Posts Tagged ‘LinkedIn’

Twitter for Local Businesses

by on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

When I speak with local merchants about Social Media, I find that they have surprisingly similar levels of awareness, interest and understanding: Almost everyone is familiar with Facebook and YouTube, although they don’t always see the business opportunities, and very few seem to have even heard of LinkedIn. In between is Twitter, which many merchants seem to have heard of but not that many seem to be interested in. The comment I’ve gotten from more than one local merchant is, “I don’t have time for everything and I have to draw the line somewhere.”

The Greater Delray Beach (FL) Chamber of Commerce has been kind enough to ask me to speak about how businesses can use Twitter – and why they should. My presentation, which is part of a “Tech Talk and Coffee” about Social Media for Business, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18 at 7:30am. Other speakers will cover Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. The session is open to the public as well as to Chamber members and every local business should find it useful, even businesses that haven’t considered adding Social Media to their marketing mix.

By now most people have heard of Twitter. Oprah uses it. So does the White House. It’s a free micro-blogging service that lets users publish short notes (called “tweets”) of up to 140 characters in real time. There are smartphone applications for Twitter, so it is a fully mobile service. Users can “follow” other users and see their tweets in their Twitter stream. Following and being followed is how users build a community on Twitter. Users also can search by keywords or topics to find relevant tweets. Users can reply to tweets, forward (“retweet”) them, and include links to web sites or other media. Engaging in these conversations is a good way to attract followers.

Broadly speaking, there are at least four ways businesses can use Twitter.

Listening Post. Twitter’s most significant benefit to business is its immediacy. When US Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River in January 2009 there were posts, including photos, on Twitter within minutes. If you want to know what your customers, competitors, vendors, etc. are thinking right now, Twitter is a great way to find out. Listening on Twitter is also a great source of ideas and information. Using Twitter’s search functions can widen any business’ horizons.

Brand Builder. Tweeting regularly with timely, relevant information creates interest in you and your brand. This works best when most of the tweets are on a subject that relates to your business but does not overtly promote the business itself. For example, if your restaurant wants to be known for its fresh produce, you could tweet about sustainable farming, its local purveyors, and even the weather. You will attract followers on Twitter who might become customers themselves or retweet your posts to others. Media outlets have become big Twitter users and you could find your restaurant covered in the newspaper just by using Twitter adeptly.

Lead Generator. Twitter lets users form, and join, communities. Twitter’s search functions make it easy to identify other users with similar interests or in similar businesses. Mutual following puts a business’ tweets in its followers’ streams and vice versa. You can get leads from Twitter communities built on common interests both by reading relevant tweets and simply by asking for help.

Help Desk. Twitter is an outstanding platform for providing customer service. Responding in near real time to a tweet that asks for assistance – or jumping in to solve a problem you see on a tweet from a customer even if it isn’t directed to you – not only helps your customer, it helps cement (or improve) your reputation as a business that cares about its customers. One of the earliest business adopters of Twitter was Comcast, a company not known for the quality of its customer service. Comcast now has a full-time staff that monitors Twitter for customer complaints and responds almost immediately. When you ask your customers to follow you on Twitter you are not just gaining access to them, you are providing access to yourself. Since all of your followers will see these interactions the potential benefits of using Twitter to help your customers quickly are huge.

At Zavee we try to use Twitter for all of these functions, and we continue to learn as we go. Here are a few suggestions for getting started with Twitter:

  • If you don’t feel comfortable putting your business name out there right away, start with a personal Twitter account.
  • Listen first, then start asking questions, make suggestions, and in no time you will be part of the action.
  • Pass along stuff, including links and retweets, that’s timely, relevant and interesting, but don’t overdo it. Original material is more useful and will result in more followers.
  • Most important of all, be yourself.

New Years Resolutions – And Lies

by on Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

What would the first week in January be without a post about New Years resolutions?  Mine aren’t of the “get to the gym” variety. Instead, my plan for 2010 is to use the web – especially Social Media – more effectively.

In part this means learning to avoid what Penelope Trunk calls The 4 Lies About Social Media. (In her post these are more “myths” or “mistakes” than lies. I don’t know why she calls them lies but being provocative is a good way to get noticed. It helps your Google page rank, too. Hence the title of this post, which originally was just “New Years Resolutions” – and another resolution: to get better at writing for search engines.)

In my quest to improve my social media skills this year I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a team of well connected and highly creative colleagues. I want to make it clear that my skills (and deficits) are my own; Zavee, collectively, is poised for the leadership you expect of us. Another way of putting it is, my real New Years resolution is to become as smart as my staff! With that caveat in mind, here are some of my Web-related resolutions for 2010:

  1. Take better advantage of Linkedin. Penelope says that Linkedin is a great scorecard for the size of one’s network but it’s a “lie” to say that it’s useful for building a network. The scorecard aspect is useful (e.g., for employers who want to learn about how connected a job candidate is).  However, Linkedin is not for conversations, so it is not a good way to build a network. I see her point about conversations – it may be the only thing you can’t do on Linkedin. On the other hand, Linkedin provides many opportunities to get found, get noticed and get followed. Unfortunately, I haven’t really figured out how to use Linkedin efficiently and proactively – how best to use features such as starting discussions and asking questions. Fortunately, my marketing people don’t have that problem. So my personal resolution is to follow their guidance so I can understand Linkedin better and use it more effectively.
  2. Stuart Pilbrow via Flickr

    Happy New Year!

  3. Build our brand with Twitter. Penelope says that networks require conversations but it’s a “lie” that Twitter is the place to have them. She says Twitter is better for finding and following people with similar ideas and interests. We do use Twitter to keep up with tweets about Social Media, loyalty marketing and other topics that interest us, and tools such as TweetDeck and HootSuite make it easy to manage different accounts, searches and lists. However, I know that I have a lot to learn about creating a presence on Twitter and achieving the kind of scale that will enable us to use Twitter to leverage the Zavee brand. Fortunately, our community manager has a great deal of experience with Twitter. My New Years resolution is to learn from her how to build a brand with Twitter.
  4. Make Zavee Thinking more relevant. Penelope says that blogs are networking tools, not personal journals, and I certainly agree. I think I’ve been disciplined in how and what we write about on this blog.  I write from the small business perspective, whether I am posting about trends and concepts or about tools and techniques. For 2010, however, I intend to focus a bit more on practical solutions for merchants, including by posting about how merchants can get the most out of Zavee. Even this post, which is superficially about me, is really about how I can better be the “lead blocker” for merchants who are trying to make progress with unfamiliar tools and concepts.
  5. Use our Facebook fan page to help build our member community. Penelope’s fourth “lie” is that social media is no place for business. In fact, businesses are finding new and interesting ways to use social media all the time, and social media channels are constantly developing business-oriented tools and features. One example is Facebook’s fan page. We have one, and we want it to be the destination for our Zavee community. One way to do this is to use Facebook to extend the content we can deliver on the Zavee site. Facebook is great for managing events and user-generated content, both of which are important to us.  We will have more to say over the next few months about our member community and how Facebook fits into our strategy. For now, we’ll just say that our final resolution for 2010 is to build our community as we build our business, which includes being smart about Facebook.

See? Nothing too difficult there! Maybe I have time to hit the gym.