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Tag: "social media"

Fashionably Late… or Better Late Than Never?

Further adventures in Social Media world

Twitter gets ever more popular, is it too late for businesses to join in?

Twitter gets ever more popular, is it too late for businesses to join in?

A pal of mine announced this week on Facebook that the House DJ consortium KOTG (Keep Off The Grass) he heads up had ‘just discovered Twitter’.

I was stunned.

Not because I thought they shouldn’t, quite the opposite, but because he seems to be into all things online and fairly marketing savvy. He uses Facebook a lot, especially for promoting the KOTG events, so to confess to having ‘only just discovered Twitter’ seemed amazing
especially considering I joined it in 2006, a few months after it launched, and have been known to *ehem* bang on about it a fair bit.

So I asked him – like you do – what had taken him so long? His reply? “The cool kids are always late”, to which I have to confess I laughed out loud, which perhaps wasn’t kind, but while being late might equal cool in the music world (I’m still not convinced, actually), it’s completely untrue when applied to media and technology, which is why over the last decade all the geeks and techno bods have become the coolest kids in the world, let alone town!

In fact, in light of the current social media privacy uproars, that’s actually like claiming that you are being ‘fashionably late’ to a party, when you in truth you spent ages pretending you didn’t really want to go, got lost en route and only manage to turn up when the bouncers have been sent in to straighten the place out and some of the peeps are thinking about calling a taxi.

On the plus side it did get me thinking.

While there is no arguing with the fact that sites go in and out of fashion – just look at ecademy, which was the place to network online in the early noughties and is now somewhere the savviest online networkers and most brilliant techies and businesspeople I know can’t mention without shuddering – at what point in business terms does being ‘fashionable late’ (lol…sorry, still making me chuckle) become ‘don’t even bother’.

Forresters’ report of B2B marketing last year highlighted the way corporations and businesses are using social media in all areas of business from making purchasing decisions, keeping tabs on trends and competitors to promoting their brand and recruiting staff.

And they concluded that if you were B2B business and you weren’t in social media already in 2009 then, as they put it so succinctly, “You’re Late!”

B2B is a way behind B2C social media marketing, and KOTG is definitely B2C, albeit on a small but perfectly formed scale, so where does that leave them in the grand scheme of things? Wasting their time or is it just simply a case of better late than never? We are all aware of how much the sheer ‘noise’ level has increased on Twitter, especially over the last 18 months, and as a digital strategist who uses Twitter as part of marketing cycles for my clients I know it can be an uphill struggle at times, depending on the product and brand. And obviously changes are in the air, as already noted about the privacy uproar.

However, despite everything that’s written about it and all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and yes the snotty attitudes from some of the ‘latecomers’ and dismissal by others, it can be extremely effective as a marketing tool as long as it is used properly, with proper analysis, reporting and monitoring…

And fun and addictive if it isn’t 🙂

As a girl who has been early in to just about every digital trend there’s ever been, with daughters who use it all as naturally as breathing, I definitely think it’s not going away any time soon and here are my top 5 reasons why I think so:

  1. People’s lifestyles are more fragmented and busier than they have ever been and they can end up feeling disconnected – social media makes it easier to keep up with friends and family and trends, plus it makes it easier to make decisions (what’s everyone else doing?), and makes them feel connected to the wider community. Don’t ever underestimate the power of feeling ‘one of the gang’.
  2. People are used to looking at screens and getting information at the press of a button. It is in our nature to find the short cuts and to want it NOW, so this is our perfect medium, so it really isn’t going to stop any time soon.
  3. The digital revolution has driven a whole new way of working, especially for parents, and in their turn they are raising a generation for whom it is normal for parents to work from home, even if only part time, using a computer, and a huge number do it as a career, marketing themselves, networking online and running their businesses, all using the internet and while they still often ending up looking like something out of The Matrix. It’s becoming the norm, not distinctly odd as it was when I started way back in 1995!
  4. The computers that run the web love anything that is frequently updated and fresh and if that isn’t social media I don’t know what is! Social media = SEO = being visible online = comment/purchases/sales/influence/decisions…etc etc
  5. It’s fun. We are a species who likes to play. We learn when we play and we play as often as we can wherever we can. This is just the latest way we do it and until we get bored it’s here to stay.

So… glad you decided to join Twitter, @ KOTG_DJs, welcome to the party, look forward to reading your tweets! 🙂

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Social Media at Cybermummy Conference 2010

A couple of month’s ago I was up in London to meet with Vodafone peeps about their Working Women campaign, for which I have been one of their Brand Ambassadors.

One of the other women ambassadors was someone I knew in her online persona, A Modern Mother and British Mummy Bloggers, but not in person as Susanna, so it was really nice to get to chat with her face to face at last.

We soon realized we had a huge amount of synergy going on, not least a background of marketing, being early innovators online (we discovered we knew each other from the earliest Twitter days, when there were only about 50 of us Twitter peeps from the UK and not many more from the US!) as well as working virtually to enable us to maintain a professional career and be a hands-on mum.

And out of that came a big discussion about her latest baby, the Cybermummy conference, and I am delighted to share that I will now be speaking at Cybermummy about social media and how you can make it work for you.

The Cybermummy Conference is a first for the UK, who have consistently lagged behind the States with all things WAHM (www.funkyangel.co.uk was the first WAHM site in the UK, launching in 2005) and the online and virtual working mum revolution, and as such is to be welcomed with open arms.

Using technology to work virtually, and being able to promote your business and network without leaving your chair is an amazing thing when you think back to the past and the need to commute to do a job worthy or the title, to have to pay an agency huge sums to promote your startup or new product, or to get up at 5am to go along to a hideous BMI breakfast meeting!

With my business midwife hat on I have noticed a huge improvement in the speed in which a business can be set up and start to turn a profit, just using all the online tools and techniques now available.

The plus points, and they are HUGE, are that women are no longer quite as hampered by biology as previously (still hampered, but nowhere near the same level), children benefit from having their mums (and dads) around more,  household income isn’t swallowed up in traveling or childcare costs, and the business and marketing fields has been leveled quite radically. It has, in fact, never been easier to start a business and the chances of it succeeding are higher than ever before, mainly as a result of the flexibility and lowered costs bought about by technological advances.

The downside is, of course, the isolation when you work from home, and the lack of camaraderie that you have on tap in an office, which is why events like Cybermummy are so important. Networking online is one thing, and very valuable – I met both my business partners, Sally and Helen, through online networking – but the buzz and support you get from being with your peers and colleagues is something else again and a chance not to be missed!

So if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, what are you waiting for?! See you there…

www.cybermummy.co.uk

I consult on social media and media strategy over at The Media Marketing Co, where we do digital marketing and pr strategy and campaigns. If you would like to contact me there, please do, or by my email on claire[at]claireburdett.com

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The Pursuit of Happiness and the Death of Superwoman

I recently wrote an article that was triggered in part by two threads in one of the online clubs I belong to.

Entitled How to avoid burn out it was a response to the conversations, and also born out of my own experiences in being Superwoman balancing the everyday work that pays the bills, the domestic and family responsibilities that come along with being a (solo) mum and the pursuit of a better place in the future ie happiness and success, perhaps best encapsulated by the dream of paying off a mortgage or finally arriving at the sunlit upper pastures of the four hour week.

The threads were written by two women, both of whom had been working excessively hard the last year or more to try bring their dreams to fruition, and both had recently achieved a level of success. However – and it’s a big however – in both cases the successes were less than what they had been hoping for and working towards, they were very tired, and inevitably they both hit a wall.

While I don’t want to get tangled up in a feminist discussion, I do think that there are distinct differences between men and women when it comes to entrepreneurialship, as well as in other areas. I haven’t analysed it in any great depth, so this is just my general view, but it does seem to have something to do with women not liking to ask for help, and wanting to be seen to be better or more competent than anyone else, and something to do with trying to be best in class in every area, whether that is he best mum, the best cook, the best dressed, and now, the best business women or entrepreneur. And this is particularly damaging in my view because few women seem to take the plunge until later in life when they are frequently trailing family responsibilities in a particularly hands on and domestic way that already means they are stretched thinly. And might just really want to be at home and see staring their own home business as a way to do that.

Because I have also noticed the disquietening rise ‘mumpreneur on a shoestring’ syndrome kicking in over recent years, and as many of you will be aware, I have written fairly extensively in Funky Angel and other places on how to keep work life balance, how to set up a business realistically, how to keep it going etc etc. While it is entirely possible to set up and start a business of a budget, it does bother me a little that some peeps seem to think that they can set up a thriving business on tuppence happenny and some goodwill, because although it is much much easier than ever before to set up a business, especially from home, equally it does take money and it does take effort and it does take time.

The broad problem is, I think, not so much a female problem but more a social one – the belief that all you need to succeed is determination and if you don’t then you are somehow lazy or inadequate, and just wanting ‘to be’ is somehow morally corrupt. I am sure it has its roots in our Puritanical period and the Protestant work ethic, but it really is a load of rubbish and extremely damaging for most people. All these stories of people making millions and achieving their dreams with a few pounds and a lot of hard work just aren’t realistic for most people and almost always lead to a deal of unhappiness and exhaustion and failed business that could have added so much to the economy.

There is nothing tougher, in my view, that working alone to achieve a dream, and I know this is a controversial statement, but doing it solo, especially with myriad responsibilities, is almost always doomed to fail, or perhaps ‘not succeed as well as it could’ would be better judgement. And this is not because of any lack of talent or industry or brilliant ideas on the part of the entrepreneur. No, not at all, as a business coach I am constantly amazed and humbled by the sheer quality and quantity of brilliant ideas, fabulous ability and breath-taking determination – this nation is still a nation of innovators and own business owners! No, the key points in achieving lasting success is to be realistic about how much you can accomplish in a day comfortably given your constitution and other responsibilities, that you can build yourself a team and recognise you are a human being who probably likes gardening or making cakes or reading and that time must be allocated for these things as well in order to achieve balance.

Try to do it all alone you and you will have to learn the hard way exactly what constitutes life/work balance and how it works in practice ie push yourself too hard and too obsessively and you will crash and burn – and it could take ages for you to recover and if there is no one else but you who is servicing your clients, running your marketing campaign and dealing with the admin? And if the answer to that is an “er…” then where does that leave your business?

People are not machines. People thrive on variety else they get stale and bored – they need routinue yes, but variety within that structure. People can handle change so long as they are ready for it. People get stuck when they don’t have other people to bounce off and interact with. Doing the same thing over and over again in the hope that this time it will work and will make you happy is sure recipe for failure.

Later last week I was talking to a client of mine, Jo Geraghty, who is very busy running two businesses – Beyond the Ladder Coaching and London Sightseeing Runs. Her approach to it is very different to the two entrepreneurs mentioned above – she has support and assistance, and her second business compliments her first in so much as it is a very active and relaxed whereas her main one is quite static, and so she can balance the smart, work based intense side of her life with something completely different. Another of our Agency client’s, The PR Network, is run by two business women and PR professionals with young children and they are extremely disciplined about days they work and very good at outsourcing all the bits of their business that they don’t want to or can’t do, and so have built themselves a truly hollow company in the process –and a highly respected and successful one to boot.

My work life is currently extremely busy but totally unstressful and very rewarding because I have excellent support and I am very organised and I understand when I need regular breaks and self care in order to keep on functioning at a high level. Two or three days a week I travel to London to work inhouse with Cision UK with my trusty netbook (AKA ‘home office on the move’) helping me cut down on the impact of commuting in lost hours and saving my shoulder from dying from a laptop’s weight! The rest of the time I work from home – business as usual.  I am in touch with The Funky Agency Team via Skype, email, mobile social media, at regular intervals, and the domestic side of things either face to face if I am home (there’s a novelty!) or via text, mobile and social media, so when I have down time with friends, family and the children I can concentrate on BEING with them because technology in all its glory has made it so much easier to juggle the various demands and to do so gracefully.

The upshot is that I can therefore concentrate on being happy, putting myself first, enjoying my work and my closest best beloveds, and feeling balanced rather than desperately chasing my tail and trying to be Superwoman.

Superwoman? Pah, I’d rather just be happy…

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What Can Social Media do for Your Business?

We’ve all heard about Social Media, heck seems like the whole world is suddenly talking about it in confident – or less than confident – tones, or claiming to be an expert suddenly.

Yet despite the pain of the recession and the realization, albeit slow, of the huge benefits that can be gathered from Social Media involvement for brands, the vast majority of companies still seem confused about how best to leverage Social Media for business, and of the ones who have been brave enough to jump in, most are still only dipping their toes in the Social Media water

Firstly then, for the technophobes amongst us, here’s a quick gallop through the current Social Media landscape, by which we don’t just mean Facebook or Twitter.

The big four in the West are Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Blogs play a huge part in raising company profiles online, in fact it is fairly difficult to coordinate a Social Media marketing campaign without one, and in addition there are thousands of smaller and/or more niche sites across the Internet.

Add to that the bookmarking sites – Digg, Stumbled, Delicious – and then all the other myriad forums and special interest sites where you can chat, connect and interact with…er… other human beings, who would like to know about you and what you do, need what you are doing or producing, already know and like what you like.

The biggest rises in social media usage and participation over the last 18 months has been amongst the 35+ professionals and these are likely to be your customers (or potential customers). So how many people are we talking here?

Twitter – 23 million unique visitors per day; 3 million tweets per day

YouTube – 85 million video views per day

Facebook – 300 million active users; 122 million visits per day

LinkedIn – 43 million members; 13 million daily average visits

Blogs – 133 million currently indexed by Technorati

To put that in to concepts you can grasp easily – if Facebook was a country, measured by population it would be almost the size of the USA according to Facebook‟s stats in 2009. On the 16th September it was announced that Facebook‟s online community had crossed the 300 million threshold; according to US census bureaux there are currently 307 million people living in the US. Which means that Facebook really is fairly large, and the fastest-growing group on Facebook are women aged 40+. Desirable consumers in fact.

So why aren’t more businesses using it?

Many of the company owners I have been talking to this year have given me a range of reasons from the old chestnut “You can’t make money on the internet”, to “Twitter and Facebook are just for kids and students with too much time on their hands”, “My colleague/partner/associate says it doesn’t work”, “No one wants to talk about boring Project Management on Twitter”, to that perennial favourite, which is actually the most valid of the lot, “I don’t have time.”

At the other end of the scale the front runners, such as Dell and Starbucks, who are deeply and broadly engaged in Social Media, are reaping the benefits of increased profits, expanded customer base, enhanced brand recognition and reputation. OK, quite a chasm, but exactly what benefits and to what extent are we talking about?

In June 2009, Dell announced they’d earnt $3 million in revenue from Twitter. Which is pretty impressive by anyone’s standards. So how did they do it? Dell reported they were able to use Twitter to post coupons, announce new products and drive traffic to their Outlet Store.

Obviously this didn’t happen overnight, and in fact it took 18 months for Dell to sell their first  $1 million from Twitter, and although the $3 million is a drop in the bucket given Dell’s $12.3 billion in revenue during the first quarter of 2009, it has bolstered Twitter’s case that it can “change businesses‟.

The key to a successful Social Media campaign is to keep it small – small, frequent and focused. Huge creative ideas that make a short massive splash are doomed to fail in this medium, which is the very opposite of traditional advertising, PR and marketing. With a Social Media campaign you need to identify the right platforms to reach the right people, say the right things in the right way, keep the message consistent and frequent, and link everything together to make a cohesive and integrated whole. Here, small is good.

The bad news is that you have to be consistent over a period (from three to 18 months is standard before you get measurable and tangible results) and that means every day, every day, every day, sending a consistent message out that people will like.

That means tracking down the people who want what you are selling and taking it to them – the sheer volume of noise communications on Social Media means you can’t rely on people coming and finding you and then buying from you.

Like, I said, it isn’t traditional media – Social Media is crowd driven and everyone here is equal, so you have to go out and:

• Find your potential purchasers i.e. Your Tribe

• Work out what they need and want

• Tailor what you are selling to fill that need

• Take it to them – which may require changing how you are selling it

• Wash and repeat.

So, simple, yes. Easy, no. But the good news is that:

• You don’t actually have to make time or learn new tricks, there are people who can do it all for you.

• You don‟t have to spend huge amounts of money; a successful Social Media (SM) campaign can be very cost effective and still give an excellent ROI.

• And it certainly isn’t just for the Big Boys – in fact the modest inherit this particular earth a whole heap quicker than the boastful – just watch followers and fans fall away if you bang your own drum too much.

Interestingly, the incorporation of Social Media into the business toolkit has resulted in the playing field being effectively and literally evened because Social Media is about people having conversations about stuff that interests them, baffles them, inspires them, helps them, intrigues them and downright annoys them. And your brand and your services and products will fit right along in there, whatever your size, so long as you remember this is a conversation not a lecture. Engagement is all.

This article is an excerpt from ‘WTF Can Social Media do for Your Business’, published 2009, and this extract was first published in Wikizine, the online magazine of Wikidivorce.
© Claire Burdett 2009.

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