How do you use Twitter?

Alice

In marketing terms, people view using Twitter in different ways. Some see it as a somewhere to make friends and listen to lots of gossip. Others use it for fact finding and a method for free and easy research. Others regard it as a voyeur’s haven, watching what others are saying and gleaning the latest news before it breaks. And then there are others who treat it merely as a place to feed your blog into and share expertise and tips.

 
So which scenario do you fit into?
 
Do you use your name in your Twitter username? Are you interacting freely with your followers? Do you start and partake in conversations? Do you write your tweets yourself? Are they spontaneous or composed beforehand? Do you keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day?
 
Do you use your business as your Twitter username? Are you representing a corporate identity? Do you only tweet what you’ve been told to say? Are you given free rein to reply? Do you find you’re repeating the usual mantra without any personal context?

Are you representing a brand on Twitter? Do you monitor the Twittersphere to see what others are saying about your brand? Do you intervene only to correct misconceptions? Do you promote facts and figures in order to spread awareness to a larger audience?

Are you using Twitter to spread your expertise through blog feeds and top tips? Do you use an automated service to carefully space out your tweets throughout the day? Is this to give the impression of a constant presence, or to capture different people in different time zones?

Remember, using social media should be a sociable affair, to create relationships with others in order to find out more about each other, with an aim towards long-term associations, referrals and recommendations, and maybe (or ultimately) business.

This mechanism for creating two-way, even multiple-way, communications with any like-minded person should not be abused by the never-ending desire to sell and make money, for cheap and easy research, or to crow about how wonderful you are.

Using Twitter means sharing resources and ideas, problems and answers, tips and expertise without a hint of selling, gossip and laughter, making connections and above all, friendship.

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What gaps are in your communication strategy?

Alice

The fourth assignment for my CIM Professional Certificate in Marketing involves creating a communications audit on the organisation I have based my assignment upon. After I had fathomed exactly what was required, I started to enjoy analysing every aspect of communication the organisation did, including the ‘external’ stakeholders involved, such as the media and pressure groups, the community and those involved in corporate social responsiblity.

This may all sound complicated, but there is no need to get apprehensive (unless you haven’t done much about communications in your business). First you need to work out all the different aspects of communication: websites, social media, blogs, PR, newspaper reports, articles written online and paper published, recommendations, networking (off and online), participation in events in the local social diary, corporate social responsibility and involvement in local groups. There are probably more you can think of, depending on your kind of business.

Go on the web and find out what other companies, especially your competitors, are doing to publicise the communication strategies they have in place. Sometimes a little light secondary research can reveal a lot about them, as well as yourself. How visible are you, both off and online? How much information do you make available about your company and the things that you do? How easy is it to find?

Then you need to work out the impact your communication strategy has on your business and your stakeholders, which includes past, present and potential customers, your competitors and suppliers, as well as the general public. How well do you communicate with them on the areas that are relevant to them? What kind of things do you need to tell them? How frequently do you perform this and what have the results been? Have you achieved your objectives from these ventures? What strategies do you have in place to continue, improve and achieve success in your future endeavours?

I have only just scratched the surface on this subject, but hopefully to get the strategic juices flowing. Being visible to the appropriate stakeholders could make a real difference to your business, not only to publicise what has been going on and any future projects, but to increase awareness, explain more succinctly exactly what you do and what you are aiming to achieve, increase networking opportunities and relationships that could evolve into joint ventures and other likely connections, and much more besides.

Let us know what you are doing within your communication strategy – it would be exciting to find out how successful you’ve been and what tactics you have thought up to set the communication wheels moving as smoothly as possible!

What is Foursquare and can it be used for business?

Alice

Foursquare is basically a local service-based social network-come-game which you can play online and, more appropriately, via your smart phone. Its main purpose is to tell you where your friends are (if they’re also connected to Foursquare) and vice versa, plus a few more activities to increase the fun.

It’s based around the idea of ‘checking-in’ places, such as coffee shops, bars, restaurants, hotels or wherever, with a short message about where you are and what you’re doing. Your friends will receive that message so they can decide whether to come and join you, and it’s also good way to enable you to find your friends when you need them too.

Every time you ‘check-in’ somewhere you get points, with incentives to gain more from new places, multiple ‘check-ins’ and more, mostly obtained out of work hours to ensure Foursquare is played for social reasons. This appeals to collecting-types, because if you manage to acquire more points than anyone else within a 60-day period, you could become ‘Mayor’ of that location. Also you can collect ‘badges’ for ‘checking-in’ various new places over a time period, as another result of gaming.

How can this be used for marketing purposes? Well, not much, unless your business partakes in the Foursquare gaming side, and honours its ‘Mayors’ with incentives and ‘badges’ to encourage them to visit more often – great for coffee bars, cake shops, bars, hotels and the like. Apart from free coffees and drinks, Foursquare players don’t benefit much apart from having fun and showing their loyalty to that particular brand or company.

It’s important to remember this is essentially a social networking activity, which is about communicating and forming relationships, so the business side will become merely a bi-product from meeting up with your friends and showing off your ‘Mayorship’. You could take advantage of incentives from hotels when wining and dining clients, using their conference rooms and such like, there is always an opportunity around the corner once a relationship has been struck from using Foursquare!

The power of being positive – part three

Chantal

I’m making good progress with my book, with the working title One in Ten – How to Survive Ten Years in Business. Click here to read part one of this chapter and click here to read part two.

The right way to recruit

The E-Myth Revisited, by Michael Gerber, is a book that talks about how many people start up a business, doing what they are good at – they are the Technician. The next level of the E-Myth is the Management of other people as the business grows. The top level is that of Entrepreneur, with the business owner looking for new challenges and new business ventures.

Like many businesses, I started as the Technician. I enjoyed writing marketing copy, so I set up a business doing exactly that. When I started my business I did not think I would ever take on staff; there would always be just me and I would never grow the business much. This was partly because I did not understand The E-Myth when I first read it and did not see how I could grow the business. I was a good copywriter, building up great relationships with my clients. How could I outsource that to someone else?

Many businesses start this way, set up by people who are good at what they do and who want to make a business out of it. Many businesses carry on this way and never grow beyond what one person is capable of doing. There comes a point when there is not enough time to do all the work that is available and decisions have to be made. Do you turn the work away and risk losing clients, or do you look for someone to work with, to share the load and help you grow your business?

The first stage is to find other people who can do what you do, just as well as you can. For me, this was about working with freelance copywriters. Then you start learning to manage the relationships between your clients, your ‘writers’ and your business. All of a sudden, you find yourself heading into Michael Gerber’s Management level. In 2006 I knew I would be moving house the following year, to a home with a separate office, so I knew it was time to take on my first member of staff. Instead of using virtual administration support to help with the smooth running of the business, I decided to employ someone to do the work that I did not want to do.

So how do you find and recruit the best person? If you have never recruited someone before, the task can seem rather daunting, so the best thing to do in these situations is to ask an expert for advice. When I needed some help, I asked an HR specialist who needed some marketing help in return. We developed a recruitment process that I have been using ever since.

The first thing to do is think about was what the job of your new member of staff will entail. You need to write a detailed job description and you can start by compiling a list of tasks. Every time you find yourself doing something that you are not good at, or that you do not like doing, put it onto the list. It will not long before you have a long list of tasks that need to be done. Look also at the personal attributes you are looking for; this can be as important as the skills. You might need someone with lots of initiative, self motivation and a sense of humour. For your first member of staff, you may need someone who is up for a challenge, to help you grow your business.

Next you need to think about where to advertise the job. Depending on who you are looking for and whether the job is full time or part time, you may realise that your new member of staff might not even be looking for a new job. Advertising in the recruitment section of the local paper, or with recruitment agencies could be a waste of money. Think about who you know in the local area – schools, groups, places with notice boards, your own newsletter if you have one.

Once the applications start coming in, what do you do with them? If you have a process to follow, regardless of the number you receive, you will be able to deal with them, without it taking up all our time. Telephone interviews are a great way to start, as they allow you to assess their verbal communication skills first. How do they come across on the phone? Some people find it easier to answer questions in a face to face setting; some people do not like using the phone, so you might want to know how your applicants can cope without first meeting you.

Telephone interviews are also the first stage of the selection process. It allows people to ask you about the job and your business and some applicants may decide the job is not for them. You may decide they are not for you, especially if, when you ask them why they are interested, they tell you that they are not really bothered about your business and they just want a job! Those who impress you can be asked to send a letter and CV, so you can assess their written communications. Badly written emails and spelling mistakes should not pass the test.

Next you have to make decisions about who to invite for an interview. You should be able to narrow it down to three or four. Think about the questions you want to ask at the interviews. Look for tools you can use to gauge things like learning styles and motivation more accurately than just asking what motivates someone. These tools are useful for assessing different applicants against the same criteria and they make the process of making your final decision much easier.

The process of taking on my first member of staff went very smoothly and the choice was a simple one. Dianne lives close to my office and has a lot of experience, heaps of initiative and self-motivation and she is always up for a challenge. She joined the company in December 2006 and is still with me, as I write this in September 2010. She is the rock within the business. She is always there, always dependable. She keeps us calm in times of stress and tells us off for swearing; she works brilliantly with our clients; and she has us in fits of laughter on a regular basis. I recently nominated Dianne for an award to recognise the contribution she makes to the business and she won the regional final.

Successful businesses need people and they need support. Whether you decide to work with freelancers or take on staff, work out a process for doing it, work out exactly what and who you need and you will be able to grow a team around you and move up the E-Myth ladder.

Using relationship marketing with customer loyalty

Alice

In my past post about customer loyalty, I mentioned that “Loyalty requires working on these satisfied customers, giving them excellent, high quality service, forming a relationship with them to find out exactly want they want, how it can be delivered to them in the best possible manner, and consistently providing your service that exceeds their needs.”

Through learning about relationship marketing in my CIM course, I now understand it’s not just a matter of providing an fantastic product or service with excellent customer service to attain customer loyalty, it’s the relationship factor that is important.

Relationships happen when you use dialogue with your customers.  You need to be able to converse with them on their level, learn and retain knowledge about each one of them, and then bring this information up again at the right moment to benefit the customer it is related to.

For example, I have been using a particular garage that used to be located at the bottom of our road. My relationship grew with them because of the kind of car I had. The owner and I both owned a Renault Scenic of the same age and batch. It was interesting that his car developed a problem (which he managed to solve) always two months before mine did, so that when I limped in he was ready and waiting for both my car and me. “Ah, Mrs Elliott, we were expecting you! Is the suspension gone again?”

The Renault Service Book suggested we used Renault dealers to do our MOT, but as the nearest local Renault garage seemed to provide such a poor service, it was always our garage that picked up the pieces (so now they do the MOT each year). I popped in last Thursday to book this annual event, and as soon as I walked in, it was “Hello, Mrs Elliott, is it MOT time again? We don’t need to do a service, as that was done last year” – and it wasn’t the usual chap behind the counter as well. Continuity of good customer service throughout the business’s personnel is a powerful motive to have, and should be cultivated.

A business who can greet and acknowledge each customer by name, remember every fact about them without reference (or have easy access to it), be aware of related foibles (appreciation of my relationship with my car), take my requests seriously (follow-up of my request for my break-shoes should be replaced proved I was right), provide free advice whenever needed (reassurance about a particular grinding noise was much appreciated), have plenty of time for their customers (thorough investigation when my car failed to start properly resulted in no charge because nothing was found or replaced), all contributes to repeat business with referrals to friends and other potential customers.

And when they moved from the bottom of our road, do you think I followed them? Slight inconveniences such as distance can easily be accommodated when you know that you’re going to get a brilliant service, even when it is from a different location.