Archive for 'group'

Hourglass Precept: 3 Ways to Increase Sales

On April 2, 2008, Zing Sales Solutions gave a presentation to a small group of business executives here in Louisville, KY. You can read about the “Zing Insights Presentation” by clicking on the link. I have attempted to recreate that presentation for you below in video format. Please check it out.

Once you’ve viewed the video, what are your initial thoughts? Did the video inspire you to look at your current selling methodologies? Are you selling into the customer buying cycle today? Let us hear from you by sharing your feedback below.

Cincinnati Social Media Breakfast Review

This morning (April 29, 2008), I (Roger) attended a social media breakfast in Cincinnati at the Holiday Inn in Newport that was “headlined” or “emceed” (whatever term you’d prefer to toss in here works for me) by Albert Maruggi. One of the primary reasons I decided to attend was that I’ve listened to Albert’s podcast, The Marketing Edge, for quite some time and have enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s always nice to meet the human behind all of it in person versus text in an e-mail, blog posting, or Twitter exchange. Additionally, there are a few people that I’ve interacted with on-line that I thought would be nice to meet in person so this was a great opportunity to do that although early mornings are extremely rough on me and always have been.

Early morning whining aside, here’s a rundown from my perspective of the event:

Attendees in Cincinnati:

The group that made it out for the event wasn’t large in numbers, but it was obvious that there were a lot of talented folks that had opinions about social media and its place within business. WIth apologies ahead of time to anyone I neglect to mention, here is a list of people in attendance along with links to their business , primary content outlet (such as a blog or podcast site) or Twitter profile (in case you wish to follow them).

Twitter Implications for Business

The conversation began with Jason Falls sharing his experience about Twittering about Robby Gordon for Jim Beam for the Baja 1000 and how this took Jim Beam to a new level of marketing and created a unique following. Other drivers’ crews got wind of what Jason was doing and sent him updates to Twitter about them as well. This spurred on further conversation about Twitter and how it can be used for business in addition to getting to know someone better.

The recent earthquake in the Ohio Valley that shook Louisville and the Ohio Valley a bit was discussed. It was mostly agreed that all of the information the media, local and national, was begging for was readily available on Twitter if anyone elected to look there, but they seemed to request information and personal stories through more traditional mechanisms such as the telephone and e-mail. Jason estimated that it took something like 37 minutes from the time he first noticed something on Twitter about the earthquake to when a media outlet reported something.

Albert offered up the Next Newsroom initiative and how that may impact journalism as we know it today which sparked a good portion of our friendly debates this morning.

Citizen Journalism – The Future?

There was a lengthier debate about citizen journalism and how that can be effectively managed and embraced by traditional media. The suggestion was made that print media HAS to get their story right the first time whereas on-line media (blogs in particular) can go back and edit their story should there be inaccuracies. In print, this can be very damaging so traditional media errs heavily on the side of caution and verifiable sources before running with a story. Things will likely remain this way for print because of the ramifications of erroneous reporting.

It was also suggested that it’s nearly impossible for traditional media to open up the publication gates to allow herds of citizen journalists into the fray because the average reader won’t automatically get the fact that it’s not a trained writer and that the facts may not be 100% verified versus someone expressing their thoughts and opinions like they can with blogs and social media.

Albert stated that the Next Newsroom Project is offering training for citizen journalists so that they are more responsible with their reporting and can become a valued resource to the community they aim to serve. Something to keep an eye on.

Some random thoughts and out-takes:

  • Newsvine is good at weeding out quality content
  • Digg is not so good for community based stuff yet is good for articles and content discovery
  • Cinplify.com was mentioned as a local (Cincinnati) resource that is similar to Digg
  • Albert mentioned how StumbleUpon is driving a lot of traffic to his sites while others mentioned how Twitter is doing the same for theirs (personal note: I’ve seen about 1/4 of our recent referral traffic from Twitter to Zing’s main site)
  • Archive.org keeps track of the history of sites and its content
  • Think about how you’re going to brand yourself before you enter into the social media sphere; if you’re to use your full name, consider the implications down the road should you wish to “re-invent” yourself–that history isn’t going to disappear quickly
  • Any site based on an algorithm can be gamed because it generally takes just one element of the algorithm to exploit it; once that element is figured out, the game is on!

Overall, this was a top notch meeting and a lot of healthy debate took place. I’m glad I made the trek and met more interesting people that I can socialize with on and off-line. I am looking forward to interacting more with those in attendance this morning and learning various perspectives on social media as they pertain to business. Thanks to all of you!

If you were in attendance, what was your take? Did I miss something major? Did I spell your name wrong? 😉 Please let me hear from you.

Zing Social Media Overview Seminar Review

Yesterday (April 23, 2008), we hosted a very small group to discuss “10 Ways to Increase Sales from Social Media” at Zing’s offices in Louisville. For those that didn’t get the opportunity to attend, here’s a summarization of what all was discussed.

We started off the discussion with a quick round robin to see who all used various social media sites in some of the different categories. Included in the mix were sites such as LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Scribd, HubPages, Squidoo, EzineArticles, and WordPress (blogs). Our small group had mixed reactions to the sites mentioned whether they had heard of them or not. A lot of the sites were unheard of before our chat today so it’s fair to say that those sites aren’t being utilized yet by all of our attendees.

We had interesting debates throughout, but one thing stuck out to me that is both encouraging and puzzling all at once–a lot of people are very unaware of what is out there from a new media, web 2.0, on-line social aspect, but they realize it’s becoming more of a necessity for businesses to get involved. It’s no longer a novelty or kids’ playground anymore. Once you see large corporations investing major dollars on internet marketing and new media interests, the rules of the game change quickly. Usually new technologies in business follow a progression like this:

  1. Younger generations test out something because it has that “cool” factor and it’s new
  2. Solo entrepreneurs start to dabble thinking it might give them an edge and allow them to compete with larger competitors
  3. Small and medium businesses begin to realize that the solo entrepreneurs are onto something and begin to jump into the pool
  4. Finally, corporations see this wave of activity and understand the technology has matured enough to begin to invest substantial resources

Once the corporations are involved, it’s no longer a phenomenon or cool technology–it’s a full fledged strategy and set of tactics to make money. They may not have it mastered when they first enter the fray, but it won’t take them long to figure out how to capitalize.

So why is all of this happening so fast these days that some companies feel as though they’re getting left behind unless they act soon? Today’s consumer is tuned out to traditional advertising and media so it’s forcing the marketplace to become more creative in their approach, and that’s where social media comes into play. Believe it or not, there are still quite a few business executives out there that are reluctant to enter the social media space, and their reasonings vary greatly. Some of it is a generation gap, and some of it is a mindset that isn’t quite as “inclusive” by nature as a lot of us that are more comfortable with social media and sharing our lives publicly. I’m personally old enough to understand the apprehension from the “traditionalists” yet young enough to get the fascination with so many avenues for self expression.

All of that being said, there is no magic bullet where social media is concerned, but there are business applications for just about every sect of social media that need to be understood before making a decision to implement a strategy for one’s company. My recommendations for social media success, from a business perspective, to the group today were:

  1. Commit to a social media strategy or don’t bother
  2. Be yourself (hiding behind a pseudo-name isn’t going to win you points over the long haul)
  3. Transparency rules because people can sense a phony very quickly
  4. Be consistent
  5. Understand the time involvement–this isn’t like traditional advertising where you pay for a block of time or space and the returns are predictable. It may take a year for a social media strategy to begin to pay dividends, but those dividends could be huge. Can you afford to a) wait that long? or b) miss out on a great opportunity by passing on social media?
  6. Don’t try to sell–as mentioned above, people are tuned out to traditional advertising methods so showing up on a social media site trying to pitch your product or service isn’t going to be well received. It’s just like walking into a party where you know a couple of people–you wouldn’t barge into the middle of a group you didn’t know and immediately start trying to sell them something would you? I’d hope not. If you would, please skip my parties. 😉
  7. Follow the golden rule–give to receive and remember, it’s not about you first.
  8. Add value–become a resource or educate somehow if at all possible. Eventually people will notice and take action accordingly.

Finally, I’d summarize the overall message I was trying to convey to the group today as it’s all about an inclusive vs. an exclusive mindset. Traditional ways and methodologies versus new age and progressive strategies. We’ve gone from a business model of doing things FOR our clients to doing things WITH our clients. The firms which view things in that legacy view of “for” instead of “with” might find things a little rocky one day as we travel further down the path.

The rules of marketing have definitely changed, but have you changed with them? Either way, I’d like to hear your take.

Social Media Club Louisville: Meeting 3 Review

The SMC of Louisville met last evening (April 15, 2008) at The Fox & Hound. It was a very large group, and everyone seemingly had an excellent time although the actual presentation was hampered a bit by the loud music in the adjoining rooms. That’s no-one’s fault, and it didn’t negatively impact my experience one iota. Then again, bars are more of my element anyway. 😉

General Overview

Jason Falls played the role of “MC” for the event, and he started the evening with an excellent point–there is a lot of Social Media and Internet talent right here in Louisville, KY. The ‘Ville sometimes gets a bad rep from other locales as being backwards, country, redneck, hillbilly, etc., but there is a LOT of Internet talent in the River City, and a lot of people are stepping out and really leveraging social media in a big way. I couldn’t agree more with Jason’s opening statements. Next time you’re chatting with someone “in the know,” ask them to list the best people they’ve come across for doing something online, and chances are you might hear of someone from Louisville mentioned in the top 10.

Joining Jason on the “panel” for the evening were: Rob May of BusinessPundit fame, Chris Pearson, and Michelle Jones. All are very influential in their space and extremely talented. Each person shared their experience of how they came to blog and join the social media landscape along with some keys to success from their perspective.

Rob’s main takeaway for the evening could be summed up with Jim Rome’s radio show tagline for callers–“Have a Take and Don’t Suck!” Rob encouraged everyone attending to get involved online by being different. He said the key is to share personal experiences, controversy and/or strong opinions, or something that provides value to the reader. There are far too many “me, too” blogs and websites out there, and standing out requires being unique while contributing value. I concur with Rob’s core message for the evening.

Chris Pearson spoke next about getting people involved and engaging with you. If no one is contributing to your efforts with comments, links, or reviews, you’re essentially yelling into the wind where no one is listening. When you write or create online content, Chris contends, make it engaging and encourage participation through feedback or SOMETHING. Again, an excellent point.

No offense to Michelle, but it was most difficult for me to hear her (I was in the back of the room) so my notes are rather hazy. I did gather that she’s very passionate about Louisville, and that’s what propelled her to do something online in the first place. I believe one of her keys was to seek out something you’re passionate about and run with it because the passion will guide you in the right direction. (Michelle, I welcome your correction if I mis-heard you). She also encouraged the audience to give comments and feedback to get it. Another great point–a lot of bloggers or content creators think that if they create a great piece of content that floods of traffic will come flying in, and it doesn’t quite work that way. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way on several occasions, and I’m still wrestling with it.

Keys to Success

Jason then added more informative nuggets including:

  • Network regularly with someone that has a large following; eventually their followings’ curiosity will get the best of them, and they’ll check you out.
  • Try to network with your on-line contacts off-line, too. This can be extremely powerful!
  • Spread others’ messages to your following–“sneeze” their takes and opinions; this is in-line with the give to get philosophy; if you find something worth sharing, share it!
  • Have realistic expectations when you attempt to leverage social media for your business; don’t expect to enter the social media universe with the unrealistic expectation of generating a flood of business in short order–it takes time to build relationships off-line, and on-line is no different. This was one of my favorite points of the night because I’ve had similar conversations with potential clients, and they look at me like I have three heads when I say “your social media initiative ROI likely won’t be very good for awhile, but it could really pack a punch down the road.” Those aren’t popular words with executives, but they’re realistic if nothing else. Glad to hear Jason reiterate the point to the group although I’m guessing this particular audience already “gets it.” It’s their bosses that may not understand yet, and they need to hear this if they have aspirations of on-line/social media success.

Monetizing Social Media

The panel went on to discuss ways to make money with social media which was very interesting. Rob suggested building a valuable site (high PageRank, lots of visitors, a mini-community, etc.) before trying to leverage it as a profit center.

Some other takeaways:

  • Run your social media (blogging in particular) initiatives like a business–you have to invest resources just as you would a new division of your company. This is no different. I concur wholeheartedly, and I believe this is where a lot of companies miss the boat. They believe in the field of dreams approach and don’t understand that a consistent effort is what it’ll take to become successful online within the social media world.
  • Overall, there was a repeated theme amongst the panel of find those with a following and work to appeal to them. Do your homework and make sure it’s relevant. Also, make sure your style and overall approach meshes with the people you’re trying to appeal to. For example, it makes little sense to pitch PC related products to passionate Apple users.
  • Give to get was another popular theme amongst the panel, and that’s a great approach regardless of the business endeavor.
  • Be consistent with your frequency, tonality, and general message.
  • Be transparent and genuine–don’t hide behind anonymous handles or names or try to pretend to be something you’re not. People on-line can sniff out a fake rapidly, and the repercussions could be very damaging and costly. Word travels at light speed on-line, and you don’t want to draw the wrath of an upset and motivated community.

Off-line Socialization

Among the people I met for the first time:

  • Sarah Sapora of corecubed who moved here from Las Vegas and is excited to be involved with core and Louisville in general. Sarah was making her maiden voyage into the SMC so please welcome Sarah!
  • Stephen Harmon of HarmonWeddings.com–Stephen is a wedding photographer that also does business related photography.
  • Susan Gosselin of Gosselin Communications–Susan is involved in Public Relations and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with potential and existing clients.
  • Ed Bennett who is a freelance copywriter and used to work for the Courier Journal for several years. Ed and I had several great conversations about social media, the apparent direction of the CJ compared with the days of old, events from Louisville’s past including the tornadoes of 1974 (I was only 3 years old yet remember the day vividly believe it or not), and we freely admitted to each other that neither of us is comfortable in front of a camera so writing is a much better outlet for us.

Personal Experience & Summary

Overall, this was a great evening and event. I had a lot of fun, met some very neat “new” people (they’re technically not new just new to me), and learned something. The beer was very good and the staff at Fox & Hound was attentive, friendly and attractive which never hurts.If you didn’t get a chance to attend, I hope you make it to the next meeting. This is a growing community that is taking on a personality of its own. If you were there, I encourage you to share your thoughts on anything you’ve read here or anything I may have missed.

Twitter Ignorance to Twitter Love

For the longest time, I’d hear others opine about how much they loved Twitter and how it has enabled them to get to know others relatively quickly, but I’ve been on the outside looking in because I just didn’t “get it.”  I’d curl my lip and say “what’s the point with that service?” or “who would want to share what they’re doing all the time so stalkers could easily stalk them?”

That all changed about two weeks ago when I decided to really invest of myself into Twitter to see what all the buzz was about and try to figure out how business clients could benefit from the service.  It was as much self-education and mind expansion as it was figuring out the why behind all the buzz.  It’s not like I HAD to like the experience, but I wanted to give it a shot instead of dismissing it at every turn out of ignorance.

Well, my education has grown into great affection for the service, and I’m regularly “tweeting” to those that follow me and vice versa.  It really is a great way to get a glimpse into someone’s life without being nosy or prying into their space.  Since you can control what you share with others, it’s not like you’re opening your diary for the whole world to see or compromising your own safety by sharing what you’re up to.  Sharing just enough doesn’t equate to sharing intricate details.  For instance, let’s say I’m heading to eat at Jersey Mike’s (one of my favorites)–I could share that I’m heading there, but I don’t have to share which Jersey Mike’s that might be.

On the flip side, I could see how this might benefit those interested in developing stronger relationships with their local following, and that has business implications worth pursuing.  A lot of today’s business is conducted across great distances so this represents an opportunity to deepen relationships with people you may never physically encounter yet you can know as much about their lives, if not more, than their friends at home.  It works equally well for local contacts, too.  It’s much easier to “tweet” the entire following and encourage them to join you somewhere than it is to call or e-mail each person.  If they’re open to meeting with you, they have the option of showing up without having to make a big to do about it.  Hooray for that!  As someone who hates the telephone, this is a very easy way for me to spread a brief message without requiring a lot of legwork and coordination.  I’m all for minimizing hand holding opportunities.

You can also ask quick questions of your following and get short responses in fairly quick fashion.  This can be especially helpful if your group is a particularly savvy one–good advice for free is never a bad thing.

Anyway, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter if you’re so inclined and jump into the fun when the mood hits you.  The more you involve yourself, the more the service may appeal to you.  Then again, you may be like me a month ago and think it’s a gigantic waste of time.  I’ve been transformed since and see several benefits of being involved, but that doesn’t mean everyone will follow the same path as me.

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