Stop Wasting Your Time on Social Media

facebook did you get your fixn darkerAs social media has become a form of mainstream communication and marketing, small businesses and professionals , driven by their desire to be relevant a forward thinking, have become enamored of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and more recently Pinterest. Fueled by people that claim that Social media Marketing is the next greatest thing, and aided by hyperbole about “game changers” and “thought leaders” who trumpet warnings that without social media, you will be out of business, or even worse irrelevant in the years to come. To all of them I say “Nonsense – Stop wasting your time on social media and worry more about your business and less about the shape of the tools you use to move your business forward. And when I say social media, I mean the entire interactive online universe where people interact , not just the larger three or four channels I mentioned above. Don’t think for a moment that I am not a proponent of social media. I’m not only the CEO of company with the words Social Media in its name, but I’m an engaged participant in social media, to advance relationships in my personal life, advance my personal business goals, and to further my company mission and vision. Properly employed, I think that we have magnificent platforms for communication and the amplification of voices, both personal and business that have existed in the history of mankind, but like anything else, a tool that is used poorly or improperly can’t save the workman from creating a poor product. The key to all of this however is that you need to be thoughtful about what , when and how you engage. My social media involvement and yours are probably not the same. You and I might need to be on different channels, have different interest, different goals, and different communities we want to interact with. In fact, our interaction in the communities where we intersect might not even look the same. But we do have several things in common, and if you keep them in mind, you will stop wasting your time on social media and begin to see your desired results. 1. Define Your Community and then find them – Know who you want to reach and then find where they are. Those are the channels you need to use to reach them. Today’s consumers want to be reached when they want, where they want, in the manner they want. Remember that and you are more than halfway home when you want to reach them. 2. Have a purpose – Being on Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family is a great purpose – possibly not a business purpose, but a great purpose nonetheless. Any social media engagement should have a purpose. Are you trying to drive traffic to your company website? Do you want to increase your business profile? Do you want people to think of you as a trusted advisor in your field? Do you want your business to be identified with a local community? Do you want to fund raise for a local charity? All important purposes, all achievable through effective social media engagement. 3. Have a strategy- random postings on Facebook, sporadic tweets, self-serving hyperbole are less self-serving and more self-destructive. This is a permanent record of engagement and “ready, fire aim” is a fool proof way to damage your public image. 4. Review Analyze and Refine and don’t get distracted by shiny objects. every great new thing is new, not necessarily great for your purpose, but keep reviewing and seeing how your social media plan is working. Any good plan requires revision periodically, and with the speed of social media engagement, continual analysis and revision as needed is crucial. And here’s the neat part – since you had a measurable purpose and goal, its easy to see if you’re reaching it? Simple right? Easy as that, you’re ready to stop wasting your time on social media and start being more effective right away.

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Making Facebook More Relevant

Facebook groups have become the place for community conversations on Facebook. Unlike Pages, where businesses or brands or small professionals promote their brands, products and services, people actually go to groups to speak to each other about the things they care about.

When people speak more about things they care about the conversations get really interesting and the conversational thread can get very long and involved. As a result, sometimes it’s way too much work to find the point or piece of information that had been shared when you need it.

Chris Smith and Jimmy Macklin have been instrumental in starting some of these conversation magnets in the real estate space, and the problem of the “lost pearls” became evident really quickly in a Facebook group entitled “What Should I spend My Money On?” The group, which has grown to 4200 members, has wonderful conversations by the users of hardware, software, products and services about their specific experiences good and bad. Being a neutral arena, the comments and conversations both pro and con garner a tremendous amount of interest, but with the ever increasing numbers of statements and comments it soon became difficult to find the information about that particular product or service you wanted information about. Only a short while after the group was created, members were looking for conversations from a day or two earlier, and bemoaning the difficulty in finding the information they needed.

And thus was born Curaytor. This social search engine allows you to search Facebook groups by topic, company, person or information source . In addition to the What should I spend my money On? group, the team added the “Raise the Bar” group and “Tech Support Group for Real Estate Agents” and the conversations generated by roughly  their 6900 members, and an iPad and Evernote group as well. According to Chris Smith, “We can add any Group that is open and plan to quickly”.

Now real estate professionals and consumers have a place where they can go to find that interesting position, comment, product or service by topic, company, source or user, with a very simple and easy to use interface. People can , with one click pick topics that are trending, popular, new, or recommended by “staff”  who I assume are Jimmy and Chris who have been trusted sources of recommendations for quite a while now. even popular “curaytors” make their appearance when you search, hand picked by Jimmy as good sources of information in these groups. Their search is a custom search that looks at Tags, posts, and comments, using algorithms to determine the what newcomments and the number of interactions to determine what’s trending,

I’ve played with the site, and it is easy to navigate, simple to get absorbed in as you go from conversation to conversation. Social search has been a topic of interest for a while now, but Curaytor is an intriguing application and will, judging from the buzz about it already, could become a valuable resource for its users.


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Antique Locks and Keys

Three Tools to Unlock Business Success

Antique Locks and KeysThe are lots of tech tools that are promoted as being the one thing you need to make your business better, but many of them require you to change the way you do business to employ them effectively, or are aimed at redesigning your entire workflow. Some of them may work for you, and some may not, but I wanted to suggest a few tools that anyone can fit into any existing work flow and will , by using them increase their efficiency and potentially their income through their utilization. I use all of them, so I’m a little bit prejudiced, but I would suggest that at their very simplest level each of these tools could be adopted by anyone of any level of tech skills, and integrated to their current workflow with immense benefit. Without a lot of fuss and bother, let’s take a look at my trio of business helpers.

  1.  CardMunch – is a smart phone app which turns your smart phone into a business card scanner. The best part of it is that after taking the photo of the business card, it is transcribed in to a contact base, and can even be used to establish a LinkedIn connection (since the app is owned by LinkedIn) .
  2. Evernote – If you’re note using Evernote, you’re missing a great opportunity to work more efficiently. Evernote acts as a combination file cabinet and notebook, allowing you to synchronize your data across computers, iPads,   e Pads  and smartphones. The note can be audio, photos, or text, as well as web clipping interesting websites you visit. You can organize your notes through tags and notebooks, and in the paid version can share notebooks with others. Some real estate agents use Evernote for creating and sharing transaction folders with their buyers and sellers, and in combination with electronic signature vendors like Docusign, share documents and obtain electronic signatures through this Swiss knife of an application.
  3. DropBox.  No list of great business apps would be complete without Dropbox. This cloud based file saving and synchronizing platform is worth its weight in gold if you work with a team for your business, or if you want to share photos or date with others in your company. The program is simple. You save files in a folder marked “My Dropbox” and it synchronizes across every platform you have installed the app on. Your iPhone, iPad, PC, Mac, android phone or tablet – everywhere you have an internet device you have access to your files. Just this morning I was working on a BPO for a client in Dallas Texas, when I noticed that the photos we had in our Dropbox file were not recent enough for the report. I called my assistant in Philadelphia who ran out to the property and uploaded new photos of the listing into Dropbox. I was able to view them in Honolulu (where I was taking a short vacation) almost simultaneously, I was able to view them on my iPad while I uploaded them to the BPO on my Mac to send to my client in Dallas Texas. By simply having Dropbox installed on each device, I was able to view and upload at the same time using different devices. The possibilities are endless. Share a file of receipts with your accountant to make keeping tax records easier. Create as many folders and sub-folders as you wish and share them with whomever you wish, keeping the other folders completely private.

Next time – I’ll tell you about a couple of great tools for working on that glut of email you deal with everyday. Until then – try these and see how they can help you do what you already do, but do it just a little bit better

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Is Customer Service Just a Buzzword?

People use Buzzwords all the time. It makes them seem informed and is an easy, almost lazy way to communicate.  We hear others using them and we adopt them to be trendy and fashionable. They get used in conversation and writing in multiple venues until they become tiresome or are replaced with other, newer terms.  However their very use influences the way we think and react.

As the online space matures every conversation is about brand, transparency, customer service, evangelism, and other words that used to have far more meaning than they do when we overuse them. We are not only overusing them, we are valuing the statement over the action.

Nicholas Carr , of the Neiman Journalism Lab, amplified that thought  in his post, “The End of Disruption” where he wrote.

For a long time now, “disruption” has been the go-to buzzword in commentary about journalism. Pundits and consultants love to say “disruption” because the word tends to attract money and attention. But the word is starting to ring hollow. Throwing it around today seems more like a way to avoid hard thinking than to engage in it. Maybe 2013 will be the year when we finally stop talking about “disruption.” I hope so, because then we can start giving as much consideration to what endures as to what changes.

In a world so thoroughly inundated with the written word, we cannot forget to value substance over form. It is too easy to echo popular sentiment and think that by making statements or using catch phrases and buzzwords, we are taking action instead of just talking about action. To paraphrase Carr, we seem to use the words to avoid hard work, rather than engaging in it.

I recently read heartfelt statements about customer service from a company I’m doing business with. I believe they were sincere in their use of the term, but as a customer, my experience has been that they spend more time talking about customer service than delivering customer service. I don’t mean to take them to task, and that’s why I won’t mention their name, but I find that their action, or lack of action is not uncommon.

Having acquired a customer, many businesses prioritize the service they provide by the size of the customer’s bill. But nowhere is the customer told that “the more you spend , the better your experience will be”. Nor does their company vision share a sliding scale of customer service.

In other cases, customers are  treated poorly because they are already  committed to some course of action by their relationship with the vendor. I had a friend, who , while going through a stressful divorce, hired an attorney to represent her. During the initial interviews the attorney seemed bright and aggressive and promised a swift resolution for the client. After just a little while, their relationship hanged. Calls weren’t returned, emails ignored, the case seemed to be stuck in a never ending swamp of detail and minutiae. The client felt betrayed and exposed and without a choice because she felt that her journey towards her goal was advanced to a point where changing service providers would force her to start her stressful journey once again.  When she was finally pushed to change attorneys, the new attorneys promised far less, but delivered far more, far more rapidly. Were she asked to make a referral  today, which attorney do you think would get the business?

For your businesses to actually improve, you have to

  1. Focus on your core product or service. If it isn’t high quality, you diminish your value proposition.
  2. Talk less and do more. Saying your customers are important is not as valuable as actually acting as if your customers are important. It is far easier to “talk the talk” than it is to “walk the walk”. But your clients will gauge you by what you do , not what you say
  3. Value all of your customers, not just the more profitable ones.  Or, if that’s your business model, than be open and above board about it and embrace it. If your business actions are not consistent with your business model, you not only harm your customers you harm yourself.

If your customer service is just a buzzword,  no amount of Facebook postings or social monitoring will help you build trust and expand your business.  The job you do may end, but your customers and clients carry their experience with them into a far larger world, speaking about that experience again and again. In a connected world, you never know where your connections will take you, or when their endorsement or approbation will earn or cost you that next possibly larger client. Talking less and doing more? Might be a little harder, but it will be infinitely more rewarding.

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Does Anyone Believe Your Ads?

Advertisers have always had credibility issues. They are, by their very nature, self-serving ad of a commercial nature.

I have always felt that there is some relationship between the size of the claim and its impact on consumers. When the little local dinner claims to have “world-famous cakes and cookies” are we really to believe that people in the far flung recesses of the world are talking abut the baked goods from the diner? Or, assuming that the consumers will disbelieve the claim, has the diner just made it bigger than life in hopes that it will register in the mind of the consumer?  I think the opposite occurs – I think that the larger and more grandiose your claims, the more they are likely to be discounted by your audience and rejected as hyperbole.

Every new business model today is a “Game Changer” or a “Revolutionary System that will change the way you do business” . And yet, for the most part, changes in our businesses are more incremental than cataclysmic, and the claims are quickly forgotten because we are conditioned to ignore that part of the presentation.

In a recent survey by Lab42 of 500 consumers  they found that more than three quarters of those consumers felt that advertising was exaggerated. As little as 3% felt that advertising claims were accurate – leading me to wonder if they were the same 3% of the population that respond to direct mail ads. And yet three out of ten people surveyed said that they would buy a product because of brand advertising, and less than one put of five wanted to see more laws regulating advertising.

The top three things that might make them try a new product that was advertised?

  • They recognize the brand
  • They saw an in-store promotion
  • They had a reaction to the ad (Laughed, Shared, Talked about it with others)

Al of which indicates that when you create advertising for your product or service , you need to be sure that you are consistent in your brand message so that it is immediately recognizable to your consumer. You need to look for easily accessible promotions if suitable for your product or service. And you need to create reactions in your audience. If your advertising doesn’t get a reaction from them, your business probaby won’t get business from them.

Advertising is a part of business, and has been since the first advertisements were carved in the wall in Ephesus, but we need to know what consumers want if we want to reach them – and what they want is pretty simple. The stud indicates the two biggest things consumers want from ads are information on new products and education. And that is where your creativity should be directed to get the best results possible.  I would love to know what ads you find to be most effective – both as a consumer and a business person. Please let me know in the comments below.

Infographic Courtesy of Lab42


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