Tag Archives: social media

social media day

Is Google+ Better for Business than Facebook or Twitter?

In the world of social networks, innovation can quickly change the field of frontrunners — remember LiveJournal?

We just saw it again as Google+ overtook Twitter to claim the No. 2 spot behind Facebook. And the new kid is already better than Mark Zuckerberg’s baby for small businesses, professional firms and entrepreneurs, says Alex Hinojosa, vice president of media operations for EMSI (www.emsipublicrelations.com).

“I knew Google+ would attract a big following because it really lends itself to business uses and SEO,” says Hinojosa, who has witnessed the value of Google+ grow exponentially in the daily operations of his PR firm.

A new Global Web Index study show Google+ grew to 343 million users globally in December, or about 25 percent of global internet users. Facebook still accounts for 50 percent of the pie.

“Facebook continues to go through self-imposed changes that are seeing mixed responses from longtime users,” Hinojosa says. “The new No. 2 has much, much more to offer than simply being an alternative to the big dog.”

Hinojosa reviews the merits of Google+ as a business tool, and why he believes the social network will continue its meteoric rise:

• Power: Google+ may be the new kid when it comes to social media – it’s not even 2 years old yet — but Google has become synonymous with anything online. The “new kid” offers something that no other social media platform can: Google power.

• Overwhelming advantage: “Google loves its newest offspring and it favors any post, article, picture and link posted on Google+,” Hinojosa says. “If you post a link on your Google+ about asthma remedies, and one of your connections is logged in to Google+ and searches for asthma remedies, your post will show up high in his Google search results.”

• In action: Let’s say you own an art gallery full of nature photos. Your website for promoting the gallery highlights “mountain photos,” “wildlife photos,” and “waterfall photos” and you’ve created matching URLs for each page, such as bobsnaturephotos. com/waterfallphotos. Now you head over to post your newest update on Google+. You post a message about the waterfall, then you add the link to your waterfall page, bobsnaturephotos. com/waterfallphotos. Now, whenever one of your connections types “waterfall photos” into a Google search, whether it’s days, weeks or months later, there you are on page 1 of the results. Your post shows up, your profile picture shows up, and your link shows up.

“Once upon a time MySpace was king, but over a period of about a year the world made a seamless transition onto Facebook, which may very well see a mass exodus of users,” Hinojosa says. “If your business or employer is not already on Google+, it’s time to make the move.”

Alex Hinojosa is the Vice President of Media Operations at EMSI Public Relations, where he oversees the creative process and execution of print (traditional & online), radio, TV and social media campaigns.  He has an extensive background in radio, working as a national talk-show host and executive producer for CBS Radio, Clear Channel Media & Entertainment and ESPN in major markets.  Alex is also a (social) media coach and fill-in talk show host for Genesis Communications Florida.

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Super Bowl power outage shines light on PR opportunity

One of the biggest victories that came out of this year’s Super Bowl was not the Baltimore Ravens win, but the fast thinking public relations and creative teams that seized the moment when the lights went out. When the players were side lined due to a 34-minute power outage viewers immediately took to social media. According to Twitter, users sent an estimated 24.1 million tweets during the game, with a bulk of postings taking place during the blackout.

While television ads during the Super Bowl broadcast were at an all-time premium at $3.8 million for 30 second spots, outreach and engagement on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube was a fraction of the cost.

Quick turn around

Two major brands that pulled out all the stops and generated considerable buzz were Tide and Oreo. Tide posted an image with a simple headline reading, “We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out.” The image was retweeted more than 1,300 times. Oreo generated even more interest with its post showing on Oreo cookie illuminated on a dark page with copy reading, “You can still dunk in the dark.” This tweet was retweeted approximately15,000 times and was still being talked about the next day.

While fans waited for the lights to turn back on and for the game to resume, there was an estimated 231,000 tweets taking place per minute.

Looking to the companies and brands that recognized the opportunity serves as a valuable lesson in PR communications, and aptly demonstrates the advantage of a timely response. Having the ability to seize the moment and turnaround clever content quickly, paid off. While the NFL covered the blackout with banter about the game, viewers and ticket holders turned to their smartphones and tablets to access social media sites to receive updates and share.

Expanding reach

Unlike any other televised event, the enormous publicity building up to and surrounding the NFL championship takes on a life well beyond the match-up of teams. Viewers have equally as much interest, if not more in the half-time entertainment and the commercials. It may even be safe to say that the Super Bowl is the only televised program where viewers do not consider the commercials or half time as an optimal time for a bathroom break. Nor do most viewers set the DVR just so they can fast forward to get to the “good stuff.”

Most notable is the significant amount of pre and post publicity coverage centered on the ads themselves. News teams on local and national stations discuss which companies will be advertising during the game and in some case go so far to show video clip teasers. In the days after the game the buzz continues with post game dissection of which ads were deemed favorites.

On YouTube this year’s award-winning Budweiser ad featuring the Clydesdales has received more than 11 million views and 56 thousand “likes”. In addition, while we don’t have access to the statistics, we know they also benefited from viral email, Facebook, and Twitter shares. In other words, the $3 million plus price tag for ad time may be warranted not just because of high program viewership, but because of the added value received from PR and the viral viewing via social media.

Super Bowl XLVII proved to be an exciting game full of entertainment, surprise blackout and all. While the city of New Orleans and the operations team at Mercedes-Benz Superdome were not prepared for an electrical outage, some savvy marketing and PR professionals were certainly prepared. Let Super Bowl XLVII be a lesson to us all in how to maximize PR and utilize the increasing power and up-to-the-minute connection of social media to engage and expand a campaign.

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4 Keys to effective Small Business Blogging, Social Media

A week or so ago I gave some marketing advice to a small business owner trying to promote his fly-fishing lodge. It’s an incredible lodge, with access to world-class private fishing as well as being nestled smack dab in the middle of a National Forest—the perfect spot for a fly-fishing vacation.

“Facebook is just for teenagers,” he said. “I’m wasting my time with social media, right?”

For his situation, it was an easy answer. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, and blogging offered him a real opportunity to promote his lodge—provided he did it right.

The last several years of my career have been focused on content marketing (social media, blogging, PR, etc.). With my direct marketing background, if you’d told me I’d be doing anything as “fluffy” as writing a blog or spending my day in social media, I’d likely have laughed you out of the room. Because offers drive response—wasting time on anything like a blog or contributed article was a waste of time. I was wrong.

Fortunately, old dogs can learn new tricks.

Should small business owners consider blogging and social media to promote their businesses? Yes—and maybe, provided you do it right.

I’m convinced there are four keys to successful small business blogging and social media. If you’re going to invest in this channel, these tips will give you an idea of the commitment you should be prepared to make:

1.     You’ve got to be consistent: I write every day. I’m publishing something someplace almost every day. Most small business owners don’t need to write every day, but they need to be consistent. I suggested to my friend from the fishing lodge that he should publish something new on his blog three times a week. What’s more, he should be posting on media like Facebook and Twitter at least a couple times a day. It’s not really the volume of content, but how consistent you are. Your readers will become accustomed to your cadence and will anticipate your next post.  You might also be interested to know that it takes 50 posts before Google will index you. At a post a week, it will be a year before Google’s search engine starts to pay any attention to you.
2.     Write it yourself: Some executives hire ghostwriters (hired guns who write for them as if they were them). It’s no secret that some CEOs are better writers than others; or might not have the time to invest in a weekly blog post or monthly-contributed article. Particularly for a CEO who is trying to establish him or herself as a thought leader, I think a ghostwriter is a little disingenuous. It should be you, not your publicist writing for you. I started blogging years ago because my CEO at the time didn’t have the time or the chops to pound out a daily blog (which is what we did to get our 50 posts as quickly as we could). He also knew that pretending to be him would ultimately be discovered and would reflect negatively on him, our company, and me. He chose, to his credit, to allow me to write under my own name and establish myself as our company’s thought leader. As a result I was invited to write and speak at different industry events all over the world. Rather than face the potential embarrassment of being discovered as a fraud, he was lauded for being a savvy and innovative CEO.
3.     Make it personal: Here’s where we can really learn something from the lifestyle and mom bloggers. They talk about their families, the products they use, and how they use them. Over the years, my readers have come to know me because I share some of the details of my life. For example, they know I waste too much time on my Harley, drive a Jeep, and enjoy fly-fishing. Because business is personal, sharing a little of yourself when it’s relevant to the discussion at hand, makes you more accessible. People like doing business with other people. If you can’t do that, find a trusted employee who has the skills and allow them to become the public face of your company. If they are trusted and respected, people will do business with you because of your association with them.
4.     Be credible—don’t waste your time: You can’t always be a salesman. I recommended to my friend with the fishing lodge that he should share tips and hints for catching more fish regardless of where you were. You should do the same. Share information about your industry that will help your readers be successful—even if they don’t use your products. It may feel counter-intuitive, but there are numerous examples of companies that have very successfully leveraged this tactic within their content marketing strategy. I’ve seen competitors treat social media like their other marketing channels and flood the medium with sales messages that get ignored. If you share information that will benefit those who could be your customers, they will become your customers because they trust you and the information you freely share. We see those results at Lendio and monitor them on a weekly basis.

Is blogging and social media right for your business? Depending on your approach it could be perfect for your business. Thanks for reading.

Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty Kiisel makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty writes about small business for Lendio.

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Technology expands meeting and conference industry

We don’t catch up over coffee anymore, we catch up on Facebook.

Technology has changed the way we date, invite people to parties, and even watch TV. It’s only natural that technology will change the face of business meetings and conferences.

“As a chapter and in addition to our website, we utilize social media outlets — Facebook and LinkedIn — to promote our meetings and events and to share information industry-wide,” says Donna Masiulewicz. president of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. “We also use these means to educate those outside the industry about the power of meetings.”

Mara Weber, global marketing and communications director for Honeywell Process Solutions in Phoenix, has taken the use of technology a step far beyond Facebook.

“We held a global sales and service kickoff meeting on a virtual platform, with live broadcasts of a general session in two time zones,” Weber says. “The objective was to align our global team on growth initiatives, portfolio offerings, key messages and how to sell the value to our customers.”

While Weber says virtual meetings — which experts expect to triple in the next five years — give companies the ability to create a global footprint and bring content to an audience when and where it’s convenient for them, there are logistical challenges that need to be overcome.

“To be honest, the time and energy required and cost is far more than people realize,” she says. “You need to start with a very specific plan of attack, keeping goals and results in mind and making sure you are creating the right content in the right format. Video format, platform format, firewalls, testing in varied browsers and software versions, ability to convert files and stay flexible at all times is just the start. You also need to think past the technical to the end-user experience and also branding to create a visual environment and help messages that guide attendees or they quickly get frustrated and jump off. It’s not like being lost at a trade show and being able to view a map and ask people for directions. The audience is largely on their own and you have to think about their experience every step of the way, how they behave, how you want them to behave, download, ask, engage.”

Weber believe the best use of virtual meetings are as a component of a live, face-to-face event, extending the value of the content through the web to attendees who cannot travel or have abbreviated schedules.

“We chose to do a fully virtual kickoff meeting because we have over 3,500 sales and service team members in more than 100 countries,” she says. “The cost and logistics of face to face meeting is not reasonable.”

Weber says Honeywell has piloted virtual meeting a couple of times with customers when they can focus on a specific, targeted topic. And even in the high-tech world that Honeywell does business in, change isn’t embraced easily.

“Our customer base does not seem to be accepting,” Weber says. “By nature, they are engineers and like live demonstrations, talking face to face with experts and networking.”

TECHNOLOGY IMPACTS THE MEETING INDUSTRY

Here are five way ways experts say the use virtual technology is changing the face of the convention, conference, meeting, event, and trades how industries: ways he says you can use virtual technology to enhance your meetings.

WEB CONFERENCING: Connects meeting attendees and speakers in different locations by using VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), which allows real-time streaming of audio and video. More hotels and business centers are also adding high-definition virtual conference rooms that can be used to host hybrid sessions.

ONLINE COLLABORATION TOOLS: Open source your meetings and events by allowing virtual participants to share documents, Web pages, whiteboards, slide decks, audio, and video … all in real-time. Some Web conferencing systems allow you to record your events, thereby creating a collective knowledge base. These tools can be used for small meetings or for larger groups of thousands.

SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS: Often called the “backchannel,” social media represent the virtual conversations taking place in the background before, during, and often long after your live meeting or event. Take the time to set up and promote social media activity through things like assigning a specific Twitter hashtag for your event, creating event-specific Facebook and LinkedIn pages, and setting up Foursquare check-in locations.

REMOTE PRESENTERS: Use a streaming video feed of a speaker who is in a different physical location. This can be done as a realistic 3-D hologram, or a live feed of your guest speaker. Remote presenter options can be a great way to attract high-profile speakers who may not have the time to travel to a physical event.

LIVE WEBCASTS: Broadcast your keynotes, general sessions and breakouts by streaming your live audio and visual presentations via the Internet in real-time.

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Top 3 Evolutionary Trends: Impact Of The Feminine Aspect On Business Industry

As 2013 approaches and we say goodbye to 2012, I’d like to share some of my thoughts regarding what I view as a huge transformation that is transpiring in the business world. This transformation or shift is the result of entrepreneurs, male and female, embracing their feminine aspect and bringing it into business. The feminine aspect taps into our compassion, our ability to nurture and our creativity. In 2012, certain evolutionary trends were established and will continue to shape and shift the world of tomorrow.

Here is my list of the top three evolutionary trends that show the positive effect the feminine aspect had on the business industry in 2012 and how important it will continue to be in 2013:

1. Compassion

To be able to see the true needs of a consumer, businesses need to think about the consumer compassionately. With the limitless use of instant information at our fingertips, the customer can see right through the typical “sale” and are more cautious in their role as a consumer, especially in light of the turbulent economy. Businesses recognized this and brought in compassion to solve the problem.

Businesses now care more about what the customer actually needs and care less about making the sale. Businesses and marketing gurus now ask themselves questions like: “What does the costumer need, not what do I think they need?” and “what does the individual want, not what I want them to want?” Prior to 2012, that kind of compassion didn’t exist. With that compassion comes loyalty, and with that loyalty comes an evolutionary way to make a sale.

2. Nurturance

The name of the game is no longer just in keyword research, but in building rapport over time with each customer. As always, technology has simplified the way businesses do, well, business. The trend we see in technology now is that it bridges the gap between the business aspect of self and the personal aspect. For instance, small businesses now cannot thrive without the use of certain social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, etc. There is more emphasis on nurturing customer relationships because these relationships are the key to success.

3. Creativity

There is no longer a set of rigid rules to follow. Business planning and business strategies are shifting more and more into a creative process. The reason being that the brand has become more important to customers than the product itself. Any marketing guru will tell you that each demographic is different, each process is unique. Spending more time on thinking outside of the box is essential as we go into the New Year.

It is this feminine energy that is shifting the business world and consequently transforming the way we connect with one another, bringing us all closer to a more compassionate, nurturing and creative world. Let us all be aware of what feminine aspects we use in our businesses that have improved our success so we can attract more of that energy into the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

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Pope’s on Twitter – If You’re Marketing, You Should Be, Too

His handle is @Pontifex and 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI can tweet in eight different languages on his brand new Twitter account.

On Dec. 12, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church tentatively typed out his first tweet on an iPad. It read, “Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

(For those of you counting, that’s the maximum 140 characters allowed per tweet. Once His Holiness gets the hang of things, he’ll want to shorten them up a bit so they’ll be easier for his followers to re-tweet.)

And followers he has — more than 1.8 million and counting. The pope is already a hit in the Twitter-verse, which makes one wonder why he didn’t sign up a long time ago. And that thought leads to a more important question: How many of small business owners, entrepreneurs, professionals and authors are not yet using this marvelous social networking platform?

It’s time to take a lesson from the Vatican — whether or not you’re Catholic.

The pontiff took to Twitter for the same reasons anyone with something to market should:

• He needs to generate leads. “Part of the pope’s job description is to spread the word,” Greg Burke, senior communications adviser for the Vatican, has said. “Twitter is turning out to be a very effective way of doing this.” Like business owners, the Catholic Church must generate leads to bring in new “customers.”

According to the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, while there are 66.3 million Catholics in the United States, the growth rate has slowed in past years, and only 24 percent of those Catholics attend Mass every week.

The church also has a problem with declining numbers of U.S. priests. The shortage has left nearly 3,400 parishes without a resident pastor. And book and product sales? Word of mouth to the world’s more than 1.2 billion Catholics can only help.

• He wants to keep the customers he has. It’s not just about growing his clientele; the pope wants to keep his existing church members coming back. Interacting with them regularly through the give-and-take of a platform like Twitter helps him create a more personal relationship with them. (On his first day of tweeting, the pope responded to three questions posed by followers using his #askpontifex hashtag.) It will also keep him in front of his target audience if he posts tweets regularly, responds to followers, and occasionally re-tweets their messages.

• He has an important message to share. The pontiff had thousands of followers even before his first tweet! Why? Because many people were already interested in his message, and they expect his posts will have value for them. So far, they apparently have. The third and final question from followers that he answered on his first day tweeting was, “Any suggestions on how to be more prayerful when we are so busy with the demands of work, families and the world?” His response:  “Offer everything you do to the Lord, ask his help in all the circumstances of daily life and remember that he is always beside you.” It had been re-tweeted nearly 20,000 times by Dec. 14. The pope has a message he wants the world to hear.  That’s a good sign he’ll be successful on social media.

I find it fascinating, but not surprising, that Pope Benedict XVI is embracing social media. While the Catholic Church is a centuries-old institution steeped in tradition, it recognizes the need to be where its audience is if it hopes to remain visible and relevant in their lives.

For anyone in business, or anyone marketing anything, that’s not only true for you, too, it’s essential.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms. Marsha is the author of Celebritize Yourself: The 3-Step Method to Increase Your Visibility and Explode Your Business and she can also be heard weekly on her Blog Talk Radio Show, EMSI’s PR Insider every Thursday at 3:00 PM EST.

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10 Tips to Write a Social Media Policy in Business

Most business owners are now aware that having a social media presence is important for the success of their businesses. While social media presents unthinkable growth opportunity, it also opens the company up to risk.

Thus, it is critical for a business owner to create and implement a strong social media policy that gives the company and its employees the freedom to grow through social media, while putting a set of concrete rules and guidelines in place that will keep the troops in line.

However, when you consider that no two social media policies will be the same because different organizations will have their own unique environments, it is important to call in the experts.

Steve Nicholls, author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist offers 10 tips to write a clear, well-defined social media policy.

1. Create a Task Force: Opinions and ethics may vary between different people; it is preferable that all members of upper management be consulted when developing a social media policy so that all reach agreement on policy content.

2. Define Appropriate Internal Use: It is important to outline what is acceptable and what is not to your employees when it comes to using social media platforms in the workplace. How much freedom employees will have when interacting on social media needs to be clarified based on your workplace environment in order to avoid any confusion.

3. Define Appropriate External Use: As we have seen time and time again, one slip on Facebook or Twitter can ruin a career or a business. Thus, it is important to define who will be allowed to communicate with the public and put an approval process in place.

4. Confidentiality: Content posted on social media platforms need to comply with the organization’s confidentiality and disclosure of proprietary data policies.

5. Accountability: Employees need to be held accountable for everything they write on social media sites.

6. Protect Employers Reputation: Employees have the duty to protect their employer’s reputation. It would also be useful to make employees aware that competitors might read what they post and thus that sensitive information is not to be disclosed as a consequence.

7. Be Clear on Copyright issues: It is advisable to include a clause dealing with copyright, plagiarism, libel and defamation of character issues.

8. Regularly Review and Update Policy: Regular reviews need to be organized and performed. A policy is not always consistent with what is actually taking place and the company need to pay attention and adjust accordingly to make sure it is a relevant and effective policy that promotes growth and safety.

9. Work Hard, Play Less: It is important to stress that social networking sites cannot interfere with primary job responsibilities so that employees do not lose perspective

10. To Whom Does it Apply: The social media policy needs to clarify who to treat as internal staff and thus who will follow the social media policy rules when external resources are brought in.

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Home builder uses social media to attract buyers

Lennar Arizona has just surpassed 250,000 “views” on YouTube, has nearly 5500 Facebook “likes”, and 4,000 Twitter followers.  In fact, social media has become such a critical component of the Valley home builder that it has created a new “I Team”, standing for Information, Integrity and Internet. The five member I-Team is a strategic addition to the marketing department and will dedicate themselves to the on-line dialogue with customers.

In any given day, you can watch 30videos of their YouTube that take the viewer through a visual tour of any number of Lennar model homes available in Arizona, provide insights into the company’s innovations such as the new NextGen Home Within a Home® series, or point you in the direction to clear up a troubled credit score.

Lennar has a number of communities in the greater Phoenix area including Montecito in El Mirage, San Tan Heights and Skyline Ranch in San Tan Valley, Lone Mountain in Cave Creek, Evans Ranch and Layton Lakes in Gilbert and Stetson Valley in Phoenix.

In the era of 24-7, second by second streaming information, the communication begins long before that prospective buyer walks into the sales office. For the uninitiated, social media is a group of Internet, web based and mobile applications that have redefined the way many people communicate.  The user-generated content has put the general public in the forefront of defining the conversation, compared to the traditional methods such as newspapers, magazines, broadcast and websites that were controlled by professional journalists and company marketers.

For buyers Linn and Kelly Shaw who purchased a Lennar home at the Layton Lakes community in Gilbert, the social media presence made their search process easy.  “The ability to look at financing options and view new model homes prompted me to look into Lennar as a builder.  I really enjoyed the YouTube videos of the models.  With my wife’s and my busy schedules, we didn’t have a lot of time to tour model homes or communities, so their social media content streamlined the process for us.  Access to the homes through the videos and online detail description of the homes was a huge benefit to us,” said Linn Shaw.

Mike Lyon of the real estate sales training company Do You Convert says that content is the key in the success of social media.  “If the information a company presents is entertaining or educational, it will spread.”  And that’s the key.  “Social spaces are not about selling; it’s about educating and spreading information naturally, and Lennar was one of the first home builders to really commit to creating and spreading content,” he noted.

A number of the big home builders have embraced social media, but Lennar has taken the communication to a higher level. The company has tremendous visibility online whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Flickr, Instagram, FourSquare, or LinkedIn, Lennar is all over it. The company also has four very active blogs.

“For several years now, Lennar has aggressively pursued the social media path.  “There is no question that our social media initiatives have created relationships that have led directly to home purchases,” said Mike Dowell, senior vice president of marketing for Lennar’s Arizona operations.

Buyers who have utilized the social media connections often pass along those tools to friends. “I watch real estate closely and haven’t seen another builder do what Lennar does on-line.  It was so easy to share the Lennar YouTube videos with our friends who were also looking for a home,” homebuyer Lin Shaw added.

The cultural shift is well underway. For many people of all ages, social media is becoming a preferred communication method. Social media is an effective way to communicate facts. “The customers seem to appreciate the ability to research the home opportunities on their own, and to review comments from current Lennar home owners via the company’s Facebook page, blog and other social media sites,” noted Dowell.

A home builder with nationwide presence, at the national level Lennar has more than 800,000 YouTube views, over 200,000 “likes” on Facebook and over 130,000 followers on Twitter. Additionally, each of Lennar’s Divisions across the nation has a strong and growing social media presence in their respective markets.

Lennar, founded in 1954, is one of the nation’s leading builders of quality homes for all generations. The company builds affordable, move-up, and retirement homes primarily under the Lennar brand name. The company has been building in Arizona for nearly 40 years and owns considerable land holdings in the state. For the latest Lennar information, visit any of the following: Lennar.com, Facebook.com/LennarPhoenix; Facebook.com/LennarTucson; YouTube.com/LennarPhoenix; YouTube.com/Lennar Tucson; Twitter.com/LennarPhoenix, Twitter.com/LennarTucson.

Does Your Online Presence Pass the Truth Test?

What’s the fastest-growing marketing trend on the Internet?

I’m sad to say it’s the “fakeosphere.” Yes, fake blogs (called “flogs”), fake web news sites and fake testimonials. They look like the real thing, right down to comments posted by “bloggers” and their supposed readers. Those comments appear to be written by people discussing the pros and cons of a particular product or service, and they even include some naysayers.

“But in the end, the bloggers and their readers always win over the skeptics and persuade them to buy the product from a convenient nearby link,” writes Bob Sullivan in his blog on msnbc.com.

He cites Internet marketing analyst Jay Weintraub, who believes the fakeosphere has become a $500 million-a-year industry.

These fake sites and phony conversations are often more than simply misleading – OK, fraudulent – marketing. For consumers, they can be downright dangerous.

“The end game for most of these sites – no matter what they sell – is to persuade a consumer to sign up for a ‘free’ trial of a product, then make it incredibly difficult to cancel before the trial period ends,” Sullivan writes. “A similar technique … is to offer a free product and charge a web user a token shipping and handling fee, just to get the consumers’ bank account information. Larger charges soon follow.”

Consumers are – and should be – increasingly wary. They’re scrutinizing websites more closely, especially if they’re considering making a purchase there. They’re avoiding social media interactions with anything that smells less than genuine, and they’re more careful about who they share information with online.

What would they say about your online presence? Do you look like the real deal, or a potential cyber threat?

Here are some ways to ensure you pass the reality test — and some missteps that will ensure you don’t.

On social media:

• Real people have real friends and family among their connections. They can’t resist sharing photos of their vacation, the newest baby in the family and their genius dog (not necessarily in that order). They have interests that may have nothing to do with what they’re trying to market, and they comment about them (“I shot a hole in one today!”) or share a photo (“Here I am buying everyone drinks after my hole in one today. That was the most expensive golf shot ever!”) They also respond to all comments, even if it’s just to say, “Thank you.”

• Fake people generate mostly sales copy – “Buy my product! It’s great!” They don’t engage in conversation, they don’t appear to have a personality – or friends or loved ones or hobbies, for that matter.

On your website:

• Real people have text that informs and entertains users while offering them helpful information. The copy is professionally written – no typos or other mistakes – and provides answers to anticipated questions. It’s easy to learn more about you or your business and to find your contact information. Testimonials are from real people whose existence can be verified through a simple Internet search. They write blogs that are updated regularly and/or post articles with helpful information.

• Fake people have websites with lots of pop-up advertising banners and text urging users to “Buy my product!” Testimonials are from untraceable people with vague titles or credentials. The site may be hard to navigate; contact information may be missing or difficult to find; and there’s no link to media about the person or company.

In your newsletter:

• Real people share valuable information in their newsletters (which can be as minimal as a “tip of the week” email). Their newsletter (or tip) includes no overpowering sales pitch or self-promotion – or, at least, includes that only occasionally. It conveys a personality, whether warm and friendly, authoritative, or humorous.

• Fake people blast newsletters and promotional emails that may identify a problem but offer as the only solution hiring them or buying their product. They may seem unprofessionally written (errors, etc.) and lack personality. They offer nothing of value to the reader.

All of these things will help you create an online personality that conveys your authenticity. But the No. 1 thing you can do – what I value above everything else – is to be, actually … genuine.

In my book, “Celebritize Yourself,” I write about identifying the passion that led you to start your business, create your product or write your book. Maybe you became a financial adviser because you found it gratifying to solve people’s money problems. Or you developed a product that you know will benefit others. Or you have expertise that can help people live longer, happier, or more productive lives.

Whatever it is that got you going, that’s what makes you genuine. Identify it and make it a part of your message, and no one will ever call you a fake.

Marsha Friedman is a 22-year veteran of the public relations industry. She is the CEO of EMSI Public Relations (www.emsincorporated.com), a national firm that provides PR strategy and publicity services to corporations, entertainers, authors and professional firms.

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Man Brings Social Media Business to Chandler

The front of his business card reads, “Poet, world traveler, human being.”

The smell of old books and antique belongings emanate throughout Patrick Smith’s apartment. A bottle of prohibition Whiskey sits on display next to an ancient looking hieroglyphic stone.

After many years of traveling internationally, Smith, a Chandler resident, has decided to bring his business, BiBoBu, to Arizona.

“There is something that spiritually connects me to the mountains in the desert,” Smith said. “This is where I want to live permanently.”

He relates his love of the desert to the same landscape of Israel, where he lived for seven years. For over a decade, Smith traveled to more than 15 countries including Greece, Egypt, Israel, Spain, Morocco, and France. For work, he owned and managed restaurants, nightclubs, and cafés in those countries.

While living in Israel, Smith experienced discrimination as an American in a foreign country where the population was primarily Jewish. Many landlords didn’t want to rent him a home or hire him because he wasn’t Jewish.

For a short period, he fell on hard times and was forced to live in a cave where he read books, wrote poetry, and studied the Hebrew language. Practically penniless, and living off the little money his father was sending, he could barely afford food. Smith eventually found a job at a café in Tel Aviv, and later managed restaurants and eventually owned a nightclub.

Now, Smith owns a marketing company and website, BiBoBu, which uses social media sites — such as Facebook and Twitter — for companies to help advertise their products. BiBoBu is a marketing tool that companies can use to tailor their advertising campaigns in order to fit their customer base. It groups all of the social media sites together in one place, making it easier for companies to utilize. College campuses such as Northern Illinois University use BiBoBu to recruit students, spread the word about alumni fundraisers, and engage students in campus events.

Smith’s people skills from working in the hospitality industry abroad and in the U.S. for so many years seem to be what sparked his interest in social media outlets and the business world. “Communication is key in working with people, and that’s what I’ve learned,” Smith said. “This is the generation of social media.”

Smith said he met many different people throughout his travels, and one day he wants to write a book.

Now settled in Arizona, Smith runs his business from a place he can finally call home.

AZRE- November/December 2012

AZRE Magazine November/December 2012

AZRE Magazine November/December 2012

Face it, new media has us all atwitter

Peter MadridThis is how far technology has come since my journalism career officially began in 1980:

I was sent to cover the “Show Me Bowl,” the state high school football championships in Missouri, at the old Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

I remember lugging this Texas Instrument “portable” computer the size of a small suitcase. It had a teeny-weeny screen, and transmission required a dedicated line and a rotary dial telephone. To send a story to the newsroom, you put the receiver in a set of couplers, and hoped for the best.

During the baseball season, I sat in the press box at Chase Field and watched as a new generation of sportswriters posted news on Facebook pages; tweeted the latest trade rumor; and chatted with fellow sports scribes at stadiums across the country.

AZRE magazine is all about social media now, too. We have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, we send out a weekly “eblast,” and of course — we have azbigmedia.com, a site that lets us break stories affecting the local and national commercial real estate industry.

If I’m at a Valley Partnership breakfast, for instance, and the speaker says something noteworthy, I tweet about it. If I’m at BOMA’s TOBY Awards or AIA Arizona’s Design Awards, I post winners on the Facebook page.

Our goal is to inform — and entertain. Sometimes I post photos from the various events — tastefully done, of course.

Editors Letter Signature

Peter Madrid, Editor

Take it with you! On your mobile, go to m.issuu.com to get started.

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LifeLock Unveils New Facebook App: ‘LifeLock for Life’

LifeLock Unveils New Facebook App: ‘LifeLock for Life’

LifeLock, Inc., an industry leader in proactive identity theft protection has launched ‘LifeLock for Life’, a Facebook application enabling fans to explore different life stages and events to test their security knowledge. Upon answering correctly, users can enter for a chance to win prizes. The foundation of the game educates consumers about the threats looming from infancy, adolescence and adulthood.

“Here at LifeLock, we are always working to educate consumers and advocate for their rights,” said Marvin Davis, Chief Marketing Officer for LifeLock. “LifeLock for Life is an educational and entertaining tool that allows us to reach a wide range of consumers and share information that could potentially benefit them. In addition to the education opportunity, there’s also a chance to win some great prizes, from gift cards to travel vouchers.”

According to the 2012 Identity Fraud Report by Javelin Strategy and Research, overall identity theft rates were constant among all age ranges; however the type of fraud did vary between age groups. Being aware of the risks is the first step in combating the rising crime. ‘LifeLock for Life’ will demonstrate how consumers can best protect themselves and their families at every life stage.

The LifeLock Facebook page also provides consumers an opportunity to defend themselves with knowledge. Followers can find the latest identity theft stories and news of what advocates like LifeLock, law enforcement and elected officials are doing to protect consumers from becoming victims of identity theft. Fans are alerted about breaking news of identity theft reports, the latest data breaches including tips and advice on how to stay protected and can even submit a request for an identity theft expert to present at their next group meeting.

To learn more, visit www.facebook.com/LifeLock.

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Use the ’10 Cs’ to create winning social media strategy

It is incumbent on business executives to stay ahead of the social media curve in order to compete efficiently in their respective industries.

However, when you consider where social media was just five years ago, it is impossible to imagine where it will be by 2020. This can be daunting for CEOs and other top executives who were not taught social media when they went to business school or worked their way up the ranks of their organizations.

Senior executives need to embrace social media and integrate it into the DNA of their entire organization.  It needs to align with the business goals and permeate throughout each division and employee in order to fully maximize the benefits.

In order to do this, Steve Nicholls, author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist offers a list of 10 Crucial C’s that will lay a foundation for senior executives to create a winning social media strategy

1.      Conversation: social media, at its core, is a conversation taking place online. People share content in all kinds of forms – words, videos, music and webinars amongst many other kinds – between each other. Passive intake of information is not the name of the game any longer; social media instead allows constant interaction and sharing of content between Internet-users.

2.      Coordination: coordinating projects across geographical boundaries and time zones is made much easier by social media. A project manager, for instance, has many business tools that he/she can use to manage and coordinate a project online between different participants, different locations and different time zones. Social media is like the glue bringing different parts of a project, or different projects, together.

3.      Cooperation: social media pairs very well with cooperation as it allows more cooperation to take place between different participants in a project, job or office, amongst other contexts. As we just saw, social media is by definition the sharing of information, this means that by definition, it is a cooperative process, and this cooperative process, transposed onto a business context, has much potential.

4.      Communication: social media creates and enhances communication amongst a company’s staff, between staff and clients, between sales and customers and between upper and lower management, to give just a few examples. Social media thus generates and develops communication both internally – within a company – and externally, between a company and external players in the business. Also, it allowed both formal and information communication to take place, where the fomer is owned by the organization and the latter by the employees. Maagemetn however needs to be cautious not to push information communication underground by attempting to control it.

5.      Collective intelligence: user-generated online content equates to business intelligence for companies. Taking advantage of this information is invaluable leverage and can help a company improve and perform better by accessing new ideas, finding solutions and getting feedback of its business directly from customers or clients. Moreover, this kind of business intelligence can be collected at virtually no cost, which means that companies have the opportunity to gain business insight in a highly cost-effective way.

6.      Communities: social media allows a company to find, create and interact with pools of customers, clients, suppliers and even competitors, amongst other key players in a given business. Communities can take shape both internally, within a company’s employees for instance, and externally, between a company and its clients for example. Taping into communities is a very efficient way to reach as many people as possible in a very fast, inexpensive and efficient way.

7.      Collaboration: social media helps creating more efficient collaboration between co-workers, partners and stakeholders. Social media facilitates teamwork through a range of tools that can be managed across geographical limits. This can take place between employees, teams and departments, but also between bilateral groups like business/customers, business/suppliers or business/stakeholders.

8.      Content: social media is all about sharing content. Through social media tools, you can create, share, change and have access to all kinds of content. It is this freedom in generating and sharing content that makes social media so powerful. This is what makes it possible for someone working from an attic somewhere to create a ‘viral video’ about a particular food recipe that will reach millions across the globe, for instance.

9.      Context: it is the context that will define how a social media project will take shape. Looking at a company’s business environment, company culture and business goals, for instance, will shape a social media project according to the specific business context in which the company operates. This will prevent companies from going enthusiastically in the wrong direction and adopt a social media project that has no beginning or end.

10.  Culture: culture is a crucial component that will determine how successful a social media project can be. A company culture generally fits somewhere between a closed to open continuum, and the more open it is, the more a company will have the freedom to take advantage of social media. Opening a company’s culture is perhaps the single most important thing to do in order to engage with social media project. Banning social media is not a solution anymore, even autocratic political regimes have failed to do so, but using it within a conducive but regulated cultural framework is the ideal response to the Internet revolution.

Steve Nicholls is the author of the best-selling “Social Media in Business,” international speaker, and social media strategist who helps business executives implement a winning social media strategy into their organization. 

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Social Media Changes Driving Some Marketers Buggy

Social media is the most rapidly changing aspect of communications to begin with. Throw in an IPO (Facebook) and a major overhaul (LinkedIn) and modifications are barreling ahead so fast, even the techies seem unable to keep up.

“I’m a big believer in social media marketing for my business, so when I started having a lot of problems with LinkedIn, I didn’t wait – I sent an email to the Help Center,” says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, (www.emsincorporated.com), in Wesley Chapel, Fla.

“Last week, a ‘customer experience advocate’ finally emailed me back. He wrote, ‘I apologize taking so long to get back to you. We are currently experiencing an unusual high volume of requests due to our recent site enhancements.’ “

Many of the changes were implemented Oct. 16 and, as EMSI’s social media specialist, Jeni Hinojosa, observes, “It’s a great overhaul.”

But, she adds, “It must not have gotten much of a test run because the site has been very buggy.”

Over on Facebook, Friedman says she’s noticed advertisements popping up everywhere – even in her news feed.

“Now that the site has gone public, it’s trying all sorts of new tricks to make money for shareholders, but it’s creating some problems,” she says.

One of her employees got this error message while trying to post to her wall: “The server found your request confusing and isn’t sure how to proceed.”

Hinojosa offered a brief overview of some of the changes and a solution people are turning to – at least in the case of Facebook.

LinkedIn: “One of the new features I like is that you can check for comments and other activity without getting notices sent to your email,” Hinojosa says. “Just go to your LinkedIn page and you’ll see the notifications at the top, just like on Facebook.”

“The bugs I and others have encountered include being unable to check private messages; sporadically unable to get into groups; and being notified that invitations to join others’ networks are waiting – but when I look, I don’t see any,” Hinojosa says. “When we report the problems, the responses we’re getting sound like they’re working on them but they’re overwhelmed.

“Hopefully, they’ll get them worked out soon. The good news is, they’re aware.”

Facebook: “Sadly, I’ve been down this road before – and it didn’t lead to a good place,” Hinojosa says. “Remember MySpace?”

Since its initial public offering in May, Facebook has been making a lot of changes designed to add revenue. The newest of these are a $7 fee for “promoted posts” from your personal page and a $5 to $15 fee to promote posts from your fan page. They’re not yet available to all 166 million U.S. Facebook users, according to tech bloggers, because it’s still experimental.

Now, those with the option will see a “promote” button next to the “like,” “comment” and “share” buttons. Click “promote,” put the appropriate fee on your charge card, and that post will go to the top of your followers’ news feeds a few times in the days ahead. (It will also wear the Scarlet S label of “sponsored post.”) The promise is that more of your followers will see it.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when applied to personal pages,” Hinojosa says. “How many people will pay to show off their vacation photos? But people using Facebook as a marketing tool may be motivated to pay for more reach.

“Soon, everyone will be scrolling through a bunch of ‘sponsored’ posts before they get to the ‘free’ ones. If you want someone to actually see your post, you’ll have to pay.”

That’s why, she says, people are jumping to …

Google+: “If Facebook and Twitter had a baby, it would be Google+,” Hinojosa says.

This toddler network, which launched in June 2011, combines Facebook’s capabilities for sharing news and photos and Twitter’s searchability.

“It allows you to designate one or more “circles” for your friends,” Hinojosa says. “One co-worker might be ‘business’ and ‘close friends’ while another could be just ‘business.’ So everyone sees what’s appropriate for them based on your relationship.”

“Like Twitter, Google+ uses hashtags to help sort information and allow people to search for posts on particular topics,” she says. “For instance, if you type #cutecats into the search box at the top of your page, you’ll see everything with that hashtag – including comments that incorporate the label.

“What makes me happiest is, Google had its IPO way back in 2004,” Hinojosa says. “So we shouldn’t have to worry about this company suddenly drumming up ways to make us pay for what we previously got for free.”

Safwat_Saleem-2

Phoenix artists tap the internet to fund creative projects

“If my life depended on it, I would die.”

Safwat Saleem, 32, isn’t your average graphic designer – at least he doesn’t think so. He claims that if he had to rely on a career in art, the paint and brush kind, that he would die.

This isn’t because his is lacking in talent but because his talents are not super focused in one medium. “I’m not great at any one thing, but I am not bad at many things,” he said.

In January 2012 Saleem put his second project up for funding on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding website that been helping artists procure backing for their creative projects from everyday people since 2009. He raised $32,000 in just under one month. That was a whopping 1,066 percent more than his goal of raising $3,000.

The project, “Oh Expletive!” was featured in Kickstarter’s newsletter and thus gained the attention and support from 678 backers. Although very happy about the outcome Saleem calls it a fluke and doesn’t imagine he will be able to recreate those kind of numbers with his current project.

It has been the combination of many skills that has helped him fund his projects, Saleem said. One part humor, one part comedy, one part filmmaking and two parts graphic design seems to be the sweet spot in his recipe for success. Without being decent at several media the outcome may have been different, especially since an attention grabbing introduction video is all but required to see success on Kickstarter and similar sites like Indiegogo.

Saleem, who was born in Pakistan and became a U.S. resident in 2002, works at Arizona State University as a creative director for the College of Technology and Innovation. That is his day job anyhow, putting in 60 to 70 hours a week. Nights and weekends are a different story. Between weekend tongue and cheek plottings to take over the world, Saleem uses his spare time to work on personal projects.

His current endeavor involves him using Kickstarter for the third time for a project called “Greetings from Nowhere: (In)Appropriate Letterpressed Cards.” A project that currently has 122 backers and has exceeded a goal of $4,000 three weeks before schedule. Saleem’s third Kickstarter project will end on Nov. 19 and from current numbers it looks like he will continue to see funds being pledged.

Having reached his goal of  $4,000 all of the backers will be charged what their pledge amount. As standard with Kickstarter projects if he were to have failed to reach is goal none of the backers would have been charged. Any money collected over the goal mark is his to keep with the expectation that it goes to fund his project and not a vacation to Hawaii, or a trip to Pakistan to visit his parents.

If a project goal is met Kickstarter takes a 5 percent cut of whatever total funds were raised.

Other sites like Indiegogo are similar in nature but offer a choice between keeping the funds even if the project does not reach its goal. Users though who take this route should expect to pay 9 percent back to Indiegogo, 4 percent more than if the project had reached it’s goal.

“I’m not a popular artist. If you ask people in the art scene they probably won’t know me,” said Saleem while sipping his drink at Echo Coffee in Scottsdale. “With each (Kickstarter) project I am exposing my art to a new audience, or at least a few new people.”

Sebastien Millon, 30, an artist from Phoenix will soon be collaborating with Saleem. The project, which they plan to launch in February 2013, will be Millon’s first experience with Kickstarter and will raise funds to launch a book his illustrations.

“I think most people like supporting projects, especially projects they find interesting or like. By donating, even just a little, they are automatically connected with that project and becoming an integral part of that project and a part of the process of creation,” Millon said in an email interview. “That is a rewarding feeling. You don’t need to try and tap banks or investors for money anymore, it’s more democratic”

Millon said that a lot of his own successes have stemmed from using the internet as a marketing tool.

“I think the main key for me has been social media. I spend quite a bit of time on it, and I feel that if people like one of your drawings or pieces enough, they will share or “like” it.” Millon said. “It is a form of free advertising, so long as you can create content that people connect with and want to share with their friends.”

Millon said that for every two hours he spends creating art he spends one hour using social media to promote himself in various ways.

Isaac Caruso, 24, is an artist as well, with prominent mural paintings transforming the exterior of buildings in downtown Phoenix. A recent and colorful piece on the MonOrchid Gallery on Roosevelt Road has brought life to the formerly whitewashed warehouse.

While Caruso has not used Kickstarter to fund any of his own projects he has thrown his money into the pool to help support fellow area artists, he said in an email interview.  Caruso has donated to The CREATIV Movement’s creators from Scottsdale, who are currently using Indiegogo to try and raise $20,000. Although with six days left and more than $17,000 to go, they probably won’t be reaching their goal.

Crowdfunding isn’t just for your typical local artists. David Fincher, director of “Fight Club,” currently has a project open for funding on Kickstarter.

Fincher hopes to use donations from his fans to raise $400,000 so he can make an animated film called “The Goon.” With 12 days to go on his campaign he has nearly hit the half way marker of $200,000.

Benjamin Franklin Plumbing's Facebook page

The Benefits Of Social Media For Small Business

No matter what product or service you’re selling, you’re always in the business of relationships.

Fifteen years ago in the entrepreneurial world, all you needed was a name and a phone number. That was it; that was all you needed for customers to find you. Then, having a website became necessary for building the reputation of your business. Today, we have moved into yet another realm of the Internet known as social media; sites include: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Each has their place and has become yet another layer of building and maintaining relationships, both personally and professionally.

Many of you already use Facebook in your personal lives to keep in contact with family and friends. It’s a great way to share up-to-date information and photos. Extending this to business, this outlet allows your customers or potential customers to get to know you on their level, and at their own speed.

Facebook and Twitter posts allow you to reach your customer base without becoming intrusive. As a business, you can also use social media networks to follow your target customers to find out what how they spend their free time, where they have dinner, what they like, etc. Having this additional insight allows a business to specialize thank-you gifts and gear its products to its customer’s needs and desires.

The faster a business uses social media to help champion its successes and get to know its audience, the faster the business will see a return on its investment. Since becoming active on social media, I’ve seen an immense increase in overall brand awareness.

Having a great business reputation on social media is a huge asset to your business portfolio. It’s also a great place to build good relationships with your vendors or business partners, to network and build business together.

My business has grown by maintaining and creating relationships. We have customers who have used our services for more than 20 years! Social media is just one more way our customers can keep in touch with us. I’m in the service business, utilizing social media allows our customers to get know us beyond the time we spend in their home. Oftentimes, checking my business out on social media makes new customers feel at ease.

Another important aspect of social media is helping others for the sake of helping. For instance, I’ve noticed individuals out of my market area searching for the best water filtration system on Facebook and Twitter. Does that mean I don’t respond because there is no potential sale for me? Absolutely not. Social media is not just about selling a product.

Gary Vaynerchuk, author of “Thank You Economy,” is a great resource and inspiration on how to make social media work for you and your business. He teaches that social media has the ability to make a brand or a business human. Each business has the potential to out-care everyone else via social media by helping others.

Adding social networks to your already-busy work day might seem daunting. It can be time consuming and is an investment. But when used consistently, it becomes a valuable asset. If you decide to outsource social media to a firm, set rules for when/what to publish on your networks to ensure your social media profile matches your business’s reputation.

I know social media may seem scary at first, but I believe it is a positive and effective way of reaching your target audience on a day-to-day basis and keeps your business top of mind. If you are still unsure about social media networks, there are several great tutorials online and local seminars to help you get focused.

If you’re on these social media networks, I would love to connect! Look me and my business up:

Twitter: @asktheexpert, @benfranklinaz
Facebook: facebook.com/BenjaminFranklinPlumbingAZ
YouTube: youtube.com/benfranklinaz

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NLRB Issues First ‘Facebook Firing’ Decision

National Labor Relations Board Issues First ‘Facebook Firing’ Decision

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is on a roll. Just a few weeks after issuing its first decision finding that a company’s social media policy violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (see alert at left or here), the NLRB yesterday released its first decision addressing the legality of an employment discharge over an employee’s social media postings.

In Karl Knauz Motors, decided on September 28 and released on October 1, the NLRB adopted the findings of an administrative law judge (ALJ) that a car dealership lawfully discharged one of its salesmen because of certain Facebook postings regarding an accident at an affiliated dealership. The NLRB concluded that those postings were not protected by the NLRA. In commenting on photos he took of a Land Rover that was driven into a pond by a customer’s son, the salesman wrote: “This is your car: This is your car on drugs.”  The salesman continued: “This is what happens when a sales Person sitting in the front passenger seat…allows a 13 year old boy to get behind the wheel of a 6000 lb. truck built and designed to pretty much drive over anything.” In response, the employer fired the salesman because his actions damaged the reputation of the company and the individuals involved, and because the salesman showed no remorse for his actions.

While the car dealership maintained, and the ALJ agreed, that these postings were the sole reason for discharge, these were not the only Facebook postings that the salesman made around the same time as the postings described above. Another set of postings involved photos and comments about the dealership serving hot dogs, chips and bottled water at a sales event announcing a new BMW model. Among other things, the salesman wrote: “The small 8 oz bags of chips, and the $2.00 cookie plate from Sam’s Club, and the semi fresh apples and oranges were a nice touch…but to top it all off…the Hot Dog Cart. Where our clients could attain a over cooked wiener and a stale bun.”  The ALJ found that these postings were protected, concerted activities because customers could have been disappointed by the food options at the event and this could have impacted the salesman’s compensation. In its decision, the NLRB did not decide whether the “hot dog” postings constituted protected concerted activity under the NLRA.

In addition to the NLRB’s conclusion regarding the legality of the car salesman’s discharge, the NLRB also concluded that a “courtesy” rule in the car dealership’s employee handbook was overly broad and could be construed by employees as prohibiting NLRA-protected conduct. The handbook language at issue provided:

(b) Courtesy: Courtesy is the responsibility of every employee. Every employee is expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, as well as to their fellow employees. No one should be disrespectful or use profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.

The NLRB found the second section of the rule—regarding not being “disrespectful” or damaging the dealership’s image or reputation—violated the NLRA because the rule “proscribes not a manner of speaking, but the content of employee speech—content that would damage the [dealership’s] reputation.”  The NLRB ultimately ordered the dealership to remove the courtesy rule from its employee handbook and give employees inserts or new handbooks. The NLRB did not address other policy language that was at issue before the ALJ.

What This Means for Employers

The Karl Knauz Motors decision is the first in what will likely be many more decisions by the NLRB as the NLRB’s regional offices continue to issue complaints over so-called “Facebook firings” (other cases are currently pending before the NLRB). The decision is also consistent with the NLRB’s increased focus on social media postings and policies, as reflected in the many cases detailed in three reports issued by the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel since August 2011.

Before disciplining or discharging a union or non-union employee over a social media posting, employers should consider whether the posting constitutes protected concerted activity under the NLRA and consult with legal counsel. In addition, social media policies should be narrowly written to ensure they do not run afoul of the NLRA. Such policies should make clear that employees may engage in protected concerted activity without penalty. Again, counsel should be consulted when drafting or revising a social media policy.

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Top 10 mistakes businesses make when using social media

When a business leader calls for the creation of a Facebook page and a witty Twitter handle, he often believes the social media strategy is in place and he returns to his “core” duties.

The problem with this is that for any business in 2012 and beyond, social media needs to be considered a core part of your business plan and it must be implemented at the senior level and trickle down into the DNA of the entire organization.

Steve Nicholls: author of Social Media in Business, international speaker, and social media strategist has noticed a recurring list of misconceptions when it comes to the use of social media in business.  These common mistakes hinder an organizations ability to maximize the use of social media while mitigating risk.

Here are the top ten most common mistakes companies make when trying to use social media to grow their business:

1. It is all about social networking. Social networking websites such as Facebook are just a very small part of social media. Social media is much more for business, providing four main benefits: communication, collaboration, community and collective intelligence opportunities, however, companies are still not fully aware of all of these. Iconic organisations operating in different industries such as The Times, Accenture, Salesforce.com, Starbucks, Cisco, NASA, Groupon and Coca-Cola have all made use of social media in very different ways to gain competitive advantage, and understanding the various opportunities social media provides for business is the first step towards capitalizing its potential.

2. It is simple. Social media is mostly user-friendly, but embracing it in business is far from being simple. There is a huge difference between using Facebook and bringing the right aspects of social media into the DNA of a company. The larger the company is, the more complex the task of bringing it in successfully. As the amount and depth of information relating to social media is overwhelming, capitalizing on the right combinations of social media tools for the company can be intricate.

3. It is free. One aspect that makes social media for business a very attractive avenue is that many tools are free to use, providing excellent cost-effective solutions to business. However, the cost of bringing social media within a company is not completely free. Time is the key resource. Going too fast and adopting social media hastily in an organization can bring more risks than benefits. Doing it well requires learning and training processes that will need time, and investing in that time is key for success.

4. It is not important. Social media opens doors to enormous markets. For instance, there are 850 million Facebook users and 50 million business people on LinkedIn, including the CEOs of the 500 top companies in the world; thus the business opportunities a company can get by connecting to only 0.1% of those are extremely valuable. Markets like these simply cannot be ignored, thus businesses that are still hesitant as to how useful or important social media can be for them need to consider this aspect strategically. Social media is no longer a choice; it is a strategic resource and a new dimension to corporate strategy.

5. No need for policy. Having a solid social media policy when incorporating social media within an organization is crucial as it will allow the mitigation of potential risks. Social media can open a company to different types of risks including security issues, PR issues and HR issues. While these risks are very real, it is essential not to let them inhibit progress, thus the key is to develop a sound social media policy that identifies the risks and mitigates them.

6. Having a negative mindset. It is common for managers, employees and other players of an organization to have some prejudice against adopting social media within their organization, thinking it will mostly bring problems and waste company time. What is important to keep in mind however is that benefits far outweigh risks, thus having the will to invest time and mitigate possible risks through a clear social media policy will allow a company to increase its competitive advantage on the long-run.

7. No structured implementation process. It is easy to go enthusiastically in the wrong direction with social media. To prevent this from happening, managers need to have a step-by step formula in order to analyze their internal and external business environments and develop a systematic, contextual approach to bringing social media within the realm of their organizations. Bringing social media in the company needs to be done through a systematic model that will work to optimize benefits while mitigating risks along the way.

8. Identification of constraints. Many constraints to adopting social media are invisible and as a result, these are the hardest to identify. People issues are often the biggest obstacle to the implementation of social media, but these are often hidden from view. Thus making sure that all invisible constraints are also identified is crucial in order to prevent them from erupting later on and undermining the project.

9. No clear goals. Perhaps the most important aspect to keep in mind when using social media for business is that it constantly needs to be fitted into the more general business goals of the company. Using social media just for the sake of using it will not have any positive impact, but instead might create more problems than benefits. Having a focused strategy that will incorporate social media within general goals is thus key.

10. No ongoing strategy. Social media is a constantly evolving avenue of opportunities; the tools that are useful today might not be useful tomorrow. As tools change, a winning social media strategy will be one that is able to capture all these innovations and constantly create the right combinations of tools for your business, according to the general business goals.

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Off Madison Ave, SpinSix merge

Off Madison Ave, a Phoenix-based integrated marketing communications firm, and SpinSix, one of Arizona’s leading creative marketing firms announced they have merged. Total capitalized billings of the company will be in excess of $50 million annually, supported by more than 50 staff members, making Off Madison Ave + SpinSix a drivingforce of integrated marketing in the West.

Off Madison Ave and SpinSix have worked collaboratively in the past, delivering innovative solutions for shared clients. With similar cultures and visions, each Arizona advertising agency was looking to expand offerings and was focused on aggressive growth – making this an ideal merger.

Notable details of the Off Madison Ave + SpinSix merger include:

· Agency offerings fall into complementary areas of marketing, giving the combined company and its clients a full spectrum of services andin-depth expertise.

· Given different marketing focus areas of Off Madison Ave and SpinSix, all staff will be retained.

· There are no account conflicts, allowing the service of existing clients including Arizona Office of Tourism, CVS Caremark, FileMaker, LifeLock, Nike, Spenco Medical and more.

·    The new company name will be Off Madison Ave + SpinSix. Over time, the company plans to evaluate the benefits of a combined name.

For all of its 14 years in business, Off Madison Ave has been profitable and has seen double-digit revenue growth during many years. SpinSix puts up equally impressive numbers, with 17 profitable years – every year of its operation. Both companies have evolved and have innovated to remain at the forefront of digital marketing’s best practices, paying particular attention to developing proprietary tools and technologies to plan, monitor and measure client outcomes.

Scottsdale-based CKS Advisors, LLC served as the exclusive financial advisor to Off Madison Ave and SpinSix in the transaction. The closing of the transaction builds on CKS’s reputation of working with leading advertising and digital marketing firms.

marketing budget

Show Me The Money: How Much Is The Marketing Budget?

One of the most common questions I get from people starting a new venture is how much should they plan to spend on marketing; and one of the biggest mistakes I see with new businesses is a tremendous amount of time and money invested in opening the doors making the new office, restaurant or retail space look great, but leaving little to no money in the budget to promote the new venture.

The reality is that whether you are a newly launched company or you’ve been around for years, you cannot expect to attract new customers without marketing.

The marketing budget

So how much should you spend? The general rule of thumb is plan on budgeting one to 10 percent of gross revenues. For newer businesses, that number should be on the higher end of the spectrum or even beyond (possibly as much as 15 percent). Then, once you’ve set a budget, you must determine how it should be allocated.

A few things to consider that will help determine what percentage you may need to budget:

  • How well known is your company name, service or product?
  • What are your competitors spending and where?
  • Who are you trying to reach and what is the best way to reach them?

If you are a fairly unknown entity or your competitors are marketing aggressively, you may need to spend more.

The target market

Next, determining the best marketing mix for promoting your company or product requires a clear understanding of your target market in order to select the most cost effective allocation of your marketing budget.

Starbucks is clearly an established brand, and with 33 percent of the market share, it is the leader in coffee sales. Yet, compared to most leading consumer brands it spends less on traditional marketing. In 2010, the company actually doubled its spend on marketing, according an article in Advertising Age. The company spent only $97.6 million — about one percent of the coffee chain’s U.S. sales. A large portion of the company’s marketing dollars are invested in digital and social media with a focus on engaging customers in what they call, “the customer experience.”

For smaller companies with more limited budgets, Starbucks serves as an interesting example of what you can do spending less. Using Facebook and individually designed websites, such as MyStarbucksIdea, customers are encouraged to make suggestions and share ideas. For the company’s 40th anniversary, it launched MyStarbucksSignature, a website that lets customers create customized drinks.

Utilizing social media

Employing online advertising and utilizing social media can be one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available. But business owners are mistaken if they think it’s free. Social Media marketing requires an investment of time and/or money, or both. Other cost-effective marketing tools to employ include public relations, grassroots guerrilla marketing, and community outreach. Regardless of what you do, the key is consistency and repetition.

As you create your marketing plan, think about how much you can afford to invest and where you may want to spend it. Then, when you think you can’t possibly allocate 10 percent of your gross revenues, realize that if you want your company to succeed, you can’t afford not to.

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Can You Be Too Social With Social Media?

Plucked from a recent headline on a national news website: “Rich kids are oversharing on social media – are yours?” The story went on to detail true life examples of wealthy youth using social media to boast about luxury private jet travel, $100,000 bar tabs and the use of #ferrari, #mansion and #hamptons Twitter hash-tags. These cases surely got due attention from their parents, but they also clearly illustrate how high-net-worth individuals and their families are in the crosshairs of a new generation of risks created by social media that can quickly harm a family’s reputation.

Equally as confounding are the security issues social media participation presents. With GPS locators on cell phones and sites like Foursquare, social media immediately lets the world – and the underworld – know the whereabouts of these youth 24/7/365.

A few years back, web security meant passwords, firewalls and anti-virus software. Today, a secure Internet presence is defined by an individual’s ability to influence what the web says about them and their family. For instance, if you are wealthy, do you want others – business partners, friends, employees etc. – to know that your children are flying on private jets and racking up $100,000 bar bills?

Indeed, wealthy individuals and their families face online reputation challenges because they are high profile, easy targets. And in many ways, they often have the most to lose since they are tasked with protecting what is often a hard-fought family legacy.

Historically, and certainly today, the wealthy have always been the subject of wanted (and unwanted) media attention, but with social media the stakes are much higher in that anyone can play the part of publisher. This includes unknowing youth who might, even mistakenly, miss-use that power to broadcast their actions and whereabouts. In addition, media coverage used to come and go quickly and would only live-on in archives or dated press clippings. Not so today as web content, including social media, is readily accessible and easy to revive and proliferate on an ongoing basis.

Wealthy families need to manage these risks and establish clear boundaries with their children and, to an extent, their children’s friends. Unless they manage these risks, they will leave themselves vulnerable to damaging effects on their family, friendships, business associates and on their own personal lives as well.

The building blocks of online reputation management include:

  • Ongoing risk evaluation and education
  • Targeted campaigns to remedy problems as they arise
  • The creation of family contracts on privacy management
  • A pre-defined crisis response plan that can guide a family when a true crisis hits

The task of managing online reputation for high profile individuals can be daunting, but worthwhile. Management of a family’s cyber presence is the foundation upon which the family’s legacy may rest for generations.

Online reputation risk must be managed proactively, not reactively, as it is nearly impossible to put the proverbial “cat back into the bag.” Once the damage has been done, it’s done. To be sure, it’s a lesson that families of some jet-setting youth recently learned in spades.

 

Patricia M. Soldano is chair of GenSpring Family Office’s western region which includes Phoenix. To learn more, visit www.genspring.com.

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10 tips to succeed at social media

Every business knows about social media, many businesses have some sort of social media presence, but very few have implemented a comprehensive and successful social media strategy that maximizes benefits and mitigates risks.  Why is this? The answer is simple: The Three “C’s”.

Steve Nicholls, author of the best-selling book “Social Media in Business” (www.SocialMediaInBusiness.com), explains that most businesses take an approach to social media that is often too narrow.  They are far too worried about Content and not focused enough on Context and Conditions.

They view social media solely based on Facebook or Twitter Content which they believe is just a marketing, PR and website function.  But to be truly successful, social media needs to be implemented at the senior level and trickle down into the DNA of the entire organization as a core competence.

Senior leaders must understand the Context of the environment in which social media operates.  This means understanding their industry, their competition and their internal environment.  Then they must be responsible for creating the Conditions necessary for its successful implementation in their organization.

Of course, Facebook and Twitter will be an integral part of any good strategy but in today’s business community there must be a more holistic approach to answer the tough questions executives are faced with, such as:

How does this help achieve my business goals? What are the benefits and how do I manage the risks?  How do I write a social company-wide media policy, enforce it and update it? How do I get everybody on the same page?

Nicholls offers the following ten tips to help business leaders understand The Three C’s and succeed in social media:

1. Get with the Program: Social media is here to stay.  Think of how far it has come in the last five years and then imagine where it will be in the next five.  Embrace it or be left behind.

2. Be the architect, be the Leader: As the CEO or leader you need to create a vision of what social media looks like for your entire organization – just like an architect has a model of the building that he is going to construct.  Really support social media at the senior level not just the people that look after your web site.

3. Understand the Culture and Mindset: Defense contractors, for instance, will have more of a closed culture because of the nature of their business as compared to a company with a Silicon Valley feel to it.   Opening a company’s culture is perhaps the greatest challenge a CEO faces. Banning social media is not a solution any longer, even autocratic political regimes have failed to do so, but using it within a conducive yet regulated cultural framework is the ideal response to the Internet revolution.

4. Create a Common Language: This is crucial so that everyone company-wide knows their part and what they are trying to achieve. Create a common language so that everyone can participate in the discussion, not a just a few experts who know the jargon.

5. Achieve your business goals: Create social media goals in the context of how they will achieve the business goals. The organizational goal could be to increase the repeat customer percentage in order to increase revenue by X %. Another goal could be to have a more effective customer relationship management strategy. You need to develop the social media strategy to support your goals.

6. Understand ALL the Benefits: Most view social media as a way to interact directly with customers.  In addition to that function, there are other business opportunities that can benefit your company both internally and externally through communication, collaboration, collective intelligence and community opportunities.

7. Avoid the Dangers of the Dark Side: Social media can open a company up to danger and risk including security issues, PR issues and HR issues.  While these risks are very real, it is essential not to let them inhibit progress.  Social media is too important in global culture.  The key is to develop a sound social media policy that identifies the risks and mitigates them.

8. Craft a Strong Social Media Policy: Work with legal and social media experts to develop a safe and effective social media policy that makes clear what is and is not acceptable. This will protect the organization and the employees while maximizing benefits and mitigating risks.  Just because a policy is written does not mean it will be followed.  Many “unwritten” rules will take shape and the company needs to be vigilant and continuously reshape policy to match what is happening “on the ground”.

9. Have a step-by-step formula: A winning social media strategy will be one that is adaptable, implemented step-by-step and is an ongoing model within the context of the organization that sets the right conditions for successful implementation.

10. Time: Rome was not built in a day and the same goes with social media.  Time is the most significant cost. Implementing a social media project hastily may bring more problems than benefits, which is why CEOs need to weight the time factor properly and make sure the project is carefully studied before and during its application.

LightRailQuestion

C-K Unveils Branding Campaign For Arizona Science Center

Have you ever wondered how one car can tie up traffic for miles or what causes that one wobbly wheel on a shopping cart? Arizona Science Center has the answers as it launches its new branding campaign – Never stop wondering.

Created pro-bono by Cramer-Krasselt, Never stop wondering is designed to ignite interest in science and stimulate the innate curiosity within people of all ages well beyond the confines of a classroom or museum by posing fun, thought-provoking questions about everyday things, places and scenarios. The campaign’s innovation is that the messages are incorporated into the medium in which they are presented. Appearing in unexpected places, including building rooftops, sidewalks and bathroom stalls, the questions will prompt people to find out more about the world around them.

The campaign launched on August 6 throughout the Valley, including display boards at shopping centers, on grocery carts at supermarkets and even Phoenix headquarters of major companies, many of which have volunteered their own space to help further the reach of the campaign. To date, sponsors include the Arizona Diamondbacks, APS and Desert Ridge Marketplace.

“Never stop wondering challenges Arizonans to be curious, ask questions and seek out answers about the workings of the world around them,” said Chevy Humphrey, president and CEO of Arizona Science Center. “The campaign brings to life our mission of inspiring, educating and entertaining people of all ages about science and reinforces our role as a vital resource for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.”

Most of the advertising will include a Quick Response (QR) code that will guide smartphone users to easy-to-understand video clips and text answers on Arizona Science Center’s website. Questions include everyday head-scratchers such as “Why do scary movies give you goose bumps?”, “How does the light rail stays on its tracks?” and “Why does your stomach growl when you’re hungry?”

“We are surrounded by technology and natural phenomena, yet many of us may not understand how or why these things work or occur,” said Ian Barry, SVP/executive creative director, C-K Phoenix. “By posing questions we’ve all pondered, we immediately engage with people and give them an approachable and fun way to experience science. Never stop wondering encourages people to reconsider the role of science in their lives and ultimately discover more at Arizona Science Center.”

“We are immensely grateful for the many generous corporate sponsors that will help share this inspirational message,” said Humphrey. “Ultimately, Arizona Science Center hopes to inspire a new generation to become leaders and innovators in science and technology.”

In addition to traditional and guerilla advertising, Arizona Science Center will host an ongoing series of experiments where Arizonans of all ages will have the chance to summon up their inner scientist and have a hand in seeing science first-hand. Details about the inaugural large-scale experiment will be announced later this month.

us airways center

US Airways Center Relaunches Website

In celebration of its 20th anniversary, US Airways Center has relaunched its official website (USAirwaysCenter.com) and is hosting a sweepstakes to give away 20 prizes to visitors of the site.

Between now and July 14, visitors to USAirwaysCenter.com may enter to win ringside seats to WWE’s “Money in the Bank” on July 15, or tickets to see The Fray and Kelly Clarkson on Aug. 1, Jason Mraz on Oct. 2, or Disney’s Phineas & Ferb LIVE in October. Additional prizes include tickets to the Phoenix Suns’ 2012 home opener, as well as autographed memorabilia from Suns players such as Marcin Gortat and Channing Frye, and Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi.

“We decided to break the mold of the traditional venue website,” explained general manager of Sports and Entertainment Services, Ralph Marchetta. “It’s not just about tickets anymore. We want this to become a destination site for sports, music and entertainment fans.”

The new-look website includes information on all the upcoming events at US Airways Center, which first opened its doors on June 6, 1992, but also features a visitor’s guide of downtown Phoenix and unique editorial content. Online guests will enjoy exclusive behind-the-scenes videos, photo galleries from events throughout the year, desktop wallpaper from past shows, insider blogs, social media updates and interviews with select performers.

Visit the US Airways Center website at USAirwaysCenter.com. It is also accessible via mobile smart phones and tablets.