Tag Archives: marketing

5 reasons why email is still a great B2B marketing tool

I want your email The glory days of outbound marketing are slowly drawing to a close, and are being replaced with a new form of marketing called inbound marketing. Instead of pushing sales pitches at the customer, savvy marketers are now using compelling content to draw customers toward them. Experts argue the latter is more effective and less intrusive.

Caught up in the middle is the fate of email as a marketing tool. When drawing up a comparison between outbound and inbound marketing, email is often lumped into the mass communication, spam category of outbound marketing. For the following reasons, this is a flawed conclusion I would urge CMOs to reconsider:

1. Just like social media, email is an “opt-in” channel

If a person wants to access your tweets on Twitter, they follow you. If a person would like to read your LinkedIn updates, they connect with you. If a person would like to view your Facebook posts, they Friend you. Similarly, if a person wants to receive email newsletters or updates, they subscribe to your channel.

The difference between social platforms and email is that you can send an email without receiving prior permission, and this is why email communication has been tainted. The solution, however, is not to kill email; it is to apply an opt-in strategy to your email marketing program.

2. Every channel is a mass communication channel

Each one of the channels mentioned above is a one-to-many communication platform. You can argue that Twitter enables mass messaging, and the same goes with Facebook and LinkedIn. All have content streams that have to be monitored and checked for information, just like you have to check your email inbox.

In this regard, email is no different than the channels that support inbound marketing.

3. Spam isn’t where you think it is

Here’s the Wikipedia definition of spamming:

Electronic spamming is the use of electronic messaging systems to send unsolicited bulk messages (spam), especially advertising, indiscriminately.

With promoted updates now being introduced across all social platforms, you are going to receive unsolicited messages – spam, some might call it – amidst new inbound marketing content.

But here’s the rub: people with well-managed inboxes will receive less spam, because they have a number of services preventing spam from entering their inbox. For them, spam is blocked at the Internet Service Provider, blocked by their company firewall, or sent directly to the junk mail folder on their computer.

4. If you ask permission, you will enjoy more success

If you provide an email subscription service that enables prospects and clients to provide optional information – such as their company, job title, seniority level, country, desired communication frequency and other interests – you will be able to give customers what they want and when they want.

People crave information, if it is relevant, useful and well-timed. By collecting and respecting personal preferences, your organisation builds credibility, trust and confidence.

The important thing is not to abuse this channel.

5. Email is still the preferred channel

Progressive marketers are moving to inbound marketing models because they work well, but many of your clients and prospects are not moving as quickly.

We have conducted research with existing clients and prospects, most of whom were senior managers and executives within our target market. We were surprised to find that over 90% of these individuals still preferred a personalised, weekly email. They favoured a short, skimmable introduction to the content we were introducing, with a link to download or read more.

Final words…

Abuse has given email a bad name, but – managed correctly – email is still a viable and often-preferred marketing channel.

Let’s not forget that every single social and blogging platform still uses email to contact their respective users to bring them back to their platforms.

David Graham is the Digital Engagement Leader at Deloitte Africa. He focuses on B2B digital marketing, relationship marketing and content marketing. You can email him at davgraham@deloitte.co.za

Image: 28 Dreams/Flickr

Do you stay in the trenches or go over the top?

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During Word War 1 there were two types of soldiers in the trenches, one who played a support role in terms of logistics, communication, developing battle plans and provisioning and those who went over the top and engaged with the enemy. If you are a business-to-business marketer, do you stay in the trenches or do you go over the top?

“Online business-to-business marketers who stay in the trenches are never going to derive tangible value from their participation on the social web”

If you want more leads and prospects and your marketing department is spending most of their time doing the following, it is time to revisit your B2B social media marketing strategy:

Presenting management with reports that ONLY reflect the number of page views and visitors to your website and blog, number of Twitter followers, Facebook Likes, LinkedIn followers, subscribers to the blog, YouTube views, etc

Use words such as communication, reputation management, branding, public relations, corporate identity and do not use words such as engagement, conversations, interaction.

It is no coincidence that marketing colleges and universities are rewriting their marketing management syllabus because the playing field has changed and marketers have to radically rethink how they do things.

For organisations who sell products, services and solutions to other companies, PR, branding, reputation management and corporate identity are still fundamentally important but do not underestimate the importance of using the social web for what it was designed for ie to connect, interact, engage and build relationships.

You need to identify the people in the trenches in your marketing department and those who are prepared and willing to go over the top into no mans land. The trench dwellers are very important but you shouldn’t use them when the whistle blows and the troops start climbing the ladders.

The soldier who goes over the top has to be brave and when he is in no mans land he has to improvise, depending on what he encounters.

If you are planning on generating new business opportunities from your participation on the social web, one way broadcasting and reporting on page views will not cut it. Identify your soldiers, equip them with the right tools and training and you will see the results!

Do you agree or disagree? Do you have anything to add? Would you like to comment? I would love to hear from you?

I invite you to engage and interact with me on Twitter and LinkedIn

Online marketing and how it influences your sales pipeline

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To assist me in articulating to my clients how online marketing aligns with a typical sales process, I produced a diagram which shows the different stages in the marketing and sales process and how online marketing is used to drive leads, prospects and sales opportunites down the sales funnel.

online marketing pipeline

1. Awareness

Using a combination of your company website, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, content marketing, your personal or company blog, social media marketing and smart phone and tablet apps, you create awareness and build credibility and encourage people to follow, connect, join your groups and subscribe to your blog and newsletter and interact with you.

2. Nurturing subscribers

People who have subscribed to your newsletter have given you permission to communicate with them on a regular basis. This is where you continue to build credibility and stay top of mind. Producing good content is crucial in order to retain subscribers and to encourage them to continue consuming your content and sharing your content with their respective communities.

3. Offline sales activity

This is where you make the transition from an online to an offline engagement and where the online channel can still play a part in building credibility. This is where you meet face-to-face with prospective clients, build relationships and present proposals.

4. Closing business

The is the last phase of the sales process and the start of an ongoing relationship with your new client. This is still an important element of your online marketing process because new and existing clients will (hopefully) provide favourable references online and can potentially allow you to publish case studies and testimonials on your website.

 

How do you know when your organisation has truly embraced digital?

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Companies around the world are still undergoing digital transition. Some believe they are there already whilst others still have their heads buried in the sand. Digital is a loose term and can encompass many things, so for the purpose of this article, I am talking specifically about the use of digital as an organisation’s “window to the world”. Here are five “digitally transformed organisation” indicators.

1. Digitally educated employees

You generally find pockets of expertise in companies, with groups of individuals managing the website, online advertising, search engine optimisation, the corporate blog, social media channels and direct marketing. Whilst this should still be the case in a digitally transformed organisation, every employee should know what the company does online, know where they can contribute, understand what content and interaction is managed and how the company, and individuals within the company, benefit.

2. The digital channel is always considered

In the digitally aware organisation, every individual will consider how they can use the digital channel in their day to day activities, when developing strategy or planning ahead for an event. Employees will ensure that they have an updated LinkedIn profile, those managing Twitter accounts will generate tweets on a regular basis, employees will take photos and post on the corporate Facebook page, all thought ware and opinion pieces will be blogged regularly and shared across relevant channels, activities and thought leaders will be video-ed and uploaded to the corporate YouTube account and employees will be responsive to online questions, queries and conversation.

3. Optimised paid, earned and owned media

Companies that are well and truly on the digital bandwagon will be reviewing their investments in the three main media buckets of earned, shared and paid (which each give opportunities to influence customers) and will be measuring their returns in order to set their investment at the right level. Owned media includes the website, mobile site, blog and social media accounts. Paid media includes display ads, paid search and sponsorships. Earned media is “word of mouth”, creating “buzz” and going viral. Digital companies optimise each of these to maximise the return on their digital investment.

4. Online channels are the digital extension of the company

The digital channel is described by some as cold, so the digitally astute company will use the the online channels they have at their disposal to humanise wherever possible. With proper use of words and images and video on the corporate blog, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and email, they give their online presence a personality to which their communities form an emotional attachment. Companies that get this right are the ones who build loyal online communities and produce content that is shared and hopefully goes viral.

5. Digitally transformed companies should have fun online

I left the most important point to last. Digital companies have fun when participating online and this is noticed by their online community. These companies post content, comments, blog posts, images and video that encapsulate the essence, spirit and personality of the company. When they are hosting and/or attending events, these are captured and shared. Client experiences are captured and shared (with their permission of course). When they are doing pro bono work at a local orphanage or school, they take photos and publish them. It is all these collective experiences, when captured and shared that humanises their online presence and encourages their communities to form real connections.

Do you agree or disagree with some of these points? Is there something I have left out? Do you have any comments? I would love to hear from you.

 

Crowd sourced social media advice for Chief Information Officers (CIOs)

I published a blog post titled “What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?” which I shared on the social networks where I participate. I have provided selective responses I received.

If you have anything to add, I will welcome your contribution. I will be sharing this article with CIOs within my network. Please share with IT Professionals who may benefit from the sage advice provided by a number of global business consultants, social media, marketing and branding specialists.

Richard Simmonds (@RichSimmondsZA) – Knowledge entrepreneur, business consultant, Twitter and social coach to increase influence of brands

“I am about to post to my blog on something very similar. So here is my copy and it goes about Macintosh “Hawks” and Lance Witten who were suspended this week. Not finally edited but I am sure you will get the gist of it.

Just another reason you should (not) be on Twitter

I chatted to a parent at my sons’ school today and he had inclination to tell me about the two South Africans who were suspended for Tweeting insensitive remarks this week on Twitter.

His comment to me was ‘Richard just another reason you should not be on Twitter’. Of course he has some idea that I am involved in some way with social media and he happens to be the CEO of a rather large company in the service industry.

My response was when will people start to realise that your private, social and work life are not three separate things and that we are living one life and that we remain accountable for what we do at all times.

Social media only amplifies what we are saying, so if you have said it you have said it. As we rapidly move into a world that demands more and more transparency, we must realise that we can no longer hide things and hope things go unnoticed.

Unfortunately being the proverbial Ostrich and putting your head in the ground actually draws more attention to your actions.

Should you ever say something that is out of line or even out of character; don’t apologise by saying you we’re asked or told to apologise as this week perpetrators did.

The advantage of social media is that you get almost instantaneous feedback. Monitor this and when you start receiving negative feedback that is relevant and will potentially damage your personal brand. Move as quickly as possible to authentically apologise as errors do happen and people are sometimes willing to forgive.

What normally happens is that people normally say things that are offensive and then arrogantly hold the opinion and have no intention of apologising until the real damage has been done, then coming with a weak apology that is not authentic will never help.

Social media is extremely effective and simple when you apply basic manners and realise that we deal with real people and not audiences.

As we move into the more transparent world my advice is always to treat everyone as if they were in a relationship with you, think of them as your spouse and how you would communicate with them; as the old adage goes ‘think before you speak’ and try to imagine the response before you post or say something.

No one said that the journey would not have challenges along the way, but I can promise you it exciting – see you in that social arena, called life!

Talking mobility it also seems that there is a bigger push from people wanting to use their own devices (smartphones, tablets and notebooks) and the company to just supply data in the form of a Wi-Fi network at work. Soon the employees will want this as part of the package and not want the company to provide them with any sort of device.

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Cees De Boer (@ceesdeboer) – Member of Executive Board, CFO and COO at Deloitte Netherlands

I certainly would advise CIO’s to embrace social media. Social media will play an important part in B2B in the coming years, and social media platforms will become business platforms that CIO’s will need to manage in some way.

I suspect some CIO’s are still fighting or tolerating it, which in a way is understandable if you look at the traditional “control” role of the CIO. The problem with social media platforms is that they cannot be controlled. They reside in the cloud, and control is limited to policies, and not more. So must be scary for CIO’s.

But the rise of social media platforms is consistent with the rise of cloud. Infrastructure will not be owned by companies anymore. Here is another traditional role of the CIO being phased out. CIO’s will need to focus on buying / building / managing business applications that are of strategic and tactical importance for the business. In my view a social media platform will quickly become one of those business applications.

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Rajesh Harie (@rajharie)

This is a very important aspect of the CIO’s role today and probably warrants a posting on its own. There is an increasing shift in mobility and BYOD, it is predicted that by 2015 80% of South Africans will have access to smart phones. The cost of the devices are already sub $100 and soon it will be closing on the $50 cost making it more accessible to people.

But mobility and BYOD also has its pitfalls as the CIO does not know or control what corporate information gets placed on these smartphones. Which becomes a problem when it gets lost or stolen?

I came across an interesting article which goes into it a little more in depth – With the rise of cloud and BYOD, what does the future hold for the CIO? http://t.co/7kxm7ze3

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Darren Smith (@DazMSmith) – Businessman, New media & web strategist, Strategic Marketer, Communicator, Networker, Idea engineer and Creative thinker

Social media an important subject, and a sadly neglected one. I know of few CIOs in South Africa active (and I mean active and engaged) in social media. And given that it is the CIOs responsibility to take the tech leadership lead in business, how on earth can CIOs possibly do so if they fail to understand how to use social media (if they’ve never really used it).

You can’t lead from the back of the crowd. I get a sense of an attitude of ‘ignorance is bliss’ in business, or even ‘wilful ignorance’ … this sense of “it doesn’t really matter” and business will simply carry on remorselessly. We can argue the point until we’re blue in the face, but the attitude is pervasive in business, else we’d see more senior executive engagement in social.

A conversation I had recently with Sim Shagaya (DealDey.com, Nigeria) was interesting. I asked him what the impact of social was on his own business, in the context of this Forrester report some months ago – Less than 1% of online purchases come from social channels.

His response was enlightening. “Our business is driven mostly by word of mouth (Nigeria having a huge informal economy). Social media is the biggest CATALYST to word of mouth.”

Therein lays the power of social. And no, it is not as measurable as the reports would have you believe.

So what would my advice to CIOs be?

Simple. Forget about social media. Think about The Social ERA. Social media are just tools we might use in the conversation. The social ERA is profound & represents a fundamental change in the way we consume and share information. If information is the bedrock of knowledge, and companies are not participating in the conversation (speaking only to themselves and preaching to the converted), then they do themselves a disservice.

“Get educated. Find out where your audiences are. Listen to them. Engage. Add value. Invite them in to your world, and you may just be invited into theirs. But don’t sell to them. They’ll become brand advocates when you’ve earned their trust. Start using social yourself. With your peers!”

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Neal Schaffer (@NealSchaffer) – Trilingual Social Media Strategy Consultant, Coach, Speaker, Author of Multiple LinkedIn Books and University Professor

I actually just presented to IT professionals on this very topic of what they need to understand about social media. Hope you find it useful!

http://windmillnetworking.com/2012/10/30/social-media-for-it-professionals-7-trends-to-follow/

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Claude Super (@claudesuper) – Valuation and information governance consultant

“Take Time to observe Key users and trust them!”

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Dr Nikolaus Eberl (@NikolausEberl) – CEO of BrandOvation, Brand Leadership Expert, Author, Brand Ambassador Program FIFA World Cup, Reciprocation Marketing™

I would definitely point out the lessons from Obama’s recent social media campaign regarding list building and targeting specific user communities.

Secondly, I would point out that with the advent of broadband in mid-2014, content marketing will become the single most important marketing tool in business and that each and every business needs to convert their employees into content providers.

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Mike Said (@Mike_Said_What) – Owner at www.brandstrategy.co.za

There is not a whole lot I can leave you with that has not already been covered but here are a few of favourite tips.

Social media is about being interesting AND interested, not one or the other. It is an INTERaction not an action.

The four Rs of Social Media – Regular, Relevant, Remarkable and Real

And final piece of advice “take control before someone else does” (and that could be your staff or your customers).

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Jochem Koole (@jochemkoole) – Senior social media adviser at Deloitte Netherlands

I feel, most CIOs mainly regard social media as a burden on their (and their department’s) daily work.

This is understandable, since social media enable employees to collaborate with colleagues and customers on the tools and devices of their own choice, while the CIO is responsible for maintaining an existing ICT environment.

However, social media are here to stay. Just like cloud computing, big data, location based services, et cetera. If CIOs are willing to run with this, and restructure their departments, teams, and work to enable a shift from a closed and controlled ICT environment to an open and supportive one, they can reap huge benefits.

IBM decided to lose control, and benefitted greatly: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-ibm-uses-social-media-to-spur-employee-innovation/

Of course, this is a long term investment. It took IBM 5 years. So, now is a good time to start.

Here’s an interesting addition to everything said earlier: “Controlled Private Social Networking”. Might be an opportunity for CIOs – http://www.wwtid.com/2012/10/28/what-exactly-is-social-business-and-what-is-its-future/

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Kaveer Beharee (@Kaveerbharath) – Stakeholder and reputation management strategist incorporating King III

New media has added a layer of complexity, both from a governance and risk management perspective.

Chapter 8 of king 3 contains many principles about stakeholder engagement and communication, which in my ad hoc research, companies do not take into account when developing a social media plans.

King requires board accountability, and a clear mandate to management. We also recommend the SE and Risk committees playing a leading role in developing a communication – and by default – a social media strategy.

The way it looks now, companies are scrambling to develop presence on new media. This is wrong. If the board and committees I’ve mentioned above cannot establish how the company can enhance value or mitigate risk using new media, do not develop presence until they can figure it out.

As an aside…..I publicly shame companies on social media when I receive bad service. I cannot emphasize how poorly prepared and scared to death they are, when they are forced to call me….in most cases to beg me to stop. They just do not have a plan.

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Jonathan Houston (@Jingo27) – Digital Marketing Manager at Deloitte Technology

Thank you for the opportunity to comment. I think that the comments that have been left before mine pretty much cover all the points that a CIO needs to be aware of when arguing that social media is not a problem they need to be concerned with.

There is one more thing that I feel has not been mentioned. You have alluded to it in saying that your social media strategy needs to be like an ERP implementation. The point I would like to make is that ERP vendors are making significant investment into social media. SAP’s Jam is the latest of these investments that shows how critical “social business” is for enterprises today.

I think the biggest shift needs to come from social media being thought of PURELY as a marketing / sales tool. It is so much more than that. It is a business tool and a source of critical information that needs to be dealt with and analysed to make better business decisions.

Whilst the CIO does not need to be physically involved should they chose not to be; they must not let their organisations suffer from their personal decision. Carrying on from that; whether an organisation is involved in social media or not; they categorically cannot ignore the conversation that is happening about them and their competitors every day!

There is an awesome Forbes article which summarises this topic quite nicely : http://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2012/11/06/5-ugly-potholes-on-the-road-to-social-business-excellence/

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Nazareen Ebrahim (@NazareenE) – Social Media and Content Manager

I would say to any CIO that

a)     Social media will not die out

b)    It is an imperative portion of marketing and communications in any organisation

c)     It is in the best interest of a CIO to be using some social media platforms in a personal capacity so that they have their own understanding of what social media means and how it works

d)    They will be admired and respected as a leader, by their colleagues and work force, for taking an active interest in, and support of social media communication for their organisation

e)     A CIO has a responsibility to ensure that the reputation of the organisation can be managed in the most decisive manner at all times to maintain a positive identity; disregarding or not paying much attention to social media channels in this instance is like slitting one’s wrists gently but hoping not to bleed

f)     Social media in the post-PC era is about real-time, consistent, authentic communication among brand, consumer, community, influencers and friends; a CIO can only really claim to be leading their organisation in the right direction if they understand the changing nature of our global communications – smart technologies and devices, peer recommendation and the voice that social media has given organisations and their employees.

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Jon Hoehler (@JonHoehler) – Manager, Mobile Technologies at Deloitte Digital

A huge challenge for CIOs is around accessing of social media by employees on the enterprises networks. Any organization will block employee’s access to social media sites in order to “improve work rate and productivity”. Employees will use their mobile / personal devices to access social media portals. http://www.silkroad.com/Company/News-and-Media/Press_Releases/2012/10/Social_Survey_Report_Press_Release.html

From a South African perspective, social media portals are extremely popular. South Africa has over 6.5 million registered Facebook users with over 80% of those users using their mobile device to connect to the social network. I would imagine many of those logins are from employees during their working day.

Users will find ways around the systems setup to garden wall them. A challenge to CIOs around the policies around access to social media platforms but that the same time with trust in their employees that they won’t spend their days commenting on their friend’s wedding photographs.

Embracing corporate and employee participation through organization driven platforms using social media elements dove tailed with Gamification theory is a compelling exercise especially with crowd sourcing of information pertaining to the organization.

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Cliona – http://www.forgood.co.za/Pages/Home.aspx

I guess for me a good message to any CIO would be that social media is a reality and will grow from strength to strength in the years to come.

However for anyone to buy into the concept of social media across the board it has to be a user friendly approach without getting caught up in complex and long drawn out processes.

I have found that by listening to our users that they have a very good idea of what they want to use within the social media framework and as we carry on applying this to our website our traction and user base in growing. And when you align this to technology you have a win-win scenario.

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Adrian Lee (@AdrianLeeSA) – Mobile, Marketing and Business Development

With the dearth of CIOs in the country that are even aware of ‘social media’, they still think it’s something that their teen kids are on.

Firstly, Understand the Channel, each platform serves a different audience type. Twitter is not the same as Facebook is not the same as Pinterest, for example. Somehow there’s always a forced fit when it comes to social media strategy.

Second, Provide Great Content, I use the example of Richard Branson’s twitter handle, which covers topics from new business launches to his own personal leisure pursuits. Look, if the CIO think putting out a dry press release on social media channels will work, he’s dead wrong. You engage with relevant content on the right channels. Depending on their business, some visual platforms will work really well, e.g. Pinterest for a group like Zando’s.

Third, Really Be There. Quoting examples from one of the big 4 local banks who got it disastrously wrong with social media, you can’t set up an official channel and leave it unmanned. Any comments/queries/complaints/praise needs to be responded to in a timely manner (AND state what the response turnaround is). Dedicate the required resources to it and don’t leave it as the part-time role of the digital marketing person.

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Melanie Minnaar – (@MelanieMinnaar) – Founder & Owner at multiplicity

First point would be to have a strategy online, not control – that is in conflict with the social nature of the channel. A high-level strategy is necessary to provide a framework that best serves the brands’ intentions.

Point 2: you can’t switch on and off in social media – if you’re not a key influencer in online circles and are absent from one too many conversations with your audience, don’t expect them to rush to serve your crowd-sourcing needs at the drop of a hat. Likewise,

Point 3: you can’t expect your staff to be fully immersed brand advocates in the online social space if their onine presence is managed in the same way as a TV media schedule – living the brand is fully challenged in this new era of communication.

Consistency – as with core brand management principles; the brand must be represented in a consistent manner through all its communication channels, including digital. Your strategy will inform what this consistency should look like to avoid schizophrenic brands in the marketplace.

On crowd-sourcing specifically I refer to The Twitter Blanket Drive which has grown threefold year on year. I’ve made plenty of mistakes over the past 3 years and most of them were when I did not rightfully acknowledge the channel and defaulted to traditional methods of promotion and communication. The biggest lesson is that the essence and nature of the platform is key for the success of any campaign driven in this manner. Otherwise, take out a radio ad.

Final thought: social communication is about people. If you’re not a people’s person then find or hire people who are.

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Helen Tonetti (@HelenTonetti) – Social Media Specialist and Marketing Director at Video Expression

Be in context and be human’ is the best advice for social media success

So many businesses forget that Social Media is just like conversations off-line, and in my experience can far too often get hung up on the tools and not focus on the conversations.

The best real world analogy is a meeting with your peers and other industry leaders, all there to discuss an emerging trend and instead of bringing your research along to join in the meeting, you start telling the assembled group about a product offer you have, giving out coupons and keep asking members of the group to give you their details so you can send them the offer.

 When the assembled group tries to focus on the topic that the meeting was set up to address, you put on a sandwich board, take out a megaphone and keep shouting out your message until they ask you to leave.

That’s how so many businesses are still approaching social media, as a platform that has tools that allows them to send out messages, not join in conversations, listen, learn and engage.

 It’s not a one way channel where there’s a sender and many receivers, but it’s the business meeting where everyone is on equal footing to participate in the conversation.

Remember that even though you’re interacting on a computer, you’re expected to act like a human on social media, not like a robot. Make sure your business values line up with human values and then act like that when interacting with your audience.

I trust that you found this advice (and the links provided) of use. Do you have anything to add?

11 Reasons Why Social Business is Like Dating

I wrote an article for Memeburn titled Social media is a Virtual Cocktail Party where I compared participation on social networks with a cocktail party. Along a similar vein this article (written by guest author Susanna Gebauer on jeffbullas.com), titled 11 Reasons Why Social Business is Like Dating, shows the similarities between social business and dating. Take the time to read what Susanna has written. If you apply this with your online social business activities, you will see significant and positive results!

11 Reasons Why Social Business is Like Dating

My brother Jonathan (with whom I founded exploreB2B) often describes our platform as a “dating site for businesses.”

This is one reason why, in a recent interview conducted by my colleague Erin for her ‘Unraveling Social Business’ series, her interview with Michael Brenner came as such a pleasant surprise. In talking about an effective social business strategy, Brenner made a comment directly addressing the romantic analogy. He said:

“It may sound like I’m talking about dating, but that is another often-used analogy for social business. Too many companies are out shopping for a spouse and jumping right to the big question of ‘will you marry me?’ and our potential customers are saying, ‘slow down. I don’t even know you.’”

Obviously there must be something more to the analogy of dating and business communication than just a playful and catchy slogan.

What makes social business comparable to dating? What useful advice can we take from our dating experience? The 11 tips below discuss how business communication relates to dating – what you can learn from the romantic world of social business.

1. It takes time to get to know each other and build trust.

This is the obvious takeaway from Michael Brenner’s above statement. The bigger the deal, the more intimately you want to understand your counterpart before you get in too deep. Sure there might be love at first sight, but the successful marriages based on a short-term meeting and elopement are rare.

2. It’s not all about scoring.

In dating we have learned (or haven’t we?): even if you just want to get in the sack, making this goal obvious will not get you any closer to achieving it. Courting and flirting are necessary to lead to any meaningful interaction – and if the build up is fun, both parties will want to connect (and come back for more).

The same goes for social business. Let real communication that is not focused on the “end deal” be part of the process. To establish a multifaceted professional relationship, allow the conversation to drift off topic – be creative, intellectual, lighthearted and genuine. There will be a time for closing the deal, when that time is right for both parties.

3. Don’t push too hard.

When I was young(er), there was a weird rule in dating: do not call earlier than three days after the first date. Even though hard time limits seem a bit out of order, there is some truth to it. If you haven’t decided whether or not you want to continue dating someone, feeling harassed into a decision will probably turn into a “no.” Giving time to ponder might get you curious for another meeting.

In social business courting, you do not want to let your leads feel forgotten, but part of successful marketing involves staying on your counterpart’s radar. In content marketing, this means allowing them to consume your high-quality information on their terms. Give enough frequent information and content to communicate, discuss, and be helpful – without constantly repeating, “So, what about that deal?”

4. First impressions can be deceiving.

It is not always the most flashy and shiny date you are going to marry and spend the rest of your life with. Some people know the game. While they often make for a fun “date” – they would be disastrous as a lifelong partner.

The same goes in business: it is not always the most flashy marketing campaign or additional discount that make for the best, sustainable deal. Take your time in choosing smart and reliable partners – and strive to elicit these qualities yourself.

5. Different needs, different partners.

In dating, sometimes you only have the time and/or desire for a casual fling. There are other times you are looking for a steady, long-term relationship. The more serious you are about a date, the more thought and consideration you will put into choosing your partner.

In business, some deals are of vital importance and long lasting; others are short-term commitments. Be certain you know which type of relationship you are looking for, before you invest time and energy into your commitment. Especially when making costly decisions, take the time and thoughtfulness to make sure you are getting (and giving) enough to support the type of relationship you wish to enter.

6. Self-promotion is a real bore.

Have you ever dated someone who was constantly praising his or herself? Was it a good date? (They never are.) Usually these turn out to be the most boring kind of dates. Even when you decide to grin and bear it, the self-inflation rarely turns out to be true or beneficial. Confidence is a key element of attraction, and over-promotion proves that it is lacking.

The same goes for social business. You need to be confident that your product or service is the best. Yet, shouting and repeatedly boasting, “I am the best,” will neither inspire trust nor get you any closer to a valuable deal. In social business, it is vital to communicate knowledge and expertise, rather than over-promoting your products or services. Be believable (and pleasant to listen to) by demonstrating rather than telling why you are the most eligible bachelor or bachelorette.

7. Sometimes, the best things grow with time.

Sometimes you meet someone you like, yet you do not date for various reasons: you are in a relationship, you are business partners, your best friend has a fancy for the person in question, you are leaving country next week… Whatever the reason, it might not be final. When the time is right, you might turn back, meet again and find that nurturing the relationship with time was worth the wait.

In business the same situation often arises: you like someone, you trust their expertise, you believe in their products, yet the time is not right for a deal. Circumstances change, new needs and business opportunities arise. When the time is right, someone who knows you and trusts your expertise will come to you if he has a deal to give in your field of interest.

8. Don’t try to make your partner someone they are not.

I am a woman, a mathematician and 6 feet tall. I have been on dates, where the guy obviously had a problem with who I am and constantly tried to make me feel like the timid small girl he really should have dated. This kind of misbalanced date does not work, and cannot be made to work by belittling your “opponent.”

A business relationship should be a balanced partnership. Everybody wants to gain; everybody has something valuable to give (and something to lose). It does not inspire trust, if you try to have the upper hand.

9. Know when it’s time to break it off.

There are many reasons a pair will be mismatched. How many terrible dates have you been on for every one good one? The reasons are plentiful for engaging with someone who isn’t right (your mother set you up, your couple friend has a friend, you agreed to go out with someone you met during last call at a bar). While there may be initial attraction, it is important to take action when you recognize that it is not the right match.

In social business there are also plenty of meetings that may take place. Unless you have unlimited time and a plentiful budget, know when to cut your losses.

Note: This is why understanding your clients needs and establishing initial trust are so important (to avoid having to cut your losses).

10. Be clear about your intentions.

You probably do not plan to marry every date you go out with. Still, you can have a lot of fun together. The most important issue is that both parties are open and honest about their intentions. To be dishonest in dating might help achieve short-term goals, yet it is a sure way of ending the relationship (with a bad aftertaste).

The same applies to social business dating. You might be able to fool someone into a bad deal, yet in the end, this will not pay off. A happy customer will want to engage for a long period of time – and provide you with positive recommendations when the deal is closed.

11. It’s not hard to smell a phony.

Have you ever gotten the feeling that the person sitting on the date in front of you is a phony? That what they are saying is not their own opinion, but merely an attempt to tell you what they think you want to hear?

Just like we value originality and individual motivation in those we date, we also strive to engage in business with people and companies who we believe will provide us with honesty, original ideas and solutions. Don’t be the person who fills their potential customers and clients with a mouthful of false promises. Strive to be both transparent and to provide something that no one else had produced.

Love and Marriage?

In today’s world of social business, behavior in dating and business courting can be strikingly similar. Some of the things you keep in mind when dating, should also be considered in business communication. (It is, after all, a long-term investment.) Even if you do not end up married, integrity is key for your reputation and for pursuing healthy relationships in the future.

Guest Author: Susanna Gebauer is one of the founders of the social publishing and content marketing platform exploreB2B. You can find more of Susanna’s content on her profile on exploreB2B. You can also find Susanna on Twitter.

What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

What social media advice would you give to a Chief Information Officer today?

I am speaking to a group of Chief Information Officers from prominent South African companies on Tuesday 13th November about social media. My presentation will focus on my social media journey and my observations and key learnings along the way.

I plan on talking about crowd sourcing as one example of the “power of social media”. To supplement the advice I will provide at the session, I would like to include your comments, if you would like to make a contribution that is. I will be sure to include your name and contact details.

Yours Sincerely
David Graham