEM than YOU...you're on to something.  Let me give you a real-world example.

Mindi Sudman MPL 24 March 2017Some of you know that we are the fuel that powers the daily business news broadcast Insight on Business the News Hour. Every weekday all engines stop here at the ad agency and we go to work compiling the business news of the nation, region and the local Des Moines Metro. It's then off to the Des Moines Radio Group to deliver that news, the Wall Street Report and perform two long-form business interviews with startups to established companies. We've been doing this for nearly four years.

Each Friday we do a "Restaurant of the Week" segment and invite a locally owned restaurateur in to learn the "back-story" of their business. Once done we share with that restaurant (or business) the link to the Radio Blog, photos of our time together and a document that suggests how they might use the radio interview to engage their social media fans/customers.

We can always tell who is successful in their understanding of social media by watching the number of people who then click through to One Eleven Public House 26 March 2017listen to the interview. Last week our Restaurant of the Week was One Eleven Public House a brand new place on Main Street in Knoxville, Iowa. Within 26 hours that interview had been downloaded and listened to by over 225 people. And that is on only ONE of our metrics. You can add another 87 downloads from Podbean, our podcast page and iTunes is still growing. (Go ahead and click on the image to the right.)

Mindi Sudman, (above in studio) the owner of One Eleven Public House gets it..or whomever is doing her social media gets it. And they did not limit their sharing on just Facebook they shared across Instagram and it was trending on Twitter.

Understanding social media, what it is and what it is not, is critical to your marketing success. It has to be done often, right and targeted toward those whom you wish to reach and influence.

Otherwise...it's just a waste of time.

Love to hear your thoughts and thanks for reading! 

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Whims and Social Media

We were reading through some restaurant reviews the other day and found several that were very critical of number of restaurants in the Waiter RestaurantDes Moines Metro. There were some of the usual complaints about the lack of speedy service, bland food and the cost vs. the amount of food. Those are the things we often see. However, I've always wondered if diners take their concerns to the restaurant owner or manager at the time...or if they wait to shout about their experience on Social Media.

I've had this conversation with restaurant owners in the past and they tell me they often never hear about a complaint until it is posted online. That's like the old saying, "closing the barn door after the horse gets out". You would think the customer would say something at the time rather than wait. But there is some comfort, I guess, in being removed from the event. That way the complaint can go...unanswered and unfixed.  Which is too bad.

I took a moment and reached out to one of the more critical writers and asked her to give me, what she considered, her favorite restaurants in the Metro. Sort of let me know what she values regarding to her dining experience.  This is the answer: "Well, I don't have a favorite it all just depends on my mood and where I end up."

I understand sort of a whim...

But what happens when that "whim" turns to social media to complain about ______ fill in the blank. Restaurants are only as good as the people who staff them and sometimes they fail. I guess I'd rather deal with the issue one-on-one at the time rather than take it online. It, at least, gives the restaurant the opportunity to work toward a resolution of the issue that benefits both the diner and restaurant.

Your thoughts?

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Is It The Content or Something Else?

We're now in our fourth year of reporting the business news of the nation, region and the IOB_podcastv2 Greater Des Moines Metro during Insight on Business the News Hour. Each weekday starting at 5:05pm we take to the air on AM-940, FM-104.5 and in HD at 103.3 HD2 and report the business news of the day, what the market did and why and then conduct two long-form business interviews with startups to established corporations. To date we've conducted over 1,500 of those interviews with nearly 147,000 downloads on just one of our podcast pages, Podbean. You can see that here.

That's the history.

And we've noticed something that should be of interest to those of you attempting to extend your voice with social media.  

Social media experts tell us that "content is king". If you produce good and valuable content people will notice and engage. We think that's true as long as the content is about cats or food. Business? Not so much. The vast consumer population could care less about how to grow, maintain, start and stay in business.

Or wait...might it be something else?

We watch, very carefully, the download and listening numbers as they appear on iTunes and Podbean. We also follow the data on Bitly and we've noticed that those business people and businesses who join us for an interview and then share their story along several social media Man Megaphonechannels gain a big advantage. In other words they are not keeping their story...secret or to themselves they are telling the world and it matters.

And, if those businesses or business people carry their message forward for several days/weeks their download numbers explode. Sure we're there carrying the water as well but when the organic tweets and Facebook posts and LinkedIn posts happen more than once...it extends their voice so much further.

There is a valuable lesson here: Social Media is not a "one-and-done" effort. Think of it this way, if you got a new job or you're about to get married or you've just closed a huge deal... would you tell just one person?  No. You would repeat that story several times over the life of the news.

It's the same thing here. The very same thing. Content does matter but so too does properly sharing that content.

Your turn!

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Never Mind We've Got This...

I recently attended a meeting of about 20 volunteers who had gathered to discuss Man Head in Handscommunication efforts. The communication they desire is to build brand awareness and to share information critical to their brand and interested consumers. From what I could gather, from the brief introductions, I was the only professional marketer in the room.

In that two hour meeting there was plenty of discussion about social media, particularly Facebook. An hour into the meeting I asked a question about their existing website, "As with any brand the company website is often the first point of contact among consumers seeking more information about the product or service. It would seem to me that your first consideration would be to put up a website that is mobile friendly, easy to maintain and simple to navigate." I should note here their existing website has none of those qualities.

The response was, "The people we are attempting to reach do not go to websites they would much rather get their information from Facebook." In other words, "Shut up. We've got this."

I spent the next hour listening to minutia about Facebook. From posting to monitoring to limiting access of comments. It was an interesting insight on "group think" with the group having no clear understanding of marketing their message.

For those of you who are in business, and have an interest, allow me offer some simple marketing and advertising thoughts when it comes to building your brand. Ready?

Websites - In my professional opinion your website should be the foundation of your brand. It is your website that is accessible to the world. It is the repository of your brand message, contact information, blog, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter links. It must be mobile friendly. It must be updated on a regular basis and it must contain information of value to consumers. Ignoring that simple truth is putting your brand at jeopardy.

Blogging - Second only to your website should be your business blog. It is here where your "voice" can be shared in well thought out posts. For folks who want to know more about your business or non-profit your blog can be that gateway. Then use Social Media to share that message with a wider audience. Finally, when your blog becomes part of your Website Home Page you are updating content each time you post. And that is critical to Google Ranking and SEO.

Facebook - The potential universe for this particular non-profit would be roughly 300,000 people of various ages, ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. Their existing public Facebook page has about 800 followers yet they believe this should be their main branding tool. They are talking to themselves. There is a place for Facebook but it should never be your primary marketing tool. Never.

Twitter -There seemed to be some confusion about how to best use Twitter. We find it to be an amazing news gathering and sharing tool that should, in our opinion, never be linked to your Facebook stream. They are two very different forms of communication and when your Twitter feed has a few words and then that Facebook link it tells those of us who use Twitter on a daily basis you're not really putting in the work to share your brand. We've got a blog post on that from several years ago. It will offer you "why".

YouTube - The world loves video. Here is a post from 2012 that speaks to the power of video for business THEN. Today the numbers are even more staggering. However, to gain traction the video that is produced must be well done, share valuable information and have the ability to capture the attention of the consumer in the first five seconds. This is a project best done by professionals otherwise it can be a waste of time.

Instagram - There was little talk about this social media tool that we've found to be fun, informative and growing in popularity. However, Instagram does have some limitations such as linking and we believe you must post to the platform at least three times a day to gain traction.

Just some of the things I would have shared with my friends however...they were not really interested. They've got this covered...

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Six Retail Marketing Tips - Small Business Saturday

Coming up on Saturday November 26th is National Small Business Saturday. If you own Small-Business-Saturday-Header-Undated that brick and mortar business allow me to offer up some marketing tips that will help you beat out the Big Box.

First, let’s consider what the impact of Small Business Saturday is for business. Check these numbers! According to a recent Sales Fuel survey last year 23 percent of U.S. adults shopped at a locally owned business on Small Business Saturday. While that is lower than the 33 percent of adults who shopped online during Cyber Monday more than half of those online shoppers said they would rather shop at small, locally owned businesses if the price and product quality is similar. And get this… Millennials aged 25 to 34 make up the single largest segment of Small Business Saturday shoppers at nearly 25 percent…  So quit worrying that all this demographic does is shop online…they don’t. 

So, how can you grab their attention from Millennials to Boomers?  Let’s go!

Start now. More than half of last year’s Small Business Saturday shoppers also shopped at brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. This behavior means they might be tapped out and less motivated to shop on Small Business Saturday. To avoid this, create a marketing plan that includes consistent outreach from now until Small Business Saturday. What should that plan include?

  • In-Store Signage – Reminding shoppers that Saturday is Small Business Saturday and you’ve got even more deals coming.
  • Social Media Outreach – Do the same here remind folks that dollars spent locally stay local…it matters;
  • Photo Op – Take a section of your store and decorate with fun stuff so folks can take selfies of their shopping experience…they will share and you can also share on Instagram and Snapchat;
  • Traditional Marketing – If you’re buying ads to promote Black Friday also mention Small Business Saturday.

Make it mobile - Small Business Saturday shoppers will be turning to their smartphones to locate local stores, find product information and reviews, and compare prices. If you have free Wi-Fi let customers know. If you are doing email marketing make sure those messages are mobile friendly and any links go to mobile friendly landing pages that speak to shopping opportunities in your store. If you are doing text message marketing because nearly 36 percent of Millennials in the study say they took action base on such advertising.

Give your business website and local search presence a going-over - Your store should be listed on local search directories; check to be sure that the information listed there and on your business website is complete and accurate. In particular, your store’s address, hours and phone number should be easy to find. If you have special holiday hours, keep them updated or post a list of daily hours throughout the holiday season.

So…does it matter?  Just this past week I was looking for a phone number of a small business in the Des Moines Metro…on the business website. Not only was the website not mobile friendly but I could not find a way to connect by phone…no phone listed!  ACK…

Be social - Millennials are 57 percent more likely than the average shopper to take action based on an ad on a social network. Getting attention with organic Facebook posts has become more difficult, but Facebook advertising is quite affordable and effective. You can set a budget, monitor results and target your advertising very narrowly to people within your local community. Pair your Facebook advertising with a strong presence on Instagram and maybe even Snapchat.

Send the right message - Savvy shoppers crave the unique and individual. Your marketing messages should emphasize what makes your store stand out from big-box retailers. In addition to personal service and a friendly greeting, one-of-a-kind products, a carefully curated selection of items and gifts that people will find not only appealing but also priced right. Entice shoppers into your store with the back-story of why your business exists…

If you do a google search for Small Business Saturday you’ll find a page dedicated to specific free printable items you can use to help market your small business. If you are reading this piece on our blog here is that link.

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It's Nearly Here - Are You Ready?

Let's not "beat around the bush" the critical 4th Quarter is nearly here and for many businesses Time Hour Glass it's make or break time. Are you ready to take advantage of what could be the best quarter of 2016 for just about any business?  Let's roll through some opportunity areas:

Traditional Broadcast Media - As they say "Fa-git about it!" It's an election year and if you have not secured your broadcast slots by now...good luck getting airtime between now and November. Many broadcast outlets will bounce your ad in response to political advertising. Make sure you well understand the conditions before you buy.

Traditional Print Media - Depending on what you are selling and even though traditional print media is in a major slump there are still opportunities here with your newspaper. If you are a local business some of the "neighborhood" magazines are still a buy. Word of caution: Remember "Less is More" when it comes to print advertising. Use color, buy at least a half page and be very image focused with a minimum of words...trust us.

Facebook Specials - Start your planning now for your Facebook Ads and Facebook Rewards for your most loyal customers. Make sure your graphics stand out and that the call to action is clear. And, don't bother with a 10% off reward. People don't really start to get motivated unless it is 20% or higher.

Back-Story Blog - You do have a business blog...right? This week start writing down what you are doing to prepare for the 4th Quarter. Give your readers/customers a look behind the scenes as to what is going on as you prepare for THEM a great shopping season. Even if you are not seasonal but a professional business; people love to "look behind the curtain".

Social Media Efforts - Planning is key. First you must know WHERE your target market is spending time. If your target is young consumers try Snapchat and Instagram. Don't forget about targeted geo-marketing using digital and if you don't have an active social media presence now is the time to start...like today.

YouTube - If you can't buy television time because of the election cycle...create your own television station on YouTube and share your creative videos across several social media channels. You won't get the coverage but...it can build sales.

Customer Satisfaction Surveys - The business that cares about how they meet or exceed their customers needs wins. Look, all you have to do is ask. Use your email list of customers (you have one right) and design a quick survey and in that survey do not forget to have at least one "call to action", "If you were pleased with our service what is it we can do for you now to help you and make your day better?"  Gotta ask for the order.

Website Update - Update your website with images of fall and change some wording around. Remember, even on your website you should have a call to action...

There are all kinds of ways to take advantage of the 4th Quarter but it takes time and effort. This is not an exhaustive list...but it's enough to get you started.

Thanks for reading!

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Working It!

One of our preferred methods of communicating with businesses is on Twitter. The reason is simple; if the company is social media savvy the response time on Twitter is much faster and more direct than an email or phone call. Why? Because of transparency. When a company says they are "customer focused" yet ignore consumers the promise is empty.  In other words their action, or often inaction, speaks volumes. However on Social Media, and in this case Mid American Energy CONVO USE August 2016Twitter, everybody has a peek at what is really going on.

Sometimes things happen that allow the cream to rise to the top (if you've never milked a cow you might have to go look that up). Sometimes big and small companies outperform and here are two examples.

Last week there was a power outage in much of Iowa due to storms. Here in the Des Moines Metro thousands were without power. MidAmerican Energy is the local provider and I've learned, over the years, to turn to Twitter for help and input. I mentioned we were without electricity in our part of the Metro and within moments help and advice came back from @Mid_AmEnergyCo. So I checked their Twitter Stream and found their social media team was responding with not only advice but empathy. Actual REAL PEOPLE were responding and showing concern.

You can read the conversation above and to the right. If you click on the image it will enlarge...start at the bottom.

DART Convo August 2016Then, later in the week, I rode a Des Moines Area Rapid Transit bus to the Iowa State Fair. The bus lacked air conditioning and folks were opening up windows on the ride from the Capitol to the fairgrounds. I sent a Tweet chiding @RideDart and within two minutes they responded and were on it...notice the second screen shot.

Bottom Line

It does not matter if you are a small business or a large corporation you need to know and understand that in the world today there are many ways to communicate and be transparent. Those companies who "get it" and respond with feeling, empathy and honesty will always rise to the top and I, as a business person, am proud to call them out and share with you why I support them.  It takes work and dedication from the part of the company but it is so rewarding for those of us who count on you for service...well done! 

 

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The Other Universe

I was visiting today with a company that has been in their space for over 60 years. It's a good Man Older Social Mediacompany and known nationally however their brand needs to be adjusted. Consumers and business professionals know them as something that there were...not what they are today.

So, how do you re-brand a business and make that brand reflect what it is today vs. what it was thirty years ago? Oh, and their budget is limited but they have lots of people working for the company.

I introduced them to "The Other Universe".  Some of us call it social media.

Trouble is they don't understand how to make it work. Sure, they have heard of social media and yes they have a Twitter account and a business Facebook Page however, as is the case with most businesses, it is anemic. 

How do we fix that?  We start with a plan. An honest to goodness written down plan of action to make all of this work.  In that plan we must write down what our goal is and how we will measure success. Oh, and one other thing; we need to outline exactly who our target is and how we will reach out.

All of that needs to be done before they hit the keyboard.

Any bets it will get done?

It better because, in that "Other Universe" businesses, who have not been in the game as long, are figuring it out and I wouldn't want my friends to lose market share to some upstart.

Right?

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Yesterdays News

In the fast-paced world in which we live and with the myriads of information outlets available People Fast Pace Twodo you notice how fast yesterdays news gets forgotten?  Not that it was not important but people move on...quickly.

If you are a business and you are using social media to communicate with consumers doesn't it make sense to continue to drive your message...often and at different times of the day?

We think so and here are several tips to help you on the way:

  • Post Often - You work on your blog post and put it on Facebook and Twitter once. Chances are very few people will actually see what it is you took time to create. It is not bad form to re-post your piece several times during different day-parts; 
  • Mimic the Media - To that point start, on Twitter, to follow several news outlets. You will find they re-post news stories often and, in doing so, they change up the wording so that it is fresh;
  • Use Images - Doesn't matter if it is Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Snapchat make sure your image is included and the caption matches the image. It is more difficult with Twitter and 140 characters but worth it because the click through rate goes up;
  • Use a Service - We have used Hootsuite (there are others) for several years. It offers us the opportunity to schedule Tweets over a wide period of time. So we can send out the same story, with different words and sometime photos over various time periods and it takes just a few minutes;
  • Respond - If somebody likes what you are sharing make sure you respond with a "Thank you" or better yet feel free to ask a question about why they liked or re-posted what you have written.  Remember, social media is not just a broadcast tool it is about building relationships.

Five pretty simple tips that will help you boost your engagement.  After all, that is what we are all hoping for...right?

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