Today was the start of my journey. But before I could log one mile of the 1, 929 miles, I had to talk to the woman who is the founder and visionary behind Educating For Success. For the last 13 years Rhea Perry has used her online community and annual events to help homeschooling families and others learn how to build their own businesses to gain their financial freedom.
Rhea talks about her upcoming home business conference in Huntsville, AL happening the weekend of August 9-11, 2013. The topics being discussed range from Internet Entrepreneurs to Real Estate Investing to Entrepreneurial Farming and more. You can probably guess that I will be sharing my knowledge about the practical application of social media for entrepreneurs, non-profits and small business.
My connectivity use has changed in the last two years since I conducted a Social Media Powered Business Trip. Two years ago I decided to go completely web based with my communications. I got rid of the cell phone plan and went with Skype and a wifi-hotspot. What started out as an experiment has become the only way I do business and stay connected with clients, friends and family.
For the most part it works out well and I love being connected without having to deal with cell companies who I feel overcharge for their services. However, there are times when the hotspot is unable to deliver a strong signal and today was one of those days. In all fairness, in the past I have also experienced the same type of interrupted service from the traditional mobile carriers. When I look at an overview I feel I am still winning the connectivity battle. Overall, I was able to work with clients while traveling from San Antonio to New Orleans and count today as a #smpbt success.
One of the things I really like to do with social media is to highlight fun and creative ways it can be used for business. I think it helps to drive home how easy it really is to use the social platforms and their mobile tools to share your messaging regardless of where you are or what you are doing. In other words, there is no excuse not to make social media a seamless part of your business.
What made the experience even better was that I stopped in several cities to interview folks who were using social media successfully for their business, projects or clients. I knew none of the people I interviewed. I was connected to them through recommendations of my fellow social media peeps. It truly was a social media powered trip. You can read all about it and listen or watch the interviews from that trip here.
You might wonder why I am telling you the story of that event. Or perhaps you have already guessed based on the title of my post that I am embarking on another Social Media Powered Business Trip. I will once again be speaking at Rhea Perry’s Entrepreneur Conference. This time I am making the journey to Huntsville, AL. Based on the options provided to me by the all powerful Google, I have divided my trip into two separate routes. On the way there I will travel to New Orleans for an overnight stop. Then continue my journey to Huntsville, AL. The route back will be entirely different with a stop in Memphis to visit Graceland before overnighting in Little Rock, Arkansas. Then I will head back to my beloved San Antonio with a quick stop in Dallas.
Who will I be stopping to interview along the way? Well, now that all depends on you. Got someone along the way you would like me to stop and visit? Send me their contact information and they too can become part of the Social Media Powered Business Trip.
As you all know, I am what I call a Social Media Gal. What that means for me is I get to work and play in this space for a living. What I enjoy most is sharing my knowledge with others through both community events and client interaction. Seeing those light bulb moments happen when an audience or a client recognizes the value social media could have on their business or cause is what I enjoy the most.
My philosophy when it comes to social media is that the folks with the boots on the ground should be the ones telling the story. We all know social media is not a “set it and forget it” tool. It is more like a newborn infant which needs to be watched and fed often. This “boots on the ground” philosophy does require the entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations I work with to invest in what I call the Three T’s: Time | Team | Tools.
Discoverability meetings, staff training and education, profile optimization, design, page creation, social media guidelines, response flowcharts et al., all take time to explain, understand and implement. Anyone who is delving into this social media needs to understand which platforms will work best for their needs, the use and languaging for each platform and how to participate in the space effectively.
One of the decisions a company will have to make is who will be responsible for monitoring, posting and responding on their social channels. I stress the importance of this position so that they understand that every tweet, post and comment is a direct representation of their brand. This is not something that should be taken lightly nor maintained long term by an intern or someone who “will get to it when they have time”. So, making sure they have the person or team who can actively participate is key to the ongoing success of a company’s social media outreach.
The tools are fairly simple: computer, smartphone, tablet and of course internet access. Make sure your team members are equipped to represent and respond. You do not need all three to succeed, but removing barriers to access is important. You can post, audio record, live video stream, photograph and more all from a smartphone. I know some folks run their entire business from their phones. We are truly living in the Age of the Jetsons.
Not everyone I speak to is ready for this kind of commitment That’s ok. There are plenty of companies that provide social media services who will do all the heavy lifting for you. They create, post and engage with your followers and fans on your behalf as if they were your brand. When I come across folks who want to hire me to “do it for them”, I smile politely and tell them, “I’m not your gal.”
Each company has what I call a unique flavor. In my mind the customers who frequent your company know how your receptionist answers the phone and how your team talks, walks and interacts with them on a daily basis. If your online presence doesn’t also reflect that same flavor then there can be some disconnect.
So, it should be no surprise that when I work with a client they are someone who subscribes to my “boots on the ground” philosophy and have put the Three T’s into action. In my line of work, I am fortunate in that I can be selective and choose the clients I enjoy spending time with and projects which interest me. One of the clients I have been working with for the last few months is Linda Elliott of Elliott Connection, LLC.
Linda contacted me when she made the decision to delve into the world of social media after she saw me speak at a local event last year. We had seen each other at events throughout the year so I already knew we got along. However, it wasn’t until we sat down to have our discoverability meeting I knew we would be a perfect fit. Linda is a Connections Expert and has a unique talent for finding the perfect partnerships for her clients. Personally, I would describe what she does as an elegant introduction. To experience it is to understand it. Once you have, you will never forget it. I know I never will (more about this in a future post).
As with all projects, you spend months building the platforms and training the team and then there is the moment when they are ready to go live. It is a true pleasure to share the news that today Linda Elliott is launching her Power of Connections blog. Wander over there, take a look and let her know what you think. As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments.
Today I decided to do something I haven’t done in a while. Google myself. Now while that sounds like it might be something you do behind closed doors, it really isn’t. Everyone should Google themselves. Simply type your name in the search bar of your browser to see the results of your online activity aka digital footprint. Due to my active online posting style I usually occupy most of the front page. with the exception of 1 result, that was also true today.
However, this time instead of only reviewing the top search results in Google, I decided to let my curiosity run wild by going past page one. (Gasp!) I’ve been online for a good long bit so going back into search results was almost like going back through time. My old podcasts that were hosted on the Internet Archive, past partnerships, accounts on old social networks. There were some surprises waiting to be discovered. One of which was an interview I did for RISE Austin in 2011. I remember being interviewed but had never seen the finished product. I am sharing it with you here. Would appreciate comments on your “googling self” practices and if you’ve been surprised by what you have discovered.
We all know that testimonials can be powerful tools for our business. So what are you doing with them after the first excitement wears off? One of the techniques I encourage folks to use when creating their Editorial Calendar is to share testimonials from satisfied clients. Your clients who have taken the time to let you know they appreciate your service can become part of your brand ambassador team.
Testimonials are easy to share when they are in the form of an email or letter. However, with all of today’s tools at our fingertips why limit the variety of your reach? With smartphones and apps it is also very easy to do this through audio and video.Â Think about asking your happy client to share an audio or video testimonial about the service or products your business provides. Hearing the energy and excitement of someone who is “in the moment” can really drive home the point of how well your business does it’s job.
Of course, there is more than one way to capture customer testimonials. Thanks to a recent Twitter update, we can embed some of those testimonials into our website. Here is an example of some kudos that Susan Price and myself received from one of our workshop attendees:
Be creative with the different platforms you can use to capture those testimonials. You might be surprised to discover exactly how many folks have said great things about your business. Your employees, existing and potential clients will be happy to hear about all the wonderful things your company is doing when seen through the eyes of a happy client testimonial.
One of the things I enjoy about all of our connectivity is the ability to be anywhere on the globe……virtually. Many of you know I am a big fan of the LeWeb conferences that Loic Le Meur puts on in ParisÂ every year. I may not make it to Paris, but thanks to live video streaming I can be part of each event live or catch all the recorded action later. For the first time in it’s history LeWeb was also held in London this year.
There are always plenty of big announcements from web/tech/social network companies. There are also many big ideas being shared. This year the one session I was surprised by was by Alec Ross, Senior Advisor for Innovation, Office of the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. What really took me was his statement that, “The 21st Century is a terrible time to be a control freak.” The fact that he works for government and had this understanding of just how much the world has changed was refreshing to say the least.
Please note this is not a pro or con political post. I am private when it comes to polarizing topics like politics and as such tend to keep my views to myself.
I do hope you will watch and share your thoughts on the drastic change “control freaks” in the workplace and government are undergoing in the 21st Century.
Last week I did something that happens across coffee shops all across America. I had a meeting at a Starbucks. This isn’t groundbreaking news or really worth discussing except for what happened for the 2+ hours I sat inside this particular Starbucks.
Let me set the stage: It was 4pm on a cold winter afternoon. Seating inside was at a premium while outdoor seating was abandoned for the warmer interior. There was really nothing that would set this Starbucks apart from any of the others around town. Several tables had folks holding meetings while others were occupied by solo laptop folks. Once our group found a corner to occupy for our meeting, it was time to get a cup of coffee….or so I thought. Turns out this particular Starbucks water heating system was not working. This means that there were no hot drinks to be had on this day. No regular coffee, no lattes, no espresso drinks not even a hot tea could be had by patrons. The only drinks being offered were Frappuccinos and iced drinks. This is what was available on a cold day.
When it comes to coffee or lack thereof you would expect folks to be frustrated, upset or even angry. You can probably envision folks grumbling and complaining about a coffee shop that is unable to provide it’s core product. So, what do you think the reactions are by the people coming in to order a hot drink on a cold day? Let me share with you the encounters I overheard:
Barista: “Ma’am, all we have are Frappuccinos.”
Elderly Woman:Â “Oh, I’ve never tried aÂ Frappuccino before. Let me give it a try.”
Barista: “Ma’am, we are out of non-fat milk. Are you ok with whole milk?”
Young Lady: “That’ll be fine.”
Barista: “Oh, I’m sorry sir. Turns out we are out of that flavor. Would you like to try something else?”
Older Man: “No, not really.”
Barista: “Ok, would you like your money back?”
Man: “No, why don’t you keep it as a tip. You guys always work so hard.”
Barista: “Really? Thank you very much, sir.”
Are you as stunned as I am? I can tell you that in my time there, I did not hear a single complaint. I heard surprise, “You’re out of coffee?” and “Oh wow, must be tough for you guys right now” type comments. Not a single person raised their voice or stormed out in disgust.
In case you missed it in #2 & #3, this Starbucks was out of certain milk and flavors as well as no wifi and bathrooms that needed toilet paper refilling. Yet, everyone who came in took it all in stride. I was perplexed by this until it occurred to me that the people who frequent this Starbucks are regulars. They have probably been coming here for some time, know the folks behind the counter and have had excellent customer service and been on the receiving end of their expected quality coffee drinks. Because of this patrons were understanding about something going wrong. They were willing to overlook a coffee shop with no coffee. But only because this Starbucks had built up a bank of trust with these customers. So that when everything went wrong, they could draw upon that trust to see them through their temporary crisis.Â It was quite the epiphany and had me thinking about how every business could learn from this story.
I did eventually get a hot coffee before leaving but only because another Starbucks sent over two of their large carafes full of Pikes Peek drip coffee. Which was another learning moment. Be there for your partners when they need it. You never know when the tables will turn and it will you in crisis mode.
So, on this day a Starbucks with no coffee, no wifi that was running out of ingredients taught me about building a bank of trust with customers and the importance of having partners to support you in times of crisis.
By now we all know that social should be a part of your overall awareness/research/customer service plan. We also know that increasingly customers are discovering your business through apps on their mobile devices. Local search has always been important and is enhanced when tied into Social and Mobile.
When you tie all the aspects of Social, Local and Mobile aka SoLoMo together you get the trifecta of visibility, discoverability and engagement.
For your entertainment, here is the theme song for SoLoMo: