Articles Tagged with Social media

Learning a PR lesson from a persistent snowdrop

How a long-awaited, lone snowdrop reminded me that persistence and patience are needed when running a PR or social media campaign.persistent snowdrop
Over the weekend, when I was away on a trip, my wife texted me to say a single snowdrop had flowered under our blackcurrant bushes.

I was over the moon. I planted lots of bulbs – crocuses snowdrops and tulips – before seeding this patch of soil with grass last autumn. The grass has taken, but whereas long-established bulbs elsewhere in the garden have come up in abundance, none of these new ones had showed any signs of appearing.

I have been scouring this area every morning for signs of growth, but was starting to wonder whether the bulbs had either been eaten by slugs or had rotted. I hadn’t given up, but felt the chances of seeing any flowers were slim.

Patience is rewarded

So news of the first snowdrop was even sweeter than usual. My patience has been rewarded and now I hope to see a few more flowers come up.

This reminded me about the need for persistence and patience in communication, especially in PR and social media. One press release, one blog post or tweet is unlikely to flourish by itself. It needs a planned campaign to plant seeds that will flower with persistent tending over weeks or months.

While this has always been the case, the vast flood of updates and posts now released on the internet every second makes it even more necessary.

One press release or tweet is not enough

A single tweet, post, blog or press release can disappear like a quiet comment in a noisy pub. An interesting, useful or amusing comment can be overwhelmed by streams of photos, accounts of reality celebrities or the latest smartphones and gadgets.

How do you make your voice heard when you talk about something outside these obvious topics which many people stick to because they are the easiest options?

Being original and interesting, of course, but also being persistent and patient. Many people give up quickly when they don’t see instant results. Often you have to wait to see your achievements.

I am certain that other bulbs will now flower in my lawn, because I believe that, given time, they will reach up and flower.

How firm is your footprint in the social media sand?

How firm is your footprint in the social media sand?Whoosh! Look at the timeline flying past.

A blog that has taken hours, maybe days to formulate and minutes or hours to write pops up on Twitter or Facebook and rushes past in a second.

Trying to catch hold of a post reminds me of my puppy when trying to trap moving water with his paw: it was there a moment a go, but where is it now?

Dissolving in the tide

We can lay footprints in the social media sand, but how long do they last before the tide washes their features away and we have to create another impression, then another and another?

The torrent can seem relentless.

And it’s not just social media but all forms of communication.

Plan and breathe

That’s why planning and preparation are essential.

Where can we find new ideas, a different twist on an old theme, a photo of a familiar scene at a different angle?

Drawing up a schedule for most forms of communication provides control, lets us plan and gives us time to breathe.

It also creates the space necessary for inspiration and lets those ideas we seek tumble into our minds. Where do they come from? Why weren’t they there before?

We can use these ideas in our social media, blogging, PR and marketing.

Ride the waves

We can’t fix our presence, as the sand starts blowing away as soon as we make an impression, but if we plan and schedule we can ride the social media wave and catch those moments that thrill.

Write my press release in the dust

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone says “we must do a press release”?Write my press release in the dust

That’s it: the press release is done.

But what does it actually do?

It’s a bit like producing a brochure and having hundreds or thousands sitting in boxes in the corner of the office gathering dust. We’ve invested our time in writing and design as well as money in printing, but we’re not getting any return on our investment as they sit there. All that we get is dust.

Writing the press release is often the easy part. Getting interest in it is the challenge. That’s where we have to ‘do’ a lot more.

If we’ve got relationships with journalists, we can talk to them about it.

We can distribute it to our target list of journalists.

We can post it on our web site.

We can share it on social media networks.

We can talk about it on audio or video.

We can think of other inventive ways to draw attention to it.

A bit like a Twitter stream rushing past, a press release in an email can get lost in a flood of other press releases. And if it doesn’t get noticed, it will have the same effect as those brochures gathering dust in our office.

Developing a process that brings press releases to the attention of target audiences takes some ‘doing’, but will get better value from a PR campaign.

How do you promote your press releases?

Overcome fear to tell your story

All businesses need to create a presence so that customers know that they are there. Whether this is through marketing and advertising or from word-of-mouth recommendations, awareness is essential for getting work.

I find that many people are still wary of trying out many of the marketing tools that are available to them. In my role as a business writer for a local newspaper, I often receive phone calls starting with a business owner saying gingerly “I don’t know if you’ll be interested in this . . . ” and then going on to tell a cracker of a story. Of course, the opposite of this is the business owner who sends in press releases regularly with ‘news’ that is only of interest to them. I believe many businesses have good stories to tell and need the confidence to tell them.

While an effective PR consultant can help, businesses without a budget can . . . and do . . . achieve media exposure through their own efforts. With thought and planning, a clear idea of what you want to achieve and a focus on what you will and what you won’t talk about, public relations can be a very cost effective tool.

This applies not only to PR but also to blogging, social media and more. Perhaps you see your competitors getting exposure and feel that you offer a better service than they do, but how will people find that out? Often a voice can tell us that “no one wants to hear about that”, but it’s probably that we’re afraid of standing up and telling our story, a bit like the fear of public speaking.

I’m often encouraging people to talk about their businesses because so many are fascinating and deserve wider exposure. With social media, colleagues and associates can help to share your stories and support you.

There really are many opportunities to tell your stories and people who want to hear them.

Robert Zarywacz is a copywriter and journalist who has written thousands of magazine and newspaper articles. He also researches and writes press releases, case studies and newsletters for clients as well as managing social media and PR campaigns at z2z.com. Robert is the business writer for the North Devon Journal, chairman of COMBEbusiness and courtesy consultant for the National Campaign for Courtesy. Follow @robertz on Twitter.

Take good care of content

Way back in 1985, in the infancy of online media, I helped build a kind of web site. I say kind of web site because the internet as we know it had not yet been developed. A colleague and I at British Airways built what we called an electronic brochure in Prestel, the BT videotext system. Like Ceefax and Oracle but far more responsive, we created 7,000 screens, or pages, of information uploaded into this early system.

Much of my contribution was to summarise every air fare charged from the UK to 140 destinations and to describe the features and benefits of the classes of service, eg Economy, Business, First and Concorde. I also published the complete USA Flydrive holiday brochure online and each month changed the Concorde on-board menus. At that time 95% of UK travel agents used Prestel and I seem to recall we achieved some 500,000 page views a month.

Then I obtained another promotion and moved department. Unfortunately, Prestel was ageing even then and was being superseded by more sophisticated computerised travel reservations systems and, ultimately, by the internet.

I suppose one day those 7,000 pages of information were turned off and discarded. They were customised to fit the 40-character x 22-line screens with no photo facilities, primitive graphics and limited colour choices. Compared with the simplicity of technology like WordPress, it could be excruciating work to fit everything on to one screen with no scrolling.

This brings me, after meandering via 140 destinations it seems, to my point that content is invaluable. While learning to use social media services such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ is important now, how long will we use continue to use these? What will we use in two or five years? How will we maintain our changing online presence, develop our brands, port our important content to new formats, evolve our messages and presentation, and keep it all fresh, compelling and useful?

I’ve often wondered what happened to those 7,000 pages when Prestel’s screens went blank. Did they just fade or float off into the ether?

When was the last time I followed my own advice?

Sometimes when I read blogs I think I’m back at school. It seems I’m always being told “three things you must do” or “You shalt do this”, especially in the world of social media. Really?

It’s a bit like going a on a training course and remembering that you know nearly everything the trainer tells you, but that you need refreshing and, more importantly, need to put it all into practice.

We seem to be becoming a world of advisers, but is anyone taking any of this advice?

Giving advice is easy, following it is the difficult part.

Of course, much of this advice is marketing disguised to advertise a blogger’s own services. And why not?

The trouble is that I start to feel sore after being beaten with a stick too often.

That is why I want to ‘share’ and ‘like’ things I see rather than berate readers for what they’re doing wrong. Who do I think I am I to do that?

So my advice . . . to myself  . . . is to . . . take my advice . . . and put it into practice.

It’s all change in social media

The Google+ redesign is the latest change to shake up social media users. Some like it, some don’t, but what matters is whether people continue to use Google+ and more people take to it. It’s the same with other social media services.

It’s surprising that many people still don’t take change in their stride. I admit to being able to remember when, in the mid-1980s, some travel agents objected to having their dumb terminal travel reservation systems replaced by PCs. They had become attached to these boxes and didn’t want new boxes to replace them.

Since then we’ve gone from DOS to Windows, seen the Mac OS, Linux and mobile operating systems arrive, flocked online to build html web pages, then abandoned them for content management systems and are now immersing ourselves in social media services.

I’m sure social media won’t be the final development or change we see. Computing and communication change daily: a new feature appears and a familiar one disappears. Changes are not always for the better, but those who make them hope they are. Where these make life easier and are useful, people tend to go along with them; where they make usage impossible, people can respond by abandoning that service.

Do I like the new Google+? I liked the clean design of the previous version, but I’ve just written a workshop on using Google+ and find I am now using it more. For me, it is becoming more usable.

I’m glad that the new version was released before I wrote the workshop, but it has reminded me that the material I’ve written now will soon have to change to reflect future developments. Nothing stays the same.

How to write the best social media profile . . . for you

Many of the best marketers learn the rules of marketing so they can break them to stand out from the crowd. Social media is a lot newer so the rules are still being written, if it’ll ever be possible to have rules in such a fast-moving, constantly shifting environment.
So how can you write an effective personal profile to post on social media sites?
It’s about you . . .
Whereas you’re probably used to writing about your business, not yourself, social media is about people. Potential followers will want to know about you, the person, and a combination of your business and personal interests, experience and expertise. Sometimes it can be the most unlikely topic that connects two people and creates a valuable business relationship, so your profile has to be as open as possible while remaining within the safe limits of what you are prepared to publish online.
. . . connecting with other people
You want to connect with other people. If you have a social media strategy, you’ll have already identified the type of person you want to attract and what interests they have. Perhaps you’re looking for new clients, suppliers, business partners, advisers, a business support network or friends in the same field. If you’re using social media for business, then your goals will probably include one or more of these.
By entering relevant keywords in your profile you can make it easier for your targeted group to find you in searches, while your profile’s content and style will then attract them to follow or contact you. The ideal reaction is “he sounds interesting” or “I need to connect with her”. If you achieve these, you’ll attract your target group to follow you by choice without using automated following tools.
Developing your personal style and tone
A quality portrait photograph and suitable logos to brand your business create a good visual first impression. Your text has to go beyond this to convince readers that you are a genuine, approachable and valuable contact.
Developing the right tone of voice is important. You want people to hear in their minds how you would greet them in real life at a business meeting or other event. You’ll probably want a mix of professional and friendly, although depending on your business sector people could expect you to be more formal/informal, conservative/modern or representative of the way people talk in your industry.
This is a very personal choice and you will have to decide what is suitable. Remember, nothing is set in stone and if you find your profile does not work effectively at first, you can refine it or even re-write it completely. Sometimes experimenting can be useful to discover what works and what doesn’t.
One thing to consider carefully is the use of humour. Everyone has a different sense of humour and what you find funny may strike others as anything other than funny. Humour can be very effective in communicating, but needs to be handled very carefully. There seem to be more failed comedians using social media than successful ones.
Heading
Where a site lets you post a heading, this gives you the opportunity to summarise yourself in five or six words. You could say “an accountant with 20 years’ experience”, but that sounds boring. “Award-winning accountant who understands business” suggests you are a leader in your field and are able to get beyond numbers and filing tax returns. “Approachable accountant helping Berkshire businesses” shows that you are easy to work with and serve clients in a specific place.
As with tone, your heading is a matter of personal choice. There are many different approaches, but all of them enable you to highlight the one or two most important characteristics you want readers to notice. Most sites let you edit your profile, so you can change your heading to reflect a change in interest, different times of year or events.
Profile text
What do you write when faced with an empty dialogue box? Well, what are you trying to achieve through your social media strategy? Who do you want to attract? What is it you want to interest them in? What balance of business and personal information do you want to give? The answers to these question will help you sort the information to include.
Also, how do you intend to participate in a specific service, such as twitter, or on a forum? Will you write tweets giving out advice, find people to help on a specific issue, publish blogs on a specialist topic? Will you be projecting a business persona or are your opinions going to be purely personal? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field or do you just want to talk to people for fun? Again, these are serious questions that need to be answered if you want to achieve specific aims.
Even if you want to establish yourself as a serious expert, it’s going to be you talking, not your business. So write in the first person as if you were speaking, using I, rather than in the third person, using he/she/it, which is usually the case in business and could sound overly formal here. However, you probably don’t want to repeat I, I, I all the time as it will put many people off. If the profile has separate personal and business sections, you can write about the business as ‘it’ or ‘we’ in that section.
Highlight your achievements and expertise, but think how you would view someone who arrives at a business meeting, then launches into how successful they are, what awards they’ve won and much business they’ve got. Be careful that your achievements do not come across as bragging.
How will you know if what you’ve written is suitable? Let a trusted colleague or associate read it and give you constructive criticism. They could have some very good ideas for improving it. Don’t worry about criticism, because writing about yourself is one of the most difficult things anyone can do and probably the reason why so many people put off writing profiles.
Also, check you grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you can, ask someone else to check it: a fresh eye is more likely to pick up typos.
What’s the best length?
Some profiles limit how many words you can enter, so use this to focus on what you really want to say. If there is no limit, it’s still a good idea to be succinct. If you have several things to talk about, split these into sections. If you’re able to use html in the profile, you could create basic navigation so people can click on a heading to go to that section. However, if it’s too long, people could just give up. The best balance is where you write enough for a reader to find you interesting: not too little and not too much.
How do people find you?
Many social media services and sites feature keyword searching, so include relevant words to feature in search results. Think about what words and phrases your targets are likely to enter in the search box. Again, if you can use html, you could use the keywords to link to your web site to drive more web traffic to it.
Where do I start?
Taking this all into account, why not start writing your profile now? If you can’t decide on which approach is for you, look at other people’s profiles for inspiration. How do those in the same industry write their profiles? Don’t copy them, but decide what you like about them and what you don’t like. Adopt the approaches you like and apply these to writing your own original profile.
Let’s get personal
Remember that your profile is about you: it’s personal. It’s there to make you stand out, so the more individual you can make it, the more readers are likely to find it interesting. Don’t be afraid to experiment, as most sites let you edit your text. There are millions of profiles out there, so if you discover a unique way to present yourself that works well, then use it.
Do you have your own profile tips?
There are so many personal choices to be made when writing your profile. What do you find works particularly well? Please share your experience and tips.

Many of the best marketers learn the rules of marketing so they can break them to stand out from the crowd. Social media is a lot newer, so the rules are still being written, if it’ll ever be possible to have rules in such a fast-moving, constantly shifting environment.

So how can you write an effective personal profile to post on social media sites?

It’s about you . . .

Whereas you’re probably used to writing about your business, not yourself, social media is about people. Potential followers will want to know about you, the person, and a combination of your business and personal interests, experience and expertise. Sometimes it can be the most unlikely topic that connects two people and creates a valuable business relationship, so your profile has to be as open as possible while remaining within the safe limits of what you are prepared to publish online.

. . . connecting with other people

You want to connect with other people. If you have a social media strategy, you’ll have already identified the type of person you want to attract and what interests they have. Perhaps you’re looking for new clients, suppliers, business partners, advisers, a business support network or friends in the same field. If you’re using social media for business, then your goals will probably include one or more of these.

By entering relevant keywords in your profile you can make it easier for your targeted group to find you in searches, while your profile’s content and style will then attract them to follow or contact you. The ideal reaction is “he sounds interesting” or “I need to connect with her”. If you achieve these, you’ll attract your target group to follow you by choice without using automated following tools.

Developing your personal style and tone

A quality portrait photograph and suitable logos to brand your business create a good visual first impression. Your text has to go beyond this to convince readers that you are a genuine, approachable and valuable contact.

Developing the right tone of voice is important. You want people to hear in their minds how you would greet them in real life at a business meeting or other event. You’ll probably want a mix of professional and friendly, although depending on your business sector people could expect you to be more formal/informal, conservative/modern or representative of the way people talk in your industry.

This is a very personal choice and you will have to decide what is suitable. Remember, nothing is set in stone and if you find your profile does not work effectively at first, you can refine it or even re-write it completely. Sometimes experimenting can be useful to discover what works and what doesn’t.

One thing to consider carefully is the use of humour. Everyone has a different sense of humour and what you find funny may strike others as anything other than funny. Humour can be very effective in communicating, but needs to be handled carefully. There seem to be more failed comedians using social media than successful ones.

Attract followers with an interesting heading

Where a site lets you post a heading, this gives you the opportunity to summarise yourself in five or six words. You could say “an accountant with 20 years’ experience”, but that sounds boring. “Award-winning accountant who understands business” suggests you are a leader in your field and are able to get beyond numbers and filing tax returns. “Approachable accountant helping Berkshire businesses” shows that you are easy to work with and serve clients in a specific place.

As with tone, your heading is a matter of personal choice. There are many different approaches, but all of them enable you to highlight the one or two most important characteristics you want readers to notice. Most sites let you edit your profile, so you can change your heading to reflect a change in interest, different times of year or events.

Shaping your profile text

What do you write when faced with an empty dialogue box? Well, what are you trying to achieve through your social media strategy? Who do you want to attract? What is it you want to interest them in? What balance of business and personal information do you want to give? The answers to these question will help you sort the information to include.

Also, how do you intend to participate in a specific service, such as twitter, or on a forum? Will you write tweets giving out advice, find people to help on a specific issue, publish blogs on a specialist topic? Will you be projecting a business persona or are your opinions going to be purely personal? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field or do you just want to talk to people for fun? Again, these are serious questions that need to be answered if you want to achieve specific aims.

Even if you want to establish yourself as a serious expert, it’s going to be you talking, not your business. So write in the first person as if you were speaking, using I, rather than in the third person, using he/she/it, which is usually the case in business and could sound overly formal here. However, you probably don’t want to repeat I, I, I all the time as it will put many people off. If the profile has separate personal and business sections, you can write about the business as ‘it’ or ‘we’ in that section.

Highlight your achievements and expertise, but think how you would view someone who arrives at a business meeting, then launches into how successful they are, what awards they’ve won and much business they’ve got. Be careful that your achievements do not come across as bragging.

How will you know if what you’ve written is suitable? Let a trusted colleague or associate read it and give you constructive criticism. They could have some very good ideas for improving it. Don’t worry about criticism, because writing about yourself is one of the most difficult things anyone can do and probably the reason why so many people put off writing profiles.

Also, check you grammar, punctuation and spelling. If you can, ask someone else to check it: a fresh eye is more likely to pick up typos.

What’s the best length for a profile?

Some profiles limit how many words you can enter, so use this to focus on what you really want to say. If there is no limit, it’s still a good idea to be succinct. If you have several things to talk about, split these into sections. If you’re able to use html in the profile, you could create basic navigation so people can click on a heading to go to that section. However, if it’s too long, people could just give up. The best balance is where you write enough for a reader to find you interesting: not too little and not too much.

How do people find you?

Many social media services and sites feature keyword searching, so include relevant words to feature in search results. Think about what words and phrases your targets are likely to enter in the search box. Again, if you can use html, you could use the keywords to link to your web site to drive more web traffic to it.

Where do you start?

Taking this all into account, why not start writing your profile now? If you can’t decide on which approach is for you, look at other people’s profiles for inspiration. How do those in the same industry write their profiles? Don’t copy them, but decide what you like about them and what you don’t like. Adopt the approaches you like and apply these to writing your own original profile.

Let’s get personal

Remember that your profile is about you: it’s personal. It’s there to make you stand out, so the more individual you can make it, the more readers are likely to find it interesting. Don’t be afraid to experiment, as most sites let you edit your text. There are millions of profiles out there, so if you discover a unique way to present yourself that works well, then use it.

Do you have your own profile tips?

There are so many personal choices to be made when writing your profile. What do you find works particularly well? Please share your experience and tips.

I don’t know

Somewhere there is an answer to every question we could ever think to ask. This is incredibly useful as I certainly don’t know everything in this age of social media experts, specialists and gurus.

And that’s one of the wonders of social media: if you ask a question, often someone will come back with the answer or, at least, a helpful suggestion.

But it can also work the other way: anyone professing to know everything about a topic can be ‘found out’ if their knowledge is deficient. It’s a bit like Viv Stanshall’s character Reg Smeeton whose favourite question was “Did you know there is no proper name for the back of the knee?” Apparently, the term ‘popliteal fossa’ undermines Reg’s claim.

Rather than imposing our knowledge on other people, asking questions can help to develop social media relationships. Many people are willing to share their knowledge and will do so for someone not afraid to ask. A way to pay back this generosity is to answer other people’s questions on topics about which we are knowledgeable.

Will we look silly if we admit to a hole in our knowledge? I don’t think so. My experience is that when someone asks a question others are often glad because they also want to know the answer.

 

Marketing deficiency: incorporating peripheral vision into the broader view

The power of social media can be staggering, but so can the downward drag of all the dross and spam.

As millions flock to use twitter and similar services, sifting out the rubbish can become a chore (even with clever applications automating it). It’s a bit like discovering an excellent pub where the beer is superb and the conversation even better. At first, a select group frequents the pub, but over months more and more people discover it and eventually it becomes crowded and noisy. Perhaps some of the regulars retreat to a private room to recreate the atmosphere that originally attracted them or maybe even find another pub they can visit in comfort. The pub is now just like any other and eventually it is abandoned and closes as people move on to the next up-and-coming hostelry.

In marketing terms, this happens all the time as businesses look for new ways of promoting and selling their products and services. Underneath, a lot of what they are doing should be the same: researching products and markets, updating business plans, developing campaigns to advertise and sell products.

What does change is peripheral activity: advertising, promotion and public relations. As one method loses its attraction, another is invented or rediscovered. I call it peripheral because it is often the delivery mechanism or format that changes most, although in no way are these unimportant. These activities can range from the traditional, such as print advertising, to the revolutionary and can often be be mixed and matched to suit specific marketing objectives.

One of the most exciting aspects of marketing is finding new ways of communicating that make you stand out from your competitors. Inevitably, others will catch up and copy you, your target audiences lose interest as new campaigns grow familiar until the hunt begins for the next new method.

Change is constant at this periphery, but the main marketing vision has to remain consistent to achieve the objectives of the business plan. Balancing the consistency of the core business vision with the changing nature of peripheral activity is a challenge, but getting it right is crucial. It means that you can choose from a huge choice of marketing tools, watching the new grow old and at the same time keeping an eye on the horizon for tomorrow’s new tools and opportunities.

What’s important is not to be distracted by peripheral vision from seeing what’s ahead.

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