Tag Archives: twitter

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Maricopa Community Colleges hit big on social media

Maricopa Community Colleges have reached a milestone in connecting with the community through social media. To date, Maricopa Community Colleges has been “liked” or “followed” upwards of 50,000 times across their top three platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Facebook makes up the bulk of engaged community members, having just reached 40,000 followers today. By comparison, the Facebook page had fewer than 1,000 followers in mid-2012.

“People respond most positively to good, relevant content,” said Natalie Vaughn, Online Marketing and Social Media Manager for Maricopa Community Colleges. For instance, many people flocked to the social media pages around the time that the District celebrated its 50th Anniversary. “The majority of people in Maricopa County have either been a student or know a student of a Maricopa Community College. So we give people easy access to important, fun, historical, and current information about what’s going on right around them.”

Social media is an increasingly successful way for public agencies and private companies to do business because it allows direct interaction with customers. “We continue to see a high volume of engagements (e.g., likes, shares, retweets) so we know our social community is engaged,” said Vaughn.

Connect with the Maricopa Community Colleges and all of the ten colleges on Facebook, Twitter (@mcccd), and LinkedIn.

social media day

Tips for better business Tweeting

With more than 500 million Tweets sent daily, it’s likely your next customer is on Twitter. The challenge for companies is making their Tweets stand out and building their business by capturing a greater share of the growing market using Twitter.

“An effective Tweet can boost business by creating the highest engagement with followers, while building a devoted fan base,” says Bernard Perrine CEO of social media marketing company HipLogiq, developer of Twitter marketing application SocialCentiv.

Perrine explains techniques to construct ideal Tweets that are more likely to be heard above the crowd, be retweeted or favorited, and ultimately help drive sales:

• Find your brand voice. Your Tweets should reflect a professional voice. Be positive, engaging and conversational. Offer perspective or insight, even when retweeting to make your post stand out.
• Include multimedia to encourage interaction. Tweets should contain pictures, links or hashtags to catch the reader’s attention and trigger involvement.
• Pin a Tweet to highlight what’s important. Businesses can pin a specific Tweet to the top of their profile to showcase their special offers so that their followers don’t miss out.
• Avoid starting a Tweet with @username. Starting with @username makes that Tweet only visible to the sender and receiver. For greater visibility, try “Hey, @username!…” or insert a period before the username, “.@username….”
• Create exclusive and custom offers. Tweets with exclusive offers can spur interest to try your company’s products or services, can build customer loyalty, and make your Twitter community feel special. HipLogiq’s clients have the most response with 20 percent or more off and buy-one-get-one-free (BOGO) offers.
• Tweet less than six times per day. Followers become annoyed with accounts Tweeting more than five times per day or more than one Tweet per hour. (getspokal.com)
• Increase Tweet visibility. Request a retweet in the Tweet. Tweet 4-5x per day to increase retweets. Join trends by linking a Tweet to a hashtag and a trending word or phrase (#HipLogiq).

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What companies have the worst customer service?

Ranker.com, a platform that produces thousands of crowdsourced answers to opinion-based questions, has collected nearly 14,000 votes on what people think are the companies with the worst customer service. Nearly 5,000 votes were also collected on what people think are the most evil Internet companies. Here are the current rankings for both lists:

Companies With the Worst Customer Service

1. Time Warner Cable
2. AT&T
3. Bank of America
4. Walmart
5. American Airlines
6. Comcast
7. Citibank
8. Best Buy
9. Gold’s Gym
10. Ticketmaster

The Most Evil Internet Companies:

1. Facebook
2. Comcast
3. Apple
4. Time Warner Cable
5. Go Daddy
6. AOL
7. Electronic Arts
8. Microsoft Corporation
9. Google
10. Twitter

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How to Tweet your way to new sales

Sales is all about relationships: Having a conversation, understanding a need and providing a solution. As a public forum, Twitter is a great place to listen, reply and reward.

“Small businesses need to be active on Twitter because their customers are on Twitter,” says Bernard Perrine, CEO and co-founder of Twitter marketing company HipLogiq.

Admittedly, the challenge is getting started and finding easy-to-use tools that not only leverage your existing pool of followers, but also expand your reach to find new customers. Following are some tips and tricks to help small businesses drive business on Twitter.

1. Build your community. The information you post for potential customers needs to represent your business and what you have to offer. Here is a helpful checklist:
• Follow like-minded handles. Once you’ve signed up for your free account at http://twitter.com and chosen a business-focused username, build your community by following other companies or individuals that are related to your business or industry.
• Create a complete profile. Upload a quality image, like your business’s logo, and complete your bio with details about your business. This lets people know who you are and what type of Tweets to expect from your business.
• Integrate your website and other business information. Complete your profile by uploading a header image, adding the location of your business, and adding the Web address to your home page or blog.

QUICK TIP: More than 60 percent of social networkers are more likely to use a local business if the business has information available on a social networking site, according to Neustar.

2. Engage your audience. The entire focus of Twitter is to create a following that is interested in what you have to say and will share it with their followers. Here are some ways to do that:
• Embrace two-way communication. Rather than only relying on mass-market ads, take a proactive approach by engaging with nearby customers in real time. Consider using a Twitter marketing software application like SocialCentiv, which makes it easy for your small business to find and communicate with nearby customers.
• Participate in trending conversations and provide quality, related content. Take a look at the right side of your new Twitter profile to see which topics are trending in your area and participate in these conversations. When you see an appropriate opportunity to jump into a trending topic discussion, by all means, do so.
• Listen to help find new customers. Businesses should always know what people are saying about them across their social media channels and review sites. Listening leads to engagement, and engagement leads to better service, improved products and new customers.

“There are many software packages out there to help track social conversations using key words and phrases,” says Perrine. “With HipLogiq’s user-friendly app, SocialCentiv, small business owners can do more than simply listen. SocialCentiv searches for relevant conversations in real time, then helps small business owners reply to these conversations with an offer and collect contact information for future outreach.”

QUICK TIP: Tweets with images attached receive 150 percent more retweets than those without images, according to Buffer.

3. Drive your sales. Companies can – and should – be using Twitter to boost their bottom lines. It’s as simple as listen, reply and reward.
• Find out exactly what they want. In the age of social media, people aren’t shy about voicing their wants or needs. Just do a simple Twitter search for “need food,” and you’ll find thousands of people letting the world know they’re hungry. This eliminates the guessing game when it comes to determining intent versus behavior.
• Reach out with a targeted offer. Once you’ve found someone looking for your product or service, reach out to the follower with a personalized offer to visit your business. The intent to buy is already there, and all you have to do is fulfill their needs.
• Make it hard for them to say no. By extending a compelling offer to a consumer for what they want when they want it, it’s hard for them to say no. Personally targeting potential customers maximizes intent-based marketing and helps your business discover customers who have expressed real intent.

QUICK TIP: Intent-based marketing efforts tend to have higher returns because a business is reaching out right when a consumer has expressed a need. As an example, intent marketing software SocialCentiv.com averages a 34 percent conversion rate, compared to a 3-4 percent return from direct mail campaigns.

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Those Who Don’t Know You Are More Likely to Retweet

Big news can spread like wildfire via Twitter, but did you ever think about why certain people choose to retweet? A new study from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows — if someone doesn’t know you well, then he or she is actually more likely to retweet something significant you say.

“We found that people with weak ties, such as those who only have a one-way relationship on Twitter – who don’t both follow each other – are more likely to retweet,” explains Assistant Professor Zhan Michael Shi of the W. P. Carey School of Business, one of the paper’s authors. “We believe the retweeters are sharing the information because they think it will boost their reputation and influence by providing something new. People with stronger ties might not retweet because they believe their followers already know the details and/or they may have communicated with each other in other ways.”

The new research by Shi and his co-authors, Professor Huaxia Rui of the University of Rochester and Professor Andrew Whinston of the University of Texas at Austin, will be published in the academic journal MIS Quarterly in March. For their study, they put together a complex program utilizing 20 computers over 140 days. They were able to follow the progress of certain tweets for five-day periods and see whether the Twitter relationships between the author and retweeters were strong or weak. It’s believed to be the first information-systems study using publicly available Twitter data to explore how people voluntarily relay information.

For example, the paper mentions a famed tweet in 2011, when a highly placed official in Washington said, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden.” That tweet was sent out more than an hour before the White House officially announced the event. By the time the presidential announcement was made, tens of thousands of Twitter users had already spread the word, even though most of them didn’t know anyone directly involved.

“Twitter is incredibly popular and fast-growing as a social medium, with more than 500 million registered users worldwide by April 2012,” says Shi. “It’s a combination of a broadcasting service and a social network, so our results aren’t necessarily translatable to more pure social networks, such as Facebook. However, we think the new information is going to be very useful to people like social-media managers and marketers trying to understand how information is spread via social-broadcasting networks like Twitter.”

Among the results: Those with a two-way Twitter relationship are only 6-percent likely to retweet a remark like the ones of the median quality these researchers studied. However, one-way followers are 9.1 percent likely to tweet it. That’s a boost of more than 50 percent.

The full study can be found online at http://misq.org/content-sharing-in-a-social-broadcasting-environment-evidence-from-twitter.html?SID=86knf65su27v98u9npsa31heh3. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the W. P. Carey School’s online resource and newsletter, at http://knowwpcarey.com.

Kristin Bloomquist is executive vice president and general manager of the Phoenix office of independent marketing and communications agency Cramer-Krasselt.

Leveraging visual storytelling tools can boost business

According to the old adage, a picture is worth 1,000 words. But what about a six-second video? Or an impeccably curated pinboard?

A host of new photo and video-sharing platforms—and the evolving universe of digital devices that enable them—are opening up new opportunities for marketers to engage consumers. But like many forms of “new media” before them, apps like Instagram, Pinterest and Vine (Twitter’s six-second video app) demand that brands embrace new forms of communicating.

Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now pillars of every brand’s social footprint, but it wasn’t so long ago that likes, shares, user-generated video and 140-character status updates were new to the brand lexicon. Now more than ever, the challenge for brands is to become fluent in the language of visual storytelling—from infographics to photography to short, simple videos.

Since its launch in January, Vine has attracted marketers such as GE, Target, Oreo and Marvel Entertainment (with the world’s first movie “teaser”), who are anxious to gain access to the app’s steadily growing base of 13 million users who share 12 million videos a day.

Not to be outdone, Facebook launched video capabilities on Instagram in June. Users can create and edit 15-second video clips, personalize them with the filters the app is famous for and then post to Instagram and Facebook. Putting this kind of functionality in the hands of Instagram’s 130 million users will only ignite interest in this kind of short-form video. But creating compelling content within this kind of time constraint can be challenging, to say the least.

So how do marketers make the most of these tools?

First, Be an Observer: Look (and listen) before you leap. How are other businesses in your category using the space? Are users already posting about your brand? What are the platform’s unique traits and tools? Vine and Instagram video in particular are still in their infancy. First movers may have the advantage, but if their approaches aren’t right for the brand or venue (see next point), they’ll do more harm than good. So first do your research.

Make It Contextual: These platforms demand a regular stream of engaging content—but make sure your approach is a strategic fit and appropriate for both your brand and the venue(s). Our work for Johnsonville offers a prime example, where we leverage each platform based on what it does best, all working in concert and with a common brand strategy – from the “Share Your #Bratshot” promotion on Instagram to daily Bratfirmations on Pinterest offering grilling quotes, wisdom and humor.

Make It Useful: Don’t just show up to the party – offer guests something of interest or value. Remember: these platforms attract a sought-after, tech-savvy audience that often shun more “traditional,” disruptive forms of marketing. Time spent curating an inspiration board on Pinterest, for instance, is “me” time—not “please bombard me with your brand message” time. Lowe’s strikes the right balance with its helpful how-to vignettes on Vine.

As revolutionary as they seem, these tools are just the tip of the iceberg. In this attention- starved, mobile-first world, marketers will have to become master visual storytellers and more, as new tools and technologies continually redefine how brands connect and communicate with consumers.

 

Kristin Bloomquist is executive vice president and general manager of the Phoenix office of independent marketing and communications agency Cramer-Krasselt.

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Social Media: Great Resource for Small Business

Are you taking advantage of social media in your small business? According to a recent report by the Social Media Examiner, you probably should.

89 percent of the respondents said social media was providing them greater exposure and 75 percent claimed it was increasing traffic. Although only 43 percent suggested that social media increased sales, I think social channels should be looked at more as a brand building play anyway—which is very consistent with the survey results. That’s not to say social channels don’t generate sales, they do. I just don’t think the social channel should be treated the same as a Google Adwords campaign or direct mail.

I was surprised to read that about 25 percent of the small business marketers surveyed had been doing anything with social media for a year of less and only 30 percent had been doing anything for a couple of years or more. For many small businesses, I think the social bandwagon is a wagon you should likely get on, provide you take the right approach.

Nevertheless, before you jump in with both feet, here are five questions you should ask yourself:

1) Do you really want to do this?

Before you spend time on strategy, before you set up any social media accounts, ask yourself, “Am I willing to invest the man hours that will be required to make the effort a success?” Most small businesses won’t require a full-time social media person, but they will require someone’s time. For example, if you plan on posting a blog every week, plan on three or four hours to research and write. Once you get in a groove, you might be able to cut that down a bit, but if all you’re doing is once a week, you won’t see much time savings. What’s more, it takes about 50 posts before Google starts paying any attention to you, so you’ll want to commit to a year’s worth of writing before you’ll see much search traffic.

If you’re going to have a Facebook or Twitter account, you’ll want to make daily updates — which don’t add much time to the day but can add up to an hour or more if you’re updating Twitter, Facebook and any other social media — to build a following. Best practice suggests a couple of posts in the morning and a couple of posts at the end of the day. That doesn’t mean you can ignore that media the rest of the day. You’ll want to make sure someone is regularly (every hour or two) monitoring your accounts in the event a customer or prospective customer tries to interact with a question or concern. This person might be you, but doesn’t have to be. Just remember, whoever interacts with the world on social media becomes a spokesman for you and your company. Choose wisely. However, if nobody’s there, you lose the interaction and the value of the social medium. Do you really want to do this?

2) What do you want to accomplish?

As I said before, being social just to be social is time that could be better spent someplace else. Do you want to establish yourself as a thought leader? Do you want to keep your customers up-to-date on what’s happening in your company? Do you want to keep customers and potential customers educated on industry best practice? Do you want to leverage social media as a customer service tool? You’ll need to build a strategy around those objectives and execute accordingly. Some media do a better job at some objectives than others.

3) Are you prepared to air your dirty laundry in public?

None of us like to deal with public complaints, but maybe this question is put the wrong way. A better question might be, “Are you willing to watch your dirty laundry aired in public?” Whether you’re part of the social conversation or not, people are talking about you and your business online — the good, the bad and the ugly. If your business is like most, you’re going to be exposed to some pretty intense negative feedback from time to time.

One of my friends purchased a shed from a big box home improvement store a while back. It was to be shipped in a couple of days, but somehow his order got lost. After several frustrating phone calls with no resolution, he decided to try complaining on the business’s Facebook site. Within a few minutes, he had a very friendly social media person try to take his complaint offline to “shut him up.” You may want to establish an official policy regarding how this type of interaction will take place. Don’t wait until it’s time to make those decisions while in the heat of battle.

He suggested they work it out on Facebook. Not long after that, he had confirmation of the shipment and the issue was resolved. Like most of us, they didn’t want this dialog to take place on a public forum — they had behaved badly and wanted to hide the misstep. However, publicly making things right probably helped them with their Facebook followers. We all understand that mistakes happen. This retailer demonstrated publicly that it was willing to help its customer (although it would have been much easier to have dealt with the issue before my friend escalated the issue to Facebook).

4) Who is going to be responsible?

If nobody in particular is responsible, your social media efforts aren’t going to go anywhere. A few years back I did some social media consulting for a local nursery. They had volumes of tips to help gardeners and we started sharing them three times a week in a blog that invited them to visit one of their gardening experts to make sure they got the best advice for their particular yard. It was so successful that they decided to bring the effort in-house. Unfortunately, they lost whatever momentum we had gained when they stopped posting daily on their Facebook and Twitter accounts and quit contributing regularly to their blog. My guess is that nobody was really responsible to make sure the effort happened every day (see point No. 1.

5) How are you going to eat the elephant?

Launching a social media effort can feel pretty daunting for a small business, but it’s a lot like eating an elephant, you need to do it one bite at a time. Once you’ve discovered where your customers hang out the most, start there. If it’s Twitter, spend your time there. Once you’ve got that down and feel like you can take the next step, move forward. You might be surprised at how quickly you’ll have a robust social media presence.

If you were waiting for the fad to go away, I’m not convinced it will. Sure, we might be using different tools that Facebook or Twitter, but the way we communicate with our customers is changing for many small businesses and I’m convinced it’s going to continue. You might be interested to know that Facebook, Blogging, and Twitter round out the top three social media channels according to the survey. If you’d like to read more about it, here’s eMarketer’s take. What do you think? Is social media a great resource for small business?

A 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.

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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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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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.

kindle

How to Use Kindle to Generate Free Business Leads

Imagine Amazon sending you business leads regularly and even paying you to do so. Why would they do it?

“Amazon is desperate for reading material and you can publish your content for free as Kindle books,” says V. Michael Santoro, a managing partner with John S. Rizzo of Globe On-Demand, an internet technology company. The two are also the co-authors of, “Niche Dominance: Creating Order out of your Digital Marketing Chaos,” (www.NicheDominance.com).

“The twist is to use them as a generation system for sales leads.”

The audience is huge – Kindle is no longer just for people who purchase Kindle tablets. Amazon has also written Kindle Reader applications for every major smartphone, tablet, and computer including the Android phone or tablet, iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows 8 PC or tablet, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone 7, Santoro says.

“Most businesses hesitate to use Kindle to generate sales leads because they think they need to write an actual book,” says Rizzo, “But that’s not true. You can write and publish short reports — as long as the content is original, of high quality and does not violate its Terms of Service (TOS), Amazon will publish your material.”

The key is to include a compelling free offer with a strong call to action and a link to a lead capture page – the page on your website where people can sign up for more information, special offers, your newsletter, etc.

And Amazon will even help market your book – for free!

When a new Kindle book is approved and published, Amazon will:

• Feature it in their new releases section.

• Email their customer base announcing it to those who have previously purchased a Kindle book in that genre.

• Offer the Kindle KDP Select Program for ongoing free promotion.

• Allow customers to highlight, make notes, and share your book’s content via Twitter and other social networks.

“By enrolling in the free Kindle KDP Select Program, you give Amazon exclusivity on a renewable 90-day basis,” Santoro says. “This program allows their readers to borrow your book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and when they do, Amazon pays you a royalty, as well as for book sales. However, the real benefit is that Amazon provides five days per quarter to give your book away for free.”

Why give your Kindle book away for free?

“Because, as a lead generation system, you want as many individuals as possible to download your Kindle book and visit your lead capture page, Santoro explains. Additionally, Amazon views each book download as a vote and rewards your book with higher page ranking. The more downloads, the better the chance of an Amazon Page 1 placement.

To create your Kindle report:

• Use Amazon to determine what current Kindle books or paperbacks are published about your topic.

• Decide what information will be helpful to your potential customers. Make sure it is original and offers value. Avoid information that is easily found on the Internet.

• Create your report in Microsoft Word and include images if appropriate.

• Include your call to action – a message that prompts readers to visit your website — and link to your website’s lead capture page.

• Create a cover graphic.

Publishing on Kindle is fairly simple:

• Go to http://kdp.amazon.com and sign up for a free Kindle account.

• Watch the “How To” Kindle publishing video.

• Fill out the Amazon Author Page to track your statistics.

• Reference the book on your website and link to your Amazon book page.

• Announce it on your Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter accounts.

“The goal is not to sell books, but rather to generate leads from Amazon’s huge customer base,” Rizzo says. An additional benefit is that you will differentiate yourself from the competition by being a published author. If your content is excellent and helpful, you will also build trust which will help to increase sales from these new leads.

social.media

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.

social.media

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.”

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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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.

texting

Eat, Drink and Be Social: Dining Apps

Dining out? Check your phone first (if you aren’t doing that already); here are some dining apps for you to consider.


With today’s plugged-in landscape and social media savvy society, websites, blogs and smartphone applications are quickly becoming the go-to source for daily tasks like hunting down recipes, shopping for restaurant deals and connecting with friends. From check-ins to secret menus and Twitter notifications about the next happy hour, social media is the inroad to “what’s good” at bars and restaurants.

At Sapporo, social media has allowed us to give diners a backstage pass to our food and how we make it as well as provide a tailored personal experience. Hungry for a certain dish? Don’t worry; Sapporo has you covered. By liking Sapporo on Facebook, users can ask questions and checkout the new and most popular menu items and what people are saying. Through Twitter, users can follow and find out about upcoming events and exclusive promotions.

Whether you’re looking for a fine-tuned menu, a trendy, foodie destination (like Sapporo) or just wanting a burger, below are some social media app suggestions that will have you eating, drinking and being social in no time.

Digital dining promotions

Remember the days of cutting coupons? Cut no more; with today’s social media landscape, getting the best deals on restaurants is literally at the click of a button. With daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social and Doozy of a Deal, diners can pre-purchase coupons and print them off to use them at their leisure. But that’s not all, more and more restaurants are utilizing their own social networking pages like Foursquare and Facebook to offer exclusive deals and promotions to help drive traffic through the door and create customer loyalty.

There are dining apps for that

For those who may be hungry but too lazy to make a reservation or order food, there’s an app for that. Today’s social landscape makes it easy for diners to get rid of their hunger pains by the push of a button. At Sapporo, an app called Open Table allows diners to make reservations through Facebook. Other restaurants have also created their own mobile applications that allow customers to place food orders from the convenience of their smartphones and even pay for their purchases.

Table tweets

Dining with social media isn’t just about getting the best deals; many restaurant guests enjoy the connection social media allows them to have with the restaurant and its chef. Through Twitter, many restaurants, chefs or owners will actively engage in conversation with the customer base by posting events, recipes, up-to-date menus and photos. Some even take customer interaction one step further by coming out to greet those patrons tweeting from their table.

Mind your mobile manners

“No phone at the dinner table” is a phrase everyone has heard at one time or another. Since mobile technology has improved and diners are more social media savvy, it has become socially acceptable to multitask during meals. Today’s guests are eager to check-in, snap photos or tweet about where they are and what they’re doing. Not sure what to order? Foodspotting and Forkly, apps that can be downloaded to a mobile device, allows diners to snap photos and share dishes so customers make better-informed purchasing decisions.

Dine and dish

After a dining experience, there is nothing more guests like to do than dish about what they ate and how amazing, or not amazing, it was. Several social networking sites have created a space where patrons can share their tips, reviews and rate restaurants. Urbanspoon is an app that allows customers to view ratings for the specific type of food or restaurant they are looking for. Yelp is another app that allows users to search for the restaurants closest to them and read reviews before choosing a specific restaurant.

In the past, dining out may have involved navigating an unfamiliar neighborhood aimlessly searching for a restaurant, unsure of what to expect on the menu ― but not anymore. Look no further than your smartphone, where restaurants like Sapporo are engaging in the social space and guests can stay in the loop and experience a new type of dining experience.

For more information, menus, hours and location of Sapporo, visit SapporoScottsdale.com  or call (480) 607-1114.

Twitter

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet: The Benefits Of Twitter For Business

In February 2012, registered Twitter users officially hit 500 million. Despite the significantly growing population of tweeters ― approximately 11 new accounts are added every second ― there are many business people still asking, “Why should I be on Twitter?”

The social media platform that limits posts to 140 characters appears to non-users as a cryptic code that includes “@” signs and hashtags (#); this commonly prompts the response, “I don’t really understand how it works or why it matters.”

In simple terms, Twitter is one of the fastest and easiest ways to share information about your product, service, organization or platform. It allows you to communicate, connect and engage directly with your target market in real time. So it matters. If its capabilities combined with its growing number of users are not enough to make you consider jumping on the bandwagon, every small- to mid-size business owner or manager should consider the following reasons for adding Twitter to the company’s marketing and PR efforts:

Spread the word

Twitter gets the message out quickly and efficiently. By tweeting and sharing company announcements with potential and existing customers and referral sources, you can introduce new products, promote special deals, or post info about upcoming events.

Research market trends

Twitter can keep you updated on industry trends and/or activity in your market segment. Through Twitter Search, you can find out what people are saying about a particular topic, and you can keep tabs on comments about your company and your competition.

Leverage current PR and other marketing activity

Potential customers and referral sources may have missed a feature article showcasing your company in a trade publication, but by pushing the link out on Twitter, they can not only read it, but also now share it. If your budget won’t allow for a direct mail campaign, you can run an ad in the local paper about an upcoming sale or event and then expand your reach by posting the information on Twitter.

Secure additional publicity

The print and broadcast news media represents a large number of Twitter users, so it is no surprise to learn that they spot trends that inspire stories and find sources on the social media site. A finance expert’s frequent posts about business led to an invitation to write a feature article in a trade publication. A local radio host posted news about a story and was contacted by a CNN producer to appear as a guest on a connected topic. These are just two examples of how Twitter can help position industry experts and lead to more publicity.

Enhance customer service and build relationships

Twitter is about connecting and engaging. A pool service company uses Twitter Search to learn what others are saying about its pools. A question posted about a pool turning green provides a warm lead that turns into a new customer. Monitoring and responding to what others are saying on Twitter can improve customer service with existing customers and create new ones.

Network virtually

Establishing an active presence on Twitter gives you opportunities to meet and talk to people you may never get the chance to talk to otherwise. Think about making business contacts with referral sources, people you want to start projects with or even hire, without ever leaving your desk.

Drive traffic to your website and through your door

It’s not enough to just have a website anymore. Sharing your knowledge on Twitter with links back to your website and Facebook pages can help potential customers find you. It also allows you to consistently post new content that will enhance your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and help increase your rankings in a Google search.

Adopting Twitter as a communication and marketing tool provides companies the ability to present and develop their image and define their brand.

The Illinois-based start-up, Foiled Cupcakes, is a great example of the power of Twitter. Introducing a Twitter campaign prior to the launch of its website, the owners began posting interesting and engaging conversational information and building followers that met the demographic of their target market. The build-up led to more than 2,000 followers before the business was off the ground. While it is often said that Twitter doesn’t lead to sales, owner Mari Luangrath has a different story:

“90 percent have come from social media. We also have a pretty intense follow-up system, so by the time a customer has gone through the process, we’ve had seven opportunities to figure out how they’ve heard about us.”

Targeted engagement works both ways, adds Luangrath. “Twitter makes it so easy to reach out directly to people.” In addition to attracting customers, Foiled Cupcakes’ social media campaign has also caught the attention of the press. “We’ve been approached by Investor’s Business Daily, American Express Open Forum, Entrepreneur Magazine, and appeared on NBC and The Food Channel,” as a result of Foiled Cupcakes’ transparency and accessibility on social media platforms like Twitter.

If that isn’t reason enough to tweet, then consider what you are gaining by holding out.

For more information on marketingworx, its services and/or how to begin your own Twitter account/campaign, visit marketingworxpr.com  or follow her @julietstraker.

social media tweet bird

Social Media: Turning Tweets Into Tourists

Used correctly, social media can pay off for the hospitality industry

Over the holidays, the JW Marriott Desert Ridge built a giant village out of 800 pounds of gingerbread and 250 pounds of chocolate to display in its lobby. For four weeks, the cookie town was posted on the JW Facebook page and fans were invited to guess how many gumdrops, pounds of dough, poinsettias and twinkling lights were decorating the resort. Winners received a weekend stay.

Did the campaign succeed?
Definitely, according to Jennifer Whittle, account supervisor with the Lavidge Co., which represents the resort. The goal was to increase fans on Facebook, a figure that doubled in a month. “Additional objectives were to drive traffic to the resort’s website and property,” she said, “and to position the resort as a fun place to visit.”

But still, just as with traditional advertising, marketing or public relations, it can be tough to measure how social media translates into revenue in the tourism industry.

Measuring whether this new medium is working depends on what a business wants to achieve, said Rebecca Seymann, Lavidge director of interactive campaigns. Some businesses believe that the more people who “see” them on Facebook or on a blog or in an app, the more awareness of their brand will grow, thus driving up sales.

But businesses do try to compute results. “Many hospitality businesses use social media, email, their websites and aggregators to promote special offers and then measure direct sales using a variety of tracking tools,” Seymann notes. And many use social media to respond to customer complaints as well.

One attraction of social media is that the cost of use seems minimal. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are all free. Writing the copy and getting the photos or videos for social media do cost something; as does monitoring the site. A cottage industry has grown to help businesses interpret the data from social media; but some measuring systems are still free.

“Facebook has metrics built in that don’t cost anything,” says Christine Carlson, advertising manager at Las Vegas-based Allegiant Travel, which flies out of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. “And we also use Google Analytics, which is free as well.”

So Allegiant can find out how many Web users click on its Facebook page and repost the page to other fans; how many viewers like the company’s site; even how many viewers switch from Facebook to the Allegiant Web site to book a trip. But if a Facebook user looks at the company’s website, signs off and then comes back four days later to book a trip, Allegiant can’t easily track that. In its brief time using social media, Allegiant has attracted more than 50,000 fans on Facebook.

social media icons

For some hospitality businesses, such as W Scottsdale, the main objective of a social media campaign is to “engage in conversation with our fans,” according to Joe Iturri, director of sales and marketing. The hotel uses Facebook and Twitter particularly to promote W happenings to fans first. The events often involve fashion design and music. “W often gives fans insider access, like sending information to them first about our big New Year’s Eve event,” he says.

But W’s use of social media can be even more up-close and personal in pursuing contact with potential customers. When fans post messages saying they will visit the hotel soon, W’s social media rep tries to chat online with them about their likes and dislikes. “We’ll ask what wines they like, for example, and when they arrive, we have a bottle of a great wine in their room. Or we’ll find out whether they like foam or feather pillows,” Iturri says. Facebook and Twitter get top billing. Other channels used: YouTube, FourSquare, Yelp.

When favorable posts come in about a past visit, W responds, too. Or if there is a negative review on TripAdvisor, “we contact the poster and try to resolve the problem to the best of our ability,” Iturri says.

In 2009, the hotel hired a full-time social media person to answer postings around the clock, Iturri says. That employee checks Twitter, Facebook and other channels several times — both night and day — on a laptop and responds to questions and postings both favorable and unfavorable. The first person to hold the job was so successful that she was transferred to the W Hotel headquarters to start national programs.

That all might work for a national or international company, but what about the little guy — the independently owned restaurant or boutique or small resort?

For smaller businesses, social media can pay off, too, says Josh Kenzer, online marketing manager for the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau. The big issue for a smaller business, though, might be the labor costs in maintaining an up-to-date Facebook page, for example, adding pictures and news regularly.

“A business owner needs to be honest about the time he can devote to it,” Kenzer says. “Here at the bureau, someone has to spend about 30 minutes to an hour a day adding new content. You also don’t want someone to post a message on your page that says, ‘I’m here this weekend and what can you do for me?’ and then you don’t reply to them.”

Social media is also not a silver bullet. “Like website management, pay-per-click, SEO and banner campaigns — and like print, radio, public relations — social media should become a regular recurring marketing activity and a budget line item that incorporates key marketing messages to target audiences,” says Seymann of the Lavidge Co.

Arizona Business Magazine March/April 2012

Election Social Media: Wright & Brennan

Phoenix Election Social Media Wars: Wright & Brennan

Election Social Media Wars: Wright & Brennan

Social media has become an important and effective marketing tool, with businesses creating Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for their customers, sharing deals and special offers. And it’s no less important in a race for mayor, especially for the Phoenix election mayoral candidates.

We visited all of the Phoenix mayoral candidates’ respective social media pages to get a better idea of how they represent themselves and their campaigns. It’s one thing to believe what the media and rival candidates say about one another, but how are they connecting with their supporters and how are they bettering their campaigns via social media?

Yesterday, we covered Wes Gullett and Peggy Neely. Today, we’ll look at Jennifer Wright and Anna Brennan.

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright’s website states her campaign focuses on the following issues: repealing the food tax, creating a more open, transparent government, enforcing SB 1070, increasing public safety, creating more jobs and improving small businesses and small business creation.

Facebook & Twitter

Wright’s Twitter thoroughly updates her followers of her responses at mayoral debates. She’s informative, and she seems active on her account, responding to her followers’ questions. For instance:

Jennifer Wright's Twitter, Election Social Media “@rbcarter 2 make sure jobs & oppy’s thrive, ‘hoods r safe & secure, & the city is fiscally responsible. VOTE WRIGHT!”
“@RPongratz Thanks for your support!”
Jennifer Wright's Twitter, Election Social Media “Q1: B4 be sworn in, I will identify 20 biz stuck in city process & make sure they are up & running by inauguration day. #PhxDebate”
“Q5: Fiscal responsibility KEY. Review proposed line-item budget b4 passing, cut fat and admin bloat. Hold depts accountable. #PhxDebate”

As for Wright’s Facebook, with 507 followers, it’s updated frequently with video posts, shared links of articles relating to the mayoral race, as well as her thoughts and opinions. She seems more active and personable on Facebook, determined to increase the number of followers every day:

Jennifer Wright's Facebook Page, Election Social Media “‘I have no interest in being a household name or having personal fame or notoriety. I do not seek to be a career politician. Instead, my desire is to serve and lead Phoenix back on a path to prosperity. I would be honored if the highest office I ever held were that of Mayor of Phoenix. I humbly ask for your vote.’ Jennifer Wright”
“500! LET’S RAISE IT TO 510!””Today’s goal is 490!”
Jennifer Wright's Facebook Page, Election Social Media “Have you seen and shared my web-ad?
The Wright Change for Phoenix
www.youtube.com”
“Jennifer Wright Press Conference Post-Chamber Debate
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhPqG2u8s3s “

Anna Brennan

Anna Brennan focuses on the community for her campaign. She pledges to “have the most open, accountable, and transparent government that the City of Phoenix has ever seen,” work on the city’s budget by proposing a zero-based budget, emphasize the importance of education by advocating for public school reform, and spotlight illegal immigration.

Brennan’s social media usage, both Facebook and Twitter, have identical posts — all video links to Brennan’s unique, live broadcasts from her cell phone (using bambuser, an app that streams live video for others to view), updated very frequently.

Facebook & Twitter

Anna Brennan's Twitter, Election Social Media Anna Brennan's Twitter, Election Social Media

 

Anna Brennan's Facebook Page, Election Social Media Anna Brennan Facebook, Election Social Media

No. of Friends & Followers for each Mayoral Candidate:

As of August 18, 2011, sourced from the social media pages linked to each candidates’ website:

Claude Mattox

Greg Stanton Facebook Page, Election Social Media 2,942 Friends
Greg Stanton Twitter, Election Social Media 775 Followers

Greg Stanton

Greg Stanton Facebook Page, Election Social Media 1,349 Friends
Greg Stanton Twitter, Election Social Media 583 Followers

Wes Gullett

Wes Gullett Facebook Page, Election Social Media 759 Friends
Wes Gullett Twitter, Election Social Media 235 Followers

Peggy Neely

Peggy Neely Facebook Page, Election Social Media 509 Friends
Peggy Neely Twitter, Election Social Media 452 Followers

Jennifer Wright

Jennifer Wright Facebook Page, Election Social Media 507 Friends
Jennifer Wright Twitter, Election Social Media 125 Followers

Anna Brennan

Anna Brennan Facebook Page, Election Social Media 104 Friends
Anna Brennan Twitter, Election Social Media 40 Followers

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Election Voting Dates & Times:

Saturday, August 27, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Monday, August 29, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tuesday, August 30 (Election Day), 6 a.m. – 7 p.m.
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Election social media — is it important to winning an election? What do you think?
Do you think the candidates’ social media pages, “friends” and “followers” have any impact on the election and who will win the mayoral race? Let us know. If it is, it looks like Mattox is leading the pack.

 

Wave Pool, Big Surf, Tempe, Ariz.

Big Surf Now in Full Swing for Summer Months

Big Surf Waterpark, Tempe, Ariz.It started with a fascination with surfing. Phil Dexter wanted to bring the waves to Arizona; and so plans were made, designs sketched and within a year of construction, his dream waterpark Big Surf opened to the public — with just one wave pool.

This was the first of its kind to ever be built in the country, and the park has recently opened for this summer season.

Since the park’s opening in 1969, Big Surf has been expanding and adapting to meet the needs of their park guests. And this season, they’ve added various features and specials.

While its the wave pool that attracts visitors, according to Jeff Golner, spokesperson for Big Surf, the waterpark has something for virtually everyone.

Surfer at Big Surf Waterpark, Tempe, Ariz.“Our wave pool is obviously our main feature,” Golner says. “We have everything for every age, from the toddler that wants to splash around in Captain Cook’s Landing, to the wave pool being relatively advanced; and we have some other slides that are really serious and quick, but very steep and thrilling.”

Not only does Big Surf offer water activities, including surf sessions every day at 5:30 p.m., but corporate and group outings have become a big hit as well, Golner says.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest in major corporations and small business utilizing the park as employee outings or event consigning tickets for employee’s use,” Golner says. “We’re up 35 percent over where corporate and group outings were last year, and it’s continuing to trend up.”

In order for Big Surf to reach its goal of 150,000 attendees, the park is offering specials during the week via social media in order to attract, increase and connect with its audience.

“We’re also focusing a lot of our advertising with deals,” Golner says. “We know that the economy is rough right now so we’re definitely engaging in putting out lots of coupons.”Wave Pool, Big Surf Waterpark, Tempe, Ariz.

Two specials include two-for-one on Tuesdays, and on Wednesdays all Big Surf attendees pay the children’s admittance fee.

“This is a great water park,” Golner says. “It’s a great place to cool off but the atmosphere is extremely family friendly; it’s very affordable as well.”

For more information on Big Surf in Tempe and the other deals the park offers, visit www.bigsurffun.com or call (480) 994-2297.

 

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Big Surf Waterpark Logo, Tempe, Ariz.If You Go:

Big Surf
1500 N. McClintock Dr. / Hayden Rd.
Tempe, AZ 85281
480-994-2297
www.bigsurffun.com

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Using Social Media Content to Inform Employment Decisions

Social Media Series: Using Social Media Content to Inform Employment Decisions

This article is part of an ongoing series about social media in the workplace. We’re interested in your feedback/questions, so please comment and the authors may address your issue in their next article.


Assuming that employers properly obtain personal information about an applicant from social media sites, employers still need to be careful to avoid certain risks associated with using such information to make employment decisions. While it may seem a great idea to use information obtained through social media to help make hiring decisions, it may not always be wise to do so.  In certain instances, using information provided by Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites may expose employers to liability for such claims as discrimination and negligent retention and hiring.

In addition, if the employer learns from Facebook information about an applicant’s protected characteristics that is not apparent from the application or interview, such as the fact that the applicant is pregnant or disabled or has a father with cancer, and the employer does not hire that applicant, the employer may be exposed to liability.  Such characteristics about an individual generally are protected by state and federal discrimination laws.

If the employer used this information to make a decision not to hire the applicant, the employer likely is liable for discrimination. Even if the employer did not use this information in the hiring decision, the fact that the employer obtained this information prior to making a determination may cause the applicant to believe that discrimination has occurred and file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

On the other hand, there may be instances where an employer’s use of such information is appropriate.  For example, if a private employer discovers that an applicant has posted disparaging remarks about the employer, its clients or other individuals, the employer generally may use that information in deciding whether to hire the individual. Such disparaging remarks are likely not protected speech in this instance and, indeed, may be an indicator of the individual’s ability to be successful at the particular place of employment.

An interesting conundrum may arise in other situations, such as where an employer learns of information about an applicant that suggests a negative tendency, yet the employer still hires the person. For example, if a private school discovers that a teacher applicant was bragging online about partying with his students, and the school still hired the applicant, the school may expose itself to a possible negligent hiring claim down the road if the individual engages in misconduct with his students.

The message is that there is no single bright line rule for using information from social media sites to make hiring decisions about prospective employees.  The answer largely depends on such factors as the type of employer involved and the type of information at issue.  To facilitate proper use of such information, an employer should have a social media policy in place and should train its managers on the policy.

Lori Higuera, a director with Fennemore Craig and a member of the firm’s Litigation Section, co-authored this story.

[stextbox id="grey"]More than ever, employers need guidance about social media in and around their workplaces. We’d like to hear from you about your issues and questions related to social media and your business. Please post a comment below this story and we may address your issue in the next edition of our Social Media Series.[/stextbox]

 

Social Media rights

Social Media Series: Employers Have To Be Diligent About Not Violating Employees’ Rights When It Comes To Social Media


This article is part of an ongoing series about social media in the workplace. We’re interested in your feedback/questions, so please comment and the authors may address your issue in their next article.


Tweet from Uncle Sam: Let your employees talk about their working conditions through social media — or else!

Social media can get employers in trouble. Without a narrowly tailored policy guiding how the company will manage its employees’ use of sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter while the employee is on the job, the employer may very well run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act, which is enforced by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB’s avid interest in social media stems from its charge to ensure that both union and non-union employees’ federal right to discuss the terms and conditions of employment, including wages, hours and other working conditions, is protected.

The increased interest by the NLRB in matters affecting employees’ use of social media began late last year. At that time, the federal agency filed a complaint against a Connecticut employer for terminating an employee who had posted negative comments about a supervisor on Facebook. The NLRB tweeted this past winter that the case had settled. The employer agreed to: (1) revise its social media policies to ensure that the employees are guaranteed the right to discuss the terms and conditions of employment and (2) never discipline or fire employees for engaging in such activity in the future.

In Arizona, an Arizona Daily Star reporter was terminated for inappropriate and unprofessional tweets. The termination resulted in the employee filing an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB against the Star. After investigation, the NLRB dismissed the charge, concluding that the termination was lawful because the tweets at issue did not relate to the terms and conditions of employment.

Just last month, the NLRB announced its intention to file a civil complaint against Thomson Reuters for firing a reporter for one of her tweets. The tweet read: “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.”  According to the NLRB, Thomson Reuters violated the reporter’s federal right to comment on the terms and conditions of her employment.

The NLRB’s growing interest in social media as it relates to employees demonstrates that there is a line to be drawn between protected and non-protected activity taking place in cyberspace. Determining where to draw that line is challenging. Even the NLRB recognizes the fast-moving nature of emerging social media issues in the context of employee-protected activity.

On April 12, the NLRB’s Office of the General Counsel issued a memorandum requiring regional offices to submit social media cases to the NLRB’s Division of Advice for review prior to issuing an administrative complaint.  The memorandum states that the Division of Advice must handle prosecution of social media cases, because there is a dearth of case law currently available and the NLRB considers the issue a policy priority.

Co-author: Carrie Pixler

[stextbox id="grey"]More than ever, employers need guidance about social media in and around their workplaces. We’d like to hear from you about your issues and questions related to social media and your business. Please post a comment below this story and we may address your issue in the next edition of our Social Media Series.[/stextbox]

 

Photo: Flickr, norwhicnuts

New Forms Of Communication Causing Generation Gap

Social Media Gap

New forms of communication are causing a generation gap in the workplace — but who’s really at a disadvantage?

Look around your workplace. Chances are you’re seeing younger and more employees on Facebook, Twitter, iPhone and Android apps, and hundreds of other social media applications and platforms. The prolific little snippets of social interaction have spread like wildfire.

To the younger generation, they blur the line between personal interaction and a professional business tool. The Old Guard still often sees them as noise compared to established traditional channels of business communications. Both generations often wonder how the other gets anything done.

The work force 10 years ago was dominated by personal relationships, marketing savvy and big personalities. The phone, e-mail, cocktails and personal meetings dominated the corporate environment. The traditional work force relied heavily on building long-lasting relationships. It was not uncommon for deals to be forged over golf games and wine tastings. Access to key players was controlled by “gate keepers” who kept people’s time at a premium. Employees worked harder on fewer relationships with higher returns. Patience was a virtue and personal networks were closely guarded. This made the world harder to operate in, but also kept the noise down.

From the perspective of the social media savvy work force, tools such as Twitter and Facebook allow them to reach people more quickly and on a broader scale. As both producers and consumers of small bite-sized pieces of information, the younger generation views it as a time saver all around. They say, “Twitter is great. I can get hundreds of followers and talk to them all at once.”

If only a few of them engage it’s a win because so little time went into the relationship. For the more advanced social media users, the medium can be used to boil down complex human interaction into simple metrics. Suddenly, interacting with 500 people on Facebook becomes a game of which word in a sentence sells more product. This drive toward obtaining results immediately fits perfectly with the behavior of social media, as well as the millennial generation’s mind set.

The question isn’t about how well employees will communicate with each other across the gap, but rather, how they will communicate with customers. Companies looking to bring in social media talent must first learn if the consumer they are serving is ready for that type of engagement. A traditional work force will have a difficult time communicating with social media consumers. The solution here is simple: Hire a younger, more Twitter and Facebook happy employee. The Old Guard then assumes a more managerial role. Minor training will be required to bridge the intra-office political gap, but at least the consumer is being served.

If the company is serving a traditional consumer through a younger work force heavily engaged in social media, there may be a significant impact to the bottom line. It’s usually impossible to retrain consumers, and very hard to undo the customer interaction expectations social media has set for many younger employees. Given characteristics of the millennial generation, training social media employees to use traditional means may also be next to impossible. With a significant supply of traditional employees still on the market, companies will probably end up matching their employee base to their consumer base through hiring practices.

Employees have the option to transition from traditional to social media communicators. Traditional employees have the advantage of growing up in a world that did not know social media; that world will never completely go away. Social media can be learned at a fundamental level fairly easily. However, younger employees have grown up with social media. They’ve learned to use it in many creative ways and can ride the wave of social innovation with little effort. The new generation will, however, have to rely on the Old Guard to pass down hard lessons learned in the traditional space.

So what does social media mean for employees in the future? Based on trends, it will probably be a requirement soon. The world is embracing social media, and the medium is just in its infancy. As new tools to manage and control social media emerge, it will become more complex and essential to both office politics and customer interaction.

Everyone graduating today is steeped in social media and only a few years away from key workplace positions. The Old Guard will transition to areas requiring less and less social media and then fade from the workplace, leaving behind only a handful of the most effective old school communications techniques. By then, it may not matter; social interaction is evolving so quickly the social media we know today will be old school in the very near future.

Paul Kenjora is founder and CTO of Arkayne Inc. Arkayne helps marketers improve online sales conversion. Kenjora can be reached at pkenjora@arkayne.com.


Arizona Business Magazine Mar/Apr 2011