Social Media “How-To”

If a business is going to do Social Media there needs to be a plan and more importantly the people who are to be involved need to understand what that is.  Not sure what that means?  Check out Cisco’s S.O.C.I.A.L. approach.

cicso page

Lets face it, this a huge multinational company with a large pool of resources but their approach is just as relevant to small business.

Company Culture

Cisco’s approach has been to create a culture within the organisation that is open to staff being involved and encouraging the use of Social Media.  They have done this by not necessarily telling people the ‘rules’ but creating the boundaries for staff to work within.  The culture within your business and how people interact will determine how successful social networking may work for you, but the key to success is to encourage staff to be involved and give guidance for ‘how to’ rather than restricting access and punishing failures.

Start at the Start

Cisco have developed a clear Social Media policy and no employee will engage in Social Media without being trained in the company’s approach.  They have included this in their code of conduct, they identify it as part of the hiring process and it is key to their training program.  Essentially they ‘talk the talk’.  It is not a manual you read and sign at the bottom to say you have completed it, they show you how it is to be incorporated in all tasks you, and others around you, undertake.

What is Important?

Listening!  Sounds simple but it takes practice to be a good listener.   Cisco acknowledge that encouraging two way contact with customers is only the first step in the process.  What they actually want to achieve is turning this into business value.  They have a process to determine what types of information you may receive and then how to determine what they are and when to respond.

This engagement of two-way conversation will enable the establishment of brand loyalty and trust with customers, and in the new world of Social Media we are learning this is what drives customers purchasing decisions.

How to – the 5 ‘W’s

This is a great example of boundaries and is really the practical ‘How-To’ for Social Media within a business.

Why we are doing this? This is the company’s objectives and where we want to be in the future

Who is doing this well?  Encouraging staff participation and celebrating the successes.

What are we saying to our customers? The language to be used and the expectations of the conservsations – human, honest and authentic

When are we available?   Always on and encouraging lots of communication rather than restricting access.

Where are we connecting?  Identifying times or mediums that are better for communicating.  Determining the need for contact via multiple channels.

Is it working?

You can’t understand how well you are doing unless you have a way to measure your success.  Depending on company goals and objectives you will need to determine what success may look like and if engagement with Social Media is contributing to these.  Employees can be involved by having specific performance criteria and by being rewarded for achieving certain levels of achievement.  This can be successful across all levels of management and can encourage all staff to buy-in.

Cisco’s  S.O.C.I.A.L. approach is very clear.  They make it available for both employees and customers to see.  As a small business this approach will help produce a clear outline of how you see it working and help your employees understand your objectives. In the words of Erik Qualman………

SocialMediaQuote

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My Social Media Experiment

All this theory I’ve been learning about Social Media – well it works!

As a small business owner of a real estate company in provincial New Zealand we had been dabbling with Social Media.  We had utilised a couple of Social Media consultants to give us some pointers and decided to jump on board by establishing a presence on Facebook.

Like most businesses, to stay in the competition you have to keep ahead and differentiate yourself in the market.  In real estate this is fairly difficult to do as everyone pretty much offers a similar service.

We created our page and then got our wonderful admin support team to start thinking about how to make this work.  Knowing the importance of keeping regular and building a “Like” database of people we can network with, we started posting community based information along with links to house listings and latest promotions or advertising we were undertaking.

Facebook Go marketing also contacted us inviting us to join a programme designed to educate us in ad promotion and better utilisation of Facebook marketing.  We started some minimal paid advertising and could see some increase in traffic on our Facebook page and our Website.

From here the admin girls took over…..they have come up with awesome ideas, creative posts and were getting really excited about connecting with our customers.  One of our team spotted a great Easter promotion being run by another real estate company in Australia and suggested we give it a go.  What a huge success, we have increased our “Like” base by over 300 per week, the comments and positive feedback from customers has been amazing and we have even got some ideas about our next marketing promotion.

rw easter

Our Sales Agents are also starting to see how excited the team are about this and are keen to get involved.  Someone the other day commented “Not many places you come to work and they want you on Facebook telling everyone what you are doing!”

All in all, over the last couple of months the potential benefits of Social Media for us are:

  • building some brand loyalty and community buy-in
  • expanding our customer reach
  • offering new marketing options for our customers
  • developing our staff and identifying skills we didn’t know existed
  • and hopefully positioning our business for the future.

Excuse my little detour from my study blogs but I really wanted to share.  You know it hasn’t cost much but the pay-back is potentially huge.  Maybe you have a story too or maybe this will encourage you to have a go, either way I’m sold!

 

Big is Good, but Small is Critical

Did you know that there are 460,000 small businesses in New Zealand, and these businesses contribute to 30% of our annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  This is not only the case for NZ but most other OECD countries, even the USA. (MBIE, 2014)

So whilst it may be small business, it is important!

The Big !

A 2012 report by MYOB identified that Social Media in NZ businesses is on the slide and a case study by Bosna, Evans & Sawyer (2013) of small and medium businesses in Australia also found the step into the technology world has been slow.  When we look at the larger business however they seem to have taken to Social Media like ducks to water.

Take Air New Zealand as an example.  Log-in to Facebook and here are their customers posting pictures from planes showing great locations, they have a mobile app so you can check-in on-line, get updated flight information, updates that your flight is boarding and you can also subscribe to cheap grab-a-seat deals being sent to you daily encouraging you to plan your next trip. The list goes on…..

AIRNZ Fbairfb2 airfb3

This is where big is good…..they have the resources to make this successful.  They have people employed to keep up to date with current technology, specific roles that do social media, and money to put into advertising and technology investments.

The Small !

So how can the little fish compete in the Social Media pond?

Fish_where_the_Fish_are_-_proof

  • Time – Most small businesses have a lack of this, particularly in tough financial times.  Somewhere in your work week you need to assign a window to address your online presence.  How about a team meeting and get staff involved, they may have ideas and things they want to try that you haven’t thought of.

 

  • Education – In any profession there is usually a requirement for continued learning.  This now needs to include the world of technology and the internet.  With the evolution of social media there is a limitless amount of information online.  Check out your competitors, look at how other business work successfully and remember most of the country is small business so the potential data mine that exists is huge.

 

  • Get involved – Take that plunge into Social Media.  LinkedIn is a successful business social network that has been around since 2002.  It gives you the opportunity to promote your business and yourself, network with like-minded professionals and also access to a large human resources pool.

 

  • Look for help –  Here in my home town of Wanganui our local council has established the Whanganui Digital Leaders Forum and one of their objectives is to get the community 100% connected.  They have been awarded the Smart21 Intelligent Community three years in a row and have just been selected for a pilot programme with AboutUs to assist in getting small local businesses online (AboutUs Launches in Whanganui).  They are essentially offering a free on-line toolbox to help your business get connected!

About Us

See, you can compete with the big fish! And, because small business is critical to our success there is lots of help out there to ensure you are on the right track to succeed.

 

Web 1.0, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, onwards & upwards?

So, what version is your web then?  Web 1.0, Web 2.0 or have you got the latest??

Web 2.0

At a web conference in 2001 Tim O’Reilly made popular the phrase Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005).  Since then a number of people had attempted to define “what it is” but more interestingly not many people have actually even heard of it!

This week I have been head down in understanding the terms around Web.20 and Web 3.0 technologies.  One of my favourite definitions for Web 2.0 is “Built by people for people”. With the development of technologies like social networking, blogs and wikis, Web 2.0 has made Web 1.0 more user-friendly.  Now instead of just information on a webpage about products/services or how to contact a business, you are interacting with them online.  You are updating their information, submitting orders, searching their database or providing data back to them.  A true collaborative system that now even provides for a feedback loop from your customer.

And….they are easy to use.  Remember when you bought software applications, paid for training so your business could use it and then employed IT people to install/maintain/babysit them so your business could operate.  These technologies are a walk in the park by comparison, so you can pretty much do it all yourself.  You can download programmes and tools from the web, watch on-line training on how to use them, set up training tools for staff,  request online help and discuss with colleagues best practice ideas via your network.

cartoon

Web 3.0

So how could this get better – Web 3.0.  The jury is still out whether we are there yet or not, but I think we may be pretty close. The ideas behind the definition of Web 3.0 is that it is more personal, effectively the computer is learning what you want by your behavior  Not only is it guessing what you may type, based on previous behavior it is going further to offer suggestions on what you may be looking for and what you may need because of previous requests.  Effectively the computer is thinking for you.

One example is the new Apple Watch App.  It just turned up on my phone!  How’s that for true viral marketing.  It thinks since I have Apple products why not suggest I might need an Apple Watch App. When I open it (because of course I will!), it gives me an overview of how it works and how to get one.  How’s that for great marketing!

What about this?

Just one thing to consider from my reading this week. David W Wilson (2011) wrote a paper around Web 2.0 and made a recommendation from his research that more academic work needs to be considered around why users share on-line.  These technologies are all about getting more out there, more sharing, more information, faster, easier but I think we do need to take a look at why we humans are so keen on this. Won’t that then help us determine how the future may look?

Last word

In my travels I came across this TED talk by Sir Tim Berners-Lee back in 2009 about the next web.  If you have a spare fifteen minutes it’s a worthwhile watch.

In today’s world there are many names for technology and more coming every day however to quote Sir Tim Berners-Lee “The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy”.

When you think about this original vision from 1989 when he invented the World Wide Web, it’s still the same isn’t it?  Are we not just getting better at using it?

Can Business Do Social Media?

Have you ever walked into a shopping complex, looked around, and then been so overwhelmed you do not know where to start? This can be the same feeling for business when someone says to them ‘Social Media’.

There is so much out there and so many ways to become involved.  My research this week can attest to this…I have learnt how to butterfly a chicken, create a photo drop-box on my phone and that there are some great social media gurus holding conferences in LA this month!

So where to start? Like most things in business there needs to be a plan.  It is all very well deciding to ‘Do Social Media’ but understanding how you will do it and more importantly what you want out of it is a vital step towards success.

Who to use?

SM peopleOne issue I find particularly interesting for businesses is how to find an ‘expert’ on the subject. Once you have decided to venture into Social Media you may decide to hire either an employee or consultant to advise you. We have been able to identify people previously based on our own knowledge of a particular skill.  For example, when your core business is plumbing, identifying qualified plumbers is relatively easy.  The same for accounting, legal and even marketing type roles, you can identify from experience and qualifications how much a person knows about their field.  How do we do this with the Social Media?

Particularly for the more ‘experienced’ people of the world who are running the business and making the decisions, this is a new language to them.   The technology is emerging quickly and it comes with its own foreign lingo.   You have to be more rigid about really identifying who the people are that are touting Social Media as a skill.  Maybe you have to go out there into Social Media to find their success stories and gauge for yourself.

How do we use it?

SM ManageNext, you have to decide how to integrate the use of Social Media into your business.  This does go back to ‘The Plan’, how
much are you willing to invest? Who is going to be responsible for this function? How much time can you allow for this? Are you ready to start communicating directly with your customers?  Then, how do you manage it?

Even with great planning, there are risks.  As I have found, you can lose a lot of time investigating the world and you are potentially encouraging staff to put aside today’s work and surf!  Some businesses go to the extreme of limiting access.  For example I remember Trade-Me in the early 2000’s appearing on the top of a number of company lists for “blocked’ sites within workplaces. However, with Social Media shining the path forward how much do you limit? What do you limit? Are you limiting yourself?

It really is a risky business but the potential pay-offs are huge.  If you get the investment right at the start, the long-term benefits will be priceless and your business has the potential to be ready to ride the next wave!

The World of Blogs

How to write your own personal diary for the entire World Wide Web to read. Well not quite!

The Blog

Blogs started out early on in Social Media more as diary writing and personal accounts but has developed into one of the most popular tools around.  Now for me,  Genertion X’er, this is a bit scary.  Why would people want to read about me and what I think, how do I utilise this for my business, what exactly do I want people to know? But in this new world it is used to develop a relationship with your customers and to persuade them tolikeyou, which is very important.

How to Start

Tumblr statistics for Jan 2015 stated the total number of blogs on their site at 220.8 Million! So how hard can it be….

With free software available such as Blogger and WordPress it is now possible to set yourself up with your own website blog in under thirty minutes, in fact maybe even ten!

It is important that a business determine the audience.

  • Who are they targeting and why?
  • What are they interested in?
  • What do you want out of it?

The good news is there are no restrictions.  You can literally say what you think, give people your perspective on issues, and even drive support for something you are particularly passionate about.

But….. be ready for feedback from your customers. You can’t just post out there and be horrified when a customer doesn’t say nice things! The upside is, you could just delete it, and pretend it doesn’t exist. Alternatively, deal with it, do it well, and remember all the other people watching will see your reply.  No pressure, but do it right this may help you more than you realise!

Consider this…

Writing blogs can be scary and require quite a change in personality. Now we are also expecting our staff to take on this role and use our customers as guinea pigs.  Even big business can get it wrong.

American Apparel in 2014 decided to run a promotion around July 4th celebrations.  They did this via their tumblr blog and as part of the post placed a picture of the space shuttle Challenger exploding.  They had to quickly issue an apology stating that the staff member behind the blog was born before this happened and was not aware of the history!

Challenger

One opportunity may be to start internally.  Set up a blog about the latest project underway or even some ideas for a new project.  Ask for feedback, ideas and then use this discussion as a type of focus group.  Measure yourself against how you are perceived, identify with your staff and open communication. The benefits of staff feeling involved and part of what’s happening are limitless.

So what do you think?  It all can sound a bit overwhelming but once you try it it’s not so bad.  Go on, give it a go!

Social Media – What is it ?

My daughter asked me recently “What is the greatest invention in my lifetime?”, my reply, “The Internet of course”.  However, this is really just the platform for the biggest revolution in history – Social Media.

I was thinking, ‘Social Media, I know this’.  Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, my millennials all having devices connected to their hands just in case they miss something.  There can’t be much too it.

But think about this, imagine being able to ask anybody in the world about anything and then pretty much get a reply instantly. To coin a phrase – “I don’t know, I’ll just google it”.

The power of this thing is huge.  Getting information to the world, breaking news of disasters, phenomenon’s, warnings of attacks, arranging protests, exposing terrorists, discovering new talent, products, places, where will it end….

They say it took 38 years for Radio to reach 50 million people, Facebook had 200 million users in less than a year! (Erik Qualman 2015).  Everything we know such as newspapers, TV, telephones, are turning digital and allowing social interaction.   We can text, blog, wiki, or use social media sites, we can use words, videos, images and pretty much any other tool imaginable and publish it immediately.

What about the Businesses??

Approximately 97% of total businesses in New Zealand are small businesses.  With the birth of Social Media we are moving from focussing on the business of providing great service or exceptional products to having to be far more connected to our customers.  This is a complete rethink of our approach.

Opportunities this presents…..

Eral Qualman tells us half the world is under 30 years of age! And, they are all connected with 96% of millennials signed up to social network sites.

  • We can tell our customers exactly what we want too and we can even edit their feedback to ensure we have the right image.
  • We can talk to our customers, ask them what they think, get feedback, try some new ideas, and even how we can do better for them.
  • Our staff no longer have to sit across the room for us, we can have people at home, in another city or even in different countries. How about providing service 24 hours a day from anywhere in the world?
  • We can save money by sharing information, templates, training, and marketing. Essentially a limitless knowledge base.
  • We can setup forums/discussion groups for staff, get them thinking, talking, coming up with ideas, and profiling what they can do, what they have done and what they are doing…..

Crickey, where to start! The good news is there is someone out there who has already been thinking about these opportunities so I’m just off to tweet, post, wiki my problems to my network……… see you next week when I have investigated the world of blogging!