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.

Making social media sing with REO

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about optimizing social media, life, and spirit. Reach her at elgantz()yahoo.com

I have been on a unique journey that has definitely been broadening my horizons— drilling deeply into a real-estate-publishing niche focused on REOs—that’s “real estate owned” properties (not the eighties pop band) that have run the foreclosure gauntlet and are back in the hands of the financial institutions. This is a growing byproduct and reality of our struggling economy, which was so crippled by the once reckless heyday of sub-prime mortgage lending.

Yes, I guess one might say there in a murky dark side to this world—all the financial loss, property vandalism and deterioration, hassle, anger, anguish, shame, and lives in upheaval. But as there is a yin to every yang, REO sales actually provide a glimmer of hope for devastated neighborhoods and broken dreams—the promise of asset managers and investors who are committed to win-win-win propositions which involve neighborhood transformation, green renovation, and helping people live without the oppressive burdens of back-breaking mortgage obligations.

That’s where the REO Expo, June 6 – 9, and the Open Door Institute, a vibrant community for REO professionals, come into play.

I joined the mother ship, The LTV Group, about a month and half ago to develop a social media marketing strategy for the REO Expo and other corporate entities down the road. Other core businesses under the umbrella are REO Insider magazine and HousingWire magazines and LTV Creative. It’s been quite a ride—working with a talented and energetic bunch of folks, as well as a target market with a fiercely persistent, can-do work ethic. We are less than two weeks away, and the registration momentum continues to build. Here are the basics of the case study—with updates to follow.

REO Expo 2010: Social Media Strategy

Objective:
Maximize registrations for REO Expo and simultaneously—expand membership in the Open Door Institute, a new community for REO professionals, requiring dues ranging from $595 to $2995.

Key tactics:
• Driving consistent conversation and engagement activity on Facebook, Twitter, REO Pro Ning community, Linked In, and blog response. Monitor, engage, converse, and respond. In a little over a month, the Facebook fan (or like) page is more than 425-strong.

• Building a complete social media “ecosystem” across all marketing communications channels—with social media group icons inviting engagement on all outgoing emails, materials, and the REO Expo website.

• Launching a “Share Your Story” contest. The winner received free REO Expo registration, a 3-night hotel stay at the conference, and an invitation to the private reception with Emmitt Smith. The two runners up won free registration. We had some very disturbing REO tales, indeed, and interestingly, the site that provided the most involvement was Linked In—through postings on the various subject-matter interest groups.

There were many stories of persistence, accomplishment, and cast-iron stomachs, but our winner, Nelya Calev of Seattle, wove a particularly disconcerting yarn. You can read the whole story on REO Insider blog. Here’s an excerpt:

“Our guys re-keyed the house, and I went to take pictures for BPO. And as I was walking down the hallway when I saw F*&K . . . (name of the bank) written in large letter on the wall and punched holes next to it. Not a big deal, so I take pictures. There was spilled paint on the tile floor, fire place, and carpet. No biggy, right? I walked in to the master bedroom and he had little girls underwear framed on the wall . . . What kind of sick person does that? It scared the crap out of me . . . I went downstairs and he had a picture of . . . “

OK . . . I think you get the picture. Not for the faint of heart, right? She goes on to say she had to deal with crazy neighbors approaching every buyer and scaring them off. He had to babysit buyers and the buyers’ agents to get it sold.


And I thought I have had a colorful career!

The Campaign Results so far:
1. Registrations have increased almost twelve-fold since launching an integrated social media, e-marketing, and traditional materials/word-or-mouth marketing campaign a little over a month a ago—meeting and even surpassing expectations.
2. Open Door Institute Membership has almost doubled in the same time period.

Registration is online at www.REOExpo2010.com. Be sure to sign up sooner than later, because attendance is capped and the free classes that we’re being offered through the Open Door Institute and Default School are filling fast.

There’s more to come, and we will keep you updated. Or, why don’t you join us? For now, it’s time for me to fly . . .

Finding Community Where We Live

I heard Peter Lovenheim, journalist and author of In The Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time, on NPR this morning. His commentary resonated with me as I considered the meaning of community—online and otherwise. Lovenheim felt compelled to write the book after a tragic murder-suicide on his Rochester, NY street, because he suspected less anonymity among his neighbors might have saved the woman’s life.

Lovenheim wonders how people can live side-by-side and know literally nothing about each other, so he brazening invites himself to “sleep over” at the houses of his neighbors. Startling stories unfold. Throughout, he waxes nostalgic about idyllic days of neighborhood barbecues, sipping lemonade on the front porch, and sharing coffee around the kitchen table. This reminded me of that classic 1960 Twilight Zone episode, “Next Stop Willoughby,” in which the addled, frantic advertising exec dreams of a simple, stress-free, small-town life in the late 1880s. (I won’t spoil the twist if you haven’t seen it.)

In his neighborhood, Lovenheim mourns the loss of a slower pace which allowed the time for casual, incidental, face-to-face contact. “We just don’t have the old-fashioned conversations with our neighbors,” laments Lovenheim. One postman he interviewed remarked, “More than 90% of the time, customers would rather give misdirected mail back to me than walking it over to the person next door.” Could our desire for privacy and independence be trumping our basic need for human interaction?

As Lovenheim reaches out to those living in closest proximity, he finds others also secretly searching for connection and yearning for an era gone by. He asks the question—do neighborhoods really matter, and is something missing in our lives when we live among strangers? What makes a group of houses or apartments a neighborhood? Just as our IP addresses have no real meaning in terms of our identity online, our street addresses have become less important components of our personal definitions of “community.” Of course, there are exceptions, but no matter where you are, building front-yard community takes a deliberate effort.

Our lives are fuller and more hectic than ever—with dawn-to-dark work schedules, overly programmed children, mind-numbing commutes, single-parent households, and vehicles available to whisk us off to soccer games, book stores, and gyms across town. Could this lack of physical, local connection be part the dramatic revolution driving social media behavior? After all, isn’t it where we live?

We have to pass laws now to keep people from texting on their mobile phones while they drive. Facebook has become a verb, and I’m in touch with friends I never see in person through their 3:00 and 4:00 am Twitter/Facebook posts. Personal stories. Tales of insomnia. Crumbling relationships. Critically ill relatives. Job losses. Despair. Joy. Finding pig for Farmville. It runs the gamut. And when we do converse real-time, it most likely includes a conversation about the latest iPhone app. Our communication behaviors are no longer sequential—talk on phone, go next door to borrow an egg, then sit down to watch the evening news. Communication is integrated and intertwined. It’s more like a tapestry. I text my son and check email on my mobile phone—while standing in line at the grocery store. No wonder we all fried by the end of the day.

Longing for human interaction, we have moved to online neighborhoods for the same casually intimate, psycho-social interactions that earlier generations experienced in the driveway or on the front lawn. Today, the difference is we access them on our own time. Many say the Internet is detrimental to human relationships, but it’s really a double-edged sword. I contend the Web is really creating a new context and a revised process. In fact, there are a growing number of sites designed specifically to facilitate interaction within neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and subdivisions. Examples include ineighbors.org and aroundme.net. Even Neighborhood America, a large white-label online community company, has recently rebranded as Ingage Networks.

However, social media just may be coming full-circle—trending back toward geo-location. Maybe you really can go home again—virtually speaking, of course. Whether we’re tracking nearby Tweets, stamping your Passport on Gowalla, or unlocking a Swarm badge on Foursquare, we are reorienting our interaction geographically – focusing to people and places around us. The operative question on all this geo-updating is—does anybody really care? But isn’t that what they said about Facebook and Twitter?

Hmm, could a virtual lemonade stand be next? What do you think?

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to make a difference. Elaine covers social media for business, education, and nonproifts. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

The Latest Blog-buster

I have been pondering Jason Falls’ presentation at the Dallas Social Media Club meeting last Tuesday. (Sorry, been a busy week.) He was jolly, open, and authentic. I liked what he said about the business of blogs. He asserted that his most recent research indicates that the largest segment of blog traffic comes from first-time visitors—debunking the common myth that blogs appeal primarily to a devoted cadre of repeat visitors. Instead, based on Jason contends we actually should approach the blog as we would a standard marketing piece—core marketing messages.

Jason advises that the blog’s primary business purpose should be to “win search results,” so SEO/keyword strategies are mission critical. Most visitors find your blog when they are looking for information. Doesn’t that really help clarify the whole blogging conundrum, that question I hear all the time—What should I write about? Fuel your blogging journey with topics that resonate with your target audience. Develop messaging in an informative style that will trigger comments and engagement. The bottom line—deliver information-rich, intriguing content that promotes what you sell.

On Jason’s own blog, 69% of traffic comes from first time visitors—perhaps from the search term, “social media.” Falls surveyed 300 blogging companies, and for B2B respondents, 65-68% of visitors had landed for the first time. For business-to-consumer blogs, up to 80% were virgin clickers.

As in the traditional marketing world, knowing your audience is what it’s all about. So, the essential question is, “Who is reading your blog?” It may not be your enthusiast community or virtual cult of personality you imagine, but it merits your attention. Jason’s Social Media Explorer is considered one of the most prominent voices of the social media chorus.

He’s a such a teddy-bear sort of guy’s guy—so unpretentious. In fact, after seeing Falls and Brogan in action, I’m noticing a trend. It’s interesting to me that the pioneering minds of social media seem to be these affable-bro types. Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Giovanni Gallucci, and even Clay Shirky (with some professorial polish) are the kinda guys you expect to see gathered around the big screen at the neighborhood sports bar—just regular guys. I don’t know what I expected, but I wonder how it evolved this way. Maybe it has something to do with the “cool geek factor” of the technology side.

Why does social media leadership seem to be such a boys’ club in general—when women are instinctively wired to find and nurture social relationships. Men, hunter/gatherers. Women, nurturers of home, hearth, and connection. Aren’t women the original social networkers? Could it be that social media is blurring these gender lines of communication? I pursued this a little further to discover that only about 12 of the approximately 63 “featured bloggers” on Social Media Today homepage appear to be women.

I think about my best gal pals from my early career, college, and high school. Many of them have resisted diving into Facebook much longer than the guys I know. They said they just didn’t have time—perhaps because they experience the same social engagement achieved online through their in-person activities, such as work, book clubs, PTA meetings, Saturday afternoon soccer, Sunday school, and Bunko groups. I think about my own entry into this wacky social media world. It was quite by accident. I joked in a recent job interview that I earned an “independent study” Master’s degree when I went to work for YourCause.com, which is now a distant memory for me. Beth Kanter has been forging the cause-focused social media trail much longer than I have, so I suspect the message had more to do with our involvement that the medium.

I wonder if this is because women really do know how do to make connections innately, and this new media frontier gives the “bros” an easier, less intimidating way to bond and relate. Hmmm. Interesting notion.

What do you think?

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social action. Elaine covers social media for education, nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

Will Social Media Make the Grade?

Integrating social media into business in a meaningful way is more difficult than I thought it would be—academically speaking, of course. In fact, it’s really ironic. Though higher education is ostensibly about forging trails, igniting discourse, and driving innovation, the reality is that the business of academia is still working on how to maximize the high-octane power of social media. Methinks it’s probably just a little too out-of-control and outside the box for those venerable educational brands.

I think the real rub is the expectation of immediate results versus the fear of unbridled conversation. But it really comes down to justifying the opportunity cost (now that’s a vestige of my 25-year-old MBA trickling out of my baby-boomer psyche). Truthfully, social media may even be the ultimate paradox. In a world of 24/7 e-commerce, instant gratification, and auto-responses, business leaders want immediate profitability and irrefutable ROI. But social media in business is more about the journey than the destination. It’s process. And that’s very hard to justify in a dollar and cents world—especially in today’s, re-orged, laid-off, downsized, bailed-out, and bedraggled business climate.

As many experts have said about social media, it is more a mindset or behavior that a channel or tool, in the traditional marketing parlance. More and more, I see how companies really need to transform from the inside out. We must radically rethink everything—communication, marketing, and sales to truly maximize the power and effectiveness of social media—and marketing, in general. The online social media space is not an environment where ROI can necessarily be calculated based on standalone, one-off calls to action—but where we build an intertwined, 3-D, online “ecosystem” that enables customers, constituents, or alumni to respond—whether it is buying the latest alumni directory, dog food, or a tax preparation service.

It also means integrating a company’s brand and grassroots employee behavior into the rhythm of the social media dance. To be successful, we can no longer be afraid of engaging through our own profiles, website, and presence. We as small business can carve out a more profitable future if we are willing to fully engage in the opportunities. Granted, social media for business is a revolutionary concept. We must be willing to test, test, test, experiment—and even fail. We must also be willing to allocate time and resources. Some ideas:

1. Perhaps this means training a core group of employees (or volunteers for nonprofits) or interns to nurture, tend, and cultivate social media farm, as Chris Brogan calls it.

2. Start from square one on the brand, value proposition, and core products. It is important to analyze and synthesize online behaviors to best understand how to trigger them. Online activity is a very different behavioral energy from the traditional one-to-one sales call transaction. We must understand the dynamics of both.

3. We must spend as much time listening and participating online at posting calls to action. Social media expert Chris Brogan emphasized this in his recent Dallas presentation. This means actively posting, conversing, and responding on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, Gowalla, YouTube, the university website, and blogs. The rehearsal is just as important as the performance. It’s about igniting behavior, interest, and activity – then making the pitch.

How will we know that we are successful? When we have increased our goal of social media lead generation and revenue impact, we will know. In addition, web response tools help us continually clean email addresses, physical addresses, and contacts. Streamlined e-marketing can also drastically reduce dependence on snail mail, thus enhancing the profit margin of each project.

What are the appropriate metrics to track? We will implement a series of initiatives and promotions for each type of product offering. We will measure their effectiveness based on fans, followers, click-thrus, and incremental increases in revenue. Key indicators:

• Brand activity and campaigns on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, blogs, online communities, and more traditional news.
• Website traffic.
• Conversions of social media traffic to leads and sales.
• Daily user engagement via online communities.
• Benchmarks for measuring the impact of social media efforts.
• Content on multiple blogs and syndicated content.
• Competitive programs and initiatives within the online product/service community.

A well-meaning, yet hopelessly pedantic friend recently sent me this quote that resonates for me in this context:

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
Begin it now.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social action. Elaine covers social media for education, nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Contact her — elgantz @yahoo.com

Chris Brogan Coaches Dallas’ Social Media Farm Team

ElaineGantzWright’s blog is for people interested in using the Web and online marketing to drive social action. Elaine covers social media for education, nonprofits, philanthropy trends, online giving, cause marketing, random life musings, and more. Hire her — elgantz@ yahoo.com

Chris Brogan

I saw Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan) speak last Thursday night at the Angelika—a real coup for the Dallas Social Media Club (#smcdallas). Chris Brogan is an eleven-year veteran of using social media, web technologies, and mobile applications to build digital relationships for businesses, organizations, and individuals. He consistently ranks near the top of official blogger lists. Very impressive. I have been a fan of his no-nonsense blog and prodigious tweet stream for a while.

He was certainly convivial—quite clever and coy; however, I gotta admit it. I did not really receive much meat for the price of admission (and I’m not talking about the decimated appetizer bar). I’m talking figurative meat—those insider ah-ha moments and golden nuggets, those epiphanies that come from being submerged and steeped in the social media soup 24/7 and still thirsting for more.

He confessed that he wrote the talk on the plane, and I do think I saw him referring to a cocktail napkin a time or two. I will say that I loved his rapier wit, teddy-bear approachability, and keen sense of comic timing—kind of the Robin Williams of social media. Yet, there were many non sequiturs and streams of consciousness which seemed to flow off course at times. To be fair, I suspect he is used to speaking to the social-media uninitiated, so he focuses on the brass tacks (as opposed to the trackbacks). He seemed constantly surprised that we actually got his jokes. But then again, maybe social media is really just that simple:

• Be nice to people.
• Every person is in the company is in sales and customer service.
• Social media is about authentic relationship building.
• Be there before the sale – social media is about listening, helping, responding, and interacting.
• Reciprocity is what makes social media work.
• Highlight customers.
• Ask questions.
• Understand how to network effectively, and don’t stick to “just your vertical.”

I really liked this concept: “What if marketing were 2 parts helpline, 2 parts connection, and only 1 part selling?” And I liked his concept of farming and tending the garden (Hmmm . . . glad to know my blog of Aug. 23, 2009, was on the right track.) Just don’t want to confuse farming with Farmville. He encouraged us to think about planting seeds, tending, watering, and nurturing growth.

Still, I can’t help asking: Is this a ‘medium is the message’ lesson? (Chris did reference McLuhan several times . . . and Ogilvy) I’m just wondering if the 140-character, truncated messaging of tweets, texts, and pithy comments is defining the way we send and receive content—even in person? Is it impacting spoken language — reformatting and reframing our fundamental speech patterns and synapses? Maybe that’s it. Maybe we are all learning to expect and talk “tweet.”

Guess that means I’d better start brushing up on my Gowalla . . .

What would you like to ask Chris?

Tactics for Tough Times

“It is the nature of man to rise to greatness if greatness is expected of him.” –John Steinbeck

Whether you are large or little, flush or floundering, it’s never too late to chart a course to flourish in the New Year. Even though recovery is still looming as a faint glimmer on horizon, we need to be vigilant about honing our skills to work smarter and make the most of the new economic realities. Here are some scrappy, do-more-with-less things you can do to jump-start your marketing program in 2010:

Contact your lapsed donors. Appeal to them via snail mail or better yet, through email. Reactivated donors can have higher lifetime value than new donors, because they’re already invested.

Express gratitude. Curtailing donor-acknowledgment activities as a means of cost-cutting can be counter-productive–and even devastating. In fact, messages of appreciation will be more potent than ever.

Take risks. Yes, even in a time of uncertainty, new tools can help you differentiate yourself in a sea of solicitations and a cacophony of causes. Social media can help you expand your base and leverage the viral power of peer-to-peer fundraising in dynamic, new ways. Discover exciting ways to streamline your process and empower your volunteers. In this Internet age, the medium is definitely the message, as well as the method!

Innovate. Effective fundraising is dependent on innovation. Everything is testable, and any idea can lead to a stronger program. Whether it succeeds or fails, there is something to be learned. The biggest mistake you can make during tough times is to retreat to a defensive position and make decisions out of fear.

Put the “Donate Now” button on everything. Don’t be shy about the “Donate Now” button. So many schools and universities, in particular, are shy about using this. It’s one of the easiest ways to increase online giving–by asking!!! Some key places to put it include:
• Your homepage.
• The homepage of your online community.
• Every email, every e-newsletter you send.

ENGAGE in social media. If you have not already, create a Facebook page that will automatically post status updates to your Twitter account. (Set that up, too.) And, investigate your LinkedIn groups. You may find that that there is already an active community of support burgeoning on these sites. Build a bridge, and interact with online savvy groups.

Investigate mobile applications. Whether you are providing mobile access to a unique resource, to volunteer offerings, or to giving opportunities, everyone is going mobile. We need to communicate to our donors and alumni where they are — in the palms of their hands — through mobile applications, texting, and mobile-friendly rendering of our communication devices. This will be essential in 2010! According to IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, vendors shipped a total of 43.3 million units during the third quarter of 2009 (3Q09), up 4.2% from the 41.5 million units shipped in 3Q08, and up 3.2% from shipments of 41.9 million units in 2Q09.

Whatever you do, keep trusting — and testing, testing, testing . . . And remember to take time to breathe and celebrate everything you have accomplished this year.

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media that makes a difference. Contact her at elgantz @ yahoo.com.

Literary Device


I admit it. I like texting. I don’t know if it is the writer in me, the social media maven, mom, or bon vivant, but I am hooked. It took me a while to embrace it, but I have found the direct access to those I care about quite appealing. I can receive a quick text at work when my son gets home from school—or a little casual banter with a flirtatious friend—without the formality a phone conversation entails. I guess it’s part of the “instant,” byte-sized culture we are creating.

So, I suspect that’s why I haven’t stopped thinking about Stanford University professor Andrea Lunsford’s five-year examination of college students’ writing in the Stanford Study of Writing. From 2001 to 2006, she collected 14,672 student writing samples—everything from in-class assignments, formal essays, and journal entries to emails, blog posts, and chat sessions. What she discovered might surprise you. The reality is that the most popular technological tools and social media platforms continue to receive plenty of sanctimonious slander—from Facebook’s narcissistic drivel, to PowerPoint’s bullet-point prose, to Twitter’s unintelligible prattle. But in true train-wreck fashion, we just can’t seem to stop looking.

As many traditional academicians, such as University College of London English professor John Sutherland have moaned, social media and texting are “dehydrating language into bleak, bald, sad shorthand.” However, the new media guard thinks differently. The truth is that communication is evolving and morphing as breakneck speed, and we are right smack in the middle of maelstrom. Granted, it’s hard to achieve the perspective needed to make sense of it all. Professor Lunsford suggests:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization. Technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving it—and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.”

The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing happens online, and it almost always involves text. Moreover, they are writing more than any previous generation, ever—in history. They are immersed in a complex, often confounding, new space where writers and their audiences are now enmeshed. “The consumer has become the producer,” says Professor Clay Shirky. The rules of the game have changed, and communication mores have been literallyturned upside down.

Lunsford pins her findings to the pervasive psycho-sociological trends defining our culture. She says, “More than earlier generations, young people today are aware of the precarious nature of our lives. They understand the dangers that await us. Hence, writing is a way to get a sense of power.” Interestingly, comparing the Stanford students’ writing with their peers from the mid-1980s, Lunsford found that the writing of today’s students is about three times as long today—they have “the ability to generate more prose.” I guess expressing ideas about hard things requires hard words. And when grappling with hard things, “I don’t think it can be worked out in 140 characters,” Lunsford contends. How ironic.

Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom. Lunsford calls this “life writing.” Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up. The fact that students today almost always write for an audience—a real switch from the prior generation—gives them a different sense of focus and message impact. It’s almost as if we are narrating our own lives. In interviews, students defined good prose as something that had an effect on the world. For them, writing is about persuading, organizing, and debating. It’s about finding a voice and taking a stand—even if it’s a review of the latest movie.

The Stanford students were almost always less enthusiastic about their in-class writing, because it had no audience but the professor. It didn’t serve any purpose other than to get them a grade. How about texting those LOLs and emoticons? Are they eroding the sanctity of academic writing? When Lunsford examined the work of first-year students, she didn’t find a single example of texting speak in an academic paper.

At the end of the day, texting has it’s time and place. And, there’s the rub. It represents a fascinating dichotomy of communication. It is simultaneously immediate and intimate, yet passive. It finds you any time of the day or night (no matter where you are—except driving, I hope) in the soft, fleshy palm of your hand. But at the same time, it gives you the power to choose when and how you want to respond. To engage or not to engage—the new “text-i-quette.”

Some psychologists warn against this intimate anonymity—that it encourages risky behavior. Elisabeth Wilkins wrote in a blog post that “texting can rob our kids of the ability to interact socially”—diminishing the importance of body language and facial expressions. I think the evolution of email and texting has radically changed the way we communicate and how we express ourselves, but I’m not sure it’s something we can condemn or alter. It simply is. It is the new communications behavior and landscape, which is inextricably intertwined with the technological innovation that enables it.

What do you think of texting and the changing patterns of communication? How are they affecting us as human beings?

Elaine Gantz Wright writes about social media that makes a difference. Contact her at elgantz @ yahoo.com