@AnnNyberg Follows OSC

March 22, 2011

I’m feeling a bit like a celebrity today, all because I opened my email to find a message from the friendly folks at Twitter that Ann Nyberg – Connecticut’s well-known and much beloved WTNH-TV news anchor – is now following Out-Source Communication’s Twitter account! This is not a mere follow back on the part of Ann (we aren’t following her), but a bona-fide original follow from her (or her “people”) who have deemed our posts as worthy of their attention! For social media geeks like us at OSC, this is really cool!!! It’s kinda like hitting the Twitter “big time” (at least locally) and it feels damn good! So thanks for the follow @annnyberg! We’ll try to keep our posts interesting and worthwhile for you! Oh….and we’ll make sure to return the favor and “follow you back!”

Facebook Is Bent on Driving Us All Crazy

February 11, 2011

It happened again. I opened my email only to find that dreaded message from Facebook telling me they’ve made some “improvements” to my account.  In Facebook lingo “improvements” translates into “we totally screwed with our interface and guaranteed you several hours or even days of confusion and frustration as you try to familiarize yourself with our counterintuitive measures to ‘improve’ your user experience.”

Yes folks, even experienced social media users like the staff at OSC find ourselves at the mercy of the Facebook machine! We are, like you, frustrated by their continuing inability to create a fan page user experience that is simple and straightforward, but trapped by the promise of it’s potential power and its status as the number one social media network on the planet.  Basically, Facebook is the party that everyone wants to be at, no matter what the rules, dress code or etiquette it requires us to follow to do so!

So here we all are at the big Facebook party, once again playing the maniacal network’s own crazy game of “musical chairs” (or interfaces).  And while we all scramble to decipher the latest version of the accompanying deranged beat, one thing is for certain – we will all eventually master the latest set of “improvements” to our fan pages – just in time for Facebook to change the game once more.

Need help with your social media?  Out-Source Communications provides social media training and optimization for small businesses and nonprofits across Connecticut.  Contact us today at 203-206-5296, or http://www.out-sourcecom.com, to learn more.

Out-Source Communications Directs Focus Group for Waterbury Youth Services

November 17, 2010

On Thursday, November 11th, Rikki Crea and Elizabeth Barone of Out-Source Communications (OSC) facilitated a focus group at Waterbury Youth Services. The objective of the group was to determine how the organization can best use its marketing budget to raise awareness of various issues among teens.

Soribel, Brenda, and Arturo jot down ideas during our brainstorming session.

Soribel, Brenda, and Arturo jot down ideas during our brainstorming session.

During the brainstorming session of the focus group, OSC asked Waterbury Youth Services’ Strategic Prevention Framework Coordinator Caryn Olcik, and Kennedy High School students Soribel Ogando, Arturo Pelegrin, Laura Romero, and Brenda Salazar, where teens spend most of their time online and offline.

The discussion yielded some suprising and not so suprising results.  According to the focus group, physically – teens spend the majority of their time at school and at various recreation centers across the city –  a circumstance that has remained constant it seems for decades.  Sporting events and centers such as Waterbury’s PAL center are also extremely popular “hang-outs” for youth while teen dance clubs and other entertainment venues fell to the bottom of the “hangout list.”   Facebook remains the most popular “virtual” teen hangout followed closely by YouTube.   The group also discussed physical and virtual “hangouts” for younger teens, which differed slightly from those of older teens when it came to physical environments, but remained the same for “online” environments.

The group next identified and prioritized the various media that has the most impact on teens (word of mouth as the number one in both physical and online environments) — for both younger and older teens collectively — and came up with a few possible marketing strategies to spend the rest of the year’s budget on.

The group also identified a few action steps to further assist them in their objectives, including developing a survey for middle and high school students based on the findings of the focus group, and comparing the results of the survey with focus group’s results to further develop their marketing plan.

Out-Source Communications thoroughly enjoyed the focus group, and is looking forward to working further with Caryn, Arturo, Brenda, Soribel, Laura, and the other teens involved in Waterbury Youth Services in the near future.

View more photos from the focus group on our Facebook page!

Why Facebook Pages — and Other Social Media Tools — Help Strengthen Your Website and Business

September 28, 2010

I came across a vlog tonight basically saying that businesses should ignore social media and just focus on their own domainhttp://www.yourbusiness.com. Of course, you all know me — I love social media, and I use it as a marketing tool to help small businesses and nonprofits achieve their goals. Since I know that many of you have heard some of the things he says in the video, and probably have questions, I decided to write about my thoughts.

One of the first things that made me say, “Hey!” was the statement that Facebook did not give customers notice about the change in the width of business pages. Facebook did, in fact, give notice to customers about the change. I got my notice about two or three weeks before the change, giving OSC plenty of time to redesign our clients’ default tabs. Each person using a page had a yellow box at the top of their screen saying that on such-and-such a date, Facebook would be decreasing the width by about 200 pixels.

Although I definitely agree that all businesses should have a permanent web address, I do not recommend that people set up personal profiles instead of business pages. There are many things a business page can do that a personal page can’t, such as: having a default tab and adding extra tabs that you can customize with HTML and CSS (think a welcome tab with information about your business, and a tab for coupons only those who are a fan of your page can receive!), having a discussions forum and reviews section, adding a Constant Contact tab so that your customers can sign up for your mailing list right from Facebook, and a whole laundry list of other great features.

Yes, it’s a drag that Facebook changes things frequently (and yes, sometimes without notice), but for the most part, the things they offer for business pages have remained the same, and I still urge people to have a business page. It is not a “fad” when people expect to find your business on Facebook so that they can become of a fan of it or like it. If you’re not in the game and your core market is on Facebook, you’re missing out on potential customers.

Furthermore, fans, followers, friends — they are not the property of the different social networks; they are still your customers. Businesses should not ignore social media and just stick to their websites, considering sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are being used as search engines more and more, and are a great way to

  1. build up organic SEO, and
  2. give your customers and prospective customers a way to find you and interact with you aside from your website.

Aside from having at least one social networking account for your business, you should also have an on-site blog in addition to your site’s other content so that people will continue to come back to your site. Your social media will, in turn, link back to your blog, building up yet more organic SEO, and giving customers a reason to keep coming back to your site.

Of course, Facebook is not for everyone, but there are plenty of other social networking sites that will work for your specific business. Social media is here to stay, and we small businesses and nonprofits benefit greatly from the (free!) tools that help us spread our products and messages even further.

Have a question about social media? Leave a comment and ask me, or email me at ebarone@out-sourcecom.com.

Elizabeth K. Barone is a social media marketing consultant — what a mouthful! — web designer, and writer. She likes writing To Do lists on white boards, playing Sims, reading, and helping small businesses and nonprofits achieve their goals.

How the “Crash the Superbowl” contest can help you transform your social media marketing plan

September 15, 2010

PepsiCo — parent company of Doritos, Pepsi Max, Mountain Dew, and several other products — is back in the Superbowl game this year. Last year, the company decided to put the money it would have put into their Superbowl commercial into their very successful Pepsi Refresh project — a grant contest program for nonprofits and other causes.

This year, the company is bringing back its Crash the Superbowl contest from five years ago, inviting people like you and me to submit our own thirty-second commercials about Doritos or Pepsi Max.

This alone is a great idea. It’s appealing because most people want their fifteen minutes — er, thirty seconds — of fame. The thought of having my very own commercial aired during the Superbowl is pretty exciting.

Throw in prizes worth up to ONE MILLION DOLLARS, and you’ve got a really exciting game, possibly even more exciting than the biggest football game of the year (and I’m a football fan)! Here’s the deal, according to Mashable:

The final prizes will be determined by how well these ads perform against USA Today’s Ad Meter, which tracks the real-time responses of a panel of ad viewers during the Super Bowl broadcast to determine which ads were liked most and least. If your ads happens to be the most-liked spot of all the commercials to air during the Super Bowl, you’ll awarded $1 million dollars. The consumer goods brands have pledged $600,000 for second place and $400,000 for third.

If consumer-created Doritos and Pepsi Max ads manage to garner all three positions on the list (a statistically unlikely feat, for sure), an additional $1 million will be awarded to each of the three winners. In addition, whoever creates the highest-ranking ad — whether or not it makes it into the top three — will be guaranteed a contract to create another ad for the two brands in 2011.

The winner of this contest is going to be one lucky little ducky, and I’m super excited to see how this is going to play out. PepsiCo has been proving to really get social media and, like Old Spice, is showing that they can be creative and unique while still utilizing social tools to sell their product and re-excite people about an existing and established brand.

Apply This to Your Own Social Media Marketing Plan

Obviously, we small business owners don’t all have $5,000,000 budgets for a contest. However, like Pepsi and Old Spice, we can work with what we have. Are you a nonprofit working to raise funds for a specific cause? Give away tee shirts and other swag to the donor who raises the most funds via your FirstGiving account. Do you install flooring? Give your customer who tags you the most in their Facebook posts a free room of flooring or a few free feet. (Say that five times fast!) You can have customers create videos about your product and offer a free massage, handmade necklace, waive a registration fee for an event, or something else small, depending on your business and product line.

A good social media marketing plan involves a little creativity and up to an hour a day of execution.

Elizabeth K. Barone is a web designer, writer, social media marketing consultant, and blogger. She is just a little addicted to the internet, and loves to read, eat sushi, play video games, and listen to metal in her spare time.

Is social media the right word?

August 3, 2010

Gary Vaynerchuk recently said that “the worst thing that ever happened to social media is the word ‘media’.” He made an excellent point, in that social media is being seen as something to measure because of the word “media”; clients ask me all of the time how they can measure ROI and how they can get more fans/followers/readers/etc.

However, the term social media is a new incarnation of an older term, social networking, and to change the term now would not only confuse people, but would also take a couple of years to catch on. It’s not like the President can jump on TV and say, “We are now going to call social media ‘social customer service’, so please can we have that added to the next edition of Webster?”

I think that people need to change their perception of social media. Like Gary said, you cannot measure social relationships, good customer service, or kindness, and those are the things that we are encouraging our customers to use in their social media. I think that people need to understand that SOCIAL is the keyword in social media, and not MEDIA.

What do you think? Do you think that the term social media needs to be revamped? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

Elizabeth K. Barone is a web designer and social media marketing consultant for OSC. She likes cookie dough ice cream, reading, writing, and brand new office supplies.

June 22, 2010

Working on social media presentation “Social Media – The Nitty Gritty,” for Waterbury Chamber of Commerce on June 23, 8am. To register, or for more information, visit http://ping.fm/fenP9