For Facebook, is it really about time?

They say it’s about time—that’s Timeline, the new Facebook interface. But at the end of the day or week or month, I suspect it’s also very much about money.

I have been encountering many questions about what Facebook’s newest alchemy means to marketing and business—but somehow, we are all sticking with it and muddling through. The impact on our brands, businesses and personal communications remains to be fully assessed, but in the meantime, a little Facebook insight can help you navigate the sometimes murky online waters. As Mark Zuckerberg’s latest strategic offensive – particularly addressing Google+, this metamorphosis may have you more than a little perplexed, befuddled or even impatient with the ubiquitous Facebook phenomenon. That’s OK. Still, 50 percent of the more than 800 million registered users visit daily for an average of 14 minutes. That’s ample time to get in line.

In so many ways, Facebook is still the Internet juggernaut—even as sites such as Pinterest seem to be gaining momentum on the starboard bow. One of my sassiest Facebook pals posted recently, “If Pinterest is wrong, I don’t want to be right.” Interestingly, Pinterest is definitely doing something right—carving out a new niche or paradigm that is more about following content and less about “connecting” with people. Hey, let’s hear it for content! And with Facebook’s recent purchase of Instagram for $1 billion, Zuckerberg is definitely becoming much more image conscious.

Nevertheless, the latest series of changes signals that Facebook is about people sharing with their friends—not as much about brands sharing with people. Actually, Facebook is challenging brands to more effectively align with Facebook’s underlying user-experience philosophy and gestalt. As an early impresario of the “like” campaign for clients, I have mixed feelings about the latest changes that eliminate forced “like” landing pages to drive brand engagement. Intuitively, it was always a great concept, yet the reality produced questionable brand value with respect to “like” relevance, stickiness, and measurable brand ROI. And from a technical perspective, Facebook did not really make this kind of campaign an easy endeavor.

Brand pages can still offer action-focused, tabbed content–located along the middle bar. It is simply no longer an option to set it as a compulsory initial landing page to drive “likes.” As a visual junky, myself, I love the new masthead image bar. There are so many high-impact options to available for brands in that prime real estate above the fold. Just don’t include blatant contact information, such as phone numbers or arrows pointing to your flashing URL, or the “Faceboook police” may be knocking on your screen!

Back to the balance sheet–as Facebook has diminished the prominence of the “like” page and newsfeed presence, it has enhanced social advertising, pay-per-click and targeting opportunities. But, think about. Those are the money shots. Newsfeed exposure will still be important for brands–yet a harder nut to crack. We’ll have to work smarter creating engaging content and re-calibrating our publishing cadences since response currency, re-posting, and commenting will count more than the number of fans in determining message impressions and frequency. From a macro perspective, the latest changes have both expanded and refined the ways people can interact with each other on Facebook.

Here are the real tent poles:

Real-time interaction — Increased emphasis on real-time interactions with the introduction of the “Friend News Ticker,” in the upper right corner, which also integrates Twitter.

Image Focus — Larger spaces for pictures and video enhance the user experience and better prioritize the things users see in their news feeds. Plus, you can rank and filter some content, but for the most part, Facebook still decides!

List Maintenance — The new “List” feature, “borrowed” from Google+ and to some extent, Twitter, allows you to segment, tag, share and sort what specific friend categories can see on your wall. This basically pre-sorts audiences by actions and keywords. And yes, it’s all about enhancing advertising segmentation and sales. “But what about privacy?” you ask. Guess that’s another post.

Implications for Brands and Business:

1. Creativity and Activity — After one week of implementing the new Newsfeed, impressions (or reach) per post were down 33 percent in a study done by EdgeRank Checker. But likes and comments were up 17 percent, so it looks like Facebook is changing the dynamic as envisioned.

2. Frequency — Brands will likely need to alter tactics—publishing more engaging, relevant, fresher content more frequently to drive greater interactions rather than one-click passive likes/fans. If the average current fan access ratio is 10% or less, reach and impressions will take a short-term dip until we better understand and respond to changes in Facebook’s filtering algorithm.

2. Pictures and Videos Images are becoming larger on the page and much more important. If we need to get fans more engaged and spending more time, we’ll need to create and use more visuals more frequently.

3. App It — There will be more emphasis on building Apps that provide functionality and value to Facebook users to gain access to the Ticker, for instance. One idea might be loyalty points, interactive functionality, or useful tools, such as store locators to increase impressions and re-posting/sharing.

We’ll have to watch. We are already hearing rumblings that from some users that Facebook is becoming too complicated, too labor-intensive, or too intrusive. This is understandable. Many of us do not want to work that hard. We have enough to do in our lives. This won’t be the last Facebook iteration, and the impact is still unclear. However, it’s a platform you cannot ignore. The best strategy is to discover ways you can seize the opportunity.

What do you think of Timeline?

Buzz Pill?

Is there a magic social media pill? We all seem to be looking for it.

As a professional riding the social media tidal wave, I’m engaged—in witty Facebook banter, of course, but I’m also digging deeper—doing some serious soul-searching about the role of social media in marketing, how best to execute it, how to manage it, and how to leverage its power to make clients and associates successful and happy. I guess taking a hard look at my path is sort of a mirror to my life—as some of my most enlightened friends would say.

Yet, it’s surprisingly tough—on all levels. With the ubiquity of mobile phones, iPads, Nooks, etc., social media is embedded in every fiber of our awareness. Personally, I feel unhinged without my Apple. (Remember Eden?) With something so pervasive, so woven into the fabric of our daily behavior, one would think clarity and monetization would be a cinch. But not so fast. It can be difficult to put the buzz back in the bottle! It is not enough to simply offer up content and post updates.

Brand advocates and marketers who want to take advantage of social media are encountering a tangled web. They are finding they need to design a fully integrated program of active and ongoing engagement, connecting customers with the actual human beings in their organizations who can meet their needs. It’s part Marketing 101 and part online alchemy, I suspect. Gosh, maybe it’s really not about the technology at all. It’s the humanity. Could it be that the stuff that happens offline is what really makes social media sing?

For instance, Dell currently engages with customers through what they call the “four pillars” of the company’s social media ecosystem:

  • 100,000 employees
  • Dell.com–ratings, reviews and customer feedback relating to Dell products and services
  • Dell communities, such as IdeaStorm, a platform launched in 2007 that is designed to give voice to customers and enable the sharing of ideas
  • External platform communities, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter

That first pillar represents one of the biggest changes in Dell’s use of social networking, lately—and possibly the most powerful. Although social media initiatives began with public relations teams at Dell, employees now play the role of brand ambassador across the company, notes Buck. This requires a purposeful, dedicated engagement plan, as well as policy development and training to ensure that the employees who will be representing Dell clearly understand company guidelines regarding the appropriate use of social media.“Our employees play a vital role in our social media outreach, and, to date, we have trained more than 8,000 Dell employees to engage with customers through social media,” says Michael Buck, executive director of global online marketing. “Dell’s Social Media and Communities University is a key enabler for the company to leverage the power of 100,000-plus employees as brand ambassadors, confident that they have been empowered to use it the right way.”

Perhaps the most effective social media strategy is to train your company’s employees to use social media—whether 3 or 300,000, fully integrating the support process and empowering interaction with customers/prospects on behalf of the company. This has not only spread the marketing buzz, so to speak, it has also building the brand across the farthest reaches of the vast social media psycho-sphere. To infinity and beyond!

Where are you going?

Twitter or Facebook?

Is that one of those fundamental questions like–The Beatles or The Rolling Stones; chocolate or vanilla; Letterman or Leno; paper or plastic?

Last week, a friend of mine sent me an article published by Slate“Who I Follow on Twitter and Why.” It was kind of a light-bulb moment. We seem to lump Twitter and  Facebook into the same bucket, “You on Facebook and Twitter?” But they are really so radically different.

I love discussing this stuff, because we are right in the thick of such a pervasive transformation in communication. We have no concept how this moment in time we are living right now will impact our behavior, relationships, culture, and lives in the next few years–and for the rest of eternity.

Not that Twitter will stand the test of time or  be around in the year 2100, but who knows what communication will look like then? Getting back to the here and now, I really do think there are “Twitter people” and “Facebook people.” I deal in both professionally–and more and more, Linked In. But they all render fiercely different experiences and visitor payoffs. As I was exploring this “Twitter person” concept, I found this Venn diagram from BoingBoing. It provides another way to slice and understand social-media behavior.  I guess the increasing interest in Twitter is understandable–as sort of the nexus of it all.

I agree with erudite Shafer in Slate  that Twitter is most valuable as a resource and a research tool.  It’s like a custom real-time info stream that’s completely personalized.  Connect with the great thinkers and follow the interesting things they say. Plus, you have the added benefit of commanding much higher quality attention from Google–from an SEO perspective. Hey, I smiled when I received a notification that Yoko Ono was following me on Twitter — even if it’s “her people.”

I read somewhere that Facebook is like playing in your fenced-in backyard. Twitter is like playing in the street. You are much more exposed, yet the asynchronous format is much more impersonal. Following is actually much less social than friending. Except for the way Mark Zuckerberg can mine our clicks and our navigation paths, I don’t buy the security complaints on Facebook. A user can manage access. You can protect everything you post with your settings dashboard. My son Elliot is a very good example. His profile is so well hidden, the way can see it is when he accidentally leaves it up on his computer. LOL. That’s security, huh?

As to Shafer’s being nonplussed about receiving a friend request from someone who ostensibly does not like you, consider Winston Churchill’s recommendation, “Keep your enemies close.”

Are you a Twitter person or a Facebook person? And why? Let me know . . .

2011: From “Oh, Wow!” to “So, How?”

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach and consultant — providing the practical tools and action plans you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world. She is a listener, writer, blogger, speaker, actor, and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle.  Thurs., Jan 13  — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m., $10 at La Madeleine Preston Forest.

I’m really not sure how many people do this sort of thing, but I am actually going back to my predictions for 2010 – to compare them to what really happened.  It was as daunting and perplexing a task as I imagined. Especially since social media evolution is anything but linear. One thing we do know it that Google Wave never quite hit the beach.

My most significant memory from last year’s missive was actually my delight when Chris Brogan actually chimed in. Wow. Now that’s what I call social media He wrote:
I like and agree with the first four. I disagree with 5. Email is still the main protocol of the Internet age. I *wish* it were different, but definitely not in 2010. Great post.”

My number #5 was: “Email as We Know it Will Become Passé.”
So, I guess we’ll begin with the end – #5. Well, as Chris Brogan said, email did not go away in 2010. But, I venture to add this was probably just slightly premature. With Facebook’s Messaging Hub beginning to bubble up and mobile technology/SMS infiltrating our lives in terms of behavior, I think we are looking at more of an email mutation than elimination.  When Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made her prediction that email is “probably going away” at the Nielsen Consumer 360, many balked, but her point about teenagers is well-taken. Stats she cited indicate that only 11% of teens email daily, and as we know, teenagers are really “the beta testers” for future techno-media trends. In fact, I have my own focus group right here in my own home. My 18-year-old would rather text than talk. He has Facebook up on his laptop whenever it’s turned on, sends very few emails and never uses the speaking function on the phone. My 14-year-old son is really text only. Good thing I have unlimited texting, or I we would be under a bridge somewhere. He never opens up email or even Facebook. Should Mark be worried? Hmm. We’ll just wait and see.

The most interesting shift between late 2009 and late 2010 is that the questions people are asking have changed dramatically. People don’t seem to be asking, “Hey, what’s the next big thing?” “What’s the next Twitter?” It’s more about implementation and impact – “What’s the most effective platform for my business?” “How do I integrate this into my daily operations?” “Where’s the best ROI?”  It’s no longer “oh wow!” It’s “so, how?” Social media tools and behaviors are now a given, our modus operandi. We just need to figure out how to do it. The old advertising model of trading money for attention is the anachronism. The new formula is trading time (even  energy) for attention. The activity is just as important as the message.

“Social Media Will Become Less Social.”hmm
I’d still like my term – “return on engagement.” It’s more active, deliberate and participatory. However, I think our trajectory has been very different from what I expected — largely due to the meteoric growth of Facebook. Engagement is now defined by the quality of the experience itself, rather than some tangible outcome. The value I spoke of last year was a slippery concept, because “value” can now be defined in brave, new terms, as well. Who knew Farmville and Mafia Wars would become the new American pastimes? Who could have predicted you can actually buy Facebook points in the grocery store? And the metric that “one-third of women 18-34 check Facebook when they first wake up in the morning,” according to an Oxygen Media study?

“More Enterprise Social Software Platforms Will Emerge”oops
Enterprise platforms continue to exist, but boy was I wrong on this one. I did not see the mobile app locomotive, powered by Apple, flying down the track. I think the branded in-house community concept has quite literally jumped the rails. And, to think, I was once so on board with that idea.   Simply, there is an app for that – in fact, what many signify as the emergence of Web 3.0 – targeted, segmented, defined and delivered to the user on demand. So, interesting how things can change in a year. Still, we may be moving in this direction yet.  Fast Society, a new iPhone app, allows the user to create small groups to text with on the fly, and the groups last for three days. Facebook is also providing ways to communicate with smaller networks. Facebook’s new Groups Feature allows segments friends into personal, professional and interest-based communities to better manage privacy. Watch for more of these smaller, closed networks to launch in 2011 as people seek deeper connections online.

“Social Media (Engagement Media) Will Become More Integrated”bingo
I think I get the winning buzzer for this one. Organizations of all sizes are embracing the value of fully integrated multi-channel strategies. Using social media channels alone for marketing, customer service or fundraising will not be as effective as designing coordinated campaigns and communication strategies that include traditional communication techniques. This includes email, website, online ads, SEO, face-to-face interactions, print advertising, social media platforms, blogs, events, and managed promotion to all media. This has become pivotal to social media success in general. Integrate and align with overall objectives. It’s a must.

“Relevance and Ease Will Become Increasingly Important”yep
There is no more compelling spokesperson for an enterprise or organization a passionate customer, employee, or supporter. This is the core strength of word-of-mouth advertising and peer-to-peer fundraising. And there is a range of scenarios—from a class agent soliciting annual fund gifts for his or her school, to a customer making a recommendation for a new restaurant on YELP! The brand voice is now filtered through the customer in his or her own geographic and psycho-graphic universe.

As we look to 2011, we can’t deny or ignore the brand power of Facebook “likes,” which will become the core advertising and promotional objective for many businesses on Facebook. “Like” strategies will become increasingly sophisticated and integrated into the overall marketing strategy.  For instance, instead of doing A/B testing between two photos to see which generates more Facebook “Likes,” the savvier brands and agencies will be leveraging technology that can simultaneously deploy 10,000+ ad variations to yield the lowest CPA (cost per acquisition) of those “Likes.” The art and the science.

Finally, there’s mobile and SMS. The app has arrived and has consolidated the expansiveness, chaos and clutter of the worldwide web to the simplicity and focus of a tiny button the size of a stamp that fits in the palm of your hand.  . . . Oh, wow!

What are your predictions for 2011, infinity . . .and beyond?

What’s to Like About Facebook Business Pages?

Elaine Gantz Wright is a social media coach — providing the practical tools you need to survive and thrive in the brave new media world — listener, writer, blogger, speaker and mom. Contact her ellagantz@sbcglobal.net

What have you always wanted to know about social media but were afraid to ask? Register for Breakfast and Blogs, a very social session with Elaine to find out. Start off your New Year with real social media sizzle. Email or comment to reserve your place. First 10 are FREE and $10 after that – Thurs., Jan 13 or Fri. Jan. 14 — 9:30 a.m.– 12:00 p.m. Location details in Dallas to come. Join me at the B &B.

I never thought I would be part of the blogging brigade— leading the social media charge. “How did I get here?” as David Byrne one asked. For heaven’s sake, I ran computer programs on punch cards in a box. I trie dto make some semblance of sense of those bleeding lines of purple Fortran code on the never-ending accordion-folded pale green and white-striped paper—in the bowels of the Vogelback computer cave at Northwestern. I remember thinking, “Geez, I’m a theater major. How will this stuff ever have a practical application in my life? I guess my life has been more Lennon-esque – what has happened while I have been busy “making other plans.”

But it’s still a hard place to be–as so many are still generally nonplussed about the power and process of integrating this brave new media communication phenomenon into their customer/donor-development strategies. “The moment we are living right now, this generation, represents the largest increase in expressive capability in human history, ” proclaimed NYU media guru, Clay Shirky, also a former theater major.

It’s hard to completely comprehend the full impact somewhere in time (more great music, sigh), but I predict this period in communication media innovation will assume milestone prominence in retrospect-–similar to the era of the printing press, the telephone, photography and motions pictures. Shirky continues, “A revolution does not happen when a society adopts new tools. It happens when a society adopts new behaviors.” Can you imagine life without the mobile phone?

So, as we begin to navigate and maneuver the tools that are quite literally redefining our relationships and behaviors, here are a few solid ideas for making the most of on of your core social media tools–your Facebook Business Page. Like it or not, Facebook is the new black. Remember, to maximize effectiveness and results you should carefully customize this list for you and your distinctive business objectives:

1. Create a personal service “direct line” to the brand and paint a personality that differentiates your business.
2. Respond to your customers quickly and personally to create authenticity and loyalty.
3. Provide notice of special events – with the ability to catch RSVPs—photos, videos and after-party conversation.
4. Post quizzes: In addition to providing fantastic engagement opportunity, your page is also a rich research resource. What’s your personal style? Why do you support programs to help the homeless? What three things mean most to you in the world?
5. Present special offers – one-day-only deals, Facebook-only bonuses, “Like” incentives.
6. Register for preferred customer email and coupons.
7. Create participation and passion around your preferred cause – feature the link on your page.
8. Post how-to videos, which might be a little wacky or unconventional – to ignite viral sharing.
9. Photos,photos, photos. Tag, tag, tag.
10. Subscribe to the tip or quote of the day – stat on homelessness, inspirational quote, green tip, how to tie a scarf, etc.
11. Feature links to blogs related to your business/organization – enhancing authoritative rank in organic search.
12. Sell gift cards – online with PayPal transaction.
13. Secret sales – “Skip lunch” or “Mimosa Mondays.”
14. Enter a contest to go to Vegas with our BFFs.
15. Highlight your customer of the day – tell the stories.

The list goes on – and the very best possibilities relate to your particular mission or customer, depending on your individual objectives.

Start writing down ideas, and watch how they be gin to flow . . . and join me at the B&B on Jan. 13 or 14, 2011!

Conducting Your Social Media Symphony

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer, and social media strategist. Contact her at elgantz()yahoo.com.

A client  told me last week that he hired us to “do” social media so that he would not have to be involved.  What!? Really? Would he ever consider having a storefront without a sales staff? This is the essential conundrum we have been wrestling with in recent weeks.  Businesses, particularly small businesses and nonprofits, are running lean and over-tasked—especially in this rocky economy. Therefore, it’s difficult for many of them to even conceive of adding a litany of new online tasks to their already maxed-out agendas.

And yet, a thriving, organic social media presence is critical to practically every business’ success in our new-media marketing universe.  From texting to tweeting, we recognize the value of involving customers and empowering word of mouth online, but the question is — What is the best way to get it done? How do we manage it all?

It seems to me it comes down to two options — coaching or doing. Should you hire a coach or consultant to train you and/or your employee(s) to blog and work the key social media platforms? Ideally, strategy and daily activity must work in concert to achieve best results.  A post here and there does not a social media campaign make.  The other option is t0 hire someone outside of your organization to “handle it” –posting, responding, blogging, monitoring, driving, and analyzing.  What is most productive?  How will you optimize ROI? How will this outside person or team integrate with yours and the unique needs of your operation?

Here’s the rub — we are trying to force social media into a traditional public relations and advertising paradigm.   Hire an agency; produce some ads; run the ads; hope for good response, and move on to the next campaign. However, social media defies the typical one-way, sequential marketing communications models. It requires ongoing attention, 360 degree tending, focused involvement, authenticity, transparency, systematic monitoring, creative energy, and a real persona. Thus, we need an entirely different delivery system and process. But what will that be? How does that look — parsing together so many pieces:

1. Blogging
2. Promoting your blog
3. Driving and participating in conversation on your blog
4. Commenting on other related blogs
5. Monitoring and responding to Tweets
6. Tweeting and responding with value opportunities
7. Driving Twitter crowdsourcing campaigns
8. Facebook product launches
9. Facebook “like” campaigns
10. Facebook applications and lead capture
11. Driving Facebook conversation
12. Integrating social media in email and website
13. Promoting social media connection in your store.
14. Rewarding Foursquare or Facebook checkins
(Just to name a few.)

Of course, the program will vary in size and scope –whether you are Best Buy or Frank’s Nail Salon, but the realities of execution  may not be that different. For many retailers, it’s all about customer service – an inside team that monitors and responds to customer comments and complaints. For others, it’s about launching new products via Facebook, for example, or running limited-time discounts and deals. Regardless of the content or appeal, the relationship-building objective probably surpasses the importance of the final tallies of coupons redeemed or contests entered. It’s not realistic to think you can have a “social media department.” It should be woven in to the fabric of your operations.

So, maybe we need to think of “doing” social media more like conducting an orchestra in real time, as opposed to, say,  downloading a series of iTunes.  An orchestra needs a conductor to keep time in real time, indicate when to come in and when to stop – or know when to staccato  or to legato. Like an orchestra performance, a social media campaign can be led by a “conductor.” But for maximum effectiveness, the organization’s actual players (the musicians) should be directly involved in making the music. They listen to each other, sense the audience’s reaction, drive the melody, layer the harmonies–and know the score.

What do you think? How are you managing you social media efforts? What has worked and what has not? What are your biggest challenges? Share your stories.

The Social Network: Living Out Loud

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer, and social media strategist, helping neighborhood businesses expand word-mouth-marketing exponentially–driving referrals, repeat business,  and revenue.

I saw The Social Network this weekend.  The film was entertaining, but I think it lacked the depth and  gravitas I expected— especially given the enormous impact of Facebook, the social media phenomenon that  has quite literally changed the world.

Facebook is the decade’s  Zeitgeist— a global cultural phenomenon, affecting how people share information,  communicate, build relationships, promote  businesses, live their lives, and even think.  In fact, Facebook has become so intertwined with our psyches and daily habits that many people report checking their Facebook pages before brushing their teeth or drinking their first cups of coffee. It’s a social, cultural, and behavioral force – even more than a technological one.  As NYU new media professor Clay Shirky says, “Tools don’t get socially interesting until they get technologically boring.”

In the past six years, the world has learned to live out loud.

But still, I feel the producers of The Social Network did not truly comprehend the intellectual significance of their subject matter—the social media revolution, itself.  It’s more than the story of a business success and damaged relationships.  It seems the anachronistic storytelling medium of film was not equipped to peel the social media onion with much precision.  It captured the almost cliché concepts of narcissism and greed as they relate to success. What the film neglected was a deeper exploration a whole new way of interacting and being.

I think the essential irony of the film — social misfit Zuckerberg’s inventing a whole new way of socializing was far more compelling than a seemingly endless stream depositions and legal puffery. I would love to have seen his parents and understood more about his family dynamic and his childhood relationships.

I think his story is actually just scratching the surface.  There will be so much more to Mark’s tale–past and present.   The opening and closing scenes actually captured some of Zuckerberg’s pathos, but the rest of the film seemed pretty one-dimensional—simply documenting events and allegations.

At his very core, Mark wanted to be part of something, to belong – to be loved.

And isn’t that what we all want? Facebook fills a universal human need in an increasingly impersonal world.  It’s so fascinating that Mark Zuckerberg’s  naiveté and painful awkwardness gave birth to a communication revolution.

I would even venture to say we could take that twist even further. As I studied the characterization in the film, I could not help by think of  Asperger’s Syndrome, the autism-spectrum condition which causes difficulty processing information and relating to people. His  off-the-charts intellect, arrogance, laser focus on Facebook, and his debilitating social insecurity seemed textbook.   I have read that Albert Einstein and even Bill Gates have exhibited Asberger’s indicators. This just gives more credence to BubbleLife Media CEO Jeff Farris’ theory, “Nerds rule the world.” As Mark said of his creation, “We don’t know what it will be.”  Those words apply to Facebook , his personal journey, and the burgeoning social media landscape.

What did you think of the film? Of Zuckerberg? Social media?

50 for Facebook

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer and social media strategist, helping neighborhood businesses expand word-mouth-marketing exponentially–driving referrals, repeats and revenue.

I love working with small businesses. Their drive, energy, creativity,  spirit and commitment are remarkable–day after day after day. Working in a small business, myself, I appreciate the essential magic of clarity–that is, precisely understanding your value proposition, product and unique benefit.

That’s why I need your help. My goal is to develop the quintessential checklist of social media action items for small business. I read recently that social media is not a money problem. It’s a question of time, and I want to help businesses define social media in terms of opportunity cost. What constitutes the best use of time, engagement and conversation?

We’ll start with Facebook and move through the major platforms. Please review the list below, and add your comments–pro or con with anything I might have missed. I’ve compiled thinking from the likes of Brogan, Falls, Jantsch, and Qualman, but I am interested in your thoughts. What has worked best for your business? We want to know. In fact, I’d love to interview you about your experience. Email me at elgantz()yahoo.com.

Facebook

1.       Create Facebook business page.

2.       Calibrate wall settings  to display posts by you, all comments, and posts by friends.

3.       Monitor daily.

4.       Deliver prompt, personal response to all comments in your brand voice.

5.       Approach social media as a continuous process that requires regular attention.

6.       Content: Keep your page updated with compelling questions and fresh content?

7.       Photo :  Adding your logo as a photo to your Fan Page helps brand your Facebook Fan Page and can bring more awareness to your brand.

8.       Fan your own Fan Page and suggest it to your Friends list.

9.       Engage in conversations.

10.   Message fans regularly but not excessively  to keep prospects, customers returning to the site.

11.   Post Contests , Polls, and Surveys.

12.   Allow fans to Vote on products, events, etc.

13.   Post one-day-only specials.

14.   Promote nonprofit opportunities.

15.   Feature customers  and how-to videos.

16.   Promote submit-a-photo campaigns.

17.   Gift-card purchase promotions online.

18.   Publish product-related quizzes.

19.   Co-promote coupons with surrounding non-competing businesses.

20.   Create and invite friends to “Events.”

21.   Tag your customers in business photos.

22.   Encourage sharing: Provide free information and encourage others to share it– engaging new potential customers and tapping the power of bloggers with high readership and a large number of Fans.

23.   Offer tangible benefits to fans, such as exclusive deals and complimentary items, sneak preview, for advice that is unique to your business.

24.   Developing custom Facebook applications that are attract your target customers. For example, Static FBML (Facebook Markup Language) allows you to add custom HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language) to customize your page.

25.   Launch and test Facebook advertising campaigns.

26.   Since Facebook is set up to tie your personal profile to your business page, update the privacy settings on your personal profile to ensure you don’t have any potentially embarrassing content visible to business contacts?

27.   Use Facebook tabs to add more content to your Fan Page. Changing these settings by checking or un-checking a box on the Edit Page section of your Facebook Fan Page.

28.   Events: Let your fans know about upcoming promotions, sales and other events.

29.   Links: Make it easy for users to see your business’s main website, partner business, newsletters, nonprofit association or other value-added information.

30.   Images: Visuals are at the top of the online interest pyramid.   Showcase products, tout events, and highlight customers.

31.   Reviews: Encourage fans to leave reviews about your business. This can be a good tool to interact with your customers and hear honest feedback. Monitor this closely and respond immediately to any negative feedback.

32.   About :  Provide useful information to describe your mission and who you are. List other ways people can connect with you (main website, blog, and social profiles you maintain).

33.   Video: Appealing videos can really help keep your content fresh and interesting so Fans will come back to your page and share your content/brand.

34.   Display exclusive discounts to your Facebook Fans in tabs.

35.   Provide helpful information about topics that are on the mind of your ideal customer. Include intriguing details about your products or services, but don’t get too “salesy.”

36.   RSS (really simple syndication) feeds from your Blog(s) and Twitter® account—automatically inserting the content from your blog posts and tweets into your Facebook page.

37.   Constant activity on your Facebook page to help your Fan Page rank higher in organic search engine results.

38.   Vary Content.

39.   Post Facebook stream widget on website.

40.   Create an internal (staff) blogging/social media policy.

41.   Make friend suggestions on behalf of new members.

42.   Fine-tune you email notification settings to manage inquiries and comments on the go.

43.   Advertise inside social games.

44.   Put your name on virtual goods.

45.   Launch your own branded game.

46.   Sell (or allow customers to earn) Facebook Credits (the social network’s virtual currency) as gift cards at brick-and-mortar stores.

47.   Gain exposure through Facebook’s new “Like” page browser. Likely to be part of the on-boarding process for new readers.

48.   Facebook-first product reveals—2011 Explorer. And new product creation—Vitamin Water.

49.   Corporate e-commerce —  Disney pre-sales of Toy Story 3 tickets and Mark by Avon product sales.

50.   Cause marketing – such as Kohl’s Cares Facebook initiative to give away $10 million to 20 schools; nearly 2 million Facebookers voted for their schools.

Share your thoughts. . .

6 Ways to Make Your Neighborhood Your Business

Elaine Gantz Wright is a speaker, writer and social media strategist, helping neighborhood businesses expand word-mouth-marketing exponentially–driving referrals, repeats and revenue.

It’s ironic to consider how we have come full-circle –from the vast global frontiers of the wild and woolly worldwide web to the intimacy and personalization of going local.  Does this mean the bloom is off the rose for our passionate love affair with the cavernous, impersonal box store on the edge of town? Are we heading back the personal service of Mr. Drucker the general store? Can’t help but thinking of Dorothy’s iconic line –“If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard; because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

As we return to our own backyards, we have a remarkable opportunity to use the newest communication tools to create this new personalized customer relationship. It’s time to put the social in social media– in a way that produces tangible results for neighborhood businesses and independent merchants. Here a six things you should do right now:

1. Build an organic online hub – a socially empowered website
Your website is more than just a static online brochure. It is the center of your customer-generating universe. Think about its connections and ability to attract and refer. Incorporate a blog, social widgets, easily sharable content, compelling visuals, video, clear calls-to-action, contact forms, site analytics, best-practice search engine optimization (SEO), links to your social media profiles—and a fresh, updated design.

2. Create your business’ awareness and revenue generating social ecosystem.

Create and energize three branded platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Gowalla — and depending on your business, your choice of YouTube, LinkedIn or Flickr. Manage , monitor, engage, and respond. Learn the basics about using Facebook —creating pages, managing privacy, encouraging conversation, posting, creating quizzes, inviting fans, messaging fans, promoting the page, etc. If you don’t do anything else, think of this as your golden triad:

  • Facebook
  • Blog (Subscription/email)
  • Multi-Media (in-store and online – video, audio, photography, print)

3. If you have an email list, optimize, segment, and grow it.
And if you don’t, start it today. Think of your email address as direct path to your prospect or customer—another essential ingredient in your social media marketing mix. It’s your own CRM (Customer Relationship Management System)—a customer “intelligence base” that you can use to segment, target, and attract—in conjunction with your website and social media platforms.

4. Frame an integrated promotion plan

Create promotion in-store and online promotions and associated materials to capture prospect and customer email addresses, as well as drive Facebook engagement and You Tube, Flickr and/or Linked In participation. Leverage this affinity, along with email campaigns, to help increase repeat business and referrals through:
• Special, private events
• Quizzes
• Contests
• Polls
• Voting
• One-day-only specials
• Cause marketing opportunities
• Customer spotlight and how-to videos
• Submit-a-photo campaigns
• Gift-card purchase
• Co-promotion coupons with surrounding non-competing businesses

5. Train your customer/client –facing staff.

It all begins and ends with outrageously good customer service. Make talking about Facebook a priority. Make it part of your customer banter and in-person relationships. Work from the inside out; make the social media message more social, and watch the referrals flow. Coach your staff on how to manage your business’ presence enterprise-wide in an authentic, human and engaging way.

6. Claim Your Business of Google

This will instantly improve your Google search listings, and/or locate you on Google Maps, which gives help make finding you much easier—on and offline. Next, you may want to consider a listing on Yelp (primarily restaurants, but now expanding to travel, leisure and entertainment). You might even consider placing posts and/or ads in Craigslist, so that people seeking out your services on that site would know how to find your physical location.

Do you have a question about neighborhood marketing?

Is social media the new job one?

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about optimizing social media, life, and spirit. Hire her: elgantz@yahoo.com.

Erik Qualman waxed rhapsodic about Ford’s strategic and systemic embrace of social media when he spoke at the Social Media Club of Dallas.

“The good companies,” Qualman surmised, “know a sound social media strategy is much more than having a Facebook page or setting up a Twitter account. The good companies know that social media has to be integrated into everything that they do – it’s a part of their overall strategy since it touches every facet of the business.” He went on to say in an interview on Clickz that ford changed not only the external perception of the brand—but the internal culture of the company. However, the Facebook numbers are hardly in low gear – 156,738 on Ford and 25, 416 anticipating the exclusive Facebook launch of the “new” Explorer.

Qualman praises  Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford, for driving the change, and I certainly agree—understanding from the top down is critical.  Qualman says that car companies typically spend 10 percent of their marketing dollars on digital initiatives. Ford shifted its percentage to 25 percent digital. And its stock has increased from $1.5 to $11.  This reallocation of funds appears to be a trend.  A business I was visiting with this week said their national enterprise cut their $12 million print/television/radio budget to $1 million—and it’s now all digital!

Earlier this year, Jeff Bullas talked about Ford’s phenomenal social media savvy. Scott Monty, head of social media at Ford, said his “Jewel in the Crown” is the Ford Fiesta Movement that involved selecting 100 socially vibrant individuals who received the European version of the Ford Fiesta to drive for 18 months prior to its release in the USA. He truly harnessed and leveraged word of mouth.  He “knighted” key influencers and empowered them to lead the Fiesta crusade.  It’s all about raw, authentic, unedited (or routed for corporate approval) emotion and passion.

The Inside Job

Still, this is social media as promotion and marketing.  Now, I’m wondering about those integrated, internal systems. It’s one thing to create a dialogue with your market—but quite another to configure internal business processes and/or culture around social media.  I suspect this will evolve less rapidly.  I have experienced the birthing pains in my own practice. At The LTV group, for instance, I was retained to build a social media ecosystem to help drive REO Expo attendance, but now that my “special assignment” is complete, I wonder how they will cultivate the landscape in terms of strategy and function moving forward.  I certainly contend that any business needs more than one or two people off “doing social media” in the corner.

Dealer’s Choice

Operations become even more complicated in the car biz—something I have experienced firsthand.  As a Ford customer, myself, I recently took my 4-year-old Escape to Park Cities Ford in Dallas when my check-engine light began to glow. Unfortunately, I had an extremely disappointing experience with the service department, so I decided to test the much-ballyhooed customer service power of Twitter—and tweeted my dismay.  I also emailed the appropriate person at the dealership. I received a reply within 48 hours from the corporate customer service but nothing from the Park Cities folks.  I was impressed with the timely, friendly corporate tweet. I provided the VIN number and explanation, as she requested. Meanwhile, I needed to repair my car, so I took it to Westway in Irving, and the difference was night and day. They exuded honesty and proposed only necessary repairs. I tweeted my glee, too.

When days went by, and I heard nothing, I followed up with Ford corporate. The original tweeter was on vacation, and they lost track of the string.  Plus, I was told the corporate customer service folks can report the issue, but they have no control over the actions of the individually owned dealerships. Outcomes may vary.

Hmmm . . .isn’t that where the rubber meets the road, Ford?

I guess it’s one of those “process” issues that still needs to be ironed out to bring the social media loop—full circle. It’s complicated, indeed.

Now, I’m interested in how businesses of all shapes and sizes are weaving the threads of social media into their daily operations—internal and/or external. Or, should we say, the new “working  inside out”?

What are you doing that’s working? What’s not? Comment below or email me at elgantz@yahoo.com. I’d love to talk with you about it.