Archive for 'Louisville'

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.

Social Media Power

Over the past 24 hours I’ve been reminded (again) how powerful Social Media has become in our daily life.  For instance, Gary Vaynerchuk has a daily video blog, and he was asking everyone to make today (April 3, 2008) “Good People Day.” I have never met Gary in person, but I feel as if I know him through his videos and his blog posts.  Gary is Gary–that’s what’s great about him.  I don’t think he’d be any different in person than he is in his videos and blog posts–therefore I consider Gary a friend even though we’ve never had face to face encounters.  I really like the guy, but I’m sure there are those that may not “get him.”  He’s not hiding from that though–he’s embracing it so I’m trying to do my part to help out a friend.  On my Facebook page, I’ve added three new friends and sent out a lot of “good karma” to several of my friends on there as a result of Gary’s initiative.

All of this got me to thinking, “how does a movement take form so quickly?”  Imagine something like this 15 years ago–it would have taken a metric ton of press coverage to spread as quickly as it has, but it’s reached little old Louisville, KY just as quickly as Gary posted his daily video blog entry last evening.  I noticed Todd Earwood Twittering about “Good People Day” just a moment ago and realized something like this can spread like wildfire in little to no time in just a day, and the power of that shouldn’t be underestimated.  So how would someone new to the social media landscape tap into something like this?

  1. Social media is not a whole lot different from developing relationships offline.  It takes time to develop relationships, and it takes even longer to develop deep relationships so don’t expect to go online and generate a massive following in a couple of weeks that will promote your “cause.”
  2. Be genuine.  The social media world can sense a fake so always be yourself.  That’s the person you’re best at playing anyway so don’t try to deviate from that in an effort to compromise others’ trust.
  3. Participate without being a stalker or attention hog.  Observe for a bit then chime in (in kind) when something interests you, but don’t hog the conversation or spotlight.  It’s not all about you with social media.
  4. Remember: it’s inclusion vs. exclusion.  “Old media” was all about keeping people out and controlling the message at all times.  New media is all about networks of people with varying interests connecting with one another and socializing in a way that fits them.  They’re free to spread whatever message they want via whatever medium they feel most comfortable.

So why do you think “old media” feels so threatened by new media?  They can’t control the message anymore, and all of the rules of reporting JUST the facts have vanished.  People’s opinions actually matter now.  Water cooler conversation is just as important as an article you see in the newspaper if not more so today.

In the “old days,” a person was rarely called out by name in print unless they had consented or they had done something wrong to which they gave up the right to consent.  In today’s social media world, it’s not uncommon to see someone blog about someone in a positive manner and name them by name while linking back to them to help include more people in the mix and help them get to know more of the writer’s circle of friends.  That’s the “social” in social media.

So the takeaway I got out of all of this is you’re either embracing social media as a legitimate outlet or you’re battling it.  I’m obviously embracing it, but what do you think of it?  Are you comfortable that someone can find you online very easily and/or connect with you with little effort while having a potentially powerful network of connections they can influence to boot?  What do you think of social media and its impact? Please share your thoughts on this as I’m curious about the social climate as it pertains to business today.

Inaugural Zing Presentation Review

Today, Ken, Watson, and I (Roger) headed to Wilson Muir Bank in St. Matthews bright and early to give our first official Zing Presentation to a small group of business owners from around Louisville. We discussed the impact personalized marketing has on increasing revenue; sales and marketing alignment; standing out amongst the massive amounts of marketing clutter; “The Hourglass Precept” and how that came about along with automated marketing campaigns. A tad bit of time was dedicated to our partnership with Infusion and how various automated marketing campaigns can provide a consistent experience for the customer and eliminate unnecessary phone calls a sales rep has to make to warm up leads.

In attendance were:

It dawned on me during the presentation how our organization has really evolved over the last year or so when we began flirting with the idea of partnering on something together. It made me very proud to have gone through the experience with Ken and Watson even though there have been some bumps in the road, but what worthwhile venture doesn’t experience that?

When we began, we thought we were going to be more of a lead and awareness generation type of outfit, then we came to realize that we were getting deeper into the sales funnel which ultimately led us to focusing on helping clients increase revenue by capitalizing on the entire sales “hourglass” instead of just the top part of it (the traditional sales funnel). The bottom half of the hourglass focuses on repeat purchases, building customer loyalty and creating ambassadors for your brand. Worthwhile stuff indeed.

Some of the things to come out of the dialogue amongst the group was that the focus on the bottom half of the hourglass is a good place to focus to help our clients increase sales. That seemed to be a consensus although each attendee had different perspectives on what they heard.

Todd Smith of Formwood, who happens to be the king of great metaphors, stated that the key for him when considering any initiative is “return on time” or ROT for short. We’re planning to use that term more in the future as it really captures the essence of automated marketing. One of the initial metaphors Todd shared with us the first time we all met was that he was trying to keep his organization from “swinging at pitches in the dirt.” That’s well stated, and it summarizes what a lot of organizations go through as they grow. Too many wasted swings at bad pitches that can’t be hit with a boat oar. Anyway, Todd is always great to talk to because there will usually be a nifty takeaway that is applicable across a wide array of situations.

Overall, I thought this was a very good introduction of Zing to the local business public and something we can definitely build upon. As of this post, we’re tentatively planning to have our next presentation on April 15, but that may be delayed one week due to vacation plans and event coordination considerations. Check the blog for more details as one of us will post something when there are more details ironed out. I hope you can join us for one of our next outings.

SMC Louisville Meeting Recap

I (Roger) attended my first Social Media Club of Louisville event last night hosted at C-Net’s office here in the ‘Ville.  I had a good time and enjoyed meeting Joe, Lenny, Chris, Jason Falls, Jeremiah, and chatting with Rob and Todd (who I already knew ahead of time).  Thanks to Jason for bringing beer for everyone (that was a very pleasant surprise) and the kind soul who provided an elaborate food spread for the gang.

The focus of the meeting last night was being social as there were no speeches or formalized agendas . . . just people getting to know one another which is what a “social club” should be all about right?

Joe, Jason and I chatted about balancing all of the options out there to share content and some ways each of us attempt to create content by forcing ourselves out of our comfort zones to stimulate creativity and focus.  Glad to know the strategy I use, boarding myself up in a hotel room out of town, isn’t viewed as “strange” like it was by my ex-girlfriend.  😉

Rob and I chatted about creating some social media educational resources although Rob is severely strapped for time with multiple companies and a newborn.  If anyone is interested in working together to develop some educational material (eBooks, videos, podcasts, workbooks, etc.) about social media or automated marketing campaigns, please contact me.  I’m not very skilled in front of a camera so that would be a very welcome addition to the mix.

Chris, Lenny and I chatted about some past jobs, the workings of C-Net (Chris’ employer), and some things that are on the horizon for Chris and Lenny.

Lenny works for Chrysalis Ventures here in Louisville as an Analyst so he’s seen some pretty interesting business plans that I’d enjoy hearing a lot more about.

It seems as though Guitar Hero was quite popular based upon the crowd in the “other room” playing.  I’m always intrigued to see group dynamics at work when people of varying backgrounds and interests are gathered under one roof when it’s the first time for me to be exposed to them.  It’s much like walking into a bar for the first time where you only know a couple of people, and those couple of people know quite a few of the “strangers” at the bar.  Since I’m usually the guy at the bar that knows a lot of people, it was an interesting role reversal.  Online social media is much like that in general–there are subsets of people familiar with one another long before a “newbie” arrives, and it pays for the “newbie” to observe and chat up a few people on the periphery before jumping into the middle of the group.  So many people join a social media site then think it’s free reign to try to sell a product, service, or themselves, but social media doesn’t work like that much like offline relationships don’t.  It takes time to get to know people whether it is on or offline so that’s the lesson of last night’s gathering for me.

There’s more that I’m sure I’m forgetting about, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next meeting/gathering and getting to know more people.  If you’re in the Louisville area and want to learn about social media and how it can benefit your business, I encourage you to attend a future meeting.  They occur the third Tuesday of each month.  For more information, visit SMC Louisville.

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