Looking Beyond the Hype to Get Started with Social Media

My friend, social media expert Mirna Bard, recently wrote a really great blog about getting started with social media, and I’ve pasted a portion of it below.  If you’re confused and overwhelmed when it comes to networking your business online, this is a must-read.

Looking Beyond the Hype to Get Started with Social Media

If you want to succeed with social media, as many brands have, there are some action steps you must take before you dive into the world of social media.  So, let’s strip away all the hype and go through the right steps that must be taken to help you determine if social media is appropriate for your business.

If you go through the following 10 steps in the order I list them, you will gain clarity, save time and reduce social media overwhelm.

1.    Be open-minded and change the traditional way you communicate with customers, employees, investors, partners, the media, etc.  As an entrepreneur, it is important to create a social mind-set for relationship marketing, networking, engaging and collaborating.

2.    Educate yourself and become familiar with all the categories of social media and how they can be integrated together as well as the entire marketing mix in order to leverage and maximize your efforts (see diagram below for all 15 social media categories).

3.    Pinpoint existing resources that may be needed for social media (employees, time, budget, tools, etc.).

4.    Determine if you have weaknesses in your business that may potentially hurt you online (i.e., poorly designed website or no website, bad customer service, weak content, negative comments from customers, etc.)

5.    Determine if you have strengths in your business that you can leverage online (i.e., available content such as videos, e-Books, or brand lovers who are already talking about you, etc.)

6.    See what your competitors are doing with social media.  Just observe and takes notes; do not be a copy-cat.

7.    Identify your target audience, and determine when and where they hang out online.

8.    Set clear goals and objectives.  Goals are general statements (i.e., “We want to leverage social media to improve customer service”). Objectives are more specific and measurable (i.e., “By December 2010, we want to triple traffic to our website and increase sales by 20 percent”).

9.    Decide what you want to use social media for (i.e., prospecting, recruiting, customer service, etc.) and how you want to engage your online audience.  Do you want to use social media for communication, collaboration, education, entertainment or all of them?

10.  Based on what you came up with in the last nine steps, select the social media categories and tools you want to use.  You can take a look at the diagram below for just some example of tools.  You will have to do some research online for all the tools that exist for each social media category.

There are many more factors to consider before putting together a strategy; however, if done properly, these steps will give you a clear picture of the social media landscape and help you determine whether social media is right for your business or not.

If you have already taken these steps, please share your success in the comments below.

*Mirna Bard is a social media consultant, an instructor of social media at University of California, Irvine, and a keynote speaker.  She also gives social media tips and advice on her blog http://www.mirnabard.com/blog.

Being a True Leader

One of the subjects I get asked about often in interviews is leadership.  I’ve learned quite a bit about leadership through my role as founder and chairman of BNI, the world’s largest business referral organization. But I’ve also been extremely privileged to be able to build relationships with and gain insight into the subject from some of the world’s top leaders in several fields and industries.

One of the first people who comes to mind when I think about what it means to be a true leader is my friend and colleague, Brian Tracy. Brian is the epitome of a leader–he is dedicated to succeeding by helping others succeed, and he uses his depth of experience to teach others how to become leaders themselves.

Brian has classified the key qualities of leadership as integrity, discipline, responsibility, courage and long-time perspective, and he lives his life according to those qualities.  Brian was recently diagnosed with throat cancer and, true to the form of a leader who genuinely walks the walk, his positive attitude, courage and hopeful outlook for the future continue to remain rock solid.

Brian says, “When you think about it, having cancer can be a metaphor for any big problem or unexpected setback in life . . . I choose to see this as a ‘learning experience.’  Maybe I’ll develop a speech or seminar to share what I’ve learned, and the parallels with the ups and downs of normal life.”

Leadership is about using your experience and wisdom to move others in a positive direction; it’s about empowering others by serving as an example. Brian doesn’t just give presentations about leadership and advise others on how to be good leaders–he exemplifies everything a true leader should be, especially during times when it’s not easy to be in such a position.

Click here to see how Brian is continuing to inspire and motivate others through his experiences.  We can all learn more than a thing or two about being a true leader from Brian Tracy.

If Brian has inspired you to accomplish your goals and lead yourself and others to success, tell us about it by leaving a comment below.  You can also copy and paste your comment for Brian to read on his blog.

Guardian at the Gate

When I started my first business, I knew I wanted referrals to play a key part in my overall growth strategy, and I began to realize I wasn’t the only one trying to get more sales through referrals.  A lot of other business professionals were trying to do the same thing.

So I thought, “What if I became the hub?”  If all the other people out there were trying to do the same thing as I was, why couldn’t I position myself as the gatekeeper of sorts between other people’s networks? Then, if someone was buying a new home and needed a real estate agent but didn’t have one in her own network, she would come to me and see whom I knew.

How did that help my business?

1.  It encouraged me to continue building and deepening my relationships with others, even if I didn’t think they could help me right away. Our natural tendency is to nurture relationships with those we feel can help us the most. But the fact is, we never know whom another person knows, so we should take every opportunity to build relationships with all those we make contact with.  Bob Smith might not be a good referral partner for me, but he could be ideal for Jane Doe, another person I know.

2.  Becoming a gatekeeper had a positive effect on my credibility. I wanted to be the go-to guy in the business community–the person others came to if they needed a referral for anything.  This meant that I would be deepening relationships with people I might not otherwise have gotten to know.  Since people do business with the people they like and trust, whom do you think got their referrals when they needed someone with my products and services? . . . Bingo! 🙂

When you’re networking, make an effort to build relationships with people who may be good referral partners for others in your network, and try to connect them with each other.  I guarantee if you do this consistently, you’ll get more referrals in the long run.

Get to Know a Knowledge Network

Professional associations, or knowledge networks, have been around longer than almost any other kind of group, from the medieval guilds to crafts associations to today’s professional groups and industry associations.  The primary purpose is for the exchange of information and ideas, whether intraindustry or interindustry.

Some of these groups limit membership to their own industry, but quite a few groups that represent industries other than your own will allow you to join as an associate member (as opposed to a full member). This can put you in contact with a concentrated target market, including many top-quality potential contacts.  Many of your best current clients, looking for their own competitive edge, may be members of industry associations.  Ask them which open-membership groups they belong to, and try to join a few of them.  This can give you an opportunity to meet prospects of the same quality as your clients.

The other part of your knowledge network should be groups in your own industry. Yes, you’ll be rubbing elbows with competitors, but there are advantages.  You’ll stay abreast of developments in your industry, find out what your competitors are up to, study the competition’s brochures and presentations, and discover opportunities to collaborate with competitors whose specialties are different from yours or who need help on a big project.

Knowledge networks present great networking opportunities. So if you’re looking to build more relationships and increase your word of mouth, start investigating local professional associations today, and find out which ones you might be able to join.

Have You Made Your Word-of-Mouth Campaign Checklist?

If you want to develop an effective word-of-mouth campaign, you’ll need to have an arsenal of credibility-enhancing materials at your disposal to make the most of every networking opportunity.

Below is a checklist of items you may already have available or wish to begin assembling, which can be used as collateral materials in developing your desired image. 

  • Testimonial letters from satisfied clients
  • Photos of yourself and your office facilities, equipment and products
  • Photos of your key customers
  • Photos of awards and certificates you and your staff have earned
  • Articles in which you’re mentioned
  • Articles you have published
  • A one-page, faxable flier
  • Audio or videos you have used
  • Any of your new-product announcements or press releases that have been published
  • Copies of other display advertisements that you’ve used (text from radio or TV spots)
  • Advertisements that you’ve run
  • A list of your memberships and affiliations
  • Product catalogs you use
  • Current brochures, circulars and data sheets
  • Question-and-answer sheets
  • Logos, trademarks, service marks, patterns, designs you’ve used
  • Your letterhead and stationery
  • Your annual report, capability statement and prospectus
  • Newsletters or news-type publications you use
  • Your motto, mission statement or service pledge
  • Client or customer proposals and bid sheets
  • Survey results by you or others
  • Presentation notes or slides and PowerPoint presentations
  • Marketing letters you wrote to clients
  • Generic materials developed by your associations
  • Articles on trends affecting your target market
  • Posters, banners and display materials used at trade shows

Be sure to store your networking materials in a bin or a set of shelves built to make it easy to retrieve frequently used documents.  This equipment greatly aids any company’s word-of-mouth campaign and ability to respond quickly when necessary.

Note:  This is not a complete list of items needed to market your business.  The items in this list are focused on enhancing your networking activities.

Three Essential Questions

How can a time-strapped businessperson figure out which networking events she should attend and which she should let go by the wayside? 

The answer: Develop a networking strategy.

Here are three easy–but definitely essential–questions you need to answer in order to create a plan that will work for you. 

Who Are My Best Prospects? 
It’s important to know that each target market will have a strategy that requires you to network in different places. If you’re not sure who your target market is, look at your list of past clients. What industries were they in? How long had they been in business? Were your clients even businesses to begin with, or have you worked mostly with consumers?

Once you’ve put together a profile of your past clients, ask people close to you for patterns you may have overlooked and get their input on who might be a good fit for your business.

Where Can I Meet My Best Prospects?
As you begin targeting specific niche markets, there are other venues and opportunities that fall outside the typical networking event.  Here are some examples of specific target markets and where you should network to find people in these markets:

Small-business owners–chamber of commerce, local business association, referral groups

Representatives from big corporations in your area–service clubs, nonprofit groups, volunteer work, homeowners associations

Consumers–your kids’ events: Little League, Boy Scouts and so forth

Whom, Exactly, Do I Want To Meet?
Even if you can’t name the people you want to meet, the better you can descibe them, the greater the chance you’ll get to meet your ideal contact.

Be as specific as possible when asking for a contact because it focuses the other person’s attention on details that are more likely to remind him of a specific person rather than if you asked, “Do you know anyone who needs my services?”

Networking works.  It’s just a matter of developing a strategy that puts you in contact with the right people. That’s exactly what the three questions above will help you do.

How Did You Learn to Network?

In reviewing the results of the Referral Institute study of more than 12,000 businesspeople from all over the world, we have some interesting data on how people become better at networking. Respondents were allowed to select more than one method that they used to develop their skills in this area.

Interestingly, participating in networking groups was by far the No. 1 method that people identified in developing their networking skills.

How have you developed your networking skills and what do you think is the best way to do so?

 

Use Your Head Works for Folks Who Use Their Hands, Too

Yesterday I posted a blog about my friend Harvey Mackay’s new book, Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door: Job Search Secrets No One Else Will Tell You, and I promised that today’s blog would give you a sample of the kind of great content that you’ll find in Harvey’s new book.  So, without further ado, here it is:

Use Your Head Works for Folks Who Use Their Hands, Too

By Harvey Mackay

If you’re out of a job and looking for work, the frustration and disappointment can be overwhelming.  Don’t lose confidence in yourself and who you are.  You’ll never please everyone, but you only have to please a few people to get a good job offer.

While writing Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door, I’ve talked with scores of people who’ve lost their job, many of them managers . . . but many do technical, craft and manual work as well.

You might trim hair, check lab samples, do quality control on an assembly line or stock shelves.  You still need to know how to interview, design a career plan, use the huge job resources of the internet, and master a bucket full of new skills mom and dad never even heard of . . .

  • Trade up your personal network. Still hanging out with your high school crowd?  Especially if many of them are out of a job too, you’re at risk.  Get to know people who are not just in your line of work, but at the front of it.  How do you get them to spend time with you?  Ask them for their valuable career advice . . . and then take it to heart.
  • Get wired . . . smart. People boast about how much time they spend on the internet and how cool their latest iPod apps are.  It’s not how much time you spend with gadgets, it’s what you do after you log on.  Game sites and celebrity gossip won’t land you a job interview.  Chow down trade journals, company websites and business mags . . . nearly all of it is free!
  • Don’t pay for others’ laughs out of your own pocketbook. Dying to upload an outrageous video about you and that party last night?  Remember, firms now routinely check out Facebook and other social websites to see just how much judgment their job candidates have.
  • Do volunteer work. If you can find time to watch Lost or The Vampire Diaries, don’t you have a couple of hours to help out a soup kitchen or the neighborhood community center?  Time and again, people tell me that they meet professionals through volunteering, many of whom are also out of a job, who can help you with your resume . . . or even steer you to companies that might be hiring.
  • Make a plan and work it every day. Set a target of how many business calls you’ll make today.  Commit yourself to a half-hour of reading business websites on the internet.  Learn about the next level of licensing or certification in your trade, and then dig in to add it to your credentials.

To learn more about Harvey and his new book, Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door, visit: www.HarveyMackay.com.

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