Social media marketing and influence

Orchids - a welcome distraction from on-line posting

Too much information

We all get deluged with everyone’s ideas of how to use social media for marketing, with many emails from various “experts” telling us what to do. We can all use tips, but there is no clear template which will work for all of us. We all have different businesses, different needs and different products and services. We have to experiment to find what works for us.

Of course there are “tools” we can use, but I doubt they have much value because they are limited in what they can measure.

Twitter takes a holiday

At the beginning of this month my wife and I took a break and had a week away. Broadband was limited where we were staying but anyway I hardly wanted to tweet about every view and every meal or say what a good time we had looking at orchids because we were just looking to chill out. If you visit Jersey I recommend a visit.  However, my Klout score fell because it only measures activity and if we are not tweeting or posting to Facebook or another network, as far as Klout is concerned we are not influencing anyone.

Klout purports to measure influence, but actually it only measures the number of times we pop up, mainly on Twitter and Facebook. If we are walking along the street when someone starts jumping up and down saying “hey, look at me” we might look at them once, but unless the person has something really interesting to say both then and every time we see them, we are hardly going to be influenced by them otherwise than to avoid them in the future. So sorry, Klout, but you are not much help. I will keep my account but mark your report “could do better” in the hope that you will.

Going unpunished

Then there is PeerIndex. PeerIndex didn’t punish me for going on holiday. We can register our websites and blogs and it measures inbound links to them . What it cannot measure is the actual number of hits we get, our bounce rate, what people think of our material and how often, if ever, they come back. So PeerIndex is more rounded in terms of measurement of our internet spread, but it doesn’t help with the influence bit. However I can compare my activity more reasonably with that of people I know and respect.

Games people play

I think PeerIndex is a better attempt than Klout in measuring real effort in social media and web marketing, but that is as far as it goes. I can give it a B+ compared with Klout’s C-.

The only way we can really gauge our on-line marketing efforts is through enquiries from prospective customers; both the number and the quality. Ultimately the real measure is in sales. It is up to us to experiment and change to see what works and what doesn’t. We shouldn’t rely on crude measures, though they are an interesting game and I sort of like PeerIndex because the thinking behind what they do shows more awareness of what people like to know.

What do you find useful? And talking of games, whatever happened to Empire Avenue? Does anyone still play it?

 

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Closed and open networks in the 21st Century

Under orders

Do you like being told what to do? As a small business owner, I don’t, and I don’t suppose you do either.

To be honest, I never really have liked being told what to do. When I was an employee I had to be at the start, but as I became more experienced and senior, generally most of my bosses allowed me to get on with it. A hands-off approach to management is usually the right way to go, and as I had been treated, so I treated others. I always thought that the best way to get employees to do their best for you was to be nice to them so that they liked you and didn’t want to let you down. Actually I am not sure that was mostly a conscious process; after all if you treat people well they should like you and aim to please.

Out of jail

So, when I gained my freedom, one advantage of having my own business was that no one told me what to do. Of course I have always sought advice. I would be stupid not to, but I have never been under an obligation to anyone other than my clients, for whom I do my best.

In order to gain more business, or indeed to get any at the start I joined several networks. One was a well known breakfast networking organization, but I also joined two business groups. Both operated on the principle that accredited members won work and that which they couldn’t or were not directly qualified to do themselves, they farmed out to other better qualified members, taking a commission for the work won. It was not the done thing to sub-contract to non-members.

The Dark Ages

I suppose that was OK in back in the mists of time a decade ago and when the internet was still a clumsy child and not the sophisticated fast-growing brash youngster it now is. It was OK when my business was also a child and the networks and I were products of a pre-internet age.

These days I want to work with the best people I can when I am managing a project. I have gathered a large network and would want to bring in whomever I wish who is most suited. I don’t expect a commission for subcontracting. Either I would hope for reciprocal referrals or I can sell on the sub-contracted work at a profit. I am not demanding that people give up to me some of what they consider their due reward.

Freedom

I know many more people than I did. I have met them through Ecademy, LinkedIn , Twitter and other on-line networks. I have met them off-line face to face so that I know that I like them. People move on from other networks, but they don’t necessarily move on from mine, unless I decide I couldn’t work with them. My network is in my head even if their contact details are not. I work with whom I like.

The trouble is the old closed networks still like control of their members. They like to tell them what to do. They like to tell them with whom they can work and with whom they can’t. Incredible isn’t it?

The Real World

I value my old networks very much, by which I mean the members with whom I have worked. The networks are the people in them, not the founders or owners. The founders are facilitators now, not controllers. If they don’t let their networks grow up and their members work as they wish the networks will not survive in formal form. Of course any network must have acceptable ethics, but not restrictive rules which might even constitute a restraint of trade.

Freedom and flexibility are what all businesses need now, not just small ones. As long as we are ethical in our approach and stick to what we are good at, please don’t tell us what to do, or with whom we are allowed to work. That is so Last Century, isn’t it?.

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Is your content out of your control?

In this world of social media competition, I worry that some people are not in charge of their content. As far as I am concerned, social media is (are?) not supposed to be competitive, but about having conversations and getting to know people? At least, that is how it is for me. Those who are obsessed with scores may do things differently. Well, each to their own.

The one thing that would really upset me in terms of my on-line business networking would be to have material put out in my name that I did not agree with, or would make me or my business look rather stupid.

Quite a lot of people seem to auto-tweet posts from websites they do not own, including national and local news, or from businesses websites or forums (OK, fora). Presumably this is intended to increase their ratings or scores on the new indices riding on the back of Twitter and Facebook. That is fine (well, I wouldn’t do it) until some ghastly story of debauchery is posted on the source site, or some piece about fake Viagra in a total non-business context.

The other day someone in my line of business auto-tweeted a spam message for a tax forum from some guy who wanted to sell American Football jerseys. Of course the moderator would have zapped the post but the Tweet had gone out.

I thought at one time it would help to join one of those guest blogging exchange sites. I have to say that none of the stuff I have been offered to post on this blog has passed muster. It was a mistake in thinking this was a good idea, but I have neither accepted guest posts from the site nor posted any on anyone else’s through the exchange site. I need to approve and endorse anything posted on my blog.

The other day I saw this excellent piece about Triberr by Neicole Crepeau on Danny Brown’s blog. Now of course I can see the advantage of having lots of other people promote our blog posts via Twitter as long as they like them. Neicole says that she has her favorite bloggers she may re-tweet, but not every one of their posts. I agree. I wouldn’t want to endorse every post even by a top blogger, because I may not agree with it or the writer may have had an off-day.

However, maybe Triberr does have a place if the members collectively can moderate what is posted around. I would rather see that option. Do we have time to moderate our queue of potential tweets of other people’s blog posts? Will we annoy our friends with the extra tweets? Can a machine or a bit of software do the moderation satisfactorily? Do you use Triberr and how has it gone for you?

Otherwise, what should we do? Should we lower our standards and almost prostitute ourselves for the sake of self-promotion with random auto-feeds? Would it help enhance our reputations when we are expected to recommend unsuitable stuff? I don’t think so? Do you?

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Having a negative influence online

Digging the dirt

Haven’t we talked about online reputations before? We certainly have! Just the same, I sometimes worry about apparently intelligent people who probably do their businesses no good with their unfettered pronouncements on anything we care to think about.

I am all in favour of being ourselves in our blogs and when commenting on others. I think Twitter is a great medium for conversation, making connections and learning. What I do not want to know from my business contacts is their opinion on politicians, on other countries, and on celebrities, and especially using intemperate language. “Warts and all” is not a good thing in a business context.

Some such opinionated characters have large followings on Twitter. You might ask why I or others follow them if they are that bad. Why don’t we just un-follow? The truth is that there is a fascination (cliché alert) in watching a train wreck. You don’t want to watch but you can’t help it.

Quite a number of these “offenders” have high Klout or PeerIndex scores. If these were a measure of influence, I don’t think it’s going to be good influence: the sort of influence that encourages people to buy from them. Most likely it will be a deterrent to having any business dealings with them.

I guess I am letting of steam. None of these opinionated bigots who might read this would recognise themselves. How do you react to such people?

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Old style professionals and social media – do they get it?

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I have written in my tax diary that most accountants don’t get Twitter or other social media. Of course some do and are brilliant at using multiple platforms. I think most that do make a start don’t stay engaged long enough.

Do you think traditional professionals such as accountants and solicitors / lawyers do get social media and do you think that social media activities suit them? Are there other businesses that may find social media uncomfortable? I’d like to know.

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Fifteen ways to get unfollowed and disconnected from my network

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Or just not followed in the first place

  1. Tweet advertising the whole time
  2. Tweet other peoples quotations
  3. Tweet religious tracts
  4. Tweet political comments and unkind comments about politicians.
  5. Tweet every meal you have (occasional food comments or pictures of dishes you are pleased with are OK).
  6. Send a request to connect on Linked In to get my email address to put me on your mailing list.
  7. Tweet on automatic from RSS feeds that have nothing to do with you just to please Google, Klout and Peer Index. Actually both Google and I will go off you.
  8. Tweet in a company name and not tell me your real one.
  9. Auto-feed absolutely every comment, tweet and link.
  10. Never RT or pass on someone else’s link.
  11. Never have a conversation or interact
  12. Swear (even with an apology)
  13. Rubbish a competitor.
  14. Be rude about anyone at all.
  15. Criticise fellow networkers even if they deserve it.

Now, everyone is entitled to their political views, and their religious beliefs. Just spare me, please. Be original, help others and don’t be lazy or disrespectful. It seems not much to ask. What do you think?

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Measuring web influence?

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When some people talk about their personal relationships, we want to cry out “Too much information” but when on-line that’s what we get. It is so difficult to filter out the noise. We are constantly being urged by various web pundits and bloggers to follow certain paths. Many of these opinions may be the right ones. We have to be selective because otherwise the noise will drown out all the information we could use.

Resources

It is the same with different web tools and social media sites. There are just too many to give the time to all at once. I avoid most of the invitations I get to join new social networks and try to ascertain those that are most likely to be useful. I will dive properly into Quora and BranchOut when I have time, which for a tax practitioner certainly is not in January, no matter how I manage my time and outsource.

However, of all the tools we do use, how do we know how much on-line influence we have? We can use sites which purport to measure influence, such as Klout, but they are very crude. My Klout score as I write is 46, which according to Klout is pretty decent. “Jon Stow is a Specialist

You may not be a celebrity, but within your area of expertise your opinion is second to none. Your content is likely focused around a specific topic or industry with a focused, highly-engaged audience.”

All well and good, but I think a site such as Klout simply measures how much noise one makes. I have been very active on Twitter and Facebook in particular the last couple of weeks (as I write) but noise isn’t influence. Some people might be covering their ears as far as my noise is concerned.

How does it feel?

The only real measure of influence as far as I am concerned is the number of website and blog hits I see, the comments on the blogs and the number of conversations or (more critically) responses I have to initiate conversations on other people’s blogs, my blogs and Twitter. These are climbing steadily while my Klout score has varied between 18 and 51.

In the end social media influence must be not how other people measure it but how it feels. Pain and pleasure are subjective feelings influenced usually by multiple factors. One’s on-line influence may be measured by clinical factors such as website and blog hits, but the manifestation is the number of sales we are making through our internet influence. I am pleased to say that these are climbing well from almost nothing a couple of years ago, but on this receiving end, subjective personal measuring of new business is really the only way I can truly know. It’s as subjective as just knowing whether or not we are happy. I certainly am, but definitely not complacent. What do you think?

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Move with the times!

I was writing the other day about the business directories not really delivering for many small businesses. One of the reason for that is that our customer and clients tend to look elsewhere for their services. Compared with even five years ago, so many more people search on-line for the stuff they want, whether it is for a chimney sweep (yes, we employ one) or for an EBay offering or for a courier service or an accountant. There is always the possibility that even the on-line searchers will go with a recommendation but we have to be alive to the need to be found on-line when someone looks.

We were talking about this at a breakfast meeting, when our resident SEO expert commented how the search engines change their game all the time and he has to be on top of it as far as possible. This then brought us on to the changes even with Twitter and two of us who subscribe to Jim Connolly’s Marketing Blog remembered Jim’s comment concerning the person who wrote a paperback about Twitter which was bound to be instantly out-of-date. Incidentally I recommend you subscribe to Jim’s blog which is excellent. He is a top marketer.

It is most important to keep up with what is going on now. Traditional sales and marketing in print was indeed traditional for two hundred years or more, but now we all need to think on our feet and indeed listen to the buzz of the internet. Otherwise the business world will leave us trailing behind, and that means all of us including the dress shop and the hardware store.

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Ten Reasons I Won’t Follow Back On Twitter

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We all have our prejudices, and I guess mine are reflected in my approach to social media and indeed networking on and off-line. Here are some turn-offs as regards Twitter users – I won’t say the Twitterati, because I reserve that expression for those who seem to me to know what they are doing. At least I am for the purpose of this post. Others may disagree, but I won’t follow people:

  1. Who only sell.. “Have you seen our new luxury greenhouse?” “Look at our summer offers on greenhouses.” “25% off small greenhouses.” “Look at our greenhouse website”
  2. Who tweet about the minutiae of their day with nothing else. A bit of “time for elevenses” mixed in with some good content makes for a rounded reputation or profile.
  3. Who use bad language. If you are talking the odd swear word might slip out, but if you actually have to type it?
  4. Who just post recycled quotations from various well-known people, alive or dead. Do they have no original thought of their own?
  5. Who never take part in the Twitter conversation, the broadcasters.
  6. Who criticize other people in their network.
  7. Who do not re-tweet good comments and interesting links.
  8. Who are professional internet marketers with tens of thousands of followers gathered by some auto-follow site.
  9. Who tweet links to get-rich-quick websites you have difficulty navigating out of.
  10. Who just auto-feed links to websites they have nothing to do with in the hope they will raise their own profile on the search engines.

It follows from all this that I enjoy good conversation with my Twitter friends and like to be referred to good and useful content. It’s all good fun, or it should be, and done well it is a great way to grow our networks, and as far as many of us are concerned, grow our businesses.

What winds you up, and what makes you want to follow someone?

© Jon Stow 2010

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Fear of the unknown in business

I wrote a little about being courageous in business a while back and was reminded that FEAR can stand for False Evidence Appearing Real (thank you Martin). Now we may often be worried about doing something that is a complete leap in the dark especially if there is a serious financial risk. We all have to be realistic, which is why I am not starting a bakery. I have no experience of baking bread (well, not much) and would not know anything about making fancy cakes, which I think I would need even if I brought in specialist bakers. The problem is I know nothing about the trade and would have to learn from scratch.

What does surprise me is when there would be no downside in trying something new. I thought of this yesterday as I was out walking and passed the long jump area on a school playing field. In the long jump, even if we think we are not great jumpers, we might as well have a go even if we shut our eyes at the moment of the big leap. After all, we are going to land in a nice soft sandpit, and you never know, we might just have performed a great jump.

As far as I am concerned, anything is worth a go if it might improve my business and it would not even cost me money. If there is a cost, we still should try it if we can weigh up and perceive a good chance of success.

What is the problem for many? Self doubt. People find excuses. “I have never tried it.” “I don’t think I can do it.” I have heard it this week from computer literate business people of my vintage. “I am too old to try Twitter.” Well, try it. Ask someone to point you in the right direction. If you don’t get it after a few weeks then give up, but in the meantime you do know how to have a conversation, don’t you?
Rain forest lizard
It’s the old instinctive reaction, the knee-jerk, the lizard brain which Seth Godin often talks about and which stops people doing what they know intellectually they should. Even very intelligent people may resist an unfamiliar experience.

My father is in his late eighties and manages to order my parents’ supermarket deliveries on-line. If he can do that, why can’t we try all the new opportunities and tools available to improve our businesses? What do you think?

© Jon Stow 2010

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