@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.

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.

Note to Nonprofits: Don’t Fear Social Media!

June 22, 2010

If I had only five minutes to address a group of small business owners and nonprofits regarding their overall marketing strategies, I would use that time to warn them about the dangers of NOT using social media as part of their marketing mix! Time and time again, over the past year, I have heard the following concerns from trepidatious clients, “We’re afraid….. We’re worried that someone might post content that’s negative or harmful; We don’t want to engage in media that we can’t control!”

If you’re afraid of what people might say about your company/organization on your social media site, then your problem is two-fold; first, depending upon how real that threat is in your particular situation, you already have a public relations or customer service problem that desperately needs attention (and social media is a powerful tool that can actually help you in this arena); and second, the real truth is that if someone wants to use social media to complain about, or slander, your product/company/image – they’re probably already doing it on their own, their friend’s, your competition’s, and/or any number of other social media venues that you’re not even aware of! The worst possible mistake that you, as a business owner or nonprofit leader, can make is to have no official social media presence of your own to promote a positive image of your business/organization, or to not weigh in on, or respond to, conversations about your product that are already going on around you!

The reality is that social media, whether we like it or not (and I personally LOVE it as a marketing tool) is here to stay. In fact, the lastest electronic media research reports that social media networking has replaced email as the third most popular activity conducted “online” (only behind doing a “google” search and downloading or using online software). Not since the advent of the internet itself has something so immediately and completely transformed the way we market and/or communicate about our “products” to the world. In this new digital age where interaction and conversation have become the driving force behind successful brand strategy and product marketing campaigns, the danger lies not in engaging in the conversation, but in turning your back on it and the millions of potential customers, supporters, volunteers, and/or donors who can be found there!

Your customer service front line

April 23, 2010

Recently, while maintaining a client’s Facebook Page, I noticed several complaints from different people about different things. This particular client is an independent newspaper that covers quite a wide area. They have a decent sized newsroom, but unfortunately, you can only cover so much. However, the complaints were about lack of coverage on certain events.

A couple of years ago, people might call in and complain, or send angry letters to the editor. People still do these things, but now they can get in touch with their newspaper through the paper’s Facebook Page; it’s arguably a lot faster to log in to your Facebook account than it is to look up the paper’s number or address. A couple of years ago, people may not have expected a response from a company on Facebook. There were less companies on social networking sites than there are now, and it wasn’t the norm. Now, however, people more than expect a response. They may drop you completely if you ignore them. (Personally, I wouldn’t remain a follower of a company’s Twitter account nor would I continue to Like a company’s Facebook Page if they continuously ignored my questions and concerns. I also wouldn’t stick around if the company failed to even acknowledge its customers at all.)

The game has completely changed, making your social networking profiles your front line in customer service. With just a few clicks, a couple of apologies, and a link to the paper’s contact information, I was able to help my client’s customers get in touch with the newsroom, and an event that wouldn’t normally have been covered did get covered. Several people who normally just lurk the page Liked and commented on their approval of this event being covered when the original poster of the complaint commented again to say thank you.

And that’s it. You don’t have to spend hours on your social networking profiles. Within a few minutes, you can show your customers your appreciation, and help them get what they want from you. It’s so easy, it’s inexcusable not to utilize these tools. Here are a few tips that will make you and your company social media rock stars when it comes to customer service:

  • Log in at least once a day. Spend a few minutes reading any posts and replies from your customers, and respond to as many as possible. Sometimes, you might have to kind of filter through; you may not be able to reply to every comment, but you should at least answer any questions.
  • Have a contact page on your website that you can quickly refer customers to. This can apply especially to Twitter, where you might not have enough characters to point a customer to your email address or phone number, but it also cuts down on time. Imagine how much time you’d save when you’re just copying and pasting a contact link rather than pointing them to the proper method of contact. (Do they need a phone number? Email address? Mailing address? Your contact page should have everything all in one place, and should even have a quick and handy contact form so that your customers don’t have to leave your site.)
  • Thank your customer for expressing their concerns, and apologize when necessary. We do this when engaging with someone face to face, but sometimes digital interaction can seem a lot less personal. By remembering to use your manners and make the customer feel special, you can break down that seemingly impersonal barrier.
  • Follow up. When my client’s customer posted on the paper’s Facebook Wall thanking the paper for their coverage, I followed up by thanking him for his support of the paper. When you make it abundantly clear that it’s all about your customer rather than it being about your business, you make them feel like your brand truly does care. In this day and age, it’s very important for companies to go back to their roots and show appreciation of their customers, and social media makes it easier than ever.

How has social media improved your company’s customer service? Share your success stories in the comments below!

Elizabeth K. Barone is a web designer, social media marketing consultant, and is addicted to Dunkin Donuts iced coffee.

Hungry for more social media tips? Join OSC when we present SOCIAL MEDIA: THE NITTY GRITTY on Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 at 8am at the Waterbury Regional Chamber of Commerce (83 Bank St., Waterbury, CT). To attend, contact the Chamber at 203-757-0701, or visit http://waterburychamber.com.